December 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Sunny Pawar
Directed by: Garth Davis (debut)
Written by: Luke Davies (“Candy”)

The most emotionally-satisfying film this year comes in the way of the true story of Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a five-year-old boy from a remote village in India who becomes lost after he boards a train that takes him across the country for two days. Adopted and now an adult living Australia, Saroo (Dev Patel) makes it his mission to find his biological family 20 years later. Far from manipulative or melodramatic as some cynics may say, the heart-wrenching film is tender, sincere and will definitely be a hard watch for anyone who has ever lost a child or parent. Don’t let the likely tears keep you away though. Everyone needs a good cry every once in a while.

The Last Airbender

July 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Noah Ringer, Jackson Rathbone, Nicola Peltz
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Just when you thought director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “The Village”) couldn’t get any more incoherent than he did with his last three films, he veers from his usual twisty cinematic offerings and lands somewhere below rock bottom with “The Last Airbender.”

What makes things even worse for the one-hit-wonder is that his new film carries with it a $150-million price tag that could end up professionally crushing the director if Paramount Pictures doesn’t at least break even by the end of the summer. With what “Airbender” delivers, it’s almost inevitable that it won’t.

“The Last Airbender,” which is adapted from the popular Nickelodeon anime cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” could have been exactly what Shyamalan needed to pull himself out of the rut he has been in for the last six years. Instead, the filmmaker who scored two Oscar nominations in 1999 for directing and writing “The Sixth Sense,” comes out of this latest fantasy project more lost than ever.

In “Airbender,” actors Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”) and Nicola Peltz (“Deck the Halls”) stars as Sokka and Katara, sibling warriors of the Southern Water Tribe who unearth the legendary Avatar, the only person who can control all four elements – Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire.

In this case it’s 12-year-old Aang (Noah Ringer) who is called upon to bring peace to the world. Missing for over a century, Aang rises from his frozen state in an iceberg and is given the responsibility of uniting the Four Nations before Prince Zuko (Dev Patel in his first film since “Slumdog Millionaire”) and his uncle Iroh (Shaun Toub) of the Fire Nation wage war against their elemental enemies.

While there is enough mythology to create some interesting storylines here, Shyamalan somehow takes a promising narrative and drains it of all its enjoyment by tacking on longwinded narration and uninspired dialogue to a majority of the scenes. The disastrous screenplay is marred by everything from its sluggish pacing to its uninteresting romance.

Moreover, it’s shocking to see that 11 years after Shyamalan directed an extremely memorable Oscar-nominated performance by then-child actor Haley Joel Osment he has absolutely no insight into what young actors can offer anymore. Even worse than Mark Wahlberg’s laughable performance in “The Happening,” first-time actor Ringer (who voiced the character in the animated series) delivered his lines with such stiffness you’ll wonder why no one on the set stood up and pointed out the obvious lack of acting talent.

Besides the inexpressive performances across the board (with the exception of Toub), “Airbender” is a halfhearted and terribly dull adventure and the most disappointing movie of the year thus far. Shyamalan should probably take a step back from making feature films, reevaluate his place in the industry, and see where he should go from here. At this point, it might not even be his choice anymore.

Slumdog Millionaire

December 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Sunshine”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty”)

Deep from the slums of Mumbai, India, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a captivating story about life, love and predestination told in one of the most unique narratives of the year.

The film follows Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a poor orphan who has found himself only one question away from winning the grand prize of $20 million rupees on the Hindi version of the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Jamal, however, is not participating in the game show to win money. He is there for a more important reason – true love.  Jamal believes that the longer he manages to stay on the show, the more likely his long-lost love Latika (Freida Pinto) will see him.

But growing up in the slums with no education isn’t going to help Jamal answer the questions posed to him during the competition. Instead, he relies on fate to guide him through each query. The better Jamal does during the show, the more skeptical a police inspector (Irfan Khan) becomes. “What the hell can a slumdog possibly know?” he asks when they begin to interrogate Jamal and attempt to get him to confess to somehow cheating on the show.

But there is an inexplicable power helping Jamal through his quest to find Latika. As we watch him sit across from the show’s host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) answering questions, we begin to understand the profoundness of the event happening before our eyes through beautifully detailed flashbacks of Jamal and his brother Salim raising themselves after their mother is killed.

Each question Jamal is asked transports us to meaningful and sometimes tragic times in his life that he can’t shake from his mind. With those deep-seated memories, Jamal is hopeful fate will continue direct him until he is able to find the girl he has always loved.

British filmmaker Danny Boyle has created a powerful story about destiny and the ability of the human heart to continue to love despite life’s hardships. Shooting on location in Mumbai, Boyle encapsulates the ambiance and energy of the city through sweeping cinematography and one of the most stimulating soundtracks this year. Boyle has proven in the past that he can take on any type of genre (“28 Days Later,” “Sunshine”), and do it with enthusiasm. In “Millioniare,” the project at times seems bigger than the the players but Boyle is able to take control of all its components and deliver an authentic piece of filmmaking full of exhilaration.