Monday, December 29, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire: Bollywood's First Oscar Contender

Guy meets girl, guy love girl, guy loses girl. Girl turns tramp. Guy still loves girl, guy searches entire world for girl. Love conquers all. Then end.

Pffffft, when does THAT ever happen? Give me a break.

But this is movieland, folks, not the real world. We go to the movies to SEE this happen, because in real life, it always goes to the crapper, right?

So I'm going to highly recommend you see this ridiculous tale of a kid from the Indian slums who wins his way to the very last question on their local version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." Not to win the money, but to win back his girl.

It's gritty and tough, and it doesn't shy away from showing you the vile, poisonous world of Indian orphans living on the streets. So if you're not into depictions of graphic violence, mistreated children living in squallor, and the thugs who abuse them, maybe this isn't for you.

But if you can stomach all of that, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised in the end.

Plus- and this is the best part- if you stay through the end of the film, you get to see a REAL LIFE BOLLYWOOD DANCE NUMBER! It's absolutely ridiculous and it's the best part of any movie this year.

I give this a 7 out of 10. Enjoy.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: My Oscar Bet for 2008

You've seen this movie before.

Think back, you'll remember. 1994? Box of Chocolates? Those look like comfortable shoes...? Ring a bell?

Yeah, Benjamin Button is basically a Forrest Gump "re-imagining" when you get right down to it, but hey, we can use a new Forrest Gump every 14 years, can't we?

So if it's just a reworking of something that was done before, why do I expect a best Picture Oscar to come of this? A few reasons.

First, it's almost three hours long, and it moves quickly through those three hours. Look back over the last twenty years, and you'll see that the three-hour epics (LOTR, Gladiator, Titanic, The English Patient, Braveheart, Schindler's List, Dances With Wolves, etc.) usually win, if they have a little meat to them.

Second, it's about life. And death. Trascendent themes that are easy to play, and difficult to master. In the end, nothing moves a movie-goer- and more importantly, an Oscar voter- like a movie that makes them contemplate their own imminent demise.

And third, it's better than Forrest Gump, and Forrest Gump was pretty damn good! The story was sweet and the production was expertly achieved. The special effects that made Brad Pitt look like an old man/little kid were about the best I have ever seen. (I kept thinking to myself, "How the hell did they do that?") And the love story wasn't some sweet "the-guy-gets-the-girl" love story, it was more of the kind I usually see happening in real life. Some kind of "the-guy-loves-the-girl-and-the-girl-loves-the-guy-but-they're-both-screwed-up-enough-to-ruin-what-could-be-a-good-thing-in-the-end-but-I-guess-that's-okay" kind of love story.

I give Benjamin Button an 8 out of 10, and I see it winning the final slug-out vs. "Slumdog Millionaire" at the Oscars.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Seven Pounds- worth every pound.

I'm going to warn you up front- for about the first thirty minutes of this movie, you're going to be depressed. Maybe near suicidal, so keep all sharp objects locked up in your purse.

You won't really understand exactly WHY you're depressed, either, because while some of the events being portrayed are real downers, it shouldn't be weighing you down THAT bad.

It's Will Smith's acting that does it to you. He expertly portrays a man who has descended into the depths of living hell, and now has to plod through life carrying the burden of his own mistakes, and try to make something better out of the time he has left here.

So, you ask yourself, do I really want to go see a suicidally-depressing movie just 5 days before Christmas?

Yes, you do.

It's not a flawless film. There were more than a few moments when I sat there writing the upcoming dialogue in my head before they actually spoke it, and a few scenes where I said, "Oh, I know what's going to happen." Despite this, the ending did catch me a little off-guard, and had some minor surprises.

But you don't watch this for the SURPRISES- you watch it for that sense that even the worst of us can do something to make the world better. I'm not going to recommend you take the Will Smith character's path to world-bettering, necessarily, but I think it would be nice if more than a few of us could carry away a desire to be a little better after we watch this.

Yeah, I know, I'm expecting too much. So just go watch it and enjoy that "I feel so good but this was such a friggin sad movie" feeling afterwards.

I give it a 7 out of 10, and maybe an Oscar nomination or two.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Australia!- it takes less time to complete a walkabout than it does to watch this movie.


The mere mention of the place conjures up images of a savagely beautiful Outback; mystical Aboriginies living a mysterious culture; vast landscapes and enormous, paint-spackled skies.

As far as the imagery goes, this movie does NOT disappoint!

Now if only they had a good story to go along with it, we'd have had a winner.

Actually, let me correct that- they DID have a good story. It was a great hour-and-forty-five-minute story. Stretched out about an hour too long. Or maybe it was three great 55 minute stories, better told as a TV miniseries than as a supposedly-epic film.

Can I say something about epic films here? It's not the LENGTH ALONE that makes a movie an epic. It's the substance you fill that length with. Gladiator, Braveheart, the Lord of the Rings series- these worked, because they had a lot to tell us.

Baz Luhrman obviously missed that lesson in Epic Filmmaking 101.

But he got the cinematography down pat.

On top of a dragging storyline, this movie is also afflicted with terminal cartoonishness. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman don't play actual characters here; they play grossly exaggerated charicatures of stereotypical character types. Kidman is the Annoyingly Prim and Proper Woman From an Elite Upbringing. Jackman plays the Ruggedly Handsome Man From The Outback.

I smell a clash of cultures coming, don't you? Or course, it's part of the predictable formula in films like these.

You know what's going to happen. At some point, Kidman is going to show how rough-and-tumble she really can be, and Jackman is going to show up somewhere clean-shaven and wearing a tux. And then Tragedy-Will-Strike and they will have a Joyful Reunion. Baz even throws a kid in the mix to tug at those heartstrings, too.


I mean, I liked it, sure, but I was disappointed. I expected an Oscar frontrunner. Instead I got a sub-par Titanic on Dry Land.

Oh well, they can't all be winners. I give this a 6, and I recommend you sneak in a Red Bull and start sipping it about 45 minutes in.

Twilight: I'm a guy. Ignore this review.


I like women. No- I LOVE women.

They look good. They smell wonderful. They're all soft and voluptuous and feminine and they have those sweet-as-honey soothing voices that just make you want to fall alseep all cuddled up crook of their shoulder.

Ahhh, women are wonderful creatures.

They love horrible movies.

Atrocious films, at times.

We men condescendingly called these "chick flicks" for years, until women caught wind of it and hijacked that terminology and wore it like a badge of honor.

A wise man will pretend to love a horrible chick flick. There is nothing to be attained by criticizing one. Nothing whatsoever.

This was a horrible film. The acting was painful to watch. What was probably a fairly compelling novel was spun into a motion picture that's as interesting to watch as an SAT test is to take. This start-up studio took on the challenge of creating a film for tweens and teens and chicks that has no major stars, no sex whatsoever, and very minimal, cartoonish violence, as well as a generous sprinkling of not-so-subtle Mormon ethics lessons- and botched it.

I'm still reeling from it.

I give it a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. There's one for the ladies.

(p.s.- my date hated this movie even more than I did. Please.... marry me!)

Bolt!... from the theater after the first two minutes. And get your money back.

This started off really well.

Seriously, I could have sat through the first couple of minutes of "Bolt" on a continuous loop for 2 full hours. It was a breathtaking action sequence, spiced up with a little humor and a small dose of human warmth.

If they could have taken that and expanded it out for the entire length of the film, Bolt would have been a winner.

Instead, they wasted their 3-D technology and their A-List cast of voices on what could have easily been a Cartoon Network special event, aired on a Thursday afternoon right after the kids get home from school.

This isn't a horrible film, of course. It's got some funny moments, and it's got a reasonably well-paced plot, and some fun-to-watch CGI scattered throughout it. The kids will like it, although it won't make any of their lists of favorites.

So I guess it's not a TOTAL waste of time.

But let's just say, if you wait for it to come out on DVD, even without the 3-D effects, you can pop some popcorn and read the latest issue of People while the kids fall asleep on the floor watching it. It'd be time and money far better spent.

I give this movie a 6. In a couple of months, you can rent it and watch it and you'll probably agree.