Archive for December, 2008

2006

December 31, 2008
Netflix Roku
USA
English
100 Minutes — February 8, 2008
Documentary / Comedy
Ari Sandel

Vince Vaughn, who will forever be remembered for making fratboys across the nation say “you’re so money” in SWINGERS, got some of his buddies together for a tour of 30 cities in 30 days. He talks up a lot about taking his show to the heartland, but five dates are in California, and St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta are hardly strangers to stand-up comedy.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of his OCD-inspired fast-talking and the comics he brings along are pretty funny. One of them is Ahmed Ahmed who became something of a poster-boy of an Arab-American trying to make it big in a post-9/11 world. He’s been profiled in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He already has a career. The other three guys are at various levels of struggling. If you thin a 30 day tour into a ten minute act, of course these guys are going to look like comedic geniuses. Vaughn acted as the MC, and did some skits with famous friends (Favreau, Long, Yoakim), but most of the stuff is about the four comics.

Your like or dislike of this movie will be dependent on your interest in stand-up comedy as an artform or a catharsis-in-public for the performers. If you’ve ever wondered if you would have made it on a stage in front of a brick wall (as I often do), it will probably hold your interest. Each of them is shown after a disasterous set where they had a completely different impression of their show than the audience did. One guy yells out “F**k Yeah!” but the comic hears it as “F**k You!”, which completely takes him out of his rhythm. Stuff like that I enjoy–you may not.

Another worthwhile portion is that we meet the parents of several performers and see where they get their sense of humor or lack thereof. Ahmed’s parents are especially interesting as they’re Egyptian immigrants who expect their children (especially sons) to be doctors or lawyers–certainly not a guy who tells swear word jokes for a living. The stuff on the road isn’t new in any way. The boys (minus Vaughn–who has his own back bed) sleep in bunks on the bus. They share single hotel rooms. They get on each other’s nerves. We’ve seen that stuff before. We also only glimpse the towns in which they perform. They visit Graceland and Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace, and the Grand Ole Opry, but I defy you to differentiate between the audiences at these different places.

Doesn’t say very much about the life of an entertainer or the “heartland of America”, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

5.1 Metacritic
5.9 IMDB

Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show @ Amazon

VINCE VAUGHN’S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW

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2008

December 30, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
159 Minutes — December 25, 2008
Drama / Fantasy / Mystery / Romance
David Fincher [Se7en; The Game; Fight Club; Zodiac]
Brad Pitt [Less Than Zero; Thelma & Louise; A River Runs Through It; Kalifornia; True Romance; Interview With The Vampire; Legends Of The Fall; Se7en; Twelve Monkeys; Sleepers; Seven Years In Tibet; Fight Club; Spy Game; Ocean’s Eleven; Troy; Ocean’s Twelve; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Babel; The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford; Burn After Reading]

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 65. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Discussion – Part 1
• Break
• 17:17 THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Discussion – Part 2
• Break
• 33:20 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 34:18 The Last Five®
• Break
• 49:02 Listener Last Five (Aaron in Washington, DC)
• 1:03:07 Credits and Outtakes

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7.0 Metacritic
8.6 IMDB #74 All Time

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button @ Amazon

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

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COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE
2001

December 29, 2008
Netflix DVD
Japan / USA
English
116 Minutes — September 1, 2001
Animation / Action / Comedy / Crime / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Shinichiro Watanabe

R-rated animation story about a terrorist explosion that releases a virus that kills people within a nearby radius. The virus contains microscopic machines that somehow kill people. There is one guy who is immune and he’s the one doing the exploding. But I may have the plot all wrong because I’m not entirely sure what was going on. But as a piece of animation, the creativity is high-level. There is a ragtag team of bounty hunters. The women are buxom, the guys are slender, there is a dog along for the ride. The city is futuristic and we are sometime in the future.

This is in no way as cool as any of the Howl’s Moving Castle or any of the other Miyazaki stuff. Those are aimed at children and are almost superhumanly creative. This one is sort of based in reality. There are scientists developing things, bad guys at drug companies, army and secret police arguing over jurisdiction. There was hand-to-hand combat and realistic gunshot wounds.

But it never amounted to anything. We know who blew up the truck, do we really care why?

6.1 Metacritic
7.7 IMDB

Cowboy Bebop – The Movie @ Amazon

COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE

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2007

December 24, 2008
HBO
USA
English / Dari / Arabic / Russian
102 Minutes — December 21, 2007
Biography / Drama
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin [A Few Good Men; Malice; The American President; Sports Night; The West Wing; Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip]
Mike Nichols [The Graduate; Catch-22; Silkwood; Biloxi Blues; Working Girl; Postcards From The Edge; Regarding Henry; Wolf; The Birdcage; Primary Colors; Wit; Angels In America; Closer]

Story of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the early 1980s. A trifecta of acting royalty play the main parts. Tom Hanks is Charlie Wilson, a real-life congressman from Texas. Julia Roberts plays a weathly socialite, also from Texas. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a CIA guy who lacks a single diplomatic bone in his body. He is barely hanging on to his job. Wilson is in position to pass almost any funding through his several House committees. Because he deals in covert operations, his committee never has to tell the rest of the House what they’re voting on. That means that as the amounts get higher, the votes continue to pass.

Wilson is a playboy, coke user, drunkard Congressman who sees a report by Dan Rather (while in a hot tub with a bevy of naked beauties) on the Soviet invasion. The cold war is in full effect and Wilson is inspired by the goat herders who are providing quite a fight to the mighty Soviet army. He is encouraged by Roberts to visit a refugee camp which causes him to take up the fight on behalf of the Afghanis in ernest.

This all sounds pretty boring and politically wonky, but due to the screenplay, written by uber dialogue king Aaron Sorkin, the story never wavers. I’m sure they’ve made the story a bit more positive than real life, but it sure seemed like fun to covertly kick Russian ass. I’ve done some research and it is pretty true-to-life. Wilson’s office is staffed by a collection of assistants and secretaries who wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s soft-porn movie. But he is impossible not to like.

He charms Israeli Jews and Egyptian Muslims with equal aplomb, sometimes using the charms of a “non-traditional” belly dancer to encourage the two enemies to join together against the evil communists.

It is impossible to watch this without thinking about modern-day Afghanistan. Much like the US cut-and-run first gulf war where we kicked Iraq out of Kuwait but then didn’t support the Iraqis who wanted to overthrow Saddam, we helped kick the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but then left a power vacuum that a man named Osama bin Laden took advantage of.

The scenes between Hoffman and Hanks rival the best give-and-take conversations that Sports Night or The West Wing had. I was smiling in amazement and recognition of Sorkin’s hand.

If there’s a major problem with the film, it’s that the story is so simplified–it seems so easy for an inspired congressman to change history–that it doesn’t ring particularly true. Like West Wing depicted a Washington DC where people were mostly good, this film shows everyone working together in service to beat the Russians. Which happened, but it must have been messier.

ON: Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

6.9 Metacritic
7.4 IMDB

Charlie Wilson’s War @ Amazon

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR

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1950

December 22, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English
138 Minutes — October 13, 1950
Drama
Joseph L. Mankiewicz [The Philadelphia Story; The Barefoot Contessa; Guys And Dolls]
Bette Davis
Anne Baxter
#72 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The version of the list I used is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

It’s all about women — and their men!

An aging Broadway star suffers from the hidden menace of a self-effacing but secretly ruthless and ambitious young actress.

Sure, it’s dated and melodramatic. But Davis is so great as a woman who has passed the unheard of milestone of being 40 years old and still trying to get the juicy parts on Broadway. Baxter is a star-struck fan when we meet her. But is she too good to be true? All the characters speak to each other in that “theater is the only true art form” way. There are awards and fur coats and drinks at fancy Manhattan clubs.

It’s a bit long and has several too many voiceovers from several too many characters. But I wasn’t bored. And Davis is so angry and so lacking in social skills when off stage that you really can’t look away. This film has the “fasten your seatbelts…” line. It also has a ditzy Marilyn Monroe in a small part as a new girl in town who takes any opportunity she can for her break. A slimy columnist points her in the right direction, towards the hot producer in town. Watch Monroe’s face light up as she switches into flirt mode. It is a sight to see.

OW: Picture, Director Mankiewicz, Screenplay Mankiewicz, Supporting Actor George Sanders
ON: Actress Baxter, Actress Davis, Supporting Actress Celeste Holm, Supporting Actress Thelma Ritter, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction

“A basically unconvincing story with thin characters is transformed by a screenplay scintillating with savage wit and a couple of waspish performances into a movie experience to treasure.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“The dialogue and atmosphere are so peculiarly remote from life that they have sometimes been mistaken for art.” — Pauline Kael

“Brilliantly sophisticated (and cynical) look at life in and around the theater, with a heaven-sent script by director Mankiewicz. Davis is absolutely perfect as an aging star who takes in an adoring fan and soon discovers that the young woman is taking over her life.” — Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

8.4 IMDB All Time #75
**** Halliwell’s
**** Maltin

All About Eve @ Amazon

ALL ABOUT EVE

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2006

December 21, 2008
September 16, 2006
DVD — Thanks, Paul
USA
English
106 Minutes — August 11, 2006
Drama
Ryan Fleck
Ryan Gosling [Remember The Titans; The Believer; The Notebook; Lars And The Real Girl]

Secrets Don’t Let Go.

A teacher in an inner-city middle school has a heroin habit — a fact discovered but kept secret by one of his pupils, a 13-year-old girl. He tries to protect her from unseemly influences in her life out of school, and they strike up a cautious friendship.

“Hey Teach, can I ask you something?”
“Mmm-hmm”
“What’s it feel like when you smoke that stuff?”

And then the look on Ryan Gosling’s face somehow tells us how hard the struggle is inside him. The struggle against drugs and the struggle to remain a viable and worthwhile role model to the students he teaches. This was my favorite film of 2006 and I was again captivated by Gosling’s realistic (and realistically flawed) performance as a caring teacher by day, basehead by night.

One father figure for Drey is the local drug dealer, who has a stable home life, a nice car, and whose worse vice appears to be an addiction to peppermint candies. The other father figure is a schoolteacher, who can barely make rent, hooks up with strangers in bars, and is addicted to all sorts of substances. Neither are good for her. Both truly care about her.



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HALF NELSON is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 7. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here. (note: the audio quality back then wasn’t particularly good–I breathe heavily during this episode–sorry):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 HALF NELSON Discussion, Part 1
• Break
• 20:56 HALF NELSON Discussion, Part 2
• Break
• 31:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 32:36 The Last Five®
• Break
• 47:12 Corrections
• Break
• 49:19 Surprise Segment
• 56:42 Credits and outtakes

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“It’s a thinly disguised battle of wills over the future of an adolescent girl between two improbable saviors, but the writing and characterizations are so strong that the story never feels reduced to such a bald formula. Instead, the script is full of intriguing grace notes; Dan’s ambivalence about growing up, Drey’s wisdom that often gives way to her child-like qualities; and the pact between the two, which in context seems oddly believable. And it’s rare that one sees an actor inhabit a role as meticulously as Gosling does here.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“The script deals steadily with enduring racial and social divisions in America by pitching the liberal thinking of the classroom against the reality of the street. Gosling and Epps, a most unusual and effective pair, show real commitment.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

8.5 Metacritic
7.5 IMDB
** Halliwell’s

Half Nelson @ Amazon

HALF NELSON

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AN AFFAIR OF LOVE
1999

December 11, 2008
Netflix DVD
France / Switzerland / Belgium / Luxembourg
French
80 Minutes — September 4, 1999
Drama / Romance
Frederic Fonteyne
Nathalie Baye [And The Band Played On; Venus Beauty Institute; Catch Me If You Can; Tell No One]
Sergi Lopez [To Die (Or Not); With A Friend Like Harry; Dirty Pretty Things; Pan’s Labyrinth]

An off-camera voice interviews a man and woman separately. They are discussing a past “relationship”. Relationship is in quotes because the definition of what they are as a couple is in a state of constant flux. While discussing this past fling, they both appear to be looking back with warm feelings.

The woman, Her (because they don’t exchange names), puts an ad in a sex magazine. The man, Him, actually put his copy of the magazine into a protective sleeve, which he displays with pride to the interviewer. “I guess I’m just a romantic, ” he declares. We know where this is going, don’t we? Two swingers meet up to have sex and then stop meeting up to have sex. But not so fast.

She mentions that there has always been a fantasy that she’s never been brave enough to ask past lovers. She puts it in the advertisement. He is not a casual reader of the magazine–in fact, he claims that this was the only time he responded to a personal ad. As so often happens when recalling something from years past (she has dyed her hair black and he has taken to wearing a goatee when we meet them in the present day), the details are fuzzy. He remembers sending a photo in response, she claims to have had no idea what he looked like.

They nervously meet at a cafe in Paris. There is small talk. There are few questions. She says, a bit too matter-of-factly “I’ve reserved a room down the street–is that okay?” He is excited by her assumption. She is drinking coffee and as she finishes to put on her coat, he orders a cognac, appearing to be in no particular hurry. She goes into some small talk about being young and wanting a lover who was hairy only to discover that she’d been “hoodwinked” when they turned out as hairless as the rest. She is not being cool. He is not being cool.

It needs to be mentioned here that the two leads are being played by Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez. Lopez is best known for the fantastic thriller WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY. He’s clearly middle-aged and looks like a French, poor-man’s George Clooney. Baye is one of those beautiful women who is allowed to grow older, but remain incredibly alluring and sexual, in role after role. She was recently seen as the lawyer in TELL NO ONE. I’ve just looked up her age and if correct, then she certainly wears her 51 years well on screen as a sexually alive, adventurous and frank woman. Someone Dan Savage would call “GGG.” Why American actresses are not afforded the same opportunity is incredibly annoying. Baye has entered her most erotic stage of life. It’s nice (not to mention exciting) to be able to watch it on film.

Back to the plot. These two middle-agers, still attractive, well-read, witty conversationalists–do, indeed, head over to the hotel. The camera lingers on the procedure for checking into a hotel frequented by short-term guests. The clerk’s expression, the credit card transaction, the key exchange, the walk to the room. This is done slowly and deliberately. We arrive at their front door. They go in, but we are left in the hallway. The hallway is bathed in low-lighted red. There is natural light coming from below the door. But we don’t get to go in to see what happens. And that move becomes genius later on.

The two emerge out onto a crowded dusk Paris street. Not sure what to do to continue this “situation” and afraid that perhaps they’d be the only one wanting a second round, they are silent. They agree that, if interested, they will meet at the same cafe the following Thursday. She gets on the Metro, he into his car. They are not smiling, exactly, as they move away from each other, but they are certainly not ashamed of what just happened.

The next shot shows Her in the same cafe, finishing up a coffee, and getting ready to go. He clearly didn’t want to see her again, but then he shows up, a bit ruffled due to traffic. They have a bit more detailed conversation. They laugh a little more. To the interviewers she says, “there was no posturing, no trying to impress. We already knew each other sexually–the conversation was easy and much more honest.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously. So begins a regular meeting between these two people. Always at the same cafe and always leading to the same hotel, where by now the clerk can hand over a key much more quickly.

They recall this stage a bit differently, she says they met several times a week, he remembers it more like every other Thursday. The details are not important. What is important is how they go from a purely sexual, no-names-ages-occupations-needed casual hookup, to becoming de facto partners for each other. They get drinks and sometimes dinner afterwards. He never drives her home, and they never exchange information.

Can these two continue to meet for sex without falling in love?

One day, she changes everything, by nervously uttering, “let’s make love this time?” “What do you mean?” “The regular way” “You mean, missionary?” “No, I like to be on top, not exactly dominating, but in charge.” “OK,” he says. And this time as they head to the same hotel, they are giggling like teenagers. And this time we get to go into their room with them and see how it’s blue and white color is a happy backdrop. The scene is non-nude, but highly erotic. “Do you mind if I talk during?” she asks.

Something has clearly changed between them. And somehow between characters and we viewers.

This is one of the best portrayals of adult sexuality and love I’ve ever seen. Not Hollywood sex and love, but realistic. The way feelings can change in mid-sentence, the way people are brave with each other up until they can’t be anymore. She mentions that in the movies, sex is either heaven or hell, never in the middle. In life, there is a lot of sex in the middle. If you’ve ever stopped to realize that almost all onscreen sex scenes, including a couple’s first, begin with passionate kissing while clothes are torn off, acrobatic lovemaking with not a hint of clumsiness (no hair pulled, no heads bumped, no need to verbalize movement), a to-the-second mutual climax, followed by one of those bedsheets that goes up to his stomach, but also up to her shoulders.

We go to the movies to see people better looking than we are do things more exciting than we do, but I could do without another one of these by-the-numbers sex scenes.

This film has exactly two characters. They are flawed and perfect, like we are. They are trying to figure out how much of their hearts to give this relationship that started in the back pages of a porno magazine. Will they fall in love? Are they already in love? Will they say this to one another?

This is what an adult relationship film should be. Go see it.

6.7 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

An Affair of Love @ Amazon

AN AFFAIR OF LOVE

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2008

December 9, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
128 Minutes — November 26, 2008
Biography / Drama
Gus Van Sant [Drugstore Cowboy; My Own Private Idaho; To Die For; Good Will Hunting; Psycho; Finding Forrester; Elephant; Last Days; Paris Je T’aime]
Sean Penn [Taps; Fast Times At Ridgemont High; Bad Boys; The Falcon And The Snowman; At Close Range; Colors; Casualties Of War; We’re No Angels; State Of Grace; Carlito’s Way; Dead Man Walking; She’s So Lovely; U Turn; The Game; The Thin Red Line; Before Night Falls; Mystic River; 21 Grams; Into The Wild]

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MILK is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 64. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 MILK Discussion – Part 1
• Break
• 18:04 MILK Discussion – Part 2
• Break
• 32:58 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 33:34 The Last Five®
• 1:02:52 Credits and Outtakes

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8.4 Metacritic
8.5 Critical Consensus
8.3 IMDB

Milk @ Amazon

MILK

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1988

December 7, 2008
Netflix DVD
France
French
88 Minutes — January 6, 1989
Romance / Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]

Lili is a 14-year-old girl, staying with her family in a tiny camper while on holiday at the French coast. The sun never shines. Her father is miserable and spends his time listening to sports with headphones, her mother is cold and distant, and her older brother is the source of sibling annoyance we can all identify with.

She is trying to get her head around the fact that her body is changing–drastically–while inside she remains a barely teenage girl. We’ve just entered the Catherine Breillat zone, where entire films are made attempting to describe the mind of a pubescent girl as she is both awed by her body’s power and scared shitless by it in equal measure. The title apparently refers to the size of the dress that Lili is literally busting out of as we see her head towards a disco with her older brother in search of–well, what is she really in search of? Not sex, exactly.

She wants to be older, to act older, to be taken seriously by older people (men), but has no way of knowing how adults speak to each other or act towards each other.

The plot, such as it is, involves Lili getting her brother, JP to get permission for the both of them to go out to the local disco in the seaside town where they’re camping. They hitchhike in an aging playboy’s BMW. She acts like a complete brat (or, a 14-year-old) and ends up screaming and leaving the car. The man says, under his breath “what’s the matter, I didn’t look at you enough?” And he’s right. She wants to be looked at and admired, but on her terms, which change on a minute-by-minute basis.

She gets her own ride by a middle-aged man who calls her a bitch when she doesn’t let his hand stay on her leg while he drives. She goes to a cafe where a famous musician looks up to see her devour him with her eyes. They have the only meaningful conversation of the film. She meets the group at the disco where a $20 gets her past the bouncer. There is clumsy passion–she encourages, then changes her mind. The Playboy and she then take a walk and end up in his hotel room where she promises nothing will happen.

This dance between the two–a young girl and a 40something balding convertible guy–is the main emotional focus of the film. Is she teasing him on purpose? How serious is she about calling the cops on him? Does he even want to sleep with her? He mentions that he no longer possesses the stamina to keep up with a teenager in the wee hours of the morning.

But the most important question to Lili is: how badly does she want to lose her virginity?

Much like the main character in A REAL YOUNG GIRL, Lili is more excited about the loss of virginity on paper than she is in practice. And she is an awful girl to hang out with. Is her youth and inexperience worth the trouble? That’s what the older man has to figure out. She feels that the boys her age at the campsite are beneath her, though they’d be a much better, if bumbling, partner for first time lovemaking.

36 fillette

Lili is another protagonist from the Breillat filmography who isn’t a victim or a seductive Lolita, but has every terrible behavioral trait that many young girls have–brattiness, boredom, meanness, taunting, put-downs, and mostly in Lili’s case, teasing–both in the childlike sense and in the sexualized sense. It’s hard to see what the older man can possibly get out of an interlude with Lili that wouldn’t be much more fulfilling with one of the many women available to him in the town. She simply isn’t that fantastic.

However, as a character, she certainly is well-rounded. Played by a 16-year-old actress named, Delphine Zentout, Lili must be both annoyingly adolescent and often charmingly seductive. She needs to be awkwardly sexual–to use her body and the hair over her eyes to make the men in the film–of all ages–believe she’s worth the trouble.

36 fillette

As usual after seeing something by Catherine Breillat, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the quality or what it’s trying to say. But I will continue to praise her for bringing stories that men can’t tell to the screen. She claims that this film is semi-autobiographical. But don’t most films by most directors include many incidents taken from real life. The difference here is that those incidents don’t show the main character in a particularly good light.

Get past the old man / young girl dynamic and think of it as the study of one realistic 14-year-old trying to find her way in the world. Thank you Ms. Breillat.

Two sidenotes: There is no bodily fluid in this film. A first. And this may be the single worst DVD transfer in the technology’s history. You’ll want to watch this on the smallest screen possible. I’m old enough to remember the unacceptable quality of foreign VHS tapes back in the 80s, so I should thank my lucky stars that this one isn’t that bad. However, ouch.

6.1 IMDB
***^ Ebert

36 Fillette @ Amazon

36 FILLETTE

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2008

December 3, 2008
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
UK / USA
English / Hindi
120 Minutes — November 12, 2008
Comedy / Crime / Drama / Romance
Danny Boyle [Shallow Grave; Trainspotting; The Beach; 28 Days Later; Millions] & Loveleen Tandan

It’s hard to describe just how “cool” this movie is. Which is a terrible way to refer to any kind of film. “Cool”.

A young man from the slums of Mumbai is a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The host can barely contain his contempt. Everyone expects him to exit the game early. But he continues to answer questions correctly, captivating all of India in the process. Most of the film is told in flashback as each question he is asked on the show reminds him of a part of his life. If the question is about US currency, he flashes back to a time when he was a hundred dollar bill. This is clearly unrealistic but sometimes, as the screen shows us early “It is written”. These flashbacks provide and opportunity for us to watch the visual styling of Danny Boyle, who is working out of his European element here. Jamal and his brother are first played by tiny Indian boys who live in an enormous slum just outside the gates of an airport. They spend their time playing cricket, trying their luck at money-making schemes, and outrunning the corrupt police.

There is thumping music, colorful fabrics, slow motion and shaky camera work. It is incredibly exciting.

The boys are compelling and respond to heartbreak with a seen-it-all attitude. They become orphaned and pick up a “third musketeer” along the way.

The film continually moves between the present-day quiz show and the incidents in Jamal’s life that led him to know answers that he has no right knowing.

It is loud and exciting and is a great mixture of western and Indian filmmaking. I loved it.





8.5 Metacritic
8.6 Critical Consensus
8.6 IMDB

Slumdog Millionaire @ Amazon

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Written by Michael W. Cummins