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Slumdog Millionaire Movie Review

December 8, 2008 3 comments

In four words: DO NOT MISS IT.

As someone that revels in the joys of biting sarcasm and the cynicism of all around me, I for once find myself stripped of my ability to strike a less than effusive tone. Slumdog Millionaire – which I initially avoided like I would a ridiculous Bollywood romp, then got curious about after good word and mouth and great reviews – hit me in the solar plexus and left me laughing, tearing up, getting angry, getting sad, cringing, laughing and tearing up again. It was a color-filled rollercoaster as any movie set in Bombay ought to be, and I loved every minute of it.

A lot of people have referred to Danny Boyle‘s improbable yet delicious rags-to-riches tale of a young orphan Dickensian. While that is certainly a compliment, it robs the movie of its very Indian, very Bombay-esque essence. The sights, the sounds, the colors, the pitch-perfect crass slum Hindi, the wretched settings in which slum dwellers eke out an existence, the inhumanity and the glorious humanity of it all is INDIAN above all else. The movie is an Indian movie at heart – how ironic, then, that it took an international crew to create such memorable fare while Bollywood continues to wallow in the dimwitted mind-numbing shit and piss they churn out with robotic frequency, each movie doing a more miserable job of aping the gringos than the last.

Not to give anything away but the story centers around a young lad named Jamal Malik who grew up in the sprawling slums of Bombay with his slightly older and far edgier brother Salim. The Muslim brothers know nothing but squalor and poverty and violence and learn to live their lives on the precipice of death. They beg, cheat, steal and con European tourists to get by. They cuss, punch, kill and maim to protect each other and the dignity of those around them. One brother ends up in a lowly white collar gig, a marginal loser on the fringe of a society where success is nowadays symbolized by a headset and a feeble attempt at a foreign accent (a gross exaggeration, no doubt, but valid for this movie). The other brother, armed with a Colt and a willingness to bend the rules turns player. No prizes for guessing who turns millionaire in the end.

Most of the characters are well written and the movie consciously avoids Bollywood stereotypes of dancing around trees and other nonsense. The fact that they reserve a Bollywood-like dance for the very end of the movie before the credits is a welcome change and a fitting rebuke of traditional Bollywood; it shows that one can make a great movie with a great soundtrack that is hugely entertaining without resorting to the path of least resistance.

Parts of the love story between the main character (Dev) and his lifelong squeeze are a stretch at best and hackneyed at worst. But this is a minor peccadillo and takes almost nothing away from the soaring splendor that is Slumdog Millionaire.

So to recap: DO NOT MISS IT.

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Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Movie Review

March 31, 2008 Leave a comment

I’m not the kinda guy who will willingly walk into a completely artsy movie just for the heck of it. But I do enjoy the occasional flick that is miles away from stuff getting blown up.

I heard about “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” from a coworker and was immediately intrigued with that very unique title. I’m so pleased that I actually watched it.

The movie is about a debonair, flawed and all-too-human French magazine editor who suffers a massive stroke and is basically completely paralyzed except for one eye. As he says, he has his eye, his imagination and his memories.

And what a wonderful imagination it is. The filmmakers take us into the victim’s brain with roving images of glaciers, deserts and gorgeous sights around the globe. They take us to his memories at Lourdes, the French countryside, sex on the beach with a beautiful French woman.

I won’t say much more because I’d hate to ruin it for you, but please do yourself a favor and watch this movie. You won’t regret it.

Categories: movies, reviews

Bourne Ultimatum Is A SnowBlower’s Movie

August 4, 2007 1 comment

Or something to that effect. Watching The Bourne Ultimatum is like snorting a pound of cocaine while just sitting around. The movie is so thrillingly quick and just so much goddamn fun. Most reviews have supplicated themselves at the throne of the King of Jerky-Camera-Land Paul Greengrass (the movie director who also did the ultra-wrenching United 93); that being said, there isn’t much of a point in me telling you the same things that everybody else has already reiterated.

What I will say is this; watch out for the background score. I’m no audiophile, but the action wouldn’t be half as fun (and even half would be awesome) without John Williams’ fantastic musical touch.

If you haven’t been to Europe yet, the movie will serve as a voyeur’s dream; you’ll feel you are right there with Bourne. The locations are nothing short of amazing – Moscow, Turin, London and of all places Tangiers, Morocco. The sequence in Tangiers is my personal favorite since that’s not a city you see frequently in American cinema; Greengrass uses that fact with amazing effect as Bourne jumps Crouching-Tiger-style from roof to roof. The sequence reaches its crescendo when Bourne and another CIA assassin go at it mano-a-mano in a dingy Tangiers apartment. Watch out also for the kick-ass shot in which Bourne jumps off a roof and flies right through a glass window – nothing short of exhilarating.

The end is a little bit weak since the rug that the moviemakers are trying to pull out from under us ends up being totally threadbare; the suspense is totally overstated. But it’s Bourne’s journey home to NYC that makes the movie a massive adrenaline surge.

Now you just have to hope that someone can convince Dick Cheney to watch it.

Ratatouille – Movie Review

July 8, 2007 2 comments

When I first saw the preview for Ratatouille, I wasn’t so impressed – a movie about rats? No thanks, I’ll pass, I said to myself.

Then I saw the Metacritic reviews with all these critics lining up to drool over Brad Bird’s new oeuvre. It might be worth it after all, I thought to myself.

But this didn’t prepare me for the wonder and glory that Ratatouille brings to the silver screen. I don’t remember the last time I sat in a movie theater so mesmerized, so enveloped by what Fake Steve would call “a sense of childlike wonder”. The story holds its own against the fantastic animation work throughout the movie – no small task, since Pixar has done a fantastic job of imagining Paris in Pixar-land. Cobblestone streets, little European cars, lovely fountains and rude Frenchies – they’ve got it down to the last little detail, as is their wont.

For those who are joining us late – the movie is basically one rat’s quest to go from scavenger to culinary master, from a French countryside cottage to a chic restaurant in Paris. In order to make it happen, the rat must use a young garbage boy who can’t cook worth a damn but has, ahem, a nice heart.

Sound cliched and disgusting? Don’t worry, that’s only because I don’t know how to write. Go watch this one.

SiCKO Is Part Powerful Tearjerker, Part Bullshit – Movie Review

June 30, 2007 9 comments

This is the movie review for SiCKO, Michael Moore’s new “documentary” about the U.S health care system and its relative spot against the rest of the world.

The first half of the movie is powerful stuff – primarily because Moore stays behind camera (unlike his other films) and lets the treatment denial horror stories of insured Americans and their tears do all the talking. Read more…

Notes on a Scandal – Movie Review

If you want a creepy movie that generates its chills without bloody corpses, moonlit nights, howling wolves or a pack of roving zombies out to get Grandma – watch “Notes on a Scandal“.

This is a British film with Judi Dench playing her usual Ill-chew-your-nuts-out-like-an-irascible-grandmother self as a high school history teacher. Cate Blanchett plays a colleague, a 37 year old teacher who may have a thing for men not quite in her age bracket. Barbara’s (Dench) attraction towards Sheba (Blanchett) is fairly bone-chilling, accompanied in no small part by great background music.

When Sheba (unaware of Barbara’s feelings) commits adultery with another, uh, man (watch for yourself), Barbara sets down a course of manipulation that is bound to end badly for all involved.

Once again, this is a small movie with no surprises, explosions or blood; but the fabulous cast, the taut storytelling, crisp dialogue and a frigid background score make for a good ninety minutes. I highly recommend it.

A Mighty Heart Indeed

It is hard to make a movie when the ending is not only well known but also shatteringly gruesome. But that is exactly what Brangelina and co. have pulled off with “A Mighty Heart”, which I managed to catch this evening.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the movie is a chronicle of the tense few weeks between Danny Pearl’s kidnapping and his eventual demise at the hands of crazed fundamentalists. The story is set in Karachi and feels like a documentary (supposedly the director’s signature style).

Since I am Indian, the movie was a voyeuristic journey into Pakistan, an oft-hated “enemy” that (unsurprisingly) looks and feels so much like India. The city streets, the people, the coarsely uttered Urdu/Hindi look and felt strangely familiar and foreign at the same time. Hell, I even noticed the electrical outlets and chipping paint in a horrifyingly realistic torture scene. Kudos to the filmmakers for doing a kick-ass job of the visual elements of the movie.

Love her or hate her, Angelina does a great job of playing Mariane Pearl and portraying her quiet dignity and resolve in the face of egregious odds. For my money’s worth, she carries the show. You have to see it to believe me.

While the movie is sad enough, the worst part was that on opening night, most of the movie theater was empty. Should we consider that a sad commentary on our society? I’ll leave that up to you.