Monday, February 9, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

PHENOMENAL: (Danny Boyle) Slumdog Millionaire is a movie for the masses illustrating a vibrancy of culture existing among the darkest of standards, proving that human life is foremost lived. Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) brings to the screen the story of Jamal Malik, an orphaned Mumbai boy growing up on the streets. He candidly reveals a country and its people immune to devastation and caught up in extortion. He hides nothing from the harsh reality, simply because there is nowhere to hide in India. There is no freedom, only constant fear, and only the powerful ones survive. With the Jamal character (Dev Patel), we are given passage into the heart that exists underneath the grime, and the innocence beneath the corruption. Meshing energetic music with warm sights and street sounds creates a backdrop for Malik's quintessential journey through time, through the ups and downs of street life, one moment jumping in feces to get an autograph of his favorite movie star and the next watching his mother violently murdered in the street. Slumdog shows us what it looks like to have that innocence stolen and your life threatened over and over. This motif is carried out farther with Malik's participation on game show, the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? He relives moments in time from wherein his brain holds the answers to each question. The amazing power of this story comes as, through all of it, living in trash, swimming in poop, and dodging gunfire to play in your backyard, there are real lives being lived there. These people experience the same things we do; love, family, friendship, pick-up games, skipping class, reading the 3 Musketeers... all normal things. Real things that don't wait on clean hands or fresh water. They live in the here and now, executing a totally different kind of innocence than we're used to, and Boyle does a stand-out job of proving it's both devastating and beautiful to watch. I am 100%behind this film for this year's Best Picture. Don't miss seeing it.


WORTH-IT: (Andrew Stanton) Hard not to expect great things from the man who brought us Finding Nemo and A Bug's Life, and he does nothing but meet those expectations with more impossibly adorable, environmentally aware animated creatures. WALL-E is the story of a trash compacting robot, left on earth long after life has ceased to exist on the planet. For over 700 years, he has gone about his business alone, uninterrupted until the arrival of a suspicious new fangled robot named Eve, a robot sent from the "new" Earth to test the old planet's ability to support life. With the cutest animatronic voices, you find yourself rooting for this pair from the beginning, ignorant to the lack of "real" people and anxious to see more. Their journey takes us to the new Earth where they fight for the return of human life to a forgotten planet. It's a gentle way to encourage green living, and mildly reputing people for not taking responsibility for playing their part to protect the planet. With extreme solutions illustrating the potential detriment our lack of concern may lead to, this story inspires garden planting, enjoying the outdoors and of course, picking up your trash. A catchy song helps drive the point home, Down to Earth, by asking "do you feel tricked by the future you picked?" It calls out the human negligence and in turn celebrates the earth for what it is and can aspire to be. A truly heartwarming fable, WALL-E deserves nothing less than its Oscar nod. Perfect for everyone in your family, or all of your friends. Enjoy!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

WORTH-IT: (David Fincher) I tend to hold F. Scott Fitzgerald in a certain high esteem. He has an apt to write flagrantly and classically, all the while maintaining an aire of unique beauty, untouched by any other story and impossible to undermine. For that reason, I immediately was curious (no pun intended) of the potential this film held. How would it be possible to carry over such deep emotion and soul, something I find irreplaceable in book to film adaptations? But, curiosity is a funny thing, and my expectations of this film quickly escalated. Luckily, Fincher knew to choose timeless faces like Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson and Brad Pitt; he knew a muted color palette would successfully carry out a feeling of nostalgia mixed with new experience; and at last, he found a way to make a short story into one of the longest movies, yet lacking one moment of monotonous lag. Fitzgerald's gentle voice and unique style completely reveal themselves through Fincher's Curious Case. Fascinating make-up and a soft artful impression leave an avid reader satisfied that much is left to the mind of the viewer, ruining no personal creativity and encouraging liberal sentiment. The story is a true definition of originality. A beautiful love story and one of genuine self-discovery, Curious Case is one not to miss. Prepare yourself for a long movie and revel in the fact that it is a treat to see the story. You'll laugh and you might cry, but overall you'll feel the warmth from the inside that shrugs off a cheesy threat, and wins over your heart.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Revolutionary Road

MUST-SEE: (Sam Mendes) Before seeing this film, you really should fall in love with the book first. Written by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is truly an overlooked classic. The story is of April and Frank Wheeler, a young married couple fighting a monotonous threat of sweet suburban life, struggling to hold their relationship (and family) together despite their inner defeat. It's their dreams that suffer in this story, and their constant cry is that the "hopeless emptiness" of the American Dream are draining them of the potential they once had. The only way out, the only way to save their creativity and live happily and satisfied, is to move to Paris and allow themselves to be the interesting, "special," people they really are. Well executed on screen, tiny seams start to rip in this theory and plan. Is it that the couple are now comfortable in the monotony? Afraid of anything but the monotony and that a new exciting life would reveal they are in fact not special or interesting? And at last, are they so brainwashed, stuck in this life for so long, that they actually believe in the potential of this "sweet" and simple life? All of the above fire through Frank Wheeler's mind, brilliantly payed by an also overlooked Leonardo DiCaprio, sending him into contstant question of where he fits best in life. Is he better off here, knowing he is superior? Or is he superior once he leaves, proving his worth by choosing better? He is phenomenal as the tormented Frank Wheeler, able to simultaneously portray innocence and ignorance, enact fury and fear, and roll everything into one lovable, forgivable family man. Leo's ability to play someone so lost, but so confident in each moment, makes his performance one to sting your tearducts, knock the air from your lungs and hope, above all else, that happiness will somehow find this man. April Wheeler is played equally well by a mesmerizing Kate Winslet. Also overlooked by our friends at the Academy, Winslet has the uncanny ability to fire up an audience no matter the moral. As she empties April's eyes of emotion, drains her face of any light whatsoever, she draws fantastic reaction to something deeper, her spirit. April immediately takes hold of your soul, becomes a real person with genuine validity. Together Kate and Leo create a wrenching illustration of some of the saddest creatures ever spoken of. No two others could have served the late Richard Yates so well. His words and his motif jump off the page and onto the screen, leaving nothing out of order, nothing desired, and everything mundane and muted in vibrant implication, as it should be. Truly heartbreaking, Revolutionary Road is worth the gasp it gives your heart. Riveting performances and subtle tragedy make this one not to be overlooked in your own regard.

Frost Nixon

MUST-SEE: (Ron Howard) From the opinions of someone completely ignorant to anything about Richard Nixon and Watergate that wasn't revealed through 1999's Dick, I have to say this movie is incredible. It's a summed up version of the White House scandal, revealed in the questions and answers that took place between David frost and President Nixon in the summer of 1977. Played majestically by Frank Langella, Nixon is believably human, a fragile aging man fighting to keep his political repuatation alive post-impeachment as well as maintain his "presidential" stature. Michael Sheen is TV host and pop star David Frost, adequately matched to a real-life Frost, performing it as naturally as if he were him. As Frost bites off (possibly) more than he can chew with his own reputation's biggest subject yet, Nixon prepares to railroad an inexperienced investigative journalist. The result is an ultimate battle of wits, where the only weapons are experience and confidence backed by a ruthless ability to bullshit. Langella reverberates a calm and defiant demeanor, clamoring Frost's hopes as the interviews skew from an intended direction. Only as Nixon finds comfort and begins to relax does Frost's determination (and threat to go bankrupt) light a fire underneath his team, ultimately cornering Nixon, tiring him out and at last, squeezing a confession for 400 million viewers to see. The film beautifully portrays the emotional ride our nation was on that summer, explaining plenty (for the ignorant few) but leaving the evidence of "character" to your own definition. The loose filming gave it 70s realism, the acting brought it validation. Langella sits high on a list of nominees for this role. Thanks to Ron Howard for delivering a believable, relatable, historical piece to a modern-day society of political curiosity.