Slumdog Millionaire

Monday, December 22, 2008


"Slumism is the pent-up anger of people living on the outside of affluence. Slumism is decay of structure and deterioration of the human spirit. Slumism is a virus which spreads through the body politic. As other “isms,” it breeds disorder and demagoguery and hate. " The words of Hubert Humphrey could be right under most circumstances, but Slumdog Millionaire is about overcoming poverty driven obstacles and the curious and light-hearted energy that can exist in this harsh environment.

Jamal Malik has been arrested for suspicion of cheating on India's version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' because he's about to win. But how can a slumdog, seventeen years old to boot, know enough to win the million? And thus, we're taken through the course of his life by way of intericate flashbacks, and we see for oursleves how life experience can singificantly alter one's present. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie of this caliber.

Shot on the streets of India, Slumdog is full of hope and great story-telling. I was surprised to know that much of this intercrately weaved film was in English, but most of Jamal's youth was told in Hindi. I think that many viewers may find this movie to be eye opening. It isn't everyday that American's sitting in their cushy stadium seating see children living in landfills and fearing organized begging rings. But aside from international awareness, Slumdog is touching and its hero posseses an ironic innocense and unyielding spirit that makes this film unique and touching.

Don't be fooled by the seemingly cheesy premise. I'm guessing that the decision to base it around a game show has something to do with Indian culture in general. India loves light-hearted, sometimes (mostly) corny media (e.g. the Bollywood musical), and I appreciated the thought to add the authentic cultural influence. However, in no way is Slumdog corny.

Slumdog has cinematic style and class - hip but not trendy. Ocassionally, some scenes were shot in documentary style while his happy childhood memories look like nostaligic home movies. It definitely had cinéma vérité influences. The lighting marks each scene's tone, and then, there was the awesome soundtrack filled wth pop music from around the world. And I cannot forget to mention the subtle details in the subtitles, which is telling of the filmmaker's devotion to every component of this film

However, Slumdog's ending isn't as powerful as I hoped it would be, but my only compliant may have little to do with the movie and more to do with how jaded I am. There is remarkable quality found in this film, and it is worth watching - both for its story and for its message.

Sidenote: I thought the young Jamal was absolutely adorable.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:59 PM 0 comments  

Speed Racer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Drug addicts of the world, you no longer have a need to take acid. I have found you an alternative. What you need is a DVD player and a copy of Speed Racer, the latest concoction presented by the Wachowski Brothers!

Based on the 1960's Japanese anime series of the same title, Speed Racer stars Emile Hirsch stars as Speed, the world's leading rookie race car driver. Walking in his brother's footsteps, Speed strives to be the best, but when an evil conglomerat, Royalton Industries, tries to recruit him as their new fresh face, Speed finds that refusing their offer doesn't make for such a smooth ride.

Speed Racer is a total visual mind trip. Overwhelming color, anti-gravitational effects, and a motif that's trapped between a cartoon and reality are all trademarks of this latest family flick. It will take about 30 minutes for you to get use to the sheer absurdity of what mostly looks like streaks across the screen, but once you've crossed the overwhelmingness of it all, it's good, fast fun from then on out. Completly jubullant and entertaining, Speed Racer is crazy and surreal. Tim Burton, eat your heart out. I throughly enjoyed the ridiculous, 360 degree, sideway flips the cars would do, and I thought the kiddy action out-weighed any unrealistic tendencies that this film seemed to focus on. There were chase scenes, fight scenes, explosions, and weapons that gave this film a intersting edge, and I think it was something that only the Wachoski Brothers could make cool.

My only two complaints are as follows: first, there is the story of Speed's dead brother. The closure to this piece of the puzzle was lame, and though this film in its entirety can be argued as lame, this part was exhaustively lame. Second, as much as I adore Matthew Fox, he sucks as a baddass, let alone as a supposedly intimidating 'Racer X.'

Speed Racer takes stamina and a little bit of courage. However, in the end, it was quite enjoyable. Sometimes people need a little speed.

Christina Ricci, Susan Surandon, and John Goodman also star.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:25 PM 1 comments  

Step Up 2: The Streets

Monday, December 15, 2008


Dance is such a great form of expression, and it's such a great skill to have. People are always impressed if you know how to do any kind of dance, but there are some kinds that I can't find the appreciation for. For instance, I go to a religous conference every few years, and every time I go, they always have these expressionist dancers that I find distracting. I dare say that its kind of corny (God is going to shoot lightning at me now). But ribbon twirler's aside, I also didn't enjoy watching the "street" dancing that Step Up 2 the Streets exposèd.

Back at Maryland School of the Art (MSA), Andie West finds herself in a whole new world. A part of a local gang of street dancers, 4-1-0, Andie has become a common hooligan. So Andie's aunt sends her to MSA school in hopes that she can get her act together and go to college. Of course, her first few months at the art school are rough. She doesn't fit in, and her style of dance is considered beneath the schools standards. With the help of another student (who also happens to be the brother of MSA's school director) Andie finds herself expanding the school's idea of art and finding the confidence to battle at The Streets.

I don't normally care about how bad a dance movie's plot is or how cheesy the love story is - as long as the dancing is good. However, I must say that this was probably one of the worst movies I've seen in a very long time. It's "step up" from Fool's Gold, but still some kind of awful. First, its a sequel - but a Bring it On kind of sequel. Nothing new. Just a regurgitated plot and a new 'villian' to beat. Second, the dancing was so jerky. You know that dude the Britney Spears cheated on Justin with; Wade Robson? I'm sure he's suppose to be an excellent dancer, but something just seems so stiff about the way he dances. Same with the moves in this movie. If that's what street dancing is suppose to be, I'm not a fan. Third, yes the end 'battle' was insanely (in a good way) choreographed, but seriously, the rain and the conspicuous stage lighting? If this movie was suppose mimic street culture, the street is a glamorous place.

There's an energy that draws audiences to see attractive youth and sex with clothes, but I warn you not to succumb to what you may think is a guilty pleasure. So I digress into song: Skip this movie. Skip it, skip it, skippin' and a screamin' and a bop-d-bop. Skip it, skip it, this jingle is a better than the flick hop hop.

Sidenote: Channing Tatum makes a brief appearance as his original character Tyler Gage.
Sidenote: We have a whole lot to look forward to. They're making a thrid movie, Step Up 3: The Pace. Whopp-de-doo.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:51 PM 0 comments  

The Visitor

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


When I was a kid, I always wondered what my teachers were like outside the classroom. Though I now realize that teachers are just normal people, like you and me, I still wonder about those older teachers; the ones with strange classroom ticks; the ones who dress frumpy, but are always in a coat and tie; the ones who don't ever seem to really enjoy spreading knowledge to the next generation. What do they go home to everyday?

Walter Vale is a white, east coast, university professor with no personality. He's silently pompous, quiet, and introverted. Sent to New York for a conference, he finds that two immigrants have been living in his New York apartment, his second home. Due to his loneliness, or his curiosity, he asks the couple to stay even though they insist on leaving, and from that moment, he forms a connection with these perfect strangers.

The Visitor is whole-heartedly the saddest movie I have ever seen in my entire life. There is a subtle, quiet but unbearable hopelessness in this film that is not obvious or apparent. Its not emotional or somber. But it's so real, and that's what makes The Visitor so tragic. Despite his conservative, white collared background, Walter becomes enthralled with the African drum that Tarek, one of his visitors, plays professionally. Through percussion music and new friendships, he acutally begins living. But then we are struck with how quickly life can be taken away, and Walter, once again, must go at it alone.

This film examines the conventional definition of 'visitor' and prompts the question, "am I a visitor in my own life?" This movie, is so much and so simple. I highly recommend this independent film, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it nominated for an Oscar.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 1:40 PM 0 comments  


Monday, December 01, 2008


There are benefits and costs for everything in life. In exchange for privacy, celebrities get to be rich and famous. In exchange for more free time and a social life, high ranking executives have power. In exchange for normalcy, super heros have super power. And us normal people wonder why they complain when they've been given a gift, but we fail to realize we have the gift.

John Hancock is a down-and-out, alcoholic bum, who also happens to have super powers. He is the only one of his kind, and because of this, he squanders his powers but often saves lives in unconventional, sometimes humiliating, and inconsiderate ways. His low-life personality and actions make him unfavorable with the public. Yet he somehow manages to garner the pity of the city's Public Relations Representative, Ray Embrey. With his help, Hancock is helped back on his feet, but it becomes apparent that there is more to Hancock's past than even Hancock thought.

A super-powered cast including Will Smith and Academy Award winning actress, Charlize Theron, Hancock had some high points. It had great special effects, exciting action scenes, a good leading actor, and it's just kind of an out-of-the-box concept.

But Hancock was a strange mixture of pathos and comedy. Thankfully, it was more serious than comedic, but this particular combination made aspects of this film feel seem childish and out of place; almost like a Spy Kids movie gone wrong. Yes, it is funny when Hancock throws the whale out into the ocean, and hits the sailboat by mistake. Yes, its funny that Hancock drunk flies. However, poking fun at his difficienceies but to try and simulteanously show that Hancock is a deeply tragic, lonely, and pathetic man gave me an 'off' kind of feeling - almost like I was being chastised for laughing at him in the first place. Plus, it jumped the shark when we found out the real foundations of Hancock's power. It was that point that I officially changed the label for this movie from "action comedy" to "low ranking family flick."

So, in summary, I had some problems with the overall plot strategy; however, everything else was okay. Hancock was great to watch over the Thanksgiving weekend, and it's perfect for a multi-generalition audience, so its both Grandparent and kid friendly. But I still like my super heros tragic and bad-ass. If they're going to be comedians, they need to been in a cartoon.

SPOILER ALERT~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I must digress here to rant a little bit about the whole Will Smith and Charlize Theron relationship.
1.) They have no on-screen chemistry.
2.) If they were suppose to be together since the beginning of time, how were they able to overcome the time of slavery and racist oppresion?
3.) What gives Mary (Theron) the right to give Hancock crap for the way he handles his super hero role, when she hides her powers and leaves the world to rot?

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:59 PM 0 comments