Movie Review: SAG Award Winning Slumdog Millionaire is One of the Best Movies of the Year

Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan made one of the finest movies of the year. I loved this movie. It was well made, finely directed, excellently executed, and spectacularly acted (and it did not abuse adverbs so heinously).

Dev Patel plays the main character, Jamal Malik, an Indian boy from the slums of Mumbai, who haphazardly ends up on India’s, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The drama of his life – and his love for Latika, played by costar  Freida Pinto – propels the movie through both past and present. I want to refrain, however, from talking about the plot, because going in blank will make it all the more poignant.

What compelled me most was a look at a life and culture – one experienced by millions and millions of people half the world away – so distant from and unfamiliar to my own. Truly, an American such as myself can’t even imagine what it is to grow up as Jamal has, and the way in which this life was so accurately portrayed is something to be wondered at. In depicting life in an Indian slum there was no pity or sorrow, woe or misery.  The movie just showed it as it is, never attempting to pull at our heartstrings or to make us sad for the billions of lives harder than our own. It just showed us through this captivating story. And that was enough.

The cast of Slumdog Millionaire won the Screen Actors Guild’s award for outstanding performance by a motion picture cast, and boy howdy did they deserve it. They were all spectacular.

10 Chocolate Salty Balls.

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Bride Wars with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway is Cute but Predictable

I did not go to this movie voluntarily. My girlfriend had been asking me for weeks. I finally succumbed on Friday night by using two free Fandango movie passes to get us tickets for a ‘date-night,’ not something we get many opportunities to do. We met for dinner, got popcorn and candy (though I wasn’t too keen on sharing my candy) and then settled in to watch Bride Wars. Good old Friday night date style…ish. Other than a gay couple – or two chummy male friends? – I was among very few men, all of whom were there with their ladies, presumably by force, coercion or bribery.

It was certainly better than I’d expected but, a. that’s not saying much and b. movies for which I have low expectations are almost certainly better than they would have been if I were expecting the cinematic experience of a life-time.

There were some hardy laughs, and jokes of differing style and laugh potential, depending on what makes you chuckle. So, there, I have to give Bride Wars credit. But is that enough? It was far from hysterical all the way through. The antics and shenanigans (can there be both at once?) were mildly amusing but they hardly elicited bouts of guffaws throughout. It was, to say the least from the perspective of a man who actually does enjoy romantic comedies but prefers for them to have a little something more (do they ever?), tolerable. I was not unhappy or uncomfortable being there. It wasn’t too long and I didn’t look at my watch. It kept moving quickly enough, but that brings me to my final problem.

It was predictable.

Now, I think most women, though their powers of prediction generally surpass mine, consciously ignore the inclination to predict when watching romantic comedies for fear of realizing that the vast majority of the genre is silly and not worth blue-lighting. However, I can’t turn that switch off and found the entire thing mesmerizingly predictable. Part of that is, no doubt, due to the commercials which leave little to our imaginations, and the rest is a result of the number of possible outcomes there could be (very few, in case that was unclear) and then picking up on the none-too-subtle hints that the director drops (but I don’t think means to!).

But what of it? Is it a crime to work within an inflexible genre? No. Is it my fault for going to see this movie that I had to know the end to before it happened? Partly.

So at the end of the day I’ll give this flick 5 Chocolate Salty Balls.

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vauhn Have Fun in Four Christmases

It seems to me that a movie so obviously related to Christmas might have been coming out a little early when released on Thanksgiving. However, that’s the way of the world (which is to say, America) these days. Once Thanksgiving hits (though this year I’d say it came mid-November) the Holiday Season is upon us.

Typically I’m not that into Vince Vauhn doing romantic comedies. I prefer him in darker or more ridiculous roles, like say, as Norman Bates or his character on Be Cool – “E-Weezey!” However, he did a pretty decent job in this movie. Nothing spectacular, but how often does that word get associated with Vauhn anyway.

Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, is just the type of woman I like to see in romantic comedies. Not only is she stunning and classically beautiful, fun and spunky, and hints of a little naugtiness behind those big eyes, but she’s a great actress. As usual in these roles she seemed comfortable and at ease, all the while playing an excellent counterpart to Vauhn.

Living in San Francisco made this a particularly good movie for enjoying the oos and ahs of the crowd as it watched various scenes and panoramas of the city. Curiously, though, for those of us in the know, there was no reason for the couple to go over the Golden Gate Bridge on their way to the airport. That’s the opposite direction of the airport and no one is getting to Fiji driving north.

So, the movie was funny, laugh out loud a number of times, a little dumb here and there, a little over the top on ocassion but all in all a very standard and decent Holiday Season romantic comedy. If you’re into that sort of thing, knock yourself out, and if not, I’d just avoid this one.

A simple 5 Chocolate Salty Balls for Four Christmases.

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James Bond Quantum of Solace with Daniel Craig is Dark and Awesome

I really enjoyed the new Bond movie. And this is coming from a classic Bond fan – Sean Connery all the way, baby, I usually say, but this was damn fine Bond.

One thing I liked was the crime syndicate that we’re seeing form – a throwback to some classic bond when it wasn’t always some new and random villain. And the proper development of a Bond character is also great stuff. Craig isn’t a classic bond figure who’s smooth talking, always in control, chillax to the max, etc. He’s rough around the edges, doesn’t have total control over his emotions (but he’s learning) and not fully developed in the personality department either.

But he fucks, shoots and is badass like any other bond (other than Timothy Dalton).

The plot was good, the action was great and the bad guy was wicked. I did notice that they really made an effort to get all of the various possible chase scenes in there though: land, air, sea and by foot. A little much in that department but that’s cool.

I know this review is a little late coming but hopefully if you haven’t seen it yet you’ll consider giving it a shot. If it’s a bonus it was under two hours which I think is an excellent feature for any movie, especially ones that tend to run way too long.

What did you think of this movie? What was your favorite part? You pscyhed for the next one?

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8 Chocolate Salty Balls for Quantum of Solace.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe are Excellent in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies

As far as I know this hasn’t been a critically acclaimed film. In fact, it’s one among many Hollywood attempts to expose the problematic approach of the United States to the War on Terror. Well, we all know it’s flawed but throwing it in our faces when we’ve paid $10 to be entertained is not the greatest approach.

As it happens, this movie was pretty entertaining. It was, I contend, too long, and quite frankly I don’t understand why almost every movie these days is over 2 hours. I wish I could say I thought they were trying to give us our money’s worth, but when it comes to movies, value is not measured in time. It’s measured in the quality of the product on the screen. Now, it’s not that there were a huge amount of scenes that needed cutting, but generally I find long movies to be a problem with ego or intelligence. Either the director/editor thinks that his material is too good to be cut or (s)he’s not smart enough to figure out how to cut material while making sure the story doesn’t fall apart. It’s an art and it’s difficult, I understand, but that doesn’t mean I need to sit there through 30 minutes of bunk material because you can’t get your cut on.

In any case, this movie was good, if a little long. I’m not generally a big Russell Crowe fan, but he did a good job being a character I wasn’t supposed to like much anyway. Leonardo DiCaprio, as always, was spectacular. I often say that he is one of the premier actors of our generation and I stand by that. He is incredible and this performance was great – not Oscar great and perhaps not Blood Diamond great, but he’s great.

I loved the portrayal of certain aspects of Muslim culture in Jordan, including the difficulties between the Muslim woman and DiCaprio’s character, and I loved the defense of the Middle East and Islamic culture by DiCaprio. The Middle East is a great place with great people and this global struggle that we’ve all become embroiled in makes it rather difficult to realize that. Obviously, that’s what Hollywood, in all its glory, wants us to see, but unfortunately it would rather slam it in our faces than subtly demonstrate the fact. What can you do?

I give Body of Lies 7 chocolate salty balls.

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Sean William Scott and Paul Rudd are Awesome in the Consistently Hilarious Role Models

Maybe I’m just really imature and like boob jokes and cursing (well, not maybe – for sure), but I thought that Role Models was awesome. I laughed from the first scene to the last. The jokes were gratuitous, unnecessary, vulgar and sure to offend. In short, they were my favorite kinds of jokes.

Both kids were excellent. The adults were too. Jane Lynch, who played Gale Sweeney and whom you may remember as the electronic store manager from The 40 Year Old Virgin was over the top but really entertaining. No one in this movie was cast poorly from the parents to the extras.

One could argue that this movie had little of value to offer, but I disagree. For the two main characters, it was a tale of growing up and coming to appreciate that there’s more to life than just themselves. For two kids, it was a story of getting noticed, appreciated and loved. People grew up, people learned, and people loved. What I’m trying to say is that many of the characters were dynamic and the story went some were.

What’s more awesome is that the story went there fast. This movie was an hour and a half. You may have caught from my rant in my review of Body of Lies that long movies piss me off. This movie didn’t have any extra material. It went from start to finish with laughs and humor and good times, and unlike this rambling review, it didn’t muck about and make me wonder why I was sitting there, watching a scene for ten minutes before a half-hearted punch-line laugh brought it to a close.

Basically, if you love sick and vulgar, funny and entertaining, then this movie is for you. I give it 8 Chocolate Salty Balls.

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My Best Friend’s Girl, with Dane Cook and Kate Hudson is Great Laughs and Silly Antics

A lot of people think that Dane Cook is childish. I can’t help but agree, though I still think he’s hilarious. And this movie was a testimony to that. I have no doubt that Cook had a hand in writing this movie – points at which they just told him, “insert your material here.”

Having seen Dane Cook live, I felt like I was watching bits of his sketches – not that they seemed to be giving him moments of stand-up comedy mid-film, but that the way he rehearses his own material again and again until he has it perfectly is the way he prepared for this role.

In any case, I laughed a lot. I’m going to tell you a joke from the movie as this blog does concern religion and this is one of the more religious moments from the movie. If you don’t want a joke (not plot related) spoiled, skip down after this paragraph:

A priest and a rabbi are at a wedding. They see a little boy bend over to pick something up, and the priest says, “I’d really like to screw him.” The rabbi asks, “Out of what?”

Also, the pizza restaurant, Cheesus Crust, was a hilarious touch, as was the owner’s reason for why she had created it.

Really – some great moments and consistent laughing fun. Be warned, though, this movie is crazy vulgar and incredibly disgusting – two characteristics I prize highly in funny movies but which you may not enjoy.

I give this a robust 7.5 Chocolate Salty Balls.

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Tina Fey’s Baby Mama, Starring Amy Poehler, is Pretty Funny

Alright, it definitely wasn’t the funniest movie around and it doesn’t deserve any serious accolades or love from the critics, but I laughed enough times and generally enjoyed watching it. Is that such a spectacular endorsement? No. But the critics panned this movie and it certainly didn’t deserve that.

Tina Fey gave a standard Tina Fey-ey performance, and her primary co-stars did a fine job too. You don’t expect the world, you don’t get it, but everybody goes home happy. It’s kind of like most sex – it doesn’t blow your mind but you’re more relaxed afterwards and pleased you did it.

A great part about this movie were the major roles played by Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver, Fey’s boss and surrogate agency owner, respectively. They both did a great job, were totally random and silly in their parts and were fun to see.

I give this movie five chocolate salty balls, and recommend it to anyone who has an hour and a half to kill and enjoys silliness.

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Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder with Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. Lambasts Hollywood as This Summer’s Sensational Satire

Few movies have started this awesome – with so much spunk, cursing and hilariousness. The opening minute is just ridiculous. Though I can’t say the movie maintains this level of absurdity through the duration, there are numerous great scenes and funny lines. At the very least, it’s entirely ridiculous.

This seems to have been the brainchild of Ben Stiller, who really did do an excellent job, but I can’t say that anyone wasn’t great, including Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. I’m not going to tell you all of the cameos and other funny people that appeared because catching them all is half the fun.

A large point of the movie was to lambast Hollywood for its celebrity idiocy, absurdity and general way of doing things, from the rich Jewish moguls at the top, to the insecure big name actors and the idealistic new actors – and every level of fake, pretentious, nonsensical bullshit in between and around them all. In that respect, the movie gets an A+. What a great job it did, really taking its mockery to the next level.

Without taking away from certain jokes, cameos and lines, there’s not too much more I feel I can say, other than to let you know if this will be for you. It is vulgar, very rated R for language and grossness (though much of the blood and guts is meant to look fake to emphasize the Hollywoodness of it), and filled with cultural jokes, movie trivia/history and stupid people to laugh at. If these things aren’t up your alley – particularly satire as an artform – then this movie is definitely not for you. If you enjoy any of those things, especially when they’re executed in wonderful ways that keep a smile on your face for over 50% of the time you’re in the movie, then I’d check this out.

I award it a solid 8 Chocolate Salty Balls. A great end-of-summer movie. Get your own copy: Tropic Thunder.

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Rogen and Franco Do a Great Job in the Bizarre and Twisted Pineapple Express

Honestly, I’m shocked at how much I enjoyed this movie. It definitely won’t be for everyone, but to those for whom this movie holds any appeal, I think you’ll get a surprising kick out of it, mostly because there’s not a whole lot like it.

Pineapple Express has a slightly Lebowski-esque feel with a dollop of 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad style humor. But tossing around those movie names doesn’t quite begin to convey to you what kind of movie you’re about to see or just what elements of those films it really has – they’re just feelings really.

First, there’s an incredible amount of pot smoking and the entire movie really does revolve around pot. If you don’t like getting high or laughing at high people, the movie’s probably not for you. There’s also a surprising amount of action. I knew the basic plot before going into the film, but I expected it to be a bit tamer. The violence was pretty gratuitous, and I’m surprised how many people got shot and how much nasty stuff they showed. Also, a lot of people proved surprisingly fine after a lot of getting shot. It was no Tarantino film or anything but for a stoner movie there was a lot of blood and violence. For some reason, though, this is what added that twist and gave it the bizarre feel that carried through pretty much the whole film

More than that, it was funny – not laugh your ass off funny over and over again, but good lines with good laughs interspersed pretty regularly. An element I was not expecting (it seems like there were a lot) was the human touch. The conversations between a lot of the characters, particularly as the stoned scenes went, were shockingly realistic, personal and sometimes touching. Sometimes I don’t find Seth Rogen’s speech patterns particularly realistic, but in this movie I thought he was different – maybe due to the dynamic with James Franco. In any case, the conversation was natural and felt real – perhaps that’s what they call good acting.

There’s more to say, but since I think at this point you can probably decide whether or not it’s for you, I’m going to go ahead and bow out with a surprising rating of 8 Chocolate Salty Balls. Good laughs, weird action and mostly more bizarre than I could have expected.

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