By Dan Skip Allen
Jamal Malick is one question away from 20 million rupees. That's how Slumdog Millionaire gets started. The real question though is how did this nobody from the slums of Mumbai, India get into the hot seat on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? "I knew the answers," says Jamal while he's being interrogated by a Police Inspector (Irrfan Khan) and his assistant. But even they don't believe he has gotten as far as he's got. Of course, they think he's cheated! How could a telecommunicator like Jamal know so much?
Danny Boyle has been known as an eclectic director during his thirty-year career. He's done slacker films, horror films, and sci-fi films. It wasn't until Simon Beaufoy brought him the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup that he would find and direct his magnum opus, the film that would bring him to acclaim the world around and Oscar gold. Slumdog Millionaire won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009. Boyle would win his only best directing statue to date as well. He hasn't reached such heights since. Slumdog Millionaire will always be his perfect film.
This film deserved every award it got because it really did have everything a great movie needed to be successful. It has great acting from its stellar cast of Indian actors, starting with its two main stars Dev Patel and Freda Pinto. Of course, Irrfan Khan as the police inspector, Saurabh Shukl as his sergeant, and the legendary actor Anil Kapoor as Prem the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? stand out. The children's actors as Jamal, Salim, and Latika are all also superb as well. This cast shines all the way around.
The story in the film is one out of a fairytale. Two friends who turn on each other over a girl. Yes, this was written in the book, but it's almost too good to believe. How could this story be real? It's such a perfect story. I was just blown away after watching it for the time. I couldn't believe what I had just watched. I truly believed I had just seen an absolute masterpiece of a film. A film I would rarely if ever see again in my lifetime. I would be right because I haven't seen a film this great since.
One of the other great things about Slumdog Millionaire is its music and the overall feel of the film. It was filmed in and around the streets of Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, the Indian version of Hollywood. A lot of films from Bollywood have dance numbers and singalongs. Slumdog Millionaire is no different than those other Bollywood films, except the songs are intoxicating and easy to sing along with. They are very catchy. A. R. Rahman won two Oscars for the original music and the score of the film. "Jai Ho" was a worldwide phenomenon. Everyone was dancing and singing to it. I sure was! Music really can make or break a film and in this case, it made this film even better.
Irrfan Khan has quite the arc in the film as well. His character, the inspector thinks he's just trying to interrogate a young punk who he was told was cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and he found something else entirely. He got to hear Jamal's story and why he was able to answer all those questions. That gave him a whole new outlook on this man and his story. He felt he had found a true underdog story in Jamal Malick. By the end of the film, he would be right. This is one of the greatest underdog stories ever put to film. Khan plays a big part in that after all.
Dev Patel and Freida Pinto were relative nobodies when this film first came out in 2008. When it was nominated and eventually won all those awards, they would become household names. They were associated with this Hollywood/Bollywood love story. People around the world couldn't get enough of these two. Since then, Dev Patel has had a bigger career in the movie industry, starring in Lion, The Newsroom, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, The Wedding Guest, and so many more films and TV shows. Freda Pinto has been in a few things since Slumdog Millionaire, but she hasn't had quite the career of Dev Patel. She will always be remembered though for portraying Latika in Slumdog Millionaire.
As a slumdog myself, the same as Jamal and his friends, I could relate to this story quite a bit. I grew up with nothing my entire life. I had to work every day for what little I do have and it's not easy. Seeing this movie back in 2008 gave me the idea that maybe someday I could go on a show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and win a bunch of money playing a game of trivia. Only in my dreams could I win or even be a contestant on such a great show. Maybe someday it'll actually happen.
By Adam Donato
Eight years after the moderate success of Bad Boys in the ’90s, Michael Bay decided to direct a sequel. The movie brings back Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as their characters juggle their personal issues with each other while trying to solve another case. Since this was a sequel to a successful action movie and Will Smith was at the height of his fame in the early 2000s, Bad Boys 2 was sure to be a hit. Because of this, the movie was given a budget of more than one hundred million dollars over that of the first movie. Did all that money make this installment a better movie?
Seventeen years later, Bad Boys 2 is still one of the most iconic action movies of this century. It’s fair to see how the first movie is very much a product of its time, and the same goes for the second movie. Bay was big in the early 2000s as he had just come off of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, and would later go on to do five Transformers movies. Movies directed by Bay are easy to spot, and Bad Boys 2 just might be the most Bay movie ever. It’s shot very well, despite being too flashy. Over-the-top and mindless action sequences are hard to care about or even follow. Racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes abound throughout the entire film. A tone of hyper-masculinity dominates as the movie is riddled with guns, drugs, and women’s posteriors. If you’re looking for a movie that appeals to the male basic instincts, then Bad Boys 2 is the one for you.
Same as with the first one, the saving grace of this movie is Lawrence and Smith. The chemistry between them is very good and they are the most interesting thing on the screen. Their banter, while devoid of any sort of cleverness, is still funny due to the energy of these comedic artists. Just like the first movie, the two leads have a source of conflict between them in the form of personal problems. Mike is dating Marcus’s sister and Marcus is planning on transferring away from Mike. This sets up a more promising conflict, but both situations are resolved in the most pointless way that makes you wonder if the subplot was even necessary in the first place.
Smith has a love interest in the form of Gabrielle Union in this movie. She is an undercover cop looking for her big break as her case gets mixed up with the Bad Boys. There was little to no resolution with her character besides she helped solve the case and she kissed Mike on the beach in front of her brother at the end. Joe Pantoliano steals every scene he is in. He’s just so upset and it’s funny to try to figure out what’s going on with his hair as he goes on his angry tirades. Villains Jordi Molla and Peter Stormare are much more interesting in this movie. It’s very hard to understand what’s going on with their story, either because it’s too convoluted or it’s too boring, but at least they have plenty of personality. Also, Michael Shannon plays a disgruntled KKK member and is hilarious every time he is on screen. You’d think he is above this, but in the same year Bad Boys 2 came out, he also played the villain of Kangaroo Jack.
Compared to the first movie, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s better or worse. It’s better in the sense that the budget is higher, which makes the action scenes a lot bigger and more frequent. It seemed towards the beginning that there was gonna be more of a plot to this movie than the first one, but that was also a disappointment. The villains were more memorable, but that is probably just because they were crazy drug addicts. It looks nicer overall and is more iconic from a historical perspective. The 360º shot with the famous quote “Shit just got real” is dope. But at the same time, Bad Boys 2 has a lot working against it. It’s a half-hour longer for absolutely no reason. If the first one didn’t exist, then the sequel would be better, but knowing how disappointed Bay was with the first one, it’s discouraging to see him make the same movie with a bigger budget. They’re both not good movies, but the second one stings more because it’s hard to see filmmakers not take advantage of improved situations.
The benefit of the doubt was given with the first movie due to production issues, but the sequel doesn't have much of an excuse. It’s crazy and over the top, but there is absolutely no substance there. It’s hard to recommend this movie to anybody except twelve-year-old boys who just hit puberty. Getting off the critical film soapbox, Bad Boys 2 is exactly what you’d expect from a Bay-directed blockbuster. There’s cool action, hot girls, and funny one-liners. There is a large fanbase for this movie, so here’s to all you frat boys and middle-aged men. If you require movies to have things like a good story, character arcs, or themes, then steer clear of this spectacle of testosterone.
FIRST BLOOD -- Looking Back at the First Action Movie in Honor of Brian Dennehy
By Dan Skip Allen
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is just a Vietnam veteran trying to get a hot meal when he is walking into a small Washington town. Little did he know that a small-town, Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) has other ideas of what kinds of people he wants in his town. He soon finds out the hard way that Rambo is more than he appears. He's not some washed-up old vet. He's a walking, talking weapon!
First Blood was the first movie I have ever seen starring Brian Dennett. Other than Stallone, he commands the screen in this film. He epitomized what it is to be a villain in a movie. Every time he said anything against Rambo, I just cringed because I knew he was messing with the wrong guy. The delousing sequence was quite brutal, to say the least. Teasle and his men just poked the wrong bear. Rambo fell back into his survival instincts. He escaped into the nearby forest and what we now know as the first and best action film was now on.
Dennehy's Teasle is a tough-nosed Sheriff, but even he is taken aback by how creative and resourceful Rambo is. If it weren't for Col. Troutman (Richard Crenna), he would already be dead. Troutman is the only man that can talk some sense into Rambo. These small-town cops have no clue how dangerous he really is and Troutman is their only hope. Rambo could turn this sleepy little town into a ghost town by the time he's finished with Teasle and his men. Set in the forests of Washington, First Blood has many beautiful scenes. The rain adds to the vibrant color of the film, accentuating the greens of the trees.
First Blood spawned an entire franchise, but none of the other films even came close to how original and thought-provoking the original is. Besides its own sequels, it helped create an entire genre. Films like Lethal Weapon, Predator, Terminator, Commando, and Die Hard all came out of the action genre that was created by First Blood. The thing is First Blood wasn't meant to be an action film that started an entire genre. It was just a piece about Vietnam vets being disrespected in our country instead of being taken care of. Schwarzenegger, Gibson, and Willis all made millions off of the back of Stallone. Stallone started with Rocky and he was thrust into stardom. He never expected First Blood to be his next big hit, much less that it would create one of the most popular genres in movie history.
A great hero needs a great villain and Dennehy was the perfect villain. He had a meanness to him rarely seen before or after. Most villains are cartoonish or over the top but Will Teasle had a real mean streak in him. He had a problem with vets or maybe he didn't like the war itself. Cameos from David Caruso and a supporting role from Jack Starret as Sgt. Galt add to the overall feel of the film. Ted Kotcheff made a great film with a great message that still stands up thirty-eight years later. Dennehy gives the performance of his career as this clueless sheriff. First Blood is the first and the best action movie ever!
By Dan Skip Allen
Baseball is America's favorite pastime, and it has been for many decades. But not until 1947 did the first black man play in the majors, and his name was Jackie Robinson. Robinson played his first game at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, making history as the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball. One day every year, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day in honor of this achievement. Every player in the MLB wears Jackie's number 42 as a way to pay tribute to this great player. There have been two movies about this legendary man. One is called The Jackie Robinson Story (which came out in 1950 and starred Robinson as himself), and the other is called 42 (a 2013 biopic starring Chadwick Boseman) in honor of his number.
Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford in 42 and Minor Watson in The Jackie Robinson Story) wanted to change the game by bringing in one of the negro league players. He chose Robinson because of his military service and his religious beliefs. He was a Methodist just like Rickey. These were qualities Rickey liked in Robinson, but of course, the way he played the game of baseball was also important. Rickey had one rule, though: Robinson couldn't fight back. He told Robinson that he knew people weren't going to like him being hired to play baseball. Living in the south in Sanford, Florida, Jackie had his fair share of problems with the people and the law.
Earning his spot with the Montreal Royals, Jackie proved all the doubters wrong and proved Rickey to be right all along. The Brooklyn Dodgers were the standard in baseball for many decades but it wasn't until they moved to Los Angeles that they began to stand on their own. They shared New York with the Yankees and Giants, but now they had a city all to their own. Robinson was able to shine even brighter than he ever did before. Sharing the field with the likes of Pee Wee Reese (played by Lucas Black in 42) and managed by Leo Durocher (portrayed by Christopher Meloni in 42) didn't necessarily make him a team favorite either... until he helped them win all the time, that is.
Besides Rickey, Robinson had a lot of support from his wife Rae Robinson (played by Ruby Dee in The Jackie Robinson Story and Nichole Baharie in 42). She is like his rock and so are his children. He is a good father and husband. A friendly writer Wendell Smith (Andre Holland in 42) has also come to his aid, writing friendly articles about the talented ballplayer. Robinson needs the support of his wife, children, Smith, and Rickey to become the great player he is destined to be. Robinson would become the NL Rookie of the Year in 1947, the NL MVP in 1949, and led the league in stolen bases in '47 & '49. He was also a six-time all-star from '49 to '54 and helped the Dodgers to 6 consecutive World Series, one of which they won (1955). He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Robinson contributed to the civil rights movement as well using the non-violent method he got from Rickey. He has become a man that young African-American boys and girls can look up to for decades to come. It was a no brainer the MLB honored him the way they did. The Jackie Robinson Story and 42 are both great examples of Jackie's story and the troubles he had to deal with on and off the field. Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk in 42), the Phillies Manager was the prime culprit when on the field. He was merciless with his racial slurs. Of course, Jackie proved him wrong with his play on the field. That has and always will be the answer to a loudmouth blowhard like Chapman.
Chadwick Boseman has made a career out of playing real-life people. He has played James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. He seems right at home playing these legendary men. Boseman has a knack for getting to the human side of his characters. He makes people have empathy for him, which makes his performances that much more effective. He embodied what Jackie Robinson meant to the game of baseball.
Jackie Robinson once said, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." Based on Robinson's life, people should look at their experiences and try to be better people. He went through a lot of adversity, and we can all learn from what he did, and hopefully, be able to make an impact of our own.
By Adam Donato
Bad Boys was released 25 years ago in April of 1995. The film is a Jerry Bruckheimer production and is directed by Michael Bay. It’s a buddy cop movie starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. The duo have to swap lives as they try to protect a witness and solve a narcotics case in Miami.
Bay is one of the least-respected directors in Hollywood, at least according to critics. His films prioritize action over story and are often annoyingly offensive. Bad Boys is not as bad as Transformers in those regards, but it’s close. To Bay’s credit, he usually makes a sleek-looking movie. The setting of Miami is beautiful and all the characters are very good-looking people. Action sequences are his forte and they do look good in this movie. There’s lots of explosions and gunfights for all the action junkies out there. Even Bay was annoyed with the story of the script as he called for rewrites and was given little to no resources to do so. The bit of Marcus, the married man, and Mike, the bachelor, switching lives to fool the witness goes on forever and is repetitive. The case they are solving isn’t interesting in the slightest and every time the story cuts to the bad guys, it’s a snooze fest.
The saving grace of this movie is Lawrence and Smith. The two have very good chemistry and are a lot of fun to watch bicker with each other. It’s hard to understand their backstory as you’re just kind of thrown into them being friends and being on a case. Speaking of the case, there is nothing significant about this case for the two lead characters. While they both almost died throughout, neither is given any kind of substantial character arc. They both start and end in the same place. It’s funny to imagine how much generic garbage this movie would be if the two leads weren’t so charismatic.
Tea Leoni, Joe Pantoliano, and Theresa Randle are the standouts of the supporting cast. Leoni holds her own up against the main duo. Pantoliano is very funny as he is full of energy every time he’s on-screen. Randle is a riot throughout the whole movie as she continuously gets mad at her husband for everything he does. The worst part of the supporting cast is the villain. He’s always angry and shooting people. That’s about it. Anyone looking for an antagonist with any kind of personality or depth, forget about it.
Overall, it’s hard to hate this movie. Smith in the nineties is always a treat to watch, although Lawrence does carry the movie. Seeing the iconic hero shot of the two leads and hearing the Bad Boys song playing is enough to call this movie enjoyable. This movie has enough personality to overcome the blandness of its story. Bad Boys isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s also not very good.
By Sean Boelman
Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos received a great deal of attention as the director of the critical darling The Favourite, but even before that, he was an amazing filmmaker who defined an entire movement in Greek film. His first solo feature Kinetta is finally making its way to American audiences, so now seems to be the perfect time to trace the development of his unique and darkly comedic style of cinema.
The zany premises of Lanthimos’s movies are a big part of what has gained him such a big cult following. Over the course of his career, the concepts of his films have gotten more and more bizarre (and increasingly insightful, in effect), starting with Kinetta, his most grounded, all the way to The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which leans fully into fantasy. (The Favourite was not written by Lanthimos, hence its exclusion.)
Much of the charm of these dark satires lies in the fact that they are so unabashedly odd that they are impossible to ignore. There may or may not be reason to be concerned about the filmmaker’s state of mental health given some of the more disturbing and demented elements of some of his movies, but there is something impressive about the fact that he can find the humor in these dark situations.
Lanthimos’s solo debut Kinetta is undeniably his most subtle in terms of humor, but it still shows many of his hallmarks that would develop over the course of his filmography. The movie’s repeated use of purposefully rough film-within-a-film footage may be among the most disturbing moments of any of his movies (incest included), but there’s still something uncomfortably funny about it.
This would soon be taken to the extreme in his follow-up Dogtooth, which has the most taboo subject matter that Lanthimos has tackled to this point. Still, Lanthimos doesn’t shy away from mining the hilarity out of the awkward atmosphere, delivering situational humor that will linger for a long time in the mind of the viewer.
Dogtooth also shows how Lanthimos would eventually master the art of dialogue. The filmmaker’s gift with words is never more evident than when he inserts common words and phrases into sentences out-of-context to make the characters lovably out-of-touch. This simple but inspired action on his part goes to show how much of a comedic genius he really is.
When Lanthimos would truly become a master of dark absurdity is when he could translate it into topicality, and that happens in The Lobster. Although Kinetta, Dogtooth, and Alps all have something to say, The Lobster is his first film that feels urgent. It is the perfect culmination of all the humor he has been working up to build, all of it having started with three people in a Greek hotel.
It is interesting to see how Lanthimos evolved as a filmmaker from Kinetta through his English-language masterpieces. Each movie builds upon its predecessor, forming Yorgos Lanthimos into one of the most prolific voices working in film today, and hopefully, he has plenty more to say.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s solo directorial debut, Kinetta, is now streaming on Criterion Channel.
By Camden Ferrell
Disclaimer: Heavy spoilers for The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Favourite.
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most prominent and distinctive directors working today. This 3-time Oscar nominee directed his first solo feature in 2005, Kinetta. Since then, he has directed some intriguing Greek cinema like Dogtooth and Alps before transitioning to English language films. His style has always been a distinctive one. You can always find traces of his previous films in every new movie he directs, and it gives each film a sense of thematic and stylistic connectivity. For this piece, we will be mostly focused on his three most recent features, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Favourite. Between these three films, Lanthimos thoroughly explores the ideas of shared emotion, decision making, and looming uncertainty.
2015’s The Lobster holds a special place in my heart and history as a cinephile, and a lot of this comes from the way Lanthimos highlights the aforementioned concepts. In this satirical look at modern dating culture, David is sent to a hotel where he must find a partner in 45 days, or he will be turned into the animal of his choice. After many failed (albeit darkly comical) exploits, David defects from the hotel to join a group of loners. There, he meets the Short-Sighted Woman and falls in love with her. This contrast between the true love they share and the fake love he had for other women in the film is what gives the movie an emotional core. It explores the idea of what it means to love, but he takes it a step further by showing the decisions that are made as a result of shared emotion. However, with every decision, the audience as well as the characters question the choice, and it creates a subtle sense of unease and uncertainty that define Lanthimos’s later works. By the end of the film, we see David and the Short-Sighted Woman, who is now blind, leave the loners to start a new life. However, in a society where couples must share a common trait, David stands in the bathroom with a knife held scarily close to his eye, unsure of whether or not to blind himself. This ambiguity makes The Lobster such a moving yet deeply unsettling film, and it’s an ending that Lanthimos has perfected throughout his career.
In his follow-up feature, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he explores similar ideas in a much more sinister way. Steven, a successful surgeon, encounters a boy named Martin. We learn that Martin’s father died during surgery ten years prior when Steven was drunk and operating. Martin says that in order to restore balance, Steven must kill a member of his family, either his wife, son, or daughter, or they will all slowly get sick and die. Lanthimos has a strange way of horrifying the audience with this disturbing premise while also infusing some of his own visual and comic style. The main emotions in this movie are fear and paranoia. This is shared amongst all the family members as they are unsure of how to proceed in this difficult situation. This paranoia compels Steven’s wife to perform a sexual act on one of his former colleagues to get to the bottom of the situation. Each kid tries to convince their father in many ways to spare their lives, and Steven is driven to kidnapping and assault in this ordeal. Many crucial decisions are made, and each one leads to more problems as they are guided by each of their shared emotions. After Steven finally kills one of his family members, the movie ends on a solemn and somber note. While it’s not ambiguous like The Lobster, the end still leaves the viewer disturbed, distressed, and wondering if the character’s choices were the correct ones.
In his most recent film, 2018’s The Favourite, Lanthimos once again revisits these central ideas and themes. Even though he didn’t write this film, he infused plenty of his own style into the film. In this 18th century love triangle, Queen Anne of England is in love with her friend Lady Sarah, but when Sarah’s cousin Abigail comes to be a servant, Anne and Abigail begin their own relationship. Throughout the film Sarah and Abigail continuously try to win the Queen’s favor, and this leads to escalating hijinks and deceptions throughout the film. While a lot of the movie is led by the character’s love for Queen Anne, another element is their feelings of jealousy and vulnerability, and their continuous need to have the last laugh. Lanthimos does a great job at focusing on all the decisions that are made by these emotional characters and reflecting on all of the consequences. Instead of having uncertainty course through the entire movie like his previous works, he opts instead to let that uncertainty nail the audience in the film’s final moments. After all of the character’s decisions, we know who the titular favorite is, but in the end the character questions if that’s what they even want anymore. It’s a brilliant ending that is so effective due to the execution of Lanthimos and his implementation of the skills he developed in his career.
Lanthimos is a multi-faceted director, but there are still unifying factors in every movie he makes, and this can be traced back all the way to Kinetta. He is phenomenal at creating emotionally developed characters and exemplifying the innate uncertainty that accompanies every decision in his movies. He has proven to be an influential and significant director in modern cinema, and this is seen through the way he uniquely makes his films.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s solo debut, Kinetta, is now streaming on Criterion Channel.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.