By Sean Boelman
Culminating with the release of Lynn Chen’s directorial debut I Will Make You Mine, the Surrogate Valentine trilogy stands out as one of the highlights of the indie film scene of the past decade. Each movie having its own merits, these three short but sweet dramas are definitely worth checking out.
The films really ride on the charisma of its star Goh Nakamura. In all three of the movies, Nakamura plays a fictionalized version of himself, serving as the protagonist in Surrogate Valentine and Daylight Savings and a supporting character in I Will Make You Mine. Yet even though his role in the newest film is smaller, his arc is still very compelling.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the first two movies and I Will Make You Mine is that the latter is directed by Chen, who previously played Nakamura’s love interest in the other two films, and her voice is tremendously interesting. By switching the perspective from Nakamura’s to that of the women in his life, Chen has made the story feel more modern and relevant.
The first two movies center around Nakamura’s struggles as a musician, first in trying to get into the industry and then in trying to maintain his success. While this does carry over a bit into I Will Make You Mine, there’s a lot more on Chen’s mind in that film. At times, this makes it feel a bit overstuffed, but it’s also more thought-provoking.
That said, what stands out most about this series is its authenticity. Even though Daylight Savings does lean a bit into convention at times, each of the movies is rooted in very real emotion. The dialogue is often very poignant, especially in Surrogate Valentine and I Will Make You Mine, which are very thoughtful.
Of course, Nakamura’s intensely personal brand of indie music plays a large role in the film. The middle entry, Daylight Savings, is perhaps the most musically-oriented of the three, but his songs provide an excellent undertone for the entirety of the trilogy. It’s hard not to feel moved by some of the beautiful lyrics Nakamura has written.
The series is also identifiable for its very distinctive look. Presented black-and-white, these movies have an undeniably indie feel about them that is absolutely gorgeous. Simplicity and emotion are the name of the game here, and directors Dave Boyle (Surrogate Valentine and Daylight Savings) and Lynn Chen (I Will Make You Mine) emphasize these elements.
The Surrogate Valentine trilogy will undoubtedly join the ranks of indies with a dedicated following. At under an hour and twenty minutes long each, fans of music will certainly want to sit back and enjoy the journey of this fictionalized version of Goh Nakamura.
I Will Make You Mine is now available on VOD.
By Adam Donato
Video game movies are infamously bad, and Disney is no exception (Wreck-it Ralph doesn’t count). Prince of Persia is a very notable video game franchise about, to put it simply, a Prince going on adventures in Persia. The series of games has a long history with a supposedly large fanbase. Disney sought to replicate the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with Jerry Bruckheimer producing the film. Indie darling Jake Gyllenhaal stars with Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, and Doctor Octopus himself, Alfred Molina. The film was given a budget of $200 million, not including marketing, and didn’t make its money back. Is this another good movie going criminally unseen or did it follow the trend of video game movie that would be better if you had a controller in your hand?
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is fine. It’s a big, dumb blockbuster wannabe that is perfectly digestible. There’s a lot of reasons to root for this movie to be a success, while also having so much going against it. That’s usually the recipe for a controversial movie that everyone is sure to have an opinion on, but nobody saw it. Even if one did see Prince of Persia, it’s so unspectacular that it’s hard to have an opinion on it in general.
On one hand, It’s a video game movie in the best way. People who played the game have noted how a lot of the action is very reminiscent of the source material. Speaking of action, this movie is full of it. If you like parkour, then this is the Casino Royale of video game movies. The budget is very high so of course the action is quite the spectacle. While it may look too animated at times, it gets away with it thanks to its video game roots. The cast is full of talented actors. Gyllenhaal headlines the cast and they couldn’t have picked a more likable leading man. He makes Dastan, this one-dimensional hero, into a somewhat interesting protagonist. Needless to say, you’re rooting for him. Arterton, also starring in the Clash of the Titans movie in the same year, was very hot at the time (pun intended). Kingsley is always a pro. Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, and Richard Coyle all do well in the movie, but none of them steal the show quite like Molina. Sheik Amar is the most memorable character in Prince of Persia and it’s not even close. He would’ve been the Jack Sparrow of the movie, but his character was not given nearly enough screen time. It’s a very light movie that’s fun for the family and is graciously just under two hours.
Literally everything else is not good. The cast, while great, does not fit the movie whatsoever. This is Ghost in the Shell level white-washing and it’s just sad. Indy Mogul questioned why the movie didn’t go full Bollywood and it’s not a bad idea. Gyllenhaal wasn’t even a bankable star at the time and honestly still isn’t. The main gripe that people have about the movie is the script. It’s not terrible, but it is very standard. At least it has themes, despite how shoved down your throat they are. We get it, the movie is about destiny and brotherhood, but the movie still puts “destiny” on the screen at the beginning and end so that you get the message. It’s one of those scripts where if you ask any questions about the internal logic of the story, it falls apart. The romance is whatever. It’s hilarious watching the main couple kiss while the world is crumbling behind them. The villain is fine. Have you seen literally any other movie ever? Then you’ve seen this movie.
Prince of Persia did have the disadvantage of being put through development hell through the 2000s. It had to maneuver through the Writers Guild of America strike and the Screen Actors Guild strike. It’s also fair to say that Bruckheimer has a fifty percent success rate and his Disney family films are more often than not bad. During an interview for Spider-Man: Far From Home, Gyllenhaal jokes about how Dastan may not have been the best role for him to take on. It honestly might be for the best as Gyllenhaal has one of the best track records during the 2010s. It’s not hard to see how Disney would think Prince of Persia would be a big success with its recognizable franchise, notable talent involved, and $200 million budget. The poor movie was up against Sex and the City 2 and Shrek Forever After. It never stood a chance. Maybe if it had better word of mouth.
It’s sad to say, but chalk this box office bomb up as yet another video game movie that just didn’t translate to the big screen. The 2010s had a small string of video game movies that seem to be trending the genre upward, but only ever so slightly. One could make a solid argument for Prince of Persia as the best video game movie. Alas, it feels like a cross between the worst Pirates of the Caribbean movie and the worst Mummy movie. Look at the bright side, if it was a success, then Gyllenhaal would’ve been too busy doing tired sequels instead of starring in critical successes like Source Code, End of Watch, Prisoners, Enemy, and (maybe the best of them all) Nightcrawler. Don’t watch Prince of Persia, but if you do, maybe you won’t hate it. It’s definitely a movie.
By Dan Skip Allen
Mel Gibson made his name in the 1980s with mainstream hits like the Lethal Weapon franchise and the Mad Max films. In the 1990s, he made the greatest film of his career when he chose to direct and star in Braveheart. Braveheart came out in 1995 and won Gibson his first and second Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director respectively. He would never reach such heights as a filmmaker or actor ever again. He would be ostracized from Hollywood after a drunken tirade, but would later be accepted again when he directed the WWII epic Hacksaw Ridge, albeit not to the same level.
William Wallace (Mel Gibson) sees that his father and brother have died when they don't come home from war with England. After their funeral, his uncle Argyle Wallace (Brian Cox) comes to take him away from his home in the Scottish hills. Later he comes back home to be a farmer and ends up rekindling a friendship he had when he was a kid with a beautiful young woman, Murron (Catherine McCormack). This ends up getting him into a scuffle with English soldiers, which starts off a new war with England and King Edward I. William Wallace would end up becoming the leader of a Scottish revolution on the English rulers. This war would be a bloody violent war, and Gibson didn't hold back on the blood and gore in this epic.
Historical movies can be sentimental, but inspiring. They usually have some good performances such as Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, and Ben Kingsley in Gandhi. Rarely do you see a director/actor combination such as Braveheart. Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven come to mind as two of the only other exceptions. Both won Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood the Academy Awards for their respective films. What elevates Braveheart to a different level is that it has a great performance from Mel Gibson that is arguably one of the greatest of all time. Famous quotes like "Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take away our lives, but they'll never take our freedom," are truly iconic.
Along with the great performance from Mel Gibson, many other performances help rank this film among the greatest of all time. Sophie Marceau, Angus Macfadyen, Patrick McGoohan, James Cosmo, and Brendan Gleeson are all great. The epic battle scenes also make Braveheart one of the greatest war films as well as period piece films. There is not much CGI in Braveheart, but the beautiful hills of Scotland lend themselves to some breathtaking cinematography from Jon Toll.
As far as epics go, Braveheart is in the conversation as one of the greatest of all time. Spartacus, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, and Gladiator are the ones I think of when great epics are brought up in conversation. Epics are like bigger than life films. Braveheart is the biggest of the big. It has a level that dwarfs almost every other film. Add in the great performance from Gibson and you have one for the ages. Remembering this film twenty-five years later brings back nostalgia on why it's such a great film. It stands the test of time. Even fifty or a hundred years from now, Braveheart will stand up as one of the greatest of all time.
By Dan Skip Allen
Coming off of Star Wars, George Lucas, had to do something out of this world with the sequel. He did that and more, introducing some new and interesting characters such as Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, and Yoda helped make it very different. New music from John Williams proved he was one of the greats already. The huge twist at the end makes it one of the all-time great films. Forty years seems just like yesterday to me. Where has the time gone?
Star Wars was a passion for me as a kid and The Empire Strikes Back hit me as not many films have before or since. I owed all the toys at one point when I was very young. The thing is I never saw Star Wars in the theater. I saw it on HBO when I was 6 — the same age I saw The Empire Strikes Back in a theater. So this sequel had that much more relevance to me. It hit home for me much more that way. Seeing that twist for the first time was like getting a punch to the gut. I have had my share of issues with my father of the years. That moment was just unbelievable to me. How could the evilest guy in the galaxy be the hero's father? No way could happen, but it did.
One among many things I love about Star Wars is the seedy side of a galaxy far far away. And the Mos Eisley Cantina. It was like eye candy to me because of all the strange and exotic characters. I would later learn about these aliens from reading books about them. When those four crazy bounty hunters showed up in Empire, I felt the need to know more about them as well. Of course Boba Fett rose to be one of my favorite characters in the whole franchise. He had so much mystery about him back then. His story has since been expanded upon in years later.
Yoda was a very different character for me because he was this little green guy in a swamp. I was a huge fan of his early on, but as years have gone by I have had more respect for those training scenes. "Do or do not", and "That is why you fail" are some great quotes that I remember. He grew on me. Coaches and mentors don't always have to be your friend to prepare you for what you need to do in your life. They do need your respect in the end.
John Williams has been my favorite conductor ever since I was a little kid. I grew up watching him conduct the Boston Pops for many years. He created music for Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and of course Star Wars. He had to do something great for Empire to live up to those other three films. He did just that with "Imperial March". I knew something bad was about to happen when that music came up. Usually escorting Dark Vader on screen. It was such menacing music. I can't recall any movie villain having such great music to accompany them on screen.
In a film with so much darkness there is a glimmer of hope and happiness. Even though it happens on the ice planet of both. Han and Leia have a love-hate relationship when he's not being called a "scruffy-looking nerf herder" by her that is. The scene where she finally professes her love to him is one of the greatest scenes in movie history. "I love You, I know" is such a powerful moment in the film because Han is about to go into carbonite freezing. She doesn't know if he'll survive, or not. It was so emotional for me as a six-year-old watching it for the first time. I am still affected by it to this day.
Nothing affected me like that twist where Darth Vader says that he's Luke's father though. Me having such issues with my father made it very difficult for me to watch. I didn't want that for Luke and I don't think anyone watching did. It just says even bad guys can have children and have family issues just like me or anyone else for that matter. Luke just wasn't ready for that encounter yet. He paid the ultimate price when he lost his hand. That moment almost caused him to go to the dark side. As we've seen in future movies he did not.
The Empire Strikes Back touches on so many great topics. Love, hate, betrayal, and innocence lost are just a few of them. Everything about this film ups the game from its predecessor. That is almost inconceivable to me. Star Wars was so great but The Empire Strikes Back stands the test of time. Forty years later it holds up like no other film. The music and special effects are all first-rate as well. There are rarely any films that have the impact that this one does on society. Even though it's a sequel, it stands on its own as an achievement in filmmaking. I can't say enough how much this film means to me. Even forty years after I saw it for the first time.
By Adam Donato
In 2005, Paul Haggis managed to write, direct, and produce Crash, a movie that tries to tackle racism with interconnected stories about people of different ethnicities coming into conflict with one another over their differences. The film was only able to get off the ground due to its ensemble cast of recognizable names like Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, and… Ludacris. Domestically, it made about $50 million at the box office and doubled that number with its overseas haul. The Oscars ignored the critical controversy around the film by giving Crash three Oscars for Editing, Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. Fifteen years later, it’s interesting to see the decline in popular opinion of what was one of the best movies of 2005.
In 2006, Jack Nicholson announced Crash as Best Picture at The Oscars over the heavily favored Brokeback Mountain. In 2019, when Green Book won Best Picture, it was compared to Crash, as both are movies that have obvious themes about racism and didn’t deserve Best Picture. When sub-par movies are put on a pedestal or given accolades over more deserving features, they get labeled as overrated. The worst thing that could’ve happened to Crash is winning the Best Picture Oscar. This raises an important question that this review won’t be able to fully answer: What makes a movie worthy of Best Picture? Crash had the support of the Screen Actors Guild due to its all-star cast. Haggis had written the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, the Best Picture of the previous year. It was about a prevalent social/political issue. The conception of the movie is an underdog story for the ages, with Haggis having to use his own car and house as sets. So it’s understandable, in hindsight, why Crash won Best Picture. The last thing that makes a movie worthy of Best Picture (which should be the first, but we don’t live in a perfect world), is the quality of the movie itself. This begs the question: is Crash good?
No. Crash feels like the type of movie that you would show to middle school children in an effort to explain what racism is. The characters in the movie are either redeemed despite their previous bigotry or left in tragedy despite a previous track record of doing their best. A great deal of the dialogue, while probably is said by people in real life, is laughable. Characters throw around racist slang terms as insults and it usually lands in a comical fashion. Some of the scenarios the characters are put in are entirely contrived in the most ridiculous way. It’s hard to take the movie seriously when Ludacris is giving a monologue about racism, all the while playing into the stereotype he’s arguing against. The movie mostly comes across as preachy as it beats you over the head with racism. Filmmakers are supposed to manipulate the audience, but audiences don’t like knowing they’re being manipulated. Some people don’t care for the ending of Toy Story 3, because of course it’s upsetting to see your childhood toys accept death together as they are about to descend into the fiery pits of hell. It’s a cheap scare, like when a character quietly walks into a dark room and gets frightened by their cat in a horror movie. The same principle applies to Crash. The sheer volume of obvious racism in the movie is overkill. It’s fair to say this movie is catering towards the Academy voters with its shoehorned Los Angeles setting and heavy-handed morality tale.
Now, with all that being said, yes. All the negative things the previous paragraphed detailed about Crash are true, but it’s also very good in a lot of ways. The film's lack of subtly kind of makes it brilliant. It’s very possible to watch this movie as a comedy by laughing at all the cringe-worthy dialogue and insanely coincidental story. Let’s go one step further and actually pick out the good in the movie. The movie is very well-edited. The ability to find a way to connect all these stories so that the overall picture makes sense is the saving grace of this picture. No character feels like they’re gone for too long and the emotional beats are hit quite consistently. The entire cast does an amazing job, considering what they’re given to work with. Sometimes, the performances feel over-the-top, but it works because the movie is already so excessive. The soundtrack of the movie sets the tone perfectly and In the Deep by Kathleen York and Michael Becker was very deserving of its Best Original Song nomination at the Oscars. The movie is shot competently enough by cinematographer James M. Muro. Lastly, it’s clear that Haggis made the exact movie he wanted to make, which is endearing after everything he went through to make this movie happen.
The themes of the film are very complicated. In fact, that last word kind of sums of the point of the movie — it’s complicated. To err is human. There are no good or bad people in this movie. Characters, who are prejudiced learn a lesson and are redeemed. Other characters who seem virtuous discover they’re not as clean as they think and suffer for it. Just like the Avenue Q song, everyone’s a little racist. Human beings often let their differences lead to conflict, but through compassion and understanding, we can see the best in people. It’s hard to break barriers without crashing into them.
Crash is anything but subtle. It certainly is a movie that gets people to react. Whether they’re laughing or crying or angry, they feel something and that’s all the movie is trying to do. Cheadle’s character has an opening monologue about today’s people having to crash into one another just to feel something. After the Oscar backlash, Haggis admitted the movie wasn’t the best movie of the year, but it was one that stuck with people. As a person who watches movies all the time, it’s nice to watch one that sticks. If Crash makes people reflect on themselves and see the prejudices they have that prevent them from connecting with others, then that sounds like a pretty important movie. Maybe even one deserving of Best Picture.
By Adam Donato
Friday the 13th (1980) is directed by Sean S. Cunningham, an apparent genius. The film was conceptualized and marketed before the script was even written. Cunningham had the idea for the title and how giant block letters would zoom forward to break a pane of glass that would be the screen. He was given funding for a teen horror movie that would rip off Halloween (1978) by breaking it down to the bare essentials. The film stars Betsy Palmer with a cast of unknown young people, one of whom is the now household name Kevin Bacon. The massive success of the movie would spiral into what is one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time. The “story” follows a group of camp counselors trying to set up shop at a cursed campground. This is a spoiler review, so if you’ve been sitting at the bottom of a lake for the last forty years, stop reading now.
On the one hand, it’s unfair to compare Friday the 13th to Halloween, one of the greatest horror films of all time. The reason for the comparison comes from the blatant and admitted influence that Halloween has had on the Friday the 13th franchise. Jason Voorhees certainly belongs in the same group as Michael Meyers and Freddy Kreuger when it comes to horror icons, but the quality of their movies differs heavily. It’s said that the movie was going for the teen audience as the movie would be a cross between Halloween and Meatballs. A horror movie about teenagers who are cracking jokes and getting busy with each other. Regardless of the actual quality of the movie, it deserves credit for kickstarting one of the most successful horror franchises in history and standing the test of time so much so that #Voorhees starts trending on Twitter every time the thirteenth of the month ends up being on a Friday.
The movie is a horror classic, but it’s not very good at all. The story is weak and the characters are weaker. According to the producers, this was by design. Friday the 13th movie has been credited with establishing horror stereotypes concerning teenagers having sex leading to their ultimate demise. This puritanical theme has influenced horror films for decades, but apparently isn’t the intention of the movie. The director cites that he feels audiences are looking too far into it and the movie isn’t trying to say anything except “sometimes bad things happen to good people.” This isn’t a bad theme, but it’s also not as strong as what audiences think the movie has to say about the dangers of the ignorant youth of America. The negative reception from critics at the time only fueled the movie’s box office, which was a massive success making over $39 million off a $500,000 budget.
Okay, so the movie isn’t trying to make you think. Then where’s the appeal? The movie was said to purposefully have generic characters with no backstory so that the audience would be strangely unaffected when they died. The characters are boring and they have no arcs. Why do this? The film is meant to be enjoyed at base value. Stupid (and sometimes naked) young adults getting murdered by an overpowered psycho killer. One could say, the film is trying to make you laugh just as much as it’s trying to make you scared, but that’s giving the film too much credit. It’s meant to be a crowd-pleaser for teenagers to enjoy good-looking people getting murdered. Whether it’s genuinely being scared of the villain, laughing at the ridiculousness of the kills, or just waiting until one of the girls takes their tops off.
Weirdly enough, the twist ending of Friday the 13th works better in retrospect. If you’re watching the movie in 1980, then the twist of the killer being Jason Voorhees’s mother is a mundane one, especially since the puritanical themes are misinterpreting the film. Somebody watching Friday the 13th today with all of the popular culture knowledge that comes from the franchise, one would expect Jason Voorhees to walk out wearing his iconic hockey mask at the end of the first movie. This makes the twist hit harder than originally because we have some kind of relation to the killer. The first movie wastes very little time talking about the background of why the camp is cursed. A boy drowned in the lake due to the negligence of the camp counselors. The mother doesn’t show up until the third act, so she is not developed at all. Watching it now, we know Jason Voorhees, even if you haven’t seen the movies. So when you watch this movie expecting him and it turns out to be his mom, then the twist works because of your attachment to the popular character and the expectations that come with a franchise like this. In a way, Friday the 13th ages like fine wine, but not intentionally. Also, the fake-out ending with Jason grabbing the final girl out of her boat is dumb. Apparently it was meant to be a joke, which is kind of funny due to its ridiculousness, but other than that it makes no sense. That’s a big tonal shift, because how he is still alive is ambiguous, and leaving it up to interpretation on whether or not it was a dream feels cheap. This makes it a very fitting ending as the movie is the definition of cheap.
This review would not be complete if some credit was not given to Tom Savini and Harry Manfredini. Savini was sought after for his special effects makeup work on Dawn of the Dead (1978). Most of the gore is very convincing despite the clear changes in skin tone when the characters have their necks sliced. Manfredini composed what is one of the most iconic horror movie scores of all time. The decision to only have music play when the villain is present is an inspired choice and elevates the film. These two aspects are what stop the movie itself from being devoid of value.
In trying to conclude this review, it’s hard to hate this movie. It’s charmingly old, undeniably iconic, and has such an independent/underdog spirit that’s hard not to root for. It deserves credit for its impact and what it did accomplish, but as a movie, it’s trash. The characters and story are nothing, which would be fine if the movie had some compelling themes, but according to the filmmakers behind the movie, it doesn’t. If you enjoy mindless killing, endless gore, ridiculous scares, or young Kevin Bacon, then you might like this movie. Watch it in the dark with a big group of friends and have fun talking over most of it.
By Dan Skip Allen
Ridley Scott admittedly has had his ups and downs in his career. The ups are starting the Alien franchise, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down, and The Martian. The downs... they don't need to be mentioned, but lately, they are more prevalent than the ups. Arguably, Gladiator starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed (in his last role), and Djimon Hounsou, is the greatest achievement in his career to date.
Gladiator came out twenty years ago at the turn of the century. It started a new trend of the summer event films. Now, all the big blockbusters plant their flags during the summer, trying to find that exact date to capitalize the most on all those summer dollars to be had. Gladiator was a very beloved film come awards season, especially for a summer film. Winning five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, cemented it as one of the greatest films of all time.
Russell Crowe's career had a great rise in the decade of the 1990s with roles in LA Confidential, Mystery Alaska, and The Insider. His career entered the stratosphere in the decade of the 2000s, though. The role of Maximus won him in an Academy Award in 2001 and launched him into superstardom. Maximus is the epitome of what it is to be a leader, fighter, and a ruler, but all that was taken away from him when Markus Aurelius and his family were slain in cold blood. After that, followed A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander, Cinderella Man, and American Gangster. His career is as varied as the roles he has chosen. Comedies, dramas, action films, and biopics litter his filmography, but Maximus in Gladiator will always be the role I will look back on as the best of his best.
Joaquin Phoenix has some small roles in a few films in the '90s, but it wasn't until he portrayed Commodus in Gladiator did his film career take off. He received an Academy Award nomination for this role. He played this character as a conniving backstabber and a sniveling weasel of a man. He was meant to be hated by the viewer, which made him that much more enjoyable to watch on the big screen. Roles in Walk the Line, Her, and The Master, would cement him as one of the best actors of his generation. Eventually, he would finally win his long sought after Academy Award in 2019 for his performance in Joker.
Gladiator stands the test of time because of its story which is basically a Shakespearean tale set in the era of the Roman Empire. Great performances by the entire cast thrust it into the discussion as one of the greatest films of all time. The visual effects, sound quality, and production design are some of the best in any film before or since. This film is like a throwback to the sword & sandal films of the past, such as Spartacus, Ben-Hur, and The Ten Commandments, all films that stood the test of time. Viewers could really get behind this epic film with this phenomenal story. This is arguably the best film of the 21st century. Twenty years later, it still stands up as one of the greatest films of all time.
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.
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!
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.