Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fanboys: Inconceivable!

Anyone aware of the mild-mannered secret identity of Bongo (or Bingo and Bango) knows that I am in fact genetically engineered to love this movie,but even I was surprised of the extent to which I loved it: this is my cinematic soulmate, thus a brief review to get you fine readers to the theater soon:

Having followed the long circuitous route this movie has taken to theaters, I was quite relieved when the film finally got released in Cambridge (our fair city). This truly is the love letter to Star Wars and all things Lucas-ian (or in many cases, all things late 90s...mmmm tub-thumping). The dialog is littered with constant references to the holy trilogy and the types of trivia contests and debates that have acted as geek handshakes for 30 years now (What is Chewbacca's home planet? How didn't Luke know that Leia's his sister?) that put even the richest Kevin Smith movies to shame. 

The movie's ostensible plot is the road trip of four geektastic friends on a cross country journey to steal an early cut of the Phantom Menace in the Fall of 1998. The journey, in the hands of uberfan director Kyle Newman, becomes a wonderous odyssey of self-discovery and friendship not entirely different from other mainstays of 80s childhood like The Goonies or Stand By Me.  While the comedy is not flawless, the jokes are so rapidfire that the rough ones disappear under the funny ones and even the funny ones pale beside the hilarious ones. Throw in a huge number of cameos (Star Wars and not), some good down-home Trekkie bashing and Kristen Bell as the cutest fangirl ever (gold bikini: check) and you'll never believe how far the ride takes you in a mere 90 minutes. 

It may not be a brilliant film, and it probably won't ever even see wide release, but if you have the oppoortunity to throw yourself back to the moment when you saw Star Wars back on the marquee for the first time in 20 years and have a damned good laugh, absolutely do not let it pass you by. Bongo, Out. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: The Mumbai Limited

Since winning the Golden Globe for best drama, Slumdog Millionaire has become the presumptive Best Picture of the year. While I can certainly say that the film was fun and engaging, I can't escape the feeling that this just isn't the best picture I've seen this year. 

The Good:
The film utilizes a clear nonlinear narrative wrapped around the protagonist's participation on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and his interaction with the police investigating allegations of cheating. Through this device, the movie explores the young boys history growing up in the slums of Bombay/Mumbai and the rich history the city has experienced in its rapid modernization over the last 10 years or so. This history, and the way the film celebrates the culture generated in Bollywood (Note my clear sidestepping of the issues surrounding the British Director) are the most interesting parts of the movie, and deserve attention from a wider American audience. 

Beyond this, the acting and music of the film earn their recognition, with acting better than the majority of child stars, and excellent frenetic rhythms that capture the spirit of the action. Also: Don't miss the Bollywood dance routine over the credits that will certainly have you leave the theater smiling.

The Not So Good:
Beyond the cultural aspects, the main plot of the film is very weak. There's a touch of sappy romance and some good brotherly drama, but nothing in the plot is innovative. With a basic knowledge of the game show, I was quite sure of the ending (including what the final question would be) within the first half hour. While this is not terrible in itself, the movie does little to make the trip to that end point particularly diverting. 

Walking out of the theater, despite my Bollywood smile (although, why are they dancing to a song in Spanish?) I wasn't left with anything to contemplate or discuss with Mrs. Bongo. We both were generally pleased, but there was no lingering thoughts that needed exploration.

So, while I enjoyed the movie, color me unimpressed at this as the frontrunner for the Oscar. While I have yet to get to all the Best Picture nominees, this field seems littered with such "safe" picks. Particularly, Benjamin Button (a renamed Forrest Gump with disturbing effects) is typical unappealing studio junk. I think the Oscars got scared about ratings after last years group of edgier nominees and thus are back to old tricks for a show. Hence the Academy passsing on the hilarious Ricky Gervais for the completely boring Hugh Jackman. As a Fanboy I will lament Dark Knight getting passed over and still hold out hope for Ben Burtt and Wall-E.