Slumdog Millionaire

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If there is one film I would definitely like to see again, it would be Slumdog Millionaire. This was a true treasure of a film and is something that requires a little research to understand. The culture and history of the Indian subcontinent portrayed in this film have been the subject of controversy because some believe it isn’t quite accurate and is being exaggerated (like the issue of poverty in India), while others see this as a way for the country to improve the state of its cities.

Once a sleeper hit in 2008 that wasn’t expected to do much, it went on to win many awards, including eight Academy Awards, one for best motion picture of the year. The film was first shown at a private film festival before being released to the U.K. and elsewhere. As with many of these international films, they don’t usually gain widespread popularity until something big happens, such as winning major awards. I love these kind of films that have very little widespread promotion and go on to become big hits later on. They are instant classics in my mind, one of a kind films that deserve a little more thought and analysis when viewing them.

When I first watched the movie (getting it off a bootleg Internet site), I had no idea the answers to the questions for the eventual Who Wants to be a Millionaire? segment were shown in different scenes of the film. When the quiz show contestant Jamal Malik (played by Dev Patel) got up to the 20 million rupees (US $300,000) question, he was suspected of cheating because no one would have thought a simple “slumdog” would know so much with very little education. He was beaten and tortured by the police and asked how he got the answers. Jamal confesses that his secret to getting so many of the questions correctly was based off his past experiences, such as getting the autograph of a famous Bollywood actor and the death of his mother in the Bombay riots. The police questioning him think this is a ridiculous idea and eventually let him continue playing. He ends up getting to the final question that asks who the third musketeer in The Three Musketeers was. After using his Phone-a-friend (calling his brother Salim in his prison cell), his childhood friend Latika picks up and tries to help him. She doesn’t know the answer so he randomly chooses Aramis, getting the question correct and winning the grand prize of 20 million rupees (the same currency used in the Zelda games).

When watching this film again, I’ll look for those subtle clues that lead up to the ending. It’s quite a far-fetched plot that is used and is quite unbelievable but I still loved the film otherwise.

I have figured that the final question given to Jamal about the musketeers was supposed to be simple enough (even a child could have answered it) in order for the organizers to prove that an uneducated slumdog couldn’t possibility walk away with the big money. They thought he wouldn’t even be smart enough to make it that far, let alone past the first few questions, which is why the questions were set up the way they were, but he proved them all wrong. His winning was all based on a lot of real good luck and being in the right places at the right time, which I see as a rather convenient plot device by the writers, but done in a way so as to amaze the viewers later on.

Millions (of rupees)

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Rocky Balboa Forever

There once was an underdog boxer named Rocky Balboa. He lived on the streets of Philadelphia among shady individuals, poor as dirt, living in a rundown apartment. Even though he was a pretty good boxer at the local level and had won many fights, nobody took him seriously, calling him a bum and a loser. He even had his locker taken away from him and given to someone else, being ousted from the boxing club because he was no longer needed.

One night while in a pet shop, he met a shy young girl named Adrianna, or Adrian as Rocky preferred to call her (Yo, Adrian!). She was very reluctant of his advances at first and didn’t want to enter his apartment because she didn’t know him very well but they soon hit it off. She was a source of inspiration for Rocky, a hint of light for him to move ahead. Rocky made her more self-confident as well. They shared a long kiss and he no longer felt alone or like a creep anymore.

Then one day Rocky was given the once in a lifetime chance to go up against World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed, since he had no other challengers and was giving an unknown the opportunity to shine. This was to be the ultimate David and Goliath match, an upstart nobody against the best of the best. Rocky started training hard day after day for the fight, running through the streets of Philly and up the historic 72 steps, taking to punching huge cuts of raw meat in a freezer room, and working on his footwork with a trainer.

On the other side, the champ Creed was not taking the upcoming fight seriously, not even training himself. To him, this was a charity event for the fans and he doubted it would go on for more than 3 rounds. And when the night of the fight finally arrived, he showed up dressed like Uncle Sam, taking this matter as a joke, teasing and taunting Rocky. But that was not to be the case. After the Italian Stallion knocked Apollo to the ground to the audience’s surprise, the first time in the champ’s career, the fight became serious. It went the whole 15 rounds, Rocky falling down once and the fight looking like it may had been over. Cocky Apollo started waving his arms in the air, celebrating early. Rocky stumbled back to his feet, vowing to “go the distance”, to Apollo’s amazement. The fight continued, both men jabbing and beating each other up some more, Rocky too tired to defend himself with his fists, taking shots to the face. His nose was broken for the first time in his career, blood dripping. There was no way either of these competitors were going to just give up.

And finally the bell to end the fight rang. The judges called it a split decision. Adrian raced into the ring and embraced her lover in a hug, telling that she loved him. Could Rocky win the decision and become a national hero? Would the Cinderella story end happily?

Amidst the roar and cheering of the crowd, the deciding judge’s voice was barely audible:

“And the winner of the fight by a split decision is…Apollo Creed!”

Rocky was the bridesmaid again. He didn’t want a rematch, said he was tired of taking shots to the face. He went on to marry Adrian and had a son named Rocky Balboa, Jr. He gained the respect of his community and the boxing world.

And all was well with the world – his world.

I just watched this film tonight for the first time in a long while. I picked up on minor details and plot points that I missed the first time around. This movie is similar to Cinderella Man, I’ve come to realize, not that the 2005 film is a ripoff but is inspired by Rocky in a number of ways. The following movies in the Rocky series seem to follow a pattern: Rocky is on top on the world and then Rocky is fighting to get his “eye of the tiger” back.

Overall, I give the first installment in the Rocky Series an 8/10.

No Cliffhangers

Deadpool: Something Different

I think we can officially say that a previously underrated superhero has put himself firmly on the map.

That leather looking spandex was sure used comically.

Okay, so fans of the original Deadpool (Wade Wilson) will surely hate this movie because it’s not true to the comics. Deadpool was played up to be a silly and ridiculous character who told sex jokes and was a jerk to everybody. Diehard Deadpool fans would have liked to see a more serious and traditional story of an ordinary man turned extraordinary, but this has an edge to it. It’s entertaining with the right amount of dirtiness and violence that makes it anything but another bland and boring superhero flick.

My honest opinion of the movie: it was awesome in every way. I just watched it for the second time tonight and was blown away. The acting is superb and the action is spot on. There was never a dull moment. Ryan Reynolds, God’s perfect idiot, has the look and charm to command a powerful leading role. Morena Baccarin was more than just the pretty face in this film and had some tenacity, such as when she punched the long bearded biker in the tender zone when he tried to hit on her. That Sinead O’Connor look a like named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (best name ever) played her part great as the sidekick and offered some funny moments. The humor is never ending and mixes well with some perfectly timed serious moments, such as the fight in the fire that proves Mr. Pool is truly invincible. Deadpool is definitely a breakout hit of 2016 so far. “It’s a game changer” states the movie poster. That it definitely was. This isn’t your daddy’s superhero movie. The excellent delivery of Reynolds and his breaking the fourth wall give this film an extra appeal.

The movie starts out with some early exposition of Deadpool being involved in a car wreck on a bridge. This scene happens at the end of the movie but the director decided to give us an early glimpse of what’s to come. His girlfriend, Vanessa Carlysle, played by Morena Baccarin, is kidnapped by Deadpool’s arch enemy Ajax played by Ed Skrein. Deadpool’s main objective is to get back at this man who left him horribly disfigured. The climatic battle at the end of the movie is slowly revealed in pieces throughout with X-Men members Colossus and Negasonic being introduced, who were trying to recruit him to join the team (maybe he will in Deadpool 2?) Did I mention that this is also the eighth installment in the X-Men franchise? That I did not realize until doing some research.

The movie then dives into the origins of Deadpool, starting with his wild lifestyle as a mercenary in New York and the “Dead Pool” game of betting on targets to kill. He proposes to his longtime love Vanessa but after she accepts he suddenly faints. Shortly after, Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer and is told he doesn’t have much time to live. He is then approached by a special team that says they have a way to cure his cancer and give him superhuman abilities. After he leaves Vanessa for this project, she moves on with her life knowing that Wade will eventually pass away.

In the laboratory, Wade meets Ajax and Angel Dust, two members of the Weapons X special operative. Ajax gives him a serum that will cure his cancer with the catch being that he will have to become a mutant for it work. He is put through a series of stress tests in order for the mutation to awaken, but which fails. Wade is then locked in an oxygen chamber and develops the mutant gene to cure his cancer – but here’s a surprise: Ajax abruptly cuts off the oxygen and subjects Wade to total asphyxiation. He is cured of his cancer but as a side effect contracts a case of Freddy Kreuger skin with his new abilities. Wade eventually escapes from the chamber by lighting a match and blowing up the lab, getting into a fiery battle with Ajax who impales him, leaving him for dead. With his immortality, Wade survives this and sets off to find and kill Ajax.

Unable to walk around normally in public without being stared at, Wade creates the Deadpool suit and persona. His mission as the New York mercenary turned Deadpool badass is to track down Ajax, kill him, and win his love back. It’s a reversal of roles. The man is the damsel in distress this time, not the woman.

The thrilling ending battle sees Deadpool kill everyone but Ajax, demanding a cure for his impairment but is told that it isn’t possible. Deadpool kills Ajax and eventually reconnects with his girlfriend. He reveals his mangled face to her and it is concluded that she still loves him despite his flaws (on the inside and out) and they share a long embrace with Wham’s “I’m Never Gonna Dance Again” playing on Deadpool’s iPhone.

Overall I’d give this movie a 7/10. It’s got everything you want in a superhero movie and more. Some of the jokes are ill advised and some scenes are over the top but it was a pretty spectacular popcorn flick. This is not a kid’s movie but kids would find it enjoyable. It’s not going to win any major awards but you can expect it to be one that can watched repeatably because of all the memorable scenes, that save it from being mediocre. Definitely one of Ryan Reynold’s best films so far.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie was great from beginning to finish. It instantly catches your interest with the freeze framed airborne car scene set to Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”. But I’m just begging to wonder how Wade Wilson suddenly found the skills to craft his intricate Deadpool suit overnight.

The bonus scene at the end of the movie is a reference to the one used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, another thing that I failed to realize until later.

How incredibly inventive of the writers. This was quite an original movie by director Tim Miller. I had a far better time critiquing this film than the first time I watched it because of things being far more clearer to me.

The Force Awakens Review

The moment we’ve been waiting for since it was announced in 2012 has finally arrived…and with a bang. Did it live up to the high expectations? Read on and find out.

I got to be one of the early ones to see Star Wars because of holding tickets to a special pre-screening show. Surprisingly, more people than I expected showed up to this event so they must have all been in on the gameplan. People came dressed in their Jedi robes and stormtrooper suits. A bucket of popcorn cost over six dollars, almost as much as a single ticket. Ridiculous, but the bills have to be paid somehow.

These review will avoid spoilers at all costs and will instead focus on the good and bad aspects of the film.

First off, the movie was incredible, hitting every note perfectly. The explosions were powerful, the sound was electrifying.  J.J. Abrams used those three years (the typical number of years between films) making this film wonderfully. He did not disappoint. Being passed the torch from George Lucas as director of his beloved creation is a serious responsibility and Abrams handled it well. He didn’t try to change too much in this movie (keeping the iconic title intro, music, and “Windows Movie Maker” transitions) to keep it in consistency with the films before it, but did add his own personal touches to make it look newer.

BB-8 was the most adorable droid of any Star Wars film, rolling around like a ball and making cute sounds. But it was not just there for laughs and cries, it had a pivotal role in the story, containing clues to something really important.

There were a few, however, things I didn’t like about the film:

  • Having about the same plot as Episode IV
  • Not developing the characters very well
  • No chemistry between Finn and Rey
  • Too many battle scenes and not enough downtime with humor or any iconic moments. Actually, there weren’t any moments that really stand out in my mind. The movie was just one long noisefest.
  • Han and Chewbacca seemed to be thrown into the film at the last minute

It was the first time I’d seen a Star Wars installment in theaters. The last time it graced the silver screen for Revenge of the Sith, I was a little more than 14 years old. I wasn’t at all into Star Wars back then, only being vaguely familiar with the characters of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, not knowing they were related, and not giving the saga much thought. I just watched all six films for the first time last year and finally figured out that there was a man behind the Darth Vader mask. Somehow, that took away the mystique about the whole character for me. Knowing now that it was just a man in a suit didn’t exactly strike fear in me anymore. But basically, he is man and machine united together, but without knowing it’s a man, the character takes on a much sinister role, doesn’t seem so fake – and silly. Yup, ever since I saw Anakin Skywalker turn into Vader, I’ve had a hard time believing it was still the same mythical, scary villian as before. Maybe it was because the one who played Anakin, Hayden Christiansen, wasn’t very believable in his transformation over to the dark side. It seemed so forced and unnatural and the fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin not justified enough.

The Force Awakens awoke all of our inner science fiction interests, resurrecting a franchise that, for a while, was beginning to live off of its past and rely on video games, books, and other merchandise to keep it alive. It really tells you about the legacy of a film franchise when after almost 40 years, new and old fans are turning out to see their favorite heroes once more and get to know new ones as well.

Episode VIII is set to be released in May of 2017, Episode IX in 2019. I’m eager to see where this new trilogy goes and how the future of the Star Wars universe plays out. In my own mind, I can only believe that the plot ideas will be more or less the same as previous films (like blowing up the Death Star again in The Force Awakens). The excitement and anticipation will still be as high as ever, but there does come a time when things start getting a little long in the tooth. Which is why having two different directors on the next two films will prevent stale ideas from happening. It’s going to be fun the next five or so years. The Star Wars fandom machine is officially at full power again.

As for that triple lightsaber, called a crossguard lightsaber, well, let’s just say it’s more than just for show but can do some serious damage at close range.