Deserving of all the awards it’s won (Golden Globe, SAG, Director’s Guild), it’ll surely take home many Academy Awards as well. The film takes place in Mumbai, India, where a young orphaned boy (Jamal Patel) and friends survive and triumph against overwhelming odds. He ends up on an Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire; only contest promoters don’t believe a “slumdog” could possibly know the answers. Some hilarious moments, a love story, beautiful cinematography and a truly touching story. A (Linda Hollar)
Delightful film. If you’re a “dog person,” or are fond of animals, you’ll love Hotel For Dogs. Two young kids (Roberts and Austin) in a foster home, find and sneak in a stray dog. Soon they find others on the street. Luckily they stumble upon an abandoned hotel nearby. As they bring in more and more dogs - of every breed imaginable - the kids rig up mechanical feeding and poop-eliminating systems. All is bliss (for the dogs and our heroes), until neighbors hear barking and call the mean ol’ Animal Pound. The chase is on. The dogs are adorable, and the trainers deserve a “Doggie Oscar.” Dog lovers will be ooohing and aaahing all through the film. Be sure to stay through the credits for additional doggie treats. B+ (Linda Hollar)
MILK - Starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch. Directed by Gus Van Sant
Wonderful film on the life and death of Harvey Milk (Penn) - gay activist turned politician in 1970’s San Francisco. Wonderful performance by Penn. He so enveloped himself in the character, it seems like a documentary - that you’re really seeing Milk on the screen. Emile Hirsch is his quirky, confrontive activist friend. Josh Brolin does a great job as City Supervisor Dan White (who shot Milk and George Moscone in 1978). A (Linda Hollar)
Frost/Nixon - Starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. Directed by Ron Howard
There’s a whole other slew of starring actors, but Langella and Sheen are in the lead. Ding ding ding! In this corner - David Frost (Sheen), a British talk show host looking to make a name for himself. In the far corner… Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon (Langella) - disgraced ex-president who left office with no real apologies or admissions. It’s 1977, and the public is still reeling. Oh, the massacre! The moiduh! Who’s gonna come out ahead in this brawl? Wikipedia, here I come for answers...
Frost/Nixon is a historical drama in the same way that JFK (the Oliver Stone flick) is. A little long in the tooth (as are all kind-of-history films), and those so inclined can draw some parallels with the Bush administration. Nixon/Frost is compelling where it needs to be, but it would have been fine on the small screen instead. C+ (Joe Allison)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson. Adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Button… is about a feller named Benjamin (Pitt) who ages in reverse. He’s born so ugly, he’s abandoned by his father (on the steps of a nursing home). The manager, Queenie, (Henson) takes him in, becoming a surrogate mother throughout his life. He lives as an elderly man, but gradually, his appearance and attitude change. After becoming a teenager, things start going well, though there are problems associated with the love of his life, who is aging normally. Curious Case is a very well done, if a bit long, though it would be difficult to cram a person’s whole life into a shorter film. Not for everybody. Strange, but engrossing. B (Joe Allison)
Notorious - Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Naturi Naughton, Christopher Jordan Wallace. Produced by Sean Combs
Notorious is a series of flashbacks from that night in 1997 when Biggie (Woolard) was murdered. If you’re a fan of rap (especially gangsta) or have an interest in the music’s history, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur and East Coast vs. West Coast rappers - you’ll like the film.
As a teenager in Brooklyn, Biggie Smalls (Christopher Wallace - played by his son, Christopher Jordan Wallace) gets swept into the world of dope and violence. While serving time, he works on his rhyming skills. Out of prison, he meets Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs (Luke), who tells him he can make him a millionaire. Biggie has his share of women, including Kimberly Jones whom he turns into Lil’ Kim (Naughton). The film is beautifully shot, well acted with many performances. Not for those who have a problem with language, drugs, sex and… rap. B+ (Linda Hollar)
Inkheart - Starring Brandan Fraser. Adapted from the book by Cornelia Funke
Mo Folchart (Fraser) can “read things to life” out of books. Every time he does it, somebody takes their place. It’s a pivotal plot point that disappears when he finds that out, so I won’t spoil that for you. But it does put an end to his days of reading aloud.
He thinks. He travels the globe with his daughter looking for Inkheart, the book he read when the whole problem started. Once he finds it, the characters of the story are all over him. Seems they want him “reading out” other nasty characters. Pretty typical kids’ fantasy fare, but “Inkheart” is an all right ride. C+ (Joe Allison)
The Reader - Starring Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes. Directed by Sam Mendes
Hanna (Winslet) helps out an ill teenager (Kross) and later seduces him. Each time they’re together, she asks that he read to her. One day she disappears. Years later, when in law school, he sees her again… in a hearing on Nazi war crime. Hanna accused of sending Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz. Winslet is truly amazing (already a Golden Globe winner) and up for an Oscar for the role. The film is haunting. Guarantee you’ll be thinking about it weeks later. A (Linda Hollar)