Notes from the back row 

Movies go to the ‘dog

Believe the hype. Slumdog Millionaire , the surprise (to some) best picture winner at the Golden Globe awards, is playing this Friday at the good old Village 8 Cinemas.
Directed by Danny Boyle, best known for directing Trainspotting , another small film that oozed energy and uniqueness, Slumdog Millionaire is a simple story about Jamal, a young man from the slums of Mumbai, India, who goes all the way on that country's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
Accused of cheating (how else would an uneducated orphan answer questions that stump doctors and lawyers?) Jamal is interrogated and through flashbacks of his gritty, shitty (literally) life on the streets we see how he knows the answers and also why he's even on the show in the first place.
Filmed terrifically on location with an all-Indian cast, the movie swoops through and explores Mumbai in a stylized-yet-true-feeling way that we haven't seen since the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in City of God . This movie has it all, tears, violence, laughs, straight gangsterism... some people will even gag at the outhouse scene, and it's all tied together with a love story, a redemption story, and, at the end, a kick-ass Bollywood-style dance number. Plus, actress Freida Pinto is so charming and easy on the eyes she's already been dubbed "The Girl I Most Want My Parents to Arrange My Marriage With." Refreshingly non-Hollywood, don't be surprised if Slumdog Millionaire takes home the Oscar this year, it represents all that is good about cinema.
On the other end of the spectrum, Brendan Fraser has another kids adventure movie out this week, Inkheart - a fantasy tale about a little girl and her dad who can make stories come to life if they read them out loud. Based on the bestselling novel, Inkheart is a decent attempt and you have to give it props for encouraging kids to read but between all the effects, sloppy storytelling, and cutesy talking animals the magic of it gets kind of lost in the jumble. I'm not a huge fan of Fraser either but after three Mummy flicks, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and now this, it seems like he has found a niche.
The third film dropping this week is U nderworld: Rise of the Lycans , which is supposed to be a prequel to the other two Underworld flicks. The bad news: hot-ass Kate Beckinsale is not back for this one. The good news: they replaced her with a chick named Rhona Mitra, who is just as hot, if not hotter. Mitra plays the daughter of the Vampire King who falls for the lowly Werewolf hero.
It's a Romeo and Juliet thing with some serious class warfare tossed in as the enslaved Lycans rise up in savage, bloody, fur-flying battles. The look of this film is on par with the previous two, which is to say pretty dark, gothic and badass. And while it isn't going to change your life there is really nothing wrong with spending a Sunday afternoon watching a bunch of vamps and werewolves tear each other apart.
They'll be tearing open the envelopes at the Academy Awards on February 28 and the nominations come out today (Thursday) so don't expect much out of Hollywood until then. This time of year is notorious for stinkers, which makes it that much awesomer that the Village 8 brought in Slumdog. The skiing isn't so shit hot right now so get out and support your local theatre - buy the large popcorn, tip the concession kid a loonie. Recession, re-shmession. Don't believe the hype.

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