2008 Holiday Movie Review

With an unexpectedly wise “chaiwala,” a potentially pedophilic priest and a man curiously aging in reverse, here’s a look back at what made this holiday movie season especially sweet. “Slumdog Millionaire” Although magical and full of audience appeal, “Slumdog Millionaire” certainly had a tough time achieving fame. After facing the possibility of a direct-to-DVD release and the impossible task of marketing a fairy tale romance after the November 26th Mumbai terrorist attacks, director Danny Boyle has captured the hearts of critics and audiences alike with his story of the poor Indian “chaiwala,” or tea boy, who goes on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” to find his long lost childhood love. Boyle brings the pulsating city of Mumbai to life, highlighting both the city’s greatest characteristics as well as its more grimy crime underworld. And what the movie lacks in character development, “Slumdog Millionaire” makes up for in sheer charm. While “Slumdog” might not get any acting award nominations for its cast of unknown actors and actresses, it is a strong contender for both Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. With a get-out-of-your-seat-and-cheer plot and some innovative storytelling, “Slumdog Millionaire” is fast on its way to becoming the 2008 indie catch of the year. Grade: 5 “Doubt” As the recipient of Best Play at the 59th annual Tony Awards, “Doubt” was a critically lauded Broadway play. As a movie, however, “Doubt” has lost a bit of its appeal in the transition. With scenes consisting almost exclusively of people arguing inside classrooms and offices, “Doubt” follows a determined nun’s quest to discredit a priest suspected of being a child molester despite a total lack of any proof. “Doubt” might have been better as a Broadway play, but as a mental game of cat and mouse, it certainly makes its audience think. While “Doubt” might be a little low on cinematic action, the astounding acting ensemble gives this play potential Oscar gold. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams star, each delivering powerful performances. However, the most impressive acting comes from the relatively obscure Viola Davis. On screen for only a bit of time, Davis simply wows. When Oscar nominations roll around, be sure to look for “Doubt’s” cast among the recipients of the acting awards. Grade: 5- “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” Almost fifteen years in the making, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” required the help of today’s special effects magic. Even though it might be a shoo-in for the technical achievement awards at the Oscars, “Benjamin Button” manages to tell an equally amazing story to boot. For a total of 159 minutes, this epic Hollywood movie follows the life and times of Benjamin Button, the man who aged in reverse. Funny, awe-inspiring and often very poignant, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is one of the most ambitious movies of our time. Sure, it’s not perfect. It can sometimes gloss over large periods of time with little explanation, and it would be nice to get a bit more insight into Benjamin’s thoughts and feelings. But as a flawed masterpiece, “Benjamin Button” hits more than it misses, paying tribute to many of life’s little (and not-so-little) wonders. With epic storytelling, terrific acting and some of the best special effects ever to grace the silver screen, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is almost everything the Academy voters look for in a Best Picture winner. And, if “Benjamin Button” does miss out on Oscar’s highest honor, at least it will have made a pretty sum of money as one of the most popular movies of the 2008 holiday movie season. Grade: 6-