Monday, January 05, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Got a Camcorder!

After the snow storm cleared up, I headed to Houston for Christmas and didn't really get a chance to sit down and blog about the news I had marked (you can blame a House marathon), and I don't want to talk about month-old stories so I'm going to fill this short post with original content and do a normal post next week. My coolest Christmas gift was this baby to the right here (in black): the Flip Mino HD camcorder. It's a pretty sweet pocket-sized camcorder that shoots in 720p HD, and I love it so far. I want to keep playing around with it and do a full review probably before the end of this month. I didn't post last week because I was skiing in Whistler, B.C. with my brother and his wife, but I took plenty of video so I'll try to post one big video with all that footage stitched together next week - all shot with my Mino HD. I'm trying to see if I can put it together for free using Avidemux and Windows Movie Maker, but we'll see how that works out in the days to come. I'm also going to be getting the tripod for it soon, so hopefully I'll be able to do more video content on this blog, which is the most exciting thing to happen to my little corner of the web since I got a digital camera a couple of years ago.

Who Wants to be a Slumdog Millionaire?

Rather than try to set up the plot of this movie, I think I'll just show you the trailer:

The trailer may even give you more information than it should, but if it motivates you to go see this movie then I'd say it was worth it. Essentially: it's about a bum who rises to become a millionaire through a famous TV show that was all the craze in India shortly after it was big in the US. Other than being set in India, I never felt compelled to see this film, especially after the Totally Rad Show's verdict was not to seek it out, but my sister-in-law loved it enough to convince us, and it was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Though the director isn't Indian so technically this isn't a Bollywood movie, I really wish that we had more Bollywood movies like this. A movie like this could definitely make an Indian man feel more proud about his country's cinema. I understand that Bollywood musicals have their place and I'm fine with that, I just wish it would produce films like this that cast India in this light that the world doesn't see: ugliness and beauty all at once permeating the streets. Any scenes that were set on the streets definitely gave me that vibe, and the cinematography was a big part of that. I didn't like how often the camera tried to give the audience a vertigo effect, but other than that it was quite impressive. The casting choices reminded me of Pan Labyrinth in that each one seemed to fit perfectly since these are actors/actresses you've never seen before and they do such a great job of portraying these characters that you don't imagine them in a world outside this movie. The music in this movie was also something that stood out to me: every song really held its own and they've since been stuck in my head at random times because their poignancy really resonated with me.

If all those things weren't enough, it was one of those movies where we were talking about it long after we left the theater and debating motivations and plot points and such. Even though it can try to be too obvious at times with themes and symbols, you can forgive it because it tells the story so well. I was worried that parts of the movie would feel contrived, but I thought that things flowed rather smoothly. If I had one complaint about this film, it would probably be that the pacing felt a bit off. It definitely felt like a long movie, and it was only 2 hours long. I strongly recommend running out and catching this movie if it's playing in your city, or keeping it in mind to rent later this year if you can't see it now. I give it an A+ and say that it's worth seeking out because I feel like it tells a very unique story in a great way and it does suspense so well that I'd compare that element of it to the likes of 24.

The Dark Knight Live Chat

I mentioned a while ago that The Dark Knight blu-ray had a special live chat for 100,000 people with director Christopher Nolan, and I did, indeed, attend it. I was pretty satisfied with it overall.

It was text only, not video. At first I was disappointed, but actually text chat lets you enjoy the movie fully and only tune in to what Nolan is saying when/if you want. It's actually a text box at the top of the screen that's readable without being too big and has a somewhat transparent background so that you can see whatever part of the movie it covers. We asked questions on the WB BD Live site (you had to be logged in, so only people in the chat could ask questions), and Nolan (or perhaps a third-party moderator) goes through and asks as many of the best as quickly as possibly.

Sometimes, he picked ones that I thought were kind of dumb or already answered in other features on the disc, but there were a lot of insightful questions answered about the casting, nuances of the story, origins and inspirations, etc. I didn't get any of mine answered, unfortunately, but the event could only support 100,000 people and with 600,000 copies sold on the first day alone (I imagine a significant number from pre-orders), I imagine a number of people were excited about this event a week afterwards.

I don't know how often they're going to be doing this, but it was cool. It was the only BD Live feature that I thought was creative and on par with some of the stuff Disney is trying out. I'd love to see them do more live events with actors from the film or even Batman comic experts.

For the curious, some have posted rough transcripts of the chat, but here are my highlights (beware of spoilers if you haven't seen the movie):

-Heath Ledger improvised certain voice qualities and gestures (like clapping for Gordon's promotion).
-The Hong Kong tanker plane was real.
-Nolan admitted that Rex Reed is his worst critic.
-The joker card in the judge's papers is how the Joker sources her DNA (this was a big mystery to me).
-The Long halloween and Batman Year One are Nolan's favorite Batman comics
-The assassination sequences were inspired by the Godfather
-Nolan's favorite scene was the very last one
-He took some funny questions, telling "spencer, [to] get over floren", and admitting that "it’s a 2-pee movie - I gotta make a shorter film next time".
-Someone proposed during the chat (and it worked)!
-A lot of people asked about casting choices and how good they were.
-Two face is dead.
-Dent killing 5 ppl (aside from the 2 cops) is still a mystery.

Prince of Persia First Impressions

I just wanted to real briefly talk about Prince of Persia since it's a new game that has probably been lost amidst all the December releases. I really like it so far. I've only past the prologue and healed one area, but the game is gorgeous and the animation is wonderful. I'm also impressed by the short load times. I have to admit that the game mechanics take some getting used to because action-adventure fans, including those of previous games in the 3-D leg of this franchise, will probably hit jump twice and end up jumping three times, for example. Once you get used to them though, the game feels like a ballet of parkour and stylized fight sequences. The fighting may not be very difficult or very varied, but I liked that the focus is on exploration and puzzles rather than fighting because I see it as more of a platformer/adventure title, and adventure games that rely too much on combat end up failing in that regard. This game definitely isn't for everyone, but if you can appreciate the finer points then you'll probably enjoy it. We'll see if my opinion changes as I get farther in the game.


And now for some random last notes:

I finally created a Listmania list of my top 10 favorite movies of all time, which typically changes a couple of times a year so this ought to be a good, central place to keep it. This is not the 10 best movies of all time, just the 10 that I enjoyed the most. A movie's quality is subjective anyway, so I judged them for my list just based on watchability rather than technical quality. For example: Traffic is an awesome movie that I never want to see again because it's too depressing.

Has anyone heard of a site called Honeyshed? I saw a commercial for it on TV and was disturbed when I finally visited it. It's a digital home shopping network targeted at teenage hipsters that seems like a giant joke. It is a real site, unfortunately. I can't imagine how it got funding to be created, but I'll give it credit for being somewhat polished.

Now that Konami is releasing Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid for the iPhone, I have to admit that it's actually trying to compete with the PSP and the DS, because now it's going past the standard cell phone game fare. By the way, has anyone played the Metal Gear Solid pack for Little Big Planet? I'm thinking of downloading it.

VHS is dead, but will not be missed. Well, not by me, anyway. I never bought stuff on VHS because I never saw the point in it, but I remember being convinced by DVD because of the quality and extras. It's kind of funny how times change like that.

I didn't want to mention this, but I feel compelled to since everyone else has been: Apple will no longer be at Macworld after this year, and it's because they always wanted to, not because Jobs is retiring. I thought that making accusations like was irresponsible on the media's part. Jobs is obviously going to retire in the coming years, but that doesn't mean in the next couple of months just because this is his last Macworld.

Hope you all have a good, snow-free week (it snowed a bit tonight in Seattle)!

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