Friday, December 19, 2008

Week of December 19 thru December 25 (Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

Phew! Where do I start? This is a week of superlatives, with two new films opening on Friday and then adding two others on Christmas Day. There’s no problem figuring out what to do with all those visitors. Just send them to the Tropic.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (opens Friday) is that once-a-year crossover hit that moves from the indie film world to mass-market glory. Last year the Tropic opened Juno for Christmas when almost no one had heard of it and it was showing in only 40 theaters. In a month it had exploded to a over 1,000 screens and wound up grossing $143 million nationally. Slumdog Millionaire is poised for the same kind of breakthrough.

Why? Because Slumdog, like Juno and the crossover hit from 2006, Little Miss Sunshine, all feature a lovable hero on a somewhat mad quest – completing an unwanted pregnancy in Juno, winning a kiddie beauty contest in Miss Sunshine. But since the hero in Slumdog is an orphaned street urchin in Mumbai, don’t expect middle-class American adventures. Young Jamal Malik is on the hit Indian TV show, “So You Want To Be A Millionaire,” and he’s going for the top prize of twenty million. Using a highly original story-telling structure, director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and writer Simon Beaufoy (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Full Monty) take us through Jamal’s life and his world of Mumbai misery, corruption and crime with honesty, grit and humor. As the story stays upbeat – even when Jamal gets a beating -- we happily cheer on our hero and even manage sometimes to laugh at the villains. It’s really a fairy tale, with nasty cops and vicious ganglords as the wicked witches and young Jamal as the prince-in-waiting, needing only the kiss of the correct contest answer to emerge.

So here’s holiday tip #1 from your buddy Phil. Slumdog Millionaire is going to be a huge hit. A real treat combining a timely insight into Mumbai street life, a tense thriller, and a heartwarming love story, Slumdog is already gathering up Best Picture nods. And don’t worry about subtitles. Though shot in India, with an Indian cast, this is a British-made, English-speaking film, with only a little Hindi scattered through it for effect.

If you’re interested in a foreign movie, then A CHRISTMAS TALE might be your cup of café filtre. Starring Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) it’s your basic Christmas family get-together movie. You know, a mother who has cancer, a son and daughter who haven’t spoken in years, and a somewhat disturbed grandson. In Hollywood hands, this package might become cloying --- after all it’s Christmas for heaven’s sake. But the French have a different way. As Peter Travers says in Rolling Stone, the movie “turns one family into a universe that resembles life as a startling work of art.”

Time for holiday tip #2. Starting on Christmas Day, AZUR AND ASMAR: THE PRINCES’ QUEST will be shown at matinees. With a distinctive animated style (no Pixar here), it tells the Arabian Nights-like tale of a noble blonde prince and his African nursemaid’s son who jointly search for a Djinn fairy to release her from her Crystal Cell. So here’s the tip. Send the kids to see Azur and Asmar (Rated PG), while you sneak over to see Slumdog (Rated R). Fairy tales for the whole family.

Or, also starting on Christmas Day, you could slip in to see Tom Cruise plotting to kill Hitler in VALKYRIE. I haven’t seen it yet. The producers have it under wraps. You can beat the critics to the draw if you go on December 25.

Full schedules at Comments to
[from Key West, the Newspaper -]

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