The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
"Is that your final answer?" Those familiar words are not uttered by American game show host Regis Philbin, but by an Indian host to the most unlikely of contestants, a "slumdog" or street urchin.
"Slumdog Millionaire" is the story of Jamal, and his brother, Salim. Living among the poorest of the poor in the streets of India, their life story is cleverly told through a series of flashbacks as Jamal awaits his chance to win a "million."
Left to fend for themselves after a brutal street attack, the boys keep their wits about them through any number of adventures, and at one point Salim reluctantly agrees to let a young orphan girl, Latika, tag along with them. This odd version of The Three Musketeers survives the evils of the streets and eventually they are forcibly separated - but not before young Jamal falls in love with Latika.
Danny Boyle's direction is taut and the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle is nothing short of brilliant in capturing the squalor of the streets. "Slumdog Millionaire" is difficult to describe because it's two movies in one: a sometimes brutal look at the underbelly of life, coupled with a love story bordering on fairytale. (The end credits, while entertaining, detract from the serious scenes depicted.)
If you choose your films by award recognition, this one is no doubt already on your list of "must sees." Rid your thoughts of industry tags and watch the story unfold. It is masterfully told.
Note: The R rating is appropriate because of violence.
"Slumdog Millionaire" is not suitable for young children.
I've Loved You So Long
Sub-titled or dubbed in English
Sibling relationships can be tricky. Add a 10-year or more age discrepancy, a tragic set of circumstances and a 15-year separation to the mix, and the differences may be insurmountable. And yet, in "I've Loved You So Long," two sisters strive to overcome all obstacles.
Kristin Scott Thomas is Juliette, the silent, moody older sibling who comes to stay at the home of Léa (Elsa Zylberstein). Barely in contact for more than 15 years, younger sister Léa now has a family, a husband who is wary of their new house guest, his mute father, and two adopted little girls from Viet Nam.
Written and directed by Philippe Claudel, this French film dances around the mysteries surrounding Juliette while allowing relationships between her and the family and a few friends to develop.
The curiosity of Lise Ségur as the precocious grade-school-aged niece, P'tet Lis adds humor and relieves tension as the drama unfolds.
Scott Thomas often has played beautiful women in the past, but with this role demonstrates her depth and strength as an actor and, as her sister, Zylberstein (a new face to most Americans) equals her "sister's" powerful performance.
"I've Loved You So Long" deals with the gritty reality of being accepted by society in general and one's family specifically. Whether soaking in the swimming pool, driving in the car or talking at the kitchen table, Juliette and Léa demonstrate how special sisters can be to one another.
Believe in Me
Fictional scripts based on actual events focus on good triumphing over evil or "Davids" conquering "Goliaths" or slices of history from a different perspective. "Believe in Me" has a little bit of all three of those scenarios.
"Believe in Me" barely made it to the big screen and offers a good reason to go beyond the Blockbuster shelf when selecting a video. Based on actual events in a small Oklahoma town in the 1960s, "Believe in Me" may surprise a younger generation of athletes who have come to expect to see women competing on the collegiate level, if not in professional arenas.
Clay Driscoll (Jeffrey Donovan) with his wife, Jean (Samantha Mathis), arrives in Oklahoma and shortly thereafter he reports to the high school to start his new job as the basketball coach. The problem? He was under the impression he would be coaching the boys' team and instead is saddled with the girls' team which has little scheduled practice time, no equipment to speak of, and less respect in the community.
Donovan (recently seen on the big screen in "Changeling" and currently starring in TV's "Burn Notice") brings credibility to his role as a young man frustrated at every turn by uncooperative parents, a condescending school board (led by an appropriately irascible Bruce Dern), and a gaggle of young women who are clueless as to their self worth, on and/or off the court.
"Believe in Me" is inspiring for the human spirit, regardless of one's athletic prowess, and a terrific movie to watch as a family.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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