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The Dog Bites It, But the Indian Kid Wins a Million Dollars!

By The Pajiba Staff | DVD Releases | March 31, 2009 |

By The Pajiba Staff | DVD Releases | March 31, 2009 |

Marley & Me: You know how we know that AICN jumped the shark ? Harry used his love for this film as a starting point to wax poetic on his life (Oh. Low blow — Stomping on a man’s sincerity like that, but you don’t know who writes these DVD blurbs, so who’re you gonna blame?). Agent Bedhead did not, however, give in to Marley & Me’s cheap sentimentality, writing: “As a film, however, Marley & Me ends up lifting a leg on its source material and doesn’t even remain faithful to the simple concept expressed in its title. Instead, this film should have been titled, A Schmuck, His Job, & His Unrelentingly Whiny Wife. P.S. Impossibly Cute Dog Really Tears Shit Up. Unfortunately, not nearly enough of Marley the Dog exists in this extreme tear-jerker that boasts name recognition for its male and female leads, both of whom satisfy the stereotypical yet accurate description of “limited range.” Certainly, you wouldn’t be alone when falling for the film’s deceptive publicity, that is, unless you read the book first, in which case you’ll recognize the good chance of leaving the theater with an endlessly sobbing child.

Seven Pounds: In one of her last reviews before Ranylt went off on her (hopefully not too lengthy) Pajiba reviewing sabbatical (let the letter writing campaign begin!), Ms. Richildis pummeled Will Smith and Seven Pounds with lots of fun ™ symbols, writing: “In Gabriele Muccino’s Seven Pounds, Will Smith’s goof is nowhere to be found. It’s been completely, utterly jettisoned, and replaced with teary-eyed Contemplation™, often in loving close-up. The goof that managed to spark even in a dark role like I Am Legend’s Neville has been smothered to ash by pre-fab Chagrin™ and by Smith’s determination to put himself in contention for little golden figurines. The man is stern, now — pay attention. The man is serious, and so is Muccino’s wrenching little drama that re-teams The Pursuit of Happyness’ director and lead for another display of Human Compassion™. Smith is notorious in Pajiba-Land and beyond for having two thespian gears — Selfless Will and Yahoo Will — and Selfless Will has been enshrined in Seven Pounds. If you loved him in Happyness and The Legend of Bagger Vance — if you can stomach the Tenderness™ — you’ll probably find substance, here, and walk away smug about having been moved and properly chastened by Hollywood Morality™. Like many recent lesson-dramas that try to bind us in a headlock, Seven Pounds slogs its own special brand of see what we did there? and demands that viewers open wide and take their medicine neat.

Slumdog Millionaire: Of this year’s Best Picture winner, Dan was appropriately effusive, writing: “Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is the latest example of why the director is so good at making movies in different genres: It’s got the connective thread of emotional honesty, fidelity of character, and devotion to the story’s specific universe that links it with everything from Boyle’s drama Shallow Grave to the horror of 28 Days Later to the children’s film Millions. Boyle can jump from one style to another because he always brings a level of truth to his films, and that’s one of the many things that makes Slumdog Millionaire such a joy to watch. The film is beautiful, sad, sweet, uplifting, and thoroughly entertaining, but above all it’s honest, a paean to life and love that stands firmly rooted in reality even as it reaches for the heavens. The story bounces around in time and often rapidly shifts location or mood, flirting with everything from comedy to drama to a blend of fantasy and reality that’s completely engaging and works on every level.”

Tell No One: A nominee last year for Best Picture at the British Independent Film awards and number five on our own Top 10 movies of 2008 list, The Boozehound offered up this one with three-quarters of a pint of Wild Turkey. He writes, “Tell No One presents a dazzling example of embracing genre conventions while also elevating them. Clearly influenced by films such as Caché and The Fugitive, Tell No One elects not to strain to find detours around genre tropes, instead choosing simply to de-emphasize them while respecting the viewer with plausible but unobtrusive stepping stones to propel the story. Tell No One leads us on a wild chase through a careening plot, hitting the suspense formula marks only in service to the downhill thrills between the turns, occasionally dotting the proceedings with small but resonant bits of action. Tell No One also works well as an ensemble piece in the spirit of Lantana, with a uniformly excellent cast where each character holds an important piece of the narrative puzzle, their conversations flowing in a natural way while maintaining the shifting intrigue of each character’s involvement in the unfolding story.

Special: Prisco suggests that Special is one of those good movies you don’t enjoy watching, writing: “Here’s a definite distinction between a good film and a film you want to watch. Think of Requiem for a Dream, for example. Obviously, this is a well-made movie with excellent performances, a relatively cohesive narrative, and unflinching delivery. It’s just not something you necessarily want to put yourself through again. Such is the unexpected nature of Special. It’s as if you’ve packed the car for a lovely, fun-filled day at the beach, and as you drive along, the traffic starts to slow until you find yourself in a traffic jam. You might joke to your passengers that “someone better be dead.” Then an ambulance goes by, followed by a police car, a fire truck, and then another ambulance. Nervous chuckles turn into gallows humor as you approach a smoking wreck. You see a body draped in a sheet being lifted on to a gurney. You then recognize one of the cars as belonging to a neighbor you really didn’t know well. That’s kind of the experience of watching Special. It starts out light-hearted and comical, a goofy little independent film that suddenly takes the twisted path into uncomfortable darkness and a little too stark reality. That’s not to say it’s not good. It’s extremely well done. It’s just a devastating sock in the gut you don’t see coming.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.