BOP 25 of the Holidays 2008: 15-6

By BOP Staff

October 9, 2008

DreamWorks' evolution into zoo porn was inevitable. 15) Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Back in 2005, DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar earned a mighty $193.1 million domestically, with an additional $328 million overseas. It's easy to see why the studio would quickly greenlight a sequel, though perhaps a little less clear as to why this is making such a strong appearance on a BOP list.

The answer to that question is simple, though. There are a number of us who are parents, and we know that our kids really are drawn to the bright colors of the film as well as the goofy antics of Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo. Also, Sacha Baron Cohen's character Julien (a lemur) taught everyone how fun it is to "move it move it". And if the trailer for the sequel is any indication, we'll be having lots of chances to do just that as this movie sees release.

For the rest of us, though, the answer to why Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is appealing is simple. The penguins rule. They're brilliant, dastardly, cunning and mostly hilarious. In fact, had the entire first film focused on the penguins, we could have had something much better than what the final product turned out to be. Here's hoping that the director and writers were wise enough to ramp up their presence for the sequel. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
It's a metaphor for Keanu's performances in the Matrix sequels. 14) The Day the Earth Stood Still

Klaatu barada nikto. These are the magic words that have kept the original 1951 release in our collective pop culture consciousness over the past half a century. In 2008, a re-make has been created that has discovered yet another way to make use of Keanu Reeves' constant look of confusion. Of course, no film will ever top The Matrix in this regard, but asking Bill S. Preston Esq. to portray an alien lacking any humanity is truly inspired. Reeves will be taking up the role of Klaatu from the original movie, presumably making him an invader caring a message of warning as well as hope to the human race. Meanwhile, BOP has been scouring The Google looking for any images of Gort, the alien enforcer, but the studio has played coy with those thus far. What we know is this. An early teaser for The Day The Earth Stood Still was remarkably well received and the buzz for this release is as positive as any science fiction movie in recent memory. Could this be the rare re-make that matches or even surpasses its predecessor in terms of quality? A year ago, BOP would have said no, but we are now beginning to re-evaluate that position. If nothing else, Fox has clearly gotten the special effects right. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Thanks for dying for me in Titanic. 13) Revolutionary Road

I admit it. I'm one of those women who think Leonardo DiCaprio is swoon-worthy. It's not really Titanic that did it for me, though I do think that movie is maligned far more than it deserves. It's been his work since that time that makes me believe he's a true Hollywood talent who puts me in mind of classic actors like Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart (though he's admittedly prettier than either of them). I'll see any movie he does, plain and simple.

I should also add that of all the actresses working today, Kate Winslet is my favorite. And once again, it's not really her work in Titanic that made me love her. It's more her work in stuff like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland and Little Children that makes me love her.

So while for some it might be true that the re-pairing of Winslet and DiCaprio makes Revolutionary Road an intriguing prospect, for me it's the fact that I can't wait to see these two act in any movie, period. I have to believe that other members of our staff feel the same way. It's even better that they're starring in a film directed by Sam Mendes (Winslet's husband and director of such solid fare as American Beauty and Road to Perdition). The movie is based on a novel by Richard Yates, one that is highly regarded in literary history. These are all good reasons to include the film on our list. We hope it can live up to our lofty expectations. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Off to adopt another baby! 12) Changeling

Mystic River won Academy Awards for Best Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for four other Oscars. Million Dollar Baby won for Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture while being nominated for three other Oscars. The twin projects of Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers won a minor Academy Award (Best Achievement in Sound Editing) and were nominated for five others. Clint Eastwood's last four movies have earned an astonishing 19 Academy Awards nominations with seven wins. Eastwood working with Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie is more than enough reason for our staff to want to watch Changeling. The pedigree on this title is one of the finest in recent memory. Even better, the setting is somewhat similar thematically to Mystic River but with a clever twist that will engage and horrify parents throughout the world. Changeling is a feminist film from one of the most macho actors in the history of our industry. BOP already considers it at worst a co-favorite in the race for Oscars leader, and we strongly suspect this title's name will be called many times on the evening of February 22, 2009. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Nick, Norah and the Drunken Slut was a rejected title. 11) Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

The "one crazy night" genre is a staple of teen/young adult romances, even if it's morphed a bit into the "bromance" side of things. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, based on a young adult novel, injects music and the hipster scene into the mix. Michael Cera plays Michael Cera... I mean, Nick, a forlorn musician recently dumped by his girlfriend (she was too much for you anyway, dude). After being dragged out to a concert, he runs into a friend of a friend of a...well, Nora, anyway, that grabs him for the old "pretend to be my boyfriend" gambit (Hooray for non-threatening boys!). Through a sequence of events, these two end up searching for a concert by a legendary indie band as well as trying to track down some lost mutual friends off on adventures of their own. This has a bit of a "generational film" to it, one that speaks to a core group of youth that ultimately end up being a touchstone, kind of like Singles. Is Cera the next John Cusack? Probably not. But he's closer than just about anyone to the idea of what Gen Y might make into John Cusack. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Dude, you're like a hamster! In a ball! 10) Bolt

Originally, a lot of us would have really been excited about Bolt due to the creative mind of one Chris Sanders, director/writer of Lilo & Stitch. That film is probably Disney's best recent product not coming out of Pixar, with vivid characters and a completely original story that takes a not-so-likeable character and turns him into something truly special. When we heard about his next animated project, American Dog, we were understandably excited.

Years later, though, Sanders is no longer involved with the project (though his more raw idea does live on in some comics that he publishes online). Even so, there's something about Bolt that makes us happy. That something is one hamster named Rhino. If you have seen the trailer, you know what we mean. Sure, Bolt the dog is cute and sure, the premise looks as though it could be fun, but if Rhino wasn't telling us that he eats danger for breakfast and begging to "let it begin!", this movie probably wouldn't even be in the conversation. We heartily recommend that everyone go out and support Rhino. Vote Rhino '08! (Kim Hollis/BOP)
They're recreating their faovirte scenes from Singing in the Rain. 9) Brothers Bloom

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s. That film saw Michael Caine and Steve Martin match wits in a battle of scoundrels attempting to grift a naïve, beautiful woman played masterfully by Glenne Headly. In the end, the tables were turned and Headly's character revealed herself to be the dirtiest of the trio of rotten scoundrels. BOP cannot help but wonder if something similar will occur in The Brothers Bloom. The pieces certainly appear to be in place for it. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo portray the titular con men while Rachel Weisz is on board as a rich shut-in whose life is so boring she "collects hobbies" to pass the time. The men attempt to attain the proverbial one last score before retirement by duping her out of a few million she isn't using. Plans go awry when Bloom (Brody) falls for the heiress and starts to introduce her to their lifestyle. Whether Weisz is duping them the same way Headly did Caine and Martin remains to be seen, but this much we know for sure. The trailer has multiple big laughs in it and the cast is frontloaded by two Academy Award winners plus Ruffalo, whom BOP has been talking up since You Can Count on Me. This looks like the sort of vaudevillian comedy Hollywood avoids for the most part. If it does prove to be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels-ish with maybe a touch of Clue thrown in for good measure, however, it's an instant comedy classic. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Hey, didn't you die for Kate Winslet in Titanic? 8) Body of Lies

The stereotype about the spy game is that it looks like James Bond, all tuxedos and baccarat. In reality, it's a lot more of some guy trying not to get blown up or shot and left for dead in the middle of the desert. Leonardo DiCaprio plays one of those spies, deeply embedded in search of a Jordanian terrorist. Meanwhile, back in the US, his CIA handler, played by Russell Crowe, manipulates the events on the ground in such a way that DiCaprio isn't always entirely sure whose side he's on anymore. It's an interestingly adversarial approach to espionage. Ridley Scott directs based on the book from Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, seemingly echoing the 2001 film Spy Game, directed by his brother Tony. Scott's long been the go-to-guy for films that aren't quite a blockbuster (though every once in awhile they get there), and this looks like exactly the sort of "ripped-from-the-headlines" kind of thriller he's best at. With the top-notch cast and behind the camera personnel, this has the chance to be one of the fall's top thrillers. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Kidman tries to avoid the wreckage of Tom Cruise's career. 7) Australia

It's been a long seven years since Moulin Rouge! captivated and entranced us as it moved on its way to eight Academy Awards nominations and two wins. Baz Luhrmann has proven in the past to be slow to create new films, as he truly only has four on his resume over the last 16 years. Along with Moulin Rouge!, those include Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and his newest project, Australia.

Given what we know about Luhrmann's frenetic style, we're fascinated to see what he does with Australia. It has the appearance of being a period piece, as it is set in the titular land down under during the years preceding World War II. Nicole Kidman plays an English aristocrat who has inherited a large ranch. In order to prevent her new land from being taken over, she must partner with a stock-man who looks a lot like Hugh Jackman. As they move cattle, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia by the Japanese.

It all sounds straightforward, but the production values and storytelling style are almost certain to be anything but typical. We'll honestly be disappointed if Luhrmann doesn't do something to make this special. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Like Sarah Palin, he'd like to phone a friend. 6) Slumdog Millionaire

Major Charles Ingram is not a name many North Americans know, but he is infamous in his native Great Britain. This man along with his wife, Diane, and their cohort, Tecwen Whittock, were convicted of Deception (sure, we welcome it during political campaigns, but it's a crime in England). Their notoriety comes from the way that they conspired to cheat their way to wealth through Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Ingram was the contestant who won the show's grand prize of a million pounds. The catch was that he had Whittock loudly cough from his seat in the audience whenever the correct response was mentioned. Their winnings were deemed invalid by the show's producers and Ingram has written a book about the whole affair entitled Major Injustice. He still claims his innocence and is quite defensive about the matter, recently going to so far as to strike a 13-year-old boy who mockingly coughed at him on the street.

Danny Boyle, despite his English citizenship, wasn't that captivated by the story. When a friend of his, Simon Beaufoy, asked him to read a script with a similar premise but set in India, Boyle was reticent at first. Eventually, he was won over by a high-minded story of an illiterate boy who manages to win a spot on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, only to be accused of the same crime as Ingram. Slumdog Millionaire is equal parts an examination of the rags-to-riches story in theory and the particular plight of this young man seeking his long lost love, who never misses the show. BOP has included every movie Danny Boyle has ever made on our lists, so its presence here is hardly a surprise. What is welcome is the news that the film won the prestigious Cadillac People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Clearly, we aren't the only ones excited by the prospects of Boyle's latest work.

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