Slumdog Millionaire (R, 2008, Fox)
Hopefully, all the blathering you might have heard about “Slumdog Millionaire” didn’t include spoilers or excessively-worded plot descriptions, because the less you know going in, the better case the film makes for all those awards. You won’t have to wait long, either: Within 30 seconds, you know that Jamal (Dev Patel) is a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” is one question away from the grand prize, and is sitting in a room with two temperamental interrogators who think he’s a fraud. Not a bad haul for 30 seconds. But where “Millionaire” really earns its kudos is with what it does with that haul. Out of this introduction spins a biopic about a nobody (played at different ages by Patel, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Tanay Chheda) whose existence not only leads up to his moment of might-be glory, but finds its way into every question he answers. If you’re a skeptic, the whole thing is a hysterically illogical wave of coincidental overdrive. But if you can just buy into it, “Millionaire” is a great life story, a great love story, and a fantastic mystery that maintains the spirit of those first 30 seconds almost the whole way though. (The closing credits are pretty cool, too, so stick around.)
Extras: Director/Patel commentary, writer/producer commentary, deleted scenes, making-of feature, music video.
Tell No One (NR, 2006, Music Box Films)
The last time Alexandre (François Cluzet) saw his wife (Marie-Josée Croze), she was walking away from an argument they had. The last time he heard her, she was screaming for his help. And for the eight years that followed, Alexandre mourned his dead wife while fighting the glares of authorities who don’t understand how he survived being knocked into the water, unconscious, by the supposed killer. Then — and this is the crazy part — his wife e-mails him. Maybe. “Tell No One” would be a better ride if you didn’t know that last part in advance. But Music Box wants to sell some DVDs, so there it is, laid bare on the cover. Fortunately, it ultimately matters little. “TNO’s” first hour basically leads up to what the box told you first, but it does so with a compelling setting and characters interesting enough to make even the spoiled bits engrossing. Then, the second hour happens, and things just get good. The e-mail brings with it additional skeletons, with those skeletons bring complications even the box art can’t predict. Naturally, there’s also the matter of that e-mail and who may or may not have sent it. “TNO” takes the suspense thriller playbook and generally follows its blueprints, but the simple combination of that good first hour, a unique twist and the fallout that results is all the film needs to melt the minutes away. In French with English subtitles (decent English dub available).
Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes.
Killer at Large (NR, 2009, Disinformation Company)
Hey everybody, guess what? There’s this thing called obesity, and it’s killing people slowly. Heard of it? Of course you have: It’s a mass media staple — an endless well from which reporters can retrieve all manner of scary images and threats. Initially, “Killer at Large” seems interested in the same empty entertainment, kicking off with footage of a 12-year-old girl undergoing liposuction surgery and following with completely unappetizing images of what obesity-powered diabetes can do to a person’s foot. Fortunately, covert morbid entertainment isn’t all that’s on the menu. “Large” devotes acceptable amounts of time to lesser-discussed causes of obesity, including a detailed rundown of the role stress plays in undermining diet and exercise. It discusses the economics of eating healthily versus unhealthily. It also devotes considerable time to the epidemic of sedentary kids, tossing out some funny-if-they-weren’t-depressing numbers that, even with all we know, might open some eyes. “Large” jumps without pattern between numerous subjects, causes and controversies, and some — particularly, the damnation of politicians’ inability to do what parents should be doing anyway — land with a thud. More than not, though, it addresses good, smart points. It’s silly to pretend adults who need to see “Large” the most will ever even know it exists. But if educators get their hands on it, “Large” has genuine legs as an invaluable educational tool.
Extras: Condensed (45-minute) educational cut, commentary, deleted scenes, extended footage of a scene from the film, premiere footage.
Fling (R, 2008, Peace Arch)
Welcome to Samantha’s (Courtney Ford) and Mason’s (Steve Sandvoss) open relationship, which appears continually on the brink of disaster during the “tell me one thing, show me another” scenes that comprise “Fling’s” opening act. “Fling” as a film seems destined to follow the same path — hot and happy one minute, cold and anguished another, with pages of solid dialogue undermined by the completely unnecessary presence of a shaky camera and regular blasts of unintentionally amusing in-your-face-itude. On some level, that never lets up. Fortunately, despite threats to the contrary, it also never overwhelms the film, which quite surprisingly manages to grow into all that intensity. “Fling” is, in the end, an overwrought but pretty intelligent dissection of the impossible dream that is a loving relationship without borders. An ability to take interest in Samantha and Mason without necessarily liking them is probably a requisite, but “Fling” deserves credit for making that seemingly impossible task very possible. Brandon Routh, Shoshana Bush and Nick Wechsler also star.
Extras: Director commentary, behind-the-scenes feature, video vignettes, deleted scenes, digital copy.
The Other End of the Line (PG-13, 2008, MGM)
Give “The Other End of the Line” some points for setting an original table. It takes two uniquely modern problems — identity theft (Jesse Metcalfe as the victimized New Yorker) and outsourcing (Shriya as a credit card call center employee who works in India but masquerades as a San Franciscan) — and spins a potential relationship from their chance tele-encounter. Too bad “Line” only has old solutions to these new problems. Things begin promisingly and with style, but the film simply can’t help itself as it rushes through the interesting setup and jumps into a bed of the same old romantic comedy clichés, complete with familiar misunderstandings you can spot a mile away. That doesn’t make “Line” a total wash, if only because Shriya creates an instantly likable character and does absolutely nothing to undermine that as the story progresses. Metcalfe, on the other hand, is trapped in his role — stuck playing just another not-quite leading man who isn’t nearly as charming and unpredictable as he thinks he is. Unfortunately, for the same reasons, neither is “Line.” No extras.
Marley & Me (PG, 2008, Fox)
“Marley & Me” worked as a book (and an audio book, for those averse to reading) because it was page upon page of a man recounting, affectionately and in great detail, the life and times of the ridiculously misbehaving dog he very obviously loved. So it bears asking: Where’d that dog go when this movie was made? It’s bad enough that “Marley & Me” spends considerably more time on Marley’s owners (Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson) than the dog everyone paid to see. But a long 45 minutes pass before we even see Marley as anything but a nuisance, and it’s another half hour before we see any proof that Marley brought his family any joy at all. In both cases, the moments last less than a moment, and then it’s back to the entire world being mad at Marley in ways that usually aren’t funny and often don’t even seem intended to be funny. Only with 25 minutes to go does “M&M” find something resembling a soul, but it’s really just a device to jerk audiences around as Marley deals with his own mortality. In the proper context, it’s a sweet comedown any respectable dog lover will completely understand. But watching a family pay tear-streaked respect to a dog they spent almost the entire film treating as a despised thorn in their cold sides rings insultingly hollow. “M&M” doubtlessly was made with only good intentions, but it’s a horrendously manipulative misfire. Even a bad dog like Marley deserves better than a film that treats him like an uninvited guest instead of the star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, animal adoption feature, fan contest finalists’ videos, bloopers.