Week 6

Movies –  Non-English

The Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Spain, 1998) [ IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGuV50q0Kp4

Stylishly shot romantic film which is a bit twisted. For all those who believe in love at first sight. It is rather funny how the same incident is strikingly different when recollected by a man and then by a woman. A story in which everything happens in circles which basically means that nothing ends, including love. As The New York Times put it, ‘madly romantic’.

Days of Glory (Algeria, 2006) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

Days of Glory

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_EuwDYfA-M

The only movie I know which made a government revisit its laws and rightly restore their rights to African soldiers who fought under the French flag in the Second World War. I had seen this movie in New Delhi during a film festival and it left a lasting impression. The movie has some excellent scenes as is evident in the trailer but what stands out is the style of movie making. The movie evidently has a grouse against the French government but the story telling is at times so engaging that you stop paying attention to it. The story follows the life of four African men who fight to liberate France from Nazi oppression. The movie received a standing ovation at the film festival when I saw it.

Life is Beautiful (Italy, 1997) [IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten tomatoes: 96%]

life is

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16RZHqCIy9M

I am putting this movie here because if you have not seen it, you should probably start watching foreign language movies with this one. Undoubtedly, a masterpiece which will leave you happy but with a tinge of sadness. It tells the story of a Jewish family who end up in a concentration camp. Humour is the last thing you will look for in a concentration camp but the father must resort to every trick he can pull to keep his son’s spirit up.  It is an original piece of work with some of the most creative scenes ever. One of the saddest scenes I have scene on screen is when the father goes to meet his patron at the dinner in the hope of finding an escape from the camp and what ensues. ‘Life is Beautiful’ will easily walk into any movie list for the best movies ever made.

Hollywood Retrospective

A Christmas Story (1983) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

a christmas story

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvMLfSQrHKE

One of the cutest films ever made that will take you back to your childhood. A kid wants a gift for Christmas. That is the story of the movie but then it is Christmas and there are lot of things that are bothering his parents. The acting is almost perfect and more than anything you are swept off your feet by the simplicity of the movie. Definitely the best movie on Christmas.

Bananas (1971) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xyqm-wWnX0A

Woody Allen’s little known gem. Hilarious to the hilt. Uproariously funny. Only Woody Allen can come up with insane ideas and then make it look respectable on screen. The best political satire I have seen on the big screen.

Movies I Saw This Week

Side Effects (2013) [IMDB: 7.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFEou3MBLi4

A genuine thriller. What starts as a drama on the pharma industry soon turns into a thriller. The story revolves around a young woman who has unexpected side effects after taking pills prescribed by her doctor. Writing more about it is difficult without giving hints about the story. Certainly one of the better films of 2013.

I Give It a Year (2013) [IMDB: 6.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 63%]

i give

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od8DhL1hyfw

Tries too hard to be funny but it does have some funny moments. It is usually the oddball characters who spice up a comedy but here they are more irritating than funny. After a point the jokes get tedious. The title and story are derived from the fact that the movie maps the first year of a marriage. An average attempt.

Restless (2011) [IMDB: 6.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EnEBEZNkB4

Terminally ill girl meets a boy who likes attending funerals. A theme that has been done to death. Gus Van Sant’s weakest film in years. The movie literally bores you to death. Acting is insipid and most of the scenes are tasteless. Trying to get some intellectual gravitas by having a kamikaze pilot is the most pathetic plot device I have seen in a long time.

Go Goa Gone (2013) [IMDB: 7.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

go goa

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V5zGNVRmaE

The early voting patterns at IMDb are usually unreliable for wide releases. It holds true for this movie too where things start promisingly but then tapers off like all the previous ventures by the director duo. There are some funny dialogues in the beginning but then it gets too dry even to interest zombies. It must be said that the producers deserve a pat on their back for putting their money on an unconventional idea.

Documentary pick of the week

Capturing the Friedmans (2003) [IMDB: 7.9/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVY4ehqJjAA

A family which seems like any other is rocked to its core when two of its members are arrested for horrible crimes. The title is a pun. The story is sad. The documentary is a must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Captain Phillips’ because it has Tom Hanks.

Did you know: Cutthroat Island (2005) is the biggest flop movie ever according to ‘The Guinness Book of World Records’. Adjusted for inflation, it lost $ 146 million.

Week 5

Movies –  Non-English

City of God (Brazil, 2002) [IMDB: 8.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%] 

City of God

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioUE_5wpg_E

The film explores the dark alleys of Rio De Janeiro where gangs fight for supremacy, but one person has a different idea when it comes to shooting. If you like the adrenaline rush of scores being settled through the barrel of a gun, this one is for you. Even if that is not your cup of tea, the movie is definitely worth a watch for taking the camera beyond the all hunky dory beaches of Rio. Crime classic.

Memories of Murder (South Korea, 2001) [ IMDB: 8.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTnyhLywdJc

Based on the true story of a serial killer, the film has no dull moments. The story unfolds as the investigations reach what seem to be breakthroughs. The tempo never dips and the story is told at a break neck pace. In the end, it is about how the thinking of the investigators influences what is to be investigated. Some of the sequences are truly chilling. Must watch if you love thrillers. Two thumbs up.

The Celebration (Denmark, 1998) [ IMDB: 8.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKe_AxTFGXc

At the patriarch’s 60th birthday party celebrations, skeletons tumble out of the family closet. Family secrets are revealed and the bonds are tested. Surprisingly, the revelations make the characters more stubborn and the person who reveals the truth becomes an outcast. It takes time to call the bluff. An engaging film, which again relies on strong performances and well written screenplay.

Hollywood Retrospective

Network (1976) [ IMDB: 8.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% ] 


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQUBbpvXk2A

Essential viewing. Timeless classic which in many ways predicted what television viewing would be like. You will be surprised how bang on the movie is about how things in the television world are. Will give you a sense of deja vu because it so successfully says things, which you will be surprised to note hold true for 2013 as much as it was true for 1976. The acting and writing are as good as you can expect on the big screen. Correction. Make it the TV screen.

The Last Emperor (1987) [IMDB: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N6nvUZO42o

Ready for some history lessons? Well, history has seldom been captured in a motion picture as it has been in ‘The Last Emperor’, the chronicle of the life and times of the last King of China. With master craftsman Bernando Bertolucci at the helm, the film soars to new heights which deservedly landed it 9 Oscars. Watch the story of a feeble king doomed by palace intrigue and events of much higher scale happening outside the four walls of his palace.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Place Beyond The Pines (2013) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOChz0QcZSo

Frankly, the movie that has disappointed me the most in 2013. At 140 minutes, the film is tediously long. All the momentum built is lost after 50 minutes when the story has a huge twist. At the end it feels like one has just watched a poor drama. Contrary to expectations, Eva Mendes is the best performer in the movie. When you think back you can never really figure out what was all the fuss about. The film will hands down win the award for the worst make up. Come on, a 15 year fast forward and you still have Bradley Cooper and all others look like the same age.  Honorable mention: The chase sequences are awesome.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) [ IMDB: 6.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQoH1IGRB3w

Light romantic comedy. It is quite entertaining and you will never be bored. Must say that the ending was kind of unexpected. My biggest grouse with the movie is that it passes on a rather discomforting message. It practically says that career oriented women are doomed and will have hardly anything to fall back on. Otherwise, worth a watch.

Documentary pick of the week

Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) [IMDB: 7.9/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WX0MPcN08Zc

Find out more about waterboarding and such amazing activities of USA. On a more serious note, the documentary is about an innocent Afghan taxi driver who gets killed in the custody of US forces. Along the way it exposes the US war on terror for what it is. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Immigrant’ because when Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner get together, there are bound to be fireworks.

Did you know: ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ completed 900 weeks of screening at ‘Maratha Mandir’ cinema in Mumbai on 11 January 2013, making it the longest running film in world history.

Week 4

Movies –  Non-English
The Motorcycle Diaries (Argentina, 2004) [ IMDB:7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91% ] 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6jz_b80V5g

The true story of the road trip that Che Guevara took before he became a revolutionary. The film shows the deep empathy Che had for people and his dedication towards helping to improve the lot of the people. Absolutely memorable scenes without getting preachy. The standout scenes include the one in which a migrant labourer asks Che why he travels. In another scene when Che raises a toast and says that all of Latin America is one, you are willing to believe it. Watch this entertaining movie to know how the world changed Che before he changed the world. .

Children of Heaven (Iran, 1997) [ IMDB: 8.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqxvZeQsVzY

Do you believe in innocence? Have you ever tried finishing second or third in a race because that is what your sister wanted? Do you believe that movies can be magical without special effects? Get introduced to Iranian cinema through this masterpiece which will leave you spellbound. A very simple story of a brother who loses his sister’s shoes but promises to get her a new pair, told in the most interesting manner. If only Hollywood kids could act like the ‘stars’ of this film.

The Battle of Algiers (Algeria, 1966) [ IMDB: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% ]Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca3M2feqJk8



If there is one movie which you should watch before you die, this is the one. Though made in 1966, I can vouch that the film will be as edge of seat stuff as it is now, even in 2066.The movie was banned in France as it chronicles the Algerian struggle for Independence from France. The film was influential to the extent that some very famous directors like Mira Nair have called it the biggest influence in their film making. You will be mesmerized. So, watch before you die.

Hollywood Retrospective
Amadeus (1984) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIzhAKtEzY0

The incredible story of Mozart, this movie is a not very well known in spite of winning 8 Oscars. The opera parts do get a little tedious but Murray Abraham’s portrayal of  Mozart’s competitor Salieri is certainly one of the best acting performances in movie history. The movie begs the eternal question. Are some people born geniuses. On the evidence of it, they are.

This is Spinal Tap (1984) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFl7Cq2fvqI

Rob Reiner’s mock documentary (may be a new genre) which rips apart the rock scene and the artists who are drowned in self importance. A must watch for any music fan. Never has the rock scene been exposed before and never will any movie have the audacity and creativity to do what this movie did. ‘Puppet Show and Spinal Tap’. A line you will never forget.
Movies I Saw This Week

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada, 2011) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjNCkxnT-xE

From IMDB: At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom. While helping his students deal with their grief, his own recent loss is revealed.

Definitely worth a watch.

Here Comes the Boom (2012) [ IMDB: 6.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 69% ]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4L6ruTF5qE

From IMDB: A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school.

The only good thing is that the movie has its heart in the right place. Could have been much better.

Ingenious (2009) [IMDB: 5.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVMgRnZRblM

From IMDB: A rags-to-riches story of two friends, a small-time inventor and a sharky salesman, who hit rock bottom before coming up with a gizmo that becomes a worldwide phenomenon.

Well, in case you are wondering what the above mentioned gizmo is, it is the talking beer opener, which is the third largest selling novelty product of all time. I would not recommend the movie. Open your beer and watch something else.

Documentary pick of the week

Senna (2010) [ IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDbyILj7o-w

Chronicles the life and times of Ayrton Senna, who died a legend in racing when he was just 34. One of the best documentaries ever.

Eagerly waiting for : ‘Venus in Fur’ because Roman Polanski never disappoints.

Did you know: Tamil Nadu remains the only place in the world where the Chief Ministers were from the field of cinema for most of the last 45 years.

Week 3

Movies – Non English

The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina, 2009)[ IMDB: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhEuUDO0YUQ

One of the best films to have come out in the last decade. A young women gets murdered and that leaves her husband shattered. Midway through the film the murderer is identified but then the movie is not just about finding the culprit. At its core is the idea of justice and passionate love. The story is narrated by the investigator of the case. I don’t understand much of Spanish but if the English subtitles are anything to go by, the dialogues are top notch. Watch out for the football stadium scene and the way the camera moves through the sequence. The eyes. They speak.

The Barbarian Invasions (France, 2003) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH6v62yp29Q

The final days of a man spent with his friends and family. Heart warming, with some strong performances. The striking thing about the movie is the strength in the screenplay. It says an ordinary story with such ease that you are enthralled by the pace and the treatment. Neatly fits into the tradition of French movies which does not rely on visual splendor to say an effective story in an affecting way.
Cinema Paradiso (Italy, 1988) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maV1ZYdAExw

An ode to cinema. In my opinion, the best movie climax ever. A filmmaker’s journey growing up in a small town in post war Italy, his introduction to cinema through the local theater’s projectionist and more. A treat for film lovers and may be the best movie on movies. Swept all the awards when it was released. With 2013 being the silver jubilee year of the film, discover there is hardly a better way of falling in love with movies. Special mention: The score by Ennio Morricone.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Mission (1986) [IMDB: 7.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%] 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvWaD-NErlY

Jesuits help a South American Indian tribe to stand up to the Portuguese. The film set new standards for cinematography and even higher standards for sound. The absolutely riveting background score does aid the cause. To add to all this are sublime performances by Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons.

The Shining (1980) [IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cb3ik6zP2I

Stanle Kubrick’ss classic horror film with a menacing Jack Nicholson. You can practically feel the chill of the winter. The final scene where the kid is chased is truly memorable.

Movies I saw this week

Killer Joe (2011)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxpvzmvFHTM

From IMDB: ‘When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.’

Good performances are hampered by a weak story line. Fit for niche audiences.

Deadfall (2012)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IWaBAwTf2U

From IMDB: ‘A thriller that follows two siblings who decide to fend for themselves in the wake of a botched casino heist, and their unlikely reunion during another family’s Thanksgiving celebration.’

The thing with thrillers is that once you lose steam midway, it is a hard act to get it back. Eric Bana must have found this role easy. His acting is constrained to keeping a dead face.

Documentary pick of the week

Enron: The smartest guys in the room (2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dNZaKLjYbc

The rise and fall of Enron, at one point in time one of the world’s most admired companies. Could have been funny if it had not been tragic.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Great Gatsby’ because of Leo, Carey and Baz.

Did you know: The movie ‘Fargo’ (1996) says in its beginning that ‘it is based on a true story’. Well the fact is that, it is not. The directors once came up with an explanation that people would not believe the story without this ‘artistic liberty’