Week 19

Movies: Non-English

The Life of Rose {La Vie En Rose} (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

La Vie En Rose movie poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujvIs0DhJU

In his review of this biopic of legendary French singer Edith Piaf, Stephen Holden of the ‘The New York Times’ wrote and I quote, “The most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another ever encountered on film.” I concur. Marion Cotillard was a shoo in for the Best Actress at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes making her only the second actress after Sophia Loren to win the Oscar for that category in a non-English movie. The film tells the bittersweet story of Edith Piaf who died young. This is one of those biopics where you genuinely feel for the character who is felled by a succession of tragedies. Marion Cotillard is exceptional in the role and (Spoiler Ahead) her acting in the scene when she discovers the death of her lover is unforgettable. Watch it for her and get introduced to Edith Piaf whose death was the only instance after the Second World War when Parisian traffic came to a standstill.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

death of

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB5BktF00_Y

This Romanian tour de force is a niche comedy. It is not a chaplinesque slapstick and requires you to see the biting sarcasm at the heart of the film. The good thing is that even with the subtitles the humour is not lost. The story is that of a lonely old man who is stretchered off from one hospital to another on a particularly interesting night. The pace is rather slow but the dialogues more than make up for it. Overall, a good watch.

English Retrospective

The Paper Chase (1973) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

paper chase

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLZgjP-qgpQ

The story of life at Harvard Law School told through the eyes of one of the less stellar students on campus. It tells the reality of high pressure academic life marked by rigor which is what finally sets apart elite institutions. Life is lonely and the weather is often very cold. To add to this the teachers are geniuses who expect the same quality from the students. It is a very grounded movie which tells things as they are. Very well written. I particularly like the classroom scenes with strong dialogues and games of one upmanship. Also, it looks very authentic.

MASH (1972) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Mash

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvijJ3RnRc8

Irreverent comedy which tests the limits of comedy and often breaches it through distasteful antics. The interesting part is that all the fun is by doctors and nurses of the US Army stationed in Korea during the war. They need an escape from what they encounter in their daily lives and once they decide to turn on the style it becomes a free for all madcap entertainer which maybe the best comedy in an army camp setting. Recommended only for those who can see the lighter side in everything.

Scent of a Woman (1992) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

scent_of_a_woman_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GUvsJc3vvE

How many Oscars has Al Pacino won? One. The legendary actor got his only piece of Oscar glory for playing a blind retired army Colonel in the remake of an Italian film by the same name. How his imposing and confident personality comes to the rescue of a student who comes to take care of him forms the crux of the story. His dialogue delivery, screen presence and emoting are essential viewing for anyone who cares to know the difference between run of the mill stuff and great acting. Essential viewing.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Conjuring (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

conjuring

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10ETZ41q5o

First of all, this is a really scary movie and watching it in a movie hall with good sound effects is the only way one can do justice to it. The director and the writer duo have finally hit the bull’s eye after making a series of average horror movies. There is a certain air of imminent danger throughout the movie. Even routine events are shot as if something really bad is going to happen. In that respect the film takes some time to get the feel right. If you enjoy being scared, then this one is for you. Apparently the film is based on a true story but you will have to stretch your imagination to believe that all that really happened. There are some unintentional funny scenes. Like when the priest says, ” The kids aren’t baptized. The approval (for the exorcism) has to come directly from the Vatican.” Really?

Chennai Express (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 57%]

chennai-express_13570983881

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGR5Sj1Bfo

Congratulations to Shahrukh Khan for having a proper hit after five years. Congratulations to the Indian multiplex viewer for making another dud a hit. Congratulations to Deepika Padukone for setting the new benchmark for Hindi spoken with a Tamil accent. Congratulations to myself that this movie is not playing within a 1000 miles of my residence. Truth be told, something inside me died every time Deepika spoke in Hindi. I have never seen such a hammed performance for a really long time. Shahrukh Khan plays a 40 year old, a fact which he keeps on repeating as if he is doing the viewer a favour by not playing a 25 year old. Truth: Shahrukh Khan is 47 years old and looks 50. Maybe the dialogue to that effect was true but then nobody would have noticed it because the star was peddling his Nokia phone worth Rs. 34250. You see, the phone still takes calls after being thrown out from a running train. Marketing lesson learnt: Nokia phones are sturdy and built for India where even the goons cannot destroy them. The movie may have swept the box office but one group who would have a tough time watching it with their families: Halwais. The hero gets off at a place near a waterfall on his way to Chennai but when he has to escape he finds himself in international waters near Sri Lanka. Take a look at the map of India. I am as lost for words as Shahrukh is in that scene. The action scenes or the ‘cars flying in the air’ scenes look like shots Rohit Shetty wanted to put in ‘Golmaal’ but then the producer of that series may have told him to keep them for another day.  Wafers have been made thinner to a new size called ‘Chennai Express Screenplay’. You know who is the biggest star and saving grace of the movie? The pictures of Rajnikanth when the end credits roll.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

Once-Upon-A-Time-In-Mumbaai-Dobara-Full-Movie-Online

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj9UXzyDsOA

What Shahrukh Khan can do, Akshay Kumar can’t. People don’t rush to his movies anymore because they have grown wiser after his gems like ‘Joker’ and ‘Thank You’. So he can kiss the 100 crore club goodbye unless he has a remake to hang on to. To add to this he has ‘accomplished’ actors like Imran Khan to thwart his every attempt to rise above mediocrity. Imran Khan may be in movies only because he has the right connections. His acting is defined by consistency. He looks the same and acts the same in every single movie. Only the costumes change. If there is a fan of Imran Khan out there, you are my enemy just because of the fact that you are a fan of Imran Khan. This movie is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of its prequel or is it that they don’t even put an effort to find a name for a movie. So just tell the world that it is the second part of some hit. Sleep, watch paint dry, count the waves on the beach, do anything but don’t waste your time on this flick.

Now You See Me (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

now you see me

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

An important tenet of magic is that the viewer should know that he has been tricked and should be generally happy about it. The keyword is, ‘tricked’. This movie makes use of all the technical advances in movie making for a film on magic. The problem is that it uses this to cheat the viewer and make a fool out of him. While trying to sound scientific with a nod to logic the movie is so full of loopholes in logic that the credibility of the film is easily questioned. From a piranha scene relying on editing to a bank robbery scene relying on god knows what, the movie is an insult to intelligence. The second time a character started playing the imaginary violin, I was thinking ‘what the heck is going on?’ The ending is convenient but to focus on it would be to say that other parts are of admissible quality. They are not so. I don’t want to do a laundry list of scenes where common sense is thrown out of the window because that would constitute half of the movie (or even more). As always, Morgan Freeman looks majestic. Thank god, he does not do any magic trick.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Tabloid (2010) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

taboid

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

A beauty queen kidnaps a Mormon Missionary with whom she is in love. The incident creates waves. Thirty years later a documentary tries to uncover the truth. Mostly fun.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The Monuments Men’ because it has Matt and Clooney.

Did you know: The ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles originally spelled ‘Hollywoodland’ when it was installed in 1923. ‘Land’ was removed only in 1949.

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Week 18

Movies: Non- English

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany, 2008) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

Baader Meinhof Complex

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FanVI8-zlsA

Germans are a curious bunch of people. They like things to be planned and dislike uncertainty. How such a society falls prey to radical ideologies is worth pondering about. After the disastrous fling with Nazism, Germans of the post war era have a shot at left wing radicalism. This film tells the true story of the group at the heart of this movement. The film is a copybook study on how idealism goes wrong and leads to bloodshed and crime. It also looks at how movements deviate from their path and ultimately fail. The movie is told at a good pace and the settings look authentic. The performances are nothing to gloat over but it is definitely worth a watch.

Army of Shadows (France, 1969) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

army of s

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

This one charts the story of the French Resistance against the Nazis during the Second World War. France had easily capitulated to the Nazis but that did not stop a group of spirited people from putting up a resistance. This movie does not have supermen or gladiators fighting off the evil but it does have ordinary men doing extraordinary things in a very ordinary style. The story is written by two people who were part of the movement. The movie does not try to excite. It moves at the same pace throughout but as a viewer you are slowly drawn into the lives of the characters. The story is one of loyalty and deception, hope and heartbreak and many other hues. All this adds up to the best French movie on the Second World War. Highly recommended.

English Retrospective

The reason I am changing the name of the section to ‘English Retrospective’ is because some of the finest English movies are made outside USA.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ireland, 2006) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

wind-that-shakes-the-barley

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

Ken Loach is one of the best film makers alive. This is his masterclass. It is the story of two brothers who take up arms for Ireland against Britain but then find themselves at the opposite ends after the bigger enemy is dealt with. Ireland is one of the political disasters of the 20th century and the British government sowed the seeds of discord among those who fought them in Ireland. The movie is a painful recollection of the events and how successful the British were with their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. It is a formula they later applied with great success in India too. Coming back to the film, it is a movie shot exquisitely and has a great story to tell. It never gets melodramatic but then the despair on the screen is affecting. I would say that it is a must see if you are interested in making any sense of the conundrum in Ireland. No wonder it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

four-weddings-and-a-funeral

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JMuyzm3JRU

If you have seen too many movies on weddings with the same old story, take  a break and watch this one. Genre defining movie with clean humour and too many laugh out loud moments. This is the movie which made a star out of Hugh Grant and is testimony to the power of great writing. The movie deals with the protagonist’s love life over four weddings and a funeral. One of the biggest box office draws of 1994, this film was loved by audiences across the globe. A really good comedy which is my benchmark for wedding movies. Watch out for Rowan Atkinson in his best movie performance.

Fargo (1996) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

fargo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4PmbfG4bw

The Coen Brothers are masters of crime cinema. This is one of their best movies with Frances McDormand in an Oscar winning performance. I haven’t checked who were her competition that year but she would have won hands down any year for her role as the local policewoman trying to find the missing links in a series of crimes that sweep a small town. The movie is about a kidnapping gone wrong and how things spiral out of control leading to disastrous consequences. This one is so astutely made that if you blink you may miss some of the best moments. A real edge of the seat thriller. I just love it.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Great Gatsby (2013) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Great-Gatsby3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaBVLhcHcc0

I have not read the novel which is the source material for the movie and after watching the movie I don’t plan to. One thing I can say for sure is that the film is an early contender for the Oscar for ‘Set Decoration’. Though there are many scenes that have backgrounds that rely too heavily on technology to create the ambiance, the attention to detail is breathtaking. The film has been made with such dedication that every frame is so well thought out and it shows on screen. That is ultimately the failing of the movie because somewhere along the line the movie loses its soul in trying to look spectacular. I have not been a great fan of Baz Luhrmann who has made some below average films like ‘Australia’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’. Here he is let down by the fact that the baby faced  Toby Maguire who is also the narrator of the movie, has a baby voice. Leonardo DiCaprio is not going to win the elusive Oscar for this one but Carey Mulligan is a delight to watch. The Great Gatsby is hailed by some as a classic American novel but then the film makes it look like an average masala novel with a very convenient ending. The film never soars but it is not exactly a disaster either. Sometimes too much publicity is a bad thing.

The Company You Keep (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%]

Company_You_Keep_poster

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

A reporter from a local daily uncovers the identity of a fugitive on the run from FBI for more than three decades. The fugitive was part of a dreaded underground group which violently protested against the Vietnam war. Veterans like Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon add sparkle to this otherwise average film. It is engaging to a point but not exciting enough. The cards are heavily in favour of the fugitive. So things are not difficult to predict. Not a bad movie though. Anna Kendrick is a fine actress but she needs to get out of the role of the office assistant / intern which she seems to always end up with.

Lovelace (2013) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

lovelace

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJY-g-WoQo

Linda Lovelace was the star of the biggest grossing porn film of all time. This film takes you behind the scenes and details the seventeen days that Lovelace spent in the porn industry, gaining her a lifetime of infamy. It is a sympathetic portrayal of a lady exploited by her husband and how she shows the courage to come out of it all. Amanda Seyfried looks the part as the naive young lady. Fit for mature audiences only.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Religulous (2008) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

relig

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

Bill Maher talks to people on religion and God. Funny, revealing and informative.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The World’s End’ because it has some really funny guys.

Did you know: French movies have won the most number of Oscars in the ‘Best Foreign Movie’ category.

Week 17

Movies: Non- English

Good Bye Lenin ! ( Germany, 2003) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

goodbye lenin

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIjSaHUKD5I

A mother in East Germany goes into a coma for 8 months. When she returns from it the doctors tell her son that she should not be subjected to any exciting or upsetting news. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but the circumstances are far from normal as East and West Germany happened to be unified when she was in the coma. To make matters worse, she happens to be a staunch supporter of East Germany. Now her son must go the extra mile to create an illusion of East Germany for his mother. The film tells the story of his efforts (often with hilarious results) at trying to achieve that. This heartwarming tale is as personal as it is political. In trying to recreate East Germany the film delves into what the change really means for the man on the street. It is a an easy watch. Recommended.

Infernal Affairs ( Hong Kong, 2002) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes; 95%]

infernalaffairs

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4R3nHkqyfM

This film from Hong Kong which is the original of ‘The Departed’ is so good that it is the only instance in the history of Academy Awards that the award for screenplay went to a film already made in another language. Made at a fraction of the cost of ‘The Departed’, it is considered by many to be better than the remake. The story revolves around a crime syndicate which has a mole in the police while the police also have their man inside the syndicate. The race is to find out who will expose the other first. Racy and with more twists than any movie in recent history, the film is told at a pace which will keep you at the edge of your seat. Crime has always interested me as a genre and if you share the interest, this is a must watch film.

Hollywood Retrospective

Citizen Kane (1941) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes; 100%]

Citizenkane

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

If I had to make a list of movies to see before I die, ‘Citizen Kane’ would be in the top three. Words are not enough to describe this monumental piece of film making. No wonder that it has consistently (except for the last vote) topped the list of American Film Institute’s poll for the greatest movie of all time. Though made in 1941, it has never bored me on multiple viewings and each time I have discovered something new. Besides a great story told in the most engaging way, the movie was groundbreaking for the innovations in shooting and lighting it brought to the world of cinema. It was the first film to use ‘deep focus’ which is evident in the scene in which the child is seen playing outside the home as the parents discuss inside. It introduced many innovations including shots of the camera passing through objects and the sense of lighting in the film is unrivaled. The maniacal passion of Orson Welles is transformed onto the screen. The film was cruelly neglected at the Academy Awards due to pressure from businesses which were purportedly depicted in a poor light in the movie but with each passing year the film has gained in stature. The story is that of a business magnate who dies with his last word being ‘rosebud’. The film is a journalist’s attempt to decipher meaning of the word and this takes us on an biographical account of the protagonist. Don’t miss the greatest American film ever made.

The English Patient (1996) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

english patient

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

Winner of nine Oscars, ‘The English Patient’ is the closest to poetry in cinema. Each scene has been choreographed to perfection  so much so that even violence looks poetic. Unforgettable images which are too many to mention. The film is based on the international best selling novel by the same title. The story has been modified and ends before the novel ends. The effect of adapting from a well written novel is that the words are weighed before they are spoken. Not even a sentence is in excess. The film revolves around a spy who feigns memory loss when captured by Allies during the Second World War. Like him, all who deal with him are also going through the loss of their loved ones. The bed ridden spy who is awaiting his death has a passionate and ultimately doomed love story to tell. This is not the type of movie everyone will enjoy. It requires patience and heightened cinematic sensibilities to fully appreciate what is on screen. It is also one of the few movies which led me to despair at the unfolding human tragedy on screen. An absolute must watch in my opinion.

As good as it gets (1997) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

as good as it gets

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXHxg6Ug9GM

There are some movies which have so many good dialogues that you are willing to remember a few of them. “You make me want to be a better man” is one of the most romantic dialogues I have ever heard. The movies is not all soft and sweet. On being asked how he rates women so well, the novelist replies, ” I think of a man and then I take away reason and accountability.” The movie is the story of a misanthrope who has a soft core and who keeps away from people to avoid being hurt. I absolutely adore the dialogues in the movie but the best part is that all the characters are so well etched out and the casting is also good. Even the fringe characters have some really good lines. Again a must watch if you ask me.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Story of Luke (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

The-Story-of-Luke-Poster-Social-EmptyNote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3c6Jy5sHhc

An autistic young man’s efforts to be self reliant. The movies is an above average attempt and has good dialogues and acting. It does not have a triumphant tone or any sense of fatalism. It keeps things practical. With little more effort it could have been a really good movie. I am not complaining though.

D Day (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 69%]

D-Day-Movie-Poster-Pic-1

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

The idea of the movie germinated after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. If Americans can do it why can’t India get Dawood Ibrahim? The film explores the possibility of such an operation. Since the director is Nikhil Advani who has given only monumental flops after his debut hit ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, I was expecting a pathetic film but I am happy to report that the film moves so quickly that it papers over the lack of logic until the climax where things get out of hand. Strictly a one time watch and that too if you like action thrillers.

Lootera (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

lootera-poster

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

Vikramaditya Motwane is a promising director whose debut film premiered at the Cannes. His second outing is visually rich but he seems to have sacrificed pace for creating a brooding romance which is painfully slow in most parts. Anyone who has read O Henry stories will be able to guess what is going on and what will happen. The movie has its heart in the right place. Wish the editor had the scissors in the right place too. Still, I would recommend this one as it is any day better than the masala movies which rule the roost in India.

G. I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Gi-joe-retaliation-poster-1

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

What is the point? How many movies will they make like this before they sleep in the sand? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Super Size Me (2004) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

supersize me

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Lkyb6SU5U

One guy decides to eat only at McDonald’s for a month and tries to monitor how it affects his health. Quite entertaining. It also made McDonald’s change its menu. Now that is what I call an achievement. He also got nominated for an Oscar.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Prisoners’ because it has Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Did you know: Football legend Pele has acted in eight movies and written story for two of them.

Week 16

Movies: Non- English

Nine Queens (Argentina, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

nine queens

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

Classic con movie. The best thing I like about this one is that the guy who gets conned never gets to know that he has been conned. In the numerous remakes of this movie that I have seen in other languages, they could not resist telling the guy that he has been conned. For such reasons and more, this original version in Spanish is a better attempt. It shows great restraint in its storytelling, slowly building a jigsaw puzzle which fits perfectly at the end. It also metes out justice in the old fashioned way without violence, concurrently taking care of the bad guys. The story is simple: Two guys try to make a quick buck through forgery but then all is not what it seems. Some best laid plans work like the way they were planned.

The Intouchables (France, 2011) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Intouchables

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34WIbmXkewU

Genuine crowd pleasing movie which tells the story of a bond which develops between a physically challenged man and his caretaker who are from the opposite ends of the social spectrum. Based on a true story, it tells the adventures, camaraderie and insecurities both of them share. The medical condition is not a hindrance for them when they decide to see the world and experience it with full vigor. Similar to ‘The Class’ reviewed last week, it also throws the spotlight on the challenges facing French society. The acting is laudable and the whole mood is encapsulated by the background score which rises to the occasion. Still, it is a light film to watch with some really good scenes. How about being escorted by the police to reach the destination instead of being fined when caught for over speeding?

Hollywood Retrospective

Garden State (2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

gardenstate_cover_1098316967

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u82n0e1mgmQ

One of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen, this debut feature from Zach Braff was one of the surprise hits of 2004. The writing is sharp and the acting does justice to it. The premise for the story is the return of the protagonist to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. The unconventional characters he meets on his return home and how he finds his lady love form the rest of the story. It is told with the freshness of morning dew. There are many remarkable scenes but the one I like the most is the one in the swimming pool when the girl swims towards the guy; it says so much without a word being spoken. If you are a fan of romantic comedies, this is a must watch.

Doctor Zhivago (1965) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

doctor_zhivago-289268745-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAWrXTn5Www

Epic, in the sense of a cinematic experience, has few parallels like David Lean’s adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s classic ‘Doctor Zhivago’. The story in its essence tells how the lives of ordinary people are changed forever by events of far reaching historical significance. Doctot Zhivago who is a happily married man has his life turned upside down after a chance meeting with one of his patients. What follows is a saga of love and passion with the Russian Revolution in the background. The imagery is breathtaking and the music is one of the best in the history of cinema. It is a pity that neither David Lean for direction nor Omar Sherif for acting won the Academy award but the film did win 5 of them. At the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that if you have not seen this film then you have not seen one of the greatest movies ever made.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Its_A_Wonderful_Life_Movie_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJfZaT8ncYk

There are few movies which fit the bill ‘timeless’ and this is one of those. Looking for a film of hope and optimism? This is the one. A man is shown how he brings joy and happiness to the people around him and how life would be for them without him. It is a little strange to see that such progressive films were made in the days of the studio system but with such shackles removed it is impossible to make such a movie now. Moreover, this film could be called socialist by today’s standards in USA. The film is a James Stewart show all the way. Recommended viewing for all types of people from all age groups. After all, it’s a wonderful life.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Best Offer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

best offer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJGleGyahC8

This is perhaps the most engaging film to have come out in 2013 and most of the viewers will find it absolutely spell binding but the issue with someone like me is that I have unfortunately watched too many movies to figure out the only possible ending to the movie. Nevertheless, it is one of the best made thrillers of 2013 and looks authentic. Ennio Morricone’s music is testament to the fact that some things get better with age. The story is that of an art auctioneer who is at the top of his game but has issues dealing with women. He meets a young lady who is looking to auction off her collection. What follows is a mix of intrigue and treachery. I cannot say more without revealing the story but the film is definitely worth a watch and has the most costly love making scene of all time. That was a clue to the story. Just watch it.

Only God Forgives (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

only god forgives

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reIxnLrtY5g

The film from the director of ‘Drive’ has Ryan Gosling as a drug dealer in Bangkok. It also has a story which is told between scenes of torture. The scenes are so violent and self serving that you will look away from the screen because you will slowly get used to the fact that the next shot will involve blood oozing out of the body. The movie may have been made with the intention of catering to the film festival audience and it is no coincidence that it premiered at Cannes. It is a kill fest with opposite groups trying to find and hunt down people even remotely connected to a crime. I will never be able to enjoy karaoke singing again if I were in Bangkok. The saying goes; Those who live by the sword die by it. Here that is not the case.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Bhaag-Milkha-Bhaag-2013

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nR9JS2WsNg

Milkha Singh is a legend in Indian sports and his story is a one that must be told but not for 3 hours with numerous songs including the mandatory army song. I have never understood why films showing army life in Hindi movies must have a song with the soldiers dancing. Such minor irritants aside, this is a film worth a watch. I so wish that Indian film makers can make inspiring movies and not confuse slow motion with inspiration. Farhan Akhtar has put in a sincere effort but nothing to sing high praises of. As an aside, the 400 m race at the Rome Olympics is considered by many as the greatest ever race in modern Olympic history because the first 4 runners broke the world record in existence before the race. Unfortunately for Milkha, he happened to be the fourth one, missing the medal by a whisker. It is a commentary on the state of Indian athletics that it took almost 40 years for someone to break the record created by Milkha in Rome in 1960. I hope that they make movies on Vishwanathan Anand, P T Usha, Prakash Padukone, Sushil Kumar and others.

Assault on Wall Street (2013) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]

assault

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Y-NqShTj5w

One guy who loses everything in the financial crisis and blames the Wall Street for it takes law (read ‘gun’)  into his hands and tries to settle scores by taking down who he thinks is responsible for his plight. The film tries to channel the anger of the population against big banks and funds in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the bailout programmes. The film is remarkable for its naivety but it also has some biting dialogue especially the one which aims at the big names in American history who made the most amount of money. If you are very angry with the Wall Street this film may help you as it shows one guy taking up guns for you. Otherwise, don’t even bother.

Documentary Pick of the Week 

Bowling for Columbine (2002) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

bowling

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

The only documentary to have ever won the Palme D’or at Cannes, ‘Bowling for Columbine’ is an essential watch for anyone trying to figure out why USA is such a trigger happy nation. Absolute must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Jobs’ because it is the story of Steve Jobs and it could be either very good or very bad.

Did you know: Agatha Christie’s ‘Mousetrap’ has not been made into a movie till now because the movie rights were sold under the condition that the film will be made only after the play stopped performing. It so happens that ‘Mousetrap’ which started as a play in 1952 is still going strong.