Divided We Fall ( Czech Republic, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]
This acclaimed film is set in erstwhile Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. It deals with the issue of persecution of Jews under the Nazis, a theme done to death by Hollywood to the extent that you lose sympathy for the Jews. This film though, raises moral questions with shades of grey. The major actors on screen can be counted in one hand. There is nothing remarkable in the way the story is told but it has its twists and turns mostly because some of the steps taken by the actors cannot be anticipated in a normal moral framework. Extraordinary situations lead to extraordinary solutions.
The Thief (Russia, 1997) [IMDB; 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]
Deception is the main theme in this Russian drama set during the rule of Stalin. A single mother and her son are drawn towards a soldier who is their only hope for escape from poverty. Things do not exactly turn out the way they are planned. It is a pleasure to watch this wonderfully shot movie but the emotion it deals with is the polar opposite of pleasure. The story is told through the eyes of a child. Circumstances force him to be on the wrong side of the law. It is difficult to forget his reaction when he sees his stepfather in the climax of the movie. Recommended.
Terms of Endearment (1983) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]
Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress (for Shirey Maclaine), this movie tells the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter who love each other more than they themselves know. It is not an exceptional movie but the performances make it worth a watch. Debra Winger won many fans with her fine performance but it was Shirley Maclaine who upstaged her at the Oscars. The movie tends to be too sentimental towards the end but I can tell you that some of the scenes are really worth all those sentiments. The bedside scene with the kids towards the end will melt the hearts of even the emotion resistant folks. To add to all this, there is Jack Nicholson playing a former astronaut.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]
There are some movies with an endearing quality about them. This is one such film which works because of the thoughtful writing and the onscreen chemistry between Richard Gere and Debra Winger. A young man in the armed forces has his own demons to fight and personal battles to win. A factory girl enters his life. The story is how the relationship goes through testing times. It is a coming off age movie in the true sense. Richard Gere plays his most vulnerable character on screen but for me the star of the show is Debra Winger whose acting matches her beauty. A really good afternoon watch.
Chariots of Fire (1981) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]
If there is a movie which seals an Oscar for Best Music with the first few scenes, this is the one. The initial scene with the runners on the beach is one of the sensational sequences in cinema and all that is aided by the score by Vangelis. The story is about the British athletic team at the 1924 Olympics. It is no coincidence that the same theme music was played at all the medal presentation ceremonies at 2012 London Olympics. As for the movie, it loses steam midway but it is a joy to watch some of the sequences. If you are not British you may not enjoy it that much towards the end and I am not British.
Movies I Saw This Week
We’re the Millers (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%]
The summer blockbuster of 2013 is a crude comedy which is also testament to the fact that Jennifer Aniston is a bankable star who can still make people laugh. Frankly, the humour does get little out of control at times but there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. The one when Sudeikis goes to get a hair cut is one such scene. The story involves an out of luck drug dealer trying to put together a family from assorted characters so as to make his drug deal look more realistic. Only Aniston ( and maybe Sandra Bullock) can pull off scenes like the family prayer on the aircraft. A guilty pleasure.
The Bling Ring (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]
Sofia Coppola drew attention with the understated gem ‘Lost in Translation’ but she suddenly fell from grace with a dud called ‘Marie Antoinette’. Then came ‘Somewhere’ in 2010 and she won a few awards for that. ‘Bling Ring’ is comparable to the quality of ‘Somewhere’ where she seems to be doing a decent job as a director but she never touches the highs she was able to achieve with ‘Lost in Translation’ . The film is inspired by real life events where celebrity obsessed teenagers broke into the houses of celebrities to steal high end branded merchandise. There is nothing that raises the movie from an average flick. The scenes get repetitive in the middle. Only Sofia Coppola knows the secret behind her fetish for stupid songs in the background. May interest the viewer who is interested in celebrities. Otherwise, who gives two hoots about what happens to Paris Hilton?
Satyagraha (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]
There is no sting in this tale. It is basically a screenplay stitched together by recent events in India. The problem with that is that the issue has received so much media exposure that there is hardly anything new to be said. Prakash Jha repeats the folly he made with ‘Arakshan’. Issues which look good in television debates don’t translate automatically into good cinema. In fact, it often makes for caricatures and plastic characters who don’t connect with the audiences. A poor attempt.
Grown Ups 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 7% by critics]
I guess the first edition of this series made lot of money for the studios. There is no other reason why they would have gone for the sequel. I could not sit through the first edition and the sequel is a pain to watch. It is not funny, not even by the pathetic standards set by current Adam Sandler movies. Keep away.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Hot coffee (2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]
An 81 year old lady wins 2.9 million USD in damages from McDonald’s after their coffee burns her body. This sets in motion a series of events culminating in major restrictions being passed on the rights of citizens in USA to sue companies. You don’t need to vote in elections because some corporations can buy the election for themselves. A thought provoking documentary.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Gravity’ because George Clooney and Sandra Bullock team up.
Did you know: Madonna changed costume 85 times for the film ‘Evita’.