Edition 55

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Miracle in Cell No. 7 (South Korea, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

MICN7-27x40_20june

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This Korean blockbuster tells the story of the bonding between a father and a daughter. The father who is a simpleton gets framed in a rape case and is sentenced to death. The daughter who has nobody else in the world, is smuggled into the prison cell of the father. A remarkable tearjerker which is cloying, this Korean film is an out and out crowd pleaser. I often feel that Korean and Indian movies have a lot in common. The most important of those is the ability to play unashamedly to the galleries. As for this movie, I have a feeling that this is waiting to be made into a bad copy in Hindi. Why spoil the experience by watching another badly made Bollywood movie? Go for the original.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

hundredfootjourney

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Based on the novel with the same name, this is another crowd pleaser which is a cheerily brisky movie to watch. An Indian family of cooks, displaced by riots in India moves to Europe, only to accidentally end up in a French village. The patriarch of the family (played adorably by Om Puri) decides to set up shop and then the restaurateur comes in direct competition with an obsessive owner of a Michelin starred restaurant right across the street. What ensues is a no holds war; a battle royale between Indian and French cuisine. While I was secretly hoping that the Indians win hands down, the movie takes a different route and becomes a lesson on cultural integration and tolerance. It is therefore not difficult to see why the film is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. The film is a bit clichéd but has some very good dialogues. Some of them are cheesy (” I am a cook, not a chef”)  and some have far greater depth (The one on French national anthem and the French national slogan). With decent music from A R Rahman and more than decent performances, this is an easy film to watch.

The Guest (201) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

THE GUEST

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Every once in a while there comes a movie which you are willing to write off without bothering to watch it but when you watch it you know how wrong you were. ‘The Guest’ is one such movie. It surely will not win any awards and uses every cliché possible to advance the plot. There are enough loopholes in the plot but in spite of all this there is something remarkably endearing about the movie that makes you sit through it and enjoy it. In real world terms, it means that you know you are watching nonsense but you start liking the nonsense because it is really nicely done nonsense. A family grieving for its lost soldier son gets some succor in the form of a guest who claims to be the son’s colleague. The guest wins over every member in the family but soon his mask starts slipping. What could have been a really bad movie starts kicking in the style. Acted and shot with panache, this finally becomes the  guilty pleasure of 2014.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 (2014) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Nymphomaniac-_Volume_I_47

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From acclaimed director Lars Von Trier comes this movie about a nymphomaniac recollecting her sexual experiences. More smoke than fire, this movie is a voyeuristic expedition solely interested in titillating the viewer.  I don’t get it when such movies are slotted as high art because they simply aren’t good enough. The film had its fair share of controversy too because it has unsimulated sex scenes. That I am afraid to report, is the only claim to fame of this movie.

22 Jump Street (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

22_jump_street-wide

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The thing with maths is that you can always add one. The sequel to 21 being 22 would not have been a major problem if not for the various scenarios that are shown as possible future sequels as the end credits roll. Come on, this sequel itself is an unwarranted tribute to a lousy original. The good thing is that it looks better than the original but that is not much to say. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles as cerebrally challenged undercover cops. This time they are back in college. The film does have its moments but overall, it doesn’t make the cut. Recommended for those who like big loud senseless movies.

Endless Love (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 15%]

EDL_31_5_Promo_4C_2F.indd

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A remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields starrer, this movie begs the question ‘Why?’. To start with, the original was a lousy and painful one to watch. Its only redeeming feature was the (then) angelic face of Brooke Shields. The 2014 version has no reason for its existence. It sticks to the same tacky screenplay and is not aided by some plastic performances. For those interested, the story is that of a girl falling in love with a boy; a relationship the girl’s parents oppose tooth and nail. Sounds familiar? Save yourself the pain. Give it a miss.

Rang Rasiya (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Rangrasiya-2014

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The story of legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma who dared to put a face to the gods. His representations of the Hindu gods and goddesses continue to be used on posters and artwork to this day. He was also one of the first to understand the commercial aspects of art and marketing. It would be nearly impossible to capture his genius in a movie. ‘Rang Rasiya’ tries with mixed results. The film is a genuine attempt at an authentic portrayal of the life and times of the artist; his passions, his art, his battles and his demons. It is ultimately the multitude of issues that the film tries to tackle that becomes its undoing. It also has a subtext about the freedom of expression for an artist, which has become a hostage in present India. Randeep Hooda puts in a fine performance as the protagonist. Definitely among the better Hindi movies of 2014.

Kill Dil (2014) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Kill Dil

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Shaad Ali who made his name through movies like ‘Saathiya’ (which I like) and ‘Bunty aur Babli’ (which I dislike) returns to helm the affairs seven years after the disastrous ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’. The hibernation for seven years seems to have done no good and exposes the rustiness of the filmmaker. Two abandoned kids raised by a don turn to crime and proudly finish off 11 souls when a girl walks (rather dances) into their life. The criminals try to reform but find that some things are easier said than done. Ranvir Singh doesn’t require make up to play the stupid youngster who thinks no end of himself. Parineeti Chopra has the same ‘Oh I am so cool’ look she sports in every movie. As for Ali Zafar, he should stick to singing. Thespian Govinda looks better at dancing than being a gangster. The movie is let down by some uninspired music by the Shanka-Ehsaan-Loy trio who also are well past their glory days. The movie tries too hard and it shows. I am reminded of the similar fate of the ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999) director John Mathew Matthan whose second movie was a dud called ‘Shikhar’ (Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapoor, Bipaha Basu)released in 2005. Moral of the story: Don’t take 6 or 7 year long vacation.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Facing Ali (2009) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

facingAli_key3

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It has been 20 years since there was a rumble in the jungle. Why was Muhammad Ali voted the sportsman of the century? Certainly not just for the punches he could throw. Listening to the people who received the punches, it is clear that the punches were enough.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Nightcrawler’ because it is generating rave reviews.

Did you know: ‘Casino Royale’ was the first James Bond movie approved by the Chinese censors.

 

 

 

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Edition 54

After a break of close to six months, this blog is back. Henceforth, the aim is to publish the blog on a fortnightly basis. Thank you for your continued support.

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu) (Japan, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten tomatoes: 89%]

wind-rises-poster-636-380

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The swan song of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (The genius behind classics like Spirited Away, Princess Mononike, Howl’s Moving Castle) is itself a tribute to the life and times of the pioneer of Japanese aviation Jiro Horikoshi. True to form, Miyazaki makes sure that the film gets the scale and ambition it deserves. The thing that struck  me while watching the movie was the ease with which the story was unfolding. The screenplay is so well written that the movie could have been a fantastic one even if it were shot using real people in real settings. This sense of realism is what separates Japanese animation from the Hollywood set pieces. Hence, the slight disappointment that a vastly inferior ‘Frozen’ was chosen ahead of this classic at the Oscars.

Movies I Saw This Week

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

grand-budapest-hotel-uk-quad-poster

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Wes Anderson comes up with probably the most engaging film of the year which has its moments of quirkiness which add to the shroud of suspense which camouflages the playfulness of the movie. It tells the story of a concierge in the hotel who has a fetish for older women. Filmed in his signature style, Wes Anderson ensures that the film looks authentic for the inter war period during which it is set. The slick dialogues and accomplished performances from every member of the crew help in adding to one of the best cinematic experiences of 2014.

Begin Again (2014) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83% ]

begin-again-poster

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A once famous music producer who has fallen on bad times, meets a neophyte and takes her on the road to super stardom. The songs used in the movie are good. Mark Ruffalo is perfectly cast as down in the dumps music executive and playing perfect foil to him is the delightful Keira Knightley who is vulnerable and yet cheerful. The film is predictable in the turns it takes but as I have always maintained, some predictable movies are very good to watch even when they have some loose points. Watch it for the music and the joie de vivre.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) [IMDB: 8.1 Roten Tomatoes: 87%]

fault_in_our_stars_by_grodansnagel-d6rujir

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Based on the NYT bestseller, the novel is made with the teenage audiences in mind. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. They share many memorable experiences together as they await death. There is nothing exceptional about the movie. Since it is based on the impending doom and gloom , the thematic elements are placed to pull at the heart strings which they do with limited success. The movie tries too hard to bring in the sentimentality which is its USP. This is certainly not the type of movie I enjoy watching but I am sure there is a section of the audience which loves such tragedies.

A Most Wanted Man (2014) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

man-poster

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From the spy novelist John Le Carre comes this thriller focusing on undercover operations against Muslim terrorist groups based in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman delights in his final onscreen appearance and simultaneously reminds us of the great talent that we lost. The suspense and intrigue in the movie build up from the first shot and reaches an explosive climax which is difficult to predict. The screenplay focuses on the minute aspects of the story which gives an impression that there is a twist waiting to happen all the time. The director does not let the pace slacken and the actors do full justice to their roles. I immensely enjoyed watching the movie and feel that it is one of the best to have come out in recent months.

Are You Here (2014) [IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

are yhou here

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Owen Wilson and Zach Galfianakis teaming up was supposed to be funny but when they try to add gravity, when nothing even resembling that is expected, you get the movie disaster of the year. Both of them sleepwalk through their roles and an awfully weak screenplay makes you wonder “What am I being subjected to?”. For the record, the story is that of a social misfit who goes to attend his father’s funeral and discovers that he has become a millionaire because his dad trusted his dazed and confused son over his selfish and uncaring daughter. At every moment in the movie, there is an anticipation that there could be something funny happening soon but all those hopes are buried along with the funeral in the movie. Watch it if you are learning to be good at anger management.

Finding Fanny (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Finding_Fanny_Theatrical_release_poster

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I have immense sympathy for people who paid to see this drivel in a theatre. This is the kind of movie that brings disrepute to good cinema because it is marketed as good cinema intended for the audiences who can see the finer points of filmmaking. What it becomes is storyless story which could have been compressed to a 25 minute episode on television. For all her commercial success and the fixed awards that come with it, Deepika Padukone cannot act to save her life. Even the others look out of touch with thespian Naseeruddin Shah being the only saving grace. He plays the character of a person who is cajoled to go in search of his long lost love. Just like the car they take the trip in, the story meanders along aimlessly and is a pain to watch. I think people should have guessed this early as the main marketing point of the movie during its promotions was the derriere of the actresses. A movie that must be avoided at all costs.

Happy New Year (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)

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Thank God that this movie was released during Diwali. If it was released during the new year, it would have ruined the entire year. Now it needs to be just burned along with the the crackers on Diwali. To call this a movie would be the equivalent of calling the winner of the National Spelling Bee a novelist. The movie is a pointless attempt and an insult to the audience. Filled with cheap gags and a story which seems to have been conjured up by an infant in the cradle, the film is a tight slap on the faces of the audiences who throng movies on the first day of release because of the marketing blitzkrieg they are subjected to. It is also a reminder of the fading charisma of an ageing superstar finding it difficult to maintain the aura so frighteningly exposed by those wrinkles. It is an insult to the idea of patriotism when such movies try to play such cards in vain. As for the actors, the cake goes to Abhishek Bachchan who now plays the Uday Chopra equivalent of a side kick he is used to having in the Dhoom series. I hope that the director Farah Khan meets the same fate as her even lousier brother.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Inequality for all (2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

inequality

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The former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich tries to give a new perspective on the labour market and the distribution of wealth. Highly recommended.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Foxcatcher’ because it is a true story of an Olympic winner.

Did you know: In the state of South Dakota it is illegal to show Police getting beaten in the movies.