Edition 59

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Winter Sleep (Turkey, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Raing:7/10]

Winter Sleep

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Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 2104, this is another masterwork from perennial Cannes favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Set in the interiors of Turkey where everyone knows everyone, this movie tells the tale of a retired actor whiling away his time, doing pretty much nothing. He has a hotel to manage and he also writes articles on mundane issues. His running feuds with his wife and his divorced sister pale into insignificance when he has to address issues created by his tenants. The film captures the breathtaking locales and the cultural hues of Turkey. The performances are competent and the film has its moments but those moments are few and far between. This, is especially testing when you have to muster the patience to sit through 196 minutes of the movie. If it had chopped off 100 minutes from the running time, the movie would have looked much better. For its unjustifiable duration, ‘Winter Sleep’ can induce sleep even in the summer.

Movies I Saw This Week

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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This movie was a commercial flop and largely overlooked by the audiences in spite of the critical acclaim it received. Maybe some movies are not lucky enough at the box office because there is enough to suggest that this movie is one of the best action films of 2014. Set in the future where one man (Tom Cruise, who else?) is humanity’s last hope to fight an alien invasion, this movie brings in a cocktail of time travel, hi-tech combat and lofty ideals. Although Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give mediocre performances when they could have easily put their histrionic qualities to test, the movie more than holds on its own. With enough twists and turns, it keeps you engaged without getting boring, inviting you to second guess the various permutations and combinations that are possible. Recommended.

The Imitation Game (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Imitation Game

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Based on the life of legendary Alan Turing and his seminal contributions to the Allies’ efforts in breaking the German code during the Second World War, ‘The Imitation Game’ tries to delve into the life of a genius tormented by his sexuality. The movie has been tirelessly promoted in the build up to the Oscars but it is a  good movie but not good enough. Benedict Cumberbatch gives all he can to bring Turing to life on screen and he is not let down by an ensemble cast, with another notable performance from Keira Knightley. The movie has a riveting background score and is ably directed. The moral dilemmas of Mr. Turing and his inability to make sound judgement when he is enjoined to not speak about a spy, are all captured well. The asperity of Mr.Turing did not endear him to many but that wouldn’t be the main roadblock for Cumberbatch to achieve Oscar glory. Unfortunately for him, there are better performances this year.

Unbroken (2014) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Unbroken

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The moot point while watching ‘Unbroken’ is whether a better director could have done a better job with the source material on hand. Louis Zamperini, on whom the story is based, was a champion runner, decorated war hero and an inspirational speaker. His life had countless moments which would have looked great on screen but in director Angelina Jolie’s hands those moments look forced and tame. ‘Unbroken’ tells the story of Zamperini’s unlikey rise from humble origins, his remarkable success in athletics and the relentless torture that he had to undergo in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War. Jack O’Connell gives an impressive performance in a breakout role. ‘Unbroken’ is a movie of great ambitions but lacks a soul. It is a lesson on how clichéd one can become when making a biopic and how disrespectful that can be to a legend who deserved better than this.

Birdman (2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes;92%, My Rating: 8.0]

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I am an admirer of deirector Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I have loved his works like ‘Babel’ and ‘Amores Perros’. ‘Birdman’ is a shift from his usally dark depressing themes. In fact, there is even an element of mischief in this movie, which is being categorized as a comedy. The merits of that categorization aside, the film tells the story of a thespian who is tryng his best to stay relevant. Micael Keaton delivers a heavy duty performance as the protagonist who has seen better days. Shot in 10 minute uninterrupted sequences using one camera, the movie tries to play around with cinematic formats. Another highlight is an unconventional background score which many have hailed as groundbreaking but I found to be annoying. In terms of performances, this is the best performce by an ensemble cast in 2014. Michael Keaton will go head to head with Eddie Redmayne for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. The movie is also a strong contender in the film, director, cinematography and screenplay categories. The major disadvantage that the movie faces is that it is not a mass entertainer like ‘Boyhood’. This could prove to be its Achilles heel.

American Sniper (2014) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:74%, My rating:7/10]

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There is no movie dividing the critics and the audiences like this one. Seen by some as an unapologetic look at the American side of the story in the Iraq war and by another equally vociferous section as the story of a true American hero, this movie tells the story of the most successful sniper in the history of America who finally died from the gunshot wounds he received from ‘friendly fire’ when he was  in USA. Judged purely on quality, the movies is a poor cousin of ‘The Hurt Locker’. There are many action sequences in the movie but none of them are good enough to capture your full attention. Many such scenes get repetitive. If the intention was to create a contrast between the life in a war zone and life at home, then the movie resoundingly fails to do so. The viewer will not be able to feel any compassion for the character on screen who is a monstrous sniper. Amercans have every right to (in fact, they should) honour a brave soldier who put his life in danger to serve his country. War movies are not supposed to be an examination of what the enemy feels about getting killed. Even if the hero here was convicted of slander in real life, it does not take away his service to the nation. Inspite of this, the movie is a very tedious one to watch and does not deserve the high praise it is getting. It also does not deserve the scorn that seems specially reserved for it. American sniper, in the end, is a an average movie about a great sniper directed by a once great director.

The Good Lie (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8/10]

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After a mish mash of snipers, tortured geniuses, former superheroes and real life superheroes, comes the time to review a movie which is undoubtedly the feel good movie of the year. ‘The Good Lie’ is not a movie that will move mountains or has a scale or budget that will put it in the top league but for the sheer quality that it produces from its limited budget, it is one of the must see movies of 2014. The story traces the lives of orphaned Sudanese children trying to escape civil war in their country and their journey to USA. Effortlessly funny and charming, this movie has its heart in the right place. With enough doses of humour without becoming a comedy movie, the film is about real people in the real world. Must watch.

Documentary of the Week

Ivory Tower (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating: 6.5/10]

Ivory Tower

Trailer:

A look at the American college system. Very interesting to watch but misses some salient points.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Timbuktu’. Should a good one. Also, I have been close to Timbuktu but never been there.

Did you know: Courtesy: http://www.rogerebert.com Roger Ebert’s review of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ quoted below. “Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”

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Edition 58

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Two Days, One Night (Belgium, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Coming from perennial festival favorites Dardenne brothers, this film tells the story of a young mother who discovers that she has lost her job while she was away for medical reasons. She must convince her colleagues to reverse their vote in favor of sacking her in return for a 1000 Euro bonus. The movie is remarkable as it delves into the socio-economic realities of the workers themselves. Aiding the strong script is the spell binding performance of Marion Cotillard who must be in line for an Oscar nomination. This is a simple film that will stay with you for a while. For those interested in more from Dardenne brothers, I recommend ‘L’Infant’ (2005).

Movies I Saw This Week

Foxcatcher (2014) [IMDB:7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7/10]

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Trailer:

From the director of ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Capote’ comes another truly American picture about a psychotic millionaire and his doomed project at playing godfather to American wrestling. Steve Carell transforms into John Du Pont, an eccentric millionaire from the Dupont family who makes his mission to bring USA glory through wresting dominance. Based on a true story, this film captures the apocalyptic project in which the Schultz brothers are roped in to fulfill the fancies of a lonely man. The movie is unnecessarily languid in its pace. The highlight is the casting with Channing Taum delivering his career best performance and Steve Carell trying to be a method actor. The real life events were pretty much in black and white but in the movie the director leaves enough space for speculation. Though the movie has been heavily promoted by the studio for the Oscars, it is unlikely that it will make much headway in the Oscar race.

The Interview (2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 5/10]

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At the centre of a controversy because of its attack on the North Korean regime and the subsequent retribution attacks on Sony Pictures, this film comes with a lot of hype associated with it. Even labeled as a test of the ability to stand up for free speech, the moviemakers must be wondering what hit them when they were clearly trying to pull only a few cheap laughs. Judged purely on merit the movie does not command even a fraction of the attention it has received. It is a puerile comedy which would have largely gone unnoticed. At the same time, it is hard to discount the fact that the movie is a direct attack on the North Korean regime and their supreme leader. If the same film targeted any other country in the manner they have gone for the Koreans, it would have surely raked up another controversy. Thankfully, the movie never rises above the ordinary and will be easily forgotten.

This Is Where I Leave You (2014) [IMDb: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

This Is Where I Leave You

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Four siblings return home for the funeral of their father. The film tells the story of the week they spend at home and the host of characters they encounter. All of them have problems of their own which they try to address and often end up with amusing solutions. The film has its moments and the talent assembled is huge but the story never soars and hurtles towards a predictable end. The movie is never a difficult one to watch but is certainly not the kind on which you would like to have a discussion about.

The Skeleton Twins (2014) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 6.5]

The Skeleton Twins

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The film tells the story of a sister and a brother who have messed up lives and the brother’s suicide attempt makes them address the issues in their lives and also the way their relationship has been. An easy to watch movie about two individuals who find the going tough, this movie is bittersweet in its own way. Backed by strong acting and a competent screenplay, it is one of the low budget movies of the year which is a good one time watch.

Dumb and Dumber To (2014) [IMD: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. My Rating: 5/10]

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This sequel to a cult classic does not live up to its billing. Starring aging Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, it starts on the wrong foot. It does elevate itself later on but by then the damage is done. Frankly, there are some really funny scenes but they get buried under an avalanche of poor tasteless jokes. Such a movie never aimed to be classy or hoped to create an imprint in cinema history but  it fails to deliver on the rather modest ambitions it has. Jim Carrey looks shrill and Jeff Daniels looks rather too old to play his part. For those who are interested in a bit of trivia, the movie has Jennifer Lawrence in a role. Trying to spot her would be good fun when the movie itself gets too boring and predictable.

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%, My Rating: 3/10]

Horrible Bosses 2

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The film shows the paucity of scripts in major Hollywood studios. There is no reason for its existence and it is yet another attempt to milk the last remains of any nostalgia audiences would have had for the original (not that the original was much better). Trying to write about the plot of this movie is like trying to explain Mahabharata in a sentence. I have genuine sympathy for people who have paid to watch this movie.

PK (2014) [IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

PK

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The highest grossing Bollywood film ever, PK, reunites director Rajkumar Hirani with Aamir Khan. Aamir who duped audiences with Dhoom 3, comes back to screen as an alien (it helps to start as if you don’t remember your last movie) whose apparatus which will take him back to his homeland has now been stolen. For all the deep philosophical thought the movie espouses, the first one is that the first Indian who meets PK robs him of his only possession. PK who speaks in Bhojpuri (maybe because Biharis are considered alien wherever they go. Cue: Maharashtra) finds the lack of logic in religion the most damning aspect of life in India. While rightfully taking on godmen and confusing customs with religion, PK sermonizes from the high pedestal that only he can occupy. It is an alien who points out what is wrong with religion. While the intent of the movie might be admirable, the end product is not biting enough. I will though credit PK with having set the cat among the pigeons. It is not a modest achievement to unite the extremists in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Judged on artistic merit, the movie is neither original nor remarkable but it is also a better indicator of who is in control when it comes to law and order in India. If the movie had been released a few months ago, the erstwhile government would have taken the movie out of the theatre to please fundamentalists. Now we have to deal with smaller hiccups like Anushka Sharma who seems to have been wrongly briefed about her role prior to shooting. She must have thought that she would be required to play an alien and she got into the skin of the character with a lip job. Also, cars shaking in public with their windows open is a call out sign to PK that he must change his clothes. Enjoy, if you can.

Documentary of the Week

Fed Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.5]

fed up

Trailer:

A thorough look at the obesity epidemic. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Taken 3’ because there is no better angry old man than Liam Neeson.

Did you know: Sean Connery wore a wig in every single one of his Bond performances.