Edition 72

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Mustang (France, Turkey, 2015) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.0 ]

mustang-toh-exclusive-poster

Trailer

This drama on the lives of five free spirited sisters in Turkey, is in turns poignant and triumphant. In a deeply patriarchal society where older women are accessories to reinforce the system, the resistance of two of the sisters to chart their own course forms the heart of the story. Shot in Turkey, this film is also France’s entry at the Oscars and rightfully earned its nomination in the Foreign Film category. It may not be off the mark to say that the movie depicts the creeping religious extremism in a once liberal Turkey. Starting on a low gear the movie gains momentum and becomes a tour de force as it progresses. At some point in the movie it feels that in some societies the only expectation from a woman is marriage; a marriage in which she has no say whatsoever.

The cast and crew of the movie deserve plaudits for the original vision and performances. The climax of the movie is an optimistic one but feels out of place and unconvincing based on the narrative till that point. For all its infirmities, ‘Mustang’ is still one of the best films of 2015. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

Anomalisa (2015) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

anomalisa

Trailer

Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenplay writers. I thoroughly enjoyed his creations like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, ‘Adaptation’, and ‘Synecdoche, New York’. In ‘Anomalisa’, he addresses the all too familiar issue of mid-life crisis with an unfamiliar technique. With only three actors voicing this motion capture format movie, the scenes are thankfully not belittled by the limited budget. A rock star sales professional who focuses on customer experience and his mundane life form the core of the movie. Mildly dull at times, Anomalisa’s saving grace is the philosophical tinge that permeates the movie. At its center, the movie is a deeply sad one with disturbing visions on solitude and love. Charlie Kaufman is in his elements when he taps into the small things that make life, dissects them and holds a mirror to the daily life. The only grouse I have with this movie is that it would have looked much better if it had been shot in the conventional format with real people.

The Stanford prison experiment (2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating:6.5 ]

THE-STANFORD-PRISON-EXPERIMENT-movie-poster2

Based on the famous psychology experiment conducted at Stanford in 1971, the movie captures the behavior of students when they were segregated to prisoners and wardens in an experimental prison. As a classic case of how people respond to authority and power, the experiment itself was quite illuminating. This motion picture tries to capture the essence of what happened behind the scenes. At times revealing and at times painfully monotonous, the movie is dogged by the inconsistency of the material on screen. It is of interest to note that even unimposing characters show an air of supremacy when granted powers to lord over people. The high quality of research at top universities and the lengths to which researchers go can be understood with this showcase research phenomenon. The movie is recommended only for those with an interest in delving into the dynamics of power within a hierarchical system.

 

Sicario (2015) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

Sicario-Poster

Trailer

Emily Blunt plays the role of a FBI agent who is coerced to ‘volunteer’ to be part of a team fighting the drug cartels in the area of US-Mexico border. The opening scene sets the mood and pace of the movie but as the movie progresses only the mood is retained. Painfully and unnecessarily slow in certain segments, the movie bursts into life in fits and then returns to dormancy. Sicario’s subject matter is not refreshingly different from movies which have dealt with the same theme. Its beauty is derived from the spellbinding cinematography of Roger Deakins and an engaging music score. It is a pity that Deakins may well lose out to Emmanuel Lubezki at the Oscars. Emily Blunt, whose vulnerability is exposed as the movie progresses, adds her weight to the proceedings. Her anger and fear as her role in the mission is revealed is where the movie rises a notch higher than the movies of the same genre.

The Revenant (2015) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating:8.0 ]

reve

Trailer

With a dozen Oscar nominations and a few Golden Globe wins, ‘The Revenant’ is in the driver’s seat for the ongoing awards season. It tells the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass who was left for dead by his team in the wild with only the crushing winter for company. Director Innaritu follows his trademark hard hitting style he has carried from his directorial debut Amores Perros (reviewed in the first edition of this blog). The film opens with a scene similar to the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Many movies have tried to copy that template of a high voltage opening scene to grab the attention of the viewer but very few have been successful. ‘The Revenant’ belongs to the latter category. Then the movie gets into its subject matter where DiCaprio is mauled by a bear. That scene basically checks out the Oscar for best makeup. Then our hero goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations. That checks out the ever elusive acting Oscar for DiCaprio. Finally the effort to act in such a demanding movie may be the only way for Dicaprio to get an Oscar rather than the acting itself.

The movie was shot only with natural light. That means that the crew had to plan shots and utilize the limited time in a difficult terrain to film. The scenery is engrossing and at times intimidating. Unlike last year’s ‘Birdman’, Emmanual Lubezki does not make the presence of his camera apparent and yet delivers one of the most exquisitely shot movie of our times. It is hard to see him not getting a hat trick of Oscar wins. The movie unnecessarily blends in other themes which are irrelevant to the central theme and create distraction. Now the question is about the best Film and Director. This will be a tight call because as an end product the film is spectacular but boring for much of the latter half. More on the predictions in my annual predictions issue before the Oscars. One category the film will not win is the Editing. As the film moves towards the climax you cannot be faulted if you are thinking of what to do after the movie. It does get tedious at some points but the movie is spectacular at some other points. Watch it for the spectacular points.

Creed (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5 ]

creedpostersmall

Trailer

‘Creed’ has been in the news for the Oscar snub delivered to its African-American director and lead star. The truth is that purely on the basis of merit that is a fair decision and so is the Oscar nomination for Sylvester Stallone. Creed is a good movie but not a great movie. It plays highly on nostalgia and extracts every ounce of the popularity of the ‘Rocky’ franchise to build its story line. The only one who puts the nostalgia to good use is Stallone who delivers the best performance of his career as the retired champion who takes the son of his great opponent under his tutelage. Full of sports movie cliches, the movie succeeds by keeping it grounded and anchoring the story on the capable shoulders of Stallone.

Joy (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:60%, My Rating:6.0 ]

joy

Trailer

The third collaboration of the team of Director David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper after ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’, this movie is the weakest of the lot. In a role which doesn’t suit her Jennifer Lawrence still delivers a very competent performance but the word competent cannot be associated with anybody else who was involved in the making of this movie that meanders like a river before fading into irrelevance. The story is inspired by the life of the inventor of a long lasting ‘revolutionary’ mop and sundry other products. The mop looks to be a very good product but the same cannot be said of the movie which is tiring and directionless in large parts. Wish mops could mop up the remnants of such movies.

Landmine goes click (2015) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes:95%, My Rating:6.5 ]

land-mine-goes-click

Trailer

An entertaining revenge drama told in the format of a thriller makes this movie one of the better independent films of 2015. A group of friends in a remote location face an unexpected challenge when one of them steps on a landmine. Their efforts to rescue him lead to a series of events which extend much beyond the landmine itself. Delightfully directed and enacted, the movie is definitely worth a watch.

Mistress America (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:6.5 ]

MISTRESS-AMERICA_poster

Trailer

Well written comedy with good dialogues is a hallmark of Greta Gerwig movies. So is the case here. Greta plays a happy go lucky lady with a severely inflated image of her caliber. In reality she is just good at talking and has no plans or the will to implement plans. An episode in her life is told through the eyes of an outsider. The good thing about the movie is that the characters stay true to their roles and are able to connect with the audience. Good viewing especially if you have no great expectations.

Backcountry (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes:88%, My Rating:6.5 ]

backcountry-movie-poster-bear

Trailer

A couple lost in the woods get attacked by a bear. There could be an Oscar competition for the best bear between the bear in this one and in The Revenant but both of them are a tribute to the way computer effects have helped in movie making. As for Backcountry, it is a movie in which the tension builds up slowly but surely. All hell breaks loose in the last 20 minutes of the movie. Some of the scenes are too graphic and meant only for those who can stomach them. Otherwise, worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:95%, My Rating:6.5 ]

Winter-on-Fire_poster_goldposter_com_2-400x538

Trailer

A documentary chronicling the popular uprising in Kiev against the government. Nominated for Oscars this year, the documentary follows a dateline to show the events that unfolded in the anti-government agitations but is restricted by its inability to get the point of view of the opposing side.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ because three is a charm.

Did you know: 94% of Academy Award voters are Caucasian and 77% are male. Only about 2% are black, while Latinos compose less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62. People younger than 50 constitute only about 14% of the membership. (Source: LA Times)

Advertisements

Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Assassination (South Korea, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.5]

Assassination_(2015_movie)_poster)

Trailer

Set in 1933 in Korea when Korea was under Japanese occupation, the movie captures the attempt to assassinate a top Japanese Commander by a committed bunch of nationalists. Lavishly mounted and slickly edited to airbrush the inconsistencies in the plot, this action-drama provides enough entertainment to keep you on the edge of your seat for a large part of the movie. The movie feels like an epic and the director should be commended for stretching every cent of the $16 million budget. Definitely worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spotlight (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.5 ]

Oscarometro2016Spotlight

Trailer

Featuring the best ensemble cast assembled in 2015, this early Oscar favorite tells the true story of the Boston Globe expose of the widespread abuse of children by the clergy in Catholic churches. The 2002 story was an act of journalistic courage. The movie is an ode to the good old ways of investigative journalism and a gentle reminder of the power of a newspaper to do good. The movie underplays the heroes of the story. There are no trumpets here, no soaring background score, and no singular acts of courage. It is about a group of men and women using their best abilities to do what they do best. They are ordinary folks who have concerns of their own and are appalled by the state of affairs. ‘Spotlight’ is a subdued movie and will now be the gold standard for any movie on journalism.

The Big Short (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes:90, My Rating:8.0 ]

the-big-short-poster-new

Trailer

Coming from author Michael Lewis and producer Brad Pitt who collaborated for the much admired ‘Moneyball’, this film is about a set of defiant individuals who saw what others refused to see and gained from it. ‘The Big Short’ follows the lives of a few men who bet on the bursting of the housing bubble that culminated in the financial meltdown of 2008. With a cast that was only bettered by the ‘Spotlight’ team in 2015, the film deftly manoeuvres through the series of events which involve some heavy financial jargon. The film comes up with a new way to explain the jargon. The Hollywood studios must be commended for betting their money on what is a difficult topic to make a film on and the American audiences must be equally complimented for their reception to such movies. Steve Carell and Christian Bale put in commanding performances in what is certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Steve Jobs (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

SJB_Tsr1Sht5_RGB_0818_1-780x1235

Trailer

Michael Fassbender gives his career best performance in this biopic of Steve Jobs directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle based on Academy Award winner AAron Sorkin’s screenplay. The film is episodic and features the behind the scenes story of Steve Jobs before every major product launch in his life. Since the movie focuses on the personal life of Steve Jobs, a viewer without much knowledge of the business aspect of his life will find it a bit difficult to understand the subject matter. The movie’s greatest failure is that it demands familiarity with the Apple maestro. To the credit of the movie it must be said that it shows a personal side of Jobs that the media seldom covered before his death. Though the film is an entertaining one and an artistic success, its commercial failure may point to the fatigue of the audiences due to too many Jobs films releasing in s short span of time.

Beasts of No Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:8.0]

Beasts-of-No-Nation_poster_goldposter_com_15

Trailer

The first thing that struck me while watching this gem of a film, is the familiarity with the geography. Later I discovered that the film was shot in Ghana but the film is set in a unnamed country and tells the story of child soldier Agu who loses his family and ends up being part of a ragtag militia of rebels. Idris Elba puts in his best performance as the leader of the decrepit but highly committed group. It is interesting to note that he never picks up the gun himself even when leading ambushes. Abraham Attah carries the weight of the movie on his tiny shoulders with a towering performance. The greater acclaim deservedly should go to producer-director-cinematographer-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga for creating an engaging and spellbinding movie of the highest quality.

Slow West (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

slow-west-poster-3

Trailer

‘Slow West’ is the hidden marvel of 2015. It is a movie which resurrects the Western but is not a film that should be put in compartments. Jay travels from Scotland to seek his Rose in the wild West of USA in late 19th century. Meanwhile Rose is wanted for murder and a group of bounty hunters are after her life. Charming in its unique way and telling a story which can truly be called original, ‘Slow West’ gradually becomes an unforgettable movie. The movie also uses clever tricks in narration. The movie is also an unflattering look at life in the lawless terrain. One of the best movies of the year.

The Good Dinosaur (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:76, My Rating: 7.0]

 

The_Good_Dinosaur_poster

Trailer

This movie was plagued by numerous script revisions and disagreements between the creators that even the director was changed midway through the project. It also comes hot on the heels of the success of the classic ‘Inside Out’. Add to that the Pixar label. The weight of expectations crushes an otherwise decent flick worth a watch. The movie is set in a world in which dinosaurs are not extinct and run families which (strangely) look like human families. The weak dinosaur in the family gets his chance to ‘grow up’ when he is separated from the family. During this time he meets and befriends a human child, and embarks on a multitude of adventures. The excellent animation is no match for a movie which could be called ‘Finding the Way Home’. I believe that the movie itself would have been better if the protagonist was a child but then it would be called ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

No Escape (2015) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes:46%, My Rating:6.0 ]

No Escape

Trailer

Owen Wilson stars as the patriarch of an American family in an unnamed Southeast Asian country facing the ire of violent mobs protesting against the company for which Wilson works. Providing some good thrills and yet never shying away from stereotyping, the film is good enough to deserve a single viewing.

Adi Kapyare Kootamani (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:7.5 ]

pic-adi-kapyare-kootamani-film-3287

Trailer

This rib tickling comedy works on an entirely Indian premise where a girl who enters a boys hostel needs to be escorted out without the knowledge of the hostelers. With winning performances from all involved, this movie which is made on a shoe string budget laughs its way into the hearts of viewers.

Two Countries (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:7.0 ]

image-two-countries-wallpaper-24

Trailer

Coming from a team which has only made hits together, the movie tells the story of a happy go lucky man who marries an Indian-Canadian. Peppered with humorous scenes, the film is a laugh riot. Yet another proof that the finest comedy in the country is produced in Malayalam.

Charlie [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0 ]

charlie

Trailer

A girl moves into a rickety flat where she discovers the possessions of the former tenant. Intrigued by what she sees, she sets out to find the man behind the story. What she and the audience discover forms the crux of a story that is cloyingly sweet and preachy in parts. Neither boring nor great.

Documentary of the Week

Next Goal Wins [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:8.5 ]

nextgoalwinsposter

Trailer

The soccer team of American Samoa holds the record for the worst defeat in international soccer (a 31-0 drubbing at the the hands of Australia). Their goalkeeper gets nightmares in his sleep. In fact, American Samoa could never score a goal in an international match. Then everything changes. A true story of ecstasy, heartbreak and redemption. Must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Macbeth’ with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Did you know: ‘Jurassic World’ was the highest grossing film in USA in 2015.