Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia, 2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]
This movie is set in Bosnia in the days leading up to the Srebrenica genocide. It tells the heartbreaking story of a local who works as an interpreter for the UN peacekeepers under the Dutch command and ‘leadership’. The interpreter tries to save her family from an imminent catastrophe while the Dutch soldiers are only interested in enforcing the law in a clerical fashion without bothering about the spirit of the law. This movie is a damning indictment of the UN and the failure of the peacekeepers in protecting the most vulnerable. This movie is to Srebrenica what ‘The Pianist’ is to the Second World War. Normal people are placed under the unstoppable force of events beyond their control. The desperation of the characters as the the finale approaches is truly a difficult sight. Watch if you have some humanity left in you.
Dear Comrades(2020, Russia)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]
In 1962, the people in a small town in USSR revolt against price hikes. This invites the juggernaut of the Soviet establishment to the town. The full wrath and fury of the establishment is unleashed on unsuspecting residents and the rebellion is quickly extinguished. A local communist party functionary who is otherwise enjoying the fruits of her exalted position begins to question her beliefs when she sees the events unfolding in front of her. The more pertinent question is how Russia entered this movie as their nominee for the Academy Awards when it does not show the Russia of the past in a good light. This movie can be construed to be more devious than it appears on the surface. For example, the grave searching expedition could be considered to be a test for the protagonist. The state could be trying to find out whether she is lying about the status of her daughter. There are some stand out scenes though. The rant of the lady in the car is a standout moment. For all that and more, watch the movie.
Better Days (2019)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 6.5]
This Chinese flick takes a strong stand against bullying. The problem with it is that in the process of taking the stand it takes too much time to tell the story which is syrupy and sentimental. Frankly, I do not get the hype about this movie. The story revolves around a girl’s revenge on those who bully her. The plot is convenient at best and crumbles on closer inspection. Ultimately, the movie is a testament to the fact that it is not often the best movies that get nominated at the Oscars.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Father(2021)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]
‘The Father’ is adapted from a play and it shows. This is papered over by the performance of Hopkins who can draw parallels with his real life for this role. A man losing his memory in old age finds it difficult to make sense of the world around him. He finds it difficult to remember where he is. He even forgets the faces of the people nearest to him. I found this movie to be terrifying in some moments. Real horror is from lived experiences and not from the shriek of a shadow in the dark. The toll this illness takes not only on the patients but on those around them is alarming. Watch the movie for some solid performances.
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
Fred Hampton was a young life cut short by betrayal. This movie tells his story. FBI infiltrated the Black Panther Party to quell the militant activism of its members. I found this movie to be morally in an area that can be described as dark grey. It would be a fallacy to not expect the government to deal with an organisation with a penchant for violence. Black Panthers were no saints. The question is about the extent to which the high handed tactics of the FBI is justified in the situation. Judging purely from an artistic point of view, the movie is a seamlessly edited piece of work. If you know the real life events there is not even an element of surpise. The real question in the movie is about guilt and about the life lived after the betrayal. Also, Daniel Kaluuya will get the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor.
I Care a Lot(2021)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 6.5]
‘I Care a Lot’ is an opportunity lost. I thought I was in for a treat fifteen minutes into the movie but then the director decided to take the fizz out of the soda. Honestly, I was cheering for the Russian mafia at a point in the movie against the sinister character played with panache by Rosamund Pike who seems to revel in these ice-cold outings. As a ‘guardian’, Pike’s character is a sociopath who makes the near fatal mistake of being drawn into the orbit of the mafia. The plot is a lesson in convenient endings, coincidences and a general inefficiency of the Russian mafia. For god’s sake, the mafia cannot even get a killing right. What the movie really is about is the Frankenstein’s monster that late stage capitalism has become in America.
The Mauritanian(2021)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 7.0]
Snubbed royally by the Academy at the Oscars, this crime investigation / legal drama set in Guantanamo works on many levels. It lobs the grenade of the accusations of inhumane behaviour at the US forces. It tells the real toll that life in a prison extracts out of a detainee. On the other hand, it also make the viewers question the leniency accorded to the accused by the director. It is not often that someone receives a call from Bin Laden or invites terrorists to one’s apartment. There are no easy answers in this movie. There are no good guys either.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar(2021)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.0]
This is a silly movie. This is a funny movie. This is a hoot of a movie. I have not laughed, smiled and chuckled so much watching an English movie in recent times. Two women who have never ventured outside their hometown take an eventful trip to a seaside town. Actually, the plot does not matter. Just go with the flow and try not to take yourself seriously. Highly recommended.
Pieces of a Woman(2021)[IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.0]
This movie is what I would call an acting bait. The whole idea is to get people awards and in the garb of doing so make it look like you have a story to tell. The first half an hour of this disjointed jigsaw puzzle is a birth scene (that is the baby variety, in case you did not get it). Vanessa Kirby has acted well in the scene and in the film. Otherwise, the film has nothing new to say. It is a potpourri of infidelity, parental pressure and some legal bits thrown in to fill the remaining parts of the movie. I watched it to figure out how Kirby got the nomination for Best Actress. I figured it out and (as Forrest Gump would say) that’s all I have to say about that.
Documentary of the Week
The Dissident(2021)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]
Jamal Khashoggi was an insider who turned against the famouly short-fused rulers of Saudi Arabia. His story and modern day surveillance in this hard hitting documentary.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ with Angelina Jolie
Did you know: ‘Godzilla vs Kong’ is the largest (pun intended) box office hit of the last one year.
La Llorona (Guatemala, France 2020)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]
‘La Llorona’ is billed as a horror movie. It is nothing like the scary movies that we are used to watching. There are no edge of the seat moments. There are no scenes with loud music and also no startling scenes whatsoever. It is the elegance of the movie and the ideas of guilt and retribution that make this a horror movie. The story is about the crimes of men and what they can get away with in societies where many women are enablers to the atrocities. ‘La Llorona’ is about a General whose victims come to haunt him. The movie is set in Guatemala with a clearly broken down justice system, but would not feel out of place in any society where the mechanisms of justice do not operate. A special mention must be made of the director who gives shining example of what a good director brings to a movie. Watch this and you will remember it for a long time.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Nest (2020)[IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 8.0]
A man who once had a million dollars but is on a rapid downward spiral finds it difficult to reconcile with reality in this hard hitting social drama. ‘The Nest’ is a remarkable film even when you get the feeling that you have seen similar scenes in other movies. The characters are well defined and their motivations and backgrounds are clearly laid out. The thing that struck me about this movie is the relevance of some of the earlier scenes to the latter half of the movie and the finesse with which the makers have blended in those scenes. For example, the scene where Jude Law’s character shows the picture to his mother, you realize that the character wanted that picture in a particular way when it was taken. ‘The Nest’ is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching even when some of the scenes get a tad discomforting to watch. Higly recommended.
One Night in Miami (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]
Hyped to be a strong contender for the Academy awards, this film does not translate well the exciting synopsis of a fictional meeting of four African-American legends. Cassius Clay is on the verge of becoming Muhammed Ali with some prodding from Malcolm X when they have a night with singer Sam Cooke and American Football legend Jim Brown. They discuss a buffet of issues which ends up the way you would expect: tasting a lot many dishes without eating most of them in any good quantity. There is nothing about this movie that catches ones eye. There is not even a single memorable scene. The movie neither floats like a butterfly nor stings like a bee.
News of the World (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.0]
Tom Hanks teams up with Paul Greengrass in a safe film which plays from start to end without any major surprises or hiccups. It is a smoothly edited movie which looks good especially with the scenery in between dialogues. Otherwise it trudges a path uncomplicated and limited in ambition. Tom Hanks plays an ex-army man who makes a living reading news to people in the wild west. He is tasked with taking a rescued blonde girl back to her family. One must be a particularly naive viewer to think that Hanks will not succeed in his mission. In between some cartoonish scenes of him trying to rouse a mini rebellion through news reading, there is some good acting in the movie but the face that you should be focusing on is the young lady who will get an Oscar nomination for supporting actress. Eventually, that will be the only reason this movie will be remembered.
Har Kisse Ke Hisse: Kaamyaab (2020)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 8.0]
I saw this movie in 2020. It is, in my mind, the best Hindi film of 2020. It deserves more praise and viewership than what it has already received. Sanjay Mishra plays that once in a lifetime role in this homage to and celebration of the small time actor. A small time actor who leads a retired life and whose claim to fame is a single dialogue, is reinvigorated by the prospect of reaching an acting milestone. The film takes you on a journey of Bollywood dominated by the concept of the superstar where nobody else matters. The movie has good production values and is directed well. It is a breeze to watch and entertaining in the best way posssible. Please do watch it. By the way, that dialogue is, “Bas enjoying life, aur option hi kya hai.”
The Kid Detective (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]
Talk about the burden of expectations. A kid who finds fame by solving cases through deductive reasoning finds it difficult to live upto his reputation as he enters adulthood. He is then given the task of solving a murder mystery. ‘The Kid Detective’ for large parts is a black comedy and a satire but as the story progresses things get serious but not that serious. Even though the murder mystery does get solved as you would expect, the real fun in the movie is the humour which the writer-director finds in good quantities throughout the movie. It is safe to say that you get suspense and humour in equal amounts: a two for the price of one deal. Not everyone likes such deals. In this case, I do.
Soul (2020)[IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 7.0]
‘Soul’ is heavily tipped to be the winner of the animation feature at the Oscars. It may even get a nomination for the original score. It tells the story of a man who is on the cusp of realising his dreams and then has to grapple with the origins of creativity and more heavy stuff. Frankly my dear, I did not like this movie much. It is just passable with a score that was too loud for my taste. Maybe, I did not ‘get it’ but that’s alright.
Documentaries of the Week
Collective (2020)[IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 9.0]
The toughest competition for the Oscar this year will be in the documentary section. There are at least ten documentaries that are good enough to win but I hope nothing is as good as ‘Collective’. It tells the story of corruption in the healthcare sector in Romania. More importantly, it is about journalism and politics. You have to fear for democracy when the crusaders against corruption are journalists at a sports publication. As an aside, I could not recollect a professional investigative article from any Indian newspaper in recent times. As for ‘Collective’, it is a spellbinding documentary. Do not miss.
The Mole Agent (2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]
An 83 year old is sent to spy on the residents of an old age home in Chile. I did not expect comedy in this documentary but I could not have been more wrong. There are some laugh out loud moments. The flip side is that as you would expect things are not rosy when someone is that old. The documentary does try its best to maintain its sense of balance. Poignant, funny, sad and much more. A must watch
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Old‘ from M Night Shyamalan.
Did you know: John Le Carre used to submit his books for official clearance before they were published. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold which was made into a movie in 1965 was cleared by officials as they thought that the story was too far away from real spywork whereas those who saw the movie thought that only someone who knew too much about spying could write that story.
Another Round (Denmark, 2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]
The Danes have the worst record for alcohol consumption in the Scandinavian region. The movie is an exploration of the way of life in Denmark and how profoundly alcohol affects the social and personal life of people. The story is about a group of school teachers who want to experiment with low consumption of alcohol to test a theory that a small amount of it in the blood in fact has significant advantages for the sense of well being. Mads Mikkelsen is the leader of the group. The story evolves as one would expect it to with no major surprises. The director is in complete control of the proceedings. I was left confused by what the movie wants to convey. Is it that alcohol affects different people differently or is it that small amounts are fine or further still, alcohol is addictive and bad for health.
Movies I Saw This Week
Nomadland (2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
A woman (Frances McDormand) whose life changes because of the 2008 economic crisis and the death of her husband, decides to lead her life by traveling and living around the country in a van. She supports herself with temporary jobs and she meets random people in brief encounters. It is the poignancy of the short encounters that make the film feel deep even when it is flawed. ‘Nomadland’ projects another way of life that celebrates the spirit of adventure when it is a choice but exposes the systemic failures of USA when that lifestyle is thrust on people. Besides being that one movie that makes Amazon look good, there are no major flaws in the film and the movie is arresting for the captivating performance from Frances McDormand who owns the movie from the start to end.
Minari (2020)[IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]
A Korean family moves to Arkansas to start a new life by venturing into farming vegetables for the Korean expat population. Then the grandma from Korea joins them to take care of the kids as the parents work. The life goes on with its twists and turns. ‘Minari’ is an essential immigrant experience of trying to fit in but yet holding on to the cultural roots. When you finish watching ‘Minari’ what remains are the little vignettes of life than any major story. The denouement is hardly convincing but there is a lot to see in ‘Minari’ and those parts are told in a silky smooth way.
Promising Young Woman (2020)[IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]
This movie could have been much better. That is the first thought that struck me when I finished watching. It could have been written better, directed better, edited better and acted better. The story of a young woman going to any extent to avenge the death of her friend is presented in a rather interesting way. Somehow the movie leaves the feeling that there was a tight budget and not enough money to spend on the production design. The coffee shop in the movie looks and feels like an enterprise which would not make the cut in a children’s play. The scenes between the protagonist and her boyfriend are rather forced. If you can close your eyes to some jarring notes there is much to be liked in the movie, especially the story it wants to tell. Although Carey Mulligan is tipped for an Oscar nomination for this role, I think that someone else could have delivered this role better. Overall, the operative word is ‘better’.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)[IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]
This film captures the drama on a hot day when acclaimed singer Ma Rainey has to record a few songs. For those who do not know, Ma Rainey was one of the first female African-American singers to be ever recorded and marketed. Her clout and ability to get things done her way in the movie is indicative of her stature and commercial pull. The more dramatic bit of the movie features the late Chadwick Boseman who I hope gets at least an Oscar nomination for his last substantial role. This movie is well edited but the fact that it is adapted from a play shows in some of the scenes. The restricted number of locations also demonstrated a script which fails to grow from its original material. Kudos to Coca Cola for the clever product placement. Keeping aside these infirmities, this is a movie worth your time.
The White Tiger (2020)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]
This is a film about which I feel I can write a more authentic review for the mere fact that the novel is one of the few works of fiction I have read in the last many years. (I am a stickler for non-fiction) The booker prize winning work by Arvind Adiga thrives on dollops of sarcasm and dark humour. It is a difficult task to translate that on to the screen. The movie is successful in getting the essence of the book but does leave out some biting pieces of dark humour. It also adds few elements not mentioned in the book. For those looking for a story, the movie is about an unscrupulous man working his way up India’s notorious social ladder. Adarsh Gourav in the lead role has done justice to his role. Somehow he embodies the character you have in mind when you read the novel. As a movie, this one does not let you down but the book is better.
Sylvie’s love (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.0]
‘Sylvie’s Love’ is a movie which if you did not know its year of release would easily slot into the black and white era of Hollywood. It has the look and feel of one of those classics. It has enough drama to match. It is a simple story. (spoilers ahead) Boy meets girl. They get separated. Then they meet again. Then they unite. Then they choose to be separate. At the end, they reunite. Simple. Told you. The mood of the movie is unashamedly romantic but there are elements of the fading popularity of jazz music and the struggle of a woman to have a career in a not so distant past. Above all this is the fact that somehow a neat romantic movie got made when that is a genre which has struggled for screen space in recent times.
Run (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]
I had read about a girl being held captive by her mother in a magazine article few years ago. This movie seems to be based on that article even though it does not claim to be one. At a conceptual level there is nothing great here. There are enough movies that have dealt with such themes. I would not even say that the treatment is groundbreaking. It is a easygoing movie worth your time if you are thinking of opportunities to while away your time. At least it does not manipulate the audience and there is no structural complexity to make you scratch your head (Yes, I am speaking of Nolan here).
Bloody Hell (2020)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]
Similar to ‘Run’, this movie is also a hostage drama but with a twist. It is playful and has a wicked sense of humour. A hero who somehow ends in jail for stopping a bank heist ends up in the basement of a crazy family in Finland. He must find a way out before he is wiped clean from the face of earth. There is some intentional comedy in the gruesome premise. That itself makes it a movie which is worth your time.
Death to 2020 (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%, My Rating: 6.0]
This is a mockumentary. It lands a few good punches and some of the humour is genuine. The problem is that sarcasm in the real world is a dying art because there is too much of misinformation floating around. I would not be surprised if some parts of the population did not get the humour in this enterprise. I enjoyed large bits of it and would recommend it.
Documentary of the Week
Crazy, Not Insane (2020) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]
I did not know that multiple personality disorder is an area on which there is no consensus in the scientific community. A leading proponent of the dissociative identity disorder presents her case. Draw your own conclusions.
Eagerly waiting for: James Bond to come to a cinema near me.
Did you know: In 2020, Netflix released more movies than any other major Hollywood studio. It will do so again in 2021.
The year 2020 has been an extraordinary year. Consequently, the frequency of the blog was cut to once every few months. Still, there were enough readers to keep the flame burning. I will return with renewed vigour in 2021. Take care and stay safe. Wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year !
The Non-English Movie of The Week
Why Don’t You Just Die!(Russia,2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]
The point of this movie is not the suspension of disbelief required from the viewer. Though the characters survive assault on every sinew of the body, they conveniently die when the script demands that they do. It is a testament to the craft of the director that inspite of the heavy odds against it, the film remains a fun ride from start to end. For those looking for a story, it is about a guy who wants to avenge on behalf of his girlfriend. For those looking for the moral of the story: Good guys can win (in the end).
Movies I Saw This Week
Dating Amber (2020)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]
‘Dating Amber’ is not a movie that reinvents cinema but it comes close to reinventing the genre of romantic comedy. The warmth and the effervescence are palpable. The performances are genuine and the characters relatable. The story of two queer young adults pretending to be in love to avoid the harsh realities of coming out is affecting. There are very few movies which resonate to such an extent that you care for the characters. The standout feature is that this movie is made with a lot of heart and it will keep you hooked till the titles roll.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5]
This film is a courtroom drama based on a true incident. The thing with movies based on real life is that often they would not pass muster if they were presented as tales of fiction. Indeed, truth is stranger than fiction. The high drama in the courtroom is amusing and appalling at the same time. The trial of civil rights activists descends into a sham under the leadership of an incompetent judge. Aaron Sorkin is in fine form as the director in this movie, whose immediacy and relevance to 2020 are concerning.
Sound of Metal (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5]
Riz Ahmed gives a career defining performace as a musician struggling to come to grips with his rapidly declining ability to hear. His whole world is turned upside down and he faces an existential crisis. The movie has nothing earth shattering to say. The story is fortunately or unfortunately eclipsed by the acting. Ahmed should be a shoo in for an Oscar nomination. I would recommend watching this movie with good headphones.
Swallow (2019)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]
‘Swallow’ is a richly entertaining movie about a young and pregnant housewife who starts ingesting strange objects. The movie is very layered and raises many issues outside of the central character’s immediate concerns including unwanted pregnancies, the class divide and the vapidity of social soirees. It is evident that a lot of thought has gone into the screenplay and the framing of the scenes. ‘Swallow’ starts slowly but as it gathers pace it pulls in the viewer and does not let go. Very highly recommended.
Mank (2020)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.0]
For me, the greatest Hollywood movie of all time is ‘Citizen Kane’. If you have not seen it, please do. ‘Mank’ is the story of the writer who gave birth to ‘Citizen Kane’. Bereft of much drama, the movie rather surprisingly does not fail to keep the viewer interested othen than popping a question at the end about what all the fuss was about. ‘Mank’ is surely an Oscar bait and may yet be in the running for many technical categories and for Oldman’s acting. ‘Mank’ is a lurid look into the unseemly underbelly of the studio system. Hearst and Meyer are singled out for ‘special’ treatment. To take a harsh view, ‘Mank’ is a collection of vignettes from a rabble rouser of his time. Incidentally, he wrote ‘Citizen Kane’
Miss Juneteenth (2020)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]
I would like to raise a toast to the producers of this gem of a movie for having the courage to put their money into this project. A delicate movie with a lot of self-respect and dignity oozing through its barely contained feeling of doom is a must watch for what I would call silently strong performances. The protagonist is a former beauty queen who has fallen on hard times and wants to give her daughter a better shot at success in life. It is not a movie where there are trumpets and lilting music at the end to herald the victory of the underdog. Victory does come, in a sweet understated way. Highly recommended.
His House (2020)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.0]
Horror is a genre that is so easy to get wrong and easier still to be prey to gimmickry. ‘His House’ channels the guilt of the lead characters and their total alienation from what is around them, as they try to build a life as refugess in the United Kingdom. The culture clashes and the dark past start catching up with them as time passes. There are few scenes which evoke laughter in a rather twisted way. Watch this for a different type of horror.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 6.5]
Charlie Kaufman is weighed down by his own formidable reputation in this movie with too many metaphors that I stopped caring. As is the case in a Kaufman movie, nothing is what it seems. There are subtexts and subplots but he stretches the metaphor too long. The story is a contemplation of a person’s life and choices just as the person is close to calling it quits. On a shoddiness scale it is much better than the insufferable ‘Tenet’ but that does not say much. Watch it if you have to and think about it after watching it if you have nothing else to do.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]
Abortion is a divisive issue in America. This movie should not be divisive for the humanity and heart it brings to the table. This grim flick is told in a matter of fact way without finding the need to preach. It prefers to practice. The story is of a young girl who has to travel out of state to get an abortion but has scant resources at her disposal. She must put to task every idea and thought that ensures that she gets what she wants. A deeply moving film that is highly recommended.
Happiest Season (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.0]
Kristen Stewart plays the same sex lover who has to visit her girlfriend’s family for Christmas. The twist in the plot: The lover’s family has no clue on the girl’s sexual orientation. There are a few laugh out moments in this straighforward romcom. There are a few cringeworthy moments too but it is Christmas and all is forgiven. If couch viewing for Christmas is what you are looking for, then this will suffice.
Documentaries of the Week
The Donut King (2020)[IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]
If the Los Angeles donut empire looks Cambodian, there was a king to that empire. A story of an immigrant’s rags to riches and then to rags story. Very engaging.
Midnight Family (2020)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.5]
If you have to watch one documentary this year, watch this one. It is about a private ambulance service in Mexico.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘West Side Story’ from Spielberg.
Did you know: Oscar winning production company ‘Higher Ground Productions’ is owned by Barack and Michelle Obama.
This edition of the blog features documentaries I have seen in the last six months that are worth your time.
The Fight (2020)[IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]
Lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union fight cases for causes dear to them. There is never a boring moment in this documentary. It is great to know that there are still people out there willing to fight for what is right.
American Murder: The Family Next Door(2020)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.5]
Story of an American criminal who loses his mind and kills his family in cold blood. The documentary is chilling and a reminder that nothing holds back some criminals from killing their loved ones. Some of the scenes with the kids are disturbing.
Red Penguins (2020)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]
Americans go to rescue ice hockey in Russia after the iron curtain falls. A cultural and political clash ensues. Mildly funny yet very educative.
The Social Dilemma (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating:7 .5]
A stark reminder of the influence of social media and internet on our lives. Very revealing insights on how technology runs and ruins lives. Probably the most well made documentary on the subject.
Class Action Park(2020)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
The farce that went on in an amusement park in New Jersey. How this park operated for that long by flouting all rules and regulations is beyond me. Still a lot of fun.
Coup 53 (2020)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]
The coup of 1953 in Iran orchestrated by the USA changed Iran in more ways than one. A deep dive into events that surrounded that coup which eventually led to the return of the Shah of Iran and his tyranny.
The Phenomenon (2020)[IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.5]
A compendium of all UFO related events that caught attention around the world since the early 20th century. I must say that the weight of evidence points to the existence of exta-terrestrial beings.
Scheme Birds (2019)[IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]
A girl with a difficult family background tries to find love and life in a depressed Scottish town. I almost wanted to get inside the documentary and tell her not to do certain things. The feeling of impending doom is palpable. Affecting in a strange way.
Desert One (2019)[IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]
For those who have ever wondered why Jimmy Carter never won re-election, this movie gives the best answer possible. A botched hostage rescue mission ends in disaster even before reaching the hostages, sealing Carter’s fate.
John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
John Lewis was a colossal figure in the civil rights movement. This documentary is an apt tribute to him. RIP John Lewis.
Boys State (2020)[IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.5]
Boys State is the documentary of the year (at least, so far). Riveting, engaging and ultimately heart-breaking, this documentary is an introduction to democracy in America. I found it quite alarming how many of the boys were willing to trample on women’ rights.
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]
Walter Mercado was a celebrity astrologer who had a rockstar image in his prime. His story is traced in this interesting documentary. Harmless fun.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.5]
The documentary version of Thomas Piketty’s celebrated book. One of the best documentaries of the year. Dire predictions for the economic prosperity (or the lack of it) of millenials and generations that follow.
The Longest War (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]
How USA got into Afghanistan and then never managed to get out. A documentary of record.
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump(2020)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 8.0]
There is a lot common to megalomaniacs and psychopaths. Gaslighting is one of those things. Learn more about gaslighting and other dark arts in this unflinching documentary.
Eagerly waiting for: Movie theatres to open and screen larger than life movies.
Did you know: Below is a picture of Helen Keller meeting Charlie Chaplin.
This edition was originally titled “The best English movies of the 21st century to see before you die”.
Before I wade more into gallows humour, let us keep this simple. This is a list of 75 English movies from 2000 to the present which I recommend to everyone. The next edition will cover the best foreign language movies meeting the same criteria.
75. Nightcrawler (2014)
One line story: A hustler blurs the line between reporting and participating in a crime as he builds a career as a crime reporter.
Why I like it: A new and fresh screenplay. Riveting from start to finish.
The Highlight: Jake Gyllenhaal in his finest performance in a fine career.
74. Hell or High Water (2016)
One line story: Two brothers resort to robbing banks to pay mortgage for their oil rich land.
Why I like it: It is a Western with cars replacing horses.
The Highlight: The Robberies
73. Lady Bird (2017)
One line story: A coming of age movie of a girl in suburban America.
Why I like it: I like the way the movie ends. It does not try too hard.
The Highlight: Saoirse Ronan promising much more for the future and nowadays delivering on her promise.
72. Paddington 2 (2017)
One line story: Paddington from Peru wants to buy a gift for his aunt in the UK.
Why I like it: An animation movie with a soul and a rather playful one at that.
The Highlight: The animation
71. Notes on a Scandal (2006)
One line story: The power play between a veteran and a rather naive understudy.
Why I like it: Like all good movies, it keeps you engaged till the end.
The Highlight: The acting performances
70. Before Sunset (2004)
One line story: They meet again in Paris and spend a day together.
Why I like it: A dismissively simple idea is turned into an elegant movie.
The Highlight: The ride on the Seine.
69. Lord of War (2005)
One line story: An arms dealer does what he does while the authorities try to corner him.
Why I like it: It is almost a celebration of the arms trade and goes to crazy places.
The Highlight: The dismantling of the airplane.
68. The Town (2010)
One line story: A bank robbery becomes complicated.
Why I like it: It gives a fresh twist to the bank robbery tales.
The Highlight: Nobody is shown as naive or stupid but film stays focused on their motives.
67. Munich (2005)
One line story: The nation of Israel wants to avenge the death of Israeli athletes at the Olympics.
Why I like it: It is a cold and calculated procedural.
The Highlight: Eric Bana cannot act and he gets a role that requires him to stay emotionless.
66. American Sniper (2014)
One line story: The story of the greatest sniper in the history of American army.
Why I like it: The movie tries to deal with the emotional trauma of a man who becomes a killing machine.
The Highlight: The greatest dangers are nearer home.
65. Capote (2005)
One line story: Truman Capote researches a killer for his next book.
Why I like it: Phillip Seymour Hoffman was peerless.
The Highlight: The acting, especially the jail scenes.
64. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
One line story: A rogue guy bending and breaking rules and laughing his way to the bank before karma catches up with him.
Why I like it: The last thing you would expect from Martin Scorsese.
The Highlight: The party in the office scene reminiscent of Citizen Kane.
63. Leave No Trace (2018)
One line story: A father and daughter try to live a life away from the masses.
Why I like it: It has an authenticity and rawness seldom seen on the big screen.
The Highlight: When the paths of the father and daughter start diverging.
62. Atonement (2007)
One line story: A budding romance is a victim of circumstances and lies.
Why I like it: One of the few movies which made me sad. So much beauty to admire in so much tragedy.
The Highlight: The final revelation.
61. Match Point ((2005)
One line story: A femme-fatale messes up the priorities of a dishonest social climber.
Why I like it: The closest Woody Allen has come to making a real erotic thriller.
The Highlight: The ravishing Scarlett Johansson
60. Syriana (2005)
One line story: Middle-eastern oil politics.
Why I like it: It burns slowly and then becomes an inferno.
The Highlight: The missile strike
59. The Ides of March (2011)
One line story: An aide to a politician learns on his job.
Why I like it: There are no heroes in this movie. Only survivors.
The Highlight: “No press beyond this point. She is press.”
58. Blue Jasmine (2013)
One line story: A rich man’s wife enters self destruction territory.
Why I like it: Cate Blanchett in a memorable performance.
The Highlight: How Woody Allen toys with his characters in his best screenplay in the last 15 years.
57. Phantom Thread (2017)
One line story: A dress designer’s life goes downhill as his partner starts wielding more power.
Why I like it: Daniel Day Lewis. The name is enough.
The Highlight: The background score.
56. 1917 (2019)
One line story: Two soldiers are tasked with delivering an order to prevent a catastrophe.
Why I like it: The camera is the star of the movie.
The Highlight: The last running scene.
55. The Big Short (2015)
One line story: A bunch of guys profiting from their knowledge when the 2008 finacial crisis hits.
Why I like it: The quasi documentary feel to an entertaining movie.
The Highlight: Margot Robbie explaining finance in a bathtub.
54. Moonlight (2016)
One line story: Growing up surrounded by guns and drugs.
Why I like it: The Oscar drama
The Highlight: The talent of Mahershala Ali
53. The Babadook (2014)
One line story: A mother and son battle the demons inside and outside their mind.
Why I like it: For reinventing a genre which was in dire need of a reinvention.
The Highlight: All the scary scenes.
52. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
One line story: A mother is willing to upset the applecart as she seeks answers to her daughter’s death.
Why I like it: The movie does not hold back on the anger.
The Highlight: The torching scene.
51. Green Book (2018)
One line story: A famous black musician is driven by a white driver for a series of concerts in the deep south.
Why I like it: The best road movie in years.
The Highlight: KFC
50. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
One line story: A 15 year old learns in the company of his seniors and confronts his personal tragedy.
Why I like it: It is a darn sweet movie.
The Highlight: The last scene.
49. Almost Famous (2000)
One line story: A young writer observes a band on their tour.
Why I like it: The most honest film about pop bands and their lives.
The Highlight: The scene when the plane gets into turbulence.
48. A History of Violence (2005)
One line story: A family man has a violent past to hide and a family to protect.
Why I like it: There are many films since and before the movie with the same story but this one stands out.
The Highlight: When the son picks up the gun.
47. Anomalisa (2015)
One line story: Mid-life crisis
Why I like it: The animation is suitable for the story it tells. The impact would have been less if real people played the roles.
The Highlight: When the lead character returns to his family.
46. The Tree of Life (2011)
One line story: A ponderous tale on faith, love and life
Why I like it: The camera work is sensational.
The Highlight: Nothing looks ordinary.
45. Road to Perdition (2002)
One line story: A father seeks to avenge the murder of his family. with his son in tow.
Why I like it: The second best gangster flick after the Godfather.
The Highlight: The cinematography is gorgeous, often lyrical.
44. Michael Clayton (2007)
One line story: A fixer has to deal with the biggest challenge thrown at him.
Why I like it: One of the best thrillers ever if you can read up on the coded messages in the movie.
The Highlight: Tilda Swinton creating the template for all future roles of a neurotic corporate honcho.
43. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
One line story: A spy comes out of retirement to find a double agent
Why I like it: Slow and steady suspense builds up to a good finale.
The Highlight: Gary Oldman carries the weight of the film on his very capable shoulders.
42. Inside Out (2015)
One line story: An eleven year old coping with her emotions.
Why I like it: Some breath of freshness from Pixar.
The Highlight: The animation.
41. Selma (2014)
One line story: Martin Luther King fights racism in Selma.
Why I like it: Some stories should be told.
The Highlight: The songs have been criminally overlooked.
40. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
One line story: Nobel laureate Nash tries to find equilibrium in his life.
Why I like it: Stories about scientists do not have to be boring.
The Highlight: The bar scene
39. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
One line story: Child soldiers and their adult leader try to trade power in a civil war.
Why I like it: It feels very real and immediate.
The Highlight: The first time I noticed Idris Elba
38. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
One line story: A sister turns up at a wedding and all hell breaks loose.
Why I like it: Nothing much happens but then so much happens.
The Highlight: The choreographed sequences looking all too real.
37. The Departed (2006)
One line story: A cat and mouse game between Police and gangsters.
Why I like it: I like the original better but it is in another language.
The Highlight: The explanation of the benefits of marriage at the shooting range.
36. The Last King of Scotland (2006)
One line story: A Scot is the doctor of choice to Idi Amin.
Why I like it: Idi Amin would have been proud of Forest Whitaker.
The Highlight: The limb rearrangement
35. Life of Pi (2012)
One line story: A boy on a lifeboat goes on an adventure with some unwelcome company.
Why I like it: A visuall feast.
The Highlight: That island.
34. The Irishman (2019)
One line story: Gangsters being gangsters.
Why I like it: For once, the invincible are shown as the tormented souls in their old age and almost invariably dying a painful death.
The Highlight: The daughter’s face when the family watches the TV news of the death.
33. Skyfall (2012)
One line story: Bond not being the classic bond.
Why I like it: They are trying hard to reinvent Bond when he is no more the guy with the coolest gadgets.
The Highlight: The train fight.
32. Adaptation (2002)
One line story: “The script I’m starting, it’s about flowers. Nobody’s ever done a movie about flowers before.”
Why I like it: “The book has no story. There’s no story.”
The Highlight: ” It’s like a brain factory in here.”
31. Lost in Translation (2002)
One line story: Two lonely people meet in one of the most crowded cities in the world.
Why I like it: There is so much unsaid.
The Highlight: When they part ways.
30. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
One line story: Brothers are divided in their position on Irish independence.
Why I like it: Ken Loach’s masterpiece.
The Highlight: A terribly underrated movie.
29. Dunkirk (2017)
One line story: Soldiers have the choice between the devil and the deep sea.
Why I like it: The background score is a thing of beauty.
The Highlight: When they read Churchill’s words from the newspaper.
28. Gladiator (2000)
One line story: A gladiator must stand up after being knocked down.
Why I like it: The pageantry and the scale. Impressive.
The Highlight: The songs, especially, “Now we are free”.
27. The Social Network (2010)
One line story: A flawed genius wants to make friends and enemies.
Why I like it: No movie captures Silicon valley better.
The Highlight: The visiting card. Tells more about the individual than anything else.
26. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
One line story: Drug-fueled disintegration of a young man and people around him.
Why I like it: A tragedy without crying.
The Highlight: When he comes home in a taxi.
25. Spotlight (2015)
One line story: Sometimes great journalism is not just having the story but the courage to publish it.
Why I like it: Telling truth to power.
The Highlight: The end credits.
24. Elephant (2003)
One line story: Shooting in a high school in America.
Why I like it:You would not guess the story if you saw the first twenty minutes of it.
The Highlight: The freezer scene.
23. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
One line story: What revolution would look like in a post apocalyptic world.
Why I like it: Energy. Action. Madness.
The Highlight: All the crazy people in the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your …….
22. Her (2013)
One line story: A man starts falling in love with a voice.
Why I like it: Then he discovers the real deal.
The Highlight: Scarlett Johansson’s voice
21. Gravity (2013)
One line story: Lost in space, need a ride back home.
Why I like it: It looked out of this world on the big screen.
The Highlight: The moments before the touchdown.
20. No Country for Old Men (2007)
One line story: A psychopath is after 2 million USD of stolen money
Why I like it: Javier Bardem looks menacing.
The Highlight: That long silent take.
19. Memento (2000)
One line story: A man with the memory of a goldfish hunts for his wife’s killer.
Why I like it: It is an original piece of work unlike anything I have seen before. At least as far as I can remember.
The Highlight: The coffee scene.
18. Enemy at the Gates (2001)
One line story: A Soviet sniper turning into a legend.
Why I like it: The Soviets won the second world war and there is at least one good movie to honour their efforts.
The Highlight: The shot while jumping between the tunnels.
17. The Artist (2011)
One line story: Sound is a problem for a silent era movie star.
Why I like it: A silent spectacle.
The Highlight: When life gives you lemons, …………
16. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
One line story: Grief of a man understood by none.
Why I like it: The grief is palpable.
The Highlight: Whenever he meets his pregnant ex-wife.
15. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
One line story: A true rags to riches story via the financial markets.
Why I like it: You feel for the protagonist.
The Highlight: The climax of the movie.
14. WALL-E (2008)
One line story: Two robots fall in love and set out to change the world.
Why I like it: A masterpiece.
The Highlight: When the human stands on his feet.
13. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
One line story: The curious events in a hotel.
Why I like it: Quirky to the extreme.
The Highlight: The acting.
12. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
One line story: Can he win a million dollars and unite with the love of his life?
Why I like it: You don’t have to know everything. It’s what you know that matters.
The Highlight: AR Rahman’s music
11. Boyhood (2014)
One line story: Life, shot over 12 years.
Why I like it: It does not get more original than this.
The Highlight: Nobody died during the film making.
10. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
One line story: The hunt for terrorists in Afghanistan.
Why I like it: An edge of the seat thriller.
The Highlight: Nobody knows the real heroine.
9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
One line story: A coach watches in pain as his protege boxer gets what she does not deserve.
Why I like it: If you feel too arrogant about yourself, watch this.
The Highlight: Hilary Swank.
8. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
One line story: A group of misfits go on a road trip.
Why I like it: “Everybody just pretend to be normal.”
Olive: I’d like to dedicate this to my grandpa, who showed me these moves.
Parasite (South Korea, 2019)[IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.5]
‘Parasite’, the winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes, is an instant classic. It is one of the most riveting films I have seen in recent times. Every scene and dialogue of this thriller hits the bulls-eye. Thought the complex interplay of societal tensions and personal aspirations are at the centre of the film, the script holds up to scrutiny even when these external dimensions are not considered. A family at the lower rungs of the society gets a chance to be the caretakers in an affluent household. As the plot gets more sinister and breathtaking, a maelstrom is unleashed on a stable household. The director is at the peak of his powers and the screenplay is a work of genius in this unmissable movie of the year.
Movies I Saw This Week
Ford v Ferrari [Le Mans ’66](2019)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]
The good thing about this movie and perhaps what makes it different from the run of the mill race movies is the care given to fully realize the emotional aspect of the characters on screen. The film tells the time when a snubbed Ford made it a personal crusade to bring down the hegemony of Ferrari at Le Mans. Even for a film with an expected climax, the movie leaves a bittersweet feeling at the end. For a running length of 152 minutes, the goings on screen captivate the viewer for most of the time. This movie is a salute to the American spirit of innovation and it does so without sounding jingoistic. I am sure American parents will be lining up to show their kids this smooth and uncluttered piece of film-making.
Judy (2019) (2019)[IMDB: 7.2., Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]
Judy Garland was a legend in her times. The difficult life that led to her stardom and her feeling of being inadequate made a mess of her life. Zellweger has a roll playing this flawed diva in her difficult final years. Zellweger’s performance is nuanced and she is able to draw the sympathy of the audience. She even sings the songs herself. Good enough to get an Oscar nomination for sure. The movie is all about Judy: her failings, her small victories, her poor decision making, her insomnia, her bravo performances, her terrible performances. Watch it for Judy Garland.
Extra Ordinary (2019)[IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]
This is probably the most fun ghost movie I have ever seen. Full of tongue -in-cheek references to the genre and made with a subversive spirit, ‘Extra Ordinary’ is a movie you would not want to miss. An Irish driving school inspector with powers to tackle spirits is brought to deal with a particularly interesting case involving absurd rituals, a one hit wonder singer and a whole lot of hangers-on. This parody of a movie uses and discards cliches when it suits the script. Plot devices like virgins required for sacrifice in satanic rituals are used to the hilt to bring out the absurdity of the concepts and get a few good laughs.
The Art of Self-Defense (2019)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.0]
A loner with no social connections is drawn to the world of Karate after a life threatening burglary attempt. As he descends more and more into the local Karate universe, he discovers the twisted secrets and dealings of what is essentially a cult. He also imagines himself to be somebody else. His newfound confidence and sense of belonging are questioned as the days progress. This is a fairly engaging movie with a convenient plot twist. Undoubtedly a good film to watch, the movie does leave a feeling that things could have been done better.
Harpoon (2019)[IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]
One of the independent movies of 2019 that is definitely a winner in every sense. For a movie with a cast of three marooned in a yacht, the possibilities are limited due to the space available. The director and writer are able to exploit every angle possible with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged. The acting, background score and directing combine to make this a movie with good returns for a fan of thrillers. Highly recommended.
Good Boys (2019)[IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]
There is nothing great to see here but lot of good material makes it a thoroughly entertaining venture. There is hardly a plot and it is all about friendship with dollops of reality thrown in. The movie is unpretentious and has some witty scenes and dialogues. It brings the naivety of adolescence and the optimism of childhood together in the life of three carefree boys. The film delivers on what it promises in the trailer. Do not watch with high expectations and you will come out smiling.
Luce (2019)[IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]
‘Luce’ is a complicated movie. The complication is largely due to the fact that the protagonist is a former child soldier rescued from Eritrea and raised by two suburban white parents. If this background is taken out of the conversation, then it is a movie about a self-centred teenager plotting his success and wiping out challenges or challengers to his plans in life. The provocative film has a slew of conflicted characters, none more than the white mother of Luce played by Naomi Watts whose unwavering loyalty to him in the face of evidence undermining him is shown as desperation to hold on to her belief that her life has not been wasted raising a deviant. There is much to ponder in ‘Luce’ but there are some rough edges that could have been smoothed out to present a more satisfying narrative.
The Laundromat (2019)[IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, My Rating: 6.0]
Based on the Panama papers scandal, this movie is a narrative mess. Steven Soderbergh is an acclaimed director whose repertoire is rich with some memorable movies. ‘The Laundromat’ is not one of them. Meryl Streep tries to hold the story together but even she is conveniently forgotten for large parts of the movie. Too many loose ends are left unattended. Some interesting threads like the events in Panama or the Chinese episode are amusing but do not add to a coherent narrative.
Documentary of the Week
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 7.5]
Mads Brugger made the real world parody ‘The Ambassador’. In this new documentary he tries to uncover the conspiracy that led to the death of UN Secretary General Hammarskjold. He discovers more than what he bargained for. Highly recommended.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Knives Out’
Did you know: Christian Bale lost 70 pounds to play his role in ‘Ford vs Ferrari’, much of which was the weight he gained for ‘Vice (2018)’.
In the Aisles(Germany,2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.0]
This German flick is about a young man finding his way through life while learning the ropes in his new job at the supermarket. He develops an infatuation for one of his colleagues and the story is hinged on this premise. The movie does turn tedious at times and a fast forward button on your remote may be highly useful while watching it. There are two ways of looking at this movie. The considerate view is that it is a tender, thoughtful and empathetic piece of film making. The less charitable view is that it is akin to watching Manchester United play: a slow dross.
Movies I Saw This Week
Ad Astra (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]
Ad-Astra means ‘to the stars’. The movie is mostly confined to the solar system. Philosophically, the movie borrows heavily from ‘Apocalypse Now’ with a plot strikingly similar to one of the best movies ever made. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut tasked with meeting his father who is stationed a few planets away. In the “near future” when space travel is a long haul flight with transit points, Pitt sets out to solve the issues facing mankind and to put to rest his inner demons. The background score is excellent. Brad Pitt gives probably the best performance of his life. The technological capabilities are evident. The movie, though, is less than the sum of its parts.
Joker (2019) [IMDB: 9.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]
A city on the verge of collapse. Filthy streets, crumbling infrastructure, walls and windows ridden with graffiti and the terminal decline of social security. Sounds familiar? Well, this is the Gotham in which the origin story of Joker is set. A struggling yet decent man trying to cope with his mental illness loses the plot as he is abused by the society and finds his social support brutally cut short. Mayhem ensues as he becomes the worst version of himself. Watch ‘Joker’ for one of the most spectacular acting performances of all time. Joaquin Phoenix is sensational in this dark tale and the camera is an observer of his antics in every frame of the movie. If you can stomach the violence and keep your eyes on the performance of Phoenix, this is a movie that is more than worth your time.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]
The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It is just a prop to string together encounters with various stars and get them to play along to the scripted interviews. If you are fan of the mock interview series ‘Between Two Ferns’, there is more than enough in this movie to have a few good laughs. Some of the humour is juvenile but some hit the bull’s eye .I would have liked it if they had more from stars like Keanu Reeves. Recommended strictly for the fans.
Yesterday (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]
Danny Boyle has some obsession with Maliks. His protagonist in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was Jamal Malik. In ‘Yesterday’ the lead’s name is Jack Malik. Maybe it is some cheeky reference but if it is some superstition he cannot be faulted for it. ‘Yesterday’ is inching towards 200 million dollars at the box office, becoming Boyle’s second biggest hit since ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The plot is about the Malik who one day finds out that he is the only one in this world who remembers ‘The Beatles’. His fledgling singing career which was on life support suddenly has a reversal. The movie is a throwback to the hysteria that surrounded the pop group. The plot of the movie is all over the place but the music is just phenomenal. Watch ‘Yesterday’ for the evergreen music.
Crawl (2019) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.0]
‘Crawl’ delivers what it promises. It is a product of the branch of movie factory which pits man against nature. The alligators here could have been sharks, extraterrestrials, snakes, bears, foxes, monkeys, dragons or piranhas. Add a bit of a natural disaster like a hurricane or a flood (add lots of water). Just as in a video game, add few constraints. There you have the formula for a summer blockbuster. ‘Crawl’ is a hit. It ticks every box for a disaster movie. Funnily enough, it is not a boring film. One every few years is worth a watch and the best part is that ‘Crawl’ is not shoddily made. Enough praise. You get the drift.
Midsommar (2019) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]
‘Midsommar’ is about a group of American friends who go to Sweden to live in a commune for a short period of time. This movie is a horror movie if you take it seriously, especially the second half of it. If you are not concerned for the group by the second half, then you may see more humour than horror in this movie. The standout performance is from Florence Pugh as the young woman recovering from a personal tragedy and going through cycles of mental illness. The most shining aspect of the movie is the way it treats her condition. The movie per se, leaves room for many metaphors. This is a very subjective film. Some may find meanings unknown and angles unexplored in this mostly riveting flick but the others may be uninterested as it hurtles towards its very predictable climax.
The Mustang (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]
‘The Mustang’ is about a convict who is given the responsibility of taming and domesticating a wild mustang as part of his prison duties. Revelations about his crime and him finding solace in the process form the crux of the story. This is a thoroughly likable film with good acting and fine direction. My only grouse is again with the languid pace of the proceedings.
Late Night (2019) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]
Emma Thompson is usually at her best in verbose performances. She has a lot of dialogues in this movie in which she plays an embattled late night show host unwilling to ride into the sunset. To spice things up and shore up her ratings she is forced to hire a new writer for her writing team. Mindy Kaling plays that writer. Mindy Kaling also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Therefore, no prizes for guessing who gets the most screen time. Otherwise, it is a watchable and mostly benign movie which does nothing earth shattering.
Documentary of the Week
Diego Maradona (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8.5]
If anyone asks you to choose a place and day to do some time travel, Naples on 10 May 1987 would be a good choice. The sheer agony and ecstasy of being Diego Maradona captured like never before. As they say in the movie, you don’t know what you have missed.
Eagerly waiting for: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’
Did you know: Joaquin Phoenix and River Phoenix were the first brothers to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting.