Edition 84

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Our Little Sister (Japan,2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:93% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

Trailer

‘Our Little Sister’ tells the story of three sisters who take in their fourth sister they never knew they had. This Japanese tale is a quiet triumph and a joy to watch. It also gives an insight into the traditions and way of life in rural Japan. The movie is akin to a piece of music which flows unabated. There is a sublime sense of happiness pervading the movie even when it tackles more serious questions. For a film which could have ended in various ways, ‘Our Little Sister’ bows out with a dignity that is the hallmark of the feature. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Detroit (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:83% , My Rating: 8.5 ]

Trailer

I have thoroughly enjoyed previous movies of Katheryn Bigelow like ‘Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (One of the best movies of the decade). ‘Detroit’ surely lives up to the expectations. Based on a real life incident in Algiers Motel, Detroit during the race riots of 1967, ‘Detroit’ is a story which must be told. Exposing the deep fault lines within the American social fabric and raising pertinent questions on police criminality, the movie is an edge of the seat thriller. ‘Detroit’ never has a boring moment but it has plentiful moments of horror and sadness. All credit for the memorable movie is due to Bigelow who deftly handles a theme which could have failed miserably in the hands of a less competent director. Watching the movie itself is a harrowing experience which can question your belief in the idea of justice itself. For all its pains, the movie is a pleasure.

Mother! (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:68% , My Rating: 4.5 ]

Trailer

My emotion towards ‘Mother!’ has been summed up beautifully by Anthony Lane of the ‘New Yorker’; “If you gave an extremely bright fifteen-year-old a bag of unfamiliar herbs to smoke, and forty million dollars or so to play with, “Mother!” would be the result.” ‘Mother!’ is a movie which is an insult to the intelligence of the audience. It is pointless and manipulative even when discounted for the allegory it purportedly portrays. I had to search to find out what the heck all this posturing by the director was about. If you are interested, the idea behind the movie is explained in an article here. It does not exonerate the director who also wrote the screenplay. Jennifer Lawrence who rose to fame through Harvey Weinstein movies, puts in a solid shift. There is nothing redeeming about the movie. It is a self indulgent piece which should be played as torture to death row inmates.

1922 (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on the Stephen King novella, ‘1922’ is a haunting movie. Though the omens point to a decline into tragedy, the events that follow are nothing short of terror. Dealing with the concept of guilt and retribution, this movie sucks in the viewer with its raw and relentless attack on the protagonist who is destined to disintegrate. This is one of the underrated flicks of the year. The only word of caution is to watch the movie with subtitles as the accent is dated and a tad difficult to pick up.

Logan Lucky (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Steven Soderbergh is one of the most talented directors of our generation. ‘Logan Lucky’ marks his return to form. A disparate group bound only by their love for the booty decide to rob NASCAR (nothing less!) on a race day. As is the case with every good heist movie, it is not the heist per se which is important but what happens afterwards. That is what makes the movie better than average. Surely, ‘Logan Lucky’ is not a masterpiece but it is a movie which does justice to your viewing time. Since half decent heist movies have been in short supply recently, this movie quenches the appetite for the time being. Recommended.

It (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes:85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Another movie based on the work of Stephen King, ‘It’ has been a smash hit at the box office. The reasons are not hard to miss. It has a bunch of kids at the centre of the story and deals with adult themes like identity and willpower. A murderous shape shifting demon needs to be tamed before it finds its new prey. All the usual Stephen King props are in play in this movie. Conquering the fear of the dark, first love, taming inner demons, unity in diversity, and some other simplistic ideas are thrown in to add weight to the movie. The only thing missing is a kid in spandex. Surely, ‘It’ is not a boring movie. Far from it, ‘It’ has its moments but otherwise it is a movie with a standard template which leave the viewer rather underwhelmed as the credits roll.

Better Watch Out (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

What I loved about ‘Better Watch Out’ is the twist it gives to ‘Home Alone’. In fact, there are not so subtle references to the ‘Home Alone’ franchise in this thriller with a bad heart. A boy is left with his nanny when his parents are away. What unfolds initially is a horror movie but with a major turn in the story as it evolves. Even the ending of the movie holds a punch and leaves the door open for a sequel. ‘Better Watch Out’ is a bit of twisted fun and I am not complaining.

A Ghost Story (2017) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:90% , My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

With a remote in your hand you will need very small amount of time to watch this tedious and unrewarding drama. Surprisingly, some people did find this movie interesting. I found the movie to be absolutely one of the worst of the year with its fake ideas and positioning. It has all the ingredients of a brainless idea which got greenlit by the presence of some bankable stars. For the record, the movie concerns itself with afterlife and coping with grief. In this respect the movie does not attain salvation. To be more to the point, it needs to be buried deep in the ground.

The Foreigner (2017) [IMDB: 7.2., Rotten Tomatoes:75% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Apparently, Jackie Chan has cried twice in his movies before. The third time is in ‘The Foreigner’ and this time you will join in his pain. Even in a movie where Pierce Brosnan has more screen time and better dialogues, Jackie Chan stands out as the 60 year old father who has lost everything and wants to avenge his daughter’s death. Though the politics of the movie is dubious and some parts are a stretch of imagination, the movie is written well enough to keep the viewer engaged till its predictable climax. The worldwide box office of more than a 100 million USD shows that the audiences also seem to approve the first real acting turn by superstar Jackie Chan.

Ingrid Goes West (2017) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

In times such as this where social media acts as an alternative to the real world, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a timely reminder of how far things can go wrong in the cyberspace. The lead character’s manic obsession of the number of likes she receives and the number of followers she has, leads to her losing her footing in the real world. As she gets close to an ‘influencer’ by crook, her obsession spirals out of control. ‘Ingrid Goes West’ tells that story and does it with panache. My only grouse is that the ending was unnecessarily saccharine sweet.

Documentary of the Week

Blue Planet 2 (2017) [IMDB: 9.8, Rotten Tomatoes:89% , My Rating: 10.0]

Trailer

Wow! Just wow. All the beauty in the world like never before. Educational, informative and entertaining. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Phantom Thread’ because it is the swansong of Daniel Day Lewis.

Did you know: Shashi Kapoor had more films as the protagonist than any other member of the Kapoor clan. RIP Shashi Kapoor.

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Edition 67

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Corn Island (Georgia, 2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 7.5]

Corn Island (2014)

Trailer:

For the first time we have a Georgian film in this blog and from what I have seen, I would love to have a look at many more movies from Georgia. ‘Corn Island’ tells the story of a man and his granddaughter who have to farm for survival. The entry of new characters- some unexpected and some uninvited- makes the story unpredictable. The high point of the movie is the cinematography and the breathtaking scenery that aids the ambiance. Some of the shots and terrain reminded me of ‘Mud (2012)’. Though the movie has a rather tedious pace, the images on screen do not make an eyesore. Overall, this one is recommended to all those who like to try something new.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Gift (2015) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 6/10]

Gift-Movie-Poster-Robyn

Trailer: 

Full disclosure: I slept for 15 minutes during the movie. The good part ( or from a neutral perspective, the bad part) is that I did not miss anything. This movie is a good one time watch but leaves you with the feeling that a good one hour drama was stretched to be made into a watchable movie. For a seasoned viewer, it is very easy to predict the climax of the movie which has a good performance from Rebecca Hall. Interestingly, the director-writer of the movie has also taken the role of being the provider of ‘gifts’ in the movie. The fact that he has a one note performance could be attributed to this. ‘The Gift’ is the kind of movie that you will have difficulty remembering after a few years. If at all the movie retains a place in your memory, it would be due to the dialogues in the climax scene.

Chappie (2015) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 31%, My Rating: 4.5]

Chappie Poster

Trailer:

This Dev Patel movie is a reminder that voting in IMDB does not reflect the true merit of a movie when it comes to sci-fi flicks. The robot with emotions is a concept that Hollywood has tried multiple times; some successful like ‘Wall-E’ and some disasters like ‘Bicentennial Man’. ‘Chappie’ tries too hard to sound authentic but is let down more by human actors who fail to match even the robot when it comes to emotions. Avoid this one and hope that the next robot movie will have better things to do and better co actors.

Madame Bovary (2015) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating: 5.5]

madame_bovary

Trailer:

This movie is the latest interpretation of the classic novel and the main reason why I was interested in watching this one was the decent quality of the trailer. Some expensive movies which have been beautifully shot are a joy to watch (try ‘To The Wonder’) even when they have rather mediocre story lines. As it turns out, the producers seem to have handpicked the scenes that were put in the trailer because the movie does not deliver on any front. The performances are uninspired and the screenplay is insipid. In the final analysis it is a sheer waste of time and money: my time and the producer’s money.

Danny Collins (2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.5]

danny_collins

Trailer:

There are some people who can continue to light up the screen after decades of solid performances. Al Pacino is one such thespian. Here he plays a down and out singer who lives on past glories. A letter from his past changes his life forever. Based on a true story, ‘Danny Collins’ tells a very enjoyable ( who cares if it is predictable) tale of a man on self discovery at a ripe old age. That also makes this movie Al Pacino’s best performance in over a decade. Definitely worth a watch.

 

Phantom (Hindi, 2015) [IMDB: 5.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

phantom

Trailer: 

As the movie’s tagline says, after watching ‘Phantom’ I wished that it was true. In fact, the confidence with which the movie was unfolding made me feel that it was indeed based on true events. I even googled to find out whether the terrorist David Headley was dead. When truth struck and I was back to my senses, I realized that ‘Phantom’ was a fanciful work of imagination which does not stop at stretching the limits of imagination but also bends and breaks it. At the same time it is a decent thriller to watch, if you can forget the fact that you read newspapers. The things going for the movie are the racy pace and the limited screen time for Katrina Kaif. The things against the movie are your functioning brain and Saif Ali Khan. After all this, still a decent one time watch,

While We’re Young (2014) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 845, My Rating: 7.0]

WhileWereYoung-poster1

Trailer:

Ben Stiller has been trying too hard to get out of the comedian tag for the last few years. Perhaps he does not realize that his acting talents are very limited and he looks best in movies like ‘Tropic Thunder’ and ‘Zoolander’. Here, Stiller plays husband to Naomi Watts (who is in her comfort zone in the role). Their lives and thoughts are deeply affected by the entry of a young couple into their lives. The phenomenon of mid-life crisis gets another look in this movie. The movie is ultimately rewarding for those who have the patience to sit through some of the plainly boring sequences.

Kunjiramayanam (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0]

Kunjiramayanam Posters-Stills-Images-Malayalam Movie-Vineeth Sreenivasan-Dhyan Sreenivasan-Basil Joseph-Onlookers Media

Trailer: 

This debut feature film by Basil Joseph tells the story of events that happen in a small village in Kerala. An entertaining study of the lives and culture in a picturesque village in Central Kerala is told in an interesting way. The grip of the director on the subject is evident and it is truly a feast for the eyes to have rich visuals in the background. It is not for nothing that they call Kerala ‘God’s Own Country’.

Documentary of the Week

South of the Border (2009) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 69%, My Rating: 7.0]

South of the Border (2009)

Trailer:

A one sided take on the governments in South America. An introduction to the politics in Latin America.

Eagerly waiting for:Crimson Peak‘ directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Jessica Chastain.

Did you know: ‘Skyfall’ is the first Bond flick directed by an Oscar winning director.

 

 

Week 42

Movies: Non-English

Ernest & Célestine (France, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Ernest & Célestine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ1rmOYLr2U

Academy Award nominee for the Best Animation Film this year, Ernest & Celestine is one of the two foreign made movies in the category (The other one being ‘The Wind Rises’ from Japan). Is is a testament to the fact that the better animation movies are increasingly being made outside of the Hollywood studio system.These foreign movies are also made at a fraction of the budget of Hollywood ones and usually do not have the technical finesse of their big money counterparts. Still they make for engaging viewing because in the end it is all about the story and the screenplay than anything else.Ernest & Celestine scores high on that front. Continuing the French connection of love with rats (Remember ‘Ratatouille’ ?), this film shows the bonding between a rat and a bear.That too, a rat brought up on the idea that bears are evil. Definitely worth your time.

The Grandmaster ( China, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Grandmaster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC5amKLgnFU

‘The Grandmaster’ is the market entry feature for Asian films for Annapurna Studios. Annapurna Studios was founded by Megan Ellison who is the daughter of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The year 2013 has been particularly well for the studio which is behind movies like ‘Her’, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ . Coming to the movie, the film has been lavishly mounted and tells the story of the Ip Man, who was the master of Bruce Lee. The major failing of the movie is that it is too verbose and the action sequences are not well choreographed. Hence the thrills are missing. The ever-present feeling is that of watching a chronicle of events than watching a movie. Overall, it is a damp squib but it has its moments. How about a husband and wife having a Kung Fu duel just for the fun of it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Frances Ha (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

frances ha

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBn5dgXFMis

‘Frances Ha’ is the female equivalent of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ reviewed last week. It tells the story of 27 year old divorcee without a home of her own and trying her hand at things which she is not competent enough. Greta Gerwig gives a breakout performance and definitely deserved a nomination at the Oscars. It is baffling why the Academy prefers to give her 18th nomination to Meryl Streep for her insipid performance in ‘August: Osage County’ than reward Greta Gerwig for her genuine performance. ‘Frances Ha’ is shot in black and white which adds gloom to the already gloomy movie which has a cheerful character at its core who also knows that she is in dire straits. The film was one of the discoveries of Sundance Film Festival in 2013. It is easy to see why.

The Book Thief (2013) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

Book Thief

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92EBSmxinus

This is the kind of movie which irritates me. Kids who speak like adults, Nazis as villains (what a convenient cliche), preachy dialogues, that overwhelming feeling that you are sitting in a propaganda session even when you are the staunchest supporter of the idea. To top it all, the voice over is by God (Yes you read that right). Apparently, the viewers do not seem to share my concerns but the critics and I are on the same boat. As for the plot, it is about an adopted girl in Nazi Germany.

In a World… (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

In a World...

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZHBjLFu5is

There are so many stories waiting to be told. ‘In a World’ tell the story of people in the voice over industry. It is about a woman who tries to find her footing in a male dominated industry with misogynistic veterans, among them her father. The romantic sub plots enrich the story. Though the film does tick the box for cliches, it is a romantic comedy worth watching.

Yaariyan (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 3.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

Yaariyan

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3yJS4MB85Q

At the end of this movie (yes, I somehow reached the end) there is this tripe from the director about how she made the movie while balancing her gigantic responsibility of being a mother. As if to convince the viewer, she also has footage of her son on the sets. She should have put that disclaimer at the beginning of the film. That would have been an anticipatory bail and the viewers would have been better prepared for the motion picture she unleashes on them. It is plain and obvious that the lady got to don the director’s hat because she belongs to one of the country’s big production houses. The plot is a mixture of Australia bashing jingoism with some songs thrown in for the sake of romance. People who paid to watch this in theatres can try suing the producers for mental torture.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Cutie and the Boxer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Cutie and the Boxer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXS6Aby5AUg

Nominated at this years Oscars, this documentary take a peek into the lives of a painter couple and their marriage that has spanned 40 years. My feeling is that there were better documentaries that did not get nominated this year.

Sergio Leone Retrospective

Sergio Leone is a name synonyms with Westerns. He was never feted with awards during his lifetime but with the passing of time his stature has only grown. If there is a director with whom a genre is associated, then that combination has to be Sergio Leone and Westerns.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

the_good_the_bad_and_the_ugly

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdkSuurdbDA

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery (From IMDB). Sensational.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Once Upon a Time in the West

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO_uW_VDsO8

Story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica who joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad ( From IMBD). Epic.

For a Few Dollars More (1965) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

For a Few Dollars More

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk7XHtvDZ_E

From Imdb: Two bounty hunters with the same intentions, team up to track down a Western outlaw.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘3 Days to Kill’ because Kevin Costner plays the lead.

Did you know: In 2002, Steven Spielberg finally finished college after a 33-year hiatus. He submitted ‘Schinder’s List’ for his student film requirement.