Maria Full of Grace (Colombia, 2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]
One of the few foreign films to have got the lead actress an Oscar nomination, this Colombian movie explores the dark lanes of illegal immigration and drug trafficking into USA. Catalina Moreno looks the part as the woman trying to escape the low life in Colombia for better prospects in the US. She accepts the proposal to act as a drug mule to achieve her ambitions. The film is not judgmental. The focus is on the person who is not just another face in the crowd. There is no stirring music or emotional manipulation and the camera hovers around trying to capture the intricate nuances of the story that is being told. I wouldn’t call it a must watch but it is a movie that deserves a good look.
Paradise Now (Palestine, France, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
Why do people turn to terrorism? There are no easy answers but ‘Paradise Now’ tries to address a complicated issue and offers a counter to ‘Munich’, also released in 2005. The film is also an exploration of the frustrations of the people of Palestine. The plot involves a suicide bombing to be carried out by two friends. The story follows them on their mission. That journey is also the setting for the dialogue on the complexity of the issues they face as Palestinians and that tete-a-tete is the crux of what the movie wants to address. I guess even Mossad would have been interested.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) [ IMDB: 8.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]
There is hardly a moment in the movie when Leonardo DiCaprio is sober. That also makes it a movie perennially on dope. Add to that some sleaze, women, Ferraris, FBI and even a storm. What you get is a film throbbing with energy reaching the point of hysteria. For those not knowing Martin Scorsese, they would be imagining him to be a 21 year old director and it is his creative vision at such a late stage in his career that truly stands out. Leonardo DiCaprio brings out a very strong performance but it may still not land him the elusive Oscar. He has a very able supporting cast but in the end the film tells a story that is very cliched. It is a moralistic take on a middle class boy gone bad and traces his meteoric rise and fall. There have been numerous films that have dealt with that template and this one offers no big surprises. The saving grace is the taut screenplay which keeps you engaged throughout. The film is a true entertainer and one of the better works of 2013. It will get a few nominations at the Oscars but more than one Oscar will be stretching the limits of optimism.
Don Jon (2013) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:81%]
A young man obsessed with sex, pornography and women goes through a catharsis and finds true love (or should I say true sex?). Along the way he enjoys confessing his sins at the church and finds out that his sister is not the douchebag he thinks her to be. I found the film to be a good one time watch. Though it has the feeling of pop art, it gets progressively serious as it proceeds and this finally separates it from the run of mill romcoms.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]
Idris Alba is Nelson Mandela in this biopic that traces the life of the legendary statesman. Watching the movie is like contemplating about the possibilities of what could have been. Frankly, the movie is the biggest letdown of 2013. More so because had it been a half decent effort, it could have ridden a sympathy wave to glory. As things stand, it is second only to the selfie of Obama at Mandela’s memorial service in the list of gaffes with respect to Mandela in a year when the world has been bending backwards in paying respect to the leader. It is a film that will soon be forgotten unlike the revolutionary at the heart of its story.
Sidney Lumet Retrospective
Sidney Lumet has been the director of many path breaking movies which have redefined movies. Besides the three movies introduced in detail here, he has been at the helm for some remarkable movies like ‘Prince of the City’, ‘Network’ (reviewed earlier in the blog), ‘Running on Empty’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Serpico’, ‘Find Me Guilty’ and ‘The Verdict’.
12 Angry Men (1957) [IMDB: 8.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]
Twelve men in a jury debate through reason and logic to reach a consensus. One of the movies to watch before you die.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]
Fifty years after making ’12 Angry Men’ Sidney Lumet shows that class is permanent with this truly riveting flick about the dark secrets of a family. Must see.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]
One of the best hostage dramas ever. Classic.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated)
The story of Mike Tyson. In his own words.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Labor Day’ because Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin can create fireworks on screen.
Did you know: In 2013, 12 Hollywood movies grossed more than 200 million dollars each which is a new record.