Edition 85

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Loveless (Russia, 2017) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of an ugly divorce. As the child goes missing, the parents launch a search which intensifies as the story progresses. The director whose earlier works include ‘Leviathan’, goes for a more nuanced storytelling with subtle hints on the state of the Russian society. Unlike ‘Leviathan’ which spared no punches, ‘Loveless’ is often puzzling and enigmatic. The suspense is intact till the end and the open-ended climax leaves much space for speculation and contemplation. The pace of the movie dips in the latter half when the proceedings turn plain boring but the quest for the missing boy keeps the audience hooked. ‘Loveless’ is sure to get an Oscar nomination but not good enough to win.

Movies I Saw This Week

I, Tonya (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Margot Robbie stars as real life figure skater Tonya Harding whose chequered career’s low point was a botched up and bizarre kidnapping saga of her opponent. Robbie, who used to play ice-hockey earlier, brings the expertise to give a creditable performance in scenes where she is in the ice rink. There is nothing compelling about the screenplay and it hurtles towards an inevitable end. Margot Robbie plays her much abused character with conviction but the only Oscar that this movie will win will rightfully belong to the controlling mother of Tonya played with relish by Allison Janney.

The Disaster Artist (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those who have not had the misfortune of watching a gutter movie called the ‘The Room‘ released in 2003, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the events surrounding the making of that movie. ‘The Room’ had a second life when it gained popularity with some viewers rating it as the “best worst movie” ever made (which is a very generous assessment). The legend behind the movie was one Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, distributed, directed and acted in the original. James Franco, another goofball from Hollywood, has a field day as he tries to play Tommy Wiseau in a rather compassionate look at the original. Whether such a tribute to ‘The Room’ is warranted is certainly questionable. In fact, as a movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ fails to stand on its feet once it is robbed of the context. For most of the funny scenes to work, it is important to have viewed the original. Whether it is worth sitting through the mind numbing experience of watching ‘The Room’ so that ‘The Disaster Artist’ can be appreciated, is a question left to the discerning viewer. James Franco is sure to sweep awards which have a category for a comical performance but when it comes to the real deal (ie, the Oscars), he will be educated on good acting by the performances of veterans like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Frances McDormand gives her best performance after ‘Fargo’ in a masterpiece scripted and directed by Martin McDonagh. The movie begins with a mother’s pointed questions about the rape and murder of her daughter. The difference being that she goes for the audacious by putting those questions on three billboards. As a viewer, it may be difficult to foresee what unfolds in the narrative from there on. What surely does happen is by far the best Hollywood movie of 2017. The movie proceeds with the ease of knife sliding through butter. Frances McDormand, in what will be an Oscar winning performance, embodies the spirit of the character and plays it with the grit and steely determination making it one of the strongest woman protagonists in cinema. What elevates the screenplay is that all the cast members bring their A game to the show. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell add gravitas to their roles as the ailing police chief and a racist officer respectively. The humour in this tense drama is first rate and never out  of place. This movie is easily among the best to have made it to the cinemas in 2017.

Lady Bird (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Greta Gerwig turns director in a bittersweet coming of age movie set in Sacramento. Incidentally, Greta Gerwig is from Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan lives up to the promise she had shown in ‘Brooklyn’ as she plays the role of a small town high school student trying to find her bearings and love over the course of a few months. There are tons of movies with similar themes but what makes ‘Lady Bird’ charming is the freshness of the writing and the little twists and turns which keeps the viewer interested in the events on screen. ‘Lady Bird’ may not be a classic but it has its own rightful place in the list of the best movies of the year.

The Shape of Water (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Gullermo del Toro is a master at story telling as demonstrated multiple times previously and most memorably in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. This is reinforced by ‘The Shape of Water’ where he blends fantasy, music and romance into an intoxicating concoction. For the grace with which he tells an impossible story itself, he deserves the Oscar for Direction. ‘The Shape  of Water’ is a love story between a cleaner at at secret facility and a water creature. The premise is so outrageous that you may be put off by the synopsis but as you watch the movie, you may find yourself rooting for this romance. ‘The Shape of Water’ owes its mood to the music of Alexandre Desplat who looks like a shoo in for the Oscars. Pity that Hans Zimmer will not be getting his Oscar for another extraordinary score in ‘Dunkirk’. Watch ‘The Shape of Water’ if you are willing to be taken to the stars and clouds by the magic of cinema.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a bit of manipulative film making. It is the one of those annual LGBT themed movies with a heavy Oscar bait thrown in. For sure, it is a gorgeous looking movie shot in achingly beautiful parts of Italy. The movie is worth a watch just for the scenery. Timothee Chalamet is another reason for watching this gay romance, in which he stands out and promises much more for the future. The story is about a young boy who is wooed by the associate of his dad. Recommended if you like the category.

The Florida Project (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A24 studio has the uncanny knack of picking low budget features with a solid story line which would not be green-lit by the major studios. ‘The Florida Project’ is a film that A24 can be proud of. It tells the tale of a brash child spending her summer holidays with her single mom in a motel close to Disneyland. The story is told through the eyes of the child and portrays the life of the American poor. William Defoe puts in a good shift as the manager of the motel. The movie does stray a bit from its main story on a couple of occasions but there something magical about the way the director handles the whole movie. ‘The Florida Project’ is not a great film but it is indeed a memorable one.

Darkest Hour  (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winston Churchill whose career was built on his ambition to be the Prime Minister of Britain receives the honour when the soulless Nazi Germans are knocking on the gates of his country. All of his army is also facing an existential crisis as they are facing certain rout at Dunkirk. ‘Darkest Hour’ is the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman in the weeks following Churchill’s appointment as the wartime Prime Minister culminating in the rousing “We shall fight them….” speech. Overall, the movie is watchable but the screenplay is sometimes found lacking. The movie is a Gary Oldman show. He becomes Churchill. I would not be surprised if they mistakenly use the image of Gary Oldman for Churchill in the future. And, the Best Actor Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.

Molly’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Jessica Chastain has now become the reference point for smart  and smooth talking women operatives in cinema. Following on her remarkable success in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Miss Sloane’, she becomes the ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom who was convicted of running an illegal poker operation in New York. Aaron Sorkin’s direction and screenplay follow the sleekness he had shown in his earlier screenplays. ‘Molly’s Game’ is not a thriller. It is a character study which can be viewed with mild amusement. It is predictable but engaging. The movie does leave the question of whether it is telling more than it is hiding or vice-versa. For instance, Tobey Maguire is the actor on whom the star in the movie is based. Watch it if you like predictable but fast movies.

Documentary of the Week

Cries from Syria  (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

The story of the beginning of the Syrian war told through citizen shot videos. Moving and disturbing.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ 

Did you know: ‘Get Out’ is the first film made by a debutant director to gross more than 100 million USD at the US box office.

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Edition 62

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Force Majeure (Sweden, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating: 7/10]

Force_Majeure_La_traicion_del_instinto_poster_ingles

Trailer:

‘Force Majeure’ is a movie about relationships and trust. In life’s key moments, would you go for self-protection or would you go the distance to protect those who count on you? A Swedish family vacationing in France faces the consequences of such a situation, thus exposing the fault lines within relationships which had been taken for granted. At another level, the story is that of redemption and restitution of faith. Not exactly for audiences who like to have fun at the cinemas, ‘Force Majeure’ was a strong performer at the festival circuits last year. It bagged the Jury Prize at Cannes during this run and was tipped to be a shoo in for the Foreign Language Oscar nomination. So when it did not grab that coveted nomination, the director of the film went into a meltdown which was captured in the following clip:

Movies I Saw This Week

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7/10]

kingsman_the_secret_service

Trailer:

One of the best ‘leave your brain at home’ movies that I have seen in recent times, this one keeps the pace intact throughout the course without ever flagging. Even when acutely aware of the fact that the underdog will save the world, the viewer gets a feeling of something fresh happening on the screen. The write smartly sets up clichéd scenes and has a conversation about the scene being clichéd. Then he does the obvious. Is the obvious a cliché? Colin Firth and Samuel Jackson handle their roles with ease and the relatively new Taron Egerton does a competent job. The plot is about a secret ‘Secret Service’ with limited membership which does the difficult task of saving the world. The hero is the equivalent of an adolescent James Bond but with a baseball cap and the Swedish Princess for a ‘girlfriend’. The movie unintentionally throws up some interesting questions about corporate czars influencing the politics of the world. These type of interesting questions are thrown up in the midst of a lot of fun. After all, when was the last time you had a hero called Eggsy saving the world?

The Lunchbox (2013) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Lunchbox

Trailer:

I saw this movie only now and that too after it received a BAFTA nomination. That is the sad part. Only a BAFTA nomination could persuade me to watch what is essentially one of the best Indian movies of last year. The move tells the poignant and unlikely romance that develops when the lunchboxes of two people are exchanged in the extremely rare event of a mistake by the Dabbawallas of Mumbai. With moments that bring the best of times bygone including the old Doordarshan shows and cheesy romantic songs of the 90s, the movie also blends in side tracks like the one featuring the ever reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Filled with genuine humour (spoiler ahead) in situations like the one in which the Dabbawalla quotes Harvard to dismiss suggestions of any mismanagement, this film is one you will not forget very soon.

John Wick (2014) [IMDB; 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating:6.5/10]

john-wick-poster1

Trailer:

Keanu Reeves is John Wick. In his heyday, John Wick was a hitman par excellence. Then he found love and then came retirement. Once his love was dead there was no reason to remain in retirement. At this point, we are only 5 minutes into the movie. The rest of the movie is about how John Wick finishes off all his adversaries and even some bystanders. If you like suave actions flicks featuring a protagonist with a lot of panache, ‘John Wick’ is the movie for you. If gun shots sound like music to your ears, then you may think you are watching a philharmonic performance. Keanu Reeves deserves some appreciation for his ‘performance’. Afterall, it must have been tough to have the same expression during the entire course of making of this movie.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5/10]

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Trailer:

Ayushmann Khurrana was staring at the abyss after delivering three consecutive box office bombs. He must have been relieved to have an Yash Raj film in his kitty but even he would not have realized the enormous (there will be a few more bad puns in this review) potential of a film which could have weighed him down. Quite easily the ‘Queen’ of 2015, ‘Dum Laga ke Haisha’ is a delight to watch even when the dialect is sometimes a little difficult to grasp. Set in the 90s in Haridwar, the movie takes you to a time when Kumar Sanu’s nasal voice used to rule the roost. Evidently shot on a low budget, the film tells the story of the arranged marriage between two disparate souls. The one who takes the cake (and perhaps eats it too) is debutante Bhumi Pednekar who gives a confident performance as the assertive young daughter-in-law. She shows that size really does not matter. It is her free spirit that makes the film worth watching. Interestingly, hardly anybody left the movie hall till the Kumar Sanu-Sadhna Sargam track finished playing along with the titles.

The Rewrite (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 645, My Rating:5/10]

rewrite

Trailer:

Out of work Oscar winning writer lands a teaching job in an obscure town where he turns things around. He also discovers love and unearths a new talent. Aided by the electric smile of Marisa Tomei and not so electric smile of Hugh Grant, the movie chugs along without gathering too much pace or slowing down considerably. This movie could have starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore instead. Or Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It would still be the same and it wouldn’t matter. It is one of those movies which you wouldn’t mind watching but would have a hard time recollecting after a few months.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating:3/10]

Fifty Shades of Grey

Trailer:

At an artistic level, it is one of the worst films to have come out in recent times but the promotion and the sustained marketing campaign hava been a good case study on how to go about getting the audiences to watch this movie. If explicit content is the lure for you to watch the movie, then cut to the chase. Certainly one of the duds of the year.

NH10 (2015) [IMDb: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:67%, My Rating: 3/10]

NH10

Trailer:

(Spoilers ahead) Surely one of the most illogical and nonsensical movies of the last five years. Produced by Anurag Kahyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, this movie has more holes in the script than what a punching machine would ever be able to achieve. The liberated girl has to be a smoker and her birthday gift is the freedom to smoke. I thought that this was so passé. She has a nutty husband who seems to have turned off the functioning of his brain. Only the script writer knows what he was smoking when he dreamt of the sequence when the guy goes with a gun to counsel someone in the middle of nowhere. Seriously? Then, people kill each other. The heroine runs around the whole of Haryana in search of help. Only people who help her out are migrant labourers from Bihar. Then she runs again, then she cycles, then she kills the policeman and steals the police vehicle. Then she runs again. After running so much, she lands up at the home of the people who are chasing her. Of all the houses in all the villages in all of Haryana, she walks into the only house which she should have avoided. Rick from ‘Casablanca’ would have been so proud. After being beaten to pulp by her tormentors, she conveniently finds a way to get the keys to their car. Then she makes them run around the village before killing them while she chases them in their car. They run as if she knows their village more than them. They run as if the only direction they know is ‘straight’. I ran to the side because the movie hall had exits on the side.

The Boy Next Door (2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 1/10]

boy-next-door-poster

Trailer:

A youthful divocee falls for her new neighbor. It takes her some time to realize that her neighbor is a bad guy, a really bad guy. Staring at the midday sun is a less painfull experience than watching this flick.

Documentary of the Week

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating; 7.5/10]

Finding Vivian Maier

Trailer:

The captivating story of a street photographer whose treasure trove of great photographs numbering more than 100,000 was discovered after she had died as a destitute old lady. Also, a reminder that in photography, it is the person behind the camera that matters more than the camera itself.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘ While We’re Young’ starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.

Did you know: ‘American Sniper’ is the highest grossing war film of all time.

Week 28

Movies: Non-English

The Violin ( Mexico, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

violin

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVI4GjFkEq8

Quite possibly the best Mexican film of the last decade. The only soft thing onscreen is a violin, in a story which deals with the use of brute government force to crush dissent by a group of rebels. The heroism of the rebels is in stark contrast to unapologetic use of violence by the government forces which makes the film a difficult one to watch. Involving some of the most graphic and realistic scenes of violence you will ever see in a film, this one is ultimately worth the effort.

The 400 Blows ( France, 1959) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

400 blows

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i89oN8v7RdY

Francois Truffaut‘s masterpiece is one of the movies integral to the French ‘New Wave’. The story of a boy who is a victim of his circumstances remains timeless even half a century after its release. In the end, it is also a reminder that strong screenplay and an engaging story are the hallmarks of true classics. A must watch if you have any interest in international cinema.

English Retrospective

Mulholland Drive (2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

mulholland-drive

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96R9MG0DxLc

This acclaimed film from David Lynch is one of the most discussed movies because of the way it leaves itself open to interpretations. If you read the numerous discussions on the movie you will be confused by what the movie wants to say. This has not been helped by the director’s refusal to clarify on what he meant to make but at the same time this is not a movie you can trash. The only thing that can be said with certainty about the plot is that there is a car crash and the victim suffers emotionally from it. The rest of the story is very much open to interpretation and you will be  certainly hooked on as the narrative progresses.

Election (1999) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Election

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBgM_Kw6PSM

One of those easy to watch movies which raises itself a notch higher with the help of some fine acting and what I would bravely call as a story never told before. A high school teacher whose life is going nowhere is given the responsibility of handling the elections in his school. Only problem is that one of the candidates is a high achieving pushy character played with elan by Reese Witherspoon. Looking at the comedy that US politics has become, I guess they carry over the petty shenanigans of high school politics when they go to the Congress.

Life of Brian (1979) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

life of brian

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVHhg67RVd4

If ‘Life of Brian’ is made in almost any other country in the world, chances are it won’t see the light of the day. Quite obviously a hilarious take on Christ, it is only in USA that such unhindered freedom of speech would be possible. The end result is an outrageous and irreverent comedy that will make you ask for more.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Way Way Back (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomaoes: 88%]

way-way-back-banner

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwNo1i3jkCo

A coming off age story of a 14 year old boy who discovers himself during a summer vacation. The movie is very predictable but some nice touches make it interesting and engaging. Nothing extraordinary but there are some movies which are ordinary and good. This one belongs to that category.

Best Man Down (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

BEST-MAN-DOWN_413x612

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA1lAl9muuQ

The best man at a wedding dies on the night of the wedding. The newlyweds cancel the honeymoon and make arrangements for the funeral. It is then they discover who truly their dead friend was. A pretty decent flick which picks up in the second half. Sometimes you discover how good people were only after they die.

The Heat (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

heat

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahGnefZTdq4

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play cops in this attempt at comedy which huffs and puffs as it plays out. There are some genuinely funny moments but then it fizzles out and does not live up to its initial promise.

War Chod Na Yaar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomaotes: 57%]

war-chhod-na-yaar

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw1ELVWGamI

Who funds such movies? Who was stoned, the producer when he decided to make it or the writer when he hallucinated the idea?

Documentary Pick of the Week

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

outfoxed-rupert-murdochs-war-on-journalism-movie-poster-2004-1020227487

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w39FnpuMRfo

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has a right wing agenda. Fox News is a leading unit of that empire and all its claims of fair and balanced reporting are exposed in this documentary. Indian news channels sold out to the ruling party look like kids in front of the sophistication of the propaganda of networks like Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ because it won Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013.

Did you know: Manna Dey and Bhupen Hazarika are the only two male playback singers to have won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest award in Indian cinema. RIP Manna Dey.