Edition 66

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (Japan,2013) [ IMDB:8., Rotten Tomatoes: 100% My rating: 8.5]

Tale of The Princess Kaguya

Trailer:  

Coming from the legendary Studio Ghibli, this modern masterpiece in animation tells the story of an enigmatic princess whose life becomes entwined with the fate of a farmer couple. Though upstaged at the Oscars by the trashy ‘Big Hero 6’, this tale from Japan will be the one that stands the test of longevity in people’s memory. The movie is a mature piece of filmmaking with a screenplay which could have been made into a fantabulous film even if it were to be made with real actors. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Amira & Sam (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes:79% My Rating: 6.5]

Amira & Sam

Trailer:

Sam is a war veteran and Amira is an illegal Iraqi immigrant in the US. Sam is a man of few words but is self assured and easygoing. Amira is boisterous and prone to rash decision making. They fall in love. This happens after more than half of the movie is over. Still, the movie is about romance. It is about normal people falling in love without any mushy dialogues or lilting background score. It is also about current realities; about issues like racism, white collar crime, PTSD and immigration. The movie sometimes bites off more than it can chew and the climax is an easy way out for the scriptwriter. For all its flaws, it is a simple story with good dialogues and is quite a breeze to watch.

The Living (2014) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%, My Rating:5]

Living_poster_1

Trailer:

A brother takes up the responsibility of dealing with his abusive brother-in-law. He hires a hit man to “take care” of the situation. What follows is beyond his expectations but to start with it would be unfair to say that he had any idea of what was to follow. In this determinedly average thriller, the thrill itself is the missing ingredient for a large part of the movie. With deadpan expressions from baby faced actors, to dialogues which seem to have been made up on the spot, the movie lets go of an opportunity and thereby becomes an average thriller which is value for money when it comes for free viewing on television.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating: 5]

tanu-weds-manu-poster

Trailer:

First things first. Kangana Ranaut is one of the finest actors in India now. She has achieved success without piggybacking on the triumvirate of Khans. She has even won two National Awards (winning only one does not count because that group includes duds like Saif Ali Khan, Karishma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon). She even gets the Haryanvi accent spot on.

Now the real deal. (spoilers ahead) ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ is the kind of movie which comes on a wave of media hysteria that dubs it entertaining and with a push from paid reviews which rate it as nothing short of phenomenal. Anand L Rai is a past master at this type of promotion. The original to this sequel and ‘Ranjhnaa’ were equally worthless movies which appeal to perhaps that section of the audience to whom the black buck hunting Khan appears to be human. This movie is about a psychopath wife who leaves her husband in a mental asylum and finds joy in wrecking a marriage proposal by appearing clad only in a bath towel. Her estranged husband wants to marry a girl he has just met because she is his wife’s doppelganger. Her former boyfriend also wants to marry the same girl for the same reason. Talk about character and beauty being skin deep. As if one psychopath was not enough, the Haryanvi body double seems to have no clue about what is happening. She agrees to marry a man she hardly knows and who is double her age. She spews some rhetoric about women’s liberation and finally to top it all, stops her marriage literally half a second before it is sanctified. Then she goes and cries privately. Meanwhile the original diva who was sitting through the whole farce without a twitch of the eyebrow suddenly jumps up to retake the clearly confused husband. There is even a ‘progressive’ side track when another husband joyously accepts his cheating wife and a child born out of wedlock. If that is not enough there is another side track in which a man thinks that kidnapping a lady is the best way to show his love for her. Such a mockery of the audiences is celebrated as good film making. The movie may work with small town audiences who are waiting to be ‘entertained’ and for firm believers in the herd mentality. For others it is a reminder that the juggernaut of Indian media will run over you and blame you for the misfortune even when you are on the sidewalk.

Piku (2015) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 5.5]

piku-poster01

Trailer:

There is a scene in the movie when Irrfan asks Deepika, “Do you speak only about this all the time?”. ‘This’ here refers to shit. It is not surprising to know this because the writer of the movie is the same one who wrote ‘Vicky Donor’. She just migrated from sperm to shit. She tells the story of an unmarried daughter and her people repellent father who goes out of his way to alienate people. The major part of the story is about his bowel movement. That must be a cinematic first. For a movie which meanders along, the only saving grace is Irrfan Khan who brings some semblance of order to a script which is going nowhere. Even when it hurtles towards a predictable end, the screen presence and authentic performance of Irrfan Khan keeps the movie from becoming a cure to insomnia. Screen legend Amitabh Bachchan delivers a performance that does no harm to his reputation. That clearly cannot be said of Ms Padukone who seems to think that doing low budget art movies will make her a better actor or give her wider recognition.

It Follows (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

it-follows-web-poster

Trailer:

Undoubtedly the best horror movie of 2015, ‘It Follows’ tells the story of a woman who has to accept the fact that a supernatural force is following her. She then has to find the reason why she is in that peculiar situation. With a background score that induces trepidation, this is a movie that demands your full attention. It is also a timely reminder that certain done to death genres can still be reinvented for one final hurrah. Highly recommended.

OK Kanmani (2015) [IMDB: 7.9 Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 4]

Ok-Kanmani-New-Poster

Trailer:

After box office bombs like ‘Yuva’, ‘Raavan’ and ‘Kadal’, director Mani Ratnam returns to his home territory of unconstrained romance with the half cooked ‘OK Kanmani’. With scenes which look eerily similar to ‘Saathiya’, the young romance is a confused tale with ambiguity writ on its moral moorings. ‘OK Kanmani’ wants to be modern without appearing to lose its traditional values. (Spoilers ahead). The movie supports live-in relationships and even has a scene where the lady pulls the man’s leg by suggesting an engagement. The irony is not lost on anyone when they get married in the climax of the movie. One is left wondering what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, the cause of the movie is not helped by the fact that the scenes of high energy that appear on screen seem more fake than real. Mani Ratnam cannot even chuck the mandatory train scene which is there in all his movies. It only shows the slow decline of a film maker who was once the most sought after in India.

See You in Valhalla (2015) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating:4 ]

See You in Valhalla

Trailer:

There is a line in the movie, “If we didn’t have the bad stuff, then how would we recognize the good?”. Now I know how good the other movies are.

Documentary of the Week

Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 8]

antarctica_a_year_on_ice_ver2_xlg

Trailer:

A year of living in Antartica. Get the biggest screen possible. The visuals are jaw dropping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Masaan’ because it is an Indian film which won two awards at Cannes. That is what you call a black swan event in cinema.

Did you know: ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (1915) was the first film to be viewed in the White House.

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Week 21

Movies: Non-English

Divided We Fall ( Czech Republic, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

divided we fall

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAYjBHUIS7A

This acclaimed film is set in erstwhile Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. It deals with the issue of persecution of Jews under the Nazis, a theme done to death by Hollywood to the extent that you lose sympathy for the Jews. This film though, raises moral questions with shades of grey. The major actors on screen can be counted in one hand. There is nothing remarkable in the way the story is told but it has its twists and turns mostly because some of the steps taken by the actors cannot be anticipated in a normal moral framework. Extraordinary situations lead to extraordinary solutions.

The Thief (Russia, 1997) [IMDB; 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Thief_FilmPoster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs7FGGvRQYU

Deception is the main theme in this Russian drama set during the rule of Stalin. A single mother and her son are drawn towards a soldier who is their only hope for escape from poverty. Things do not exactly turn out the way they are planned. It is a pleasure to watch this wonderfully shot movie but the emotion it deals with is the polar opposite of pleasure. The story is told through the eyes of a child. Circumstances force him to be on the wrong side of the law. It is difficult to forget his reaction when he sees his stepfather in the climax of the movie. Recommended.

English Retrospective

Terms of Endearment (1983) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

terms of endearment

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsdDeh0M_nk

Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress (for Shirey Maclaine), this movie tells the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter who love each other more than they themselves know. It is not an exceptional movie but the performances make it worth a watch. Debra Winger won many fans with her fine performance but it was Shirley Maclaine who upstaged her at the Oscars. The movie tends to be too sentimental towards the end but I can tell you that some of the scenes are really worth all those sentiments. The bedside scene with the kids towards the end will melt the hearts of even the emotion resistant folks. To add to all this, there is Jack Nicholson playing  a former astronaut.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

an officer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Ehz_cAMGc

There are some movies with an endearing quality about them. This is one such film which works because of the thoughtful writing and the onscreen chemistry between Richard Gere and Debra Winger. A young man in the armed forces has his own demons to fight and personal battles to win. A factory girl enters his life. The story is how the relationship goes through testing times. It is a coming off age movie in the true sense. Richard Gere plays his most vulnerable character on screen but for me the star of the show is Debra Winger whose acting matches her beauty. A really good afternoon watch.

Chariots of Fire (1981) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

chariots of fire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWle59ZHPIM

If there is a movie which seals an Oscar for Best Music with the first few scenes, this is the one. The initial scene with the runners on the beach is one of the sensational sequences in cinema and all that is aided by the score by Vangelis. The story is about the British athletic team at the 1924 Olympics. It is no coincidence that the same theme music was played at all the medal presentation ceremonies at 2012 London Olympics. As for the movie, it loses steam midway but it is a joy to watch some of the sequences. If you are not British you may not enjoy it that much towards the end and I am not British.

Movies I Saw This Week

We’re the Millers (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%]

We're-The-Millers-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vsy5KzsieQ

The summer blockbuster of 2013 is a crude comedy  which is also testament to the fact that Jennifer Aniston is a bankable star who can still make people laugh. Frankly, the humour does get little out of control at times but there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. The one when Sudeikis goes to get a hair cut is one such scene. The story involves an out of luck drug dealer trying to put together a family from assorted characters so as to make his drug deal look more realistic. Only Aniston ( and maybe Sandra Bullock) can pull off scenes like the family prayer on the aircraft. A guilty pleasure.

The Bling Ring (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]

BlingRingPB_CoverFINAL

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4LzhgExvrc

Sofia Coppola drew attention with the understated gem ‘Lost in Translation’ but she suddenly fell from grace with a dud called ‘Marie Antoinette’. Then came ‘Somewhere’ in 2010 and she won a few awards for that. ‘Bling Ring’ is comparable to the quality of ‘Somewhere’ where she seems to be doing a decent job as a director but she never touches the highs she was able to achieve with ‘Lost in Translation’ . The film is inspired by real life events where celebrity obsessed teenagers broke into the houses of celebrities to steal high end branded merchandise. There is nothing that raises the movie from an average flick. The scenes get repetitive in the middle. Only Sofia Coppola knows the secret behind her fetish for stupid songs in the background. May interest the viewer who is interested in celebrities. Otherwise, who gives two hoots about what happens to Paris Hilton?

Satyagraha (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]

SATYAGRAHA1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KXwGcZI13k

There is no sting in this tale. It is basically a screenplay stitched together by recent events in India. The problem with that is that the issue has received so much media exposure that there is hardly anything new to be said. Prakash Jha repeats the folly he made with ‘Arakshan’. Issues which look good in television debates don’t translate automatically into good cinema. In fact, it often makes for caricatures and plastic characters who don’t connect with the audiences. A poor attempt.

Grown Ups 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 7% by critics]

grown ups 2

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

I guess the first edition of this series made lot of money for the studios. There is no other reason why they would have gone for the sequel. I could not sit through the first edition and the sequel is a pain to watch. It is not funny, not even by the pathetic standards set by current Adam Sandler movies. Keep away.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hot coffee (2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

hot coffee

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBKRjxeQnT4

An 81 year old lady wins 2.9 million USD in damages from McDonald’s after their coffee burns her body. This sets in motion a series of events culminating in major restrictions being passed on the rights of citizens in USA to sue companies. You don’t need to vote in elections because some corporations can buy the election for themselves. A thought provoking documentary.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Gravity’ because George Clooney and Sandra Bullock team up.

Did you know: Madonna changed costume 85 times for the film ‘Evita’.