Edition 90

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Insult (Lebanon, 2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Lebanon is a hotbed of sectarian politics. The nation has strong contingents of Christian and Muslim denominations. Palestinian refugees constitute 10% of the population of Lebanon. It is in this powder keg that ‘The Insult’ is set. A Christian citizen of Lebanon sues a Muslim Palestinian refugee, and the events that ensue form the crux of the story. Up in the air is not just a legal question but decades old raw wounds which guide the motives of all the actors in the flick. Unfortunately, with revelations about the accused and the accuser, the story ties itself in knots. The director chooses the safest exit route by conceding partly to all involved. This only leads to an ending which is safe and is a big letdown for a movie which oozes with tension and drama for the large majority of its running time.

Movies I Saw This Week

22 July (2018) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Paul Greengrass is a master at telling tales of tension and thrill. His success was undeniable in the Bourne Series and ‘United 93’ and to a lesser extent in ‘Captain Phillips’. In ’22 July’, he takes the viewer to the gory tragedy that unfolds at Utoya island, Norway where a right wing white supremacist (there is no need to name and glorify him) guns down 69 campers after already taking the life of 8 others with an explosion in Oslo. The tragedy and its aftermath are captured in this movie which is based on the more harrowing book ‘One of Us’. The movie is absolutely engaging in the first half but soon loses steam as it progresses. The focus is diluted by two strands that develop in the story. In many instances the killer is made to look reasonable. There is no outright condemnation of the monster and the lawyer who takes up his case begins with the intention of helping his client get away scot-free. The tragedy raises questions on the need for death penalty. If Hitler did not commit suicide and was caught by Norwegians, what would they have done with him?

A Prayer Before Dawn (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on a true story and a best selling book, this movie takes you inside the harsh prison life in Thailand and the contact sport of Muay Thai. Englishman Billy Moore finds a little bit of love, life and redemption as he navigates through the violence, abuse and underworld, serving his three year sentence. Notable for the gritty and realistic performances, ‘A prayer Before Dawn’ is a richly rewarding experience for those who have the patience to sit through the ordeal of real action sequences and shocking scenes of abuse.

Andhadhun (2018) [IMDB: 9.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Hands down the best Hindi movie of the year, ‘Andhadhun’ reaffirms my belief that Sriram Raghavan is the best director in India when it comes to making a taut thriller. For those who are not convinced yet, watch ‘Johnny Gaddaar’ or the more complex ‘Badlapur’. Andhadhun is the story of a pianist who pretends to be blind and then ‘witnesses’ a murder. The ball is set rolling from that moment and the myriad characters who appear (and some disappear) on the screen lead to a finale which is more clever than tense. The best thing about the movie is that it keeps the viewer engaged from start to end with well formed characters and great performances. There is even scope for some fun in the form of a Chaplinesque sequence with the piano playing in the background as a corpse is packed for disposal. Must see.

Mandy (2018) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

The much maligned Nicolas Cage who was quietly riding into cinematic oblivion with duds piling up in the last few years, finds a comeback in a movie where you would least expect any redemption. In a movie reminiscent of grindhouse flicks, director Panos Cosmatos invites the viewer to a surreal experience of blood letting and horrific violence. Cage plays a man who is out to avenge his wife’s murder by a religious cult. From the word go, the movie with its distinct colour scheme and weird background score embarks on a cycle of gratuitous violence. Watching this movie requires oodles of patience and zero sensitivity to dismemberment of body parts or gushing of blood. Still, recommended.

Leave No Trace (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Seldom does a movie so simple arrest attention like ‘Leave No Trace’. This is a movie which must be seen and is an absolute joy to watch. A father and daughter live in the woods and they prefer life that way. When they are discovered, their world starts unfolding. Packed with empathy and wisdom, ‘Leave No Trace’ is a character study with a matching screenplay. I wish there were more movies like this one.

Paterno (2018) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Paterno was the head coach of the football team which was at the centre of the abuse scandal that engulfed Penn State University. The movie is a competent one made better by Al Pacino who is in fine form playing the title character. The real star in the real world though is the young local reporter who revealed the truth to the world and went on to win a Pulitzer for the same. Though sympathetic to Paterno for long stretches, the movie ends with a scene which shows the culpability and reveals the culture of silence which kept the scandal under wraps for a long time. ‘Paterno’ is not a great movie but one worth watching.

The Wife (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Glenn Close is heavily tipped to receive an Oscar nomination for her role as an enigmatic wife in this family drama that somehow reaches the finish line while struggling to hold the attention of the viewer. The big revelation in the movie does not take the viewer by surprise as enough hints are given during the course of the movie. The actors are in fine form with Christian Slater playing an annoying character which just requires him to be himself. For other ‘gems’ of Christian Slater watch movies like Basil (1998). As for ‘The Wife’, it is for the viewer to decide if the good lead performances make up for a biting lack of authenticity in a drama about a winner of the Nobel prize in literature.

Kayamkulam Kochunni (2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Rated, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The legendary thief who even has a temple to his name for his good samaritan acts is reborn on the big screen. An incredibly lucky Nivin Pauly seems to get all the right roles even when it is glaringly evident that his histrionic skills are not up to the mark. The movie itself keeps the viewer engaged even when the screenplay fails to offer anything fresh. Some of the songs in the movie are absolutely unnecessary and plain regressive. Nevertheless, the movie deserves appreciation for trying.

Documentary of the Week

Three Identical Strangers (2018) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

An incredible true story about three identical brothers separated at birth and reunited as teenagers. One of the best documentaries I have seen.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Shoplifters’, winner of the Palme d’Or 2018 releasing in the US on 23 November.

Did you know: The movie ‘Arsenal (2017)‘ is still rated 4.0 on IMDB. As of today, Arsenal football club are in their ‘traditional’ 4th spot in the Premier League.

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Edition 81

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Eagle Huntress (Mongolia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.6 , Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating:7.5]

Trailer

A cross between a movie and a documentary, Eagle Huntress tells the tale of a girl and her attempt to break the glass ceiling in the wilderness of Mongolia. The Eagle Huntress is an ode to women and all those who want to take a shot at changing the status quo. The film soars as it progresses and takes the viewer on an unforgettable journey with the stunning Mongolian landscape adding to the ethereal beauty of the proceedings. The movie is certainly one of the better photographed ones in recent times but all the credit must go the protagonist who keeps it engaging throughout the 87 minutes. Those 87 minutes just fly away. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Get Out (2017) [IMDB:7.8 , Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

There is a lot of mischief in ‘Get Out’. It is subversive, suggestive and sufficiently subtle. At the same time it does not hold back its punches. At its core, it remains a thriller but the racial dimension elevates the movie to another level. ‘Get Out’ is undeniably one of the best movies of the year and it earns its stripes with the solid screenplay and unconventional plot. A black man with a white girlfriend visits her parents for the first time. He gets more than what he bargained for and then he must get out or be killed. Expect no mercy from the director or any show of overt sentimentality. Fasten your seat belts for en edge of the seat thriller worth every penny that you will pay for.

War Machine (2017) [IMDB:6.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Based on a Rolling Stone article which led to the resignation of a top General in the US army, ‘War Machine’ is a commentary on the triumphs and trials, more so of the latter, of USA in the Afghan war. A workaholic General is put in charge of salvaging the Afghan operations of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’. He believes that he can turnaround the situation by makes the locals allies in the war on the Taliban. His simplistic approach does not cut much ice and he then enters into a game of chess, bordering on the silly, with the US administration. The movie meanders a lot and is akin to a documentary puzzled together by a crew. There is no plot and when the finale occurs, the viewer is bewildered by the sequence of events. The saving grace is that the events are relatively engaging but the question of what was all that about is the one that lingers as the final credits roll.

Miss Sloane (2017) [IMDB:7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 8.5]

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Miss Sloane is the best movie I have seen in 2017. It is also the best thriller I have seen in years. It is the most slick and well written movie I have seen in years. It is a cat and mouse game and even the veteran film-goers will find it difficult to guess the twists and turns the movie offers. Jessica Chastain plays the title role of a lobbyist with panache. She is a force of nature in her best performance after Zero Dark Thirty. The best thing about the movie is that it has a logical and coherent script which requires your full attention. If you blink during the movie, you may miss something vital onscreen. I am already a fan. Must watch.

Split (2017) [IMDB:7.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.0]

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After being pilloried by critics (and deservedly so) for many of his last few movies, Manoj Night Shyamalan returns to form in ‘Split’. With the use of some pseudo psychology, Shyamalan conjures up a story of a man who has close to two dozen personalities. James McAvoy seems to relish the role offered to him and plays it to perfection. Besides being a thriller, ‘Split’ brings in a considerable amount of philosophy and innocence into its theme. To the director’s credit, it never gets preachy. The box office numbers also vouch for its entertainment value. Made with a budget of less than a million, ‘Split’ grossed close to 140 million dollars.

Sandy Wexler (2017) [IMDB:5.1 , Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Love him or hate him, Adam Sandler is the darling of  Netflix. His viewers could not be bothered with the critical reception of Sandler’s movies. He is one of the most watched stars on the Netflix platform. So he goes ahead and writes a story based on his long time manager. That movie is Sandy Wexler. Nothing great but mildly amusing with two or three funny scenes. That is enough for Sandler fans. If you are a Adam Sandler fan you may enjoy it. Better still, you can watch it on your next flight when you have nothing much to do other than inhale the recycled air. Even if you fall asleep doing it, you would not miss anything.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) [IMDB:7.9 , Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Keanu Reeves has a dead emotionless face. Or a hit man face, if you prefer. He fits the profile of the cold and efficient hit man in search of a reason to kill. The sequel to John Wick scores high again in the choreographed action sequences where flying bullets seem to have poetry writ on them. The setting is Rome and that does not hurt. If you liked the original, you will love the sequel. In case you missed the sleeper hit original, the sequel may be a good way to catch up on a movie which is as much fun as it is mindless.

Mindhorn (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Mindhorn is the typical British comedy filled with irreverence and a bonkers plot. A yesteryear star is called upon to aid the police in murder mystery. With the dual mission of resurrecting his career and finding some reason to be alive, Mindhorn accepts the invitation which is a convenient excuse for him to go on a nostalgia trip. Filled with characters who have that one Achilles heel in their personalities which make them in turns endearing and unreasonable, the movie delivers some genuine moments of humour. Those moments are not frequent enough and the movie sometimes descends into a charade.

Gifted (2017) [IMDB:7.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The story of a child genius whose deceased mother shared the same description. The child who is in the custody of her uncle faces a legal quagmire when her grandmother enters her life. Though the plot has some loopholes, it is a generally satisfying movie to watch. The peripheral characters like the teacher at the school are forced into the screenplay and probably should not have had the screen time provided to her. Nonetheless, a decent one time watch for the thematic elements.

Documentary of the Week

O.J.: Made in America (2017) [IMDB:9.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 9.0]

Trailer

Although this documentary is close to eight hours long, it never gets boring or tedious. In fact, it is as good as reading an expert commentary on the saga of O J Simpson with a running thread of racial tensions in the US in the decades leading up to the infamous double murders. More than the fall from grace of an all American hero, it is the race relations and the justice system which are under the microscope. An illuminating documentary and worth the effort.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ because Al Gore can tell the truth on climate change, once again.

Did you know: ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is the first documentary to win two Academy awards.