Week 44

Movies: Non-English

In a Better World (Denmark,2010) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

in a better

Trailer: 

Winner of the Academy Award for the best foreign language film, this film from Denmark marries the liberal conscience of the Scandinavians with harsh realities of strife torn Africa. A Danish doctor serving in Africa has some ethical dilemmas to face and matters are not helped by the dysfunctional family he has back home. The film has been shot exquisitely, with the dust bowls of Africa contrasting with the serenity of the green fields in Denmark. The story is masterfully told, with an impending sense of disaster writ over it. The acting is competent, a reminder that good movies can be made without a lot of money.

Lust, Caution (Taiwan, 2007) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

lust caution

Trailer:

Shanghai is the setting for this espionage thriller directed by double Oscar winner Ang Lee. A woman infiltrates the establishment and becomes the mistress of her target. What begins as a cautious relationship with clear cut motives turns into an affair replete with passion and intrigue. The film took the festival circuit by storm when it was released, partly owing to the fact that the love making scenes were not simulated. The performances are uniformly good and the story never loses its zing in the safe hands of Ang Lee. Watch this movie for the way the story has been woven. As the adage goes, this is a story on love but not a love story.

Movies I Saw This Week

Nebraska (2013) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Nebraska

Trailer: 

Bruce Dern shows that experience in acting does count as he plays an old man with an alcohol problem and an even worse case of delusion. Falling for a marketing trick, he believes that he is the winner of a million dollar bounty which makes him take a road trip with his estranged and unwilling son to claim his ‘prize’. His encounters along the way and the reactions he elicits from other characters make up the rest of the story. The film is shot in black and white. The thing about the performance from Dern is that he is able to draw the viewer into the movie to the extent that the viewer may start to sympathize with him. Needless to say, the film is a Bruce Dern show all the way. His lack of Oscar wins make him a sentimental favourite this year but it could still be case of ‘so near yet so far’ for him.

Philomena (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Philomena

Trailer: 

An out of work BBC reporter finds common cause with a lady looking for her son who was taken away from her as a kid. Steve Coogan plays the liberal reporter who thinks himself to be beneath such ‘human interest stories’ and has no interest in the lives of common folks who seem below his radar of interest. He comes to the aid of a devout Catholic played by Judi Dench who holds on dearly to her beliefs even in the face of evidence that she was wronged by the church. The story is not riveting but the film does have a political statement to make. (Spoilers ahead) I was little amused that on discovering that her son was gay, Judie Dench says that she imagined him to be gay because he was sensitive child. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that gets you few brownie points but does not work in the real world. Think of it, sensitive children grow up to be gay. Even such gimmicks will not fetch Judi Dench the Oscar this year and I am willing to put my money on Cate Blanchette taking home the gong.

Frozen (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Frozen

Trailer: 

Anna wants to find her sister who has magical powers. She embarks on a journey to do so. Disney has positioned itself as the ultimate family brand and it is not difficult to imagine that Disney films will be sweet and heartwarming fare. I am not a fan of musicals and I find it difficult to sit through scenes in which the characters try out the strength of their vocal chords. The animation here is good but it is a reflection of the state of the animation industry that this film is the hot favourite to win the Animation Oscar this year. I yearn for the days of films like Wall E.

Jai Ho (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

jai ho

Trailer: 

Think of all the issues on which there can be no debate on what is right, like patriotism, rights of the physically challenged, respect for women, corruption, right to education and so on. Get the dates (the ones on the calendar and not the girls) of Salman. Make him the common man (yes, the ‘being human’ poacher with a heart of gold). Get him to sermonize. When the social science class gets boring, bring on the songs. If songs are not your stuff, no problem. There are lots of action sequences where Salman turns up so that he can bash up all those who are eagerly waiting for the favour of being thrashed by him. If you still don’t get the story, it is about a perfect human being (who does not get drunk and maul down pavement dwellers) who does nothing but help people. He does not ask anything in return but asks the recipients of his help to help three more people. To illustrate this, he shows us that multiplication with 3 is indeed a great thing. After filming the movie, he then appears on ad campaigns and asks people to pay money and forward the films promos to three more people. In case you were wondering what is the technical name for such a scheme, it is called a Ponzi Scheme and Salman is at the top of the pyramid. In case you are still wondering, he has made fools out of you and laughed his way to the bank. Unfortunately, he knows that he cannot be prosecuted for making a Ponzi film.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Act of Killing (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Act of Killing

Trailer: 

The Indonesian forces killed millions of communists to wipe out communism from the country in the 1960s. Thugs and gangsters were the leading lights of this state sponsored mass killing. In the most courageous documentary to have come out in a long time, the filmmakers interview some of the men who perpetrated the crimes and who boast in public about the killings they have carried out. The killers are given the chance to recreate the killings in the format of a movie genre of their choosing. Watching this documentary is a surreal experience. It takes some time to comprehend what you see. The grave danger to the lives of the filmmakers is exemplified by the end credits in which half of the crew are listed as ‘Anonymous’. If there is justice in the world, this documentary should win over ’20 Feet from Stardom’ at the Oscars.

Brian De Palma Retrospective

Brian De Palma has made some landmark films in his time. A key feature of his movies is the presence of a flawed protagonist fighting his inner demons as he faces the rough world.

Scarface (1983) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Scarface

Trailer:

Al Pacino plays a Cuban immigrant who turns to crime and loses his footing. Essential viewing.

The Untouchables (1987) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Untouchables

Trailer:

The story of the infamous mafia man Al Capone. Must watch.

Casualties of War (1989) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Casualties of War

Trailer:  

A man is the ony dissenting voice in his group when they decide to take a Vietnamese girl as a prisoner. Set during the Vietnam war. The best performance in the career of Michael J Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ because I had liked the first one in the series.

Did you know: Katherine Hepburn only drank water throughout ‘The African Queen’ production as a protest against John Huston and Humphrey Bogart’s alcoholism. However, most of the cast and crew became sick from the water and only Bogart and Huston were unaffected because they drank only whiskey. (Source: Huffington Post)

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Week 33

Movies: Non-English

Iron Monkey ( Hong Kong, 1993) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

iron monkey

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7LgixNDtQo

Just as there is ‘Pulp Fiction’ in ‘Fiction’, there is ‘Pulp Action’ in ‘Action’ and the Chinese are quite good at it. Here, the ‘Pulp’ refers not just to the crass commercial aspect of the movie but also the fact that some guys are beaten to pulp in mindless action. Still, a little bit of fun never killed anyone. ‘Iron Monkey’ for me, is the pinnacle of such movie making. With spectacularly choreographed sequences, nail-biting action and awe inspiring set pieces, this is a film that one should not miss. Even after two decades this film remains quite a show. In case you are interested in the plot, a doctor puts on a mask and fights corruption. The plot is just incidental. Enjoy.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China, 2000) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

crouching

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEaGsdiA0y0

There is scale. Then there is ambition. When these two combine, you get ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. At times it gets grandiose but who does not like to suspend disbelief once in a while? Watch warriors walk on water, fight atop bamboos, flash swords without a care in the world in a monumental film of epic proportions which will leave you asking for more. The major advantage of this movie over ‘Iron Monkey’ is that it has top class actors and a solid story to tell. Above all, it has Ang Lee at the helm. It is a reminder of how versatile a director he is. It is the mark of a genius to have done films as varied as ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Hulk’, ‘Brokeback Mountain’, ‘Lust , Caution’ and ‘Life of Pi’.

English Retrospective

The Changeling (1980) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Changeling_ver1

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

A man recovering from a terrible family tragedy moves into a large house. It takes him time to realize that he has company he never wanted. ‘The Changeling’ has some of the best horror scenes I have ever seen. It gives an eerie feeling similar to ‘The Shining’. The film is a George C Scott show all the way with the thespian being present in almost every frame. The ending is a bit convenient but then the ride compensates for the destination.

Slap Shot (1977) [ IMDb: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

slap shot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUuEWI6F3dQ

An Ice Hockey team down in the dumps and facing closure finds an ingenious way of roaring back to winning ways. This film is not about Ice Hockey. In fact, at times it feels like a movie on boxing. I don’t know whether Ice Hockey was played like the way it is depicted in the movie. If so, it has come a long way. The movie is a farce and the good part is that it does not matter. The end scene lends some gravitas to an otherwise out and out entertainer.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

to kill a

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR7loA_oziY

There have been few heroes in the world of fiction like lawyer Atticus Finch. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch is this classic film adaptation of the classic book by Harper Lee. The protagonist defends an African American in the South against false charge of rape and in the process teaches his kids to stand up against prejudice and racism. Gregory Peck gives the performance of a lifetime. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

Still Mine (2013) [ IMDb: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

still mine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv_Rl0CBPNs

One of the best films of the year. Highly recommended. An old couple, still strongly in love after 6 decades of marriage decide to build a new house. They run into the establishment in the process and also tackle the memory loss of the wife as they go along. Excellent writing and some memorable performances make it a film that deserves your full attention. If I had a vote at the Oscars I would have given this film a few of the statuettes.

How I Live Now (2013) [ IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%]

how i live

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSaxm68PPT4

Apparently the book on which the movie is based was a bestseller. Either the movie does not do justice to the book or the author got lucky. An American girl in England has to stay put with her love as the world is facing a nuclear meltdown, in this movie set in a not too distant future. It really requires an effort to remain interested in this film after ten minutes. None of the characters are likeable. I wouldn’t have really bothered if the protagonist disappeared midway through the film.

The Croods (2013) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

the croods

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fVCKy69zUY

I am mighty disappointed with animation movies nowadays because they have started to look the same. ‘The Croods’ is no exception and relies on the same tired gags and subplots. Hope that they rediscover the spark in those animation studios. As for this one, the kids may like it to some extent. Otherwise, off the mark.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Chasing Ice (2012) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

chasing-ice

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIZTMVNBjc4

This documentary should be viewed on the big screen. To call the images stunning would be a gross understatement. You almost forget that you are watching a documentary on global warming. Ice never looked so cool.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Out of The Furnace’ because it has a red hot cast in Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana.

Did you know: Full length feature films (except foreign language films) should run with paid admission for at least 7 days in Los Angeles to be considered for the Oscars.