Edition 83

The Non-English Movie of The Week

First They Killed My Father (Cambodia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

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After a couple of failed attempts at movie making, Angelina Jolie finally hits the sweet spot with her deadpan style which is suitable for a movie which deals with agony and intensifying despair. Set in Cambodia during the infamous Khmer Rouge regime and based on an autobiographical account of the events, this movie is a serious yet nuanced take on life during the regime as well as the disintegration of a way of life. Jolie’s success is also down to the fact that she resists the temptation of sidelining the central character in the narration. The movie unfolds through the eyes of the child and her family’s fervid attempts to stick together. The movie practically proceeds through a series of compelling events. ‘First They Killed My Father’ is a movie that deserves to be seen and applauded.

Movies I Saw This Week

Baby Driver (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

Trailer

‘Baby Driver’ navigates the zone which is between the border of pop flick and high art. Though it has some tired premises like ‘one final heist before retirement’, the movie manages to hold attention by the sheer pace of the action it offers and and a good recycling of cliches. The central character of the movie is the driver of a getaway car for bank robbers. He has his quirks but his self assured demeanor is tested as the story progresses. It would be wrong to say that ‘Baby Driver’ is a all brawn and no brains story. Nevertheless, one may enjoy it more if the brain is left at home.

Who is Alice (2017) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated , My Rating:7.0 ]

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This is a surprisingly good movie with a solid screenplay and fine acting. It tells the tale of a struggling actress trying to juggle her personal and professional life. Without divulging much about the story, it can be said that the whole movie is a setup towards an unexpected climax. In fact, the movie makes more sense with the twist in the tale. Another striking feature of the movie is the uniformly good performance by every character in the movie. ‘Who is Alice’ is a movie which is not going to have a widescreen release or many awards to its credit but it is a very competent piece of film making that promises rich rewards for the discerning viewer.

American Made (2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:87% , My Rating:7.0]

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‘American Made’ is about a real life pilot who got his cake and ate it too. He worked for the CIA and on the same trips smuggled drugs to the US. This movie does not offer anything novel but has the same ideas that sustain this kind of an enterprise. The story line borrows heavily from previous movies about arms dealers like the ‘Lord of War’ and many Oliver Stone flicks. This is not to suggest that the movie is a dud. It is fairly engaging and at times even revealing. Tom Cruise is still in Mission Impossible mode but with shoddier clothing. Watch it if you like flicks which are comforting because you can easily predict what is going to happen in the next scene.

Wind River (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating:7.5 ]

The debut directorial venture of the writer of ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’, is a tour de force. It is a slow burning crime investigation which builds up to the grand finale. The sense of sadness is palpable throughout the film. The wild and cold background is a major contributor to the sense of intrigue and hopelessness that surrounds the life of the people on screen. I developed a sense of respect for the victim and her strong will to survive; a mission in which she fails. ‘Wind River’ is more than a thriller. It is a story of people battling the odds. It is a story which makes you think. It is one of the best movies of the year.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

Is there a movie in which Adam Sandler is a better performer than Dustin Hoffman? The answer is an emphatic yes. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ was screened at Cannes in the competition section. I am not convinced of its Cannes level quality but the movie is a good one time watch. The family of a moderately famous artist comes together for various reasons. The interactions between them unleash the hidden emotions of each of them. The movie is a character study with the parent-child relationship being the focus of the story. The favourite son played by Ben Stiller is the polar opposite of his half brother played by Adam Sandler and it is made abundantly clear to them by the father who his favourite is. This movie is a sad and poignant one in most parts.It is fairly riveting for the family drama that it portrays. Watch it for the acting. Watch it for Adam Sandler.

Gerald’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on the novel by Stephen King, this movie is one of the triumphs of the year. It is a survival story on the surface but has multiple strands that make it a psychological thriller. A women is chained to her bed in a freak accident when her husband dies in their remote house. The distraught lady has to fight her inner demons to not only survive but also to find a way out of the quagmire. In such a survival movie, the odds are that the person will live to tell the tale (Spoilers ahead) but I was always second guessing on how she would wriggle out of the situation. I thoroughly  enjoyed watching this movie. It is a cat and mouse chase of the highest order: the one between you and your mind.

The Beguiled (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating:6.0]

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Sophia Coppola won the best director award for this movie at the Cannes film festival. I could not figure out why. She has practically reshot an earlier version of the film starring Clint Eastwood with no significant additions. I may be biased by my knowledge of the climax in the previous version but then Sophia Coppola does not add anything substantial to the movie. For the uninitiated, the movie tells the story of a wounded soldier who is tended by a group of women. The sexual tensions and the personal equations lie at the heart of the story. The film does not warrant anything more than a single watch and that too only for those who have not seen the original.

Annabelle: Creation (2017)  [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:70% , My Rating:6.0]

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‘Annabelle: Creation’ is a horror movie for the sake of some cheap thrills. It has unnecessary scenes in which the sole aim of the director is to frighten the audience for no rhyme or reason. Most of the scary scenes in the movie do not contribute to he development of the story and come with no particular reason at a specific point in the story. The setting of the movie itself is dubious and creating a backstory for an average movie is only with the intent of milking the franchise. Horror movies can be much better and classy. For starters, watch ‘The Shining’ or ‘Let the Right One In’.

Documentary of the Week

Russia with Simon Reeve (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, BBC takes you on a trip across the breadth of Russia. Filled with stunning visuals and insights on life in Russia, this a documentary series worth every minute of its three hour run time.

Eagerly waiting for: Roman J. Israel, Esq. starring Denzel Washington.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg is the Godfather of Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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Edition 59

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Winter Sleep (Turkey, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Raing:7/10]

Winter Sleep

Trailer:

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 2104, this is another masterwork from perennial Cannes favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Set in the interiors of Turkey where everyone knows everyone, this movie tells the tale of a retired actor whiling away his time, doing pretty much nothing. He has a hotel to manage and he also writes articles on mundane issues. His running feuds with his wife and his divorced sister pale into insignificance when he has to address issues created by his tenants. The film captures the breathtaking locales and the cultural hues of Turkey. The performances are competent and the film has its moments but those moments are few and far between. This, is especially testing when you have to muster the patience to sit through 196 minutes of the movie. If it had chopped off 100 minutes from the running time, the movie would have looked much better. For its unjustifiable duration, ‘Winter Sleep’ can induce sleep even in the summer.

Movies I Saw This Week

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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This movie was a commercial flop and largely overlooked by the audiences in spite of the critical acclaim it received. Maybe some movies are not lucky enough at the box office because there is enough to suggest that this movie is one of the best action films of 2014. Set in the future where one man (Tom Cruise, who else?) is humanity’s last hope to fight an alien invasion, this movie brings in a cocktail of time travel, hi-tech combat and lofty ideals. Although Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give mediocre performances when they could have easily put their histrionic qualities to test, the movie more than holds on its own. With enough twists and turns, it keeps you engaged without getting boring, inviting you to second guess the various permutations and combinations that are possible. Recommended.

The Imitation Game (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Imitation Game

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Based on the life of legendary Alan Turing and his seminal contributions to the Allies’ efforts in breaking the German code during the Second World War, ‘The Imitation Game’ tries to delve into the life of a genius tormented by his sexuality. The movie has been tirelessly promoted in the build up to the Oscars but it is a  good movie but not good enough. Benedict Cumberbatch gives all he can to bring Turing to life on screen and he is not let down by an ensemble cast, with another notable performance from Keira Knightley. The movie has a riveting background score and is ably directed. The moral dilemmas of Mr. Turing and his inability to make sound judgement when he is enjoined to not speak about a spy, are all captured well. The asperity of Mr.Turing did not endear him to many but that wouldn’t be the main roadblock for Cumberbatch to achieve Oscar glory. Unfortunately for him, there are better performances this year.

Unbroken (2014) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Unbroken

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The moot point while watching ‘Unbroken’ is whether a better director could have done a better job with the source material on hand. Louis Zamperini, on whom the story is based, was a champion runner, decorated war hero and an inspirational speaker. His life had countless moments which would have looked great on screen but in director Angelina Jolie’s hands those moments look forced and tame. ‘Unbroken’ tells the story of Zamperini’s unlikey rise from humble origins, his remarkable success in athletics and the relentless torture that he had to undergo in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War. Jack O’Connell gives an impressive performance in a breakout role. ‘Unbroken’ is a movie of great ambitions but lacks a soul. It is a lesson on how clichéd one can become when making a biopic and how disrespectful that can be to a legend who deserved better than this.

Birdman (2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes;92%, My Rating: 8.0]

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I am an admirer of deirector Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I have loved his works like ‘Babel’ and ‘Amores Perros’. ‘Birdman’ is a shift from his usally dark depressing themes. In fact, there is even an element of mischief in this movie, which is being categorized as a comedy. The merits of that categorization aside, the film tells the story of a thespian who is tryng his best to stay relevant. Micael Keaton delivers a heavy duty performance as the protagonist who has seen better days. Shot in 10 minute uninterrupted sequences using one camera, the movie tries to play around with cinematic formats. Another highlight is an unconventional background score which many have hailed as groundbreaking but I found to be annoying. In terms of performances, this is the best performce by an ensemble cast in 2014. Michael Keaton will go head to head with Eddie Redmayne for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. The movie is also a strong contender in the film, director, cinematography and screenplay categories. The major disadvantage that the movie faces is that it is not a mass entertainer like ‘Boyhood’. This could prove to be its Achilles heel.

American Sniper (2014) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:74%, My rating:7/10]

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There is no movie dividing the critics and the audiences like this one. Seen by some as an unapologetic look at the American side of the story in the Iraq war and by another equally vociferous section as the story of a true American hero, this movie tells the story of the most successful sniper in the history of America who finally died from the gunshot wounds he received from ‘friendly fire’ when he was  in USA. Judged purely on quality, the movies is a poor cousin of ‘The Hurt Locker’. There are many action sequences in the movie but none of them are good enough to capture your full attention. Many such scenes get repetitive. If the intention was to create a contrast between the life in a war zone and life at home, then the movie resoundingly fails to do so. The viewer will not be able to feel any compassion for the character on screen who is a monstrous sniper. Amercans have every right to (in fact, they should) honour a brave soldier who put his life in danger to serve his country. War movies are not supposed to be an examination of what the enemy feels about getting killed. Even if the hero here was convicted of slander in real life, it does not take away his service to the nation. Inspite of this, the movie is a very tedious one to watch and does not deserve the high praise it is getting. It also does not deserve the scorn that seems specially reserved for it. American sniper, in the end, is a an average movie about a great sniper directed by a once great director.

The Good Lie (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8/10]

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After a mish mash of snipers, tortured geniuses, former superheroes and real life superheroes, comes the time to review a movie which is undoubtedly the feel good movie of the year. ‘The Good Lie’ is not a movie that will move mountains or has a scale or budget that will put it in the top league but for the sheer quality that it produces from its limited budget, it is one of the must see movies of 2014. The story traces the lives of orphaned Sudanese children trying to escape civil war in their country and their journey to USA. Effortlessly funny and charming, this movie has its heart in the right place. With enough doses of humour without becoming a comedy movie, the film is about real people in the real world. Must watch.

Documentary of the Week

Ivory Tower (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating: 6.5/10]

Ivory Tower

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A look at the American college system. Very interesting to watch but misses some salient points.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Timbuktu’. Should a good one. Also, I have been close to Timbuktu but never been there.

Did you know: Courtesy: http://www.rogerebert.com Roger Ebert’s review of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ quoted below. “Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”