Week 14

Movies: Non- English

Departures (Japan, 2008) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Layout 1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtdENmR6jKw

A young unemployed cellist is forced to take up the job of preparing the dead for funerals. What makes the film unique is the distinct cultural landscape of Japan where your job and matters of death are of high importance. The movie is an audience pleaser with moments that will make you smile and reflect. The underlying idea is something I strongly believe in; every job deserves dignity and respect. Come to think of it, I would have watched the movie just because of the title. Death as just departure.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (South Korea, 2004) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

brotherhood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3v9gMehf4

This movie was recommended to me by Rithin, one of the readers of this blog and I would like to thank him for that. This Korean war film tells the story of two brothers caught in the quagmire of the Korean war. The elder one enlists in the army to protect the younger one but as the story progresses fissures appear in their relationship. This is an out and out war film with some sentiments thrown in. The thing about Korean movies is that they are as melodramatic as commercial Hindi films but they also try to tell a story. Some of the war sequences are quite impressive for an Asian film but the same cannot be said of the computer graphics. It becomes evident that some of the scenes are shot on set. That can be pardoned as the budget of the movie is a fraction of what a similar Hollywood film would have demanded. Some of the scenes are flimsy and technical finesse is evidently missing but that is compensated by the scale of the film and the well choreographed action scenes. I would definitely recommend it for fans of war movies.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Piano (1993) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

piano

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_kaUp8NDDU

Jane Campion became the first woman director to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes with this master class which is a romance at its heart but has equal amounts of mystery and adventure thrown in. A married woman has a torrid affair with an odd character which shakes the world around her. Other than the outstanding performance by Holly Hunter in the lead role, watch out for the promising performance  that Anna Paquin delivers as a child. The film is so beautifully shot that viewing it on a small screen would be an injustice.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

full metal jacket

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAvWQa64B8M

Another Vietnam War classic. The initial training period sequence when one of the nerdy guys snaps is chilling and the effect of that on fellow soldiers might have been more dehumanizing than their experiences later. Still, the film explores how the line between right and wrong blurs when self preservation is the overriding emotion. Stanley Kubrick is a master at crating rough sequences and this could be his most realistic film dealing with real people and raw emotions. I believe that for Kubrick Vietnam was just another setting. His story could have been set in any war and that is what makes this an emotional drama more than a war film.

Apocalypse Now (1979) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

apocalypse now

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

The makers of the film almost got killed making it. Their effort did not go in vain and the end product is perhaps the best movie on the conflict in the Indochine region to be made. Though it is Martin Sheen show all the way, the few scenes where Marlon Brando appears confirms that quality triumphs quantity. It is not an easy watch at 153 minutes but then good things require time. It is a hellish experience in the mould of ‘Das Boot’. At the denouement, the question about who is right and who is wrong is difficult to answer but then the soldier is on a mission and he must complete the task assigned to him. All this, because another soldier forgot which side he was on. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

A late Quartet (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

a-late-quartet-poster02

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX66lRnNmqs

One of the better films of 2012. It says the story of a Quartet whose members are at a turning point in their lives. When one of the members is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, strains appear in the relations between other members and hitherto suppressed feelings boil over. The film is quite engaging right from the beginning. The film scores quite high in the acting department. The story has only five characters but the director is able to keep it engaging. The only issue is that if you are not an expert in Western Classical, you will make a fool of yourself in some scenes. I can tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner but I bet there won’t be many who can detect mistakes if some notes of Beethoven are played wrongly. There are a few such scenes and you just have to trust the screenplay on such occasions. It is also an area that has seldom been explored in movies. So you get to know how much hard work goes into the making of a half decent musician. Definitely worth a watch.

Trance (2013) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

Trance

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvTW1JecmZo

James McAvoy has been heralded as the next superstar for quite some time now. In ‘Trance’, directed by Danny Boyle, he does his reputation no harm. The film is typical Danny Boyle stuff with scenes of time lapse photography, indulgently shot sequences and pulsating music. Here the protagonist loses his memory after a cooperating in an art heist. So the other gang members come up with the idea of using the services of a hypnotherapist to retrieve his lost memory. The story is sleek and missing any scene may mess up the understanding of what is happening onscreen. As it is, even if you watch all the scenes you will be little confused about some of them. The story is full of unreliable characters. So you can choose whom to trust.

Ghanchakkar (India, 2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomaotes: 25%]

ghanchakkar-poster-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClncY3AQxeg

The funny thing with ‘Ghanchakkar’ s that it begins on a premise similar to ‘Trance’ reviewed above. That is, the lead character loses his memory after a heist but the similarity ends there. Whereas in ‘Trance’ they go to a hypnotherapist to retrieve the memory, in ‘Ghanchakkar’ they go to a baba. That sums up the difference in approach between Hollywood and Bollywood.  ‘Ghanchakkar’ is a painfully slow movie but with a rock solid climax. The issue is that you may not have the patience to sit through the movie to see the climax. I believe that the script would have looked good on paper but what is shown on screen is a cure for insomnia. The film is neither funny nor engaging. When a film has Emran Hashmi as the best performer, it says so much about its quality. The characters are annoying and the director deserves much of the flak for making it less interesting than a television serial. I did like the ending but then who cares about the dessert when the main course is stale.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Corporation (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

corporation

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKbpQ_H7ziU

Documentary which charts the growing influence of large companies in a historical perspective. Very educative but a little biased in my opinion. Still, must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ because a little fun never killed anyone.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg met Drew Barrymore when she acted in ‘E.T’. When she grew up she posed for Playboy. When Spielberg found out, he sent Barrymore a blanket so she could ‘cover up.’

Week 8

Movies: Non- English

The Sea Inside (Spain, 2004) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes : 91% ]

sea inside

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVRnG1MddAM

This week also we start with a Spanish gem. Based on a true story, ‘The Sea Inside’ chronicles a man’s fight for dignity and assertion of his right to live or die. As a bed ridden man, Javier Bardem shows that emoting does not require the whole body. The scene where he imagines him getting out of the bed has been shot exceptionally well. This movie may not be for everyone as it does pose some disturbing questions. I have a particular liking for the title. All of us, I believe, have a sea inside us. Sometimes calm, sometimes agitated.

The Eel (Japan, 1997) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

the-eel

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

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, this Japanese classic tells the story of a man trying to rebuild his life after a murder and a subsequent jail term. Usually the Palme d’Or goes to movies which focus on the technique than on the story. Here the story is as compelling as the style and for once it is not a slow movie. In spite of its comfortable pace, the philosophical moorings are hard to miss. In retrospect,  the protagonist’s life would have been different and he would have lived it out differently but he deserves a second chance. Everyone does.

The Son’s Room (Italy, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 84% ] 

son's room

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

This one also is a Palme d’Or winner. A psychiatrist who thinks he has all the answers is shaken after the sudden accidental death of his only son. The dynamics of a happy family change for the worse. It is interesting to note how a complete stranger is the trigger for them to return to their normal lives. The sessions after the death are painful. The movie is a study of people than anything else. To be sure, the film ends on a positive note. Sometimes, just feeling the wind blow may be the best therapy.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Bridge on River Kwai (1957) [ IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten tomatoes: 96% ]

The_Bridge_on_the_River_Kwai_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5hZ4Xv5VjE

If there is one moment in movie history when self realization is shown with such devastating effect, it is when Alec Guiness’ character says, ” What have I done?” in the motion picture ‘The Bridge on River Kwai’. Winner of 7 Academy awards, it is one in a series of masterpieces by maestro David Lean. The story is set in a prisoners of war camp where British soldiers are held by the Japanese during the Second World War. The captives are given the task of building a railway bridge across the river Kwai. What follows is the crux of the story, eventually highlighting the futility of war. This one is a must see. Also, see how a profanity can be whistled.

The Elephant Man (1980) [IMDB; 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

elephant man

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye4YTZOq2fk

This is a film about human dignity. The core idea being that every person deserves respect irrespective of how he/she looks. A heavily disfigured man finds his footing in a world which likes only the photogenic. His intelligence and character shine through with the help of a doctor. The movie was also a landmark for make-up. The category for ‘Make-up’ at the Oscars was introduced after this movie because people thought that if that did not deserve an Oscar, what would?

Movies I Saw This Week

Margaret (2011) [ IMDB: 6.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

margaret

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

A witness who is also a part cause for an accident that kills a woman goes in search of justice. Overall, the movies is not that bad but then it is only halfway through the movie that you realize that it is a study of the protagonist than a thriller. Anna Paquin is in fine form in that role but you will be left wondering what some of the characters are doing in the film, especially the ones like Matt Damon. I also think that the editor forgot to do his job. At 150 minutes the film does test your patience.

Shootout at Wadala (India, 2013) [IMDB: 5.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]

Shootout-at-Wadala-Mo97vie-Poster-

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRwzT-oOoig

Based on the first ‘encounter’ in Mumbai,, the film says the oft repeated story of a middle class boy turning to crime after being wronged by the establishment. It is an unremarkable movie which one should ideally catch when it comes on the TV. It is as predictable as the colour of the Indian PM’s turban. The movie is told through one liners and some of them are good too.

Amen ( India, Malayalam, 2013) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100 %]

Amen-Malayalam-Movie-Review

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3NyHUPXARI

The movie has been shot so well that it shows Kerala at its full glory. For a movie made with limited financial resources, ‘Amen’ shows the hard work that has been put into the making of the film. A man’s attempt for recognition and his effort to win the hand of his lady love are told in the background of turbulent events at a church. The introduction of divine element in the climax was a nice touch. There are some avoidable scenes but the movie as a whole is a treat for the senses.

Parental Guidance (2012) [IMDB: 5.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 63% ]

parental

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

There are some really funny dialogues and scenes. The plot basically involves grandparents taking care of the kids when the parents are away. It is the type of movie which you don’t mind watching with popcorn to munch. No wonder that it was a blockbuster last year. If you are looking for anything beyond a ‘leave your brains at home’ entertainer, you will be disappointed. As always, Marisa Tomei is a delight to watch on screen.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Cove (2009) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

the-cove-movie

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KRD8e20fBo

This is an activist documentary. It shows the murky business of dolphin fishing and how powerful business interests are often portrayed as national interest. It is an inside view of what happens in the fishing industry. The documentary had been immensely successful in creating awareness about the issue. It is definitely worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Man of Steel’ because if Christopher Nolan has a story to tell, it should be interesting.

Did you know: Akira Kurosawa and Alfred Hitchcock never won a competitive Oscar.