Week 36

Movies: Non-English

Vizontele (Turkey, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

vizon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL1gcQi-4X0

The introduction of television in a remote village in Turkey changes the social fabric of the place and also disrupts the ‘entertainment industry’ in the region. Sometimes simple stories that tell the lives of ordinary people are the most powerful. This is one such story. Watch it for the rustic appeal that it brings and also for the performances in a simple story.

The Child (France, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

child

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU3mndctyJM

This French Palme d’Or winner is a slow burning masterpiece because it is only in the latter stages that it reveals itself.  A young couple go to the extent of exploiting their newborn to make money. The movie takes a swipe at the social security system in France but in the end it is about the complexity of relations in a young family with a baby. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Gravity (2013) [ IMDb: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Gravity-1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgGPTa7-vlE

I think that that the special effects in Gravity are perhaps the best in the history of cinema. I am willing to put my money on ‘Gravity’ scooping the Oscars for ‘Special Effects’ and ‘Cinematography’. It is a very simple tale of astronauts trying to stay alive after a wreck in space. The movie should be seen in 3D where your eyes will savour every moment of it. The roles are tailor made for George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. (Spoilers ahead) There are some excellent scenes like the one in which Clooney is imagined to be entering the space station again. It reminded me of ‘127 hours’ where too the protagonist goes for a final push when trapped in what looks like an insurmountable problem. Two thumbs up for one of the best movies of the year.

Dhoom 3 (India, 2013) [ IMDB: Not yet rated, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

dhoom 3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeF_b8EQcK0

I walked out of the movie hall midway through the movie. Enough said.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) [ IMDB:6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw6dECrl-BE

Excellent animation is let down by an under cooked screenplay in this sequel to the much loved original. The animation looked very good in 3D but the story was as predictable as the goal celebration of Alan Shearer.

7 Sundara Rathrikal ( 7 Beautiful Nights) [Malayalam, India, 2013] [ Not yet rated]

ezhu-sundara-rathrikal-trailer-out

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzmIkfw-SWI

James Albert has a way with cooking up stories that neatly fit into a jigsaw puzzle by the time the movie ends. Add to that the visual spendour of Lal Jose and you get this movie which starts a bit slow but picks up tremendously in the second half and makes it a movie worth watching during this festive season. The story involves the events that unfold in the seven days leading to the marriage day of the lead actor. I wish I could watch this movie with someone else once more. (Spoilers ahead) The way small incidents and misunderstandings totally change the lives of people is brought to the fore here. Though it is just a story, that tinge of sadness descends on me when I get to see people in love being torn apart by the actions of others. I thought that in some strange ways, I could relate to the protagonist.

Drishyam (Malayalam, India, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

drishyam

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMASubc1y_k

The director should take a bow for this one. It is a very original piece of work and one of the must see movies of the year. Mohanlal reminds us that he still has it in him to pull off a very memorable performance but Asha Sharath ( I had to Google to find out her name) as the Inspector General of Police has gone one better than him. I think that her portrayal of a police officer who is also a mother is pitch perfect. In the end the acclaim should go to the director who also wrote the screenplay. It is a genre defying film. It can be called a thriller, a crime investigation or a family story. In the end it is all that and more. Two thumbs up to certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Thira (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

Thira-1

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

A woman’s fight against human trafficking involving young girls. It is set over a day when the lady and a young man go in search of the same people. There are some loopholes in the plot but all that is forgiven because the film has its heart in the right place. Shobhana sparkles on screen. The brisk pace, cinematography and editing are proof that Vineeth Srinivasan is a director who has a very good idea about the commercial aspect of movie making. After a breezy romance in his earlier film, he shows his ability to take risks with a radically different subject. A must watch just for the intent and sincerity.

R… Rajkumar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%]

r...r

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsnHky4wv5w

It is sad and funny that after ‘Thira’, I am reviewing ‘R… Rajkumar’. I would have walked out of the movie if I had seen it in the theatre. I have serious issues with the portrayal of women in this film. The film is set in a patriarchal society which gives two hoots about the rights of women. They are ill treated and beaten up as if it is a routine thing to do. The hero goes after his girl as if she is some trophy to be won. He stalks her and literally salivates every time he sees her. The lyrics are obnoxious and caters to the lowest common denominator of the audience. The real icing on the cake is the woman herself. She says to one of her pursuers in public that if he wins against her lover, she will take her clothes off for him. Seriously? I almost died when she said that for the second time.

Artist (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

artist

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml2IAPNCdTY

This one from Shyamaprasad is another movie which I will not forget very soon. It has a thought provoking story and raises questions which are difficult to answer. A young girl drops out of college to marry her college mate. She gets thrown out of her family and then her life becomes a succession of tragedies. Ann Augustine gives her best performance till date in this film. The film is a scorcher and has a very nice story to tell. Highly recommended.

Peter O’Toole Retrospective (In memory of the screen legend who passed away this week)

Peter O’Toole is often remembered for the largest (8) unsuccessful acting nominations at the Oscars but he was a screen legend on his own right.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

lawrence

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmr1iSG3RTA

One of the most memorable opening sequences in a movie sets the stage for an epic stretching across countries and faiths. It tells the story of a British officer with confused loyalties. Peter O’Toole is what this movie is remembered for, even when he was not a part of the 7 Oscars it won.

The Lion in Winter (1968) [IMDb: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

lion

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cVwBjwRGgg

Set in the 12th century, this film follows the inner court shenanigans during the final days of King Henry, the 2nd. The queen and the three son’s battle it out for the throne in this classic. Must see.

Venus (2006) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

venus

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-XsErH6WJI

Peter O’Toole got his final Oscar nomination as an actor for playing a dirty old man whose life changes when he gets young female company. Not a classic but not a boring one either.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Stories We Tell (2012) [ IMDb: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

stories

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytq4VZ2Nyxg

How different people in a family remember the same person? Quite differently. One of the top 10 documentaries of the year.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Dallas Buyers Club’ because it is rumoured to be among the Oscar favourites.

Did you know: The first in-flight movie was The Lost World (USA, 1925), shown during an Imperial Airways flight from London, UK to Paris, France in April 1925.

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Week 22

Movies: Non-English

No Man’s Land ( Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

no man's

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL8IF6431n4

In India, the claim to fame of this movie is its triumph over ‘Lagaan’ at the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. If you watch this movie you will understand why ‘Lagaan’ stood no chance. ‘No Man’s Land’ is quite possibly the best movie to have come out from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the conflict in the region. It does not shy away from exposing the farce that the war had become in the region. A bunker in a neutral territory is the stage for the film. Aided by strong writing and witty dialogues, the film is a breeze to watch. It is also a reminder that a good war movie can be made without relying on technical wizardry. A must watch.

A Very Long Engagement (France,2004) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

very long

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

Audrey Tautou became the darling of the masses with ‘Amelie’. Here, she collaborated again with the director of that movie to mixed success. The story is that of a lady who goes in search of her soldier fiance who does not return after the war. ‘A Very Long Engagement’ is a finely shot film. It is a visual treat but the moment the story starts you get a feeling that it is a feel good film that will definitely have a happy ending. On this count, the director does not disappoint. I would have loved it if it had been a tragedy but then the film takes the easy exit route. Audrey Tautou is there in almost every frame and she does justice to her role. Some technical jugglery becomes evident as we go along and this does not impress if you are a careful viewer. For example, the shots in which the train is shown give you a feeling that it was shot just once and then cut and pasted in different scenes. Even the background sound is the same. For its 133 minute duration, it is a very long movie for a very short story.

English Retrospective

Parenthood (1989) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

parenthood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgrbuRNc-AQ

This life affirming comedy tells the story of a family over a summer. Boasting a cast of some exceptional actors, the film delves into the different character types who form part of a big family of four siblings. The best thing about the movie is that all the characters are so well etched out that each of them stands out. The pivot is Steve Martin in arguably his best movie role. I feel that the movie is a tribute to the ordinary people who go about their lives and contribute to the society taking in their stride the ups and downs of life. My impression of the movie has only increased over time. It is not a movie you will easily forget.

The Guns of Navarone (1961) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Guns of Navarone collectors edition DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhQvkPMNt70

Columbia Pictures had the audacity to claim in 1961 that ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was the most exciting film that people will ever get to see. Times have changed. The claim looks silly now but in 1961 that was not the case and to be sure, it did excite people when it was released. I have heard oldies discuss this film with passion and harping back to the good old days. Though technically it is a dinosaur, its dialogues and screenplay still make it a treat to watch. Gregory Peck is in his second best film role (the first will always be ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) adds class to this movie in which he leads a mission to destroy Nazi cannons in an island in the Aegean sea during the Second World War. Soon it becomes evident that there is a traitor in the group. As if fighting the Nazis was not enough, they also have to find the mole in the group. Exciting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

nightmare

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdb_HSvf2Zk

“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” That dialogue is the key to this movie from the master of horror films Wes Craven. Frankly, I was a little confused after watching it for the first time because if you don’t watch with full attention you may find it difficult to make sense of the climax but there is no confusion on it being one of the best horror movies to be ever made. The movie turns spooky by blurring the line between reality and nightmares. Did that just occur or did you imagine it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

kick-ass-2-poster1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMbwxbgv8U

This film is a reaffirmation of my belief that Rotten Tomatoes ratings are closer to reality than the IMDB ratings. IMDB voting, I believe, is done primarily by teenagers who cannot distinguish between class and crap. It is exactly to this kind of audience that this sequel to a widely liked movie caters. It looks more like a satire or a parody on superhero movies with customary references to Youtube and Justin Bieber. Dialogues are way off the mark with gems like ” I’d rather be waterboarded than listen to Justin Bieber”. This, before the lady is turned on by a video featuring Bieber lookalikes. Whereas Kick-Ass had violence as a means to an end, here violence is the end itself. Characters are trigger happy and entering into violent duels is perhaps the favourite hobby of the characters. The movie seems to be confused whether it wants to pay homage to Hollywood’s obsession with dressed up superheroes or make fun of them. What was the scriptwriter thinking of when he came up with the name of the principal villain? I guess this movie may be for the kids of trigger happy conservative Republicans in the Christian belt of USA. Jim Carrey shows his true class by signing on the dotted line for this project. Avoid this film like the plague.

The World’s End (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

world's end

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF-4c8U-mUI

Simon Pegg teams up with his co-writer and director Edgar Wright after the success of ‘Hot Fuzz’. Simon’s character realizes at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that he had left his pub crawl unfinished when he was a teenager 20 years ago. He meets up with his buddies and cajoles them to do the thing all over again. Once in their hometown they realize that things are not what they expected them to be. The story takes a bizarre turn and the film turns into a thriller with the group now given the onerous responsibility of (what else) saving the world. The witty dialogues and banter keep the show going till this point. After that it is a big yawn. The action scenes are well choreographed and that is the best praise I can come up with for the second half of the movie,

World War Z (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

World-War-Z

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcwTxRuq-uk

Humans are facing an existential crisis. Don’t worry because USA is there. With a little help from Israel and Britain they will save the world. What could have been a really good thriller is spoiled by the overt attempt to fit the narrative in line with the US worldview. Truth be said, it is a pacy thriller with some really horrifying scenes. If you get sucked into the story it is more terrifying that the horror film of the year ‘The Conjuring’. The scenes are shot excellently and I would be surprised if the movie does not get at least an Oscar nomination for Production Design. The weakest link is Brad Pitt. His acting, it seems, has been affected by the dual responsibility of being a producer and an actor. He sleep walks through the role as if he knows the climax (and he surely does). Even in the most terrifying scenes he does not show any panic. Now coming to the red flags with regard to international politics. You see, Israel is justified in building large boundary walls so that they can keep the aliens (read ‘Palestinians’) out. North Korea, being a dictatorship, can remove the teeth of  all 23 million people in less than 24 hours, a mathematically improbable event (you do the math, I have done mine) so as to escape the pandemic. Of all the airlines in the world, the protagonist must escape on the plane of ‘Belarus Airlines’ (another dictatorship). The hero’s family must rescue a Spanish speaking boy along because there should be something for the American amigos to cherish after Mexico city has been lost. UN Under Secretary works to save only Americans. A Harvard greenhorn mutters something before dying and that conveniently becomes the principle on which the great American mind of Brad Pitt solves the entire issue. The rest of the world must be full of dumb idiots. Maybe a Nobel Peace Prize for Brad Pitt like his President? As his President showed, sometimes you just have to be alive to get one.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Confessions of a Superhero (2007) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

confessions

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsAQ9nVZrJ8

The story of four people who make a living dressing up as superheroes on the Hollywood boulevard. Moving. In its own unique way.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Thanks for Sharing’ because it could be hot.

Did you know: The most popular movies in Africa are produced in Nigeria and the local industry is called ‘Nollywood’.