Edition 89

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Audition (Japan, 1999) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 8.0]

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‘Audition’ launched the Japanese high-brow horror genre along with the more widely viewed ‘Ringu’. ‘Audition’ is a more layered and complex venture than Ringu. Watching ‘Audition’ is akin to peeling onions. Painful to watch for the sheer tragedy that unfolds, ‘Audition’ is that rare thriller-horror movie which slowly grows on you. A widower holds a fake casting call to find his next life partner. The enigmatic lady who catches his attention is the lady of his dreams. The dreams soon turn to nightmares as the master director takes you on a ride well worth the build-up. Watch ‘Audition’ if you have the courage to sit through silent horror.

Movies I Saw This Week

American Animals [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Based on a true story of a bungled art heist, ‘American Animals’ tells the story of a few millennials who repeatedly fail to see the lines they are willing to blur to achieve instant wealth. Interspersed with interviews of the real life characters, the movie plays out more as a dark comedy than a thriller. With the foregone conclusion of the denouement, the movie is a stark portrayal of how much naivety and indecision went into a plan notable more for the lack of a coherent plan. What is baffling about the crime itself is that the perpetrators did not meet the standard definition of criminals. One of them came from a stable family, another was good at academics and a third one was almost a serial entrepreneur. The distrust in the team is evident as they recollect past events in which their narratives are full of contradictions. American Animals is a character study of millennials for whom the idea of what is right or wrong is more grey than black or white.

Hereditary [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

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From writer-director Ari Aster comes a tale of a family discovering unpleasant secrets with the added tension of an unfolding horror show. The talented and underappreciated Toni Collette mourns death in her family and learns more about death itself as we progress in this instant horror classic. The clues are there from the first frame itself. I don’t want to spoil the fun by revealing more. Go watch it.

Game Night [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating:6.0 ]

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Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman star as a star-crossed couple who land up in situations they never bargained for. A motley group of characters ranging from a spooky neighbour to a high flying brother keep the action going in this mad caper. McAdams and Bateman who meet at a game night and marry, continue their proud tradition of hosting game nights. It is during one of those nights that things go berserk. What follows is a sequence of events which is mildly amusing. The best part of the movie is the end sequence with some side jabs to even Harvard University. Recommended if you have the time to spend on movies which require minimum amount of your grey cells to function.

Set It Up [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0 ]

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The thing about this Netflix flick is that if you have low expectations, you are in for a surprise. Smartly written and directed with panache, ‘Set it Up’ is a mini revival of the romantic comedy genre which was more or less on life support. Romantic comedy as a genre has been conveniently given the short shrift by the big Hollywood studios in the last decade or so. In ‘Set it Up’, two overworked office slaves plot to make their bosses fall in love with the express intention of lessening their own workload. The best thing about the movie is that it never bores you and that is a big achievement when it is a romantic comedy. Watch it if you like movies as smooth as Teflon.

Chappaquiddick [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.5]

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The Kennedy family was the original first family of the US till the Clintons and Bushs turned up. The senior Kennedy was the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Besides the obvious fame of John and Robert Kennedy, the Kennedys have had a hand in many pies from founding the Special Olympics to creating the California Museum. The enigmatic yet respected figure in the family was the only surviving male child of the senior Kennedy. Ted Kennedy had to live a life of expectations and the burden of his other brothers’ popularity. Ted also had an infamous criminal event which besmirched his reputation and put an end to any hopes of reaching the highest office in the nation. ‘Chappaquiddick’ is a faithful and contentious retelling of the events that cast a long shadow on the legacy of Ted Kennedy. The movie is engrossing for the material it handles and does not hold back any punches on the culpability of Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy swings between the courage of his convictions and the urgency of self-preservation in this crisp thriller.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 7.0 ]

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First things first. The best thing about the movie is the title. It is almost irresistible not to watch a movie with such a title. The novelty of the title wears off once you are told of the origin story. The movie is mostly passable stuff from the director who brought us a mini classic like ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’. Intrigued by the correspondence she receives; a fledgling author decides to take a trip to Guernsey. There she gets embroiled in the mysterious case of a missing woman. As she tries to unravel the secrets of the island, she not only discovers the truth but also herself. Though the movie is largely watchable, I have this sneaky feeling that the novel which formed the source material must be better.

Little Pink House [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The bone of contention in this movie is the question of whether the government has the right to take away your land for passing it to other private parties. Based on litigation which went all the way to the Supreme Court of USA, this movie is a faithful and unfortunately tepid retelling of an event which caused much consternation in the general populace. The movie has an unfocused approach where it plays out well neither as a drama nor as a courtroom thriller. At the centre is an unwilling protagonist who is only willing to test the water but not take the plunge into the heart of the issue. (Spoilers Ahead) Since there is hardly any scope for celebrating a case which was lost in the court but won outside of it through attrition, the demand is on the viewer to see the bigger picture.

Adrift [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5 ]

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Produced by Shailene Woodley who also plays the lead, ‘Adrift’ tells the true story of a lady who was lost at sea for weeks and had to gather her wits to survive. ‘Adrift’ is mostly off target when it shows the sights of the sea and the despair of the sailor. The oxygen supply to the movie is provided by the scenes of flashback that come with comforting frequency in a movie told in the flashback – flash forward format. The flashback scenes make the movie endearing and build the much-needed emotional element to the movie. This could have been a better movie if it had a better director, a better music director and a better editor.

Documentary of the Week

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5 ]

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A peek inside the life of Robin Williams. The man behind the jovial characters he played on screen.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

Did you know: George Clooney was the highest earning actor in the world last year but most of his income came from his ‘Casamigos Tequila’ business.

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Edition 68

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Edition 68

Casa Grande (Brazil, 2014) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 7.5]

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Brazil has a reputation for producing some of the best movies from Latin America with gems like ‘Central Station’ (1998) and ‘Elite Squad’ (2007). ‘Casa Grande’ is an addition to this proud tradition. The movie deals with the trials and tribulations of a once rich family as their fortunes take a nosedive. The theme is not a novel one. There are other recent examples like ‘Tokyo Sonata’ (2008). The difference here is that the story unfolds through the eyes of the young son of the family who suddenly finds things that he had taken for granted are no more available to him. The camera is an observer in the chaos that engulfs him and his painful disintegration. The story is told in a matter of fact way. Its somber and quiet tone only adds to the intensity of the story that unfolds onscreen.

Movies I Saw This Week

Everest (2015) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating 7.5/10]

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Trailer: 

The movie is based on the well documented 1996 Mount Everest disaster. The disaster has been the subject of movies and books, most notably the NYT bestseller ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer who was part of the ill fated expedition. For this movie version the screenplay was penned by Simon Beaufoy who was also the man behind ‘127 hours’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘The Full Monty’. The movie documents the ill fated expedition consisting of newbies and experts and is a study in human behaviour more than anything else. I saw the 3D version of the movie, which would have been fine in the 2D format as well. The good part about the movie is that it gives a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in such an expedition. It is also deeply moving at a more humane level with examples of how decision making is influenced under stress. From the postman who wants to do the extraordinary to the guy who comes back from the dead, the characters in the movie are fascinating. It is one of the best movies of the year. Highly recommended.

The Visit (2015) [IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 62% My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer: 

After reaching the nadir with ‘The Last Airbender’, ‘After Earth’ and ‘The Happening’, Manoj Night Shyamalan returns to form with ‘The Visit’. Shot a on a small budget without the backing of any major studio, the film really comes to life in the second half. The use of ‘found footage’ type filming may have been more of a requirement because of the low budget than an option, but this does work for the premise of the movie. Two grandchildren go to visit their estranged grandparents for a week. As the days progress the children realize that they are into something they did not bargain for. For once, Shyamalan has a twist which is not phony like the one in ‘The Village’. Surely, one of the better movies of the year.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

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With a star studded cast of scientologist Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg, the new edition of the Mission Impossible is a virtual tour de force. Stretching from Belarus to Vienna and from London to Morocco, the good guys are again out to get the bad ones. Obviously they are there to save the world too. They do it on bikes in the streets of Casablanca, in cars in the streets of Vienna and on a runway in Belarus. Thematically not very different from any superhero movie, MI proceeds at a pace which gives little time for the audience to ponder over the inconsistencies in the plot. There are some nice touches though, like the assassins timing their kill at the precision of a musical note in an opera. There is also the mandatory ‘mask removal’ scene. Given the fatigue associated with movie franchises after the first or second sequel, MI stays fresh to a large extent. That alone may be a reason to watch this movie.

Black Mass (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer:

In the early part of the movie there is a scene where the protagonist tells a child that the key to punching someone is to make sure that no one is watching. If no one saw it, it did not happen. The same guy then goes on to assist the authorities in fighting crime. Essentially, the movie is about crime but the main issue is that like many other such movies it tries to glorify some types of crime at the expense of the other types. For a genre which has been done to death in the last few decades, ‘Black Mass’ does not add anything substantial. Even in terms of the performances it can be safely said that Johnny Depp has seen better days. ‘Black Mass’ is your average flick trying to rise above the mediocrity of its script. If you are looking for a classic crime movie set in Boston, go for ‘The Departed’.

The D Train (2015) [ IMDB: 5.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%, My Rating: 5]

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Trailer:

Jack Black, one of the original members of the ‘frat pack’, stars as a middle aged man who has nothing remarkable about him except his lack of friends and a general ability to be ill behaved. He also happens to be in-charge of organizing a high school alumni reunion. In his over enthusiasm he tries to warm up to one of his schoolmates. What follows is not according to the script he has in mind when he ventures on his misadventures. The movie starts on an interesting note but loses track somewhere. Though Jack Black comes off as a fine actor, the movie may be a disappointment to his core audience who expect him to be funny. Unfortunately there isn’t a single scene in the movie which can be called funny. It is one of those movies where it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with it. In the end it will be lost in a pile of trash that comes out of Hollywood every year.

Z for Zachariah (2015) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, My Rating: 5.5]

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Trailer: 

In a post apocalyptic world a woman finds that the only others remaining are two men. As they live in isolation, the complex dynamics that come into play is beyond her initial anticipation. This movie is a character study more than anything else. Though delightful in spurts with scenes that make you ponder over relationships, the movie’s ultimate undoing is the snail’s pace at which the story is told. Margot Robbie proves that she can be competent but the movie belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofer who steals the show. Overall, a one time watch for the limited audiences who have the blessing of patience in their character.

Documentary of the Week

Cartel Land (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

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A story on the war on drugs in Mexico. Informative and honest.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Bridge Of Spies’ because it is a Steven Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks.

Did you know: Large parts of movies like ‘Kundun’ amd ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ were shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco.