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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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.

 

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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]

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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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Trailer:

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]

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Trailer:

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]

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Trailer:

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer:

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]

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Trailer:

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.”