Edition 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Second Mother (Brazil, 2015) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]

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This movie, which stimulates careful consideration of the class divides in the Brazilian society, tells the story of a housemaid who lives in Sao Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil. The maid’s serene and stable life goes into a tailspin when her daughter who shares a frosty relationship with her comes to stay with her in Sao Paulo. The skillfully woven tale examines the dynamics of the relationships when an outsider challenges it in myriad ways. The comedienne Regina Case gives a performance par excellence and the acclaims the movie has received is well deserved. Certainly worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Martian (2015) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating 7.5]

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While watching ‘The Martian’ the one thing that doesn’t strike the viewer is that the director Ridley Scott is 77 years old. With celebrated movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Thelma & Louise’, ‘Black Hawk Dawn’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘American Gangster’, ‘The Martian’ is the antithesis of what you would expect from a veteran. Brilliantly conceived and executed using cutting edge technology, the movie is an introduction to life on Mars (the planet and not the chocolate). Astronaut Matt Damon has to use all the wits at his disposal when he is stranded in the hostile environment on Mars while awaiting succour. The movie has a predictable story line and occasionally feels like a documentary. Also, it looks like an out of the world version of ‘Cast Away’ with a person trained to be better at being alone. That also takes away the emotional anger, distress and frustration that was essential in a movie like ‘Cast Away’. A 3D version also does not add anything to the movie. On a lighter note, how many times will Hollywood send missions to rescue Matt Damon after attempts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Interstellar’ and now ‘The Martian’?

Talvar (2015) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes:98%, My Rating: 7.0]

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‘Talvar’ is a barely camouflaged take on the infamous double murders to rock Noida, a suburb of Delhi. Though the parents of the girl were convicted and are serving their sentence now, the film tries to turn the story upside down. Viewed from an objective point of view, the movie is an unvarnished attempt to take sides and prove the parents innocent in the whole affair. It does not leave any ambiguity and even ridicules views contrary to the moviemaker’s desired stand. Simultaneously the movie raises some disturbing questions related to the handling of the crime scene and ‘confessions’ of some suspects under narco-analysis (The procedure has since been outlawed by the Supreme Court of India as no one can be forced to give evidence against himself/herself). What stands out in the movie are the stirring performance from the ever reliable Irrfan Khan and the sorry state of affairs in the government investigation agencies. The crux of the matter finally boils down to the access outsiders have in a household and how security is sometimes compromised. Director Meghna Gulzaar finally delivers a watchable movie after a history of duds but credit must largely go to the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj who pens an entertaining but ultimately flawed screenplay.

Inside Out (2015) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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In animation in Hollywood, there is Pixar and then there are the rest. It is akin to a 100m sprint where there is Usain Bolt and the rest. The showcase feature from Pixar this year tells the story of a young girl trying to adjust to life in a new setting. Her emotions are controlled by distinct characters representing happiness, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. There are some nice touches like happiness and sadness sharing similar hair colour to imply that they are related. The movie does get a tad slow in some parts but overall is a joy to watch. Unless something exceptional is released, my money is on ‘Inside Out’ to win the next Academy Award for the ‘The Best Animation Picture’.

Spy (2015) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Melissa McCarthy stars as the spy in the movie which has some really smart writing to aid to an otherwise average story line. The element of humour is the only running theme in the movie. Aided by clever one liners and some outrageously funny scenes (like the one in an Italian restaurant), the movie is a breeze to watch. The unconventional appearance of the lead is exploited to the hilt and there is a delightful supporting cast of Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham lets his hair down in a role parodying his earlier efforts. All of this makes the movie a thoroughly enjoyable fare.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 6.5]

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Marking the directorial debut of the multi talented Nadirshah (who has also set the songs to tune), this Malayalam movie tells the tale of three youngsters whose goal in life is to visit Pattaya in Thailand. The truth is that all this is a mere diversion for the antics that they end up performing. The movie is a series of anecdotes with the sole aim of getting a good laugh from the viewers. Some of the jokes achieve more than what they were expected to do. The serious angle in the movie seems to be an afterthought to bring some gravity to the proceedings. For the kind of comedy only Malayalam movies can provide, this is indeed a laugh riot.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:: Not yet rated, My Rating:5.0]

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Based on the template provided by the original, this sequel goes all out to demolish women as vain, scatterbrained and egotistical individuals out to get the naive and goodhearted men. If only things could be that simple. Essentially a demolition job, this movie inadvertently  exposes the severe flaws of the characters it sets out to rescue. More than anything, it is about men who make deeply deficient choices. They seem to be thinking with other parts of the body than with their heads when making the choice of a girlfriend. Compared to the prequel where the men were sitting ducks, here they are foxy fellows who feign ignorance till it suits them. Finally when that time does come, they consider themselves as valiant martyrs in the cause of love. There is a cringe-worthy scene at the end where the men rediscover their love for their mothers. There is also an incoherent rant on women by one of the embattled men. The last time he did that it was amusing but now it looks like a forced addition. All in all, this sequel lacks the intellectual honesty of the original.

Katti Batti (2015) [IMDB: 4.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating: 2.0]

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There is a scene in this movie when Imran Khan says, “Maa chali gayi” (Mother has gone). The expression on his face is that of a lifeless sculpture. I thought that he was telling that the mother has gone to buy groceries or to take a walk. Seconds later it dawned on me that he was announcing the death of his mother. I almost cried. Not for the mother but for the fact that I paid to see a non actor in a disaster of a movie. ‘Katti Batti’ is full of such moments where you curse the moment you decided to walk into the movie hall. Imran Khan has the acting abilities of a stone but then Kangna Ranaut is supposed to be one of the best of this generation. Even she looks like a kid lost in a fair with no idea of what is going on. The anti climax makes you wonder what was going on till that point in the movie. This film is s farce and I am being kind. The best actor in the movie is a turtle. Who gives money to Nikhil Advani to make movies and still does not have a change of heart after Imran Khan is cast in the lead role? There is a lot more that can be said against the film but the electricity consumed by my laptop when I type is worth more than the movie. Save electricity.

Documentary of the Week

Sunshine Superman (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The life of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. The footage of the jumps is exhilarating but the documentary is underwhelming. Still, an introduction to BASE jumping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Steve Jobs’ because of the ways in which people tried to stop it from getting made. Also because it is directed by Danny Boyle.

Did you know: The pile of excreta that the young Jamal jumps into in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was made from a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

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Edition 58

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Two Days, One Night (Belgium, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Coming from perennial festival favorites Dardenne brothers, this film tells the story of a young mother who discovers that she has lost her job while she was away for medical reasons. She must convince her colleagues to reverse their vote in favor of sacking her in return for a 1000 Euro bonus. The movie is remarkable as it delves into the socio-economic realities of the workers themselves. Aiding the strong script is the spell binding performance of Marion Cotillard who must be in line for an Oscar nomination. This is a simple film that will stay with you for a while. For those interested in more from Dardenne brothers, I recommend ‘L’Infant’ (2005).

Movies I Saw This Week

Foxcatcher (2014) [IMDB:7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7/10]

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From the director of ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Capote’ comes another truly American picture about a psychotic millionaire and his doomed project at playing godfather to American wrestling. Steve Carell transforms into John Du Pont, an eccentric millionaire from the Dupont family who makes his mission to bring USA glory through wresting dominance. Based on a true story, this film captures the apocalyptic project in which the Schultz brothers are roped in to fulfill the fancies of a lonely man. The movie is unnecessarily languid in its pace. The highlight is the casting with Channing Taum delivering his career best performance and Steve Carell trying to be a method actor. The real life events were pretty much in black and white but in the movie the director leaves enough space for speculation. Though the movie has been heavily promoted by the studio for the Oscars, it is unlikely that it will make much headway in the Oscar race.

The Interview (2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 5/10]

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At the centre of a controversy because of its attack on the North Korean regime and the subsequent retribution attacks on Sony Pictures, this film comes with a lot of hype associated with it. Even labeled as a test of the ability to stand up for free speech, the moviemakers must be wondering what hit them when they were clearly trying to pull only a few cheap laughs. Judged purely on merit the movie does not command even a fraction of the attention it has received. It is a puerile comedy which would have largely gone unnoticed. At the same time, it is hard to discount the fact that the movie is a direct attack on the North Korean regime and their supreme leader. If the same film targeted any other country in the manner they have gone for the Koreans, it would have surely raked up another controversy. Thankfully, the movie never rises above the ordinary and will be easily forgotten.

This Is Where I Leave You (2014) [IMDb: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

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Four siblings return home for the funeral of their father. The film tells the story of the week they spend at home and the host of characters they encounter. All of them have problems of their own which they try to address and often end up with amusing solutions. The film has its moments and the talent assembled is huge but the story never soars and hurtles towards a predictable end. The movie is never a difficult one to watch but is certainly not the kind on which you would like to have a discussion about.

The Skeleton Twins (2014) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The film tells the story of a sister and a brother who have messed up lives and the brother’s suicide attempt makes them address the issues in their lives and also the way their relationship has been. An easy to watch movie about two individuals who find the going tough, this movie is bittersweet in its own way. Backed by strong acting and a competent screenplay, it is one of the low budget movies of the year which is a good one time watch.

Dumb and Dumber To (2014) [IMD: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. My Rating: 5/10]

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This sequel to a cult classic does not live up to its billing. Starring aging Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, it starts on the wrong foot. It does elevate itself later on but by then the damage is done. Frankly, there are some really funny scenes but they get buried under an avalanche of poor tasteless jokes. Such a movie never aimed to be classy or hoped to create an imprint in cinema history but  it fails to deliver on the rather modest ambitions it has. Jim Carrey looks shrill and Jeff Daniels looks rather too old to play his part. For those who are interested in a bit of trivia, the movie has Jennifer Lawrence in a role. Trying to spot her would be good fun when the movie itself gets too boring and predictable.

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%, My Rating: 3/10]

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The film shows the paucity of scripts in major Hollywood studios. There is no reason for its existence and it is yet another attempt to milk the last remains of any nostalgia audiences would have had for the original (not that the original was much better). Trying to write about the plot of this movie is like trying to explain Mahabharata in a sentence. I have genuine sympathy for people who have paid to watch this movie.

PK (2014) [IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

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The highest grossing Bollywood film ever, PK, reunites director Rajkumar Hirani with Aamir Khan. Aamir who duped audiences with Dhoom 3, comes back to screen as an alien (it helps to start as if you don’t remember your last movie) whose apparatus which will take him back to his homeland has now been stolen. For all the deep philosophical thought the movie espouses, the first one is that the first Indian who meets PK robs him of his only possession. PK who speaks in Bhojpuri (maybe because Biharis are considered alien wherever they go. Cue: Maharashtra) finds the lack of logic in religion the most damning aspect of life in India. While rightfully taking on godmen and confusing customs with religion, PK sermonizes from the high pedestal that only he can occupy. It is an alien who points out what is wrong with religion. While the intent of the movie might be admirable, the end product is not biting enough. I will though credit PK with having set the cat among the pigeons. It is not a modest achievement to unite the extremists in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Judged on artistic merit, the movie is neither original nor remarkable but it is also a better indicator of who is in control when it comes to law and order in India. If the movie had been released a few months ago, the erstwhile government would have taken the movie out of the theatre to please fundamentalists. Now we have to deal with smaller hiccups like Anushka Sharma who seems to have been wrongly briefed about her role prior to shooting. She must have thought that she would be required to play an alien and she got into the skin of the character with a lip job. Also, cars shaking in public with their windows open is a call out sign to PK that he must change his clothes. Enjoy, if you can.

Documentary of the Week

Fed Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.5]

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A thorough look at the obesity epidemic. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Taken 3’ because there is no better angry old man than Liam Neeson.

Did you know: Sean Connery wore a wig in every single one of his Bond performances.