Edition 60

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Leviathan (Russia, 2014) [IMDb:8.0, Rotten tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 9/10]

Leviathan-Poster

Trailer:

Of the few hundred movies that I have seen in 2014, ‘Leviathan’ is the best. It is also the most depressing. It is unsparingly bleak, brutally honest and hauntingly beautiful.

A man decides to stand up against the might of the Russian State, in a coastal town where generations of his family have lived. His mortal enemy is the mayor of the town and when he summons his lawyer friend from Moscow to fight his case, he sets in motion a chain of events that spiral out of control. The vast expanse of the remote Russian terrain and the suitably frugal government offices conspire to cover up the opulence and decadence at the heart of the society. It would be a surprise if ‘Leviathan’ does not take the Oscar for the foreign language movie.

Movies I Saw This Week

Whiplash (2014) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My rating:7.5]

whiplash-poster

Trailer:

‘Whiplash’ has too many twists and turns. It could have been an ideal candidate for a script tying itself in knots but ‘Whiplash’ redeems itself by untying all the knots (or shall we say notes?) without making it feel like a Houdini escape. For the most part you won’t notice that such a short story is basically held together by some praiseworthy performances. In the case of J.K Simmons, it is also an Oscar worthy performance. In fact, if there is one category on which I am willing to put my money now, it is the Best Supporting Actor, for J.K. Simmons.

I was reminded of some of the teachers whom I had the misfortune of meeting and who confused rigor with inhumanity. ‘Whiplash’ is about a drummer who overcomes the hurdles placed by such a teacher. All this is told in a very engaging way and this has now helped ‘Whiplash’ to become the dark horse in the ‘Best Screenplay ‘ category at the Oscars.

Selma (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

selma

Trailer:

Based on an important chapter in the US Civil Rights Movement led by Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, ‘Selma’ tells a topical tale. Unfortunately, it was snubbed in categories like direction, acting and screenplay at the Oscars. It also revealed some interesting statistics: 94% of Oscar voters are white and 77% are white men with an average age of 63. Even Martin Luther King would have struggled to get a nod from such a group. The director Ava DuVernay has a double handicap. She is a woman and she is African American.

Coming to the movie, the creators of the movie were not allowed to use the actual speeches used by Dr.King. Still, the scenes are quite rousing and performed with anguish and passion. It is on watching such movies that one gets to know of Dr.King being whacked by every Tom, Dick and Harry who disagreed with him. As a movie, ‘Selma’ may not be a classic but it is  great chronicle of one of the struggles that shaped history. Highly recommended.

Cake (2014) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. My Rating: 5.5]

cake

Trailer:

There was a lot of heartburn when Jennifer Aniston was snubbed by the Academy in spite of concerted lobbying for a ‘Best Actress’ nomination. After watching ‘Cake’, I was wondering what all that hoopla was about. Clearly a movie made with the sole intention of fetching Aniston an Oscar, ‘Cake’ leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Aniston plays  a character suffering from chronic pain (presumably) after a personal tragedy. Aniston went the extra length of wearing as little make up as possible for this movie. All she ends up delivering is an insipid performance. Now that Aniston got her ‘Cake’, she also got to learn that she cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Pride (2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

Pride_Movie_2014_Poster

Trailer:

Based on a true story, ‘Pride’ is about the LGBT community and the miners who became bedfellows during Thatcher era miner’s strike in Britain. Set in Wales, the movie has a pleasing pace and gathers momentum as it progresses. The dialogues are fresh the creators have tried their best to keep the historical accuracy of events. A lively background also lifts the film from being pedestrian. It is a movie which is not bad but it would also be an exaggeration to call it a very good film.

Big Eyes (2014) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:71%, My Rating: 5.5]

Big-Eyes

Trailer:

There was a Tim Burton who made thoroughly enjoyable movies like ‘Edward Scissorhands’. There is a Tim Burton who makes soulless movies like ‘Big Eyes’. Just like his favorite Johnny Depp, he also making uninspired movies. This one has Amy Adams essaying the role of Margaret Keane whose paintings of children with big eyes were a rage a few decades ago.  The trouble was that her husband fraudulently took all the acclaim and the millions generated from the sales of her paintings. It is about how the painter reclaimed what was rightfully hers. The whole movie looks like a stale 80s documentary where everything seems so artificial and simplistic. It is a story without any memorable moments. At some point in the movie, you wish that the agony had been shorter. Wish the editor of the movie had scissorhands.

Wild (2014) [IMDb: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My rating: 4]

wild_ver2_xlg

Trailer:

This movie’s only purpose is to somehow land Reese Witherspoon another Oscar. If you have too much money and time, and your choice is between watching ‘Wild’ and paying somebody to kick you, do the latter. A woman goes on a wild trek to tide over a personal tragedy . That’s it. She backpacks and just walks. Reese Witherspoon wants an Oscar for acting in this movie. Many critics concur. I think they should be asked to go for a walk.

 

I (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten tomatoes: 55%, my Rating: 3.0]

i-movie-posters

Trailer:

From my childhood I have enjoyed most of the movies from Shankar even when they had the same story of a man’s struggle against corruption. Muthalvan, Gentleman, Indian and Anniyan were essentially the same tale told in different ways. In ‘I’, corruption gives way to romance. The hero wants to take revenge on those who sabotaged his love and life. The director throws logic out of the window, digs a grave and buries science, and relies on low brow humor to hold together a film disintegrating like the body of the protagonist. Even the normally reliable AR Rahman is not able to give a hummable tune. The dictum followed by the director is to disfigure characters and make them look as repelling as his makeup man possibly could.  While Shankar created spectacles with a much lower budget in his earlier films, his revenge instrument in this big budget movie is a syringe. If you ever have to explain to a foreigner what this movie is about, tell him/her that it is the Indian version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

Documentary of the Week

Citizenfour (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My rating: 9/10]

Citizenfour-online

Trailer:

Edward Snowden. The documentary of the year. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

Did you know: Jason Schwartzman, Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage are cousins.

 

 

 

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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]

Winter Sleep

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]

Imitation Game

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]

Unbroken

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]

birdman-click

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]

Ivory Tower

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.”

Week 43

Movies: Non-English

Il Postino: The Postman (Italy, 1994) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Il Postino The Postman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-wrM1ptyHM

I was looking for some inspiration to pen the blog this week after a truly hectic schedule. What else could be a better movie to kick start this edition than this Italian classic about a poorly educated man who is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poetry to finally convey his love to the woman he has always loved. The legendary poet from Chile moves into an Italian island and the protagonist who is a postman gets to deliver mail to Neruda. In the process, he befriends Neruda who aids him through his poetry and helps the postman to speak up to the village beauty he has always admired, from a distance. A blend of romance, music and poetry, this film shows the endless possibilities of literature. Shot elegantly, the movie sets the right tone and is one of the really unique pieces in movie making. Two thumbs up.

A Royal Affair (Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB”7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

ROYAL_AFFAIR_2dpackshot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGXNQu3fpP8

‘A Royal Affair’ is a movie which unfortunately released in the same year as ‘Amour’, thus sealing its fate as the close loser to the latter at all the major awards in the Foreign Language category in 2012. On its own, the film is a rather engaging one and has been shot with the grandeur it deserves. The heart of the story is about an ordinary man who stretches the limits of imagination and customs to do good for the common man in an era when the buck stopped at the king’s door. A queen married to an insane king falls in love with a physician who has progressive ideals. The film is based on a true story concerning the Danish monarchy. As one critic noted, falling in love can change the world or at least the fate of a nation. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

August: Osage County (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

August Osage County

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hd_uO72h1s

I was looking forward to this movie because the play on which it is based was very successful and it is not every other day that Mery Streep and Julia Roberts share screen space. The film though turned out to be close to a dud but is salvaged by the acting prowess of the thespians on screen. A family tragedy leads to the reunion of a few strong willed and opinionated women in a family in Oklahoma. Fireworks on screen should have ideally followed the setting but the film struggles to even ignite a spark. The movie fails to explore cinema as a medium and is constrained by the feel of a play which it is not able to shake off. An average effort.

About Time (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

About Time

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7A810duHvw

The running joke about this movie is that Rachel McAdams falls in love in movies only with people who can time travel. Here, the man in her life is an ordinary guy who thinks about making his life better as opposed to changing the world when he discovers that the ability to time travel runs in the family. He tries to replay moments in his life he cares for, until they reach perfection. Though the film requires suspension of disbelief, you are willing to play along as it involves the extraordinary love story of an ordinary man. I like romantic movies with good production values, decent acting, good lines and soft music. I liked this one.

The Family (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

The_Family_2013,_Poster

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

Robert De Niro is the head of an Italian mob clan who hides out in France with his family under a witness protection programme. The family wrecks havoc in the local community with their trigger happy violent ways. Though I warmed up to the premise of the movie, it got too hot to handle with its unnecessary violence as it progressed. What could have been a comedy soon turned into a ultra violent movie. Catch it on TV  when you have nothing else to do.

Philip Seymour Hoffman Retrospective

There are some deaths which make you feel that they are so unfair. At 46 years Hoffman was not even near the peak of his acting abilities. He had so much to offer. Though it is a cliche to say this, it can be said without any exaggeration that his death is an irreplaceable loss. My tribute to the one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Capote (2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Capote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjvBYqp8b6U

Quite possibly Hoffman’s best performance which also got him the Oscar. Hoffman is Truman Capote. Even Capote himself would have been less authentic if he had acted. Oozes class.

Synecdoche, New York (2008) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Synecdoche, New York

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIizh6nYnTU

A movie on existentialism. Not everyone’s cup of tea. Hoffman is so good in it that I have watched some scenes many times over in awe of how he pulls them off.

The Master (2012) [ IMDB:7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

master 2012

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1O1vb9AUU

It is a competition between Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the acting department. Both of them are winners. The story does not even matter.

Documentary Pick of the Week

How to Die in Oregon (2011) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

How to Die in Oregon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F-525sCzhE

Two decades ago Oregon became the first US state to legalize physician assisted suicide. The documentary follows the lives of a few terminally ill people as they grapple with the question in light of the new law. Heartbreaking.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Non-Stop’ because Liam Neeson is the new angry middle aged man.

Did you know: Walt Disney refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because he had made “that disgusting movie Psycho.”