Edition 54

After a break of close to six months, this blog is back. Henceforth, the aim is to publish the blog on a fortnightly basis. Thank you for your continued support.

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu) (Japan, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten tomatoes: 89%]

wind-rises-poster-636-380

Trailer:

The swan song of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (The genius behind classics like Spirited Away, Princess Mononike, Howl’s Moving Castle) is itself a tribute to the life and times of the pioneer of Japanese aviation Jiro Horikoshi. True to form, Miyazaki makes sure that the film gets the scale and ambition it deserves. The thing that struck  me while watching the movie was the ease with which the story was unfolding. The screenplay is so well written that the movie could have been a fantastic one even if it were shot using real people in real settings. This sense of realism is what separates Japanese animation from the Hollywood set pieces. Hence, the slight disappointment that a vastly inferior ‘Frozen’ was chosen ahead of this classic at the Oscars.

Movies I Saw This Week

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

grand-budapest-hotel-uk-quad-poster

Trailer:

Wes Anderson comes up with probably the most engaging film of the year which has its moments of quirkiness which add to the shroud of suspense which camouflages the playfulness of the movie. It tells the story of a concierge in the hotel who has a fetish for older women. Filmed in his signature style, Wes Anderson ensures that the film looks authentic for the inter war period during which it is set. The slick dialogues and accomplished performances from every member of the crew help in adding to one of the best cinematic experiences of 2014.

Begin Again (2014) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83% ]

begin-again-poster

Trailer: 

A once famous music producer who has fallen on bad times, meets a neophyte and takes her on the road to super stardom. The songs used in the movie are good. Mark Ruffalo is perfectly cast as down in the dumps music executive and playing perfect foil to him is the delightful Keira Knightley who is vulnerable and yet cheerful. The film is predictable in the turns it takes but as I have always maintained, some predictable movies are very good to watch even when they have some loose points. Watch it for the music and the joie de vivre.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) [IMDB: 8.1 Roten Tomatoes: 87%]

fault_in_our_stars_by_grodansnagel-d6rujir

Trailer: 

Based on the NYT bestseller, the novel is made with the teenage audiences in mind. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. They share many memorable experiences together as they await death. There is nothing exceptional about the movie. Since it is based on the impending doom and gloom , the thematic elements are placed to pull at the heart strings which they do with limited success. The movie tries too hard to bring in the sentimentality which is its USP. This is certainly not the type of movie I enjoy watching but I am sure there is a section of the audience which loves such tragedies.

A Most Wanted Man (2014) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

man-poster

Trailer: 

From the spy novelist John Le Carre comes this thriller focusing on undercover operations against Muslim terrorist groups based in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman delights in his final onscreen appearance and simultaneously reminds us of the great talent that we lost. The suspense and intrigue in the movie build up from the first shot and reaches an explosive climax which is difficult to predict. The screenplay focuses on the minute aspects of the story which gives an impression that there is a twist waiting to happen all the time. The director does not let the pace slacken and the actors do full justice to their roles. I immensely enjoyed watching the movie and feel that it is one of the best to have come out in recent months.

Are You Here (2014) [IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

are yhou here

Trailer: 

Owen Wilson and Zach Galfianakis teaming up was supposed to be funny but when they try to add gravity, when nothing even resembling that is expected, you get the movie disaster of the year. Both of them sleepwalk through their roles and an awfully weak screenplay makes you wonder “What am I being subjected to?”. For the record, the story is that of a social misfit who goes to attend his father’s funeral and discovers that he has become a millionaire because his dad trusted his dazed and confused son over his selfish and uncaring daughter. At every moment in the movie, there is an anticipation that there could be something funny happening soon but all those hopes are buried along with the funeral in the movie. Watch it if you are learning to be good at anger management.

Finding Fanny (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Finding_Fanny_Theatrical_release_poster

Trailer: 

I have immense sympathy for people who paid to see this drivel in a theatre. This is the kind of movie that brings disrepute to good cinema because it is marketed as good cinema intended for the audiences who can see the finer points of filmmaking. What it becomes is storyless story which could have been compressed to a 25 minute episode on television. For all her commercial success and the fixed awards that come with it, Deepika Padukone cannot act to save her life. Even the others look out of touch with thespian Naseeruddin Shah being the only saving grace. He plays the character of a person who is cajoled to go in search of his long lost love. Just like the car they take the trip in, the story meanders along aimlessly and is a pain to watch. I think people should have guessed this early as the main marketing point of the movie during its promotions was the derriere of the actresses. A movie that must be avoided at all costs.

Happy New Year (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)

Trailer: 

Thank God that this movie was released during Diwali. If it was released during the new year, it would have ruined the entire year. Now it needs to be just burned along with the the crackers on Diwali. To call this a movie would be the equivalent of calling the winner of the National Spelling Bee a novelist. The movie is a pointless attempt and an insult to the audience. Filled with cheap gags and a story which seems to have been conjured up by an infant in the cradle, the film is a tight slap on the faces of the audiences who throng movies on the first day of release because of the marketing blitzkrieg they are subjected to. It is also a reminder of the fading charisma of an ageing superstar finding it difficult to maintain the aura so frighteningly exposed by those wrinkles. It is an insult to the idea of patriotism when such movies try to play such cards in vain. As for the actors, the cake goes to Abhishek Bachchan who now plays the Uday Chopra equivalent of a side kick he is used to having in the Dhoom series. I hope that the director Farah Khan meets the same fate as her even lousier brother.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Inequality for all (2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

inequality

Trailer: 

The former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich tries to give a new perspective on the labour market and the distribution of wealth. Highly recommended.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Foxcatcher’ because it is a true story of an Olympic winner.

Did you know: In the state of South Dakota it is illegal to show Police getting beaten in the movies.

 

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Edition 53: The Best of National Awards

Movies: Non-English

Fireworks (Hana-bi) (Japan, 1997) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Hana-Bi Poster

Trailer: 

With generous doses of blood splashing on the screen and numerous scenes with physical violence, this Japanese classic is not a pleasant film to watch. A cop gets out of the police force and gets into violent ways. He takes up painting after his voluntary retirement but the pent up frustrations in his life boil over. Shot with an element of sadism in the scenes of violence and marked with insensitivity to human life, the film is a masterclass in violence. The lead actor wrote and directed the film and it is safe in his hands as he is able to fully realize what he penned.

The Wave (Germany, 2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Wave (2008)

Trailer: 

For many poorly informed foreigners, especially non-Europeans, the everlasting word association with Germany is ‘Hitler’. Though unfair to Germany and Germans, this is one association they find very difficult to shake off. This film explores the possibility of the rise of a dictatorship in Germany. Based on a true story (that happened outside Germany),  a social experiment trying to figure out how life would be under a dictatorship, spirals out of control. Though the film suffers much on account of the difficulty in making it believable, it is a study on how cults emerge and how a few committed mad men can create havoc in the society. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jolly LLB (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

Jolly-LLB-2013

Trailer: 

I did not watch this movie earlier thinking that it was one of the assembly line manufactured products from Bollywood. The ‘critics’ from mainstream media were also reserved in their reviews with no high praises being spoken of the film. It is after the film scooped few awards at the Filmfare awards that I thought that I should probably watch it. The probability turned into certainty when the film won a few more awards at the National Film Awards. It is a mystery to me (maybe, it is not) how pathetic mainstream movies with huge star casts receive glowing paid for reviews while good independent cinema is hardly recognized. Jolly LLB, minus the forced songs, is indeed the best Hindi film of 2013. It has a very original script and fine performances from all the main actors including Saurabh Shukla, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. Telling a contemporary story, it is a courtroom drama that exposes the ills of the Indian judicial system without taking itself too seriously. The court scenes look authentic and the dialogues are never forced. It is a quite an easy film to watch and keeps you interested even when the climax is a foregone conclusion.

Labor Day (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Labor Day

Trailer: 

This film looks like a 70s movie with better cast and poor directing. A cure for insomnia. It is baffling how Kate Winslet got a BAFTA nomination for her insipid performance. The plot involves a single mom and her son being forced to give asylum to a criminal on the run from the law. A lot of mushy moments that are obviously built into the story to initiate intimacy between the couple fall flat. All this makes it a B grade movie with an A list star cast which makes you laugh in the serous moments.

Shahid (India, 2012) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

shahid

Trailer: 

Based on the true story of the slain advocate who defended the accused in many high stakes terror cases, ‘Shahid’ is a tour de force. Punching many holes in the narrative of the investigation agencies, Shahid becomes a thorn in the proceedings for people wielding power. He succeeds in getting acquittals for many of the accused.The movie which starts with the killing of Shahid traces his story from almost becoming a terrorist to being at the vanguard of the fight against human rights abuses. Rajkumar Rao deservedly got the Best Actor award at the National Film Awards. ‘Shahid’ tells a story that needs to be told and they have told it quite well.

2 States (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

2-states-poster_139296427700

 

Trailer: 

First the good parts. It is not a boring film and Alia Bhatt has acted well. Discounting for the source material, the film is well directed and edited. In simple words, it is not boring. Otherwise, it is a story which was taken from a screenplay published as a novel. (Spoilers Ahead) Chetan Bhagat writes screenplays with melodramatic moments and high drama in plain English and first publishes them as books priced at suitable pricing points. Later they make them into movies which neatly fit the genre of the typical Bollywood romance. The film is a refined version of Ekkkkkkta Kapoor’s serials, with squabbling relatives and tender love caught in the cross fire. Here a Punjabi guy and a Tamil Brahmin girl (you see, the cast has to be mentioned. As if, others don’t study in Tamil Nadu) fall in love, copulate and even romance during interviews during their stint at IIM A. In what is bad advertisement for IIM A, the girl even takes the groom to task over his lower salary than hers at a wedding which is her way of addressing the dowry problem. I have only sympathy for the souls who think that Chetan Bhagat writes something new in every book. It is the same recycled trash. All his books have the same type of ‘liberated’ women. Just like the much prized pen in ‘3 Idiots’ there are plot devices that keep on repeating in the movie for them to be magically resolved. A case in point here is the poor singer mother-in-law who gets her place in the sun because of the efforts of her daughter’s boyfriend. Then there is the abusive father who has a change of heart when the director wants it. It is all too convenient.  The piece de  resistance was the ‘ring scene’. I was wondering if all family members would be wearing the ring and if the girl had a sister instead of a brother, would she be wearing one too? For once, I did not understand the need to have a session at the shrink’s place as a venue for the flashback. Maybe producer Kkkkkkaran Johar can explain.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues

Trailer: 

If you have brain, leave it in the freezer. Know that you are going to watch a stupid film and know that stupidity has no limits. Get ready for jokes that don’t care about any niceties. Racist jokes, jokes on the blind and so on are the categories that will have benchmarks with this one film which makes no pretensions about what it wants to tell. Finally it boils down to a matter of taste. Watch a version of how 24 hour news channels came into being. Just for the gags.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Why We Fight (2005) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Why We Fight (2005)

Trailer: 

Why Americans like going to war? Who wants America to go to war? A look at the powerful interests that drive the American war machine.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Chef’ because it is a movie on food.

Did you know: The first Twilight is the only film in the series to not receive any Razzie Award nominations.