Movies: Non- English
Nine Queens (Argentina, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]
Classic con movie. The best thing I like about this one is that the guy who gets conned never gets to know that he has been conned. In the numerous remakes of this movie that I have seen in other languages, they could not resist telling the guy that he has been conned. For such reasons and more, this original version in Spanish is a better attempt. It shows great restraint in its storytelling, slowly building a jigsaw puzzle which fits perfectly at the end. It also metes out justice in the old fashioned way without violence, concurrently taking care of the bad guys. The story is simple: Two guys try to make a quick buck through forgery but then all is not what it seems. Some best laid plans work like the way they were planned.
The Intouchables (France, 2011) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]
Genuine crowd pleasing movie which tells the story of a bond which develops between a physically challenged man and his caretaker who are from the opposite ends of the social spectrum. Based on a true story, it tells the adventures, camaraderie and insecurities both of them share. The medical condition is not a hindrance for them when they decide to see the world and experience it with full vigor. Similar to ‘The Class’ reviewed last week, it also throws the spotlight on the challenges facing French society. The acting is laudable and the whole mood is encapsulated by the background score which rises to the occasion. Still, it is a light film to watch with some really good scenes. How about being escorted by the police to reach the destination instead of being fined when caught for over speeding?
Garden State (2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]
One of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen, this debut feature from Zach Braff was one of the surprise hits of 2004. The writing is sharp and the acting does justice to it. The premise for the story is the return of the protagonist to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. The unconventional characters he meets on his return home and how he finds his lady love form the rest of the story. It is told with the freshness of morning dew. There are many remarkable scenes but the one I like the most is the one in the swimming pool when the girl swims towards the guy; it says so much without a word being spoken. If you are a fan of romantic comedies, this is a must watch.
Doctor Zhivago (1965) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]
Epic, in the sense of a cinematic experience, has few parallels like David Lean’s adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s classic ‘Doctor Zhivago’. The story in its essence tells how the lives of ordinary people are changed forever by events of far reaching historical significance. Doctot Zhivago who is a happily married man has his life turned upside down after a chance meeting with one of his patients. What follows is a saga of love and passion with the Russian Revolution in the background. The imagery is breathtaking and the music is one of the best in the history of cinema. It is a pity that neither David Lean for direction nor Omar Sherif for acting won the Academy award but the film did win 5 of them. At the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that if you have not seen this film then you have not seen one of the greatest movies ever made.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
There are few movies which fit the bill ‘timeless’ and this is one of those. Looking for a film of hope and optimism? This is the one. A man is shown how he brings joy and happiness to the people around him and how life would be for them without him. It is a little strange to see that such progressive films were made in the days of the studio system but with such shackles removed it is impossible to make such a movie now. Moreover, this film could be called socialist by today’s standards in USA. The film is a James Stewart show all the way. Recommended viewing for all types of people from all age groups. After all, it’s a wonderful life.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Best Offer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]
This is perhaps the most engaging film to have come out in 2013 and most of the viewers will find it absolutely spell binding but the issue with someone like me is that I have unfortunately watched too many movies to figure out the only possible ending to the movie. Nevertheless, it is one of the best made thrillers of 2013 and looks authentic. Ennio Morricone’s music is testament to the fact that some things get better with age. The story is that of an art auctioneer who is at the top of his game but has issues dealing with women. He meets a young lady who is looking to auction off her collection. What follows is a mix of intrigue and treachery. I cannot say more without revealing the story but the film is definitely worth a watch and has the most costly love making scene of all time. That was a clue to the story. Just watch it.
Only God Forgives (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]
The film from the director of ‘Drive’ has Ryan Gosling as a drug dealer in Bangkok. It also has a story which is told between scenes of torture. The scenes are so violent and self serving that you will look away from the screen because you will slowly get used to the fact that the next shot will involve blood oozing out of the body. The movie may have been made with the intention of catering to the film festival audience and it is no coincidence that it premiered at Cannes. It is a kill fest with opposite groups trying to find and hunt down people even remotely connected to a crime. I will never be able to enjoy karaoke singing again if I were in Bangkok. The saying goes; Those who live by the sword die by it. Here that is not the case.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]
Milkha Singh is a legend in Indian sports and his story is a one that must be told but not for 3 hours with numerous songs including the mandatory army song. I have never understood why films showing army life in Hindi movies must have a song with the soldiers dancing. Such minor irritants aside, this is a film worth a watch. I so wish that Indian film makers can make inspiring movies and not confuse slow motion with inspiration. Farhan Akhtar has put in a sincere effort but nothing to sing high praises of. As an aside, the 400 m race at the Rome Olympics is considered by many as the greatest ever race in modern Olympic history because the first 4 runners broke the world record in existence before the race. Unfortunately for Milkha, he happened to be the fourth one, missing the medal by a whisker. It is a commentary on the state of Indian athletics that it took almost 40 years for someone to break the record created by Milkha in Rome in 1960. I hope that they make movies on Vishwanathan Anand, P T Usha, Prakash Padukone, Sushil Kumar and others.
Assault on Wall Street (2013) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]
One guy who loses everything in the financial crisis and blames the Wall Street for it takes law (read ‘gun’) into his hands and tries to settle scores by taking down who he thinks is responsible for his plight. The film tries to channel the anger of the population against big banks and funds in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the bailout programmes. The film is remarkable for its naivety but it also has some biting dialogue especially the one which aims at the big names in American history who made the most amount of money. If you are very angry with the Wall Street this film may help you as it shows one guy taking up guns for you. Otherwise, don’t even bother.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Bowling for Columbine (2002) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]
The only documentary to have ever won the Palme D’or at Cannes, ‘Bowling for Columbine’ is an essential watch for anyone trying to figure out why USA is such a trigger happy nation. Absolute must watch.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Jobs’ because it is the story of Steve Jobs and it could be either very good or very bad.
Did you know: Agatha Christie’s ‘Mousetrap’ has not been made into a movie till now because the movie rights were sold under the condition that the film will be made only after the play stopped performing. It so happens that ‘Mousetrap’ which started as a play in 1952 is still going strong.