Edition 83

The Non-English Movie of The Week

First They Killed My Father (Cambodia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

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After a couple of failed attempts at movie making, Angelina Jolie finally hits the sweet spot with her deadpan style which is suitable for a movie which deals with agony and intensifying despair. Set in Cambodia during the infamous Khmer Rouge regime and based on an autobiographical account of the events, this movie is a serious yet nuanced take on life during the regime as well as the disintegration of a way of life. Jolie’s success is also down to the fact that she resists the temptation of sidelining the central character in the narration. The movie unfolds through the eyes of the child and her family’s fervid attempts to stick together. The movie practically proceeds through a series of compelling events. ‘First They Killed My Father’ is a movie that deserves to be seen and applauded.

Movies I Saw This Week

Baby Driver (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

Trailer

‘Baby Driver’ navigates the zone which is between the border of pop flick and high art. Though it has some tired premises like ‘one final heist before retirement’, the movie manages to hold attention by the sheer pace of the action it offers and and a good recycling of cliches. The central character of the movie is the driver of a getaway car for bank robbers. He has his quirks but his self assured demeanor is tested as the story progresses. It would be wrong to say that ‘Baby Driver’ is a all brawn and no brains story. Nevertheless, one may enjoy it more if the brain is left at home.

Who is Alice (2017) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated , My Rating:7.0 ]

Trailer

This is a surprisingly good movie with a solid screenplay and fine acting. It tells the tale of a struggling actress trying to juggle her personal and professional life. Without divulging much about the story, it can be said that the whole movie is a setup towards an unexpected climax. In fact, the movie makes more sense with the twist in the tale. Another striking feature of the movie is the uniformly good performance by every character in the movie. ‘Who is Alice’ is a movie which is not going to have a widescreen release or many awards to its credit but it is a very competent piece of film making that promises rich rewards for the discerning viewer.

American Made (2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:87% , My Rating:7.0]

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‘American Made’ is about a real life pilot who got his cake and ate it too. He worked for the CIA and on the same trips smuggled drugs to the US. This movie does not offer anything novel but has the same ideas that sustain this kind of an enterprise. The story line borrows heavily from previous movies about arms dealers like the ‘Lord of War’ and many Oliver Stone flicks. This is not to suggest that the movie is a dud. It is fairly engaging and at times even revealing. Tom Cruise is still in Mission Impossible mode but with shoddier clothing. Watch it if you like flicks which are comforting because you can easily predict what is going to happen in the next scene.

Wind River (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating:7.5 ]

The debut directorial venture of the writer of ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’, is a tour de force. It is a slow burning crime investigation which builds up to the grand finale. The sense of sadness is palpable throughout the film. The wild and cold background is a major contributor to the sense of intrigue and hopelessness that surrounds the life of the people on screen. I developed a sense of respect for the victim and her strong will to survive; a mission in which she fails. ‘Wind River’ is more than a thriller. It is a story of people battling the odds. It is a story which makes you think. It is one of the best movies of the year.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

Is there a movie in which Adam Sandler is a better performer than Dustin Hoffman? The answer is an emphatic yes. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ was screened at Cannes in the competition section. I am not convinced of its Cannes level quality but the movie is a good one time watch. The family of a moderately famous artist comes together for various reasons. The interactions between them unleash the hidden emotions of each of them. The movie is a character study with the parent-child relationship being the focus of the story. The favourite son played by Ben Stiller is the polar opposite of his half brother played by Adam Sandler and it is made abundantly clear to them by the father who his favourite is. This movie is a sad and poignant one in most parts.It is fairly riveting for the family drama that it portrays. Watch it for the acting. Watch it for Adam Sandler.

Gerald’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on the novel by Stephen King, this movie is one of the triumphs of the year. It is a survival story on the surface but has multiple strands that make it a psychological thriller. A women is chained to her bed in a freak accident when her husband dies in their remote house. The distraught lady has to fight her inner demons to not only survive but also to find a way out of the quagmire. In such a survival movie, the odds are that the person will live to tell the tale (Spoilers ahead) but I was always second guessing on how she would wriggle out of the situation. I thoroughly  enjoyed watching this movie. It is a cat and mouse chase of the highest order: the one between you and your mind.

The Beguiled (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating:6.0]

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Sophia Coppola won the best director award for this movie at the Cannes film festival. I could not figure out why. She has practically reshot an earlier version of the film starring Clint Eastwood with no significant additions. I may be biased by my knowledge of the climax in the previous version but then Sophia Coppola does not add anything substantial to the movie. For the uninitiated, the movie tells the story of a wounded soldier who is tended by a group of women. The sexual tensions and the personal equations lie at the heart of the story. The film does not warrant anything more than a single watch and that too only for those who have not seen the original.

Annabelle: Creation (2017)  [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:70% , My Rating:6.0]

Trailer

‘Annabelle: Creation’ is a horror movie for the sake of some cheap thrills. It has unnecessary scenes in which the sole aim of the director is to frighten the audience for no rhyme or reason. Most of the scary scenes in the movie do not contribute to he development of the story and come with no particular reason at a specific point in the story. The setting of the movie itself is dubious and creating a backstory for an average movie is only with the intent of milking the franchise. Horror movies can be much better and classy. For starters, watch ‘The Shining’ or ‘Let the Right One In’.

Documentary of the Week

Russia with Simon Reeve (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, BBC takes you on a trip across the breadth of Russia. Filled with stunning visuals and insights on life in Russia, this a documentary series worth every minute of its three hour run time.

Eagerly waiting for: Roman J. Israel, Esq. starring Denzel Washington.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg is the Godfather of Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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Edition 55

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Miracle in Cell No. 7 (South Korea, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

MICN7-27x40_20june

Trailer:

This Korean blockbuster tells the story of the bonding between a father and a daughter. The father who is a simpleton gets framed in a rape case and is sentenced to death. The daughter who has nobody else in the world, is smuggled into the prison cell of the father. A remarkable tearjerker which is cloying, this Korean film is an out and out crowd pleaser. I often feel that Korean and Indian movies have a lot in common. The most important of those is the ability to play unashamedly to the galleries. As for this movie, I have a feeling that this is waiting to be made into a bad copy in Hindi. Why spoil the experience by watching another badly made Bollywood movie? Go for the original.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

hundredfootjourney

Trailer:

Based on the novel with the same name, this is another crowd pleaser which is a cheerily brisky movie to watch. An Indian family of cooks, displaced by riots in India moves to Europe, only to accidentally end up in a French village. The patriarch of the family (played adorably by Om Puri) decides to set up shop and then the restaurateur comes in direct competition with an obsessive owner of a Michelin starred restaurant right across the street. What ensues is a no holds war; a battle royale between Indian and French cuisine. While I was secretly hoping that the Indians win hands down, the movie takes a different route and becomes a lesson on cultural integration and tolerance. It is therefore not difficult to see why the film is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. The film is a bit clichéd but has some very good dialogues. Some of them are cheesy (” I am a cook, not a chef”)  and some have far greater depth (The one on French national anthem and the French national slogan). With decent music from A R Rahman and more than decent performances, this is an easy film to watch.

The Guest (201) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

THE GUEST

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Every once in a while there comes a movie which you are willing to write off without bothering to watch it but when you watch it you know how wrong you were. ‘The Guest’ is one such movie. It surely will not win any awards and uses every cliché possible to advance the plot. There are enough loopholes in the plot but in spite of all this there is something remarkably endearing about the movie that makes you sit through it and enjoy it. In real world terms, it means that you know you are watching nonsense but you start liking the nonsense because it is really nicely done nonsense. A family grieving for its lost soldier son gets some succor in the form of a guest who claims to be the son’s colleague. The guest wins over every member in the family but soon his mask starts slipping. What could have been a really bad movie starts kicking in the style. Acted and shot with panache, this finally becomes the  guilty pleasure of 2014.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 (2014) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Nymphomaniac-_Volume_I_47

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From acclaimed director Lars Von Trier comes this movie about a nymphomaniac recollecting her sexual experiences. More smoke than fire, this movie is a voyeuristic expedition solely interested in titillating the viewer.  I don’t get it when such movies are slotted as high art because they simply aren’t good enough. The film had its fair share of controversy too because it has unsimulated sex scenes. That I am afraid to report, is the only claim to fame of this movie.

22 Jump Street (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

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Trailer:

The thing with maths is that you can always add one. The sequel to 21 being 22 would not have been a major problem if not for the various scenarios that are shown as possible future sequels as the end credits roll. Come on, this sequel itself is an unwarranted tribute to a lousy original. The good thing is that it looks better than the original but that is not much to say. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles as cerebrally challenged undercover cops. This time they are back in college. The film does have its moments but overall, it doesn’t make the cut. Recommended for those who like big loud senseless movies.

Endless Love (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 15%]

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A remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields starrer, this movie begs the question ‘Why?’. To start with, the original was a lousy and painful one to watch. Its only redeeming feature was the (then) angelic face of Brooke Shields. The 2014 version has no reason for its existence. It sticks to the same tacky screenplay and is not aided by some plastic performances. For those interested, the story is that of a girl falling in love with a boy; a relationship the girl’s parents oppose tooth and nail. Sounds familiar? Save yourself the pain. Give it a miss.

Rang Rasiya (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Rangrasiya-2014

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The story of legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma who dared to put a face to the gods. His representations of the Hindu gods and goddesses continue to be used on posters and artwork to this day. He was also one of the first to understand the commercial aspects of art and marketing. It would be nearly impossible to capture his genius in a movie. ‘Rang Rasiya’ tries with mixed results. The film is a genuine attempt at an authentic portrayal of the life and times of the artist; his passions, his art, his battles and his demons. It is ultimately the multitude of issues that the film tries to tackle that becomes its undoing. It also has a subtext about the freedom of expression for an artist, which has become a hostage in present India. Randeep Hooda puts in a fine performance as the protagonist. Definitely among the better Hindi movies of 2014.

Kill Dil (2014) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Kill Dil

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Shaad Ali who made his name through movies like ‘Saathiya’ (which I like) and ‘Bunty aur Babli’ (which I dislike) returns to helm the affairs seven years after the disastrous ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’. The hibernation for seven years seems to have done no good and exposes the rustiness of the filmmaker. Two abandoned kids raised by a don turn to crime and proudly finish off 11 souls when a girl walks (rather dances) into their life. The criminals try to reform but find that some things are easier said than done. Ranvir Singh doesn’t require make up to play the stupid youngster who thinks no end of himself. Parineeti Chopra has the same ‘Oh I am so cool’ look she sports in every movie. As for Ali Zafar, he should stick to singing. Thespian Govinda looks better at dancing than being a gangster. The movie is let down by some uninspired music by the Shanka-Ehsaan-Loy trio who also are well past their glory days. The movie tries too hard and it shows. I am reminded of the similar fate of the ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999) director John Mathew Matthan whose second movie was a dud called ‘Shikhar’ (Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapoor, Bipaha Basu)released in 2005. Moral of the story: Don’t take 6 or 7 year long vacation.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Facing Ali (2009) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

facingAli_key3

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It has been 20 years since there was a rumble in the jungle. Why was Muhammad Ali voted the sportsman of the century? Certainly not just for the punches he could throw. Listening to the people who received the punches, it is clear that the punches were enough.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Nightcrawler’ because it is generating rave reviews.

Did you know: ‘Casino Royale’ was the first James Bond movie approved by the Chinese censors.