Edition 72

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Mustang (France, Turkey, 2015) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.0 ]

mustang-toh-exclusive-poster

Trailer

This drama on the lives of five free spirited sisters in Turkey, is in turns poignant and triumphant. In a deeply patriarchal society where older women are accessories to reinforce the system, the resistance of two of the sisters to chart their own course forms the heart of the story. Shot in Turkey, this film is also France’s entry at the Oscars and rightfully earned its nomination in the Foreign Film category. It may not be off the mark to say that the movie depicts the creeping religious extremism in a once liberal Turkey. Starting on a low gear the movie gains momentum and becomes a tour de force as it progresses. At some point in the movie it feels that in some societies the only expectation from a woman is marriage; a marriage in which she has no say whatsoever.

The cast and crew of the movie deserve plaudits for the original vision and performances. The climax of the movie is an optimistic one but feels out of place and unconvincing based on the narrative till that point. For all its infirmities, ‘Mustang’ is still one of the best films of 2015. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

Anomalisa (2015) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

anomalisa

Trailer

Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenplay writers. I thoroughly enjoyed his creations like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, ‘Adaptation’, and ‘Synecdoche, New York’. In ‘Anomalisa’, he addresses the all too familiar issue of mid-life crisis with an unfamiliar technique. With only three actors voicing this motion capture format movie, the scenes are thankfully not belittled by the limited budget. A rock star sales professional who focuses on customer experience and his mundane life form the core of the movie. Mildly dull at times, Anomalisa’s saving grace is the philosophical tinge that permeates the movie. At its center, the movie is a deeply sad one with disturbing visions on solitude and love. Charlie Kaufman is in his elements when he taps into the small things that make life, dissects them and holds a mirror to the daily life. The only grouse I have with this movie is that it would have looked much better if it had been shot in the conventional format with real people.

The Stanford prison experiment (2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating:6.5 ]

THE-STANFORD-PRISON-EXPERIMENT-movie-poster2

Based on the famous psychology experiment conducted at Stanford in 1971, the movie captures the behavior of students when they were segregated to prisoners and wardens in an experimental prison. As a classic case of how people respond to authority and power, the experiment itself was quite illuminating. This motion picture tries to capture the essence of what happened behind the scenes. At times revealing and at times painfully monotonous, the movie is dogged by the inconsistency of the material on screen. It is of interest to note that even unimposing characters show an air of supremacy when granted powers to lord over people. The high quality of research at top universities and the lengths to which researchers go can be understood with this showcase research phenomenon. The movie is recommended only for those with an interest in delving into the dynamics of power within a hierarchical system.

 

Sicario (2015) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

Sicario-Poster

Trailer

Emily Blunt plays the role of a FBI agent who is coerced to ‘volunteer’ to be part of a team fighting the drug cartels in the area of US-Mexico border. The opening scene sets the mood and pace of the movie but as the movie progresses only the mood is retained. Painfully and unnecessarily slow in certain segments, the movie bursts into life in fits and then returns to dormancy. Sicario’s subject matter is not refreshingly different from movies which have dealt with the same theme. Its beauty is derived from the spellbinding cinematography of Roger Deakins and an engaging music score. It is a pity that Deakins may well lose out to Emmanuel Lubezki at the Oscars. Emily Blunt, whose vulnerability is exposed as the movie progresses, adds her weight to the proceedings. Her anger and fear as her role in the mission is revealed is where the movie rises a notch higher than the movies of the same genre.

The Revenant (2015) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating:8.0 ]

reve

Trailer

With a dozen Oscar nominations and a few Golden Globe wins, ‘The Revenant’ is in the driver’s seat for the ongoing awards season. It tells the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass who was left for dead by his team in the wild with only the crushing winter for company. Director Innaritu follows his trademark hard hitting style he has carried from his directorial debut Amores Perros (reviewed in the first edition of this blog). The film opens with a scene similar to the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Many movies have tried to copy that template of a high voltage opening scene to grab the attention of the viewer but very few have been successful. ‘The Revenant’ belongs to the latter category. Then the movie gets into its subject matter where DiCaprio is mauled by a bear. That scene basically checks out the Oscar for best makeup. Then our hero goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations. That checks out the ever elusive acting Oscar for DiCaprio. Finally the effort to act in such a demanding movie may be the only way for Dicaprio to get an Oscar rather than the acting itself.

The movie was shot only with natural light. That means that the crew had to plan shots and utilize the limited time in a difficult terrain to film. The scenery is engrossing and at times intimidating. Unlike last year’s ‘Birdman’, Emmanual Lubezki does not make the presence of his camera apparent and yet delivers one of the most exquisitely shot movie of our times. It is hard to see him not getting a hat trick of Oscar wins. The movie unnecessarily blends in other themes which are irrelevant to the central theme and create distraction. Now the question is about the best Film and Director. This will be a tight call because as an end product the film is spectacular but boring for much of the latter half. More on the predictions in my annual predictions issue before the Oscars. One category the film will not win is the Editing. As the film moves towards the climax you cannot be faulted if you are thinking of what to do after the movie. It does get tedious at some points but the movie is spectacular at some other points. Watch it for the spectacular points.

Creed (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5 ]

creedpostersmall

Trailer

‘Creed’ has been in the news for the Oscar snub delivered to its African-American director and lead star. The truth is that purely on the basis of merit that is a fair decision and so is the Oscar nomination for Sylvester Stallone. Creed is a good movie but not a great movie. It plays highly on nostalgia and extracts every ounce of the popularity of the ‘Rocky’ franchise to build its story line. The only one who puts the nostalgia to good use is Stallone who delivers the best performance of his career as the retired champion who takes the son of his great opponent under his tutelage. Full of sports movie cliches, the movie succeeds by keeping it grounded and anchoring the story on the capable shoulders of Stallone.

Joy (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:60%, My Rating:6.0 ]

joy

Trailer

The third collaboration of the team of Director David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper after ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’, this movie is the weakest of the lot. In a role which doesn’t suit her Jennifer Lawrence still delivers a very competent performance but the word competent cannot be associated with anybody else who was involved in the making of this movie that meanders like a river before fading into irrelevance. The story is inspired by the life of the inventor of a long lasting ‘revolutionary’ mop and sundry other products. The mop looks to be a very good product but the same cannot be said of the movie which is tiring and directionless in large parts. Wish mops could mop up the remnants of such movies.

Landmine goes click (2015) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes:95%, My Rating:6.5 ]

land-mine-goes-click

Trailer

An entertaining revenge drama told in the format of a thriller makes this movie one of the better independent films of 2015. A group of friends in a remote location face an unexpected challenge when one of them steps on a landmine. Their efforts to rescue him lead to a series of events which extend much beyond the landmine itself. Delightfully directed and enacted, the movie is definitely worth a watch.

Mistress America (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:6.5 ]

MISTRESS-AMERICA_poster

Trailer

Well written comedy with good dialogues is a hallmark of Greta Gerwig movies. So is the case here. Greta plays a happy go lucky lady with a severely inflated image of her caliber. In reality she is just good at talking and has no plans or the will to implement plans. An episode in her life is told through the eyes of an outsider. The good thing about the movie is that the characters stay true to their roles and are able to connect with the audience. Good viewing especially if you have no great expectations.

Backcountry (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes:88%, My Rating:6.5 ]

backcountry-movie-poster-bear

Trailer

A couple lost in the woods get attacked by a bear. There could be an Oscar competition for the best bear between the bear in this one and in The Revenant but both of them are a tribute to the way computer effects have helped in movie making. As for Backcountry, it is a movie in which the tension builds up slowly but surely. All hell breaks loose in the last 20 minutes of the movie. Some of the scenes are too graphic and meant only for those who can stomach them. Otherwise, worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:95%, My Rating:6.5 ]

Winter-on-Fire_poster_goldposter_com_2-400x538

Trailer

A documentary chronicling the popular uprising in Kiev against the government. Nominated for Oscars this year, the documentary follows a dateline to show the events that unfolded in the anti-government agitations but is restricted by its inability to get the point of view of the opposing side.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ because three is a charm.

Did you know: 94% of Academy Award voters are Caucasian and 77% are male. Only about 2% are black, while Latinos compose less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62. People younger than 50 constitute only about 14% of the membership. (Source: LA Times)

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Silver Week Edition

We are reaching a numerical milestone of 25 continuous weeks of publication. I would like to thank each and every one from the 49 countries across 6 continents who found something interesting to read here. This edition is a celebration of love and features 25 of the most romantic movies I have ever seen.

25. The Yellow Handkerchief (Japan, 1977) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

Yellow Handkerchief Shiawase no kiiroi hankachi DVD Review

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAOl7Ii-TKI

The Best Line: Too many to mention. Not really. I don’t know Japanese.

The Plot: Three unrelated people take a road trip, one of them an ex convict who is on his way to meet his wife for the first time after his release from the prison.

Where is the romance: Some endings are truly sensational. This is one such ending.

24. Roman Holiday (1953) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

roman holiday

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIFo0txAvuE

The Best Line: “Tell you what. Why don’t we do all those things, together?”

The Plot: A princess enjoys her day in anonymity with an American newsman and falls for him.

Where is the romance: Everywhere, except in the end.

23. Atonement (2007) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

atonement

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWPZDi723Eo

The Best Line: “Had they let me, every day, I would have been there every day.”

The Plot: A young girl changes the love story of her sister.

Where is the romance: In the book in the movie.

22. An Affair to Remember (1957) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

affair to

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

The Best Line: “There must be something between us, even if it’s only an ocean.”

The Plot: A playboy meets the love of his life on a ship. They decide to meet six months later at the Empire State building.

Where is the romance: When you want Cary Grant to know what you know, in the last scene of the film.

21. Titanic (1997) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

titanic

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCy5WQ9S4c0

The Best Line: “Where to, Miss?” “To the stars!”

The Plot: An aristocrat lady falls in love with a poor artist on the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic.

Where is the romance: In the tragedy.

20. When Harry Met Sally (1989) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

when haary

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8DgDmUHVto

The Best Line: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

The Plot: Harry and Sally have been friends for a long time. It takes time for them to realize that they were meant to be together.

Where is the romance: For such an out and out sugary romance, the most memorable scene is the one in the restaurant.

19. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (India, 1995) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes 94%]

ddlj

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U9SpwJ9TCs

The Best Line: ” Iss ladke se zyaada pyar tujhe koi aur nahi kar sakta” (No one can love you more than this boy).

The Plot: After Raj met Simran, love was never the same.

Where is the romance: Mustard fields got the biggest makeover in terms of reputation. After Raj met Simran, mustard fields were never the same.

18.  The Apartment (1960) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

apartment

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4OXm9-E8OQ

The Best Line: “That’s the way it crumbles.. cookie-wise.”

The Plot: The girl of his dreams is seeing his married boss.

Where is the romance: It is about finding true love and the triumph of the underdog.

17. Gone With the Wind (1939) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

gone with the

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mM8iNarcRc

The Best Line: “You should be kissed and often; and by someone who knows how.”

The Plot: A woman loves someone so blindly that she is not able to see the man who loves her the most.

Where is the romance: In the roughness.

16. Doctor Zhivago (1965) [IMDB: 7.9, IMDB: 85%]

doctor_zhivago-289268745-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAWrXTn5Www

The Best Line: “There’s an extraordinary girl at this party.” “I know. I’m dancing with her.”

The Plot: Doctor Zhivago is in love with two women and in the background is the Russian Revolution.

Where is the romance: All the scenes at railway stations, especially the last one.

15.  Annie Hall (1977) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

annie hall

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBzHphcc2Jw

The Best Line: “That is the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.”

The Plot: The compelling romance of a comedian and a singer.

Where is the romance: Love fades but the idea of love is intact.

14. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Slumdog-Millionaire-2008

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIzbwV7on6Q

The Best Line: “I knew you’d be watching.”

The Plot: A game show is his only hope for finding his long lost love.

Where is the romance: Every question brings him close to his love.

13. Before Sunrise (1995) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes; 100%]

before sunrise

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v6X-Dytlko

The Best Line: “Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?”

The Plot: A man and woman meet on a train and spend an evening together in Vienna.

Where is the romance: If they did not make ‘Before Sunset’, you would still be thinking about the possibilities.

12. Breathless (France, 1960) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Breathless-1960-poster2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJFFy3soy9Y

The Best Line: “Informers inform, burglars burgle, murderers murder, lovers love.”

The Plot: A murderer and a girl escape and hide in Italy.

Where is the romance: In the ambiguity.

11. Wall-E (2008) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

wall e

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alIq_wG9FNk

The Best Line: “Computer, define ‘dancing’.”

The Plot: A robot goes in search of his love.

Where is the romance: The moment when WALL-E falls in love with Eve.

10. Notting Hill (1999) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

NottingHillRobertsGrant

The Best Line: ” I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

The Plot: The unlikely romance of a superstar and a bookseller.

Where is the romance: In the park.

9. Lost in Translation (2003) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

lost in translation

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYAS92XPvIM

The Best Line: “Can you keep a secret? I’m trying to organize a prison break. I’m looking for, like, an accomplice”

The Plot: Two lonely people bond in Tokyo.

Where is the romance: You can feel it. You can only feel it.

8. The English Patient (1993) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

English_Patient_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPKpU14Kqqw

The Best Line: “This… this, the hollow at the base of a woman’s throat, does it have an official name?”

The Plot: A spy and a married woman have a passionate affair.

Where is the romance: In the cave.

7. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (France, 1964) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

umbrellas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7bhJkQd1T4

The Best Line: “People only die of love in the movies.”

The Plot: The tragedy of lovers separated by war which leads them to take life altering decisions.

Where is the romance: The most practical film on love.

6. Before Sunset (2004) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomaotes: 95%]

before

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

The Best Line: “You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.”

The Plot: They meet again after  nine years, this time in Paris.

Where is the romance: Everywhere.

5. It Happened One Night (1934) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

it happened

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

The Best Line: “I don’t know very much about him, except that I love him.”

The Plot: The mother and father of every romantic comedy ever made.

Where is the romance: In it and in all the movies made later using the same template.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_movie-207695

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0ywpOFLHMY

The Best Line: “I’ve never felt that before.”

The Plot: A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with. (From IMDB)

Where is the romance: When you know that some things are meant to be.

3. Cinema Paradiso (Italy,1988) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes:96%]

cinema

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2-GX0Tltgw

The Best Line: “Whatever you end up doing, love it.”

The Plot: Love and heartbreak in post war Italy.

Where is the romance: In the music.

2. Brief Encounter (1945) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

BriefEncounterPoster

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

The Best Line: “This misery can’t last… Not even life lasts very long.”

The Plot: They meet by chance, they fall in love and ……

Where is the romance: Too many to mention.

1. Casablanca (1942) [IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

casablanca

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLU41jUnWM4

The Best Line: “We’ll always have Paris.”

The Plot:  Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into his.

Where is the romance: Whenever Ingrid Bergman is on screen.

Week 15

Movies: Non- English

The Class (France, 2008) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

the-class_us_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8HWJqgMAhU

Winner of the ‘Palme D’Or’ at Cannes, this film tells the story of a teacher grappling with a group of teenagers from different backgrounds in his classroom in suburban Paris. Hailed for holding a mirror to the new socio-cultural mix of the French society, this film is as powerful as it is simple. The characters are so believable that you will forget momentarily that they are acting and performing the scenes given to them. One thing I have always loved about French cinema is that it gives importance to the character and dialogues more than anything else. The banter among students about some obscure nations competing in the African Cup of Nations  point to the effect of immigration from former French colonies. The movie is also a pointer to the restrictions that the teachers face in the name of the rights of students. My endearing memory of this movie is a discussion on it with a friend when I was in France. I had watched this movie in India and in my keenness to impress him I started talking about it. His response, ” It is nice that you have seen it. It has not even been released widely in France and I don’t know anyone else who has seen it. At least you get to see such movies.”

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

4 months

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZisE16JBUMA

Could the story of an abortion be a thriller? Yes, if it set in communist ruled Romania during the 1980s. This movie was the winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes and took the film festival circuit by storm, winning all the major accolades except the Oscar. The only reason why it did not win the Oscar is because in the USA people are still fighting the right of a woman to have control of her body. The film is a must watch for choosing to shed light on a dark period in Romania’s history. It has some disturbing images. If you are the religious type, please stay away. For more sensible people, it is a must watch. Two thumbs up from a bleeding heart liberal.

Hollywood Retrospective

Synecdoche, New York (2008) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

synecdoche-new-york-poster-764x1024

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

This debut feature from the writer of gems like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and’Adaptation’ is one of the most devastating films I have ever seen. Chosen by Roger Ebert as the best film to have come out in the first decade of the 21st century, this is not for the ordinary viewer. In fact, most will not be able to fully grasp the story on first viewing. It is a little arty and the writing is also complex that the viewer will not be able to make much sense of what he sees on screen. At a simplistic level, it is the story of a man and the women in his life. At a more complex level, it supports the idea that our lives are predetermined and we do not have much control over anything. Philip Seymour Hoffman hits the high notes with his performance and his acting is an essential viewing for anyone who thinks that acting is a serious craft.

Are we so powerless that we cannot have a say in our destiny or is it that we are just playing out the parts written for us. Is it all about fate? Will the voice just say it? Die.

Chinatown (1974) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

chinatown_amsel-german-movie-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T37QkBc4IGY

As I have mentioned in one of the earlier posts, Roman Polanski is not a director who likes happy endings except for his masterpiece ‘The Pianist’. In ‘Chinatown’ also the dominant feeling is that of doom and gloom. The climax confirms the general pessimism of Polanski towards life, perhaps a reflection of the awful tragedies in his life. Nevertheless,  this movie is a compelling one with a solid story and outstanding performances. Jack Nicholson plays a private detective who is hired to investigate personal lives but as he begins his investigation he soon learns that it is as painful and complex as peeling onions. Chinatown’s final sequence has a dialogue; “It’s not worth it”. The opposite is true for the movie.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

butch cassidy

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDw6VSSAVg4

This Western has Paul Newman and Robert Redford at their best. They essay the roles of two outlaws. Based on real life events, this motion picture is a delight to watch. The movie has enough action, adventure and comedy. In one of the scenes where they try to rob a bank in Bolivia, they do it by writing their instructions on paper slips in Spanish so that they don’t forget. The love Robert Redford has for the movie is evident from the fact that he chose the name ‘Sundance’ for the film festival he started. There must be a reason why he loves it so much. Watch it.

Movies I Saw This Week

Before Midnight (2013) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

before_midnight_1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euOJkb0U8v

The quote may be for books but it holds true for movies also. Some movies are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some movies are to be watched only in parts, others to be watched, but not curiously, and some few to be watched wholly, and with diligence and attention. Thankfully every movie in the ‘Before ….’ series falls into the last category. ‘Before Midnight’ may be the best in the series. The thing with the ‘Before…..’ series is that either you love it or you don’t understand it. How can they make movies one after the other every nine years, that has the same people speaking to each other and yet keep it interesting? Julie Delphy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater were perhaps born to do this. Nothing is forced: the dialogues, the acting, the story. It all looks so easy and that is the triumph of the movie. We find the couple nine years after their coming together but with some family and work related stuff to bother them. I have tried to figure out the formula for the series or at least the way dialogues are written. What I think are the key factors in keeping it engrossing are; a) never have long monologues unless it is an anecdote, b) have lot of anecdotes, c) discuss about the world and keep it civilized d) don’t discuss money e) don’t discuss any relatives outside the immediate family unless there is a death. All this does not take away the fact that ‘Before Midnight’ makes the mundane sound so exciting. I hope that at least this time the actors get Oscar nominations and maybe a win too. I also hope that they find another reason to make the fourth movie in the series after nine years.

Stand Up Guys (2012) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

stand up guys

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

When you have Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken, you expect at least an above average attempt. This movie disappoints on that front. At best, it is an average film which might have nursed ambitions of greatness but then goes to sleep after the first ten minutes. It is a story of old con men trying to settle some accounts while trying to enjoy their last days. Nothing special but not bad enough for me to get excited and tear into it.

Fukrey (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

fukrey

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GT-lN6c6Uk

‘Fukrey’ has no ambition. It knows that its hatchet job is to pose as a juvenile comedy and recover its money in the first weekend of release. Many bollywood movies have done this carpet bombing of the box office and ensured that they get suitable returns on their investment before the word spreads that the movie is pathetic. There are no jokes in the movie, the joke is on the viewer while the producers laugh all the way to the bank. The movie is an insult to the people of Delhi. There is not even a single character who is not twisted. Men want to enroll in a college because girls also go there. Girls who go to college have other means of earning money. People who run those activities ask perfect strangers to sell drugs as if they were waiting for franchisees for their business. Think of ‘American Pie’. Remove the good looking girls and the humour (stupid as it is). You get ‘Fukrey’.

Mumbai Police (India, Malayalam, 2013) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

mumbai+police+songs+stills+posters+download1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REy6DziJwAQ

A cop who has just solved a murder mystery has an accident before revealing the culprit to anyone else. Sadly, he loses his memory when he recovers from the accident. Now he must start from scratch while his opponents now know that he cannot tell a friend from a foe. This thriller starts on such an interesting premise but then disintegrates into a character study rather than an investigation. Spoilers ahead. The central question of the movies is whether a person’s core character would change after an accident where he loses his memory. For example, will he be less violent than before? Or will he now become straight and cry when his gay past is revealed? I am not a psychologist to answer that but I think that even if such changes are possible, the character won’t cry over them. How unfortunate that we have to debate such things when we could have had an edge of the seat thriller. Disappointing.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids (2004) {IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Born_into_Brothels

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AODZ6k8LgEI

Oscar winning documentary on the kids who grow up in a red light area in Kolkata, India. Frankly, I believe that this documentary is exploitative in nature and the only reason it was made, in my opinion, was to win some awards. I could not empathize with the film makers as they just show what is obvious and they don’t have any real interest in the children who are the subject of the movie. You can agree or disagree by watching this one.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kick-Ass 2’ because ‘Kick-Ass’ was kick-ass.

Did you know: Pixar takes up to 4 years to make an animation movie.

Week 13

Movies: Non- English

California Dreamin’ (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

California_dreamin'

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NoNVMkQwU

What happens when a NATO train with US soldiers is stopped in a small town in Romania because it does not have the transit documents? In times when the Bolivian President is not given a safe flight home, this film is also a reminder that even Romania can poke USA if it really wants to. This is the story told by Director Cristian Nemescu in one of those movies which is as farcical as it is serious. Stranded in a small town with corrupt local officials, the soldiers get to see a slice of the daily lives of the people of Romania.  The acting is natural and believable. We are not talking of a masterpiece here but a normal entertaining movie. The film could have been sharper but the young director died immediately after the completion of the film.

Halfaouine : Boy of the Terraces (Tunisia, 1990) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Child of Terraces

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N8OzaWW24g

Get a glimpse of Arab culture and life in this Tunisian movie which is a coming off age story. An adolescent boy and his curiosities are presented with poise by the director without losing the sensuality of it all. The film never gets voyeuristic and moves at a pleasant pace. The story is universal but the setting and the characters make it special. The acting is so effortless that you may feel that you are not watching a movie but a slice of life in Tunisia. Recommended for the viewer who is open to knowing new cultures and lifestyles.

Hollywood Retrospective

Say Anything… (1989) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

say anything

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFV7FnbhBRY

John Cusack may mean many things to many people but when I hear that name the first image that comes to my mind is the iconic scene of him holding up the stereo to play it outside his sweetheart’s house in the finely written romance ‘Say Anything’. This movie will never make it to the list of greatest movies ever made but this one will stay with you if you can pay attention to the good dialogues and scenes it has. Also, when the lady being wooed is Ione Syke, it does not hurt to look at the screen. In case you want to see more of her ‘The Rachel Papers’ is highly recommended in spite of it being a flawed movie.  If you ever watch ‘The Rachel Papers’, check out the scene when the taxi leaves just as a kiss is going to happen. That is one of my favourite romantic scenes on screen. Coming back to ‘Say Anything’, just watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend on a lazy afternoon.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_movie-207695

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GiLxkDK8sI

Once in a while you watch a movie that just blows you away. With me the real world experience in such cases involves changing my posture from lying down in the bed/sofa to jumping up and grabbing the chair because it hits me that the movie deserves my full attention. ‘Eternal Sunshine…’ is one such movie. The movie wants to tell  three things. Firstly, when lovers start out they look perfect to each other but then it is difficult to sustain the same passion unless you are willing to put that extra effort. Secondly, some people are made for each other and nothing can stop that. Thirdly, just as joy is part of life so is pain. Now, the real genius of the writer Charlie Kaufman (I am a huge fan) is how he makes a story to fit these ideas neatly into them and tell it without you realizing that you are being told the exact same things in a wonderful way. More than anything, I marvel at the ability of someone to think, conceptualize and finally put pen to paper on such an original screenplay which deservedly won the Oscar. It is interesting that in a film with Jim Carrey it is Kate Winslet who looks the odd character. The performances are alright, the direction is above average but the screenplay is awesome. While watching this masterpiece, try to think like a writer.

Out of Africa (1985) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

out of africa

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

A fiercely independent woman who would not be tied down by anything or to anybody meets her match in Africa. The people in question happen to be Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in this old world romance directed by Sydney Pollack. Visually stunning, tragic and emotionally draining. In the middle of all the excitement that the movie generates there is that feeling of impending doom. Based on a true story.

Movies I saw this week

To the Wonder (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

To+The+Wonder+2012+DVDRip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAzcTZTY1g

Terrence Malick’s effort after ‘Tree of Life’ is a dud. Ben  Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams or Olga Kurylenko cannot save this film from doom. The dialogues are minimal and the movie tries to look high end art house cinema without much success. Still, I can watch this movie more than once just for the visual experience it gives. It is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in recent times. The locations are simply breathtaking but in the end all that comes to nothing for the lack of a story.

Ishkq in Paris (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Ishkq-in-Paris-Movie-Poster

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

Why I watched this movie? I don’t know. How I felt when I watching it? I certainly know. I should have known better. When Preity Zinta was giving interviews saying she was confident about the movie because it has a good story, I should have read between the lines. The first half of the film is ‘Before Sunrise’ copied scene by scene. The second half? Don’t even bother. Somebody please tell Zinta that she is no more the bubbly girl of ‘Dil Se’. I don’t know whether I was hallucinating but the male lead had kohl lined eyes throughout. Spooky. Also, trash.

The Watch (2012) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

watch

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

Heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth? The case is not exactly that here because there is no broth to begin with. Four men defend their neighborhood against alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are so bad in the film that the aliens’ acting looks better. Still, if you have an IQ in single digits you may enjoy it but such people are harder to find on earth than aliens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hoop Dreams (1994) [IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Hoop_Dreams

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph2Y-epihlk

Two boys whose only way out of crime and poverty is basketball, try to make their dreams come true. Uplifting.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Blue Jasmine’ because I eagerly await every movie from Woody Allen. After covering Barcelona, London, Paris and Rome in the last few films, he is now back to San Francisco.

Did you know: There are more than 40,000 movie screens in the USA.