Edition 96

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Ash Is Purest White (China, 2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

At a macro level, this movie is about loyalty and the value of relationships with the background of gang rivalries which play out in a town in China. When you look closely enough, the movie is about China itself: its transformation over close to two decades, the changing values and expectations, and the forces that control the lives of the ordinary people in a behemoth of a nation. It is also a story about love. The love story of a gangster and a dancer. Slow burn.

Movies I Saw This Week

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)[IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those unaware of the real setting of this movie it is worth reading about Sharon Tate and the Tate murders. As for the movie itself, Tarantino is at his subversive best and borrows heavily spiritually from Inglourious Basterds (if you did not notice, that is the correct spelling of the title). Di Caprio plays an actor in the last legs of his career with his sidekick Pitt trying to get through Hollywood in 1969. Di Caprio also happens to be the neighbour of Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. The film starts at a languid pace but picks up the tempo as it progresses leading to an eventful climax. I found it strange that the bloodshed in this flick is a few notches below what one would expect from Tarantino. Tarantino has a field day with his pop culture references. The lavishly produced sets and authentic locales add heft to the movie. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is Tarantino’s love letter to Hollywood and to himself.

Blinded by the Light (2019)[IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I have had opprobrium for most of the work that Gurinder Chadha has produced after ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ (which was a watchable movie). She redeems herself with what is her most accomplished film and one of the genuine crowd-pleasers of the year. A young lad in Luton in England finds meaning in life after he listens to the songs of Bruce Springsteen. His drab life becomes filled with hope and optimism even helping him gloss over the unfolding crisis at home. This movie not only has breadth and depth but also never shies away from reflecting on the state of the British society in the 80s. Highly recommended.

Framing John DeLorean (2019)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

John DeLorean was a star at General Motors before he decided that he should be an entrepreneur. This part-film part-documentary sheds light on his life and times. The hard hitting parts are in the documentary format especially when it comes his son. DeLorean had it all: a supermodel wife, a great career and a bright future. He took a mortgage on all the three and lost everything. Though the movie does not answer the ‘why’ part of the deal, it is a compelling watch. Was Delorean a victim of the circumstances or was he just plain stupid? Did his ego get to him? Some of the answers can be found in the movie. As a side note, I like the way they ended the movie which exploits the unique format of this feature.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)[IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Tarantino who is assaulted for the violence in his flicks looks like a toddler in front of John Wick. I tried counting the body pile up in this chapter of the John Wick franchise. I soon gave up because I realized that it was a pointless exercise. Everybody kills and almost everybody gets killed in a series of choreographed moves. Horses kill. Dogs kill. Humans kill. Chinese get killed. Americans get killed. Half of the population of Casablanca (in Morocco) gets killed. They kill in theatres, hotels, markets, glass houses, bridges, railway stations, shops and many more places. In this bloodbath, somewhere there is a fine story and good acting. I shudder to say this but this is the best chapter so far that John Wick has delivered. Recommended if you can sit through people getting stabbed, sliced, punched, kicked, shot and generally dying in awful ways.

Toy Story 4 (2019)[IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

When any movie comes with a fourth installment it is often a case of studios milking the udder till the blood comes out. Toy Story 4 avoids that sad predicament but only by a whisker. I have come to believe that the animation movies get a soft touch from reviewers compared to non-animation movies. Toy Story 4 is a very basic film with a wafer thin plot but with some good animation. The kids may love the movie but it is too convenient and contrived. This film is more of an indictment of the studio system lacking in daring and originality.

Long Shot (2019)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

I believe that the basic premise of this flick would have been ‘what if Seth Rogen romanced Charlize Theron?’ and then they developed the plot from this starting point. So Theron gets to be the Secretary of State who was once a babysitter for the journalist played by Rogen. The film walks the tightrope between being a romantic comedy and a political satire. It trips. It goes wayward and then finds the most conventional endings possible. Sure there are some light moments but the film sticks strictly to the quality you would expect from Seth Rogen: average.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)[IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 4.5]

Trailer

Maybe I did not ‘get it’. Maybe I did. What I got was drivel in the form of a movie. Director Jim Jarmusch is lucky. He got the money to make this self indulgent waste that needs to buried with its head shot in the graveyards of cinema. Such a waste of talent. The ‘plot’ is about a small town hit by a zombie apocalypse. This film made it to Cannes where it got the treatment it more or less deserved. Sometimes it felt as if the director was abusing the audience. I dislike scenes when the characters announce that they are in a movie (of course, we know) or discuss the screenplay in the movie. Truth be told, I dozed off for twenty minutes during the movie. That is twenty minutes of my life saved from watching ‘The Dead Don’t Die’.

Documentary of the Week

The Great Hack (2019)[IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.0]

Flawed documentary on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Since nothing better has been made on the subject, worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Rambo: Last Blood’

Did you know: Quentin Tarantino has a vow to stop making movies after he makes 10 movies. He counts Kill Bill 1 & 2 as one movie.

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Week 30

Movies: Non-English

My Life as a Dog (Sweden, 1985) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

my life as

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxzO8Qx96O4

This Swedish flick is about a dysfunctional family with the youngest child as the protagonist. A sick mother, an absentee father and a quarrelsome elder brother make life difficult for 12 year old Ingemar. There are beautiful distractions in the form of girls and Ingemar himself has a philosophical take everything, especially on the plight of the dog Laika sent to space. This bittersweet tale was a box office success in its transatlantic crossover in the US. Worth a watch.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (India, 2003) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

hazaaron-khwaishein-aisi-400x400-imadky6vfeg8umzk

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL7U30ESYWk

This is a film close to my heart as I have met versions of the characters portrayed in the movie. It is set in the Emergency era Delhi. The lives of three college friends are intertwined by love, ambition and politics. It is a poignant story and the life of each character is worth an analysis as the movie progresses. The performances are exceptional, with Shiney Ahuja stealing the show. How sad that such a huge talent was wasted. Moving on, the movie is the most authentic representation of life in the 70s in India. The political churning is in stark contrast to the opulence of the Delhi upper crest. The music and songs are befitting for the movie; the track ‘Baanwara man dekhne chala ek sapna’ being one of my personal favourites. In my opinion, one of the best movies to have come out of India in the last decade.

English Retrospective

American Beauty (1999) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

american-beauty-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3ltyPJJMQ

This is Sam Mendes’ feature debut as a director and he won an Oscar for it. This one is also on a dysfunctional family, the head of which is played by Kevin Spacey. He is a man of many secrets and is facing a mid life crisis. He develops a liking for the friend of his daughter and from there on it is all downhill. The film is remarkable for its engaging screenplay and the rock solid story it wants to tell. The climax will take you by surprise. Recommended.

The Cider House Rules (1999) [IMDB; 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

cider-house-rules-poster-0

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4D2Hog1tEA

Charlize Theron and Tobey Maguire light up the screen in this slow burning story set in an orphanage and among apple orchards. Though I believe that the 7 Oscar nominations the movie received were too many, the two wins it had for Screenplay and Supporting Actor were well deserved. Michael Caine deservedly won the Oscar for this one but it is a movie which tests your patience. Recommended only for the discerning viewer.

Donnie Darko (2001) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

donnie darko

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

An underrated and not widely viewed cult classic horror movie. The lead character sees a rabbit which makes him commit crimes. It is one of those movies which you have to view with rapt attention if you do not want to miss the finer points. Jake Gyllenhaal shows early promise in this film. This film is more spooky than scary but then utilizing grey cells is always better than having an adrenaline spike.

Movies I Saw This Week

Despicable Me 2 (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

despicable-me-2-poster-01

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

Maybe it is just me but I feel that all protagonists in animation movies are similar. The happy go lucky guy who is good at wisecracking. ‘Despicable Me 2’ is just another animation film which does nothing to set it apart from the few top notch animation movies released every year. The plot involves a villain who needs to be fought. If it wasn’t an animation movie, I would have have avoided it like the plague. Giving it the benefit of doubt, I would rate it above average.

The River Why (2010) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 31%]

river why

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV5o7L4_DYU

I guess the ‘Why’ in the title was added by studio executives who could not figure out why they funded this film. The story has a man choose solitude and fly-fishing over everything else. In the process he also gets a girlfriend (Amber Heard). The best thing about the movie is the tintinnabulation the river makes. Enjoy the landscape. Don’t pay attention to the people on screen.

Norman (2010) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

norman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJFs4WIE9yw

A  troubled teen with suicidal tendencies meets a new girl in school. He also has a father awaiting death. The movie is let down by the heavy handed direction and sloppy background score. The script and dialogues are good but then it falters as it moves forward. The finale is as good as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

bigger stronger

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KzGfuFFSxA

The drug problem in American sports told through the eyes of a very level headed competitor. This was before Lance Armstrong revealed that he had lied strong. Must watch. Live strong, play fair.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ because it took so long to make, it better be good.

Did you know: Louis Lumiere, one of the pioneers of cinema, is credited with directing 101 movies between the period 1892-1900.