Edition 68

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Edition 68

Casa Grande (Brazil, 2014) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 7.5]

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Brazil has a reputation for producing some of the best movies from Latin America with gems like ‘Central Station’ (1998) and ‘Elite Squad’ (2007). ‘Casa Grande’ is an addition to this proud tradition. The movie deals with the trials and tribulations of a once rich family as their fortunes take a nosedive. The theme is not a novel one. There are other recent examples like ‘Tokyo Sonata’ (2008). The difference here is that the story unfolds through the eyes of the young son of the family who suddenly finds things that he had taken for granted are no more available to him. The camera is an observer in the chaos that engulfs him and his painful disintegration. The story is told in a matter of fact way. Its somber and quiet tone only adds to the intensity of the story that unfolds onscreen.

Movies I Saw This Week

Everest (2015) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating 7.5/10]

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Trailer: 

The movie is based on the well documented 1996 Mount Everest disaster. The disaster has been the subject of movies and books, most notably the NYT bestseller ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer who was part of the ill fated expedition. For this movie version the screenplay was penned by Simon Beaufoy who was also the man behind ‘127 hours’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘The Full Monty’. The movie documents the ill fated expedition consisting of newbies and experts and is a study in human behaviour more than anything else. I saw the 3D version of the movie, which would have been fine in the 2D format as well. The good part about the movie is that it gives a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in such an expedition. It is also deeply moving at a more humane level with examples of how decision making is influenced under stress. From the postman who wants to do the extraordinary to the guy who comes back from the dead, the characters in the movie are fascinating. It is one of the best movies of the year. Highly recommended.

The Visit (2015) [IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 62% My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer: 

After reaching the nadir with ‘The Last Airbender’, ‘After Earth’ and ‘The Happening’, Manoj Night Shyamalan returns to form with ‘The Visit’. Shot a on a small budget without the backing of any major studio, the film really comes to life in the second half. The use of ‘found footage’ type filming may have been more of a requirement because of the low budget than an option, but this does work for the premise of the movie. Two grandchildren go to visit their estranged grandparents for a week. As the days progress the children realize that they are into something they did not bargain for. For once, Shyamalan has a twist which is not phony like the one in ‘The Village’. Surely, one of the better movies of the year.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Trailer: 

With a star studded cast of scientologist Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg, the new edition of the Mission Impossible is a virtual tour de force. Stretching from Belarus to Vienna and from London to Morocco, the good guys are again out to get the bad ones. Obviously they are there to save the world too. They do it on bikes in the streets of Casablanca, in cars in the streets of Vienna and on a runway in Belarus. Thematically not very different from any superhero movie, MI proceeds at a pace which gives little time for the audience to ponder over the inconsistencies in the plot. There are some nice touches though, like the assassins timing their kill at the precision of a musical note in an opera. There is also the mandatory ‘mask removal’ scene. Given the fatigue associated with movie franchises after the first or second sequel, MI stays fresh to a large extent. That alone may be a reason to watch this movie.

Black Mass (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer:

In the early part of the movie there is a scene where the protagonist tells a child that the key to punching someone is to make sure that no one is watching. If no one saw it, it did not happen. The same guy then goes on to assist the authorities in fighting crime. Essentially, the movie is about crime but the main issue is that like many other such movies it tries to glorify some types of crime at the expense of the other types. For a genre which has been done to death in the last few decades, ‘Black Mass’ does not add anything substantial. Even in terms of the performances it can be safely said that Johnny Depp has seen better days. ‘Black Mass’ is your average flick trying to rise above the mediocrity of its script. If you are looking for a classic crime movie set in Boston, go for ‘The Departed’.

The D Train (2015) [ IMDB: 5.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%, My Rating: 5]

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Trailer:

Jack Black, one of the original members of the ‘frat pack’, stars as a middle aged man who has nothing remarkable about him except his lack of friends and a general ability to be ill behaved. He also happens to be in-charge of organizing a high school alumni reunion. In his over enthusiasm he tries to warm up to one of his schoolmates. What follows is not according to the script he has in mind when he ventures on his misadventures. The movie starts on an interesting note but loses track somewhere. Though Jack Black comes off as a fine actor, the movie may be a disappointment to his core audience who expect him to be funny. Unfortunately there isn’t a single scene in the movie which can be called funny. It is one of those movies where it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with it. In the end it will be lost in a pile of trash that comes out of Hollywood every year.

Z for Zachariah (2015) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, My Rating: 5.5]

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Trailer: 

In a post apocalyptic world a woman finds that the only others remaining are two men. As they live in isolation, the complex dynamics that come into play is beyond her initial anticipation. This movie is a character study more than anything else. Though delightful in spurts with scenes that make you ponder over relationships, the movie’s ultimate undoing is the snail’s pace at which the story is told. Margot Robbie proves that she can be competent but the movie belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofer who steals the show. Overall, a one time watch for the limited audiences who have the blessing of patience in their character.

Documentary of the Week

Cartel Land (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer: 

A story on the war on drugs in Mexico. Informative and honest.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Bridge Of Spies’ because it is a Steven Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks.

Did you know: Large parts of movies like ‘Kundun’ amd ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ were shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

 

Edition 62

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Force Majeure (Sweden, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating: 7/10]

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Trailer:

‘Force Majeure’ is a movie about relationships and trust. In life’s key moments, would you go for self-protection or would you go the distance to protect those who count on you? A Swedish family vacationing in France faces the consequences of such a situation, thus exposing the fault lines within relationships which had been taken for granted. At another level, the story is that of redemption and restitution of faith. Not exactly for audiences who like to have fun at the cinemas, ‘Force Majeure’ was a strong performer at the festival circuits last year. It bagged the Jury Prize at Cannes during this run and was tipped to be a shoo in for the Foreign Language Oscar nomination. So when it did not grab that coveted nomination, the director of the film went into a meltdown which was captured in the following clip:

Movies I Saw This Week

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7/10]

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Trailer:

One of the best ‘leave your brain at home’ movies that I have seen in recent times, this one keeps the pace intact throughout the course without ever flagging. Even when acutely aware of the fact that the underdog will save the world, the viewer gets a feeling of something fresh happening on the screen. The write smartly sets up clichéd scenes and has a conversation about the scene being clichéd. Then he does the obvious. Is the obvious a cliché? Colin Firth and Samuel Jackson handle their roles with ease and the relatively new Taron Egerton does a competent job. The plot is about a secret ‘Secret Service’ with limited membership which does the difficult task of saving the world. The hero is the equivalent of an adolescent James Bond but with a baseball cap and the Swedish Princess for a ‘girlfriend’. The movie unintentionally throws up some interesting questions about corporate czars influencing the politics of the world. These type of interesting questions are thrown up in the midst of a lot of fun. After all, when was the last time you had a hero called Eggsy saving the world?

The Lunchbox (2013) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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Trailer:

I saw this movie only now and that too after it received a BAFTA nomination. That is the sad part. Only a BAFTA nomination could persuade me to watch what is essentially one of the best Indian movies of last year. The move tells the poignant and unlikely romance that develops when the lunchboxes of two people are exchanged in the extremely rare event of a mistake by the Dabbawallas of Mumbai. With moments that bring the best of times bygone including the old Doordarshan shows and cheesy romantic songs of the 90s, the movie also blends in side tracks like the one featuring the ever reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Filled with genuine humour (spoiler ahead) in situations like the one in which the Dabbawalla quotes Harvard to dismiss suggestions of any mismanagement, this film is one you will not forget very soon.

John Wick (2014) [IMDB; 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating:6.5/10]

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Trailer:

Keanu Reeves is John Wick. In his heyday, John Wick was a hitman par excellence. Then he found love and then came retirement. Once his love was dead there was no reason to remain in retirement. At this point, we are only 5 minutes into the movie. The rest of the movie is about how John Wick finishes off all his adversaries and even some bystanders. If you like suave actions flicks featuring a protagonist with a lot of panache, ‘John Wick’ is the movie for you. If gun shots sound like music to your ears, then you may think you are watching a philharmonic performance. Keanu Reeves deserves some appreciation for his ‘performance’. Afterall, it must have been tough to have the same expression during the entire course of making of this movie.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5/10]

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Trailer:

Ayushmann Khurrana was staring at the abyss after delivering three consecutive box office bombs. He must have been relieved to have an Yash Raj film in his kitty but even he would not have realized the enormous (there will be a few more bad puns in this review) potential of a film which could have weighed him down. Quite easily the ‘Queen’ of 2015, ‘Dum Laga ke Haisha’ is a delight to watch even when the dialect is sometimes a little difficult to grasp. Set in the 90s in Haridwar, the movie takes you to a time when Kumar Sanu’s nasal voice used to rule the roost. Evidently shot on a low budget, the film tells the story of the arranged marriage between two disparate souls. The one who takes the cake (and perhaps eats it too) is debutante Bhumi Pednekar who gives a confident performance as the assertive young daughter-in-law. She shows that size really does not matter. It is her free spirit that makes the film worth watching. Interestingly, hardly anybody left the movie hall till the Kumar Sanu-Sadhna Sargam track finished playing along with the titles.

The Rewrite (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 645, My Rating:5/10]

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Trailer:

Out of work Oscar winning writer lands a teaching job in an obscure town where he turns things around. He also discovers love and unearths a new talent. Aided by the electric smile of Marisa Tomei and not so electric smile of Hugh Grant, the movie chugs along without gathering too much pace or slowing down considerably. This movie could have starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore instead. Or Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It would still be the same and it wouldn’t matter. It is one of those movies which you wouldn’t mind watching but would have a hard time recollecting after a few months.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating:3/10]

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Trailer:

At an artistic level, it is one of the worst films to have come out in recent times but the promotion and the sustained marketing campaign hava been a good case study on how to go about getting the audiences to watch this movie. If explicit content is the lure for you to watch the movie, then cut to the chase. Certainly one of the duds of the year.

NH10 (2015) [IMDb: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:67%, My Rating: 3/10]

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Trailer:

(Spoilers ahead) Surely one of the most illogical and nonsensical movies of the last five years. Produced by Anurag Kahyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, this movie has more holes in the script than what a punching machine would ever be able to achieve. The liberated girl has to be a smoker and her birthday gift is the freedom to smoke. I thought that this was so passé. She has a nutty husband who seems to have turned off the functioning of his brain. Only the script writer knows what he was smoking when he dreamt of the sequence when the guy goes with a gun to counsel someone in the middle of nowhere. Seriously? Then, people kill each other. The heroine runs around the whole of Haryana in search of help. Only people who help her out are migrant labourers from Bihar. Then she runs again, then she cycles, then she kills the policeman and steals the police vehicle. Then she runs again. After running so much, she lands up at the home of the people who are chasing her. Of all the houses in all the villages in all of Haryana, she walks into the only house which she should have avoided. Rick from ‘Casablanca’ would have been so proud. After being beaten to pulp by her tormentors, she conveniently finds a way to get the keys to their car. Then she makes them run around the village before killing them while she chases them in their car. They run as if she knows their village more than them. They run as if the only direction they know is ‘straight’. I ran to the side because the movie hall had exits on the side.

The Boy Next Door (2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 1/10]

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Trailer:

A youthful divocee falls for her new neighbor. It takes her some time to realize that her neighbor is a bad guy, a really bad guy. Staring at the midday sun is a less painfull experience than watching this flick.

Documentary of the Week

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating; 7.5/10]

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Trailer:

The captivating story of a street photographer whose treasure trove of great photographs numbering more than 100,000 was discovered after she had died as a destitute old lady. Also, a reminder that in photography, it is the person behind the camera that matters more than the camera itself.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘ While We’re Young’ starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.

Did you know: ‘American Sniper’ is the highest grossing war film of all time.