Edition 84

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Our Little Sister (Japan,2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:93% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

Trailer

‘Our Little Sister’ tells the story of three sisters who take in their fourth sister they never knew they had. This Japanese tale is a quiet triumph and a joy to watch. It also gives an insight into the traditions and way of life in rural Japan. The movie is akin to a piece of music which flows unabated. There is a sublime sense of happiness pervading the movie even when it tackles more serious questions. For a film which could have ended in various ways, ‘Our Little Sister’ bows out with a dignity that is the hallmark of the feature. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Detroit (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:83% , My Rating: 8.5 ]

Trailer

I have thoroughly enjoyed previous movies of Katheryn Bigelow like ‘Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (One of the best movies of the decade). ‘Detroit’ surely lives up to the expectations. Based on a real life incident in Algiers Motel, Detroit during the race riots of 1967, ‘Detroit’ is a story which must be told. Exposing the deep fault lines within the American social fabric and raising pertinent questions on police criminality, the movie is an edge of the seat thriller. ‘Detroit’ never has a boring moment but it has plentiful moments of horror and sadness. All credit for the memorable movie is due to Bigelow who deftly handles a theme which could have failed miserably in the hands of a less competent director. Watching the movie itself is a harrowing experience which can question your belief in the idea of justice itself. For all its pains, the movie is a pleasure.

Mother! (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:68% , My Rating: 4.5 ]

Trailer

My emotion towards ‘Mother!’ has been summed up beautifully by Anthony Lane of the ‘New Yorker’; “If you gave an extremely bright fifteen-year-old a bag of unfamiliar herbs to smoke, and forty million dollars or so to play with, “Mother!” would be the result.” ‘Mother!’ is a movie which is an insult to the intelligence of the audience. It is pointless and manipulative even when discounted for the allegory it purportedly portrays. I had to search to find out what the heck all this posturing by the director was about. If you are interested, the idea behind the movie is explained in an article here. It does not exonerate the director who also wrote the screenplay. Jennifer Lawrence who rose to fame through Harvey Weinstein movies, puts in a solid shift. There is nothing redeeming about the movie. It is a self indulgent piece which should be played as torture to death row inmates.

1922 (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on the Stephen King novella, ‘1922’ is a haunting movie. Though the omens point to a decline into tragedy, the events that follow are nothing short of terror. Dealing with the concept of guilt and retribution, this movie sucks in the viewer with its raw and relentless attack on the protagonist who is destined to disintegrate. This is one of the underrated flicks of the year. The only word of caution is to watch the movie with subtitles as the accent is dated and a tad difficult to pick up.

Logan Lucky (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Steven Soderbergh is one of the most talented directors of our generation. ‘Logan Lucky’ marks his return to form. A disparate group bound only by their love for the booty decide to rob NASCAR (nothing less!) on a race day. As is the case with every good heist movie, it is not the heist per se which is important but what happens afterwards. That is what makes the movie better than average. Surely, ‘Logan Lucky’ is not a masterpiece but it is a movie which does justice to your viewing time. Since half decent heist movies have been in short supply recently, this movie quenches the appetite for the time being. Recommended.

It (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes:85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Another movie based on the work of Stephen King, ‘It’ has been a smash hit at the box office. The reasons are not hard to miss. It has a bunch of kids at the centre of the story and deals with adult themes like identity and willpower. A murderous shape shifting demon needs to be tamed before it finds its new prey. All the usual Stephen King props are in play in this movie. Conquering the fear of the dark, first love, taming inner demons, unity in diversity, and some other simplistic ideas are thrown in to add weight to the movie. The only thing missing is a kid in spandex. Surely, ‘It’ is not a boring movie. Far from it, ‘It’ has its moments but otherwise it is a movie with a standard template which leave the viewer rather underwhelmed as the credits roll.

Better Watch Out (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

What I loved about ‘Better Watch Out’ is the twist it gives to ‘Home Alone’. In fact, there are not so subtle references to the ‘Home Alone’ franchise in this thriller with a bad heart. A boy is left with his nanny when his parents are away. What unfolds initially is a horror movie but with a major turn in the story as it evolves. Even the ending of the movie holds a punch and leaves the door open for a sequel. ‘Better Watch Out’ is a bit of twisted fun and I am not complaining.

A Ghost Story (2017) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:90% , My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

With a remote in your hand you will need very small amount of time to watch this tedious and unrewarding drama. Surprisingly, some people did find this movie interesting. I found the movie to be absolutely one of the worst of the year with its fake ideas and positioning. It has all the ingredients of a brainless idea which got greenlit by the presence of some bankable stars. For the record, the movie concerns itself with afterlife and coping with grief. In this respect the movie does not attain salvation. To be more to the point, it needs to be buried deep in the ground.

The Foreigner (2017) [IMDB: 7.2., Rotten Tomatoes:75% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Apparently, Jackie Chan has cried twice in his movies before. The third time is in ‘The Foreigner’ and this time you will join in his pain. Even in a movie where Pierce Brosnan has more screen time and better dialogues, Jackie Chan stands out as the 60 year old father who has lost everything and wants to avenge his daughter’s death. Though the politics of the movie is dubious and some parts are a stretch of imagination, the movie is written well enough to keep the viewer engaged till its predictable climax. The worldwide box office of more than a 100 million USD shows that the audiences also seem to approve the first real acting turn by superstar Jackie Chan.

Ingrid Goes West (2017) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

In times such as this where social media acts as an alternative to the real world, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a timely reminder of how far things can go wrong in the cyberspace. The lead character’s manic obsession of the number of likes she receives and the number of followers she has, leads to her losing her footing in the real world. As she gets close to an ‘influencer’ by crook, her obsession spirals out of control. ‘Ingrid Goes West’ tells that story and does it with panache. My only grouse is that the ending was unnecessarily saccharine sweet.

Documentary of the Week

Blue Planet 2 (2017) [IMDB: 9.8, Rotten Tomatoes:89% , My Rating: 10.0]

Trailer

Wow! Just wow. All the beauty in the world like never before. Educational, informative and entertaining. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Phantom Thread’ because it is the swansong of Daniel Day Lewis.

Did you know: Shashi Kapoor had more films as the protagonist than any other member of the Kapoor clan. RIP Shashi Kapoor.

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Edition 70

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]

Like_Someone_in_Love_2D_dvd

Trailer:

Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer: 

The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.

Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer: 

The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.

The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer: 

The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry.  More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (India, 2015) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 4.5]

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Trailer: 

India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million. 

Knock Knock (2015) [IMDB:5.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:33% , My Rating:3.0 ]

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Trailer: 

Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.

Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

Anarkali-Prithviraj-Movie

Trailer:

Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.

Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer: 

After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer: 

Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.

 

Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada

Week 9

Movies: Non- English

The Breath (Turkey, 2009) [IMDB: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arfWbfewMI0

Turkey may be in the spotlight currently for all the wrong reasons but they do make some fine movies. One of the finest to come out of this culturally rich nation is ‘The Breath’. The story of a group of men defending an outpost high in the mountains is not a conventional story. The fact that they have delusions and suicidal tendencies in a bitterly cold environment is understandable but what stands out is the excellent cinematography. Some of the memorable scenes include the torn flag fluttering in the wind and men typing on a typewriter on a wasteland of ice. I don’t know whether they shot on location. The team deserves an ovation if they did. If they put a set which makes it look as good as the location, they deserve more than an ovation.

Volver (Spain, 2006) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Volver_Poster

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

Pedro Almodovar is in fine form in this light film which has his muse Penelope Cruz in one of her better performances. I must say that when I first saw this movie I was not really impressed as I was focusing on the mother-daughter equation which forms the crux of the movie. Later I found out that the people in the Iberian peninsula really liked the film and a teacher of mine at the Delhi University who was from Portugal had a discussion on the film with me, which gave a new perspective. Well, the new perspective was that don’t take it very seriously and start believing in a little bit of magic in real life.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (France, 2007) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G69Zh7YIg8c

This is one of the most inspirational movies I have ever seen. Based on a true story, it shows a man who has his full body paralyzed except for one eye which he can blink, go on to write a marvelous best selling book. The movie is good but not fantastic. It may sound cliched but if there is one movie which can be an advertisement for the triumph of human spirit, this is the one. See it to know about the most original book ever written in the toughest circumstances.

Hollywood Retrospective

Zodiac (2007) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

zodiac

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6q_MfcDEEE

This film is not sufficiently old to merit a retrospective but then it is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. A journalist following the case of a serial murderer gets too involved with the case that he becomes part of the story. The story is based on true events. Aside from the investigation which is told in top rate style, the movie also focuses on real world difficulties when the time span of a case spans decades. A movie for the intelligent viewer who can appreciate the nuances of story telling. I was surprised that the movie was not even nominated at the Oscars. ‘Zodiac’ will walk into my list of all time best thrillers with ease.

Road to Perdition (2002) [ IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1iCd___dNY

Boasting of a stellar cast with the likes of Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Daniel Craig, this is probably the best gangster movie after ‘The Godfather’. Shot exquisitely by Conrad L. Hall (which incidentally won him his third Oscar posthumously), the movie has an engaging story to tell. The actors have given their heart out to the film and it shows. Some of the scenes ooze quality. The finely choreographed shooting in the rain with just the background score to aid is one hell of a memorable scene. Another one is when Tom Hanks leaves the lift in a hurry. The speech at a remembrance is another top notch moment. I could go on and on because I am a huge fan of the movie. If you like classy movies with great dialogues and strong performances, ‘Road to Perdition’ is a must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jack Reacher (2013) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 6.9%]

jack reacher

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK7y8Ou0VvM

The tagline says; ‘The law has its limits. He does not’. That may be true for the movie but not for Tom Cruise’s acting which is severely low on the range factor. Right from his ‘Top Gun’ days, his range is restricted to having a red nose when he has to show rage or anxiety or even plain cold. No wonder he has not landed an Oscar after futile attempts like ‘The Last Samurai’. However, Cruise is the star of the box office and he can get the cash registers ringing. Fortunately for him, once in a while he does get roles which require more panache than histrionics. Jack Reacher is one such role and definitely worth a watch if you know what to expect.

Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 20%]

Yamla-Pagla-Deewana-2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhm9Ukkn8eo

I did not know that the first movie in the series was successful enough to warrant a sequel or it could be that the Deols are trying to milk the last penny from the box office. It is an apology for a film and a better option than watching it would be to go and count the waves at the beach. Some of the critics who seem to be influenced by external factors were giving the movie an average rating for this pathetic attempt. One thing I will concede is that unlike most of the Bollywood sequels, it has the same set of characters from the original. That also is the highest praise I can come up for this movie.

Aurangzeb (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

Aurangzeb-2013

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMo9jiUeopc

Buy ticket for one Arjun Kapoor and get one more Arjun Kapoor free. That is the cinematic equivalent of two free trips to Somalia. Even the usually reliable Prithviraj looks off colour. It is left to the veteran Rishi Kapoor to save the day. If you are willing to overlook the fact that there are as many holes in the plot as there are in a sieve, ‘Aurangzeb’ is a one time watch.

Documentary Pick of the Week 

Jesus Camp (2006) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Jesus Camp

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_1Jm2_iB7g

‘Catch them young’ could be the motto of any organisation looking at indoctrination. Though the film hits out at Christianity, things are not much different with other religions. The multi-billion recession proof industry of organised religion is taken to the cleaners in this compelling documentary. Disturbing.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘World War Z’ because Brad Pitt is one actor growing in stature.

Did you know: India is one of the few countries in the world where the Head of the State presents the national film awards.