Edition 78

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

elle

Trailer

Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors of this generation. This movie is another proof of her acting prowess. She fills every frame of the movie and keeps the suspense going. There are shades of Basic Instinct, an earlier work of the director. The basic story is that of the protagonist playing a cat-and-mouse game with her unknown rapist. The complexity of the film is created by the numerous subplots  which are interlinked. The complicated back story of the protagonist  and her subsequent mistrust of police aid in storytelling. In the end all the subplots fall into place like that of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe, it is this comfortable ending that won the film the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Trailer

There’s something about Meryl Streep which keeps the viewer engaged even in a mediocre movie.  ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ has no claim to greatness  but it is carried solely by the form shoulders of Meryl Streep ably supported by Hugh Grant.  For a director who won Meryl Streep last Best Actress Oscar for ‘The Queen’,  this is definitely not an improvement. The director is definitely successful in creating sympathy for Florence Foster Jenkins but the masses couldn’t care less for the fate of a troubled aristocrat. A movie on the world’s worst opera singer compares favorably with a movie on the world’s worst director. The latter titled ‘Ed Wood‘ was definitely a better work of art. At least, it had self-doubt.

Sully (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

sul

Trailer

Clint Eastwood makes great movies. Tom Hanks  acts in great movies. Their combination to tell the story of an American hero in Captain Chesley Sullenberger is one of the best movies of the year. Like some of the previous Clint Eastwood movies there is no attempt at making the movie dramatic. At the same time, the movie cannot be classified as a character study as it only scratches the surface. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks pulls off with elan the role of a hero who is not aware of his heroic act.  Aaron Eckhart plays the best role of his life as the co-pilot. The thing about the ‘Miracle On Hudson’ is that it is one of those events which can hardly be ever repeated. Even the recreation of the movie isn’t enough to convince the viewer about the possibility of such an event. Perhaps that is where the movie had its task cut out and perhaps that is where it is not entirely successful. A shorter film of one hour would have done more justice to the plot.

Hell or High Water (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

Undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year Hell or High Water is supported by a cast comprising of thespians like Jeff Bridges Chris Pine.  Set in the forgotten parts of America and resembling a Western, the high point of the movie is that it resists the urge to pull out the gun on various occasions. The simmering tension of the movie is felt till the last frame. Concurrently the movie makes a bold statement on the plight of Americans left behind by the forces of capitalism. Most of the anger is directed at big banks who seem to get away with murder. Consequently, bank robberies form the central theme of the movie. The story is that of two brothers who rob the same bank they owe, to avoid foreclosure. In between all the gloom and doom there are also some subtle humor like in the restaurant where the waiter  knows a limited menu.  Alas, the movie is a reaffirmation of the fact that Jeff Bridges is one of the finest actors alive today. Must watch.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer


Following the success of his debut feature ‘What we do in the shadows’, the director’s second feature, ‘The hunt for the wilderpeople’, is a letdown. Indeed there are moments of humor in the movie but some of it seems forced and especially unexpected from a young child. The style of direction is a cross between that of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The movie tries to address some of the social issues but it soon turns to a farce. Set in the picturesque  mountains of New Zealand, it is also a peep into the life of the people at the margins of the society. I had a feeling that I had seen similar movies set in the America of 1980s. The only saving grace for the movie is that it does not bore the wits out of the viewer. The burden of high expectations seems to have taken a toll on the director.

The Light Between the Oceans (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

The undeniable beauty of ‘The Light Between the Oceans’ is compromised by the cringingly sentimental storyline. Boasting such performers like Michael Fassbender, Alicia vikander and Rachel Weisz, The movie is unable to tap into the talent at its disposal.  By the second half, the movie sets  out on a predictable path. The film tells the tale of a young childless couple who one day find a baby marooned at sea. Some movies have difficult choices to make. The options at their disposal are equally worthwhile. Choosing one over the other is so precarious an exercise that this undermines the whole tale. That is the malady which effects this movie.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

The debacle at Deepwater Horizon was one of the biggest tragedies of the oil industry. From the BP CEO who infamously said, ” I’d like to have my life back” to the frontline soldiers of the company who lost their lives, the movie captures an event, the wounds of which are yet to heal.  Deepwater Horizon documents the events that happened on the fateful day of the tragedy. The template is the standard one used for all the disaster movies.  No great acting chops are expected yet competent performances are delivered. The movie captures the horror of the tragedy without deviating from the standard storyline. The movie is not particularly illuminating but some of it needs to be heard and seen.

War Dogs (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

This movie could have been titled ‘It Happens Only in America’. Two neophytes receive a 300 million dollar defense contract. What follows is a series of games involving  arms traders and phoney businessmen. Jonah Hill is the big fat  dealer who will stop at nothing. The improbable story covers countries like Jordan, Albania and Iraq and is essntially the juvenile version of ‘Lord of War’. The film could have been taut and this aspect is particularly conspicuous. Otherwise, a decent watch.

The Siege of Jadotville (2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

This is the type of African tale which must be told.  Unfortunately they could have chosen a better story to tell.  Set in 1960s Congo in the midst of a Civil War,  the movie captures the fate of neutral United Nations Peacekeeping Force which does not receive support from the government, the opposition or the rebels. To make matters worse, they don’t even  receive support from the United Nations.  They are pawns in a bigger political game whic involves mining companies, colonial powers, world superpowers and a fledgling government. They are left to battle for survival against formidable odds.  The low production quality of Netflix is evident in this movie. Unfortunately, it is a story about heroes who need to be remembered and it does not get the treatment it deserves.

Don’t Think Twice (2016) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

‘Don’t Think Twice’ is one of the best movies of the year  until the last 10 % of the movie  when it gets  cloyingly sweet.  The movie has freshness written all over it. It tells the tale of a group of actors and how the Dynamics between them changes when one of them is chosen for a starring role in a television program. The movie is littered with instances of wit and humor. The young actors in the movie give it the credibility  it seeks. Recommended.

Documentary of the Week

Weiner (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

Anthony Weiner was once the young Turk among democrats. His fall from grace and the unraveling of his personal life are captured in this intimate documentary. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the true life story of a Botswanian prince who married a British lady.

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Did you know: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.

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Edition 65

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Timbuktu (Mauritania,2014) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer:

Once upon a time Timbuktu was synonymous with the last outpost of Western Civilization.  This town in North Mali at the edge of the Sahara desert was also a cultural centre of Islam. ‘Timbuktu’ the movie, does justice to the mysterious and tantalizing town while capturing the wild beauty of the nomadic life in the interiors of Africa. The movie won at Cannes and had a formidable run at the film festivals culminating in an Oscar nomination. The story is that of a cattle herder and his family whose traditional way of life is interrupted when the town is taken over by conservative Islamic terrorists. What ensues is a series of curbs on the life of the people, with football and music among the things banned. Mesmerizingly shot scenes only add to the authenticity of the film with a group of amateurs turning in performances they can be proud of. Though some of the scenes like the imaginary football one did not work for me, the movie is a definite winner for its ability to portray a polarizing subject dispassionately.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dear White People (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating:6.5]

Dear White People

Trailer:

At a time when USA is in the throes of major racial tensions, this film throws light on the lives of African-American students in an Ivy League university. It is a movie which focuses on the relationships and changing dynamics among the students with a dose of racial issues adding to the mix. The movie has good production values and for once there is a role reversal with the minority students playing the role of the erudite people and the whites being the troublemakers. Though the movie does flag towards the end, it is a one time watch.

Paddington (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer:

A bear from Peru lands up in UK and gets a place to stay with a kind family. Soon enough, a villain turns up and the rest of the story is about how good triumphs evil. The movie is told at a decent pace and keeps the viewer engaged. With dialogues which have an element of humour in them, the movie is quite an easy watch and certainly one of the good ones of 2014.

Jigarthanda (India, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Rated, My Rating:7.5]

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Trailer:

Billed by the producers as a “gangster-musical”, this Tamil film scooped a few National Awards including one for the antagonist played by Simhaa. In fact, he is the show stopper with his carefully nuanced performance becoming the highlight of a movie with a convoluted plot. A contestant in a TV show bags a project to direct a movie but the catch is that he must make a movie about a gangster. In his steadfastness, he starts to tail a real life gangster, only to be caught by the gangster. From there the movie takes myriad twists and turns before finishing in an anti-climax. Highly recommended.

Starred Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating:7.5]

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Trailer:

An instant cult classic for movies with prison as a background, ‘Starred Up’ starts on a high and vaguely resembles the French classic ‘A Prophet’ (2009). But then the movie gets into unchartered territory with a bit of family drama complicating an already tough tale. With a career defining performance from Jack O’Connell, the film is a gripping story about a standoff between a teenage prisoner and the establishment. Highly recommended.

Get Hard (2015) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%, My Rating: 5/10]

Get Hard

Trailer:

Will Ferrell plays a hotshot Harvard Business School Graduate (yes, you read that right) who makes money for fun on the stock market. Kevin Hart plays a car washer who nurses dreams of making his business bigger. Destiny brings them together. The movie does have some funny scenes but it is laborious in the second half and becomes boring as it keeps on moving away from its story brief.

You’re Not You (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating:6.5]

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Trailer:

This critically panned movie has received a much more favourable response from the viewers. It tells the story of a pianist who is diagnosed with ALS. As she disintegrates, she comes in contact with new people in her life. A tearjerker for those who are interested in crying, the movie does not have anything extraordinary to say. Even Hillary Swank who has an author backed role dwarfs in comparison with performances of people who share the screen with her.

Mr. X (India, 2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%, My Rating: 2.5/10]

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Trailer:

I believe that Vikram Bhatt gets to direct movies because his family produces and acts in them. Emraan Hashmi’s new flop has him gaining the power to become invisible. That helps Tanmay Bhatt of AIB to fill the screen. The lead actress in the movie has nothing to do. The producers could have done with just the lips of the lady as that is the only part of the actress called into action. Maybe, she could also have gained some power to disappear from the movie. The movie has low production values and is evidently directed by someone from another era. What more do you expect from a director whose last five movies were ‘Creature’, ‘Raaz 3’, ‘Dangerous Ishq’, ‘Haunted’ and ‘Shaapit’ ? Thankfully, the audiences also gained the power to become invisible from the movie halls.

Documentary of the Week

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) [IMDB;8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating:8.5]

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Trailer:

A look into the origin, growth and stupidity of the cult of Scientology. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared‘  because titles don’t get more interesting than this.

Did you know: In the movie ‘Shrek’, the right hand page of the book at the end of the film says ‘The End’. The left hand page says ‘And they lived ugly ever after. ‘