Edition 66

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (Japan,2013) [ IMDB:8., Rotten Tomatoes: 100% My rating: 8.5]

Tale of The Princess Kaguya

Trailer:  

Coming from the legendary Studio Ghibli, this modern masterpiece in animation tells the story of an enigmatic princess whose life becomes entwined with the fate of a farmer couple. Though upstaged at the Oscars by the trashy ‘Big Hero 6’, this tale from Japan will be the one that stands the test of longevity in people’s memory. The movie is a mature piece of filmmaking with a screenplay which could have been made into a fantabulous film even if it were to be made with real actors. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Amira & Sam (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes:79% My Rating: 6.5]

Amira & Sam

Trailer:

Sam is a war veteran and Amira is an illegal Iraqi immigrant in the US. Sam is a man of few words but is self assured and easygoing. Amira is boisterous and prone to rash decision making. They fall in love. This happens after more than half of the movie is over. Still, the movie is about romance. It is about normal people falling in love without any mushy dialogues or lilting background score. It is also about current realities; about issues like racism, white collar crime, PTSD and immigration. The movie sometimes bites off more than it can chew and the climax is an easy way out for the scriptwriter. For all its flaws, it is a simple story with good dialogues and is quite a breeze to watch.

The Living (2014) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%, My Rating:5]

Living_poster_1

Trailer:

A brother takes up the responsibility of dealing with his abusive brother-in-law. He hires a hit man to “take care” of the situation. What follows is beyond his expectations but to start with it would be unfair to say that he had any idea of what was to follow. In this determinedly average thriller, the thrill itself is the missing ingredient for a large part of the movie. With deadpan expressions from baby faced actors, to dialogues which seem to have been made up on the spot, the movie lets go of an opportunity and thereby becomes an average thriller which is value for money when it comes for free viewing on television.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating: 5]

tanu-weds-manu-poster

Trailer:

First things first. Kangana Ranaut is one of the finest actors in India now. She has achieved success without piggybacking on the triumvirate of Khans. She has even won two National Awards (winning only one does not count because that group includes duds like Saif Ali Khan, Karishma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon). She even gets the Haryanvi accent spot on.

Now the real deal. (spoilers ahead) ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ is the kind of movie which comes on a wave of media hysteria that dubs it entertaining and with a push from paid reviews which rate it as nothing short of phenomenal. Anand L Rai is a past master at this type of promotion. The original to this sequel and ‘Ranjhnaa’ were equally worthless movies which appeal to perhaps that section of the audience to whom the black buck hunting Khan appears to be human. This movie is about a psychopath wife who leaves her husband in a mental asylum and finds joy in wrecking a marriage proposal by appearing clad only in a bath towel. Her estranged husband wants to marry a girl he has just met because she is his wife’s doppelganger. Her former boyfriend also wants to marry the same girl for the same reason. Talk about character and beauty being skin deep. As if one psychopath was not enough, the Haryanvi body double seems to have no clue about what is happening. She agrees to marry a man she hardly knows and who is double her age. She spews some rhetoric about women’s liberation and finally to top it all, stops her marriage literally half a second before it is sanctified. Then she goes and cries privately. Meanwhile the original diva who was sitting through the whole farce without a twitch of the eyebrow suddenly jumps up to retake the clearly confused husband. There is even a ‘progressive’ side track when another husband joyously accepts his cheating wife and a child born out of wedlock. If that is not enough there is another side track in which a man thinks that kidnapping a lady is the best way to show his love for her. Such a mockery of the audiences is celebrated as good film making. The movie may work with small town audiences who are waiting to be ‘entertained’ and for firm believers in the herd mentality. For others it is a reminder that the juggernaut of Indian media will run over you and blame you for the misfortune even when you are on the sidewalk.

Piku (2015) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 5.5]

piku-poster01

Trailer:

There is a scene in the movie when Irrfan asks Deepika, “Do you speak only about this all the time?”. ‘This’ here refers to shit. It is not surprising to know this because the writer of the movie is the same one who wrote ‘Vicky Donor’. She just migrated from sperm to shit. She tells the story of an unmarried daughter and her people repellent father who goes out of his way to alienate people. The major part of the story is about his bowel movement. That must be a cinematic first. For a movie which meanders along, the only saving grace is Irrfan Khan who brings some semblance of order to a script which is going nowhere. Even when it hurtles towards a predictable end, the screen presence and authentic performance of Irrfan Khan keeps the movie from becoming a cure to insomnia. Screen legend Amitabh Bachchan delivers a performance that does no harm to his reputation. That clearly cannot be said of Ms Padukone who seems to think that doing low budget art movies will make her a better actor or give her wider recognition.

It Follows (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

it-follows-web-poster

Trailer:

Undoubtedly the best horror movie of 2015, ‘It Follows’ tells the story of a woman who has to accept the fact that a supernatural force is following her. She then has to find the reason why she is in that peculiar situation. With a background score that induces trepidation, this is a movie that demands your full attention. It is also a timely reminder that certain done to death genres can still be reinvented for one final hurrah. Highly recommended.

OK Kanmani (2015) [IMDB: 7.9 Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 4]

Ok-Kanmani-New-Poster

Trailer:

After box office bombs like ‘Yuva’, ‘Raavan’ and ‘Kadal’, director Mani Ratnam returns to his home territory of unconstrained romance with the half cooked ‘OK Kanmani’. With scenes which look eerily similar to ‘Saathiya’, the young romance is a confused tale with ambiguity writ on its moral moorings. ‘OK Kanmani’ wants to be modern without appearing to lose its traditional values. (Spoilers ahead). The movie supports live-in relationships and even has a scene where the lady pulls the man’s leg by suggesting an engagement. The irony is not lost on anyone when they get married in the climax of the movie. One is left wondering what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, the cause of the movie is not helped by the fact that the scenes of high energy that appear on screen seem more fake than real. Mani Ratnam cannot even chuck the mandatory train scene which is there in all his movies. It only shows the slow decline of a film maker who was once the most sought after in India.

See You in Valhalla (2015) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating:4 ]

See You in Valhalla

Trailer:

There is a line in the movie, “If we didn’t have the bad stuff, then how would we recognize the good?”. Now I know how good the other movies are.

Documentary of the Week

Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 8]

antarctica_a_year_on_ice_ver2_xlg

Trailer:

A year of living in Antartica. Get the biggest screen possible. The visuals are jaw dropping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Masaan’ because it is an Indian film which won two awards at Cannes. That is what you call a black swan event in cinema.

Did you know: ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (1915) was the first film to be viewed in the White House.

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Edition 54

After a break of close to six months, this blog is back. Henceforth, the aim is to publish the blog on a fortnightly basis. Thank you for your continued support.

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu) (Japan, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten tomatoes: 89%]

wind-rises-poster-636-380

Trailer:

The swan song of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (The genius behind classics like Spirited Away, Princess Mononike, Howl’s Moving Castle) is itself a tribute to the life and times of the pioneer of Japanese aviation Jiro Horikoshi. True to form, Miyazaki makes sure that the film gets the scale and ambition it deserves. The thing that struck  me while watching the movie was the ease with which the story was unfolding. The screenplay is so well written that the movie could have been a fantastic one even if it were shot using real people in real settings. This sense of realism is what separates Japanese animation from the Hollywood set pieces. Hence, the slight disappointment that a vastly inferior ‘Frozen’ was chosen ahead of this classic at the Oscars.

Movies I Saw This Week

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

grand-budapest-hotel-uk-quad-poster

Trailer:

Wes Anderson comes up with probably the most engaging film of the year which has its moments of quirkiness which add to the shroud of suspense which camouflages the playfulness of the movie. It tells the story of a concierge in the hotel who has a fetish for older women. Filmed in his signature style, Wes Anderson ensures that the film looks authentic for the inter war period during which it is set. The slick dialogues and accomplished performances from every member of the crew help in adding to one of the best cinematic experiences of 2014.

Begin Again (2014) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83% ]

begin-again-poster

Trailer: 

A once famous music producer who has fallen on bad times, meets a neophyte and takes her on the road to super stardom. The songs used in the movie are good. Mark Ruffalo is perfectly cast as down in the dumps music executive and playing perfect foil to him is the delightful Keira Knightley who is vulnerable and yet cheerful. The film is predictable in the turns it takes but as I have always maintained, some predictable movies are very good to watch even when they have some loose points. Watch it for the music and the joie de vivre.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) [IMDB: 8.1 Roten Tomatoes: 87%]

fault_in_our_stars_by_grodansnagel-d6rujir

Trailer: 

Based on the NYT bestseller, the novel is made with the teenage audiences in mind. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. They share many memorable experiences together as they await death. There is nothing exceptional about the movie. Since it is based on the impending doom and gloom , the thematic elements are placed to pull at the heart strings which they do with limited success. The movie tries too hard to bring in the sentimentality which is its USP. This is certainly not the type of movie I enjoy watching but I am sure there is a section of the audience which loves such tragedies.

A Most Wanted Man (2014) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

man-poster

Trailer: 

From the spy novelist John Le Carre comes this thriller focusing on undercover operations against Muslim terrorist groups based in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman delights in his final onscreen appearance and simultaneously reminds us of the great talent that we lost. The suspense and intrigue in the movie build up from the first shot and reaches an explosive climax which is difficult to predict. The screenplay focuses on the minute aspects of the story which gives an impression that there is a twist waiting to happen all the time. The director does not let the pace slacken and the actors do full justice to their roles. I immensely enjoyed watching the movie and feel that it is one of the best to have come out in recent months.

Are You Here (2014) [IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

are yhou here

Trailer: 

Owen Wilson and Zach Galfianakis teaming up was supposed to be funny but when they try to add gravity, when nothing even resembling that is expected, you get the movie disaster of the year. Both of them sleepwalk through their roles and an awfully weak screenplay makes you wonder “What am I being subjected to?”. For the record, the story is that of a social misfit who goes to attend his father’s funeral and discovers that he has become a millionaire because his dad trusted his dazed and confused son over his selfish and uncaring daughter. At every moment in the movie, there is an anticipation that there could be something funny happening soon but all those hopes are buried along with the funeral in the movie. Watch it if you are learning to be good at anger management.

Finding Fanny (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Finding_Fanny_Theatrical_release_poster

Trailer: 

I have immense sympathy for people who paid to see this drivel in a theatre. This is the kind of movie that brings disrepute to good cinema because it is marketed as good cinema intended for the audiences who can see the finer points of filmmaking. What it becomes is storyless story which could have been compressed to a 25 minute episode on television. For all her commercial success and the fixed awards that come with it, Deepika Padukone cannot act to save her life. Even the others look out of touch with thespian Naseeruddin Shah being the only saving grace. He plays the character of a person who is cajoled to go in search of his long lost love. Just like the car they take the trip in, the story meanders along aimlessly and is a pain to watch. I think people should have guessed this early as the main marketing point of the movie during its promotions was the derriere of the actresses. A movie that must be avoided at all costs.

Happy New Year (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)

Trailer: 

Thank God that this movie was released during Diwali. If it was released during the new year, it would have ruined the entire year. Now it needs to be just burned along with the the crackers on Diwali. To call this a movie would be the equivalent of calling the winner of the National Spelling Bee a novelist. The movie is a pointless attempt and an insult to the audience. Filled with cheap gags and a story which seems to have been conjured up by an infant in the cradle, the film is a tight slap on the faces of the audiences who throng movies on the first day of release because of the marketing blitzkrieg they are subjected to. It is also a reminder of the fading charisma of an ageing superstar finding it difficult to maintain the aura so frighteningly exposed by those wrinkles. It is an insult to the idea of patriotism when such movies try to play such cards in vain. As for the actors, the cake goes to Abhishek Bachchan who now plays the Uday Chopra equivalent of a side kick he is used to having in the Dhoom series. I hope that the director Farah Khan meets the same fate as her even lousier brother.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Inequality for all (2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

inequality

Trailer: 

The former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich tries to give a new perspective on the labour market and the distribution of wealth. Highly recommended.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Foxcatcher’ because it is a true story of an Olympic winner.

Did you know: In the state of South Dakota it is illegal to show Police getting beaten in the movies.

 

Week 32

Movies: Non-English

The Cranes are Flying (Russia, 1957) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

cranes are

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGsXmwPj0TA

This Russian classic is set during the Second World War. A young girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love when her lover is away in the battlefield. The most outstanding feature of the movie is the universally acclaimed cinematography. Some of the scenes have been shot so magnificently that they can be used to teach cinematography. Unlike many contemporary movies where beautiful images are confused for good cinematography, here the camera moves to create the right mood for the story. The story is not exceptional but holds your attention even after half a century. In addition to this some competent acting also helped the movie clinch the Palme D’or at Cannes. Must see if you want to know anything about Russian cinema.

The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, 1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Wind_Will_Carry_Us_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsS3sXwwwNo

An engineer moves into a rural community and it changes his outlook towards life and people. This Iranian tour de force is a reminder that Iran always punches above its weight in the world of cinema with a handful of exceptionally talented filmmakers. The film is a bit slow but like the Turkish film ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ reviewed a few weeks ago, it is not the story that matters but the setting. The landscapes are haunting and there is a wild beauty about them. For folks from the cities it is a reminder that time stands still in many places and in those places people take life as it comes.

English Retrospective

The Constant Gardener (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

constant gardener

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYXYzzng3Fo

A man tries to find out the reason for his wife’s murder and discovers more than what he had bargained for, in this film set in Africa. Ralph Fiennes brings his trademark intensity to his role as a man harrowed by guilt and searching for answers; in equal measure. The showstopper though, is the performance by Rachel Weisz who should be doing more of these kind of roles. She has a magnetic presence and  almost carries the whole film on her shoulders. Watch this deadly concoction of politics, espionage and corporate greed.

Trainspotting (1996) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

trainspotting-a16

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2GKVtWsXKY

One of my friends once told me that the scenes of drug abuse in ‘Trainspotting’ could only be shot by someone who has experienced it himself. I don’t know whether Danny Boyle has ‘experience’ in this category but in the process he made arguably his finest movie in ‘Trainspotting’. The protagonist and his friends are habitual drug abusers in this story set in Scotland. He wants to get out of it all and make a decent living. Ewan McGregor, a regular with Danny Boyle, is in top form and his accent and and acting are pitch perfect.It is a story about friendship and group behaviour. For all its smugness and style, the movie is a psychological study of how certain characters behave under special circumstances. Must watch.

Big Fish (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

big fish

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3YVTgTl-F0

I would love to see a movie made by Tim Burton which has a story fully set in the real world. ‘Big Fish’ suffers from Burton’s tendency to go overboard when simplicity could have helped his cause. The film’s story has a man trying to recollect his father’s life through a series of anecdotes. The colourful man that his father was, there are too many things that don’t fit in the puzzle. The movie is quite good but is not helped by some uninspired acting. Like most of Burton’s movies, it leaves a feeling of having missed the woods for the trees.

Movies I Saw This Week

42 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

42

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9RHqdZDCF0

This film is based on the life of the first ever African-American Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson. I did not know about this true legend earlier. He was an icon of the civil rights movement and an inspiration for many. His on field behaviour was impeccable. His off field life was exceptional. The movie may not have done justice to him because it would be so difficult to capture the life of such an extraordinary man in a single film. Other wise it is a very good film to watch and one of the better ones to have come out in 2013. The deep divides in the US society during his period are exposed and it is on watching such movies that we realize how far we have come from those days of inequality. I literally had tears by the time the end credits started rolling. The movies ticks every cliche for a sports movie but then inspiration is a cliche I love.

Prisoners (2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

prisoners_ver6_xlg

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpXfcTF6iVk

I have only two complaints against ‘Prisoners’. One, that it is painfully slow. Second, that no matter what, everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and this dictum does not justify some horrible torture scenes in the movie. These apart, the movie is one of the best to have come out in 2013. The most remarkable thing is the high quality performances put in by every single person on screen. Hugh Jackman offers a new side to his acting as the charged up American who sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the shower. Maria Bello as his wife is outstanding. I wonder how she acts with such composure when they say ‘action’. Paul Dano is an exceptional talent and his choice of movies shows that he has the right priorities. Overall, an engrossing film to watch.

Ramleela (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

ramleela1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StphRCLkx6Q

Imagine Sanjay Leela Bhansali in the black and white era. What would he be telling? Nothing, because without colour his movies mean nothing. After a string of flops he returns to Gujarat which had earlier saved him with ‘Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam’. He even dons the hat of the music director for RamLeela. I suggest that the next time he leave it to someone who knows the trade. Since finding new stories is tough for Indian film makers, Bhansali also relies on ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Now no one call that a bad story. Bhansali sets it in Gujarat and it is easily understandable that the movie is shot in a set than in Gujarat. The story is set in a village where people shoot at children for the fun of it. Seriously, not funny. The major selling point of the movie is that the hero bares his torso. Maybe the women like it because I thought that Deepika Padukone looked stunning. The end is a disgrace to Shakespeare. (Spoilers ahead) Lovers kissing with guns pointed at each other? Are you kidding? Put them aside. Finish the kiss and then shoot each other. Take your own time. Shakespeare must have turned in his grave.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Island President (2011) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

island pres

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

Mohammad ‘anni’ Nasheed came to power in Maldives in its first open election is 2008 dethroning Gayoom who ruled for 30 years prior to that. He recognized that the very existence of his nation would be in peril if measures to control global warming were not taken. The documentary captures his efforts in that direction. The unrestrained access that the filmmakers got gives a peek into the behind the scenes deliberations at government level. The setting is Maldives. So the images are beautiful. Too bad that Mr. Nasheed lost the reelection bid in 2013.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Frozen’ because animation needs to wake up from the hibernation mode.

Did you know: The Golden Globes are awarded by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Week 19

Movies: Non-English

The Life of Rose {La Vie En Rose} (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

La Vie En Rose movie poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujvIs0DhJU

In his review of this biopic of legendary French singer Edith Piaf, Stephen Holden of the ‘The New York Times’ wrote and I quote, “The most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another ever encountered on film.” I concur. Marion Cotillard was a shoo in for the Best Actress at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes making her only the second actress after Sophia Loren to win the Oscar for that category in a non-English movie. The film tells the bittersweet story of Edith Piaf who died young. This is one of those biopics where you genuinely feel for the character who is felled by a succession of tragedies. Marion Cotillard is exceptional in the role and (Spoiler Ahead) her acting in the scene when she discovers the death of her lover is unforgettable. Watch it for her and get introduced to Edith Piaf whose death was the only instance after the Second World War when Parisian traffic came to a standstill.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

death of

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB5BktF00_Y

This Romanian tour de force is a niche comedy. It is not a chaplinesque slapstick and requires you to see the biting sarcasm at the heart of the film. The good thing is that even with the subtitles the humour is not lost. The story is that of a lonely old man who is stretchered off from one hospital to another on a particularly interesting night. The pace is rather slow but the dialogues more than make up for it. Overall, a good watch.

English Retrospective

The Paper Chase (1973) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

paper chase

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLZgjP-qgpQ

The story of life at Harvard Law School told through the eyes of one of the less stellar students on campus. It tells the reality of high pressure academic life marked by rigor which is what finally sets apart elite institutions. Life is lonely and the weather is often very cold. To add to this the teachers are geniuses who expect the same quality from the students. It is a very grounded movie which tells things as they are. Very well written. I particularly like the classroom scenes with strong dialogues and games of one upmanship. Also, it looks very authentic.

MASH (1972) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Mash

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvijJ3RnRc8

Irreverent comedy which tests the limits of comedy and often breaches it through distasteful antics. The interesting part is that all the fun is by doctors and nurses of the US Army stationed in Korea during the war. They need an escape from what they encounter in their daily lives and once they decide to turn on the style it becomes a free for all madcap entertainer which maybe the best comedy in an army camp setting. Recommended only for those who can see the lighter side in everything.

Scent of a Woman (1992) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

scent_of_a_woman_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GUvsJc3vvE

How many Oscars has Al Pacino won? One. The legendary actor got his only piece of Oscar glory for playing a blind retired army Colonel in the remake of an Italian film by the same name. How his imposing and confident personality comes to the rescue of a student who comes to take care of him forms the crux of the story. His dialogue delivery, screen presence and emoting are essential viewing for anyone who cares to know the difference between run of the mill stuff and great acting. Essential viewing.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Conjuring (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

conjuring

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10ETZ41q5o

First of all, this is a really scary movie and watching it in a movie hall with good sound effects is the only way one can do justice to it. The director and the writer duo have finally hit the bull’s eye after making a series of average horror movies. There is a certain air of imminent danger throughout the movie. Even routine events are shot as if something really bad is going to happen. In that respect the film takes some time to get the feel right. If you enjoy being scared, then this one is for you. Apparently the film is based on a true story but you will have to stretch your imagination to believe that all that really happened. There are some unintentional funny scenes. Like when the priest says, ” The kids aren’t baptized. The approval (for the exorcism) has to come directly from the Vatican.” Really?

Chennai Express (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 57%]

chennai-express_13570983881

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGR5Sj1Bfo

Congratulations to Shahrukh Khan for having a proper hit after five years. Congratulations to the Indian multiplex viewer for making another dud a hit. Congratulations to Deepika Padukone for setting the new benchmark for Hindi spoken with a Tamil accent. Congratulations to myself that this movie is not playing within a 1000 miles of my residence. Truth be told, something inside me died every time Deepika spoke in Hindi. I have never seen such a hammed performance for a really long time. Shahrukh Khan plays a 40 year old, a fact which he keeps on repeating as if he is doing the viewer a favour by not playing a 25 year old. Truth: Shahrukh Khan is 47 years old and looks 50. Maybe the dialogue to that effect was true but then nobody would have noticed it because the star was peddling his Nokia phone worth Rs. 34250. You see, the phone still takes calls after being thrown out from a running train. Marketing lesson learnt: Nokia phones are sturdy and built for India where even the goons cannot destroy them. The movie may have swept the box office but one group who would have a tough time watching it with their families: Halwais. The hero gets off at a place near a waterfall on his way to Chennai but when he has to escape he finds himself in international waters near Sri Lanka. Take a look at the map of India. I am as lost for words as Shahrukh is in that scene. The action scenes or the ‘cars flying in the air’ scenes look like shots Rohit Shetty wanted to put in ‘Golmaal’ but then the producer of that series may have told him to keep them for another day.  Wafers have been made thinner to a new size called ‘Chennai Express Screenplay’. You know who is the biggest star and saving grace of the movie? The pictures of Rajnikanth when the end credits roll.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

Once-Upon-A-Time-In-Mumbaai-Dobara-Full-Movie-Online

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj9UXzyDsOA

What Shahrukh Khan can do, Akshay Kumar can’t. People don’t rush to his movies anymore because they have grown wiser after his gems like ‘Joker’ and ‘Thank You’. So he can kiss the 100 crore club goodbye unless he has a remake to hang on to. To add to this he has ‘accomplished’ actors like Imran Khan to thwart his every attempt to rise above mediocrity. Imran Khan may be in movies only because he has the right connections. His acting is defined by consistency. He looks the same and acts the same in every single movie. Only the costumes change. If there is a fan of Imran Khan out there, you are my enemy just because of the fact that you are a fan of Imran Khan. This movie is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of its prequel or is it that they don’t even put an effort to find a name for a movie. So just tell the world that it is the second part of some hit. Sleep, watch paint dry, count the waves on the beach, do anything but don’t waste your time on this flick.

Now You See Me (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

now you see me

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

An important tenet of magic is that the viewer should know that he has been tricked and should be generally happy about it. The keyword is, ‘tricked’. This movie makes use of all the technical advances in movie making for a film on magic. The problem is that it uses this to cheat the viewer and make a fool out of him. While trying to sound scientific with a nod to logic the movie is so full of loopholes in logic that the credibility of the film is easily questioned. From a piranha scene relying on editing to a bank robbery scene relying on god knows what, the movie is an insult to intelligence. The second time a character started playing the imaginary violin, I was thinking ‘what the heck is going on?’ The ending is convenient but to focus on it would be to say that other parts are of admissible quality. They are not so. I don’t want to do a laundry list of scenes where common sense is thrown out of the window because that would constitute half of the movie (or even more). As always, Morgan Freeman looks majestic. Thank god, he does not do any magic trick.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Tabloid (2010) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

taboid

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

A beauty queen kidnaps a Mormon Missionary with whom she is in love. The incident creates waves. Thirty years later a documentary tries to uncover the truth. Mostly fun.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The Monuments Men’ because it has Matt and Clooney.

Did you know: The ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles originally spelled ‘Hollywoodland’ when it was installed in 1923. ‘Land’ was removed only in 1949.

Week 10

Movies: Non-English

Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Let-The-Right-One-In-Poster-let-the-right-one-in-16068910-600-849

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp4g9p_rgo

I am not sure whether this is a horror film or a thriller and I am not too bothered by which genre it belongs to because it keeps you on the edge of your seat without you even knowing it. Credited with reviving the left for dead (no pun intended) vampire movie genre, this is a movie which will redefine your cinematic sensibilities. A young boy falls in love with a girl who happens to be a vampire. The girl returns the love by taking care of the people who bully the boy. The boy also helps her with occasional supply of blood which quenches her thirst. An odd love story where you will root for a vampire. Classy. Still not convinced? Watch the swimming pool scene.

Spirited Away (Japan, 2001) [IMDB: 8.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Spirited_Away_movie_poster_by_miemie_chan3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6az9wGfeSgM

Animation is imagination on the big screen. ‘Spirited Away’ takes you on a journey like no other and shows the world that some of the best work in animation happens outside Hollywood. A girl and her wonderland. That is pretty much what the movie is about but they made it into an animation classic they swept the awards at places like the Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance and ultimately at the Oscars where it beat Ice Age to deservedly land the nod for the Best Animation Picture. Along the way it found fans like James Cameron. To date, it remains one of the best animation movies ever made. There must be some reason when it is the first animation picture I chose to write about in my blog.

Pather Panchali (India, 1955) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Pather Panchali

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

Legend has it that when the movie was screened for the first time for European audiences, some critics walked out midway through the movie. Nearly 60 years later, the reputation of the movie as a timeless classic has increased with every passing year. With a haunting background score by Pandit Ravishankar, the movie remains a masterful study of people. The mundane life of a peasant family in rural Bengal comes to life  in a motion picture which flows like a river with hardly a moment to pause. It is sad that not many in India have seen the movie in recent times. Essential viewing.

Hollywood Retrospective

Reds (1981) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

reds-1981

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjjRDJ039FI

Warren Beatty had staked his reputation and much more on this classic which took a long time to make but when he finally made it, it became the best picture on the communist movement in USA. For a country which sees the devil in the word ‘socialism’, it is also a reminder that there was indeed a communist movement in the country. Spanning a long and critical period in world history, the film takes you to locations around the world along with its protagonist. The story is based on real events. There is a good love story running parallel to the theme and I think the movie has the best performance of Diane Keaton. One of the most poignant scenes I have seen on screen is the climax of the film when Diane Keaton goes to get some water and sees a child. The movie makes you wonder about the glorious possibilities of history.

Unforgiven (1992) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

unforgiven

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

The last great Western. Men are called upon to avenge the dishonouring of women. Well, if life were were so simple, we would not have Westerns. Clint Eastwood’s return to greatness is marked by this revenge drama which like most of the movies of Eastwood in the last two decades deals with the idea of justice. When law fails, it is left to the outlaws to make the world a better place. This, like last week’s ‘Road to Perdition’ is my kind of movie. Strong screenplay, great dialogues, nuanced performances and a great story to tell. Clint Eastwood plus Morgan Freeman is the formula for magic on screen. Throw in Gene Hackman and you get some twisted magic. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

A better Life (2011) [IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

A-Better-Life

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaLSBdL-zCY

An illegal immigrant anchors his dreams for his son on owning his own business without getting caught by the law. The performances are really good, especially the one by the lead actor Demian Bichir who leads a life of quite dignity. His restraint in the car park scene is in stark contrast to the reaction of his son. The movie is effective in showing the distressed lives of illegal immigrants in the USA. It is a one time watch. I had this nagging feeling that the movie is an advertisement for Obama administration’s immigration policies. Well you see, the child can stay on.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

yeh-jawaani-hai-deewani-8-s

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbp2XUSeUNE

Since it is produced by Karan Johar, I had very low expectations from the film and for this reason I could sit through it. It does have some good dialogues in the second half. It was not bad as it was expected to be, but it did try hard. For starters, Karan Johar thinks that the nerd girl to cool babe transformation is achievable by replacing spectacles with contact lenses. From Preity Zinta in Kal Ho Naa Ho to Deepika Padukone in this flick, his heroines fervently believe in this formula. In fact, Deepika goes one better. She transforms herself like Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. To be sure, boys and girls cannot be friends. They have to fall in love too. Oh, I almost forgot. Everything is resolved at destination weddings where the radical girl has an arranged marriage. To complete the cliches, there is the dumb beauty too. Just for the record, Hamdard Rooh Afza is any day better than the Pepsi Ranbir Kapoor endorses. If you have forgotten the Indian movie formula and want to revise it, watch the film.

Morning Glory (2010) [IMDB: 6.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

morning-glory-movie-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9lWUqraDoU

This movie is also way too predictable. It has some nice touches though. Rachel McAdams is a producer of a television show running on life support. She gets two veterans to come on board as hosts and together they try to make things better while fighting each other. Strictly for weekend viewing when you have nothing much to do.

Passion Play (2010) [IMDB: 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 17%]

Passion-Play-2010

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy36HZhspyw

Megan Fox as an angel with wings, waiting to be rescued by Mickey Rourke. What were the writers smoking? Right up there in the list of worst movies to have come out in the last 5 years, the movie has no reason for its existence. For those thinking, what happened to Rourke after ‘The Wrestler’, this movie is a reminder that it is not for nothing that he has a bad boy reputation. Watch at you own risk.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Invisible War (2012) [IMDB: 7.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

invisible war

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECOqpv45tIo

The story that was swept under the carpet far too many times finally becomes public. The documentary exposes the lopsided policies of the US Government against women in the military while telling the story of sexual abuse in US armed forces. Hard hitting. Must watch.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ because Scorsese and DiCaprio together make great movies.

Did you know: ‘Midnight in Paris’ was Woody Allen’s biggest box office success.