Edition 59

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Winter Sleep (Turkey, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Raing:7/10]

Winter Sleep

Trailer:

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 2104, this is another masterwork from perennial Cannes favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Set in the interiors of Turkey where everyone knows everyone, this movie tells the tale of a retired actor whiling away his time, doing pretty much nothing. He has a hotel to manage and he also writes articles on mundane issues. His running feuds with his wife and his divorced sister pale into insignificance when he has to address issues created by his tenants. The film captures the breathtaking locales and the cultural hues of Turkey. The performances are competent and the film has its moments but those moments are few and far between. This, is especially testing when you have to muster the patience to sit through 196 minutes of the movie. If it had chopped off 100 minutes from the running time, the movie would have looked much better. For its unjustifiable duration, ‘Winter Sleep’ can induce sleep even in the summer.

Movies I Saw This Week

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

28676_Quad+date.indd

Trailer:

This movie was a commercial flop and largely overlooked by the audiences in spite of the critical acclaim it received. Maybe some movies are not lucky enough at the box office because there is enough to suggest that this movie is one of the best action films of 2014. Set in the future where one man (Tom Cruise, who else?) is humanity’s last hope to fight an alien invasion, this movie brings in a cocktail of time travel, hi-tech combat and lofty ideals. Although Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give mediocre performances when they could have easily put their histrionic qualities to test, the movie more than holds on its own. With enough twists and turns, it keeps you engaged without getting boring, inviting you to second guess the various permutations and combinations that are possible. Recommended.

The Imitation Game (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Imitation Game

Trailer:

Based on the life of legendary Alan Turing and his seminal contributions to the Allies’ efforts in breaking the German code during the Second World War, ‘The Imitation Game’ tries to delve into the life of a genius tormented by his sexuality. The movie has been tirelessly promoted in the build up to the Oscars but it is a  good movie but not good enough. Benedict Cumberbatch gives all he can to bring Turing to life on screen and he is not let down by an ensemble cast, with another notable performance from Keira Knightley. The movie has a riveting background score and is ably directed. The moral dilemmas of Mr. Turing and his inability to make sound judgement when he is enjoined to not speak about a spy, are all captured well. The asperity of Mr.Turing did not endear him to many but that wouldn’t be the main roadblock for Cumberbatch to achieve Oscar glory. Unfortunately for him, there are better performances this year.

Unbroken (2014) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Unbroken

Trailer:

The moot point while watching ‘Unbroken’ is whether a better director could have done a better job with the source material on hand. Louis Zamperini, on whom the story is based, was a champion runner, decorated war hero and an inspirational speaker. His life had countless moments which would have looked great on screen but in director Angelina Jolie’s hands those moments look forced and tame. ‘Unbroken’ tells the story of Zamperini’s unlikey rise from humble origins, his remarkable success in athletics and the relentless torture that he had to undergo in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War. Jack O’Connell gives an impressive performance in a breakout role. ‘Unbroken’ is a movie of great ambitions but lacks a soul. It is a lesson on how clichéd one can become when making a biopic and how disrespectful that can be to a legend who deserved better than this.

Birdman (2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes;92%, My Rating: 8.0]

birdman-click

Trailer:

I am an admirer of deirector Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I have loved his works like ‘Babel’ and ‘Amores Perros’. ‘Birdman’ is a shift from his usally dark depressing themes. In fact, there is even an element of mischief in this movie, which is being categorized as a comedy. The merits of that categorization aside, the film tells the story of a thespian who is tryng his best to stay relevant. Micael Keaton delivers a heavy duty performance as the protagonist who has seen better days. Shot in 10 minute uninterrupted sequences using one camera, the movie tries to play around with cinematic formats. Another highlight is an unconventional background score which many have hailed as groundbreaking but I found to be annoying. In terms of performances, this is the best performce by an ensemble cast in 2014. Michael Keaton will go head to head with Eddie Redmayne for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. The movie is also a strong contender in the film, director, cinematography and screenplay categories. The major disadvantage that the movie faces is that it is not a mass entertainer like ‘Boyhood’. This could prove to be its Achilles heel.

American Sniper (2014) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:74%, My rating:7/10]

american-sniper-poster-small

Trailer:

There is no movie dividing the critics and the audiences like this one. Seen by some as an unapologetic look at the American side of the story in the Iraq war and by another equally vociferous section as the story of a true American hero, this movie tells the story of the most successful sniper in the history of America who finally died from the gunshot wounds he received from ‘friendly fire’ when he was  in USA. Judged purely on quality, the movies is a poor cousin of ‘The Hurt Locker’. There are many action sequences in the movie but none of them are good enough to capture your full attention. Many such scenes get repetitive. If the intention was to create a contrast between the life in a war zone and life at home, then the movie resoundingly fails to do so. The viewer will not be able to feel any compassion for the character on screen who is a monstrous sniper. Amercans have every right to (in fact, they should) honour a brave soldier who put his life in danger to serve his country. War movies are not supposed to be an examination of what the enemy feels about getting killed. Even if the hero here was convicted of slander in real life, it does not take away his service to the nation. Inspite of this, the movie is a very tedious one to watch and does not deserve the high praise it is getting. It also does not deserve the scorn that seems specially reserved for it. American sniper, in the end, is a an average movie about a great sniper directed by a once great director.

The Good Lie (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8/10]

good_lie_xlg

Trailer:

After a mish mash of snipers, tortured geniuses, former superheroes and real life superheroes, comes the time to review a movie which is undoubtedly the feel good movie of the year. ‘The Good Lie’ is not a movie that will move mountains or has a scale or budget that will put it in the top league but for the sheer quality that it produces from its limited budget, it is one of the must see movies of 2014. The story traces the lives of orphaned Sudanese children trying to escape civil war in their country and their journey to USA. Effortlessly funny and charming, this movie has its heart in the right place. With enough doses of humour without becoming a comedy movie, the film is about real people in the real world. Must watch.

Documentary of the Week

Ivory Tower (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating: 6.5/10]

Ivory Tower

Trailer:

A look at the American college system. Very interesting to watch but misses some salient points.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Timbuktu’. Should a good one. Also, I have been close to Timbuktu but never been there.

Did you know: Courtesy: http://www.rogerebert.com Roger Ebert’s review of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ quoted below. “Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”

Week 36

Movies: Non-English

Vizontele (Turkey, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

vizon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL1gcQi-4X0

The introduction of television in a remote village in Turkey changes the social fabric of the place and also disrupts the ‘entertainment industry’ in the region. Sometimes simple stories that tell the lives of ordinary people are the most powerful. This is one such story. Watch it for the rustic appeal that it brings and also for the performances in a simple story.

The Child (France, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

child

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU3mndctyJM

This French Palme d’Or winner is a slow burning masterpiece because it is only in the latter stages that it reveals itself.  A young couple go to the extent of exploiting their newborn to make money. The movie takes a swipe at the social security system in France but in the end it is about the complexity of relations in a young family with a baby. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Gravity (2013) [ IMDb: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Gravity-1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgGPTa7-vlE

I think that that the special effects in Gravity are perhaps the best in the history of cinema. I am willing to put my money on ‘Gravity’ scooping the Oscars for ‘Special Effects’ and ‘Cinematography’. It is a very simple tale of astronauts trying to stay alive after a wreck in space. The movie should be seen in 3D where your eyes will savour every moment of it. The roles are tailor made for George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. (Spoilers ahead) There are some excellent scenes like the one in which Clooney is imagined to be entering the space station again. It reminded me of ‘127 hours’ where too the protagonist goes for a final push when trapped in what looks like an insurmountable problem. Two thumbs up for one of the best movies of the year.

Dhoom 3 (India, 2013) [ IMDB: Not yet rated, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

dhoom 3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeF_b8EQcK0

I walked out of the movie hall midway through the movie. Enough said.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) [ IMDB:6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw6dECrl-BE

Excellent animation is let down by an under cooked screenplay in this sequel to the much loved original. The animation looked very good in 3D but the story was as predictable as the goal celebration of Alan Shearer.

7 Sundara Rathrikal ( 7 Beautiful Nights) [Malayalam, India, 2013] [ Not yet rated]

ezhu-sundara-rathrikal-trailer-out

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzmIkfw-SWI

James Albert has a way with cooking up stories that neatly fit into a jigsaw puzzle by the time the movie ends. Add to that the visual spendour of Lal Jose and you get this movie which starts a bit slow but picks up tremendously in the second half and makes it a movie worth watching during this festive season. The story involves the events that unfold in the seven days leading to the marriage day of the lead actor. I wish I could watch this movie with someone else once more. (Spoilers ahead) The way small incidents and misunderstandings totally change the lives of people is brought to the fore here. Though it is just a story, that tinge of sadness descends on me when I get to see people in love being torn apart by the actions of others. I thought that in some strange ways, I could relate to the protagonist.

Drishyam (Malayalam, India, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

drishyam

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMASubc1y_k

The director should take a bow for this one. It is a very original piece of work and one of the must see movies of the year. Mohanlal reminds us that he still has it in him to pull off a very memorable performance but Asha Sharath ( I had to Google to find out her name) as the Inspector General of Police has gone one better than him. I think that her portrayal of a police officer who is also a mother is pitch perfect. In the end the acclaim should go to the director who also wrote the screenplay. It is a genre defying film. It can be called a thriller, a crime investigation or a family story. In the end it is all that and more. Two thumbs up to certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Thira (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

Thira-1

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

A woman’s fight against human trafficking involving young girls. It is set over a day when the lady and a young man go in search of the same people. There are some loopholes in the plot but all that is forgiven because the film has its heart in the right place. Shobhana sparkles on screen. The brisk pace, cinematography and editing are proof that Vineeth Srinivasan is a director who has a very good idea about the commercial aspect of movie making. After a breezy romance in his earlier film, he shows his ability to take risks with a radically different subject. A must watch just for the intent and sincerity.

R… Rajkumar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%]

r...r

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsnHky4wv5w

It is sad and funny that after ‘Thira’, I am reviewing ‘R… Rajkumar’. I would have walked out of the movie if I had seen it in the theatre. I have serious issues with the portrayal of women in this film. The film is set in a patriarchal society which gives two hoots about the rights of women. They are ill treated and beaten up as if it is a routine thing to do. The hero goes after his girl as if she is some trophy to be won. He stalks her and literally salivates every time he sees her. The lyrics are obnoxious and caters to the lowest common denominator of the audience. The real icing on the cake is the woman herself. She says to one of her pursuers in public that if he wins against her lover, she will take her clothes off for him. Seriously? I almost died when she said that for the second time.

Artist (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

artist

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml2IAPNCdTY

This one from Shyamaprasad is another movie which I will not forget very soon. It has a thought provoking story and raises questions which are difficult to answer. A young girl drops out of college to marry her college mate. She gets thrown out of her family and then her life becomes a succession of tragedies. Ann Augustine gives her best performance till date in this film. The film is a scorcher and has a very nice story to tell. Highly recommended.

Peter O’Toole Retrospective (In memory of the screen legend who passed away this week)

Peter O’Toole is often remembered for the largest (8) unsuccessful acting nominations at the Oscars but he was a screen legend on his own right.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

lawrence

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmr1iSG3RTA

One of the most memorable opening sequences in a movie sets the stage for an epic stretching across countries and faiths. It tells the story of a British officer with confused loyalties. Peter O’Toole is what this movie is remembered for, even when he was not a part of the 7 Oscars it won.

The Lion in Winter (1968) [IMDb: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

lion

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cVwBjwRGgg

Set in the 12th century, this film follows the inner court shenanigans during the final days of King Henry, the 2nd. The queen and the three son’s battle it out for the throne in this classic. Must see.

Venus (2006) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

venus

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-XsErH6WJI

Peter O’Toole got his final Oscar nomination as an actor for playing a dirty old man whose life changes when he gets young female company. Not a classic but not a boring one either.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Stories We Tell (2012) [ IMDb: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

stories

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytq4VZ2Nyxg

How different people in a family remember the same person? Quite differently. One of the top 10 documentaries of the year.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Dallas Buyers Club’ because it is rumoured to be among the Oscar favourites.

Did you know: The first in-flight movie was The Lost World (USA, 1925), shown during an Imperial Airways flight from London, UK to Paris, France in April 1925.