Edition 74

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Theeb (Jordan, 2015) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating: 7.5 ]

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Trailer

A young boy cajoles his brother to allow him to be a part of a group traversing a dangerous desert terrain in the middle of World War I. In the process he gets more than what he had bargained for or imagined. Critically acclaimed ‘Theeb’ tells the story of a young boy who has to weather the elements and treacherous humans in a fight for survival. The perilous conditions bring out the best and worst in him; his kindness is juxtaposed with the tribal instincts he displays in the climax. The film is also a commentary on how modernity wrecks established norms and lifestyles. Masterfully directed and visually appealing, ‘Theeb’ is certainly one of the best movies of 2015.

Movies I Saw This Week

Zootopia (2016) [ IMDB: 8.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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Trailer

‘Zootopia’ is a right movie at the right time. Even when it gets self righteous at some points, the movie is a reminder of the dictum ‘Live and Let Live’. It may not be a mere coincidence that at a time when there is unabashed bigotry all around, ‘Zootopia’ virtually name calls all types of bigotry. Thankfully, it also a very entertaining affair. Essentially, ‘Zootopia’ is a story of an underdog breaking the glass ceiling and overcoming odds and prejudices. The action is in a society which is fighting to keeps its pluralism, tolerance and sanity intact. As much as it is a jovial fun ride which can be enjoyed by all age groups, ‘Zootopia’ is probably the most hard hitting social drama to take the form of animation. Must watch.

Kapoor and Sons (2016) [ IMDB:8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes:90% , My Rating:6.0 ]

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Trailer

(Spoilers ahead) Kapoor and Sons is a record of the shouting matches in a dysfunctional family with absolutely zilch to show for its painful duration. There is nothing endearing about any member of the family. With a motley of characters including a foul mouthed uncouth grandfather, a cheating husband, and a dense mother, the film’s speedometer remains on zero for the better half of the proceedings. There is even a sibling who very predictably turns our to be gay. True to producer Karan Johar’s sensibilities, he is the least flawed character in the movie. He wants to help his financially ailing brother. He is a victim of the circumstances because the leading lady chooses to kiss him and not the other way around. He also accidentally discovers his father’s infidelity. He even takes his brother’s idea to write his debut book. After scouting with a magnifying glass, I was not able to find a single redeeming feature in the family. At a certain point during the movie I felt like the plumber in the movie who has to bear the brunt of having been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Kapoor and Sons is a family that I would take extra pains to keep away from if they were real. Fortunately they aren’t.

McFarland, USA (2015) [ IMDB:7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

Everybody likes a story on the triumph of the human spirit. Disney is adept at sugar-coating such themes. Once in a while they run into a story worth spending the sugar on. For all its cliches and predictable turns, there is something about this inspirational sports drama that keeps you interested. Maybe it is the story. Maybe it is the acting. Maybe it is the score. Maybe it is the editing. Maybe it is all that and more.

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016) [ IMDB:6.6 , Rotten Tomatoes:79% , My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

I had not heard of Pee-Wee till I saw this movie. Pee-Wee was a superhit TV character in the 80s. Pee-Wee had a movie in 1985. Thirty one years later, the remarkably youthful lead actor reprises his role in a movie which starts on a promising note but loses steam towards the end. Pee-wee decides to leave his home town for the first time to meet his buddy. The film focuses on the encounters he has on the way. Pee-Wee will certainly delight the kids but it may find it difficult to gain the attention of a mature audience.

Brooklyn (2015) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes:97% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

There is no prize for being a runner-up at the Oscars. Else, Saoirse Ronan would have a Silver Medal to her name for her striking portrayal of an Irish immigrant try to find her footing in Brooklyn in the 20th century. ‘Brooklyn’ is not just about her but also the many characters who fill the movie who make it an absolutely riveting watch. The movie walks into to a list of thoroughly enjoyable and well acted movies made in recent times. Definitely worth your time.

Experimenter (2015) [ IMDB:6.6 , Rotten Tomatoes:89% , My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer

Nowadays if you open a newspaper or website you will find numerous new studies which confirm something one day and the exact opposite the next day. There used to be a time when some studies and experiments were more authentic. They have also stood the test of time. Some of those remarkable experiments were conducted by Stanley Milgram. This movie is about him. More than a movie, it throws light on some issues such as response to authority and peer pressure. It is a very enjoyable movie for those curious on getting insights on human behaviour.

Waffle Street (2015) [ IMDB:6.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet Rated , My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

A wall street guy who loses his job in the 2008 financial meltdown starts working in a waffle chain. Based on a true story, ‘Waffle Street’ draws the contrasts on the two lifestyles on display. One of the lifestyles involves honesty, hardwork, treating your customers with respect, dealing with people who pay their debts back, cooperating with colleagues at work, thinking about the long run etc. Though hampered by some amateurish acting by the protagonist, the rest of the cast puts in an effort which makes the movie worth a watch.

The Dressmaker (2015) [ IMDB:7.2 , Rotten Tomatoes:65% , My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

Kate Winslet returns to her village as a suave and chic dressmaker. She has some accounts to clear and some demons to bury. She also meets her love. The movie does not rise to greatness but it does not flounder even when the subject matter is weak. Largely due to the acting ability of Winslet, the film remains a rather easy one to watch. Recommended.

Bill (2015) [ IMDB:6.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

Yet another movie on Shakespeare but unlike any other because of the screw-ball comedy that it makes of itself. ‘Bill’ largely follows the template of Monty Python movies. The irreverence and confidence are coupled with the thick skin of the film-makers whose half serious attempt at postulating on Shakespeare’s life during his ‘missing years’ makes for engaging viewing. Obviously, the performances or the music or anything other than the screenplay does not matter. If you are in a mood to accept a bumbling Shakespeare in a comedy, this is the movie for you.

Trumbo (2015) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes:80% , My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer

Dalton Trumbo was the writer behind such classic movies such as ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Spartacus’. He was hounded for his communist leanings during the infamous era of McCarthyism. ‘Trumbo’ tells the story of his struggle to overcome the witch hunt against him. His single minded devotion to his work and the high quality of his output were his best responses to the blacklisting by subservient Hollywood studios. The movie also shows the guiding philosophy of Trumbo when he encounters hard times. Bryan Cranston embodies Trumbo and carries the film on his capable shoulders. The movie also gives a glimpse of the back-room shenanigans in Hollywood during the dark age for film making.

Kali (Malayalam, 2016) [ IMDB:7.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not listed , My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer

Dulquer Salman plays a man with a short fuse and a streak of violence in a movie which takes a different turn in the second half. Though he does justice to his part, the same cannot be said of Sai Pallavi whose command of Malayalam is severely lacking. She could have left the dubbing to professionals. Though the tension is palpable in the second half, the climax does not excite. Overall, it is an average flick with nothing substantial to offer.

Documentary of the Week

The Look of Silence (2015) [ IMDB:8.3 , Rotten Tomatoes:97% , My Rating:9.0 ]

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Trailer

The sequel to the much appreciated ‘The Art of Killing’ is as devastating as the original. A man confronts his brother’s killers in a society which condoned the systematic killing. The killers are unapologetic. Or are they?

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Jungle Book’.

Did you know: The credits and title cards of ‘Spotlight’ are set in Miller, the typeface that Boston Globe newspaper uses for most headlines and body copy.

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Week 47

I am happy to report that accuracy levels for the last week’s predictions were way beyond my expectations. Congratulations to all the winners at the 2014 Oscars.

Movies: Non-English

Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, 1993) [ IMDb: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Like Water for Chocolate

Trailer: 

Considered a landmark in the history of Mexican cinema, this film tells the story of a man who is forced to marry the sister of the woman he is in love with. It is a lyrically told tale with moments where the director attempts to have scenes of magical realism. The performances are nothing to crow about. The way the story plays out and the twists and turns in the predictable family life make the film an interesting watch. The film remains one of the peaks of Mexican cinema. Highly recommended.

Bicycle Thieves (Italy, 1948) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

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Trailer:

Often cited as the greatest film ever to be made, this classic from Italy is a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in great films and the history of cinema. It is a simple story of a man and his son in search of a cycle. What makes it a classic is the universal theme it deals with, which has stood the test of time and can be understood by the common man anywhere in the world. An absolute must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Oldboy (2013) [IMDB:5.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 44%]

Oldboy

Trailer: 

Based on the Korean film with the same title this film deviates from the original, with mixed results. (Spoilers Ahead) While this one is shot particularly well, it leaves some gaping holes in the plot. A man with a dubious character is kidnapped and imprisoned for two decades without him knowing the reason for the ordeal he is put through. While in confinement, his only reason for staying alive is his hope of seeing his daughter. The film has a small but significant shift in the climax which looks good but is not easily explained by facts. It does sound strange when a 20 million bounty is unnecessarily offered to the prisoner without any explanation of why he is at the receiving end of such a largess. It does neatly fit in towards the end but the ending is just too convenient. In all this, the prisoner shows no remorse for his actions and he continues with his pre confinement persona after release too. I guess many thugs like him would be happy to go through the ordeal if they were offered 20 million dollars.

Hasee Toh Phasee (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Hasee Toh Phasee

Trailer: 

The film is a genuine romantic comedy which falters severely towards the end. (Spoilers ahead) It is very difficult to understand why the director chose to go with Parineeti Chopra as the choice of the lead in the climax of the movie. It is evident that the protagonist had a strong seven year old relationship going with his fiancee and for him to leave her for a girl he meets after his engagement looks a dumb idea. This is augmented by the fact at no stage there are strong sparks between the hero and the new girl in his life, who also happens to be a runaway thief. The film has some really funny scenes and sharp dialogues but all the effort goes down the drain when the director chooses to go for the easy and conventional ending with lot of glycerin induced scenes thrown in. The acting is competent and the screenplay hold on its own for large parts but the songs are as stale as yesterday’s leftovers. Still, a one time watch.

Gunday (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 1.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 5%]

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Trailer: 

Hell hath no fury like Bangladeshis scorned. ‘Gunday’ has been at the receiving end of Bangladeshi rage as mass voting from this country has made Gunday the worst rated film in the history of IMDB. ‘Gunday’ now occupies the unenviable position of the worst film in movie history going by popular sentiment. What has led to such negative reaction is the accusation of misrepresentation of the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis have taken offence and responded with full vigour. As for the film, it is a triangular love story. It is a stock template of Bollywood movies and offers nothing new. The film is loud, boring and a total disaster. It has kids who think they are men and a spinster who thinks she is still a crowd puller. Come to think of it, this hated film hit the screens on Valentine’s day. The irony of it all.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Armstrong Lie (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Armstrong Lie

Trailer: 

For all those who are still in denial that Lance Armstrong was the biggest cheat in the history of sports, get your dose of reality from the man himself. Even the director’s attempts to save him fall flat. Must watch.

The : D Retrospective

My Fair Lady (1964) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

My Fair Lady

Trailer: 

A lady from a poor neighbourhood is picked up for a social experiment and groomed into a fine lady. Audrey Hepburn carries the film on her tiny shoulders and does it with remarkable success. It remains a mystery to me how the film landed up with eight Oscars because the best it could have hoped for was an invite to Hepburn to the Oscars. Watch it just for her.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Trailer: 

An underrated gem which earned a young Di Caprio his first Oscar nomination. The plot involves Johnny Depp who is burdened with a dysfunctional family and his attempts to break free are stifled. The film has a great ensemble acting performance with all the actors putting in memorable performances. A bittersweet tale which deserves a more wider audience.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

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Trailer: 

An author buys a house in Tuscany in the spur of a moment. Over a long period of time many characters enter and leave her life and she keeps on searching for true love. Watch to find out if she does find love. Diane Lane is a dignified presence throughout the movie and her acting makes you root for her.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Blended’ because Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler think they are still good to be in romantic comedies.

Did you know: Following the tremendous success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the New Zealand government even created a Minister for Lord of the Rings, whose remit was to exploit all the economic opportunities the films represented.