Edition 76

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Aferim (Romania, 2015) [IMDB: 7.8 , Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My rating:8.0 ]

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Trailer

My introduction to Romanian cinema was through the classic ‘4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days’. ‘Aferim’ continues the tradition of high quality movies from the East European nation. Shot in black and white, Aferim tells the story of the search for a runaway Gypsy, with the socio-cultural background of slavery, in the 19th century. The mores of that period are in turn humorous and outrageously shocking. This contributes to the dark humor which is the running theme of the movie. At the same time, the nasty and brutish life of a slave is not lost in the plot. The twisted idea of justice and the ruthlessness of the landlords add to a strange mix of emotions the viewer experiences during the film. Even scenes where the slaves are auctioned off are conducted with a sense of normalcy. The credit for giving coherence and direction to the movie goes to the director. Overall, a must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) [IMDB: 7.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, My rating: 6.5 ]

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Trailer

‘Popstar’ is a mockumentary in the vein of the cult classic ‘Spinal Tap’. Even though ‘Spinal Tap’ hit the bulls eye, ‘Popstar’ hits the target a bit off centre. It tells the story of a band member trying to chart his independent path but failing badly. Replete with instances that can be traced to the behaviour of real world pop-stars, this movie works till the last thirty minutes. At that point it gets too cliched and subsequently boring. Watch it for the first hour where the satire is as biting as the banality of the songs.

Central Intelligence (2016) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes:71%, My rating: 6.0 ]

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Trailer

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson bring a lot of heart and a few laughs to this comedy about a man in a mid-life crisis teaming up with a CIA agent on the run who used to be his high school pal. It is the kind of movie that you know will have a happy ending. In fact, if it were an animation movie, it would have been made by Disney. Especially so, because the movie is devoid of logic and relies solely on the lead pair to pull off the improbable. Kevin Hart shines with his rib ticking humour in a few scenes and ‘The Rock’ gets to perpetrate his idea of being macho. Put your grey cells to sleep, grab some popcorn and have fun.

Eye in the Sky (2015) [IMDB: 7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My rating: 7.5 ]

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One of the best thrillers to have come out in recent times, this movie tells the labyrinthine procedures and games that go on behind the scenes of a drone operation to eliminate dreaded terrorists. The arrival of a girl on the scene only adds to the already complex situation which leads to the nail biting finale. Evidently made on a shoe string budget, the movie is strongly supported by commendable performances from veterans like Mirren and Rickman. The movie also gives insight into the decision making process in the military. Even when there are unnecessary sentimental scenes which are incredulous, the movie never loses momentum. Highly recommended.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) [IMDB: 6.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, My rating: 7.0]

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Based on the memoirs of a lady journalist who served in war ravaged Afghanistan and Pakistan, this movie traces her life and experiences in the region. The movie is more about how the setting changes her over the years and what she learns from being in a remarkably different milieu.Tina Fey carries the film with her sincere performance but that does not plug all the loopholes in a script which is weak, especially when it tries to explain the politics of the region. Still, recommended.

Finding Dory (2016) [IMDB: 7.9 , Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer

Riding on a massive media generated hype, ‘Finding Dory’ fires more blanks than expected from a Pixar movie. Starting on a solid premise with the endearing young Dory, the movie loses steam towards the end and starts resembling a cliched Bollywood production where anything goes. The animation is nothing to write home about. Frankly, I almost fell asleep midway through the proceedings. It must be said that the movie is not all gloom and doom. There are some nice touches but they are few and far between. Maybe, too much pre-release hype is a bad thing.

Udta Punjab (2016) [IMDB:8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, My rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

(Spoilers ahead) The thing that struck me the most while watching this movie on the drug epidemic sweeping Punjab is that none of the characters find it particularly difficult to come out of drug addiction. They just will it and it happens. The only addict who checks into a de-addiction centre kills his doctor. In fact, the irony in the movie is that all the addicts survive at the end. Many people are killed during the movie and all those who are killed are either in the drug trade or in rescue work. The addicts enjoy their drugs and live happily ever after. But for the shenanigans of a demented Censor Board Chief ( who was subsequently put in his place by the courts), ‘Udta Punjab’ would not have received the importance it is being given. From a botched product placement for ‘Cox & Kings’ to doctors who enter drug manufacturing facilities as if on a stroll, the amateurish plot leaves much to be desired. The only redeeming factor for the movie is that it shatters the popular image of Punjab as a land of mustard fields with people who are ready to break into Bhangra at the drop of a hat.

Love & Friendship (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My rating: 7.5]

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The thing about classic literature is that they stand the test of time. Well made movies from classic works have one major thing going for them: the screenplay. A recent success was an adaptation of ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ in which Carey Mulligan displayed her histrionics. A suitable addition is ‘Love & Friendship’ with the underrated Kate Beckinsale in a career best performance. Based on Jane Austen’s ‘Lady Susan’, the movie tells the story of a widow who desperately needs to find a husband for herself and her daughter. The key for her success is that she should not give away her desperation and execute her plans with gusto and slyness. The fine ensemble assembled makes the movie a slow but riveting affair. Recommended.

Phoenix (Germany,2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My rating:8.0 ]

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‘Phoenix’ is movie about identity, greed and guilt. An Auschwitz survivor with a disfigured face tracks down her husband who might have betrayed her. (Spoilers ahead) The movie is a commentary on Germany immediately after the war when people had not come to terms with the guilt of the nation and a code of silence hid the horrors of the concentration camps. At a more personal level it is a metaphorical take on how greed blinds people. Even when everyone else is able to identify his wife, the husband sticks to the belief that she is dead. The wife’s unwillingness to accept that her husband was responsible for her fate is expressed through her momentary hope for a reunion. Some of the events are implausible but the viewer is kept on the edge of the seat till a befitting climax which acts as an icing on the cake. Must see.

Ozhivudivasathe Kali [An Off-Day Game] (Malayalam, 2016) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My rating:8.0]

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Trailer

I have not pondered on the metaphors in a any recent Malayalam movie than in this gem of a film. The movie is an allegory to the politics and social fabric of Kerala. The subtlety of the events is maintained till the last moment of the movie. The second half of the movie is an uninterrupted single shot where the camera does the talking. Without being overt, the movie addresses issues like feudalism, casteism, gender equality, patriarchy, left wing politics, the idea of justice, the idea of democracy, tyranny of the ruling class, alcoholism and much more. The story is set on an election day when five friends get together for a booze fest. For a movie with first time actors, it is remarkably accomplished. The director and writer deserve the plaudits for stating so much without saying anything. Must see.

Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal [Birds with Large Wings (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My rating: 7.5 ]

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Trailer

Based on the tragedy in the lives of the people in Kasargode district of Kerala,India due to repeated exposure to the chemical Endosulfan, the movie is gut wrenching to watch. Filled with real life characters who suffer from mental and physical deformities as a consequence of the chemical exposure, it is evident that the tears of the photographer protagonist did not require any glycerin. There are no performances here. All that matters is real. Yet another pointer to the fact that lives in India are cheap. As a movie, the only drawback is the tendency to show long unnecessary scenes of vehicles on the road.

Documentary of the Week

Virunga (2014) [IMDB: 8.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My rating: 8.5]

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Trailer

A fight to save mountain gorillas and a national park in Congo turns into a war with the local community and the conservationists pitted against vested interests. Beautiful and tragic. Hats off to the conservationists who have the stomach for such battles.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Jason Bourne’ because we have good memories of the series.

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Did you know: There is a sound effect called the Wilhelm Scream that has been used in over 200 movies and TV shows since 1951.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Assassination (South Korea, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

Set in 1933 in Korea when Korea was under Japanese occupation, the movie captures the attempt to assassinate a top Japanese Commander by a committed bunch of nationalists. Lavishly mounted and slickly edited to airbrush the inconsistencies in the plot, this action-drama provides enough entertainment to keep you on the edge of your seat for a large part of the movie. The movie feels like an epic and the director should be commended for stretching every cent of the $16 million budget. Definitely worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spotlight (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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Featuring the best ensemble cast assembled in 2015, this early Oscar favorite tells the true story of the Boston Globe expose of the widespread abuse of children by the clergy in Catholic churches. The 2002 story was an act of journalistic courage. The movie is an ode to the good old ways of investigative journalism and a gentle reminder of the power of a newspaper to do good. The movie underplays the heroes of the story. There are no trumpets here, no soaring background score, and no singular acts of courage. It is about a group of men and women using their best abilities to do what they do best. They are ordinary folks who have concerns of their own and are appalled by the state of affairs. ‘Spotlight’ is a subdued movie and will now be the gold standard for any movie on journalism.

The Big Short (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes:90, My Rating:8.0 ]

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Coming from author Michael Lewis and producer Brad Pitt who collaborated for the much admired ‘Moneyball’, this film is about a set of defiant individuals who saw what others refused to see and gained from it. ‘The Big Short’ follows the lives of a few men who bet on the bursting of the housing bubble that culminated in the financial meltdown of 2008. With a cast that was only bettered by the ‘Spotlight’ team in 2015, the film deftly manoeuvres through the series of events which involve some heavy financial jargon. The film comes up with a new way to explain the jargon. The Hollywood studios must be commended for betting their money on what is a difficult topic to make a film on and the American audiences must be equally complimented for their reception to such movies. Steve Carell and Christian Bale put in commanding performances in what is certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Steve Jobs (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Michael Fassbender gives his career best performance in this biopic of Steve Jobs directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle based on Academy Award winner AAron Sorkin’s screenplay. The film is episodic and features the behind the scenes story of Steve Jobs before every major product launch in his life. Since the movie focuses on the personal life of Steve Jobs, a viewer without much knowledge of the business aspect of his life will find it a bit difficult to understand the subject matter. The movie’s greatest failure is that it demands familiarity with the Apple maestro. To the credit of the movie it must be said that it shows a personal side of Jobs that the media seldom covered before his death. Though the film is an entertaining one and an artistic success, its commercial failure may point to the fatigue of the audiences due to too many Jobs films releasing in s short span of time.

Beasts of No Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:8.0]

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The first thing that struck me while watching this gem of a film, is the familiarity with the geography. Later I discovered that the film was shot in Ghana but the film is set in a unnamed country and tells the story of child soldier Agu who loses his family and ends up being part of a ragtag militia of rebels. Idris Elba puts in his best performance as the leader of the decrepit but highly committed group. It is interesting to note that he never picks up the gun himself even when leading ambushes. Abraham Attah carries the weight of the movie on his tiny shoulders with a towering performance. The greater acclaim deservedly should go to producer-director-cinematographer-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga for creating an engaging and spellbinding movie of the highest quality.

Slow West (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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‘Slow West’ is the hidden marvel of 2015. It is a movie which resurrects the Western but is not a film that should be put in compartments. Jay travels from Scotland to seek his Rose in the wild West of USA in late 19th century. Meanwhile Rose is wanted for murder and a group of bounty hunters are after her life. Charming in its unique way and telling a story which can truly be called original, ‘Slow West’ gradually becomes an unforgettable movie. The movie also uses clever tricks in narration. The movie is also an unflattering look at life in the lawless terrain. One of the best movies of the year.

The Good Dinosaur (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:76, My Rating: 7.0]

 

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This movie was plagued by numerous script revisions and disagreements between the creators that even the director was changed midway through the project. It also comes hot on the heels of the success of the classic ‘Inside Out’. Add to that the Pixar label. The weight of expectations crushes an otherwise decent flick worth a watch. The movie is set in a world in which dinosaurs are not extinct and run families which (strangely) look like human families. The weak dinosaur in the family gets his chance to ‘grow up’ when he is separated from the family. During this time he meets and befriends a human child, and embarks on a multitude of adventures. The excellent animation is no match for a movie which could be called ‘Finding the Way Home’. I believe that the movie itself would have been better if the protagonist was a child but then it would be called ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

No Escape (2015) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes:46%, My Rating:6.0 ]

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Trailer

Owen Wilson stars as the patriarch of an American family in an unnamed Southeast Asian country facing the ire of violent mobs protesting against the company for which Wilson works. Providing some good thrills and yet never shying away from stereotyping, the film is good enough to deserve a single viewing.

Adi Kapyare Kootamani (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:7.5 ]

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This rib tickling comedy works on an entirely Indian premise where a girl who enters a boys hostel needs to be escorted out without the knowledge of the hostelers. With winning performances from all involved, this movie which is made on a shoe string budget laughs its way into the hearts of viewers.

Two Countries (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:7.0 ]

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Coming from a team which has only made hits together, the movie tells the story of a happy go lucky man who marries an Indian-Canadian. Peppered with humorous scenes, the film is a laugh riot. Yet another proof that the finest comedy in the country is produced in Malayalam.

Charlie [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0 ]

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A girl moves into a rickety flat where she discovers the possessions of the former tenant. Intrigued by what she sees, she sets out to find the man behind the story. What she and the audience discover forms the crux of a story that is cloyingly sweet and preachy in parts. Neither boring nor great.

Documentary of the Week

Next Goal Wins [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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The soccer team of American Samoa holds the record for the worst defeat in international soccer (a 31-0 drubbing at the the hands of Australia). Their goalkeeper gets nightmares in his sleep. In fact, American Samoa could never score a goal in an international match. Then everything changes. A true story of ecstasy, heartbreak and redemption. Must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Macbeth’ with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Did you know: ‘Jurassic World’ was the highest grossing film in USA in 2015.

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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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 ]

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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]

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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.