Edition 83

The Non-English Movie of The Week

First They Killed My Father (Cambodia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

Trailer

After a couple of failed attempts at movie making, Angelina Jolie finally hits the sweet spot with her deadpan style which is suitable for a movie which deals with agony and intensifying despair. Set in Cambodia during the infamous Khmer Rouge regime and based on an autobiographical account of the events, this movie is a serious yet nuanced take on life during the regime as well as the disintegration of a way of life. Jolie’s success is also down to the fact that she resists the temptation of sidelining the central character in the narration. The movie unfolds through the eyes of the child and her family’s fervid attempts to stick together. The movie practically proceeds through a series of compelling events. ‘First They Killed My Father’ is a movie that deserves to be seen and applauded.

Movies I Saw This Week

Baby Driver (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

Trailer

‘Baby Driver’ navigates the zone which is between the border of pop flick and high art. Though it has some tired premises like ‘one final heist before retirement’, the movie manages to hold attention by the sheer pace of the action it offers and and a good recycling of cliches. The central character of the movie is the driver of a getaway car for bank robbers. He has his quirks but his self assured demeanor is tested as the story progresses. It would be wrong to say that ‘Baby Driver’ is a all brawn and no brains story. Nevertheless, one may enjoy it more if the brain is left at home.

Who is Alice (2017) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated , My Rating:7.0 ]

Trailer

This is a surprisingly good movie with a solid screenplay and fine acting. It tells the tale of a struggling actress trying to juggle her personal and professional life. Without divulging much about the story, it can be said that the whole movie is a setup towards an unexpected climax. In fact, the movie makes more sense with the twist in the tale. Another striking feature of the movie is the uniformly good performance by every character in the movie. ‘Who is Alice’ is a movie which is not going to have a widescreen release or many awards to its credit but it is a very competent piece of film making that promises rich rewards for the discerning viewer.

American Made (2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:87% , My Rating:7.0]

Trailer

‘American Made’ is about a real life pilot who got his cake and ate it too. He worked for the CIA and on the same trips smuggled drugs to the US. This movie does not offer anything novel but has the same ideas that sustain this kind of an enterprise. The story line borrows heavily from previous movies about arms dealers like the ‘Lord of War’ and many Oliver Stone flicks. This is not to suggest that the movie is a dud. It is fairly engaging and at times even revealing. Tom Cruise is still in Mission Impossible mode but with shoddier clothing. Watch it if you like flicks which are comforting because you can easily predict what is going to happen in the next scene.

Wind River (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating:7.5 ]

The debut directorial venture of the writer of ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’, is a tour de force. It is a slow burning crime investigation which builds up to the grand finale. The sense of sadness is palpable throughout the film. The wild and cold background is a major contributor to the sense of intrigue and hopelessness that surrounds the life of the people on screen. I developed a sense of respect for the victim and her strong will to survive; a mission in which she fails. ‘Wind River’ is more than a thriller. It is a story of people battling the odds. It is a story which makes you think. It is one of the best movies of the year.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

Is there a movie in which Adam Sandler is a better performer than Dustin Hoffman? The answer is an emphatic yes. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ was screened at Cannes in the competition section. I am not convinced of its Cannes level quality but the movie is a good one time watch. The family of a moderately famous artist comes together for various reasons. The interactions between them unleash the hidden emotions of each of them. The movie is a character study with the parent-child relationship being the focus of the story. The favourite son played by Ben Stiller is the polar opposite of his half brother played by Adam Sandler and it is made abundantly clear to them by the father who his favourite is. This movie is a sad and poignant one in most parts.It is fairly riveting for the family drama that it portrays. Watch it for the acting. Watch it for Adam Sandler.

Gerald’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on the novel by Stephen King, this movie is one of the triumphs of the year. It is a survival story on the surface but has multiple strands that make it a psychological thriller. A women is chained to her bed in a freak accident when her husband dies in their remote house. The distraught lady has to fight her inner demons to not only survive but also to find a way out of the quagmire. In such a survival movie, the odds are that the person will live to tell the tale (Spoilers ahead) but I was always second guessing on how she would wriggle out of the situation. I thoroughly  enjoyed watching this movie. It is a cat and mouse chase of the highest order: the one between you and your mind.

The Beguiled (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating:6.0]

Trailer

Sophia Coppola won the best director award for this movie at the Cannes film festival. I could not figure out why. She has practically reshot an earlier version of the film starring Clint Eastwood with no significant additions. I may be biased by my knowledge of the climax in the previous version but then Sophia Coppola does not add anything substantial to the movie. For the uninitiated, the movie tells the story of a wounded soldier who is tended by a group of women. The sexual tensions and the personal equations lie at the heart of the story. The film does not warrant anything more than a single watch and that too only for those who have not seen the original.

Annabelle: Creation (2017)  [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:70% , My Rating:6.0]

Trailer

‘Annabelle: Creation’ is a horror movie for the sake of some cheap thrills. It has unnecessary scenes in which the sole aim of the director is to frighten the audience for no rhyme or reason. Most of the scary scenes in the movie do not contribute to he development of the story and come with no particular reason at a specific point in the story. The setting of the movie itself is dubious and creating a backstory for an average movie is only with the intent of milking the franchise. Horror movies can be much better and classy. For starters, watch ‘The Shining’ or ‘Let the Right One In’.

Documentary of the Week

Russia with Simon Reeve (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, BBC takes you on a trip across the breadth of Russia. Filled with stunning visuals and insights on life in Russia, this a documentary series worth every minute of its three hour run time.

Eagerly waiting for: Roman J. Israel, Esq. starring Denzel Washington.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg is the Godfather of Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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Week 23

Movies: Non-English

The White Balloon ( Iran, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

white balloon

The whole movie at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6G5vLObkuw

This is the debut feature of Jafar Panahi who has had to fight a witch hunt by the conservative Iranian establishment over the years. Like all his films, this one is also a simple tale. A  girl goes to the market to buy goldfish. Like many Iranian films this one also relies heavily on the histrionics of child actors. Though they make excellent actors, it requires immense patience to direct children who throw tantrums at regular intervals. In ‘This is not a film’, one of Panahi’s works, he shows the difficulty of directing the protagonist in the White Balloon.  All I can say is that it is worth the pain and effort. Highly recommended.

Vincere ( Italy, 2009) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomaotes: 92%]

vincere-2009-brrip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeaRJxJcp7E

This is the true story of Mussolini’s secret lover and his child with her. Covering an issue kept under wraps till now, this films is more insightful for the revelations about the early life of Mussolini. Mussolini was a turncoat and an opportunist who frequently changed his ideology to meet the mood of the populace. His disowning of his son and his megalomaniac nature are exposed in this film. The movie has the feel of an epic. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is absolutely stunning as she is in many films. It is a shame that she has not really made it big in Hollywood. Recommended only for those who have an interest in politics.

English Retrospective

Airplane! (1980) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

airplane

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07pPmCfKi3U

Whoever says that the 80s were about bad college romances should take a look at this dangerously funny movie. Propriety is thrown out of the window as quirky characters make a flight little more than exciting. Involving gags that hold back nothing, this is a comedy you should not miss.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

planes-trains-and-automobiles

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNWx7_tZRcI

A man has to reach home for Thanksgiving. His determination to be home is matched only by the difficulties he must overcome to be with his family. Add to this mix a stranger who specializes in creating chaos. What you get is a John Hughes movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy in roles that seem tailor made for them. The film has been an inspiration for many other road movies. It is also one of the best roles of John Candy, who died young at the age of 44. It makes me wonder at the glorious possibilities of what could have a stellar career. To be sure, he did memorable work in the movies he was in. In this one, he is even better than Steve Martin in the comedy department and that is something few can claim to be.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

kramer vs kramer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNLcfJ06y34

Any movie with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep needs no introduction. Here they play a couple who were once in love but now face a battle for the custody of their only child. Sentimental without being melodramatic, this film was a surprise winner at the Oscars, collecting 5 of them. Strong screenplay and directing only add to the performances of Streep and Hoffman. A masterclass in acting.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jobs (2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%]

jobs

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx-PC1KZS3Y

There are some movies which do not make anyone happy. ‘Jobs’ is one such movie. Steve Jobs had a lot of admirers during his lifetime for making a cult out of a brand. On the other side, he was universally despised by almost all who came in contact with him. He was also a complex character who refused accept his love child and refused to pay for child support but later started supporting her. This movie is Steve Jobs for dummies because beyond that it does not provide anything insightful about his life. The focus is on boardroom battles and personality clashes and not on innovation or design. Ashton Kutcher is a poor actor and he should stick to oddball romantic comedies. His depiction of the older Jobs walking with a stoop is painful to watch. The worst crime of the movie is that it does not shed any light on the products that made Jobs famous. The movie ends with Jobs second home coming to Apple. That is as good as making a movie on Bill Gates without mentioning Windows.

Adore (2013) [ IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

adore

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjGaV0CEBR0

Two close friends who are mothers of teenage sons fall in love with each other’s sons. I guess they had to just come up with something provocative. The saving grace is that Naomi Watts and Robin Wright look absolutely marvelous and their acting is top notch. Otherwise there is nothing to waste your time on. I guess they just made it over a holiday. Surely a miss.

What Maisie Knew (2012) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

what maisie

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmvojT6yX9A

A girl is at the center of a bitter custody battle between her parents. The best thing about the movie is that it is told through the eyes of the child and there are numerous moments when the camera tells the story without the aid of dialogues. It also has very well written characters who are normal people with shades of grey. One interesting thing about the movie is that the way you perceive the characters changes as the movie progresses. The foul mouthed mother has a soft side to her and the drug addict turns out to be a genial character. Recommended.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

IF

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtyY0CXdiNo

A filmmaker friend of a murder victim decides to make a film on him when he gets to know that his friend’s ex-girlfriend is pregnant with the dead man’s child. The intention is to pay a tribute to his friend and also introduce the child to his father. Devastating. One of the saddest documentaries I have ever seen.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Rush’ because Ron Howard returns with a film on Formula 1.

Did you Know: Elizabeth Taylor married 8 times, twice to Richard Burton.

Week 20

Movies: Non-English

A Moment to Remember (South Korea, 2004) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

A-Moment-to-Remember-2004-K-Movie

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo9WSLv-lzs

This Korean romance will put even Bollywood to shame with its melodrama and overplaying of sentiments. It is a mushy romance which is worth a watch with your girlfriend/boyfriend. A young couple overcome many obstacles to get married and start a life together. Sooner than later, tragedy strikes when the wife is diagnosed with a rare form of memory loss. How the couple cope with it forms the rest of the story. The onscreen chemistry between the lead couple is unmistakable. The story reminded me of Erich Segal’s book ‘Love Story’. Overall, a breezy romance.

In the Mood for Love ( Hong Kong, 2000) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

in the mood for love

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kRQqksluZk

This is one of the better works of Wong Kar Wai. A man and a woman have one thing in common. Both doubt their spouses of infidelity. They also happen to be neighbours and this becomes their meeting point. The film is shot in a rather fluid way and moves at a leisurely pace. The film was acclaimed universally by the critics and had a good run in the festival circuit when it was released, with the lead actor bagging the ‘Best Actor’ award at Cannes. The best thing is that the films keep you interested till the very end when it goes for an unpredictable climax, something I could not foresee even though there are very heavy hints in the movie for that particular ending.

English Retrospective

The Graduate (1967) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

graduate-movie-poster

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

The film that practically made a star out of Dustin Hoffman. ” Mrs. Robinson, you are trying to seduce me.” The charm with which Hoffman says the dialogue is a reflection of the ease with which he carries the role. Hoffman plays a man who also falls for the mother of his girlfriend. Exceptional music with some of the chart-busters of the era help in creating the ambiance for one movie which is easy on the eye. Watch it for Dustin Hoffman.

Gone With the Wind (1939) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

gone with the

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFu-jemU-bA

If you not yet seen this classic, please do. It is one of the greatest movie spectacles to unfold on the big screen. Winner of 10 Oscars, it has unforgettable performances from all those performing in the movie. Few movies have had success in achieving the scale and grandeur of this movie. At its heart it is a love story but it is more of a story in the vein of great works of literature. I have wondered how they were able to achieve such finesse in 1939. It would be no exaggeration to say that many languages have not yet made one movie to compare with the quality of ‘Gone with the Wind’. And frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. Could not resist it.

From Here to Eternity (1953) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

from here to

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yup3rl2yK8A

This movie’s consistent claim to fame is the kiss scene on the beach which has almost always been voted as the best kiss scene in movie history. Fortunately, the movie also has a riveting tale to tell. It tells the story of an ultimately doomed romance with the US Army as the backdrop. It has a stellar cast and strong screenplay. All in all, a movie you should not miss.

Movies I Saw This Week

Pain and Gain (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

pain and gain

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEQ8jyvmYtw

The one thing about this movie is that if they did not write at the beginning that it is based on true events, it would have been hard to believe. For this reason, it feels like a farce at times but it is not the trash movie I was expecting it to be. It is a decent shot at telling a rather improbable story. For once I liked the acting of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson because he was playing a character that fits him well. A dumb body builder who has as many grey cells as the highest number a newborn baby can say. The casting is spot on but you know you are watching a wannabe film when graphics appear on screen to tell you explicitly who is the ‘weak link’ or who is the ‘new recruit’. For all its infirmities, it is still worth a watch.

Madras Cafe (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

Madras_Cafe_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnkKI01I0Ac

I have generally appreciated the efforts of John Abraham and his willingness to try different types of films. This is his attempt at interpreting the events that led to the assassination of former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi by the now dead and buried LTTE rebels of Sri Lanka. The movie has a definite cutting edge feel to it and the fact that it has no songs is a great step because it does not mind breaking the stereotypes. Most of the scenes are evidently shot in Kerala. John looks the part as an army man. Even Nargis  Fakhri whose acting was so poor in ‘Rockstar’ that Ranbir Kapoor’s guitar in that movie acted better than her, does justice to a role which suits her. Legendary quizzer Siddartha Basu making his debut also looks sharp as the intelligence Chief. The movie builds towards the climax so well that one starts feeling sorry for Rajiv Gandhi. The film does have many loopholes. It is audacious to suggest that big corporations were behind the planning of the assassination just because Rajiv Gandhi was interested in solving the issue peacefully. Truth be told, Congress was down and out for the general election that was approaching then. There was no chance for Rajiv to return to power. Even the sympathy wave generated by his death did not help Congress get a majority in the elections that followed. Also, the film makes a joke out of India’s intelligence gathering capabilities. The reporter sitting in London knows more than the intelligence establishment. Now there is a talk of making this India’s official entry for the Oscars. Spare us the pain.

The Angel’s Share (2012) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

angel's share

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcQIvmR21VU

This is a fun movie and a mood elevator. It also happens to be on whisky. It is Ken Loach’s least serious film and that itself is enough reason to raise a toast to this movie which is about normal working class people trying to find their way in a difficult world. Not at all boring and educative in many ways. I recommend.

Documentary Pick of the Week

McLibel (2005) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

mclibel

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyGK5j_EcmE

The story of a postman and a gardener who took on McDonald’s and won against all odds. The biggest David Vs Goliath story in corporate history. The biggest PR disaster in corporate history. I’m loving it. The documentary, that is.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Salinger’ because they apparently have material on this dead and reclusive writer to make a documentary on him.

Did you now: Samuel L Jackson holds the record for the actor whose films have grossed the highest at the box office.