Edition 95

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Birds of Passage (Colombia, 2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

An instant classic depicting the origin and evolution of the drug trade in tribal communities in Colombia, this movie focuses on the slow but sure impact of the drug trade and the new found wealth. People who get corrupted by money lose their marbles as they straddle the worlds of crime and custom. The tribal rituals to honour the forefathers become a show of strength. Honour and stubbornness become a potent mix, especially when illegal money is added to it. Great cinematography and a strong screenplay add to the quality on show. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Arctic (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Arctic’ at its core is a simple and at times cliched survival tale of a man who must find a way out of a plane crash in the Arctic. What will keep you engrossed is the acting and the surprises the director is able to pull off every time the viewer tries to second guess the flow of events. The bleak landscape and the impotence of man facing the wrath of nature add to the bleary feel of the movie. Recommended if you like survival tales.

Private Life (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I have not seen any recent movie which mimics life with such honesty without falling into the trap of predictability. ‘Private Life’ is a sincere, funny, poignant and resplendent piece of film making. A middle aged couple desperate for a child try all that is legally possible to attain their goals. The roller-coaster ride that they take is devastatingly close to real life with characters the viewer can identify with. You would not want to miss it.

Stan & Ollie (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I remember Laurel and Hardy as belonging to a different time and space. I have read comic books with them as protagonists and after a certain age the comedy duo just disappeared from my mind. The final years of the duo are brought to the big screen in this warm and spirited comedy. Even the biggest stars fade and some of them cling on to the vestiges of fame. Laurel and Hardy take a last lap of honour and resolve their differences in this sweet little movie. The best comic line though belongs to Hardy’s wife when she speaks about Laurel’s wife. Recommended.

Fighting with My Family (2019) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

This is one of the movies where the film is better than the real person it is based on. In fact, even as a standalone feature without any references to real life characters, this film is a thoroughly enjoyable watch with some truly heartwarming scenes and knockout dialogues. A British girl from a family for whom wrestling in not just a pastime harbours ambitions of hitting the jackpot with WWE. No spoilers here. She fulfills her dream. The ride to the dream is the fun here. Watch it.

Booksmart (2019) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

When you think some of the genres are as good as dead, there comes a movie which rewrites the rules of the game. ‘Booksmart’ is the reinvention of the high school coming-of-age story which is as fresh as the dew drops in the morning. Two girls decide to do in a night what they missed in all the years of high-school. They accomplish the mission with palpable energy and infectious humour. With some rip-roaring scenes and outrageous comedy (I’ll never forget the ‘Malala rule’), ‘Booksmart’ is a fine way to spend your time.

Hotel Mumbai (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Do not watch this movie if you cannot stomach graphic violence. You have been warned. If you are the battle hardened type, this movie has rich rewards. A start to end thriller with gut wrenching scenes and edge of the seat moments, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is a recreation of the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai renowned for its excellent customer care of the rich and famous. Some of the staff take this care to the extreme which can be also interpreted as being foolhardy when the more reasonable option is to just escape from the slaughter scene. There is also the typical American hero who acts as if nothing will happen to him as he probably thinks that the bullets will discriminate. Still, a story that must be told because what transpired needs to be known and etched in memory.

Us (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

For me, ‘Us’ was a monumental letdown. It is a film that does not scare and is very much predictable which makes it a weak candidate in the horror-thriller genre. The critics and fanboys can search for all the subtext and symbolism but at its core ‘Us’ is a poorly written movie about doppelgangers. There are no metaphors here. There are loopholes and more of them than you would want even in a romantic comedy. Some of the events have no explanation whatsoever. ‘Get Out’ was no masterpiece but was at least watchable. ‘Us’ is a train wreck that you get to make when your debut movie grosses 100 million at the box office.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

The title of the movie reminds me of certain people I know. Jokes aside, Ted Bundy was the outlier among serial killers. He was also a charmer. The movie tells us how those who surrounded him thought about him. He was able to pull the wool over the eyes of many including female admirers who believed in his lies till the very end. My issue with the movie is that it fails till the climax to show the evil incarnate that Bundy was. For a more nuanced take on a serial killer, try ‘My Friend Dahmer’.

Documentary of the Week

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (2019) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

It is only in the US documentaries that people come out to speak to documentary crew on the abuse they received. This makes for powerful documentaries. ‘At the Heart of Gold’ is one such documentary. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Yesterday’ by Danny Boyle

Did you know: Jordan Peele was so insulted when Sony offered him the role of Poop in The Emoji Movie (2017) that he retired from acting to focus entirely on being a screenwriter and film director.

Advertisements

Edition 76

The Non-English Movie of The Week

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

Aferim_poster_goldposter_com_1

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 ]

popo

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 ]

centralintelligencesmall

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 ]

eye_sky_one_sheet

Trailer

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]

whiskey-tango-foxtrot-movie-poster

Trailer

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 ]

finding-dory-poster

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 ]

Udta_Punjab

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]

love_and_friendship_xlg

Trailer

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 ]

phoenix_ver2

Trailer

‘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]

ozhivu-divasathe-kali-movie-poster-9393

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 ]

valiya-chirakulla-pakshikal-movie-poster-8577

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]

virunga-poster

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.

jason-bourne-movie-2016-poster

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.

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.