Edition 84

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Our Little Sister (Japan,2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:93% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

Trailer

‘Our Little Sister’ tells the story of three sisters who take in their fourth sister they never knew they had. This Japanese tale is a quiet triumph and a joy to watch. It also gives an insight into the traditions and way of life in rural Japan. The movie is akin to a piece of music which flows unabated. There is a sublime sense of happiness pervading the movie even when it tackles more serious questions. For a film which could have ended in various ways, ‘Our Little Sister’ bows out with a dignity that is the hallmark of the feature. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Detroit (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:83% , My Rating: 8.5 ]

Trailer

I have thoroughly enjoyed previous movies of Katheryn Bigelow like ‘Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (One of the best movies of the decade). ‘Detroit’ surely lives up to the expectations. Based on a real life incident in Algiers Motel, Detroit during the race riots of 1967, ‘Detroit’ is a story which must be told. Exposing the deep fault lines within the American social fabric and raising pertinent questions on police criminality, the movie is an edge of the seat thriller. ‘Detroit’ never has a boring moment but it has plentiful moments of horror and sadness. All credit for the memorable movie is due to Bigelow who deftly handles a theme which could have failed miserably in the hands of a less competent director. Watching the movie itself is a harrowing experience which can question your belief in the idea of justice itself. For all its pains, the movie is a pleasure.

Mother! (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:68% , My Rating: 4.5 ]

Trailer

My emotion towards ‘Mother!’ has been summed up beautifully by Anthony Lane of the ‘New Yorker’; “If you gave an extremely bright fifteen-year-old a bag of unfamiliar herbs to smoke, and forty million dollars or so to play with, “Mother!” would be the result.” ‘Mother!’ is a movie which is an insult to the intelligence of the audience. It is pointless and manipulative even when discounted for the allegory it purportedly portrays. I had to search to find out what the heck all this posturing by the director was about. If you are interested, the idea behind the movie is explained in an article here. It does not exonerate the director who also wrote the screenplay. Jennifer Lawrence who rose to fame through Harvey Weinstein movies, puts in a solid shift. There is nothing redeeming about the movie. It is a self indulgent piece which should be played as torture to death row inmates.

1922 (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on the Stephen King novella, ‘1922’ is a haunting movie. Though the omens point to a decline into tragedy, the events that follow are nothing short of terror. Dealing with the concept of guilt and retribution, this movie sucks in the viewer with its raw and relentless attack on the protagonist who is destined to disintegrate. This is one of the underrated flicks of the year. The only word of caution is to watch the movie with subtitles as the accent is dated and a tad difficult to pick up.

Logan Lucky (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Steven Soderbergh is one of the most talented directors of our generation. ‘Logan Lucky’ marks his return to form. A disparate group bound only by their love for the booty decide to rob NASCAR (nothing less!) on a race day. As is the case with every good heist movie, it is not the heist per se which is important but what happens afterwards. That is what makes the movie better than average. Surely, ‘Logan Lucky’ is not a masterpiece but it is a movie which does justice to your viewing time. Since half decent heist movies have been in short supply recently, this movie quenches the appetite for the time being. Recommended.

It (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes:85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Another movie based on the work of Stephen King, ‘It’ has been a smash hit at the box office. The reasons are not hard to miss. It has a bunch of kids at the centre of the story and deals with adult themes like identity and willpower. A murderous shape shifting demon needs to be tamed before it finds its new prey. All the usual Stephen King props are in play in this movie. Conquering the fear of the dark, first love, taming inner demons, unity in diversity, and some other simplistic ideas are thrown in to add weight to the movie. The only thing missing is a kid in spandex. Surely, ‘It’ is not a boring movie. Far from it, ‘It’ has its moments but otherwise it is a movie with a standard template which leave the viewer rather underwhelmed as the credits roll.

Better Watch Out (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

What I loved about ‘Better Watch Out’ is the twist it gives to ‘Home Alone’. In fact, there are not so subtle references to the ‘Home Alone’ franchise in this thriller with a bad heart. A boy is left with his nanny when his parents are away. What unfolds initially is a horror movie but with a major turn in the story as it evolves. Even the ending of the movie holds a punch and leaves the door open for a sequel. ‘Better Watch Out’ is a bit of twisted fun and I am not complaining.

A Ghost Story (2017) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:90% , My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

With a remote in your hand you will need very small amount of time to watch this tedious and unrewarding drama. Surprisingly, some people did find this movie interesting. I found the movie to be absolutely one of the worst of the year with its fake ideas and positioning. It has all the ingredients of a brainless idea which got greenlit by the presence of some bankable stars. For the record, the movie concerns itself with afterlife and coping with grief. In this respect the movie does not attain salvation. To be more to the point, it needs to be buried deep in the ground.

The Foreigner (2017) [IMDB: 7.2., Rotten Tomatoes:75% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Apparently, Jackie Chan has cried twice in his movies before. The third time is in ‘The Foreigner’ and this time you will join in his pain. Even in a movie where Pierce Brosnan has more screen time and better dialogues, Jackie Chan stands out as the 60 year old father who has lost everything and wants to avenge his daughter’s death. Though the politics of the movie is dubious and some parts are a stretch of imagination, the movie is written well enough to keep the viewer engaged till its predictable climax. The worldwide box office of more than a 100 million USD shows that the audiences also seem to approve the first real acting turn by superstar Jackie Chan.

Ingrid Goes West (2017) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

In times such as this where social media acts as an alternative to the real world, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a timely reminder of how far things can go wrong in the cyberspace. The lead character’s manic obsession of the number of likes she receives and the number of followers she has, leads to her losing her footing in the real world. As she gets close to an ‘influencer’ by crook, her obsession spirals out of control. ‘Ingrid Goes West’ tells that story and does it with panache. My only grouse is that the ending was unnecessarily saccharine sweet.

Documentary of the Week

Blue Planet 2 (2017) [IMDB: 9.8, Rotten Tomatoes:89% , My Rating: 10.0]

Trailer

Wow! Just wow. All the beauty in the world like never before. Educational, informative and entertaining. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Phantom Thread’ because it is the swansong of Daniel Day Lewis.

Did you know: Shashi Kapoor had more films as the protagonist than any other member of the Kapoor clan. RIP Shashi Kapoor.

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Week 51

Movies: Non-English

As It Is in Heaven (Sweden, 2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

As It Is in Heaven

Trailer: 

This heartwarming Swedish drama which has music that is entertaining and uplifting is one of the best feelgood movies you will ever see. An internationally renowned conductor returns to his small town in Sweden where he discovers hidden musical talents and realizes the life he had missed. Though the film is another one of those which contrasts the hustle and bustle of the city life with the relaxed pace of life in the village, it is a movie where the sincerity of the intentions overcomes the little rough edges in the screenplay. The acting is uniformly magnificent. Highly recommended.

No One Knows About Persian Cats (Iran,2009) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

noo

Trailer: 

In a country where playing music of the Western variety is banned and where freedom of expression is an alien concept, it is remarkable how Iranian film makers consistently come out with small gems polished by their passion for speaking out against an oppressive regime. In this winner at Cannes, the director follows the story of a group which wants to make rock music. As if this wasn’t enough to land the group in trouble, they go about recruiting new members to their band and also try to arrange for visas so that they can perform in London. For the umpteenth time I would like to reiterate that it does not require too much money to make a good movie as this one shows. Also, a very good film to watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Filth (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

Filth

Trailer: 

Coming from the writer of ‘Trainspotting’, this one was sure to have a dose of drugs. Here James McAvoy is a messed up corrupt cop who is having a difficult relationship with his wife and kid. He also has a drug problem and is involved in a case where he has tied himself in knots. With all this happening around him, he also want to have a career progression and he thinks that one of the ways of ensuring that is to play his rivals against each other. As he spirals out of control and loses touch with sanity, the key question is whether he will be able to hold on till he sees out the storm. James McAvoy is the cop in this very engaging story of deception and drugs which fully exploits the huge talent of McAvoy. At times too gloomy and at times a little slow, the film compensates for its flaws with a story which keeps you guessing till the very end. A very good watch.

Time Pass (Marathi, India, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

Time Pass

Recommended by a brother to me, this Marathi hit is a simple tale of two ordinary adolescents who fall in love. The good for nothing Dagdu falls head over heels in love with a girl who is the daughter of a disciplinarian father. The movie is about how they overcome the barriers and break the boundaries in pursuit of their relationship. Just as the movie starts with the caption of there being nothing like first love, it prepares you for the eventual end which is pretty open and hints at a possible sequel in the near future. More than the main story line, it is the presence of the fringe supporting characters who add to the quality of the film. In fact, the best lines are delivered by the supporting cast and they are the ones to tickle the funny bones. It is also because that the characters look very rooted to the people you will meet in the street that the film is an easy watch. A nice one time watch.

Bewakoofiyaan (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 25%]

Bewakoofiyaan_Poster

Trailer: 

I think the producer’s biography could have the same title as the that of the movie. I could not understand the reason for the existence of the film. It has a story that goes nowhere, songs that make you run out of the theatre and a hero who is better at singing those songs than in acting. The protagonist is in love with a lady who is the daughter of an IAS officer. She also loves him back but her dad is against the relationship and wants to make sure that the guy is the right one for her. Sounds familiar? If familiarity breeds contempt, the director ‘complicates’ things by referencing the mass sacking of its employees by Jet Airways a few years ago and make sure that the protagonist is jobless. (Spoilers ahead) The next thing you know, the protagonist is serving at the counter of an eatery where he suitably and conveniently gets insulted by the girl’s father. More of such shenanigans and then suddenly the sky clears up. Well, you cannot blame the director for not giving you a happy ending. What a bore.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Vanishing of the Bees (2009) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 65%]

Vanishing of the Bees

Trailer:

A study of the reasons behind the decline of the honeybee population around the world which also traces the consequences of the same. Not a great documentary but worth a watch.

The : D Retrospective

Stepmom (1998) [ImDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Stepmom

Trailer: 

Julia Roberts is the lady love of a man who has kids. The mother of the kids is a terminally ill patient (played by Susan Sarandon). Both the women must reconcile their differences and find a way forward to make it less painful for both of them. The film is a drama that does not have a great story to tell. It is solely driven by the great performances of the leading ladies that brings them to the foreground and pretty much makes everything else immaterial. Watch it for them.

Shallow Hal (2001) [IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Shallow Hal

Trailer: 

A man falls in love with a woman because of her ‘inner beauty’. This film focuses on a basic question. Whether love is constrained by physical appearance and whether two people can be happy even if they have dissimilar body shapes? Well, the film does not get that philosophical and has some good laughs to offer. The casting is a little inspired. Paltrow and Black in a reversal of their real life personas. Worth a watch.

Reversal of Fortune (1990) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Reversal of Fortune

Trailer: 

A legal thriller that tries to distinguish between what is morally wrong and what is legally punishable. Jeremy Irons is on trial for the death of his wife. There are two sides to the story and both the sides don’t give conclusive answers to moral questions. A taut engaging screenplay tries to give the answers and the legal process is as riveting as it has ever been presented on the big screen. Watch for some superlative acting and a very engaging story that keeps you interested till the very end.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Railway Man’ starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. 

Did you know: Pierce Brosnan was contractually forbidden from wearing a full tuxedo in any non-James Bond movie from 1995-2002.

Week 36

Movies: Non-English

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

vizon

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

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

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

child

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

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

Movies I Saw This Week

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

Gravity-1

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

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

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

dhoom 3

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

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

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

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

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

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

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

ezhu-sundara-rathrikal-trailer-out

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

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

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

drishyam

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

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

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

Thira-1

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

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

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

r...r

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

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

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

artist

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

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

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

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

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

lawrence

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

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

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

lion

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

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

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

venus

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

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

Documentary Pick of the Week

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

stories

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

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

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

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