Edition 84

The Non-English Movie of The Week

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

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‘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 ]

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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 ]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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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Edition 68

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Edition 68

Casa Grande (Brazil, 2014) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 7.5]

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Brazil has a reputation for producing some of the best movies from Latin America with gems like ‘Central Station’ (1998) and ‘Elite Squad’ (2007). ‘Casa Grande’ is an addition to this proud tradition. The movie deals with the trials and tribulations of a once rich family as their fortunes take a nosedive. The theme is not a novel one. There are other recent examples like ‘Tokyo Sonata’ (2008). The difference here is that the story unfolds through the eyes of the young son of the family who suddenly finds things that he had taken for granted are no more available to him. The camera is an observer in the chaos that engulfs him and his painful disintegration. The story is told in a matter of fact way. Its somber and quiet tone only adds to the intensity of the story that unfolds onscreen.

Movies I Saw This Week

Everest (2015) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating 7.5/10]

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The movie is based on the well documented 1996 Mount Everest disaster. The disaster has been the subject of movies and books, most notably the NYT bestseller ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer who was part of the ill fated expedition. For this movie version the screenplay was penned by Simon Beaufoy who was also the man behind ‘127 hours’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘The Full Monty’. The movie documents the ill fated expedition consisting of newbies and experts and is a study in human behaviour more than anything else. I saw the 3D version of the movie, which would have been fine in the 2D format as well. The good part about the movie is that it gives a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in such an expedition. It is also deeply moving at a more humane level with examples of how decision making is influenced under stress. From the postman who wants to do the extraordinary to the guy who comes back from the dead, the characters in the movie are fascinating. It is one of the best movies of the year. Highly recommended.

The Visit (2015) [IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 62% My Rating: 6.5]

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After reaching the nadir with ‘The Last Airbender’, ‘After Earth’ and ‘The Happening’, Manoj Night Shyamalan returns to form with ‘The Visit’. Shot a on a small budget without the backing of any major studio, the film really comes to life in the second half. The use of ‘found footage’ type filming may have been more of a requirement because of the low budget than an option, but this does work for the premise of the movie. Two grandchildren go to visit their estranged grandparents for a week. As the days progress the children realize that they are into something they did not bargain for. For once, Shyamalan has a twist which is not phony like the one in ‘The Village’. Surely, one of the better movies of the year.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

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With a star studded cast of scientologist Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg, the new edition of the Mission Impossible is a virtual tour de force. Stretching from Belarus to Vienna and from London to Morocco, the good guys are again out to get the bad ones. Obviously they are there to save the world too. They do it on bikes in the streets of Casablanca, in cars in the streets of Vienna and on a runway in Belarus. Thematically not very different from any superhero movie, MI proceeds at a pace which gives little time for the audience to ponder over the inconsistencies in the plot. There are some nice touches though, like the assassins timing their kill at the precision of a musical note in an opera. There is also the mandatory ‘mask removal’ scene. Given the fatigue associated with movie franchises after the first or second sequel, MI stays fresh to a large extent. That alone may be a reason to watch this movie.

Black Mass (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5]

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In the early part of the movie there is a scene where the protagonist tells a child that the key to punching someone is to make sure that no one is watching. If no one saw it, it did not happen. The same guy then goes on to assist the authorities in fighting crime. Essentially, the movie is about crime but the main issue is that like many other such movies it tries to glorify some types of crime at the expense of the other types. For a genre which has been done to death in the last few decades, ‘Black Mass’ does not add anything substantial. Even in terms of the performances it can be safely said that Johnny Depp has seen better days. ‘Black Mass’ is your average flick trying to rise above the mediocrity of its script. If you are looking for a classic crime movie set in Boston, go for ‘The Departed’.

The D Train (2015) [ IMDB: 5.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%, My Rating: 5]

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Jack Black, one of the original members of the ‘frat pack’, stars as a middle aged man who has nothing remarkable about him except his lack of friends and a general ability to be ill behaved. He also happens to be in-charge of organizing a high school alumni reunion. In his over enthusiasm he tries to warm up to one of his schoolmates. What follows is not according to the script he has in mind when he ventures on his misadventures. The movie starts on an interesting note but loses track somewhere. Though Jack Black comes off as a fine actor, the movie may be a disappointment to his core audience who expect him to be funny. Unfortunately there isn’t a single scene in the movie which can be called funny. It is one of those movies where it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with it. In the end it will be lost in a pile of trash that comes out of Hollywood every year.

Z for Zachariah (2015) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, My Rating: 5.5]

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In a post apocalyptic world a woman finds that the only others remaining are two men. As they live in isolation, the complex dynamics that come into play is beyond her initial anticipation. This movie is a character study more than anything else. Though delightful in spurts with scenes that make you ponder over relationships, the movie’s ultimate undoing is the snail’s pace at which the story is told. Margot Robbie proves that she can be competent but the movie belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofer who steals the show. Overall, a one time watch for the limited audiences who have the blessing of patience in their character.

Documentary of the Week

Cartel Land (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

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A story on the war on drugs in Mexico. Informative and honest.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Bridge Of Spies’ because it is a Steven Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks.

Did you know: Large parts of movies like ‘Kundun’ amd ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ were shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

 

Edition 63

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Wild Tales (Argentina, 2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]

Wild Tales

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This Argentinian film is currently in the limelight for all the wrong reasons because one segment of the film resembles the actions of the monster co-pilot in the Germanwings aircraft crash. Otherwise, it is one of the best films to have come out in 2014. A compilation of six segments, the films uniting thread is the rage and anguish of the characters which leads them to unforeseen consequences. Though all of the segments are not uniform in quality, the highs of most cover for the lows of the few. I particularly enjoyed the sequence of road rage and the one involving fighting against the establishment. Also, the now infamous sequence is one of the better ones in the movie. If you are looking for solid entertainment from a foreign language movie, it does not get much better than this.

Movies I Saw This Week

Rosewater (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer:

The much admired host of The Daily Show returns to movies, making his debut in directing. It is strange to see that Jon Stewart who dazzles in comedy, picked up a rather grim tale to tell. Taken from real life, the movie tells the story of a Canadian journalist who is detained in confinement in Iran where he is suspected of being a spy. The title of the movie comes from the fact that the only way the detainee could identify his captor is through the smell of rosewater. The ever reliable Gael Garcia Bernal plays his role pretty well but the infirmities in Jon Stewart’s direction are there to see. Solitude is difficult to convey in a movie. Unlike other situations, it takes time to build the right emotions. Unfortunately, when the movie has to convey this, the movie itself may appear stretched and painstakingly slow. This is the major frailty of this otherwise genuine movie.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten tomatoes:25%, My Rating: 5.5]

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Based on the investigative book into the kidnapping of the beer baron Alfred Heineken in Netherlands, this movie fires a lot of blank shots in between the few genuine ones. The kidnappers are played by a bunch of actors who have had their fair amount of success but that success was a long time ago. In a movie where the kidnapped Mr. Heineken (played by Anthony Hopkins) gets all the good scenes, the cause of the kidnappers is not helped by some shoddy screenplay and poor acting. I don’t know whether it was the director or the scriptwriter who was on Heineken while making the movie. As a viewer, you may require a Heineken or two to get over the pain of watching this one.

Top Five (2014) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating:7/10]

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Written and directed by Chris Rock and starring him in the lead role, Top Five is one of the better romantic comedies of last year. It tells the story of a comedian on the eve of his wedding to a reality TV star. The movie has a charm of its own and keeps the viewers engaged. It has funny and poignant moments in equal measure, none more than the scene when the protagonist meets his father. Chris Rock rises above the stand up comedy routine that brought him fame. It is a very mature piece of filmmaking even when it uses clichés in some scenes. Recommended.

Hunterrr (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 5/10]

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This sex comedy clearly knows its target audience but goes awry after 45 minutes or so. The protagonist is a sex addict who has derision for the idea of marriage. Told in flashback-flash forward format, the movie takes the viewer on the numerous amorous encounters of the lead character interspersed with his attempts at landing a suitable girl. It is when the latter part kicks in that the story goes berserk. The film looks like the tacky titillating films from another era. Though the views of the protagonist on skin colour and his contempt for black skin may be dismissed as the rant of a third rate character, I am still waiting for a Bollywood comedy which does not derive its humour from skin colour, LGBT community, objectification of women or plain toilet humour.

The Cobbler (2014) [IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 7%, My Rating: 2/10]

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I have seen every single movie that Adam Sandler has acted in and I used to like his movies but in the last few years he has been scraping the bottom of the barrel. With The Cobbler he may have hit the nadir and I hope that he has. The only good thing about the movie is that Adam Sandler’s onscreen time is reduced by the fact that his forefathers pass on to him the ability to transform into the person once he steps into that person’s shoes. So you have some small time actors living up their dream. Adam Sandler just sleepwalks through the movie. The numerous sub plots don’t hold together. After watching this movie, I am reminded of the famous adage. Stars don’t die. They just fade away.

Spring (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

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‘Spring’ is one of those romantic movies which will work with a section of the audience and I am part of that section. It tells the story a American who finds love in Italy. His lady love has some dark secrets that will not help in his quest for fulfilling the love. More of a meditative piece than a mushy romantic film, ‘Spring’ has very well written dialogues, scenic Italian landscapes and two very engaging performances. If you are looking for something different within the same framework, this movie might just suit you.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%, My Rating:5.5]

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Coming from Disney (that itself says a lot about the movie), this one is a simple family comedy which will instill family values and the such stuff kids need to be taught. On a horrible day when everything goes wrong, a family learns to stick together and stand up for each other. They also turn it into the most memorable day of their lives. Take your family along to watch this because it is a Disney film and Disney makes only predictable family stuff.

Documentary of the Week

The Ambassador (2011) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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Trailer:

Danish filmmaker ‘purchases’ a diplomatic passport from Liberia and poses as its representative in the Central African Republic. What follows is epic. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘True Story’ with James Franco and Jonah Hill.

Did you know: ‘The Turning Point’ (1977) and ‘The Color Purple'(1985) share the record for the films with most Oscar nominations (11) without a single win.