Edition 91

As we finish 2018, this year has been the best year for the blog in terms of readership with more than 500 views for each post. A big thank you to the readers across the globe and wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year!

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Guilty (Denmark, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

An edge of the seat thriller from director Gustav Moller who uses every trick in the book to keep the viewer hooked on to the proceedings. The movie is a tribute to how sound effects can be used to drive the narrative. With minimal budget and only a handful of characters, the director is able to maintain the tempo of this cracking thriller. The few calls received by a troubled police officer at the emergency helpline form the movie’s screenplay. Must watch for the high concept and innovative storytelling.

Movies I Saw This Week

A Star is Born (2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0]

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I am not going gaga over this movie. It is the third or fourth time that this screenplay or its various versions (discounting Bollywood ripoffs like Aashiqui) are making it to the big screen. For those who have seen earlier versions, there is nothing much in the movie. It is a fine debut for Bradley Cooper donning the director’s hat. Lady Gaga does light up the proceedings with her singing and some of the songs are a joy to listen to. Judged purely on its cinematic quality, this movie is short on its merits. It is a testament to the state of Hollywood that this movie is the most hyped and over billed contender this award season.

First Man (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Damien Chazelle makes his most carefully calibrated movie with the always wooden Ryan Gosling. As every human knows, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. He was an enigmatic and reserved person tormented by personal tragedy. Ryan Gosling is weak as Armstrong in an otherwise strong film which starts slowly, picks up pace and has good liftoff towards the end. ‘First Man’ is not everyone’s cup of tea but in the category of tea it is the equivalent of the Makaibari Darjeeling tea: Elite and dwindling in quantity every year.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Coen brothers are back with a bang (well, mostly) in this anthology which stitches together 6 pieces to make what could have been a masterpiece but for the time being just is a good movie. Two of the six stories are misfits in an otherwise good collection. The acting is consistently good and the director duo bring their signature storytelling to all the sections. I especially liked the performance of Tim Blake Nelson. Highly recommended, more so if you like westerns.

Crazy Rich Asians  (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 5.0]

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While watching this movie and after watching this movie, I have only one question, ” What was all the fuss about?”. Neither a cheesy romcom nor a strong drama, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ falls flat with its insipid story and howlers in stereotyping. The only instances where Indian origin people are shown in the very multicultural Singapore is when they are hangers on who open doors and do menial jobs. The movie shows a Singapore even Singaporeans will fail to identify with. All the usual stereotypes about tomboys, gay men, Asians etc are paraded without the slightest hint of irony. This in a story about a woman who proudly announces her humble origins throughout the movie and asserts her identity and individuality. It does not help her cause that the story writers use and misuse every cliche including a last minute scene in an aircraft.

The House That Jack Built (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Lars Von Trier’s latest movie received copious amounts of boos and walkouts during its premiere at the Cannes film festival. It is not difficult to see why but in a rather twisted way (that is the only way with this movie), the film is watchable if the boldness of the filmmaker can be appreciated. The boldness does border on recklessness at certain points. With references to European horror classics like ‘Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)’, this movie does push the envelope. For those asking, the movie is about a serial killer told from his point of view of the events. Not for the faint of the heart.

We the Animals (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Story of three siblings growing up and discovering themselves. The movie has many subtexts including parenting, sexuality, innocence and so on. What it does not seem to have is an editor who could have cut out large slices of flab, trimmed the movie and made it more appealing. Led by strong performances and a screenplay which promises more than it delivers, ‘We the Animals’ is a lost opportunity. In the hands of a more assured director, this movie could have been something else altogether.

A Simple Favor (2018) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Harvey Weinstein discovery Blake Lively gets on in the act as the busy enigmatic mothers who disappears. Her friend Anna Kendrick is left with the unenviable task of uncovering the mystery. With ample plot twists and turns, ‘A Simple Favor’ offers an engaging view of the dysfunctional aspect of American lives. For a movie which is essentially a character study, the one thing I liked is the ambiance the camera creates. ‘A Simple Favor’ will not be remembered for a long time but is well worth the two hours of your life you will have to spend for it. Recommended.

The Sisters Brothers (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Joachim Phoenix has resurrected his career after the voluntary sabbatical and remains one of the finest actors of this generation. In this film, he plays the younger ‘brother’ of the duo chasing a gold prospector. More than a thriller or drama, the movie is a comedy if you can get the right cues. Some of the dialogues are funny to say the least. ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is not groundbreaking or mold breaking cinema and hopefully the creators never meant it that way. Once this baggage is cleared, this is an eminently watchable flick.

Documentary of the Week

Pick of the Litter (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Enlightening, engaging and in some ways touching documentary about the making of guide dogs for the blind. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Arcticbecause it received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Did you know: Yesteryear Malayalam director A B Raj was an assistant director for the David Lean classic ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

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75: Platinum Edition

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Son of Saul (Hungary, 2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My rating: 9.0]

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Trailer

One of the most emotionally draining movies of all time, ‘Son of Saul’ effortlessly canters into the status of a classic. With accolades which include top prizes at assorted film festivals including Cannes, and the Best Foreign Movie at the Oscars, the movie is a compelling tour-de-force. The story revolves around a Jew who is tasked with handling ‘operations’ in the Auschwitz concentration camp and his desperate attempts to organize a religious burial for his son who is gassed to death. ‘Son of Saul’ is one of the most original films I have ever seen.The camera focuses on the protagonist and the story is told through his silent despair. Even when the background is mostly out of focus, the horror at the concentration camp is very much in focus. The utter disregard for human life and the clockwork precision of activities at the camp would have been shocking if they had not been deeply moving. This is a movie you will find difficult to forget.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:62%, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

Srinivasa Ramanujan was a self taught genius who could have revolutionized the field of mathematics but for his untimely death. In his short life span he was able to create ripples in the lake that is mathematics. The movie version shines a light on his remarkable life but is let down by the sloppy acting of Dev Patel. His acting is still in the infancy of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ days. Jeremy Irons saves the day by virtually carrying the scenes with his screen presence and dialogue delivery. The hackneyed script meanders along before it is set on its due course. There are some redeeming factors which don’t let the film sink but a far better movie would do justice to S. Ramanujan. Till then, if you want to see a movie with a mathematics genius, watch ‘Good Will Hunting‘.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.0]

10cl_poster

Trailer

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ would have been a classic but for its title. That sentence will make sense when you watch the full movie. A young woman finds herself in an underground bunker after a car crash. Her rescuer claims to be protecting her from the perils of the outside world. She also has company in the form of another hostage. As her stay extends in the bunker, her will to escape gets stronger. The movie is engaging but the jarring background score in the initial parts of the movie distracts the viewer more than it thrills. Even then the anticipation of what lies ahead is never lost. There are some neat tricks in the screenplay like the scene in which the protagonist removes the mask and discovers that everything is normal. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a good sequel and lays the groundwork for another sequel but it could have been much more than that.

Eddie the Eagle (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:86, My Rating:7.5 ]

eddie

Trailer

There is nothing like a feel good movie. Feel good movies from the sports arena are especially captivating because who doesn’t love an underdog story? Eddie Edwards was not shooting for the stars when he chose skiing. His single-minded pursuit was for Olympic glory. He did not even want to win. He just wanted to be an Olympian. This movie, based on real events, is his story. Taron Egerton transforms to Eddie Edwards and makes him a lovable character. Hugh Jackman has fun in a role that helps him break the mold. Together they create an engaging duo in a well written movie with all the paraphernalia that accompany such movies. For a movie which has a guarantee of a happy ending written all over it, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ is a good watch.

Hush (2016) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:7.5]

hush

Trailer

‘Hush’ is the story of a deaf-mute author who is under siege from a killer while alone at home. The killer reveals himself to her and makes it amply clear who is in the driver’s seat. What ensues is a cat and mouse game with the death of one of them as the only way to end the standoff. Deftly handled scenes and some fine acting make this movie a top class thriller. Definitely worth a watch.

The Ardennes (Belgium, 2015) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

‘The Ardennes’ from Belgium tells the tale of two brothers over the course of four years when one of them is convicted for a botched up crime. The movie has a wafer thin plot and moves at a languid pace for most part. It is predictable to some extent but it is the last twenty seconds of the movie that take it another level altogether. The easy thing to do to is to skip the scenes which don’t have dialogue in them. If it were to be reduced to one hour, the movie would have been a rather short and sweet package. Nevertheless, a good film.

The Jungle Book (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5] 

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Trailer

‘Jungle Book’ brings a truckload of nostalgia. When I was a kid (that was a quarter of a century ago), ‘Jungle Book’ used to be one of the main cartoons on Doordarshan (India’s official TV network). From the remarkable run this movie version is having at the box-office, it is safe to assume that it is not just me who is having a bout of nostalgia. The success of the movie is also because of the technical wizardry at work. The scenes are captivating and the editing is sleek. There is no dull moment in this masterful production of a much loved novel.  There are some discordant notes though. In the original Jungle Book the snake ‘Kaa’ was a male and friendly to Mowgli but in the film Kaa becomes a female and becomes a dangerous adversary. Similarly, the monkey king is given mannerisms, crooning and dialogues similar to that of an African-American. Small discordant notes. Enjoyed the film though.

Creep (2015) [ IMDB:6.2, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My Rating:6.5]

Creep_(2014_film)_poster

Trailer

‘Creep’ is shot in the ‘found footage’ format. A craiglist ad entices a videographer to take up a one day shoot in a remote area. When he arrives there he finds his spooky but well meaning guest. The videographer’s sympathies soon turn into pure angst and fear. For once, he does not realize what he has signed up for. In some ways the naivete of the protagonist is the cause of all his perils. I wondered more than once on the improbability of the plot and also how easily the videographer’s concerns were rubbished by the police. If you sweep such inconsistencies under the carpet, the movie is a rather engaging watch. Mercifully, it is only 77 minutes long.

Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Malayalam,2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 7.5]

jacobinte

Trailer

Dubai is a mirage in the middle of a desert. It is in this Dubai that dreams are built and hopes are shattered. When the 2008 economic crisis and a cheating business partner create the perfect storm for a family, the family finds strength and courage from sources hitherto unknown to them. ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam’ tells the story of that family. Based on real events, the movie does not fall into the trap of being excessively sentimental. The makers also resist the temptation of making it a riches to rags to riches story. The focus is on people: within the family and outside it. Another piece of evidence to show that the best movies in India are made in non-Hindi languages.

Baaghi (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:5.9, Rotten Tomatoes:63%, My Rating:5.5]

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Trailer

This movie is vehicle for Tiger Shroff to establish his credentials as an action hero. The problem with it is that it looks dated and the story and screenplay seem to have been stolen from the tomb of Tutankhamun. The director is so out of his ideas that he even recreates a song sequence of ‘Dil-Se’ in his thoroughly boring songs. Not content with this he also has a copy of a rain song which looks eerily similar to another song in the Tamil film ‘Mazhai’ (That movie is a remake of Telugu hit ‘Varsham’.  The formula is simple. Action sequence followed by a song. Repeat. The jokes could have been called stale but they were pickled a long time ago by other filmmakers to extend their expiry dates. Good that they shot most of the movie in Kerala because people there could have never understood the nonsense they were being subjected to.

Sairat (Marathi, 2016) [ IMDB:9.5, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 8.0 ]

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Trailer

Official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival and on course to be the biggest Marathi film of all time, ‘Sairat’ holds a mirror to the deep seated caste prejudices in our society. Unnecessarily long at 170 minutes, the movie is about the budding love between youngsters from two different castes and the ramifications of their love. Told through the eyes of the leading lady (Rinku Rajguru in a National Award winning role), the film is a breeze in the first half. The director steadily builds the story and adds more gravitas to the proceedings in the second half. The score does no harm to his efforts. It is difficult to write more without giving away the plot details but suffice to say that the climax of the film is truly exceptional for the thought that has gone into it.

Fan (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:4.0]

fan

Trailer

Nobody loves Aryan Khanna (that is, Shahrukh Khan) more than Gaurav Chandna (that is, Shahrukh Khan). The word ‘Narcissim’ traces its origin to a young Greek called Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in a pool. What if people turned suicidal after watching ‘Dilwale’ and ‘ Happy New Year’? SRK still has fans going crazy in front of his house when he cares to wave at them. He has fans willing to kill for him. He has fans willing to die for him. He has producers who make films for him. He has writers who indulge his megalomania. He can make films where the other actors have nothing to say or do. He can hold forth on issues affecting the nation as if he really cares. He can release films in movie halls and expect people to watch. But he cannot make even his fans watch a film called ‘Fan’. Alas, even SRK’s fans have brains.

Documentary of the Week

That Sugar Film (2014) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:64%, My Rating:6.5]

That-Sugar-Film-Poster

Trailer

A documentary chronicling the ill effects of sugar on the body. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kabali’ because there is no one like Rajnikanth

Did you know: “Shahrukh” means “face of the king”

Edition 70

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer:

Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

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The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.

Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

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The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.

The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry.  More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (India, 2015) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 4.5]

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India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million. 

Knock Knock (2015) [IMDB:5.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:33% , My Rating:3.0 ]

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Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.

Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.

Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer: 

After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.

 

Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada

Week 41

Movies: Non-English

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a50DJkCxqw

Academy award nominee for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category this year, this film from Belgium is a devastating tearjerker. It is a heady mix of music, romance and tragedy with moments of sheer brilliance. The wedding scene and the climax are scenes that stand out. The movie follows the challenges faced by a young family and their desperate attempts to overcome them but at the core of the story is the conflicting religious beliefs of the husband and wife which appear beyond reconciliation. I believe that one of the reasons that the film has a nod at the Oscars is because of the way it tears into the George Bush presidency by using actual footage to support the arguments of one of the characters. The good thing is that even if the politics of the movie is disregarded as inconsequential, it is a movie worth your time. Two thumbs up.

The Third Half (Macedonia, 2012) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

The Third Half

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJq03xHc6mE

Another film on Nazis, which I believe is a theme that has been done to death by Hollywood. Maybe the Macedonians did not figure that out. So they also came up with a mild version to suit their historical narrative. The end product is a movie which is not bad but does not introduce any new elements in a predictable story line. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that it tells the story of a football team trying to get its act together and at the same time bogged down by politics. If you can take another film on Nazis this film is highly recommended. Otherwise, highly forgettable.

Movies I Saw This Week

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Inside Llewyn Davis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFphYRyH7wc

Oscar Isaac produces a scintillating performance as the title character of a movie which certainly falls into the drama genre but is neither a tragedy nor a triumph. Llewyn Davis is a folk singer who tries to piece together a living when he is not hopping from one couch to another in his quest to find a place to sleep. (Spoiler ahead) His life is so messed up that he gets to know through a third party that he has become a father and he still does not want to see the child. Llewyn Davis is a musician who is neither great nor ordinary. As a character, he is neither weak nor strong. It is this very quality of a man who cannot be faulted because he is not impractical but at the same time is not practical enough that makes this story a little complex. That also makes the film very engaging to watch as it opens up to unpredictable twists and turns. A special mention must be made of the cinematography of this movie which is a strong contender at the Oscars but may eventually lose out to ‘Gravity’. All in all, this is not a movie for everyone but for the discerning few.

All Is Lost (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

All Is Lost

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk_R04LfUQU

Robert Redford’s best movie in years tells the story of a man marooned with his damaged boat in the ocean when it is hit by a stray container. It chronicles his desperate attempts to rescue himself from imminent and painful death. The movie is slow but I believe that the plot dictated the pace of the movie. A standout feature is the background score. At the Oscars this year this category will be a straight shootout between ‘All Is Lost’ and ‘Gravity’. I would love to see an Indian version of this movie because the Hollywood hunks like to appear calm and composed under trying circumstances but imagine Shahrukh Khan in such a role. He would have cried his heart out and appeared vulnerable, making him endearing. Some movies are better off with such men and Robert Redford is not such a man.

Dedh Ishqiya (India, 2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rooten Tomatoes: 77%]

dedh

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J3fkfUDkx8

A half decent story with a plausible twist makes this one of the early winners of 2014. All the actors are in fine form and the movie has a good pace to it. It is the story of two con men who think they have found their match in a mysterious duo. The good thing with the movie is the crisp writing which serves as a refresher course in chaste Hindi. Definitely worth a watch.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Xk-yTuFEU

Ben Stiller should stick to comedies. His capabilities as a director are evidently limited and this movie is the best proof for it. He is neither funny nor engaging. The movie about a man with a fertile imagination and pretty much only that, is a damp squib. The story meanders along and is a big yawn. The producers could have donated the money to some charity. At least they wouldn’t have to explain to their children their poor decision making abilities.

Documentary Pick of the Week

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

20 Feet from Stardom

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWyUJcA8Zfo

The story of the unsung chorus singers on stage. Nominated for the Oscar this year. Strong contender. Worth a watch.

Terrence Malick Retrospective

Days of Heaven (1978) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Days of Heaven

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZDsMCW0U4

A story of passion, intrigue and treachery set in a farm. Competently acted. Beautifully shot.

The Thin Red Line (1998) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

thin red

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejm0XvT3rB8

The Army as it is. Sudden death, painful superiors and a low life. Dream casting with too many stars to count.

Badlands (1973) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

Badlands-707049238-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKykxE7CBbc

A couple like to kill. A study in psychology.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ because it is going to be the first blockbuster of 2014.

Did you know: The sounds made by the Brachiosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’ were a combination of whale and donkey sounds.

Week 18

Movies: Non- English

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany, 2008) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

Baader Meinhof Complex

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FanVI8-zlsA

Germans are a curious bunch of people. They like things to be planned and dislike uncertainty. How such a society falls prey to radical ideologies is worth pondering about. After the disastrous fling with Nazism, Germans of the post war era have a shot at left wing radicalism. This film tells the true story of the group at the heart of this movement. The film is a copybook study on how idealism goes wrong and leads to bloodshed and crime. It also looks at how movements deviate from their path and ultimately fail. The movie is told at a good pace and the settings look authentic. The performances are nothing to gloat over but it is definitely worth a watch.

Army of Shadows (France, 1969) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

army of s

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

This one charts the story of the French Resistance against the Nazis during the Second World War. France had easily capitulated to the Nazis but that did not stop a group of spirited people from putting up a resistance. This movie does not have supermen or gladiators fighting off the evil but it does have ordinary men doing extraordinary things in a very ordinary style. The story is written by two people who were part of the movement. The movie does not try to excite. It moves at the same pace throughout but as a viewer you are slowly drawn into the lives of the characters. The story is one of loyalty and deception, hope and heartbreak and many other hues. All this adds up to the best French movie on the Second World War. Highly recommended.

English Retrospective

The reason I am changing the name of the section to ‘English Retrospective’ is because some of the finest English movies are made outside USA.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ireland, 2006) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

wind-that-shakes-the-barley

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yvHe_ksnDA

Ken Loach is one of the best film makers alive. This is his masterclass. It is the story of two brothers who take up arms for Ireland against Britain but then find themselves at the opposite ends after the bigger enemy is dealt with. Ireland is one of the political disasters of the 20th century and the British government sowed the seeds of discord among those who fought them in Ireland. The movie is a painful recollection of the events and how successful the British were with their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. It is a formula they later applied with great success in India too. Coming back to the film, it is a movie shot exquisitely and has a great story to tell. It never gets melodramatic but then the despair on the screen is affecting. I would say that it is a must see if you are interested in making any sense of the conundrum in Ireland. No wonder it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

four-weddings-and-a-funeral

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JMuyzm3JRU

If you have seen too many movies on weddings with the same old story, take  a break and watch this one. Genre defining movie with clean humour and too many laugh out loud moments. This is the movie which made a star out of Hugh Grant and is testimony to the power of great writing. The movie deals with the protagonist’s love life over four weddings and a funeral. One of the biggest box office draws of 1994, this film was loved by audiences across the globe. A really good comedy which is my benchmark for wedding movies. Watch out for Rowan Atkinson in his best movie performance.

Fargo (1996) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

fargo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4PmbfG4bw

The Coen Brothers are masters of crime cinema. This is one of their best movies with Frances McDormand in an Oscar winning performance. I haven’t checked who were her competition that year but she would have won hands down any year for her role as the local policewoman trying to find the missing links in a series of crimes that sweep a small town. The movie is about a kidnapping gone wrong and how things spiral out of control leading to disastrous consequences. This one is so astutely made that if you blink you may miss some of the best moments. A real edge of the seat thriller. I just love it.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Great Gatsby (2013) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Great-Gatsby3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaBVLhcHcc0

I have not read the novel which is the source material for the movie and after watching the movie I don’t plan to. One thing I can say for sure is that the film is an early contender for the Oscar for ‘Set Decoration’. Though there are many scenes that have backgrounds that rely too heavily on technology to create the ambiance, the attention to detail is breathtaking. The film has been made with such dedication that every frame is so well thought out and it shows on screen. That is ultimately the failing of the movie because somewhere along the line the movie loses its soul in trying to look spectacular. I have not been a great fan of Baz Luhrmann who has made some below average films like ‘Australia’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’. Here he is let down by the fact that the baby faced  Toby Maguire who is also the narrator of the movie, has a baby voice. Leonardo DiCaprio is not going to win the elusive Oscar for this one but Carey Mulligan is a delight to watch. The Great Gatsby is hailed by some as a classic American novel but then the film makes it look like an average masala novel with a very convenient ending. The film never soars but it is not exactly a disaster either. Sometimes too much publicity is a bad thing.

The Company You Keep (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%]

Company_You_Keep_poster

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

A reporter from a local daily uncovers the identity of a fugitive on the run from FBI for more than three decades. The fugitive was part of a dreaded underground group which violently protested against the Vietnam war. Veterans like Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon add sparkle to this otherwise average film. It is engaging to a point but not exciting enough. The cards are heavily in favour of the fugitive. So things are not difficult to predict. Not a bad movie though. Anna Kendrick is a fine actress but she needs to get out of the role of the office assistant / intern which she seems to always end up with.

Lovelace (2013) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

lovelace

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJY-g-WoQo

Linda Lovelace was the star of the biggest grossing porn film of all time. This film takes you behind the scenes and details the seventeen days that Lovelace spent in the porn industry, gaining her a lifetime of infamy. It is a sympathetic portrayal of a lady exploited by her husband and how she shows the courage to come out of it all. Amanda Seyfried looks the part as the naive young lady. Fit for mature audiences only.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Religulous (2008) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

relig

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

Bill Maher talks to people on religion and God. Funny, revealing and informative.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The World’s End’ because it has some really funny guys.

Did you know: French movies have won the most number of Oscars in the ‘Best Foreign Movie’ category.