Edition 64

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Liberator (Venezuela, 2014) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Liberator_movie_poster,_United_States

Trailer:

Simon Bolivar led Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, Venezuela and Peru to independence by taking on the might of the Spanish empire. His life and times are captured in this Venezuelan movie set in early 19th century. Though not exactly a classic piece of cinema, the film sheds light on the events that shaped the liberator’s life. Even when oozing with adulation for the protagonist, the movie tries to draw a neat picture of what the great statesman was able to achieve. The trouble with the movie is that in its effort to make things palatable it does away with some of the complexities. Nevertheless, the movie is a good introduction to Latin America for those who are interested in knowing a little more about it.

Movies I Saw This Week

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Trailer:

Practically reinventing the vampire genre, the movie is one of the best I have seen in 2015. Clearly targeted at a niche audience, it is a movie which brings humour to a story involving vampires. Made as a mockumentary, the film delves into the lives of a group of vampires who share the same house. Focusing on the difficulties that the vampires face in their daily lives and the petty politics that they have to deal with, the film is as unconventional as it gets. If ‘Let the Right One In’ reinvented horror in the vampire genre, this movie introduces genuine humour into the genre. Highly recommended.

Kill the Messenger (2014) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating: 7/10]

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Trailer:

Gary Webb was a journalist who wrote about the possibility of a nexus between CIA and drug cartels. (Spoilers ahead) Shortly afterwards, he was fired from his job and he couldn’t ever find work as a journalist. Finally he committed suicide. This movie traces the work of Gary Webb. Jeremy Renner does justice to the fallen journalist in a very complex role. Some of the mainstream newspapers have vehemently contested the stories published by Gary Webb branding them as inaccurate. More than solving anything, that only adds to the aura of a person who fought the establishment. This movie is not a comfortable one to watch but there is a reason why it has been made. Recommended.

Mr. Turner (2014) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.5]

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Trailer:

Four time Cannes winner and seven time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh’s latest is a sweeping biography of the eccentric painter J.M.W. Turner. Timothy Spall won the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his magnificent performance but was snubbed without even a nomination at the Oscars. All the awards hoopla aside, this is a gem of a movie with an accomplished performance from Timothy Spall. He went to the extent of studying how to paint for two years before he essayed this role. Another high point of the movie is the cinematography. The visuals are stunning and in some of the scenes the beauty on screen is something to behold. The movie is a tad slow for mainstream audiences.

The Wedding Ringer (2015) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating: 6.5]

Wedding Ringer

Trailer:

A socially awkward man who has no friends goes on to hire an agent who can arrange best men for his wedding. If you can accept the lame premise of the movie and drop your standards, there are enough moments to give you a chuckle, if not a laugh. The movie is clearly a Hollywood assembly line production. So if you want to watch a movie when you nothing much to do, this is not a bad option.

Mortdecai (2015) [IMDB: 5.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%, My Rating: 3/10]

Mortdecai

Trailer:

Nothing succeeds like success. Sometimes the success is detrimental to your future. Johhny Depp was wildly successful as Captain Jack Sparrow and has been trying to unshackle that image ever since. So far, he has been unsuccessful and ventures like this one are not going to help his cause. With a title which is difficult to pronounce (it is pronounced as ‘mor-dekai’) and a story which is difficult to digest, this is a movie the audiences didn’t care to see. For those interested in the plot, imagine an art dealer, Russians, British, terrorists, a wife and fake accents. Mix them up.

Good Kill (2014) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes:8%, My Rating:6.5/10]

Good Kill

Trailer:

Ethan Hawke stars as a drone pilot who finds himself at odds with the work assigned to him. It is a movie about moral dilemma and how to address the feeling of guilt. Nothing extraordinary happens on the screen and nothing terrible happens on the screen. An average movie that is happy in its mediocrity.

Taken 3 (2015) [IMDB:6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 9%, My Rating: 2/10]

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Trailer:

The angry middle aged man Liam Neeson returns to another installment of a phenomenally successful  franchise. He is accused of a murder he has not committed. Obviously, he has to absolve himself and you know that he will. You can sleep and get up five minutes before the end. You won’t miss anything. In fact, sleeping would be a better way of using your time.

Documentary of the Week

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8/10]

Internet's Own Boy

Trailer:

Aaron Swartz committed suicide at the age of 26. He was the co-founder of Reddit and one of the developers of RSS. He stood up for freedom on the internet and he was pursued by the authorities. His story.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Water Diviner’ with Russel Crowe on the Battle of Gallipoli.

Did you know: ‘Titanic’ holds the record for consecutive weeks at the top of US Box office (15) but E.T. beats it by one in total weeks at Number One.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 32

Movies: Non-English

The Cranes are Flying (Russia, 1957) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGsXmwPj0TA

This Russian classic is set during the Second World War. A young girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love when her lover is away in the battlefield. The most outstanding feature of the movie is the universally acclaimed cinematography. Some of the scenes have been shot so magnificently that they can be used to teach cinematography. Unlike many contemporary movies where beautiful images are confused for good cinematography, here the camera moves to create the right mood for the story. The story is not exceptional but holds your attention even after half a century. In addition to this some competent acting also helped the movie clinch the Palme D’or at Cannes. Must see if you want to know anything about Russian cinema.

The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, 1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Wind_Will_Carry_Us_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsS3sXwwwNo

An engineer moves into a rural community and it changes his outlook towards life and people. This Iranian tour de force is a reminder that Iran always punches above its weight in the world of cinema with a handful of exceptionally talented filmmakers. The film is a bit slow but like the Turkish film ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ reviewed a few weeks ago, it is not the story that matters but the setting. The landscapes are haunting and there is a wild beauty about them. For folks from the cities it is a reminder that time stands still in many places and in those places people take life as it comes.

English Retrospective

The Constant Gardener (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

constant gardener

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYXYzzng3Fo

A man tries to find out the reason for his wife’s murder and discovers more than what he had bargained for, in this film set in Africa. Ralph Fiennes brings his trademark intensity to his role as a man harrowed by guilt and searching for answers; in equal measure. The showstopper though, is the performance by Rachel Weisz who should be doing more of these kind of roles. She has a magnetic presence and  almost carries the whole film on her shoulders. Watch this deadly concoction of politics, espionage and corporate greed.

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

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2GKVtWsXKY

One of my friends once told me that the scenes of drug abuse in ‘Trainspotting’ could only be shot by someone who has experienced it himself. I don’t know whether Danny Boyle has ‘experience’ in this category but in the process he made arguably his finest movie in ‘Trainspotting’. The protagonist and his friends are habitual drug abusers in this story set in Scotland. He wants to get out of it all and make a decent living. Ewan McGregor, a regular with Danny Boyle, is in top form and his accent and and acting are pitch perfect.It is a story about friendship and group behaviour. For all its smugness and style, the movie is a psychological study of how certain characters behave under special circumstances. Must watch.

Big Fish (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

big fish

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3YVTgTl-F0

I would love to see a movie made by Tim Burton which has a story fully set in the real world. ‘Big Fish’ suffers from Burton’s tendency to go overboard when simplicity could have helped his cause. The film’s story has a man trying to recollect his father’s life through a series of anecdotes. The colourful man that his father was, there are too many things that don’t fit in the puzzle. The movie is quite good but is not helped by some uninspired acting. Like most of Burton’s movies, it leaves a feeling of having missed the woods for the trees.

Movies I Saw This Week

42 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

42

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9RHqdZDCF0

This film is based on the life of the first ever African-American Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson. I did not know about this true legend earlier. He was an icon of the civil rights movement and an inspiration for many. His on field behaviour was impeccable. His off field life was exceptional. The movie may not have done justice to him because it would be so difficult to capture the life of such an extraordinary man in a single film. Other wise it is a very good film to watch and one of the better ones to have come out in 2013. The deep divides in the US society during his period are exposed and it is on watching such movies that we realize how far we have come from those days of inequality. I literally had tears by the time the end credits started rolling. The movies ticks every cliche for a sports movie but then inspiration is a cliche I love.

Prisoners (2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpXfcTF6iVk

I have only two complaints against ‘Prisoners’. One, that it is painfully slow. Second, that no matter what, everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and this dictum does not justify some horrible torture scenes in the movie. These apart, the movie is one of the best to have come out in 2013. The most remarkable thing is the high quality performances put in by every single person on screen. Hugh Jackman offers a new side to his acting as the charged up American who sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the shower. Maria Bello as his wife is outstanding. I wonder how she acts with such composure when they say ‘action’. Paul Dano is an exceptional talent and his choice of movies shows that he has the right priorities. Overall, an engrossing film to watch.

Ramleela (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StphRCLkx6Q

Imagine Sanjay Leela Bhansali in the black and white era. What would he be telling? Nothing, because without colour his movies mean nothing. After a string of flops he returns to Gujarat which had earlier saved him with ‘Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam’. He even dons the hat of the music director for RamLeela. I suggest that the next time he leave it to someone who knows the trade. Since finding new stories is tough for Indian film makers, Bhansali also relies on ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Now no one call that a bad story. Bhansali sets it in Gujarat and it is easily understandable that the movie is shot in a set than in Gujarat. The story is set in a village where people shoot at children for the fun of it. Seriously, not funny. The major selling point of the movie is that the hero bares his torso. Maybe the women like it because I thought that Deepika Padukone looked stunning. The end is a disgrace to Shakespeare. (Spoilers ahead) Lovers kissing with guns pointed at each other? Are you kidding? Put them aside. Finish the kiss and then shoot each other. Take your own time. Shakespeare must have turned in his grave.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Island President (2011) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

island pres

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

Mohammad ‘anni’ Nasheed came to power in Maldives in its first open election is 2008 dethroning Gayoom who ruled for 30 years prior to that. He recognized that the very existence of his nation would be in peril if measures to control global warming were not taken. The documentary captures his efforts in that direction. The unrestrained access that the filmmakers got gives a peek into the behind the scenes deliberations at government level. The setting is Maldives. So the images are beautiful. Too bad that Mr. Nasheed lost the reelection bid in 2013.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Frozen’ because animation needs to wake up from the hibernation mode.

Did you know: The Golden Globes are awarded by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.