Edition 94

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Burning (South Korea, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Burning’ does not hit the viewer hard for about three-fourth of its duration. It is only after viewing the entire film that the finer points of the plot fall into place. Inconsequential scenes make sense and random dialogues fit in a jigsaw puzzle which looks different even after assembly based on the perspective of the viewer. The director uses metaphors abundantly while holding a mirror to contemporary Korean society. This mystery thriller tells the story of three youngsters who are acquaintances but share something far more than what is apparent. If you do watch this memorable movie, try to read up on it. The various interpretations by viewers of the scenes make for some interesting reading. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey, 2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

From the director of ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ (a favourite of mine) and ‘Winter Sleep’ comes this three hour long movie of a young graduate trying to understand his role in the Turkish society while discovering himself. The movie is told through a series of long conversations with friends, family, strangers and a particularly acerbic yet incisive writer. The conversations reveal more about the protagonist and the people in the countryside of Turkey. Definitely worth three hours of your life.


Shoplifters (Japan, 2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Enigmatic and filled with surprises, ‘Shoplifters’ is a modern Japanese classic which showcases the craft and control of its director. A family’s life changes when they take in a small girl into their setup where they themselves thrive on stealing from shops and supermarkets. The director is successful in manipulating the viewers’ emotional response as the film progresses. The actors emote with perfection and the roving camera is a silent observer when the chickens come home to roost. Highly recommended.

Capernaum (Lebanon, 2018) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]


Acclaimed Lebanese director Nadine Labaki literally drags the viewer through the streets of Beirut in this movie about a young boy too sincere for his own good and yet corrupted by the environment. The clear triumph of Mrs Labaki is her ability to extract some phenomenal acting performances from the characters especially the protagonist. Poverty, refugee problems and parental responsibilities are dealt with in this movie which does tend to get a bit out of hand in the latter half. For all the good cinema on show, I had this nagging feeling that this could have been a much better movie with a better climax had more thought gone into the screenplay.


Border (Sweden, 2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.0]

Featuring what some call as the weirdest sex scene in cinema history, ‘Border’ offers a strange and compelling story about people on the fringes of the society. A lady border guard whose USP is her sensational sense of smell finds the reasons for her awkwardness and the dark history of eugenics in Sweden. The movie is, as all good movie must be, a director’s show. A special mention for the makeup department for transforming the actors who do not look anything like their real life personalities.


Instant Family (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.0]


A light-hearted comedy which plays it by the book and still keeps the viewer engaged enough to care about the proceedings on screen. Based on the life of the scriptwriter, the movie tells the tale of a couple who look for adopting a child and end up with three. Rose Byrne pulls off a heart warming performance as a mother trying to understand her new children. There are no twists in the tale but there are some genuinely funny moments. Hope Hollywood can make more of the same.


On the Basis of Sex (2018) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]

There are two or three cracking dialogues in this movie. One is when a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg is asked by her dean on why she chose to study law when a man could have had her seat at the Harvard Law School. This biopic on the Supreme Court judge looks at the making of a legal eagle and her family life. While successful in depicting the entrenched misogynistic attitudes of her times, the movie has glaringly obvious ideas on how to also show the times. The number of times the characters smoke on screen must be some sort of a record for the amount of fumes on display. Maybe the director just wanted to drive home the point that smoking in public was a normal thing those days. Felicity Jones performs with earnestness as RBG but if you want to know the judge better, watch the documentary RBG. The documentary is better than the movie.

The Mule (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%, My Rating: 5.5]

Good old Clint Eastwood returns to direct and act in a drama on a real life drug carrier who was the oldest in the world in that trade. How do we know? He was caught by the law enforcement and a reporter wrote a long article on it. Then Eastwood decided that this is what he was going to make a movie on. Notable more for the lack of drama and a sure sign that Clint Eastwood must be talking to chairs ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=933hKyKNPFQ ) nowadays, ‘The Mule’ is for large parts boring. For the remaining parts, you are left wondering: why was this movie made?


Holmes & Watson (2018) [IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 2.5]

Will Ferrell was once funny. Once as in, ‘once upon a time’ and not just one time. Now like the tagline of his movie ‘They Don’t Have a Clue’, he seems to have lost it, completely. Inane, idiotic and unfunny are the words that come to mind when ‘Holmes & Watson’ is mentioned. This movie is the opposite of comedy. Dreamt up by people who bring a bad name to slapstick humour and filled with feeble attempts to write funny situations, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of the Greek economy. Nothing can salvage it. I hear that medical marijuana has been made legal in many US states. Probably the writer and director had some medical condition.

Documentary of the Week

Leaving Neverland (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

A damning documentary on Michael Jackson in the words of his accusers. Those words carry much weight. Not for the weak of heart. Not for the worshipers of Michael Jackson. For those who seek the truth.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’

Did you know: Clint Eastwood, is an anagram for ‘old west action’

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Edition 56

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Goodbye First Love (France, 2011) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My rating: 6/10]

Goodbye First Love

This film which had a good run at the festival circuits, is an intimate observation of adolescence and the youthful passion associated with being in love for the first time. Camille and Sullivan fall in love as if they were made for each other. Then Sullivan decides to go on a trip, only to return after eight years. Camille meanwhile has been through an emotionally turbulent period. Will their once indestructible and fervent love stand the test of time? The film is an exploration of how maturity brings change in the thoughts and actions of people. Beautifully shot and competently acted, this film is not a classic by any stretch of imagination but is certainly worth a look.

Movies I Saw This Week

Boyhood (2014)  [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My rating: 9/10]

Boyhood

Trailer:

A first in the history of cinema, this movie delves into the life of Mason at the age of 5 and follows him till age 18. That would be a normal thing in film making but the filmmakers do the incredible by shooting with the same boy over a course of 12 years. Ellar Coltrane who plays Mason quite literally grows as the movie progresses. Richard Linklater, best known for the ‘Before sunrise/sunset/midnight’ series of movies also ropes in actors who stay committed to the project over such a long course of time. The movie is a coming off age tale and at the risk of sounding overenthusiastic, I can say that there was and never will be such a story. The best part is that the there is a seamlessness about the acting. It feels as if a real life is unfolding in front of you. Kudos to the producers for staying invested in the movie for such a long period. The risks were too many. Certainly one of the best movies of the year and a piece of cinema history to boot.

The Theory of Everything (2014) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes:84% My rating: 7/10]

Theory_of_Everything

Trailer:

Based on the memoirs of Stephen Hawking’s first wife, the film tells the renowned physicist’s battle with life as he ascends into the pantheon of intellectual greats. At its heart, it is a personal story in which the science part comes into play intermittently. The standout feature is the dramatic performance from Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen Hawking. Critics have already started comparisons with Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in ‘My Left Foot’, some even calling it as ‘My Left Brain’. All this augurs well for Redmayne who can count an Oscar nomination as a given. The film though is mostly told from the viewpoint of Jane, his wife and at times feels like a long explanation for her leaving Mr. Hawking. Quite obviously, she did not sign up to be his partner for life and would have been driven by emotional considerations when she thought of providing solace to a young man staring at imminent death. The film only scratches the surface when it comes to the science and is clearly targeted at the masses. To its credit, it must be said that the film is shot well and is successful in capturing the persona of the genius and the times he lived in.

Predestination (2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Predestination (2014)

Trailer:

Adding to the never ending list of time travel movies, ‘Predestination’ is a new variant in this sub category. On his last mission, a special agent wants to save the world from a violent person . He goes back in time a few times to achieve his task. If only life was that simple or shall we say, only that complex. Frankly, it took me some time to figure out what the scenarists were trying to say and once you get the gist of it, it becomes more or less a film on bending the rules of biology to fight crime. How about the daughter, mother and father being the same person? Will an agent choose self preservation over saving other’s lives? If you like movies which have a lot of knots (some of them beautiful to look at) and want to attempt untying them, this is the movie for you.

The Babadook (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

babadook

Trailer: 

An out and out horror movie which is one of the better ones I have seen in a long time. Unlike some of the pseudo horror movies in recent times, ‘Babadook’ does have some really edge of the seat stuff. A mother still recovering from the tragic death of her husband has a troublesome kid to deal with. Already in a depressed state, her life hurtles towards complete annihilation when a devious cartoon character enters her life. All hell breaks loose and then it is a fight to death as she and her son turn enemies and allies in the fight against evil. Often relying on the standard stunts of horror movies, it is the treatment and the sheer force of what is on screen that makes the movie stand apart. If you like horror, this one is for you.

Magic in the Moonlight (2014) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%, My Rating: 6/10]

Magic in the Moonlight

Trailer:

Coming from the master Woody Allen, this film relies on magic and conjuring to tell its story. Unlike many of his previous screenplays, the magic is sorely lacking on screen. A world renowned illusionist is summoned by a friend to help solve the mystery of a lady who can make fancy statements about a person’s past with an all knowing look. Devoid of much logic and giving the feel of a theatre piece, the film lacks the wit that once used to be a hallmark of Woody Allen. The film also has shades on his earlier work ‘The Curse of Jade Scorpion’ and is similar in the quality too. The only plus in this half hearted attempt is the scenic beauty of the French terrain.

Happy Ending (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%, My Rating:1/10]

Happy-Ending

Trailer:

Saif Ali Khan continues his wonderful run of films with this one. Continuing on his contribution to cinema in the last two years in the form of ‘Humshakals’, ‘Race 2′, Bullett Raja’, ‘Agent Vinod’ et al, this one is a film for which he will have a lot of explaining to do when he meets his maker. An author who is a one book wonder has a writer’s block and hasn’t published a book in a very long time. He is roped in to write the screenplay (why? god knows) for a superstar’s new film which aims to capture the hearts of all sections of the audience. I fervently wished that this track involving Govinda would bloom and prosper because that was the only hope of redemption in a movie which otherwise has no idea what it is doing. It seems that the following day’s script for shooting was written on the night of the previous day. I genuinely wish that the script writer’s should have stuck to the advice the character of Govinda gives in the movie. It would have been less painful if they just took DVDs of Hollywood movies and mixed them up. That concoction would be palatable and not as deadly as this ‘original’ work.

Ungli (India,2014) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 3/10]

Ungli-2014

Trailer:

Coming from the director of the severely flawed ‘Kurbaan’ who also penned the screenplay for ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Ungli’ literally shows the finger (ungli) to the audience. After making a mess with Kurbaan, the director hopes that his tried and tested formula of vigilante justice will see him through. What comes out is a series of fantastical ideas and leave-your-brain-at-home events. The good cop-bad cop routine is also played out in the most stereotypical way possible. The movie is essentially a call to arms and tries to be a voice against the injustice that some of the cast members are subjected to. As for the acting, the only one doing any justice to his role is Randeep Hooda. Sanjay Dutt who also had the time and opportunity to study the behavior of cops in real life, also tries his two bits.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Helvetica (2007) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My rating: 7.5]

Helvetica

Trailer:

The story of ‘Helvetica’ font and the tremendous influence it has had. Also, a study of the art and craft of graphic design. Interesting for the interested.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Spectre’ because 007.

Did you know: The alien language used in ‘District 9’ was created by rubbing pumpkins.