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

Trailer:

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]

rosewater

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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Trailer:

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]

TOP-FIVE-POSTER-570

Trailer:

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]

Hunterrr

Trailer:

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]

cobbler-540365l

Trailer:

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]

Spring

Trailer:

‘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]

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Trailer:

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]

Ambassador_Poster_Web

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.

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Week 35

Movies: Non-English

Rashomon (Japan, 1950) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

rashomon1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCZ9TguVOIA

A work of genius from Akira Kurosawa, this piece of art remains essential viewing for anyone interested in knowing anything about cinema. The story has many characters recalling the same event and the different interpretations that they give depending on who is narrating. Enough paens have been sung about the movie and any high praise is worth it. Watch it to find out why.

Even the Rain (Spain, Mexico, 2010) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Even-the-Rain-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFozF1ATuBU

A group of people filming a documentary get entangled with the problem of drinking water privatization in the region they are filming. The film is an allegory comparing the neo-liberals to the colonizers in a not so subtle manner. In the process they revive some of the heroes of yore and make a strong political statement. As usual, Gael Garcia Bernal steals the show. Worth a watch.

English Retrospective

Driving Miss Daisy (1989) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

driving

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ3wXC5jqKE

The story of an African American chauffeur and his Jewish patron. I am not a huge fan of the film and I don’t think it deserves 4 Academy awards but the competition was mediocre. Also, the Academy likes to think that it is at the vanguard of the fight for social justice. It may also be that I may have my own prejudices on the condescending manner in which the film moves. Please watch and disagree with me.

Ordinary People (1980) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

ordina

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZYHe8IAlto

The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son (From IMDB). Robert Redford‘s directorial debut won 4 Academy awards including ‘Best Picture’ in an upset. ‘Ordinary People’ is a good film but nowhere close to ‘Raging Bull’ over which it triumphed at the Oscar. The bigger snub was for Martin Scorsese who lost out to Robert Redford in the director category. Only people who like depressing family dramas over classy biopics would have voted for ‘Ordinary People’.

In the Heat of the Night (1967) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

IN_THE_HEAT_OF_THE_NIGHT_DVD_HIRES[1]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11QFgfddrec

Sidney Poitier was the first African American to win the Oscar for the ‘Best Actor’. ‘In the Heat of the Night’ is one of his finest performances. He plays a cop trying to solve a murder mystery in a town not particularly well-disposed towards black men. The thrill in the movie is as much a result of the murder investigation as it is due to the racial relations tensions involved. I often feel sad for Sidney Poitier. He is one actor who has been roundly abused on screen for his skin colour on many occasions, even when he comes across as a perfect gentleman.

Movies I Saw This Week

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

alan partridge

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

For once, I agree to the blurb. It is indeed the comedy of the year. A radio jockey who has only one interest and that is self-interest, gets involved in a hostage crisis when one of his disgruntled colleagues takes over the radio station. The movie has some clever writing and many well written lines blend in with the scenes. To add to this, not one character seems to be in a normal mental state. The concoction of a self centred man, a madman and few nutcases makes this film a pleasure to watch. Highly recommended.

2 Guns (2013) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

2 guns

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVNe3RK2fgI

Two undercover operatives run into each other and form an unlikely partnership to save themselves from quick death. The film tries too hard to be stylish and forgets that there is only so much that style can do. It is a reminder of what Denzel Washington has become. Mediocre.

Scenic Route (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

Scenic

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb7Hrtwzwjs

The friendship of two friends are tested to the limit and beyond when they are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Could have been much better. Could have been much worse. In the end it settles for the ordinary. The acting is good though.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Tillman Story (2010) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

tillman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad2WOOOojyg

Pat Tillman joins the US Army when he could have easily settled for a cosy life with his million dollar contract as a football player. He gets killed in ‘friendly fire’ and the ever lying Bush administration tries to twist the story to suit its needs. Tillman’s family fights back. They are ignored, then they are ridiculed and then they win.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ because I will see all the movies in which Tom Hanks appears even for a second.

Did you know: Launched in 2004, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is the oldest film festival in the Gulf region. This blog is also being published from Dubai today.

Week 4

Movies –  Non-English
The Motorcycle Diaries (Argentina, 2004) [ IMDB:7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91% ] 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6jz_b80V5g

The true story of the road trip that Che Guevara took before he became a revolutionary. The film shows the deep empathy Che had for people and his dedication towards helping to improve the lot of the people. Absolutely memorable scenes without getting preachy. The standout scenes include the one in which a migrant labourer asks Che why he travels. In another scene when Che raises a toast and says that all of Latin America is one, you are willing to believe it. Watch this entertaining movie to know how the world changed Che before he changed the world. .

Children of Heaven (Iran, 1997) [ IMDB: 8.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94% ]

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

Do you believe in innocence? Have you ever tried finishing second or third in a race because that is what your sister wanted? Do you believe that movies can be magical without special effects? Get introduced to Iranian cinema through this masterpiece which will leave you spellbound. A very simple story of a brother who loses his sister’s shoes but promises to get her a new pair, told in the most interesting manner. If only Hollywood kids could act like the ‘stars’ of this film.

The Battle of Algiers (Algeria, 1966) [ IMDB: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% ]Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca3M2feqJk8

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If there is one movie which you should watch before you die, this is the one. Though made in 1966, I can vouch that the film will be as edge of seat stuff as it is now, even in 2066.The movie was banned in France as it chronicles the Algerian struggle for Independence from France. The film was influential to the extent that some very famous directors like Mira Nair have called it the biggest influence in their film making. You will be mesmerized. So, watch before you die.

Hollywood Retrospective
Amadeus (1984) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]
ama

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIzhAKtEzY0

The incredible story of Mozart, this movie is a not very well known in spite of winning 8 Oscars. The opera parts do get a little tedious but Murray Abraham’s portrayal of  Mozart’s competitor Salieri is certainly one of the best acting performances in movie history. The movie begs the eternal question. Are some people born geniuses. On the evidence of it, they are.

This is Spinal Tap (1984) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]

spinal

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFl7Cq2fvqI

Rob Reiner’s mock documentary (may be a new genre) which rips apart the rock scene and the artists who are drowned in self importance. A must watch for any music fan. Never has the rock scene been exposed before and never will any movie have the audacity and creativity to do what this movie did. ‘Puppet Show and Spinal Tap’. A line you will never forget.
Movies I Saw This Week

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada, 2011) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97% ]

lazhar

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjNCkxnT-xE

From IMDB: At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom. While helping his students deal with their grief, his own recent loss is revealed.

Definitely worth a watch.

Here Comes the Boom (2012) [ IMDB: 6.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 69% ]

Here-Comes-the-Boom-Soundtrack

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4L6ruTF5qE

From IMDB: A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school.

The only good thing is that the movie has its heart in the right place. Could have been much better.

Ingenious (2009) [IMDB: 5.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]

ing

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

From IMDB: A rags-to-riches story of two friends, a small-time inventor and a sharky salesman, who hit rock bottom before coming up with a gizmo that becomes a worldwide phenomenon.

Well, in case you are wondering what the above mentioned gizmo is, it is the talking beer opener, which is the third largest selling novelty product of all time. I would not recommend the movie. Open your beer and watch something else.

Documentary pick of the week

Senna (2010) [ IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDbyILj7o-w

Chronicles the life and times of Ayrton Senna, who died a legend in racing when he was just 34. One of the best documentaries ever.

Eagerly waiting for : ‘Venus in Fur’ because Roman Polanski never disappoints.

Did you know: Tamil Nadu remains the only place in the world where the Chief Ministers were from the field of cinema for most of the last 45 years.