Edition 74

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Theeb (Jordan, 2015) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating: 7.5 ]

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Trailer

A young boy cajoles his brother to allow him to be a part of a group traversing a dangerous desert terrain in the middle of World War I. In the process he gets more than what he had bargained for or imagined. Critically acclaimed ‘Theeb’ tells the story of a young boy who has to weather the elements and treacherous humans in a fight for survival. The perilous conditions bring out the best and worst in him; his kindness is juxtaposed with the tribal instincts he displays in the climax. The film is also a commentary on how modernity wrecks established norms and lifestyles. Masterfully directed and visually appealing, ‘Theeb’ is certainly one of the best movies of 2015.

Movies I Saw This Week

Zootopia (2016) [ IMDB: 8.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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Trailer

‘Zootopia’ is a right movie at the right time. Even when it gets self righteous at some points, the movie is a reminder of the dictum ‘Live and Let Live’. It may not be a mere coincidence that at a time when there is unabashed bigotry all around, ‘Zootopia’ virtually name calls all types of bigotry. Thankfully, it also a very entertaining affair. Essentially, ‘Zootopia’ is a story of an underdog breaking the glass ceiling and overcoming odds and prejudices. The action is in a society which is fighting to keeps its pluralism, tolerance and sanity intact. As much as it is a jovial fun ride which can be enjoyed by all age groups, ‘Zootopia’ is probably the most hard hitting social drama to take the form of animation. Must watch.

Kapoor and Sons (2016) [ IMDB:8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes:90% , My Rating:6.0 ]

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Trailer

(Spoilers ahead) Kapoor and Sons is a record of the shouting matches in a dysfunctional family with absolutely zilch to show for its painful duration. There is nothing endearing about any member of the family. With a motley of characters including a foul mouthed uncouth grandfather, a cheating husband, and a dense mother, the film’s speedometer remains on zero for the better half of the proceedings. There is even a sibling who very predictably turns our to be gay. True to producer Karan Johar’s sensibilities, he is the least flawed character in the movie. He wants to help his financially ailing brother. He is a victim of the circumstances because the leading lady chooses to kiss him and not the other way around. He also accidentally discovers his father’s infidelity. He even takes his brother’s idea to write his debut book. After scouting with a magnifying glass, I was not able to find a single redeeming feature in the family. At a certain point during the movie I felt like the plumber in the movie who has to bear the brunt of having been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Kapoor and Sons is a family that I would take extra pains to keep away from if they were real. Fortunately they aren’t.

McFarland, USA (2015) [ IMDB:7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

Everybody likes a story on the triumph of the human spirit. Disney is adept at sugar-coating such themes. Once in a while they run into a story worth spending the sugar on. For all its cliches and predictable turns, there is something about this inspirational sports drama that keeps you interested. Maybe it is the story. Maybe it is the acting. Maybe it is the score. Maybe it is the editing. Maybe it is all that and more.

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016) [ IMDB:6.6 , Rotten Tomatoes:79% , My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

I had not heard of Pee-Wee till I saw this movie. Pee-Wee was a superhit TV character in the 80s. Pee-Wee had a movie in 1985. Thirty one years later, the remarkably youthful lead actor reprises his role in a movie which starts on a promising note but loses steam towards the end. Pee-wee decides to leave his home town for the first time to meet his buddy. The film focuses on the encounters he has on the way. Pee-Wee will certainly delight the kids but it may find it difficult to gain the attention of a mature audience.

Brooklyn (2015) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes:97% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

There is no prize for being a runner-up at the Oscars. Else, Saoirse Ronan would have a Silver Medal to her name for her striking portrayal of an Irish immigrant try to find her footing in Brooklyn in the 20th century. ‘Brooklyn’ is not just about her but also the many characters who fill the movie who make it an absolutely riveting watch. The movie walks into to a list of thoroughly enjoyable and well acted movies made in recent times. Definitely worth your time.

Experimenter (2015) [ IMDB:6.6 , Rotten Tomatoes:89% , My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer

Nowadays if you open a newspaper or website you will find numerous new studies which confirm something one day and the exact opposite the next day. There used to be a time when some studies and experiments were more authentic. They have also stood the test of time. Some of those remarkable experiments were conducted by Stanley Milgram. This movie is about him. More than a movie, it throws light on some issues such as response to authority and peer pressure. It is a very enjoyable movie for those curious on getting insights on human behaviour.

Waffle Street (2015) [ IMDB:6.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet Rated , My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

A wall street guy who loses his job in the 2008 financial meltdown starts working in a waffle chain. Based on a true story, ‘Waffle Street’ draws the contrasts on the two lifestyles on display. One of the lifestyles involves honesty, hardwork, treating your customers with respect, dealing with people who pay their debts back, cooperating with colleagues at work, thinking about the long run etc. Though hampered by some amateurish acting by the protagonist, the rest of the cast puts in an effort which makes the movie worth a watch.

The Dressmaker (2015) [ IMDB:7.2 , Rotten Tomatoes:65% , My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

Kate Winslet returns to her village as a suave and chic dressmaker. She has some accounts to clear and some demons to bury. She also meets her love. The movie does not rise to greatness but it does not flounder even when the subject matter is weak. Largely due to the acting ability of Winslet, the film remains a rather easy one to watch. Recommended.

Bill (2015) [ IMDB:6.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

Yet another movie on Shakespeare but unlike any other because of the screw-ball comedy that it makes of itself. ‘Bill’ largely follows the template of Monty Python movies. The irreverence and confidence are coupled with the thick skin of the film-makers whose half serious attempt at postulating on Shakespeare’s life during his ‘missing years’ makes for engaging viewing. Obviously, the performances or the music or anything other than the screenplay does not matter. If you are in a mood to accept a bumbling Shakespeare in a comedy, this is the movie for you.

Trumbo (2015) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes:80% , My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer

Dalton Trumbo was the writer behind such classic movies such as ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Spartacus’. He was hounded for his communist leanings during the infamous era of McCarthyism. ‘Trumbo’ tells the story of his struggle to overcome the witch hunt against him. His single minded devotion to his work and the high quality of his output were his best responses to the blacklisting by subservient Hollywood studios. The movie also shows the guiding philosophy of Trumbo when he encounters hard times. Bryan Cranston embodies Trumbo and carries the film on his capable shoulders. The movie also gives a glimpse of the back-room shenanigans in Hollywood during the dark age for film making.

Kali (Malayalam, 2016) [ IMDB:7.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not listed , My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer

Dulquer Salman plays a man with a short fuse and a streak of violence in a movie which takes a different turn in the second half. Though he does justice to his part, the same cannot be said of Sai Pallavi whose command of Malayalam is severely lacking. She could have left the dubbing to professionals. Though the tension is palpable in the second half, the climax does not excite. Overall, it is an average flick with nothing substantial to offer.

Documentary of the Week

The Look of Silence (2015) [ IMDB:8.3 , Rotten Tomatoes:97% , My Rating:9.0 ]

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Trailer

The sequel to the much appreciated ‘The Art of Killing’ is as devastating as the original. A man confronts his brother’s killers in a society which condoned the systematic killing. The killers are unapologetic. Or are they?

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Jungle Book’.

Did you know: The credits and title cards of ‘Spotlight’ are set in Miller, the typeface that Boston Globe newspaper uses for most headlines and body copy.

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Week 31

Movies: Non-English

Talk to Her (Spain, 2002) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNdzcTZUW54

One of the most thought provoking movies I have ever seen, ‘Talk to Her’ raises questions about what is right and wrong. This is one of those movies where Pedro Almodavar indulges himself and the effect is that there are many memorable scenes which blend in with a twisted but ultimately provocative story line. The story revolves around two men who care for two women when they are in a comatose state. The film is a little on the heavy side and if you are looking for a light film, this is exactly the movie you shouldn’t be watching. Otherwise, a classic. Two thumbs up.

Offside (Iran,2006) [IMDb: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xF029bEi00

People in many countries don’t realize the liberty and freedom they have. It is when you get to know really strange stuff that you start to appreciate what you have always taken for granted. For example, women in Iran are not allowed entry into sporting events featuring men. How regressive are those notions which make people enforce such laws? In this film by dissident Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, he exposes the duplicity of the state. A few women cross dress to gain access to a soccer match featuring the Iran national team. The film dwells on what happens to them. The thing with Iranian films is that they are made on really tight budgets and do not have the funds to rely on technology to tell the story. So they must have a good story to tell and they need to tell it in an engaging way. This movie is a lesson on those very essential qualities that make a good Iranian movie.

English Retrospective

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) [IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13EUXqIwDkQ

If you have not seen this one, you have not seen anything. Absolutely riveting movie experience enhanced by the assured direction of Sergio Leone and the unforgettable music of Ennio Morricone.  Genre defining Western which has also been beautifully shot. This movie is better than all the high praise you have ever heard for this movie. Watch before you die.

Walk the Line (2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

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

I am not going overboard when I say that this is the best movie on a musician ever made. Here the subject of analysis is Johnny Cash, the legendary singer-songwriter. His music was as peppy as his personal life. Together they made him a powder keg waiting to explode on to the stage. His roller coaster ride as a person and as a musician is explored in this engaging drama. Watch it if you love music; any sort of music.

Into the Wild (2007) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAuzT_x8Ek

Christopher McCandless abandons the world after graduation to seek the thrill of living in the Alaska wild. Based on a non fiction bestseller, this feature by Sean Penn tries to sell the romantic notion of an exotic life free from all worldly pleasures. I have not been really convinced by the idea. My opinion on McCandless is that he was (notice the past tense) an amazingly courageous but incredibly naive person. I recently read an article which says that in his final days he might have accelerated his death by consuming poisonous plants when he was out in the wild. The film is a breeze and conveniently skips the moral questions to give a truly uplifting film which makes it a good one to watch. Reality may be little more grey but I shall raise a toast to the traveler who chose to take the road less traveled.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Kings of Summer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cio8LOCZPzw

Three friends who are fed up of their parents decide to build a home and stay in the wild. The movie is visually vibrant with the colours of nature splashed all over it. It has some hilarious scenes and the pushy parents come out quite good. It is a story of growing up, standing on your own feet and discovering the real self within you. The movie does slow a bit in the middle. My only grouse is that it does not push the envelope. Otherwise, a really good film to watch.

The East (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VZpeoQsQ1w

‘The East’ starts off on a very promising premise. It has a vigilante group taking on big corporations for their wrong doings. A private spy is sent in to infiltrate the group and through her we learn more about the reasons for the existence of the group. There are some standout moments, like the dinner scene with hands of the diners tied. The movie could have been much better but at the precise moment when the choice was to go and soar or find the easy escape route, the writers choose the latter. Still, I recommend this flick as a one time watch.

The Sapphires (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2Ty4r6mvgg

I discovered this movie by accident and I have no idea why this is not a more widely seen and discussed movie. This one has a very good story to tell and it is told in a way which justifies that story. In this film based on actual events, four Australian aboriginal girls form a music group and get a chance to entertain US troops fighting in Vietnam. They are aided by a quirky and knowledgeable manager. The movie tells their story without forgetting the deep political undertones and simmering racial tensions. Definitely worth a watch.

Krrish 3 (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCCVVgtI5xU

I love writing about mainstream Hindi movies. I can have a good laugh and think of new ways to pan movies and the best thing is that Bollywood always gives enough material for this. Here we have a villain who shows his class by stealing ice cream from cones. The superhero is facing a job crisis because he cannot find enough time for his job after saving the world. Does ‘Spiderman 2’ ring a bell? The father and son go to work and save the world on a daily basis while the daughter in law reads news they create. The father speaks like he never grew up even when articulating grandiose plans to improve the lot of humankind. There are less raindrops falling in Cherrapunji than there are loopholes in this film. I almost forgot to mention that the superhero loves kids. I have only one thing to say ‘Thank You Shaktimaan’. No comments for Vivek Oberoi as the main villain. Like his ice cream stealing counterpart, he is also food obsessed. How else could he get the knife from the bread to slash his dad? I am also fed up.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Sicko (2007) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TohajYzut7Y

A damning indictment of the US medical system. Michael Moore style. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for:’Oldboy’ because the original was too good.

Did you know: Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco at the peak of her career and bid adieu to acting.