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]

final2.indd

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]

kill_the_messenger_ver2_xlg

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]

mr_turner_ver3_xlg

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]

taken 3

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 51

Movies: Non-English

As It Is in Heaven (Sweden, 2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

As It Is in Heaven

Trailer: 

This heartwarming Swedish drama which has music that is entertaining and uplifting is one of the best feelgood movies you will ever see. An internationally renowned conductor returns to his small town in Sweden where he discovers hidden musical talents and realizes the life he had missed. Though the film is another one of those which contrasts the hustle and bustle of the city life with the relaxed pace of life in the village, it is a movie where the sincerity of the intentions overcomes the little rough edges in the screenplay. The acting is uniformly magnificent. Highly recommended.

No One Knows About Persian Cats (Iran,2009) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

noo

Trailer: 

In a country where playing music of the Western variety is banned and where freedom of expression is an alien concept, it is remarkable how Iranian film makers consistently come out with small gems polished by their passion for speaking out against an oppressive regime. In this winner at Cannes, the director follows the story of a group which wants to make rock music. As if this wasn’t enough to land the group in trouble, they go about recruiting new members to their band and also try to arrange for visas so that they can perform in London. For the umpteenth time I would like to reiterate that it does not require too much money to make a good movie as this one shows. Also, a very good film to watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Filth (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

Filth

Trailer: 

Coming from the writer of ‘Trainspotting’, this one was sure to have a dose of drugs. Here James McAvoy is a messed up corrupt cop who is having a difficult relationship with his wife and kid. He also has a drug problem and is involved in a case where he has tied himself in knots. With all this happening around him, he also want to have a career progression and he thinks that one of the ways of ensuring that is to play his rivals against each other. As he spirals out of control and loses touch with sanity, the key question is whether he will be able to hold on till he sees out the storm. James McAvoy is the cop in this very engaging story of deception and drugs which fully exploits the huge talent of McAvoy. At times too gloomy and at times a little slow, the film compensates for its flaws with a story which keeps you guessing till the very end. A very good watch.

Time Pass (Marathi, India, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

Time Pass

Recommended by a brother to me, this Marathi hit is a simple tale of two ordinary adolescents who fall in love. The good for nothing Dagdu falls head over heels in love with a girl who is the daughter of a disciplinarian father. The movie is about how they overcome the barriers and break the boundaries in pursuit of their relationship. Just as the movie starts with the caption of there being nothing like first love, it prepares you for the eventual end which is pretty open and hints at a possible sequel in the near future. More than the main story line, it is the presence of the fringe supporting characters who add to the quality of the film. In fact, the best lines are delivered by the supporting cast and they are the ones to tickle the funny bones. It is also because that the characters look very rooted to the people you will meet in the street that the film is an easy watch. A nice one time watch.

Bewakoofiyaan (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 25%]

Bewakoofiyaan_Poster

Trailer: 

I think the producer’s biography could have the same title as the that of the movie. I could not understand the reason for the existence of the film. It has a story that goes nowhere, songs that make you run out of the theatre and a hero who is better at singing those songs than in acting. The protagonist is in love with a lady who is the daughter of an IAS officer. She also loves him back but her dad is against the relationship and wants to make sure that the guy is the right one for her. Sounds familiar? If familiarity breeds contempt, the director ‘complicates’ things by referencing the mass sacking of its employees by Jet Airways a few years ago and make sure that the protagonist is jobless. (Spoilers ahead) The next thing you know, the protagonist is serving at the counter of an eatery where he suitably and conveniently gets insulted by the girl’s father. More of such shenanigans and then suddenly the sky clears up. Well, you cannot blame the director for not giving you a happy ending. What a bore.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Vanishing of the Bees (2009) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 65%]

Vanishing of the Bees

Trailer:

A study of the reasons behind the decline of the honeybee population around the world which also traces the consequences of the same. Not a great documentary but worth a watch.

The : D Retrospective

Stepmom (1998) [ImDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Stepmom

Trailer: 

Julia Roberts is the lady love of a man who has kids. The mother of the kids is a terminally ill patient (played by Susan Sarandon). Both the women must reconcile their differences and find a way forward to make it less painful for both of them. The film is a drama that does not have a great story to tell. It is solely driven by the great performances of the leading ladies that brings them to the foreground and pretty much makes everything else immaterial. Watch it for them.

Shallow Hal (2001) [IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Shallow Hal

Trailer: 

A man falls in love with a woman because of her ‘inner beauty’. This film focuses on a basic question. Whether love is constrained by physical appearance and whether two people can be happy even if they have dissimilar body shapes? Well, the film does not get that philosophical and has some good laughs to offer. The casting is a little inspired. Paltrow and Black in a reversal of their real life personas. Worth a watch.

Reversal of Fortune (1990) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Reversal of Fortune

Trailer: 

A legal thriller that tries to distinguish between what is morally wrong and what is legally punishable. Jeremy Irons is on trial for the death of his wife. There are two sides to the story and both the sides don’t give conclusive answers to moral questions. A taut engaging screenplay tries to give the answers and the legal process is as riveting as it has ever been presented on the big screen. Watch for some superlative acting and a very engaging story that keeps you interested till the very end.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Railway Man’ starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. 

Did you know: Pierce Brosnan was contractually forbidden from wearing a full tuxedo in any non-James Bond movie from 1995-2002.

Week 45

Movies: Non-English

The Tin Drum (Germany, 1979) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

tindrum

Trailer: 

Based on the monumental novel by Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, ‘Tin Drum’ tells the story of a boy who ‘decides’ that he does not need to grow up physically even when he is mentally very much a grown up. It is is his way of lodging protest against the behaviour of people during the Second World War.  Just like the novel, the film does not hold back in the use of metaphors. It hits out at the all accepting passive nature of the German society when surrounded by the tyranny of the Nazis. The protagonist has a tin drum which is his constant companion which he uses to drum up support for anti Nazis and give a wake up call to those in deep denial about the Nazis. The film does not cover the whole novel and ends before the ending in the novel. That was the case with the film adapatation of ‘The English Patient’ too. I guess the film makers resort to this to keep the optimistic ending. The performances in ‘Tin Drum’ are quite good but I believe that its Oscar triumph was very much due to political factors; it was after all an anti Nazi film from West Germany released at the height of the Cold War. Still, the movie is worth a watch.

Amour (France, Germany, Austria, 2012) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

amour

Trailer: 

Some movies ooze elegance and class. This is one such movie about an old couple who are deeply in love and lead lives where they take one another to be permanent fixtures in a routine life. It is when the wife suffers from a stroke that the strength of their relationship is put to the stress test. The film swept all the major awards and was a hit in the festival circuit. The performances don’t involve anything extraordinary but the poise with which the ordinary is acted out requires special mention. Early into the film, it is easy to realize that something special is happening on screen. A must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Out of the Furnace (2013) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%]

Out of the Furnace

Trailer: 

Another movie on vigilante justice when the citizen takes the law into his own hands because he doesn’t trust the official investigators enough. This film is a poor cousin of ‘Prisoners’ which also explored a similar theme but was way better. ‘Out of Furnace’ is the story of a man who goes in search of his missing brother and meets a host of characters in the process. It is a shame that for a star studded cast the film is not able to do justice to the talent at its disposal. The screenplay is laboured to the point of being boring. Catch the film when it comes on cable TV.

Thanks for Sharing (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Thanks for Sharing

Trailer: 

The thing with this film billed as a romantic comedy is that it neither romantic nor comic. Three people who have a sex addiction problem are at the core of the story. It is about how they try to de-addict themselves from this particularly interesting state and at the same time juggle their love relationships. The film never rises above mediocrity and the act should have ended prematurely. That is the worst I can say about a movie on sex addiction.

The Counselor (2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 34%]

Counselor

Trailer: 

It is such a shame that a stellar cast with Pitt, Bardem, Diaz, Cruz and Fassbender in a movie directed by Ridley Scott comes up with the dud of the year. It is about a lawyer who messes up in a particular situation and then things go out of control like a kite which is not tethered. Well that was supposed to be the story but that is what happens to the film; it is the director who untethers the movie from his hands. This has disastrous consequences. Half baked characters, stars who sleep walk through their roles, actors who are evidently bored and a story which wanders like a lost soul. The ‘Dhoom 3’ of Hollywood for 2013. Non Indian readers may read that as unmitigated disaster.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Square (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

square

Trailer: 

The story of the uprising in Egypt which was part of the wider Arab Spring. The documentary follows a group of people as they put their lives in the line of fire to fight the establishment. The documentary assumes increased significance on account of the recent events in Ukraine. A long shot at the Oscars thought, for the poor technical quality of production.

The : D Retrospective

Starting this week the retrospective section will feature some feel good movies which are liked widely and are a good watch. The feel good factor is augmented by the fact that it is liked by people who like to spread happiness with sincerity.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Trailer: 

We are all accustomed to Greek tragedies but this is one movie at the other end of the spectrum. Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay and starred in this surprise winner at the box office, making her a star in the process. The best thing about the movie is that it does not have any major stars and hence the actors don’t come with any baggage of typecasting. This makes it difficult to predict the trajectory and responses of many characters.The story has a Greek woman fall in love at first sight (quite literally, at first sight itself) and the wedding that follows. The hilarious moments have to do with the fact that the groom doesn’t know Greek and that he is completely at loss in the peculiar situations that he finds himself in. Add to that a few oddball relatives, this becomes an easy and entertaining film to watch.

French Kiss (1995) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

French Kiss

Trailer:

There are very few actors who bring happiness along with them and light up the screen in every movie they appear. Meg Ryan is one of them. It is her cheerful demeanor even when she flies down to France in desperation to meet her fiance, that is the best thing about the movie. She gets unwelcome company in a thief on her trip to track down her fiance. On her life changing journey she discovers herself and true love. The movie has some very scenic shots and is quite easy on the eye. If you like cheerful vulnerable woman at the heart of a story, this is the film you will enjoy watching.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Sleepless in Seattle

Trailer: 

Nora Ephron can sell the impossible to you and even make you root for her story and characters. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is a modern day fairy tale which has dollops of optimism and a heart in the right place. A kid tries to find a companion for his widowed father. A woman throws caution to the wind and goes by her gut instinct when she decides that she could be that woman. The film requires some suspension of disbelief but when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are on screen, it is so easy to suspend disbelief. The climax is a tribute to ‘An Affair to Remember’. What that movie could not achieve, this one does: Lovers uniting at the top of the Empire State building. As a character says in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, “Oh God, I love that movie.”

Eagerly Waiting for: The Oscars next week.

Did you know: The original raw footage of ‘Apocalypse Now’ consisted of 1,250,000 feet of film which is over 230 hours’ worth.

Week 34

Movies: Non-English

I Served the King of England (Czech Republic, 2006) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

I served the king of england

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

The story of an ambitious waiter and the women in his life set in the background of World War 2. This poignant and funny tale is in the tradition of similar Czech films. A throwback to the excesses of Nazis when they had the upper hand in the war, the film does not fail to mock the Nazis even when the mood turns sober. Not a must watch but certainly worth your time.

He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not ( France, 2002) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

he loves me

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2d8uitPvMU

The thing with this movie is that you don’t expect it to have the twists and turns with a crowd favourite like Audrey Tautou in the lead. This under appreciated French film takes an unexpected turn and in a split second the whole premise of the movie changes. From a sweet love story it becomes a tale of violent obsession. Every story has two sides. Some of them a few more.

English Retrospective

On the Waterfront (1954) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

on the w

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSImMMMf5nA

A few people (the curious types) have asked me the origin of the name of this blog. It comes from a dialogue in the movie ‘On the Waterfront’. It is faithfully reproduced below:

“Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.”

It is one of the saddest dialogues I have ever heard; the kind that puts in a capsule a lot of emotions. That feeling of what could have been, but for. Only real life dialogue of this nature that made be feel sad for the speaker was uttered by Al Gore when he said, ” Once I was the next President of USA.” I am sure Al Gore is not reading this but just for the sake of it he should know that he will have a more respectable place in World History than the idiot who stole the election.

Coming to the movie, it is a masterclass in acting from Marlon Brando. One of the movies to see before you die.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

saving

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwhP5b4tD6g

I have not yet seen a movie which has war scenes shot with such perfection as ‘Saving Private Ryan’. It remains an injustice that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to ‘Shakespeare in Love’. My favourite Tom Hanks leads a mission to find and return Private Ryan whose three brothers have been slain in action during the Second World War. Steven Spielberg deservedly won the Oscar for the Best Director for this flick and strangely that was the last time he tasted Oscar success. Everything about this film is top notch and close to perfection. I am biased towards Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Therefore I cannot say anything bad about this movie. Must watch.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

shakespeare

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CxNF4eA6yw

Sometimes an idea can lead to a great story and when such a story has a great screenplay and free dialogues from Shakespeare, it can have unexpected success. The germ of the idea here is the question: ‘How could Shakespeare write such fine romance without himself being in love?’ What comes out of this idea is ‘Shakespeare in Love’, a fictionalized movie trying to imagine the inspiration for the Bard of Avon’s romantic works especially ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Sometimes originality gets the better of everything. As a friend once told me, if imitation is the best art then his ‘Juliet and Romeo’ should also have been equally famous as ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Ultimately ‘Shakespeare in Love’ upset the apple cart of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at the Oscars winning seven Oscars to the latter’s five.

Movies I Saw This Week

Captain Phillips (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

captain

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3ASoBrFGlc

Tom Hanks get back his mojo back after a few duds in this out and out thriller directed by Paul Greengrass. Greengrass who was behind the Borne series, had worked in the television industry before turning a feature film director. The influence of television is evident in the way he uses the camera for a lot of hand held shots and the movement of the camera contributes to the element of tension on screen. Even though ‘Captain Phillips’ is one of the better thrillers to have come out in recent years, I believe that earlier works of Greengrass like ‘United 93’ and ‘Bloody Sunday’ were better made and had more interesting stories to tell. As for this one, it would a major surprise if Tom Hanks lands an Oscar for his role. Coming to the story, the film gives a blow by blow account of the hostage crisis involving the hijacking of a US flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates, the first such event in 200 years. A nice one time watch.

Hello I Must Be Going (2012) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%]

hello-i-must-be-going-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g71WfCXUTrY

Hailed at the Sundance Film Festival for some breakout performances, this feature tells the story of a lady trying to get her life back on track after going through  a divorce. I don’t know why they advertised this as a comedy because the overwhelming feeling was of sadness and I did not come even close to laughing. Nothing much to write about and also nothing much to whine about. An average flick.

Much Ado About Nothing (2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

much ado

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

A faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s work by the same title, this is the kind of movie that only Hollywood would finance. Where else would they have the guts to make movies with very much the same dialogues that Shakespeare wrote. Shot in classy black and white, it is a film that demands attention and the returns are quite good if you can give what the film asks for.

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 4.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]

Gori_Tere_Pyaar_Mein

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg-t4Wsa6LU

Yes, I saw it like some of you. Not worth reviewing. I empathize with those who spent money to watch this torture. It is the kind of film where the director should stand outside the theatre and apologize to every single person who comes out after watching his movie.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Crash Reel (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

crash-reel

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KkFZ-QC53Q

Shaun White was the King of Snow. Kevin Pearce was his challenger in the half-pipe event. They were friends. They were world number 1 and 2 in the lead up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Then tragedy struck. A documentary which captures a story that must be told. One of the documentaries of the year. My heart goes out to Kevin’s mother. Even though she is never at the focus of the events, it is her strength of character that shines through the whole story. Just for the record, I cried.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ because some stupid films of Will Ferrell have their moments of madness.

Did you know: Nelson Mandela appears as a teacher in the film ‘Malcom X’, his only appearance as an actor in a movie. RIP Nelson Mandela.