Week 32

Movies: Non-English

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

cranes are

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%]

trainspotting-a16

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%]

prisoners_ver6_xlg

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%]

ramleela1

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.

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Week 10

Movies: Non-English

Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Let-The-Right-One-In-Poster-let-the-right-one-in-16068910-600-849

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp4g9p_rgo

I am not sure whether this is a horror film or a thriller and I am not too bothered by which genre it belongs to because it keeps you on the edge of your seat without you even knowing it. Credited with reviving the left for dead (no pun intended) vampire movie genre, this is a movie which will redefine your cinematic sensibilities. A young boy falls in love with a girl who happens to be a vampire. The girl returns the love by taking care of the people who bully the boy. The boy also helps her with occasional supply of blood which quenches her thirst. An odd love story where you will root for a vampire. Classy. Still not convinced? Watch the swimming pool scene.

Spirited Away (Japan, 2001) [IMDB: 8.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Spirited_Away_movie_poster_by_miemie_chan3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6az9wGfeSgM

Animation is imagination on the big screen. ‘Spirited Away’ takes you on a journey like no other and shows the world that some of the best work in animation happens outside Hollywood. A girl and her wonderland. That is pretty much what the movie is about but they made it into an animation classic they swept the awards at places like the Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance and ultimately at the Oscars where it beat Ice Age to deservedly land the nod for the Best Animation Picture. Along the way it found fans like James Cameron. To date, it remains one of the best animation movies ever made. There must be some reason when it is the first animation picture I chose to write about in my blog.

Pather Panchali (India, 1955) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Pather Panchali

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

Legend has it that when the movie was screened for the first time for European audiences, some critics walked out midway through the movie. Nearly 60 years later, the reputation of the movie as a timeless classic has increased with every passing year. With a haunting background score by Pandit Ravishankar, the movie remains a masterful study of people. The mundane life of a peasant family in rural Bengal comes to life  in a motion picture which flows like a river with hardly a moment to pause. It is sad that not many in India have seen the movie in recent times. Essential viewing.

Hollywood Retrospective

Reds (1981) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

reds-1981

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjjRDJ039FI

Warren Beatty had staked his reputation and much more on this classic which took a long time to make but when he finally made it, it became the best picture on the communist movement in USA. For a country which sees the devil in the word ‘socialism’, it is also a reminder that there was indeed a communist movement in the country. Spanning a long and critical period in world history, the film takes you to locations around the world along with its protagonist. The story is based on real events. There is a good love story running parallel to the theme and I think the movie has the best performance of Diane Keaton. One of the most poignant scenes I have seen on screen is the climax of the film when Diane Keaton goes to get some water and sees a child. The movie makes you wonder about the glorious possibilities of history.

Unforgiven (1992) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

unforgiven

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

The last great Western. Men are called upon to avenge the dishonouring of women. Well, if life were were so simple, we would not have Westerns. Clint Eastwood’s return to greatness is marked by this revenge drama which like most of the movies of Eastwood in the last two decades deals with the idea of justice. When law fails, it is left to the outlaws to make the world a better place. This, like last week’s ‘Road to Perdition’ is my kind of movie. Strong screenplay, great dialogues, nuanced performances and a great story to tell. Clint Eastwood plus Morgan Freeman is the formula for magic on screen. Throw in Gene Hackman and you get some twisted magic. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

A better Life (2011) [IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

A-Better-Life

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaLSBdL-zCY

An illegal immigrant anchors his dreams for his son on owning his own business without getting caught by the law. The performances are really good, especially the one by the lead actor Demian Bichir who leads a life of quite dignity. His restraint in the car park scene is in stark contrast to the reaction of his son. The movie is effective in showing the distressed lives of illegal immigrants in the USA. It is a one time watch. I had this nagging feeling that the movie is an advertisement for Obama administration’s immigration policies. Well you see, the child can stay on.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

yeh-jawaani-hai-deewani-8-s

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbp2XUSeUNE

Since it is produced by Karan Johar, I had very low expectations from the film and for this reason I could sit through it. It does have some good dialogues in the second half. It was not bad as it was expected to be, but it did try hard. For starters, Karan Johar thinks that the nerd girl to cool babe transformation is achievable by replacing spectacles with contact lenses. From Preity Zinta in Kal Ho Naa Ho to Deepika Padukone in this flick, his heroines fervently believe in this formula. In fact, Deepika goes one better. She transforms herself like Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. To be sure, boys and girls cannot be friends. They have to fall in love too. Oh, I almost forgot. Everything is resolved at destination weddings where the radical girl has an arranged marriage. To complete the cliches, there is the dumb beauty too. Just for the record, Hamdard Rooh Afza is any day better than the Pepsi Ranbir Kapoor endorses. If you have forgotten the Indian movie formula and want to revise it, watch the film.

Morning Glory (2010) [IMDB: 6.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

morning-glory-movie-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9lWUqraDoU

This movie is also way too predictable. It has some nice touches though. Rachel McAdams is a producer of a television show running on life support. She gets two veterans to come on board as hosts and together they try to make things better while fighting each other. Strictly for weekend viewing when you have nothing much to do.

Passion Play (2010) [IMDB: 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 17%]

Passion-Play-2010

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy36HZhspyw

Megan Fox as an angel with wings, waiting to be rescued by Mickey Rourke. What were the writers smoking? Right up there in the list of worst movies to have come out in the last 5 years, the movie has no reason for its existence. For those thinking, what happened to Rourke after ‘The Wrestler’, this movie is a reminder that it is not for nothing that he has a bad boy reputation. Watch at you own risk.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Invisible War (2012) [IMDB: 7.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

invisible war

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECOqpv45tIo

The story that was swept under the carpet far too many times finally becomes public. The documentary exposes the lopsided policies of the US Government against women in the military while telling the story of sexual abuse in US armed forces. Hard hitting. Must watch.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ because Scorsese and DiCaprio together make great movies.

Did you know: ‘Midnight in Paris’ was Woody Allen’s biggest box office success.