Edition 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Second Mother (Brazil, 2015) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Trailer: 

This movie, which stimulates careful consideration of the class divides in the Brazilian society, tells the story of a housemaid who lives in Sao Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil. The maid’s serene and stable life goes into a tailspin when her daughter who shares a frosty relationship with her comes to stay with her in Sao Paulo. The skillfully woven tale examines the dynamics of the relationships when an outsider challenges it in myriad ways. The comedienne Regina Case gives a performance par excellence and the acclaims the movie has received is well deserved. Certainly worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Martian (2015) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating 7.5]

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Trailer: 

While watching ‘The Martian’ the one thing that doesn’t strike the viewer is that the director Ridley Scott is 77 years old. With celebrated movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Thelma & Louise’, ‘Black Hawk Dawn’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘American Gangster’, ‘The Martian’ is the antithesis of what you would expect from a veteran. Brilliantly conceived and executed using cutting edge technology, the movie is an introduction to life on Mars (the planet and not the chocolate). Astronaut Matt Damon has to use all the wits at his disposal when he is stranded in the hostile environment on Mars while awaiting succour. The movie has a predictable story line and occasionally feels like a documentary. Also, it looks like an out of the world version of ‘Cast Away’ with a person trained to be better at being alone. That also takes away the emotional anger, distress and frustration that was essential in a movie like ‘Cast Away’. A 3D version also does not add anything to the movie. On a lighter note, how many times will Hollywood send missions to rescue Matt Damon after attempts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Interstellar’ and now ‘The Martian’?

Talvar (2015) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes:98%, My Rating: 7.0]

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‘Talvar’ is a barely camouflaged take on the infamous double murders to rock Noida, a suburb of Delhi. Though the parents of the girl were convicted and are serving their sentence now, the film tries to turn the story upside down. Viewed from an objective point of view, the movie is an unvarnished attempt to take sides and prove the parents innocent in the whole affair. It does not leave any ambiguity and even ridicules views contrary to the moviemaker’s desired stand. Simultaneously the movie raises some disturbing questions related to the handling of the crime scene and ‘confessions’ of some suspects under narco-analysis (The procedure has since been outlawed by the Supreme Court of India as no one can be forced to give evidence against himself/herself). What stands out in the movie are the stirring performance from the ever reliable Irrfan Khan and the sorry state of affairs in the government investigation agencies. The crux of the matter finally boils down to the access outsiders have in a household and how security is sometimes compromised. Director Meghna Gulzaar finally delivers a watchable movie after a history of duds but credit must largely go to the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj who pens an entertaining but ultimately flawed screenplay.

Inside Out (2015) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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In animation in Hollywood, there is Pixar and then there are the rest. It is akin to a 100m sprint where there is Usain Bolt and the rest. The showcase feature from Pixar this year tells the story of a young girl trying to adjust to life in a new setting. Her emotions are controlled by distinct characters representing happiness, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. There are some nice touches like happiness and sadness sharing similar hair colour to imply that they are related. The movie does get a tad slow in some parts but overall is a joy to watch. Unless something exceptional is released, my money is on ‘Inside Out’ to win the next Academy Award for the ‘The Best Animation Picture’.

Spy (2015) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Melissa McCarthy stars as the spy in the movie which has some really smart writing to aid to an otherwise average story line. The element of humour is the only running theme in the movie. Aided by clever one liners and some outrageously funny scenes (like the one in an Italian restaurant), the movie is a breeze to watch. The unconventional appearance of the lead is exploited to the hilt and there is a delightful supporting cast of Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham lets his hair down in a role parodying his earlier efforts. All of this makes the movie a thoroughly enjoyable fare.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 6.5]

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Marking the directorial debut of the multi talented Nadirshah (who has also set the songs to tune), this Malayalam movie tells the tale of three youngsters whose goal in life is to visit Pattaya in Thailand. The truth is that all this is a mere diversion for the antics that they end up performing. The movie is a series of anecdotes with the sole aim of getting a good laugh from the viewers. Some of the jokes achieve more than what they were expected to do. The serious angle in the movie seems to be an afterthought to bring some gravity to the proceedings. For the kind of comedy only Malayalam movies can provide, this is indeed a laugh riot.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:: Not yet rated, My Rating:5.0]

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Based on the template provided by the original, this sequel goes all out to demolish women as vain, scatterbrained and egotistical individuals out to get the naive and goodhearted men. If only things could be that simple. Essentially a demolition job, this movie inadvertently  exposes the severe flaws of the characters it sets out to rescue. More than anything, it is about men who make deeply deficient choices. They seem to be thinking with other parts of the body than with their heads when making the choice of a girlfriend. Compared to the prequel where the men were sitting ducks, here they are foxy fellows who feign ignorance till it suits them. Finally when that time does come, they consider themselves as valiant martyrs in the cause of love. There is a cringe-worthy scene at the end where the men rediscover their love for their mothers. There is also an incoherent rant on women by one of the embattled men. The last time he did that it was amusing but now it looks like a forced addition. All in all, this sequel lacks the intellectual honesty of the original.

Katti Batti (2015) [IMDB: 4.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating: 2.0]

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There is a scene in this movie when Imran Khan says, “Maa chali gayi” (Mother has gone). The expression on his face is that of a lifeless sculpture. I thought that he was telling that the mother has gone to buy groceries or to take a walk. Seconds later it dawned on me that he was announcing the death of his mother. I almost cried. Not for the mother but for the fact that I paid to see a non actor in a disaster of a movie. ‘Katti Batti’ is full of such moments where you curse the moment you decided to walk into the movie hall. Imran Khan has the acting abilities of a stone but then Kangna Ranaut is supposed to be one of the best of this generation. Even she looks like a kid lost in a fair with no idea of what is going on. The anti climax makes you wonder what was going on till that point in the movie. This film is s farce and I am being kind. The best actor in the movie is a turtle. Who gives money to Nikhil Advani to make movies and still does not have a change of heart after Imran Khan is cast in the lead role? There is a lot more that can be said against the film but the electricity consumed by my laptop when I type is worth more than the movie. Save electricity.

Documentary of the Week

Sunshine Superman (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The life of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. The footage of the jumps is exhilarating but the documentary is underwhelming. Still, an introduction to BASE jumping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Steve Jobs’ because of the ways in which people tried to stop it from getting made. Also because it is directed by Danny Boyle.

Did you know: The pile of excreta that the young Jamal jumps into in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was made from a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

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Week 8

Movies: Non- English

The Sea Inside (Spain, 2004) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes : 91% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVRnG1MddAM

This week also we start with a Spanish gem. Based on a true story, ‘The Sea Inside’ chronicles a man’s fight for dignity and assertion of his right to live or die. As a bed ridden man, Javier Bardem shows that emoting does not require the whole body. The scene where he imagines him getting out of the bed has been shot exceptionally well. This movie may not be for everyone as it does pose some disturbing questions. I have a particular liking for the title. All of us, I believe, have a sea inside us. Sometimes calm, sometimes agitated.

The Eel (Japan, 1997) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

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

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, this Japanese classic tells the story of a man trying to rebuild his life after a murder and a subsequent jail term. Usually the Palme d’Or goes to movies which focus on the technique than on the story. Here the story is as compelling as the style and for once it is not a slow movie. In spite of its comfortable pace, the philosophical moorings are hard to miss. In retrospect,  the protagonist’s life would have been different and he would have lived it out differently but he deserves a second chance. Everyone does.

The Son’s Room (Italy, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 84% ] 

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

This one also is a Palme d’Or winner. A psychiatrist who thinks he has all the answers is shaken after the sudden accidental death of his only son. The dynamics of a happy family change for the worse. It is interesting to note how a complete stranger is the trigger for them to return to their normal lives. The sessions after the death are painful. The movie is a study of people than anything else. To be sure, the film ends on a positive note. Sometimes, just feeling the wind blow may be the best therapy.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Bridge on River Kwai (1957) [ IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten tomatoes: 96% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5hZ4Xv5VjE

If there is one moment in movie history when self realization is shown with such devastating effect, it is when Alec Guiness’ character says, ” What have I done?” in the motion picture ‘The Bridge on River Kwai’. Winner of 7 Academy awards, it is one in a series of masterpieces by maestro David Lean. The story is set in a prisoners of war camp where British soldiers are held by the Japanese during the Second World War. The captives are given the task of building a railway bridge across the river Kwai. What follows is the crux of the story, eventually highlighting the futility of war. This one is a must see. Also, see how a profanity can be whistled.

The Elephant Man (1980) [IMDB; 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye4YTZOq2fk

This is a film about human dignity. The core idea being that every person deserves respect irrespective of how he/she looks. A heavily disfigured man finds his footing in a world which likes only the photogenic. His intelligence and character shine through with the help of a doctor. The movie was also a landmark for make-up. The category for ‘Make-up’ at the Oscars was introduced after this movie because people thought that if that did not deserve an Oscar, what would?

Movies I Saw This Week

Margaret (2011) [ IMDB: 6.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

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

A witness who is also a part cause for an accident that kills a woman goes in search of justice. Overall, the movies is not that bad but then it is only halfway through the movie that you realize that it is a study of the protagonist than a thriller. Anna Paquin is in fine form in that role but you will be left wondering what some of the characters are doing in the film, especially the ones like Matt Damon. I also think that the editor forgot to do his job. At 150 minutes the film does test your patience.

Shootout at Wadala (India, 2013) [IMDB: 5.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRwzT-oOoig

Based on the first ‘encounter’ in Mumbai,, the film says the oft repeated story of a middle class boy turning to crime after being wronged by the establishment. It is an unremarkable movie which one should ideally catch when it comes on the TV. It is as predictable as the colour of the Indian PM’s turban. The movie is told through one liners and some of them are good too.

Amen ( India, Malayalam, 2013) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100 %]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3NyHUPXARI

The movie has been shot so well that it shows Kerala at its full glory. For a movie made with limited financial resources, ‘Amen’ shows the hard work that has been put into the making of the film. A man’s attempt for recognition and his effort to win the hand of his lady love are told in the background of turbulent events at a church. The introduction of divine element in the climax was a nice touch. There are some avoidable scenes but the movie as a whole is a treat for the senses.

Parental Guidance (2012) [IMDB: 5.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 63% ]

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

There are some really funny dialogues and scenes. The plot basically involves grandparents taking care of the kids when the parents are away. It is the type of movie which you don’t mind watching with popcorn to munch. No wonder that it was a blockbuster last year. If you are looking for anything beyond a ‘leave your brains at home’ entertainer, you will be disappointed. As always, Marisa Tomei is a delight to watch on screen.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Cove (2009) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KRD8e20fBo

This is an activist documentary. It shows the murky business of dolphin fishing and how powerful business interests are often portrayed as national interest. It is an inside view of what happens in the fishing industry. The documentary had been immensely successful in creating awareness about the issue. It is definitely worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Man of Steel’ because if Christopher Nolan has a story to tell, it should be interesting.

Did you know: Akira Kurosawa and Alfred Hitchcock never won a competitive Oscar.