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.

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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. 

Week 33

Movies: Non-English

Iron Monkey ( Hong Kong, 1993) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

iron monkey

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7LgixNDtQo

Just as there is ‘Pulp Fiction’ in ‘Fiction’, there is ‘Pulp Action’ in ‘Action’ and the Chinese are quite good at it. Here, the ‘Pulp’ refers not just to the crass commercial aspect of the movie but also the fact that some guys are beaten to pulp in mindless action. Still, a little bit of fun never killed anyone. ‘Iron Monkey’ for me, is the pinnacle of such movie making. With spectacularly choreographed sequences, nail-biting action and awe inspiring set pieces, this is a film that one should not miss. Even after two decades this film remains quite a show. In case you are interested in the plot, a doctor puts on a mask and fights corruption. The plot is just incidental. Enjoy.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China, 2000) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

crouching

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEaGsdiA0y0

There is scale. Then there is ambition. When these two combine, you get ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. At times it gets grandiose but who does not like to suspend disbelief once in a while? Watch warriors walk on water, fight atop bamboos, flash swords without a care in the world in a monumental film of epic proportions which will leave you asking for more. The major advantage of this movie over ‘Iron Monkey’ is that it has top class actors and a solid story to tell. Above all, it has Ang Lee at the helm. It is a reminder of how versatile a director he is. It is the mark of a genius to have done films as varied as ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Hulk’, ‘Brokeback Mountain’, ‘Lust , Caution’ and ‘Life of Pi’.

English Retrospective

The Changeling (1980) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Changeling_ver1

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

A man recovering from a terrible family tragedy moves into a large house. It takes him time to realize that he has company he never wanted. ‘The Changeling’ has some of the best horror scenes I have ever seen. It gives an eerie feeling similar to ‘The Shining’. The film is a George C Scott show all the way with the thespian being present in almost every frame. The ending is a bit convenient but then the ride compensates for the destination.

Slap Shot (1977) [ IMDb: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

slap shot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUuEWI6F3dQ

An Ice Hockey team down in the dumps and facing closure finds an ingenious way of roaring back to winning ways. This film is not about Ice Hockey. In fact, at times it feels like a movie on boxing. I don’t know whether Ice Hockey was played like the way it is depicted in the movie. If so, it has come a long way. The movie is a farce and the good part is that it does not matter. The end scene lends some gravitas to an otherwise out and out entertainer.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

to kill a

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR7loA_oziY

There have been few heroes in the world of fiction like lawyer Atticus Finch. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch is this classic film adaptation of the classic book by Harper Lee. The protagonist defends an African American in the South against false charge of rape and in the process teaches his kids to stand up against prejudice and racism. Gregory Peck gives the performance of a lifetime. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

Still Mine (2013) [ IMDb: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

still mine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv_Rl0CBPNs

One of the best films of the year. Highly recommended. An old couple, still strongly in love after 6 decades of marriage decide to build a new house. They run into the establishment in the process and also tackle the memory loss of the wife as they go along. Excellent writing and some memorable performances make it a film that deserves your full attention. If I had a vote at the Oscars I would have given this film a few of the statuettes.

How I Live Now (2013) [ IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%]

how i live

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSaxm68PPT4

Apparently the book on which the movie is based was a bestseller. Either the movie does not do justice to the book or the author got lucky. An American girl in England has to stay put with her love as the world is facing a nuclear meltdown, in this movie set in a not too distant future. It really requires an effort to remain interested in this film after ten minutes. None of the characters are likeable. I wouldn’t have really bothered if the protagonist disappeared midway through the film.

The Croods (2013) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

the croods

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fVCKy69zUY

I am mighty disappointed with animation movies nowadays because they have started to look the same. ‘The Croods’ is no exception and relies on the same tired gags and subplots. Hope that they rediscover the spark in those animation studios. As for this one, the kids may like it to some extent. Otherwise, off the mark.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Chasing Ice (2012) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

chasing-ice

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIZTMVNBjc4

This documentary should be viewed on the big screen. To call the images stunning would be a gross understatement. You almost forget that you are watching a documentary on global warming. Ice never looked so cool.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Out of The Furnace’ because it has a red hot cast in Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana.

Did you know: Full length feature films (except foreign language films) should run with paid admission for at least 7 days in Los Angeles to be considered for the Oscars.

Week 31

Movies: Non-English

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

Talk_to_Her_English_movie_poster_fairuse

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%]

offside1

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%]

Good_the_bad_and_the_ugly_poster

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%]

walk-the-line

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%]

into-the-wild-movie-poster-1020406877

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%]

kings of

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%]

east

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%]

sapphires

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%]

krrish 3

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%]

sicko

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.

Week 30

Movies: Non-English

My Life as a Dog (Sweden, 1985) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

my life as

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxzO8Qx96O4

This Swedish flick is about a dysfunctional family with the youngest child as the protagonist. A sick mother, an absentee father and a quarrelsome elder brother make life difficult for 12 year old Ingemar. There are beautiful distractions in the form of girls and Ingemar himself has a philosophical take everything, especially on the plight of the dog Laika sent to space. This bittersweet tale was a box office success in its transatlantic crossover in the US. Worth a watch.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (India, 2003) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

hazaaron-khwaishein-aisi-400x400-imadky6vfeg8umzk

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL7U30ESYWk

This is a film close to my heart as I have met versions of the characters portrayed in the movie. It is set in the Emergency era Delhi. The lives of three college friends are intertwined by love, ambition and politics. It is a poignant story and the life of each character is worth an analysis as the movie progresses. The performances are exceptional, with Shiney Ahuja stealing the show. How sad that such a huge talent was wasted. Moving on, the movie is the most authentic representation of life in the 70s in India. The political churning is in stark contrast to the opulence of the Delhi upper crest. The music and songs are befitting for the movie; the track ‘Baanwara man dekhne chala ek sapna’ being one of my personal favourites. In my opinion, one of the best movies to have come out of India in the last decade.

English Retrospective

American Beauty (1999) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

american-beauty-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3ltyPJJMQ

This is Sam Mendes’ feature debut as a director and he won an Oscar for it. This one is also on a dysfunctional family, the head of which is played by Kevin Spacey. He is a man of many secrets and is facing a mid life crisis. He develops a liking for the friend of his daughter and from there on it is all downhill. The film is remarkable for its engaging screenplay and the rock solid story it wants to tell. The climax will take you by surprise. Recommended.

The Cider House Rules (1999) [IMDB; 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

cider-house-rules-poster-0

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4D2Hog1tEA

Charlize Theron and Tobey Maguire light up the screen in this slow burning story set in an orphanage and among apple orchards. Though I believe that the 7 Oscar nominations the movie received were too many, the two wins it had for Screenplay and Supporting Actor were well deserved. Michael Caine deservedly won the Oscar for this one but it is a movie which tests your patience. Recommended only for the discerning viewer.

Donnie Darko (2001) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

donnie darko

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

An underrated and not widely viewed cult classic horror movie. The lead character sees a rabbit which makes him commit crimes. It is one of those movies which you have to view with rapt attention if you do not want to miss the finer points. Jake Gyllenhaal shows early promise in this film. This film is more spooky than scary but then utilizing grey cells is always better than having an adrenaline spike.

Movies I Saw This Week

Despicable Me 2 (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

despicable-me-2-poster-01

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

Maybe it is just me but I feel that all protagonists in animation movies are similar. The happy go lucky guy who is good at wisecracking. ‘Despicable Me 2’ is just another animation film which does nothing to set it apart from the few top notch animation movies released every year. The plot involves a villain who needs to be fought. If it wasn’t an animation movie, I would have have avoided it like the plague. Giving it the benefit of doubt, I would rate it above average.

The River Why (2010) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 31%]

river why

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV5o7L4_DYU

I guess the ‘Why’ in the title was added by studio executives who could not figure out why they funded this film. The story has a man choose solitude and fly-fishing over everything else. In the process he also gets a girlfriend (Amber Heard). The best thing about the movie is the tintinnabulation the river makes. Enjoy the landscape. Don’t pay attention to the people on screen.

Norman (2010) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

norman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJFs4WIE9yw

A  troubled teen with suicidal tendencies meets a new girl in school. He also has a father awaiting death. The movie is let down by the heavy handed direction and sloppy background score. The script and dialogues are good but then it falters as it moves forward. The finale is as good as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

bigger stronger

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KzGfuFFSxA

The drug problem in American sports told through the eyes of a very level headed competitor. This was before Lance Armstrong revealed that he had lied strong. Must watch. Live strong, play fair.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ because it took so long to make, it better be good.

Did you know: Louis Lumiere, one of the pioneers of cinema, is credited with directing 101 movies between the period 1892-1900.

Week 29

Movies: Non-English

A Prophet (France, 2009) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

prophet

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l69ARbQt-Ko

One of the truly sensational French films of the last decade, ‘A Prophet’ tells the gripping story of an Arab convict who plays the system to emerge on top when he is incarcerated. In a prison where Italian and Arab gangs fight each other, he rises to the top even when he is the only Arab member in a group of Corsicans. For a complex film, it has a free flowing screenplay and taut editing. Reasons enough for it to sweep all major awards in its release year.

Confession of Murder (South Korea, 2012) [IMDB:6.8, Rottten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

confession

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

After a 15 year statute on limitations expires, a serial killer publishes his memoirs detailing each of his murders. The emotionally drained detective who was looking at the case soon finds a reason to re-look at the events. This South Korean thriller starts on an interesting premise but mostly fires blanks when some real action was the need of the hour. Leaves you with a feeling of having left your meal mid way.

English Retrospective

Seabiscuit (2003) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%]

seabiscuit

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv6RnFTlu4I

Based on the award winning non fiction book on a little known racing legend, ‘Seabiscuit’ is more about the people behind the horse than the horse itself. With little more finesse this movie could have been a classic but then it has an Achilles heel and a very prominent one at that. It trivializes the ‘Great Depression’ as if Seabiscuit was at the core of the recovery and return of hope. It is in this gamble where it tries to blend in history that the movie falls flat. This is not to say that it is a bad movie. It has its moments. Some of them truly great and the movie is an inspirational one. For better or worse, it is not about the horse.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Glengarry Glen Ross Postrer2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgAU2RJHfvE

The machinations in a real estate company. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin and Kevin Spacey. Six reasons to watch the movie. Based on a play by David Mamet. Make that seven reasons.

My Cousin Vinny (1992) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

My-Cousin-Vinny-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL4HdaZXuOw

Few Hollywood movies have made me laugh like ‘My Cousin Vinny’. If you start laughing there is no reason to stop. The plot involves an attorney trying to save his cousin and his cousin’s friend when they are wrongfully accused of murder. Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei have a field day. Never knew courts could be such fun. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Now is Good (2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Now is Good Movie Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENg2HnY5UuM

A girl suffering from leukemia has a bucket list to execute. Even though the theme has been done to death (no pun intended) in movies, this one tugs at your heart in some moments. It is very difficult to make bad movies or truly great ones out of such themes. What you usually get is average stuff but this one is a little above average.

The Look of Love (2013) [IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomaotes: 56%]

look of love

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z4yqK1KxuY

A low for Michael Winterbottom who was once a very promising director. The Britisher’s attempt at trying to give a sentimental look to the life of Paul Raymond who became Britain’s richest man by appealing to people’s baser instincts, does not wash.

Odd Thomas (2013) [IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 65%]

odd thomas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEnvutQ0UI4

From the creators of ‘The Mummy’, this one gives the look of a low budget film which was made on a holiday. A young man has supernatural powers but cannot talk about them. He has to save a town and his girlfriend when devilish forces attempt to create havoc. Yawn.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Marley (2012) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

marley

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuIkYtYi4b0

Bob Marley analyzed threadbare. Love music? Must See.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Armstrong Lie’ because it could be the documentary that exposes Lance Armstrong for what he is; a drug cheat.

Did you know: The Hollywood Walk of Fame has the names of more than 2500 artists embedded on it.

Week 22

Movies: Non-English

No Man’s Land ( Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

no man's

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL8IF6431n4

In India, the claim to fame of this movie is its triumph over ‘Lagaan’ at the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. If you watch this movie you will understand why ‘Lagaan’ stood no chance. ‘No Man’s Land’ is quite possibly the best movie to have come out from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the conflict in the region. It does not shy away from exposing the farce that the war had become in the region. A bunker in a neutral territory is the stage for the film. Aided by strong writing and witty dialogues, the film is a breeze to watch. It is also a reminder that a good war movie can be made without relying on technical wizardry. A must watch.

A Very Long Engagement (France,2004) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

very long

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

Audrey Tautou became the darling of the masses with ‘Amelie’. Here, she collaborated again with the director of that movie to mixed success. The story is that of a lady who goes in search of her soldier fiance who does not return after the war. ‘A Very Long Engagement’ is a finely shot film. It is a visual treat but the moment the story starts you get a feeling that it is a feel good film that will definitely have a happy ending. On this count, the director does not disappoint. I would have loved it if it had been a tragedy but then the film takes the easy exit route. Audrey Tautou is there in almost every frame and she does justice to her role. Some technical jugglery becomes evident as we go along and this does not impress if you are a careful viewer. For example, the shots in which the train is shown give you a feeling that it was shot just once and then cut and pasted in different scenes. Even the background sound is the same. For its 133 minute duration, it is a very long movie for a very short story.

English Retrospective

Parenthood (1989) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

parenthood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgrbuRNc-AQ

This life affirming comedy tells the story of a family over a summer. Boasting a cast of some exceptional actors, the film delves into the different character types who form part of a big family of four siblings. The best thing about the movie is that all the characters are so well etched out that each of them stands out. The pivot is Steve Martin in arguably his best movie role. I feel that the movie is a tribute to the ordinary people who go about their lives and contribute to the society taking in their stride the ups and downs of life. My impression of the movie has only increased over time. It is not a movie you will easily forget.

The Guns of Navarone (1961) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Guns of Navarone collectors edition DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhQvkPMNt70

Columbia Pictures had the audacity to claim in 1961 that ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was the most exciting film that people will ever get to see. Times have changed. The claim looks silly now but in 1961 that was not the case and to be sure, it did excite people when it was released. I have heard oldies discuss this film with passion and harping back to the good old days. Though technically it is a dinosaur, its dialogues and screenplay still make it a treat to watch. Gregory Peck is in his second best film role (the first will always be ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) adds class to this movie in which he leads a mission to destroy Nazi cannons in an island in the Aegean sea during the Second World War. Soon it becomes evident that there is a traitor in the group. As if fighting the Nazis was not enough, they also have to find the mole in the group. Exciting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

nightmare

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdb_HSvf2Zk

“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” That dialogue is the key to this movie from the master of horror films Wes Craven. Frankly, I was a little confused after watching it for the first time because if you don’t watch with full attention you may find it difficult to make sense of the climax but there is no confusion on it being one of the best horror movies to be ever made. The movie turns spooky by blurring the line between reality and nightmares. Did that just occur or did you imagine it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

kick-ass-2-poster1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMbwxbgv8U

This film is a reaffirmation of my belief that Rotten Tomatoes ratings are closer to reality than the IMDB ratings. IMDB voting, I believe, is done primarily by teenagers who cannot distinguish between class and crap. It is exactly to this kind of audience that this sequel to a widely liked movie caters. It looks more like a satire or a parody on superhero movies with customary references to Youtube and Justin Bieber. Dialogues are way off the mark with gems like ” I’d rather be waterboarded than listen to Justin Bieber”. This, before the lady is turned on by a video featuring Bieber lookalikes. Whereas Kick-Ass had violence as a means to an end, here violence is the end itself. Characters are trigger happy and entering into violent duels is perhaps the favourite hobby of the characters. The movie seems to be confused whether it wants to pay homage to Hollywood’s obsession with dressed up superheroes or make fun of them. What was the scriptwriter thinking of when he came up with the name of the principal villain? I guess this movie may be for the kids of trigger happy conservative Republicans in the Christian belt of USA. Jim Carrey shows his true class by signing on the dotted line for this project. Avoid this film like the plague.

The World’s End (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

world's end

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF-4c8U-mUI

Simon Pegg teams up with his co-writer and director Edgar Wright after the success of ‘Hot Fuzz’. Simon’s character realizes at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that he had left his pub crawl unfinished when he was a teenager 20 years ago. He meets up with his buddies and cajoles them to do the thing all over again. Once in their hometown they realize that things are not what they expected them to be. The story takes a bizarre turn and the film turns into a thriller with the group now given the onerous responsibility of (what else) saving the world. The witty dialogues and banter keep the show going till this point. After that it is a big yawn. The action scenes are well choreographed and that is the best praise I can come up with for the second half of the movie,

World War Z (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

World-War-Z

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcwTxRuq-uk

Humans are facing an existential crisis. Don’t worry because USA is there. With a little help from Israel and Britain they will save the world. What could have been a really good thriller is spoiled by the overt attempt to fit the narrative in line with the US worldview. Truth be said, it is a pacy thriller with some really horrifying scenes. If you get sucked into the story it is more terrifying that the horror film of the year ‘The Conjuring’. The scenes are shot excellently and I would be surprised if the movie does not get at least an Oscar nomination for Production Design. The weakest link is Brad Pitt. His acting, it seems, has been affected by the dual responsibility of being a producer and an actor. He sleep walks through the role as if he knows the climax (and he surely does). Even in the most terrifying scenes he does not show any panic. Now coming to the red flags with regard to international politics. You see, Israel is justified in building large boundary walls so that they can keep the aliens (read ‘Palestinians’) out. North Korea, being a dictatorship, can remove the teeth of  all 23 million people in less than 24 hours, a mathematically improbable event (you do the math, I have done mine) so as to escape the pandemic. Of all the airlines in the world, the protagonist must escape on the plane of ‘Belarus Airlines’ (another dictatorship). The hero’s family must rescue a Spanish speaking boy along because there should be something for the American amigos to cherish after Mexico city has been lost. UN Under Secretary works to save only Americans. A Harvard greenhorn mutters something before dying and that conveniently becomes the principle on which the great American mind of Brad Pitt solves the entire issue. The rest of the world must be full of dumb idiots. Maybe a Nobel Peace Prize for Brad Pitt like his President? As his President showed, sometimes you just have to be alive to get one.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Confessions of a Superhero (2007) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

confessions

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsAQ9nVZrJ8

The story of four people who make a living dressing up as superheroes on the Hollywood boulevard. Moving. In its own unique way.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Thanks for Sharing’ because it could be hot.

Did you know: The most popular movies in Africa are produced in Nigeria and the local industry is called ‘Nollywood’.