Edition 92

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Roma (Mexico, 2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Poles apart from his previous venture ‘Gravity’ in scope and temperament, Alfanso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ is a study of the unraveling of a family told through the eyes of the housemaid who herself is in the midst of a personal turmoil. Rumoured to be based on the director’s childhood, ‘Roma’ is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the director’s vision. It is a love letter to the housemaid and his childhood told with evocative images and a deep empathy for the characters at the centre of the story. The movie is also remarkable for its attention to detail. ‘Roma’ is a universal movie that would not be out of place in any time or geography. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week 

Cold War (Poland, 2018) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 9.0]

Trailer

Deviating from the norm, I have included this Polish movie in this section of the blog because I loved this movie. I believe that it is one of the best movies of the year and would easily walk into the top three of the year. It is a searing love story set against the Cold War. With remarkable lead performances and memorable cinematography, ‘Cold War’ is an instant classic which is on a higher pedestal than the director’s previous work ‘Ida’. The political shenanigans and the intrigue of ‘Cold War’ are heightened by the drama and passion that the director brings into the movie. Two star crossed lovers go through hell as they cling on to the last shreds of hope when villains in the form of circumstances and people envelop them. For all my experience of watching thousands of movies, I never saw the ending coming. The climax of the movie is something that will etch this movie in your mind for a long time. Must see.

Green Book (2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Green Book’ has been at the receiving end of a concerted campaign to discredit it ahead of the Oscars. Truth be told, this is the most topical film of the year with an excellent screenplay and commendable performances. Mahershala Ali is a shoo-in for the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the Oscars. ‘Green Book’ is a classic road movie which tells the true tale of an African American musician chauffeured by a Italian American in the racially volatile deep South during the 60s. ‘Green Book’ deals with important themes of racism, friendship and culture and emerges unscathed. The endearing movie is boosted by its charming sense of comedy. Overall, a very good movie which is worth your time.

Vice (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Adam Mckay holds back no punches is an all out assault on Dick Cheney in ‘Vice’. The director sticks to his signature style of film making which is a curious superimposition of the documentary style on a drama. Backed by first rate research, the movie reveals more about the events that catapulted Cheney into the driver’s seat in American politics and his links with the stakeholders. For the uninitiated, the movie also traces the depth of the relationship between the principal actors of the Bush-Cheney era. As a cinematic venture ‘Vice’ does fall flat on many occasions but it is a movie that needs appreciation for the mere fact that it was made.

The Favourite (2018) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

In a movie where all three female protagonists are evidently relishing the experience of acting to a fine script, ‘The Favourite’ tells the scheming that defined the reign of Queen Anne. Severely weighed down by her infirmities and declining health, Queen Anne is no more than a figurehead controlled by people with a plan. Her feeble attempts to assert herself only reveal the extent of her helplessness. Into the scene walks in another devious character played by Emma Stone and then all hell breaks loose. The director who rightfully receives an Oscar nomination does not paint the times in the class and elegance movies have tried to portray the times. There are frequent encounters with ‘other sections’ of the society. Ultimately, ‘The Favourite’ is a universal story of a seemingly powerful person in decline who is controlled by more nefarious elements. Realization comes late to the monarch and by then all possibilities of a course correction are exhausted. Highly recommended.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on a true story and a bestselling book, this movie is a subversive take on the market for memorabilia. A down on her luck author, played memorably by Melissa McCarthy, conjures up a scheme to make some easy money. The movie is more of a social commentary on characters at the fringe of the society. Their small joys and a life which lurches from one crisis to another is shown with care in the movie. Watch it for Melissa McCarthy.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Bohemian Rhapsody ticks all the boxes of a biopic but what elevates the movie are the sensational soundtrack and an award winning performance from Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Malek becomes Mercury and carries the movie on his shoulders from the first frame till the last one. The movie does not have any great surprises but is easy to watch and engaging. Recommended.

Widows (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Widows’ from director Steve McQeen is a heist movie with several undertones. Four women find themselves at life’s crossroads when their partners are killed in a botched up heist. Some of them team up to finish the mission which took their partners’ lives without realizing that they are only foot soldiers in a larger plot. Deftly weaving politics, corruption and other criminal elements, ‘Widows’ proceeds with a rapidly mounting body count culminating in a implausible yet satisfying finale. A special mention for the performance of Viola Davis is warranted.

The Front Runner (2018) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Hugh Jackman plays a front-runner for the Democratic party’s ticket to challenge Ronald Reagan. The movie is based on the true story of Gary Hart who was consigned to the dustbin of history after the scandal that engulfed his campaign saw the wheels come off his juggernaut. The movie tries to play up the events in the story as a turning point in American politics but that argument does not hold up to scrutiny. The major problem with the movie is that Gary Hart is shown as a smooth talking politician with a vacuous personality lacking in any courage of conviction. His duplicity does not help the case of the movie.

Documentary of the Week

The Panama Papers (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The inside story of the courageous journalism that drove the leak of the Panama papers. Could have been better but still worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The Oscars

Did you know: The Golden Globes are decided by the 93 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association whereas the Academy Awards have more than 6,000 voters.

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Edition 62

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Force Majeure (Sweden, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating: 7/10]

Force_Majeure_La_traicion_del_instinto_poster_ingles

Trailer:

‘Force Majeure’ is a movie about relationships and trust. In life’s key moments, would you go for self-protection or would you go the distance to protect those who count on you? A Swedish family vacationing in France faces the consequences of such a situation, thus exposing the fault lines within relationships which had been taken for granted. At another level, the story is that of redemption and restitution of faith. Not exactly for audiences who like to have fun at the cinemas, ‘Force Majeure’ was a strong performer at the festival circuits last year. It bagged the Jury Prize at Cannes during this run and was tipped to be a shoo in for the Foreign Language Oscar nomination. So when it did not grab that coveted nomination, the director of the film went into a meltdown which was captured in the following clip:

Movies I Saw This Week

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7/10]

kingsman_the_secret_service

Trailer:

One of the best ‘leave your brain at home’ movies that I have seen in recent times, this one keeps the pace intact throughout the course without ever flagging. Even when acutely aware of the fact that the underdog will save the world, the viewer gets a feeling of something fresh happening on the screen. The write smartly sets up clichéd scenes and has a conversation about the scene being clichéd. Then he does the obvious. Is the obvious a cliché? Colin Firth and Samuel Jackson handle their roles with ease and the relatively new Taron Egerton does a competent job. The plot is about a secret ‘Secret Service’ with limited membership which does the difficult task of saving the world. The hero is the equivalent of an adolescent James Bond but with a baseball cap and the Swedish Princess for a ‘girlfriend’. The movie unintentionally throws up some interesting questions about corporate czars influencing the politics of the world. These type of interesting questions are thrown up in the midst of a lot of fun. After all, when was the last time you had a hero called Eggsy saving the world?

The Lunchbox (2013) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Lunchbox

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I saw this movie only now and that too after it received a BAFTA nomination. That is the sad part. Only a BAFTA nomination could persuade me to watch what is essentially one of the best Indian movies of last year. The move tells the poignant and unlikely romance that develops when the lunchboxes of two people are exchanged in the extremely rare event of a mistake by the Dabbawallas of Mumbai. With moments that bring the best of times bygone including the old Doordarshan shows and cheesy romantic songs of the 90s, the movie also blends in side tracks like the one featuring the ever reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Filled with genuine humour (spoiler ahead) in situations like the one in which the Dabbawalla quotes Harvard to dismiss suggestions of any mismanagement, this film is one you will not forget very soon.

John Wick (2014) [IMDB; 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating:6.5/10]

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Trailer:

Keanu Reeves is John Wick. In his heyday, John Wick was a hitman par excellence. Then he found love and then came retirement. Once his love was dead there was no reason to remain in retirement. At this point, we are only 5 minutes into the movie. The rest of the movie is about how John Wick finishes off all his adversaries and even some bystanders. If you like suave actions flicks featuring a protagonist with a lot of panache, ‘John Wick’ is the movie for you. If gun shots sound like music to your ears, then you may think you are watching a philharmonic performance. Keanu Reeves deserves some appreciation for his ‘performance’. Afterall, it must have been tough to have the same expression during the entire course of making of this movie.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5/10]

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Trailer:

Ayushmann Khurrana was staring at the abyss after delivering three consecutive box office bombs. He must have been relieved to have an Yash Raj film in his kitty but even he would not have realized the enormous (there will be a few more bad puns in this review) potential of a film which could have weighed him down. Quite easily the ‘Queen’ of 2015, ‘Dum Laga ke Haisha’ is a delight to watch even when the dialect is sometimes a little difficult to grasp. Set in the 90s in Haridwar, the movie takes you to a time when Kumar Sanu’s nasal voice used to rule the roost. Evidently shot on a low budget, the film tells the story of the arranged marriage between two disparate souls. The one who takes the cake (and perhaps eats it too) is debutante Bhumi Pednekar who gives a confident performance as the assertive young daughter-in-law. She shows that size really does not matter. It is her free spirit that makes the film worth watching. Interestingly, hardly anybody left the movie hall till the Kumar Sanu-Sadhna Sargam track finished playing along with the titles.

The Rewrite (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 645, My Rating:5/10]

rewrite

Trailer:

Out of work Oscar winning writer lands a teaching job in an obscure town where he turns things around. He also discovers love and unearths a new talent. Aided by the electric smile of Marisa Tomei and not so electric smile of Hugh Grant, the movie chugs along without gathering too much pace or slowing down considerably. This movie could have starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore instead. Or Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It would still be the same and it wouldn’t matter. It is one of those movies which you wouldn’t mind watching but would have a hard time recollecting after a few months.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating:3/10]

Fifty Shades of Grey

Trailer:

At an artistic level, it is one of the worst films to have come out in recent times but the promotion and the sustained marketing campaign hava been a good case study on how to go about getting the audiences to watch this movie. If explicit content is the lure for you to watch the movie, then cut to the chase. Certainly one of the duds of the year.

NH10 (2015) [IMDb: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:67%, My Rating: 3/10]

NH10

Trailer:

(Spoilers ahead) Surely one of the most illogical and nonsensical movies of the last five years. Produced by Anurag Kahyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, this movie has more holes in the script than what a punching machine would ever be able to achieve. The liberated girl has to be a smoker and her birthday gift is the freedom to smoke. I thought that this was so passé. She has a nutty husband who seems to have turned off the functioning of his brain. Only the script writer knows what he was smoking when he dreamt of the sequence when the guy goes with a gun to counsel someone in the middle of nowhere. Seriously? Then, people kill each other. The heroine runs around the whole of Haryana in search of help. Only people who help her out are migrant labourers from Bihar. Then she runs again, then she cycles, then she kills the policeman and steals the police vehicle. Then she runs again. After running so much, she lands up at the home of the people who are chasing her. Of all the houses in all the villages in all of Haryana, she walks into the only house which she should have avoided. Rick from ‘Casablanca’ would have been so proud. After being beaten to pulp by her tormentors, she conveniently finds a way to get the keys to their car. Then she makes them run around the village before killing them while she chases them in their car. They run as if she knows their village more than them. They run as if the only direction they know is ‘straight’. I ran to the side because the movie hall had exits on the side.

The Boy Next Door (2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 1/10]

boy-next-door-poster

Trailer:

A youthful divocee falls for her new neighbor. It takes her some time to realize that her neighbor is a bad guy, a really bad guy. Staring at the midday sun is a less painfull experience than watching this flick.

Documentary of the Week

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating; 7.5/10]

Finding Vivian Maier

Trailer:

The captivating story of a street photographer whose treasure trove of great photographs numbering more than 100,000 was discovered after she had died as a destitute old lady. Also, a reminder that in photography, it is the person behind the camera that matters more than the camera itself.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘ While We’re Young’ starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.

Did you know: ‘American Sniper’ is the highest grossing war film of all time.

Edition 60

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Leviathan (Russia, 2014) [IMDb:8.0, Rotten tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 9/10]

Leviathan-Poster

Trailer:

Of the few hundred movies that I have seen in 2014, ‘Leviathan’ is the best. It is also the most depressing. It is unsparingly bleak, brutally honest and hauntingly beautiful.

A man decides to stand up against the might of the Russian State, in a coastal town where generations of his family have lived. His mortal enemy is the mayor of the town and when he summons his lawyer friend from Moscow to fight his case, he sets in motion a chain of events that spiral out of control. The vast expanse of the remote Russian terrain and the suitably frugal government offices conspire to cover up the opulence and decadence at the heart of the society. It would be a surprise if ‘Leviathan’ does not take the Oscar for the foreign language movie.

Movies I Saw This Week

Whiplash (2014) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My rating:7.5]

whiplash-poster

Trailer:

‘Whiplash’ has too many twists and turns. It could have been an ideal candidate for a script tying itself in knots but ‘Whiplash’ redeems itself by untying all the knots (or shall we say notes?) without making it feel like a Houdini escape. For the most part you won’t notice that such a short story is basically held together by some praiseworthy performances. In the case of J.K Simmons, it is also an Oscar worthy performance. In fact, if there is one category on which I am willing to put my money now, it is the Best Supporting Actor, for J.K. Simmons.

I was reminded of some of the teachers whom I had the misfortune of meeting and who confused rigor with inhumanity. ‘Whiplash’ is about a drummer who overcomes the hurdles placed by such a teacher. All this is told in a very engaging way and this has now helped ‘Whiplash’ to become the dark horse in the ‘Best Screenplay ‘ category at the Oscars.

Selma (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

selma

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Based on an important chapter in the US Civil Rights Movement led by Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, ‘Selma’ tells a topical tale. Unfortunately, it was snubbed in categories like direction, acting and screenplay at the Oscars. It also revealed some interesting statistics: 94% of Oscar voters are white and 77% are white men with an average age of 63. Even Martin Luther King would have struggled to get a nod from such a group. The director Ava DuVernay has a double handicap. She is a woman and she is African American.

Coming to the movie, the creators of the movie were not allowed to use the actual speeches used by Dr.King. Still, the scenes are quite rousing and performed with anguish and passion. It is on watching such movies that one gets to know of Dr.King being whacked by every Tom, Dick and Harry who disagreed with him. As a movie, ‘Selma’ may not be a classic but it is  great chronicle of one of the struggles that shaped history. Highly recommended.

Cake (2014) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. My Rating: 5.5]

cake

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There was a lot of heartburn when Jennifer Aniston was snubbed by the Academy in spite of concerted lobbying for a ‘Best Actress’ nomination. After watching ‘Cake’, I was wondering what all that hoopla was about. Clearly a movie made with the sole intention of fetching Aniston an Oscar, ‘Cake’ leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Aniston plays  a character suffering from chronic pain (presumably) after a personal tragedy. Aniston went the extra length of wearing as little make up as possible for this movie. All she ends up delivering is an insipid performance. Now that Aniston got her ‘Cake’, she also got to learn that she cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Pride (2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

Pride_Movie_2014_Poster

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Based on a true story, ‘Pride’ is about the LGBT community and the miners who became bedfellows during Thatcher era miner’s strike in Britain. Set in Wales, the movie has a pleasing pace and gathers momentum as it progresses. The dialogues are fresh the creators have tried their best to keep the historical accuracy of events. A lively background also lifts the film from being pedestrian. It is a movie which is not bad but it would also be an exaggeration to call it a very good film.

Big Eyes (2014) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:71%, My Rating: 5.5]

Big-Eyes

Trailer:

There was a Tim Burton who made thoroughly enjoyable movies like ‘Edward Scissorhands’. There is a Tim Burton who makes soulless movies like ‘Big Eyes’. Just like his favorite Johnny Depp, he also making uninspired movies. This one has Amy Adams essaying the role of Margaret Keane whose paintings of children with big eyes were a rage a few decades ago.  The trouble was that her husband fraudulently took all the acclaim and the millions generated from the sales of her paintings. It is about how the painter reclaimed what was rightfully hers. The whole movie looks like a stale 80s documentary where everything seems so artificial and simplistic. It is a story without any memorable moments. At some point in the movie, you wish that the agony had been shorter. Wish the editor of the movie had scissorhands.

Wild (2014) [IMDb: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My rating: 4]

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This movie’s only purpose is to somehow land Reese Witherspoon another Oscar. If you have too much money and time, and your choice is between watching ‘Wild’ and paying somebody to kick you, do the latter. A woman goes on a wild trek to tide over a personal tragedy . That’s it. She backpacks and just walks. Reese Witherspoon wants an Oscar for acting in this movie. Many critics concur. I think they should be asked to go for a walk.

 

I (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten tomatoes: 55%, my Rating: 3.0]

i-movie-posters

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From my childhood I have enjoyed most of the movies from Shankar even when they had the same story of a man’s struggle against corruption. Muthalvan, Gentleman, Indian and Anniyan were essentially the same tale told in different ways. In ‘I’, corruption gives way to romance. The hero wants to take revenge on those who sabotaged his love and life. The director throws logic out of the window, digs a grave and buries science, and relies on low brow humor to hold together a film disintegrating like the body of the protagonist. Even the normally reliable AR Rahman is not able to give a hummable tune. The dictum followed by the director is to disfigure characters and make them look as repelling as his makeup man possibly could.  While Shankar created spectacles with a much lower budget in his earlier films, his revenge instrument in this big budget movie is a syringe. If you ever have to explain to a foreigner what this movie is about, tell him/her that it is the Indian version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

Documentary of the Week

Citizenfour (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My rating: 9/10]

Citizenfour-online

Trailer:

Edward Snowden. The documentary of the year. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

Did you know: Jason Schwartzman, Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage are cousins.