Edition 65

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Timbuktu (Mauritania,2014) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Once upon a time Timbuktu was synonymous with the last outpost of Western Civilization.  This town in North Mali at the edge of the Sahara desert was also a cultural centre of Islam. ‘Timbuktu’ the movie, does justice to the mysterious and tantalizing town while capturing the wild beauty of the nomadic life in the interiors of Africa. The movie won at Cannes and had a formidable run at the film festivals culminating in an Oscar nomination. The story is that of a cattle herder and his family whose traditional way of life is interrupted when the town is taken over by conservative Islamic terrorists. What ensues is a series of curbs on the life of the people, with football and music among the things banned. Mesmerizingly shot scenes only add to the authenticity of the film with a group of amateurs turning in performances they can be proud of. Though some of the scenes like the imaginary football one did not work for me, the movie is a definite winner for its ability to portray a polarizing subject dispassionately.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dear White People (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating:6.5]

Dear White People

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At a time when USA is in the throes of major racial tensions, this film throws light on the lives of African-American students in an Ivy League university. It is a movie which focuses on the relationships and changing dynamics among the students with a dose of racial issues adding to the mix. The movie has good production values and for once there is a role reversal with the minority students playing the role of the erudite people and the whites being the troublemakers. Though the movie does flag towards the end, it is a one time watch.

Paddington (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

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A bear from Peru lands up in UK and gets a place to stay with a kind family. Soon enough, a villain turns up and the rest of the story is about how good triumphs evil. The movie is told at a decent pace and keeps the viewer engaged. With dialogues which have an element of humour in them, the movie is quite an easy watch and certainly one of the good ones of 2014.

Jigarthanda (India, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Rated, My Rating:7.5]

Jigarthanda

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Billed by the producers as a “gangster-musical”, this Tamil film scooped a few National Awards including one for the antagonist played by Simhaa. In fact, he is the show stopper with his carefully nuanced performance becoming the highlight of a movie with a convoluted plot. A contestant in a TV show bags a project to direct a movie but the catch is that he must make a movie about a gangster. In his steadfastness, he starts to tail a real life gangster, only to be caught by the gangster. From there the movie takes myriad twists and turns before finishing in an anti-climax. Highly recommended.

Starred Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating:7.5]

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An instant cult classic for movies with prison as a background, ‘Starred Up’ starts on a high and vaguely resembles the French classic ‘A Prophet’ (2009). But then the movie gets into unchartered territory with a bit of family drama complicating an already tough tale. With a career defining performance from Jack O’Connell, the film is a gripping story about a standoff between a teenage prisoner and the establishment. Highly recommended.

Get Hard (2015) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%, My Rating: 5/10]

Get Hard

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Will Ferrell plays a hotshot Harvard Business School Graduate (yes, you read that right) who makes money for fun on the stock market. Kevin Hart plays a car washer who nurses dreams of making his business bigger. Destiny brings them together. The movie does have some funny scenes but it is laborious in the second half and becomes boring as it keeps on moving away from its story brief.

You’re Not You (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating:6.5]

youre_not_you

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This critically panned movie has received a much more favourable response from the viewers. It tells the story of a pianist who is diagnosed with ALS. As she disintegrates, she comes in contact with new people in her life. A tearjerker for those who are interested in crying, the movie does not have anything extraordinary to say. Even Hillary Swank who has an author backed role dwarfs in comparison with performances of people who share the screen with her.

Mr. X (India, 2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%, My Rating: 2.5/10]

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I believe that Vikram Bhatt gets to direct movies because his family produces and acts in them. Emraan Hashmi’s new flop has him gaining the power to become invisible. That helps Tanmay Bhatt of AIB to fill the screen. The lead actress in the movie has nothing to do. The producers could have done with just the lips of the lady as that is the only part of the actress called into action. Maybe, she could also have gained some power to disappear from the movie. The movie has low production values and is evidently directed by someone from another era. What more do you expect from a director whose last five movies were ‘Creature’, ‘Raaz 3’, ‘Dangerous Ishq’, ‘Haunted’ and ‘Shaapit’ ? Thankfully, the audiences also gained the power to become invisible from the movie halls.

Documentary of the Week

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) [IMDB;8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating:8.5]

Going_Clear_Poster

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A look into the origin, growth and stupidity of the cult of Scientology. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared‘  because titles don’t get more interesting than this.

Did you know: In the movie ‘Shrek’, the right hand page of the book at the end of the film says ‘The End’. The left hand page says ‘And they lived ugly ever after. ‘

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Edition 59

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Winter Sleep (Turkey, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Raing:7/10]

Winter Sleep

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Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 2104, this is another masterwork from perennial Cannes favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Set in the interiors of Turkey where everyone knows everyone, this movie tells the tale of a retired actor whiling away his time, doing pretty much nothing. He has a hotel to manage and he also writes articles on mundane issues. His running feuds with his wife and his divorced sister pale into insignificance when he has to address issues created by his tenants. The film captures the breathtaking locales and the cultural hues of Turkey. The performances are competent and the film has its moments but those moments are few and far between. This, is especially testing when you have to muster the patience to sit through 196 minutes of the movie. If it had chopped off 100 minutes from the running time, the movie would have looked much better. For its unjustifiable duration, ‘Winter Sleep’ can induce sleep even in the summer.

Movies I Saw This Week

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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This movie was a commercial flop and largely overlooked by the audiences in spite of the critical acclaim it received. Maybe some movies are not lucky enough at the box office because there is enough to suggest that this movie is one of the best action films of 2014. Set in the future where one man (Tom Cruise, who else?) is humanity’s last hope to fight an alien invasion, this movie brings in a cocktail of time travel, hi-tech combat and lofty ideals. Although Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give mediocre performances when they could have easily put their histrionic qualities to test, the movie more than holds on its own. With enough twists and turns, it keeps you engaged without getting boring, inviting you to second guess the various permutations and combinations that are possible. Recommended.

The Imitation Game (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Imitation Game

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Based on the life of legendary Alan Turing and his seminal contributions to the Allies’ efforts in breaking the German code during the Second World War, ‘The Imitation Game’ tries to delve into the life of a genius tormented by his sexuality. The movie has been tirelessly promoted in the build up to the Oscars but it is a  good movie but not good enough. Benedict Cumberbatch gives all he can to bring Turing to life on screen and he is not let down by an ensemble cast, with another notable performance from Keira Knightley. The movie has a riveting background score and is ably directed. The moral dilemmas of Mr. Turing and his inability to make sound judgement when he is enjoined to not speak about a spy, are all captured well. The asperity of Mr.Turing did not endear him to many but that wouldn’t be the main roadblock for Cumberbatch to achieve Oscar glory. Unfortunately for him, there are better performances this year.

Unbroken (2014) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Unbroken

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The moot point while watching ‘Unbroken’ is whether a better director could have done a better job with the source material on hand. Louis Zamperini, on whom the story is based, was a champion runner, decorated war hero and an inspirational speaker. His life had countless moments which would have looked great on screen but in director Angelina Jolie’s hands those moments look forced and tame. ‘Unbroken’ tells the story of Zamperini’s unlikey rise from humble origins, his remarkable success in athletics and the relentless torture that he had to undergo in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War. Jack O’Connell gives an impressive performance in a breakout role. ‘Unbroken’ is a movie of great ambitions but lacks a soul. It is a lesson on how clichéd one can become when making a biopic and how disrespectful that can be to a legend who deserved better than this.

Birdman (2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes;92%, My Rating: 8.0]

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I am an admirer of deirector Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I have loved his works like ‘Babel’ and ‘Amores Perros’. ‘Birdman’ is a shift from his usally dark depressing themes. In fact, there is even an element of mischief in this movie, which is being categorized as a comedy. The merits of that categorization aside, the film tells the story of a thespian who is tryng his best to stay relevant. Micael Keaton delivers a heavy duty performance as the protagonist who has seen better days. Shot in 10 minute uninterrupted sequences using one camera, the movie tries to play around with cinematic formats. Another highlight is an unconventional background score which many have hailed as groundbreaking but I found to be annoying. In terms of performances, this is the best performce by an ensemble cast in 2014. Michael Keaton will go head to head with Eddie Redmayne for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. The movie is also a strong contender in the film, director, cinematography and screenplay categories. The major disadvantage that the movie faces is that it is not a mass entertainer like ‘Boyhood’. This could prove to be its Achilles heel.

American Sniper (2014) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:74%, My rating:7/10]

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There is no movie dividing the critics and the audiences like this one. Seen by some as an unapologetic look at the American side of the story in the Iraq war and by another equally vociferous section as the story of a true American hero, this movie tells the story of the most successful sniper in the history of America who finally died from the gunshot wounds he received from ‘friendly fire’ when he was  in USA. Judged purely on quality, the movies is a poor cousin of ‘The Hurt Locker’. There are many action sequences in the movie but none of them are good enough to capture your full attention. Many such scenes get repetitive. If the intention was to create a contrast between the life in a war zone and life at home, then the movie resoundingly fails to do so. The viewer will not be able to feel any compassion for the character on screen who is a monstrous sniper. Amercans have every right to (in fact, they should) honour a brave soldier who put his life in danger to serve his country. War movies are not supposed to be an examination of what the enemy feels about getting killed. Even if the hero here was convicted of slander in real life, it does not take away his service to the nation. Inspite of this, the movie is a very tedious one to watch and does not deserve the high praise it is getting. It also does not deserve the scorn that seems specially reserved for it. American sniper, in the end, is a an average movie about a great sniper directed by a once great director.

The Good Lie (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8/10]

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After a mish mash of snipers, tortured geniuses, former superheroes and real life superheroes, comes the time to review a movie which is undoubtedly the feel good movie of the year. ‘The Good Lie’ is not a movie that will move mountains or has a scale or budget that will put it in the top league but for the sheer quality that it produces from its limited budget, it is one of the must see movies of 2014. The story traces the lives of orphaned Sudanese children trying to escape civil war in their country and their journey to USA. Effortlessly funny and charming, this movie has its heart in the right place. With enough doses of humour without becoming a comedy movie, the film is about real people in the real world. Must watch.

Documentary of the Week

Ivory Tower (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating: 6.5/10]

Ivory Tower

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A look at the American college system. Very interesting to watch but misses some salient points.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Timbuktu’. Should a good one. Also, I have been close to Timbuktu but never been there.

Did you know: Courtesy: http://www.rogerebert.com Roger Ebert’s review of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ quoted below. “Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”