Edition 88

The Non-English Movie of The Week

In the Fade (Germany, 2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

From acclaimed director Fatih Akin comes an avenge drama which gives a glimpse of the struggles of the delicately balanced identity politics in Germany. Diane Kruger plays a mother caught in the crossfire of neo-Nazi extremism and an inept judicial system. It is with great horror that she sees the tables turned on her when the neo-Nazis who show no remorse for their actions get away scot-free. She decides to take matters into her own hands. The film which plays out as a thriller has a lot going for it but the highlight of the movie is the sterling performance by Diane Kruger who scooped up many awards, including one at Cannes, for her theatrics. For all the drama that unfolds during the course of the movie, it is the denouement which leaves much food for thought.

Movies I Saw This Week

Thoroughbreds (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Cory Finley is a director who offers copious amounts of promise in this stylish take on entitled millennials who cannot take no for an answer. Two friends reunite and in their cold emotionless thoughts develop a plan to kill. For them everything is dispensable and there is no concept of what is right or wrong. One of them revels in silence and the other reveals her inane thoughts by opening her mouth. They are always impeccably turned out. The director never lets the pace drop and shrewdly writes the dialogues which take the story forward without upsetting the tempo of the movie. The product is as high class as the the background of the protagonists of the movie.

Ali’s Wedding (2017) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

This Australian feature is a delight to watch. It is that rare cross between a colourful Bollywood flick and a thoughtful Hollywood drama. The movie tells the life of Ali whose one lie spirals out of control. Though ‘Ali’s Wedding’ does paper over some medieval practices vis-a-vis the treatment of women in Islam, it does not hold back when it shows the intricacies of the life in the Muslim community in Australia. Mostly, the results are hilarious and when they are not, they still do not bore you. A breezy watch with heart warming performances and an engaging screenplay, Ali is worth your time.

The Death of Stalin (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

This biting political satire is an unvarnished look at the fictional politics during the death of Stalin. There are two ways to look at the movie. The favourable way is to see it as an attempt at farce to bring out some key ideas relating to politics and power play in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The slightly less favourable way is to read it with the present animosity between Russia and Britain and a British filmmaker’s attempt to paint the Russians as scoundrels. Apparently, the Russian government agrees with the latter evaluation as it has banned the movie in Russia. From a neutral perspective, the setting and shenanigans of the movie could fit into any autocracy in the world. The viewer may watch the proceedings with slight bemusement. There are enough colourful characters in this movie to keep you engaged and their unpredictability brings enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Recommended.

A Quiet Place (2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

‘A Quiet Place’ is set in a post apocalyptic world where aliens who respond to sound, kill and silence is golden. A corollary from the plot is that the movie has minimal dialogues. A family tries to survive and care for itself in seclusion. Their griefs and joys interspersed with violence form the crux of the movie. Though the film borrows heavily from other ventures which had sound in them, it finds its own place as one of the most well written movies to have come out in recent times. On a lighter note, the film shows you how to keep infants silent and how steaming or grilling is the best way to cook. Recommended.

The Mercy (2018) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

The good thing with the movie is that it is based on a true event which had captured the imagination of the people for its scandalous nature. The bad thing about the movie is that there is no anticipation or excitement as the story is well known. To add to this, the director does not delve much into the character study and lets the events play out. The film which tells the story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst who went for broke as he decided to take up the challenge to be the first person to circumnavigate the earth non-stop. The performances of Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz add respectability to the movie. Ultimately, the movie is about a man who did not know what he was getting into and could never utter the word ‘no’ with conviction.

Revenge (2018) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

With with the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ movements in the vogue, ‘Revenge’ is a timely movie which may at many levels be the defining movie of  the aforementioned movements. Sophisticated and chic, ‘Revenge’ is a revenge drama with blood splashed all over it. For the ones who enjoy gore and violence, this movie may be music to ears and poetry in motion. With great performances and outstanding music complemented by beautiful cinematography which captures the brutal landscape, ‘Revenge’ does not fall into the trap of slasher films. It is often meditative and makes the audience root for the wronged heroine. ‘Revenge’ is not for the weak of heart and if you watch it you will understand that it was never meant to be.

Lust Stories (2018) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, My Rating: 5.0]

Trailer

An anthology directed by four respectable filmmakers, ‘Lust Stories’ stays true to its title. Probably that is the best thing I can say about it. Many of them play out like short films made by film students to complete their coursework. Somehow, it is the final piece of the quartet directed by Karan Johar which gets naughty. Karan Johar has no qualms about ruining one of his popular songs and he relishes the chance to do something different from the syrupy brainless movies he normally dishes out. It is in this setting that the high brow directors like Anurag Basu, Zoya Akhtar and Dibankar Banerjee fail to get out of their comfort zone. The pieces by the Basu and Akhtar are particularly tedious. The low cost of production is also evident in their work. Overall, the lust part is strong but the story part is particularly weak in ‘Lust Stories’.

The Kissing Booth (2018) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%, My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

Some movies question your judgment as you watch them. In this case, my judgement of having chosen to watch ‘The Kissing Booth’. Based on a book developed on Wattpad (the warning signs were there, you see) and apparently loved by the millennials, the movie does justice to its source material. That’s not saying much though. The story is about a girl who falls for her friend’s brother but that is a taboo as per the regulations and rules governing their friendship. There are decidedly positive outcomes in this bleak scenario. For one, the movie works if you have are not bothered too much by the concept of logic and sense. ‘The Kissing Booth’ in fact, gives a good name to chick flicks.

The Week Of (2018) [IMDB: 5.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%, My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

The problem with ‘The Week Of’ is that I enjoyed it for a large part of its running time. Even when I was laughing at an outrageous joke or set piece. Even when I knew that what I saw did not make sense. Some of the jokes are so bad that they are good. As the setting of two families getting together for a wedding played out, one could not miss the fact that Adam Sandler was now the father of the bride. Adam Sandler is also one of the writers of the script. That is when I realized that Sandler is not going to go away anytime soon. Maybe it is a good thing. Maybe not.

Documentary of the Week

Faces Places (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A quirky duo set off on a road trip. They bring joy to people in small towns in France. An uplifting documentary which was crowdfunded.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘BlacKkKlansaman’ directed by Spike Lee

Did you know: ‘In the Fade’ is only the second time in her 47 acting credits where Diane Kruger speaks German.

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Edition 56

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Goodbye First Love (France, 2011) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My rating: 6/10]

Goodbye First Love

This film which had a good run at the festival circuits, is an intimate observation of adolescence and the youthful passion associated with being in love for the first time. Camille and Sullivan fall in love as if they were made for each other. Then Sullivan decides to go on a trip, only to return after eight years. Camille meanwhile has been through an emotionally turbulent period. Will their once indestructible and fervent love stand the test of time? The film is an exploration of how maturity brings change in the thoughts and actions of people. Beautifully shot and competently acted, this film is not a classic by any stretch of imagination but is certainly worth a look.

Movies I Saw This Week

Boyhood (2014)  [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My rating: 9/10]

Boyhood

Trailer:

A first in the history of cinema, this movie delves into the life of Mason at the age of 5 and follows him till age 18. That would be a normal thing in film making but the filmmakers do the incredible by shooting with the same boy over a course of 12 years. Ellar Coltrane who plays Mason quite literally grows as the movie progresses. Richard Linklater, best known for the ‘Before sunrise/sunset/midnight’ series of movies also ropes in actors who stay committed to the project over such a long course of time. The movie is a coming off age tale and at the risk of sounding overenthusiastic, I can say that there was and never will be such a story. The best part is that the there is a seamlessness about the acting. It feels as if a real life is unfolding in front of you. Kudos to the producers for staying invested in the movie for such a long period. The risks were too many. Certainly one of the best movies of the year and a piece of cinema history to boot.

The Theory of Everything (2014) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes:84% My rating: 7/10]

Theory_of_Everything

Trailer:

Based on the memoirs of Stephen Hawking’s first wife, the film tells the renowned physicist’s battle with life as he ascends into the pantheon of intellectual greats. At its heart, it is a personal story in which the science part comes into play intermittently. The standout feature is the dramatic performance from Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen Hawking. Critics have already started comparisons with Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in ‘My Left Foot’, some even calling it as ‘My Left Brain’. All this augurs well for Redmayne who can count an Oscar nomination as a given. The film though is mostly told from the viewpoint of Jane, his wife and at times feels like a long explanation for her leaving Mr. Hawking. Quite obviously, she did not sign up to be his partner for life and would have been driven by emotional considerations when she thought of providing solace to a young man staring at imminent death. The film only scratches the surface when it comes to the science and is clearly targeted at the masses. To its credit, it must be said that the film is shot well and is successful in capturing the persona of the genius and the times he lived in.

Predestination (2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Predestination (2014)

Trailer:

Adding to the never ending list of time travel movies, ‘Predestination’ is a new variant in this sub category. On his last mission, a special agent wants to save the world from a violent person . He goes back in time a few times to achieve his task. If only life was that simple or shall we say, only that complex. Frankly, it took me some time to figure out what the scenarists were trying to say and once you get the gist of it, it becomes more or less a film on bending the rules of biology to fight crime. How about the daughter, mother and father being the same person? Will an agent choose self preservation over saving other’s lives? If you like movies which have a lot of knots (some of them beautiful to look at) and want to attempt untying them, this is the movie for you.

The Babadook (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

babadook

Trailer: 

An out and out horror movie which is one of the better ones I have seen in a long time. Unlike some of the pseudo horror movies in recent times, ‘Babadook’ does have some really edge of the seat stuff. A mother still recovering from the tragic death of her husband has a troublesome kid to deal with. Already in a depressed state, her life hurtles towards complete annihilation when a devious cartoon character enters her life. All hell breaks loose and then it is a fight to death as she and her son turn enemies and allies in the fight against evil. Often relying on the standard stunts of horror movies, it is the treatment and the sheer force of what is on screen that makes the movie stand apart. If you like horror, this one is for you.

Magic in the Moonlight (2014) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%, My Rating: 6/10]

Magic in the Moonlight

Trailer:

Coming from the master Woody Allen, this film relies on magic and conjuring to tell its story. Unlike many of his previous screenplays, the magic is sorely lacking on screen. A world renowned illusionist is summoned by a friend to help solve the mystery of a lady who can make fancy statements about a person’s past with an all knowing look. Devoid of much logic and giving the feel of a theatre piece, the film lacks the wit that once used to be a hallmark of Woody Allen. The film also has shades on his earlier work ‘The Curse of Jade Scorpion’ and is similar in the quality too. The only plus in this half hearted attempt is the scenic beauty of the French terrain.

Happy Ending (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%, My Rating:1/10]

Happy-Ending

Trailer:

Saif Ali Khan continues his wonderful run of films with this one. Continuing on his contribution to cinema in the last two years in the form of ‘Humshakals’, ‘Race 2′, Bullett Raja’, ‘Agent Vinod’ et al, this one is a film for which he will have a lot of explaining to do when he meets his maker. An author who is a one book wonder has a writer’s block and hasn’t published a book in a very long time. He is roped in to write the screenplay (why? god knows) for a superstar’s new film which aims to capture the hearts of all sections of the audience. I fervently wished that this track involving Govinda would bloom and prosper because that was the only hope of redemption in a movie which otherwise has no idea what it is doing. It seems that the following day’s script for shooting was written on the night of the previous day. I genuinely wish that the script writer’s should have stuck to the advice the character of Govinda gives in the movie. It would have been less painful if they just took DVDs of Hollywood movies and mixed them up. That concoction would be palatable and not as deadly as this ‘original’ work.

Ungli (India,2014) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 3/10]

Ungli-2014

Trailer:

Coming from the director of the severely flawed ‘Kurbaan’ who also penned the screenplay for ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Ungli’ literally shows the finger (ungli) to the audience. After making a mess with Kurbaan, the director hopes that his tried and tested formula of vigilante justice will see him through. What comes out is a series of fantastical ideas and leave-your-brain-at-home events. The good cop-bad cop routine is also played out in the most stereotypical way possible. The movie is essentially a call to arms and tries to be a voice against the injustice that some of the cast members are subjected to. As for the acting, the only one doing any justice to his role is Randeep Hooda. Sanjay Dutt who also had the time and opportunity to study the behavior of cops in real life, also tries his two bits.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Helvetica (2007) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My rating: 7.5]

Helvetica

Trailer:

The story of ‘Helvetica’ font and the tremendous influence it has had. Also, a study of the art and craft of graphic design. Interesting for the interested.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Spectre’ because 007.

Did you know: The alien language used in ‘District 9’ was created by rubbing pumpkins.

Week 12

Movies: Non- English

Merry Christmas (France, Germany, 2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

merry-christmas-joyeux-noel-poster-0

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKkAg4Ew-s

Based on true events, the film tells the story of enemies united by music and the spirit of Christmas. During the First World War, German, French and Scottish soldiers momentarily stop fighting on the eve of Christmas and celebrate it together. It is little difficult to describe because it looks surreal. If I were at the scene, I would have pinched myself. They just lie down their arms, exchange hugs, sing, celebrate Christmas and then go back to fighting. Nominated for Oscar in the best foreign language film category. Did not win. Even the Academy voters would have found the story too good to be true.

Mediterraneo (Italy, 1991) [ IMDB:7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

mediterraneo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU4G6mfyvhM

Exquisitely shot anti-war romance. Italian soldiers land in a Greek island during the World War 2. The story develops as they come in contact with the people (some of them too gorgeous) of the island. Picturesque locations and the laid back life of the islands have an enduring effect on the soldiers. Though set during the World War, it is a light movie which moves at a leisurely pace. Only thing that can hold you back from watching this Oscar winner is the damning fact that it was produced by Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the Bunga Bunga guy). On a serious note, worth a watch.

Hollywood Retrospective

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

fish called wanda

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

The thing about ganging up to commit robbery is that trust between the gang members is an absolute essential. The uproarious British comedy explores what all could go wrong when each member of a four member gang tries to double cross one another. Jamie Lee Curtis is in the role of a lifetime in this film which has comedy at its core but also has a story to tell. The sad thing is that many Indian movies have unashamedly stolen scenes from this movie. Otherwise, perfect weekend entertainment.

Raging Bull (1980) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

raging-bull

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVOwxsa4OM

The original boxing classic based on the life of Jake LaMotta. LaMotta reaches the heights by channeling his rage and anger on the boxing ring but as he climbs the charts, the same flaws take a heavy toll on his personal life. Robert De Niro deservedly won an Oscar for his performance but Scorsese had to wait till ‘The Departed’ to land his first one. The movie is a lesson on life. Don’t miss the title sequence in the beginning. I would have given Scorsese the Oscar just for that.

The Searchers (1956) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

searchers

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI2AZb04HAc

A man’s search for his last remaining relative who has been kidnapped at a tender age. His persistence and focus also leads to morally ambiguous situations. After years of staying away in a different culture would the girl still want to come back? Will he take her back when she discovers that she is no more like the girl he was searching for? Tough questions. Watch the movie which is often cited as the best Western ever made.

Movies I Saw This Week

Upside Down (2012) [IMDB: 6.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

upside down

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYvYGR7Ys4

A boy and a girl fall in love. Then they are separated. The boy does not let go and pursues the girl. Simple story. Only issue is that they live in different worlds which have opposite gravity. Since digitally everything is possible, we have a plastic world where things are so beautiful that you know they don’t exist. Since the science is spurious, the story also feels fake. Maybe, you can take your partner to the cinema, eat popcorn, discuss few things and occasionally look at the screen.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) [IMDB; 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DylgNj4YQVc

The initial idea behind big budget animation films was that kids will drag their parents to the cinema and help sell those extra tickets. Disney has laughed all the way to the bank on a couple of occasions milking this idea. Now things are not so simple. So they have to throw in Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams to attract the right kind of audience. The grown ups can ogle at the beauties while the children can have the real fun. The movie is strictly for kids. They may enjoy it.

Raanjhanaa (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

tum-tak-raanjhanaa-2013-trailor-full-720p-multi

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9vmhxFucg

One line verdict: Not a bad film by the standards of Bollywood. Now the real thing (Spoilers ahead). If you think about it, ‘Raanjhanaa’ is a regressive film. The Muslim girl cannot marry any Hindu guy even when she has a choice of two. The leading lady is manipulative and does not really love any of her suitors. Truth be said, the film is about the love story of two different men for the same girl but it is all one way traffic. One of them is dumb enough to try his luck at marriage by posing as a Muslim and the other gets into politics of which he has no clue. The most sincere scene in the movie is when the men bond at the hospital bed of Abhay Deol. I have not lived in Uttar Pradesh but I can safely say that wrist slashing at the drop of a hat is not the preferred mode of wooing a girl in any part of the country. Come to think of it, Dhanush’s character is a bigger psycho than Shahrukh Khan of ‘Darr’. Here the stalking is direct and so in your face. Unfortunately Dhanush looks so earnest in his performance that you are willing to give him some sympathy but if you want to see why he won the National Award for best actor, watch ‘Aadukalam’. The good thing is that the movie does not really bore you and A R Rahman’s music helps the cause. Moral of the story for men: You cannot force anyone to love you and when you understand that get out of the scene. Otherwise you may find yourself in a coffin and the girl won’t even cry.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Man on Wire (2008) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

man on wire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIawNRm9NWM

Some people have too much courage or are they plain crazy? In which category would you place someone who walks 200 feet on a wire between two buildings at a height of 110 storeys? That too, without any safety features. One guy did it in 1974 and this is the documentary on him and his activities. Don’t try at home.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Lone Ranger’ because of Johnny Depp.

Did you know: The African Americans who acted in ‘Gone With the Wind’ were not allowed entry to the premiere of the movie.