Edition 108

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Auschwitz Report (Slovakia, 2021) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.5]

The horrors of the holocaust are well documented, as is the fact that Nazis are deservedly the supervillains in Hollywood. It is no small feat to find freshness in a subject that has been looked at from every angle possible. Still, this movie is a fine watch and an uncomfortable one at that. The horrors of Auschwitz are captured in previously undiscovered ways and the second half of the movie is a survival film in the genre of ‘The Pianist’. Two Slovakian Jews put their life on the line trying to tell the world what really happens in the concentration camp. The movie is also a timely reminder of how hate makes men do horrible things. Among the highlights of the film is the scene in which the Nazi officer asks a prisoner where he will be after the war.

Movies I Saw This Week

Nowhere Special (2021) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

This is a special movie. It is tender, emotional and empathetic without being exploitative. I’m sure that I will remember this movie for a long time to come. It has excellent acting and character development. Most importantly, it has its heart in the right place. The film is about a single father, who has only few months to live, trying to find a home for his four year old son. I have not been able to put my finger to it but there is something special in this film that is hard to pin down. Must watch.

Pig (2021) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5]

Nicolas Cage has acted in many bonkers films in the last decade. Most of his forays into acting during this period have been absolute duds. There are exceptions and ‘Pig’ falls into this category. At his finest, Cage reminds us of his screen presence and acting chops. He plays a recluse who has a truffle hunting pig. The pig goes missing one day and Cage comes back to civilization in pursuit of the pig. The thing about good films is that they are inevitably very easy to pick up. They literally smell of goodness. ‘Pig’ smells good.

CODA (2021) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

The moment CODA starts you can predict how it is going to end but you would be surprised how good the ride is. CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults) tells the story of a girl who is the only one in her family who can speak or hear. This is not a groundbreaking film but it has a terrific screenplay and lots of laughs. The best thing about this movie is that it never looks absurd or preachy. In fact, it hits the sweet spot delivering a poignant message about love, family and life in general. One of the best films of the year.

The Power of the Dog (2021) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

Jane Campion is one of the best directors around. She delivers another powerhouse of a film to her glittering career. The film centres around the relationship between two brothers who are temperamentally poles apart. When the elder brother decides to marry a widow whom the younger brother has insulted, the strength of the relationship is tested like never before. The movie is beautifully shot and transports the viewer to another era. Special mention should be made for the cinematography and set decoration. The actors put on good performances with Benedict Cumberbatch probably at his best ever. If you like a drama with a twist, this one is for you.

The Night House (2021) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 6.0]

‘The Night House’ had my attention for the most part but the explanation at the end for what was going on till then is muddled at best. Rebecca Hall plays Beth who is coming to terms with the sudden suicide of her husband. She also has visions of a sinister presence in her house. Her effort to understand the puzzle and perhaps solve it forms the rest of the story. Rebecca Hall carries the whole film on her more than capable shoulders and there is enough to keep you engaged right till the end. If you watch this movie, you may find it engrossing but there are too many loose ends to make the climax convincing.

Dream Horse (2021) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.0]

Want to watch a movie which is all about the triumph of the human (or shall we say animal) spirit? A movie where the underdog must win. A movie where the community matters and the camaraderie is the highlight of the film. Again, from the first frame you know that ‘Dream Horse’ can have no ending other than a crowdpleasing one. The movie is a textbook take on the underdog story with success coming against all odds. To lend authenticity to the plot, the film is based on a true story of some Welsh villagers going through a rough time finding hope in a horse they hope will win them the Grand National. You get the drift. Now comes the important bit. They do this quite well. This is a geunine feel good movie even if you have seen it all before.

Old (2021) [IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%, My Rating: 5.0]

Shyamalan is a victim of his own success in ‘Old’ where he is compelled by the need to come up with a twist in the tale at the end. The unfortunate part is that by the time the end comes, you would not be bothered by the big reveal because the film has so many plot holes that you would be better off counting the dots on a polka dot dress. ‘Old’ plays out as a parody of itself for the most part. The dumb blonde must die in the most sordidly comical fashion while the kids do all the growing up in front of their horrified parents. ‘Old’ if you notice, is a cheap movie to make. There is nothing about the background to the story and certainly no characters you can relate to. The movie takes the view that the viewer will not have the time to pause and think about the absurdity of what happens on the screen. ‘Old’, I’m sure, will not age well.

The Paper Tigers (2021) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

Three Kung Fu friends who were a big deal in their heydeys get together to solve the mystery of their master’s death and also discover that they are no more the aces they were. The movie is a mix of average action and good comedy. It is about relatable characters who find meaning in their togetherness. The film does not go into out and out action mode intentionally as the focus is on delivering a story and remaining light on the Kung Fu aspect. Kung Fu is mined for some laughs, especially the ones featuring the white American who is more Chinese than the Chinese themselves. Overall, a nice movie.

Cry Macho (2021) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 4.0]

Clint Eastwood is a legend. He is not helping his cause dishing out movies like ‘Cry Macho’ which corrode the stature of the man who embodies the hero of Western movies and who has helmed many classic movies. ‘Cry Macho’ is the latest evidence that Clint Eastwood should consider riding into the sunset of his movie career. He plays an oldie asked to return a favour by bringing back the son of his friend from Mexico back to the US. In a plot which promises nothing, the acting is ham, the characters are ludicrous, the direction is decidedly B-grade and the set pieces are amateurish. Eastwood goes for the old trick in the book (watch Indian movies for more info) where old men reassure themselves by casting women half their age who fall for them. Why would any girl fall for a walking skeleton in this movie? Clint Eastwood is 91 years old. He still thinks he is 19. Thank you but no thank you.

Documentary of the Week

Val (2021) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Val Kilmer talks about his life in this candid documentary. The best part is that he documented practically every second of his life with his camera. This obsessive behavious spills into his personal and professional life with unseemly consequences.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Red Notice’ starring Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and The Rock

Did you know: ‘Squid Game’ is the most watched series in Netflix’s history. The runner up is ‘Bridgerton’. If you watch ‘Squid Game’, watch episode 6 (Marbles). I thought that it was a great one hour of entertainment.

Week 14

Movies: Non- English

Departures (Japan, 2008) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Layout 1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtdENmR6jKw

A young unemployed cellist is forced to take up the job of preparing the dead for funerals. What makes the film unique is the distinct cultural landscape of Japan where your job and matters of death are of high importance. The movie is an audience pleaser with moments that will make you smile and reflect. The underlying idea is something I strongly believe in; every job deserves dignity and respect. Come to think of it, I would have watched the movie just because of the title. Death as just departure.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (South Korea, 2004) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

brotherhood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3v9gMehf4

This movie was recommended to me by Rithin, one of the readers of this blog and I would like to thank him for that. This Korean war film tells the story of two brothers caught in the quagmire of the Korean war. The elder one enlists in the army to protect the younger one but as the story progresses fissures appear in their relationship. This is an out and out war film with some sentiments thrown in. The thing about Korean movies is that they are as melodramatic as commercial Hindi films but they also try to tell a story. Some of the war sequences are quite impressive for an Asian film but the same cannot be said of the computer graphics. It becomes evident that some of the scenes are shot on set. That can be pardoned as the budget of the movie is a fraction of what a similar Hollywood film would have demanded. Some of the scenes are flimsy and technical finesse is evidently missing but that is compensated by the scale of the film and the well choreographed action scenes. I would definitely recommend it for fans of war movies.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Piano (1993) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

piano

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_kaUp8NDDU

Jane Campion became the first woman director to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes with this master class which is a romance at its heart but has equal amounts of mystery and adventure thrown in. A married woman has a torrid affair with an odd character which shakes the world around her. Other than the outstanding performance by Holly Hunter in the lead role, watch out for the promising performance  that Anna Paquin delivers as a child. The film is so beautifully shot that viewing it on a small screen would be an injustice.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

full metal jacket

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAvWQa64B8M

Another Vietnam War classic. The initial training period sequence when one of the nerdy guys snaps is chilling and the effect of that on fellow soldiers might have been more dehumanizing than their experiences later. Still, the film explores how the line between right and wrong blurs when self preservation is the overriding emotion. Stanley Kubrick is a master at crating rough sequences and this could be his most realistic film dealing with real people and raw emotions. I believe that for Kubrick Vietnam was just another setting. His story could have been set in any war and that is what makes this an emotional drama more than a war film.

Apocalypse Now (1979) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

apocalypse now

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HEiqAsrVMQ

The makers of the film almost got killed making it. Their effort did not go in vain and the end product is perhaps the best movie on the conflict in the Indochine region to be made. Though it is Martin Sheen show all the way, the few scenes where Marlon Brando appears confirms that quality triumphs quantity. It is not an easy watch at 153 minutes but then good things require time. It is a hellish experience in the mould of ‘Das Boot’. At the denouement, the question about who is right and who is wrong is difficult to answer but then the soldier is on a mission and he must complete the task assigned to him. All this, because another soldier forgot which side he was on. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

A late Quartet (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

a-late-quartet-poster02

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX66lRnNmqs

One of the better films of 2012. It says the story of a Quartet whose members are at a turning point in their lives. When one of the members is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, strains appear in the relations between other members and hitherto suppressed feelings boil over. The film is quite engaging right from the beginning. The film scores quite high in the acting department. The story has only five characters but the director is able to keep it engaging. The only issue is that if you are not an expert in Western Classical, you will make a fool of yourself in some scenes. I can tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner but I bet there won’t be many who can detect mistakes if some notes of Beethoven are played wrongly. There are a few such scenes and you just have to trust the screenplay on such occasions. It is also an area that has seldom been explored in movies. So you get to know how much hard work goes into the making of a half decent musician. Definitely worth a watch.

Trance (2013) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

Trance

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvTW1JecmZo

James McAvoy has been heralded as the next superstar for quite some time now. In ‘Trance’, directed by Danny Boyle, he does his reputation no harm. The film is typical Danny Boyle stuff with scenes of time lapse photography, indulgently shot sequences and pulsating music. Here the protagonist loses his memory after a cooperating in an art heist. So the other gang members come up with the idea of using the services of a hypnotherapist to retrieve his lost memory. The story is sleek and missing any scene may mess up the understanding of what is happening onscreen. As it is, even if you watch all the scenes you will be little confused about some of them. The story is full of unreliable characters. So you can choose whom to trust.

Ghanchakkar (India, 2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomaotes: 25%]

ghanchakkar-poster-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClncY3AQxeg

The funny thing with ‘Ghanchakkar’ s that it begins on a premise similar to ‘Trance’ reviewed above. That is, the lead character loses his memory after a heist but the similarity ends there. Whereas in ‘Trance’ they go to a hypnotherapist to retrieve the memory, in ‘Ghanchakkar’ they go to a baba. That sums up the difference in approach between Hollywood and Bollywood.  ‘Ghanchakkar’ is a painfully slow movie but with a rock solid climax. The issue is that you may not have the patience to sit through the movie to see the climax. I believe that the script would have looked good on paper but what is shown on screen is a cure for insomnia. The film is neither funny nor engaging. When a film has Emran Hashmi as the best performer, it says so much about its quality. The characters are annoying and the director deserves much of the flak for making it less interesting than a television serial. I did like the ending but then who cares about the dessert when the main course is stale.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Corporation (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

corporation

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKbpQ_H7ziU

Documentary which charts the growing influence of large companies in a historical perspective. Very educative but a little biased in my opinion. Still, must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ because a little fun never killed anyone.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg met Drew Barrymore when she acted in ‘E.T’. When she grew up she posed for Playboy. When Spielberg found out, he sent Barrymore a blanket so she could ‘cover up.’