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

Trailer:

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

Trailer:

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

Trailer:

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]

wild_ver2_xlg

Trailer:

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

Trailer:

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Week 21

Movies: Non-English

Divided We Fall ( Czech Republic, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

divided we fall

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAYjBHUIS7A

This acclaimed film is set in erstwhile Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. It deals with the issue of persecution of Jews under the Nazis, a theme done to death by Hollywood to the extent that you lose sympathy for the Jews. This film though, raises moral questions with shades of grey. The major actors on screen can be counted in one hand. There is nothing remarkable in the way the story is told but it has its twists and turns mostly because some of the steps taken by the actors cannot be anticipated in a normal moral framework. Extraordinary situations lead to extraordinary solutions.

The Thief (Russia, 1997) [IMDB; 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Thief_FilmPoster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs7FGGvRQYU

Deception is the main theme in this Russian drama set during the rule of Stalin. A single mother and her son are drawn towards a soldier who is their only hope for escape from poverty. Things do not exactly turn out the way they are planned. It is a pleasure to watch this wonderfully shot movie but the emotion it deals with is the polar opposite of pleasure. The story is told through the eyes of a child. Circumstances force him to be on the wrong side of the law. It is difficult to forget his reaction when he sees his stepfather in the climax of the movie. Recommended.

English Retrospective

Terms of Endearment (1983) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

terms of endearment

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsdDeh0M_nk

Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress (for Shirey Maclaine), this movie tells the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter who love each other more than they themselves know. It is not an exceptional movie but the performances make it worth a watch. Debra Winger won many fans with her fine performance but it was Shirley Maclaine who upstaged her at the Oscars. The movie tends to be too sentimental towards the end but I can tell you that some of the scenes are really worth all those sentiments. The bedside scene with the kids towards the end will melt the hearts of even the emotion resistant folks. To add to all this, there is Jack Nicholson playing  a former astronaut.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

an officer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Ehz_cAMGc

There are some movies with an endearing quality about them. This is one such film which works because of the thoughtful writing and the onscreen chemistry between Richard Gere and Debra Winger. A young man in the armed forces has his own demons to fight and personal battles to win. A factory girl enters his life. The story is how the relationship goes through testing times. It is a coming off age movie in the true sense. Richard Gere plays his most vulnerable character on screen but for me the star of the show is Debra Winger whose acting matches her beauty. A really good afternoon watch.

Chariots of Fire (1981) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

chariots of fire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWle59ZHPIM

If there is a movie which seals an Oscar for Best Music with the first few scenes, this is the one. The initial scene with the runners on the beach is one of the sensational sequences in cinema and all that is aided by the score by Vangelis. The story is about the British athletic team at the 1924 Olympics. It is no coincidence that the same theme music was played at all the medal presentation ceremonies at 2012 London Olympics. As for the movie, it loses steam midway but it is a joy to watch some of the sequences. If you are not British you may not enjoy it that much towards the end and I am not British.

Movies I Saw This Week

We’re the Millers (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%]

We're-The-Millers-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vsy5KzsieQ

The summer blockbuster of 2013 is a crude comedy  which is also testament to the fact that Jennifer Aniston is a bankable star who can still make people laugh. Frankly, the humour does get little out of control at times but there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. The one when Sudeikis goes to get a hair cut is one such scene. The story involves an out of luck drug dealer trying to put together a family from assorted characters so as to make his drug deal look more realistic. Only Aniston ( and maybe Sandra Bullock) can pull off scenes like the family prayer on the aircraft. A guilty pleasure.

The Bling Ring (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]

BlingRingPB_CoverFINAL

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4LzhgExvrc

Sofia Coppola drew attention with the understated gem ‘Lost in Translation’ but she suddenly fell from grace with a dud called ‘Marie Antoinette’. Then came ‘Somewhere’ in 2010 and she won a few awards for that. ‘Bling Ring’ is comparable to the quality of ‘Somewhere’ where she seems to be doing a decent job as a director but she never touches the highs she was able to achieve with ‘Lost in Translation’ . The film is inspired by real life events where celebrity obsessed teenagers broke into the houses of celebrities to steal high end branded merchandise. There is nothing that raises the movie from an average flick. The scenes get repetitive in the middle. Only Sofia Coppola knows the secret behind her fetish for stupid songs in the background. May interest the viewer who is interested in celebrities. Otherwise, who gives two hoots about what happens to Paris Hilton?

Satyagraha (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]

SATYAGRAHA1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KXwGcZI13k

There is no sting in this tale. It is basically a screenplay stitched together by recent events in India. The problem with that is that the issue has received so much media exposure that there is hardly anything new to be said. Prakash Jha repeats the folly he made with ‘Arakshan’. Issues which look good in television debates don’t translate automatically into good cinema. In fact, it often makes for caricatures and plastic characters who don’t connect with the audiences. A poor attempt.

Grown Ups 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 7% by critics]

grown ups 2

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

I guess the first edition of this series made lot of money for the studios. There is no other reason why they would have gone for the sequel. I could not sit through the first edition and the sequel is a pain to watch. It is not funny, not even by the pathetic standards set by current Adam Sandler movies. Keep away.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hot coffee (2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

hot coffee

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBKRjxeQnT4

An 81 year old lady wins 2.9 million USD in damages from McDonald’s after their coffee burns her body. This sets in motion a series of events culminating in major restrictions being passed on the rights of citizens in USA to sue companies. You don’t need to vote in elections because some corporations can buy the election for themselves. A thought provoking documentary.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Gravity’ because George Clooney and Sandra Bullock team up.

Did you know: Madonna changed costume 85 times for the film ‘Evita’.