75: Platinum Edition

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Son of Saul (Hungary, 2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My rating: 9.0]

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Trailer

One of the most emotionally draining movies of all time, ‘Son of Saul’ effortlessly canters into the status of a classic. With accolades which include top prizes at assorted film festivals including Cannes, and the Best Foreign Movie at the Oscars, the movie is a compelling tour-de-force. The story revolves around a Jew who is tasked with handling ‘operations’ in the Auschwitz concentration camp and his desperate attempts to organize a religious burial for his son who is gassed to death. ‘Son of Saul’ is one of the most original films I have ever seen.The camera focuses on the protagonist and the story is told through his silent despair. Even when the background is mostly out of focus, the horror at the concentration camp is very much in focus. The utter disregard for human life and the clockwork precision of activities at the camp would have been shocking if they had not been deeply moving. This is a movie you will find difficult to forget.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:62%, My Rating:6.5 ]

getmovieposter_the_man_who_knew_infinity-2

Trailer

Srinivasa Ramanujan was a self taught genius who could have revolutionized the field of mathematics but for his untimely death. In his short life span he was able to create ripples in the lake that is mathematics. The movie version shines a light on his remarkable life but is let down by the sloppy acting of Dev Patel. His acting is still in the infancy of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ days. Jeremy Irons saves the day by virtually carrying the scenes with his screen presence and dialogue delivery. The hackneyed script meanders along before it is set on its due course. There are some redeeming factors which don’t let the film sink but a far better movie would do justice to S. Ramanujan. Till then, if you want to see a movie with a mathematics genius, watch ‘Good Will Hunting‘.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.0]

10cl_poster

Trailer

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ would have been a classic but for its title. That sentence will make sense when you watch the full movie. A young woman finds herself in an underground bunker after a car crash. Her rescuer claims to be protecting her from the perils of the outside world. She also has company in the form of another hostage. As her stay extends in the bunker, her will to escape gets stronger. The movie is engaging but the jarring background score in the initial parts of the movie distracts the viewer more than it thrills. Even then the anticipation of what lies ahead is never lost. There are some neat tricks in the screenplay like the scene in which the protagonist removes the mask and discovers that everything is normal. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a good sequel and lays the groundwork for another sequel but it could have been much more than that.

Eddie the Eagle (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:86, My Rating:7.5 ]

eddie

Trailer

There is nothing like a feel good movie. Feel good movies from the sports arena are especially captivating because who doesn’t love an underdog story? Eddie Edwards was not shooting for the stars when he chose skiing. His single-minded pursuit was for Olympic glory. He did not even want to win. He just wanted to be an Olympian. This movie, based on real events, is his story. Taron Egerton transforms to Eddie Edwards and makes him a lovable character. Hugh Jackman has fun in a role that helps him break the mold. Together they create an engaging duo in a well written movie with all the paraphernalia that accompany such movies. For a movie which has a guarantee of a happy ending written all over it, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ is a good watch.

Hush (2016) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:7.5]

hush

Trailer

‘Hush’ is the story of a deaf-mute author who is under siege from a killer while alone at home. The killer reveals himself to her and makes it amply clear who is in the driver’s seat. What ensues is a cat and mouse game with the death of one of them as the only way to end the standoff. Deftly handled scenes and some fine acting make this movie a top class thriller. Definitely worth a watch.

The Ardennes (Belgium, 2015) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.5 ]

The-Ardennes_poster_goldposter_com_1

Trailer

‘The Ardennes’ from Belgium tells the tale of two brothers over the course of four years when one of them is convicted for a botched up crime. The movie has a wafer thin plot and moves at a languid pace for most part. It is predictable to some extent but it is the last twenty seconds of the movie that take it another level altogether. The easy thing to do to is to skip the scenes which don’t have dialogue in them. If it were to be reduced to one hour, the movie would have been a rather short and sweet package. Nevertheless, a good film.

The Jungle Book (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5] 

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Trailer

‘Jungle Book’ brings a truckload of nostalgia. When I was a kid (that was a quarter of a century ago), ‘Jungle Book’ used to be one of the main cartoons on Doordarshan (India’s official TV network). From the remarkable run this movie version is having at the box-office, it is safe to assume that it is not just me who is having a bout of nostalgia. The success of the movie is also because of the technical wizardry at work. The scenes are captivating and the editing is sleek. There is no dull moment in this masterful production of a much loved novel.  There are some discordant notes though. In the original Jungle Book the snake ‘Kaa’ was a male and friendly to Mowgli but in the film Kaa becomes a female and becomes a dangerous adversary. Similarly, the monkey king is given mannerisms, crooning and dialogues similar to that of an African-American. Small discordant notes. Enjoyed the film though.

Creep (2015) [ IMDB:6.2, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My Rating:6.5]

Creep_(2014_film)_poster

Trailer

‘Creep’ is shot in the ‘found footage’ format. A craiglist ad entices a videographer to take up a one day shoot in a remote area. When he arrives there he finds his spooky but well meaning guest. The videographer’s sympathies soon turn into pure angst and fear. For once, he does not realize what he has signed up for. In some ways the naivete of the protagonist is the cause of all his perils. I wondered more than once on the improbability of the plot and also how easily the videographer’s concerns were rubbished by the police. If you sweep such inconsistencies under the carpet, the movie is a rather engaging watch. Mercifully, it is only 77 minutes long.

Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Malayalam,2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 7.5]

jacobinte

Trailer

Dubai is a mirage in the middle of a desert. It is in this Dubai that dreams are built and hopes are shattered. When the 2008 economic crisis and a cheating business partner create the perfect storm for a family, the family finds strength and courage from sources hitherto unknown to them. ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam’ tells the story of that family. Based on real events, the movie does not fall into the trap of being excessively sentimental. The makers also resist the temptation of making it a riches to rags to riches story. The focus is on people: within the family and outside it. Another piece of evidence to show that the best movies in India are made in non-Hindi languages.

Baaghi (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:5.9, Rotten Tomatoes:63%, My Rating:5.5]

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Trailer

This movie is vehicle for Tiger Shroff to establish his credentials as an action hero. The problem with it is that it looks dated and the story and screenplay seem to have been stolen from the tomb of Tutankhamun. The director is so out of his ideas that he even recreates a song sequence of ‘Dil-Se’ in his thoroughly boring songs. Not content with this he also has a copy of a rain song which looks eerily similar to another song in the Tamil film ‘Mazhai’ (That movie is a remake of Telugu hit ‘Varsham’.  The formula is simple. Action sequence followed by a song. Repeat. The jokes could have been called stale but they were pickled a long time ago by other filmmakers to extend their expiry dates. Good that they shot most of the movie in Kerala because people there could have never understood the nonsense they were being subjected to.

Sairat (Marathi, 2016) [ IMDB:9.5, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 8.0 ]

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Trailer

Official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival and on course to be the biggest Marathi film of all time, ‘Sairat’ holds a mirror to the deep seated caste prejudices in our society. Unnecessarily long at 170 minutes, the movie is about the budding love between youngsters from two different castes and the ramifications of their love. Told through the eyes of the leading lady (Rinku Rajguru in a National Award winning role), the film is a breeze in the first half. The director steadily builds the story and adds more gravitas to the proceedings in the second half. The score does no harm to his efforts. It is difficult to write more without giving away the plot details but suffice to say that the climax of the film is truly exceptional for the thought that has gone into it.

Fan (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:4.0]

fan

Trailer

Nobody loves Aryan Khanna (that is, Shahrukh Khan) more than Gaurav Chandna (that is, Shahrukh Khan). The word ‘Narcissim’ traces its origin to a young Greek called Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in a pool. What if people turned suicidal after watching ‘Dilwale’ and ‘ Happy New Year’? SRK still has fans going crazy in front of his house when he cares to wave at them. He has fans willing to kill for him. He has fans willing to die for him. He has producers who make films for him. He has writers who indulge his megalomania. He can make films where the other actors have nothing to say or do. He can hold forth on issues affecting the nation as if he really cares. He can release films in movie halls and expect people to watch. But he cannot make even his fans watch a film called ‘Fan’. Alas, even SRK’s fans have brains.

Documentary of the Week

That Sugar Film (2014) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:64%, My Rating:6.5]

That-Sugar-Film-Poster

Trailer

A documentary chronicling the ill effects of sugar on the body. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kabali’ because there is no one like Rajnikanth

Did you know: “Shahrukh” means “face of the king”

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Week 51

Movies: Non-English

As It Is in Heaven (Sweden, 2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

As It Is in Heaven

Trailer: 

This heartwarming Swedish drama which has music that is entertaining and uplifting is one of the best feelgood movies you will ever see. An internationally renowned conductor returns to his small town in Sweden where he discovers hidden musical talents and realizes the life he had missed. Though the film is another one of those which contrasts the hustle and bustle of the city life with the relaxed pace of life in the village, it is a movie where the sincerity of the intentions overcomes the little rough edges in the screenplay. The acting is uniformly magnificent. Highly recommended.

No One Knows About Persian Cats (Iran,2009) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

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Trailer: 

In a country where playing music of the Western variety is banned and where freedom of expression is an alien concept, it is remarkable how Iranian film makers consistently come out with small gems polished by their passion for speaking out against an oppressive regime. In this winner at Cannes, the director follows the story of a group which wants to make rock music. As if this wasn’t enough to land the group in trouble, they go about recruiting new members to their band and also try to arrange for visas so that they can perform in London. For the umpteenth time I would like to reiterate that it does not require too much money to make a good movie as this one shows. Also, a very good film to watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Filth (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

Filth

Trailer: 

Coming from the writer of ‘Trainspotting’, this one was sure to have a dose of drugs. Here James McAvoy is a messed up corrupt cop who is having a difficult relationship with his wife and kid. He also has a drug problem and is involved in a case where he has tied himself in knots. With all this happening around him, he also want to have a career progression and he thinks that one of the ways of ensuring that is to play his rivals against each other. As he spirals out of control and loses touch with sanity, the key question is whether he will be able to hold on till he sees out the storm. James McAvoy is the cop in this very engaging story of deception and drugs which fully exploits the huge talent of McAvoy. At times too gloomy and at times a little slow, the film compensates for its flaws with a story which keeps you guessing till the very end. A very good watch.

Time Pass (Marathi, India, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

Time Pass

Recommended by a brother to me, this Marathi hit is a simple tale of two ordinary adolescents who fall in love. The good for nothing Dagdu falls head over heels in love with a girl who is the daughter of a disciplinarian father. The movie is about how they overcome the barriers and break the boundaries in pursuit of their relationship. Just as the movie starts with the caption of there being nothing like first love, it prepares you for the eventual end which is pretty open and hints at a possible sequel in the near future. More than the main story line, it is the presence of the fringe supporting characters who add to the quality of the film. In fact, the best lines are delivered by the supporting cast and they are the ones to tickle the funny bones. It is also because that the characters look very rooted to the people you will meet in the street that the film is an easy watch. A nice one time watch.

Bewakoofiyaan (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 25%]

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Trailer: 

I think the producer’s biography could have the same title as the that of the movie. I could not understand the reason for the existence of the film. It has a story that goes nowhere, songs that make you run out of the theatre and a hero who is better at singing those songs than in acting. The protagonist is in love with a lady who is the daughter of an IAS officer. She also loves him back but her dad is against the relationship and wants to make sure that the guy is the right one for her. Sounds familiar? If familiarity breeds contempt, the director ‘complicates’ things by referencing the mass sacking of its employees by Jet Airways a few years ago and make sure that the protagonist is jobless. (Spoilers ahead) The next thing you know, the protagonist is serving at the counter of an eatery where he suitably and conveniently gets insulted by the girl’s father. More of such shenanigans and then suddenly the sky clears up. Well, you cannot blame the director for not giving you a happy ending. What a bore.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Vanishing of the Bees (2009) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 65%]

Vanishing of the Bees

Trailer:

A study of the reasons behind the decline of the honeybee population around the world which also traces the consequences of the same. Not a great documentary but worth a watch.

The : D Retrospective

Stepmom (1998) [ImDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Stepmom

Trailer: 

Julia Roberts is the lady love of a man who has kids. The mother of the kids is a terminally ill patient (played by Susan Sarandon). Both the women must reconcile their differences and find a way forward to make it less painful for both of them. The film is a drama that does not have a great story to tell. It is solely driven by the great performances of the leading ladies that brings them to the foreground and pretty much makes everything else immaterial. Watch it for them.

Shallow Hal (2001) [IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Shallow Hal

Trailer: 

A man falls in love with a woman because of her ‘inner beauty’. This film focuses on a basic question. Whether love is constrained by physical appearance and whether two people can be happy even if they have dissimilar body shapes? Well, the film does not get that philosophical and has some good laughs to offer. The casting is a little inspired. Paltrow and Black in a reversal of their real life personas. Worth a watch.

Reversal of Fortune (1990) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Reversal of Fortune

Trailer: 

A legal thriller that tries to distinguish between what is morally wrong and what is legally punishable. Jeremy Irons is on trial for the death of his wife. There are two sides to the story and both the sides don’t give conclusive answers to moral questions. A taut engaging screenplay tries to give the answers and the legal process is as riveting as it has ever been presented on the big screen. Watch for some superlative acting and a very engaging story that keeps you interested till the very end.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Railway Man’ starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. 

Did you know: Pierce Brosnan was contractually forbidden from wearing a full tuxedo in any non-James Bond movie from 1995-2002.

Week 3

Movies – Non English

The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina, 2009)[ IMDB: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhEuUDO0YUQ

One of the best films to have come out in the last decade. A young women gets murdered and that leaves her husband shattered. Midway through the film the murderer is identified but then the movie is not just about finding the culprit. At its core is the idea of justice and passionate love. The story is narrated by the investigator of the case. I don’t understand much of Spanish but if the English subtitles are anything to go by, the dialogues are top notch. Watch out for the football stadium scene and the way the camera moves through the sequence. The eyes. They speak.

The Barbarian Invasions (France, 2003) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH6v62yp29Q

The final days of a man spent with his friends and family. Heart warming, with some strong performances. The striking thing about the movie is the strength in the screenplay. It says an ordinary story with such ease that you are enthralled by the pace and the treatment. Neatly fits into the tradition of French movies which does not rely on visual splendor to say an effective story in an affecting way.
Cinema Paradiso (Italy, 1988) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maV1ZYdAExw

An ode to cinema. In my opinion, the best movie climax ever. A filmmaker’s journey growing up in a small town in post war Italy, his introduction to cinema through the local theater’s projectionist and more. A treat for film lovers and may be the best movie on movies. Swept all the awards when it was released. With 2013 being the silver jubilee year of the film, discover there is hardly a better way of falling in love with movies. Special mention: The score by Ennio Morricone.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Mission (1986) [IMDB: 7.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%] 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvWaD-NErlY

Jesuits help a South American Indian tribe to stand up to the Portuguese. The film set new standards for cinematography and even higher standards for sound. The absolutely riveting background score does aid the cause. To add to all this are sublime performances by Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons.

The Shining (1980) [IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90% ]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cb3ik6zP2I

Stanle Kubrick’ss classic horror film with a menacing Jack Nicholson. You can practically feel the chill of the winter. The final scene where the kid is chased is truly memorable.

Movies I saw this week

Killer Joe (2011)

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

From IMDB: ‘When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.’

Good performances are hampered by a weak story line. Fit for niche audiences.

Deadfall (2012)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IWaBAwTf2U

From IMDB: ‘A thriller that follows two siblings who decide to fend for themselves in the wake of a botched casino heist, and their unlikely reunion during another family’s Thanksgiving celebration.’

The thing with thrillers is that once you lose steam midway, it is a hard act to get it back. Eric Bana must have found this role easy. His acting is constrained to keeping a dead face.

Documentary pick of the week

Enron: The smartest guys in the room (2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10]

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

The rise and fall of Enron, at one point in time one of the world’s most admired companies. Could have been funny if it had not been tragic.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Great Gatsby’ because of Leo, Carey and Baz.

Did you know: The movie ‘Fargo’ (1996) says in its beginning that ‘it is based on a true story’. Well the fact is that, it is not. The directors once came up with an explanation that people would not believe the story without this ‘artistic liberty’