Edition 85

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Loveless (Russia, 2017) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of an ugly divorce. As the child goes missing, the parents launch a search which intensifies as the story progresses. The director whose earlier works include ‘Leviathan’, goes for a more nuanced storytelling with subtle hints on the state of the Russian society. Unlike ‘Leviathan’ which spared no punches, ‘Loveless’ is often puzzling and enigmatic. The suspense is intact till the end and the open-ended climax leaves much space for speculation and contemplation. The pace of the movie dips in the latter half when the proceedings turn plain boring but the quest for the missing boy keeps the audience hooked. ‘Loveless’ is sure to get an Oscar nomination but not good enough to win.

Movies I Saw This Week

I, Tonya (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Margot Robbie stars as real life figure skater Tonya Harding whose chequered career’s low point was a botched up and bizarre kidnapping saga of her opponent. Robbie, who used to play ice-hockey earlier, brings the expertise to give a creditable performance in scenes where she is in the ice rink. There is nothing compelling about the screenplay and it hurtles towards an inevitable end. Margot Robbie plays her much abused character with conviction but the only Oscar that this movie will win will rightfully belong to the controlling mother of Tonya played with relish by Allison Janney.

The Disaster Artist (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those who have not had the misfortune of watching a gutter movie called the ‘The Room‘ released in 2003, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the events surrounding the making of that movie. ‘The Room’ had a second life when it gained popularity with some viewers rating it as the “best worst movie” ever made (which is a very generous assessment). The legend behind the movie was one Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, distributed, directed and acted in the original. James Franco, another goofball from Hollywood, has a field day as he tries to play Tommy Wiseau in a rather compassionate look at the original. Whether such a tribute to ‘The Room’ is warranted is certainly questionable. In fact, as a movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ fails to stand on its feet once it is robbed of the context. For most of the funny scenes to work, it is important to have viewed the original. Whether it is worth sitting through the mind numbing experience of watching ‘The Room’ so that ‘The Disaster Artist’ can be appreciated, is a question left to the discerning viewer. James Franco is sure to sweep awards which have a category for a comical performance but when it comes to the real deal (ie, the Oscars), he will be educated on good acting by the performances of veterans like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Frances McDormand gives her best performance after ‘Fargo’ in a masterpiece scripted and directed by Martin McDonagh. The movie begins with a mother’s pointed questions about the rape and murder of her daughter. The difference being that she goes for the audacious by putting those questions on three billboards. As a viewer, it may be difficult to foresee what unfolds in the narrative from there on. What surely does happen is by far the best Hollywood movie of 2017. The movie proceeds with the ease of knife sliding through butter. Frances McDormand, in what will be an Oscar winning performance, embodies the spirit of the character and plays it with the grit and steely determination making it one of the strongest woman protagonists in cinema. What elevates the screenplay is that all the cast members bring their A game to the show. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell add gravitas to their roles as the ailing police chief and a racist officer respectively. The humour in this tense drama is first rate and never out  of place. This movie is easily among the best to have made it to the cinemas in 2017.

Lady Bird (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Greta Gerwig turns director in a bittersweet coming of age movie set in Sacramento. Incidentally, Greta Gerwig is from Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan lives up to the promise she had shown in ‘Brooklyn’ as she plays the role of a small town high school student trying to find her bearings and love over the course of a few months. There are tons of movies with similar themes but what makes ‘Lady Bird’ charming is the freshness of the writing and the little twists and turns which keeps the viewer interested in the events on screen. ‘Lady Bird’ may not be a classic but it has its own rightful place in the list of the best movies of the year.

The Shape of Water (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Gullermo del Toro is a master at story telling as demonstrated multiple times previously and most memorably in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. This is reinforced by ‘The Shape of Water’ where he blends fantasy, music and romance into an intoxicating concoction. For the grace with which he tells an impossible story itself, he deserves the Oscar for Direction. ‘The Shape  of Water’ is a love story between a cleaner at at secret facility and a water creature. The premise is so outrageous that you may be put off by the synopsis but as you watch the movie, you may find yourself rooting for this romance. ‘The Shape of Water’ owes its mood to the music of Alexandre Desplat who looks like a shoo in for the Oscars. Pity that Hans Zimmer will not be getting his Oscar for another extraordinary score in ‘Dunkirk’. Watch ‘The Shape of Water’ if you are willing to be taken to the stars and clouds by the magic of cinema.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a bit of manipulative film making. It is the one of those annual LGBT themed movies with a heavy Oscar bait thrown in. For sure, it is a gorgeous looking movie shot in achingly beautiful parts of Italy. The movie is worth a watch just for the scenery. Timothee Chalamet is another reason for watching this gay romance, in which he stands out and promises much more for the future. The story is about a young boy who is wooed by the associate of his dad. Recommended if you like the category.

The Florida Project (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A24 studio has the uncanny knack of picking low budget features with a solid story line which would not be green-lit by the major studios. ‘The Florida Project’ is a film that A24 can be proud of. It tells the tale of a brash child spending her summer holidays with her single mom in a motel close to Disneyland. The story is told through the eyes of the child and portrays the life of the American poor. William Defoe puts in a good shift as the manager of the motel. The movie does stray a bit from its main story on a couple of occasions but there something magical about the way the director handles the whole movie. ‘The Florida Project’ is not a great film but it is indeed a memorable one.

Darkest Hour  (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winston Churchill whose career was built on his ambition to be the Prime Minister of Britain receives the honour when the soulless Nazi Germans are knocking on the gates of his country. All of his army is also facing an existential crisis as they are facing certain rout at Dunkirk. ‘Darkest Hour’ is the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman in the weeks following Churchill’s appointment as the wartime Prime Minister culminating in the rousing “We shall fight them….” speech. Overall, the movie is watchable but the screenplay is sometimes found lacking. The movie is a Gary Oldman show. He becomes Churchill. I would not be surprised if they mistakenly use the image of Gary Oldman for Churchill in the future. And, the Best Actor Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.

Molly’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Jessica Chastain has now become the reference point for smart  and smooth talking women operatives in cinema. Following on her remarkable success in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Miss Sloane’, she becomes the ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom who was convicted of running an illegal poker operation in New York. Aaron Sorkin’s direction and screenplay follow the sleekness he had shown in his earlier screenplays. ‘Molly’s Game’ is not a thriller. It is a character study which can be viewed with mild amusement. It is predictable but engaging. The movie does leave the question of whether it is telling more than it is hiding or vice-versa. For instance, Tobey Maguire is the actor on whom the star in the movie is based. Watch it if you like predictable but fast movies.

Documentary of the Week

Cries from Syria  (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

The story of the beginning of the Syrian war told through citizen shot videos. Moving and disturbing.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ 

Did you know: ‘Get Out’ is the first film made by a debutant director to gross more than 100 million USD at the US box office.

Advertisements

Edition 81

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Eagle Huntress (Mongolia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.6 , Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating:7.5]

Trailer

A cross between a movie and a documentary, Eagle Huntress tells the tale of a girl and her attempt to break the glass ceiling in the wilderness of Mongolia. The Eagle Huntress is an ode to women and all those who want to take a shot at changing the status quo. The film soars as it progresses and takes the viewer on an unforgettable journey with the stunning Mongolian landscape adding to the ethereal beauty of the proceedings. The movie is certainly one of the better photographed ones in recent times but all the credit must go the protagonist who keeps it engaging throughout the 87 minutes. Those 87 minutes just fly away. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Get Out (2017) [IMDB:7.8 , Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

There is a lot of mischief in ‘Get Out’. It is subversive, suggestive and sufficiently subtle. At the same time it does not hold back its punches. At its core, it remains a thriller but the racial dimension elevates the movie to another level. ‘Get Out’ is undeniably one of the best movies of the year and it earns its stripes with the solid screenplay and unconventional plot. A black man with a white girlfriend visits her parents for the first time. He gets more than what he bargained for and then he must get out or be killed. Expect no mercy from the director or any show of overt sentimentality. Fasten your seat belts for en edge of the seat thriller worth every penny that you will pay for.

War Machine (2017) [IMDB:6.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Based on a Rolling Stone article which led to the resignation of a top General in the US army, ‘War Machine’ is a commentary on the triumphs and trials, more so of the latter, of USA in the Afghan war. A workaholic General is put in charge of salvaging the Afghan operations of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’. He believes that he can turnaround the situation by makes the locals allies in the war on the Taliban. His simplistic approach does not cut much ice and he then enters into a game of chess, bordering on the silly, with the US administration. The movie meanders a lot and is akin to a documentary puzzled together by a crew. There is no plot and when the finale occurs, the viewer is bewildered by the sequence of events. The saving grace is that the events are relatively engaging but the question of what was all that about is the one that lingers as the final credits roll.

Miss Sloane (2017) [IMDB:7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Miss Sloane is the best movie I have seen in 2017. It is also the best thriller I have seen in years. It is the most slick and well written movie I have seen in years. It is a cat and mouse game and even the veteran film-goers will find it difficult to guess the twists and turns the movie offers. Jessica Chastain plays the title role of a lobbyist with panache. She is a force of nature in her best performance after Zero Dark Thirty. The best thing about the movie is that it has a logical and coherent script which requires your full attention. If you blink during the movie, you may miss something vital onscreen. I am already a fan. Must watch.

Split (2017) [IMDB:7.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

After being pilloried by critics (and deservedly so) for many of his last few movies, Manoj Night Shyamalan returns to form in ‘Split’. With the use of some pseudo psychology, Shyamalan conjures up a story of a man who has close to two dozen personalities. James McAvoy seems to relish the role offered to him and plays it to perfection. Besides being a thriller, ‘Split’ brings in a considerable amount of philosophy and innocence into its theme. To the director’s credit, it never gets preachy. The box office numbers also vouch for its entertainment value. Made with a budget of less than a million, ‘Split’ grossed close to 140 million dollars.

Sandy Wexler (2017) [IMDB:5.1 , Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Love him or hate him, Adam Sandler is the darling of  Netflix. His viewers could not be bothered with the critical reception of Sandler’s movies. He is one of the most watched stars on the Netflix platform. So he goes ahead and writes a story based on his long time manager. That movie is Sandy Wexler. Nothing great but mildly amusing with two or three funny scenes. That is enough for Sandler fans. If you are a Adam Sandler fan you may enjoy it. Better still, you can watch it on your next flight when you have nothing much to do other than inhale the recycled air. Even if you fall asleep doing it, you would not miss anything.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) [IMDB:7.9 , Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Keanu Reeves has a dead emotionless face. Or a hit man face, if you prefer. He fits the profile of the cold and efficient hit man in search of a reason to kill. The sequel to John Wick scores high again in the choreographed action sequences where flying bullets seem to have poetry writ on them. The setting is Rome and that does not hurt. If you liked the original, you will love the sequel. In case you missed the sleeper hit original, the sequel may be a good way to catch up on a movie which is as much fun as it is mindless.

Mindhorn (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Mindhorn is the typical British comedy filled with irreverence and a bonkers plot. A yesteryear star is called upon to aid the police in murder mystery. With the dual mission of resurrecting his career and finding some reason to be alive, Mindhorn accepts the invitation which is a convenient excuse for him to go on a nostalgia trip. Filled with characters who have that one Achilles heel in their personalities which make them in turns endearing and unreasonable, the movie delivers some genuine moments of humour. Those moments are not frequent enough and the movie sometimes descends into a charade.

Gifted (2017) [IMDB:7.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The story of a child genius whose deceased mother shared the same description. The child who is in the custody of her uncle faces a legal quagmire when her grandmother enters her life. Though the plot has some loopholes, it is a generally satisfying movie to watch. The peripheral characters like the teacher at the school are forced into the screenplay and probably should not have had the screen time provided to her. Nonetheless, a decent one time watch for the thematic elements.

Documentary of the Week

O.J.: Made in America (2017) [IMDB:9.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 9.0]

Trailer

Although this documentary is close to eight hours long, it never gets boring or tedious. In fact, it is as good as reading an expert commentary on the saga of O J Simpson with a running thread of racial tensions in the US in the decades leading up to the infamous double murders. More than the fall from grace of an all American hero, it is the race relations and the justice system which are under the microscope. An illuminating documentary and worth the effort.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ because Al Gore can tell the truth on climate change, once again.

Did you know: ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is the first documentary to win two Academy awards.

Edition 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Second Mother (Brazil, 2015) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]

maxresdefault

Trailer: 

This movie, which stimulates careful consideration of the class divides in the Brazilian society, tells the story of a housemaid who lives in Sao Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil. The maid’s serene and stable life goes into a tailspin when her daughter who shares a frosty relationship with her comes to stay with her in Sao Paulo. The skillfully woven tale examines the dynamics of the relationships when an outsider challenges it in myriad ways. The comedienne Regina Case gives a performance par excellence and the acclaims the movie has received is well deserved. Certainly worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Martian (2015) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating 7.5]

martian2015

Trailer: 

While watching ‘The Martian’ the one thing that doesn’t strike the viewer is that the director Ridley Scott is 77 years old. With celebrated movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Thelma & Louise’, ‘Black Hawk Dawn’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘American Gangster’, ‘The Martian’ is the antithesis of what you would expect from a veteran. Brilliantly conceived and executed using cutting edge technology, the movie is an introduction to life on Mars (the planet and not the chocolate). Astronaut Matt Damon has to use all the wits at his disposal when he is stranded in the hostile environment on Mars while awaiting succour. The movie has a predictable story line and occasionally feels like a documentary. Also, it looks like an out of the world version of ‘Cast Away’ with a person trained to be better at being alone. That also takes away the emotional anger, distress and frustration that was essential in a movie like ‘Cast Away’. A 3D version also does not add anything to the movie. On a lighter note, how many times will Hollywood send missions to rescue Matt Damon after attempts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Interstellar’ and now ‘The Martian’?

Talvar (2015) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes:98%, My Rating: 7.0]

TalvarPoster2

Trailer:

‘Talvar’ is a barely camouflaged take on the infamous double murders to rock Noida, a suburb of Delhi. Though the parents of the girl were convicted and are serving their sentence now, the film tries to turn the story upside down. Viewed from an objective point of view, the movie is an unvarnished attempt to take sides and prove the parents innocent in the whole affair. It does not leave any ambiguity and even ridicules views contrary to the moviemaker’s desired stand. Simultaneously the movie raises some disturbing questions related to the handling of the crime scene and ‘confessions’ of some suspects under narco-analysis (The procedure has since been outlawed by the Supreme Court of India as no one can be forced to give evidence against himself/herself). What stands out in the movie are the stirring performance from the ever reliable Irrfan Khan and the sorry state of affairs in the government investigation agencies. The crux of the matter finally boils down to the access outsiders have in a household and how security is sometimes compromised. Director Meghna Gulzaar finally delivers a watchable movie after a history of duds but credit must largely go to the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj who pens an entertaining but ultimately flawed screenplay.

Inside Out (2015) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

inside-out-poster

Trailer: 

In animation in Hollywood, there is Pixar and then there are the rest. It is akin to a 100m sprint where there is Usain Bolt and the rest. The showcase feature from Pixar this year tells the story of a young girl trying to adjust to life in a new setting. Her emotions are controlled by distinct characters representing happiness, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. There are some nice touches like happiness and sadness sharing similar hair colour to imply that they are related. The movie does get a tad slow in some parts but overall is a joy to watch. Unless something exceptional is released, my money is on ‘Inside Out’ to win the next Academy Award for the ‘The Best Animation Picture’.

Spy (2015) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

spy_ver2_xlg

Trailer: 

Melissa McCarthy stars as the spy in the movie which has some really smart writing to aid to an otherwise average story line. The element of humour is the only running theme in the movie. Aided by clever one liners and some outrageously funny scenes (like the one in an Italian restaurant), the movie is a breeze to watch. The unconventional appearance of the lead is exploited to the hilt and there is a delightful supporting cast of Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham lets his hair down in a role parodying his earlier efforts. All of this makes the movie a thoroughly enjoyable fare.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 6.5]

Amar-Akbar-Anthony-Movie-Story

Trailer:

Marking the directorial debut of the multi talented Nadirshah (who has also set the songs to tune), this Malayalam movie tells the tale of three youngsters whose goal in life is to visit Pattaya in Thailand. The truth is that all this is a mere diversion for the antics that they end up performing. The movie is a series of anecdotes with the sole aim of getting a good laugh from the viewers. Some of the jokes achieve more than what they were expected to do. The serious angle in the movie seems to be an afterthought to bring some gravity to the proceedings. For the kind of comedy only Malayalam movies can provide, this is indeed a laugh riot.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:: Not yet rated, My Rating:5.0]

pyaar-ka-punchnama-2-unveils-its-unique-teaser-poster-1

Trailer:

Based on the template provided by the original, this sequel goes all out to demolish women as vain, scatterbrained and egotistical individuals out to get the naive and goodhearted men. If only things could be that simple. Essentially a demolition job, this movie inadvertently  exposes the severe flaws of the characters it sets out to rescue. More than anything, it is about men who make deeply deficient choices. They seem to be thinking with other parts of the body than with their heads when making the choice of a girlfriend. Compared to the prequel where the men were sitting ducks, here they are foxy fellows who feign ignorance till it suits them. Finally when that time does come, they consider themselves as valiant martyrs in the cause of love. There is a cringe-worthy scene at the end where the men rediscover their love for their mothers. There is also an incoherent rant on women by one of the embattled men. The last time he did that it was amusing but now it looks like a forced addition. All in all, this sequel lacks the intellectual honesty of the original.

Katti Batti (2015) [IMDB: 4.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating: 2.0]

12-katti-batti-teaser-poste

Trailer: 

There is a scene in this movie when Imran Khan says, “Maa chali gayi” (Mother has gone). The expression on his face is that of a lifeless sculpture. I thought that he was telling that the mother has gone to buy groceries or to take a walk. Seconds later it dawned on me that he was announcing the death of his mother. I almost cried. Not for the mother but for the fact that I paid to see a non actor in a disaster of a movie. ‘Katti Batti’ is full of such moments where you curse the moment you decided to walk into the movie hall. Imran Khan has the acting abilities of a stone but then Kangna Ranaut is supposed to be one of the best of this generation. Even she looks like a kid lost in a fair with no idea of what is going on. The anti climax makes you wonder what was going on till that point in the movie. This film is s farce and I am being kind. The best actor in the movie is a turtle. Who gives money to Nikhil Advani to make movies and still does not have a change of heart after Imran Khan is cast in the lead role? There is a lot more that can be said against the film but the electricity consumed by my laptop when I type is worth more than the movie. Save electricity.

Documentary of the Week

Sunshine Superman (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.5]

sunshine_superman

Trailer: 

The life of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. The footage of the jumps is exhilarating but the documentary is underwhelming. Still, an introduction to BASE jumping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Steve Jobs’ because of the ways in which people tried to stop it from getting made. Also because it is directed by Danny Boyle.

Did you know: The pile of excreta that the young Jamal jumps into in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was made from a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.