Week 48

The blog was delayed by a day because I was traveling.

Movies: Non-English

Gomorrah (Italy, 2008) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

Gomorrah

Trailer: 

This Italian film on the mafia had real life gangsters play roles with ease. After all, they could relate easily to the screenplay which was raw in its power and held back no punches. The film tells the story of crime as a way of life in some of the families in Italy, notorious for clan wars. The movie has been hailed as one of the best to come out on the theme and won over the critics when it was released. Two thumbs up.

Elite Squad (Brazil, 2007) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Elite Squad

Trailer: 

Set in the second half of the 1990s, the film looks at the efforts to cleanse Rio De Janeiro of crime before the visit of the Pope to the city of Christ, the Redeemer. Though not very impressive in its execution, the film has too many logical loopholes but is very ambitious for a foreign language film. It has its moments though and fans of the thriller-action genre will find the film quite entertaining. Hence, it is recommended to only that sub category of viewers.

Movies I Saw This Week

Queen (India, 2014) [ IMDB:9.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Queen

Trailer: 

By far the best mainstream Hindi film to have come out in 2014, ‘Queen’ is a Kangana Ranaut show all the way. She is practically present in every shot of the movie as the naive Rani who is ditched by her fiance on the eve of the wedding. (Spoilers ahead) She decides to get over the situation by going on the honeymoon she was supposed to have. It is through this journey that she discovers the world and in the process, herself. What could have become a cliched attempt finds its way through nice twists and some memorable performances from the supporting cast. Still, they all pale in comparison to the pitch perfect performance by the leading lady who comes up with the right expressions and carries the film on her shoulders. I would like to raise a toast to an entertaining film that is a small diversion from the cliche that Bollywood has become.

 

Adult World (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes; 50%]

adult-world-image

Trailer: 

Mostly inept and highly predictable, this film is again on the coming off age theme. A young girl whose graduation is not good enough to make her employable and who has notions of rebellion at the family life she is forced to live, takes up a job in an adult store. She also meets her literary idol (played unconvincingly by the otherwise reliable John Cusack) and tries to force her way into his life. The film meanders along and by the half way stage the viewer would be hard pressed to maintain interest.

Homefront (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 63%]

Homefront

Trailer:

Toughie living the life in exile is the theme of this average flick. As with numerous other movies that have dealt with the theme, the smooth on the exterior guy is forced to reveal his fangs when his family is challenged by external forces. Nothing much to write about happens as the film takes a predictable turn. I must say that the shots of the Louisiana landscape were quite beautiful to watch.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2004) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Roman Polanski Wanted and Desired

Trailer:

Roman Polanski revealed like never before. Two thumbs up.

The : D Retrospective

Mona Lisa Smile (2003) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Monalisa Smile

Trailer: 

When Julia Roberts prods you on to rebel against the society, even the most conservative women are made to take notice and act on it. Julia Roberts is an arts professor in this feel good movie set in the 1950s. A very feel good movie.

A Walk on the Moon (1999) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 7.2]

A Walk on the Moon

Trailer: 

A bored middle aged housewife leads an affair with a journeyman, throwing all caution away. The times are very exciting; with man landing on the moon. The same lady also has a teenage daughter to whom she wants to be a guide. In this cautionary tale, it is Diane Lane who leads the show. Beautifully shot without the in your face cinematography, the film has some exciting tracks to add to the general feel of the movie. Though the film is not very well known, it is one of the above average flicks that need your attention.

The Good Girl  (2002) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

The Good Girl

Trailer: 

Jennifer Aniston has an affair but the problem is that no one expects her to have one. She has a loving husband and a normal life but she decides to add some excitement to the proceedings. Watch it for her because she can also play serious characters.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Transcendence’ because of Johnny Depp

Did you know: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was the first film to ever show a toilet flush.

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Week 37

Movies: Non-English

Blue Is the Warmest Color (France, 2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

blue is

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2OLRrocn3s

The winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013 is a bold and provocative movie which stretches the boundaries of what a mainstream movie can depict. Already controversial for the agony it caused to the actresses during the filming, the film dwells on the relationship between two woman. The film follows the intense relationship between the characters over a decade. Surprisingly for a running length close to three hours the movie still holds your attention and is a tour de force. Highly recommended for highly mature audiences.

Persepolis (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten tomatoes: 96%]

persepolis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ22VyjJ6n8

The coming off age story of a girl during the Islamic revolution in Iran. Based on the autobiographical account of the co-writer of the screenplay, the film is as political as it is personal. The non conformism of the girl and her willingness to fight for herself even when she veers off course is told in a poignant and heartfelt way. Even if we take Iran out of the picture, the story should resonate with any girl in any part of the world willing to stand up for what she believes in. Hence, calling it a fine picture from Iran would be an injustice. Calling it a must see movie will be just about just.

Movies I Saw This Week

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

SAVING-MR-BANKS-570

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5kYmrjongg

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is the back story to the making of ‘Mary Poppins’ by Walt Disney. The thing that hits you immediately is the passion Disney brings to making movies but his passion is matched equally by the stubbornness of Miss Travers (as she would like to be called), the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. There is nothing exceptional about the movie but it does shed light on the autobiographical nature of the work. Emma Thompson pulls off a fine performance and Tom Hanks is competent in his role as Walt Disney. I particularly liked the scene where he convinces Miss Travers to sign on the dotted line. He gives the ultimate sales pitch but the thing with sales pitches is that it is dependent on whether the listener is in a mood to even think about what is being offered, as I found out the hard way quite recently. Coming back to the movie, it is not a great one but certainly worth a watch.

Fruitvale Station (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

FRUITVALE-STATION-POSTER-570

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

In a year where there was a miscarriage of justice in the Trayvon Martin case, this film sheds light on a true event which happened a few years earlier but has the same undertones of the inequality that African Americans face in the Land of the Free. As a piece of art the movie is not worth much but it has a compelling story to tell. Here the victim is not a teenager wet behind the ears but a young father who is seeking out a better life for his family. The film does build its case by showing us the good Samaritan the victim was. The movie is not a must watch but then I recommend it.

Lee Daniels‘ The Butler (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

kinopoisk.ru

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuojHqfe4Vk

The story of a butler in the White House who goes about his work over decades under different Presidents during times of great social turmoil. Forest Whitaker is an actor who is a joy to watch on screen. Even when the movie has an uneven tempo, he just keeps things from falling apart. An above average flick which has a standout performance from the protagonist.

John Ford Retrospective

John Ford is one of the greatest directors ever, with four Oscars for the Best Director. The funny thing is that I consider ‘The Searchers’ (reviewed here https://couldhavebeenacontender.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/week-12/) to be his greatest work but he did not even get a nomination for it. I think that compensates for the fact that he undeservedly took Oscar for ‘How Green Way My Valley’ beating Orsen Welles (for ‘Citizen Kane’).

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

grapes of wrath

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ayi81QMuak

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is the kind of movie which no one makes nowadays because it may be considered too socialist in theme and socialism is an ideology that Americans fear more than the plague. The story is set in the Great Depression. A family tries to stay together and live with dignity in the economic gloom sweeping the nation. Watching such movies is also a reminder that certain movies deserve a one word description: ‘Classic’. Also, hope is a good thing.

How Green Was My Valley (1941) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

how green

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7CV9SZovfU

A sentimental take  on a mining town which has seen much better days, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ upstaged ‘Citizen Kane’ at the Oscars mainly because of the heavy propaganda that was unleashed against Orson Welles. Still, the film is a classic in its own right with very strong performances and a solid screenplay. Must see.

The Quiet Man (1952) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Quiet_Man,_The_01

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4OFXlvzKA

A boxer returns from America to his home in Ireland where he finds true love and also things he had not quite bargained for. He also has a mysterious past. John Wayne carries the film on his shoulders (no pun intended) in this breezy romantic comedy. The good thing is unlike many of the old romantic comedies which have become dated, ‘The Quite Man’ has an appeal which is as fresh as it was when it first hit the screens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Men Who Made Us Fat (2012) [ MDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

men_who_made_us_fat

No documentary has made me think more than this three part series from BBC on food and the way it has changed over time. Hats off to BBC for showing the guts to finance such a project. A must watch for anyone who eats food.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Invisible Woman’ because it is on Charles Dickens and the combination of literature and cinema is a heady one.

Did you know: ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013) was released in China with four minutes of additional footage starring Chinese actors and local product placements.

Week 13

Movies: Non- English

California Dreamin’ (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

California_dreamin'

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NoNVMkQwU

What happens when a NATO train with US soldiers is stopped in a small town in Romania because it does not have the transit documents? In times when the Bolivian President is not given a safe flight home, this film is also a reminder that even Romania can poke USA if it really wants to. This is the story told by Director Cristian Nemescu in one of those movies which is as farcical as it is serious. Stranded in a small town with corrupt local officials, the soldiers get to see a slice of the daily lives of the people of Romania.  The acting is natural and believable. We are not talking of a masterpiece here but a normal entertaining movie. The film could have been sharper but the young director died immediately after the completion of the film.

Halfaouine : Boy of the Terraces (Tunisia, 1990) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Child of Terraces

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N8OzaWW24g

Get a glimpse of Arab culture and life in this Tunisian movie which is a coming off age story. An adolescent boy and his curiosities are presented with poise by the director without losing the sensuality of it all. The film never gets voyeuristic and moves at a pleasant pace. The story is universal but the setting and the characters make it special. The acting is so effortless that you may feel that you are not watching a movie but a slice of life in Tunisia. Recommended for the viewer who is open to knowing new cultures and lifestyles.

Hollywood Retrospective

Say Anything… (1989) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

say anything

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFV7FnbhBRY

John Cusack may mean many things to many people but when I hear that name the first image that comes to my mind is the iconic scene of him holding up the stereo to play it outside his sweetheart’s house in the finely written romance ‘Say Anything’. This movie will never make it to the list of greatest movies ever made but this one will stay with you if you can pay attention to the good dialogues and scenes it has. Also, when the lady being wooed is Ione Syke, it does not hurt to look at the screen. In case you want to see more of her ‘The Rachel Papers’ is highly recommended in spite of it being a flawed movie.  If you ever watch ‘The Rachel Papers’, check out the scene when the taxi leaves just as a kiss is going to happen. That is one of my favourite romantic scenes on screen. Coming back to ‘Say Anything’, just watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend on a lazy afternoon.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_movie-207695

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GiLxkDK8sI

Once in a while you watch a movie that just blows you away. With me the real world experience in such cases involves changing my posture from lying down in the bed/sofa to jumping up and grabbing the chair because it hits me that the movie deserves my full attention. ‘Eternal Sunshine…’ is one such movie. The movie wants to tell  three things. Firstly, when lovers start out they look perfect to each other but then it is difficult to sustain the same passion unless you are willing to put that extra effort. Secondly, some people are made for each other and nothing can stop that. Thirdly, just as joy is part of life so is pain. Now, the real genius of the writer Charlie Kaufman (I am a huge fan) is how he makes a story to fit these ideas neatly into them and tell it without you realizing that you are being told the exact same things in a wonderful way. More than anything, I marvel at the ability of someone to think, conceptualize and finally put pen to paper on such an original screenplay which deservedly won the Oscar. It is interesting that in a film with Jim Carrey it is Kate Winslet who looks the odd character. The performances are alright, the direction is above average but the screenplay is awesome. While watching this masterpiece, try to think like a writer.

Out of Africa (1985) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

out of africa

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gYlSGUTthw

A fiercely independent woman who would not be tied down by anything or to anybody meets her match in Africa. The people in question happen to be Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in this old world romance directed by Sydney Pollack. Visually stunning, tragic and emotionally draining. In the middle of all the excitement that the movie generates there is that feeling of impending doom. Based on a true story.

Movies I saw this week

To the Wonder (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

To+The+Wonder+2012+DVDRip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAzcTZTY1g

Terrence Malick’s effort after ‘Tree of Life’ is a dud. Ben  Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams or Olga Kurylenko cannot save this film from doom. The dialogues are minimal and the movie tries to look high end art house cinema without much success. Still, I can watch this movie more than once just for the visual experience it gives. It is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in recent times. The locations are simply breathtaking but in the end all that comes to nothing for the lack of a story.

Ishkq in Paris (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Ishkq-in-Paris-Movie-Poster

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

Why I watched this movie? I don’t know. How I felt when I watching it? I certainly know. I should have known better. When Preity Zinta was giving interviews saying she was confident about the movie because it has a good story, I should have read between the lines. The first half of the film is ‘Before Sunrise’ copied scene by scene. The second half? Don’t even bother. Somebody please tell Zinta that she is no more the bubbly girl of ‘Dil Se’. I don’t know whether I was hallucinating but the male lead had kohl lined eyes throughout. Spooky. Also, trash.

The Watch (2012) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

watch

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

Heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth? The case is not exactly that here because there is no broth to begin with. Four men defend their neighborhood against alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are so bad in the film that the aliens’ acting looks better. Still, if you have an IQ in single digits you may enjoy it but such people are harder to find on earth than aliens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hoop Dreams (1994) [IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Hoop_Dreams

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph2Y-epihlk

Two boys whose only way out of crime and poverty is basketball, try to make their dreams come true. Uplifting.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Blue Jasmine’ because I eagerly await every movie from Woody Allen. After covering Barcelona, London, Paris and Rome in the last few films, he is now back to San Francisco.

Did you know: There are more than 40,000 movie screens in the USA.