Edition 78

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

elle

Trailer

Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors of this generation. This movie is another proof of her acting prowess. She fills every frame of the movie and keeps the suspense going. There are shades of Basic Instinct, an earlier work of the director. The basic story is that of the protagonist playing a cat-and-mouse game with her unknown rapist. The complexity of the film is created by the numerous subplots  which are interlinked. The complicated back story of the protagonist  and her subsequent mistrust of police aid in storytelling. In the end all the subplots fall into place like that of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe, it is this comfortable ending that won the film the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Trailer

There’s something about Meryl Streep which keeps the viewer engaged even in a mediocre movie.  ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ has no claim to greatness  but it is carried solely by the form shoulders of Meryl Streep ably supported by Hugh Grant.  For a director who won Meryl Streep last Best Actress Oscar for ‘The Queen’,  this is definitely not an improvement. The director is definitely successful in creating sympathy for Florence Foster Jenkins but the masses couldn’t care less for the fate of a troubled aristocrat. A movie on the world’s worst opera singer compares favorably with a movie on the world’s worst director. The latter titled ‘Ed Wood‘ was definitely a better work of art. At least, it had self-doubt.

Sully (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

sul

Trailer

Clint Eastwood makes great movies. Tom Hanks  acts in great movies. Their combination to tell the story of an American hero in Captain Chesley Sullenberger is one of the best movies of the year. Like some of the previous Clint Eastwood movies there is no attempt at making the movie dramatic. At the same time, the movie cannot be classified as a character study as it only scratches the surface. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks pulls off with elan the role of a hero who is not aware of his heroic act.  Aaron Eckhart plays the best role of his life as the co-pilot. The thing about the ‘Miracle On Hudson’ is that it is one of those events which can hardly be ever repeated. Even the recreation of the movie isn’t enough to convince the viewer about the possibility of such an event. Perhaps that is where the movie had its task cut out and perhaps that is where it is not entirely successful. A shorter film of one hour would have done more justice to the plot.

Hell or High Water (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

hell-or-high-water-poster-3

Trailer

Undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year Hell or High Water is supported by a cast comprising of thespians like Jeff Bridges Chris Pine.  Set in the forgotten parts of America and resembling a Western, the high point of the movie is that it resists the urge to pull out the gun on various occasions. The simmering tension of the movie is felt till the last frame. Concurrently the movie makes a bold statement on the plight of Americans left behind by the forces of capitalism. Most of the anger is directed at big banks who seem to get away with murder. Consequently, bank robberies form the central theme of the movie. The story is that of two brothers who rob the same bank they owe, to avoid foreclosure. In between all the gloom and doom there are also some subtle humor like in the restaurant where the waiter  knows a limited menu.  Alas, the movie is a reaffirmation of the fact that Jeff Bridges is one of the finest actors alive today. Must watch.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer


Following the success of his debut feature ‘What we do in the shadows’, the director’s second feature, ‘The hunt for the wilderpeople’, is a letdown. Indeed there are moments of humor in the movie but some of it seems forced and especially unexpected from a young child. The style of direction is a cross between that of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The movie tries to address some of the social issues but it soon turns to a farce. Set in the picturesque  mountains of New Zealand, it is also a peep into the life of the people at the margins of the society. I had a feeling that I had seen similar movies set in the America of 1980s. The only saving grace for the movie is that it does not bore the wits out of the viewer. The burden of high expectations seems to have taken a toll on the director.

The Light Between the Oceans (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

The undeniable beauty of ‘The Light Between the Oceans’ is compromised by the cringingly sentimental storyline. Boasting such performers like Michael Fassbender, Alicia vikander and Rachel Weisz, The movie is unable to tap into the talent at its disposal.  By the second half, the movie sets  out on a predictable path. The film tells the tale of a young childless couple who one day find a baby marooned at sea. Some movies have difficult choices to make. The options at their disposal are equally worthwhile. Choosing one over the other is so precarious an exercise that this undermines the whole tale. That is the malady which effects this movie.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

deepwater_horizon_ver10

Trailer

The debacle at Deepwater Horizon was one of the biggest tragedies of the oil industry. From the BP CEO who infamously said, ” I’d like to have my life back” to the frontline soldiers of the company who lost their lives, the movie captures an event, the wounds of which are yet to heal.  Deepwater Horizon documents the events that happened on the fateful day of the tragedy. The template is the standard one used for all the disaster movies.  No great acting chops are expected yet competent performances are delivered. The movie captures the horror of the tragedy without deviating from the standard storyline. The movie is not particularly illuminating but some of it needs to be heard and seen.

War Dogs (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.5]

wardogsposter

Trailer

This movie could have been titled ‘It Happens Only in America’. Two neophytes receive a 300 million dollar defense contract. What follows is a series of games involving  arms traders and phoney businessmen. Jonah Hill is the big fat  dealer who will stop at nothing. The improbable story covers countries like Jordan, Albania and Iraq and is essntially the juvenile version of ‘Lord of War’. The film could have been taut and this aspect is particularly conspicuous. Otherwise, a decent watch.

The Siege of Jadotville (2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5]

the-siege-of-jadotville-movie-poster-01-1200c397900

Trailer

This is the type of African tale which must be told.  Unfortunately they could have chosen a better story to tell.  Set in 1960s Congo in the midst of a Civil War,  the movie captures the fate of neutral United Nations Peacekeeping Force which does not receive support from the government, the opposition or the rebels. To make matters worse, they don’t even  receive support from the United Nations.  They are pawns in a bigger political game whic involves mining companies, colonial powers, world superpowers and a fledgling government. They are left to battle for survival against formidable odds.  The low production quality of Netflix is evident in this movie. Unfortunately, it is a story about heroes who need to be remembered and it does not get the treatment it deserves.

Don’t Think Twice (2016) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

‘Don’t Think Twice’ is one of the best movies of the year  until the last 10 % of the movie  when it gets  cloyingly sweet.  The movie has freshness written all over it. It tells the tale of a group of actors and how the Dynamics between them changes when one of them is chosen for a starring role in a television program. The movie is littered with instances of wit and humor. The young actors in the movie give it the credibility  it seeks. Recommended.

Documentary of the Week

Weiner (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

weiner-poster

Trailer

Anthony Weiner was once the young Turk among democrats. His fall from grace and the unraveling of his personal life are captured in this intimate documentary. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the true life story of a Botswanian prince who married a British lady.

a-united-kingdom-poster

Did you know: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.

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Edition 55

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Miracle in Cell No. 7 (South Korea, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

MICN7-27x40_20june

Trailer:

This Korean blockbuster tells the story of the bonding between a father and a daughter. The father who is a simpleton gets framed in a rape case and is sentenced to death. The daughter who has nobody else in the world, is smuggled into the prison cell of the father. A remarkable tearjerker which is cloying, this Korean film is an out and out crowd pleaser. I often feel that Korean and Indian movies have a lot in common. The most important of those is the ability to play unashamedly to the galleries. As for this movie, I have a feeling that this is waiting to be made into a bad copy in Hindi. Why spoil the experience by watching another badly made Bollywood movie? Go for the original.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

hundredfootjourney

Trailer:

Based on the novel with the same name, this is another crowd pleaser which is a cheerily brisky movie to watch. An Indian family of cooks, displaced by riots in India moves to Europe, only to accidentally end up in a French village. The patriarch of the family (played adorably by Om Puri) decides to set up shop and then the restaurateur comes in direct competition with an obsessive owner of a Michelin starred restaurant right across the street. What ensues is a no holds war; a battle royale between Indian and French cuisine. While I was secretly hoping that the Indians win hands down, the movie takes a different route and becomes a lesson on cultural integration and tolerance. It is therefore not difficult to see why the film is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. The film is a bit clichéd but has some very good dialogues. Some of them are cheesy (” I am a cook, not a chef”)  and some have far greater depth (The one on French national anthem and the French national slogan). With decent music from A R Rahman and more than decent performances, this is an easy film to watch.

The Guest (201) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

THE GUEST

Trailer:

Every once in a while there comes a movie which you are willing to write off without bothering to watch it but when you watch it you know how wrong you were. ‘The Guest’ is one such movie. It surely will not win any awards and uses every cliché possible to advance the plot. There are enough loopholes in the plot but in spite of all this there is something remarkably endearing about the movie that makes you sit through it and enjoy it. In real world terms, it means that you know you are watching nonsense but you start liking the nonsense because it is really nicely done nonsense. A family grieving for its lost soldier son gets some succor in the form of a guest who claims to be the son’s colleague. The guest wins over every member in the family but soon his mask starts slipping. What could have been a really bad movie starts kicking in the style. Acted and shot with panache, this finally becomes the  guilty pleasure of 2014.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 (2014) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Nymphomaniac-_Volume_I_47

Trailer:

From acclaimed director Lars Von Trier comes this movie about a nymphomaniac recollecting her sexual experiences. More smoke than fire, this movie is a voyeuristic expedition solely interested in titillating the viewer.  I don’t get it when such movies are slotted as high art because they simply aren’t good enough. The film had its fair share of controversy too because it has unsimulated sex scenes. That I am afraid to report, is the only claim to fame of this movie.

22 Jump Street (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

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Trailer:

The thing with maths is that you can always add one. The sequel to 21 being 22 would not have been a major problem if not for the various scenarios that are shown as possible future sequels as the end credits roll. Come on, this sequel itself is an unwarranted tribute to a lousy original. The good thing is that it looks better than the original but that is not much to say. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles as cerebrally challenged undercover cops. This time they are back in college. The film does have its moments but overall, it doesn’t make the cut. Recommended for those who like big loud senseless movies.

Endless Love (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 15%]

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Trailer: 

A remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields starrer, this movie begs the question ‘Why?’. To start with, the original was a lousy and painful one to watch. Its only redeeming feature was the (then) angelic face of Brooke Shields. The 2014 version has no reason for its existence. It sticks to the same tacky screenplay and is not aided by some plastic performances. For those interested, the story is that of a girl falling in love with a boy; a relationship the girl’s parents oppose tooth and nail. Sounds familiar? Save yourself the pain. Give it a miss.

Rang Rasiya (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Rangrasiya-2014

Trailer:

The story of legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma who dared to put a face to the gods. His representations of the Hindu gods and goddesses continue to be used on posters and artwork to this day. He was also one of the first to understand the commercial aspects of art and marketing. It would be nearly impossible to capture his genius in a movie. ‘Rang Rasiya’ tries with mixed results. The film is a genuine attempt at an authentic portrayal of the life and times of the artist; his passions, his art, his battles and his demons. It is ultimately the multitude of issues that the film tries to tackle that becomes its undoing. It also has a subtext about the freedom of expression for an artist, which has become a hostage in present India. Randeep Hooda puts in a fine performance as the protagonist. Definitely among the better Hindi movies of 2014.

Kill Dil (2014) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Kill Dil

Trailer:

Shaad Ali who made his name through movies like ‘Saathiya’ (which I like) and ‘Bunty aur Babli’ (which I dislike) returns to helm the affairs seven years after the disastrous ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’. The hibernation for seven years seems to have done no good and exposes the rustiness of the filmmaker. Two abandoned kids raised by a don turn to crime and proudly finish off 11 souls when a girl walks (rather dances) into their life. The criminals try to reform but find that some things are easier said than done. Ranvir Singh doesn’t require make up to play the stupid youngster who thinks no end of himself. Parineeti Chopra has the same ‘Oh I am so cool’ look she sports in every movie. As for Ali Zafar, he should stick to singing. Thespian Govinda looks better at dancing than being a gangster. The movie is let down by some uninspired music by the Shanka-Ehsaan-Loy trio who also are well past their glory days. The movie tries too hard and it shows. I am reminded of the similar fate of the ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999) director John Mathew Matthan whose second movie was a dud called ‘Shikhar’ (Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapoor, Bipaha Basu)released in 2005. Moral of the story: Don’t take 6 or 7 year long vacation.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Facing Ali (2009) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

facingAli_key3

Trailer:

It has been 20 years since there was a rumble in the jungle. Why was Muhammad Ali voted the sportsman of the century? Certainly not just for the punches he could throw. Listening to the people who received the punches, it is clear that the punches were enough.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Nightcrawler’ because it is generating rave reviews.

Did you know: ‘Casino Royale’ was the first James Bond movie approved by the Chinese censors.

 

 

 

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%]

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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%]

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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.