Edition 74

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Theeb (Jordan, 2015) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating: 7.5 ]

Theeb_poster___Copy

Trailer

A young boy cajoles his brother to allow him to be a part of a group traversing a dangerous desert terrain in the middle of World War I. In the process he gets more than what he had bargained for or imagined. Critically acclaimed ‘Theeb’ tells the story of a young boy who has to weather the elements and treacherous humans in a fight for survival. The perilous conditions bring out the best and worst in him; his kindness is juxtaposed with the tribal instincts he displays in the climax. The film is also a commentary on how modernity wrecks established norms and lifestyles. Masterfully directed and visually appealing, ‘Theeb’ is certainly one of the best movies of 2015.

Movies I Saw This Week

Zootopia (2016) [ IMDB: 8.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating:8.5 ]

Zootopia-Poster

Trailer

‘Zootopia’ is a right movie at the right time. Even when it gets self righteous at some points, the movie is a reminder of the dictum ‘Live and Let Live’. It may not be a mere coincidence that at a time when there is unabashed bigotry all around, ‘Zootopia’ virtually name calls all types of bigotry. Thankfully, it also a very entertaining affair. Essentially, ‘Zootopia’ is a story of an underdog breaking the glass ceiling and overcoming odds and prejudices. The action is in a society which is fighting to keeps its pluralism, tolerance and sanity intact. As much as it is a jovial fun ride which can be enjoyed by all age groups, ‘Zootopia’ is probably the most hard hitting social drama to take the form of animation. Must watch.

Kapoor and Sons (2016) [ IMDB:8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes:90% , My Rating:6.0 ]

kapoor

Trailer

(Spoilers ahead) Kapoor and Sons is a record of the shouting matches in a dysfunctional family with absolutely zilch to show for its painful duration. There is nothing endearing about any member of the family. With a motley of characters including a foul mouthed uncouth grandfather, a cheating husband, and a dense mother, the film’s speedometer remains on zero for the better half of the proceedings. There is even a sibling who very predictably turns our to be gay. True to producer Karan Johar’s sensibilities, he is the least flawed character in the movie. He wants to help his financially ailing brother. He is a victim of the circumstances because the leading lady chooses to kiss him and not the other way around. He also accidentally discovers his father’s infidelity. He even takes his brother’s idea to write his debut book. After scouting with a magnifying glass, I was not able to find a single redeeming feature in the family. At a certain point during the movie I felt like the plumber in the movie who has to bear the brunt of having been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Kapoor and Sons is a family that I would take extra pains to keep away from if they were real. Fortunately they aren’t.

McFarland, USA (2015) [ IMDB:7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating:7.5 ]

McFarland-USA-Movie-Poster

Trailer

Everybody likes a story on the triumph of the human spirit. Disney is adept at sugar-coating such themes. Once in a while they run into a story worth spending the sugar on. For all its cliches and predictable turns, there is something about this inspirational sports drama that keeps you interested. Maybe it is the story. Maybe it is the acting. Maybe it is the score. Maybe it is the editing. Maybe it is all that and more.

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016) [ IMDB:6.6 , Rotten Tomatoes:79% , My Rating:6.5 ]

peewee-poster

Trailer

I had not heard of Pee-Wee till I saw this movie. Pee-Wee was a superhit TV character in the 80s. Pee-Wee had a movie in 1985. Thirty one years later, the remarkably youthful lead actor reprises his role in a movie which starts on a promising note but loses steam towards the end. Pee-wee decides to leave his home town for the first time to meet his buddy. The film focuses on the encounters he has on the way. Pee-Wee will certainly delight the kids but it may find it difficult to gain the attention of a mature audience.

Brooklyn (2015) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes:97% , My Rating:7.5 ]

Brooklyn-UK-Quad-Poster

Trailer

There is no prize for being a runner-up at the Oscars. Else, Saoirse Ronan would have a Silver Medal to her name for her striking portrayal of an Irish immigrant try to find her footing in Brooklyn in the 20th century. ‘Brooklyn’ is not just about her but also the many characters who fill the movie who make it an absolutely riveting watch. The movie walks into to a list of thoroughly enjoyable and well acted movies made in recent times. Definitely worth your time.

Experimenter (2015) [ IMDB:6.6 , Rotten Tomatoes:89% , My Rating:7.0 ]

experimenter-movie-poster

Trailer

Nowadays if you open a newspaper or website you will find numerous new studies which confirm something one day and the exact opposite the next day. There used to be a time when some studies and experiments were more authentic. They have also stood the test of time. Some of those remarkable experiments were conducted by Stanley Milgram. This movie is about him. More than a movie, it throws light on some issues such as response to authority and peer pressure. It is a very enjoyable movie for those curious on getting insights on human behaviour.

Waffle Street (2015) [ IMDB:6.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet Rated , My Rating:6.5 ]

waffle

Trailer

A wall street guy who loses his job in the 2008 financial meltdown starts working in a waffle chain. Based on a true story, ‘Waffle Street’ draws the contrasts on the two lifestyles on display. One of the lifestyles involves honesty, hardwork, treating your customers with respect, dealing with people who pay their debts back, cooperating with colleagues at work, thinking about the long run etc. Though hampered by some amateurish acting by the protagonist, the rest of the cast puts in an effort which makes the movie worth a watch.

The Dressmaker (2015) [ IMDB:7.2 , Rotten Tomatoes:65% , My Rating:6.5 ]

Dressmaker-feat1

Trailer

Kate Winslet returns to her village as a suave and chic dressmaker. She has some accounts to clear and some demons to bury. She also meets her love. The movie does not rise to greatness but it does not flounder even when the subject matter is weak. Largely due to the acting ability of Winslet, the film remains a rather easy one to watch. Recommended.

Bill (2015) [ IMDB:6.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating:6.5 ]

Bill_poster_goldposter_com_1-400x587

Trailer

Yet another movie on Shakespeare but unlike any other because of the screw-ball comedy that it makes of itself. ‘Bill’ largely follows the template of Monty Python movies. The irreverence and confidence are coupled with the thick skin of the film-makers whose half serious attempt at postulating on Shakespeare’s life during his ‘missing years’ makes for engaging viewing. Obviously, the performances or the music or anything other than the screenplay does not matter. If you are in a mood to accept a bumbling Shakespeare in a comedy, this is the movie for you.

Trumbo (2015) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes:80% , My Rating:7.0 ]

Trumbo_poster_goldposter_com_4

Trailer

Dalton Trumbo was the writer behind such classic movies such as ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Spartacus’. He was hounded for his communist leanings during the infamous era of McCarthyism. ‘Trumbo’ tells the story of his struggle to overcome the witch hunt against him. His single minded devotion to his work and the high quality of his output were his best responses to the blacklisting by subservient Hollywood studios. The movie also shows the guiding philosophy of Trumbo when he encounters hard times. Bryan Cranston embodies Trumbo and carries the film on his capable shoulders. The movie also gives a glimpse of the back-room shenanigans in Hollywood during the dark age for film making.

Kali (Malayalam, 2016) [ IMDB:7.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: Not listed , My Rating: 6.0]

kali

Trailer

Dulquer Salman plays a man with a short fuse and a streak of violence in a movie which takes a different turn in the second half. Though he does justice to his part, the same cannot be said of Sai Pallavi whose command of Malayalam is severely lacking. She could have left the dubbing to professionals. Though the tension is palpable in the second half, the climax does not excite. Overall, it is an average flick with nothing substantial to offer.

Documentary of the Week

The Look of Silence (2015) [ IMDB:8.3 , Rotten Tomatoes:97% , My Rating:9.0 ]

look

Trailer

The sequel to the much appreciated ‘The Art of Killing’ is as devastating as the original. A man confronts his brother’s killers in a society which condoned the systematic killing. The killers are unapologetic. Or are they?

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Jungle Book’.

Did you know: The credits and title cards of ‘Spotlight’ are set in Miller, the typeface that Boston Globe newspaper uses for most headlines and body copy.

Advertisements

Week 44

Movies: Non-English

In a Better World (Denmark,2010) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

in a better

Trailer: 

Winner of the Academy Award for the best foreign language film, this film from Denmark marries the liberal conscience of the Scandinavians with harsh realities of strife torn Africa. A Danish doctor serving in Africa has some ethical dilemmas to face and matters are not helped by the dysfunctional family he has back home. The film has been shot exquisitely, with the dust bowls of Africa contrasting with the serenity of the green fields in Denmark. The story is masterfully told, with an impending sense of disaster writ over it. The acting is competent, a reminder that good movies can be made without a lot of money.

Lust, Caution (Taiwan, 2007) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

lust caution

Trailer:

Shanghai is the setting for this espionage thriller directed by double Oscar winner Ang Lee. A woman infiltrates the establishment and becomes the mistress of her target. What begins as a cautious relationship with clear cut motives turns into an affair replete with passion and intrigue. The film took the festival circuit by storm when it was released, partly owing to the fact that the love making scenes were not simulated. The performances are uniformly good and the story never loses its zing in the safe hands of Ang Lee. Watch this movie for the way the story has been woven. As the adage goes, this is a story on love but not a love story.

Movies I Saw This Week

Nebraska (2013) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Nebraska

Trailer: 

Bruce Dern shows that experience in acting does count as he plays an old man with an alcohol problem and an even worse case of delusion. Falling for a marketing trick, he believes that he is the winner of a million dollar bounty which makes him take a road trip with his estranged and unwilling son to claim his ‘prize’. His encounters along the way and the reactions he elicits from other characters make up the rest of the story. The film is shot in black and white. The thing about the performance from Dern is that he is able to draw the viewer into the movie to the extent that the viewer may start to sympathize with him. Needless to say, the film is a Bruce Dern show all the way. His lack of Oscar wins make him a sentimental favourite this year but it could still be case of ‘so near yet so far’ for him.

Philomena (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Philomena

Trailer: 

An out of work BBC reporter finds common cause with a lady looking for her son who was taken away from her as a kid. Steve Coogan plays the liberal reporter who thinks himself to be beneath such ‘human interest stories’ and has no interest in the lives of common folks who seem below his radar of interest. He comes to the aid of a devout Catholic played by Judi Dench who holds on dearly to her beliefs even in the face of evidence that she was wronged by the church. The story is not riveting but the film does have a political statement to make. (Spoilers ahead) I was little amused that on discovering that her son was gay, Judie Dench says that she imagined him to be gay because he was sensitive child. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that gets you few brownie points but does not work in the real world. Think of it, sensitive children grow up to be gay. Even such gimmicks will not fetch Judi Dench the Oscar this year and I am willing to put my money on Cate Blanchette taking home the gong.

Frozen (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Frozen

Trailer: 

Anna wants to find her sister who has magical powers. She embarks on a journey to do so. Disney has positioned itself as the ultimate family brand and it is not difficult to imagine that Disney films will be sweet and heartwarming fare. I am not a fan of musicals and I find it difficult to sit through scenes in which the characters try out the strength of their vocal chords. The animation here is good but it is a reflection of the state of the animation industry that this film is the hot favourite to win the Animation Oscar this year. I yearn for the days of films like Wall E.

Jai Ho (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

jai ho

Trailer: 

Think of all the issues on which there can be no debate on what is right, like patriotism, rights of the physically challenged, respect for women, corruption, right to education and so on. Get the dates (the ones on the calendar and not the girls) of Salman. Make him the common man (yes, the ‘being human’ poacher with a heart of gold). Get him to sermonize. When the social science class gets boring, bring on the songs. If songs are not your stuff, no problem. There are lots of action sequences where Salman turns up so that he can bash up all those who are eagerly waiting for the favour of being thrashed by him. If you still don’t get the story, it is about a perfect human being (who does not get drunk and maul down pavement dwellers) who does nothing but help people. He does not ask anything in return but asks the recipients of his help to help three more people. To illustrate this, he shows us that multiplication with 3 is indeed a great thing. After filming the movie, he then appears on ad campaigns and asks people to pay money and forward the films promos to three more people. In case you were wondering what is the technical name for such a scheme, it is called a Ponzi Scheme and Salman is at the top of the pyramid. In case you are still wondering, he has made fools out of you and laughed his way to the bank. Unfortunately, he knows that he cannot be prosecuted for making a Ponzi film.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Act of Killing (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Act of Killing

Trailer: 

The Indonesian forces killed millions of communists to wipe out communism from the country in the 1960s. Thugs and gangsters were the leading lights of this state sponsored mass killing. In the most courageous documentary to have come out in a long time, the filmmakers interview some of the men who perpetrated the crimes and who boast in public about the killings they have carried out. The killers are given the chance to recreate the killings in the format of a movie genre of their choosing. Watching this documentary is a surreal experience. It takes some time to comprehend what you see. The grave danger to the lives of the filmmakers is exemplified by the end credits in which half of the crew are listed as ‘Anonymous’. If there is justice in the world, this documentary should win over ’20 Feet from Stardom’ at the Oscars.

Brian De Palma Retrospective

Brian De Palma has made some landmark films in his time. A key feature of his movies is the presence of a flawed protagonist fighting his inner demons as he faces the rough world.

Scarface (1983) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Scarface

Trailer:

Al Pacino plays a Cuban immigrant who turns to crime and loses his footing. Essential viewing.

The Untouchables (1987) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Untouchables

Trailer:

The story of the infamous mafia man Al Capone. Must watch.

Casualties of War (1989) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Casualties of War

Trailer:  

A man is the ony dissenting voice in his group when they decide to take a Vietnamese girl as a prisoner. Set during the Vietnam war. The best performance in the career of Michael J Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ because I had liked the first one in the series.

Did you know: Katherine Hepburn only drank water throughout ‘The African Queen’ production as a protest against John Huston and Humphrey Bogart’s alcoholism. However, most of the cast and crew became sick from the water and only Bogart and Huston were unaffected because they drank only whiskey. (Source: Huffington Post)