Week 38

Movies: Non-English

Maria Full of Grace (Colombia, 2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Maria Full of Grace

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5yJOXgxZw8.

One of the few foreign films to have got the lead actress an Oscar nomination, this Colombian movie explores the dark lanes of illegal immigration and drug trafficking into USA. Catalina Moreno looks the part as the woman trying to escape the low life in Colombia for better prospects in the US. She accepts the proposal to act as a drug mule to achieve her ambitions. The film is not judgmental. The focus is on the person who is not just another face in the crowd. There is no stirring music or emotional manipulation and the camera hovers around trying to capture the intricate nuances of the story that is being told. I wouldn’t call it a must watch but it is a movie that deserves a good look.

Paradise Now (Palestine, France, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Paradise Now

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi9yiGePxKw

Why do people turn to terrorism? There are no easy answers but ‘Paradise Now’ tries to address a complicated issue and offers a counter to ‘Munich’, also released in 2005. The film is also an exploration of the frustrations of the people of Palestine. The plot involves a suicide bombing to be carried out by two friends. The story follows them on their mission. That journey is also the setting for the dialogue on the complexity of the issues they face as Palestinians and that tete-a-tete is the crux of what the movie wants to address. I guess even Mossad would have been interested.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) [ IMDB: 8.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

Wolf of Wall Street

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iszwuX1AK6A

There is hardly a moment in the movie when Leonardo DiCaprio is sober. That also makes it a movie perennially on dope. Add to that some sleaze, women, Ferraris, FBI and even a storm. What you get is a film throbbing with energy reaching the point of hysteria. For those not knowing Martin Scorsese, they would be imagining him to be a 21 year old director and it is his creative vision at such a late stage in his career that truly stands out. Leonardo DiCaprio brings out a very strong performance but it may still not land him the elusive Oscar. He has a very able supporting cast but in the end the film tells a story that is very cliched. It is a moralistic take on a middle class boy gone bad and traces his meteoric rise and fall. There have been numerous films that have dealt with that template and this one offers no big surprises. The saving grace is the taut screenplay which keeps you engaged throughout. The film is a true entertainer and one of the better works of 2013. It will get a few nominations at the Oscars but more than one Oscar will be stretching the limits of optimism.

Don Jon (2013) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:81%]

Don Jon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6615kYTpOSU

A young man obsessed with sex, pornography and women goes through a catharsis and finds true love (or should I say true sex?). Along the way he enjoys confessing his sins at the church and finds out that his sister is not the douchebag he thinks her to be. I found the film to be a good one time watch. Though it has the feeling of pop art, it gets progressively serious as it proceeds and this finally separates it from the run of mill romcoms.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

mandela

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmm-aazQQKA

Idris Alba is Nelson Mandela in this biopic that traces the life of the legendary statesman. Watching the movie is like contemplating about the possibilities of what could have been. Frankly, the movie is the biggest letdown of 2013. More so because had it been a half decent effort, it could have ridden a sympathy wave to glory. As things stand, it is second only to the selfie of Obama at Mandela’s memorial service in the list of gaffes with respect to Mandela in a year when the world has been bending backwards in paying respect to the leader. It is a film that will soon be forgotten unlike the revolutionary at the heart of its story.

Sidney Lumet Retrospective

Sidney Lumet has been the director of many path breaking movies which have redefined movies. Besides the three movies introduced in detail here, he has been at the helm for some remarkable movies like ‘Prince of the City’, ‘Network’ (reviewed earlier in the blog), ‘Running on Empty’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Serpico’, ‘Find Me Guilty’ and ‘The Verdict’.

12 Angry Men (1957) [IMDB: 8.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

12 Angry Men

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7CBKT0PWFA

Twelve men in a jury debate through reason and logic to reach a consensus. One of the movies to watch before you die.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Jhrxn7QVDc

Fifty years after making ’12 Angry Men’ Sidney Lumet shows that class is permanent with this truly riveting flick about the dark secrets of a family. Must see.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Dog-Day-Afternoon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZHS7zexXlU

One of the best hostage dramas ever. Classic.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated)

Mike Tyson Undisputed Truth

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVrC9xfBUHk

The story of Mike Tyson. In his own words.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Labor Day’ because Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin can create fireworks on screen.

Did you know: In 2013, 12 Hollywood movies grossed more than 200 million dollars each which is a new record.

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Week 23

Movies: Non-English

The White Balloon ( Iran, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

white balloon

The whole movie at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6G5vLObkuw

This is the debut feature of Jafar Panahi who has had to fight a witch hunt by the conservative Iranian establishment over the years. Like all his films, this one is also a simple tale. A  girl goes to the market to buy goldfish. Like many Iranian films this one also relies heavily on the histrionics of child actors. Though they make excellent actors, it requires immense patience to direct children who throw tantrums at regular intervals. In ‘This is not a film’, one of Panahi’s works, he shows the difficulty of directing the protagonist in the White Balloon.  All I can say is that it is worth the pain and effort. Highly recommended.

Vincere ( Italy, 2009) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomaotes: 92%]

vincere-2009-brrip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeaRJxJcp7E

This is the true story of Mussolini’s secret lover and his child with her. Covering an issue kept under wraps till now, this films is more insightful for the revelations about the early life of Mussolini. Mussolini was a turncoat and an opportunist who frequently changed his ideology to meet the mood of the populace. His disowning of his son and his megalomaniac nature are exposed in this film. The movie has the feel of an epic. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is absolutely stunning as she is in many films. It is a shame that she has not really made it big in Hollywood. Recommended only for those who have an interest in politics.

English Retrospective

Airplane! (1980) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

airplane

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07pPmCfKi3U

Whoever says that the 80s were about bad college romances should take a look at this dangerously funny movie. Propriety is thrown out of the window as quirky characters make a flight little more than exciting. Involving gags that hold back nothing, this is a comedy you should not miss.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

planes-trains-and-automobiles

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNWx7_tZRcI

A man has to reach home for Thanksgiving. His determination to be home is matched only by the difficulties he must overcome to be with his family. Add to this mix a stranger who specializes in creating chaos. What you get is a John Hughes movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy in roles that seem tailor made for them. The film has been an inspiration for many other road movies. It is also one of the best roles of John Candy, who died young at the age of 44. It makes me wonder at the glorious possibilities of what could have a stellar career. To be sure, he did memorable work in the movies he was in. In this one, he is even better than Steve Martin in the comedy department and that is something few can claim to be.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

kramer vs kramer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNLcfJ06y34

Any movie with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep needs no introduction. Here they play a couple who were once in love but now face a battle for the custody of their only child. Sentimental without being melodramatic, this film was a surprise winner at the Oscars, collecting 5 of them. Strong screenplay and directing only add to the performances of Streep and Hoffman. A masterclass in acting.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jobs (2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%]

jobs

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx-PC1KZS3Y

There are some movies which do not make anyone happy. ‘Jobs’ is one such movie. Steve Jobs had a lot of admirers during his lifetime for making a cult out of a brand. On the other side, he was universally despised by almost all who came in contact with him. He was also a complex character who refused accept his love child and refused to pay for child support but later started supporting her. This movie is Steve Jobs for dummies because beyond that it does not provide anything insightful about his life. The focus is on boardroom battles and personality clashes and not on innovation or design. Ashton Kutcher is a poor actor and he should stick to oddball romantic comedies. His depiction of the older Jobs walking with a stoop is painful to watch. The worst crime of the movie is that it does not shed any light on the products that made Jobs famous. The movie ends with Jobs second home coming to Apple. That is as good as making a movie on Bill Gates without mentioning Windows.

Adore (2013) [ IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

adore

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjGaV0CEBR0

Two close friends who are mothers of teenage sons fall in love with each other’s sons. I guess they had to just come up with something provocative. The saving grace is that Naomi Watts and Robin Wright look absolutely marvelous and their acting is top notch. Otherwise there is nothing to waste your time on. I guess they just made it over a holiday. Surely a miss.

What Maisie Knew (2012) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

what maisie

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmvojT6yX9A

A girl is at the center of a bitter custody battle between her parents. The best thing about the movie is that it is told through the eyes of the child and there are numerous moments when the camera tells the story without the aid of dialogues. It also has very well written characters who are normal people with shades of grey. One interesting thing about the movie is that the way you perceive the characters changes as the movie progresses. The foul mouthed mother has a soft side to her and the drug addict turns out to be a genial character. Recommended.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

IF

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtyY0CXdiNo

A filmmaker friend of a murder victim decides to make a film on him when he gets to know that his friend’s ex-girlfriend is pregnant with the dead man’s child. The intention is to pay a tribute to his friend and also introduce the child to his father. Devastating. One of the saddest documentaries I have ever seen.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Rush’ because Ron Howard returns with a film on Formula 1.

Did you Know: Elizabeth Taylor married 8 times, twice to Richard Burton.