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 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.