Edition 56

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Goodbye First Love (France, 2011) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My rating: 6/10]

Goodbye First Love

This film which had a good run at the festival circuits, is an intimate observation of adolescence and the youthful passion associated with being in love for the first time. Camille and Sullivan fall in love as if they were made for each other. Then Sullivan decides to go on a trip, only to return after eight years. Camille meanwhile has been through an emotionally turbulent period. Will their once indestructible and fervent love stand the test of time? The film is an exploration of how maturity brings change in the thoughts and actions of people. Beautifully shot and competently acted, this film is not a classic by any stretch of imagination but is certainly worth a look.

Movies I Saw This Week

Boyhood (2014)  [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My rating: 9/10]

Boyhood

Trailer:

A first in the history of cinema, this movie delves into the life of Mason at the age of 5 and follows him till age 18. That would be a normal thing in film making but the filmmakers do the incredible by shooting with the same boy over a course of 12 years. Ellar Coltrane who plays Mason quite literally grows as the movie progresses. Richard Linklater, best known for the ‘Before sunrise/sunset/midnight’ series of movies also ropes in actors who stay committed to the project over such a long course of time. The movie is a coming off age tale and at the risk of sounding overenthusiastic, I can say that there was and never will be such a story. The best part is that the there is a seamlessness about the acting. It feels as if a real life is unfolding in front of you. Kudos to the producers for staying invested in the movie for such a long period. The risks were too many. Certainly one of the best movies of the year and a piece of cinema history to boot.

The Theory of Everything (2014) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes:84% My rating: 7/10]

Theory_of_Everything

Trailer:

Based on the memoirs of Stephen Hawking’s first wife, the film tells the renowned physicist’s battle with life as he ascends into the pantheon of intellectual greats. At its heart, it is a personal story in which the science part comes into play intermittently. The standout feature is the dramatic performance from Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen Hawking. Critics have already started comparisons with Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in ‘My Left Foot’, some even calling it as ‘My Left Brain’. All this augurs well for Redmayne who can count an Oscar nomination as a given. The film though is mostly told from the viewpoint of Jane, his wife and at times feels like a long explanation for her leaving Mr. Hawking. Quite obviously, she did not sign up to be his partner for life and would have been driven by emotional considerations when she thought of providing solace to a young man staring at imminent death. The film only scratches the surface when it comes to the science and is clearly targeted at the masses. To its credit, it must be said that the film is shot well and is successful in capturing the persona of the genius and the times he lived in.

Predestination (2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Predestination (2014)

Trailer:

Adding to the never ending list of time travel movies, ‘Predestination’ is a new variant in this sub category. On his last mission, a special agent wants to save the world from a violent person . He goes back in time a few times to achieve his task. If only life was that simple or shall we say, only that complex. Frankly, it took me some time to figure out what the scenarists were trying to say and once you get the gist of it, it becomes more or less a film on bending the rules of biology to fight crime. How about the daughter, mother and father being the same person? Will an agent choose self preservation over saving other’s lives? If you like movies which have a lot of knots (some of them beautiful to look at) and want to attempt untying them, this is the movie for you.

The Babadook (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

babadook

Trailer: 

An out and out horror movie which is one of the better ones I have seen in a long time. Unlike some of the pseudo horror movies in recent times, ‘Babadook’ does have some really edge of the seat stuff. A mother still recovering from the tragic death of her husband has a troublesome kid to deal with. Already in a depressed state, her life hurtles towards complete annihilation when a devious cartoon character enters her life. All hell breaks loose and then it is a fight to death as she and her son turn enemies and allies in the fight against evil. Often relying on the standard stunts of horror movies, it is the treatment and the sheer force of what is on screen that makes the movie stand apart. If you like horror, this one is for you.

Magic in the Moonlight (2014) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%, My Rating: 6/10]

Magic in the Moonlight

Trailer:

Coming from the master Woody Allen, this film relies on magic and conjuring to tell its story. Unlike many of his previous screenplays, the magic is sorely lacking on screen. A world renowned illusionist is summoned by a friend to help solve the mystery of a lady who can make fancy statements about a person’s past with an all knowing look. Devoid of much logic and giving the feel of a theatre piece, the film lacks the wit that once used to be a hallmark of Woody Allen. The film also has shades on his earlier work ‘The Curse of Jade Scorpion’ and is similar in the quality too. The only plus in this half hearted attempt is the scenic beauty of the French terrain.

Happy Ending (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%, My Rating:1/10]

Happy-Ending

Trailer:

Saif Ali Khan continues his wonderful run of films with this one. Continuing on his contribution to cinema in the last two years in the form of ‘Humshakals’, ‘Race 2′, Bullett Raja’, ‘Agent Vinod’ et al, this one is a film for which he will have a lot of explaining to do when he meets his maker. An author who is a one book wonder has a writer’s block and hasn’t published a book in a very long time. He is roped in to write the screenplay (why? god knows) for a superstar’s new film which aims to capture the hearts of all sections of the audience. I fervently wished that this track involving Govinda would bloom and prosper because that was the only hope of redemption in a movie which otherwise has no idea what it is doing. It seems that the following day’s script for shooting was written on the night of the previous day. I genuinely wish that the script writer’s should have stuck to the advice the character of Govinda gives in the movie. It would have been less painful if they just took DVDs of Hollywood movies and mixed them up. That concoction would be palatable and not as deadly as this ‘original’ work.

Ungli (India,2014) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 3/10]

Ungli-2014

Trailer:

Coming from the director of the severely flawed ‘Kurbaan’ who also penned the screenplay for ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Ungli’ literally shows the finger (ungli) to the audience. After making a mess with Kurbaan, the director hopes that his tried and tested formula of vigilante justice will see him through. What comes out is a series of fantastical ideas and leave-your-brain-at-home events. The good cop-bad cop routine is also played out in the most stereotypical way possible. The movie is essentially a call to arms and tries to be a voice against the injustice that some of the cast members are subjected to. As for the acting, the only one doing any justice to his role is Randeep Hooda. Sanjay Dutt who also had the time and opportunity to study the behavior of cops in real life, also tries his two bits.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Helvetica (2007) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My rating: 7.5]

Helvetica

Trailer:

The story of ‘Helvetica’ font and the tremendous influence it has had. Also, a study of the art and craft of graphic design. Interesting for the interested.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Spectre’ because 007.

Did you know: The alien language used in ‘District 9’ was created by rubbing pumpkins.

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Week 10

Movies: Non-English

Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Let-The-Right-One-In-Poster-let-the-right-one-in-16068910-600-849

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp4g9p_rgo

I am not sure whether this is a horror film or a thriller and I am not too bothered by which genre it belongs to because it keeps you on the edge of your seat without you even knowing it. Credited with reviving the left for dead (no pun intended) vampire movie genre, this is a movie which will redefine your cinematic sensibilities. A young boy falls in love with a girl who happens to be a vampire. The girl returns the love by taking care of the people who bully the boy. The boy also helps her with occasional supply of blood which quenches her thirst. An odd love story where you will root for a vampire. Classy. Still not convinced? Watch the swimming pool scene.

Spirited Away (Japan, 2001) [IMDB: 8.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Spirited_Away_movie_poster_by_miemie_chan3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6az9wGfeSgM

Animation is imagination on the big screen. ‘Spirited Away’ takes you on a journey like no other and shows the world that some of the best work in animation happens outside Hollywood. A girl and her wonderland. That is pretty much what the movie is about but they made it into an animation classic they swept the awards at places like the Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance and ultimately at the Oscars where it beat Ice Age to deservedly land the nod for the Best Animation Picture. Along the way it found fans like James Cameron. To date, it remains one of the best animation movies ever made. There must be some reason when it is the first animation picture I chose to write about in my blog.

Pather Panchali (India, 1955) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Pather Panchali

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

Legend has it that when the movie was screened for the first time for European audiences, some critics walked out midway through the movie. Nearly 60 years later, the reputation of the movie as a timeless classic has increased with every passing year. With a haunting background score by Pandit Ravishankar, the movie remains a masterful study of people. The mundane life of a peasant family in rural Bengal comes to life  in a motion picture which flows like a river with hardly a moment to pause. It is sad that not many in India have seen the movie in recent times. Essential viewing.

Hollywood Retrospective

Reds (1981) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

reds-1981

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjjRDJ039FI

Warren Beatty had staked his reputation and much more on this classic which took a long time to make but when he finally made it, it became the best picture on the communist movement in USA. For a country which sees the devil in the word ‘socialism’, it is also a reminder that there was indeed a communist movement in the country. Spanning a long and critical period in world history, the film takes you to locations around the world along with its protagonist. The story is based on real events. There is a good love story running parallel to the theme and I think the movie has the best performance of Diane Keaton. One of the most poignant scenes I have seen on screen is the climax of the film when Diane Keaton goes to get some water and sees a child. The movie makes you wonder about the glorious possibilities of history.

Unforgiven (1992) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

unforgiven

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

The last great Western. Men are called upon to avenge the dishonouring of women. Well, if life were were so simple, we would not have Westerns. Clint Eastwood’s return to greatness is marked by this revenge drama which like most of the movies of Eastwood in the last two decades deals with the idea of justice. When law fails, it is left to the outlaws to make the world a better place. This, like last week’s ‘Road to Perdition’ is my kind of movie. Strong screenplay, great dialogues, nuanced performances and a great story to tell. Clint Eastwood plus Morgan Freeman is the formula for magic on screen. Throw in Gene Hackman and you get some twisted magic. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

A better Life (2011) [IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

A-Better-Life

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaLSBdL-zCY

An illegal immigrant anchors his dreams for his son on owning his own business without getting caught by the law. The performances are really good, especially the one by the lead actor Demian Bichir who leads a life of quite dignity. His restraint in the car park scene is in stark contrast to the reaction of his son. The movie is effective in showing the distressed lives of illegal immigrants in the USA. It is a one time watch. I had this nagging feeling that the movie is an advertisement for Obama administration’s immigration policies. Well you see, the child can stay on.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

yeh-jawaani-hai-deewani-8-s

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbp2XUSeUNE

Since it is produced by Karan Johar, I had very low expectations from the film and for this reason I could sit through it. It does have some good dialogues in the second half. It was not bad as it was expected to be, but it did try hard. For starters, Karan Johar thinks that the nerd girl to cool babe transformation is achievable by replacing spectacles with contact lenses. From Preity Zinta in Kal Ho Naa Ho to Deepika Padukone in this flick, his heroines fervently believe in this formula. In fact, Deepika goes one better. She transforms herself like Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. To be sure, boys and girls cannot be friends. They have to fall in love too. Oh, I almost forgot. Everything is resolved at destination weddings where the radical girl has an arranged marriage. To complete the cliches, there is the dumb beauty too. Just for the record, Hamdard Rooh Afza is any day better than the Pepsi Ranbir Kapoor endorses. If you have forgotten the Indian movie formula and want to revise it, watch the film.

Morning Glory (2010) [IMDB: 6.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

morning-glory-movie-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9lWUqraDoU

This movie is also way too predictable. It has some nice touches though. Rachel McAdams is a producer of a television show running on life support. She gets two veterans to come on board as hosts and together they try to make things better while fighting each other. Strictly for weekend viewing when you have nothing much to do.

Passion Play (2010) [IMDB: 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 17%]

Passion-Play-2010

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy36HZhspyw

Megan Fox as an angel with wings, waiting to be rescued by Mickey Rourke. What were the writers smoking? Right up there in the list of worst movies to have come out in the last 5 years, the movie has no reason for its existence. For those thinking, what happened to Rourke after ‘The Wrestler’, this movie is a reminder that it is not for nothing that he has a bad boy reputation. Watch at you own risk.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Invisible War (2012) [IMDB: 7.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

invisible war

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECOqpv45tIo

The story that was swept under the carpet far too many times finally becomes public. The documentary exposes the lopsided policies of the US Government against women in the military while telling the story of sexual abuse in US armed forces. Hard hitting. Must watch.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ because Scorsese and DiCaprio together make great movies.

Did you know: ‘Midnight in Paris’ was Woody Allen’s biggest box office success.