Week 42

Movies: Non-English

Ernest & Célestine (France, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Ernest & Célestine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ1rmOYLr2U

Academy Award nominee for the Best Animation Film this year, Ernest & Celestine is one of the two foreign made movies in the category (The other one being ‘The Wind Rises’ from Japan). Is is a testament to the fact that the better animation movies are increasingly being made outside of the Hollywood studio system.These foreign movies are also made at a fraction of the budget of Hollywood ones and usually do not have the technical finesse of their big money counterparts. Still they make for engaging viewing because in the end it is all about the story and the screenplay than anything else.Ernest & Celestine scores high on that front. Continuing the French connection of love with rats (Remember ‘Ratatouille’ ?), this film shows the bonding between a rat and a bear.That too, a rat brought up on the idea that bears are evil. Definitely worth your time.

The Grandmaster ( China, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Grandmaster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC5amKLgnFU

‘The Grandmaster’ is the market entry feature for Asian films for Annapurna Studios. Annapurna Studios was founded by Megan Ellison who is the daughter of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The year 2013 has been particularly well for the studio which is behind movies like ‘Her’, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ . Coming to the movie, the film has been lavishly mounted and tells the story of the Ip Man, who was the master of Bruce Lee. The major failing of the movie is that it is too verbose and the action sequences are not well choreographed. Hence the thrills are missing. The ever-present feeling is that of watching a chronicle of events than watching a movie. Overall, it is a damp squib but it has its moments. How about a husband and wife having a Kung Fu duel just for the fun of it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Frances Ha (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

frances ha

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBn5dgXFMis

‘Frances Ha’ is the female equivalent of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ reviewed last week. It tells the story of 27 year old divorcee without a home of her own and trying her hand at things which she is not competent enough. Greta Gerwig gives a breakout performance and definitely deserved a nomination at the Oscars. It is baffling why the Academy prefers to give her 18th nomination to Meryl Streep for her insipid performance in ‘August: Osage County’ than reward Greta Gerwig for her genuine performance. ‘Frances Ha’ is shot in black and white which adds gloom to the already gloomy movie which has a cheerful character at its core who also knows that she is in dire straits. The film was one of the discoveries of Sundance Film Festival in 2013. It is easy to see why.

The Book Thief (2013) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

Book Thief

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92EBSmxinus

This is the kind of movie which irritates me. Kids who speak like adults, Nazis as villains (what a convenient cliche), preachy dialogues, that overwhelming feeling that you are sitting in a propaganda session even when you are the staunchest supporter of the idea. To top it all, the voice over is by God (Yes you read that right). Apparently, the viewers do not seem to share my concerns but the critics and I are on the same boat. As for the plot, it is about an adopted girl in Nazi Germany.

In a World… (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

In a World...

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZHBjLFu5is

There are so many stories waiting to be told. ‘In a World’ tell the story of people in the voice over industry. It is about a woman who tries to find her footing in a male dominated industry with misogynistic veterans, among them her father. The romantic sub plots enrich the story. Though the film does tick the box for cliches, it is a romantic comedy worth watching.

Yaariyan (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 3.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

Yaariyan

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3yJS4MB85Q

At the end of this movie (yes, I somehow reached the end) there is this tripe from the director about how she made the movie while balancing her gigantic responsibility of being a mother. As if to convince the viewer, she also has footage of her son on the sets. She should have put that disclaimer at the beginning of the film. That would have been an anticipatory bail and the viewers would have been better prepared for the motion picture she unleashes on them. It is plain and obvious that the lady got to don the director’s hat because she belongs to one of the country’s big production houses. The plot is a mixture of Australia bashing jingoism with some songs thrown in for the sake of romance. People who paid to watch this in theatres can try suing the producers for mental torture.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Cutie and the Boxer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Cutie and the Boxer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXS6Aby5AUg

Nominated at this years Oscars, this documentary take a peek into the lives of a painter couple and their marriage that has spanned 40 years. My feeling is that there were better documentaries that did not get nominated this year.

Sergio Leone Retrospective

Sergio Leone is a name synonyms with Westerns. He was never feted with awards during his lifetime but with the passing of time his stature has only grown. If there is a director with whom a genre is associated, then that combination has to be Sergio Leone and Westerns.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

the_good_the_bad_and_the_ugly

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

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery (From IMDB). Sensational.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Once Upon a Time in the West

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO_uW_VDsO8

Story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica who joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad ( From IMBD). Epic.

For a Few Dollars More (1965) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

For a Few Dollars More

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk7XHtvDZ_E

From Imdb: Two bounty hunters with the same intentions, team up to track down a Western outlaw.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘3 Days to Kill’ because Kevin Costner plays the lead.

Did you know: In 2002, Steven Spielberg finally finished college after a 33-year hiatus. He submitted ‘Schinder’s List’ for his student film requirement.

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Week 20

Movies: Non-English

A Moment to Remember (South Korea, 2004) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

A-Moment-to-Remember-2004-K-Movie

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo9WSLv-lzs

This Korean romance will put even Bollywood to shame with its melodrama and overplaying of sentiments. It is a mushy romance which is worth a watch with your girlfriend/boyfriend. A young couple overcome many obstacles to get married and start a life together. Sooner than later, tragedy strikes when the wife is diagnosed with a rare form of memory loss. How the couple cope with it forms the rest of the story. The onscreen chemistry between the lead couple is unmistakable. The story reminded me of Erich Segal’s book ‘Love Story’. Overall, a breezy romance.

In the Mood for Love ( Hong Kong, 2000) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

in the mood for love

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kRQqksluZk

This is one of the better works of Wong Kar Wai. A man and a woman have one thing in common. Both doubt their spouses of infidelity. They also happen to be neighbours and this becomes their meeting point. The film is shot in a rather fluid way and moves at a leisurely pace. The film was acclaimed universally by the critics and had a good run in the festival circuit when it was released, with the lead actor bagging the ‘Best Actor’ award at Cannes. The best thing is that the films keep you interested till the very end when it goes for an unpredictable climax, something I could not foresee even though there are very heavy hints in the movie for that particular ending.

English Retrospective

The Graduate (1967) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

graduate-movie-poster

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

The film that practically made a star out of Dustin Hoffman. ” Mrs. Robinson, you are trying to seduce me.” The charm with which Hoffman says the dialogue is a reflection of the ease with which he carries the role. Hoffman plays a man who also falls for the mother of his girlfriend. Exceptional music with some of the chart-busters of the era help in creating the ambiance for one movie which is easy on the eye. Watch it for Dustin Hoffman.

Gone With the Wind (1939) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

gone with the

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFu-jemU-bA

If you not yet seen this classic, please do. It is one of the greatest movie spectacles to unfold on the big screen. Winner of 10 Oscars, it has unforgettable performances from all those performing in the movie. Few movies have had success in achieving the scale and grandeur of this movie. At its heart it is a love story but it is more of a story in the vein of great works of literature. I have wondered how they were able to achieve such finesse in 1939. It would be no exaggeration to say that many languages have not yet made one movie to compare with the quality of ‘Gone with the Wind’. And frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. Could not resist it.

From Here to Eternity (1953) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

from here to

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yup3rl2yK8A

This movie’s consistent claim to fame is the kiss scene on the beach which has almost always been voted as the best kiss scene in movie history. Fortunately, the movie also has a riveting tale to tell. It tells the story of an ultimately doomed romance with the US Army as the backdrop. It has a stellar cast and strong screenplay. All in all, a movie you should not miss.

Movies I Saw This Week

Pain and Gain (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

pain and gain

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEQ8jyvmYtw

The one thing about this movie is that if they did not write at the beginning that it is based on true events, it would have been hard to believe. For this reason, it feels like a farce at times but it is not the trash movie I was expecting it to be. It is a decent shot at telling a rather improbable story. For once I liked the acting of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson because he was playing a character that fits him well. A dumb body builder who has as many grey cells as the highest number a newborn baby can say. The casting is spot on but you know you are watching a wannabe film when graphics appear on screen to tell you explicitly who is the ‘weak link’ or who is the ‘new recruit’. For all its infirmities, it is still worth a watch.

Madras Cafe (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

Madras_Cafe_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnkKI01I0Ac

I have generally appreciated the efforts of John Abraham and his willingness to try different types of films. This is his attempt at interpreting the events that led to the assassination of former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi by the now dead and buried LTTE rebels of Sri Lanka. The movie has a definite cutting edge feel to it and the fact that it has no songs is a great step because it does not mind breaking the stereotypes. Most of the scenes are evidently shot in Kerala. John looks the part as an army man. Even Nargis  Fakhri whose acting was so poor in ‘Rockstar’ that Ranbir Kapoor’s guitar in that movie acted better than her, does justice to a role which suits her. Legendary quizzer Siddartha Basu making his debut also looks sharp as the intelligence Chief. The movie builds towards the climax so well that one starts feeling sorry for Rajiv Gandhi. The film does have many loopholes. It is audacious to suggest that big corporations were behind the planning of the assassination just because Rajiv Gandhi was interested in solving the issue peacefully. Truth be told, Congress was down and out for the general election that was approaching then. There was no chance for Rajiv to return to power. Even the sympathy wave generated by his death did not help Congress get a majority in the elections that followed. Also, the film makes a joke out of India’s intelligence gathering capabilities. The reporter sitting in London knows more than the intelligence establishment. Now there is a talk of making this India’s official entry for the Oscars. Spare us the pain.

The Angel’s Share (2012) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

angel's share

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcQIvmR21VU

This is a fun movie and a mood elevator. It also happens to be on whisky. It is Ken Loach’s least serious film and that itself is enough reason to raise a toast to this movie which is about normal working class people trying to find their way in a difficult world. Not at all boring and educative in many ways. I recommend.

Documentary Pick of the Week

McLibel (2005) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

mclibel

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyGK5j_EcmE

The story of a postman and a gardener who took on McDonald’s and won against all odds. The biggest David Vs Goliath story in corporate history. The biggest PR disaster in corporate history. I’m loving it. The documentary, that is.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Salinger’ because they apparently have material on this dead and reclusive writer to make a documentary on him.

Did you now: Samuel L Jackson holds the record for the actor whose films have grossed the highest at the box office.