Edition 81

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Eagle Huntress (Mongolia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.6 , Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating:7.5]

Trailer

A cross between a movie and a documentary, Eagle Huntress tells the tale of a girl and her attempt to break the glass ceiling in the wilderness of Mongolia. The Eagle Huntress is an ode to women and all those who want to take a shot at changing the status quo. The film soars as it progresses and takes the viewer on an unforgettable journey with the stunning Mongolian landscape adding to the ethereal beauty of the proceedings. The movie is certainly one of the better photographed ones in recent times but all the credit must go the protagonist who keeps it engaging throughout the 87 minutes. Those 87 minutes just fly away. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Get Out (2017) [IMDB:7.8 , Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

There is a lot of mischief in ‘Get Out’. It is subversive, suggestive and sufficiently subtle. At the same time it does not hold back its punches. At its core, it remains a thriller but the racial dimension elevates the movie to another level. ‘Get Out’ is undeniably one of the best movies of the year and it earns its stripes with the solid screenplay and unconventional plot. A black man with a white girlfriend visits her parents for the first time. He gets more than what he bargained for and then he must get out or be killed. Expect no mercy from the director or any show of overt sentimentality. Fasten your seat belts for en edge of the seat thriller worth every penny that you will pay for.

War Machine (2017) [IMDB:6.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Based on a Rolling Stone article which led to the resignation of a top General in the US army, ‘War Machine’ is a commentary on the triumphs and trials, more so of the latter, of USA in the Afghan war. A workaholic General is put in charge of salvaging the Afghan operations of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’. He believes that he can turnaround the situation by makes the locals allies in the war on the Taliban. His simplistic approach does not cut much ice and he then enters into a game of chess, bordering on the silly, with the US administration. The movie meanders a lot and is akin to a documentary puzzled together by a crew. There is no plot and when the finale occurs, the viewer is bewildered by the sequence of events. The saving grace is that the events are relatively engaging but the question of what was all that about is the one that lingers as the final credits roll.

Miss Sloane (2017) [IMDB:7.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 8.5]

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Miss Sloane is the best movie I have seen in 2017. It is also the best thriller I have seen in years. It is the most slick and well written movie I have seen in years. It is a cat and mouse game and even the veteran film-goers will find it difficult to guess the twists and turns the movie offers. Jessica Chastain plays the title role of a lobbyist with panache. She is a force of nature in her best performance after Zero Dark Thirty. The best thing about the movie is that it has a logical and coherent script which requires your full attention. If you blink during the movie, you may miss something vital onscreen. I am already a fan. Must watch.

Split (2017) [IMDB:7.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 7.0]

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After being pilloried by critics (and deservedly so) for many of his last few movies, Manoj Night Shyamalan returns to form in ‘Split’. With the use of some pseudo psychology, Shyamalan conjures up a story of a man who has close to two dozen personalities. James McAvoy seems to relish the role offered to him and plays it to perfection. Besides being a thriller, ‘Split’ brings in a considerable amount of philosophy and innocence into its theme. To the director’s credit, it never gets preachy. The box office numbers also vouch for its entertainment value. Made with a budget of less than a million, ‘Split’ grossed close to 140 million dollars.

Sandy Wexler (2017) [IMDB:5.1 , Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Love him or hate him, Adam Sandler is the darling of  Netflix. His viewers could not be bothered with the critical reception of Sandler’s movies. He is one of the most watched stars on the Netflix platform. So he goes ahead and writes a story based on his long time manager. That movie is Sandy Wexler. Nothing great but mildly amusing with two or three funny scenes. That is enough for Sandler fans. If you are a Adam Sandler fan you may enjoy it. Better still, you can watch it on your next flight when you have nothing much to do other than inhale the recycled air. Even if you fall asleep doing it, you would not miss anything.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) [IMDB:7.9 , Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Keanu Reeves has a dead emotionless face. Or a hit man face, if you prefer. He fits the profile of the cold and efficient hit man in search of a reason to kill. The sequel to John Wick scores high again in the choreographed action sequences where flying bullets seem to have poetry writ on them. The setting is Rome and that does not hurt. If you liked the original, you will love the sequel. In case you missed the sleeper hit original, the sequel may be a good way to catch up on a movie which is as much fun as it is mindless.

Mindhorn (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Mindhorn is the typical British comedy filled with irreverence and a bonkers plot. A yesteryear star is called upon to aid the police in murder mystery. With the dual mission of resurrecting his career and finding some reason to be alive, Mindhorn accepts the invitation which is a convenient excuse for him to go on a nostalgia trip. Filled with characters who have that one Achilles heel in their personalities which make them in turns endearing and unreasonable, the movie delivers some genuine moments of humour. Those moments are not frequent enough and the movie sometimes descends into a charade.

Gifted (2017) [IMDB:7.7 , Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The story of a child genius whose deceased mother shared the same description. The child who is in the custody of her uncle faces a legal quagmire when her grandmother enters her life. Though the plot has some loopholes, it is a generally satisfying movie to watch. The peripheral characters like the teacher at the school are forced into the screenplay and probably should not have had the screen time provided to her. Nonetheless, a decent one time watch for the thematic elements.

Documentary of the Week

O.J.: Made in America (2017) [IMDB:9.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 9.0]

Trailer

Although this documentary is close to eight hours long, it never gets boring or tedious. In fact, it is as good as reading an expert commentary on the saga of O J Simpson with a running thread of racial tensions in the US in the decades leading up to the infamous double murders. More than the fall from grace of an all American hero, it is the race relations and the justice system which are under the microscope. An illuminating documentary and worth the effort.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ because Al Gore can tell the truth on climate change, once again.

Did you know: ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is the first documentary to win two Academy awards.

Edition 70

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]

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Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

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The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.

Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

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The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.

The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry.  More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (India, 2015) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 4.5]

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India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million. 

Knock Knock (2015) [IMDB:5.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:33% , My Rating:3.0 ]

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Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.

Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.

Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.

 

Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada

Edition 62

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Force Majeure (Sweden, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating: 7/10]

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‘Force Majeure’ is a movie about relationships and trust. In life’s key moments, would you go for self-protection or would you go the distance to protect those who count on you? A Swedish family vacationing in France faces the consequences of such a situation, thus exposing the fault lines within relationships which had been taken for granted. At another level, the story is that of redemption and restitution of faith. Not exactly for audiences who like to have fun at the cinemas, ‘Force Majeure’ was a strong performer at the festival circuits last year. It bagged the Jury Prize at Cannes during this run and was tipped to be a shoo in for the Foreign Language Oscar nomination. So when it did not grab that coveted nomination, the director of the film went into a meltdown which was captured in the following clip:

Movies I Saw This Week

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7/10]

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One of the best ‘leave your brain at home’ movies that I have seen in recent times, this one keeps the pace intact throughout the course without ever flagging. Even when acutely aware of the fact that the underdog will save the world, the viewer gets a feeling of something fresh happening on the screen. The write smartly sets up clichéd scenes and has a conversation about the scene being clichéd. Then he does the obvious. Is the obvious a cliché? Colin Firth and Samuel Jackson handle their roles with ease and the relatively new Taron Egerton does a competent job. The plot is about a secret ‘Secret Service’ with limited membership which does the difficult task of saving the world. The hero is the equivalent of an adolescent James Bond but with a baseball cap and the Swedish Princess for a ‘girlfriend’. The movie unintentionally throws up some interesting questions about corporate czars influencing the politics of the world. These type of interesting questions are thrown up in the midst of a lot of fun. After all, when was the last time you had a hero called Eggsy saving the world?

The Lunchbox (2013) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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I saw this movie only now and that too after it received a BAFTA nomination. That is the sad part. Only a BAFTA nomination could persuade me to watch what is essentially one of the best Indian movies of last year. The move tells the poignant and unlikely romance that develops when the lunchboxes of two people are exchanged in the extremely rare event of a mistake by the Dabbawallas of Mumbai. With moments that bring the best of times bygone including the old Doordarshan shows and cheesy romantic songs of the 90s, the movie also blends in side tracks like the one featuring the ever reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Filled with genuine humour (spoiler ahead) in situations like the one in which the Dabbawalla quotes Harvard to dismiss suggestions of any mismanagement, this film is one you will not forget very soon.

John Wick (2014) [IMDB; 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating:6.5/10]

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Keanu Reeves is John Wick. In his heyday, John Wick was a hitman par excellence. Then he found love and then came retirement. Once his love was dead there was no reason to remain in retirement. At this point, we are only 5 minutes into the movie. The rest of the movie is about how John Wick finishes off all his adversaries and even some bystanders. If you like suave actions flicks featuring a protagonist with a lot of panache, ‘John Wick’ is the movie for you. If gun shots sound like music to your ears, then you may think you are watching a philharmonic performance. Keanu Reeves deserves some appreciation for his ‘performance’. Afterall, it must have been tough to have the same expression during the entire course of making of this movie.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5/10]

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Ayushmann Khurrana was staring at the abyss after delivering three consecutive box office bombs. He must have been relieved to have an Yash Raj film in his kitty but even he would not have realized the enormous (there will be a few more bad puns in this review) potential of a film which could have weighed him down. Quite easily the ‘Queen’ of 2015, ‘Dum Laga ke Haisha’ is a delight to watch even when the dialect is sometimes a little difficult to grasp. Set in the 90s in Haridwar, the movie takes you to a time when Kumar Sanu’s nasal voice used to rule the roost. Evidently shot on a low budget, the film tells the story of the arranged marriage between two disparate souls. The one who takes the cake (and perhaps eats it too) is debutante Bhumi Pednekar who gives a confident performance as the assertive young daughter-in-law. She shows that size really does not matter. It is her free spirit that makes the film worth watching. Interestingly, hardly anybody left the movie hall till the Kumar Sanu-Sadhna Sargam track finished playing along with the titles.

The Rewrite (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 645, My Rating:5/10]

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Out of work Oscar winning writer lands a teaching job in an obscure town where he turns things around. He also discovers love and unearths a new talent. Aided by the electric smile of Marisa Tomei and not so electric smile of Hugh Grant, the movie chugs along without gathering too much pace or slowing down considerably. This movie could have starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore instead. Or Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It would still be the same and it wouldn’t matter. It is one of those movies which you wouldn’t mind watching but would have a hard time recollecting after a few months.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating:3/10]

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At an artistic level, it is one of the worst films to have come out in recent times but the promotion and the sustained marketing campaign hava been a good case study on how to go about getting the audiences to watch this movie. If explicit content is the lure for you to watch the movie, then cut to the chase. Certainly one of the duds of the year.

NH10 (2015) [IMDb: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:67%, My Rating: 3/10]

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(Spoilers ahead) Surely one of the most illogical and nonsensical movies of the last five years. Produced by Anurag Kahyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, this movie has more holes in the script than what a punching machine would ever be able to achieve. The liberated girl has to be a smoker and her birthday gift is the freedom to smoke. I thought that this was so passé. She has a nutty husband who seems to have turned off the functioning of his brain. Only the script writer knows what he was smoking when he dreamt of the sequence when the guy goes with a gun to counsel someone in the middle of nowhere. Seriously? Then, people kill each other. The heroine runs around the whole of Haryana in search of help. Only people who help her out are migrant labourers from Bihar. Then she runs again, then she cycles, then she kills the policeman and steals the police vehicle. Then she runs again. After running so much, she lands up at the home of the people who are chasing her. Of all the houses in all the villages in all of Haryana, she walks into the only house which she should have avoided. Rick from ‘Casablanca’ would have been so proud. After being beaten to pulp by her tormentors, she conveniently finds a way to get the keys to their car. Then she makes them run around the village before killing them while she chases them in their car. They run as if she knows their village more than them. They run as if the only direction they know is ‘straight’. I ran to the side because the movie hall had exits on the side.

The Boy Next Door (2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 1/10]

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A youthful divocee falls for her new neighbor. It takes her some time to realize that her neighbor is a bad guy, a really bad guy. Staring at the midday sun is a less painfull experience than watching this flick.

Documentary of the Week

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating; 7.5/10]

Finding Vivian Maier

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The captivating story of a street photographer whose treasure trove of great photographs numbering more than 100,000 was discovered after she had died as a destitute old lady. Also, a reminder that in photography, it is the person behind the camera that matters more than the camera itself.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘ While We’re Young’ starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.

Did you know: ‘American Sniper’ is the highest grossing war film of all time.