Edition 85

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Loveless (Russia, 2017) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of an ugly divorce. As the child goes missing, the parents launch a search which intensifies as the story progresses. The director whose earlier works include ‘Leviathan’, goes for a more nuanced storytelling with subtle hints on the state of the Russian society. Unlike ‘Leviathan’ which spared no punches, ‘Loveless’ is often puzzling and enigmatic. The suspense is intact till the end and the open-ended climax leaves much space for speculation and contemplation. The pace of the movie dips in the latter half when the proceedings turn plain boring but the quest for the missing boy keeps the audience hooked. ‘Loveless’ is sure to get an Oscar nomination but not good enough to win.

Movies I Saw This Week

I, Tonya (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Margot Robbie stars as real life figure skater Tonya Harding whose chequered career’s low point was a botched up and bizarre kidnapping saga of her opponent. Robbie, who used to play ice-hockey earlier, brings the expertise to give a creditable performance in scenes where she is in the ice rink. There is nothing compelling about the screenplay and it hurtles towards an inevitable end. Margot Robbie plays her much abused character with conviction but the only Oscar that this movie will win will rightfully belong to the controlling mother of Tonya played with relish by Allison Janney.

The Disaster Artist (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those who have not had the misfortune of watching a gutter movie called the ‘The Room‘ released in 2003, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the events surrounding the making of that movie. ‘The Room’ had a second life when it gained popularity with some viewers rating it as the “best worst movie” ever made (which is a very generous assessment). The legend behind the movie was one Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, distributed, directed and acted in the original. James Franco, another goofball from Hollywood, has a field day as he tries to play Tommy Wiseau in a rather compassionate look at the original. Whether such a tribute to ‘The Room’ is warranted is certainly questionable. In fact, as a movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ fails to stand on its feet once it is robbed of the context. For most of the funny scenes to work, it is important to have viewed the original. Whether it is worth sitting through the mind numbing experience of watching ‘The Room’ so that ‘The Disaster Artist’ can be appreciated, is a question left to the discerning viewer. James Franco is sure to sweep awards which have a category for a comical performance but when it comes to the real deal (ie, the Oscars), he will be educated on good acting by the performances of veterans like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Frances McDormand gives her best performance after ‘Fargo’ in a masterpiece scripted and directed by Martin McDonagh. The movie begins with a mother’s pointed questions about the rape and murder of her daughter. The difference being that she goes for the audacious by putting those questions on three billboards. As a viewer, it may be difficult to foresee what unfolds in the narrative from there on. What surely does happen is by far the best Hollywood movie of 2017. The movie proceeds with the ease of knife sliding through butter. Frances McDormand, in what will be an Oscar winning performance, embodies the spirit of the character and plays it with the grit and steely determination making it one of the strongest woman protagonists in cinema. What elevates the screenplay is that all the cast members bring their A game to the show. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell add gravitas to their roles as the ailing police chief and a racist officer respectively. The humour in this tense drama is first rate and never out  of place. This movie is easily among the best to have made it to the cinemas in 2017.

Lady Bird (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Greta Gerwig turns director in a bittersweet coming of age movie set in Sacramento. Incidentally, Greta Gerwig is from Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan lives up to the promise she had shown in ‘Brooklyn’ as she plays the role of a small town high school student trying to find her bearings and love over the course of a few months. There are tons of movies with similar themes but what makes ‘Lady Bird’ charming is the freshness of the writing and the little twists and turns which keeps the viewer interested in the events on screen. ‘Lady Bird’ may not be a classic but it has its own rightful place in the list of the best movies of the year.

The Shape of Water (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Gullermo del Toro is a master at story telling as demonstrated multiple times previously and most memorably in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. This is reinforced by ‘The Shape of Water’ where he blends fantasy, music and romance into an intoxicating concoction. For the grace with which he tells an impossible story itself, he deserves the Oscar for Direction. ‘The Shape  of Water’ is a love story between a cleaner at at secret facility and a water creature. The premise is so outrageous that you may be put off by the synopsis but as you watch the movie, you may find yourself rooting for this romance. ‘The Shape of Water’ owes its mood to the music of Alexandre Desplat who looks like a shoo in for the Oscars. Pity that Hans Zimmer will not be getting his Oscar for another extraordinary score in ‘Dunkirk’. Watch ‘The Shape of Water’ if you are willing to be taken to the stars and clouds by the magic of cinema.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a bit of manipulative film making. It is the one of those annual LGBT themed movies with a heavy Oscar bait thrown in. For sure, it is a gorgeous looking movie shot in achingly beautiful parts of Italy. The movie is worth a watch just for the scenery. Timothee Chalamet is another reason for watching this gay romance, in which he stands out and promises much more for the future. The story is about a young boy who is wooed by the associate of his dad. Recommended if you like the category.

The Florida Project (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A24 studio has the uncanny knack of picking low budget features with a solid story line which would not be green-lit by the major studios. ‘The Florida Project’ is a film that A24 can be proud of. It tells the tale of a brash child spending her summer holidays with her single mom in a motel close to Disneyland. The story is told through the eyes of the child and portrays the life of the American poor. William Defoe puts in a good shift as the manager of the motel. The movie does stray a bit from its main story on a couple of occasions but there something magical about the way the director handles the whole movie. ‘The Florida Project’ is not a great film but it is indeed a memorable one.

Darkest Hour  (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winston Churchill whose career was built on his ambition to be the Prime Minister of Britain receives the honour when the soulless Nazi Germans are knocking on the gates of his country. All of his army is also facing an existential crisis as they are facing certain rout at Dunkirk. ‘Darkest Hour’ is the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman in the weeks following Churchill’s appointment as the wartime Prime Minister culminating in the rousing “We shall fight them….” speech. Overall, the movie is watchable but the screenplay is sometimes found lacking. The movie is a Gary Oldman show. He becomes Churchill. I would not be surprised if they mistakenly use the image of Gary Oldman for Churchill in the future. And, the Best Actor Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.

Molly’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Jessica Chastain has now become the reference point for smart  and smooth talking women operatives in cinema. Following on her remarkable success in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Miss Sloane’, she becomes the ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom who was convicted of running an illegal poker operation in New York. Aaron Sorkin’s direction and screenplay follow the sleekness he had shown in his earlier screenplays. ‘Molly’s Game’ is not a thriller. It is a character study which can be viewed with mild amusement. It is predictable but engaging. The movie does leave the question of whether it is telling more than it is hiding or vice-versa. For instance, Tobey Maguire is the actor on whom the star in the movie is based. Watch it if you like predictable but fast movies.

Documentary of the Week

Cries from Syria  (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

The story of the beginning of the Syrian war told through citizen shot videos. Moving and disturbing.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ 

Did you know: ‘Get Out’ is the first film made by a debutant director to gross more than 100 million USD at the US box office.

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Week 18

Movies: Non- English

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany, 2008) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

Baader Meinhof Complex

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FanVI8-zlsA

Germans are a curious bunch of people. They like things to be planned and dislike uncertainty. How such a society falls prey to radical ideologies is worth pondering about. After the disastrous fling with Nazism, Germans of the post war era have a shot at left wing radicalism. This film tells the true story of the group at the heart of this movement. The film is a copybook study on how idealism goes wrong and leads to bloodshed and crime. It also looks at how movements deviate from their path and ultimately fail. The movie is told at a good pace and the settings look authentic. The performances are nothing to gloat over but it is definitely worth a watch.

Army of Shadows (France, 1969) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

army of s

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

This one charts the story of the French Resistance against the Nazis during the Second World War. France had easily capitulated to the Nazis but that did not stop a group of spirited people from putting up a resistance. This movie does not have supermen or gladiators fighting off the evil but it does have ordinary men doing extraordinary things in a very ordinary style. The story is written by two people who were part of the movement. The movie does not try to excite. It moves at the same pace throughout but as a viewer you are slowly drawn into the lives of the characters. The story is one of loyalty and deception, hope and heartbreak and many other hues. All this adds up to the best French movie on the Second World War. Highly recommended.

English Retrospective

The reason I am changing the name of the section to ‘English Retrospective’ is because some of the finest English movies are made outside USA.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ireland, 2006) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

wind-that-shakes-the-barley

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

Ken Loach is one of the best film makers alive. This is his masterclass. It is the story of two brothers who take up arms for Ireland against Britain but then find themselves at the opposite ends after the bigger enemy is dealt with. Ireland is one of the political disasters of the 20th century and the British government sowed the seeds of discord among those who fought them in Ireland. The movie is a painful recollection of the events and how successful the British were with their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. It is a formula they later applied with great success in India too. Coming back to the film, it is a movie shot exquisitely and has a great story to tell. It never gets melodramatic but then the despair on the screen is affecting. I would say that it is a must see if you are interested in making any sense of the conundrum in Ireland. No wonder it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

four-weddings-and-a-funeral

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JMuyzm3JRU

If you have seen too many movies on weddings with the same old story, take  a break and watch this one. Genre defining movie with clean humour and too many laugh out loud moments. This is the movie which made a star out of Hugh Grant and is testimony to the power of great writing. The movie deals with the protagonist’s love life over four weddings and a funeral. One of the biggest box office draws of 1994, this film was loved by audiences across the globe. A really good comedy which is my benchmark for wedding movies. Watch out for Rowan Atkinson in his best movie performance.

Fargo (1996) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

fargo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4PmbfG4bw

The Coen Brothers are masters of crime cinema. This is one of their best movies with Frances McDormand in an Oscar winning performance. I haven’t checked who were her competition that year but she would have won hands down any year for her role as the local policewoman trying to find the missing links in a series of crimes that sweep a small town. The movie is about a kidnapping gone wrong and how things spiral out of control leading to disastrous consequences. This one is so astutely made that if you blink you may miss some of the best moments. A real edge of the seat thriller. I just love it.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Great Gatsby (2013) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Great-Gatsby3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaBVLhcHcc0

I have not read the novel which is the source material for the movie and after watching the movie I don’t plan to. One thing I can say for sure is that the film is an early contender for the Oscar for ‘Set Decoration’. Though there are many scenes that have backgrounds that rely too heavily on technology to create the ambiance, the attention to detail is breathtaking. The film has been made with such dedication that every frame is so well thought out and it shows on screen. That is ultimately the failing of the movie because somewhere along the line the movie loses its soul in trying to look spectacular. I have not been a great fan of Baz Luhrmann who has made some below average films like ‘Australia’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’. Here he is let down by the fact that the baby faced  Toby Maguire who is also the narrator of the movie, has a baby voice. Leonardo DiCaprio is not going to win the elusive Oscar for this one but Carey Mulligan is a delight to watch. The Great Gatsby is hailed by some as a classic American novel but then the film makes it look like an average masala novel with a very convenient ending. The film never soars but it is not exactly a disaster either. Sometimes too much publicity is a bad thing.

The Company You Keep (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%]

Company_You_Keep_poster

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

A reporter from a local daily uncovers the identity of a fugitive on the run from FBI for more than three decades. The fugitive was part of a dreaded underground group which violently protested against the Vietnam war. Veterans like Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon add sparkle to this otherwise average film. It is engaging to a point but not exciting enough. The cards are heavily in favour of the fugitive. So things are not difficult to predict. Not a bad movie though. Anna Kendrick is a fine actress but she needs to get out of the role of the office assistant / intern which she seems to always end up with.

Lovelace (2013) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

lovelace

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJY-g-WoQo

Linda Lovelace was the star of the biggest grossing porn film of all time. This film takes you behind the scenes and details the seventeen days that Lovelace spent in the porn industry, gaining her a lifetime of infamy. It is a sympathetic portrayal of a lady exploited by her husband and how she shows the courage to come out of it all. Amanda Seyfried looks the part as the naive young lady. Fit for mature audiences only.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Religulous (2008) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

relig

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

Bill Maher talks to people on religion and God. Funny, revealing and informative.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The World’s End’ because it has some really funny guys.

Did you know: French movies have won the most number of Oscars in the ‘Best Foreign Movie’ category.

Week 17

Movies: Non- English

Good Bye Lenin ! ( Germany, 2003) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

goodbye lenin

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIjSaHUKD5I

A mother in East Germany goes into a coma for 8 months. When she returns from it the doctors tell her son that she should not be subjected to any exciting or upsetting news. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but the circumstances are far from normal as East and West Germany happened to be unified when she was in the coma. To make matters worse, she happens to be a staunch supporter of East Germany. Now her son must go the extra mile to create an illusion of East Germany for his mother. The film tells the story of his efforts (often with hilarious results) at trying to achieve that. This heartwarming tale is as personal as it is political. In trying to recreate East Germany the film delves into what the change really means for the man on the street. It is a an easy watch. Recommended.

Infernal Affairs ( Hong Kong, 2002) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes; 95%]

infernalaffairs

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4R3nHkqyfM

This film from Hong Kong which is the original of ‘The Departed’ is so good that it is the only instance in the history of Academy Awards that the award for screenplay went to a film already made in another language. Made at a fraction of the cost of ‘The Departed’, it is considered by many to be better than the remake. The story revolves around a crime syndicate which has a mole in the police while the police also have their man inside the syndicate. The race is to find out who will expose the other first. Racy and with more twists than any movie in recent history, the film is told at a pace which will keep you at the edge of your seat. Crime has always interested me as a genre and if you share the interest, this is a must watch film.

Hollywood Retrospective

Citizen Kane (1941) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes; 100%]

Citizenkane

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

If I had to make a list of movies to see before I die, ‘Citizen Kane’ would be in the top three. Words are not enough to describe this monumental piece of film making. No wonder that it has consistently (except for the last vote) topped the list of American Film Institute’s poll for the greatest movie of all time. Though made in 1941, it has never bored me on multiple viewings and each time I have discovered something new. Besides a great story told in the most engaging way, the movie was groundbreaking for the innovations in shooting and lighting it brought to the world of cinema. It was the first film to use ‘deep focus’ which is evident in the scene in which the child is seen playing outside the home as the parents discuss inside. It introduced many innovations including shots of the camera passing through objects and the sense of lighting in the film is unrivaled. The maniacal passion of Orson Welles is transformed onto the screen. The film was cruelly neglected at the Academy Awards due to pressure from businesses which were purportedly depicted in a poor light in the movie but with each passing year the film has gained in stature. The story is that of a business magnate who dies with his last word being ‘rosebud’. The film is a journalist’s attempt to decipher meaning of the word and this takes us on an biographical account of the protagonist. Don’t miss the greatest American film ever made.

The English Patient (1996) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

english patient

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

Winner of nine Oscars, ‘The English Patient’ is the closest to poetry in cinema. Each scene has been choreographed to perfection  so much so that even violence looks poetic. Unforgettable images which are too many to mention. The film is based on the international best selling novel by the same title. The story has been modified and ends before the novel ends. The effect of adapting from a well written novel is that the words are weighed before they are spoken. Not even a sentence is in excess. The film revolves around a spy who feigns memory loss when captured by Allies during the Second World War. Like him, all who deal with him are also going through the loss of their loved ones. The bed ridden spy who is awaiting his death has a passionate and ultimately doomed love story to tell. This is not the type of movie everyone will enjoy. It requires patience and heightened cinematic sensibilities to fully appreciate what is on screen. It is also one of the few movies which led me to despair at the unfolding human tragedy on screen. An absolute must watch in my opinion.

As good as it gets (1997) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

as good as it gets

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXHxg6Ug9GM

There are some movies which have so many good dialogues that you are willing to remember a few of them. “You make me want to be a better man” is one of the most romantic dialogues I have ever heard. The movies is not all soft and sweet. On being asked how he rates women so well, the novelist replies, ” I think of a man and then I take away reason and accountability.” The movie is the story of a misanthrope who has a soft core and who keeps away from people to avoid being hurt. I absolutely adore the dialogues in the movie but the best part is that all the characters are so well etched out and the casting is also good. Even the fringe characters have some really good lines. Again a must watch if you ask me.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Story of Luke (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

The-Story-of-Luke-Poster-Social-EmptyNote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3c6Jy5sHhc

An autistic young man’s efforts to be self reliant. The movies is an above average attempt and has good dialogues and acting. It does not have a triumphant tone or any sense of fatalism. It keeps things practical. With little more effort it could have been a really good movie. I am not complaining though.

D Day (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 69%]

D-Day-Movie-Poster-Pic-1

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

The idea of the movie germinated after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. If Americans can do it why can’t India get Dawood Ibrahim? The film explores the possibility of such an operation. Since the director is Nikhil Advani who has given only monumental flops after his debut hit ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, I was expecting a pathetic film but I am happy to report that the film moves so quickly that it papers over the lack of logic until the climax where things get out of hand. Strictly a one time watch and that too if you like action thrillers.

Lootera (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

lootera-poster

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

Vikramaditya Motwane is a promising director whose debut film premiered at the Cannes. His second outing is visually rich but he seems to have sacrificed pace for creating a brooding romance which is painfully slow in most parts. Anyone who has read O Henry stories will be able to guess what is going on and what will happen. The movie has its heart in the right place. Wish the editor had the scissors in the right place too. Still, I would recommend this one as it is any day better than the masala movies which rule the roost in India.

G. I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Gi-joe-retaliation-poster-1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TPPWVoXBUk

What is the point? How many movies will they make like this before they sleep in the sand? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Super Size Me (2004) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

supersize me

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Lkyb6SU5U

One guy decides to eat only at McDonald’s for a month and tries to monitor how it affects his health. Quite entertaining. It also made McDonald’s change its menu. Now that is what I call an achievement. He also got nominated for an Oscar.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Prisoners’ because it has Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Did you know: Football legend Pele has acted in eight movies and written story for two of them.