Edition 78

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

elle

Trailer

Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors of this generation. This movie is another proof of her acting prowess. She fills every frame of the movie and keeps the suspense going. There are shades of Basic Instinct, an earlier work of the director. The basic story is that of the protagonist playing a cat-and-mouse game with her unknown rapist. The complexity of the film is created by the numerous subplots  which are interlinked. The complicated back story of the protagonist  and her subsequent mistrust of police aid in storytelling. In the end all the subplots fall into place like that of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe, it is this comfortable ending that won the film the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Trailer

There’s something about Meryl Streep which keeps the viewer engaged even in a mediocre movie.  ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ has no claim to greatness  but it is carried solely by the form shoulders of Meryl Streep ably supported by Hugh Grant.  For a director who won Meryl Streep last Best Actress Oscar for ‘The Queen’,  this is definitely not an improvement. The director is definitely successful in creating sympathy for Florence Foster Jenkins but the masses couldn’t care less for the fate of a troubled aristocrat. A movie on the world’s worst opera singer compares favorably with a movie on the world’s worst director. The latter titled ‘Ed Wood‘ was definitely a better work of art. At least, it had self-doubt.

Sully (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

sul

Trailer

Clint Eastwood makes great movies. Tom Hanks  acts in great movies. Their combination to tell the story of an American hero in Captain Chesley Sullenberger is one of the best movies of the year. Like some of the previous Clint Eastwood movies there is no attempt at making the movie dramatic. At the same time, the movie cannot be classified as a character study as it only scratches the surface. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks pulls off with elan the role of a hero who is not aware of his heroic act.  Aaron Eckhart plays the best role of his life as the co-pilot. The thing about the ‘Miracle On Hudson’ is that it is one of those events which can hardly be ever repeated. Even the recreation of the movie isn’t enough to convince the viewer about the possibility of such an event. Perhaps that is where the movie had its task cut out and perhaps that is where it is not entirely successful. A shorter film of one hour would have done more justice to the plot.

Hell or High Water (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

Undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year Hell or High Water is supported by a cast comprising of thespians like Jeff Bridges Chris Pine.  Set in the forgotten parts of America and resembling a Western, the high point of the movie is that it resists the urge to pull out the gun on various occasions. The simmering tension of the movie is felt till the last frame. Concurrently the movie makes a bold statement on the plight of Americans left behind by the forces of capitalism. Most of the anger is directed at big banks who seem to get away with murder. Consequently, bank robberies form the central theme of the movie. The story is that of two brothers who rob the same bank they owe, to avoid foreclosure. In between all the gloom and doom there are also some subtle humor like in the restaurant where the waiter  knows a limited menu.  Alas, the movie is a reaffirmation of the fact that Jeff Bridges is one of the finest actors alive today. Must watch.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer


Following the success of his debut feature ‘What we do in the shadows’, the director’s second feature, ‘The hunt for the wilderpeople’, is a letdown. Indeed there are moments of humor in the movie but some of it seems forced and especially unexpected from a young child. The style of direction is a cross between that of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The movie tries to address some of the social issues but it soon turns to a farce. Set in the picturesque  mountains of New Zealand, it is also a peep into the life of the people at the margins of the society. I had a feeling that I had seen similar movies set in the America of 1980s. The only saving grace for the movie is that it does not bore the wits out of the viewer. The burden of high expectations seems to have taken a toll on the director.

The Light Between the Oceans (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

The undeniable beauty of ‘The Light Between the Oceans’ is compromised by the cringingly sentimental storyline. Boasting such performers like Michael Fassbender, Alicia vikander and Rachel Weisz, The movie is unable to tap into the talent at its disposal.  By the second half, the movie sets  out on a predictable path. The film tells the tale of a young childless couple who one day find a baby marooned at sea. Some movies have difficult choices to make. The options at their disposal are equally worthwhile. Choosing one over the other is so precarious an exercise that this undermines the whole tale. That is the malady which effects this movie.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

The debacle at Deepwater Horizon was one of the biggest tragedies of the oil industry. From the BP CEO who infamously said, ” I’d like to have my life back” to the frontline soldiers of the company who lost their lives, the movie captures an event, the wounds of which are yet to heal.  Deepwater Horizon documents the events that happened on the fateful day of the tragedy. The template is the standard one used for all the disaster movies.  No great acting chops are expected yet competent performances are delivered. The movie captures the horror of the tragedy without deviating from the standard storyline. The movie is not particularly illuminating but some of it needs to be heard and seen.

War Dogs (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

This movie could have been titled ‘It Happens Only in America’. Two neophytes receive a 300 million dollar defense contract. What follows is a series of games involving  arms traders and phoney businessmen. Jonah Hill is the big fat  dealer who will stop at nothing. The improbable story covers countries like Jordan, Albania and Iraq and is essntially the juvenile version of ‘Lord of War’. The film could have been taut and this aspect is particularly conspicuous. Otherwise, a decent watch.

The Siege of Jadotville (2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

This is the type of African tale which must be told.  Unfortunately they could have chosen a better story to tell.  Set in 1960s Congo in the midst of a Civil War,  the movie captures the fate of neutral United Nations Peacekeeping Force which does not receive support from the government, the opposition or the rebels. To make matters worse, they don’t even  receive support from the United Nations.  They are pawns in a bigger political game whic involves mining companies, colonial powers, world superpowers and a fledgling government. They are left to battle for survival against formidable odds.  The low production quality of Netflix is evident in this movie. Unfortunately, it is a story about heroes who need to be remembered and it does not get the treatment it deserves.

Don’t Think Twice (2016) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

‘Don’t Think Twice’ is one of the best movies of the year  until the last 10 % of the movie  when it gets  cloyingly sweet.  The movie has freshness written all over it. It tells the tale of a group of actors and how the Dynamics between them changes when one of them is chosen for a starring role in a television program. The movie is littered with instances of wit and humor. The young actors in the movie give it the credibility  it seeks. Recommended.

Documentary of the Week

Weiner (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

Anthony Weiner was once the young Turk among democrats. His fall from grace and the unraveling of his personal life are captured in this intimate documentary. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the true life story of a Botswanian prince who married a British lady.

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Did you know: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.

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Week 7

Movies: Non- English

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, Mexico, 2006) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbffV5LZfZI

Spanish language writers were the ones to exploit magical realism through their books. It is therefore no surprise that the language is the medium for the movie which Roger Ebert calls ‘ a fairy tale for adults’. A girl creates her own world to escape the torment of the daily life in fascist Spain. Set in 1944, the special effects and imagery are some of the best you will see on screen. Think of  ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with more imagination thrown in. Now that is a tough thing to imagine. The easier option is to watch the movie.

Das Boot [The Boat] (Germany, 1981) [ IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% ]

das boot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxMXtofZny8

There would be very few war movies as authentic as this one. It follows the crew of a German submarine during the Second World War. There is no plot as such but the exhilaration of combat is in stark contrast to the monotonous, wretched and utterly lonely life on a submarine which slowly descends into a hell on earth. The movie is gritty and keeps you interested throughout. The performances are top notch and the cinematography gives you a good feel of the life inside a submarine. This one will make you spare a thought for the defeated and the dead.

Underground (Serbia, 1995) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKdl5r7_ZPc

A black comedy which shows the relationship between two friends over a few decades, effectively following the history of Yugoslavia. Some of the scenes are truly memorable, one particular one has animals from the zoo roaming the streets after the zoo is bombed. The film is a roller coaster with scenes where all hell breaks loose and things go on a spiral. A quirky masterpiece.

Hollywood Retrsopective

Rosemary’s baby (1968) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% ] 

rosemary's baby

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PewtQsgN5uo

A struggling actor makes a deal with the devil to resurrect his career, putting the lives of his family members at risk. Roman Polanski makes this chilling horror thriller out of the classic book by the same title. Mia Farrow gives the performance of a lifetime as the naive young wife. Roman Polanski movies have bleak endings (‘The Pianist’ being an exception) and this one also follows the general pessimism he shows towards life. Not recommended for pregnant woman.

Quiz Show (11994) [ IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOSnYt9k4kM

It may come as no surprise in this era that one of the big television scandals of the 50s was a fixed quiz show. The film delves into questions of morality and how even some great minds can be be lured into committing crimes by the media. Ultimately, the show must go on but is quizzing like any other entertainment spectacle?

Movies I Saw This Week

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009) [ IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 67% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVGbPFdU96A

The final movie of the series is seriously short on content and tries to cover it up by the lightening pace. The girl with the dragon tattoo was much better. As for the plot, the girl has to be prove that she is innocent of the murders she is accused of committing even as she lies in a hospital bed. Wish what translated on screen was half as exciting as the written word.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) [IMDB: 5.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 38% ]

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

A movie where the major question is whether the King of England will eat a hot dog, need not be taken seriously. I think they ran out of stories and had to make a film based on such a small issue. Don’t waste your time.

Identity Thief (2013) [IMDB: 5.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 59% ]

identity thief

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqQg6Rlt6W4

Plot from IMDB: Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy’s identity

My verdict: This is the kind of movie for which the viewers should be allowed free entry into the cinema hall. They should then be asked to pay for getting out. Terrible.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bobby Fischer Against The World (2011) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% ]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=strfK6rO0LI

Bobby Fischer had it all. He was the world champion in chess where he beat the Russians represented by Spasky in one of the most discussed match ups in sports. He won it for the free world in a war minus the shooting. Then he disappeared. Then he disintegrated. The amazing and tragic story of a champion whose greatest gift was his intelligence and whose Achilles’ heel was his paranoia.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Only God Forgives’ because everyone likes Ryan Gosling.

Did you know: Orson Welles was just 26 when he wrote and directed ‘Citizen Kane’, generally considered to be the greatest film ever to come out of Hollywood.