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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Trailer:

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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

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Week 37

Movies: Non-English

Blue Is the Warmest Color (France, 2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2OLRrocn3s

The winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013 is a bold and provocative movie which stretches the boundaries of what a mainstream movie can depict. Already controversial for the agony it caused to the actresses during the filming, the film dwells on the relationship between two woman. The film follows the intense relationship between the characters over a decade. Surprisingly for a running length close to three hours the movie still holds your attention and is a tour de force. Highly recommended for highly mature audiences.

Persepolis (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten tomatoes: 96%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ22VyjJ6n8

The coming off age story of a girl during the Islamic revolution in Iran. Based on the autobiographical account of the co-writer of the screenplay, the film is as political as it is personal. The non conformism of the girl and her willingness to fight for herself even when she veers off course is told in a poignant and heartfelt way. Even if we take Iran out of the picture, the story should resonate with any girl in any part of the world willing to stand up for what she believes in. Hence, calling it a fine picture from Iran would be an injustice. Calling it a must see movie will be just about just.

Movies I Saw This Week

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5kYmrjongg

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is the back story to the making of ‘Mary Poppins’ by Walt Disney. The thing that hits you immediately is the passion Disney brings to making movies but his passion is matched equally by the stubbornness of Miss Travers (as she would like to be called), the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. There is nothing exceptional about the movie but it does shed light on the autobiographical nature of the work. Emma Thompson pulls off a fine performance and Tom Hanks is competent in his role as Walt Disney. I particularly liked the scene where he convinces Miss Travers to sign on the dotted line. He gives the ultimate sales pitch but the thing with sales pitches is that it is dependent on whether the listener is in a mood to even think about what is being offered, as I found out the hard way quite recently. Coming back to the movie, it is not a great one but certainly worth a watch.

Fruitvale Station (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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

In a year where there was a miscarriage of justice in the Trayvon Martin case, this film sheds light on a true event which happened a few years earlier but has the same undertones of the inequality that African Americans face in the Land of the Free. As a piece of art the movie is not worth much but it has a compelling story to tell. Here the victim is not a teenager wet behind the ears but a young father who is seeking out a better life for his family. The film does build its case by showing us the good Samaritan the victim was. The movie is not a must watch but then I recommend it.

Lee Daniels‘ The Butler (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuojHqfe4Vk

The story of a butler in the White House who goes about his work over decades under different Presidents during times of great social turmoil. Forest Whitaker is an actor who is a joy to watch on screen. Even when the movie has an uneven tempo, he just keeps things from falling apart. An above average flick which has a standout performance from the protagonist.

John Ford Retrospective

John Ford is one of the greatest directors ever, with four Oscars for the Best Director. The funny thing is that I consider ‘The Searchers’ (reviewed here https://couldhavebeenacontender.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/week-12/) to be his greatest work but he did not even get a nomination for it. I think that compensates for the fact that he undeservedly took Oscar for ‘How Green Way My Valley’ beating Orsen Welles (for ‘Citizen Kane’).

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ayi81QMuak

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is the kind of movie which no one makes nowadays because it may be considered too socialist in theme and socialism is an ideology that Americans fear more than the plague. The story is set in the Great Depression. A family tries to stay together and live with dignity in the economic gloom sweeping the nation. Watching such movies is also a reminder that certain movies deserve a one word description: ‘Classic’. Also, hope is a good thing.

How Green Was My Valley (1941) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7CV9SZovfU

A sentimental take  on a mining town which has seen much better days, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ upstaged ‘Citizen Kane’ at the Oscars mainly because of the heavy propaganda that was unleashed against Orson Welles. Still, the film is a classic in its own right with very strong performances and a solid screenplay. Must see.

The Quiet Man (1952) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH4OFXlvzKA

A boxer returns from America to his home in Ireland where he finds true love and also things he had not quite bargained for. He also has a mysterious past. John Wayne carries the film on his shoulders (no pun intended) in this breezy romantic comedy. The good thing is unlike many of the old romantic comedies which have become dated, ‘The Quite Man’ has an appeal which is as fresh as it was when it first hit the screens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Men Who Made Us Fat (2012) [ MDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

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No documentary has made me think more than this three part series from BBC on food and the way it has changed over time. Hats off to BBC for showing the guts to finance such a project. A must watch for anyone who eats food.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Invisible Woman’ because it is on Charles Dickens and the combination of literature and cinema is a heady one.

Did you know: ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013) was released in China with four minutes of additional footage starring Chinese actors and local product placements.