Edition 66

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (Japan,2013) [ IMDB:8., Rotten Tomatoes: 100% My rating: 8.5]

Tale of The Princess Kaguya

Trailer:  

Coming from the legendary Studio Ghibli, this modern masterpiece in animation tells the story of an enigmatic princess whose life becomes entwined with the fate of a farmer couple. Though upstaged at the Oscars by the trashy ‘Big Hero 6’, this tale from Japan will be the one that stands the test of longevity in people’s memory. The movie is a mature piece of filmmaking with a screenplay which could have been made into a fantabulous film even if it were to be made with real actors. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Amira & Sam (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes:79% My Rating: 6.5]

Amira & Sam

Trailer:

Sam is a war veteran and Amira is an illegal Iraqi immigrant in the US. Sam is a man of few words but is self assured and easygoing. Amira is boisterous and prone to rash decision making. They fall in love. This happens after more than half of the movie is over. Still, the movie is about romance. It is about normal people falling in love without any mushy dialogues or lilting background score. It is also about current realities; about issues like racism, white collar crime, PTSD and immigration. The movie sometimes bites off more than it can chew and the climax is an easy way out for the scriptwriter. For all its flaws, it is a simple story with good dialogues and is quite a breeze to watch.

The Living (2014) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%, My Rating:5]

Living_poster_1

Trailer:

A brother takes up the responsibility of dealing with his abusive brother-in-law. He hires a hit man to “take care” of the situation. What follows is beyond his expectations but to start with it would be unfair to say that he had any idea of what was to follow. In this determinedly average thriller, the thrill itself is the missing ingredient for a large part of the movie. With deadpan expressions from baby faced actors, to dialogues which seem to have been made up on the spot, the movie lets go of an opportunity and thereby becomes an average thriller which is value for money when it comes for free viewing on television.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating: 5]

tanu-weds-manu-poster

Trailer:

First things first. Kangana Ranaut is one of the finest actors in India now. She has achieved success without piggybacking on the triumvirate of Khans. She has even won two National Awards (winning only one does not count because that group includes duds like Saif Ali Khan, Karishma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon). She even gets the Haryanvi accent spot on.

Now the real deal. (spoilers ahead) ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ is the kind of movie which comes on a wave of media hysteria that dubs it entertaining and with a push from paid reviews which rate it as nothing short of phenomenal. Anand L Rai is a past master at this type of promotion. The original to this sequel and ‘Ranjhnaa’ were equally worthless movies which appeal to perhaps that section of the audience to whom the black buck hunting Khan appears to be human. This movie is about a psychopath wife who leaves her husband in a mental asylum and finds joy in wrecking a marriage proposal by appearing clad only in a bath towel. Her estranged husband wants to marry a girl he has just met because she is his wife’s doppelganger. Her former boyfriend also wants to marry the same girl for the same reason. Talk about character and beauty being skin deep. As if one psychopath was not enough, the Haryanvi body double seems to have no clue about what is happening. She agrees to marry a man she hardly knows and who is double her age. She spews some rhetoric about women’s liberation and finally to top it all, stops her marriage literally half a second before it is sanctified. Then she goes and cries privately. Meanwhile the original diva who was sitting through the whole farce without a twitch of the eyebrow suddenly jumps up to retake the clearly confused husband. There is even a ‘progressive’ side track when another husband joyously accepts his cheating wife and a child born out of wedlock. If that is not enough there is another side track in which a man thinks that kidnapping a lady is the best way to show his love for her. Such a mockery of the audiences is celebrated as good film making. The movie may work with small town audiences who are waiting to be ‘entertained’ and for firm believers in the herd mentality. For others it is a reminder that the juggernaut of Indian media will run over you and blame you for the misfortune even when you are on the sidewalk.

Piku (2015) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 5.5]

piku-poster01

Trailer:

There is a scene in the movie when Irrfan asks Deepika, “Do you speak only about this all the time?”. ‘This’ here refers to shit. It is not surprising to know this because the writer of the movie is the same one who wrote ‘Vicky Donor’. She just migrated from sperm to shit. She tells the story of an unmarried daughter and her people repellent father who goes out of his way to alienate people. The major part of the story is about his bowel movement. That must be a cinematic first. For a movie which meanders along, the only saving grace is Irrfan Khan who brings some semblance of order to a script which is going nowhere. Even when it hurtles towards a predictable end, the screen presence and authentic performance of Irrfan Khan keeps the movie from becoming a cure to insomnia. Screen legend Amitabh Bachchan delivers a performance that does no harm to his reputation. That clearly cannot be said of Ms Padukone who seems to think that doing low budget art movies will make her a better actor or give her wider recognition.

It Follows (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5]

it-follows-web-poster

Trailer:

Undoubtedly the best horror movie of 2015, ‘It Follows’ tells the story of a woman who has to accept the fact that a supernatural force is following her. She then has to find the reason why she is in that peculiar situation. With a background score that induces trepidation, this is a movie that demands your full attention. It is also a timely reminder that certain done to death genres can still be reinvented for one final hurrah. Highly recommended.

OK Kanmani (2015) [IMDB: 7.9 Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 4]

Ok-Kanmani-New-Poster

Trailer:

After box office bombs like ‘Yuva’, ‘Raavan’ and ‘Kadal’, director Mani Ratnam returns to his home territory of unconstrained romance with the half cooked ‘OK Kanmani’. With scenes which look eerily similar to ‘Saathiya’, the young romance is a confused tale with ambiguity writ on its moral moorings. ‘OK Kanmani’ wants to be modern without appearing to lose its traditional values. (Spoilers ahead). The movie supports live-in relationships and even has a scene where the lady pulls the man’s leg by suggesting an engagement. The irony is not lost on anyone when they get married in the climax of the movie. One is left wondering what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, the cause of the movie is not helped by the fact that the scenes of high energy that appear on screen seem more fake than real. Mani Ratnam cannot even chuck the mandatory train scene which is there in all his movies. It only shows the slow decline of a film maker who was once the most sought after in India.

See You in Valhalla (2015) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating:4 ]

See You in Valhalla

Trailer:

There is a line in the movie, “If we didn’t have the bad stuff, then how would we recognize the good?”. Now I know how good the other movies are.

Documentary of the Week

Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 8]

antarctica_a_year_on_ice_ver2_xlg

Trailer:

A year of living in Antartica. Get the biggest screen possible. The visuals are jaw dropping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Masaan’ because it is an Indian film which won two awards at Cannes. That is what you call a black swan event in cinema.

Did you know: ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (1915) was the first film to be viewed in the White House.

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Edition 55

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Miracle in Cell No. 7 (South Korea, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

MICN7-27x40_20june

Trailer:

This Korean blockbuster tells the story of the bonding between a father and a daughter. The father who is a simpleton gets framed in a rape case and is sentenced to death. The daughter who has nobody else in the world, is smuggled into the prison cell of the father. A remarkable tearjerker which is cloying, this Korean film is an out and out crowd pleaser. I often feel that Korean and Indian movies have a lot in common. The most important of those is the ability to play unashamedly to the galleries. As for this movie, I have a feeling that this is waiting to be made into a bad copy in Hindi. Why spoil the experience by watching another badly made Bollywood movie? Go for the original.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

hundredfootjourney

Trailer:

Based on the novel with the same name, this is another crowd pleaser which is a cheerily brisky movie to watch. An Indian family of cooks, displaced by riots in India moves to Europe, only to accidentally end up in a French village. The patriarch of the family (played adorably by Om Puri) decides to set up shop and then the restaurateur comes in direct competition with an obsessive owner of a Michelin starred restaurant right across the street. What ensues is a no holds war; a battle royale between Indian and French cuisine. While I was secretly hoping that the Indians win hands down, the movie takes a different route and becomes a lesson on cultural integration and tolerance. It is therefore not difficult to see why the film is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. The film is a bit clichéd but has some very good dialogues. Some of them are cheesy (” I am a cook, not a chef”)  and some have far greater depth (The one on French national anthem and the French national slogan). With decent music from A R Rahman and more than decent performances, this is an easy film to watch.

The Guest (201) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

THE GUEST

Trailer:

Every once in a while there comes a movie which you are willing to write off without bothering to watch it but when you watch it you know how wrong you were. ‘The Guest’ is one such movie. It surely will not win any awards and uses every cliché possible to advance the plot. There are enough loopholes in the plot but in spite of all this there is something remarkably endearing about the movie that makes you sit through it and enjoy it. In real world terms, it means that you know you are watching nonsense but you start liking the nonsense because it is really nicely done nonsense. A family grieving for its lost soldier son gets some succor in the form of a guest who claims to be the son’s colleague. The guest wins over every member in the family but soon his mask starts slipping. What could have been a really bad movie starts kicking in the style. Acted and shot with panache, this finally becomes the  guilty pleasure of 2014.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 (2014) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Nymphomaniac-_Volume_I_47

Trailer:

From acclaimed director Lars Von Trier comes this movie about a nymphomaniac recollecting her sexual experiences. More smoke than fire, this movie is a voyeuristic expedition solely interested in titillating the viewer.  I don’t get it when such movies are slotted as high art because they simply aren’t good enough. The film had its fair share of controversy too because it has unsimulated sex scenes. That I am afraid to report, is the only claim to fame of this movie.

22 Jump Street (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

22_jump_street-wide

Trailer:

The thing with maths is that you can always add one. The sequel to 21 being 22 would not have been a major problem if not for the various scenarios that are shown as possible future sequels as the end credits roll. Come on, this sequel itself is an unwarranted tribute to a lousy original. The good thing is that it looks better than the original but that is not much to say. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles as cerebrally challenged undercover cops. This time they are back in college. The film does have its moments but overall, it doesn’t make the cut. Recommended for those who like big loud senseless movies.

Endless Love (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 15%]

EDL_31_5_Promo_4C_2F.indd

Trailer: 

A remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields starrer, this movie begs the question ‘Why?’. To start with, the original was a lousy and painful one to watch. Its only redeeming feature was the (then) angelic face of Brooke Shields. The 2014 version has no reason for its existence. It sticks to the same tacky screenplay and is not aided by some plastic performances. For those interested, the story is that of a girl falling in love with a boy; a relationship the girl’s parents oppose tooth and nail. Sounds familiar? Save yourself the pain. Give it a miss.

Rang Rasiya (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Rangrasiya-2014

Trailer:

The story of legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma who dared to put a face to the gods. His representations of the Hindu gods and goddesses continue to be used on posters and artwork to this day. He was also one of the first to understand the commercial aspects of art and marketing. It would be nearly impossible to capture his genius in a movie. ‘Rang Rasiya’ tries with mixed results. The film is a genuine attempt at an authentic portrayal of the life and times of the artist; his passions, his art, his battles and his demons. It is ultimately the multitude of issues that the film tries to tackle that becomes its undoing. It also has a subtext about the freedom of expression for an artist, which has become a hostage in present India. Randeep Hooda puts in a fine performance as the protagonist. Definitely among the better Hindi movies of 2014.

Kill Dil (2014) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Kill Dil

Trailer:

Shaad Ali who made his name through movies like ‘Saathiya’ (which I like) and ‘Bunty aur Babli’ (which I dislike) returns to helm the affairs seven years after the disastrous ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’. The hibernation for seven years seems to have done no good and exposes the rustiness of the filmmaker. Two abandoned kids raised by a don turn to crime and proudly finish off 11 souls when a girl walks (rather dances) into their life. The criminals try to reform but find that some things are easier said than done. Ranvir Singh doesn’t require make up to play the stupid youngster who thinks no end of himself. Parineeti Chopra has the same ‘Oh I am so cool’ look she sports in every movie. As for Ali Zafar, he should stick to singing. Thespian Govinda looks better at dancing than being a gangster. The movie is let down by some uninspired music by the Shanka-Ehsaan-Loy trio who also are well past their glory days. The movie tries too hard and it shows. I am reminded of the similar fate of the ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999) director John Mathew Matthan whose second movie was a dud called ‘Shikhar’ (Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapoor, Bipaha Basu)released in 2005. Moral of the story: Don’t take 6 or 7 year long vacation.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Facing Ali (2009) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

facingAli_key3

Trailer:

It has been 20 years since there was a rumble in the jungle. Why was Muhammad Ali voted the sportsman of the century? Certainly not just for the punches he could throw. Listening to the people who received the punches, it is clear that the punches were enough.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Nightcrawler’ because it is generating rave reviews.

Did you know: ‘Casino Royale’ was the first James Bond movie approved by the Chinese censors.