Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Assassination (South Korea, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.5]

Assassination_(2015_movie)_poster)

Trailer

Set in 1933 in Korea when Korea was under Japanese occupation, the movie captures the attempt to assassinate a top Japanese Commander by a committed bunch of nationalists. Lavishly mounted and slickly edited to airbrush the inconsistencies in the plot, this action-drama provides enough entertainment to keep you on the edge of your seat for a large part of the movie. The movie feels like an epic and the director should be commended for stretching every cent of the $16 million budget. Definitely worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spotlight (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.5 ]

Oscarometro2016Spotlight

Trailer

Featuring the best ensemble cast assembled in 2015, this early Oscar favorite tells the true story of the Boston Globe expose of the widespread abuse of children by the clergy in Catholic churches. The 2002 story was an act of journalistic courage. The movie is an ode to the good old ways of investigative journalism and a gentle reminder of the power of a newspaper to do good. The movie underplays the heroes of the story. There are no trumpets here, no soaring background score, and no singular acts of courage. It is about a group of men and women using their best abilities to do what they do best. They are ordinary folks who have concerns of their own and are appalled by the state of affairs. ‘Spotlight’ is a subdued movie and will now be the gold standard for any movie on journalism.

The Big Short (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes:90, My Rating:8.0 ]

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Trailer

Coming from author Michael Lewis and producer Brad Pitt who collaborated for the much admired ‘Moneyball’, this film is about a set of defiant individuals who saw what others refused to see and gained from it. ‘The Big Short’ follows the lives of a few men who bet on the bursting of the housing bubble that culminated in the financial meltdown of 2008. With a cast that was only bettered by the ‘Spotlight’ team in 2015, the film deftly manoeuvres through the series of events which involve some heavy financial jargon. The film comes up with a new way to explain the jargon. The Hollywood studios must be commended for betting their money on what is a difficult topic to make a film on and the American audiences must be equally complimented for their reception to such movies. Steve Carell and Christian Bale put in commanding performances in what is certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Steve Jobs (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

Michael Fassbender gives his career best performance in this biopic of Steve Jobs directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle based on Academy Award winner AAron Sorkin’s screenplay. The film is episodic and features the behind the scenes story of Steve Jobs before every major product launch in his life. Since the movie focuses on the personal life of Steve Jobs, a viewer without much knowledge of the business aspect of his life will find it a bit difficult to understand the subject matter. The movie’s greatest failure is that it demands familiarity with the Apple maestro. To the credit of the movie it must be said that it shows a personal side of Jobs that the media seldom covered before his death. Though the film is an entertaining one and an artistic success, its commercial failure may point to the fatigue of the audiences due to too many Jobs films releasing in s short span of time.

Beasts of No Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:8.0]

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Trailer

The first thing that struck me while watching this gem of a film, is the familiarity with the geography. Later I discovered that the film was shot in Ghana but the film is set in a unnamed country and tells the story of child soldier Agu who loses his family and ends up being part of a ragtag militia of rebels. Idris Elba puts in his best performance as the leader of the decrepit but highly committed group. It is interesting to note that he never picks up the gun himself even when leading ambushes. Abraham Attah carries the weight of the movie on his tiny shoulders with a towering performance. The greater acclaim deservedly should go to producer-director-cinematographer-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga for creating an engaging and spellbinding movie of the highest quality.

Slow West (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

‘Slow West’ is the hidden marvel of 2015. It is a movie which resurrects the Western but is not a film that should be put in compartments. Jay travels from Scotland to seek his Rose in the wild West of USA in late 19th century. Meanwhile Rose is wanted for murder and a group of bounty hunters are after her life. Charming in its unique way and telling a story which can truly be called original, ‘Slow West’ gradually becomes an unforgettable movie. The movie also uses clever tricks in narration. The movie is also an unflattering look at life in the lawless terrain. One of the best movies of the year.

The Good Dinosaur (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:76, My Rating: 7.0]

 

The_Good_Dinosaur_poster

Trailer

This movie was plagued by numerous script revisions and disagreements between the creators that even the director was changed midway through the project. It also comes hot on the heels of the success of the classic ‘Inside Out’. Add to that the Pixar label. The weight of expectations crushes an otherwise decent flick worth a watch. The movie is set in a world in which dinosaurs are not extinct and run families which (strangely) look like human families. The weak dinosaur in the family gets his chance to ‘grow up’ when he is separated from the family. During this time he meets and befriends a human child, and embarks on a multitude of adventures. The excellent animation is no match for a movie which could be called ‘Finding the Way Home’. I believe that the movie itself would have been better if the protagonist was a child but then it would be called ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

No Escape (2015) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes:46%, My Rating:6.0 ]

No Escape

Trailer

Owen Wilson stars as the patriarch of an American family in an unnamed Southeast Asian country facing the ire of violent mobs protesting against the company for which Wilson works. Providing some good thrills and yet never shying away from stereotyping, the film is good enough to deserve a single viewing.

Adi Kapyare Kootamani (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

This rib tickling comedy works on an entirely Indian premise where a girl who enters a boys hostel needs to be escorted out without the knowledge of the hostelers. With winning performances from all involved, this movie which is made on a shoe string budget laughs its way into the hearts of viewers.

Two Countries (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:7.0 ]

image-two-countries-wallpaper-24

Trailer

Coming from a team which has only made hits together, the movie tells the story of a happy go lucky man who marries an Indian-Canadian. Peppered with humorous scenes, the film is a laugh riot. Yet another proof that the finest comedy in the country is produced in Malayalam.

Charlie [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0 ]

charlie

Trailer

A girl moves into a rickety flat where she discovers the possessions of the former tenant. Intrigued by what she sees, she sets out to find the man behind the story. What she and the audience discover forms the crux of a story that is cloyingly sweet and preachy in parts. Neither boring nor great.

Documentary of the Week

Next Goal Wins [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:8.5 ]

nextgoalwinsposter

Trailer

The soccer team of American Samoa holds the record for the worst defeat in international soccer (a 31-0 drubbing at the the hands of Australia). Their goalkeeper gets nightmares in his sleep. In fact, American Samoa could never score a goal in an international match. Then everything changes. A true story of ecstasy, heartbreak and redemption. Must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Macbeth’ with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Did you know: ‘Jurassic World’ was the highest grossing film in USA in 2015.

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Edition 58

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Two Days, One Night (Belgium, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Trailer:

Coming from perennial festival favorites Dardenne brothers, this film tells the story of a young mother who discovers that she has lost her job while she was away for medical reasons. She must convince her colleagues to reverse their vote in favor of sacking her in return for a 1000 Euro bonus. The movie is remarkable as it delves into the socio-economic realities of the workers themselves. Aiding the strong script is the spell binding performance of Marion Cotillard who must be in line for an Oscar nomination. This is a simple film that will stay with you for a while. For those interested in more from Dardenne brothers, I recommend ‘L’Infant’ (2005).

Movies I Saw This Week

Foxcatcher (2014) [IMDB:7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7/10]

foxcatcher-new-quad

Trailer:

From the director of ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Capote’ comes another truly American picture about a psychotic millionaire and his doomed project at playing godfather to American wrestling. Steve Carell transforms into John Du Pont, an eccentric millionaire from the Dupont family who makes his mission to bring USA glory through wresting dominance. Based on a true story, this film captures the apocalyptic project in which the Schultz brothers are roped in to fulfill the fancies of a lonely man. The movie is unnecessarily languid in its pace. The highlight is the casting with Channing Taum delivering his career best performance and Steve Carell trying to be a method actor. The real life events were pretty much in black and white but in the movie the director leaves enough space for speculation. Though the movie has been heavily promoted by the studio for the Oscars, it is unlikely that it will make much headway in the Oscar race.

The Interview (2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 5/10]

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At the centre of a controversy because of its attack on the North Korean regime and the subsequent retribution attacks on Sony Pictures, this film comes with a lot of hype associated with it. Even labeled as a test of the ability to stand up for free speech, the moviemakers must be wondering what hit them when they were clearly trying to pull only a few cheap laughs. Judged purely on merit the movie does not command even a fraction of the attention it has received. It is a puerile comedy which would have largely gone unnoticed. At the same time, it is hard to discount the fact that the movie is a direct attack on the North Korean regime and their supreme leader. If the same film targeted any other country in the manner they have gone for the Koreans, it would have surely raked up another controversy. Thankfully, the movie never rises above the ordinary and will be easily forgotten.

This Is Where I Leave You (2014) [IMDb: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

This Is Where I Leave You

Trailer:

Four siblings return home for the funeral of their father. The film tells the story of the week they spend at home and the host of characters they encounter. All of them have problems of their own which they try to address and often end up with amusing solutions. The film has its moments and the talent assembled is huge but the story never soars and hurtles towards a predictable end. The movie is never a difficult one to watch but is certainly not the kind on which you would like to have a discussion about.

The Skeleton Twins (2014) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 6.5]

The Skeleton Twins

Trailer:

The film tells the story of a sister and a brother who have messed up lives and the brother’s suicide attempt makes them address the issues in their lives and also the way their relationship has been. An easy to watch movie about two individuals who find the going tough, this movie is bittersweet in its own way. Backed by strong acting and a competent screenplay, it is one of the low budget movies of the year which is a good one time watch.

Dumb and Dumber To (2014) [IMD: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. My Rating: 5/10]

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This sequel to a cult classic does not live up to its billing. Starring aging Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, it starts on the wrong foot. It does elevate itself later on but by then the damage is done. Frankly, there are some really funny scenes but they get buried under an avalanche of poor tasteless jokes. Such a movie never aimed to be classy or hoped to create an imprint in cinema history but  it fails to deliver on the rather modest ambitions it has. Jim Carrey looks shrill and Jeff Daniels looks rather too old to play his part. For those who are interested in a bit of trivia, the movie has Jennifer Lawrence in a role. Trying to spot her would be good fun when the movie itself gets too boring and predictable.

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%, My Rating: 3/10]

Horrible Bosses 2

Trailer:

The film shows the paucity of scripts in major Hollywood studios. There is no reason for its existence and it is yet another attempt to milk the last remains of any nostalgia audiences would have had for the original (not that the original was much better). Trying to write about the plot of this movie is like trying to explain Mahabharata in a sentence. I have genuine sympathy for people who have paid to watch this movie.

PK (2014) [IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

PK

Trailer:

The highest grossing Bollywood film ever, PK, reunites director Rajkumar Hirani with Aamir Khan. Aamir who duped audiences with Dhoom 3, comes back to screen as an alien (it helps to start as if you don’t remember your last movie) whose apparatus which will take him back to his homeland has now been stolen. For all the deep philosophical thought the movie espouses, the first one is that the first Indian who meets PK robs him of his only possession. PK who speaks in Bhojpuri (maybe because Biharis are considered alien wherever they go. Cue: Maharashtra) finds the lack of logic in religion the most damning aspect of life in India. While rightfully taking on godmen and confusing customs with religion, PK sermonizes from the high pedestal that only he can occupy. It is an alien who points out what is wrong with religion. While the intent of the movie might be admirable, the end product is not biting enough. I will though credit PK with having set the cat among the pigeons. It is not a modest achievement to unite the extremists in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Judged on artistic merit, the movie is neither original nor remarkable but it is also a better indicator of who is in control when it comes to law and order in India. If the movie had been released a few months ago, the erstwhile government would have taken the movie out of the theatre to please fundamentalists. Now we have to deal with smaller hiccups like Anushka Sharma who seems to have been wrongly briefed about her role prior to shooting. She must have thought that she would be required to play an alien and she got into the skin of the character with a lip job. Also, cars shaking in public with their windows open is a call out sign to PK that he must change his clothes. Enjoy, if you can.

Documentary of the Week

Fed Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.5]

fed up

Trailer:

A thorough look at the obesity epidemic. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Taken 3’ because there is no better angry old man than Liam Neeson.

Did you know: Sean Connery wore a wig in every single one of his Bond performances.

Edition 54

After a break of close to six months, this blog is back. Henceforth, the aim is to publish the blog on a fortnightly basis. Thank you for your continued support.

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu) (Japan, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten tomatoes: 89%]

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Trailer:

The swan song of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (The genius behind classics like Spirited Away, Princess Mononike, Howl’s Moving Castle) is itself a tribute to the life and times of the pioneer of Japanese aviation Jiro Horikoshi. True to form, Miyazaki makes sure that the film gets the scale and ambition it deserves. The thing that struck  me while watching the movie was the ease with which the story was unfolding. The screenplay is so well written that the movie could have been a fantastic one even if it were shot using real people in real settings. This sense of realism is what separates Japanese animation from the Hollywood set pieces. Hence, the slight disappointment that a vastly inferior ‘Frozen’ was chosen ahead of this classic at the Oscars.

Movies I Saw This Week

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

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Trailer:

Wes Anderson comes up with probably the most engaging film of the year which has its moments of quirkiness which add to the shroud of suspense which camouflages the playfulness of the movie. It tells the story of a concierge in the hotel who has a fetish for older women. Filmed in his signature style, Wes Anderson ensures that the film looks authentic for the inter war period during which it is set. The slick dialogues and accomplished performances from every member of the crew help in adding to one of the best cinematic experiences of 2014.

Begin Again (2014) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83% ]

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Trailer: 

A once famous music producer who has fallen on bad times, meets a neophyte and takes her on the road to super stardom. The songs used in the movie are good. Mark Ruffalo is perfectly cast as down in the dumps music executive and playing perfect foil to him is the delightful Keira Knightley who is vulnerable and yet cheerful. The film is predictable in the turns it takes but as I have always maintained, some predictable movies are very good to watch even when they have some loose points. Watch it for the music and the joie de vivre.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) [IMDB: 8.1 Roten Tomatoes: 87%]

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Based on the NYT bestseller, the novel is made with the teenage audiences in mind. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. They share many memorable experiences together as they await death. There is nothing exceptional about the movie. Since it is based on the impending doom and gloom , the thematic elements are placed to pull at the heart strings which they do with limited success. The movie tries too hard to bring in the sentimentality which is its USP. This is certainly not the type of movie I enjoy watching but I am sure there is a section of the audience which loves such tragedies.

A Most Wanted Man (2014) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

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Trailer: 

From the spy novelist John Le Carre comes this thriller focusing on undercover operations against Muslim terrorist groups based in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman delights in his final onscreen appearance and simultaneously reminds us of the great talent that we lost. The suspense and intrigue in the movie build up from the first shot and reaches an explosive climax which is difficult to predict. The screenplay focuses on the minute aspects of the story which gives an impression that there is a twist waiting to happen all the time. The director does not let the pace slacken and the actors do full justice to their roles. I immensely enjoyed watching the movie and feel that it is one of the best to have come out in recent months.

Are You Here (2014) [IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

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Trailer: 

Owen Wilson and Zach Galfianakis teaming up was supposed to be funny but when they try to add gravity, when nothing even resembling that is expected, you get the movie disaster of the year. Both of them sleepwalk through their roles and an awfully weak screenplay makes you wonder “What am I being subjected to?”. For the record, the story is that of a social misfit who goes to attend his father’s funeral and discovers that he has become a millionaire because his dad trusted his dazed and confused son over his selfish and uncaring daughter. At every moment in the movie, there is an anticipation that there could be something funny happening soon but all those hopes are buried along with the funeral in the movie. Watch it if you are learning to be good at anger management.

Finding Fanny (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

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I have immense sympathy for people who paid to see this drivel in a theatre. This is the kind of movie that brings disrepute to good cinema because it is marketed as good cinema intended for the audiences who can see the finer points of filmmaking. What it becomes is storyless story which could have been compressed to a 25 minute episode on television. For all her commercial success and the fixed awards that come with it, Deepika Padukone cannot act to save her life. Even the others look out of touch with thespian Naseeruddin Shah being the only saving grace. He plays the character of a person who is cajoled to go in search of his long lost love. Just like the car they take the trip in, the story meanders along aimlessly and is a pain to watch. I think people should have guessed this early as the main marketing point of the movie during its promotions was the derriere of the actresses. A movie that must be avoided at all costs.

Happy New Year (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

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Thank God that this movie was released during Diwali. If it was released during the new year, it would have ruined the entire year. Now it needs to be just burned along with the the crackers on Diwali. To call this a movie would be the equivalent of calling the winner of the National Spelling Bee a novelist. The movie is a pointless attempt and an insult to the audience. Filled with cheap gags and a story which seems to have been conjured up by an infant in the cradle, the film is a tight slap on the faces of the audiences who throng movies on the first day of release because of the marketing blitzkrieg they are subjected to. It is also a reminder of the fading charisma of an ageing superstar finding it difficult to maintain the aura so frighteningly exposed by those wrinkles. It is an insult to the idea of patriotism when such movies try to play such cards in vain. As for the actors, the cake goes to Abhishek Bachchan who now plays the Uday Chopra equivalent of a side kick he is used to having in the Dhoom series. I hope that the director Farah Khan meets the same fate as her even lousier brother.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Inequality for all (2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

inequality

Trailer: 

The former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich tries to give a new perspective on the labour market and the distribution of wealth. Highly recommended.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Foxcatcher’ because it is a true story of an Olympic winner.

Did you know: In the state of South Dakota it is illegal to show Police getting beaten in the movies.

 

Week 45

Movies: Non-English

The Tin Drum (Germany, 1979) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

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Trailer: 

Based on the monumental novel by Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, ‘Tin Drum’ tells the story of a boy who ‘decides’ that he does not need to grow up physically even when he is mentally very much a grown up. It is is his way of lodging protest against the behaviour of people during the Second World War.  Just like the novel, the film does not hold back in the use of metaphors. It hits out at the all accepting passive nature of the German society when surrounded by the tyranny of the Nazis. The protagonist has a tin drum which is his constant companion which he uses to drum up support for anti Nazis and give a wake up call to those in deep denial about the Nazis. The film does not cover the whole novel and ends before the ending in the novel. That was the case with the film adapatation of ‘The English Patient’ too. I guess the film makers resort to this to keep the optimistic ending. The performances in ‘Tin Drum’ are quite good but I believe that its Oscar triumph was very much due to political factors; it was after all an anti Nazi film from West Germany released at the height of the Cold War. Still, the movie is worth a watch.

Amour (France, Germany, Austria, 2012) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

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Trailer: 

Some movies ooze elegance and class. This is one such movie about an old couple who are deeply in love and lead lives where they take one another to be permanent fixtures in a routine life. It is when the wife suffers from a stroke that the strength of their relationship is put to the stress test. The film swept all the major awards and was a hit in the festival circuit. The performances don’t involve anything extraordinary but the poise with which the ordinary is acted out requires special mention. Early into the film, it is easy to realize that something special is happening on screen. A must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Out of the Furnace (2013) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%]

Out of the Furnace

Trailer: 

Another movie on vigilante justice when the citizen takes the law into his own hands because he doesn’t trust the official investigators enough. This film is a poor cousin of ‘Prisoners’ which also explored a similar theme but was way better. ‘Out of Furnace’ is the story of a man who goes in search of his missing brother and meets a host of characters in the process. It is a shame that for a star studded cast the film is not able to do justice to the talent at its disposal. The screenplay is laboured to the point of being boring. Catch the film when it comes on cable TV.

Thanks for Sharing (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Thanks for Sharing

Trailer: 

The thing with this film billed as a romantic comedy is that it neither romantic nor comic. Three people who have a sex addiction problem are at the core of the story. It is about how they try to de-addict themselves from this particularly interesting state and at the same time juggle their love relationships. The film never rises above mediocrity and the act should have ended prematurely. That is the worst I can say about a movie on sex addiction.

The Counselor (2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 34%]

Counselor

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It is such a shame that a stellar cast with Pitt, Bardem, Diaz, Cruz and Fassbender in a movie directed by Ridley Scott comes up with the dud of the year. It is about a lawyer who messes up in a particular situation and then things go out of control like a kite which is not tethered. Well that was supposed to be the story but that is what happens to the film; it is the director who untethers the movie from his hands. This has disastrous consequences. Half baked characters, stars who sleep walk through their roles, actors who are evidently bored and a story which wanders like a lost soul. The ‘Dhoom 3’ of Hollywood for 2013. Non Indian readers may read that as unmitigated disaster.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Square (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

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Trailer: 

The story of the uprising in Egypt which was part of the wider Arab Spring. The documentary follows a group of people as they put their lives in the line of fire to fight the establishment. The documentary assumes increased significance on account of the recent events in Ukraine. A long shot at the Oscars thought, for the poor technical quality of production.

The : D Retrospective

Starting this week the retrospective section will feature some feel good movies which are liked widely and are a good watch. The feel good factor is augmented by the fact that it is liked by people who like to spread happiness with sincerity.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Trailer: 

We are all accustomed to Greek tragedies but this is one movie at the other end of the spectrum. Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay and starred in this surprise winner at the box office, making her a star in the process. The best thing about the movie is that it does not have any major stars and hence the actors don’t come with any baggage of typecasting. This makes it difficult to predict the trajectory and responses of many characters.The story has a Greek woman fall in love at first sight (quite literally, at first sight itself) and the wedding that follows. The hilarious moments have to do with the fact that the groom doesn’t know Greek and that he is completely at loss in the peculiar situations that he finds himself in. Add to that a few oddball relatives, this becomes an easy and entertaining film to watch.

French Kiss (1995) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

French Kiss

Trailer:

There are very few actors who bring happiness along with them and light up the screen in every movie they appear. Meg Ryan is one of them. It is her cheerful demeanor even when she flies down to France in desperation to meet her fiance, that is the best thing about the movie. She gets unwelcome company in a thief on her trip to track down her fiance. On her life changing journey she discovers herself and true love. The movie has some very scenic shots and is quite easy on the eye. If you like cheerful vulnerable woman at the heart of a story, this is the film you will enjoy watching.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Sleepless in Seattle

Trailer: 

Nora Ephron can sell the impossible to you and even make you root for her story and characters. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is a modern day fairy tale which has dollops of optimism and a heart in the right place. A kid tries to find a companion for his widowed father. A woman throws caution to the wind and goes by her gut instinct when she decides that she could be that woman. The film requires some suspension of disbelief but when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are on screen, it is so easy to suspend disbelief. The climax is a tribute to ‘An Affair to Remember’. What that movie could not achieve, this one does: Lovers uniting at the top of the Empire State building. As a character says in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, “Oh God, I love that movie.”

Eagerly Waiting for: The Oscars next week.

Did you know: The original raw footage of ‘Apocalypse Now’ consisted of 1,250,000 feet of film which is over 230 hours’ worth.

Week 19

Movies: Non-English

The Life of Rose {La Vie En Rose} (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

La Vie En Rose movie poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujvIs0DhJU

In his review of this biopic of legendary French singer Edith Piaf, Stephen Holden of the ‘The New York Times’ wrote and I quote, “The most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another ever encountered on film.” I concur. Marion Cotillard was a shoo in for the Best Actress at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes making her only the second actress after Sophia Loren to win the Oscar for that category in a non-English movie. The film tells the bittersweet story of Edith Piaf who died young. This is one of those biopics where you genuinely feel for the character who is felled by a succession of tragedies. Marion Cotillard is exceptional in the role and (Spoiler Ahead) her acting in the scene when she discovers the death of her lover is unforgettable. Watch it for her and get introduced to Edith Piaf whose death was the only instance after the Second World War when Parisian traffic came to a standstill.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

death of

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB5BktF00_Y

This Romanian tour de force is a niche comedy. It is not a chaplinesque slapstick and requires you to see the biting sarcasm at the heart of the film. The good thing is that even with the subtitles the humour is not lost. The story is that of a lonely old man who is stretchered off from one hospital to another on a particularly interesting night. The pace is rather slow but the dialogues more than make up for it. Overall, a good watch.

English Retrospective

The Paper Chase (1973) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

paper chase

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLZgjP-qgpQ

The story of life at Harvard Law School told through the eyes of one of the less stellar students on campus. It tells the reality of high pressure academic life marked by rigor which is what finally sets apart elite institutions. Life is lonely and the weather is often very cold. To add to this the teachers are geniuses who expect the same quality from the students. It is a very grounded movie which tells things as they are. Very well written. I particularly like the classroom scenes with strong dialogues and games of one upmanship. Also, it looks very authentic.

MASH (1972) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Mash

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvijJ3RnRc8

Irreverent comedy which tests the limits of comedy and often breaches it through distasteful antics. The interesting part is that all the fun is by doctors and nurses of the US Army stationed in Korea during the war. They need an escape from what they encounter in their daily lives and once they decide to turn on the style it becomes a free for all madcap entertainer which maybe the best comedy in an army camp setting. Recommended only for those who can see the lighter side in everything.

Scent of a Woman (1992) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

scent_of_a_woman_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GUvsJc3vvE

How many Oscars has Al Pacino won? One. The legendary actor got his only piece of Oscar glory for playing a blind retired army Colonel in the remake of an Italian film by the same name. How his imposing and confident personality comes to the rescue of a student who comes to take care of him forms the crux of the story. His dialogue delivery, screen presence and emoting are essential viewing for anyone who cares to know the difference between run of the mill stuff and great acting. Essential viewing.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Conjuring (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

conjuring

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10ETZ41q5o

First of all, this is a really scary movie and watching it in a movie hall with good sound effects is the only way one can do justice to it. The director and the writer duo have finally hit the bull’s eye after making a series of average horror movies. There is a certain air of imminent danger throughout the movie. Even routine events are shot as if something really bad is going to happen. In that respect the film takes some time to get the feel right. If you enjoy being scared, then this one is for you. Apparently the film is based on a true story but you will have to stretch your imagination to believe that all that really happened. There are some unintentional funny scenes. Like when the priest says, ” The kids aren’t baptized. The approval (for the exorcism) has to come directly from the Vatican.” Really?

Chennai Express (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 57%]

chennai-express_13570983881

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGR5Sj1Bfo

Congratulations to Shahrukh Khan for having a proper hit after five years. Congratulations to the Indian multiplex viewer for making another dud a hit. Congratulations to Deepika Padukone for setting the new benchmark for Hindi spoken with a Tamil accent. Congratulations to myself that this movie is not playing within a 1000 miles of my residence. Truth be told, something inside me died every time Deepika spoke in Hindi. I have never seen such a hammed performance for a really long time. Shahrukh Khan plays a 40 year old, a fact which he keeps on repeating as if he is doing the viewer a favour by not playing a 25 year old. Truth: Shahrukh Khan is 47 years old and looks 50. Maybe the dialogue to that effect was true but then nobody would have noticed it because the star was peddling his Nokia phone worth Rs. 34250. You see, the phone still takes calls after being thrown out from a running train. Marketing lesson learnt: Nokia phones are sturdy and built for India where even the goons cannot destroy them. The movie may have swept the box office but one group who would have a tough time watching it with their families: Halwais. The hero gets off at a place near a waterfall on his way to Chennai but when he has to escape he finds himself in international waters near Sri Lanka. Take a look at the map of India. I am as lost for words as Shahrukh is in that scene. The action scenes or the ‘cars flying in the air’ scenes look like shots Rohit Shetty wanted to put in ‘Golmaal’ but then the producer of that series may have told him to keep them for another day.  Wafers have been made thinner to a new size called ‘Chennai Express Screenplay’. You know who is the biggest star and saving grace of the movie? The pictures of Rajnikanth when the end credits roll.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

Once-Upon-A-Time-In-Mumbaai-Dobara-Full-Movie-Online

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj9UXzyDsOA

What Shahrukh Khan can do, Akshay Kumar can’t. People don’t rush to his movies anymore because they have grown wiser after his gems like ‘Joker’ and ‘Thank You’. So he can kiss the 100 crore club goodbye unless he has a remake to hang on to. To add to this he has ‘accomplished’ actors like Imran Khan to thwart his every attempt to rise above mediocrity. Imran Khan may be in movies only because he has the right connections. His acting is defined by consistency. He looks the same and acts the same in every single movie. Only the costumes change. If there is a fan of Imran Khan out there, you are my enemy just because of the fact that you are a fan of Imran Khan. This movie is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of its prequel or is it that they don’t even put an effort to find a name for a movie. So just tell the world that it is the second part of some hit. Sleep, watch paint dry, count the waves on the beach, do anything but don’t waste your time on this flick.

Now You See Me (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

now you see me

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

An important tenet of magic is that the viewer should know that he has been tricked and should be generally happy about it. The keyword is, ‘tricked’. This movie makes use of all the technical advances in movie making for a film on magic. The problem is that it uses this to cheat the viewer and make a fool out of him. While trying to sound scientific with a nod to logic the movie is so full of loopholes in logic that the credibility of the film is easily questioned. From a piranha scene relying on editing to a bank robbery scene relying on god knows what, the movie is an insult to intelligence. The second time a character started playing the imaginary violin, I was thinking ‘what the heck is going on?’ The ending is convenient but to focus on it would be to say that other parts are of admissible quality. They are not so. I don’t want to do a laundry list of scenes where common sense is thrown out of the window because that would constitute half of the movie (or even more). As always, Morgan Freeman looks majestic. Thank god, he does not do any magic trick.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Tabloid (2010) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

taboid

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

A beauty queen kidnaps a Mormon Missionary with whom she is in love. The incident creates waves. Thirty years later a documentary tries to uncover the truth. Mostly fun.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The Monuments Men’ because it has Matt and Clooney.

Did you know: The ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles originally spelled ‘Hollywoodland’ when it was installed in 1923. ‘Land’ was removed only in 1949.

Week 9

Movies: Non- English

The Breath (Turkey, 2009) [IMDB: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

nefes-vatan-sagolsun-filmi-izle

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arfWbfewMI0

Turkey may be in the spotlight currently for all the wrong reasons but they do make some fine movies. One of the finest to come out of this culturally rich nation is ‘The Breath’. The story of a group of men defending an outpost high in the mountains is not a conventional story. The fact that they have delusions and suicidal tendencies in a bitterly cold environment is understandable but what stands out is the excellent cinematography. Some of the memorable scenes include the torn flag fluttering in the wind and men typing on a typewriter on a wasteland of ice. I don’t know whether they shot on location. The team deserves an ovation if they did. If they put a set which makes it look as good as the location, they deserve more than an ovation.

Volver (Spain, 2006) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Volver_Poster

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

Pedro Almodovar is in fine form in this light film which has his muse Penelope Cruz in one of her better performances. I must say that when I first saw this movie I was not really impressed as I was focusing on the mother-daughter equation which forms the crux of the movie. Later I found out that the people in the Iberian peninsula really liked the film and a teacher of mine at the Delhi University who was from Portugal had a discussion on the film with me, which gave a new perspective. Well, the new perspective was that don’t take it very seriously and start believing in a little bit of magic in real life.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (France, 2007) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

The_Diving_Bell_and_the_Butterfly_DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G69Zh7YIg8c

This is one of the most inspirational movies I have ever seen. Based on a true story, it shows a man who has his full body paralyzed except for one eye which he can blink, go on to write a marvelous best selling book. The movie is good but not fantastic. It may sound cliched but if there is one movie which can be an advertisement for the triumph of human spirit, this is the one. See it to know about the most original book ever written in the toughest circumstances.

Hollywood Retrospective

Zodiac (2007) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

zodiac

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6q_MfcDEEE

This film is not sufficiently old to merit a retrospective but then it is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. A journalist following the case of a serial murderer gets too involved with the case that he becomes part of the story. The story is based on true events. Aside from the investigation which is told in top rate style, the movie also focuses on real world difficulties when the time span of a case spans decades. A movie for the intelligent viewer who can appreciate the nuances of story telling. I was surprised that the movie was not even nominated at the Oscars. ‘Zodiac’ will walk into my list of all time best thrillers with ease.

Road to Perdition (2002) [ IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

road-to-perdition-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1iCd___dNY

Boasting of a stellar cast with the likes of Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Daniel Craig, this is probably the best gangster movie after ‘The Godfather’. Shot exquisitely by Conrad L. Hall (which incidentally won him his third Oscar posthumously), the movie has an engaging story to tell. The actors have given their heart out to the film and it shows. Some of the scenes ooze quality. The finely choreographed shooting in the rain with just the background score to aid is one hell of a memorable scene. Another one is when Tom Hanks leaves the lift in a hurry. The speech at a remembrance is another top notch moment. I could go on and on because I am a huge fan of the movie. If you like classy movies with great dialogues and strong performances, ‘Road to Perdition’ is a must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jack Reacher (2013) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 6.9%]

jack reacher

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK7y8Ou0VvM

The tagline says; ‘The law has its limits. He does not’. That may be true for the movie but not for Tom Cruise’s acting which is severely low on the range factor. Right from his ‘Top Gun’ days, his range is restricted to having a red nose when he has to show rage or anxiety or even plain cold. No wonder he has not landed an Oscar after futile attempts like ‘The Last Samurai’. However, Cruise is the star of the box office and he can get the cash registers ringing. Fortunately for him, once in a while he does get roles which require more panache than histrionics. Jack Reacher is one such role and definitely worth a watch if you know what to expect.

Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 20%]

Yamla-Pagla-Deewana-2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhm9Ukkn8eo

I did not know that the first movie in the series was successful enough to warrant a sequel or it could be that the Deols are trying to milk the last penny from the box office. It is an apology for a film and a better option than watching it would be to go and count the waves at the beach. Some of the critics who seem to be influenced by external factors were giving the movie an average rating for this pathetic attempt. One thing I will concede is that unlike most of the Bollywood sequels, it has the same set of characters from the original. That also is the highest praise I can come up for this movie.

Aurangzeb (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

Aurangzeb-2013

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMo9jiUeopc

Buy ticket for one Arjun Kapoor and get one more Arjun Kapoor free. That is the cinematic equivalent of two free trips to Somalia. Even the usually reliable Prithviraj looks off colour. It is left to the veteran Rishi Kapoor to save the day. If you are willing to overlook the fact that there are as many holes in the plot as there are in a sieve, ‘Aurangzeb’ is a one time watch.

Documentary Pick of the Week 

Jesus Camp (2006) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Jesus Camp

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_1Jm2_iB7g

‘Catch them young’ could be the motto of any organisation looking at indoctrination. Though the film hits out at Christianity, things are not much different with other religions. The multi-billion recession proof industry of organised religion is taken to the cleaners in this compelling documentary. Disturbing.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘World War Z’ because Brad Pitt is one actor growing in stature.

Did you know: India is one of the few countries in the world where the Head of the State presents the national film awards.