Week 41

Movies: Non-English

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a50DJkCxqw

Academy award nominee for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category this year, this film from Belgium is a devastating tearjerker. It is a heady mix of music, romance and tragedy with moments of sheer brilliance. The wedding scene and the climax are scenes that stand out. The movie follows the challenges faced by a young family and their desperate attempts to overcome them but at the core of the story is the conflicting religious beliefs of the husband and wife which appear beyond reconciliation. I believe that one of the reasons that the film has a nod at the Oscars is because of the way it tears into the George Bush presidency by using actual footage to support the arguments of one of the characters. The good thing is that even if the politics of the movie is disregarded as inconsequential, it is a movie worth your time. Two thumbs up.

The Third Half (Macedonia, 2012) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

The Third Half

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJq03xHc6mE

Another film on Nazis, which I believe is a theme that has been done to death by Hollywood. Maybe the Macedonians did not figure that out. So they also came up with a mild version to suit their historical narrative. The end product is a movie which is not bad but does not introduce any new elements in a predictable story line. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that it tells the story of a football team trying to get its act together and at the same time bogged down by politics. If you can take another film on Nazis this film is highly recommended. Otherwise, highly forgettable.

Movies I Saw This Week

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Inside Llewyn Davis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFphYRyH7wc

Oscar Isaac produces a scintillating performance as the title character of a movie which certainly falls into the drama genre but is neither a tragedy nor a triumph. Llewyn Davis is a folk singer who tries to piece together a living when he is not hopping from one couch to another in his quest to find a place to sleep. (Spoiler ahead) His life is so messed up that he gets to know through a third party that he has become a father and he still does not want to see the child. Llewyn Davis is a musician who is neither great nor ordinary. As a character, he is neither weak nor strong. It is this very quality of a man who cannot be faulted because he is not impractical but at the same time is not practical enough that makes this story a little complex. That also makes the film very engaging to watch as it opens up to unpredictable twists and turns. A special mention must be made of the cinematography of this movie which is a strong contender at the Oscars but may eventually lose out to ‘Gravity’. All in all, this is not a movie for everyone but for the discerning few.

All Is Lost (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

All Is Lost

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk_R04LfUQU

Robert Redford’s best movie in years tells the story of a man marooned with his damaged boat in the ocean when it is hit by a stray container. It chronicles his desperate attempts to rescue himself from imminent and painful death. The movie is slow but I believe that the plot dictated the pace of the movie. A standout feature is the background score. At the Oscars this year this category will be a straight shootout between ‘All Is Lost’ and ‘Gravity’. I would love to see an Indian version of this movie because the Hollywood hunks like to appear calm and composed under trying circumstances but imagine Shahrukh Khan in such a role. He would have cried his heart out and appeared vulnerable, making him endearing. Some movies are better off with such men and Robert Redford is not such a man.

Dedh Ishqiya (India, 2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rooten Tomatoes: 77%]

dedh

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J3fkfUDkx8

A half decent story with a plausible twist makes this one of the early winners of 2014. All the actors are in fine form and the movie has a good pace to it. It is the story of two con men who think they have found their match in a mysterious duo. The good thing with the movie is the crisp writing which serves as a refresher course in chaste Hindi. Definitely worth a watch.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Xk-yTuFEU

Ben Stiller should stick to comedies. His capabilities as a director are evidently limited and this movie is the best proof for it. He is neither funny nor engaging. The movie about a man with a fertile imagination and pretty much only that, is a damp squib. The story meanders along and is a big yawn. The producers could have donated the money to some charity. At least they wouldn’t have to explain to their children their poor decision making abilities.

Documentary Pick of the Week

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

20 Feet from Stardom

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWyUJcA8Zfo

The story of the unsung chorus singers on stage. Nominated for the Oscar this year. Strong contender. Worth a watch.

Terrence Malick Retrospective

Days of Heaven (1978) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Days of Heaven

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZDsMCW0U4

A story of passion, intrigue and treachery set in a farm. Competently acted. Beautifully shot.

The Thin Red Line (1998) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

thin red

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejm0XvT3rB8

The Army as it is. Sudden death, painful superiors and a low life. Dream casting with too many stars to count.

Badlands (1973) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

Badlands-707049238-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKykxE7CBbc

A couple like to kill. A study in psychology.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ because it is going to be the first blockbuster of 2014.

Did you know: The sounds made by the Brachiosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’ were a combination of whale and donkey sounds.

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Week 14

Movies: Non- English

Departures (Japan, 2008) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Layout 1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtdENmR6jKw

A young unemployed cellist is forced to take up the job of preparing the dead for funerals. What makes the film unique is the distinct cultural landscape of Japan where your job and matters of death are of high importance. The movie is an audience pleaser with moments that will make you smile and reflect. The underlying idea is something I strongly believe in; every job deserves dignity and respect. Come to think of it, I would have watched the movie just because of the title. Death as just departure.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (South Korea, 2004) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

brotherhood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3v9gMehf4

This movie was recommended to me by Rithin, one of the readers of this blog and I would like to thank him for that. This Korean war film tells the story of two brothers caught in the quagmire of the Korean war. The elder one enlists in the army to protect the younger one but as the story progresses fissures appear in their relationship. This is an out and out war film with some sentiments thrown in. The thing about Korean movies is that they are as melodramatic as commercial Hindi films but they also try to tell a story. Some of the war sequences are quite impressive for an Asian film but the same cannot be said of the computer graphics. It becomes evident that some of the scenes are shot on set. That can be pardoned as the budget of the movie is a fraction of what a similar Hollywood film would have demanded. Some of the scenes are flimsy and technical finesse is evidently missing but that is compensated by the scale of the film and the well choreographed action scenes. I would definitely recommend it for fans of war movies.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Piano (1993) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

piano

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_kaUp8NDDU

Jane Campion became the first woman director to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes with this master class which is a romance at its heart but has equal amounts of mystery and adventure thrown in. A married woman has a torrid affair with an odd character which shakes the world around her. Other than the outstanding performance by Holly Hunter in the lead role, watch out for the promising performance  that Anna Paquin delivers as a child. The film is so beautifully shot that viewing it on a small screen would be an injustice.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

full metal jacket

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAvWQa64B8M

Another Vietnam War classic. The initial training period sequence when one of the nerdy guys snaps is chilling and the effect of that on fellow soldiers might have been more dehumanizing than their experiences later. Still, the film explores how the line between right and wrong blurs when self preservation is the overriding emotion. Stanley Kubrick is a master at crating rough sequences and this could be his most realistic film dealing with real people and raw emotions. I believe that for Kubrick Vietnam was just another setting. His story could have been set in any war and that is what makes this an emotional drama more than a war film.

Apocalypse Now (1979) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

apocalypse now

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HEiqAsrVMQ

The makers of the film almost got killed making it. Their effort did not go in vain and the end product is perhaps the best movie on the conflict in the Indochine region to be made. Though it is Martin Sheen show all the way, the few scenes where Marlon Brando appears confirms that quality triumphs quantity. It is not an easy watch at 153 minutes but then good things require time. It is a hellish experience in the mould of ‘Das Boot’. At the denouement, the question about who is right and who is wrong is difficult to answer but then the soldier is on a mission and he must complete the task assigned to him. All this, because another soldier forgot which side he was on. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

A late Quartet (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

a-late-quartet-poster02

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX66lRnNmqs

One of the better films of 2012. It says the story of a Quartet whose members are at a turning point in their lives. When one of the members is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, strains appear in the relations between other members and hitherto suppressed feelings boil over. The film is quite engaging right from the beginning. The film scores quite high in the acting department. The story has only five characters but the director is able to keep it engaging. The only issue is that if you are not an expert in Western Classical, you will make a fool of yourself in some scenes. I can tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner but I bet there won’t be many who can detect mistakes if some notes of Beethoven are played wrongly. There are a few such scenes and you just have to trust the screenplay on such occasions. It is also an area that has seldom been explored in movies. So you get to know how much hard work goes into the making of a half decent musician. Definitely worth a watch.

Trance (2013) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

Trance

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvTW1JecmZo

James McAvoy has been heralded as the next superstar for quite some time now. In ‘Trance’, directed by Danny Boyle, he does his reputation no harm. The film is typical Danny Boyle stuff with scenes of time lapse photography, indulgently shot sequences and pulsating music. Here the protagonist loses his memory after a cooperating in an art heist. So the other gang members come up with the idea of using the services of a hypnotherapist to retrieve his lost memory. The story is sleek and missing any scene may mess up the understanding of what is happening onscreen. As it is, even if you watch all the scenes you will be little confused about some of them. The story is full of unreliable characters. So you can choose whom to trust.

Ghanchakkar (India, 2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomaotes: 25%]

ghanchakkar-poster-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClncY3AQxeg

The funny thing with ‘Ghanchakkar’ s that it begins on a premise similar to ‘Trance’ reviewed above. That is, the lead character loses his memory after a heist but the similarity ends there. Whereas in ‘Trance’ they go to a hypnotherapist to retrieve the memory, in ‘Ghanchakkar’ they go to a baba. That sums up the difference in approach between Hollywood and Bollywood.  ‘Ghanchakkar’ is a painfully slow movie but with a rock solid climax. The issue is that you may not have the patience to sit through the movie to see the climax. I believe that the script would have looked good on paper but what is shown on screen is a cure for insomnia. The film is neither funny nor engaging. When a film has Emran Hashmi as the best performer, it says so much about its quality. The characters are annoying and the director deserves much of the flak for making it less interesting than a television serial. I did like the ending but then who cares about the dessert when the main course is stale.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Corporation (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

corporation

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKbpQ_H7ziU

Documentary which charts the growing influence of large companies in a historical perspective. Very educative but a little biased in my opinion. Still, must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ because a little fun never killed anyone.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg met Drew Barrymore when she acted in ‘E.T’. When she grew up she posed for Playboy. When Spielberg found out, he sent Barrymore a blanket so she could ‘cover up.’