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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Week 22

Movies: Non-English

No Man’s Land ( Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

no man's

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL8IF6431n4

In India, the claim to fame of this movie is its triumph over ‘Lagaan’ at the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. If you watch this movie you will understand why ‘Lagaan’ stood no chance. ‘No Man’s Land’ is quite possibly the best movie to have come out from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the conflict in the region. It does not shy away from exposing the farce that the war had become in the region. A bunker in a neutral territory is the stage for the film. Aided by strong writing and witty dialogues, the film is a breeze to watch. It is also a reminder that a good war movie can be made without relying on technical wizardry. A must watch.

A Very Long Engagement (France,2004) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

very long

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

Audrey Tautou became the darling of the masses with ‘Amelie’. Here, she collaborated again with the director of that movie to mixed success. The story is that of a lady who goes in search of her soldier fiance who does not return after the war. ‘A Very Long Engagement’ is a finely shot film. It is a visual treat but the moment the story starts you get a feeling that it is a feel good film that will definitely have a happy ending. On this count, the director does not disappoint. I would have loved it if it had been a tragedy but then the film takes the easy exit route. Audrey Tautou is there in almost every frame and she does justice to her role. Some technical jugglery becomes evident as we go along and this does not impress if you are a careful viewer. For example, the shots in which the train is shown give you a feeling that it was shot just once and then cut and pasted in different scenes. Even the background sound is the same. For its 133 minute duration, it is a very long movie for a very short story.

English Retrospective

Parenthood (1989) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

parenthood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgrbuRNc-AQ

This life affirming comedy tells the story of a family over a summer. Boasting a cast of some exceptional actors, the film delves into the different character types who form part of a big family of four siblings. The best thing about the movie is that all the characters are so well etched out that each of them stands out. The pivot is Steve Martin in arguably his best movie role. I feel that the movie is a tribute to the ordinary people who go about their lives and contribute to the society taking in their stride the ups and downs of life. My impression of the movie has only increased over time. It is not a movie you will easily forget.

The Guns of Navarone (1961) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Guns of Navarone collectors edition DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhQvkPMNt70

Columbia Pictures had the audacity to claim in 1961 that ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was the most exciting film that people will ever get to see. Times have changed. The claim looks silly now but in 1961 that was not the case and to be sure, it did excite people when it was released. I have heard oldies discuss this film with passion and harping back to the good old days. Though technically it is a dinosaur, its dialogues and screenplay still make it a treat to watch. Gregory Peck is in his second best film role (the first will always be ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) adds class to this movie in which he leads a mission to destroy Nazi cannons in an island in the Aegean sea during the Second World War. Soon it becomes evident that there is a traitor in the group. As if fighting the Nazis was not enough, they also have to find the mole in the group. Exciting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

nightmare

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdb_HSvf2Zk

“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” That dialogue is the key to this movie from the master of horror films Wes Craven. Frankly, I was a little confused after watching it for the first time because if you don’t watch with full attention you may find it difficult to make sense of the climax but there is no confusion on it being one of the best horror movies to be ever made. The movie turns spooky by blurring the line between reality and nightmares. Did that just occur or did you imagine it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

kick-ass-2-poster1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMbwxbgv8U

This film is a reaffirmation of my belief that Rotten Tomatoes ratings are closer to reality than the IMDB ratings. IMDB voting, I believe, is done primarily by teenagers who cannot distinguish between class and crap. It is exactly to this kind of audience that this sequel to a widely liked movie caters. It looks more like a satire or a parody on superhero movies with customary references to Youtube and Justin Bieber. Dialogues are way off the mark with gems like ” I’d rather be waterboarded than listen to Justin Bieber”. This, before the lady is turned on by a video featuring Bieber lookalikes. Whereas Kick-Ass had violence as a means to an end, here violence is the end itself. Characters are trigger happy and entering into violent duels is perhaps the favourite hobby of the characters. The movie seems to be confused whether it wants to pay homage to Hollywood’s obsession with dressed up superheroes or make fun of them. What was the scriptwriter thinking of when he came up with the name of the principal villain? I guess this movie may be for the kids of trigger happy conservative Republicans in the Christian belt of USA. Jim Carrey shows his true class by signing on the dotted line for this project. Avoid this film like the plague.

The World’s End (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

world's end

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF-4c8U-mUI

Simon Pegg teams up with his co-writer and director Edgar Wright after the success of ‘Hot Fuzz’. Simon’s character realizes at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that he had left his pub crawl unfinished when he was a teenager 20 years ago. He meets up with his buddies and cajoles them to do the thing all over again. Once in their hometown they realize that things are not what they expected them to be. The story takes a bizarre turn and the film turns into a thriller with the group now given the onerous responsibility of (what else) saving the world. The witty dialogues and banter keep the show going till this point. After that it is a big yawn. The action scenes are well choreographed and that is the best praise I can come up with for the second half of the movie,

World War Z (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

World-War-Z

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcwTxRuq-uk

Humans are facing an existential crisis. Don’t worry because USA is there. With a little help from Israel and Britain they will save the world. What could have been a really good thriller is spoiled by the overt attempt to fit the narrative in line with the US worldview. Truth be said, it is a pacy thriller with some really horrifying scenes. If you get sucked into the story it is more terrifying that the horror film of the year ‘The Conjuring’. The scenes are shot excellently and I would be surprised if the movie does not get at least an Oscar nomination for Production Design. The weakest link is Brad Pitt. His acting, it seems, has been affected by the dual responsibility of being a producer and an actor. He sleep walks through the role as if he knows the climax (and he surely does). Even in the most terrifying scenes he does not show any panic. Now coming to the red flags with regard to international politics. You see, Israel is justified in building large boundary walls so that they can keep the aliens (read ‘Palestinians’) out. North Korea, being a dictatorship, can remove the teeth of  all 23 million people in less than 24 hours, a mathematically improbable event (you do the math, I have done mine) so as to escape the pandemic. Of all the airlines in the world, the protagonist must escape on the plane of ‘Belarus Airlines’ (another dictatorship). The hero’s family must rescue a Spanish speaking boy along because there should be something for the American amigos to cherish after Mexico city has been lost. UN Under Secretary works to save only Americans. A Harvard greenhorn mutters something before dying and that conveniently becomes the principle on which the great American mind of Brad Pitt solves the entire issue. The rest of the world must be full of dumb idiots. Maybe a Nobel Peace Prize for Brad Pitt like his President? As his President showed, sometimes you just have to be alive to get one.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Confessions of a Superhero (2007) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

confessions

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsAQ9nVZrJ8

The story of four people who make a living dressing up as superheroes on the Hollywood boulevard. Moving. In its own unique way.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Thanks for Sharing’ because it could be hot.

Did you know: The most popular movies in Africa are produced in Nigeria and the local industry is called ‘Nollywood’.