Edition 92

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Roma (Mexico, 2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Poles apart from his previous venture ‘Gravity’ in scope and temperament, Alfanso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ is a study of the unraveling of a family told through the eyes of the housemaid who herself is in the midst of a personal turmoil. Rumoured to be based on the director’s childhood, ‘Roma’ is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the director’s vision. It is a love letter to the housemaid and his childhood told with evocative images and a deep empathy for the characters at the centre of the story. The movie is also remarkable for its attention to detail. ‘Roma’ is a universal movie that would not be out of place in any time or geography. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week 

Cold War (Poland, 2018) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 9.0]

Trailer

Deviating from the norm, I have included this Polish movie in this section of the blog because I loved this movie. I believe that it is one of the best movies of the year and would easily walk into the top three of the year. It is a searing love story set against the Cold War. With remarkable lead performances and memorable cinematography, ‘Cold War’ is an instant classic which is on a higher pedestal than the director’s previous work ‘Ida’. The political shenanigans and the intrigue of ‘Cold War’ are heightened by the drama and passion that the director brings into the movie. Two star crossed lovers go through hell as they cling on to the last shreds of hope when villains in the form of circumstances and people envelop them. For all my experience of watching thousands of movies, I never saw the ending coming. The climax of the movie is something that will etch this movie in your mind for a long time. Must see.

Green Book (2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Green Book’ has been at the receiving end of a concerted campaign to discredit it ahead of the Oscars. Truth be told, this is the most topical film of the year with an excellent screenplay and commendable performances. Mahershala Ali is a shoo-in for the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the Oscars. ‘Green Book’ is a classic road movie which tells the true tale of an African American musician chauffeured by a Italian American in the racially volatile deep South during the 60s. ‘Green Book’ deals with important themes of racism, friendship and culture and emerges unscathed. The endearing movie is boosted by its charming sense of comedy. Overall, a very good movie which is worth your time.

Vice (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Adam Mckay holds back no punches is an all out assault on Dick Cheney in ‘Vice’. The director sticks to his signature style of film making which is a curious superimposition of the documentary style on a drama. Backed by first rate research, the movie reveals more about the events that catapulted Cheney into the driver’s seat in American politics and his links with the stakeholders. For the uninitiated, the movie also traces the depth of the relationship between the principal actors of the Bush-Cheney era. As a cinematic venture ‘Vice’ does fall flat on many occasions but it is a movie that needs appreciation for the mere fact that it was made.

The Favourite (2018) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

In a movie where all three female protagonists are evidently relishing the experience of acting to a fine script, ‘The Favourite’ tells the scheming that defined the reign of Queen Anne. Severely weighed down by her infirmities and declining health, Queen Anne is no more than a figurehead controlled by people with a plan. Her feeble attempts to assert herself only reveal the extent of her helplessness. Into the scene walks in another devious character played by Emma Stone and then all hell breaks loose. The director who rightfully receives an Oscar nomination does not paint the times in the class and elegance movies have tried to portray the times. There are frequent encounters with ‘other sections’ of the society. Ultimately, ‘The Favourite’ is a universal story of a seemingly powerful person in decline who is controlled by more nefarious elements. Realization comes late to the monarch and by then all possibilities of a course correction are exhausted. Highly recommended.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on a true story and a bestselling book, this movie is a subversive take on the market for memorabilia. A down on her luck author, played memorably by Melissa McCarthy, conjures up a scheme to make some easy money. The movie is more of a social commentary on characters at the fringe of the society. Their small joys and a life which lurches from one crisis to another is shown with care in the movie. Watch it for Melissa McCarthy.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Bohemian Rhapsody ticks all the boxes of a biopic but what elevates the movie are the sensational soundtrack and an award winning performance from Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Malek becomes Mercury and carries the movie on his shoulders from the first frame till the last one. The movie does not have any great surprises but is easy to watch and engaging. Recommended.

Widows (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Widows’ from director Steve McQeen is a heist movie with several undertones. Four women find themselves at life’s crossroads when their partners are killed in a botched up heist. Some of them team up to finish the mission which took their partners’ lives without realizing that they are only foot soldiers in a larger plot. Deftly weaving politics, corruption and other criminal elements, ‘Widows’ proceeds with a rapidly mounting body count culminating in a implausible yet satisfying finale. A special mention for the performance of Viola Davis is warranted.

The Front Runner (2018) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Hugh Jackman plays a front-runner for the Democratic party’s ticket to challenge Ronald Reagan. The movie is based on the true story of Gary Hart who was consigned to the dustbin of history after the scandal that engulfed his campaign saw the wheels come off his juggernaut. The movie tries to play up the events in the story as a turning point in American politics but that argument does not hold up to scrutiny. The major problem with the movie is that Gary Hart is shown as a smooth talking politician with a vacuous personality lacking in any courage of conviction. His duplicity does not help the case of the movie.

Documentary of the Week

The Panama Papers (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The inside story of the courageous journalism that drove the leak of the Panama papers. Could have been better but still worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The Oscars

Did you know: The Golden Globes are decided by the 93 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association whereas the Academy Awards have more than 6,000 voters.

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Edition 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Second Mother (Brazil, 2015) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Trailer: 

This movie, which stimulates careful consideration of the class divides in the Brazilian society, tells the story of a housemaid who lives in Sao Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil. The maid’s serene and stable life goes into a tailspin when her daughter who shares a frosty relationship with her comes to stay with her in Sao Paulo. The skillfully woven tale examines the dynamics of the relationships when an outsider challenges it in myriad ways. The comedienne Regina Case gives a performance par excellence and the acclaims the movie has received is well deserved. Certainly worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Martian (2015) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating 7.5]

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Trailer: 

While watching ‘The Martian’ the one thing that doesn’t strike the viewer is that the director Ridley Scott is 77 years old. With celebrated movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Thelma & Louise’, ‘Black Hawk Dawn’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘American Gangster’, ‘The Martian’ is the antithesis of what you would expect from a veteran. Brilliantly conceived and executed using cutting edge technology, the movie is an introduction to life on Mars (the planet and not the chocolate). Astronaut Matt Damon has to use all the wits at his disposal when he is stranded in the hostile environment on Mars while awaiting succour. The movie has a predictable story line and occasionally feels like a documentary. Also, it looks like an out of the world version of ‘Cast Away’ with a person trained to be better at being alone. That also takes away the emotional anger, distress and frustration that was essential in a movie like ‘Cast Away’. A 3D version also does not add anything to the movie. On a lighter note, how many times will Hollywood send missions to rescue Matt Damon after attempts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Interstellar’ and now ‘The Martian’?

Talvar (2015) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes:98%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Trailer:

‘Talvar’ is a barely camouflaged take on the infamous double murders to rock Noida, a suburb of Delhi. Though the parents of the girl were convicted and are serving their sentence now, the film tries to turn the story upside down. Viewed from an objective point of view, the movie is an unvarnished attempt to take sides and prove the parents innocent in the whole affair. It does not leave any ambiguity and even ridicules views contrary to the moviemaker’s desired stand. Simultaneously the movie raises some disturbing questions related to the handling of the crime scene and ‘confessions’ of some suspects under narco-analysis (The procedure has since been outlawed by the Supreme Court of India as no one can be forced to give evidence against himself/herself). What stands out in the movie are the stirring performance from the ever reliable Irrfan Khan and the sorry state of affairs in the government investigation agencies. The crux of the matter finally boils down to the access outsiders have in a household and how security is sometimes compromised. Director Meghna Gulzaar finally delivers a watchable movie after a history of duds but credit must largely go to the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj who pens an entertaining but ultimately flawed screenplay.

Inside Out (2015) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer: 

In animation in Hollywood, there is Pixar and then there are the rest. It is akin to a 100m sprint where there is Usain Bolt and the rest. The showcase feature from Pixar this year tells the story of a young girl trying to adjust to life in a new setting. Her emotions are controlled by distinct characters representing happiness, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. There are some nice touches like happiness and sadness sharing similar hair colour to imply that they are related. The movie does get a tad slow in some parts but overall is a joy to watch. Unless something exceptional is released, my money is on ‘Inside Out’ to win the next Academy Award for the ‘The Best Animation Picture’.

Spy (2015) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer: 

Melissa McCarthy stars as the spy in the movie which has some really smart writing to aid to an otherwise average story line. The element of humour is the only running theme in the movie. Aided by clever one liners and some outrageously funny scenes (like the one in an Italian restaurant), the movie is a breeze to watch. The unconventional appearance of the lead is exploited to the hilt and there is a delightful supporting cast of Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham lets his hair down in a role parodying his earlier efforts. All of this makes the movie a thoroughly enjoyable fare.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer:

Marking the directorial debut of the multi talented Nadirshah (who has also set the songs to tune), this Malayalam movie tells the tale of three youngsters whose goal in life is to visit Pattaya in Thailand. The truth is that all this is a mere diversion for the antics that they end up performing. The movie is a series of anecdotes with the sole aim of getting a good laugh from the viewers. Some of the jokes achieve more than what they were expected to do. The serious angle in the movie seems to be an afterthought to bring some gravity to the proceedings. For the kind of comedy only Malayalam movies can provide, this is indeed a laugh riot.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:: Not yet rated, My Rating:5.0]

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Trailer:

Based on the template provided by the original, this sequel goes all out to demolish women as vain, scatterbrained and egotistical individuals out to get the naive and goodhearted men. If only things could be that simple. Essentially a demolition job, this movie inadvertently  exposes the severe flaws of the characters it sets out to rescue. More than anything, it is about men who make deeply deficient choices. They seem to be thinking with other parts of the body than with their heads when making the choice of a girlfriend. Compared to the prequel where the men were sitting ducks, here they are foxy fellows who feign ignorance till it suits them. Finally when that time does come, they consider themselves as valiant martyrs in the cause of love. There is a cringe-worthy scene at the end where the men rediscover their love for their mothers. There is also an incoherent rant on women by one of the embattled men. The last time he did that it was amusing but now it looks like a forced addition. All in all, this sequel lacks the intellectual honesty of the original.

Katti Batti (2015) [IMDB: 4.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating: 2.0]

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Trailer: 

There is a scene in this movie when Imran Khan says, “Maa chali gayi” (Mother has gone). The expression on his face is that of a lifeless sculpture. I thought that he was telling that the mother has gone to buy groceries or to take a walk. Seconds later it dawned on me that he was announcing the death of his mother. I almost cried. Not for the mother but for the fact that I paid to see a non actor in a disaster of a movie. ‘Katti Batti’ is full of such moments where you curse the moment you decided to walk into the movie hall. Imran Khan has the acting abilities of a stone but then Kangna Ranaut is supposed to be one of the best of this generation. Even she looks like a kid lost in a fair with no idea of what is going on. The anti climax makes you wonder what was going on till that point in the movie. This film is s farce and I am being kind. The best actor in the movie is a turtle. Who gives money to Nikhil Advani to make movies and still does not have a change of heart after Imran Khan is cast in the lead role? There is a lot more that can be said against the film but the electricity consumed by my laptop when I type is worth more than the movie. Save electricity.

Documentary of the Week

Sunshine Superman (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer: 

The life of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. The footage of the jumps is exhilarating but the documentary is underwhelming. Still, an introduction to BASE jumping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Steve Jobs’ because of the ways in which people tried to stop it from getting made. Also because it is directed by Danny Boyle.

Did you know: The pile of excreta that the young Jamal jumps into in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was made from a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

Week 28

Movies: Non-English

The Violin ( Mexico, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVI4GjFkEq8

Quite possibly the best Mexican film of the last decade. The only soft thing onscreen is a violin, in a story which deals with the use of brute government force to crush dissent by a group of rebels. The heroism of the rebels is in stark contrast to unapologetic use of violence by the government forces which makes the film a difficult one to watch. Involving some of the most graphic and realistic scenes of violence you will ever see in a film, this one is ultimately worth the effort.

The 400 Blows ( France, 1959) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

400 blows

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i89oN8v7RdY

Francois Truffaut‘s masterpiece is one of the movies integral to the French ‘New Wave’. The story of a boy who is a victim of his circumstances remains timeless even half a century after its release. In the end, it is also a reminder that strong screenplay and an engaging story are the hallmarks of true classics. A must watch if you have any interest in international cinema.

English Retrospective

Mulholland Drive (2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96R9MG0DxLc

This acclaimed film from David Lynch is one of the most discussed movies because of the way it leaves itself open to interpretations. If you read the numerous discussions on the movie you will be confused by what the movie wants to say. This has not been helped by the director’s refusal to clarify on what he meant to make but at the same time this is not a movie you can trash. The only thing that can be said with certainty about the plot is that there is a car crash and the victim suffers emotionally from it. The rest of the story is very much open to interpretation and you will be  certainly hooked on as the narrative progresses.

Election (1999) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Election

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBgM_Kw6PSM

One of those easy to watch movies which raises itself a notch higher with the help of some fine acting and what I would bravely call as a story never told before. A high school teacher whose life is going nowhere is given the responsibility of handling the elections in his school. Only problem is that one of the candidates is a high achieving pushy character played with elan by Reese Witherspoon. Looking at the comedy that US politics has become, I guess they carry over the petty shenanigans of high school politics when they go to the Congress.

Life of Brian (1979) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVHhg67RVd4

If ‘Life of Brian’ is made in almost any other country in the world, chances are it won’t see the light of the day. Quite obviously a hilarious take on Christ, it is only in USA that such unhindered freedom of speech would be possible. The end result is an outrageous and irreverent comedy that will make you ask for more.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Way Way Back (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomaoes: 88%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwNo1i3jkCo

A coming off age story of a 14 year old boy who discovers himself during a summer vacation. The movie is very predictable but some nice touches make it interesting and engaging. Nothing extraordinary but there are some movies which are ordinary and good. This one belongs to that category.

Best Man Down (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA1lAl9muuQ

The best man at a wedding dies on the night of the wedding. The newlyweds cancel the honeymoon and make arrangements for the funeral. It is then they discover who truly their dead friend was. A pretty decent flick which picks up in the second half. Sometimes you discover how good people were only after they die.

The Heat (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahGnefZTdq4

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play cops in this attempt at comedy which huffs and puffs as it plays out. There are some genuinely funny moments but then it fizzles out and does not live up to its initial promise.

War Chod Na Yaar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomaotes: 57%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw1ELVWGamI

Who funds such movies? Who was stoned, the producer when he decided to make it or the writer when he hallucinated the idea?

Documentary Pick of the Week

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w39FnpuMRfo

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has a right wing agenda. Fox News is a leading unit of that empire and all its claims of fair and balanced reporting are exposed in this documentary. Indian news channels sold out to the ruling party look like kids in front of the sophistication of the propaganda of networks like Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ because it won Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013.

Did you know: Manna Dey and Bhupen Hazarika are the only two male playback singers to have won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest award in Indian cinema. RIP Manna Dey.