Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]
Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors of this generation. This movie is another proof of her acting prowess. She fills every frame of the movie and keeps the suspense going. There are shades of Basic Instinct, an earlier work of the director. The basic story is that of the protagonist playing a cat-and-mouse game with her unknown rapist. The complexity of the film is created by the numerous subplots which are interlinked. The complicated back story of the protagonist and her subsequent mistrust of police aid in storytelling. In the end all the subplots fall into place like that of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe, it is this comfortable ending that won the film the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended.
There’s something about Meryl Streep which keeps the viewer engaged even in a mediocre movie. ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ has no claim to greatness but it is carried solely by the form shoulders of Meryl Streep ably supported by Hugh Grant. For a director who won Meryl Streep last Best Actress Oscar for ‘The Queen’, this is definitely not an improvement. The director is definitely successful in creating sympathy for Florence Foster Jenkins but the masses couldn’t care less for the fate of a troubled aristocrat. A movie on the world’s worst opera singer compares favorably with a movie on the world’s worst director. The latter titled ‘Ed Wood‘ was definitely a better work of art. At least, it had self-doubt.
Sully (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]
Clint Eastwood makes great movies. Tom Hanks acts in great movies. Their combination to tell the story of an American hero in Captain Chesley Sullenberger is one of the best movies of the year. Like some of the previous Clint Eastwood movies there is no attempt at making the movie dramatic. At the same time, the movie cannot be classified as a character study as it only scratches the surface. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks pulls off with elan the role of a hero who is not aware of his heroic act. Aaron Eckhart plays the best role of his life as the co-pilot. The thing about the ‘Miracle On Hudson’ is that it is one of those events which can hardly be ever repeated. Even the recreation of the movie isn’t enough to convince the viewer about the possibility of such an event. Perhaps that is where the movie had its task cut out and perhaps that is where it is not entirely successful. A shorter film of one hour would have done more justice to the plot.
Hell or High Water (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]
Undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year Hell or High Water is supported by a cast comprising of thespians like Jeff Bridges Chris Pine. Set in the forgotten parts of America and resembling a Western, the high point of the movie is that it resists the urge to pull out the gun on various occasions. The simmering tension of the movie is felt till the last frame. Concurrently the movie makes a bold statement on the plight of Americans left behind by the forces of capitalism. Most of the anger is directed at big banks who seem to get away with murder. Consequently, bank robberies form the central theme of the movie. The story is that of two brothers who rob the same bank they owe, to avoid foreclosure. In between all the gloom and doom there are also some subtle humor like in the restaurant where the waiter knows a limited menu. Alas, the movie is a reaffirmation of the fact that Jeff Bridges is one of the finest actors alive today. Must watch.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.5]
Following the success of his debut feature ‘What we do in the shadows’, the director’s second feature, ‘The hunt for the wilderpeople’, is a letdown. Indeed there are moments of humor in the movie but some of it seems forced and especially unexpected from a young child. The style of direction is a cross between that of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The movie tries to address some of the social issues but it soon turns to a farce. Set in the picturesque mountains of New Zealand, it is also a peep into the life of the people at the margins of the society. I had a feeling that I had seen similar movies set in the America of 1980s. The only saving grace for the movie is that it does not bore the wits out of the viewer. The burden of high expectations seems to have taken a toll on the director.
The Light Between the Oceans (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]
The undeniable beauty of ‘The Light Between the Oceans’ is compromised by the cringingly sentimental storyline. Boasting such performers like Michael Fassbender, Alicia vikander and Rachel Weisz, The movie is unable to tap into the talent at its disposal. By the second half, the movie sets out on a predictable path. The film tells the tale of a young childless couple who one day find a baby marooned at sea. Some movies have difficult choices to make. The options at their disposal are equally worthwhile. Choosing one over the other is so precarious an exercise that this undermines the whole tale. That is the malady which effects this movie.
The debacle at Deepwater Horizon was one of the biggest tragedies of the oil industry. From the BP CEO who infamously said, ” I’d like to have my life back” to the frontline soldiers of the company who lost their lives, the movie captures an event, the wounds of which are yet to heal. Deepwater Horizon documents the events that happened on the fateful day of the tragedy. The template is the standard one used for all the disaster movies. No great acting chops are expected yet competent performances are delivered. The movie captures the horror of the tragedy without deviating from the standard storyline. The movie is not particularly illuminating but some of it needs to be heard and seen.
War Dogs (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.5]
This movie could have been titled ‘It Happens Only in America’. Two neophytes receive a 300 million dollar defense contract. What follows is a series of games involving arms traders and phoney businessmen. Jonah Hill is the big fat dealer who will stop at nothing. The improbable story covers countries like Jordan, Albania and Iraq and is essntially the juvenile version of ‘Lord of War’. The film could have been taut and this aspect is particularly conspicuous. Otherwise, a decent watch.
The Siege of Jadotville (2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5]
This is the type of African tale which must be told. Unfortunately they could have chosen a better story to tell. Set in 1960s Congo in the midst of a Civil War, the movie captures the fate of neutral United Nations Peacekeeping Force which does not receive support from the government, the opposition or the rebels. To make matters worse, they don’t even receive support from the United Nations. They are pawns in a bigger political game whic involves mining companies, colonial powers, world superpowers and a fledgling government. They are left to battle for survival against formidable odds. The low production quality of Netflix is evident in this movie. Unfortunately, it is a story about heroes who need to be remembered and it does not get the treatment it deserves.
‘Don’t Think Twice’ is one of the best movies of the year until the last 10 % of the movie when it gets cloyingly sweet. The movie has freshness written all over it. It tells the tale of a group of actors and how the Dynamics between them changes when one of them is chosen for a starring role in a television program. The movie is littered with instances of wit and humor. The young actors in the movie give it the credibility it seeks. Recommended.
Documentary of the Week
Weiner (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]
Anthony Weiner was once the young Turk among democrats. His fall from grace and the unraveling of his personal life are captured in this intimate documentary. One of the best documentaries of the year.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the true life story of a Botswanian prince who married a British lady.
Did youknow: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.
When I started this blog 50 weeks ago, I had never imagined that it would have readers from 73 countries and the average weekly readership would cross 70. For 49 weeks I have written ( at times, by burning midnight oil) about my experiences at the movies. The 50th week is a tribute to all the readers who found something worth reading here. For this edition I asked a reader who has read all previous 49 editions, for a list of that person’s 50 favourite movies. This edition is about those 50 movies.
1. Bucket List (2007) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]
The Plot: Two terminally ill men from dissimilar backgrounds go on a journey together and try to do everything they always wanted to do.
The Highlight: Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson team up. If for nothing else, the film is worth a watch for the energy they bring to the screen. It is for the same reason and the high expectations from such a film that the viewer may find a little underwhelmed at the end. Still, a very good watch.
The Plot: Two top cops from Los Angeles are sent to a small town to investigate the death of a teen. The sting in the tale is that the sun does not set in the town.
The Highlight: Christopher Nolan’s early work saw a bunch of accomplished actors on screen but the real winner was the cinematography which set the right mood for the film. Even the small town feels like a character on screen. Its beauty and serenity are breathtaking but also add the suspense in the movie.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I can’t judge. There are two kinds of people in Alaska: those who were born here and those who come here to escape something. I wasn’t born here.”
The Plot: How one event happening/not happening changes the course of a women’s life. The vicissitudes and glorious uncertainties of life.
The Highlight: Gwyneth ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ Paltrow who puts in her best performance after her Oscar winning performance in ‘Shakespeare in Love’.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “For God’s sake, Gerry. I asked you a simple question; there is no need for you to become Woody Allen.”
4. Shutter Island (2010) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]
The Plot: Set in 1954, the film purportedly shows the investigation to find out the location of a convict who has escaped from a mental asylum.
The Highlight: Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio team up to bring their most provocative story which requires multiple viewings to have a full debate on; a conclusive interpretation being a difficult goal. In the end the story does not matter. All that matters is how much of it is real.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “No assumption, no, not at all. You misunderstand me. I said, you are ‘men of violence’. I’m not accusing you of being violent men. That’s quite different.”
The Plot: An immigrant from Cuba builds his fortune in the world of crime and drugs in 1980s Miami.
The Highlight: Al Pacino shows once more time why he is one of the greatest actors ever.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”
6. Groundhog Day (1993) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]
The Plot: Bill Murray plays a weatherman who finds that he is living the same day again and again. The good thing is that he has Andie MacDowell for company.
The Highlight: It is a toast to the ordinary life which could be extraordinary if one lived it as if there is no tomorrow.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I don’t deserve someone like you. But If I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.”
7. The Help (2011) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
The Plot: At the height of the Civil rights movement, a young white woman decides to write a book on the light of African American maids and their perception of their masters.
The Highlight: Viola Davis in an illuminating performance.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Courage sometimes skips a generation. Thank you for bringing it back to our family.”
8. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]
The Plot: A rank outsider wins against all odds at the 1913 US Open in golf, beating his idol on the way.
The Highlight: Nothing exceptional but once in a while the right cliches at the right time make the right kind of movie.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Let me tell you something. I came here to win a trophy. And on the face of it Ted Ray or I should carry it off. Not for you, not for England, but for sheer bloody pride at being the best, that’s why we do this. And if Mr. Ouimet wins tomorrow, it’s because he’s the best, because of who he is. Not who his father was, not how much money he’s got, because of who he bloody is! And I’ll thank you to remember that.
The Plot: A group of interesting characters join the hunt for a missing diamond.
The Highlight: Unbridled action, peppy dialogues and lots of style.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.”
10. Roman Holiday (1953) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]
The Plot: An American newsman takes a princess on a trip of Rome on her day away from boring life.
The Highlight: Audrey Hepburn. William Wyler. Gregory Peck.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I have to leave you now. I’m going to that corner there and turn. You must stay in the car and drive away. Promise not to watch me go beyond the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you.”
11. American Gangster (2007) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]
The Plot: A detective trying his best to nab a drug lord.
The Highlight: A simplistic story and an average performance from Russel Crowe are eclipsed by Denzel Washington in one of his best performances.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Success. It’s got enemies. You can be successful and have enemies or you can be unsuccessful and have friends.”
12. Kiss the Girls (1997) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]
The Plot: A girl who survives a serial killer’s murder attempt holds the key to nabbing him.
The Highlight: Though there are enough loopholes in the movie, it is the sheer presence of Morgan Freeman that makes the film worth a watch.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Multiply your anger by about a hundred, Kate, that’s how much he thinks he loves you.”
13. Match Point (2005) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]
The Plot: A married man falls for the girlfriend of his brother-in-law.
The Highlight: What you don’t expect from Woody Allen and what you absolutely expect from Scarlett Johansson.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “The man who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control.”
The Plot: The only hope for a leukemia patient is to get a bone marrow transplant from her sister, a sister who is estranged from her for two decades.
The Highlight: Some stirring performances from Streep, Keaton and DiCaprio.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Most of the time I just keep to myself. I think like what it would be like to be… someone else.”
23. The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
The Plot: How it was to be a confidante and physician of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
The Highlight: Acting lesson from Forest Whitaker.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “You deserve to die. But dead, you can do nothing. Alive, you might just be able to redeem yourself.”
24. The Tourist (2010) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%]
The Plot: Angelina Jolie walks into the life of Johnny Deep while he is on a vacation in Italy. Wish that was true.
The Highlight: I can’ think beyond Angelina Jolie here.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “It’s the um… the Roman god, Janus. My mother gave it to me when I was little. She wanted to teach me that people have two sides. A good side, a bad side, a past, a future. And that we must embrace both in someone we love.”
The Plot: A firefighter’s life told in flashback as he awaits to be rescued before he dies.
The Highlight: Reel life heroes find time to act in a movie that tell the tales of real life heroes.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “People are always asking me how is it that firefighters run into a burning building when everyone else is running out. Courage is the answer.”
42. The King’s Speech (2010) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
The Plot: A stuttering king has to inspire his nation in times of war. Some men are thrust into greatness and they learn to speak along the way.
The Highlight: Colin Firth who is otherwise very good with his dialogues, had to unlearn.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “If I’m King, where’s my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.”
43. The Holiday (2006) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]
The Plot: An American and a Britisher swap homes during a vacation and find their respective partners.
The Highlight: One of Nancy Meyers’ more accomplished works.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “You’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for God’s sake!”
44. The Color Purple (1985) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
The Plot: Adaptation of the classic novel on the life of an African American woman.
The Highlight: Shoddy direction by Steven Spielberg.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “The jail you planned for me is the one you’re gonna rot in.”
45. The Day of the Jackal (1973) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]
The Plot: A conspiracy to kill the President of France.
The Highlight: The coldness of the assassin.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “You have to employ a professional. Your organization is so riddled with informers that nothing you decide is a secret for long. No, the job would have to be done by an outsider. The only question would be by whom, and for how much.”
46. The Usual Suspects (1995) [ IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]
The Plot: It must be easy to solve a crime when the suspects are limited and known. Or is it?
The Highlight: Kevin Spacey can tell stories.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
The Plot: Greenhorn Vinny has to defend his cousin in a murder trial in small town Alabama.
The Highlight: Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei make you laugh so much that your stomach hurts.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Well I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, TEN YEARS LATER, my niece, the daughter of my sister is getting married. My biological clock is TICKING LIKE THIS and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married.”
48. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]
The Plot: A jailed serial killer is the only one who can help a young investigator reach another serial killer on the rampage.
The Highlight: Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for which his onscreen time was the least among all previous winners in the category.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]
An accomplished plastic surgeon who is obsessed with creating the perfect skin after his wife’s tragic death achieves a breakthrough after more than a decade of persistence. He has a patient in captivity who is a guinea pig for him to try his new accomplishment on. It is the mysterious past of this patient that holds key to the story as it unfolds. Told with the trademark panache of Pedro Almodovar, this film did not get the attention it deserved when it was released. It may be because Almodovar is a director who has made many films on gender issues and this one obliquely pays respect to that. It is also one of his latter films without Penelope Cruz. Such minor details aside, the film is a really good watch with Antonio Banderas showing us that he has it in him to step up to the plate when required, in the acting department.
Subramaniapuram (India, 2008) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated)
‘Subramaniapuram’ is a film that brought a zest to movie making in the Tamil film industry. Set in 1980, the film follows the story of five educated unemployed men in the rural heartland of Tamil Nadu (in South India). This is one of my personal favourites. (Spoilers Ahead) What starts as a simple romance slowly turns into a violent tragedy. The film gets its setting and feel right but the tale could have held on its own in any era. The cinematography and music add to the merit of the movie. There are some really good touches. It requires a certain vision to have one of the five men as physically challenged. That explains the whole movie in the opening sequence and in the climax without having to utter a word. A must watch.
Movies I Saw This Week
Philips and the Monkey Pen (India, Malayalam,2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]
An absolutely delightful story of a boy who fears his mathematics classes like the plague and who has a streak of trouble making. Congratulations are in for the producers who showed the guts to finance a film with a young kid at the centre of the story. They also made sure that no effort is spared in the making of it, as is evident from the good production quality. A special mention must also be made of the background score which sets the right tempo for the movie. All this fade into the background when compared with the wonderful performances of the kids in the film. Some of the scenes and lines are too hilarious and it is all helped by the fact that the film has a story to tell. Two thumbs up.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013 [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]
This one is about the trip a ‘grandfather’ takes his grandson with him to return the grandson to his father. In other words, it is an excuse for a road trip in which a young man dressed up as a grandpa takes a younger brat with him to play a series of pranks on unsuspecting strangers. At many levels, the film tries to be outrageous and funny but usually is just outrageous. There are a few funny moments though but they are far and few in between the ones that concentrate on body parts. Recommended for those who can find fun in toilet humour and juvenile jokes.
Shaadi Ke Side Effects (India,2014) [ IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]
It remains a mystery how some movies get sequels in Bollywood when the original itself was a pain to watch. The only good thing about the movie is the title and even talents like Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar are wasted in roles that demand nothing of them. A married couple have a kid and then they have difficulty in coping up the upbringing of the kid. You see, they are having a kid for the first time. So they have no prior experience in the matter. Then the merry go around starts when they start imagining problems when there are none. They start lying to each other with the premise that small lies lead to a happy marriage. Some stretch of imagination, I must say. I guess the filmmakers could have just titled the film ‘Baby’ because that in their opinion is the side effect of a marriage.
Imtiaz Ali makes nicely packaged movies with zero content like ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Rockstar’ where the actresses put in shoddy performances in the name of acting. ‘Highway’ is just another addition to the list. A young girl gets kidnapped on the eve of her wedding and then she has a bout of Stockholm syndrome. The movie then becomes an excuse for taking the lead characters around the country on a trip with a very easy ending to boot. Even the music by A R Rahman is tepid. An absolute bore of a movie in which even Randeep Hooda fails to perform.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Indie Game: The Movie (2012) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
A look at the world of independent game developers and the passion they bring to the scene. Insightful.
Anne Hathaway is the wet behind the ears office assistant to Meryl Streep in the adaptation of the novel by the same title reportedly based on true events. The characters are all so well etched out that Meryl Streep could be held liable for torturing kids. Even when playing a character everyone loves to hate, she oozes class and literally makes the film her own. The dialogues are razor sharp and quite often acerbic. If you want a primer on how to torture employees, this one could be of great help and still be entertaining.
Romancing the Stone (1984) [ IMDb: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]
A writer goes to Colombia to rescue her kidnapped sister and in the process gets into an adventure she didn’t bargain for. She also meets her love in dashing Michael Douglas. Kathleen Turner though does not make it count. She largely has a wooden performance but this works in her favour as that is what the role demands. That also makes it a case of good casting. Also thrown in are few rides in the forest and a very happy ending. A good watch for a lazy evening.
A box office hit from the glory days of Michael Douglas, ‘Fatal Attraction’ tells the story of an obsessive woman a man wants to avoid to save his marriage. The performances are all top notch and the film has the mood of a thriller which is what separates it from the countless movies based on a similar theme. Even when it is predictable and has an obvious ending, the film keeps you interested with the pacy screenplay and antics of the characters which are at times unpredictable.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Noah’ because it a Darron Aronofsky film starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.
Did you know: The real Frank Abagnale Jr. appears in Catch Me If You Can as the French policeman who arrests Di Caprio.
I was looking for some inspiration to pen the blog this week after a truly hectic schedule. What else could be a better movie to kick start this edition than this Italian classic about a poorly educated man who is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poetry to finally convey his love to the woman he has always loved. The legendary poet from Chile moves into an Italian island and the protagonist who is a postman gets to deliver mail to Neruda. In the process, he befriends Neruda who aids him through his poetry and helps the postman to speak up to the village beauty he has always admired, from a distance. A blend of romance, music and poetry, this film shows the endless possibilities of literature. Shot elegantly, the movie sets the right tone and is one of the really unique pieces in movie making. Two thumbs up.
A Royal Affair (Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB”7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
‘A Royal Affair’ is a movie which unfortunately released in the same year as ‘Amour’, thus sealing its fate as the close loser to the latter at all the major awards in the Foreign Language category in 2012. On its own, the film is a rather engaging one and has been shot with the grandeur it deserves. The heart of the story is about an ordinary man who stretches the limits of imagination and customs to do good for the common man in an era when the buck stopped at the king’s door. A queen married to an insane king falls in love with a physician who has progressive ideals. The film is based on a true story concerning the Danish monarchy. As one critic noted, falling in love can change the world or at least the fate of a nation. Must watch.
Movies I Saw This Week
August: Osage County (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]
I was looking forward to this movie because the play on which it is based was very successful and it is not every other day that Mery Streep and Julia Roberts share screen space. The film though turned out to be close to a dud but is salvaged by the acting prowess of the thespians on screen. A family tragedy leads to the reunion of a few strong willed and opinionated women in a family in Oklahoma. Fireworks on screen should have ideally followed the setting but the film struggles to even ignite a spark. The movie fails to explore cinema as a medium and is constrained by the feel of a play which it is not able to shake off. An average effort.
About Time (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
The running joke about this movie is that Rachel McAdams falls in love in movies only with people who can time travel. Here, the man in her life is an ordinary guy who thinks about making his life better as opposed to changing the world when he discovers that the ability to time travel runs in the family. He tries to replay moments in his life he cares for, until they reach perfection. Though the film requires suspension of disbelief, you are willing to play along as it involves the extraordinary love story of an ordinary man. I like romantic movies with good production values, decent acting, good lines and soft music. I liked this one.
The Family (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]
Robert De Niro is the head of an Italian mob clan who hides out in France with his family under a witness protection programme. The family wrecks havoc in the local community with their trigger happy violent ways. Though I warmed up to the premise of the movie, it got too hot to handle with its unnecessary violence as it progressed. What could have been a comedy soon turned into a ultra violent movie. Catch it on TV when you have nothing else to do.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Retrospective
There are some deaths which make you feel that they are so unfair. At 46 years Hoffman was not even near the peak of his acting abilities. He had so much to offer. Though it is a cliche to say this, it can be said without any exaggeration that his death is an irreplaceable loss. My tribute to the one of the greatest actors of his generation.
Two decades ago Oregon became the first US state to legalize physician assisted suicide. The documentary follows the lives of a few terminally ill people as they grapple with the question in light of the new law. Heartbreaking.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Non-Stop’ because Liam Neeson is the new angry middle aged man.
Did you know: Walt Disney refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because he had made “that disgusting movie Psycho.”
This is the debut feature of Jafar Panahi who has had to fight a witch hunt by the conservative Iranian establishment over the years. Like all his films, this one is also a simple tale. A girl goes to the market to buy goldfish. Like many Iranian films this one also relies heavily on the histrionics of child actors. Though they make excellent actors, it requires immense patience to direct children who throw tantrums at regular intervals. In ‘This is not a film’, one of Panahi’s works, he shows the difficulty of directing the protagonist in the White Balloon. All I can say is that it is worth the pain and effort. Highly recommended.
This is the true story of Mussolini’s secret lover and his child with her. Covering an issue kept under wraps till now, this films is more insightful for the revelations about the early life of Mussolini. Mussolini was a turncoat and an opportunist who frequently changed his ideology to meet the mood of the populace. His disowning of his son and his megalomaniac nature are exposed in this film. The movie has the feel of an epic. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is absolutely stunning as she is in many films. It is a shame that she has not really made it big in Hollywood. Recommended only for those who have an interest in politics.
Whoever says that the 80s were about bad college romances should take a look at this dangerously funny movie. Propriety is thrown out of the window as quirky characters make a flight little more than exciting. Involving gags that hold back nothing, this is a comedy you should not miss.
A man has to reach home for Thanksgiving. His determination to be home is matched only by the difficulties he must overcome to be with his family. Add to this mix a stranger who specializes in creating chaos. What you get is a John Hughes movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy in roles that seem tailor made for them. The film has been an inspiration for many other road movies. It is also one of the best roles of John Candy, who died young at the age of 44. It makes me wonder at the glorious possibilities of what could have a stellar career. To be sure, he did memorable work in the movies he was in. In this one, he is even better than Steve Martin in the comedy department and that is something few can claim to be.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]
Any movie with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep needs no introduction. Here they play a couple who were once in love but now face a battle for the custody of their only child. Sentimental without being melodramatic, this film was a surprise winner at the Oscars, collecting 5 of them. Strong screenplay and directing only add to the performances of Streep and Hoffman. A masterclass in acting.
There are some movies which do not make anyone happy. ‘Jobs’ is one such movie. Steve Jobs had a lot of admirers during his lifetime for making a cult out of a brand. On the other side, he was universally despised by almost all who came in contact with him. He was also a complex character who refused accept his love child and refused to pay for child support but later started supporting her. This movie is Steve Jobs for dummies because beyond that it does not provide anything insightful about his life. The focus is on boardroom battles and personality clashes and not on innovation or design. Ashton Kutcher is a poor actor and he should stick to oddball romantic comedies. His depiction of the older Jobs walking with a stoop is painful to watch. The worst crime of the movie is that it does not shed any light on the products that made Jobs famous. The movie ends with Jobs second home coming to Apple. That is as good as making a movie on Bill Gates without mentioning Windows.
Two close friends who are mothers of teenage sons fall in love with each other’s sons. I guess they had to just come up with something provocative. The saving grace is that Naomi Watts and Robin Wright look absolutely marvelous and their acting is top notch. Otherwise there is nothing to waste your time on. I guess they just made it over a holiday. Surely a miss.
What Maisie Knew (2012) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]
A girl is at the center of a bitter custody battle between her parents. The best thing about the movie is that it is told through the eyes of the child and there are numerous moments when the camera tells the story without the aid of dialogues. It also has very well written characters who are normal people with shades of grey. One interesting thing about the movie is that the way you perceive the characters changes as the movie progresses. The foul mouthed mother has a soft side to her and the drug addict turns out to be a genial character. Recommended.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
A filmmaker friend of a murder victim decides to make a film on him when he gets to know that his friend’s ex-girlfriend is pregnant with the dead man’s child. The intention is to pay a tribute to his friend and also introduce the child to his father. Devastating. One of the saddest documentaries I have ever seen.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Rush’ because Ron Howard returns with a film on Formula 1.
Did you Know: Elizabeth Taylor married 8 times, twice to Richard Burton.
What happens when a NATO train with US soldiers is stopped in a small town in Romania because it does not have the transit documents? In times when the Bolivian President is not given a safe flight home, this film is also a reminder that even Romania can poke USA if it really wants to. This is the story told by Director Cristian Nemescu in one of those movies which is as farcical as it is serious. Stranded in a small town with corrupt local officials, the soldiers get to see a slice of the daily lives of the people of Romania. The acting is natural and believable. We are not talking of a masterpiece here but a normal entertaining movie. The film could have been sharper but the young director died immediately after the completion of the film.
Halfaouine : Boy of the Terraces (Tunisia, 1990) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]
Get a glimpse of Arab culture and life in this Tunisian movie which is a coming off age story. An adolescent boy and his curiosities are presented with poise by the director without losing the sensuality of it all. The film never gets voyeuristic and moves at a pleasant pace. The story is universal but the setting and the characters make it special. The acting is so effortless that you may feel that you are not watching a movie but a slice of life in Tunisia. Recommended for the viewer who is open to knowing new cultures and lifestyles.
Say Anything… (1989) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]
John Cusack may mean many things to many people but when I hear that name the first image that comes to my mind is the iconic scene of him holding up the stereo to play it outside his sweetheart’s house in the finely written romance ‘Say Anything’. This movie will never make it to the list of greatest movies ever made but this one will stay with you if you can pay attention to the good dialogues and scenes it has. Also, when the lady being wooed is Ione Syke, it does not hurt to look at the screen. In case you want to see more of her ‘The Rachel Papers’ is highly recommended in spite of it being a flawed movie. If you ever watch ‘The Rachel Papers’, check out the scene when the taxi leaves just as a kiss is going to happen. That is one of my favourite romantic scenes on screen. Coming back to ‘Say Anything’, just watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend on a lazy afternoon.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
Once in a while you watch a movie that just blows you away. With me the real world experience in such cases involves changing my posture from lying down in the bed/sofa to jumping up and grabbing the chair because it hits me that the movie deserves my full attention. ‘Eternal Sunshine…’ is one such movie. The movie wants to tell three things. Firstly, when lovers start out they look perfect to each other but then it is difficult to sustain the same passion unless you are willing to put that extra effort. Secondly, some people are made for each other and nothing can stop that. Thirdly, just as joy is part of life so is pain. Now, the real genius of the writer Charlie Kaufman (I am a huge fan) is how he makes a story to fit these ideas neatly into them and tell it without you realizing that you are being told the exact same things in a wonderful way. More than anything, I marvel at the ability of someone to think, conceptualize and finally put pen to paper on such an original screenplay which deservedly won the Oscar. It is interesting that in a film with Jim Carrey it is Kate Winslet who looks the odd character. The performances are alright, the direction is above average but the screenplay is awesome. While watching this masterpiece, try to think like a writer.
Out of Africa (1985) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]
A fiercely independent woman who would not be tied down by anything or to anybody meets her match in Africa. The people in question happen to be Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in this old world romance directed by Sydney Pollack. Visually stunning, tragic and emotionally draining. In the middle of all the excitement that the movie generates there is that feeling of impending doom. Based on a true story.
Movies I saw this week
To the Wonder (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]
Terrence Malick’s effort after ‘Tree of Life’ is a dud. Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams or Olga Kurylenko cannot save this film from doom. The dialogues are minimal and the movie tries to look high end art house cinema without much success. Still, I can watch this movie more than once just for the visual experience it gives. It is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in recent times. The locations are simply breathtaking but in the end all that comes to nothing for the lack of a story.
Ishkq in Paris (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]
Why I watched this movie? I don’t know. How I felt when I watching it? I certainly know. I should have known better. When Preity Zinta was giving interviews saying she was confident about the movie because it has a good story, I should have read between the lines. The first half of the film is ‘Before Sunrise’ copied scene by scene. The second half? Don’t even bother. Somebody please tell Zinta that she is no more the bubbly girl of ‘Dil Se’. I don’t know whether I was hallucinating but the male lead had kohl lined eyes throughout. Spooky. Also, trash.
The Watch (2012) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]
Heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth? The case is not exactly that here because there is no broth to begin with. Four men defend their neighborhood against alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are so bad in the film that the aliens’ acting looks better. Still, if you have an IQ in single digits you may enjoy it but such people are harder to find on earth than aliens.