Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

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

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Trailer

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

Movies I Saw This Week

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

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Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

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

 

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Trailer

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

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

No Escape

Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

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

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Trailer

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

Documentary of the Week

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

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Trailer

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

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

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

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Edition 59

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Winter Sleep (Turkey, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Raing:7/10]

Winter Sleep

Trailer:

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 2104, this is another masterwork from perennial Cannes favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Set in the interiors of Turkey where everyone knows everyone, this movie tells the tale of a retired actor whiling away his time, doing pretty much nothing. He has a hotel to manage and he also writes articles on mundane issues. His running feuds with his wife and his divorced sister pale into insignificance when he has to address issues created by his tenants. The film captures the breathtaking locales and the cultural hues of Turkey. The performances are competent and the film has its moments but those moments are few and far between. This, is especially testing when you have to muster the patience to sit through 196 minutes of the movie. If it had chopped off 100 minutes from the running time, the movie would have looked much better. For its unjustifiable duration, ‘Winter Sleep’ can induce sleep even in the summer.

Movies I Saw This Week

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

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This movie was a commercial flop and largely overlooked by the audiences in spite of the critical acclaim it received. Maybe some movies are not lucky enough at the box office because there is enough to suggest that this movie is one of the best action films of 2014. Set in the future where one man (Tom Cruise, who else?) is humanity’s last hope to fight an alien invasion, this movie brings in a cocktail of time travel, hi-tech combat and lofty ideals. Although Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give mediocre performances when they could have easily put their histrionic qualities to test, the movie more than holds on its own. With enough twists and turns, it keeps you engaged without getting boring, inviting you to second guess the various permutations and combinations that are possible. Recommended.

The Imitation Game (2014) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Imitation Game

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Based on the life of legendary Alan Turing and his seminal contributions to the Allies’ efforts in breaking the German code during the Second World War, ‘The Imitation Game’ tries to delve into the life of a genius tormented by his sexuality. The movie has been tirelessly promoted in the build up to the Oscars but it is a  good movie but not good enough. Benedict Cumberbatch gives all he can to bring Turing to life on screen and he is not let down by an ensemble cast, with another notable performance from Keira Knightley. The movie has a riveting background score and is ably directed. The moral dilemmas of Mr. Turing and his inability to make sound judgement when he is enjoined to not speak about a spy, are all captured well. The asperity of Mr.Turing did not endear him to many but that wouldn’t be the main roadblock for Cumberbatch to achieve Oscar glory. Unfortunately for him, there are better performances this year.

Unbroken (2014) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

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The moot point while watching ‘Unbroken’ is whether a better director could have done a better job with the source material on hand. Louis Zamperini, on whom the story is based, was a champion runner, decorated war hero and an inspirational speaker. His life had countless moments which would have looked great on screen but in director Angelina Jolie’s hands those moments look forced and tame. ‘Unbroken’ tells the story of Zamperini’s unlikey rise from humble origins, his remarkable success in athletics and the relentless torture that he had to undergo in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War. Jack O’Connell gives an impressive performance in a breakout role. ‘Unbroken’ is a movie of great ambitions but lacks a soul. It is a lesson on how clichéd one can become when making a biopic and how disrespectful that can be to a legend who deserved better than this.

Birdman (2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes;92%, My Rating: 8.0]

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I am an admirer of deirector Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I have loved his works like ‘Babel’ and ‘Amores Perros’. ‘Birdman’ is a shift from his usally dark depressing themes. In fact, there is even an element of mischief in this movie, which is being categorized as a comedy. The merits of that categorization aside, the film tells the story of a thespian who is tryng his best to stay relevant. Micael Keaton delivers a heavy duty performance as the protagonist who has seen better days. Shot in 10 minute uninterrupted sequences using one camera, the movie tries to play around with cinematic formats. Another highlight is an unconventional background score which many have hailed as groundbreaking but I found to be annoying. In terms of performances, this is the best performce by an ensemble cast in 2014. Michael Keaton will go head to head with Eddie Redmayne for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. The movie is also a strong contender in the film, director, cinematography and screenplay categories. The major disadvantage that the movie faces is that it is not a mass entertainer like ‘Boyhood’. This could prove to be its Achilles heel.

American Sniper (2014) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:74%, My rating:7/10]

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There is no movie dividing the critics and the audiences like this one. Seen by some as an unapologetic look at the American side of the story in the Iraq war and by another equally vociferous section as the story of a true American hero, this movie tells the story of the most successful sniper in the history of America who finally died from the gunshot wounds he received from ‘friendly fire’ when he was  in USA. Judged purely on quality, the movies is a poor cousin of ‘The Hurt Locker’. There are many action sequences in the movie but none of them are good enough to capture your full attention. Many such scenes get repetitive. If the intention was to create a contrast between the life in a war zone and life at home, then the movie resoundingly fails to do so. The viewer will not be able to feel any compassion for the character on screen who is a monstrous sniper. Amercans have every right to (in fact, they should) honour a brave soldier who put his life in danger to serve his country. War movies are not supposed to be an examination of what the enemy feels about getting killed. Even if the hero here was convicted of slander in real life, it does not take away his service to the nation. Inspite of this, the movie is a very tedious one to watch and does not deserve the high praise it is getting. It also does not deserve the scorn that seems specially reserved for it. American sniper, in the end, is a an average movie about a great sniper directed by a once great director.

The Good Lie (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8/10]

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After a mish mash of snipers, tortured geniuses, former superheroes and real life superheroes, comes the time to review a movie which is undoubtedly the feel good movie of the year. ‘The Good Lie’ is not a movie that will move mountains or has a scale or budget that will put it in the top league but for the sheer quality that it produces from its limited budget, it is one of the must see movies of 2014. The story traces the lives of orphaned Sudanese children trying to escape civil war in their country and their journey to USA. Effortlessly funny and charming, this movie has its heart in the right place. With enough doses of humour without becoming a comedy movie, the film is about real people in the real world. Must watch.

Documentary of the Week

Ivory Tower (2014) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating: 6.5/10]

Ivory Tower

Trailer:

A look at the American college system. Very interesting to watch but misses some salient points.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Timbuktu’. Should a good one. Also, I have been close to Timbuktu but never been there.

Did you know: Courtesy: http://www.rogerebert.com Roger Ebert’s review of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ quoted below. “Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”