Edition 79

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Train to Busan (2016) [IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

train-to-busan

Trailer

Although I have seen all the Oscar nominees in the foreign language category this year, they have mostly been drab stuff. ‘Train to Busan’ is not nominated for the Oscars but it is what Hollywood would envy the south Korean movie industry for. ‘Train to Busan’ is an out and out entertainer which does not hold back for even a second on the thrills. With well crafted characters and wonderfully choreographed sequences, it is an edge of the seat thriller with a novel take on the zombie genre. I have never been to South Korea but traveling in a train in South Korea is not an experience I look forward to. ‘Train to Busan’ is one of the best movies ever in the zombie category. It is a ride I highly recommend.

Movies I Saw This Week

La La land (2016) [IMDB:8.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.5]

la_la_land_ver4_xlg

Trailer

‘La La Land’ could have been a mediocre movie. If the music did not work, it could even have been a bad movie but the music worked. The acting worked. The direction was in secure hands. The producers wanted to change the story line but the director stuck to his guns. Much younger actors were to play the roles meant for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. All that did not happen. As the movie rightly portrays the glorious possibilities of life, it is those final few minutes and the last act of the story that takes it to heights seldom achieved in  movie making. ‘La La Land’ is the ‘Shawshank Redemption’ of romance for the impact the climax has on the movie. It is not just about the climax though. Emma Stone steals the show with her performance that should land her the Oscar. Ryan Gosling supports her in his own deadpan style. In many ways ‘La La Land’ is a reinvention of the musical genre.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

This movie based on a true story tells the tale of a war hero who refused to kill during war. Directed by the Hollywood bad boy Mel Gibson, the film is gory with many sequences of unfiltered action. That does create the setting of the war but takes away the story from its core of a conscientious objector’s fight to hold on to his beliefs and yet be an able servant to his country’s army. Andrew Garfield plays the character with a lot of heart but some inherent contradictions in the screenplay reduce the impact of his performance. It is also very difficult to understand, let alone appreciate his moral positions. By straddling the worlds of religion, country and army, Hacksaw Ridge delivers a message which is lost somewhere in the movie. Nevertheless, a one time watch.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) [IMDB: 8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

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Trailer

Let me say this aloud. If Casey Affleck does not get the Oscar for this performance, then it would be travesty of justice. ‘Manchester by Sea’ is the among the best two movies I have seen in the last one year. Superficially, it is about the story of man who is asked to take care of his brother’s young son after the death of his brother. The layers that the film unravels is akin to the experience of peeling onions. At every level, the story gets more interesting and new insights in to the life of the lead character emerge. Casey Affleck who is there in practically every frame of the movie delivers a pitch perfect performance. He brings to life the tortured soul whose awkward behaviour is based on his tragic past. The rest of the cast also perform competently. ‘Manchester by Sea’ is a great movie with a haunting and unforgettable performance by Casey Affleck. Must See.

Arrival (2016) [IMDB: 8.1 , Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 6.0]

arrivalposter

Trailer

‘Arrival’ has been generally well received but I am in the minority. (Spoilers ahead) It is a very pretentious movie where a linguist is called on to interact with aliens who have made contact with earth. The unfortunate part is that this is just a suitable prop for telling a story which has nothing to do with aliens. It is a manipulation of the intelligence of the audience with word plays on the concept of palindromes and another idea of the movie itself being a palindrome. Amy Adams plays a human character who for the sake of keeping up appearances to suit the screenplay of the movie does not believe in the notion of aging. So she looks the same at every age bracket she plays. Some cheap ideas to cement her credentials include the Sanskrit word for war and some other shenanigans of the director to suit the situation. Arrival is low level science, cheap propaganda and dimwitted screenplay disguised as high brow thriller.

Sing Street (2016) [IMDB: 8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

‘Sing Street’ is the most underrated movie of the year. It is also the feel-good movie of the year. A young boy in Dublin in 1985 falls in love with a girl at first sight. He makes the audacious move of inviting her to be in his band’s music video. She says yes. The problem is: he has to now form a band which he said he had. Filled with terrific music and authentic characters, ‘Sing Street’ delivers the kind of roller-coaster ride which keeps you engaged. The music videos that are shot are epic in nature. With some generous doses of humour and smartly crafted dialogues, the movie is also a toast to a time in history and the uninhibited freedom of adolescence. Highly recommended.

Southside With You (2016) [IMDB: 6.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

Based on the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama, this movie is an easy watch. Similar in style to ‘Before Sunrise’, the story takes us to the first few hours the couple spent together walking the streets and visiting exhibitions. The dialogues are casual and the attempt is clearly to set a leisurely pace and make it look as informal as possible. The best part is the casting with actors who bring genuineness to the characters. Recommended.

The Queen of Katwe (2016) [IMDB:7.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

queen-of-katwe-poster

Trailer

A true story of a chess champion from Uganda who creates history. ‘Queen of Katwe’ has its flaws but it has a deeply humane story at its heart which enthralls and captures the attention of the viewer. It does not stereotype the Africans in the movie. The everyday struggles of life in an impoverished neighbourhood and subsequent highs of international recognition are captured without exploiting or glorifying either of the them. There are no villains in the  movie. It is about normal people doing extraordinary things and (at the risk of sounding cliched ) the triumph of human spirit. Recommended.

Jolly LLB 2 (2017) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

The sequel to the award winning original is better made, has better production values and has much better actors in Annu Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. The plot is very engaging and at some points convenient. Akshay Kumar plays a lawyer who is as principled as Silvio Berlusconi. The hilarious introduction scene has him helping students rig  exams. The first half progresses well with the character having a change of heart. The second half is focused on the courtroom proceedings which are the best part of the movie with Saurabh Shukla and Annu Kapoor squaring off. There are many missing links in the story in the second half but they may be set aside as allowances for story telling. I personally liked the plot of the original more but this sequel holds on its own and delivers another success for Akshay Kumar. It is curious to note that every major hit of the actor in recent times has him play the ordinary man whereas other stars are scrambling to play larger than life characters.

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (2016) [ IMDB” 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My rating: 7.0]

dhruvangal

Trailer

The movie which has 16 characters and relates to events over 16 hours is a decent thriller from a debutante director. The infirmities in direction are easy to see in the initial part of the movie. For a regular movie watcher, it is not difficult to see where the story is proceeding. Some of the scenes are predictable. The movie rises above the average fare by some inventive film making which relies on different versions of the story. At the same time, the compulsion on the part of the director to make it like a jigsaw puzzle in which all the pieces fall in place at the end is a distraction. Some ambiguity would have helped. The novelty about the movie is that when the same story is said by two different people there is a role reversal between the hero and the villain.

Documentary of the Week

I am Bolt (2016) [IMDB: 7.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

Usain Bolt on what makes him normal. Other great athletes on what makes him special. The life and times of the fastest man in human history.

Eagerly waiting for: The Academy Awards

Did you know: There is something called the the Black List to determine the best screenplays for which there are no takers yet. Screenplays which figure prominently on the list have then been picked up and made into movies. Some of the films that saw the light of the day after featuring in the Black List are  Argo, American Hustle, Juno, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Spotlight and The Revenant. For more on this visit https://blcklst.com/ .

 

Week 12

Movies: Non- English

Merry Christmas (France, Germany, 2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKkAg4Ew-s

Based on true events, the film tells the story of enemies united by music and the spirit of Christmas. During the First World War, German, French and Scottish soldiers momentarily stop fighting on the eve of Christmas and celebrate it together. It is little difficult to describe because it looks surreal. If I were at the scene, I would have pinched myself. They just lie down their arms, exchange hugs, sing, celebrate Christmas and then go back to fighting. Nominated for Oscar in the best foreign language film category. Did not win. Even the Academy voters would have found the story too good to be true.

Mediterraneo (Italy, 1991) [ IMDB:7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

mediterraneo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU4G6mfyvhM

Exquisitely shot anti-war romance. Italian soldiers land in a Greek island during the World War 2. The story develops as they come in contact with the people (some of them too gorgeous) of the island. Picturesque locations and the laid back life of the islands have an enduring effect on the soldiers. Though set during the World War, it is a light movie which moves at a leisurely pace. Only thing that can hold you back from watching this Oscar winner is the damning fact that it was produced by Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the Bunga Bunga guy). On a serious note, worth a watch.

Hollywood Retrospective

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

fish called wanda

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

The thing about ganging up to commit robbery is that trust between the gang members is an absolute essential. The uproarious British comedy explores what all could go wrong when each member of a four member gang tries to double cross one another. Jamie Lee Curtis is in the role of a lifetime in this film which has comedy at its core but also has a story to tell. The sad thing is that many Indian movies have unashamedly stolen scenes from this movie. Otherwise, perfect weekend entertainment.

Raging Bull (1980) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

raging-bull

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVOwxsa4OM

The original boxing classic based on the life of Jake LaMotta. LaMotta reaches the heights by channeling his rage and anger on the boxing ring but as he climbs the charts, the same flaws take a heavy toll on his personal life. Robert De Niro deservedly won an Oscar for his performance but Scorsese had to wait till ‘The Departed’ to land his first one. The movie is a lesson on life. Don’t miss the title sequence in the beginning. I would have given Scorsese the Oscar just for that.

The Searchers (1956) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI2AZb04HAc

A man’s search for his last remaining relative who has been kidnapped at a tender age. His persistence and focus also leads to morally ambiguous situations. After years of staying away in a different culture would the girl still want to come back? Will he take her back when she discovers that she is no more like the girl he was searching for? Tough questions. Watch the movie which is often cited as the best Western ever made.

Movies I Saw This Week

Upside Down (2012) [IMDB: 6.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

upside down

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYvYGR7Ys4

A boy and a girl fall in love. Then they are separated. The boy does not let go and pursues the girl. Simple story. Only issue is that they live in different worlds which have opposite gravity. Since digitally everything is possible, we have a plastic world where things are so beautiful that you know they don’t exist. Since the science is spurious, the story also feels fake. Maybe, you can take your partner to the cinema, eat popcorn, discuss few things and occasionally look at the screen.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) [IMDB; 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DylgNj4YQVc

The initial idea behind big budget animation films was that kids will drag their parents to the cinema and help sell those extra tickets. Disney has laughed all the way to the bank on a couple of occasions milking this idea. Now things are not so simple. So they have to throw in Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams to attract the right kind of audience. The grown ups can ogle at the beauties while the children can have the real fun. The movie is strictly for kids. They may enjoy it.

Raanjhanaa (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9vmhxFucg

One line verdict: Not a bad film by the standards of Bollywood. Now the real thing (Spoilers ahead). If you think about it, ‘Raanjhanaa’ is a regressive film. The Muslim girl cannot marry any Hindu guy even when she has a choice of two. The leading lady is manipulative and does not really love any of her suitors. Truth be said, the film is about the love story of two different men for the same girl but it is all one way traffic. One of them is dumb enough to try his luck at marriage by posing as a Muslim and the other gets into politics of which he has no clue. The most sincere scene in the movie is when the men bond at the hospital bed of Abhay Deol. I have not lived in Uttar Pradesh but I can safely say that wrist slashing at the drop of a hat is not the preferred mode of wooing a girl in any part of the country. Come to think of it, Dhanush’s character is a bigger psycho than Shahrukh Khan of ‘Darr’. Here the stalking is direct and so in your face. Unfortunately Dhanush looks so earnest in his performance that you are willing to give him some sympathy but if you want to see why he won the National Award for best actor, watch ‘Aadukalam’. The good thing is that the movie does not really bore you and A R Rahman’s music helps the cause. Moral of the story for men: You cannot force anyone to love you and when you understand that get out of the scene. Otherwise you may find yourself in a coffin and the girl won’t even cry.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Man on Wire (2008) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

man on wire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIawNRm9NWM

Some people have too much courage or are they plain crazy? In which category would you place someone who walks 200 feet on a wire between two buildings at a height of 110 storeys? That too, without any safety features. One guy did it in 1974 and this is the documentary on him and his activities. Don’t try at home.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Lone Ranger’ because of Johnny Depp.

Did you know: The African Americans who acted in ‘Gone With the Wind’ were not allowed entry to the premiere of the movie.