Edition 83

The Non-English Movie of The Week

First They Killed My Father (Cambodia, 2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:88% , My Rating: 7.5 ]

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After a couple of failed attempts at movie making, Angelina Jolie finally hits the sweet spot with her deadpan style which is suitable for a movie which deals with agony and intensifying despair. Set in Cambodia during the infamous Khmer Rouge regime and based on an autobiographical account of the events, this movie is a serious yet nuanced take on life during the regime as well as the disintegration of a way of life. Jolie’s success is also down to the fact that she resists the temptation of sidelining the central character in the narration. The movie unfolds through the eyes of the child and her family’s fervid attempts to stick together. The movie practically proceeds through a series of compelling events. ‘First They Killed My Father’ is a movie that deserves to be seen and applauded.

Movies I Saw This Week

Baby Driver (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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‘Baby Driver’ navigates the zone which is between the border of pop flick and high art. Though it has some tired premises like ‘one final heist before retirement’, the movie manages to hold attention by the sheer pace of the action it offers and and a good recycling of cliches. The central character of the movie is the driver of a getaway car for bank robbers. He has his quirks but his self assured demeanor is tested as the story progresses. It would be wrong to say that ‘Baby Driver’ is a all brawn and no brains story. Nevertheless, one may enjoy it more if the brain is left at home.

Who is Alice (2017) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated , My Rating:7.0 ]

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This is a surprisingly good movie with a solid screenplay and fine acting. It tells the tale of a struggling actress trying to juggle her personal and professional life. Without divulging much about the story, it can be said that the whole movie is a setup towards an unexpected climax. In fact, the movie makes more sense with the twist in the tale. Another striking feature of the movie is the uniformly good performance by every character in the movie. ‘Who is Alice’ is a movie which is not going to have a widescreen release or many awards to its credit but it is a very competent piece of film making that promises rich rewards for the discerning viewer.

American Made (2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:87% , My Rating:7.0]

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‘American Made’ is about a real life pilot who got his cake and ate it too. He worked for the CIA and on the same trips smuggled drugs to the US. This movie does not offer anything novel but has the same ideas that sustain this kind of an enterprise. The story line borrows heavily from previous movies about arms dealers like the ‘Lord of War’ and many Oliver Stone flicks. This is not to suggest that the movie is a dud. It is fairly engaging and at times even revealing. Tom Cruise is still in Mission Impossible mode but with shoddier clothing. Watch it if you like flicks which are comforting because you can easily predict what is going to happen in the next scene.

Wind River (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:91% , My Rating:7.5 ]

The debut directorial venture of the writer of ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’, is a tour de force. It is a slow burning crime investigation which builds up to the grand finale. The sense of sadness is palpable throughout the film. The wild and cold background is a major contributor to the sense of intrigue and hopelessness that surrounds the life of the people on screen. I developed a sense of respect for the victim and her strong will to survive; a mission in which she fails. ‘Wind River’ is more than a thriller. It is a story of people battling the odds. It is a story which makes you think. It is one of the best movies of the year.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.0]

Is there a movie in which Adam Sandler is a better performer than Dustin Hoffman? The answer is an emphatic yes. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ was screened at Cannes in the competition section. I am not convinced of its Cannes level quality but the movie is a good one time watch. The family of a moderately famous artist comes together for various reasons. The interactions between them unleash the hidden emotions of each of them. The movie is a character study with the parent-child relationship being the focus of the story. The favourite son played by Ben Stiller is the polar opposite of his half brother played by Adam Sandler and it is made abundantly clear to them by the father who his favourite is. This movie is a sad and poignant one in most parts.It is fairly riveting for the family drama that it portrays. Watch it for the acting. Watch it for Adam Sandler.

Gerald’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Based on the novel by Stephen King, this movie is one of the triumphs of the year. It is a survival story on the surface but has multiple strands that make it a psychological thriller. A women is chained to her bed in a freak accident when her husband dies in their remote house. The distraught lady has to fight her inner demons to not only survive but also to find a way out of the quagmire. In such a survival movie, the odds are that the person will live to tell the tale (Spoilers ahead) but I was always second guessing on how she would wriggle out of the situation. I thoroughly  enjoyed watching this movie. It is a cat and mouse chase of the highest order: the one between you and your mind.

The Beguiled (2017) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, My Rating:6.0]

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Sophia Coppola won the best director award for this movie at the Cannes film festival. I could not figure out why. She has practically reshot an earlier version of the film starring Clint Eastwood with no significant additions. I may be biased by my knowledge of the climax in the previous version but then Sophia Coppola does not add anything substantial to the movie. For the uninitiated, the movie tells the story of a wounded soldier who is tended by a group of women. The sexual tensions and the personal equations lie at the heart of the story. The film does not warrant anything more than a single watch and that too only for those who have not seen the original.

Annabelle: Creation (2017)  [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:70% , My Rating:6.0]

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‘Annabelle: Creation’ is a horror movie for the sake of some cheap thrills. It has unnecessary scenes in which the sole aim of the director is to frighten the audience for no rhyme or reason. Most of the scary scenes in the movie do not contribute to he development of the story and come with no particular reason at a specific point in the story. The setting of the movie itself is dubious and creating a backstory for an average movie is only with the intent of milking the franchise. Horror movies can be much better and classy. For starters, watch ‘The Shining’ or ‘Let the Right One In’.

Documentary of the Week

Russia with Simon Reeve (2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: Not rated, My Rating: 8.0]

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On the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, BBC takes you on a trip across the breadth of Russia. Filled with stunning visuals and insights on life in Russia, this a documentary series worth every minute of its three hour run time.

Eagerly waiting for: Roman J. Israel, Esq. starring Denzel Washington.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg is the Godfather of Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow.

75: Platinum Edition

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Son of Saul (Hungary, 2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My rating: 9.0]

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Trailer

One of the most emotionally draining movies of all time, ‘Son of Saul’ effortlessly canters into the status of a classic. With accolades which include top prizes at assorted film festivals including Cannes, and the Best Foreign Movie at the Oscars, the movie is a compelling tour-de-force. The story revolves around a Jew who is tasked with handling ‘operations’ in the Auschwitz concentration camp and his desperate attempts to organize a religious burial for his son who is gassed to death. ‘Son of Saul’ is one of the most original films I have ever seen.The camera focuses on the protagonist and the story is told through his silent despair. Even when the background is mostly out of focus, the horror at the concentration camp is very much in focus. The utter disregard for human life and the clockwork precision of activities at the camp would have been shocking if they had not been deeply moving. This is a movie you will find difficult to forget.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:62%, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Srinivasa Ramanujan was a self taught genius who could have revolutionized the field of mathematics but for his untimely death. In his short life span he was able to create ripples in the lake that is mathematics. The movie version shines a light on his remarkable life but is let down by the sloppy acting of Dev Patel. His acting is still in the infancy of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ days. Jeremy Irons saves the day by virtually carrying the scenes with his screen presence and dialogue delivery. The hackneyed script meanders along before it is set on its due course. There are some redeeming factors which don’t let the film sink but a far better movie would do justice to S. Ramanujan. Till then, if you want to see a movie with a mathematics genius, watch ‘Good Will Hunting‘.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.0]

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’10 Cloverfield Lane’ would have been a classic but for its title. That sentence will make sense when you watch the full movie. A young woman finds herself in an underground bunker after a car crash. Her rescuer claims to be protecting her from the perils of the outside world. She also has company in the form of another hostage. As her stay extends in the bunker, her will to escape gets stronger. The movie is engaging but the jarring background score in the initial parts of the movie distracts the viewer more than it thrills. Even then the anticipation of what lies ahead is never lost. There are some neat tricks in the screenplay like the scene in which the protagonist removes the mask and discovers that everything is normal. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a good sequel and lays the groundwork for another sequel but it could have been much more than that.

Eddie the Eagle (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:86, My Rating:7.5 ]

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There is nothing like a feel good movie. Feel good movies from the sports arena are especially captivating because who doesn’t love an underdog story? Eddie Edwards was not shooting for the stars when he chose skiing. His single-minded pursuit was for Olympic glory. He did not even want to win. He just wanted to be an Olympian. This movie, based on real events, is his story. Taron Egerton transforms to Eddie Edwards and makes him a lovable character. Hugh Jackman has fun in a role that helps him break the mold. Together they create an engaging duo in a well written movie with all the paraphernalia that accompany such movies. For a movie which has a guarantee of a happy ending written all over it, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ is a good watch.

Hush (2016) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:7.5]

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‘Hush’ is the story of a deaf-mute author who is under siege from a killer while alone at home. The killer reveals himself to her and makes it amply clear who is in the driver’s seat. What ensues is a cat and mouse game with the death of one of them as the only way to end the standoff. Deftly handled scenes and some fine acting make this movie a top class thriller. Definitely worth a watch.

The Ardennes (Belgium, 2015) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.5 ]

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‘The Ardennes’ from Belgium tells the tale of two brothers over the course of four years when one of them is convicted for a botched up crime. The movie has a wafer thin plot and moves at a languid pace for most part. It is predictable to some extent but it is the last twenty seconds of the movie that take it another level altogether. The easy thing to do to is to skip the scenes which don’t have dialogue in them. If it were to be reduced to one hour, the movie would have been a rather short and sweet package. Nevertheless, a good film.

The Jungle Book (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5] 

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‘Jungle Book’ brings a truckload of nostalgia. When I was a kid (that was a quarter of a century ago), ‘Jungle Book’ used to be one of the main cartoons on Doordarshan (India’s official TV network). From the remarkable run this movie version is having at the box-office, it is safe to assume that it is not just me who is having a bout of nostalgia. The success of the movie is also because of the technical wizardry at work. The scenes are captivating and the editing is sleek. There is no dull moment in this masterful production of a much loved novel.  There are some discordant notes though. In the original Jungle Book the snake ‘Kaa’ was a male and friendly to Mowgli but in the film Kaa becomes a female and becomes a dangerous adversary. Similarly, the monkey king is given mannerisms, crooning and dialogues similar to that of an African-American. Small discordant notes. Enjoyed the film though.

Creep (2015) [ IMDB:6.2, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My Rating:6.5]

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‘Creep’ is shot in the ‘found footage’ format. A craiglist ad entices a videographer to take up a one day shoot in a remote area. When he arrives there he finds his spooky but well meaning guest. The videographer’s sympathies soon turn into pure angst and fear. For once, he does not realize what he has signed up for. In some ways the naivete of the protagonist is the cause of all his perils. I wondered more than once on the improbability of the plot and also how easily the videographer’s concerns were rubbished by the police. If you sweep such inconsistencies under the carpet, the movie is a rather engaging watch. Mercifully, it is only 77 minutes long.

Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Malayalam,2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 7.5]

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Dubai is a mirage in the middle of a desert. It is in this Dubai that dreams are built and hopes are shattered. When the 2008 economic crisis and a cheating business partner create the perfect storm for a family, the family finds strength and courage from sources hitherto unknown to them. ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam’ tells the story of that family. Based on real events, the movie does not fall into the trap of being excessively sentimental. The makers also resist the temptation of making it a riches to rags to riches story. The focus is on people: within the family and outside it. Another piece of evidence to show that the best movies in India are made in non-Hindi languages.

Baaghi (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:5.9, Rotten Tomatoes:63%, My Rating:5.5]

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This movie is vehicle for Tiger Shroff to establish his credentials as an action hero. The problem with it is that it looks dated and the story and screenplay seem to have been stolen from the tomb of Tutankhamun. The director is so out of his ideas that he even recreates a song sequence of ‘Dil-Se’ in his thoroughly boring songs. Not content with this he also has a copy of a rain song which looks eerily similar to another song in the Tamil film ‘Mazhai’ (That movie is a remake of Telugu hit ‘Varsham’.  The formula is simple. Action sequence followed by a song. Repeat. The jokes could have been called stale but they were pickled a long time ago by other filmmakers to extend their expiry dates. Good that they shot most of the movie in Kerala because people there could have never understood the nonsense they were being subjected to.

Sairat (Marathi, 2016) [ IMDB:9.5, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 8.0 ]

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Official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival and on course to be the biggest Marathi film of all time, ‘Sairat’ holds a mirror to the deep seated caste prejudices in our society. Unnecessarily long at 170 minutes, the movie is about the budding love between youngsters from two different castes and the ramifications of their love. Told through the eyes of the leading lady (Rinku Rajguru in a National Award winning role), the film is a breeze in the first half. The director steadily builds the story and adds more gravitas to the proceedings in the second half. The score does no harm to his efforts. It is difficult to write more without giving away the plot details but suffice to say that the climax of the film is truly exceptional for the thought that has gone into it.

Fan (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:4.0]

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Nobody loves Aryan Khanna (that is, Shahrukh Khan) more than Gaurav Chandna (that is, Shahrukh Khan). The word ‘Narcissim’ traces its origin to a young Greek called Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in a pool. What if people turned suicidal after watching ‘Dilwale’ and ‘ Happy New Year’? SRK still has fans going crazy in front of his house when he cares to wave at them. He has fans willing to kill for him. He has fans willing to die for him. He has producers who make films for him. He has writers who indulge his megalomania. He can make films where the other actors have nothing to say or do. He can hold forth on issues affecting the nation as if he really cares. He can release films in movie halls and expect people to watch. But he cannot make even his fans watch a film called ‘Fan’. Alas, even SRK’s fans have brains.

Documentary of the Week

That Sugar Film (2014) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:64%, My Rating:6.5]

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A documentary chronicling the ill effects of sugar on the body. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kabali’ because there is no one like Rajnikanth

Did you know: “Shahrukh” means “face of the king”