Edition 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

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

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Trailer: 

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

Movies I Saw This Week

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

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Trailer: 

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

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

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Trailer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documentary of the Week

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

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

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

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

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Week 17

Movies: Non- English

Good Bye Lenin ! ( Germany, 2003) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIjSaHUKD5I

A mother in East Germany goes into a coma for 8 months. When she returns from it the doctors tell her son that she should not be subjected to any exciting or upsetting news. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but the circumstances are far from normal as East and West Germany happened to be unified when she was in the coma. To make matters worse, she happens to be a staunch supporter of East Germany. Now her son must go the extra mile to create an illusion of East Germany for his mother. The film tells the story of his efforts (often with hilarious results) at trying to achieve that. This heartwarming tale is as personal as it is political. In trying to recreate East Germany the film delves into what the change really means for the man on the street. It is a an easy watch. Recommended.

Infernal Affairs ( Hong Kong, 2002) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes; 95%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4R3nHkqyfM

This film from Hong Kong which is the original of ‘The Departed’ is so good that it is the only instance in the history of Academy Awards that the award for screenplay went to a film already made in another language. Made at a fraction of the cost of ‘The Departed’, it is considered by many to be better than the remake. The story revolves around a crime syndicate which has a mole in the police while the police also have their man inside the syndicate. The race is to find out who will expose the other first. Racy and with more twists than any movie in recent history, the film is told at a pace which will keep you at the edge of your seat. Crime has always interested me as a genre and if you share the interest, this is a must watch film.

Hollywood Retrospective

Citizen Kane (1941) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes; 100%]

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

If I had to make a list of movies to see before I die, ‘Citizen Kane’ would be in the top three. Words are not enough to describe this monumental piece of film making. No wonder that it has consistently (except for the last vote) topped the list of American Film Institute’s poll for the greatest movie of all time. Though made in 1941, it has never bored me on multiple viewings and each time I have discovered something new. Besides a great story told in the most engaging way, the movie was groundbreaking for the innovations in shooting and lighting it brought to the world of cinema. It was the first film to use ‘deep focus’ which is evident in the scene in which the child is seen playing outside the home as the parents discuss inside. It introduced many innovations including shots of the camera passing through objects and the sense of lighting in the film is unrivaled. The maniacal passion of Orson Welles is transformed onto the screen. The film was cruelly neglected at the Academy Awards due to pressure from businesses which were purportedly depicted in a poor light in the movie but with each passing year the film has gained in stature. The story is that of a business magnate who dies with his last word being ‘rosebud’. The film is a journalist’s attempt to decipher meaning of the word and this takes us on an biographical account of the protagonist. Don’t miss the greatest American film ever made.

The English Patient (1996) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

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

Winner of nine Oscars, ‘The English Patient’ is the closest to poetry in cinema. Each scene has been choreographed to perfection  so much so that even violence looks poetic. Unforgettable images which are too many to mention. The film is based on the international best selling novel by the same title. The story has been modified and ends before the novel ends. The effect of adapting from a well written novel is that the words are weighed before they are spoken. Not even a sentence is in excess. The film revolves around a spy who feigns memory loss when captured by Allies during the Second World War. Like him, all who deal with him are also going through the loss of their loved ones. The bed ridden spy who is awaiting his death has a passionate and ultimately doomed love story to tell. This is not the type of movie everyone will enjoy. It requires patience and heightened cinematic sensibilities to fully appreciate what is on screen. It is also one of the few movies which led me to despair at the unfolding human tragedy on screen. An absolute must watch in my opinion.

As good as it gets (1997) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXHxg6Ug9GM

There are some movies which have so many good dialogues that you are willing to remember a few of them. “You make me want to be a better man” is one of the most romantic dialogues I have ever heard. The movies is not all soft and sweet. On being asked how he rates women so well, the novelist replies, ” I think of a man and then I take away reason and accountability.” The movie is the story of a misanthrope who has a soft core and who keeps away from people to avoid being hurt. I absolutely adore the dialogues in the movie but the best part is that all the characters are so well etched out and the casting is also good. Even the fringe characters have some really good lines. Again a must watch if you ask me.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Story of Luke (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3c6Jy5sHhc

An autistic young man’s efforts to be self reliant. The movies is an above average attempt and has good dialogues and acting. It does not have a triumphant tone or any sense of fatalism. It keeps things practical. With little more effort it could have been a really good movie. I am not complaining though.

D Day (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 69%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NlCkqBGnRY

The idea of the movie germinated after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. If Americans can do it why can’t India get Dawood Ibrahim? The film explores the possibility of such an operation. Since the director is Nikhil Advani who has given only monumental flops after his debut hit ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, I was expecting a pathetic film but I am happy to report that the film moves so quickly that it papers over the lack of logic until the climax where things get out of hand. Strictly a one time watch and that too if you like action thrillers.

Lootera (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

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

Vikramaditya Motwane is a promising director whose debut film premiered at the Cannes. His second outing is visually rich but he seems to have sacrificed pace for creating a brooding romance which is painfully slow in most parts. Anyone who has read O Henry stories will be able to guess what is going on and what will happen. The movie has its heart in the right place. Wish the editor had the scissors in the right place too. Still, I would recommend this one as it is any day better than the masala movies which rule the roost in India.

G. I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TPPWVoXBUk

What is the point? How many movies will they make like this before they sleep in the sand? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Super Size Me (2004) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Lkyb6SU5U

One guy decides to eat only at McDonald’s for a month and tries to monitor how it affects his health. Quite entertaining. It also made McDonald’s change its menu. Now that is what I call an achievement. He also got nominated for an Oscar.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Prisoners’ because it has Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Did you know: Football legend Pele has acted in eight movies and written story for two of them.