Edition 94

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Burning (South Korea, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Burning’ does not hit the viewer hard for about three-fourth of its duration. It is only after viewing the entire film that the finer points of the plot fall into place. Inconsequential scenes make sense and random dialogues fit in a jigsaw puzzle which looks different even after assembly based on the perspective of the viewer. The director uses metaphors abundantly while holding a mirror to contemporary Korean society. This mystery thriller tells the story of three youngsters who are acquaintances but share something far more than what is apparent. If you do watch this memorable movie, try to read up on it. The various interpretations by viewers of the scenes make for some interesting reading. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey, 2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

From the director of ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ (a favourite of mine) and ‘Winter Sleep’ comes this three hour long movie of a young graduate trying to understand his role in the Turkish society while discovering himself. The movie is told through a series of long conversations with friends, family, strangers and a particularly acerbic yet incisive writer. The conversations reveal more about the protagonist and the people in the countryside of Turkey. Definitely worth three hours of your life.


Shoplifters (Japan, 2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Enigmatic and filled with surprises, ‘Shoplifters’ is a modern Japanese classic which showcases the craft and control of its director. A family’s life changes when they take in a small girl into their setup where they themselves thrive on stealing from shops and supermarkets. The director is successful in manipulating the viewers’ emotional response as the film progresses. The actors emote with perfection and the roving camera is a silent observer when the chickens come home to roost. Highly recommended.

Capernaum (Lebanon, 2018) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]


Acclaimed Lebanese director Nadine Labaki literally drags the viewer through the streets of Beirut in this movie about a young boy too sincere for his own good and yet corrupted by the environment. The clear triumph of Mrs Labaki is her ability to extract some phenomenal acting performances from the characters especially the protagonist. Poverty, refugee problems and parental responsibilities are dealt with in this movie which does tend to get a bit out of hand in the latter half. For all the good cinema on show, I had this nagging feeling that this could have been a much better movie with a better climax had more thought gone into the screenplay.


Border (Sweden, 2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.0]

Featuring what some call as the weirdest sex scene in cinema history, ‘Border’ offers a strange and compelling story about people on the fringes of the society. A lady border guard whose USP is her sensational sense of smell finds the reasons for her awkwardness and the dark history of eugenics in Sweden. The movie is, as all good movie must be, a director’s show. A special mention for the makeup department for transforming the actors who do not look anything like their real life personalities.


Instant Family (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.0]


A light-hearted comedy which plays it by the book and still keeps the viewer engaged enough to care about the proceedings on screen. Based on the life of the scriptwriter, the movie tells the tale of a couple who look for adopting a child and end up with three. Rose Byrne pulls off a heart warming performance as a mother trying to understand her new children. There are no twists in the tale but there are some genuinely funny moments. Hope Hollywood can make more of the same.


On the Basis of Sex (2018) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]

There are two or three cracking dialogues in this movie. One is when a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg is asked by her dean on why she chose to study law when a man could have had her seat at the Harvard Law School. This biopic on the Supreme Court judge looks at the making of a legal eagle and her family life. While successful in depicting the entrenched misogynistic attitudes of her times, the movie has glaringly obvious ideas on how to also show the times. The number of times the characters smoke on screen must be some sort of a record for the amount of fumes on display. Maybe the director just wanted to drive home the point that smoking in public was a normal thing those days. Felicity Jones performs with earnestness as RBG but if you want to know the judge better, watch the documentary RBG. The documentary is better than the movie.

The Mule (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%, My Rating: 5.5]

Good old Clint Eastwood returns to direct and act in a drama on a real life drug carrier who was the oldest in the world in that trade. How do we know? He was caught by the law enforcement and a reporter wrote a long article on it. Then Eastwood decided that this is what he was going to make a movie on. Notable more for the lack of drama and a sure sign that Clint Eastwood must be talking to chairs ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=933hKyKNPFQ ) nowadays, ‘The Mule’ is for large parts boring. For the remaining parts, you are left wondering: why was this movie made?


Holmes & Watson (2018) [IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 2.5]

Will Ferrell was once funny. Once as in, ‘once upon a time’ and not just one time. Now like the tagline of his movie ‘They Don’t Have a Clue’, he seems to have lost it, completely. Inane, idiotic and unfunny are the words that come to mind when ‘Holmes & Watson’ is mentioned. This movie is the opposite of comedy. Dreamt up by people who bring a bad name to slapstick humour and filled with feeble attempts to write funny situations, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of the Greek economy. Nothing can salvage it. I hear that medical marijuana has been made legal in many US states. Probably the writer and director had some medical condition.

Documentary of the Week

Leaving Neverland (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

A damning documentary on Michael Jackson in the words of his accusers. Those words carry much weight. Not for the weak of heart. Not for the worshipers of Michael Jackson. For those who seek the truth.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’

Did you know: Clint Eastwood, is an anagram for ‘old west action’

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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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Trailer:

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

Trailer:

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]

Unbroken

Trailer:

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]

birdman-click

Trailer:

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]

american-sniper-poster-small

Trailer:

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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Trailer:

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.”

Week 27

Movies: Non-English

A Hijacking ( Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

hijacking

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

Somali pirates have given a new topic for filmmakers for ideating and the world is now raising a toast to the Tom Hanks movie ‘Captain Philips’. Incidentally, an equally acclaimed film on a ship hijack was released in 2012. Based on real events, the Danish film ‘A Hijacking’ is a gripping drama about a hostage situation. The focus here is more on the long drawn out negotiations. A psychological cat and mouse which focuses on the people than on the events.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, 2011) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Once_upon_a_time_Anatolia_quad_lowres (Medium)-803

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jKgHqU1jrs

There are some movies which make me want to visit the locations where they were shot. For example, I went to Bruges in Belgium only because ‘in Bruges’ was shot there. Anatolia in Turkey is one region i would like to visit after watching ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’. The plot of the movie involves a police search for a dead body in Anatolia but then the film is not about the story. It is more an exploration of the terrain and its wild beauty. This movie is a visual treat even when most of the region is explored during the night. No wonder it won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes.

English Retrospective

Sixteen Candles (1984) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

sixteen-candles

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcKqtzj8LAg

The movie is a cult classic and one of the most rented movies on Netflix. Strangely, it still connects with teenagers, three decades after its release. This movie is a testament to the idea of beauty in simplicity. The story revolves around the sixteenth birthday of a girl. Though utterly predictable, the easy dialogues and carefree acting creates the right kind of ambiance. Almost all the credit for this goes to writer-director John Hughes who went on to make many memorable movies. An easy watch.

The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Last_king_of_scotland_uk

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV_QgKJFZP0

Idi Amin was rumoured to have blood in the list of drinks he used to have during his tyrannical rule of Uganda. Forest Whitaker becomes Idi Amin in a performance which clinched him the Oscar. His Oscar winning speech is one of the most sincere I have ever seen. Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-fGCHGTaGE . James McAvoy plays the Scot who became Amin’s personal physician. The movie has a brisk pace and is a piece of history told in an entertaining way. An underrated gem.

The Notebook (2004) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

notebook

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3G3fILPQAU

A rich girl falls in love with a poor boy. That is a plot which gives cliches a bad name but with ‘The Notebook’ the story gets a new appeal altogether. Shot in breathtaking locales with freshly minted dialogues, the story is a an easy romance. The good part is that the best dialogues belong to Ryan Gosling and he has a field day mouthing them. The movie almost made it to the top 25 romantic movies covered by me a fortnight ago. It would have been a shoo in if it had been more tightly edited.

Movies I Saw This Week

Monsters University (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBzPioph8CI

Coming to cliches, animation movies are now turning out to be a parody for real life cliches. In ‘Monsters University’ every single prop of a college movie is used which leads to mixed results. The story is as predictable as the plot of a Karan Johar film but the animation is exceptional. Some of the fine touches have to be viewed in slow motion. The animation movies are getting a little stale but this one is among the better ones to have come out in the last few years.

The Lone Ranger (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 58%]

lone ranger

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjFsNSoDZK8

When the producer of ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ series makes a movie with the venerable Johnny Depp as a native Indian, you expect more. Here, you get more of the same. They just forgot that they were shooting another movie with a more serious theme. Depp cracks the same type of jokes he had in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ with elaborate action scenes to keep the kids glued. Along the way they forget the story and by the end the viewer also does not care.

The Internship (2013) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%]

internship

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

I must admit that I now have a grudging admiration for the guys at Google. They made the longest corporate ad film and then got people to pay for watching it. Two guys who have zero skills land an internship at Google and then everything just works out perfect for them. They also educate us about various Google projects and products. In case you did not know, Google gives free food to its employees. Learn more such useful information as veterans like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make complete fools of themselves in this utterly boring film scripted to sell the goodness of Google.

The Canyons (2013) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

canyons

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5uTtNLUmCA

The only reason for watching this movie was the controversy over the working style of Lindsay Lohan. For such an apology for a movie, the real shock is that it is written by the same guy who wrote ‘Taxi Driver’.

Documentary Pick of the Week

American Movie (1999) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

american

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IzXD29halw

Some naive people want to be filmmakers. They have no money, no talent, no story and no sense. They do have truckloads of passion. A documentary which follows such a group. Tragically hilarious.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘12 Years a Slave‘ because Steve McQueen makes movies which are painful to watch, in a good way.

Did you know: Sally Field who played Tom Hanks’ mother in ‘Forrest Gump’ is only 10 years older than him.