Edition 95

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Birds of Passage (Colombia, 2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

An instant classic depicting the origin and evolution of the drug trade in tribal communities in Colombia, this movie focuses on the slow but sure impact of the drug trade and the new found wealth. People who get corrupted by money lose their marbles as they straddle the worlds of crime and custom. The tribal rituals to honour the forefathers become a show of strength. Honour and stubbornness become a potent mix, especially when illegal money is added to it. Great cinematography and a strong screenplay add to the quality on show. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Arctic (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Arctic’ at its core is a simple and at times cliched survival tale of a man who must find a way out of a plane crash in the Arctic. What will keep you engrossed is the acting and the surprises the director is able to pull off every time the viewer tries to second guess the flow of events. The bleak landscape and the impotence of man facing the wrath of nature add to the bleary feel of the movie. Recommended if you like survival tales.

Private Life (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I have not seen any recent movie which mimics life with such honesty without falling into the trap of predictability. ‘Private Life’ is a sincere, funny, poignant and resplendent piece of film making. A middle aged couple desperate for a child try all that is legally possible to attain their goals. The roller-coaster ride that they take is devastatingly close to real life with characters the viewer can identify with. You would not want to miss it.

Stan & Ollie (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I remember Laurel and Hardy as belonging to a different time and space. I have read comic books with them as protagonists and after a certain age the comedy duo just disappeared from my mind. The final years of the duo are brought to the big screen in this warm and spirited comedy. Even the biggest stars fade and some of them cling on to the vestiges of fame. Laurel and Hardy take a last lap of honour and resolve their differences in this sweet little movie. The best comic line though belongs to Hardy’s wife when she speaks about Laurel’s wife. Recommended.

Fighting with My Family (2019) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

This is one of the movies where the film is better than the real person it is based on. In fact, even as a standalone feature without any references to real life characters, this film is a thoroughly enjoyable watch with some truly heartwarming scenes and knockout dialogues. A British girl from a family for whom wrestling in not just a pastime harbours ambitions of hitting the jackpot with WWE. No spoilers here. She fulfills her dream. The ride to the dream is the fun here. Watch it.

Booksmart (2019) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

When you think some of the genres are as good as dead, there comes a movie which rewrites the rules of the game. ‘Booksmart’ is the reinvention of the high school coming-of-age story which is as fresh as the dew drops in the morning. Two girls decide to do in a night what they missed in all the years of high-school. They accomplish the mission with palpable energy and infectious humour. With some rip-roaring scenes and outrageous comedy (I’ll never forget the ‘Malala rule’), ‘Booksmart’ is a fine way to spend your time.

Hotel Mumbai (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Do not watch this movie if you cannot stomach graphic violence. You have been warned. If you are the battle hardened type, this movie has rich rewards. A start to end thriller with gut wrenching scenes and edge of the seat moments, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is a recreation of the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai renowned for its excellent customer care of the rich and famous. Some of the staff take this care to the extreme which can be also interpreted as being foolhardy when the more reasonable option is to just escape from the slaughter scene. There is also the typical American hero who acts as if nothing will happen to him as he probably thinks that the bullets will discriminate. Still, a story that must be told because what transpired needs to be known and etched in memory.

Us (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

For me, ‘Us’ was a monumental letdown. It is a film that does not scare and is very much predictable which makes it a weak candidate in the horror-thriller genre. The critics and fanboys can search for all the subtext and symbolism but at its core ‘Us’ is a poorly written movie about doppelgangers. There are no metaphors here. There are loopholes and more of them than you would want even in a romantic comedy. Some of the events have no explanation whatsoever. ‘Get Out’ was no masterpiece but was at least watchable. ‘Us’ is a train wreck that you get to make when your debut movie grosses 100 million at the box office.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

The title of the movie reminds me of certain people I know. Jokes aside, Ted Bundy was the outlier among serial killers. He was also a charmer. The movie tells us how those who surrounded him thought about him. He was able to pull the wool over the eyes of many including female admirers who believed in his lies till the very end. My issue with the movie is that it fails till the climax to show the evil incarnate that Bundy was. For a more nuanced take on a serial killer, try ‘My Friend Dahmer’.

Documentary of the Week

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (2019) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

It is only in the US documentaries that people come out to speak to documentary crew on the abuse they received. This makes for powerful documentaries. ‘At the Heart of Gold’ is one such documentary. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Yesterday’ by Danny Boyle

Did you know: Jordan Peele was so insulted when Sony offered him the role of Poop in The Emoji Movie (2017) that he retired from acting to focus entirely on being a screenwriter and film director.

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The Paper Anniversary Edition

In the last one year this blog has been published regularly every week without fail. When I started out, the idea was to quit after an year.During the last one year, the trying circumstances under which I have published the blog every week only cemented that thought but I won’t be entirely stopping with this edition. This blog will continue to be published but it will no more be a weekly. Thank you for the continued readership.

Movies: Non-English

Time of the Gypsies (Italy-Yugoslavia, 1988) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Time of the Gypsies

Trailer:

Five time winner at the Cannes, Emir Kusturica is a director whose oeuvre needs no introduction. His movies are remarkable for the fact that they do not try to tell unbelievable or extravagant stories. He likes to focus on ordinary people with interesting lives. He populates such stories with quirky supporting cast and shoots the films at a pace which keeps you interested in the proceedings on screen. This film is another in a glowing list that he has produced and this one takes us to the world of gypsies with their idiosyncrasies and rituals. A young man in a gypsy family blessed with telekinetic powers moves out to the big city where he gets drawn into crime. Peppered with remarkably shot sequences which are authentic, this film is a must watch for the glimpse it gives of normal people who are on the fringes of the society.

Amarcord (Italy,1973) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

Amar

Trailer: 

Another classic from another master. Fellini looks at the lives of people in an Italian coastal town during the Mussolini years. The magical and saccharine tale is tempered only by the liberal doses of political reality. The number of characters introduced in the film are far too many but they are vital to the story and remain a part of it even when they appear only in a single scene. The cinematography is breathtaking and it is ably assisted by the original music. A must watch bittersweet story with heavy political undertones.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dom Hemingway (2013) [ IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

DomHemingwayPoster

Trailer: 

Twelve years a prisoner, Dom who has been released from the penitentiary goes back to collect what he was promised for his silence during the trial. Once outside the prison, he realizes that the world has since moved on and it may be difficult to get what he believed was legitimately his. He also has an estranged daughter to deal with and has to fix his broken family and his fragile ego. Jude Law goes off the beaten track but the screenplay does not aid his cause. Not a dud but not a classic too.

Better Living Through Chemistry (2014) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]

Better Living Through Chemistry

Trailer: 

A married and respected pharmacist loses control of his life when he meets a lonely young wife. They hit it off together with the aid of drugs. Coming at a time when a series like ‘Breaking Bad’ has made chemistry far too cool, this one also shows the vast powers that people who have access to the supply of pills can wield to amuse themselves.Unfortunately, the bubble bursts midway and then the film really goes nowhere even when it thinks it is making progress. Similar to the hallucinatory effects of some drugs, the story is a no brainer without anything substantial. I guess some of the guys dreamt up the story when they were high on something.

Diana (2013) [ IMDB: 5.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 8%]

Diana_poster

Trailer: 

Diana was an overrated,over hyped lady who gained sympathy for being the lonely rebel in an irrelevant monarchy. This disaster of a film tries to map the turbulent period in her relationship with the monarchy when it had reached a point of no return. Naomi Watts styles herself on the lady but there is nothing much she can do to improve a plastic lady whose photo op moments were her only contribution to the society. The screenplay is bereft of any value and looks like a string of tabloid gossip strung together to make an awful film. The film is not even able to match the voyeurism which mostly defines the British tabloids. The film never has an emotional connect and it is better to give it a miss unless you are not aware of some tempestuous chapters in the leading lady’s life.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Manufactured Landscapes (2006) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

Manufactured Landscapes

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie5SJ39LsDg

Photographer Edward Burtynsky travels the world to see the effect of human activities on the environment and the beauty in the ugliness of the large industrial facilities. Thought provoking.

The : D Retrospective

No Way Out (1987) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

No_Way_Out_(1987_film)_poster

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lypNWLvpb0I

The film that catapulted Kevin Costner to stardom is a labyrinthine thriller which slowly tightens the screws as it proceeds. A Naval Officer is drawn into a cover up and an investigation designed to uncover nothing. He must be part of a process investigating the death of his ex-girlfriend when he is quite sure of what might have happened to her. An edge of the seat thriller which has a predictable ending.

The Hurricane (1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Hurricane

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsmszHWnO3k

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a renowned African American boxer who was wrongfully accused of murder and imprisoned. The film tells the story of  the people who help him prove his innocence. The film is cliched to some extent but features perhaps the best performance by Denzel Washington. He brings the anguish of the lead character to the screen with much success. He also looks the part as a boxer. A very good watch.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Fading Gigolo’ starring Woody Allen.

Did you know: In ‘Saving Private Ryan, all the main actors except Matt Damon were forced to undergo a brutal week long fitness camp for their roles as soldiers. Damon was exempt from it in order to generate genuine resentment towards him and his character.

Week 39

Movies: Non-English

The Dreamlife of Angels (France, 1998) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Dreamlife of Angels

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJxtNk5Q9V4

The first instance of two actresses sharing the gong for the best actress (for the same film) at Cannes is reason enough to watch this little French gem. I was reminded of this movie after reviewing ‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ a fortnight ago. If ‘Blue …..’ is the adolescent version, then this one is the mature version. Two financially broke women share a flat and hope for a better future from the misery of routine lives. Once more characters enter the frame, their relationship unravels. Then the two actresses revel like veterans on screen. Watch it for them.

The Mirror (Russia, 1975) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

mirror

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7SN7spZlZk

A man facing death recollects his life. His sorrows, his triumphs, his childhood, his loves and much more. The nation’s history also plays out in the background. As they say, once your whole life will flash in front of your eyes. Make it worth watching. A timely reminder on that concept from (of all places) Russia. Classic.

Movies I Saw This Week

American Hustle (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

american hustle

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7a1aK_lG0

I could not really figure out why ‘American Hustle’ is getting nominated at all major awards in so many categories this year. Agreed that it is a good movie but to call it a great one is a slight misrepresentation of facts. As the name suggests, it is a con movie but with a conscience. It certainly has some good performances going for it. Amy Adams delivers another competent one. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and that makes me think that she deserves the Oscar for Supporting Actress but that would be an improbable win considering that she just landed the Best Actress Oscar only last year. At the same time, Bradley Cooper may consider himself lucky if he wins for the Best Supporting Actor because it wouldn’t be possible but for the sympathy votes he gets for his failure to win last year. Coming back to the movie, it creates the right ambiance and the credit for that has to go to the director. Other than that I did not find the movie to be special in any sense. Anyone with the IQ of a lamp post could have seen the twist in the end coming because such movies need to have one. I think the guys in Hollywood are all excited because someone finally made a movie in which the FBI is taken to the cleaners.

Blue Jasmine (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

blue jasmine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FER3C394aI8

What they say for wine is true for Woody Allen too. Both get better as they age. For a change, Woody Allen is not putting some old wine in a new bottle. He moves to a new terrain and after a long time I was really impressed by his direction as he brings the best out of Cate Blanchett. I have not seen the movie ‘Philomena’ in which Judi Dench is reported to have given a great performance. If Judi Dench has not pulled off something spectacular (and she is well capable of that), then this year’s Best Actress Oscar will go to Cate Blanchett for her affecting portrayal of a former socialite going through emotional distress and penury. Her acting is simply stunning and it helps that the the whole plot revolves around her. For a profoundly sad tale, the trademark witticisms of the writer brings relief even in the gloom. Two thumbs up to one of the best written and acted films of 2013.

Rush (2013) [ IMDB:8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

rush

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3XN54J8nY

‘Rush’ recreates the fierce and famed rivalry of two Formula 1 superstars of the 70s, Niki Lauda and James Hunt. I expected more thrills and edge of the seat action for a movie based on a sport which has a lot of scope for spiking adrenaline levels. It disappoints on those two counts. In fact, it is not even about the rivalry between the two drivers. It is more about their personalities and the obsession they have for winning against all odds. Niki Lauda comes across as a calm and determined man who is organized and thinks about racing even during his honeymoon. James Hunt, on the other hand, is the brash character who has too many woman in his life that he does not really have to have a separate honeymoon. To slightly twist the title of a book that went from non-fiction to fiction (cycling, if you still don’t get it), ‘it is not about the cars’.

Lone Survivor (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

lone survivor

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoLFk4JK_RM

The true story of an US assault team which sees their best laid plans go for a toss in an operation in Afghanistan. The film is quite slow off the blocks but soon catches up with long strides shortly after. Once the action starts it is quite an interesting film. There is nothing to rave about but then the film is definitely worth a watch.

Martin Scorsese Retrospective

Goodfellas (1990) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Goodfellas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo5jJpHtI1Y

Perhaps the best story on the mafia outside the ‘Godfather’ series. Must see. Period.

The Departed (2006) [ IMDB: 8.5, Ritten Tomatoes: 94%]

The Departed

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGWvwjZ0eDc

The movie that finally got Scorsese the Oscar. In my opinion, the perfect screenplay.

Taxi Driver (1976) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Taxi Driver

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLpMx8_TYOo

Some movies define a period in history. Some performances are so great that it is impossible to imagine someone else in that role. Some movies are unforgettable. Taxi Driver. Robert De Niro. No excuses for not watching.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) [IMDB; 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Searching for Sugar Man

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDw7OqVBT-w

How does it feel to be a rock star (pun intended) in one part of the world and be an unknown in your country of residence? One of the most uplifting documentaries ever made.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ because it has a large cast and a fine director in Wes Anderson.

Did you know: After the release of the Tom Cruise film ‘Top Gun’,the applications by young men to the US Navy went up by 500 percent.