Week 16

Movies: Non- English

Nine Queens (Argentina, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

nine queens

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

Classic con movie. The best thing I like about this one is that the guy who gets conned never gets to know that he has been conned. In the numerous remakes of this movie that I have seen in other languages, they could not resist telling the guy that he has been conned. For such reasons and more, this original version in Spanish is a better attempt. It shows great restraint in its storytelling, slowly building a jigsaw puzzle which fits perfectly at the end. It also metes out justice in the old fashioned way without violence, concurrently taking care of the bad guys. The story is simple: Two guys try to make a quick buck through forgery but then all is not what it seems. Some best laid plans work like the way they were planned.

The Intouchables (France, 2011) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Intouchables

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34WIbmXkewU

Genuine crowd pleasing movie which tells the story of a bond which develops between a physically challenged man and his caretaker who are from the opposite ends of the social spectrum. Based on a true story, it tells the adventures, camaraderie and insecurities both of them share. The medical condition is not a hindrance for them when they decide to see the world and experience it with full vigor. Similar to ‘The Class’ reviewed last week, it also throws the spotlight on the challenges facing French society. The acting is laudable and the whole mood is encapsulated by the background score which rises to the occasion. Still, it is a light film to watch with some really good scenes. How about being escorted by the police to reach the destination instead of being fined when caught for over speeding?

Hollywood Retrospective

Garden State (2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

gardenstate_cover_1098316967

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u82n0e1mgmQ

One of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen, this debut feature from Zach Braff was one of the surprise hits of 2004. The writing is sharp and the acting does justice to it. The premise for the story is the return of the protagonist to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. The unconventional characters he meets on his return home and how he finds his lady love form the rest of the story. It is told with the freshness of morning dew. There are many remarkable scenes but the one I like the most is the one in the swimming pool when the girl swims towards the guy; it says so much without a word being spoken. If you are a fan of romantic comedies, this is a must watch.

Doctor Zhivago (1965) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAWrXTn5Www

Epic, in the sense of a cinematic experience, has few parallels like David Lean’s adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s classic ‘Doctor Zhivago’. The story in its essence tells how the lives of ordinary people are changed forever by events of far reaching historical significance. Doctot Zhivago who is a happily married man has his life turned upside down after a chance meeting with one of his patients. What follows is a saga of love and passion with the Russian Revolution in the background. The imagery is breathtaking and the music is one of the best in the history of cinema. It is a pity that neither David Lean for direction nor Omar Sherif for acting won the Academy award but the film did win 5 of them. At the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that if you have not seen this film then you have not seen one of the greatest movies ever made.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Its_A_Wonderful_Life_Movie_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJfZaT8ncYk

There are few movies which fit the bill ‘timeless’ and this is one of those. Looking for a film of hope and optimism? This is the one. A man is shown how he brings joy and happiness to the people around him and how life would be for them without him. It is a little strange to see that such progressive films were made in the days of the studio system but with such shackles removed it is impossible to make such a movie now. Moreover, this film could be called socialist by today’s standards in USA. The film is a James Stewart show all the way. Recommended viewing for all types of people from all age groups. After all, it’s a wonderful life.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Best Offer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

best offer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJGleGyahC8

This is perhaps the most engaging film to have come out in 2013 and most of the viewers will find it absolutely spell binding but the issue with someone like me is that I have unfortunately watched too many movies to figure out the only possible ending to the movie. Nevertheless, it is one of the best made thrillers of 2013 and looks authentic. Ennio Morricone’s music is testament to the fact that some things get better with age. The story is that of an art auctioneer who is at the top of his game but has issues dealing with women. He meets a young lady who is looking to auction off her collection. What follows is a mix of intrigue and treachery. I cannot say more without revealing the story but the film is definitely worth a watch and has the most costly love making scene of all time. That was a clue to the story. Just watch it.

Only God Forgives (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

only god forgives

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reIxnLrtY5g

The film from the director of ‘Drive’ has Ryan Gosling as a drug dealer in Bangkok. It also has a story which is told between scenes of torture. The scenes are so violent and self serving that you will look away from the screen because you will slowly get used to the fact that the next shot will involve blood oozing out of the body. The movie may have been made with the intention of catering to the film festival audience and it is no coincidence that it premiered at Cannes. It is a kill fest with opposite groups trying to find and hunt down people even remotely connected to a crime. I will never be able to enjoy karaoke singing again if I were in Bangkok. The saying goes; Those who live by the sword die by it. Here that is not the case.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Bhaag-Milkha-Bhaag-2013

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nR9JS2WsNg

Milkha Singh is a legend in Indian sports and his story is a one that must be told but not for 3 hours with numerous songs including the mandatory army song. I have never understood why films showing army life in Hindi movies must have a song with the soldiers dancing. Such minor irritants aside, this is a film worth a watch. I so wish that Indian film makers can make inspiring movies and not confuse slow motion with inspiration. Farhan Akhtar has put in a sincere effort but nothing to sing high praises of. As an aside, the 400 m race at the Rome Olympics is considered by many as the greatest ever race in modern Olympic history because the first 4 runners broke the world record in existence before the race. Unfortunately for Milkha, he happened to be the fourth one, missing the medal by a whisker. It is a commentary on the state of Indian athletics that it took almost 40 years for someone to break the record created by Milkha in Rome in 1960. I hope that they make movies on Vishwanathan Anand, P T Usha, Prakash Padukone, Sushil Kumar and others.

Assault on Wall Street (2013) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 47%]

assault

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Y-NqShTj5w

One guy who loses everything in the financial crisis and blames the Wall Street for it takes law (read ‘gun’)  into his hands and tries to settle scores by taking down who he thinks is responsible for his plight. The film tries to channel the anger of the population against big banks and funds in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the bailout programmes. The film is remarkable for its naivety but it also has some biting dialogue especially the one which aims at the big names in American history who made the most amount of money. If you are very angry with the Wall Street this film may help you as it shows one guy taking up guns for you. Otherwise, don’t even bother.

Documentary Pick of the Week 

Bowling for Columbine (2002) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

bowling

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

The only documentary to have ever won the Palme D’or at Cannes, ‘Bowling for Columbine’ is an essential watch for anyone trying to figure out why USA is such a trigger happy nation. Absolute must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Jobs’ because it is the story of Steve Jobs and it could be either very good or very bad.

Did you know: Agatha Christie’s ‘Mousetrap’ has not been made into a movie till now because the movie rights were sold under the condition that the film will be made only after the play stopped performing. It so happens that ‘Mousetrap’ which started as a play in 1952 is still going strong.

Week 7

Movies: Non- English

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, Mexico, 2006) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

pans-labyrinth-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbffV5LZfZI

Spanish language writers were the ones to exploit magical realism through their books. It is therefore no surprise that the language is the medium for the movie which Roger Ebert calls ‘ a fairy tale for adults’. A girl creates her own world to escape the torment of the daily life in fascist Spain. Set in 1944, the special effects and imagery are some of the best you will see on screen. Think of  ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with more imagination thrown in. Now that is a tough thing to imagine. The easier option is to watch the movie.

Das Boot [The Boat] (Germany, 1981) [ IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% ]

das boot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxMXtofZny8

There would be very few war movies as authentic as this one. It follows the crew of a German submarine during the Second World War. There is no plot as such but the exhilaration of combat is in stark contrast to the monotonous, wretched and utterly lonely life on a submarine which slowly descends into a hell on earth. The movie is gritty and keeps you interested throughout. The performances are top notch and the cinematography gives you a good feel of the life inside a submarine. This one will make you spare a thought for the defeated and the dead.

Underground (Serbia, 1995) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]

underground

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKdl5r7_ZPc

A black comedy which shows the relationship between two friends over a few decades, effectively following the history of Yugoslavia. Some of the scenes are truly memorable, one particular one has animals from the zoo roaming the streets after the zoo is bombed. The film is a roller coaster with scenes where all hell breaks loose and things go on a spiral. A quirky masterpiece.

Hollywood Retrsopective

Rosemary’s baby (1968) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% ] 

rosemary's baby

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PewtQsgN5uo

A struggling actor makes a deal with the devil to resurrect his career, putting the lives of his family members at risk. Roman Polanski makes this chilling horror thriller out of the classic book by the same title. Mia Farrow gives the performance of a lifetime as the naive young wife. Roman Polanski movies have bleak endings (‘The Pianist’ being an exception) and this one also follows the general pessimism he shows towards life. Not recommended for pregnant woman.

Quiz Show (11994) [ IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

quiz show

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOSnYt9k4kM

It may come as no surprise in this era that one of the big television scandals of the 50s was a fixed quiz show. The film delves into questions of morality and how even some great minds can be be lured into committing crimes by the media. Ultimately, the show must go on but is quizzing like any other entertainment spectacle?

Movies I Saw This Week

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009) [ IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 67% ]

the girl who

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVGbPFdU96A

The final movie of the series is seriously short on content and tries to cover it up by the lightening pace. The girl with the dragon tattoo was much better. As for the plot, the girl has to be prove that she is innocent of the murders she is accused of committing even as she lies in a hospital bed. Wish what translated on screen was half as exciting as the written word.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) [IMDB: 5.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 38% ]

Hyde-Park-on-Hudson

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

A movie where the major question is whether the King of England will eat a hot dog, need not be taken seriously. I think they ran out of stories and had to make a film based on such a small issue. Don’t waste your time.

Identity Thief (2013) [IMDB: 5.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 59% ]

identity thief

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqQg6Rlt6W4

Plot from IMDB: Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy’s identity

My verdict: This is the kind of movie for which the viewers should be allowed free entry into the cinema hall. They should then be asked to pay for getting out. Terrible.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bobby Fischer Against The World (2011) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% ]

bobby-fischer-against-the-world-movie-poster-2011-1020690243

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=strfK6rO0LI

Bobby Fischer had it all. He was the world champion in chess where he beat the Russians represented by Spasky in one of the most discussed match ups in sports. He won it for the free world in a war minus the shooting. Then he disappeared. Then he disintegrated. The amazing and tragic story of a champion whose greatest gift was his intelligence and whose Achilles’ heel was his paranoia.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Only God Forgives’ because everyone likes Ryan Gosling.

Did you know: Orson Welles was just 26 when he wrote and directed ‘Citizen Kane’, generally considered to be the greatest film ever to come out of Hollywood.