Edition 109

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Hand of God (2021) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 8.0]

Paolo Sorrentino makes his most personal film in ‘Hand of God’ which starts as a happy feel good movie especially finding time to appreciate the languid pace of life in his home town Naples. The shift to tragedy and dealing with trauma forms the latter half of the film. Sorrentino blends the love he has for his parents and the memories that haunt him to skillfully keep the viewer engaged. He uses the classic template for a tragedy movie: building up the flame of joy before brutally extinguishing it. Sorrentino has tried his best to capture the gorgeous landscape of his city and his love for the Napoli of Maradona. In the end, the movie is both a love letter to his city and his way of confronting a wound that is hard to heal. Almost a classic film.

Movies I Saw This Week

Belfast (2021) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7.5]

‘Belfast’ is another directorial love fest, this time the self indulgence is from Kenneth Branagh who recollects his time growing up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. In a clear contrast with ‘Hand of God’, ‘Belfast’ lacks depth. The movie tries to navigate a very narrow channel between humour and drama. For large spells, the movie manages to pull off this feat but the weight of the whole movie rests on the small shoulders of a child protagonist which eventually shows. ‘Belfast’ is a true feel good movie with some genuinely funny lines but whether it says something new is a question that the viewer may ponder on.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

This is by miles the funniest animation movie I have seen in recent times. If you are unsure of what to watch for the holiday season, I recommend this film wholeheartedly. The movie puts a bumbling family in the midst of a hostile takeover of the world by machines and gives the four of them the task of saving the world. The clever thing with the script of this movie is that it uses every cliche and then subverts it to extract a laugh. The satire does not spare anyone, be it the ‘influencers’ or tech CEOs. The best thing about this movie is that the animation is secondary to the script and that is how it should be. Also, be sure that this is the film going to win the Oscar for its category.

Minnal Murali (2021) [IMDB: 9.4, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 8.0]

Move aside all ‘Mans’ ( Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Shaktiman etc). The real superhero does not roam cities. He is homemade, wears a lungi, gets his superpower out of sheer chance and is bothered about villagers (for once at least). ‘Minnal Murali’ is the first legit superhero movie to come out of Kerala (and dare I say India). This film is not some work that will be taught in film schools but it is a landmark movie for dreaming the dream and bringing to life what would be difficult for a small movie industry to execute. ‘Minnal Murali’ does not take itself seriously and this light touch allows it to stay relatable and fun all the way.

King Richard (2021) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]

This eponymous movie tells the true story of the father of the Williams sisters who was the driving force behind their careers in tennis. The film is an easy watch and in some ways is a good retelling of a story that deserves to be told. Though the movie is thoroughly enjoyable, there are some views espoused by Richard which do not fit well with the flow of the movie. Even after accounting for these niggling bits, the movie does not make the viewer uninterested. Overall, a very competent film.

Spencer (2021) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

Diana was not a saint but she has her fans. Most of them are not sure why they adore her; is it for the streak of rebelliousness against the royals or is it for the glamour quotient? ‘Spencer’ looks at this flawed individual with a lot of sympathy and gets the camera angles right. The story and screenplay are not illuminating in the slightest. Kristen Stewart does her best impersonation of Diana but there is not even a single scene worth remembering.

Dune (2021) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 8.5]

There are two types of people in this world. Those who ‘get’ Dune and those who don’t. If you ‘get’ it, this is a masterpiece. Occasionally, you may wish for things to be quicker but the whole point of this exquisite movie is that it requires commitment from the viewer and the returns are commensurate with the investment you make. View with subtitles on the grandest screen you can summon for an otherworldy cinematic experience.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

The faith based networks are a big business in many countries but nowhere have they had the level of influence that they enjoy in USA. Tammy Faye and her husband were pioneers in this business. The film tries to capture their life with decidedly mixed results. At some points in the movie I was confused whether the director was making fun of the protagonists or was he being serious. The general tone of the film is very inconsistent. Garfield and Chastain look like a mismatched couple. There is also a strong attempt to get an Oscar for dear Jessica. Unfortunately she is not getting one for this film even though she deserves one for her previous films.

Passing (2021) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.0]

‘Passing’ is the story of a black lady who meets her black friend who is now impersonating herself as a white. The conflicts that arise and her insecurities form the rest of the story. The film is acted well and is suitable if you are looking for a harmless movie. The narrative tension does not engage the viewer. The movie will be a footnote in the filmography of Rebeccal Hall who has taken the pains to write the screenplay and chose this as her directorial debut.

No Time to Die (2021) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 7.5]

(Spoilers ahead) Bond dies and that too for his family. What has Bond come to? I may be in a minority but I don’t like the new Bond. I like the old Roger Moore – Sean Connery types minus the misogyny. There is no charisma or oomph in the present day Bond. On top of this, he is in for a drubbing if he hopes to compete with the superheroes for special effects and set piece sequences. Wipe the slate clean and bring in someone with style and charm who can bring the laughs and hold court without having to try too hard. As for the movie, ‘No time to die’ is shot in some exotic locations including Matera in Italy which looks splendid on screen.

Boiling Point (2021) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

The director of this movie made a cardinal mistake. He decided to shoot the entire movie in a single shot sequence which looks like a good technical accomplishment but does not add anything to the movie. If he had chosen more conventional methods, this movie about a chef struggling on a night when too many things go wrong in his restaurant and life would have been a much better product. Still, the movie is worth a watch which is mostly down to the performance from the entire cast including the fringe characters. Recommended.

Shiva Baby (2021) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.0]

A low budget yet critically acclaimed film, ‘Shiva Baby’ is about a host of characters attending a funeral party. The most prominent of them is the protagonist who bumps into her sugar daddy and also her former girlfriend. The awkwardness that ensues is the story. Nothing great about the film but for the budget it does elicit a few good laughs while maintaining a semblance of narratve tension. Watch if independent movies are your thing.

Atrangi Re (2021) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 3.5]

This steaming pile of s*** works on the principle that anything you release for a festive season will have viewers. I am grateful for the fact that I was doing other things while simultaneousy watching this movie. So the sense of loss of time is largely absent. Why was A R Rahman at the helm of music in this movie is the only mystery because the soundtrack is not bad. The story goes something like this. Dhanush aka Vishu is kidnapped randomly to be forcefully married to Pinku. Vishu then takes Pinku to his scheduled real wedding where Pinku dances to spoil the real wedding. At this point psycho Vishu starts falling in love with Pinku. Why? God knows, or is it that Vishu did not want his arranged marriage to go ahead? Now that Vishu wants to retain Pinku as his wife, there a bigger problem. Pinku has a boyfriend Sajjad who is a magician and has gone to Afriqyah (yeah!) to learn more magic to beef up his resume. Then Sajjad returns from Africa. Now there is small problem. Only Pinku can see Sajjad because (you guessed it) Pinku is cuckoo. Then for the next one hour Vishu and friends humour Pinku who eats for Sajjad as well. Since the movie passes the two hour mark and has to end somehow, Pinku remembers (just like that) that her supposed imaginery boyfriend is her imaginary dad who died a real death as her real dad when Pinku was a very very small girl. All things sorted out , Pinku and Vishu stay married and live happily ever after. Santa Claus is more believable than the story of this movie. Enough said.

Antim: The Final Truth (2021) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 23%, My Rating: 3.5]

With the title ‘Antim’, I decided to watch this movie thinking that “Bhai” will finally stop acting after this movie and that it will be his sendoff whatever be the quality. Or is it that 56 year old Bhai will antim-ly (finally) reveal the trick behind his fake muscles and even more fake hair but it is only after I started watching that I understood that the title was Bhai’s dare to the viewer: watch till the end (ant-hmmm) if you can. Bhai turns producer for his real life brother-in-law but if Bhai has put in the money then Bhai has to have the best lines and also be the last guy standing. Bhai and his brother-in-law kill people whenever they please and mostly for no rhyme or reason. They stand on opposite sides and kill. Then they stand together and kill. The brother-in-law saves Bhai from being killed but Bhai cannot save brother-in-law from being killed. In between Bhai and brother in law speak about farmers, politicians and gangsters. They also turn a traditional dance form into an item song. Then in the very end Bhai sees the brother-in- law getting shot. Then bhai waits for the dialogues between the assasin and the brother -in-law. After the dialogues Bhai waits for the assasin to shoot more bullets towards the brother-in-law. Once this is done the brother-in-law dies. With the brother-in-law dead, Bhai had nothing to do. So Bhai goes home. The titles roll.

Documentary of the Week

The Rescue (2021) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

The edge of the seat thriller that was the rescue of trapped children from a cave in Thailand. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The much acclaimed ‘The worst lover in the world’

Did you know: The film industry of Pakistan is sometimes referred to as Lollywood because it is based in the city of Lahore.

Week 40

Movies: Non-English

The Great Beauty (Italy, 2013) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

The Great Beauty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dyt430YkQn0

Winner of the Best Foreign Language movie at last week’s Golden Globes, this Italian film captures the beauty of Rome like never before. On his 65th birthday the lead character gets a blast from the past which makes him introspect the life he has led. The same Rome which is the home to the papacy also has a vibrant night life. It is in this melange that he finds the sublime and the loud. The film captures the wide open spaces in Rome which a casual visitor might miss for the hustle and bustle of a sprawling metropolis. The film is an ode to Rome but has some really sharp writing and the average viewer will be challenged to understand all the references to art and artists that the dialogues often refer to. It also has its fair share of philosophy but is never dull. Watch this ambitious and pensive work of art for the sheer grandeur it shows. I have not seen all the Oscar nominees in the Foreign Language category but I am willing to put my money on this film winning at the Oscars too.

Love Me If You Dare (France, 2003) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

Yann Samuell

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtzjUjVQe9Q

Panned by critics but loved by audiences, this French film was a blockbuster in France. It is easy to see why the movie was butchered by critics. It has no sense of logic and tells an improbable story. At the same time it is easy to see why the audiences loved it. It moves at such a frenetic pace that you are not bothered by the lack of logic. The way it has been shot and the acting compensate for a listless story. I am an admirer of the acting talent of Marion Cotillard. As always, she steals the show. As for the story, it is about two friends who carry on a game they started as kids, well into adulthood and way beyond reasonable behaviour. The game subsumes everything in their life and becomes their life itself. Watch this madcap film on a lazy weekend.

Movies I Saw This Week

12 Years a Slave (2013) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

12 Years a Slave

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

Winner of the Best Picture at the Golden Globes and a hot favourite to land the same statuette at the Oscars, the movie tells a story that must be told. A free man who is good at playing the violin is abducted and sold as a slave. Based on actual events and adapted to the screen from the book with the same title, the movie is a must watch. The director Steve McQueen is notorious for making films which are difficult to watch and which don’t hold back their punches. His earlier work ‘Hunger’ was a pain to watch but this one has raw violence which made me turn my head away from the screen a few times. There are indeed more violent films that are released every year but with this one the realization that not a very long time ago this is what people did to other people makes it all the more direct. Still that is an education that is necessary, lest we forget. The film is a must watch. The only competition for Jennifer Lawrence in the Supporting Actress category at the Oscars will be from Lupita Nyong’o who puts in a memorable performance.

Her (2013) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Her (2013)

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

Thank God that better sense dawned on Joaquin Phoenix and he came back from retirement to continue his career as an actor. Following up on his masterclass in ‘The Master’, he shows us why he is one of the finest actors of this generation in this ‘romance’. This original piece of work by Spike Jonze is more or less a lock in for the Original Screenplay at the Oscars as it was at the Golden Globes. The film has a very interesting first to its credit. It won Scarlett Johansson the Best Actress award at the Rome Film Festival, the only instance in its history that a character not appearing on screen has been given the award. That is explained by the story. Scarlett Johansson is the voice of the operating system with which Joaquin Phoenix falls madly in love with. The story is set in the future where the operating systems are intelligent enough to communicate intelligently with the user. They are pretty advanced too because they can understand and respond to even the speech of Joaquin Phoenix, an actor not particularly known for mouthing dialogues with clarity. There are other indicators to show that the setting is very futuristic. The city landscape in fog filled, hardly anyone ever wears jeans, all characters wear cotton pants with no belts and so on. The story is a lesson on how customization is important. There is always a demand for personalized services, be it professional letter writers (the job of the protagonist) or operating systems. At another level the story sheds light on how people sometimes develop a love for inanimate objects. After all this, it still is a simple love story with the associated highs and lows. What makes it a work of genius are some truly inspired scenes. (Spoilers ahead) The one when a surrogate visits the protagonist in lieu of the operating system is one such. Another one is when the operating system tells about her other loves. ‘Her’ is one of the most engaging films of the year with a screenplay that makes you think. Some of the metaphors are too good to be missed. How about men wanting to have girlfriends who are submissive and speak only when asked to? How about the allure of the voice over form and content? How about watching something new when you think new is no more possible?

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvMPU0WaPcc

Matthew McConaughey shed 45 pounds to look the part of an AIDS patient in this movie based on actual events. It is this kind of copious shedding of body weight which usually wins Oscars but then you have to raise a toast to the man who has given a string of strong performances over the last three years and transformed his career from being a gung-ho shirtless hero in movies like ‘Dazed and Confused’ to someone who has discovered that he could be remembered for his performances than anything else. That also makes him the leader in the pack for this years Best Actor Oscar. The film is not worth much. It follows the story of a bigot who gets AIDS and is forced to change his opinion on himself and others. Also, he circumvents the FDA to find medication for himself and in the process runs into a litany of court cases. At some stage in the movie I stopped caring about the story and started focusing on the acting of Matthew McConaughey. In the end that is all that there is to this flick but then that is one good reason to watch this one.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Dirty Wars (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:84%]

Dirty Wars

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KpzBAKJmig

The Oscar nomination for this one this year is down to the fact that it deserves to be seen widely and a few good men need to be appreciated. As a documentary, it is not a great one but just for sincerity and guts it needs to be seen. By the way, it is on the war in Afghanistan.

Coen Brothers Retrospective

Their latest work was snubbed at the Oscars but then I guess they have too many awards to be bothered by that. Here is a look at some of the best work from them. For more have a look at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001053/?ref_=tt_ov_dr

The Big Lebowski (1998) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

The Big Lebowski

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-go0oBF4Y

The story of a man who is mistaken for a millionaire. Royally snubbed at the Oscars without even a nomination. History has since judged. Classic.

Miller’s Crossing (1990) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

Miller's Crossing

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYifReJJn4M

Divided loyalties in a gang war. The movie has never divided opinion. Must see.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?  (2000) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

O Brother, Where Art Thou

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqcnp8pHbwA

George Clooney doesn’t give two hoots about his image when he acts for the Coen brothers. Find out why.

Eagerly Waiting for:’The Wind Rises’ because it is supposed to be better than all the animation movies made last year.

Did you know: Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ was the director’s first film in twelve years without Leonardo DiCaprio.