Edition 91

As we finish 2018, this year has been the best year for the blog in terms of readership with more than 500 views for each post. A big thank you to the readers across the globe and wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year!

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Guilty (Denmark, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

An edge of the seat thriller from director Gustav Moller who uses every trick in the book to keep the viewer hooked on to the proceedings. The movie is a tribute to how sound effects can be used to drive the narrative. With minimal budget and only a handful of characters, the director is able to maintain the tempo of this cracking thriller. The few calls received by a troubled police officer at the emergency helpline form the movie’s screenplay. Must watch for the high concept and innovative storytelling.

Movies I Saw This Week

A Star is Born (2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

I am not going gaga over this movie. It is the third or fourth time that this screenplay or its various versions (discounting Bollywood ripoffs like Aashiqui) are making it to the big screen. For those who have seen earlier versions, there is nothing much in the movie. It is a fine debut for Bradley Cooper donning the director’s hat. Lady Gaga does light up the proceedings with her singing and some of the songs are a joy to listen to. Judged purely on its cinematic quality, this movie is short on its merits. It is a testament to the state of Hollywood that this movie is the most hyped and over billed contender this award season.

First Man (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Damien Chazelle makes his most carefully calibrated movie with the always wooden Ryan Gosling. As every human knows, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. He was an enigmatic and reserved person tormented by personal tragedy. Ryan Gosling is weak as Armstrong in an otherwise strong film which starts slowly, picks up pace and has good liftoff towards the end. ‘First Man’ is not everyone’s cup of tea but in the category of tea it is the equivalent of the Makaibari Darjeeling tea: Elite and dwindling in quantity every year.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Coen brothers are back with a bang (well, mostly) in this anthology which stitches together 6 pieces to make what could have been a masterpiece but for the time being just is a good movie. Two of the six stories are misfits in an otherwise good collection. The acting is consistently good and the director duo bring their signature storytelling to all the sections. I especially liked the performance of Tim Blake Nelson. Highly recommended, more so if you like westerns.

Crazy Rich Asians  (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 5.0]

Trailer

While watching this movie and after watching this movie, I have only one question, ” What was all the fuss about?”. Neither a cheesy romcom nor a strong drama, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ falls flat with its insipid story and howlers in stereotyping. The only instances where Indian origin people are shown in the very multicultural Singapore is when they are hangers on who open doors and do menial jobs. The movie shows a Singapore even Singaporeans will fail to identify with. All the usual stereotypes about tomboys, gay men, Asians etc are paraded without the slightest hint of irony. This in a story about a woman who proudly announces her humble origins throughout the movie and asserts her identity and individuality. It does not help her cause that the story writers use and misuse every cliche including a last minute scene in an aircraft.

The House That Jack Built (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Lars Von Trier’s latest movie received copious amounts of boos and walkouts during its premiere at the Cannes film festival. It is not difficult to see why but in a rather twisted way (that is the only way with this movie), the film is watchable if the boldness of the filmmaker can be appreciated. The boldness does border on recklessness at certain points. With references to European horror classics like ‘Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)’, this movie does push the envelope. For those asking, the movie is about a serial killer told from his point of view of the events. Not for the faint of the heart.

We the Animals (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Story of three siblings growing up and discovering themselves. The movie has many subtexts including parenting, sexuality, innocence and so on. What it does not seem to have is an editor who could have cut out large slices of flab, trimmed the movie and made it more appealing. Led by strong performances and a screenplay which promises more than it delivers, ‘We the Animals’ is a lost opportunity. In the hands of a more assured director, this movie could have been something else altogether.

A Simple Favor (2018) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Harvey Weinstein discovery Blake Lively gets on in the act as the busy enigmatic mothers who disappears. Her friend Anna Kendrick is left with the unenviable task of uncovering the mystery. With ample plot twists and turns, ‘A Simple Favor’ offers an engaging view of the dysfunctional aspect of American lives. For a movie which is essentially a character study, the one thing I liked is the ambiance the camera creates. ‘A Simple Favor’ will not be remembered for a long time but is well worth the two hours of your life you will have to spend for it. Recommended.

The Sisters Brothers (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Joachim Phoenix has resurrected his career after the voluntary sabbatical and remains one of the finest actors of this generation. In this film, he plays the younger ‘brother’ of the duo chasing a gold prospector. More than a thriller or drama, the movie is a comedy if you can get the right cues. Some of the dialogues are funny to say the least. ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is not groundbreaking or mold breaking cinema and hopefully the creators never meant it that way. Once this baggage is cleared, this is an eminently watchable flick.

Documentary of the Week

Pick of the Litter (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Enlightening, engaging and in some ways touching documentary about the making of guide dogs for the blind. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Arcticbecause it received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Did you know: Yesteryear Malayalam director A B Raj was an assistant director for the David Lean classic ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

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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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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.

Week 28

Movies: Non-English

The Violin ( Mexico, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVI4GjFkEq8

Quite possibly the best Mexican film of the last decade. The only soft thing onscreen is a violin, in a story which deals with the use of brute government force to crush dissent by a group of rebels. The heroism of the rebels is in stark contrast to unapologetic use of violence by the government forces which makes the film a difficult one to watch. Involving some of the most graphic and realistic scenes of violence you will ever see in a film, this one is ultimately worth the effort.

The 400 Blows ( France, 1959) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

400 blows

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i89oN8v7RdY

Francois Truffaut‘s masterpiece is one of the movies integral to the French ‘New Wave’. The story of a boy who is a victim of his circumstances remains timeless even half a century after its release. In the end, it is also a reminder that strong screenplay and an engaging story are the hallmarks of true classics. A must watch if you have any interest in international cinema.

English Retrospective

Mulholland Drive (2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

mulholland-drive

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96R9MG0DxLc

This acclaimed film from David Lynch is one of the most discussed movies because of the way it leaves itself open to interpretations. If you read the numerous discussions on the movie you will be confused by what the movie wants to say. This has not been helped by the director’s refusal to clarify on what he meant to make but at the same time this is not a movie you can trash. The only thing that can be said with certainty about the plot is that there is a car crash and the victim suffers emotionally from it. The rest of the story is very much open to interpretation and you will be  certainly hooked on as the narrative progresses.

Election (1999) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Election

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBgM_Kw6PSM

One of those easy to watch movies which raises itself a notch higher with the help of some fine acting and what I would bravely call as a story never told before. A high school teacher whose life is going nowhere is given the responsibility of handling the elections in his school. Only problem is that one of the candidates is a high achieving pushy character played with elan by Reese Witherspoon. Looking at the comedy that US politics has become, I guess they carry over the petty shenanigans of high school politics when they go to the Congress.

Life of Brian (1979) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVHhg67RVd4

If ‘Life of Brian’ is made in almost any other country in the world, chances are it won’t see the light of the day. Quite obviously a hilarious take on Christ, it is only in USA that such unhindered freedom of speech would be possible. The end result is an outrageous and irreverent comedy that will make you ask for more.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Way Way Back (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomaoes: 88%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwNo1i3jkCo

A coming off age story of a 14 year old boy who discovers himself during a summer vacation. The movie is very predictable but some nice touches make it interesting and engaging. Nothing extraordinary but there are some movies which are ordinary and good. This one belongs to that category.

Best Man Down (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA1lAl9muuQ

The best man at a wedding dies on the night of the wedding. The newlyweds cancel the honeymoon and make arrangements for the funeral. It is then they discover who truly their dead friend was. A pretty decent flick which picks up in the second half. Sometimes you discover how good people were only after they die.

The Heat (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahGnefZTdq4

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play cops in this attempt at comedy which huffs and puffs as it plays out. There are some genuinely funny moments but then it fizzles out and does not live up to its initial promise.

War Chod Na Yaar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomaotes: 57%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw1ELVWGamI

Who funds such movies? Who was stoned, the producer when he decided to make it or the writer when he hallucinated the idea?

Documentary Pick of the Week

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w39FnpuMRfo

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has a right wing agenda. Fox News is a leading unit of that empire and all its claims of fair and balanced reporting are exposed in this documentary. Indian news channels sold out to the ruling party look like kids in front of the sophistication of the propaganda of networks like Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ because it won Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013.

Did you know: Manna Dey and Bhupen Hazarika are the only two male playback singers to have won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest award in Indian cinema. RIP Manna Dey.