Edition 104

The Non-English Movie of The Week

La Llorona (Guatemala, France 2020) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

‘La Llorona’ is billed as a horror movie. It is nothing like the scary movies that we are used to watching. There are no edge of the seat moments. There are no scenes with loud music and also no startling scenes whatsoever. It is the elegance of the movie and the ideas of guilt and retribution that make this a horror movie. The story is about the crimes of men and what they can get away with in societies where many women are enablers to the atrocities. ‘La Llorona’ is about a General whose victims come to haunt him. The movie is set in Guatemala with a clearly broken down justice system, but would not feel out of place in any society where the mechanisms of justice do not operate. A special mention must be made of the director who gives shining example of what a good director brings to a movie. Watch this and you will remember it for a long time.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Nest (2020)[IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 8.0]

A man who once had a million dollars but is on a rapid downward spiral finds it difficult to reconcile with reality in this hard hitting social drama. ‘The Nest’ is a remarkable film even when you get the feeling that you have seen similar scenes in other movies. The characters are well defined and their motivations and backgrounds are clearly laid out. The thing that struck me about this movie is the relevance of some of the earlier scenes to the latter half of the movie and the finesse with which the makers have blended in those scenes. For example, the scene where Jude Law’s character shows the picture to his mother, you realize that the character wanted that picture in a particular way when it was taken. ‘The Nest’ is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching even when some of the scenes get a tad discomforting to watch. Higly recommended.

One Night in Miami (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]

Hyped to be a strong contender for the Academy awards, this film does not translate well the exciting synopsis of a fictional meeting of four African-American legends. Cassius Clay is on the verge of becoming Muhammed Ali with some prodding from Malcolm X when they have a night with singer Sam Cooke and American Football legend Jim Brown. They discuss a buffet of issues which ends up the way you would expect: tasting a lot many dishes without eating most of them in any good quantity. There is nothing about this movie that catches ones eye. There is not even a single memorable scene. The movie neither floats like a butterfly nor stings like a bee.

News of the World (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.0]

Tom Hanks teams up with Paul Greengrass in a safe film which plays from start to end without any major surprises or hiccups. It is a smoothly edited movie which looks good especially with the scenery in between dialogues. Otherwise it trudges a path uncomplicated and limited in ambition. Tom Hanks plays an ex-army man who makes a living reading news to people in the wild west. He is tasked with taking a rescued blonde girl back to her family. One must be a particularly naive viewer to think that Hanks will not succeed in his mission. In between some cartoonish scenes of him trying to rouse a mini rebellion through news reading, there is some good acting in the movie but the face that you should be focusing on is the young lady who will get an Oscar nomination for supporting actress. Eventually, that will be the only reason this movie will be remembered.

Har Kisse Ke Hisse: Kaamyaab (2020)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 8.0]

I saw this movie in 2020. It is, in my mind, the best Hindi film of 2020. It deserves more praise and viewership than what it has already received. Sanjay Mishra plays that once in a lifetime role in this homage to and celebration of the small time actor. A small time actor who leads a retired life and whose claim to fame is a single dialogue, is reinvigorated by the prospect of reaching an acting milestone. The film takes you on a journey of Bollywood dominated by the concept of the superstar where nobody else matters. The movie has good production values and is directed well. It is a breeze to watch and entertaining in the best way posssible. Please do watch it. By the way, that dialogue is, “Bas enjoying life, aur option hi kya hai.”

The Kid Detective (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

Talk about the burden of expectations. A kid who finds fame by solving cases through deductive reasoning finds it difficult to live upto his reputation as he enters adulthood. He is then given the task of solving a murder mystery. ‘The Kid Detective’ for large parts is a black comedy and a satire but as the story progresses things get serious but not that serious. Even though the murder mystery does get solved as you would expect, the real fun in the movie is the humour which the writer-director finds in good quantities throughout the movie. It is safe to say that you get suspense and humour in equal amounts: a two for the price of one deal. Not everyone likes such deals. In this case, I do.

Soul (2020)[IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 7.0]

‘Soul’ is heavily tipped to be the winner of the animation feature at the Oscars. It may even get a nomination for the original score. It tells the story of a man who is on the cusp of realising his dreams and then has to grapple with the origins of creativity and more heavy stuff. Frankly my dear, I did not like this movie much. It is just passable with a score that was too loud for my taste. Maybe, I did not ‘get it’ but that’s alright.

Documentaries of the Week

Collective (2020)[IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 9.0]

The toughest competition for the Oscar this year will be in the documentary section. There are at least ten documentaries that are good enough to win but I hope nothing is as good as ‘Collective’. It tells the story of corruption in the healthcare sector in Romania. More importantly, it is about journalism and politics. You have to fear for democracy when the crusaders against corruption are journalists at a sports publication. As an aside, I could not recollect a professional investigative article from any Indian newspaper in recent times. As for ‘Collective’, it is a spellbinding documentary. Do not miss.

The Mole Agent (2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

An 83 year old is sent to spy on the residents of an old age home in Chile. I did not expect comedy in this documentary but I could not have been more wrong. There are some laugh out loud moments. The flip side is that as you would expect things are not rosy when someone is that old. The documentary does try its best to maintain its sense of balance. Poignant, funny, sad and much more. A must watch

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Old‘ from M Night Shyamalan.

Did you know: John Le Carre used to submit his books for official clearance before they were published. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold which was made into a movie in 1965 was cleared by officials as they thought that the story was too far away from real spywork whereas those who saw the movie thought that only someone who knew too much about spying could write that story.

Edition 90

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Insult (Lebanon, 2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.0]


Lebanon is a hotbed of sectarian politics. The nation has strong contingents of Christian and Muslim denominations. Palestinian refugees constitute 10% of the population of Lebanon. It is in this powder keg that ‘The Insult’ is set. A Christian citizen of Lebanon sues a Muslim Palestinian refugee, and the events that ensue form the crux of the story. Up in the air is not just a legal question but decades old raw wounds which guide the motives of all the actors in the flick. Unfortunately, with revelations about the accused and the accuser, the story ties itself in knots. The director chooses the safest exit route by conceding partly to all involved. This only leads to an ending which is safe and is a big letdown for a movie which oozes with tension and drama for the large majority of its running time.

Movies I Saw This Week

22 July (2018) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5]


Paul Greengrass is a master at telling tales of tension and thrill. His success was undeniable in the Bourne Series and ‘United 93’ and to a lesser extent in ‘Captain Phillips’. In ’22 July’, he takes the viewer to the gory tragedy that unfolds at Utoya island, Norway where a right wing white supremacist (there is no need to name and glorify him) guns down 69 campers after already taking the life of 8 others with an explosion in Oslo. The tragedy and its aftermath are captured in this movie which is based on the more harrowing book ‘One of Us’. The movie is absolutely engaging in the first half but soon loses steam as it progresses. The focus is diluted by two strands that develop in the story. In many instances the killer is made to look reasonable. There is no outright condemnation of the monster and the lawyer who takes up his case begins with the intention of helping his client get away scot-free. The tragedy raises questions on the need for death penalty. If Hitler did not commit suicide and was caught by Norwegians, what would they have done with him?

A Prayer Before Dawn (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.5]


Based on a true story and a best selling book, this movie takes you inside the harsh prison life in Thailand and the contact sport of Muay Thai. Englishman Billy Moore finds a little bit of love, life and redemption as he navigates through the violence, abuse and underworld, serving his three year sentence. Notable for the gritty and realistic performances, ‘A prayer Before Dawn’ is a richly rewarding experience for those who have the patience to sit through the ordeal of real action sequences and shocking scenes of abuse.

Andhadhun (2018) [IMDB: 9.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]


Hands down the best Hindi movie of the year, ‘Andhadhun’ reaffirms my belief that Sriram Raghavan is the best director in India when it comes to making a taut thriller. For those who are not convinced yet, watch ‘Johnny Gaddaar’ or the more complex ‘Badlapur’. Andhadhun is the story of a pianist who pretends to be blind and then ‘witnesses’ a murder. The ball is set rolling from that moment and the myriad characters who appear (and some disappear) on the screen lead to a finale which is more clever than tense. The best thing about the movie is that it keeps the viewer engaged from start to end with well formed characters and great performances. There is even scope for some fun in the form of a Chaplinesque sequence with the piano playing in the background as a corpse is packed for disposal. Must see.

Mandy (2018) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]


The much maligned Nicolas Cage who was quietly riding into cinematic oblivion with duds piling up in the last few years, finds a comeback in a movie where you would least expect any redemption. In a movie reminiscent of grindhouse flicks, director Panos Cosmatos invites the viewer to a surreal experience of blood letting and horrific violence. Cage plays a man who is out to avenge his wife’s murder by a religious cult. From the word go, the movie with its distinct colour scheme and weird background score embarks on a cycle of gratuitous violence. Watching this movie requires oodles of patience and zero sensitivity to dismemberment of body parts or gushing of blood. Still, recommended.

Leave No Trace (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]


Seldom does a movie so simple arrest attention like ‘Leave No Trace’. This is a movie which must be seen and is an absolute joy to watch. A father and daughter live in the woods and they prefer life that way. When they are discovered, their world starts unfolding. Packed with empathy and wisdom, ‘Leave No Trace’ is a character study with a matching screenplay. I wish there were more movies like this one.

Paterno (2018) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating: 7.0]


Paterno was the head coach of the football team which was at the centre of the abuse scandal that engulfed Penn State University. The movie is a competent one made better by Al Pacino who is in fine form playing the title character. The real star in the real world though is the young local reporter who revealed the truth to the world and went on to win a Pulitzer for the same. Though sympathetic to Paterno for long stretches, the movie ends with a scene which shows the culpability and reveals the culture of silence which kept the scandal under wraps for a long time. ‘Paterno’ is not a great movie but one worth watching.

The Wife (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 6.5]


Glenn Close is heavily tipped to receive an Oscar nomination for her role as an enigmatic wife in this family drama that somehow reaches the finish line while struggling to hold the attention of the viewer. The big revelation in the movie does not take the viewer by surprise as enough hints are given during the course of the movie. The actors are in fine form with Christian Slater playing an annoying character which just requires him to be himself. For other ‘gems’ of Christian Slater watch movies like Basil (1998). As for ‘The Wife’, it is for the viewer to decide if the good lead performances make up for a biting lack of authenticity in a drama about a winner of the Nobel prize in literature.

Kayamkulam Kochunni (2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Rated, My Rating: 7.0]


The legendary thief who even has a temple to his name for his good samaritan acts is reborn on the big screen. An incredibly lucky Nivin Pauly seems to get all the right roles even when it is glaringly evident that his histrionic skills are not up to the mark. The movie itself keeps the viewer engaged even when the screenplay fails to offer anything fresh. Some of the songs in the movie are absolutely unnecessary and plain regressive. Nevertheless, the movie deserves appreciation for trying.

Documentary of the Week

Three Identical Strangers (2018) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.5]


An incredible true story about three identical brothers separated at birth and reunited as teenagers. One of the best documentaries I have seen.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Shoplifters’, winner of the Palme d’Or 2018 releasing in the US on 23 November.

Did you know: The movie ‘Arsenal (2017)‘ is still rated 4.0 on IMDB. As of today, Arsenal football club are in their ‘traditional’ 4th spot in the Premier League.

Week 34

Movies: Non-English

I Served the King of England (Czech Republic, 2006) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

I served the king of england

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

The story of an ambitious waiter and the women in his life set in the background of World War 2. This poignant and funny tale is in the tradition of similar Czech films. A throwback to the excesses of Nazis when they had the upper hand in the war, the film does not fail to mock the Nazis even when the mood turns sober. Not a must watch but certainly worth your time.

He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not ( France, 2002) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

he loves me

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2d8uitPvMU

The thing with this movie is that you don’t expect it to have the twists and turns with a crowd favourite like Audrey Tautou in the lead. This under appreciated French film takes an unexpected turn and in a split second the whole premise of the movie changes. From a sweet love story it becomes a tale of violent obsession. Every story has two sides. Some of them a few more.

English Retrospective

On the Waterfront (1954) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

on the w

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSImMMMf5nA

A few people (the curious types) have asked me the origin of the name of this blog. It comes from a dialogue in the movie ‘On the Waterfront’. It is faithfully reproduced below:

“Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.”

It is one of the saddest dialogues I have ever heard; the kind that puts in a capsule a lot of emotions. That feeling of what could have been, but for. Only real life dialogue of this nature that made be feel sad for the speaker was uttered by Al Gore when he said, ” Once I was the next President of USA.” I am sure Al Gore is not reading this but just for the sake of it he should know that he will have a more respectable place in World History than the idiot who stole the election.

Coming to the movie, it is a masterclass in acting from Marlon Brando. One of the movies to see before you die.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwhP5b4tD6g

I have not yet seen a movie which has war scenes shot with such perfection as ‘Saving Private Ryan’. It remains an injustice that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to ‘Shakespeare in Love’. My favourite Tom Hanks leads a mission to find and return Private Ryan whose three brothers have been slain in action during the Second World War. Steven Spielberg deservedly won the Oscar for the Best Director for this flick and strangely that was the last time he tasted Oscar success. Everything about this film is top notch and close to perfection. I am biased towards Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Therefore I cannot say anything bad about this movie. Must watch.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CxNF4eA6yw

Sometimes an idea can lead to a great story and when such a story has a great screenplay and free dialogues from Shakespeare, it can have unexpected success. The germ of the idea here is the question: ‘How could Shakespeare write such fine romance without himself being in love?’ What comes out of this idea is ‘Shakespeare in Love’, a fictionalized movie trying to imagine the inspiration for the Bard of Avon’s romantic works especially ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Sometimes originality gets the better of everything. As a friend once told me, if imitation is the best art then his ‘Juliet and Romeo’ should also have been equally famous as ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Ultimately ‘Shakespeare in Love’ upset the apple cart of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at the Oscars winning seven Oscars to the latter’s five.

Movies I Saw This Week

Captain Phillips (2013) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3ASoBrFGlc

Tom Hanks get back his mojo back after a few duds in this out and out thriller directed by Paul Greengrass. Greengrass who was behind the Borne series, had worked in the television industry before turning a feature film director. The influence of television is evident in the way he uses the camera for a lot of hand held shots and the movement of the camera contributes to the element of tension on screen. Even though ‘Captain Phillips’ is one of the better thrillers to have come out in recent years, I believe that earlier works of Greengrass like ‘United 93’ and ‘Bloody Sunday’ were better made and had more interesting stories to tell. As for this one, it would a major surprise if Tom Hanks lands an Oscar for his role. Coming to the story, the film gives a blow by blow account of the hostage crisis involving the hijacking of a US flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates, the first such event in 200 years. A nice one time watch.

Hello I Must Be Going (2012) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g71WfCXUTrY

Hailed at the Sundance Film Festival for some breakout performances, this feature tells the story of a lady trying to get her life back on track after going through  a divorce. I don’t know why they advertised this as a comedy because the overwhelming feeling was of sadness and I did not come even close to laughing. Nothing much to write about and also nothing much to whine about. An average flick.

Much Ado About Nothing (2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

much ado

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

A faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s work by the same title, this is the kind of movie that only Hollywood would finance. Where else would they have the guts to make movies with very much the same dialogues that Shakespeare wrote. Shot in classy black and white, it is a film that demands attention and the returns are quite good if you can give what the film asks for.

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 4.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg-t4Wsa6LU

Yes, I saw it like some of you. Not worth reviewing. I empathize with those who spent money to watch this torture. It is the kind of film where the director should stand outside the theatre and apologize to every single person who comes out after watching his movie.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Crash Reel (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KkFZ-QC53Q

Shaun White was the King of Snow. Kevin Pearce was his challenger in the half-pipe event. They were friends. They were world number 1 and 2 in the lead up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Then tragedy struck. A documentary which captures a story that must be told. One of the documentaries of the year. My heart goes out to Kevin’s mother. Even though she is never at the focus of the events, it is her strength of character that shines through the whole story. Just for the record, I cried.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ because some stupid films of Will Ferrell have their moments of madness.

Did you know: Nelson Mandela appears as a teacher in the film ‘Malcom X’, his only appearance as an actor in a movie. RIP Nelson Mandela.