Edition 77

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Cemetery of Splendor (Thailand, 2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5]

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‘Cemetery of Splendor’ is a hypnotic masterpiece from the Palme D’or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Continuing his passion for metaphysics from his previous movies like ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’ and ‘Syndromes and a Century’, the director dwells on a peculiar sleeping disease that strikes a group of soldiers in Thailand. With understated humour and purposeful pacing the director is able to take the movie to an exalted level without compromising on the story line. Highly recommended for those who seek something different.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

Trevor suffers from muscular dystrophy and a bad sense of humour. He embarks on a road trip with his caregiver. The movie is about the people they meet and the bond that develops between them as they progress through their rollercoaster of a journey. Cliched to the hilt, the movie is saved from disaster by the performance of the ensemble cast. Paul Rudd especially stands out but his role could have been more well rounded if there had been some better writing. Overall, an easy movie to watch and an easier one to forget.

Me Before You (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Syrupy romance of a couple divided by class and wealth. Haven’t we heard that before? Here the man is wheelchair bound. The caregiver is a sassy girl who is blind to the thoughts of her subject. What follows is a predictable movie where anything goes. In fact, there are scenes in this movie which are an exact replica of the scenes in ‘The Fundamentals of Caring’. This is not to say that scenes have been copied but it clearly shows the lack of strong screenplay or even the intention of having one. If the movie doesn’t sink, it is because of the featherweight screenplay. Some gravitas to the proceedings is given by the strong and bubbly performance of Emilia Clarke. Otherwise there isn’t much to talk about.

Demolition (2016) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:57%, My Rating: 5.5]

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Trailer

Despite the availability of an acclaimed star cast and a moderately successful director, ‘Demolition’ is a movie in self-destruct mode almost paying a tribute to its title. A banker recovering from the tragic loss of his wife finds himself at the crossroads. Unable to reconcile with his present day life, he starts searching for answers in the past. The confused narrative and the weak attempts to give depth to the story end up making a mess of the screenplay. The movie at its best is watchable and in most parts avoidable.

Tumbledown (2016) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten TOmatoes: 69%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

A wife grieving the loss of her husband finds a new beginning with the help of a new friend and some music. The movie does give a feel of ‘have been there and done that’. The inspired writing helps the movie to rise above mediocrity. Rebecca Hall who is present in almost every frame of the movie plays her part convincingly. The effective background score and cinematography aid her. ‘Tumbledown’ is an an antithesis of ‘Demolition’ in every conceivable way. Good that we have a choice and ‘Tumbledown’ is the hands down winner.

Green Room (2016) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Trailer

From the soulful ‘Tumbledown’ to the punk rock of ‘Green Room’ may not be the transition you were looking for. A band on the run from a crime scene forms the crux of what ‘Green Room’. The director exploits the limits of the genre while bending a few rules in this edge of the seat thriller once the chase starts. Populated by psychopaths and neo-nazis, the bleak setting is not a constraint for some subtle comedy as well. All in all a breeze to watch. Highly recommended.

The Brothers Grimsby (2016) [IMDB:6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%, My Rating: 4.0]

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In cinema there are not many worse spectacles than comedy which is stale. ‘Dicatator’ was funny. ‘Borat’ had its moments but this one is defined by its lack of humour. Granted that we are not looking for high brow comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen but even his gigs and buffoonery don’t justify the existence of this plot less wonder. Bereft of any logic, trying to hard to be comic and attempting to look chic, the movie falls flat on its face. Avoidable.

The Ridiculous 6 (2015) [IMDB:4.9, Rotten Tomatoes:0%, My Rating: 2.0]

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Trailer

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news (for Adam Sandler) is that he has been signed by Netflix for a multiple movie contract. The bad news is that this is only the first movie in the series. Plagued by problems during production including accusations of racism on the sets, the movie is strictly for racist Adam Sandler fans. The movie is an insult to intelligence with a particularly bad portrayal of native Americans. Unfortunately the movie had the best opening on Netflix which is also a sad commentary on the state of the American society.

Documentary of the Week

(Dis)Honesty : The Truth About Lies (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

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From the Dean of Admissions at MIT to bankers, there is a problem of dishonesty. A documentary that delves into the reasons for dishonesty. Highly recommended.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sully’ starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood.

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Did you know: ‘Mulholland Drive’ topped BBC’s list of 21st century’s greatest films.

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Edition 53: The Best of National Awards

Movies: Non-English

Fireworks (Hana-bi) (Japan, 1997) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

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With generous doses of blood splashing on the screen and numerous scenes with physical violence, this Japanese classic is not a pleasant film to watch. A cop gets out of the police force and gets into violent ways. He takes up painting after his voluntary retirement but the pent up frustrations in his life boil over. Shot with an element of sadism in the scenes of violence and marked with insensitivity to human life, the film is a masterclass in violence. The lead actor wrote and directed the film and it is safe in his hands as he is able to fully realize what he penned.

The Wave (Germany, 2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Wave (2008)

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For many poorly informed foreigners, especially non-Europeans, the everlasting word association with Germany is ‘Hitler’. Though unfair to Germany and Germans, this is one association they find very difficult to shake off. This film explores the possibility of the rise of a dictatorship in Germany. Based on a true story (that happened outside Germany),  a social experiment trying to figure out how life would be under a dictatorship, spirals out of control. Though the film suffers much on account of the difficulty in making it believable, it is a study on how cults emerge and how a few committed mad men can create havoc in the society. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jolly LLB (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

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I did not watch this movie earlier thinking that it was one of the assembly line manufactured products from Bollywood. The ‘critics’ from mainstream media were also reserved in their reviews with no high praises being spoken of the film. It is after the film scooped few awards at the Filmfare awards that I thought that I should probably watch it. The probability turned into certainty when the film won a few more awards at the National Film Awards. It is a mystery to me (maybe, it is not) how pathetic mainstream movies with huge star casts receive glowing paid for reviews while good independent cinema is hardly recognized. Jolly LLB, minus the forced songs, is indeed the best Hindi film of 2013. It has a very original script and fine performances from all the main actors including Saurabh Shukla, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. Telling a contemporary story, it is a courtroom drama that exposes the ills of the Indian judicial system without taking itself too seriously. The court scenes look authentic and the dialogues are never forced. It is a quite an easy film to watch and keeps you interested even when the climax is a foregone conclusion.

Labor Day (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

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This film looks like a 70s movie with better cast and poor directing. A cure for insomnia. It is baffling how Kate Winslet got a BAFTA nomination for her insipid performance. The plot involves a single mom and her son being forced to give asylum to a criminal on the run from the law. A lot of mushy moments that are obviously built into the story to initiate intimacy between the couple fall flat. All this makes it a B grade movie with an A list star cast which makes you laugh in the serous moments.

Shahid (India, 2012) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

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Based on the true story of the slain advocate who defended the accused in many high stakes terror cases, ‘Shahid’ is a tour de force. Punching many holes in the narrative of the investigation agencies, Shahid becomes a thorn in the proceedings for people wielding power. He succeeds in getting acquittals for many of the accused.The movie which starts with the killing of Shahid traces his story from almost becoming a terrorist to being at the vanguard of the fight against human rights abuses. Rajkumar Rao deservedly got the Best Actor award at the National Film Awards. ‘Shahid’ tells a story that needs to be told and they have told it quite well.

2 States (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

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First the good parts. It is not a boring film and Alia Bhatt has acted well. Discounting for the source material, the film is well directed and edited. In simple words, it is not boring. Otherwise, it is a story which was taken from a screenplay published as a novel. (Spoilers Ahead) Chetan Bhagat writes screenplays with melodramatic moments and high drama in plain English and first publishes them as books priced at suitable pricing points. Later they make them into movies which neatly fit the genre of the typical Bollywood romance. The film is a refined version of Ekkkkkkta Kapoor’s serials, with squabbling relatives and tender love caught in the cross fire. Here a Punjabi guy and a Tamil Brahmin girl (you see, the cast has to be mentioned. As if, others don’t study in Tamil Nadu) fall in love, copulate and even romance during interviews during their stint at IIM A. In what is bad advertisement for IIM A, the girl even takes the groom to task over his lower salary than hers at a wedding which is her way of addressing the dowry problem. I have only sympathy for the souls who think that Chetan Bhagat writes something new in every book. It is the same recycled trash. All his books have the same type of ‘liberated’ women. Just like the much prized pen in ‘3 Idiots’ there are plot devices that keep on repeating in the movie for them to be magically resolved. A case in point here is the poor singer mother-in-law who gets her place in the sun because of the efforts of her daughter’s boyfriend. Then there is the abusive father who has a change of heart when the director wants it. It is all too convenient.  The piece de  resistance was the ‘ring scene’. I was wondering if all family members would be wearing the ring and if the girl had a sister instead of a brother, would she be wearing one too? For once, I did not understand the need to have a session at the shrink’s place as a venue for the flashback. Maybe producer Kkkkkkaran Johar can explain.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues

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If you have brain, leave it in the freezer. Know that you are going to watch a stupid film and know that stupidity has no limits. Get ready for jokes that don’t care about any niceties. Racist jokes, jokes on the blind and so on are the categories that will have benchmarks with this one film which makes no pretensions about what it wants to tell. Finally it boils down to a matter of taste. Watch a version of how 24 hour news channels came into being. Just for the gags.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Why We Fight (2005) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Why We Fight (2005)

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Why Americans like going to war? Who wants America to go to war? A look at the powerful interests that drive the American war machine.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Chef’ because it is a movie on food.

Did you know: The first Twilight is the only film in the series to not receive any Razzie Award nominations.