Week 49

Movies: Non-English

The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

skin I live in

 

Trailer: 

An accomplished plastic surgeon who is obsessed with creating the perfect skin after his wife’s tragic death achieves a breakthrough after more than a decade of persistence. He has a patient in captivity who is a guinea pig for him to try his new accomplishment on. It is the mysterious past of this patient that holds key to the story as it unfolds. Told with the trademark panache of Pedro Almodovar, this film did not get the attention it deserved when it was released. It may be because Almodovar is a director who has made many films on gender issues and this one obliquely pays respect to that. It is also one of his latter films without Penelope Cruz. Such minor details aside, the film is a really good watch with Antonio Banderas showing us that he has it in him to step up to the plate when required, in the acting department.

Subramaniapuram (India, 2008) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated)

Subramaniapuram

 

Trailer: 

‘Subramaniapuram’ is a film that brought a zest to movie making in the Tamil film industry. Set in 1980, the film follows the story of five educated unemployed men in the rural heartland of Tamil Nadu (in South India). This is one of my personal favourites. (Spoilers Ahead) What starts as a simple romance slowly turns into a violent tragedy. The film gets its setting and feel right but the tale could have held on its own in any era. The cinematography and music add to the merit of the movie. There are some really good touches. It requires a certain vision to have one of the five men as physically challenged. That explains the whole movie in the opening sequence and in the climax without having to utter a word. A must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Philips and the Monkey Pen (India, Malayalam,2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

philips

 

Trailer: 

An absolutely delightful story of a boy who fears his mathematics classes like the plague and who has a streak of trouble making. Congratulations are in for the producers who showed the guts to finance a film with a young kid at the centre of the story. They also made sure that no effort is spared in the making of it, as is evident from the good production quality. A special mention must also be made of the background score which sets the right tempo for the movie. All this fade into the background when compared with the wonderful performances of the kids in the film. Some of the scenes and lines are too hilarious and it is all helped by the fact that the film has a story to tell. Two thumbs up.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013 [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

 

Trailer: 

This one is about the trip a ‘grandfather’ takes his grandson with him to return the grandson to his father. In other words, it is an excuse for a road trip in which a young man dressed up as a grandpa takes a younger brat with him to play a series of pranks on unsuspecting strangers. At many levels, the film tries to be outrageous and funny but usually is just outrageous. There are a few funny  moments though but they are far and few in between the ones that concentrate on body parts. Recommended for those who can find fun in toilet humour and juvenile jokes.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects (India,2014) [ IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]

Shaadi Ke Side Effects

 

Trailer: 

It remains a mystery how some movies get sequels in Bollywood when the original itself was a pain to watch. The only good thing about the movie is the title and even talents like Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar are wasted in roles that demand nothing of them. A married couple have a kid and then they have difficulty in coping up the upbringing of the kid. You see, they are having a kid for the first time. So they have no prior experience in the matter. Then the merry go around starts when they start imagining problems when there are none. They start lying to each other with the premise that small lies lead to a happy marriage. Some stretch of imagination, I must say. I guess the filmmakers could have just titled the film ‘Baby’ because that in their opinion is the side effect of a marriage.

Highway (India, 2014) [ IMDb: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

highway

 

Trailer: 

Imtiaz Ali makes nicely packaged movies with zero content like ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Rockstar’ where the actresses put in shoddy performances in the name of acting. ‘Highway’ is just another addition to the list. A young girl gets kidnapped on the eve of her wedding and then she has a bout of Stockholm syndrome. The movie then becomes an excuse for taking the lead characters around the country on a trip with a very easy ending to boot. Even the music by A R Rahman is tepid. An absolute bore of a movie in which even Randeep Hooda fails to perform.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Indie Game: The Movie (2012) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Indie Game The Movie

 

Trailer:

A look at the world of independent game developers and the passion they bring to the scene. Insightful.

The : D Retrospective

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) [ IMDb: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

The Devil Wears Prada

Trailer: 

Anne Hathaway is the wet behind the ears office assistant to Meryl Streep in the adaptation of the novel by the same title reportedly based on true events. The characters are all so well etched out that Meryl Streep could be held liable for torturing kids. Even when playing a character everyone loves to hate, she oozes class and literally makes the film her own. The dialogues are razor sharp and quite often acerbic. If you want a primer on how to torture employees, this one could be of great help and still be entertaining.

Romancing the Stone (1984) [ IMDb: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

Romancing the Stone

 

Trailer: 

A writer goes to Colombia to rescue her kidnapped sister and in the process gets into an adventure she didn’t bargain for. She also meets her love in dashing Michael Douglas. Kathleen Turner though does not make it count. She largely has a wooden performance but this works in her favour as that is what the role demands. That also makes it a case of good casting. Also thrown in are few rides in the forest and a very happy ending. A good watch for a lazy evening.

Fatal Attraction (1987) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

Fatal Attraction

 

Trailer: 

A box office hit from the glory days of Michael Douglas, ‘Fatal Attraction’ tells the story of an obsessive woman a man wants to avoid to save his marriage. The performances are all top notch and the film has the mood of a thriller which is what separates it from the countless movies based on a similar theme. Even when it is predictable and has an obvious ending, the film keeps you interested with the pacy screenplay and antics of the characters which are at times unpredictable.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Noah’ because it a Darron Aronofsky film starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.

Did you know: The real Frank Abagnale Jr. appears in Catch Me If You Can as the French policeman who arrests Di Caprio.

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Week 31

Movies: Non-English

Talk to Her (Spain, 2002) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Talk_to_Her_English_movie_poster_fairuse

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNdzcTZUW54

One of the most thought provoking movies I have ever seen, ‘Talk to Her’ raises questions about what is right and wrong. This is one of those movies where Pedro Almodavar indulges himself and the effect is that there are many memorable scenes which blend in with a twisted but ultimately provocative story line. The story revolves around two men who care for two women when they are in a comatose state. The film is a little on the heavy side and if you are looking for a light film, this is exactly the movie you shouldn’t be watching. Otherwise, a classic. Two thumbs up.

Offside (Iran,2006) [IMDb: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

offside1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xF029bEi00

People in many countries don’t realize the liberty and freedom they have. It is when you get to know really strange stuff that you start to appreciate what you have always taken for granted. For example, women in Iran are not allowed entry into sporting events featuring men. How regressive are those notions which make people enforce such laws? In this film by dissident Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, he exposes the duplicity of the state. A few women cross dress to gain access to a soccer match featuring the Iran national team. The film dwells on what happens to them. The thing with Iranian films is that they are made on really tight budgets and do not have the funds to rely on technology to tell the story. So they must have a good story to tell and they need to tell it in an engaging way. This movie is a lesson on those very essential qualities that make a good Iranian movie.

English Retrospective

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) [IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Good_the_bad_and_the_ugly_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13EUXqIwDkQ

If you have not seen this one, you have not seen anything. Absolutely riveting movie experience enhanced by the assured direction of Sergio Leone and the unforgettable music of Ennio Morricone.  Genre defining Western which has also been beautifully shot. This movie is better than all the high praise you have ever heard for this movie. Watch before you die.

Walk the Line (2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

walk-the-line

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

I am not going overboard when I say that this is the best movie on a musician ever made. Here the subject of analysis is Johnny Cash, the legendary singer-songwriter. His music was as peppy as his personal life. Together they made him a powder keg waiting to explode on to the stage. His roller coaster ride as a person and as a musician is explored in this engaging drama. Watch it if you love music; any sort of music.

Into the Wild (2007) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

into-the-wild-movie-poster-1020406877

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAuzT_x8Ek

Christopher McCandless abandons the world after graduation to seek the thrill of living in the Alaska wild. Based on a non fiction bestseller, this feature by Sean Penn tries to sell the romantic notion of an exotic life free from all worldly pleasures. I have not been really convinced by the idea. My opinion on McCandless is that he was (notice the past tense) an amazingly courageous but incredibly naive person. I recently read an article which says that in his final days he might have accelerated his death by consuming poisonous plants when he was out in the wild. The film is a breeze and conveniently skips the moral questions to give a truly uplifting film which makes it a good one to watch. Reality may be little more grey but I shall raise a toast to the traveler who chose to take the road less traveled.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Kings of Summer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

kings of

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cio8LOCZPzw

Three friends who are fed up of their parents decide to build a home and stay in the wild. The movie is visually vibrant with the colours of nature splashed all over it. It has some hilarious scenes and the pushy parents come out quite good. It is a story of growing up, standing on your own feet and discovering the real self within you. The movie does slow a bit in the middle. My only grouse is that it does not push the envelope. Otherwise, a really good film to watch.

The East (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

east

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VZpeoQsQ1w

‘The East’ starts off on a very promising premise. It has a vigilante group taking on big corporations for their wrong doings. A private spy is sent in to infiltrate the group and through her we learn more about the reasons for the existence of the group. There are some standout moments, like the dinner scene with hands of the diners tied. The movie could have been much better but at the precise moment when the choice was to go and soar or find the easy escape route, the writers choose the latter. Still, I recommend this flick as a one time watch.

The Sapphires (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

sapphires

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2Ty4r6mvgg

I discovered this movie by accident and I have no idea why this is not a more widely seen and discussed movie. This one has a very good story to tell and it is told in a way which justifies that story. In this film based on actual events, four Australian aboriginal girls form a music group and get a chance to entertain US troops fighting in Vietnam. They are aided by a quirky and knowledgeable manager. The movie tells their story without forgetting the deep political undertones and simmering racial tensions. Definitely worth a watch.

Krrish 3 (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]

krrish 3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCCVVgtI5xU

I love writing about mainstream Hindi movies. I can have a good laugh and think of new ways to pan movies and the best thing is that Bollywood always gives enough material for this. Here we have a villain who shows his class by stealing ice cream from cones. The superhero is facing a job crisis because he cannot find enough time for his job after saving the world. Does ‘Spiderman 2’ ring a bell? The father and son go to work and save the world on a daily basis while the daughter in law reads news they create. The father speaks like he never grew up even when articulating grandiose plans to improve the lot of humankind. There are less raindrops falling in Cherrapunji than there are loopholes in this film. I almost forgot to mention that the superhero loves kids. I have only one thing to say ‘Thank You Shaktimaan’. No comments for Vivek Oberoi as the main villain. Like his ice cream stealing counterpart, he is also food obsessed. How else could he get the knife from the bread to slash his dad? I am also fed up.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Sicko (2007) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

sicko

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TohajYzut7Y

A damning indictment of the US medical system. Michael Moore style. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for:’Oldboy’ because the original was too good.

Did you know: Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco at the peak of her career and bid adieu to acting.

Week 26

Movies: Non-English

Le Samouraï (France, 1967) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

samourai

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs0XYssIlbo

An assassin who is at the top of his game suddenly finds the tide turning against him. The same qualities that made him a force may cause his downfall. Stylishly shot movie which is able to achieve the deadpan look which many other movies try so hard to achieve. A must watch. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that the title ‘Kamikaze’ would have been more apt.

All About My Mother (Spain, 1998) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

all about

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkUMC5Jw8MA

Pedro Almodovar is a great story teller but the most noticeable trait of his movies is the presence of strong female characters. Here, the usual dose of Spanish flair is an asset to the movie which moves at a rapid pace. The story is that of a single mother trying to cope with her son’s death. She is also forced to confront her own demons. The film scooped the Academy award for the ‘Best Foreign Language film’ after having tasted commercial success in Spain.

English Retrospective

Requiem for a Dream (2000) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

requiem

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgo3Hb5vWLE

One of the most depressing movies you will ever see. Four addicts who want to have a better life go down the drain as they are unable to battle their dependence on drugs. The movie is shot in a rather disconcerting way and is like a visit to hell and back. The performances are uniformly classy. A special mention must be made of Ellen Burstyn who as the mother puts in an unforgettable performance. One of the best movies you will ever see.

Pulp Fiction (1994) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

pulp fiction

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

Director Quentin Tarantino is a self confessed fan of B grade slasher movies and action flicks. The good thing is that he shows his love for violence by making high quality classics which revel in violence and action. ‘Pulp Fiction’ is perhaps his most accomplished work and one of the most important movies of the 90s. The movie gave a new grammar to the method of making movies. With actors who act as if they were born to perform their roles, the move is a tour de force. This is one movie which you should watch if you claim to have any interest in movies.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

edward

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq2PPFUhfpo

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many occasions with mixed results. This movie is perhaps the best that they have produced together. Johnny stars as Edward who has scissors for hands. He falls in love with kleptomaniac (in real life, that is) Winona Ryder. Though Depp tries his best to emote this is not his best performance. He is able to draw the sympathy towards his character but that is all what he is able to do. Still, a rather interesting film for the novelty of the idea.

Movies I Saw This Week

Mud (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Mud French Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFBC8ohhVUs

Matthew McConaughey has been the most consistent star in the last three years delivering remarkable movies starting with ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ in 2011. As they say, he saved the best for the last. ‘Mud’ is undoubtedly his most accomplished film with a solid story and screenplay that makes you wonder whether it is inspired by true events. Here McConaughey plays a man on the run from the law who makes a pact with two boys to help him escape. The locations are authentic and McConaughey looks the part. He deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance. All this adds up to one of the best films of 2013. Truth be told, it is difficult to find such movies anymore. Therefore, a must watch.

Disconnect (2012) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

disconnect

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqCcQOlDM4o

‘Disconnect’ is basically a lesson on internet. It is a movie for the beginners on what not to do on the net. Otherwise, it is a movie on incredibly naive people who have no idea what they are doing when they post personal stuff on the net and pass it on to complete strangers. The editing is tacky and the background score does not aid the setting. I did not find the movie much impressive but from the popular response it seems I am in the minority.

Besharam ( India, 2013)[ IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 18%]

Besharam_movie_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzPjjqiG918

Finally, a Bollywood movie which lives up to its title. Shameless. The sentimental story of an orphan who has a heart of gold. Just kidding. The stupid story of an orphan who likes to steal cars for a living and steals the car of the girl he is chasing. The girl is also so filthy rich that she drives the latest Mercedes (poor idea of product placement) and then starts loving the guy who stole her car. Moral of the story: If the girl who you like does not like you,steal her car. Drive her around (in your car) long enough to make her love you. Then confess and return her car. Crack some crude jokes and when you are stuck on what to do next, start a song. Voila, you have a film.

Phata Poster Nikla Hero (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

phata

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCrNoy5OeOI

The only thing I liked about the movie is the title of the movie. I hope Shahid Kapoor goes the Abhishek Bachchan way. That is, I hope he makes enough flops that he stops getting movies.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Restrepo (2010) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Restrepo_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DjqR6OucBc

War in Afghanistan. A year with those fighting it. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ because it is a Coen Brothers film.

Did you know: Co-director of ‘Restrepo’, Tim Hetherington, was killed on April 20, 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya.

Week 9

Movies: Non- English

The Breath (Turkey, 2009) [IMDB: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

nefes-vatan-sagolsun-filmi-izle

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arfWbfewMI0

Turkey may be in the spotlight currently for all the wrong reasons but they do make some fine movies. One of the finest to come out of this culturally rich nation is ‘The Breath’. The story of a group of men defending an outpost high in the mountains is not a conventional story. The fact that they have delusions and suicidal tendencies in a bitterly cold environment is understandable but what stands out is the excellent cinematography. Some of the memorable scenes include the torn flag fluttering in the wind and men typing on a typewriter on a wasteland of ice. I don’t know whether they shot on location. The team deserves an ovation if they did. If they put a set which makes it look as good as the location, they deserve more than an ovation.

Volver (Spain, 2006) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Volver_Poster

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

Pedro Almodovar is in fine form in this light film which has his muse Penelope Cruz in one of her better performances. I must say that when I first saw this movie I was not really impressed as I was focusing on the mother-daughter equation which forms the crux of the movie. Later I found out that the people in the Iberian peninsula really liked the film and a teacher of mine at the Delhi University who was from Portugal had a discussion on the film with me, which gave a new perspective. Well, the new perspective was that don’t take it very seriously and start believing in a little bit of magic in real life.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (France, 2007) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

The_Diving_Bell_and_the_Butterfly_DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G69Zh7YIg8c

This is one of the most inspirational movies I have ever seen. Based on a true story, it shows a man who has his full body paralyzed except for one eye which he can blink, go on to write a marvelous best selling book. The movie is good but not fantastic. It may sound cliched but if there is one movie which can be an advertisement for the triumph of human spirit, this is the one. See it to know about the most original book ever written in the toughest circumstances.

Hollywood Retrospective

Zodiac (2007) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

zodiac

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6q_MfcDEEE

This film is not sufficiently old to merit a retrospective but then it is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. A journalist following the case of a serial murderer gets too involved with the case that he becomes part of the story. The story is based on true events. Aside from the investigation which is told in top rate style, the movie also focuses on real world difficulties when the time span of a case spans decades. A movie for the intelligent viewer who can appreciate the nuances of story telling. I was surprised that the movie was not even nominated at the Oscars. ‘Zodiac’ will walk into my list of all time best thrillers with ease.

Road to Perdition (2002) [ IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

road-to-perdition-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1iCd___dNY

Boasting of a stellar cast with the likes of Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Daniel Craig, this is probably the best gangster movie after ‘The Godfather’. Shot exquisitely by Conrad L. Hall (which incidentally won him his third Oscar posthumously), the movie has an engaging story to tell. The actors have given their heart out to the film and it shows. Some of the scenes ooze quality. The finely choreographed shooting in the rain with just the background score to aid is one hell of a memorable scene. Another one is when Tom Hanks leaves the lift in a hurry. The speech at a remembrance is another top notch moment. I could go on and on because I am a huge fan of the movie. If you like classy movies with great dialogues and strong performances, ‘Road to Perdition’ is a must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jack Reacher (2013) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 6.9%]

jack reacher

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK7y8Ou0VvM

The tagline says; ‘The law has its limits. He does not’. That may be true for the movie but not for Tom Cruise’s acting which is severely low on the range factor. Right from his ‘Top Gun’ days, his range is restricted to having a red nose when he has to show rage or anxiety or even plain cold. No wonder he has not landed an Oscar after futile attempts like ‘The Last Samurai’. However, Cruise is the star of the box office and he can get the cash registers ringing. Fortunately for him, once in a while he does get roles which require more panache than histrionics. Jack Reacher is one such role and definitely worth a watch if you know what to expect.

Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 20%]

Yamla-Pagla-Deewana-2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhm9Ukkn8eo

I did not know that the first movie in the series was successful enough to warrant a sequel or it could be that the Deols are trying to milk the last penny from the box office. It is an apology for a film and a better option than watching it would be to go and count the waves at the beach. Some of the critics who seem to be influenced by external factors were giving the movie an average rating for this pathetic attempt. One thing I will concede is that unlike most of the Bollywood sequels, it has the same set of characters from the original. That also is the highest praise I can come up for this movie.

Aurangzeb (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

Aurangzeb-2013

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMo9jiUeopc

Buy ticket for one Arjun Kapoor and get one more Arjun Kapoor free. That is the cinematic equivalent of two free trips to Somalia. Even the usually reliable Prithviraj looks off colour. It is left to the veteran Rishi Kapoor to save the day. If you are willing to overlook the fact that there are as many holes in the plot as there are in a sieve, ‘Aurangzeb’ is a one time watch.

Documentary Pick of the Week 

Jesus Camp (2006) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Jesus Camp

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_1Jm2_iB7g

‘Catch them young’ could be the motto of any organisation looking at indoctrination. Though the film hits out at Christianity, things are not much different with other religions. The multi-billion recession proof industry of organised religion is taken to the cleaners in this compelling documentary. Disturbing.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘World War Z’ because Brad Pitt is one actor growing in stature.

Did you know: India is one of the few countries in the world where the Head of the State presents the national film awards.