Edition 97

The Non-English Movie of The Week

In the Aisles (Germany, 2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

This German flick is about a young man finding his way through life while learning the ropes in his new job at the supermarket. He develops an infatuation for one of his colleagues and the story is hinged on this premise. The movie does turn tedious at times and a fast forward button on your remote may be highly useful while watching it. There are two ways of looking at this movie. The considerate view is that it is a tender, thoughtful and empathetic piece of film making. The less charitable view is that it is akin to watching Manchester United play: a slow dross.

Movies I Saw This Week

Ad Astra (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Ad-Astra means ‘to the stars’. The movie is mostly confined to the solar system. Philosophically, the movie borrows heavily from ‘Apocalypse Now’ with a plot strikingly similar to one of the best movies ever made. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut tasked with meeting his father who is stationed a few planets away. In the “near future” when space travel is a long haul flight with transit points, Pitt sets out to solve the issues facing mankind and to put to rest his inner demons. The background score is excellent. Brad Pitt gives probably the best performance of his life. The technological capabilities are evident. The movie, though, is less than the sum of its parts.

Joker (2019) [IMDB: 9.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A city on the verge of collapse. Filthy streets, crumbling infrastructure, walls and windows ridden with graffiti and the terminal decline of social security. Sounds familiar? Well, this is the Gotham in which the origin story of Joker is set. A struggling yet decent man trying to cope with his mental illness loses the plot as he is abused by the society and finds his social support brutally cut short. Mayhem ensues as he becomes the worst version of himself. Watch ‘Joker’ for one of the most spectacular acting performances of all time. Joaquin Phoenix is sensational in this dark tale and the camera is an observer of his antics in every frame of the movie. If you can stomach the violence and keep your eyes on the performance of Phoenix, this is a movie that is more than worth your time.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It is just a prop to string together encounters with various stars and get them to play along to the scripted interviews. If you are fan of the mock interview series ‘Between Two Ferns’, there is more than enough in this movie to have a few good laughs. Some of the humour is juvenile but some hit the bull’s eye .I would have liked it if they had more from stars like Keanu Reeves. Recommended strictly for the fans.

Yesterday (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Danny Boyle has some obsession with Maliks. His protagonist in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was Jamal Malik. In ‘Yesterday’ the lead’s name is Jack Malik. Maybe it is some cheeky reference but if it is some superstition he cannot be faulted for it. ‘Yesterday’ is inching towards 200 million dollars at the box office, becoming Boyle’s second biggest hit since ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The plot is about the Malik who one day finds out that he is the only one in this world who remembers ‘The Beatles’. His fledgling singing career which was on life support suddenly has a reversal. The movie is a throwback to the hysteria that surrounded the pop group. The plot of the movie is all over the place but the music is just phenomenal. Watch ‘Yesterday’ for the evergreen music.

Crawl (2019) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

‘Crawl’ delivers what it promises. It is a product of the branch of movie factory which pits man against nature. The alligators here could have been sharks, extraterrestrials, snakes, bears, foxes, monkeys, dragons or piranhas. Add a bit of a natural disaster like a hurricane or a flood (add lots of water). Just as in a video game, add few constraints. There you have the formula for a summer blockbuster. ‘Crawl’ is a hit. It ticks every box for a disaster movie. Funnily enough, it is not a boring film. One every few years is worth a watch and the best part is that ‘Crawl’ is not shoddily made. Enough praise. You get the drift.

Midsommar (2019) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Midsommar’ is about a group of American friends who go to Sweden to live in a commune for a short period of time. This movie is a horror movie if you take it seriously, especially the second half of it. If you are not concerned for the group by the second half, then you may see more humour than horror in this movie. The standout performance is from Florence Pugh as the young woman recovering from a personal tragedy and going through cycles of mental illness. The most shining aspect of the movie is the way it treats her condition. The movie per se, leaves room for many metaphors. This is a very subjective film. Some may find meanings unknown and angles unexplored in this mostly riveting flick but the others may be uninterested as it hurtles towards its very predictable climax.

The Mustang (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

‘The Mustang’ is about a convict who is given the responsibility of taming and domesticating a wild mustang as part of his prison duties. Revelations about his crime and him finding solace in the process form the crux of the story. This is a thoroughly likable film with good acting and fine direction. My only grouse is again with the languid pace of the proceedings.

Late Night (2019) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5 ]

Trailer

Emma Thompson is usually at her best in verbose performances. She has a lot of dialogues in this movie in which she plays an embattled late night show host unwilling to ride into the sunset. To spice things up and shore up her ratings she is forced to hire a new writer for her writing team. Mindy Kaling plays that writer. Mindy Kaling also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Therefore, no prizes for guessing who gets the most screen time. Otherwise, it is a watchable and mostly benign movie which does nothing earth shattering.

Documentary of the Week

Diego Maradona (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

If anyone asks you to choose a place and day to do some time travel, Naples on 10 May 1987 would be a good choice. The sheer agony and ecstasy of being Diego Maradona captured like never before. As they say in the movie, you don’t know what you have missed.

Eagerly waiting for: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

Did you know: Joaquin Phoenix and River Phoenix were the first brothers to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting.

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Edition 79

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Train to Busan (2016) [IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

Although I have seen all the Oscar nominees in the foreign language category this year, they have mostly been drab stuff. ‘Train to Busan’ is not nominated for the Oscars but it is what Hollywood would envy the south Korean movie industry for. ‘Train to Busan’ is an out and out entertainer which does not hold back for even a second on the thrills. With well crafted characters and wonderfully choreographed sequences, it is an edge of the seat thriller with a novel take on the zombie genre. I have never been to South Korea but traveling in a train in South Korea is not an experience I look forward to. ‘Train to Busan’ is one of the best movies ever in the zombie category. It is a ride I highly recommend.

Movies I Saw This Week

La La land (2016) [IMDB:8.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.5]

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Trailer

‘La La Land’ could have been a mediocre movie. If the music did not work, it could even have been a bad movie but the music worked. The acting worked. The direction was in secure hands. The producers wanted to change the story line but the director stuck to his guns. Much younger actors were to play the roles meant for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. All that did not happen. As the movie rightly portrays the glorious possibilities of life, it is those final few minutes and the last act of the story that takes it to heights seldom achieved in  movie making. ‘La La Land’ is the ‘Shawshank Redemption’ of romance for the impact the climax has on the movie. It is not just about the climax though. Emma Stone steals the show with her performance that should land her the Oscar. Ryan Gosling supports her in his own deadpan style. In many ways ‘La La Land’ is a reinvention of the musical genre.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

This movie based on a true story tells the tale of a war hero who refused to kill during war. Directed by the Hollywood bad boy Mel Gibson, the film is gory with many sequences of unfiltered action. That does create the setting of the war but takes away the story from its core of a conscientious objector’s fight to hold on to his beliefs and yet be an able servant to his country’s army. Andrew Garfield plays the character with a lot of heart but some inherent contradictions in the screenplay reduce the impact of his performance. It is also very difficult to understand, let alone appreciate his moral positions. By straddling the worlds of religion, country and army, Hacksaw Ridge delivers a message which is lost somewhere in the movie. Nevertheless, a one time watch.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) [IMDB: 8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

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Trailer

Let me say this aloud. If Casey Affleck does not get the Oscar for this performance, then it would be travesty of justice. ‘Manchester by Sea’ is the among the best two movies I have seen in the last one year. Superficially, it is about the story of man who is asked to take care of his brother’s young son after the death of his brother. The layers that the film unravels is akin to the experience of peeling onions. At every level, the story gets more interesting and new insights in to the life of the lead character emerge. Casey Affleck who is there in practically every frame of the movie delivers a pitch perfect performance. He brings to life the tortured soul whose awkward behaviour is based on his tragic past. The rest of the cast also perform competently. ‘Manchester by Sea’ is a great movie with a haunting and unforgettable performance by Casey Affleck. Must See.

Arrival (2016) [IMDB: 8.1 , Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer

‘Arrival’ has been generally well received but I am in the minority. (Spoilers ahead) It is a very pretentious movie where a linguist is called on to interact with aliens who have made contact with earth. The unfortunate part is that this is just a suitable prop for telling a story which has nothing to do with aliens. It is a manipulation of the intelligence of the audience with word plays on the concept of palindromes and another idea of the movie itself being a palindrome. Amy Adams plays a human character who for the sake of keeping up appearances to suit the screenplay of the movie does not believe in the notion of aging. So she looks the same at every age bracket she plays. Some cheap ideas to cement her credentials include the Sanskrit word for war and some other shenanigans of the director to suit the situation. Arrival is low level science, cheap propaganda and dimwitted screenplay disguised as high brow thriller.

Sing Street (2016) [IMDB: 8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Trailer

‘Sing Street’ is the most underrated movie of the year. It is also the feel-good movie of the year. A young boy in Dublin in 1985 falls in love with a girl at first sight. He makes the audacious move of inviting her to be in his band’s music video. She says yes. The problem is: he has to now form a band which he said he had. Filled with terrific music and authentic characters, ‘Sing Street’ delivers the kind of roller-coaster ride which keeps you engaged. The music videos that are shot are epic in nature. With some generous doses of humour and smartly crafted dialogues, the movie is also a toast to a time in history and the uninhibited freedom of adolescence. Highly recommended.

Southside With You (2016) [IMDB: 6.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

Based on the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama, this movie is an easy watch. Similar in style to ‘Before Sunrise’, the story takes us to the first few hours the couple spent together walking the streets and visiting exhibitions. The dialogues are casual and the attempt is clearly to set a leisurely pace and make it look as informal as possible. The best part is the casting with actors who bring genuineness to the characters. Recommended.

The Queen of Katwe (2016) [IMDB:7.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

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A true story of a chess champion from Uganda who creates history. ‘Queen of Katwe’ has its flaws but it has a deeply humane story at its heart which enthralls and captures the attention of the viewer. It does not stereotype the Africans in the movie. The everyday struggles of life in an impoverished neighbourhood and subsequent highs of international recognition are captured without exploiting or glorifying either of the them. There are no villains in the  movie. It is about normal people doing extraordinary things and (at the risk of sounding cliched ) the triumph of human spirit. Recommended.

Jolly LLB 2 (2017) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

The sequel to the award winning original is better made, has better production values and has much better actors in Annu Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. The plot is very engaging and at some points convenient. Akshay Kumar plays a lawyer who is as principled as Silvio Berlusconi. The hilarious introduction scene has him helping students rig  exams. The first half progresses well with the character having a change of heart. The second half is focused on the courtroom proceedings which are the best part of the movie with Saurabh Shukla and Annu Kapoor squaring off. There are many missing links in the story in the second half but they may be set aside as allowances for story telling. I personally liked the plot of the original more but this sequel holds on its own and delivers another success for Akshay Kumar. It is curious to note that every major hit of the actor in recent times has him play the ordinary man whereas other stars are scrambling to play larger than life characters.

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (2016) [ IMDB” 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My rating: 7.0]

dhruvangal

Trailer

The movie which has 16 characters and relates to events over 16 hours is a decent thriller from a debutante director. The infirmities in direction are easy to see in the initial part of the movie. For a regular movie watcher, it is not difficult to see where the story is proceeding. Some of the scenes are predictable. The movie rises above the average fare by some inventive film making which relies on different versions of the story. At the same time, the compulsion on the part of the director to make it like a jigsaw puzzle in which all the pieces fall in place at the end is a distraction. Some ambiguity would have helped. The novelty about the movie is that when the same story is said by two different people there is a role reversal between the hero and the villain.

Documentary of the Week

I am Bolt (2016) [IMDB: 7.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer

Usain Bolt on what makes him normal. Other great athletes on what makes him special. The life and times of the fastest man in human history.

Eagerly waiting for: The Academy Awards

Did you know: There is something called the the Black List to determine the best screenplays for which there are no takers yet. Screenplays which figure prominently on the list have then been picked up and made into movies. Some of the films that saw the light of the day after featuring in the Black List are  Argo, American Hustle, Juno, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Spotlight and The Revenant. For more on this visit https://blcklst.com/ .