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 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Second Mother (Brazil, 2015) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]



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]



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]



‘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]



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]



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]



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]



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]



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]



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.