Edition 89

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Audition (Japan, 1999) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Audition’ launched the Japanese high-brow horror genre along with the more widely viewed ‘Ringu’. ‘Audition’ is a more layered and complex venture than Ringu. Watching ‘Audition’ is akin to peeling onions. Painful to watch for the sheer tragedy that unfolds, ‘Audition’ is that rare thriller-horror movie which slowly grows on you. A widower holds a fake casting call to find his next life partner. The enigmatic lady who catches his attention is the lady of his dreams. The dreams soon turn to nightmares as the master director takes you on a ride well worth the build-up. Watch ‘Audition’ if you have the courage to sit through silent horror.

Movies I Saw This Week

American Animals [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Based on a true story of a bungled art heist, ‘American Animals’ tells the story of a few millennials who repeatedly fail to see the lines they are willing to blur to achieve instant wealth. Interspersed with interviews of the real life characters, the movie plays out more as a dark comedy than a thriller. With the foregone conclusion of the denouement, the movie is a stark portrayal of how much naivety and indecision went into a plan notable more for the lack of a coherent plan. What is baffling about the crime itself is that the perpetrators did not meet the standard definition of criminals. One of them came from a stable family, another was good at academics and a third one was almost a serial entrepreneur. The distrust in the team is evident as they recollect past events in which their narratives are full of contradictions. American Animals is a character study of millennials for whom the idea of what is right or wrong is more grey than black or white.

Hereditary [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

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From writer-director Ari Aster comes a tale of a family discovering unpleasant secrets with the added tension of an unfolding horror show. The talented and underappreciated Toni Collette mourns death in her family and learns more about death itself as we progress in this instant horror classic. The clues are there from the first frame itself. I don’t want to spoil the fun by revealing more. Go watch it.

Game Night [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating:6.0 ]

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Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman star as a star-crossed couple who land up in situations they never bargained for. A motley group of characters ranging from a spooky neighbour to a high flying brother keep the action going in this mad caper. McAdams and Bateman who meet at a game night and marry, continue their proud tradition of hosting game nights. It is during one of those nights that things go berserk. What follows is a sequence of events which is mildly amusing. The best part of the movie is the end sequence with some side jabs to even Harvard University. Recommended if you have the time to spend on movies which require minimum amount of your grey cells to function.

Set It Up [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0 ]

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The thing about this Netflix flick is that if you have low expectations, you are in for a surprise. Smartly written and directed with panache, ‘Set it Up’ is a mini revival of the romantic comedy genre which was more or less on life support. Romantic comedy as a genre has been conveniently given the short shrift by the big Hollywood studios in the last decade or so. In ‘Set it Up’, two overworked office slaves plot to make their bosses fall in love with the express intention of lessening their own workload. The best thing about the movie is that it never bores you and that is a big achievement when it is a romantic comedy. Watch it if you like movies as smooth as Teflon.

Chappaquiddick [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.5]

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The Kennedy family was the original first family of the US till the Clintons and Bushs turned up. The senior Kennedy was the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Besides the obvious fame of John and Robert Kennedy, the Kennedys have had a hand in many pies from founding the Special Olympics to creating the California Museum. The enigmatic yet respected figure in the family was the only surviving male child of the senior Kennedy. Ted Kennedy had to live a life of expectations and the burden of his other brothers’ popularity. Ted also had an infamous criminal event which besmirched his reputation and put an end to any hopes of reaching the highest office in the nation. ‘Chappaquiddick’ is a faithful and contentious retelling of the events that cast a long shadow on the legacy of Ted Kennedy. The movie is engrossing for the material it handles and does not hold back any punches on the culpability of Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy swings between the courage of his convictions and the urgency of self-preservation in this crisp thriller.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 7.0 ]

Trailer

First things first. The best thing about the movie is the title. It is almost irresistible not to watch a movie with such a title. The novelty of the title wears off once you are told of the origin story. The movie is mostly passable stuff from the director who brought us a mini classic like ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’. Intrigued by the correspondence she receives; a fledgling author decides to take a trip to Guernsey. There she gets embroiled in the mysterious case of a missing woman. As she tries to unravel the secrets of the island, she not only discovers the truth but also herself. Though the movie is largely watchable, I have this sneaky feeling that the novel which formed the source material must be better.

Little Pink House [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The bone of contention in this movie is the question of whether the government has the right to take away your land for passing it to other private parties. Based on litigation which went all the way to the Supreme Court of USA, this movie is a faithful and unfortunately tepid retelling of an event which caused much consternation in the general populace. The movie has an unfocused approach where it plays out well neither as a drama nor as a courtroom thriller. At the centre is an unwilling protagonist who is only willing to test the water but not take the plunge into the heart of the issue. (Spoilers Ahead) Since there is hardly any scope for celebrating a case which was lost in the court but won outside of it through attrition, the demand is on the viewer to see the bigger picture.

Adrift [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5 ]

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Produced by Shailene Woodley who also plays the lead, ‘Adrift’ tells the true story of a lady who was lost at sea for weeks and had to gather her wits to survive. ‘Adrift’ is mostly off target when it shows the sights of the sea and the despair of the sailor. The oxygen supply to the movie is provided by the scenes of flashback that come with comforting frequency in a movie told in the flashback – flash forward format. The flashback scenes make the movie endearing and build the much-needed emotional element to the movie. This could have been a better movie if it had a better director, a better music director and a better editor.

Documentary of the Week

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 7.5 ]

Trailer

A peek inside the life of Robin Williams. The man behind the jovial characters he played on screen.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

Did you know: George Clooney was the highest earning actor in the world last year but most of his income came from his ‘Casamigos Tequila’ business.

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Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Assassination (South Korea, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.5]

Assassination_(2015_movie)_poster)

Trailer

Set in 1933 in Korea when Korea was under Japanese occupation, the movie captures the attempt to assassinate a top Japanese Commander by a committed bunch of nationalists. Lavishly mounted and slickly edited to airbrush the inconsistencies in the plot, this action-drama provides enough entertainment to keep you on the edge of your seat for a large part of the movie. The movie feels like an epic and the director should be commended for stretching every cent of the $16 million budget. Definitely worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spotlight (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.5 ]

Oscarometro2016Spotlight

Trailer

Featuring the best ensemble cast assembled in 2015, this early Oscar favorite tells the true story of the Boston Globe expose of the widespread abuse of children by the clergy in Catholic churches. The 2002 story was an act of journalistic courage. The movie is an ode to the good old ways of investigative journalism and a gentle reminder of the power of a newspaper to do good. The movie underplays the heroes of the story. There are no trumpets here, no soaring background score, and no singular acts of courage. It is about a group of men and women using their best abilities to do what they do best. They are ordinary folks who have concerns of their own and are appalled by the state of affairs. ‘Spotlight’ is a subdued movie and will now be the gold standard for any movie on journalism.

The Big Short (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes:90, My Rating:8.0 ]

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Trailer

Coming from author Michael Lewis and producer Brad Pitt who collaborated for the much admired ‘Moneyball’, this film is about a set of defiant individuals who saw what others refused to see and gained from it. ‘The Big Short’ follows the lives of a few men who bet on the bursting of the housing bubble that culminated in the financial meltdown of 2008. With a cast that was only bettered by the ‘Spotlight’ team in 2015, the film deftly manoeuvres through the series of events which involve some heavy financial jargon. The film comes up with a new way to explain the jargon. The Hollywood studios must be commended for betting their money on what is a difficult topic to make a film on and the American audiences must be equally complimented for their reception to such movies. Steve Carell and Christian Bale put in commanding performances in what is certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Steve Jobs (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

Michael Fassbender gives his career best performance in this biopic of Steve Jobs directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle based on Academy Award winner AAron Sorkin’s screenplay. The film is episodic and features the behind the scenes story of Steve Jobs before every major product launch in his life. Since the movie focuses on the personal life of Steve Jobs, a viewer without much knowledge of the business aspect of his life will find it a bit difficult to understand the subject matter. The movie’s greatest failure is that it demands familiarity with the Apple maestro. To the credit of the movie it must be said that it shows a personal side of Jobs that the media seldom covered before his death. Though the film is an entertaining one and an artistic success, its commercial failure may point to the fatigue of the audiences due to too many Jobs films releasing in s short span of time.

Beasts of No Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:8.0]

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Trailer

The first thing that struck me while watching this gem of a film, is the familiarity with the geography. Later I discovered that the film was shot in Ghana but the film is set in a unnamed country and tells the story of child soldier Agu who loses his family and ends up being part of a ragtag militia of rebels. Idris Elba puts in his best performance as the leader of the decrepit but highly committed group. It is interesting to note that he never picks up the gun himself even when leading ambushes. Abraham Attah carries the weight of the movie on his tiny shoulders with a towering performance. The greater acclaim deservedly should go to producer-director-cinematographer-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga for creating an engaging and spellbinding movie of the highest quality.

Slow West (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

‘Slow West’ is the hidden marvel of 2015. It is a movie which resurrects the Western but is not a film that should be put in compartments. Jay travels from Scotland to seek his Rose in the wild West of USA in late 19th century. Meanwhile Rose is wanted for murder and a group of bounty hunters are after her life. Charming in its unique way and telling a story which can truly be called original, ‘Slow West’ gradually becomes an unforgettable movie. The movie also uses clever tricks in narration. The movie is also an unflattering look at life in the lawless terrain. One of the best movies of the year.

The Good Dinosaur (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:76, My Rating: 7.0]

 

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Trailer

This movie was plagued by numerous script revisions and disagreements between the creators that even the director was changed midway through the project. It also comes hot on the heels of the success of the classic ‘Inside Out’. Add to that the Pixar label. The weight of expectations crushes an otherwise decent flick worth a watch. The movie is set in a world in which dinosaurs are not extinct and run families which (strangely) look like human families. The weak dinosaur in the family gets his chance to ‘grow up’ when he is separated from the family. During this time he meets and befriends a human child, and embarks on a multitude of adventures. The excellent animation is no match for a movie which could be called ‘Finding the Way Home’. I believe that the movie itself would have been better if the protagonist was a child but then it would be called ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

No Escape (2015) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes:46%, My Rating:6.0 ]

No Escape

Trailer

Owen Wilson stars as the patriarch of an American family in an unnamed Southeast Asian country facing the ire of violent mobs protesting against the company for which Wilson works. Providing some good thrills and yet never shying away from stereotyping, the film is good enough to deserve a single viewing.

Adi Kapyare Kootamani (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

This rib tickling comedy works on an entirely Indian premise where a girl who enters a boys hostel needs to be escorted out without the knowledge of the hostelers. With winning performances from all involved, this movie which is made on a shoe string budget laughs its way into the hearts of viewers.

Two Countries (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:7.0 ]

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Coming from a team which has only made hits together, the movie tells the story of a happy go lucky man who marries an Indian-Canadian. Peppered with humorous scenes, the film is a laugh riot. Yet another proof that the finest comedy in the country is produced in Malayalam.

Charlie [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0 ]

charlie

Trailer

A girl moves into a rickety flat where she discovers the possessions of the former tenant. Intrigued by what she sees, she sets out to find the man behind the story. What she and the audience discover forms the crux of a story that is cloyingly sweet and preachy in parts. Neither boring nor great.

Documentary of the Week

Next Goal Wins [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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Trailer

The soccer team of American Samoa holds the record for the worst defeat in international soccer (a 31-0 drubbing at the the hands of Australia). Their goalkeeper gets nightmares in his sleep. In fact, American Samoa could never score a goal in an international match. Then everything changes. A true story of ecstasy, heartbreak and redemption. Must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Macbeth’ with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Did you know: ‘Jurassic World’ was the highest grossing film in USA in 2015.

Edition 70

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer:

Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer: 

The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.

Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

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The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.

The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry.  More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (India, 2015) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 4.5]

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India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million. 

Knock Knock (2015) [IMDB:5.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:33% , My Rating:3.0 ]

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Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.

Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.

Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer: 

Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.

 

Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada

Week 43

Movies: Non-English

Il Postino: The Postman (Italy, 1994) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Il Postino The Postman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-wrM1ptyHM

I was looking for some inspiration to pen the blog this week after a truly hectic schedule. What else could be a better movie to kick start this edition than this Italian classic about a poorly educated man who is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poetry to finally convey his love to the woman he has always loved. The legendary poet from Chile moves into an Italian island and the protagonist who is a postman gets to deliver mail to Neruda. In the process, he befriends Neruda who aids him through his poetry and helps the postman to speak up to the village beauty he has always admired, from a distance. A blend of romance, music and poetry, this film shows the endless possibilities of literature. Shot elegantly, the movie sets the right tone and is one of the really unique pieces in movie making. Two thumbs up.

A Royal Affair (Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB”7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGXNQu3fpP8

‘A Royal Affair’ is a movie which unfortunately released in the same year as ‘Amour’, thus sealing its fate as the close loser to the latter at all the major awards in the Foreign Language category in 2012. On its own, the film is a rather engaging one and has been shot with the grandeur it deserves. The heart of the story is about an ordinary man who stretches the limits of imagination and customs to do good for the common man in an era when the buck stopped at the king’s door. A queen married to an insane king falls in love with a physician who has progressive ideals. The film is based on a true story concerning the Danish monarchy. As one critic noted, falling in love can change the world or at least the fate of a nation. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

August: Osage County (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

August Osage County

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hd_uO72h1s

I was looking forward to this movie because the play on which it is based was very successful and it is not every other day that Mery Streep and Julia Roberts share screen space. The film though turned out to be close to a dud but is salvaged by the acting prowess of the thespians on screen. A family tragedy leads to the reunion of a few strong willed and opinionated women in a family in Oklahoma. Fireworks on screen should have ideally followed the setting but the film struggles to even ignite a spark. The movie fails to explore cinema as a medium and is constrained by the feel of a play which it is not able to shake off. An average effort.

About Time (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

About Time

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7A810duHvw

The running joke about this movie is that Rachel McAdams falls in love in movies only with people who can time travel. Here, the man in her life is an ordinary guy who thinks about making his life better as opposed to changing the world when he discovers that the ability to time travel runs in the family. He tries to replay moments in his life he cares for, until they reach perfection. Though the film requires suspension of disbelief, you are willing to play along as it involves the extraordinary love story of an ordinary man. I like romantic movies with good production values, decent acting, good lines and soft music. I liked this one.

The Family (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

The_Family_2013,_Poster

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

Robert De Niro is the head of an Italian mob clan who hides out in France with his family under a witness protection programme. The family wrecks havoc in the local community with their trigger happy violent ways. Though I warmed up to the premise of the movie, it got too hot to handle with its unnecessary violence as it progressed. What could have been a comedy soon turned into a ultra violent movie. Catch it on TV  when you have nothing else to do.

Philip Seymour Hoffman Retrospective

There are some deaths which make you feel that they are so unfair. At 46 years Hoffman was not even near the peak of his acting abilities. He had so much to offer. Though it is a cliche to say this, it can be said without any exaggeration that his death is an irreplaceable loss. My tribute to the one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Capote (2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Capote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjvBYqp8b6U

Quite possibly Hoffman’s best performance which also got him the Oscar. Hoffman is Truman Capote. Even Capote himself would have been less authentic if he had acted. Oozes class.

Synecdoche, New York (2008) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Synecdoche, New York

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIizh6nYnTU

A movie on existentialism. Not everyone’s cup of tea. Hoffman is so good in it that I have watched some scenes many times over in awe of how he pulls them off.

The Master (2012) [ IMDB:7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

master 2012

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1O1vb9AUU

It is a competition between Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the acting department. Both of them are winners. The story does not even matter.

Documentary Pick of the Week

How to Die in Oregon (2011) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

How to Die in Oregon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F-525sCzhE

Two decades ago Oregon became the first US state to legalize physician assisted suicide. The documentary follows the lives of a few terminally ill people as they grapple with the question in light of the new law. Heartbreaking.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Non-Stop’ because Liam Neeson is the new angry middle aged man.

Did you know: Walt Disney refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because he had made “that disgusting movie Psycho.”

Week 27

Movies: Non-English

A Hijacking ( Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

hijacking

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

Somali pirates have given a new topic for filmmakers for ideating and the world is now raising a toast to the Tom Hanks movie ‘Captain Philips’. Incidentally, an equally acclaimed film on a ship hijack was released in 2012. Based on real events, the Danish film ‘A Hijacking’ is a gripping drama about a hostage situation. The focus here is more on the long drawn out negotiations. A psychological cat and mouse which focuses on the people than on the events.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, 2011) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jKgHqU1jrs

There are some movies which make me want to visit the locations where they were shot. For example, I went to Bruges in Belgium only because ‘in Bruges’ was shot there. Anatolia in Turkey is one region i would like to visit after watching ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’. The plot of the movie involves a police search for a dead body in Anatolia but then the film is not about the story. It is more an exploration of the terrain and its wild beauty. This movie is a visual treat even when most of the region is explored during the night. No wonder it won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes.

English Retrospective

Sixteen Candles (1984) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

sixteen-candles

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcKqtzj8LAg

The movie is a cult classic and one of the most rented movies on Netflix. Strangely, it still connects with teenagers, three decades after its release. This movie is a testament to the idea of beauty in simplicity. The story revolves around the sixteenth birthday of a girl. Though utterly predictable, the easy dialogues and carefree acting creates the right kind of ambiance. Almost all the credit for this goes to writer-director John Hughes who went on to make many memorable movies. An easy watch.

The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Last_king_of_scotland_uk

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV_QgKJFZP0

Idi Amin was rumoured to have blood in the list of drinks he used to have during his tyrannical rule of Uganda. Forest Whitaker becomes Idi Amin in a performance which clinched him the Oscar. His Oscar winning speech is one of the most sincere I have ever seen. Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-fGCHGTaGE . James McAvoy plays the Scot who became Amin’s personal physician. The movie has a brisk pace and is a piece of history told in an entertaining way. An underrated gem.

The Notebook (2004) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

notebook

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3G3fILPQAU

A rich girl falls in love with a poor boy. That is a plot which gives cliches a bad name but with ‘The Notebook’ the story gets a new appeal altogether. Shot in breathtaking locales with freshly minted dialogues, the story is a an easy romance. The good part is that the best dialogues belong to Ryan Gosling and he has a field day mouthing them. The movie almost made it to the top 25 romantic movies covered by me a fortnight ago. It would have been a shoo in if it had been more tightly edited.

Movies I Saw This Week

Monsters University (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Monsters-University-banner

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBzPioph8CI

Coming to cliches, animation movies are now turning out to be a parody for real life cliches. In ‘Monsters University’ every single prop of a college movie is used which leads to mixed results. The story is as predictable as the plot of a Karan Johar film but the animation is exceptional. Some of the fine touches have to be viewed in slow motion. The animation movies are getting a little stale but this one is among the better ones to have come out in the last few years.

The Lone Ranger (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 58%]

lone ranger

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjFsNSoDZK8

When the producer of ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ series makes a movie with the venerable Johnny Depp as a native Indian, you expect more. Here, you get more of the same. They just forgot that they were shooting another movie with a more serious theme. Depp cracks the same type of jokes he had in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ with elaborate action scenes to keep the kids glued. Along the way they forget the story and by the end the viewer also does not care.

The Internship (2013) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%]

internship

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

I must admit that I now have a grudging admiration for the guys at Google. They made the longest corporate ad film and then got people to pay for watching it. Two guys who have zero skills land an internship at Google and then everything just works out perfect for them. They also educate us about various Google projects and products. In case you did not know, Google gives free food to its employees. Learn more such useful information as veterans like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make complete fools of themselves in this utterly boring film scripted to sell the goodness of Google.

The Canyons (2013) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

canyons

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5uTtNLUmCA

The only reason for watching this movie was the controversy over the working style of Lindsay Lohan. For such an apology for a movie, the real shock is that it is written by the same guy who wrote ‘Taxi Driver’.

Documentary Pick of the Week

American Movie (1999) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

american

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IzXD29halw

Some naive people want to be filmmakers. They have no money, no talent, no story and no sense. They do have truckloads of passion. A documentary which follows such a group. Tragically hilarious.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘12 Years a Slave‘ because Steve McQueen makes movies which are painful to watch, in a good way.

Did you know: Sally Field who played Tom Hanks’ mother in ‘Forrest Gump’ is only 10 years older than him.

Week 13

Movies: Non- English

California Dreamin’ (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

California_dreamin'

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NoNVMkQwU

What happens when a NATO train with US soldiers is stopped in a small town in Romania because it does not have the transit documents? In times when the Bolivian President is not given a safe flight home, this film is also a reminder that even Romania can poke USA if it really wants to. This is the story told by Director Cristian Nemescu in one of those movies which is as farcical as it is serious. Stranded in a small town with corrupt local officials, the soldiers get to see a slice of the daily lives of the people of Romania.  The acting is natural and believable. We are not talking of a masterpiece here but a normal entertaining movie. The film could have been sharper but the young director died immediately after the completion of the film.

Halfaouine : Boy of the Terraces (Tunisia, 1990) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Child of Terraces

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N8OzaWW24g

Get a glimpse of Arab culture and life in this Tunisian movie which is a coming off age story. An adolescent boy and his curiosities are presented with poise by the director without losing the sensuality of it all. The film never gets voyeuristic and moves at a pleasant pace. The story is universal but the setting and the characters make it special. The acting is so effortless that you may feel that you are not watching a movie but a slice of life in Tunisia. Recommended for the viewer who is open to knowing new cultures and lifestyles.

Hollywood Retrospective

Say Anything… (1989) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

say anything

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFV7FnbhBRY

John Cusack may mean many things to many people but when I hear that name the first image that comes to my mind is the iconic scene of him holding up the stereo to play it outside his sweetheart’s house in the finely written romance ‘Say Anything’. This movie will never make it to the list of greatest movies ever made but this one will stay with you if you can pay attention to the good dialogues and scenes it has. Also, when the lady being wooed is Ione Syke, it does not hurt to look at the screen. In case you want to see more of her ‘The Rachel Papers’ is highly recommended in spite of it being a flawed movie.  If you ever watch ‘The Rachel Papers’, check out the scene when the taxi leaves just as a kiss is going to happen. That is one of my favourite romantic scenes on screen. Coming back to ‘Say Anything’, just watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend on a lazy afternoon.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_movie-207695

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GiLxkDK8sI

Once in a while you watch a movie that just blows you away. With me the real world experience in such cases involves changing my posture from lying down in the bed/sofa to jumping up and grabbing the chair because it hits me that the movie deserves my full attention. ‘Eternal Sunshine…’ is one such movie. The movie wants to tell  three things. Firstly, when lovers start out they look perfect to each other but then it is difficult to sustain the same passion unless you are willing to put that extra effort. Secondly, some people are made for each other and nothing can stop that. Thirdly, just as joy is part of life so is pain. Now, the real genius of the writer Charlie Kaufman (I am a huge fan) is how he makes a story to fit these ideas neatly into them and tell it without you realizing that you are being told the exact same things in a wonderful way. More than anything, I marvel at the ability of someone to think, conceptualize and finally put pen to paper on such an original screenplay which deservedly won the Oscar. It is interesting that in a film with Jim Carrey it is Kate Winslet who looks the odd character. The performances are alright, the direction is above average but the screenplay is awesome. While watching this masterpiece, try to think like a writer.

Out of Africa (1985) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

out of africa

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gYlSGUTthw

A fiercely independent woman who would not be tied down by anything or to anybody meets her match in Africa. The people in question happen to be Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in this old world romance directed by Sydney Pollack. Visually stunning, tragic and emotionally draining. In the middle of all the excitement that the movie generates there is that feeling of impending doom. Based on a true story.

Movies I saw this week

To the Wonder (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

To+The+Wonder+2012+DVDRip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAzcTZTY1g

Terrence Malick’s effort after ‘Tree of Life’ is a dud. Ben  Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams or Olga Kurylenko cannot save this film from doom. The dialogues are minimal and the movie tries to look high end art house cinema without much success. Still, I can watch this movie more than once just for the visual experience it gives. It is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in recent times. The locations are simply breathtaking but in the end all that comes to nothing for the lack of a story.

Ishkq in Paris (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Ishkq-in-Paris-Movie-Poster

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

Why I watched this movie? I don’t know. How I felt when I watching it? I certainly know. I should have known better. When Preity Zinta was giving interviews saying she was confident about the movie because it has a good story, I should have read between the lines. The first half of the film is ‘Before Sunrise’ copied scene by scene. The second half? Don’t even bother. Somebody please tell Zinta that she is no more the bubbly girl of ‘Dil Se’. I don’t know whether I was hallucinating but the male lead had kohl lined eyes throughout. Spooky. Also, trash.

The Watch (2012) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

watch

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

Heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth? The case is not exactly that here because there is no broth to begin with. Four men defend their neighborhood against alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are so bad in the film that the aliens’ acting looks better. Still, if you have an IQ in single digits you may enjoy it but such people are harder to find on earth than aliens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hoop Dreams (1994) [IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Hoop_Dreams

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph2Y-epihlk

Two boys whose only way out of crime and poverty is basketball, try to make their dreams come true. Uplifting.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Blue Jasmine’ because I eagerly await every movie from Woody Allen. After covering Barcelona, London, Paris and Rome in the last few films, he is now back to San Francisco.

Did you know: There are more than 40,000 movie screens in the USA.

Week 10

Movies: Non-English

Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Let-The-Right-One-In-Poster-let-the-right-one-in-16068910-600-849

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp4g9p_rgo

I am not sure whether this is a horror film or a thriller and I am not too bothered by which genre it belongs to because it keeps you on the edge of your seat without you even knowing it. Credited with reviving the left for dead (no pun intended) vampire movie genre, this is a movie which will redefine your cinematic sensibilities. A young boy falls in love with a girl who happens to be a vampire. The girl returns the love by taking care of the people who bully the boy. The boy also helps her with occasional supply of blood which quenches her thirst. An odd love story where you will root for a vampire. Classy. Still not convinced? Watch the swimming pool scene.

Spirited Away (Japan, 2001) [IMDB: 8.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Spirited_Away_movie_poster_by_miemie_chan3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6az9wGfeSgM

Animation is imagination on the big screen. ‘Spirited Away’ takes you on a journey like no other and shows the world that some of the best work in animation happens outside Hollywood. A girl and her wonderland. That is pretty much what the movie is about but they made it into an animation classic they swept the awards at places like the Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance and ultimately at the Oscars where it beat Ice Age to deservedly land the nod for the Best Animation Picture. Along the way it found fans like James Cameron. To date, it remains one of the best animation movies ever made. There must be some reason when it is the first animation picture I chose to write about in my blog.

Pather Panchali (India, 1955) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Pather Panchali

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

Legend has it that when the movie was screened for the first time for European audiences, some critics walked out midway through the movie. Nearly 60 years later, the reputation of the movie as a timeless classic has increased with every passing year. With a haunting background score by Pandit Ravishankar, the movie remains a masterful study of people. The mundane life of a peasant family in rural Bengal comes to life  in a motion picture which flows like a river with hardly a moment to pause. It is sad that not many in India have seen the movie in recent times. Essential viewing.

Hollywood Retrospective

Reds (1981) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

reds-1981

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjjRDJ039FI

Warren Beatty had staked his reputation and much more on this classic which took a long time to make but when he finally made it, it became the best picture on the communist movement in USA. For a country which sees the devil in the word ‘socialism’, it is also a reminder that there was indeed a communist movement in the country. Spanning a long and critical period in world history, the film takes you to locations around the world along with its protagonist. The story is based on real events. There is a good love story running parallel to the theme and I think the movie has the best performance of Diane Keaton. One of the most poignant scenes I have seen on screen is the climax of the film when Diane Keaton goes to get some water and sees a child. The movie makes you wonder about the glorious possibilities of history.

Unforgiven (1992) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

unforgiven

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

The last great Western. Men are called upon to avenge the dishonouring of women. Well, if life were were so simple, we would not have Westerns. Clint Eastwood’s return to greatness is marked by this revenge drama which like most of the movies of Eastwood in the last two decades deals with the idea of justice. When law fails, it is left to the outlaws to make the world a better place. This, like last week’s ‘Road to Perdition’ is my kind of movie. Strong screenplay, great dialogues, nuanced performances and a great story to tell. Clint Eastwood plus Morgan Freeman is the formula for magic on screen. Throw in Gene Hackman and you get some twisted magic. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week

A better Life (2011) [IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

A-Better-Life

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

An illegal immigrant anchors his dreams for his son on owning his own business without getting caught by the law. The performances are really good, especially the one by the lead actor Demian Bichir who leads a life of quite dignity. His restraint in the car park scene is in stark contrast to the reaction of his son. The movie is effective in showing the distressed lives of illegal immigrants in the USA. It is a one time watch. I had this nagging feeling that the movie is an advertisement for Obama administration’s immigration policies. Well you see, the child can stay on.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

yeh-jawaani-hai-deewani-8-s

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbp2XUSeUNE

Since it is produced by Karan Johar, I had very low expectations from the film and for this reason I could sit through it. It does have some good dialogues in the second half. It was not bad as it was expected to be, but it did try hard. For starters, Karan Johar thinks that the nerd girl to cool babe transformation is achievable by replacing spectacles with contact lenses. From Preity Zinta in Kal Ho Naa Ho to Deepika Padukone in this flick, his heroines fervently believe in this formula. In fact, Deepika goes one better. She transforms herself like Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. To be sure, boys and girls cannot be friends. They have to fall in love too. Oh, I almost forgot. Everything is resolved at destination weddings where the radical girl has an arranged marriage. To complete the cliches, there is the dumb beauty too. Just for the record, Hamdard Rooh Afza is any day better than the Pepsi Ranbir Kapoor endorses. If you have forgotten the Indian movie formula and want to revise it, watch the film.

Morning Glory (2010) [IMDB: 6.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

morning-glory-movie-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9lWUqraDoU

This movie is also way too predictable. It has some nice touches though. Rachel McAdams is a producer of a television show running on life support. She gets two veterans to come on board as hosts and together they try to make things better while fighting each other. Strictly for weekend viewing when you have nothing much to do.

Passion Play (2010) [IMDB: 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 17%]

Passion-Play-2010

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy36HZhspyw

Megan Fox as an angel with wings, waiting to be rescued by Mickey Rourke. What were the writers smoking? Right up there in the list of worst movies to have come out in the last 5 years, the movie has no reason for its existence. For those thinking, what happened to Rourke after ‘The Wrestler’, this movie is a reminder that it is not for nothing that he has a bad boy reputation. Watch at you own risk.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Invisible War (2012) [IMDB: 7.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

invisible war

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECOqpv45tIo

The story that was swept under the carpet far too many times finally becomes public. The documentary exposes the lopsided policies of the US Government against women in the military while telling the story of sexual abuse in US armed forces. Hard hitting. Must watch.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ because Scorsese and DiCaprio together make great movies.

Did you know: ‘Midnight in Paris’ was Woody Allen’s biggest box office success.