Edition 78

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]



Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors of this generation. This movie is another proof of her acting prowess. She fills every frame of the movie and keeps the suspense going. There are shades of Basic Instinct, an earlier work of the director. The basic story is that of the protagonist playing a cat-and-mouse game with her unknown rapist. The complexity of the film is created by the numerous subplots  which are interlinked. The complicated back story of the protagonist  and her subsequent mistrust of police aid in storytelling. In the end all the subplots fall into place like that of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe, it is this comfortable ending that won the film the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.0]



There’s something about Meryl Streep which keeps the viewer engaged even in a mediocre movie.  ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ has no claim to greatness  but it is carried solely by the form shoulders of Meryl Streep ably supported by Hugh Grant.  For a director who won Meryl Streep last Best Actress Oscar for ‘The Queen’,  this is definitely not an improvement. The director is definitely successful in creating sympathy for Florence Foster Jenkins but the masses couldn’t care less for the fate of a troubled aristocrat. A movie on the world’s worst opera singer compares favorably with a movie on the world’s worst director. The latter titled ‘Ed Wood‘ was definitely a better work of art. At least, it had self-doubt.

Sully (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]



Clint Eastwood makes great movies. Tom Hanks  acts in great movies. Their combination to tell the story of an American hero in Captain Chesley Sullenberger is one of the best movies of the year. Like some of the previous Clint Eastwood movies there is no attempt at making the movie dramatic. At the same time, the movie cannot be classified as a character study as it only scratches the surface. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks pulls off with elan the role of a hero who is not aware of his heroic act.  Aaron Eckhart plays the best role of his life as the co-pilot. The thing about the ‘Miracle On Hudson’ is that it is one of those events which can hardly be ever repeated. Even the recreation of the movie isn’t enough to convince the viewer about the possibility of such an event. Perhaps that is where the movie had its task cut out and perhaps that is where it is not entirely successful. A shorter film of one hour would have done more justice to the plot.

Hell or High Water (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]



Undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year Hell or High Water is supported by a cast comprising of thespians like Jeff Bridges Chris Pine.  Set in the forgotten parts of America and resembling a Western, the high point of the movie is that it resists the urge to pull out the gun on various occasions. The simmering tension of the movie is felt till the last frame. Concurrently the movie makes a bold statement on the plight of Americans left behind by the forces of capitalism. Most of the anger is directed at big banks who seem to get away with murder. Consequently, bank robberies form the central theme of the movie. The story is that of two brothers who rob the same bank they owe, to avoid foreclosure. In between all the gloom and doom there are also some subtle humor like in the restaurant where the waiter  knows a limited menu.  Alas, the movie is a reaffirmation of the fact that Jeff Bridges is one of the finest actors alive today. Must watch.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.5]



Following the success of his debut feature ‘What we do in the shadows’, the director’s second feature, ‘The hunt for the wilderpeople’, is a letdown. Indeed there are moments of humor in the movie but some of it seems forced and especially unexpected from a young child. The style of direction is a cross between that of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The movie tries to address some of the social issues but it soon turns to a farce. Set in the picturesque  mountains of New Zealand, it is also a peep into the life of the people at the margins of the society. I had a feeling that I had seen similar movies set in the America of 1980s. The only saving grace for the movie is that it does not bore the wits out of the viewer. The burden of high expectations seems to have taken a toll on the director.

The Light Between the Oceans (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]



The undeniable beauty of ‘The Light Between the Oceans’ is compromised by the cringingly sentimental storyline. Boasting such performers like Michael Fassbender, Alicia vikander and Rachel Weisz, The movie is unable to tap into the talent at its disposal.  By the second half, the movie sets  out on a predictable path. The film tells the tale of a young childless couple who one day find a baby marooned at sea. Some movies have difficult choices to make. The options at their disposal are equally worthwhile. Choosing one over the other is so precarious an exercise that this undermines the whole tale. That is the malady which effects this movie.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]



The debacle at Deepwater Horizon was one of the biggest tragedies of the oil industry. From the BP CEO who infamously said, ” I’d like to have my life back” to the frontline soldiers of the company who lost their lives, the movie captures an event, the wounds of which are yet to heal.  Deepwater Horizon documents the events that happened on the fateful day of the tragedy. The template is the standard one used for all the disaster movies.  No great acting chops are expected yet competent performances are delivered. The movie captures the horror of the tragedy without deviating from the standard storyline. The movie is not particularly illuminating but some of it needs to be heard and seen.

War Dogs (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.5]



This movie could have been titled ‘It Happens Only in America’. Two neophytes receive a 300 million dollar defense contract. What follows is a series of games involving  arms traders and phoney businessmen. Jonah Hill is the big fat  dealer who will stop at nothing. The improbable story covers countries like Jordan, Albania and Iraq and is essntially the juvenile version of ‘Lord of War’. The film could have been taut and this aspect is particularly conspicuous. Otherwise, a decent watch.

The Siege of Jadotville (2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5]



This is the type of African tale which must be told.  Unfortunately they could have chosen a better story to tell.  Set in 1960s Congo in the midst of a Civil War,  the movie captures the fate of neutral United Nations Peacekeeping Force which does not receive support from the government, the opposition or the rebels. To make matters worse, they don’t even  receive support from the United Nations.  They are pawns in a bigger political game whic involves mining companies, colonial powers, world superpowers and a fledgling government. They are left to battle for survival against formidable odds.  The low production quality of Netflix is evident in this movie. Unfortunately, it is a story about heroes who need to be remembered and it does not get the treatment it deserves.

Don’t Think Twice (2016) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]



‘Don’t Think Twice’ is one of the best movies of the year  until the last 10 % of the movie  when it gets  cloyingly sweet.  The movie has freshness written all over it. It tells the tale of a group of actors and how the Dynamics between them changes when one of them is chosen for a starring role in a television program. The movie is littered with instances of wit and humor. The young actors in the movie give it the credibility  it seeks. Recommended.

Documentary of the Week

Weiner (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]



Anthony Weiner was once the young Turk among democrats. His fall from grace and the unraveling of his personal life are captured in this intimate documentary. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the true life story of a Botswanian prince who married a British lady.


Did you know: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.


Week 32

Movies: Non-English

The Cranes are Flying (Russia, 1957) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

cranes are

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGsXmwPj0TA

This Russian classic is set during the Second World War. A young girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love when her lover is away in the battlefield. The most outstanding feature of the movie is the universally acclaimed cinematography. Some of the scenes have been shot so magnificently that they can be used to teach cinematography. Unlike many contemporary movies where beautiful images are confused for good cinematography, here the camera moves to create the right mood for the story. The story is not exceptional but holds your attention even after half a century. In addition to this some competent acting also helped the movie clinch the Palme D’or at Cannes. Must see if you want to know anything about Russian cinema.

The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, 1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsS3sXwwwNo

An engineer moves into a rural community and it changes his outlook towards life and people. This Iranian tour de force is a reminder that Iran always punches above its weight in the world of cinema with a handful of exceptionally talented filmmakers. The film is a bit slow but like the Turkish film ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ reviewed a few weeks ago, it is not the story that matters but the setting. The landscapes are haunting and there is a wild beauty about them. For folks from the cities it is a reminder that time stands still in many places and in those places people take life as it comes.

English Retrospective

The Constant Gardener (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

constant gardener

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYXYzzng3Fo

A man tries to find out the reason for his wife’s murder and discovers more than what he had bargained for, in this film set in Africa. Ralph Fiennes brings his trademark intensity to his role as a man harrowed by guilt and searching for answers; in equal measure. The showstopper though, is the performance by Rachel Weisz who should be doing more of these kind of roles. She has a magnetic presence and  almost carries the whole film on her shoulders. Watch this deadly concoction of politics, espionage and corporate greed.

Trainspotting (1996) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2GKVtWsXKY

One of my friends once told me that the scenes of drug abuse in ‘Trainspotting’ could only be shot by someone who has experienced it himself. I don’t know whether Danny Boyle has ‘experience’ in this category but in the process he made arguably his finest movie in ‘Trainspotting’. The protagonist and his friends are habitual drug abusers in this story set in Scotland. He wants to get out of it all and make a decent living. Ewan McGregor, a regular with Danny Boyle, is in top form and his accent and and acting are pitch perfect.It is a story about friendship and group behaviour. For all its smugness and style, the movie is a psychological study of how certain characters behave under special circumstances. Must watch.

Big Fish (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

big fish

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3YVTgTl-F0

I would love to see a movie made by Tim Burton which has a story fully set in the real world. ‘Big Fish’ suffers from Burton’s tendency to go overboard when simplicity could have helped his cause. The film’s story has a man trying to recollect his father’s life through a series of anecdotes. The colourful man that his father was, there are too many things that don’t fit in the puzzle. The movie is quite good but is not helped by some uninspired acting. Like most of Burton’s movies, it leaves a feeling of having missed the woods for the trees.

Movies I Saw This Week

42 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9RHqdZDCF0

This film is based on the life of the first ever African-American Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson. I did not know about this true legend earlier. He was an icon of the civil rights movement and an inspiration for many. His on field behaviour was impeccable. His off field life was exceptional. The movie may not have done justice to him because it would be so difficult to capture the life of such an extraordinary man in a single film. Other wise it is a very good film to watch and one of the better ones to have come out in 2013. The deep divides in the US society during his period are exposed and it is on watching such movies that we realize how far we have come from those days of inequality. I literally had tears by the time the end credits started rolling. The movies ticks every cliche for a sports movie but then inspiration is a cliche I love.

Prisoners (2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpXfcTF6iVk

I have only two complaints against ‘Prisoners’. One, that it is painfully slow. Second, that no matter what, everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and this dictum does not justify some horrible torture scenes in the movie. These apart, the movie is one of the best to have come out in 2013. The most remarkable thing is the high quality performances put in by every single person on screen. Hugh Jackman offers a new side to his acting as the charged up American who sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the shower. Maria Bello as his wife is outstanding. I wonder how she acts with such composure when they say ‘action’. Paul Dano is an exceptional talent and his choice of movies shows that he has the right priorities. Overall, an engrossing film to watch.

Ramleela (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StphRCLkx6Q

Imagine Sanjay Leela Bhansali in the black and white era. What would he be telling? Nothing, because without colour his movies mean nothing. After a string of flops he returns to Gujarat which had earlier saved him with ‘Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam’. He even dons the hat of the music director for RamLeela. I suggest that the next time he leave it to someone who knows the trade. Since finding new stories is tough for Indian film makers, Bhansali also relies on ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Now no one call that a bad story. Bhansali sets it in Gujarat and it is easily understandable that the movie is shot in a set than in Gujarat. The story is set in a village where people shoot at children for the fun of it. Seriously, not funny. The major selling point of the movie is that the hero bares his torso. Maybe the women like it because I thought that Deepika Padukone looked stunning. The end is a disgrace to Shakespeare. (Spoilers ahead) Lovers kissing with guns pointed at each other? Are you kidding? Put them aside. Finish the kiss and then shoot each other. Take your own time. Shakespeare must have turned in his grave.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Island President (2011) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

island pres

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

Mohammad ‘anni’ Nasheed came to power in Maldives in its first open election is 2008 dethroning Gayoom who ruled for 30 years prior to that. He recognized that the very existence of his nation would be in peril if measures to control global warming were not taken. The documentary captures his efforts in that direction. The unrestrained access that the filmmakers got gives a peek into the behind the scenes deliberations at government level. The setting is Maldives. So the images are beautiful. Too bad that Mr. Nasheed lost the reelection bid in 2013.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Frozen’ because animation needs to wake up from the hibernation mode.

Did you know: The Golden Globes are awarded by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Week 12

Movies: Non- English

Merry Christmas (France, Germany, 2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKkAg4Ew-s

Based on true events, the film tells the story of enemies united by music and the spirit of Christmas. During the First World War, German, French and Scottish soldiers momentarily stop fighting on the eve of Christmas and celebrate it together. It is little difficult to describe because it looks surreal. If I were at the scene, I would have pinched myself. They just lie down their arms, exchange hugs, sing, celebrate Christmas and then go back to fighting. Nominated for Oscar in the best foreign language film category. Did not win. Even the Academy voters would have found the story too good to be true.

Mediterraneo (Italy, 1991) [ IMDB:7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU4G6mfyvhM

Exquisitely shot anti-war romance. Italian soldiers land in a Greek island during the World War 2. The story develops as they come in contact with the people (some of them too gorgeous) of the island. Picturesque locations and the laid back life of the islands have an enduring effect on the soldiers. Though set during the World War, it is a light movie which moves at a leisurely pace. Only thing that can hold you back from watching this Oscar winner is the damning fact that it was produced by Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the Bunga Bunga guy). On a serious note, worth a watch.

Hollywood Retrospective

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

fish called wanda

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

The thing about ganging up to commit robbery is that trust between the gang members is an absolute essential. The uproarious British comedy explores what all could go wrong when each member of a four member gang tries to double cross one another. Jamie Lee Curtis is in the role of a lifetime in this film which has comedy at its core but also has a story to tell. The sad thing is that many Indian movies have unashamedly stolen scenes from this movie. Otherwise, perfect weekend entertainment.

Raging Bull (1980) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVOwxsa4OM

The original boxing classic based on the life of Jake LaMotta. LaMotta reaches the heights by channeling his rage and anger on the boxing ring but as he climbs the charts, the same flaws take a heavy toll on his personal life. Robert De Niro deservedly won an Oscar for his performance but Scorsese had to wait till ‘The Departed’ to land his first one. The movie is a lesson on life. Don’t miss the title sequence in the beginning. I would have given Scorsese the Oscar just for that.

The Searchers (1956) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI2AZb04HAc

A man’s search for his last remaining relative who has been kidnapped at a tender age. His persistence and focus also leads to morally ambiguous situations. After years of staying away in a different culture would the girl still want to come back? Will he take her back when she discovers that she is no more like the girl he was searching for? Tough questions. Watch the movie which is often cited as the best Western ever made.

Movies I Saw This Week

Upside Down (2012) [IMDB: 6.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

upside down

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYvYGR7Ys4

A boy and a girl fall in love. Then they are separated. The boy does not let go and pursues the girl. Simple story. Only issue is that they live in different worlds which have opposite gravity. Since digitally everything is possible, we have a plastic world where things are so beautiful that you know they don’t exist. Since the science is spurious, the story also feels fake. Maybe, you can take your partner to the cinema, eat popcorn, discuss few things and occasionally look at the screen.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) [IMDB; 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DylgNj4YQVc

The initial idea behind big budget animation films was that kids will drag their parents to the cinema and help sell those extra tickets. Disney has laughed all the way to the bank on a couple of occasions milking this idea. Now things are not so simple. So they have to throw in Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams to attract the right kind of audience. The grown ups can ogle at the beauties while the children can have the real fun. The movie is strictly for kids. They may enjoy it.

Raanjhanaa (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]


Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9vmhxFucg

One line verdict: Not a bad film by the standards of Bollywood. Now the real thing (Spoilers ahead). If you think about it, ‘Raanjhanaa’ is a regressive film. The Muslim girl cannot marry any Hindu guy even when she has a choice of two. The leading lady is manipulative and does not really love any of her suitors. Truth be said, the film is about the love story of two different men for the same girl but it is all one way traffic. One of them is dumb enough to try his luck at marriage by posing as a Muslim and the other gets into politics of which he has no clue. The most sincere scene in the movie is when the men bond at the hospital bed of Abhay Deol. I have not lived in Uttar Pradesh but I can safely say that wrist slashing at the drop of a hat is not the preferred mode of wooing a girl in any part of the country. Come to think of it, Dhanush’s character is a bigger psycho than Shahrukh Khan of ‘Darr’. Here the stalking is direct and so in your face. Unfortunately Dhanush looks so earnest in his performance that you are willing to give him some sympathy but if you want to see why he won the National Award for best actor, watch ‘Aadukalam’. The good thing is that the movie does not really bore you and A R Rahman’s music helps the cause. Moral of the story for men: You cannot force anyone to love you and when you understand that get out of the scene. Otherwise you may find yourself in a coffin and the girl won’t even cry.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Man on Wire (2008) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

man on wire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIawNRm9NWM

Some people have too much courage or are they plain crazy? In which category would you place someone who walks 200 feet on a wire between two buildings at a height of 110 storeys? That too, without any safety features. One guy did it in 1974 and this is the documentary on him and his activities. Don’t try at home.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Lone Ranger’ because of Johnny Depp.

Did you know: The African Americans who acted in ‘Gone With the Wind’ were not allowed entry to the premiere of the movie.