Edition 82

The Non-English Movie of The Week 

Frantz (France, Germany, 2017) [IMDB:7.5  , Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating:7.5]

Trailer

‘Frantz’ is set during the war which was to end all wars. A young German lady leads a forlorn life after her fiance’s death in the battlefield. Her life changes when a Frenchmen turns up in her quaint little town. Told with elegance and grace, this story is very much a romance in its first half but almost becomes an intriguing thriller as it progresses to its unpredictable climax. Francois Ozon has so far been an overrated director but ‘Frantz’ changes that. The characters are neatly etched and reliably performed on screen. The tension that builds up is resolved in the Louvre but in a way which leaves scope for interpretations. That is no excuse for missing a hauntingly beautiful movie.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dunkirk (2017) [IMDB:8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating:8.5]

Trailer

Much of Dunkirk is about setting the stage. This does test the patience of the viewer midway through the proceedings but the film soars as it nears the end. In hindsight, the slow build up is akin to a German musical piece which slowly but surely reaches a crescendo. For all the technical brilliance of the director, it is the background score which is the standout feature of the movie. The movie is littered with few unforgettable scenes, with the last flight landing acting as a metaphor for the whole movie. If you are wondering what that metaphor is, it is about hope and not giving up. It is about trying. Dunkirk is one of the best movies of the year. Dunkirk will be remembered.

The Wizard of Lies (2017) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5]

Trailer

Bernie Madoff will be remembered too. He is the most serious threat that Charles Ponzi has encountered to his name and infamy. Bernie Madoff is a fraud who duped his investors of billions of dollars leading to bankruptcies and suicides from USA to Switzerland. This movie tells the tale of the con artist with the focus being on his family. Robert De Niro carries his part competently and overall the movie is a one time watch. It is especially interesting for those who have an interest in knowing about the scandal and its repercussions.

The Promise (2017) [IMDB: 6.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

A love story set in the last days of the Ottoman empire which saw the killing of Armenians (Claimed to be a genocide by Armenia and vehemently denied by Turkey. Neutrals tend to side with Armenia). Oscar Isaac plays an Armenian doctor who falls in love, loses his loved ones and ends up being alive. He is also the weakest link in the story with his acting which leaves you underwhelmed. Even accounting for this, the film is a spectacle with its impressively mounted sets and breathtaking cinematography. The film has a few rough edges and would have been a much better product in the hands of a more competent director. Still, worth a watch.

7 Days in Hell (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

In between the gloom of genocide and a Ponzi scheme, ‘7 Days in Hell’ feels like heaven. An uproarious mockumentary which has fun at the expense of the tennis world, this is a short yet sweet feature in which the last thing that matters is the story. For those interested in the story, it is about an epic seven day match at the Wimbledon. Sounds crazy? The title is just a warm up.

Norman (2017) [IMDB: 6.4 , Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

Richard Gere finds another level to his ouvre as actor in this poignant tale where he plays the title character Norman. There is nothing likable about the protagonist. He is the kind of social wannabe you want to avoid like the plague. He is disgusting and eminently detestable. The masterstroke of Gere is that it is he who plays the character to perfection and arouses in you the aforementioned emotions. Gere plays a loner who aims to be a power broker. Due to some circumstances he bonds well with an Israeli politician who rises to become the Prime Minister of Israel. What could have been Norman’s moment in the sun quickly becomes his downfall. ‘Norman’ is a movie which keeps you guessing till the end and is definitely worth the effort.

Some Freaks (2017) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

This small indie flick relies on strong writing and the novelty of the premise. A one eyed boy and an obese girl fall in love (with each other, of course). The strength of their love is put to test when the girl goes to college and starts losing weight. ‘Some Freaks’ is a coming of age movie which is also realistic and peppered with characters who are relatable. There is an undeniable feeling of sadness that permeates the movie. Yet, ‘Some Freaks’ is one of the best indie films of the year and is not boring even for a second.

Jab Harry met Sejal (2017) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 1.5]

Trailer

In the streets of India, we find hawkers who make savouries like samosa. They use the same oil and as their tenure lingers their surroundings become unclean. The oil becomes acidic and pungent but the hawker keeps on using it. ‘Jab Harry met Sejal’ is the cinematic equivalent of the samosa that is made from that oil. Imtiaz Ali has milked the same trope of ‘self-realization’ now so much that the cow has started bleeding (gau rakshaks: take note). An ageing 51 year old superstar romancing another girl (29 year old) in another version of the same movie in which they take viewers across Europe is so dated that Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister of India when Shahrukh Khan tried his luck in this story for the first time. This time the movie also takes a regressive approach when it comes to respect for women and the behaviour of the hero towards locals in Europe. Imtiaz Ali is so formulaic that his leads are from Punjab and Gujarat, two states in India from which most of the foreign based Bollywood movies have their protagonists. I saw reviews of this movie in which the critics have chided Imtiaz Ali for making a bad movie as if his earlier duds like Rockstar and Love Aaj Kal were any better. I saw Rockstar in the theater. I remember how it felt. The key learning for the director should be that you cannot fool everyone all the time. I do have sympathy for the viewer who wasted his money at the cinema. Not for having lost the money but for the sheer ordeal of sitting through this disaster flick. This prem katha should be flushed down the toilet along with the pseudo intellectual hubris of its director.

Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) [IMDB:7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ is no whiff of fresh air. It is the same mass produced bottle of perfume but the point is, it smells good. It has no pretensions and aims to be a simple entertainer, a task which it accomplishes with reasonable success. It has the classic Bollywood plot. Two men love a woman. The movie relies on a convenient screenplay and a two hour suspension of disbelief. At some point in the movie when you are back to your senses you may ask yourself what the fuss is about. Can’t the guy just open his mouth and tell the truth? The movie is largely engaging because of its sleek editing and a decent performance from Kriti Sanon. Anushka Sharma can take classes from her on playing the bubbly girl. In fact, Anushka Sharma can take acting classes from anyone. Ayushman Khurana plays a confused character and Rajkumar Rao is mostly unconvincing in his ‘dual personality’ performance. In spite of all this, the movie feels more than the sum of its parts. Recommended if you are a fan of this genre.

Documentary of the Week

Icarus (2017) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Icarus’ tells the true story of the Russian doping scandal. Right from the doping Guru’s mouth. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Mother!’ directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.

Did you know: Christopher Nolan is red and green colourblind.

 

Edition 67

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Corn Island (Georgia, 2014) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 7.5]

Corn Island (2014)

Trailer:

For the first time we have a Georgian film in this blog and from what I have seen, I would love to have a look at many more movies from Georgia. ‘Corn Island’ tells the story of a man and his granddaughter who have to farm for survival. The entry of new characters- some unexpected and some uninvited- makes the story unpredictable. The high point of the movie is the cinematography and the breathtaking scenery that aids the ambiance. Some of the shots and terrain reminded me of ‘Mud (2012)’. Though the movie has a rather tedious pace, the images on screen do not make an eyesore. Overall, this one is recommended to all those who like to try something new.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Gift (2015) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 6/10]

Gift-Movie-Poster-Robyn

Trailer: 

Full disclosure: I slept for 15 minutes during the movie. The good part ( or from a neutral perspective, the bad part) is that I did not miss anything. This movie is a good one time watch but leaves you with the feeling that a good one hour drama was stretched to be made into a watchable movie. For a seasoned viewer, it is very easy to predict the climax of the movie which has a good performance from Rebecca Hall. Interestingly, the director-writer of the movie has also taken the role of being the provider of ‘gifts’ in the movie. The fact that he has a one note performance could be attributed to this. ‘The Gift’ is the kind of movie that you will have difficulty remembering after a few years. If at all the movie retains a place in your memory, it would be due to the dialogues in the climax scene.

Chappie (2015) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 31%, My Rating: 4.5]

Chappie Poster

Trailer:

This Dev Patel movie is a reminder that voting in IMDB does not reflect the true merit of a movie when it comes to sci-fi flicks. The robot with emotions is a concept that Hollywood has tried multiple times; some successful like ‘Wall-E’ and some disasters like ‘Bicentennial Man’. ‘Chappie’ tries too hard to sound authentic but is let down more by human actors who fail to match even the robot when it comes to emotions. Avoid this one and hope that the next robot movie will have better things to do and better co actors.

Madame Bovary (2015) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 43%, My Rating: 5.5]

madame_bovary

Trailer:

This movie is the latest interpretation of the classic novel and the main reason why I was interested in watching this one was the decent quality of the trailer. Some expensive movies which have been beautifully shot are a joy to watch (try ‘To The Wonder’) even when they have rather mediocre story lines. As it turns out, the producers seem to have handpicked the scenes that were put in the trailer because the movie does not deliver on any front. The performances are uninspired and the screenplay is insipid. In the final analysis it is a sheer waste of time and money: my time and the producer’s money.

Danny Collins (2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.5]

danny_collins

Trailer:

There are some people who can continue to light up the screen after decades of solid performances. Al Pacino is one such thespian. Here he plays a down and out singer who lives on past glories. A letter from his past changes his life forever. Based on a true story, ‘Danny Collins’ tells a very enjoyable ( who cares if it is predictable) tale of a man on self discovery at a ripe old age. That also makes this movie Al Pacino’s best performance in over a decade. Definitely worth a watch.

 

Phantom (Hindi, 2015) [IMDB: 5.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

phantom

Trailer: 

As the movie’s tagline says, after watching ‘Phantom’ I wished that it was true. In fact, the confidence with which the movie was unfolding made me feel that it was indeed based on true events. I even googled to find out whether the terrorist David Headley was dead. When truth struck and I was back to my senses, I realized that ‘Phantom’ was a fanciful work of imagination which does not stop at stretching the limits of imagination but also bends and breaks it. At the same time it is a decent thriller to watch, if you can forget the fact that you read newspapers. The things going for the movie are the racy pace and the limited screen time for Katrina Kaif. The things against the movie are your functioning brain and Saif Ali Khan. After all this, still a decent one time watch,

While We’re Young (2014) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 845, My Rating: 7.0]

WhileWereYoung-poster1

Trailer:

Ben Stiller has been trying too hard to get out of the comedian tag for the last few years. Perhaps he does not realize that his acting talents are very limited and he looks best in movies like ‘Tropic Thunder’ and ‘Zoolander’. Here, Stiller plays husband to Naomi Watts (who is in her comfort zone in the role). Their lives and thoughts are deeply affected by the entry of a young couple into their lives. The phenomenon of mid-life crisis gets another look in this movie. The movie is ultimately rewarding for those who have the patience to sit through some of the plainly boring sequences.

Kunjiramayanam (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0]

Kunjiramayanam Posters-Stills-Images-Malayalam Movie-Vineeth Sreenivasan-Dhyan Sreenivasan-Basil Joseph-Onlookers Media

Trailer: 

This debut feature film by Basil Joseph tells the story of events that happen in a small village in Kerala. An entertaining study of the lives and culture in a picturesque village in Central Kerala is told in an interesting way. The grip of the director on the subject is evident and it is truly a feast for the eyes to have rich visuals in the background. It is not for nothing that they call Kerala ‘God’s Own Country’.

Documentary of the Week

South of the Border (2009) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 69%, My Rating: 7.0]

South of the Border (2009)

Trailer:

A one sided take on the governments in South America. An introduction to the politics in Latin America.

Eagerly waiting for:Crimson Peak‘ directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Jessica Chastain.

Did you know: ‘Skyfall’ is the first Bond flick directed by an Oscar winning director.

 

 

Edition 53: The Best of National Awards

Movies: Non-English

Fireworks (Hana-bi) (Japan, 1997) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Hana-Bi Poster

Trailer: 

With generous doses of blood splashing on the screen and numerous scenes with physical violence, this Japanese classic is not a pleasant film to watch. A cop gets out of the police force and gets into violent ways. He takes up painting after his voluntary retirement but the pent up frustrations in his life boil over. Shot with an element of sadism in the scenes of violence and marked with insensitivity to human life, the film is a masterclass in violence. The lead actor wrote and directed the film and it is safe in his hands as he is able to fully realize what he penned.

The Wave (Germany, 2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

Wave (2008)

Trailer: 

For many poorly informed foreigners, especially non-Europeans, the everlasting word association with Germany is ‘Hitler’. Though unfair to Germany and Germans, this is one association they find very difficult to shake off. This film explores the possibility of the rise of a dictatorship in Germany. Based on a true story (that happened outside Germany),  a social experiment trying to figure out how life would be under a dictatorship, spirals out of control. Though the film suffers much on account of the difficulty in making it believable, it is a study on how cults emerge and how a few committed mad men can create havoc in the society. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jolly LLB (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

Jolly-LLB-2013

Trailer: 

I did not watch this movie earlier thinking that it was one of the assembly line manufactured products from Bollywood. The ‘critics’ from mainstream media were also reserved in their reviews with no high praises being spoken of the film. It is after the film scooped few awards at the Filmfare awards that I thought that I should probably watch it. The probability turned into certainty when the film won a few more awards at the National Film Awards. It is a mystery to me (maybe, it is not) how pathetic mainstream movies with huge star casts receive glowing paid for reviews while good independent cinema is hardly recognized. Jolly LLB, minus the forced songs, is indeed the best Hindi film of 2013. It has a very original script and fine performances from all the main actors including Saurabh Shukla, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. Telling a contemporary story, it is a courtroom drama that exposes the ills of the Indian judicial system without taking itself too seriously. The court scenes look authentic and the dialogues are never forced. It is a quite an easy film to watch and keeps you interested even when the climax is a foregone conclusion.

Labor Day (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Labor Day

Trailer: 

This film looks like a 70s movie with better cast and poor directing. A cure for insomnia. It is baffling how Kate Winslet got a BAFTA nomination for her insipid performance. The plot involves a single mom and her son being forced to give asylum to a criminal on the run from the law. A lot of mushy moments that are obviously built into the story to initiate intimacy between the couple fall flat. All this makes it a B grade movie with an A list star cast which makes you laugh in the serous moments.

Shahid (India, 2012) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

shahid

Trailer: 

Based on the true story of the slain advocate who defended the accused in many high stakes terror cases, ‘Shahid’ is a tour de force. Punching many holes in the narrative of the investigation agencies, Shahid becomes a thorn in the proceedings for people wielding power. He succeeds in getting acquittals for many of the accused.The movie which starts with the killing of Shahid traces his story from almost becoming a terrorist to being at the vanguard of the fight against human rights abuses. Rajkumar Rao deservedly got the Best Actor award at the National Film Awards. ‘Shahid’ tells a story that needs to be told and they have told it quite well.

2 States (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

2-states-poster_139296427700

 

Trailer: 

First the good parts. It is not a boring film and Alia Bhatt has acted well. Discounting for the source material, the film is well directed and edited. In simple words, it is not boring. Otherwise, it is a story which was taken from a screenplay published as a novel. (Spoilers Ahead) Chetan Bhagat writes screenplays with melodramatic moments and high drama in plain English and first publishes them as books priced at suitable pricing points. Later they make them into movies which neatly fit the genre of the typical Bollywood romance. The film is a refined version of Ekkkkkkta Kapoor’s serials, with squabbling relatives and tender love caught in the cross fire. Here a Punjabi guy and a Tamil Brahmin girl (you see, the cast has to be mentioned. As if, others don’t study in Tamil Nadu) fall in love, copulate and even romance during interviews during their stint at IIM A. In what is bad advertisement for IIM A, the girl even takes the groom to task over his lower salary than hers at a wedding which is her way of addressing the dowry problem. I have only sympathy for the souls who think that Chetan Bhagat writes something new in every book. It is the same recycled trash. All his books have the same type of ‘liberated’ women. Just like the much prized pen in ‘3 Idiots’ there are plot devices that keep on repeating in the movie for them to be magically resolved. A case in point here is the poor singer mother-in-law who gets her place in the sun because of the efforts of her daughter’s boyfriend. Then there is the abusive father who has a change of heart when the director wants it. It is all too convenient.  The piece de  resistance was the ‘ring scene’. I was wondering if all family members would be wearing the ring and if the girl had a sister instead of a brother, would she be wearing one too? For once, I did not understand the need to have a session at the shrink’s place as a venue for the flashback. Maybe producer Kkkkkkaran Johar can explain.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues

Trailer: 

If you have brain, leave it in the freezer. Know that you are going to watch a stupid film and know that stupidity has no limits. Get ready for jokes that don’t care about any niceties. Racist jokes, jokes on the blind and so on are the categories that will have benchmarks with this one film which makes no pretensions about what it wants to tell. Finally it boils down to a matter of taste. Watch a version of how 24 hour news channels came into being. Just for the gags.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Why We Fight (2005) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Why We Fight (2005)

Trailer: 

Why Americans like going to war? Who wants America to go to war? A look at the powerful interests that drive the American war machine.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Chef’ because it is a movie on food.

Did you know: The first Twilight is the only film in the series to not receive any Razzie Award nominations.