Edition 55

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Miracle in Cell No. 7 (South Korea, 2013) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

MICN7-27x40_20june

Trailer:

This Korean blockbuster tells the story of the bonding between a father and a daughter. The father who is a simpleton gets framed in a rape case and is sentenced to death. The daughter who has nobody else in the world, is smuggled into the prison cell of the father. A remarkable tearjerker which is cloying, this Korean film is an out and out crowd pleaser. I often feel that Korean and Indian movies have a lot in common. The most important of those is the ability to play unashamedly to the galleries. As for this movie, I have a feeling that this is waiting to be made into a bad copy in Hindi. Why spoil the experience by watching another badly made Bollywood movie? Go for the original.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

hundredfootjourney

Trailer:

Based on the novel with the same name, this is another crowd pleaser which is a cheerily brisky movie to watch. An Indian family of cooks, displaced by riots in India moves to Europe, only to accidentally end up in a French village. The patriarch of the family (played adorably by Om Puri) decides to set up shop and then the restaurateur comes in direct competition with an obsessive owner of a Michelin starred restaurant right across the street. What ensues is a no holds war; a battle royale between Indian and French cuisine. While I was secretly hoping that the Indians win hands down, the movie takes a different route and becomes a lesson on cultural integration and tolerance. It is therefore not difficult to see why the film is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. The film is a bit clichéd but has some very good dialogues. Some of them are cheesy (” I am a cook, not a chef”)  and some have far greater depth (The one on French national anthem and the French national slogan). With decent music from A R Rahman and more than decent performances, this is an easy film to watch.

The Guest (201) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

THE GUEST

Trailer:

Every once in a while there comes a movie which you are willing to write off without bothering to watch it but when you watch it you know how wrong you were. ‘The Guest’ is one such movie. It surely will not win any awards and uses every cliché possible to advance the plot. There are enough loopholes in the plot but in spite of all this there is something remarkably endearing about the movie that makes you sit through it and enjoy it. In real world terms, it means that you know you are watching nonsense but you start liking the nonsense because it is really nicely done nonsense. A family grieving for its lost soldier son gets some succor in the form of a guest who claims to be the son’s colleague. The guest wins over every member in the family but soon his mask starts slipping. What could have been a really bad movie starts kicking in the style. Acted and shot with panache, this finally becomes the  guilty pleasure of 2014.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 (2014) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Nymphomaniac-_Volume_I_47

Trailer:

From acclaimed director Lars Von Trier comes this movie about a nymphomaniac recollecting her sexual experiences. More smoke than fire, this movie is a voyeuristic expedition solely interested in titillating the viewer.  I don’t get it when such movies are slotted as high art because they simply aren’t good enough. The film had its fair share of controversy too because it has unsimulated sex scenes. That I am afraid to report, is the only claim to fame of this movie.

22 Jump Street (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

22_jump_street-wide

Trailer:

The thing with maths is that you can always add one. The sequel to 21 being 22 would not have been a major problem if not for the various scenarios that are shown as possible future sequels as the end credits roll. Come on, this sequel itself is an unwarranted tribute to a lousy original. The good thing is that it looks better than the original but that is not much to say. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles as cerebrally challenged undercover cops. This time they are back in college. The film does have its moments but overall, it doesn’t make the cut. Recommended for those who like big loud senseless movies.

Endless Love (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 15%]

EDL_31_5_Promo_4C_2F.indd

Trailer: 

A remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields starrer, this movie begs the question ‘Why?’. To start with, the original was a lousy and painful one to watch. Its only redeeming feature was the (then) angelic face of Brooke Shields. The 2014 version has no reason for its existence. It sticks to the same tacky screenplay and is not aided by some plastic performances. For those interested, the story is that of a girl falling in love with a boy; a relationship the girl’s parents oppose tooth and nail. Sounds familiar? Save yourself the pain. Give it a miss.

Rang Rasiya (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Rangrasiya-2014

Trailer:

The story of legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma who dared to put a face to the gods. His representations of the Hindu gods and goddesses continue to be used on posters and artwork to this day. He was also one of the first to understand the commercial aspects of art and marketing. It would be nearly impossible to capture his genius in a movie. ‘Rang Rasiya’ tries with mixed results. The film is a genuine attempt at an authentic portrayal of the life and times of the artist; his passions, his art, his battles and his demons. It is ultimately the multitude of issues that the film tries to tackle that becomes its undoing. It also has a subtext about the freedom of expression for an artist, which has become a hostage in present India. Randeep Hooda puts in a fine performance as the protagonist. Definitely among the better Hindi movies of 2014.

Kill Dil (2014) [IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Kill Dil

Trailer:

Shaad Ali who made his name through movies like ‘Saathiya’ (which I like) and ‘Bunty aur Babli’ (which I dislike) returns to helm the affairs seven years after the disastrous ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’. The hibernation for seven years seems to have done no good and exposes the rustiness of the filmmaker. Two abandoned kids raised by a don turn to crime and proudly finish off 11 souls when a girl walks (rather dances) into their life. The criminals try to reform but find that some things are easier said than done. Ranvir Singh doesn’t require make up to play the stupid youngster who thinks no end of himself. Parineeti Chopra has the same ‘Oh I am so cool’ look she sports in every movie. As for Ali Zafar, he should stick to singing. Thespian Govinda looks better at dancing than being a gangster. The movie is let down by some uninspired music by the Shanka-Ehsaan-Loy trio who also are well past their glory days. The movie tries too hard and it shows. I am reminded of the similar fate of the ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999) director John Mathew Matthan whose second movie was a dud called ‘Shikhar’ (Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapoor, Bipaha Basu)released in 2005. Moral of the story: Don’t take 6 or 7 year long vacation.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Facing Ali (2009) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

facingAli_key3

Trailer:

It has been 20 years since there was a rumble in the jungle. Why was Muhammad Ali voted the sportsman of the century? Certainly not just for the punches he could throw. Listening to the people who received the punches, it is clear that the punches were enough.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Nightcrawler’ because it is generating rave reviews.

Did you know: ‘Casino Royale’ was the first James Bond movie approved by the Chinese censors.

 

 

 

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Week 49

Movies: Non-English

The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

skin I live in

 

Trailer: 

An accomplished plastic surgeon who is obsessed with creating the perfect skin after his wife’s tragic death achieves a breakthrough after more than a decade of persistence. He has a patient in captivity who is a guinea pig for him to try his new accomplishment on. It is the mysterious past of this patient that holds key to the story as it unfolds. Told with the trademark panache of Pedro Almodovar, this film did not get the attention it deserved when it was released. It may be because Almodovar is a director who has made many films on gender issues and this one obliquely pays respect to that. It is also one of his latter films without Penelope Cruz. Such minor details aside, the film is a really good watch with Antonio Banderas showing us that he has it in him to step up to the plate when required, in the acting department.

Subramaniapuram (India, 2008) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated)

Subramaniapuram

 

Trailer: 

‘Subramaniapuram’ is a film that brought a zest to movie making in the Tamil film industry. Set in 1980, the film follows the story of five educated unemployed men in the rural heartland of Tamil Nadu (in South India). This is one of my personal favourites. (Spoilers Ahead) What starts as a simple romance slowly turns into a violent tragedy. The film gets its setting and feel right but the tale could have held on its own in any era. The cinematography and music add to the merit of the movie. There are some really good touches. It requires a certain vision to have one of the five men as physically challenged. That explains the whole movie in the opening sequence and in the climax without having to utter a word. A must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Philips and the Monkey Pen (India, Malayalam,2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

philips

 

Trailer: 

An absolutely delightful story of a boy who fears his mathematics classes like the plague and who has a streak of trouble making. Congratulations are in for the producers who showed the guts to finance a film with a young kid at the centre of the story. They also made sure that no effort is spared in the making of it, as is evident from the good production quality. A special mention must also be made of the background score which sets the right tempo for the movie. All this fade into the background when compared with the wonderful performances of the kids in the film. Some of the scenes and lines are too hilarious and it is all helped by the fact that the film has a story to tell. Two thumbs up.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013 [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

 

Trailer: 

This one is about the trip a ‘grandfather’ takes his grandson with him to return the grandson to his father. In other words, it is an excuse for a road trip in which a young man dressed up as a grandpa takes a younger brat with him to play a series of pranks on unsuspecting strangers. At many levels, the film tries to be outrageous and funny but usually is just outrageous. There are a few funny  moments though but they are far and few in between the ones that concentrate on body parts. Recommended for those who can find fun in toilet humour and juvenile jokes.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects (India,2014) [ IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 36%]

Shaadi Ke Side Effects

 

Trailer: 

It remains a mystery how some movies get sequels in Bollywood when the original itself was a pain to watch. The only good thing about the movie is the title and even talents like Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar are wasted in roles that demand nothing of them. A married couple have a kid and then they have difficulty in coping up the upbringing of the kid. You see, they are having a kid for the first time. So they have no prior experience in the matter. Then the merry go around starts when they start imagining problems when there are none. They start lying to each other with the premise that small lies lead to a happy marriage. Some stretch of imagination, I must say. I guess the filmmakers could have just titled the film ‘Baby’ because that in their opinion is the side effect of a marriage.

Highway (India, 2014) [ IMDb: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

highway

 

Trailer: 

Imtiaz Ali makes nicely packaged movies with zero content like ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Rockstar’ where the actresses put in shoddy performances in the name of acting. ‘Highway’ is just another addition to the list. A young girl gets kidnapped on the eve of her wedding and then she has a bout of Stockholm syndrome. The movie then becomes an excuse for taking the lead characters around the country on a trip with a very easy ending to boot. Even the music by A R Rahman is tepid. An absolute bore of a movie in which even Randeep Hooda fails to perform.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Indie Game: The Movie (2012) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Indie Game The Movie

 

Trailer:

A look at the world of independent game developers and the passion they bring to the scene. Insightful.

The : D Retrospective

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) [ IMDb: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

The Devil Wears Prada

Trailer: 

Anne Hathaway is the wet behind the ears office assistant to Meryl Streep in the adaptation of the novel by the same title reportedly based on true events. The characters are all so well etched out that Meryl Streep could be held liable for torturing kids. Even when playing a character everyone loves to hate, she oozes class and literally makes the film her own. The dialogues are razor sharp and quite often acerbic. If you want a primer on how to torture employees, this one could be of great help and still be entertaining.

Romancing the Stone (1984) [ IMDb: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

Romancing the Stone

 

Trailer: 

A writer goes to Colombia to rescue her kidnapped sister and in the process gets into an adventure she didn’t bargain for. She also meets her love in dashing Michael Douglas. Kathleen Turner though does not make it count. She largely has a wooden performance but this works in her favour as that is what the role demands. That also makes it a case of good casting. Also thrown in are few rides in the forest and a very happy ending. A good watch for a lazy evening.

Fatal Attraction (1987) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

Fatal Attraction

 

Trailer: 

A box office hit from the glory days of Michael Douglas, ‘Fatal Attraction’ tells the story of an obsessive woman a man wants to avoid to save his marriage. The performances are all top notch and the film has the mood of a thriller which is what separates it from the countless movies based on a similar theme. Even when it is predictable and has an obvious ending, the film keeps you interested with the pacy screenplay and antics of the characters which are at times unpredictable.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Noah’ because it a Darron Aronofsky film starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.

Did you know: The real Frank Abagnale Jr. appears in Catch Me If You Can as the French policeman who arrests Di Caprio.

Week 36

Movies: Non-English

Vizontele (Turkey, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

vizon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL1gcQi-4X0

The introduction of television in a remote village in Turkey changes the social fabric of the place and also disrupts the ‘entertainment industry’ in the region. Sometimes simple stories that tell the lives of ordinary people are the most powerful. This is one such story. Watch it for the rustic appeal that it brings and also for the performances in a simple story.

The Child (France, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

child

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU3mndctyJM

This French Palme d’Or winner is a slow burning masterpiece because it is only in the latter stages that it reveals itself.  A young couple go to the extent of exploiting their newborn to make money. The movie takes a swipe at the social security system in France but in the end it is about the complexity of relations in a young family with a baby. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Gravity (2013) [ IMDb: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Gravity-1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgGPTa7-vlE

I think that that the special effects in Gravity are perhaps the best in the history of cinema. I am willing to put my money on ‘Gravity’ scooping the Oscars for ‘Special Effects’ and ‘Cinematography’. It is a very simple tale of astronauts trying to stay alive after a wreck in space. The movie should be seen in 3D where your eyes will savour every moment of it. The roles are tailor made for George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. (Spoilers ahead) There are some excellent scenes like the one in which Clooney is imagined to be entering the space station again. It reminded me of ‘127 hours’ where too the protagonist goes for a final push when trapped in what looks like an insurmountable problem. Two thumbs up for one of the best movies of the year.

Dhoom 3 (India, 2013) [ IMDB: Not yet rated, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

dhoom 3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeF_b8EQcK0

I walked out of the movie hall midway through the movie. Enough said.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) [ IMDB:6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw6dECrl-BE

Excellent animation is let down by an under cooked screenplay in this sequel to the much loved original. The animation looked very good in 3D but the story was as predictable as the goal celebration of Alan Shearer.

7 Sundara Rathrikal ( 7 Beautiful Nights) [Malayalam, India, 2013] [ Not yet rated]

ezhu-sundara-rathrikal-trailer-out

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzmIkfw-SWI

James Albert has a way with cooking up stories that neatly fit into a jigsaw puzzle by the time the movie ends. Add to that the visual spendour of Lal Jose and you get this movie which starts a bit slow but picks up tremendously in the second half and makes it a movie worth watching during this festive season. The story involves the events that unfold in the seven days leading to the marriage day of the lead actor. I wish I could watch this movie with someone else once more. (Spoilers ahead) The way small incidents and misunderstandings totally change the lives of people is brought to the fore here. Though it is just a story, that tinge of sadness descends on me when I get to see people in love being torn apart by the actions of others. I thought that in some strange ways, I could relate to the protagonist.

Drishyam (Malayalam, India, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

drishyam

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMASubc1y_k

The director should take a bow for this one. It is a very original piece of work and one of the must see movies of the year. Mohanlal reminds us that he still has it in him to pull off a very memorable performance but Asha Sharath ( I had to Google to find out her name) as the Inspector General of Police has gone one better than him. I think that her portrayal of a police officer who is also a mother is pitch perfect. In the end the acclaim should go to the director who also wrote the screenplay. It is a genre defying film. It can be called a thriller, a crime investigation or a family story. In the end it is all that and more. Two thumbs up to certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Thira (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

Thira-1

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

A woman’s fight against human trafficking involving young girls. It is set over a day when the lady and a young man go in search of the same people. There are some loopholes in the plot but all that is forgiven because the film has its heart in the right place. Shobhana sparkles on screen. The brisk pace, cinematography and editing are proof that Vineeth Srinivasan is a director who has a very good idea about the commercial aspect of movie making. After a breezy romance in his earlier film, he shows his ability to take risks with a radically different subject. A must watch just for the intent and sincerity.

R… Rajkumar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%]

r...r

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsnHky4wv5w

It is sad and funny that after ‘Thira’, I am reviewing ‘R… Rajkumar’. I would have walked out of the movie if I had seen it in the theatre. I have serious issues with the portrayal of women in this film. The film is set in a patriarchal society which gives two hoots about the rights of women. They are ill treated and beaten up as if it is a routine thing to do. The hero goes after his girl as if she is some trophy to be won. He stalks her and literally salivates every time he sees her. The lyrics are obnoxious and caters to the lowest common denominator of the audience. The real icing on the cake is the woman herself. She says to one of her pursuers in public that if he wins against her lover, she will take her clothes off for him. Seriously? I almost died when she said that for the second time.

Artist (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

artist

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml2IAPNCdTY

This one from Shyamaprasad is another movie which I will not forget very soon. It has a thought provoking story and raises questions which are difficult to answer. A young girl drops out of college to marry her college mate. She gets thrown out of her family and then her life becomes a succession of tragedies. Ann Augustine gives her best performance till date in this film. The film is a scorcher and has a very nice story to tell. Highly recommended.

Peter O’Toole Retrospective (In memory of the screen legend who passed away this week)

Peter O’Toole is often remembered for the largest (8) unsuccessful acting nominations at the Oscars but he was a screen legend on his own right.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

lawrence

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmr1iSG3RTA

One of the most memorable opening sequences in a movie sets the stage for an epic stretching across countries and faiths. It tells the story of a British officer with confused loyalties. Peter O’Toole is what this movie is remembered for, even when he was not a part of the 7 Oscars it won.

The Lion in Winter (1968) [IMDb: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

lion

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cVwBjwRGgg

Set in the 12th century, this film follows the inner court shenanigans during the final days of King Henry, the 2nd. The queen and the three son’s battle it out for the throne in this classic. Must see.

Venus (2006) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

venus

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-XsErH6WJI

Peter O’Toole got his final Oscar nomination as an actor for playing a dirty old man whose life changes when he gets young female company. Not a classic but not a boring one either.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Stories We Tell (2012) [ IMDb: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

stories

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytq4VZ2Nyxg

How different people in a family remember the same person? Quite differently. One of the top 10 documentaries of the year.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Dallas Buyers Club’ because it is rumoured to be among the Oscar favourites.

Did you know: The first in-flight movie was The Lost World (USA, 1925), shown during an Imperial Airways flight from London, UK to Paris, France in April 1925.