Edition 69

The Non-English Movie of The Week

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

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This movie, which stimulates careful consideration of the class divides in the Brazilian society, tells the story of a housemaid who lives in Sao Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil. The maid’s serene and stable life goes into a tailspin when her daughter who shares a frosty relationship with her comes to stay with her in Sao Paulo. The skillfully woven tale examines the dynamics of the relationships when an outsider challenges it in myriad ways. The comedienne Regina Case gives a performance par excellence and the acclaims the movie has received is well deserved. Certainly worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Martian (2015) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating 7.5]

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While watching ‘The Martian’ the one thing that doesn’t strike the viewer is that the director Ridley Scott is 77 years old. With celebrated movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Thelma & Louise’, ‘Black Hawk Dawn’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘American Gangster’, ‘The Martian’ is the antithesis of what you would expect from a veteran. Brilliantly conceived and executed using cutting edge technology, the movie is an introduction to life on Mars (the planet and not the chocolate). Astronaut Matt Damon has to use all the wits at his disposal when he is stranded in the hostile environment on Mars while awaiting succour. The movie has a predictable story line and occasionally feels like a documentary. Also, it looks like an out of the world version of ‘Cast Away’ with a person trained to be better at being alone. That also takes away the emotional anger, distress and frustration that was essential in a movie like ‘Cast Away’. A 3D version also does not add anything to the movie. On a lighter note, how many times will Hollywood send missions to rescue Matt Damon after attempts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Interstellar’ and now ‘The Martian’?

Talvar (2015) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes:98%, My Rating: 7.0]

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‘Talvar’ is a barely camouflaged take on the infamous double murders to rock Noida, a suburb of Delhi. Though the parents of the girl were convicted and are serving their sentence now, the film tries to turn the story upside down. Viewed from an objective point of view, the movie is an unvarnished attempt to take sides and prove the parents innocent in the whole affair. It does not leave any ambiguity and even ridicules views contrary to the moviemaker’s desired stand. Simultaneously the movie raises some disturbing questions related to the handling of the crime scene and ‘confessions’ of some suspects under narco-analysis (The procedure has since been outlawed by the Supreme Court of India as no one can be forced to give evidence against himself/herself). What stands out in the movie are the stirring performance from the ever reliable Irrfan Khan and the sorry state of affairs in the government investigation agencies. The crux of the matter finally boils down to the access outsiders have in a household and how security is sometimes compromised. Director Meghna Gulzaar finally delivers a watchable movie after a history of duds but credit must largely go to the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj who pens an entertaining but ultimately flawed screenplay.

Inside Out (2015) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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In animation in Hollywood, there is Pixar and then there are the rest. It is akin to a 100m sprint where there is Usain Bolt and the rest. The showcase feature from Pixar this year tells the story of a young girl trying to adjust to life in a new setting. Her emotions are controlled by distinct characters representing happiness, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. There are some nice touches like happiness and sadness sharing similar hair colour to imply that they are related. The movie does get a tad slow in some parts but overall is a joy to watch. Unless something exceptional is released, my money is on ‘Inside Out’ to win the next Academy Award for the ‘The Best Animation Picture’.

Spy (2015) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Melissa McCarthy stars as the spy in the movie which has some really smart writing to aid to an otherwise average story line. The element of humour is the only running theme in the movie. Aided by clever one liners and some outrageously funny scenes (like the one in an Italian restaurant), the movie is a breeze to watch. The unconventional appearance of the lead is exploited to the hilt and there is a delightful supporting cast of Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham lets his hair down in a role parodying his earlier efforts. All of this makes the movie a thoroughly enjoyable fare.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Yet Rated, My Rating: 6.5]

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Marking the directorial debut of the multi talented Nadirshah (who has also set the songs to tune), this Malayalam movie tells the tale of three youngsters whose goal in life is to visit Pattaya in Thailand. The truth is that all this is a mere diversion for the antics that they end up performing. The movie is a series of anecdotes with the sole aim of getting a good laugh from the viewers. Some of the jokes achieve more than what they were expected to do. The serious angle in the movie seems to be an afterthought to bring some gravity to the proceedings. For the kind of comedy only Malayalam movies can provide, this is indeed a laugh riot.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes:: Not yet rated, My Rating:5.0]

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Based on the template provided by the original, this sequel goes all out to demolish women as vain, scatterbrained and egotistical individuals out to get the naive and goodhearted men. If only things could be that simple. Essentially a demolition job, this movie inadvertently  exposes the severe flaws of the characters it sets out to rescue. More than anything, it is about men who make deeply deficient choices. They seem to be thinking with other parts of the body than with their heads when making the choice of a girlfriend. Compared to the prequel where the men were sitting ducks, here they are foxy fellows who feign ignorance till it suits them. Finally when that time does come, they consider themselves as valiant martyrs in the cause of love. There is a cringe-worthy scene at the end where the men rediscover their love for their mothers. There is also an incoherent rant on women by one of the embattled men. The last time he did that it was amusing but now it looks like a forced addition. All in all, this sequel lacks the intellectual honesty of the original.

Katti Batti (2015) [IMDB: 4.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating: 2.0]

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There is a scene in this movie when Imran Khan says, “Maa chali gayi” (Mother has gone). The expression on his face is that of a lifeless sculpture. I thought that he was telling that the mother has gone to buy groceries or to take a walk. Seconds later it dawned on me that he was announcing the death of his mother. I almost cried. Not for the mother but for the fact that I paid to see a non actor in a disaster of a movie. ‘Katti Batti’ is full of such moments where you curse the moment you decided to walk into the movie hall. Imran Khan has the acting abilities of a stone but then Kangna Ranaut is supposed to be one of the best of this generation. Even she looks like a kid lost in a fair with no idea of what is going on. The anti climax makes you wonder what was going on till that point in the movie. This film is s farce and I am being kind. The best actor in the movie is a turtle. Who gives money to Nikhil Advani to make movies and still does not have a change of heart after Imran Khan is cast in the lead role? There is a lot more that can be said against the film but the electricity consumed by my laptop when I type is worth more than the movie. Save electricity.

Documentary of the Week

Sunshine Superman (2015) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The life of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. The footage of the jumps is exhilarating but the documentary is underwhelming. Still, an introduction to BASE jumping.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Steve Jobs’ because of the ways in which people tried to stop it from getting made. Also because it is directed by Danny Boyle.

Did you know: The pile of excreta that the young Jamal jumps into in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was made from a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

Week 45

Movies: Non-English

The Tin Drum (Germany, 1979) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

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Based on the monumental novel by Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, ‘Tin Drum’ tells the story of a boy who ‘decides’ that he does not need to grow up physically even when he is mentally very much a grown up. It is is his way of lodging protest against the behaviour of people during the Second World War.  Just like the novel, the film does not hold back in the use of metaphors. It hits out at the all accepting passive nature of the German society when surrounded by the tyranny of the Nazis. The protagonist has a tin drum which is his constant companion which he uses to drum up support for anti Nazis and give a wake up call to those in deep denial about the Nazis. The film does not cover the whole novel and ends before the ending in the novel. That was the case with the film adapatation of ‘The English Patient’ too. I guess the film makers resort to this to keep the optimistic ending. The performances in ‘Tin Drum’ are quite good but I believe that its Oscar triumph was very much due to political factors; it was after all an anti Nazi film from West Germany released at the height of the Cold War. Still, the movie is worth a watch.

Amour (France, Germany, Austria, 2012) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

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Some movies ooze elegance and class. This is one such movie about an old couple who are deeply in love and lead lives where they take one another to be permanent fixtures in a routine life. It is when the wife suffers from a stroke that the strength of their relationship is put to the stress test. The film swept all the major awards and was a hit in the festival circuit. The performances don’t involve anything extraordinary but the poise with which the ordinary is acted out requires special mention. Early into the film, it is easy to realize that something special is happening on screen. A must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Out of the Furnace (2013) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%]

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Another movie on vigilante justice when the citizen takes the law into his own hands because he doesn’t trust the official investigators enough. This film is a poor cousin of ‘Prisoners’ which also explored a similar theme but was way better. ‘Out of Furnace’ is the story of a man who goes in search of his missing brother and meets a host of characters in the process. It is a shame that for a star studded cast the film is not able to do justice to the talent at its disposal. The screenplay is laboured to the point of being boring. Catch the film when it comes on cable TV.

Thanks for Sharing (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

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The thing with this film billed as a romantic comedy is that it neither romantic nor comic. Three people who have a sex addiction problem are at the core of the story. It is about how they try to de-addict themselves from this particularly interesting state and at the same time juggle their love relationships. The film never rises above mediocrity and the act should have ended prematurely. That is the worst I can say about a movie on sex addiction.

The Counselor (2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 34%]

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It is such a shame that a stellar cast with Pitt, Bardem, Diaz, Cruz and Fassbender in a movie directed by Ridley Scott comes up with the dud of the year. It is about a lawyer who messes up in a particular situation and then things go out of control like a kite which is not tethered. Well that was supposed to be the story but that is what happens to the film; it is the director who untethers the movie from his hands. This has disastrous consequences. Half baked characters, stars who sleep walk through their roles, actors who are evidently bored and a story which wanders like a lost soul. The ‘Dhoom 3’ of Hollywood for 2013. Non Indian readers may read that as unmitigated disaster.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Square (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

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The story of the uprising in Egypt which was part of the wider Arab Spring. The documentary follows a group of people as they put their lives in the line of fire to fight the establishment. The documentary assumes increased significance on account of the recent events in Ukraine. A long shot at the Oscars thought, for the poor technical quality of production.

The : D Retrospective

Starting this week the retrospective section will feature some feel good movies which are liked widely and are a good watch. The feel good factor is augmented by the fact that it is liked by people who like to spread happiness with sincerity.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

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We are all accustomed to Greek tragedies but this is one movie at the other end of the spectrum. Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay and starred in this surprise winner at the box office, making her a star in the process. The best thing about the movie is that it does not have any major stars and hence the actors don’t come with any baggage of typecasting. This makes it difficult to predict the trajectory and responses of many characters.The story has a Greek woman fall in love at first sight (quite literally, at first sight itself) and the wedding that follows. The hilarious moments have to do with the fact that the groom doesn’t know Greek and that he is completely at loss in the peculiar situations that he finds himself in. Add to that a few oddball relatives, this becomes an easy and entertaining film to watch.

French Kiss (1995) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

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There are very few actors who bring happiness along with them and light up the screen in every movie they appear. Meg Ryan is one of them. It is her cheerful demeanor even when she flies down to France in desperation to meet her fiance, that is the best thing about the movie. She gets unwelcome company in a thief on her trip to track down her fiance. On her life changing journey she discovers herself and true love. The movie has some very scenic shots and is quite easy on the eye. If you like cheerful vulnerable woman at the heart of a story, this is the film you will enjoy watching.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

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Nora Ephron can sell the impossible to you and even make you root for her story and characters. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is a modern day fairy tale which has dollops of optimism and a heart in the right place. A kid tries to find a companion for his widowed father. A woman throws caution to the wind and goes by her gut instinct when she decides that she could be that woman. The film requires some suspension of disbelief but when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are on screen, it is so easy to suspend disbelief. The climax is a tribute to ‘An Affair to Remember’. What that movie could not achieve, this one does: Lovers uniting at the top of the Empire State building. As a character says in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, “Oh God, I love that movie.”

Eagerly Waiting for: The Oscars next week.

Did you know: The original raw footage of ‘Apocalypse Now’ consisted of 1,250,000 feet of film which is over 230 hours’ worth.