Week 51

Movies: Non-English

As It Is in Heaven (Sweden, 2004) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

As It Is in Heaven

Trailer: 

This heartwarming Swedish drama which has music that is entertaining and uplifting is one of the best feelgood movies you will ever see. An internationally renowned conductor returns to his small town in Sweden where he discovers hidden musical talents and realizes the life he had missed. Though the film is another one of those which contrasts the hustle and bustle of the city life with the relaxed pace of life in the village, it is a movie where the sincerity of the intentions overcomes the little rough edges in the screenplay. The acting is uniformly magnificent. Highly recommended.

No One Knows About Persian Cats (Iran,2009) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

noo

Trailer: 

In a country where playing music of the Western variety is banned and where freedom of expression is an alien concept, it is remarkable how Iranian film makers consistently come out with small gems polished by their passion for speaking out against an oppressive regime. In this winner at Cannes, the director follows the story of a group which wants to make rock music. As if this wasn’t enough to land the group in trouble, they go about recruiting new members to their band and also try to arrange for visas so that they can perform in London. For the umpteenth time I would like to reiterate that it does not require too much money to make a good movie as this one shows. Also, a very good film to watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Filth (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

Filth

Trailer: 

Coming from the writer of ‘Trainspotting’, this one was sure to have a dose of drugs. Here James McAvoy is a messed up corrupt cop who is having a difficult relationship with his wife and kid. He also has a drug problem and is involved in a case where he has tied himself in knots. With all this happening around him, he also want to have a career progression and he thinks that one of the ways of ensuring that is to play his rivals against each other. As he spirals out of control and loses touch with sanity, the key question is whether he will be able to hold on till he sees out the storm. James McAvoy is the cop in this very engaging story of deception and drugs which fully exploits the huge talent of McAvoy. At times too gloomy and at times a little slow, the film compensates for its flaws with a story which keeps you guessing till the very end. A very good watch.

Time Pass (Marathi, India, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]

Time Pass

Recommended by a brother to me, this Marathi hit is a simple tale of two ordinary adolescents who fall in love. The good for nothing Dagdu falls head over heels in love with a girl who is the daughter of a disciplinarian father. The movie is about how they overcome the barriers and break the boundaries in pursuit of their relationship. Just as the movie starts with the caption of there being nothing like first love, it prepares you for the eventual end which is pretty open and hints at a possible sequel in the near future. More than the main story line, it is the presence of the fringe supporting characters who add to the quality of the film. In fact, the best lines are delivered by the supporting cast and they are the ones to tickle the funny bones. It is also because that the characters look very rooted to the people you will meet in the street that the film is an easy watch. A nice one time watch.

Bewakoofiyaan (India, 2014) [IMDB: 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 25%]

Bewakoofiyaan_Poster

Trailer: 

I think the producer’s biography could have the same title as the that of the movie. I could not understand the reason for the existence of the film. It has a story that goes nowhere, songs that make you run out of the theatre and a hero who is better at singing those songs than in acting. The protagonist is in love with a lady who is the daughter of an IAS officer. She also loves him back but her dad is against the relationship and wants to make sure that the guy is the right one for her. Sounds familiar? If familiarity breeds contempt, the director ‘complicates’ things by referencing the mass sacking of its employees by Jet Airways a few years ago and make sure that the protagonist is jobless. (Spoilers ahead) The next thing you know, the protagonist is serving at the counter of an eatery where he suitably and conveniently gets insulted by the girl’s father. More of such shenanigans and then suddenly the sky clears up. Well, you cannot blame the director for not giving you a happy ending. What a bore.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Vanishing of the Bees (2009) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 65%]

Vanishing of the Bees

Trailer:

A study of the reasons behind the decline of the honeybee population around the world which also traces the consequences of the same. Not a great documentary but worth a watch.

The : D Retrospective

Stepmom (1998) [ImDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Stepmom

Trailer: 

Julia Roberts is the lady love of a man who has kids. The mother of the kids is a terminally ill patient (played by Susan Sarandon). Both the women must reconcile their differences and find a way forward to make it less painful for both of them. The film is a drama that does not have a great story to tell. It is solely driven by the great performances of the leading ladies that brings them to the foreground and pretty much makes everything else immaterial. Watch it for them.

Shallow Hal (2001) [IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Shallow Hal

Trailer: 

A man falls in love with a woman because of her ‘inner beauty’. This film focuses on a basic question. Whether love is constrained by physical appearance and whether two people can be happy even if they have dissimilar body shapes? Well, the film does not get that philosophical and has some good laughs to offer. The casting is a little inspired. Paltrow and Black in a reversal of their real life personas. Worth a watch.

Reversal of Fortune (1990) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Reversal of Fortune

Trailer: 

A legal thriller that tries to distinguish between what is morally wrong and what is legally punishable. Jeremy Irons is on trial for the death of his wife. There are two sides to the story and both the sides don’t give conclusive answers to moral questions. A taut engaging screenplay tries to give the answers and the legal process is as riveting as it has ever been presented on the big screen. Watch for some superlative acting and a very engaging story that keeps you interested till the very end.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Railway Man’ starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. 

Did you know: Pierce Brosnan was contractually forbidden from wearing a full tuxedo in any non-James Bond movie from 1995-2002.

Week 26

Movies: Non-English

Le Samouraï (France, 1967) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

samourai

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs0XYssIlbo

An assassin who is at the top of his game suddenly finds the tide turning against him. The same qualities that made him a force may cause his downfall. Stylishly shot movie which is able to achieve the deadpan look which many other movies try so hard to achieve. A must watch. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that the title ‘Kamikaze’ would have been more apt.

All About My Mother (Spain, 1998) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

all about

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkUMC5Jw8MA

Pedro Almodovar is a great story teller but the most noticeable trait of his movies is the presence of strong female characters. Here, the usual dose of Spanish flair is an asset to the movie which moves at a rapid pace. The story is that of a single mother trying to cope with her son’s death. She is also forced to confront her own demons. The film scooped the Academy award for the ‘Best Foreign Language film’ after having tasted commercial success in Spain.

English Retrospective

Requiem for a Dream (2000) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

requiem

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgo3Hb5vWLE

One of the most depressing movies you will ever see. Four addicts who want to have a better life go down the drain as they are unable to battle their dependence on drugs. The movie is shot in a rather disconcerting way and is like a visit to hell and back. The performances are uniformly classy. A special mention must be made of Ellen Burstyn who as the mother puts in an unforgettable performance. One of the best movies you will ever see.

Pulp Fiction (1994) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

pulp fiction

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

Director Quentin Tarantino is a self confessed fan of B grade slasher movies and action flicks. The good thing is that he shows his love for violence by making high quality classics which revel in violence and action. ‘Pulp Fiction’ is perhaps his most accomplished work and one of the most important movies of the 90s. The movie gave a new grammar to the method of making movies. With actors who act as if they were born to perform their roles, the move is a tour de force. This is one movie which you should watch if you claim to have any interest in movies.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

edward

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq2PPFUhfpo

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many occasions with mixed results. This movie is perhaps the best that they have produced together. Johnny stars as Edward who has scissors for hands. He falls in love with kleptomaniac (in real life, that is) Winona Ryder. Though Depp tries his best to emote this is not his best performance. He is able to draw the sympathy towards his character but that is all what he is able to do. Still, a rather interesting film for the novelty of the idea.

Movies I Saw This Week

Mud (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Mud French Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFBC8ohhVUs

Matthew McConaughey has been the most consistent star in the last three years delivering remarkable movies starting with ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ in 2011. As they say, he saved the best for the last. ‘Mud’ is undoubtedly his most accomplished film with a solid story and screenplay that makes you wonder whether it is inspired by true events. Here McConaughey plays a man on the run from the law who makes a pact with two boys to help him escape. The locations are authentic and McConaughey looks the part. He deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance. All this adds up to one of the best films of 2013. Truth be told, it is difficult to find such movies anymore. Therefore, a must watch.

Disconnect (2012) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

disconnect

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqCcQOlDM4o

‘Disconnect’ is basically a lesson on internet. It is a movie for the beginners on what not to do on the net. Otherwise, it is a movie on incredibly naive people who have no idea what they are doing when they post personal stuff on the net and pass it on to complete strangers. The editing is tacky and the background score does not aid the setting. I did not find the movie much impressive but from the popular response it seems I am in the minority.

Besharam ( India, 2013)[ IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 18%]

Besharam_movie_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzPjjqiG918

Finally, a Bollywood movie which lives up to its title. Shameless. The sentimental story of an orphan who has a heart of gold. Just kidding. The stupid story of an orphan who likes to steal cars for a living and steals the car of the girl he is chasing. The girl is also so filthy rich that she drives the latest Mercedes (poor idea of product placement) and then starts loving the guy who stole her car. Moral of the story: If the girl who you like does not like you,steal her car. Drive her around (in your car) long enough to make her love you. Then confess and return her car. Crack some crude jokes and when you are stuck on what to do next, start a song. Voila, you have a film.

Phata Poster Nikla Hero (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

phata

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCrNoy5OeOI

The only thing I liked about the movie is the title of the movie. I hope Shahid Kapoor goes the Abhishek Bachchan way. That is, I hope he makes enough flops that he stops getting movies.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Restrepo (2010) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Restrepo_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DjqR6OucBc

War in Afghanistan. A year with those fighting it. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ because it is a Coen Brothers film.

Did you know: Co-director of ‘Restrepo’, Tim Hetherington, was killed on April 20, 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya.

Week 17

Movies: Non- English

Good Bye Lenin ! ( Germany, 2003) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

goodbye lenin

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIjSaHUKD5I

A mother in East Germany goes into a coma for 8 months. When she returns from it the doctors tell her son that she should not be subjected to any exciting or upsetting news. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but the circumstances are far from normal as East and West Germany happened to be unified when she was in the coma. To make matters worse, she happens to be a staunch supporter of East Germany. Now her son must go the extra mile to create an illusion of East Germany for his mother. The film tells the story of his efforts (often with hilarious results) at trying to achieve that. This heartwarming tale is as personal as it is political. In trying to recreate East Germany the film delves into what the change really means for the man on the street. It is a an easy watch. Recommended.

Infernal Affairs ( Hong Kong, 2002) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes; 95%]

infernalaffairs

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4R3nHkqyfM

This film from Hong Kong which is the original of ‘The Departed’ is so good that it is the only instance in the history of Academy Awards that the award for screenplay went to a film already made in another language. Made at a fraction of the cost of ‘The Departed’, it is considered by many to be better than the remake. The story revolves around a crime syndicate which has a mole in the police while the police also have their man inside the syndicate. The race is to find out who will expose the other first. Racy and with more twists than any movie in recent history, the film is told at a pace which will keep you at the edge of your seat. Crime has always interested me as a genre and if you share the interest, this is a must watch film.

Hollywood Retrospective

Citizen Kane (1941) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes; 100%]

Citizenkane

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

If I had to make a list of movies to see before I die, ‘Citizen Kane’ would be in the top three. Words are not enough to describe this monumental piece of film making. No wonder that it has consistently (except for the last vote) topped the list of American Film Institute’s poll for the greatest movie of all time. Though made in 1941, it has never bored me on multiple viewings and each time I have discovered something new. Besides a great story told in the most engaging way, the movie was groundbreaking for the innovations in shooting and lighting it brought to the world of cinema. It was the first film to use ‘deep focus’ which is evident in the scene in which the child is seen playing outside the home as the parents discuss inside. It introduced many innovations including shots of the camera passing through objects and the sense of lighting in the film is unrivaled. The maniacal passion of Orson Welles is transformed onto the screen. The film was cruelly neglected at the Academy Awards due to pressure from businesses which were purportedly depicted in a poor light in the movie but with each passing year the film has gained in stature. The story is that of a business magnate who dies with his last word being ‘rosebud’. The film is a journalist’s attempt to decipher meaning of the word and this takes us on an biographical account of the protagonist. Don’t miss the greatest American film ever made.

The English Patient (1996) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

english patient

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

Winner of nine Oscars, ‘The English Patient’ is the closest to poetry in cinema. Each scene has been choreographed to perfection  so much so that even violence looks poetic. Unforgettable images which are too many to mention. The film is based on the international best selling novel by the same title. The story has been modified and ends before the novel ends. The effect of adapting from a well written novel is that the words are weighed before they are spoken. Not even a sentence is in excess. The film revolves around a spy who feigns memory loss when captured by Allies during the Second World War. Like him, all who deal with him are also going through the loss of their loved ones. The bed ridden spy who is awaiting his death has a passionate and ultimately doomed love story to tell. This is not the type of movie everyone will enjoy. It requires patience and heightened cinematic sensibilities to fully appreciate what is on screen. It is also one of the few movies which led me to despair at the unfolding human tragedy on screen. An absolute must watch in my opinion.

As good as it gets (1997) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

as good as it gets

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXHxg6Ug9GM

There are some movies which have so many good dialogues that you are willing to remember a few of them. “You make me want to be a better man” is one of the most romantic dialogues I have ever heard. The movies is not all soft and sweet. On being asked how he rates women so well, the novelist replies, ” I think of a man and then I take away reason and accountability.” The movie is the story of a misanthrope who has a soft core and who keeps away from people to avoid being hurt. I absolutely adore the dialogues in the movie but the best part is that all the characters are so well etched out and the casting is also good. Even the fringe characters have some really good lines. Again a must watch if you ask me.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Story of Luke (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

The-Story-of-Luke-Poster-Social-EmptyNote

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3c6Jy5sHhc

An autistic young man’s efforts to be self reliant. The movies is an above average attempt and has good dialogues and acting. It does not have a triumphant tone or any sense of fatalism. It keeps things practical. With little more effort it could have been a really good movie. I am not complaining though.

D Day (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 69%]

D-Day-Movie-Poster-Pic-1

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

The idea of the movie germinated after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. If Americans can do it why can’t India get Dawood Ibrahim? The film explores the possibility of such an operation. Since the director is Nikhil Advani who has given only monumental flops after his debut hit ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, I was expecting a pathetic film but I am happy to report that the film moves so quickly that it papers over the lack of logic until the climax where things get out of hand. Strictly a one time watch and that too if you like action thrillers.

Lootera (India, 2013) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

lootera-poster

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

Vikramaditya Motwane is a promising director whose debut film premiered at the Cannes. His second outing is visually rich but he seems to have sacrificed pace for creating a brooding romance which is painfully slow in most parts. Anyone who has read O Henry stories will be able to guess what is going on and what will happen. The movie has its heart in the right place. Wish the editor had the scissors in the right place too. Still, I would recommend this one as it is any day better than the masala movies which rule the roost in India.

G. I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Gi-joe-retaliation-poster-1

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

What is the point? How many movies will they make like this before they sleep in the sand? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Super Size Me (2004) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

supersize me

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Lkyb6SU5U

One guy decides to eat only at McDonald’s for a month and tries to monitor how it affects his health. Quite entertaining. It also made McDonald’s change its menu. Now that is what I call an achievement. He also got nominated for an Oscar.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Prisoners’ because it has Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Did you know: Football legend Pele has acted in eight movies and written story for two of them.