Week 41

Movies: Non-English

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a50DJkCxqw

Academy award nominee for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category this year, this film from Belgium is a devastating tearjerker. It is a heady mix of music, romance and tragedy with moments of sheer brilliance. The wedding scene and the climax are scenes that stand out. The movie follows the challenges faced by a young family and their desperate attempts to overcome them but at the core of the story is the conflicting religious beliefs of the husband and wife which appear beyond reconciliation. I believe that one of the reasons that the film has a nod at the Oscars is because of the way it tears into the George Bush presidency by using actual footage to support the arguments of one of the characters. The good thing is that even if the politics of the movie is disregarded as inconsequential, it is a movie worth your time. Two thumbs up.

The Third Half (Macedonia, 2012) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

The Third Half

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJq03xHc6mE

Another film on Nazis, which I believe is a theme that has been done to death by Hollywood. Maybe the Macedonians did not figure that out. So they also came up with a mild version to suit their historical narrative. The end product is a movie which is not bad but does not introduce any new elements in a predictable story line. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that it tells the story of a football team trying to get its act together and at the same time bogged down by politics. If you can take another film on Nazis this film is highly recommended. Otherwise, highly forgettable.

Movies I Saw This Week

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Inside Llewyn Davis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFphYRyH7wc

Oscar Isaac produces a scintillating performance as the title character of a movie which certainly falls into the drama genre but is neither a tragedy nor a triumph. Llewyn Davis is a folk singer who tries to piece together a living when he is not hopping from one couch to another in his quest to find a place to sleep. (Spoiler ahead) His life is so messed up that he gets to know through a third party that he has become a father and he still does not want to see the child. Llewyn Davis is a musician who is neither great nor ordinary. As a character, he is neither weak nor strong. It is this very quality of a man who cannot be faulted because he is not impractical but at the same time is not practical enough that makes this story a little complex. That also makes the film very engaging to watch as it opens up to unpredictable twists and turns. A special mention must be made of the cinematography of this movie which is a strong contender at the Oscars but may eventually lose out to ‘Gravity’. All in all, this is not a movie for everyone but for the discerning few.

All Is Lost (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

All Is Lost

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk_R04LfUQU

Robert Redford’s best movie in years tells the story of a man marooned with his damaged boat in the ocean when it is hit by a stray container. It chronicles his desperate attempts to rescue himself from imminent and painful death. The movie is slow but I believe that the plot dictated the pace of the movie. A standout feature is the background score. At the Oscars this year this category will be a straight shootout between ‘All Is Lost’ and ‘Gravity’. I would love to see an Indian version of this movie because the Hollywood hunks like to appear calm and composed under trying circumstances but imagine Shahrukh Khan in such a role. He would have cried his heart out and appeared vulnerable, making him endearing. Some movies are better off with such men and Robert Redford is not such a man.

Dedh Ishqiya (India, 2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rooten Tomatoes: 77%]

dedh

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J3fkfUDkx8

A half decent story with a plausible twist makes this one of the early winners of 2014. All the actors are in fine form and the movie has a good pace to it. It is the story of two con men who think they have found their match in a mysterious duo. The good thing with the movie is the crisp writing which serves as a refresher course in chaste Hindi. Definitely worth a watch.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Xk-yTuFEU

Ben Stiller should stick to comedies. His capabilities as a director are evidently limited and this movie is the best proof for it. He is neither funny nor engaging. The movie about a man with a fertile imagination and pretty much only that, is a damp squib. The story meanders along and is a big yawn. The producers could have donated the money to some charity. At least they wouldn’t have to explain to their children their poor decision making abilities.

Documentary Pick of the Week

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

20 Feet from Stardom

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWyUJcA8Zfo

The story of the unsung chorus singers on stage. Nominated for the Oscar this year. Strong contender. Worth a watch.

Terrence Malick Retrospective

Days of Heaven (1978) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Days of Heaven

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZDsMCW0U4

A story of passion, intrigue and treachery set in a farm. Competently acted. Beautifully shot.

The Thin Red Line (1998) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

thin red

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejm0XvT3rB8

The Army as it is. Sudden death, painful superiors and a low life. Dream casting with too many stars to count.

Badlands (1973) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

Badlands-707049238-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKykxE7CBbc

A couple like to kill. A study in psychology.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ because it is going to be the first blockbuster of 2014.

Did you know: The sounds made by the Brachiosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’ were a combination of whale and donkey sounds.

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Week 35

Movies: Non-English

Rashomon (Japan, 1950) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

rashomon1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCZ9TguVOIA

A work of genius from Akira Kurosawa, this piece of art remains essential viewing for anyone interested in knowing anything about cinema. The story has many characters recalling the same event and the different interpretations that they give depending on who is narrating. Enough paens have been sung about the movie and any high praise is worth it. Watch it to find out why.

Even the Rain (Spain, Mexico, 2010) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Even-the-Rain-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFozF1ATuBU

A group of people filming a documentary get entangled with the problem of drinking water privatization in the region they are filming. The film is an allegory comparing the neo-liberals to the colonizers in a not so subtle manner. In the process they revive some of the heroes of yore and make a strong political statement. As usual, Gael Garcia Bernal steals the show. Worth a watch.

English Retrospective

Driving Miss Daisy (1989) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]

driving

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ3wXC5jqKE

The story of an African American chauffeur and his Jewish patron. I am not a huge fan of the film and I don’t think it deserves 4 Academy awards but the competition was mediocre. Also, the Academy likes to think that it is at the vanguard of the fight for social justice. It may also be that I may have my own prejudices on the condescending manner in which the film moves. Please watch and disagree with me.

Ordinary People (1980) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

ordina

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZYHe8IAlto

The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son (From IMDB). Robert Redford‘s directorial debut won 4 Academy awards including ‘Best Picture’ in an upset. ‘Ordinary People’ is a good film but nowhere close to ‘Raging Bull’ over which it triumphed at the Oscar. The bigger snub was for Martin Scorsese who lost out to Robert Redford in the director category. Only people who like depressing family dramas over classy biopics would have voted for ‘Ordinary People’.

In the Heat of the Night (1967) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

IN_THE_HEAT_OF_THE_NIGHT_DVD_HIRES[1]

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11QFgfddrec

Sidney Poitier was the first African American to win the Oscar for the ‘Best Actor’. ‘In the Heat of the Night’ is one of his finest performances. He plays a cop trying to solve a murder mystery in a town not particularly well-disposed towards black men. The thrill in the movie is as much a result of the murder investigation as it is due to the racial relations tensions involved. I often feel sad for Sidney Poitier. He is one actor who has been roundly abused on screen for his skin colour on many occasions, even when he comes across as a perfect gentleman.

Movies I Saw This Week

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

alan partridge

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

For once, I agree to the blurb. It is indeed the comedy of the year. A radio jockey who has only one interest and that is self-interest, gets involved in a hostage crisis when one of his disgruntled colleagues takes over the radio station. The movie has some clever writing and many well written lines blend in with the scenes. To add to this, not one character seems to be in a normal mental state. The concoction of a self centred man, a madman and few nutcases makes this film a pleasure to watch. Highly recommended.

2 Guns (2013) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

2 guns

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVNe3RK2fgI

Two undercover operatives run into each other and form an unlikely partnership to save themselves from quick death. The film tries too hard to be stylish and forgets that there is only so much that style can do. It is a reminder of what Denzel Washington has become. Mediocre.

Scenic Route (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

Scenic

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb7Hrtwzwjs

The friendship of two friends are tested to the limit and beyond when they are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Could have been much better. Could have been much worse. In the end it settles for the ordinary. The acting is good though.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Tillman Story (2010) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

tillman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad2WOOOojyg

Pat Tillman joins the US Army when he could have easily settled for a cosy life with his million dollar contract as a football player. He gets killed in ‘friendly fire’ and the ever lying Bush administration tries to twist the story to suit its needs. Tillman’s family fights back. They are ignored, then they are ridiculed and then they win.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ because I will see all the movies in which Tom Hanks appears even for a second.

Did you know: Launched in 2004, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is the oldest film festival in the Gulf region. This blog is also being published from Dubai today.

Week 18

Movies: Non- English

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany, 2008) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

Baader Meinhof Complex

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FanVI8-zlsA

Germans are a curious bunch of people. They like things to be planned and dislike uncertainty. How such a society falls prey to radical ideologies is worth pondering about. After the disastrous fling with Nazism, Germans of the post war era have a shot at left wing radicalism. This film tells the true story of the group at the heart of this movement. The film is a copybook study on how idealism goes wrong and leads to bloodshed and crime. It also looks at how movements deviate from their path and ultimately fail. The movie is told at a good pace and the settings look authentic. The performances are nothing to gloat over but it is definitely worth a watch.

Army of Shadows (France, 1969) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

army of s

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

This one charts the story of the French Resistance against the Nazis during the Second World War. France had easily capitulated to the Nazis but that did not stop a group of spirited people from putting up a resistance. This movie does not have supermen or gladiators fighting off the evil but it does have ordinary men doing extraordinary things in a very ordinary style. The story is written by two people who were part of the movement. The movie does not try to excite. It moves at the same pace throughout but as a viewer you are slowly drawn into the lives of the characters. The story is one of loyalty and deception, hope and heartbreak and many other hues. All this adds up to the best French movie on the Second World War. Highly recommended.

English Retrospective

The reason I am changing the name of the section to ‘English Retrospective’ is because some of the finest English movies are made outside USA.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ireland, 2006) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

wind-that-shakes-the-barley

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

Ken Loach is one of the best film makers alive. This is his masterclass. It is the story of two brothers who take up arms for Ireland against Britain but then find themselves at the opposite ends after the bigger enemy is dealt with. Ireland is one of the political disasters of the 20th century and the British government sowed the seeds of discord among those who fought them in Ireland. The movie is a painful recollection of the events and how successful the British were with their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. It is a formula they later applied with great success in India too. Coming back to the film, it is a movie shot exquisitely and has a great story to tell. It never gets melodramatic but then the despair on the screen is affecting. I would say that it is a must see if you are interested in making any sense of the conundrum in Ireland. No wonder it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

four-weddings-and-a-funeral

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JMuyzm3JRU

If you have seen too many movies on weddings with the same old story, take  a break and watch this one. Genre defining movie with clean humour and too many laugh out loud moments. This is the movie which made a star out of Hugh Grant and is testimony to the power of great writing. The movie deals with the protagonist’s love life over four weddings and a funeral. One of the biggest box office draws of 1994, this film was loved by audiences across the globe. A really good comedy which is my benchmark for wedding movies. Watch out for Rowan Atkinson in his best movie performance.

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

fargo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4PmbfG4bw

The Coen Brothers are masters of crime cinema. This is one of their best movies with Frances McDormand in an Oscar winning performance. I haven’t checked who were her competition that year but she would have won hands down any year for her role as the local policewoman trying to find the missing links in a series of crimes that sweep a small town. The movie is about a kidnapping gone wrong and how things spiral out of control leading to disastrous consequences. This one is so astutely made that if you blink you may miss some of the best moments. A real edge of the seat thriller. I just love it.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Great Gatsby (2013) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Great-Gatsby3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaBVLhcHcc0

I have not read the novel which is the source material for the movie and after watching the movie I don’t plan to. One thing I can say for sure is that the film is an early contender for the Oscar for ‘Set Decoration’. Though there are many scenes that have backgrounds that rely too heavily on technology to create the ambiance, the attention to detail is breathtaking. The film has been made with such dedication that every frame is so well thought out and it shows on screen. That is ultimately the failing of the movie because somewhere along the line the movie loses its soul in trying to look spectacular. I have not been a great fan of Baz Luhrmann who has made some below average films like ‘Australia’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’. Here he is let down by the fact that the baby faced  Toby Maguire who is also the narrator of the movie, has a baby voice. Leonardo DiCaprio is not going to win the elusive Oscar for this one but Carey Mulligan is a delight to watch. The Great Gatsby is hailed by some as a classic American novel but then the film makes it look like an average masala novel with a very convenient ending. The film never soars but it is not exactly a disaster either. Sometimes too much publicity is a bad thing.

The Company You Keep (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%]

Company_You_Keep_poster

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

A reporter from a local daily uncovers the identity of a fugitive on the run from FBI for more than three decades. The fugitive was part of a dreaded underground group which violently protested against the Vietnam war. Veterans like Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon add sparkle to this otherwise average film. It is engaging to a point but not exciting enough. The cards are heavily in favour of the fugitive. So things are not difficult to predict. Not a bad movie though. Anna Kendrick is a fine actress but she needs to get out of the role of the office assistant / intern which she seems to always end up with.

Lovelace (2013) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

lovelace

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJY-g-WoQo

Linda Lovelace was the star of the biggest grossing porn film of all time. This film takes you behind the scenes and details the seventeen days that Lovelace spent in the porn industry, gaining her a lifetime of infamy. It is a sympathetic portrayal of a lady exploited by her husband and how she shows the courage to come out of it all. Amanda Seyfried looks the part as the naive young lady. Fit for mature audiences only.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Religulous (2008) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

relig

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

Bill Maher talks to people on religion and God. Funny, revealing and informative.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The World’s End’ because it has some really funny guys.

Did you know: French movies have won the most number of Oscars in the ‘Best Foreign Movie’ category.

Week 15

Movies: Non- English

The Class (France, 2008) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

the-class_us_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8HWJqgMAhU

Winner of the ‘Palme D’Or’ at Cannes, this film tells the story of a teacher grappling with a group of teenagers from different backgrounds in his classroom in suburban Paris. Hailed for holding a mirror to the new socio-cultural mix of the French society, this film is as powerful as it is simple. The characters are so believable that you will forget momentarily that they are acting and performing the scenes given to them. One thing I have always loved about French cinema is that it gives importance to the character and dialogues more than anything else. The banter among students about some obscure nations competing in the African Cup of Nations  point to the effect of immigration from former French colonies. The movie is also a pointer to the restrictions that the teachers face in the name of the rights of students. My endearing memory of this movie is a discussion on it with a friend when I was in France. I had watched this movie in India and in my keenness to impress him I started talking about it. His response, ” It is nice that you have seen it. It has not even been released widely in France and I don’t know anyone else who has seen it. At least you get to see such movies.”

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

4 months

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZisE16JBUMA

Could the story of an abortion be a thriller? Yes, if it set in communist ruled Romania during the 1980s. This movie was the winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes and took the film festival circuit by storm, winning all the major accolades except the Oscar. The only reason why it did not win the Oscar is because in the USA people are still fighting the right of a woman to have control of her body. The film is a must watch for choosing to shed light on a dark period in Romania’s history. It has some disturbing images. If you are the religious type, please stay away. For more sensible people, it is a must watch. Two thumbs up from a bleeding heart liberal.

Hollywood Retrospective

Synecdoche, New York (2008) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

synecdoche-new-york-poster-764x1024

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIizh6nYnTU

This debut feature from the writer of gems like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and’Adaptation’ is one of the most devastating films I have ever seen. Chosen by Roger Ebert as the best film to have come out in the first decade of the 21st century, this is not for the ordinary viewer. In fact, most will not be able to fully grasp the story on first viewing. It is a little arty and the writing is also complex that the viewer will not be able to make much sense of what he sees on screen. At a simplistic level, it is the story of a man and the women in his life. At a more complex level, it supports the idea that our lives are predetermined and we do not have much control over anything. Philip Seymour Hoffman hits the high notes with his performance and his acting is an essential viewing for anyone who thinks that acting is a serious craft.

Are we so powerless that we cannot have a say in our destiny or is it that we are just playing out the parts written for us. Is it all about fate? Will the voice just say it? Die.

Chinatown (1974) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

chinatown_amsel-german-movie-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T37QkBc4IGY

As I have mentioned in one of the earlier posts, Roman Polanski is not a director who likes happy endings except for his masterpiece ‘The Pianist’. In ‘Chinatown’ also the dominant feeling is that of doom and gloom. The climax confirms the general pessimism of Polanski towards life, perhaps a reflection of the awful tragedies in his life. Nevertheless,  this movie is a compelling one with a solid story and outstanding performances. Jack Nicholson plays a private detective who is hired to investigate personal lives but as he begins his investigation he soon learns that it is as painful and complex as peeling onions. Chinatown’s final sequence has a dialogue; “It’s not worth it”. The opposite is true for the movie.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

butch cassidy

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDw6VSSAVg4

This Western has Paul Newman and Robert Redford at their best. They essay the roles of two outlaws. Based on real life events, this motion picture is a delight to watch. The movie has enough action, adventure and comedy. In one of the scenes where they try to rob a bank in Bolivia, they do it by writing their instructions on paper slips in Spanish so that they don’t forget. The love Robert Redford has for the movie is evident from the fact that he chose the name ‘Sundance’ for the film festival he started. There must be a reason why he loves it so much. Watch it.

Movies I Saw This Week

Before Midnight (2013) [IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

before_midnight_1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euOJkb0U8v

The quote may be for books but it holds true for movies also. Some movies are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some movies are to be watched only in parts, others to be watched, but not curiously, and some few to be watched wholly, and with diligence and attention. Thankfully every movie in the ‘Before ….’ series falls into the last category. ‘Before Midnight’ may be the best in the series. The thing with the ‘Before…..’ series is that either you love it or you don’t understand it. How can they make movies one after the other every nine years, that has the same people speaking to each other and yet keep it interesting? Julie Delphy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater were perhaps born to do this. Nothing is forced: the dialogues, the acting, the story. It all looks so easy and that is the triumph of the movie. We find the couple nine years after their coming together but with some family and work related stuff to bother them. I have tried to figure out the formula for the series or at least the way dialogues are written. What I think are the key factors in keeping it engrossing are; a) never have long monologues unless it is an anecdote, b) have lot of anecdotes, c) discuss about the world and keep it civilized d) don’t discuss money e) don’t discuss any relatives outside the immediate family unless there is a death. All this does not take away the fact that ‘Before Midnight’ makes the mundane sound so exciting. I hope that at least this time the actors get Oscar nominations and maybe a win too. I also hope that they find another reason to make the fourth movie in the series after nine years.

Stand Up Guys (2012) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

stand up guys

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

When you have Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken, you expect at least an above average attempt. This movie disappoints on that front. At best, it is an average film which might have nursed ambitions of greatness but then goes to sleep after the first ten minutes. It is a story of old con men trying to settle some accounts while trying to enjoy their last days. Nothing special but not bad enough for me to get excited and tear into it.

Fukrey (India, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

fukrey

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GT-lN6c6Uk

‘Fukrey’ has no ambition. It knows that its hatchet job is to pose as a juvenile comedy and recover its money in the first weekend of release. Many bollywood movies have done this carpet bombing of the box office and ensured that they get suitable returns on their investment before the word spreads that the movie is pathetic. There are no jokes in the movie, the joke is on the viewer while the producers laugh all the way to the bank. The movie is an insult to the people of Delhi. There is not even a single character who is not twisted. Men want to enroll in a college because girls also go there. Girls who go to college have other means of earning money. People who run those activities ask perfect strangers to sell drugs as if they were waiting for franchisees for their business. Think of ‘American Pie’. Remove the good looking girls and the humour (stupid as it is). You get ‘Fukrey’.

Mumbai Police (India, Malayalam, 2013) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

mumbai+police+songs+stills+posters+download1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REy6DziJwAQ

A cop who has just solved a murder mystery has an accident before revealing the culprit to anyone else. Sadly, he loses his memory when he recovers from the accident. Now he must start from scratch while his opponents now know that he cannot tell a friend from a foe. This thriller starts on such an interesting premise but then disintegrates into a character study rather than an investigation. Spoilers ahead. The central question of the movies is whether a person’s core character would change after an accident where he loses his memory. For example, will he be less violent than before? Or will he now become straight and cry when his gay past is revealed? I am not a psychologist to answer that but I think that even if such changes are possible, the character won’t cry over them. How unfortunate that we have to debate such things when we could have had an edge of the seat thriller. Disappointing.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids (2004) {IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Born_into_Brothels

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AODZ6k8LgEI

Oscar winning documentary on the kids who grow up in a red light area in Kolkata, India. Frankly, I believe that this documentary is exploitative in nature and the only reason it was made, in my opinion, was to win some awards. I could not empathize with the film makers as they just show what is obvious and they don’t have any real interest in the children who are the subject of the movie. You can agree or disagree by watching this one.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kick-Ass 2’ because ‘Kick-Ass’ was kick-ass.

Did you know: Pixar takes up to 4 years to make an animation movie.

Week 13

Movies: Non- English

California Dreamin’ (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

California_dreamin'

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NoNVMkQwU

What happens when a NATO train with US soldiers is stopped in a small town in Romania because it does not have the transit documents? In times when the Bolivian President is not given a safe flight home, this film is also a reminder that even Romania can poke USA if it really wants to. This is the story told by Director Cristian Nemescu in one of those movies which is as farcical as it is serious. Stranded in a small town with corrupt local officials, the soldiers get to see a slice of the daily lives of the people of Romania.  The acting is natural and believable. We are not talking of a masterpiece here but a normal entertaining movie. The film could have been sharper but the young director died immediately after the completion of the film.

Halfaouine : Boy of the Terraces (Tunisia, 1990) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Child of Terraces

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N8OzaWW24g

Get a glimpse of Arab culture and life in this Tunisian movie which is a coming off age story. An adolescent boy and his curiosities are presented with poise by the director without losing the sensuality of it all. The film never gets voyeuristic and moves at a pleasant pace. The story is universal but the setting and the characters make it special. The acting is so effortless that you may feel that you are not watching a movie but a slice of life in Tunisia. Recommended for the viewer who is open to knowing new cultures and lifestyles.

Hollywood Retrospective

Say Anything… (1989) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

say anything

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFV7FnbhBRY

John Cusack may mean many things to many people but when I hear that name the first image that comes to my mind is the iconic scene of him holding up the stereo to play it outside his sweetheart’s house in the finely written romance ‘Say Anything’. This movie will never make it to the list of greatest movies ever made but this one will stay with you if you can pay attention to the good dialogues and scenes it has. Also, when the lady being wooed is Ione Syke, it does not hurt to look at the screen. In case you want to see more of her ‘The Rachel Papers’ is highly recommended in spite of it being a flawed movie.  If you ever watch ‘The Rachel Papers’, check out the scene when the taxi leaves just as a kiss is going to happen. That is one of my favourite romantic scenes on screen. Coming back to ‘Say Anything’, just watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend on a lazy afternoon.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_movie-207695

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GiLxkDK8sI

Once in a while you watch a movie that just blows you away. With me the real world experience in such cases involves changing my posture from lying down in the bed/sofa to jumping up and grabbing the chair because it hits me that the movie deserves my full attention. ‘Eternal Sunshine…’ is one such movie. The movie wants to tell  three things. Firstly, when lovers start out they look perfect to each other but then it is difficult to sustain the same passion unless you are willing to put that extra effort. Secondly, some people are made for each other and nothing can stop that. Thirdly, just as joy is part of life so is pain. Now, the real genius of the writer Charlie Kaufman (I am a huge fan) is how he makes a story to fit these ideas neatly into them and tell it without you realizing that you are being told the exact same things in a wonderful way. More than anything, I marvel at the ability of someone to think, conceptualize and finally put pen to paper on such an original screenplay which deservedly won the Oscar. It is interesting that in a film with Jim Carrey it is Kate Winslet who looks the odd character. The performances are alright, the direction is above average but the screenplay is awesome. While watching this masterpiece, try to think like a writer.

Out of Africa (1985) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

out of africa

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gYlSGUTthw

A fiercely independent woman who would not be tied down by anything or to anybody meets her match in Africa. The people in question happen to be Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in this old world romance directed by Sydney Pollack. Visually stunning, tragic and emotionally draining. In the middle of all the excitement that the movie generates there is that feeling of impending doom. Based on a true story.

Movies I saw this week

To the Wonder (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

To+The+Wonder+2012+DVDRip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAzcTZTY1g

Terrence Malick’s effort after ‘Tree of Life’ is a dud. Ben  Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams or Olga Kurylenko cannot save this film from doom. The dialogues are minimal and the movie tries to look high end art house cinema without much success. Still, I can watch this movie more than once just for the visual experience it gives. It is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in recent times. The locations are simply breathtaking but in the end all that comes to nothing for the lack of a story.

Ishkq in Paris (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Ishkq-in-Paris-Movie-Poster

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

Why I watched this movie? I don’t know. How I felt when I watching it? I certainly know. I should have known better. When Preity Zinta was giving interviews saying she was confident about the movie because it has a good story, I should have read between the lines. The first half of the film is ‘Before Sunrise’ copied scene by scene. The second half? Don’t even bother. Somebody please tell Zinta that she is no more the bubbly girl of ‘Dil Se’. I don’t know whether I was hallucinating but the male lead had kohl lined eyes throughout. Spooky. Also, trash.

The Watch (2012) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

watch

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

Heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth? The case is not exactly that here because there is no broth to begin with. Four men defend their neighborhood against alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are so bad in the film that the aliens’ acting looks better. Still, if you have an IQ in single digits you may enjoy it but such people are harder to find on earth than aliens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hoop Dreams (1994) [IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Hoop_Dreams

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph2Y-epihlk

Two boys whose only way out of crime and poverty is basketball, try to make their dreams come true. Uplifting.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Blue Jasmine’ because I eagerly await every movie from Woody Allen. After covering Barcelona, London, Paris and Rome in the last few films, he is now back to San Francisco.

Did you know: There are more than 40,000 movie screens in the USA.

Week 7

Movies: Non- English

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, Mexico, 2006) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

pans-labyrinth-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbffV5LZfZI

Spanish language writers were the ones to exploit magical realism through their books. It is therefore no surprise that the language is the medium for the movie which Roger Ebert calls ‘ a fairy tale for adults’. A girl creates her own world to escape the torment of the daily life in fascist Spain. Set in 1944, the special effects and imagery are some of the best you will see on screen. Think of  ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with more imagination thrown in. Now that is a tough thing to imagine. The easier option is to watch the movie.

Das Boot [The Boat] (Germany, 1981) [ IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% ]

das boot

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxMXtofZny8

There would be very few war movies as authentic as this one. It follows the crew of a German submarine during the Second World War. There is no plot as such but the exhilaration of combat is in stark contrast to the monotonous, wretched and utterly lonely life on a submarine which slowly descends into a hell on earth. The movie is gritty and keeps you interested throughout. The performances are top notch and the cinematography gives you a good feel of the life inside a submarine. This one will make you spare a thought for the defeated and the dead.

Underground (Serbia, 1995) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95% ]

underground

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKdl5r7_ZPc

A black comedy which shows the relationship between two friends over a few decades, effectively following the history of Yugoslavia. Some of the scenes are truly memorable, one particular one has animals from the zoo roaming the streets after the zoo is bombed. The film is a roller coaster with scenes where all hell breaks loose and things go on a spiral. A quirky masterpiece.

Hollywood Retrsopective

Rosemary’s baby (1968) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% ] 

rosemary's baby

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PewtQsgN5uo

A struggling actor makes a deal with the devil to resurrect his career, putting the lives of his family members at risk. Roman Polanski makes this chilling horror thriller out of the classic book by the same title. Mia Farrow gives the performance of a lifetime as the naive young wife. Roman Polanski movies have bleak endings (‘The Pianist’ being an exception) and this one also follows the general pessimism he shows towards life. Not recommended for pregnant woman.

Quiz Show (11994) [ IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% ]

quiz show

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOSnYt9k4kM

It may come as no surprise in this era that one of the big television scandals of the 50s was a fixed quiz show. The film delves into questions of morality and how even some great minds can be be lured into committing crimes by the media. Ultimately, the show must go on but is quizzing like any other entertainment spectacle?

Movies I Saw This Week

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009) [ IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 67% ]

the girl who

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVGbPFdU96A

The final movie of the series is seriously short on content and tries to cover it up by the lightening pace. The girl with the dragon tattoo was much better. As for the plot, the girl has to be prove that she is innocent of the murders she is accused of committing even as she lies in a hospital bed. Wish what translated on screen was half as exciting as the written word.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) [IMDB: 5.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 38% ]

Hyde-Park-on-Hudson

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

A movie where the major question is whether the King of England will eat a hot dog, need not be taken seriously. I think they ran out of stories and had to make a film based on such a small issue. Don’t waste your time.

Identity Thief (2013) [IMDB: 5.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 59% ]

identity thief

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqQg6Rlt6W4

Plot from IMDB: Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy’s identity

My verdict: This is the kind of movie for which the viewers should be allowed free entry into the cinema hall. They should then be asked to pay for getting out. Terrible.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bobby Fischer Against The World (2011) [IMDB: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% ]

bobby-fischer-against-the-world-movie-poster-2011-1020690243

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=strfK6rO0LI

Bobby Fischer had it all. He was the world champion in chess where he beat the Russians represented by Spasky in one of the most discussed match ups in sports. He won it for the free world in a war minus the shooting. Then he disappeared. Then he disintegrated. The amazing and tragic story of a champion whose greatest gift was his intelligence and whose Achilles’ heel was his paranoia.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Only God Forgives’ because everyone likes Ryan Gosling.

Did you know: Orson Welles was just 26 when he wrote and directed ‘Citizen Kane’, generally considered to be the greatest film ever to come out of Hollywood.