Edition 70

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]

Like_Someone_in_Love_2D_dvd

Trailer:

Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer: 

The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.

Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Bridge_Of_Spies_2015

Trailer: 

The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.

The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry.  More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (India, 2015) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 4.5]

salman-sonam-braid

Trailer: 

India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million. 

Knock Knock (2015) [IMDB:5.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:33% , My Rating:3.0 ]

knock_knock_ver2

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Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.

Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

Anarkali-Prithviraj-Movie

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Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.

Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

rani-padmini-posters

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After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer: 

Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.

 

Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada

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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

 

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‘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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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 24

Movies: Non-English

Everlasting Moments (Sweden, 2008) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

everlasting moments

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOnLN2veR1c

I have often heard people say that there are no new stories to tell. It is so difficult to come up with something new. I believe that the solution is simple. Try to find the interesting in the mundane. Director Jan Troell is pretty good at this and has been around for more than 4 decades. In this exquisitely shot movie, a working class woman wins a camera in a lottery and this changes her life in ways she could not have imagined. Since a camera is involved the cinematographer seems to enjoy his work, bringing to us shots which have poetry written over them. Don’t miss the visuals for the subtitles.

The Return (Russia, 2003) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

return

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRXLsMk_7Kk

Continuing on the theme of finely shot movies, this one captures the beauty of Russian wilderness. Two brothers who have never seen their father are intrigued by his return after twelve years. What is it that had kept him away and why is he back? The film is more of a thriller trying to deconstruct people’s thought processes. In my opinion, the best Russian film of the 21st century.

English Retrospective

Cast Away (2000) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJvosb4UCLs

If there is a movie which stumbled in going from good to great because of poor editing, ‘Cast Away’ is the one. The flight crash scene which is unnecessarily prolonged and few scenes on the island make this one a long movie. Still, I think that Tom Hanks deserved the Oscar for this one more than the stone faced Russell Crowe who won it for ‘Gladiator’. I think why Hanks did not win it is because he already had two of them and also because some people got confused between Gladiator, the movie and Russell Crowe, the actor. In fact, this one has a better performance from Hanks than his previous wins (‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’). The soundtrack of the movie is one of the best I have ever heard in a motion picture and definitely Alan Silvestri‘s best work. When is the Academy going to give him an Oscar? The film is a good lesson on product placements with Fedex and Wilson getting maximum mileage for their products/services. Minor irritants aside, this is a truly good movie and one of my favourites. It has a great story to tell and will always be on my list of the best films I have ever seen.

Gallipoli (1981) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

gallipoli

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6m8gk6w2yY

Gallipoli in Turkey is a pilgrimage site for Australians and New Zealanders. It is so because it was the sight of the biggest drubbing of the Allies during the First World War and the greatest loss for Australia and New Zealand. The campaign also ignited the movement towards modern Turkey and Mustafa Ataturk was a commander for the Turkish force in the campaign. This film tries to portray the tragedy, with Mel Gibson in one of his earlier roles. He does justice to his role and the film also largely succeeds in capturing the despair and hopelessness. I would love to see a good Turkish film telling their side of the story. Even this one grudgingly approves of the success of Turkish forces over the might of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand during the campaign. A must watch, if you like war movies.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

rebel without a cause

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAlzg0S51GY

I did not know about James Dean until 2007, largely because I did not know about his tragic life. It was at the American Center (in the US embassy) in New Delhi where they screen free movies on weekends that I got to know him through ‘East of Eden’ and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. One cannot help but wonder what could have been had he not died so young. In the end, the quality is what matters and not the quantity. James Dean will not be easily forgotten and this film is quite possibly the closest to his real life persona. The movie is a real gem  and that is all I have to say about it. For Indian viewers who are not aware of him, don’t be bothered. Screen legend Dev Anand is a copycat of James Dean. Think of Dev Anand. Think of someone like him and ten times better than him. You get James Dean.

Movies I Saw This Week

Behind the Candelabra (2013) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Behind-the-Candelabra-2013

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp3wAyRf15c

This gay themed movie has outstanding performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and it is essentially a vehicle for both of them. The good thing is that it is through such movies that I get to know artists like Liberace. Steven Soderbergh is also seeing a revival of his career as a director with this one capping off his success with ‘Side Effects’ this year. An easy watch, if you are comfortable viewing such movies.

Immortals (2011) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]

Immortals_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VdONYkKFmQ

Somebody likes to kill and somebody wants to stop the killers. Since computer generated graphics have stretched the limits of what can be shown on screen without putting up a set, this one thrives on that cheap idea. Add some loud colours to that cheap idea. This is exactly the kind of movie which you will have a hard time remembering after a few months unless you have a system where you can remember the movies in which actresses have taken their clothes off. Cheers to Freida Pinto.

Your Sister’s Sister (2011) [ IMDB; 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

your sister's

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6NJzrA4oHs

This is a one time watch. Sisters fall for the same man. One of them is desperate for the man and the other is so self assured about her man that she has no clue what is going on. The movie could have been much better had it not had the irritating acting of Mark Duplass as the man who is the object of affection of the two women. They could have taken somebody more charming. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger could have done a better job.

Grand Masti (2013) [ IMDB: 4.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]

Grand_Masti

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r18noo_rGyA

Vulgar. I am all for free speech but movies like these question such beliefs. A new category for film certification should be set up for such movies which thrive on verbal pornography, double entendres and objectification of women. Seems to be the work of mentally challenged writers with a single track mind. Lead actors who salivate and have seizures at the sight of women and women who are tasteless in everything they do. If you have paid to watch this movie you should check your mental health. No wonder, the men in India like to think low of women and crimes against women are on the rise. Absolute disaster of a movie and definitely the worst one of 2013.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Blackfish (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

BLACKFISH_Film_Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLOeH-Oq_1Y

A leading contender for the documentary of the year. It shows how ill advised it is to keep whales in captivity and make them ‘perform’.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘All is lost’ because it could see Robert Redford’s return to form.

Did you know:’Hero’ (2002) was the first foreign language film to open at No: 1 at the US box office.