Edition 94

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Burning (South Korea, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

‘Burning’ does not hit the viewer hard for about three-fourth of its duration. It is only after viewing the entire film that the finer points of the plot fall into place. Inconsequential scenes make sense and random dialogues fit in a jigsaw puzzle which looks different even after assembly based on the perspective of the viewer. The director uses metaphors abundantly while holding a mirror to contemporary Korean society. This mystery thriller tells the story of three youngsters who are acquaintances but share something far more than what is apparent. If you do watch this memorable movie, try to read up on it. The various interpretations by viewers of the scenes make for some interesting reading. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey, 2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

From the director of ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ (a favourite of mine) and ‘Winter Sleep’ comes this three hour long movie of a young graduate trying to understand his role in the Turkish society while discovering himself. The movie is told through a series of long conversations with friends, family, strangers and a particularly acerbic yet incisive writer. The conversations reveal more about the protagonist and the people in the countryside of Turkey. Definitely worth three hours of your life.


Shoplifters (Japan, 2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 8.0]

Enigmatic and filled with surprises, ‘Shoplifters’ is a modern Japanese classic which showcases the craft and control of its director. A family’s life changes when they take in a small girl into their setup where they themselves thrive on stealing from shops and supermarkets. The director is successful in manipulating the viewers’ emotional response as the film progresses. The actors emote with perfection and the roving camera is a silent observer when the chickens come home to roost. Highly recommended.

Capernaum (Lebanon, 2018) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]


Acclaimed Lebanese director Nadine Labaki literally drags the viewer through the streets of Beirut in this movie about a young boy too sincere for his own good and yet corrupted by the environment. The clear triumph of Mrs Labaki is her ability to extract some phenomenal acting performances from the characters especially the protagonist. Poverty, refugee problems and parental responsibilities are dealt with in this movie which does tend to get a bit out of hand in the latter half. For all the good cinema on show, I had this nagging feeling that this could have been a much better movie with a better climax had more thought gone into the screenplay.


Border (Sweden, 2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.0]

Featuring what some call as the weirdest sex scene in cinema history, ‘Border’ offers a strange and compelling story about people on the fringes of the society. A lady border guard whose USP is her sensational sense of smell finds the reasons for her awkwardness and the dark history of eugenics in Sweden. The movie is, as all good movie must be, a director’s show. A special mention for the makeup department for transforming the actors who do not look anything like their real life personalities.


Instant Family (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.0]


A light-hearted comedy which plays it by the book and still keeps the viewer engaged enough to care about the proceedings on screen. Based on the life of the scriptwriter, the movie tells the tale of a couple who look for adopting a child and end up with three. Rose Byrne pulls off a heart warming performance as a mother trying to understand her new children. There are no twists in the tale but there are some genuinely funny moments. Hope Hollywood can make more of the same.


On the Basis of Sex (2018) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 6.5]

There are two or three cracking dialogues in this movie. One is when a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg is asked by her dean on why she chose to study law when a man could have had her seat at the Harvard Law School. This biopic on the Supreme Court judge looks at the making of a legal eagle and her family life. While successful in depicting the entrenched misogynistic attitudes of her times, the movie has glaringly obvious ideas on how to also show the times. The number of times the characters smoke on screen must be some sort of a record for the amount of fumes on display. Maybe the director just wanted to drive home the point that smoking in public was a normal thing those days. Felicity Jones performs with earnestness as RBG but if you want to know the judge better, watch the documentary RBG. The documentary is better than the movie.

The Mule (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%, My Rating: 5.5]

Good old Clint Eastwood returns to direct and act in a drama on a real life drug carrier who was the oldest in the world in that trade. How do we know? He was caught by the law enforcement and a reporter wrote a long article on it. Then Eastwood decided that this is what he was going to make a movie on. Notable more for the lack of drama and a sure sign that Clint Eastwood must be talking to chairs ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=933hKyKNPFQ ) nowadays, ‘The Mule’ is for large parts boring. For the remaining parts, you are left wondering: why was this movie made?


Holmes & Watson (2018) [IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 2.5]

Will Ferrell was once funny. Once as in, ‘once upon a time’ and not just one time. Now like the tagline of his movie ‘They Don’t Have a Clue’, he seems to have lost it, completely. Inane, idiotic and unfunny are the words that come to mind when ‘Holmes & Watson’ is mentioned. This movie is the opposite of comedy. Dreamt up by people who bring a bad name to slapstick humour and filled with feeble attempts to write funny situations, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of the Greek economy. Nothing can salvage it. I hear that medical marijuana has been made legal in many US states. Probably the writer and director had some medical condition.

Documentary of the Week

Leaving Neverland (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

A damning documentary on Michael Jackson in the words of his accusers. Those words carry much weight. Not for the weak of heart. Not for the worshipers of Michael Jackson. For those who seek the truth.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’

Did you know: Clint Eastwood, is an anagram for ‘old west action’

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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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer:

‘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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer:

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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Trailer: 

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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Trailer: 

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 27

Movies: Non-English

A Hijacking ( Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

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

Somali pirates have given a new topic for filmmakers for ideating and the world is now raising a toast to the Tom Hanks movie ‘Captain Philips’. Incidentally, an equally acclaimed film on a ship hijack was released in 2012. Based on real events, the Danish film ‘A Hijacking’ is a gripping drama about a hostage situation. The focus here is more on the long drawn out negotiations. A psychological cat and mouse which focuses on the people than on the events.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, 2011) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jKgHqU1jrs

There are some movies which make me want to visit the locations where they were shot. For example, I went to Bruges in Belgium only because ‘in Bruges’ was shot there. Anatolia in Turkey is one region i would like to visit after watching ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’. The plot of the movie involves a police search for a dead body in Anatolia but then the film is not about the story. It is more an exploration of the terrain and its wild beauty. This movie is a visual treat even when most of the region is explored during the night. No wonder it won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes.

English Retrospective

Sixteen Candles (1984) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcKqtzj8LAg

The movie is a cult classic and one of the most rented movies on Netflix. Strangely, it still connects with teenagers, three decades after its release. This movie is a testament to the idea of beauty in simplicity. The story revolves around the sixteenth birthday of a girl. Though utterly predictable, the easy dialogues and carefree acting creates the right kind of ambiance. Almost all the credit for this goes to writer-director John Hughes who went on to make many memorable movies. An easy watch.

The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV_QgKJFZP0

Idi Amin was rumoured to have blood in the list of drinks he used to have during his tyrannical rule of Uganda. Forest Whitaker becomes Idi Amin in a performance which clinched him the Oscar. His Oscar winning speech is one of the most sincere I have ever seen. Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-fGCHGTaGE . James McAvoy plays the Scot who became Amin’s personal physician. The movie has a brisk pace and is a piece of history told in an entertaining way. An underrated gem.

The Notebook (2004) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3G3fILPQAU

A rich girl falls in love with a poor boy. That is a plot which gives cliches a bad name but with ‘The Notebook’ the story gets a new appeal altogether. Shot in breathtaking locales with freshly minted dialogues, the story is a an easy romance. The good part is that the best dialogues belong to Ryan Gosling and he has a field day mouthing them. The movie almost made it to the top 25 romantic movies covered by me a fortnight ago. It would have been a shoo in if it had been more tightly edited.

Movies I Saw This Week

Monsters University (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBzPioph8CI

Coming to cliches, animation movies are now turning out to be a parody for real life cliches. In ‘Monsters University’ every single prop of a college movie is used which leads to mixed results. The story is as predictable as the plot of a Karan Johar film but the animation is exceptional. Some of the fine touches have to be viewed in slow motion. The animation movies are getting a little stale but this one is among the better ones to have come out in the last few years.

The Lone Ranger (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 58%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjFsNSoDZK8

When the producer of ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ series makes a movie with the venerable Johnny Depp as a native Indian, you expect more. Here, you get more of the same. They just forgot that they were shooting another movie with a more serious theme. Depp cracks the same type of jokes he had in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ with elaborate action scenes to keep the kids glued. Along the way they forget the story and by the end the viewer also does not care.

The Internship (2013) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%]

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

I must admit that I now have a grudging admiration for the guys at Google. They made the longest corporate ad film and then got people to pay for watching it. Two guys who have zero skills land an internship at Google and then everything just works out perfect for them. They also educate us about various Google projects and products. In case you did not know, Google gives free food to its employees. Learn more such useful information as veterans like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make complete fools of themselves in this utterly boring film scripted to sell the goodness of Google.

The Canyons (2013) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5uTtNLUmCA

The only reason for watching this movie was the controversy over the working style of Lindsay Lohan. For such an apology for a movie, the real shock is that it is written by the same guy who wrote ‘Taxi Driver’.

Documentary Pick of the Week

American Movie (1999) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IzXD29halw

Some naive people want to be filmmakers. They have no money, no talent, no story and no sense. They do have truckloads of passion. A documentary which follows such a group. Tragically hilarious.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘12 Years a Slave‘ because Steve McQueen makes movies which are painful to watch, in a good way.

Did you know: Sally Field who played Tom Hanks’ mother in ‘Forrest Gump’ is only 10 years older than him.