Edition 79

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Train to Busan (2016) [IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

train-to-busan

Trailer

Although I have seen all the Oscar nominees in the foreign language category this year, they have mostly been drab stuff. ‘Train to Busan’ is not nominated for the Oscars but it is what Hollywood would envy the south Korean movie industry for. ‘Train to Busan’ is an out and out entertainer which does not hold back for even a second on the thrills. With well crafted characters and wonderfully choreographed sequences, it is an edge of the seat thriller with a novel take on the zombie genre. I have never been to South Korea but traveling in a train in South Korea is not an experience I look forward to. ‘Train to Busan’ is one of the best movies ever in the zombie category. It is a ride I highly recommend.

Movies I Saw This Week

La La land (2016) [IMDB:8.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.5]

la_la_land_ver4_xlg

Trailer

‘La La Land’ could have been a mediocre movie. If the music did not work, it could even have been a bad movie but the music worked. The acting worked. The direction was in secure hands. The producers wanted to change the story line but the director stuck to his guns. Much younger actors were to play the roles meant for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. All that did not happen. As the movie rightly portrays the glorious possibilities of life, it is those final few minutes and the last act of the story that takes it to heights seldom achieved in  movie making. ‘La La Land’ is the ‘Shawshank Redemption’ of romance for the impact the climax has on the movie. It is not just about the climax though. Emma Stone steals the show with her performance that should land her the Oscar. Ryan Gosling supports her in his own deadpan style. In many ways ‘La La Land’ is a reinvention of the musical genre.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

hacksaw-ridge-1-600x450

Trailer

This movie based on a true story tells the tale of a war hero who refused to kill during war. Directed by the Hollywood bad boy Mel Gibson, the film is gory with many sequences of unfiltered action. That does create the setting of the war but takes away the story from its core of a conscientious objector’s fight to hold on to his beliefs and yet be an able servant to his country’s army. Andrew Garfield plays the character with a lot of heart but some inherent contradictions in the screenplay reduce the impact of his performance. It is also very difficult to understand, let alone appreciate his moral positions. By straddling the worlds of religion, country and army, Hacksaw Ridge delivers a message which is lost somewhere in the movie. Nevertheless, a one time watch.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) [IMDB: 8.2 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

manche

Trailer

Let me say this aloud. If Casey Affleck does not get the Oscar for this performance, then it would be travesty of justice. ‘Manchester by Sea’ is the among the best two movies I have seen in the last one year. Superficially, it is about the story of man who is asked to take care of his brother’s young son after the death of his brother. The layers that the film unravels is akin to the experience of peeling onions. At every level, the story gets more interesting and new insights in to the life of the lead character emerge. Casey Affleck who is there in practically every frame of the movie delivers a pitch perfect performance. He brings to life the tortured soul whose awkward behaviour is based on his tragic past. The rest of the cast also perform competently. ‘Manchester by Sea’ is a great movie with a haunting and unforgettable performance by Casey Affleck. Must See.

Arrival (2016) [IMDB: 8.1 , Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 6.0]

arrivalposter

Trailer

‘Arrival’ has been generally well received but I am in the minority. (Spoilers ahead) It is a very pretentious movie where a linguist is called on to interact with aliens who have made contact with earth. The unfortunate part is that this is just a suitable prop for telling a story which has nothing to do with aliens. It is a manipulation of the intelligence of the audience with word plays on the concept of palindromes and another idea of the movie itself being a palindrome. Amy Adams plays a human character who for the sake of keeping up appearances to suit the screenplay of the movie does not believe in the notion of aging. So she looks the same at every age bracket she plays. Some cheap ideas to cement her credentials include the Sanskrit word for war and some other shenanigans of the director to suit the situation. Arrival is low level science, cheap propaganda and dimwitted screenplay disguised as high brow thriller.

Sing Street (2016) [IMDB: 8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.0]

sing-street-poster-2

Trailer

‘Sing Street’ is the most underrated movie of the year. It is also the feel-good movie of the year. A young boy in Dublin in 1985 falls in love with a girl at first sight. He makes the audacious move of inviting her to be in his band’s music video. She says yes. The problem is: he has to now form a band which he said he had. Filled with terrific music and authentic characters, ‘Sing Street’ delivers the kind of roller-coaster ride which keeps you engaged. The music videos that are shot are epic in nature. With some generous doses of humour and smartly crafted dialogues, the movie is also a toast to a time in history and the uninhibited freedom of adolescence. Highly recommended.

Southside With You (2016) [IMDB: 6.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.5]

southside_with_you_ver2

Trailer

Based on the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama, this movie is an easy watch. Similar in style to ‘Before Sunrise’, the story takes us to the first few hours the couple spent together walking the streets and visiting exhibitions. The dialogues are casual and the attempt is clearly to set a leisurely pace and make it look as informal as possible. The best part is the casting with actors who bring genuineness to the characters. Recommended.

The Queen of Katwe (2016) [IMDB:7.3 , Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

queen-of-katwe-poster

Trailer

A true story of a chess champion from Uganda who creates history. ‘Queen of Katwe’ has its flaws but it has a deeply humane story at its heart which enthralls and captures the attention of the viewer. It does not stereotype the Africans in the movie. The everyday struggles of life in an impoverished neighbourhood and subsequent highs of international recognition are captured without exploiting or glorifying either of the them. There are no villains in the  movie. It is about normal people doing extraordinary things and (at the risk of sounding cliched ) the triumph of human spirit. Recommended.

Jolly LLB 2 (2017) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.5]

jolly-llb-2-2017-2-300x300

Trailer

The sequel to the award winning original is better made, has better production values and has much better actors in Annu Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. The plot is very engaging and at some points convenient. Akshay Kumar plays a lawyer who is as principled as Silvio Berlusconi. The hilarious introduction scene has him helping students rig  exams. The first half progresses well with the character having a change of heart. The second half is focused on the courtroom proceedings which are the best part of the movie with Saurabh Shukla and Annu Kapoor squaring off. There are many missing links in the story in the second half but they may be set aside as allowances for story telling. I personally liked the plot of the original more but this sequel holds on its own and delivers another success for Akshay Kumar. It is curious to note that every major hit of the actor in recent times has him play the ordinary man whereas other stars are scrambling to play larger than life characters.

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (2016) [ IMDB” 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My rating: 7.0]

dhruvangal

Trailer

The movie which has 16 characters and relates to events over 16 hours is a decent thriller from a debutante director. The infirmities in direction are easy to see in the initial part of the movie. For a regular movie watcher, it is not difficult to see where the story is proceeding. Some of the scenes are predictable. The movie rises above the average fare by some inventive film making which relies on different versions of the story. At the same time, the compulsion on the part of the director to make it like a jigsaw puzzle in which all the pieces fall in place at the end is a distraction. Some ambiguity would have helped. The novelty about the movie is that when the same story is said by two different people there is a role reversal between the hero and the villain.

Documentary of the Week

I am Bolt (2016) [IMDB: 7.0 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

i-am-bolt-doc-poster

Trailer

Usain Bolt on what makes him normal. Other great athletes on what makes him special. The life and times of the fastest man in human history.

Eagerly waiting for: The Academy Awards

Did you know: There is something called the the Black List to determine the best screenplays for which there are no takers yet. Screenplays which figure prominently on the list have then been picked up and made into movies. Some of the films that saw the light of the day after featuring in the Black List are  Argo, American Hustle, Juno, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Spotlight and The Revenant. For more on this visit https://blcklst.com/ .

 

Advertisements

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%]

cast-away-movies-69383_1024_768

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.