Edition 54

After a break of close to six months, this blog is back. Henceforth, the aim is to publish the blog on a fortnightly basis. Thank you for your continued support.

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu) (Japan, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten tomatoes: 89%]

wind-rises-poster-636-380

Trailer:

The swan song of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (The genius behind classics like Spirited Away, Princess Mononike, Howl’s Moving Castle) is itself a tribute to the life and times of the pioneer of Japanese aviation Jiro Horikoshi. True to form, Miyazaki makes sure that the film gets the scale and ambition it deserves. The thing that struck  me while watching the movie was the ease with which the story was unfolding. The screenplay is so well written that the movie could have been a fantastic one even if it were shot using real people in real settings. This sense of realism is what separates Japanese animation from the Hollywood set pieces. Hence, the slight disappointment that a vastly inferior ‘Frozen’ was chosen ahead of this classic at the Oscars.

Movies I Saw This Week

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

grand-budapest-hotel-uk-quad-poster

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Wes Anderson comes up with probably the most engaging film of the year which has its moments of quirkiness which add to the shroud of suspense which camouflages the playfulness of the movie. It tells the story of a concierge in the hotel who has a fetish for older women. Filmed in his signature style, Wes Anderson ensures that the film looks authentic for the inter war period during which it is set. The slick dialogues and accomplished performances from every member of the crew help in adding to one of the best cinematic experiences of 2014.

Begin Again (2014) [ IMDB:7.5 , Rotten Tomatoes: 83% ]

begin-again-poster

Trailer: 

A once famous music producer who has fallen on bad times, meets a neophyte and takes her on the road to super stardom. The songs used in the movie are good. Mark Ruffalo is perfectly cast as down in the dumps music executive and playing perfect foil to him is the delightful Keira Knightley who is vulnerable and yet cheerful. The film is predictable in the turns it takes but as I have always maintained, some predictable movies are very good to watch even when they have some loose points. Watch it for the music and the joie de vivre.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) [IMDB: 8.1 Roten Tomatoes: 87%]

fault_in_our_stars_by_grodansnagel-d6rujir

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Based on the NYT bestseller, the novel is made with the teenage audiences in mind. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. They share many memorable experiences together as they await death. There is nothing exceptional about the movie. Since it is based on the impending doom and gloom , the thematic elements are placed to pull at the heart strings which they do with limited success. The movie tries too hard to bring in the sentimentality which is its USP. This is certainly not the type of movie I enjoy watching but I am sure there is a section of the audience which loves such tragedies.

A Most Wanted Man (2014) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

man-poster

Trailer: 

From the spy novelist John Le Carre comes this thriller focusing on undercover operations against Muslim terrorist groups based in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman delights in his final onscreen appearance and simultaneously reminds us of the great talent that we lost. The suspense and intrigue in the movie build up from the first shot and reaches an explosive climax which is difficult to predict. The screenplay focuses on the minute aspects of the story which gives an impression that there is a twist waiting to happen all the time. The director does not let the pace slacken and the actors do full justice to their roles. I immensely enjoyed watching the movie and feel that it is one of the best to have come out in recent months.

Are You Here (2014) [IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

are yhou here

Trailer: 

Owen Wilson and Zach Galfianakis teaming up was supposed to be funny but when they try to add gravity, when nothing even resembling that is expected, you get the movie disaster of the year. Both of them sleepwalk through their roles and an awfully weak screenplay makes you wonder “What am I being subjected to?”. For the record, the story is that of a social misfit who goes to attend his father’s funeral and discovers that he has become a millionaire because his dad trusted his dazed and confused son over his selfish and uncaring daughter. At every moment in the movie, there is an anticipation that there could be something funny happening soon but all those hopes are buried along with the funeral in the movie. Watch it if you are learning to be good at anger management.

Finding Fanny (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%]

Finding_Fanny_Theatrical_release_poster

Trailer: 

I have immense sympathy for people who paid to see this drivel in a theatre. This is the kind of movie that brings disrepute to good cinema because it is marketed as good cinema intended for the audiences who can see the finer points of filmmaking. What it becomes is storyless story which could have been compressed to a 25 minute episode on television. For all her commercial success and the fixed awards that come with it, Deepika Padukone cannot act to save her life. Even the others look out of touch with thespian Naseeruddin Shah being the only saving grace. He plays the character of a person who is cajoled to go in search of his long lost love. Just like the car they take the trip in, the story meanders along aimlessly and is a pain to watch. I think people should have guessed this early as the main marketing point of the movie during its promotions was the derriere of the actresses. A movie that must be avoided at all costs.

Happy New Year (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)

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Thank God that this movie was released during Diwali. If it was released during the new year, it would have ruined the entire year. Now it needs to be just burned along with the the crackers on Diwali. To call this a movie would be the equivalent of calling the winner of the National Spelling Bee a novelist. The movie is a pointless attempt and an insult to the audience. Filled with cheap gags and a story which seems to have been conjured up by an infant in the cradle, the film is a tight slap on the faces of the audiences who throng movies on the first day of release because of the marketing blitzkrieg they are subjected to. It is also a reminder of the fading charisma of an ageing superstar finding it difficult to maintain the aura so frighteningly exposed by those wrinkles. It is an insult to the idea of patriotism when such movies try to play such cards in vain. As for the actors, the cake goes to Abhishek Bachchan who now plays the Uday Chopra equivalent of a side kick he is used to having in the Dhoom series. I hope that the director Farah Khan meets the same fate as her even lousier brother.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Inequality for all (2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

inequality

Trailer: 

The former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich tries to give a new perspective on the labour market and the distribution of wealth. Highly recommended.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Foxcatcher’ because it is a true story of an Olympic winner.

Did you know: In the state of South Dakota it is illegal to show Police getting beaten in the movies.

 

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Week 51

Movies: Non-English

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

As It Is in Heaven

Trailer: 

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

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

noo

Trailer: 

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

Movies I Saw This Week

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

Filth

Trailer: 

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

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

Time Pass

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

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

Bewakoofiyaan_Poster

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

Documentary Pick of the Week

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

Vanishing of the Bees

Trailer:

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

The : D Retrospective

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

Stepmom

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

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

Shallow Hal

Trailer: 

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

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

Reversal of Fortune

Trailer: 

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

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

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

Week 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

 

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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 47

I am happy to report that accuracy levels for the last week’s predictions were way beyond my expectations. Congratulations to all the winners at the 2014 Oscars.

Movies: Non-English

Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, 1993) [ IMDb: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Like Water for Chocolate

Trailer: 

Considered a landmark in the history of Mexican cinema, this film tells the story of a man who is forced to marry the sister of the woman he is in love with. It is a lyrically told tale with moments where the director attempts to have scenes of magical realism. The performances are nothing to crow about. The way the story plays out and the twists and turns in the predictable family life make the film an interesting watch. The film remains one of the peaks of Mexican cinema. Highly recommended.

Bicycle Thieves (Italy, 1948) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

b_thieves_061609.pdf

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Often cited as the greatest film ever to be made, this classic from Italy is a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in great films and the history of cinema. It is a simple story of a man and his son in search of a cycle. What makes it a classic is the universal theme it deals with, which has stood the test of time and can be understood by the common man anywhere in the world. An absolute must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Oldboy (2013) [IMDB:5.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 44%]

Oldboy

Trailer: 

Based on the Korean film with the same title this film deviates from the original, with mixed results. (Spoilers Ahead) While this one is shot particularly well, it leaves some gaping holes in the plot. A man with a dubious character is kidnapped and imprisoned for two decades without him knowing the reason for the ordeal he is put through. While in confinement, his only reason for staying alive is his hope of seeing his daughter. The film has a small but significant shift in the climax which looks good but is not easily explained by facts. It does sound strange when a 20 million bounty is unnecessarily offered to the prisoner without any explanation of why he is at the receiving end of such a largess. It does neatly fit in towards the end but the ending is just too convenient. In all this, the prisoner shows no remorse for his actions and he continues with his pre confinement persona after release too. I guess many thugs like him would be happy to go through the ordeal if they were offered 20 million dollars.

Hasee Toh Phasee (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Hasee Toh Phasee

Trailer: 

The film is a genuine romantic comedy which falters severely towards the end. (Spoilers ahead) It is very difficult to understand why the director chose to go with Parineeti Chopra as the choice of the lead in the climax of the movie. It is evident that the protagonist had a strong seven year old relationship going with his fiancee and for him to leave her for a girl he meets after his engagement looks a dumb idea. This is augmented by the fact at no stage there are strong sparks between the hero and the new girl in his life, who also happens to be a runaway thief. The film has some really funny scenes and sharp dialogues but all the effort goes down the drain when the director chooses to go for the easy and conventional ending with lot of glycerin induced scenes thrown in. The acting is competent and the screenplay hold on its own for large parts but the songs are as stale as yesterday’s leftovers. Still, a one time watch.

Gunday (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 1.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 5%]

gunday_trailer_1

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Hell hath no fury like Bangladeshis scorned. ‘Gunday’ has been at the receiving end of Bangladeshi rage as mass voting from this country has made Gunday the worst rated film in the history of IMDB. ‘Gunday’ now occupies the unenviable position of the worst film in movie history going by popular sentiment. What has led to such negative reaction is the accusation of misrepresentation of the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis have taken offence and responded with full vigour. As for the film, it is a triangular love story. It is a stock template of Bollywood movies and offers nothing new. The film is loud, boring and a total disaster. It has kids who think they are men and a spinster who thinks she is still a crowd puller. Come to think of it, this hated film hit the screens on Valentine’s day. The irony of it all.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Armstrong Lie (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Armstrong Lie

Trailer: 

For all those who are still in denial that Lance Armstrong was the biggest cheat in the history of sports, get your dose of reality from the man himself. Even the director’s attempts to save him fall flat. Must watch.

The : D Retrospective

My Fair Lady (1964) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

My Fair Lady

Trailer: 

A lady from a poor neighbourhood is picked up for a social experiment and groomed into a fine lady. Audrey Hepburn carries the film on her tiny shoulders and does it with remarkable success. It remains a mystery to me how the film landed up with eight Oscars because the best it could have hoped for was an invite to Hepburn to the Oscars. Watch it just for her.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Trailer: 

An underrated gem which earned a young Di Caprio his first Oscar nomination. The plot involves Johnny Depp who is burdened with a dysfunctional family and his attempts to break free are stifled. The film has a great ensemble acting performance with all the actors putting in memorable performances. A bittersweet tale which deserves a more wider audience.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

under the tuscan

Trailer: 

An author buys a house in Tuscany in the spur of a moment. Over a long period of time many characters enter and leave her life and she keeps on searching for true love. Watch to find out if she does find love. Diane Lane is a dignified presence throughout the movie and her acting makes you root for her.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Blended’ because Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler think they are still good to be in romantic comedies.

Did you know: Following the tremendous success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the New Zealand government even created a Minister for Lord of the Rings, whose remit was to exploit all the economic opportunities the films represented.

Week 45

Movies: Non-English

The Tin Drum (Germany, 1979) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

tindrum

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Based on the monumental novel by Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, ‘Tin Drum’ tells the story of a boy who ‘decides’ that he does not need to grow up physically even when he is mentally very much a grown up. It is is his way of lodging protest against the behaviour of people during the Second World War.  Just like the novel, the film does not hold back in the use of metaphors. It hits out at the all accepting passive nature of the German society when surrounded by the tyranny of the Nazis. The protagonist has a tin drum which is his constant companion which he uses to drum up support for anti Nazis and give a wake up call to those in deep denial about the Nazis. The film does not cover the whole novel and ends before the ending in the novel. That was the case with the film adapatation of ‘The English Patient’ too. I guess the film makers resort to this to keep the optimistic ending. The performances in ‘Tin Drum’ are quite good but I believe that its Oscar triumph was very much due to political factors; it was after all an anti Nazi film from West Germany released at the height of the Cold War. Still, the movie is worth a watch.

Amour (France, Germany, Austria, 2012) [IMDB:7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

amour

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Some movies ooze elegance and class. This is one such movie about an old couple who are deeply in love and lead lives where they take one another to be permanent fixtures in a routine life. It is when the wife suffers from a stroke that the strength of their relationship is put to the stress test. The film swept all the major awards and was a hit in the festival circuit. The performances don’t involve anything extraordinary but the poise with which the ordinary is acted out requires special mention. Early into the film, it is easy to realize that something special is happening on screen. A must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Out of the Furnace (2013) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%]

Out of the Furnace

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Another movie on vigilante justice when the citizen takes the law into his own hands because he doesn’t trust the official investigators enough. This film is a poor cousin of ‘Prisoners’ which also explored a similar theme but was way better. ‘Out of Furnace’ is the story of a man who goes in search of his missing brother and meets a host of characters in the process. It is a shame that for a star studded cast the film is not able to do justice to the talent at its disposal. The screenplay is laboured to the point of being boring. Catch the film when it comes on cable TV.

Thanks for Sharing (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Thanks for Sharing

Trailer: 

The thing with this film billed as a romantic comedy is that it neither romantic nor comic. Three people who have a sex addiction problem are at the core of the story. It is about how they try to de-addict themselves from this particularly interesting state and at the same time juggle their love relationships. The film never rises above mediocrity and the act should have ended prematurely. That is the worst I can say about a movie on sex addiction.

The Counselor (2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 34%]

Counselor

Trailer: 

It is such a shame that a stellar cast with Pitt, Bardem, Diaz, Cruz and Fassbender in a movie directed by Ridley Scott comes up with the dud of the year. It is about a lawyer who messes up in a particular situation and then things go out of control like a kite which is not tethered. Well that was supposed to be the story but that is what happens to the film; it is the director who untethers the movie from his hands. This has disastrous consequences. Half baked characters, stars who sleep walk through their roles, actors who are evidently bored and a story which wanders like a lost soul. The ‘Dhoom 3’ of Hollywood for 2013. Non Indian readers may read that as unmitigated disaster.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Square (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

square

Trailer: 

The story of the uprising in Egypt which was part of the wider Arab Spring. The documentary follows a group of people as they put their lives in the line of fire to fight the establishment. The documentary assumes increased significance on account of the recent events in Ukraine. A long shot at the Oscars thought, for the poor technical quality of production.

The : D Retrospective

Starting this week the retrospective section will feature some feel good movies which are liked widely and are a good watch. The feel good factor is augmented by the fact that it is liked by people who like to spread happiness with sincerity.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Trailer: 

We are all accustomed to Greek tragedies but this is one movie at the other end of the spectrum. Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay and starred in this surprise winner at the box office, making her a star in the process. The best thing about the movie is that it does not have any major stars and hence the actors don’t come with any baggage of typecasting. This makes it difficult to predict the trajectory and responses of many characters.The story has a Greek woman fall in love at first sight (quite literally, at first sight itself) and the wedding that follows. The hilarious moments have to do with the fact that the groom doesn’t know Greek and that he is completely at loss in the peculiar situations that he finds himself in. Add to that a few oddball relatives, this becomes an easy and entertaining film to watch.

French Kiss (1995) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

French Kiss

Trailer:

There are very few actors who bring happiness along with them and light up the screen in every movie they appear. Meg Ryan is one of them. It is her cheerful demeanor even when she flies down to France in desperation to meet her fiance, that is the best thing about the movie. She gets unwelcome company in a thief on her trip to track down her fiance. On her life changing journey she discovers herself and true love. The movie has some very scenic shots and is quite easy on the eye. If you like cheerful vulnerable woman at the heart of a story, this is the film you will enjoy watching.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Sleepless in Seattle

Trailer: 

Nora Ephron can sell the impossible to you and even make you root for her story and characters. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is a modern day fairy tale which has dollops of optimism and a heart in the right place. A kid tries to find a companion for his widowed father. A woman throws caution to the wind and goes by her gut instinct when she decides that she could be that woman. The film requires some suspension of disbelief but when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are on screen, it is so easy to suspend disbelief. The climax is a tribute to ‘An Affair to Remember’. What that movie could not achieve, this one does: Lovers uniting at the top of the Empire State building. As a character says in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, “Oh God, I love that movie.”

Eagerly Waiting for: The Oscars next week.

Did you know: The original raw footage of ‘Apocalypse Now’ consisted of 1,250,000 feet of film which is over 230 hours’ worth.

Week 39

Movies: Non-English

The Dreamlife of Angels (France, 1998) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Dreamlife of Angels

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJxtNk5Q9V4

The first instance of two actresses sharing the gong for the best actress (for the same film) at Cannes is reason enough to watch this little French gem. I was reminded of this movie after reviewing ‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ a fortnight ago. If ‘Blue …..’ is the adolescent version, then this one is the mature version. Two financially broke women share a flat and hope for a better future from the misery of routine lives. Once more characters enter the frame, their relationship unravels. Then the two actresses revel like veterans on screen. Watch it for them.

The Mirror (Russia, 1975) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

mirror

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7SN7spZlZk

A man facing death recollects his life. His sorrows, his triumphs, his childhood, his loves and much more. The nation’s history also plays out in the background. As they say, once your whole life will flash in front of your eyes. Make it worth watching. A timely reminder on that concept from (of all places) Russia. Classic.

Movies I Saw This Week

American Hustle (2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

american hustle

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7a1aK_lG0

I could not really figure out why ‘American Hustle’ is getting nominated at all major awards in so many categories this year. Agreed that it is a good movie but to call it a great one is a slight misrepresentation of facts. As the name suggests, it is a con movie but with a conscience. It certainly has some good performances going for it. Amy Adams delivers another competent one. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and that makes me think that she deserves the Oscar for Supporting Actress but that would be an improbable win considering that she just landed the Best Actress Oscar only last year. At the same time, Bradley Cooper may consider himself lucky if he wins for the Best Supporting Actor because it wouldn’t be possible but for the sympathy votes he gets for his failure to win last year. Coming back to the movie, it creates the right ambiance and the credit for that has to go to the director. Other than that I did not find the movie to be special in any sense. Anyone with the IQ of a lamp post could have seen the twist in the end coming because such movies need to have one. I think the guys in Hollywood are all excited because someone finally made a movie in which the FBI is taken to the cleaners.

Blue Jasmine (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

blue jasmine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FER3C394aI8

What they say for wine is true for Woody Allen too. Both get better as they age. For a change, Woody Allen is not putting some old wine in a new bottle. He moves to a new terrain and after a long time I was really impressed by his direction as he brings the best out of Cate Blanchett. I have not seen the movie ‘Philomena’ in which Judi Dench is reported to have given a great performance. If Judi Dench has not pulled off something spectacular (and she is well capable of that), then this year’s Best Actress Oscar will go to Cate Blanchett for her affecting portrayal of a former socialite going through emotional distress and penury. Her acting is simply stunning and it helps that the the whole plot revolves around her. For a profoundly sad tale, the trademark witticisms of the writer brings relief even in the gloom. Two thumbs up to one of the best written and acted films of 2013.

Rush (2013) [ IMDB:8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

rush

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3XN54J8nY

‘Rush’ recreates the fierce and famed rivalry of two Formula 1 superstars of the 70s, Niki Lauda and James Hunt. I expected more thrills and edge of the seat action for a movie based on a sport which has a lot of scope for spiking adrenaline levels. It disappoints on those two counts. In fact, it is not even about the rivalry between the two drivers. It is more about their personalities and the obsession they have for winning against all odds. Niki Lauda comes across as a calm and determined man who is organized and thinks about racing even during his honeymoon. James Hunt, on the other hand, is the brash character who has too many woman in his life that he does not really have to have a separate honeymoon. To slightly twist the title of a book that went from non-fiction to fiction (cycling, if you still don’t get it), ‘it is not about the cars’.

Lone Survivor (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%]

lone survivor

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoLFk4JK_RM

The true story of an US assault team which sees their best laid plans go for a toss in an operation in Afghanistan. The film is quite slow off the blocks but soon catches up with long strides shortly after. Once the action starts it is quite an interesting film. There is nothing to rave about but then the film is definitely worth a watch.

Martin Scorsese Retrospective

Goodfellas (1990) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Goodfellas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo5jJpHtI1Y

Perhaps the best story on the mafia outside the ‘Godfather’ series. Must see. Period.

The Departed (2006) [ IMDB: 8.5, Ritten Tomatoes: 94%]

The Departed

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGWvwjZ0eDc

The movie that finally got Scorsese the Oscar. In my opinion, the perfect screenplay.

Taxi Driver (1976) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Taxi Driver

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLpMx8_TYOo

Some movies define a period in history. Some performances are so great that it is impossible to imagine someone else in that role. Some movies are unforgettable. Taxi Driver. Robert De Niro. No excuses for not watching.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) [IMDB; 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Searching for Sugar Man

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDw7OqVBT-w

How does it feel to be a rock star (pun intended) in one part of the world and be an unknown in your country of residence? One of the most uplifting documentaries ever made.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ because it has a large cast and a fine director in Wes Anderson.

Did you know: After the release of the Tom Cruise film ‘Top Gun’,the applications by young men to the US Navy went up by 500 percent.

Week 21

Movies: Non-English

Divided We Fall ( Czech Republic, 2000) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

divided we fall

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAYjBHUIS7A

This acclaimed film is set in erstwhile Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. It deals with the issue of persecution of Jews under the Nazis, a theme done to death by Hollywood to the extent that you lose sympathy for the Jews. This film though, raises moral questions with shades of grey. The major actors on screen can be counted in one hand. There is nothing remarkable in the way the story is told but it has its twists and turns mostly because some of the steps taken by the actors cannot be anticipated in a normal moral framework. Extraordinary situations lead to extraordinary solutions.

The Thief (Russia, 1997) [IMDB; 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Thief_FilmPoster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs7FGGvRQYU

Deception is the main theme in this Russian drama set during the rule of Stalin. A single mother and her son are drawn towards a soldier who is their only hope for escape from poverty. Things do not exactly turn out the way they are planned. It is a pleasure to watch this wonderfully shot movie but the emotion it deals with is the polar opposite of pleasure. The story is told through the eyes of a child. Circumstances force him to be on the wrong side of the law. It is difficult to forget his reaction when he sees his stepfather in the climax of the movie. Recommended.

English Retrospective

Terms of Endearment (1983) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

terms of endearment

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsdDeh0M_nk

Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress (for Shirey Maclaine), this movie tells the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter who love each other more than they themselves know. It is not an exceptional movie but the performances make it worth a watch. Debra Winger won many fans with her fine performance but it was Shirley Maclaine who upstaged her at the Oscars. The movie tends to be too sentimental towards the end but I can tell you that some of the scenes are really worth all those sentiments. The bedside scene with the kids towards the end will melt the hearts of even the emotion resistant folks. To add to all this, there is Jack Nicholson playing  a former astronaut.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

an officer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Ehz_cAMGc

There are some movies with an endearing quality about them. This is one such film which works because of the thoughtful writing and the onscreen chemistry between Richard Gere and Debra Winger. A young man in the armed forces has his own demons to fight and personal battles to win. A factory girl enters his life. The story is how the relationship goes through testing times. It is a coming off age movie in the true sense. Richard Gere plays his most vulnerable character on screen but for me the star of the show is Debra Winger whose acting matches her beauty. A really good afternoon watch.

Chariots of Fire (1981) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

chariots of fire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWle59ZHPIM

If there is a movie which seals an Oscar for Best Music with the first few scenes, this is the one. The initial scene with the runners on the beach is one of the sensational sequences in cinema and all that is aided by the score by Vangelis. The story is about the British athletic team at the 1924 Olympics. It is no coincidence that the same theme music was played at all the medal presentation ceremonies at 2012 London Olympics. As for the movie, it loses steam midway but it is a joy to watch some of the sequences. If you are not British you may not enjoy it that much towards the end and I am not British.

Movies I Saw This Week

We’re the Millers (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%]

We're-The-Millers-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vsy5KzsieQ

The summer blockbuster of 2013 is a crude comedy  which is also testament to the fact that Jennifer Aniston is a bankable star who can still make people laugh. Frankly, the humour does get little out of control at times but there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. The one when Sudeikis goes to get a hair cut is one such scene. The story involves an out of luck drug dealer trying to put together a family from assorted characters so as to make his drug deal look more realistic. Only Aniston ( and maybe Sandra Bullock) can pull off scenes like the family prayer on the aircraft. A guilty pleasure.

The Bling Ring (2013) [ IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]

BlingRingPB_CoverFINAL

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4LzhgExvrc

Sofia Coppola drew attention with the understated gem ‘Lost in Translation’ but she suddenly fell from grace with a dud called ‘Marie Antoinette’. Then came ‘Somewhere’ in 2010 and she won a few awards for that. ‘Bling Ring’ is comparable to the quality of ‘Somewhere’ where she seems to be doing a decent job as a director but she never touches the highs she was able to achieve with ‘Lost in Translation’ . The film is inspired by real life events where celebrity obsessed teenagers broke into the houses of celebrities to steal high end branded merchandise. There is nothing that raises the movie from an average flick. The scenes get repetitive in the middle. Only Sofia Coppola knows the secret behind her fetish for stupid songs in the background. May interest the viewer who is interested in celebrities. Otherwise, who gives two hoots about what happens to Paris Hilton?

Satyagraha (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]

SATYAGRAHA1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KXwGcZI13k

There is no sting in this tale. It is basically a screenplay stitched together by recent events in India. The problem with that is that the issue has received so much media exposure that there is hardly anything new to be said. Prakash Jha repeats the folly he made with ‘Arakshan’. Issues which look good in television debates don’t translate automatically into good cinema. In fact, it often makes for caricatures and plastic characters who don’t connect with the audiences. A poor attempt.

Grown Ups 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 7% by critics]

grown ups 2

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

I guess the first edition of this series made lot of money for the studios. There is no other reason why they would have gone for the sequel. I could not sit through the first edition and the sequel is a pain to watch. It is not funny, not even by the pathetic standards set by current Adam Sandler movies. Keep away.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hot coffee (2011) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

hot coffee

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBKRjxeQnT4

An 81 year old lady wins 2.9 million USD in damages from McDonald’s after their coffee burns her body. This sets in motion a series of events culminating in major restrictions being passed on the rights of citizens in USA to sue companies. You don’t need to vote in elections because some corporations can buy the election for themselves. A thought provoking documentary.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Gravity’ because George Clooney and Sandra Bullock team up.

Did you know: Madonna changed costume 85 times for the film ‘Evita’.