Edition 86

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Square (Sweden, 2017) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, this movie straddles between the realms of satire, drama and social commentary. The largely successful attempts to have some fun at the expense of the vacuous art world do not compensate for a screenplay notable for its inconsistency. The director bites more than he can chew. The missteps of a director at an art museum and the shenanigans surrounding his life form the bulk of the story. Then there are multiple strands on immigration, social media hype, artless art and allegories on the state of the society. The farce culminates in a mystifying sequence at an annual reception. ‘The Square’ is an entertaining movie in most ports but is more memorable as an opportunity squandered.

Movies I Saw This Week

Phantom Thread (2018) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Some actors have the ability to rise above a movie and draw the viewer in. Daniel Day Lewis is perhaps the greatest living actor and what a pity that he makes movies once in a blue moon. As the workaholic designer in ‘Phantom Thread’, he is a joy to watch. His screen presence and a masterclass in acting take the otherwise average movie a notch or two higher. The story is about a designer at the top of his game and the interruptions in his life when a lady as hard as a nail walks into his life. The cinematography of the movie is first rate and the director should take some credit for keeping the movie as taut as he could. Watch it for Daniel Day-Lewis.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 82% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

The story of author Charles Dickens as he pulls out all stops to get the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ published after reeling from the failure of his three previous novels. The movie does a good job of bringing the persona of Dickens to screen. Although a bare minimum knowledge of ‘A Christmas Carol’ will be needed to understand the movie well, the lack of it will not be a hindrance to enjoying this movie which celebrates the life of Dickens. Not only is there a context to the creation of ‘A Christmas Carol’, there is nice back story to the life of Dickens and his evolution as an author. This movie is one of the lesser known and yet eminently watchable releases of 2017.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 51% , My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

I expected much more from the director of ‘Nightcrawler’ and what was served was a damp squib. The only saving grace of this mangled venture is a powerhouse performance from Denzel Washington. He plays a civil rights lawyer who gets the short end of the stick after a selfless life dedicated to causes he believes in. He goes rogue and from there on the director also goes rogue. Some movies tie themselves in knots and have no fair chance of untangling the mess. This movie, after a certain point in the narrative, is in dire search for a climax. Imagine you have in mind a juicy piece of chicken and what you get is a wet piece of chicken dripping with water. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of that wet piece of chicken.

My Friend Dahmer (2017) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the worst serial killers in history. He was a sociopath. Before he started his killings, he was the classmate of a cartoonist in high school. This movie which is based on the best selling graphic novel by his cartoonist friend tries to shed some light on the making of a sociopath. The movie is a character study and does not try to airbrush the brutality of the killer. The good part is that there are no killings in the movie as the movie shows the build up to the creation of a monster. Packed with competent performances and a strangely memorable ending, this is a movie which is certainly worth your time.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 75% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

This movie tells the story of the people behind the creation of ‘National Lampoon’ through the story of one of the co-founders of the magazine and movie franchise. The movie takes a format which gives it a feeling of a documentary. A bevy of comedians including Chevy Chase are part of this ride. The story is told in a conventional format and is thoroughly entertaining. The only gripe could be that for a story full of irreverent people and unconventional ideas, the director sticks to a rather straightforward narrative. Still, recommended.

Good Time (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Robert Pattison shows that he can act. He and his mentally challenged brother have to solve a litany of problems in the aftermath of a bank robbery. ‘Good Time’ loses its pace at some key moments and the work could have been more unsettling in the hands of an experienced director. Nevertheless, the famished face of Robert Pattison carries the weight of the movie. He is practically unrecognizable from his ‘cool dude’ image in the insufferable ‘Twilight’ franchise. The last scene of this movie is a knockout and summarizes the movie in the most effective way possible. Watch, if you like slow dark stuff.

Downsizing (2017) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 51% , My Rating: 4.0]

Trailer

I believe that Alexander Payne is one of the most overrated directors of our time. He has received undeserved praise for pedestrian films like ‘Nebraska’, ‘The Descendants’ and ‘About Schmidt’. Finally he is exposed in this ruinous and boring movie called ‘Downsizing’. Matt Damon signs up to a new program in which people who are shrunk in size with the aid of science start living in secluded gated communities. After the first twenty minutes, this movie is a bore fest with the viewer wishing that he could also shrink in size and disappear from the movie hall. The movie is just an ego trip for the director and soon tumbles into a the worst mode possible at a cinema; it becomes a pulpit for preaching. Save your time. Think big. Skip this small minded movie.

Only the Brave (2017) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

‘Only the Brave’ has the right blend of emotion and action to keep the viewer engaged. It tells a story of firefighters with all the technical stuff while ensuring that the human element is never lost. The story follows a band of characters with a back story which helps in keeping the viewer invested in the destinies of the people on screen. Highly recommended.

Documentary of the Week

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

The story of a small community bank which was the only financial institution taken to trial in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. When the companies that were deemed “too big to fail” were bailed out, this small bank was considered too small to be trampled upon. Engaging watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The Academy Awards on March 4.

Did you know: In the first edition of this blog in April, 2013, this section told the story of Kevin O’Connell who held the record for maximum Oscar nominations (20) without a win. As a testament to the power of perseverance, he broke his bad luck dating backing to 1984 (his first nomination was for ‘Terms of Endearment’) and won his first Oscar on his 21st nomination. This was for Sound Mixing in ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ last year. The new holder of the unenviable ‘most nominations without a win’ title is another veteran at Sound Mixing: Greg P. Russell, who has 17 nominations to his credit. As an aside, cinematographer Roger Deakins who is right up there in the list with 13 unsuccessful nominations is nominated this year for the 14th time, with his brilliance in ‘Blade Runner 2049’ giving him the nomination this year. Here’s to a win for Roger Deakins.

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Edition 62

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Force Majeure (Sweden, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating: 7/10]

Force_Majeure_La_traicion_del_instinto_poster_ingles

Trailer:

‘Force Majeure’ is a movie about relationships and trust. In life’s key moments, would you go for self-protection or would you go the distance to protect those who count on you? A Swedish family vacationing in France faces the consequences of such a situation, thus exposing the fault lines within relationships which had been taken for granted. At another level, the story is that of redemption and restitution of faith. Not exactly for audiences who like to have fun at the cinemas, ‘Force Majeure’ was a strong performer at the festival circuits last year. It bagged the Jury Prize at Cannes during this run and was tipped to be a shoo in for the Foreign Language Oscar nomination. So when it did not grab that coveted nomination, the director of the film went into a meltdown which was captured in the following clip:

Movies I Saw This Week

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7/10]

kingsman_the_secret_service

Trailer:

One of the best ‘leave your brain at home’ movies that I have seen in recent times, this one keeps the pace intact throughout the course without ever flagging. Even when acutely aware of the fact that the underdog will save the world, the viewer gets a feeling of something fresh happening on the screen. The write smartly sets up clichéd scenes and has a conversation about the scene being clichéd. Then he does the obvious. Is the obvious a cliché? Colin Firth and Samuel Jackson handle their roles with ease and the relatively new Taron Egerton does a competent job. The plot is about a secret ‘Secret Service’ with limited membership which does the difficult task of saving the world. The hero is the equivalent of an adolescent James Bond but with a baseball cap and the Swedish Princess for a ‘girlfriend’. The movie unintentionally throws up some interesting questions about corporate czars influencing the politics of the world. These type of interesting questions are thrown up in the midst of a lot of fun. After all, when was the last time you had a hero called Eggsy saving the world?

The Lunchbox (2013) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Lunchbox

Trailer:

I saw this movie only now and that too after it received a BAFTA nomination. That is the sad part. Only a BAFTA nomination could persuade me to watch what is essentially one of the best Indian movies of last year. The move tells the poignant and unlikely romance that develops when the lunchboxes of two people are exchanged in the extremely rare event of a mistake by the Dabbawallas of Mumbai. With moments that bring the best of times bygone including the old Doordarshan shows and cheesy romantic songs of the 90s, the movie also blends in side tracks like the one featuring the ever reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Filled with genuine humour (spoiler ahead) in situations like the one in which the Dabbawalla quotes Harvard to dismiss suggestions of any mismanagement, this film is one you will not forget very soon.

John Wick (2014) [IMDB; 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My rating:6.5/10]

john-wick-poster1

Trailer:

Keanu Reeves is John Wick. In his heyday, John Wick was a hitman par excellence. Then he found love and then came retirement. Once his love was dead there was no reason to remain in retirement. At this point, we are only 5 minutes into the movie. The rest of the movie is about how John Wick finishes off all his adversaries and even some bystanders. If you like suave actions flicks featuring a protagonist with a lot of panache, ‘John Wick’ is the movie for you. If gun shots sound like music to your ears, then you may think you are watching a philharmonic performance. Keanu Reeves deserves some appreciation for his ‘performance’. Afterall, it must have been tough to have the same expression during the entire course of making of this movie.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, My Rating:6.5/10]

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Trailer:

Ayushmann Khurrana was staring at the abyss after delivering three consecutive box office bombs. He must have been relieved to have an Yash Raj film in his kitty but even he would not have realized the enormous (there will be a few more bad puns in this review) potential of a film which could have weighed him down. Quite easily the ‘Queen’ of 2015, ‘Dum Laga ke Haisha’ is a delight to watch even when the dialect is sometimes a little difficult to grasp. Set in the 90s in Haridwar, the movie takes you to a time when Kumar Sanu’s nasal voice used to rule the roost. Evidently shot on a low budget, the film tells the story of the arranged marriage between two disparate souls. The one who takes the cake (and perhaps eats it too) is debutante Bhumi Pednekar who gives a confident performance as the assertive young daughter-in-law. She shows that size really does not matter. It is her free spirit that makes the film worth watching. Interestingly, hardly anybody left the movie hall till the Kumar Sanu-Sadhna Sargam track finished playing along with the titles.

The Rewrite (2015) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 645, My Rating:5/10]

rewrite

Trailer:

Out of work Oscar winning writer lands a teaching job in an obscure town where he turns things around. He also discovers love and unearths a new talent. Aided by the electric smile of Marisa Tomei and not so electric smile of Hugh Grant, the movie chugs along without gathering too much pace or slowing down considerably. This movie could have starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore instead. Or Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It would still be the same and it wouldn’t matter. It is one of those movies which you wouldn’t mind watching but would have a hard time recollecting after a few months.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, My Rating:3/10]

Fifty Shades of Grey

Trailer:

At an artistic level, it is one of the worst films to have come out in recent times but the promotion and the sustained marketing campaign hava been a good case study on how to go about getting the audiences to watch this movie. If explicit content is the lure for you to watch the movie, then cut to the chase. Certainly one of the duds of the year.

NH10 (2015) [IMDb: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes:67%, My Rating: 3/10]

NH10

Trailer:

(Spoilers ahead) Surely one of the most illogical and nonsensical movies of the last five years. Produced by Anurag Kahyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, this movie has more holes in the script than what a punching machine would ever be able to achieve. The liberated girl has to be a smoker and her birthday gift is the freedom to smoke. I thought that this was so passé. She has a nutty husband who seems to have turned off the functioning of his brain. Only the script writer knows what he was smoking when he dreamt of the sequence when the guy goes with a gun to counsel someone in the middle of nowhere. Seriously? Then, people kill each other. The heroine runs around the whole of Haryana in search of help. Only people who help her out are migrant labourers from Bihar. Then she runs again, then she cycles, then she kills the policeman and steals the police vehicle. Then she runs again. After running so much, she lands up at the home of the people who are chasing her. Of all the houses in all the villages in all of Haryana, she walks into the only house which she should have avoided. Rick from ‘Casablanca’ would have been so proud. After being beaten to pulp by her tormentors, she conveniently finds a way to get the keys to their car. Then she makes them run around the village before killing them while she chases them in their car. They run as if she knows their village more than them. They run as if the only direction they know is ‘straight’. I ran to the side because the movie hall had exits on the side.

The Boy Next Door (2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 11%, My Rating: 1/10]

boy-next-door-poster

Trailer:

A youthful divocee falls for her new neighbor. It takes her some time to realize that her neighbor is a bad guy, a really bad guy. Staring at the midday sun is a less painfull experience than watching this flick.

Documentary of the Week

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating; 7.5/10]

Finding Vivian Maier

Trailer:

The captivating story of a street photographer whose treasure trove of great photographs numbering more than 100,000 was discovered after she had died as a destitute old lady. Also, a reminder that in photography, it is the person behind the camera that matters more than the camera itself.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘ While We’re Young’ starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.

Did you know: ‘American Sniper’ is the highest grossing war film of all time.