Edition 85

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Loveless (Russia, 2017) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of an ugly divorce. As the child goes missing, the parents launch a search which intensifies as the story progresses. The director whose earlier works include ‘Leviathan’, goes for a more nuanced storytelling with subtle hints on the state of the Russian society. Unlike ‘Leviathan’ which spared no punches, ‘Loveless’ is often puzzling and enigmatic. The suspense is intact till the end and the open-ended climax leaves much space for speculation and contemplation. The pace of the movie dips in the latter half when the proceedings turn plain boring but the quest for the missing boy keeps the audience hooked. ‘Loveless’ is sure to get an Oscar nomination but not good enough to win.

Movies I Saw This Week

I, Tonya (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Margot Robbie stars as real life figure skater Tonya Harding whose chequered career’s low point was a botched up and bizarre kidnapping saga of her opponent. Robbie, who used to play ice-hockey earlier, brings the expertise to give a creditable performance in scenes where she is in the ice rink. There is nothing compelling about the screenplay and it hurtles towards an inevitable end. Margot Robbie plays her much abused character with conviction but the only Oscar that this movie will win will rightfully belong to the controlling mother of Tonya played with relish by Allison Janney.

The Disaster Artist (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those who have not had the misfortune of watching a gutter movie called the ‘The Room‘ released in 2003, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the events surrounding the making of that movie. ‘The Room’ had a second life when it gained popularity with some viewers rating it as the “best worst movie” ever made (which is a very generous assessment). The legend behind the movie was one Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, distributed, directed and acted in the original. James Franco, another goofball from Hollywood, has a field day as he tries to play Tommy Wiseau in a rather compassionate look at the original. Whether such a tribute to ‘The Room’ is warranted is certainly questionable. In fact, as a movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ fails to stand on its feet once it is robbed of the context. For most of the funny scenes to work, it is important to have viewed the original. Whether it is worth sitting through the mind numbing experience of watching ‘The Room’ so that ‘The Disaster Artist’ can be appreciated, is a question left to the discerning viewer. James Franco is sure to sweep awards which have a category for a comical performance but when it comes to the real deal (ie, the Oscars), he will be educated on good acting by the performances of veterans like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Frances McDormand gives her best performance after ‘Fargo’ in a masterpiece scripted and directed by Martin McDonagh. The movie begins with a mother’s pointed questions about the rape and murder of her daughter. The difference being that she goes for the audacious by putting those questions on three billboards. As a viewer, it may be difficult to foresee what unfolds in the narrative from there on. What surely does happen is by far the best Hollywood movie of 2017. The movie proceeds with the ease of knife sliding through butter. Frances McDormand, in what will be an Oscar winning performance, embodies the spirit of the character and plays it with the grit and steely determination making it one of the strongest woman protagonists in cinema. What elevates the screenplay is that all the cast members bring their A game to the show. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell add gravitas to their roles as the ailing police chief and a racist officer respectively. The humour in this tense drama is first rate and never out  of place. This movie is easily among the best to have made it to the cinemas in 2017.

Lady Bird (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Greta Gerwig turns director in a bittersweet coming of age movie set in Sacramento. Incidentally, Greta Gerwig is from Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan lives up to the promise she had shown in ‘Brooklyn’ as she plays the role of a small town high school student trying to find her bearings and love over the course of a few months. There are tons of movies with similar themes but what makes ‘Lady Bird’ charming is the freshness of the writing and the little twists and turns which keeps the viewer interested in the events on screen. ‘Lady Bird’ may not be a classic but it has its own rightful place in the list of the best movies of the year.

The Shape of Water (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Gullermo del Toro is a master at story telling as demonstrated multiple times previously and most memorably in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. This is reinforced by ‘The Shape of Water’ where he blends fantasy, music and romance into an intoxicating concoction. For the grace with which he tells an impossible story itself, he deserves the Oscar for Direction. ‘The Shape  of Water’ is a love story between a cleaner at at secret facility and a water creature. The premise is so outrageous that you may be put off by the synopsis but as you watch the movie, you may find yourself rooting for this romance. ‘The Shape of Water’ owes its mood to the music of Alexandre Desplat who looks like a shoo in for the Oscars. Pity that Hans Zimmer will not be getting his Oscar for another extraordinary score in ‘Dunkirk’. Watch ‘The Shape of Water’ if you are willing to be taken to the stars and clouds by the magic of cinema.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a bit of manipulative film making. It is the one of those annual LGBT themed movies with a heavy Oscar bait thrown in. For sure, it is a gorgeous looking movie shot in achingly beautiful parts of Italy. The movie is worth a watch just for the scenery. Timothee Chalamet is another reason for watching this gay romance, in which he stands out and promises much more for the future. The story is about a young boy who is wooed by the associate of his dad. Recommended if you like the category.

The Florida Project (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A24 studio has the uncanny knack of picking low budget features with a solid story line which would not be green-lit by the major studios. ‘The Florida Project’ is a film that A24 can be proud of. It tells the tale of a brash child spending her summer holidays with her single mom in a motel close to Disneyland. The story is told through the eyes of the child and portrays the life of the American poor. William Defoe puts in a good shift as the manager of the motel. The movie does stray a bit from its main story on a couple of occasions but there something magical about the way the director handles the whole movie. ‘The Florida Project’ is not a great film but it is indeed a memorable one.

Darkest Hour  (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winston Churchill whose career was built on his ambition to be the Prime Minister of Britain receives the honour when the soulless Nazi Germans are knocking on the gates of his country. All of his army is also facing an existential crisis as they are facing certain rout at Dunkirk. ‘Darkest Hour’ is the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman in the weeks following Churchill’s appointment as the wartime Prime Minister culminating in the rousing “We shall fight them….” speech. Overall, the movie is watchable but the screenplay is sometimes found lacking. The movie is a Gary Oldman show. He becomes Churchill. I would not be surprised if they mistakenly use the image of Gary Oldman for Churchill in the future. And, the Best Actor Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.

Molly’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Jessica Chastain has now become the reference point for smart  and smooth talking women operatives in cinema. Following on her remarkable success in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Miss Sloane’, she becomes the ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom who was convicted of running an illegal poker operation in New York. Aaron Sorkin’s direction and screenplay follow the sleekness he had shown in his earlier screenplays. ‘Molly’s Game’ is not a thriller. It is a character study which can be viewed with mild amusement. It is predictable but engaging. The movie does leave the question of whether it is telling more than it is hiding or vice-versa. For instance, Tobey Maguire is the actor on whom the star in the movie is based. Watch it if you like predictable but fast movies.

Documentary of the Week

Cries from Syria  (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

The story of the beginning of the Syrian war told through citizen shot videos. Moving and disturbing.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ 

Did you know: ‘Get Out’ is the first film made by a debutant director to gross more than 100 million USD at the US box office.

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Edition 65

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Timbuktu (Mauritania,2014) [IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:99%, My Rating: 7.5]

Timbuktu_poster

Trailer:

Once upon a time Timbuktu was synonymous with the last outpost of Western Civilization.  This town in North Mali at the edge of the Sahara desert was also a cultural centre of Islam. ‘Timbuktu’ the movie, does justice to the mysterious and tantalizing town while capturing the wild beauty of the nomadic life in the interiors of Africa. The movie won at Cannes and had a formidable run at the film festivals culminating in an Oscar nomination. The story is that of a cattle herder and his family whose traditional way of life is interrupted when the town is taken over by conservative Islamic terrorists. What ensues is a series of curbs on the life of the people, with football and music among the things banned. Mesmerizingly shot scenes only add to the authenticity of the film with a group of amateurs turning in performances they can be proud of. Though some of the scenes like the imaginary football one did not work for me, the movie is a definite winner for its ability to portray a polarizing subject dispassionately.

Movies I Saw This Week

Dear White People (2014) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating:6.5]

Dear White People

Trailer:

At a time when USA is in the throes of major racial tensions, this film throws light on the lives of African-American students in an Ivy League university. It is a movie which focuses on the relationships and changing dynamics among the students with a dose of racial issues adding to the mix. The movie has good production values and for once there is a role reversal with the minority students playing the role of the erudite people and the whites being the troublemakers. Though the movie does flag towards the end, it is a one time watch.

Paddington (2014) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

paddington_bear

Trailer:

A bear from Peru lands up in UK and gets a place to stay with a kind family. Soon enough, a villain turns up and the rest of the story is about how good triumphs evil. The movie is told at a decent pace and keeps the viewer engaged. With dialogues which have an element of humour in them, the movie is quite an easy watch and certainly one of the good ones of 2014.

Jigarthanda (India, 2014) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Rated, My Rating:7.5]

Jigarthanda

Trailer:

Billed by the producers as a “gangster-musical”, this Tamil film scooped a few National Awards including one for the antagonist played by Simhaa. In fact, he is the show stopper with his carefully nuanced performance becoming the highlight of a movie with a convoluted plot. A contestant in a TV show bags a project to direct a movie but the catch is that he must make a movie about a gangster. In his steadfastness, he starts to tail a real life gangster, only to be caught by the gangster. From there the movie takes myriad twists and turns before finishing in an anti-climax. Highly recommended.

Starred Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating:7.5]

starred-up-movie-poster-jack

Trailer:

An instant cult classic for movies with prison as a background, ‘Starred Up’ starts on a high and vaguely resembles the French classic ‘A Prophet’ (2009). But then the movie gets into unchartered territory with a bit of family drama complicating an already tough tale. With a career defining performance from Jack O’Connell, the film is a gripping story about a standoff between a teenage prisoner and the establishment. Highly recommended.

Get Hard (2015) [IMDB:6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%, My Rating: 5/10]

Get Hard

Trailer:

Will Ferrell plays a hotshot Harvard Business School Graduate (yes, you read that right) who makes money for fun on the stock market. Kevin Hart plays a car washer who nurses dreams of making his business bigger. Destiny brings them together. The movie does have some funny scenes but it is laborious in the second half and becomes boring as it keeps on moving away from its story brief.

You’re Not You (2014) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating:6.5]

youre_not_you

Trailer:

This critically panned movie has received a much more favourable response from the viewers. It tells the story of a pianist who is diagnosed with ALS. As she disintegrates, she comes in contact with new people in her life. A tearjerker for those who are interested in crying, the movie does not have anything extraordinary to say. Even Hillary Swank who has an author backed role dwarfs in comparison with performances of people who share the screen with her.

Mr. X (India, 2015) [IMDB: 4.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%, My Rating: 2.5/10]

mr-x-poster-embed

Trailer:

I believe that Vikram Bhatt gets to direct movies because his family produces and acts in them. Emraan Hashmi’s new flop has him gaining the power to become invisible. That helps Tanmay Bhatt of AIB to fill the screen. The lead actress in the movie has nothing to do. The producers could have done with just the lips of the lady as that is the only part of the actress called into action. Maybe, she could also have gained some power to disappear from the movie. The movie has low production values and is evidently directed by someone from another era. What more do you expect from a director whose last five movies were ‘Creature’, ‘Raaz 3’, ‘Dangerous Ishq’, ‘Haunted’ and ‘Shaapit’ ? Thankfully, the audiences also gained the power to become invisible from the movie halls.

Documentary of the Week

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) [IMDB;8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating:8.5]

Going_Clear_Poster

Trailer:

A look into the origin, growth and stupidity of the cult of Scientology. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared‘  because titles don’t get more interesting than this.

Did you know: In the movie ‘Shrek’, the right hand page of the book at the end of the film says ‘The End’. The left hand page says ‘And they lived ugly ever after. ‘