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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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/ .

 

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Edition 63

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Wild Tales (Argentina, 2014) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8/10]

Wild Tales

Trailer:

This Argentinian film is currently in the limelight for all the wrong reasons because one segment of the film resembles the actions of the monster co-pilot in the Germanwings aircraft crash. Otherwise, it is one of the best films to have come out in 2014. A compilation of six segments, the films uniting thread is the rage and anguish of the characters which leads them to unforeseen consequences. Though all of the segments are not uniform in quality, the highs of most cover for the lows of the few. I particularly enjoyed the sequence of road rage and the one involving fighting against the establishment. Also, the now infamous sequence is one of the better ones in the movie. If you are looking for solid entertainment from a foreign language movie, it does not get much better than this.

Movies I Saw This Week

Rosewater (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, My Rating: 6.5]

rosewater

Trailer:

The much admired host of The Daily Show returns to movies, making his debut in directing. It is strange to see that Jon Stewart who dazzles in comedy, picked up a rather grim tale to tell. Taken from real life, the movie tells the story of a Canadian journalist who is detained in confinement in Iran where he is suspected of being a spy. The title of the movie comes from the fact that the only way the detainee could identify his captor is through the smell of rosewater. The ever reliable Gael Garcia Bernal plays his role pretty well but the infirmities in Jon Stewart’s direction are there to see. Solitude is difficult to convey in a movie. Unlike other situations, it takes time to build the right emotions. Unfortunately, when the movie has to convey this, the movie itself may appear stretched and painstakingly slow. This is the major frailty of this otherwise genuine movie.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015) [IMDB: 6.0, Rotten tomatoes:25%, My Rating: 5.5]

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Trailer:

Based on the investigative book into the kidnapping of the beer baron Alfred Heineken in Netherlands, this movie fires a lot of blank shots in between the few genuine ones. The kidnappers are played by a bunch of actors who have had their fair amount of success but that success was a long time ago. In a movie where the kidnapped Mr. Heineken (played by Anthony Hopkins) gets all the good scenes, the cause of the kidnappers is not helped by some shoddy screenplay and poor acting. I don’t know whether it was the director or the scriptwriter who was on Heineken while making the movie. As a viewer, you may require a Heineken or two to get over the pain of watching this one.

Top Five (2014) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating:7/10]

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Trailer:

Written and directed by Chris Rock and starring him in the lead role, Top Five is one of the better romantic comedies of last year. It tells the story of a comedian on the eve of his wedding to a reality TV star. The movie has a charm of its own and keeps the viewers engaged. It has funny and poignant moments in equal measure, none more than the scene when the protagonist meets his father. Chris Rock rises above the stand up comedy routine that brought him fame. It is a very mature piece of filmmaking even when it uses clichés in some scenes. Recommended.

Hunterrr (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating: 5/10]

Hunterrr

Trailer:

This sex comedy clearly knows its target audience but goes awry after 45 minutes or so. The protagonist is a sex addict who has derision for the idea of marriage. Told in flashback-flash forward format, the movie takes the viewer on the numerous amorous encounters of the lead character interspersed with his attempts at landing a suitable girl. It is when the latter part kicks in that the story goes berserk. The film looks like the tacky titillating films from another era. Though the views of the protagonist on skin colour and his contempt for black skin may be dismissed as the rant of a third rate character, I am still waiting for a Bollywood comedy which does not derive its humour from skin colour, LGBT community, objectification of women or plain toilet humour.

The Cobbler (2014) [IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 7%, My Rating: 2/10]

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Trailer:

I have seen every single movie that Adam Sandler has acted in and I used to like his movies but in the last few years he has been scraping the bottom of the barrel. With The Cobbler he may have hit the nadir and I hope that he has. The only good thing about the movie is that Adam Sandler’s onscreen time is reduced by the fact that his forefathers pass on to him the ability to transform into the person once he steps into that person’s shoes. So you have some small time actors living up their dream. Adam Sandler just sleepwalks through the movie. The numerous sub plots don’t hold together. After watching this movie, I am reminded of the famous adage. Stars don’t die. They just fade away.

Spring (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.5/10]

Spring

Trailer:

‘Spring’ is one of those romantic movies which will work with a section of the audience and I am part of that section. It tells the story a American who finds love in Italy. His lady love has some dark secrets that will not help in his quest for fulfilling the love. More of a meditative piece than a mushy romantic film, ‘Spring’ has very well written dialogues, scenic Italian landscapes and two very engaging performances. If you are looking for something different within the same framework, this movie might just suit you.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%, My Rating:5.5]

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Trailer:

Coming from Disney (that itself says a lot about the movie), this one is a simple family comedy which will instill family values and the such stuff kids need to be taught. On a horrible day when everything goes wrong, a family learns to stick together and stand up for each other. They also turn it into the most memorable day of their lives. Take your family along to watch this because it is a Disney film and Disney makes only predictable family stuff.

Documentary of the Week

The Ambassador (2011) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, My Rating: 7.5/10]

Ambassador_Poster_Web

Trailer:

Danish filmmaker ‘purchases’ a diplomatic passport from Liberia and poses as its representative in the Central African Republic. What follows is epic. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘True Story’ with James Franco and Jonah Hill.

Did you know: ‘The Turning Point’ (1977) and ‘The Color Purple'(1985) share the record for the films with most Oscar nominations (11) without a single win.