Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Assassination (South Korea, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

Set in 1933 in Korea when Korea was under Japanese occupation, the movie captures the attempt to assassinate a top Japanese Commander by a committed bunch of nationalists. Lavishly mounted and slickly edited to airbrush the inconsistencies in the plot, this action-drama provides enough entertainment to keep you on the edge of your seat for a large part of the movie. The movie feels like an epic and the director should be commended for stretching every cent of the $16 million budget. Definitely worth a watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spotlight (2015) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes:97%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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Trailer

Featuring the best ensemble cast assembled in 2015, this early Oscar favorite tells the true story of the Boston Globe expose of the widespread abuse of children by the clergy in Catholic churches. The 2002 story was an act of journalistic courage. The movie is an ode to the good old ways of investigative journalism and a gentle reminder of the power of a newspaper to do good. The movie underplays the heroes of the story. There are no trumpets here, no soaring background score, and no singular acts of courage. It is about a group of men and women using their best abilities to do what they do best. They are ordinary folks who have concerns of their own and are appalled by the state of affairs. ‘Spotlight’ is a subdued movie and will now be the gold standard for any movie on journalism.

The Big Short (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes:90, My Rating:8.0 ]

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Trailer

Coming from author Michael Lewis and producer Brad Pitt who collaborated for the much admired ‘Moneyball’, this film is about a set of defiant individuals who saw what others refused to see and gained from it. ‘The Big Short’ follows the lives of a few men who bet on the bursting of the housing bubble that culminated in the financial meltdown of 2008. With a cast that was only bettered by the ‘Spotlight’ team in 2015, the film deftly manoeuvres through the series of events which involve some heavy financial jargon. The film comes up with a new way to explain the jargon. The Hollywood studios must be commended for betting their money on what is a difficult topic to make a film on and the American audiences must be equally complimented for their reception to such movies. Steve Carell and Christian Bale put in commanding performances in what is certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Steve Jobs (2015) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes:85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

Michael Fassbender gives his career best performance in this biopic of Steve Jobs directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle based on Academy Award winner AAron Sorkin’s screenplay. The film is episodic and features the behind the scenes story of Steve Jobs before every major product launch in his life. Since the movie focuses on the personal life of Steve Jobs, a viewer without much knowledge of the business aspect of his life will find it a bit difficult to understand the subject matter. The movie’s greatest failure is that it demands familiarity with the Apple maestro. To the credit of the movie it must be said that it shows a personal side of Jobs that the media seldom covered before his death. Though the film is an entertaining one and an artistic success, its commercial failure may point to the fatigue of the audiences due to too many Jobs films releasing in s short span of time.

Beasts of No Nation (2015) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes:93%, My Rating:8.0]

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Trailer

The first thing that struck me while watching this gem of a film, is the familiarity with the geography. Later I discovered that the film was shot in Ghana but the film is set in a unnamed country and tells the story of child soldier Agu who loses his family and ends up being part of a ragtag militia of rebels. Idris Elba puts in his best performance as the leader of the decrepit but highly committed group. It is interesting to note that he never picks up the gun himself even when leading ambushes. Abraham Attah carries the weight of the movie on his tiny shoulders with a towering performance. The greater acclaim deservedly should go to producer-director-cinematographer-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga for creating an engaging and spellbinding movie of the highest quality.

Slow West (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:92%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

‘Slow West’ is the hidden marvel of 2015. It is a movie which resurrects the Western but is not a film that should be put in compartments. Jay travels from Scotland to seek his Rose in the wild West of USA in late 19th century. Meanwhile Rose is wanted for murder and a group of bounty hunters are after her life. Charming in its unique way and telling a story which can truly be called original, ‘Slow West’ gradually becomes an unforgettable movie. The movie also uses clever tricks in narration. The movie is also an unflattering look at life in the lawless terrain. One of the best movies of the year.

The Good Dinosaur (2015) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:76, My Rating: 7.0]

 

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Trailer

This movie was plagued by numerous script revisions and disagreements between the creators that even the director was changed midway through the project. It also comes hot on the heels of the success of the classic ‘Inside Out’. Add to that the Pixar label. The weight of expectations crushes an otherwise decent flick worth a watch. The movie is set in a world in which dinosaurs are not extinct and run families which (strangely) look like human families. The weak dinosaur in the family gets his chance to ‘grow up’ when he is separated from the family. During this time he meets and befriends a human child, and embarks on a multitude of adventures. The excellent animation is no match for a movie which could be called ‘Finding the Way Home’. I believe that the movie itself would have been better if the protagonist was a child but then it would be called ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

No Escape (2015) [IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes:46%, My Rating:6.0 ]

No Escape

Trailer

Owen Wilson stars as the patriarch of an American family in an unnamed Southeast Asian country facing the ire of violent mobs protesting against the company for which Wilson works. Providing some good thrills and yet never shying away from stereotyping, the film is good enough to deserve a single viewing.

Adi Kapyare Kootamani (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

This rib tickling comedy works on an entirely Indian premise where a girl who enters a boys hostel needs to be escorted out without the knowledge of the hostelers. With winning performances from all involved, this movie which is made on a shoe string budget laughs its way into the hearts of viewers.

Two Countries (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated, My Rating:7.0 ]

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Trailer

Coming from a team which has only made hits together, the movie tells the story of a happy go lucky man who marries an Indian-Canadian. Peppered with humorous scenes, the film is a laugh riot. Yet another proof that the finest comedy in the country is produced in Malayalam.

Charlie [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.0 ]

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Trailer

A girl moves into a rickety flat where she discovers the possessions of the former tenant. Intrigued by what she sees, she sets out to find the man behind the story. What she and the audience discover forms the crux of a story that is cloyingly sweet and preachy in parts. Neither boring nor great.

Documentary of the Week

Next Goal Wins [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:8.5 ]

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Trailer

The soccer team of American Samoa holds the record for the worst defeat in international soccer (a 31-0 drubbing at the the hands of Australia). Their goalkeeper gets nightmares in his sleep. In fact, American Samoa could never score a goal in an international match. Then everything changes. A true story of ecstasy, heartbreak and redemption. Must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Macbeth’ with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Did you know: ‘Jurassic World’ was the highest grossing film in USA in 2015.

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Edition 58

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Two Days, One Night (Belgium, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8/10]

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Trailer:

Coming from perennial festival favorites Dardenne brothers, this film tells the story of a young mother who discovers that she has lost her job while she was away for medical reasons. She must convince her colleagues to reverse their vote in favor of sacking her in return for a 1000 Euro bonus. The movie is remarkable as it delves into the socio-economic realities of the workers themselves. Aiding the strong script is the spell binding performance of Marion Cotillard who must be in line for an Oscar nomination. This is a simple film that will stay with you for a while. For those interested in more from Dardenne brothers, I recommend ‘L’Infant’ (2005).

Movies I Saw This Week

Foxcatcher (2014) [IMDB:7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, My Rating: 7/10]

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Trailer:

From the director of ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Capote’ comes another truly American picture about a psychotic millionaire and his doomed project at playing godfather to American wrestling. Steve Carell transforms into John Du Pont, an eccentric millionaire from the Dupont family who makes his mission to bring USA glory through wresting dominance. Based on a true story, this film captures the apocalyptic project in which the Schultz brothers are roped in to fulfill the fancies of a lonely man. The movie is unnecessarily languid in its pace. The highlight is the casting with Channing Taum delivering his career best performance and Steve Carell trying to be a method actor. The real life events were pretty much in black and white but in the movie the director leaves enough space for speculation. Though the movie has been heavily promoted by the studio for the Oscars, it is unlikely that it will make much headway in the Oscar race.

The Interview (2014) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 54%, My Rating: 5/10]

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At the centre of a controversy because of its attack on the North Korean regime and the subsequent retribution attacks on Sony Pictures, this film comes with a lot of hype associated with it. Even labeled as a test of the ability to stand up for free speech, the moviemakers must be wondering what hit them when they were clearly trying to pull only a few cheap laughs. Judged purely on merit the movie does not command even a fraction of the attention it has received. It is a puerile comedy which would have largely gone unnoticed. At the same time, it is hard to discount the fact that the movie is a direct attack on the North Korean regime and their supreme leader. If the same film targeted any other country in the manner they have gone for the Koreans, it would have surely raked up another controversy. Thankfully, the movie never rises above the ordinary and will be easily forgotten.

This Is Where I Leave You (2014) [IMDb: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

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Trailer:

Four siblings return home for the funeral of their father. The film tells the story of the week they spend at home and the host of characters they encounter. All of them have problems of their own which they try to address and often end up with amusing solutions. The film has its moments and the talent assembled is huge but the story never soars and hurtles towards a predictable end. The movie is never a difficult one to watch but is certainly not the kind on which you would like to have a discussion about.

The Skeleton Twins (2014) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Trailer:

The film tells the story of a sister and a brother who have messed up lives and the brother’s suicide attempt makes them address the issues in their lives and also the way their relationship has been. An easy to watch movie about two individuals who find the going tough, this movie is bittersweet in its own way. Backed by strong acting and a competent screenplay, it is one of the low budget movies of the year which is a good one time watch.

Dumb and Dumber To (2014) [IMD: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. My Rating: 5/10]

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Trailer:

This sequel to a cult classic does not live up to its billing. Starring aging Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, it starts on the wrong foot. It does elevate itself later on but by then the damage is done. Frankly, there are some really funny scenes but they get buried under an avalanche of poor tasteless jokes. Such a movie never aimed to be classy or hoped to create an imprint in cinema history but  it fails to deliver on the rather modest ambitions it has. Jim Carrey looks shrill and Jeff Daniels looks rather too old to play his part. For those who are interested in a bit of trivia, the movie has Jennifer Lawrence in a role. Trying to spot her would be good fun when the movie itself gets too boring and predictable.

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%, My Rating: 3/10]

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Trailer:

The film shows the paucity of scripts in major Hollywood studios. There is no reason for its existence and it is yet another attempt to milk the last remains of any nostalgia audiences would have had for the original (not that the original was much better). Trying to write about the plot of this movie is like trying to explain Mahabharata in a sentence. I have genuine sympathy for people who have paid to watch this movie.

PK (2014) [IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes:86%, My Rating: 5.5/10]

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Trailer:

The highest grossing Bollywood film ever, PK, reunites director Rajkumar Hirani with Aamir Khan. Aamir who duped audiences with Dhoom 3, comes back to screen as an alien (it helps to start as if you don’t remember your last movie) whose apparatus which will take him back to his homeland has now been stolen. For all the deep philosophical thought the movie espouses, the first one is that the first Indian who meets PK robs him of his only possession. PK who speaks in Bhojpuri (maybe because Biharis are considered alien wherever they go. Cue: Maharashtra) finds the lack of logic in religion the most damning aspect of life in India. While rightfully taking on godmen and confusing customs with religion, PK sermonizes from the high pedestal that only he can occupy. It is an alien who points out what is wrong with religion. While the intent of the movie might be admirable, the end product is not biting enough. I will though credit PK with having set the cat among the pigeons. It is not a modest achievement to unite the extremists in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Judged on artistic merit, the movie is neither original nor remarkable but it is also a better indicator of who is in control when it comes to law and order in India. If the movie had been released a few months ago, the erstwhile government would have taken the movie out of the theatre to please fundamentalists. Now we have to deal with smaller hiccups like Anushka Sharma who seems to have been wrongly briefed about her role prior to shooting. She must have thought that she would be required to play an alien and she got into the skin of the character with a lip job. Also, cars shaking in public with their windows open is a call out sign to PK that he must change his clothes. Enjoy, if you can.

Documentary of the Week

Fed Up (2014) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer:

A thorough look at the obesity epidemic. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Taken 3’ because there is no better angry old man than Liam Neeson.

Did you know: Sean Connery wore a wig in every single one of his Bond performances.