Edition 70

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]

Like_Someone_in_Love_2D_dvd

Trailer:

Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.

Movies I Saw This Week

Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]

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Trailer: 

The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.

Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Bridge_Of_Spies_2015

Trailer: 

The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.

The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer: 

The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry.  More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (India, 2015) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%, My Rating: 4.5]

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India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million. 

Knock Knock (2015) [IMDB:5.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:33% , My Rating:3.0 ]

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Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.

Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.

Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]

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After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.

Documentary of the Week

Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]

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Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.

 

Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada

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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%]

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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%]

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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 12

Movies: Non- English

Merry Christmas (France, Germany, 2005) [IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKkAg4Ew-s

Based on true events, the film tells the story of enemies united by music and the spirit of Christmas. During the First World War, German, French and Scottish soldiers momentarily stop fighting on the eve of Christmas and celebrate it together. It is little difficult to describe because it looks surreal. If I were at the scene, I would have pinched myself. They just lie down their arms, exchange hugs, sing, celebrate Christmas and then go back to fighting. Nominated for Oscar in the best foreign language film category. Did not win. Even the Academy voters would have found the story too good to be true.

Mediterraneo (Italy, 1991) [ IMDB:7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU4G6mfyvhM

Exquisitely shot anti-war romance. Italian soldiers land in a Greek island during the World War 2. The story develops as they come in contact with the people (some of them too gorgeous) of the island. Picturesque locations and the laid back life of the islands have an enduring effect on the soldiers. Though set during the World War, it is a light movie which moves at a leisurely pace. Only thing that can hold you back from watching this Oscar winner is the damning fact that it was produced by Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the Bunga Bunga guy). On a serious note, worth a watch.

Hollywood Retrospective

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

fish called wanda

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

The thing about ganging up to commit robbery is that trust between the gang members is an absolute essential. The uproarious British comedy explores what all could go wrong when each member of a four member gang tries to double cross one another. Jamie Lee Curtis is in the role of a lifetime in this film which has comedy at its core but also has a story to tell. The sad thing is that many Indian movies have unashamedly stolen scenes from this movie. Otherwise, perfect weekend entertainment.

Raging Bull (1980) [IMDB: 8.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVOwxsa4OM

The original boxing classic based on the life of Jake LaMotta. LaMotta reaches the heights by channeling his rage and anger on the boxing ring but as he climbs the charts, the same flaws take a heavy toll on his personal life. Robert De Niro deservedly won an Oscar for his performance but Scorsese had to wait till ‘The Departed’ to land his first one. The movie is a lesson on life. Don’t miss the title sequence in the beginning. I would have given Scorsese the Oscar just for that.

The Searchers (1956) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI2AZb04HAc

A man’s search for his last remaining relative who has been kidnapped at a tender age. His persistence and focus also leads to morally ambiguous situations. After years of staying away in a different culture would the girl still want to come back? Will he take her back when she discovers that she is no more like the girl he was searching for? Tough questions. Watch the movie which is often cited as the best Western ever made.

Movies I Saw This Week

Upside Down (2012) [IMDB: 6.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

upside down

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYvYGR7Ys4

A boy and a girl fall in love. Then they are separated. The boy does not let go and pursues the girl. Simple story. Only issue is that they live in different worlds which have opposite gravity. Since digitally everything is possible, we have a plastic world where things are so beautiful that you know they don’t exist. Since the science is spurious, the story also feels fake. Maybe, you can take your partner to the cinema, eat popcorn, discuss few things and occasionally look at the screen.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) [IMDB; 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DylgNj4YQVc

The initial idea behind big budget animation films was that kids will drag their parents to the cinema and help sell those extra tickets. Disney has laughed all the way to the bank on a couple of occasions milking this idea. Now things are not so simple. So they have to throw in Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams to attract the right kind of audience. The grown ups can ogle at the beauties while the children can have the real fun. The movie is strictly for kids. They may enjoy it.

Raanjhanaa (India, 2013) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9vmhxFucg

One line verdict: Not a bad film by the standards of Bollywood. Now the real thing (Spoilers ahead). If you think about it, ‘Raanjhanaa’ is a regressive film. The Muslim girl cannot marry any Hindu guy even when she has a choice of two. The leading lady is manipulative and does not really love any of her suitors. Truth be said, the film is about the love story of two different men for the same girl but it is all one way traffic. One of them is dumb enough to try his luck at marriage by posing as a Muslim and the other gets into politics of which he has no clue. The most sincere scene in the movie is when the men bond at the hospital bed of Abhay Deol. I have not lived in Uttar Pradesh but I can safely say that wrist slashing at the drop of a hat is not the preferred mode of wooing a girl in any part of the country. Come to think of it, Dhanush’s character is a bigger psycho than Shahrukh Khan of ‘Darr’. Here the stalking is direct and so in your face. Unfortunately Dhanush looks so earnest in his performance that you are willing to give him some sympathy but if you want to see why he won the National Award for best actor, watch ‘Aadukalam’. The good thing is that the movie does not really bore you and A R Rahman’s music helps the cause. Moral of the story for men: You cannot force anyone to love you and when you understand that get out of the scene. Otherwise you may find yourself in a coffin and the girl won’t even cry.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Man on Wire (2008) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

man on wire

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIawNRm9NWM

Some people have too much courage or are they plain crazy? In which category would you place someone who walks 200 feet on a wire between two buildings at a height of 110 storeys? That too, without any safety features. One guy did it in 1974 and this is the documentary on him and his activities. Don’t try at home.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘The Lone Ranger’ because of Johnny Depp.

Did you know: The African Americans who acted in ‘Gone With the Wind’ were not allowed entry to the premiere of the movie.