Week 14

Movies: Non- English

Departures (Japan, 2008) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

Layout 1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtdENmR6jKw

A young unemployed cellist is forced to take up the job of preparing the dead for funerals. What makes the film unique is the distinct cultural landscape of Japan where your job and matters of death are of high importance. The movie is an audience pleaser with moments that will make you smile and reflect. The underlying idea is something I strongly believe in; every job deserves dignity and respect. Come to think of it, I would have watched the movie just because of the title. Death as just departure.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (South Korea, 2004) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

brotherhood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3v9gMehf4

This movie was recommended to me by Rithin, one of the readers of this blog and I would like to thank him for that. This Korean war film tells the story of two brothers caught in the quagmire of the Korean war. The elder one enlists in the army to protect the younger one but as the story progresses fissures appear in their relationship. This is an out and out war film with some sentiments thrown in. The thing about Korean movies is that they are as melodramatic as commercial Hindi films but they also try to tell a story. Some of the war sequences are quite impressive for an Asian film but the same cannot be said of the computer graphics. It becomes evident that some of the scenes are shot on set. That can be pardoned as the budget of the movie is a fraction of what a similar Hollywood film would have demanded. Some of the scenes are flimsy and technical finesse is evidently missing but that is compensated by the scale of the film and the well choreographed action scenes. I would definitely recommend it for fans of war movies.

Hollywood Retrospective

The Piano (1993) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

piano

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_kaUp8NDDU

Jane Campion became the first woman director to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes with this master class which is a romance at its heart but has equal amounts of mystery and adventure thrown in. A married woman has a torrid affair with an odd character which shakes the world around her. Other than the outstanding performance by Holly Hunter in the lead role, watch out for the promising performance  that Anna Paquin delivers as a child. The film is so beautifully shot that viewing it on a small screen would be an injustice.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

full metal jacket

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAvWQa64B8M

Another Vietnam War classic. The initial training period sequence when one of the nerdy guys snaps is chilling and the effect of that on fellow soldiers might have been more dehumanizing than their experiences later. Still, the film explores how the line between right and wrong blurs when self preservation is the overriding emotion. Stanley Kubrick is a master at crating rough sequences and this could be his most realistic film dealing with real people and raw emotions. I believe that for Kubrick Vietnam was just another setting. His story could have been set in any war and that is what makes this an emotional drama more than a war film.

Apocalypse Now (1979) [IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

apocalypse now

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HEiqAsrVMQ

The makers of the film almost got killed making it. Their effort did not go in vain and the end product is perhaps the best movie on the conflict in the Indochine region to be made. Though it is Martin Sheen show all the way, the few scenes where Marlon Brando appears confirms that quality triumphs quantity. It is not an easy watch at 153 minutes but then good things require time. It is a hellish experience in the mould of ‘Das Boot’. At the denouement, the question about who is right and who is wrong is difficult to answer but then the soldier is on a mission and he must complete the task assigned to him. All this, because another soldier forgot which side he was on. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

A late Quartet (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

a-late-quartet-poster02

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX66lRnNmqs

One of the better films of 2012. It says the story of a Quartet whose members are at a turning point in their lives. When one of the members is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, strains appear in the relations between other members and hitherto suppressed feelings boil over. The film is quite engaging right from the beginning. The film scores quite high in the acting department. The story has only five characters but the director is able to keep it engaging. The only issue is that if you are not an expert in Western Classical, you will make a fool of yourself in some scenes. I can tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner but I bet there won’t be many who can detect mistakes if some notes of Beethoven are played wrongly. There are a few such scenes and you just have to trust the screenplay on such occasions. It is also an area that has seldom been explored in movies. So you get to know how much hard work goes into the making of a half decent musician. Definitely worth a watch.

Trance (2013) [IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%]

Trance

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvTW1JecmZo

James McAvoy has been heralded as the next superstar for quite some time now. In ‘Trance’, directed by Danny Boyle, he does his reputation no harm. The film is typical Danny Boyle stuff with scenes of time lapse photography, indulgently shot sequences and pulsating music. Here the protagonist loses his memory after a cooperating in an art heist. So the other gang members come up with the idea of using the services of a hypnotherapist to retrieve his lost memory. The story is sleek and missing any scene may mess up the understanding of what is happening onscreen. As it is, even if you watch all the scenes you will be little confused about some of them. The story is full of unreliable characters. So you can choose whom to trust.

Ghanchakkar (India, 2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomaotes: 25%]

ghanchakkar-poster-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClncY3AQxeg

The funny thing with ‘Ghanchakkar’ s that it begins on a premise similar to ‘Trance’ reviewed above. That is, the lead character loses his memory after a heist but the similarity ends there. Whereas in ‘Trance’ they go to a hypnotherapist to retrieve the memory, in ‘Ghanchakkar’ they go to a baba. That sums up the difference in approach between Hollywood and Bollywood.  ‘Ghanchakkar’ is a painfully slow movie but with a rock solid climax. The issue is that you may not have the patience to sit through the movie to see the climax. I believe that the script would have looked good on paper but what is shown on screen is a cure for insomnia. The film is neither funny nor engaging. When a film has Emran Hashmi as the best performer, it says so much about its quality. The characters are annoying and the director deserves much of the flak for making it less interesting than a television serial. I did like the ending but then who cares about the dessert when the main course is stale.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Corporation (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

corporation

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKbpQ_H7ziU

Documentary which charts the growing influence of large companies in a historical perspective. Very educative but a little biased in my opinion. Still, must see.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ because a little fun never killed anyone.

Did you know: Steven Spielberg met Drew Barrymore when she acted in ‘E.T’. When she grew up she posed for Playboy. When Spielberg found out, he sent Barrymore a blanket so she could ‘cover up.’

Week 11

Movies: Non- English

The Lives of Others [Germany, 2006] (IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

lives-of-others

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3_iLOp6IhM

In what was East Germany, the secret police starts monitoring a writer. As time passes, the observer becomes interested in his subject’s life. With one of the best climaxes ever, ‘The Lives of Others’ is a modern day masterpiece. The cherry on the cake is that it is the director’s debut feature film. It remains one of the highest grossing foreign language films in India where it played many houseful shows in places like Mumbai. Made with a paltry budget of 2 million dollars, it is also a lesson that money is not what makes a great movie. It is also a timely reminder that the political situation may change but even countries shouting from the rooftop about civil liberties have secret surveillance programs. George Orwell must be smiling in his grave.

The Hunt (Denmark, 2012) [IMDB: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

The Hunt

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

Mads Mikkelsen is an actor at the top of his game now. He is the closest to a Danish superstar in Hollywood. ‘The Hunt’, for these reasons is his one man show all the way. He plays a man trying to piece together his life when it is given an almost lethal blow by the accusations of a girl child. From a popular man he turns a social outcast overnight. I like characters who hold on to their dignity in the most adverse circumstances and fight their way back. This is one such story. Watch out for sequences in the supermarket and church. If you are looking for lighthearted stuff, this is not the film you are looking for.

The Legend of 1900 (Italy, 1998) [IMDB: 7.9/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Legend of 1900

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA8v9MamhJE

A decade after sweeping the viewers off their feet with ‘Cinema Paradiso’, the director returned with a movie that left the critics and audiences in opposite poles. This is evident in the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings by the audience which gives the movie a very favourable score. The critics roundly panned the film which is reflected in its 54% rating by critics at Rotten Tomatoes. The bone of contention is how to treat the movie. Whether to take it as a normal story or as a fable because if you are not willing to buy the fable argument you will find yourself on the side of the critics. Matters are not helped by the indifferent acting by the lead character. The story (or the fable, if you like it that way) is about a pianist who spends most of his life on a ship. I am not a great admirer of the film but there is one magical scene when the pianist almost skates with his piano on the ship. Also, some great music by the maestro Ennio Morricone. Decide for yourself whether it was a misadventure or a film waiting for the right viewer.

Hollywood Retrospective

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) [IMDB: 8.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest 01

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WSyJgydTsA

One of the reasons why I continued watching movies is because I was fortunate to have started with some of the best films ever made, the kind of movies which are truly unforgettable. The kind of movies which you won’t mind watching again and again. ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is one of the only three movies ever to have won the Academy Award for the best picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay. The character of nurse Ratched was once voted the best villain in the history of cinema. The movie will always be there in my top 5 of all time. All these are minor details. The point is, there are no words to describe what a momentous film it is. Trust me. Just watch it. Could make you a better person.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) [IMDB: 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes:92%]

clockwork-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN-1Mup0UI0

Stanley Kubrick’s masterclass in film making. Not for women. Not for the weak. Not for the peace loving. With apologies to Beethoven. Government programme in a futuristic society for creating better individuals does not go according to plan. When this movie was made, it was ahead of its time. Even after all these years, the same can be said of it. Don’t take it to heart. You will be shocked. A better way will be to look at the craft of film making and storytelling which will help you understand why Stanley Kubrick was a genius film maker.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Lookout (2007) [IMDB: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Lookout DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq4GG046GWg

This is the kind of film where you have a premonition that everything will turn out just perfect by the time it finishes. The difference between that and watching a predictable film is that you don’t know how you are going to get to that climax. A young man recovering from a terrible tragedy becomes a pawn in a heist plan. How he changes the narrative to be the last man standing forms the crux of the story. It is definitely not a masterpiece as the blurb says but it is worth a watch. Well written.

Strange Wilderness (2008) [IMDB: 5.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]

Strange Wilderness

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKyowLXH8sk

The film is so bad that it is good. There are too many scenes and dialogues that will make you laugh for all the wrong reasons. If you have absolutely nothing to do and can take the stupidity the film wants to sell, you can have a look. Don’t blame me though. I warned you.

Looper (2012) [IMDB: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

looper

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQuhsmtfHw

Time travel is one of those ideas which has its band of believers. Once in a while you have movies based on the concept. Here the writer wants to look at what happens to hit-men if time travel was possible. I find such concepts a little difficult to swallow. Otherwise, the film is engaging primarily because when time travel is possible you can solve things by changing the past or the future. If you are a thriller fan, this one is worth the adrenaline rush.

The Maiden Heist (2009) [IMDB: 6.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 35%]

Maiden_Heist_Cover

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKSlwYQj9fg

I guess Morgan Freeman made a lot of money and had no exciting work to do. So he produced this dud and also thought of acting in it. A security staff at a gallery literally falls in love with a painting that he is willing to steal it when he learns that the painting is being shifted to another country. So he hatches a plan to do exactly that. Excited? Well, what follows is a big yawn as the oldies can’t make it funny or exciting. I would have told the guy to make a print of the painting and spare me the pain of watching the movie.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Exit-through-the-gift-shop

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

A journey to uncover the notoriously undercover street artists. Quirky, entertaining and certainly worth your time.

Eagerly Waiting For: ‘Runner, Runner’ because it is Ben Affleck’s next.

Did you know: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote the screenplay for ‘Good Will Hunting’ for which they also won the Oscar.