Week 42

Movies: Non-English

Ernest & Célestine (France, 2014) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

Ernest & Célestine

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ1rmOYLr2U

Academy Award nominee for the Best Animation Film this year, Ernest & Celestine is one of the two foreign made movies in the category (The other one being ‘The Wind Rises’ from Japan). Is is a testament to the fact that the better animation movies are increasingly being made outside of the Hollywood studio system.These foreign movies are also made at a fraction of the budget of Hollywood ones and usually do not have the technical finesse of their big money counterparts. Still they make for engaging viewing because in the end it is all about the story and the screenplay than anything else.Ernest & Celestine scores high on that front. Continuing the French connection of love with rats (Remember ‘Ratatouille’ ?), this film shows the bonding between a rat and a bear.That too, a rat brought up on the idea that bears are evil. Definitely worth your time.

The Grandmaster ( China, 2013) [IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

Grandmaster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC5amKLgnFU

‘The Grandmaster’ is the market entry feature for Asian films for Annapurna Studios. Annapurna Studios was founded by Megan Ellison who is the daughter of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The year 2013 has been particularly well for the studio which is behind movies like ‘Her’, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ . Coming to the movie, the film has been lavishly mounted and tells the story of the Ip Man, who was the master of Bruce Lee. The major failing of the movie is that it is too verbose and the action sequences are not well choreographed. Hence the thrills are missing. The ever-present feeling is that of watching a chronicle of events than watching a movie. Overall, it is a damp squib but it has its moments. How about a husband and wife having a Kung Fu duel just for the fun of it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Frances Ha (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

frances ha

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBn5dgXFMis

‘Frances Ha’ is the female equivalent of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ reviewed last week. It tells the story of 27 year old divorcee without a home of her own and trying her hand at things which she is not competent enough. Greta Gerwig gives a breakout performance and definitely deserved a nomination at the Oscars. It is baffling why the Academy prefers to give her 18th nomination to Meryl Streep for her insipid performance in ‘August: Osage County’ than reward Greta Gerwig for her genuine performance. ‘Frances Ha’ is shot in black and white which adds gloom to the already gloomy movie which has a cheerful character at its core who also knows that she is in dire straits. The film was one of the discoveries of Sundance Film Festival in 2013. It is easy to see why.

The Book Thief (2013) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%]

Book Thief

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92EBSmxinus

This is the kind of movie which irritates me. Kids who speak like adults, Nazis as villains (what a convenient cliche), preachy dialogues, that overwhelming feeling that you are sitting in a propaganda session even when you are the staunchest supporter of the idea. To top it all, the voice over is by God (Yes you read that right). Apparently, the viewers do not seem to share my concerns but the critics and I are on the same boat. As for the plot, it is about an adopted girl in Nazi Germany.

In a World… (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

In a World...

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZHBjLFu5is

There are so many stories waiting to be told. ‘In a World’ tell the story of people in the voice over industry. It is about a woman who tries to find her footing in a male dominated industry with misogynistic veterans, among them her father. The romantic sub plots enrich the story. Though the film does tick the box for cliches, it is a romantic comedy worth watching.

Yaariyan (India, 2014) [ IMDB: 3.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

Yaariyan

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3yJS4MB85Q

At the end of this movie (yes, I somehow reached the end) there is this tripe from the director about how she made the movie while balancing her gigantic responsibility of being a mother. As if to convince the viewer, she also has footage of her son on the sets. She should have put that disclaimer at the beginning of the film. That would have been an anticipatory bail and the viewers would have been better prepared for the motion picture she unleashes on them. It is plain and obvious that the lady got to don the director’s hat because she belongs to one of the country’s big production houses. The plot is a mixture of Australia bashing jingoism with some songs thrown in for the sake of romance. People who paid to watch this in theatres can try suing the producers for mental torture.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Cutie and the Boxer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

Cutie and the Boxer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXS6Aby5AUg

Nominated at this years Oscars, this documentary take a peek into the lives of a painter couple and their marriage that has spanned 40 years. My feeling is that there were better documentaries that did not get nominated this year.

Sergio Leone Retrospective

Sergio Leone is a name synonyms with Westerns. He was never feted with awards during his lifetime but with the passing of time his stature has only grown. If there is a director with whom a genre is associated, then that combination has to be Sergio Leone and Westerns.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

the_good_the_bad_and_the_ugly

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

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery (From IMDB). Sensational.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) [ IMDB: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Once Upon a Time in the West

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO_uW_VDsO8

Story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica who joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad ( From IMBD). Epic.

For a Few Dollars More (1965) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

For a Few Dollars More

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk7XHtvDZ_E

From Imdb: Two bounty hunters with the same intentions, team up to track down a Western outlaw.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘3 Days to Kill’ because Kevin Costner plays the lead.

Did you know: In 2002, Steven Spielberg finally finished college after a 33-year hiatus. He submitted ‘Schinder’s List’ for his student film requirement.

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Week 41

Movies: Non-English

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a50DJkCxqw

Academy award nominee for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category this year, this film from Belgium is a devastating tearjerker. It is a heady mix of music, romance and tragedy with moments of sheer brilliance. The wedding scene and the climax are scenes that stand out. The movie follows the challenges faced by a young family and their desperate attempts to overcome them but at the core of the story is the conflicting religious beliefs of the husband and wife which appear beyond reconciliation. I believe that one of the reasons that the film has a nod at the Oscars is because of the way it tears into the George Bush presidency by using actual footage to support the arguments of one of the characters. The good thing is that even if the politics of the movie is disregarded as inconsequential, it is a movie worth your time. Two thumbs up.

The Third Half (Macedonia, 2012) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

The Third Half

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJq03xHc6mE

Another film on Nazis, which I believe is a theme that has been done to death by Hollywood. Maybe the Macedonians did not figure that out. So they also came up with a mild version to suit their historical narrative. The end product is a movie which is not bad but does not introduce any new elements in a predictable story line. My curiosity stemmed from the fact that it tells the story of a football team trying to get its act together and at the same time bogged down by politics. If you can take another film on Nazis this film is highly recommended. Otherwise, highly forgettable.

Movies I Saw This Week

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Inside Llewyn Davis

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFphYRyH7wc

Oscar Isaac produces a scintillating performance as the title character of a movie which certainly falls into the drama genre but is neither a tragedy nor a triumph. Llewyn Davis is a folk singer who tries to piece together a living when he is not hopping from one couch to another in his quest to find a place to sleep. (Spoiler ahead) His life is so messed up that he gets to know through a third party that he has become a father and he still does not want to see the child. Llewyn Davis is a musician who is neither great nor ordinary. As a character, he is neither weak nor strong. It is this very quality of a man who cannot be faulted because he is not impractical but at the same time is not practical enough that makes this story a little complex. That also makes the film very engaging to watch as it opens up to unpredictable twists and turns. A special mention must be made of the cinematography of this movie which is a strong contender at the Oscars but may eventually lose out to ‘Gravity’. All in all, this is not a movie for everyone but for the discerning few.

All Is Lost (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

All Is Lost

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk_R04LfUQU

Robert Redford’s best movie in years tells the story of a man marooned with his damaged boat in the ocean when it is hit by a stray container. It chronicles his desperate attempts to rescue himself from imminent and painful death. The movie is slow but I believe that the plot dictated the pace of the movie. A standout feature is the background score. At the Oscars this year this category will be a straight shootout between ‘All Is Lost’ and ‘Gravity’. I would love to see an Indian version of this movie because the Hollywood hunks like to appear calm and composed under trying circumstances but imagine Shahrukh Khan in such a role. He would have cried his heart out and appeared vulnerable, making him endearing. Some movies are better off with such men and Robert Redford is not such a man.

Dedh Ishqiya (India, 2014) [IMDB: 7.9, Rooten Tomatoes: 77%]

dedh

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J3fkfUDkx8

A half decent story with a plausible twist makes this one of the early winners of 2014. All the actors are in fine form and the movie has a good pace to it. It is the story of two con men who think they have found their match in a mysterious duo. The good thing with the movie is the crisp writing which serves as a refresher course in chaste Hindi. Definitely worth a watch.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) [IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Xk-yTuFEU

Ben Stiller should stick to comedies. His capabilities as a director are evidently limited and this movie is the best proof for it. He is neither funny nor engaging. The movie about a man with a fertile imagination and pretty much only that, is a damp squib. The story meanders along and is a big yawn. The producers could have donated the money to some charity. At least they wouldn’t have to explain to their children their poor decision making abilities.

Documentary Pick of the Week

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%]

20 Feet from Stardom

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWyUJcA8Zfo

The story of the unsung chorus singers on stage. Nominated for the Oscar this year. Strong contender. Worth a watch.

Terrence Malick Retrospective

Days of Heaven (1978) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

Days of Heaven

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZDsMCW0U4

A story of passion, intrigue and treachery set in a farm. Competently acted. Beautifully shot.

The Thin Red Line (1998) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]

thin red

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejm0XvT3rB8

The Army as it is. Sudden death, painful superiors and a low life. Dream casting with too many stars to count.

Badlands (1973) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

Badlands-707049238-large

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKykxE7CBbc

A couple like to kill. A study in psychology.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’ because it is going to be the first blockbuster of 2014.

Did you know: The sounds made by the Brachiosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’ were a combination of whale and donkey sounds.