Edition 92

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Roma (Mexico, 2018) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Poles apart from his previous venture ‘Gravity’ in scope and temperament, Alfanso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ is a study of the unraveling of a family told through the eyes of the housemaid who herself is in the midst of a personal turmoil. Rumoured to be based on the director’s childhood, ‘Roma’ is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the director’s vision. It is a love letter to the housemaid and his childhood told with evocative images and a deep empathy for the characters at the centre of the story. The movie is also remarkable for its attention to detail. ‘Roma’ is a universal movie that would not be out of place in any time or geography. Must see.

Movies I Saw This Week 

Cold War (Poland, 2018) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 9.0]

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Deviating from the norm, I have included this Polish movie in this section of the blog because I loved this movie. I believe that it is one of the best movies of the year and would easily walk into the top three of the year. It is a searing love story set against the Cold War. With remarkable lead performances and memorable cinematography, ‘Cold War’ is an instant classic which is on a higher pedestal than the director’s previous work ‘Ida’. The political shenanigans and the intrigue of ‘Cold War’ are heightened by the drama and passion that the director brings into the movie. Two star crossed lovers go through hell as they cling on to the last shreds of hope when villains in the form of circumstances and people envelop them. For all my experience of watching thousands of movies, I never saw the ending coming. The climax of the movie is something that will etch this movie in your mind for a long time. Must see.

Green Book (2018) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

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‘Green Book’ has been at the receiving end of a concerted campaign to discredit it ahead of the Oscars. Truth be told, this is the most topical film of the year with an excellent screenplay and commendable performances. Mahershala Ali is a shoo-in for the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the Oscars. ‘Green Book’ is a classic road movie which tells the true tale of an African American musician chauffeured by a Italian American in the racially volatile deep South during the 60s. ‘Green Book’ deals with important themes of racism, friendship and culture and emerges unscathed. The endearing movie is boosted by its charming sense of comedy. Overall, a very good movie which is worth your time.

Vice (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Adam Mckay holds back no punches is an all out assault on Dick Cheney in ‘Vice’. The director sticks to his signature style of film making which is a curious superimposition of the documentary style on a drama. Backed by first rate research, the movie reveals more about the events that catapulted Cheney into the driver’s seat in American politics and his links with the stakeholders. For the uninitiated, the movie also traces the depth of the relationship between the principal actors of the Bush-Cheney era. As a cinematic venture ‘Vice’ does fall flat on many occasions but it is a movie that needs appreciation for the mere fact that it was made.

The Favourite (2018) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]

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In a movie where all three female protagonists are evidently relishing the experience of acting to a fine script, ‘The Favourite’ tells the scheming that defined the reign of Queen Anne. Severely weighed down by her infirmities and declining health, Queen Anne is no more than a figurehead controlled by people with a plan. Her feeble attempts to assert herself only reveal the extent of her helplessness. Into the scene walks in another devious character played by Emma Stone and then all hell breaks loose. The director who rightfully receives an Oscar nomination does not paint the times in the class and elegance movies have tried to portray the times. There are frequent encounters with ‘other sections’ of the society. Ultimately, ‘The Favourite’ is a universal story of a seemingly powerful person in decline who is controlled by more nefarious elements. Realization comes late to the monarch and by then all possibilities of a course correction are exhausted. Highly recommended.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Based on a true story and a bestselling book, this movie is a subversive take on the market for memorabilia. A down on her luck author, played memorably by Melissa McCarthy, conjures up a scheme to make some easy money. The movie is more of a social commentary on characters at the fringe of the society. Their small joys and a life which lurches from one crisis to another is shown with care in the movie. Watch it for Melissa McCarthy.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Bohemian Rhapsody ticks all the boxes of a biopic but what elevates the movie are the sensational soundtrack and an award winning performance from Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Malek becomes Mercury and carries the movie on his shoulders from the first frame till the last one. The movie does not have any great surprises but is easy to watch and engaging. Recommended.

Widows (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 7.0]

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‘Widows’ from director Steve McQeen is a heist movie with several undertones. Four women find themselves at life’s crossroads when their partners are killed in a botched up heist. Some of them team up to finish the mission which took their partners’ lives without realizing that they are only foot soldiers in a larger plot. Deftly weaving politics, corruption and other criminal elements, ‘Widows’ proceeds with a rapidly mounting body count culminating in a implausible yet satisfying finale. A special mention for the performance of Viola Davis is warranted.

The Front Runner (2018) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Hugh Jackman plays a front-runner for the Democratic party’s ticket to challenge Ronald Reagan. The movie is based on the true story of Gary Hart who was consigned to the dustbin of history after the scandal that engulfed his campaign saw the wheels come off his juggernaut. The movie tries to play up the events in the story as a turning point in American politics but that argument does not hold up to scrutiny. The major problem with the movie is that Gary Hart is shown as a smooth talking politician with a vacuous personality lacking in any courage of conviction. His duplicity does not help the case of the movie.

Documentary of the Week

The Panama Papers (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

The inside story of the courageous journalism that drove the leak of the Panama papers. Could have been better but still worth a watch.

Eagerly waiting for: The Oscars

Did you know: The Golden Globes are decided by the 93 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association whereas the Academy Awards have more than 6,000 voters.

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Edition 71

The Non-English Movie of The Week

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

Assassination_(2015_movie)_poster)

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 ]

Oscarometro2016Spotlight

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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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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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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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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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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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.

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

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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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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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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

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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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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

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‘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

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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]

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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.

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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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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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]

This Is Where I Leave You

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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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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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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]

Horrible Bosses 2

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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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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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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.

Week 30

Movies: Non-English

My Life as a Dog (Sweden, 1985) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxzO8Qx96O4

This Swedish flick is about a dysfunctional family with the youngest child as the protagonist. A sick mother, an absentee father and a quarrelsome elder brother make life difficult for 12 year old Ingemar. There are beautiful distractions in the form of girls and Ingemar himself has a philosophical take everything, especially on the plight of the dog Laika sent to space. This bittersweet tale was a box office success in its transatlantic crossover in the US. Worth a watch.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (India, 2003) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL7U30ESYWk

This is a film close to my heart as I have met versions of the characters portrayed in the movie. It is set in the Emergency era Delhi. The lives of three college friends are intertwined by love, ambition and politics. It is a poignant story and the life of each character is worth an analysis as the movie progresses. The performances are exceptional, with Shiney Ahuja stealing the show. How sad that such a huge talent was wasted. Moving on, the movie is the most authentic representation of life in the 70s in India. The political churning is in stark contrast to the opulence of the Delhi upper crest. The music and songs are befitting for the movie; the track ‘Baanwara man dekhne chala ek sapna’ being one of my personal favourites. In my opinion, one of the best movies to have come out of India in the last decade.

English Retrospective

American Beauty (1999) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3ltyPJJMQ

This is Sam Mendes’ feature debut as a director and he won an Oscar for it. This one is also on a dysfunctional family, the head of which is played by Kevin Spacey. He is a man of many secrets and is facing a mid life crisis. He develops a liking for the friend of his daughter and from there on it is all downhill. The film is remarkable for its engaging screenplay and the rock solid story it wants to tell. The climax will take you by surprise. Recommended.

The Cider House Rules (1999) [IMDB; 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4D2Hog1tEA

Charlize Theron and Tobey Maguire light up the screen in this slow burning story set in an orphanage and among apple orchards. Though I believe that the 7 Oscar nominations the movie received were too many, the two wins it had for Screenplay and Supporting Actor were well deserved. Michael Caine deservedly won the Oscar for this one but it is a movie which tests your patience. Recommended only for the discerning viewer.

Donnie Darko (2001) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

donnie darko

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

An underrated and not widely viewed cult classic horror movie. The lead character sees a rabbit which makes him commit crimes. It is one of those movies which you have to view with rapt attention if you do not want to miss the finer points. Jake Gyllenhaal shows early promise in this film. This film is more spooky than scary but then utilizing grey cells is always better than having an adrenaline spike.

Movies I Saw This Week

Despicable Me 2 (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

despicable-me-2-poster-01

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

Maybe it is just me but I feel that all protagonists in animation movies are similar. The happy go lucky guy who is good at wisecracking. ‘Despicable Me 2’ is just another animation film which does nothing to set it apart from the few top notch animation movies released every year. The plot involves a villain who needs to be fought. If it wasn’t an animation movie, I would have have avoided it like the plague. Giving it the benefit of doubt, I would rate it above average.

The River Why (2010) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 31%]

river why

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV5o7L4_DYU

I guess the ‘Why’ in the title was added by studio executives who could not figure out why they funded this film. The story has a man choose solitude and fly-fishing over everything else. In the process he also gets a girlfriend (Amber Heard). The best thing about the movie is the tintinnabulation the river makes. Enjoy the landscape. Don’t pay attention to the people on screen.

Norman (2010) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

norman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJFs4WIE9yw

A  troubled teen with suicidal tendencies meets a new girl in school. He also has a father awaiting death. The movie is let down by the heavy handed direction and sloppy background score. The script and dialogues are good but then it falters as it moves forward. The finale is as good as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

bigger stronger

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

The drug problem in American sports told through the eyes of a very level headed competitor. This was before Lance Armstrong revealed that he had lied strong. Must watch. Live strong, play fair.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ because it took so long to make, it better be good.

Did you know: Louis Lumiere, one of the pioneers of cinema, is credited with directing 101 movies between the period 1892-1900.

Week 28

Movies: Non-English

The Violin ( Mexico, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

violin

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVI4GjFkEq8

Quite possibly the best Mexican film of the last decade. The only soft thing onscreen is a violin, in a story which deals with the use of brute government force to crush dissent by a group of rebels. The heroism of the rebels is in stark contrast to unapologetic use of violence by the government forces which makes the film a difficult one to watch. Involving some of the most graphic and realistic scenes of violence you will ever see in a film, this one is ultimately worth the effort.

The 400 Blows ( France, 1959) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

400 blows

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i89oN8v7RdY

Francois Truffaut‘s masterpiece is one of the movies integral to the French ‘New Wave’. The story of a boy who is a victim of his circumstances remains timeless even half a century after its release. In the end, it is also a reminder that strong screenplay and an engaging story are the hallmarks of true classics. A must watch if you have any interest in international cinema.

English Retrospective

Mulholland Drive (2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

mulholland-drive

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96R9MG0DxLc

This acclaimed film from David Lynch is one of the most discussed movies because of the way it leaves itself open to interpretations. If you read the numerous discussions on the movie you will be confused by what the movie wants to say. This has not been helped by the director’s refusal to clarify on what he meant to make but at the same time this is not a movie you can trash. The only thing that can be said with certainty about the plot is that there is a car crash and the victim suffers emotionally from it. The rest of the story is very much open to interpretation and you will be  certainly hooked on as the narrative progresses.

Election (1999) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Election

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBgM_Kw6PSM

One of those easy to watch movies which raises itself a notch higher with the help of some fine acting and what I would bravely call as a story never told before. A high school teacher whose life is going nowhere is given the responsibility of handling the elections in his school. Only problem is that one of the candidates is a high achieving pushy character played with elan by Reese Witherspoon. Looking at the comedy that US politics has become, I guess they carry over the petty shenanigans of high school politics when they go to the Congress.

Life of Brian (1979) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

life of brian

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVHhg67RVd4

If ‘Life of Brian’ is made in almost any other country in the world, chances are it won’t see the light of the day. Quite obviously a hilarious take on Christ, it is only in USA that such unhindered freedom of speech would be possible. The end result is an outrageous and irreverent comedy that will make you ask for more.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Way Way Back (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomaoes: 88%]

way-way-back-banner

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwNo1i3jkCo

A coming off age story of a 14 year old boy who discovers himself during a summer vacation. The movie is very predictable but some nice touches make it interesting and engaging. Nothing extraordinary but there are some movies which are ordinary and good. This one belongs to that category.

Best Man Down (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

BEST-MAN-DOWN_413x612

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA1lAl9muuQ

The best man at a wedding dies on the night of the wedding. The newlyweds cancel the honeymoon and make arrangements for the funeral. It is then they discover who truly their dead friend was. A pretty decent flick which picks up in the second half. Sometimes you discover how good people were only after they die.

The Heat (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]

heat

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahGnefZTdq4

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play cops in this attempt at comedy which huffs and puffs as it plays out. There are some genuinely funny moments but then it fizzles out and does not live up to its initial promise.

War Chod Na Yaar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.9, Rotten Tomaotes: 57%]

war-chhod-na-yaar

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw1ELVWGamI

Who funds such movies? Who was stoned, the producer when he decided to make it or the writer when he hallucinated the idea?

Documentary Pick of the Week

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

outfoxed-rupert-murdochs-war-on-journalism-movie-poster-2004-1020227487

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w39FnpuMRfo

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has a right wing agenda. Fox News is a leading unit of that empire and all its claims of fair and balanced reporting are exposed in this documentary. Indian news channels sold out to the ruling party look like kids in front of the sophistication of the propaganda of networks like Fox.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ because it won Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013.

Did you know: Manna Dey and Bhupen Hazarika are the only two male playback singers to have won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest award in Indian cinema. RIP Manna Dey.