Week 23

Movies: Non-English

The White Balloon ( Iran, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

white balloon

The whole movie at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6G5vLObkuw

This is the debut feature of Jafar Panahi who has had to fight a witch hunt by the conservative Iranian establishment over the years. Like all his films, this one is also a simple tale. A  girl goes to the market to buy goldfish. Like many Iranian films this one also relies heavily on the histrionics of child actors. Though they make excellent actors, it requires immense patience to direct children who throw tantrums at regular intervals. In ‘This is not a film’, one of Panahi’s works, he shows the difficulty of directing the protagonist in the White Balloon.  All I can say is that it is worth the pain and effort. Highly recommended.

Vincere ( Italy, 2009) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomaotes: 92%]

vincere-2009-brrip

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeaRJxJcp7E

This is the true story of Mussolini’s secret lover and his child with her. Covering an issue kept under wraps till now, this films is more insightful for the revelations about the early life of Mussolini. Mussolini was a turncoat and an opportunist who frequently changed his ideology to meet the mood of the populace. His disowning of his son and his megalomaniac nature are exposed in this film. The movie has the feel of an epic. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is absolutely stunning as she is in many films. It is a shame that she has not really made it big in Hollywood. Recommended only for those who have an interest in politics.

English Retrospective

Airplane! (1980) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

airplane

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07pPmCfKi3U

Whoever says that the 80s were about bad college romances should take a look at this dangerously funny movie. Propriety is thrown out of the window as quirky characters make a flight little more than exciting. Involving gags that hold back nothing, this is a comedy you should not miss.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

planes-trains-and-automobiles

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNWx7_tZRcI

A man has to reach home for Thanksgiving. His determination to be home is matched only by the difficulties he must overcome to be with his family. Add to this mix a stranger who specializes in creating chaos. What you get is a John Hughes movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy in roles that seem tailor made for them. The film has been an inspiration for many other road movies. It is also one of the best roles of John Candy, who died young at the age of 44. It makes me wonder at the glorious possibilities of what could have a stellar career. To be sure, he did memorable work in the movies he was in. In this one, he is even better than Steve Martin in the comedy department and that is something few can claim to be.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

kramer vs kramer

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNLcfJ06y34

Any movie with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep needs no introduction. Here they play a couple who were once in love but now face a battle for the custody of their only child. Sentimental without being melodramatic, this film was a surprise winner at the Oscars, collecting 5 of them. Strong screenplay and directing only add to the performances of Streep and Hoffman. A masterclass in acting.

Movies I Saw This Week

Jobs (2013) [IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 26%]

jobs

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx-PC1KZS3Y

There are some movies which do not make anyone happy. ‘Jobs’ is one such movie. Steve Jobs had a lot of admirers during his lifetime for making a cult out of a brand. On the other side, he was universally despised by almost all who came in contact with him. He was also a complex character who refused accept his love child and refused to pay for child support but later started supporting her. This movie is Steve Jobs for dummies because beyond that it does not provide anything insightful about his life. The focus is on boardroom battles and personality clashes and not on innovation or design. Ashton Kutcher is a poor actor and he should stick to oddball romantic comedies. His depiction of the older Jobs walking with a stoop is painful to watch. The worst crime of the movie is that it does not shed any light on the products that made Jobs famous. The movie ends with Jobs second home coming to Apple. That is as good as making a movie on Bill Gates without mentioning Windows.

Adore (2013) [ IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

adore

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjGaV0CEBR0

Two close friends who are mothers of teenage sons fall in love with each other’s sons. I guess they had to just come up with something provocative. The saving grace is that Naomi Watts and Robin Wright look absolutely marvelous and their acting is top notch. Otherwise there is nothing to waste your time on. I guess they just made it over a holiday. Surely a miss.

What Maisie Knew (2012) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

what maisie

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmvojT6yX9A

A girl is at the center of a bitter custody battle between her parents. The best thing about the movie is that it is told through the eyes of the child and there are numerous moments when the camera tells the story without the aid of dialogues. It also has very well written characters who are normal people with shades of grey. One interesting thing about the movie is that the way you perceive the characters changes as the movie progresses. The foul mouthed mother has a soft side to her and the drug addict turns out to be a genial character. Recommended.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

IF

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtyY0CXdiNo

A filmmaker friend of a murder victim decides to make a film on him when he gets to know that his friend’s ex-girlfriend is pregnant with the dead man’s child. The intention is to pay a tribute to his friend and also introduce the child to his father. Devastating. One of the saddest documentaries I have ever seen.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Rush’ because Ron Howard returns with a film on Formula 1.

Did you Know: Elizabeth Taylor married 8 times, twice to Richard Burton.

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Week 22

Movies: Non-English

No Man’s Land ( Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

no man's

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL8IF6431n4

In India, the claim to fame of this movie is its triumph over ‘Lagaan’ at the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. If you watch this movie you will understand why ‘Lagaan’ stood no chance. ‘No Man’s Land’ is quite possibly the best movie to have come out from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the conflict in the region. It does not shy away from exposing the farce that the war had become in the region. A bunker in a neutral territory is the stage for the film. Aided by strong writing and witty dialogues, the film is a breeze to watch. It is also a reminder that a good war movie can be made without relying on technical wizardry. A must watch.

A Very Long Engagement (France,2004) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

very long

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

Audrey Tautou became the darling of the masses with ‘Amelie’. Here, she collaborated again with the director of that movie to mixed success. The story is that of a lady who goes in search of her soldier fiance who does not return after the war. ‘A Very Long Engagement’ is a finely shot film. It is a visual treat but the moment the story starts you get a feeling that it is a feel good film that will definitely have a happy ending. On this count, the director does not disappoint. I would have loved it if it had been a tragedy but then the film takes the easy exit route. Audrey Tautou is there in almost every frame and she does justice to her role. Some technical jugglery becomes evident as we go along and this does not impress if you are a careful viewer. For example, the shots in which the train is shown give you a feeling that it was shot just once and then cut and pasted in different scenes. Even the background sound is the same. For its 133 minute duration, it is a very long movie for a very short story.

English Retrospective

Parenthood (1989) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

parenthood

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgrbuRNc-AQ

This life affirming comedy tells the story of a family over a summer. Boasting a cast of some exceptional actors, the film delves into the different character types who form part of a big family of four siblings. The best thing about the movie is that all the characters are so well etched out that each of them stands out. The pivot is Steve Martin in arguably his best movie role. I feel that the movie is a tribute to the ordinary people who go about their lives and contribute to the society taking in their stride the ups and downs of life. My impression of the movie has only increased over time. It is not a movie you will easily forget.

The Guns of Navarone (1961) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

The Guns of Navarone collectors edition DVD

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhQvkPMNt70

Columbia Pictures had the audacity to claim in 1961 that ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was the most exciting film that people will ever get to see. Times have changed. The claim looks silly now but in 1961 that was not the case and to be sure, it did excite people when it was released. I have heard oldies discuss this film with passion and harping back to the good old days. Though technically it is a dinosaur, its dialogues and screenplay still make it a treat to watch. Gregory Peck is in his second best film role (the first will always be ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) adds class to this movie in which he leads a mission to destroy Nazi cannons in an island in the Aegean sea during the Second World War. Soon it becomes evident that there is a traitor in the group. As if fighting the Nazis was not enough, they also have to find the mole in the group. Exciting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

nightmare

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdb_HSvf2Zk

“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” That dialogue is the key to this movie from the master of horror films Wes Craven. Frankly, I was a little confused after watching it for the first time because if you don’t watch with full attention you may find it difficult to make sense of the climax but there is no confusion on it being one of the best horror movies to be ever made. The movie turns spooky by blurring the line between reality and nightmares. Did that just occur or did you imagine it?

Movies I Saw This Week

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%]

kick-ass-2-poster1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMbwxbgv8U

This film is a reaffirmation of my belief that Rotten Tomatoes ratings are closer to reality than the IMDB ratings. IMDB voting, I believe, is done primarily by teenagers who cannot distinguish between class and crap. It is exactly to this kind of audience that this sequel to a widely liked movie caters. It looks more like a satire or a parody on superhero movies with customary references to Youtube and Justin Bieber. Dialogues are way off the mark with gems like ” I’d rather be waterboarded than listen to Justin Bieber”. This, before the lady is turned on by a video featuring Bieber lookalikes. Whereas Kick-Ass had violence as a means to an end, here violence is the end itself. Characters are trigger happy and entering into violent duels is perhaps the favourite hobby of the characters. The movie seems to be confused whether it wants to pay homage to Hollywood’s obsession with dressed up superheroes or make fun of them. What was the scriptwriter thinking of when he came up with the name of the principal villain? I guess this movie may be for the kids of trigger happy conservative Republicans in the Christian belt of USA. Jim Carrey shows his true class by signing on the dotted line for this project. Avoid this film like the plague.

The World’s End (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

world's end

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF-4c8U-mUI

Simon Pegg teams up with his co-writer and director Edgar Wright after the success of ‘Hot Fuzz’. Simon’s character realizes at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that he had left his pub crawl unfinished when he was a teenager 20 years ago. He meets up with his buddies and cajoles them to do the thing all over again. Once in their hometown they realize that things are not what they expected them to be. The story takes a bizarre turn and the film turns into a thriller with the group now given the onerous responsibility of (what else) saving the world. The witty dialogues and banter keep the show going till this point. After that it is a big yawn. The action scenes are well choreographed and that is the best praise I can come up with for the second half of the movie,

World War Z (2013) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

World-War-Z

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcwTxRuq-uk

Humans are facing an existential crisis. Don’t worry because USA is there. With a little help from Israel and Britain they will save the world. What could have been a really good thriller is spoiled by the overt attempt to fit the narrative in line with the US worldview. Truth be said, it is a pacy thriller with some really horrifying scenes. If you get sucked into the story it is more terrifying that the horror film of the year ‘The Conjuring’. The scenes are shot excellently and I would be surprised if the movie does not get at least an Oscar nomination for Production Design. The weakest link is Brad Pitt. His acting, it seems, has been affected by the dual responsibility of being a producer and an actor. He sleep walks through the role as if he knows the climax (and he surely does). Even in the most terrifying scenes he does not show any panic. Now coming to the red flags with regard to international politics. You see, Israel is justified in building large boundary walls so that they can keep the aliens (read ‘Palestinians’) out. North Korea, being a dictatorship, can remove the teeth of  all 23 million people in less than 24 hours, a mathematically improbable event (you do the math, I have done mine) so as to escape the pandemic. Of all the airlines in the world, the protagonist must escape on the plane of ‘Belarus Airlines’ (another dictatorship). The hero’s family must rescue a Spanish speaking boy along because there should be something for the American amigos to cherish after Mexico city has been lost. UN Under Secretary works to save only Americans. A Harvard greenhorn mutters something before dying and that conveniently becomes the principle on which the great American mind of Brad Pitt solves the entire issue. The rest of the world must be full of dumb idiots. Maybe a Nobel Peace Prize for Brad Pitt like his President? As his President showed, sometimes you just have to be alive to get one.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Confessions of a Superhero (2007) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

confessions

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsAQ9nVZrJ8

The story of four people who make a living dressing up as superheroes on the Hollywood boulevard. Moving. In its own unique way.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Thanks for Sharing’ because it could be hot.

Did you know: The most popular movies in Africa are produced in Nigeria and the local industry is called ‘Nollywood’.