Week 32

Movies: Non-English

The Cranes are Flying (Russia, 1957) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

cranes are

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGsXmwPj0TA

This Russian classic is set during the Second World War. A young girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love when her lover is away in the battlefield. The most outstanding feature of the movie is the universally acclaimed cinematography. Some of the scenes have been shot so magnificently that they can be used to teach cinematography. Unlike many contemporary movies where beautiful images are confused for good cinematography, here the camera moves to create the right mood for the story. The story is not exceptional but holds your attention even after half a century. In addition to this some competent acting also helped the movie clinch the Palme D’or at Cannes. Must see if you want to know anything about Russian cinema.

The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, 1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Wind_Will_Carry_Us_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsS3sXwwwNo

An engineer moves into a rural community and it changes his outlook towards life and people. This Iranian tour de force is a reminder that Iran always punches above its weight in the world of cinema with a handful of exceptionally talented filmmakers. The film is a bit slow but like the Turkish film ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ reviewed a few weeks ago, it is not the story that matters but the setting. The landscapes are haunting and there is a wild beauty about them. For folks from the cities it is a reminder that time stands still in many places and in those places people take life as it comes.

English Retrospective

The Constant Gardener (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

constant gardener

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYXYzzng3Fo

A man tries to find out the reason for his wife’s murder and discovers more than what he had bargained for, in this film set in Africa. Ralph Fiennes brings his trademark intensity to his role as a man harrowed by guilt and searching for answers; in equal measure. The showstopper though, is the performance by Rachel Weisz who should be doing more of these kind of roles. She has a magnetic presence and  almost carries the whole film on her shoulders. Watch this deadly concoction of politics, espionage and corporate greed.

Trainspotting (1996) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

trainspotting-a16

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2GKVtWsXKY

One of my friends once told me that the scenes of drug abuse in ‘Trainspotting’ could only be shot by someone who has experienced it himself. I don’t know whether Danny Boyle has ‘experience’ in this category but in the process he made arguably his finest movie in ‘Trainspotting’. The protagonist and his friends are habitual drug abusers in this story set in Scotland. He wants to get out of it all and make a decent living. Ewan McGregor, a regular with Danny Boyle, is in top form and his accent and and acting are pitch perfect.It is a story about friendship and group behaviour. For all its smugness and style, the movie is a psychological study of how certain characters behave under special circumstances. Must watch.

Big Fish (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

big fish

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3YVTgTl-F0

I would love to see a movie made by Tim Burton which has a story fully set in the real world. ‘Big Fish’ suffers from Burton’s tendency to go overboard when simplicity could have helped his cause. The film’s story has a man trying to recollect his father’s life through a series of anecdotes. The colourful man that his father was, there are too many things that don’t fit in the puzzle. The movie is quite good but is not helped by some uninspired acting. Like most of Burton’s movies, it leaves a feeling of having missed the woods for the trees.

Movies I Saw This Week

42 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

42

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9RHqdZDCF0

This film is based on the life of the first ever African-American Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson. I did not know about this true legend earlier. He was an icon of the civil rights movement and an inspiration for many. His on field behaviour was impeccable. His off field life was exceptional. The movie may not have done justice to him because it would be so difficult to capture the life of such an extraordinary man in a single film. Other wise it is a very good film to watch and one of the better ones to have come out in 2013. The deep divides in the US society during his period are exposed and it is on watching such movies that we realize how far we have come from those days of inequality. I literally had tears by the time the end credits started rolling. The movies ticks every cliche for a sports movie but then inspiration is a cliche I love.

Prisoners (2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

prisoners_ver6_xlg

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpXfcTF6iVk

I have only two complaints against ‘Prisoners’. One, that it is painfully slow. Second, that no matter what, everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and this dictum does not justify some horrible torture scenes in the movie. These apart, the movie is one of the best to have come out in 2013. The most remarkable thing is the high quality performances put in by every single person on screen. Hugh Jackman offers a new side to his acting as the charged up American who sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the shower. Maria Bello as his wife is outstanding. I wonder how she acts with such composure when they say ‘action’. Paul Dano is an exceptional talent and his choice of movies shows that he has the right priorities. Overall, an engrossing film to watch.

Ramleela (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]

ramleela1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StphRCLkx6Q

Imagine Sanjay Leela Bhansali in the black and white era. What would he be telling? Nothing, because without colour his movies mean nothing. After a string of flops he returns to Gujarat which had earlier saved him with ‘Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam’. He even dons the hat of the music director for RamLeela. I suggest that the next time he leave it to someone who knows the trade. Since finding new stories is tough for Indian film makers, Bhansali also relies on ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Now no one call that a bad story. Bhansali sets it in Gujarat and it is easily understandable that the movie is shot in a set than in Gujarat. The story is set in a village where people shoot at children for the fun of it. Seriously, not funny. The major selling point of the movie is that the hero bares his torso. Maybe the women like it because I thought that Deepika Padukone looked stunning. The end is a disgrace to Shakespeare. (Spoilers ahead) Lovers kissing with guns pointed at each other? Are you kidding? Put them aside. Finish the kiss and then shoot each other. Take your own time. Shakespeare must have turned in his grave.

Documentary Pick of the Week

The Island President (2011) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]

island pres

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

Mohammad ‘anni’ Nasheed came to power in Maldives in its first open election is 2008 dethroning Gayoom who ruled for 30 years prior to that. He recognized that the very existence of his nation would be in peril if measures to control global warming were not taken. The documentary captures his efforts in that direction. The unrestrained access that the filmmakers got gives a peek into the behind the scenes deliberations at government level. The setting is Maldives. So the images are beautiful. Too bad that Mr. Nasheed lost the reelection bid in 2013.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Frozen’ because animation needs to wake up from the hibernation mode.

Did you know: The Golden Globes are awarded by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Advertisements

Week 26

Movies: Non-English

Le Samouraï (France, 1967) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

samourai

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs0XYssIlbo

An assassin who is at the top of his game suddenly finds the tide turning against him. The same qualities that made him a force may cause his downfall. Stylishly shot movie which is able to achieve the deadpan look which many other movies try so hard to achieve. A must watch. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that the title ‘Kamikaze’ would have been more apt.

All About My Mother (Spain, 1998) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

all about

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkUMC5Jw8MA

Pedro Almodovar is a great story teller but the most noticeable trait of his movies is the presence of strong female characters. Here, the usual dose of Spanish flair is an asset to the movie which moves at a rapid pace. The story is that of a single mother trying to cope with her son’s death. She is also forced to confront her own demons. The film scooped the Academy award for the ‘Best Foreign Language film’ after having tasted commercial success in Spain.

English Retrospective

Requiem for a Dream (2000) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

requiem

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgo3Hb5vWLE

One of the most depressing movies you will ever see. Four addicts who want to have a better life go down the drain as they are unable to battle their dependence on drugs. The movie is shot in a rather disconcerting way and is like a visit to hell and back. The performances are uniformly classy. A special mention must be made of Ellen Burstyn who as the mother puts in an unforgettable performance. One of the best movies you will ever see.

Pulp Fiction (1994) [ IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

pulp fiction

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

Director Quentin Tarantino is a self confessed fan of B grade slasher movies and action flicks. The good thing is that he shows his love for violence by making high quality classics which revel in violence and action. ‘Pulp Fiction’ is perhaps his most accomplished work and one of the most important movies of the 90s. The movie gave a new grammar to the method of making movies. With actors who act as if they were born to perform their roles, the move is a tour de force. This is one movie which you should watch if you claim to have any interest in movies.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

edward

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq2PPFUhfpo

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many occasions with mixed results. This movie is perhaps the best that they have produced together. Johnny stars as Edward who has scissors for hands. He falls in love with kleptomaniac (in real life, that is) Winona Ryder. Though Depp tries his best to emote this is not his best performance. He is able to draw the sympathy towards his character but that is all what he is able to do. Still, a rather interesting film for the novelty of the idea.

Movies I Saw This Week

Mud (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Mud French Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFBC8ohhVUs

Matthew McConaughey has been the most consistent star in the last three years delivering remarkable movies starting with ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ in 2011. As they say, he saved the best for the last. ‘Mud’ is undoubtedly his most accomplished film with a solid story and screenplay that makes you wonder whether it is inspired by true events. Here McConaughey plays a man on the run from the law who makes a pact with two boys to help him escape. The locations are authentic and McConaughey looks the part. He deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance. All this adds up to one of the best films of 2013. Truth be told, it is difficult to find such movies anymore. Therefore, a must watch.

Disconnect (2012) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

disconnect

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqCcQOlDM4o

‘Disconnect’ is basically a lesson on internet. It is a movie for the beginners on what not to do on the net. Otherwise, it is a movie on incredibly naive people who have no idea what they are doing when they post personal stuff on the net and pass it on to complete strangers. The editing is tacky and the background score does not aid the setting. I did not find the movie much impressive but from the popular response it seems I am in the minority.

Besharam ( India, 2013)[ IMDB: 3.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 18%]

Besharam_movie_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzPjjqiG918

Finally, a Bollywood movie which lives up to its title. Shameless. The sentimental story of an orphan who has a heart of gold. Just kidding. The stupid story of an orphan who likes to steal cars for a living and steals the car of the girl he is chasing. The girl is also so filthy rich that she drives the latest Mercedes (poor idea of product placement) and then starts loving the guy who stole her car. Moral of the story: If the girl who you like does not like you,steal her car. Drive her around (in your car) long enough to make her love you. Then confess and return her car. Crack some crude jokes and when you are stuck on what to do next, start a song. Voila, you have a film.

Phata Poster Nikla Hero (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

phata

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCrNoy5OeOI

The only thing I liked about the movie is the title of the movie. I hope Shahid Kapoor goes the Abhishek Bachchan way. That is, I hope he makes enough flops that he stops getting movies.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Restrepo (2010) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

Restrepo_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DjqR6OucBc

War in Afghanistan. A year with those fighting it. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ because it is a Coen Brothers film.

Did you know: Co-director of ‘Restrepo’, Tim Hetherington, was killed on April 20, 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya.