Edition 97

The Non-English Movie of The Week

In the Aisles (Germany, 2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 6.0]

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This German flick is about a young man finding his way through life while learning the ropes in his new job at the supermarket. He develops an infatuation for one of his colleagues and the story is hinged on this premise. The movie does turn tedious at times and a fast forward button on your remote may be highly useful while watching it. There are two ways of looking at this movie. The considerate view is that it is a tender, thoughtful and empathetic piece of film making. The less charitable view is that it is akin to watching Manchester United play: a slow dross.

Movies I Saw This Week

Ad Astra (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Ad-Astra means ‘to the stars’. The movie is mostly confined to the solar system. Philosophically, the movie borrows heavily from ‘Apocalypse Now’ with a plot strikingly similar to one of the best movies ever made. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut tasked with meeting his father who is stationed a few planets away. In the “near future” when space travel is a long haul flight with transit points, Pitt sets out to solve the issues facing mankind and to put to rest his inner demons. The background score is excellent. Brad Pitt gives probably the best performance of his life. The technological capabilities are evident. The movie, though, is less than the sum of its parts.

Joker (2019) [IMDB: 9.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 8.0]

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A city on the verge of collapse. Filthy streets, crumbling infrastructure, walls and windows ridden with graffiti and the terminal decline of social security. Sounds familiar? Well, this is the Gotham in which the origin story of Joker is set. A struggling yet decent man trying to cope with his mental illness loses the plot as he is abused by the society and finds his social support brutally cut short. Mayhem ensues as he becomes the worst version of himself. Watch ‘Joker’ for one of the most spectacular acting performances of all time. Joaquin Phoenix is sensational in this dark tale and the camera is an observer of his antics in every frame of the movie. If you can stomach the violence and keep your eyes on the performance of Phoenix, this is a movie that is more than worth your time.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) [IMDB: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]

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The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It is just a prop to string together encounters with various stars and get them to play along to the scripted interviews. If you are fan of the mock interview series ‘Between Two Ferns’, there is more than enough in this movie to have a few good laughs. Some of the humour is juvenile but some hit the bull’s eye .I would have liked it if they had more from stars like Keanu Reeves. Recommended strictly for the fans.

Yesterday (2019) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

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Danny Boyle has some obsession with Maliks. His protagonist in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was Jamal Malik. In ‘Yesterday’ the lead’s name is Jack Malik. Maybe it is some cheeky reference but if it is some superstition he cannot be faulted for it. ‘Yesterday’ is inching towards 200 million dollars at the box office, becoming Boyle’s second biggest hit since ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The plot is about the Malik who one day finds out that he is the only one in this world who remembers ‘The Beatles’. His fledgling singing career which was on life support suddenly has a reversal. The movie is a throwback to the hysteria that surrounded the pop group. The plot of the movie is all over the place but the music is just phenomenal. Watch ‘Yesterday’ for the evergreen music.

Crawl (2019) [IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating: 6.0]

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‘Crawl’ delivers what it promises. It is a product of the branch of movie factory which pits man against nature. The alligators here could have been sharks, extraterrestrials, snakes, bears, foxes, monkeys, dragons or piranhas. Add a bit of a natural disaster like a hurricane or a flood (add lots of water). Just as in a video game, add few constraints. There you have the formula for a summer blockbuster. ‘Crawl’ is a hit. It ticks every box for a disaster movie. Funnily enough, it is not a boring film. One every few years is worth a watch and the best part is that ‘Crawl’ is not shoddily made. Enough praise. You get the drift.

Midsommar (2019) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 7.0]

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‘Midsommar’ is about a group of American friends who go to Sweden to live in a commune for a short period of time. This movie is a horror movie if you take it seriously, especially the second half of it. If you are not concerned for the group by the second half, then you may see more humour than horror in this movie. The standout performance is from Florence Pugh as the young woman recovering from a personal tragedy and going through cycles of mental illness. The most shining aspect of the movie is the way it treats her condition. The movie per se, leaves room for many metaphors. This is a very subjective film. Some may find meanings unknown and angles unexplored in this mostly riveting flick but the others may be uninterested as it hurtles towards its very predictable climax.

The Mustang (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

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‘The Mustang’ is about a convict who is given the responsibility of taming and domesticating a wild mustang as part of his prison duties. Revelations about his crime and him finding solace in the process form the crux of the story. This is a thoroughly likable film with good acting and fine direction. My only grouse is again with the languid pace of the proceedings.

Late Night (2019) [IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, My Rating: 6.5 ]

Trailer

Emma Thompson is usually at her best in verbose performances. She has a lot of dialogues in this movie in which she plays an embattled late night show host unwilling to ride into the sunset. To spice things up and shore up her ratings she is forced to hire a new writer for her writing team. Mindy Kaling plays that writer. Mindy Kaling also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Therefore, no prizes for guessing who gets the most screen time. Otherwise, it is a watchable and mostly benign movie which does nothing earth shattering.

Documentary of the Week

Diego Maradona (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 8.5]

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If anyone asks you to choose a place and day to do some time travel, Naples on 10 May 1987 would be a good choice. The sheer agony and ecstasy of being Diego Maradona captured like never before. As they say in the movie, you don’t know what you have missed.

Eagerly waiting for: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

Did you know: Joaquin Phoenix and River Phoenix were the first brothers to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting.

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Edition 78

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors of this generation. This movie is another proof of her acting prowess. She fills every frame of the movie and keeps the suspense going. There are shades of Basic Instinct, an earlier work of the director. The basic story is that of the protagonist playing a cat-and-mouse game with her unknown rapist. The complexity of the film is created by the numerous subplots  which are interlinked. The complicated back story of the protagonist  and her subsequent mistrust of police aid in storytelling. In the end all the subplots fall into place like that of a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe, it is this comfortable ending that won the film the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, My Rating: 7.0]

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There’s something about Meryl Streep which keeps the viewer engaged even in a mediocre movie.  ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ has no claim to greatness  but it is carried solely by the form shoulders of Meryl Streep ably supported by Hugh Grant.  For a director who won Meryl Streep last Best Actress Oscar for ‘The Queen’,  this is definitely not an improvement. The director is definitely successful in creating sympathy for Florence Foster Jenkins but the masses couldn’t care less for the fate of a troubled aristocrat. A movie on the world’s worst opera singer compares favorably with a movie on the world’s worst director. The latter titled ‘Ed Wood‘ was definitely a better work of art. At least, it had self-doubt.

Sully (2016) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

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Trailer

Clint Eastwood makes great movies. Tom Hanks  acts in great movies. Their combination to tell the story of an American hero in Captain Chesley Sullenberger is one of the best movies of the year. Like some of the previous Clint Eastwood movies there is no attempt at making the movie dramatic. At the same time, the movie cannot be classified as a character study as it only scratches the surface. Nevertheless, Tom Hanks pulls off with elan the role of a hero who is not aware of his heroic act.  Aaron Eckhart plays the best role of his life as the co-pilot. The thing about the ‘Miracle On Hudson’ is that it is one of those events which can hardly be ever repeated. Even the recreation of the movie isn’t enough to convince the viewer about the possibility of such an event. Perhaps that is where the movie had its task cut out and perhaps that is where it is not entirely successful. A shorter film of one hour would have done more justice to the plot.

Hell or High Water (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year Hell or High Water is supported by a cast comprising of thespians like Jeff Bridges Chris Pine.  Set in the forgotten parts of America and resembling a Western, the high point of the movie is that it resists the urge to pull out the gun on various occasions. The simmering tension of the movie is felt till the last frame. Concurrently the movie makes a bold statement on the plight of Americans left behind by the forces of capitalism. Most of the anger is directed at big banks who seem to get away with murder. Consequently, bank robberies form the central theme of the movie. The story is that of two brothers who rob the same bank they owe, to avoid foreclosure. In between all the gloom and doom there are also some subtle humor like in the restaurant where the waiter  knows a limited menu.  Alas, the movie is a reaffirmation of the fact that Jeff Bridges is one of the finest actors alive today. Must watch.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 6.5]

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Following the success of his debut feature ‘What we do in the shadows’, the director’s second feature, ‘The hunt for the wilderpeople’, is a letdown. Indeed there are moments of humor in the movie but some of it seems forced and especially unexpected from a young child. The style of direction is a cross between that of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The movie tries to address some of the social issues but it soon turns to a farce. Set in the picturesque  mountains of New Zealand, it is also a peep into the life of the people at the margins of the society. I had a feeling that I had seen similar movies set in the America of 1980s. The only saving grace for the movie is that it does not bore the wits out of the viewer. The burden of high expectations seems to have taken a toll on the director.

The Light Between the Oceans (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The undeniable beauty of ‘The Light Between the Oceans’ is compromised by the cringingly sentimental storyline. Boasting such performers like Michael Fassbender, Alicia vikander and Rachel Weisz, The movie is unable to tap into the talent at its disposal.  By the second half, the movie sets  out on a predictable path. The film tells the tale of a young childless couple who one day find a baby marooned at sea. Some movies have difficult choices to make. The options at their disposal are equally worthwhile. Choosing one over the other is so precarious an exercise that this undermines the whole tale. That is the malady which effects this movie.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, My Rating: 6.5]

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The debacle at Deepwater Horizon was one of the biggest tragedies of the oil industry. From the BP CEO who infamously said, ” I’d like to have my life back” to the frontline soldiers of the company who lost their lives, the movie captures an event, the wounds of which are yet to heal.  Deepwater Horizon documents the events that happened on the fateful day of the tragedy. The template is the standard one used for all the disaster movies.  No great acting chops are expected yet competent performances are delivered. The movie captures the horror of the tragedy without deviating from the standard storyline. The movie is not particularly illuminating but some of it needs to be heard and seen.

War Dogs (2016) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, My Rating: 6.5]

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This movie could have been titled ‘It Happens Only in America’. Two neophytes receive a 300 million dollar defense contract. What follows is a series of games involving  arms traders and phoney businessmen. Jonah Hill is the big fat  dealer who will stop at nothing. The improbable story covers countries like Jordan, Albania and Iraq and is essntially the juvenile version of ‘Lord of War’. The film could have been taut and this aspect is particularly conspicuous. Otherwise, a decent watch.

The Siege of Jadotville (2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, My Rating: 6.5]

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This is the type of African tale which must be told.  Unfortunately they could have chosen a better story to tell.  Set in 1960s Congo in the midst of a Civil War,  the movie captures the fate of neutral United Nations Peacekeeping Force which does not receive support from the government, the opposition or the rebels. To make matters worse, they don’t even  receive support from the United Nations.  They are pawns in a bigger political game whic involves mining companies, colonial powers, world superpowers and a fledgling government. They are left to battle for survival against formidable odds.  The low production quality of Netflix is evident in this movie. Unfortunately, it is a story about heroes who need to be remembered and it does not get the treatment it deserves.

Don’t Think Twice (2016) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

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‘Don’t Think Twice’ is one of the best movies of the year  until the last 10 % of the movie  when it gets  cloyingly sweet.  The movie has freshness written all over it. It tells the tale of a group of actors and how the Dynamics between them changes when one of them is chosen for a starring role in a television program. The movie is littered with instances of wit and humor. The young actors in the movie give it the credibility  it seeks. Recommended.

Documentary of the Week

Weiner (2016) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

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Anthony Weiner was once the young Turk among democrats. His fall from grace and the unraveling of his personal life are captured in this intimate documentary. One of the best documentaries of the year.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘A United Kingdom’ which tells the true life story of a Botswanian prince who married a British lady.

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Did you know: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.