La Llorona (Guatemala, France 2020)[IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]
‘La Llorona’ is billed as a horror movie. It is nothing like the scary movies that we are used to watching. There are no edge of the seat moments. There are no scenes with loud music and also no startling scenes whatsoever. It is the elegance of the movie and the ideas of guilt and retribution that make this a horror movie. The story is about the crimes of men and what they can get away with in societies where many women are enablers to the atrocities. ‘La Llorona’ is about a General whose victims come to haunt him. The movie is set in Guatemala with a clearly broken down justice system, but would not feel out of place in any society where the mechanisms of justice do not operate. A special mention must be made of the director who gives shining example of what a good director brings to a movie. Watch this and you will remember it for a long time.
Movies I Saw This Week
The Nest (2020)[IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 8.0]
A man who once had a million dollars but is on a rapid downward spiral finds it difficult to reconcile with reality in this hard hitting social drama. ‘The Nest’ is a remarkable film even when you get the feeling that you have seen similar scenes in other movies. The characters are well defined and their motivations and backgrounds are clearly laid out. The thing that struck me about this movie is the relevance of some of the earlier scenes to the latter half of the movie and the finesse with which the makers have blended in those scenes. For example, the scene where Jude Law’s character shows the picture to his mother, you realize that the character wanted that picture in a particular way when it was taken. ‘The Nest’ is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching even when some of the scenes get a tad discomforting to watch. Higly recommended.
One Night in Miami (2020)[IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, My Rating: 7.0]
Hyped to be a strong contender for the Academy awards, this film does not translate well the exciting synopsis of a fictional meeting of four African-American legends. Cassius Clay is on the verge of becoming Muhammed Ali with some prodding from Malcolm X when they have a night with singer Sam Cooke and American Football legend Jim Brown. They discuss a buffet of issues which ends up the way you would expect: tasting a lot many dishes without eating most of them in any good quantity. There is nothing about this movie that catches ones eye. There is not even a single memorable scene. The movie neither floats like a butterfly nor stings like a bee.
News of the World (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.0]
Tom Hanks teams up with Paul Greengrass in a safe film which plays from start to end without any major surprises or hiccups. It is a smoothly edited movie which looks good especially with the scenery in between dialogues. Otherwise it trudges a path uncomplicated and limited in ambition. Tom Hanks plays an ex-army man who makes a living reading news to people in the wild west. He is tasked with taking a rescued blonde girl back to her family. One must be a particularly naive viewer to think that Hanks will not succeed in his mission. In between some cartoonish scenes of him trying to rouse a mini rebellion through news reading, there is some good acting in the movie but the face that you should be focusing on is the young lady who will get an Oscar nomination for supporting actress. Eventually, that will be the only reason this movie will be remembered.
Har Kisse Ke Hisse: Kaamyaab (2020)[IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: NA, My Rating: 8.0]
I saw this movie in 2020. It is, in my mind, the best Hindi film of 2020. It deserves more praise and viewership than what it has already received. Sanjay Mishra plays that once in a lifetime role in this homage to and celebration of the small time actor. A small time actor who leads a retired life and whose claim to fame is a single dialogue, is reinvigorated by the prospect of reaching an acting milestone. The film takes you on a journey of Bollywood dominated by the concept of the superstar where nobody else matters. The movie has good production values and is directed well. It is a breeze to watch and entertaining in the best way posssible. Please do watch it. By the way, that dialogue is, “Bas enjoying life, aur option hi kya hai.”
The Kid Detective (2020)[IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, My Rating: 7.0]
Talk about the burden of expectations. A kid who finds fame by solving cases through deductive reasoning finds it difficult to live upto his reputation as he enters adulthood. He is then given the task of solving a murder mystery. ‘The Kid Detective’ for large parts is a black comedy and a satire but as the story progresses things get serious but not that serious. Even though the murder mystery does get solved as you would expect, the real fun in the movie is the humour which the writer-director finds in good quantities throughout the movie. It is safe to say that you get suspense and humour in equal amounts: a two for the price of one deal. Not everyone likes such deals. In this case, I do.
Soul (2020)[IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 7.0]
‘Soul’ is heavily tipped to be the winner of the animation feature at the Oscars. It may even get a nomination for the original score. It tells the story of a man who is on the cusp of realising his dreams and then has to grapple with the origins of creativity and more heavy stuff. Frankly my dear, I did not like this movie much. It is just passable with a score that was too loud for my taste. Maybe, I did not ‘get it’ but that’s alright.
Documentaries of the Week
Collective (2020)[IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 9.0]
The toughest competition for the Oscar this year will be in the documentary section. There are at least ten documentaries that are good enough to win but I hope nothing is as good as ‘Collective’. It tells the story of corruption in the healthcare sector in Romania. More importantly, it is about journalism and politics. You have to fear for democracy when the crusaders against corruption are journalists at a sports publication. As an aside, I could not recollect a professional investigative article from any Indian newspaper in recent times. As for ‘Collective’, it is a spellbinding documentary. Do not miss.
The Mole Agent (2020)[IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 8.0]
An 83 year old is sent to spy on the residents of an old age home in Chile. I did not expect comedy in this documentary but I could not have been more wrong. There are some laugh out loud moments. The flip side is that as you would expect things are not rosy when someone is that old. The documentary does try its best to maintain its sense of balance. Poignant, funny, sad and much more. A must watch
Eagerly waiting for: ‘Old‘ from M Night Shyamalan.
Did you know: John Le Carre used to submit his books for official clearance before they were published. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold which was made into a movie in 1965 was cleared by officials as they thought that the story was too far away from real spywork whereas those who saw the movie thought that only someone who knew too much about spying could write that story.
Elle (France, 2016) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.5]
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.
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
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]
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’ 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]
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.
Did youknow: ‘La La Land’ now holds the record for the most Golden Globe wins by a film.
Like Someone in Love (Japan, 2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, My Rating:7.0 ]
Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami chose Tokyo as his setting for a film based on relations developed in the most unlikely places. An old man and a young lady develop a peculiar relationship in a short span of time; the fact that she is a call girl does not make matters easy. A slow burning piece like the director’s earlier work ‘ The Wind Will Carry Us‘, the story moves at a languid pace often testing the patience of the viewer. The movie does not rise and soar even when there are scenes which suggest the potential for course correction. The compelling part of the film is that a renowned filmmaker from Iran cannot make such a movie in Iran because of the general lack of the freedom of expression there. The whole saga of another Iranian Jafar Panahi who was banned from making movies for 20 years and his attempts to get around this ban is well documented.
Movies I Saw This Week
Spectre (2015) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, My Rating: 6.0]
The twenty fourth film of the Bond franchise is a damp squib with tired gags, stale screenplay, car chases which are as good as advertisements for the cars, an unusually insipid Daniel Craig and a poor villain who would not have received any attention from Bond in Bond’s heydays. The existential crisis for Bond is aggravated by the competition from a multitude of superheroes who have clearly demarcated audiences. After the brilliant reinvention of Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, two of the films that have followed have failed to inspire confidence. Only ‘Skyfall’ has been a face saver for Bond among the last three installments. ‘Spectre’ suffers from a story that meanders along and the direction of Sam Mendes suggests that he may be past his glory days of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’. In ‘Spectre’, Bond goes in search of an organization and he even gets a ring with the trademark logo of the organization. A terrorist organization which has merchandise to distinguish its members is so tacky that it belongs to the 60s era of film making. The attempts at humour are notable for their inability to achieve exactly that. The only thing stunning in the first 90 minutes of the movie is the Austrian landscape and that is the tragedy of Spectre.
Bridge of Spies (2015) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]
The story of James Donovan is indeed a remarkable one. This lawyer turned negotiator was a true servant of the nation when he went the extra mile to negotiate the release of an American pilot in exchange for a convicted spy during the height of cold war. He also was instrumental in the release of detainees held by the Cuban government after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Bridge of Spies’ documents the former story in detail and does not disappoint. In fact, it matches and exceeds the expectations generated by the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The movie will certainly garner a few Oscar nominations for the heartwarming drama it effectively captures. It is interesting to note that when more and more movies are being made with the accompanying technology at the centre of film making, the original whizkid Spielberg is turning to such solid drama. Some movies are exceptional in their own silent way. This is one such movie.
The Walk (2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating:7.5 ]
The histrionics of Philippe Petit are not just amusing but are also acts of artistic daredevilry. More than 30 years ago he committed what some dub as the artistic coup of the century. He had the idea,courage and expertise to perform a high wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He did it without any protective equipment. The attempt was captured in a high quality documentary called Man On Wire. ‘The Walk’ is the movie version of the event. (spoilers ahead) I had thought till I saw the movie that Petit had just walked across the towers once but it is only on watching the movie that the artistry and courage of his feat become apparent. After completing his first end to end walk, he goes on the ‘trip’ again and again. As Beethovan’s Fur Elise plays in the background, the magic of the walk unfolds on the screen. Even when the movie takes a long time to reach the final act, the wait is worth the iconic images that unfold.
India is currently ranked 172 (its lowest ever) in FIFA ranking. Watching ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ can give you insights into what ails Indian soccer. Salman Khan persuades a gathering to play football. He places the ball for kickoff. Then they break into a song and dance about it. When done with the dance, they finally start playing and then goals are scored because the lady goalkeepers run for their lives when the ball is hit in their direction. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is full of such insights. Salman Khan has a way even with gravity. Few days after falling from a few hundred feet and after being treated in a ‘facility’ with fire burning around him, he returns to the screen as if he had been on a vacation. At the exact moment when that Salman has an accident, a new Salman (without a moustache) turns up as a replacement for the prince. How many times will Hindi movies have themes involving a doppelganger? This movie is essentially a remake of every movie from Rajshri productions. The Barjatyas are stuck in the past and perhaps they know that. So they leave a few years between their movies so that the audience forgets and forgives them. In this movie, they got Salman Khan to sign up and then roped in actors (Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arman Kohli of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Sonam Kapoor etc) who were looking for work. Then they slated it for release on Diwali. Left with no other movie to watch, everyone flocked to the theatres and made the film a blockbuster. For those who don’t believe it, this movie was the second highest grossing film internationally after Spectre in its opening weekend, making a cool $40 million.
Keanu Reeves is a husband alone at home when his family is away. Two young women knock on his door on a stormy night. Does it sound like the premise for a b grade flick? It does and the movie lives up to its ‘potential’. I guess Reeves is not getting any quality work. Avoid.
Anarkali (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]
Capturing the breathtaking beauty of Lakshadweep islands, this Malayalam movie tells a passionate love story spanning more than a decade. A naval officer and his lady love endure the fierce oppostion from the girl’s father in pursuit of love. Shot almost entirely on the island, the movie introduces mainland Indians to life on the island. With a running time of 167 minutes, the film drags a bit in the second half. It compensates through stunning visuals and a simple yet effective screenplay. Certainly worth a one time watch.
Rani Padmini (Malayalam, 2015) [IMDB:7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed, My Rating:6.5 ]
After a few duds Aashiq Abu returns to form in Rani Padmini which tells the story of two women who are poles apart. One is bound by a sense of duty to her husband and the other is a practical minded lady with shades of grey. They meet on a road trip and discover themselves. Like most Aashiq Abu movies, nothing much happens during the movie. It is more about the conversations and the experiences. There are touches of humour especially when dealing with gangsters. There is even a hint of satire when the character insists that she only likes stories that ” have a message”. In its own way, the film is a tribute to independent women. The visuals are easy on the eye and the effort that has gone into making the film is only too evident. Overall, a movie worth your time.
Documentary of the Week
Amy (2015) [IMDB:8.0 , Rotten Tomatoes:96% , My Rating:7.5 ]
Amy Winehouse was the first British woman to win five Grammy awards. She was only 27 when she died of alcohol poisoning. Her story. One of the documentaries of the year.
Eagerly waiting for: ‘By the Sea’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jole and directed by Angelina Jolie.
Did you know: Before beginning his movie career Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Toronto, Canada
When I started this blog 50 weeks ago, I had never imagined that it would have readers from 73 countries and the average weekly readership would cross 70. For 49 weeks I have written ( at times, by burning midnight oil) about my experiences at the movies. The 50th week is a tribute to all the readers who found something worth reading here. For this edition I asked a reader who has read all previous 49 editions, for a list of that person’s 50 favourite movies. This edition is about those 50 movies.
1. Bucket List (2007) [ IMDB:7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]
The Plot: Two terminally ill men from dissimilar backgrounds go on a journey together and try to do everything they always wanted to do.
The Highlight: Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson team up. If for nothing else, the film is worth a watch for the energy they bring to the screen. It is for the same reason and the high expectations from such a film that the viewer may find a little underwhelmed at the end. Still, a very good watch.
The Plot: Two top cops from Los Angeles are sent to a small town to investigate the death of a teen. The sting in the tale is that the sun does not set in the town.
The Highlight: Christopher Nolan’s early work saw a bunch of accomplished actors on screen but the real winner was the cinematography which set the right mood for the film. Even the small town feels like a character on screen. Its beauty and serenity are breathtaking but also add the suspense in the movie.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I can’t judge. There are two kinds of people in Alaska: those who were born here and those who come here to escape something. I wasn’t born here.”
The Plot: How one event happening/not happening changes the course of a women’s life. The vicissitudes and glorious uncertainties of life.
The Highlight: Gwyneth ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ Paltrow who puts in her best performance after her Oscar winning performance in ‘Shakespeare in Love’.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “For God’s sake, Gerry. I asked you a simple question; there is no need for you to become Woody Allen.”
4. Shutter Island (2010) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]
The Plot: Set in 1954, the film purportedly shows the investigation to find out the location of a convict who has escaped from a mental asylum.
The Highlight: Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio team up to bring their most provocative story which requires multiple viewings to have a full debate on; a conclusive interpretation being a difficult goal. In the end the story does not matter. All that matters is how much of it is real.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “No assumption, no, not at all. You misunderstand me. I said, you are ‘men of violence’. I’m not accusing you of being violent men. That’s quite different.”
The Plot: An immigrant from Cuba builds his fortune in the world of crime and drugs in 1980s Miami.
The Highlight: Al Pacino shows once more time why he is one of the greatest actors ever.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”
6. Groundhog Day (1993) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]
The Plot: Bill Murray plays a weatherman who finds that he is living the same day again and again. The good thing is that he has Andie MacDowell for company.
The Highlight: It is a toast to the ordinary life which could be extraordinary if one lived it as if there is no tomorrow.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I don’t deserve someone like you. But If I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.”
7. The Help (2011) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
The Plot: At the height of the Civil rights movement, a young white woman decides to write a book on the light of African American maids and their perception of their masters.
The Highlight: Viola Davis in an illuminating performance.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Courage sometimes skips a generation. Thank you for bringing it back to our family.”
8. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]
The Plot: A rank outsider wins against all odds at the 1913 US Open in golf, beating his idol on the way.
The Highlight: Nothing exceptional but once in a while the right cliches at the right time make the right kind of movie.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Let me tell you something. I came here to win a trophy. And on the face of it Ted Ray or I should carry it off. Not for you, not for England, but for sheer bloody pride at being the best, that’s why we do this. And if Mr. Ouimet wins tomorrow, it’s because he’s the best, because of who he is. Not who his father was, not how much money he’s got, because of who he bloody is! And I’ll thank you to remember that.
The Plot: A group of interesting characters join the hunt for a missing diamond.
The Highlight: Unbridled action, peppy dialogues and lots of style.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.”
10. Roman Holiday (1953) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]
The Plot: An American newsman takes a princess on a trip of Rome on her day away from boring life.
The Highlight: Audrey Hepburn. William Wyler. Gregory Peck.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “I have to leave you now. I’m going to that corner there and turn. You must stay in the car and drive away. Promise not to watch me go beyond the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you.”
11. American Gangster (2007) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]
The Plot: A detective trying his best to nab a drug lord.
The Highlight: A simplistic story and an average performance from Russel Crowe are eclipsed by Denzel Washington in one of his best performances.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Success. It’s got enemies. You can be successful and have enemies or you can be unsuccessful and have friends.”
12. Kiss the Girls (1997) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]
The Plot: A girl who survives a serial killer’s murder attempt holds the key to nabbing him.
The Highlight: Though there are enough loopholes in the movie, it is the sheer presence of Morgan Freeman that makes the film worth a watch.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Multiply your anger by about a hundred, Kate, that’s how much he thinks he loves you.”
13. Match Point (2005) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]
The Plot: A married man falls for the girlfriend of his brother-in-law.
The Highlight: What you don’t expect from Woody Allen and what you absolutely expect from Scarlett Johansson.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “The man who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control.”
The Plot: The only hope for a leukemia patient is to get a bone marrow transplant from her sister, a sister who is estranged from her for two decades.
The Highlight: Some stirring performances from Streep, Keaton and DiCaprio.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Most of the time I just keep to myself. I think like what it would be like to be… someone else.”
23. The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
The Plot: How it was to be a confidante and physician of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
The Highlight: Acting lesson from Forest Whitaker.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “You deserve to die. But dead, you can do nothing. Alive, you might just be able to redeem yourself.”
24. The Tourist (2010) [ IMDB: 6.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%]
The Plot: Angelina Jolie walks into the life of Johnny Deep while he is on a vacation in Italy. Wish that was true.
The Highlight: I can’ think beyond Angelina Jolie here.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “It’s the um… the Roman god, Janus. My mother gave it to me when I was little. She wanted to teach me that people have two sides. A good side, a bad side, a past, a future. And that we must embrace both in someone we love.”
The Plot: A firefighter’s life told in flashback as he awaits to be rescued before he dies.
The Highlight: Reel life heroes find time to act in a movie that tell the tales of real life heroes.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “People are always asking me how is it that firefighters run into a burning building when everyone else is running out. Courage is the answer.”
42. The King’s Speech (2010) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
The Plot: A stuttering king has to inspire his nation in times of war. Some men are thrust into greatness and they learn to speak along the way.
The Highlight: Colin Firth who is otherwise very good with his dialogues, had to unlearn.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “If I’m King, where’s my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.”
43. The Holiday (2006) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%]
The Plot: An American and a Britisher swap homes during a vacation and find their respective partners.
The Highlight: One of Nancy Meyers’ more accomplished works.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “You’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for God’s sake!”
44. The Color Purple (1985) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
The Plot: Adaptation of the classic novel on the life of an African American woman.
The Highlight: Shoddy direction by Steven Spielberg.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “The jail you planned for me is the one you’re gonna rot in.”
45. The Day of the Jackal (1973) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]
The Plot: A conspiracy to kill the President of France.
The Highlight: The coldness of the assassin.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “You have to employ a professional. Your organization is so riddled with informers that nothing you decide is a secret for long. No, the job would have to be done by an outsider. The only question would be by whom, and for how much.”
46. The Usual Suspects (1995) [ IMDB:8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]
The Plot: It must be easy to solve a crime when the suspects are limited and known. Or is it?
The Highlight: Kevin Spacey can tell stories.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
The Plot: Greenhorn Vinny has to defend his cousin in a murder trial in small town Alabama.
The Highlight: Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei make you laugh so much that your stomach hurts.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “Well I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, TEN YEARS LATER, my niece, the daughter of my sister is getting married. My biological clock is TICKING LIKE THIS and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married.”
48. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) [ IMDB: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]
The Plot: A jailed serial killer is the only one who can help a young investigator reach another serial killer on the rampage.
The Highlight: Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for which his onscreen time was the least among all previous winners in the category.
The Best Scene:
The Best Line: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
The Tin Drum (Germany, 1979) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]
Based on the monumental novel by Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, ‘Tin Drum’ tells the story of a boy who ‘decides’ that he does not need to grow up physically even when he is mentally very much a grown up. It is is his way of lodging protest against the behaviour of people during the Second World War. Just like the novel, the film does not hold back in the use of metaphors. It hits out at the all accepting passive nature of the German society when surrounded by the tyranny of the Nazis. The protagonist has a tin drum which is his constant companion which he uses to drum up support for anti Nazis and give a wake up call to those in deep denial about the Nazis. The film does not cover the whole novel and ends before the ending in the novel. That was the case with the film adapatation of ‘The English Patient’ too. I guess the film makers resort to this to keep the optimistic ending. The performances in ‘Tin Drum’ are quite good but I believe that its Oscar triumph was very much due to political factors; it was after all an anti Nazi film from West Germany released at the height of the Cold War. Still, the movie is worth a watch.
Some movies ooze elegance and class. This is one such movie about an old couple who are deeply in love and lead lives where they take one another to be permanent fixtures in a routine life. It is when the wife suffers from a stroke that the strength of their relationship is put to the stress test. The film swept all the major awards and was a hit in the festival circuit. The performances don’t involve anything extraordinary but the poise with which the ordinary is acted out requires special mention. Early into the film, it is easy to realize that something special is happening on screen. A must watch.
Movies I Saw This Week
Out of the Furnace (2013) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%]
Another movie on vigilante justice when the citizen takes the law into his own hands because he doesn’t trust the official investigators enough. This film is a poor cousin of ‘Prisoners’ which also explored a similar theme but was way better. ‘Out of Furnace’ is the story of a man who goes in search of his missing brother and meets a host of characters in the process. It is a shame that for a star studded cast the film is not able to do justice to the talent at its disposal. The screenplay is laboured to the point of being boring. Catch the film when it comes on cable TV.
Thanks for Sharing (2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]
The thing with this film billed as a romantic comedy is that it neither romantic nor comic. Three people who have a sex addiction problem are at the core of the story. It is about how they try to de-addict themselves from this particularly interesting state and at the same time juggle their love relationships. The film never rises above mediocrity and the act should have ended prematurely. That is the worst I can say about a movie on sex addiction.
The Counselor (2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 34%]
It is such a shame that a stellar cast with Pitt, Bardem, Diaz, Cruz and Fassbender in a movie directed by Ridley Scott comes up with the dud of the year. It is about a lawyer who messes up in a particular situation and then things go out of control like a kite which is not tethered. Well that was supposed to be the story but that is what happens to the film; it is the director who untethers the movie from his hands. This has disastrous consequences. Half baked characters, stars who sleep walk through their roles, actors who are evidently bored and a story which wanders like a lost soul. The ‘Dhoom 3’ of Hollywood for 2013. Non Indian readers may read that as unmitigated disaster.
Documentary Pick of the Week
The Square (2013) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]
The story of the uprising in Egypt which was part of the wider Arab Spring. The documentary follows a group of people as they put their lives in the line of fire to fight the establishment. The documentary assumes increased significance on account of the recent events in Ukraine. A long shot at the Oscars thought, for the poor technical quality of production.
The : D Retrospective
Starting this week the retrospective section will feature some feel good movies which are liked widely and are a good watch. The feel good factor is augmented by the fact that it is liked by people who like to spread happiness with sincerity.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 76%]
We are all accustomed to Greek tragedies but this is one movie at the other end of the spectrum. Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay and starred in this surprise winner at the box office, making her a star in the process. The best thing about the movie is that it does not have any major stars and hence the actors don’t come with any baggage of typecasting. This makes it difficult to predict the trajectory and responses of many characters.The story has a Greek woman fall in love at first sight (quite literally, at first sight itself) and the wedding that follows. The hilarious moments have to do with the fact that the groom doesn’t know Greek and that he is completely at loss in the peculiar situations that he finds himself in. Add to that a few oddball relatives, this becomes an easy and entertaining film to watch.
French Kiss (1995) [ IMDB: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]
There are very few actors who bring happiness along with them and light up the screen in every movie they appear. Meg Ryan is one of them. It is her cheerful demeanor even when she flies down to France in desperation to meet her fiance, that is the best thing about the movie. She gets unwelcome company in a thief on her trip to track down her fiance. On her life changing journey she discovers herself and true love. The movie has some very scenic shots and is quite easy on the eye. If you like cheerful vulnerable woman at the heart of a story, this is the film you will enjoy watching.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993) [ IMDB: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]
Nora Ephron can sell the impossible to you and even make you root for her story and characters. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is a modern day fairy tale which has dollops of optimism and a heart in the right place. A kid tries to find a companion for his widowed father. A woman throws caution to the wind and goes by her gut instinct when she decides that she could be that woman. The film requires some suspension of disbelief but when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are on screen, it is so easy to suspend disbelief. The climax is a tribute to ‘An Affair to Remember’. What that movie could not achieve, this one does: Lovers uniting at the top of the Empire State building. As a character says in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, “Oh God, I love that movie.”
Eagerly Waiting for: The Oscars next week.
Did you know: The original raw footage of ‘Apocalypse Now’ consisted of 1,250,000 feet of film which is over 230 hours’ worth.
The winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013 is a bold and provocative movie which stretches the boundaries of what a mainstream movie can depict. Already controversial for the agony it caused to the actresses during the filming, the film dwells on the relationship between two woman. The film follows the intense relationship between the characters over a decade. Surprisingly for a running length close to three hours the movie still holds your attention and is a tour de force. Highly recommended for highly mature audiences.
The coming off age story of a girl during the Islamic revolution in Iran. Based on the autobiographical account of the co-writer of the screenplay, the film is as political as it is personal. The non conformism of the girl and her willingness to fight for herself even when she veers off course is told in a poignant and heartfelt way. Even if we take Iran out of the picture, the story should resonate with any girl in any part of the world willing to stand up for what she believes in. Hence, calling it a fine picture from Iran would be an injustice. Calling it a must see movie will be just about just.
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is the back story to the making of ‘Mary Poppins’ by Walt Disney. The thing that hits you immediately is the passion Disney brings to making movies but his passion is matched equally by the stubbornness of Miss Travers (as she would like to be called), the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. There is nothing exceptional about the movie but it does shed light on the autobiographical nature of the work. Emma Thompson pulls off a fine performance and Tom Hanks is competent in his role as Walt Disney. I particularly liked the scene where he convinces Miss Travers to sign on the dotted line. He gives the ultimate sales pitch but the thing with sales pitches is that it is dependent on whether the listener is in a mood to even think about what is being offered, as I found out the hard way quite recently. Coming back to the movie, it is not a great one but certainly worth a watch.
Fruitvale Station (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
In a year where there was a miscarriage of justice in the Trayvon Martin case, this film sheds light on a true event which happened a few years earlier but has the same undertones of the inequality that African Americans face in the Land of the Free. As a piece of art the movie is not worth much but it has a compelling story to tell. Here the victim is not a teenager wet behind the ears but a young father who is seeking out a better life for his family. The film does build its case by showing us the good Samaritan the victim was. The movie is not a must watch but then I recommend it.
Lee Daniels‘ The Butler (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%]
The story of a butler in the White House who goes about his work over decades under different Presidents during times of great social turmoil. Forest Whitaker is an actor who is a joy to watch on screen. Even when the movie has an uneven tempo, he just keeps things from falling apart. An above average flick which has a standout performance from the protagonist.
John Ford Retrospective
John Ford is one of the greatest directors ever, with four Oscars for the Best Director. The funny thing is that I consider ‘The Searchers’ (reviewed here https://couldhavebeenacontender.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/week-12/) to be his greatest work but he did not even get a nomination for it. I think that compensates for the fact that he undeservedly took Oscar for ‘How Green Way My Valley’ beating Orsen Welles (for ‘Citizen Kane’).
‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is the kind of movie which no one makes nowadays because it may be considered too socialist in theme and socialism is an ideology that Americans fear more than the plague. The story is set in the Great Depression. A family tries to stay together and live with dignity in the economic gloom sweeping the nation. Watching such movies is also a reminder that certain movies deserve a one word description: ‘Classic’. Also, hope is a good thing.
A sentimental take on a mining town which has seen much better days, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ upstaged ‘Citizen Kane’ at the Oscars mainly because of the heavy propaganda that was unleashed against Orson Welles. Still, the film is a classic in its own right with very strong performances and a solid screenplay. Must see.
The Quiet Man (1952) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
A boxer returns from America to his home in Ireland where he finds true love and also things he had not quite bargained for. He also has a mysterious past. John Wayne carries the film on his shoulders (no pun intended) in this breezy romantic comedy. The good thing is unlike many of the old romantic comedies which have become dated, ‘The Quite Man’ has an appeal which is as fresh as it was when it first hit the screens.
Documentary Pick of the Week
The Men Who Made Us Fat (2012) [ MDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: Not Listed]
No documentary has made me think more than this three part series from BBC on food and the way it has changed over time. Hats off to BBC for showing the guts to finance such a project. A must watch for anyone who eats food.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Invisible Woman’ because it is on Charles Dickens and the combination of literature and cinema is a heady one.
Did you know: ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013) was released in China with four minutes of additional footage starring Chinese actors and local product placements.
The story of an ambitious waiter and the women in his life set in the background of World War 2. This poignant and funny tale is in the tradition of similar Czech films. A throwback to the excesses of Nazis when they had the upper hand in the war, the film does not fail to mock the Nazis even when the mood turns sober. Not a must watch but certainly worth your time.
The thing with this movie is that you don’t expect it to have the twists and turns with a crowd favourite like Audrey Tautou in the lead. This under appreciated French film takes an unexpected turn and in a split second the whole premise of the movie changes. From a sweet love story it becomes a tale of violent obsession. Every story has two sides. Some of them a few more.
On the Waterfront (1954) [ IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]
A few people (the curious types) have asked me the origin of the name of this blog. It comes from a dialogue in the movie ‘On the Waterfront’. It is faithfully reproduced below:
“Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.”
It is one of the saddest dialogues I have ever heard; the kind that puts in a capsule a lot of emotions. That feeling of what could have been, but for. Only real life dialogue of this nature that made be feel sad for the speaker was uttered by Al Gore when he said, ” Once I was the next President of USA.” I am sure Al Gore is not reading this but just for the sake of it he should know that he will have a more respectable place in World History than the idiot who stole the election.
Coming to the movie, it is a masterclass in acting from Marlon Brando. One of the movies to see before you die.
I have not yet seen a movie which has war scenes shot with such perfection as ‘Saving Private Ryan’. It remains an injustice that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to ‘Shakespeare in Love’. My favourite Tom Hanks leads a mission to find and return Private Ryan whose three brothers have been slain in action during the Second World War. Steven Spielberg deservedly won the Oscar for the Best Director for this flick and strangely that was the last time he tasted Oscar success. Everything about this film is top notch and close to perfection. I am biased towards Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Therefore I cannot say anything bad about this movie. Must watch.
Sometimes an idea can lead to a great story and when such a story has a great screenplay and free dialogues from Shakespeare, it can have unexpected success. The germ of the idea here is the question: ‘How could Shakespeare write such fine romance without himself being in love?’ What comes out of this idea is ‘Shakespeare in Love’, a fictionalized movie trying to imagine the inspiration for the Bard of Avon’s romantic works especially ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Sometimes originality gets the better of everything. As a friend once told me, if imitation is the best art then his ‘Juliet and Romeo’ should also have been equally famous as ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Ultimately ‘Shakespeare in Love’ upset the apple cart of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at the Oscars winning seven Oscars to the latter’s five.
Tom Hanks get back his mojo back after a few duds in this out and out thriller directed by Paul Greengrass. Greengrass who was behind the Borne series, had worked in the television industry before turning a feature film director. The influence of television is evident in the way he uses the camera for a lot of hand held shots and the movement of the camera contributes to the element of tension on screen. Even though ‘Captain Phillips’ is one of the better thrillers to have come out in recent years, I believe that earlier works of Greengrass like ‘United 93’ and ‘Bloody Sunday’ were better made and had more interesting stories to tell. As for this one, it would a major surprise if Tom Hanks lands an Oscar for his role. Coming to the story, the film gives a blow by blow account of the hostage crisis involving the hijacking of a US flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates, the first such event in 200 years. A nice one time watch.
Hailed at the Sundance Film Festival for some breakout performances, this feature tells the story of a lady trying to get her life back on track after going through a divorce. I don’t know why they advertised this as a comedy because the overwhelming feeling was of sadness and I did not come even close to laughing. Nothing much to write about and also nothing much to whine about. An average flick.
Much Ado About Nothing (2013) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]
A faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s work by the same title, this is the kind of movie that only Hollywood would finance. Where else would they have the guts to make movies with very much the same dialogues that Shakespeare wrote. Shot in classy black and white, it is a film that demands attention and the returns are quite good if you can give what the film asks for.
Yes, I saw it like some of you. Not worth reviewing. I empathize with those who spent money to watch this torture. It is the kind of film where the director should stand outside the theatre and apologize to every single person who comes out after watching his movie.
Documentary Pick of the Week
The Crash Reel (2013) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]
Shaun White was the King of Snow. Kevin Pearce was his challenger in the half-pipe event. They were friends. They were world number 1 and 2 in the lead up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Then tragedy struck. A documentary which captures a story that must be told. One of the documentaries of the year. My heart goes out to Kevin’s mother. Even though she is never at the focus of the events, it is her strength of character that shines through the whole story. Just for the record, I cried.
Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ because some stupid films of Will Ferrell have their moments of madness.
Did you know: Nelson Mandela appears as a teacher in the film ‘Malcom X’, his only appearance as an actor in a movie. RIP Nelson Mandela.
I have often heard people say that there are no new stories to tell. It is so difficult to come up with something new. I believe that the solution is simple. Try to find the interesting in the mundane. Director Jan Troell is pretty good at this and has been around for more than 4 decades. In this exquisitely shot movie, a working class woman wins a camera in a lottery and this changes her life in ways she could not have imagined. Since a camera is involved the cinematographer seems to enjoy his work, bringing to us shots which have poetry written over them. Don’t miss the visuals for the subtitles.
Continuing on the theme of finely shot movies, this one captures the beauty of Russian wilderness. Two brothers who have never seen their father are intrigued by his return after twelve years. What is it that had kept him away and why is he back? The film is more of a thriller trying to deconstruct people’s thought processes. In my opinion, the best Russian film of the 21st century.
If there is a movie which stumbled in going from good to great because of poor editing, ‘Cast Away’ is the one. The flight crash scene which is unnecessarily prolonged and few scenes on the island make this one a long movie. Still, I think that Tom Hanks deserved the Oscar for this one more than the stone faced Russell Crowe who won it for ‘Gladiator’. I think why Hanks did not win it is because he already had two of them and also because some people got confused between Gladiator, the movie and Russell Crowe, the actor. In fact, this one has a better performance from Hanks than his previous wins (‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’). The soundtrack of the movie is one of the best I have ever heard in a motion picture and definitely Alan Silvestri‘s best work. When is the Academy going to give him an Oscar? The film is a good lesson on product placements with Fedex and Wilson getting maximum mileage for their products/services. Minor irritants aside, this is a truly good movie and one of my favourites. It has a great story to tell and will always be on my list of the best films I have ever seen.
Gallipoli in Turkey is a pilgrimage site for Australians and New Zealanders. It is so because it was the sight of the biggest drubbing of the Allies during the First World War and the greatest loss for Australia and New Zealand. The campaign also ignited the movement towards modern Turkey and Mustafa Ataturk was a commander for the Turkish force in the campaign. This film tries to portray the tragedy, with Mel Gibson in one of his earlier roles. He does justice to his role and the film also largely succeeds in capturing the despair and hopelessness. I would love to see a good Turkish film telling their side of the story. Even this one grudgingly approves of the success of Turkish forces over the might of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand during the campaign. A must watch, if you like war movies.
I did not know about James Dean until 2007, largely because I did not know about his tragic life. It was at the American Center (in the US embassy) in New Delhi where they screen free movies on weekends that I got to know him through ‘East of Eden’ and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. One cannot help but wonder what could have been had he not died so young. In the end, the quality is what matters and not the quantity. James Dean will not be easily forgotten and this film is quite possibly the closest to his real life persona. The movie is a real gem and that is all I have to say about it. For Indian viewers who are not aware of him, don’t be bothered. Screen legend Dev Anand is a copycat of James Dean. Think of Dev Anand. Think of someone like him and ten times better than him. You get James Dean.
Movies I Saw This Week
Behind the Candelabra (2013) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]
This gay themed movie has outstanding performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and it is essentially a vehicle for both of them. The good thing is that it is through such movies that I get to know artists like Liberace. Steven Soderbergh is also seeing a revival of his career as a director with this one capping off his success with ‘Side Effects’ this year. An easy watch, if you are comfortable viewing such movies.
Somebody likes to kill and somebody wants to stop the killers. Since computer generated graphics have stretched the limits of what can be shown on screen without putting up a set, this one thrives on that cheap idea. Add some loud colours to that cheap idea. This is exactly the kind of movie which you will have a hard time remembering after a few months unless you have a system where you can remember the movies in which actresses have taken their clothes off. Cheers to Freida Pinto.
Your Sister’s Sister (2011) [ IMDB; 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]
This is a one time watch. Sisters fall for the same man. One of them is desperate for the man and the other is so self assured about her man that she has no clue what is going on. The movie could have been much better had it not had the irritating acting of Mark Duplass as the man who is the object of affection of the two women. They could have taken somebody more charming. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger could have done a better job.
Grand Masti (2013) [ IMDB: 4.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]
Vulgar. I am all for free speech but movies like these question such beliefs. A new category for film certification should be set up for such movies which thrive on verbal pornography, double entendres and objectification of women. Seems to be the work of mentally challenged writers with a single track mind. Lead actors who salivate and have seizures at the sight of women and women who are tasteless in everything they do. If you have paid to watch this movie you should check your mental health. No wonder, the men in India like to think low of women and crimes against women are on the rise. Absolute disaster of a movie and definitely the worst one of 2013.
Turkey may be in the spotlight currently for all the wrong reasons but they do make some fine movies. One of the finest to come out of this culturally rich nation is ‘The Breath’. The story of a group of men defending an outpost high in the mountains is not a conventional story. The fact that they have delusions and suicidal tendencies in a bitterly cold environment is understandable but what stands out is the excellent cinematography. Some of the memorable scenes include the torn flag fluttering in the wind and men typing on a typewriter on a wasteland of ice. I don’t know whether they shot on location. The team deserves an ovation if they did. If they put a set which makes it look as good as the location, they deserve more than an ovation.
Pedro Almodovar is in fine form in this light film which has his muse Penelope Cruz in one of her better performances. I must say that when I first saw this movie I was not really impressed as I was focusing on the mother-daughter equation which forms the crux of the movie. Later I found out that the people in the Iberian peninsula really liked the film and a teacher of mine at the Delhi University who was from Portugal had a discussion on the film with me, which gave a new perspective. Well, the new perspective was that don’t take it very seriously and start believing in a little bit of magic in real life.
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (France, 2007) [IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]
This is one of the most inspirational movies I have ever seen. Based on a true story, it shows a man who has his full body paralyzed except for one eye which he can blink, go on to write a marvelous best selling book. The movie is good but not fantastic. It may sound cliched but if there is one movie which can be an advertisement for the triumph of human spirit, this is the one. See it to know about the most original book ever written in the toughest circumstances.
This film is not sufficiently old to merit a retrospective but then it is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. A journalist following the case of a serial murderer gets too involved with the case that he becomes part of the story. The story is based on true events. Aside from the investigation which is told in top rate style, the movie also focuses on real world difficulties when the time span of a case spans decades. A movie for the intelligent viewer who can appreciate the nuances of story telling. I was surprised that the movie was not even nominated at the Oscars. ‘Zodiac’ will walk into my list of all time best thrillers with ease.
Road to Perdition (2002) [ IMDB: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]
Boasting of a stellar cast with the likes of Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Daniel Craig, this is probably the best gangster movie after ‘The Godfather’. Shot exquisitely by Conrad L. Hall (which incidentally won him his third Oscar posthumously), the movie has an engaging story to tell. The actors have given their heart out to the film and it shows. Some of the scenes ooze quality. The finely choreographed shooting in the rain with just the background score to aid is one hell of a memorable scene. Another one is when Tom Hanks leaves the lift in a hurry. The speech at a remembrance is another top notch moment. I could go on and on because I am a huge fan of the movie. If you like classy movies with great dialogues and strong performances, ‘Road to Perdition’ is a must watch.
Movies I Saw This Week
Jack Reacher (2013) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 6.9%]
The tagline says; ‘The law has its limits. He does not’. That may be true for the movie but not for Tom Cruise’s acting which is severely low on the range factor. Right from his ‘Top Gun’ days, his range is restricted to having a red nose when he has to show rage or anxiety or even plain cold. No wonder he has not landed an Oscar after futile attempts like ‘The Last Samurai’. However, Cruise is the star of the box office and he can get the cash registers ringing. Fortunately for him, once in a while he does get roles which require more panache than histrionics. Jack Reacher is one such role and definitely worth a watch if you know what to expect.
I did not know that the first movie in the series was successful enough to warrant a sequel or it could be that the Deols are trying to milk the last penny from the box office. It is an apology for a film and a better option than watching it would be to go and count the waves at the beach. Some of the critics who seem to be influenced by external factors were giving the movie an average rating for this pathetic attempt. One thing I will concede is that unlike most of the Bollywood sequels, it has the same set of characters from the original. That also is the highest praise I can come up for this movie.
Buy ticket for one Arjun Kapoor and get one more Arjun Kapoor free. That is the cinematic equivalent of two free trips to Somalia. Even the usually reliable Prithviraj looks off colour. It is left to the veteran Rishi Kapoor to save the day. If you are willing to overlook the fact that there are as many holes in the plot as there are in a sieve, ‘Aurangzeb’ is a one time watch.
Documentary Pick of the Week
Jesus Camp (2006) [IMDB: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]
‘Catch them young’ could be the motto of any organisation looking at indoctrination. Though the film hits out at Christianity, things are not much different with other religions. The multi-billion recession proof industry of organised religion is taken to the cleaners in this compelling documentary. Disturbing.
Eagerly Waiting For: ‘World War Z’ because Brad Pitt is one actor growing in stature.
Did you know: India is one of the few countries in the world where the Head of the State presents the national film awards.
Stylishly shot romantic film which is a bit twisted. For all those who believe in love at first sight. It is rather funny how the same incident is strikingly different when recollected by a man and then by a woman. A story in which everything happens in circles which basically means that nothing ends, including love. As The New York Times put it, ‘madly romantic’.
Days of Glory (Algeria, 2006) [IMDB: 7.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%]
The only movie I know which made a government revisit its laws and rightly restore their rights to African soldiers who fought under the French flag in the Second World War. I had seen this movie in New Delhi during a film festival and it left a lasting impression. The movie has some excellent scenes as is evident in the trailer but what stands out is the style of movie making. The movie evidently has a grouse against the French government but the story telling is at times so engaging that you stop paying attention to it. The story follows the life of four African men who fight to liberate France from Nazi oppression. The movie received a standing ovation at the film festival when I saw it.
Life is Beautiful (Italy, 1997) [IMDB: 8.5/10, Rotten tomatoes: 96%]
I am putting this movie here because if you have not seen it, you should probably start watching foreign language movies with this one. Undoubtedly, a masterpiece which will leave you happy but with a tinge of sadness. It tells the story of a Jewish family who end up in a concentration camp. Humour is the last thing you will look for in a concentration camp but the father must resort to every trick he can pull to keep his son’s spirit up. It is an original piece of work with some of the most creative scenes ever. One of the saddest scenes I have scene on screen is when the father goes to meet his patron at the dinner in the hope of finding an escape from the camp and what ensues. ‘Life is Beautiful’ will easily walk into any movie list for the best movies ever made.
A Christmas Story (1983) [ IMDB: 8.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]
One of the cutest films ever made that will take you back to your childhood. A kid wants a gift for Christmas. That is the story of the movie but then it is Christmas and there are lot of things that are bothering his parents. The acting is almost perfect and more than anything you are swept off your feet by the simplicity of the movie. Definitely the best movie on Christmas.
Woody Allen’s little known gem. Hilarious to the hilt. Uproariously funny. Only Woody Allen can come up with insane ideas and then make it look respectable on screen. The best political satire I have seen on the big screen.
Movies I Saw This Week
Side Effects (2013) [IMDB: 7.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% ]
A genuine thriller. What starts as a drama on the pharma industry soon turns into a thriller. The story revolves around a young woman who has unexpected side effects after taking pills prescribed by her doctor. Writing more about it is difficult without giving hints about the story. Certainly one of the better films of 2013.
I Give It a Year (2013) [IMDB: 6.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 63%]
Tries too hard to be funny but it does have some funny moments. It is usually the oddball characters who spice up a comedy but here they are more irritating than funny. After a point the jokes get tedious. The title and story are derived from the fact that the movie maps the first year of a marriage. An average attempt.
Terminally ill girl meets a boy who likes attending funerals. A theme that has been done to death. Gus Van Sant’s weakest film in years. The movie literally bores you to death. Acting is insipid and most of the scenes are tasteless. Trying to get some intellectual gravitas by having a kamikaze pilot is the most pathetic plot device I have seen in a long time.
Go Goa Gone (2013) [IMDB: 7.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 55%]
The early voting patterns at IMDb are usually unreliable for wide releases. It holds true for this movie too where things start promisingly but then tapers off like all the previous ventures by the director duo. There are some funny dialogues in the beginning but then it gets too dry even to interest zombies. It must be said that the producers deserve a pat on their back for putting their money on an unconventional idea.
Documentary pick of the week
Capturing the Friedmans (2003) [IMDB: 7.9/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]