Edition 91

As we finish 2018, this year has been the best year for the blog in terms of readership with more than 500 views for each post. A big thank you to the readers across the globe and wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year!

The Non-English Movie of The Week

The Guilty (Denmark, 2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

An edge of the seat thriller from director Gustav Moller who uses every trick in the book to keep the viewer hooked on to the proceedings. The movie is a tribute to how sound effects can be used to drive the narrative. With minimal budget and only a handful of characters, the director is able to maintain the tempo of this cracking thriller. The few calls received by a troubled police officer at the emergency helpline form the movie’s screenplay. Must watch for the high concept and innovative storytelling.

Movies I Saw This Week

A Star is Born (2018) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

I am not going gaga over this movie. It is the third or fourth time that this screenplay or its various versions (discounting Bollywood ripoffs like Aashiqui) are making it to the big screen. For those who have seen earlier versions, there is nothing much in the movie. It is a fine debut for Bradley Cooper donning the director’s hat. Lady Gaga does light up the proceedings with her singing and some of the songs are a joy to listen to. Judged purely on its cinematic quality, this movie is short on its merits. It is a testament to the state of Hollywood that this movie is the most hyped and over billed contender this award season.

First Man (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Damien Chazelle makes his most carefully calibrated movie with the always wooden Ryan Gosling. As every human knows, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. He was an enigmatic and reserved person tormented by personal tragedy. Ryan Gosling is weak as Armstrong in an otherwise strong film which starts slowly, picks up pace and has good liftoff towards the end. ‘First Man’ is not everyone’s cup of tea but in the category of tea it is the equivalent of the Makaibari Darjeeling tea: Elite and dwindling in quantity every year.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Coen brothers are back with a bang (well, mostly) in this anthology which stitches together 6 pieces to make what could have been a masterpiece but for the time being just is a good movie. Two of the six stories are misfits in an otherwise good collection. The acting is consistently good and the director duo bring their signature storytelling to all the sections. I especially liked the performance of Tim Blake Nelson. Highly recommended, more so if you like westerns.

Crazy Rich Asians  (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 5.0]

Trailer

While watching this movie and after watching this movie, I have only one question, ” What was all the fuss about?”. Neither a cheesy romcom nor a strong drama, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ falls flat with its insipid story and howlers in stereotyping. The only instances where Indian origin people are shown in the very multicultural Singapore is when they are hangers on who open doors and do menial jobs. The movie shows a Singapore even Singaporeans will fail to identify with. All the usual stereotypes about tomboys, gay men, Asians etc are paraded without the slightest hint of irony. This in a story about a woman who proudly announces her humble origins throughout the movie and asserts her identity and individuality. It does not help her cause that the story writers use and misuse every cliche including a last minute scene in an aircraft.

The House That Jack Built (2018) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Lars Von Trier’s latest movie received copious amounts of boos and walkouts during its premiere at the Cannes film festival. It is not difficult to see why but in a rather twisted way (that is the only way with this movie), the film is watchable if the boldness of the filmmaker can be appreciated. The boldness does border on recklessness at certain points. With references to European horror classics like ‘Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)’, this movie does push the envelope. For those asking, the movie is about a serial killer told from his point of view of the events. Not for the faint of the heart.

We the Animals (2018) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

Story of three siblings growing up and discovering themselves. The movie has many subtexts including parenting, sexuality, innocence and so on. What it does not seem to have is an editor who could have cut out large slices of flab, trimmed the movie and made it more appealing. Led by strong performances and a screenplay which promises more than it delivers, ‘We the Animals’ is a lost opportunity. In the hands of a more assured director, this movie could have been something else altogether.

A Simple Favor (2018) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Harvey Weinstein discovery Blake Lively gets on in the act as the busy enigmatic mothers who disappears. Her friend Anna Kendrick is left with the unenviable task of uncovering the mystery. With ample plot twists and turns, ‘A Simple Favor’ offers an engaging view of the dysfunctional aspect of American lives. For a movie which is essentially a character study, the one thing I liked is the ambiance the camera creates. ‘A Simple Favor’ will not be remembered for a long time but is well worth the two hours of your life you will have to spend for it. Recommended.

The Sisters Brothers (2018) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Joachim Phoenix has resurrected his career after the voluntary sabbatical and remains one of the finest actors of this generation. In this film, he plays the younger ‘brother’ of the duo chasing a gold prospector. More than a thriller or drama, the movie is a comedy if you can get the right cues. Some of the dialogues are funny to say the least. ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is not groundbreaking or mold breaking cinema and hopefully the creators never meant it that way. Once this baggage is cleared, this is an eminently watchable flick.

Documentary of the Week

Pick of the Litter (2018) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Enlightening, engaging and in some ways touching documentary about the making of guide dogs for the blind. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Arcticbecause it received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Did you know: Yesteryear Malayalam director A B Raj was an assistant director for the David Lean classic ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

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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.