Edition 95

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Birds of Passage (Colombia, 2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

An instant classic depicting the origin and evolution of the drug trade in tribal communities in Colombia, this movie focuses on the slow but sure impact of the drug trade and the new found wealth. People who get corrupted by money lose their marbles as they straddle the worlds of crime and custom. The tribal rituals to honour the forefathers become a show of strength. Honour and stubbornness become a potent mix, especially when illegal money is added to it. Great cinematography and a strong screenplay add to the quality on show. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Arctic (2019) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

‘Arctic’ at its core is a simple and at times cliched survival tale of a man who must find a way out of a plane crash in the Arctic. What will keep you engrossed is the acting and the surprises the director is able to pull off every time the viewer tries to second guess the flow of events. The bleak landscape and the impotence of man facing the wrath of nature add to the bleary feel of the movie. Recommended if you like survival tales.

Private Life (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I have not seen any recent movie which mimics life with such honesty without falling into the trap of predictability. ‘Private Life’ is a sincere, funny, poignant and resplendent piece of film making. A middle aged couple desperate for a child try all that is legally possible to attain their goals. The roller-coaster ride that they take is devastatingly close to real life with characters the viewer can identify with. You would not want to miss it.

Stan & Ollie (2018) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

I remember Laurel and Hardy as belonging to a different time and space. I have read comic books with them as protagonists and after a certain age the comedy duo just disappeared from my mind. The final years of the duo are brought to the big screen in this warm and spirited comedy. Even the biggest stars fade and some of them cling on to the vestiges of fame. Laurel and Hardy take a last lap of honour and resolve their differences in this sweet little movie. The best comic line though belongs to Hardy’s wife when she speaks about Laurel’s wife. Recommended.

Fighting with My Family (2019) [IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

This is one of the movies where the film is better than the real person it is based on. In fact, even as a standalone feature without any references to real life characters, this film is a thoroughly enjoyable watch with some truly heartwarming scenes and knockout dialogues. A British girl from a family for whom wrestling in not just a pastime harbours ambitions of hitting the jackpot with WWE. No spoilers here. She fulfills her dream. The ride to the dream is the fun here. Watch it.

Booksmart (2019) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

When you think some of the genres are as good as dead, there comes a movie which rewrites the rules of the game. ‘Booksmart’ is the reinvention of the high school coming-of-age story which is as fresh as the dew drops in the morning. Two girls decide to do in a night what they missed in all the years of high-school. They accomplish the mission with palpable energy and infectious humour. With some rip-roaring scenes and outrageous comedy (I’ll never forget the ‘Malala rule’), ‘Booksmart’ is a fine way to spend your time.

Hotel Mumbai (2019) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Do not watch this movie if you cannot stomach graphic violence. You have been warned. If you are the battle hardened type, this movie has rich rewards. A start to end thriller with gut wrenching scenes and edge of the seat moments, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is a recreation of the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai renowned for its excellent customer care of the rich and famous. Some of the staff take this care to the extreme which can be also interpreted as being foolhardy when the more reasonable option is to just escape from the slaughter scene. There is also the typical American hero who acts as if nothing will happen to him as he probably thinks that the bullets will discriminate. Still, a story that must be told because what transpired needs to be known and etched in memory.

Us (2019) [IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, My Rating: 5.5]

Trailer

For me, ‘Us’ was a monumental letdown. It is a film that does not scare and is very much predictable which makes it a weak candidate in the horror-thriller genre. The critics and fanboys can search for all the subtext and symbolism but at its core ‘Us’ is a poorly written movie about doppelgangers. There are no metaphors here. There are loopholes and more of them than you would want even in a romantic comedy. Some of the events have no explanation whatsoever. ‘Get Out’ was no masterpiece but was at least watchable. ‘Us’ is a train wreck that you get to make when your debut movie grosses 100 million at the box office.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) [IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%, My Rating: 6.0]

Trailer

The title of the movie reminds me of certain people I know. Jokes aside, Ted Bundy was the outlier among serial killers. He was also a charmer. The movie tells us how those who surrounded him thought about him. He was able to pull the wool over the eyes of many including female admirers who believed in his lies till the very end. My issue with the movie is that it fails till the climax to show the evil incarnate that Bundy was. For a more nuanced take on a serial killer, try ‘My Friend Dahmer’.

Documentary of the Week

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (2019) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

It is only in the US documentaries that people come out to speak to documentary crew on the abuse they received. This makes for powerful documentaries. ‘At the Heart of Gold’ is one such documentary. Must watch.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Yesterday’ by Danny Boyle

Did you know: Jordan Peele was so insulted when Sony offered him the role of Poop in The Emoji Movie (2017) that he retired from acting to focus entirely on being a screenwriter and film director.

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Week 31

Movies: Non-English

Talk to Her (Spain, 2002) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

Talk_to_Her_English_movie_poster_fairuse

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNdzcTZUW54

One of the most thought provoking movies I have ever seen, ‘Talk to Her’ raises questions about what is right and wrong. This is one of those movies where Pedro Almodavar indulges himself and the effect is that there are many memorable scenes which blend in with a twisted but ultimately provocative story line. The story revolves around two men who care for two women when they are in a comatose state. The film is a little on the heavy side and if you are looking for a light film, this is exactly the movie you shouldn’t be watching. Otherwise, a classic. Two thumbs up.

Offside (Iran,2006) [IMDb: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

offside1

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xF029bEi00

People in many countries don’t realize the liberty and freedom they have. It is when you get to know really strange stuff that you start to appreciate what you have always taken for granted. For example, women in Iran are not allowed entry into sporting events featuring men. How regressive are those notions which make people enforce such laws? In this film by dissident Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi, he exposes the duplicity of the state. A few women cross dress to gain access to a soccer match featuring the Iran national team. The film dwells on what happens to them. The thing with Iranian films is that they are made on really tight budgets and do not have the funds to rely on technology to tell the story. So they must have a good story to tell and they need to tell it in an engaging way. This movie is a lesson on those very essential qualities that make a good Iranian movie.

English Retrospective

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) [IMDB: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

Good_the_bad_and_the_ugly_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13EUXqIwDkQ

If you have not seen this one, you have not seen anything. Absolutely riveting movie experience enhanced by the assured direction of Sergio Leone and the unforgettable music of Ennio Morricone.  Genre defining Western which has also been beautifully shot. This movie is better than all the high praise you have ever heard for this movie. Watch before you die.

Walk the Line (2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

walk-the-line

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

I am not going overboard when I say that this is the best movie on a musician ever made. Here the subject of analysis is Johnny Cash, the legendary singer-songwriter. His music was as peppy as his personal life. Together they made him a powder keg waiting to explode on to the stage. His roller coaster ride as a person and as a musician is explored in this engaging drama. Watch it if you love music; any sort of music.

Into the Wild (2007) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

into-the-wild-movie-poster-1020406877

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAuzT_x8Ek

Christopher McCandless abandons the world after graduation to seek the thrill of living in the Alaska wild. Based on a non fiction bestseller, this feature by Sean Penn tries to sell the romantic notion of an exotic life free from all worldly pleasures. I have not been really convinced by the idea. My opinion on McCandless is that he was (notice the past tense) an amazingly courageous but incredibly naive person. I recently read an article which says that in his final days he might have accelerated his death by consuming poisonous plants when he was out in the wild. The film is a breeze and conveniently skips the moral questions to give a truly uplifting film which makes it a good one to watch. Reality may be little more grey but I shall raise a toast to the traveler who chose to take the road less traveled.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Kings of Summer (2013) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%]

kings of

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cio8LOCZPzw

Three friends who are fed up of their parents decide to build a home and stay in the wild. The movie is visually vibrant with the colours of nature splashed all over it. It has some hilarious scenes and the pushy parents come out quite good. It is a story of growing up, standing on your own feet and discovering the real self within you. The movie does slow a bit in the middle. My only grouse is that it does not push the envelope. Otherwise, a really good film to watch.

The East (2013) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

east

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VZpeoQsQ1w

‘The East’ starts off on a very promising premise. It has a vigilante group taking on big corporations for their wrong doings. A private spy is sent in to infiltrate the group and through her we learn more about the reasons for the existence of the group. There are some standout moments, like the dinner scene with hands of the diners tied. The movie could have been much better but at the precise moment when the choice was to go and soar or find the easy escape route, the writers choose the latter. Still, I recommend this flick as a one time watch.

The Sapphires (2012) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

sapphires

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2Ty4r6mvgg

I discovered this movie by accident and I have no idea why this is not a more widely seen and discussed movie. This one has a very good story to tell and it is told in a way which justifies that story. In this film based on actual events, four Australian aboriginal girls form a music group and get a chance to entertain US troops fighting in Vietnam. They are aided by a quirky and knowledgeable manager. The movie tells their story without forgetting the deep political undertones and simmering racial tensions. Definitely worth a watch.

Krrish 3 (2013) [ IMDB: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%]

krrish 3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCCVVgtI5xU

I love writing about mainstream Hindi movies. I can have a good laugh and think of new ways to pan movies and the best thing is that Bollywood always gives enough material for this. Here we have a villain who shows his class by stealing ice cream from cones. The superhero is facing a job crisis because he cannot find enough time for his job after saving the world. Does ‘Spiderman 2’ ring a bell? The father and son go to work and save the world on a daily basis while the daughter in law reads news they create. The father speaks like he never grew up even when articulating grandiose plans to improve the lot of humankind. There are less raindrops falling in Cherrapunji than there are loopholes in this film. I almost forgot to mention that the superhero loves kids. I have only one thing to say ‘Thank You Shaktimaan’. No comments for Vivek Oberoi as the main villain. Like his ice cream stealing counterpart, he is also food obsessed. How else could he get the knife from the bread to slash his dad? I am also fed up.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Sicko (2007) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%]

sicko

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TohajYzut7Y

A damning indictment of the US medical system. Michael Moore style. Must see.

Eagerly Waiting for:’Oldboy’ because the original was too good.

Did you know: Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco at the peak of her career and bid adieu to acting.

Week 27

Movies: Non-English

A Hijacking ( Denmark, 2012) [ IMDB: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

hijacking

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

Somali pirates have given a new topic for filmmakers for ideating and the world is now raising a toast to the Tom Hanks movie ‘Captain Philips’. Incidentally, an equally acclaimed film on a ship hijack was released in 2012. Based on real events, the Danish film ‘A Hijacking’ is a gripping drama about a hostage situation. The focus here is more on the long drawn out negotiations. A psychological cat and mouse which focuses on the people than on the events.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, 2011) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Once_upon_a_time_Anatolia_quad_lowres (Medium)-803

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jKgHqU1jrs

There are some movies which make me want to visit the locations where they were shot. For example, I went to Bruges in Belgium only because ‘in Bruges’ was shot there. Anatolia in Turkey is one region i would like to visit after watching ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’. The plot of the movie involves a police search for a dead body in Anatolia but then the film is not about the story. It is more an exploration of the terrain and its wild beauty. This movie is a visual treat even when most of the region is explored during the night. No wonder it won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes.

English Retrospective

Sixteen Candles (1984) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

sixteen-candles

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcKqtzj8LAg

The movie is a cult classic and one of the most rented movies on Netflix. Strangely, it still connects with teenagers, three decades after its release. This movie is a testament to the idea of beauty in simplicity. The story revolves around the sixteenth birthday of a girl. Though utterly predictable, the easy dialogues and carefree acting creates the right kind of ambiance. Almost all the credit for this goes to writer-director John Hughes who went on to make many memorable movies. An easy watch.

The Last King of Scotland (2006) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%]

Last_king_of_scotland_uk

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV_QgKJFZP0

Idi Amin was rumoured to have blood in the list of drinks he used to have during his tyrannical rule of Uganda. Forest Whitaker becomes Idi Amin in a performance which clinched him the Oscar. His Oscar winning speech is one of the most sincere I have ever seen. Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-fGCHGTaGE . James McAvoy plays the Scot who became Amin’s personal physician. The movie has a brisk pace and is a piece of history told in an entertaining way. An underrated gem.

The Notebook (2004) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

notebook

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3G3fILPQAU

A rich girl falls in love with a poor boy. That is a plot which gives cliches a bad name but with ‘The Notebook’ the story gets a new appeal altogether. Shot in breathtaking locales with freshly minted dialogues, the story is a an easy romance. The good part is that the best dialogues belong to Ryan Gosling and he has a field day mouthing them. The movie almost made it to the top 25 romantic movies covered by me a fortnight ago. It would have been a shoo in if it had been more tightly edited.

Movies I Saw This Week

Monsters University (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

Monsters-University-banner

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBzPioph8CI

Coming to cliches, animation movies are now turning out to be a parody for real life cliches. In ‘Monsters University’ every single prop of a college movie is used which leads to mixed results. The story is as predictable as the plot of a Karan Johar film but the animation is exceptional. Some of the fine touches have to be viewed in slow motion. The animation movies are getting a little stale but this one is among the better ones to have come out in the last few years.

The Lone Ranger (2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 58%]

lone ranger

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjFsNSoDZK8

When the producer of ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ series makes a movie with the venerable Johnny Depp as a native Indian, you expect more. Here, you get more of the same. They just forgot that they were shooting another movie with a more serious theme. Depp cracks the same type of jokes he had in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ with elaborate action scenes to keep the kids glued. Along the way they forget the story and by the end the viewer also does not care.

The Internship (2013) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 59%]

internship

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

I must admit that I now have a grudging admiration for the guys at Google. They made the longest corporate ad film and then got people to pay for watching it. Two guys who have zero skills land an internship at Google and then everything just works out perfect for them. They also educate us about various Google projects and products. In case you did not know, Google gives free food to its employees. Learn more such useful information as veterans like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make complete fools of themselves in this utterly boring film scripted to sell the goodness of Google.

The Canyons (2013) [IMDB: 4.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 22%]

canyons

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5uTtNLUmCA

The only reason for watching this movie was the controversy over the working style of Lindsay Lohan. For such an apology for a movie, the real shock is that it is written by the same guy who wrote ‘Taxi Driver’.

Documentary Pick of the Week

American Movie (1999) [ IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

american

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IzXD29halw

Some naive people want to be filmmakers. They have no money, no talent, no story and no sense. They do have truckloads of passion. A documentary which follows such a group. Tragically hilarious.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘12 Years a Slave‘ because Steve McQueen makes movies which are painful to watch, in a good way.

Did you know: Sally Field who played Tom Hanks’ mother in ‘Forrest Gump’ is only 10 years older than him.

Week 13

Movies: Non- English

California Dreamin’ (Romania, 2007) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

California_dreamin'

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NoNVMkQwU

What happens when a NATO train with US soldiers is stopped in a small town in Romania because it does not have the transit documents? In times when the Bolivian President is not given a safe flight home, this film is also a reminder that even Romania can poke USA if it really wants to. This is the story told by Director Cristian Nemescu in one of those movies which is as farcical as it is serious. Stranded in a small town with corrupt local officials, the soldiers get to see a slice of the daily lives of the people of Romania.  The acting is natural and believable. We are not talking of a masterpiece here but a normal entertaining movie. The film could have been sharper but the young director died immediately after the completion of the film.

Halfaouine : Boy of the Terraces (Tunisia, 1990) [IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 61%]

Child of Terraces

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N8OzaWW24g

Get a glimpse of Arab culture and life in this Tunisian movie which is a coming off age story. An adolescent boy and his curiosities are presented with poise by the director without losing the sensuality of it all. The film never gets voyeuristic and moves at a pleasant pace. The story is universal but the setting and the characters make it special. The acting is so effortless that you may feel that you are not watching a movie but a slice of life in Tunisia. Recommended for the viewer who is open to knowing new cultures and lifestyles.

Hollywood Retrospective

Say Anything… (1989) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

say anything

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFV7FnbhBRY

John Cusack may mean many things to many people but when I hear that name the first image that comes to my mind is the iconic scene of him holding up the stereo to play it outside his sweetheart’s house in the finely written romance ‘Say Anything’. This movie will never make it to the list of greatest movies ever made but this one will stay with you if you can pay attention to the good dialogues and scenes it has. Also, when the lady being wooed is Ione Syke, it does not hurt to look at the screen. In case you want to see more of her ‘The Rachel Papers’ is highly recommended in spite of it being a flawed movie.  If you ever watch ‘The Rachel Papers’, check out the scene when the taxi leaves just as a kiss is going to happen. That is one of my favourite romantic scenes on screen. Coming back to ‘Say Anything’, just watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend on a lazy afternoon.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) [IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_movie-207695

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GiLxkDK8sI

Once in a while you watch a movie that just blows you away. With me the real world experience in such cases involves changing my posture from lying down in the bed/sofa to jumping up and grabbing the chair because it hits me that the movie deserves my full attention. ‘Eternal Sunshine…’ is one such movie. The movie wants to tell  three things. Firstly, when lovers start out they look perfect to each other but then it is difficult to sustain the same passion unless you are willing to put that extra effort. Secondly, some people are made for each other and nothing can stop that. Thirdly, just as joy is part of life so is pain. Now, the real genius of the writer Charlie Kaufman (I am a huge fan) is how he makes a story to fit these ideas neatly into them and tell it without you realizing that you are being told the exact same things in a wonderful way. More than anything, I marvel at the ability of someone to think, conceptualize and finally put pen to paper on such an original screenplay which deservedly won the Oscar. It is interesting that in a film with Jim Carrey it is Kate Winslet who looks the odd character. The performances are alright, the direction is above average but the screenplay is awesome. While watching this masterpiece, try to think like a writer.

Out of Africa (1985) [IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

out of africa

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gYlSGUTthw

A fiercely independent woman who would not be tied down by anything or to anybody meets her match in Africa. The people in question happen to be Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in this old world romance directed by Sydney Pollack. Visually stunning, tragic and emotionally draining. In the middle of all the excitement that the movie generates there is that feeling of impending doom. Based on a true story.

Movies I saw this week

To the Wonder (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 48%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAzcTZTY1g

Terrence Malick’s effort after ‘Tree of Life’ is a dud. Ben  Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams or Olga Kurylenko cannot save this film from doom. The dialogues are minimal and the movie tries to look high end art house cinema without much success. Still, I can watch this movie more than once just for the visual experience it gives. It is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in recent times. The locations are simply breathtaking but in the end all that comes to nothing for the lack of a story.

Ishkq in Paris (India, 2013) [IMDB: 3.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 33%]

Ishkq-in-Paris-Movie-Poster

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

Why I watched this movie? I don’t know. How I felt when I watching it? I certainly know. I should have known better. When Preity Zinta was giving interviews saying she was confident about the movie because it has a good story, I should have read between the lines. The first half of the film is ‘Before Sunrise’ copied scene by scene. The second half? Don’t even bother. Somebody please tell Zinta that she is no more the bubbly girl of ‘Dil Se’. I don’t know whether I was hallucinating but the male lead had kohl lined eyes throughout. Spooky. Also, trash.

The Watch (2012) [IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 41%]

watch

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

Heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth? The case is not exactly that here because there is no broth to begin with. Four men defend their neighborhood against alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are so bad in the film that the aliens’ acting looks better. Still, if you have an IQ in single digits you may enjoy it but such people are harder to find on earth than aliens.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Hoop Dreams (1994) [IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

Hoop_Dreams

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph2Y-epihlk

Two boys whose only way out of crime and poverty is basketball, try to make their dreams come true. Uplifting.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Blue Jasmine’ because I eagerly await every movie from Woody Allen. After covering Barcelona, London, Paris and Rome in the last few films, he is now back to San Francisco.

Did you know: There are more than 40,000 movie screens in the USA.