75: Platinum Edition

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Son of Saul (Hungary, 2015) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, My rating: 9.0]

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Trailer

One of the most emotionally draining movies of all time, ‘Son of Saul’ effortlessly canters into the status of a classic. With accolades which include top prizes at assorted film festivals including Cannes, and the Best Foreign Movie at the Oscars, the movie is a compelling tour-de-force. The story revolves around a Jew who is tasked with handling ‘operations’ in the Auschwitz concentration camp and his desperate attempts to organize a religious burial for his son who is gassed to death. ‘Son of Saul’ is one of the most original films I have ever seen.The camera focuses on the protagonist and the story is told through his silent despair. Even when the background is mostly out of focus, the horror at the concentration camp is very much in focus. The utter disregard for human life and the clockwork precision of activities at the camp would have been shocking if they had not been deeply moving. This is a movie you will find difficult to forget.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:62%, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

Srinivasa Ramanujan was a self taught genius who could have revolutionized the field of mathematics but for his untimely death. In his short life span he was able to create ripples in the lake that is mathematics. The movie version shines a light on his remarkable life but is let down by the sloppy acting of Dev Patel. His acting is still in the infancy of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ days. Jeremy Irons saves the day by virtually carrying the scenes with his screen presence and dialogue delivery. The hackneyed script meanders along before it is set on its due course. There are some redeeming factors which don’t let the film sink but a far better movie would do justice to S. Ramanujan. Till then, if you want to see a movie with a mathematics genius, watch ‘Good Will Hunting‘.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:90%, My Rating: 7.0]

10cl_poster

Trailer

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ would have been a classic but for its title. That sentence will make sense when you watch the full movie. A young woman finds herself in an underground bunker after a car crash. Her rescuer claims to be protecting her from the perils of the outside world. She also has company in the form of another hostage. As her stay extends in the bunker, her will to escape gets stronger. The movie is engaging but the jarring background score in the initial parts of the movie distracts the viewer more than it thrills. Even then the anticipation of what lies ahead is never lost. There are some neat tricks in the screenplay like the scene in which the protagonist removes the mask and discovers that everything is normal. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a good sequel and lays the groundwork for another sequel but it could have been much more than that.

Eddie the Eagle (2016) [ IMDB:7.6, Rotten Tomatoes:86, My Rating:7.5 ]

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Trailer

There is nothing like a feel good movie. Feel good movies from the sports arena are especially captivating because who doesn’t love an underdog story? Eddie Edwards was not shooting for the stars when he chose skiing. His single-minded pursuit was for Olympic glory. He did not even want to win. He just wanted to be an Olympian. This movie, based on real events, is his story. Taron Egerton transforms to Eddie Edwards and makes him a lovable character. Hugh Jackman has fun in a role that helps him break the mold. Together they create an engaging duo in a well written movie with all the paraphernalia that accompany such movies. For a movie which has a guarantee of a happy ending written all over it, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ is a good watch.

Hush (2016) [ IMDB:6.7, Rotten Tomatoes:100%, My Rating:7.5]

hush

Trailer

‘Hush’ is the story of a deaf-mute author who is under siege from a killer while alone at home. The killer reveals himself to her and makes it amply clear who is in the driver’s seat. What ensues is a cat and mouse game with the death of one of them as the only way to end the standoff. Deftly handled scenes and some fine acting make this movie a top class thriller. Definitely worth a watch.

The Ardennes (Belgium, 2015) [ IMDB:7.0, Rotten Tomatoes:Not yet rated, My Rating:6.5 ]

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Trailer

‘The Ardennes’ from Belgium tells the tale of two brothers over the course of four years when one of them is convicted for a botched up crime. The movie has a wafer thin plot and moves at a languid pace for most part. It is predictable to some extent but it is the last twenty seconds of the movie that take it another level altogether. The easy thing to do to is to skip the scenes which don’t have dialogue in them. If it were to be reduced to one hour, the movie would have been a rather short and sweet package. Nevertheless, a good film.

The Jungle Book (2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:94%, My Rating:7.5] 

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Trailer

‘Jungle Book’ brings a truckload of nostalgia. When I was a kid (that was a quarter of a century ago), ‘Jungle Book’ used to be one of the main cartoons on Doordarshan (India’s official TV network). From the remarkable run this movie version is having at the box-office, it is safe to assume that it is not just me who is having a bout of nostalgia. The success of the movie is also because of the technical wizardry at work. The scenes are captivating and the editing is sleek. There is no dull moment in this masterful production of a much loved novel.  There are some discordant notes though. In the original Jungle Book the snake ‘Kaa’ was a male and friendly to Mowgli but in the film Kaa becomes a female and becomes a dangerous adversary. Similarly, the monkey king is given mannerisms, crooning and dialogues similar to that of an African-American. Small discordant notes. Enjoyed the film though.

Creep (2015) [ IMDB:6.2, Rotten Tomatoes:96%, My Rating:6.5]

Creep_(2014_film)_poster

Trailer

‘Creep’ is shot in the ‘found footage’ format. A craiglist ad entices a videographer to take up a one day shoot in a remote area. When he arrives there he finds his spooky but well meaning guest. The videographer’s sympathies soon turn into pure angst and fear. For once, he does not realize what he has signed up for. In some ways the naivete of the protagonist is the cause of all his perils. I wondered more than once on the improbability of the plot and also how easily the videographer’s concerns were rubbished by the police. If you sweep such inconsistencies under the carpet, the movie is a rather engaging watch. Mercifully, it is only 77 minutes long.

Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Malayalam,2016) [ IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 7.5]

jacobinte

Trailer

Dubai is a mirage in the middle of a desert. It is in this Dubai that dreams are built and hopes are shattered. When the 2008 economic crisis and a cheating business partner create the perfect storm for a family, the family finds strength and courage from sources hitherto unknown to them. ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam’ tells the story of that family. Based on real events, the movie does not fall into the trap of being excessively sentimental. The makers also resist the temptation of making it a riches to rags to riches story. The focus is on people: within the family and outside it. Another piece of evidence to show that the best movies in India are made in non-Hindi languages.

Baaghi (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:5.9, Rotten Tomatoes:63%, My Rating:5.5]

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Trailer

This movie is vehicle for Tiger Shroff to establish his credentials as an action hero. The problem with it is that it looks dated and the story and screenplay seem to have been stolen from the tomb of Tutankhamun. The director is so out of his ideas that he even recreates a song sequence of ‘Dil-Se’ in his thoroughly boring songs. Not content with this he also has a copy of a rain song which looks eerily similar to another song in the Tamil film ‘Mazhai’ (That movie is a remake of Telugu hit ‘Varsham’.  The formula is simple. Action sequence followed by a song. Repeat. The jokes could have been called stale but they were pickled a long time ago by other filmmakers to extend their expiry dates. Good that they shot most of the movie in Kerala because people there could have never understood the nonsense they were being subjected to.

Sairat (Marathi, 2016) [ IMDB:9.5, Rotten Tomatoes:Not listed, My Rating: 8.0 ]

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Trailer

Official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival and on course to be the biggest Marathi film of all time, ‘Sairat’ holds a mirror to the deep seated caste prejudices in our society. Unnecessarily long at 170 minutes, the movie is about the budding love between youngsters from two different castes and the ramifications of their love. Told through the eyes of the leading lady (Rinku Rajguru in a National Award winning role), the film is a breeze in the first half. The director steadily builds the story and adds more gravitas to the proceedings in the second half. The score does no harm to his efforts. It is difficult to write more without giving away the plot details but suffice to say that the climax of the film is truly exceptional for the thought that has gone into it.

Fan (Hindi, 2016) [ IMDB:8.0, Rotten Tomatoes:82%, My Rating:4.0]

fan

Trailer

Nobody loves Aryan Khanna (that is, Shahrukh Khan) more than Gaurav Chandna (that is, Shahrukh Khan). The word ‘Narcissim’ traces its origin to a young Greek called Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in a pool. What if people turned suicidal after watching ‘Dilwale’ and ‘ Happy New Year’? SRK still has fans going crazy in front of his house when he cares to wave at them. He has fans willing to kill for him. He has fans willing to die for him. He has producers who make films for him. He has writers who indulge his megalomania. He can make films where the other actors have nothing to say or do. He can hold forth on issues affecting the nation as if he really cares. He can release films in movie halls and expect people to watch. But he cannot make even his fans watch a film called ‘Fan’. Alas, even SRK’s fans have brains.

Documentary of the Week

That Sugar Film (2014) [ IMDB:7.3, Rotten Tomatoes:64%, My Rating:6.5]

That-Sugar-Film-Poster

Trailer

A documentary chronicling the ill effects of sugar on the body. Informative.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Kabali’ because there is no one like Rajnikanth

Did you know: “Shahrukh” means “face of the king”

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Week 36

Movies: Non-English

Vizontele (Turkey, 2001) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

vizon

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL1gcQi-4X0

The introduction of television in a remote village in Turkey changes the social fabric of the place and also disrupts the ‘entertainment industry’ in the region. Sometimes simple stories that tell the lives of ordinary people are the most powerful. This is one such story. Watch it for the rustic appeal that it brings and also for the performances in a simple story.

The Child (France, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

child

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU3mndctyJM

This French Palme d’Or winner is a slow burning masterpiece because it is only in the latter stages that it reveals itself.  A young couple go to the extent of exploiting their newborn to make money. The movie takes a swipe at the social security system in France but in the end it is about the complexity of relations in a young family with a baby. Highly recommended.

Movies I Saw This Week

Gravity (2013) [ IMDb: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgGPTa7-vlE

I think that that the special effects in Gravity are perhaps the best in the history of cinema. I am willing to put my money on ‘Gravity’ scooping the Oscars for ‘Special Effects’ and ‘Cinematography’. It is a very simple tale of astronauts trying to stay alive after a wreck in space. The movie should be seen in 3D where your eyes will savour every moment of it. The roles are tailor made for George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. (Spoilers ahead) There are some excellent scenes like the one in which Clooney is imagined to be entering the space station again. It reminded me of ‘127 hours’ where too the protagonist goes for a final push when trapped in what looks like an insurmountable problem. Two thumbs up for one of the best movies of the year.

Dhoom 3 (India, 2013) [ IMDB: Not yet rated, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeF_b8EQcK0

I walked out of the movie hall midway through the movie. Enough said.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) [ IMDB:6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw6dECrl-BE

Excellent animation is let down by an under cooked screenplay in this sequel to the much loved original. The animation looked very good in 3D but the story was as predictable as the goal celebration of Alan Shearer.

7 Sundara Rathrikal ( 7 Beautiful Nights) [Malayalam, India, 2013] [ Not yet rated]

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

James Albert has a way with cooking up stories that neatly fit into a jigsaw puzzle by the time the movie ends. Add to that the visual spendour of Lal Jose and you get this movie which starts a bit slow but picks up tremendously in the second half and makes it a movie worth watching during this festive season. The story involves the events that unfold in the seven days leading to the marriage day of the lead actor. I wish I could watch this movie with someone else once more. (Spoilers ahead) The way small incidents and misunderstandings totally change the lives of people is brought to the fore here. Though it is just a story, that tinge of sadness descends on me when I get to see people in love being torn apart by the actions of others. I thought that in some strange ways, I could relate to the protagonist.

Drishyam (Malayalam, India, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

drishyam

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMASubc1y_k

The director should take a bow for this one. It is a very original piece of work and one of the must see movies of the year. Mohanlal reminds us that he still has it in him to pull off a very memorable performance but Asha Sharath ( I had to Google to find out her name) as the Inspector General of Police has gone one better than him. I think that her portrayal of a police officer who is also a mother is pitch perfect. In the end the acclaim should go to the director who also wrote the screenplay. It is a genre defying film. It can be called a thriller, a crime investigation or a family story. In the end it is all that and more. Two thumbs up to certainly one of the best movies of the year.

Thira (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%]

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

A woman’s fight against human trafficking involving young girls. It is set over a day when the lady and a young man go in search of the same people. There are some loopholes in the plot but all that is forgiven because the film has its heart in the right place. Shobhana sparkles on screen. The brisk pace, cinematography and editing are proof that Vineeth Srinivasan is a director who has a very good idea about the commercial aspect of movie making. After a breezy romance in his earlier film, he shows his ability to take risks with a radically different subject. A must watch just for the intent and sincerity.

R… Rajkumar (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 37%]

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsnHky4wv5w

It is sad and funny that after ‘Thira’, I am reviewing ‘R… Rajkumar’. I would have walked out of the movie if I had seen it in the theatre. I have serious issues with the portrayal of women in this film. The film is set in a patriarchal society which gives two hoots about the rights of women. They are ill treated and beaten up as if it is a routine thing to do. The hero goes after his girl as if she is some trophy to be won. He stalks her and literally salivates every time he sees her. The lyrics are obnoxious and caters to the lowest common denominator of the audience. The real icing on the cake is the woman herself. She says to one of her pursuers in public that if he wins against her lover, she will take her clothes off for him. Seriously? I almost died when she said that for the second time.

Artist (India, Malayalam, 2013) [ Not yet rated]

artist

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml2IAPNCdTY

This one from Shyamaprasad is another movie which I will not forget very soon. It has a thought provoking story and raises questions which are difficult to answer. A young girl drops out of college to marry her college mate. She gets thrown out of her family and then her life becomes a succession of tragedies. Ann Augustine gives her best performance till date in this film. The film is a scorcher and has a very nice story to tell. Highly recommended.

Peter O’Toole Retrospective (In memory of the screen legend who passed away this week)

Peter O’Toole is often remembered for the largest (8) unsuccessful acting nominations at the Oscars but he was a screen legend on his own right.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) [ IMDB: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%]

lawrence

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmr1iSG3RTA

One of the most memorable opening sequences in a movie sets the stage for an epic stretching across countries and faiths. It tells the story of a British officer with confused loyalties. Peter O’Toole is what this movie is remembered for, even when he was not a part of the 7 Oscars it won.

The Lion in Winter (1968) [IMDb: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

lion

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

Set in the 12th century, this film follows the inner court shenanigans during the final days of King Henry, the 2nd. The queen and the three son’s battle it out for the throne in this classic. Must see.

Venus (2006) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%]

venus

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-XsErH6WJI

Peter O’Toole got his final Oscar nomination as an actor for playing a dirty old man whose life changes when he gets young female company. Not a classic but not a boring one either.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Stories We Tell (2012) [ IMDb: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

stories

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytq4VZ2Nyxg

How different people in a family remember the same person? Quite differently. One of the top 10 documentaries of the year.

Eagerly Waiting for:‘Dallas Buyers Club’ because it is rumoured to be among the Oscar favourites.

Did you know: The first in-flight movie was The Lost World (USA, 1925), shown during an Imperial Airways flight from London, UK to Paris, France in April 1925.