Edition 85

The Non-English Movie of The Week

Loveless (Russia, 2017) [IMDB:7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of an ugly divorce. As the child goes missing, the parents launch a search which intensifies as the story progresses. The director whose earlier works include ‘Leviathan’, goes for a more nuanced storytelling with subtle hints on the state of the Russian society. Unlike ‘Leviathan’ which spared no punches, ‘Loveless’ is often puzzling and enigmatic. The suspense is intact till the end and the open-ended climax leaves much space for speculation and contemplation. The pace of the movie dips in the latter half when the proceedings turn plain boring but the quest for the missing boy keeps the audience hooked. ‘Loveless’ is sure to get an Oscar nomination but not good enough to win.

Movies I Saw This Week

I, Tonya (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Margot Robbie stars as real life figure skater Tonya Harding whose chequered career’s low point was a botched up and bizarre kidnapping saga of her opponent. Robbie, who used to play ice-hockey earlier, brings the expertise to give a creditable performance in scenes where she is in the ice rink. There is nothing compelling about the screenplay and it hurtles towards an inevitable end. Margot Robbie plays her much abused character with conviction but the only Oscar that this movie will win will rightfully belong to the controlling mother of Tonya played with relish by Allison Janney.

The Disaster Artist (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

For those who have not had the misfortune of watching a gutter movie called the ‘The Room‘ released in 2003, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the events surrounding the making of that movie. ‘The Room’ had a second life when it gained popularity with some viewers rating it as the “best worst movie” ever made (which is a very generous assessment). The legend behind the movie was one Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, distributed, directed and acted in the original. James Franco, another goofball from Hollywood, has a field day as he tries to play Tommy Wiseau in a rather compassionate look at the original. Whether such a tribute to ‘The Room’ is warranted is certainly questionable. In fact, as a movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ fails to stand on its feet once it is robbed of the context. For most of the funny scenes to work, it is important to have viewed the original. Whether it is worth sitting through the mind numbing experience of watching ‘The Room’ so that ‘The Disaster Artist’ can be appreciated, is a question left to the discerning viewer. James Franco is sure to sweep awards which have a category for a comical performance but when it comes to the real deal (ie, the Oscars), he will be educated on good acting by the performances of veterans like Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93% , My Rating: 8.5]

Trailer

Frances McDormand gives her best performance after ‘Fargo’ in a masterpiece scripted and directed by Martin McDonagh. The movie begins with a mother’s pointed questions about the rape and murder of her daughter. The difference being that she goes for the audacious by putting those questions on three billboards. As a viewer, it may be difficult to foresee what unfolds in the narrative from there on. What surely does happen is by far the best Hollywood movie of 2017. The movie proceeds with the ease of knife sliding through butter. Frances McDormand, in what will be an Oscar winning performance, embodies the spirit of the character and plays it with the grit and steely determination making it one of the strongest woman protagonists in cinema. What elevates the screenplay is that all the cast members bring their A game to the show. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell add gravitas to their roles as the ailing police chief and a racist officer respectively. The humour in this tense drama is first rate and never out  of place. This movie is easily among the best to have made it to the cinemas in 2017.

Lady Bird (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 99% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Greta Gerwig turns director in a bittersweet coming of age movie set in Sacramento. Incidentally, Greta Gerwig is from Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan lives up to the promise she had shown in ‘Brooklyn’ as she plays the role of a small town high school student trying to find her bearings and love over the course of a few months. There are tons of movies with similar themes but what makes ‘Lady Bird’ charming is the freshness of the writing and the little twists and turns which keeps the viewer interested in the events on screen. ‘Lady Bird’ may not be a classic but it has its own rightful place in the list of the best movies of the year.

The Shape of Water (2017) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 92% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

Gullermo del Toro is a master at story telling as demonstrated multiple times previously and most memorably in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. This is reinforced by ‘The Shape of Water’ where he blends fantasy, music and romance into an intoxicating concoction. For the grace with which he tells an impossible story itself, he deserves the Oscar for Direction. ‘The Shape  of Water’ is a love story between a cleaner at at secret facility and a water creature. The premise is so outrageous that you may be put off by the synopsis but as you watch the movie, you may find yourself rooting for this romance. ‘The Shape of Water’ owes its mood to the music of Alexandre Desplat who looks like a shoo in for the Oscars. Pity that Hans Zimmer will not be getting his Oscar for another extraordinary score in ‘Dunkirk’. Watch ‘The Shape of Water’ if you are willing to be taken to the stars and clouds by the magic of cinema.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) [IMDB: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 6.5]

Trailer

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a bit of manipulative film making. It is the one of those annual LGBT themed movies with a heavy Oscar bait thrown in. For sure, it is a gorgeous looking movie shot in achingly beautiful parts of Italy. The movie is worth a watch just for the scenery. Timothee Chalamet is another reason for watching this gay romance, in which he stands out and promises much more for the future. The story is about a young boy who is wooed by the associate of his dad. Recommended if you like the category.

The Florida Project (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 96% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

A24 studio has the uncanny knack of picking low budget features with a solid story line which would not be green-lit by the major studios. ‘The Florida Project’ is a film that A24 can be proud of. It tells the tale of a brash child spending her summer holidays with her single mom in a motel close to Disneyland. The story is told through the eyes of the child and portrays the life of the American poor. William Defoe puts in a good shift as the manager of the motel. The movie does stray a bit from its main story on a couple of occasions but there something magical about the way the director handles the whole movie. ‘The Florida Project’ is not a great film but it is indeed a memorable one.

Darkest Hour  (2017) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85% , My Rating: 7.0]

Trailer

Winston Churchill whose career was built on his ambition to be the Prime Minister of Britain receives the honour when the soulless Nazi Germans are knocking on the gates of his country. All of his army is also facing an existential crisis as they are facing certain rout at Dunkirk. ‘Darkest Hour’ is the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman in the weeks following Churchill’s appointment as the wartime Prime Minister culminating in the rousing “We shall fight them….” speech. Overall, the movie is watchable but the screenplay is sometimes found lacking. The movie is a Gary Oldman show. He becomes Churchill. I would not be surprised if they mistakenly use the image of Gary Oldman for Churchill in the future. And, the Best Actor Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.

Molly’s Game (2017) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87% , My Rating: 7.5]

Trailer

Jessica Chastain has now become the reference point for smart  and smooth talking women operatives in cinema. Following on her remarkable success in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Miss Sloane’, she becomes the ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom who was convicted of running an illegal poker operation in New York. Aaron Sorkin’s direction and screenplay follow the sleekness he had shown in his earlier screenplays. ‘Molly’s Game’ is not a thriller. It is a character study which can be viewed with mild amusement. It is predictable but engaging. The movie does leave the question of whether it is telling more than it is hiding or vice-versa. For instance, Tobey Maguire is the actor on whom the star in the movie is based. Watch it if you like predictable but fast movies.

Documentary of the Week

Cries from Syria  (2017) [IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 100% , My Rating: 8.0]

Trailer

The story of the beginning of the Syrian war told through citizen shot videos. Moving and disturbing.

Eagerly waiting for: ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ 

Did you know: ‘Get Out’ is the first film made by a debutant director to gross more than 100 million USD at the US box office.

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Week 19

Movies: Non-English

The Life of Rose {La Vie En Rose} (France, 2007) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%]

La Vie En Rose movie poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujvIs0DhJU

In his review of this biopic of legendary French singer Edith Piaf, Stephen Holden of the ‘The New York Times’ wrote and I quote, “The most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another ever encountered on film.” I concur. Marion Cotillard was a shoo in for the Best Actress at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes making her only the second actress after Sophia Loren to win the Oscar for that category in a non-English movie. The film tells the bittersweet story of Edith Piaf who died young. This is one of those biopics where you genuinely feel for the character who is felled by a succession of tragedies. Marion Cotillard is exceptional in the role and (Spoiler Ahead) her acting in the scene when she discovers the death of her lover is unforgettable. Watch it for her and get introduced to Edith Piaf whose death was the only instance after the Second World War when Parisian traffic came to a standstill.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania, 2005) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%]

death of

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB5BktF00_Y

This Romanian tour de force is a niche comedy. It is not a chaplinesque slapstick and requires you to see the biting sarcasm at the heart of the film. The good thing is that even with the subtitles the humour is not lost. The story is that of a lonely old man who is stretchered off from one hospital to another on a particularly interesting night. The pace is rather slow but the dialogues more than make up for it. Overall, a good watch.

English Retrospective

The Paper Chase (1973) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

paper chase

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLZgjP-qgpQ

The story of life at Harvard Law School told through the eyes of one of the less stellar students on campus. It tells the reality of high pressure academic life marked by rigor which is what finally sets apart elite institutions. Life is lonely and the weather is often very cold. To add to this the teachers are geniuses who expect the same quality from the students. It is a very grounded movie which tells things as they are. Very well written. I particularly like the classroom scenes with strong dialogues and games of one upmanship. Also, it looks very authentic.

MASH (1972) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

Mash

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvijJ3RnRc8

Irreverent comedy which tests the limits of comedy and often breaches it through distasteful antics. The interesting part is that all the fun is by doctors and nurses of the US Army stationed in Korea during the war. They need an escape from what they encounter in their daily lives and once they decide to turn on the style it becomes a free for all madcap entertainer which maybe the best comedy in an army camp setting. Recommended only for those who can see the lighter side in everything.

Scent of a Woman (1992) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

scent_of_a_woman_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GUvsJc3vvE

How many Oscars has Al Pacino won? One. The legendary actor got his only piece of Oscar glory for playing a blind retired army Colonel in the remake of an Italian film by the same name. How his imposing and confident personality comes to the rescue of a student who comes to take care of him forms the crux of the story. His dialogue delivery, screen presence and emoting are essential viewing for anyone who cares to know the difference between run of the mill stuff and great acting. Essential viewing.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Conjuring (2013) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]

conjuring

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10ETZ41q5o

First of all, this is a really scary movie and watching it in a movie hall with good sound effects is the only way one can do justice to it. The director and the writer duo have finally hit the bull’s eye after making a series of average horror movies. There is a certain air of imminent danger throughout the movie. Even routine events are shot as if something really bad is going to happen. In that respect the film takes some time to get the feel right. If you enjoy being scared, then this one is for you. Apparently the film is based on a true story but you will have to stretch your imagination to believe that all that really happened. There are some unintentional funny scenes. Like when the priest says, ” The kids aren’t baptized. The approval (for the exorcism) has to come directly from the Vatican.” Really?

Chennai Express (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 57%]

chennai-express_13570983881

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGR5Sj1Bfo

Congratulations to Shahrukh Khan for having a proper hit after five years. Congratulations to the Indian multiplex viewer for making another dud a hit. Congratulations to Deepika Padukone for setting the new benchmark for Hindi spoken with a Tamil accent. Congratulations to myself that this movie is not playing within a 1000 miles of my residence. Truth be told, something inside me died every time Deepika spoke in Hindi. I have never seen such a hammed performance for a really long time. Shahrukh Khan plays a 40 year old, a fact which he keeps on repeating as if he is doing the viewer a favour by not playing a 25 year old. Truth: Shahrukh Khan is 47 years old and looks 50. Maybe the dialogue to that effect was true but then nobody would have noticed it because the star was peddling his Nokia phone worth Rs. 34250. You see, the phone still takes calls after being thrown out from a running train. Marketing lesson learnt: Nokia phones are sturdy and built for India where even the goons cannot destroy them. The movie may have swept the box office but one group who would have a tough time watching it with their families: Halwais. The hero gets off at a place near a waterfall on his way to Chennai but when he has to escape he finds himself in international waters near Sri Lanka. Take a look at the map of India. I am as lost for words as Shahrukh is in that scene. The action scenes or the ‘cars flying in the air’ scenes look like shots Rohit Shetty wanted to put in ‘Golmaal’ but then the producer of that series may have told him to keep them for another day.  Wafers have been made thinner to a new size called ‘Chennai Express Screenplay’. You know who is the biggest star and saving grace of the movie? The pictures of Rajnikanth when the end credits roll.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (India, 2013) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 30%]

Once-Upon-A-Time-In-Mumbaai-Dobara-Full-Movie-Online

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj9UXzyDsOA

What Shahrukh Khan can do, Akshay Kumar can’t. People don’t rush to his movies anymore because they have grown wiser after his gems like ‘Joker’ and ‘Thank You’. So he can kiss the 100 crore club goodbye unless he has a remake to hang on to. To add to this he has ‘accomplished’ actors like Imran Khan to thwart his every attempt to rise above mediocrity. Imran Khan may be in movies only because he has the right connections. His acting is defined by consistency. He looks the same and acts the same in every single movie. Only the costumes change. If there is a fan of Imran Khan out there, you are my enemy just because of the fact that you are a fan of Imran Khan. This movie is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the success of its prequel or is it that they don’t even put an effort to find a name for a movie. So just tell the world that it is the second part of some hit. Sleep, watch paint dry, count the waves on the beach, do anything but don’t waste your time on this flick.

Now You See Me (2013) [ IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 49%]

now you see me

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

An important tenet of magic is that the viewer should know that he has been tricked and should be generally happy about it. The keyword is, ‘tricked’. This movie makes use of all the technical advances in movie making for a film on magic. The problem is that it uses this to cheat the viewer and make a fool out of him. While trying to sound scientific with a nod to logic the movie is so full of loopholes in logic that the credibility of the film is easily questioned. From a piranha scene relying on editing to a bank robbery scene relying on god knows what, the movie is an insult to intelligence. The second time a character started playing the imaginary violin, I was thinking ‘what the heck is going on?’ The ending is convenient but to focus on it would be to say that other parts are of admissible quality. They are not so. I don’t want to do a laundry list of scenes where common sense is thrown out of the window because that would constitute half of the movie (or even more). As always, Morgan Freeman looks majestic. Thank god, he does not do any magic trick.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Tabloid (2010) [ IMDB: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

taboid

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

A beauty queen kidnaps a Mormon Missionary with whom she is in love. The incident creates waves. Thirty years later a documentary tries to uncover the truth. Mostly fun.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The Monuments Men’ because it has Matt and Clooney.

Did you know: The ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles originally spelled ‘Hollywoodland’ when it was installed in 1923. ‘Land’ was removed only in 1949.