The 15:17 to Paris

Maybe Clint Eastwood is just trying to burn through his money in his Golden years now. There is no other rhyme or reason why he would choose to make a movie like this. The 15:17 to Paris is based on the true story of three American soldiers that prevented a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. By no means am I diminishing their heroic feat but what could have been told in a 10 minute YouTube clip turned into a 1 hour 36 min ordeal that was entirely unnecessary. The story starts with the childhood of these three boys in elaborate detail which has absolutely nothing to do with the incidence on the train, goes into how they all join the army, shows them awkwardly traveling through Europe with the last 15 minutes actually showing the incident on the train.

Bad acting, awkward dialogues and a script not worth the paper it’s written on. (1/10)

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The Shape of Water

I am the last person to go watch a science fiction movie but I am so glad I took the plunge on The Shape of Water. This isn’t the first movie made on alien creatures but certainly one that clearly shows it’s made for the art of moviemaking and not to fill the coffers of the producer – though hopefully that will happen too.

An amphibious alien creature, believed to be a water God is being held captive at an American lab in the 1960s. The director of the lab is every shade of cruel one can imagine, both in his professional and personal life. He is up against the Russians to gain intelligence on this creature even if that means killing and dissecting it. Meanwhile, a mute girl, Elisa, who cleans the lab uncovers this alien has the propensity to understand language and has emotions. When she finds out the director is about to get him killed she plans a successful escape from the lab and nurtures the alien in her bathtub with the help of her neighbor, her colleague and the Russian doctor who under disguise of being an American was taking care of the alien at the lab. Elisa and the alien grow fond of each other and connect on levels beyond the spoken word. There is a generosity of spirit at display that comes from being a misfit in society with Elisa being a mute person and the alien, well, being an alien. The day Elisa is about to release him back to his natural habitat of open waters the director finds out their whereabouts and tries to kill them. However, what would an alien God be without healing powers? They both live happily ever after – under water!

There is something about the making of this movie that is almost zen like despite some gross bloody scenes. Characters are well built out, they are given purpose, there is tension to resolve and as a viewer you feel along with the happenings on screen. (8/10)

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The Glass Castle

No matter how much we wish and sometimes talk ourselves into believing our families are perfect there are bound to be struggles we are trying to overcome. For some the extremes are highly pronounced with the good times being better than one can imagine and the worst times being worse than you’d wish upon your enemy.

This is a story of a family that precariously lives within that spectrum of extreme love and extreme neglect. A family that inspires and inhibits its members at the same time for sometimes remarkable beauty comes with deep imperfections.

The Walls are a family of father, mother, four children living the hippie life. There is no money but there is an abundance of love – except on days the alcoholic father drowns himself in his addiction and leaves his children hungry. With the mother slowly losing it too one of the elder sisters, Jeannette,  becomes the de facto caretaker of her younger siblings. A particularly chilling evidence of it is when the youngest sibling, Maureen, wakes up her sister in the middle of the night because none of them have had food for three days. The only thing left in the house is a bowl of butter and some sugar which Jeannette stirs up and feeds the little one.

As the children grow up they slowly start leaving home to become independent but deep down the love for their parents and the knowledge that their father’s neglect was not his intent but the result of his addiction they try to stay in touch and take care of each other. When Jeannette, the daughter closest to her father becomes an accomplished journalist and gets engaged to a successful banker in NYC the chasm between her and her parents inevitably widens but she can’t let the burden of that break the strings of her heart firmly connected to her family. The drama culminates in a beautiful ending that’s testimony of Jeanette’s strength and her undying love for the people that she depends on as much as they do on her.

Be warned: This movie will leave you sobbing and hurting but it’s beauty will stay with you for years to come. (10/10)

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The Post

All I wanted on a Sunday afternoon was an easy-to-follow-along movie with taut storytelling and an uplifting ending. Instead I felt I had to work hard to understand what was going on and I caught myself squinting at my watch twice in the dark of the theatre to see how much longer it will take to get to the point. In all honesty, I feel Hollywood movies sometimes contain so much “noise” that it becomes hard to focus on the actual happenings of the plot.

This movie tried to do a few too many things by taking on the topics of government blunders, rivalry, survival, freedom of press and the added dose of feminism that most movies are using to draw audiences these days. With so much going on the story didn’t do full justice to any of them. Sometimes less is more!

What stood out, however, are excellent performances by both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. What fine acting! (4/10)

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The Commuter

An ex-cop is framed into killing a witness to a huge corporate conspiracy. He is offered $100,000 to identify the witness on his daily commute train and tap her with a GPS that can then be identified by another killer. As the movie unfolds the cop feels increasingly threatened. His family is held captive which makes him reach out for help to an old colleague he trusted. Things go south from there rapidly with the movie ending in a climax that would put Bollywood to shame.

Liam Neesen is a polished actor but for the 60 year old he is portraying in the movie even he’s gone a bit overboard. His on-screen wife has two scenes and is irritatingly annoying. Maybe she should have been kept hostage a bit longer. (4/10)

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The Girl On The Train

Hardly a well kept secret but a good reminder that I should read the novel before I watch the movie. What was a bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins turned into a mediocre thriller on celluloid. It’s rare that someone can turn an intricate thriller into an equally well-made movie – as was the case with Gone Girl.

Emily Bunt’s acting is spot on but her deranged look and coldness never lets the viewer sympathize with her condition. For the first half of the movie she establishes herself as an annoying psychopath and when the plot turns things end so quickly that you never have the chance to celebrate her existence in any way.

Certainly watchable but not worth preparing for shivers and screams. (4/10)

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Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things

Living more with less has been a quest that’s been intriguing me for quite some time. My family often thinks I have gone cookoo when I decline their offer to buy me new fancy clothes from India, more stuff for the kitchen or when I am unable to let them know what I want for my birthday. But in all honesty, I find more peace when I own less “stuff” and whatever I own is organized. To the extent that last year (and this year again) I went through an exercise around Diwali that looked like this.

While I am not an extremist that lives in an empty apartment with just one chair and mattress I like to keep things streamlined and neat. A few things that help me do that are to constantly ask myself a few questions:

  • Have I used this item in the last six months? Or am I going to use it in the next six months?
  • Does this item bring me joy?
  • When I die will my family look at this and ask “what did she need THIS for”?

Having said that, I have the hardest time letting go of things that have any sort of emotional value but then you could say they bring me joy so I keep them around.

Minimalism is a documentary that kept me engaged throughout its 79 minutes runtime because it’s from the heart, not extreme in any way and shows you how this concept has changed the lives of many people that have adapted this lifetime in whatever way they saw fit. It also rebels against the corporate “lock up” that I also feel a bit burdened by from time to time. What an irony that I work in the advertising industry which essentially goes against my grain to the hilt. Maybe early retirement is a dream that may come true one day.

There are ways to live a more meaningful life and this documentary shows you stories of many that are. (10/10)

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