Die Hard V

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We had a hostage situation in 1988 on screen; that was what Die Hard brought with itself – one of my favourite action movies of all time and may be something superior to most of the rest when I first watched it. When they took over the airport in Die Hard 2, this sequel was not something which could have failed, and it didn’t. Actually, there were moments which made this one seem to try and overtake the first. Then came Die Hard 3, which did the exact same thing as Transporter 2 did to The Transporter – it brought the level of magnificence down from the firmament; still distant from being the worst imaginable sequel, for it became a lesser thing only due to the power of the first two movies. It took the series twelve years to come back as Live Free or Die Hard – not a bad return for something which seemed to have disappeared long ago. It was quite certain at that moment that we hadn’t seen the last of the series, and here we have Die Hard 5 a.k.a A Good Day to Die Hard. May be John McClane is forever; like the T-virus. But a virus infection would make another bloody story – and the same is the case with an immortal McClane; therefore, lets keep that away.

John McClane is back; this time in Russia – the man with his own style of facing everything, from near-death situations to almost-life situations. He is the man who is always in the middle of a crisis, whether it is a complicated family problem or an extremely simple shoot-out which might even include helicopters and fighter planes. He is specialized in being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it might be something hereditary. The one thing that the viewer could be sure about, is that his character is not that far away from a superhero status. He faces his villains with more confidence than the superheroes – one simple thing which has to be kept in the mind before watching Die Hard V. Well, there are not many other heroes of this calibre – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand made me think about intentionally feeling otherwise, but one has to come to the conclusion that McClane belongs to another genre; a similar but another area of interest. Our men of the video games, featured in the movies Hitman and Max Payne, might have a shot in future though.

The scene has shifted to Moscow. The name of the villain is Yuri Komarov – brings to me the memories of Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece Doctor Zhivago with its Yuri Zhivago and Komarovsky. Other than thinking about these two names which strike a similarity with this one name, there is nothing to be mentioned about this movie related to the Nobel prize winning novel and its critically acclaimed movie adaptation by David Lean. No, that was not even a comparison but something which caught my attention. The other villain is named Viktor Chagarin, not a name I am going to identify with some other character of another work. It is in the battle between these two, that the hero’s son Jack McClane is caught. John McClane who has not been in touch with his son for years, makes a visit to Russia to get him out of trouble – or in his words, he goes on a vacation to Moscow. Jack had ended up in prison, but escapes with Komarov. Even as the father and the son never seems to get along in the beginning, they slowly begins to work together and solve the problems.

The son turns out to be a CIA agent (his father would address him as the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey), and his undercover operation would turn out to be a lesser twist than what Komarov and his daughter Irina would have to offer for them. Fortunately, there is no twist over twist, like that one Bollywood movie, Race 2. Still, to take the story to another level (or to a rather strange idea which could have surely taken a better twist) action would soon shift to Chernobyl, Ukraine; uranium, radio-activity and weapons. There are some twists and betrayals coming close to creating an impact, but most of the time, what saves the movie is its action scenes and the one-liners. There is enough fun and mindless action to keep this running. The McClane family problems would surely be solved in the end. Jack had said that “We’re not a hugging family” before the first half, and one knows that the family is united by the end, and can guess that “the hugging problem” might be solved before a possible Die Hard VI.

Bruce Willis stands strong as John McClane. He has continued with his “everyman” action star who seems to be drifting away a little from that status. One can only remember K’naan’s lines “When I get older I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag” – something which I heard a lot during the 2010 FIFA World Cup run of the Spanish Armada; McClane is just like that, for he has only got stronger with the age. But the doubt might be about his strength and durability which is reaching a new level with experience of old age, something which reminds me of those video games. That takes away that one McClane of the earlier century who was more vulnerable and prone to errors. The age has surely caught up with McClane, but it has had a positive impact on him, both physically and intellectually. Expendables 1 and 2 had similar impact on its characters, and as Bruce Willis played one of them, one has to doubt if that element has stayed as far as Die Hard V.

Yuliya Snigir looked extremely good out there, but should have had a better role to play in this one; as her character couldn’t create that impact which one of the two main antagonists could have come up with. The twists basically revolved around her, and there was mystery surrounding her until the Chernobyl scene, but the character of Irina had to suffer due to the action-centered approach to the movie. Actually, one has to wonder what has been there for the character in the movie- a typical one-dimensional character, a title for which even John McClane might be suitable someday. There is nothing wrong in the performances, but there is that absence of three-dimensional character elements throughout the movie. Even among these confusions, the best part of the movie was undoubtedly the car chase scene, and it powers the experience from the beginning. The end-action might be a little overdose, but still not unsuitable for the style of the movie. The support of good special effects make even the ordinary action scenes worth a watch.

We surely miss that skyscraper; also that airport. But still, Die Hard series would stay alive. When John McClane says that he is on vacation, it is a fact. This is a vacation which is slightly below the quality of the other movies of the series. But still, there are gun-shots everywhere, and high-speed car chases end up in heavy destruction of property, and even the flying machines join the action. So, in simple words, this is his vacation. If that means that there is even better to expect when he is out of vacation, that would be quite a treat. Die Hard IV was an improvement from Die Hard III and therefore, there is no shortage of expectations which can be put on the shoulders of this series. Even if one might have the tendency to call it a dumb action movie, I would say that it is just because it belongs to that genre and it has performed its duty. There was Expendables 1 and 2 along with many others which could have deserved that title in an even better way. Come back, Die Hard; come back stronger.

Release date: 13th February 2013 (USA); 22nd February 2013 (India)
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: John Moore
Starring: Bruce Willis, Yuliya Snigir, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Radivoje Bukvić, Cole Hauser

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Celluloid

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The Vampire Bat didn’t really have much of a luck to witness awesomeness for sometime; and he has been so disappointed that he wished to let the Vampire Crocodile do the rest of the movie watching and reviewing. But the twist of fate which followed him for centuries has struck one more time. The movie was Celluloid and the Vampire Bat was more than just impressed. He felt the 2008 movie Thalappavu again; the same feeling of Raama Raavanan and Melvilasom – he was at that moment, not sure whether to be in pain with the protagonist or to feel the strength and power of what was created by the life and fate of the central characters of these movies. Now one more movie joins this group of three – the trilogy of awesomeness got transformed into the fabulous four today; something which should have happened long ago, but was delayed by some horrible intrusion of new generation movies and the prejudice by a few very old generation fans.

Kamal’s Celluloid is not an entertainer for the mindless, but it is not an art cinema either. It has its moments of fun and tears, never dragging too much to bring the element of boredom. The result is a beautiful tribute to J. C. Daniel, now realized as the father of Malayalam cinema and Vigathakumaran a.k.a The Lost Child, the first Malayalam feature film. It is not a lesser tribute to the first Malayalam heroine P. K. Rosie either. It also has the reference to the second feature film in Malayalam, Marthanda Varma – the first Malayalam movie based on a literary work and history. Even as the movie travels through the ages, there is no loss of flow and there is no appearance of flaws. All the ages are represented with their suitable features, not exaggerating at any moment. There is visible presence of truth and sincerity throughout the depiction of pre-independence and post-independence India – these elements have been clearly lacking in most of the self-proclaimed realistic movies.

There is also the mention of the Lumiere Brothers – Auguste and Louis; their L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat or Arrival of a Train at a Station; that short silent film with no intentional camera movement and powered by one continuous real-time shot. It surely made itself realistic, but not the self-glorified new generation movies. Celluloid might be more old generation than the most, but it has enough to make one feel and follow its path. While the hyped new generation movies claim the same, and gives fake emotions powered by stylish camera shots and bad language, the fact is that it is not everyone’s reality. When they do so, it is the complete rejection of the common man. As they might not have done the earliest filmmakers in history proud with the absence of substance and the presence of nonsense, there is another particular addition to it, as the quick impact on their fate is much less an impact compared to the deep impact which is to come. As the world didn’t end in 2012, there might be many generations to follow, and they are going to use “what Prometheus gave them” on many movies, and among the movies which will have honour and glory instead – there will be Celluloid.

Coming back to the movie of the year so far; it is the story of J. C. Daniel, the man who wished to make the first Malayalam cinema. He is seen as a determined young man who has set out with a clear aim in his mind. With the help of his wife Janet and his friends, he sets out on a mission which is made nearly impossible as there are not many heroines available unless they try a man in a female role. Even the available actresses would be from Bombay or other parts of India who would charge so much for him to provide. He does try one of them, but the demands are found to be too much. Finally, they end up casting a lower caste woman – an act which doesn’t interfere with the quality of the movie, but does affect the minds of the upper caste orthodox people who couldn’t digest such a woman doing the role of an upper caste lady. This happens to be a huge turning point – a decision which would affect the progress of the movie in the theatres of 1920s and begin the troubles. The reaction of the influential upper caste would be too hostile for Daniel to handle.

The unavailability of female cast to act in movies and the caste based attitude would continue while Daniel goes off to live in Tamil Nadu after selling off most of his assets including his own house and there is no clue about Rosie whose hut was burned by the hooligans forcing her to run away. The dream had lost its wings. He starts a new life as a dentist, but that too is shattered due to his love for movies which continued to follow him. His practice as a dentist soon ends, making the situation worse. There is the mention of movies which followed during the later periods, like Chemmeen, Achanum Bappayum and Narasimham. As time moves on, it is Daniel’s later struggles and the attempts of Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan to bring the government’s attention to the situation of the pioneer of Malayalam movies which take the centre stage. But the absence of the film reels of the movie and his stay in Tamil Nadu was not to make the situation easier.

Prithviraj has come up with a brilliant performance – his best since Thalappavu. He has fitted so well into the young protagonist, his older self and the son of the protagonist. There is no point where he failed to impress. Chandni, who has debuted as Rosie, Mamta Mohandas as Janet , Sreenivasan as Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan – all of them have fit into the characters so well; even considering the movie in movie which looked like a realistic recreation of what the first Malayalam feature film might have been. The number of real-life movie figures are numerous; Dadasaheb Phalke – the father of Indian cinema, R. Nataraja Mudaliar who made the first silent film in Tamil (Keechaka Vadham) and so on. Another notable person mentioned in the movie is D. W. Griffith, the American film director. Charlie Chaplain is also frequently mentioned, and his movie The Kid is seen to be shown at the theatre which seemed like the most powerful of the inspirations. But Daniel’s work became a social drama which wouldn’t be acceptable to the society which was rooted in orthodoxy.

In simple words, what is Celluloid? It is the history of Malayalam cinema from its humble beginning to what it is now. It is also the story of one person who tried so hard to make this dream happen. Malayalam movie industry which had such humble beginnings has the big responsibility to carry on that legacy. The first Malayalam feature film was a revolution; it was the silent movie which gave life to Malayalam on the screen even with no single word spoken. It was also a voice of the change which was to come in the caste system; that feature film was an indirect voice of the subaltern which was silent; a contradiction for sure. But all these were submerged; like the legendary island of Atlantis. But now we know the person. As Paulo Coelho has let us know through his Alchemist, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”. He had his dreams and he fought for it. This tribute has been overdue for such a long time, and this movie has finally brought justice. One can’t help not being without pain for J. C. Daniel, but its time to take a bow. Its an honour to have known you – thank You Kamal. The experience is divine for a movie fan, especially if you watch that many Malayalam movies.

Release date: 15th February 2013
Running time: 130 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Kamal
Starring: Prithviraj, Mamta Mohandas, Chandni, Sreenivasan, T. G. Ravi, Nedumudi Venu, Siddique, Sreejith Ravi

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

David

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The Vampire Bat was re-introduced into this world, but he is struggling to be a movie-watcher with so many horrible movies around. David was a relief, and therefore he shall write about it, but considering the fact that only seven of the fourteen movies he watched in the last thirty days managed to be satisfactory, he surely wishes to sleep for a century and wait for that day when no movies are made. There should be discount for tickets for the Vampire Bat, for he saves so many movies of the world from being left unwatched. He is doing a great service, for which even free tickets might be not enough. May be free tea with tickets would do. The Vampire Bat shall look towards the firmament for now and wait for that moment when it starts raining movie tickets.

Why wouldn’t the Vampire Bat be disapponted. He had to watch Race 2 – old wine in an old bottle, while Kammath and Kammath and Lokpal were old wine in older leaking bottle. Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla was more like fish out of water gasping for air. While Da Thadiya had fish evolved with legs and thus made good contact with the people of the land, this little fish could make not keep people of the land or a flying Vampire Bat interested. Midnight’s Children had already lost its battle in a comparison to the novel. The Vampire Bat has been digging his own grave so that he could be buried in there forever, until something called David came to his attention. Then he went to watch it in Hindi and ended up watching it in Tamil. But it is not something he complained about, as he enjoyed the movie and considered it the best Indian movie he watched so far this year even as there is a long way to go.

What do we know about David in movies? There was the 1988 Malayalam movie David David Mr. David starring Balachandra Menon and Sumalata. But that would be totally unrelated to this one. Then there was King David of Bible, the ruler of Israel. The righteous king even with all his flaws, the warrior poet was mostly responsible for the Book of Psalms. But that was never the beginning, as the story of David and Goliath might be of more popularity. How it would relate to the upcoming Malayalam movie of the same name will be another story. Back to the original story, there stood Goliath, the strongest and the tallest of all, and there was young David with his sling and stones. Then fell the strongest; and the weak became strong. This has been repeated in the history with the rise and fall of huge empires all around the world.

The Hindi version has three Davids, but here there are only two to deal with. The first one belongs to 1999 Mumbai. He is a musician just like the Biblical figure. But his peaceful life is disrupted when his father, a priest is attacked by an anti-Christian group as part of communal politics. The second one belongs to 2010 Goa, a fisherman leading a happy life. He falls in love with a deaf and dumb girl who is soon to be married to his good friend. Both of them have to make decisions which will change their lives forever – one of them seeking revenge while the second one seeking love. But both of them would be committing their own acts of evil which they might repent for the rest of their lives. The battle is between the conscience and desire – between goodness and the basic desires. The world around plays a major part in dragging them to both sides. But eventually what triumphs forms the central point of the story.

Both Davids have to face their own inner demons which take the form of Goliaths – one of revenge and the other of lust (the one-sided infatuation based on looks could never be termed as love, but as sin – for King David himself had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah and later married her). The same David had killed her husband, a murder which one of our Davids would have also committed. Even as the external opponents, the minions who are responsible for this situation of revenge to be created – they look stronger in the case of the musician, but the internal demon would work better in the case of other. The ultimate result of the battle against the two demons occur only in the end, even as the scene is shown to be set right at the beginning of the movie. It is the battle of the two Davids against two Goliaths, both internally and externally. This is a battle which is fought both physically and mentally, but is finally won in the mind.

Vikram has once again proved that he is such a versatile actor. Even as he is shown mostly as an alcoholiac, his character is never boring or withour passion. Jiiva has come up with a strong performance too. There are moments of pure awesomeness in the movie. The rest of the cast has successfully supported these two, on whom the stories are based on. It might not still be found an entertainer but I never found it boring at any moment. The transition between the stories are quite well done, and as both of them keeps the interest-level high, there is not much of a confusion in the change. Last year, we had Cloud Atlas which had too many stories to deal with. After that experience, one couldn’t be blamed of being confused and left in a slough of strange thoughts. This one has just two – both of them simple and never leaving the audience in an abyss. This is an inner journey of twins of the situation who never meet.

There are the messages of morality, making it nothing less than a morality play indirectly transformed to suit the modern world. There is good and there is evil – but as said in Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire: “Evil is always possible, and goodness is eternally difficult”. In the same book, Vampire Lestat had also added that “Evil is a point of view”. As the movie agrees with the first, I wouldn’t say the same with the second. If there was something like a point of view involved in it, the first choices would have been to succumb to revenge and lust. The first one would have been righteous payback and the second one irresistible eternal love. Some of the jokes are too foolish to suit the philosophy of the movie, but the rest add to the lighter side and throughout the movie, there is this eternal battle and the question “to be or not to be”. But our musician is no Hamlet and the man you saw at the beach is no selfish lover. There is a warning though – if you are allergic to moral advice and preachy tone can give you head ache, this movie might create no waves in your head filled with that “point of view”.

Release date: 1st February 2013
Running time: 127 minutes
Directed by: Bejoy Nambiar
Starring: Vikram, Jiiva, Isha Sharvani, Tabu, Lara Dutta, Sheetal Menon, Nishan, Nassar, John Vijay, Shweta Pandit

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Hansel and Gretel

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We have had the darker versions of fairy tales, one each in the last two years – Red Riding Hood in 2011 and Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012. The latter getting better reviews than the former was a strange a thing just like this one getting negative reviews – this is astrange world for sure. The one thing which might be agreeable to the fans of all three movies might be that none of them really made an impact on the critics like they did on the box-office. While Amanda Seyfried lead the way in the former, it was the antagonist Charlize Theron who made the impact in the latter. But, here comes Hansel and Gretel, which surely is a much better watch; and a clear winner as a creation of dark fantasy.

It did remind me of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but our good re-telling of the old fairy tale happens to do better by a long way. Then once again, the critical reception might favour the wrong movie even as it is marginal. But trusting someone else who doesn’t know your taste is the worst mistake you can do. I almost made the same mistake, but I could see beyond it, as Ghost Rider 2, the worst Hollywood movie to reach the theatres of India in the last two or three years had more approval than some of those above average movies. This might have been a little long introduction, but it was strange to see that the shows of Hansel and Gretel were cancelled and I had to wait for days to watch it. Therefore, forget the critical ratings; and may be ask your friends who share your interests, and go for the movie.

The Grimm Brothers had given the world the story of two kids who outsmarted a witch; a story which was one of my favourites during childhood. After saving themselves from an abusive step-mother and the evil witch, these children do live happily ever after, as I can recollect. It is absolutely correct until the death of the witch in the movie too. But then comes the “living happily” part, which is a little existential in character. They are witch-hunters – professional ones; one of them is diabetic and the other one is later found to be a ” ” (it is a twist and there will be no spoiler here). But still, they might have found fun in doing their job – it is athletic and they get good payment for it. There is the possibility of ending in a witch’s cauldron or simply as a corpse, but considering what people do these days for attention, I would say that witch-hunting is not that horrible unless that witch got too many fans on facebook. Vampire bats do that often in the dreams.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are the grown-up versions of the awesome little ones, who have dedicated their lives to fight the evil: to save the world from the broomstick-riders who fly better than some of the airlines. Hansel and Gretel start the latest adventure by preventing the town’s Sheriff Berringer from executing a young woman who is accused to be a witch (has the same name Mina – reminding of Mina Harker) after the siblings were hired by the mayor to find and bring back a number of children believed to be abducted by witches. Berringer hires his own men who are killed by a powerful witch, Muriel in the dark woods. The one who is left alive doesn’t last long with a curse for the hunger of crawling things.

Hansel and Gretel discover that the witches are preparing for the notorious ritual of Blood Moon, which requires sacrificing six boys and six girls with certain peculiarities.  The town is attacked by Muriel and her minions, which include a troll Edward (never away from that name from Twilight, but the fans can forgive the appearance of this troll). Now the witches have enough children to sacrifice for Blood Moon, but they need something else (which shall not be revealed to break the suspense) and the remaining question is whether the witches succeed in the ritual which would make them almost invincible. The twists include the truth about their step-mother who was not really evil, the mystery about Mina and the last ingredient of the Blood Moon ritual which would change the siblings’ idea about witches and witch hunting.

This story might sound too familiar and not that awesome to follow, but it is made better with the movie’s great CGI which is one of the best. The 3D effects make it one of the best horror-action experiences through the glasses with bullets, explosions, arrows – all coming towards you in frequent intervals, as well as the dark beauty of the atmosphere which catches you out of the screen. Right from the opening title scenes to the ending credits, it promises and delivers the same. Famke Janssen does remind one of her role as Jean Grey / Phoenix in X-Men III: The Last Stand, but she is surely better as Muriel. The witches look much better than in any movie released in the last few years, and the variety in them brings the culture element into the play – they are not the same. They are incredibly detailed to be just side-kick witches. Their screams create that fear element even when they are not on screen.

The most conservative, horror-hating, gore-fighting people of the pseudo-realistic world needn’t watch this movie though. Let the wonderful action sequences and breath-taking fights be missed by you. The 3D and the CGI can treat the deserving eyes. There are times when one has to cease being intellectual, and what is science but full of contradictions and uncertainty? Therefore, why be against a movie of magic and fantasy saying that it is not real? There is thousand times more chance of this happening than anything of the Twilight series. But the fact is that you don’t even realize why you are in this world; none of us do. Our life is in the hands of the greater power that guides us. So don’t be judgmental on this one, for this is not there to be judged by some superior intellect which goes to Moon or Mars and search for water – this is there to be enjoyed, supported by imagination. This is not a product of perfect reasoning power supported by some random theory; this is not simple every day life – this is dark fantasy. I love action-horror movies and I feel this has only strengthened the genre.

Release date: 25th January 2013 (USA); 1st February 2013 (India)
Running time: 88 minutes
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

The Vampire Bat’s Grand Debut

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Lend your ears to the Vampire Bat
For he likes them for dinner
He munches on them for hours
Until he needs a root canal

He is the one to watch out for
Uncle Dracula’s trusted lieutenant
Vampire Owl’s partner in crime
Who reviews Movies of the Soul

Of the horror and of human terror
Of this world and the other
Of that beauty of darkness
Dimensions make no difference

For the vampire bat has one favourite
Other than the tea which is blood
Other than the elixir of life
And the lost fountain of youth

It is not of his favourite books
Or those destinations of choice
Neither is it about his favourite sport
He has one movie to show reverence

Along with Solomon Kane, Constantine,
Pandorum, Prometheus and Book of Eli
There is one which deserves more
That is Interview with the Vampire.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

*Starts tomorrow with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.