G.I. Joe II

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There are only a few things which bring people back to their childhood on a magic carpet made of collective unconciousness and the dreams one carry over to adulthood on the clouds of absolute wonder. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was in no way a failure in doing the same, but with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it has come closer to being one of those few things. The first one had all the uninteresting characters who tried to be smart, with the exception of Storm Shadow and The Baroness. The second one would surely be more interesting even as the total improvement is just too slight to be considered improved. There is nothing extraordinary in the movie, but the way in which they have treated the ordinary is significant. Here, one can see the power of the old G.I. Joe toys which forms the essence to every kid who has grown up now, living their childhood through these toys. This is the hidden strength of powerful memories which lie beneath the movie and seeks to be called upon from the abyss. From the seemingly ordinary world of the grown ups, this one takes the life of the adult back to the past and then back to the future with its power of the “toy” characterization which is more of a powerful raising of the toylines.

It would not be a big surprise for many fans if it is said that The Rock/Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock runs the show around here. The Rock has always been coming back with power. With him, is the hero of the movie Die Hard, which makes this movie caught between a rock and hard place – that place which is hard enough to die. The role of Bruce Willis is smaller, but still very important and effective in the movie. He still gets to hold many guns and shoot enough people to make an impact. Meanwhile, The Rock is the leader, after the death of Duke (Channing Tatum) – that moment of dead Joes which calls for retaliation over the retaliation of the Cobras over the Joes. The Rock remains the WWE Champion and here also he reigns in what he does the best. He is the new addition to the list and he has done so much to his character which makes Roadblock the undisputed leader and the champion of all the Joes of this movie. His character has made his intentions clear right from the beginning, and remains the nearly unstoppable character till the end, still not deprived of the chance to be beaten up and almost getting killed; without that there would have been no fun inside him. He is also the one who gets to have the final touch in saving the world from total disaster and a Cobra commander with that wonderful destruction plan.

Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow should come next, and not Snake Eyes or Flint. He is that character without whom nothing is possible; there would be an eternal void in the lives of both sides also himself – on this occasion, that absence would cause more disaster to the Joes rather than the Cobras. He was undoubtedly pure evil in the first movie, something which I would have questioned without even a single proof. The question of good and evil is twisted in this sequel, and the roles would become more complicated with a few revelations. He is still not a person to be the right part of the Cobras nor the integral part of the Joes. His truth lies somewhere in between, which is not that comprehensible to both sides. For this time, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) figure it out more than the rest as they are all driven by the same motive, the quest for revenge and the need for finishing off what they started. The battle between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow which looked good enough to continue until eternity would come to an end here, not with one of them dead, and surely not with both dead. Still, the revenge belongs to Storm Shadow, my favourite right from the childhood, and that is something I would be glad to remember.

Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye, has more to do other than being the love interest of Flint and being the attractive one whose beauty supports the missions in a less significant manner. She is the tough person, the shooter who shoots – well, what else should the shooter do is a question pretty relevant, but she is the accurate one around here; and may be even tougher than most of the Joes out there. She finds out that someone is impersonating the President and also uses her beauty and charms for moving themselves closer towards the ultimate destination – in that casem she scores on two occasions. Still, she is no femme fatale. Yet, her speciality is mentioned as Covert Operations in the toy series. The way in which this character has eclipsed the weaker Scarlett from the previous movie is a powerful sign of what to be expected of a possible sequel. For now, there is no suitable replacement for this one.

Flint is more or less Duke himself, or may be the new Duke with a new girl friend who is taller and stronger. It was actually not possible to see the difference in the beginning. Snake Eyes remains the same, faceless and not that interesting a character, even as there is always a certain amount of hype surrounding him. The addition of Jinx to his team might have given the character of Snake Eyes, a chance to be a little more interesting, but not too much. Jinx is never a weak character, but pales in comparison to Lady Jaye, but both are of a better status than Scarlett of the first movie. Ray Stevenson as Firefly makes that powerful impact right from his entrance though, on that bike of destruction which would make the Ghost Rider proud. It should be the most stylish moment of the movie, as long as some shots of The Rock and Adrianne Palicki can be considered a little short and not of style, but of brutality and beauty respectively. He continues to be the one perfect villain any hero wishes to fight, until he gets to face Roadblock for a second time. Still, could have had more character development.

The story continues where the first movie had finished, even as there is no mention of a number of characters from that one – Zartan has impersonated the American President and the G.I. Joes are framed for stealing warheads from Pakistan and are almost exterminated, before Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye manages to survive and make their way back to the United States from their mission in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Storm Shadow and Firefly rescue the Cobra Commander from the maximum security prison. Snake Eyes and Jinx successfully capture Storm Shadow while recovering from his injuries so that he can answer for the murder of his uncle. But Storm Shadow reveals that Zartan is the murderer and he was only a victim of the situation. The three join forces with the Joes in a final attempt to stop Zartan from his attempt on total domination with the help of the Cobra Commander. He invites the world leaders to a summit where he forces them to submit to him by destroying London and threatening to cause further destruction. Once again, it is upto the same people to save the day, and this time, it is going to be a little more fun.

G.I. Joe is many things at once, other than being a movie and also close enough to being a video game – and the most powerful of them all is nostalgia. I had my first contact with the G.I. Joe action figures when I was in the Primary School, and that was the reign of Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander and a few others whom I might fail to name now, but will still remain the earliest of the best choices. This movie has provided a return, and with its superior action sequences and okay 3D scenes, there is a peek into the past which not only brings back the action figures, but also the world that I missed. It is a well-made time machine which can make its way to the past if directed in the right way. It is something which generates more subjectivity in a grown up kid than most of the other things. The more significant question might be if it takes anything back to that world along with bringing something into the present – these questions make G.I. Joe immortal in the mortality, and closer to the adult world of total uncertainty.

Release date: 28th March 2013 (USA); 29th March 2013 (India)
Running time: 110 minutes
Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Lee Byung-hun, D.J. Cotrona, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Amen

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There are few movies which the Vampire Bat would watch a few thousand times other than the horror flicks and the Malayalam movies of the 1980s. The end of this movie was that moment when the Vampire Bat actually felt the same – that moment when he was light enough to fly. It was the moment this bat felt that he was that feather which felt the wind lifting one’s self towards the starry sky. It is not exactly the feeling he had after watching Celluloid, as it is more comparable to that status where he was, after watching Pranchiyettan and the Saint. This rarely happens to the Vampire Bat, for this one has the status of being the second. With its visual beauty of nature, it is comparable to Ordinary, as this one highlights the backwaters while the Kunchako starrer had concentrated on the hills, mountains and the related greenery with fog. There is thunder, dark clouds, water bodies in its maximum body – how can one person do justice to this movie with a subjective review is a question which might remain answered; but what would an objective review do other than being too scientific and technical? This soul would keep closer to the former as possible, and in that way find himself in the process. Here, we have the story of an ancient church parish and the people, a love story and a band’s struggle for survival. The whole story can be read better from the beautiful characterization rather than as a plot.

Swati Reddy as Sosanna – such a character and so much of wonder in that performance! I can’t remember seeing such a female character on screen in any Malayalam movie. One has to wonder who she really is! The first guess would be that of a Keralite Juliet who comes out to the balcony (here, as the house is more of a traditional style, looking through the window) listening to the divine music by the artist that is Solomon (Fahadh Fazil). Well, they don’t die and so lets leave the tragic side of Romeo and Juliet behind. They can still have the title in the name of divine love, but on second thoughts, Sosanna is more of Rapunzel, imprisoned in a tower by the evil ones; her use of frying pan even bring the memory of the newer Rapunzel of Tangled (please avoid the hair details). Her character is the centre, around which the whole movie is built, even if our heroes get more screentime. Each and every second of her presence indicates something which is to happen, and the whole divinity rests on herself and the music. She, the angel in white dress, the absence of black and greyness. She is complexity in simplicity – all in one; more than one simple village damsel – lovable and admirable with all her positives and negatives.

She is no different from the Rapunzel of Tangled on most of the occasions – she pushes the kapyar into water and asks her lover if he wants to be the Father in a church or her children’s father; she pours chicken curry over a gunda and hits him with a frying pan; she eats “naranga mittayi” with that happiness which William Wordsworth might have felt after seeing Daffodils; she uses paper rockets as love letters; she reads only from Solomon’s Song of Songs when asked to read the Bible; she talks about love in a cemetery (the Vampire Bat’s recommndation for this one) – the saga continues for Sosanna is not the weaker one to be subdued; for she is the frying pan fighter striking fear in the minds of the most powerful gundas. She is the passionate lover, the advisor, the fighter, the damsel in distress and still in lesser distress than her lover who is the man in distress. She is our blessed damozel; of this world and not the other, not the one Dante Gabriel Rossetti pictured in heaven, but the one person who continues to bless this movie with her presence. How can one not consider this one as a non-animated character at any stage? The words describe less and the scenes visualize more.

Fahadh Faasil as Solomon – he has done it again, and I might end up using this same sentence for the same actor for so many occasions that I would lose count of it. This is not brilliance unexpected, and I would always keep the expectations high on one actor. Fahadh in that Christ costume for the festival was something which made divinity come down from heaven. All the jokes related to his character and Sosanna are so genuine and wonderful – or even beautiful, if jokes could be termed “beautiful” with all its aspects. Here is a character of simplicity, lack of self-confidence and unparallel love. He is the new Romeo in many aspects, and he is the Jack of his ever-sinking Titanic that is a life of poverty which can only be made to be of any hope by getting himself into the music band sponsored by the local parish church. This character’s life surely is a divine comedy as it is subtitled, as the title character travels through his own inferno, purgatorio & finally the paradiso achieved by his merit. He is our own Dante Alighieri. Hell, purgatory, and heaven – they are all in this world for Solomon, the ultimate underdog. If Sosanna is more of an unpredictable character than her lover, Solomon steals the show by being predictable and still rising to the occasion. This might be Fahadh’s best performance ever, even as I am sure that I will be forced to say that again on another occasion.

Indrajith Sukumaran as Father Vincent Vattolli – always been in my list of favourite actors, and I am short of words for talking about this one – no do not bring me the dictionary, for I have word substitutes working for me. He is the exact opposite of the Vicar Father Abraham Ottaplakal (Joy Mathew). While the former tries to save the band, unite the two lovers and keep the church as the ancient structure, the latter tries to dismantle the band, separate the two lovers and rebuild the church. Both have brought the levels to new heights as one becomes so likable and the other detestable – the two characters are played with such perfection that one can’t resist believing them as what they are. There are times when one has to wonder how close to evil and away from the neutrality of the beginning, the Vicar happens to be as the second half progresses. The big paradox here is that the revolutionary new entrant is the stronger believer and the traditional, orthodox Vicar is the lesser believer who has his own agenda. Their church at Kumaramkari is not just a simple old structure, as they say that the legend is that Saint George had made Tipu Sultan’s attempt to raze the church a failure. This belief is what runs in the veins of the parishers and this is where Father Vattolli has reached – this is also where Father Ottaplakal makes his own decisions with no divine intervention; not a desired situation for sure. But there is more to Father Vattoli than it would seem to be, as the end twist would create that dream climax.

Saint George and the church are more like characters in the movie, but more shall not be talked about that divinity. Kalabhavan Mani’s Looyi pappan is a very powerful character throughout the movie; someone who fails to accept defeat – the man who wins the war even as he loses most of the battles. He seeks redemption after the death of his best friend who was the soul of the band – a music band which has been continuously on the losing side for a long time after the tragedy. Rachana Narayanankutty as Solomon’s sister and Natasha Sahgal was Father Vattoli’s admirer, joins the cast’s beautiful performance. Makarand Deshpande’s nemesis character is immensely powerful and Sunil Sukhada’s Kapyar works in more than one way. Lijo Jose Pellissery has given the viewers an early Easter gift, and it might be the best in the theatres right now. What else could be said about such a performance? But it is surely not free from the slightest of negatives – even among the best of jokes, lie the totally unnecessary, ridiculous jokes which tends to take away some of its beauty. But they could be avoided and the movie could be continued to be watched as the divine comedy as it is, for there is more to it than just the usual stuff. No, this is not the typical new generation either – for this is typical divinity, if one could call it so.

This exuberance is magic, and that is just to give the movie its due. But the truth is much better; for exuberance is just a word and so is magic. Amen is something which has dropped from the firmament, not like the fallen angel Lucifer, but as the medium of divinity which the world of the upper level has provided us with. Can you find faults within the story? If yes, isn’t there the flurry of intelligence and brilliance to cover them all? That would be a clear yes for an answer. No, the movie still doesn’t pretend, and it never needed to. It never needed to wear a mask like Annayum Rasoolum; a mask of goodness and reality which that one dragging movie has been wearing! But this one wears its own skin as a mask – no fake faces to cover its simplicity. Everyone has been incredibly good at what they were doing with this movie, both outside and inside – even the songs and the movie posters have contributed in such a way as to make this movie one of its kind – something which can lead and not follow; bring that thunder of wonderful change. I felt the magic realism and dream visions as well as its re-assertion of faith, belief and hope with divine intervention. Oh beauty of a movie, thy name is Amen – anything else would be so inappropriate right now. If I am to die after watching a movie, this might be one of them worth dying for!

Release date: 22nd March 2013
Running time: 160 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Indrajith Sukumaran, Swati Reddy, Rachana Narayanankutty, Natasha Sahgal, Joy Mathew, Kalabhavan Mani, Makarand Deshpande, Sunil Sukhada

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Red Wine

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This wine is not that powerful as a thriller even with its moments of suspense, as the killer is kind of known right from the beginning itself – there is still a possiblity of expecting more twists over twists, but there is none in the end. The movie progresses slowly, unlike the traditional thrill infected flicks. Still, it has a beautiful philosophical touch and an embedded social message. The movie is surely worth watching for the performance of the leading actors, especially Fahadh Fazil & Mohanlal. There seems to be no stopping the former from his awesomeness and the latter proves why he is still considered to be at his best. The support cast has also been significant. A routine investigation movie is told in a different way this time. It is supported by another experimentation with its narratives without losing its simplicity and the path towards goodness. This can be hailed not for the chills and thrills, but for those who can make a philosopher’s stone out of the darkest and the dirtiest of metals, this might be something else.

Mohanlal’s Assistant Commissioner of Police reminds more of the cop from Grandmaster than anything else. This time, the police officer is even more philosophical. He is not a person who look for action all the time, but a slow and steady officer who understands both the victim and the murderer, and knows with ease that both are the victims of circumstances, one of his own ideals of truth, justice and equality which is despised by the land mafia, while the other of his evil past and the need to pay off his loans. He understands the complicated human minds just as the Wayanad’s twists and turns on the way up. The movie is shot at Wayanad and Kozhikode, and the stories of the subaltern of the heights of Wayanad and that of the opposite side of the evil from civilized world also creeps in. This is where Mohanlal’s character has his magnificience – to balance the characters from both sides, pure good, righteous good, forced evil and pure evil, all of them making frequent appearances as significant parts of the movie at parts. He understands the two men he is searching for, as well as the ones he is not directly searching for, as he progresses through his investigation.

Fahadh Fazil carries the movie with such an ease which makes the whole movie a simple, poetic experience. This is very unlike his performances in his recent flicks – there is no strangeness like in Annayum Rasoolum, Chappa Kurisu and Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla; there is no shades of darkness or even greyness as in 22 Female Kottayam; or that confusion and uncertainty of life as in Diamond Necklace and Friday. Here, we have a good man, of only good intentions towards the fellow humans, and with the desire to do good to the society and his people. He is an Engineering graduate who passed out of college with good marks and was good enough to get a fine job with an attractive salary at home or abroad. But he chooses to work for his people as the Local committee secretary for the left. His portrayal of the victim Anoop has given the audience his most lovable character ever; that is one character on the side of pure, unadulterated political man who stands between the modern and the traditional world, having the elements of both, in such a way that he stands between the two, understanding and interpreting both with significant ease.

As the movie revolves around the life of three characters, one can’t avoid not fail to sympathize on the third important character, played by Asif Ali. Even as he is the least likable of the three and has less time on the screen, Ramesh is a character of circumstances. He is not someone who is a remorseless man of pure evil like Django. He is not for the depths of hell nor the upper most of firmament. His life is not to be seen separate from his wife Deepthi, played by Mia George. Both of them blends into their characters well enough, and more of the sad situation is conveyed more through their looks and expressions rather than the words. This is that part of the story which is more touching in terms of a common man. Ramesh is a man with an evil past, who has turned good after marrying his lover who is from a rich family, which has lead to their isolation from their relatives. Now, as Ramesh has taken loans over loans, this is his moment where he has to choose between the good which is poverty and the lack of provisions for his family which would soon include a newborn child, as well as the evil which is security of good life for his loved ones. There is choices for him to make and whatever choice he makes, there would be a payment in blood or cash.

Well, the human life itself is like that road to Wayanad, and all these characters fit into those twists and turns. For some of them, death might be the relief and for the others, life is all that matters. Where heaven and hell fits in between them is a matter of debate, in the life which is mixed with so much of good and evil. The strength of the movie is still its cast and their performances. Meera Nandan, Meghna Raj and Kailash comes in smaller roles, as a skilled drama actress, an RDO and a cyber cell officer respectively. Meanwhile, Saiju Kurup comes up with an inspiring performance as the protagonist’s friend Navas. The debutant Maria John and Anusree also fits in, as the lover and the best friend of the protagonist. Suraj Venjaramoodu has a more serious role to play in this one, as the one who benefit the most with the protagonist’s death, a person with hidden agendas, another suspect for the investigating officer. T. G. Ravi has another lovable character, a righteous socialist worker of the party who earns the respect of the viewers right from the beginning. Still, the one who steals the show is Fahadh Fazil, and he seems to do that with such an ease that surprises the audience.

The way in which the movie is narrated gives it more life in spite of it being slow and ordinary in the first look. There is regular breaking of narratives, not in space, but in time – from the death of the protagonist to the life of another man to the progress of the investigation and then back to the protagonist’s ideologies during his lifetime. The space changes, but is still confined to Wayanad and Kozhikode. The movement is like wine poured out of the bottle, some of it which goes into the bottle, some of it to the floor, a little of it in the table and the remaining in the bottle. This is the philosophy of life, for not all can be the same, physically, intellectually, or spiritually. To be frank, the choice to go for this one ahead of 3 Dots and Amen was a big move. It was more for the love of the title and the image of the red wine in the bottle. No, it won’t replace the everlasting image of tea as the elixir of life, nor does it make a substitute for blood. The question would be about what the red wine symbolize and why is it the title of the movie. I have always been interested in the colour, my third favourite after black and blue. It is the colour of blood; that of all the martyrs and saints who died for the mankind. It was also used in the Roman and the Byzantine Empires, such was its honour. What about St George’s Cross and the Red Cross?

The human life has always been full of the colour red, also associated with, revolution, love, socialism, communism, passion, beauty. Lets leave its negative associations for this instance, for this one is everything except pessimism. The red wine itself is a symbol of humanity and their blood in a glass. Does this also symbolize the sacramental wine, the blood of Jesus Christ, for the blood of a modern age revolutionary which was to be shed? They were shown drinking the red wine and they were also shown talking about Christ being the revolutionary, and therefore this chance is surely there. The Red Wine is no Spirit; for it doesn’t glorify drinking or anything in the first half and oppose it in the second half; it sticks to its points – of humanity, right from the beginning to the end, for the red wine symbolizes the blood of a young, educated revolutionary which was shed as he stood for the righteousness. That makes a valid allusion and a wonderful imagery. Red Wine is not your typical murder mystery, for it is a philosophy; not a psychological thriller; never a supernatural thriller, as this one is of another genre and I would like to call it a philosophical thriller. If this was more powerful as a regular thriller, and if it could have conveyed the philosophy better, the movie would have been awesome, for sure.

Release date: 21st March 2013
Running time: 140 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Salam Bappu
Starring: Mohanlal, Fahadh Fazil, Asif Ali, Saiju Kurup, Jayaprakash, Mia George, Meghana Raj, Anusree, Maria John, Meera Nandan, T. G. Ravi, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Kailash, Anoop Chandran

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Django Unchained

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The Vampire Bat knew only one Django and was planning to give him knighthood for being such a wonderful coffin-dragger. It would have been an awesome feeling to have one’s own coffin. What about the awesome graves where he could have worked with the Ghost Rider with a stylish motor-bike or a horse-on-fire burning bright? This bat has always dreamt about those coffins, graves and wastelands along with ghost towns. But he could get none of them in this one. Still, there were those strange horses which were not really on fire. May be this new breed of horses could go to school and end up as smart toothless people. Well, they would still be highly vulnerable to being shot by the new Django who can shoot like a gun’s ghost in a human-spirit form who has come back to seek revenge. The number of vengeful spirits never seem to throw the Vampire Bat into that bloody abyss of nonstop boredom, as he had so much of those intolerant revenge stories that he could see only one side of this world which is full of evil and supposed-to-be-evil followed by glorified revenge full of blood and scattered body parts which might have brought the most evil vampire and the most stupid zombie into that Ring girl’s well of eternal shame.

What the Vampire Bat had was a Mango Icecream so that it could rhym with the movie, and that was indeed a success and would later prove to be an even better experience than the movie itself. The movie starts with the shots of several male slaves being chained and transported to work in a possible plantation which run on slave labour. Among the slaves is Django (Jamie Foxx), who has been sold away from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) – a name which the Vampire Bat heard as many things other than this certain one. They encounter Doctor King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist and a bounty hunter in the shades of an abandoned area on the way. After getting rid of the trouble from the slave owners, Schultz offers Django his freedom and a reasonably good payment in exchange for helping him track a number of people whom he has been tracing as part of his hunt. After they find and hunt down the targets, Schultz continues with Django as they do the same work. During this period of time, Schultz trains Django in the art of bounty hunting and on using a gun with efficiency.

After collecting a number of bounties and surviving with ease, they go on to free Django’s wife Broomhilda, whose current owner is Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the charming and stylish, but cruel owner of a plantation in Mississippi. They come up with a certain plan to make a big offer for one of the slave fighters of Candie, who fights till death, a offer which he can’t refuse. This catches both the curiousity and attention of the slave owner and he immediately agrees. But the seemingly flawless plan which was so close to success is shattered as the expressions of the two lovers raise the suspicions of Candie’s loyal and senior slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) who finds out that Django and Broomhilda know each other very well and that the sale of the slave fighter is just a trick meant to hide another big plan which lies beneath. This is where all the fun ends, and the death of Schultz would leave the Vampire Bat with nobody to root for. From this, the age of boredom begins. There are stupid shootouts and ridiculous explosions, with the presence of “the people of the night cooling glasses” and “the strangest of the strange horses”. The nonsense would reach a new level and ends with a ridiculous smile.

Well, Django’s “D” is silent, as he himself mentions, but the movie is anything but that. There is lot of violence and I am pretty much confident that there is the presence of even more violence around as the Censor Board has surely tried hard to make this PG-13 and give it an 18+ Adult rating in India. Django Freeman is evil, not by choice but by circumstances. He has so much body count that would make Count Dracula and Lestat de Lioncourt retire and beg for mercy from a dead wood elf with no teeth. Meanwhile, Doctor King Schultz is of lesser evil, as he works with his white man’s guilt to save one man, and to save the man’s wife, he loses his life. Now, that should balance his life and make it rather neutral or a little aligned to the side of good. But Django is away from redemption. He chooses the path of revenge without remorse, and thus the path to hell and may be even compete for a hell-hot cup of tea from the hands of the devil. He is highly hostile to anyone of another race, the only exception being the man who saved and trained him; he is also hostile to one person of his race, the man who is loyal to the people of the other race. That brings such a huge equation of race into the situation – bombarded to be exact.

Jamie Foxx’s Django is a very good potrayal, even as the character is at no point likeable – he has done well to make it so. There lies his success of showing the forced evil. Christoph Waltz winning the Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actor would be no surprise to anybody who has watched the movie. His character rules the movie, with the witty dialogues, action and lots of fun. He provides some of the best lighter moments, and also does the serious side with an incredible amount of mastery. Leonardo DiCaprio comes up with the power of extreme evil which seems inherent in the character. He should still be remembered for his Inception and Shutter Island, but this one also comes up with a memory leaf. Samuel L. Jackson hasn’t really fallen behind, as his character makes a powerful impression. Kerry Washington also contributes in the expected way, making this a movie of performances rather than anything else. It is here, in the acting department where the movie scores the most, followed by the one-liners which creates a great first half only to be made powerless by the second part of the second half and the climax scenes.

As far as Quentin Tarantino is concerned, this is still inferior to Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Those stand a few Petronas Towers higher than this one. But there is no shortage of blood and violence here too. One has to wonder if these movies should belong to a new bloody genre. There are too many killings and in many sequences, blood and gore has the upper hand and humanity becomes mere spectator in chaos and brutality. There is no sympathy or empathy throughout the movie, especially when the guns take over and spits hell like fire-breathing dragons. Still, its treatment of the racism and slavery could have been better if it was done in a more realistic fashion. Well, not all movies can be “the art”, and this is that moment when the grand wish was to focus more on creating that entertainer which could gross a lot rather than something which could have made humanity aware of the truth. But this shall make the waves, even as not in the way it should have, if thought about from a righteous side – a sad movie for humanity indeed, as even movies like Hostel and Saw knew what was good and evil. Well, one can say that Django Unchained is a true torture porn of the worst level.

The more important of the questions might be about which kind of audience this movie targets. They are surely not for the intellectuals nor for the faint-hearted. The next doubt would be if this is a story of the revenge of a certain race or the story of a pure hearted man of one race helping the man of another race and even facing death in that process. This is surely no respectful treatment of anything, but for the mindless fans with its weird style, glorified violence, senseless admiration and huge historical twists, this might be a treat. There might be disrespect (to which side – or to both?), and there might be too much easiness, but as far as I know, this is a little too much to take as a movie treating such a subject. Satire? May be a little bit, not that much – can we really separate the reality of tragedy to have that feeling? In simple words, one race shedding the blood of others and vice versa – colouring the walls with shades of red is not what I wished for; I would have agreed to the same on some other occasions, but not on this. The movie came to India kind of late, and I am not really unhappy about it, as watching this one late has had its advantages – to hear about it and disagree on many occasions. There is the first half which gave hope, and what follows is not of expectations, and therefore clear thumbs down for the second. Another thing – beware of a drag and length.

PS: My rating for this movie has come down a lot since writing this, but I am not bothering to bring it down just because I don’t want to think about this again. I wish that I had asked only to the right people before watching this movie!

Release date: 22nd March 2013 (India); 25th December 2012 (United States)
Running time: 165 minutes
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, Don Johnson

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

3G

The Vampire Bat’s desire for horror has been getting stronger and stronger every day. The procedure of watching Murder 3 actually accelerated it to the maximum and therefore 3G was not to be missed. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, The Cabin in the Woods, House at the End of the Street or The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia never came to the theatres here. There was no question of The Woman in Black. For Paranormal Activity 4, they might have had an early heart attack. But unfortunately, Piranha 3DD did arrive as pseudo-horror. The only hope was to adjust with the Resident Evil and the Underworld series as horror even as they could no longer fit into that category. This ridiculous attitude towards horror might be the worst thing about the theatres and malls around here, as they don’t really mind the local language horror movies, not checking if they are any good. At least 3G made it to most of the theatres around here, even if it is no material of Silent Hill quality. The silence of depression which every horror fan faces around here needs to be treated, and therefore, this review is going to be quite lenient – there will be no hard measures taken on this movie and it will be given a free pass in many departments.

“Wherever you go i am there: Gadha Jam” said Mohanlal in the 1989 Malayalam movie Vandanam. Here, it is a mobile phone which says the same. It is an advanced phone for a spirit to try and infect, with touch screen and 3G facility. The movie begins with a guy murdering his girlfriend stabbing her through the right eye right after proposing to her in an abandoned area. Then the screen shifts to a stylish opening credits shown in a very innovative way in the beginning. There is the mention of the billions of phone users in the world. It also talks about the large number of phantom calls which are received worldwide which cannot be traced. Here, these calls are related to spirits of the other world trying to connect to this world. That did sound a little overreaching for me, but that also gave a push both to the expectations and the skepticism. This is the beginning of an ambitious plot and we might be talking more about its ambiguity later, but for now lets get on with it.

The 3rd generation of mobile telecommunications technology makes way for Sheena (Sonal Chauhan) who comes out of the saline water of Fiji in a red bikini; and that much talked-about scene ends with a not-so-happy conversation with her lover Sam (Neil Nitin Mukesh). But all the minute problems are solved as he comes to Fiji to be with her, losing his mobile in the process and initiating the “Kaise Bataaoon” song. There are surely in love, but are always interrupted, first by Sam’s own hallucinations which makes him see demonic faces not only on others, but also as a ghost – something which interferes with their relationship. The second stage makes him near-possessed and almost makes him strangle Sheena in her bath tub and also to take his own life by hanging. Then the spirit seems to take over him completely. To add to it, there is a video of a girl getting murdered inside the phone while strange sights and voices happen on the outside. The attempt to get rid of the phone has already failed, as it came back from being deposited in the sea as well as being broken into pieces. That should have been expected when there are dead people involved.

Neil’s territory is divided into two, one of a passionate lover and the other of the possessed. His performance as the former is never under doubt and the as the latter is incredible at times and okay on the other occasions. One of those moments is when he is seen possessed over the bath tub of his lover and the other when he asks a priest, “Have you forgiven yourself?”. The moments are strange, but effective enough. There is also a scene of bloody murder which is strange, but still powered by his thrilling performance. Sonal has the supporting role, looking gorgeous and playing the character who hesitates to leave her lover despite of the haunting that happens around him and inside his mind. She never looks less than stunning throughout the movie. Her presence here only does the movie good, even though it is surely not for giving a big performance that she is there. I wouldn’t guess that people were expecting something else around here.

This movie is less of a thriller and more of a horror flick, and in that case, this one is far ahead of any of the movies in Bollywood. I would not deny that Murder 2 and Murder 3 were better in wholeness, but the fact remains that 3G better in parts. But, the problem is that this lack of wholeness makes this one inferior to the other two I mentioned. Still, the advantages of 3G includes its ability and its use of that ability to successfully generate the visual and audible fear supported by good use of sound effects & camera, in a much spookier way compared to its predecessors. The creepy environment is successfully created even in the presence of two of the best looking people on the screen, and the attention successfully shifts more to the horror elements than them. The fact that things get kind of absurd and fails to make much sense as a movie with its weaker logic still makes it good in parts. 3G certainly has its moments of horror glory, but there also those of extreme stupidity creating moments of unintentional comedy. This is more of a minor oasis in the desert of romantic comedies and mindless action for the starving horror fans in India.

There was a lot of scope for this movie, but the ghost who tries to be Miss India and a grown-up version of The Ring girl at the same time, along with the fluctuations in the story has left the audience with more to ask for. There is a certain absence of intellect as well as the presence of ambiguity throughout the movie, even as the first half rarely explains anything. The best not-so-hot, not-so-intimate scene in the movie still came in the first half, when our hero is playing a game of car race in a taxi in the mobile and with a crash in the game comes a car crash in real life, as they land in the hospital with the spirit mobile which is left unscratched. Well, watch it for Neil Nitin Mukesh’s depiction of two personalities, the possessed and the unpossessed, the dazzling beauty that is Sonal Chauhan and the interesting concept of horror which hasn’t been tried this effectively in Indian movies. There is also a message against porn in the movie, and the presence of a hidden message against the effect of technology in our lives, especially that of the mobile phones. I hope you can recollect that much remembered scene from The Ring when Samara crawls from the tv and kills Noah with fear. Nobody crawls out of the mobile though, as the ghost is both inside and outside; but keep that in mind.

The need for horror has reached its highest point right now. Unless, the multiplexes and regular theatres do not hesitate to show the bloody movies of International horror standards, there will be no satisfaction for the common horror fan. The movies like 3G, Murder 3 and Table No.21 might serve as satisfactory thrillers or sources of horror which might give a small, but certain amount of relief. If one thinks about Dracula 2012 3D in Malayalam, no lets just leave the literary works alone; for they are to be more classics than just horror and the vampire life would just be like a random Twilight unless the soul of the work makes it way to the screen. Well, how can you reach the heart even when you cut incredibly deep if there is none? How can you influence the brain if it is already frozen and unavailable? 3G doesn’t really appeal to the brain, but for the heart, it is another story. It won’t really matter how this one would turn out to be, but there will be no stopping the horror genre. If the best horror movies are brought to the theatres, that would be incredibly satisfying, or otherwise there is 3G.

Release date: 15th March 2013
Running time: 120 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Sheershak Anand-Shantanu Ray Chibber
Starring: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sonal Chauhan, Mrinalini Sharma, Asheesh Kapur

3G

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Lucky Star

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The Vampire Bat had to fight off many bad omens before watching this movie. There were so many souls talking in his dreams that this is going to be a bad movie. To add to it, when the Vampire Bat was travelling on his medieval machine which ran at ten kilometres per hour, the fastest ever invented by a non-human, and there were traffic problems. In the end, the Vampire Bat reached the theatre thirty two seconds late – not too impressive for a creature well known for punctuality. I guess this reveals another thing about the Vampire Bat. He can’t fly – to be frank, it is more like he won’t fly. It is mainly because he is against it, not because he is like that bird in the movie Rio. He has decided not to fly, even if he is pushed off a cliff with non-vampire crocodiles underneath. He is so adamant, but he is no Meursault, for he is as much as a believer as any living soul in Noah’s Arc. Back to the omens, the vampire bat happened to see so much reckless driving and breaking of traffic rules; but if that is to be considered an omen, the Vampire Bat would have seen no other movie.

So the movie has Deepu Anthikkad in his directorial debut, starring Jayaram and Rachana Narayanankutty. It is the story of a small family of Ranjith, Janaki and their daughter Megha. Our hero is a man who always dreams of becoming rich, and the family as a whole has quite huge dreams, and there is a little boasting which results in no big evil. The hero is a tailor who stitches dresses mostly for movies – a random person who got stuck in the city of Chennai after coming there with big movie dreams which he still cherishes. As the couple had love marriage, they live far away from their relatives, both physically and mentally. Ranjith is looking forward to a big enterprise which he plans to start with a bank loan which seems too difficult to get. His desire to send his daughter to one of the best schools in the area, makes the financial situation even worse. He ends up facing an incredible shortage of cash for his liking, which has to be met one way or the other. This has no movement in the Swapna Sanchari direction, that is for sure, but a comparison at certain points might be worthwhile.

Continuing the sotry, the next important character, Doctor John comes up with an offer of ten lakhs for a surrogate mother for the child of an American based Indian couple who wants the mother to be good-looking. But he fails to find a woman of their liking. Janaki herself takes a decision to go for the money despite the initial refusal from her husband. The American couple pays them half the amount as advance and agrees to return to pay the remaining five lakhs after the birth of their child. But after the birth of the child, Ranjith and Janaki find that the parents of the new-born baby will not return as they have already divorced and started to live their own life. They could no longer be expected to have any interest in a child which belongs to both of them. The initial reaction was to abandon the child, but later the kid grows up as their son and their financial situation also improves – meanwhile, an incident causes the original mother of the boy to return and ask for her son – something which changes the situation completely.

The movie might bring back the memories of 1989 Malayalam movie Dasaratham and 2012 Hindi movie Vicky Donor, the former which was a classic and the latter the Vampire Bat knows not too much about other than what he heard from his noturnal allies. But the known facts tell the Vampire Bat to leave the second one further away. Well, this one is less emotional than the 1989 movie for sure, and they are surely not the same. This is more funny and without doubt, quite enjoyable, as they first half is not short of its funny moments. There might have not been many positive reviews about this one, but I would say that this is a highly under-rated movie. It has a debutant director and a debutant leading actress along with the supporting actress, but it never really losses its footing. The two leading actress and Jayaram has had a firm hold in the movie. There are moments where the story might have lost the soil under its feet, but it never really does – from what the Vampire Bat knows of the soil, he never really liked falling head first into the soil, something which happened only three or four times in his life time. In the end, the movie has strong pillars and is a job well done with its limited resources.

A good story presented in a nice package, which should be very attractive to the family audience, but still not so sure about the new generation lovers looking a continuous supply of that word which starts with the first letter of Fan, Freak, Frog prince, Fanny Browne, Faustus the doctor, Frozen dessert and Fool. For your need for everything evil and not-so-nice, find some other movie. There are enough of them with lip-locks, alchohol, drugs, cigarettes and sex; and leave this one alone, for this has goodness and it cherishes on it. The movie goes on and banks on its goodness and cast performances in a balanced manner. There is no overdose of anything, but simple dose of what would make a family-comedy-drama a success. The biggest advantage of this movie might be that it is light hearted and centred on family, the type of role in which we always wished to see Jayaram – like Veendum Chila Veetukaaryangal, Njangal Santhushtaraanu, Bhagyadevatha, Manasinakkare, Georgootty C/O Georgootty, Ayalathe Adheham, Meleparambil Aanveedu, Aadyathe Kanmani, Veruthe Oru Bharya and so many others.

T. G. Ravi and Mamukkoya have smaller, but noticeable roles to play in the movie. Even as there not that much power in any department to strengthen the movie, there is not much flaws around. To be frank, what might have affected the movie more might be the prejudices; the most significant of them might be based on the name – for a name like “Lucky Star” is a little unattractive for movie; a little closer to the first name of the Indian Premier League Cricket team from Cochin, IndiCommandos Kerala, and not that far away from the names like Chennai SuperKings and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Not that these names can be considered horrible, for they are all subjective – a name like “Lucky Star” would create less interest in Kerala than most of the other names. Its like when I say the name of the movie which I am going to watch, and people are like, what in this world is that? That is surely a cause of repulsion. If it also reminds you of the 2011 Malayalam movie, Lucky Jokers, does that help? Not for me to say.

The movie has the right cast and there is nothing wrong in the movie to have this much less reception, and the hope is for it to do better than how it is performing in the theatre right now. Family audience, this is your chance to bring goodness back to Malayalam movies. A must for anyone who wants to see a good world on the screen and the display of the power of family values compared to the world of separation and intolerance. Isn’t this more of humanity than random people wandering around having drugs, sex, alcohol and cigarettes? Isn’t humanity more of being good rather than gaining attention? Even the ambitions and desires which might have existed in the earlier parts of this movie makes way for the big sacrifice in the end. This is how righteousness should be running, not on a cart made of stone wheels created out of a heart of stone, but based on that delicacy which should be worth a whole human life.

Release date: 8th March 2013
Running time: 130 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Deepu Anthikkad
Starring: Jayaram, Rachana Narayanankutty, Pooja Ramachandran, Mukesh, T. G. Ravi, Mamukkoya

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Murder III

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The Vampire Bat has never been the fan of the original movie, Murder – but he was forced to change that one opinion to think about following the series with Murder 2. That made sure that this was going to be a series which has the worst in the beginning itself. It doesn’t matter how good people might think it was, it was never a good copy from Hollywood. The second was more close to glory as Prashant Narayanan came up with one of the best performances witnessed for such a long time. It was both gruesome and awesome at the same time. Then, the question would be about Murder 3 right now and the answer might be somewhere in between the first and the second of the series. It could never rise upto the second, but still creates a better impact than the first. It is supposed to be the remake of the Colombian thriller The Hidden Face, but at no point does it gives a feeling that it does not belong to this part of the world, for it has been changed well enough. It might still seem to defy logic, but that is something which is to be forgiven to attain the maximum effect of the needed horror.

Any disappointment about the movie has to be left to the first half, which is a little strange – it has a photographer who has turned alcholic after losing his girlfriend, along with his new girlfriend. He is a young man who just lost his future wife and has brought another one out of nowhere; not really inappropriate for the Murder series, but still something which tells the viewer a little about the protagonist, the new-age Icarus whose interests are as unlimited as his ambitions. He has his wings, but the question might be about the path through which he is flying, and also about his other interests while moving so close to that fire-starter who can burn more than just a few things of wax. He might have to think again about all these, and it is doubtful when he will have the opportunity to do so. Meanwhile, his first girlfriend is more of the one who sacrifices her own interests. Now that would make the question of her leaving him obsolete. That is a fact which would keep the cops on his tail, investigating about his hands in her disappearance. But knowing them as a loving couple, not many would doubt his involvement in her absence.

His second girlfriend is more of a Lady Icarus, from one angle, even as she is shown more as a sympathizer in the first half. There is no point where one can be sure about this one character though. She is not really a static character, but still not someone whos progress can be easily traced. There are events happening all around, indicating the presence of some supernatural force and a mystery that surrounds the protagonist. Most of it just seem to happen just for the sake of frightening, until most of the twists and further explanations are done in the second half of the movie. It brings light to what lies inside the shadows of a world which looks too simple from outside. It brings two worlds and combine them into one; there is one inside the mirror and the other outside; both human, one free and the other imprisoned – but the souls of both might be in their own prison. One of them is not seen and the other is there for everyone to see. A reversal of roles is a possibility which is attempted soon enough, what lies beneath the depths of the hearts of two women and one man is difficult to know.

The whole story revolves around the three people and the love triangle. While the first half almost made a mess of it with a kind of “romantic horror” or “horror romance” which was neither here nor there, the relations get intense and further explained in the second half. It suddenly surprises and even shocks the viewer out of nowhere, at a moment when it seemed to be running out of everything. It starts climbing from there, towards a good, justified climax and a fine finish. That wouldn’t make the first half bad though, as it never really failed in a collateral manner even in the beginning stages as some might have thought it to be. There are shades of what might happen in the second half right from the beginning itself. The essence of mystery never leaves the little world of this movie. It leaves some scratches for the audience to be in the hunt for the mystery. The creepy house and the strange surroundings are supported by a bath tub, bathroom sink and the shower acting in a supernatural way.

The most exciting question of the movie would be if there is a murder which would justify the title? The second movie had lots of bloody murders, but this one is more of a psychological murder. There is the murder of faith and trust, and there is the possiblity of one or two murders which might have happened in the end – that is an ambiguity, an ending which could be interpreted in more than one way. It might be an end with the death of two, death of one and the imprisonment of the other, or with nothing too bad happening in the mansion. Love continues to be a matter of life, death, horror, mental disorder and everything else, and its role is above the supernatural yet again. It might reach even bigger heights of the mind in a possible Murder 4. What we see in the movie is that redemption is attained by the ones who has taken them out of the attention of fake, carnal love. The rest are left to feel the heat. Well, there is beauty to the heat, and gorgeousness to the horror – not one, but two; for there is no way to deny that.

Sara Loren and Aditi Rao Hydari has made this one more of a movie centred on two women, almost entirely different, but still has their lives centred on one man. The former keeps the first half running with her stunning looks while the latter runs the second half. The female characters run from sympathy to seduction and possessiveness to torment, a journey which is independent from one another, but not entirely separated in the sequence of events. Both of them begin as simple victims to an infatuation which drives them to one man and the creepy mansion. It is only a matter time before the love-birds would be no less than the vultures of selfishness. As it continues to bring more and more questions into the heads of the viewers, the more successful it becomes. But still, there are the missing parts, for the movie has its own low points where its horror becomes kind of laughable. But that is something worth forgiving for the total effect, especially for the minutes towards the end of the movie.

Thinking about the most talked-about side of the movie, this is not exactly the erotic thriller. There is sensousness and the scarcity in the department of clothing could be taken into account. But this actually takes the elements of relationships and mental status to the new heights instead of the physical relationships. This time, it gets closer to the emotions even if the skinshow never loses its role in the movie. The philosophy might be mostly hidden, but the absence of a true villain or a true hero is the evidence of the fact that this is more open to the discussions than ever, unlike the previous two movies of the series. That adds to the absence of Emraan Hashmi as a new thing to the series. In simple words, what Murder 3 has done is that it has provided some proof that there is hope around here for the horror genre even without ghosts and serial killers; there is future in many forms, and this future is more than just stunning.

Release date: 15th February 2013
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Vishesh Bhatt
Starring: Randeep Hooda, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sara Loren, Rajesh Shringarpure, Shekhar Shukla

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Oz the Great and Powerful

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L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz almost had the status of a fairy tale even as it was more of a children’s novel which came later. May be this belief was strengthened more by those children’s books which placed the story with Cindrella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood and the rest of the team with goodness and happy endings. The story of the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy Gale in the magical land of Oz was not read separated from Alice in Wonderland at that time. A scarecrow, a rusted tin woodman and a cowardly lion had made faithful companions not only to Dorothy, but also to many readers. There were three witches then, and when we come into the movie, we will have three too. The 1902 stage play and the 1939 film adaptation can wait for now though, as Oz the Great and Powerful has come up, and serves to be a kind of prequel to the real story which has been read and liked for such a long time. Thus it serves as a source of exile before the exile, if not an escape into to a world of fantasy which preceded Dorothy getting lost. The magical land of Oz not only provides a world of witches, wizards and talking animals, it is also the ultimate point of escapism which this movie makes sure of.

Welcome to the movie and the world of Oscar Diggs, the magician who calls himself the great and powerful even as he is mostly a trickster and a fraud. As a con artist and a circus magician, he hasn’t really earned much, and never did he reach anywhere near his ambition which stays close to someone like Thomas Alva Edison. But all of these would change when he is sucked into a cyclone with the balloon in which he was travelling, while finding a way to escape from the trouble which he caused by himself. But as the balloon breaks apart and he faces death, Oscar wishes for another chance and promises God that if he survives the situation which is so close to death, he will transform himself and become a good man. The scene until this was shown in black and white, as if to reflect his own colourless life. But as he reaches the magical land of Oz in his wrecked balloon, the screen changes into colour as if his whole life has been painted with the beauty of different attractive colours. The land of magic and sorcery comes to the scene and the world of treachery and lies make way for the colourful spectacle of Oz to which our own Oz has entered by accident.

The first one whom he meets is the witch Theodora who explains to him that he is supposed to be a great and powerful wizard by the name of Oz supposed to descend from the sky, save the land of Oz, and become their new king. They encounter Finley, a flying monkey whom Oscar saves. Finley pledges a life debt to Oscar and promises to serve him in whichever way possible. Another witch and Theodora’s sister Evanora guards the throne of the dead king. She sends Oz to steal and destroy another witch Gilda’s wand after which he would be given the throne and all the riches of Oz. Oscar and Finley travel to the Forbidden Forest to find and steal the wand from the witch, and on the way, they save a little girl made of porcelain. At the location, they find Gilda and comes up against a revelation which changes the direction of the story. The illusions and delusions of the world of witches would become more clear. The roles would be interchanged and the twist of fate takes a leap over the minds of the characters. It is at this point that the real action begins.

James Franco’s Oz is surely not a wizard, but a magician and a man of tricks. He never convinces the audience that he has become a role-model until the final stages of the movie. Dorothy Gale wouldn’t have had a good time with that Oz of the first half of the movie. Still, his change is slow and mostly unpredictable. He continues his methods of tricking and seducing, along with his pessimistic hope – something of the strangest character for such a long time. He wishes to get that treasure at the end of any rainbow, in this case – a kingdom and its unlimited riches. Still, to put this character into the dungeon reserved for the evil – that might not be fair, but if there is a place in between, a grey world for the intermediate ones, that would serve justice in a better way. His inclination was never towards pure evil, and it changes for somewhat evil to good, even as he can never be said to reach a status of pure good. But how many of the people of Oz would reach that status would be a question to talk about. There are times when Oz is more like another John Carter, but my fear about the possibility of watching some random movie named something like “Aliens vs Witches/Wizards” would keep my mouth shut.

The eternal conflict between good and evil continues in the land of Oz as anywhere else and so will one’s personal struggle with lies/greed and truth/morality. The black and white beginning, as it passes away begins the world which is a wonderland. The wonder starts and ends with the three witches, Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda – even Macbeth had three witches for sure, but this case is different. The fact is that one of them is pure good, another one pure evil and the remaining one, neither here or there until she is forced to take a stand supported by her emotions. Didn’t we have the three fates in mythology? Well, these three might have worked with the same title for our hero. Well, even the wizard of Oz needs and origin in a world where even Wolverine has his own origins as a movie. One has to feel that it is perfectly timed, to release after Hensel and Gretel as well as Jack the Giant Slayer. The movie has risen over these two and has developed another children’s story into a world of unexplainable beauty. Thus the justice has been done to the original Oz.

One has to say that Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, as the three witches controls the movie. Among them, Rachel Weisz creates that much needed magic which has powered the movie beyond its original strength. The character of Mila’s witch might be the strangest, and it is the one witch who is more unpredictable than the rest, but still not creating that impact which it should have. Finley the Flying Monkey provides the laughter element with his dialogues, and when he talks about monkeys, bananas and stereotypes, there is not a soul in the theatre who didn’t laugh. Almost all the lighter moments has the monkey somewhere around. The china girl made of porcelain also adds to it. She is the second true friend whom Oz makes in his new world. She is more like a little kid made of flesh and bones rather than a talking miracle. The combination of these two with the protagonist takes the movie to another level of good combination.

No, there is no messing up of the classic, even as flaws exist. The land of natural wonders in 3D which is so unnatural – when helped by the beautiful CGI creates an unforgettable experience for the audience. It might not be easy to remember the special effects used in such a good manner for a long time. May be only Avatar 2 could make me say the same thing again. With the characters who are never flat, and the plot which never loses its steam, Oz the Great and Powerful establishes itself as a worthy prequel which would make Dorothy Gale proud and asking for more prequels over prequel. It establishes with the help of the new technology that there is no place like Oz. Alice had gone to a wonderland, but it was not Oz, and that was surely a big miss for her. The battle between goodness and evil shall continue as none of the witches not the wizard meets the end as the movie finishes. The door for a sequel is thus kept open with the evil ones fleeing the scene, thus creating hope for evil even through a happy ending – and we shall wait for what is to come.

Release date: 8th March 2013
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Abigail Spencer, Bruce Campbell, Tim Holmes, Zach Braff, Joey King

oz copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Jack the Giant Slayer

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Back in the childhood, there was a story which featured in a lot of books, a fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”. But the adventure had not met its end at that time; now, after the return of Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Hansel & Gretel to the new movie world, another fairy tale comes back to life in a different manner – our legend this time goes like this “Fee Fi Fo Fum, ask not whence the thunder come; For between heaven and earth it’s a perilous place, home to a fearsome giant race; Who hunger to conquer the mortals below, waiting for the seeds of revenge to grow”. The original one was “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman, Be he live, or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread”. The difference between the fairy tale and the movie doesn’t end there, for Jack is not someone who steals anything, but a hero and the defender of his realm. He never even takes anything to or from this world to the other. But he is still a boy from the farm and he kills some giants (two to be exact), just in defence though.

“Fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man” would be the words of Edgar in William Shakespeare’s King Lear, but it might be better suited to the giants. Did those giants bother you in your childhood dreams and convert them into horrible nightmares? Where they your nightmare creatures? If they were, this is the time to redeem them. The giants haven’t really got their evil image running, as gentle giants tend to become more popular. But with giants, you never know and here it is proven; with gentle Jack and not-so-gentle giants who love to eat humans more than anything. Jack is just a simple farm boy; he is no Jack Sparrow and surely no Jack McClane. But what he does would change his life forever. From his fear of heights, or the fear of falling as he himself would call it, the man without any noble blood would rise to save the kingdom and the world of the humans from an invasion of the man-eating giants and also marry the beautiful princess to become the next ruler. If there is something like destiny, Jack has the best experience of it; if there is fate, it belongs to Jack; and as this fairy tale itself belongs to him as his own story, this is a fact which would be easily known.

Jack, the son of a farmer and Isabelle, the daughter of the king are shown to listen to the same bedtime story about giants and their invasion of human realm as the result of the creation of a gateway with magical beans in the form of a huge tree as part of an attempt of a few monks to reach heaven by the use of sorcery. The battle was clearly in the favour of giants an mankind could have faced extinction before a group of monks could create a crown which could let the wearer control the giants and force them to go back to their world. The connection was severed and everything went back to normal. Most of the people believed the story to be just a random legend, but both the kids believed in it. Ten years later, Jack has lost his parents and Isabelle is a wandering princess. The king’s right-hand man and adviser wishes to own that crown and re-link the two worlds unleashing an army of giants which he could control. His attempt to steal the remaining beans lead to a monk giving them to Jack before being captured and killed.

Meanwhile, the princess keeps wandering away in search of adventure and ends up in Jack’s house looking for shelter from the heavy rain. Their conversation is cut short as one of the beans get wet, it starts working and sprouts into a huge tree taking Jack’s house and the princess with it. Jack is thrown out of the house and is later found by the king and his soldiers. So our orphaned farm boy Jack has to set off on a quest to rescue a princess by climbing the huge tree to the middle world between the land of man and the land of God. But he would not be alone, as he is accompanied by the king’s best soldiers as well as the treacherous adviser who is looking for a chance to be in the world of giants and also the king’s most loyal leader of the royal knights. They would be in not just unfamiliar territory, but also a land infested by the world’s largest cannibals. An addition to this trouble would be the fact that the adviser has taken the crown with him to prepare the giants for the invasion of man’s world. The crown has its own power, as it is made out of the heart of a fallen giant of the former invasion.

The movie resembles Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters in many ways and it has a richer story, but too predictable and longer than need; it also has lesser 3D effects an weaker CGI compared to the witch-hunting action-horror fantasy. The horror element is als quite weak and there was the need for the darker elements in such a story. Instead this one is chosen to be watched by almost everyone, instead of giving it the power of horror and terror which it deserved. In the end, it continues to be a fairy tale with a happy ending; for they lived happily ever after and the tales of the giants continued to spread, creating new versions. Still, it scores over the lesser fairy tale re-builder which was Snow White and the Huntsman and is on level with Red Riding Hood in many ways. But then too, the effect created by the giants fails to grow like that seed; it could have reached the top with wings, but it decided to crawl underground and keeping itself safe. One has to wonder if the Twilight effect has completely destroyed the power of awesomeness in fantasy.

There is Nicholas Hoult, the Beast a.k.a Hank McCoy of X-Men: First Class who has blended into the character with no mutant-effect provided to the character, and Eleanor Tomlinson as the beautiful princess Isabelle never creating a question about a better cast; the same is the case of Stanley Tucci as Lord Roderick – the villain; not really the scariest one around, but still perfect for the way in which the movie has progressed. Ewan McGregor’s Elmont, the leader of the royal guard, makes that right character for a fairy tale adventure filled with action. As a whole, it is a perfect situation, but still the movie doesn’t rise as is should have; it is as if change was much less suited to this movie than the rest. But, with slight improvements, this could have made this genre, something spectacular, but such a thing was not to happen. The need to be on the safe side has locked this one – it has prevented the movie from going average or below average, but the same thing has prevented it from rising above the horizons from its own genre.

So this is where the Vampire Bat has started off for the month – one Jack, a princess and a large number of giants. The choices were many, especially among Malayalam and Hindi movies, but the decision to go for the classic fairy tale resurrection was not a bad idea. It has delivered; not completely in the way the Vampire Bat had expected it to, but surely in a way which didn’t disappoint him at all. He could just escape into it from a world which had much less for him. The vampire bats getting eaten by giants with bad teeth and foul breath might not make such great news, but still it would be an honour for him. The expectations are still there, if not for giants, it should be for awesome movies; and there is no rest for the Vampire Bat, nothing this world is aware of. There is still the need to be there for the right movie, something as good as Celluloid; that would make this a significant year if such an experience would happen in the first half of the year.

Release date: 1st March 2013
Running time: 114 minutes
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.