Madras Cafe

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It is not that often that we see spy movies which keep close enough to reality rather than the James Bond model with stylish action and a display of superior skills and strange, unbelievable gadgets. In that case, this movie has successfully resisted its temptation to be another Ek Tha Tiger or Agent Vinod with all the super-stylish espionage with a romance tone always ringing a bell in the background. A few people might find it difficult to keep away from the usual pattern, but not Shoojit Sircar who continues his success of Vicky Donor. This was actually a week which was plagued by the absence of good English or Malayalam movies, and therefore the choice had to be Madras Cafe, but not before suffering from the Malayalam movie Olipporu. What came to my mind when I heard about this title was Kerala Cafe, the 2009 Malayalam movie which was quite a landmark, and such a matching title is nothing less than inspiring enough to watch the movie, not only the positive reviews and the good personal opinions which has been gathered by this movie so far.  Its message is simple – that in the case of each and every war, it is the civilians who suffers the worst on both sides, and it is the terrible loss of human life and property that is the ultimate truth.

The movie is set mainly in India and Sri Lanka, and the action also shifts to the United Kingdom, Singapore and Thailand on occasions. So the movie is a political thriller as well as an espionage action flick with all the eyes on that defining moment in Indian history. It is the story of Vikram Singh (John Abraham), an Indian Army special officer in the backdrop of the Sri Lanka Civil War. He is appointed by the Indian intelligence agency to lead the covert operations in Jaffna just after the Indian intervention there didn’t really work out. He travels to Sri Lanka leaving his wife Ruby Singh (Rashi Khanna) at his abode at Cochin, and comes across Jaya Sahni (Nargis Fakhri), a British journalist of Indian origins. As she is there for humanitarian concers, Vikram is there for the Indian causes, and their paths meet consistently. But their world is still not that apart and their objectives are not that different in the end. The result is not just the uncovering of all the conspiracies which runs behind the scenes, but also finding all those people who work for the other side, and finally discovering a plot to assassinate a former Prime Minister of India.

This is undoubtedly one of the best roles of John Abraham so far. The most significant thing about this role is that our hero is completely out of his comfort zone except for those shooting scenes which comes quite often. He is still there to fit in, as the perfectionist covert operations officer, the loving husband to a lovely wife and a true patriot whom his department deserves rather than the other way around. He is tactically superior to almost everyone around even as his impact is limited due to the huge amount of backstabbing and treachery which is involved among his own people. Still, he is perfectly human and doesn’t come up with the typical John Abraham show as one would expect from the hunk. But this one is a more realistic, and the much need performance from him, a lot above what was expected. He has taken over his role as the leading actor with what was needed just like his role as the producer. There might surely be the people who are to find it difficult to agree to that statement, but it is proven, and John Abraham is back.

Nargis Fakhri’s Jaya Sahni, a British journalist and foreign war correspondant in Jaffna has a significant role in the totality of investigation, but not that much of an imposing screen presence. She looks beautiful, determined and adamant throughout the movie as a character who might have almost worked a miracle on the events. She is the daredevil, the exact opposite of Rashi Khanna’s Ruby Singh – the worried housewife who is troubled by the absence of her husband who disappears in Sri Lanka and is later consistently under threat. She still has a lovely debut though, opposite one of the most stylish actors in Bollywood, and does her part well. Siddharth Basu’s Robin Dutt is an outstanding performance which adds to the rating of the movie by a good margin. The others have also done well making this movie a very good combined effort which is brought together by its working of the plot, the narrative style and the effort of the director.

How often do we get such good political thrillers? The Malayalam movie Left Right Left was one of those political flicks which seemed to make a powerful impact. Well, this one is clearer in its vision, as it takes no sides and passes absolutely no real judgement. Its viewpoint is the same as that of any neutral person watching the movie. To add to it, this time there is the espionage element – it is present at the right dose, and not at all glorified or exaggerated. Nobody is killed in slow motion and no hero takes on a large group and throws bodies in all directions like a freak of nature. There are also no bloody songs or retarded emotional nonsense of dumb romance, as this one keeps its world alive in reality rather than in a romanticized pandemonium. But people might still prefer the wrong movies which makes absolutely no sense and at the same time, has not even that ability to inject nonsense at the right dose. What would happen to the real good movies then? That is a question which can be answered only by the statistics which show more of a world deserving depression.

3 Idiots, Chennai Express, Ek Tha Tiger, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Dabangg 2, Bodyguard, Dabangg, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Don 2 and Ra One are the highest grossing Bollywood movies according to Wikipedia. This clearly leads to the loss of faith in humanity and the need for the end of the world is asserted in a brutal manner. Unless movies like Madras Cafe, Go Goa Gone, Table No. 21 and a few similar ones have some spot in that list, there would no justice served. Well, they can add Malayalam movies like China Town and Maya Mohini to that list of pure nonsense which grossed the highest. Rowdy Rathore, Ready and Agneepath follows in the high-grossing list, and that adds to the need for a quick destruction of the world. The restoration of hope in this generation and the movie-watching people of this world can happen only after having a look at the final collections of Madras Cafe, something which could be fine, but nothing exceptional.

The movie is still slow, and that might be a bad thing for some – but the slow rhythm of the movie still can conquer some other hearts. There was so much of details and information being showered upon the audience and this slower pace might have helped it to blossom – come with the brains this time, for you have watched too many mindless movies which made no sense and scared the world’s best nonstop nonsense. We already had successful slow thrillers in the form of Memories and Mumbai Police, and it is time a slow political thriller takes its place among the best movies of 2013. It took me some time to watch this one only because of the horrible attack of the movie Olipporu and my fears on being not able to understand the political scenario in Hindi. But that went really smooth, and the whole thing was very impressive, ending with Rabindranath Tagore’s lines “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

Release date: 23rd August 2013
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Starring: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Rashi Khanna, Siddharth Basu, Ajay Rathnam, Prakash Belawadi, Tinu Menachery, Agnello Dias, Piyush Pandey

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Memories

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Memories enter this week of Malayalam movie overdose fighting for a place with four movies, all of them creating bigger hype than this one. This movie had more of a release of silence compared to what Kadal Kadannu Oru Mathukutty, Neelaakasam Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum have been coming up with. All three of them were much awaited, but this movie was not that much of a subject during those talks. But it is that type of silence that grows on you, and makes an impact. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse had said, “Silence is a source of great strength”. Remember the quote by Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music” – now there comes the continuity of the movie connecting with the silence, for there is that background score as well as the music with which the movie begins, before going deep into the silence and breaking it again, powering itself from its slowness to the incredible strength and agility that it possesses within. The movie is a little silent dynamite which shows its signs of efficiency in the beginning itself, and explodes to bring out its best in the second half.

Jeethu Joseph had given us Detective – one of the best investigative thrillers in Malayalam, Mummy & Me – the movie which could change lives in a good way, and the big laugh riot which was My Boss. The same director has given us another treat in the form of Memories, and in the process, he might have provided us with the best of Eid. The movie goes through life of a police officer (as they say, an episode in the life of a cop), and brings that world to the audience. Sam Alex (Prithviraj Sukumaran) gets through the credit scenes supported by great background music, and stylish action before we come to the scene three years later when he is addicted to alcohol and walking around aimlessly, stretching from the bars to the beginning of the long beverages queues. He has memories of his wife and daughter who were murdered by a terrorist as a revenge for him killing his gangster brother in an encounter. He keeps himself to perpetual damnation on Earth, feeling that he and his police department are responsible for their death. He resorts to alcohol and moments of lazy depression to keep himself away from the world of the common man, drinking so much that he can hardly walk until he falls. The memories wake him up, and to keep them away, he drinks again, a procedure which would seem to last for eternity.

Meanwhile, his brother leaves the house and his mother is left worried due to his drinking habits. Meanwhile, a senior officer comes home and invites the former efficient cop to investigate the case of a possible serial killer on the loose. Even as Sam disagrees first, his mother convinces him to go through it. In doing so, he is assisted by a journalist Varsha Mathews (Mia George) and Inspector Antony (Sreejith Ravi). He investigates about the two murders, and at the same time, a third murder takes place. He has to deal with his own alcoholism along with the memories of the death of his beloved ones, which keep flashing into his mind. He fails to keep them away, as they continues to haunt them along with his love for alcohol, but the man makes great turning points in the case right from the beginning itself. As the murderer captures his victims who look very much as if they are not connected to each other, and tortures them to death, the time is running out for the police force. There is brilliance on both sides, and there remains the question if the hand of the law or the unknown force of evil wins the clash of the titans. As this is an investigative thriller leaning on the suspense factor, anything more might deal a spoiler blow.  Meanwhile, look out for Christian imagery and symbolism, that’s all I can say for now.

Prithviraj Sukumaran has had a great time since Ayalum Njanum Thammil. This year he came up with a great performance in what was undoubtedly the best movie of the year – Celluloid. While his Mumbai Police had much critical acclaim, his Bollywood movie Aurangzeb was a movie with a difference and reflected that effort which he has been putting into his job. If the questions are asked if this character is like Mumbai Police‘s Antony Moses, the answer would be a clear no. Sam Alex is clearly superior to Antony Moses, who was an empty shell which was filled only to the disappointment of the viewers. But Sam Alex is a near-perfect dynamic character, more like that Solomon whom Prithviraj portrayed in Vargam. There are not many characters who would seem to exhibit such pain as this one, even as there could be doubts if there is so much of it that the dosage could be decreased. Our protagonist never goes the wrong way, even as he doesn’t go the right path. It has been the right path for our leading actor who had not that effective police roles in The Thriller, Police, Sathyam and Khakhee. Aurangzeb, Mumbai Police and now Memories have brought to us the one man who makes an excellent police officer on screen.

Prithviraj is brilliant right from the beginning. He undergoes that transformation in a grand style, and here is that character which sheds all the power and is left with just intelligence and vulnerability. This is that type of role which brings instant likable element to the character. He is not that police officer who comes out and beats fourty or fifty people up in slow motion, and even makes them falls kilometres apart. The age of such a superhero policeman is over for sure, and what we have here is a more genuine version, and hundred percent better than the one we saw in Mumbai Police. Here, we have a protagonist who can’t shoot down one man, nor can he chase him down. In another parallel world created by the much earlier movies, the hero would have been so untouchable that one gets to be sure about how the world inside the movie is supposed to go on. In such a perfect world, there is no real scope for suspense, even as a few drops can be added according to the availability of some rather less important characters to be murdered. This is not your perfect world of superhero, as the perfection here belongs to Prithviraj, and as a whole, it belongs to our director. Nobody defies gravity and takes the form of flying mutant humans or throws the normality away.

There are the others who add to this normality in the right and the most appropriate manner. The villain is the best of the other guys for sure. Even as the shadow of doubt falls on many people from doctors to policemen, the real killer, the psychopath who is placed against the cop in a game of cat and mouse happens to be a man totally unexpected. Revealing the man would be a cruel thing right now, and I shall control myself from doing the same. But this villain is an excellent choice, as he becomes that psychopath murder who makes a striking impact on the viewers. There was the need for such a villain in Malayalam movies, coming out nowhere to strike with the element of fear and uncertainty. Meghana Raj has a striking effect in the memories, even as she doesn’t really exist during the current timeline displayed in the movie. Mia George’s character has an influential existence throughout the movie, but not that much of a presence on the screen. The veterans Vijayaraghavan and Nedumudi Venu adds to the value of the movie with their usual creative performances as the concerned superior police officer and the caring parish priest. Suresh Krishna is also there with his usual best.

The movie’s surely has a slow first half, but it still remains faster than many other appreciated bad movies like Annayum Rasoolum on any day. The ambience it creates, rules this little world of memories. When Prithviraj walks away right here with his head held high, there is a lot of claps from the audience and Memories is a beautiful, successful experience. It is the result of how well this canvas has been set, and how much mastery can be associated with the protagonist’s depiction. We had the cop age in movies during the time of Suresh Gopi, and this might be a resurrection in a different manner. There was the need for the memories to stay strong to make that inception into our minds, and there has been such a thing indeed. There is a certain amount of neatness maintained throughout, even though some computer imagery used was rather unnecessary. It was good to watch a houseful show in the local theatres on a weekday in the morning, something which has rarely happened. The necessity for a very good thrilling atmosphere has been realized, and one has to thank Jeethu Joseph and Prithviraj Sukumaran for this wonderful piece of art which has come this way.

Release date: 9th August 2013
Running time: 140 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Jeethu Joseph
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Mia George, Meghana Raj, Vijayaraghavan, Rahul Madhav, Suresh Krishna, Sreejith Ravi, Nedumudi Venu, Praveena, Madhupal, Irshad

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Pullipulikal and Aattinkutti

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This is the season of the Malayalam movies, and what these movies have done with the help of Chennai Express, to keep the English movies away from the theatre is quite dissappointing, to be honest. The typhoon of Malayalam movies started off with Kadal Kadannu Oru Mathukutty, followed by Neelaakasam Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi, Memories and Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum. I am not in favour of such a week boasting the absence of the new English movie releases, at a time when they do get released in other countries. But as I know that there can be a great next week, and all the Malayalam movie titles are interesting enough, that should solve the problem up-to an extent. There is no surprise about so many movies releasing during the Eid after a long season of drought, as the people have already rushed to the multiplexes as well as the local theatres for these movies, and the malls, or at least some of them are so crowded that the Vampire Bat had doubts if there were free Blood Biriyani being supplied there. There is also the signs of the local theatres taking the effect of these new multiplexes, as the difference in the rates of tickets has become considerably small. We had such an option, and we had to choose the multiplex – there is the shift of the balance of power.

Literally translated as “Leopards and the Little Goat” had the first signs of vulnerability and a display of what kind of audience they were targeting, with their first promo in the theatres, which had a cartoon involving three leopards, one goat and a bull. Who are the people representing these characters, is something which should be revealed with ease as one watches the movie. Its target of the family audiences has surely been achieved with this one, but the question remains if it has achieved exactly what the movie lovers wished for, and another doubt would be about its power to match the other movies from Lal Jose – in that case, this should be closer in significance to Immanuel. Otherwise, this is a little bit of what should be termed as Elsamma Enna Aankutty meets Marykkundoru Kunjaadu at Kuttand setting, with a weaker second half and a forced ending. But it is not to be denied that the movie is fun, and the first half is close enough to a laugh riot. With the beautiful settings at Kuttanadu second only to Amen, and the melodious songs score to make all the absences transform into some kind of presence, and keep the viewers attached to the world of backwaters.

The movie set in the rural area of Kuttanad centers around one hardworking youth who tries in vain to pay off his loan to the bank by running a houseboat which he might lose in case of a failure to pay the same. Chakkattutharayil Gopan (Kunchako Boban), in short – Chakka Gopan a.k.a Aadu Gopan, is the goat-man as he is widely considered to be for his beard resembling a goat. There was that character in the movie Nee Ko Njaa Cha, and an allusion to that one with a background sound of the goat might help to figure out this appearance of our hero. This is the protagonist who gets beaten up almost every day due to the bad deeds of his three big brothers, as well as his own little problems. There comes the similarities with Marykkundoru Kunjaadu, and its just that this time, the protagonist is not lazy, and can beat a few people up rather than getting beaten up all the time. He has to feed three of his brothers and mother, as well as make sure that he earns enough to keep his houseboat floating. The three brothers are the type of people who takes money even from him to keep him safe, and they never miss an opportunity to take money from others or even lie, cheat and steal. The feeling of Elsamma Enna Aankutty also runs through, but more as an invisible force. But the fact remains that all the three movies were those which I liked, and therefore, there is nothing negative out there other than a little absence of innovation.

Along with dealing with his own lazy bully brothers and attempting to pay off his loans, Gopan faces the problem of not being able to attract enough tourists to his comparatively inferior houseboat, and asks the help of Mamachan (Suraj Venjaramoodu) for some attraction which could bring in more foreign tourists. The result comes in the form of Kainakari Jayasree (Namitha Pramod), a Mohiniyattam artist. With her assistance and also with the help of Suseelan (Harisree Asokan), his problems seem to get solved until his path crosses with that of Kavalykal Kuriyachan (Shammi Thilakan). While attempting to deal with his brothers’ unruly life and his love with Jayasree, he also has to deal with the rich businessman who seeks revenge on Gopan. At the same time, he comes up with some plans to deal with his brothers as well as to keep his love with Jayasree. Even as his and Kuriyachan’s path rarely crosses each other directly, there is always the unexpected harm that he would seem to give the man who would go on to become the villain whom he himself has to deal with, not as the goat which runs away, but as the super-goat-man if such a thing exists.

Kunchako Boban has come up with the comedy avatar again, and that should satisfy most of the fans. With his new looks and style, he has done complete justice to his role, and carries the whole world on screen with his shoulders. Namitha Pramod is also that good as Kainakari Jayasree, and never manages to move away from the character. It was nice to see her character, the other dynamic lovable one along with the character of the protagonist. Suraj Venjaramoodu and Harisree Asokan handles their own familiar territory with so much ease. We have been missing this Suraj for sometime, and the latter uses his home base of comedy to the efficiency of the movie. The three brothers might have carried on the legacy of Marykkundoru Kunjaadu‘s brother, but one might still miss Biju Menon. Shammi Thilakan’s Kavalykal Kuriyachan is a fine villain indeed, but not the scary, evil Satan or the one who sold his soul to the Devil, for he is the villain of circumstances, and the result of the people knowing about his own villainy. But the fact remains that he rises to this discovered throne of bad guy, and continues to do what he did with a mask, without any visage of artificially created vanity.

The movie’s success as a comedy movie is beyond doubt, and even with its lack of flow in the script, and an ending which was rather thrown into the middle of things, there is the beauty in simplicity, and the eventual victory of goodness portrayed without being preachy or pretending to be highly virtuous. There is the beautiful portrayal of nature which joins with the melodious songs to keep it working towards the end. The messages about the importance of goodness, hardwork and belief in oneself is asserted throughout the film in one way or the other. Marykkundoru Kunjaadu had the same, but some people just noticed the fear element in it. This movie is more logical in that case, making an attempt to touch the soul with a central character who is more useful to the family as well as the society, caring less about himself. He is another Elsamma in that case, and even his love interest is not of less significance in many ways. There has been an overflow of similar themes in the past, and this movie also reflects the same in such a way as to make an impact in a path more travelled. Whether it has made a difference or not is a question yet to be answered, and until now, the future looks bright enough for this goat-man and his own leopard people of the family.

This is recommended for those who loved Elsamma Enna Aankutty and even more recommended for those who loved Marykkundoru Kunjaadu, and even those viewers who loved both of these movies a little, might find this one impossible to run away from. Nature has been a great redeemer, and for some, there is music; for the missing laughter, the others need comedy. This movie has got them all, but while looking for the logically awesome movie with a great bowl of completeness delivered as a result of the horn of plenty, there is that awkward movie of detest. But, it is highly advised that such a cornucopia is not expected in the case of this movie – Amalthea, goat and nature; something should relate, but the release of Plenty might have served as nothing less than a Pandora’s box in the case of such a movie. Therefore, lets forget the little strange things which might give the indigestion of logic fed to your brain, and enjoy this movie for the little beautiful things it got, and flies directly to the heart. The movie shall win its battle with the titles which got bigger names associated with the cast, not by much, but by what is enough to make the lamb-sheep-goat-characters live on with their goodness, lack of violence and a certain amount of love which takes its own toll on the characters.  Meanwhile, the title of this review has been adjusted to make it short – kindly don’t feel strange, for it is Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum indeed.

Release date: 9th August 2013
Running time: 140 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Lal Jose
Starring: Kunchako Boban, Namitha Pramod, Shammi Thilakan, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Harisree Asokan, Shivaji Guruvayoor, Anusree, Irshad, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Bindu Panicker, Reena Bhasheer, Thesni Khan, Seema G. Nair, Ponnamma Babu

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Smurfs 2

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There are times when people think that a sequel is necessary for every successful movie. Such sequels often go bad, as they are more of repetitions and imitations of the first – but this one manages to hold its ground, not with full strength; just marginally. It has forced itself on the viewers, and has often succeeded with its funny dialogues and the incredible cuteness which it has developed, with an inherent goodness and a little stupidity which gets overshadowed by their aversion towards evil, unlike the minions of Despicable Me 2. That should make this the perfect movie for kids, as there is the moral side which is strong, and everything else goes on depending on this side of the good. Well, The Smurfs 2 is highly dependent on what the first movie had given the viewers, and in the process of making this sequel, it has copied almost everything from The Smurfs and has presented it in a slightly different manner. The advantage that we achieve with the same is that this one is an even better story in morals, and it is further preachy in nature as it goes on and on. There is divine justice as well as the poetic justice, but not without the actions from our little and bigger heroes does fate and destiny dare to intervene.

The Smurfs 2 is a collection of escapism and childish fantasy. It has done enough to have almost every child drag their parents into the theatres to watch some cute little blue creatures. They have also tested the same on the older one very well, as there is a certain amount of nostagia of childhood that seem to affect the grown ups too, and if this was released before Despicable Me 2, the scope would have been higher. They had taken on New York earlier, and now they are at Paris. The little blue creatures have tried their best, but lacking in bringing innovation and originality, this movie had to try and bring a smile to the face of all the viewers, and once again, the result is effectiveness of a lesser scale. If one didn’t watch the first movie, the probability of liking this movie might even go higher. There is a good explanations of the things that go on with this world even in this movie. There are so many occasions when a predecessor’s shoes are good enough, but shouldn’t they have tried to remove the dirt in the same instead of throwing more on it, in a huge variety of colours? May be colourful dirt is good – at least its not bad or evil, and there is a little more time to be sure about that.

Years have passed after the group of smurfs got sucked into a gigantic vortex which brought them to the new world of New York City. Smurfette is shown to suffer from an identity crisis, as she is having nightmares about betraying her fellow Smurfs and getting them captured by Gargamel. At the same time, the Smurfs are preparing a surprise birthday party for Smurfette. But as nobody talks about her birthday and keeps it a secret, she feels that they have forgotten the day and don’t consider her as one of them. She feels that she is neither here nor there, as neither the daughter of Gargamel or Papa Smurf, created by one and given the life of a Smurf by Papa Smurf. She had been an instrument to distract and trap the Smurfs, but now she is claimed as one of them, but the doubts in her mind never ends. She wanders away from the village thinking about the same. Meanwhile, Gargamel has become a famous magician in Paris, but he is running out the Smurf essence and thus losing his magical powers. With his new Smurf-like creations, who are called the Naughties – Vexy and Hackus, Gargamel plans on opening a portal to the Smurf village and get the Smurf formula by kidnapping Smurfette who joined the other side. But he doesn’t have the magical powers to create a portal big enough for him to enter, and he sends Vexy who goes through it and successfully tricks the first Smurf lady through the portal as she wanders around alone.

The Smurfs are alerted, and Papa Smurf uses his magic to create crystals that would allow some of his best Smurfs to go back to the human world, but through an accident, Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity ends up travelling to the modern world rather than Brainy, Hefty, and Gutsy. The four Smurfs arrive in the apartment of Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) right after the birthday celebration of his son Blue (Jacob Tremblay) who has been named after them. They also meet Patrick’s stepfather Victor Doyle (Brendan Gleeson), whom Patrick hates and wishes to keep away from his family. The Smurfs join with them as well as Patrick’s lovely wife Grace Winslow (Jayma Mays) and goes to Paris where the sorcerer has set up his abode. The team manages to sneak through the backside of the magic arena of the villain, but fails to find Smurfette. Meanwhile, she joins with Vexy and Hackus in fun, and almost forget the Smurf life. Gargamel and his cat Azrael try their best to get information out of the Smurf lady, and at the same time, the human gang and the Smurfs tries to get through to the secret lair of Gargamel. In the battle for Smurf identity and Smurfy existence, there is a lot at stake including the Smurf lady as well as the whole Smurf village.

So, this movie running just a minute more than its predecessor, is no entity which can be considered different from the first movie. Its twelve percent approval rating at the Rotten Tomatoes comes as no surprise, even as that is a little harsh considering how much goodness this movie carries, or at least attempts to hold in itself. Its best moments are recreated from the first movie, and it fails to exist as a thing of innovation. With the large number of animated movies releasing these days, this half-an-animation might be a little repetitive in a less interesting manner. We already saw The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Epic and Turbo making impact this year, and this movie tries to impress kids in the same way. But how much can the kids take? They have a similar movie coming up each month which gives them their good time in the theatre. It is us horror fans who have less for our liking. We are fed with one movie, once in five months or so, in the form of The Conjuring, and that too should have been cut so much that there is that new question about what the horror really is. I guess we don’t count anymore, and the animated movies are the new, profitable trend – if the superhero movies don’t have anything to say against that claim; ask our beloved Man of Steel who lost his underwear in his effort to match a Dark Knight who rises.

Smurfette is the central character of this movie, and the second significant one is Vexy, voiced by Katy Perry and Christina Ricci respectively, bringing the whole new sisterly Smurf relationship to the movie series. The best moments though, belong to Vanity Smurf and Azrael bringing good laughter through their pride and fall. Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow has a lesser role to play in this sequel as his character looks more hammered into the middle of the world as a misfit, and Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow has even lesser to do this time. Brendan Gleeson as Victor Doyle brings some fun right into the middle of chaos. Hank Azaria as Gargamel continues to keep us interested even as the villain seems to be more of a clone of what he was in the first movie. But we can’t avoid Gargamel and his sorcery that easily, as the man continues to be the villain that he was in the first movie. Azrael the cat could have had a little more screen-time to make the most out of it. The movie should have found something smurfantastic, but it takes the easy way out, as the movie starts in an ordinary manner and ends in a predictable manner. Whatever happens in the middle tries to hold this world together.

Even with some good 3D effects, The Smurfs 2 fails to get rid of all those things which might have added negatively to the first movie. But all the good things are still there. With The Conjuring on the other screen, this would attract the families with kids, that’s for sure. But the fact remains that Pacific Rim, The Wolverine and Man of Steel haven’t disappeared yet as expected. Therefore, the choices are there, and this movie has to strive hard. The big shock might be that there is the little presence of Despicable Me 2 somewhere around. But The Smurfs 2 is new and they got style, colour and a cute and easy to pronounce title which rhymes with Surf Excel, our common detergent powder which has attacked the television screens without mercy. With its ordinary moral story which keeps you smurfed, smurfized and smurfined, the question would remain if they could have waited a little more and come up with a better sequel of excellent content. The little blue creatures have more potential than this, and we can only hope that the third movie of the series would fulfill it. Until then, one has to adjust with this movie, and I am sure that it won’t bore you to death – it doesn’t make you feel awesome either.

Release date: 31st July 2013 (USA); 4th August 2013 (India)
Running time: 104 minutes
Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson , Jacob Tremblay, Nancy O’Dell & a big number of voice actors including Katy Perry and Christina Ricci

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The Conjuring

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We are all going to die – I would hope that the same would happen as fast as possible. I watched The Conjuring and it was scary, and I am hundred percent sure that it can give anybody sleepless nights. But what has happened to me? Why am I not afraid of the supernatural movies? There should be something wrong with my intellect that all these supernatural things have become such an integral part of my life that humanity and its inherent evil scares me more than the dead. Death has always been more beautiful than the living, and with its presence among the humans, the evil makes its score ahead by a long margin, and the good waits for death. Death makes us even, being the great leveller that it is, and as the dead stays dead, it is the living that suffer in their memories, but if they come alive, then too, it is the living who are tormented by their unrest. Being tormented both by the living and the dead, the human life is a vessel full of Sulphuric acid, and we lack adamantium, both in the soul and the body, for we get broken by the supernatural as well as those which are super and natural. They are all part of the big shame of that torment which is brought down upon us not by the dead, but by the living. The dead are indeed better, for they do what they are supposed to do, and it is just the living creatures that contradict themselves.

Believe in the world of the dead and not of the living, for the latter is full of pathetic fools who know nothing about the other world, and it is from their lack of knowledge and extreme stupidity that I would indeed discourage each and everyone of you from doing anything on the supernatural, at least in India. In the name of science, some have denied their own roots, and how can they even look into the dead and the undead worldwide? Do they think that everything can be answered? Some questions have no answers, and others have many. There are some others which should be found out. Some of them can’t be explained, and some of them need to have a life of their own, and make more out of themselves. I would want most of you to know this before you go and watch this movie, and please be prepared to be scared; otherwise you might end up like some arrogant people who despise this world of horror and think that they are inferior works of art. They belong to that category which loves butterflies and despises bats. I am a Vampire Bat myself, but I can’t help it and I shall never choose to be not a crocodile even if I live in Lake Placid surrounded by hunters. I can tell you what an inferior work of art is, but I shall do that later. For now, let me assure you that this is one of the best works, both as an art of horror and also as fantastic entertainment.

The first thing I would like to make clear about this movie is that it has a great build-up. It has its humble beginnings of horror in the form of the supernatural in one of the most interesting dolls which has ever graced the big screen since the Child’s Play series, Annabelle doll – it should have had a significant role in The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle; from page 39 to 53, it seemed to have a presence which can only be confirmed by someone who has seen this book outside the Amazon preview. Annabelle is not just another doll, as it is that thing which was part of what the famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren faced during the early 1970s. The Conjuring is more about what the name suggests, but what do we conjure, or summon? Can the spirits summon themselves? In Annable’s case, it was summoned into the doll, but the same can’t be said about the others, especially the haunted house we are dealing with. The story and presence of Annable is more important as the symbol of everything evil that exists within the movie. It is also the scariest image which exists without the help of an visual or sound effects, as the doll itself becomes the visual representation of all the evil that tries to break free in the human world.

The story goes back to 1971, when Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) move into an old house in the middle of nowhere, with their five daughters – Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy and April (Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy and Kyla Deaver). Their dog refuses to enter the house and is later found dead, and they also come across a cellar which might have been supposed to be hidden. Carolyn has strange bruises on her body and Christine is pulled down from her bed on multiple occasions. Cindy begins to sleep-walk a lot. April, the youngest of the girls become friendly with one of the spirits. One night, the spirits get more aggressive, as Carolyn is locked in the cellar and the spirits indulge in direct attacks. Even as they don’t believe in that kind of stuff, they are forced to contact paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) for a solution. The Warrens conduct an initial investigation and find out the existence of spirits, for which an exorcism might be required. They try to get evidence for the same, so that they could get authorization from the Catholic Church.

During a background check, Ed and Lorraine discover that the house and the plot once belonged to a lady who was accused to be a witch, Bathsheba, who killed herself after cursing all those people would try to take her land, and the Perrons were among them. A lot of murders and suicides have already occured in those houses that have since been built upon the property, and the house of Perrons was just a part of the big cursed neighbourhood. Bathsheba’s speciality has been about possessing the mother and making them kill their children, as she herself had sacrificed her child to the dark powers already during her lifetime. There are so many spirits around, and they belong to those mothers who were possessed and forced to kill their own children. There are also the spirits of dead children who were killed. There is rather a soul collection in the house, and considering the strength which Bathsheba has possessed through the years of doing the will of darkness, the Lorraines might be up against more than what they could handle with ease. Bathsheba is also able to move out of the house and follow Lorraines to their world involving the Annable doll which they have kept in their house. Even as Carolyn is to be possessed only to kill her daughters Christine and April, the Warrens has the fight brought to them at their house, and it turns out to be a battle which is beyond a house and a family.

How does this movie score over The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia and Evil Dead, the other two much expected horror movies which graced us with their presence this year? Well, this is the exact opposite of Evil Dead in its portrayal, as it is no gore fest, and not much blood is shed. There are no body parts being thrown at you and the insides never come out. There is no use of bad words, and even with so much less use of special effects, this movie creates a world which is no less creepier than Evil Dead. This one has powerful microseconds of thrill and suspense, for this quiet one is a beautiful world of the supernatural, the world of infinite horror. The use of silence is worth mentioning, and the sound effects are not extravagantly wasted. When Evil Dead tried to sell blood and gore, The Conjuring tries to sell artistic horror of high quality even as the end is slightly lesser in effect after an excellent climax. The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia could have been this movie, as both have similar settings and stories of history which involves random evil people and victims. But our movie scores in its treatment of the subjects and some wonderful acting. It is smartness and creativity that should define our movie which will continue to score and scare more people. Check for Evil Dead anyway: https://moviesofthesoul.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/evil-dead/

Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren and Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren steals the show, and from the beginning itself, we are given the power to feel that they can be nothing other than the paranormal investigators. They don’t try to be heroic at any moment, and the movie doesn’t try to take any heavy load from the earlier movies which it can’t carry. The ghosts may be familiar, but they are not similar enough, and they are surely not the same. We know that there is also a sequel in development. You can enjoy it with a willing suspension of disbelief or by stopping being a moron. You have to accept that you are not that kind of person who knows everything, and feels that the supernatural is a lie. There is God, the devil, the demons and the witches – there are demonic possessions and there exist the need for exorcisms, the earlier you come to know about it, that much the better. But there are no real romanticized versions of the vampires in reality, and the title “vampire” is the cultural construct. The more you know that, the better it is for you – there is a world which you shall never know; embrace the same, and stop asking questions. Your disbelief shall be your end, and it shall lead you to your doom, an annihilation which you might have deserved by them with your lack of belief and that basket of nonsense you always carry in the name of science, logic and reason.

Release date: 19th July 2013 (USA); 2nd August 2013 (India)
Running time: 112 minutes
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Evil Dead

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It was a long time ago that we witnessed five college students having their vacation in a cabin the woods. They manages to find an audiotape which releases a large number of demons, and as the creatures possess the people, there is complete chaos all around. It was just last year that another story of five friends travelling to another remote cabin for another vacation becoming victims of the same stereotypical horror movie plot came in the form of The Cabin in the Woods. This time, in 2013, we have the right remake of what scares us more than most of the things during our childhood, and what formed the basis of that 2012 horror movie starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams. The two sequels of the movie, Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), along with all the comics and the video games had combined with the first movie to make a powerful horror impact which has been almost uncomparable. It is towards that legacy that this movie is making a claim. So this can be considered as the fourth installment of that terrifying series, even as the story is completely new with the same premises. As there are so many things in common, this could be a reboot, but as the possiblities are endless with a story like this, any guess made would be an ineffective one.

The success of the original was due to the fact that it wandered through the fears of our minds with that simplicity which can create a direct impact. The tree scene might have been a bit radical, but other than that, everything else have been perfectly clear horror supported by blood and gore. Being demonically possessed and creating the atmosphere of fear with the power of sounds than anything else, The Evil Dead (note the “The” as with The Invisible Man and Invisible Man) is the legend among all horror movies, and this one has to fit into that wonderful space which has been created and maintained by the same. It was a favourite of the greatest kings of horror, like Stephen King. It continues to have great critical acclaim from the modern critics at 98 percent in the Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDb having a 7.6/10. It is 62 percent and 6.6/10 for this new version though, and it is still much expected, as greatness of the original has been creating problems for the remakes in the form of Total Recall and Conan the Barbarian earlier. The objective of surpassing greatness is not always a choice, and this time, greatness has to be forced upon them, and this 2013 has reacted well, but not on par with the original. This is still very good, and nobody can question that – but still it is the case of a legendary cult movie.

Our new Evil Dead begins with a good strike, as an injured girl (Phoenix Connolly) is tied up in a basement, and in spite of her cute little pleas begging to untie her, they keep her tied to a pole. When all the pleading and crying seems ineffective, she takes another route with curses and bad words, and it is revealed that she is demonically possessed. Her father is forced to set fire on her and shoot through her head. The present situation involves a group of friends, Mia Allen (Jane Levy), her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), arrange a journey to a remote cabin in the woods, in order to assist Mia in getting rid of her severe drug addiction which had almost killed her. The rest is predictable for most of the horror fans, as they find a Book of the Dead, and Eric reads it out aloud. The dead evil has been summoned right there. It is Mia who becomes the easy target for the released demons as she wanders in the woods alone in a weak state; one demon enters her body after she is ravished by a number of possessed tree vines which come out of a demon’s mouth. She manages to get her way back to the cabin and begs the others to leave, but they just see it as an excuse to get back to her ways of drugs. They feel that it is rather psychological and she is just hallucinating. David and Elizabeth are determined to make her completely drug-free.

After killing David’s dog, Mia burns herself by standing under boiling hot shower, which fulfills another one of the prophecies from the book, following the tree attack which was also predicted. David rushes to get her to a hospital, but a flood has blocked all the roads. Mia gets worse, and the demon takes over her body further, and she shoots David in the arm with a shotgun. Her human side disappears almost completely, and her demonic side takes on the group until she is locked in a cellar. She manages to possess Olivia and Natalie, both of them continuing the work of the demons, attempting to fulfill the further prophecies of the book. Meanwhile, all the attempts to destroy the book fails, and the demon needs to devour five souls in an attempt to free the Abomination from hell and unleash inferno on Earth. After killing the two possessed girls on the outside, there is no other way left for them than to burn her, bury her alive, or dismember her body. Now David has to come out his affection towards his little sister for whom he never really was able to do anything. With the demonic side using the human side to gain the advantage over the big brother, can the responsible elder sibling finish her sister off or find another way to save her, themselves and the world from the demons? All of these would sound practical in such a movie.

If you are ready to take a little bit of the spoilers, and won’t make that much of a fuss about it, there is one thing that you can be sure about, that is, David (Shiloh Fernandez) doesn’t go on to become the new Ash and create the Bruce Campbell effect. He leads the attack against the undead for most of the time though. But as we near the end of the second half, it is Mia who comes back from her possession and put up an awesome show, and that should make this a Jane Levy horror spectacle. Right from the beginning itself, Mia shows the signs of the victim and survivor. Along with being ravished by a tree and possessed by a demon in her soul, even after saving both her body and soul from the demonic powers, she forced to rip off her hand when it becomes pinned under David’s Jeep with the Abomination chasing her. When she uses the chainsaw on the creature, it clearly gives an impression about who might be the next Ash, this one’s a girl – a Lady Ash who is ready to finish off whatever the demons has in store for her next. She has gone through the worst with both with her body and her soul, and being the last one of her family and the last woman standing among the group of friends, there is a lot of scope for her character in the next movie in the series, for she is the female Ash, and she has a chainsaw with a place to fit it into. The demons won’t like it though.

As we notice Amber Heard, Briana Evigan and Odette Annable with all their attractive existence in some of the most interesting horror movies, there is this Lady Ash who scores big time. These three names, or Elisha Cuthbert would have been great to have been in a movie of this series, and Lily Collins dropping out due to a scheduling issue was sad, but our leading lady has carried on with this very well. But, it is still not something which can be expected to match Bruce Campbell, and this story of expectations got to move on to the next movie of the dead evil. Mia has surely made the dead evil more dead than undead, and ended the misery for now. Now the question would remain if she has done it well enough, or there is something of that evil which still remain in her, as she was the first to be infected, that too in a brutal manner. As she is left alone in the wilderness, with one hand and a chainsaw, there is surely a lot to expect. We know that the evil cannot stay dead, and the demons need to possess; they needs those souls as badly as the vampires require blood and the zombies seek to devour brains. Now, who can deny them their dinner and upset the demon lovers? The Twilight fans might not complain about it, but the fact remains that they are all the same in their roots, and the need to feed would continue and give rise to another movie which can provide more for the viewers.

With the help of the new age technology and all the techniques that is in the pocket, this version of the movie has more scary elements, but considering the time when the original was released, that one is indeed the legend – this one uses a huge amount of blood and gore, and almost depends on it completely to create an impact; the only area where it restricts itself and tries to make it lighter in effect is with the tree scene. Otherwise, the movie is a collection of everything which is related to blood and gore; it injects that big dose of terror into the minds of the readers less through surprises and more through flowing blood, horrifying wounds and dismembered body parts. This is quite high for this kind of a movie, unless this becomes a part of Hostel or Saw series. Therefore, it is a red signal for those who are looking for horror without being a little disgusted. There is also nothing funny about this one, as this is pure horror using all the elements of slasher movies combining it with the good old terror policy. A little more carefully done special effects could have added to the score of this movie, as we know how far it can be stretched. Well, Evil Dead without the “the” is almost everything that you would expect from this movie, and it has to be watched in the dark – the absence of light in the theatres or a big LED television when it comes in a channel; even with some edits, this can prove good. Meanwhile, do use your “willing suspension of disbelief”, and try not to complain.

Release date: 5th April 2013
Running time: 92 minutes
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jim McLarty (cameo), Phoenix Connolly (cameo)

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.