The Monkey King II

Vampire Owl: I have this name wandering in my mind somewhere.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that you have known many kings and monkeys during your life-time.

Vampire Owl: Yes, the most recent acquaintance being the Lich Queen with her undead minions.

Vampire Bat: What? You met the Lich Queen? It is forbidden for a vampire to meet an undead queen sorceress.

Vampire Owl: She is not that undead, you know, and she is a good host.

Vampire Bat: Whatever. That doesn’t explain how you met the Monkey King though.

Vampire Owl: Well, I was reading this classic, and the pages came alive.

Vampire Bat: And they attacked you?

Vampire Owl: No, then I realized that I was tearing the pages apart. Then I took some glue and fixed it back to its place.

Vampire Bat: The imperial librarian won’t be that happy this time. You should get a few zombie minions to cover it up.

[Gets three cups of strong tea with Mariegold biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: A young Buddhist monk, Tang Sanzang (Feng Shaofeng) is on the journey to the West, to the Thunder Monastery in India to collect some of the valuable scriptures of Buddha. But the soldiers who were meant to assist and protect him during his journey leaves him when a white tiger attacks them. Trying to protect the horse, he ends up being under attack from the tiger, only to get into a cave and save himself. As he is followed by the tiger, he sees Sun Wukong a.k.a. The Monkey King (Aaron Kwok) who was imprisoned under the Five Fingers Mountain as part of his five hundred years of atonement for the trouble which he had caused in heaven. The awakened and released monkey soon deals with the tiger, but that only begins in new life, as the Goddess Guan Yin (Kelly Chen) has instructed him to protect the monk throughout his journey.

So, what happens next? :: Wukong is not someone who likes taking orders from anyone, but he is bound to stay close to the instructions made by the goddess, as he is wearing a magical headband which can’t be removed, and will cause him pain if he acts like a bad monkey. He finds his life connected to the monk’s, and decides to finish this job as soon as possible, and get back to his usual, mischievous life. On the way, Wukong defeats two other immortals looking like monsters – Zhu Bajie (Xiaoshenyang) and Sha Wujing (Him Law) who joins them in the journey as atonement for their sins, as the monk gets protected from three sides. Both of the new travelers consider Wukong as their big brother, and approves of his superiority in skills. They have some interesting moments during their travel, and reaches Yun Hai Xi Kingdom, which is ruled by a king (Fei Xiang) and his people living in fear.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: The kingdom is terrorized by the White Bone Demon (Gong Li), a powerful demoness who is known to take away children from everywhere, and she is supposed to devour them to keep herself in this world. As the demoness learns about the arrival of the young monk, she decides to eat him, and thus get more powerful, without no reincarnation, being an eternally unstoppable demon who could challenge even heaven and hell. She, along with her three demoness minions (Lu Weu, Xi’er Qi and Miya Muqi) get the four to their house in the middle of the forest, where they offer all of them a place to rest. She tells them the story of her past as a young woman, which had Sanzang in tears. The two monsters fall into the seductive trap of the demonesses posing as beautiful girls, and Wukong seems to have some problem with his eyes – so, will the demoness and her minions be successful in using the young monk to expand their evil? Or will the Monkey King be able to save him?

The defence of The Monkey King 2 :: This movie is visually excellent with its creatures, surroundings and magic having our attention, and has those action sequences which will immediately ask for your attention. There are also the messages about forgiveness, and the reflection of the fact that humans are so capable of being more evil than the demons every time. There is also some humour present here, and the comic relief is very much useful in this movie. It actually combines nicely with the adventure as well as the spiritual side, making this package whole. Everything is so simple in this movie, and this simplicity in fantasy is something that we can cherish, and the same makes sure that this movie is for everyone – kids are certainly going to love this one as much as any animated movie. Even though there are not that many reviews of this movie in English, the ratings received, including those in Rotten Tomatoes make nice example of how well this has worked.

The claws of flaw :: Maybe, a more serious version of the classic might have been expected by many, and also this one happens to be a sequel rather than the original story, which could have also kept some people from watching this particular flick. There is also more needed of action from everyone other than Monkey King whose action scenes never cease being delightful – the fans from everywhere will always look for more from him, as I had wondered more about this particular character than anyone else. Also, despite having a very strong female villain there with minions, her manipulation or the fighting skills get quite less attention than we would have expected to witness. Looking silly at times is not something that one would expect from this movie, as there is enough depth all the time, as long as you have a classic in your hands, and got hope of everyone who has read or has read about the work expecting a lot. Also, despite the movie being a visual treat, there are moments when the CGI looks too much and strange.

How it finishes :: Those who have read the novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, are sure to love this movie adaptation of the tale – there are so many version of the same, and many translations. This tale is actually something that needs to be read by everyone, and this movie will help in attaining that for sure. As more people get to read Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature, adding the other three, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber and Water Margin to their list of books to read, we can safely say that this visual extravaganza of an action movie is successful in doing the right thing for literature. Even if you haven’t watched this movie’s predecessor, or never known about the novel, it is still okay to watch this movie – this one is a rather stand-alone work, and things really can’t get any simpler than this as far as fantasy movies are concerned. Then, the messages are also straight-forward with nothing there to bring a message out of a message. Also note that the actor who played the antagonist in the previous movie plays the protagonist here.

PS: For more on the movie of the week here, read on – Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum

Release date: 6th February 2016
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Cheang Pou-soi
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, Feng Shaofeng, Xiaoshenyang, Him Law, Fei Xiang, Kelly Chen, Lu Weu, Xi’er Qi, Miya Muqi

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Arrival

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Vampire Owl: We are all awaiting their grand arrival, sometimes without even closing our eyes.

Vampire Bat: I don’t understand. Who exactly are you talking about? There are no names on this guest book for quite some time. If this is an unofficial meeting coming up, you will still have to inform Uncle Dracula through the telepathic connection.

Vampire Owl: The ones who shall not be named, those whom nobody shall dare to name.

Vampire Bat: If you can’t name then, I won’t be able to wait for them. It makes no sense at all.

Vampire Owl: It is because you are a man without faith. It makes you spiritually poor.

Vampire Bat: I have more faith than you and your brainless zombie minions combined.

Vampire Owl: Well, the beautifully carved tombstones at my favourite cemetery has better faith.

Vampire Bat: This does make me wonder what you mean by the words “faith” and “arrival”.

Vampire Owl: Maybe, you can take some lessons from this movie.

Vampire Bat: Movies with messages and lessons are the best. Let us see how this one goes.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with special samosas].

What is the movie about? :: A linguist, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is teaching at the university when she hears an alarm. Twelve alien spacecrafts have landed on Earth, at Maracay in Venezuela, Montana in the United States, Kujalleq in Greenland, Devon in the United Kingdom, Kenema in Sierra Leone, Khartoum in Sudan, Punjab in Pakistan, Siberia in Russia, Hokkaido in Japan, Shanghai in China, and also in the Black Sea and the Indian Ocean. The United States Army Colonel G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) contacts Louise to help the nation and the planet Earth as a whole by joining a team which includes people specialised in different fields including a theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). The idea is to understand the reason behind the arrival of the aliens.

So, what happens next? :: At a military camp in Montana near one of the spaceships, the military look forward to knowing if the aliens are really hostile, or are they just trying to make peace with the humans. This can only be done by entering the spaceship at a certain point of time, coming face to face with the creatures. The aliens are nicknamed by the group as “heptapods” due to having seven legs, and the team starts making contact with them. The language of the aliens is something which corresponds to nothing else, as they write some strange circular symbols on the glass which separated them and the humans. Louise puts in a big effort to understand what these symbols mean by connecting them to the basic vocabulary.

What follows the arrival :: Louise also seems to have visions of her daughter at the same time, and it seems to connect with her process of knowing the new language. The nations and their leaders become restless as time passes, and all the spacecrafts remain at the same place without moving an inch. With the curiosity at its peak, the answer from the aliens on what they want seems to be “offer weapon” which alerts all countries. There is the fear of an upcoming threat from the aliens with some new advanced weapons, and some nations even mobilise their military as if to defend against a potential attack. China takes it one step further, as it gets ready to attack the aliens from its territory, and asks other world leaders to do the same. But Louise is convinced that there is something more to this alien arrival – what can it be? Can she stop a war?

The defence of Arrival :: We might have seen many alien invasion movies, but Arrival is the flick that successfully thinks differently with the basic idea. It is science fiction, and it has creatures from other planet, but it so close to life; it is something that not many movies of the same genre will find difficult to achieve. There is also a lot of beauty on screen, and the performances that support the whole thing. The feeling of a possible disaster runs throughout the movie, but there seems to be not more than one explosion in the whole movie. Amy Adams remains the big strong point of the movie, and along with Nocturnal Animals, this is another movie in which she scores amazingly high. Between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Justice League, she has got two perfect movies in there. Jeremy Renner and the visuals nicely compliment the same.

The claws of flaw :: A lot of people are certain to find Arrival to be kind of slow for their liking. There are too many things happening in this movie, and a lot of them are emotional, plus there is almost no big action sequence or destruction which people expect from these type of movies. Don’t judge this movie by the positive or negative opinions though, as Arrival is a kind of personal experience which needs the movie to be watched. It is also a little bit too philosophical – even though it is not that bad, that feeling is not there throughout the flick. A quicker pace, and a more twisted revealing of the surprise would have helped better too, but as this is based on a short story, it is up-to those who have read the tale to make a better analysis inside. The movie could have also been darker in its theme along with speeding up things. I am also sure that people would have expected more considering how the first half was going.

How it finishes :: Based on a science fiction short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang which had won the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella and the 1999 Sturgeon Award, Arrival might be the alien movie and the science fiction flick which you might have been waiting for, with a desire to concentrate less on action. It has won eight OScar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards as we look at them – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Well, if these are not reasons enough to make you watch this movie, one has to wonder what else would have. I would wish for a nomination for Amy Adams for the Best Actress too, with this one and Nocturnal Animals too, but we can’t get them all, can we?

Release date: 11th November 2016
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

A Monster Calls

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Vampire Owl: Do you know that a monster did call me before?

Vampire Bat: Yes, the potato chips monster.

Vampire Owl: No, a real monster.

Vampire Bat: What did he say?

Vampire Owl: He said that he would eat me for dinner.

Vampire Bat: Oh! A monster that eats the undead for dinner. This should have been in the news.

Vampire Owl: Yes, but it was April Fool, coming right from Uncle Dracula.

Vampire Bat: According to the humans, we are surely monsters. So, from another perspective, it is true.

Vampire Owl: But we are vegetarian.

Vampire Bat: Yes, that is indeed our specialty which is to remain the same.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with potato chips].

What is the movie about? :: A young boy named Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is in a state of worry due to his mother Elizabeth Clayton’s (Felicity Jones) cancer. She keeps telling him that she is getting better, but the truth is that she is not. It is only getting worse, and she is slowly and steadily moving towards her end. It is difficult for him to accept the same, and with his father Mr. O’Malley (Toby Kebbell) being separated from him and living far away from them, he has not many people to look forward to. He is also targeted by Harry (James Melville), a bully at the school, and he is asked by his grandmother Mrs. Clayton (Sigourney Weaver) with whom he doesn’t have a great relationship, to move to her home with her. But Conor is more frustrated by the idea of moving to his grandmother’s home than about being bullied by his classmate and his friends.

So, what happens next? :: One night at exactly 12:07 a.m., Conor comes across a strange tree-like monster (Liam Neeson), that tells him it is going to come up with three stories, after which Conor has to tell the monster his own story, which is the truth behind the nightmare that he keeps seeing. The first story is that of an old king who has lost all his sons battling giants, dragons and great wizards who led men and creatures of darkness. The only heir he had was his grandson who was loved by all people of the kingdom. But at his old age, he gets married to a beautiful woman, after which he falls ill and dies. With the prince not old enough to claim the kingdom, the queen becomes the ruler, and the prince runs away with his love, a farmer’s daughter who seems to be murdered. This queen who is claimed to be a witch, is supposed to be behind the death of both the king and the lover, is saved by the monster, as he claims – Conor wonders why.

So, how do things go from here? :: The second story is that of an ill-tempered, greedy apothecary who follows the old ways of medicine, and pesters a local parson to let him cut the yew tree in the churchyard. The parson who is a man of strong faith is against the apothecary who grows in hatred towards everyone around. But when the parson’s two children gets ill, he asks the apothecary for help, and even offers the yew tree and a change in his own belief. But the apothecary refuses to help him, and the children die. The tree then takes his monstrous form and begins destroying the house of the parson, much to the dismay of Conor who doesn’t understand why the creature is not destroying the house of the apothecary instead. As the third tale nears, Conor’s relationships with his father and grandmother worsens further, and his mother’s disease also gets worse – now, the question remains if the creature can actually heal his mother.

The defence of A Monster Calls :: There is sadness in A Monster Calls, and you can feel it all the way from the beginning to the end. The monster has the message to move on with one’s life, and survive through the unexpected pains – on what it takes to live through the certainty of losing a loved one. It uses all the available themes to its advantage, and tells the message with ease. All the characters used here points to that one message. It has all which are needed to strike you emotionally, and at the same time, despite being a fantasy movie, has more of real life in it with all the fiction that seem to be part of the world. It becomes more of a fairy-tale for the adults rather than children, as each point that its main characters make is worth pondering about. It makes one turn into one’s own mind and ask the same questions about humanity again and again, and at the same time, we get to see the nice creature detail to go with it.

The claws of flaw :: You can keep feeling a certain amount of drag throughout this flick, and those who are looking for the usual kind of fantasy movies are going to feel strange. If you can’t take some preaching, this one is going to be not the movie for you. There also seems to be an attempt to get more and more emotional with things, but that was really not needed, as there was a lot of the same, which came naturally. This is also based on a novel of the same name, written by Patrick Ness, and so it is up-to the author who wrote the screenplay for the movie as well as the fans to decide on how it did justice to the work. There is also the chance to miss out on the symbolism that one comes across in the movie, and so maybe the flick could have hinted on what it was planning to do – a lot of people should have felt that the monster is the usual one, but this one is not just a monster, but much more than that, and one needs to take that.

How it finishes :: The fangs of the message here is quite strong, and it is the performances which support the same more than anything else. You will see how well Lewis MacDougall takes the protagonist to the viewers so well. There is no doubt anywhere about how Sigourney Weaver gets us closer to things, and Felicity Jones makes us feel the pain. As the movie deals with a situation which most people will face in one way or the other, one can be certain that there is the need for A Monster Calls at some point, and we will have to take these messages from the movie right back home. Well, above them all, there is Liam Neeson as the monster, and there is nobody else who could be a monster who provides us with the best messages – proven here without doubt. What would you do when your own monster calls? Well, it is something to keep thinking about.

Release date: 23rd December 2016
Running time: 127 minutes
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, James Melville, Geraldine Chaplin, Max Golds

amonstercalls

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.