The Wasteland

Vampire Owl: We do not wander through the wasteland anymore.

Vampire Bat: I don’t see why someone would even try to go through that area.

Vampire Owl: We used to consider them as cricket grounds.

Vampire Bat: Why would someone play cricket in that area where things are affected too much by dark and chaotic magic?

Vampire Owl: Well, nobody knows what is to happen in the next ball. It is fun.

Vampire Bat: Dude, the stumps can come up and hit the ball for a sixer.

Vampire Owl: Yes, it means that the match is highly unpredictable.

Vampire Bat: Now, you sound like someone who would do match-fixing.

Vampire Owl: It would have been a good idea if there was an audience.

Vampire Bat: We should have just locked that area. The area has even the presence of some necromancers.

[Gets a green apple cake and three cups of Munnar tea].

What is the movie about? :: Nineteenth century had seen many wars which had left Spain struggling, and people really wished to stay away from all the chaos and destruction which the so called civilized world had brought. It had not yet seen the two disastrous world wars, but Spain already had enough with its internal conflicts following the earlier loss of colonies over the course of time, thus losing its advantage over the other European countries rather early in comparison. Diego’s (Asier Flores) family is one of those groups which live a lonely life in the middle of nowhere, an area which can be best known as the wasteland. His mother, Lucia (Inma Cuesta), is kind and loving towards him, while his father, Salvador (Roberto Alamo), is a very strict man. He reminds them that beyond a border which has been set by him, there is only war, and people only die beyond that, with no hope for any possible future. According to him, death and destruction is natural out there, and the boy needs to be a man quick enough.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The family of three continues to have no contact with anyone around. Salvador feels that the boy hasn’t matured enough, and there is not enough time now. He tells the boy a story about beast which is more evil than any other creature in the whole world – it preys on the most vulnerable people, feeding on their fear. When the beast finds a victim, it uses the fear of the person to get stronger using its weakness. Lucia takes the boy away before he has to hear anything more, but it is already rooted in the mind of Diego. Soon enough, they find a badly injured man in the boat (Víctor Benjumea) – the man seems to have run out of bullets, and is seemingly very close to death. This once again asserts the fact that there are only people who wants to hurt others of their kind, and the beast is also very strong, feeding more on the fear of such evil men and women. When the man wakes up with his wounds somewhat healed, he is seen pointing the gun at Lucia and Diego. For the family, fighting the beast might be easier than fighting the evil humans.

The defence of The Wasteland :: The movie does gain advantage from the grand setting in the middle of nowhere, as we have the perfect world without hope, but with the presence of fear at all times. There are some fine visuals to support the horror and the sound effects do more, as the movie does hold on to ambiguity. The darkness and haunting feel seems to stay even after the film ends. The focus is indeed on the fear, and its manifestation is not the one that the film concentrates on. The movie gains further with its performances, as Inma Cuesta is one talented actress, who has this movie going through what runs within her mind as much as what is outside. The shades of fear and madness that she shows here are nothing less than brilliant, as she has to elevate this movie with her expressions and feelings. Asier Flores, the child actor also comes up with a performance to remember, as he always has a lot more to do that a regular kind even in a horror-filled atmosphere of chaos and hopelessness. Roberto Alamo’s comparatively shorter stay is also effective, and sets things going. The background of the world only scores more.

The claws of flaw :: The Wasteland could have been more direct with its idea, and should have been less complex with its horror and story which is often not that clear for everyone. With an atmosphere like this, it could have been something else – a thing of terror like no other, but that opportunity is not taken despite the presence of the strong premise. It could have shaped its beast better, and should have come up with some fine explanations rather than providing random stories which we are not sure about. It is as if there is not real story here, and there so many monotonous moments around here, with nothing much happening around. We know that there could be chaos, destruction and even death, but still the movie goes on so slowly after establishing the whole thing in the beginning. The feeling of being dragged is not appropriate for a movie like this, which is too short, and yet wastes time in between. The whole setting feels more post-apocalyptic than anything else, and there were so many paths which this movie could have chosen for sure. The feeling of terror could have felt more real too.

Significance of the Title :: We are always attracted to the title, because this particular poem by TS Eliot is something which almost every student of MA English Language and Literature has studied in one of those semesters. As one of the most representative of the modernist poetry works, it is also the work is not that easy to understand. It uses the Arthurian legends of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King along with allusions from both the West and East, the secular as well as religious literature. It basically dealt with the disillusionment of a generation which had to live through the First World War, even though the Second World War was yet to come. The disintegration of civilization and the loss of hope were evident in the work which was divided into five sections which saw different deviations without any warning. But despair was clearly evident there. The film, with its location in the middle of nowhere, and with the main characters, show another situation of hopelessness and despair in a world which is nothing but another wasteland, during the wars in Spain.

How it finishes :: The movie is nicely set in the nineteenth century, seemingly showing the struggles during the wats of the time, long before the Spanish Civil War and the two World Wars which couldn’t have Spain participating directly in it. The century had France led by Napoleon coming in for an invasion, while the wars for independence were many in the Americas, including Bolivian War of Independence, Mexican War of Independence, Argentine War of Independence, Chilean War of Independence, Peruvian War of Independence, Venezuelan War of Independence, Cuban War of Independence, Philippine Revolution and many others. It is the reminder of a world of chaos which the war can bring, and how it can tear down a family, without even affecting it directly from the looks of it. With one fine setting and atmosphere, the movie makes sure that the feeling is passed on well, with a certain amount of horror which might be beyond war. It could have been made more direct and more terrifying, but this works with a certain amount of quality, deviating from the usual Annabelle, The Conjuring, The Nun, The Curse of La Llorna, Insidious, Sinister kind of horror.

Release date: 6th January 2022 (Netflix)
Running time: 92 minutes
Directed by: David Casademunt
Starring: Inma Cuesta, Roberto Alamo, Asier Flores, Alejandra Howard, Víctor Benjumea

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

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.

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.