Athiran

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1967, and a worried Lakshmi (Shanthi Krishna) finds their family murdered while Nithya (Sai Pallavi) is seen playing with a thread. The situation seems to points to her as dangerously abnormal and a murderer. Five years later in 1972, Dr. MK Nair (Fahadh Faasil), a psychiatrist from Trivandrum Medical College is sent to check out the activities in a mental asylum situated far away from civilization, between the trees in the wilderness. This grand mansion which was built by the British has limited access to other places. Dr Benjamin Diaz (Atul Kulkarni) who served in the 1972 India-China War and a master hypnotist is the resident doctor as well as the owner of the asylum. He is very strict in his methods and doesn’t like anyone from outside making a visit. Renuka (Lena) is in control of things there, and Avarachan (Nandhu) provides further help from outside.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: There are strange incidents happening in the asylum. The inmates include Anna Maria (Leona Lishoy), a religious person, P Subrahmanya Iyer (Vijay Menon), an English professor, Vadakkedath Kamala Lakshmi (Surabhi Lakshmi), a person of too much concern for everyone around her, Jeevan Thomas (Sudev Nair), and a happy and strange romantic person. But it turns out that there is one more patient, and she is hidden and locked away in a cell, considered to be extremely dangerous and uncontrollable – the person is none other than Nithya who lives a restrained life, hostile to those who very rarely come to visit her. The newly arrived doctor realizes that there is something strange about her as well as the working of the hospital – he even has some dream visions and hallucinations when he is there, but some of them might be close to reality.

The defence of Athiran :: We have had a good number of psychological thriller, but after the 1990s, not many movies could rise above a certain level, and Athiran comes as a breath of fresh air – we always needed our own Shutter Island, and this one becomes the same, but with its own different twists. A Cure for Wellness is another movie we are reminded of. There is a similar beautiful setting here just like that island in Shutter Island and the mountain ranges in A Cure for Wellness, as the camera nicely brings all of the same to perfection. There is a Gothic building out there, and has a similar setting as one would have seen in movies like Crimson Peak, even though in the absence of the ghostly presence, is not used to the maximum – we had already seen 9 using a similar setting. The songs and the picturization also prove to be really attractive, and the suspense is maintained until the end as we remain thrilled.

The claws of flaw :: The similarities to A Cure for Wellness and Shutter Island can’t be ignored. There is another movie called The Ward which deals with a similar situation. All these are set in places dealing with “wellness” of the patients, and has similar moments of horror related to treatment procedure, along with secrets there that should be revealed. There is clear influence in bringing a certain Hollywood style, also resembling the Victorian Gothic Model, but the success of the movie is that it has done the same really well, and local elements have been mixed with some skill behind the same. We still have the feeling that something missing in there, and the other patients’ characters could have been better developed. With a setting like this, there was hope for bringing some intensely terrifying moments, but it is not there. Nights in a mental asylum far away from civilization can always bring more, and so can a mentally unstable murderer of family members.

The performers of the soul :: Fahadh Faasil is one actor who has come up with minimum guarantee in the last few months, and we look at his previous movie to make sure about that. His last three ventures in Malayalam movie industry were Kumbalangi Nights, Njan Prakashan and Varathan, all three gaining both critical and commercial success. These movies also had less hype in comparison to the others, and Athiran actually came up with no real boost in marketing – I came to know about this movie very late, and even then I didn’t know that this was a Malayalam movie; the film survived with people’s opinions. It is to be noted that there is a certain change that comes across the character he plays in each of the four movies including this one. One can also note that Fahadh has done a fantastic job here as the main character in a psychological thriller – playing a character in a mental asylum wouldn’t come easy, whether the role is of a mental patient or not.

Further performers of the soul :: Sai Pallavi has returned to Malayalam movie industry once again, and it called for a change, a welcome one, as there is no dance performance around here. She is the kind of actress who can do this role so well, as she showed such signs in Kali itself, even though it was not needed then. Well, here she excels in portraying the character with autism and more. This one is her best performance in the industry so far, clearly better than Premam, and surely better than that which didn’t really matter in the miserable Kali. Atul Kulkarni who has come up with some memorable performances in Malayalam movies before, brings a strong antagonist. Leona Lishoy, Surabhi Lakshmi, Vijay Menon and Sudev Nair who have their moments as the patients never really get going though, with no real mention about their tales of the past. Lena and Nandhu gets limited in their roles, Shanthi Krishna is there for a few minutes. Renji Panicker is impressive when he is there.

How it finishes :: Athiran is one movie which has been running for so long despite releasing without making much of a noise. One month later, it can be seen that the movie is still going strong, despite Avengers: Endgame taking the most number of viewers, creating the collection record like never before, overtaking Titanic and closing in on Avatar, the effect being seen here too. Athiran, one month later, is challenging the bigger movies like the crowd puller Oru Yamandan Prema Katha and the critics favourite Uyare. It is nice to see a psychological thriller doing such a job, as it has been the genre, with a fee exceptions not bringing the major part of audience to the theatres, especially the family audience. But things have changed now, and Athiran has stood tall when the opportunity came, and it does so in Hollywood style, in a grand environment.

Release date: 12th April 2019
Running time: 136 minutes
Directed by: Vivek
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Sai Pallavi, Lena, Sudev Nair, Leon Lishoy, Prakash Raj, Renji Panicker, Atul Kulkarni, Shanthi Krishna, Nandhu, Surabhi Lakshmi, Vijay Menon

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✠ The Vampire Bat.

World War Z

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Even in the world dominated more by vampires as the popular fantasy creature, there is no lack of support for the zombies, even in India as shown in Go Goa Gone. Otherwise, the Resident Evil series always had the complete control over that zombie world which came up as the result of an infection. The animated corpses which were something more than just a mindless vampire or human, has had more success with the stories of science rather than magic, with virus infection rather than being resurrected by necromancy or being summoned from another world by a sorcerer or a witch. Even then, they would remain the most important weapon for the battle in the box-office, as vampires have had too much run on the big screen. I would still miss I Am Legend for the kind of vampire mix which was given to the zombies, a combination of intellect which has been completely destroyed by Twilight. There are many people whom I can recommend to be zombies without being dead and coming back, but I choose to remain silent now due to the respect which I pay towards them – not those people, but the real zombies of the world. Still, I can’t hesitate to say that the hunger of the human flesh or the human brain should exist with both of them. I would thank Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein more than anything else on this occasion, and move forward.

A global pandemic in the form of a zombie outbreak has become so interesting these days that even if someone prepares for it as if the end of the world is near, there is no need to be surprised. A zombie apocalypse is something which needs its own glorification, as it is already happening with some of the mindless hypocrites who are slave to logic. But here in this Brad Pitt starrer, we have the true, respectable undead zombies, based on the 2006 novel with the same name by Max Brooks. Even as seeing Brad Pitt among the list of producers reminded me of what happened with Will Smith’s After Earth which shattered those hopes made of glass into so many pieces that it was not easy mend, there was a certain belief about this one. In that case, it would have been surprising that this movie made it to the theatres here, as there was a great chance for this one to miss the multiplexes belonging to this part of the world. The presence of Man of Steel and its reluctance to move out of the theatres might be a major blow to this one as well as to Monsters University which has been restricted to a single show if present. None of these can give even a small fight to Superman and his impact on this part of the world, something which is rooted in the childhood memories – the presence of Now You See Me and Fast & Furious 6 shouldn’t really hurt this one though.

After Tom Cruise and Will Smith jumped into the world that was post-apocalyptic Earth in the same year, with the former been a vampire in Interview with the Vampire and the latter been a zombie-vampire killer in I am Legend, Brad Pitt already had the vampire experience as Louis de Pointe du Lac, the complete vampire despite of the human conscience and existential questions of life and death, good and evil, God and Satan, heaven and hell. This time, he is not part of the attacking gang, but still raises his own questions about humanity in not that effective manner. Anne Rice’s works had its own versions of zombies, even as they were also called vampires, like the ones the leading characters encounter in Eastern Europe, with no mind of its own, attacking everything that moves, driven by its own need to feed; the only characteristic that can define them. One has to wonder what differentiates a zombie from the human beings without civilization in a world which has quite a shortage of resources. Won’t each and everyone act the same as a zombie in such a situation, in the absence of the rules and regulations of the society and the restrictions of sin imposed by the religion? That should identify us more with the term zombie rather than the vampire, knowing our need for society and religion to keep us from becoming zombies or even worse.

It must be clear from the title by now that the “Z” stands for Zombies. There is no doubt about the fact that most of the people who came to the theatre were not expecting the same, thanks to the posters which gave no clue about such a thing. Another thing is that there is no scope for 3D, as those glasses give you almost nothing other than some words which would seem to project off the screen in the beginning of the movie. There are some good CGI moments for sure, and the special effects are limited; not a very good thing for a movie of this genre. There is a good chance that most of the comon zombie fans might choose to say a no to this one. It is the story of former UN employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family who are saved from a group of zombies who turn all who they bite into their kind, and after being taken to a US Navy ship in the middle of the sea, he is forced to invetigate into the matter using the special skills he achieved through his missions, so that the origins of the virus could be found out and the pandemic could be stopped. Not without reluctance, but still agreeing for the sake of his family’s staying on the ship rather than in a refugee camp on the land surrounded by zombies, Gerry joins the team of experts on a plane for a military base in South Korea from where some of this is supposed to have started in the first place.

Here is the paragraph which might give you the spoiler – and the story till the end. From there the journey is to Jerusalem, as the nation of Israel seems to have had a prior knowledge about a possible zombie infection, as they did already bring up some walls. But he gets nothing useful from there, and Jerusalem is also attacked, as the zombies climb over the wall, as they form a ladder by piling on the top of one another. As the ultimate chaos follows, he manages to escape from there by boarding a Belarus Airlines flight with his escort soldier, a journey which is cut short when one of the zombies get to bite an airhostess from where hell breaks loose, and Gerry manages to throw a grenade which divides the plane into two and leads to a crash from which the two survive. They finally reach a World Health Organization research facility and assists them in finding a cure, and the find out that the virus needs people who are healthy, and those ill and therefore unsuitable as hosts for viral reproduction are not bitten, and are rather more invisible than anything else. This camouflage helps them to fight zombies, and that should save the day for the world, but the war would continue, as it might seem to the audience. There might be a question though, about this being all that we have been waiting for.

The huge pile-up of cars and the zombie attack in the beginning as well as the Jerusalem zombie attack forms the highlights of the movie. But it remains without enough moments when these two sequences are removed. The attack on the plane is the only other thing worth mentioning. Brad Pitt has done a great job to add to it. He plays an effective character, and without him, this movie would have surely collapsed. The zombies are fine, with their own pros and cons added in this one. But this movie remains slow, and without a good enough reason other than Brad Pitt to attract the viewers. All the awesomeness which was expected to follow after the initial zombie attack never comes, and as it doesn’t attempt to do anything extraordinary, the expectations are scattered and the 3D glasses are wasted. The catchy dialogues might be about the mother nature being a serial killer and how she disguises her strengths and weaknesses. The noises that the zombies make are somewhat attractive too. I would still prefer the zombies and special effects of Resident Evil, and it is a little depressing that this one lacks action, but the advantage is that this one is closer to reality and there is absolutely no exaggeration at any point of time.

The movie is just a little scary and a little thrilling. It might be the slowest zombie movie of the recent times and the most realistic of them all – it is an exaggeration, as these hardly get close enough to reality to be identified with. This world war of the zombies never tries to expand its entertainment elements beyond what is ordinary. It could have been its achievement, but for now, it is clearly working against it. Zombies and vampires have been too commericalized these days, and when the entertainment value is somewhat drained from it, there is only a little to gain. If this was about the wars from A to Z, and this one is the final one of them, there could have been a slightly better chance. World War Z does its job and there is no denying it. With Brad Pitt’s never ceasing charm and acting, and the realistic portrayal of a supernatural world stained with scientific curiosities, this one can go the distance, and stay there until something bigger comes its way and take over. One should choose to watch this one for the one leading actor who carries the movie on his shoulders, and a zombie world which takes a different stance. It is a war which this movie got to face now, as a certain amount of uncertainty is ready to pounce over it.

Release date: 21st June 2013
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, Daniella Kertesz, David Morse

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Star Trek II

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Star Trek might be one of the most popular franchises based on its theme, but this surely is my first encounter with it. But the situation seems to be all set to change, as this movie surely seems to have increased its fan base by one on this day. Still, throughout the ages, Star Wars had been a favourite – but I had to miss this one at that time. Now, I am surely into this series, and its main aim, that is exploration and not invasion, destruction or colonization. There is the need to watch the Original Series, and it would add to my list. For now, this movie has come early to this part of the world, compared to its United States release. Even as it is the twelfth Star Trek movie and works as the sequel to the movie Star Trek which was released in 2009, this one still works well as a stand-alone version, with not much questions remaining unanswered. This could have have been the first movie of the series and might have still worked here, and that was evident from the reactions of the people in the theatre hall, and there is no visible doubt about the fact that it was their first Star Trek experience, and they clearly enjoyed it. This one might not do as good as Iron Man III or The Dark Knight Rises, but is still a formidable force in a world which is not used to such an environment in a movie.

In Star Trek: Into Darkness, the spaceship USS Enterprise is sent to explore another planet, but finds a volcano which is very close to going off and wiping out its primitive inhabitants. Nobody is supposed to know anything about it, but as the first officer and good friend Spock’s life is under threat, Commander Kirk is forced to reveal the Enterprise to the planet’s civilization to rescue him leading to the indigenous people worshipping the ship as God as the crew leaves. It was a heavenly object to a group of people who were in such early stage of their civilization that they hadn’t even discovered the wheel – they get to see a space ship instead and be stunned. As a result, Kirk is relieved of command, and Admiral Pike takes over the command of the Enterprise. But, later a meeting is called as the result of a bombing, and a resulting shootout leads to the death of Pike ultimately leading to Admiral Marcus sending Kirk to take out the terrorist who has taken shelter in the homeland of the war-loving Kilgons. The Enterprise is supplied with seventy two long-range photon torpedoes to be fired at the terrorist’s hidden location once they can locate him. As he fails to have enough information, chief engineer Montgomery Scott refuses to take the unidentified weapons aboard the ship and is thus forced to resign. The Admiral’s daughter, scientist Carol Marcus also joins the crew, under a false identity.

But the ship is stuck at the Klingon homeworld as there is malfuncion in the ship’s core, and they are saved by the same man whom they were planning to capture, whom after surrendering, reveals his real identity as Khan, a genetically enhanced superhuman, who has been in cryo-sleep for three hundred years after fighting an unsuccessful destructive war on Earth, and his success could have deprived the Earth or even the whole galaxy of most of its population. When he says “My name is Khan”, I wonder if something comes to the mind for the Bollywood fans – but in this case, there would be no possible second half of that sentence. This man would indeed be another name for terror without any boundary. As Carol and McCoy look into one of the torpedoes, they realize that each of them contain a genetically enhanced superhuman in cryo-sleep, the remaining members of Khan’s diabolical crew. Khan explains to Kirk that Admiral Marcus used Khan to develop advanced weapons to start a war with the Klingons, while keeping his crew as hostages. Kirk understand that they might be in big trouble, as none of the possible solutions might work out, as they are stranded in space.

Chris Pine as Commander James T. Kirk has come up with full power, as the character scores both with its negatives and positives. Each decision he takes seem to change him and lead him to the moment of the ultimate sacrifice. Karl Urban as Lieutenant Commander Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy, the chief medical officer – this could have been a longer role, even as there are some good memorable lines from him, for the Native American Viking of the Pathfinder, as well as the shooter of Doom had never really attached to the minds of the viewers as they never clicked as action movies, even as I have always felt the first one was superior stuff and the second one was quite fine. Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura also has quite a smaller role, even as it is significant. Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock steals show in many ways, as the one who chooses not to feel, but still has the feelings for his best friend, and finds his logic at the right moment, sometimes evoking laughter and sometimes saving lives. As half-Vulcan, half-Human, neither belonging to here nor there, but having the qualities of both, the man is more Vulcan among a group of humans and not really of his own species, thus more of an outsider even when considered more belonging to the group than anybody else.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan makes the perfect augmented villain of another timeline; condemned, frozen and now back in business. He is highly effective in his powerful superhuman role which is threatened only by the fear of the death of his comrades. He makes Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus a lesser and weaker warmonger, another role which has been done according to the need. Talking about Alice Eve, the name reminded me more of the two superhuman, but gorgeous women – Alice of Resident Evil and Eve of Species; a bond with the T-virus and with the alien DNA respectively, both seemingly having all positive effects on beauty as well as strength and aggression. Both Milla Jovovich and Natasha Henstridge had made their roles memorable enough to make the characters that popular. Leaving the unreal superhuman element aside, one also can’t stop thinking about that 2010 romantic comedy film She’s Out of My League, when a gorgeous Molly McCleish was out of the league of an ordinary Kirk Kettner. Well, here she proves the same by being out of the league with those looks, and there should be a lot more coming for her in a sequel.

Still, I wouldn’t disagree on the fact that there is exaggeration involved here; thinking about that romantic comedy, exaggeration is never out of the equation, and it is time the common movie watcher of this part of the world who rarely checks the names of the leading actresses know a few names other than the usual leads; its time someone other than Megan Fox and Paris Hilton is known to the lesser movie watching world. The best extentions of the procedure of knowing go only from Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and Meg Ryan, as far as Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Further into the movie, it is no surprise that here she no longer does the same with a romantic character, but with her role as Doctor Carol Marcus – and she is surely the eye candy in this movie, but she is not simply that. She is the balance between the evil of her own father and the righteousness of the crew of The Enterprise. It is her help that leads to the discovery that changes the whole situation of being misguided into the abyss and it is her presence that leads to their ship getting an extension of lifeline which is instrumental in the final battle.

Star Trek is not just a movie – it is a spectacular environment created by the wonderful special effects and the 3D which works correctly. It works so well, right from those moments in those bright, coloured planet with dazzling red coloured trees and the natives painted white, who throws their spears at our heroes, or rather the viewers, thanks to the 3D. The movie is about authority, and also about personal relationships, as well as the collision between the worlds of emotions and logic. The job is done professionally, and it is evident in the ratings in IMDB as well as the critics ratings. Its background philosophy has also worked out well, and there is no doubt that this ship is heading towards a sequel. This encounter between the different worlds, and the species, not as the usual alien invasion is something which is worth more what The Avengers and The Transformers were worth. This is so much like that one game which I felt more than anything else, which was Mass Effect. Commander Shepard might be Commander James T. Kirk, Garrus Vakarian – Commander Spock, Ashley Williams – Doctor Carol Marcus/Nyota Uhura, Kaidan Alenko – Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy; the Reapers could be Klingons or Romulans – such a connection has helped me in liking the movie even more with relation to my favourite game.

Release date: 10th May 2013
Running time: 133 minutes
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Alice Eve, Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood, Noel Clarke, Peter Weller

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.