Pinocchio

Vampire Owl: I know this person very well from childhood itself.

Vampire Bat: It is a fictional character from the children’s novel The Adventures of written by the Italian writer Carlo Collodi of Florence.

Vampire Owl: Okay, so it is from the land of Renaissance indeed,

Vampire Bat: Yes, most people don’t really know that this tale is not really English.

Vampire Owl: But it went on to become so popular all around the world.

Vampire Bat: Yes, it is that kind of a story that appeals to everyone.

Vampire Owl: And it is a fine story to read for the children of all ages.

Vampire Bat: We also add an Italian movie dealing with the same story to our list on this day.

Vampire Owl: I am sure that this one will become a fine deviation from our usual path.

Vampire Bat: Yes, and takes us back to childhood too, at least in parts.

[Gets a green apple cake and three glasses of blackcurrant shake].

What is the movie about? :: Geppetto (Roberto Benigni), a poor Italian carpenter has a hard time making his living, as he rarely gets any work, and nobody appreciates him for the quality products which he come up with. But one day, he sees a puppet theatre in the town, and becomes a lot interested in creating a puppet all by himself. He feels that he could create something special which would be appreciated all around the world for its beauty on wood. He manages to get a log of wood which its owner wanted to leave behind because it seemed to have some kind of magic associated with it. Geppetto spends all his time creating the perfect puppet, and in the end, when he finishes the same, he finds out that it can talk. After naming the puppet Pinocchio (Federico Ielapi), he decides to take him as his son. But the newfound son out of the log isn’t really an obedient one, as he keeps exercising his freedom against the wishes of his father.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Pinocchio does get into trouble due to his actions, and Geppetto decides to send him to school, so that he would study well and also mingle with the other children of the town. Geppetto sells his inherited jacket to buy Pinocchio an ABC book which is necessary to accepted into the school. Pinocchio does go for his first day at school, but notices a puppet theater, and he ends up selling the book to buy the ticket. In the theater, the other puppets notice Pinocchio among the viewers and calls him up the stage, thus messing up the show. A furious puppeteer Mangiafuoco (Gigi Proietti) catches Pinocchio and locks him in his caravan with the others puppets, and leaves the town. Mangiafuoco who has been very angry about what had happened, plans to use Pinocchio as firewood to help cooking his dinner. Pinocchio begs him to release him in order to return home from his father, who would be very much worried by then.

And what else is to follow around here with the puppet? :: Mangiafuoco decides to let him go, and seeing his compassion towards the other puppets who he saves from being burned, he gives him five gold coins to give to the poor carpenter whom he calls father. Pinocchio is really happy about it, and tries to get home as soon as possible, but is lost in his way, not sure where he is heading. As he tries to find the right directions, he meets Fox (Massimo Ceccherini) and Cat (Rocco Papaleo) who discovers that the puppet has some gold coins with him which they can use during their jobless ways. They tell him a tale about the Field of Miracles, a special place where they can bury the coins, and a tree full of money will grow rapidly. But they intend to murder the puppet and take the money. They make some fine plans for the same, and takes a room in the nearby tavern. Pinocchio is not aware of such sinister plans, and despite being warned by Talking Cricket (Davide Marotta). Can the puppet keep the money and finally get to his father who is looking for him?

The defence of Pinocchio :: The movie, as expected is a journey to a special world, and those who have known the tale before, will relate to the same very well. There is a beautiful world that provides a certain amount of enchantment close to the original version, and we have one puppet who is not familiar with the ways of humans going through. Roberto Benigni whom we know from the movie Life is Beautiful is here again playing the father figure, and that is indeed beautiful, as we remember how he managed to be a great father there – here, he is not far behind either. The one who used his imagination to shield his son from the terror within a Nazi concentration camp is not to be forgotten that easily. Marine Vacth who plays the fairy and many others also catch our attention, being out of the usual world, getting close to fantasy. With the cat, fox, snail, cricket, characters, the movie is as child-friendly as anything can get, and therefore makes itself a fine watch for the families. Well, a journey through rural Italy of those times never really gets to be less interesting for the eyes.

The claws of flaw :: Pinocchio might be different in looks from what many people might have imagined him earlier. The movie could have had a certain amount of visible magic in there too, not as being regular part of the proceedings, but as something completely out of the world. For the same, more special effects could have been used to create a visual extravaganza, because even lesser films these days seem to display the grandeur – after all, this is a children’s classic of a higher level on print. The fact that the puppet keeps falling into trouble due to not listening to the good advice makes it feel repetitive, especially for the adults who would be a long way past this tale by now – even I don’t remember most of what I read during my childhood. It could have also had more focus on the father-son relationship because the puppet as the adventurer is not of that much interest as a person, and we have to look forward to the fairy to find the next lovable character, followed by the snail. The growing nose could have also been used better.

How it finishes :: As far as the idea of Pinocchio from The Adventures of Pinocchio by the Italian author Carlo Collodi is concerned, this one manages the same well, and it is to be noted that usually the adaptations are supposed to come in the form of cartoons. Making a live-action movie with this type of characters is indeed difficult, but we can see that they have managed everything pretty well here. The Adventures of Pinocchio has been the world’s most translated book excluding religious works and had such a great impact on different cultures, also being a children’s favourite. But we see that it also explores the human condition, about what it means to be human, right here. We do have that usual child who doesn’t like to go to the school, and is not interested in obeying parents, with a certain love for entertainment and adventure over the rest, and is naive when facing the dangers of the outside world. Yes, this version is a successful one too, and you can choose to watch it, without expecting anything too special or highly innovative.

Release date: 19th December 2019
Running time: 125 minutes
Directed by: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Federico Ielapi, Rocco Papaleo, Massimo Ceccherini, Marine Vacth, Gigi Proietti, Paolo Graziosi, Massimiliano Gallo, Maria Pia Timo, Davide Marotta, Alessio Di Domenicantonio

<— Click here to go to the previous review.

<— Click here to go to the first Portuguese movie review on the site.

<— Click here to go to the first Italian movie review on the site.

<— Click here to go to the first Latin movie review on the site.

<— Click here to go to the first Polish movie review on the site.

<— Click here to go to the first Russian movie review on the site.

<— Click here to go to the first Serbian movie review on the site.

<— Click here to go to the first Russian movie review on the site.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

June

What is the movie about? :: June Sarah Joy (Rajisha Vijayan) considers herself to be an ordinary girl with no special talents, which is the reason why she is upset that most of the other students who join her class are able to do so much more. Her parents (Joju George and Aswathi Menon) care very much about her as she is their only child. Noel (Sarjano Khalid) is her newfound best friend who is elevated to the level of her boyfriend. They get to connect well with each other as they are both considered to be lagging with their talents. As time progresses, she is able to make new friends, and her Plus Two batch of 2007 is finally able to become a batch to remember not just for the students, but also to the teachers. But at the same time, when her parents find out about Noel, she decided to end their relationship. She joins a nearby college while he travels to Mumbai to stay with his parents and to continue his studies.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: The best friends go in their own ways, and June is left with the memories of Noel. She goes through her college days without much of an enthusiasm as she is still caught in her life in Plus Two. After completing her degree, she decides to go for an interview in Mumbai and meet Noel at the same time. She stays with her Plus Two classmate Abhirami a.k.a. Mottachi (Vaishnavi Venugopal) who is also working there, and finds Noel to begin the next phase of their relationship. But things are not that easy as she thought they would be. She has to deal with his family as well as hers, and at the same time, maintain her own independence. About their life, what Noel thinks might not be the same either. So, the question remains about what awaits her in the rest of her life.

The defence of June :: The strength of June lies not just in the performances lead by the female lead, but also in the memories that it creates. It takes us back to the school days, and even though it is not an exact reflection of the memories as it was recreated in Om Shanti Oshana, this one is surely an effective one, thanks to a better performance from the female lead in comparison to that older version. The movie is also a clean entertainer for the family audience, with nothing that makes them doubt about their plan to watch the movie – keeping it so, and at the same time, funny would have been a difficult job, but is done with skill. The climax and the final scenes are beautifully done too, and it talks not just of love, but of nostalgia and friendship that comes back after a long time. The music is nice, and suits the mood of the movie. The songs come too often, but they are nice to hear.

The claws of flaw :: The movie’s idea to skip the college days completely is one strong negative point on this movie – the second half could have used some of that too, and in that case, being a coming-of-age story in the lines of Premam and Om Shanti Oshana, this one has a little missing part. There is no life that serves as a coming-of-age story without the college days, because it doesn’t matter who denies the same, there is something about those moments all the time. It is where bildungsroman struggles. The movie is also a little bit too long, which is why one can feel certain drag with the romance. There was surely more scope to make this one better. It has to be noted that not everything in the movie brings the memories of school days, and not all jokes serve to be that effective. But as the industry is once again becoming hesitant to experiment, June is surely one another welcome move.

The performers of the soul :: Rajisha Vijayan who won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actress for her performance in her debut film Anuraga Karikkin Vellam, which was also her first movie, once again makes an impression, as we had expected from the trailer. Georgettan’s Pooram and Oru Cinemakkaran never really gave her any challenge as movies which kept at a certain level, never trying to rise or give its female protagonists opportunity to do much. She takes over the protagonist, and has the sixteen year old going through to the next ten years of her life, even though three years at college are absent. The moments during the Plus Two time period are done with amazing skill, and the latter moments are not far behind, and they seemed to come naturally to her. With the whole movie completely dependent on her performance, she makes sure that she comes up with only the best.

Further performers of the soul :: Along with Rajisha, there are others to add to this one very well. Joju George gets another fine role after Joseph, unlike the insignificant one he had to do in Lonappante Mamodeesa. He nicely gets into the father role here, and has some funny as well as touching moments to go with it. Aswathi Menon who is best known for Sathyam Sivam Sundaram and its highly popular song “Walking in the moonlight” has the mother role here, and she makes it a good one. Sarjano Khalid, the debutante who plays a male lead does well, as if he’s been there before. Arjun Ashokan has also done a good job, especially in the second half. Among the actors and actresses who plays the protagonist’s friends, it is Vaishnavi Venugopal who shines the most. That should be among the most natural performances not by a main or secondary heroine, in a long time. The other newcomers are also good talents, as we can see here.

How it finishes :: Releasing at the same time as Oru Adaar Love released, this one uses less hype and more quality to be assured of a more solid run. After Aadu 2, Vijay Babu becomes the producer again here, and we expected a performance to remember from Rajisha Vijayan – it is the same that we get here. This one stays close to life and memories, along with being another feel-good movie which touches our hearts after Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, Njan Prakashan and Ente Ummante Peru. June is also one movie which does so much justice to the trailer, as it is more or less the same thing that we watched earlier and expected. Even though Kumbalangi Nights and 9 are there, this movie should take over some of the presence of the latter, and keep going, because the movie is many different things to different people.

Release date: 15th February 2019
Running time: 141 minutes
Directed by: Ahammed Kabir
Starring: Rajisha Vijayan, Joju George, Sarjano Khalid, Aswathi Menon, Vaishnavi Venugopal, Nayana Eliza, Arjun Ashokan, Sanju KS, Akhil Manoj, Harisankar, Sruthy Suresh, Margret Antony, Raveena Nair, Aju Varghese (cameo), Sunny Wayne (cameo)

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Maradona

What is the movie about? :: Maradona (Tovino Thomas) is a young man who finds some illegal ways of getting easy money every time, and for his support, there is his childhood friend Sudhi (Tito Wilson). Breaking law came easy to them, and they did the same without any regret. Both gets in trouble as they end up in a dangerous situation involving a lawyer as well as a rich politician. The influential people are looking for revenge on the young men, and it sets Martin (Chemban Vinod Jose) and his aid Anto (Kichu Tellus) are after them. They search for Maradona and his friend throughout Kerala, and follows the trail to the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. While Sudhi travels to Kanyakumari with a journey to the South, Maradona seeks refuge in the flat of his distant relative at Bangalore. Martin searches and finds the links getting close to finding both of them at different points.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: Maradona is not happy with his stay, but he has nowhere to go. The result is that he finds his own moments of happiness in the flat. Soon, he finds new friends in the nearby homes including a girl who works as a home nurse at the adjacent flat, Asha (Sharanya R Nair). The relationship goes further, as both can’t help falling in love with each other. But with the people chasing him getting closer, Maradona will have think about more than just love to make something good out of life. Is there a chance for a happy ending for Maradona? What can satisfy the people who are chasing him? Hope might be the thing with wings, but is Maradona good enough to have some? How much more trouble can he take after being injured in a clash?

The defence of Maradona :: The movie’s game is that of life, and the man named after the great footballer needs to score his goals – life is a tough game, and we can see the same reflected without exaggeration here. The visuals are nicely captured, and the songs are lovely to listen here. The “Kaadhale” song along with its visuals are nothing less than the bliss of solitude, as Wordsworth would compare. The thrills are present with a chase going on right from the beginning. The action scenes are good, and as a movie with more, we see the drama and the romantic scenes working very well too. Above them all, we see the gradual transformation of the character as he goes through the situations which he hasn’t been familiar with. It is a coming of age story in a different way, and there is nothing here that restricts the movie’s slow, but steady movement towards the same.

The claws of flaw :: The movie feels a little bit stretched with its idea, and even then, a flashback to the flawed hero is not that much there. The title Maradona might have mislead many people, but there is absolutely no presence of football in this one; it is just that people kicking others are present all the time. There is also more scope for Maradona, not just with its thrills and action, but also with the cute romantic side – more of the comic side could have made the presence felt right there. The ending might seem a little bit too far-fetched for a movie like this, and it is more or less an attempt to quickly move towards a happy ending loved by the audience, something which Mayaanadhi never really tried to achieve. Dealing with a certain divergence, this one could have thrived on it, but takes a step back as it moves towards the end – there is no doubt of the same being enjoyable though.

The performers of the soul :: Tovino once again scores as the flawed hero – the question here once again whether his flaws lead to his fall or can he rise above it? There are similarities to his character in Mayaanadhi, but clearly, this role is tougher, and there is no asking for sympathy – all actions of this particular character are intentional, and most of them are not good even for the standards of the typically bad hero. The movie celebrates his deeds, whether good or bad, and it is on his character that the movie progresses. We also see the gradual change that come across the character – it is also nicely shown by him. We have the character that is close to life, and we never doubt the flawed hero’s reality that is displayed here, no matter how much it stays away from the usual heroic stuff.

Further performers of the soul :: Chemban Vinod Jose as strong as he has always been, playing an antagonist without backing down at any moment. He has his own moments here too, showing more than one side of the character. Tito Wilson with the Angamaly Diaries fame excels once again, and his supporting role is once again natural and realistic. Sharanya R Nair is the new face in this flick, and this addition to the list of heroines nicely makes her presence felt. All her work here is nicely balanced, and we are glad to welcome her into the industry, being confident that there is a lot more for her to contribute. Leona Lishoy also makes her presence felt with her supporting work again. The cuteness factor does help, but it is not restricted to that, and we see her going through the different emotions at various points of time without any problem that a newcomer would be exhibiting, and all’s just natural.

How it finishes :: There is something about the movie chosen by Tovino Thomas, for they bring the difference almost every time. Maradona also shows such qualities, with the seemingly usual characters and usual tale choosing to go through a divergent path, with quite a different treatment. This one might not be the movie for everyone, but just like Tharangam, it chooses to make something more out of what seems to be a usual story. In a monotonous world, there are only a few movies which try to experiment with its content, covering the possibility of predictability so well – Maradona will be remembered as one of those movies. With some moments which can stay in our minds for long, this one will continue to be the one movie which will go on into the Onam vacations despite nature having its own way with the never-ending rainfall.

Here is a video song from the movie:

Release date: 27th July 2018
Running time: 148 minutes
Directed by: Vishnu Narayan
Starring: Tovino Thomas, Chemban Vinod Jose, Tito Wilson, Sharanya R Nair, Leona Lishoy, Shalu Rahim, Kichu Tellus, Parthavi, Niranjan Harish, Hari Thampuran, Nistar Ahmed, Jins Baskar

<— Click here to go to the previous reviews, both English and Malayalam.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Stoker

stokerr

The legend of Stoker :: The first idea image that comes to one’s mind with the name “Stoker” is that of a vampire, if not exactly that of the primary antagonist of a 1897 Gothic horror novel. Thanks to Bram Stoker, the legend of Dracula has been something that continues to be synonymous with vampirism itself. But, there is nothing directly related to Bram Stoker here, and lets not make any guesses about it being something about the life of the creator of the world’s most well-known vampire (one of the few English writers whose name I have known since childhood). Stoker gives you no blood sucker, and even when there are murders, there is no such behaviour of not wasting the blood. The Vampire Bat has been historically against wastage of blood, and is certain to have been sad about his own idea about this movie being wrong, but that feeling never stood strong till the end of the movie. Stoker was never supposed to be about vampires, and it was not meant to be the usual horror movie; it had to be different.

What is it about? :: India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is not going through a good period of time after her father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) dies in a car accident. Her mentally unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) and India doesn’t seem to get along well. Richard’s brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to the scene at that time, and keeps talking about his life which was mostly spent traveling all around the world. His stay at the house turns out to be longer than expected, and even as Evelyn likes that, India is mostly indifferent to his presence and on some occasions, rather not happy with his existence. She continues to keep away from him despite the fact that he seems to be trying quite hard to be very friendly with her. But as almost everyone who has an argument with Charlie disappears, India begins to feel that there is more to him than what meets the eye. Later, she even finds one of the dead bodies in the freezer. But she won’t be able to tell that to her mother who seems to have developed some intense feelings for his charms.

The defence of Stoker :: The movie successfully brings that creepy environment into play, with a huge house and its surrounding which seem to have more secrets than any normal person can endure, but that would eventually be proved wrong by the two characters, the introvert niece and her uncle whose existence was never known as his presence is more mysterious than the absence. The association of big houses with horror comes as no surprise, as everybody needs room to store some horrible secrets; the movies in most of the languages has the same, and Stoker has used that very well. There are lots of surprises in store too, especially related to the new member of the family, and the youngest member of the same who always had it in her to bring that shock element for which we are made to wait. Is that all about horror? No, it is mostly about horror and rest is about fantasy which follows horror in such a way that both becomes beautifully intertwined. The visuals are so nicely done so that the strange, creepy atmosphere is never out of our mind, even with nothing vicious being tried.

The claws of flaw :: Stoker can disappoint the usual horror lover depending on what he or she is looking for. It doesn’t have anything supernatural or serial killers who comes out of nowhere to create a pool of blood, even as this one does have enough blood and gruesome murders. There are no weird faces coming out of the dark making strange noises and trying to take advantage of that shocking side. This doesn’t go through that path set by Insidious and Sinister, the former needing no introduction and the latter having the most read horror movie review on my blog even as it was written almost an year after it was released, in the honorary movies list. The movie has that uniqueness which might make some audience disinterested. There is also some part of the movie where it might seem that nothing really happens, but that is not really that usual drag. The movie could have still used a little more of the direct horror, and there it might have lost a few fans too. It is also so much mixed in its genre that it can trouble fans of many genres. The grief and feelings in this movie can be highly subjective for the viewers too.

Performers of the soul :: This one comes from the South Korean director of the much admired Oldboy which was voted as one of the best Asian movies, and also Thirst which seems to have also got a similar reception – so that expectations were going to be high and I would say that this one delivers nicely, at least for me. Matthew Goode’s performance comes as real stunner in this one, as he exhibits both sides of being terrifying as well as charming with so much brilliance. Nicole Kidman also does nice with what might be the best someone can give for such a character. The best part of the movie should be Mia Wasikowska though. I mostly remember her from Alice in Wonderland in which she was so good, and she was the best Jane Eyre that most of us had ever known. Here, she takes that into another level as she is presented with a character who might be one of the strangest girls ever. She plays no Carrie, but even this character is so gifted in many ways along with being disturbed that she keeps us with her even as not completely on her side, and there comes the subjectivity of the viewers into play.

Soul exploration :: This is the first time that I have noticed Mia Wasikowska with black hair, and as that seems to suit her so well, it adds to the soul too. Eighteen year old girl and never really smiling in the movie – now that is more than just interesting for a Vampire Bat’s soul. Caught between her innocence and awareness, India doesn’t become like the others; she chooses to be different. But what is to follow when she decides to follow her instincts rather than her innocence? She is a lot like her uncle, and that is something that is proved again and again in the movie. They both have a lot in common, and India always has that invitation into that dark world which she can resist only with her best attempts. But her world has already shattered, and any resistance that she can produce would rather become an illusion which won’t help her a bit. She has always had the dark side with all its strength, and it is only herself that keeps her back, and there will always be a revelation which can turn the whole world upside down.

How it finishes :: Stoker successfully keeps the audience in the movie and doesn’t throw away its logic, even when it slows down in pace, an achievement which not many horror movies can boast about. You can say that with most of the shots of the movie. Stoker has style and it has substance; to add to it, this is a thriller and horror movie with the elements of drama, not something which is easy to achieve. “Don’t disturb the family” is a nice tagline for the movie too, as we do come to know what happens when even the youngest member of the family is disturbed – not a good sign for anyone planning to do the same. You got to love the way they look in the poster too, especially Mia Wasikowska; Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows shall approve it with an A+. Watch this one as a horror movie, a thriller, a coming-of-age story, a slasher flick, a tale of revenge and even as a strange romantic tragedy. Stoker might be strange to a number of people belonging to the normal audience category, but it has so much in it which makes it a force to be reckoned with.

Release date: 1st March 2013
Running time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown, Judith Godrèche

stoker copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.