Taken 3

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Uncle Dracula :: So do you believe that the Vampire Owl was taken?

Vampire Bat :: I didn’t say that. I was talking about him not going for movies, and not being available for consideration even for watching the movie Taken 3.

Uncle Dracula :: But he could have been taken, nevertheless.

Vampire Bat :: Why are we even having this conversation?

Uncle Dracula :: Because I am giving you a substitute for the Vampire Owl here. Take Igor.

Vampire Bat :: What? Wasn’t he with Doctor Frankenstein?

Uncle Dracula :: Yes, but he was taken. You didn’t know? Even my brides know that.

Vampire Bat :: Yes, they will surely know that, because they have no other job. They don’t even brush their fangs. But taken by whom?

Uncle Dracula :: Taken by me. Who else? I am the only Bryan Mills around here. Now, take my new vampire chariot and leave. You are getting late and there is a chance that you might be taken by Doctor Frankenstein in retaliation.

Vampire Bat :: That is a fair point. And you stop abducting people after transforming into fog, mist, wolves, dogs, potato chips, Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Titanic DVD and all those other things. The age is different now. It is not cool anymore.

[Kick-starts the vampire chariot].

What is it about? :: The two major incidents seem to have cooled down, and nobody seems to be “taken” anymore. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is once again trying to be good with his daughter Kim Mills (Maggie Grace) who is now living with her boyfriend and his ex-wife Lenore Mills (Famke Janssen) who is having problems with her current husband, Stuart St. John (Dougray Scott). But things get turned around as his wife is found murdered, and when he enters the house, he is framed for the murder. As he becomes the prime suspect here due to the evidence, he manages to flee from the scene using his special skills and uses the same to find a way to get to her murderer. The police is on his trail and asks him to surrender and let them investigate, leaving it for the court to decide, but Bryan knows that he can trust his skills better than anything else. Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) is in charge of the case and decides to go after Bryan.

The defence of Taken 3 :: You know what to expect in a sequel to the kind of movies that the predecessors were. Even with a change in the basic plot as nobody is “taken”, this one tries to use the same protagonist to its advantage nicely. Yes, it chooses not to follow that idea and comes up with something different, even as it is not something which hasn’t been tried before. The action sequences involving our protagonist are once again good, even as not raising the level. This is also more of the action movie than thriller, even as some suspense is there trying to make smaller impacts. The stunts mostly involve some melee combat, more shoot-outs and a lot more car chase action. The fans might still love this one up-to an extent, and too much expectation will kill this one. Yes, the franchise ends here, and may be that will also work in favour of this in your mind, even as one his the last dialogues might make one feel otherwise.

The claws of flaw:: Taken 3 fails to give a great ending to the franchise which has to be satisfied with the average finish compared to how it has been going. There is no coming anywhere near the first movie, that is for sure. A comparison with the predecessors is going to devastate this movie, and the place of this one is below the previous two. This is not even that well edited, or even developed as something that brings the thrills to the viewers. It even hesitates to go full swing action, and one has to wonder why. The final scenes also lack the power, and the villains as well as the gang remains not just weak, but also uninteresting. Even the twist could have used more power. It needed more action and thrills, but Taken 3 tries to hang on to the power of the previous movies and bring this franchise to an end which neither Liam Neeson or the audience deserved. After watching this one, may be you will feel that this should have been a movie out of Taken franchise – like Non-Stop, Unknown and The Grey.

Performers of the soul :: You see a Liam Neeson movie here again, and he takes the avatar of one of his best known characters, even as I don’t consider his characters in Non-Stop, The Grey and Unknown with any less reverence – same goes to Hannibal of The A-Team. Being the action hero that everyone wants to see beating up the bad people, he once again doesn’t fail to deliver. There are signs of old age for sure, but he still got it as the man who got the special skills that he acquired. Here, he is bigger than the movie – no doubt about that. You know that Famke Janssen’s character gets killed early, but Maggie Grace is once again very good, but is left with not that much to do in this movie. Forest Whitaker was impressive during his stay, but the villains were too weak. The Russian villain idea never really came close to working, and the other villain twist was another weak addition. There could have been better ideas about it, but we find none here.

Soul exploration :: Taken 3 has its heart at the family, and once again the father-daughter relationship gets a good chance in the middle. But if it was given better thoughts or at least shown with more humour, that would have actually worked in favour of this movie, considering how much this movie has struggled to keep up with its predecessors. Even in what has made this franchise such a big name, this one struggles to make the expected impact. I have actually heard my friends saying “does this guy’s family still have members who are to be kidnapped? How big a family is that?” – when they heard about the release of a third movie. Taken 3 is more like The Hangover III considering the fact that it had no hangover as this one had nobody being taken, but the after-effects of the earlier hangovers and those abductions in the earlier movies still stay.

How it finishes :: Taken 3 doesn’t seem to make much impact in the theatres, even as the initial crowd is there due to the fame of the previous movies, and it is only a matter of time until the advantage is lost. There is a long list of Hollywood movies from the previous weeks though, like Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, Interstellar, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and Penguins of Madagascar along with the other language movies, all of them with better opinions received than this one. The advice here would be not to go for Taken 3 with the expectation of another Taken. Think about it as another action movie coming from Liam Neeson, and the characters as just the reflections of the situation in the flick. Watch this one for Liam Neeson, and think not much about the franchise or the rest of the things.

Release date: 9th January 2015.
Running time: 108 minutes
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Jonny Weston, Dylan Bruno

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Wolverine

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The sixth movie of the X-Men film series has been released on that day on which I had to submit my thesis, which I found to be a reason to identify myself with the Wolverine; with immortality reigning both in my that thesis of mine and also through the blood of our leading character in this movie. The fact that this movie follows the events of the 2006 movie and the worst one of the series, X-Men: The Last Stand was depressing, but not many people can deny Wolverine a.k.a Logan a visit after how well X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be. It was when X-Men: First Class released, that the realization about how much we miss this character flashed through the mind which was full of absurdity. The movie was still good, and if we think about how much bigger that movie would have become with this character, there might be shocking box-office figures expected. This is the impact Wolverine brings with him, and he is that character who has the status that almost rivals most of the individual heroes like Spider-Man, Superman and Batman, and clearly makes an impression which none of the X-Men can make alone. This is that movie which can take all the other English movies out of the theatres here, and from the bookings happening right now, that is quite likely.

So, this installment of the movie series comes up without the X-Men tag added to its title, and it is clear that this is more about Wolverine than anything else, and there is enough power in it to survive without that tag. Chronologically, this is to be considered X-Men 4 though, as this doesn’t follow X-Men Origins: Wolverine as some had thought it would. Logan (Hugh Jackman) has been living the life of a recluse after the death of Jean Grey which was a major part of the events of X-Men: The Last Stand which practically ended the need for the existence of X-Men as there was a period of relative peace which followed. But there is no peace of mind for Logan as is frequently troubled by hallucinations nightmares about Jean, whom he was forced to kill, and a lesser memory from the Nagasaki bombing of 1945 where he saved the life of a Japanese soldier. He maintains very less contact with the human world, and stays in the wilderness most of the time. One day, during a fight with a group of hunters in a bar, he is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), another mutant, representing Ichirō Yashida, the man whom Logan had saved earlier. He is asked to go to Tokyo so that the dying man can possibly thank him and bid adieu, to which Logan reluctantly agrees.

After reaching Japan, Logan comes across Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada)and his grand daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), both seemingly having problems with the relationship with eachother. Yashida offers Logan the opportunity of a transfer of mutant powers to get rid of his immortality and die in peace instead of living in nightmares and pain. Logan refuses to transfer his powers to the dying man, and is later informed that Yashida has died. During the funeral, he saves Mariko from the assassins of an enemy clan with help from Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee), an archer and Mariko’s lover. They get onboard a train and more opponents are encountered in a fighting sequence which involves combat even on the top of the train. While fighting, Logan is shot multiple times and finds out that he is not healing instantly as he used to, and has to be taken care of by a doctor. With another mutant, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) chasing him for his powers, and Mariko being hunted by her own father for the control of the family business empire, Logan has more to deal with this time, at a time when he is losing his powers and has become incredibly close to mortality. But this would lead to that moment which he needs to get rid of the psychotic monster that his lover was, from his head. It might be worth fighting for.

It is fair to say that Hugh Jackman controls this movie and makes the whole thing work as if he is playing that much of a superhero as Spider-man, Superman or Batman. Wolverine has turned out to be the one mutant who can work out alone and be the saviour of the world alone. Hugh Jackman has achieved all these alone, and from what it seems, this could get a better box-office collection that X-Men: First Class which had so many more mutants with interesting powers. I would consider that one the better movie, but this one has Hugh Jackman and he has done magic with his character, something which would depress the audience if someone else was to play the Wolverine, from what it seems right now. The possibility of a stand-alone expansion to X-Men has been wonderfully done through his character. X-Men: The Last Stand might have dminished the scope of the whole franchise, and had made X-Men: First Class suffer; but the case of the movies featuring Wolverine as the hero would be different, and Hugh Jackman scores again and again right there. He was there as Leopold in Kate & Leopold, as Gabriel Van Helsing in Van Helsing, and as our favourite robot-controlling boxer in Real Steel. But what Wolverine does, stays not only with one movie, as the man has made the character bigger than what one mutant could ever be, and that is worth all the respect.

Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Ichirō Yashida brings surprises, and be ready for it. Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida brings a kind of serenity to the world which is otherwise full of heavy action and hidden evil. Rila Fukushima as Yukio adds to the martial arts segment of the movie, and as a mutant, she is one of the main three gifted people in the movie, and may be the more physically trained and skilled one among them. Will Yun Lee as Kenuichio Harada and Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen Yashida also adds to the martial arts powered action sequences. Meanwhile, Svetlana Khodchenkova makes an entrance as Viper, a poisonous mutant immune to toxins, resembling a snake in many ways. She is seen as the most powerful and the most vigorous enemy of Wolverine and Mariko until the Silver Samurai finally shows up covered in adamantium armour and holding an adamantium sword of immense power. Famke Janssen is also there as Jean Grey, but more as a hallucination or nightmare for the protagonist, but still the character portrayed better than X-Men: The Last Stand. This is hundred percent a better Jean Grey than that of the third movie of the X-Men franchise. It is a vital presence, even as it is not real. There is also a post-credits scene involing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively.

Even in the presence of the psychological elements, the movie runs on its action sequences, and some of the one-liners as the others lack innovation. The battle of the claws against the swords of the samurai makes an impact, but I would still prefer the usual mutant battles, or the Wolverine v/s Sabretooth head-to-head combats. The action sequence on the bullet train came as no surprise, and it was indeed powerful. The most interesting thing is that all these action sequences and interesting dialogues happen around Wolverine, and the whole situation is about him, just like the title suggests. Everyone else just revolves around the character, and with Hugh Jackman holding one end strongly, there is no need for anything spectacular. There was always the need for balance, and it is attained by the Wolverine suffering from that pain which Louis de Pointe du Lac seemed to suffer in Interview with the Vampire, the only difference being the lack of need for blood which is replaced by the need for combat. As Louis wished for death as he hated his inability to act, Wolverine hated his life as he had acted in such a way that he lost control of his world even as he saved the same. Both were reborn as hunters, weren’t they? Both were seemingly indestructible, and both were clear misfits in a world which had no place for them.

There are a few things one has to be aware of; this one is not an origin story, but still it moves on like one, with a good amount of slower moments. The 3D was almost unnecessary. It also has a predictable climax and not too surprising twist which supports it. There is the absence of an imposing villain, as the one expected challenge for Wolverine is unleashed only the end, but that too within limitations. There is so much left on the shoulders of Hugh Jackman. But still the man with the claws cannot be resisted. X2: X-Men United would still be the best of the franchise, followed by X-Men: First Class, the first entry of the series, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But there will be more hope about X-Men: Days of Future Past which combines the cast of all these movies. For now, The Wolverine will do just fine at the box-office, as this week doesn’t have many powerful competitors around here, which has caused Pacific Rim to bounce back. Turbo, Despicable Me 2 and Man of Steel hasn’t left the theatres too, but they should worry this one less. We need X-Men, and we need Wolverine, and therefore we will need to watch this movie – even with varying thoughts about the X-Men movies which we can agree to disagree on. I would still miss Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, and that fact diminishes this X-Men world.

Release date: 26th July 2013
Running time: 126 minutes
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Patrick Stewart (cameo), Ian McKellen (cameo)

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Hansel and Gretel

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We have had the darker versions of fairy tales, one each in the last two years – Red Riding Hood in 2011 and Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012. The latter getting better reviews than the former was a strange a thing just like this one getting negative reviews – this is astrange world for sure. The one thing which might be agreeable to the fans of all three movies might be that none of them really made an impact on the critics like they did on the box-office. While Amanda Seyfried lead the way in the former, it was the antagonist Charlize Theron who made the impact in the latter. But, here comes Hansel and Gretel, which surely is a much better watch; and a clear winner as a creation of dark fantasy.

It did remind me of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but our good re-telling of the old fairy tale happens to do better by a long way. Then once again, the critical reception might favour the wrong movie even as it is marginal. But trusting someone else who doesn’t know your taste is the worst mistake you can do. I almost made the same mistake, but I could see beyond it, as Ghost Rider 2, the worst Hollywood movie to reach the theatres of India in the last two or three years had more approval than some of those above average movies. This might have been a little long introduction, but it was strange to see that the shows of Hansel and Gretel were cancelled and I had to wait for days to watch it. Therefore, forget the critical ratings; and may be ask your friends who share your interests, and go for the movie.

The Grimm Brothers had given the world the story of two kids who outsmarted a witch; a story which was one of my favourites during childhood. After saving themselves from an abusive step-mother and the evil witch, these children do live happily ever after, as I can recollect. It is absolutely correct until the death of the witch in the movie too. But then comes the “living happily” part, which is a little existential in character. They are witch-hunters – professional ones; one of them is diabetic and the other one is later found to be a ” ” (it is a twist and there will be no spoiler here). But still, they might have found fun in doing their job – it is athletic and they get good payment for it. There is the possibility of ending in a witch’s cauldron or simply as a corpse, but considering what people do these days for attention, I would say that witch-hunting is not that horrible unless that witch got too many fans on facebook. Vampire bats do that often in the dreams.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are the grown-up versions of the awesome little ones, who have dedicated their lives to fight the evil: to save the world from the broomstick-riders who fly better than some of the airlines. Hansel and Gretel start the latest adventure by preventing the town’s Sheriff Berringer from executing a young woman who is accused to be a witch (has the same name Mina – reminding of Mina Harker) after the siblings were hired by the mayor to find and bring back a number of children believed to be abducted by witches. Berringer hires his own men who are killed by a powerful witch, Muriel in the dark woods. The one who is left alive doesn’t last long with a curse for the hunger of crawling things.

Hansel and Gretel discover that the witches are preparing for the notorious ritual of Blood Moon, which requires sacrificing six boys and six girls with certain peculiarities.  The town is attacked by Muriel and her minions, which include a troll Edward (never away from that name from Twilight, but the fans can forgive the appearance of this troll). Now the witches have enough children to sacrifice for Blood Moon, but they need something else (which shall not be revealed to break the suspense) and the remaining question is whether the witches succeed in the ritual which would make them almost invincible. The twists include the truth about their step-mother who was not really evil, the mystery about Mina and the last ingredient of the Blood Moon ritual which would change the siblings’ idea about witches and witch hunting.

This story might sound too familiar and not that awesome to follow, but it is made better with the movie’s great CGI which is one of the best. The 3D effects make it one of the best horror-action experiences through the glasses with bullets, explosions, arrows – all coming towards you in frequent intervals, as well as the dark beauty of the atmosphere which catches you out of the screen. Right from the opening title scenes to the ending credits, it promises and delivers the same. Famke Janssen does remind one of her role as Jean Grey / Phoenix in X-Men III: The Last Stand, but she is surely better as Muriel. The witches look much better than in any movie released in the last few years, and the variety in them brings the culture element into the play – they are not the same. They are incredibly detailed to be just side-kick witches. Their screams create that fear element even when they are not on screen.

The most conservative, horror-hating, gore-fighting people of the pseudo-realistic world needn’t watch this movie though. Let the wonderful action sequences and breath-taking fights be missed by you. The 3D and the CGI can treat the deserving eyes. There are times when one has to cease being intellectual, and what is science but full of contradictions and uncertainty? Therefore, why be against a movie of magic and fantasy saying that it is not real? There is thousand times more chance of this happening than anything of the Twilight series. But the fact is that you don’t even realize why you are in this world; none of us do. Our life is in the hands of the greater power that guides us. So don’t be judgmental on this one, for this is not there to be judged by some superior intellect which goes to Moon or Mars and search for water – this is there to be enjoyed, supported by imagination. This is not a product of perfect reasoning power supported by some random theory; this is not simple every day life – this is dark fantasy. I love action-horror movies and I feel this has only strengthened the genre.

Release date: 25th January 2013 (USA); 1st February 2013 (India)
Running time: 88 minutes
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.