Rurouni Kenshin

Vampire Owl: Isn’t this the second Japanese movie that we are watching?

Vampire Bat: Yes, they were mostly overshadowed by Korean and Chinese films.

Vampire Owl: The name is quite tough here.

Vampire Bat: Your soul will get used to such names.

Vampire Owl: Do you know that Japan is my dream country?

Vampire Bat: Japan is everyone’s dream country.

Vampire Owl: Except for the common vampires of our times.

Vampire Bat: Are you talking about the never-ending need to go to Romania?

Vampire Owl: Yes, the holy land dedicated to Uncle Dracula, especially on Halloween.

Vampire Bat: That trend had come down since the Russia invaded its neighbouring country, Ukraine. We, vampires are supposed to stay kilometres away from any terrible war caused by human kind. We are not violent people.

[Gets a porotta roll and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1864, and Japan is now open to foreign trade. This means that a few people seek to end the rule of Shoguns and bring back the authority of the empire, with some of the being ambitious and the others filled with ideals. They are forced to face each other, and fighting goes on only to make the situation worse in the island nation which seeks progress with trade and commerce. Himura Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) who is also known as Hitokiri Battosai serves as a political assassin to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate which would eventually lead to the Meji Restoration and the later rise of Imperial Japan, finally leading to their participation in the Second World War and fall with the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The history goes a long way, and this is more like a civil war which will begin the events which will finally lead to a detailed epoch in the Japanese history with no security or value for human life. The young man of concern here, who is a skilled fighter with swords, joins the clan of Choshu, and begins to work with Katsura Kogoro (Issey Takahashi), their leader.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: During one of the fights in which he kills all the men, a member of the opposite gang refuses to die, and despite being impaled by sword multiple times, gives the assassin a cut on his face. This has Himura clearly disturbed instead of being cold with all the killings. Katsura understands that even after so many years of killing hundreds of men, his assassin is still not comfortable with killing people, a process which he keeps repeating. He feels that the young man hasn’t really grown up yet, and remains pure at heart, which means that there is no peace at heart. He is still the best fighter that he has known in years, but that wouldn’t change the heart. When Himura had earlier joined the group in a bid to overthrow the Shoguns, he hadn’t killed anyone, but the promise that he had shown was immense, unlike anyone whom he had seen among their fighters. He would keep on wondering if the man has finally has had enough of the fights and the brutal killings.

And what can bring a change to world which has only gotten worse with the civil wars? :: Katsura feels that there is the need to find a solution, as there is the need to end this continuous war, for which he needs as many hands holding the swords with expertise. Himura is still haunted by the memories of the man who refused to die, citing the reason of love in his life. One night, he goes on to have a drink of his own, and interferes when a lone woman named Yukishiro Tomoe (Kasumi Arimura) is bothered by a group of men who demand that the woman treats them with respect, and consider them as their heroes. After leaving the tavern, he is almost attacked by two drunkards from the tavern who are killed by an assassin with a chain. He manages to kill the assassin, but finds Yukishiro who had come to thank him, drenched in the blood of assassin, and she soon faints as a result of the shock from what she had just witnessed. He takes her back to his hideout, a place for the revolutionaries. The girl who feel thankful, decides to stay, much to his surprise, as he wonders why.

The defence of Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning :: The stylish action sequences begin the film’s progress very soon. The fights with the swords remain memorable, as there seems to be so much of speed and control related to them – it is like you take your eyes away from the screen for less than a second, and still you end up missing something. You are going to find it difficult to follow the pace of the very thin and agile swords which keep moving in all directions, but you enjoy what happens around. The characters remain interesting, and there seems to be something about almost everyone out there. The performers seem to be chosen with care, and the way they come up with the action scenes makes one wonder if they are really that well trained in all of these. Takeru Satoh leads well, Kasumi Arimura does the job with integrity. The movie nicely takes the fictional world and combines it with history. The emotional side also gains strength at times. The visuals are nice, not just with the big towns, but also with the nice little villages and the small homes surrounded by nature.

The claws of flaw :: The movie might feel to be too violent for at least a few people who are expecting more fights on the scene with blood and gore being hidden, but this is not really that martial arts or superhero movie to go through that route. This is also a little bit too long, considering the fact that the story is very much a predictable one, with not that much of innovation added here by looking at the possibilities in history. When action becomes the first and the one great choice, the plot suffers – it is quite a natural thing as we have seen in other movies – you just can’t satisfy everyone, and then the makers would prefer to go with what the crowd would like to see here. It seems to be very much hesitant to take the risk in different areas, when the challenges were present. The romance, even though present there, feels somewhat forced, even though the performers make it work without any trouble – after all, a love affair changing people all of a sudden is a stereotype which has been used for too long that we don’t really care about that anymore; then the ending which we can feel good enough to make a guess.

How it finishes :: This is not the franchise that we are familiar with, even though people of Japan should be very much familiar with the same. It is also based upon the manga series of the same name, which means more Japanese familiarity for sure – films inspired by comics have its own space like the video-game based works of our times. The movie takes the old style sword-fighting action to the next level, within its own charming setting – there will be no shortage of such action here. This is supposed to the fifth and final installment of this particular franchise about a nineteenth century assassin. But as it is also a prequel, it serves as a stand-alone movie which can be watched first, in the middle or last, and there is the placing in history which makes things easier to understand. Historical setting serve well when used with clarity and skill. We do feel that this a usual tragic tale about friendship and love in a world of war and chaos, but as we have the same arranged really well with the setting, the idea works effectively.

Release date: 4th June 2021 (Japan); 30th July 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 137 minutes
Directed by: Keishi Otomo
Starring: Takeru Satoh, Kasumi Arimura, Issey Takahashi, Nijiro Murakami, Masanobu Ando, Kazuki Kitamura Yosuke Eguchi

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

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.

The Rising Hawk

Vampire Owl: Hawks are not part of any vampire army as far as I know.

Vampire Bat: I am still not letting go of the possibility of having a Vampire Hawk.

Vampire Owl: Hawks do not make good vampires. It was proven a long time ago.

Vampire Bat: It is a myth. There is no real history behind the same.

Vampire Owl: It is written in the Great Vampire Scrolls. So, it has to be true.

Vampire Bat: Everything written on it need not be true, as it also says that owls are dumb.

Vampire Owl: I am sure that they had excluded that chapter from the scrolls.

Vampire Bat: The scrolls have been edited many time since its inception into the Vampire Hall of Fame, which makes it flawed.

Vampire Owl: Well, I don’t really like the hawks anyway.

Vampire Bat: You don’t really need to invite them home, do you?

[Gets a blueberry cake and three cups of black tea].

What is the movie about? :: The Mongol army is leaving a trail of destruction on its path, as it is led by Burunda Khan (Tserenbold Tsegmid) – the terror spreads towards the west, devastating everything on its path as it reaches the Carptathian mountains. Zakhar Berkut (Robert Patrick) and Rada (Alison Doody) had led their group of villagers to the highlands, but the terror doesn’t seem to end. The Mongols, with their vast army, is looking for new lands to conquer and pillage, with nobody able to stand against them, as the largest empire of the time would stop at nothing with only destruction to be found on their path. They had trained their sons Maksym (Alex MacNicoll) and Ivan (Rocky Myers) in combat seeing this moment before them, but they do know that they won’t be able to fight this battle alone, as stopping Mongols is a near-impossible task, with so many tribes, villages and kingdoms trying and failing miserably in the last few years.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Tuhar Vovk (Tommy Flanagan) is the person who can make the different there, and his daughter Myroslava (Poppy Drayton) is in love with Maksym after he saves her from a bear during a hunting expedition, but it is not something the rich and influential Tuhar wouldn’t approve, as he considers Zakhar Berkut and his sons as mere commoners with no real achievement to boast about. At the same time, there are brutal raids from the Mongol cavalry, which the villagers consider as demons on horseback. As everything they know being threatened, they would need to unite and make a last stand here. But fighting the forces of Burunda Khan would need near perfect military tactics because there is no possibility of matching the Mongols in number and regular fighting methods. What would be their plan now, as death stares at them right on the face, as a Mongol arrow could come in at any moment?

The defence of The Rising Hawk :: The visuals of the places are surely good, especially with the nature having a fine say here. You cannot blame the idea there, because the underdogs fighting a large group of expert military force consisting of specialized archers, agile cavalry and ruthless swordsmen who wouldn’t stop until they get to leave a trail of terror, is indeed something to think about. The big tales of valour have always impressed us, and it is the same which this movie also tries to achieve. Tales of such courage without that much of an exaggeration was always needed. Ever since we had read the tales like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we have always been interested in stories around Carpathian mountains – we have desired to visit Eastern Europe for long, and at least watching this movie gives us some happiness, and the hope that we can get to be there at some point. What you see around here is more beautiful than the rest, indeed.

The claws of flaw :: The Rising Hawk doesn’t live up to its premise, which is so huge – there were so many possibilities with the underdogs fighting the vast army of Mongols who are clearly unstoppable by all means. The beginning stages of the movie are quite slow too, and we await the action, and some change from the predictability, but the leading hero, his brother, the lady love, the parental affection – all these go through the predictable patterns. Many of the moments here do remind us of many other previous films. The problem with the low budget can also be seen here, by just looking around. It should have also had some classic fighting scene or a grand scene to remember, and that is not provided here. A movie focusing on war against a near invincible enemy cannot afford to be ordinary with its fights, unless it is a love story with just background in store. The romance in this movie also struggles to reach the height. It has to be noted that the Mongols are also not exactly as we had known them.

Performers of the soul :: Most of the performances are satisfactory, even though it is not without the flaws. The two elder actors do the best job around here, as Robert Patrick and Tommy Flanagan clearly has the advantage as they are more or less like another form of Professor X and Magneto – old friends who now stand divided, even though the chance of coming together again is always there. Then we have Poppy Drayton, the British actress who also has her moments in this movie – she is a lovely presence, and excels in emotional sequences, along with managing the action scenes well enough, especially with the bow and arrow in hand. Alex MacNicoll does a pretty good job too. The others just seem to blend into the whole thing, not doing that much, including the Mongol king himself, who could have been a scarier figure, a terror that could have had no replacement. Alison Doody who plays the mother is also just enough for the purpose.

How it finishes :: The Rising Hawk is certainly not trying to rise above the usual historic films that we have been watching for a long time. Supposed to be based on the historical fiction book Zakhar Berkut by popular Ukrainian writer and poet Ivan Franko, a work which hasn’t reached this part of the world. If we look further at it, there are many historical films which have dealt with the same idea of the underdogs fighting against hordes, and winning an impossible battle or two. The tales about the Kingdom of Travancore standing tall against the much larger country and military power, the invading Kingdom of Mysore lead by Tipu Sultan is well known in the South Indian states. Such tales of the smaller defending force winning against the bigger, invading force are always inspirational. We have had similar situations in all parts of the world, and when you look into history, when you are fighting an invading Mongol force, you just cannot stop being the underdog.

Release date: 10th October 2019
Running time: 125 minutes
Directed by: John Wynn, Akhtem Seitablayev
Starring: Robert Patrick, Alison Doody, Tommy Flanagan, Poppy Drayton, Alex MacNicoll, Alina Kovalenko, Rocky Myers, Oliver Trevena, Oleh Voloshchenko, Andriy Isayenko, Erzhan Nurymbet, Tserenbold Tsegmid

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Black Panther

What is the movie about? :: A long time ago, as a part of on-going tribal wars in a divided continent, five African tribes fought over a the control of a meteorite which was the source of an alien metal called vibranium, most commonly known to the Marvel fans as one of the materials used to construct Captain America’s shield. Vibranium which was first deposited on Earth by a meteorite about ten thousand years ago, had its variation in Wakanda, which absorbed sound waves, vibrations, and kinetic energy making the metal stronger. It was something that could do more than what the modern science could explain. This variety of vibranium is often referred to as a powerful mutagen, something that could change the genetic material, usually the DNA of an organism and thus would increase the frequency of mutations more than the usual background level. Vibranium exposure did the same to a number of Wakandan natives.

And what is to follow in this particular adventure? :: A warrior who ate a heart shaped herb which was affected by the metal gained special abilities and became the first Black Panther. He united the tribes to form the nation of Wakanda, but that had only four of them as the Jabari tribe chose not to follow this new rule, moving to the mountains. The result was that the Wakandans used the vibranium’s abilities to become highly advanced with their science and technology. But they also chose to isolate themselves from the rest of the world with their modernity hidden within forests. Even after so many years, the outside world thinks about Wakanda as a third world country which is very much short of resources, but doesn’t trade with the outsiders or ask for help because of their pride and inability to combine their older and darker world with the new one.

And what else is to come? :: Following the events of Captain America: Civil War and the death of his father, the king, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to claim the throne as the eldest son. The commander-in-chief of the Wakandan army Okoye (Danai Gurira), T’Challa’s ex-lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) are the happiest ones to see him as the new king. At the ceremony, the Jabari tribe’s leader M’Baku (Winston Duke), a mighty warrior challenges T’Challa for the throne of Wakanda, but is defeated in ritual combat – a battle in which he finally accepts defeat after T’Challa requests him to surrender lest the fight would only end with his death. But that would only begin trouble for T’Challa, for Wakanda needs more than just another king who kept continuing the tradition of the tribe for such a long time.

And then there is the case of trouble :: The first thing that he felt the need to accomplish after becoming the king was to find and bring to justice, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a black-market arms dealer and smuggler who had access to vibranium and knows the secrets of Wakanda. But on their path stands CIA agent Everett K Ross (Martin Freeman), who takes Klaue into custody, much to the dismay of the new king and his team who need to fulfil their promise by bringing the man to Wakanda’s justice or death. Meanwhile, an American black-ops soldier named Erik Stevens (Michael B Jordan) is after the throne, and he has a twisted past with Wakanda. He would try to make T’Challa pay for what his father had done, and also to make sure that his race could become the rulers of the world. What can the new Black Panther to do stop the man who has had only one mission in his life since childhood?

The defence of Black Panther :: As one would have expected after watching Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, the big strength of this flick remains the action sequences. There are some nice visuals of the new world in here, and we get transported nicely there. The final one hour of the movie is where this one picks up to become something interesting, as in the beginning stages, there was a certain amount of struggle. The movie has a pretty good cast which gives enough for it to keep going, but the pick of them all are Michael B Jordan who plays the villain with a purpose, the nice moments from Martin Freeman and all that Winston Duke brings as M’Baku, even though he is not present throughout the flick. Then there is the idea about the oppressed becoming the oppressor, and trying to have revenge on the next generation of those who had oppressed them years ago – it is certainly not the way, as it is nicely shown in the movie.

The claws of flaw :: There is no denying the fact that the expectations were so high with this movie that it is quite difficult to satisfy almost anyone who is watching this movie. You also have to wonder which kind of superhero movie gets this many good reviews – you will notice that this one is certainly not better than the last Marvel movie, Thor: Ragnarok. Sometimes, you feel that the reasons why this movie is often praised are not really what should be used as the positives regarding the flick. It could have dealt with the theme better, without doubt – the scope was more with this one compared to any other superhero flick. The story also has nothing new as it goes through the expected path, and even though there was the chance, there is absolutely no surprise here. Some of the costumes are rather strange, and the world itself could have used better attention. The funny side as well as the thrills are not able to get hold here either. The romantic side is certainly bad.

How it finishes :: The 3D didn’t have much to offer in this movie. But the movie becomes another interesting superhero movie with one more hero having the background origins story set. It doesn’t have its elements matching the previous Marvel movie, Thor: Ragnarok which was ahead in almost every department, from action and visuals to the funny side. Despite the critics being rather prejudiced in supporting this movie, it hasn’t created that much of an interest among the common audience like those Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, DeadpoolDoctor Strange & even Ant-Man movies would do for Marvel. But with that nice work in Captain America: Civil War, and with this tale of Wakanda already set and begun, we can expect to have more from Black Panther. With that nice finish in the end, there is surely more needed for us, and lets hope that the character would deliver more in the upcoming movies.

Release date: 16th February 2018
Running time: 134 minutes
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Night at the Museum III

nightatthemuseum (1)

A flashback :: Merry Christmas, everyone. The Vampire Bat is back flying in the theatres again. I haven’t watched a movie in the theatre since the eighth of December which had me watching the movie Seconds, and the reasons are specified here at my other, and nowadays the more active blog (http://theteacerebration.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/the-loss-of-power/). The period of eighteen or nineteen days is a long time for me – like a part of an eternity. So on this day of the return to theatre, or most specifically, the multiplex, lets start with the flashback for this third movie of one of my favourite franchises – I am sure that a lot of people from India can use this. This is the story of Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), who has been the night guard for the Museum of Natural History, and it is where history comes alive, or rather the museum exhibits comes to life at night, and all of them show the characteristics of the respective historical person as if this is the same person who had lived and died years or centuries ago. Our protagonist, with his museum friends have saved the day (or night) twice already.

What is it about? :: We go back to the discovery of the tablet of Ahkmenrah in Egypt, and then come back to the present, which has our protagonist working for an event which is lead by Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), and followed by a few of his other favourite exhibits. But there is corrosion in the tablet, and as it gets worse, it affects the exhibits. This leads to the failure of the event, as all of them goes out of control and causes destruction, making the visitors flee in fear. Larry decides to take things seriously, and learns that they should ask for further details from the father Pharaoh who is in the British Museum of Natural History. As Larry makes his way to the museum with the tablet and the son Pharoah and friend Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), a number of other exhibits have also sneaked in to help him and have a share in the adventure. With time running out and everyone getting weaker, can Larry lead his team to the aim, unsure of what has awaken at the new place?

The defence of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb :: Here is your history teacher of the week, or a reminder of the subject. The movie assures you of lots of fun, and a little more knowledge of history – something that India needs desperately, to have its residents know its history and respect its years long culture instead of going for the money machine. You are in no way going to sleep through this history class, and that is a guarantee – not a first for me though, because I have always enjoyed those classes. The Pompeii scene, the inside the picture shots as well as the theatre moments are very nice. There is some fine use of effects too. Rebel Wilson also has some very nice moments which are not to be missed, and Robin Williams continues to touch you as Teddy, with this one last performance. Here is something for the perfect Christmas family weekend, as long as too much thoughts are not there and a heavy judgement is not passed.

Claws of flaw :: This one stays in the shadows of its predecessors, refusing to come out of it and innovate. A lot of it seems recreated from its predecessors. There was actually not much of a need for this movie, as the previous movie had a nice, happily ever after ending to it, and it was something that we could think about and have a certain amount of joy. Instead, here it is forced to an end which is mixed happy, and there is not even a powerful villain – it was what made the second movie the best of the series; it had one great villain and some nice support for him. Instead, we are taken to the “Save tablet” campaign and some jokes fired at us don’t even come close to working. This is also more childish than the previous movies, especially with the new Neanderthal’s relationships and the repetitions. The family drama doesn’t have the power that it needed, even as we do get the father-son problems and message in the end. May be, with the loss of power of tablet, some energy was also lost.

Performers of the soul :: Ben Stiller makes things work and it seems incredibly easy for him as he once again takes over that one memorable night guard. He also has another role which is less impressive, still stupid and funny. The movie also has Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney in one of their last performances, and the former once again has that nice and interesting role of Theodore Roosevelt which he does to perfection. The team of Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan works fine, but not as much as the previous movies. Dan Stevens makes a good beginning, not that much in the final scenes. Rebel Wilson does a very good job, but is restricted by the less amount of time she has on the screen. Mizuo Peck once again does her character making a good impression, and Rami Malek with Patrick Gallagher completes the team. There are moments of almost every character, and the Hugh Jackman + Alice Eve cameo was also nice.

Soul exploration :: I have always loved this franchise, and thought Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the second entry was the best of them all, and this movie doesn’t change that idea. Yes, this could have been better, but the idea is still there, and history is once again alive. The three movies combined is a good history lessons which ends with this one. There have been a certain dislike for movies teaching history, and this seems to come from a few people who were sleeping during their history classes at school all the time. This doesn’t take a straight path as Mr. Peabody and Sherman did with sharing knowledge of history or the bonding between a father and son. But still, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb does a fair job in the same. All the history enthusiasts should make sure that they watch history come alive for the one last time, and for others, lets give something to history along with all the fun and entertainment.

How it finishes :: Along with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Penguins of Madagascar, Exodus: Gods and Kings and Interstellar, this one joins the show as the only Hollywood movie to release on the Christmas day here. One certain advantage that Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has is that it has the Christmas spirits than any other movie. People might not want to cause further brain damage by watching the Christopher Nolan flick, especially with the family, and Penguins of Madagascar is just another animation movie. The final movie of The Hobbit franchise needs knowledge on that special world, and the Biblical Epic takes its liberties and also makes limited impact on a lot of people. So, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has a bloody big chance here – light at its heart, but still powerful in its messages and the strong lesson about history. It might not break any records worldwide and might not do well in North America, but has the heart to thrive in this part of the world. You need this movie for Christmas, no matter what other movie has released with a bigger fame.

Release date: 25th December 2014 (India); 19th December 2014 (US).
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dan Stevens, Ben Kingsley, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Skyler Gisondo, Rami Malek, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, Dick Van Dyke as Cecil Fredericks, Percy Hynes-White, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Andrea Martin, Rachael Harris, Brennan Elliott, Kerry van der Griend, Matthew Harrison, Jody Racicot, Randy Lee, Darryl Quon, Paul Chih-Ping Cheng , Gerald Wong, Anjali Jay, Matty Finochio, Crystal the Monkey, Hugh Jackman (cameo), Alice Eve (cameo)

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Iyobinte Pusthakam

Iyobinte Pustakam ()

What is it about? :: The movie tells the story of Iyob (Lal) and his three sons, Dimitri (Chemban Vinod Jose), Ivan (Jinu Joseph) and Aloshy (Fahadh Faasil). Iyob was a young local boy who became the right-hand of Harrison (Sal Yusuf), one of the British people who established homes in Munnar, but he managed to rise after his death and had become the most powerful and the influential man in the area. Due to the commanding nature of his father and the atrocities of his brothers which are covered up with money, Aloshy leaves home and joins the Royal Navy from where he is dismissed as a result of a mutiny, which leads him back home. There, his troubles with his brothers begin, and Iyob is infuriated by his lack of obedience and also lack of display of admiration for his father, for which he disinherits him, and his brothers attack him and leaves him for dead. But Iyob doesn’t really know his other sons yet, and an enemy called Angoor Rawther (Jayasurya) shall soon come up.

The defence of Iyobinte Pusthakam :: Iyobinte Pusthakam is brilliant, and amazing beyond words in its visual splendour – it is something that we might have never seen before in Indian cinema, and one can get a peek at the same by just looking at the trailer – the complete stuff is a lot bigger and highly extravagant in its visuals. What you see in the posters are made a lot better in this movie, and not the other way around. The movie’s use of history and the variety in settings are also something to cheer about. We rarely have such good period thrillers in Malayalam, and even in Bollywood. The only things related to history that we have these days are related to killing white people – are we so much out of ideas that we have to talk about one thing again and again? No, not all, says Amal Neerad who has come up with his magnum opus here, which tells the story of the people of the land during the British rule and after, combining history and fiction. You can appreciate this one as long as you have the ability for the same.

Positives and negatives :: The movie might still be slow for a few, but I will say that there is absolutely no drag, and it is achieved by the beauty of the visuals – it is no bloody useless drag like Annayum Rasoolum, I can assure you that; this is more of a Left Right Left of this year. As you enter the world of unparalleled visual beauty, what you want might not be the story. The plot might look ordinary, but it is never about the story. Do watch and get taken into this amazing world, and the first movie from Amal Neerad that I liked – and this is one big like for him! Yes, I have never liked Big B, Sagar Alias Jacky, Anwar and Bachelor’s Party, and you fan-boys and girls can dislike me for the same. Interstellar was just a story that could never happen, but this one is a story of humanity in real, and it is up-to you to choose the one that you wish for this weekend, as both are for entirely different set of minds! Our Malayalam critics will never rate a movie from Kerala high, so just the “very good” rating for this movie would mean “out of this world”.

Performances of the soul :: Fahadh Faasil is nothing less than brilliant here, as he has another feather in the cap here. It is amazing how he has managed to thrive under almost every circumstance that has been put before him. How good can he be? We can never know the limits of his abilities as it seems. Lal is also nothing less than the powerful and later the helpless figure that he is supposed to be – there is nobody other who can be this character. Chemban Vinod Jose and Jinu Joseph are also good and the former is extremely efficient at times Isha Sharvani is extremely beautiful and suited for the role with her looks alone, otherwise she has much less to do; but that has still worked well for the character. Jayasurya is one impressive villain too, as he becomes the smiling assassin here. Padmapriya as Rahel also scores, coming out nowhere. Vinayakn is also nice. The characterization is so powerful and they nicely blend into the strength of visual beauty and that nice background score. I shall leave with some more thoughts below.

Soul exploration 1 :: Iyobinte Pusthakam as King Lear :: Iyobinte Pusthakam is a lot like King Lear or a loose adaptation from the same – it is as much of Shakespeare as Haider is Hamlet, and it has nicely used the setting to support the same. Iyob is King Lear who divides his kingdom among two sons, disinheriting the third, and in the end, it turns out that he was always the righteous and the loving one who comes out to help the father. Goneril, Regan and Cordelia are all here, and there is the Earl of Kent who is joins with the villains this time as Lazar. Rahel does the job of Edmund here, standing between the two sons and making one kill the other. Meanwhile, going outside the play, Martha becomes the lady love that every movie needs, and Angoor Rawther is just the villain that every story should have. There are also those moments when Iyob seems to be descending into madness, and Oswald is also there, as the man who tries to kill our hero and gets himself killed. Also check for the The Brothers Karamazov kind of characters with the same names.

Soul exploration 2 :: Iyobinte Pusthakam as the Parable of the Prodigal Son :: Iyob himself mentions Aloshy as prodigal son when he returns from the navy, and the church priest mentions that he is to be given a warm welcome if it is so, just like in the Holy Bible. But here, Aloshy is not the prodigal son, but rather the lost son, who returns after gaining wisdom rather than losing money, and this illusion of the gone son being the prodigal son is directly reversed in this movie without any complication. But considering a few other cases, he is indeed unemployed and without money compared to what he has at his own home which was left behind. The money that he extravagantly spent are the years of his life, and the time which he should have spent with his family. The father does accept his son, but once again, the elder brothers don’t. The movie’s use of the dialogues about the parable gives us this idea.

Soul exploration 3 :: Iyobinte Pusthakam as the Biblical story of Job :: The main character of the movie is Iyob or Job even as the hero is Aloshy. Even as our character here doesn’t have the qualities of a righteous man, he is also someone who losses almost everything that he holds dear, and it includes his own children, his property, and up-to an extent, his health. But the answer to his problems is achieved sooner here, in the form of his earlier lost son Aloshy. During his last moments, he holds onto the cross and gives it to his son, something which he already had, but rarely mentions as his baptism was nothing that he or his people wanted. It is his faith in God that is replenished in his final moments, and even as there is no redemption like that of the Biblical Job here, he does manage to die a good person rather than the evil feudal lord that he had been.

*This is the finest movie of the year from India, among all those which I have watched. Don’t miss this one! It is out of the usual league. It also leaves us with thoughts about the oppressed becoming the oppressor when opportunity arises, and also with a message on equality among the masses.

Release date: 7th November 2014
Running time: 160 minutes
Directed by: Amal Neerad
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Isha Sharvani, Lal, Jayasurya, Padmapriya, Chemban Vinod Jose, Reenu Mathews, Jinu Joseph, Vinayakan, Lena Abhilash, T. G. Ravi, Sreejith Ravi, Shebin Benson, Saritha Kuku, Nebish Benson, Sal Yusuf, Aashiq Abu (cameo), Amala Paul (cameo)

iyobintepustakam

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300: Rise of an Empire

300!

The Legacy of 300 :: There is the legacy that 300 had left behind when it released in 2006. I managed to watch it much later though, as this practice of multiplexes and new Hollywood movies instantly reaching here was not that normal at that time, unless the name of the movie is something like Avatar or may be if the title of movie has a certain 007 in it. Well, it has now reached that state when I have watched one of those movies even before its release date. Thanks to the special shows in the multiplexes the evening before its original release date which is in this case, February 7th. While King Leonidas said in 300, “This is Sparta!”, we are to be sure that there will be not much of that warrior city-state this time as we know that the best of them are already dead and they could be in mourning. This one involves more of the Athenians, of that land which would later have Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (as the Spartan Queen would say: there is no Athens, there is only that idea; there are only Athenians). But we were to be sure about two other things, there will be rivers of blood with some splashes and there will be not much loss of the stylish combats, no matter where it is fought or with whom it is fought; that is a safe bet indeed.

What is it about? :: The most courageous 300 men are dead. Even as Xerxes took a big hit on his face which somewhat disfigured and proved that even a god-king can bleed, he is extremely proud of his bloody achievement of slaughtering the outnumbered opponents. But the story doesn’t follow a direct and straight narrative, as it has the story of Themistocles, a politician and the commander of the Athenian army at the centre of the plot. But there are also the stories of Artemisia and King Xerxes as well as his father Darius, how the god-king became a reality and how the lady general of the Persian army became the sadistic creature that she turned out to be. As the Spartans fight the Persians on land, Themistocles leads the Athenians on a war at the sea. Even as the Greeks do score victories over the better-built and vastly numbered Persian ships by using superior tactics, terrain and weather conditions, they realize that it is only a matter of time until the Athenians begins to loss just because of being outnumbered and lacking in military training. They are still the more scholarly of the lot and the best naval power among the Greek city-states, and so may be they will hold on for enough time for the reinforcements to come from the other Greeks or even Sparta themselves – who knows?

The defence of 300: Rise of an Empire :: The first thing to think about as well as notice is the visual awesomeness of this movie. Yes, there is lot of special effects going on, and 3D nicely supports them – special mention for the blood and the rain. There are so many of the mighty ships of the Persians which are nicely detailed as nothing less than huge battering rams on water while the Greek ships are nicely detailed, smaller and quicker suiting the Athenian tactics. The battles are nicely done, not only with the ships, but also with the swords, bows and arrows and even the fire elements. The power of the seas, thunder and lightning, the foggy side, the carnage and the flowing blood – they all contribute to the beauty of the movie, and there is no stylish method which is forgotten in this worthy sequel. There is that spectacle you have been waiting for, something which is not easy to make with a ship full of one-sided ideas about blood and violence. The story is also nicely mixed, even as some people won’t like the way in which the story moves. Some part of this movie is a prequel to the original, and it is partly a sequel while some events happen at the same time as the events of 300. The story of Artemisia and Xerxes makes a nice addition to the whole thing.

The positives and negatives :: When our pretty antagonist said “Today we will dance across the backs of dead Greeks” she was pretty much serious. There is lot of blood everywhere in this movie, and lot of people loss their arms and legs; the rest just has a sword going right through them or ripping them apart. It is so bloody that one day, Count Dracula himself might wish to begin a vampire settlement somewhere around there – why wouldn’t he not want a sea of blood? Sometimes, one may think that there is too much of the CGI blood that it is somewhat funny as body parts keep flying around. Well, this movie goes only on one direction, which is to become that action movie, that sword flick which intend to bring on stylish action supported by a lot of blood and violence, and it has succeeded in the same. In the words of the Spartan Queen: “It begins as a whisper; a promise; the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind. A wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom; a wind of justice; a wind of vengeance”. Yes, it is war, and there might be more to come. But if the viewer is looking for anything else in the same, there comes the sadness; but what else would anyone who has known anything about 300 want? That was evident from the multiplex which had zero female presence, and there was almost nobody who was older than what would be a middle age, even when the seats were almost full.

Performers of the soul :: The best and the most gorgeous performer of the movie is indeed Eva Green. No, I had not doubt about that earlier either, even as I did wonder about Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles which was nice, but he wasn’t to be a Leonidas. Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo also has so much less to do, and same is the case of Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes who is still the unconquered nemesis. Yes, everyone had to make way for the stunning performance of the one who had showed us the dark side as the witch in Dark Shadows, making that image more powerful, relentless and furious in this one holding severed heads, sometimes kissing them or otherwise presenting them to her king. Throwing the losing commanders of the Persian Army into the depths of the Aegean Sea is just one of Artemisia’s hobbies. Whenever she is on the screen, there is so much strength in the movie and when she is not there to be found, the whole thing turns less interesting. May be there could have been even more of her, as she keeps at least one step above the movie all the time. But while the movie tries to make too much attempt to make everyone feel that it is better than the original with a certain complexity, her character losses some of the glory, but Eva is still there, so no worries! In the current timeline of the Persian invasion after the death of the 300, there are no damsels in distress; Gorgo and Artemisia joins the bloodbath as they go through the Persian Immortals and the Greek Hoplites respectively, sending them to their watery graves.

Soul exploration :: The movie has the Athenian democracy and the Spartan monarchy (or oligarchy) in the picture – both against the tyranny of their opponents. While the former has mostly scholar, sculptors and farmers with voluntary military service, the latters are warriors born to live and die on the battlefields prepared to serve mandatory military service. While the former focuses more on naval warfare due to the strategic location their city, the latter has dominance on land combat. There is one thing in common though, which is the Greek concept of freedom and the desire for a united Greece at least during a foreign invasion (Peloponnesian War would later place them against each other, when the Persians are not invading with a huge army and navy). The movie ends at the Battle of Salamis, or rather continues as the combat never really finishes. It becomes no Battle of Thermopylae though due to its setting. But one thing that this movie tries different from its predecessor is that it doesn’t really go one-sided; it has the side of Xerxes who is tormented and made to become the god-kind, and also the side of Artemisia who is abused and left for dead in her childhood only to come back and become the harbinger of death and destruction herself. It also makes an attempt to sound intellectual by bringing the Athenian idea and ideology into the scene, even as that doesn’t really work due to the half-baked nature and the narrative giving no place for the same. But it doesn’t really go either. Ancient Athens was still the city of freedom and the centre of art and learning, and that should be evident with the name it got from the goddess of wisdom.

How it finishes :: 300: Rise of an Empire shows Popmeii and The Legend of Hercules how it should have been done. The problem with this movie would be about how well it can match its predecessor. The best lines are already taken by the predecessor, like
“Immortals; we put their name to the test”.
“You have many slaves, Xerxes, but few warriors. It won’t be long before they fear my spears more than your whips”.
“Xerxes dispatches his monsters from half the world away. They’re clumsy beasts, and the piled Persian dead are slippery”.
“Now, as then, a beast approaches; patient and confident, savoring the meal to come. This beast is made of men and horses, swords and spears. An army of slaves vast beyond imagining, ready to devour tiny Greece, ready to snuff out the world’s one hope for reason and justice”.
“The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed”.
“Freedom isn’t free at all, that it comes with the highest of costs. The cost of blood.”
Meanwhile, the best lines of this sequel outside the three I have already mentioned is “Better we show them, we chose to die on our feet, rather than live on our knees”.
But as there was hope for Greece when everything was against the city-states, lets hope for the best in a future sequel, and may be wear some clothes or at least get better clothes. Persia might have never managed to conquer Greece, but in just about one hundred and fifty years, the Greeks would go on to conquer the whole Persian Empire under Alexander the Great and the name of the king will still be Darius – there lies the irony of it.

Release date: 7th March 2014
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Jack O’Connell, Andrew Tiernan, Yigal Naor, Andrew Pleavin, Ben Turner, Ashraf Barhom, Christopher Sciueref

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Mr. Peabody and Sherman

mrpeabody&sherman

Every dog has its day :: Mr. Peabody needs a day for himself, just like any other dog (but surely with specs and a bow tie) without that day being called “a dog’s day”. Yes, the other person without the title is the human character who is obviously less intelligent. As the cats have nine lives and continues to dodge death (with the exceptions of our favourite cats who successfully tested the speed of those faster cars on the highway, may be not knowing that eight of the nine lives have ended and it is nearing game over – they should come up with a life bar on the top right corner of the eye or something), the dogs also need a day on which they can use their awesomeness to good use without taking any physical risk that could permanently place them outside the material realm to be devoured by the soul reaver. This is that day for Peabody, a white dog which could have easily been the ruler of the planet on another parallel Earth. As an intelligent creature who doesn’t ask for the nine lives for himself or claim his right to a possible return from the dead in the name of equality, this dog takes us into an adventure which has already been highly rated by the critics and is indeed splendid.

What is it about? :: Mr. Peabody might be not only the smartest dog in the world, but also the most intelligent creature on Earth surpassing all humans with ease. He proved that he was different from the other dogs in the childhood itself, due to which he was never adopted and never had a home as a puppy. So later, he adopted a boy named Sherman instead, only after he gets rich and popular. As Sherman gets into conflict with his classmate, Penny Peterson who tried to the be the “mean girl”, the adoption agency blames it on the behaviour of Peabody who is an animal and they threaten to cancel the adoption. As Penny is invited to their home with her parents to make sure that nothing worse happens, the kids end up in the time machine invented by Peabody which is usually used to teach Sherman history. As Penny gets caught in Ancient Egypt, Peabody and Sherman has to make things right before the space-time continuum is completely destroyed. But for the same, just a random journey to Egypt won’t be enough, that is for sure.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman @Ancient Egypt :: Chronologically the first place to be visited, but otherwise the second, the Little King Tut a.k.a Tutankhamun wants force Penny into child marriage to which she has no objection (even with the revelation that his name rhymes with butt) until she comes to know about the wonderful customs of the land from the Vizier. This is a nice little episode (the movie is so short, so it had to be little) which involves them wandering around through the tombs inside The Sphinx and using the statue of Anubis, the god of death to their advantage. There are some nice jokes involving plague, the underworld and the god-kings. This place is the answer to where, when and how the adventures of Peabody and Sherman actually begins. Well, what is the use of a time machine if you haven’t seen the Pyramids in the zenith of its glory? We don’t have the Roman or the Persian Empire at its zenith, at least we got Egypt. Still, there could have been more of the place, and the same can be felt about what is to be mentioned next.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman @Greek-Troy War :: The trio lands in the middle of the Greek Trojan war as the result of a crash making it chronologically the second place to be visited, otherwise the final one. The Greeks are ready to avenge the death of Achilles and bring the fight into the city of Troy as they have carefully placed themselves inside the Wooden Horse. Sherman joins King Agamemnon, Odysseus and team in their battle against Troy, but is saved by Peabody before Trojans get to him. One has to admit that Agamemnon is the funniest character of the movie, and as the good guys beating up the enemies, they are lots of fun. From the location map, I was of the impression that this was going to be the Dracula Castle which was not to be. Well, there should be a sequel, we can hope for that. The father-son relationship reaches its climax during this visit and right after that, as a good number of historical figures make a visit to the future.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman @Italian Renaissance :: The trio catches up with Leonardo da Vinci during his attempt to paint Mona Lisa and even manages to make the lady smile or rather laugh in the process. Chronologically the third place to be visited and otherwise the second, this visit to Florence is when Sherman finds himself capable of something and he also gets along with Penny even managing to fly the prototype of a flying machine made by da Vinci together. The city of Florence as well as the Florence cathedral looks beautifully created, and the painting scene as well as the flying scene are nicely done. It is obvious that there were so many people in the theatre who knew nothing about Renaissance, it was a cultural movement of the thirteenth and fourteenth century beginning in the Italian states, especially the city of Florence. We were not taught about it in detail in the school history books, but Mr. Peabody will make sure that you won’t forget it that easily.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman @French Revolution :: Being at the French Revolution was more of a study trip for Sherman until things get serious. Thus it was the first time travel event to be shown even as it should come last in a chronological order. Caught between the cakes of Marie Antoinette and the call for assassination by Maximilien de Robespierre, Sherman avoids some advice for having cake as Peabody is almost executed in the guillotine before he finds a way out. As he mistakes Reign of Terror which comes with the French Revolution to be just another rain – they seem to struggle to escape, but Peabody does the escape act with ease. Nobody seems to be a match for the talking dog. The significant role which history would play in this movie is evident from this. I would say no history lover can dare to miss this movie, and it can also serve as a very interesting history class for kids, even as the movie might seem to lack logic like any other animated movie along with lacking in total content.

How it finishes :: Mr. Peabody & Sherman is that movie which has prevented Non-Stop from releasing here, and it might not be a good news for many, as it was a much awaited movie especially with Liam Neeson coming back to that path and into that avatar which the fans would like him to follow. Still, it has only lesser shows here at selected multiplexes just like The Lego Movie had if not slightly better. But as it is such a wonderful movie, why would someone ask for anything else? To add to it, this movie releases here a week before it releases in the United States, and that is a twist of fate. Let’s not be fooled by the name of the movie, as it is indeed not good enough to bring people to the big screen. The first impression that came to my mind when I heard the title was not good either. But do not just a movie by its name, especially an animated movie, as they never cease to surprise you, like this one which is the best movie of the year so far – yes better than The Lego Movie too.

Release date: 28th February 2014 (India); 7th March 2014 (US)
Running time: 92 minutes
Directed by: Rob Minkoff
Starring (voice): Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Leslie Mann, Stephen Colbert, Allison Janney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Mel Brooks, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Lake Bell, Zach Callison, Lauri Fraser, Guillaume Aretos, Dennis Haysbert

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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

madrascafe copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.