The Whistlers

Vampire Owl: Do you remember how long we waited to watch a Romanian movie?

Vampire Bat: I am not sure. Maybe, we waited for an eternity.

Vampire Owl: Vampires deserve to watch Romanian movies, don’t they?

Vampire Bat: This movie was selected as the Romanian entry for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Oscars.

Vampire Owl: So, we might be beginning our Romanian movie watching with one of the best.

Vampire Bat: Yes, I don’t see why we shouldn’t go for the best.

Vampire Owl: Should we call Uncle Dracula and the minions to watch this one too?

Vampire Bat: After we watch the movie and declare it safe, they can watch it too.

Vampire Owl: Okay, then. We are going for our first Romanian film.

Vampire Bat: Do watch it carefully, and come up with an opinion.

[Gets an chocolate cake and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a Romanian police officer who acts as a whistle blower for mafia, and it is made clear that he is not someone who stays on one side at all times, as the switch does happen very often. Even though he is under police surveillance for suspected corruption, Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) who has been part of organized crime, manages to bring up a plan to free a controversial businessman arrested in Bucharest and asks for his help in the job. She poses as a high level prostitute with Cristi as her most valued customer to make the cameras set in his house believe that she is up to nothing related to such crimes and gangs, and is just there to provide him her service which she proves to the eyes behind the camera. Cristi is forced by her to go to La Gomera Island, one of Spain’s Canary Islands to learn an ancestral whistling language which he can use to connect to mobsters without being detected by the police or anybody else who possessed some threat to them.

So, what happens with the events here? :: This ancestral whistling language has been the kind of thing used to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys of the island. It enables messages to be exchanged over long distance, and he hopes to study it soon enough, because he needs to get the man out of prison, as he is someone who needs to be outside to give information about millions of cash. As this a case with so much of money involved, there is the certainty of twists occurring. Everyone is after a missing thirty million in cash, and as both the criminals and the police tries to find where the man hid the money. But Cristi has some other plans along with finding the money for any of these sides. For the same, he would come up with a more twisted idea. But it is to be seen whether he would be successful in the same, because he is playing with fire on more than one side. Can he get out of there, maybe with Gilda on his side without being hurt, or will he be hit by the terror that is going to be unleashed when the thirty million is lost?

The defence of The Whistlers :: It can be seen that The Whistlers is that kind of a movie which slowly gets the thrills to us, and from the beginning itself, the same starts getting on to us. You know that all the characters here are up to something, and we are able to feel the same quite early. It also brings a certain amount of humour in there and we also have the surprises thrown in here and there. The settings used here are all beautiful, and when looking at the scenes in Romanian towns as well as the Spanish island far away from its coasts, we are all glad to see such things of beauty. The performances of Vlad Ivanov and Catrinel Marlon are nothing less than deadly either. If you haven’t watched any Romanian movies yet, this might be the film to begin watching these from that particular industry, as it seems to be a lot ahead to catch our attention with almost everything shown on the screen. With the same, there is also simplicity in its complexity.

Positives and negatives :: The Whistlers is the kind of movie which moves too slow for some kind of audience who might be looking for better pace considering the fact that this is a crime thriller. The beginning with the main characters playing certain roles for the cameras seemed to suggest that this was going to be quicker in pace, but it was not so. But it is good to see that unlike the other crime thrillers, this is the kind of movie which cares about its humans too, and they are not really the kind of people who are there to keep shooting and get shot. You can see that power and weakness, loneliness and companionship, pretension and sincerity, trust and the lack of it – all are shown as part of life, while we see everyman elements in these characters around here. The world of crime is not about keeping on shooting people and creating chaos, as there is something more about it, as this movie tries to prove. The Whistlers is more than what meets the eye, as you compare it to the other movies of the genre.

Performers of the soul :: Vlad Ivanov as Cristi comes up with a solid performance, as he plays a character whose intentions are never really that clear, and it is one unpredictable character which he plays to perfection. This particular character is never really the person we think that he is, and he shows signs of the person who brings the twists quite early. Catrinel Marlon as Gilda is nothing less than fantastic, as she plays a femme fatale character with certain class, but it is also a character with more than one side, which she proves quite early into the movie. In the beginning, we even have the doubt if she is the main character, as she is in action just ten minutes into the movie, dictating terms and flourishing on the screen. She is a different kind of Anna, as you look at her closely, and she never hesitates to bring all that she can, at any moment. The same can be seen again in more and more moments, as we see her getting her righteous place in there on different occasions. Rodica Lazar comes up with a fine believable role as the police officer who is in charge.

How it finishes :: The Whistlers is a special movie, not just because it is a crime thriller which keeps itself solid, but also due to how well it handles the content smoothly. This is surely a movie that you would want to watch, and then continue to watch more of Romanian movies – I had said the same about another movie, a Vietnamese one which could introduce you to that film industry really well. Both The Whistlers and Furie as unknown movies in this part of the world, and as people rush to look for more and more Korean movies, these two movies in two different languages from different parts of the world deserves your attention. I have always loved Romania as a place which had the historical region of Transylvania, as my best interest is in Gothic works – it is a place which I would love to visit one day to see those castles which are often related with Count Dracula, but until then, maybe I can watch some more of wonderful Romanian movies. This one is just beginning, as rest will surely come.

Release date: 13th September 2019
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Corneliu Porumboiu
Starring: Catrinel Marlon, Vlad Ivanov, Agusti Villaronga, Cristobal Pinto, Sergiu Costache, Antonio Buil

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Vampire Owl: Have you read The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James?

Vampire Bat: Yes, I had read that novel as a part of writing an assignment during my English Language and Literature post graduation.

Vampire Owl: What would adding some fire to the title mean?

Vampire Bat: I don’t think that this has any relation with it. This one is actually French. This is not Korean or Chinese for a change. Let this burn bright!

Vampire Owl: So, the portrait is not really the portrait that one might be led to believe it is. I would still choose a Polaroid camera instead.

Vampire Bat: It was about a young woman who inhered a large amount of money, and becoming prey to some scheming.

Vampire Owl: I have heard about the author, but most of the people I know haven’t.

Vampire Bat: Well, he hasn’t been writing the kind of works, the vampires have been reading, and so its natural not to know.

Vampire Owl: So, you are now choosing French.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we have been going further international these days.

[Gets a vancho cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: The story is set at some time period during the end of the late eighteenth century. Marianne (Noemie Merlant) is a young painter who takes painting classes to her eager students. As she makes them paint her portrait, one of her students asks her about a special painting from her, which Marianne used to call Portrait de la jeune fille en feu. It takes us back to the origins of that particular painting, and the same has a close relationship with Marianne’s past and her emotional side. Once upon a time, Marianne was called to an isolated island in Brittany in the west of France, to paint a portrait of a young woman named Heloise (Adele Haenel) by her mother The Countess (Valeria Golino). Marianne struggles to reach there, as she herself, and the canvas falls into the sea on her way.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There, she meets Sophie (Luana Bajrami), a beautiful young girl who works as the servant to the Countess and her daughter. They become good friends, and comes to know that Heloise was at the convent, and was forced to come back to marry a wealthy Italian nobeleman because her sister had died, supposed to have jumped off a cliff. Now, this portrait is to be sent to that possible husband of Heloise as soon as possible. The Countess says that her daughter was not ready to pose in front of any painter, and so Marianne will have to pretend that she was someone who had come to accompany her during her walks, to get rid of her boredom. It seemed to be the only way for her, and Marianne started being friends with Heloise who arrived there. She also started observing Heloise enough to paint her in parts. But there will be more than just a painting that we will be having here.

The defence of Portrait of a Lady on Fire :: There is some beautiful serenity that runs through this movie and its silence which serves more than anything else, as the main actresses really make a lovely impact with their expressions and body language itself, getting us immersed into this tale set in the late eighteenth century Brittany. The setting is incredibly beautiful, making you wish to make a visit, and one wonders where this particular island stands in history. This environment created as part of this movie is a charming one, but it is also a very simple one – it is not that usually colourful world from a grand historical past as we usually see in historical drama, action or thriller movies. We go through the eyes of an artist who is not just a painter, but someone with intimate feelings which she seems to have gained in connection to her work on the canvas – it reflects there as much as it shows up in her soul.

The claws of flaw :: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a very slow movie, as you might have expected it from the talks about it, and also by what you have further read about the same. The movie also has some moments which are not utilized the best, especially related to the artistic work, the painting. The focus could have been more on that painting, and the artists feelings should have been above the person’s intimacy. There is also a lot of time taken in the beginning, and in between, which is felt more because of the movie’s slow pace. There could have also been some more characters to provide support, and this movie’s viewpoints are rather limited when you look at it. There is a lot of silence and a good number of dialogues, but there is less happening for the people who are looking for that as the thing which defines a movie – after all, this is close to being what you call the award movie in this part of the world. Two hours were not needed for this movie for sure.

Performers of the soul :: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a movie nominated for Golden Palm, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, where it lost to the Korean Oscar Winner, Parasite, and so you know that this one had to score in its performances more than anything else. It has to be noted that all the main characters in this movie are female, and you see some men for that amount of time which can be better counted using seconds rather than minutes. The movie is that much dependent on its female characters, especially the two main ladies, with more to be added from a third young character, and a little more from the much older character who plays the mother. I haven’t watched many French movies, but Noemie Merlant is the one lovely actress who has come up with a perfect performance here which cannot be matched. She has been very expressive, and very much enchanting as the painter, closely followed by Adele Haenel who manages almost the same. Luana Bajrami, the next important character is done well, and Valeria Golino is there for less time, and does fine.

How it finishes :: The movie is not to be confused with The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, as the title only has the addition of fire in the end, which might have been enough to prove its point. But people are more or less attracted into feeling that this is the same thing, and only the fact that this is not a British or American movie making them feel that this is something else. But the movie is not a lesser classic when you look at it, as it feels like an old-fashioned throughout its run. It is a slow-moving thing of charm, which makes sure that the moments are there to stay. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is more or less a feeling set in that historical period, and it has that delicate beauty with the realistic touch which is to stay for the beauty of tranquility, and not for what we usually remember a movie for. Portrait of a Lady on Fire takes you through the different, classic path.

Release date: 18th September 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Celine Sciamma
Starring: Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel, Luana Bajrami, Valeria Golino

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The First Purge

Vampire Owl: Do you remember those moments when this was first implemented in the werewolf territory?

Vampire Bat: What are you talking about?

Vampire Owl: The day when werewolves brutally murdered each other.

Vampire Bat: How can I know? I am not spending my time looking at whatever happens in that territory.

Vampire Owl: Well, you should know that it was not that bloody as it would be if humans implemented it.

Vampire Bat: I know. Nobody I know is as blood-thirsty as an average human.

Vampire Owl: Because it is quite natural for them to be evil. They choose it with ease, while we are declared to be evil because we are undead.

Vampire Bat: I have never been that fond of their categorizations.

Vampire Owl: It is more or less, the divisions.

Vampire Bat: The divisions guide them towards eternal hate.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with Arrowroot Biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: We remember that the New Founding Fathers of America, a totalitarian political party, came into power after an economic collapse. There was the law that sanctioned an annual Purge for twelve hours each year, when all types of crime, including murder, would be legal, with emergency services being unavailable. It helped the United States to become nearly crime-free with the unemployment rate dropping to the lowest ever. Earlier movies had mentioned those families and people who struggled during these times to survive against the chaos which was unleashed. This movie goes a few years back from there, as there was the time when this was beginning to be attempted on a trial basis. This experiment would be taking place on Staten Island, which is the southernmost as well as the westernmost of the five boroughs of New York City.

So, what happens next? :: New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) members Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh) and Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei) announce a social experiment which is to take place in the island. It proclaims the twelve hours of purge, an activity during which the residents could be involved in anything illegal, including, robbery, rape and murder. There is also the offer for the residents of the Island to have $5000 to stay in their homes during the experiment and also a suitable compensation for those who would be participating in the brutality. There would be no ambulance or police, and the criminals would be on the streets with those who wish to go illegal. The participants would have tracking devices and contact lenses with cameras, so that whatever activity they do, can be tracked, and some of them can be even shown in the television channels. There are also those drones which would be monitoring everything from the sky.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: Among those who leads the purge is a drug addict known as Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) who also manages to draw the first blood with a brutal murder, and tries to follow up the same with raping women and murdering anyone whom he finds on the street. Nya (Lex Scott Davis), an anti-purge activist who fails to stop the experiment, joins her friends Dolores (Mugga), Luisa (Lauren Velez), and Selina (Kristen Solis) in a church which they find to be the safest place on the island. Most of the people in the church had decided to stay because they are very poor and the amount of 5000 meant that they could have three meals a day after a long time. Meanwhile, the purge keeps getting stronger on the streets, and Skeletor leads the kill count by randomly attacking purge parties held all around the island. It is then that the drug lord and Nya’s former boyfriend Dmitri (Y’lan Noel) finds out that there is something strange about the purge – then, things change.

The defence of The First Purge :: The human impulse to go towards savagery against civilization, continues to be shown in this purge movie too. We are reminded of humanity’s inherent evil, and the never-ending desire to be free by punishing and murdering others and having extreme joy out of it. The First Purge also boasts about a lot of action in store, and we can see the experiment in the lines of The Belko Experiment taking place here, with some bringing death and the others trying to survive. There is some intense action in the final stages of the movie, and there is he reflection of what the politicians and the government has always tried to achieve, to divide and rule people, as well as make sure that the poor are among the dead, more than any other category, thus lessening poverty, hunger and unemployment to a level which can be managed. The First Purge has that idea which has a lot of truth, and it meets our soul once again as it did with other Purge flicks.

The claws of flaw :: One might feel that this version of purge might be the weakest of all similar movies. With the idea already established, and three interesting movies already made, we would expect the franchise to do better this time, but it doesn’t, as long as this particular movie is concerned. The cast is also not that strong, even Lex Scott Davis stands above the rest, and Y’lan Noel does have his moments. With the purge, there is always the chance for further innovations, but this one stands behind in that case. There no further venturing into that idea which could gather a lot of appreciation if used in the best manner. As we have watched all other purge movies, this one has more of repetition rather than anything else. The atrocities committed with this purge could have portrayed further, with humanity’s nature being questioned in a stronger and shocking manner.

How it finishes :: The Purge franchise has made all of us think, and with The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year, we have all been thinking about its basic idea, and relate it to humanity, society and the inherent evil in man which forces one to achieve catharsis in one way or the other. In our world, we have bandhs and harthals were political goons try to destroy property and people stay at home fearing this. Further north, there have been communal violence and riots in the name of dead cows, and all of these are options for those who need to take law into their hand and commit all kinds of atrocities. The Purge has one tale to tell in a part of the world, and another somewhere else. The whole humanity is driven towards that idea which William Golding showed in the 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies – The inherent evil becomes the truth, and committing all kinds of atrocities can be done naturally by humans.

Release date: 4th July 2018
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Gerard McMurray
Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Steve Harris, Mugga, Christian Robinson, Lauren Velez, Kristen Solis, Marisa Tomei, Cindy Robinson, Patch Darragh, Maria Rivera, Chyna Layne, Siya, Melonie Diaz, Mo McRae, Rotimi Paul, Kevin Carrigan

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Varikkuzhiyile Kolapathakam

What is the movie about? :: Fr. Vincent Kombana (Amith Chakalakkal) is the parish priest and also a much respected figure in the small remote island of Arayamthuruth. Being an ex-policeman, he believes in getting things right in his own way, and how to have control over the small law and order problems that happen in the island. He is determinted to make sure that everyone around him walks the right path. For the same, he walks around at night, and checks if nobody causes any trouble. One night, while going through his usual walk, he witnesses a murder, but it turns out that he just can’t speak about it. But he has to let the people and the police know about this crime without talking about it. Being a trained ex-policeman, he plans on finding the reason behind the murder and about how the victim ended up being one.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: On the other side of the events is Joy Kattukkaran (Dileesh Pothan), a man with many secrets. Part of the same parish, he is one of the richest men in the village, and with his wife Lissy (Lena), seems to live a happy life. The other seemingly nice men in the village (Nandhu and Nedumudi Venu) also have their own secrets. The seemingly Victorian Compromise, was not working in anyone’s favour, as most people out there were not what they seemed to be. Caught between them, and hoping to solve a mystery won’t be Fr. Vincent Kombana, but Komban Vincent, a man with a long past during his life at Mattanchery. Now the question remains about how far the priest can go to bring the murderer to justice while staying within the borders of religion. Before the feast occurs at the church, he has to do it.

The defence of Varikkuzhiyile Kolapathakam :: The trailers had showed that there is something out there to be witnessed in this movie with grandeur. There is no lack of style here, and we are also introduced to a different kind of priest, and a beautiful remote island which brings a lot of beautiful visuals. There are some nice moments to go with it too. After Paippin Chuvattile Pranayam and Kumbalangi Nights, this is another movie to bring that kind of a setting with backwaters and showing simple lives along with problems faced by the locals. There are some nice twists happening here, and the interval punch is a perfect one. There are some funny moments, but the focus shifts, and we are given the idea that there is more to come with a major shift in the proceedings – the movie goes forward with the links being connected nicely. Things come together nicely in the end, and we are left with something to guess too.

The claws of flaw :: With the premise and the idea, Varikkuzhiyile Kolapathakam could have surely achieved much more. There are moments when the movie go extra-stylish and with some more drama than needed. It also shows a certain shift from the major point at times, and also takes some time to get into the mood – it is with the interval that the movie gets clearly into that path. With a murder mystery at the centre, and having a number of talented actors for support, this could have gone forward with many twists and turns as well as shocking revelations, instead of revealing a little too much early. When choosing an unconventional path, going for something special is easier, as things will easily blend in – it hasn’t been focused on, that much. Some of the jokes were also less effective, and there was chance to add more in that department too.

The performers of the soul :: Amith Chakalakkal brings life to the role of an ex-policeman and priest nicely. We have seen him in some notable roles, but the most significant one was surely as the leader of the gang of youngsters in Pretham 2. He remains strong throughout this movie, and even goes rather extra-stylish at some moments. The character could have done with less heroism, and without that stylish hero image. Among the senior actors, it is Dileesh Pothan who is there for more than anyone else. With certain negative shades, this is something that he does with ease, in his usual style. We know what he can make out of even the simplest of roles, and the director leaves something for us in the acting department too, every time. The negative side is safe with him, in a way that it rises when needed, so well.

Further performers of the soul :: Lena is there for a short time, but leaves her mark with ease – maybe she could have been there for more, one would feel so. Anjali Nair has that kind of a role which she has done a lot of times before – her smaller roles have remained notable. Shammi Thilakan provides some fine support in between, staying close to the protagonist. This is one role that becomes significant in more than one way concerning the story. Nedumudi Vendu doesn’t have much to do though – his character itself could have been replaced by any other doing the same kind of actions. Sudhi Koppa is also left with a small role, and Nandu has more though. The second outing of the director Rejishh Midhila after Lal Bahadhur Shastri of 2015 also helps him to make a point, as the whole level has advanced from there.

How it finishes :: It is always great to have movies like this without the so called superstars doing so well – Joseph did the same, rising out of its low budget status to become the best Malayalam movie of the year 2018, something which nobody expected with so many big budget movies releasing in the year with many big names associated with them. This one won’t be the same for this year, but the effort has been good to go this far, with its title coming from Manianpilla Raju’s character Hitchcock Kanjikkuzhi in the movie No. 20 Madras Mail. During these times when good thrillers are hard to come, Varikkuzhiyile Kolapathakam takes the pain to bring something different, and it is to be appreciated. It is to be noted that we have had some good time with Malayalam movie industry so far, and it has been just near 2 months.

Release date: 22nd February 2019
Running time: 123 minutes
Directed by: Rejishh Midhila
Starring: Amith Chakalakkal, Dileesh Pothan, Lal, Anjana Appukuttan, Baby, Dheeraj Denny, Gokulan, Sudhi Koppa, Anjali Nair, Nandu, Kainakary Thankaraj, Shammi Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kumbalangi Nights

What is the movie about? :: Four brothers Saji (Soubin Shahir), Bonney (Sreenath Bhasi), Bobby (Shane Nigam) and Franky (Matthew Thomas) live in a small house which on an abandoned side of the fishing village of Kumbalangi. Born and brought up in a remote area on the island which came to be connected to mainland Kochi by a bridge only a few years back, they have been living happily, content with what they have. Their small area itself forms a very small island where people abandon their dogs and cats. Saji and Bobby doesn’t have jobs even though the former manages to get something without working. Bonney works with a music and dance troupe while Franky is a student and a football enthusiast. Things seem to be going smoothly even though none of them has any real purpose in life. They fight with each other and also with others, and have some drinks, wasting their time without regret. There are no thoughts about future either.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: Things have a twist when Bobby falls in love with Babymol (Anna Ben) who has been admiring him for a long time. She works in a resort at Kallenchery side of Kumbalangi as a tourist guide and also runs a home-stay near her home. The two wants to get married, but her sister Simi’s (Grace Antony) husband Shammi (Fahadh Faasil) decides things in the house due to her father’s demise, and he wouldn’t have him as a co-brother. Shammi wants someone who is equal to him, and asks Bobby to get a job and renovate their small house. Bobby finds out that Shammi is not someone who can be reasoned with, and gets to work. But can Bobby get to marry considering the fact that Shammi is considering more than what he says? Also, can the brothers settle their differences and stop fighting each other at regular intervals for different reasons?

The defence of Kumbalangi Nights :: The first thing that strikes you here is the presence of those Chinese nets against the beautiful backwaters and greenery, captured so wonderfully. At night, the sight becomes even more beautiful, becoming the enchanting Kumbalangi – the visuals are too good. Supporting the same, are some excellent performances from each person on the screen – being a movie which gives equal importance to its characters, we see nobody backing down here. The emotions and the funny side stand at two sides of the backwaters, sometimes jumping into water together, and at times, one after the other. As a realistic take on the life of struggling people, we listen to the local slang, and we also see common factors of life. If you have been to Kumbalangi, you will see a few things which will remind you of the village – not just the fishing nets, but also the bridge to Kumbalangi, the path to Kallenchery, the Kallenchery Resort and others. There we love the simplicity that the movie displays.

Positives and negatives :: The nights at Kumbalangi is a tale of the abandoned, who seek redemption within the world which has become a part of them. The lives of the subaltern nicely gets the treatment that it deserves. It is not like those movies which choose “jobless youngsters becoming gangsters” to show the same idea, because Kumbalangi Nights nicely manages to think above that idea. It destroys the stereotype that Angamaly Diaries also created earlier in the name of a realistic tale, and goes for real, common people instead of thugs. Kumbalangi Nights is a welcome metamorphosis from the usual to the unusal, an extension of the movies like Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Thondimuthalum Drikshashiyum. As it touches you deep with its realistic depiction of all things with even more realistic dialogues, from the talk about true love to those related to family and relationships, there is no reason for you not to watch it. You can ask for more from the story, but the tale here is of life itself. It still takes some time to get going, and can be considered to be slow in the beginning by a few.

The performers of the soul :: The four actors who play the four brothers form the core of the movie. Among them, it is Shane Nigam who plays the Romeo character that touches your heart very early. He excels in those romantic sequences too. We remember those early signs in Kismath which were so nicely carried into Parava, and Shane is now here, playing another character so naturally. Soubin Shahir is fantastic with those emotional scenes and the character never fails to bring the funny side alive too, even when things are going very serious. He has those moments that touch hearts so well in the second half. Sreenath Bhasi plays the mute character very well with actions and expressions. Matthew Thomas who plays the school boy is not far behind either. We see how well they combine to make the moments in this flick so much better. In their journey, in their transformation, in their brotherhood, we find our messages of life as they find redemption.

Further performers of the soul :: Two leading ladies add to it in the same way. Grace Antony does her job in a believable manner, becoming the local house wife as one would expect her to be. She also proves that she can handle the funny side really well. At the same time, the debutante who leaves a fantastic mark here is Anna Ben. Among all the dialogues in the movie, it is those that she says that stays with us for long. Those related to “true love” and “knowing Jesus” are among them – we feel those to be so natural that whether they are emotional or funny, they go deep. Then you see Fahadh Faasil who steals the show each and every time he appears on the screen, and by the end, we see him in a performance that we least expect. There is more to his character than what meets the eye, and we have had that feeling before, in Varathan – no we are not going to find such exaggeration here, because this is the life of everyman with struggles rather than someone with the silver-spoon. We have no heroes here – instead, we have people whom we understand, and their myriad of emotions taking roots within us. Heroism is shown to be abnormal, and what the villain wishes to display – others live life.

How it finishes :: This is one movie which surely doesn’t look like the director’s debut film, as one would find it difficult to come up with complaints here. The choice of Kumbalangi is a smart one too, and it makes sure that things get closer to perfection unlike Paippin Chuvattile Pranayam which couldn’t do the same even with backwaters all around. There is poetry in Kumbalangi Nights, with its beautiful backwaters, and the lives of people who face abandonment just like their surroundings, and how they seek redemption. It is a realistic through the common man’s life with all those emotions coming from within, and we see how the setting contributes to making the story even more beautiful. Last year, we had to wait till Joseph to have the best of the year, and this year, this month, with Kumbalangi Nights, the best of the year might have come early. With it lighting up our world, we no longer have the darkness of the nights, as they are replaced with (k)nights in shining armour who reflect the light.

And here is one beautiful song to add to it:

Release date: 7th February 2019
Running time: 135 minutes
Directed by: Madhu C Narayanan
Starring: Shane Nigam, Anna Ben, Grace Antony, Sreenath Bhasi, Soubin Shahir, Fahadh Faasil, Ramesh Thilak, Matthew Thomas, Dileesh Pothen

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kong: Skull Island

Vampire Owl: Oh, Mr. Kong. I have heard that the humans used to call him King Kong. What happened to the king title?

Vampire Bat: Well, it seems that the humans has once again decided that only the mankind is the king and ruler above all species on Earth.

Vampire Owl: It is absurd. We are cent percent better than them. These people got such a huge mountain of ego that jumping off it to their sensible side is rather suicide.

Vampire Bat: What can we do? They are just proud of one thing or the other all the time. Then there are a few others who kill their own kind in the name of animals.

Vampire Owl: I don’t understand these humans. I actually understand werewolves better, which should be why are having a war with them.

Vampire Bat: Even humans never understand each other.

Vampire Owl: I would have been surprised if they did.

Vampire Bat: They even form teams to kill each other.

Vampire Owl: I wish werewolves had such teams, but they are so united.

Vampire Bat: Maybe Kong could work to get rid of those really bad ones among them.

[Gets three cups of strong tea with Mariegold biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: We see that two fighter planes which were going through combat in the air crashes on an unknown island. The American soldier named Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) and a Japanese soldier named Gunpei Ikari (Miyavi) who have been fighting each other as the World War II was coming near the end, continues the combat, this time on the ground. While Gunpei manages to get the advantage with his samurai sword, a giant hand emerges from under the cliff, and the two gets back in shock. Later, in the year 1973, a team is sent by the United States to an island in the South Pacific known as Skull Island intending to discover what awaits inside before its Cold War opponent the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics decides to find its secrets first. The newfound opponent getting there before them was something that they couldn’t agree to, and due to the same, a former British Special Air Service named Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is hired as the tracker to guide the new expedition.

So, what happens next? :: William Randa (John Goodman) is in charge of the operation, and intends to prove something, and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who has suspicions that there some secret warfare going on, also manages to join the gang to know what war is coming up after the failure of the Vietnam war. When a team lead by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) joins the expedition, her suspicions increase. As the team drops explosives at different part of the island according to the plan by the seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) to map out the island, they face something which they had not witnessed before, a giant creature which reveals itself as a huge ape, of the size of a skyscraper – the creature attacks the helicopters, easily destroying all air units, killing a number of men, and the others crashing at different parts of the island.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: Preston feels that there is more than what meets the eye about this island, and when confronted, William reveals that he has been tracking these monsters for a long time, and there is a secret government wing which deals with these supernatural creatures, and they have been trying to get enough proof about the same, so that this possible threat against humanity could be dealt with, in one way or the other. He asks Preston to get him out of there, so that he could prove to the outside the world that such creatures exist, and there is reason for humans to be afraid of the monsters, thus proving that he has always been right, and not a nutcase. But Preston is more interested in something else, to kill the giant ape which murdered his soldiers – he would not stop until he sees the monster dead. The other team meets Hank Marlow who had survived on the island from the Second World War times, and he tells them that it is not Kong whom they should be worried about, as there are more, including the Skull crawlers – well, will anyone survive all these horror?

The defence of Kong: Skull Island :: You know what to expect of this movie, and you know that there is no chance of such a movie doing terribly – well, this one really manages to work on that formula so nicely. There is no shortage of fun in an old-fashioned tale about an island full of monsters, and will some skill, they have brought more quality into that idea. The special effects are too good, and CGI, as usual is nothing less than grand – we see more than one creature causing trouble, and we see the monsters battling each other, as we had seen in the last Godzilla movie, and this one doesn’t have that dark setting; the whole setting on the island is just some great joy to watch. We are also have a certain improvement from the 2005 version of King Kong, and this feels so much bigger on the screen. You will end up asking for more of Kong after this movie, and we have the monster who is capable of more than just destruction. Here, you will get to witness the monster power and all the action with less drama.

The claws of flaw :: You will always want more with a monster movie with the giant ape. The human characters are also very less significant in this movie which provides them only secondary or even lower status compared to the monsters on whom the movie is all about – we have so many of them here, but not much is there to be done with them. We would have also wished for more monsters – Kong could have used all the space used by humans too, because they do less and be the bad side of the movie, despite a lot of talent being present there. They could have at least thought and talked further about a philosophical side like Godzilla of 2014 did. We also wanted terrifying sequences with those which were called skull crawlers, or even other creatures who had the scope to unleash terror. Getting closer to simple monster horror would have been the best point of this movie, but this one chooses to go around on so many occasions – we can forgive most of them, but the viewers have to wonder what would have happened otherwise.

How it finishes :: Kong: Skull Island leaves us with the idea that there are some lines which shouldn’t be crossed, and that humans are not in control of nature or Earth, as they think – there will always be enough within this world to teach humans one lesson or two. We had seen the same in the movie Godzilla when balance was brought, and humanity was saved as monsters battled each other. There is even more to come in that case with Godzilla: King of the Monsters coming up in 2019, and the two movie series combining to bring Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020. Well, the monsters are going to attack our theatre screens more and more, and lets get ready for the same by watching Kong: Skull Island, which is the one King Kong movie which will take you back to your childhood, and enjoy this new, superior take of the myth with all that nostalgia and also the newly found glory with the best of visual effects, and the wonderful evolution of the tale of the giant ape. Well, when a monster calls, you have to listen and see the wonder that he is.

Release date: 10th March 2017
Running time: 118 minutes
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly, Eugene Cordero, Miyavi, Richard Jenkins, Marc Evan Jackson

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Jurassic World II

What is the movie about? :: A few years have passed after the events of the earlier movie, and the Jurassic World theme park on Isla Nublar has been abandoned since the evacuation. As dinosaurs roamed freely on the island, a mercenary team which arrives on the island makes an attempt to retrieve DNA from the remains of the cloned hybrid dinosaur Indominus rex, which was killed by a Mosasaurus. They successfully deliver the sample even though the team is attacked by a Mosasaurus and a Tyrannosaurus. The aim of the mercenaries is unknown, but at the same time, there is wide protest in the United States of America and other parts of the world in favour of saving the dinosaurs as the species, even though cloned, faces extinction again while facing a huge volcanic eruption, with the exception of Mosasaurus which escaped from the island through water.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: Jurassic World’s former manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is now part of a dinosaur protection group gets a call from Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). The man, along with Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) confirm that they are planning to move these dinosaurs to a place where they will be safe. There will be no human contact, and without men to bother them, the creatures could thrive in their own world – this would cause no alarm for any other species. For locating Blue, the last living Velociraptor and smarter one among the dinosaurs, Claire recruits Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Jurassic World’s former Velociraptor trainer, to join the mission to save the species facing extinction. They are joined by Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) as they travel to the island.

And what is follow with the tale? :: The leader of the hired soldiers at the island, Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) is in charge of resue operations at Isla Nublar. He enjoys stealing the teeth of dinosaurs and making sure that they stay in the cages in one way or the other. Sooner or later, a few dinosaurs won’t be the biggest of their problems. There is Gunnar Eversol (Toby Jones) who comes into play, as he hopes to sell these dinosaurs through auction, while making them perfectly suitable for becoming war machines – as animals have always been used as weapons by humans throughout history. In between all of this, time is running out for dinosaurs, as the whole island gets ready to be destroyed by volcanic erruption. Can at least some of them including Blue be saved by the team, as the chances for extinction is once again so high?

The defence of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom :: The movie begins nicely as it introduces its two best pre-historic creatures, Mosasaurus and Tyrannosaurus very early, displaying moments of glory that this franchise has to offer us. There is no shortage of such moments, with the dinosaurs trying to escape the island, and the lava taking over, as well as the final battle with another hybrid dinosaur. There is the fear factor being utilized really well, and the dinosaur nostalgia taken to the next level. We are all left in need of another movie in the franchise, and there seems to be certainty in the same. The idea here more or less like that of a Frankenstein story, about humans trying to play God by giving life using science, and finding it extremely difficult to control their creations. The dinosaurs are all good here, and so is the world – there is more to see with both as we keep looking on.

The Claws of flaw :: There is always more expected from a dinosaur movie, and anything with the name Jurassic needs to do more each and every time. The second Jurassic World doesn’t add much to the franchise, and won’t bring anything that is special – it is more or less the same thing that we have been watching since the first one, Jurassic Park. There is no real attempt to move beyond the safe mode, and the focus is not really on the story – well, the big dinosaurs on the screen was always going to work in one way or the other, and that is the one thing were all the focus goes. The questions about the necessity of saving a species are not touched that much as one would expect. Do humans have the responsibility to save those other species which are as much part of this world as we are all are? Well, that is one question that humanity will find difficult to answer, and even coming close to trying for the same is out of question for many.

The performers of the soul :: Chris Pratt who comes right out the Star-Lord shoes in Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has this one in full control. One has time to remember that Passengers was a lovely movie too, as he keeps things going well, following Jurassic World which brought the dinosaurs back to us. Bryce Dallas Howard gets some nice job to do here again, and this time, the character gets stronger on ideology. We can be sure that we need to see her as well as Christ Pratt in the next possible movie too, the team looks strong with the two around. We do miss Irrfan Khan this time, as his character had to die in that earlier movie. Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith support well, with something extra added here and there. Rafe Spall brings one ambitious and unpredictable character to fine strength. Isabella Sermon does a nice job here too, rising to the occasion.

How it finishes :: We have been in love with this franchise ever since the first move released in 1993 by the name Jurassic Park. The science fiction novel written by Michael Crichton did form the core, but with two more films, this movie franchise had the advantage and became another name for anything related to dinosaurs. In 2015, Jurassic World brought it back with nostalgia written all over it, and now, we have Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which decided to get an early release in India before it released in the United States of America. Well, we can see only filled seats in the theatres more than one week after its release in the country. It is one big entertainer with big creatures, and it is to be seen about how much of a threat it possesses to Avengers: Infinity War which is still running in the theatres, and how much challenge it faces from the strong monsoons.

Release date: 22nd June 2018 (USA); 7th June 2018 (India)
Running time: 128 minutes
Directed by: JA Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Daniella Pineda, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum

<— Click here to go to the previous review, and before that.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Paippinchuvattile Pranayam

What is the movie about? :: Very close to the city, but still, very far away from the urban setting, there is the small island which is known by the name Pandarathuruthu, and the first half of that name itself is enough to know how that place is considered to be, by not just the people from outside, but also those who live there. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge has said in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the people of the island also faces the same situation – “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink”, surrounded by salt water, and having only a few boats – as all roads lead to Rome, all of those boats get them to the city, and nowhere else. This is the tale of the simple people in that particular place, where everyone spends more time waiting for water in a long queue in front of the common tap at the centre of the island, rather than doing anything else. The rest of the people do simple jobs, including fishing, painting and also a little bit of farming which doesn’t need much of fresh water.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: It is around that place of local gathering around the tap meant to collect water, that Govindankutty a.k.a Govutty (Neeraj Madhav) and Teena (Reba Monica John) falls in love. While there is the scarcity of water there, one can see no difficulty in getting some love, as far as these two are concerned. Govindankutty leads a happy life with his good friends Ayyappan (Sudhi Koppa) and Bashi (Rishi S Kumar) earning enough through painting work and a few dance performances when opportunities are available. There is not much of a complaint from them about their lives, despite the unavailiability of water bothering them all the time. They know that people have tried to bring better facilities to the island before, but nothing has happened with those politicians who keep making excuses, and life goes on. Any further attempt would be waste of time, according to them.

And what is to follow in this small adventure at the island? :: Babumon (Dharmajan Bolgatty) is the one to suffer the most, as no girl wishes to get married to someone without access to drinking water. Teena’s parents are also not ready to get her married to Govindankutty, and they are also looking for someone who got access to clean water, from anywhere outside the village. Despite his mother (Sethulakshmi) asking for the bride, Teena’s parents (Jaffer Idukki and Thesni Khan) are not ready to accept the proposal. It is more or less the reflection of their realization that nothing good can happen in Pandarathuruthu and the people of the island will never have access to clean water. But when one tragedy strikes, they have to think differently, and understand that it is the time to act. It is upon the youth to make the difference, but are they up to it? One journalist named Shyam Prakash (Aju Varghese) is ready to help them, but will that be enough?

The defence of Paippinchuvattile Pranayam :: There are moments in Paippinchuvattile Pranayam that keep rising like the certainty of tides – we see them coming and going. The humour is present here and there, and the lead has a good chemistry going on in movie’s favour. Some good visuals of the place will have our attention, and we see the huge buildings of the city on one side and this small world on the other. The music is good, even though they are used without care at some places. There are messages in store, and we have social issues being discussed, after the lack of availability of clean water in many areas. There were those islands around Cochin which had problems in getting drinking water, something we have been reading about since childhood. Even though a lot of problems have been solved now, it remains something that is present at one place or the other. Paippinchuvattile Pranayam adds something there.

The claws of flaw :: With a little more than two hours of length, some parts of the movie do make us feel a certain amount of drag. There is also the whole thing not used to its advantage, as this one could have been funnier, as well as having a thrilling end which could be a lot more of a difference maker with its ideas. The final moments could have been polished to bring an effect which would have made this one a social thriller with romance to go with it. The romantic side also makes way for the rest of the things too easily – there is not that much of strength with it if we consider the fact that the title Paippinchuvattile Pranayam as well as the expectations were all related to that only. There is also the need for the ability to relate to the problems of the common man, without which, this movie can go flying far away; this one would be more for the common audience, the everyman who can reflect these elements better as well as the invisible villains.

Performers of the soul :: Neeraj Madhav right out of Lavakusha and Oru Mexican Aparatha this year leads the way, and he is comfortable in being this kind of a hero, as all things are in control here. Reba Monica John seems naturally suited for this role, and is there throughout, winning points with big smiles and enchanting expressions, unlike that small presence which she had in Jacobinte Swargarajyam despite being the leading actress there too. As one might have figured out with the trailer and songs, she fits in, even without that many dialogues. Sudhi Koppa is the one actor who supports so well as he rises to the occasion, and he does a fantastic job with those emotional side, more than that comic side which was there earlier. We already saw him in Alamara, Lakshyam and Udaharanam Sujatha in notable roles this year among the others, and he gets his best here. Dharmajan strengthens the funny side, which would have struggled a lot without him. Aju Varghese has a smaller role which is managed easily. Sarath falls prey to a badly written negative character.

How it finishes :: Among those movies about common people made with what seems to rather lower budget, Paippinchuvattile Pranayam will surely have a good position. It is always nice to see tales being made about common men and not those money laundering bourgeoisie class attached to pubs and parties. It can’t claim to be perfect or close to being perfect in what it deals with, but it is as close to reality that we can get, and it is close to the heart of everyone who feels for those who are in need. But concerning others who have no heart for the sufferings of others, this wouldn’t be the movie. This is the age of superheroes with Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League running in the theatres, and one can go for them without thinking too much, for the big entertainment. But if you care, try giving a chance to the smaller movies about everyman, like Paippinchuvattile Pranayam. In simple words, call it “Love, water & other social issues”.

Release date: 24th November 2017
Running time: 134 minutes
Directed by: Domin D’Silva
Starring: Neeraj Madhav, Reba Monica John, Aju Varghese, Dharmajan Bolgatty, Sarath Appani, Sudhi Koppa, Sruthy Jayan, Jaffer Idukki, Rishi S Kumar, Tesni Khan, Sethulakshmi, Indrans, Anoop Chandran

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Parava

What is the movie about? :: Irshad a.k.a. Ichappy (Amal Shah) and Haseeb (Govind V Pai) are friends from a neighbourhood in Mattanchery, and also goes to the same class until the former fails in a subject to stay back in the class for an year. Their main time-pass together is breeding pigeons for the big pigeon race which is held every year. With different gangs with older people trying to do better in the competition every year, the two boys find it tough to keep their birds from being stolen or the cages destroyed at night by some other gang. Still, they don’t back down, and also don’t miss some chance to have fun with romancing a new beautiful girl in the school, participating in the usual sporting events, or watching one of those movies which they are not allowed to watch. But in the end, everything comes to the pigeon race, which stands tall over other sports, whether it is cricket or football.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: While the newer generation seems to have some fun out there, we have the youth, who have had a terrible flashback. The same which includes Shane (Shane Nigam), Hakeem (Arjun Ashokan), Mujeeb (Jacob Gregory), Imran (Dulquer Salman) and a few more, has had a brutal and bloody side written all over it with one incident on the beach with a group of drug addicts (Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi and others). Such an incident wasn’t known to happen in the locality for so many years. This has kept Shane silent and uninterested in almost everything which has been going around for a long time, including the fights with the rival team leader in the pigeon race (Shine Tom Chacko). The same had left Irshad as the last hope for parents, and his hope is on his pigeons. What would happen when things get intertwined?

The defence of Parava :: There is the bold choice of subject being taken here, on the lines of Guppy, which is not known for its box-office success. The visuals of the place takes over, and with some nice music, gives us the feel of the neighborhood. Yes, these locations like Mattanchery and Fort Cochin, or even Thoppumpady and Kumbalangy can give that kind of a feeling if captured on the camera well enough. There are some cute moments involving the pigeons as well as those situations in school which evoke laughter. The funny side is strong with the kids, and the emotional side runs parallel, and gets into form when needed. The strength of the cast assures that the same happens well. We see the happenings as simple, and the movie as a feel-good entertainer, knowing its strength in its cast. Even its extended cameo is placed exactly where it could do the best impact; one would have felt the need to add it in the beginning or the end, but this one appears at the right place.

The claws of flaw :: Parava does stretch itself a little too much than needed, as it should have been shorter with the realistic world which it gets to have – but the positive thing is that it holds ground, and never gets to be the long dragging thing which was Annayum Rasoolum. There is also the absence of notable female characters who are able to make any impact on the flow of the tale, other than being the reason. There is no real heroine in this one, and there is no leading actress to talk about either. Also, when there was the chance for the movie to become another Maheshinte Prathikaram or Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum with its reflection of reality, it just doesn’t take it, and floats away. Even Guppy was simpler, with simple people and their simple dreams. The movie could have also shortened the final fight scene and finished it with a final shot of them playing on the ground; this one extends both scenes.

Performers of the soul :: As it was Chethan Jayalal for the movie which was less watched in the theatres, but appreciated later, Guppy, we have Govind and Amal doing the job. Among the two, one can’t stop noticing the shades of Chethan in the former. You feel the strength of the skills from an upcoming generation right here in this movie, as the two handles not just the funny moments, but also the emotional side without holding back at any moment. Whether it is about those lighter incidents at school or those harder situations in the reality of life, they remain solid, and holds the movie together. They rise above everyone else, as they have more screen presence as well as more situations, none of which goes missing from them. You see scope to make more movies with children at the centre after this one, maybe even come up with many sequels of Philips and the Monkey Pen.

Further performers of the soul :: Among the elder cast, it is Shane Nigam who shines, taking it to the next level from Kismath and C/O Saira Banu, two fine movies which he has been part of, after the smaller role in Kammatipaadam. He has his best moments with one of sadness and final release of anger. Dulquer Salmaan who is restricted to less than half an hour, gets a strong character, but we lose him as we get to know and love him. More of Dulquer’s character would have been good, but we adjust with what we can have with a big cameo. Jacob Gregory also has less of the funny side to explore here unlike expected, and Siddique does the classic father role with ease. Soubin Shahir and Sreenath Bhasi brings the negative shades smartly, while Shine Tom Chacko is there in another noticeable role with his pigeons. Among the female characters, it is Srinda who gets the better.

How it finishes :: Parava is that kind of a movie which attracts us towards it, right from the first sequence involving the kids and the fish, and towards that final fight scene. It has to be noted that how well Soubin Shahir in his first movie as a director takes something which is lesser known in other parts, and elevates it to a higher and more popular level – there is nothing huge being added to the mixture at the same time. As a feel-good entertainer, this one makes us forget its tendency to stretch, and makes us feel as part of the place ourselves, whether we have visited the place or not. We need experimentation like this one to make sure that the wings of our industry stay stronger, as this one releases with Pokkiri Simon. After all, we expect our pigeons to improve and do better every time. Parava is that kind of a movie, which makes on feel that there is surely something to keep close to heart.

Release date: 21st September 2017
Running time: 147 minutes
Directed by: Soubin Shahir
Starring: Shane Nigam, Govind V Pai, Amal Shah, Dulquer Salmaan, Jacob Gregory, Shine Tom Chacko, Harisree Ashokan, Jaffer Idukki, Indrans, Srinda Ashab, Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi, Zinil Zainudeen, Arjun Ashokan, Siddique, Len Prasad

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Moana

Vampire Owl: I have heard that the name Moana means ocean.

Vampire Bat: This movie is all about ocean.

Vampire Owl: I have even heard that Moana is a Polynesian sea god.

Vampire Bat: What do you know about sea gods?

Vampire Owl: They do not interest me. I am no person of the sea.

Vampire Bat: But we will watch this Oscar nominated movie.

Vampire Owl: Yes, this is also for The Rock. I am looking forward to what he is cooking again.

Vampire Bat: He cooks really well, as we have seen in Hercules and The Fast and the Furious series.

Vampire Owl: Lets see if this one is worth the Vampire Oscars.

Vampire Bat: I am already prepared to nominate this one.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with sweet puffs].

What is the movie about? :: The famous demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) steals the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti, which seems to be the key to all life. But he is attacked on the way by a lava demon Te Ka, resulting in him losing his magical fish hook which gives him his powers, and the same also leaves him stranded at an unknown location. This is how the legend goes, and for the Polynesian island of Motunui, this is a common tale that the children are told. They are also forbidden from going beyond a certain point into the sea. Tui (Temuera Morrison), the chief of the island has the opinion that the island has all that they need, and that they should stick to the land. Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the chief is someone who really wants to explore, but she is also prevented from doing the same.

So, what happens next? :: Soon, the food becomes scarce, as the landscape seems to be dying. There is almost no good fruit to eat, and not much of fish to be caught. Still, sailing beyond the reef remains an act prevented from happening. But Moana’s grandmother Tala (Rachel House), who is supposed to be just a crazy old woman, leads her to a secret cave which shows them that they used to be explorers who traveled through the sea to find new islands. After Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti, the journeys had stopped though, with monsters wandering around the ocean. With Te Ka’s lava and ashes spreading through the islands, there is only one hope – to get the heart to where it really belongs, with the help of Maui. Can she find and persuade the demigod in time to save the islands from the darkness that is spreading?

The defence of Moana :: The big advantage of this movie is that how well it connects and works for both children and the adults. It is the main characters that steal the show in this movie too, with Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson creating the big impact – the latter is a lot funny, closely followed only by the pet that gets into the boat with Moana. The bond between the two leading characters is emotional as well as cute, as you will notice right from the first time they meet. Moana is surely one or more steps ahead of the other animated characters of the same type. The movie nicely uses the Polynesian myth, and it is great to see more and more gods who are parts of different culture, especially those rather unknown. The songs are interesting, just like the simple heroine who keeps making an impact along with her partner in sailing. All the characters and the world look really nice.

The claws of flaw :: There is nothing that is entirely new about its tale though, and with its source in the myth, we see the heroine who goes beyond the limitations that are imposed on her. The movie could have also used its beautiful world to an even better effect – we know that we love this world, and it is certain that we need more of it. After all, the scope is limitless with a world full of islands awaiting exploration. The message could have also been even more direct, with the wander lust and the need for adventure to be getting a better spot over mythology. The twist about the demon doesn’t go on to be that effective either. This one doesn’t have that much of flaws to make the viewer wonder, and there is nothing much to complain related to this adventure!

Soul exploration :: The movie’s main message is to search for the unknown, explore, and find new places. Moana goes through faith, belief and hope, and the courage and determination that is required to keep them all there. There is no longer the need for the heroine to chase love, and without romance, the focus is on all adventure and the clear objective that is to be gained for the common good. With sea making the call, and caught up on an island, there is always the need to go out there, and to be with the rest of the world. There are dangers that stay ahead, but it is up to us to go far beyond all of them with the strength that is gained from the experience that is added on the way. We are all caught with one thing or the other, and it seems so difficult in this world with the restrictions and the so called duties that come to us at one point or the other, but we need to go on.

How it finishes :: There is one thing that we can be sure about, after watching Moana. It is that the flick is surely better than the eventual winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature after being a tough contendor – Zootopia. I guess that the judgment went in favour of the cuter one this time; animals get to win over humans. I would consider this one to be better than the last two years’ winners Inside Out and Big Hero 6. The best animated movies of the year rarely get to be the best in the academy awards section, do they? There are only a few exceptions like Frozen. Toy Story 3 won when there was How to Train Your Dragon; Rango won when there was Kung Fu Panda 2; Big Hero 6 won when How to Train Your Dragon 2 was existing; Brave won when Rise of the Guardians was there. Well, Moana also has its list of accolades received – lets try watching it again and again!

Release date: 23rd November 2016
Running time: 107 minutes
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, Oscar Kightley, Troy Polamalu, Puanani Cravalho

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kill Command

killcommand (1)

Vampire Owl :: I remember having made such a command.

Vampire Bat :: Yes, I totally understand. To your zombie minions?

Vampire Owl :: No, to the Frankenstein Monster.

Vampire Bat :: No wonder nobody gets killed by that command.

Vampire Owl :: My question is about why nobody has told me anything about this movie yet.

Vampire Bat :: Nobody I know have heard about this movie either.

Vampire Owl :: But I have a feeling that we will like this one. The poster is so nice.

Vampire Bat :: A science fiction action thriller will only do good at this time. We never really get much of such movies.

Vampire Owl :: We are going to make Dr. Victor Frankenstein proud by watching such movies.

Vampire Bat :: And we have Vanessa Kirby as the central character.

[Gets three cups of tea with bananachips].

What is it about? :: The story set a long way into the future, as technology has gone beyond human expectations, transforming lives as well as combat. Captain Bukes (Thure Lindhardt) and his team of marines are off to a training facility in a remote island. They are joined by Mills (Vanessa Kirby), a human who is genetically enhanced by robotic technology, being part of one of the many types of machines and hybrids who are supposed to replace the human soldiers later. The idea is simple, to finish off the machines which were designed by Mills and get out of the facility, as she herself will observe the whole thing. The soldiers don’t really trust Mills, and hesitate to consider her as one of them. But they trust themselves to go through this training with ease, as the opponents are just mindless machines who have always been there as part of the programme.

So what happens next? :: Even though things seem easy in the beginning, soon they find out that the machines are copying their battle style, and are learning how to counter the human soldiers, using the human idea against themselves, and steadily becoming the superior force with better skill acquired through the experience of fighting with the marines. This no longer remains a training programme, but a battle for survival, as there are more effective killing machines on the island than they had imagined. So, with marines getting killed one after the other, what are the chances of them completing the training or at least getting out of the island? What role does Mills play in this newly declared war, and on which side does her loyalties lie? Where did this simple training programme go wrong and how can the marines make their last stand with machines everywhere?

The defence of Kill Command :: The movie has great CGI; it was rather unexpected for a lesser known movie which seems to be made from a lower budget. It is the kind of movie that you can watch instead of all those high budget movies which keep coming for you, with almost nothing inside them other than the repetition of what we have been seeing for many years. The machines look really good and environment including the surroundings and the insides of the buildings are all nicely designed. There is also a lot of action going on here. There are some nice thrilling moments with the machines around, and you can look forward to a big adventure. This is also a short movie and things go on smoothly throughout its run, leaving no boring moments behind. The acting is also good, and there is something special about how it turns out on the screen – you see even a few nice scares to go with it.

The claws of flaw :: There will be similarities to be found when in comparison with other movies, with its central idea. A better treatment of the same subject could have been done with more entertainment and further twists. This one often takes its progression straight, taking things for granted, and not making the best use of everything. There is also a certain amount of predictability that comes in, and it hesitates to go as the movie progresses towards the end – a better finish would have also been nice, as everything seemed to be moving towards the big final moments, but that never really happens. There are the nicely designed machines, there is the partially machine character, there is a special environment which can bring mystery and horror, and also a lot of action, but all these are not used to create the maximum impact, which would have raised the level of this flick.

Performers of the soul :: The best of this movie are its machines; we will get to love how they look and work. This whole thing can be compared to one big video game that you might have played during your childhood – there is that kind of a feel throughout this flick. The cast includes mostly unknown names as far as people in this part of the world are concerned. The best among them, and the one who leads the way as the protagonist, is great to watch – Vanessa Kirby who has played Estella Havisham in the BBC version of Great Expectations, makes her half-human, half-machine character work with ease. Genetically enhanced characters or cyborgs are not really the best characters had to be that good, and I would consider this particular one to be another memorable mixed existence. The rest are there in support, which they manage well.

How it finishes :: Kill Command is that kind of a movie which can create a great video game out of itself – it is like a perfect setting for a First Person Shooter, especially one featuring some arena battles following games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena. As a sci-fi action thriller, it makes a nice impact, even without trying too hard. With the kind of material that exists here, I would want to have a sequel, and I am pretty sure that it can surpass this one. Kill Command provides you with that feeling that some nice sci-fi movies can be made without the big names and those huge action sequences that destroy everything around. Just a few machines, some people and a remote location is enough to make the whole experience better with some nice CGI and performances, as long as the resources are used nicely. I would consider this movie to be a fine addition to those simple, but effective sci-fi movies – this is no Ex Machina, but still a fine work.

***This is the 300th movie review on this blog!!!

Release date: 13th May 2016
Running time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Steven Gomez
Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Thure Lindhardt, David Ajala, Bentley Kalu, Tom McKay, Kelly Gough, Deborah Rosan

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

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Vampire Owl :: I have always preferred dinosaurs and Godzilla to dragons, wyverns and all kinds of flying machines.

Vampire Bat :: What about the Golden Dragon Restaurant?

Vampire Owl :: With that chicken and noodles which should not be named?

Vampire Bat :: Yes, that variety which we tested and tasted.

Vampire Owl :: In that case, I guess I will have to make an exception.

Vampire Bat :: Let’s train a dragon then.

Vampire Owl :: As long as it is not named Fernando Torres. I need it to score when opportunity comes.

Vampire Bat :: It is not easy to make the sequel to one of the best animated movies of all time. Still, the reviews are great and lets hope for the best. After all, there is no strong opposition this weekend.

[Reaches the multiplex].

The day of the dragon :: The past goes back to 2010 when the first movie was released, and at that time in the movie, vikings and dragons have been fighting each other. The battle was something which defined their lives and seemed to go on forever. The chief of the group is Stoick who is a firm hater of the dragons. The son of Stoick and the heir to the title, Hiccup is not having a good time with his Viking blood, but happens to capture a blue dragon whom he couldn’t make up the mind to kill. This rare Night Fury dragon and the boy becomes friends and is given the name Toothless for its retractable teeth. The boy would no longer find killing the dragons an option as he feels that it is not right. Even as it did infuriate his father and most of the other vikings, this would lead to a chain of events which will finally lead to the end of war between vikings and dragons. The first idea would be that this is the end of the story, as everything seemed to go on happily ever after. But the need for the sequel comes up and it takes off from here, as this had gone on to become one of the more popular animated movies at that time.

What is it about? :: As the peace has been established and the dragons live happily with Vikings, it seems that nothing bad can happen. Close to taking over as the new chief of his village, Hiccup goes on random adventures with his dragon and best friend, Toothless, as they discover and add to the map lots of unexplored lands and the water-bodies which surrounds their island, as the assistance of flying creatures have made things easier for them. On one such day of exploration, he encounters a dragon catcher and knows about his boss Drago Bludvist who is building a dragon army. Hiccup decides to get to the root of this and find the one who is taking the dragons for himself. Even as Stoick tells his son that the new villain is a mad man and it is impossible to prevent a war and their only possible defence was being inside the walls of the city, Hiccup continues on his path to find the enemy. But on the way, he will meet another dragon rider who will bring some changes to his plan. At the same time, he is chased by dragon catchers as well as his own people who are trying to bring him back. It is to be seen how things will go on.

The defence of How to Train Your Dragon 2 :: The movie takes us into the world of vikings and dragons again, and begins another saga of awesomeness which is a great continuation of the previous one. It is connected quite well to the first part. The story has nice new elements even as some part of it is undoubtedly predictable, but that is to be expected in an animated movie. There is some good 3D, nothing special though. There are moments when nothing special happens, but no boring moment. The Vikings are nice to watch and the dragons are glorious fun; for there are so many of them this time with even two alpha dragons fighting with each other. The villain characters is nice, and the father and mother characters are lots of fun along with our hero’s friends, girlfriend and the friend of the chief. But the best thing is still the relation between the hero and his dragon, followed by his relationship with his father and his mother. The environment of the movie is nothing less than a Avatar in animation as far as the whole visual splendor is concerned, and the dragon designs are nice even as some of them might seem a little too funny for some – well, this is a movie for the kids too and so such things were to exist somewhere.

The claws of flaw :: If we take the major characters out, the movie is centered around dragons and it is their existence that defines this movie, and vikings come only next. There is less about the lifestyle and more about exploration. The Vikings and their way of life takes second place and becomes something based on the existence and presence of the winged creatures. The only other creature which we see is the sheep in a world which seems to be shared by just two creatures. Some of the dragons are actually too cute even for the bigger kids. It was already cute with everything and this gets further. Even as the story is nicely done, there are some areas where it gets predictable. It will also be difficult for those who haven’t watched the original movie, as those incidents have quite a lot to do with this movie, and the characterization is also dependent on what happened earlier. Therefore, the connection will obviously be weak for them, even as the same can’t be said about the fun. The emotional and dramatic scenes often go out of hand, and they are rather far-fetched and still not that effective as Frozen or Mr. Peabody and Sherman. The talks about this being the movie of the year or the best animated sequel won’t work.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s most important theme is co-existence. The lack of tolerance has been something which has been hurting more than just one race of people. Well, if dragons can co-exist with a race like Vikings, anyone can do that. This is the age when hatred is spread through Facebook, as people come up with some random post which has no truth in it, and present it as fact just to degrade others and their political, social and religious beliefs. It is a shame that some of these are actually learned men with good status, and in that case they are able to make the fools share what they share. It is quite difficult to reason with people who pervert history for the same, and come out with nonsense to support their cause. In the outside world, there are always wars, but they are all the products of the hatred that is burning in the minds because of the greed or personal agenda of some people. The Vikings had their own purpose and the dragons think only of their major needs, but lets experience this movie and learn something about co-existence not only with other people and creatures, but also with the environment. Avatar did the same, and instead of the tree at the centre, we have the alpha dragons which controls them all.

How it finishes :: The original movie was a smart one, and it was surely not going to be easy to make a sequel to the same. But this movie has accomplished something which only movies like Kung-fu Panda 2 and Despicable Me 2 have achieved, and Rio 2 came pretty close to doing until losing its way. This one becomes a very good sequel to the first movie, and there are occasions when it seems to rise above the first movie. It has all the ingredients to rule the box-office; a strong base which is already constructed by its predecessor, the absence of any better movie in the theatre and some good developments of its own. The only remaining challenge is from what is left over by Edge of Tomorrow, but that should be no real problem considering the kind of audience targeted by the two. It is surely leading the weekend until now. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the second best animated movie of the year after Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and the same can be said about the fun that it carries. There were expectations and this one meets them steadily. Watch this one on the big screen and nowhere else, and it won’t really matter if you are an young man, an older person or a kid, this one is going to make your one hundred minutes count.

Release date: 13th June 2014
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Dean DeBlois
Starring (voice) : Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal

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Vampire Owl [Looking at the Son of God poster] : Mosa, horse, fish, sea…is this a Biblical story?

Vampire Bat: It is not Moses’ Malayalam version, it is Mosa…”Sa” as in Salman Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly. The Son of God poster is from last week, it doesn’t show at the theatres any more.

Vampire Owl: So what do you think a title like Horse-fishes of Mosa would mean?

Vampire Bat: Hmmm…may be they use fishes as horses, or horses as sea-food?

Vampire Owl: Or may be a man named Mosa eats both the horse and the fish, or eats fish on a horse?

Vampire Bat: May be the actors are the horses and actresses are fish or fishy.

Vampire Owl: So much for the movie names.

Vampire Bat: And some people said they preferred Malayalam titles for Malayalam movies. This should make them happy.

[Gets the eighty rupee tickets].

What is it about? :: The movie tells the story of two men, Alex (Asif Ali) and Akbar Ali (Sunny Wayne) who meets under strange circumstances. Alex is the son of a rich land owner and planter at Pambady, Kottayam. He is born as the fourteenth kid in the family as his father Kuriachan (Nedumudi Venu) wanted one more son than his predecessor who had thirteen. Alex lives in a huge house, but is isolated as his brothers and sisters are too much older than him, and soon he is left with his father alone, after his mother dies and the others move away. As his father also dies, he moves to Cochin to do his Master degree, but spends time wasting money. But, thanks to his best friend who cheats him, he ends up in jail from where he keeps making attempts to escape. His last effort is successful, thanks to the help of Akbar who also escapes from the jail. As one of the sons of his brethren is the jail warden, he is convinced to go back to jail with his name is among a number of people to be released on the Independence Day. But he has to bring Akbar back with him, but for that, he will have to follow him all the way to the Lackshadweep Islands. He meets Deena (Janani Iyer) who agrees to help him, but he is now in the centre of a love story featuring Akbar and Isa (Swati Reddy).

The defence of Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal :: The best thing about the movie is its wonderful visuals, and its success in capturing the beauty of Lakshadweep Islands, the sea and the underwater world with such skill. This is actually a big advertisement for Lakshadweep if it works well at the box-office. We also have to admire how they turned such a simple story into a nice watch with a philosophy. Unlike pseudo-travel movies like Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi which tries to pretend that it has a philosophy and still provides the audience with a kind of protagonist who never really changes or even becomes more of himself, Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal rejects the opportunity to be a machine spreading more and more lies through a journey. Our movie is more of a travel movie with bildungsroman elements which attempt to look into the human nature through incidents of different worlds joined together. The protagonists are left changed by the end, thanks to what they experience here. This is an adventure with a certain amount of romance and small doses of thrills. The background score is also interesting, but the songs are ordinary. One also has to admire the leading actors for their performances.

The claws of flaw :: Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal is not a movie for everyone, and I can dare to think that it might not interest a good number of common movie watchers, and as you already know, the name itself arouses curiosity, but keeps people think too many times before watching this movie. The movie’s drag comes as another problem, even as compared to a movie like Annayum Rasoolum, this is a Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4, and to Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi, this is a McLaren F1. Even as this is many times a better love story than Annayum Rasoolum, but the intensity of the feeling of love remains just the motive when it could have been part of the theme. The love between Alex and Deena is something seemingly possible only in the end and also revealed before the credits roll. Meanwhile, the same between Akbar and Isa is hidden not by the lady’s veil, but by her own selfishness that she admits, and this proof for inherent selfishness that cruise through the human mind at high speeds, weakens the romantic side, and a resurrection of love detained by selfishness raises from the ashes only by the end. There is no denying the fact that a better plot and an energized romantic side could have done this movie a lot of favour.

Performers of the soul :: This is one of the best performances from Asif Ali, and one can easily feel that it is more his movie, as he is the one who narrates, and for the first forty five minutes, none of the four leading actors/actresses are introduced other than him. He single-handedly makes sure that the first half is quite fun, and one also has to love his style of narration. The funny side is also handled well by him. Sunny Wayne makes his entrance after the first forty five minutes, and shares the burden. The story changes to his life and his world, which he handles quite well. But that character that we follows and relates with will still be that of Asif Ali’s Alex who guides us through this adventure. Janani Iyer is cute here, and plays a wonderful character in this movie, but is there for only a short time, a case of sudden disappearance as if her concern ends spontaneously, and her next presence is only in the final scene. But this Deena, is one lovable character that she plays, and even graces us with some words of wisdom along with that charming smile. Swati Reddy looks kind of uncomfortable with this role and also with the looks, but manages to survive as Isa. May be she could have done Deena better than she has performed as Isa, but one can’t be sure.

Soul exploration :: Coming back to name of the movie, the word “mosa” means huge sea waves (credit to the newspapers who ended that doubt) and “kuthira meenukal” even as it is literally translated into “horse-fish” means swordfish (again newspapers to the rescue) in local language. It is said that this kind of fish, predatory in nature, happens to be very selfish, and they are equated to the characters of the movie (no, I haven’t met any of these creatures personally to test the selfishness factor; thought selfish went better with shellfish :D). Both of our heroes as well as Isa remains selfish throughout the movie, mostly due to their circumstances, the only exception being Deena whose words reflect on Alex during the climax scene, and he realizes that even as he made a mockery of her earlier, what she said was more closer to the truth than anything that he had ever said. The random act of kindness that brought to Alex the ability to make others happy without him ever knowing, and that too for the first time in life, would change his life forever, along with that of Akbar. After going on a different path, we can see that Alex asks a bribe-demanding police officer who is also his relative, if he has eaten swordfish, a question which he asks not only to the corrupt officials, but also to a generation powered by selfish motives. So, this movie transforms the swordfish that is seen dancing on the waves of life, back to what could be goldfish, something which occurs in the mind.

How it finishes :: Here is somthing to gather more attention – the cinematography of this movie is handled by the same person who did it for Amen which was praised for the same reason (Abinandhan Ramanujam). There are some movies which turns out to be entertainers, and there are others which end up as classics. But Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal doesn’t really belong anywhere, and even with a certain inability to gather attention, this movie has to be applauded for the different approach that it takes. This visual philosophical spectacle needed something more in the script. Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal is a flawed gem, and its flaws often make us less interested, but it is still a refreshing journey, and also that movie which will make you think about going the the Lakshadweep Islands. But do keep this in mind – this is not the movie that everyone deserves, and it is just this movie that deserves its limited audience! You look for change, and you look for some difference instead of entertainment, and here is a movie which is pretty good in doing something like that. The movie seems to be receiving mixed reviews, and a possible failure of Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal will only make sure that the time of mindless entertainers will begin again. And yes, lets not be even half-a-swordfish 😀

Release date: 1st May 2014
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Ajith Pillai
Starring: Asif Ali, Sunny Wayne, Janani Iyer, Swati Reddy, Nedumudi Venu, Nishanth Sagar, Jijoy, Jojo Mala, Chemban Vinod, P. Balachandran

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.