Penguins of Madagascar

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Vampire Owl :: I have received a letter from the vampire penguin.

Vampire Bat :: What does it say?

Vampire Owl :: It says that he is happy to announce the release of Penguins of Madagascar, a movie that make all the undead penguins proud, and he wants us to watch it in the name of the Universal Vampire Brotherhood.

Vampire Bat :: But I have already watched it.

Vampire Owl :: What? Then why did I see no opinion?

Vampire Bat :: Because I delayed it so that there would be gap between the posts.

Vampire Owl :: It is totally unfair. Now as the Vampire Penguin has demanded it, I have to watch it alone. What happened to watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1?

Vampire Bat :: Skipped it. Waiting for some inspiration for me watch it. Nobody has that much of an opinion and I have already read that book and has less hopes about this one.

Vampire Owl :: And then you watched the Penguins alone. A cruel move against me there.

Vampire Bat :: You can watch it with your zombie minions. It has some good ideas for owlification.

[Leaves for the bus stop].

The background :: Do you remember those penguins of the Central Park Zoo? Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private proved to be the smartest creatures around. They have been helping our heroes of the Madagascar series, Alex the lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the hippopotamus. We have had no option, but to love the penguins throughout the series. They have been too good, and it is clear that they always deserved a spin-off movie for themselves. Well, this is not just that spin-off, but also the sequel to Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted as the action continues from the circus itself as they go on to celebrate Private’s birthday. It is not really the continuation though, as Madagascar 4 is scheduled to be released on May 18th 2018, but as that date is too far away, lets be happy with this arrangement of the penguin characters for now.

What is it about? :: In a flashback, we see that somewhere in Antarctica, three little penguins, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), and Rico (Conrad Vernon), save an egg from seals and end up floating far away on an iceberg. The egg hatches and becomes Private (Christopher Knights). Back to the present, as they go to steal from the United Sates treasury to enjoy Private’s birthday after the events of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, the get caught by Dave (John Malkovich), an octopus who lives in the human costume of Dr. Octavius Brine after having to be transported from zoo to zoo due to new cute penguins coming. He is now looking for revenge on all penguin kind. As they try to escape, the Penguins are saved by a special force known as the North Wind, lead by, a wolf named Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), a seal named Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), a polar bear named Corporal (Peter Stormare), and an owl named Eva (Annet Mahendru). Due to some differences, the two teams decide to chase the villain through their own paths; will they succeed?

The defence of Penguins of Madagascar :: Once again, just like the other movies of the Madagascar series, this is lots of fun. There are some genuinely funny moments in this one, and they are just meant for evoking the laughter, making this one a big fun ride, and people are certain to be entertained. The penguins as well as the special animal forces are admirable characters, and this is an opportunity for us to know those characters whom we liked a lot in the franchise in a much better way. The family audiences with kids are going to love this one, that is for sure, and might not want to miss this one. The moments which involve the meeting of the two groups as well as the same with the villain along with that moment when all three groups meet are hilarious. The message is also nicely given, about the appearance not being that much of a factor. Even as the movie doesn’t go on to be one of the top three animated movies of the year as expected, it is really a powered entertainer.

The Claws of flaw :: It is pretty much sillier even considering the fact that it is an animated movie, and the predictability factor is once again big. There is nothing like the final extravaganza that the last movie in the franchise had offered, and even in 3D, this one offers much less compared to what was expected. There are ordinary moments in the movie too, and there are scenes which are extremely dumb, and the presence of those moments which fail to click are also present here and there, but they can still be avoided. This one is also weaker than the three other Madagascar movies, all of which are worth an eighty five and above in the score. This movie actually feeds on that impact that those three movies had created, and ends up extending the fanbase of the franchise. There are moments which are just created for the sake of being there, and the plot never really shows much scope, ever. There is repetition, no doubt about it. There is a chance that this will make the penguins less interesting with too much attention given here.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s first attention is on brotherhood for sure. But it is not the major theme here, as it focuses more on appearances as we can see right from the beginning. The penguin named Private is actually considered to be too cute, and the others feel that the only thing that he can do is to distract the opponent for the rest to take the appropriate action. The same is the case of all four penguins as far as the other animals and birds are concerned – they think that the penguins are too cute to do anything strong and significant. Most of the people here base their assumptions based on the looks and nobody really cares to give these people a try. But everything would change in the end, and it is to this finish which says that appearance doesn’t define the quality or brilliance of a person that the movie strives to reach. It is the appearance itself that creates the villain here, and the movie focuses so much on the same. Penguins of Madagascar never retreats from that aim as we see the traits everywhere.

How it finishes :: The big surprise here was that this movie had shows at more multiplexes than The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. That was surprising because it was clear that it really is the movie that everyone want to watch, its popularity only matched by just another sequel which would be the last part of The Hobbit which is also coming up. I would guess that the multiplexes decided to go completely with the family audiences this time instead of choosing the movie which the youth have been waiting for so long to watch. It is the same reason why the movie has evaded me so far, and another reason is that I know the story and don’t find the first part of the book interesting; even the last book as whole is the least interesting of the series. Yes, I wanted to watch it, but as the time came, I ended up choosing another movie again. Well, there is still time, but I do feel that many others have also done the same, which is why Penguins of Madagascar is doing well here.

Release date: 28th November 2014 (India), 26th November 2014 (USA)
Running time: 92 minutes
Directed by: Simon J. Smith, Eric Darnell
Starring (voice): Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, Peter Stormare, Werner Herzog

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

RED 2

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There are a few movies which reduce the chance of White House Down doing a good job, and among them the one which is the most similar in what happens on the screen, is RED 2, which can take out the take-over movie with its big cast. The closeness in the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings might also help in creating that big doubt in the minds of the viewers which is affected by Bruce Willis to attract them to this one, and I would say that even without that drag, this holds a clear edge over its only “same genre competitor” around here. You might already know that Red means “Retired Extremely Dangerous”, as a group of retired secret agents try to make an impact when forced out of retirement by several reasons, the most prominent one being them or their best friends being hunted to be shot at sight. While having such a title thrown towards the protagonists, they do the same designation of being extremely dangerous, a favour – they do what they do the best and what they were always expected to do throughout their lives. They react in such a way that the tables are turned on their enemies, and in the process, saves the day. This one will not have Karl Urban as William Cooper and that is a shame. But the entry of Anthony Hopkins, Lee Byung-hun and Catherine Zeta-Jones would add something else.

So we know that “the best never rest”, and once again Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is hunted and prevented from leading a normal life. Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) is still by him as the old best friend who saves Frank after faking his own death. Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) is with them, and after falling for Frank’s adventures, she is now eagerly looking forward to more dangers which could make her feel special. The gorgeous Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) getting back to his life, and being mentioned as “Frank’s Kryptonite” makes Sarah jealous and possessive and she herself tries to get into the middle of the action. He is supposed to be hunted, but actually supported by Victoria Winters (Helen Mirren), and is followed by Han Jo-Bae (Lee Byung-hun) who has taken the contract to murder Frank. In their mission, they come across the information about Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) who would be needed in for their objective to be a success, but is currently in a lunatic asylum. Frank would need to bring them all together, and know who is on his side, how can be with him, and who might end up trying to kill him in order to survive the battle, thus creating a complicated situation, nothing that a retired, extremely dangerous man can’t solve again.

Bruce Willis continues with what he has been doing in the best way, and the triangle featuring him, Mary-Louise Parker and Catherine Zeta-Jones makes the funnier scenes of the movie. Jason Statham’s Frank Martin might be proud of this Frank, the older and the funnier one who has got no car to race. This Frank is there beating up people quite a lot, shooting them and bombing a lot of the world around him. Do they get stronger when they get older? Some might wish to ask so, and Die Hard fans would have to wonder if this is the series which might take Bruce Willis away from them in a crisis of retirement. There is no need to be doubtful though, as this is one man who might be retirement-proof in his real life too. Mary-Louise Parker’s character has only gotten funnier in this sequel, and comes up with some of the funniest moments, sometimes with the dialogues, but mostly just with the expressions. Her character makes so many attempts to prove her better than the possible weakness of her man, and by doing the same, she does the stranger things which adds to the fun element.

Catherine Zeta-Jones would have been not that easy to recognize for her earlier fans, of The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment, and seems to have qualified for being still extremely dangerous, doesn’t matter if retirement is knocking at the door. A few memories do keep coming back from those days of early movie watching experience in the absence of the big screen. Those were the days, and she was there on the small screen. Despite of the loss of her older self, she still competes with Helen Mirren with the screen presence, but not with the action sequences. Marvin Boggs’ character continues the job John Malkovich did in the first part, but unfortunately there is no pig this time and we miss him saying “Frank, I never thought I’d say this again. I’m getting the pig!” But, the man still carries the movie forward with his funny one-liners and those comic scenes which never look out of place. There might be no occasion that won’t suit him, and if there is any character who can use a spin-off movie, here is one.

Lee Byung-hun remains the Storm Shadow in essence here too, and may be even as the better ninja than G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and its sequel which was released earlier this year. He remains the character that he has been in that movie and as the assassin, he continues the same. Anthony Hopkins, our own Hannibal Lecter makes a personal impact on this one, not that big as The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal or Red Dragon, but still something that comes as a pleasant, evil surprise of good quality. Being in the lunatic asylum is one of those common things, and here there are more characteristics for him, of qualities strange enough to be another man of surprising variations. In many ways, these two were needed, as the movie is too much inclined to the funny side otherwise, not that they are completely against contributions to the comic side, but there is the need for the twists, thrills and awesome action. This is Expendables with such a huge cast, but in many ways funnier and the comic side being very effective, if not too effective. May be that movie could have been called with something similar to being retired, and extremely dangerous again.

Even as the movie keeps scoring with its action sequences and the funny dialogues, there is that feeling of the imitation of the first movie, and the predictability keeps on getting higher and higher. Even the climax is too predictable for the usual movie watcher’s liking. As our characters are played by those celebrities who are basically more royal than the others, they keep the viewers interested, but this kind of movie needs its own dose of little shocks, and RED 2 does have it, but not that powerful a thing of the royalty’s standard. There is no situation where the audience is supposed to be terrified or feel for the heroes. There are frequent one-liners which clear any doubt in the minds of the viewers, and with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins guiding the gang, and Lee Byung-hun following the path in a majestic manner, there is the reconquest of whatever is lost, and whenever the movie is about to drop down in its level, something new comes up, once in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones and at another occasion in the form of Anthony Hopkins; the rest is well managed by the one-liners which drops a comic bomb which handles and stabilizes the situation.

RED 2 is stretching its arms towards that weekend box office victory here, but surely on a limited level. The movie edges over White House Down, and can pretend to be competent against Pacific Rim, Despicable Me 2 and Man of Steel as this is the new entrant in the game and the reviews are not completely out yet, and Turbo belongs to an entirely different genre and attracts another type of viewers. There was still hope for more, that is for sure; RED had come up with the right platform of origins which could have been exploited further. At the same time, it had also used up a lot of resources, and the need of this sequel was for creativity, which has successfully arrived partially. But when one is looking for fun, there is hardly any opportunity to care and think more, and RED 2 gives that unlimited fun which is not without the flaws list. If this movie belongs to that genre which is pure entertainment, you are welcome to forgive its flaws. I would say that I have forgiven and forgotten the same and got into that roller coaster ride of entertainment which this movie hides behind its pillars of old age. May be it is time for most of you to give it a try, and the rest can wait for the year has a lot more in store.

Release date: 19th July 2013
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lee Byung-hun, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, David Thewlis, Neal McDonough

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Warm Bodies

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Welcome to Zombieland – not as the name of the movie, but as a world with is not only a “zomcom” like Go Goa Gone, or “romcom” like all those pathetic movies which have eaten the brains of Bollywood and still continues to do so; for this one from Hollywood is everything at once, “zomcom”, “romcom”, “zomrom”, or even “zomromcom”.  This movie is a pleasant surprise, in a world where teenagers wish to lose their humanity and be the Twilight vampires, this one comes up with something different. It is the story of a zombie who reclaims his humanity, and leads to a transformation among his own zombie people. The first question that should come to one’s mind is about how much it would work in a world of movies and literature where the vampires are glorified, and the werewolves are also given their due with the cross-connections (thanks Underworld and Twilight), and zombies are still shot on the heads with no hesitation. As the question remains about this prejudice, this movie comes with a pleasant surprise which reverses both the zombie situation as well as the supernatural glorification giving the world back to humans. There might still be no zombie wishing for a human to bite them and turn them human, but as we have seen in Daybreakers, there is always the scope to try the reverse transformation.

There is the direct, secure packing and sending of the viewers into a post-apocalyptic world instead of any explanation of what caused the same, which is actually a good movie, as there are always the logic-seekers who would find something wrong in turning these zombies into human. The human survivors who keeps getting lesser in numbers have retreated and have barricaded themselves inside a walled area surrounded by our dear little protagonist zombie and his friends. Most of them are still in comparatively human phase compared to the horrid skeletal structures called Boneys attacking anything that lives, which they become after they lose all hopes (another moment of reminder about Daybreakers, where vampires degenerate into subsiders, the psychotic bat-like creatures). So when the zombies increase in population to infect most of the world and the human supplies get low; Julie Grigio (Teresa Palmer) and her trained friends go out to the zombie world to get something from the abandoned buildings. They are attacked by a group of zombies, but she is saved by R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who narrates to us, and from whose angle we see the world (not before he eats her boyfriend’s brain though).

So, this R who has been trying quite hard to seem more and more human, has now a girl with brain for company; a brain he doesn’t want to chew on. He keeps her safe in a permanently grounded airplane and the bond makes him move even further towards humanity. Affected by the fact that R killed her boyfriend, the girl of brain leaves the brain eater and manages to reach home safely. But the problem remains that the whole thing has caused such a chain reaction in the zombie society that more of them seem to show the signs of humanity including R’s best zombie friend M. But the Boneys seem to detect this life and is all set to attack both the remaining zombies with their superior strength, agility and the lack of humanity. It is up-to R to get to the human world and find the girl, along with using all the memories from that brain of her boyfriend which he has been chewing on for quite a while. As vampires and zombies are practically the same, and there has been quite a lot of popularity for Twilight, this should have been received better, but these coffin-less, fang-less poor corpses haven’t got the attention they deserved in this part of the world, and it is our supernatural duty to give it to them. I would believe that there are many different ways to read this movie. [Preachy-philosophical stuff ahead: Uninterested people are expected to skip to the third-last line of the last paragraph after the next].

✠ As the reversal of situation: It is the reversal of the vampire addiction and the overdose of humanity in vampire fiction. As the zombies have been portrayed as the most mindless attackers even in the recent World War Z as well as in the collection of Resident Evil movies and games, this could inject an amount of thoughts which might make people value their human existence. Daybreakers couldn’t achieve this and there was no attempt either, as the vampires were more powerful, intelligent and also always winning. Teresa Palmer has looked more like a blonde Kristen Stewart throughout the movie and there are times when she sounded similar enough, but this is undoubtedly better characterization and a better performance in a well created movie. This character is surely one of brains, and not Bella, and can thus create a good replacement for her, and surely there are expressions – the character doesn’t fall for the supernatural like Bella did, as she is clever enough to value her humanity, and neither does she asks him to turn her into a zombie; may be she realizes how gorgeous she is too. Nicholas Hoult’s R is a more hardworking type of undead, even as this one also worries incredibly about keeping his girlfriend safe. When blood-drinking is replaced with brain-eating, there is another psychological impact which brings people back to their human nature.

✠ The old Shakespare and the Fairy Tale: The R should surely stand for Romeo and Julie for the one Juliet, with forbidden love set in motion. R just remembers the first letter of his name, and the lady can surely use a “T” if needed. They do see each other by the balcony, and trust me, there is no sad ending this time. In one way, it is the drama of the dead and in another way, this is the fairy tale of the dead/undead. There has been so much the need for the superman and the knight in shining armour that here, the need to be alive takes that place, and the need to have a beautiful girl with brains. This tale involves the brain used for thinking instead of satisfying the hunger, and the drams taking over the void initiated by one huge nightmare. It is up-to the zombies to connect with the human world, as the humans would do about the Supreme Being, and the ones who give up the hope and belief would be left with their skeletal structures, with no faith and no real life. There is always the hope for a better place, and for the zombies, humanity is one of them, and one man-zombie gets connected to that world by chance.

✠ When most of us are zombies: The middle group represents most of us, when we move on through life doing what the others, the zombie friends do; when we join the course they join, and when we study what we don’t want to study, and live a life of survival which everybody does. But when we choose to be different, we are the zombies for the others, and in our own point of view, we are the chosen ones to be alive. We are not them, and what they feel important can’t be of any significance to us, and vice versa. R became alive when he chose to be different, and one has to wonder if he is one of those people who had chosen to pursue arts instead of the professional courses, and made him realize how important it is to be different, and how much is there to know and understand instead of feeding on those brains symbolizing logic. He understood what creativity is, and its pure awesomeness above logic. It is choosing that good path to be different that matters, and for all the others who take that different evil path, there is the world of the walking skeletons. The advantage of this gained humanity is that one would know its value and it won’t be wasted on anything silly. It is our choice, and out of the knowledge of the Supreme Being, and the world would become more of truth and wisdom. The opportunity to reclaim the lost humanity is to be embraced.

✠ The value of humanity and faith: By the end of the movie, it is the human contact and never ending faith that saves the day. There is always the need to take that leap of faith at some point of life, and the strong belief in God and being humane are all that matters. If a zombie could go beyond his needs and prevent himself from devouring what he needed for diets, where does the humanity lie? Does the zombie’s need to feed strike lower than the human need for war and destruction? When an undead creature could come up with so much faith, why is it that humans fail miserably? This is where the questions begin and answers hide behind the bushes. The movie might not interest those who are looking for quick undead action, but this clever twist to the old myth of undead is a must watch for all those who feel like a zombie, or has the desire to see humanity in action at its base level in the most humane way. After watching this movie, some of you might surely hesitate a second before shooting an undead during the next zombie apocalypse. From what this movie has achieved, that much I am sure about; the rest is for you to decide.

Release date: 1st February 2013
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Cory Hardrict, John Malkovich

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.