Percy Jackson II

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In an overwhelming desire to find myself fair about this movie, I have to confess that I watched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones right after watching this – it was a back-to-back movie adventure separated only by the desire to have lunch and the need to travel from one mall to the other. If you don’t need to know more about it, and the two movies in relation to each other, you are free to skip the first two paragraphs, an offer of escape from comparisons which includes this paragraph. In a simple comparison of no great intellect, our reviewed movie is more of a follower of the Harry Potter pattern, with a world for the demigods away from the original world, with its major base on magic and the individual and collective inner strength and righteousness which they exhibit while facing big powers; but the second movie has more similarities with Twilight, with a female protagonist who is just a boring ordinary girl who is introduced into another world which is hidden among the known human world and is once again caught in a triangular love between herself and two other guys, both belonging to different species.

So the other fantasy movie of the day has a good amount of Constantine, Underworld and surely, the most of dominant of them all, Twilight. To make it look more of a formidable power, it has added the horror elements, and there was demons, vampires and werewolves, the three creatures whom we never thought would come along in herds in the same movie, an absurd improvement on Underworld and Twilight which has surely backfired, despite of the presence of the lovely leading actress who can act incredibly well, Lily Collins who has done a great job. But with a little visual effects, horror and action, the movie runs out of gas. It is there that Percy Jackson scores. The two movies were released on the same day here, along with We’re the Millers, and the advantage would surely go with Sea of Monsters, as it doesn’t come with an “A” certificate unlike the others, and it is in 3D. The theatres seem to have realized the same too, as they have put more shows for the movie, and it is the only English movie in more than one theatres this week.

Even as it is difficult to set aside the great performance of the beautiful Lily Collins, lets leave the absurdity which was the half-baked bad mixture of all the fantasy works ever produced, which was The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and move on to the movie of the week, which is Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. Our movie doesn’t deal with forbidden love and has no apples or people with bad tooth unless they are monsters. May be that should be reserved for Twilight copies, and there might be a time when the apples begin to keep the viewers away rather than the doctors. The best thing about Percy Jackson is that it sticks to the basics. It takes the legends from the Greek Mythology, but it maintains a formula which is not at all ambiguous and more true to the core. It doesn’t rely on anything strange or unnecessary to give temporary satisfaction with any teenage fantasy which doesn’t go well with the plot and the flow of the story. It doesn’t try to give pleasure to anyone suffering from the withdrawal symptoms, which is mostly a Twilight withdrawal rather than from the intellectually superior Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter series.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) no longer seems to have the popularity that he might have had with him getting back the lightning bolt, saving both the Olympus and the world, and such great stuff which were to become legends. Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin) is his constant rival to glory, as she beats him in almost all the competitions. As Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), announces his plans to destroy Mount Olympus by bringing back Kronos from Tartarus and sends a mechanical bull to attack the demi-god camp after poisoning Thalia Grace (Paloma Kwiatkowski) who is the tree which defends the camp with a magic forcefield. Even as Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) is the one who finds out that the Golden Fleece could heal and restore the tree, Clarisse is sent to retrieve the artefact much to the dismay of Percy, Annabeth and Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson). But the trio decides to follow the team led by Clarisse, and they are joined by Percy’s half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), who is a cyclops. They also have one prophecy and a group of rogue half-bloods supported by a Manticore, and one big cyclops guarding the fleece to deal with.

With no denial of credit to one Lily Collins who had tried in vain to restore order among chaos and absurdity in the other fantasy movie, lets move into our characters. Logan Lerman leads the team as Percy Jackson, a demigod and the son of the God of Ocean, Poseidon. He was there in the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers, and here is he is again, and it surely seems to be a familiar territory for him. It is a honest performance from all angles. Brandon T. Jackson as Grover Underwood makes sure that there is no dull moment in the movie, along with Douglas Smith as Tyson the Cyclops. Most of the funny moments of the movie are from these two, and they are really good, and never inappropriate. Alexandra Daddario plays Annabeth Chase, the demigod daughter of Athena, the Godess of Wisdom, and this is one supporting character that you will remember for a long time, despite of the romantic angle kept away in the movie completely. She does have that look too, of that intensity which is kept in check by the heavenly wisdom. She was that good in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief too, and continues the good work.

Leven Rambin is Clarisse La Rue, the arrogant, hot-tempered daughter of the war God, Ares – always looking for combat, and at at the same time finding Percy a threat to her supremacy. After seeing her in The Hunger Games as the District 1 tribute, and the strong contender Glimmer, there was a certainty, that she was going to be great in such roles, and here she is, leading a group of undead who served her father Ares. As the story progresses, her character turns out to be more dynamic, along with adding to the funny as well as the action elements of the movie. There is the suiting depiction of the contrast between the daughter of this God of War and the Goddess of Wisdom. There is no point where the two are similar, and being the daughter of the great War God, she shares nothing in common with all the others out there, with Paloma Kwiatkowski’s Thalia Grace, of the demigod daughter of Zeus still pending. Jake Abel’s Luke Castellan, the demigod son of Hermes is a continuation of what was there in the first part of the movie. Nathan Fillion’s Hermes is a short, but effective presence which stays throughout the movie.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has taken over at a time when the book-based fantasy novels are on the decline. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has proved to follow the path of The Host, and clearly stay with Twilight. The Harry Potter series have finished and Lord of the Rings and Narnia are taking a slow path. There is the need for something similar to fill in, and here is Percy Jackson. With its superior and appropriate 3D effects and the well done action sequences supported by the visual imagery, there is no loss of moments spent for watching this movie. There are also the funny lines, but it denies itself a big chance to take some risks, as it follows the conventional path, never to stray away from it. But, there is a huge amount of honesty in this path which is without any ambiguity, and there is absolutely no attempt to complicate things. The whole thing is kept simple, and as the endoskeleton comes from the Greek Mythology and a little bit of the Harry Potter series, this is a bankable movie which most of the critics need to stop overthinking. It is time to have some fun and at the same time, recollect those days of learning the Greek Mythology.

Release date: 7th August 2013 (United States); 30th August 2013 (India)
Running time: 107 minutes
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Leven Rambin, Brandon T. Jackson, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Jake Abel, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, Douglas Smith, Anthony Head, Robert Maillet, Derek Mears, Aleks Paunovic, Missi Pyle, Yvette Nicole Brown, Mary Birdsong

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Hunger Games

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As we wait with that patience which would be intolerant in the absence of the movies like Pacific Rim for the arrival of that possible sequel of magnificent wonder and unparalleled inspiration, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and HBO Asia finding it a part of their interest to show its prequel on a number of occasions, it is only a matter of a few micro-seconds when that expected decision is taken to write on this movie which began the adventures of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire – the beautiful protagonist of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy on screen. The question would remain though, about how much of an impact these movies can create, on those undesirable factors which prevail throughout the current world, even as the movie is set in the future. On my records, this is among the best movies of 2012, sharing the honour for third place with The Cabin in the Woods, but in a perfectly assigned scoring system which I would implement when I came back from the grave, this might come fourth. But isn’t it catchy enough already with its name itself – the games of hunger, or the games for getting rid of hunger, in a future dystopia where inequality thrives with its roots going deep into the soil of human nature? Well, the games would continue in November 2013 and until now, there is this completed game.

A post-apocalyptic situation has lead to the nation of Panem consisting of a wealthy city of Capitol and twelve poor, struggling districts. As a punishment for a past rebellion and riots, each district is forced to provide a boy and a girl as tributes to compete in a virtually created environment in the form of a real world where they would have to struggle for survival, and the last man or woman standing would be rewarded. The tributes are supposed to be between the ages of 12 and 18 and are selected by the lottery method which they called the Reaping. These tournaments of magnificence are called the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her family come from District 12, a coal-mining district which is incredibly poor and less populated, having not a good record or good chance at the annual games. They struggle to survive in situations of hardship. When her sister Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is chosen to fight till death in her first Reaping, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the games. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, is chosen as the other district tribute. Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol in a luxury train and is provided with high level accommodation and the facilities which would have been unknown to them in their district.

They are accompanied by their mentor and past Games victor, an alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). They are informed that they should make them likable enough for the sponsors to send them anything helpful during the match. The find the tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who are trained to win the tournament from the early age itself, and have a big chance of murdering the rest of the participants early. Katniss and Peeta succeeds in making early good impressions with their first public appearance as well as the interviews, and the former does exceedingly well with her archery skills. Peeta’s love for Katniss is also revealed during the period of preparation. About half the tributes are killed in the beginning of the game itself, and Katniss, while on the run forms an alliance with a little girl Rue (Amandla Stenberg) from District 11 as the others come up with their own unholy alliances. After her death, Katniss joins with Peeta and tries to survive with only a few contestants left. This process is affected by a number of interventions by the tournament controllers and their plans to keep the tournament at a level which would be the most favourable.

With no surprises, this is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie, as the whole world is centred around Katniss Everdeen. This is third movie of hers that I had the opportunity to watch, after X-Men: First Class and House at the End of the Street, and doubt me not when I say that I shall also watch Silver Linings Playbook. She has set new standards for the leading character of a movie which is a deathmatch with the rules of the last man standing, something which takes a gamer back to that game mode in Unreal Tournament, and whatever followed as the other first-person shooter computer games. Even with doing nothing spectacular, she keeps her character strong, powerful and attractive. Katniss’ extraordinary display of courage is not only portrayed through her one huge life-changing decision to replace her sister and save her life, but also in her words,from the moment she is chosen as the tribute and her existence was possibly going to be a very short one: “No. You can’t. Not like when dad died. You’re all she has. No matter what you feel, you be there for her, you understand. Don’t cry. Don’t cry”. She traverses around that forest with her bow and a quiver of arrows like Artemis, the Greek Goddess of hunting. Josh Hutcherson progresses in the role of Peeta in the exact same way as the viewer would expect.

Meanwhile, Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow delivers those powerful quotes to be remembered: “I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it”. This dialogue defines the movie in a scene – what The Hunger Games is all about. As the primary antagonist of the series, and the autocratic ruler of the Capitol and all of Panem, it also defines the character and lest us know what to expect from him in the upcoming movies. There is a lot more to come from him, and one can be sure that some of those moments won’t leave one that easily. Foxface is the female tribute from District 5 played by Jacqueline Emerson is the next interesting character, even as the tribute makes very less impact on the storyline. Alexander Ludwig’s Cato and Isabelle Fuhrman’s Clove makes the skilled and heaviy trained District 2 tributes who work as the major antagonists inside the tournament.

The movie lacks in the intense action sequences and use of good special effects and CGI which could have made this one even better, and the slowness gets a little uninspiring at some moments. But what it losses in its lack of pace, action and effects is gained by some great acting and its own powerful theme. Katniss herself is a symbol of a rebellion for the twelve poor districts against the rich Capitol’s oppression, and even as this movie only begins a procedure, and Katniss has only become the shadow of what she can do later, this is one message against inequality and oppression which the movie has conveyed wonderfully. “War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child. This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future.”

What is said in these lines are the lies that the common man is forced to believe; and as the dictator himself says, it gives them hope which rises over their fear. But this is that fake hope which helps them to rule over the common man and continue to be rich at their cost. The need for rebellion is asserted, as it is the Capitol that rules them all, and it is that one city that has everything, and when the rebellion for their own basic needs is termed as treachery and the people branded traitors. The theme of self-sacrifice is there, as Katniss’ substitutes herself and becomes willing to die for her younger sister, like Jesus did for the atonement of the sins of humanity; Peeta also rises from under the stone, and the symbolism of bread prevails throughout the movie. The human battle for survival, the influence of the media and the need for freedom are also seen throughout the movie. There is the rise of the underdog, a common popular thing, and his defiance which changes the world upto an extent, and will define it further. The movie strikes, and it inspires, and Jennifer Lawrence does the rest. This is one movie which makes you think on many lines, and the most significant thought is defiance. Remember the story of the demi-god Theseus and the Minotaur, in which the Minotaur is fed with a certain number of boys and girls from the city, for there are some cycles which need to stop.

Release date: 23rd March 2012
Running time: 142 minutes
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Dayo Okeniyi, Isabelle Fuhrman, Alexander Ludwig, Paula Malcomson, Jacqueline Emerson, Leven Rambin, Dayo Okeniyi, Jack Quaid, Amandla Stenberg, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.