Arrival

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Vampire Owl: We are all awaiting their grand arrival, sometimes without even closing our eyes.

Vampire Bat: I don’t understand. Who exactly are you talking about? There are no names on this guest book for quite some time. If this is an unofficial meeting coming up, you will still have to inform Uncle Dracula through the telepathic connection.

Vampire Owl: The ones who shall not be named, those whom nobody shall dare to name.

Vampire Bat: If you can’t name then, I won’t be able to wait for them. It makes no sense at all.

Vampire Owl: It is because you are a man without faith. It makes you spiritually poor.

Vampire Bat: I have more faith than you and your brainless zombie minions combined.

Vampire Owl: Well, the beautifully carved tombstones at my favourite cemetery has better faith.

Vampire Bat: This does make me wonder what you mean by the words “faith” and “arrival”.

Vampire Owl: Maybe, you can take some lessons from this movie.

Vampire Bat: Movies with messages and lessons are the best. Let us see how this one goes.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with special samosas].

What is the movie about? :: A linguist, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is teaching at the university when she hears an alarm. Twelve alien spacecrafts have landed on Earth, at Maracay in Venezuela, Montana in the United States, Kujalleq in Greenland, Devon in the United Kingdom, Kenema in Sierra Leone, Khartoum in Sudan, Punjab in Pakistan, Siberia in Russia, Hokkaido in Japan, Shanghai in China, and also in the Black Sea and the Indian Ocean. The United States Army Colonel G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) contacts Louise to help the nation and the planet Earth as a whole by joining a team which includes people specialised in different fields including a theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). The idea is to understand the reason behind the arrival of the aliens.

So, what happens next? :: At a military camp in Montana near one of the spaceships, the military look forward to knowing if the aliens are really hostile, or are they just trying to make peace with the humans. This can only be done by entering the spaceship at a certain point of time, coming face to face with the creatures. The aliens are nicknamed by the group as “heptapods” due to having seven legs, and the team starts making contact with them. The language of the aliens is something which corresponds to nothing else, as they write some strange circular symbols on the glass which separated them and the humans. Louise puts in a big effort to understand what these symbols mean by connecting them to the basic vocabulary.

What follows the arrival :: Louise also seems to have visions of her daughter at the same time, and it seems to connect with her process of knowing the new language. The nations and their leaders become restless as time passes, and all the spacecrafts remain at the same place without moving an inch. With the curiosity at its peak, the answer from the aliens on what they want seems to be “offer weapon” which alerts all countries. There is the fear of an upcoming threat from the aliens with some new advanced weapons, and some nations even mobilise their military as if to defend against a potential attack. China takes it one step further, as it gets ready to attack the aliens from its territory, and asks other world leaders to do the same. But Louise is convinced that there is something more to this alien arrival – what can it be? Can she stop a war?

The defence of Arrival :: We might have seen many alien invasion movies, but Arrival is the flick that successfully thinks differently with the basic idea. It is science fiction, and it has creatures from other planet, but it so close to life; it is something that not many movies of the same genre will find difficult to achieve. There is also a lot of beauty on screen, and the performances that support the whole thing. The feeling of a possible disaster runs throughout the movie, but there seems to be not more than one explosion in the whole movie. Amy Adams remains the big strong point of the movie, and along with Nocturnal Animals, this is another movie in which she scores amazingly high. Between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Justice League, she has got two perfect movies in there. Jeremy Renner and the visuals nicely compliment the same.

The claws of flaw :: A lot of people are certain to find Arrival to be kind of slow for their liking. There are too many things happening in this movie, and a lot of them are emotional, plus there is almost no big action sequence or destruction which people expect from these type of movies. Don’t judge this movie by the positive or negative opinions though, as Arrival is a kind of personal experience which needs the movie to be watched. It is also a little bit too philosophical – even though it is not that bad, that feeling is not there throughout the flick. A quicker pace, and a more twisted revealing of the surprise would have helped better too, but as this is based on a short story, it is up-to those who have read the tale to make a better analysis inside. The movie could have also been darker in its theme along with speeding up things. I am also sure that people would have expected more considering how the first half was going.

How it finishes :: Based on a science fiction short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang which had won the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella and the 1999 Sturgeon Award, Arrival might be the alien movie and the science fiction flick which you might have been waiting for, with a desire to concentrate less on action. It has won eight OScar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards as we look at them – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Well, if these are not reasons enough to make you watch this movie, one has to wonder what else would have. I would wish for a nomination for Amy Adams for the Best Actress too, with this one and Nocturnal Animals too, but we can’t get them all, can we?

Release date: 11th November 2016
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

North 24 Kaatham

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This is one of the gifts from Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) as I am concerned. No, they didn’t produce this ticket, but a powercut had me going to the theatres. If you wonder if it was the first time, the answer should be no.  And yes, I liked the movie, and there was no reason not to. If any of you don’t like it, I have to say that I don’t write for you. Yes, I write what I find and what I feel; now that wasn’t really a surprise. Well, unlike the fanboys’ stuff like Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi, North 24 Kaatham has more soul than most of those movies out there, yes this blog itself is about the movies of the soul, and if you do not possess a soul or intellect enough to respect others’ opinions, why bother reading reviews when you know that you shall come up with a different opinion than the reviewer? Except for the fans whose opinions are fixed, I would like to believe that there is hope for Malayalam movies. Well, there is no bigger evil than people who do not respect the opinions of others, and I have to say that some of them don’t even know what an opinion means, and it is disappointing in this world.

You evil ones are lesser in number this time, as the critics as well as each and every one in the theatre liked this movie and clapped. So, I am going to be very clear about this one. I have more reasons to like this one than a leading actor and a leading actress who can act. Before that, let me tell the good people among you and the others motivated by self-interest with willing distrust of human (or bat) sincerity, on what goes on in this movie. It is the story of Hari (Fahadh Faasil), a genius computer programmer who is hated by his colleagues due to his lack of social interaction, over-cleanliness and the seemingly hostile attitude to most of the things. He is that kind of a person who hasn’t even gone outside his city, living with a fear of travel. But he is forced to go on a journey as part of his job, and on a day of harthal, he is caught in the middle of a world which he is not familiar with. He is caught up with two other people (Nedumudi Venu and Swati Reddy) and he joins them on their journey, and on the way, he changes his attitude towards life and by the end of the journey, he is a changed man.

I know what kind of questions the evil world can come up with. It might be about the change in the protagonist, but I would say it is clearly a believable change, if not incredibly perfect to the core, but even that wouldn’t be acceptable to the new generation fans. Our protagonist was never a bad man, and nothing has changed in his soul if we look at him. He surely might have had his share of psychological problems, but as a good person, through a few incidents, he realizes his mistakes. Remember how one major psychological problem was solved by one major incident in Manichitrathazhu? This is actually not that much of a problem, for Hari had the right to live in his world as much as anybody else, which is why I say that change is a change only on the surface, and therefore it is nothing for which you have to push a huge stone to the top of a mountain and jump into water with the same stone tied around your neck. Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi was based on selfishness, just like Annayum Rasoolum. But this movie has a lot of goodness in it, and therefore try to enjoy the little things which give the good people happiness rather than be evil and go on a meaningless trip leaving your family behind, for life is reclaimed by goodness and the joy of art and literature alone, and not by having fun, sorry hedonists.

Fahadh Faasil gives a brilliant performance yet again, and yes I was so disappointed with his Olipporu that I couldn’t watch his critically well-received movie Artist, and D Company again let me down. But even with so much less dialogues, he scores and raises the level of this movie with his co-star from one of the movies of the year Amen. Yes, I am talking about the wonderfully talented, charming lady lead that we have got here, Swati Reddy. She plays a modern social worker, wearing a hood and shortening her name Narayani as Nani. She continues her good run in the Malayalam movie industry even as this is an entirely different role from her earlier debut in Malayalam this year. Even as Fahadh is the centre of attraction in this movie, she is charm, and the way in which both of them contradict each other brightens each other, as much as the black and white compliments each other, like no grey character could have ever did, and please note that this black and white doesn’t stand for evil and good, for that age has disappeared. Like Solomon and Sosanna, here is Hari and Narayani, but I would wonder myself if such a romantic side was forced, still a better love story than Annayum Rasoolum and a better travel story than Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi.

The performance by our own veteran actor Nedumudi Venu is another highlight, for he plays the third person in their gang of lost people on the day of harthal. How can I praise someone who is beyond the same? That leaves us with the factor that lies under what seems to be an ordinary plot. It is the social message which worked just the opposite in Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi. Here, it is perfectly done. It is a powerful message against harthal and labelling people as not belonging to the group. There is the trouble of harthal and the condition of the roads that are alluded in the movie. Well, the question remains if Hari needed to change, for he was always good, hardworking and doing what he felt was right. Who would know the minds of the others who surrounded them? Well, it shows how important it is to display your inner goodness or pretend to be caring like some of those devils with human masks do, or the society shall keep you at a pterosaur’s wings apart. It shows how society doesn’t like people who are different, but Hari’s difference in the end is the kind of change that society likes – there lies the biggest paradox of man as a social animal.

As Fahadh plays a much misunderstood man with no heroic quality in him other than goodness, there is that deconstruction of the hero image which the fans would love to identify with. Swati’s character take over some traits of that heroism, and I would guess that a few wouldn’t like this reversal of roles. As Swati’s character makes it her responsiblity to get the old man home safe, Fahadh’s character take the smaller role of accompanying them. The heroism is attributed to the lady here, and in that case, Swati Reddy plays another Sosanna of Amen who fights for her aim, instead of Solomon. She helps the old man out of the train and Hari into the bus, a moment of visible shock in the faces of both. She leads the journey even when Hari keeps moving on the front. The people they meet on the way are presented with their own shades of grey, some of them closer to white and the others close enough to black. They are all down to earth just like the plot of the movie. This feel good movie doesn’t have that new generation add-ons and neither does it has any action sequence; therefore it is a good movie which reflects the goodness of Onam and the right movie for the season.

In a life which is consistently plagued by death, our celebration of life should come from doing the right thing from within our limitations, and not by the unruly “Carpe diem” behaviour. We have such a short life, that is for sure; but living that with a selfish motive of maximum pleasure being the only intrinsic good is not something to be recommended. North 24 Kaatham nullifies the “travel for pleasure philosophy” of Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and uses the “goodness of a travel philosophy” which is much needed in our age. Why do I talk like this?  Because I have travelled with someone, a stranger who didn’t know the local language and made sure that he got home, not this much of a long and interesting story, but I have done what I could on multiple occasions even as I am becoming more skeptic every day – this is our own story, with its own add-ons.  Well, the movie is funny, innovative and thought provoking all at the same time. What more do you need? What more should a debutant director provide you with? If it still, doesn’t touch our heart enough, we are not human enough, and we have no soul within us. It is not old, but it still glitters like gold, and entertains us with its righteousness and the realization like in the 2007 Hollywood movie Evan Almighty, that “the way to change the world is by doing one Act of Random Kindness”. By the end of the day, we are all heroes, not just someone who is born heroic or rises to heroism due to his nobility; thank you dear director.

Release date: 15th September 2013
Running time: 125 minutes
Directed by: Anil Radhakrishnan Menon
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Swati Reddy, Nedumudi Venu, Sreenath Bhasi, Premgi Amaren, Srinda Ashab, Chemban Vinod Jose, Salaam Bukhari

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Oblivion

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It was about six or seven years ago, that the Vampire Bat landed on a game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and he landed on his broken tooth which made him as addicted to it, as Count Dracula is to his coffin. This sequel to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and the predecessor of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had shocked him in a good way, like no other game had before, and his wish was to write a review on it, giving it 100/100 along with Mass Effect, for providing him with that world, his second life where he actually lived, died, resurrected and got beheaded/shot on the head – well, he loved these two games so much that he finished it, as he wanted to that right from the beginning with no rest. For years, the Vampire Bat wished for the movie adaptations of these two, especially of the first one which was his mythical/fantasy world of chivalry compared to the inter-star battles and interactions of the second. But he has been disappointed for long, and here what he get is a movie of the same name as the Oblivion game, with a setting similar to the Mass Effect game. No, the movie doesn’t resemble both of these in story or theme; but this coming together of the elements of these two games is what came to the mind of this nocturnal soul when the first time he saw the movie poster, and he wouldn’t have dared not to share it.

The awesomeness of these two games are clearly visible in this movie though, but not in a way which has similarities. In those games, we could travel anywhere, but coming into the movie, it is a limited world which follows an alien invasion which nearly destroyed the Earth. After the devastation of moon which caused horrible natural disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis and terrible climatic variations. The land is left uninhabitable with the mankind being transported to their new habitat. Former Marine commander Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a drone mechanic who repairs flying machines with advanced weaponry used for defence against alien lifeforms, and is also one of the last few humans stationed on the dying planet with his co-worker Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) living in a baseless tower-like structure thousands of feet above the Earth, but she is still no Rapunzel, and neither is he her prince or adventurer, something which shall be revealed later. Most of their memories are erased, and the knowledge about their past stays locked at the moment. For now, their relationship would seem to reveal that they are in love and might have been even married.

They are part of an operation to clean up the remaining forces of the alien invasion who are referred to as scavengers and also extract the planet’s remaining resources and are due to join the rest of humanity on Saturn’s moon Titan. Jack and Victoria maintain contact with civilization through a video link with their commander, whom they recognize as Sally (Melissa Leo) who is their symbol of hope and salvation, an escape from a world which is almost a wasteland and surrounded by radio active areas. Jack suffers from dreams which are more like flashbacks, having images of New York before the alien invasion and an unknown beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). Meanwhile, Jack rescues an unknown woman from a crashed spaceship as she was encased in a sleeping capsule, in a state of hibernation/hypersleep, and she turns out as the woman from his dreams. But they are captured by a group of humans led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) who reveals to him that there are no aliens on the planet and it is the humans who are hunted by the drones. He requests Jack to reprogram one of the captured drones. But Jack refuses. Malcolm then tells Jack to visit the radio active areas which are restricted to him, and there all his doubts will be cleared.

With a spoiler alert, this paragraph shall proceed. It is revealed that the mystery woman is Jack’s wife, Julia who was with Jack and Victoria when they approached the alien ship, before Jack sending her and the other crew of the ship who are in hypersleep, into the space by detaching the backside of the ship, keeping them away from the aliens. Later it is found out that Jack and Victoria are cloned and there is a large number of clones of both, and they were not born, but grown – a reminder of The Matrix and The Daybreakers, I guess. Their supposed to be passionate relationship is also a product of these alien method of growth and one photo of them together. The alien shown here is more of a super computer, may be sent by the possible original aliens, masters of technology. This monolithic structure is clearly logical in its talks and even uses the images known to the originals of the clones so that they could be made to believe and obey. It creates a little dystopia to the group of two, or the groups of two to be exact. They are actually oppressed and are made to fight against their own race by naming them scavenger aliens. But, thanks to the imperfection of the humans, the imperfect cloning technology of the aliens and also a possible divine providence, Jack becomes somewhat the original again and leads the fight against his former employers. The solution would surely be much better than using a computer virus in Independence Day style.

The mystery starts and ends with Tom Cruise’s Jack – may be brings something from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall. We have had so many Jacks, from Jack Reacher to Jack the Giant Slayer, Jack Frost, Jack Sparrow, Jack and Jill etc. Here, this one is more of a thinker and a lover of nature, which makes Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome catch his attention, and he has quite a good collection of books including Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which he has kept in a small house in the middle of greenery unaffected by the destruction that has gone around for years. He is no parrot and this poetic imagination and love for literature makes him different, and may be he evolved thus after his cloning and erasing of memory. How can one not remember what happened in the movie The Island? Such a thing is perfectly applicable to an alien technology. Well, there is no limit for fiction, and if too many limits are placed, it would lose its right to be called fiction. It would become closer to reality, which would still spawn the question, who’s reality? Now that would be something better left untouched. This is another one of Tom Cruise’s memorable characters for sure, even as he may not be the perfect protagonist, and even if he may be many, numbering in millions. He seems to have fitted into the character with ease.

Jack’s should be existential. He should have been that confused in that wasteland, and also when he had realized that he was just a clone or a copy of someone else. There was that redundant identity crisis and those dreams which seemed to perpetuate nothing. His life gets more and more absurd every time he tries to get answers, as all the answers lead to him finally being a random copy. He had waited for salvation, the firmament which awaited him in the moon of Saturn, but that too is crushed. Now what would remain for him to end as a nihilist, but he has the last fight on his list, as he decides to help the human rebels, and in that process, even sacrifice himself. It is through that loss of life, that the Earth could be redeemed. But who needs an alien invasion to destroy the planet, and considering what is done to it, who might be the aliens? Some are alien to the planet and also to their fellow human beings, and in that case, aren’t these aliens with a powerful inverted pyramid computer better as they keep the human race alive? There is the oppression factor, but is that so much of an oppression considering what humans have done to their own kind for centuries and still continue to do the same in a worse manner even while calling themselves modern and technologically advanced?

Morgan Freeman is as solid as ever, and the two women, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough goes through their sequences as the characters themselves. The former is the emotional lover and the latter the passionate lover. Still, their roles are limited despite the screen presence. Another thing is that the CGI and the special effects out-did the beautiful women. As Jack “wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills” in his mosquito-like helicopter (like that futuristic helicopter they called Raptor in Unreal Tournament 2004), the visually stunning world is brought to light. There is destruction clearly visible, and the signs of the civilization included destroyed buildings, ships and bridges half submerged in sand, never-ceasing smoke from some areas and so on. There are gaps leading to somewhat an abyss between a group of buildings held together by soil or may be in their own centre – a path to Hades and Persephone, half-destroyed structures which look like different things all together, as well as whatever is underground and underwater. To add to it, there is the beautiful area of nature with the small house. Oblivion is an experience, and a lesson to mankind, as well as a reminder of the power of art and literature – rooted on that creativity which is more important than logic, for science can win brutal battles, but to win the war, you need art and literature, as they heal the soul better and people need their wounds to heal and their scars to fade after a major disaster.

Release date: 13th April 2013
Running time: 124 minutes
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Zoë Bell, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Hansel and Gretel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.