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.

Despicable Me 2

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In spite of knowing the critical annihilation and the box-office devastation which has created that horrible shadow of death over this movie’s major nemesis, and one of the only two Hollywood movies which released here for the last two weeks, I took that huge step to watch The Lone Ranger ahead of Despicable Me 2 which had to be the obvious choice with a better critic’s love at rottentomatoes and a better audience love at IMDB. It mainly because they said the same about two other Johny Depp movies, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Alice in Wonderland, and I watched both of the movies, and understood how much subjective their ratings were, and how much they differed from me according to the likes and dislikes; and as my opinions are considered, I would stay away from those not so interesting ideas and leave myself to the mercy of the movie directly. I had this feeling; may be The Lone Ranger is too good for the critics to take? I always knew they had their own preference except for the few. So what if the movie hit an area which made them give such low ratings?

There are many side to it though, as at that moment, I hadn’t remembered how well they had negatively rated Ghost Rider 2, as that was a memory which I successfully erased by planting better images of awesome movies. It was a much needed intellectual operation, I assure you, for without the same, I wouldn’t have given away so much to the multiplexes with such an animated ease. Well, I was half-wrong as The Lone Ranger was not that good and still not too bad, and then I had to follow it with Despicable Me 2. How can one say no to Gru, the super-villain who adopts three girls and turns good, just like the good old Megamind who turned good after adopting the lady and the city. We had both of them saving the day against a villain each, who had the advantage on that side. There are so many thing about bad turning good, and one of them is that it brings the message of hope, and with Despicable Me 2, it continues. Well, being despicable has never been an option, and it has ornated the villains for quite a long time. Both Gru and Megamind are just the lighter shades of the same evil which failed miserably in its attempt to maintain its legacy, and instead had to turn to where the really belonged, to goodness.

A giant magnet steals a secret laboratory which had a chemical compound wihich could turn any creature into mindless, indestructible killing machines. The Anti-Villain League (AVL), a secret organization working to keep the super-villains under control, is worried about the machines going into the wrong hands. The former super-villain Gru is asked to help on the matter. Even as he rejects the offer, there is a later reconsideration as his business is going a strange way and his scientist friend who misses being evil also leaves him. Gru takes over as an undercover agent in a bakery selling cupcakes along with the established secret agent Lucy Wild who becomes his love interest later. He doubts one of the owners of a restaurant in the same mall as one of those fiery villains of the past who is supposed to be dead. But the suspicion eventually falls on the wig-maker Floyd Eagle-san who is found to have some of the chemical compound inside the walls of his shop. Gru has to come up with his own theories, get back his love and also find a number of his minions who have gone missing for sometime. It is up-to him to save the world from whatever plan an evil mastermind has already made and is working for.

Gru rules the show yet again, and is second only to our own Megamind, and the minions come next to the elves of Rise of the Guardians. The latter almost ties with the saber-toothed squirrel of the Ice Age series and the penguins of the Madagascar series. Gru’s relationship with the kids and his response to his own feeling of love are the highlights of the movie, and other than that, there is nothing innovative nor extraordinary – but the way in which the legacy of the first movie is maintained, is applaudable. The minions keep bringing the laughter and the smile to each and every person in the theatre, and the age difference doesn’t really matter. They get more and more adorable as the stupid little things, a replica of the Vodafone Zoo-zoos, as they keep on talking in a strange language, and doing the deeds of stupidity with success and still remain an integral part of all the evil and good plans. From the first moment of the title sequence itself, they would seem to make us believe that it is their movie, and they are there till the end, and considering the fact that they are many and they look the same, this is the “minion” movie. The name itself takes me back to that game Overlord, one of my all-time top ten games, and thus it is a gamer alert & game reminder movie for me too.

Just as Gru would always be the same except for the alignment, the same is the case of the kids and the minions. But, there is no doubt about the fact that Gru has turned a little more of the big loving, caring, possessive father figure, but that signs were always there in him, even as villain, and now with the absence of evil, that is one thing he can focus on with full concentration – along with being not that good a businessman as he claims or wishes to be. Being a spy could replace the same, but here it came as the second preference. Unlike Megamind, Gru is not a villain who directly makes one think about all the possible themes and motifs, as Despicable Me has always remained intellectually inferior to Megamind, but as a family movie, it had scored a bit more, and the kids are expected to prefer this one for its too simple a story and the little ones who they can easily identify with; for the parents, they can give the kids some of the best moments through this movie, and that too in good 3D and lovable characters.

“When the world needed a hero, they called a villain” – it is that tagline which can work with so many movies starting with Megamind. It has not been too long since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire came up with those lines of heavy significance: “Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.” Despicable Me 2 presents us with a Gru is more fun when he acts kind of evil or when he acts like a kid. Considering the belief that humans are inherently evil, this works perfectly well. But then the question remains if he should have been good or evil, except for the fact that he is very much capable of goodness. It is a question that might never have an answer, as both the goodness and the evil is necessary for a possible sequel later. But with a new member added to the family and their world being made complete, the possibility is less. One more sequel can still do this series good, as there is a lot more life left in this as long as the audience’s love for the characters are concerned. They would love to have another, and that might be an assurance.

Does this successfully become preachy and work out a legacy which can match this movie with Megamind? The answer is no, and if there was any of the same about good and evil, it gets washed away by the heavy dose of fun. The spin-off movie titled Minions, featuring the Minions as the major characters is scheduled for a release on December 19th, 2014 – I wouldn’t expect that to come up with anything other than fun though. Just like this movie, it won’t leave you with a question “to watch or not to watch”, as nobody will have to tell you to go for that one, considering how much of a success this is turning out to be at this part of the world. But that would be another movie of pure entertainment fueled by extreme silliness, presented in a lovable manner. There exists a group of people who can be made to laugh only by the minions, and such a species would always need them. For the people who want a different minion, there is always the movie, Megamind – undoubtedly the best animated movie in many ways, and all the reasons for it to be called so, is to be explored individually by troubling the intellect, and supported by the fun.

Release date: 3rd July 2013
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Starring (voice): Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.