Furie

Vampire Owl: This surely sounds like fury with the original spelling.

Vampire Bat: There is another movie with this title in English itself.

Vampire Owl: So, you are beginning to explore other language.

Vampire Bat: Yes, this one is Vietnamese, and other languages will follow.

Vampire Owl: Does this remind you of any of your previous journeys to East Asia.

Vampire Bat: No, the journeys were to Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. None of them are the same.

Vampire Owl: So, this doesn’t bring much of those memories back?

Vampire Bat: Well, those memories are not going to return. The trips have all ended with the Corona Virus.

Vampire Owl: Well, a Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos trip should happen at some point.

Vampire Bat: It might come a long time later, and that would mean many years later.

[Gets a marble cake and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: Hai Phuong (Veronica Ngo) is a former gangster who used to belong to a powerful family in the city, but is now living in the city with her daughter Mai (Cat Vy), working as a debt collector, while she used her skills in vovinam, a Vietnamese martial arts from. With the kid’s father having died a long time ago, she is having a hard time, as both the mother and the child are harassed due to the kid being born out of wedlock, and also because the mother is a debt collector who is seen as a continuous trouble maker. Mai wishes to stop going to school and start a fish farm with her mother, so that they won’t be bullied again, not at the school and not at the market or the streets. But one day, after having a verbal fight with her daughter, Hai finds Mai being kidnapped by some men, and she follows them through road, but can only see them taking her away on a boat, and then into a transport to Ho Chi Minh City also known as Saigon.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Hai is returning to the the most populous city in Vietnam, and the capital of the former state South Vietnam after a long time, this time, not as a gangster, but as a mother looking for her daughter who was kidnapped. With no clue about where to search, she asks her former gang members to help, but they refuse help because things did undergo some change around there, and the power balance has shifted – not helping them would be the best for the safety. As he approaches the police, she finds them not good enough, but she does manage to steal the reports of some criminals who could be related to the case of missing children. Detective Luong (Phan Thanh Nhien) is in charge of the cases related to the missing children, but she just misses him. There seems to be a big international gang working behind this, and it could also have a link to her notorious past. Now, can she survive and manage to find her daughter in time?

The defence of Furie :: There is a high dose of action here, provided from the beginning to the end, without any break. All the action sequences are too good, and at the same time believable, taking the best out of the Vietnamese martial arts. We only have the realistic moves here though, with no bodies flying around like in some third-rate superstar movie that we know. We are amazed by the leading lady’s skills in performing action as well as depicting the feelings so well. There is the final action scene on a train, which has been taken in the best possible way. The emotions are also running high, and there is the raw beauty of rural Vietnam as well as the charming style of Ho Chi Minh City. We have those shots from a distance and from the heights, as we get caught in those visuals. We do manage to have a fine chase or two in between here. Furie is a thrilling ride, and we are with a mother in this one, like we were with a father in Taken and its sequels – she is also John Wick of another kind. This is a fine movie to begin your love with Vietnam.

Positives and negatives :: Furie is more or less a full martial arts movie which depends on the same to keep things interesting, taking out John Wick‘s shootout side completely. It is also a tale of redemption, but you need to like the action elements to fall in love with the movie. This is also an amazingly stylish movie, not just with the action, but also with the visuals. You can see the difference between the city and village life, enjoying the beauty of both. With a movie like this, action had to click, and it does, amazingly well, as you are kept on the edge of the seat. If you have watched the Malayalam movie Thira, you will know that it had to be thrilling, but that one never had the need for action sequences, but Furie needed it, and with a desperate mother in the main role, nails it. The chase scenes and the brutal fights will keep this one going strong. The fights are not only on the ground, but also on trains, boats and motor-bikes, as the environment also contributes to making this feel better. The flashbacks give a better idea of the story, but at times, they are redundant.

Performers of the soul :: It is Veronica Ngo who steals the show throughout this movie, with her martial arts moves. There is something that you don’t usually see with the fight scenes as long as she is around. She was there in one of the Star Wars movies, but not noticed much because it was a smaller role. The other main characters are also female, except for a police officer and some others who seem to come into picture for shorter intervals of time. Most of them are there only to get beaten up by her, as the lesser troopers of the evil side. Tran Thanh Hoa plays the antagonist, and she also has her smart moves with some nice action sequences to go with it. Phan Thanh Nhien has a few of them, and is there in a supporting role, after he comes to the picture rather late. Pham Anh Khoa has a smaller, but noticable role to play, and so does the one who plays the nurse at the hospital. The main characters in the village markets are all female too. Cat Vy who plays the daughter is also a fine child actor as proven here.

How it finishes :: Furie is a high quality movie from Vietnam, and it is the first, as well as the only Vietnamese movie which I have watched. This is the kind of movie which has you a lot interested in the movie from the beginning to the end, never wishing to take your eyes off, as you will end up missing the action. The movie was the Vietnamese entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. Among the foreign movies that we watch from here, this movie should have a higher status, and something above the rest of the movies from East Asia. Vietnam surely scores with that, and there is the need to focus on some more of the movies from this nation which makes some very interesting movies along with being a tourism destination that everyone should be visiting. I also had a plan to visit the place, but that didn’t work out – with the Corona Virus problem going on and on, I will have to be satisfied with what can be seen in this wonderful movie.

Release date: 22nd February 2019
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Le Van Kiet
Starring: Veronica Ngo, Cat Vy, Phan Thanh Nhien, Pham Anh Khoa, Tran Thanh Hoa

<— Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Iron Mask

Vampire Owl: I know a man who was wearing the Iron Mask.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that these people are not talking about that creature Doctor Frankenstein brought to life.

Vampire Owl: No, I am talking about the mask in the Great Vampire Museum.

Vampire Bat: Okay, you are talking about the ceremonial mask of the vampire elders.

Vampire Owl: Yes, it is something like that, I believe.

Vampire Bat: Do you know that you can forget the mask because the original title of the flick is Viy 2: Journey to China?

Vampire Owl: I guess that has both Russia and China then.

Vampire Bat: It is loosely based on the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol’s horror novella Viy, and is a sequel to the movie which is released a long time ago.

Vampire Owl: But I see no horror around here, only fantasy adventure.

Vampire Bat: Yes, as mentioned earlier, it seems to be loosely based.

[Gets a strawberry cake and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: The movie begins with the talk about a great dragon which lived in the far south of the heavenly empire. His eyelashes which went down deep into the ground came back on the surface as beautiful plants – they healed thsoe people on Earth who were suffering. The leaves of this plant was known as tea, and the special powers of the drink made from these leaves spread far and wide. To take care of his eyelashes and preserve the greatness and healing properties of tea, a group known as white wizards were given the power, along with a magical seal. People from all over the world wanted this new drink known as tea, and they gave away great riches, including gold, silver and those which they considered precious in a personal manner. Some of these white wizards were too greedy, and with the help of a two-faced witch, they took over the cave of the dragon. The white wizards lost the battle to free the dragon, and all was lost.

So, what happens with the events here? :: English traveller Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) had an order from Peter the Great (Yuri Kolokolnikov) to map the Russian Far East, as nobody knew how huge the Russian Empire was, at that time. He already had a scientific voyage from England to the East earlier, passing through Transylvania and crossing the Carpathian Mountains. This new journey though, was supposed to be awarded, but he ends up finding himself in the prison, as the emperor he knew is not the one on the throne, and has come with some strange reforms too. He finally manages to get out of there with the help of Lord Dudley (Charles Dance) and is accompanied by a boy named Cheng Lan (Helen Yao) on his journey, who is actually the princess, the daughter of the master of white wizards. They embark on a journey to China on a carriage, and they battle random people, as Cheng shows great martial arts skills in defeating them, but chooses to stay at the top of the carriage so that Jonathan won’t know that she is a girl.

And what else is to follow in a world of magic, both good and evil? :: Meanwhile, Jonathan’s lover Miss Dudley (Anna Churina) goes to the prison, and leads to the events directing to the escape of Peter after some period of continuous fighting. But the great Master (Jackie Chan) can’t escape from James Hook (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who handles the prison tower, and gets him back into his cell, this time in solitary confinement. Peter does manage to get into a Russian ship leaving for China, as he pretends to be one of the workers in the port, and hides himself. Miss Dudley also manages to sneak in by hiding the fact that she is a lady, but when the sailors find out the truth, they corner her, and is almost molested, but Peter saves the ship from a storm, and they makes him the new captain, saving Dudley herself. As the two groups travel to China, one by land and the other on water, can these people save the enslaved people of their lands and free the dragon responsible for the creation of tea, along with making Russia better?

The defence of The Iron Mask :: This is one beautiful movie as far as the visuals are concerned. As a Russian and Chinese co-production, this was supposed to have beautiful visuals of both nations from the time period when they are based, and we are not disappointed with the same – the special effects add really well here too. We see the wide difference at both places, like we see in an Age of Empires game, for two civilizations’ variety in buildings and more are also seen, especially with so many nice shots from above. The action sequences are brilliantly done. The final fighting sequences are stylish, and visually stunning, with a dragon, people with special powers, and martial arts. The CGI is very well used for the same. It is the kind of fantasy that reminds one of movies like The Hobbit, and at times makes sure that you don’t miss Avengers anymore, as heroism with magic and superpowers never gets too far away. The story about tea is a lovely addition and so is the humour around here.

The claws of flaw :: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, even though do make us feel better with this movie with their presence, gets into the action only the beginning stages. They could have been given more to do, considering the fact that they are the two people in this movie whom everyone knows, and a good reason why everyone will watch this one without hesitation – they were even in many posters, but Helen Yao is a good actress, and leads the path well in comparison to the others. There is also a certain level of predictability related to this movie, and the English dubbing doesn’t seem to be that good either – it does work better than Abigail, another Russian movie which released in the same year. One does feel that the previous movie and the book might score better in writing, because this one seems to focus on the visuals a lot more than everything else, with the exception of the action sequences which were always supposed to be there.

How it finishes :: The previous movie Viy a.k.a. Forbidden Empire was not that popular in this part of the world, and this is the first time I have known about its existence, even though I was writing many fantasy movie reviews during that time. But I understand that it did make an impact then. Viy 2: Journey to China also known as The Iron Mask is not written as a dark fantasy like the previous movie, but in the form of fantasy adventure, not really going dark as expected. This one seems to be well suited for all kinds of audience, and it is a journey of adventure in a colourful world, that one can remember for a long time for what they have witnessed on the screen. It might remember you of other fantasy adventure movies, but this one does have a special place due to its combination of so many things to create that extravaganza which is there to stay.

Release date: 21st September 2019
Running time: 124 minutes
Directed by: Oleg Stepchenko
Starring: Jason Flemyng, Charles Dance, Rutger Hauer, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Helen Yao, Martin Klebba, Christopher Fairbank, Igor Jijikine, Anna Churina, Yuri Kolokolnikov

<— Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Divine Fury

Vampire Owl: We are certainly not used to watching Korean movies.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but we make exceptions with some of those films

Vampire Owl: I think that the last two Korean movies reviewed around here were The Wailing and Train to Busan.

Vampire Bat: They were the only two movies of that particular language which were reviewed here. The other big movies were Chinese.

Vampire Owl: Yes, The Mermaid and The Monkey King 2. I remember them. There were two short-films too, I guess.

Vampire Bat: After that, the total number of movies watched itself was decreased, and there was no chance for Korean and Chinese films.

Vampire Owl: Well, we are back here watching them though.

Vampire Bat: Yes, there is always more movies to watch, except at the theatres during the time of Corona Virus.

Vampire Owl: That time too will pass, and we will be back to watching the latest movies at the theatres.

Vampire Bat: I shall display no doubt regarding that statement, so that I can hold on to some more optimism at the time of crisis.

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

What is the movie about? :: Yong-hoo (Park Seo-joon) is a martial-arts champion who keeps winning all his fights as if he is seeking revenge for the death of his father, who was murdered while doing his duty as a police officer in the city, and his mother who had died even earlier. He feels that God didn’t listen to his prayer when he was a child, and left him an orphan, and the wrath which he possessed from the same feeling helped him to become the fighting champion he ended up to be. But one day, he has an injury on his hands, which he shows at the hospital, but after a number of days, it only gets worse with the doctor confirming that it is not an infection, and he should show it at a bigger hospital in the city. Finally, he decides to meet a new shaman, a blind young girl who has a connection with the spirit world. The girl finds out that there is something evil about him, and refers him to the priest at a local church.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There he meets Father Ahn (Ahn Sung-ki) who is performing an exorcism, and with his wound, he is able to help him. The priest reveals that it is stigmata, the bodily wounds which were imposed on Jesus Christ while he was undergoing crucifixion. He also added that it would appear only on those people who have strong faith. It surprises him though, as he has never known faith after his father died. But, as time passes, he gets involved in what the priest has been doing, including getting rid of the demons, as there is nobody else who is willing to help him in the dangerous exorcisms. He slowly and steadily begins to regain his faith in God, but there is a bigger evil in existence in the city, and soon enough, they need to find it. When they exorcise a demon from a young girl Soo-jin (Park Ji-hyun), the priest comes to know about it. Can they do it early enough, or will darkness envelope the city? What would be the key to defeating the demons they don’t know much about?

The defence of The Divine Fury :: There is something about The Divine Fury that you will find different, or rather many things, as you approach it as a horror movie, but that is only one side of it, while having your journey through the film. The movie basically blends many things, including action sequences, mystery, thrilling moments and others of emotional bonding. The emotional side to the movie also remains strong between all these action and horror. The movie has a run-time just a few minutes more than two hours, and we get through that quickly, as there is no slowing down the action here, for the demonic presence is always there. The final action sequence somewhat reminds one of Constantine, even though not that much well done, and there are some nice punches and kicks being landed in the end. The final shot of moving hands from the well is really creepy, and so are the exorcisms which are well done, especially that of the young girl and the kid.

The claws of flaw :: The movie doesn’t really begin so well, and it gets interesting with the first exorcism which the protagonist partially witnesses. There are many other approaches which this movie could have taken too, but it often chooses the easy way, especially with some parts giving the impression that we have watched all of these before. People might think that there is a little bit of too much speech about God and faith going on right through it, but it is a necessary part of the movie. The final action scene could have been made somewhat like the John Wick fights between the lights, and the demon in the end could have also been scarier. We could have also used more exorcisms, and the philosophical dialogues could have been quickly done with. The villain could have actually had a better background and backstory too.

Performers of the soul :: Park Seo-joon plays the main character, and he has some interesting movie titles under his name. We can witness the changes that come across him clearly, as we see the journey shown nicely. Ahn Sung-ki as Father Ahn also makes a perfect priest, and his dialogues about almost everything catches our attention – there are words of wisdom from him which we might miss, if we are not careful enough. From the first moment he is seen in the exorcism scene, we know that he would be the right priest. The two also share some funny moments too, even though the seriousness of the situations stay as it is. Woo Do-hwan doesn’t really fall behind much either. It has to be noted that the movie has managed to have some fine performances from the supporting cast, especially those who plays the possessed, starting from the young girl played by Park Ji-hyun. You have to look out for them every time.

How it finishes :: The Divine Fury is the movie that deals with exorcism and the demons in a very different way compared to what we have seen in many different movies, from The Conjuring, The Nun and Annabelle series or the good old Insidious franchise. There is also the hope for a sequel known as The Green Exorcist. I will surely be looking forward to it, as this is the kind of movie which Hollywood will find difficult to make, and the Korean movie industry has nicely made one movie which could stand apart, even though not without its flaws. Do not get fooled by the comparatively smaller rating given to it when we consider some other popular Korean movies, because this one is not a pretender, and it goes through things directly. If you want to watch a good action horror movie with martial arts and exorcism running through it along with some philosophy, do watch this one.

Release date: 31st July 2019
Running time: 129 minutes
Directed by: Kim Joo-hwan
Starring: Park Seo-joon, Ahn Sung-ki, Woo Do-hwan, Park Ji-hyun, Jung Ji-hoon, Sim Hee-seop, Seo Jeong-yeon, Jo Eun-hyung, Kim Seon-min, Jung Eui-soon, Kim Bum-soo, Lee Chan-yoo

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Mikhael

What is the movie about? :: George Peter (Siddique) is the rich and notorious don of the area who is known to run the family business as well as criminal activities of the city and its surroundings with such energy and enthusiasm that he doesn’t hesistate to kill even police officers according to his will, the latest of them being N Sreenivasan (Kishore) who dared to arrest him in front of the public. When a new investigating officer Easa (JD Chakravarthi) is appointed in his place with Issac (Suraj Venjaramoodu) to assist him, the hunt for the mafia ruling the city gets stronger. It is then that the headless body of George is found along with his right-hand man, brutally murdered. Then the man who mediates between two rival gangs, Patrick (Kalabhavan Shajohn) is also shot by someone. This brings trouble with gang wars ready to break out.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: With George’s brother Marco Jr (Unni Mukundan) coming to the scene, and Francis Davi (Sudev Nair) from the opposite gang trying to have his own vengeance, the police department is kept on his toes. All these seem to point to one man, doctor of the nearby Starcare hospital called Mikhael John (Nivin Pauly) who seems to have a long story to tell about his family and how it came across George. He is the man who seems to be responsible for the death of George and Patrick, but the question remains about what Marco Jr will do about that, with going to police and assuring law and justice, not being an option for him. Easa and Issac will be happy to see the rival gangs fighting each other, or someone murdering the gangsters, but how long can the police department keep away from the scene? Will there be vengeance and can there be justice?

The defence of Mikhael :: The movie is high on style and action sequences, but one can note that it never really goes too far, as it keeps away from elements like flying villains, hero who knows everything before it happens, and all. The music is mostly good and at times excellent, with very few exceptions that we can notice. There are those mass elements, but they are kept in control unlike The Great Father and Abrahaminte Santhathikal which had the same director’s hands firmly on them in one way or the other, or Masterpiece which had so much of the same – the heroism as well as the whole story itself is far more believable, and has better and smarter twists with this one. The thrills are present all the time, and the emotional side works pretty well. The visual style is very nice, and the same rises above the rest. The dialogues are powerful, and Mikhael is a movie that doesn’t hesitate to come up with some moments which are above a normal movie in the industry.

The claws of flaw :: There are times when style gets over substance in this movie too, as The Great Father and Abrahaminte Santhathikal also did. We also see too many similarities with former, with a school being at the centre of attraction, and one girl who is dear to the protagonist – fighting for her becomes the priority for the protagonist. The slow motion could have been reduced, and the interest in sunglasses for some characters continues to be strange. The first half also takes some time to get into the main idea, and we also see the presence of predictability here, with the protagonist and antagonist coming close to facing each other. The ladies don’t have much to do in this movie either, except for the girl who sets everything moving. You can see that some moments were added just for the sake of adding them, and inspirations from foreign movies are certainly there.

The performers of the soul :: It is up to Nivin Pauly to rise and stay at the top, and he manages to do that well – still, his best moments were when his character was a family man, with vulnerability, but it was surely nice to see him in a different avatar, extending what he showed in Action Hero Biju. He does show that he is good at them all, and in a movie which has substance rising over style will surely have him shining better. There are the two qualities of Michael shown by Christina Rossetti with her poem on the angels – service & strength, as doctor & martial arts expert here. One the other side is Unni Mukundan who plays the main antagonist towards the end, and we remember him playing just the opposite in the movie Style – with Tovino as his villain; here he has to face the same thing, even though stylish as he is, with less space on the screen, and not getting the best of dialogues when there was scope for a lot of the same. He should have been given the opportunity to be a more menacing villain rather than showing the muscles. The Luciferesque qualities are seen better with Siddique’s character as Satan against Michael, the leader of heavenly angels – the one who chooses to reign in hell & go against all norms, establishing his own pandemonium. He is the Satan that Milton would keep in his Paradise Lost.

Further performers of the soul :: At the same, Siddique becomes that villain who anyone could have wanted to be – evil and sadistic, going on to reach a state which is nothing less than mentally sick. His ways of tormenting or even finishing off his opponents, and even his dialogues are with that kind of terror that an antagonist can always dream about, and a protagonist can have nightmares about. The girl who played the main character’s sister, a name which hasn’t been known through the early cast list on internet or posters, Navani Devanand also needs some applause as she gets everything right in this movie – she could be a talent to look out for, in the future. She nails all emotions perfectly, whether its anger, sadness or joy. Shantikrishna, Babu Antony, Kalabhavan Shajohn, Ashokan, Baiju and KPAC Lalitha are left with not much to do here. Manjima Mohan as the heroine doesn’t really have anything to do either, and even Reba Monica John who is there for a few minutes leave better impact. JD Chakravarthi, Sudev Nair and Suraj Venjaramoodu get their nice moments though.

How it finishes :: The whole story of Mikhael here has an allusion to the archangel Michael, the leader of the archangels who lead the battle against Satan, a.k.a. Lucifer and his forces who rebeled against God. As a protector and a fighter against evil, this image is reiterated here by giving the same name to the protagonist, and the images of the angel being shown on multiple spaces – the opposite can be seen through the images displayed in the room of the antagonist. The whole movie is about how the brother becomes the guardian angel for his sister, vanquishing the evil forces – with the same, we have the style, all the action, thrills and twists which keep coming at regular intervals; surprisingly, there is also the presence of some funny side. This one might not be the favourite for the family audience, but is surely one nice entertainer which successfully defends its territory within the genre.

Release date: 18th January 2019
Running time: 150 minutes
Directed by: Haneef Adeni
Starring: Nivin Pauly, Unni Mukundan, Navani Devanand, Manjima Mohan, JD Chakravarthi, Sudev Nair, Babu Antony, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Siddique, Renji Panicker, Shantikrishna, Kalabhavan Shajohn, KPAC Lalitha, Amal Shah, V Jayaprakash, Kishore, Reba Monica John, Baiju

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Vampire Owl: You remember the secret which I had told you earlier, don’t you?

Vampire Bat: Everything you talk about sounds like a secret. Which one exactly are we talking about here?

Vampire Owl: That the Vampire Panda is actually Kung Fu Panda?

Vampire Bat: It was not a case of secret being revealed. It made no sense.

Vampire Owl: Dude, they are both the same. You can see them do Kung Fu in the same way.

Vampire Bat: But the Kung Fu Panda has more fat.

Vampire Owl: He has hidden them all using Kung Fu magic.

Vampire Bat: You mean to say that he is a wizard who knows Kung Fu.

Vampire Owl: It is exactly what I am talking about. This movie should have even more clues about him.

Vampire Bat: I am having more clues about you.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with Kerala samosa].

What is the movie about? :: Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), as he passes through the spiritual realm, meets Kai (J.K. Simmons) who had defeated all the Kung fu masters in the realm, and had taken their chi, or life force, making him stronger than he had ever been in the land of the living. Oogway also gives in, providing him with his chi, but does warns him that the great dragon warrior will stop him one day. Meanwhile, Po (Jack Black) is once again not having the best of times as the dragon warrior. Taking over the role of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) with kung fu training go all wrong, and he decides to question himself as the one whom the world claims that he is. Master Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Master Mantis (Seth Rogen), Master Crane (David Cross), Master Viper (Lucy Liu) and Master Monkey (Jackie Chan) are all there, but Po is still disappointed.

So, what happens next? :: He once again returns home to find solace in noodles as well as his adoptive father, Mr. Ping (James Hong). There he finds out that another panda, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) has broken his record of eating dumplings. This unexpected visitor is recognized as Po’s biological father, and there is the father-son re-union much to the dismay of Ping who becomes afraid of losing his son, the one person whom he held close to heart more than anyone else. But this re-union is troubled as they are attacked by zombies who resemble the dead kung fu masters. These masters sent by Kai awakens the need for the dragon warrior to master chi, and to do the same, he will have to go to the secret panda village, as they have always been the experts in healing using the power of chi. But a long time has passed, and the enemy is nearby – can Po master the same in time to save everyone?

The defence of Kung Fu Panda 3 :: Just like the previous two movies, this one is also a movie that will appeal to everyone, from the little kids to people of any age as far as one can watch a movie on the screen. It is undoubtedly the movie that the fans of the franchise will love to watch, and it is the animated movie that one can go for, without thinking twice as the minimum guarantee is still there. The visuals are once again great, and the characters continue to have an impact on the viewers. This continues the legacy of kung fu on the animated screen, and as it was for the earlier movies, there is nothing much that can prevent another sequel from coming up. Kung Fu Panda 3 is indeed fun as expected, and delivers the messages to everyone – a feel-good animated movie that can provide lessons for life might be what the family audience wants to have, not just now, but for many years to come, in a complex situation with new generation of chaotic kids.

The claws of flaw :: The one problem with this flick is that this is the third movie of the franchise, and the protagonist has to go through the same thing again and again, with failures and disbelief followed by all the belief and success in the end. Our hero is the dragon warrior, and he still can’t believe it after so much has been done – we have to wonder how many more movies it will take him to really believe and keep the belief within him; maybe another person would have cost less to make believe. This one doesn’t live up-to the high standards the first two movies had, which might be why the flick had to go to the spirit world to bring the dead ones back. It is surprising that such a creative and successfully franchise doesn’t try to bring something different and something less predictable – maybe they just know that this is going to be a success with these characters and people who love them; maybe they are not done providing tablets of belief yet.

Soul exploration :: The tale of the dragon warrior has always been about making the viewers believing in themselves – it was best shown with the realisation that there is no secret ingredient as it is about the person himself to have faith and make things work. As Alice thinks about six impossible things before breakfast, Po has already had three, all of which he has accomplished – it took him only three movies to do the same; so the lesson remains there for all of us that the dragon warrior is just about being ourselves, and working hard to achieving our dreams which might be closer than we think that they are. Still, the best of the franchise will always be the first movie, which had gone on to become the highest grossing animated film of the year worldwide, and also the one animated movie that everyone mentioned more than any other in the last decade, along with Ice Age, Madagascar and Finding Nemo.

How it finishes :: There is something about Kung Fu Panda that will keep having the viewers watch more and more of it. I was not able to write about the first two movies as this blog didn’t exist when the two flick released, in 2008 and in 2011. This third movie took rather too long to release, and this five year gap might have affected its chances to do even better at the box-office. It should also be one of the reasons why this flick didn’t get that much of the collection as the earlier movies of the franchise. Unlike the 2010 movie, The Karate Kid which had kung fu instead of karate, this one sticks to teaching what is in the title, and even though so many award winning animated movies have come to the front, from Frozen, Inside Out and Big Hero 6 to even Zootopia and Moana in the last one year, Kung Fu Panda is the franchise that everyone will want to watch – lets not have that much of a gap between two movies of the series though.

Release date: 29th January 2016 (USA); 1st April 2016 (India)
Running time: 95 minutes
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni
Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J. K. Simmons, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, James Hong, Kate Hudson, Randall Duk Kim

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

47 Ronin

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Swords and martial arts :: Just a few days after I watched The Forbidden Kingdom on television, this movie finally released in India, overtaking a few other movies which are still pending to be released here. Based on the legend about the revenge of the Forty-seven Ronin based on Japan, the movie brings back the swords and martial arts into the Hollywood which has been taken over by men with the superpowers in the last two years. The movie also marks Keanu Reeves coming to the big screen in this part of the world after a long time. Well, this is the right time for release indeed, as the Christmas releases have been losing power, and with only The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Wolf of Wall Street to give some challenge, 47 Ronin does have the opportunity to do its best here, with one of the most famous actors (thanks to The Matrix) for the people here, as the critical opinions are forgotten.

What is it about? :: Kai (Keanu Reeves) is an outcast among the samurai, as he lives a life throughout which he is ignored as he is a half-breed, half-British and half-Japanese. He is in love with Mika (Kou Shibasaki), which both of them haven’t taken far, as she is the daughter of a Samurai Lord and he is the forsaken one. But as Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) with the aid of a witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi) murders the Lord and takes over the kingdom, the Samurai are banished from their lands and Kai is sold into slavery due to his low birth. But they vow to return and avenge their master under the leadership of Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). 47 in number, including Kai who wishes to save Mika from being forced into marrying the new Lord, the team goes through dangerous quests in order to achieve their objective. The movie deals with their pain, hardships and questions about their possible success in their primary objective.

The defence of 47 Ronin :: Whatever the critics say, 47 Ronin is a colourful movie, and it is difficult not to get lost in the beauty of its colours as well as its use of light, darkness and shadows. There is a beautiful environment created by the movie which seeks our attention. The sword-fights are well-executed without the addition of exaggeration which has threatened to plague this one right from the beginning. There are also some interesting dialogues, some philosophical and some just being stylish. There are also a few funny moments, quite short in length. The CGI which involves some creatures as well as the shape-shifting skills of the witch turned out to be good too, and in the 3D, they looked interesting throughout, but considering the visual experiences we had last year, one can’t be too addicted to this one. The costumes are superb, and the fact that the movie doesn’t delay in getting into action sequences also helps.

Claws of flaw :: The movie takes the slower path at times, staying away from action and keeping the actors doing nothing. The story moves on through a predictable path, and there are not many things happening out there that you haven’t been expecting for a long time. Also, there are strange things happening throughout the movie – no I am not talking about the mass honour suicides, but creatures appearing just for being there and add to the overall head count of the movie, and the “outcast thing” given too much prominence. The romantic side is also less interesting, and one tends to wonder if there was any need for that, as avenging the master would have been more than enough – but they need some romance, to satisfy that kind of people who most probably won’t watch this movie. They have also made Keanu Reeves’ character not bringing that kind of fun which he is expected to take into a movie.

Performers of the soul :: Keanu Reeves is the star, despite his character being one of the least interesting Samurai ever. But as a character who can bring something into an action movie, this one works perfectly. The star from The Matrix and Constantine is quite brilliant in his portrayal of a character which might not have been even needed in this movie. Did they take that half-breed idea right out of those creatures in Constantine? Our hero is kind of there at the wrong place, but the way in which he manages it has to be appreciated. It is good to see that Rinko Kikuchi takes over so well, and that was to be expected after watching her in Pacific Rim. Kou Shibasaki is beautiful, and Hiroyuki Sanada comes up with a performance that is one step above the movie. Tadanobu Asano’s villain is less explored, even as it is an okay screen presence, which kind of fades in comparison with the witch who runs the evil side.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s story of ronin, the samurai with no master, is more of a story of emotions and honour rather than the typical swords and martial arts flick which is usually expected. The two-handed Samurai stuff reminds one of The Wolverine, and the word “half-breeds” of Constantine. There is a lot of emotional undercurrents going on, but just some of them which affects us. As we are not into the Japanese history or legends, it is almost impossible to have a perfect look into it, and it is not easy to do justice to the same. It seems to treat the same with its CGI creatures, which include a six eyed cattle-like creature, a disfigured monk-like person with superpowers, a huge Samurai figure clothed in what looks like metal and the witch’s own white wolf, weird spider and the serpent-like dragon which breathes fire. There is not much to attach the soul to, right there. One can just embrace this movie for how much it catches your attention in the movie hall.

How it finishes :: 47 Ronin is no 300, and it is not even The Forbidden Kingdom. But that doesn’t take a lot out of its pocket. We watched the movie during an almost full show at a place where English movies are not supposed to attract the viewers especially if any Malayalam movie is running, and so I would say that it is doing okay here, despite all the negativity which has been associated with it in North America and other places and also that low box-office collection which has been associated with this. After all, who can say no to a Keanu Reeves movie with sword-fights shot in 3D? There are more of The Matrix fans around here than one can imagine, and that face of Neo is not something that can easily fade away. So 47 Ronin should continue to do fine for a week, and nothing more, as none of the English movies in the theatre right now are expected to carry over to the next release date.

Release date: 3rd January 2014 (India); 25th December 2013 (US)
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Carl Erik Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Kou Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Jin Akanishi, Min Tanaka, Neil Fingleton, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada, Shu Nakajima, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

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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.