The Soul

Vampire Owl: Do you think that vampires can have an extra soul?

Vampire Bat: I don’t understand why one would require one as extra.

Vampire Owl: What if a soul is lost? We can use the other one.

Vampire Bat: The souls are not lost as long as we are living dead.

Vampire Owl: When did we start referring to the undead as living dead?

Vampire Bat: I am sure that we have always been the living dead.

Vampire Owl: Well, I wouldn’t argue as death is only the beginning.

Vampire Bat: There is no undead without the appropriate kind of death.

Vampire Owl: Maybe humans will also understand that death is the true solution.

Vampire Bat: They are less afraid to kill than to die, which is strange.

[Gets a mango cake and three cups of Munnar tea].

What is the movie about? :: Wang Shi-Cong (Samuel Ku), a very rich man and the founder of a medical firm developing cancer treatment based on ultra-modern technology is found murdered. His wife who has also remained a respectable figure, Li Yan (Sun Anke) is discovered to be holding the weapon used for the brutal murder, quite a strange knife-like blunt thing indeed. There are also some strange writings on the door and all over the walls. At the same time, Ah-Bao (Janine Chang), a detective is expecting a child very soon. Liang Wen-Chao (Chang Chen), her husband is having an advanced stage of cancer, and it doesn’t seem to get any better. His cancer seems to be spreading and resisting the existing modes of treatment, and the doctor gives them the advice to consider doing a RNA restoration technology. Liang, who has been working as a prosecutor, decides to join back, as a lot of money is required for his treatment – he had asked her to let him skip that costly treatment, but she has been very adamant in keeping him alive.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Ah-Bao is assigned the case of Wang’s murder, and Liang goes on to become the prosecutor once again, much to the surprise of his wife who was expecting him to take rest. Li Yang tells them that it was their son, Wang Tian-You (Erek Lin) who committed some strange rituals in the same room and murdered his father who had earlier disinherited him because of his strange and unacceptable behaviour. They remember that he only comes back home rarely, and has the same symbol which was seen in the room, tattooed on his body. He has a lot of magical symbols tattooed on his body, and talks about some particular gods and spirits which are not that well-known. He was heartbroken after his mother, the first wife of Wang died, and has been talking about vengeance since then. It seems that other than his wife, the dead man had left another inheritance as the next in line. The detective also understands that the dead man used to have different affairs with many women, which had ruined their world. The first wife also had enough information about hier husband’s life.

What lies beneath the secrets which are unveiled around here? :: There is also the talk about the first wife placing a curse on Wang before death, and about the second wife coming out of an orphanage, with no roots. But they do understand that this particular woman had changed a lot after coming to the mansion. In the beginning, she was very nice to everyone around, and very careful in her behaviour. It felt as if she wanted to be good to make an impression. But that seems to change soon, as they look through the CCTV cameras for some old footages. She wasn’t the person whom she used to be, as she even started talking to nothingness, which she understood as ghosts. They wonder if it was a case of possession or the result of some drugs which were introduced by the medical firm. A bigger surprise is that she who was a right-hander is now a left-hander. Is it science or some dark curse which is behind all of these? After all, isn’t science the modern necromancy? How many secrets can this particular world hold? There seems to be something really strange going on around here, and is anyone good enough to find the truth?

The defence of The Soul a.k.a. Ji Hun :: The movie never stops keeping us interested in the mystery of science or magic, whichever seems to surround a grand investigation. It does keep us guessing through its run, and is very much effective in doing the same. The twists are very much unpredictable, and with so many red herrings around, one only keeps wondering about how good are the characters who have figured it out inside the tale. At a specific point, you make a guess about the characters, and then you have to think differently about them. At one point, you feel that there is the talk about soul in its original form, but then all you see is science. You wonder about psychological problems and demonic possession at the same time. In the end, it is not anywhere close to what you were thinking in the early stages, and there is so much going on around there. Any more revealing would annihilate the beauty of the surprise and twists in here. The movie moves forward beautifully, as if it is poetry in motion, and the level of immersion of the audience that it provides is simply magnificent. The emotional side does help further in its movement forward – you do feel them running strong. The visuals and the music also remains extraordinary and contributes well to the dark beauty.

Positives and negatives :: The movie’s slowness also has a certain amount of beauty related to it, and we watch it move as if part of an elegy written in memory. Well, there is no doubt that it could have traveled somewhat a quicker path as it seems to be in need of being called a thriller rather than anything else – yet, it can be said that The Soul keeps us immersed around here, even without picking up the pace that much when it could have done the same. The details in each moment will still make sure that you are always attentive around here, and there are some top performers to support the same. Chang Chen gets into this character so well that we become attached to the same – there is a lot of immersion into the plight of the character taking place here, and that feels unbelievably realistic. In the beginning, one feels that Janine Chang is the one playing the protagonist, and even though she is not the one doing that, blends in perfectly, and excels in the emotional moments. Then there is Sun Anke who plays the woman in identity crisis with a lot of perfection – it is a role which requires a lot of dedication, and her different expressions are so much of the reflection of her calibre.

How it finishes :: The movie has one of the most complicated plots than any film has had in a long time, and it makes sure that we are always guessing. There has not been many movies which had our guesses going wrong by such a long way. By the end of the film, you are standing on a lot different ground than where you found yourself in the beginning. Well, the world of science and spiritual beliefs can both be strange enough, and this one makes use of both, while placing them in a corporate world where the only thing that reigns supreme is selfishness and a display of a fake “normal” image. I would consider this to be the best movie of the year and also the best film which I have found on Netflix among the last few years’ releases. Then, there is also those final questions which the movie leaves for all of us – what makes one a person? Is it the soul? In that case, where does the soul lie? In the memories of the brain or the emotions of the heart? Or is it something which has no real shape or size to be seen? Well, we will never know, that seems to be a surety. Until then, there are some fine Chinese movies to watch.

Release date: 29th January 2021 (China); 14th April 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Cheng Wei-hao
Starring: Chang Chen, Janine Chang, Sun Anke, Christopher Lee, Baijia Zhang, Erek Lin, Samuel Ku, Daniel Chang, Lu Hsueh-feng

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Get Out

Vampire Owl: This reminds me of the first two words Dracula uncle told me. It is nice of them to make a movie titled the same.

Vampire Bat: You are talking about what happened when you applied for apprenticeship with the wrong biodata.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I wasn’t trained in vampiric language at that time, and messed it up.

Vampire Bat: You could have just used the universal blood language at that time. It was an official language too.

Vampire Owl: I was just glad that I could get these two words from him without thinking that much about the same.

Vampire Bat: It was all that you were looking for?

Vampire Owl: Well, we are all satisfied with what we have, aren’t we?

Vampire Bat: Yes, we are happy with what we are, and what all exist for us.

Vampire Owl: It is something that we need to to teach the humans.

Vampire Bat: Unfortunately, even after being just mortals, they learn nothing about what could face them in the afterlife. The Lego movie characters know better.

[Gets three cups of evening tea with a piece of mango cake].

What is the movie about? :: A photographer named Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) have been in love for a few months, and they decide to visit her parents at a far away place, in the countryside, where they own a huge area of land of and property by the side of a lake. Chris is a little bit concerned about meeting her conservative parents because he is black, and her parents seem to be having a white legacy going with her grandfather having lost to Jesse Owens in front of Hitler during the Berlin Olympics of 1936. But the parents seem to be happy with their relationship, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) welcomes him to their home as part of their family, even though his brother Jeremy Armitage (Caleb Landry Jones) does come up with some strange remarks which they don’t mind that much.

So, what happens next in the movie? :: The servants at the house who are black, act rather too strange towards him, with Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabrietl), both doing strange things and also talking as if there is some hostility in the air. Chris has a strange feeling about the happenings at the place, and has a walk at night, during which he is hypnotised by Missy who is a psychiatrist, after which he feels no desire to smoke. He also seems Walter and Georgina doing some strange things, and Jeremy even tries to put a headlock on him, making him really uncomfortable. There is an annual gathering supposed to happen at the place too, during which a lot of guests seem to have special interest in him, except for the only black man in the group, Logan King (LaKeith Stanfield) who also acts strange. He talks about the same to his best friend, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) who asks him to get out of there.

And what is to follow with a twist of events? :: Chris also meets a man called Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), who is blind, but appreciates his work with photography, as he has his assistant who describes them to him. With all focus on him only, Chris asked about how it feels to be an African-American, but he passes the question to Logan who seems to have a certain problem answering the question, and when Christ tries to take his photo, gets angry, asking him to get out of there. Logan, bleeding from his nose, seems to feel better after a session with Missy, and Chris keeps narrating the happenings to Rod, who tells him that those people there might be brainwashing the black people with Missy’s hypnotizing ability, and keeping them as slaves, or even sex slaves, which at first seems funny, but Chris realizes that there is more to this strange behaviour of the people than what meets the eye.

The defence of Get Out :: The movie has its viewers feeling that there is something coming, right from the first sequence itself, and it keeps throwing something again and again on the way, to make sure that the audience is kept excited about what is to come. There is a big mystery ready to be revealed, and throughout the movie, there is the feeling of weirdness and danger which is nicely reflected through more than one character. The early feeling of waiting for the suspense to reveal itself has its replacement in the form of thrills and a certain amount of horror that get stronger by the end. We know that there is something eerie about it, but then we realize that there is even more to come as the movie progresses towards the end. There is tension that is shown between the characters here, and there is something like a rising intensity about it – we feel that this movie is getting better and better towards the end, as we know that something unexpected is to happen, and things are going to go bad for the protagonist, and then towards terrible.

The claws of flaw :: The humour doesn’t work much, and it also gets pretty much violent in the end, something which we weren’t expecting that much considering the first half. We do look at the huge amount of critical appreciation, and expect something even bigger, like a masterpiece, but we will only get this movie – on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie manages to have an approval rating of 99% based on 269 reviews; it is something that we don’t see that often, for things tend to come down a few days after a movie’s release. Metacritic has adjusted with an 84, but something like 99 is what keeps the expectations at a top level. People who have no understanding of the movie’s basic premise will find some trouble too. There is the certainty of some missing logic, with the way the movie becomes something not that natural by the end, which will raise some eyebrows here and there. If you are expecting the twist to be like The Skeleton Key, you are in for a surprise, with doctors and medical science being attached here, even without that much of a deep explanation.

How it finishes :: With Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams staying strong as the leading actors, we have a movie to look out for, right here. It is a flick which is not that well-known around here with a rather unknown cast for our audience, and not much of a title that grabs attention, but there will be a lot of fans for this one from here later, that is for sure. The opinions on this one are going to be divided here though, as the racial stuff is not going into the roots with our audience – maybe the caste would do if we make a similar movie here. The movie seems to reflect how things are, when we see another person as “the other“, as someone who really doesn’t belong to our group, and there are some people who pretend to accept them, even though they really don’t. People are such good actors in real life these days, aren’t they? We see so many of such people in this flick, and then there are others who just hate those who are different – the world still needs change for sure, and you see the need stored right within, with a smart horror thriller here. At the same time, lets hope that the viewers take something out of this movie and be better towards the others, the different, those who are not like everyone else.

PS: Check out the review of the latest release, Sunday Holiday.

Release date: 24th February 2017
Running time: 103 minutes
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Catherine Keener, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, Erika Alexander, LaKeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Geraldine Singer

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Take Off

What is the movie about? :: Sameera (Parvathy) is a divorced nurse who is trying to work hard in the local hospital and pay the debts of her family, as well as ensure that the studies of her younger sisters are also dealt with. She was formerly married to Faisal (Asif Ali), and has a child, but they were separated due to problems in both families related to her work as well as the differences in way of seeing things. Shaheed (Kunchacko Boban) who works as a male nurse in the same hospital, is in love with her, and is hoping to marry her if she agrees some day. Both of them are expected to go to Iraq for work soon, and in that way, earn a better salary. Sameera finally decides that it is better for her to marry Shaheed and move on, as he is also moving to Iraq, and her relatives would make her get married to someone else anyway; at least she finds Shaheed as a good person and he is in love with her.

So, what happens next? :: After marriage, Sameera gets pregnant, but they soon have to move to Iraq and join the new job. They have heard that the place is not that safe, but there are other nurses who work there and earn a good salary. It is the year 2014, and ISIS has launched itself into the major cities of the nation. It is at the same time that Sameera’s son Ibrahim a.k.a Ibru (Master Eric) comes to live with her. Their location, Tikrit, as well as Mosul where Shaheed had traveled to with the military, all are under attack despite the repeated assurances that the army of the country will keep them safe. Sameera is shocked when she realises that Mosul is captured by the extremists and has become impossible to reach on phone. She approaches the Indian ambassador to Iraq, Manoj Abraham (Fahad Faasil) who assures her that he will do his best to find her husband.

And what is to follow between the chaos and destruction? :: It doesn’t take the ISIS long to take full control of all significant landmarks in the city of Tikrit with the military falling and later becoming a non-existent force there. The militants also make it inside the hospital and keeps the nurses as hostage. Shaheed is still in Mosul, captured by the militants there. But Manoj is determined to rescue and bring all these people back to India in one way or the other. For the same, he works with Ranjan (Prakash Belawadi), his superior officer as well as Jayamohan (Prem Prakash) who is a rich Malayali businessman with many connections in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. With the External Affairs Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Kerala in contact with him, he will try a plan which is claimed to be risky by more than one person, but is considered to be the best option to bring the nurses home by Manoj himself.

The defence of Take Off :: The movie is based on the captivity of forty six Indian nurses by ISIS, and their evacuation by the Indian government, which was one of those celebrated events and a major achievement for the nation – it takes a lot of effort to recreate and add something extra for the creative and cinematic side, and still keep it simple and real. The director has succeeded in doing the same here. The movie has nicely handled the situations of war, and also related to the hostage crisis – with terrorism to be worked with here, things could have gone different ways, but all goes well in this movie; we see balance and maturity in everything here. The emotional side is also strong, and things are kept realistic as well as interesting at the same time, a quality which has been only fakely attributed to certain movies these days.

Positives and negatives :: The first half of the movie is more about the family drama, with the final few minutes getting the protagonists to reach Iraq, with the terrible disaster of a war waiting to happen. From there, it is a thrilling adventure, and the movie works as two here. This movie is visually geat, and also has some nice music as well as background score to go with the same. The movie, despite not trying to bring anything out of the box, got all of us interested, with how this tale is told, and how the characters feel simple and real as the common man who wishes to make money for their families while protecting the same. Even with its smaller budget compared to the Bollywood movies like Airlift which deals with the evacuation of Indians too, Take Off can easily give a fine competition – in simple words, it is surely better than the Bollywood movie dealing with this. There is a better re-imagination here for you to watch.

Performers of the soul :: There is no shortage of interesting performances here, and Parvathy manages to keep her character at the right place, even living through the war on most of the occasions. The different stages of life of her character are nicely portrayed, and this is sure to bring more and more applause as the movie runs in the theatres and will be watched by more followed the highly positive opinions – following Charlie and Ennu Ninte Moideen. Kunchacko Boban has a controlled performance here as he once again plays a character who will appeal really well for the family audience, after Kochauvva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho. Then there is Fahadh Faasil who arrives in the second half, and steals the show – there are so many moments for him as he goes strong after Maheshinte Prathikaaram once again, and the last few moments are undoubtedly his. The child actor Eric is also too good. Prakash Belawadi, Prem Prakash, Asif Ali and Alencier Ley Lopez also catch our attention with their smaller roles.

How it finishes :: We had the Akashay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur starrer Airlift directed by another Malayali, Raja Krishna Menon, which had dealt with a similar crisis and somewhat same kind of situation which released in 2016 and had received many positive opinions. While Airlift was based on the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, this one is based on the 2004 ISIS invasion of Iraq. Both are about evacuating the Indians left in the nation torn by war, and both has the patriotism as well as the final success that goes with the same – both have also received a lot of critical acclaim, and has been in the news even before the release. The comparisons maybe many, and it is certain that what we need are movies like Take Off and Airlift which deals with the situations related to common people who struggle anywhere in the world, and it is also significant how realistically their tales are told. This is the best movie of the year so far, as it joins C/O Saira Banu, Alamara and Honey Bee 2 which are running in the theatres stronger than the rest.

Release date: 24th March 2017
Running time: 139 minutes
Directed by: Mahesh Narayan
Starring: Kunchacko Boban, Parvathy, Fahadh Faasil, Prakash Belawadi, Asif Ali, Prem Prakash, Alencier Ley Lopez, Parvathi T, Anjali Aneesh Upasana, Master Eric, Joju George, Sidhartha Siva, Devi Ajith, Divya Prabha, Prashant Nair, Rukhsar Rehman

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.