The Equalizer

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Vampire Owl :: So much violence in the human world. Can’t we watch something else rather than this movie with a gun on the poster?

Vampire Bat :: But I thought you liked violence.

Vampire Owl :: I like a violent me, but not people shooting each other. In the end, we will fail to know who shot who and I have to hit my head on the wall hoping for some vampire enlightenment to pour into my brain lighting it up.

Vampire Bat :: Then, there is Bollywood with this weekend’s movie Happy Ending.

Vampire Owl :: No! Shoot me, thats better. Get the tickets! Get the tickets!

Vampire Bat :: But you don’t like the violent stuff.

Vampire Owl :: I don’t want to die a slow, painful death with some Hindi romantic movie showing for nth time whatever they have doing for years.

Vampire Bat :: But we are not sure about it yet. There are some bad opinions…

Vampire Owl :: I shall hear nothing of Bollywood anymore. If you talk about it again, I am deaf. If you talk about it twice, I am dumb too.

Vampire Bat :: I think that it is a pretty good idea.

[Gets the tickets].

What is it about? :: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has retired from his busy job as a secret government agent and is living his life in peace after the death of his wife. He spends his time working in a hardware store and giving no clue to anyone about who he has been. He becomes friends with Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) a trainee whom he helps to become a security guard, and then there is this teenage girl whom she regularly sees at a tea shop he visits. The girl is Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage prostitue who reveals her real name as Aleena, is mistreated and beaten up by her pimp ending up in the ICU – Robert decides to take things into his hands, and to give the girl who loves music and books, a better chance at life. He goes to the pimp Slavi (David Meunier), and offers him 9800 dollars to leave her alone. But as he refuses and uses more foul language about her, Robert kills him and his goons. But the leader of this Russian mafia group, Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) sends his right-hand man Teddy (Marton Csokas) to find and eliminate the killer, and here starts another game.

The defence of The Equalizer :: This movie seems to be trying more to be an origin story, and therefore a few problems of the same can be avoided with ease. There is the perfect setup for the sequel which seems to be everywhere on the news. The movie has some nice dialogues, and the action is not overdone – our protagonist doesn’t try anything too much. He just does what he does the best, and continues to excel at it. There are some nice, beautiful shots from the skyline, and the cinematography keeps catching our attention – there is the stylish sequences which are used too; they are all so good, and makes things interesting when things cool down. There is also that dark and gloomy atmosphere that runs through the movie – check out for our protagonist’s attack at the pimp’s room and the warehouse, both of them done with so much of stylish violence and innovation, even as the latter might be a bit too long for some people. The cast also contributes nicely, and the message to do the right thing is strong in here.

Claws of flaw :: There is that drag in between, and makes one wonder why it was so. There are empty slots where something could be used for fill the space. The story is also rather predictable with the hero going on for having revenge due to something bad done to his younger friend, and being awesome as he is, becomes successful in the same – just like John Wick; that was a revenge seeking former assassin for the dark side, while this one being a similar person who was working for the government. It is something we have seen a lot of times in a different manner. There is a lot of violence out here, and some of it might seem unnecessary for a few people. Even then, there are lots of things which seem to be missing, but I would blame the censor board here for that – they should have got rid of some violence. Well, on television, I have seen the scary parts removed from horror movies and bikini scenes removed from James Bond movies. So, I am not surprised even though I understand the difference.

Performers of the soul :: Denzel Washington – sometimes just that name is enough; there are not many people who can doubt that. He goes through The Equalizer with so much power, as if it could be another vigilante movie franchise starting from now. It is once again impressive how he works – this man with a gun, do people need a lot more? Well, there were two in 2 Guns, but one will do here. He is going to turn sixty this year, not something that we can discover without wikipedia. From the first movie I watched with him being part, The Bone Collector; through my favourite movie, The Book of Eli and now standing in The Equalizer; nothing much has changed. It is always great to see Chloë Grace Moretz – she brings such charm to the screen like nobody else. Unfortunately, even as she is undoubtedly the heroine of the movie, our girl is there only for a few minutes in the beginning, and for an even shorter time in the end – it is a case of sadness which we are left with, along with her smile in the end. Marton Csokas is an interesting villain too, just not getting enough of it.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s opening has these lines from Mark Twain – “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”. It is the same thing that the protagonist is trying to achieve in this movie – to use his skills to use for the common man. Even in the beginning, we can see that he is trying to help people as much as he can, without going the violent way. For the same, he later transforms, just like the books that he reads – from the retired old man who reads The Old Man and the Sea, through the hopeless knight in Don Quixote and in the end to The Invisible Man who goes through the city unnoticed, and helping the innocents – a Ghost Rider kind of figure who gets rid of the evil souls without any superpowers, but with the skills reminding one of Liam Neeson of Taken. Somewhat Bryan Mills, John Wick and Jack Reacher, this is another guy who has too many skills.

How it finishes :: The end result is that unexpectedly The Equalizer turns out to be better than John Wick, and it is not something that I had expected. Both had their own problem with a certain amount of drag, and the problem of not evolving for the century enough. But even in the troubles, The Equalizer is the superior one; even as there is no doubt about the fact that John Wick will win the box-office battle here, and the credit would go to Keanu Reeves who is more accepted that the big action protagonist more than Denzel Washington, thanks to The Matrix, Constantine and Speed. Gone Girl and Interstellar still stays in our theatres, the latter with so many shows. Dumb and Dumber To won’t pose that much of a challenge though, with lesser opinions and a lot lesser screens. Do give this movie a chance, and as far as you want an action movie without too much of mindless and dumb action, but still doing justice to the genre, this will be the right choice.

Release date: 21st November 2014 (India); 26th September 2014 (USA)
Running time: 131 minutes
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Marton Csokas, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Haley Bennett, Vladimir Kulich, David Meunier, Alex Veadov, James Wilcox, Mike O’Dea, Anastasia Mousis

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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.

Olympus Has Fallen

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There are a few characters we find difficult to forget. One of them might be that NYPD detective John McClane makes more than just an impact in a Los Angeles skyscraper. It was Die Hard and spanned four sequels, the last one being the most critically panned edition. The first of the series was one of those movies which ruled my childhood, and what Olympus Has Fallen managed to do is to remind me of that one. It is not really a bad thing, as Die Hard never really had a deserving sequel, and this one could have been the closest to being the same. There are terrorists of different nationalities, the setting and the type of building vary by a heavy margin and both the hostages and the redeemer are different, other than that, there might seem a similarity in style and the attitude of the hero in both these movies. With the support of the new technology and the experience gained by the new age movie makers, this one has almost become a worthy successor, not just by the skills, but also by divine providence. This movie’s story is actually an opportunity to die hard, not just for the redeemer, but also for the terrorists – both sides have their own chances, as they have chosen to take the risk.

The name was the first thing to catch my attention. There is something “fallen”, long time after I hear that word, for the second movie of Transformers had it in the name, and so do we hear it relating to the fallen angels of the firmament. But it is not someone who has fallen this time, for it is something. Just for a moment, forgetting the fact that Mount Olympus is also the name of a mountain in the Washington state, lets go to the other Mount Olympus whom we are more familiar about, the highest mountain in Greece, hailed in Greek mythology as the dwelling place of the Twelve Olympian gods of the ancient Greek world ruled over by the most powerful God of thunder and lightning, Zeus himself. According to the writing of the legendary writer Homer, Olympus was that great and divine that it was not shaken by winds nor was wet with rain, and never did snow fall upon it. So it was said about the abode of the twelve; Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes, and here we have another Olympus, another seat of supreme power, the White House of the United States.

The hero of the story and another form of John McClane is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the lead Secret Service agent assigned with the United States President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) whose wife dies in an accident – an incident which Banning fails to prevent even as he manages to save the President’s life. Eighteen months later, Banning works at the Treasury Department, not separated by the scars of the incident which blinded his senses. But he is still not separated from his skills. His office is not too far away from the White House and lives a quiet life with his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) after being demoted. Meanwhile, during a meeting between the heads of the United States and South Korea, Korean-led guerrilla forces, aided by some people from the inside itself, launch a perfectly planned air and ground attack which surprises and even shocks the defence and leads to the capture of the White House. The ease with which they achieves this rather surprising, and the deaths which occur in this assault, especially of civilians is more of a thing of terror than strangeness.

Asher and several top officials are held hostage in the White House bunker, where the South Korean prime minister is killed by the same terrorists. The attack has been lead by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), a wanted terrorist wishing for a reunification of Korea. He wishes to force the United States army to withdraw from Korea. He also wants to detonate all of America’s nuclear weapons in their own soil and destroy the country by turning it into a nuclear wasteland, but for this, he will need a few access codes, and in achieving this, he will go to any limit, murder being just a simple thing of no significance. Meanwhile, Banning manages to get into the White House, and begins his own mission of saving the President’s son who might be somewhere in the house and murdering the terrorists one by one before finally rescuing all the captives including the President himself. It is his miracle and his second chance given by fate on the way to redemption, his chance to become another John McClane, into which this character successfully transforms into. In the objective, he is aided by Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), the Speaker of the House and the Acting President through earphone.

Gerard Butler is at his best since his King Leonidas of 300; as he improves upon Gamer & unleashes the new action hero who is likable to most of the audience if not all of them. Mike Banning is the new John McClane, and there is no point in the movie where you can doubt it with full heart. He saves the day, and his world as well as of others, and he is alone in this job. He looks vulnerable on so many occasions, and is still strong throughout. He had his ups and downs in life and career. He has more courage and love for action than anybody else – he wishes to die hard. Radha Mitchell’s role as his wife is limited, and Morgan Freeman’s role is not that much as expected considering the posters. Rick Yune’s villains is successful without doubt, not in the mission but with the audience. Aaron Eckhart’s President works quite well. The best thing is that there is no silly romance, and even the screentime for married couple discussing future is pretty much low. There is no slowness in the movie, and even when the situation seem to calm down, there is a certain amount of thrilling factor ready to explode.

The movie can be termed as unrealistic and violent as most of the others of the same genre, but there are limits which the movie hasn’t crossed, those which have contributed to the success of this movie for the common audience. Still the dose of patriotism and CGI might be a little high. The action and the blood reminds one of more than one first person shooters of the 2000s, for I shall not speak about 2010s and what is to come later. But, this is no computer game – still, the destruction is immense, not just with the bombing and shooting, but also with the two people of fearlessness on both sides, of good and evil, of saving and destroying. There might be less memorable dialogues in this one considering what one should be expecting, but the avoidance of unnecessary dialogues also contributes to the success of this movie, for it rests on Gerard Butler’s character as what he is, rather than what he pretends to be, and what he appears to be. In that case, he is better than John McClane, even if not more interesting for the masses. The fall of the Olympus is one thing and the rise of the titan is another, and that titan in Butler as Banning, for he has to achieve what the Olympian gods couldn’t, not by fighting them or himself, but by saving his own Olympus from the common outsider enemy.

As the upcoming movie White House Down also seems to deal with the same theme of a takeover of the White House, one has to wait and see which one ends up being superior. But for now, Olympus Has Fallen keeps the title of being the movie which has taken this theme to new heights. Even as it is more of a Die Hard happening in White House, there is no point where this can be seen as a thing of lesser energy or imagination. There has been no creativity which was left in the gutters with this movie, as it had that impressive style of taking the audience by surprise, at least in this part of the world where this is to be considered as a highly under-rated and a not much screened movie. The presence of the new 3D version of Jurassic Park and G. I. Joe: Retaliation‘s hesitation to leave might be the main reasons. But as even Life of Pi hasn’t really left some of the theatres here, there is surely no surprise about. But the fact remains that it is time these movies get their due, even if they are not hyped enough and has no stars who are popular enough in this part of the world.

Release date: 22nd March 2013 (USA); 5th April 2013 (India)
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Cole Hauser, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Rick Yune

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.