The Monkey King II

Vampire Owl: I have this name wandering in my mind somewhere.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that you have known many kings and monkeys during your life-time.

Vampire Owl: Yes, the most recent acquaintance being the Lich Queen with her undead minions.

Vampire Bat: What? You met the Lich Queen? It is forbidden for a vampire to meet an undead queen sorceress.

Vampire Owl: She is not that undead, you know, and she is a good host.

Vampire Bat: Whatever. That doesn’t explain how you met the Monkey King though.

Vampire Owl: Well, I was reading this classic, and the pages came alive.

Vampire Bat: And they attacked you?

Vampire Owl: No, then I realized that I was tearing the pages apart. Then I took some glue and fixed it back to its place.

Vampire Bat: The imperial librarian won’t be that happy this time. You should get a few zombie minions to cover it up.

[Gets three cups of strong tea with Mariegold biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: A young Buddhist monk, Tang Sanzang (Feng Shaofeng) is on the journey to the West, to the Thunder Monastery in India to collect some of the valuable scriptures of Buddha. But the soldiers who were meant to assist and protect him during his journey leaves him when a white tiger attacks them. Trying to protect the horse, he ends up being under attack from the tiger, only to get into a cave and save himself. As he is followed by the tiger, he sees Sun Wukong a.k.a. The Monkey King (Aaron Kwok) who was imprisoned under the Five Fingers Mountain as part of his five hundred years of atonement for the trouble which he had caused in heaven. The awakened and released monkey soon deals with the tiger, but that only begins in new life, as the Goddess Guan Yin (Kelly Chen) has instructed him to protect the monk throughout his journey.

So, what happens next? :: Wukong is not someone who likes taking orders from anyone, but he is bound to stay close to the instructions made by the goddess, as he is wearing a magical headband which can’t be removed, and will cause him pain if he acts like a bad monkey. He finds his life connected to the monk’s, and decides to finish this job as soon as possible, and get back to his usual, mischievous life. On the way, Wukong defeats two other immortals looking like monsters – Zhu Bajie (Xiaoshenyang) and Sha Wujing (Him Law) who joins them in the journey as atonement for their sins, as the monk gets protected from three sides. Both of the new travelers consider Wukong as their big brother, and approves of his superiority in skills. They have some interesting moments during their travel, and reaches Yun Hai Xi Kingdom, which is ruled by a king (Fei Xiang) and his people living in fear.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: The kingdom is terrorized by the White Bone Demon (Gong Li), a powerful demoness who is known to take away children from everywhere, and she is supposed to devour them to keep herself in this world. As the demoness learns about the arrival of the young monk, she decides to eat him, and thus get more powerful, without no reincarnation, being an eternally unstoppable demon who could challenge even heaven and hell. She, along with her three demoness minions (Lu Weu, Xi’er Qi and Miya Muqi) get the four to their house in the middle of the forest, where they offer all of them a place to rest. She tells them the story of her past as a young woman, which had Sanzang in tears. The two monsters fall into the seductive trap of the demonesses posing as beautiful girls, and Wukong seems to have some problem with his eyes – so, will the demoness and her minions be successful in using the young monk to expand their evil? Or will the Monkey King be able to save him?

The defence of The Monkey King 2 :: This movie is visually excellent with its creatures, surroundings and magic having our attention, and has those action sequences which will immediately ask for your attention. There are also the messages about forgiveness, and the reflection of the fact that humans are so capable of being more evil than the demons every time. There is also some humour present here, and the comic relief is very much useful in this movie. It actually combines nicely with the adventure as well as the spiritual side, making this package whole. Everything is so simple in this movie, and this simplicity in fantasy is something that we can cherish, and the same makes sure that this movie is for everyone – kids are certainly going to love this one as much as any animated movie. Even though there are not that many reviews of this movie in English, the ratings received, including those in Rotten Tomatoes make nice example of how well this has worked.

The claws of flaw :: Maybe, a more serious version of the classic might have been expected by many, and also this one happens to be a sequel rather than the original story, which could have also kept some people from watching this particular flick. There is also more needed of action from everyone other than Monkey King whose action scenes never cease being delightful – the fans from everywhere will always look for more from him, as I had wondered more about this particular character than anyone else. Also, despite having a very strong female villain there with minions, her manipulation or the fighting skills get quite less attention than we would have expected to witness. Looking silly at times is not something that one would expect from this movie, as there is enough depth all the time, as long as you have a classic in your hands, and got hope of everyone who has read or has read about the work expecting a lot. Also, despite the movie being a visual treat, there are moments when the CGI looks too much and strange.

How it finishes :: Those who have read the novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, are sure to love this movie adaptation of the tale – there are so many version of the same, and many translations. This tale is actually something that needs to be read by everyone, and this movie will help in attaining that for sure. As more people get to read Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature, adding the other three, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber and Water Margin to their list of books to read, we can safely say that this visual extravaganza of an action movie is successful in doing the right thing for literature. Even if you haven’t watched this movie’s predecessor, or never known about the novel, it is still okay to watch this movie – this one is a rather stand-alone work, and things really can’t get any simpler than this as far as fantasy movies are concerned. Then, the messages are also straight-forward with nothing there to bring a message out of a message. Also note that the actor who played the antagonist in the previous movie plays the protagonist here.

PS: For more on the movie of the week here, read on – Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum

Release date: 6th February 2016
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Cheang Pou-soi
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, Feng Shaofeng, Xiaoshenyang, Him Law, Fei Xiang, Kelly Chen, Lu Weu, Xi’er Qi, Miya Muqi

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Vampire Owl: I know this person, for I remember this name, but just can’t figure out from when and where.

Vampire Bat: Do you need to go through a memory recovery programme? It is a new method.

Vampire Owl: I know what Doctor Frankenstein does with his new series of programmes. So, let me figure it out myself.

Vampire Bat: It is a simple name, but certainly not common. You should have remembered the person if there was a chance.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I should have at least remembered the two strings.

Vampire Bat: Are you sure that you don’t need at least a memory vial?

Vampire Owl: Don’t ask me to have those chemicals made of dark matter.

Vampire Bat: Then, what would you need instead, to remember?

Vampire Owl: What about some inner peace?

Vampire Bat: The Kung Fu Panda has taken all of the same, after taking the form of the Vampire Panda.

[Gets three cups of ginger tea with a piece of ghee cake].

What is the movie about? :: Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a one-eyed young boy who spends his time in a cave near a colourful village. Living with his ill mother Sariatu (Charlize Theron), he makes a living with art of paper folding known as origami, and music with a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument known as shamisen, both which he uses to tell the tales of a samurai warrior who is supposed to be his father. They just manage to survive, with his mother’s mental state getting worse, and they having just enough to make a living. But Sariatu keeps warning him about her twin sisters Karasu and Washi (Rooney Mara), as well as her father, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) who would take his other eye, as they had killed her husband, the samurai warrior of the tales of bravery, Hanzo (Matthew McConaughey). She forbids him from going out at night, in the moonlight.

So, what happens next in the movie? :: One day, Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro), an old widow who loves Kubo like her grandchild, tells him about a festival which occurs at night, that involves people talking to their loved ones who had died. So, for a change, Kubo decides to stay through the darkness, and try to find the soul of his dead father, and know more of the story about them. But even with the other villagers seemingly having success over talking to the souls of their beloved, he seems to have no success at all. As he forgets to return home before the sunset, he is found by Sariatu’s evil twin sisters, who waste no time in asking him for his one remaining eye. The realisation is also upon Sariatu though, as she is quick to appear and save the boy, sending him away, while trying to go on a final battle with her sisters who will stop at nothing to get their nephew’s one remaining eye.

And what follows the same in the movie? :: Kubo wakes up later, in a land far away, with only a snow monkey to give him company, which is the last piece of his mother’s magic, and has promised to keep the boy alive at any cost. They go on hoping to find Hanzo’s armour which becomes necessary for their survival as they face a force as strong and hateful as the Moon King. On the way, they also meet a beetle in human form, which believes that it used to be a follower of Hanzo, and had fought many battles with him, even as nothing remains of those memories. But the evil twin sisters are already on their trail, and even after finding the Sword Unbreakable, they are still at a disadvantage against the strongest forces of their world. There is a long way to go, there is danger ahead – can Kubo and his two strange friends be brave and strong enough to face the threat?

The defence of Kubo and the Two Strings :: This one certainly has the story that will appeal to people of all ages. There is the tale of courage, faith, hope and belief which runs right through this movie. The sadness in the movie is beautiful, and the evil twin sisters make some nice villains in the moonlight. There are battles which will remind us that we miss Kung Fu Panda, and all main characters remain lovable, and kids are going to love the Monkey and the Beetle without doubt. There is also that variety in this world, and the visuals make another path, which is also nothing less than beautiful in its own way. There is the quest in the centre of all these, and we have one boy’s tale of courage that will keep things moving. There is also the strength of love, and the ultimate power of memories that humans hold on to, which become significant in the story of Kubo too. As you go deep, this is another animated movie which is not just for kids. There is also some humour here and there, but it is mostly for kids.

The claws of flaw :: The animation doesn’t stand a chance when compared to the other big animated movies like Moana, Zootopia, Frozen, How to Train Your Dragon, Inside Out, Epic and the rest who have made the effect of a spectacle, and Kubo and the Two Strings never even tries to do the same. The tale of the relatives and creatives seems rather too comfortable with how they end up becoming what they are. We are not much interested in the tales with monkey and beetles as warriors in a human world these days, as the turtles had found it the hard way in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel. There is also that same programme, with everyone coming together and everything being brought together by the end, and there is something rather too comfortable around here. It can also be considered a little too dark for the liking of some people. Even with those strange twists, the movie is also very much predictable within its own tale, as the missing and gaining of parents doesn’t make one feel that much in such a darker animated flick – could have been more imaginative.

How it finishes :: Kubo and the Two Strings could have actually been better, with all the possibilities it has with the myth already there – not just with the story, but also with the rest of the elements, all making this a bigger visual experience. There is a lesson or two which this movie can take from Rise of the Guardians which looks similar with its characters, but is a better movie than this. We usually expect to connect to the main character more, and not as just a random kid who is special because his parents made the choice of a strange union. The movie seems to be more sincere to itself rather than its audience, and even the message sometimes feel strange – it tends to happen when there are talking monkeys and beetles who gets more importance than humans in a tale of a human child. But the importance of relationships with fellow human beings, memories, family and love are those things that come over the rest, it could be the main reason that won the flick, BAFTA for Best Animated Film and why it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, which eventually went to Zootopia.

PS: Have you watched The Mummy, Wonder Woman and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, yet at the theatres?

Release date: 19th August 2016
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Meyrick Murphy, Minae Noji, Alpha Takahashi, Laura Miro, Ken Takemoto

@ 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.

Dawn of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (1)

Vampire Owl :: You mean to say we are going for an ape movie.

Vampire Bat :: Or Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania.

Vampire Owl :: I would rather watch monkeys all day than watch a new Bollywood Romance.

Vampire Bat :: I already watched that Humpty Dumb though.

Vampire Owl :: This is why your choices are always bad.

Vampire Bat :: It was because the local theatres were showing it for a change.

Vampire Owl :: Still, you decided to commit suicide.

Vampire Bat :: Unless you are suicidal, it is impossible to watch a Bollywood movie these days. Movies like Madras Cafe and The Lunchbox comes once in a blue moon.

Vampire Owl :: I hope our current venture is not like that.

Vampire Bat :: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania makes you strong enough to watch anything! It was that bad!

[Enters the movie hall].

What is it about? :: The human testing on the apes had resulted in them getting smarter and escaping from the human world creating another civilization of their own, based on some newly discovered values. Meanwhile, the virus which was developed by the humans has caused their own downfall and they are on the brink of extinction with cities destroyed and with the lack of resources, fighting one another as they have done for centuries. A group of genetically immune humans who have survived the virus are living in a guarded tower not too far away from the abode of the apes. As their power source seems to disappear, they hope to find enough power from the dam which is located in the lands of the apes, hoping to make the hydro-electric power plant work again. Even as they convince the apes and everything seems to work so well with the city ready to get enough power, we come to know that there are people on both sides who want a war due to the heavy distrust that exists of the other species, and it is only a matter of time till a war breaks out. The extinction of one race might soon begin.

The defence of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes :: The movie’s biggest point is its relationships, between apes and creatures of the same kind, humans and their own kind, apes and humans between each other and their attitude as a whole. The emotions are dealt with nicely in a believable manner as we would expect them to be. The movie also shows the evil of war and how it makes both sides dumb and thirsty for blood forgetting all the good things which can happen if there is peace. The story is a little bit more inclined to the ape side this time though. The visuals are impressive, especially that of the post-apocalyptic world and concerning the detail of the different types of apes. There are also some good action sequences related to the ape life. It successfully tests the loyalties of the the audience as it goes through the lives of apes and humans just come into it. The movie also talks about the fear of the unknown or the other, the rising hatred for the outsider just because he or she is just different.

Claws of flaw :: The incredibly long named Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is rather too slow a movie. It is never really in a hurry to progress through anything, whether it is the original story-line or the sub-plots. It takes its time and makes sure that the audience gets the feel of everything ape and post-apocalyptic human before getting things complicated and it is not a bad thing for the people who are watching a movie of the franchise for the first time, but not so much for the rest of the people. It does go along predictable lines at times, and the story of one ape trying to kill the leader of the pack to become the new chief was much expected, and a war was always on the cards, nothing out of the box with these species. The humans were always coming in for some reason, and there was always going to be the hatred for the other species. Other than the main characters, the human side is also weak and its civilization also on the losing side. James Franco and Freida Pinto are being missed here too in this continued world.

Performers of the soul :: Jason Clarke has a wonderful presence here, not something which matches James Franco, but rightly suitable for the situation of this movie. Keri Russell is also there, and it is surprising how good she looks after this many years, and she has done a wonderful job as the lady lead – liked her a lot since Bedtime Stories. Gary Oldman plays the typical human with the fear and hatred for the other and branding them as just animals who can be killed for the good of the humans. But nothing matches the strength of the ape characters as the focus is on them. Andy Serkis’ Caesar has more strength and emotions than any human or ape around as this character gets a lot better as a worthy leader of the gang. Toby Kebbell as Koba has the physical strength powered by his experiences, and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes has a powerful emotional side like nobody else. Karin Konoval as Maurice, the orangutan is once again in the centre of things. This nice characterization of the apes make sure that there is something big coming up in the next sequel, like the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes which was huge in its ideas.

Soul exploration :: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes comes with a strict anti-war message which runs through its veins like blood. It is to be noted that it is the apes who don’t go to war like the humans even as they are less civilized. They value peace, but the twist is that it is them who starts the war which humans wanted. If we look into our world itself, we can see that it is not just side which is hungry for war, and if there is retaliation, it should mean that the colour of blood is not the same on all sides. As it is evident with almost all the people who talk about a war, the colour of blood changes according to which person they are supporting according to their religion, caste or race, and this is the same thing which is shown in this movie. Apes don’t kill apes as they would say, and humans want to kill apes because they are outsiders and a threat. Unfortunately this prejudice of “our people” exists among humans, and thanks to their influence, the same thing begins to exist in apes. A war is a war, and it causes the shedding of blood of the same colour on both sides, and if the deaths are less on one side, it wouldn’t mean that those who lost more men or buildings are better. There will always be someone who begins the war and innocents who suffer.

How it finishes :: I have always felt something special about the 2001 Planet of the Apes and it would remain my favourite movie of the series. I haven’t written on it yet, but it is still special for me. I would love to see a connection between that movie and this one, may be with General Thade traveling back in time to meet the apes of this franchise giving them the much needed advice which would indeed change the planet into something really of the apes – this could lead to the final situation in the end of that movie which can justify the ape planet. It would bring Mark Wahlberg back which would be pretty awesome. It was one movie which deserved a sequel with its potential. But other than that, our movie has nicely continued the story of the first movie, not failing like most of the sequels that we face. Compared to Rise of the Planet of the Apes which serve as an origin story, this works as a wonderful story of survival and that too not just for one kind of species. The movie is surely going to do well considering the opinion that it has generated and the lack of any big opponent challenging it. This is indeed the time of the apes.

Release date: 11th July 2014
Running time: 131 minutes
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Judy Greer, Jocko Sims, Kirk Acevedo, Enrique Murciano as Kempt, Kevin Rankin, Keir O’Donnell, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Nick Thurston, Doc Shaw

dawn of apes copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.