Free Guy

Vampire Owl: We are all free vampires in a world of slavery.

Vampire Bat: This not really that much of a world of chains.

Vampire Owl: You are not understanding the power of our chains.

Vampire Bat: There are no chains in this realm which can hold a vampire.

Vampire Owl: I am not talking about the physical chains.

Vampire Bat: You mean to say that there is a telepath in the realm?

Vampire Owl: Yes, and she is stronger than any vampire mind reader.

Vampire Bat: You are talking about the legend of the witch-vampire.

Vampire Owl: It is actually the vampire-witch. She is mostly the witch.

Vampire Bat: Just because she knows how travel on a broom-stick, she is now a witch?

[Gets a paneer puffs and three glasses of blackcurrant shake].

What is the movie about? :: We are introduced to Free City where people who are wearing sunglasses are heroes, and run the city. They can do almost anything in the city, never really obeying the rules which are applicable to others. Among the many normal people in the city is Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who seems to live a usual kind of life, as he works as a bank teller, and considers his life as a part of a paradise where he lived from the time he can remember. His best friend is the bank’s securiy gurad, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), who is not really bothered about the bank getting robbed frequently. Everyone out there seems to be very happy, and Guy feels that he has everything that he needs, except for a lover. He attempts to fall in love without success, and feels that he hasn’t really found the right person yet. Soon, he finds a mysterious girl wearing sunglasses, and as he goes after her, is run over by a train. It is soon revealed that the world they are living in is actually a game – a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game, which has Guy as a non-player character.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The mysterious girl is Millie (Jodie Comer) in the avatar Molotov Girl, a player looking for source code to her original game, Life Itself which she wrote with Keys (Joe Keery). It was stolen by Antwan (Taika Waititi), the Soonami CEO who stole it and turned it into something else. Keys wants to help, but prefers to work with Antwan instead, and continue to have a job. At the same time, Guy has deviated from the programme after listening to that unintentional song from Millie. He starts off by asking the wrong coffee instead of the one programmed for the NPC. He also starts talking differently to many people, which leads to changes in the programming of other NPCs too. Soon, he decides to steal the sunglasses, as the girl was also wearing them. He gets one from a robber, and starts seeing things from the perspective of the players from the world outside. It makes him think deviate even further from his original programming.

And what more is here in a world of chaos? :: The programmers think that a hacker from real life has taken over the NPC, and is playing the role differently, feeling that it is indeed a small glitch which will be resolved soon enough. As Millie comes against him, she also feels that he is a player and asks him to level up, so that he could be of more worth, an advice he takes into himself seriously. Unlike the others, he decides to level up by doing good things only, with minimum use of weapons. He begins to try to be like the heroes that he had witnessed on the streets, but with only the good side by helping people in need and fighting some evil. Soon, he becomes a top level player, and is also an internet sensation in the real world. He also saves Millie when she is on a mission to collect the evidence, and she falls in love with him feeling that he is actually a real person who is playing the game. Soon enough, they will understand the same, and so will Antwan. Now, the equations will be complicated. Can the makers find their code, and where does that leave Guy?

The defence of Free Guy :: The movie’s concept is really good, and is a pretty good addition to what we have seen before in different films before. Among the other more famous films, the one which I remember the most is The Thirteenth Floor, even though the world peculiarities also reminds us of the one most famous film, The Matrix. The main character also reminds us of the protagonist of The Lego Movie and the rest of the people like Nerve. We are reminded of the games like Grand Theft Auto, Mafia and The Godfather too. These reminders serve to provide some nostalgia too. The mixture made out of the combination of different interesting things continue to be engaging, and also has a certain amount of humour associated with it. At the same time, there is a strong emotional side which never brings the overdose. The world in the movie is indeed interesting, and there are some fine visuals which support this new universe. It is indeed a stylish and beautiful environment that we have here, and the connection with the original world is well-established.

Positives and negatives :: One might feel that the idea is not new, but the presentation does have some innovation about it, and it never really gets that dark or serious about the happenings around here. Due to the same reason, there can be some predictability here, which they have managed to hide at some points effectively. Ryan Reynolds is here with a fine performance, and a role which is very much more worth appreciation than Deadpool – here he plays one of the most lovable protagonists around, and he seems to do that with ease. As expected, he also excels in the action sequences. Jodie Comer excels in two worlds, and she strikes well with action sequences within the new world and also outside the game. There are some spectacular action scenes with the two around, and would be a case of grandeur on the big screen. Joe Keery also has a nice role to play which he manages well. Lil Rel Howery adds further to the comic side well. Taika Waititi also makes a good villain, the big rich one with only money in his mind.

How it finishes :: Free Guy is that kind of a movie which needs more attention in this part of the world, as it is appropriate for almost every kind of audience. The movie also deals with the idea of existence – maybe we are all in a video game too, and will never know. Maybe we are all programmed to, as there is something special about all of us – then, maybe life has no meaning; all these could be reminded by this one movie. What if we are not programmed to know the truth about our existence? Even in between all these people go for war, and most humans just hate each other. Maybe it would have been all better if this was a video game, for there is so much of hate, and the futility of one’s actions is disheartening. Those who work harder than others and the ones who are the most honest are the ones who suffer the most. You live a life with life-long learning and it might be some moron who gets the job for which you are best qualified – then there are the reservations which hands them the jobs. Maybe, our lives are also programmed – we might be in a video game.

Release date: 13th August 2021
Running time: 115 minutes
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, Taika Waititi

<<< Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Aarkkariyam

What is the movie about? :: Ittyavira (Biju Menon) is a retired mathematics teacher who is spending his time alone in a village in the district of Kottayam. At the same time, his daughter Shirley (Parvathy Thiruvothu) and her second husband Roy (Sharafudheen) are living in Andheri, Mumbai, and are planning to come back to Kerala after some time, despite the COVID-19 restrictions being further imposed everywhere. The coming of Corona has kept all of them in their own space, without much contact with outside world, and the spread of Corona virus had also brought some financial crisis to Roy and Shirley. The former’s business was already failing and there is no success in mutual fund either. The two manage to come all the way to Kerala to Shirley’s hometown and meet Ittyvira, who is really happy to see them. But they are also not able to meet their daughter, as the borders are closed. They apply for permission, but soon, a nation-wide lock-down is imposed, and they are all stuck there in their home in the village.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: The lock-down changes their lives by a long way, and the restrictions reach their place too. The already interior home now feels even more away from civilization. This is the time when people were only beginning to understand the COVID-19 situation, and everyone was expecting all these problems to be solved as the virus would eradicated in the end of lock-down. One of the consignments of Roy is now stuck with the customs, and without that, there is nothing much that can be done. Now, the only way to get some quick money so that they can pay back Vyshak (Saiju Kurup) is by selling the ancestral lands, and it is Ittyvira who provides them that idea. But there are some complications related to the same, as there seems to be some secrets from the past which need to be taken care of. Roy begins to feel uncomfortable about the same, but there is nothing that he can do, other than worry about the same.

The defence of Aarkkariyam :: Aarkkariyam would seem to be a usual film in a village setting, but it is surely more than that – we get the idea only later though. Every moment in this movie nicely contributes to keep it going, and it is not that long either with each second in there used in an interesting manner. It does have that fine punch at the interval, something that makes the film take another route from the second half. The title itself is a worthy one here, as we keep wondering who all knows about a number of things including a sinister event and a person who was involved in the same. The performance of the three main characters elevates the film further, and the supporting cast is also interesting. The surroundings are nicely created, and the feeling of Pala-Kanjirappilly area is given with the rural touch everywhere, from the people to the environment. The film also focuses on the different opinions that different people would have about one person, and how polarized the same happens to be – how one can pretend to be good among the common people.

The claws of flaw :: Aarkkariyam is not the kind of movie which you would expect, as it has a certain deviation in store there. It is also slow at times, and there are lots of moments when nothing happens, even though they do contribute to the mood. There is also the presence of some usual cliché stuff here, but the same will go on and pass. Even if it feels like family drama, it doesn’t suit into that genre completely, and one would have doubt about the kind of audience it is actually looking for – even though we can keep it for the common audience in general. A little bit more of the moments in Mumbai and their return to hometown as well as a few twists in between would have helped more, even if it would deviate further away from the genre. It was an opportunity for something more, and there was the chance to be a classic, but the film manages to keep it going straight and without adding any special ingredient into it – maybe because there was the feeling that it was not needed, like Kungfu Panda would agree.

The performers of the soul :: This movie, as expected has Biju Menon with a performance to remember, and that too with a different kind of work. He has embraced this role like Vijayaraghavan did, as he moved from the usual kind of hero to the senior roles. Much elder to Biju Menon, he would be the one we would expect in a role like this, something which he has done in earlier films, but not as the protagonist like we see here. We know that other older superstars are still playing the characters of lower age group, but Biju Menon has had the courage to take it to the next level. If we remember his last few films, we will see that this difference in looks has come unexpected, and by a long way. Even as everything is kept simple about the character, there is always something to remember with this act. There are also those simple dialogues will stay, and sometimes come back – it is one realistic performance to remember as we look at it.

Further performers of the soul :: The movie is indeed about Biju Menon, but others do play their part too. Parvathy Thiruvothu once again has a role to remember, as she blends in here nicely, just like she has done so many times with ease not limited to her most appreciated performances in Uyare, Charlie and Ennu Ninte Moideen. She does get pushed to the background though, as the film progresses. It is also nice to see Sharafudheen in a serious role this time. We have been so much used to see him in those comic roles, except for that villainy in Varathan and the psychotic side in Anjaam Pathira, but those were kind of exaggerated when we have a look back – this is really a fine change here from the early comic side in Premam and the same later in Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela. The two match with their performances, and the cast has worked really well. Saiju Kurup plays the supporting role in the usual kind of way, but could have been part of more of the action too. Shoba Mohan is the only person here who gives the feeling that we have seen the person before.

How it finishes :: The first movie directed by cinematographer Sanu John Varghese is not something that we can leave behind. This is the kind of movie which I would have surely watched in the theatre early enough, if there was no COVID-19. It was a good decision to release this one on Amazon Prime Video along with Neestream, Roots Video and Cave OTT platforms because most of us were always going to watch it on Prime Video only – it is still difficult to find the movie there because of the spelling required to be exactly as it is when searching, and surprisingly it is also not on the list of the new film releases on Amazon. But we do get to it anyway, and during this time of lock-down and triple lock-down in Kerala, this is the kind of movie that reminds us of last year’s lock-down exactly as it is, and it is more or less a realistic experience that we go through – the kind which we had seen in Joji, and also in Nayattu even though this one keeps the thriller side at a distance.

Release date: 1st April 2021 (Theatre), 19th May 2021 (Amazon Prime Video, Neestream, Roots Video, Cave)
Running time: 126 minutes
Directed by: Sanu John Varghese
Starring: Biju Menon, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Sharafudheen, Arya Salim, Ganga G Nair, Saiju Kurup, Thejaswi Praveen, Shoba Mohan, Jacob George, Pramod Veliyanad

<— Click here to go to the previous film review.

<— Click here to go to the previous Malayalam film review.

<— Click here to go to the previous superstar film review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Nerve

nervee-2

Vampire Owl: I was playing this online game. You should also try it.

Vampire Bat: Don’t you know that I no longer try these things?

Vampire Owl: But this is very much interesting.

Vampire Bat: I have gone through many more interesting things in the past.

Vampire Owl: You know, there is this game. You get missions, and you need to finish them.

Vampire Bat: It sounds familiar.

Vampire Owl: Yes, it should. There are so many people playing this game. Look, there is even Mr. Werewolf Anger playing it.

Vampire Bat: This reminds me of a movie.

Vampire Owl: This game is more than that.

Vampire Bat: Just watch this movie, and you will know.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with tapioca chips].

What is the movie about? :: Venus Delmonico (Emma Roberts), known to her friends as just “Vee”, spends her time with a small group of friends in an island outside the limits of the city. She wishes to leave her home for studying further in the city but doesn’t want to leave her mother alone after the death of her brother. Venus’ best friend is Sydney (Emily Meade) who is a popular girl around, thanks to an online reality game which goes by the name Nerve. In this popular game which has its gamers enlisted as players or watchers, the latter assigns tasks to the former, and accomplishing the same will bring money and fame to those involved. There is always the chance to become more and more famous in the online world, and this opportunity to become popular is used by most of the youth who has nothing better to do with their life. It is a network which keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So, what happens next? :: This game collects one’s personal data and comes up with three rules: all objectives are to be recorded on the player’s mobile phone, all of the earned money are to be revoked if a player fails or declines a dare in the middle of it, and a player is also not to report anything related to the game to the law enforcement. But the real names of the players are never revealed to the public. It remains anonymous, but the game knows everything. Venus who is rejected by her crush J.P. (Brian Marc) as Sydney proposes in her name, decides to become popular like her and the lover who never happened to be one. The one option that seemed to be easy for her, is to get to play Nerve as a player, and be watched by millions of players all around the world, and the two top players with the most points also get to battle each other to win the game.

So, how do things go from here? :: Her first mission, what they call in the game as dare, is to kiss a random stranger at a diner for five seconds. Venus chooses to kiss Ian (Dave Franco), who spends his time reading her favorite book, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. He sings to her revealing that he is also playing Nerve. Interested in the two, the watchers add the dare to go together into the city. But things only get complicated after that, with newer dares added – there are more difficult ones coming, and with the total number of viewers, Venus and Ian gets to the top two places, much to the dismay of Sydney who was the star in their circle. Jealous of Venus being popular than her, Sydney attempts to take more risks, and almost falls to her death. But the watchers are not finished, and they have more plans for the players – will Venus go on or quit? What is the past that Ian is hiding? How will Sydney react to this?

The defence of Nerve :: There is a fast-paced thriller in store in the form of Nerve – there is no dull moment, and from the moment this movie begins, to the end, we are cent percent interested in what is to happen next. The movie also nicely presents the terrible beauty which is present in the form of another reality online, which has caused more trouble in the last few years than during any other period of time – the message is surely to unplug from that different mirage of a reality which is not really anything close to even a distant reality. The thrills are working without doubt, and that too continuously here. What works more than the rest is certainly the pair of Emma Roberts and Dave Franco – the former manages to work the role of the teenager who wishes to bring the attention really well, and the latter with more or less the same motive – not only does the watchers of the game find them a good pair, as the audience of this movie must feel the same too. The movie also looks great on screen.

The claws of flaw :: Nerve could have surely been darker and more threatening with its world, for we all know that the reality about the virtual world can only get much more worse as time progresses – after all, we are having a generation that is interested only in pleasing others, and getting more and more attention, no matter what happens to their own people. Even as it is based on a 2012 novel of the same name by Jeanne Ryan, there could have been more dares added into this one, along with more freaky incidents happening – as a movie, it could have used all that, even though nothing can be said about the book without having read it. The movie could have also used a few faces for Nerve, and justice could have been better served to those unknown names using the game. The scope was further for this movie, and we could have always had a bigger and darker thriller with this one going a safer path.

How it finishes :: Nerve is clearly a reflection of what happens in the current world which is dominated by all kinds of social media which begins from Facebook and Twitter. The strength of online games is another thing which is visible. In a world which has been so much affected by an online world which affects the reality in a way which makes it too difficult to come back, Nerve has a message for each one of the viewers. Nerve is the kind of movie that is certain to make one think, and it is a clear reflection on how bad a simple game can get, and how much lawlessness can be present online – it doesn’t really matter how good or educated a person is, as it is eternally easy to be evil without a face; the movie shows exactly that! As we see all those online abuses happening all around, you know that the nature of the internet is bringing the worst out of people on most occasions. Nerve is just its next stage. Lets be prepared for the worst to happen.

Release date: 27th July 2016
Running time: 96 minutes
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Juliette Lewis, Machine Gun Kelly, Miles Heizer, Kimiko Glenn, Samira Wiley, Ed Squires, Brian Marc, Eric D’Alessandro, Marc John Jefferies, Casey Neistat

nerve

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Asha Black

ashablack (1)

Vampire Owl :: Is she the sister of Jacob Black?

Vampire Bat :: Absolutely not.

Vampire Owl :: Then, is she related to Sirius Black?

Vampire Bat :: I ponder over why you ponder over the name of a movie without making any sense at all. Note the double pondering – you know it is injurious to our vampire brains when not fed enough.

Vampire Owl :: It is because I have become very smart after successfully resisting the urge to watch Bang Bang! – they tried, but I was mentally “owl strong”.

Vampire Bat :: “Owl strong”? What does that even mean? I think that it is racist. I even think that you mentioning black is racist. See, vampire bats are black and you vampire owl is white.

Vampire Owl :: But you are not even brown enough. You should stand under the sun and do the “sun fall on my head” incantation to be even close to be black.

Vampire Bat :: Dude, Fair & Lovely usage among bats is increasing. Soon, they will have white vampire bats. It is all due to seeing the face of Yami Gautam on television during that fairness cream ad and getting addicted.

Vampire Owl :: Holy vampire dragon! White vampire bats? You will look like that cute little white bat from Honduras! Yuck! These fairness creams truly are the greatest brand ambassadors of racism.

Vampire Bat :: Well, can we just call the movie by its Tamil name, Nee Naan Nizhal?

[Goes to the ticket counter].

What is it about? :: We see that there is a series of murders of unrelated men happening in Kuala Lumpur, and the Malaysian police are hoping to find a solution to the same as soon as possible, as the dead are all Indians, and people might soon end up calling it a racist hate crime and would affect the tourism a lot. The man in charge of the investigation is the Assistant Superintendent of Police Anwar Ali (Sarath Kumar), a Tamil Malaysian with a fine track record, and he finds out that these dead people had one common friend with whom they chatted – Asha Black. The other story is about Rohit (Arjun Lal) who is working with a music troupe consisting of his best friends, and is highly attracted to one girl with the nickname Asha Black (Ishita) who sends him a friend request and chats with him so often. As he seems to have almost no interest in his life in India any more, his friends ask him to go to Malaysia and meet the girl of his dreams rather than ruining his life in dreams. But as he reaches Malaysia, he understands more about the girl, and also what all happens around here, and it changes his life.

The defence of Asha Black :: The movie takes charge of a social message here, and it is a bold step by a director doing his first movie. There is complete and absolutely clear success in the way the social message is given to the audience here. The movie’s change from a romantic drama to a dark thriller is also easier, as the somewhat parallel narratives are used a lot in this movie, and this darkness is something that we are perfectly aware of right from the beginning. The way in which certain cartoon-like style is adapted for telling flashback of the mysterious girl is nicely done, and unlike a few other movies which used the same, it works here a lot better as the detail of the illustrations is nice and realistic to the characters. The cinematography is nice, and the theme of the movie has been given a lot of care as it never forgets what it is planning to do with its message, and even as there are things lost, this message is not among them. The characterization also doesn’t falter, and even as some people will question a few characters, I would say that they are the best like that. It even deals with the sensitive stuff like porn and paedophilia without going to the extremes.

The claws of flaw :: The message takes over the movie and becomes better than the movie itself – even as that would mean that the message is better conveyed, it degrades the movie as the work that it is, and sometimes message demands even more from the movie, and thus some scenes are created for further support to the message which gets better in the expense of the visual medium. Yes, that makes the movie slower and having more sequences than it should have, and those which involve our hero’s chat love story is rather too stretched, and the addition of songs doesn’t help much there. The thriller effect goes for a walk there and rarely comes back, as this becomes that drama with a small romantic side. There is a certain slowness rising now and then, even as I wouldn’t go on to call that a drag, as might be necessary to make the end much more effective with an extra emotional touch. The search for Asha Black should have been more detailed and so should have been the investigation, and the mystery around her should have been revealed in a more beautiful and yet emotional way. This could have been more interesting as a movie, no doubt.

Performers of the soul :: The movie has Arjun Lal of Thanmathra fame as the hero, or rather the romantic star of this movie, and he has done a good job, especially in the second half as he challenges more than one thing. There is a long path ahead of him, and this is just a start; a good one. Manoj K. Jayan is good as usual in yet another supporting role here as the man who helps our hero in his quest. Isthita has limited things to do as Asha other than being the symbol which is Asha Black, and she also has done enough. I did wish that Bhagath Manuel had a bigger role, and also had better lines. Sarath Kumar is nicely in control of his role, even as the investigation sequences had more power rather than just moving along. Kottayam Nazeer doesn’t really have his usual funny elements working in this one, and it is a disappointment. Overall, I would say that the performances are neat, but not much to cheer for there. There could have been more, but this is still quite satisfactory.

Soul exploration :: Some people might think that this movie is more of a seminar, but never in any moment that this movie directly goes to that level. What it has is its titular character Asha Black whose profile name completely reflects the darker side of the life that she is forced into, with incidents during her childhood and the lack of care from her parents. At the same time, we see a few others who choose that path because of being part of that generation which doesn’t care for their parents. Belonging to the former group and without hope, Asha Black is the symbol of the youth who are on a darker path due to circumstances, and as online world becomes more of a relief for them, what had followed them in real life comes to them there too, and just like lightning striking with all its speed and might, destroys the whole thing. It is the “black” areas of the internet that the movie focuses on along with the evils paedophilia and porn, and the tale is that of the innocent who is caught in a dilemma with asha or hope to be loved. Its message is powerful, emotional and worthy of being watched by families who don’t care for their kids or fails to watch their actions and instruct them. They are preyed upon by the shades of technology – take care of them!

How it finishes :: Asha Black is not everyone’s cup of tea. It doesn’t have the flavour that everyone would want to put in their tea, and the result is a possibility of liking or not liking this movie, but nobody can challenge the power of its message which is strong as well as relevant. Coming from a debutante director, it is indeed a wonderful effort, as the movie seems to have tried with all its heart to send the right message to its audience which should hopefully consist of the family, especially the parents and the teenage children. This movie, just like Mummy & Me is a need of the age, and even as this can’t considered that good as that Jeethu Jospeph movie, the message is even stronger in this one. It does have mostly positive and mixed opinions from the audience, but not that much from critics for whom this is just negative or almost mixed, and lets hope that this movie does good enough – it has disappeared from some theatres, and I had to travel far to catch it; hope it stays where it is now, for at least one more week, because it deserves it, and it is out duty appreciate such works for the effort itself its Tamil version is also there, as Nee Naan Nizhal.

Release date: 10th October 2014
Running time: 120 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: John Robinson
Starring: Arjun Lal, Bhagath Manuel, Sarath Kumar, Manoj K Jayan, Ishita, Devan, Lakshmipriya, Kottayam Nazeer, Riza Bawa

ashablack

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.