Nightmare Alley

Vampire Owl: This could be the name of one of the halls in the castle.

Vampire Bat: There are already enough alleys with nightmares around here.

Vampire Owl: You think that vampires are affected by nightmares.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we just consider them as dreams.

Vampire Owl: Nightmares are just small part of the dreams.

Vampire Bat: You shouldn’t use the word “nightmare” anymore. It is overused.

Vampire Owl: We are the true nightmares, the living dead ones, right?

Vampire Bat: You feel that the nightmares can be true?

Vampire Owl: Now, you are acting like Dr Frankenstein.

Vampire Bat: You mean, like Mr Frankenstein! No, never!

[Gets an aloo paratha and three cups of black tea].

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1939, and Stanton Carlisle a.k.a. Stan (Bradley Cooper) wanders around different cities of the United States of America, and while going on as a free guy, a drifter, gets a job at a big carnival which seems to have lit up the world of night beautifully. There, he notices a geek show in which he sees a man eating a live chicken. This performance which is also known as freak show, is always about a single man called a geek who chases live chickens and finally has him killing the bird and eating it alive. It was something common among circus and carnival professionals to be part of a troupe that included geeks. The geeks were often heavy alcoholics or drug addicts, and instead of money, liquor was used to pay them for the performance. In this case, the man who was part of the performance is seen to be further deranged than he is supposed to be. While he is working, Stan is told that the geek is now running around within their attraction, and they have to somehow catch him before he ruins the performances.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The geek seems to be hiding in a scary attraction, and attacks Stan, only to be taken down. He is taken into a cage, and he seems to be too violent and mentally disturbed to be fit for any show, seemingly getting close, but being out of death for now. But they keep him locked up with the feeling that people will love to look down on him and forget their own misery. It seems that many people like to enjoy that particular show, and is a major attraction which nobody wishes to miss, even though it is indeed costlier. After helping them to find the geek, Stan is offered a full time job at the carnival instead of that temporary one which was provided to him earlier. He is only happy to be with them as he has nowhere to go anymore. After using their tub, he begins working with the clairvoyant performer known as Madame Zeena, originally Zeena Krumbein (Toni Collette) and her alcoholic husband, Peter Krumbein a.k.a. Pete (David Strathairn). Zeena definitely feels that there is more to him than what meets the eye.

And what more is to follow in this interesting world? :: Mary Margaret Cahill a.k.a. Molly (Rooney Mara) also helps them at times, as Pete often losses control after drinking too much. But Molly also performs as the “Electric Girl Unforgettable”, seemingly taking electricity through her in one of the other star performances. Stan seems to be falling in love with Molly slowly, but steadily. The team of clairvoyance uses gestures, some coded language and certain cold reading tricks to make their work more effective. There are some fine guesses which work out of effectively at times, even though Pete is not fond of her pretending to speak to the dead. Pete shows the methods to Stan too, and he seems to be a very quick learner. Stan understands that the geeks are originally alcoholics whom he has forced to stay with opium-laced alcohol which has been affecting the minds of the geeks terribly. Most of them were affected by the First World War one way or the other. These geeks are nicely taken into the carnival where they become nothing less than slaves due to their addiction gone terribly wrong.

Then you look forward further in this movie, and what awaits us? :: As they are going on with the carnival, Germany has just started the invasion of Poland, setting the beginning of the Second World War. Things still seem to go normal at the carnival, as a new geek takes the place of the previous one who is dead. Stan asks Molly to leave the carnival with him, and start a new grand performance with him, which everyone in the United States of America, and all around the world will remember forever. But she is not ready to leave with him, as she has been a part of this performance and this particular place for quite a long time. Soon, Pete who keeps drinking more and more, finally dies out of alcoholic consumption. It is then that a sheriff comes there and threatens to close the illegal performance which has cruelty to humans and animals, while Molly who performs her act in her undergarments is to be arrested for too much of cleavage and thighs, thus enough indecency to be in the prison. Stan saves her and the whole carnival from the sheriff using the skills he had learned from Pete. As the sheriff leaves, Molly agrees to leave the Carnival with him, but what would the future hold in that case?

The defence and flaws of Nightmare Alley :: The movie has a beautiful world belonging to the past in store for us. Even though slow at times, it is an effective movement forward, which we are all going to enjoy. The time period during the Second World War is beautifully created, and we become a part of it. Even though there is the common idea that this is a psychological thriller, the movie is more of a drama rather than anything else. It might be due to its jumping through the genres that the movie feels slow, and the over all length does feel as a little too much for our liking. It is not the kind of world with which the director, Guillermo del Toro is at full strength – this could be the same reason why the director’s other movies continue to stay a few levels above this one. But the performances from Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara are too good, and they have us interested here throughout the movie. The others who don’t have a full run in the flick, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and others also have a fine run when they are around here. The movie also has a fine message running through here about what awaits an over-reacher who find evil to be okay.

How it finishes :: Nightmare Alley does have that feeling of watching the movies of Guillermo del Toro like before. Still, it doesn’t have any haunting creatures like in Crimson Peak or the huge robots fighting giant monsters like in Pacific Rim. This is also no Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water. The director does take a divergent path with ease, and successfully goes through the whole thing and keeps us engaged in the same. A movie without any supernatural element for him, and he still continues to be the visionary director like nobody else. The movie is based on the novel of the same name written by the American writer William Lindsay Gresham published in 1946, and how well it has taken the spirit of the book will be known only to those who have read the book. The movie was nominated for four Oscar Awards, including the Best Picture, at the 94th Academy Awards held in Los Angeles in March 2022. Well, one would only feel that this is only deserving, as this is a film is a world which is for us to be immersed in, at all times.

Release date: 17th December 2021
Running time: 150 minutes
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, Mary Steenburgen, Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Udaharanam Sujatha

What is the movie about? :: Sujatha Krishnan (Manju Warrier), who stopped school at ninth standard, hopes to provide good education to her daughter Athira Krishnan (Anaswara Rajan) who is no mood to study, and despite considered smart, raises questions about how she has reached so far with her studies. The Trivandrum district collector (Mamta Mohandas) is Sujatha’s role model, but Athira has no such plans as to getting close to even trying for civil service examinations – Mathematics of tenth standard is terror enough for her. Athira enjoys her life watching television and playing with her friends, doing not much of reading, even telling her mother that she only wants to be a servant like her, and work at households, giving the excuse that it is the children of engineers who become engineers, and kids of doctors become doctors. This worries Sujatha who has been looking for better education for her daughter, and complains to Paul George (Nedumudi Venu) who owns the house where she mainly works.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: Paul asks her to get her daughter to the famous institution which trains the students so well that they can be nothing less than highly successful in their lives. Cherian (Alencier Ley Lopez) who runs the institution tells her to have her daughter score at least fifty percent marks in the examination, and he will be ready to give them a big discount in fees. But Athira’s skill lies in becoming first from behind, as her scores are always in single digits, never really getting past what batsmen get from a lofted shot over the boundary during a game of cricket. So, Sujatha decides to join school too, and with the help of Sreekumar (Joju George), the most feared Mathematics teacher and headmaster of the school who is persuaded by Paul, she gets special permission and joins the tenth standard of the institution, much to the dismay of Athira who feels ashamed by the same. Now, the question remains about what change it can make.

The defence of Udaharanam Sujatha :: We will find the movie’s main character as someone who the common man can relate to, with ease. There is always the presence of those parents who dreams for their children, and there are always those kids who don’t want to do anything with their lives. We have the simple moments that touch us, and then there is the moment of final realization that helps the movie to rise further. There is the reflection of the difficulties that a mother has to undergo for the child, and we see the new generation who has no awareness, or doesn’t want to think more about the same. We also find the focus being made on the importance of education, and on being thankful to our own people, our family, especially our parents. Yes, along with some humour as well as emotional moments, Udaharanam Sujatha is that kind of a movie which would catch the attention of family audience more than any other, no matter what superstar it would have.

The claws of flaw :: Seemingly having two movies as its base for the story, Nil Battey Sannata and Amma Kanakku, in Hindi and Tamil respectively, one would expect more from this particular tale, with Manju Warrier right there in the lead. You will also find that the movie is an overreacher with what its characters achieve. There is no Doctor Faustus, but one has to feel that a simple movie like this would have had simple steps steadily moving towards glory. We feel that it is too quick to get there, using that cliched twist to make the child understand the significance of her mother and the dreams – maybe the other movies which came earlier had similar things, but there has been enough time to re-organize things. Well, we are pretty much confident that not that many people have watched or even heard about those other flicks; that much was certain from the audience watching this movie. There was also chance for more humour, and the emotional side could have been stronger.

Performers of the soul :: Manju Warrier handles another movie with care, and she has this character in full control. She is here after that wonderful movie which was C/O Saira Banu, and the inspirational sports movie, Karinkunnam 6s; the thriller Vettah also showed a certain divergence, and here she is now, being part of another one of those interesting women-centric movies that has more than what you would think from outside. She has the funny side as well as the emotional one working well here. One has to feel that there will be no replacement for her for a long time. Supporting her very well is Anaswara Rajan as the daughter who has her own way of living her life. She rightly joins in to play her role, and only gets better as the movie progresses. Her combination with Manju Warrier had moments that will immediately catch our attention, more on the emotional side rather than with the funny part.

Further performers of the soul :: Regarding the funny side, we leave that to Joju George who excels with the comedy, and it is him whom we can hundred percent depend to make us laugh here. There are so many moments of laughter being generated in the class room, thanks to him who is also one of the producers of this movie. It is that kind of a character who can be used for a full movie based inside a school. Meanwhile, Alencier Ley Lopez only has a small role to play in this one, appearing twice to be noted. Mamta Mohandas also has a little role to play in this one, as we remember seeing her last in Thoppil Joppan and Two Countries. It is always a pleasure to see her, and there are lots of movies in which we had wished for her to be a part of, as we watch them on the big screen, and see someone missing from its soul. Then there is Nedumudi Venu who plays the inspirational role, as he keeps motivating like no other in this movie.

How it finishes :: There is the certainty of existence of two movies which have dealt with the same thing, and Udaharanam Sujatha also comes in there as the third of them. I wouldn’t be able to comment on Nil Battey Sannata or Amma Kanakku, but Udaharanam Sujatha has its heart at the right place. You might need to think not that much about the transformation and those final moments which go a little too ambitious, but Udaharanam Sujatha is a movie that will attract family audience like a strong magnet, as it has that feel-good factor with positive messages in favour of education, and dreaming high. Well, there might be so many other inspirational movies, but Udaharanam Sujatha goes more family-oriented than any other. So, the question remains if you are ready to be inspired by Sujatha’s example? Do you know someone who has gone through a similar example of a path?

Release date: 28th September 2017
Running time: 127 minutes
Directed by: Phantom Praveen
Starring: Manju Warrier, Anaswara Rajan, Nedumudi Venu, Mamta Mohandas, Joju George, V Suresh Thampanoor, Alencier Ley Lopez

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Jo and the Boy

joandtheboy (2)

What is the movie about? :: Joan Mary John (Manju Warrier) used to be a kid who loved Mickey Mouse a lot and later took it as her ambition to create a cartoon character like that. When asked at school about whom she wanted to be, she had the answer as Walt Disney. Later, she grows up to be an animator who hopes to make a big series or movie with a character created by her, and for the same, she makes different approaches, but with not much of a result. As she goes above the age of thirty with no job and no interest in marriage, her parents Johnny (Lalu Alex) and Mary (Kalaranjini) become more and more worried. But she continues in her own small world trying to make that big difference to it with one right moment. Then the life changing moment appears, and the story has another direction to proceed.

So what is this sudden change of direction in life about? :: Joan needed something special with her life. Things take a turn with the arrival of a boy called Chris (Sanoop Santhosh) who was adopted by Catherine (Rekha), one of Joan’s relatives. The visit happens at a time when Joan is struggling to make a mark as things continue to work against her. After the initial dislike due to the boy’s attitude, Joan becomes good friends with him, and they become good friends. Later, he becomes the inspiration for the cartoon character whom Joan is planning to create, and she ends up designing her creation just like him. Calling the character Criz, she keeps making the attempt to impress the firm, with the man at its head not interested in her ideas. With the help of her friends and the boy, Joan will try again, as it is her only dream in life.

The defence of Jo and the Boy :: There is a very nice beginning to this movie, with the child and Mickey Mouse; it keeps that level or somewhere around there until the cartoon character gets its own problems. There was the possiblity of this one becoming the right movie embedded in the spirit of Christmas in the beginning stages. The ending is also pretty good, even though the climax has a little bit too much melodrama. This is inspirational and feel-good, that is for sure – there is no shortage of such stuff here and there even though not in totality with the story. The Philips and the Monkey Pen feeling exists right through this one, even though that much strength is not there to be a worthy successor to that amazing movie – don’t keep the expectations that high about this one. There is also the strength of some amazing visuals in this flick. You are going to fall in love with locations used here, and there is no question about that. The performances will be another plus point.

Claws of flaw :: The movie will have problems in connecting to a good number of viewers who might not have expected this from the trailers. The humour here is rather too less. The songs are not that good either, and visuals are the ones which give the feel to the music. There are problems in the middle part and the first part of the second half does have some lagging portions along with cliches. A lot of scenes which were shown in the trailer in a nice way have almost no significance in the movie in its totality. The Philips and the Monkey Pen magic is not really recreated here, with some magical moments here and there, but that connectivity, clarity and emotional strength isn’t that much present here. It should be also why this movie try to be the great overreacher with its story, when it could have stayed on the ground with the common man; instead it does try to fly too high, and becomes the Icarus with burnt wings – unlike the son of Daedalus, this one survives though. A better or even simpler story would have made this a fairy-tale beauty.

Performers of the soul :: As you might have already expected, Manju Warrier is the big performer here, as she once again manages an inspiration role to take it to a fine level, after How Old Are You? and Rani Padmini. All those “different” characteristics of this role comes to life with her, even though common man question the action here – that is explained with the “difference” factor; “divergence” isn’t really a crime, right? Sanoop Santhosh also does an interesting job here as the boy who brings the diversion in life. Even though the character is not that likable as in Philips and the Monkey Pen, he does his character well. It is nice to see Lalu Alex doing the “cool father act” once again. Sudheer Karamana is too underused here as his character disappears after making a nice impact. Sunil Sukhada also has a short appearance in the beginning stages of the movie. Pearle Maaney provides some good support. A point to be noted is that there is no pair for the heroine here, and as you expected, the romance is null.

Soul exploration :: Jo and the Boy is another movie which talks about dreams. The whole story is about the lady protagonist who has a dream in her childhood and keeps going towards it even as she reaches the age of thirty – unmarried and without a job. It is the story of many good men and women who couldn’t achieve a particular thing just because they don’t have enough contacts or blood-relationships with people at good positions – we know how it works in this world, as people with reservations and powerful relatives will get things done easily and earlier while others have to work hard to achieve it. But our protagonist keeps trying, and despite the worries, her parents also supports her. In a world in which sons and daughters of actors/directors/producers become actors without any skill, and children of ministers become leaders and then ministers, Joan is a symbol of everyone who keeps trying without accepting defeat and changing the path.

How it finishes :: As you might know already, there is no shortage of inspirational movies in Malayalam Cinema; even this year, it is a process which started with Mili, and continued to go on through Rani Padmini, Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam and My God. Among these five big inspirational movies including this one, three of them are heroine-oriented, one has a person who rises above his disability, and another movie has a kid at the centre of everything. Malayalam movie industry does know how to inspire its audience, that is for sure. With Jo and the Boy, I am glad that there has been a lot of inspiration gained from movies this year, and there are also those feel-good entertainers which have provided us with some more happiness, and some movies are both! I am extremely glad to have watched more Malayalam movies than the flicks in any other language this year, in the theatres.

Release date: 24th December 2015
Running time: 156 minutes
Directed by: Rojin Thomas
Starring: Manju Warrier, Sanoop Santhosh, Pearle Maaney, Kiran, Lalu Alex, Kalaranjini, Rekha, Sudheer Karamana, Sunil Sukhada

joandtheboy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.