Parava

What is the movie about? :: Irshad a.k.a. Ichappy (Amal Shah) and Haseeb (Govind V Pai) are friends from a neighbourhood in Mattanchery, and also goes to the same class until the former fails in a subject to stay back in the class for an year. Their main time-pass together is breeding pigeons for the big pigeon race which is held every year. With different gangs with older people trying to do better in the competition every year, the two boys find it tough to keep their birds from being stolen or the cages destroyed at night by some other gang. Still, they don’t back down, and also don’t miss some chance to have fun with romancing a new beautiful girl in the school, participating in the usual sporting events, or watching one of those movies which they are not allowed to watch. But in the end, everything comes to the pigeon race, which stands tall over other sports, whether it is cricket or football.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: While the newer generation seems to have some fun out there, we have the youth, who have had a terrible flashback. The same which includes Shane (Shane Nigam), Hakeem (Arjun Ashokan), Mujeeb (Jacob Gregory), Imran (Dulquer Salman) and a few more, has had a brutal and bloody side written all over it with one incident on the beach with a group of drug addicts (Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi and others). Such an incident wasn’t known to happen in the locality for so many years. This has kept Shane silent and uninterested in almost everything which has been going around for a long time, including the fights with the rival team leader in the pigeon race (Shine Tom Chacko). The same had left Irshad as the last hope for parents, and his hope is on his pigeons. What would happen when things get intertwined?

The defence of Parava :: There is the bold choice of subject being taken here, on the lines of Guppy, which is not known for its box-office success. The visuals of the place takes over, and with some nice music, gives us the feel of the neighborhood. Yes, these locations like Mattanchery and Fort Cochin, or even Thoppumpady and Kumbalangy can give that kind of a feeling if captured on the camera well enough. There are some cute moments involving the pigeons as well as those situations in school which evoke laughter. The funny side is strong with the kids, and the emotional side runs parallel, and gets into form when needed. The strength of the cast assures that the same happens well. We see the happenings as simple, and the movie as a feel-good entertainer, knowing its strength in its cast. Even its extended cameo is placed exactly where it could do the best impact; one would have felt the need to add it in the beginning or the end, but this one appears at the right place.

The claws of flaw :: Parava does stretch itself a little too much than needed, as it should have been shorter with the realistic world which it gets to have – but the positive thing is that it holds ground, and never gets to be the long dragging thing which was Annayum Rasoolum. There is also the absence of notable female characters who are able to make any impact on the flow of the tale, other than being the reason. There is no real heroine in this one, and there is no leading actress to talk about either. Also, when there was the chance for the movie to become another Maheshinte Prathikaram or Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum with its reflection of reality, it just doesn’t take it, and floats away. Even Guppy was simpler, with simple people and their simple dreams. The movie could have also shortened the final fight scene and finished it with a final shot of them playing on the ground; this one extends both scenes.

Performers of the soul :: As it was Chethan Jayalal for the movie which was less watched in the theatres, but appreciated later, Guppy, we have Govind and Amal doing the job. Among the two, one can’t stop noticing the shades of Chethan in the former. You feel the strength of the skills from an upcoming generation right here in this movie, as the two handles not just the funny moments, but also the emotional side without holding back at any moment. Whether it is about those lighter incidents at school or those harder situations in the reality of life, they remain solid, and holds the movie together. They rise above everyone else, as they have more screen presence as well as more situations, none of which goes missing from them. You see scope to make more movies with children at the centre after this one, maybe even come up with many sequels of Philips and the Monkey Pen.

Further performers of the soul :: Among the elder cast, it is Shane Nigam who shines, taking it to the next level from Kismath and C/O Saira Banu, two fine movies which he has been part of, after the smaller role in Kammatipaadam. He has his best moments with one of sadness and final release of anger. Dulquer Salmaan who is restricted to less than half an hour, gets a strong character, but we lose him as we get to know and love him. More of Dulquer’s character would have been good, but we adjust with what we can have with a big cameo. Jacob Gregory also has less of the funny side to explore here unlike expected, and Siddique does the classic father role with ease. Soubin Shahir and Sreenath Bhasi brings the negative shades smartly, while Shine Tom Chacko is there in another noticeable role with his pigeons. Among the female characters, it is Srinda who gets the better.

How it finishes :: Parava is that kind of a movie which attracts us towards it, right from the first sequence involving the kids and the fish, and towards that final fight scene. It has to be noted that how well Soubin Shahir in his first movie as a director takes something which is lesser known in other parts, and elevates it to a higher and more popular level – there is nothing huge being added to the mixture at the same time. As a feel-good entertainer, this one makes us forget its tendency to stretch, and makes us feel as part of the place ourselves, whether we have visited the place or not. We need experimentation like this one to make sure that the wings of our industry stay stronger, as this one releases with Pokkiri Simon. After all, we expect our pigeons to improve and do better every time. Parava is that kind of a movie, which makes on feel that there is surely something to keep close to heart.

Release date: 21st September 2017
Running time: 147 minutes
Directed by: Soubin Shahir
Starring: Shane Nigam, Govind V Pai, Amal Shah, Dulquer Salmaan, Jacob Gregory, Shine Tom Chacko, Harisree Ashokan, Jaffer Idukki, Indrans, Srinda Ashab, Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi, Zinil Zainudeen, Arjun Ashokan, Siddique, Len Prasad

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Secret Life of Pets

Vampire Owl: I told you that they had secrets, very dangerous ones.

Vampire Bat: Who are you talking about here?

Vampire Owl: The pets. The minions. The zombies. They all have such secret lives.

Vampire Bat: Actually, this movie is not about your theory of animals stealing your writings. It never really happened, and is just a vampire conspiracy theory.

Vampire Owl: What? No! I know that they are having evil plans against us.

Vampire Bat: How can you look forward to big evil plans in an animated movie?

Vampire Owl: Animated evil is still evil, and it can also be brutal.

Vampire Bat: This one even won 2017 Kids’ Choice Awards.

Vampire Owl: Then I will look for the same in another evil animated movie.

Vampire Bat: Okay, just leave this one as a simple animated movie for now.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with a blueberry cake piece].

What is the movie about? :: A Jack Russell Terrier named Max (Louis CK) is living happily with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in an apartment in the city. He wishes to spend most of his time with her, but she has to go to work. After Katie leaves, he spends his time with other pets who also live in the same building: a fat, apathetic and proud cat Chloe (Lake Bell), a smart and always excited pug Mel (Bobby Moynihan), a happy and easy-going dachshund Buddy (Hannibal Buress), and also a parrot Sweetpea. There are also other two significant pets, Norman (Chris Renaud), a guinea pig who keeps losing his way in the apartment, and Gidget (Jenny Slate), a white Pomeranian dog on the opposite apartment having a desperate crush on Max, but haven’t been able to tell him that due to fear of rejection. All the pets socialise and lead a different life after their owners leave.

So, what happens next? :: As things go like this without anything new or special happening with their lives, Katie adopts Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a large mongrel from the dog pound. This leaves Max jealous about having to share his house and also his belongings with someone new. Despite Duke’s repeated attempts to make a deal to share things, Max doesn’t agree and claims everything for himself. He even attempts to make Max look bad in front of Katie even though she has decided to share her love between the two. Angry at Max’s attitude towards him, Duke tries to teach him a lesson outside, but they are both a group of stray cats who remove their collars and leave them on the streets to be caught by Animal Control. Max is desperate to get home again, while Duke is afraid that he will be put down if he goes back to the dog pound.

And then how do things go from there? :: But things don’t end there for them as help is on the way. There is Snowball (Kevin Hart), a white rabbit who leads a rebel group of pets who were mistreated and disowned by their owners. Max and Duke are saved, and they go with anti-domestication gang into the sewers, hoping to find their way back home one day. There are tales of cruelty from humans against the pets told by the members of the group, and hatred runs wild against the human species. As Max and Duke also pretend to hate humans, and even claim to have killed one, Snowball invites them to join the group. But their earlier enemies, the stray cats come in and tell the truth, and they escape, but not without Snowball on their trail vowing to kill them as they had ended up accidentally killing their holy viper. So, the question remains if they can save themselves, or even their old friends find them and save them before Snowball gets his hands on them?

The defence of The Secret Life of Pets :: The movie nicely takes on the other world, leading us through the imaginary space that our pets consider theirs. The voice cast is very much suitable, and there is lot of fun in store in this one. The kids are going to love this one, as already proven with Kids’ Choice Awards, and the people with pets will love it even more. This will appeal the most to the owners of dogs, but the rest also gets their due. There is the message of adjusting to the situations and also to consider the feelings of others, keeping family and friends close to each other. It also tells the owners of animals and birds to be nice to them, and to keep them close and provide the needed, as they are required to be. Well, we get to associate with more pets than we think we will have to; and The Secret Life of Pets will come into the mind more than once. The whole thing remain cute, even with the talks of murdering others.

The claws of flaw :: There are times when The Secret Life of Pets gives that feeling that we have known and seen this before; there are also moments of predictability and repetition, something that the animated movies have struggled so hard to avoid. There will no new level of animated awesomeness to be set here, and this one surely trails in front of the two big animated movies of the year, Moana and Zootopia or the earlier big one, Inside Out. The movie also focuses on the dog’s side, and it is no surprise with the number of people who have or feel the need to have the dog rather than any other. But a tale about pets like this one could have had more of the cats, and hopefully the sequel will have the same. It is a need, and with this stereotyping that has been going on and on with cats and dogs, maybe there will be a day on which all these things will turn the other way around – it is that day which will have the best of movies of this kind, and we hope that it is The Secret Life of Pets 2 that we can talk about like that.

How it finishes :: With the sequel coming up in the year 2019, what the makers need to realise is that a movie like The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t need to focus that much on making people laugh, because it is funny – maybe some divergence is what the second movie of this series should be having. There is no doubt about the box-office too with this one becoming the highest grossing original animated movie which is not produced by Disney or Pixar, and The Secret Life of Pets is also the the sixth highest grossing film of 2016. It is even above the much hyped movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Deadpool, Suicide Squad and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So, the first movie is a winner in so many ways, and what we will need to have is something different and special in the second one, thus maybe even going on to win the Academy Awards for the Best Animated Feature Film – even that much can be done with this material.

Release date: 8th July 2016
Running time: 87 minutes
Directed by: Chris Renaud
Starring: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan, Albert Brooks, Chris Renaud, Michael Beattie, Sandra Echeverría, Kiely Renaud

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

A Street Cat Named Bob

Vampire Owl: This one looks like the Vampire Cat in disguise.

Vampire Bat: How can you talk like that about such a cute ginger cat?

Vampire Owl: Even the Vampire Cat is cute.

Vampire Bat: No, he is not. That makes no sense.

Vampire Owl: You just have to look at the right angles.

Vampire Bat: Dude, the long fangs say that it is not “cute” territory.

Vampire Owl: But how can that one be a cat and not cute?

Vampire Bat: That is a good question. But a cat is normally not cute with all his nine lives left even after death.

Vampire Owl: I am just glad that he is not a Zombie Cat.

Vampire Bat: Well, not part of your zombie minion squad, that is for sure!

[Gets three cups of masala tea with special masala dosa].

What is the movie about? :: James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) is a recovering drug addict who has nothing going in his way. With his father Nigel Bowen (Anthony Head) married again with a woman with two kids, it is his support worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt), who tries so hard, and helps him to get his own flat to live in. He has been trying to earn some money by singing on the streets, but it is not of much use. One day, a ginger cat enters his apartment to find some food. It is a friendly cat, and James tries to find its owner, but it seems that there is none. One day, it gets injured while fighting with some other stray animals. After taking it to the vetenary doctor, and with the advice of his neighbour, he names it Bob. It stays with him in the flat, and so he decides to let it be there.

So, what happens next? :: Everything begins to change as people notice him with the cat which stays on his shoulders as he walks through the streets and sings – at the same time, James also develops a relationship with his neighbor Betty (Ruta Gedmintas). These things make him more responsible, and he manages to become a better person. He finds himself responsible for the life of Bob as well as himself, and manages to stay away from drugs for enough time to get clean. Everyone in the streets admire the team of two, and even James’ father appreciate his efforts to get better. With the question remaining about helped whom more than the other, the James and Bob seems to have managed well enough to be a lot helpful to each other. But their times don’t end here, as it continues to make a bigger impact on them as well as the people around them.

The defence of A Street Cat Named Bob :: The movie has its heart and soul at the right place which makes this one a movie not just for the cat lovers – that specific category is certain to love this movie more for sure though. There is no difficulty in falling in love with a movie as feel-good and cute as this one, with its dark sides nicely controlled and gotten rid of. There is a lot of focus on its message, on what it means to be loved, and what it is about having someone to love – how it changes a person completely. There is also the message against doing drugs, as we see the protagonist go through the different phases of his life. Dealing with a subject like this, and still managing to be realistic as well as inspirational, takes some effort, and thanks to a fantastic performance from Luke Treadaway, and the work from Bob the Cat himself, there is not much that goes apart in this one – the emotional side works really well.

The claws of flaw :: There is a certain slowness that can be felt, and this is certainly no special tale as all things go simple with this one. There was also the potential to make something bigger out of this tale, with the real life tale made into book, and the cat and the owner being pretty much famous. The potential for usual pet stories is nothing less either. You know what cats are capable of – I had one myself named Simona, and she was never lacking in skills. She could always provide the needed entertainment – there were no shortage of admirers for her in the neighbourhood. The movie could have easily added some moments which could look really good on the screen. There are always more interesting incidents that could have happened around here. We could have also had more interesting characters added to support the whole thing.

Soul exploration :: You see the tagline of this movie, “Sometimes it takes nine lives to save one” – it is one perfect thing to have. As the movie is based on real-life incidents, this happens to be a proven thing – I have often believed that my own cat called Simona has affected my life in a positive way too. With her daily activities, she had inspired me to write more and also see some happiness with her activities of fun. I have been depressed on a lot of occasions, and her presence was good enough to lift me up every time. Therefore, I can connect with this movie better than most of the people out there. It was just last year that she died, falling victim to a motor accident while crossing the road, and that came as quite a shock to us. During the times of sadness these days, I continue to miss her, and it was during one of those days that this movie came to me.

How it finishes :: The world needs more movies with cats. And more people also need to watch this movie at a time when the idea of an ideal pet has been more about having a dog. We can also be sure about having more movies in this series, with more books being present among the original collection of works by the same author with the same cat at the centre. The others include The World According to Bob, and more for children including Bob: No Ordinary Cat, Where In The World Is Bob?, My Name Is Bob, For the Love of Bob, Bob to the Rescue and a short story titled A Gift from Bob. A Street Cat Named Bob as the book was nominated for the UK’s National Book Awards and it was listed at No. 7 on a list of the most inspiring teenage books as part of a poll for World Book Day. Let’s see what the movie brings as more people gets to watch it.

Release date: 4th November 2016
Running time: 103 minutes
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Starring: Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head, Caroline Goodall, Darren Evans, Tony Jayawardena, Adam Riches, Beth Goddard, Ivana Basic, Jessica Woodland, John Henshaw, Akbar Kurtha, Lorraine Ashbourne, Llewella Gideon

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.