Brick Mansions

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Action promised and provided :: This movie had given me the feeling that it is the last time I should be seeing Paul Walker on the big screen (pending what is to come in Fast & Furious 7, of course). Here, what seems to be a higher rating for some of those who have watched this movie is more of the result of my personal admiration for the actor and of course considering the fact that how well the movie has delivered what it had promised. This is the English remake of one of the most admired action movies of the 2000s, the French flick, District 13 – released in 2004 and not many moments without me hearing something about it whenever action movies were mentioned. There was absolutely no doubt about which movie I was to watch this weekend, thanks to Brick Mansions. I haven’t watched the original yet, and I guess that helps to like this movie much better. To add to it, Brick Mansions is a movie completely set in the future, and a situation which a dystopia. Thus, even though not focused, I would say that it not short of its themes. But, as there is no real surprise, the movie depends a lot on its action sequences and breath-taking stunts, something which hasn’t been this efficiently used for quite a long time. So here is the much awaited movie for the fans of the genre.

What is it about? :: The setting is the dystopian Detroit, in the distant future, when the brick mansions of the city become home to the city’s biggest criminals. In a complete absence of law and order and the ever increasing power of the criminal gangs, the police is forced to construct a containment wall outside the area so that nobody comes in or goes out unnoticed. The people inside the containment are separated from the rest, and this is hailed as an innovative and effective step to prevent the normal citizens of the city who live outside the Brick Mansions. To that situation comes Damien Collier (Paul Walker) who is attempting to free the city of crime and corruption, and also have revenge on the man who killed his father, as he remains an undercover cop. Meanwhile, Lino Dupree (David Belle) is a man different from the others in Brick Mansions, attempting to live a good life and hoping to prevent the community from degrading further into chaos. As his girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis), working as a waiter in a restaurant is kidnapped by the drug lord to get even with him who causes troubles for their illegal business, he combines forces with Damien who is looking forward to settle scores with the same man – Tremaine Alexander (RZA).

The defence of Brick Mansions :: The movie has Paul Walker in his last movie doing a wonderful job, David Belle with his great acrobatics and the beautiful Catalina Denis getting to take part in some action too. You have to love the aerial shots of the area. Then there are the action sequences which are lead by David Belle, master of the art of parkour. We get into the action right in the beginning itself as he runs, climbs, rolls, swings and jumps to avoid the guys chasing him, and at the same time, beating up anyone who comes in direct contact with him. He is easily identified as the one to look out for. There is the need not to drag, and having the action sequences at most priority as far as movies like this are concerned, because that is what the viewers expect and that is what the movie delivers. There is no dull moment in this movie, and there are a few lighter scenes too despite the total nature of the movie. But at the same time, the theme of dystopia is not abandoned, and it exists with the car chases, shooting and melee combat scenes. The setting of the movie plays a big part in defining the progress. Brick Mansions is a great way to remember Paul Walker, even as it won’t create any magic like the Fast and Furious franchise did.

Claws of flaw :: Finding fault with this movie might be rather too easy, and it is evident from a good number of negative reviews. There haven’t been many action movies which got the critical appreciation that they deserved. The first major assault on this movie might be about it being a little too unrealistic and not trying to be smart enough. Yes, Brick Mansions might not be smart and surely not original considering that it is a remake, and unrealistic as a whole. But unlike some of the other movies, for example, Transcendence, this movie doesn’t try to make the claim or does it try to look realistic when it is not really that. I would have liked to have a better twist added to the movie’s ending, not as part of finding fault, but making it better. Then you are welcome to feel that the plot is a little predictable, but that should happen because this is the remake of that older movie. It could have been a better allegory given its setting. Something to ponder over in the middle of those action sequences wouldn’t have hurt much, after all the action sequences seems to have come naturally to all the actors and actresses involved with the scenes. The movie might feel a little bit like a video game for a few, with so much of non-stop action involved, but this is not made for such people.

Performers of the Soul :: Paul Walker remains charming and the more silent assassin in this movie, as he is wonderful in this performance too. He is like a more human version of Judge Dredd with all the simplicity. He has less action sequences to perform than David Belle who starts with the action sequences right from the beginning, being the more aggressive and a lot more acrobatic of the two. He played the same character in the original, and has come up with a breath-taking performance in this one, as far as action sequences are concerned. Meanwhile, RZA make a fine dystopian villain, even as the element of evil is rather weak except for shooting his own people and threatening to launch a rocket towards the city. In being evil, Ayisha Issa plays his sidekick and overtakes him in being bad, whether in her sadness in not getting to kill Lino or to murder millions by destroying the city or whether it is in tormenting the kidnapped Lola, her character becomes the bigger villain. Catalina Denis is gorgeous as Lola and the best thing about her is that she comes up with some sylish action sequences of her own, when not being beaten up by the lady villain. I hope we see a lot more from the beautiful and talented Colombian actress in future.

Soul exploration :: Brick Mansions might seem to give nothing to think about, for most of its viewers, but the movie has its own versions of the abuse of power which the men with power exert on the marginalized, and also that division of people which has made the situation more suitable for a dystopian government. There is too much inequality, and Lino’s attempt to become a better man in a society of crime which is rather helped by the containment walls would rather land him in prison and his girlfriend in the captivity of his enemies. There will always be more than one kind of people in all sides, both good and evil, and also grey. There will always be angels, fallen angels and the demons, and it is an inescapable fact of life. Containment walls were never supposed to be a solution. If people can’t change, there is no point in exile, and the government’s choice of dividing its own people instead of attempting fight crime in an efficient manner will finally go against itself, as depicted against the movie. There will sometimes be heroes who help the process, and otherwise it is just pain luck that goes against the oppression. The movie’s heroes have their own beliefs only to be tricked by the dystopian environment that is around them.

How it finishes :: Here is what might be your last chance to see Paul Walker on the big screen, and you won’t wish to miss it. But it does deserve to be seen for its action sequences too, as far as you can enjoy them without thinking about how something was possible and what is the logic behind the same. After that scene in which David Belle is running away in the beginning, a few other interesting sequences include Paul Walker teaming up with him to beat up a much stronger man, the two car chasing scenes, Catalina Denis’ fight with Ayisha Issa and the final dealing of her lady foe problem and Paul’s early drug bust (that shouldn’t lead to the underestimation of the other fight scenes though). This should be the week of Brick Mansions, thanks to Transcendence being bad and no big Hollywood release here this weekend. Even the regional movie releases haven’t worked that well. Most of you do need to watch Brick Mansions for those reasons, and I have a feeling that even those who don’t want might just end up watching it. If this can’t convince you, there is still the original District 13 with the subtitles to be watched, and I hope that you get the taste of it in one way or the other.

Release date: 25th April 2014
Running time: 90 minutes
Directed by: Camille Delamarre
Starring: Paul Walker, David Belle, Catalina Denis, RZA, Ayisha Issa, Robert Maillet, Carlo Rota, Kwasi Songui

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Percy Jackson II

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In an overwhelming desire to find myself fair about this movie, I have to confess that I watched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones right after watching this – it was a back-to-back movie adventure separated only by the desire to have lunch and the need to travel from one mall to the other. If you don’t need to know more about it, and the two movies in relation to each other, you are free to skip the first two paragraphs, an offer of escape from comparisons which includes this paragraph. In a simple comparison of no great intellect, our reviewed movie is more of a follower of the Harry Potter pattern, with a world for the demigods away from the original world, with its major base on magic and the individual and collective inner strength and righteousness which they exhibit while facing big powers; but the second movie has more similarities with Twilight, with a female protagonist who is just a boring ordinary girl who is introduced into another world which is hidden among the known human world and is once again caught in a triangular love between herself and two other guys, both belonging to different species.

So the other fantasy movie of the day has a good amount of Constantine, Underworld and surely, the most of dominant of them all, Twilight. To make it look more of a formidable power, it has added the horror elements, and there was demons, vampires and werewolves, the three creatures whom we never thought would come along in herds in the same movie, an absurd improvement on Underworld and Twilight which has surely backfired, despite of the presence of the lovely leading actress who can act incredibly well, Lily Collins who has done a great job. But with a little visual effects, horror and action, the movie runs out of gas. It is there that Percy Jackson scores. The two movies were released on the same day here, along with We’re the Millers, and the advantage would surely go with Sea of Monsters, as it doesn’t come with an “A” certificate unlike the others, and it is in 3D. The theatres seem to have realized the same too, as they have put more shows for the movie, and it is the only English movie in more than one theatres this week.

Even as it is difficult to set aside the great performance of the beautiful Lily Collins, lets leave the absurdity which was the half-baked bad mixture of all the fantasy works ever produced, which was The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and move on to the movie of the week, which is Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. Our movie doesn’t deal with forbidden love and has no apples or people with bad tooth unless they are monsters. May be that should be reserved for Twilight copies, and there might be a time when the apples begin to keep the viewers away rather than the doctors. The best thing about Percy Jackson is that it sticks to the basics. It takes the legends from the Greek Mythology, but it maintains a formula which is not at all ambiguous and more true to the core. It doesn’t rely on anything strange or unnecessary to give temporary satisfaction with any teenage fantasy which doesn’t go well with the plot and the flow of the story. It doesn’t try to give pleasure to anyone suffering from the withdrawal symptoms, which is mostly a Twilight withdrawal rather than from the intellectually superior Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter series.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) no longer seems to have the popularity that he might have had with him getting back the lightning bolt, saving both the Olympus and the world, and such great stuff which were to become legends. Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin) is his constant rival to glory, as she beats him in almost all the competitions. As Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), announces his plans to destroy Mount Olympus by bringing back Kronos from Tartarus and sends a mechanical bull to attack the demi-god camp after poisoning Thalia Grace (Paloma Kwiatkowski) who is the tree which defends the camp with a magic forcefield. Even as Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) is the one who finds out that the Golden Fleece could heal and restore the tree, Clarisse is sent to retrieve the artefact much to the dismay of Percy, Annabeth and Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson). But the trio decides to follow the team led by Clarisse, and they are joined by Percy’s half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), who is a cyclops. They also have one prophecy and a group of rogue half-bloods supported by a Manticore, and one big cyclops guarding the fleece to deal with.

With no denial of credit to one Lily Collins who had tried in vain to restore order among chaos and absurdity in the other fantasy movie, lets move into our characters. Logan Lerman leads the team as Percy Jackson, a demigod and the son of the God of Ocean, Poseidon. He was there in the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers, and here is he is again, and it surely seems to be a familiar territory for him. It is a honest performance from all angles. Brandon T. Jackson as Grover Underwood makes sure that there is no dull moment in the movie, along with Douglas Smith as Tyson the Cyclops. Most of the funny moments of the movie are from these two, and they are really good, and never inappropriate. Alexandra Daddario plays Annabeth Chase, the demigod daughter of Athena, the Godess of Wisdom, and this is one supporting character that you will remember for a long time, despite of the romantic angle kept away in the movie completely. She does have that look too, of that intensity which is kept in check by the heavenly wisdom. She was that good in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief too, and continues the good work.

Leven Rambin is Clarisse La Rue, the arrogant, hot-tempered daughter of the war God, Ares – always looking for combat, and at at the same time finding Percy a threat to her supremacy. After seeing her in The Hunger Games as the District 1 tribute, and the strong contender Glimmer, there was a certainty, that she was going to be great in such roles, and here she is, leading a group of undead who served her father Ares. As the story progresses, her character turns out to be more dynamic, along with adding to the funny as well as the action elements of the movie. There is the suiting depiction of the contrast between the daughter of this God of War and the Goddess of Wisdom. There is no point where the two are similar, and being the daughter of the great War God, she shares nothing in common with all the others out there, with Paloma Kwiatkowski’s Thalia Grace, of the demigod daughter of Zeus still pending. Jake Abel’s Luke Castellan, the demigod son of Hermes is a continuation of what was there in the first part of the movie. Nathan Fillion’s Hermes is a short, but effective presence which stays throughout the movie.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has taken over at a time when the book-based fantasy novels are on the decline. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has proved to follow the path of The Host, and clearly stay with Twilight. The Harry Potter series have finished and Lord of the Rings and Narnia are taking a slow path. There is the need for something similar to fill in, and here is Percy Jackson. With its superior and appropriate 3D effects and the well done action sequences supported by the visual imagery, there is no loss of moments spent for watching this movie. There are also the funny lines, but it denies itself a big chance to take some risks, as it follows the conventional path, never to stray away from it. But, there is a huge amount of honesty in this path which is without any ambiguity, and there is absolutely no attempt to complicate things. The whole thing is kept simple, and as the endoskeleton comes from the Greek Mythology and a little bit of the Harry Potter series, this is a bankable movie which most of the critics need to stop overthinking. It is time to have some fun and at the same time, recollect those days of learning the Greek Mythology.

Release date: 7th August 2013 (United States); 30th August 2013 (India)
Running time: 107 minutes
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Leven Rambin, Brandon T. Jackson, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Jake Abel, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, Douglas Smith, Anthony Head, Robert Maillet, Derek Mears, Aleks Paunovic, Missi Pyle, Yvette Nicole Brown, Mary Birdsong

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Pacific Rim

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The fictional stories concerning the aliens from outer-space have always been with us through those books, movies, cartoons and comics right from the childhood. Alien, Predator and Event Horizon were among the best feeders of outer-space horror. It was just a few weeks ago, that the audience accepted the friendly neighborhood alien in Man of Steel, and the same space travel thing was explored thrice in the last few months, with Star Trek: Into Darkness, Oblivion and the weaker of the group, After Earth. Well, this time, from the depths of abyss comes the alien creatures, not from the sky, but from underneath the oceans to the above world. The first choice of looking for alien life form was always beyond the stars, which is actually quite surprising. For the common man, it should not have been so, but unfortunately they have been loaded with ideas of life on other planets by science even as the fact remains that they have never seen any of these planets or stars in the way they are taught in the school. I would have preferred not to study the same and choose only art and literature, but unfortunately, education is clearly biased towards science. What this study of science does is that it unintentionally makes religion the more believable thing around for the intellectuals of the highest class. It is on a blind faith of technology and scientific extremism that the concept of space aliens are based on, and it is this same thing that Guillermo del Toro has annihilated here; not that it was not done before, but this time, it is in the form an incredibly powerful spectacle.

Del Toro’s work has always come up with beauty in horror, and this movie is no exception. The movie plunges into the depths of the theme of alien invasion and comes up with that pure awesomeness which The Avengers missed by some distance and Transformers: Dark of the Moon missed by quite a million light years. This is what Transformers should have been, but unfortunately that series lost all the good things with the second and third parts of the movie. Pacific Rim shows how a fighting machine should be. From the man who gave us Pan’s Labyrinth, at least this much was expected, and he has delivered it, with fantastic power which would make this the movie of the year so far, and may be even the best science fiction action move in two years. I didn’t really free myself from his Hellboy II: The Golden Army when I went to see this one, thanks to the television channels; and not to forget Blade II. There is one warning though, as this is not recommended for the movie cynics – they are the kind of people who will dislike this movie and come up with weird unimaginative reasons which are less significant than the smallest robot’s toe. If this movie can’t leave a smile on your face by the end, there is no doubt that such people belong to the Kaiju group, as the monster sympathizing kids who can’t bear to see their little dinosaur things losing to robots.

The movie takes the viewers to the future, when the planet is under attack by Kaiju, a name they call for the gigantic monsters continuously emerging from a portal beneath the ocean. After a number of attacks and destruction, the humans understand that it is not going to stop. To combat these big monsters, all the nations unite and use all their remaining resources to create the giant robots called Jaegers, each controlled by two (or more) pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge, as it would be too huge for two of them. But,The plot follows Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a former Jaeger pilot who had lost both his machine and his brother while fighting. He is called out of retirement by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and is teamed with a rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) in a last effort to defeat the monsters. At a time when Jaeger program is being decommissioned, and walls are built to protect the cities from the monsters, there is chance for one final attempt on closing the portal and saving the world with only four last robots remaining. As the monsters continue to evolve and adapt to the methods chosen by humans, the survival of both the man and the machine was becoming difficult, and with bigger and stronger monsters coming up, and the robots only getting older, the situation had turned clearly in favour of the monsters who are found to be controlled by minds and on a mission to colonize Earth.

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi gives the movie that right dose of memory, as they give to their giant machine in the story. Idris Elba gives a powerful performance throughout the movie. There is no romantic side to this story, and the feelings are of brotherhood and respect rather than some silly emotions of infatuation. The rest goes to the robots, except for some funny scenes. The movie is a fantastic visual treat, as if a wizard has combined his powers with a sorcerer of the other world. This is not a dark movie, as that ghost has currently gripped every story which is detached from the real world. There is beauty even in the monsters and the destruction that takes place, something which Transformers and The Avengers missed out on the artistic side. There is pure poetry in motion throughout the sequences involving the robots and the monsters. They are all beautifully done, with each minute detail given importance. There is even detail on the tiny insects which feed on the monsters – not that tiny when the humans see them though. The fight scenes are powerful and stylish, with 3D coming to the aid at the right moments. The cynics can stop asking scientific questions about the invasion as the creatures come out of portal underneath the ocean and not from underneath Earth in its literal sense. It might be surprising that just a portal answers so many questions, and in this case, it does. Another thing to be noted is that times flies throughout this movie, and one gets too busy with the movie that it goes unnoticed.

This is obviously different from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy and therefore it is a crime to expect the same kind of thing here, even as there is the clear “del Toro tag” throughout the movie. Each and every detail of the robots and the monsters is to be looked at, for they are not simple giant robots and gigantic monsters. Gipsy Danger, the old model which saves the day differs considerably from Crimson Typhoon, the three armed robot with three pilots. The Russian robot Cherno Alpha gives another feeling at the mean time, and Striker Eureka comes up with its robotic structure almost the exact opposite. Coyote Tango, piloted by Stacker Pentecost has a lesser appearance. Even the monsters are never the same, as some of them can spit acid, some of them can fly, and some of them can move at lightning speed – none of them looking the same. The climate, and the whole setting of the fights also seem to assert this powerful detail which has been running through the movie. Another point is the use of collective memory, as a shared group of memories, only this time, it is really what it means literally. There is that world of shared memory and shared folders which we found easier to attach with the computers and electronic devices – it has such a powerful significance; and such a thing would solve the differences and save the world threatened by humans.

One question shall haunt me for a long time though; to watch this movie two or three more times or to be so satisfied with this spectacle that I take a break from watching movies. There are moments which can make one feel that it is the ultimate satisfaction, and as long as science fiction movies are considered, this is close enough to the same. There are all the morals and the inspiring factors in place, but there is no preachy side to this one. The moments to watch out for should be I. The first battle between Gypsy Danger and a monster (just because it is the first fight), II. The return of Gypsy Danger to the field (that moment of sudden appearance), III. The battle in the air (when the sword takes over), IV. The final underwater climax battle (from the moment the first monster strikes). There is no forgetting the use of ship as a weapon during that moment of awesomeness. This could be better summarized by saying that the movie has a very good beginning and a fantastic last fourty five minutes. It takes you to another world, where these monsters are real, and they can be beaten. There is inspiration, and there is the ability to keep you on the edge of your seats; there is the message of never-ending hope and the assertion of faith and belief. Along with that there is the rain and the water of the ocean which seems to have a purifying effect in 3D. The movie has a lot of trust and sharing of other’s memories going on, which points a lot to the current world. So what can we expect from a possible sequel than pure awesomeness? This one was a safe bet for me though, as there is one director who has never come close to disappointing me, and he is directing this movie.

The fact remains that Pacific Rim will continue the winning run of Warner Bros, and the reason for its success at this part of the world should be the trailers and the posters at the multiplexes which does nothing less than being impressive. Another thing is that the early reviews have all been very positive, and those which are negative, I wouldn’t call them reviews, as none of them has come up with any valid argument to not recommending this movie. It is a known truth that people love some random human being in a metal suit as they have appreciated Iron Man, and they also love robots, considering the huge success of Transformers with nothing much to offer in the last two movies of the series. Pacific Rim has both of them, and with the right people to handle the same. Considering the kind of audience the movie attracts, the only movie which can give some challenge is The Wolverine, as the release of White House Down next week here won’t change a thing, thanks to Olympus Has Fallen. R.I.P.D. and The Conjuring will attract only selected viewers, and RED 2 has a chance of making lesser impact than expected here. Then there would be The Smurfs 2 which would take not much of the audience of this movie away from action. The movie would stay in the theatres here till August unless The Wolverine comes up with a miracle, or there is an influx of Hindi and Malayalam movies of high quality.

Release date: 12th July 2013
Running time: 132 minutes
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman, Robert Maillet, Heather Doerksen, Burn Gorman

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.