Doctor Strange

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What is the movie about? :: In the city of Kathmandu in Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his small group of followers sneaks into the library of the place known as Kamar-Taj and kills its librarian. There they steal a magic ritual from the forbidden texts of the sorcerer who is known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). This ancient sorcerer who has lived for centuries and has taught all these sorcerers including Kaecilius, won’t give up pursuit though, and still the group manages to evade her and escape through a portal right in the middle of the city. The Ancient One is forced to retreat to Kamar-Taj and prepare to defend her place as well as appoint new librarian and better guardians for the place, as she realises that something terribly evil is ready to be unleashed on her world, considering the powerfull spell that those pages possess.

So, what happens next? :: Meanwhile, in the city of New York, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a famous but arrogant neurosurgeon is spending his life in luxury and also in an attempt to gain more and more fame with new discoveries. He considers the rest of the doctors as people below him, and that includes his own friend and former lover Doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). One day, his car meets with an accident, and he loses the use of his hands. Even though Christine asks him to move on with his life as there are so many other things that he could do, he is adamant that there should be ways in science through which he could find a cure that could get him back on track as a neurosurgeon. He dedicates his time and spends most of his money in an attempt to do the same, and feels that he could have done better with his hands if he was operating himself.

So, what all follows in his life? :: Stephen has exhausted almost all his resources and is about to lose faith on everything when he comes across a man who is able to walk again after a terrible accident affecting his spine – this person was considered incurable by Stephen himself, and when asking about how this miracle happened, he is lead to Kamar-Taj. He travels to Kathmandu as the final resort, having no money or reputation left. There, he is attacked by thieves, but is saved by a socerer called Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who was trained by the Ancient One too. As he reaches Kamar-Taj and meets the Ancient One over a cup of tea, he remains a non-believer who holds on to his beliefs in science. But as the Ancient One brings a display of her powers, he begs them to take him in, and she finally does.

Towards Doctor Strange, the sorcerer :: Without the strength of his hands, it seems difficult for him to cast the spells in the beginning, but he turns out to be a quick learner soon. Even as the Ancient One finds the same qualities in him that she had seen in Kaecilius, she feels that he can achieve much more, and Karl Mordo feels that he will be instrumental when their new enemy attacks them. It is said that the Earth is protected from creatures of other dimensions by the Sanctums, the three buildings which are found in New York, London, and Hong Kong. It is up-to the sorcerers to defend these sanctums as if their lives depended on them. Getting more and more interested in the ancient magic, Stephen attempts to go deeper, but Mordo and the new librarian Wong (Benedict Wong) warns him against disrupting the laws of nature, as there will be consequences. As he gets through his training, evil visits the sanctums, and the question remains if Doctor Strange can be the man to change the future of the world, or will he be just a man called Stephen?

The defence of Doctor Strange :: The best thing about this movie is that it is amazingly good-looking. As a movie which is based on ancient magic, Doctor Strange has used all the visual possibilities of this situation, which is easily visible as sorcerers battle through more than one world. Benedict Cumberbatch becomes the perfect cast for the same, and we see that as Iron Man was once Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Strange was also Sherlock, thus linking all of them together as part of a spectacle. With the best use of special effects and action sequences, this Marvel movie also has a fantastic supporting cast, and a good story-line to go with the same. It is also a message about finding oneself when facing a personal tragedy, and reminds us that the answer is not in science for most of the time, as humanity is more than that – it is not the conventional medicine that works the best, and it is something well-known among the people who have the ability to think and understand differently.

The claws of flaw :: There was still the need for the better use of some of the characters too, as someone like Mads Mikkelsen isn’t allowed to unleash himself as the man of terror, and instead a creature who wishes to bring the end of the world once again comes to the scene – one has to wonder for how long the world will be in such terror which seems to be too similar to each other; all these Marvel and DC superheroes have been saving the world since the beginning of time, and still it is not saved. Yes, a lot of destruction also begin to happen here, and it goes to boost the visual effects though. Another thing is that Rachel McAdams’ role is restricted to saving people, for it is what she keeps on doing in this one. There is also the question of how the wizards will come in with the superheroes, and how both of these groups come in both the teams – can this world of too many superheroes be in control with this new addition which expands the whole thing so much? We can only wait and see.

How it finishes :: Doctor Strange is more like an experience with a superhero who is also a wizard, a sorcerer or a magician, whichever title you would like to provide for the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It is a movie with a superhero as well as a flick with a lot of magic – it works both ways, and along with the same, it provides us with a new superhero, this one based on magic like Mandrake the Magician whom we have been reading in those Malayalam newspapers during our childhood, and watching as part of that animated series, Defenders of the Earth with The Phantom and the others. With no Lothar, and providing us with the visual treat, Doctor Strange does remind us of those times during the childhood, and the fact remains that none of us really knew this particular magician during those time – it was all about Mandrake as far as magic was concerned. Now, there is a lot of them with movies like The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. And the latest for full superhero fun is indeed Wonder Woman.

Release date: 4th November 2016
Running time: 115 minutes
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Linda Louise Duan, Mark Anthony Brighton, Topo Wresniwiro, Chris Hemsworth (cameo), Stan Lee (cameo)

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✠ The Vampire Bat.

Deliver Us from Evil

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Vampire Owl :: You are obviously talking about me.

Vampire Bat :: No, I am not. Why should I talk about you now when I am going to watch a horror movie?

Vampire Owl :: You said “deliver us from evil”. I am evil.

Vampire Bat :: No, you are not evil, not even remotely close to being a bad guy.

Vampire Owl :: But I am bad. Super evil.

Vampire Bat :: Owls are not evil. It is impossible. Bats are evil.

Vampire Owl :: You cannot take my right to be evil. I am going to owlify the world and establish my greatness.

Vampire Bat :: As if that is going to happen. You said you would do it before Mangalyan reached Mars.

Vampire Owl :: Damn. It all happens too fast. These strange space related things are not covered by the vampire newspapers.

Vampire Bat :: I would say that it is more due to your brain’s clock working so slow.

[Gets into the theatre].

What is it about? :: A cop Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is going through some strange situations, as weird incidents happen in the city, and some of them has almost no reason or solution. A Spanish priest Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) tries to convince the police officer that these incidents have something with it than what meets the eye. There are three former soldiers from Iraq who seems to be involved with the crimes that has occured in the city, and the priest warns Sarchie that it is beyond the human comprehension as there are two types of evil, primary and secondary, and it is only the second about which the humanity can find answers with its ability to understand things in the scientific way. At first, the cop refuses to believe that the three men are possessed, but he might not be able to hold on with that viewpoint for too long, as things go out of control, and it affects even his own relationships with his wife and daughter.

The defence of Deliver Us from Evil :: The scares are surely working, especially with a number of scenes in the basement which brings the best out of horror. The atmosphere is creepy, and is successfully kept that way and the tension is efficiently maintained. The darkness and the rain are two elements that nicely supports the shocks that the movie dares to come up with. The movie nicely manages to stay in control with the blood and gore elements as well as the horror, and this intermediate path which it has taken can make it a safer bet. There is an attempt to explain evil with the need for faith, and there is some skill in the characterization of the two leading characters who go on to fight evil. The moments in the zoo and the basement of a family with a complaint are two very nicely done scenes, invoking terror as well as mystery, and a certainty that there is something yet to come. The cast is also a fine boost for this movie.

The claws of flaw :: The movie needed a lot more explanations about what is happening around with demons possessing people and making them do things, and by passing through the portal into this world from the other dimension, the question would remain about what they achieve other than scaring people and in the process, killing a few. There had to be a plan which isn’t seen anywhere here. A comparison to The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister which comes from the same director is not possible as this belongs to a lower level, and any comparison to The Conjuring is clearly impossible. The movie should have used more special effects, and it could have given a much needed boost to the scary sequences. The end scene is also weaker with a usual exorcism performed in not that powerful manner as it was expected from the way the movie was working with its creatures from the other world. The second half is weaker compared to the first which was an impressive start.

Performers of the soul :: Eric Bana is in full control of things here in one of my favourite performances from him ever. There is something about him that makes him good with this character, and I would guess that his looks and style is pretty much best suited to playing this role. Édgar Ramírez also has left a mark as the new generation priest who has kept himself modern, but has still remained within his priestly world. I remember him mostly as Ares from Wrath of the Titans, and here he seems to fit in better. The prettiest one around, Olivia Munn has an admirable stay, and her character has presence, but she is left is not much to do in a world of demons repelled by one priest and a police officer. Sean Harris as Santino is impressive with his possessions and nicely compliments the horror elements of the movie with his performance. Meanwhile, Joel McHale is also good in his supporting role. Olivia Horton also delivers some terror with her role as the possessed lady.

Soul exploration :: The movie is based on the real life experiences of Ralph Sarchie recorded in his book, Beware the Night also co-written by Lisa Collier Cool. I would guess that it would add to the spookiness and surely has me wishing to read the work some day – it would be difficult to get it here, but there will be a way. The title of the movie is the ending of the Lord’s Prayer. It is that need to be saved from evil that we can see in this movie. There will always be things which are not in our control, and humanity’s minuteness and vulnerability are among those factors which will solidify the same fact. It is a clear thing that we can’t know everything, and no mater how or to whom we pray, there is something that prayer can always do. There is evil in this world, and however we categorize them, there is the need for God’s grace to save ourselves. The free will is there, but it is not the permission to do evil; as there is the presence of sinister forces at work, and only by goodness and faith that one can be redeemed.

How it finishes :: The reviews from critics which were negative, has now improved and the movie has come close to getting a fifty percent, and I would expect it to increase further as the opinions from most of my acquaintances have been quite positive. The other movie of the week happens to be November Man which should have its own audience due to the presence of Pierce Brosnan. Surprisingly, Lucy and The Maze Runner are the movies which stay on to this week, and I wonder more about the former, as it seems to have stayed there so much longer than it was expected to thrive. Deliver Us from Evil should be the movie of the week, and it is going to be replaced by Annabelle as the most awaited horror movie of the year. There is also that expectation for Haider the Hindi contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet along with the seemingly dumb remake of Knight and Day which has been named Bang Bang! which attempts to repeat what Besharam did during last year’s Gandhi Jayanthi. Let’s hope that horror will find a way to thrive!

Release date: 26th September 2014 (India); 2nd July 2014 (US)
Running time: 118 minutes
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris, Joel McHale, Chris Coy, Olivia Horton, Dorian Missick, Rhona Fox, Valentina Rendón

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Sinister

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There was a time when I had a longing for movies of pure horror rather than the ones with blood and gore. My prayers were answered this year with The Conjuring, but I later came to know that there was a movie in 2012 which I missed, that was also dependent less on the blood and gore and more on the shocks and thrills. That movie was Sinister, and even as I almost confused it with Insidious for apparently no specific reason, here is another addition to my long list of favourite horror movies which can extend beyond any long paper. This is one of those movies which got released before our theatres had the courage to release horror movies here – lack of cowardice which they gained with The Conjuring and its long run in the theatres here. There was the pure absence of horror movies in the theatres before that, with the exception of hybrid movies like those of Resident Evil series. It is a strange thing, because they could have had a lot of success with Silent Hill last year and Evil Dead this year, but they decided to keep both out of theatres just like they did to Sinister. But there would be not many people who wouldn’t know of this movie, and that is a certainty.

We have the director of Hellraiser: Inferno and The Exorcism of Emily Rose working on this one – that was inspiring even as I can’t recollect the first movie and I never did watch the second. He would also direct Deus Ex, a movie based on the awesome computer game of the same name. The presence of Ethan Hawke was also interesting, as the last time I saw him was in an action-horror mix of a movie called Daybreakers, and I loved his performance in it. The movie also had a very interesting poster almost giving us the feeling of presence of a serial killer more and of a supernatural entity less. But what it gives us would be another result, a mixture of horror which has evolved into something innovative and new compared to the other horror movies of the year. I had also expected a lot of blood and gore, but this one has not much of it, and that works mostly to its advantage rather than against it. From what we see, it is just a simple horror film with innovation inside it. But it might be more than that, as there is a lot to this movie than what meets the eye. We have a lot of interesting things in the movie which arouse our curiosity by a good margin.

The movie begins with a Super 8 footage depicting a family of four standing under a tree with heads covered, hands tied and nooses around their necks, and someone causing their deaths by hanging. We can later see that a true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves into the house with his family of his wife, daughter and son. He was not having a good run as a crime writer for sometimes, and believes that this might change his situation. He doesn’t tell his family that this was the house where the murders took place. By staying there, he hopes to unveil something about the murders and write about it in his book thus bringing him back to fame and fortune. As he tries to mix fact and fiction without much hope, he soon discovers a projector and several reels of Standard 8 mm footage under the label of home movies. To his shock, he discovers that they are rather snuff movies, and it shows different families being brually murders in several ways: being burnt in a car, drowned in a pool, throats being cut, being run over by a lawn mower and finally the hanging which was shown in the beginning of the movie.

He actually notices a figure with a demonic face witnessing all these murders from some part of the screen. He also discovers childish drawings showing the murders, along with sketches of a demonic figure, whose name is written as Mr. Boogie. He finds out that the sketches are made by the one member of the family who went missing in the case of each murder which took place at different places during different time periods, with the helps of a deputy at the nearby station. He feels that there is some killer specialized in the occult or demon worship behind it after seeing a sign and knowing that it is a little kid who went missing all the time. He feels that he is on to something huge this time. Trying to decipher the symbol seen in the films, he comes to know that it is relate to a pagan Sumerian deity named Bughuul (Nick King), who would usually kill entire families before he takes their children into his world and consume their souls. Meanwhile, strange things happen at his house, as he has visions of dead, decaying children as well as the monster. His son has night terrors and his daughter draws strange things on the wall. So the game is on – are they hallucinations, an extremely smart killer or something supernatural at work?

Ethan Hawke is the star of the movie, as the man who investigates for money and fame, and almost feels that he has got something about a serial killer which the police didn’t, but later realizes that by moving into that house and searching for information, he has put the lives of himself and his family in trouble. We can see him making a sincere effort to portray his character who is determined at first, hopeful later and beyond all expectations by the end. The character himself is the tragic flaw which has them in peril, or accurately talking about it, there is the desire to unravel a mystery which was not supposed to be known to him. In one way or the other, this writer becomes another Doctor Faustus and even without signing a deal with the demons, brings about bleeding dagger on the head of his family and himself. His idea of hiding this information from his family, and telling his wife that the place is nowhere near any house where any murders took place doesn’t help at all. He might have been a best-selling author with a lot of fans, but not everyone would care about the same. He needs this work to be done so badly, and we can see his feelings, and well done Ethan Hawke in bringing the same to us.

Our director also bounces back from a not that good remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves, and gives us a lot to expect from Deus Ex. The movie shocks with its child images itself [Spoilers Ahead – you may skip to the last paragraph] One of the most shocking things in the movie is the realization about the children, as they wanders around in their decaying state – as if the result of the evil that has befallen them in the form of Mr. Boogie. Yes, the children are damned, and taken to the other world of the evil deity whom we can interpret as a demon. Before they are taken, there is the manipulation by the creature they call Mr. Boogie who makes them kill all their family members themselves before taken into the other dimension inside that movie. The process repeats very often as the creatures takes his own collection of souls to feed on. We do remember the 2008 horror movie The Children, don’t we? Yes, the children are the evil ones, manipulated out of their supposed innocence, like William Golding depicted in Lord of the Flies. This movie also asserts the fact that they can be easily corrupted – by circumstance or by a villain; or even by the circumstance which is the villain.

One has to wonder if Sinister gives a little too much and fails to keep the suspense glowing till the end. But it is a clear fact that they have rightly added those shocks to help the procedure. It does remind one of many movies, but none directly and therefore it is quite fresh for most of the audience. This could rather be a predecessor to what awesomeness which was to come next year in the form of The Conjuring. I did feel that keeping the creature from the other world as simply the devil would have been much better, as it is more of an entity whom we can attribute taking human souls with. With its theory of goodness plagued by the branches of evil, and the multiple shocks involving decaying children as well as that shadowy figure that is Mr. Boogie, Sinister does something that most of the horror movies fail; that is to bring a powerful plot with lots of brains behind it. The creepy atmosphere rightly ornate this movie with such an ease, and if someone other than Ethan Hawke scores, it is our own monster from the movie with right support from the kids who have turned into his own children.

PS: Thanks to Simon (http://simonsayswatchthis.wordpress.com/) for the recommendation 😀

Release date: 12th October 2012
Running time: 110 minutes
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick King, Victoria Leigh, Blake Mizrahi, Cameron Ocasio, Ethan Haberfield, Danielle Kotch

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.