The Equalizer

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Vampire Owl :: So much violence in the human world. Can’t we watch something else rather than this movie with a gun on the poster?

Vampire Bat :: But I thought you liked violence.

Vampire Owl :: I like a violent me, but not people shooting each other. In the end, we will fail to know who shot who and I have to hit my head on the wall hoping for some vampire enlightenment to pour into my brain lighting it up.

Vampire Bat :: Then, there is Bollywood with this weekend’s movie Happy Ending.

Vampire Owl :: No! Shoot me, thats better. Get the tickets! Get the tickets!

Vampire Bat :: But you don’t like the violent stuff.

Vampire Owl :: I don’t want to die a slow, painful death with some Hindi romantic movie showing for nth time whatever they have doing for years.

Vampire Bat :: But we are not sure about it yet. There are some bad opinions…

Vampire Owl :: I shall hear nothing of Bollywood anymore. If you talk about it again, I am deaf. If you talk about it twice, I am dumb too.

Vampire Bat :: I think that it is a pretty good idea.

[Gets the tickets].

What is it about? :: Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has retired from his busy job as a secret government agent and is living his life in peace after the death of his wife. He spends his time working in a hardware store and giving no clue to anyone about who he has been. He becomes friends with Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) a trainee whom he helps to become a security guard, and then there is this teenage girl whom she regularly sees at a tea shop he visits. The girl is Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage prostitue who reveals her real name as Aleena, is mistreated and beaten up by her pimp ending up in the ICU – Robert decides to take things into his hands, and to give the girl who loves music and books, a better chance at life. He goes to the pimp Slavi (David Meunier), and offers him 9800 dollars to leave her alone. But as he refuses and uses more foul language about her, Robert kills him and his goons. But the leader of this Russian mafia group, Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich) sends his right-hand man Teddy (Marton Csokas) to find and eliminate the killer, and here starts another game.

The defence of The Equalizer :: This movie seems to be trying more to be an origin story, and therefore a few problems of the same can be avoided with ease. There is the perfect setup for the sequel which seems to be everywhere on the news. The movie has some nice dialogues, and the action is not overdone – our protagonist doesn’t try anything too much. He just does what he does the best, and continues to excel at it. There are some nice, beautiful shots from the skyline, and the cinematography keeps catching our attention – there is the stylish sequences which are used too; they are all so good, and makes things interesting when things cool down. There is also that dark and gloomy atmosphere that runs through the movie – check out for our protagonist’s attack at the pimp’s room and the warehouse, both of them done with so much of stylish violence and innovation, even as the latter might be a bit too long for some people. The cast also contributes nicely, and the message to do the right thing is strong in here.

Claws of flaw :: There is that drag in between, and makes one wonder why it was so. There are empty slots where something could be used for fill the space. The story is also rather predictable with the hero going on for having revenge due to something bad done to his younger friend, and being awesome as he is, becomes successful in the same – just like John Wick; that was a revenge seeking former assassin for the dark side, while this one being a similar person who was working for the government. It is something we have seen a lot of times in a different manner. There is a lot of violence out here, and some of it might seem unnecessary for a few people. Even then, there are lots of things which seem to be missing, but I would blame the censor board here for that – they should have got rid of some violence. Well, on television, I have seen the scary parts removed from horror movies and bikini scenes removed from James Bond movies. So, I am not surprised even though I understand the difference.

Performers of the soul :: Denzel Washington – sometimes just that name is enough; there are not many people who can doubt that. He goes through The Equalizer with so much power, as if it could be another vigilante movie franchise starting from now. It is once again impressive how he works – this man with a gun, do people need a lot more? Well, there were two in 2 Guns, but one will do here. He is going to turn sixty this year, not something that we can discover without wikipedia. From the first movie I watched with him being part, The Bone Collector; through my favourite movie, The Book of Eli and now standing in The Equalizer; nothing much has changed. It is always great to see Chloë Grace Moretz – she brings such charm to the screen like nobody else. Unfortunately, even as she is undoubtedly the heroine of the movie, our girl is there only for a few minutes in the beginning, and for an even shorter time in the end – it is a case of sadness which we are left with, along with her smile in the end. Marton Csokas is an interesting villain too, just not getting enough of it.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s opening has these lines from Mark Twain – “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”. It is the same thing that the protagonist is trying to achieve in this movie – to use his skills to use for the common man. Even in the beginning, we can see that he is trying to help people as much as he can, without going the violent way. For the same, he later transforms, just like the books that he reads – from the retired old man who reads The Old Man and the Sea, through the hopeless knight in Don Quixote and in the end to The Invisible Man who goes through the city unnoticed, and helping the innocents – a Ghost Rider kind of figure who gets rid of the evil souls without any superpowers, but with the skills reminding one of Liam Neeson of Taken. Somewhat Bryan Mills, John Wick and Jack Reacher, this is another guy who has too many skills.

How it finishes :: The end result is that unexpectedly The Equalizer turns out to be better than John Wick, and it is not something that I had expected. Both had their own problem with a certain amount of drag, and the problem of not evolving for the century enough. But even in the troubles, The Equalizer is the superior one; even as there is no doubt about the fact that John Wick will win the box-office battle here, and the credit would go to Keanu Reeves who is more accepted that the big action protagonist more than Denzel Washington, thanks to The Matrix, Constantine and Speed. Gone Girl and Interstellar still stays in our theatres, the latter with so many shows. Dumb and Dumber To won’t pose that much of a challenge though, with lesser opinions and a lot lesser screens. Do give this movie a chance, and as far as you want an action movie without too much of mindless and dumb action, but still doing justice to the genre, this will be the right choice.

Release date: 21st November 2014 (India); 26th September 2014 (USA)
Running time: 131 minutes
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Marton Csokas, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Haley Bennett, Vladimir Kulich, David Meunier, Alex Veadov, James Wilcox, Mike O’Dea, Anastasia Mousis

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

RED 2

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There are a few movies which reduce the chance of White House Down doing a good job, and among them the one which is the most similar in what happens on the screen, is RED 2, which can take out the take-over movie with its big cast. The closeness in the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings might also help in creating that big doubt in the minds of the viewers which is affected by Bruce Willis to attract them to this one, and I would say that even without that drag, this holds a clear edge over its only “same genre competitor” around here. You might already know that Red means “Retired Extremely Dangerous”, as a group of retired secret agents try to make an impact when forced out of retirement by several reasons, the most prominent one being them or their best friends being hunted to be shot at sight. While having such a title thrown towards the protagonists, they do the same designation of being extremely dangerous, a favour – they do what they do the best and what they were always expected to do throughout their lives. They react in such a way that the tables are turned on their enemies, and in the process, saves the day. This one will not have Karl Urban as William Cooper and that is a shame. But the entry of Anthony Hopkins, Lee Byung-hun and Catherine Zeta-Jones would add something else.

So we know that “the best never rest”, and once again Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is hunted and prevented from leading a normal life. Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) is still by him as the old best friend who saves Frank after faking his own death. Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) is with them, and after falling for Frank’s adventures, she is now eagerly looking forward to more dangers which could make her feel special. The gorgeous Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) getting back to his life, and being mentioned as “Frank’s Kryptonite” makes Sarah jealous and possessive and she herself tries to get into the middle of the action. He is supposed to be hunted, but actually supported by Victoria Winters (Helen Mirren), and is followed by Han Jo-Bae (Lee Byung-hun) who has taken the contract to murder Frank. In their mission, they come across the information about Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) who would be needed in for their objective to be a success, but is currently in a lunatic asylum. Frank would need to bring them all together, and know who is on his side, how can be with him, and who might end up trying to kill him in order to survive the battle, thus creating a complicated situation, nothing that a retired, extremely dangerous man can’t solve again.

Bruce Willis continues with what he has been doing in the best way, and the triangle featuring him, Mary-Louise Parker and Catherine Zeta-Jones makes the funnier scenes of the movie. Jason Statham’s Frank Martin might be proud of this Frank, the older and the funnier one who has got no car to race. This Frank is there beating up people quite a lot, shooting them and bombing a lot of the world around him. Do they get stronger when they get older? Some might wish to ask so, and Die Hard fans would have to wonder if this is the series which might take Bruce Willis away from them in a crisis of retirement. There is no need to be doubtful though, as this is one man who might be retirement-proof in his real life too. Mary-Louise Parker’s character has only gotten funnier in this sequel, and comes up with some of the funniest moments, sometimes with the dialogues, but mostly just with the expressions. Her character makes so many attempts to prove her better than the possible weakness of her man, and by doing the same, she does the stranger things which adds to the fun element.

Catherine Zeta-Jones would have been not that easy to recognize for her earlier fans, of The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment, and seems to have qualified for being still extremely dangerous, doesn’t matter if retirement is knocking at the door. A few memories do keep coming back from those days of early movie watching experience in the absence of the big screen. Those were the days, and she was there on the small screen. Despite of the loss of her older self, she still competes with Helen Mirren with the screen presence, but not with the action sequences. Marvin Boggs’ character continues the job John Malkovich did in the first part, but unfortunately there is no pig this time and we miss him saying “Frank, I never thought I’d say this again. I’m getting the pig!” But, the man still carries the movie forward with his funny one-liners and those comic scenes which never look out of place. There might be no occasion that won’t suit him, and if there is any character who can use a spin-off movie, here is one.

Lee Byung-hun remains the Storm Shadow in essence here too, and may be even as the better ninja than G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and its sequel which was released earlier this year. He remains the character that he has been in that movie and as the assassin, he continues the same. Anthony Hopkins, our own Hannibal Lecter makes a personal impact on this one, not that big as The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal or Red Dragon, but still something that comes as a pleasant, evil surprise of good quality. Being in the lunatic asylum is one of those common things, and here there are more characteristics for him, of qualities strange enough to be another man of surprising variations. In many ways, these two were needed, as the movie is too much inclined to the funny side otherwise, not that they are completely against contributions to the comic side, but there is the need for the twists, thrills and awesome action. This is Expendables with such a huge cast, but in many ways funnier and the comic side being very effective, if not too effective. May be that movie could have been called with something similar to being retired, and extremely dangerous again.

Even as the movie keeps scoring with its action sequences and the funny dialogues, there is that feeling of the imitation of the first movie, and the predictability keeps on getting higher and higher. Even the climax is too predictable for the usual movie watcher’s liking. As our characters are played by those celebrities who are basically more royal than the others, they keep the viewers interested, but this kind of movie needs its own dose of little shocks, and RED 2 does have it, but not that powerful a thing of the royalty’s standard. There is no situation where the audience is supposed to be terrified or feel for the heroes. There are frequent one-liners which clear any doubt in the minds of the viewers, and with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins guiding the gang, and Lee Byung-hun following the path in a majestic manner, there is the reconquest of whatever is lost, and whenever the movie is about to drop down in its level, something new comes up, once in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones and at another occasion in the form of Anthony Hopkins; the rest is well managed by the one-liners which drops a comic bomb which handles and stabilizes the situation.

RED 2 is stretching its arms towards that weekend box office victory here, but surely on a limited level. The movie edges over White House Down, and can pretend to be competent against Pacific Rim, Despicable Me 2 and Man of Steel as this is the new entrant in the game and the reviews are not completely out yet, and Turbo belongs to an entirely different genre and attracts another type of viewers. There was still hope for more, that is for sure; RED had come up with the right platform of origins which could have been exploited further. At the same time, it had also used up a lot of resources, and the need of this sequel was for creativity, which has successfully arrived partially. But when one is looking for fun, there is hardly any opportunity to care and think more, and RED 2 gives that unlimited fun which is not without the flaws list. If this movie belongs to that genre which is pure entertainment, you are welcome to forgive its flaws. I would say that I have forgiven and forgotten the same and got into that roller coaster ride of entertainment which this movie hides behind its pillars of old age. May be it is time for most of you to give it a try, and the rest can wait for the year has a lot more in store.

Release date: 19th July 2013
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lee Byung-hun, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, David Thewlis, Neal McDonough

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Despicable Me 2

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In spite of knowing the critical annihilation and the box-office devastation which has created that horrible shadow of death over this movie’s major nemesis, and one of the only two Hollywood movies which released here for the last two weeks, I took that huge step to watch The Lone Ranger ahead of Despicable Me 2 which had to be the obvious choice with a better critic’s love at rottentomatoes and a better audience love at IMDB. It mainly because they said the same about two other Johny Depp movies, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Alice in Wonderland, and I watched both of the movies, and understood how much subjective their ratings were, and how much they differed from me according to the likes and dislikes; and as my opinions are considered, I would stay away from those not so interesting ideas and leave myself to the mercy of the movie directly. I had this feeling; may be The Lone Ranger is too good for the critics to take? I always knew they had their own preference except for the few. So what if the movie hit an area which made them give such low ratings?

There are many side to it though, as at that moment, I hadn’t remembered how well they had negatively rated Ghost Rider 2, as that was a memory which I successfully erased by planting better images of awesome movies. It was a much needed intellectual operation, I assure you, for without the same, I wouldn’t have given away so much to the multiplexes with such an animated ease. Well, I was half-wrong as The Lone Ranger was not that good and still not too bad, and then I had to follow it with Despicable Me 2. How can one say no to Gru, the super-villain who adopts three girls and turns good, just like the good old Megamind who turned good after adopting the lady and the city. We had both of them saving the day against a villain each, who had the advantage on that side. There are so many thing about bad turning good, and one of them is that it brings the message of hope, and with Despicable Me 2, it continues. Well, being despicable has never been an option, and it has ornated the villains for quite a long time. Both Gru and Megamind are just the lighter shades of the same evil which failed miserably in its attempt to maintain its legacy, and instead had to turn to where the really belonged, to goodness.

A giant magnet steals a secret laboratory which had a chemical compound wihich could turn any creature into mindless, indestructible killing machines. The Anti-Villain League (AVL), a secret organization working to keep the super-villains under control, is worried about the machines going into the wrong hands. The former super-villain Gru is asked to help on the matter. Even as he rejects the offer, there is a later reconsideration as his business is going a strange way and his scientist friend who misses being evil also leaves him. Gru takes over as an undercover agent in a bakery selling cupcakes along with the established secret agent Lucy Wild who becomes his love interest later. He doubts one of the owners of a restaurant in the same mall as one of those fiery villains of the past who is supposed to be dead. But the suspicion eventually falls on the wig-maker Floyd Eagle-san who is found to have some of the chemical compound inside the walls of his shop. Gru has to come up with his own theories, get back his love and also find a number of his minions who have gone missing for sometime. It is up-to him to save the world from whatever plan an evil mastermind has already made and is working for.

Gru rules the show yet again, and is second only to our own Megamind, and the minions come next to the elves of Rise of the Guardians. The latter almost ties with the saber-toothed squirrel of the Ice Age series and the penguins of the Madagascar series. Gru’s relationship with the kids and his response to his own feeling of love are the highlights of the movie, and other than that, there is nothing innovative nor extraordinary – but the way in which the legacy of the first movie is maintained, is applaudable. The minions keep bringing the laughter and the smile to each and every person in the theatre, and the age difference doesn’t really matter. They get more and more adorable as the stupid little things, a replica of the Vodafone Zoo-zoos, as they keep on talking in a strange language, and doing the deeds of stupidity with success and still remain an integral part of all the evil and good plans. From the first moment of the title sequence itself, they would seem to make us believe that it is their movie, and they are there till the end, and considering the fact that they are many and they look the same, this is the “minion” movie. The name itself takes me back to that game Overlord, one of my all-time top ten games, and thus it is a gamer alert & game reminder movie for me too.

Just as Gru would always be the same except for the alignment, the same is the case of the kids and the minions. But, there is no doubt about the fact that Gru has turned a little more of the big loving, caring, possessive father figure, but that signs were always there in him, even as villain, and now with the absence of evil, that is one thing he can focus on with full concentration – along with being not that good a businessman as he claims or wishes to be. Being a spy could replace the same, but here it came as the second preference. Unlike Megamind, Gru is not a villain who directly makes one think about all the possible themes and motifs, as Despicable Me has always remained intellectually inferior to Megamind, but as a family movie, it had scored a bit more, and the kids are expected to prefer this one for its too simple a story and the little ones who they can easily identify with; for the parents, they can give the kids some of the best moments through this movie, and that too in good 3D and lovable characters.

“When the world needed a hero, they called a villain” – it is that tagline which can work with so many movies starting with Megamind. It has not been too long since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire came up with those lines of heavy significance: “Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.” Despicable Me 2 presents us with a Gru is more fun when he acts kind of evil or when he acts like a kid. Considering the belief that humans are inherently evil, this works perfectly well. But then the question remains if he should have been good or evil, except for the fact that he is very much capable of goodness. It is a question that might never have an answer, as both the goodness and the evil is necessary for a possible sequel later. But with a new member added to the family and their world being made complete, the possibility is less. One more sequel can still do this series good, as there is a lot more life left in this as long as the audience’s love for the characters are concerned. They would love to have another, and that might be an assurance.

Does this successfully become preachy and work out a legacy which can match this movie with Megamind? The answer is no, and if there was any of the same about good and evil, it gets washed away by the heavy dose of fun. The spin-off movie titled Minions, featuring the Minions as the major characters is scheduled for a release on December 19th, 2014 – I wouldn’t expect that to come up with anything other than fun though. Just like this movie, it won’t leave you with a question “to watch or not to watch”, as nobody will have to tell you to go for that one, considering how much of a success this is turning out to be at this part of the world. But that would be another movie of pure entertainment fueled by extreme silliness, presented in a lovable manner. There exists a group of people who can be made to laugh only by the minions, and such a species would always need them. For the people who want a different minion, there is always the movie, Megamind – undoubtedly the best animated movie in many ways, and all the reasons for it to be called so, is to be explored individually by troubling the intellect, and supported by the fun.

Release date: 3rd July 2013
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Starring (voice): Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.