Chappie

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Vampire Owl :: I thought you were going to watch Cinderella.

Vampire Bat :: Yes, but then Chappie was there and that show started earlier by ten minutes.

Vampire Owl :: That name actually makes me depressed.

Vampire Bat :: It happens when you say that in Malayalam.

Vampire Owl :: Do you know that India actually lost against Australia?

Vampire Bat :: Did they? I thought some extra-efficient online Keralites once again saved India by abusing Mitchell Johnson and the Australian Cricket Team.

Vampire Owl :: Yes, just like Maria Sharapova lost to Serena Williams and the Pakistan Hockey Team played bad after the abuse by Keralites.

Vampire Bat :: Dude, everybody losses to Serena Williams. It is quite natural. And Asia is not a hockey powerhouse anymore.

Vampire Owl :: Damn! The cent percent literacy is wasted.

Vampire Bat :: Cent percent literacy! It is the literacy for abuse!

[Leaves for the tea shop].

What is it about? :: As the South African police at Johannesburg a group of advanced robots from weapons and ammunition manufacturer called Tetravaal, the crime rates are brought to a new low, and as expected the criminals and their bosses are concerned. The inventor is Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) who seems to be getting most of the appreciation much to the dismay of another engineer, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) who wishes to send his own robot model named Moose into operation. But as it is very costly and is highly equipped with too much firepower needing full human control, it is rejected until further notice. But when our inventor creates an artificial intelligence which is rather too human, things take a twist, and things are no longer in his control. A group of criminals also decide to take control of a robot.

The defence of Chappie :: There are some good ideas running through this movie, and it becomes evident right after the first few minutes of Chappie. The robot instantly becomes interesting even with the scope for improvement always there. There are lots of action sequences in the movie, and there is a certain amount of emotional strength whenever a different kind of thing comes to existence and tries to cope with the world around, which works in this one too. There are thoughts left behind, and there is the social message which we can take home, even though it rarely becomes the big thing in this movie. There are surely some good performances to support this one.

The Claws of Flaw :: Chappie doesn’t really use its strengths to its advantage, and has problems with dealing with its central ideas – not really there in making them work completely and bringing things to the right finish. Instead, the movie is too addicted to consciousness, a lot more than Transcendence did, and it is like one can never die as the same keeps getting transferred from one body to the other. The character of our dear robot never really gets to display the awesomeness, and the criminal characters are not really up-to the mark either. Along with reminding us of Transcendence, this one has its own Robocop elements to add to the same. It is a big surprise that still this couldn’t better than what it really is.

Performers of the soul :: Sharlto Copley gives voice to biggest performer of the movie, which is the one robot with its name as the film title. He was there in the same director’s District 9, Elysium and now this one – here in the non-human form for the first time. Hugh Jackman is good, but in a different avatar, and doesn’t impress at all times – still, makes a fine villain. Dev Patel is so natural in this movie, and as he plays the second most significant character in the movie after our own protagonist robot, does very well. This role seemed to suit him so well, and he manages it with ease. Yolandi Visser was nice in a special avatar, and Sigourney Weaver leaves no impact in her less significant role.

Soul exploration :: Chappie does focus so much on the soul elements. There seems to be questions asked, but none of them are direct, and the answers are never really there. There is the talk about making the robot which is more like a human, and also the transfer of human consciousness to robots as well as the consciousness of one robot to the other – they seems to get things working all of a sudden and keep doing the same without fail. The idea of the robot consciousness developing from nothing to a new thing is interesting, but one has to wonder if that was given enough significance in the right manner and was portrayed with enough attention to the details. It is like they speeded up a few things to reach the desired end, which is not what the viewers really wanted.

How it finishes :: Chappie doesn’t finish that strong as expected, and it leaves me with the thought that may be Cinderella or Focus might have been a better choice. They are still running though, and the choice stays. As the maker of District 9 and Elysium, this is another step downward for the director, Neill Blomkamp – it is also evident in the opinion of the critics. In the movie poster, they label Chappie as humanity’s last hope, but that makes one wonder if that really matches the movie. No, this robot is not really humanity’s last hope; there is no point at which he proves to be that unless you take a few characters as “the world” – yes, there are things that he can do, but in his absence, may be things would have just gone on and on. You can watch this one for the ideas, and not for many other things.

Release date: 20th March 2015 (India); 6th March 2015 (US)
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Watkin Tudor Jones, Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sigourney Weaver, Brandon Auret, Anderson Cooper

chappie

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Maleficent

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The Sleeping Beauty :: There are not many of us who don’t know the Sleeping Beauty or Princess Aurora, being as famous as the little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Gretel and Rapunzel, may be a little more popular than Goldilocks – the heroines of the tales of our childhood, at least belonging to some of them. Red Riding Hood returned darker in 2011, Snow White in 2012 and Gretel in 2013. All these movie have been coming up with a darker version of the old fairy tales. I have felt that there is nobody like Amanda Seyfried to be a fairy tale character. I have found these re-imagining of stories pretty much interesting except for Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Snow White which ruined it for me. There is always something about seeing a story which you have known in the childhood presented in another way, and with this movie coming from the perspective of the antagonist who features in the posters and impresses us, Maleficent was not going to be a movie to be missed. Well, it is not always about the princess; for there are so many things which are not royal, but is yet better than they are. Then, this movie has Angelina Jolie; a long time since she was last seen in a movie – I guess the last ones were two fine movies, The Tourist and Salt in 2010.

What is it about? :: Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a faeire living in the magical forests which the human kingdom has always wished to capture. Despite having no king or standing army, the forests have always managed to keep the armies of the greedy human king away. She actually serves a certain kind of leader to the creatures of the woods, being the only faerie of human size. Her only human acquaintance is Stefan (Sharlto Copley) whom she met when they were both kids and grew up together, falling in love. As the old friend and lover returns one day, she lets him in, only to have her wings taken away from her. Maleficent, in her state of sadness, pain and anger turns darker with her magic, and with that, turns the magical fairy kingdom darker, depriving it of the colours. With a shapeshifting raven Diaval (Sam Riley) for company, she decides to give the man who betrayed her what he deserves. The current situation is that the man is now the king of the human kingdom, and his wife has given birth to a baby girl. She finds that her window of opportunity to march to the castle and give the newborn baby a gift from her dark magic which will make sure that her former lover would remember her for a very long time.

The defence of Maleficent :: No matter what other movies might have, we have Angelina Jolie here, coming back to the big screen after a long time, except for her voice that we heard in in Kung-fu Panda. Maleficent has a lot of visual splendor, right from the beginning when we are introduced to the cute little protagonist faeire who sleeps on a tree at the top of a cliff, flying around and having her fun with the creatures of the magical woods. All these creatures are nicely created to give us a taste of the magical forest in such a way that we can feel that it is different from the human side as well as the darker side to which we are introduced later. The trees surrounding the faerie world as well as the mounted warriors of nature also needs some special mention. But what thrives is the awesomeness of her with those wings and the final dragon. The cute ones are rather those which you usually expect to see. The movie’s environmental theme is real good, but it could have been used in a more visible manner. The difference in the story is nicely worked out even if not fully utilizing the available resources. The 3D is effective at times. The kids are going to love this one, that is for sure.

The claws of flaw :: Maeficent reminds us of so many movies, including Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the great and Powerful, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansal and Gretel: Witch Hunters and finally, Snow White and the Huntsman which had Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart instead of Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning here, even as this movie is surely better except for not having, may be Charlize Theron. There was the need for more imagination, which is why this movie struggles and drags at parts. It actually remains too predictable at times, and when it is not, it just manages to make its story good enough. With the classic story of the sleeping beauty in the pocket, they could have done better, may be with a better information about how this one big faerie came into existence as one of her kind, and how she mastered black magic getting so powerful. Another question would remain about the mental state of Princess Aurora whom we know is the one narrating. Some things just happen here, and even as there is the unreal atmosphere around, it needs to explain within that circle, but it doesn’t, and also fails to connect with the audience emotionally at times. The jokes and other dialogues are not memorable.

Performers of the soul :: Angelina Jolie has everything under control in this movie. Just like the poster, she has herself inscribed all around the movie; she is majestic as the defender of the magic realm when left with her wings, and magnificent as the sorceress who takes on the powers of dark magic when deprived of her wings. It is really a joy to watch her in such an avatar; I have always felt that she would make a great villain, an evil sorceress – this feeling of mine has actually come to screen with this one. The horns, the wings, the black dress and the wicked smile; then there are those cheekbones and the fury in the eyes, they are all perfect. The idea of sending the enemy’s daughter into eternal sleep on her sixteenth birthday – now she is indeed fit to give such a curse. Even the girl who plays her childhood was so good. The beautiful magical world indeed belongs to her! Elle Fanning, the sister of Dakota Fanning (Jane Volturi of the Twilight series) plays the role of Princess Aurora in the movie. She is the next best thing as she becomes one of the cutest princesses one has ever seen on screen, and wait until you see with a crown on the head in the end. Sam Riley’s human-raven hybrid avatar was nice. Sharlto Copley made a pretty good villain, but with not enough space and screen time.

Soul exploration :: Maleficent is not just a story of the past or unreality. It is in many ways parallel to what is happening in our world. They not only keeps the famous villain in the shades of grey and closer to white, they also divides its world into the human world of science and technology and the magical world where nature thrives. The humans are always motivated by that desire to destroy nature with their new scientific inventions after looting whatever wealth they can find from there. The human king and his subjects fear what they can’t understand, because it is beyond their scientific explanations, and it is the same reason why they feel that it should be destroyed. But the wealth of the forest in also too attractive, and thus they keeps making an attempt to take control of the territory and deprive it of the resources. On one side, there are the greedy humans, and on the other side, there are the creatures of the forest who live a happy life even with no control or rules imposed by the society. The enemies of the faeries are the products of new technologies, and in this case, iron. The movie is a battle between the righteous nature and the evil man’s scientific inventions, the same thing that happens in the present.

How it finishes :: Maleficent is not a movie that you can avoid even in the presence of a number of regional movies which have gained positive reviews; in our case, those like How Old are You and Bangalore Days. It doesn’t have the power to make a huge impact in the presence of the other movies, but one can’t deny that it has its magnets to attract, starting from Angelina Jolie. The movie is short too, and thus making sure that it won’t lose its way moving towards the end that has quite the difference that is needed. Yes, there is no true love, and all that romance and stuff is a lie – this movie has such dialogues throughout, claiming that true love doesn’t exist, and even the breaking of curse is supposed to be by true love which everyone knows doesn’t exist. Now, I would say that it is a great step taken when the stories of dumb romance have been spreading through the air. This realization that human beings are inherently evil and there is no love between even the most seemingly romantic couple, is what contributes powerfully to the dark and powerful side of this movie, which has to be appreciated. Yes, this is that kind of a world when the prince gets drunk on the way to the castle, arrives late, and the sleeping beauty dies; end of the story.

Release date: 30th May 2014
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Miranda Richardson, Lesley Manville, Kenneth Cranham, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, Eleanor Worthington Cox, Janet McTeer, Ella Purnell, Isobelle Molloy, Toby Regbo

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Elysium

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So here comes the movie which I have been waiting for, since the day it released in the United States, and then again starting another big wait from the day in released in the United Kingdom. This was also the movie I was looking forward to watch in 2013, after Pacific Rim. Other than the presence of Matt Damon, the other interesting thing about this movie was what was told in the brief summary associated with it, and surely that name. The name was quite familiar in relation to some of the stories related to Greek mythology which I had come across during my childhood. Yes, that varied vision of paradise had left a mark, and here is that name revisited through this movie, not as what comes after afterlife, but all the same which are enjoyed during this life. The movie is set in 2154, when a group of wealthy people left the Earth after coming to know that their kind had destroyed the planet with greed and lavishness. With all the resources that remained on Earth, they created Elysium, a luxurious space station just outside the planet’s orbit to live a life free of disease and pollution. The lived a life of comfort assisted by robots and superior medical care, while the people of Earth were made to live on a devastated land, policed by robots sent from Elysium and deprived of their rights.

Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is a former criminal on parole working in Armadyne, the same company which built Elysium. But he is exposed to lethal radiation during an accident and is left with just five days to live. All is not well in Elysium either, as Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) orders a mercenary on her payroll, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to shoot down civilian shuttles full of illegal immigrants trying to make it to the city of their dreams. Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) condemns her action on the basis of human rights which leads to a cold war between the two. As Jessica looks forward to having more power and keeping it, makes a deal with Armadyne’s CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) to create a program that can shut down, reboot and override Elysium’s central computer in order to make her the new President. Carlyle creates the program in his office on Earth, encrypts it and uploads it to his brain so that he could take it back to Elysium for secret deployment. With the help of his friend Julio (Diego Luna), Max seeks help from a skilled smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura) to go to Elysium and get cured, to which Spider asks for Max to steal some information from Carlyle. He agrees, and supported by an enforced exoskeleton, he goes on a mission which could change the life of a lot of people.

Coming from Neill Blomkamp who gave us District 9, this movie is somewhat a let-down, and it struggles to keep its standard as high as that wonderful flick. Still, it is certain that the base of both of these movies are the same, and both deals with somewhat the same issue, which is the difference between the oppressor and the oppressed, the privileged and the under-privileged, the powerful and the subaltern. The 2009 movie had aliens coming to Earth and living on the planet only to become second-rate citizens, while our 2013 movie has humans going to a space station and making the rest of their kind second-rate citizens or rather the lesser species – almost the same thing. The protagonist is from the subaltern group this time though. Both are about the horrible divide between people, sometimes about the rich and the poor, and otherwise racial or ethnic in nature. The evil of the multinational corporations as well as the government funded policing of groups which are different in some way or the other, also exists. Elysium makes a good attempt to carry on that idea of divide which formed the skeleton of District 9, and adds more elements of science fiction and powers it using the expensive fuel of post-apocalyptic fiction which sells, and in the process it hurts the inner core.

This is undoubtedly Matt Damon’s movie, and one has to doubt it would have worked this well without him. In the dystopic future where Earth has become nothing more than a big slum of devastated towers and a collection of small ghettos. He plays a former criminal who wishes to go to Elysium so that he could save his own life, but later he transforms into something more, as the saviour of not only his friend’s daughter, but also of millions who can’t afford the riches of the new first world. He is a confused revolutionary and a saviour who doesn’t decide his change, but rather it happens to him. He becomes what the nun who raised him had told him when he was a child – for he became someone special, an act which is supported by flashbacks which works, but not the way the audience might have wanted. This might be his best performance since the first three movies in the Bourne series. The character should have done better with a little more attention to his thoughts and change rather than just making him change as if it was there in him since childhood. Surely, he could have had more to work with, and this movie’s overuse of brain has seriously worked against the character of Max, which could have been drawn from another level.

I am rather surprised that Jodie Foster is not the main villain in the movie, as I thought this was going to be her wonderful performance in the form of another great villain, from what it seemed in the trailer. We wanted that villain, and in the beginning stages of the movie, we also get the feeling that it is how it is going to be. It is a shame that she doesn’t impress at all this time. But there would be Sharlto Copley rather than Jodie in a performance which is quite strange even though good. But this is one character who shouldn’t have had this much screen presence even as the man seems to live in the character and keep it a level above most of the movie. In a movie which is something more than a science fiction, this is not the main villain we want, for this is a more suitable secondary villain character. The need for a more powerful in intellect and yet normal in muscular strength villain was there, and this need is not fulfilled. Its good to see Alice Braga after her last action movie Predators, to which I hope there will be a sequel. She plays the childhood friend of Max, and the one who has a deep impact on him. Despite the smaller screen presence, she makes a very good impact. William Fichtner could have made a great major villain, but his character dies too early for us to get a glimpse of a possible evil. He still symbolizes the corporate evil, the power of the multi-national entities which became inter-planetary entities.

There is action and there is the hidden theme of the lack of humanity and the division between humans. But the action is mostly of inferior quality and the social message is not that powerful as one would expect to. I would consider Oblivion a far better flick intellectually, and District 9 a far more effective movie with its social message. As far as entertainment is considered this won’t be a Star Trek: Into Darkness nor a Prometheus visually. Elysium is another one of those escapist fantasies for sure, but its bridge towards the social message is not that much a perfectly crafted link. Another factor should be that of blood and gore which comes in abundance here, and gets itself an adult certificate with the same, but still doesn’t manage to do it well enough. One has to applaud the visuals though, as the world of Elysium as well as that of Earth are well-detailed, and the robots as well as the flying machines are well-designed and works very fine. The action sequences are lesser, but still not too exaggerated. The movie’s confusion about where it belongs is clearly reflected in all those things which happen throughout its own little world. One has to applaud the idea, but still be confused about its effect on oneself, and how to think about this movie. The emotion couldn’t be felt deep enough, and my friend had recommended a seventy three for this, but I thought I should add a little more to the rating.

While the movie drags a bit, and keeps itself in a loop in which it gently repeats itself, there is still enough in its soul to keep us interested and make a good influence. The only movie of this year to which the action of this movie can be compared is World War Z; yes not to Oblivion which had another post-apocalyptic world with a supposed colony of humans in another place as Earth has gone down due to many forces of destruction (a theory which is proved wrong in a twist of fate which is found later). This drags like World War Z and gets the loop working as the same movie. This could have done with a better route in the script, and Jodie Foster as a different, but still the major villain. It is sad that all the potential had this movie only up-to this level – no, I am still glad to have watched this movie, but this should have been a great work on the screen, but it has missed that opportunity, and that is kind of saddening. May be they could have stuck to one thing in this movie rather than making it a masala social message, or may be there could have been a better balance; I wouldn’t be sure, but let me tell you that I was hoping to come out ready to give an eighty to eighty nine for this movie out of hundred, and seventy seven is a disappoint if we look at it that way.

Release date: 27th September 2013 (India); 21st August 2013 (UK)
Running time: 109 minutes
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Alice Braga, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Valentina Giros, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir

elysiums copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.