Army of Thieves

Vampire Owl: And now we are talking about some thieves.

Vampire Bat: We are not talking about the thieves who raided the vampire outpost.

Vampire Owl: There are other thieves who should be of our concern?

Vampire Bat: They don’t break into the Dracula castle, so not our concern.

Vampire Owl: Well, they can steal from the zombies and werewolves.

Vampire Bat: What would they steal from a zombie? A lost brain?

Vampire Owl: There is always something to steal for those who want to.

Vampire Bat: Okay, like stealing a witch’s heart.

Vampire Owl: A vampire thief would go for blood instead.

Vampire Bat: Vampires have never been real thieves. We steal only the appreciation with some special claps.

[Gets a vegetable puffs and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: Sebastian Schlencht-Wohnert (Matthias Schweighofer) is living a common, boring life, working in a bank in the German city of Potsdam. He is used to coming up with Youtube videos about safecreacking that has no viewers and zero comments until someone leaves a comment on his most recent video, about a safecracking competition. He has nightmares about zombies after watching news about the creatures unleashing themselves in Las Vegas, forcing the United States government to send the military forces there, only to mess up the whole thing, leading to a final quarantine of the whole area. He goes on to win the competition, shocking everyone. The very nexy day, Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel) introduces herself, a skilled jewel thief who had commented upon his YouTube video. Gwendoline then introduces herself to the man, a skilled and Interpol wanted jewel thief who had commented upon his YouTube video so that she could recruit him for one grand heist which nobody has done before, after which they will have the perfect life without the mundane bothering them again.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: She would have Sebastian as the safecracker, she would be thief, Korina Dominguez (Ruby O Fee) their expert hacker who has been doing it from the age of ten, Rolph (Guz Khan) their getaway driver and Brad Cage (Stuart Martin) their gunman to keep them safe during the whole heist which is going to be one grand adventure. Rolph doesn’t like Sebastian at all, while Brad hopes that he doesn’t mess this up. For meeting up and as a safe house, they have chosen a house which is off the grid. They have to break into three banks which have three safes created by a legendary locksmith. The first one is in Paris, and has the least amount of money. They feel that this might be the easiest of them all, but it might be more difficult than they think, and the other two are long way ahead as far as the difficulty level is concerned. The last two will be in two other European countries, Czech Republic and Switzerland, and shall require better planning than the one in French, with even better team work, but the question remains if they are good enough to pull up those heists as a team – then there is Interpol after them.

The defence of Army of Thieves :: There has been the shortage of some good heist movies, and the biggest release of the genre was Red Notice – it was focusing more on its superstars rather than the act of heist itself, and we have this one which basically focuses on the act in a much better way. There is some quick action with the heist going on with some fine plans in the background – each heist is basically a different thing, as we look at them, and there are some fine detail associated with them too. Also, in comparison to the earlier movie, Army of the Dead, this is a much light-hearted version, and there is also the presence of some nice humour here, suiting the heist genre. The safecracking is nice to watch in all cases, and there is a certain amount of humour and some information being added to each of them. It serves as a stepping stone to the next movie well, and has the origin story of one particular character, as we wait for the same with the others too. We know that how things turn around with the next movie!

Positives and negatives :: As this movie goes back from the zombies to humans, there is surely the feeling of relegation, even though it does its job as it was supposed to do. The film also lacks a power-packed hero like Dave Bautista who had held the previous movie on his gun point with the muscles. The female characters do hold on well enough though. This movie, even if shorter than the other film of the franchise, does feel longer, as this one does have some random time in the beginning, and also some romance to go with it, which means that there is a stretch, even though the interesting way of telling this story makes sure that we are past it. The visuals are also really good, with locations in three European countries – France, Czech Republic and Switzerland. The beauty of Europe does get the due, and the focus is not just on the big cities, but also nature, with the final moments having one grand truck journey through a beautiful world, which is to be remembered too. Well, a heist movie without zombie horror means that this is also for the less valiant.

The performers of the soul :: Matthias Schweighofer leads in the movie, even though he doesn’t do the same with team, taking time to get into it, and manages to come up with a fine job as he goes through the whole thing. He is also the director of this movie, and it seems that he has a lot to do in different fields. Yet, with the performance, it is Nathalie Emmanuel who steals the show, and it is very unlike her in the Fast and Furious as well as The Maze Runner series of movies, as this time, she plays the best character around here. It is also the one with the most skills, and the person who leads and decides things, a role which Dave Bautista did in Army of the Dead. Ruby O Fee who plays the other female member of the team doesn’t fall behind either, as she plays the hacker who does most of the background work for the team. Stuart Martin and Guz Khan are secondary in this team, even though they seem to take over in the beginning stages of the mission in the movie. Jonathan Cohen and Noemie Nakai do add nicely here too.

How it finishes :: Army of Thieves doesn’t have the strength as the earlier movie of the franchise, Army of the Dead had, for one particular reason – it doesn’t have the zombies, and is thus missing the horror elements, but still manages to be a very entertaining heist movie with quality action and humour being the necessary part of it. Some people might not like the fact that this is a prequel, and it doesn’t mention the zombies enough, but we know that dealing with thieves and their heists mean that there can only be a little bit of the monsters of Las Vegas. It does connect to the events of the second movie in the end nicely, and we can actually come out of this movie as having watched an entertainer which sticks to the plan. Well, we have had many films being marketed as big entertainers, and so many of them didn’t live up-to the expectation, or at times managed to overdo and mess up things. But, this one stays strong as the prequel that it was supposed to become, and joins the smart heist movies list in style.

Release date: 29th October 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 127 minutes
Directed by: Matthias Schweighofer
Starring: Matthias Schweighofer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Jonathan Cohen, Noemie Nakai, Barbara Meier, Peter Hosking, Fanette Ronjat, Amy Huck, Peter Simonischek, Dave Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, Bly Tanaka

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Army of the Dead

Vampire Owl: We are the Army of the Dead. This movie should be about us.

Vampire Bat: We are not the Army of the Dead. We are the Army of the Undead.

Vampire Owl: You mean to say that they are different from each other.

Vampire Bat: Yes, there is also an Army of Darkness, you know.

Vampire Owl: Okay, still it is the dead that becomes the undead.

Vampire Bat: Well, death is a beginning, and for the undead, it has already begun.

Vampire Owl: I think that you are pointing to the zombies as the dead.

Vampire Bat: Yes, without full brain acitivity, they are to considered dead rather than undead, as we look closer at them.

Vampire Owl: Well, not all of the dead are undead, we can be sure about that.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that this one has some fine zombies though.

[Gets a vegetable pizza and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: A convoy coming from Area 51, the highly classified United States Air Force facility located within the Nevada Test and Training Range collides with the car of a newly married couple on a highway near Las Vegas. The high level of secrecy surrounding the base had already brought enough conspiracy theories to the scene including UFOs and aliens which are regular part of such talks. This time, the package which was part of the convoy is revealed to be a zombie, a very strong muscular creature which escapes, and during the process kills all the soldiers, among which some of them are infected and transformed into similar creatures, seeking to attack more humans. The zombies do head to the city, and infect most of its population. The United States military faces suffer heavy casualities, and is forced to retreat while facing the ever increasing hordes of zombies which are not that easy to kill as they only get stronger. The government decides to do what they considers to be the last resort, to deploy a tactical nuclear strike on the city to end the zombie threat forever, even though there are protests against the same.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Later, the very rich and influencial Japanese casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his associate Martin (Garret Dillahunt) asks a former resident of Las Vegas and earlier mercenary, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) who is currently working at a burger joint to take over a job to recover two hundred million dollars from his casino vault in the quarantined Las Vegas. The time is running out, with the nuclear strike coming up. Ward agrees and recruits his former teammates Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) as the maim mercenaries, along with a helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), a safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer), and a sharpshooter Mikey Guzman (Raul Castillo), who also brings his associate Chambers (Samantha Win). Martin also joins them to make sure that there is access. They have a thirty two hour window to do what they have done the best in history, and even though they cannot fly in due to flight restrictions, they can fly out in one of the rescue helicopter located at the top of the casino.

And what is with the humans and the zombies which we have around here? :: As they are not able to find a way inside, Scott searches and finds his daughter Kate Ward (Ella Purnell), and offers her his share of the millions, asking her to help him get into the city. Kate directs them to Lilly (Nora Arnezeder) or coyote, a smuggler who knows the city. Burt Cummings (Theo Rossi), an abusive security guard who knows exactly what happens inside with the zombies. When Kate understands that Geeta (Huma Qureshi) also went into Las Vegas with two others, she feels that she should also be inside. Being the badly raised dumb kid that she happens to be, she stops at nothing to get what she wants, and the returned father figure can only agree. When inside, the common zombies are not the only ones that they have to face, for there are zombie animals too, including a zombie tiger. There are also a different kind of zombies, which are not the usual mindless ones. They are smarter, faster and better organized, with a mark on their territories. It won’t be that easy to dupe these zombies. Can they get what they want and make it out?

The defence of Army of the Dead :: It is clear that we haven’t had a full fun zombie movie like this one for a long time, and there is a lot of entertainment with the action, thrills and even a certain amount of horror that has been going on with the undead creatures. It also has some humour in between, and a fine detail of the post-apocalyptic world as well as the zombie attacks with descriptions to support them. Among the performers, Dave Bautista and Ana de la Reguera are at the top, with Nora Arnezeder and Matthias Schweighofer following closely. The man who is known as Batista in WWE is another one of those ring performers who has done so well in cinema, after Dwayne Johnson’s classic performance, and also John Cena up-to an extent. Ana de la Reguera and Nora Arnezeder are perfect lady soldiers who know exactly what they are doing. The movie, with its ending, also leaves something for a possible film in the future. Even though it is pretty much a long movie, you don’t really feel the length, as there is so much of action going on at all times, and we are indeed taken to this world of post-apocalyptic chaos.

Positives and negatives :: There are moments which this movie could have avoided to cut down the length, and it also kills one of its interesting characters too early – Samantha Win played quite a strong soldier who is lost before the big battles begin. Ella Purnell, even if meant to be irritating, plays the character that causes the death of most of the character – one of the most foolish characters ever in an action movie, for only horror films have dumber characters suiting them. Huma Qureshi is also here, but she is also wasted in a character which provides nothing good to the movie – without her, the film could have been shorter as there was no need to spare some time for the unnecessary. At least half of the characters are not made to be memorable either. This is also a movie about which not many people knows, and that is a disappointment – it could have had some advertisements in this part of the world, as it is something which will appeal to our audience too. Zombies will catch our attention as much as any undead creature rising from the dead.

How it finishes :: With the title, one wouldn’t really know if this is about vampires, zombies or ghosts, but the zombie idea also does work that effectively as any other monster, proven already in Warm Bodies, World War Z and so many Resident Evil films which kept coming back again, one after the other. This one makes a fine progress with the story, even with some predictability in store, and as it does have a lot of action to go with it. The movie is indeed an all-rounder, and you can feel that quite early itself. Even though the corona virus pandemic didn’t create the zombie apocalypse as a gamer or zombie-movie lover would have anticipated, it is only safe to say that there is always hope for something like it in the future. When that zombie pandemic happens, we will have watched some quality undead hunting movies like this one, and we will be ready. After all, Zombieland already has us partially prepared for the big event. For the rest of the procedure, the next sequel of this particular movie will keep us prepared.

Release date: 14th May 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 148 minutes
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Dave Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, Ella Purnell, Nora Arnezeder, Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighofer, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Raul Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Justice Society: WW II

Full Title: Justice Society: World War II

Vampire Owl: Do you know that I had participated in the Second World War?

Vampire Bat: I am not sure if you are talking about the war that we know about.

Vampire Owl: I am talking about that very long and tiring magical war between vampires, zombies, witches and werewolves.

Vampire Bat: I am glad that you are not talking about that useless human war.

Vampire Owl: Human wars are those of greed and are always useless.

Vampire Bat: What did you do in our world war?

Vampire Owl: Ask me what I didn’t do then.

Vampire Bat: You were quite a young vampire during that time.

Vampire Owl: There is a story about my victory against the zombies.

Vampire Bat: There was no victory against the zombies. They just left the battle as there was the need for search for brains to eat.

[Gets a masala dosa and three cups of ginger tea].

What is the movie about? :: In Earth-two, the parallel universe, Nazi Germany has conquered most of Europe, winning most of the battles of the Second World War, and also possesses some magical artifacts. The United States gets involved in the war, as a team of superheroes called Justice Society of America has been formed with Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos), Wonder Woman (Stana Katic), Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), The Flash (Armen Taylor), Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru) and Hourman (Matthew Mercer). Hourman who has been a scientist, has developed a chemical called Miraclo which enhances all of his skills for about an hour. Black Canary has her sonic sound abilities. The Flash, with his superhuman speed, has been a full-time crime fighter always willing to serve his country. Hawkman, an ancient Egyptian in a modern Egyptian’s body, is also available for service. Wonder Woman will lead this team, as they hope to end this war before the Nazis get hold of all those artifacts and use them against the United States.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Back on Earth-one, its Flash (Matt Bomer) is going through a picnic with Iris West (Ashleigh LaThrop), but their plans to get away from the usual work is disrupted by Superman (Darren Criss) fighting Brainiac (Darin De Paul), a seemingly extra-terrestrial android with mechanical minions to support him, and has been the person responsible for the destruction of the planet of Krypton. The enemy is basically a supercomputer with artificial intelligence and an android body which gives him superhuman strength, durability, healing, flight, telekinesis and many other abilities which allows him to bring a strong fight to Superman. As Brainiac fires a Kryptonite bullet towards Superman, Flash tries to stop it, but he runs so fast that he channels the Speed Force. This means that he arrives at a time when the Nazis are fighting the Justice Society, and he feels that he has arrived in the past, when the Second World War was happening in their world. With the superheroes on their side, the United States, Britain and its allies seem to do better in a Nazi occupied France.

And what more is to happen with the superheroes here? :: But even after two years, the war doesn’t seem to end. The team is initially suspicious about him, but understands that he is also like them, and only wants to help humanity as a superhero. Barry as Flash also saves Trevor and also a number of civilians. They also feels that he is from the future. The team does take Barry into their team. They feel that they can use him in saving a codebreaker from a Nazi fortress, as only he can decode an encrypted message. But everything is not that right with the team, as the Black Canary feels that there is no point in doing all of these as they are not even remembered due to the whole thing being top secret, while the two Flashes have gone weaker in strength with them being together. Wonder Woman does have the romantic problems, and Hawkman still has trouble with dealing with his past life. It is then that the Flash realizes that this is not the world that he knows about – then there is Aquaman whom they come across on the way. He has to find a way to return to the other Earth, but it won’t be that easy.

The defence of Justice Society: World War II :: The movie has managed to make use of the parallel universe idea well, and has nicely placed the Justice Society during the time of World War II. The superheroes who are basically unknown to us are also introduced well. After all, the world can always use more imaginary superheroes, as we are all going to suffer in this world of chaos, and hope for the impossible is necessary. Black Canary, Hawkman and Hourman are not the kind of heroes with whom the audience of this part of the world are that familiar – they do get some introduction here. Unless one has been watching the series and all, the idea of the second Earth will also feel new, and it also gets the introduction here. The whole thing has also been nicely blended into the Second World War’s procedures. It is interesting enough to make us think about many other parallel universes, and also those with the Nazis winning. The underwater world has also been nicely incorporated into the story, and there are also some nice twists, even though they can be guessed up to an extent.

The claws of flaw :: Some of the characters could have been better, especially Wonder Woman, who doesn’t seem to be that interesting as Gal Gadot had portrayed her. From the clothing itself, this one seems to be very much unlike the one we know, even in a parallel universe – the freedom there doesn’t do well enough to make the character interesting. The other superheroes of the parallel universe are the ones whom we know less about, and therefore their versions only count as a positive addition. There could have also been more action, as there is scope for this movie to increase the total running time. The Nazi elements could have also been developed further, as we don’t see enough of them doing what we expect them to do. We don’t even get to their main areas with those special villains becoming part of them. Instead, we are having some of those rather weaker antagonists along with the talk about Nazis taking over the whole world. They could have developed this in a different way, and at the same time, without being repetitive with things.

How it finishes :: Here is another superhero movie which has Justice League-style coming together of heroes to save the world, even though in another parallel universe. It is a clear thing that humanity is going destroy itself, whether there are wars or not – the imaginary presence of these superheroes are indeed belonging to hope, and therefore, we always have our eyes in this genre. Amazon Prime Video does have this flick, and we can only be happy that they do, because people in this part of the world won’t be able to watch it otherwise. The film is the usual superhero thing in essence, and we can watch it just like we go through the rest of the movies of the genre. This is also that kind of a movie which can be divided into three parts to watch as a series. Well, superheroes need to bring that faith, belief and hope, don’t they? One can only wonder what the evil humans will have to think about it – hope for the superheroes to die maybe?

Release date: 27th April 2021
Running time: 84 minutes
Directed by: Jeff Wamester
Starring: Stana Katic, Matt Bomer, Elysia Rotaru, Chris Diamantopoulos, Omid Abtahi, Matthew Mercer, Armen Taylor, Liam McIntyre

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Birds of Prey

Vampire Owl: There are not many kinds of vampire birds.

Vampire Bat: But not all of our birds hunt.

Vampire Owl: You stopped letting the birds hunt?

Vampire Bat: Well, the sky needed to be safer for the gargoyles.

Vampire Owl: You are calling for the gargoyles during a pandemic?

Vampire Bat: They are made of stone, and immune to any pandemic.

Vampire Owl: Are you sure that these can’t catch the virus?

Vampire Bat: They are immune to the injection too.

Vampire Owl: That saves us some vaccines.

Vampire Bat: I would have loved to believe that the undead are basically immune, as the virus cannot affect the dead even after rising from the grave. But the research from Doctor Frankenstein says otherwise.

[Gets a vancho cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: A number of years have passed after the defeat of Enchantress in the hands of the team of supervillains, Suicide Squad, and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has broken up with Joker (Jared Leto), and despite going through the procedure many times, this time she believes that they are separated forever. She remembers her time as psychiatrist and also her time before that, as she tries to go on with her lonely life, and for the same, she also gets a hyena, but nobody really believes that she really broke up with Joker. She doesn’t really have any good friends, but everyone seems to know her for the association with Joker. To announce her break up to everyone, she blows up Ace Chemicals were she had her best time with Joker, and this time, she gets the attention of everyone. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is the first one to come after Harley for exploding Ace chemicals, and others who have held a grudge against her also follows. Ending the relationship with Joker does have its own negative effects for her.

So, what happens with the events here? :: A good number of people now wants her dead, or at least punished for what she had been doing. This includes not just the criminals and police, but also anyone on the streets whom she had offended – it includes a large number of people. Without Joker’s protection, she finds it difficult to move around safely. But she figures out that she will live her life her own way this time. The biggest mafia leader of the area is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), the crime lord who wishes to have full control over the Gotham City. Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) earlier worked as a singer in his club, but gets a promotion as his driver during important meetings, after he sees her fight on he streets. Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), the right hand man of Sionis losses a diamond which was supposed to be very important to him, and it turns out that it was taken by Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a young pickpocket who doesn’t hesitate to steal anything from anyone on the streets. The girl also swallows the diamond before being taken to the police station.

And what else is to follow with this strange series of incidents in Gotham City? :: At the same time, a vigilante known as The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) also appears on the streets, killing people all around the city, and nobody really knows what she is after. It does gives more of a head ache to Renee though, as she has been someone not able to get the credit even after working so hard in the police department. With murders happening with crossbows, and Harley also on the loose, Sionis wants the diamond back as soon as possible. For the same, he asks the help of every mercenary in the city, including Harley, who had also started calling herself a professional mercenary with her previous experience in Task Force X, the government funded group of criminals and supervillains. Harley breaks into the police station, and a number of mercenaries also follow her, but she manages to escape with the pickpocket kid, only to be continued to be hunted throughout the city. Dinah and Renee want to save the kid too, but time is running out.

The defence of Birds of Prey :: The film scores with its cast as expected, and while Margot Robbie has already proven herself as the crazy lover of Joker with a PhD in Psychiatry and experience with treating the craziest, Mary Elizabeth Winstead who is known more as the scream queen of horror flicks, has done fine work here – others are okay, even though I wouldn’t consider them to belong here as much as these two manages. The final fight scene scores high with the ambience being used there, and it is something which suits a horror movie more. There are also some humour added here and there, and for that too, the film is highly dependent on Margot Robbie, who seems to have got into that character so well again, and that makes one wonder what would have happened if Joker was also there. The fight sequences are nice, mostly when related to her, and even though left with less number of scenes, Mary Elizabeth Winstead also drops in nicely. The film is also full of colours, and they provide a special feeling to the movie.

The claws of flaw :: The absence of at least a cameo from Joker does have some effect on this film which could have used a little bit more of madness, as there seems to be a little bit too much sanity in here. Along with the same, the character of Rosie Perez seems to be weaker in comparison, and Ewan McGregor plays not that strong a villain as one would expect, with him being only a billionaire with a lot of henchmen – nothing more for him here. Some moments in the movie are also too silly, even when staying within the limits of silliness, and could have been avoided. The movie could have been shorter that way, and it should have stuck to Quinn to make that happen in a better manner. It is also a little bit too violent without reason, a quality which is not the best explored by a DC film. The film also leaves a question if it was trying to be a little bit of Charlie’s Angels by focusing on it as an action movie, but it is understandable, because Harley Quinn is that kind of a character, and only a little bit of the metahuman strength is unleashed here by anyone.

How it finishes :: DC Extended Universe always required more films which though differently, and this is surely one of them. There is a space being left behind after Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame nicely finished the biggest events of Marvel Extended Universe, and now it is up to DC to do the same and bring something grand, despite Justice League not doing that well as it should have managed, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice failing to gain appreciation. Unlike what was expected, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are the hopes of DC, and I would say that Suicide Squad was one too, even though many people were not really able to get their heads into it. Taking Harley Quinn out of it, and making this film will only help the next part of the second film on the squad when released, for Birds of Prey is a fun-filled entertainer which maintains the same feeling up to an extent, even though not beautifully poetic as that film happened to be. Once again, fun is guaranteed for sure.

Release date: 7th February 2020
Running time: 109 minutes
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kho Kho

What is the movie about? :: Maria Francis (Rajisha Vijayan) is appointed as a PT teacher in a girls’ school, in the remote area of a village which is surrounded by backwaters. She is forced to take up the job because her husband Ben (Venkitesh VP) was facing failure in business, and was in requirement of the money. Maria used to be a sprinter, and was very close to representing India at an international level when something terrible happened in her life. At the new school, the two people who is in support of her activities are the peon Shivaprasad (Renjit Shekar Nair) and the accountant Vinod (Rahul Riji Nair), the latter being doubtful about the requirement for a PT teacher in the school, yet being interested in Maria. After some days of doing almost nothing in the school which has historically given no importance to arts and sports, she decides to create a kho-kho team for the first time in school history, a move much appreciated by the headmaster.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: With a confused but hardworking team led by the stubborn Anju (Mamitha Baiju) who has her own mood swings and not missing her chance to pick up a fight, Maria hopes to make history through her students, and achieve greatness which she couldn’t earlier due to circumstances. The parents of the students are against the students choosing sports instead of using that time for studies, and do not appreciate the fact that the girls are going somewhere far away to compete. But as they qualify for the district level competitions, they do manage to gain a certain amount of support. The girls’ problem related to balancing studies and sports, their problem with wearing shorts within a conservative world and Anju’s attraction towards Shivaprasad might be the least of the problems with Maria will have to face here. Can she and Anju lead the team towards seemingly impossible victories and an even more elusive final triumph?

The defence of Kho-Kho :: Depending more on the emotions than anything else, Kho-Kho also has the usual moments of thrill with the games. It is the common motivational story of the underdogs who had no chance, but with hardwork and inspired performance, comes out victorious against all odds. The characters and the setting become interesting in this case, as this goes through life of common people for most of the time. We also have some nice visuals to go with the same. There are many exciting scenes here to remember too. The struggles of the characters involved here are shown well, especially the two main characters played by Rajisha and Mamitha. The feeling which was provided by Finals is somewhat repeated in this movie, and if you had like that movie, this will be on your favourite sports drama list too. The songs are pretty good, and they go on well with the visuals as well as the mood, and so does the background music. Unlike Chak De! India and Dangal, this is the real woman-centric film with empowerment, and without those unnecessary superstar exaggerations, and that feels true to life in many ways.

The claws of flaw :: Kho-Kho is certainly not that big as Finals, the other film with the same actress in the lead. The background story which keeps on moving silently is not that strong when we look at it. The premise feels similar to other movies, and we can predict a lot of things which are going to happen here. A number of training scenes and events are more repetitive rather than trying to do something different or unpredictable. To add to it, some dialogues actually look more artificial, right out of paper, rather than coming with the emotional weight. Venkitesh is also very much underused in another movie after The Priest limited him, and Thattumpurath Achuthan‘s song presence had made us feel that he would be a regular full presence. More of the girls in the cast should have got more attention though, at least half of them. The release of the movie on Asianet was delayed by a week, and it was Drishyam 2 which had its television release then, a disappointing decision from the channel which might have kept some people away.

The performers of the soul :: We have seen Rajisha Vijayan only in a few movies, and among them, we have seen such great skill. We have seen her in the grand performances from Anuraga Karikkin Vellam which brought her the Kerala State Award for Best Actress, through the nostalgia-inducing coming-of-age story of June, to the earlier sports drama of high acclaim, Finals. It is to be noted that in both sports drama, Rajisha plays a character with a tragedy to go with both life and career. With her role beginning as the trainer, the tragic background was established much earlier here. Rajisha once again has the whole thing in control here, and from the beginning to the end, it is a determined as well as emotional performance. Well, Finals was the best movie of the season when it released, but many people missed the work on the big screen, and the same is the case here too due to COVID-19, and it seems that the early television premieres are changing some of the situation here, with everyone getting the needed access not too late.

Further performers of the soul :: Mamitha Baiju who was also seen in Operation Java plays the captain of the team, and plays her role in a very much believable manner, with all the emotions and determination required for the role. She will surely be a talent to look out for, with more of similar roles. There is the rage and a flurry of emotions that she comes up with, which suits very well for her character with a troubled past. Unlike the character she played in the Balu Varghese starrer, the energy here is intense. Venkitesh VP as the protagonist’s husband has only a limited role, and we are still hoping to see him in bigger roles, like we have wanted all those actors and actresses in the Naayika Naayakan reality show to come out with their performances on the big screen. Renjit Shekar Nair and the director himself – Rahul Riji Nair comes up with good supporting performances. Vettukili Prakash’s role might have felt unnecessary. The cast of girls in the team is also nicely done, and at least quarter of them stay with us by the end, even though not more than one or two gets extra attention.

How it finishes :: Kho-Kho is another sports drama which you don’t need to miss, and it is also a film which goes through the base level of the game, without overdoing the same. Just like Finals, it is nice to see another sport with lesser fans getting all the attention, and not the highly fan favourite Indian sport of cricket or football which comes second. Cricket never really required movies as support, but some sports can have films made on them to bring out interest back to them, and this is the same case happening here. The movie is a reminder of a sport which is often left unnoticed among the bigger names. Kho-Kho is a film that can have even a sequel with this content, and there are times when it also reminds us of Godha, which brought back memories of wrestling as a sport. These are indeed the films which needs our support, and not those overrated stuff which has wandered around with a lot of hype and no substance. Kho-Kho needs to come back to television or release on Amazon Prime at some point to expand its horizons.

Release date: 14th April 2021 (Theatre), 28th May 2021 (Asianet)
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Rahul Riji Nair
Starring: Rajisha Vijayan, Mamitha Baiju, Renjit Shekar Nair, Venkitesh VP, Vettukili Prakash, Arjun Ranjan, Sreejith Babu, Jeo Baby, Geethi Sangeetha, Rahul Riji Nair

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Poomaram

What is the movie about? :: Each and every college has been going through tough preparations to win the overall championships in the year’s youth festival. In a programme which consists of so many colleges, Maharajas College and St. Teresa’s College have been the favourites, with the latter having defended the title for years. With other colleges including UC College and Sacred Heart College on the trail, the two colleges have their students practicing so much to give their best. The college chairpersons of each college, Gautham (Kalidas Jayaram) and Irene (Neeta Pillai) promises their teachers, students and the managment that would return only with the overall trophy. Both leaders are experts in poetry and skilled in more than one art, as they have talented teams at their hands, ready to make it big on the grand stage.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: While Gautham’s team consists of naturally skilled students, Irene has a group of extremely hardworking and disciplined girls who are determined to keep the promise made to their principal to keep the trophy at their college for another year. While the former focuses on giving the best out of their best students, the latter has come with a fine plan to focus on their strengths and get the best out of those competitions which could bring them the most points. There are these teams who seem to battle each other, and there are the teams from other colleges which look forward to an opportunity to pounce on those points which get divided, and go straight up on the list. So, the year’s competition seems to be something which can bring the surprises and twists, and it is to be seen how things would end.

The defence of Poomaram :: There is a realistic take of the youth festival in this movie, and there is nostalgia invoked from it – this is not that fake nostalgia which was brought to the big screen by 1983, an exaggerated movie on cricket. Poomaram just feels so real, with realistic performances written all over it. If you have studied in an unaided arts college in Kerala, it will be very easy for you to relate to this movie, and if there is a certain amount of melancholy rising like waves on a stormy night, there is no surprise. Well, even that wouldn’t be necessary, as this reflects your college in one way or the other. Poomaram strikes you exactly at that part of your heart where it hurts the most, with memories of the college days. The songs are beautiful, and it adds to the strength of these reflections. There is also the presence of messages, and one has to love how the movie ends with that image of the enlightened.

The claws of flaw :: The movie does has a certain slowness in its proceedings in the second half, and some repetitions of the whole thing. The strength of the beginning and the middle part is only further strengthened by the end. The delay in the release of this movie also seems to have affected the bookings, as one does feel that it has been an eternity since this movie’s first song was released and the flick was ready to arrive at the theatres. There are occasions when Poomaram has been reduced into a joke instead of the celebration of nostalgia that it should have been. Everyone might not like this movie that much though, as the philosophical side of the flick can go over the head of the regular movie watcher. Those who have been eternally looking for entertainment won’t find that much of the same in this one, which is more of an experience raher than anything else.

The performers of the soul :: The movie has Kalidas Jayaram in the leading role, but we see that he is no hero; he plays a character who is one of us – there might be the elements of those college chairpersons or arts club secretaries whom we had met during our college days in him. Kalidas who had won the national award for the best child actor by acting with his own father in Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal, has the much awaited debut here, and it is a lovable and natural one. We see him as the chairperson of one of the most prestigious institutions not only in the city and the state, doing a wonderful job with all the simplicity, and there is no moment when we cease to admire his natural work. One wouldn’t call this work a challenge for someone who has proven his skills at such a young age, but this is a fine start for him, as there is the certainty of bigger things to accomplish for him.

Further performers of the soul :: Neeta Pillai plays the female lead in the movie, even though she or any other character in the movie where not in any of the posters of this flick. She plays a wonderful leader of her team of best friends in this movie, as she is there as an inspiration as the college chairperson, someone who was determined to win the trophy every single year from the first day she joined there for BA English Literature course. In this role, Neeta reflects what a perfect leader should be, and with her strong words, we can be sure that there will be more from her for us to witness on the big screen. Kunchacko Boban and Meera Jasmine makes little cameos which don’t mean much except for having them there in the movie. Joju George is the one face who is quickly recognizable here, as he plays a cop again after the same director’s Action Hero Biju. There is also a long list of new faces doing well.

How it finishes :: The movie refers to the story of a young student in Oxford University who was part of a competition about Jesus turning water into wine. He couldn’t write anything for a long time, until with only a few minutes left, this young man who was to be known later as Lord Byron, just wrote the following line: “The water met its Master, and blushed”, one of the best possible description of the miracle. There are many more similar talks about famous literary figures, artists and philosophers including Henry David Thoreau, William Shakespeare, Kalidasan, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. There is the idea about what is more important in our lives, and what matters to be the winner, at what cost. It focuses on its messages and realistic reflections really well, with a divergent philosophical side. Poomaram might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is that cup of tea, which can be loved by anyone at one point of the movie or the other, for it is a special kind of poetry of our own memories.

Release date: 15th March 2018
Running time: 152 minutes
Directed by: Abrid Shine
Starring: Kalidas Jayaram, Neeta Pillai, Joju George, Archita Aneesh, Kunchacko Boban (cameo), Meera Jasmine (cameo)

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.