Brick Mansions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Memories

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Memories enter this week of Malayalam movie overdose fighting for a place with four movies, all of them creating bigger hype than this one. This movie had more of a release of silence compared to what Kadal Kadannu Oru Mathukutty, Neelaakasam Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum have been coming up with. All three of them were much awaited, but this movie was not that much of a subject during those talks. But it is that type of silence that grows on you, and makes an impact. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse had said, “Silence is a source of great strength”. Remember the quote by Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music” – now there comes the continuity of the movie connecting with the silence, for there is that background score as well as the music with which the movie begins, before going deep into the silence and breaking it again, powering itself from its slowness to the incredible strength and agility that it possesses within. The movie is a little silent dynamite which shows its signs of efficiency in the beginning itself, and explodes to bring out its best in the second half.

Jeethu Joseph had given us Detective – one of the best investigative thrillers in Malayalam, Mummy & Me – the movie which could change lives in a good way, and the big laugh riot which was My Boss. The same director has given us another treat in the form of Memories, and in the process, he might have provided us with the best of Eid. The movie goes through life of a police officer (as they say, an episode in the life of a cop), and brings that world to the audience. Sam Alex (Prithviraj Sukumaran) gets through the credit scenes supported by great background music, and stylish action before we come to the scene three years later when he is addicted to alcohol and walking around aimlessly, stretching from the bars to the beginning of the long beverages queues. He has memories of his wife and daughter who were murdered by a terrorist as a revenge for him killing his gangster brother in an encounter. He keeps himself to perpetual damnation on Earth, feeling that he and his police department are responsible for their death. He resorts to alcohol and moments of lazy depression to keep himself away from the world of the common man, drinking so much that he can hardly walk until he falls. The memories wake him up, and to keep them away, he drinks again, a procedure which would seem to last for eternity.

Meanwhile, his brother leaves the house and his mother is left worried due to his drinking habits. Meanwhile, a senior officer comes home and invites the former efficient cop to investigate the case of a possible serial killer on the loose. Even as Sam disagrees first, his mother convinces him to go through it. In doing so, he is assisted by a journalist Varsha Mathews (Mia George) and Inspector Antony (Sreejith Ravi). He investigates about the two murders, and at the same time, a third murder takes place. He has to deal with his own alcoholism along with the memories of the death of his beloved ones, which keep flashing into his mind. He fails to keep them away, as they continues to haunt them along with his love for alcohol, but the man makes great turning points in the case right from the beginning itself. As the murderer captures his victims who look very much as if they are not connected to each other, and tortures them to death, the time is running out for the police force. There is brilliance on both sides, and there remains the question if the hand of the law or the unknown force of evil wins the clash of the titans. As this is an investigative thriller leaning on the suspense factor, anything more might deal a spoiler blow.  Meanwhile, look out for Christian imagery and symbolism, that’s all I can say for now.

Prithviraj Sukumaran has had a great time since Ayalum Njanum Thammil. This year he came up with a great performance in what was undoubtedly the best movie of the year – Celluloid. While his Mumbai Police had much critical acclaim, his Bollywood movie Aurangzeb was a movie with a difference and reflected that effort which he has been putting into his job. If the questions are asked if this character is like Mumbai Police‘s Antony Moses, the answer would be a clear no. Sam Alex is clearly superior to Antony Moses, who was an empty shell which was filled only to the disappointment of the viewers. But Sam Alex is a near-perfect dynamic character, more like that Solomon whom Prithviraj portrayed in Vargam. There are not many characters who would seem to exhibit such pain as this one, even as there could be doubts if there is so much of it that the dosage could be decreased. Our protagonist never goes the wrong way, even as he doesn’t go the right path. It has been the right path for our leading actor who had not that effective police roles in The Thriller, Police, Sathyam and Khakhee. Aurangzeb, Mumbai Police and now Memories have brought to us the one man who makes an excellent police officer on screen.

Prithviraj is brilliant right from the beginning. He undergoes that transformation in a grand style, and here is that character which sheds all the power and is left with just intelligence and vulnerability. This is that type of role which brings instant likable element to the character. He is not that police officer who comes out and beats fourty or fifty people up in slow motion, and even makes them falls kilometres apart. The age of such a superhero policeman is over for sure, and what we have here is a more genuine version, and hundred percent better than the one we saw in Mumbai Police. Here, we have a protagonist who can’t shoot down one man, nor can he chase him down. In another parallel world created by the much earlier movies, the hero would have been so untouchable that one gets to be sure about how the world inside the movie is supposed to go on. In such a perfect world, there is no real scope for suspense, even as a few drops can be added according to the availability of some rather less important characters to be murdered. This is not your perfect world of superhero, as the perfection here belongs to Prithviraj, and as a whole, it belongs to our director. Nobody defies gravity and takes the form of flying mutant humans or throws the normality away.

There are the others who add to this normality in the right and the most appropriate manner. The villain is the best of the other guys for sure. Even as the shadow of doubt falls on many people from doctors to policemen, the real killer, the psychopath who is placed against the cop in a game of cat and mouse happens to be a man totally unexpected. Revealing the man would be a cruel thing right now, and I shall control myself from doing the same. But this villain is an excellent choice, as he becomes that psychopath murder who makes a striking impact on the viewers. There was the need for such a villain in Malayalam movies, coming out nowhere to strike with the element of fear and uncertainty. Meghana Raj has a striking effect in the memories, even as she doesn’t really exist during the current timeline displayed in the movie. Mia George’s character has an influential existence throughout the movie, but not that much of a presence on the screen. The veterans Vijayaraghavan and Nedumudi Venu adds to the value of the movie with their usual creative performances as the concerned superior police officer and the caring parish priest. Suresh Krishna is also there with his usual best.

The movie’s surely has a slow first half, but it still remains faster than many other appreciated bad movies like Annayum Rasoolum on any day. The ambience it creates, rules this little world of memories. When Prithviraj walks away right here with his head held high, there is a lot of claps from the audience and Memories is a beautiful, successful experience. It is the result of how well this canvas has been set, and how much mastery can be associated with the protagonist’s depiction. We had the cop age in movies during the time of Suresh Gopi, and this might be a resurrection in a different manner. There was the need for the memories to stay strong to make that inception into our minds, and there has been such a thing indeed. There is a certain amount of neatness maintained throughout, even though some computer imagery used was rather unnecessary. It was good to watch a houseful show in the local theatres on a weekday in the morning, something which has rarely happened. The necessity for a very good thrilling atmosphere has been realized, and one has to thank Jeethu Joseph and Prithviraj Sukumaran for this wonderful piece of art which has come this way.

Release date: 9th August 2013
Running time: 140 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Jeethu Joseph
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Mia George, Meghana Raj, Vijayaraghavan, Rahul Madhav, Suresh Krishna, Sreejith Ravi, Nedumudi Venu, Praveena, Madhupal, Irshad

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Cabin in the Woods

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On one of those days which supported flashbacks in a big way, I could unintentionally fall into the wonderful trap of horror which was this movie. In this trap that is a horror movie, there was another world, which had a lot from the former horror movies, thus serving as a tribute along with being a great horror treat. It is a perfect story of five friends who become part of a perfectly executed horror reality in an environment which is more of a cage – they are watched through hidden cameras, and are made to act in the way the people watching them wants them to act. But the fact remains that this not just a horror movie, as it drains energy from the earlier slasher movies and along with paying homage to them, there is a little bit of satire involved in the treatment. There are elements of The Evil Dead, Hellraiser, as well as all the vampire, zombie and werewolf movies, and not even leaving the mythological as well as the natural beasts behind. The movie has combined all of these to create an astonishing effect, a mixture which can be scary and creepy enough as well as funny enough. It leaves the horror movies with lots of nostalgia with all these, and there might surely be pure satisfaction on most of those faces. This is a mixture which leaves a long-lasting impression on one.

Five college students Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly), Jules Louden (Anna Hutchison), Holden McCrea (Jesse Williams), Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz) and Curt Vaughan (Chris Hemsworth) travells to a remote cabin in the distant woods away from civilization for a vacation. But the abandoned cabin is more of a controlled environment, as a number of people manage whatever happens in that cabin as they view each and every incident in there with hidden cameras. It is seen that they have an influence throughout the area and not just the cabin. They also give drug the students to reduce their awareness and capability to think in a rational manner. A cellar opens automatically which they feel a result of the wind. Inside the cellar, they find many strange items, including a diary of Patience Buckner, a girl who was abused by her sadistic family. Reciting a Latin incantation from the diary, Dana accidentally summons the whole Buckner family in the form of the walking dead, a group of zombies. Jules is the first one to be killed by the zombies outside, and soon the cabin is attacked by the monsters. With a number of people frequently monitoring and guiding the monsters, as well as trying to weaken the possibilities of the remaining four friends in surviving the horror, it will be a perfect hell-ride for each of them, and escaping the living dead might be more difficult than death itself.

The movie keeps giving that feeling of The Evil Dead throughout its first few minutes in the cabin. There is going to be a little bit of a spoiler from now on, and the base of this movie lies on ritual sacrifice. This is about the need to appease the ancient gods, resembling more of giant monsters who live beneath the facility under the cabin and are kept there in satisfaction by these rituals. The sacrifice should have five constituents, the Whore (Jules), the Athlete (Curt), the Scholar (Holden), the Fool (Marty) and the Virgin (Dana), and the Virgin is supposed to die last with the process usually starting with the Whore. All of these begin with the future victims choosing their method of torment and death, in this case the diary of Patience Becker. They are lead to choosing these, and being unaware through the careful tactics of the people in control, who always check the camera for each move, and manipulate the environment so that the victims will fo what they want, including opening a door or window as well as closing it, or drugging them. Another person could have unleashed the Lord of Pain, a vampire, a merman, an anaconda or a werewolf – the list is almost endless as these creatures are all locked away in the facility.

Kristen Connolly as Dana Polk a.k.a the Virgin; the first movie I ever watched starring her, and she is one of the characters who are in control, keeping within the limits, thus surviving much longer. Even as she keeps tp herself, she is still part of the gang, very unlike Amber Heard’s character in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. But it is debatable if she is really a virgin from what they talk about in the beginning of the movie. She does seem surprised when the director mentions her as the Virgin, and the facility had to admit that they work with what they have, which should imply that she was clearly the better of the two, consider the character of her only female friend in the gang. Jesse Williams as Holden McCrea a.k.a the Scholar is her lover in a relationship which seems hundred percent platonic for now. He works as the perfect gentleman who doesn’t force her into anything and even decides not to look at Dana’s nudity through a one-way mirror and alerts her of the vision he is having in the other room while she undresses. There he also put a block on the desire of the facility’s employees who are watching the same scene to see something. But he is still proud and very confident about his skills, which doesn’t really serve him that well when affected by the drugs.

Chris Hemsworth as Curt Vaughan a.k.a the Athlete is the strongest member of the group, and is extremely confident about his power, and this confidence leads to his death. Anna Hutchison as Jules Louden a.k.a the Whore is a character which proves to be closest to the title from the beginning itself, and even solves the employers’ sadness of seeing no nudity. Her death occurs right after she undresses, about to make out with her boyfriend Curt, as she has completed her role as the archetype which is seen in most of the horror movies. She had already done a sexy dance and even kissed a wolf-head on the wall before this, thus reiterating her position as the one stereotype, the immoral one who gets killed first, and at its perfection, when topless – the facility works with what they had, and therefore, considering her abstinence and also her relationship with the lover, Dana had to be the Virgin, and therefore, Jules had to be the Whore. In that case, even Holden is not too less of an athlete and just loses out to Curt. These roles might have been assigned by the facility’s helper at the petrol pump, who already called Jules by the same title. The employees looking to the screen and waiting for her bare bosom or even extended nudity as well as the betting is less a result of their prejudice and more based on what information the man outside had already given them.

Fran Kranz as Marty Mikalski a.k.a the Fool is the most intelligent one among them all, and the only one without a heroine; no Virgin and no Whore. He is more of the lone wolf who still sticks to the gang without any problem. As he is always on drugs, the drugging never really works on him and he remains in control of his full brain. He might be the first person ever to kill a zombie out there, or at least semi-murder or half-murder those undead creatures. He doubts the presence of puppeteers around right from the beginning, which Dana acknowledges only after the death of Curt. He also saves Dana from sure death in the hands of a zombie. His intellect seems to be more based on movies, and not what is taught in the school and the college which might have helped him to guess things that others couldn’t in such an environment of horror. With his limited arsenal, he has humiliated both the Hercules equivalent and the Socrates equivalent in survival, and he still had remaining darts in his quiver. He even fooled the experts who spent most of their lives in front of the camera, and thus even faked his death, something which might have been unintentional, but still, perfect.

Well, other than the facts that the monster details are awesome, and the leading ladies do a great job along with looking stunning, the more interesting thing is the philosophy involved in it. The gods who are kept underground by ritual sacrifice are more like the viewers who need those good doses of movies in a certain pattern, and the breaking of that pattern might destroy the movie by depriving it of the common viewers, but the gods are change, and variety would come in another generation of movies. May be for a change, the Whore survives, or the whole situation might be reversed. In the case of the giant monstrous gods coming out of the ground to destroy humanity, as the Fool would agree at any point of time, there is the need for another species to be given a chance where humanity failed in its treatment of its own species as well as nature. This movie is a surprise, and it leaves so much for its viewers, to find and deconstruct in their own world, as the gods that they are, and not as the voyeurs who look on the screen from darkness with full confidence that nobody is watching them. There are so many possibilities for imagination related to this movie, and the movie audience got the power. It would have surely been a grand success if its had released here, but what to do for people who can’t even release Evil Dead.

Release date: 13th April 2012
Running time: 95 minutes
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Amy Acker, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.