Shazam!

What is the movie about? :: In an ancient magical temple in another dimension, a powerful wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) has spent centuries searching for someone pure of heart to grant him his powers and make him his champion. The previous champion was corrupted as he had released the Seven Deadly Sins for personal gains which killed the rest of the Council of Wizards who shared space with him. The sins, pride, wrath, greed, envy, sloth, gluttony and lust are also looking to escape and find their own champion. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who had spent many years searching for the magical temple, manages to find the clues, and reach the place before the champion could be discovered by the wizard. He was someone who was forced to live in hope for finding the power, after being rejected at a younger age by the wizard due to his attraction to the temptations of the deadly sins.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Making his way to the magical temple, he steals the Eye of Sin, and the sins become part of him as they defeat the wizard. An angry Thaddeus uses his newfound power to kill his father, brother, and his own company Sivana Industries’ board of directors, as nobody believed what he described as a child, about the wizard and the deadly sins. At the same time, a fourteen year old foster child Billy Batson (Asher Angel) keeps running away from foster homes to search for his mother, from whom he became separated when they were at a grand carnival. Finally, he is put in a group home with five other foster children including Frederick Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who becomes his best friend, the beautiful and academically driven Mary Bromfield (Grace Fulton), extremely loving and good natured Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), gamer and technology expert Eugene Choi (Ian Chen) shy and sensitive Pedro Pena (Jovan Armand)

And what else follows with the happenings? :: The group home is run by Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans) who tries to keep the family together with great effort. But they are not really a family with differences showing up at all times, especially with Billy, who desperately wants to meet his biological mother again. One day, when Billy finally decides to stand up for Frederick as a brother as he sees himself in his position, he is chased by bullies to end up in a metro from where he is transported to the magical temple, which is known as the Rock of Eternity. There, the wizard chooses him to be his champion of the good against evil, and to save the world from the deadly sins which were unleashed, and the vessel which Thaddeus had become. A confused Billy reluctantly agrees, and on saying the magic word, is transformed into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) – but he is clueless about what happens next with the wizard gone. What can he do now?

The defence of Shazam! :: This is the movie when DC decides to go away from its darker and serious tone, towards a world which has common men and women with children having all the fun in the world, and at the same time, brings some fine jokes. Shazam! never really makes one feel that there is terror beyond words, and that the world is in peril – it is thus something which is best suited for children. The movies like Justice League, Man of Steel, Aquaman and Wonder Woman gave that feeling which made an apocalypse come closer, but in this case, with a continuing funny side and added kids, it never feels that the Seven Deadly Sins and its vessel will bring that terror. The movie’s superhero elements are usual, but well explored. We also have some kind of message about family, which feels too common and repetitive, but is there to be taken.

The claws of flaw :: Compared to the usual superhero stuff, Shazam! takes a deviation, and this sometimes works, and at times, it just doesn’t. Without the feeling of enough terror faced by the world, it struggles to keep up the momentum, even though it is never that foolish as Deadpool and Deadpool 2 even with that funny side which stays throughout the movie. It is still not that effective as Ant-Man and Ant-Man 2 managed to come up with. Starting from an idea which wouldn’t make sense even in the superhero world, the movie is more or less childish in nature, and for the same reason, it doesn’t work that well with the adult audience. Shazam! is best suited to be an animated movie, and the fact that they have managed this far is worth the applause, but it will not be something that will stay in our minds for long as it goes too childish at times.

The performers of the soul :: This movie comes from the director of Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation – doesn’t really carry that feeling of horror and terror into this movie, as he makes another one to work. David F Sandberg will also be directing the second film in the series too. Concerning the performances, the movie’s strongest point is its villain, Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana is a joy to watch as he becomes a controlled, evil villain whom we can admire. The kids led by Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer are pretty good, but nothing much for us to remember. Zachary Levi makes a pretty good impact as the adult version superhero. Grace Fulton is the next one whom we remember. She could have a bigger superhero appearance sooner or later as she seems to be very much suited for such a character. The Seven Deadly Sins could have had human forms too, as they would provide more to explore within them.

How it finishes :: Shazam! is the first movie which I watch during the Corona Lockdown, during its early stages. India went into a complete lockdown on 24th of March midnight, and it was supposed to go on until 14th of April midnight, a time period of 21 days. But our lockdown at home had started rather early, on 22nd of March, one day before the Janata Curfew and the lockdown of Corona infected districts and states. The situation has definitely changed now, and so have our worries. With the vaccine almost here, lets hope that we all survive this pandemic. We can only hope that there are no more big variations of the virus which would bring further trouble. This will also be the final movie of the year to be reviewed on Movies of the Soul, as we hope for a new beginning in 2021, with the expectation that it won’t be that bad as 2020, but you can never be so sure about it.

Release date: 5th April 2019
Running time: 132 minutes
Directed by: David F Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Lost Village

Vampire Owl: I was looking for blue creatures in our realm. There has been none.

Vampire Bat: After orcs had chosen green and goblins also choosing the same, the popularity for blue has been decreasing.

Vampire Owl: And these werewolves always come in black.

Vampire Bat: Just like those Batman gadgets.

Vampire Owl: Even Mr. Luttappi is just red, you know.

Vampire Bat: Do you even remember having watched these Smurfs movies?

Vampire Owl: Yes, I can clearly remember that I have watched them both.

Vampire Bat: Okay, then talk about something that you remember more than the rest.

Vampire Owl: I don’t think that there was anything in particular – there was the village, blue people, bad wizard with a cat…

Vampire Bat: It was the main problem. They were not at all memorable.

[Gets three cups of strong tea with Mariegold biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: In the secret Smurf Village, the Smurfs continue to live a happy life, hidden from the evil that await in the outside world. Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), their leader takes care of them as a fatherly figure, and things go on quite normally through times. Among those Smurfs who are given names according to their character or purpose are Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi), Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) and many others, with even the strangest of names. It is only Smurfette (Demi Lovato) whom, despite being admired by all other smurfs as the only girl smurf around, seems to have no sense of purpose. As she was created by the evil remorseless wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) from a lump of clay to use as the means to catch other smurfs, now she has no meaning of life, transformed into one of them, and out of the evil ways. It keeps bothering her most of the time.

So, what happens next in the adventure? :: With Gargamel on a mission to capture the Smurfs, steal their blue essence, and become the strongest wizard in the world, Smurfette and her friends sneak out of their village. Gargamel’s pet cat Azrael (Frank Welker) and his pet vulture Monty (Dee Bradley Baker) are also on the look out for any sign of a smurf in the woods. Smurfette comes up against a blue creature hidden by leaves, which runs away into the Forbidden Forest, and leaves a hat behind. She as well as the hat is taken by Garamel, who uses it to discover the location of a new group of smurfs with his magic. She is rescued by her friends, and all of them get grounded by Papa Smurf for disobeying him. But she is determined to save these lost smurfs from the evil wizard, and with her friends, set out for Forbidden Village, no matter how forbidden it is for her people. At the same time, Gargamel, Azrael and Monty also set out in search for the new village.

And what is to follow with the blue people against a wizard and his minions? :: The smurfs are attacked by Gargamel and his team, and is presumed dead by the evil wizard, but they escape with the help of a few bunnies. It is quite the dangerous mission that they are up against, as they have no idea what dangers lie ahead in a world which has been forbidden to them for such a long time. There they come up against animals and plants which are not normal, and soon they would be on a race against Gargamel, Azrael and Monty who are also traveling on the same route. Surprised to find each other again, they race, only to have Gargamel drowning in the river. After Hefty and Smurfette support the idea of saving him, he throws the smurfs down the waterfalls instead of thanking them. But they survive, and travel on land. They are soon trapped by the blue creatures under the leaves. They are supposed to be smurfs aren’t they? If they are smurfs, they are surely in danger, right?

The defence of Smurfs: The Lost Village :: There are good visuals for this one, that is for sure, and we get to see some nice animation not just with the characters, but also with the world. There is no more the mixture of the real world and the animated world, which is also a nice thing – also, there are no humans in this one except for the big evil wizard; it is another positive thing, as the mixture can have big problems with working. This is indeed cute and sweet too, and with all the colours around, the kids are going to enjoy it without doubt, and everyone else is going to have their childish side awakened. There are occasions when you feel that this is the kind of movie which you would have loved to watch during your early childhood, but wasn’t there; we are always happy that we had those Doordarshan cartoons like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Ducktales, Talespin and Tom and Jerry, but we imagine ourselves having such a treat, but childhood is long gone, a sad thing indeed.

The claws of flaw :: The movie is without doubt, predictable from the first moment itself. It is not like the same becomes a big problem in an animated feature film which is prone to the same. But you know that there have been exceptions like Moana, Zootopia, Frozen, Inside Out and others which have deviated from the expected path during the journey more than once. Smurfs: The Lost Village never really stands a chance against the animated movies of our times, with How to Train Your Dragon 2, Finding Dory and Kung Fu Panda 3, all being pretty cool sequels inheriting the original’s qualities. Just like its predecessors, this one has predictability written into it. The movie also has too much focus on one character whose search for her purpose gets rather repetitive. There is also the inability to capitalize on a funny side which always had the chance to be better. It even has a villain who is not even half smart as his cat, and that is not used to bring enough laughter. Better and smarter story in also not on cards.

How it finishes :: Smurfs: The Lost Village can be seen not to deviate, not inside the movie, and also not within the franchise. But it surely manages to be one of the most appropriate movies for the kids, with not much left to ponder about except for finding one’s purpose in life, and it leaves the message that being good will bring that meaning of life on this day, or at some other point – there is only the need to wait for the same. During these time when the life as well as the movies are so complicated, this kind of cuteness becomes rather necessary, and let the simplicity of this one save us from the complex evil of a world which is slowly and steadily being taken over by those who have no heart. The Smurfs franchise is becoming more interested in being the brand which has movies to add to it rather than flicks with big tales. Well, there is more than one than one way to go around with things, and cute little creatures are more than just fair for children.

Release date: 7th April 2017
Running time: 91 minutes
Directed by: Kelly Asbury
Starring: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, Meghan Trainor, Jake Johnson, Mandy Patinkin, Julia Roberts, Gordon Ramsay, Tituss Burgess, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Kelly Asbury, Bret Marnell, Melissa Sturm, Frank Welker, Dee Bradley Baker

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Doctor Strange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Hobbit II

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On The Hobbit :: In the first installment of a three-part film prequel series based on the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien called An Unexpected Journey, we saw thirteen dwarves accompanied by one wizard and a hobbit, going on a mission to reclaim the dwarf lands which was earlier claimed by a fire-breathing dragon, Smaug. It was then that our hobbit had attained possession of a ring from Gollum which will make a difference in many ways later. The film had ended with a vision of the Lonely mountain with the dragon, and the creature opening its eyes. This movie has released almost exactly an year after the first movie released, and the third movie There and Back Again will be there on December 17th, 2014. It would have been even better if Guillermo del Toro was more involved with the movie, and it was his vision that was there, but even now, this movie is incredibly strong, and one would wonder if how different this would have been if he was in charge – may be something which was so different that one has to wonder so much? Who knows?

What is it about? :: After taking refuge from the orcs at the home of a skin-changer, the team of fifteen splits up as Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) who separates from them with a promise to meet them before they reach their destination. After fighting giant spiders, they are caught by the wood-elves from where the escape hidden in empty wine barrels. Bilbo Baggins’ (Martin Freeman) invisibility ring helps in both cases. Meanwhile, Gandalf fights a legion of orcs as well as an entity known as the Necromancer. They are later helped by a human bowman Bard (Luke Evans) and later receives a great send-off when the talk about the riches come into play. But the orcs are after them, and so are two elves, Legolas and Tauriel who have more obvious reasons. With Gandalf missing, the fourteen are on their own in their battle against the dragon, and the questions remain about how they would get inside the mountain, how will they get the Arkenstone which is needed to rule, and how they will slay, defeat or at least survive from the dragon if they could. Another interesting question might be about who all will survive, with a dragon, an evil necromancer and lots of orcs involved.

The defence of The Hobbit II :: Talking about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, this is exactly what I had expected from this movie, and the movie has provided me with exactly what I was expecting. The fans of the book might disagree, but I haven’t read it and the whole movie remains a spectacle for me. The movie is an improvement from the previous one of the series, and it is a huge improvement as the action sequences and special effects are considered – may be I am a little prejudiced with this point as I watched the first movie on television in Sony Pix and this one in a multiplex in 3D, first day third show. But you can’t deny the strength of action sequences here, especially with the team’s barrel run chased by the orcs who are chased by the elves, and then when Legolas is involved. The dragon is also well-designed and it is an interesting character with its fire breath adding to the special effects more burning beauty. The spiders, the web and the forest remains another area which makes the whole thing interesting. One can actually take time to talk about almost every character out there, but I would rather not do the same.

Positives and Negatives :: We know the dragon is an impressive creature here, and so are all the creatures of different races, but there is one thing that doesn’t stand that good, it is the female elf Tauriel who seems to do nothing interesting other than create a bad love triangle. But we can still think that she never existed as the dwarf whom she healed was treated by other dwarves or humans. But the character is awesome in the action sequences, so may be she can be of interest in the next movie as long as the significance of that unnecessary love triangle will become less. As a character who is not in the book, I would think that she won’t be liked by the book fans. The movie is very long, but there is no dull moment in it, so just take that length negativity out of the equation. May be some people don’t like journeys like this, but obviously this was what one was supposed to expect, and the ending is quick, but better executed than The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and gives people more interest in going for the third movie which is surely going to be heavily packed with action. The 3D is fine and even excellent at times, nothing spectacular considering the overall quality of the movie, but I wasn’t looking for that in this movie.

Performers of the soul :: As the movie gets into action very early unlike The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which takes an eternity, our people are also prepared. Martin Freeman steals the show, and Ian McKellen comes as the big tree which holds things together. Richard Armitage’s dwarf king gets better, and Luke Evans’ presence is something which will be strong only by fulfilling his character’s destiny in the next movie if it is indeed the fate. Orlando Bloom is the ultimate action hero of the movie, and the number of claps he received in the theatre can’t be counted. The movie needed the character from Lord of the Rings, even as I hear people say that he is not The Hobbit character. He is more an archer magician right there making most of his screen presence. Despite Evangeline Lilly’s nice portrayal of her character, it is an avoidable she-elf – otherwise she is good and excellent in the action sequences. Well, elves are crowd favourites! Aidan Turner is equally detestable for that love triangle even as one has to like the way he has performed. Lee Pace makes a fine elf king, while the other dwarves work as good as they did in the first movie. Above all, love Benedict Cumberbatch’s fire-breathing red dragon, for that one rules.

Soul exploration :: The movie deals with the courage of a hobbit yet again, as despite his weaknesses and the lack of abilities, he joins the dwarf warriors, and continues his journey here. He is more heroic than he was in the first movie and even saves the dwarves from being eaten by giant spiders as well as being eternally imprisoned in the elf prisons – he even talks to the dragon face to face, and there is the courage that he has found, along with the ring. Meanwhile, Bard has to accomplish his destiny or rather fail in it, leaving a question mark for the final movie of the series. Elves, hobbits, dwarves, goblins, orcs, trolls and humans – they have all been in the series, and except for goblins and trolls, the rest make an impact in this movie too. The human neutrality is evident, and so is the orc alignment towards pure evil. The dwarves and hobbits remain more on the good side a little more than neutral, and the elves are good in their own way. But when we look at the ideals of the three – dwarves, elves and hobbits, they are different with variable views on each other, and if given a choice, I would think that most would chose the elves, and so would I. This racial difference is an incredible thing, and I have loved this variety in creatures since playing Age of Wonders.

How it finishes :: I would sincerly hope that all who are praising the special effects and CGI of some of the worst movies of the year, to watch this one (Krrish 3 fans can look at Dhoom 3 when it releases if waiting for an opponent of equal platform). The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is one of the best movies of the year and also a visual treat which entertains with its witty dialogues, incredible action sequences and a flurry of special effects. It indeed makes The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey feel that it could have been a better movie. Peter Jackson has indeed created the right hobbit movie which will surely make me choose Halflings as the race the next time I play Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic – something which I had given up in favour of the Draconians and the Undead. Meanwhile, I hope you all had a great Friday the 13th. It is the favourite day (and night) of the Vampire Bat, and on this occasion, he has decided to go lenient on his ratings, but The Hobbit II actually deserves it. Still, the one year wait for the third movie is going to be so depressing!

Release date: 13th December 2013
Running time: 161 minutes
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.