Before I book a movie ticket, I usually check the rating on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. If the IMDB score is high, I factor in how big the film franchise is to give a lower weightage in my head to the IMDB score in the initial days as I assume most votes are from die hard fans who would vote only one way. I believe I’ve got it down to a science. Of course you might disagree with my choices but judging solely by how happy I am coming out of a movie theater after paying for that overpriced ticket, my system is pretty sound.
Usually, my system keeps me far away from any movie that says ‘musical’ in the description. The aversion started with the 2011 Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler movie ‘Coriolanus’, which my roommate and I went to with great expectations. We had seen just a trailer and it looked bad-ass. My roomie got an extra large tub of popcorn and we settled in for what looked like a good movie which started with Gerard Butler sharpening a knife while watching the news on TV. A little later, Ralph Fiennes started giving a speech to his army and started off with what sounded like a Shakespearean quote. Slightly weird but we rolled with it, only the Shakespeare quotes never stopped. For the rest of the movie, both the lead actors kept talking in Shakespearean prose to each other and everyone around them, talking about how they will ‘smite thee down with my sword’ or about the sound of war-drums while wearing Kevlar and shooting machine guns. My roomie forgot all about the popcorn and we just kept asking ‘what the fuck is this’ to each other for 2 hours. We were so mystified we thought of asking the theatre folks if they put the wrong audio track on. Even after the movie we had to Google it to finally believe this was actually what was intended. And the worst thing was all the critic reviews praising the movie. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus says: “Visceral and visually striking, Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus proves Shakespeare can still be both electrifying and relevant in a modern context“. It was about as fitting and relevant as the middle aged uncle next door suddenly speaking only in hip-hop rap would be. Technically I guess Coriolanus wasn’t a musical, but I don’t know what the fuck else to call it. After watching it I decided I’m never watching a Hollywood movie in which people don’t speak in normal English. My resolve was further strengthened when I asked my roomie how another musical he watched with his girlfriend was and he just said ‘Man. Hugh Jackman….Wolverine singing and dancing… WTF”
Like all Keralites, I grew up on a staple of great Malayalam movies with intelligent, realistic and often funny storylines without much of masala. Around the time I was in college, the good movies dried up. Over time as distance from the homeland (‘naadu’) grew, I gave up watching Malayalam movies altogether after I saw the Dileep starrer ‘Spanish Masala’ on a bus to Kerala. Dileep is the actor who was recently arrested for the alleged kidnap and assault of a popular actress but honestly he should have been jailed years ago for that movie. I could not connect to any of the stories being shown on screen anymore. The storylines sucked, the actors were old and desperate to seem young and there were too many slow motion shots. As time went by I started hearing about good Malayalam movies with new actors, writers and directors but I didn’t really believe it till I saw Dulqar’s ‘Ustad Hotel’ on DVD. Finally there was a movie that spoke to me. It had a young actor who carried off the role effortlessly without overacting, fantastic visuals and music and a story about a departed son of the soil finding home again that spoke to most of us who had left Kerala in search of education or jobs. After that I found that the Malayalam film industry was back to making topical movies again. I’m still somewhat behind and have a lot of good movies on my watch-list that I haven’t got to yet. Kali was somewhere way down that list but when a Maharashtrian in office started telling me, a mallu to watch this nice Malayalam thriller, I decided it is shameful not to. It turned out to be one of the better movies I have seen recently across languages.
Kali is not one of those movies that will make a lot of money or get talked about a lot like ‘Premam’. It has no songs and isn’t that glamorous or much of a rabble rouser, in spite of the name. It is however a fantastic thriller which really makes you totter on the edge of your seat at times. But first and foremost, this movie has a very important message for an audience that is used to movies glorifying anger and reckless ‘heroism’. Most of our movies, no matter which language shows the usual trope of a righteously angry hero losing his temper and rushing to face the villains without giving a damn about being outgunned or outnumbered. The heroine will gasp and look all worried at first but then the expression on her face along with that of all spectators on both sides of the screen will change to awe. This ideal of masculinity is what we have been sold for years and years and a surprising number of people believe it. If someone wrongs you or your girl when you’re out, what’s the first thing you’re supposed to do? Guage the situation and surroundings? Or lose your head and get ready for a fight? How many of us will admit that it might be better to guage the situation first? Are we men if we do not react? Hell, even while writing this I’m wondering if someone will misunderstand and think that I am a coward or that I’m advocating cowardice. Advocating caution and prudence just does not work as this is the first thing in everybody’s head (including yours) when you do, which is exactly why you need more stories like the one in ‘Kali’.
For the last few episodes, Daenerys Targaryen really wanted to burn stuff and all the older people except for one cool grandma kept telling her ”you can’t burn this, you can’t burn that”. You could see the petulant question “What can I burn?” behind her entitled and impressively pliant eyebrows in every scene. This episode she heard about another ally biting the dust courtesy of an army led by one Lannister and the myopic plans of another and asked the question (no not that one) to Jon Snow and he said no, you can’t burn the Red Keep. “Well if I can’t burn castles or armies holed up inside castles, might as well burn them in transit” was the logical conclusion of that discussion and oh boy was it fun to watch. Well, not for Jaime but we’ll get to that.
It made strategic sense as well. Of course it might have been better if she burnt the Lannister army on the onward trip instead of the return one but for that you need scouts or spies for intel, you know the kind of thing Varys was supposedly good at providing. It’s actually quite unfair that Tyrion gets all the heat for failed plans. His job is to scheme and Varys’s job is to provide information required for those schemes. Otherwise he’s just a bald Eunuch who can’t fight but still hangs around the likes of Grey Worm who has completely gotten over being a Eunuch recently. But anyway that was so last episode. This episode absolutely killed it.
The art of making trailers has progressed quite a lot but sometimes I wonder if the director and writer of the movie ever bother talking to whoever is making the trailer to make sure they capture the essence of the movie right. I’m not very familiar with the industry but I think whoever made the trailer for this movie wanted to create a really short film based on their own ideas about what the story should be rather than give a teaser for the real one. Every trailer for War For The Planet Of The Apes hyped up a war that Caesar didn’t start but means to finish. In fact that exact line is repeated in every single trailer. In the actual movie however, he only says “I didn’t start this war”. He never says “but I will finish it” unless it was part of a deleted scene which we haven’t seen yet. The posters were equally misleading, such as the one at the beginning of this post.
How can anyone look at that poster and not expect an epic battle between humans and apes? But this scene never happens. There is never a single sequence in the whole movie that has two armies facing off in this way. There is a skirmish in the jungle in the beginning but nothing like this.
I never expected to become the fan of a series of movies which had titles like ‘rise of the planet of the apes’. Try telling someone to watch the movie. It sounds like you are telling them to watch some B-grade monster movie at worst and at best, a pop corn summer flick. But this series has proved to be so much more, and it looks the last installment is going to continue on the impressive trajectory set by the previous two. If you have any doubts, look at the latest poster.
Think about that for a second. A movie titled ‘war for the planet of the apes’, the last entry in a blockbuster trilogy and instead of apes jumping over fire, they chose to show what looks like a gorilla gently putting a flower behind a little girl’s ear.
Movie sequels have the irritating habit of taking the loudest parts of the previous movie, blowing that up 10 X and leaving out everything else. For example Bahubali 1, ridiculous as it is, still had a Trishoola Vyuha (Trident) battle strategy in the climatic fight. Bahubali 2 chose to have soldiers catapulted across castle walls using surprisingly pliant palm trees. This isn’t a problem in just Indian cinema either. I think the next fast and the furious movie will probably have Dom, the thief who just wants to spend quality time with family deciding to steal a nuke from N. Korea because it is the right thing to do- if they haven’t already done that in the last 6 movies I didn’t see. But anyway, point is, movie studios don’t usually go with subtlety in sequels, so its very refreshing to see this poster focus on the humanity (and apanity?) of the characters. A few fans pointed out that it might be a reference to Frankenstein’s monster playing with a little girl in a garden before killing her. I think thats unlikely because the gorilla in this series is usually like Hagrid in Harry Potter- big but huggable. However, it might still be alluding to evolved apes, mans creation dealing with mankind tenderly before destroying them completely.
I often wonder if movie makers really think so much about such subliminal references or if we just make it up coz we are jobless and they choose to roll with it. But anyway, I like how that sounds so I choose to believe it, just as a certain country’s president chooses to believe global warming is made in China.