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A Monster Calls Movie Review (2016) | Battling Your Inner Monsters

A Monster Calls is a dramatic stunner. It squirms your insides when you try to empathize with its protagonist, one hell of a child actor, Lewis MacDougall. Its evident story happens between its lines, as it takes refuge of a child’s fancy to expound some of life’s biggest lessons – expressing yourself as you are, accepting a pitfall and coming to terms with it.

The movie is based on an enthralling book of the same name by Patrick Ness that actually originated from an idea by Siobhan Dowd.

Cardinal Theme of A Monster Calls

There are two facades to the human brain. The one, that is the sane one, says things that you really mean. Then there is the other one, your daft side that keeps interposing and writing off decisions laid down by the first.  It is a constant battle between them that affects your choices, that plays your mood to its tune. This might sound crazy to a grown up who has the reins of his brains well sought and unknotted, who is often not vexed by his choices. (That’s too rare again!) But to a child whose thoughts run rampant, it is simply huge.

The negative and the positive thoughts that keep curdling inside you wage wars trying to cloud what you really wanna do or say. And that’s where the movie’s true theme resides. In those hollows of vexation!

image of felicity jones as mum and Lewis MacDougall as Conor in a monster calls movie

What you really mean, the purest form of it all comes when you are feeling a true uninfluenced feel. The movie tries to bring its protagonist to terms with his actual pious veracity, and it only concludes when its job gets done.

J. A. Bayona’s Engaging Direction

It’s official! There’s no director better than J. A. Bayona who could successfully unsheathe qualm and disquiet from a child and then present it in the most beautiful way possible. We saw that happen in the havocking nature pillage The Impossible in 2012 when he made us cry tears of rekindling joy, and of course in the stunning 2007 horror The Orphanage, which was Bayona’s debut film.

To bring out the natural flair of Lewis’ acting prowess Bayona brims up his life with ample loner shots before bringing the Monster in. His direction is so pleasantly lucid that you find yourself reading a child’s thoughts on the go. It has proper focus to dribble emotions right into your hearts.

A Monster Calls walks in with three, nay four, extraordinary stories with hidden meanings and messages. All of them are beautifully done with outstanding CGI. The Monster appears very real too.

Plot of A Monster Calls Movie (Spoilers Ahead)

To begin with the prologue we find Conor (Lewis) staring at a tree. He is constantly miffed by a nerve-racking dream. In it he finds his mother portrayed by Felicity Jones caving in to an annihilating earthquake. It swallows her up, leaving him helpless and stranded in the process. We find him leaving for school, preparing his own breakfast, dressing himself up for school, in short, taking care of himself. His mother is sick, and it is up to him to look after himself. With that you can almost see how Conor’s nightmare is perfectly poetic and in line with his biggest fears.

He summons up a monster voiced brilliantly by Liam Neeson who presses on telling him three stories for extricating Conor’s nightmare. All of these stories are strewn across the movie and in context with things happening with his life. The tree monster claims that since it was itself the common element in every tale, it knew very well what went on in those tales.

Three Stories of Tree Monster

The first story is about a kingdom that was miffed by vile creatures. A king loses all his sons except one to them, who grows up to become a warrior. Before he comes of age however, the king marries a beautiful young woman. Soon the king dies and the world believes that it was her who had poisoned the king. To keep the reins of the kingdom in her hands, she plots to marry the prince. However, the prince runs away with a farm girl who he was supposedly in love with. They stop to rest under a tree (the monster).

On waking up, he finds the farm girl murdered. Declaring that it was the queen who had murdered her and convincing fellow farmers of it, he wages war against her along with them. The tree monster awakes and joins the attacking mob, however the monster saves the queen in the process carrying her to a far away land. The reason the tree monster saves the queen is because it saw the prince killing the farm girl to snatch the throne wrongfully.

The above story reflects the life of Conor as well, when we are introduced to his grandmother whom he abhors profusely.

Second Story of Apothecary and Parson

The second crucial story is the one that deals with an apothecary, a guy who is inclined to treat diseases and ailments using conventional methodologies. Fighting him off is a new world parson who discourages everybody from going to apothecary for treatment. He stops the parson from cutting down a healing tree (the monster tree) that could have allowed him to cure any disease in the world.

However, one day Parson’s two daughters become really sick and all his attempts to cure them goes in vain. When nothing works he finally falls down to his knees seeking apothecary for his help. The apothecary refuses him when he finds out that the parson is ready to sell his faith and whatever he stood for, just for the sake of saving his own daughters.

The tree monster surprisingly awakens to decimate the parson’s house even though clearly apothecary seemed at fault for not helping the parson. The monster believed that if the parson hadn’t been so selfish in the first place, he would have been able to save both his daughters by allowing the apothecary to cut him down. He wasn’t staying true to himself by deteriorating from his path, and so he needed to be punished for it.

In the real world, Conor destroys Grandma’s house believing it to be Parson’s. When his grandma finds it, she doesn’t punish him for it, since she considers it a mere ripple against what’s imminent.

The Third Story of Invisibility

The third story was supposed to be about a boy being invisible. It actually happens when Conor is tired of being invisible. When everyone (including his mother) keeps treating him as if there was nothing wrong with his mother, as if he did not deserve to know what was befalling her. The fact that he already knew that his mother had cancer made it even sadder. On being bullied once again, he breaks all hell loose on his predator, by calling up the monster and beating the hell out of him.

As an aftermath, he finds the whole world looking at him, of him becoming visible, of everybody knowing about him, of the principal acknowledging his presence.

You can pre-order A Monster Calls Movie here:


The Fourth Story: Conor’s Nightmare

As mentioned before there were actually four stories, the fourth one being Conor’s acknowledgment of his biggest nightmares. It is summoned by the monster actually that recreates the exact setup Conor used to imagine, and re-imagine as his nightmare. His biggest nightmare, however, wasn’t letting his mum fall into the maws of abyss, but was that he wished it all to get over. Like an innocent brain wishing a thing and phase to pass, he had secretly wished for his mother to die. It killed him, wondering if he had unknowingly brought that fate upon her. The second sane sacred brain of his that hadn’t had the chance to accept the unacceptable finally gets a shot at understanding the impending disaster, when he is pushed on by the monster to actually feel the pain. The unstoppable cancer then does its job.

You see in all the above stories, the common element was always the tree monster. Even though Conor accepted its existence as a mere fancy, he used it to justify all of his acts. In the end, we get to know through the artistic portrayals of his mother’s drawings that the monster, and all the characters of his story were actually figments of his mother’s imagination, that she had once used to narrate him stories of.

image of conor sleeping under the tree monster in a monster calls

Amazing Parts

One of the best lines from the movie is when Conor’s mum understands. She says that she knows and fathoms everything that went inside the head of Conor. In one of the frames, she is shown actually nodding to the monster who by the way doesn’t exist. But is in a way suggestive of how mum comprehended everything that the little lad went through.

It is hard not to marvel at the magnificent water color paintings in the movie. The fact its paintings were created as a result of blowing water paint on the paper made it appear even more gorgeous. The CGI is absolutely ravishing too. Stories are brilliantly played out giving the story its innate perspective.

The most destructive scenes from A Monster Calls is, I believe, is when Conor tries to reason with her mother why the tree monster couldn’t save her, when it was supposed to? It’s hard to stop your tears of dam from breaking then. Also, when he runs wild on finding out that her death was inexorable.

The Final Verdict

A Monster Calls is an absolute wonder. It is a movie that fits the shoes of the actual book just fine. To help it achieve that is of course Lewis MacDougall’s brilliant acting, and Liam Neeson’s grave voice, and also the movie’s exceptional CGI. Transitions that go on inside the frames of all the stories are simply awe-inspiring as well.

Drama of the movie is simply top-notch. I would recommend this movie to everyone.

You can check out the trailer of A Monster Calls Movie here:

Rogue One A Star Wars Story Review (2016) | Darth Vader Lives Again!

Rogue One A Star Wars Story resuscitates on screen’s biggest and most badass villain. Darth Vader gets to live once again as Gareth Edwards presents us with a stunning story that’s squeezed precisely betwixt Episode III and IV of the Star Wars saga. His take introduces us with the legacy of an unsung squad that helps in giving the original franchise an intriguing angle.

Star Wars Reverie

Remember how as kids we used to dream of possibilities, of ways to tackle an on-screen pickle? Movies were real for us. All elements we saw were real too. So growing up watching Star Wars was no different. We would be constantly swaying under its wraps, capering around its mesmerizing reality, thinking what if we get to walk those streets filled with aliens?

What if an AT-AT walker showed up all of a sudden from nowhere? What would we do then? How would a Jedi-less world appear to be? What would it mean to normal people? If a doomy scene homed in our heads we would try to think of possibilities to escape it.

Well, the good news is Gareth Edwards was just one of those children. And a child knows a fellow child better. He directs the movie with exactly that set of mind creating a stellar prequel out of thin air.  All those imaginative fantasies of how we would have played the streets if we were there, literally comes alive.

Plot of Rogue One A Star Wars Story (Spoilers Ahead)

To comprise the plot of Rogue One it is the story we had all often wondered about. How did it reach there, the point where Darth Vader invades Princess Leia‘s ship killing everyone before capturing her. It is a very thoughtful winding tale that completes all the dots beautifully.

image of Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso in Rogue One A Star Wars Story movie

We are introduced to new characters here starting with Galen Erso portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, the mind behind the creation of the formidable planet destroyer Death Star. He is hiding on a planet named Lah’mu with his family after discovering the true motive behind the creation of the deadly weapon.

The prologue wraps with an Imperial leader Orson Krennic portrayed superbly by Ben Mendelsohn invading Galen Erso’s abode killing his wife in the process, taking Galen away with him for finishing the creation of Death Star. Galen’s daughter Jyn Erso however escapes the onslaught and is later discovered by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) the rebel leader.

The Main Mission

When the main course is served we find Bodhi Rook an imperial defector, played by Riz Ahmed, trying to contact Saw in order to deliver a message from Galen. Meanwhile a captured Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is released from her captivity by Rebel Alliance only to slap her on a mission to rescue her father. However, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) who is supposed to accompany her, has been secretly briefed by the Alliance to kill her father instead.

The path of their mission crosses with the discovery of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus who end up accompanying them to overthrow Imperial plans. We also have a worked up Imperial droid K-2SO, who accompanies Cassian at all times. Watch out for his Choke Slam in the beginning!

The fate of the Death Star lies in all of their hands. It is up to them to deliver it to Rebels so as to stop the dark side of the force from taking over.

Recreating Characters with CGI

It goes without saying we already knew how the movie was going to end. Since, we were galloping towards meeting Episode IV: A New Hope, Gareth chose to kill the whole squad directing us towards the colossal sacrifice the team made in order to retrieve schematics to destroy Death Star.

In order to make sure the thrill factor hopped aplenty, Gareth Edwards chose to bring back three pivotal characters from the original. Governor Tarkin was brought to life by CGI. Even though you could feel that it was a tad unnatural, it was still a commendable job to linger him for that long. It was more of a cameo but long enough to successfully re-create his perversion.

Then the most epic scene of the movie ensued with Darth Vader hogging the screen with his demonic shenanigans. Vader was easy since all we needed was a helmet and a heavy gasping voice to bring him back.

still of darth vader in rogue one movie

Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director!

The final showdown which could have been easily the epilogue, finds Vader storming in from the dark to a platoon of waiting Rebellions. When you see him rampage past rebellions choking and killing them one by one, you realize how monstrous, intimidating and huge Darth Vader really was. Hands down one of the finest and memorable scenes from the movie!

It was soon followed by an enchanting glimpse of Princess Leia as she receives schematics in her hands by a fellow rebel. She was created with painstaking detailing too, and it almost sends you back in time as you watch her smile.

You can pre-order Rogue One A Star Wars Story from here:

Screenplay and Music

What was equally beautiful was the fact that the screenplay of Rogue One A Star Wars Story doesn’t get compromised either. There were plenty of good one liners enough to send you into a pensive mode. Like the time Cassian responds to this by Jyn

I am not used to people sticking around when things go bad.

by saying “Welcome Home!”.

Or when Jyn Erso puts the idea of a revolt in heads of Rebellions with a:

We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.

It makes you wonder if it were not for her, may be they wouldn’t have really ever stood up.

Rogue one has that whiff of original Star Wars music. It constantly caters your repressed memory bringing elements of nostalgia. Be it be Darth Vader’s stylish entry or a constant turmoil in the heads of the Rebellion. It has Michael Giacchino‘s apt music to complement it with.

Rogue One has references galore from Stars Wars franchise to make you instantly euphoric. Easter Eggs are strewn all across to make you feel all gooey. You get to see R2-D2 and C-3PO too at one point. They are subtly put.

The Final Verdict

The beauty of Rogue One movie lies in how everything unfurls into a plausible course of action. It has the gravitas of storytelling and it promises to keep you riveted. Rogue One A Star Wars Story banks on surprises galore. They are inscribed in its frames as it takes you off guard with plenty of Stormtroopers and Walkers. Thrill of a laser gun fight, (only this time Stormtroopers can hit the target), of plotting a covert mission, executing it as planned, watching Rebellion spaceships come to the rescue, reliving A New Hope moments all over again give you immense pleasure.

I say you watch this movie right now if you are a Star Wars fanatic. You are going to love it.

May the Force be with us.

You can check out the trailer of Rogue One A Star Wars Story here:

Inferno Movie Review (2016) | Robert Langdon Burns in Inferno’s Mediocrity

Skipping The Lost Symbol altogether Ron Howard was asked to do the Inferno movie instead. Unfortunately, Ron’s Robert Langdon franchise isn’t really doing so great when you take into account the colossal success of Dan Brown’s books. Do you wonder – is it because of Ron Howard’s direction? Or whether is it because it takes away almost everything from a book when a director is trying to give us a gist through his frames. The latter, right?

Well that’s an enclave we cannot help moving towards, given the limited time frame allotted to directors. But then of course there are things that we could definitely furbish so that the end result doesn’t look all impoverished in sheer adequacy at least.

INFERNO MOVIE PLOT

Inferno finds Tom Hanks reprise his role as the renowned professor Robert Langdon yet again. This time however he is shaken and messed up by what looks like a probable head injury. He wakes up in a hospital with Dr. Sienna Brooks played by Felicity Jones tending to him. Soon bullets ensue coming from a stout Vayentha. What follows is a quest to figure out what, who and why someone had him drugged whilst trying to decode Dante’s morphed map of hell that he found in a Faraday pointer in his belongings.

still of Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Inferno movie

The attempt is then to foil a deadly plan of mass killing that Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), a billionaire debatable visionary has hidden in an unknown place. Inferno movie retains a great culminating point (which was terribly shown) which basically helps it to fight the franchise’s redundancy. But alas! It’s not enough!

DOZENS OF ISSUES (SPOILERS AHEAD)

The beauty of a Dan Brown novel lies in the fact that you are constantly decrypting codes alongside protagonists. That’s where the thrill lies. Figuring everything out by yourself, that makes you feel kind of intelligible. Au contraire, a movie however gambols on leaving you with a distasteful serum. You are trying to figure out something, but you realize the actor has already figured it out. That’s where the blame to ‘movie editing’ should really flare toward.

Glimpses that Robert Langdon see of Inferno, though abounding with theatrics vex you too much with their flickering lights. It doesn’t let you garb frames in a proper focus. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder where did Howard’s tranquility go?

Then the worst one is how Ron Howard decides to mess with the story. We find Elizabeth Sinskey portrayed by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Robert Langdon’s former love interest. In an attempt to slow down a bit, Ron keeps stretching their absent chemistry beyond limit. It is almost as if he rushed in towards the ending just to reach a dead end. That’s where the movie actually slows down a bit, and lets you swallow focus. But really! We could have lived without that cheap twist Ron.

Even though the betrayal and it’s follow up was brilliantly shot, Ron Howard went as far as to change the ending. According to Ron, Sienna ends up becoming the ‘immature’ girl in the Inferno movie, which wasn’t really the case.

CONTRASTING ACTORS

One of those actors who seemed to be acting extraordinarily well for a highly paced movie was Irrfan Khan. His flair for dialogues as he broods for a while before delivering his lines brings along all the experience he has garnered over the years as an actor. His portrayal of Harry Sims The Provost though limited was beautifully carved.

still of irrfan khan as Harry Sims The Provost in inferno movie

Then there was the worst one too. Christoph Bouchard, portrayed by Omar Sy ladies and gentleman! even though he is a good actor, he seems a tad out of place. As if it wasn’t supposed to be his timeline at all. There is no subtlety when he assigns his agents to follow up a feigned lead, and then goes to contact Langdon and Brooks.

So now you know Dan Brown books are way better than the movies, you can order the illustrative Inferno book from here:

THE FINAL VERDICT

As the old maxim goes, “Read the book!”, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch Robert Langdon movies. All that Dan Brown knowledge that slithers on to cryptic leaflets go poof, if you choose to watch its movie instead. Ron Howard has never really done Dan’s books justice, like ever. It is time someone else gets into his shoes, or even better try to helm a slow paced pensive thrilling TV series. Now that would do him justice!

You can check out the Inferno movie trailer here:

The Theory of Everything Review (2014) | Homage to Jane and Stephen Hawking

The Theory of Everything is hands down James Marsh’s finest. It is a biopic of the living (something producers rarely pick) miracle, Stephen Hawking. The life of the prodigy is smitten with misfortunes, wonders, eurekas, not to forget the love of his life Jane Hawking who sacrificed everything normal just to be with the polymath.

Plot of The Theory of Everything

The life of Stephen Hawking is in itself a melodramatic narrative which doesn’t need any more filler to spice things up. It already reeks of mishaps and tragedies. What is worth noticing is the fact that despite all the adversities that dangled around in his life, that could have ended up becoming a documentary per se, Jane still had plenty to do in it. Nay, she was one of the primal forces! It was pulled off and buffed up brilliantly by Jane, without whom the master couldn’t have possibly ever made it.

still of Jane Hawking and Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything

So, The Theory of Everything movie packs in a story that scales the lives of both of them. It pays equal importance to its deuteragonist, and lets you have a good look into things that constituted their living.

Direction of the movie

One of the reasons The Theory of Everything movie stays highly revered in my head is because James Marsh tries his level best to present theories in the easiest way possible. Complex structures that general multitude wouldn’t get have been expounded brilliantly at different points of time. He presents simple examples to make us understand. He also endeavors to make things relate to us by explaining Hawking’s magnificent discoveries. Even whilst he diligently does that he makes sure not to miss out the fundament – the alluring drama that the flick gorgeously carries.

Marsh captures every aspect, every crossroad and setback that Hawking faced in his life with perfection. People tend to remember only the renowned. But what Marsh did by manifesting the parallel life of Jane Hawking, the mental agony she had to go through, the dilemma of not leading a normal life, the vexation of all the work she did, the hope that lit up her dead verve, the broken chance to escape from everything, and the jilted emptiness are far more beautiful and worth commending than the what Stephen clouded.

I have loved you. I did my best.

You can order The Theory of Everything here:

The Final Verdict

The story is also a beautiful reflection of a human mind’s conundrum. It shows how at one point love dies and no matter what you do, and no matter how close you were, it always meets the same agonizing fate. Comes a time when there is no other option but to let go. Sometimes for the sake of the happiness of your other half.

Stephen Hawking is a living epitome of hope. It just goes on to show us how a will to fight, a reason to live and the gusto to learn could stop a brain from dying. A movie that should not be missed for the world.

Check out the trailer of The Theory of Everything movie here: