Snake Eyes

Vampire Owl: I remember a time when all vampires played with GI Joe toys.

Vampire Bat: Well, that was a very short period of time.

Vampire Owl: Yet, those were some wonderful days.

Vampire Bat: If I remember correctly, those were nights. When we were awake.

Vampire Owl: Both days and nights belonged to games.

Vampire Bat: You mean to include computer games too.

Vampire Owl: Yes, that would make this a very long list.

Vampire Bat: I would start with Age of Empires and Age of Wonders for that.

Vampire Owl: Yet, there was no game like Unreal Tournament 99.

Vampire Bat: Only to be permanently addicted to Mass Effect later.

[Gets a milk peda and three cups of cardamom tea].

What is the movie about? :: A young boy witnesses his father being murdered by a group of armed people, after their leader determines his fate by rolling a dice. Many years later, he has grown up to a skilled martial arts fighter Snake Eyes (Henry Golding). As he keeps winning all the fights and changing cities, a rich Yakuza boss named Kenta Takamura (Takehiro Hira) disovers him in a fighting arena in Los Angeles. Even though he doesn’t like the offer in the beginning, the idea of being able to find the people who killed his father makes him interested. But when he is asked to murder Tommy (Andrew Koji), who despite being Kenta’s cousin, had broken trust, he refuses, and even helps him to escape. Both Tommy and Kenta were next line to become leader of their clan, and the latter tried to have the former killed. Kenta’s plan was discovered before it could materialize, and Tommy had him banished. As Snake Eyes cannot go back to Los Angeles as he would be hunted by the Yakuza, he is taken to Tokyo instead.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Tommy who feels that he owes a blood debt to Snake Eyes, takes him to his ninja world. Sen (Eri Ishida), Tommy’s grandmother who leads the ninja clan agrees to let him join the group under some conditions, even though the head of secutiy, Akiko (Haruka Abe) is not fond of anyone from outside joining them, as it would be an unusual practice. He is supposed to go through three challenges, first two challenges to cleanse him of ego, anger and fear, and get him ready for the third one. Tommy also lets him know that failure means death. He will only has a few days to train for the same. With no recorded history about him and being known only by a strange alias, Akiko continues to doubt him. But she is still confident that Snake Eyes will fail the first test itself, as at least eighty percent of them fail every time. Tommy feels confident that Snake Eyes will be among the passing twenty percent, but there is certainly more than one twist to it.

The defence of Snake Eyes :: There is a lot of fighting going on in this tale inspired from a toy line, and the reboot has started off pretty well with hope for something big to be seen in a sequel with so many characters to come. Four of the most interesting characters, Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, Scarlett and Baroness have been introduced, and we can keep hoping for more. The sword fights show a certain amount of quality here, and it is not all that we see here, as we have something more in an year which provided us with Mortal Kombat. The final battle is a big one, and it has everyone going after one another. The location of the ninjas is nicely chosen too. Well, one always feel happy about watching Japan on the screen – Tokyo is nothing less than a dream city. When you look at origin stories, starting with the tale of the two ninjas seem to be the right choice, especially as the earlier movies didn’t focus enough on the two. From this beginning, the movie seems to assert that it won’t go the Transformers way, bringing more confusion as the film franchise progresses.

The claws of flaw :: Even with its twists, there is a certain amount of predictability associated with it. The hero here is the one whom we wish to have on the side of the Cobra though, as Storm Shadow is hundred percent a better person of quality than Snake Eyes by any means – it is how things are shown here. We would have wished for Snake Eyes to stay in the Cobra even as the toy storyline states otherwise. Well, just one person is responsible for all these, and he seems to be the good guy in the end. A better introduction for the characters of GI Joe and Cobra would have been better – just having Scarlett and Baroness is not good enough, and the two ninja brothers have only started. Cobra could have actually had a better job to do here too. The idea of vengeance could have been portrayed better, and instead this one seems to go here and there, not sticking to a particular plan, just like the main character himself who seems to be the most clueless one. Maybe, he intends to set things right with a sequel if there is one.

The performers of the soul :: The two leading actors, Henry Golding and Andred Koji seems to be perfectly suited for the roles, and they seem to go on with the action sequences with relative ease, especially the latter who seems to blend in from the beginning itself. Rachel Nichols who played Scarlett has been replaced by Samara Weaving, and it does seem to be a nice change – there is still only a little to be done for her here, even though she gets some of the action. Sienna Miller has been replaced by Ursula Corbero, and let us hope that this time the story won’t have the dumn romance angle, and what was ridiculous about the character played by Sienna won’t be repeated here – Ursula does make a fine entry here, and there is some nice action for her too. Haruka Abe nicely blends into her role of the security in charge of the ninjas, while Takehiro Hira has his interesting moments as the antagonist. The two masters played by Iko Uwais and Peter Mensah remains interesting too. Along with the same, Eri Ishida as the grandmother comes as a surprise package in the action scenes too.

How it finishes :: It seems that this movie will serve as a new beginning, with the origins stories coming one’s way. The earlier movies of GI Joe were entertaining for sure, but it never really used the strengths to the best advantage, and there was even some strange romantic sides to them. This movie could serve as a better beginning for a franchise reminding us of all the toys that we had during our childhood – I still have them in the showcase of the house. Well, there are not many movies which can bring such a nostalgia from figures – actually, there is no other which I can remember. In that case, this film would serve nicely to bring more into the series. Let us hope that this new coming won’t be confused as the earlier journey with the toys. But as this is based on toys, we can only hope for the best, not for it to haunt us. Until then, let us be prepared by watching this movie on Amazon Prime Video in advance. You always have space for movies like these, at least as the big entertainers full of action and style.

Release date: 22nd July 2021
Running time: 121 minutes
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Ursula Corbero, Samara Weaving, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, Iko Uwais

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Hit-and-Run Squad

Vampire Owl: It is time that we also have our hit-and-run task force here.

Vampire Bat: We, vampires do not use those vehicles running on diesel, petrol or electricity. So why do we need that?

Vampire Owl: We still have a lot of hit-and-run situations.

Vampire Bat: Situations from vampires flying around as bats?

Vampire Owl: Yes, and also those which are gliding from the mountains.

Vampire Bat: Those are not really hit-and-run situations.

Vampire Owl: Someone hit me hard yesterday night and I fell on the ground. I couldn’t even get the vampire insurance. It was such a situation.

Vampire Bat: But, I see that you are okay now, even before twenty four hours passing.

Vampire Owl: Yes, but it was a mid-air collision, and my first one.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that you are going to get used to it.

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

What is the movie about? :: Eun Si-yeon (Gong Hyo-jin) used to be an elite police officer who wanted to keep hunting for criminals with such enthuiasm which was never seen before in the police department. But due to circumstances, she finds herself relegated to a hit-and-run task force, but that wouldn’t stop her from hunting for those who violated the law with the same energy and fury. Seo Min-jae (Ryu Jun-yeol) who is the youngest of the same task force, has to join with her after they solve they go through their first hit-and-run case, which he solves without following an procedures, as he gathers clues and decipher them in his way, much to the surprise of Eun who has always followed the procedure and exact ruls whenever a crime was involved. Even though hesitant at first due to being forced to be a part of something she considered to be a lesser work, she is soon ready to be involved more in the programmes of the department which works efficiently.

So, what happens with the events here? :: But her real purpose still remains the same, as she remains in the hunt for the race track driver and rich businessman who has a lot to hide, and the city police commissioner is also involved with him in this illegal activities. Being a businessman more and the driver less, the hope lies in finding those clues somewhere around the track, but they are being destroyed quick enough – the next chance for the same is on the speeding roads. Seo is also after him for a hit-and-run case, but Eun is after him for more than just that. As Jung Jae-cheol (Jo Jung-suk) goes on with his usual kind of activities under a cover, can Eun Si-yeon or Seo Min-jae find a way to lock him without having a chance to escape? Being someone who can even threaten the police officers with his influence, is he a man whom they can handle even after trying so hard? What would the police commissioner have to say about this as he is also involved?

The defence of Hit-and-Run Squad :: The movie has some action sequences, with car chases being done well, and there is also some fine emotional sequences as far as Hit-and-Run Squad is concerned. It is kept simple, and good for the families without much of the violence which would have been present in such movies on other day – blood and gore takes the backseat in this Korean movie for a change. Hit-and-Run Squad even has a feel-good factor to add to its qualities, and it is not something that we expect with this kind of a movie. When you are sitting during a lock-down, as the world is struggling to fight against a virus, and you look forward to this particular movie because it is a crime thriller with action, and at the same time, it also makes you feel good. The performances are also up to the mark, not really overdoing it, or trying to bring pure evil characters as in other movies of the genre. This one is surely for the family watch – the police movie for everyone.

The claws of flaw :: Hit-and-Run Squad is fixed on doing the usual, and therefore we have the feeling that all these have been seen before, adding to a certain amount of repetition. It doesn’t add much of the twists and turns in between, and even limits the car chases when there was the opportunities to have them throughout the flick. There were more opportunities, but the movie decides to follow the procedure and do nothing more – when we consider this movie, it stays at the safe zone. When staying in that zone, it brings its own limitations to the picture. There is no innovation added here, and we are sure that the movie could have had more inside. There are some interesting characters who could have been further explored, and the emotions could have also had further depth. We also feel that there are so many ways this movie could have scored more, gaining points at regular intervals, and it chooses not to, as it takes things easy.

Performers of the soul :: Gong Hyo-jin as Eun Si-yeon remains the top performer in this movie, and she certainly looks much younger than she is, going through the determined police officer role in a cool and controlled manner, still remaining tough, maintaining protocol, as well as having a high level of values. Ryu Jun-yeol is on support when we look at him, and he works best in the emotional sequences rather than anything else. Jo Jung-suk plays the one who is being chased by the police, and he has no problems in playing that particular role, maintaining the same level throughout the movie. Yum Jung-ah who plays a senior police officer has even a bigger role to play than it seems to be in the beginning, and she plays the character with more than what meets the eye really well. The same can be said about Jeon Hye-jin, the chief of the hit-and-run task force. Lee Sung-min has a fine role, and a good job done, to add to the performances category here.

How it finishes :: Hit-and-Run Squad is like a usual police movie with most of the ingredients working well, and you might have witnessed similar things before, and enjoyed well enough. It is the usual story of the rich and influential keeping on getting away, and the police officers looking out to do their duty and bring these people to justice. It is also a movie done without much of terror or blood and gore added in part like a crime thriller which we usually see whether it is Korean or Japanese movie. As everything is kept simple, and the movie having certain movement towards drama, the movie becomes an emotional action adventure. If you need to watch a Korean family action thriller without having worried about something inappropriate might come up, this is the film that you need, and it is the movie that has no risk out there for you. Choose to watch Hit-and-Run Squad with family, and we can say that rarely with movies of this type.

Release date: 30th January 2019
Running time: 133 minutes
Directed by: Han Jun-hee
Starring: Gong Hyo-jin, Jo Jung-suk, Ryu Jun-yeol, Yum Jung-ah, Jeon Hye-jin, Son Seok-koo, Lee Sung-min, Kim Go-eun, Lee Hak-joo, Ryu Kyung-soo

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Bodies at Rest

Vampire Owl: Can the bodies be ever at rest as long as the undead are there?

Vampire Bat: We have never been at rest, as far as I know.

Vampire Owl: The castle is witness and proof to that particular statement.

Vampire Bat: I guess that they didn’t have a vampire or zombie to turn them.

Vampire Owl: Even a sorcerer or a witch could do that. Necromancers were actually available for consultation.

Vampire Bat: Even Dr. Frankenstein was available for the bodies.

Vampire Owl: Well, I wouldn’t recommend Mr. Frankenstein to do that again.

Vampire Bat: He is known for that one event involving the creation of life.

Vampire Owl: Yes, he is notorious for the same, and it is not a good sign.

Vampire Bat: Still, he is the one I look forward to, for creating dumb creatures with no teeth, those which walk like zombies.

[Gets a strawberry cake and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: A much respected pathologist Chen Jia Hao (Nick Cheung) and his assistant Lynn Qiao (Yang Zi) continue to work late at a public morgue on the evening of Christmas, as people begins to celebrate. Even though it is the time to rejoice, there is not much of a crowd outside due to the thunderstorms occuring outside, and people being advised to stay at home at least for the night, or until a notice comes from the authorities. It is then that three armed criminals come into the morgue, demanding that the doctor and his assistant give them a bullet from the dead body of a girl was shot dead earlier. They beat up the elder security guard known to everyone as Uncle Jin (Shu-liang Ma), and the doctor seems to have been left with no option, with phone cables being cut, mobile phones taken, and nobody left inside the building, as it is Christmas evening with a terrible weather making everyone leave early.

So, what happens with the events here? :: The three men who goes under the names, Santa (Richie Jen), Elf (Carlos Chan) and Rudolph (Jiayi Feng) manages to get a bullet from the doctor, but it turns out that it was not one from their gun. The doctor had managed to trick them into believing that he had taken the bullet out of the girl’s dead body, but he hadn’t. After the criminals leave, he takes the body from her back, and manages to break out of the room where they were locked in, only to be chased by the returning criminals again, as he tries to sneak out of there with his assistant and the injured security guard. But the criminals are quick, and they want to get that bullet to remove any proof, because this case has many implications. Can there be hope for the trio to escape and give the bullet to the police, before the criminals catch up to them? Are there other secrets which are to be revealed as time passes? Will this really be a Christmas night with joy, or is there unlimited terror awaiting them all?

The defence of Bodies at Rest :: The movie does have an interesting premise, with three people being caught in a morgue with three masked killers ready to shoot at them, unless the decide the give away the evidence of a murder – it is the kind of thing that keeps us interesting from the beginning itself. As the movie begins, there is a fine shot of the Chinese city that displays the beauty of modernity at night with the lights, and also showing the severity of nature with thunderstorms coming in strong and seemingly without an end – it is more or less an early reflection of what is to follow, as the thriller unfolds. The action scenes in the movie are all believable, as they fight normally, and both the doctor and his assistant while trying to resist, get themselves on the receiving end of the punches and kicks. There are some twists to be revealed in between, and you are in full support of the two protagonists to make it out, while the three classical Aristotelian unities of place, time and action are maintained, with everything happening in the morgue at a night, focusing on one bullet and dead body, having only minor exception.

The claws of flaw :: Bodies at Rest could have done more, and there is absolutely no doubt about it here – there are enough dead bodies in the morgue to assure that, and there is enough going on inside and outside which could have further contributed to increasing the level of this movie. A morgue is always a place of eerie and fear, and with some dead bodies, the same could have been achieved – even the corpse of the girl doesn’t serve as a reason for adding some terror in here. It would have had many places to hide, and even the morgue could have had secrets to be unveiled. The two protagonists, especially the girl could have found more spaces to escape through, as she is quite small. A better connection between the doctor and the main antagonist could have also been nice. The villains often end up being funny, and that is not too good considering the fact that they are wearing the masks, holding the guns, and are ready to murder anyone to take the bullet out of the dead girl’s body.

Peformers of the soul :: Nick Cheung plays the main character here, the one who qualifies as the protagonist from the first scene itself. He is very good, as we see the doctor handling things so well, and he goes through the character nicely. The man who is ready to take a hit to save the forensic evidence has you supporting him throughout the movie. There is also a flashback about him which is discussed here, and it becomes linked to the criminals who have something more to hide than the case of one bullet inside a young girl. Yang Zi is a lovely addition to this movie, and one has to say that she provides some surprises that we love. It has to be said that she fights incredibly well, as she runs away from the criminals, and she brings kind of an escape attack every time here. The three criminals are played very well, and Richie Jen stands out among them as the leader and the focused one. Carlos Chan and Jiayi Feng supports well enough to keep the team going. Shu-liang Ma who plays the security guard gets less to do, but does it okay.

How it finishes :: Bodies at Rest tries to compete with other thrillers which seem to make something out of an idea which feels great from the beginning itself, and the action is well restricted to a single place during one night with all the focus there. It does succeed in doing that up to an extent, but one is not supposed to expect something like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, for this is not that kind of near-perfect thriller. We do have an urge to watch these kinds of movies, with people locked in a morgue full of dead bodies and criminals hunting them, all being something that catches our attention and interest easily. Even though the reviews haven’t been that kind to this one, this Chinese movie is something that will keep you interested throughout the movie, and even before the attack on the morgue – it has that kind of a perfect setting to begin things. Bodies at Rest is only the fourth full-length Chinese movie I watched, and it was surely worth the one and half hours of run-time.

Release date: 16th August 2019
Running time: 94 minutes
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Starring: Nick Cheung, Richie Jen, Yang Zi, Carlos Chan, Jiayi Feng, Shu-liang Ma

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Vampire Owl: I know this person, for I remember this name, but just can’t figure out from when and where.

Vampire Bat: Do you need to go through a memory recovery programme? It is a new method.

Vampire Owl: I know what Doctor Frankenstein does with his new series of programmes. So, let me figure it out myself.

Vampire Bat: It is a simple name, but certainly not common. You should have remembered the person if there was a chance.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I should have at least remembered the two strings.

Vampire Bat: Are you sure that you don’t need at least a memory vial?

Vampire Owl: Don’t ask me to have those chemicals made of dark matter.

Vampire Bat: Then, what would you need instead, to remember?

Vampire Owl: What about some inner peace?

Vampire Bat: The Kung Fu Panda has taken all of the same, after taking the form of the Vampire Panda.

[Gets three cups of ginger tea with a piece of ghee cake].

What is the movie about? :: Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a one-eyed young boy who spends his time in a cave near a colourful village. Living with his ill mother Sariatu (Charlize Theron), he makes a living with art of paper folding known as origami, and music with a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument known as shamisen, both which he uses to tell the tales of a samurai warrior who is supposed to be his father. They just manage to survive, with his mother’s mental state getting worse, and they having just enough to make a living. But Sariatu keeps warning him about her twin sisters Karasu and Washi (Rooney Mara), as well as her father, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) who would take his other eye, as they had killed her husband, the samurai warrior of the tales of bravery, Hanzo (Matthew McConaughey). She forbids him from going out at night, in the moonlight.

So, what happens next in the movie? :: One day, Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro), an old widow who loves Kubo like her grandchild, tells him about a festival which occurs at night, that involves people talking to their loved ones who had died. So, for a change, Kubo decides to stay through the darkness, and try to find the soul of his dead father, and know more of the story about them. But even with the other villagers seemingly having success over talking to the souls of their beloved, he seems to have no success at all. As he forgets to return home before the sunset, he is found by Sariatu’s evil twin sisters, who waste no time in asking him for his one remaining eye. The realisation is also upon Sariatu though, as she is quick to appear and save the boy, sending him away, while trying to go on a final battle with her sisters who will stop at nothing to get their nephew’s one remaining eye.

And what follows the same in the movie? :: Kubo wakes up later, in a land far away, with only a snow monkey to give him company, which is the last piece of his mother’s magic, and has promised to keep the boy alive at any cost. They go on hoping to find Hanzo’s armour which becomes necessary for their survival as they face a force as strong and hateful as the Moon King. On the way, they also meet a beetle in human form, which believes that it used to be a follower of Hanzo, and had fought many battles with him, even as nothing remains of those memories. But the evil twin sisters are already on their trail, and even after finding the Sword Unbreakable, they are still at a disadvantage against the strongest forces of their world. There is a long way to go, there is danger ahead – can Kubo and his two strange friends be brave and strong enough to face the threat?

The defence of Kubo and the Two Strings :: This one certainly has the story that will appeal to people of all ages. There is the tale of courage, faith, hope and belief which runs right through this movie. The sadness in the movie is beautiful, and the evil twin sisters make some nice villains in the moonlight. There are battles which will remind us that we miss Kung Fu Panda, and all main characters remain lovable, and kids are going to love the Monkey and the Beetle without doubt. There is also that variety in this world, and the visuals make another path, which is also nothing less than beautiful in its own way. There is the quest in the centre of all these, and we have one boy’s tale of courage that will keep things moving. There is also the strength of love, and the ultimate power of memories that humans hold on to, which become significant in the story of Kubo too. As you go deep, this is another animated movie which is not just for kids. There is also some humour here and there, but it is mostly for kids.

The claws of flaw :: The animation doesn’t stand a chance when compared to the other big animated movies like Moana, Zootopia, Frozen, How to Train Your Dragon, Inside Out, Epic and the rest who have made the effect of a spectacle, and Kubo and the Two Strings never even tries to do the same. The tale of the relatives and creatives seems rather too comfortable with how they end up becoming what they are. We are not much interested in the tales with monkey and beetles as warriors in a human world these days, as the turtles had found it the hard way in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel. There is also that same programme, with everyone coming together and everything being brought together by the end, and there is something rather too comfortable around here. It can also be considered a little too dark for the liking of some people. Even with those strange twists, the movie is also very much predictable within its own tale, as the missing and gaining of parents doesn’t make one feel that much in such a darker animated flick – could have been more imaginative.

How it finishes :: Kubo and the Two Strings could have actually been better, with all the possibilities it has with the myth already there – not just with the story, but also with the rest of the elements, all making this a bigger visual experience. There is a lesson or two which this movie can take from Rise of the Guardians which looks similar with its characters, but is a better movie than this. We usually expect to connect to the main character more, and not as just a random kid who is special because his parents made the choice of a strange union. The movie seems to be more sincere to itself rather than its audience, and even the message sometimes feel strange – it tends to happen when there are talking monkeys and beetles who gets more importance than humans in a tale of a human child. But the importance of relationships with fellow human beings, memories, family and love are those things that come over the rest, it could be the main reason that won the flick, BAFTA for Best Animated Film and why it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, which eventually went to Zootopia.

PS: Have you watched The Mummy, Wonder Woman and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, yet at the theatres?

Release date: 19th August 2016
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Meyrick Murphy, Minae Noji, Alpha Takahashi, Laura Miro, Ken Takemoto

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.