Gundala

What is the movie about? :: In a world of corruption, poverty, exploitation and income inequality, people struggle to keep their lives going forward despite working so hard throughout the day. None of the hardworking people earns enough to provide to their family members. A number of factories in the city make their workers continue their jobs under terrible conditions without paying them much. A boy watches as his father leads his co-workers in protests against the low wages of the factory where they are working, leading to violence beginning between the people and the security guards employed by the corporates. But the workers bribed by their bosses kill the leader, much to the dismay of the son who witnesses the sequence of events. The worst is that the boy is also struck by lightning and develops a fear for the dark clouds and rain – along with the same, his mother who had left for the city also doesn’t come back, leaving him to live in the streets with no hope to pay the rent for the house. There, he is regularly attacked by other street children.

So, what happens with the events here? :: The boy who is consistently beaten up for trying to help others, finds a helper who teaches him how to defend against others, an advices him to stay out of others’ business, and in a world like this, not minding one’s own business can get the person into big trouble. Even though they decide to catch a train and leave the place, the boy is not able to get to his teacher who boarded the train as he can’t run fast enough to reach the train’s door. Many years later, Sancaka (Abimana Aryasatya) works as a security guard as well as a part-time mechanic in a printing factory, while trying to keep away from trouble as much as possible, due to his experiences during the childhood. But when the girl living next door, Sedhah Esti Wulan (Tara Basro) and her little brother are threatened by a group of thugs, he interferes and throws them away from the apartment. Later, the thugs retaliate as a group, and after beating him up, throws him down from the top of a tall building.

And what more is to follow in this superhero world? :: But Sancaka is hit by lightning on that rainy day, and he awakens, even healing himself completely with the power of the lightning which had struck him. As he saves the helpless Wulan and her friends in a market from the same thugs, she asks him to join her as well as the many poor people who are under threat from the thugs. But things are not that direct as it would seem there. A legislator and crime lord named Pengkor (Bront Palarae) has everything under his control in the lower level of the city, with a gang of orphans under his command. He knows each and every crime which has happened in the city, and is planning to come up with something huge to create chaos and destruction in the city. With a scar and a limp which he had from his childhood, he would stop at nothing to hurt anyone who stand against him. Sooner or later, Sancaka will have to become Gundala, while his friends including Wulan who is falling in love with him are also under threat. Can he live up to the expectation and be the symbol of hope for everyone?

The defence of Gundala :: We have always been in need of superheroes, especially those who are not from Hollywood, especially not from Marvel or DC. We have always loved Shaktimaan from our childhood, and so the need has always been there. With Avengers finishing the job, and the biggest superheroes Iron Man and Captain America out of he equation, we are always looking for possible alternatives. We can gladly say that this is indeed one, and this time, we have a realistic one in a believable world, with less use of powers and more of martial arts. The action is all done in very well, and there is enough of it, especially when we consider this as an origin story. The dystopian setting is also really well done, and we get to be with the people who undergo the struggle against those people who forces them to stay at the lowest level. In one way or the other, these people are having their own Batman, but with some superpowers – maybe he is a little bit of Captain America with the ideology he later develops, but these are all nicely evolved, and developed to fit our interests here.

Positives and negatives :: This is not to be checked out like you do for those big CGI filled movies like Avengers and the others, because of its existence closer to realism. It has to be noted that Gundala Putra Petir was also the first comic book adaptation in the nation, and it dealt with the same superhero in 1981. Indonesia is supposed to have a superhero movie franchise like Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) called the BumiLangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), from what we read about them, and with one more superhero introduced with our main hero, we can be sure that there will be more to come in the next few years, even though the Corona Virus delay could still be there. We haven’t really been aware of the same, but there are some fine superheroes who could come to be big screen, and it would be nice to watch them all, just like we had supported the heroes of Marvel and DC. If they are to be like our hero here, we can be sure that all of them can feel close to our lives than the extra dose of metahuman-alien stuff that Hollywood has been providing with the CGI. Here, the nicely created world works with minimum CGI, and connects so well.

Performers of the soul :: Tara Basro played the protagonist in Impetigore, and she is here too, as the actress who has just turned thirty and also got married this year, brings another fine performance to her credit. As we look at it, we know that she is also supposed to play a superhero which she is to become in another movie in the franchise. She has already done enough to prove here as the Hollywood style scream queen, and here, her existence in the action movies seems to be able to provide the same wonderful effect – we would need to see her as the superhero soon enough, along with other popular names who are to be part of the upcoming projects of this franchise’s universe. Abimana Aryasatya is a solid superhero here, and he makes the Indonesian Batman in Jakarta City instead of Gotham City, taking on crime and saving innocent citizens. He makes us go through his emotions and ideology as we wealk his path. We also have some strong villain with Bront Palarae being very much menacing, along with assassins including Kelly Tandiono, Asmara Abigail, Hannah Al Rashid and others. Ario Bayu whom we had seen in Impetigore is also here, making an impact.

How it finishes :: This movie comes from Joko Anwar, who is the same director that brought us, the high quality horror thriller named Impetigore. Even though this movie belongs to a completely different genre, we can see the director’s skills at work yet again. We have known many superheroes already, and this one is based on the Indonesian comics character Gundala created by Harya Suraminata in 1969 – it is nice to know that we do have more of superheroes with variety in store. It is always great to have some home-grown superheroes, but not like that ridiculous thing called Krrish which doesn’t feel Indian, original or really heroic in any way, but Shaktimaan type are always welcome. Indonesia has achieved that so well, and this movie is also fine work, not just as an entertainer, but also in many other ways, as this is more than your usual superhero movie. After my last visit to Bali, this is the closest that I have managed to get to loving Indonesia, and we are to fall in love with Indonesian movies if there are more films like this one. After all, this one stays closer to the values of the common man that even the Dark Knight could ever do.

Release date: 28th August 2019
Running time: 123 minutes
Directed by: Joko Anwar
Starring: Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Ario Bayu, Rio Dewanto, Lukman Sardi, Fariz Fadjar, Aqi Singgih, Marissa Anita, Hannah Al Rashid, Asmara Abigail, Daniel Adnan, Cornelio Sunny, Kelly Tandiono

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Impetigore

Vampire Owl: This should be one strange case of gore.

Vampire Bat: The original title in Indonesian is rather too long.

Vampire Owl: Well, at least we get to review an Indonesian movie this time.

Vampire Bat: Yes, after that visit to Bali last year, it was needed to happen at some point.

Vampire Owl: Corona Virus did make sure that it was one final foreign trip.

Vampire Bat: Well, we are now more distant from other parts of the world than ever.

Vampire Owl: At least the human pride in their technology is now crushed.

Vampire Bat: Yes, now they know that science cannot bring them everything.

Vampire Owl: You cannot take science to attack nature, for it is too dumb an action.

Vampire Bat: Well, the vampire elders have made that clear too.

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

What is the movie about? :: Maya (Tara Basro) with her best friend, Dini (Marissa Anita), are trying to survive in a city without family or relatives to support them, as they work at expressway tolls. But they never really earns enough money to keep them going in the big city. On a fateful night, Maya is attacked by a man who had been stalking her for a long time, and as he discovers a mark on her right thigh, tells her that he should kill her to keep a curse away, but the police arrives in time and shoots the man. A few days later, the two girls leave their jobs and start a small clothes store in a corner of a market, and nobody really visits their place. The business is making them no profit at all, and they keep thinking about a way out. It is then that Maya comes up against a photo from her childhood which shows her standing with her parents in front of a big house, and she also manages to get an address at a remote village which is not in the Google Maps, but is part of the territory.

So, what happens with the events here? :: They travel all the way there, and finds out that not many people wants to go to the village area, except for one young man who charges them a lot. When they reach the village, they find the house to be locked and deserted, with nature taken over parts of it. The lack of maintenance was surely there as far as the house was concerned, but it was indeed a lot spacious inside, and it also had all the furniture there, as well as some lighting which could be used along with the option for getting some water. Yet there is something wrong with the village and the house where Maya had lived with her parents. The villagers believe that the house belonged the demons and there was a curse associated with it from a long time ago. There are also deaths happening in the village, and it seems to be children who are facing death. The two girls are afraid that if they tell the truth, it might be troublesome, and they pretend to be research students from a nearby university. But who long can they keep the lie going against terror awaiting to unleash on them?

The defence of Impetigore :: There is a talented cast which makes sure that this movie never losses its strength, and the lead Tara Basro seems to be that king of an actress who would be part of a horror movie instantly if it was in Hollywood, and Marissa Anita as well as Asmara Abigail also maintains such qualities. If you have a look at it, you will know that Indonesian movies are also superior in horror, and among the East Asian movies, you just can’t give all the credit to the Korean movies only, with the level being consistently increased with those from different languages. The atmosphere of the movie is just too good, and we feel that mystery and horror running through the stylish, abandoned, rural world. The setting is such a big advantage that you are going to get immersed in it. The visuals are really good, and you can see the environment coming up with natural beauty as well as the horror of the world that lies at almost every corner.

Positives and negatives :: As a stable mystery horror thriller, Impetigore is that kind of a movie which is difficult to find faults with, having the same level maintained for most part of it. Still, people can always find some problem with horror movies, and here also they would wonder about how the main characters are acting when facing certain terror being present all around there – but, that kind of a judgment has always been flawed in the soul itself because people are basically supposed to be like that, being evil as well as dumb whenever the emotional side takes on. The building can be considered slow, but it is more or less expected because the grandeur of terror had to rise step by step to create the best of impact. The familiar horror contents have more additions here too. The superstitions and the beliefs in curses and spells also gets a place, and it stays close to more of Indonesian style as we look at it, and we feel that it is nice to understand a different folklore. The beautiful shots along with the shadow puppetry can make some people strange with its beauty, but they add to this being one of the best shot movies of all-time.

Performers of the soul :: We do have our focus on how well Tara Basro is handling her work here as the protagonist, the grown up child who is supposed to be cursed with something which she has no clue about. Marissa Anita who plays her friend also has her moments which make a difference, and she even has a funny side here which brings a smile on the face as humour strikes against the horror which is always present. It is still a shame that we don’t see her throughout the movie, or at least until the last few moments of the tale. Faradina Mufti also has her charm in the flashbacks, and we see that added to the beauty of the visuals of the grand past. You would also love Asmara Abigail who might be the best noticed supporting character who seem not important in the beginning, but elevates the level when she gets a part to play in the final stages. Then you have Ario Bayu who has the best role of to play among the male characters in a female dominated movie, and he does very well, and so does Christine Hakim here.

How it finishes :: Among all the common horror movies in Hollywood and its lame partial adaptations in Bollywood, Impetigore stands apart. It shows how horror can be done using the local legend and after building a flashback out of possible folklore which might have always been there. A number of Malayalam movies from the past had successfully attained success with the use of local legends and myths, and Impetigore is one Indonesian movie which does the same, maybe in a more effective way than any other horror movie has done in the last few years. You are taken into the atmosphere of the movie, as you become part of that setting, which is not just strange, but also terrifying even without showing that much of horror on the screen. What is seen might be scary, but what is not seen or implied feels even scarier in this film which is also about what doesn’t meet the eye. This is the first Indonesian movie that I ever watched, and it is highly effective indeed. I am watching this movie an year after my visit to Indonesia too!

Release date: 17th October 2019
Running time: 106 minutes
Directed by: Joko Anwar
Starring: Tara Basro, Ario Bayu, Marissa Anita, Christine Hakim, Asmara Abigail, Kiki Narendra, Zidni Hakim, Faradina Mufti, Abdurrahman Arif, Muhammad Abe Baasyin, Mursiyanto, Aura Agna, Ahmad Ramadhan, Devona Queeny, Sindris Ogiska G

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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.

Furie

Vampire Owl: This surely sounds like fury with the original spelling.

Vampire Bat: There is another movie with this title in English itself.

Vampire Owl: So, you are beginning to explore other language.

Vampire Bat: Yes, this one is Vietnamese, and other languages will follow.

Vampire Owl: Does this remind you of any of your previous journeys to East Asia.

Vampire Bat: No, the journeys were to Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. None of them are the same.

Vampire Owl: So, this doesn’t bring much of those memories back?

Vampire Bat: Well, those memories are not going to return. The trips have all ended with the Corona Virus.

Vampire Owl: Well, a Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos trip should happen at some point.

Vampire Bat: It might come a long time later, and that would mean many years later.

[Gets a marble cake and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: Hai Phuong (Veronica Ngo) is a former gangster who used to belong to a powerful family in the city, but is now living in the city with her daughter Mai (Cat Vy), working as a debt collector, while she used her skills in vovinam, a Vietnamese martial arts from. With the kid’s father having died a long time ago, she is having a hard time, as both the mother and the child are harassed due to the kid being born out of wedlock, and also because the mother is a debt collector who is seen as a continuous trouble maker. Mai wishes to stop going to school and start a fish farm with her mother, so that they won’t be bullied again, not at the school and not at the market or the streets. But one day, after having a verbal fight with her daughter, Hai finds Mai being kidnapped by some men, and she follows them through road, but can only see them taking her away on a boat, and then into a transport to Ho Chi Minh City also known as Saigon.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Hai is returning to the the most populous city in Vietnam, and the capital of the former state South Vietnam after a long time, this time, not as a gangster, but as a mother looking for her daughter who was kidnapped. With no clue about where to search, she asks her former gang members to help, but they refuse help because things did undergo some change around there, and the power balance has shifted – not helping them would be the best for the safety. As he approaches the police, she finds them not good enough, but she does manage to steal the reports of some criminals who could be related to the case of missing children. Detective Luong (Phan Thanh Nhien) is in charge of the cases related to the missing children, but she just misses him. There seems to be a big international gang working behind this, and it could also have a link to her notorious past. Now, can she survive and manage to find her daughter in time?

The defence of Furie :: There is a high dose of action here, provided from the beginning to the end, without any break. All the action sequences are too good, and at the same time believable, taking the best out of the Vietnamese martial arts. We only have the realistic moves here though, with no bodies flying around like in some third-rate superstar movie that we know. We are amazed by the leading lady’s skills in performing action as well as depicting the feelings so well. There is the final action scene on a train, which has been taken in the best possible way. The emotions are also running high, and there is the raw beauty of rural Vietnam as well as the charming style of Ho Chi Minh City. We have those shots from a distance and from the heights, as we get caught in those visuals. We do manage to have a fine chase or two in between here. Furie is a thrilling ride, and we are with a mother in this one, like we were with a father in Taken and its sequels – she is also John Wick of another kind. This is a fine movie to begin your love with Vietnam.

Positives and negatives :: Furie is more or less a full martial arts movie which depends on the same to keep things interesting, taking out John Wick‘s shootout side completely. It is also a tale of redemption, but you need to like the action elements to fall in love with the movie. This is also an amazingly stylish movie, not just with the action, but also with the visuals. You can see the difference between the city and village life, enjoying the beauty of both. With a movie like this, action had to click, and it does, amazingly well, as you are kept on the edge of the seat. If you have watched the Malayalam movie Thira, you will know that it had to be thrilling, but that one never had the need for action sequences, but Furie needed it, and with a desperate mother in the main role, nails it. The chase scenes and the brutal fights will keep this one going strong. The fights are not only on the ground, but also on trains, boats and motor-bikes, as the environment also contributes to making this feel better. The flashbacks give a better idea of the story, but at times, they are redundant.

Performers of the soul :: It is Veronica Ngo who steals the show throughout this movie, with her martial arts moves. There is something that you don’t usually see with the fight scenes as long as she is around. She was there in one of the Star Wars movies, but not noticed much because it was a smaller role. The other main characters are also female, except for a police officer and some others who seem to come into picture for shorter intervals of time. Most of them are there only to get beaten up by her, as the lesser troopers of the evil side. Tran Thanh Hoa plays the antagonist, and she also has her smart moves with some nice action sequences to go with it. Phan Thanh Nhien has a few of them, and is there in a supporting role, after he comes to the picture rather late. Pham Anh Khoa has a smaller, but noticable role to play, and so does the one who plays the nurse at the hospital. The main characters in the village markets are all female too. Cat Vy who plays the daughter is also a fine child actor as proven here.

How it finishes :: Furie is a high quality movie from Vietnam, and it is the first, as well as the only Vietnamese movie which I have watched. This is the kind of movie which has you a lot interested in the movie from the beginning to the end, never wishing to take your eyes off, as you will end up missing the action. The movie was the Vietnamese entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. Among the foreign movies that we watch from here, this movie should have a higher status, and something above the rest of the movies from East Asia. Vietnam surely scores with that, and there is the need to focus on some more of the movies from this nation which makes some very interesting movies along with being a tourism destination that everyone should be visiting. I also had a plan to visit the place, but that didn’t work out – with the Corona Virus problem going on and on, I will have to be satisfied with what can be seen in this wonderful movie.

Release date: 22nd February 2019
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed by: Le Van Kiet
Starring: Veronica Ngo, Cat Vy, Phan Thanh Nhien, Pham Anh Khoa, Tran Thanh Hoa

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.