Ashfall

Vampire Owl: Do you know what actually happens when ash falls in a graveyard near the vampire castle?

Vampire Bat: I do not see vampires being related with the ashes.

Vampire Owl: Well, we do rise from the ashes quite often.

Vampire Bat: So, we are soon going to have a Vampire Phoenix?

Vampire Owl: I wouldn’t dare to stop a phoenix from becoming a vampire.

Vampire Bat: Do you understand that the ashfall in this movie title refers to a volcano?

Vampire Owl: The last time I heard about a volcano, it was in Bali, Indonesia.

Vampire Bat: This one has Mount Paektu, a real active volcano in Korea.

Vampire Owl: Well, we have been watching Korean movies, and now lets know the volcanoes around there too.

Vampire Bat: Yes, these days, we do tend to get more familiar with the locations in other parts of the world, and not just the United States with the Hollywood movies.

[Gets a strawberry cake and three glasses of vanilla shake].

What is the movie about? :: Mount Paektu, an active volcano in the China–North Korea border, erupts all of a sudden, leading to many earthquakes in the Korean peninsula. It affects both nations in the peninsula severely, leaving not much of the North Korean capital behind in between all the destruction. It had one of the most violent eruptions in the last five thousand years in around 946, and with this one, the volcano seems to bring even more. The highest peak of the Changbai and Baekdudaegan mountain ranges, is supposed to have a certain mythical quality of spiritual significance, but this time it is about survival, as eruption is too close. To prevent the upcoming disaster, Jeon Yoo-kyung (Jeon Hye-jin) plans an operation based on a theory by Professor Kang Bong-rae (Ma Dong-seok), who had studied the volcano with special focus on its possible eruptions. But it is a theory which only has around three and half percent chance of success.

So, what happens with the events here? :: But they decide to go with the mission because there seems to be no other way of saving the Korean peninsula and all those people who are caught in there with nowhere to go, as other nations evacuate only their citizens. At the same time, Jo In-chang (Ha Jung-woo) who was almsot discharged from the army, is assigned to be the leader of a special forces team supposed to complete the mission, even though their elite military support is lost on the way. Lee Joon-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun) who has been part of the Korean People’s Army in North Korea as a spy is asked to help them, even though he is now in the North Korean prison, and needs to be rescued from there. Meanwhile, Jo In-Chang’s pregnant wife Choi Ji-young (Bae Suzy) is left alone in Seoul, and hopes to go with the United States evacuation as part of a deal made by her husband with the South Korean government. But with a nuclear warhead needed to be stolen from North Korea for the mission to succeeed, things are not that easy.

The defence of Ashfall :: There is more than one thing about Ashfall, as we are not just watching a disaster movie with one volcano all prepared to burst and kill most of the people with an earthquake to go with it. There is also a certain amount of international politics being referred to, with North Korea, South Korea, China and the United States of America involved here. Along with the action, we also have a funny side with this movie, as humour which comes in here and there is mostly working. The emotional side is also very strong, and after having some of it in the beginning, it is a touching end to this flick. The characters are all interesting too, as we get to see more of them in an emotional way. The CGI effects are really good especially with volcanic eruption and earthquakes to be displayed here, and we get to see some fine visual effects on the screen. This one is the kind of holiday entertainer which all age of people can watch – a clean one indeed, as it is a suitable flick for everyone, entertaining very well.

The claws of flaw :: The movie could have brought more of the volcano into the picture, and it should have been shown as threatening on more occasions, generating fear. We could have had the feeling of terror, and death could have been hanging around there further. There are other moments which could have been cut instead, to shorten the movie further. Sometimes, the comic side comes in when it is not the right to make an entrance, but we forgive that because it ends up being funny enough. Even with some interesting characters making fine impact, we still have some others who are just there for the sake of it, even though we do feel that they are important when it begins. The characters could have surely been smarter, as they are trained so well, and even though they are not the ones who fight in the front-lines, could have better idea about what all have been happening around. You shouldn’t look for a full disaster movie, and if you do, there will be disappointment, as this one is a mixture of different things, and the disaster is mostly in the background.

Performers of the soul :: The cast does a fine job, especially with the dramatic side present here. The performances are good enough to make you care for most of the characters out there, and even without that possible volcanic eruption, the possibility is there. Ha Jung-woo and Lee Byung-hun do make a good combination here, and their scenes together are very good, whether it is related to the action with all the shooting around, or with the comedy, they work really well. The next person who makes the impact is Ma Dong-seok who plays the scientist who comes up with the almost impossible idea, and it is nice work done there. Bae Suzy has some nice emotional moments, but part of it is a little bit overdone, maybe to bring some more humour in there. Jeon Hye-jin also has some solid work being done here, with all the responsibility related to the character too. There are also many others who play characters which come and go, but they are pretty good too.

How it finishes :: Korean movies almost always have something special as they have been proving for long, and this one is no exception. It is nice to see that Russian, Korean and Chinese movies are taking the usual thing shown in Hollywood to another level, in one way or the other. The visual effects is just one the things related to that, as the movie also thinks in a rather divergent way. We know that movies like The Wandering Earth, The Divine Fury and The Blackout have already taken the divergent path with space having another dimension, exorcism having another mode and alien invasion having another style respectively. This movie becomes another reason why Korean movies always needed a release here – such films which families can watch and enjoy a lot will get its own audience here. At some point of time, Korean movies need to be in the multiplexes, and even those movies which don’t win the Oscars.

Release date: 19th December 2019
Running time: 128 minutes
Directed by: Lee Hae-jun, Kim Byung-seo
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Ha Jung-woo, Ma Dong-seok, Bae Suzy, Jeon Hye-jin

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Terminator: Genisys

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Vampire Owl: I feel the nostalgia already. Do you?

Vampire Bat: Yes, I do. It has powered today’s movie journey. There is also our favourite Dragon Lady here. This a must watch!

Vampire Owl: Let’s just watch it then!

Vampire Bat: With no hesitation. He has to be back for real this time.

[Gets the tickets with extra popcorn and Mango flavoured ice cream].

✠ This was recently posted by me at Kiagia.com where I handle the Hollywood movie reviews division: http://kiagia.com/index.php/current-film-releases-movie/890-terminator-genisys-movie-review.html

There are many types of nostalgia, but there might be nothing like The Terminator for the movie fans of the 1990s. Arnold Schwarzenegger had become a lot bigger name with the movie and its sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The success meant that there were five movies in the franchise which has now reached Terminator Genisys despite the lesser impact that its predecessor Terminator Salvation had created. Due to the never ceasing power of the franchise, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to come back and give it another push, hoping to bring back some of the lost glory, and Terminator Genisys is the product of a need and a desire.

Years after the Judgment Day and machines taking over the planet, John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the Human Resistance against Skynet hopes to end the threat from the machines with two big assaults. The first one is to attack Skynet’s main core base, and the second to destroy a time machine located hidden and away from the main base. But despite what seemed to be a defeat for the machines at the main base, a T-800 killing machine was sent back to 1984 though the time-machine to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) so that he or the Resistance wouldn’t be born. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers to go after the terminator and defend the lady.

This much is more like the expected side, as most the audience is familiar with the franchise so far, or at least until the second movie. The twist happens as the terminator as well as Kyle reaches the past. Now, in this timeline, it seems that Sarah is not someone who needs to be defended. She is already skilled with the guns and is protected by another T-800 machine called Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has protected her right from her childhood and prepared her for what was to come. They easily get rid of the T-800 and finish off T-1000 with a trap much to the surprise of Kyle. But with this change to the past, what is it that the future has in store for them?

There are many twists in store in this movie along with the altered timeline. It is regarding Skynet and Genisys, John Connor, the working of the machines and our old T-800 model. It is more like a desperate effort to make the most out of all that is available, and the positive thing is that it is mostly successful in doing that. The problem is that it might seem repetitive, and this problem called Skynet and time travel has such big relationship that it can tire the viewers at times. The same also means that this is not simple action movie anymore and things are only prepared to get even more complicated. It is better for the intellect, but not that much for the regular fan.

Arnold Schwarzenegger still has a big fan-base even in this part of the world, and it was clear with those claps which were heard inside the theatre. Even after these many years, people still wish to watch him on the big screen, doing action roles – he has been a symbol of the genre for the common man, a lot more than Sylvester Stallone could ever be. Time has passed, and new action heroes have emerged, but as far as Hollywood is concerned, people like to stick to this man. It is the same which the movie has utilized, for Arnold and Terminator is a combination that works better than anything else, and as he does what he has always done the best, this sequel stays powered.

Game of Thrones’ own Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke joins him on this battle against the machines, calling him Pops and making him her own personal Guardian Angel. You have to love her in this role too; the fans certainly will. With the rest of them also contributing very well, the cast is a fine reason why you can watch this one. The movie’s biggest strength is still nostalgia, and the action sequences are nice; the plot related to the timelines also leaves us something to ponder about. There are some moments of laughter too, most of them related to Arnold himself. Yes, it is visually very good too.

The alternate timeline meant that there was more freedom here, and the advantage of having things reset is that you don’t need a real reboot or remake to continue a franchise, and a sequel will always attract more people because it is supposed to recreate a lot more rather than remake or somewhat recreate the content. Still, just like Jurassic World, this one also doesn’t manage to become the grand remake which could use all the resources to make things better than how it was with the original. It is not that we were expecting such a thing to happen, but there are people who have waited so eagerly for this movie. This is still the best you have had since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Release date: 3rd July 2015 (India); 1st July 2015 (USA)
Running time: 126 minutes
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, J. K. Simmons, Lee Byung-hun, Wayne Bastrup, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Dayo Okeniyi, Gregory Alan Williams, Sandrine Holt, Michael Gladis, Griff Furst, Teri Wyble, Nolan Gross

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

RED 2

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There are a few movies which reduce the chance of White House Down doing a good job, and among them the one which is the most similar in what happens on the screen, is RED 2, which can take out the take-over movie with its big cast. The closeness in the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings might also help in creating that big doubt in the minds of the viewers which is affected by Bruce Willis to attract them to this one, and I would say that even without that drag, this holds a clear edge over its only “same genre competitor” around here. You might already know that Red means “Retired Extremely Dangerous”, as a group of retired secret agents try to make an impact when forced out of retirement by several reasons, the most prominent one being them or their best friends being hunted to be shot at sight. While having such a title thrown towards the protagonists, they do the same designation of being extremely dangerous, a favour – they do what they do the best and what they were always expected to do throughout their lives. They react in such a way that the tables are turned on their enemies, and in the process, saves the day. This one will not have Karl Urban as William Cooper and that is a shame. But the entry of Anthony Hopkins, Lee Byung-hun and Catherine Zeta-Jones would add something else.

So we know that “the best never rest”, and once again Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is hunted and prevented from leading a normal life. Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) is still by him as the old best friend who saves Frank after faking his own death. Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) is with them, and after falling for Frank’s adventures, she is now eagerly looking forward to more dangers which could make her feel special. The gorgeous Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) getting back to his life, and being mentioned as “Frank’s Kryptonite” makes Sarah jealous and possessive and she herself tries to get into the middle of the action. He is supposed to be hunted, but actually supported by Victoria Winters (Helen Mirren), and is followed by Han Jo-Bae (Lee Byung-hun) who has taken the contract to murder Frank. In their mission, they come across the information about Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) who would be needed in for their objective to be a success, but is currently in a lunatic asylum. Frank would need to bring them all together, and know who is on his side, how can be with him, and who might end up trying to kill him in order to survive the battle, thus creating a complicated situation, nothing that a retired, extremely dangerous man can’t solve again.

Bruce Willis continues with what he has been doing in the best way, and the triangle featuring him, Mary-Louise Parker and Catherine Zeta-Jones makes the funnier scenes of the movie. Jason Statham’s Frank Martin might be proud of this Frank, the older and the funnier one who has got no car to race. This Frank is there beating up people quite a lot, shooting them and bombing a lot of the world around him. Do they get stronger when they get older? Some might wish to ask so, and Die Hard fans would have to wonder if this is the series which might take Bruce Willis away from them in a crisis of retirement. There is no need to be doubtful though, as this is one man who might be retirement-proof in his real life too. Mary-Louise Parker’s character has only gotten funnier in this sequel, and comes up with some of the funniest moments, sometimes with the dialogues, but mostly just with the expressions. Her character makes so many attempts to prove her better than the possible weakness of her man, and by doing the same, she does the stranger things which adds to the fun element.

Catherine Zeta-Jones would have been not that easy to recognize for her earlier fans, of The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment, and seems to have qualified for being still extremely dangerous, doesn’t matter if retirement is knocking at the door. A few memories do keep coming back from those days of early movie watching experience in the absence of the big screen. Those were the days, and she was there on the small screen. Despite of the loss of her older self, she still competes with Helen Mirren with the screen presence, but not with the action sequences. Marvin Boggs’ character continues the job John Malkovich did in the first part, but unfortunately there is no pig this time and we miss him saying “Frank, I never thought I’d say this again. I’m getting the pig!” But, the man still carries the movie forward with his funny one-liners and those comic scenes which never look out of place. There might be no occasion that won’t suit him, and if there is any character who can use a spin-off movie, here is one.

Lee Byung-hun remains the Storm Shadow in essence here too, and may be even as the better ninja than G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and its sequel which was released earlier this year. He remains the character that he has been in that movie and as the assassin, he continues the same. Anthony Hopkins, our own Hannibal Lecter makes a personal impact on this one, not that big as The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal or Red Dragon, but still something that comes as a pleasant, evil surprise of good quality. Being in the lunatic asylum is one of those common things, and here there are more characteristics for him, of qualities strange enough to be another man of surprising variations. In many ways, these two were needed, as the movie is too much inclined to the funny side otherwise, not that they are completely against contributions to the comic side, but there is the need for the twists, thrills and awesome action. This is Expendables with such a huge cast, but in many ways funnier and the comic side being very effective, if not too effective. May be that movie could have been called with something similar to being retired, and extremely dangerous again.

Even as the movie keeps scoring with its action sequences and the funny dialogues, there is that feeling of the imitation of the first movie, and the predictability keeps on getting higher and higher. Even the climax is too predictable for the usual movie watcher’s liking. As our characters are played by those celebrities who are basically more royal than the others, they keep the viewers interested, but this kind of movie needs its own dose of little shocks, and RED 2 does have it, but not that powerful a thing of the royalty’s standard. There is no situation where the audience is supposed to be terrified or feel for the heroes. There are frequent one-liners which clear any doubt in the minds of the viewers, and with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins guiding the gang, and Lee Byung-hun following the path in a majestic manner, there is the reconquest of whatever is lost, and whenever the movie is about to drop down in its level, something new comes up, once in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones and at another occasion in the form of Anthony Hopkins; the rest is well managed by the one-liners which drops a comic bomb which handles and stabilizes the situation.

RED 2 is stretching its arms towards that weekend box office victory here, but surely on a limited level. The movie edges over White House Down, and can pretend to be competent against Pacific Rim, Despicable Me 2 and Man of Steel as this is the new entrant in the game and the reviews are not completely out yet, and Turbo belongs to an entirely different genre and attracts another type of viewers. There was still hope for more, that is for sure; RED had come up with the right platform of origins which could have been exploited further. At the same time, it had also used up a lot of resources, and the need of this sequel was for creativity, which has successfully arrived partially. But when one is looking for fun, there is hardly any opportunity to care and think more, and RED 2 gives that unlimited fun which is not without the flaws list. If this movie belongs to that genre which is pure entertainment, you are welcome to forgive its flaws. I would say that I have forgiven and forgotten the same and got into that roller coaster ride of entertainment which this movie hides behind its pillars of old age. May be it is time for most of you to give it a try, and the rest can wait for the year has a lot more in store.

Release date: 19th July 2013
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lee Byung-hun, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, David Thewlis, Neal McDonough

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✠ The Vampire Bat.

G.I. Joe II

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There are only a few things which bring people back to their childhood on a magic carpet made of collective unconciousness and the dreams one carry over to adulthood on the clouds of absolute wonder. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was in no way a failure in doing the same, but with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it has come closer to being one of those few things. The first one had all the uninteresting characters who tried to be smart, with the exception of Storm Shadow and The Baroness. The second one would surely be more interesting even as the total improvement is just too slight to be considered improved. There is nothing extraordinary in the movie, but the way in which they have treated the ordinary is significant. Here, one can see the power of the old G.I. Joe toys which forms the essence to every kid who has grown up now, living their childhood through these toys. This is the hidden strength of powerful memories which lie beneath the movie and seeks to be called upon from the abyss. From the seemingly ordinary world of the grown ups, this one takes the life of the adult back to the past and then back to the future with its power of the “toy” characterization which is more of a powerful raising of the toylines.

It would not be a big surprise for many fans if it is said that The Rock/Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock runs the show around here. The Rock has always been coming back with power. With him, is the hero of the movie Die Hard, which makes this movie caught between a rock and hard place – that place which is hard enough to die. The role of Bruce Willis is smaller, but still very important and effective in the movie. He still gets to hold many guns and shoot enough people to make an impact. Meanwhile, The Rock is the leader, after the death of Duke (Channing Tatum) – that moment of dead Joes which calls for retaliation over the retaliation of the Cobras over the Joes. The Rock remains the WWE Champion and here also he reigns in what he does the best. He is the new addition to the list and he has done so much to his character which makes Roadblock the undisputed leader and the champion of all the Joes of this movie. His character has made his intentions clear right from the beginning, and remains the nearly unstoppable character till the end, still not deprived of the chance to be beaten up and almost getting killed; without that there would have been no fun inside him. He is also the one who gets to have the final touch in saving the world from total disaster and a Cobra commander with that wonderful destruction plan.

Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow should come next, and not Snake Eyes or Flint. He is that character without whom nothing is possible; there would be an eternal void in the lives of both sides also himself – on this occasion, that absence would cause more disaster to the Joes rather than the Cobras. He was undoubtedly pure evil in the first movie, something which I would have questioned without even a single proof. The question of good and evil is twisted in this sequel, and the roles would become more complicated with a few revelations. He is still not a person to be the right part of the Cobras nor the integral part of the Joes. His truth lies somewhere in between, which is not that comprehensible to both sides. For this time, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) figure it out more than the rest as they are all driven by the same motive, the quest for revenge and the need for finishing off what they started. The battle between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow which looked good enough to continue until eternity would come to an end here, not with one of them dead, and surely not with both dead. Still, the revenge belongs to Storm Shadow, my favourite right from the childhood, and that is something I would be glad to remember.

Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye, has more to do other than being the love interest of Flint and being the attractive one whose beauty supports the missions in a less significant manner. She is the tough person, the shooter who shoots – well, what else should the shooter do is a question pretty relevant, but she is the accurate one around here; and may be even tougher than most of the Joes out there. She finds out that someone is impersonating the President and also uses her beauty and charms for moving themselves closer towards the ultimate destination – in that casem she scores on two occasions. Still, she is no femme fatale. Yet, her speciality is mentioned as Covert Operations in the toy series. The way in which this character has eclipsed the weaker Scarlett from the previous movie is a powerful sign of what to be expected of a possible sequel. For now, there is no suitable replacement for this one.

Flint is more or less Duke himself, or may be the new Duke with a new girl friend who is taller and stronger. It was actually not possible to see the difference in the beginning. Snake Eyes remains the same, faceless and not that interesting a character, even as there is always a certain amount of hype surrounding him. The addition of Jinx to his team might have given the character of Snake Eyes, a chance to be a little more interesting, but not too much. Jinx is never a weak character, but pales in comparison to Lady Jaye, but both are of a better status than Scarlett of the first movie. Ray Stevenson as Firefly makes that powerful impact right from his entrance though, on that bike of destruction which would make the Ghost Rider proud. It should be the most stylish moment of the movie, as long as some shots of The Rock and Adrianne Palicki can be considered a little short and not of style, but of brutality and beauty respectively. He continues to be the one perfect villain any hero wishes to fight, until he gets to face Roadblock for a second time. Still, could have had more character development.

The story continues where the first movie had finished, even as there is no mention of a number of characters from that one – Zartan has impersonated the American President and the G.I. Joes are framed for stealing warheads from Pakistan and are almost exterminated, before Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye manages to survive and make their way back to the United States from their mission in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Storm Shadow and Firefly rescue the Cobra Commander from the maximum security prison. Snake Eyes and Jinx successfully capture Storm Shadow while recovering from his injuries so that he can answer for the murder of his uncle. But Storm Shadow reveals that Zartan is the murderer and he was only a victim of the situation. The three join forces with the Joes in a final attempt to stop Zartan from his attempt on total domination with the help of the Cobra Commander. He invites the world leaders to a summit where he forces them to submit to him by destroying London and threatening to cause further destruction. Once again, it is upto the same people to save the day, and this time, it is going to be a little more fun.

G.I. Joe is many things at once, other than being a movie and also close enough to being a video game – and the most powerful of them all is nostalgia. I had my first contact with the G.I. Joe action figures when I was in the Primary School, and that was the reign of Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander and a few others whom I might fail to name now, but will still remain the earliest of the best choices. This movie has provided a return, and with its superior action sequences and okay 3D scenes, there is a peek into the past which not only brings back the action figures, but also the world that I missed. It is a well-made time machine which can make its way to the past if directed in the right way. It is something which generates more subjectivity in a grown up kid than most of the other things. The more significant question might be if it takes anything back to that world along with bringing something into the present – these questions make G.I. Joe immortal in the mortality, and closer to the adult world of total uncertainty.

Release date: 28th March 2013 (USA); 29th March 2013 (India)
Running time: 110 minutes
Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Lee Byung-hun, D.J. Cotrona, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.