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.

Train to Busan

Vampire Owl: I had the feeling that you were never going to write on foreign movies.

Vampire Bat: Yes, that was the earlier intention, but there are so many good titles among them. To add to it, I had written about a foreign short film.

Vampire Owl: So you mean to say that you are breaking the rules.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but only this rule. I will not be writing on a movie which gets a score of 70/100 when it is from last year, or 50/100 if it is new. I will also not write on any movies older than the previous year.

Vampire Owl: It is fair enough. So just more categories at Movies of the Soul?

Vampire Bat: Yes, an expansion was needed. These are the days when there is not much of a place for honest reviews.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I see that people take money from the movie makers and write positive reviews, no matter how bad the movie is.

Vampire Bat: It is where we choose to write on only the movies which are good, thus not writing about at least half of the movies that we watch.

Vampire Owl: Well, we need more reviews then, because most of the movie pages and celebrities are only sharing those reviews for which they have paid for.

Vampire Bat: This is an undead movie. So let us start the new saga with this one, and expand our territory.

[Gets three cups of Wayanad tea with Patanjali Doodh Biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) a fund manager so obsessed with his work that he rarely think about the rest of the things in his life. Due to the same reason, he rarely get any time to spend with his only daughter, Soo-an (Kim Su-an) who wishes to be with her parents. But that wasn’t going to happen as her father and mother and divorced, and she could consider her lucky enough just to have some moments from her father’s busy schedule. Hoping to see her mother again, Soo-an makes the birthday wish to see her who is at Busan, to her father, who really had no clue what to buy his daughter for her birthday. Even though he really wants to keep on working, Seok-woo takes his daughter to the Seoul railway station to board the Korea Train Express. There seems to be something strange going on in the city with ambulances, police and fire fighters rushing, but they ignore the same.

So, what happens next? :: There they come across Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Jung Yu-mi) who are looking forward to a rather peaceful and undisturbed journey. The journey has two of the strangest passengers, one being a homeless man (Choi Gwi-hwa) who has shut himself inside the lavatory being afraid of something, and there is an injured girl (Shim Eun-kyung) who has run into the train without the ticket checker noticing. While the former had just seen the attack to get scared, the latter had just been bitten by a zombie in the outbreak which had plagued the city causing panic all around. The girl turns into a zombie and spreads the infection beginning with an atttendant, and then on to the passengers. Along with the father, daughter, husband and the pregnant wife, a cheerleader Jin-hee (Ahn So-hee), her lover and baseball player Yong-guk (Choi Woo-shik)are among those who escape by getting them all into one compartment.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: The zombies await the survivors in the very next compartment, but they are not able to get in, as they are not that smart. Sang-hwa is doubtful of Seok-woo as his a corporate man and was hesitant to open the door of the compartment for him and his wife. Seok-woo is not that fond of him either as he is concerned about his daughter more than anything else, and is afraid to do anything that has the slightest possibility of putting her in danger. Then there is the rich and selfish COO Yon-suk (Kim Eui-sung) who just wants to get him safe, even if it means that everyone in the train has to die a painful death. But time keeps running out for them, but hope comes as they are supposed to stop at Daejeon Station, where all passengers are to be quarantined. Seok-woo calls one of his influential colleagues and makes sure that he and his daughter would be able to get through without being quarantined. But you can never be safe as long as there are zombies anywhere, right?

The defence of Train to Busan :: There are not many zombie movies this quick, as this movie goes on as fast as the train itself – there is absolutely no dull moment in this flick which moves forward as if it is a bullet shot right out of a gun, and people used to say that the zombies were slow, or rather the slowest among all of the undead. There are so many thrilling moments here that we get to stop counting – there are so many of the undead, and there are so many occasions when our protagonists need to keep running or even fight back to keep the creatures out. We get to care for so many of characters like never before in a horror movie. All these are so nicely shot, and whatever we see have smartness behind them. There is the corporate evil shown with all brutality here, as we see the man in suit being the most selfish creature, even worse than the zombies. We also see a lot of emotions, and acts which define humanity in one way or the other – there heroes when least expected, and some acts of sacrifice will go very far down deep.

The claws of flaw :: A ninety six percent approved movie from the critics should mean to be something more when you look at it – and there are zombies, which means that you never bring the expectations down. Train to Busan is one of those rare Korean movies which got its release in the multiplex near our place, and we know that it got everyone’s attention by a huge margin. The movie’s biggest predictability is that a lot of people can figure out the two people who are to survive by the end of the movie – it seems like that is meant to make sure that even families are going to like it, even though the horror movie genre rarely make any inroads there. We have also had a lot of zombie movies, and we were looking for something that deviated like no other – there was also the need for an explanation of how zombies came into being; it would help, as it was proven by a franchise like Resident Evil which was rather one-dimensional in its content even though it was three-dimensional on the screen.

How it finishes :: We have had many zombie movies with the outbreak of something resembling a plague, which spread through bite – even if we forget those earlier movies, we have had quite a good number of interesting ones in the last few years, and the biggest money-maker has been the video game inspired franchise which never really seemed to have an end until they released one movie titled the final chapter, Resident Evil. Then there was the most divergent of them all, the one which had a zombie love story which threatened to take away more than just a few Twilight fans – Warm Bodies. Then there is World War Z which might be the most similar to Train to Busan, but we see that this Korean flick here is rather the improved version – a zombie movie which will stay in your minds with not just the action, but with all things combined. Well, the point to be noted is that it is not Hollywood who has come up with this all-rounder zombie flick. Even we had Go Goa Gone.

Release date: 20th July 2016 (Korea); 21st October 2016 (India)
Running time: 118 minutes
Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee, Choi Gwi-hwa, Jung Suk-yong, Ye Soo-jung, Park Myung-sin, Jang Hyuk-jin, Kim Chang-hwan, Shim Eun-kyung

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.