Awake

Vampire Owl: We are not supposed to be awake at this time.

Vampire Bat: We are awake because we are not supposed to go through eternal sleep.

Vampire Owl: Nothing is eternal, other than our immortality.

Vampire Bat: There are still limitations to our immortal nature.

Vampire Owl: The limitations have been imposed by the suppression of our true nature.

Vampire Bat: There is no definition of true nature of the undead.

Vampire Owl: It is what separates us, the undead from the undying.

Vampire Bat: You feel that it is going to matter in the end, do you?

Vampire Owl: Yes, we are going to live for such a long time.

Vampire Bat: Life after death do no usually count as life with its original meaning.

[Gets a vegetable puffs and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: Jill Adams (Gina Rodriguez) is a recovering drug addict, who is now working as a security guard at a local college, after serving as a United States Army medic much earlier. Along with the same, she also steals drugs from the research lab to sell them outside. She picks up her children Noah (Lucius Hoyos) and Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) after work, only to meet an accident on the road, as it seems that everything which works with electricity is malfunctioning. All the cars lose control on the road, and there are many accidents. All the buildings have also lost power. The three somehow manages to get to the nearby hospitals, as people keep talking about this being a terrorist attack, maybe from the Chinese. In the hospital, they find out that the patients in coma have awakened, much to the surprise of the doctors and nurses who were treating them. At night, they are not able to sleep, and they attribute this inability to the trauma which they had to go through, related to the accident. As she travels to work using a bicycle, she is surprised to find out that the whole neighbourhood is awake.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: It turns out that nobody is able to sleep anymore. It turns out that anything with a microchip is fried, and of no use to anyone. Dr Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychiatrist understands that the sleeplessness will soon lead to the symptoms of complete sleep deprivation, and finally to death, but at a quicker pace. The only exception to this seems to be an old woman, whom they are researching on, hoping to find a cure to this seemingly terrifying disease. Jill then remembers that unlike others, Matilda could also fall asleep, and she searches for her, finally finding her at the church. Brian (Finn Jones) also tries to help them, and asks her to bring her daughter to Dr Murphy, but she disagrees. The pastor tells the followers that the girl is a beacon of hope, and they should pray to God for another miracle like her. But the sleep-deprived people feels that they should sacrifice her. As there is a fight in the church, and as Brian also asks for the girl to be handed over, Jill escapes with her children. But how far can they go?

The defence of Awake :: The movie does have the smart and innovative idea and the fine beginning, which could have surely served better if the move was quicker and better focused. The idea of humans not being able to sleep, which finally leads to their loss of mind and in the end, the extinction, is really an interesting concept – anyone who might have read about it or had a clue about the same would wish to watch the movie. This one can still use the same to make a better sequel in a world which has almost reached its end with humanity. The first few moments of accidents and waking up makes a good start, and then there is the scene at the church which makes one question humanity’s inherent evil, followed by the beginning of the journey of the protagonists – all of these have some good strength. The strange moments of the movie are also innovative enough, and mostly working, especially in the first half. The mother trying to save her children and teaching the little girl how to drive, are all interesting survival additions, and could have had better purpose. Along with the same, the visuals are pretty much beautiful.

The claws of flaw :: Awake is a movie which goes on with a slower pace than it would suit a post-apocalyptic film. It often seems to slow down for no reason at all. It also hesitates to take the opportunities which are there, and despite the grand premise, cannot come up with an ending of similar grandeur. This was one great chance to make something that would be remembered for long, but that is not case here. There are so many moments which could have been dealt with, and it is surprising that both science and religion don’t have the solution, but nonsensical kids do. There could have been better explanation of the happenings around here, as we have had strange events with alien or other paranormal attacks from the skyline or even from beneath. It could have also had more action, and maybe some horror elements too, as we have the beginning of a post-apocalyptic world here, and after all, humans are capable of the worst every time. Some more special effects could have also done this one good.

The performers of the soul :: Gina Rodriguez plays the mother figure really well. There has been better appreciated mothers in the past, but she has her moments too, even though her character remains one flawed mother. Ariana Greenblatt as Matilda is pretty much an annoying kid who is weird enough, and one has to wonder if the character was deliberately designed so – we surely had some better kids in the past. Lucius Hoyos as Noah doesn’t have that much of a work to do, as this one is just another teenager moving around during a terrible event, and nothing more is added here. Finn Jones played an interesting character, but unfortunately, the person is killed all of a sudden. Frances Fisher plays the grandmother figure pretty well too. Barry Pepper who plays the pastor has some fine moments, and he also has the dialogues of faith and hope to remember. Maybe, the pastor and the church could have been there for a longer period of time than a few minutes that we had. Jennifer Jason Leigh also has something to add, but we expected her to do more, after we had her in the earlier stages of the movie.

How it finishes :: The movie has a really interesting main idea – what would happen if we lose our ability to sleep? It is a question which can haunt us for a very long time, and this could have been a brilliant movie with the best use of the same idea. But it is certainly not the case here, as even though they have tried, the movie has struggled to live up to the idea, making it just another usual movie which goes through the post-apocalyptic world without surprises. It is often disappointing that a movie doesn’t use the best use of the opportunities presented to it. But we continue to watch this one as we are curious, and we are concerned about what is to happen next – the movie manages to create that desire to watch, and even with its slow pace, there is the movement towards that final destination, keeping it floating. It is the kind of movie which you can surely watch to pass the time, and at the same time, also ponder about the core idea – what if sleep evades you? How long can you hold on without being able to go to sleep?

Release date: 9th June 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 96 minutes
Directed by: Mark Raso
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barry Pepper, Finn Jones, Ariana Greenblatt, Gil Bellows, Barry Pepper, Lucius Hoyos, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sebastian Pigott

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Alita

Vampire Owl: Do you know that a machine graveyard is now being prepared at the zombie graveyards by the werewolves?

Vampire Bat: What? You can’t have machines in a zombie world. It is a very dangerous situation that can lead to terrible consequences.

Vampire Owl: Yes, but the news says that they have already started it.

Vampire Bat: When there is a machine graveyard, it is called a scrapyard. They don’t even know that much?

Vampire Owl: Werewolves were never the experts in learning.

Vampire Bat: So, how far has this been present there?

Vampire Owl: Ever since the movie Alita: Battle Angel released.

Vampire Bat: Well, at least they haven’t based something on the Underworld series or some Frankenstein movie this time.

Vampire Owl: Well, you know them. They are never sure about what they do.

Vampire Bat: If they want something to base their lives on, tell them to watch something like Byzantium or Doctor Sleep.

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

What is the movie about? :: Three hundred years have passed since a great war destroyed most of Earth. This war known as “The Fall” left the planet devastated, and divided it into the highly advanced Zalem City in the sky, and Iron City on the ground which was very crowded even though it had some of advanced technology. Almost everyone on the ground worked for Zalem, which was supposed to be one of the greatest cities of all-time, and the only one remaining after the continuous war with the enemy group known as United Republics of Mars (URM). A man named Vector (Mahershala Ali) controlled everything on the ground, as a proxy to the ruler at Zalem, getting his dirty job done. Almost everyone from the Iron City wanted to go to Zalem City, and it was part of their dreams for which they worked all day. But someone from the ground rarely made it to the sky, even though vice versa was always possible.

So, what happens with the events here? :: A scientist and doctor, Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers parts of a female cyborg with a working human brain while looking for parts in the city’s scrapyard. With the help of his assistant Nurse Gerhad (Idara Victor), he manages to fit her into a cyborg body at his clinic. He calls her Alita (Rosa Salazar) after his daughter who died earlier, as the cyborg seems to have no memories of her past at all including her own name. Dr Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), Dyson’s former wife who works for Vector doesn’t seem to like it though. She manages to be friends with a scrap deaker Hugo (Keean Johnson) who shows her the world, and his friends including Koyomi (Lana Condor) and Tanji (Jorge Lendeborg Jr). She also knows about the cyborgs that walk on the streets including Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley) and Nyssiana (Eiza Gonzalez), and a fight with them will bring some of her memories back. So, who was she? How does that play a role in the future of her and the city?

The defence of Alita: Battle Angel :: There is a well-designed post-apocalyptic and dystopian future that can be seen throughout the movie’s run, and the elements are always there to be seen and enjoyed. The futuristic world is really well designed, with the two cities, as well as what lies beyond. The same can be said about the cyborgs too, as almost each one of them has different characteristics – you can also see that the protagonist makes the best out of it. The action sequences are of top quality, and we are addicted to them, and looking for more of similar moments. The emotional moments are also effective, and the idea behind the movies with moments of its flashbacks makes us wish for a sequel or even a prequel, because both will complete the tale well. This is one of those rare movies when we get close to the cyborgs more than humans. It will be difficult not to be emotionally connected to this movie, and its leading battle angel.

The claws of flaw :: It has to be noted that Alita: Battle Angel leaves many questions to be answered, especially related to how United Republics of Mars (URM) was defeated, and the she ended up in the scrapyard if they were that good with fighting, having an almost perfect cyborg system which is near impossible to be destroyed – such an addition as a prequel or sequel is needed quickly enough. There is the feeling that we have watched most of this before too, and a lost cyborg finding its past and fighting through evil is not something we don’t know much about. The story becomes usual, and we can guess most of the proceedings of the tale. We can also predict what is to happen with some of the characters in the tale a little too easily, as the romantic side just serves as a drag. Let us see if a possible sequel and manage to rise above the usual stuff, and bring in the innovation.

Performers of the soul :: Rosa Salazar’s avatar remains a hit, and as she wore a motion capture suit and gave life to the character with the help of animation, we are glad to have this one added to our favourite list of cyborgs of all-time as the battle angel who is one day going to bring down a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Christoph Waltz’s character is the next one to whom we feel the emotional connect, and he makes the perfect father figure in more than one way. Jennifer Connelly makes a good addition, even though she is there for only shorter periods of time, but she makes some moments worthy. Mahershala Ali is okay as the puppet villain, but the antagonism is lost on a number of occasions. The two next most notable cyborgs played by Jackie Earle Haley and Ed Skrein makes it worthy of our time, being on the darker side of good-evil alignment. Keean Johnson as Hugo is the usual young lover boy done fine.

How it finishes :: Alita: Battle Angel is the very next project from James Cameroon’s Lightstorm Entertainment after Avatar, and before Terminator: Dark Fate which followed in the same year. If you look at that list, the next two movies are Avatar 2 and Avatar 3, followed by even more sequels if the two makes enough money. The director’s last movie was Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, some years ago. So, this is one project which was much expected – well, the trailer was really good too. Alita: Battle Angel, despite dealing with a post-apocalyptic and dystopian theme, with a dark side, can be watched by families, and it is an advantage that this movie have to widen its audience. I would recommend this movie over most of the movies which I have watched during lock-down. It has its heart and soul at the right place, and we are going to expect an even bigger sequel.

Release date: 14th February 2019
Running time: 122 minutes
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Jennifer Connelly, Christoph Waltz, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Eiza Gonzalez, Lana Condor, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Idara Victor, Mahershala Ali, Jeff Fahey, Rick Yune

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Wandering Earth

Vampire Owl: Do you think that Earth can wander?

Vampire Bat: I have never known about Earth being a wanderer. Can it go to tourist destinations and see places?

Vampire Owl: This movie has Earth wandering around with he help of human technology to escape the solar system to save all life.

Vampire Bat: So, you mean to say that extinction is delayed in this case too.

Vampire Owl: Yes, this time it is the Chinese that saves the day.

Vampire Bat: So, after The Monkey King 2 and The Mermaid, it is time for another full-length Chinese movie.

Vampire Owl: Yes, and we haven’t had something like Interstellar, Gravity or The Martian in a very long time.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we have missed space as well as the possible end of the world.

Vampire Owl: There are not many things that I have missed so much.

Vampire Bat: This one looks grand. So, it could assure fine quality science fiction during the possible end of the world.

[Gets a plum cake and three cups of ginger tea].

What is the movie about? :: The Sun which is getting older is about to turn into a red giant and would engulf Earth’s orbit very soon, and this realization forces the world nations to form a United Earth Government, an act of unity which never happened in the long history of humanity. The plan here is to take Earth out of the Solar System to the Alpha Centauri system which is many light-years away, so that mankind can be saved from extinction which seems to be very close. For the same reason, grand thrusters known as the Earth Engines, are built across the planet to keep Earth moving, after stopping its rotation. Many people die due to grand tsunamis that occured after the rotation stopped. As Earth moved away from the sun using the newly formed Earth Engines, the surface was frozen, forcing the remaining people to live in huge underground cities. These areas were built near the engines to make sure that there is enough power.

So, what happens with the events here? :: As this plan to keep Earth moving for many years, almost taking one hundred generations to finish the mission, a young man named Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao) takes his younger sister Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai) on a journey at the surface. It happens to be an unauthorized trip to the surface, but as they travel in a heavy transport vehicle using fake IDs from criminal gangs and also using their grandfather Han Zi’ang’s (Ng Man-tat) heavy vehicle clearance pass. But their journey is halted by the security forces who takes them to prison, and they are soon joined by their grandfather who tries to bribe the authorities to get them out. Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing), Liu Qi’s father is an astronaut who is at an international space station that is supposed to help navigate the Earth on its journey that would last thousands of years, and also has DNA of animals and seeds of plants stored to ensure better life in the next solar system.

And what is to follow later in this tale? :: Liu Peiqiang’s mission in space is finally going to end and is all set to return to Earth after the Chinese New Year, and meet his son who has been very unhappy about leaving him behind. Liu Qi’s only happiness in the world is his adopted teenage sister Han Duoduo who was saved during the tsunamis by his grandfather. But the plans of a possible family reunion is soon destroyed, as huge earthquakes occur on Earth, as the planet has a gravitational spike during its journey close to it, instead of gaining a gravitational assist, and the Earth Engines are disables as a result. This would get Earth much closer to Jupiter, setting it on a collision course with the giant gas giant, which is many times bigger, and would mean the end of human life on all cities. With all the destruction around, the family escapes from the prison along with a fellow prisoner named Tim (Mike Sui) who is half-Chinese and half-Australian, as they get caught in a mission to save Earth. But can they do it and move Earth away from the largest planet in the solar system?

The defence of The Wandering Earth :: The movie does manage to have some good performances from Qu Chuxiao in the lead, Wu Jing as the father figure, Li Guangjie as the captain, Zhao Jinmai as the sister figure, Ng Man-tat as the grandfather figure, and others who support pretty well. But the movie is never that much about people, even though the emotional side is awakened at times, especially related to the family relations – the big advantage of the movie remains with the action-filled adventure set in the future, nicely managed in a world which is very well designed. There is a fine world that we see here, giving our eyes some beauty which is there to stay even after we finish watching the movie. The post-apocalyptic world is among the best, and the designs of the underground cities, the grand engines with the view of Earth and Jupiter, the new frozen world on the surface, and the message of hope are all nicely delivered. The thrills are delivered well.

The claws of flaw :: Even though the emotional touch is surely there, the characters remain underdeveloped, and the sister character, even though becomes one that catches our attention, doesn’t have that depth – the father-son relationship also struggles to move on, and the final sacrifice is the one thing that saves it, as its background remains too strained to be likable. There is also a certain amount of predictability related to that, and even with a new idea of using the Earth to go to another solar system instead of a spaceship to take people to another planet, the idea is not that much explored to the full potential. Even with the final attempt being something of zero chance of survival, when people go for it instead of supporting the survival of the species, one has to wonder what kind of astronauts and scientists are these people. At least the Artificial Intelligence did loss hope in mankind by then. This one surely needs a sequel to let us know how it goes after that fine finish, and I hope that it arrives soon.

How it finishes :: The Wandering Earth is undoubtedly the best Chinese full-length movie which I have watched so far, but it has to be noted that I haven’t watched many of those movies. It is a visually stunning spectacle which takes you on an apocalyptic as well as post-apocalyptic journey through a world which needs to be saved, and this is where the science fiction wears it action-adventure boots, and gets you on a thrilling adventure. It might not make you feel that it is entirely new inside, but what you see on the outside with its idea, is innovative. It might feel familiar at times, but also impressive, when you witness this grandeur on the screen. It is China’s third highest-grossing movie of all-time, and it might be their first full-scale space adventure, with apocalypse written all over it. Loosely based on the 2000 novel with the same name by Liu Cixin, the movie has you immersed in that world from the future.

Release date: 5th January 2019
Running time: 125 minutes
Directed by: Frant Gwo
Starring: Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjiem, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai, Wu Jing, Qu Jingjing, Zhang Yichi, Yang Haoyu, Li Hongchen, Yang Yi, Jiang Zhigang, Zhang Huan

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.