Black Widow

Vampire Owl: I hope that we are not speaking about the spiders here.

Vampire Bat: No, none of us vampires are related to spiders, you know.

Vampire Owl: The witches take in a lot spiders.

Vampire Bat: Most of them are killed by the cats in there though.

Vampire Owl: But they are essential part of the dark magic.

Vampire Bat: It is not dark magic, but black magic.

Vampire Owl: You feel that there is a difference between the two.

Vampire Bat: Yes, darkness is not necessarily black, as it can come in different colours.

Vampire Owl: You are talking about darkness being reinvented by the vampire elders.

Vampire Bat: The source is the portal though.

[Gets a paneer momo and three cups of black tea].

What is the movie about? :: Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) are undercover agents of Russia known elsewhere as the Red Guardian and Black Widow, just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Everything seems to be too natural for them, as a family with parents and two children. The agents successfully disguise as a normal American family in Ohio with their two daughters, and after stealing SHIELD intelligence, manage to escape to Cuba, after going through a tough chase. Soon enough, they are trained vigorously for their possible future missions for this secret organization known as Red Room. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) who had their training in the Red Room to become assassins, continue in their missions to become successful and highly skilled fighters in their own ways. Natasha has become a fugitive for violating the Sokovia Accords, some time after joining the Avengers, after she had left her own team of assassins much earlier to join SHIELD.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Natasha escapes to a safehouse in Norway, while Yelena comes in contact with a former Black Widow who provides a synthetic gas that neutralizes the chemical mind control agent on her, which leads her to understand her actions and move to hiding. She attempts to stop the Red Room, this organization which has been creating assassins by manipulation of the mind. Natasha believes that she had destroyed the Red Room a long time ago, but it seems that it is not the case, as she is hunted by an unknown figure for the vials which were sent to her by her sister. She manages to escape and meet Yelena, only to be attacked by more female assassins, part of the Black Widow programme in the Red Room. Yelena had hoped that someone from Avengers would help her to get rid of the Red Room and free the black widows, but it seems that the superhero team no longer holds strong, and they have to find a few other more effective options.

The defence of Black Widow :: The movie fits in nicely within the list of superhero movies with its own fine deviations. The action scenes definitely make the point, and the two leading ladies make the best part of the movie, and some fine humour is also added in there well. There are surely some fine scenes which stand apart from the others, and not all of them are at the best for the intensity or the use of special effects. The fight scenes when the two sisters meet, and when the black widows fight, are among two of the best. The visuals are really good, as you would expect from a movie like this. The emotional moments are also pretty much working. The film is a fine part of the cinematic universe, but at the same time, it is also good enough to stand alone here. In the end, you do know where to place this movie, and with the final moments after the credits, the same is assured yet again – it is once again that time when you don’t take the eyes away from the screen.

Positives and negatives :: The movie does have perfectly suited cast to work in its favour with a lot of efficiency. The new additions to the cinematic universe are indeed among the best, and we see them joining and blending in so well. We do have hope that there could be a new beginning for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the new entries, even though the Corona virus pandemic threat is forever, and can affect its run in the future too. There are still times when the movie seems to go up and down, seemingly following an inconsistent pattern – the tale could have followed a more straight forward pattern rather than going on like the tides. There could have also been more training sequences of the black widows, and more of their missions might have done the movie more good. A little bit more of Avengers could have also provided the movie with positives. After all, we are never short of hope, as far as superheroes are concerned.

The performers of the soul :: Scarlett Johansson leads the way, as one would expect. We have seen her do what she has done the best in the previous movies. Florence Pugh is the one who comes up with some fine surprises, and if there is another Black Widow, it could only be her – she makes a perfect one indeed. She would have made a fine addition to the team of Avengers on another day, maybe as part of another dimension in future. The action works for both of them really well, and there is also that humour that comes nicely with them around. It is also nice to see Rachel Weisz in such a memorable role again, as she is one actress who was also part of our childhood for quite a long time. David Harbour brings an extra amount of humour in between too, and even when serious, he adds a certain amount of the same. Olga Kurylenko is also present, even though we don’t see much of her, at least not the face. She remains one action star that we can always trust on, one of the last references being the lesser known film, The Courier.

How it finishes :: We know where these Marvel movies go, and this one does have its deviation which seems to work efficiently by its own. As the new action-packed addition to the grand list, it is an entertaining ride that one wouldn’t want to miss, as we already have that feeling of requiring more of Avengers after Infinity War and Endgame. The superheroes and saving the world have been gone for rather too long, and here we have it back in the form of Black Widow. We have been wondering which the movie would bring that power back, as we around here don’t really watch the series. This one also has its own fine surprises to add to the same, as this one is really a fine mixture of things. It is not that easy to make an enjoyable film which can match the predecessors anymore, as Marvel has come up with some of the best already. Well, this some proof about the about the fact that there is always chance to keep the momentum going.

Release date: 9th July 2021
Running time: 134 minutes
Directed by: Cate Shortland
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Major Grom

Vampire Owl: It is a shame that vampires don’t have the ranks of major.

Vampire Bat: We do have titles like vampire-at-arms and master vampire.

Vampire Owl: They seem to be a little too much limited in scope.

Vampire Bat: Scope is what Uncle Dracula talks about it.

Vampire Owl: Uncle Dracula is no longer interested in matters of war.

Vampire Bat: He is not against the peace which prevails among vampires, werewolves and zombies of all realms.

Vampire Owl: He is too old for another war, just like the vampire elders.

Vampire Bat: The wars are led by vampires-at-arms and master vampires.

Vampire Owl: But there is always one Uncle Dracula banner in the front side.

Vampire Bat: The limitations of not having a new banner designer. Nothing more.

[Gets a masala dosa and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: Major Igor Grom (Tikhon Zhiznevsky) is chasing three bank robbers dressed like clowns, supposed to look like hockey players from a popular Soviet cartoon. He manages to catch them, but at the same time, causes a lot of damage to public property. Colonel General Fedor Prokopenko (Aleksei Maklakov), Igor Grom’s boss and head of the Saint Petersburg Police doesn’t like what has happened in the streets, causing ten million of currency to be lost, putting the blame on the police department. He doesn’t like the fact that Grom is not wearing police uniform and not having any police equipment. He asks Grom to quit, but tears apart the resignation himself, as he feels the need for his presence in the police department. It is then that the trial of Kirill Grechkin (Yuri Nasonov), the son of a billionaire, takes place, and he is accused of a hit-and-run incident under the influence of alcohol. Kirill, despite being apprehended with proof by Grom himself, feels that he won’t be convicted.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Aleksei Lyosha Makarov (Oleg Chugunov), a boy from the same orphanage where the girl who was hit by Kirill lived, feels that the court is corrupt, and is against the common man. He is extremely disappointed, and is also supposed to have disappeared somewhere after the verdict acquits the rich boy. IT millionaire Sergei Razumovsky (Sergei Goroshko), who is the founder of a new social network Vmeste, and his friend Oleg Volkov (Dmitry Chebotaryov), who grew up in the same orphanage as the murdered girl, are not happy with the court’s decision. A masked man attacks and burns Kirill Grechkin, whose car is also destroyed completely. With flame throwers, armour and great skills in combat in possession of the killer, Grom is not able to catch him. Lyosha is taken by the police for the murder, but Grom tells everyone about the incidents of last night, which the police dismisses. He investigates on the case, but it seems that almost everyone wanted the boy to be dead, as he was such a nuisance.

And what more is added to the tale as something strange is coming up? :: Yulia Pchyolkina (Lyubov Aksyonova), a blogger and journalist also wanted a role in the investigation. Later, Oleg comes to Razumovsky and confesses the truth that he is the man on the streets with the flamethrower. Razumovsky is upset by this, but doesn’t want to turn his friend in to the authorities. It is then that videos of a strange man known as Plague Doctor appear on the internet. He wears a mask and a combat suit, and has bombs and flamethrowers – he promises to clean the city and take it out of all the criminal mess. Olga Isaeva (Anna Nevskaya), head of RosGarantBank is the next victim of the Plague Doctor, as she is accused of taking away the money of the poor. There seems to be a war on the rich and influential, called on by the Plague Doctor, while Lyosha is released. The newly formed vigilante is now considered as a hero by many people, who don’t want him to be caught. What does this change do to the law and order situation in the city?

The defence of Major Grom :: The movie does have a hero played well by Tikhon Zhiznevsky, and Sergei Goroshko makes a fine antagonist. Lyubov Aksyonova plays the lead well too. The film can also boast about its stunning visuals, which is interesting in more than one way. There is the feeling of quality here, which is maintained at all times. The beautiful world of Saint Petersburg is a boost, and we do get some fine action sequences around here, with the strong antagonist who seems to be better than the most. The protagonist here is not a Batman, Thor, Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Spider-Man – kind of hero, as he has no specific superpowers or a lot of money, except for the fact that he is strong and surely has an expertise in fighting. The film focuses on his strengths and moves forward well. Even for a seemingly superhero movie, it does stay close to reality, and keeps the hero somewhat flawed too. There is also the presence of some humour which works, and keeps the pace quick at all times.

Positives and negatives :: The movie basically follows the usual plot, and that too, without trying too hard. It is not really different from the usual superhero movies, with a villain having a grand motive, and also having those psychological problems, but talks about being ideologically superior. The choice of the villain’s costume is interesting as well symbolic, as he intends to take away the plague in the form of a few people, from the city, striking as the Plague Doctor providing treatment. It is no surprise that movie makers outside Hollywood are making some fine superhero films these days, for the cultural difference is contributing very nicely to making these flicks more interesting than seeing something which we have seen for a very long time. Yet, there is always more that these kind of movies can do, with creative imagination that can go beyond some comics, suiting the age. A superhero can be built differently, and transformed as much as a creative thinker can – something which would make the admirers of the genre proud. After all, you are never really far away from finding the perfect superhero.

How it finishes :: Here is another interesting heroic adventure of our times, based on another comics. For a change, we do have the superhero policeman, and not the common man who takes the law into one’s hands, mostly due to circumstances. Well, we require our superheroes in all forms, even without the superpowers – defeating what seems to be a supervillain is surely what matters the most. It does remind us of those other superhero movies, but with its setting, as well as with the choice of cast, it does stand apart. There are not many superheroes who can get a strong villain like this one, and therefore, just like Minnal Murali, this one powers up well enough. In a world populated by humans who have been degrading further into their evil ways, the requirement of a superhero seems to be understood better these days, along with the understanding that one can never have such a hero in reality. With the same, the movie does provide some good escapism, even though it is still close to reality than most superhero works.

Release date: 5th May 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 137 minutes
Directed by: Oleg Trofim
Starring: Tikhon Zhiznevsky, Lyubov Aksyonova, Aleksei Maklakov, Aleksandr Seteykin, Sergei Goroshko, Dmitry Chebotaryov, Mikhail Evlanov, Oleg Chugunov

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Mara

Vampire Owl: This would be a nice name for a new vampire.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that vampires have so many nice names on the official list.

Vampire Owl: I am still confident that we can use one or two more.

Vampire Bat: Even in that case, there is no shortage of names.

Vampire Owl: You know that these names are too old and outdated.

Vampire Bat: There are no outdated names for immortals like us.

Vampire Owl: The world do change, even if vampires do not.

Vampire Bat: Well, we have changed. There are enough examples for the same within the castle itself.

Vampire Owl: Those are not really part of anything that we use.

Vampire Bat: They are all part of us now, even if you don’t realize the same yet.

[Gets a chocolate chake and three glasses of mango shake].

What is the movie about? :: Andrey (Semyon Serzin) wishes for a terrible memory to be erased from the mind of his wife, Olya (Marina Vasileva). For the same, he visits Mara (Aleksandra Revenko) who has some special herbs which could be good enough to do the job for him. Mara realizes that there was a terrible attempt at robbery at their home, and she provides them with some mushrooms which he uses in cake to make sure that she starts forgetting – Mara assures him that she will able to control how much she forgets. That night itself, Olya who was living separately after the incident returns to him. But she still doesn’t want to live with him in the same house where the incident took place, and as Mara had asked him to look after her house after she leaves for a few months, they move to her place which has so many herbs and antique items. She develops a liking for the new place immediately, and is happier than before.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Things seem to go smoother than before from outside. Olya seems to be enjoying her time at the new place, which is strange with its look, but has all the facilities that they need. One night, Andrey does have a dream though, and he sees a child as well as a horse in there, and Olya also sees a person in there, staring at them. Mara assures him that they are ghosts of the previous owners, and that the process does include some side effects, but there is nothing to worry about there, and things can only get better. But Olya begins to experience more, and it only keeps her wishing to get out of there. As a musician, she is not able to practice like she used to, with fear of something being around her. She has her own hallucinations that doesn’t help her at all. Soon, it seems that he is not able to get Mara on the phone again, but it is not all, as he finds out that there is no record of the place as of now, and nobody knows the woman whom he had met. Now he wonders if things are going completely out of control.

The defence of Mara :: There is enough of the feeling of mystery and horror in this particular movie which seems to build, and become stronger with a certain amount of weirdness that is continued to be maintained around here. The atmosphere that is maintained for the same is quite superior, and there are different world being created here, most of them unreal, and bringing a different feeling. It begins very well, providing the idea that we are soon moving to a world of dark fantasy. The film provides the feeling of a twisted fairy-tale which is more than what meets the eye, and the audience are left doubting about many things here. The grief, the melancholy that is present here also feels real, and the whole thing takes enough of deviation to bring the horror, which is less evident, and hidden for us to find. It uses the evil which is off the screen, and generates the fear out of something which is more of a mystery than the usual ghost story.

The claws of flaw :: Mara does have a great beginning, and we were always expecting to see more as it progresses, but there is not that much of terror being unleashed here. The usual quick scares are missing here, even though there were so many opportunities to bring the same, with a certain amount of mystery always present at different areas. It could have also had more of the history of the apartment rather than of the rest. It could have also used the mushrooms in a more terrifying manner rather than with those colours, as the opportunities were many. Being not the usual horror movie, this one could have brought the grandeur that the others would find difficult to bring – that kind of a premise is set in the beginning itself. Mara does miss out on some of such opportunities which were there to be taken, but we appreciate the fact that it could go divergent against all odds. After all, we all have different demons to meet on separate occasions, even though this can be somewhat confusing for regular horror lovers.

Performers of the soul :: Even though not the main character, and even without having that much of time on the screen, it is Aleksandra Revenko who catches our attention from the beginning scenes, and we don’t see much more of her until the end. There is a certain wickedness in her which is clearly visible in the later stages, but the same is also present in her in the beginning too, hidden in her movements. One would have still wanted to use her more in the final stages, in the form of the terrifying antagonist rather than anything else. Semyon Serzin plays a simple, very much confused character, who does some foolish things which come back to haunt him, and that is done fine. At the same time, Marina Vasileva is really good here, and she has blended into this character who goes through different troubles – the emotions are nicely reflected by her. The changes that she goes through are nicely portrayed here, and she also gets more to do by the end of the movie.

How it finishes :: Mara, also known as Side Effect and Pobochnyi Effect reminds us of other Russian horror films like Queen of Spades, Guests and Baba Yaga. The Russian horror movies do have something different in them, just like the science fiction coming from the same area like Coma, Superdeep, Sputnik and The Blackout. There is such grand making quality here. The film also serves as a morality tale, a reminder about how the past cannot be erased, and we can only make things better in the present, for living in past can mean eternal grief and a never ending feeling of melancholy. It is a film of well-made divergent overall, and the same serves as a good cinematic experience with its mystery running directly in the middle. We all need our horror films during the Corona virus pandemic, and this one adds as horror better than most of those flicks which keep repeating the same pattern again and again. After all, we are also having a remake of Ezra coming soon for Bollywood on Amazon Prime Video.

Release date: 5th November 2020
Running time: 93 minutes
Directed by: Aleksey Kazakov
Starring: Semyon Serzin, Marina Vasileva, Aleksandra Revenko, Maria Abramova, Maria Karpova, Anatoliy Zhuravlyov, Stepan Devonin, Sergey Cherdantsev, Natalya Dedeyko, Nikita Tezov

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Superdeep

Vampire Owl: I thought that Meander had gone quite deep with its crawlspaces.

Vampire Bat: We cannot be sure that it was about going deep into the ground.

Vampire Owl: From the final moments, it did give me that feeling.

Vampire Bat: The feeling should most probably be wrong.

Vampire Owl: I am more confident about Russian science fiction than others.

Vampire Bat: Yes, I do remember Sputnik and The Blackout.

Vampire Owl: Russian high budget films seem to have some quality which Hollywood lacks.

Vampire Bat: Hollywood seems to be running out of ideas like Bollywood.

Vampire Owl: Bollywood is not what we usually associate with new ideas.

Vampire Bat: Still, they are so much available everywhere.

[Gets a blueberry cake and three cups of Ceylon tea].

What is the movie about? :: The action is set in 1984, during the final years of Soviet Union, before its final dissolution into Russia and the other nations. Anna Fedorova (Milena Radulovic) works as an epidemiologist is working for a vaccine for the government, but wishes to resign her post as the head of research, as her research associate is now dead due to trying the vaccine on himself without precautions and no preliminary animal testing. As there is a quick need for the vaccine, the military continues to force her to do what she has been doing, and she is also authorized to continue the human trials, and come up with a result. She still considers herself to be fully responsible for the failure of Vaccine MX23, and the death of her colleague. Her original idea was also to shut down the project immediately, but that wouldn’t be an option in Soviet Union. With the military having an eye over everything, things now have to proceed faster than ever.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The Soviet soldiers in Africa are going to require this vaccine soon, and there is a deadline coming up – the government has never been fans of those who fail to meet the deadline, even if it is by a few days. Soon, Anna is seen as being congratulated on her success in developing the vaccine in a short period of time, much ahead of the deadline. She also receives a call from the military, and she is informed about an incident in a secret underground research facility at Kola Superdeep where sounds of unknown origin were discovered below the surface after twenty people had hone missing. The facility is going to be shut down soon, and there is the need to collect the samples very soon, for which she cab lead a team. For this, some fine rewards are offered to her. She finds the offer to be appointed as the head of the Military Biological Defense Institute to be something which she cannot turn down, and that leads her to the secret facility set in snow.

And things can get only stranger in this world of chaos :: With a group of highly armed soldiers, she reaches there, only to be approached by a strange man who refuses to obey instructions, and is shot. The stranger detonates a hand grenade to kill himself, and there is some damage caused to the helicopter, and the cew is also slightly hurt. This comes as a shock to Anna who feels that there is more to what has happened now. Anna notices the corpse, and finds out that there is something strange about the body, as she continues to collect samples from the remains. The dead man was supposed to be a scientist who came up and lost control of his mind, but according to the crew, he had become so strong that nobody could hold him down. Anna also checks the miners from the mining shaft attached to the secret facility, but she is able to find nothing specific. One of the miners do give her a clue, that this is not about a disease, and it is basically hell down there. Now, it is up to her to find something out of that particular idea.

The defence of The Superdeep :: Milena Radulovic whom we know from The Balkan Line leads the way well in this film which has her as the advantage. The film does have some fine visuals of this particular world which goes a long way underneath the surface of the planet. The fine detail around here does provide us with the feeling of 1980s and the Soviet world. It is different from what we see in the usual Hollywood movies, and that difference works as an advantage to take us to a different universe. It also reminds us of some of those computer games with some fine graphics. This is more or less like a whole world down there to explore, and we can surely make a video game out of this. There are moments when it also reminds one of Prometheus and Alien Covenant, as there is something out of this world at work. There is also a certain amount of alien-like horror working out here. The detailing here is also very good, and unveiling this mystery only makes things scarier. The fear here feels real, and the thrills go on.

Positives and negatives :: The Superdeep doesn’t have good beginning, as we do have our doubts about what is to happen, after the start. Other than the main character, the others don’t contribute that much around here. Once the film gets its setting to the snow-filled world and underneath it, we are quick to know that we are up for something that will keep us glued to the seats. The sound effects nicely contribute to the same as much as the atmosphere created. All these contribute well to the fear generation. The idea of the creature at work here brings more to totality too. There is so much about the creature that is scary, and it is not just the view itself. The limitations and the lack of soul in science can also be seen here, as we see the sinister motives here too. The ending leaves a few things to ponder about, not just about humanity and its survival as well as weakness, but also about what is to happen next, leaving the possibility of having a sequel at some point.

How it finishes :: Russian film industry has been very good in making some special science fiction movies, and this one is the latest addition to the same. It is also like a computer game in which we enters a dangerous new world, and we enjoy this setting a lot. It does reminds one of Doom, but does manage to create its own identity, thanks to the Soviet style which is reinvented really well with a certain amount of quality. The scary elements also work really well here, and the horror that is provided here can stay. If you are into science fiction horror, you have to give a chance to this film too. Among the recent flicks, you might have watched Russian demons, ghosts and witches through Guests, Queen of Spades, Baba Yaga and others, but it seems that the best of horror lies in science fiction. You can take a look back to The Blackout and Sputnik along with this one, and this is a film that I consider at a higher level, somewhat above many Hollywood films dealing with similar elements.

Release date: 4th November 2020
Running time: 115 minutes
Directed by: Arseny Syuhin
Starring: Milena Radulovic, Maksim Radugin, Nikita Dyuvbanov, Vadim Demchog, Kirill Kovbas, Viktor Nizovoy, Sergey Ivanyuk, Albina Chaykina, Artyom Tsukanov, Nikolay Kovbas

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Sputnik

Vampire Owl: The title does remind everyone to get vaccinated.

Vampire Bat: It should originally inspire people to go to space.

Vampire Owl: It has surely inspired me to watch the movie.

Vampire Bat: Despite the name, this is a horror film.

Vampire Owl: So there is nothing about the achievements in space programmes.

Vampire Bat: Well, horror is the best genre for movies in space.

Vampire Owl: Horror is the best genre for vampire movies.

Vampire Bat: Horror is more effective in reality though.

Vampire Owl: COVID-19 had already brought that.

Vampire Bat: Doctor Frankenstein is already having new experiments regarding the same.

[Gets a chocolate cake and three glasses of mango shake].

What is the movie about? :: In 1983, as the Cold War has reached its last stages, two cosmonauts who are exploring space come up against something strange on their way back. As there is some problem with their spacecraft, they crash lands in Soviet Kazakhstan. Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov) is the only survivor of the crash, and he is taken to an isolated military facility for observation. Dr Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) who is known for some unorthodox methods of psychological treatment including almost drowning a young boy doesn’t accept that she was wrong, and for the same, she is not considered a good choice. But that changes when she is given another mission by Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk) who is in charge of the facility where Konsantin is kept. This scientific research facility is located far away from civilization, and she feels that there is more to this than what meets the eye, but in a different way.

So, what happens with the events here as some twist is coming up? :: The psychologists at the facility had already tried a lot with him, but there is not much progress about anything, and it is up to Tatyana to make a difference. She talks to the man, but doesn’t find anything out of the ordinary – yet, talking is only the first step, as she would realize later. It turns out that the cosmonaut has been affected by something terrifying, an alien creature which lives inside him. The creature has formed a symbiotic relationship with the man, and it comes out at night when he is asleep. It feeds on whatever he eats, and uses his body as if it is a spacesuit for survival. It had helped him to survive the crash, and helped him regenerate very quickly, making him fit in about two days. Her mission is to separate the host and the creature which lives inside him, and it has to be done without causing him any problems. The man never knew about such an existence inside him as he was feeling even healthier than before, and this seems to be an impossible task.

The defence of Sputnik :: The tension and anxiety is built from the beginning itself, when we see the film. The beginning scenes in space are reminders of what is to come, a foreshadowing of the monstrous entities to be unleashed later. Even though similarities with other alien films are there, this film doesn’t focus on the same, but generates its own monstrosity. The creature design is good, and the deviation from other similar aliens are managed well too. The environment here is also really good, and being at the Cold War Soviet facility does feel different from the usual secret scientific facilities. There is also some fine music going in the background that supports things on the screen, and we also see no shortage of blood and gore. There are also some interesting revelations made in between, and as a Russian film, it seems to have some tranquil quality which the loud alien films from Hollywood don’t usually display.

Positives and negatives :: The film stays further away from the Hollywood style, and therefore if you are looking for people to go around fighting aliens and defeating them in face to face battles, this will not be that much satisfying for you. This one is a rather slower thing, but it still has these moments to be enjoyed – the slowing down does add some beauty to it. You remember that it is usually the United States that is shown as experimenting with aliens, but here we have the change. It is to be noted the film also manage a certain amount of realism even with an alien at the centre here. It also has a small subplot with a child which was totally unnecessary in a film like this – the same was more suited to a flick like Proxima, and here it is out of bounds. One also wonders if it could have had a little bit of more time spent in space, with Gravity-like effects. The ending could have also been stronger, as there are ideas running through here too.

Performers of the soul :: Oksana Akinshina leads the film as a strong character who is more of a person than what meets the eye. She is steady in her role, and has some special moments in store too. The scene with her meeting the alien face to face, and her moments during the alien feeding all provide her with shots to remember in the film. Pyotr Fyodorov has some good work as the cosmonaut who was affected by the alien, and there are some solid moments with him and the leading actress. He fits into the role nicely, and each moment seems to have something for him. Fyodor Bondarchuk plays the antagonist who is planning something sinister with the alien inside human, and he has that determined soldier played to perfection. Anton Vasiliev’s character stand differently, and it is nice to see that one working on a divergent path compared to the others. If alien was more human in nature, that would have made a fine character too.

How it finishes :: This is one Soviet-age film with aliens from space, and that is a special change, unlike X-Men and Captain America which could be set in the same time period – horror has a certain advantage while dealing with the time period, and this Russian film make good use of the same. You can find similarities with another alien film from Hollywood, Life, and surely the references to Alien and its sequels can be seen, as that particular alien life-form has been the model for many more which followed. As sputnik means fellow traveler, the film nicely alludes to the alien as much as the successful Soviet space programme of the space race time period. Now, it has also come to refer to the vaccine looking forward to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and here it is the alien that needs to be taken care of instead of the virus. If you have liked films space travel films with aliens coming to Earth, this is another movie to grab your attention, and with this setting, it has much more of an advantage above the other movies.

Release date: 23rd April 2020
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed by: Egor Abramenko
Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev, Vitaliya Korniyenko, Anna Nazarova, Aleksey Demidov, Aleksandr Marushev, Albrecht Zander, Pavel Ustinov, Natalya Shvets, Vasiliy Zotov

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Without Remorse

 

What is the movie about? :: A group of US Navy SEALs are led by Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B Jordan) through Aleppo in Syria, while the Syrian Civil War is at its peak, and ISIS has a considerable presence in the country. In between all the destruction that they see around them, their mission is to rescue a CIA agent who was earlier taken hostage by ISIS members. But they are shocked and surprised as they come across what seems to a Russian arms depot and not an ISIS safehouse, and the people they were fighting seemed like experts. It turns out that Deputy Director Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) knew that the mission involved fighting the Russian military, and the team, without knowing what they were facing, only manages to survive and escape with the hostage before an airstrike is called on the location. But only three months later, the military officers who were involved in the operation are murdered one after the other, while John spends his time at home with his pregnant wife Pamela M Kelly (Lauren London) after retiring from the force.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: It turns out that John’s home is also attacked at night, and even though he is able to kill one of the attackers, his wife and the unborn baby are killed, while he ends up in critical condition at the hospital. It turns out that it was a group of Russian FSB operatives who attacked them, and it turns out that it is a retaliation for what happened in Syria. But, Robert is not interested in going through the investigation, as even though it is a foreign attack on the US soil, CIA considers the scores settled, with no need to escalate it as an international problem between two nations and their allies around the world. There is also nothing to link the FSB members to the Russian government either. Lt Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) helps John with the needed information, and he takes matter into his hands, as he tracks down the Russian diplomat who issued the passports to the FSB operatives He forces him at gunpoint to provide the name of the surviving assassin, before killing him.

And what else is to happen here? :: John does get the escaped name as Victor Rykov (Brett Gelman), but is sent to prison for what he had done. He also has a fight in the prison, but gets himself in control as he is given an audience with CIA and the rest of the US Department of Defence. United States Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) decides that he would send John with the other operatives to find Victor, as his anger, determination and need for vengeance can be used effectively even though nobody else is certain about it. But even though they travel to Russia in a cargo plane undercover, they are discovered by a Russian fighter plane which shoots them down. This leads to the relation between the United States and Russia reaching a new low after Cold War. They just manage to escape as the flight lands in the sea, and John’s doubts about Robert gets to a new high as he hadn’t taken the same flight with them. Even though he repeats that he knows nothing, there is the feeling that there is something clearly wrong about this particular mission.

The defence of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse :: We always love to have a movie with a high revenge element turn into something with an international conspiracy. There is enough suspense being built here, and we have some twists to add to it, as many things here are not exactly as what they seem. The action is good, and it is mostly focused on shooting, with the support of some explosions, and the feeling of war is always there, even when it is not really on the screen. The sequences are nicely done, not just with the fights, but also with the settings, reminding one of those nice first person and third person games which we have played in the past – after all, the gamers of early 2000s will surely remember games like Rainbow Six and what followed, including Rogue Spear, Take Down, Raven Shield and others which are also based on the works of Tom Clancy, and took the shooters to another level during the time of release. The movie version is quick and keeps up the pace throughout its run-time here.

The claws of flaw :: The movie doesn’t add that much new as one would have expected. It could have managed to get rid of some of its predictability here, and there doesn’t seem to be an attempt to add more to the plot, as a deviation from the book has happened as the makers have tried to change the setting to contemporary times. The hero is also a little bit too strong for this kind of a movie, even though he is still not seen as a superhuman as some of our good old blind fans would have liked – they still have Bollywood to have such dumb movies of non-acting megastars. Some of the twists that await us can be sensed, and we have a number of moments when things could have gotten much better. Also, if you are looking for the usual kind of full of action or full movie, that is not going to happen – it is a trend among the viewers from this part of the world. This is certainly the movie which we would have wanted to see as a better one.

The performers of the soul :: Michael B Jordan with his strong performance leads the way here, even when the character does make us feel that there was much more deserved rather than following the safe path. The action as well as emotional side seems to work well for him here, and gets some fine battle scenes to work in his favour. You are often reminded of Will Smith in Gemini Man too. It is said that Keanu Reeves was also offered the main role here, and that would have been nice too, considering what he has been doing in the John Wick series as the hitman without limits. Beyond the protagonist, the one person who makes a big impact is Jamie Bell, who is the kind of person that suits this kind of films, and if a sequel is being made, he deserves to be there. Lauren London doesn’t have much to do in here, and the only female character who gets any importance is Jodie Turner-Smith who plays Commander Karen Greer, and it is played well. Guy Pearce does his job in a neat manner too.

How it finishes :: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse gets its release in Amazon Prime, and this is indeed the right time to be on OTT at least in India, as this is the season of COVID-19 again, and not many Indian films are releasing on any of these platforms anymore. With the novel on which it is based, written in 1993, and set during the Vietnam War, this one takes a move forward in the timeline, placing itself in the contemporary times as it serves as the origin story of John Clark, a character that is repeated in the other works of the series. There seems to be quite a good number of differences which are to be noted. The fans of the book might or might not like them, but as far as most of us around here are concerned, we haven’t read the work. I would consider this one to be an interesting movie with focus on origins. The opportunity for the sequel can also be seen here, and we can wait to see how another film can build on this.

Release date: 30th April 2021
Running time: 109 minutes
Directed by: Stefano Sollima
Starring: Michael B Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Luke Mitchell, Jack Kesy, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo, Guy Pearce, Lauren London, Todd Lasance, Cam Gigandet, Jacob Scipio

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Coma

Vampire Owl: I have been in a vampire coma for quite a long time.

Vampire Bat: I am pretty sure that the coma about which they are talking about here is not the same at all.

Vampire Owl: Well, all comas are pretty much similar in nature when you look deep enough.

Vampire Bat: At least, you should understand that being in a coffin and resting is not really the coma which is supposed to be significant.

Vampire Owl: What about that case when we were attacked by the werewolves and I went into coma?

Vampire Bat: You went for rest, and you had asked for it. There was no real coma.

Vampire Owl: Well, it is quite unfair, you know, for vampires not really having real comas.

Vampire Bat: Why would you want to go on a coma? It is quite absurd.

Vampire Owl: I had placed a bet with Vampire Penguin.

Vampire Bat: I thought that you were finished with that nonsense already!

[Gets an apple cake and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: Viktor (Rinal Mukhametov) awakens on a bed inside a strange room, and he is surprised to find that there is something wrong with the objects in the room, and as he walks out, he finds out that everything around there is weird, with people as well as the objects – the rules of gravity itself doesn’t apply there as buildings from different parts of the world also seems floating around along with the usual kind of buildings and roads. As he walks around and witnesses more strange things, he is attacked by a creature, but is saved by a group of people and he accompanies them as they run away from what seems to be monster with no real shape. The newly found friends explain to him that he should be in a coma in original life, and what they are experiencing are the memories of the people who are in coma. Building, objects, people or whatever they remember are there in this world, but in a chaotic arrangement. Whatever is not remembered, doesn’t exist there at all. The new world had picked up these memories like radio signals.

So, what happens with the events here? :: The one whom Viktor meets first is Fly (Lyubov Aksyonova) a soldier who seems to have healing skills, and explains to him on his newly found situation in between San Francisco Bridge, St. Peter’s Basilica, Burj Khalifa, Kremlin, Big Ben and others. The mixed up memories being more and more chaos to world as not much makes sense in this new world. He feels that this is all just a dream, and he would wake up from it at some point, but Fly tells him that it is not going to happen, and they are all stuck there, in the world of coma, and they are all hunted by the creatures known as reapers, which make their existence there as unsafe, until they find a new place of refuge. If they die in that particular world of coma, there would be no return to the real world for them, and they decide to play it safe. Fly feels that Viktor will play a major role in making sure about their safety, but not everyone is that confident about it.

And what more is there in this strange world which seems to have no meaning? :: The leader of the military team is Phantom (Phantom) who has developed his strength and agility, while Spirit (Polina Kuzminskaya) has developed mind power. Almost everyone out there seems to have developed some powers during their stay at the place. Yet, Viktor seems to develop none despite all the hype surrounding him, and the only thing he remembers about him is that he used to be an architect, and had a car accident which brought him into the coma. Still, they have to keep searching in different memories which have become entangled as so many people in coma have left their part in there. With reapers everywhere hunting for people who have reached this world, they are indeed running out of time. The creatures can sense them, and there is a good chance that they will be turned into one of the monsters. But they really have no option, but to try, right? Can they figure things out and finally get out of the coma, or will they meet their ends there itself?

The defence of Coma :: You will notice in the beginning itself that this is a movie which looks just fantastic, with a magnificent world with great detail. There seems to be a lot of top level work done in the designing and graphics departments. We have many areas in this movie which can make a nice wallpaper, from the simplest to the most complicated details. There are so many places which look stunning with real world mingling into the artificial. We do see a fantasy world with a remarkable, yet chaotic design. The reapers also make interesting creatures, nicely suitable for the world that they are part of. You will also come across some fine twists, and there is more than what meets the eye about this idea and the world which has been created here. Even the real world outside coma has its own charm, and the actors do a pretty good job in total. Even though Rinal Mukhametov does pretty good, the two people who catch our attention more are Lyubov Aksyonova and Anton Pampushnyy who have some fine moments even though they don’t really make the protagonists or antagonists here.

The claws of flaw :: There are many movies that this one keep reminding us about. It has the elements of dreams replaced by comas on one side, and we are into another world which feels longer even when the real life’s time is shorter in duration. The Matrix also comes to your mind, with the possibility of a chosen one, and a world being created where the impossible seems to be possible while you have logged into the coma instead of the world of the matrix code. It doesn’t really keep up to the pace maintained by those science-fiction movies from the past either. The movie also has some confusing moments, and unlike the other movies of the genre, the flashback and the explanations are not that well done – we feel that when we look for more of knowledge about the laws of that particular world. The action sequences could have also been better used, as we find the same limited, just like the horror related to those creatures who also weaken over time.

How it finishes :: Coma will be liked by the fans of science fiction who had earlier liked films like Inception which had set a different trend going with its release. Even the love for The Matrix which we have missed for a long time can trigger the interest in this movie, even though this is not that innovative as that flick which changed our idea about science fiction action a long time ago. Still, this movie might need a sequel to further develop its idea to a better state. The world does require better utilization here, because this one feels more or less like an origin story. Well, we are never really without need for some good science-fiction movies, as it is one genre for which the demand never gets too low. After all, Russia has brought us interesting science-fiction before, and most of the time, it has been about aliens. Here, we see the attempt to go divergent, seemingly inspired from some of the ideas on dreams and machine simulation.

Release date: 29th November 2019
Running time: 111 minutes
Directed by: Nikita Argunov
Starring: Rinal Mukhametov, Lyubov Aksyonova, Anton Pampushnyy, Milos Bikovic, Polina Kuzminskaya, Konstantin Lavronenko, Rostislav Gulbis, Leonid Timtsunik, Vilen Babichev, Evgeniya Karatygina, Alexey Lubchenko, Sergei Gilev, Oleg Akkuzin, Igor Sigaev, Albert Kobrovsky

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Queen of Spades

Vampire Owl: The Russian movies do come back to us like never before.

Vampire Bat: Well, it took some time for me after watching Battleship Potemkin.

Vampire Owl: That was part of your syllabus, and it was a study rather than anything else.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but it was also one of those old silent-era movies which I liked.

Vampire Owl: We still have Abigail and The Iron Mask among the new ones.

Vampire Bat: Yes, I witness how things have changed so much now.

Vampire Owl: Well, the vampires do not change even as the world does.

Vampire Bat: We are not the products of the world well-known, but that of another world beyond human comprehension.

Vampire Owl: At least, this one is a horror movie, and so different from all the Russian movies which we have watched so far.

Vampire Bat: Well, I do have my willing suspension of disbelief ready and working well.

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

What is the movie about? :: Olya (Angelina Strechina) and Artyom (Daniil Muravyev-Izotov) while traveling with their mother Tatiana (Violetta Davydovskaya) has an accident, as Tatiana losses her focus on the road because of the two children fighting on the backseat of the car, leading to the car crashing into a river off the bridge. Even though the river had recorded very low temperature during the time, Olya and Artyom do survive the crash, but the former doesn’t like the boy who is her step-brother, because she detests his father, her step-father too. Igor (Valeriy Pankov) takes the kids to a boarding school which had recently opened at a building which had been an abandoned mansion for a long time, dating back to nineteenth century and beyond. He is a teacher there, and also in charge of the welfare of the two children according to the advice of Tatiana’s second husband. The mansion is rather huge and isolated from the rest of the world, and it also has certain areas where the students are strictly prohibited from visiting.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There, Olya rejects the offer to share a room with her brother and chooses to do so with Alisa (Anastasia Talyzina), the supposed-to-be hottest girl in the school and Sonya (Alyona Shvidenkova), the girl who kept eating something or the other all the time. They do get along well, but Artyom doesn’t, and one day, he ventures out at night to the forbidden area, following a figure which seemed like his mother. As Olya, Alisa, Sonya and two of the boys also follow him, as they are lead to a closed door. As soon as they open it, Artyom runs in there, followed by the others, to find a strange chamber which had items from two centuries ago and also elements of some pseudo-science. They remember the ancient legends about Countess Obolenskaya a.k.a. the Queen of Spades (Claudia Boczar) who would grant them a wish, and then she would kill her. They all decide to make a wish, as they didn’t believe the legend.

And what is to follow further in this tale about the Queen of Spades? :: But things are not the same once they made the wish. One of the boys who accompanied them on the day, Kirill (Vladislav Konoplyov) finds his wish granted, much to his shock. His father’s girlfriend is brutally murdered, and after committing the murder, father commits suicide. He had wished for her to die a painful death, and is terrified. Sonya would be the next one to face the terror. But at the same time, Artyom manages to see his mother, and is addicted to the figure he sees in all reflections, whether it is on water or on the mirror. He soon gets a weird doll which the dead countess had. When the students looked in the internet at the original history behind the countess, they realize that she was someone who murdered nineteen children, orphans whose souls also becoming part of the house – she was coming up with some strange occult practices including the sacrifices of the children, and was murdered by the peasants blaming her as a witch. Now, will she come for them all?

The defence of Queen of Spades: Through the Looking Glass :: The atmosphere used by the movie is splendid, and the second only, may be to Crimson Peak, the grand Gothic spectacle from Guillermo del Toro – this one even has a stronger legend in the background too, with a Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory model in the background. We also have a mirror world in there, and we have a creepy one out there, which is very effective in providing another perfect atmosphere, even though there is the certainty of inspiration from other movies which released earlier in different forms while dealing with a similar idea or two. Angelina Strechina is a perfect addition to this horror movie, seemingly establishing her as a possible scream queen in the future. She has the skills to be a part of many more horror movies, and with a better English dubbing, she can do even better. The ending of the movie leaves scope for sequels to come later.

The claws of flaw :: It has to be noted that Queen of Spades: Through the Looking Glass doesn’t use its wonderful atmosphere to its best advantage. The movie could have done even more with such a setting, as there was scope for more terror using the same. If you see whatever is happening around, and the power of the legend, you can hope for more. The kid is also pretty much irritating, and some of it might have to do with the English dubbing – there are moments of scare with which he is involved, but it never reaches the level of The Prodigy ot Orphan, at least as far as spooky children are involved. There are also similarities to movies like Mirrors and The Woman in Black which can come to the mind at times. There could have also been better support from the rest of the cast, and we can also see that the story isn’t told in a way by which it can rise above the creepiness within the movie, and it could have also added some more horrors which are not atmospheric.

How it finishes :: Queen of Spades: Through the Looking Glass is one of those Russian movies which you can watch to be taken into that atmosphere or mystery and horror which is there right from the moment when the students set their foot in the residential school set in an area far away from the towns and cities. Its effect might be reduced for people these days only by that understanding that being isolated is the best thing that can happen during the time of Corona Virus. Almost all the horror movies have that kind of a feeling now, with people wishing that they could be with the ghosts rather than with a virus. These days, the horror movies have been weakened beyond all means. It has been even reflected in the response to the usual horror movies like The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Nun and others, which could have had better reception and appreciation if release a long time ago. Queen of Spades: Through the Looking Glass also gives that feeling.

Release date: 13th August 2019
Running time: 83 minutes
Directed by: Aleksandr Domogarov Jr
Starring: Angelina Strechina, Daniil Muravyev-Izotov, Claudia Boczar, Valeriy Pankov, Vladislav Konoplyov, Vladimir Kanuhin, Anastasia Talyzina, Alyona Shvidenkova, Darya Belousova, Vladimir Koshevoy, Dmitriy Kulichkov, Tatyana Kuznetsova, Violetta Davydovskaya, Igor Yashanin, Yan Alabushev

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Blackout

Vampire Owl: I usually have my own personal blackouts, and here we get one in a movie.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that the movie deals with a more serious issue.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I know that it deals with aliens causing blackouts.

Vampire Bat: Indeed. But there should be more about than what we know.

Vampire Owl: We have known aliens very well, for there is nothing better than Alien.

Vampire Bat: We will always have more than one type of alien.

Vampire Owl: Yes, we will always have predator and the others.

Vampire Bat: There could be millions of types of alien species out there, and the movies come up with only a few.

Vampire Owl: I hope that this one will be an interesting one.

Vampire Bat: Russian movies have been doing something special every time, and so this one might also bring something like that.

[Gets a green apple cake and three glasses of orange shake].

What is the movie about? :: Something has gone seriously wrong with Planet Earth. Nobody is sure about what has happened, but there is a total blackout with all electronic equipment ceasing to work, and the communication with different part of the world is lost, except for a small circle in a part of Russia. All of the world’s major cities have fallen, and the troops which were sent outside the small circle do not usually come back either, and the survivors make the defence of the area strong by upgrading the existing forces and technology, while looking through the areas just outside the borders. But nothing gives them a clue about what has changed the world they knew, and what is happening now. There seems to be some strange forces at work outside, and many suspicions are there, including alien attack, demonic presence, humans with a weapon with they have not known about before, and many others. The religious groups all around the world feel that the end of the world is near.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There are terrifying sights of corpses everywhere, and it doesn’t seem to have stopped with anyone, except for one person whom they see, that manages to run through the bullets without being hit even once. The biggest problem is that they still have no idea what they are dealing with, and what kind of enemy is present on the other side. There is a man whom they see at times, a bald man who keeps covering his face, and seems to have some sinister motives, but disappears too soon for people to find him close enough. Who or what is destroying everything on Earth, seemingly attempting to end all traces of civilization and life? What has happened outside the area which has electricity? How long will the final outpost of mankind and the last hope for humanity survive against all odds? What can stop this unknown enemy who knows everything about the survivors, but nothing is known in return? Is surrendering to fate even an option for the remaining small number of people?

The defence of The Blackout :: The first thing that you notice about this particular movie is that it looks fantastic on the screen, in more than one way. We have a futuristic world with a nicely detailed future city, as well as the weapons being more high-tech than normal. The detailing in all of them are really good too. The background music is really good, and it gives us that feeling of some futuristic danger. The environment is also nicely created, and we have some fine fight scenes, all of them too good. The idea is also working really well, as this one goes beyond the usual style of terror from the paranormal and the supernatural, as Russian movies seem to do that quite often these days. There are lots of fight scenes going on here, and there is one scene which comes in the beginning, as all the soldiers and automated turrets are focusing only on one thing, the darkness – it is one intense sequence, and nothing which comes later in the movie matches that.

The claws of flaw :: The problems that we see with The are a few, one of them surely being its length, as it does have a little stretch in between with moments which were not needed. Then, the ending is also not that good, and we cannot approve of the final moments with the film’s idea of a hero being different from what we understand. The truth is that the characters which they fight in the end has better points to make, and those who pretend to be heroes or heroines have no idea about what is the best for the planet or about how to ensure human survival. We differ in opinion right there, and the female characters are rather forced into action here, and how they change all of a sudden become a little bit strange. There were also many ways in which the movie could have gone forward too. It seemed to be creating a certain amount of mythology involving a higher being, but it is not done in the best possible manner. There is always more to have with an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic movie, as we see the possibilities being endless.

Performers of the soul :: The characters were well established in the beginning, and bringing some fine performances, until in the end, they are everywhere. The two women Lukerya Ilyashenko and Svetlana Ivanova had their characters perfectly defined in the beginning, but as the movie progresses, they become some strange civilians, and in the end, they become not so much of that they were – both actresses are caught by the flaws in characterization. The main male actors Aleksey Chadov and Pyotr Fyodorov also have problems from the same, but they work really well until those last moments. Except for those last few moments, there is nothing much being lost in the acting department, because there is a flow which leads to that ending. Kseniya Kutepova is another solid female around here, as she leads her forces towards the possible victory against the impossible enemy. The non-human entities also have their moments with the performers being good.

How it finishes :: It is nice to be in contact with some Russian movies, which seem to be rising above Hollywood which is more or less depending on the same formula, even though not as much as Bollywood. Among such movies which don’t think about coming up with different ideas, this Russian film does seem to feel the need, and does manage to do things well enough. We all had our experience of lock-down and did hear about quarantine – this one does provide a similar kind of an effect even though for slightly different reasons. A little more care with the ending, and its ideology by the finish, would have surely made this movie very much closer to reaching the highest quality. But until then, The Blackout is there for some entertainment from the future, and it has those edge of the seat moments like some of those self-proclaimed fantastic action movies from Hollywood never really had. I would go for more of movies like this one.

Release date: 21st November 2019
Running time: 127 minutes
Directed by: Egor Baranov
Starring: Elena Lyadova, Svetlana Ivanova, Pyotr Fyodorov, Konstantin Lavronenko, Aleksey Chadov, Kseniya Kutepova, Filipp Avdeev, Ilya Volkov, Artyom Tkachenko, Sergey Godin, Ksenia Kutepova, Anastasiya Venkova, Angelina Strechina, Aleksandr Nedorezov

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Balkan Line

Vampire Owl: So, we are travelling further through unexplored territories.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that we should have travelled through these movies much earlier.

Vampire Owl: A Russian and Serbian collaboration is the kind of movie that we needed.

Vampire Bat: We have had a good dose of movies with collaboration already.

Vampire Owl: But, we are never short of having more and more of those.

Vampire Bat: These are all a result of the Corona Virus lock-down though.

Vampire Owl: We always have the chance to watch more movies during times of crisis.

Vampire Bat: It is nice to have some stories set somewhere around the Balkans.

Vampire Owl: There is some history about that place that we need to read about too.

Vampire Bat: Yes, our history texts in this part of the world don’t have enough information about it, and it is quite disappointing.

[Gets an blueberry cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: The events in the movie happen during the Kosovo War which was fought between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with further air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Albanian Army which was there to provide support on ground. The NATO military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had reached a another level during the Kosovo War with their bombing of the country without the approval of United Nations, and in opposition to Russia and China, in the name of humanitarian intervention for Albanians who were forced to move out of their homes. As the disastrous bombing which caused many civilian deaths and mass destruction is almost over, Slatina airfield in Kosovo is taken over by terrorists led by a ruthless Albanian warlord, Smuk (Aleksandar Sreckovic). There is an operation planned by the Russian intelligence to capture the airfield from the terrorists, and a team is formed for the same.

So, what happens with the events here? :: As the Yugoslavian army had retreated following the merciless NATO bombing, the terrorists from Albania had taken over most of Kosovo. The Serbian minority in different parts of Kosovo remains unprotected from these terrorists targeting them, as these criminals plundered, murdered and raped through the area, and the duty of recapturing this particular airfleld came to the Russian intelligence officer Aslan-Bek Evkhoev (Gosha Kutsenko) and a former paratrooper-turned-mercenary Andrey Shatalov (Anton Pampushnyy) with their teams. At the same time time, Jasna Blagojevic (Milena Radulovic) whom Andrey had met and saved earlier from the terrorists who were targeting Christians, especially Russians and Serbians, was also taken as a hostage, and after they take over the airfield, they would have to defend it after being outnumbered heavily. Can they do it at a time of hostility when neither side will dare to stand back, whether it is about showing bravery in war or ruthlessness in genocide?

The defence of The Balkan Line :: It has to be noted that The Balkan Line is a movie with many moments which rise above those scenes from war films which are overrated. The final one hour is a real treat to watch, and the final forty five minutes make a blast like no other. With those action sequences, the movie scores higher than ever, and the last stand in the airport is a glorious one, with almost every soldier catching our attention. There is an act of bravery or brutal strength that will stay. The actors are all perfectly chosen for their roles, and they have given almost everyone something to cheer about. As this seems to have fictionalized moments too, there is no need to think too much about how accurate this is because two sides will always have different tales to tell and can make movies out of them, but what is shown on the screen is excellent work. There is no doubt about the quality of action that we see on the screen, and the thrills are too good with high intensity.

Positives and negatives :: The Balkan Line is a little too long for a movie of the genre, and it does drag in the beginning stages, but it does pick up the pace quite well. This much of a grand finish might not have been expected in the middle stages of the movie. There might be questions about historical accuracy, but as it seems, a lot of this movie is fictionalized, especially the main incident in the end having not much of a historical background. After all, there is always more than one side to history, but we can always come up with tales of heroes, especially those who were not real – but there could be some truth to things in parts. This movie is more or less about the fictionalized fight in the last moments, and that glory can easily take away the rest of its problems. With that, I would say that I am glad to have found this movie, with one of the best entertainment in the final one hour. We are completely into that battle in and around that airfield which is a glorious one indeed.

Performers of the soul :: The movie seems to have a team of Serbian and Russian actors working here, and they manage to do the job fine for a war flick. Among them, Anton Pampushnyy plays the most notable role, as he has those moments which are the most memorable for us, including that incident involving him saving the passengers of a bus after a priest is murdered by the terrorists. He remains solid as his character, and Gosha Kutsenko who is the leader of the gang maintain the same solid structure here. Ravshana Kurkova who plays the sniper of the team makes herself perfectly suitable for the action, and never stays behind, matching up with everyone around. Milena Radulovic who plays the doctor with some special interest in the man who saved her life, is another one to look out for – from witnessing the death of her pregnant patient and moving through hostage situations, there is the feeling of melancholy on her face, which reflects the situation of the world around her quite well. The rest of the case supports well.

How it finishes :: It is always good to watch movies like The Balkan Line because we no longer has NATO or the United States saving the day here, like almost of all alien movies and war movies are concerned. This way, we also get a different perspective of things, even if these are somewhat based on a few incidents during a war which happened some time ago with a fictionalized side. Then there is also the need to watch movies in other languages, and Serbian is also one of them, after watching The Whistlers, a Romanian movie. There seems to be some fine Eastern European movies which one would need to watch, and The Balkan Line is one of them. After all, we also have Novak Djokovic, one of the best on the tennis court, an entertainer who has not many parallels – this movie is also one fine entertainer, and it has moments which will establish itself as one of those interesting war movies, even though not as much as American Sniper and others which have followed the wars with full realism.

Release date: 21st March 2019
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Andrey Volgin
Starring: Anton Pampushnyy, Ravshana Kurkova, Milena Radulovic, Gosha Kutsenko, Miloa Bikovic, Gojko Mitic, Sergey Marin, Nodari Janelidze, Kirill Polukhin, Dmitriy Frid, Svetlana Chuykina, Aleksandar Sreckovic, Miodrag Radonjic, Nikola Randelovic, Roman Kurtsyn

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Anna

Vampire Owl: There is nothing more interesting than a spy thriller.

Vampire Bat: Do you remember The Man from UNCLE?

Vampire Owl: Yes, that was one of my favourite movies of that time.

Vampire Bat: This one is a very serious movie in comparison though.

Vampire Owl: I have heard that this is partially Russian, French and American.

Vampire Bat: Well, there is more to this movie than what meets the eye.

Vampire Owl: Can Anna be a John Wick or Hitman with the gunfights?

Vampire Bat: Well, we are going to know that with clarity, soon.

Vampire Owl: Still, my favourite Anna names have been Anna Kournikova and Ana Ivanovic without the extra N.

Vampire Bat: This Anna should make an impact too, even for the vampires.

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

What is the movie about? :: During the time period between 1985 and 1990, the tension is high between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, as CIA and KGB try to prove the quality of their work in the final few years of the Cold War. At the same time, Anna (Sasha Luss), is a young Russian girl whp has been the victim of domestic abuse, being abused both physically and sexually by her husband, Piotr (Alexander Petrov). The man is a criminal and a drug addict, forcing his wife to become part of his illegal actions while wasting no time in making her feel as his property – she would do anything to get out of her situation. One day, after a failed attempt to take money from an ATM using an American tourist’s card and shooting at police, he attempts to leave the city with her, only to be stopped by Alexander Tchenkov (Luke Evans) who murders Piotr and offers Anna a job at the agency for five years, as he was impressed by her earlier profile and background before she became enslaved at her present situation with her husband.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Her father was earlier in the military force, and she had also tried to enlist into the navy. With the problems created by her husband looming over her, she agrees to Alexander’s offer and serve the country in a different way in comparison to her father, and joins the training. Later, we see that she becomes an undercover agent, after selling dolls in a marked in Russia, and later being taken to France, becoming one of the top models in Paris. As a part of her cover, she also pretends to be in a relationship with the lesbian model who worked with her, Maude (Lera Abova). She does manage to assassinate her target Oleg (Andrew Howard) who had revealed to her something which KGB wanted to hear, the revelation ending up as the reason for his death. Leonard Miller (Cillian Murphy), a CIA agent does get some clue of her involvement in the murder, but he lets him go at that time. But there is something else happening in the background – what could that be?

The defence of Anna :: There is no doubt about the ability of this movie to thrill, as it has a large number of twists in store – you rarely see what is coming, as at one moment you see something and think about it, but the very next moment, you are up for a surprise. The action sequences are really good, reminding you of movies like John Wick and Hitman among the others, and you love how well the leading lady has handled everything around here. The tale does have something to keep us interested at almost every point, meaning that there is no dull moment at all. There are also some beautiful visuals set for us here, and we watch the wonderful action take place in different nations in the middle of all that magnificence. There is one final action sequence which is so long, and the protagonist going on shooting people – it is impressive, and so are many other sequences which catch our attention, while staying with us, especially the fans of genre.

The claws of flaw :: Anna has a little more flashbacks than one should want it to have. They also come up at a time when you are not expecting them, and are not needed, making it not that easy to follow the movie in the way it should be followed. The problem it creates affects the timeline more than anything else, and we are confused about what happened before which incident – we just cannot keep track of everything which has happened in the timeline, because there are so many of separate incidents, and when you squeeze something from another point of time into the world when something interesting is going on, there is a certain loss of control. The movie should have done very well with everything going in a straight line, with one or two flashback sequences. It could have also used a little bit of humour which was there to be taken on a number of occasions, but the movie avoids it to go back to its usual pace.

Performers of the soul :: Sasha Luss as Anna Poliatova does a fantastic job as the femme fatale, assassin and the spy who works as a model when she is undercover. As she is really a Russian fashion model in life, it seems to work well for her, and as the assassin, she is perfect too, without feelings as she shows almost no regret after the murders. The one person who seems to match her in such action is Olga Kurylenko, the Ukraine-born model who moved from Russia to France just like the main character here. Luke Evans who had slain the dragon in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, brought the villainy in Fast and Furious 6, embraced vampirism in Dracula Untold and went on an unstoppable killing spree in No One Lives, gets to be strong one here too, as he plays the KGB agent who recruits the protagonist. Cillian Murphy on the other side plays the CIA agent with ease. Helen Mirren’s role is the usual, and plays with no difficulty in regular style.

How it finishes :: Anna is one of the best thrilling action adventures which you might have seen in a long time, and it reminds one of movies like The Man from UNCLE. Luc Besson, the director has already given us some wonderful films in the recent past including the fantastic interstellar adventure Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and the strong action thriller Lucy, along with those older classic movies like Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element. This one is just another wonderful addition to the list, as you go through the twists and thrills without taking your eyes off what is going on. The Brian De Palma movie starring Antonio Banderas and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Femme Fatale is one another movie which comes to the mind with this flick, but nothing matches Anna in its twists along with the action, as there is one coming after the other, and in the end, you know that nothing was happening the way you felt earlier, or later.

Release date: 10th July 2019
Running time: 118 minutes
Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Sasha Luss, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, Lera Abova, Anna Krippa, Nastya Sten, Alexander Petrov, Nikita Pavlenko, Aleksey Maslodudov, Eric Godon, Jean-Baptiste Puech, Andrew Howard, Ivan Franek

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Guests

Vampire Owl: I think that these people are more ghosts than guests.

Vampire Bat: The guests can be ghosts too. Sometimes, the ghosts are guests.

Vampire Owl: So, we the vampires are not guests?

Vampire Bat: We can only become guests with multiple level acceptance.

Vampire Owl: You are talking about having the need to be invited into a home.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we were rarely invited, and even Uncle Dracula was avoided.

Vampire Owl: Now, that is indeed atrocious, and it is also a case of racism.

Vampire Bat: Humans are born as racists, just like they have that inherent evil.

Vampire Owl: I hope that they learn from us, for here, all vampires are equal.

Vampire Bat: Yes, even zombies and werewolves feel so.

[Gets an vegetable samosa and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: Katya (Angelina Bit) is a young girl who works as waitress at a restaurant which is not too busy a place. There she meets a special group of youngsters who have a different hobby, which is to organize parties in other people’s empty houses. They leave the place the same it used to be, after the party is over. They keep asking Katya for such a place, and she finds for them, an old summer cottage on the coastal area, where nobody really lived. The abandoned house, in which a spiritualist salon was running a long time ago, seemed to be an excellent place, with the Gothic looks making it even better – the location is also within what seems to be an area with a lot of trees, and one would require a vehicle to reach there. They reach there and has everything set, and it is then that they meet Andrey (Yuriy Chursin) who claims to be the owner of the house and asks them to get out. But they attack him and throws him into the cellar, continuing the party.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Later, it is revealed that Katya used to work in the same house as a cleaner a few months ago, and was in love with the man who had lost his wife and child in an accident. She did make some advances to him, but he had rejected her which sent her to a time period of depression. Another realization that comes upon them is that there is something terribly wrong with the house. They do find a book on demons out there and even tries to summon one without success. There is something moving around the house, and two of their friends go outside are missing. Even the man whom they had locked in the cellar is missing. Now, they begins to wonder what is going on in there. With something terrifying and sinister walking in the shadows of the night, is it possible for them to escape from the terror which seems to await them? Will they die at that night itself, or will they live to fight another day? Are they going to see the demons described and drawn in the book, face to face?

The defence of Guests :: The one thing that stands out as far as Guests is concerned, it is the setting, not just the mansion, but also the area around it. One would really want to have a movie at this part of the world set in such a world of terror. We have that haunted feeling here right from the beginning stages itself – it has to be noted that the movie itself is dark right from the beginning, and the dark clouds are more or less the foreshadowing of something which is supposed to happen very soon. The demons, even though in the shape of a woman and a child, are well-designed. The feeling of melancholy which is prevalent in this movie is also something worth noticing. The scary moments are more or less related to the atmosphere itself, and we can feel the danger lurking in each corner of that old, abandoned home with a past related to the summoning of demons, as well as the practicing of occult in such a way that it is so serious and facing an inescapable situation.

The claws of flaw :: Guests doesn’t make the best use of what is there to be taken, even as a wonderful atmosphere is established so early. The idea of partying in houses without people in there is rather strange, and not really that much acceptable, however we look at it. There is also that lack of punch in the ending, which could have been something better. Except for the main characters, the rest of not really likable, and even when they get killed, we don’t feel for them at all. The movie should have taken things more seriously, and added more of the terrifying moments, because they have two demons in the form of mother and child along with an unsettling atmosphere – we know what such an environment can do with movies like Crimson Peak, and the usual kind of movies like The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Nun and Insidious have also used the quick scares nicely to get them into the chilling atmosphere, but this one seems to feel that it has enough, and doesn’t try for more.

Performers of the soul :: Angelina Bit who plays the main character becomes another classic option for becoming a scream queen in many horror movies in different languages. There is a certain amount of dark melancholy surrounding her, and we understand that she is possessed by that sadness which itself could become a monster – she plays that well enough even though we have seen the same thing done better before. We see how she becomes a perfect part of this situation in the haunted house of demons. Yuriy Chursin as Andrey is the other person who comes up with a pretty good performance. He plays another man filled with almost the same type of sadness. The rest of the cast is the kind of thing that we see in most of the horror movies, as there is nothing special about them, while they play along within the movie. The rest of the characters are not human, but demons, along with the house itself which seems to have something to say.

How it finishes :: Russian horror movies seem to choose the settings wisely, and do score well enough from the same. Guests, even though doesn’t possess the needed strength with its tale, and goes through a struggle to raise the level of its horror, does have enough out there to keep things going. The same is supported by the ambiance, which is the one thing that raises this to a higher level. During the time of Corona Virus, we are never short of horror movies, even though the idea of terror did change in the last few months – it was no longer about the ghosts, but related to the pandemic. But horror will live on, as there will always be abandoned houses supposed to be haunted, and the traditional ghosts and demons cannot vanish that easily. Fear will keep coming in different forms to produce more of horror – until then, you can be happy enough with little horror movies like Guests.

Release date: 7th March 2019
Running time: 88 minutes
Directed by: Evgeniy Abyzov
Starring: Angelina Bit, Morgan Berry, Yuriy Chursin, Mikhail Bachelor, Greg Chun, Elisha Gaikal, Ben Diskin, Mariya Lisovaya, Anar Khalilov, Mikhail Mescheryakov, Jessica Rau, Jonathan Meza, Marina Panferova, Jamie Rapaport

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Die Hard V

hard

We had a hostage situation in 1988 on screen; that was what Die Hard brought with itself – one of my favourite action movies of all time and may be something superior to most of the rest when I first watched it. When they took over the airport in Die Hard 2, this sequel was not something which could have failed, and it didn’t. Actually, there were moments which made this one seem to try and overtake the first. Then came Die Hard 3, which did the exact same thing as Transporter 2 did to The Transporter – it brought the level of magnificence down from the firmament; still distant from being the worst imaginable sequel, for it became a lesser thing only due to the power of the first two movies. It took the series twelve years to come back as Live Free or Die Hard – not a bad return for something which seemed to have disappeared long ago. It was quite certain at that moment that we hadn’t seen the last of the series, and here we have Die Hard 5 a.k.a A Good Day to Die Hard. May be John McClane is forever; like the T-virus. But a virus infection would make another bloody story – and the same is the case with an immortal McClane; therefore, lets keep that away.

John McClane is back; this time in Russia – the man with his own style of facing everything, from near-death situations to almost-life situations. He is the man who is always in the middle of a crisis, whether it is a complicated family problem or an extremely simple shoot-out which might even include helicopters and fighter planes. He is specialized in being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it might be something hereditary. The one thing that the viewer could be sure about, is that his character is not that far away from a superhero status. He faces his villains with more confidence than the superheroes – one simple thing which has to be kept in the mind before watching Die Hard V. Well, there are not many other heroes of this calibre – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand made me think about intentionally feeling otherwise, but one has to come to the conclusion that McClane belongs to another genre; a similar but another area of interest. Our men of the video games, featured in the movies Hitman and Max Payne, might have a shot in future though.

The scene has shifted to Moscow. The name of the villain is Yuri Komarov – brings to me the memories of Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece Doctor Zhivago with its Yuri Zhivago and Komarovsky. Other than thinking about these two names which strike a similarity with this one name, there is nothing to be mentioned about this movie related to the Nobel prize winning novel and its critically acclaimed movie adaptation by David Lean. No, that was not even a comparison but something which caught my attention. The other villain is named Viktor Chagarin, not a name I am going to identify with some other character of another work. It is in the battle between these two, that the hero’s son Jack McClane is caught. John McClane who has not been in touch with his son for years, makes a visit to Russia to get him out of trouble – or in his words, he goes on a vacation to Moscow. Jack had ended up in prison, but escapes with Komarov. Even as the father and the son never seems to get along in the beginning, they slowly begins to work together and solve the problems.

The son turns out to be a CIA agent (his father would address him as the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey), and his undercover operation would turn out to be a lesser twist than what Komarov and his daughter Irina would have to offer for them. Fortunately, there is no twist over twist, like that one Bollywood movie, Race 2. Still, to take the story to another level (or to a rather strange idea which could have surely taken a better twist) action would soon shift to Chernobyl, Ukraine; uranium, radio-activity and weapons. There are some twists and betrayals coming close to creating an impact, but most of the time, what saves the movie is its action scenes and the one-liners. There is enough fun and mindless action to keep this running. The McClane family problems would surely be solved in the end. Jack had said that “We’re not a hugging family” before the first half, and one knows that the family is united by the end, and can guess that “the hugging problem” might be solved before a possible Die Hard VI.

Bruce Willis stands strong as John McClane. He has continued with his “everyman” action star who seems to be drifting away a little from that status. One can only remember K’naan’s lines “When I get older I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag” – something which I heard a lot during the 2010 FIFA World Cup run of the Spanish Armada; McClane is just like that, for he has only got stronger with the age. But the doubt might be about his strength and durability which is reaching a new level with experience of old age, something which reminds me of those video games. That takes away that one McClane of the earlier century who was more vulnerable and prone to errors. The age has surely caught up with McClane, but it has had a positive impact on him, both physically and intellectually. Expendables 1 and 2 had similar impact on its characters, and as Bruce Willis played one of them, one has to doubt if that element has stayed as far as Die Hard V.

Yuliya Snigir looked extremely good out there, but should have had a better role to play in this one; as her character couldn’t create that impact which one of the two main antagonists could have come up with. The twists basically revolved around her, and there was mystery surrounding her until the Chernobyl scene, but the character of Irina had to suffer due to the action-centered approach to the movie. Actually, one has to wonder what has been there for the character in the movie- a typical one-dimensional character, a title for which even John McClane might be suitable someday. There is nothing wrong in the performances, but there is that absence of three-dimensional character elements throughout the movie. Even among these confusions, the best part of the movie was undoubtedly the car chase scene, and it powers the experience from the beginning. The end-action might be a little overdose, but still not unsuitable for the style of the movie. The support of good special effects make even the ordinary action scenes worth a watch.

We surely miss that skyscraper; also that airport. But still, Die Hard series would stay alive. When John McClane says that he is on vacation, it is a fact. This is a vacation which is slightly below the quality of the other movies of the series. But still, there are gun-shots everywhere, and high-speed car chases end up in heavy destruction of property, and even the flying machines join the action. So, in simple words, this is his vacation. If that means that there is even better to expect when he is out of vacation, that would be quite a treat. Die Hard IV was an improvement from Die Hard III and therefore, there is no shortage of expectations which can be put on the shoulders of this series. Even if one might have the tendency to call it a dumb action movie, I would say that it is just because it belongs to that genre and it has performed its duty. There was Expendables 1 and 2 along with many others which could have deserved that title in an even better way. Come back, Die Hard; come back stronger.

Release date: 13th February 2013 (USA); 22nd February 2013 (India)
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: John Moore
Starring: Bruce Willis, Yuliya Snigir, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Radivoje Bukvić, Cole Hauser

diehard5 copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.