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.

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.