Top 5 Pendulum Songs

28 09 2016

PENDULUM

Back in 2008, while watching an episode of Gamer.TV, I saw a trailer for a video game. The trailer made me very excited, because it was a trailer for the game Motorstorm: Pacific Rift for the PS3. Now, not having a PS3 at the time made it rather difficult to play the game anytime soon I admit, however I did eventually buy one and got Pacific Rift soon after. Anyway, during the trailer, there was this piece of music, a piece of music I rather liked, and worked well with the Video Game Trailer, but I had no idea who was playing or what the song was called. It was very heavy, very fast and had these lyrics which sounded very Reggae. I had no idea what it was, but I was hooked, and wanted to know more. I don’t know how I found out in the end, but I was glad I did, as this discovery took me on a musical journey that would bring me to a point, a moment when my life up till that point did not really have a favourite band; but then all of a sudden; I had one. The song was called Tarantula and the band was called PENDULUM.

Originally founded in Australia in 2002 by Ztar Z6/MIDI Controller player Rob Swire, Bassist Gareth McGrillen and DJ Paul Harding; PENDULUM, a Drum and Bass group notable for mixing hard rock and electronic music into their work, would later relocate to the UK, and set the music scene on fire quickly becoming one of the most popular bands of the moment. Soon, more band members would join in the form of MC Ben Mount, Guitarist Peredur ap Gwynedd, Drummer Paul Kodish (and later KJ Sawka). Pendulum themselves would release 3 studio albums: Hold Your Colour, In Silco and Immersion, and while originally starting with Drum and Bass roots with very little in the way of vocals, more relying on instrumental pieces, the Band would go on to include vocals, and expand their portfolio into areas including Industrial and Electronic Rock as well as other genres.

PENDULUM Band

For me, I loved this band so much. I was gripped by their electronic instrument playing, mixing it with heavy/hard rock. Originally I was more in it for the rather psychedelic instrumental and electric pieces they originally started with, but as time went on became to love and enjoy their more vocal ranged pieces of music. When the band sort of disbanded back in 2010-2012, I was rather sad as I did not want this band, a band I loved to suddenly disappear, and as time went on became to get very annoyed with both Swire and McGrillen for creating Knife Party and not be Pendulum anymore. Time passed on, their music to me became nearly second-hand, and other bands took my interest, and slowly Pendulum disappeared from my heart; until recently, when supposedly the band reunited. I was excited by this, the hope that Pendulum was coming back, more albums, more music; I just could not wait for more news. While it is a bit sketchy right now as to what is going on with them, I have recently begun to get back into their music, because although they may no longer be my favourite band, they were my first and were for a good number of years. I bought all their albums, and still love a lot of their music.

Knife Party

A few months ago I began listening to them frequently again, and have come to realize how much I missed their music, and decided, that after a long time of planning this, that I would finally let you in on what my Top 5 Pendulum Songs are. Now coming up with this list was rather tricky; I mean there are a lot of really good songs in their portfolio. When I originally conceived this list I considered just doing a Top 5 from Hold Your Colour, an album I can still say proudly to this day, is my favourite album and not just of the band. I really like Hold Your Colour as it has a lot more enjoyable tracks, and is a lot more consistent I feel to that of their other albums (not to say that the others are bad). Over the years leading up to this post being written, I was sure that most of this list was going to come from Hold Your Colour and just that, but having looked back on their music, I can see this is no longer really the case, as my favourites sort of go over all 3 albums in the end. Bringing it down to 5 songs in the end was rather difficult, because they have made several really good pieces of music, several of which really strike into my head when I think of them. If this was a Top 10 post there would be a lot more variety, but I thought it would be best to just keep it down to 5 as much as I can. So, just for them to have a moment here, here are the songs that didn’t make it (but boy were close): Prelude, Slam, Fasten Your Seatbelt, Through The Loop, Sounds of Life, Girl in the Fire, Hold Your Colour (all from Hold Your Colour), Showdown, Different, Mutiny, Granite, Set Me on Fire and Crush. So now, introductions over, here are my Top 5 Pendulum Songs.

Hold Your Colour

5. Tarantula – It was the song that brought me here in the first place, and it has remained one of my favourites since. Tarantula is a strange one when you first hear it for the first time. If you hear it while it’s fast, only for you then to hear it from the beginning, you wonder if you are listening to the same piece of music. It has the same tune yes, but it’s much slower to begin with, and it’s very striking. You hear these vocals, but you’re not sure if you are hearing them right, and feel that you don’t necessarily understand them. But then it quickly builds, and then that fast track you heard once before comes to light. The slow speed side of this track sounds more brass based than Drum and Bass, but then you realize that the slow side is merely a gift, an intro, because if you want to join in, you need to know how it goes, because when it speeds up, there is no more help. The track is heavy, vicious and ferocious, much like the creature that the song is named after. It gets your heart pounding, and makes you want to dance, a very fast dance yes, and one you will need to take a break after because of, but just does not stop until it wants to. Not you, IT! Remember that, it comes with a piece of authority, one that demands attention from everyone in the room at the same time; it gives the music a near level of sentience, being, but more importantly POWER! And one that demands to command you, you have no choice; only the possibility that when it’s all over, you may have a chance to escape!

4. Watercolour – When this one first came out, I remember seeing the music video for the first time, and sort of liking it, but got a bit tired of it due to the amount of time it was on TV for. It was not until recently I was really able to appreciate it properly. One thing that I sort of cottoned onto as time went past, is how good the vocalization is in several of these songs. Not when it is a featured artist, or when it has been ripped from a film or something, but when it is from the band themselves. There are some really nice vocal pieces, many of which get featured in this list, ones you can pick up easily, and enjoy singing yourself. This song is fast, much like many of Pendulum’s songs, but also features some nice slow, near peaceful moments prolifically too. Here we get moments of their trademark styles, mixing vocals in while both being slow and fast, many a time producing a very emotional moment, such as the lyric ‘Just stay where you are’. It is generally a nice song, not a piece of music as such, but an actual song, a song with powerful lyrics, and a gentle, but still fast track to back it up, while still allowing a moment to pause, take a breath, then get back into it.

3. Witchcraft – What has to be one of their most striking yet experimental tracks; this song mixes sweet and calm melody with hard rock electric power. As it starts you hear this calm melody which slowly builds, but within a minute the pitch and mood changes as the amazing skill of Rob Swire on his main instrument of choice comes darting out of the background and demands attention, which at the same time is backed up by the rest of the band, before all charging at once in a hard rock vibe. From this moment alone it sounds more like a piece of heavy rock, but then the lyrics kick in again, and a more light-hearted pop track takes over, and even when it goes lower in temper during the chorus, it stays relatively light, before then unleashing it’s real motives once more. Much like Watercolour, it does take a quick moment to catch its breath, in a split second of near perfect silence, before then unleashing itself once more. What is rather a weird combination of musical styles in one song, backed up with Lyrics to match its themed ideas while also providing its own little moments of respite, Witchcraft is easily one of the more lyrically stand out songs from Pendulum, which still likes to provide a moment or two to let the tune do the talking.

2. The Island (Pt 1 and Pt 2) – This may come as a confusing one to people unbeknownst to the career of Pendulum; basically this song comes in two parts. When I first bought the album, I was a little confused by that, and it was not until I listened to both for the first time that I really understood. On their own, Part 1 is nice, got some really interesting, perhaps inspiring lyrics and comes with a nice beat, while Part 2 played on its own sounds rather disjointed, out-of-place, short and feels like the end of something; not an entire piece. However, when they are played together in the correct order, something really amazing is born. Much like several lyrical pieces from Pendulum, this one comes with some really interesting and deep lyrics. These lyrics are only heard in Part 1, but that is the point with Part 1. As the tune goes, it’s more a piece about discovery and awe. The pieces together tell something of a story. It takes you on a journey, you can listen to the lyrics, or you can tell your own; but the basic idea is that you have arrived on an island, you are shipwrecked, lost, anything, but you have arrived to a mysterious place, and you walk around and discover how amazing everything is, like you have landed perhaps in a personal spot or taste of heaven. You go and explore, and you see sights and spots of beauty all around you. All this time the song beats in the background, recording its own story, all the while creating a nice bumpy/jumpy soundtrack that is generally rather pleasant and passionate. Part 2 of the song tells a very different tale and creates a very different location. It slowly descends, then it starts to play a familiar tune; you imagine yourself in full glow, on this Island, this beautiful place, and as the tune returns, you believe it’s going to be more of the same, and then: A Beast is Unleashed. Everything changes, the soundtrack is entirely different, it is still jumpy, but very heavy. It’s disjointed, no longer connected, no longer a beautiful melody, now a torrent of terror. Part 1 talked about the Dawn, now here is the Dusk, and the soundtrack creates an idea of everything going wrong, more a natural siren than an actual warning. Imagine yourself back on that island, the day has gone, and the now the night is upon you, and gone is the beauty: Now stretching before you is a nightmare, not gently arousing from slumber, but instantly waking up, and bearing down on you, unrelenting, unstoppable terror. Alone, these pieces are ok, interesting, still very enjoyable: but when played together they weave a story of Magnificence and Horror, one you will be Thrilled yet Petrified to return to.

1. Propane Nightmares – One of the things I like about PENDULUM is that while it is very pop like, quite a lot of the music they create is exceptionally heavy. That is one of the things that caught me most about them when I first listened to them, that while they were a current generation pop like band, as a fan of much heavier genres of music, I could just as easily get involved and enjoy them. Yes not all of their songs are particularly heavy, but the ones that are a special treat for me, especially when they are created by fascinating sounds and backed up with really spellbinding lyrics. When this song was originally released, I had no real place or preference for it, thought it was a little confusing with t’s opening brass section, but then I heard a live version of it, and I loved the whole experience. The music starts of near gentle like with strange usage of its brass piece, but then as it builds, as the drums kick in, and the music flies from the instruments to your ears, you begin to hear something really special. The music isn’t pleasant, it isn’t friendly: What it is, is very Angry, and very Grungy. The music uses the full force of the band, every key is crucial; each beat of the drum, each pluck of the string, each tap of the key, all of it works together, to create a rather unique sound. This sound continues in a fist hammering beat like fashion which then just continues, speaking with an authority that shouts and demands every eye and ear in the room to look directly at it. Then as the tune takes a side-line, but only for a moment, the lyrics get involved. More than any song from Pendulum, I find this is the one that I recite lyrics to, especially the early line: “In a trail of fire I know we will be free again. In the end we will be one. In a trail of fire I’ll burn before you bury me. Set your sights for the sun.” The only points that this song slows down are when the band as a whole (or as much to a whole as you can get) joins in, in singing the chorus – before then of course jumping right back into the tune we all know and love – and when the tune, like many on this list, takes a brief moment of respite. The break itself is pretty brief, and is really only to allow a cool down before jumping right back into its final charge; however, the air like sound is rather magical as it winds down to a bit, before then (in some live versions, a nice little light guitar is played, which is both gentle and peaceful), tearing at full force back into its tune. At this point, the magical air break sounds, are included in the final hill climb briefly, and then it all comes to the final push as the song comes to it’s eventual, hair ripping end. Propane Nightmares is a really weird one; while other songs in the long profile of Pendulum do different things, there is a sense of them trying to create brand new, iconic, and unique sounds, but all the while most of them do follow a similar them and style, that of a soundtrack that would suggest exploration and discovery, showing and revealing beauties beyond belief, presenting one side to paradise. Propane Nightmares does not really follow that trend, instead, it shows a much darker and louder side, not encapsulating those things, instead creating visions of potential dystopia’s, or possibly revealing another side to the real world that we currently see. In any case, whatever it seeks to achieve, it must have worked, because I absolutely love it.

GENEPOOL





Go Go Boom Or Busters – Why A New Group Of Teenagers With Attitude Could Potentially Be The Biggest Failures This Decade

21 09 2016

Power Rangers (Lionsgate - 2017)

In 1993, upon seeing the success and potential of a Japanese kids show about a group of brightly coloured heroes and their personal giant robots; Entertainment businessman Haim Saban with assistance from his business partner Shuki Levy created a TV show about a group of attitude ridden teenagers whose job it was to save the world from an impending invasion from an out of this world villain living on the moon. The show was called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and was a TV Hit for anyone aged 10 or under. Haim Saban had basically unleashed his own monster onto the world, and what followed was one of the longest running (and at one point easily the most popular) kids TV franchises in history with several toy lines being produced and even a movie.

White Tigerzord

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a bona-fide sensation with fans across the globe, including me; being glued to the screen on a weekly basis as we watched our favourite TV Heroes fight a range of rubber suited villains, before then having to call upon some giant dinosaur shaped robots to fight the ever so larger rubber suited villain. I remember, must have been for my 5th birthday receiving a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Megazord set, playing with it with my friends at Church, and then I think must have been the following Christmas receiving the White Tigerzord as well: so much fun. It was one of the biggest franchises and TV hits of the early 90’s, but since then just sort of disappeared. After a couple of years it just went away from the minds of the many, and became a show only the dear hearted fan would watch. I mean, it must have been relatively popular in order for it to continue, but it would be fair to say that it has never since the 90’s been able to enjoy the success and hype it once enjoyed when it first arrived – but could this be about to change?

New Power Rangers Zord

Back in August, for one reason or another I decided to look up clips from Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue (in particular the weird story-line about the Snake Tattoo). As to why I had that in my head all of a sudden I cannot explain, but despite not knowing how this happened, part of me was actually rather glad. On the one hand it meant that I could take a stroll down memory lane and think back upon the times I used to watch Power Rangers with a passion. On the other though; it meant that the analysis part of my brain which regularly likes to delve deep into things in such great detail could have some fun. The key question as to all of this analyzing of an in and out TV Show that has been going for over two decades and which I have enjoyed now and then; was whether or not the new big budget movie from Lionsgate; due out next year was going to be any good or not. Well, technically it was actually a bit more complex than that and it was not necessarily a question: it was more of a statement and belief that next year’s new Power Rangers Movie has a lot of potential to be good, but also a lot of potential to fail horribly. Why? Well that is what I would like to try and analyse/explain over the course of this post.

Super Sentai Logo

For my reasoning of this to be understood, I would like to give a brief but possibly detailed history of Power Rangers (if you would rather skip, please jump to paragraph 10). Nearly twenty years before Power Rangers even existed, there was a show that was produced in Japan about a group of super heroes dressed in colourful clothing who every week would fight villainous monsters both on a human giant-sized scale. The show was called Super Sentai, and is still going to this day, all be it the show has been revamped several times during that period. The show was made by Toei Co., Ltd. and Bandai, and has gone on to become one of the most successful TV franchises in all of Japan alongside such shows as Kamen Rider and the Ultra Series. Roughly less than two decades after Super Sentai’s debut, while on a business trip to Japan, businessman Haim Saban saw potential in the series. His plan was to create a brand new show for the American market which would later be known as Mighty Morphin (correct spelling) Power Rangers. He quickly produced a pilot with help from business partner Shuki Levy and spent roughly five years trying to find a channel in America willing to take it up; the eventual picker uper being Fox Kids. The show was about a group of teenagers who supposedly had ‘ATTITUDE’, and who every week would fight to save their home town (mostly) and the world from a big villain. Every week they would have to fight in hand to hand combat with the villain’s minions whom in turn would more than likely at some point get much bigger, and would then be cause for the teenagers with ‘supposed attitude difficulties’ to call down their mighty robot Zords who could transform and combine to become a much larger fighting machine to which they would then be able to defeat the greater monster.

Megazord

The show was produced in a relatively simple way that on the one hand could be expensive in one area, but in the other keep overall production costs down. Basically, the show was actually made up of footage from Super Sentai. Footage from fights between the costumed wearing heroes, as well as the fights between the giant villains and Zords was actually from the Super Sentai show and that was simply slotted into the program. Any shot involving a character not in costume was then filmed and put in alongside it, with any voicing needed for the heroes while in costume being dubbed over. It was a simple way of producing a TV show and has been done ever since, with Power Rangers still borrowing clips from the new versions of Super Sentai and then re-branding them as Power Rangers. In a more simple way to understand it all, it’s sort of like the car industry. Some cars are made outright, while others are the same model with bits changed around to make it look like an entirely different car. In the case of Power Rangers it’s like taking a model from Japan, and then changing the body and the badges: simple, effective and overall potentially nice and cheap.

Power Rangers Suits

Something must have worked because the show was a major hit when it first debuted making stars of its young cast nearly overnight. Some stars of note include Amy Jo Johnson portraying the original Pink Power Ranger Kimberly Hart, and martial arts star Jason David Frank portraying the Green, then White Power Ranger Tommy Oliver. Other stars of the show included the wise mentor Zordon (David Fielding and Bob Manahan), bullies Bulk and Skull (Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy), and series antagonists Rita Repulsa (Soga Machiko and Barbara Goodson) and Lord Zedd (Ed Neil and Robert Axelrod). Another big star of the show though was the theme tune. Something of a near metal like style of theme, very fast, very energetic and packed with the lyric “Go Go Power Rangers”. The production was simple, and so was the formula; however the show worked hard to make sure things never stayed easy, as the Power Rangers would have to come to learn and fight harder over time gaining experience as they go, but also have to come to acknowledge the occasional defeat in order to gain a future victory. As the series progressed, villains would get tougher, but in response the Rangers would get better, as well as receive boosters and upgrades for their mighty Zords which also included additional Zords for them to deploy. In the end, the show was not just about heroes, but also a lesson in the understanding of teamwork. Not everyone though could be considered a fan of the show as many parents considered the show to be rather violent for children to watch it and several complaints were made to the FCC (The Federal Communications Commission). Other issues aired included possible racial overtones in the colours of the power rangers to the colours of actors skin including casting Austin St. John, Walter Emanuel Jones and Thuy Trang as the Red, Black and Yellow Ranger’s respectively. Potentially the show also had an issue in Malaysia, as the show’s use of the word Morphin was viewed as being too similar to sounding like the drug Morphine.

As the show reached ever more dizzying heights of success, toys were released of course, but more importantly some films were made, both of which tied directly with the show at the time of release, however it would be good to say that these said film were as good as the show; which I can’t, because they were terrible. The first film: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie involved the reawakening (let’s move quickly on with this one) with an ancient villain known as (big sigh)…..Ivan Ooze. The plot revolved around the heroes having to lose their powers and then regain them to defeat their biggest threat to date. In a word; it was Pants! A couple of years later however, another film was released: Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. Now I have only seen bits of it, but I can remember it dually being weird, but not necessarily as bad (however this one was released during a later series). Despite this kink in the armour, the show looked to succeed further, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers looked like it was not going to slow down anytime soon running in total for three seasons. Then it just sort of changed. I had stopped watching the show before this, but the earlier change of characters and Zords was easier to see and understand. Future changes for Power Rangers occurred differently. Basically, out went the Mighty Morphin tagline, as Power Rangers were now not mighty, nor Morphin, some of them were not even of the previous incarnation. It started with Turbo (check aforementioned second film) and then went from there. Future incarnations of the show would become less about having long running programs, but one-off series, sometimes set in different locations and time zones. The characters were different, some colours were different, even the Zords were different. Gone was the Dinosaurs and animals, it went on to become a variety of things including cars, ninjas, animals, rescue vehicles, planes, trains, even insects. Animals and Dinosaurs would make the most re-appearances, but the show was much harder to grasp unlike its previous Mighty Morphin stage which simply continued rather than ended.

Some of the show’s later depictions would actually draw me back into it. Originally starting with Lightspeed Rescue, this new form was rather interesting as a bunch of rescue service…..teenagers would fight a horde of demons trying to take over the world. The show had some interesting new characters like Kelsey (Sasha Williams), as well as some interesting stories like the Titanium Ranger (Rhett Fisher) and his Snake Tattoo. Although looking back at it now I can see that the villains could have done with some more work as their quivering lips did not really hold much to the imagination, but they still looked pretty creepy though. I would actually continue to watch Power Rangers for a few more versions, but the only ones that really did anything for me were Lightspeed Rescue, Wild Force and Dino Thunder. After that I just stopped again, pretty much as soon as I saw that human dog thing in S.P.D. 

Zen Aku Flute

Even if you continued watching it, stopped or never saw it, Power Rangers as a franchise is still going to this day, all be it a very scattered one which is hard to keep a grasp on due to its changes of theme and story. Or could this be more due to the changes in Super Sentai. Could it be that the show changed on purpose, because the show it was being borrowed from was changing constantly, or could it be that unless it did change, it would grow stale and lose popularity? Maybe we will never know…well actually we can because according to Wikipedia: Power Rangers “In Space was a turning point for the Power Rangers franchise, as the season brought closure to six seasons of plot, and it ended the practice of having regular cast members act in consecutive seasons”.  Anyway, the show may have changed some levels of production, but others it did not. The show over the last 20 years has continued to borrow footage from Super Sentai and since its inception; Saban Entertainment has continued to produce the show except for a seven-year period when it was sold to Walt Disney, only having regained control of the show in 2010.

Power Rangers Kira

When I first heard that a film was being produced of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I was instantly interested. Back in 2013, while waiting for Pacific Rim to be released, a friend of mine sent me a link to a Power Rangers inspired rip on the film’s trailer, even going as to put the music from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the background. Just over a year later I watched that trailer version again, and from looking at the effects in the trailer for the Pacific Rim Jaegers, I saw that there was potential for a new Power Rangers film and wanted to do one. So, I was a bit miffed when one was announced, and I wasn’t involved. Anyway I thought that with all these new glossy special effects that we have today, that with some real talent as well as critical yet creative thought that a new Power Rangers Movie could have some real potential. So far we know that the film is being filmed and is due for release next year, and we have already been teased with images of possible Zords and the choice of suits for this film. We have even been provided with cast names including two big Hollywood stars in the form of Elizabeth Banks playing Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston (ironically) playing Zordon. From what has been announced and teased so far there is actually a lot to be excited about with this new Power Rangers film and it does show a lot of potential. So why is it then that whenever I think about it, I get this niggling little doubt that this film is going to fail catastrophically.

New Power Rangers Suits

When the idea was first thought about, I knew that the one thing that had to be done above all others for a big budget Power Rangers movie to work was that it had to be its own story. It could not in any way be connected to the TV Shows at the time (which was initially the plan). It had to be independent, and not rely on people needing to watch a specific storyline or episode from a show that they had all but forgotten about. Luckily the film is promising this; it’s stated that it will be a reboot of the original series. Same characters perhaps, but not the same actors, a new fresh start and a film that could be picked up to begin with at least, from the first frame; first box ticked, good start. You can forgive me though for thinking that a new Power Rangers movie though could cause an element of self-doubt, as to date we have already had two PR movies, neither of which was very good. They were both very openly boring with the first one having some of the worst special effects I have seen in any film, had a villain which did not make much sense, a story that did not make much sense either, and bits and bobs that went on to suggest that there is a hero in all of us done in the most convoluted way possible. It was all up in the air and sort of made for a film that was probably made for the purposes of money rather than producing something for the purposes of entertainment. But that is just one bit of the niggling doubt in my head.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Paramount Pictures - 2014)

When I think of this film, I feel a real sense of potential. I can see possibilities and dream opportunities. To compare to a product in aid of an image, I would say that the way I can see this film going is like that of the Transformers series which began less than a decade ago. Now opinions for those films are one thing, but when it comes to production value, you can’t necessarily say that the production of those films was not pretty well done. Visual effects have moved on a lot over the last two decades with films and series of mention coming to mind include: Avatar, Jurassic World, The Avengers, Transformers, Lord of The Rings, Pirates of The Caribbean and Harry Potter to name but a few. What do all of these films have in common, all of them are live action, and all of them are big films with varying degree of opinions and reviews but all of which have big and detailed uses of special effects. Whether or not they were any good is up to the consumer, but as to how well they were done in the visual effects department, there is no arguing that they could be considered colossal. When it comes to this Power Rangers Movie next year, one thing is clear, that in order for it to work and really grab people’s attention’s, the special effects need to be as detailed and as polished as this. If it is anything less, then it will more than likely falter. Imagination is something that this film needs to keep on its side. There is no question or shadow of doubt that this film needs to be taken double seriously and effort needs to be piled in to make it as good as possible. It needs to be grounded not overblown, it needs to be quirky not silly, it needs to be light-hearted and funny, not outrageous to the point of terrible. There is a lot that needs to be covered, because like I said before, I really think this can go all the way, and become the new Transformers. With the right detail of special effects, the imagination that this film could produce could have one of two effects, both good. For one it could inspire a new generation of children to get as excited as I did about Power Rangers when it first started, and also, those people who watched the original series could feel a wave of nostalgia building deep inside that would want to make them return and revisit. This in turn could produce a third effect, one which made Jurassic World such a successful film, the effect that those who watched the original series, now all grown up and with kids of their own may want to take their kids to go and see it, therefore bringing back an old audience while creating a new one.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

The Transformers representation is in the form that it created nostalgia for its original audience while introduced itself to a brand new audience, while at the same time grounding itself, being super serious in its production and even if in the end it was a catastrophic failure, no-one could argue that they gave it a good go. But they did, and it was good (at least I enjoyed it and its subsequent sequels). But that’s the point I am trying to make here, that with due diligence, Power Rangers could meet a similar success to that of Transformers. Special effects aren’t everything, but there is a difference between done well and done badly. A good visual effect is one that provides something reality cannot provide, but still looks real (like Jurassic Park’s Dinosaurs), while a bad one is one that is obviously noticeable and looks rather camp, shabby, blocky, not very detailed and just generally un-aesthetically pleasing to the eye (such as those of the Zords in the first PR movie). At the same time of course, it cannot solely rely on its giant robots as that was never the be all and end all of Power Rangers and so at the same time needs to weave a story of discovery but also create flaws and moments of drama as the characters come to discover their destiny’s while also the need to live in ambiguity and strain this can cause to their personal lives. One thing that could potentially be explored is that while being heroes, they could be seen as vigilantes and a future story could develop as they get sought out by the government and military for the use of their Zords but also to keep them down and answer for the destruction they may cause in saving the day (just a thought).

Power Rangers Zack

Altogether, this new film has a lot to prove. If anything it needs to take a really detailed look at itself and work hard to prove itself. It needs to demonstrate that it has forgotten its movie ancestry and is willing to improve and move on, helping us in turn to forget as well. It needs to take it’s self seriously, and be produced coherently in order for us; the audience to get the best outcome. It needs to target new audiences while also not alienating older audiences; not just those who saw it originally, but those who may be forced to pop along as chaperones to see it. It needs to be all-inclusive and provide a general level of entertainment for all to enjoy. It needs to provide the best special effects money can buy, one so that it looks realistic, and two not to look downright silly. The right effects can make a film a success these days, whether or not the actual content is good or not. If done terribly; well, we have already seen those kinds of results haven’t we? Overall, this film does have a countless deal of potential, but at the same time could create one of cinema’s greatest failures if not done appropriately. In order though for us to stop thinking like that, it needs to start showing itself to us. It needs to show more images, and a teaser trailer sooner or later, in turn providing us with the imagery needed to see what this film is going to encompass and whom it is directed for. I am genuinely excited to see this film and hope that it will be a genuinely entertaining and fun film; but let me ask you this (whether or not you are a fan, or have never even seen an episode): Are you sure you don’t have any niggling little doubts?

GENEPOOL





Another Annoying Little Book

14 09 2016

Mogworld (Dark Horse Books - 2010)

Back in 2014, I finally managed to finish a book which at the time was something of a bane in my reading life. The book was called MogWorld, and it was a book about a character living in a MMORPG video game world and it was written by Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw. I began reading it in 2010, but it was a hard one to read although it was filled with a lot of humour and at times was mega funny. Anyway, in 2014 I committed myself to reading the last section of chapters and then I was glad it was all out of the way and that I had finished it.

Well; now it’s 2016, and I have another annoying little book which I began to read a while ago but have yet to finish. The book is none other than Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. I bought it back in 2013 while I was studying a Screenwriting course at the University of Central Lancashire along with a copy of Syd Field’s book: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. I bought them because, well; the name Syd Field is hammered into your head while on these courses although I have yet to hear of a film or TV show he has worked on, but also because I thought they might help, and I was first introduced to Blake Snyder’s book earlier that same year. I have yet to make a start on the Syd Field one, but I began reading Blake Snyder’s as soon as I got it.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (Michael Wiese Productions - 2005)Instantly I could see it was a book that spoken the hidden truth, by that I meant it said things how they were and was in all honesty very funny, but also very descriptive, and easy to understand. It even used examples from the world of film and screenwriting to make its points plus also had a little game inside that you could make a homemade copy of easily. As well as that it also came with exercises, while I have yet to do any of these, the book used them to get you thinking. It also gave me perspective on the 10 basic story lines of cinema too:

  1. Monster in the House
  2. Golden Fleece
  3. Out of the Bottle
  4. Dude with a Problem
  5. Rites Of Passage
  6. Buddy Love
  7. Whydunit
  8. The Fool Triumphant
  9. Institutionalized
  10. Superhero

So why do I talk about it like I have read it and why if I am so interested by it do I consider it annoying? Well, it is very in-depth and I really do like it, it’s a very fun book and I really hope to finish it one day and use it as a way to help me with my screenwriting. The issue sort of comes from putting off reading another chapter for a while, and when you start reading a chapter that references a previous one that you have forgotten, it’s hard to remember the context: that’s what happened. And generally, as my screenwriting course came to an end, plus the enjoyment I used to have for the course by this time vanished; it was hard to keep it up when I wanted to do something else. That was it really and since then, much like MogWorld, it is featured on my ‘currently reading’ profile on Goodreads, consistently reminding me that I have not finished it yet, although the gap from now to the last time I read it is significantly smaller than when I finished MogWorld.

The Foundations of Screenwriting (Delta - 2005)

My hope is that one day, like MogWorld I will finish it and then everything will be happy and I will be able to look back on it more fondly, but right now I just need to just sit down and do it! Whether I start again or not is another question, but right now it’s all about just trying to find a decent time to just do it, while making sure I do not do the same with Project Nemesis.

Project Nemesis (Smashwords Edition - 2012)

GENEPOOL





A Big Red Right Hand – Hellboy

7 09 2016

Hellboy (Revolution Studios - 2004)

A few weeks ago while dining at a church fellowship meal, someone on the table remarked at how everything on TV and at the Cinema all involved Super Heroes. Now while this is something more of a cliché possibly or more likely an over exaggerated statement, there is a lot to be said about the number of Super Hero based things on TV and at the Cinema at the moment. Things like Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow on TV, whereas cinema this year has had several comic book related films like Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men Apocalypse and of course Deadpool. The reason for all of these of course is that right now they are very popular franchises, plus more importantly..…they make money. Super hero/comic book/graphic novel based movies are nothing new, they have been around for a while, its only in the last 8 years or so that they have really gained much in the way of traction; however, it should be noted that not all comic book/graphic novel interpretations are about super heroes, I mean, would you call V for Vendetta a Super Hero Movie?

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. - 2006)

Released in 2004 by Revolution Studios, Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro; Hellboy is a comic book adapted movie based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name by Mike Mignola and released by Dark Horse Comics. This is by no mean Del Toro’s first foray into making movies based on comics, as 2 years previously he directed Blade II.

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In 1944, The Nazi’s with the help of Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), build a machine off the coast of Scotland to create a portal in the hope of releasing a group of monstrosities called the Ogdru Jahad to aid them in winning the war. Rasputin opens the portal with help from Ilsa Von Haupstein (Biddy Hodson) and Thule Society member Obersturmbannführer Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), who is also Hitler’s top assassin. A group of allied soldiers arrive just in time guided by Trevor Bruttenholm. The German team is defeated and the portal is closed, sucking Rasputin in, in the process. As the allied soldiers search the grounds however, they discover that an infant demon with a big right hand-made of stone did travel through the portal. Bruttenholm decides to adopt him, and the soldiers call him Hellboy. Sixty years later, in the mountains of Moldova, Kroenen and Ilsa resurrect Rasputin, while in America, young FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) at the request of Bruttenholm (John Hurt), where he meets the amphibious humanoid Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the now grown up adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who has grounded off his horns. As soon as he meets Hellboy though, they get a shout that something is going on at a local Museum. Inside the Museum, Rasputin has unleashed the monstrous Sammael (Brian Steele) and bestowed upon him the power of reincarnation. Hellboy fights with Sammael, defeating him after a long lengthy fight, before then disappearing to see Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a former BPRD member who is now residing in a mental hospital hoping to gain more control of her pyrokinetic abilities. After Hellboy is gone however, Rasputin visits, and mentally activates her powers which in turn burns down the hospital.

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Back at the BPRD HQ, the team discovers that a creature from Sammael laid eggs into Hellboy while it was attached to his arm. Whilst John goes off to visit Liz and encourage her to return to the BPRD, Hellboy, Abe and a team of guards including Agent Clay (Corey Johnson), head to the subways to find and destroy a nest of eggs belonging to Sammael, into which Hellboy discovers has come back to life, while Abe fights with another. Abe is severally injured in the fight while Hellboy dispatches with the other. Several BPRD Agents are killed however by Kroenen, who then shuts down his clockwork body so he can be taken into BPRD HQ. FBI Director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is not too pleased with Hellboy’s actions. John takes Liz out for Coffee, while Hellboy who has romantic feelings for her, stalks them. In the Bureau HQ, Kroenen re-animate himself, and both he and Rasputin make themselves known to Bruttenholm. Rasputin reveals to him, that Hellboy is the agent that will reopen the portals and destroy the world. Bruttenholm who is dying of Cancer, and who has raised Hellboy like a son, believes that Hellboy in the end will make the right choice, and Kroenen stabs him in the neck.

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Manning takes over the BPRD after Bruttenholm’s funeral, and leads a team consisting of agents, John, Liz and Hellboy to Russia in hope of finding Rasputin’s Mausoleum. With help from a local cemetery corpse resident Ivan (Guillermo Del Toro), they find the mausoleum, but get separated once inside. Hellboy and Manning find the lair of Kroenen and quickly defeat him, while Liz and John find Sammael’s eggs, where there are no quite a few of them. Hellboy arrives and does battle, but its Liz who saves them as she sets fire to the lair, killing all of the Sammael’s and his eggs, meaning he can no longer be resurrected. The group though is captured by Ilsa and Rasputin. Using Liz’s soul as a bargaining chip, Hellboy reveals his true power as Anung un Rama, with his horns growing back and begins the ceremony to release the Ogdru Jahad. Myers quickly breaks from his restraints and reminds Hellboy of what Bruttenholm brought him up to be. As such Hellboy breaks his horns, and kills Rasputin before the creatures could be finally released. Rasputin, revealing to have had one of the Ogdru Jahad possessing him, releases the tentacled monster. Hellboy defeats the creature by blowing it up from the inside. He then returns to Liz, whispering into her ear, threatens to go to the other side unless her soul is returned to her, as such Liz is revived instantly and the two share a kiss.

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Hellboy isn’t what you would exactly call a Super Hero Movie. It definitely shares traits and themes to films of this Calibre, but in all perfect honesty, Hellboy is not really a Super Hero, he is more an Anti-hero. He saves the day and the world on a regular basis from threats and monsters from the other side, but when he goes back home, he doesn’t live a life of obscurity or simply puts some glasses on, he returns home and does what he wants when he wants. In a way, he is more a mirror image of the human condition and what most of us are likely to do if we were super heroes, and want we would want out of it, not what is right, but what is desire. He wants fame, he wants fortune, he wants food, he wants love, don’t we all deep down? Yes, he is a super natural force from a world that is not this one and is employed to defeat the forces from beyond, to protect this world from the greatest threats not of this world or even this reality, but he is given a pampered life to make up for the life he simply cannot have as to who he is. If you look at other super heroes (except for maybe Deadpool), and what they do, and how it drives them, Hellboy is not in it for that, and when he does go in for a fight, he makes it as big, as loud and as exciting as possible, just because it allows him to go outside once in a while. He is less a Super Hero, more just like you or me, in it for a kick, but secretly desiring more.

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As a film, the tone and ideas are a little bit off-putting, there is no middle ground in explaining, this film is based on subjects about the dark arts, and the grim dark and horrid after life that is in the lead’s name. But through all that though, comes this incredibly well thought out and well created mythology and ethos surrounding the characters, what they do and who they fight. It’s very similar I think to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it’s setting and mythologies are all based on well documented ideas and beliefs, but brings them into the here and now rather than through some old age orientated may centuries ago fantasy world. This is the kind of Fantasy that should be explored more often, because it makes it more apparent, believable and interesting to a more modern culture and audience. I can see why Del Toro did this film in the end, it works perfectly to the style of films he started out doing and continues to create (Fantasy Horror). The setting is of course our world, but it goes on to suggest a dark uncertain future, including the possible apocalypse, and through its ideas creates some visually stunning moments. We are not talking Independence Day like scenes here; we are only talking a small fraction of visuals, but still aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also amazing and horrifying to believe. It all works well into this well created and wonderfully designed setting while also providing everything else a film needs to grab the attention of the audience. It’s visually stunning, with grips of an enchanting and horrifying storyline while also adding a well-researched and believable mythos.

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It’s interesting to note the strong calibre of movie industry veterans cast in major roles in what is really such a small comic book movie, but I bet that comes more from the established director. Jeffrey Tambor is someone I have had little exposure to in the past and before seeing this, the only role I have seen in him was Muppets from Space. In that he had a high seniority role which came with a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but overall was an incredibly funny role. Here we have something somewhat similar minus the comedy. He comes in as something of a corporate/political nemesis whose only concern is really himself and his position and finds that while the BPRD has its uses, he considers them overall a joke and a waste of resources. From his first appearance onwards he presents himself as someone who does not at all care for Hellboy, and his immediate introduction is shown of someone with a lot of power and whom carries a large level of intimidation. This carries on, showing his more demanding, not necessarily selfish side, but one who wants and demands respect; although how he reached his position could be questionable. He however, like a good scripted character, does show his uses and redeems himself in a flat second by showing his thanks to Hellboy for saving his life, and shows him how to light a cigar. Similarly there is of course John Hurt playing the adoptive father of Hellboy and head of the BPRD. He presents himself on a more caring but still serious note and overall rather than being a head of section comes more across as that chemistry/history teacher that we all come to be fond of and respect. His father figure like stance has its moments and the story of him dying ensures to enrich the plot and reason for Myers existence in the film, all which leads to a revelation point as to the true meaning for Hellboy, but still his ensured faith as to that Hellboy will make the right choice.

Jeffrey Tambor and Ron Perlman

While this film is primarily about creatures/monsters, there is of course a lot of human interaction. Some of these have been allowed very little screen time but are presented enough and are performed brilliantly enough for them to remain a key part. Characters like Ilsa are a good show for this. Someone who is a high officer in the Nazi Party and the key love interest for Rasputin, who, slowly but surely begins to reveal a sort of near psychopathic and heretic side, someone who believes in the cause no matter how it comes. She is very old-fashioned and also en-richly disciplined given her growing up and position, and keeps to this even after 60 years have passed by. Kroenen meanwhile is more a Monster than a human, and becomes a key villain from start to finish, even if he is just a puppet in the end. He too shows an incredible dark side, killing without mercy and has even showed some remains of being human showing traits such as laughing; however his body is less the case. Rasputin is something of a cross between Dracula and Darth Vader I find. He is presented more as a prophet and is unwieldy fiendish, but for him it’s all been planned out, and if it’s not part of the plan, he has no motive for it and will either order it dead, or just not think about it. He uses as much as he can to get what he desires and will maintain a level of control to keep the plan ripe and eventually fruitful at all costs. He is an interesting villain, but you get this feeling though that he is not the puppet master either, like there is someone else pulling the strings, but it’s never really shown (also, he has this weird change of voice before he turns into the monster).

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Myers comes across though as a young man in his prime excelling and desiring to do what is right in what is already a stressful job. He does not get on too well with Hellboy, and it feels like he is side-lining himself just so he can work on/with Liz, either because working with her feels more normal, or because of another reason. He continues to try and work with Hellboy, but while he is supposedly the lead human in this film, it feels like his point or part just gets more and more obscure and less needed other than to help Hellboy make the right decision. Other than that, he has almost served his purpose already. Maybe he is just an Introduction to the world of the BPRD, for the sake of the audience, as while he is a key feature for the first act, and a bit of the second, by the third, it feels like he is not even there. Agent Clay I find is a lot more of an interesting character than Myers, as he comes off a lot more strongly to begin with, and his compatibility with Hellboy comes off immediately as the two respect and care for each other even if their position does not require it. He shares very few scenes, but when he is in them, it feels like he is a much stronger lead in comparison to Myers, and that deep down, Clay should be the lead, but I don’t see how that could work either, as it’s clear he has been around a while.

Corey Johnson

The one theme this film tries to tell and thoroughly resonates, is what it takes for someone to become a Man. It gets mentioned start to finish and in the end becomes the story. This theme though really does work well for Hellboy. You need to remember that Ron Perlman is playing a very demanding and physical role, but in reality is the only real actor who could play the part, as the character needed someone physically big but also who could act, not like hiring an actor who is big but is only hired for physical capability. But despite the experience and wisdom of Perlman, it should be noted that Hellboy is actually a much younger character than Perlman is. In reality, Hellboy is actually very childish; a spoiled brat who gets more than he deserves but still demands more. He is like an over pampered cat, receiving so much food and attention, but still desires and believes he needs more. He is also something of a smitten lover, desiring Liz, even though she would rather lead a more normal life. He shows this by endlessly talking about her and trying to visit her/bring her back to the BPRD then eventually stalk her when she goes out with Myers. Like the average action hero, he does in the end ‘get the girl’, but it’s not through his childish ways, it’s when he grows up, becomes more respectful, and then threatens to fight tooth and nail for how much he loves her, therefore going from a childish brat, to a man, even if he is not human.

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Abe Sapien I find is something like a rabbit in a field of cats. This film’s ideas and premise surrounds a demonic identity, then in the meantime there is this character who is not that in anyway shape or form. He is less an alien, nor a demon, he is more in fact a natural mutation with a human life. He is more a book work than a man of action, less likely to get into a fight and more read his way out of a battle than throw a fist. He however though carries the trait of a group counsellor. He carries a lot of wisdom even if he could be considered a little young; he comes packed with knowledge, but still packs a little attitude. But in the end knows his place and where he belongs and knows the importance and vitality of the groups function and works to act as a mediator in-between the heat. He may feel less than respected or a part of the group, but he believes in it. Liz Sherman for me though is the one who stands out the most. She comes across as this shy, and vulnerable character, who is scared as to who she is and what she can do. She carries a real fear for it, and though while not a monster in appearance, feels on equal footing to the others in what she is. She desires a more normal human life, feeling more like an outcast in all walks of life. She has power but looks human. She wants to be human, but knows that humanity won’t give her credit as to what she looks like given as to what she can do. I do feel this really affection for the character, and really come to know who she is and how that affects what she desires. She then starts to build confidence thanks to Myers and receives the opportunity to lead a more normal life thanks to him, but then, upon the death of Bruttenholm comes to the knowledge that the ‘freaks’ need to stick together, and that Hellboy needs her support in what is a hard time for him. She grows and grows, becoming a tough fighter in the final battle escapades and even something of a leader, showing great deals of professionalism while also still coming to terms with whom she is and what she can do, which she then discovers, and comes to less fear it, more embrace it. Selma Blair plays what is for me, a very identifiable role and one whom I somewhat can’t get enough of, and come to anticipate with joy her next appearance.

Selma Blair (I know it's from Hellboy 2)

The film being one that is filled with many marvellous and very imaginative creatures will of course come packed with the not so original assortment of special effects to make these things come to life. It should be noted however that a great deal of special effects in this film are not necessarily the work of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, in fact for the most degree, many of the needed special effects more take the form of make-up, masks and costumes. It should be noted that in his early life, Del Toro actually studied and worked for 10 years in special effects and even started his own company. It is obvious to note then that when it came to Special Effects needed for this film, that he already had it planned out early one. For the actual shoot and filming of scenes, Hellboy, Abe, Sammael and Kroenen are actually costumes and or models when needed. CGI is only brought in when they needed to use them for a scene that would require CGI and when a Suit/Mask/Makeup would not work. Scenes such as creatures in Water, Sammael’s resurrecting, and the giant portals and monsters. This allowance but also reduced requirement for Computer Graphics means that there is a lot more involvement between characters in certain scenes, and makes the fighting look more fluid and dynamic, because the fighting is real. The other thing is though, that you can actually see the difference, as when the costumes are in shot, because the physical entity is living you can see it interact, but also, it looks fresher. When the computer animated imagery is in place, there is a feel that some of it is rather unfinished. Don’t know if you saw my review on the film Mimic (also by Del Toro), but in that the CGI was easy to be seen as not good or possibly unfinished, there was a direct correlation between real life and fake quality. In this you get a similar feeling, and it only really works for the CGI when things are happening quickly, like a fight scene or a chase as it blurs in and you don’t spot it, but then when you get it standing still, it’s very noticeable, that more could have been done in that department.

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Special effects are not everything in a film like this, because in order to convey the right feel to such an imaginative thing, you need a good quality soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) to back it up. Hellboy does have a sort of strange mix of pieces of music, ranging from the dark and mystical, to the old-fashioned with a bit of attitude. Pieces of music in those areas include when the portal is opening near the end, when Liz’s power is awakened in the hospital, to pieces like the BPRD theme when Myers turns up, Bruttenholm’s funeral, to the more modern sounding music as Myers and Liz go for a ride, then intermixed you also have the one of piece that sounds just sort of added and silly, but not in a bad way. But for me I want to highlight 3 distinct pieces of music. Now the third one I should note is only available really with the Director’s Cut of this film, but I would like to point out here and now (if I have not already) that this film’s Director’s Cut is where this film is at. It really enhances and includes and builds on from the original cut and though while its original cut is pretty good; to get the full experience, watch the DC. Anyway; the first piece is really this film’s main theme and you hear it the minute the credits are about to roll. It’s sort of twisted and sinister, that’s how it comes across anyway; and intermixed has a romantic track line, but for the most part is this dark and twisted tone that really sets up what you have been watching for the last 2+ hours and sort of puts it into a level of context, while also providing a mystical identity.

The next two pieces are more sort of added as to enrich the soundtrack but by adding pieces that were already made but not necessarily for this film. The first is Red Right Hand (I wonder why) by Nick Cave and the Dark Seeds. It only gets played after Hellboy’s introduction to Myers as the gang go to the museum in a bin lorry. However, well in the film plays as a really groovy soundtrack that just dominates most of the sound and works well to present the scene as best it can, especially when you see the agents marching in front of the bin lorry as the doors open. It’s a dark, twisted tune, but comes with a sort of light listening punch that you can’t help but sing a long too (much like the third song). The piece is actually very different in presentation to how the film puts it in, but either way, it’s still good.

Then you have this song by a band called Forseps. It’s just called Hellboy, but that is something of a lyric. It’s very different to everything else as it’s more heavy rock with a twist of a groove packing mystery and excitement as the song builds, explaining who Hellboy is, but then it hits this Lyric ‘HELLBOY’ and into that we get a lashing of attitude, the attitude this film has included, but only really feels now is the time to unleash. It’s mainly just a nice, interesting, but also levelly piece of fun on which to end the film on.

I really like Hellboy, both as a film and as an idea, especially the character. I consider him definitely worthy of equal footing in comparison to the other big super hero movie boys out there, if not a greater footing than them, it’s definitely more interesting and fun than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here you have very human like characters, even if some of them aren’t. You have these well thought out and researched ideas, enriching a really cool but also big plot and it comes packed with everything in between to male what is a very enjoyable film. While its mythos and ideas will put some people off, for everyone who does (‘dare’) to see it, there is a lot to like and a lot to enjoy, and in the end while such ideas are present, they are not the be all and end all of the tale, in fact it sort of goes beyond that and goes into other ideas and mythology, springing out-of-bounds to other locations and interests. Packed up with an incredible cast, touch-able-worthy special effects, and a mystically dark soundtrack that packs a punch, altogether Hellboy is a very magical film, and while I would not necessarily consider it a Super Hero Movie like the other adaptations of this sort, when you do think about it in league with those films and series: While it may currently only have 2 films in a potential trilogy, it still packs more and is generally more entertaining than many others. Yes, there are a lot of Super Hero Movies and TV Shows right now, but spare a quick thought for those that dare to do something different.

GENEPOOL (Also, quick shout out to Ivan).





Hey, Lord Of The Flame, Your Tail’s On Fire – Ice Age

31 08 2016

Ice Age (Blue Sky Studios - 2002)

By the early 2000’s, one form of format/genre was beginning to dominate the movie scene more than most. It had reared it’s head in 1995 with the release of Toy Story, and by 2002 several of the most talked about films of the time were in the same format. I am of course talking about CGI animated movies and in less than a decade; there were already several well-known and near iconic films released with such titles as Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Shrek and Monsters Inc. Most of the films produced in this format were done by two main studios: Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, with both of them together holding a near monopoly on CGI Animated Cinema. Then another studio came along; a studio who had been in existence nearly as long as Pixar, but who were only just about to release their first big screen film; little did anyone know that such a film would become such a hit.

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Released in 2002 by Blue Sky Studios and directed by Chris Wedge, Ice Age is an animated comedy film about a group of animals going on a journey during the Ice Age. This film would be the first instalment in the commercially successful Ice Age film series and would be followed by 4 sequels making it the first animated film series to have 5 entries. While the subsequent films have sort of begun to lose their charm, the first film in the series remains to be one of the best animated films of its kind, and is a personal favourite of mine.

Scrat (Chris Wedge), a squirrel with some really pointy teeth tries hard to find a place to store his acorn, ultimately and constantly however his success is limited and goes on to cause more problems than solutions. Eventually he gets stomped on by a large migrating herd of prehistoric animals going south to avoid the oncoming Ice Age. A Ground Sloth knows as Sid (John Leguizamo) is left behind by his family, and while trying to regroup with them he angers Carl (Cedric the Entertainer) and Frank (Stephen Root); a couple of Brontops/Megacerops (Rhino). Sid is rescued by grumpy Mammoth Manfred/’Manny’ (Ray Romano), and not wanting to be pummelled by Carl, Frank, or more likely both; Sid joins Manny, which Manny finds really irritating as he prefers to be alone. Meanwhile a group of Smilodon, lead by Soto (Groan Visnjic) are planning revenge on a group of humans by eating the chief’s baby son alive. During the attack, the baby’s mother rescues the boy, and jumps down a waterfall. Soto sends his lieutenant Diego (Denis Leary) to get the baby back. Having survived the plunge, Manny and Sid discover the mother, who passes the baby up to them before disappearing. While Manny does not want to help, he agrees to as he hopes Sid will leave him alone after that. When trying to return the baby to the camp, the two run into Diego, who is desperately trying to convince them he is good. Upon reaching the human camp; they discover the humans had left, and Diego says he can help the two reach the Humans in time before they are gone for good.

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The group leave for the humans, and on the way run into several hurdles in looking after a baby including feeding it and changing it, running into a pack of melon obsessed Dodo’s. Diego runs into members of his pack, and tells them that he will be bringing a Mammoth along with the baby to their lair. As the adventure continues Scrat is still looking for a place to hide his acorn, while the trio discover all sides to the Ice Age world, with Sid playing tricks on Manny, Diego still trying to get the baby and Manny trying to be a responsible guardian to the baby. Eventually the group run into a cave with human paintings inside, which tell of the frightful story of what happened to Manny that made him such a loner.

Within sight of their destination, the group walk over a patch of lava, with Manny saving Diego’s life. With Diego filled with gratitude and seeing Manny for who he really is, he informs them of his original plan to have the group eaten by the pack. With Diego’s help, the group are able to defeat the pack, but with Diego severely injured. Manny and Sid continue on to the Glacier Pass, and just manage to catch up with the boy’s father. Manny gives the boy back to his dad in a tear felt moment for all. Manny and Sid watch as the humans leave, with Manny having received a gift of compassion from the boy’s father. The two then turn around to see Diego injured but alive. They then leave to find a warmer climate. Thousands of years later, Scrat; frozen in an ice-cube washes ashore but is helpless as his Acorn is washed away. He does however find a Coconut to eat which brings him joy, until he accidently causes a Volcanic Eruption with it.

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Ice Age is actually a very surprising deep film I find. It’s amazing I think how a film like this can still bring a tear to my eye, even more so now than when I first saw it. There are things I am even beginning to discover more now than I did when I first saw it at about the age of 12. It’s a film with a lot of comedic moments; moments which carry references to what we might consider to be a normal modern life and the things carved into it, plus a lot of mentions to popular culture. These moments of comedy I find to be pretty simple, but in that there is an instant laugh. There is no need for thinking or jokes to get, because it’s all visual and even at times there may be something that children may not get, but ones that adults will making this film’s comedy one all the family can enjoy. Add to this some more clever puns and ideas in relation to such ideas like Extinction and Evolution provided by the film’s strong menagerie of prehistoric animals and it’s a real laugh a minute film. But it’s not just a comedy film, more in fact I find that it’s a film with a lot of heart and a bucket full of emotion.

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The film shows it’s comedy through its situations, but it tells it’s stories through its characters, and here we do have an odd bunch that has both comedy, but also peril. The film’s minor cast in part comes in several characters like Soto’s pack of misfits with characters like the near rabid Zeke (Jack Black), to the other two henchmen. Then this leads us on to characters like Carl and Frank who provide a way of Sid and Manny coming together, but in turn creates two semi-minor antagonists which are just so funny to watch and hear talk, especially with the spoken lines of “Carl?” and “Easy Frank”. This of course leads us on nicely to the film’s semi narrator but also comic relief Scrat the Squirrell. Scat’s scenes are indeed meant to be funny, and shows him really struggle to keep but also look after his acorn which he fails at a constant rate, and though while occasionally will meet some success and even a sense of reprieve this does lead him to more trouble. Though in the end he is not necessarily an entirely comical character, but also a representation of animals struggling to survive in a dying climate and how far they will go for what is theirs and things they need, and will persist to achieve them, even if they result in failure.

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The film portrays something of an interesting form of spoken juxtaposition as though while this film involves the animals talking in a clear understandable language, the humans are only heard making un-understandale noises. It’s like saying that the humans are just animals to the animals, and that animals are just animals to humans. It provides something of a counter point and helps to change the perspective for the audience to see their part in the film and whom they should be looking out for. Into this we get the baby; now while it’s name may not really be known possibly, that is far from the point as to where he belongs in this film. To begin with of course he is just an objective, a goal, something for the trio to do and to achieve on their journey and in order for them to go on a journey in the first place; but then as the film progresses, and the theme of friendship and family takes hold, the baby becomes something of a way of connecting the group. Initially they have their own ways of how they see the child, but then it helps bring them together, and helps face and provide them with comfort and reasoning in their past life to a more positive future. And so when finally it’s time for them to split, it is a real heart-felt moment as the group comes to acknowledge what such a benefit he was to them, and in some way, they don’t want him to go, in belief that maybe they will split when he is gone.

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The group’s trio of talent is an interesting but also very potent mix of characters made up of what is basically an odd bunched group. Sid for instance is of course a clown, a complete idiot who is the provider of constant laughs. He has a genuine attitude of trying and wanting to do the right thing, but is definitely not cut out to do, well anything. He is a complete misfit who is even abandoned by those who know him, and just happens to run into Manny as a sort of bodyguard. He will try his hardest of course, but comes across as a complete failure. However, as a baby sitter he turns out to be completely indispensable, especially as he is the only one of the group with hands, fingers and opposable thumbs; making him ideal for the purposes of looking after a baby, especially in cleaning up after it. By the end he proves himself to actually be generally useful and someone who is rather caring, if not the best father figure. Meanwhile Diego comes across initially of course as a villain, because well, you would think so wouldn’t you, I mean he is a Sabre Toothed Cat after all and has shown to be in league with another group of Cats who want to eat the Baby. So from here on in he is someone to be watched and looked out for and spends a lot of time trying to get the baby plus set up Manny. Then however he has a complete change of heart, as he realises who Manny is and how special the baby is, especially after Manny saves his life. From here on he tries to fix things, and while nearly loses his life shows with all his strength that he is a changed man (of sorts) and that what he really desires is a life with these guys, and not the life he once lead.

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Manny though is the one with the greatest story. Out of the main group he is the one who you see first and shows quite categorically that he would be rather left alone. He spends a lot of the first act trying to be left alone, then get rid of Sid and everyone he keeps running into, even when he is charged with helping the baby return home it’s just so he can return to his private lonely life. Of course, much like the others, he begins to change, but is still unsure of where this new life is leading, until the moment you discover why he is the way he is. Something that could be considered a mere coincidence, leads to a paralysing memory, as a simple cave painting tells his exact story, a story of how he once had a family, but then by the hand of humanity it was all taken away from him, and has since gone on to lead a cynical lonely life, but through the relationship with the baby, an infant to the species that brought his world to an end; he is able to relive that life once more, and know once again what it’s like to have a family, and have hope for his own future, and by the end of their journey; even with the loss of his and possibly the groups shining light, he knows he doesn’t want to part ways with the others, because he is part of not a group of friends, but part of a family once more.

OKAY, yes this film is a CGI Driven form of animation so I suppose I should take a quick moment to talk about it. As a form of animation the digital effects provided take on two forms. One the design of the landscape is rather blocky to keep in context with the ideas of Ice and an Ice Age, while of course the animals use more rounded shapes. The design of the animals in question is rather neat but carries a lot of character and does not bog itself down with attempts to look realistic, instead working to make the goofy looking shapes and designs of an extinct age work as part of their own design mythos and in turn make them look both rather cute while also maintaining a daft and silly look too. One thing though that has come about I discovered is that I feel that the shading effects, all while be it still very do seem to have aged a bit and don’t look as crisp, but as the film gets going, these effects completely disappear to your eyes looking on something else.

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One thing your mind won’t want to be distracted from is the quality of the film’s soundtrack composed by David Newman. The film does do that thing of creating one piece of music and then sort of editing it around for it to be used in a variety of circumstances but is still the same piece of music. Thankfully it does not do this all the time. The film’s main theme tune is actually rather pleasant and increasingly enjoyable. The film though goes on to create more sounds that become just as a part as the main theme if not more a part from there on. Some of these pieces range from the comical and fast, to the slow and sombre, such scenes of note including the sliding around in the cave, Diego’s near end, Giving the baby back and Manny’s memories in the cave.

One theme though stands out the most and becomes the films semi-main theme if not it’s main: that being Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root. It gets featured as the main travel song for the film’s main journey moments across the ice, as the trio discover the life and environment of the ice age as time goes by on their adventure. Seemingly though, it’s a song with a passionate theme and lyrics that in turn show that while it’s more of a road travel song, it is also talking about the themes and ideas that go into going on a journey; but not by yourself…..but with others.

Ice Age is a really fun film altogether. It has its comedy and laugh out loud moments while also going on to present the look as well as the ideas and troubles faced by animals living during the Ice Age, even going to cover a semi-dark toned route as to cover the deaths that some go to, even if it’s not entirely shown. Ice Age is an adventure with friends; it’s about going on a journey, with a goal to accomplish that in turn bridges the gaps between species and each other. There are times though that this little kiddy animated movie, thing is just going to pull at your heart’s strings and provide moments that will make you laugh, but also feel and even cry; and in that comes a film that is not really a comedy, nor is it a film about a journey, but is a film about family, and the joys of family in a difficult world, and what it’s like to have it, lose it, then find it again, even in the most weird of ways.

GENEPOOL (Whoo, Yeah! Who’s up for round two?).








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