Top 10 Most Exciting Films In 2016

28 01 2016

Film Reel 2016

I don’t know if you saw my Top 7 Films of 2015 post – if you did, thanks for the support, if you didn’t; why not? – but in that post I had a little gripe at the film awards season. It was more of trying to understand why they are held in February, and not January or December, and why was it films released between February and February, and why was it Always films neither me nor the rest of the cinema going audience in general is going to see. But anyway, I had a little gripe at that before going into my Top 7 films. Why 7; well it’s because I was going to do 5 instead of 10 like I did in 2014, but then I saw a film I wanted to mention (Spoiler Alert – something I don’t generally do, but just thought I would include one here); It was Krampus by the way, but then I don’t like the number 6 so I increased it to a number I do like…7. Anyway, had a slight gripe at Movie Awards before presenting my Top 7. It’s sort of like a Movie Award, being my favourite films of the year, and it’s from someone who enjoys telling people what films he’s seen in that particular year. Anyway why am I talking about this now, well, this is also something like a movie award, but not as prestigious, for an entirely different reason.

Joy (20th Century Fox - 2015)

Basically, the year has passed, some good films, others not, and in the time-honoured tradition since 2012, this blog is going to announce what films the blog writer (me), is looking forward to in the coming year. It’s sort of like an award, but not as prestigious as it’s a list of films that look good this coming year, but if the examples of last year are anything to go by, there is no guarantee that the films in this list will feature in the Top 5 (or whatever number I do Next January/December time) of my favourite films of that year, or generally if they are any good or not. Now while all of these films look pretty good (there’s a major issue with number 10…and number 6), there is at least one other film I can think of that I would have liked to have add, but seeing as it was released well before time of writing, I thought I would just briefly mention the Jennifer Lawrence film Joy. The reason for not including it is the same reason why Birdman was omitted last year, because it had already been released. Anyway, Joy Looks good and I thought I would let that one have some promotion. Anyway, enough of all this, let’s look forward to some stuff. So without further ado, here are the Top 10 films I am most looking forward to in the coming year.

Godzilla Resurgence (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2016)

10. Godzilla Resurgence – I know what you must be thinking; “Why is a Godzilla film, let alone a new Japanese Godzilla film only at number 10 in this list?” Good question. Don’t worry, I am still a huge Godzilla fan, but as to why this is so low in the list is simple enough to answer, just rather longer to explain. The simple answer is that I don’t know if I will get to see it or not. The longer explanation is; that when it comes to the release of such films in the UK, let alone anywhere in Europe, The UK and Europe are consistently ignored. Most of my Godzilla collection is American Region 1 Imported DVD’s and one Blu-ray (try to guess which one). The only DVD’s that are not included in that are a BFI release of the 1954 film, King Kong vs Godzilla released in 2006 for the DVD release of the 2005 King Kong…I think, the 1998 film, and the 2014 film. So, as I can get hold of some DVD’s sort of OK, watching the Japanese films themselves on the big screen are close to an impossibility in my home country, so the reason for this being so low is that “Why should I build up my excitement for something that I probably won’t get to see at all this year?” Ok, I do keep up to date with news of it, and like to hear new stuff. Yes there is something of a trailer out for this, plus I have seen the ‘interesting’ poster for the film, so I am not completely against this film (it’s not the new Star Wars). Hopefully I will get to see it sometime, plus apparently overseas markets are being looked into, so there is some, if be it little hope, that I may get to see it after all. So there is some allowance for Excitement (plus it’s also one of two films being released this year with the word Resurgence in the title).

Dad's Army (Universal Pictures - 2016)

9. Dad’s Army – What originally sounded like a bad adaptation of a popular British Sitcom, now looks like a really promising film. I have seen the trailers a few times and it does look rather funny. Set to star Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Gambon, expect laughs galore for what so far looks like a faithful rendition to an old TV favourite.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Nickelodeon Movies - 2016)

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – The sequel to the surprise film of 2014. Ok, it wasn’t much of a surprise, in the end it was alright and Fun, and did get into my Top 10 (just) for 2014. It was a funny film and at least for me was faithful to its original material, particularly the character of Raphael. So far the new film looks like it will improve over the first film, which I felt was rather quick and got bogged down too much in the origins story of the Turtles. The first trailer released a couple of months ago makes a good first impression and already looks like a major improvement. Don’t get me wrong I am looking forward to this film; I just think this film needs to accomplish more than the first and get the series on the proper track. So far it looks like the main cast is returning, along with some new cast members (including WWE wrestler Sheamus) to play old favourites. Who knows, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could turn out to be the big surprise of the year, or not as the case may become.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (Dreamworks Animation - 2016)

7. Kung Fu Panda 3 – It’s been nearly five years since the last Kung Fu Panda was released, and the reasoning as to why this has happened is rather sketchy as I thought DreamWorks would have been more pro-active in releasing the next film sooner. Good news however, it is a sequel and in no way a reboot. Original cast are back along with new cast members Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons and Kate Hudson in a story that so far sounds like an adaptation of Seven Samurai, which pings my excitement a little more. Kung Fu Panda 3 so far looks like good old Kung Fu Panda fun, and all being well should be good enough to plug up the hole that it has created since the release of its predecessor. The trailer also looks really funny.

Gambit

6. Gambit – The first of three X-Men films to be featured in this list. Gambit is of course a standalone film about my Favourite X-Men character. The film is set to star Léa Seydoux and Channing Tatum, an actor whose career I am not familiar with, but already sounds like a promising choice (as does the casting of Lea Seydoux). Thankfully the film appears to be in no way connected to the events of Origin’s, however as far as my knowledge goes, it appears the film is yet to begin filming, so right now does not sound all that promising for a release this year, and if it does; the relevant quality also. However, given the quality of the X-Men series recently, I am hopeful that when the release date finally arrives, be it this year or not, that it should be worth the wait in the end.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Lionsgate - 2016)

5. The Divergent Series: Allegiant – What began as a film series that was worthy of a chance has grown into a series to be looked at. Divergent was a really fun film; Insurgent meanwhile was a vast improvement over the first with plenty of enjoyable quirks to make it stand out as one of my Favourite films of 2016. Now I am more and more looking forward to the next film in the series, and see where it goes. So far all I know of this film is what I have seen from the trailer, which just looks weird. I don’t get it at all. Ok, maybe the books will highlight some of the more weird bits the trailer is showing, but as I have not read the books, it’s kind of hard. Also, I don’t fully understand the casting of Jeff Daniels in a film like this, he just looks like someone who walked onto the wrong set, well as a far as the trailer goes. I am just worried that the high quality walls that Insurgent built, are just going to be flattened, just as the series is finally making some good headway. No matter, we’ll see what we’ll see. I mean so far it does look interesting and fun, and includes previous cast members in Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoe Kravitz and Naomi Watts (one of the big standouts of Insurgent). So while it is a mad looking trailer, the promises and successes of previous films in the series are good enough for me to put this high on my list.

X-Men: Apocalypse (20th Century Fox - 2016)

4. X-Men: ApocalypseApocalypse is a character I have been fascinated by since I first heard mention of his name in an episode of X-Men Evolution. Since hearing that name I have for many years been researching his character, and waiting for my opportunities to experience him in some manner of speaking. Either be it in the comics, cartoons or films. So upon hearing what the plan for the next X-Men Film was going to be after Days of Future Past, I could not wait. Since after the release of DoFP, I have been checking in and out with the news of X-Men Apocalypse. I have looked into casting, filming, and even saw a rough copy of the trailer that was filmed at Comic-Con. But it’s only recently I got to see the actual trailer. The film is set to star the main cast of the First Class series so far, with returning actors including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and the return of Rose Byrne who was sadly not in DoFP. Also in the spotlight for the next film includes classic comic characters Nightcrawler, Archangel and Psylocke to name a few, with rising actor Oscar Isaac taking the coveted role of the film’s lead villain. Also set for a return is the winning team that started the whole series from the word go, in producer Lauren Shuler Donner and director Bryan Singer (with any luck the X2 theme will return as well). As is the case though with the X-Men film series, the trailer does not show much in what is likely to be happening and appears to be a bit mad on the whole, and so it’s hard to see what the film is going to be about, however as this is the next film in a long line of extremely good films, I am hopeful that come release day, everything is going to be great.

Deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

3. Deadpool – Since the dawn and for nearly every year in the current century, cinema appears to be awash with movies about Comic Book Superheroes. Now while this is all being well, and most of these are usually fun, there seems to be a level of child-friendly-like-ness to all of these films so far, and very little of the blistering action seen in the comics, as said fights could be considered un-child-friendly. Well in 2016 that is all likely to change with the release of Deadpool. Based on the X-Men Character of the same name, this will be one of two ‘planned’ standalone X-Men films due for release this year. This is not Deadpool’s first time on the big screen, but his last appearance did not go down to well, and was one of the low points of an already bad film. Things have appeared to move on however, and so far Deadpool is beginning to stand out as one of the must see films of 2016. Returning to the role, of which he also played in the bad film; is Ryan Reynolds. Looking at the trailer, the film appears to have Deadpool presented in his correct red and black, sword wielding, gun shooting, breaking the fourth wall…ing self that has become so loved by fans of the character everywhere. The trailer looks fantastic and from what I have seen of images here and there, Deadpool may not be the only X-Men Legend in this film, as the film looks like it will also star Colossus. Deadpool looks Fantastic, and it also looks really funny too, if this film lives up to the hype, this should be one of the best films of 2016.

A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd - 2011)

2. A Monster Calls – About this time last year, I read a book. Ok, I read many books, but I read a book in the space of just a few days, and at the end of which made me cry, becoming the first book I have read to make me do so. Since then I have looked through bits of it every now and then, and have come to like it as one of my 2 Favourite books. The book is written by the 2 time Carnegie Medal winning author Patrick Ness whose other works include The Chaos Walking Trilogy and More Than This. Anyway, why am I talking about this so far yet un-announced book? Well, in 2016, there is due to be a film release of this book, of which the title is, as the book: A Monster Calls. Not much info is readily available about this film other than Juan Antonio Bayona is directing it, Patrick Ness himself is writing the script for it, and that Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson are going to be starring in it. Ok, so there is quite a bit of info on it actually, but not as much as other big films of the year, but given from what I experienced in paperback form this time last year, if that is anything to go by, then A Monster Calls already looks very promising.

Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox - 2016)

1. Independence Day: Resurgence – In 2012, The Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas with plans to make some new films. More than likely; 20th Century Fox probably weren’t best pleased by this announcement, especially as it was 20th Century Fox who took the original risk to produce the space film series after practically every other major studio turned down Lucas’s idea. It would be fair to say that 20th Century Fox were probably a bit miffed by this news; if it wasn’t for them having their attention on something else far more promising. You see as far back as 2011, they have had their eyes on the sequel to a film which when released in 1996 cast a shadow over the world’s cinema’s and did so well that all other films to that date were left in its shadow; and now, 20 years later; INDPENDENCE DAY returns. It’s been a long time coming, but the team of director Roland Emmerich, producer Dean Devlin and actors Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman return once more to save planet earth from an impending alien invasion. News of this film has been mostly scarce (except for those actively looking for it) but just a few weeks ago, a trailer was finally released, and it looks EPIC (and I don’t use that terminology all that often). Everything I have read to date, plus the number of times I watched the trailer continues to get me excited about the release of this film. This time around it looks like the invasion from 20 years ago was just a Beta test, and things are going to be a whole lot worse for planet Earth. The trailer looks Fantastic, I have not been as excited about a single film trailer since the first teaser for the 2014 Godzilla film in December 2013. I have watched it over and over again since I first saw it, and I simply can’t get enough. It won’t long now until the film gets released, but I am more excited about this film more than any other due to be released this year. I don’t know how it’s going to turnout when it is finally released, but like many other films in this list, it’s one I am going to be keeping a keen eye on in the year to come.

GENEPOOL (2016 will feature a resurgence in the word; resurgence…..possibly).

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WWE…..Get Ready To Fly

26 01 2016

WWE Logo

I have known about TNA Wrestling for a long time now. I think I first heard my brother talk about it probably after he heard about it in the now defunct Pro-Wrestling Magazine; Power Slam. Anyway, I have known about it for a while, and my interest began to spark when I heard that Sting was returning to Wrestling, but for them not WWE at the time. Anyway to cut a long story short, eventually TV channel Bravo began to show TNA Impact in the UK. I knew some of the wrestlers in it like Sting, Kurt Angle and Christian, but it was new ground for me and I had to learn the names of quite a few new wrestlers. Within the first episode of one, there was a guy known as AJ Styles. Upon hearing that name; you can probably see what this Blog Post is about. Anyway, as the show began to attach itself more to me than WWE, the more I began to learn about this new wrestling show and its stars, in particular AJ Styles.

TNA 2012 AJ Styles

AJ Styles was a one of a kind wrestler within the company. He was given the name Phenomenal, of which he was. He migrated between goody and baddy on a regular basis, but despite that though, his in ring talent was amazing to behold, and he stayed within this company for a very long time, switching as usual, but entertaining more than most, and was a worthy holder of the World Heavyweight Title which he held on several occasions. But then in 2013, he left the company. Now I don’t want to get bogged down as to why, but for TNA, it was a real loss. Automatically his leaving began to affect the show, and I have been saying for a long time now, that TNA really needs to bring him back. Well it appears that they may be a bit too late to do that. I found out last week rumours that AJ Styles was going to WWE. I did not know if this was true or not, but within a couple of days later, it turned out it was all true as he had officially signed with the company, and rumours beckoned of him appearing at this past weekend’s Royal Rumble…..which he did.

Upon hearing that he did enter, I found a video online proving this, and I was really excited. Finally, AJ Styles had arrived in a company where I would be able to see him in a more regular spot. Now though is where the questions begin to arise, as to what WWE is going to do with him. People who have jumped from TNA in recent history have not had such a great time, where as in TNA they were on top of their game, only for WWE to hold them down in a way that makes WWE look like they are just using them to prevent the major competition from gaining. So, as for AJ Styles it brings into question if such a talented performer is going to receive a similar treatment. Right now I am confident that won’t happen given b his WWE Debut. He was announced by the name AJ Styles and not by a fake name. The Audience saw him, and cheered so loudly for him, plus the commentators talked about him in such a positive way. Plus his Debut was done correctly, by having him alone with Roman Reigns in the ring, giving him a similar debut to that of Sting in 2015.

As to what WWE is going to do with him in the future is still in the question phase; his debut at the Royal Rumble provides a positive start for such a talented performer. It will really come down to the next few weeks and months as to what happens to AJ Styles in WWE, but I am hopeful, as his appearance in WWE makes it a lot more interesting now. With any hope, he will replace and put John Cena in his place, because come on, AJ Styles is a lot better than John Cena.

GENEPOOL





Top 7 Films Of 2015

20 01 2016

Film Reel 2015

I have never fully understood why the film award season takes place during February. It’s neither the beginning nor the end of the year. Nor have I ever understood why the film award calendar allows films released up to the award ceremony dates in February, why on earth would something like that be allowed as it’s rather confusing that a film released in January one year is omitted from the following year because it was not released in the appropriate month/year. Wouldn’t it be better just to allow awards to be given to films released in the traditional January to December 12 month period? Then you could still have the award season in February because it would allow judges an appropriate amount of time to judge which of the films they think should win that award. But then it would go to a film that no-one has either watched or even heard of. I am not saying those films are good or bad, it’s just that it doesn’t make sense that the more popular films aren’t more consistently thought about. Sure they may get bad reviews, but if people like them, there must be a decent level of fun about them for them to be included in some form of Award ceremony, and by that I don’t mean the Razzies. In the end it just makes the MTV Movie Awards look more prestigious. Anyway that’s a completely different argument and not one I am going to get into now.

MTV Movie Award

With it now being January, I thought I would do my annual list of which films I thought stood out from the pack. Last year you may remember I did a Top 10 than my usual Top 5. Well this year it is down to 7. I was on track to just doing a Top 5, but a film came out in December (I bet you can’t guess what that was) which I thought was worthy of a mention, but I do not like the number 6, so I added another one for extra value (I really like the number 7). This time around though it’s just one post, not 2, so it’s a much easier thing to be involved with. Once again, as per usual, only films that were released in the traditional 12 month period of January to December 2015 are included and the list goes in descending order with 7 not so great, and number 1 being the best film of 2015. Now the year has not been a great year for releases, there were some failures, and not much in my opinion to look forward to, however there was some surprises and discoveries.

Pom Poko (Studio Ghibli - 1994)

One of the discoveries for me though was discovering more and more the back catalogue of Japanese Animation Studio; Studio Ghibli. This year I have seen quite a few of their films for the first time and have instantly come to love the films My Neighbour Totoro and Pom Poko. Unfortunately these weren’t released in 2015, so don’t get a mention in this list, sadly. Anyway, without further ado, here are my top 7 favourite films of 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm - 2015

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 2015 has had a large shadow over it all year round, not an Independence Day like shadow, but a great black cloud hanging over the year that at intervals would shout at you during the day. Yes it was the release of the new Star Wars, a film being highlighted by Science Fiction fans as fantastic; although that was no guarantee of that months ahead of its release, but they just ignored that bit. I used to love Star Wars, I like all of them in my own way, they are fun entertaining films, but then the fans got a bit too critical about the prequels and started to take the fun out of it. Therefore, my old love for Star Wars was gone. So, I was not looking forward to this film, but I thought I should see it anyway. Upon release I heard lots of good stuff about it, but was still unsure, then saw it. It was nice. It was nice and fun again. It was like Star Wars should have remained for me. It had new good characters, good new villains (appearances by two main characters form The Raid and The Raid 2), some interesting and fun scenes and Harrison Ford finally pulling his weight. However there was one huge problem I had with it, and it started within seconds of the film starting and carried on throughout the entire film; and that is that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a near exact frame for frame remake of Star Wars Episode IV: A NEW HOPE. Nearly everything in this film is exactly the same as the original film released in 1977. I thought the idea was to start a brand new story to take place after Jedi, so why is it then that it isn’t? I am not going to ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, it is actually a nice fun film, it’s good, it was somewhat worth all the hassle from outside forces and pin pricking in your veins from the TV, but just don’t expect anything much in the way of NEW STUFF.

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

6. KRAMPUS – (I said I bet you can’t guess) Released quite late in the year’s schedules and a film I only just got to see in the end, but overall I absolutely loved Krampus (I know that sounds wrong when said like that). It was something else, and a nice break from the consistent streams of TV adverts and trailers about a certain space movie. Krampus for those of you who don’t know much about it; is a Christmas Horror film starring the titular character from Christmas Folklore. From the first trailer I saw, I was hooked and dead set on seeing it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Terrifying and Enchanting, it was a both shocks and laughs. Very funny but also very scary, and it told both a story and a lesson in a believable setting. It was just such a fun film, and nearly made it into my Top 5. If you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth a watch, even if Horror is not your thing, give it a try (apologies that this one is not as long as the above paragraph).

Insurgent (Lionsgate - 2015)

5. The Divergent Series: InsurgentDivergent was a fun film and a very memorable one at that too. It was a film that for the most part looked more like a Hunger Games competitor and wouldn’t live up to much. But then I saw it, and rather liked it. Then I went to see Insurgent, and I was shook back. Insurgent was such a glorious film, it was big improvement over the first. There was a lot more in action scenes, there was more going on for both the setting and characters. The main characters all greatly improved, from Shailene Woodley, to Theo James, plus it saw the introduction of a brilliant character played by Naomi Watts. There were one or two things I had issues with, the number 1 being how quickly Tris surrenders (as I had thoughts that consisted of a cross over from The Raid and the opening scene of Blade: The Series). But overall, it did things different from the genre that it birthed from, and it makes the series look more promising than how it started, I have big hopes now for the future of this series, and it all comes to this Titan of the Young Adult movie genre.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios - 2015)

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Much like Insurgent, this too was a big improvement over the first film. I wasn’t expecting much from Ultron except possibly some more drivel brought on by constant mentions in the intervening films about the first Avengers film. I was glad to see that didn’t happen. I was annoyed that the opening of this film seemingly relied on the audience having to watch all the intervening films to get the full story, but as soon as Ultron took his spot, the film opened up. The cast has improved greatly, some of the love scenes between Banner and Widow I thought were possibly going in a very obvious direction, but it meant that Banner wasn’t necessarily going to get bullied like he did in the bridge scene from the 2012 film. Overall though, the film was good, brilliant in fact. All the cast were outstanding, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were brilliant additions, plus it was good to see Cobie Smulders return (although I did feel like the Vision looked absolutely ridiculous). It was a good story, had some good moments, plus it was wonderful to see the return of the War Machine.

Spectre (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - 2015)

3. Spectre – Spectre was a film I kept forgetting about until it finally came out. I went to the cinema to see it (like you do when you go and see a film I suppose), and I really enjoyed it. I went to see it again, and had the same reaction. Is it better than Skyfall? I would say No to that one. Is it as good if not better than Skyfall? Definitely Yes. It is a huge spy epic with great scenes, good acting from everyone involved, all the heavy hitters in Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz and Batista, to the secondary’s like Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott. Best of all though, it had in my opinion the best Bond Girl to date in Léa Seydoux (please let her be in the sequel). It was not just characters though, it had cool opening titles and theme to back them up, a fantastic car chase, great fight and action scenes, plus an ending that reminds me of V For Vendetta. Terrific stuff, whatever you’re doing MGM; you’re doing it right, keep up the good work guys.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Lionsgate - 2015)

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – I had been saying it for over a year, and it happened. As the curtains were charging up in the nearest plug socket, and the final scenes began to play out, I cried. It was such a big deal and moment for me; The Hunger Games series has been such a major part of my life these past 4 years, they have continuously stood out for me as some of the best and most enjoyable films that I have watched since taking a chance on the first one back in 2012, and Part 2 was no different. It had some terrific scenes, very powerful ones near the end, moments that made me cry. As the film wrapped up, I went outside, and touched the film notice board, as a sort of thank you moment, as it was there for me that the series began. This film had it all, great cast, firstly the ones we all come to love and hate from people like Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields and Donald Sutherland, to characters that really began to stand out, for me that was Natalie Dormer more than most, keeping an eye on her throughout. It was a film of action, a film of horror, suspense, conspiracy, but also one of love, and best of all, it ended the right way, and that was most important, that it end the correct way. A fitting end to a series that grabbed my heart and I it’s, and both never letting go until the time was right.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

1. Jurassic World – What else after all that was released in 2015 could possibly be better than Jurassic World? Nothing as far as I could find, I mean its right here at the number 1 spot in a list of 7 films. Now let me just say that I actually do quite like the Lost World, but for me, I agree with everyone who says it, by saying this is the sequel we have been waiting for. Jurassic Park is still number 1 in the series, but World is not far off. It is set back on the original island, ignores the previous sequels outright (like The Force Awakens ignores A New Hope outright) and creates a chilling, fun but still terrifying new story that clings to the themes of not just the work and setting of its predecessor, but also the book that started it all. Since reading the book, I can see that the island is much like what Michael Crichton envisioned and talked about in his book when he first created Isla Nublar all those years ago. World goes in-depth with the whole thing of man’s desire to control and create, but also how once again it’s easy to lose that control. World though also delves into the world of man’s desire for the need of something new, and talks in great depth about the commercialization of everything. This all though of course goes to pot in the usual case of something getting loose and terrorizing everybody, this time in the form of a brand new dinosaur. This then takes us through a 2 hour fun-fest featuring lots of laughs backed up with great acting from the likes of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, which all ends in the most spectacular way possible featuring the Tyrannosaur from the original film plus a brand new exhibit. By the end of it all, I had no adrenaline left in me. It was like a ride in itself, all brought together by one of Hollywood’s finest new Directors (Colin Trevorrow). Jurassic World is pure FANTASTIC.

GENEPOOL





Book Review – Prey

13 01 2016

Prey (Michael Crichton - 2002)

Title: Prey

Author: Michael Crichton

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 0007796420

I remember back in the early 2000’s first hearing about Nanobots. It was the very early 2000’s and Robot Wars and its spin-off Techno Games were at their height, and I even collected the magazine Real Robots. There was no better time to be a fan of robots, and I was one, it was great. Well; my dad was looking through the newspaper and showed me the article on Nanobots, and the only thing I really knew about them was how small they were. Sometime later, about a couple of years I think, I remember watching and seeing something on Have I Got News For You about Nanobots and how such a thing would be a threat to society as Nanobots could reshape an Atom into anything theoretically, but at the moment only really Grey Goo…or something like that. Since then Nanobots are something which has come up every now and then, but surprisingly not in a very big way, or from what I have seen. Yes, they have had appearances in Video Games, TV, Movies and Books; but have somewhat never really stood out among the pack, and whose appearance since the mid-noughties sort of disappeared. I just find it odd that in the technology driven world of today, the subject of Nanobots doesn’t come up all that often. Put the subject of Nanobots in the right hands however, and you can easily end up with something very realistic, very terrifying and very believable.

Originally released in 2002 by Harper Collins; Prey is a Techno-thriller written by bestselling author Michael Crichton, whose previous works include The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Jurassic Park, Airframe and Next. Much like many of Crichton’s works, Prey is a very science driven book that deals with the themes and ideas of it subject matter, backed up with tons of research and planning to not only produce a stunning piece of fiction, but also create the suggestion that such things are possible and are happening right now.

Unlike previous works of Crichton that I have read, Prey is told in the first person, whereas books like Jurassic Park and Micro are both third person. Prey follows the seven-day story of computer scientist Jack. He has been made redundant and is now working as a full-time father, looking after his children at home. His wife meanwhile is the Vice President of Xymos; a company based somewhere out in the Nevada Desert. Jack is beginning to find his wife rather hard to live with as she is starting to have a go at him for spending more time with their kids than she is. Meanwhile his family have started talking about strange men coming around the house. While all this is going on, out in the desert at the plant where his wife works, Jack is called in to help out when a swarm of Nanoparticles gets loose and every attempt to recover and destroy them has failed. As things begin to ramp up, Jack begins to learn the horrifying truths about both the Swarm and those around him, and soon is fighting for both his, and possibly humanities survival.

Prey deals with the subject of Nanobots, but not in the grey goo form. No, this story deals with the idea of using the latest technological discoveries to create new technologies and devices to better help mankind, and then what happens when such technology breaks loose from its programming and sets about becoming the new alpha predators. Prey is very different to the past experience I have had with Crichton. Just like Prey; Jurassic Park and Micro were very much about advancements in science and technology and what people will go to, to maintain control when they begin to lose it. Both of those books were focussed on a biological form of science, whereas Prey focusses more on the technological side than the biological side of scientific advancement. There is a lot more talk in this book about computer science than any form of biological standing. While it is certainly different in that aspect, much like Park still though, it goes into how easy it is to lose that control, but don’t think of that as some kind of Crichton Cliché, because the book does more than that. It starts out from the sane and believable world of a pressuring family life, to the in-depth loss of control in a hectic situation, to the near insane ending that just jumps off leaps and bounds until there is practically no-where else to go.

Prey is a big book, and follows the story of just one person, remaining entirely in first person all the way through. For a protagonist, Jack is a really connectable person. He starts off the book shopping for table placemats, and just grows from there. Much like his other books, the narrative is split into about three or four sections, each one highlighting a certain point. These get quicker as it goes along, but to begin with it’s just the story of a man who has lost his job and is trying to look after his family the best way he possibly can. As the early story develops, the issues between him and his wife grow, and you are brought into something of a domestic conspiracy as the book’s first bit builds to a crescendo that brings our hero into the real situation. This sets-up our hero and gives him something to live for and worry about while he’s away. Soon after though, he gets involved with the runaway swarm. Why is he brought into it? Because, ironically he has something to do with their creation in the first place. As a computer scientist; he worked on a program which becomes the main basis for the nanoparticle swarm. To begin with he tries to understand it best he can, but with issues all around him from several people it leads to him going from a consultant to a man of reasoning and action, but is then restricted on all sides, not just from the abilities of the Swarm, but the people he is working with. Eventually it leads him into the discovery of several horrible truths that lead to the action packed conclusion; along with some trademark Crichton clearing up of the facts, just to cover all the ground bases.

Prey is a really terrific read. I managed to obtain a copy of this in a book bundle from The Works for £5 (which included Next and Micro, although I already had Micro). It came at an interesting point for me as I was struggling with my current reads at the time, plus the obtaining of Prey got me all excited as to wanting to read another Michael Crichton book. I started with this one out of the two I hadn’t read in the bundle because this one had an essay at the front, and reading the point of view of Crichton in such a well written form as to the themes and ideas of the technology that inspired the book, is a great way to begin reading a book. Prey has been something of a breath of fresh air to me, as it is something very different to most other books I read all last year. Out of all the books (about 4 at the time) that I was reading, Prey was the book I most looked forward to reading a bit more of. It is a hard thing to describe, but the enjoyment I received from reading this book was unlike anything I have read in quite a while. Prey has a lot of personal issues and a background that is very easy to understand. It puts you in the situation that Jack is going through with impeccable description. It puts you in scenes from personal issues, to heightened moments of action. It also takes you on a journey of discovery and unleashes moments of mystery that make you want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next.

My feelings aside, Prey is a wonderful read. It has all the hallmarks of a Michael Crichton science fiction novel, while also delivering a constant punch of twists and turns as the book builds to its epic conclusion. While the book and its technology could be seen as a bit dated now, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. It makes the ideas of Nanobots a very serious and terrifying prospect, and one that should not be taken lightly to this day. It is very much a story of today, a world covered in people with electronic gadgets from iPod‘s and iPhone’s to Kindle‘s and even technology in devices that weren’t computerized before (like coffee machines). While it is not necessarily a story about the rise of neither machines nor computers, it is still a story about a serious threat; one that could easily lead from something found in our world today, and make humanity – not technology – obsolete.

GENEPOOL





Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes…..Wait; No, It’s Not Him – Krampus

6 01 2016

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

“I know that it’s January!” Anyway; I am not all that big a fan of horror films. I like the ideas of horror films, plus have the real understanding of how a horror film should work. It’s not about blood and guts, it’s about being scared, receiving a frightful shock that makes you jump out of your chair, or not able to go to bed that night. The only Horror films I have seen so far are films like Battle Royale, The Purge, Aliens, bits of Predator and AVP. But the idea of taking such a happy time as Christmas and then subjecting the setting to an awful situation that leads to kidnap and possibly death is an interesting idea, plus also why I wanted out to point out that I know its January but am reviewing a film that is set during Christmas.

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Released in 2015 by Legendary Pictures and Universal, and Directed by Michael Dougherty; Krampus is a Christmas themed horror film based on the folklore legend of Krampus. Personally I never heard of the character of Krampus until this film came out. According to Wikipedia:

“In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).”

Anyway, that’s what/who Krampus is according to folklore; I just thought I better mention some form of knowledge before I start.

The film begins with a scene of people shopping for Christmas Presents, in a similar hysteria and mad panic that people get involved in during Black Friday. After getting into a fight in the store, young boy Max (Emjay Anthony) along with his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and their parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) return home where Tom’s mother known as Omi (Krista Stadler) is busy making Christmas cookies. Max still believes in Christmas traditions and hopes for Christmas to be as close as that could possibly be, but the house is in chaos, and gets worse with the arrival of Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman), her husband Howard (David Koechner), their children Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel), Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack), their baby daughter, and Linda and Sarah’s Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell)…oh, and their dog too. The chaos at home rises as the two family’s thoughts and beliefs begin to clash, and end with Stevie and Jordan taking Max’s letter to Santa Claus and reading it out loud during dinner, resulting in a fight. Tom tries to comfort his son, but Max decides to rip up his letter to Santa and throw it to the winds. At that moment a snow storm arrives and causes a power outage throughout the whole area. The following morning, the family struggle with the loss of heat and power, while Max is wondering about a snowman that has appeared in the front garden. A delivery man arrives with presents for the family, as well as a sack which is just left by the door. Beth decides to visit her boyfriend’s house to see if he has power; on the way though she spots a tall horned entity standing on a house rooftop. She runs away but is pursued by the strange being. She hides underneath a van, and watches as a creature with hooves walks around her. It soon leaves, but Beth is then attacked by something inside a Jack in a Box.

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The family grows worried for Beth, so Tom and Howard go outside looking for her. They find it strange that there are no other people in the area, no cars, nothing, other than for a snow plow. Back at the house, everyone else hears strange noises coming from the roof. Upon reaching Beth’s boyfriend’s house, Howard and Tom notice how much devastation around them there is, with the chimney split, and hoof prints on the floor. Upon leaving Howard is attacked by a snow monster. Tom saves him and drags him back home, telling the family to board themselves up inside. Omi, who has begun to act really strange, tells Tom to keep the fire burning. During Howard’s watch however, he falls asleep and the fire dies. While everyone else sleeps, a hook with a Gingerbread Man attached comes down the chimney. Howie Jr reaches for it and takes a bite, only for the Gingerbread man to suddenly come to life, wrap him in chain and drag him up the chimney. The family tries to save him, but is unable to do so. Omi then tells the family what is going on, and that they are being attacked by Krampus (Luke Hawker and Gideon Emery). When she was young, Omi lost her faith and hope in Christmas due to her poverty-stricken life in the village where she lived. As a result the ‘Shadow of Saint Nicholas’; Krampus came to town and took the whole town with him to the underworld, leaving Omi behind, with a Krampus Bauble to remind her of what happens when one loses their love of Christmas. Howard refuses to believe her, and goes outside where the whole garden is full of Snowmen and maliciously laughing creatures. He goes back inside. Tom forms a plan for them to try and run for the Snow Plow and find help. Meanwhile the sack of presents upstairs begins to rattle and shake. Stevie and Jordan hear Beth’s voice in the attic and go looking for her. Upon hearing the two girls scream, Tom, Sarah and Linda go into the attic and find a giant Jack in the Box creature swallowing Jordan whole. They are then attacked by the Jack in the Box and some other Christmas toys, while Howard is attacked by a trio of Gingerbread Men in the Kitchen. They are just able to fight off the creatures, but back downstairs a horde of Dark Elves burst into the front room and take the Giant Jack in the Box, Howard, Dorothy and the Baby with them. Krampus is then heard landing on the roof and descends down the chimney. Omi stays back at the house to give the retreating family some time to escape. Krampus seemingly recognizing her unleashes his monstrous, demonic toys on her.

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The rest of the family reach the snow plow, but then Tom, Linda and Sarah are all sucked into the snow by the Snow Monster from earlier. Max with Stevie in tow tries to start the plow, but it doesn’t work, and Dark Elves arrive and carry off with Stevie. Krampus then lands in front of Max, and gives him a bauble, wrapped in his ripped up letter to Santa, revealing that it was Max who caused all this to happen. Back at the House, Krampus, his minions and a chained up Stevie prepare to leave back to the Underworld, when Max shows up, throwing his bauble at Krampus and demanding he fixes everything. A pit of Lava opens up, and Max tearfully pleads for Krampus to return his family, and take him instead. In a silent moment Krampus sees Max Tears, but then begins laughing. Stevie is thrown into the pit, and Krampus drops Max in too. The following morning, Max wakes up in bed. Thinking it was all a dream, he sees the neighbourhood as it should be, heading downstairs to see his family is alright. They begin to enjoy their Christmas, when Max opens a Present with a Krampus Bauble inside, to which the whole family falls quiet. The camera then pans out to reveal the house is inside a snow globe, along with many others inside Krampus’s Workshop.

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Terrifying and Enchanting, that’s the best way to describe Krampus. It’s a term I have used since about 5 minutes after leaving the cinema (I didn’t walk out if that’s what you’re thinking). Krampus is a very clever film and one that sticks to both the modern Christmas life and the folklore legend that inspires it. It tells a story, but also teaches one; plus values. It opens up with scenes resembling the over commercialized Christmas holiday scene, with people rushing into a shop, tripping over and fighting one another in the hope of getting a present, then goes into the troubled Christmas family life with tensions between family members plus the arrival of the inappropriate and offensive in-laws. It makes the start of an over-promising Christmas family comedy film (which given by this evidence doesn’t usually work out). But then things begin to take an ugly turn, as the horrid in-laws begin to upset the family more, which instigates an unbelievable situation, which leads to horrible consequences, with each family member one by one getting picked off and killed by a supernatural entity and his minions. It begins with the over commercialized view of Christmas, but develops into teaching the true values of Christmas. It tells the story of a boy wanting the best for his family, but once is made fun of by his horrible cousins, loses his spirit for the holidays. This then leads to their terrible situation and shows that while there is heat between family members, there is still love, and once said members are lost, they are missed. So while the family life may not be paradise, there is still more value in it than any gift wrapped up in paper. The telling of this story then is much like how most good films work, it revolves around change, change from where you started from, and learning to bring about something much stronger. Even if it takes such a horrid situation to make people realize this. But then Krampus does something very clever. It does revert the narrative back to a normal life and make the idea that it was all just a dream and that everything is fine. But to prevent them returning to their old, miserable, horrid habits; they are presented with a reminder. A reminder that is true to everyone, not just one person, that what happened, was real, and that it can be done all over again just as easily. This makes both the family and audience think, and remember to take Christmas and the beliefs surrounding it more seriously in the future, because just like the film, it can all be taken away so quickly…even at this time of year.

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Krampus sticks very closely to its Christmas traditions and to its folklore legend. I mean that though into how Krampus as an entity works. Krampus is a horror film, and a very scary one at that, but the use of Christmas iconography to deliver these frights is very well done. For many who see this film, Krampus will remain a very mysterious figure that will require some access too to fully understand who he is and what he means. Krampus as a creature is more a man with creature like attachments, possibly more like a faun, but his great bulk and size, plus his two horns continue to present a monstrosity, than anything else for most of this film. For the meantime, it’s through the aforementioned use of iconography well known at Christmas time to deliver the first few frights. Things like Gingerbread Men coming to life (a scene which reminded me of the living cake scene in the Young Sherlock Holmes), traditional Christmas toys attacking the family residents, snowmen in the garden. Ok, I don’t know where Dark Elves come from, but for the most part, it comes down to Christmas traditions. Other things too like Krampus coming down the chimney (“sound familiar?”), snow globes, a giant jack in the box, a teddy bear, an angel, and even a robot, all these things work together to take the happy, joyous setting of Christmas and turn it around to create nothing but pure frights. This continues throughout most of the second act, but then come the third; it’s pretty much all reserved for the film’s titular character.

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As for the film’s cast, it is sort of filled with hits and misses. They all have their own major perks, but some are better presented than others. You do of course have the Tom and Sarah as the strong willed parents having to take care of the family. While there is a minor level of tension between them, the situation does bring them closer together. For the most part they are really strong and favorable characters who get sucked into a horrible situation, but are still level headed enough to keep their heads above the snow…as it were. While she may only appear very briefly, Beth is a pretty cool character. Playing the average teen at Christmas, more concentrated on her boyfriend than her own family, but is strong and caring enough for those around her. She is the first one at this event to see Krampus, and possibly the first victim too, but her death is a strong death and is just a taster for the misery to come. Then you get the in-laws, a miserable bunch of inappropriate. Linda is ok, but I don’t feel like she comes out all that strongly enough except for when her children are in Danger closer to the third act. Howie Jr. plays the role of a fat little kid who can’t stop eating, very much so representing the idea of gluttony during the Christmas period. He is quiet all the way through, and it is through his gluttony that he gets caught by Krampus. He is the first of a few comedy characters for this film. Jordan I feel doesn’t have much of a presence in this film to talk much about, other than being one of Howard’s very masculine like daughters. As for the comedians, this comes in the form of Howard and Dorothy. Howard is like the stereotypical, hard as nails Texan with a shotgun. His first answer is always his gun and is far more inappropriate than appropriate. A man who obviously wanted boys over girls, and enforces masculine like tendencies on his two elder daughters. He however has a redeeming quality in that he becomes a hard fighter during the fight against the monstrosities, and a worthy ally in such a situation, sort of making up for his attitudes in the films earlier scenes. Aunt Dorothy meanwhile is full on comedy, a character who just doesn’t really change. She is the negative aunt, the character who only really cares for herself in any situation, and pretty much ends hat way, but like everyone else falls silent during the end. Her role though in this is mostly just for laughs.

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Omi I find quite an interesting character as her place in the film is almost like a connotation or tribute to old American Monster Movies. Omi is someone who has experienced the wrath of Krampus before and instantly knows what’s happening and is consistently trying to prevent what is going on while everyone remains oblivious to this. She knew how it happened last time and knows what to do from that experience this time. Then she explains that its Krampus that is causing all this to happen. My mind keeps jumping to old American monster movies with her role, because she is a lot like the expert, or the scientist; the character who walks in half way through and explains the origins of the monster attacking the city, just to cover the science background and explain in detail what is really happening. I therefore feel like that towards Omi as she does just that but in a different role and context. I don’t have any problems with it, I actually quite like that and think it’s rather clever, it covers all basis and fills the audience in more with the details of the ancient legend. Then there is Max, the one who, while not the lead exactly, is the one the legend has come for. He starts off the film with belief and desire to continue the traditions of the Christmas and family, but things take an ugly turn when this is used against him by Stevie and Jordan, who use this as a ploy to have some fun. From that moment Max loses his belief in the Christmas spirit, and therefore Krampus comes calling. Throughout the film, Max plays a very strong and caring role, looking out for and trying to protect his family, even those he doesn’t like, as best as he can, but is of course the main target for Krampus, and so has to watch helplessly as his family is taken away from him. But then, as he is about to be left alone by Krampus, Max comes back, to try and get his family back, even so far as going to try and save Stevie, the instigator. While this in the end doesn’t really work out well for him, this courage and strength make him not just some weak crying kid, but a nice change with a strong one instead; and in some way is the film’s narrator too. Stevie meanwhile I find as something of a breakout role. While she does start off as this horrid instigator (and personally I think the real reason for why this is happening), I am sort of drawn towards her as a character. She remains tough most of the way through and changes herself much like everyone else, and in somewhat ironic way is the last one to be taken, despite it really being all her fault. However, despite all that bad stuff, Stevie is a really great character and I think Lolo Owen who plays her does it really well. I can see (but also hope) that Lolo Owen gets more roles in the future from her performance in this, because I think she really deserves it.

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The lead role though is of course the big guy – No, not Godzilla – Krampus. Just one quick thing firstly. I love the Dark Elves in this film. I didn’t know how they were going to be done when I first read about them, but the use of costumes and wonderful masks really do make them a fun, yet still terrifying, inclusion in this film. Anyway back to Krampus. The film is of course all about the titular character, the film title suggests so, and the shadowy figure in the film’s poster makes it so. For most of the early parts of this film, Krampus is merely just a suggestion, his figure is seen, but doesn’t really act. However I think this is Krampus at his best, because his legend is merely a shadow of Saint Nicholas, and so his presence is mostly just that, and I really like it. You see this monster, bigger than a man with some of the most magnificent horns (oh, and don’t forget the hooves) you have ever seen. He is like an army general leading his men from the sidelines, but then enough is enough, and here comes Krampus. His minions running to one side, following orders, and enjoying the prospect of watching their great leader getting his hands dirty. This shadowy like approach to Krampus is really rather fun and builds up magnificently to the point of where you finally see what he looks like. His character then comes out, followed by a malicious laugh later on. It’s really creepy and the buildup is so enjoyable. Despite all this though however; there is some disappointment.

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Krampus bolsters some terrific special effects for a film that was made on a relatively small budget. This lack of budget however did not seem to turn the filmmakers away. Most of the film’s special effects come in the form of costumes and puppets. The toys in the attic, the dark elves and even Krampus himself are all more like costumes and suits than CGI, and this is how most of the film’s special effects are done, however on 2 occasions at least there is also some brilliant CGI work too. The earliest of these is from Beth getting chased by Krampus, which is rather quick, but then comes the Gingerbread Men. Bringing these dastardly creatures to life is done really well, and really freaks you out when they come to life and then start attacking everyone. It’s a haunting sight, and one that will make you think twice before eating one ever again (and don’t forget their devious laugh too). There is one disappointment though I feel, and it’s the same one as mentioned at the end of the last paragraph. You see, despite all the great effects, done any way possible: either be the CGI gingerbread men, or the Dark Elves costumes, I feel like it’s a real shame that the face of Krampus is so lifeless. The film has been building up to this point for a long time, just seeing this great shadow like figure in the area, and now he finally shows us his face, and it’s a bit disappointing. The face of Krampus looks like a big mannequin face, wide mouth, but is just so dead. No movement, no life. The only thing seen moving really is the eyes, close up. Where is this great monster we have been looking forward to? Sure, he may be more human than monstrosity, but even Father Christmas has facial movement. It just feels like a wasted moment and can bring down with ease, what we have been waiting for. It sort of puts a real sour note to both this film, and this character.

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As for a soundtrack (composed by Douglas Pipes) to this film, it’s hard to really think about it, as for the most part I don’t remember hearing much in original music made specifically for a film sense. That doesn’t necessarily mean though, that there is a lack of music. The film instead makes great and ironic use of traditional songs and pieces that have become so well-known during Christmas. They’re used in some of the most ironically funny ways, such as the theme “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which is used to depict the mass crowds running into the shopping Centre, and chaos enveloping in the last Christmas shop rush. There are a lot of instances like this taking place all over the film. The most powerful piece though I think is used during the end credits. Now for years I recognized the piece (Carol of the Bells) as a song used in Family Guy when Peter works in Burger King; but through the end credits, it was used to talk about the legend of Krampus. Now if that is what it was originally made out to be for, then it’s great to finally hear it as such, and since then leading up to Christmas, I couldn’t stop singing a sort of version of that with Krampus in the lines. It is a really nice thing to wrap the film up with, but still present a level of haunting and non-existent peace in the film’s final credits.

Terrifying and Enchanting, I used that term earlier and have since to describe Krampus the film, and I still hold to it. What I have stumbled upon here is a true Christmas cinema gem. There are many Christmas films out there, and every year like clockwork another one is released, but it’s fair to say that producing a Christmas based film is rough, because there are so many bad ones out there. What do you do for a Christmas film while still maintaining the theme of Christmas all the way through? It’s a hard thing to do because that’s what you’re setting out to do. Through the cracks of the good and the bad, every blue moon, one comes out that just shakes up the scene and becomes a legend within cinema goers during that time of year, and Krampus is one of them. It’s a film packed with laughs, frights and shocks. It’s set in a very believable setting and begins with very believable situations before developing into something else, something magnificently terrifying. It’s got a story, characters and monsters. It’s there for those who at Christmas want to see something else and while it may not be the greatest or even the scariest horror film out there, it’s definitely one of the best Christmas films. “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why; KRAMPUS IS COMING TO TOWN!”

GENEPOOL (I’m surprised Lordi wasn’t asked in helping out with the soundtrack).








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