Get Off My Face! – Alien: Covenant

10 08 2017

Out in deep space, the ship Covenant is on its way to a distant planet on a colonization mission. After a tragic accident takes place, the crew of the ship discover a planet much closer by which appears to be an untapped paradise with more potential than the planet they are heading for. Upon landing on the planet’s surface however, they realize something odd about this new world, and that more importantly, they’re not alone!

Confession: I have not seen Alien. I have seen bits of it, from John Hurt looking at Eggs, to something strapped to his face and the attempts to remove it (plus the deleted scene where one crew member is being turned into an egg; which sort of lowers the uncivilized level of everything else in the world of the Xenomorph). I have though seen other films in the Alien franchise; I have seen Aliens (as close to watching the whole thing without doing it in one sitting), tiny bits of Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection (in the same capacity as Aliens), Alien vs Predator, Alien vs Predator: Requiem (again much like Aliens) and Prometheus. In fact, Alien: Covenant is the first time I have seen an Alien film on the big screen that features the word Alien in the title. But this does not explain much as to why I have not seen the first film.

It’s not like I have not had a chance too or lack of it being on either. It’s the case that the bits I have seen are the result of it being on TV. There was also the opportunity to watch it at The Dukes in Lancaster too, but I turned it down. So why have I not seen it: because I am not really a fan of gross levels of horror. I am actually rather squeamish, this is particularly true anytime and every time I have walked into a hospital or needed an injection. When it comes to these films, I know what I need to be getting myself into with its Chestbursters and its Facehuggers, but part of me is not really looking forward to those bits. But now you must be thinking; OK, then why watch any of the films in the first place then? Simple answer, I can’t help myself: thing is, I am actually, although rather grossed out by it, very interested in the Alien creature. I am a big fan of Monster Movies as anyone who knows me will testify with an especial passion for Godzilla films. While my Monster movie love though is mainly tied to giant monsters, I am still very interested in the Alien. This mainly comes in the form of its biology and how it comes to life. In the week leading up to the release of Covenant, I spent quite a bit of my time in a philosophical head space as I thought about the creature and came to the conclusion that the Alien creature is actually a rather tragic creation; but that is a story for another time.

Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox and Directed by Ridley Scott; Covenant is the latest film in the mythical series of Horror/Action films that began in 1979 with the release of Alien. Covenant looks backwards in time, as it looks to continue to tell the tale of the events leading up to the original film, as well as look into how the species was possibly created. The film acts as a direct sequel to Prometheus, but also looks to set up its own future and possibly lead into something bigger.

First thing I would say about this film is something rather obvious from the get go. While the series is technically more of a horror series of films, Covenant lends itself more to that of an action film. It does have its shocking moments that will make you launch a bit, but there is not really a lot in terms of big out of the dark surprises. It’s more like the film makers decided to go from the launch pad that as we know what the Alien is, there is less need to surprise people with what they already know. The film does contain its fair share of visually disgusting moments that we have come to expect from the series such as its facehuggers and chestbursters, but at the same time also weaves in some new little bits to keep some bits of the series fresh. This aside though, it’s content and pacing really does lend itself more to a mini action movie than a horror movie. It comes with chase scenes, tense moments, and events involving large vehicular instruments as well as gun totting characters with a trigger happy attitude when confronted with something that wants to kill them.

The film’s story is nicely brought together as it looks to less provide a ride for the ages and to introduce the series and its elements to a new group of fans with help from those of the past (sort of on a level similar to the release of Jurassic World). On that note though, you do begin to wonder how this film is helping its own series continuity, and how far back the film makers can go in both setting and technology without the events of these films unconvincingly surpass the films that they are meant to be leading up to. The story in itself does have some very interesting use of characters, although those that do stand out early on do feel rather wasted and you are left with one character whose introduction early on shows that he is just going to be un-sympathetic and rotten and thus do not care the slightest what happens to him, in some manner of form it’s actually rather pleasing. Those that remain do their best on their own as much as they can to continue to provide (though it’s hard to mention whom exactly as I don’t want to ruin who gets a feasting). Characters of note include Faris (Amy Seimetz), Karine (Carmen Ejogo), Rosenthal (Tess Haubrich), and Upworth (Callie Hernandez), however my particular mention goes out to the three main stars of this film in my opinion, those being Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Tennessee (Danny McBride) and the combination of David and Walter (Michael Fassbender).

The switcheroo between David and Walter is rather fun to watch as the two different forms of the same looking AI go head to head. On the one hand you have the now rather psychotic David and the more natural butler like machine of Walter. Walter is already a far more pleasing performance than David, but David really does carry that dark sinister sense, where as in Prometheus he is very much just a hindrance, now though he is fully on Badness. Daniels meanwhile is the sympathetic and strong second leader of the team, whose sole job is to make sure the mission is completed on time. Given a tragedy at the start of the film she feels broken, but then comes out strong and hopeful. While her scenes are actually rather enjoyable and strong, she does suffer from not being on-screen more often. She is on more often than other characters, but as the film reaches its central point she is sort of side-lined for a lecture of human philosophy between David and Walter. She comes back on strong and ends nicely that way too, but it’s still something of a miss. For me though the real attraction is Tennessee. This guy is just fantastic. Loyal and respectful, but always working hard to get things done. He shows real levels of passion in the middle stages of the film, and becomes a hard nut in the film’s ending. He is the character to root for the most as you really get attached to how nice but also how practical this character is, and from the beginning of the third act becomes the film’s lead, at least from an audience perspective.

The Xenomorphs meanwhile, although still pretty well done and cool, does suffer from a case of Missing Alien Syndrome. When Godzilla was released in 2014; there was a lot of press which highlighted that the film appeared to have very little of the title monster. Now while I did not necessarily agree with that, I would say however that such comments should definitely be directed this way. For a film that even has Alien in the title, there does appear to be a definitive lack of the Alien creatures. Now, while you could argue that in the same sense that this film is a potential new launch platform for the Alien series and it is of course important to introduce them correctly, there does appear to be large amounts of time between Alien’s being in the scene, and returning to the film. It feels like whole passages of time are passing by as we wait yet again for one to appear. It could be the case that the horror sense of what these films are meant to be is hiding their appearances, but seeing as on occasion, the scene breaks to a shot of the Alien approaching, then why is it taking so long for them to arrive? When they are actively in the scene, they do become the central focus yes; but when not in it, you begin to wonder why their name is even in the film title (maybe it should be called Human: Covenant instead)? Although: there is one big thing however that does sort of get in the way.

The film really likes to talk on the subject of life in a philosophical matter. Talking about life and death and the importance of life given to a species and whether or not they live to that potential. It is something to think on and the film really works hard to slot it in there, to get us thinking and does become the basis of some moments and decisions that characters get involved with. But this is a horror/action movie, not a scientific lecture. It’s good to see certain parts of this film and its series, important points in the creation aspect get covered, but if it’s slowing the films pace down is it worth it? This part, slotted in there really is the bug that is slicing its way through the film. You will have a moment where something is happening and going on, only to then cut to a classroom somewhere to receive a creation and zoology based lecture on creation and the meaning of life. It’s interesting yes, but is this really the time. I mean, here we are, stuck inside a building, fending ourselves off from something that wants to mercilessly shred us to bits, and you want to deliver a scientific lecture David?

The film of course does come packed with a host of visual and special effects but which frankly does not heavily rely on them. The SFX in this film are more on hand to cover and create things which cannot be done with what is available, doing them to a great level of detail, but also only producing what is needed for the film to work. The Alien effects still look pretty gross however, but in a sense are pretty more bearable in comparison to previous films in the series, once again allowing it to lean much closer to action films, not horror films. The scenes are ones that will horrify you still, however they have been done in a format that looks less like a heart transplant given by an unqualified butcher, and more like something is just spilling out of a skin coloured sofa. The shots of space craft and flying ships are pretty well done and cool too, with the Covenant ship looking a bit like the Pegasus front in Battlestar Galactica. These scenes sometimes do feel like a post off cut of Gravity, but these do not distract from the scenes in hand, and don’t want make you feel dizzy, so you can save those feelings for later. There is also a soundtrack but once again feels like it has fallen into that trap of not actually being needed for the most part. Like the SFX, it’s there when it’s needed, but several sections of this film don’t even have much in the way of music, your unlikely to spot it, other than the constant uses of the theme from Prometheus.

Despite some of its issues here and there, Covenant does not really have much in the way of issues that will make you leap out of your chair and want to tear the screen down in anger; except maybe for the film’s ending. Although it is a rather clichéd film practice which leads up to it, the end of the film creates an unbelievable shock that will leave you reeling. It make you think aloud, begging for there to be more, as it just does not seem right. It leaves you on a sinister twist that I think is very similar to the ending of Gone Girl. It is an unjustified twist that makes it feel like there is more to come, but you desire it now, because it just feels so wrong to end like that.

Altogether, Covenant is a very enjoyable film: it contains its core Alien values as well as a few shocks, but does lack surprises, but in the end does provide a rather sinister twist in a similar vein perhaps to an episode of The Outer Limits. It does have some character development flaws as early characters with promise are killed off, but does allow some good ones to live on, if only for a short time. The special effects are nicely made and blend into the film rather un-noticeably, as does the soundtrack. Alien: Covenant really is more of an action film than a horror film: yes, it will probably gross out some audiences and is definitely not one for everyone (especially those under a certain age), but there is a minimalist approach in its delivery however to provide an allowance for some to try it, without needing an instant throw-up break every now and then. On the whole though you are really getting your money’s worth and more with this one as it really does give the Alien series a bright looking future as well as provide thrills and Chestburster spills for this outing at least.

GENEPOOL (Does anyone else think this film’s plot contradicts that of AVP’s?).

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I’m Paid To Catch Crooks, Not Get Them Elected – Welcome To The Punch

28 12 2016

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

If I were to ask you to compare the ways of life in both the UK and in the USA, you could probably come up with a big hefty list, but I could easily bet a substantial sum of money that one of the first things you would note is that in America, ordinary people are allowed to carry a Gun. It is embedded in the constitution of said country that ‘ordinary’ people are allowed to bear arms, so it comes as no surprise to the rest of us that there are a lot of shootings in America…which eventually (of course) lead to major Massacre’s more than once a year; but what do you expect from a country that has such a relaxed attitude to the distribution of deadly weaponry! In the UK we have a stricter form of gun control by only allowing certain people to have access to such weapons where as in America such a tight control of guns is factually impossible due to the large numbers of people (or more specifically gun nutters) who think easy access to guns is actually a ‘good thing’ (even though it’s probably due to this form of idealism that is causing most of the problems). I am not saying that everything is plain sailing in the UK though when it comes to gun access as they can still be attained for criminal purposes; but for this reason the UK does have its police divisions which are specially trained to use Firearms if such a time is needed (but even so this does not stop Daily Mail readers (probably) believing that our police officers should be packing – there is no pleasing some people is there).

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Released in 2013 by Momentum Pictures and directed by Eran Creevy; Welcome to the Punch is a British Action Cop Thriller about a Policeman who ends up teaming with a noted Gangster he has a score to settle with after uncovering a deadly conspiracy within the British Police Force. The film’s script is noted for being voted third on the 2010 Brit List of the best un-produced film scripts.

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One night in London around Canary Wharf, a heist is pulled off by a team of crooks led by Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) who escape on Motorcycles. In hot pursuit is Detective Inspector Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) who defies orders by chasing after them unarmed, only to be shot in the leg by Sternwood. 3 years later, Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is arrested at a London Airport after a failed heist and is in a critical condition in Hospital. Max still works for the police force, but is held in low regard by his Chief Inspector; Nathan Bartnick (Daniel Mays) due to his actions and everyday has to remove water from his shot leg. He teams up with Detective Sergeant Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough) in trying to convict former army man Dean Warns (Johnny Harris), but who is let off the hook after a witness changes their statement. When news reaches Max regarding Sternwood’s son, he sees this as a chance to get revenge.

After a failed attempt to capture him, Sternwood arrives in the UK to take care of his son and asks for help from old friend Roy Edwards (Peter Mullan). With a recent spate of shootings in London, Commander Thomas Geiger (David Morrissey) is campaigning for his officers to be given better equipment in dealing with crime and sees this whole Sternwood resurgence as a way to score points in his favour. He allows Max and Sarah to take command of surveillance at an open hospital where Ruan Sternwood is being treated, hoping that Jacob Sternwood might take the bait. Things end badly however, as Max’s determination results in a gun being shoved in a civilian’s face, Ruan later dies in Hospital. Jacob Sternwood meanwhile undertakes his own investigation into what happened to his son, and lays a trap at a local Hotel where Nathan and another policeman; Harvey Crown (Jason Flemyng) take the bait, and after a small gun fight Harvey gets killed. Sarah meanwhile finds evidence regarding to a containment delivery on the river Thames. When she arrives she finds a container filled with weapons, but before she can escape she is killed by Dean Warns.

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With Commander Geiger’s blessing, Max is sent out to bring down Sternwood once and for all, and a lead on Nathan takes him to a small club, where Max runs into Sternwood, but before he can kill him, both men are ambushed by Warns and Bartnick. Bartnick is killed in the resulting fight, with Sternwood saving Max and escaping in a van. Sternwood orders Max to take him to his son in the Morgue, but while there they run into Detective Juka Ogadowa (Daniel Kaluuya) who tells Max that he is wanted for Sarah’s murder. Sternwood and Max manage to escape and go to Dean Warns’s Nan’s house where they use his Nan (Ruth Sheen) to get him to take them to the containment yard where the container full of guns are. While there, they also trap and capture Commander Geiger who informs them that he set up the means for the recent spate of gun crime in the Capital and helped to ship in the guns, so that when the correct political party took over, he could supply officers with the equipment they needed to protect themselves better. At that moment, armed men sent by Geiger’s PR Jane (Natasha Little) attack the yard, but Max and Sternwood are able to defeat them, killing both Warns and Geiger in the process. With the police on their way to the scene, Max considers shooting Sternwood, but lets him go, and is arrested on the spot as Sternwood flees the scene.

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Welcome to the Punch is a very interesting film, but one that I would not usually concern myself with watching. Yes there are a lot of independent British gangster based films that are produced year in year out but most of these don’t really grab my attention. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was a very good trailer and was sort of suckered in with the line that stated that one of the executive producers was Ridley Scott (I know); but the trailer still grabbed me enough to keep it in mind. I eventually got round to going to the cinema to see it and was absolutely blown away by it. While not necessarily the best film of 2013 (my 4th favourite overall), it was a film that while released early on, was one that remained in my mind and would not let go of.

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Welcome to the Punch is not really a gangster film, nor is it a knuckle dusting, all guns blazing shooter movie, what it is, is a solid British Police/Cop film. What do I mean by this? Well, it is a crime film with elements of gangster films but is not one in search of blood lust. What we have is a decent detective who has had his pride shot after an incident wanting some form of restitution. Due to his past failings though he is held in low esteem by his superiors and is sort of made a joke of and as such has fallen on hard times in his personal life. Meanwhile, the super criminal who has pulled off a heist which he can safely retire on, is forced to return to his home country when his son is in danger. This means he has returned, and the detective sees this as an opportunity to settle a score with him plus return into the good books with others. While all this is coming to a head however, the incidents surrounding this turn of events begin to unravel and a much darker conspiracy comes to the fold which means that the two great enemies will have to leave it for later as there is something they both need to settle first and need each other to pull it off. What we have here basically (or as basic as I can get it) is a big action packed detective story with a boiling vendetta ready to erupt engulfing the entire city with it, but still comes with that murder mystery formula that works so well along with the big explanation as to what has exactly been going on and the real crooks revealed, but in the end succumbs to a very tragic end for the hero. It’s like a great crime novel, something that if it wasn’t McAvoy and Strong, could well be Harry Bosch (have not read a single novel, but my researched understanding suggests that he would fit the bill).

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To back up its story, Welcome to the Punch comes with a small but still powerful cast of actors and actresses who deliver some amazing characters in the process, seemingly suggesting that without the actors, the characters would just not have worked. The film does of course have it’s one timers of interest who deliver little such as Ruan, Karen Edwards (Dannielle Brent) and Harvey Crown, to more included characters who still have a little but not a lot such as Juka and Jane, but all of these really go far to enhance the film’s story and setting (not to forget the city of London itself, especially when you listen to the wise words of Luther creator Neil Cross who sums up London’s character status better than anyone else), but the film’s small cast enables these varied roles to really stand out and warrant such a pedigree of acting. I do find Johnny Harris’s role a ,little clichéd in the form that he is a bruiser with little social life and has to engage a lot of heavy breathing, I just couldn’t see why he could not be more like Mike in Breaking Bad or even Buck in Far Cry 3, real characters with a unique personality but are still hitmen to a cause; however his insertion as a gun for hire really allows himself to develop a characteristic which suggests a real hitman, less an armed thug with little allowance to talk. The character of Nathan Bartnick is as unpleasant as the early morning traffic jam on a rainy day, but I suppose that’s the point. He does not come across as pleasant, but given that he is the first end level boss of the film, you can’t really introduce him as a nice man, more of a feeder into something bigger, and let a more major character present himself favorably in the eyes of the audience only to flip at the last-minute.

David Morrissey’s character is that of someone you could confuse of being a mayor if it was not explained that he is actually a police man. He is introduced really well and works hard to present himself as being a supportive influence on Max and who comes across well with the audience as a result. He is a strong leader with a lot of hope and a big heart, really showing that he sees the best in people. All that turns around in a trice however as he is revealed to be the big bad instigator of the film’s events, less a leader, more of a manipulator, whose long career has provided an insight into the criminal underworld, and one he knows how to manipulate to get his wish. His heart is in the right place, and is not looking for a position of power, not a megalomaniac, more a lunatic who thinks that with enough prodding he can get the best outcome. It’s a real shock turn of events that leaves you reeling, as for the great majority of the film; he is one of the good guys. Peter Mullan is an inspired casting choice as his veterancy on the British independent scene means he can slip into a variety of persona’s and can come across anyway he likes. For instance, in this he is introduced as something of an old gangster and a possible mentor to Sternwood, however he comes across as something of a respected member of the community with a lot of power under his belt, and while he is on the initial bad side, he does prove his worth and becomes a trusted ally to all those who side with him. He maybe a retired gangster, but he still comes with a real whack of a punch while still allowing a real sense of sanity to creep in on those around him.

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The way that a crime lord is presented can seem very samey at times, which is why it’s nice that in this case we have someone a lot different. Jacob Sternwood is a criminal who has earned a great deal of respect from his peers and is a real tactician in the execution of a crime, his attitude to what he does though comes across as less a scheming villain, more someone looking for the opportunity to get away and be set up for life. He is suggested of being a hard worker, someone who if he was not a criminal would more than likely be real working class hero whose hard work pays off in dividends. He is a criminal though, but in the same style as what I have suggested, he is a criminal hero of sorts and is just looking for enough to live a nice relaxed life. This is strongly suggested more when his son gets into trouble, as he cares greatly for him, even more so to re-enter harm’s way to check up on him and pursue a vendetta on his behalf. Into this we have the rookie detective sent to bring him down; someone who took it too far and is now forever paying the cost for it, and has a low self-esteem due to his past behavior. He does have a strong support network around him, but his determination to get back onto the good track of life means that he does not really see it until it is too late, and as things spiral more out of control for him, he really begins to understand that there is no real way out for him, and sadly, that’s what does happen. Though while Max does go all out to prevent total Chaos, it ends tragically for him, creating a deep uncertain future that there is no coming back from. James McAvoy and Mark Strong work well off each other, as McAvoy still presents that young but experienced character with deep forgotten hopes and repressed memories, while Mark Strong presents that real strong determination but one that makes him human; not machine nor monster; together creating two very relatable characters.

James McAvoy and Mark Strong

More than anything about this film, the real highlight has to be Sarah Hawks played by the incredible Andrea Riseborough. I could not get enough of her character. She is not an assistant to Max, nor is a running partner in learning, but someone who deeply cares for him and is making it a personal mission to find a way to bring the real Max back. In many scenes she surpasses Max and you really begin to feel for her, and can see a lot of hope and future for her, thinking that she will be the big hero (or at least should have been the lead character). She presents incredible energy in a tough world, not delivering charisma or charm but more a sultry aggression, one that is fighting to be let out, but continues to maintain a level of professionalism. It strikes me though, that with a film about the police and crime, that none of them can spot the real crime in progress, that of the death of Riseborough’s character. It still annoys me to this day that Riseborough’s character was killed off as I simply wanted more of her in this film. She is more what McAvoy should have been than he plays, so why could they not have killed him in a shock twist and allowed her to take over from him. She was incredibly enjoyable and whose death is the real crime of this story.

Andrea Riseborough and James McAvoy

Welcome to the Punch does not carry a heavy burden of Special Effects, but does come with some terrifically choreographed gun fight scenes including some nicely, all be it brutally realistic scenes of the use of injection needles in James McAvoy’s leg, plus a whole heap of excellently devised shooting matches and even a pretty good bike car chase scene in a surprisingly quiet late night Canary Wharf. Any other scenes of adrenaline pumping action really come down to the human level of chases scenes on foot, plus the raw primal instincts of the cast as they deliver very realistic characters, all who appear to be on the edge of mental breakdowns in such a stressful world (come to think of it, the bike chase scene in the underground tunnels does sort of make me think of the opening scene in Blade: The Series). The film’s soundtrack meanwhile (composed by Harry Escott) is a very varied selection of tracks that that range from small low key pieces, to high-octane shouts, all dependent on the scene in hand. For the most part the film relies mostly on a sophisticated level of silence as the characters are talking and only brings in the noise as the time for talking comes to a close. Even when the music is needed, it decides to play tracks that suggest more a moment of thought rather than a moment of action; not necessarily a bad thing, just very different. Scenes that carry a piece of note include the opening heist, Max’s Flat, the attack on Sternwood’s Icelandic villa, the near kiss, the early container, post Sarah’s death, nightclub shootout, the Morgue and the Credits (not forgetting the wonderful piece of music from the film’s trailer, no idea what it is sadly).

Welcome to the Punch is a very satisfying crime thriller. It is a film that is at a good length and carries enough mystery, but not too much to heavy interlace with the scenes of action so as not to confuse itself nor the audience. It is a film with a good sophistication of action sequences, while also presenting a prolific cast of characters and delivering a deep sense of emotion. Yes, it does have its down parts (such as DS Hawks’s Death!) but it also has a lot to make up for that (except DS Hawks’s Death!) and carries on to create a brutally realistic film with a tragic un-turn-around-able ending that makes you question what the future holds and if the villains actually got away with it or not. At the same time though it does go on to question real world ideas such as gun control, the arming of British Police officers; and also delves deep into some of the deepest levels of corruption that we may never see in some of our most trusted institutions. Altogether, I think it is a rather superb film that does something very different to those around it, creating a rather unique if but small experience for all those willing to give it a shot.

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).





Hermione Granger In A Hostage Situation – White House Down

6 07 2016

White House Down (Columbia Pictures - 2013)

Ok, so you have created Super Soldiers, you have visited other Planets, destroyed entire Cities, messed with Nuclear Monsters, fought for the Independence of your new country, survived the raw Power of the Weather, gone back in time to fight Sabre-Toothed felines, destroyed entire Cities (again), claimed Shakespeare was a fraud and have been hit by a bolt of Lightning: so your next logical step must be to invade the White House right?….Right?

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Released in 2013 by Columbia Pictures; Directed by Roland Emmerich and Produced (as well as written) by James Vanderbilt; White House Down is an Action/Thriller film about an attack on the White House. What is supposedly one of the biggest spec script purchases in cinema history; White House Down happened to be released the same year as another film very similar to it by idea at least in Olympus Has Fallen directed by Antoine Fuqua. I personally have not seen Olympus Has Fallen; but being a fan of Roland Emmerich, this film has been on something of a to do list for a while, and as Independence Day: Resurgence has just been released, I thought I should give Emmerich’s previously latest (BIG) film a look over.

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Current President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) has recently been generating controversy over a potential peace treaty that would involve removing armed forces from the Middle East. John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a police officer who formerly fought in the military, and has been assigned as a bodyguard to speaker of the house; Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). Cale really wants to work in the secret service, but after an interview with former college acquaintance and Secret Service agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he is turned down for the role. Not wanting to let his politically interested swat daughter Emily (Joey King) down, he takes her on a tour of the White House where they run into the President who puts a shout out for Emily on her Vlog. Meanwhile, Secret Service head Martin Walker (James Woods) is celebrating his last week there and orders Carol to go home. As the morning progresses, a janitor detonates a bomb within the US Capitol Building. Raphelson and Finnerty are taken to an underground command centre underneath the Pentagon, while Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) is taken aboard Air Force One. The White House is locked down separating Cale from his daughter, and a group of mercenaries led by Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) start killing off security and take hostages, with Cale escaping just in time. Walker escorts the President to the building’s Emergency Operations Room, but there kills Sawyer’s guards, and reveals himself as the group’s leader. Cale arrives in the nick of time after failing to locate his daughter and rescues the President.

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Outside the press arrive, and news circulates fast, but Emily using her phone gets video footage from inside, outside, before she gets captured by Carl Killick (Kevin Rankin). Meanwhile Walker and Stenz bring in Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) to hack the building’s databases, but still require the President to unlock a nuclear weapons briefcase (or Nuclear Football if you so wish). At the Pentagon, Carol clashes with army general Caulfield (Lance Reddick) as to how they handle the situation while Vice President Hammond plans to switch control to himself. Cale manages to get a line through to Carol who tells him the best way of getting the President out. The military is already positioned outside, but require the President’s permission to storm the building. Using Emily’s video they are able to ID the men, and from Walker’s wife, they discover that Walker is dying and wants revenge on Sawyer for the death of his son. Cale and Sawyer eventually find a way out in a secret tunnel (built by JFK to move Marilyn Monroe in and out of the White House), but find it rigged to blow. They make another desperate scheme to get out by using the Presidential Limo, but it gets turned over and crashed into a pool. After a quick kerfuffle with Walker and Stenz, an explosion erupts, presumably killing Sawyer and Cale. Hammond is then sworn in as President and orders an aerial attack on the White House.

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With this knowledge, Cale tries to stop the choppers from being destroyed, but after fighting with Stenz, he is unsuccessful. Skip meanwhile finally breaks into the databases and taking over NORAD, fires a missile at Air Force One, killing everyone on board. Raphelson is sworn in as President and orders an air strike on the White House. After discovering that Emily is Cale’s daughter, Stenz and Walker threaten to kill her if Cale does not give them the President. The President surrenders himself, and Walker reveals that he really admires the President, but wants to destroy the Middle East with a Nuclear Strike. Cale, now with knowledge of the Air Strike and inspired by an old painting, sets fire to several rooms within the White House. After freeing the hostages, Cale fights and kills Stenz. Using the football, Walker has begun targeting the cities in the Middle East, but is killed before he can launch them. With Sawyer and Emily safe, Emily runs outside and waves the Presidential Flag to call off the Air Strike. Emily is branded as a hero, but Cale and Sawyer hear from Finnerty to discover that Walker did not call in the Mercenaries. Raphelson – hoping that the aerial attack on the White House would destroy the evidence – is discovered to have conspired with Walker and wanted to send troops back into the Middle East, going against Sawyer’s treaty. Raphelson is arrested by Sawyer’s orders, who then names Cale as his new Special Agent and takes both him and Emily on a helicopter ride.

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If you look at the poster for this film, one thing that immediately becomes abundantly clear is that this film comes from the Director of the films: Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Highlighting this piece of information is by no means a bad thing; many big films that get released today carry information like this on similar lines as it is a great way to advertise a movie. With a film like this highlighting that it is indeed Roland Emmerich who directed it, and that his previous work includes those previously mentioned films highlights, that if you liked those films you might like this one. The added benefit is that as well as that, people who may not have seen those films, but were big popular films; know that this latest film must be of some noticeable attention to note where this new film is coming from also. There is a bad side to this though, as though while those films may not be teaching lessons or winning awards, advertising those films based on their legacy puts pressure on newer films to stand out, because though while Emmerich’s output over the last 20-30 years has been rather successful, it does not mean that the latest film he releases is pure gold (this does not just apply to Emmerich’s output, but to others of course, but we are not talking about them). In stark contrast to his previous and better known works, White House Down is actually a much smaller film. Films like the ones mentioned above have usually involved a worldwide catastrophe caused by events out of human control, whereas here we have an action orientated film about a building under siege. OK, it’s not just some ordinary building, it is the White House after all, but there is no Aliens, No Weather, No Prophecies, just humans. Going into this film I had no real previous knowledge of this film other than seeing a bit of it on TV. So I was completely unaware as to what was going to happen other than expect certain and specific Emmerich movie trademarks. Some people have suggested similarities to films like Die Hard and Air Force One, where as I can see elements more similar of The Rock myself. Setting up an attack on the White House is going to be hard for anyone who dares attempt it, and so far the only time I have seen it work was in an episode of 24. In this case though we get a pretty good idea of what one could look like that is very thrilling, but also very believable.

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For the first 30 minutes I must say that this film is rather boring. It suffers some lighting effects, the characters are all rather dull and unimpressive and not much happens. This sort of continues even into the movies main events. But then the film turns everything around and just makes it work, and by the end, I was literally on the edge of my seat. Setting up was definitely a weak spot for this film, and even when things do get going my overall excitement level was rather ‘MEH!’ But then you get big moments, big scenes, explosions, fights, special effects galore and even a shift around for the film’s characters, and it becomes an extremely enjoyable film. I am not necessarily saying that a film needs to have explosions and large amounts of special effects to be good, but it certainly did help to get this film going and generally improve. On the whole it was a combination of nearly everything that finally made it exciting enough to keep watching, get involved and see it through to its rather glorious end. I was looking around on Kermode Uncut (at time of writing) and spotted a post talking about a film that Kermode did not like for the first 30 minutes but then absolutely loved. Now I did not actually watch the video (have since, it was not White House Down, it was Mamma Mia!) but through my mind I wondered if he was talking about this, because I certainly felt that way about it.

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The cast is a bit of a shot in the dark if I am honest with some cast members really standing out and others I am not going to bother talking about. Much like the film a large number, especially a lot of the film leads are a bit boring before coming good. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is a prime example of this. She begins as a really stuck up-tight boss like character always trying to put a smile on but being far too professional and near horrid. She starts this way, and becomes a sort of political woman of action who for the beginning is not worth the hassle. But then while she is in the underground base, she sorts of turns that off and becomes really caring and understanding. I believe Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat! said that a film is about change, and the lead character or characters must change from who they are into something better by the end. Gyllenhaal proves this by changing from her near horrid start, into a really caring and supportive character by the end and becomes a real stand out. She is much better in this than she was in The Dark Knight (at least she is not grumpy the whole time in White House Down). The same could be said for James Woods. When I saw this on TV, I just could not take Woods seriously as the villain; he seemed to be more like James Woods in Family Guy rather than James Woods playing a character such as he did in Shark. But then he turns it around also, when you hear of the 2 reasons why he is doing what he is doing, and then as the film picks up pace you forget about him being Woods (although it’s hard with such a strong and recognisable voice) and see him more as this very respectful but now very corrupt character who is about to do the unthinkable. He becomes not necessarily a psychopath, but a really good political villain, a leader, not someone who does the killing, but someone who does the ordering.

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Like many other films of this genre; comes packed with other actors although not necessarily leads of note who also deserve a mention. People such as the tour guide Donnie (Nicolas Wright), who acts like a comic relief in similar style to the Gadget man from xXx (Michael Roof) but is quirky as he does it. He is not a clown; just someone who takes his job seriously, even in such a tense situation. Then you have someone like Emily’s mother Melanie (Rachelle Lefevre) who adds that real outside tension to the story with the knowledge of her daughter being caught up in the distress. Then there is someone powerful, but also rather scary in Lance Reddick playing General Caulfield. Recently I have been playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II and noted how in that they cast Tony Todd as an Admiral. I thought it was a strange move as his voice does not really lend itself to high military position as it sounded more intimidating than commanding, but I wondered if that was what the film makers were going for here with the casting of Reddick as an army general. He almost seems schizophrenic, if not psychopathic, that combination of look, attitude and voice, it’s very similar I feel to that of Todd in Black Ops II. But it works; he is an interesting cast choice, but still a powerful and intimidating presence that just demands your attention when he is on-screen.

Lance Reddick

In a similar vein it’s a lot like the character provided by Jason Clarke. I really enjoyed his presence in this film. He was more like a physical bad guy in comparison to Woods, and as the early film appearances ramped up, I was constantly asking, why not just Clarke; why Woods too? Clarke is a man of action and a real tough nut to crack and has some terrific scenes and one of the film’s best lines (“No, I don’t want cake! I’m diabetic!”). But it felt like the producers either had other plans for who they wanted in that part, or had ideas as to whom they wanted Clarke to be like, as Clarke does feel, act and look a bit like Kim Coates I feel. I really did think that at least earlier on, Clarke really helped get this film going, that though while the film was struggling to get a grip and make ground; it already had the perfect man as its villain, delivering a constant presentation right to its end. The character of Emily similarly got me confused with actors, as I thought she was being played by Ivana Baquero from Pan’s Labyrinth. Emily is an interesting one as she seems less like a damsel in distress, but more like Hermione Granger in a hostage situation. She shows herself as a similarly tough nut with great understanding of the President and what he does, and shows a lot of respect for that, but similarly she is also trying to be the stereotypical grumpy teenager, which does not work all too well as she does do a lot of talking rather than sulking. She is pretty fun though, and takes away from the idea that kids are not strong independent people, nor are entirely harmless or are just going to sit in a corner and cry, as Emily shows great courage and confidence throughout and becomes one of the film’s major and bravest heroes.

Joey King

The dynamic between Foxx and Tatum is uncanny. They work off each other so well. For the earlier parts this film feels like it’s some kind of Action buddy movie, but then becomes something of a Wrestling Tag Team with one being unable to be without the other. They come from different backgrounds, different worlds; but are incredibly realistic and pure joy. Singularly and before they meet, they both struggle. But when they do meet, and come to rely on each other, it’s so impressive to see how they just click and work off each other like they have done it before. Foxx is very serious and political, while Tatum is heroic and protective. They both respect each other and come to know each other as their opposite equal. Without each other they have no real influence or direction over this film, but together, they are inseparable, and you don’t want them to become separated at all, because without them, this film is virtually worth nothing.

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A film like this would be a bit out-of-place if it wasn’t for some large scale Special Effects. I do think this film struggles with back drops and lighting. The lighting looks especially bad. Some cases it can be too dark, and other a bit too overcast. It’s just a bit annoying as there is hardly ever a clear picture. When you combine this with the similar back drops, it sets the film in a world that does not look real. Some of the film’s special effects similarly struggle. It’s not as good as the effects in Independence Day 17 years previously, and as this film touts it’s from the same director, it’s a bit of a let-down. That is until about half-way through, and then it shines. From the explosion in the Capitol Building, to the destruction of Air Force One and the flight of helicopters through the streets of Washington, while it may not be a giant alien spaceship casting a city sized shadow, scenes such as these create incredible spectacles that forever stand out as moments which are not only a wonder to behold, but also become moments that help improve the film as they continue.

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As for the soundtrack (composed by Harald Kloser); I don’t actually remember much of one. I really don’t. I watched this film from start to finish and I can remember hearing music, but I just cannot remember what the soundtrack presented or what it sounded like. All I can really remember is the credits music (Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones) which includes that track that was in V For Vendetta. It’s a real shame as Emmerich’s films have gone great distances to create as big as a soundtrack as the special effects and big disasters, but maybe because in contrast this film is much smaller, maybe they didn’t go as far with the soundtrack. I am not saying there isn’t a soundtrack or anything like that, it’s just I cannot remember hearing much of one. Maybe I was just too glued to hear one.

Altogether, I really did like this movie. It combines all the elements of a good Roland Emmerich film: Action, Big moments, Special Effects, interesting characters, and an interesting story. The film is let down a bit by how it takes a while to get going, it’s lighting, some effects and a missing soundtrack, but one thing this film does is Improve as it goes along. It starts off boring, but by the end it ends up as one of Emmerich’s best films to date. Yes it’s smaller than something like The Day After Tomorrow. Yes there is less happening than Independence Day. But what this film does present is enough of Emmerich’s movie trademarks to create an amazing spectacle that will entertain all movie goers of this genre plus plenty of little extras that will entertain everyone else too. It’s a proper fun and exciting action movie, one that belongs in the Action movie Hall of Fame no doubt (if there is one?).

GENEPOOL (I probably should have mentioned that neither Hermione Granger nor Emma Watson appear in this Movie, sorry).





I’m Asking You, Just One More MINUTE! – Armageddon

23 03 2016

Armageddon (Touchstone Pictures - 1998)

Throughout the pages of history, there have always been beliefs as to how the world might end. Many of these beliefs come down to religious or cultural beliefs, while there is also the more popular forms of the world ending ranging from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to historical suggestions such as a meteorite similar to the one believed to have killed the dinosaurs, to ones presented in media forms of recent years suggesting anything from Giant Monsters to freak levels of nature to calendar’s. The thing is, unless founded by a religious belief (like I am), there is no telling what will end the world as we know it, but thanks to many movies over the last 20 years or so, at least we have found a way to entertain these ideas by producing many films that go on to suggest ways as to how it will happen.

Released in 1998 by Touchstone Pictures, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Michael Bay; Armageddon is an action/disaster movie depicting a possible end to planet Earth by throwing a massive pebble at it. Funnily enough, Armageddon was not the only film to be released in 1998 depicting the end of the world by a giant meteorite, as Deep Impact was released only 2 and half months before Armageddon, but Armageddon fared much better at the box office even surpassing Saving Private Ryan to become the highest grossing film of 1998.

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During a routine space mission, a space shuttle crew are attacked by a group of rogue meteors. The meteors rain down on New York causing city-wide damage. Under further investigation, NASA discovers that a rogue meteorite is heading to earth. The Meteorite dubbed a World Killer is so big that no matter where it lands will destroy all life on Earth. NASA director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) and Dr. Ronald Quincy (Jason Isaacs) come up with a plan to blow up the meteorite from the inside. On an oil rig, Oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), considered the best of his profession is busy dealing with his mini protégé A. J. (Ben Affleck) who he finds having a fling with his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler). Harry is asked to go to NASA with his Daughter where they discover what is going on, he is asked to go to the Meteorite with a crew, and drill inside to drop a nuclear bomb in it. Unwilling to go with untrained NASA drillers, Harry demands that he takes his own un-trained astronaut crew of drillers. These include Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan), Chick (Will Patton), Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Oscar (Owen Wilson), Max (Ken Hudson Campbell), Noonan (Clarke Heathcliff Brolly) and A. J.

Harry’s team is put through the ringer by NASA under the guidance of NASA Pilot Watts (Jessica Steen) and Colonel Sharpe (William Fichtner). It’s an uphill battle of wills as between NASA crews and General Kimsey (Keith David) against the oil drilling crew. While on Base, A. J. and Grace’s relationship heats up; rather annoying Harry in the process. As time goes by, the crews get into shape for the flight, but not before time. With just a few days left to go, a rogue projectile from the Meteorite crashes into the South Asia Sea, killing thousands. With the truth out, NASA prepare to launch. The plan is to send up 2 crews in highly modified shuttles, Harry leading the Shuttle Freedom, and A. J. leading the Shuttle Independence. The crews launch and dock with a Russian satellite to refuel, meeting Russian Cosmonaut Lev (Peter Stormare). The refuelling operation goes haywire, with the two vehicles departing as the station explodes, with Lev joining the crew of Independence. The two shuttles, having slingshot around the moon, converge behind the meteorite, however the Independence crash lands with most of the crew dying except for A. J., Bear and Lev. Freedom lands successfully, but miles off course however.

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The Freedom crew begin drilling into the meteorite but already encounter problems as the surface is made out of iron, and the machine is being run by a badly designed drilling program. Harry confronts Sharpe, but their exchange is seen by everyone at NASA who begins to worry that they might fail. Kimsey is ordered by the President (Stanley Anderson) to override the system and to detonate the nuclear weapons even though the hole has not been drilled yet. Truman orders his men to stop Kimsey, but it’s met with unsuccessful results. With the bomb ticking, Harry convinces Sharpe to turn off the weapon. Drilling recommences and gets off to a good start, however Rockhound having gone insane causes yet more problems that lead to the drilling operation failing, meaning that the team has failed overall. In the nick of time, A. J. and his team, having drove the Armadillo drilling vehicle from their crash site to the Freedom drilling site arrive and get back to work. With less than 2 hours remaining, the teams manage to drill the hole.

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With 30 minutes remaining, the team are attacked by a meteor storm, which causes detonation problems for the bomb. The team draws straws to decide who stays on the meteorite to detonate the bomb, with A. J. drawing the short straw. When he goes outside however, Harry pushes him back on the shuttle, taking up the job of staying to detonate the bomb. Harry makes a final tearful farewell to his daughter and says how proud he is of her and his crew, especially A. J. with less than 5 minutes remaining, the Shuttle has problems launching off the Meteorite, but thanks to some quick bodging from Lev, manages to take off. With less than 1 minute to go, Harry slips up, but manages to detonate the bomb with only seconds remaining. The Meteorite explodes into two pieces, which fly and miss earth by miles with the crew back on Earth being hailed as heroes.

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Upon thinking of how Armageddon stands out on its own compared to other Disaster films of its kind, it’s really hard to start off. Compared to many other disaster movies of its kind such as the aforementioned Deep Impact, it seems nearly the same. Meteorite comes towards earth, and people go out to destroy it, sounds very similar doesn’t it? Well yes, and it is easier to compare the film to Deep Impact in comparison to the load of straight to DVD releases from companies like The Asylum and many other, cheap knock offs of films like this which attempt to do the same thing. However, Armageddon stands out more. Yes, it is a story of a Meteorite coming to Earth. Yes it will Destroy Earth if it gets here. Yes a Space Agency of particular mention send out a team to destroy it before it gets here. It all sounds like same formula used over and over again, however in the meantime, Armageddon does something different. Usually with science fiction films like this, there is great need for scientists and specialists in astrophysics to do the job, but it’s the case here, that the people asked to do the job instead are blue-collar working class men. People who aren’t geniuses at school, but people who know what good solid hard work is and how well it pays off when done well and right. These guys are not your average heroes, but from their way of life are people to look up to. Armageddon therefore does 2 sort of things at the same time to stand out more. One, it takes real people, real underdogs and puts them in a terrifying situation which they are not trained for to use their craft to save the world. And two, it takes space travel, out of the hands of the experts who started and hogged it for their own needs, and gives it back into the hands of those who on any other occasion would never go up in a shuttle, but provides them with the ultimate dream. It sets up the ground work quite well, and maintains that while the Earth is coming to an end, these working class heroes need to be trained up. It doesn’t ignore the issue; it keeps it in mind to prepare those who are going to solve the issue to be able to do it. It’s sort of like The Hunger Games, the training up of contestants to fight in a horrific battle, but doesn’t automatically start there, first they have to train.

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However this is a film; and films are never that simple. This is a full powered, 2+ hour film, and they are not going to fill it with an easy fix. So, things are added to spice up the plot. You have an unapproved relationship taking off; you have the animosity between the trained NASA crews who believe hiring the crew is a mistake, while the crew more sort of admire them, but don’t respect the treatment. Things then just get worse. From this I have this sort of belief as to how Michael Bay makes these films, and it all stems from this film: the idea that things just keep getting worse. This does not really spark until the crews finally go into space, where the space station blows up, one shuttle crashes, the drilling equipment has problems, a platoon of soldiers try to take over the operation in a mindless act, the equipment fails, a storm happens which causes problems for more equipment, someone then has to stay behind to blow up the bomb, and then the shuttle doesn’t take off. It makes everything that happened in the first hour seem easy in comparison. But all of these things, are directed in such a magnificent way that they cause real feelings to the Death of characters, the mindless act of a country leader thinking he owns the world into jeopardising the mission, trying to dig a hole in space (which turns out to be quite suspenseful), to both launching off a rock and then detonating a bomb in space with only seconds left. This film’s synopsis, setting and direction is done with such fluidity that there is always something going on that grabs you by the throat and pulls you ever closer to the screen as the film reaches its ever building climax, even if it’s still 30 minutes away.

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Armageddon’s stellar cast of characters carry a lot of the film’s tension and motion too, it’s not just down to the directors action/disaster talent. Some of these though are rather hit and miss. Now I don’t want to necessarily compare the works/talent of Michael Bay with that of Roland Emmerich, that fight will require some real thought. No, all I meant was how much difference there is in the choice of acting talent as to who gets bigger roles than others. With Armageddon though, there is a lot of room for comedy given its early premise and into this fold we do get some comedy acting from people like Owen Wilson delivering some punchy one liners, Michael Clarke Duncan being a real softy despite his size, Ken Hudson Campbell showing how hard he is despite being more of a big teddy bear, and Steve Buscemi being rather daft in a sexual innuendo way. These guys do serve the film’s wit and comedy section while also providing time to show off a more serious and poignant side, however, despite being pretty good at the end, I feel Michael Clarke Duncan could have delivered more early on. Wilson and Campbell I thought were more like comedy fillers, but Duncan was only briefly shown early on, and doesn’t really show much throughout this film until the Shuttle crashes, which think is a shame because he was pretty good in my opinion. But this is a very serious situation, and to this end we need people who are deadpan serious and in no way funny; which we do. This is what I meant when I mentioned Emmerich above.

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Disaster movies carry a lot of characters because big disasters affect a lot of people; and while the big stars get the big roles, you also get lesser known actors (or at least of the time) who become stars in their own right, despite that here they fill rather small roles. For starters there is someone like Quincy played by Jason Isaacs. A competent scientist who for most of the film acts like a bumbling fool, but given a shot gives off his own small but still powerful performance not as an expert or fool, but as a very serious and intelligent specialist. We then have Jessica Sheen as Jennifer Watts. Watts acts like a trainer before doing a more pilot role later in the film. She shares very little dialogue compared to those around her, however she is a very strong and likeable character. She is very serious about her job and works hard, but she is not bullish like Sharp or Kimsey, she is rather likeable on the whole suggesting a nice person deep down if it wasn’t for her job. Keith David meanwhile plays something of a secondary antagonist as Kimsey, someone who doesn’t believe in the plan and wants to be as bullish as possible. He talks like a man without a conscious and thinks the way he talks and acts, in the process becoming someone who is very unlikable. This comfortably leads onto Sharp. Sharp is something of a side antagonist until the later parts of the film. Much like Kimsey he is rather bullish and believes he can do anything by himself and his own techniques. He is rather miserable to watch as he feels more like a hindrance than a help, but deep down he has genuine worry and feelings towards the mission, and it’s not simply through being a grunt that he acts this way, but from his own personal worry. In the third act he comes out as a really likeable character as he comes to trust those around him instead of trusting just himself. Even in the last few moments, he worry’s but has more faith in someone who began as his enemy.

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Armageddon does also carry a lot of tertiary characters who only get a few fleeting appearances, but who’s acting in their self is still pretty good fun to watch. You have people like the NASA flight director (Chris Ellis), the bloke at the end saying “1 Minute” as he watches the meteorite coming ever closer to earth (unfortunately could not find out what he is actually called), then there is people genuinely on the mission and more upfront with the cast like Noonan, and the NASA communications guy (Matt Malloy). To this we get someone like Lev. Lev is more of a comedy character but with a serious bite. He is more human than anyone else in the film and serves as both light relief and a human connection to the audience creating terrific moments such as how an ordinary person would react up in space, and how too they would fix a busted space shuttle.

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I don’t really know what to think about Willis in this film. He lays a working class hero and is obviously a man to respect, it’s just he seems not to be in the depth of his more action based roles. Here he plays something specialist and organiser, but still with the vocal range of an action star. He definitely carries that level of respect the role carries, and also the commanding presence, but for me just doesn’t feel like it works, or at least stand out enough. He does of course make the final stand and ultimate sacrifice, but I just don’t know what to really say about him (sorry Bruce). Billy Bob Thornton stands out a little more as he is both a very respectful guy and is something like Bruce’s equal in an opposite way of life. He however carries something of a burden on his shoulders, as he is a man who has worked hard to get where he is, but at the same time regrets the direction he has taken, and so feels the need to work harder to prove that his chosen direction is as worth it, but more for him than anything else. As a role, he was one to look out for and enjoy, not necessarily a man of action, but more a man with a brain to bring it. Ben Affleck is in a similar situation to Willis I think. He stands out as being more of a rogue or maverick, to Willis’s tough but serious and professional way. But much like Willis, I just don’t find that he stands out all that greatly to be enjoyed fully. It’s probably more the dynamics and confrontations between the two that really make both parts work and the earlier situations between the two are really funny. However, it’s more of a father son relationship story, with the Son seeking guidance and acceptance from the father who considers him something of a disappointment, but then grows to liken him, and accepts as well as love him, and the same the other way round, with the son, showing a higher level of faith in the dad upon his acceptance. Liv Tyler meanwhile plays a more adult based role compared to the two people flanking her. She plays a more professional, more knowledgeable based role to that of Willis, while also having a rebellious youthful side to allow her to fall for Affleck. Her moods change quite a bit though. Sometimes she can be very feisty, and angry, while others are very emotional. It’s hard therefore to recognise what age she is supposed to be playing as she seems to get younger and older consistently in different scenes throughout. This constant change can be quite annoying as you see someone’s character change; however her emotions and strength are what really make her.

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For me however, the film’s best character is that of Chick played by Will Patton. I have seen Patton in a variety of TV shows, but for me, this is his best performance. He plays something of a sidekick and loyal worker/companion to Willis throughout, and would be fair to say would probably even die for him. Patton though has a different backstory compared to everyone else. He has a major gambling addiction which has completely separated him from his wife, to whom he feels eternally guilty, and still loves and cares for as well as his son. Out of everyone, he receives the higher redemption, doing something which gives him a second chance at his family. He delivers strength, he delivers wit, he delivers emotion, he carries more than anyone in this film and has some of the film’s best lines, including the high-powered one which I used for this review’s title. A fantastic actor and an incredible performance.

Will Patton

Like many science fiction disaster movies that have come before and after; Armageddon boasts an incredible level of special effects. Effects ranging from the Meteorite, shots in space, explosions, the lot. There’s not much that can be said much than that, given the level of reality that the film is set in and the low-level of need for space based science fiction. Well, if you are going to have scenes on the ground you may as well use real stuff. However, for the lack of special effects other than the use of space, Armageddon does great work in all forms of its effects, and in particular creates one of the best pieces of movie magic in the history of cinema. Space based movies have been made before of course, however not many of these films have really shown the launch of a space ship. The only one previous I can think of is Apollo 11, and that Launch is pretty cool, but what Armageddon does has not been done before or since. The space program has always been seen as something special and exciting, and the space shuttle’s none-the-less. The point of this film is that ordinary blue-collar working class hero types go into space to save the world, but right now they are on the ground, so eventually, they will need to actually go into space, and so, to mark this moment, the film goes all out to capture the moment, to capture the feeling, to capture the excitement of both being there, watching it, and being in the space shuttle. Using great levels of effects that are either models or real shuttles, combined with camera cuts or repositioning’s it makes the launch themselves something proud to behold. But then, the launch is not enough, the ships then need to actually get into space. This is the moment when the shuttle’s become CGI models, but made with such great detail that they look near copies of the models used during the actual take-off moment. But it’s not just the special effects; Music plays a great detail in the scene. It begins with a sort of operatic vocal back track and a tune of awe and wonder, slow, like the initial launch. This then cuts just as it builds to go slow again just to show the significance of the opening launch. The music then builds one more time into a very patriotic, and heart wrenching guitar solo that just takes over from the start. It really does make you feel emotional, because you are witnessing a great moment here, one that is really hard to explain if you have not seen it before. Then as the tone changes from the launch to the flight, the guitar and mixers take over to produce less a slow operatic performance, to something more modern, but still delivering power. It sounds less like a wonder, and more like a mission. It still drives the tension and worry, but still packs in a level of action and power that on the one hand still brings a near tear to your eye, while also just enjoying the spectacle of a space shuttle launching. The Space Shuttle program may be over, but it has given us one pure moment of Movie Magic that will be cherished for decades to come.

The rest of the soundtrack (composed by Trevor Rabin) delivers quite well too. Yes while the film is known for the inclusion of the Aerosmith song I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, I think it is over used a little bit. I like Aerosmith, but this is not a favourite of mine, although that could be me preferring more a form of heavy rock than melody. There is another track of theirs in this film that I do like and does sort of prove the above point, but it’s nice to see Aerosmith in film form either way. Their song sort of provides a backbone however to most of the films melodious moments. My joy with the soundtrack (other than the above mentioned launch scene) though comes in the form of the films way of delivering a scene in the right way, by building huge levels of tension in strong tense scenes. The one that stands out is the last scene where the final few seconds tick by, and Harry Stamper tries to reach for the bomb detonator with very little time left. Yes there are other good pieces of soundtrack, including the scene at the Armadillo Testing area, the recruitment scene (which also happens to be another piece by Aerosmith), and the inclusion of the ZZ Top song La Grange; but simply picking up the score is hard to do, and can only be achieved through the really memorable moments, and this is one of those scenes.

Armageddon is a power packed Disaster movie that really works hard to put you in the situation and works hard to make it apply to you as much as possible. It delivers a realistic and believable setting for an end of the world scenario, and works really closely to the time limit to make it as tense and as action packed as possible. It features scenes of beauty and scenes that you will not be able or want to forget. It provides a cast of minor’s, majors and absolute stand outs and comes with effects and sound to boot. While maybe not likely to win awards despite being more popular at the cinema than those that do, Armageddon is in no way bad, rubbish or pants. It is an incredibly enjoyable film that packs a consistent punch that will have you gagging for more and more while also hoping for a breath of fresh air. Armageddon is as powerful as the name suggests and deserves a spot in the Disaster Movie Hall of Fame (if one exists?) as much as its peers and contemporaries.

GENEPOOL





With Great Power, Comes Great Irresponsibility – Deadpool

16 03 2016

Deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

Bloke: If only there was a super hero movie that combines the fantastic action and martial arts attributes of The Raid and The Raid 2 with the hilarity and outrageous comedy of Tropic Thunder and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa?

Me: There is.

Bloke: No!

Me: Yes, it’s called Deadpool.

Bloke: Oh, is it any good?

Me: Yes.

Bloke: Cool.

Deadpool

Me: Released in 2016 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Tim Miller and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; Deadpool is a super hero comic book movie (of sorts) starring everyone’s favourite comic anti-hero (at least by the time they have watched it) Deadpool. For those of you who are not fully aware as to whom this Deadpool is; here is some brief info:

“Deadpool is a fictional antihero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.” – Wikipedia

Me: Understand?

Bloke: NO!

Me: Too Bad. Anyway, Deadpool is a comic book character belonging to Marvel Comics, and is mostly associated with the X-Men comics in particular. Deadpool is the latest spin-off in the X-Men film series and sets out as well as hopes to do something no other comic superhero film has done to date, which mostly involves being as outrageous and as funny as possible while also being incredibly profane and violent at the same time.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary who stands up for the little guy. One evening at the mercenary bar attended by bar man Weasel (T.J. Miller), Wade meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and the two very quickly get into a relationship, one which gets off the ground quite quickly. But as soon as things start going well, Wade gets a very late stage form of Cancer. One night at the bar, he is approached by a recruiter (Jed Rees) for a secret organization who says that they can cure his cancer. Initially turning down the offer, Wade eventually agrees, fearing more for losing Vanessa. Wade however soon discovers that the organization he has joined is seeking mutants to experiment on. The project is led by mutant AJAX (Ed Skrein) and his assistant Angel (Gina Carano) who torture Wade and those around him. Eventually Wade’s mutant genes explode and cause his skin to deform, instantly curing him of his cancer, but Wade discovers that what is really going to happen is that he is to become a slave of Ajax. Wade causes an explosion in the labs and brings down the building, escaping the wreckage.

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Upon escaping, he means to return home to Vanessa, but upon seeing how people see his disfigured face, Wade believes Vanessa will feel the same about him, so he decides not to return. Wade moves into the house of elderly blind lady Al (Leslie Uggams), and with help from his best friend, goes in search of Ajax, real name Francis, in the hope of curing his disfigurement. He creates a costume and calls himself Deadpool, before going round the area, killing anyone who does not give him the information he needs on the location of Francis. After a year or so of searching, and making a new friend in cab driver Dopinder (Karan Soni), Deadpool intercepts a convoy of bad guys, kills most of them in some really horrific ways before finally getting his hands on Francis. Unfortunately, his antics grab the attention of X-Men team members Colossus (Greg LaSelle and Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) who are desperate for him to join them. After their arrival however, the distraction allows Francis to vanish, and Deadpool escapes the clutches of the X-Men by cutting off one of his own limbs.

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With a threat on Vanessa being made, Weasel and Wade go to the strip club she works at, but before they can get to her, Francis and Angel take her away. With the help of Al, Weasel, Dopinder, and extra help from the X-Men team, Deadpool goes to the scrapyard (where a near-familiar looking aircraft carrier is being wrecked) where Francis and Angel are keeping Vanessa. Immediately Deadpool and the team of Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus get into a fight with soldiers and Angel. While Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus deal with Angel, Deadpool climbs the aircraft carrier to where Ajax is preparing to torture Vanessa in a similar way to how he tortured Wade. Deadpool and Ajax fight in hand to hand combat, until Negasonic Teenage Warhead destroys the carrier from the inside. Once rescuing Vanessa from the collapsing ship, Deadpool has one more fight with Ajax, quickly gaining the upper hand. Ajax then informs Wade that he cannot be cured. Despite urging from Colossus not to, Deadpool kills Ajax. Wade then reveals himself to Vanessa, who says she is ok with how and who he is now, and they rekindle their relationship.

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Bloke: Does this mean I don’t need to see it now.

Me: Are you still here?

Bloke: Apparently?

Me: Well in that case; yes, you should.

Bloke: I thought this was a review?

Me: Yes it is, but more in the form of an analysis.

Anyway; Deadpool is a very interesting film. It’s one that is hard to spring up what exactly it’s about. Ok, plot wise it’s about a guy who becomes a super hero to save himself from his illness but who then has to save his girlfriend (which is far easier to connect to on a personal level than the standard ‘Save the World’ plot of most other superhero movies). That’s the simple plot, but as to what this film does and involves is another thing entirely. In basic terms, what we have here is something of an adaptation, to Understand Deadpool; we need to understand who he is. Once we know that then we can really look into him.

Bloke: Then why don’t you?

Me: Because it will take too long.

What we have here in essence is more of an adaptation in terms of the characters creation and portrayal, but is then put into a situation that goes on to explain how such a character can come into being, while not bringing down the audience nor boring them. It sort of reminds me of Batman Begins, it talks about the early life of the character but brings it to a point where then said character becomes a figure-head and something other than who he is, and incorporates and embraces that entity to do the right thing, although in Deadpool’s case that is somewhat questionable. In this case we are provided with a character that is somewhat questionable from the start, but the things he does he does for the right people, and as an audience we come to connect and feel for him, and as he grows in a relationship, we come to support and care for him. But then things go wrong, and while what he does is (as previously mentioned) questionable, we believe in the cause to support him well enough. It’s something that feeds into a primal instinct, that of revenge, and while it may be the wrong path, the way he does it stands out enough, and in a form as human beings we may believe and feel is the rightful way of doing it, we support it. That aside though, Deadpool is not your average super hero either. He is something of a character. He is a wise cracking comedian who pulls a comedic line whenever he can, continuously breaking the fourth wall in the process. This makes him not just a super hero, but also someone who makes you as an audience member laugh. Add to that though the level of profanity in his voice, however despite what an older more mature audience member would think of such language, the language used by Deadpool when used with his comic nature just makes you laugh as he is using said language in such a funny way. Added to this level of comedy and profanity, you cannot ignore the amount of violence in this film. It’s violence that grabs your attention, as for one part it’s very gory and sickening, but on the other hand is just so outrageous and crazy, that it creates its own essence of humor to be enjoyed alongside what is already so funny. Ok, I admit it’s kind of broad and a hard one to explain. To quote the late great Lemmy Kilmister:

“Trying to understand. Why? You can just enjoy it at face value that’s what I do.” – Heavy Metal Britannia

In essence, it’s not something that should be analyzed or explained, because what we have here is something very special, very different, and something trying to stand out in the biggest way possible. And it achieves this. So less analyzing and more enjoying is what should be done here; because well, it works and is Awesome.

Bloke: So why did you bother trying then?

Me: Because, I didn’t think it through…?

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Understanding the character of Deadpool to one side, the film incorporates a relatively yet still outspoken cast of characters. Ryan Reynolds of course the returning star of Deadpool; by saying that I realize I have brought up bad memories about a certain other X-Men spinoff, but this time it’s a good form of acting from Reynolds. Not forgetting that he is no stranger to comic book super hero movies, mostly bad ones; here Reynolds excels as the verbal assassin. Without wanting to get bogged down in more but possibly pointless analysis, portraying Deadpool for me makes this his best role to date. Not really much of a fan of Reynolds in his other films, here he provides a really good portrayal of a character who was always going to be a hard one to do, but I think he has done quite well.

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The other film’s characters are not like one offs, or people with brief mentions, no. The small cast has enabled everyone to have a part and really stand out in their part. Negasonic Teenage Warhead for instance is a character I have no real knowledge of, but the portrayal of a 21st century teenager being an incredibly powerful mutant provides a very believable and connectable character while also providing the theme of not judging a book by its cover, even if me mentioning that sounds rather cliché. The addition of lesser characters in a supporting role continues throughout with people like the recruiter, Blind Al, Weasel, Angel and Dopinder. Most of these provide something more of a comic relief, but really work, not just as their roles suggest, but as well as being supportive characters also. Blind Al for instance provides an interesting viewpoint connecting once again to the aforementioned cliché, while also being as outrageous and profane as Deadpool, acting like a human counterpart to him suggesting that he is more human than he seems, and Blind Al is something of his human opposite. Dopinder meanwhile has a small role, but one which separately acts like a feeder to Deadpool’s jokes, but in the process becomes a character in his own right. Angel is more of a muscle like character to Ajax and proves that she is less a comedy character, nor one with a speaking part, but becomes Ajax’s assistant and body-guard of sorts near reminding me of Chyna. She is a pretty cool bodyguard though and one who brings an incredible fight with her. The recruiter doesn’t have much of a part but is relatively enjoyable, but is nothing in comparison to Weasel who acts like a friend to Deadpool, and becomes his assistant of sorts in helping him take down those responsible for his suffering, and much like Dopinder is a joke feeder, but also provides his own witty spin also.

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Along with them we have the more stand out members of cast alongside Reynolds. Colossus is one character you can’t but help keep an eye on. As a character, Colossus is a man who can turn his skin into an organic metal. No stranger to the film series, Colossus has previously been played by Daniel Cudmore, who I find sad did not return to the role in this film. I quite like Cudmore as Colossus, but am happy to say that Colossus here is presented well. While I find the special effects used to make him look not exactly crisp, his dialogue usage; something of a near first in the film series, is delivered well and crisp and tries to provide the role that would normally be delivered by Professor X. Ajax meanwhile is a character I find hard to see or realize. As he is not necessarily as stand out as other X-Men characters that come to mind, in this film he seems more like muscle than mind. His sinister side does not really come out all that well I feel, but the disgust towards him as a villain still works and it is in what he does, not how he acts that help him come into the fray, plus he comes packed with a mutant ability that helps to be a good first rival for Deadpool. This brings us nicely to Vanessa. Vanessa is not necessarily a supporter, nor is she a lead. She is not a hero, nor a comedy inclusion, but throughout this film provides to be a story element and a character who much like Wade, as an audience member; you become to care very much about. She becomes more of a plot element as the story goes on and an end goal to be reached. And even when that is not happening, she becomes a very enjoyable character, and towards the end not necessarily a damsel in distress but a hero in her own light, as well as providing an emotional and common sense anchor for which the character of Deadpool both needs personally, and in his career.

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Special effects are always a feature in super hero movies, as the need to show super powers usually does require some element of special effects in order to pull them off. In Deadpool though the use of CGI is pretty lack luster and only really used for colossus and the odd effect here and there. For the most part Special effects come down to clever camera tricks, stunts and fight choreography, all of which work quite well to pull off some really awe-inspiring scenes. It makes the film less of a blockbuster and more of an independent action film in a similar vein to the above mentioned Raid films. It just makes it all a nice change from films that require and are defined by how much CGI they use and the people who think CGI is better than real skin.

Bloke: Are you referring to me?

Me: “Hey, Yeah – I wanna shoop baby”

Bloke: Sorry, are you singing?

Me: Yeah, I can sing in my own post can’t I?

Bloke: Well sure…

Me: Well thank you, now please leave!

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Back in October, I did a series of film of reviews, all of which were the X-Men films to date released before this one. In that one thing I highlighted quite a bit was the rather grand, high-powered and exciting soundtracks used in the main series of films. Most of these were of course produced for the films especially with use of a composer. For the case of Deadpool however it seems like that idea was thrown out of the window to be replaced with a soundtrack composed of pieces from the popular domain, or better known as popular or pop music. This not necessarily a bad thing I find however as the pieces of music work really well to the scenes they are attached to. Most of these though I have accidently forgotten. One piece though I cannot forget so easily though is of course the sort of movie theme in Shoop by SALT ‘N’ PEPA. Quite a fun little song that works nicely with the ideas of the film, especially as it sounds like shoot, but for the most part is a fun one to sing to…..once you know the lyrics of course.

Deadpool is an incredible film, and interesting one at the same time. It tries to introduce a new, lesser known character to a more mainstream audience while also making it both as funny, profane and as violent as possible, and make it stand out more than any other super hero film out there, which it succeeds at. It more than makes up for the faults of the past, and in return creates a film that instead of being shunned by everyone in years to come will be talked positively by an even larger audiences for years to come. Add to this the strong and excelling cast, the well written story, cool soundtrack as well as all the other stand out points of this film that are hard not to notice; and you have an incredibly fun and enjoyable experience that has been delivered so early in the year, it’s going to be interesting to see if any other film this year can match or even excel beyond it. Also; it has quite possibly the best opening and post credits scenes in the history of cinema.

Bloke: What? Even better than the post credits scene from Age of Ultron?

Me: That was hardly anything; and I thought I asked you to leave – and what’s with the fake moustache?

GENEPOOL








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