It’s Showtime – The Running Man

29 03 2017

Have you ever considered appearing in a Game Show? Like many kids of the 1990’s, I used to dream of appearing in shows like Gladiators, The Crystal Maze, Virtually Impossible, and the biggest one of them all; Fun House. As time went on it became obvious that me appearing in any kind of Gameshow was probably not going to happen, but I kept some tiny day dreams for shows like Cross-Fire, Raven, Bamzooki, Jungle Run and of course Robot Wars (which given its return to TV has got me thinking about it once more). While I may not have been a contestant, many people have as is the point of game shows, many of them striving to achieve the grand prize of money, a holiday or maybe a boat. Win or lose though, many of them should be thankful that they were not competing for the right to stay alive.

Released in 1987 by TriStar Pictures and directed by Paul Michael Glaser; The Running Man is a Dystopian Action Thriller based on the book of the same name written by Stephen King (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) where a wrongly convicted man is forced to compete in a gladiatorial style TV game show known as The Running Man. The film is set in America between 2017 and 2019, where after a worldwide economic collapse; the country has become a police state and the government soothes the population with the airing of game shows where convicted criminals have to fight for the right to stay alive with a chance of being pardoned by the state.

Former cop Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is wrongly convicted for the mass shooting of civilians at a food riot after he refuses to follow an order to kill the civilians in the first place, and is now dubbed the Butcher of Bakersfield. He along with a few other inmates including William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto) and Harold Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) escape from a labour camp, with Ben going to his brother’s apartment to hide out only to discover that it is now occupied by Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso); a composer for ICS who are the broadcaster of The Running Man. Taking Amber as a hostage, Ben intends to leave the country for Hawaii, but while at the Airport, Amber informs the authorities and Richards is captured. Taken to ICS, Richards meets the host and producer of The Running Man; Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) who tries to persuade Ben into competing in the show. When he refuses, Killian threatens to enter Laughlin and Weiss instead; upon learning this Richards agrees to take part.

The next day the show begins with people all over America and from different backgrounds tuning in to watch. Backstage, Amber; who is working on the show that night discovers some evidence that some of the news made about Richards maybe untrue and goes in search to find out more. As the show begins and Richards is introduced, Killian reveals that he has entered Weiss and Laughlin into the show anyway. Richards threatens to return for Killian, before he and his other inmate pals are sent on their way through large tunnels on strange rocket powered sledges. The Idea of the Running Man is that the contestants are forced to run through a large area of urban wasteland while being chased by an elite team of Killer Stalkers; if they survive, they are pardoned for their crimes. The Audience though love all this brutality and cannot wait for the first stalker to be introduced; that stalker being a very large hockey player dressed character called Sub Zero (Professor Toru Tanaka). The three runners are penned into Sub Zero’s own specially designed area and are toyed with endlessly until Richards uses a barbed wire fence to strangle him, killing him in the process, the first time that has happened in the history of the show. With the audience in shock, the three runners use this advantage to get away. While in the game zone, Laughlin and Weiss use this opportunity to find the network’s uplink for the benefit of the resistance. Amber meanwhile has been caught, and is forced to enter the Running Man also; she arrives just before two more stalkers enter the game zone in the form of chainsaw wielding Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch) and arc electricity user Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth). Buzzsaw fatally wounds Laughlin, while Weiss is shocked to death by Dynamo. Richards kills Buzzsaw with his own chainsaw, but spares the life of Dynamo after his electric suit stops working. Richards agrees to carry out Laughlin’s last request of getting the uplink node information to the resistance within the game zone. Off camera; Killian sends a message to Ben offering him a job as a stalker, but he refuses, and Killian sends out the next stalker; the flamethrower wielding Fireball (Jim Brown). In the studio and outside however, the audience starts cheering for Richards given his unstoppable killing streak. While being chased around by Fireball; Amber discovers the decaying bodies of the supposed winners of the last series of the show, discovering that their victory was faked. Richards then kills Fireball by blowing him up.

Running out of options (and stalkers), Killian asks the help of retired and champion stalker Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Freedom however refuses as he does not like the way the show has become compared to what it was like when he used to do it. Using body doubles, Killian fakes the death of both Richards and Amber by the hands of Captain Freedom. Ben and Amber meanwhile are still in the game zone and have been found by the resistance and their leader Mic (Mick Fleetwood) and learn of their faked deaths. Using the transmitter info acquired by Weiss earlier, the resistance launches a two-pronged attack on ICS. First they show footage of what really happened at the Bakersfield riot and present details that Killian has been lying to the audience for a very long time. Then resistance fighters led by Ben and Amber break into the studio fighting the guards. Amber succeeds in killing Dynamo while Ben confronts Killian. Killian’s bodyguard Sven (Sven-Ole Thorsen) shows up, but decides not to fight Richards as he has had enough of his boss and walks off. Killian tries to convince Richards that he was only doing what the audience were asking for; saying that they love reality TV and televised violence. Richards decides to give the audience what he thinks they really want and sends Killian off in one of the rocket powered sledges down the same tunnel that Richards went down. Killian crashes into a sign on the way out bearing his image and dies, while Richards and Amber leave the studio sharing a kiss on their way out.

One thing that stands out about The Running Man is that while it may not be the first among discussed films of the same genre, or even not as frequently mentioned as other Arnold Schwarzenegger films of note; it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable film. While maybe not Schwarzenegger’s best film or performance, this does not distract from how enjoyable the experience this film delivers. The Running Man is one of those films that is guaranteed to entertain an audience whether it be a seasoned viewer, or even those who are watching it for the first time. Saying that though is pretty simple, as explaining why is even harder. While I could immediately jump on saying that the film has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about it, I think that could be considered cheating. From an action point of view, The Running Man delivers plenty of it. It does what any quality action film does, which is always having something going on, and never too slow. It has lots of running around, plenty of fights, death, explosions while also allowing the use of drama to give those scenes purpose. It’s swift and uneasy, but does not lose sight from its main plot or setting. It’s very basic levels of action uses its scene and scenario to ramp it up and create more meaning, providing the audience with a continued reason to watch. The film’s setting, while not being fully represented, still presents an idea of what it is like to live in a dystopian America, really representing the lives of rich and poor, but also presenting an idea of how a police state could soothe tensions within the populace to keep it under a better form of control than with strong levels of violence. One thing though that probably helps a lot in its film making is how that while you are watching a film; you are also an audience member of this TV Gameshow. The Running Man is presented like many classic American game shows with the charismatic host and big budget effects, to produce the best show they can. In the case of The Running Man the show has its charismatic and popular host; it has music, dancers, merchandise as well as a reality TV effect to it which always grabs an audience. Another thing in the shows profile is how it incorporates what Pro Wrestling was like around the time of the film’s release with a cavalcade of wrestling gimmicks. While said gimmicks are pretty much non-existent to a point these days, back then it was all the range, and with the show’s Stalkers; while they are blood thirsty killers, they are taking on personas with a detailed and strong gimmick. This combination of reality TV and Pro Wrestling along with everything else makes The Running Man Gameshow the kind of show people could actually get into to, even nowadays as it’s a perfect formula conjured up from some of television’s most popular programming. While you are indeed watching a film, you are still watching a Gameshow as presented in the fictional scenario. With the films level of action, small but basic plot, and unique presentation style; creates a very entertaining and enjoyable film. That does not mean though that everything is plain sailing, or perfect.

The Running Man is actually a very small film; not necessarily in length, more in the form of detail. There is a lot going on in the background and a very strong setting is implied, but not delved into. The film says that America is a dystopian police state, but the only evidence of that is a strong police force that could be considered more as security rather than peace keepers. There are a lot of city scenes, some showing a more privileged sector, and that of a down trodden and poor area too, but there are only two scene shots of this, one on a small street area, and the other on the outskirts with the city in the background, but it does not suggest police state, just city and slums; like many a large city. We are told there is a resistance movement but because we have no grounding as to how bad this police state is, there is no real building of reasoning as to why a basic resistance movement is required or needed. That’s the major problem with this film’s setting; that while we are told this stuff, there is no visual evidence to back it up with, other than some scenes with police forces casually walking around. The only thing we have is this TV Show, and that too causes a major plot problem in that supposedly bringing down the TV Station is all that matters. The resistance works hard to bring down a game show and TV channel; but if you are living in a police state where the political elites have control, why would bringing down a TV channel solve the problem? It’s a big foot hole in the plot, because the more you watch it, the more you want to tell everyone that it really doesn’t matter, it does not really solve much, if anything; it’s just going to get worse from here on out. So the ending is a bit unhooked. It’s a real shame really, because the city from a visual perspective looks really good.

On the perspective that the producers of the film could not see into the future, the film’s game show does not lend itself to the current modern-day culture that we live in. One thing that stands out with the film’s selection of stalkers is how they are designed not necessarily around practicality, but more around gimmicks and personas of pro wrestling at the time of the film’s release. In that respect when looked at now it could suggest that the film may not have aged well, but this is only in one short way. Yes the Stalkers do look a bit ridiculous now, but back then would have looked pretty impressive, and in honesty, they are not all that bad. This however brings me quite neatly into another of the films major issues, which is that the cast on the whole is a bit shoddy. The stalker gimmicks are nicely made and it’s easy to see where the ideas came from and what the film’s producers were hoping to achieve, but there aren’t many standouts. Dynamo for instance comes packed with a costume which even back then would have probably looked ridiculous with the glowing hair and light up costume, it looks dire. Buzzsaw does not really do much other than show off his teeth, and Sub Zero is rather wasted given that Professor Toru Tanaka is actually a pretty cool big guy actor when given an actual chance to show off. In reality it makes Tanaka’s performance in an episode of the A-Team far more career prestigious than in a big action film starring Schwarzenegger. In the end it does come down to Captain Freedom and Fireball, which in itself is rather sad. For the most part, both characters; while given major credited parts find themselves on the side-lines until necessary. Fireball’s introduction is rather late on, but has a much stronger stalker part than the others. His entrance and intro is one of the film’s best looking and most enjoyable scenes, plus he helps shed some light on the malpractices of the show. Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom has a similar part as he is played as mainly the retired veteran of the sport who has great memories and respect for what he used to do and how he did it. His passion for the sport shows off well as he does not like the new wave gimmicks and probably would want to take on Richards if it was left to him and not Killian. Much like Fireball, he is a late intro and is only really referenced up to this point, but his veterancy and style portrays a really interesting character that creates an on-screen identity before he even becomes relevant. Both Brown and Ventura give good performances but it’s only worth between 10 and 15 minutes of the entire film; they both deserved well more.

The rest of the cast is pretty much near hit and misses with very few of the headliners actually standing out. I don’t really get much of a feeling for Mick Fleetwood’s character, nor Weiss, and while Amber’s character does improve towards the end of the film, it just feels rather late. There is some interesting cast minors such as Killian’s assistant Brenda (Karen Leigh Hopkins), The Running Man’s director Tony (Kurt Fuller) and of course Sven who sadly could have had more of a part. From there though we do get some cool characters; Laughlin for instance has great on set chemistry between himself and Richards. If it was not the case of these two needing to work together, he could be a really good nemesis for Schwarzenegger, but in this case what we have is a strong ally for Richards. While he does meet a gruesome end at the end thanks to Buzzsaw, he does produce one of the film’s most powerful and poignant moments backed up with that killer soundtrack. It is an interesting but good casting as it’s one that could have worked either way, be it friend or foe. Richard Dawson is an inspired casting for the part of the cold and ruthless game show host. Given his background and history of Gameshow hosting, it comes more naturally to him, as he looks and feels like a game show host, no matter what the context. He is able to draw popularity to himself through a natural form of charisma, but on top of that he is also able to play a character, one who enjoys a level of ruthlessness that comes with the power and joy of presentation and production control, one that also makes himself believe that whatever he is doing is not necessarily selfish, but right. It is an incredible part and one played by a naturally talented persona that produces a real sense of reality to a very fictional product. Arnold Schwarzenegger for me is someone whose career I have known about but have seen him in very few roles. I have seen most of the Terminator’s, Batman and Robin and Kindergarten Cop, and it’s hard not to think of the large brutish character we have come to expect from said roles. He is a big muscle guy, but it’s hard to see him in other light especially with him playing very archetypal roles. This however does allow me to see another side to him. Yes, he is the muscle-bound hero, but there is more to him here. There is compassion to his friends, love (in the end) for him and Amber but also a sense of belief between right and wrong given his introduction and background. While the film makes use of his well-known line from The Terminator (just 3 years earlier), there are more lines to come, including a very daft form of spoken humour when it comes to the stalker deaths. While he does have a very physical role to play, he shows and does more than that, and in the process allows audiences who have only seen one real side of him to see more of what is quite a cool and diverse actor when provided with a chance.

The Running man does have some interesting and nice effects to it, all be it though come mostly down to some nicely designed and created set pieces such as the tunnels and the main stage of the game show itself. The jumpsuits (I had to at some point didn’t I) are not too putting off; yes they look weird, sort of like how Arnie would look if he was asked to play Wolverine in the iconic spandex (I really don’t think bright banana yellow is his colour), but altogether look ok in different colours. It’s not the best effects of the film but more than most is definitely not the worst. But it’s not really the films effects where I want to look at; more the film’s incredible soundtrack. The Running Man’s soundtrack (composed by Harold Faltermeyer) on the whole sounds very futuristic, but also very low; not sad but grimmer, helping to construct the idea of a dystopian future. It has a lot in common I think to Escape From New York with powerful and hard-hitting keyboards with a sense of fast and light rock. There are four pieces though I would like to make particular mention of; the start of the show, Laughlin’s death, the broadcast attack and the end credits. Mick’s Broadcast attack features this very light siren like sound to begin with which appears rather irrelevant, but quickly builds to include other sounds. It is a pretty light track until the fast repeating drums come in. Before this, they feature the Running Man’s general theme, something which can be heard throughout the film; but once those drums come in, a different piece comes to the stage. It actually breaks the tension and grim sounds of the previous pieces of music and allows a lighter sense of hope as an attack comes its way. It’s in no way optimistic or celebrating, but it gives a lighter more hopeful energy which suggests change in the film’s plot. It’s still dark, low and tense and continues to produce, but it’s a different vision of what once was and is now to come.

A good film plot, as many people will tell you is about change; change from one thing into something else. The Running Man is a film which features a small but dramatic change, the change of a country from one that is cut in half by class, to one united by a common goal, the same could be said for the change in Richards, as he goes from a criminal, to that of a free man. While the broadcast theme suggests change and hope, the end credits (Restless Heart by John Parr), actually present one, as it’s a theme that is much lighter. Gone are the low-toned sounds of a despotic regime raining down on its citizens, in comes the sound of willful change and hope as we see a nation now with hope for a change in attitude, even if it is very much only suggested. It’s a nice light theme for the film to end on in general and has a nice beginning to it, which really helps provide that breath of fresh as it all comes to an end, all the excitement and adrenaline is now over, so remember to breathe.

The ICS Theme for the game show itself is actually pretty light and does not feel as hard-hitting as a game show’s introduction should be. It does not feel catchy or memorable, just light; but mix it in with the dancers, and a different perspective is revealed, that of less a game show, more of an event, and one that requires and deserves a level of build up to get the audience going before the main event begins. It’s a similar idea I think to when in The Hunger Games there is that 1 minute countdown to the bloodbath, the calm before the Storm, but held in a slightly more glorious way as this time the whole nation is backing it, and because it’s the kind of show which gives audience participation, there has to be that level of joy for them too as the show begins. One track in The Running Man that is not joyous is that of when Laughlin dies. The Running Man’s general musical theme is this sort of keyboard based riff which can be heard in several parts of the film, more of an atmospheric track than anything else, but when Laughlin dies it is played a lot heavier. It’s the loss of a good strong friend and his message for Richards, one which Richards agrees too, but also from belief that Richards should have died not Laughlin. It is a pretty funky track and sound, but especially more so at this point when the notes are pretty much being slammed by the soloist. It is a game of life and death, but becomes more real at this point, and the soundtrack goes out of its way to use this point as the most poignant reminder of this, creating the film’s and film’s soundtrack’s best and most memorable moment.

The Running Man critically is a very hard one to judge. Yes it has its issues ranging from a mainly makeshift cast, to a setting and theme which is not really delved into enough to really provide scope. On the other hand though it delivers an incredible soundtrack, some wonderfully designed set pieces, some interesting moments, but on the whole a lot of very enjoyable moments of action. As a dystopian thriller, it definitely does not hold a lot of ground and there are far better ones out there than this. But as a dystopian action film; this is one of the best. While I still prefer the Hunger Games and Battle Royale; I would happily put this up a good level. It has something that every action film fan would enjoy while also using a unique perspective to create something that is truly unique in cinema. Trust me on this when I say that this is a truly enjoyable film; I mean it, give it a go.

GENEPOOL (The poster is a bit off-putting).

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What I Would Like To Read This Year

1 02 2017

Even more of my books

Since joining Goodreads in 2013, I have enjoyed posting to the site what I have read, am currently reading, and want to read in the future. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s fun nonetheless. Every year since 2014 I have enjoyed the annual reading challenge the website puts up. How it works is that, you say how many books you would like to read in the year and you set that as your goal. Then when you finish reading a book, you make a note of when you finished reading it and then, as long as it’s in the current year, then it counts towards your reading challenge. The website keeps a track of the books you have read and how many, and then come the end of the year, if you are successful it will say that you succeeded. If you read more than the total number set, then even better. Since 2014, I have been successful year after year in the reading challenge, often setting myself the similar goal of about 10-15 books a year; well I am a slow reader, and so that I thought would still be a good amount. This year however I have reduced the number of books I want to read to eight.

Some of my books

During 2016, after a slow start reading one really good book, followed by a couple that were pretty low in enjoyment, I finally found my stride when I read the Anthony Horowitz Power of Five series (as well as a few Mr. Men books too). With the reading of the series going well, I had a thought. I thought that if I could finish the final book of the series; Oblivion before the end of the year, I might treat myself into reading another big book. Well, in the end I did not finish Oblivion until January. Anyway, that did not matter too much in the end, because I had another idea.

Some more of my books

In my big collection of books, there is quite a few I have collected which I have not actually read. Most of them are books that I have received as presents, or ones I have bought but not got round to yet. Anyway, some of these are kind of big; these include but are not limited to Next by Michael Crichton, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Stone Heart by Charlie Fletcher. Getting round to these books can be quite hard as they are not part of a series so can sometimes find themselves being muscled out of a reading schedule and then eventually forgotten. The other is due to their size, and when I have a high number of books I want to read in a year, it can feel impractical to read them as part of the challenge. So here is where my new idea came in. Not to slot them in as such, but to give them a level of commitment, and also give myself a shorter goal to work with, thinking that given how some of them are more than twice the size as other books I have read, I can then sort of fill the amount of time in with a much bigger book and give myself some slack by not committing to a high number. Therefore, what I did was slice the amount of books I read into near as half while also still challenging myself.

Hall Of Fame Book Shelf

As a result I have decided to read 8 books this year, but not only that, I have also chosen specific books I would like to read this year too. Instead of considering books like I have done in the past (so when I was reading one, I would think about the next one to read without any guarantee that I would); I have set aside a space on my book shelves and selected a group of books I want to specifically read, the plan being that when I finish a book, I can put it either in the hall of fame section (a section on my shelves where I put my absolute favourite reads: see above image), or somewhere else entirely on the book shelves, and then pick another from the specifically selected section, and carry on that way. The books I have chosen are as follows:

Books I want to read in 2017

Upon looking at that list, and the above picture, you may see that there are actually 9 books in that space. That is because I decided to include Horowitz Horror 1 by Anthony Horowitz; because (it nicely lines up the collection on display, but also) it allows me the option of reading a short story here and there instead of having to power through novels the whole time. The good thing about the books I have chosen too is that all of them but two are singular entries. Only 2 of the books (Steelheart and Stone Heart) lead into a series. Now while that is a bit of a dodgy game I have played with those two selections, by only having a couple, it allows me the chance to see if I like them before I continue the series, but also it means I am not necessarily muscling out the others either.

Steelheart and Stone Heart

That is my plan for reading this year. My plan for other books sort of comes in either next year, or when I finish the 8 main books here anyway (or if I dive into a series). Any books I buy/get/receive from here on in shall be put to one side for the time being for reading consideration another time, as right now I am both excited and optimistic of my chances of completing the reading I have selected for this year and since finishing Oblivion, I have already begun reading Burning Midnight, (because upon finishing Oblivion, I wanted to read something small). At time of writing I am nearly two-thirds through it. So with that going well, I am hopeful that I will accomplish my reading challenge for this year, plus get through the really big books too.

Burning Midnight

GENEPOOL





What Book To Read Next?

22 04 2015

The Young Elites (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers - 2014)

When you are reading a book and begin to see the end in sight (which mainly involves counting how many pages there are left) one question instantly pops into your head that requires an answer, and soon. What book am I going to read next? It’s a big question for a big reader and unless you get a new book soon, you could find yourself in a spot where you may end up not reading at all. Now if it’s the case that you are reading a book in a series, and that you are enjoying it well enough to keep reading it, then you are pretty much sorted, until the series ends and have to go out and find either a new book or a new series to read. What book to read next is a question that has been plaguing me recently, as it’s the case that I have nearly finished a book, and need a new one to begin reading, and soon. Recently I have been getting back into reading at bed time again thanks to the recent acquisition of a new bed. Reading at bed time is actually quite enjoyable and something I have enjoyed in the past, such as when I read The Hunger Games. More recently though I have been reading Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant.

Eve & Adam (Egmont - 2012)

Eve & Adam has been a lot of fun to read and I consider it one of the best books I have read this year so far (along with A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness). But with just a few chapters left to read, I needed to start thinking about which book I was going to try next. Now while I am currently reading Patrick Ness’s Monsters of Men, that has still some time to go until I have completed that, so I don’t need to worry about what after that just yet. Luckily though, I do visit Waterstones a lot and keep an eye out for books. Also, any books I have spotted either online, personal research or seen in Waterstone’s  I catalogue onto my wish list on Goodreads and put them in some sort of order as to which I most want to read next. This I find useful more as a guide though of things to look out for, especially as I know some of the titles in the list off by heart, usually the ones quite near the top. This however presents the issue of having to actually choose which one to read. My excitement for one book at a time (such as Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson) might not much be the case later on and I really need find a real way to choose one.

Steelheart (Orion Books - 2013)

Sometimes though it can be the case that my choosing of a book may depend on the books word formatting. I can find it a real struggle sometimes to read a book that has short words and not a lot of spacing, which can lead to my eyes hurting/straining. A lot of the books I read I do find give me plenty of this, and when I buy a book I do like to have a look at it to see how the words are spaced out. Sometimes I am able to read shorter text but as a result can find it harder to really get into it. This is one of the reasons that Michael Crichton’s Micro really appealed to me when I saw it on shelves in Waterstone’s. Another thing on my mind when choosing which book to read next includes considering my collection of as yet unread books. The collection is mostly made up of books I really wanted to read but did not get round to reading them as planned. The Spook’s Secret by Joseph Delaney was a case of me buying it at the same time as The Spook’s Curse, but having had Michael Grant’s GONE on my shelf for many months, I decided to give it a go, and then did not get round to reading Secret. Other books like Battle Royale by Koushun Takami are ones that I have yet to get round to reading, although I am considering reading Battle Royale after I have read Monsters of Men.

Battle Royale (VIZ Media, LLC - 2009)

As to what to the decision of choosing what my next bed time read would be however, I have had my eyes on a few things and have chosen what to read next. Roughly this time last week I was chasing up a book by Jeremy Robinson called Project Nemesis. A book which involves Giant Monsters or Kaiju trashing a city, the sort of thing I like, especially with my high interest in Godzilla films. I had once heard about the book many months ago but did not think much about it. I decide to chase it up and after having a glance at it and the other books in the series, I really wanted to read them, so when I was in Waterstone’s yesterday I asked if they had a copy of it in. They didn’t. It turned out that the book may not have been released in the UK (either yet or at all) and while I could order one, due to it not being released in the UK, it would be pricey. So with my hopes of reading it so far dashed, I had to have a think.

Project Nemesis (Smashwords Edition - 2012)

Another book I considered reading recently is a book called The Deadly 7 by Garth Jennings, a story about a group of monsters, each one representing one of the Seven Deadly Sins make friends with a boy. From the books cover it looks rather fun, however, it is not the book I asked about in Waterstone’s.

The Deadly 7 (Macmillan Children's Books - 2015)

The book I asked about was one I voted for in the Goodreads awards; The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Yes, I have not read it, but have voted for it, the reason was due to  both its cover and premise. It came to mind just as I stepped into the shop, and as it was a passing thought, I decided to ask about it. I checked the book cover and it was the one, and so it is now on order for me. So The Young Elites is to be my next bed time reading and I am really excited to read it. It’s also the first in a series, so that might cover me for a while, even though the third one may be a year or so before it is released, however, this could lead to other things. Because I did not remember the author’s name when I asked about The Young Elites, I did not realise that she had also written another book (Prodigy) in my goodreads wish list, one that’s been there for about year now (I think). More strangely though; it’s the second book in a series: The Legend series, of which I don’t know much about.

Prodigy (Putnam Juvenile - 2013)

GENEPOOL





Movie Study – Battle Royale – Update

1 07 2013

Film Reel

You may remember, back in April I launched my first Movie Study. The film I chose was (as you can see by the title) was Battle Royale. Well, three months have now passed and here is an update. Here are all 12 questions about the film for you to answer. As I stated back in April there are three ways to answer these questions. Don’t feel like you have to answer them all, but give it a go, there’s no harm. The first way you can answer is by leaving a simple answer per question in the comments below. Second way is that if you have a Blog, answer the questions in a post (please send me a link so I can have a read), if you are struggling for a topic anytime soon, here is one for you. The third way is to produce a video for YouTube or any other video service (once again, please provide me with a link). So there you have it really, it’s relatively easy to get involved, and I look forward to seeing your responses.

Studying

Here are all 12 questions for you to get involved. remember to watch the film before hand as it will be easier for you.

  1. Referring only to the flashbacks, can you see any reason for the nation; as depicted in the film to fear the youth?
  2. Why do you think that Kitano is interested in Noriko?
  3. At first many of the film’s characters don’t want to kill each other (obviously), except for Mitsuko. Why do you think that is?
  4. What Similarities can you see when you compare Battle Royale to other forms of fiction.
  5. (For people who have read the novel). How closely related to the book is the film? Does the film leave anything out, add anything extra?
  6. Do the weapons provided to the students/competitors reveal anything about who they are as a person?
  7. Throughout the film there are 2 major riddles/questions being asked and don’t get answered until the end. Are these particular questions necessary? If yes, why yes and if not, why not?
  8. The film’s soundtrack uses a lot of already well known classical pieces of music, why do you think that these are used as well as the main soundtrack?
  9. What assets does the Battle Royale Program use to make the students kill each other and what is the purpose for the two characters (Kiriyama and Kawada) who are not students within the class?
  10. Why do you think that the Battle Royal Program was set up in the way it is depicted (Format) and why do you think that the program randomly chooses classes of children instead of specific children?
  11. What is your overall opinion of the film? If you have seen the film before, do you feel any different about it?
  12. Additional Question: If you were made to compete in Battle Royale, how would you react and what would your tactic to survive be?

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Check back in a few weeks time as I will post up the next Movie Study, I hope to see you there.

GENEPOOL (you can check out my review of BATTLE ROYALE here)





Have You Ever Killed Your Best Friend? – BATTLE ROYALE

24 06 2013

BATTLE ROYALE

Imagine the scene, you are on an island, and it is your life or theirs, only one of you can survive. You may ask why, well because the Government said so. You may also ask why to that statement also, well it’s because you have been naughty, so you have been forced to kill each other. You might not like the idea, well who does, but it’s tough, it’s how the world is these days. Ok not yet, but it could happen, how do I know that? Because a film was produced about it – its name is BATTLE ROYALE.

Battle Royale Class

Now before all the younger people get high on themselves and think this film sounds like a rip-off of The Hunger Games, it’s not. Battle Royale is a Japanese film that was released in 2000 Adapted from a book that was released in 1999 (nine years before The Hunger Games book was released) by Japanese Author Koushun Takami. But before anyone starts going off at The Hunger Games being a possible rip-off of Battle Royale, we can do that later, right now we are talking about Battle Royale the film and not it’s relation to a similar film that was released a year ago.

Battle Royale (Koushun Takami - 1999)

Based on what is possibly the most controversial book of the 20th century (as the trailer states) Battle Royale is a film about a group of High School Students who are put on an island and forced to kill each other. Yes we can’t really scoot round the controversial subject but despite the films setting, I think this film is one of the most Beautiful films produced to date. As implied in the last paragraph the film is an adaptation of a book by Koushun Takami which went on to become a best seller and was later published worldwide. I myself have not read the book but after watching the film, I really want to. The film upon release was banned in several countries because of its content; this however did not stop it from becoming one of Japan’s top ten highest grossing films. The film itself was directed by Legendary Japanese Director Kinji Fukasaku whose other film credits include Battles Without Honor and Humanity and Graveyard of Honor.

Kinji Fukasaku

The film opens up with a quick brief synopsis of the setting – “At the dawn of the Millennium, the nation (Japan) collapsed. At 15% Employment, 10 million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The Adults lost confidence and fearing the youth eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act. AKA: The BR Act.”. On a remote unknown island off the coast of Japan a TV Report is talking about an annual event and what happened before spotting a little girl covered in blood in a military jeep………smiling. The film’s opening continues with a quick dialogue from the films protagonist Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who comes home on his first day of 7th grade to find that his father has hung himself leaving a note that says “Go Shuya, you can do it Shuya”. At the school, another pupil by the name of Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda) arrives late for class to discover her teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) in the room by himself with a note from the rest of the class stating they are taking the lesson off. Kitano leaves the room only to be attacked by one of the students. About a year later the class goes on a school trip with their new teacher. Noriko gives some cookies to Shuya and his friend Yoshitoki Kuninobu (the one who attacked Kitano). After entering a tunnel, Shuya wakes up on the bus to discover everyone is asleep only to be knocked out by one of the people on the bus.

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The Class wakes up in a dark class room with strange metal collars around their necks along with two other people they had not seen before. They look out the window and see soldiers and a helicopter coming in to land. Then to their surprise their old teacher Kitano arrives with the soldiers. The children are ordered to sit down and listen. Kitano introduces the two new comers as Kawada (Taro Yamamoto) and Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando). Kitano explains that because the country is no good anymore, the government passed a law known as Battle Royale and tells the class that they all have to kill each other until only one of them is left standing. He then plays a video which explains what is going on. The class have been brought to a deserted island and have three days to kill each other. If after three days more than one person is still alive, they all die thanks to the collars around their necks which are packed with explosives. During the video Kitano kills one of the students for whispering and demonstrates the collars explosive properties on Yoshitoki Kuninobu. The class are also warned about Danger zones which will cause the explosives in their collars to explode if they enter those areas. The class leaves the school one by one as the game begins, each receiving a bag with food, water, a map, compass and a random weapon. Noriko and Nanahara run to a seaside cave. Within the first few hours, the realization of what is happening to them sets in for the class with eight of them being killed by fellow students and four of them commit suicide. During the violence Kiriyama and Mitsuko (Kō Shibasaki) show themselves as the most dangerous in the game.

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The following morning Kitano announces where the Danger zones are and who died during the night. Nanahara promises to keep Noriko safe for Kuninobu who had a crush on her. Other students have their own plans of survival. Nanahara has an encounter with a fellow student who is accidently killed with an axe to the head, before encountering Kawada who does not appear to be a killer. However two girls try to make peace with everyone only to be killed by Kiriyama. Noriko and Nanahara continue to explore the island. Several other students have their own plans of survival. Mimura (Takashi Tsukamoto) tries to hack into the military computers and destroy the system, Hiroki (Sousuke Takaoka) tries to look for his best friend Chigusa (Chiaki Kuriyama) as well as Kotohiki (Takayo Mimura) who he has a crush on. Chigusa meanwhile kills one of the students who tries to force himself upon her only to be gunned down shortly after by Mitsuko. After sometime exploring the island, Noriko collapses. Nanahara takes her to the island clinic where Kawada tries to make her better and cooks rice for all of them. While there, Kawada mentions that he has been in the game before and tells them the story of how he survived. Kawada says he knows how to get off the island but before he can explain, the group are attacked by Kiriyama. Nanahara gets split up from Noriko and Kawada as he is attacked by Kiriyama. Hiroki comes in to save the day and both he and Nanahara manage to escape.

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Nanahara wakes up bandaged in the island lighthouse with Utsumi (Eri Ishikawa) watching over him who explains what has happened over the last 14 hours. Utsumi is one of many in the lighthouse who are preparing to eat some pasta. However one of them tries to poison Nanahara’s food because she saw him kill someone and does not trust him. This backfires however with one of the girls eating Nanahara’s food and dying. The Girls, now paranoid kill each other off except the one who poisoned the food who commits suicide instead. Nanahara eventually returns to Noriko and Kawada. Hiroki manages to find Kotohiki who panics and shoots him, Kotohiki is then killed by Mitsuko who is then killed by Kiriyama. Meanwhile Mimura successfully attacks the military computer and is about to blow the school when Kiriyama attacks and kills his friends. Mimura then detonates the explosives hoping to kill Kiriyama. Kawada, Nanahara and Noriko arrive and manage to kill Kiriyama. Now the only three people left alive, Kawada seemingly turns on the other two. The shots are heard and Kitano decrees that the game is over.

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The soldiers leave the island as Kitano is left on the island all alone. He meets Kawada and works out that he deactivated his collar and is about to kill him when Noriko and Nanahara arrive. Kitano shows off a painting he has been doing which shows everyone dead on the island except Noriko. Noriko holds a gun up to him but is unable to pull the trigger, but Nanahara does remembering what his father said. The trio leaves the island with Kawada succumbing to his wounds and Nanahara and Noriko returning to the mainland before going on the run from the authorities.

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It is incredible how much depth this film goes into, particularly with the characters. Every character has a back story, emotions, ideas everything. Even if the character is only on-screen for a few minutes or is one of the first to die, the level of depth in that character is fantastic. Of course other characters go more in-depth as they have more of a showing in the film. Not only that but the film uses a lot of flashbacks and previous quotes used by the characters as a method of feeding the audience with the back story. Some of these flashbacks even occur in the game itself, like Chigusa who is seen running in her sports gear before realizing that she is still in the game. Nanahara remembering the last meal he had with his father, Noriko remembering the treatment she got from the other pupils. But don’t forget that these are still children and the attitudes and behaviour of the children also come out as well.

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In terms of the cast, some of the minor characters such as Utsumi, Chigusa and Mimura are played excellently and while they may only appear for a short time, those scenes are brilliant. Mimura in particular shows how inventive they can be when facing a major challenge.

Chigusa, Mimura and Utsumi

Mitsuko on the other hand is a Great psychopath. Pretty much from the start she is revealing how nasty she is. Her weapon is a sign of this as it is a sharp weapon and can only be used in a certain way, but there is a level of childishness in her, particularly in the form of a teenager when it is revealed what she got up to at school. Kiriyama is an excellent character to tie in with this as he is merciless and psychotic too and joins in the game more to have fun and be twisted rather than being in it for another reason. Kawada meanwhile appears to be more dangerous than the previous two as he shows some skill in everything he does. Yet he appears to be somewhat haunted by his past and in some sense wants to be on the island as he is very casual with what is happening and going on. His protective side shows though that he, like many on the island is a caring person.

Mitsuko, Kiriyama and Kawada

The main members of the cast though are Noriko, Nanahara and Kitano. Takeshi Kitano (The same Takeshi from Takeshi’s Castle) plays the somewhat twisted head of the program; he announces the Danger zones and is happy with all he does. He does though show some regret with what is happening around him concerning Noriko. There appears to be some form of friendship between the two as he is a teacher just trying to do his job and Noriko appears to be an actually good student compared to the rest of his class. This may show why he painted the picture with Noriko surviving as he may be stating that she is the only one who deserves to live. Noriko meanwhile, during the films exploits appears to play a typical love interest but not a damsel in distress and shows some strengths, including pointing the Gun at Kitano in the end. She is an extremely good friend to those around her and cares a lot about them. Nanahara on the other hand is an increasingly strong character throughout who seems close to unstoppable as his injuries progress but he keeps going. However he does still have emotional issues with the suicide of his father and finds it tough to keep going, but he does so for the sake of both his friend Kuninobu and Noriko.

Kitano, Nanahara and Noriko

Of course one thing that can’t be overlooked is the blood splatter which is used regularly in the film in several ways with the most frequent being guns. The extreme graphics of these scenes may appear to be gruesome but in some way they are necessary in order to show the seriousness of the situation. The film also has its own little charms of trying to get the best out of a horrible situation, the main example of this being the instruction video (WARNING: May Not Be Suitable Viewing for a Younger Audience, much like the entire film).

The film is beautifully shot. Many scenes show the great expanse of the island and in some scenes it is hard to see it as an island but the areas of the island kind of tell the story of the island, what kind of place it was once like to live on before it was turned into an island of death. The film’s camera work also makes great use of weather and horizons with the colour in some scenes showing what time of day it is and it is through this that the film shows the timescale of the event. The use of rain also has its uses for representing low mood scenes and scenes of happiness too, something that doesn’t usually occur in rain scenes. But possibly the films best shots are at the end of the film when the game is over. Kitano exercising outside the school, on the boat, the view of the island and Noriko and Nanahara running away through the streets of Tokyo. It brings a calm essence to the end of what is a horrible event in the lives of those who have lived it.

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The film’s soundtrack is another major element of this film. While most of the film’s soundtrack was produced by Masamichi Amano, the film uses a great amount of work from accomplished composers and is used frequently in the film. The film’s main theme is Verdi’s Requiem which is used as the title music and the music on the trailer. It shows a great amount of impact in the scenes that it is used in and also signifies how bad things are probably going to become. Other pieces of music include Radetzky March (composed by Johann Strauss), The Blue Danube (by Johann Strauss II), Auf dem Wasser zu singen (by Franz Schubert) and Air on the G String (by Johann Sebastian Bach). Most of these are used for the announcement parts of the film from Kitano but they do add a sense of scale and announcement to the scene and are some of my Favourite parts of the film, the temptation to stand up and wave my hands round like a conductor is hard to suppress. The pieces produced by Masamichi Amano offer a sense of something different and add a bit more culture to the music.

The general soundtrack as a whole is brilliant from the beginning. The general soundtrack offers many variations depending on the scene particularly towards the end where the soundtrack, like the scenes do offer some contemplation to what has happened.

While the plot of the film maybe controversial in what it is doing, it is an incredible film. It has several scenes where there are nice happy things going on, people trying to make the best out of what time they have left. While some fight to survive, some of them are doing it because they have something to fight for. But when it comes to some flashback scenes as well as some of the other nice happy scenes, it shows there is more to this film than meets the eye. While many will say that this film is nothing more than a gore fest with lots of blood; those who have seen it can say more than that. Yes it may be more of a horror film than anything else, but this film does represent how important life is, it represents the strong fight for survival against those who seek to take it away and represents how powerful the human spirit can be and also shows how important friendship is.

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While many will probably avoid watching this film due to its setting as well as its content; I am exceedingly happy that I have seen this film. While the battle will probably rage on about what being a rip off of what, to me this will remain one of the Best Films I have seen. It has a great story, brilliant scenes, wonderful character, amazing effects and fantastic ideas. In cinema there are very few times when a film comes out which touches your heart in such a way that makes you happy, but every once in a while one is produced, and Battle Royale is one of those times. I can say with pride and much happiness how much I have enjoyed the experience. Thank you Koushun Takami, Thank you Kinji Fukasaku, Thank you for BATTLE ROYALE.

GENEPOOL








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