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).





Welcome To The Human Race – Escape From L.A.

2 10 2013

Escape From L.A. (Paramount Pictures - 1996)

How long can you leave it until it is too long to produce a sequel? 10 Years is a bit too long in my opinion in the case that you are trying to make another film in the hope of continuing a series. Maybe the best thing to do would be to leave it and either do something else or make a reboot. In 1976 when the Fantastic King Kong remake was released, a sequel began development, but it was not released until 1986 and turned out to be a disaster (0% on Rotten Tomatoes). While the time relation may not affect a film’s performance, apart from having to remind the audience what was released 10 years previously, but it means that the film can suffer from consistent development issues. Another good example of this is the once long-awaited sequel to John Carpenter’s Classic Film; Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. which was released 15 years after New York.

Escape from New York (AVCO Embassy Pictures - 1981)

I first saw Escape from New York in the early 2000’s, and fell in love with it. I loved the dystopian setting of New York as a Giant Prison. The look of it all was amazing and believable, the soundtrack was beautifully crafted and the cast was fantastic. When I was watching it for the first time I was first told of a sequel film called Escape from L.A. but I did not know much about it at the time and it was not until about 2007/2008 that I first saw it. My first impressions of it were good, I liked it, but since then my feelings of the film have been “oh dear” and have constantly decreased every time I’ve seen it since.

LA1

The film begins much in the same way as New York, a little brief introduction of what has happened in the world. The Crime rate in the USA goes up dramatically and Los Angeles island sufferers its worst Earthquake to date, with waterways flooding the area and L.A. becomes an island. A presidential candidate (Cliff Robertson) who seemingly predicts this is made President for Life and brings in new Moral Laws stating that anyone who does not abide with them will be sent to Los Angeles island which has now been surrounded by a containment wall (except for the Pacific side of it bizarrely). In 2013 a Peruvian revolutionary called Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) seduces the president’s daughter Utopia (A. J. Langer) and gets her to steal a super weapon. She escapes to L.A. to give it to Jones. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is captured once again for a series of crimes and is to be deported to L.A. While there he meets the President, Prison Commander Malloy (Stacy Keach) and his assistant Brazen (Michelle Forbes) who offer him a deal. He unwillingly takes it thanks to a disease planted inside him and he travels by Sub to Los Angeles Island.

LA2

Upon arrival he sees what has happened to L.A. and interacts with some of its residents including a man named Pipeline (Peter Fonda). He spots a parade with Cuervo and tries to get him, but fails. He meets Map to the Stars Eddie (Steve Buscemi) who volunteers to show Snake around. Snake does not take up his offer and goes into Beverley Hills. There he finds a twisted area and hides in the bushes with a girl named Taslima (Valeria Golino), they are then both captured and find themselves in a room full of ugly people. It turns out that the people require constant body transplants to survive and the surgeon general (Bruce Campbell) plans to use Snake and Taslima next. Snake manages to escape and frees Taslima who takes Snake through the underground sewers near to Cuervo’s base. Taslima decides to go with snake only to be killed minutes later. Snake is captured by Eddie who takes him to Cuervo who sends a tape to the president showing him the device. Cuervo then hosts an event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where he makes Snake play Basketball. Annoyingly Snake succeeds and escapes, meeting, and then surfing with Pipeline. Snake then meets up with gang leader and old friend Carjack Malone (Pam Grier) who helps him to attack Cuervo who has taken up residence at Disneyland. Snake successfully retrieves the device but on the way back to the mainland with Utopia his helicopter is hit and he crashes.

LA4

Snake walks out of the crash only to be surrounded by guards. Utopia is captured with the device and is sent to the electric chair. The virus turns out to be nothing more than the flu and Snake is shot. However he seemingly survives when it turns out that he is using a Hologram device given to him earlier. He shows that he has the real device, and types in the world code shutting down all electrical systems on the planet. He then finds a packet of cigarettes, has one before turning to the camera and saying “Welcome to the human race”.

The film, while being a sequel to one of my top favourite films and has some nice moments in it, it is generally, cheesy, corny……….bad. The film suffers from the CGI revolution of the period with it mostly appearing to be in front of early blue screen effects. When New York was done before, these kind of effects weren’t regularly available and so was shot on location, however; New York as a result looked better than L.A. For pretty much the entire film, the effects are some of the worst generated images to date and while they are acceptable compared to most films, it looks like the film was made on the cheap despite its budget of 25 Million Dollars.

The film does have some redeeming qualities, the soundtrack while using an updated version of the original theme, has some nice pieces with spy style pieces and some with sounds almost in a rock sense to old western themes, particularly Snake’s theme. The film also has bits that New York did not do such as a thriving outlaw culture in the cities remains and it is nice to see that.

Kurt Russell is amazing as Snake Plissken; I love the character so much. He is the ultimate ant-hero as he really only cares for himself. He is a well-trained mercenary soldier as shown by the awards he has been given. But for the most part he appears to have a cold exterior. There is somewhat of a caring side to him though as there is the odd occasion where he feels for someone, in this case, only very briefly though, Taslima.

Snake Plissken

But for all the good things there are a lot of bad ones including the idea that Plissken is some kind of ultimate hero with him having skills that appear to be superhuman with talents including amazing basketball skills, speed and Surfing. While I still love the character I do feel that this film does not really help in any beneficial way to his character at all and we should only remember him for New York only and in no way L.A.

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While pretty much the rest of cast are just unnoticeable for the most part, there are a few exceptions. Brazen and Malloy have a nice presence about them which is neither cold nor warm and offer an anchor to the film. This is pretty much the same for Pipeline too if for only very briefly.

Malloy, Pipeline and Brazen

But for me, I really like the character of Taslima. She had this nice presence about her. She had a nice look with a bizarre haircut, she had this calming; possibly reassuring voice and she wore this great Leather Jacket. For all the possible persona of being tough, she has a redeeming caring quality about her, you care about her a lot. When she begins to have feelings for Snake, in many a sense you want her to say in the film or (for several reasons) change angle and follow her. When Snake and Taslima split, you wish they don’t but then she follows him before briefly getting shot. That annoys me, greatly annoys me. Out of the top three best things about this film, her appearance is one of them. You feel sad for her death, but annoyed too as you like this character and she gets killed off. Whose Idea was it for one of the best things about the film to get shot? Why? Why kill off this brilliant character. Seriously, Why? I can keep going like this for a while now, I am mad while writing this.

Taslima

Escape from L.A. does have some good points about it. It has Snake Plissken and very briefly Taslima. It has things New York did not do and some enjoyable moments while also having a great last line. But it is mostly bad, I can’t stress that enough. Not just for the death of Taslima, but other points too. There are only a few points about this film I would recommend. While the beginning, ending and Taslima parts of the film are great, for the most part I would tell you to Fast Forward. In short, Escape from L.A. is…………………………………………..you know what, I have had enough of this film, forget it. Let’s just hope that the planned remake of Escape from New York is better than this.

GENEPOOL





My Top 10 Favourite (NON-GODZILLA) Films

15 08 2012

With me being a Massive Godzilla fan my top 10 favourite films are all Godzilla Films and so because of this I have 2 Top 10 lists. My own personal Favourites and another for other films which are not Godzilla Films. This list has to e deployed constantly in conversation because my friends are not as interested in Godzilla as much as me. There have been many films recently that I have seen that I regard as my favourite (Non-Godzilla) films. So I have got round to actually producing the list and I thought I would share it here with you. The following films are all definite must see’s. If you want to know where they come in the official list of my favourite films, take their number here and add somewhere between 20 and 29 and you should get the exact number. So enjoy and do remember to watch the following films once you know what they are. There are many films that could not get a place on the list but please don’t think of them as me saying they are bad, they are Great too but it was always going to be a hard decision. The List below will go from 10 – 1 with 1 being my Favourite.

10. Reign Of Fire – Reign Of Fire is a post apocalyptic film where dragons have taken over the world. Whereas many films use things like nature, war and maybe space as the setting for this genre. Reign Of Fire’s use of Dragons is Fantastic and stays true to the ideas of Dragon’s breathing fire and as a result of their destructiveness were not the only things to destroy the world, man’s weapons helped out trying to kill the creature’s. The film stars Christian Bale (Before he was Batman) alongside a bald Matthew McConaughey, Gerard Butler and former Bond Girl Izabella Scorupco. The film begins in London with the discovery of the creature and advances a whole decade later (2020, 8 years from now) to a group of people trying to survive. The Dragons are not some cheap CGI neither, a lot of work has gone into them with the effects rivalling Jurassic Park. Reign of Fire’s mix of Fantasy Ideas and Modern Setting brings new life into the Legendary Beasts and altogether makes a Fantastic Film, (Choosing Number 10 was difficult and came down to three films; this, Broken Arrow and The Dark Knight).

Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999 - Daiei Film)

9. Gamera 3: Revenge Of Irys – While not a Godzilla film it is a Japanese Monster Movie (Originally this position did got to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, but after some thought I realised it was not as Good as this). Gamera 3 is the final installment in the Gamera Heisei Trilogy, and what an installment it is. Regarded by many as the Best Monster Movie since the Original Godzilla. While I have my own personal thoughts on it, I can see why they would say that. Around the world several small Gyaos like birds have been spotted, meanwhile a small girl finds a monster who uses her anger for Gamera to grow extraordinarily powerful. it is up to Gamera and a group of Humans to stop both creatures. Directed by the Fantastic Shusuke Kaneko and featuring an amazing cast, Gamera 3 is a must see for both Monster Movie fans and Movie Fans in General.

8. Escape From New York – From the mind of Horror Master John Carpenter comes a film with an interesting idea for the future where Manhattan Island has been turned into a Prison. The film stars Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef and Isaac Hayes alongside stars including Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, Donald Pleasence and Ernest Borgnine. The President of the USA has arrived on the island while escaping Air Force One and the Prison has sent in War Hero and Convict Snake Plissken to rescue him. The films setting is an interesting one. While still remembering that it is a prison, there are some societies between the prisoners. Isaac Hayes’s portrayal as The Duke is done in a nice smooth way making the main villain stand out. More like a crime lord instead of a Bond Villain. The Music was done by Carpenter and has a nice futuristic and bleak interpretation.

7. Unstoppable – Directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, The Taking of Pelham 123, Man On Fire) comes a film based on a true story of a runaway train. The Film stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson as Railway employees trying to stop a train hauling Toxic Chemicals on-board before it can create a disaster. The film’s action paced setting and Music keep it going as the action gets faster and faster, not slowing down for a second until the whole crisis has been concluded. One of the Best Action Films in cinema history that only stops when the credit’s roll. Read My Review Here.

6. The Dark Knight Rises – The Final Film in Christopher Nolan‘s Epic Film Series. The film is the final Chapter in the story and is the perfect end to the series. Bruce Wayne has managed to save Gotham from the criminals who used to run it as his alter ego Batman but now must do it all over again to save it for not only the present but for the future and from complete destruction. It has been eight years since Batman has been seen but now he returns but it has been too long. Wayne must now become Batman all over again, start afresh it is the only way he can Rise Up to save Gotham from its newest threat, BANE. The film may be long but it is the perfect way to end the series. The regular cast of Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman have returned and star alongside new cast members Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. Hans Zimmer returns along with the familiar title soundtrack. The story does not get boring and the ending will send tingles down your spine as you see how the film ends on the note of the Title Soundtrack and the End of the story. The Perfect Ending to a Fantastic Series.

5. The Host – From South Korea comes a film about something Lurking in the Han River. The Host is a Monster movie that is on a different scale to films like Godzilla Gamera. The creature is no bigger than a bus but this scale means it can be closer to the people it eats rather than the cities it would normally destroy. The film stars Song Kang-ho, Byeon Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona and Ko Ah-seong as a family who goes to war against the monster who took one of their own. The film has some nice action pieces with some more comic pieces which is all nicely wrapped together. The film’s soundtrack is a nice blend of traditional asian music and the dialogue is not ruined by dubbing and goes for the subtitle route instead allowing the passion of the acting to come to it’s full potential. The film comes from director Bong Joon-Ho who also directed Memories of Murder. The Host is a highly acclaimed film by many (“The filmmaker Quentin Tarantino included it in his list of top 20 films released since 1992 (the year he became a director)”) and has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is also the highest grossing South Korean film in History. A Must see for all Monster Movie Fans. Read My Review Here (it is important to make sure you do not mix this up with a film of the same name coming out next year).

4. 13 Assassins – From Prolific and Controversial japanese Director Takashi Miike (Ichi The Killer, Audition) comes a period piece whose essence is like that of an Akira Kurosawa Film. The film is set in 1840’s Japan as the Samurai era is coming to a close, a new lord is about to come to power and so a group of Samurai are hired to kill him before he can become one of the most powerful rulers in Japan. The film brings back the Golden Years of period pieces in Japan Cinema. the film has several pieces of Samurai Sword Fighting and even has the differences in warriors that Seven Samurai had with one of the group being a bit more rogue and not technically a Samurai but does become an integral part of the group. 13 Assassins could be seen as the new launching point for films like this and I hope it does because films like this are Amazing. The film does not rely on CGI with only one scene using it, the rest comes down to good old reality. The film also uses Subtitles instead of dubbing and the raw passion of the japanese language comes out. There is something about the Japanese Language that sounds awesome, particularly during anger and shouting, a real gift. keep a look out for Tsuyoshi Ihara‘s Character HIRAYAMA Kujūrō who’s scenes are always great to see as he is a Great Fighter.

3. Snow White And The Huntsman – Celebrating 200 years of the classic Fairytale this adaptation has a nice blend of story and action that deserves its spot in my top 3. Starring Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen and Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman. The film follows the story of the fairytale as Snow White escapes the Evil Queen who sends a Huntsman to collect her but who eventually helps Snow White escape to a distant land and from here launch an attack on the Queens Realm to overthrow her. The films story does follow the normal path of a good fairytale and does not over-complicate for the viewer. The Evil Queen is a classic villain with the viewer not having any sympathy for her and just booing her. Kristen Stewart’s (I hope she returns for the sequel) portrayal is fantastic with Chris Hemsworth cementing the roles to make the film an adventure throughout. Backed up by many more fine actors including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone as Dwarves, the films setting breathes new life to this classic story.

The Hunger Games (Lionsgate - 2012)

2. The Hunger Games – This Past March I saw an incredible film, for about 4 weeks I could not think about anything else. I did not see it coming. I read about it before hand but I did not know much about it. It was only in passing that I noticed it and thought about seeing it. Thinking of it as a Battle Royale Rip Off I decided to go and see it, and I loved it. The Hunger Games is not a rip-off, it has similar themes but it is its own film, and own story. The film is based on the books of the same name by author Suzzanne Collins. It follows the story of Katniss Everdeen who along with 23 (12 Girls and 12 Boys) other children between the age of 12 – 18 as they are forced to compete in a fight to the death in an annual event orchestrated by the ruthless capitol.  I loved the actors playing the great characters, I loved the story, the feel, the look and while it has this idea of mass slaughter there are several times where you have these nice scenes. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and the Great Donald Sutherland, The Hunger Games is a film that should not be overlooked. Keep your eyes peeled for it, you will not be dissappointed. The sequels have already been announced and the books are terrific (I bought the first one the day after I saw the film and bought the other 2 six chapters in). A Nice Film that will be hard to beat. Read My Review Here.

1. Seven Samurai – What Else Was It Going To Be. Out of all the (Non-Godzilla) films I have seen this is the one that stands out more for me than any other film. Directed by the Legendary Akira Kurosawa, this Master Piece is regarded as one of the Greatest Films in the History of Cinema. Starring such Legends of Japanese Cinema as Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki as well as who many think of as the Greatest Japanese Actor in History; Toshiro Mifune. The film tells the story of a group of Samurai who have been hired by a local village to protect them from Bandits. The film itself is very long but does not get boring, even for a second. The film uses subtitles instead of dubbing which in turn like I have said previously allows for the true passion of the fantastic acting and vocals of the Japanese Actors to really come to life. Toshiro Mifune in particular is fantastic as the out-of-place, would be Samurai Kikuchiyo who while bonkers is enjoyable to watch and by far in my opinion the best character. The film’s soundtrack is Great too with the main theme being one of the Best Pieces of music I have heard not only this year but in any film I have seen. I could talk about it for a while but I don’t want to spoil it for you (or me). A thoroughly enjoyable film, directed by a Legend, Starring Legends with a Legendary Soundtrack. Seven Samurai is my Favourite (Non-Godzilla) film and deserves its place. A Fantastic Film. Read My Review Here.

GENEPOOL (Because I am currently recovering from a Nasty Case of Shingles there will be no Film Review This Month, Service will hopefully resume in September).








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