The Lost Reviews – Infested Planet

20 10 2016

Infested Planet (Rocket Bear Games - 2014)

If Alien movies have taught us anything, it’s that guns do not work against Aliens! That statement has been proved over and over again from films such as Aliens (where an elite team of Marines were wiped out in near seconds), Starship Troopers (where legions of soldiers were killed in less than an hour) and Independence Day (where the human race was nearly wiped out in 3 days). So, with this knowledge in hand we know for sure that if Aliens invade Earth, we should not use guns in any shape or form as they simply do not work; it seems however that some people have to learn the hard way.

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Infested Planet (produced by Rocket Bear Games) is a game about a squad of soldiers invading a planet infested with an alien species, and whose job it is to try and wipe them out. Each level begins with your elite team of soldiers landing in an area, with a small base set up. From here it is your duty to guide them through a maze of tunnels in the hope of destroying all enemy bases to win the level. As soon as you land however, the Aliens are on top of you and you will need to plan wisely and prioritize where you can as the aliens descend in swarms around your base.

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Each level is set in a nicely rendered 2D plan view map, and there are no tricky images to understand as everything is nice and clear. The games visuals remind me of one of those planet invasion flash games. You know the ones that feel more like a maths exam, where there is a planet with a value of 10, and so you need to send an army with a value of 11 to conquer it. Well, the maps look like that, with nice near circular bases for both you and the aliens, and as the swarms of alien monsters begin to descend on your bases and men, they even begin to look like those sorts of games. The aliens and soldiers feature a wonderful colour palette, with your soldiers changing colour as they upgrade and even the aliens get a nice patchwork of colouring too.

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The main way you play is by guiding your soldiers around the map, attacking bases and taking them over, bit by bit extending your reach. You will be offered times to upgrade while in the battlefield, upgrading your soldiers to different classes, while also being offered opportunities to drop supplies in and even call in helicopter strikes. It’s kind of similar to opportunities offered in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (which I have still yet to play). These upgrades however do not make the game any easier as the aliens can mutate as their bases get destroyed, and just because you have claimed a base does not make it safe, as the aliens can and will attack them, destroying them and converting the land back to their side. They will even take control of you gun turrets given half the chance.

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The AI in this game is brilliant. The aliens attack in well-designed swarms, and don’t just rely on being small, because as the game progresses, and bases mutate, other larger and more fearsome species come out to play. It’s actually kind of fun, yet stimulating-ly terrifying as you see these swarms just appear and attack out of nowhere. Yes, you can put up defenses, but spots can be over run and you can’t help but look back at your bases, just to check if they are safe for the time being. Meanwhile, you have to keep a sharp eye on your team as they come under attack, and have to defend themselves not just from aliens, but the alien’s own defensive capabilities also.

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What this game provides at its core details plus in game specialties is really nice, and it’s good to see a game that even when it does provide you with upgrades, it does not necessarily mean that it gets any easier. It does not necessarily have a learning curve, more a steady playing field, and one that requires you to strategize rather than burst in all guns blaring. The game though for all its wonderful inclusions does have some short comings. There is an in game shop system which allows you to purchase new items and upgrades from cash you receive from winning (and even surrendering) a level. When you go into the shop though hoping to get much-needed upgrades, you discover that most of them (although at a fair price) are temporary and are only really available for no more than the next three levels. That is pretty annoying especially as some of them can be pretty expensive. You would think that something that cost that much, you would get keep wouldn’t you? The story does not really seem to be needed either. The game’s plot is provided in a similar form to an old shoot-em up game, where there is a lot of written text, no voice over dialogue and when it actually comes to a level, you don’t really know why they gave you any plot. But then things get weird as the game provides you with random missions and the story just appears to well: disappear…altogether. But the crazy thing is, is that you don’t really care about the plot, as there is so much fun in its gameplay you just want to get past the written word and just start shooting aliens. It’s a bit wasted if I’m to be honest.

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Altogether I think this is a fun game. Yes its shop is convoluted and un-usable and its story is pretty much not wanted and at least a bit wasted; but everything else that this game provides is on the surface near perfect. It’s not overly long, you can play it in long and short bursts, it’s relatively easy to pick up and play, and its design is really nice and colourful (compared to say a mysteriously abandoned ship in space lacking a carpet). Overall I would say this is just a nice little game if you fancy a break from a heavy laden triple A game or if you just have a little time to play something diverse, in-depth, but also very light.

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GENEPOOL

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A Big Red Right Hand – Hellboy

7 09 2016

Hellboy (Revolution Studios - 2004)

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

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. - 2006)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL (Also, quick shout out to Ivan).





Hermione Granger In A Hostage Situation – White House Down

6 07 2016

White House Down (Columbia Pictures - 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lance Reddick

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

Joey King

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

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

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

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

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





Top 10 Most Exciting Films In 2016

28 01 2016

Film Reel 2016

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

Joy (20th Century Fox - 2015)

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

Godzilla Resurgence (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2016)

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

Dad's Army (Universal Pictures - 2016)

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

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

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

Kung Fu Panda 3 (Dreamworks Animation - 2016)

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

Gambit

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

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Lionsgate - 2016)

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

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

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

Deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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





Don’t Let The Big Bugs Bite – Mimic

30 12 2015

Mimic (Miramax - 1997)

Imagine the scene, there is a terrifying new disease-spreading throughout your home town, killing lots and lots of people…and there is no cure. What do you do? You could hang around and wait for a miracle cure, or you could find a way to stop the disease from spreading/catching further. It’s an interesting plan, and wouldn’t you believe it, it’s possible – just so as long you are sure it won’t come back to eat you in 3 years’ time.

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Released in 1997 by Miramax and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, Mimic is a Science Fiction Horror Film based on the short story of the same name written by Donald A. Wollheim. Mimic deals with the subject of genetic construction and tampering in a similar theme and style to the written works of Michael Crichton, particularly his book and later film Jurassic Park. This time however it’s for the creation of a new species of bug, which then quite literally bites back when it goes out of control.

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In Manhattan, a deadly disease known as Strickler’s disease has struck, claiming the lives of hundreds of children. The disease has no cure, nor a vaccination; however what people do know is that it’s being carried by the common cockroach. To this end, Entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) is brought in by the C.D.C. to create a new species of insect (a cross between Termite and Praying Mantis DNA) which she and her husband Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) call the Judas Breed. The insects are successful in killing off the Cockroach population, and with it Strickler’s disease. The Judas Breed meanwhile was designed to be unable to live and breed outside the lab for no more than 6 months, and so would die after 1 generation. Three years later, a reverend is chased and dragged underground by a mysterious assailant; the only person to witness it however is a possibly autistic boy called Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) who notices the strange sound the assailant makes, naming him Mr. Funny Shoes (Doug Jones, Bill Lasovich and Roger Clown). The following morning, the church building is cordoned off by C.D.C. agent Josh (Josh Brolin); who notices excrement hanging off the ceiling, inside of which has some buttons.

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Susan, now working at a natural history museum with her assistant Remy (Alix Koromzay), buys some bugs off kids Ricky (James Costa) and Davis (Javon Barnwell). One of the bugs in question is rather big and looks rather weird. Upon closer inspection, Susan begins to realize that the bug is a member of The Judas Breed and is also a baby. But before she can find out more, her office is attacked by an assailant, who only appears to take the bug specimen with him. Susan explains this to her Husband, and with Remy and the kids in tow, they try to get another specimen from a subway locker, but are stopped by Subway cop Leonard (Charles S. Dutton), who demands to see a Permit. Meanwhile, with some information from Susan, and the hope of making quick money, Ricky and Davis journey through the Underground and find an Egg sack, but before they can do anything, both kids are killed by a strange creature. In the subway meanwhile, Susan meets Chuy who is with his guardian Manny (Giancarlo Giannini). That night Chuy hears Mr. Funny Shoes inside the church, and goes looking for him, while Remy and Susan go to a water treatment plant where a large bug, is discovered. Susan’s boss Dr. Gates (F. Murray Abraham) examines the creature and summarizes that the bug is a soldier and part of a colony.

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Manny discovers that Chuy has disappeared, and goes underground to look for him after spotting some clues as to where he might have gone. Upon getting a permit to look in the subway locker, Leonard, Peter and Josh head underground to find another specimen, and find traces of more hanging excrement. Susan meanwhile waits outside in the station, looking through some photographs. In the station though, is one of the assailant figures, who transforms into a large man-sized bug, which then takes her deeper underground. Peter and Leonard fall into an old subway station, and Josh runs off to find help, but is then killed by a large creature. Susan meanwhile comes to, and tries to call for help from the city above, but nobody listens. One of the large insects does however, and comes after her. She is eventually rescued by Manny, who after finding Leonard and Peter asks them for help. They take refuge inside an old Coney Island subway car, but Leonard gets injured by an insect that manages to get inside. Upon killing it; Susan explains that by increasing their metabolism, The Judas Breed were able to both reproduce and mutate very fast, despite being unable to biologically reproduce at all. To this end, the creatures have begun to evolve, and Mimic their main predator: Man. At that moment, the car is swarmed by big insects, smelling the blood coming out of Leonard’s Leg. Using the dead one’s smell glands, Susan coats the windows in the smell of the dead creature insides, causing the other to flee, making the insects think the train is one of them. With the insects gone, the group formulates a plan to move the car down the tracks to a possible escape. Peter is sent to get the power back up, while Manny is sent to switch the tracks.

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Inside the car, Susan believes the Mimic Insects could spread out of the subway system and colonise anywhere they choose. She describes to Leonard that one way of preventing them from doing this would be to find and kill the colony Male, who will be the only one capable of allowing the Judas Breed to reproduce. While out to switch the tracks, Manny finds Chuy but is killed by one of the insects. Peter manages to get the power back on, and finds Chuy, and Susan, who left the car to look for Manny. They are however cornered by a group of Mimic Insects. Knowing he hasn’t got much time left, Leonard uses the smell of his bleeding leg to distract the insects long enough for Susan and Chuy to hop into a dumb-waiter and escape. Peter then sets off to find a way to stop the creatures while they are still down there. He gets chased into a room which turns out to be a colony nest. Using a pickaxe, he quickly releases gas into the room, hoping to use Manny’s lighter to set it alight, but the lighter has stopped working. With next to no time left, he uses the axe to cause a spark on some railings, causing the room to catch fire, killing all the bugs, and sending a fireball throughout the immediate subway area. Escaping from the Fireball, Susan goes to look for Chuy, but runs into the male Bug. Using her own blood to attract it, she has it chase her; just ducking out of the way from an oncoming Subway train, crushing the Male Mimic. On the surface, the area is in Anarchy after the subway fireball. Dr. Gates explains to Susan that after combing the area twice; ensures her that nothing could have survived. Peter meanwhile had a lucky escape diving into a pool of water, and is reunited with both Susan and Chuy on the surface.

If you look through the filmography of director Guillermo Del Toro, particularly at the films he has directed; many films immediately come to my mind and are at the forefront of his directing career. Films of course like Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy films, Blade II, Pacific Rim, as well as a host of films directed in his native Mexico (that I have not yet seen). On this list however you will also find MIMIC. Back when Pacific Rim was due for release, I remember reading inside VUE Cinema’s prevue magazine a piece about Del Toro and his output, and MIMIC stands out in his filmography, but the main reason for this is due to the film not making back its budget, and when compared to the success of his later films; MIMIC is held as being something like a Black Sheep in his career output. I don’t think that kind of statement is very fair however; because I think MIMIC is very good. It’s is Tremendously Terrifying. I have known about this film for years after seeing the beginning once back in between 2005 and 2008 and after finding out what it was have kept on eye on it since, but recently it was the first time I had watched it all the way through. It carries a lot of frights and scares throughout, while also maintaining a level of creepiness, because bugs are creepy, plus the science fiction story genre element works and is explained well. It’s not like 1950 American Monster Movie explanations where it is done rather quickly; MIMIC instead explains it bit by bit by the relevance of it as the characters begin to explore it. The science fiction side also makes a nice break/change from most monster horror fiction too as it goes into talk about the need for the bug species, but then how while science in the lab can be controlled, the real world can’t. The idea of this film being like a Michael Crichton novel was actually something my Lecturer suggested (who as far as I am aware has not seen it, but suggested such when I mentioned it), and when you look into it sort of does. The mention towards Jurassic Park is very apt I feel, as both stories talk about the new future for science, but in the real world, nature cannot be controlled so easily.

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I don’t know if you have watched The Strain or not (I can’t see why you wouldn’t have watched it, since the demise of Top Gear it is officially the best show on TV), but I find that in terms of the handling of its characters, Mimic has some rather similar similarities. The Strain is of course the TV Series adaptation of a book series written by Guillermo Del Toro himself about the release of a Vampire Virus. While Mimic has a similar feature in that sense, that is not what I am going to talk about right now. Mimic has an assortment of characters, all of them in varying different ways of life, the kind of people you wouldn’t necessarily think of associating with each other. Much like The Strain where you have some people who know and work on the Virus but then only to join up with others and create a rag-tag group of people which includes themselves, a pawn shop owner, an exterminator and a computer hacker. This sort of thing happens in Mimic also with characters ranging from an Entomologist, agents of the C.D.C., a subway cop, a shoe shiner, and his Autistic Ward suddenly converge on each other.

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Thankfully the major part of this cast is small so I am not going to get bogged down like the Independence Day review last week. Anyway; Mimic, sort of like Independence Day again, does work hard to incorporate and make good tertiary characters all the way through the film. So automatically within the first 10/15 minutes you get characters like Ricky and Davis who to begin with get a big role, but eventually, and something I feel of as a departure for the film, don’t survive and become early victims to the Mimic Bugs, but they’re not in the background, they are upfront, and so their death scene becomes a big moment for the film. Then you get characters like Josh, characters who meet the true meaning of supporting characters. He is the film’s light relief, a sort of comedy character. Another person who meets a grim end; but lasts longer than most. He spends most of the film complaining about his role/job and you don’t really connect with him, but for the sake of comedic relief he is ok. Next to him you also have characters like Remy and Dr. Gates. Gates presents the moral side of science, the character you need in a story like this. Someone who questions the true motives behind the uses of science to create the Judas Breed. But at no point does he lose his temper, but tries to show a logical understanding of what goes on and does what he can to support Susan. Remy meanwhile is a character I like, and consider an unfortunate casualty, as while she is a good character, and someone you want to see more of, she has very little in the way of appearances. So while she has a very positive start to this film, she does sort of get ignored from the half-way point onwards and I find that rather sad and a bit disappointing.

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Leonard is an odd one. He is a character that is very strong throughout this film and is very good at his job. Compared to most other roles played by Dutton, Leonard stands out more. He is something of a narrator, a historian more like, and who talks about the legends of the Mimic creatures before he even knows about them. Tells the tales of strange people called Long john, but also knows a lot about the underground area. As things begin to take a turn he becomes something of a guardian and a sacrificial hero to the group. He is an enjoyable character, and his singing is rather fun, I just wonder if his death is more a punishment for his unpleasantness, or if he is really needed to die at the end? In something of a similar character to Leonard, you have Manny, the shoe polisher. Much like Leonard he is very down to earth, works hard to both put food on the table and look after his ward in Chuy. He is an interesting character in that he is one of the films very few anchors, one of those people who in the midst of all the science fiction explaining, that brings it back down to a more common human level. He is very caring of Chuy, although finds him possibility a little bit irritating due to his condition, but in a similar vein to Leonard, you wonder if he is really needed as he just gets killed off like everyone else. Chuy meanwhile I find hard to think about it. Much like other characters in this section he has an interesting part, making friends with the bugs, rattling on his spoons, knowing everything about shoes. He has an interesting dynamic, but for the most part; particularly towards the end, he just becomes an alternate character to look out for and for the main characters to save, keep out of harm’s way. He is someone who is good, but as to why is the real question.

Peter Mann, someone who I cannot put my finger on, not in the sense that he is a good character, more in the form of I cannot figure why he is in this film. He starts out as the scientific boss and husband to Susan who then runs on a trail to discover and eventually annihilate the nest of the Judas Breed, but…this turn of character in him does not feel right. He doesn’t seem caring, more a sort of grumpy, he is not a connectable character, more a sort of supportive character that gets some attention. Yes his scenes underground leading to the big bug massacre is good, tense, thrilling and scary, it’s just for the most part, I just don’t get him. Which is entirely the opposite compared to Mira Sorvino’s character. What is a lovely strong female character throughout this film, you have someone who like many of the above loves and enjoys their work, but is the creator of the film’s main antagonist in the Judas Breed. Yes, there was plenty of reasoning to create them, to help wipe out a horrific disease, but just when she thinks they are all dead over, she begins to discover that isn’t necessarily the case. As things develop further, she gets thrusted head first into the situation, eventually meeting the mutated, evolved form of her creation, to then ultimately wiping them out, the one person who needed to do it. She doesn’t raise much of a smile throughout the film’s events, and is embroiled more into the case the more it develops, soon realising the real results of her work, and going from keen professional scientist, to a near nervous wreck at the devastation and death caused by the miracle bugs. So of course she has to end it all with one final, and possibly sacrificial last stand against the creatures, in the end saving humanity once again from the bugs she created to save them once before. Sorvino’s performance is brilliant in Mimic, she stands as the archetype and central figure throughout as a character that stands the rest of the film, not one who becomes a great hero, or an underdog, but someone who stands as a hero to begin with, but ultimately becomes a pre-underdog type character, being brought down to her knees on the result of her creation. A terrific performance by a true; but unfortunately, lesser (at current) titan of cinema.

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Let’s not forget however the film’s other characters. The Mimics. The Mimic Creatures in this film are nicely designed monstrosities made for a purpose but ultimately become a new threat, somewhat similar to a species of creature they were supposed to wipe out. In explanation, they were designed to kill off the common cockroach to aid in the killing of a deadly virus striking down the children of Manhattan Island. The end result of that being the death of the virus, but due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, the Mimic bugs themselves, become a new bug threat. While not a virus, like the one they helped rid the city of, still a very dangerous one. Mimic’s, so named for their ability to imitate their main predator/prey in man is a wonderful idea, one that chills the spine, but sets them up as human like characters until they eventually reveal themselves true and proper, not as humans, but as ferocious bugs. Their design is brilliant, somewhat held back by some dodgy late 90’s CGI, their appearance is still terrifying with a hint of realism, and the fact that the way they are shown of pursuing the humans like Prey adds another detail of character, not in something that is to be ignored or does ignore, but rather a merciless killer.

The special Effects are a bit hit and Miss in Mimic. As stated above, the CGI suffers a bit and doesn’t stand out as well as effects delivered in films of its time including Independence Day one year earlier, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park released in the same year as Mimic. The film’s quick scenes and quick moments of movement on part of the Mimic’s sort of make up for it. Yes; while there is still the odd dodgy bit here and there, for the most part in how they used, they look alright, and still don’t ruin the incredible level of design that went into the creature designs. Sadly though due to the lack of well-done CGI, the effects have not aged too well, and these days it’s only the real in shot stuff that still works, and the CGI looks rookie in vain to today’s standards, it’s just so lucky that everything else pretty much works in terms of the film making. But while the CGI falls a lot short, the close up uses of suits/animatronics/puppets/masks/whatever they are is brilliant. The effect of having something there and visible in camera, with added detail such as odd hairs and prongs on the arms and claws are well done. In a similar style to the Alien creatures in Aliens, if it was just the, whatever it was they used, it would have been superb throughout. Add to this the level of additional props and set pieces, like the underground sections, the cart, and of course the icky sticky, very unnerving egg pods. Those in the final scenes in the nest are really creepy, and add to it the bug like sounds, you have something that while in the main part is a horror film, still has room for moments of a horrible, repulsive, disgusting and off-putting by far, nature. Another addition I would quickly like to mention is the several uses of city skyline shots, there are only really 2 I can think of, but both of them are lovely on-screen shots that help to break up the film, but anyway back to the Bugs.

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But while the Special Effects may fall short, the soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) certainly doesn’t. The film’s early sounds from scenes such as the release of the Mimic’s and attack on the priest present a very mysterious yet monstrous feel to them. The entire soundtrack on the whole sounds more operatic and monstrous more than anything else, especially the opening and closing credits. They present something of a mystery, like something is hiding, then reveals itself, and is a stark, terrifying monstrosity standing in front of you, and all that you can do, is just stare and scream, there is no running. It’s almost setting your eyes upon a Frankenstein like creature, standing in front of you; Ominous not moving, just pure terrifying. And that is just the soundtrack. Yes it works in tandem with the film, but just to provide a sense of that in listening to it, and also being memorable enough to still create a sense of that is remarkable.

Truly Terrifying: that is the best way to describe Mimic. A terrifying experience all worked into one film supported by all directions by horrifying looking creatures, great characters played by a wonderful cast, horrifying soundtrack and a gripping, thrilling story with a mix of Science Fiction to make Mimic not just a Horror Film, but a really spine tingling mystery. While maybe not standing out as much as Del Toro’s other well-known films like Pan’s Labyrinth for instance, that does not mean that it should be overlooked. Mimic is deserving of another chance, I don’t mean a remake (although a TV series could be interesting), I mean having another watch. Sure it has on and offs, and maybe t’s not Del Toro’s greatest piece of cinema art work, but for the sake of watching a horror film that both creeps you out and nearly scares you to death simply from the ideas that it generates I think is worthy of giving it another look. Now when I think of Del Toro, I am going to think of this film more in detail and equality of mention to his other works. So, Night Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let The Big Bed Bugs Bite, Hopefully See You In The Morning Light.

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).








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