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

28 12 2016

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).





Let’s Just Say I’m Frankenstein’s Monster – X-Men: First Class

23 10 2015

X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox - 2011)

It’s pretty clear to see that the characters featured in X-Men aren’t exactly, human (except for those who are). No, they’re Mutants, mutants with extraordinary powers, ones that allow them to do magnificent things for either the side of good, or that of evil. But have you ever wondered how all this came to pass, how Charles Xavier founded the X-Men and how Magneto came to be his great Nemesis? Neither have I, but for those who do want to know, you have 2 options. Either read the comics which you can find either online or in shops that sell comics, or you can just watch this film.

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Released in 2011 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Matthew Vaughn and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; X-Men: First Class is the fifth film in X-Men film series, and is the second spin-off from the main series. First Class goes in a different direction to the previous three films however, instead going back in time to tell the origins story and early history of the X-Men. The film is loosely based off the X-Men comic series First Class, and introduces several new characters into the series plus recasting a few others.

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In 1944, at one of Hitler’s Jewish prison camps, young Erik Lensher shows off extraordinary powers when he bends a metal gate. This grabs the attention of Scientist Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) who kills Erik’s mother when he wouldn’t move a coin. This enrages Erik into destroying most of Schmidt’s lab. In New York meanwhile, young Charles Xavier discovers a blue skinned mutant called Raven stealing from his family’s kitchen and invites her to join his family. In 1962, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has now grown up and is pursuing Schmidt leaving a trail of destruction in both Switzerland and later Argentina. In Oxford, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) graduates from University with a Thesis on Mutation, and lives there with his now fostered sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). In Las Vegas meanwhile, CIA Agent, Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is tracking army officer; Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower), when she discovers him talking to Klaus Schmidt, now going by the name Sebastian Shaw, along with his team of mutants Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Emma Frost (January Jones) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng). Azazel teleports Hendry to the joint war room where he gives his support for placing nuclear weapons in Turkey. Needing more advice on the subject of Mutants, Moira goes to see Xavier in Oxford and invites him to the CIA and convince Director McCone (Matt Craven) that mutants exist, and another CIA officer (Oliver Platt) shows his support for them. Xavier and Moira locate Shaw on his private boat, just as Erik tries to kill him. Shaw escapes, and Erik is rescued by Xavier who jumps in the water to prevent him from drowning. At the CIA’s X Division, the group meet young scientist and mutant Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), whom Raven immediately begins to bond with. Erik tries to leave with documents about Shaw, but Xavier encourages him to stay. Using a machine built by Hank called Cerebro, Xavier and Erik recruit other mutants to the CIA X Division: Alex Summers (Lucas Till), Armando Munoz (Edi Gathegi), Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), and try to recruit one other who is less than interested.

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One night, the young mutants show off their powers to one another and come up with codenames for themselves becoming; Havok, Darwin, Banshee, Angel respectively, with Raven choosing the name Mystique and giving Xavier and Magneto the names Professor X and Magneto. Believing they are unready to go to Russia to find Shaw with them, Erik, Xavier and Moira go to a senior Russian military officer’s (Rade Šerbedžija) house where only Emma shows up. Desperately wanting to find Shaw, Erik goes rogue, manages to break into the building and confront Emma, breaking her diamond form so that Xavier can read her mind. Inside he discovers Shaw’s plan to create a full on nuclear war and trigger the rise of mutant kind. Back at X Division meanwhile Shaw, Riptide and Azazel, find the young mutants and try to recruit them, successfully recruiting Angel to their side, and killing Darwin in the process. Wanting to avenge the death of Darwin, Xavier takes the others back to his childhood home where they all train and better master their own abilities. Havok gets better control of his thanks to a new suit, and Banshee can now fly. Hank meanwhile is busy trying to create a serum to look normal, which eventually causes a rift between him and Raven. Erik on the other hand is still struggling to get the best out of his abilities, when Xavier unlocks his mind however; he is able to do almost anything.

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With some persuasion by Shaw, the USSR decides to deploy its Nuclear weapons in Cuba. Xavier and his team decide to try and stop it, with Erik only really wanting to do it to kill Shaw. Hank’s Serum to make him look human, fails and his real form, a blue furry Beast comes into full view. In Cuba, the navies of the USSR and the USA are poised ready to fight. Xavier’s team arrive, and using his telepathy, Xavier manages to blow up the Nuclear Cargo Ship halting World War 3. Shaw meanwhile has a backup plan to absorb the nuclear reactor core of his submarine and release it through himself. Using Banshee’s ability underwater, Erik is able to lift the submarine, before crashing it on the beach. Xavier’s mutants fight Shaw’s while Erik goes inside the crashed sub to find Shaw. There the two fight, with Shaw getting the upper hand. Erik manages to remove Shaw’s helmet, which prevented Xavier getting inside his head. Erik however puts it on his own head preventing Xavier from stopping him. He takes out the coin from the day his mother was killed by Shaw, and sends it straight through Shaw’s head, killing him instantly.

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The USSR and USA decide to join forces in ending a potential mutant threat there and then, attacking the mutants on the beach. Erik, now in full control of his abilities, stops their weapons from reaching them, before sending them straight back at the attacking ships. Xavier tries to stop Erik and the two fights with Erik still sending the weapons at the ships. Moira tries to shoot Erik, but a stray bullet hits Xavier in the back. The ships are saved from the oncoming arsenal, and Erik along with Shaw’s team and Raven leave, with Xavier now paralyzed. Back at the mansion, Xavier now in a wheelchair talks about setting up an academy there, and shares a kiss with Moira, wiping her memories to protect them. In the CIA Basement, Erik turns up to rescue Emma, now calling himself Magneto.

OK, this may seem weird, but please bear with me as I quote the back of my DVD copy of the film:

“See how it all began in this thrilling first chapter of the X-MEN saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensher became Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were enemies, they were the closest of friends and gathered an elite team of mutants to form the X-Men in an attempt to prevent World War III.”

In a nutshell, that is what the film is about basically, two guys who discover they have mutant powers, become friends and prevent yet another World War. In more detail however, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Yes, it’s all the above, but entwined and intermixed together there is a lot more going on than just that. The film’s story is beautifully crafted and is one of the best stories in this series to discover. The film sort of takes the audience back to what the first film was about and concentrates the narrative on two specific characters and what happens to and around them. While the story does lead up to the prevention of World War 3, that’s not its main story. Interestingly, it happens at a time when mutant kind is not necessarily a growing political and social issue. It’s more in the discovery process but only really afflicts those who have visible mutant traits, particularly more so towards Raven. What you get instead is that it’s more of a sub plot, and the concentration is more on the growing possibility of nuclear war and one man’s attempts to start one in order to benefit more himself than anyone else. One thing I rather like about the film’s story telling is how it has combined a fictional setting with real world events. The use of the Cuban Missile Crisis really helps to make the story seem real, like it’s all happening in this world and not just some fantasy or comic book setting. It provides suggestions as to what really happened during that time. It’s not in a fictional world but actually feels like Mutants could be living amongst us. Plus it helps to date the stories and give us perspective as to how far back the film’s plot is set. The setting of the final fight also creates something of a powder keg and shows the moment when mutants first came to public light. It really sets up the scene for future films and stories. Aside from both of these however, is a story that contains lots of interesting elements that come out when characters are looked into. The film contains a lot of characters, some with large backstories for such small roles. While there are some mutants who don’t get this allowance like Riptide or sadly Darwin, others, like Havok, and Angel show an interesting level of character. Havok is so quiet in this film, and is shown as being the kind of person who prefers being alone most of the time, showing this through several insults. However there is a redeeming feature to this. When Darwin dies, Alex does have a sense of regret and sadness inside himself. As the film goes on he opens up more, but keeps his regular side, possibly showing a more vulnerable side to himself. Angel (brilliantly played by Zoe Kravitz) similarly presents a similar character. While when I first saw this film, I was angry at the presentation of Angel, as I was more wanting Archangel (in the comics she’s called Tempest), I grew to her character more and she is an enjoyable addition to the cast. Angel is an interesting character as she so quickly becomes a villain. Not through her wanting to be one, but more through not wanting to hide as a mutant forever, and be accepted for whom she truly is (plus some possible charming from Shaw).

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Other notable cast members on something of a shortlist include Banshee. An interesting part and it wasn’t until I saw this film that I had a proper understanding of what his powers were and what he could do. His costume and look appear to be a lot like they are in the comics. He doesn’t necessarily feel persecuted for who he is and is more open from the start. Xavier’s work with him really helps to grow his confidence too. Azazel I feel is trying to have a big role but I don’t think he works other than for being a hired gun. It sort of feels like an attempt to include a character like Nightcrawler, but have them as a villain. He has a few short scenes of speaking parts which help him out and he is an important part of Shaw’s team, but I don’t feel all that strongly for him. Darwin I do feel rather sorry for as he gets killed off rather quickly, which is a shame because he seemed like genuinely a nice character. Emma Frost however is fantastic. Another brilliantly played part that is both cold as her name plus a lot of fun to follow. She is intelligent and sinister as well as possibly a bit deceptive. She has a lot of loyalty towards Shaw despite having some misgivings as the way he treats her. She wears some fantastic clothing that really do help to represent her status in the film as not a hired gun but an intelligent role, plus match an element of her clothing in the comics and cartoons (minus the cape).

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First Class makes great use of big stars for minor roles and includes a stellar cast from people who play small parts, but make a big impact due to them being such famous faces. People of note being Ray Wise, Glen Morshower, Matt Craven, Rade Šerbedžija, Michael Ironside and Oliver Platt. Along with these you of course get Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw (this is not a small role). I really do like the inclusion of the Hellfire Club in this film. It’s a section of my X-Men: The Ultimate Guide I have read on many occasions, but while I have known about Emma Frost for a while, it was only in recent times coming up to the release of this film that I really began to discover who Sebastian Shaw was. It was through reading Essential X-Men a year or two beforehand that I was first properly introduced, followed by an inclusion of the character in Wolverine and The X-Men on TV. In First Class, Shaw is just as sinister and uses his wealth and power to create his grand schemes plus the manipulation of those around him. His early introduction allows the character of Erik to be brought into the story, plus the film’s first goal for a character and plot. His powers make him practically invulnerable to attack and as such require both the abilities of Xavier and Magneto to defeat him. Much like the Hellfire Club, Shaw is a brilliant character to have as a villain in this and his team of mutants works well to his character. His final death puts the film in a position ready for its next important twist plus brings out Magneto for who he is. I think Rose Byrne is somewhat underused in this film as she slowly builds to the want of a relationship with Charles, but while the Mutants train, she doesn’t appear to be there. Unlike the people at the CIA who see Mutants as something else, Moira sees more in them. She is confident and always looking for an opportunity to prove herself, which she finds hard to do. She is sort of a comparison to what mutants feel, as she is a woman trying to do a job in a still male orientated world. Despite this though, I still feel like she is underused, especially for such an actress as good as Rose Byrne; despite this though she remains an enjoyable cast member throughout the film.

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First Class immediately shows Beast, where as he was delayed from being included until Last Stand in the previous trilogy. In this he tries to hide his mutation from others from the start, and is determined to accomplish the goal of being as normal as possible. While to begin with this triggers a bond between him and Raven, this does lead to a rift as the film goes along. He eventually comes to sort of accept who he is, but struggles with it again when Raven leaves. Raven meanwhile is not flaunting her ability as she did in the first 3 films. Either this could be because she is played by a different actress, or it could be because she is struggling with whom she really is. She hates and despises how people like Charles can look normal, while she has to regularly hide. This causes an early rift between her and her foster-brother and just builds and builds. While not necessarily being a major explored relationship in the film, the obnoxiousness and ignorance presented by Xavier shows his real lack of understanding for her and begins to reveal a weak spot in him. It’s not until Magneto talks to Raven that she begins to explore her right to be who she is, and accepts this as the film ends. Xavier meanwhile is one of the key characters explored in this film. From the start he tries to show himself as an understanding person, but shows a weak flaw in that he doesn’t really understand everything, as he thinks he does. Sure, he does help those around him who need it, but his lack of understanding with Raven causes a rift between them and slowly begins to ignore her. It’s like he’s trying to ground her, instead of helping her. Xavier then is not who he will become and is still playing around a little. He tries to stay calm and respectful in the situation. He also shares some real dramatic and emotional moments, and through one of these, which connects to his belief that mutants and humans can live together ends with him losing his legs, (plus the moment when he can feel the coin going through the head of Shaw).

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But it’s Magneto who is the film’s best character. Out of all the characters in the film, it’s Magneto who I connect the most with. While he would grow to become the series greatest villain, it’s interesting to see how it all happened. From his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazi’s, the death of his mother and being experimented on; to the acts that would define and make him the villain that he is today. He has many terrific, enjoyable, memorable and fantastic scenes in this film that are bolstered by his own character traits. But it should be remembered that he does not start out as a villain. While I see other comic villains as being evil just for the sake of being evil, Magneto’s rise to villainy status is shown in a more understanding way. While he will commit atrocious acts against others, it’s hard to say that he is doing it for the wrong reasons, as he has experienced incredible atrocities onto himself. He experienced life in the prison camps, the murder of his mother, and experimentation at the hands of a monster. His life previously can only be imagined, but given what is known about the treatment of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany, it’s only fair to see what was in store for Erik growing up. As the film progresses; he begins to commit those atrocities on humanity, but I find myself rooting for him. First on the Germans responsible for what happened to him, to the eventual scene against the ships. Both that and the scene in Argentina are two of the film’s most powerful scenes, and ones I am rooting Magneto to accomplish. Every time I watch the attack on the ships, I want them destroyed, because I sort of feel Erik’s pain, and it feels like Justice needs to be served. Add to this Magneto’s theme as well as Fassbender’s amazing performance and you have a character that stands out so well, that you can’t help but feel a bond with him every time he is on-screen.

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X-Men First class is beautifully shot and uses combinations of set pieces with real settings plus some cool camera tricks to make it stand out. I particularly like the camera angles used in the fight between Banshee and Angel. Costumes have always been something of a stand out feature in the X-Men films, and First Class is no different. From things like formal and casual attire, to the super suits. Instead though being like the jet black leather suits of the first trilogy, they look more like the suits in the early comics, which I think is a neat little addition. Add to it the personal traits of costumes too; such as Emma’s Suit Dress, Banshee’s wings, Havok’s disk, and the all famous Magneto Helmet, particularly at the end of the film. From there it’s onto the special effects of which there are many. The films have moved on in special effects from the outstanding Golden Gate Bridge scene in Last Stand and include lots of big special effects to just say “WOW!” at. From the Submarine pickup, to the navy’s arsenal, to the giant Warships themselves. I like how the Iowa class battleships get a part in this film, they look so cool. But it’s not just the big stuff. The mutant powers are on show too. Some are on show for the first time like Banshee’s scream and Havok’s ability, plus old favourites too like Mystique’s transformation. It’s not all down to Computer Effects though as some are more realistic and look superb such as the slicing of the statue at X Division, to the point where Shaw picks up an Iron Bar with his hands.

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The film’s soundtrack (Composed by Henry Jackman) is just as incredible as everything else in this film, plus is so memorable too. The film’s main theme (in my opinion) has to be Magneto’s theme. It is featured in the credits which I like, plus, when used in certain scenes shows the growing darkness and aggression that Magneto carries towards those he feels have wronged him. From the Argentinian bar where he grows from a mysterious acquaintance, to the moment he reveals himself and what he thinks about himself. There is just this growing essence of anger inside it which really carries his character for him in those scenes. While in other scenes it’s played around with, it’s still Magneto’s theme and I enjoy listening to it every time I hear it. It’s just so dark and menacing.

The film does have other pieces which stand out too. The film does use pieces of music from well established artists including Love Love by Take That (a really good song) and an instrumental version of Run by Gnarls Barkley used during the recruiting scene. As for the rest of the film’s soundtrack, a lot of pieces use the same piece within them. It’s a sort of calm, joyful and pleasant piece and is used several times as a starter. It begins in the Cerebro scene, the reveal of the mansion at the end of the second act and the lifting of the submarine. It’s a nice piece, just a generally nice piece. It even has a bigger part when the jet appears over the sea above the navies, a grander tone perhaps. Add to this other pieces of note such as the lifting of the submarine which brings more a scene of amazement, or to the Cerebro scene where it quickens and I get tingles down my spine just hearing it increase in speed. There is a definite feel of the period in the film’s soundtrack, and it shows (well hears) and is so pleasant to listen to. A great deal of work has gone into the soundtrack for First Class, and it has not gone to waste.

Alltogether; I love this film. I really do. I don’t like it as much I would say as X2 which I still consider my Favourite of the series, but I would say that First Class is a close second. I really do like this film, its story is tense and gripping, its characters are fun, and new, plus connectable, it’s combination of Special Effects and Soundtrack are amazing and most of all; Magneto is Fantastic. While more films have been released since and still more to come, I still absolutely enjoy this film for everything it has. Sure, it does have some shortcomings in some of its characters, but for every minor issue, there are 10 other things that make up for them. You don’t need to know much about X-Men to enjoy this film as it is a complete beginning for these characters without being a reboot. Overall, X-Men First Class is a fantastic film; I really recommend it.

GENEPOOL





Waldo’s People

6 03 2013

The Waldo Moment

Last week I finally got round to watching Black Mirror, a TV show written by someone whose work I am a fan of and a man who is an inspiration to me; Charlie Brooker. Black Mirror is a show that airs on Channel 4 and I have been wanting to watch since it started but I have not really had the time to get round to it. So for the final episode of the series, I made sure that I would watch it, so I recorded it. The following Wednesday I watched the episode entitled The Waldo Moment and I was terrified.

Charlie Brooker

Explaining the idea of the show to The Guardian, Brooker noted– “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone”.   That is what Black Mirror in essence is about; it is about the addiction we all have to our technology, our gadgets. The trailer for the series shows and represents this in a way that is horrifying. In terms of how the series is structured Brooker also noted – “each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”. When the series’ first began in 2011 and I heard about this structure I thought it sounded a lot like The Outer Limits, where each episode is un-connected and different.

Black Mirror

Returning to the Waldo Moment, When I watched the trailer for the episode I was expecting some kind of deep underground government type thriller but what I got instead was the collapse of someone behind a mask. Waldo is a cartoon character-digital puppet who has a section on a late night program where he interviews politicians under the guise of a children’s TV show character. The man who is the puppeteer of the character is a failed comedian by the name of Jamie (brilliantly played by Daniel Rigby). The character is extremely popular with the audience and he soon gets his own show, despite Jamie being depressed and generally down with life as a whole. The Waldo Moment the title of the show suggests is a moment at a Q&A session with candidates at a local election when the Conservative Candidate verbally attacks both Jamie and Waldo. Jamie (as Waldo) returns fire and verbally attacks all the candidates. The incident gets put on YouTube and becomes a Smash Hit.

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For me the Episode of Black Mirror was simply terrifying. Why you might ask, well; the topic of the episode had this sense of terrifying realism to it which made it incredibly believable yet scary as if it could actually happen. Waldo and the Waldo moment shows how much young people in particular can be persuaded by a character. The character appeals to them particularly in the politics sense because he is saying what they are all thinking, and so he connects with them on a psychological level. Waldo is also a gimmick, a fad, something that given a few years (or more likely weeks to months) will be forgotten. It is something that the young people can talk about, and spread through chat, emails, Facebook as well as through their phones. Something that is popular now that is their thing, their subject, the scene if you will and will remain that way until it runs out of steam, in which case something else will be sought out while the other thing will be forgotten quickly and only remembered by a few and brought up in conversation at dinner parties. But how does this topic connect with the Black Mirror; the Black Mirror is YouTube. YouTube did not start until 2005 and so when I was at High School the only way of watching Videos was the TV. During my time at High School several of the Students used to refer to songs that were in Adverts, and it used to drive me Mad, but they kept doing it and doing it and did not really stop until either the Advert stopped showing all together or a new one came out. I remember them all, Belly’s Gonna Get Ya, Birdseye Potato Advert, Mazda Zoom Zoom Zoom, What Sits On Your Wotsits and others. When YouTube did start the online world changed and within about 2 years it was worth $2,000,000,000. In recent years the term viral has become an established name for specific pieces of content. Viral meaning it spreads, like a virus. Possibly the most well-known of these in recent times being Gangnam Style.

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The Waldo Moment is a YouTube video which has gone viral, but the show reveals a terrifying as well as potential side of this form of media. The idea that people in Viral Videos could potentially rule the world (seeing as technology has technically already done that).  This idea is shown even more so at the end of the episode, (I won’t ruin it for you). The episode is about more than just a Cartoon Character or an Idea though. The episode shows strong emotional levels within the main character of Jamie. He starts off depressed and continually goes downhill until he reaches a destination, which results in one half of him flying off into space and the other going downhill.

Christina Chong, Daniel Rigby and Jason Flemyng

Altogether the episode is one of the most thought-provoking pieces as well as one of the scariest pieces of television I have seen in years. I look forward to watching more of Black Mirror, but I am also terrified to do so, why? It is so realistic to the world now that while the incidents in the episode may not be real now or may not become real at all in the future, but it is still a strong possibility.

GENEPOOL (You can watch this episode on 4OD)








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