Top 5 Films of 2016 (It’s Been A Funny Year)

11 01 2017

godzilla-resurgence (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2016)

Since a very young age, I have been a fan of the Two Ronnies. It’s a comedy love that I still carry to this day and continue to enjoy looking back on every now and then. But despite this love for two comedy greats, I have always struggled with Ronnie Barker’s sitcoms. I have seen numerous episodes of Porridge and Open All Hours, but in all honesty have never found them to be all that funny. I have watched plenty of episodes; maybe an odd wisp of laughter here and there, but on the whole, just did not get them. If anything, the only thing that would get a faint pant of air from my lungs would be the spring-loaded till in Open All Hours. Despite this lack of understanding on my part, one thing though that has shined on to me in a way is how sometimes on occasion, I cannot help but at the end of the day say; “It’s been a funny day”. Well, looking back on the movies of 2016, I now cannot help but say “It’s been a funny year”.

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A Funny year is indeed how I feel this year has gone by in terms of movie releases. There have been several high-profile and low profile releases that have caught the eyes of myself and many other movie goers. We have seen live action remakes of animated classics, rebirths of classic comedy, and revolutionary new ideas in already popular genres as well as the usual treasure trove of sequels and heart-warmers. For me personally it’s been a weird one, with a lot of films that I wanted to see being released in the first half of the year, with the second half being a collection of films that I was wavering watching or not. Quite a few of these films were pretty fun and are included in this list, but there have been one or two disappointments. Firstly I did not get to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows or Kung Fu Panda 3 (not forgetting the new Japanese Godzilla film which nobody considers releasing for people living in the UK!), but the big disappointment for me had to be Dad’s Army. It was funny in places; but everything else was just boring by comparison with an acting pool not living up to their own acclaim and a story that was not worth bothering with!

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There have been some high’s thankfully, some of which are unable to be featured in this list and just want to give a quick shout out to (in no particular order): Allegiant, X-Men: Apocalypse, Eddie The Eagle, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But now the main event; as per usual: films will be rated in ascending order with Number 1 being my favourite and 5 being not as much my favourite but still a good film, and as always, the list applies to films that were released and shown on the big screen between the traditional 12 month period of January to December. So without dragging this on any further, here are my Top Five Favourite Films of the year (yes, this year it is actually 5).

ethel-and-ernest (Cloth Cat Animation - 2016)

5. Ethel & Ernest – Based on the Raymond Briggs graphic novel of the same name, Ethel and Ernest is about the life of Briggs’s own parents as they meet, date, marry and live their lives through the changing face of Great Britain. Originally meant to be shown on TV during Christmas 2016, special big screen showings were done in places around the country including at The Dukes in Lancaster. Before seeing this film I had no idea what it was about, thinking it was When The Wind Blows by mistake (having forgotten what that was called), then my Mam told me differently; a little unsure but still interested I decided to go see it, and really enjoyed it. I liked how it was less a film, more an animated slide show of the lives of an incredible couple living through the hardships of London life during WWII, to raising a son, to a new way of life compared to their own upbringing. I especially enjoyed the shots of WWII city life as most documentaries I have seen have mostly focused on evacuations and the front line, but this instead showed what life was like in a major city. Overall I enjoyed this film a great deal, from its unique form of storytelling to its charming and colourful animation style.

10-cloverfield-lane (Bad Robot Productions - 2016)

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane – If you are like me, then over the last few years you will have been calling out for a Cloverfield sequel since Cloverfield’s original released in 2008. For years I have kept tabs on it to see if such a film was going to happen or not, and so far no official sequel has appeared; a spiritual successor has though. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different film to the original Cloverfield. Whilst the first film was a found footage drama about a group of people trying to survive a monster attack on New York City; 10 Cloverfield Lane is about a young lady (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who finds herself in a bomb shelter with two other people, and begins to get cold feet surrounding the older of the two (John Goodman). The film in essence is both a psychological and science fiction horror as for the first good half you get the feeling that something is going on above ground as the characters get used to a new life underground, until the main character finds evidence that suggests that everything underground isn’t groovy either, eventually leading to a tense situation that culminates in a giant twist that makes you rethink everything you have just seen. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a one-of-a-kind film that makes you want to feel out for your Teddy Bear and grip it tight.

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

3. Independence Day: Resurgence – Much like number four on this list, if you are like me and absolutely love the Roland Emmerich science fiction film Independence Day, you will have also been hoping that maybe one day there might be a sequel to it; well (two decades later), one has indeed been released. Twenty years after the events of the first film, humanity has used the technology scrounged from the remains of the alien fleet to upgrade their own technology and bolster up defences of planet Earth. This however has not turned out to be all that fruitful however, as the once defeated alien empire has decided to enact a counter attack by sending in a much bigger force than the last one. The first film’s core cast (minus an obvious one) have returned to fight alongside a new cast of characters including (but not limited to); Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe. The film itself was once again packed with a jaw dropping cavalcade of special effects that once again bring the awe and fascination that the first film did so well, but does not content itself by making a simple remake, but a strong sequel that does things a little bit differently and contains several other genres, not just the basic few. Overall I was mightily pleased with the end result.

your-name (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2016)

2. Your Name. – If you look through the prolific catalogue of films produced by Studio Ghibli, there are many highlighted classics. Having recently become a major fan of the studio’s works, I am always on the lookout for new films to watch to add to my growing collection. Some of the films on show though that do not necessarily grab my attention however are the convoy of teen based romantic dramas. In most cases I actually try to avoid them as they don’t really appeal to me. Well this year, I saw a film which was along those lines (not released by Studio Ghibli) while also entwined with a Science Fiction enhanced story that within an instant became one of my favourite films this year. Your Name. is a Japanese Anime film directed by (Makoto Shinkai), which tells the tales of a boy and girl who have never met and live in completely opposite locations miles apart from each other, but for some reason get connected, as when they sleep, they dream the lives of the other, not realizing at first, that in reality they have in fact changed bodies. It is a strange film to begin with that leads to some really funny situations, but things take a sudden turn which causes one character to search out the other and come across a grim reality that makes them attempt to change the course of history. I must say I actually really enjoyed it. I was put off at first by its romantic idea, but upon finishing wanted to give it a standing ovation. It was so different, yet so unique that I was left gobsmacked for one that I enjoyed such a film that I would have normally tried so hard to put off. By failing to look round that I did not properly foresee the science fiction elements that I just so love and the two together created a potent mix that made me leave the cinema with a smile across my face. I absolutely enjoyed this film to its absolute core and it has made me rethink my earlier stance on romantic teen anime films.

deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

1. Deadpool – Just bear with me for a moment as I get my head in the right frame of mind for this one…

With all the super hero related movies that are getting released these days, I think it’s good that we have at least one film that we as an audience can actually connect with. Saving the world is good and all, but what about when you return home and find out that some maniac has kidnapped your girlfriend, I think we can all agree that that is probably far more important! Deadpool is the next major spin-off in the X-Men Film Series and stars everyone’s loud mouthed mercenary as he sets out not to save the world, but rescue his girlfriend and hope he can receive some good plastic surgery in the process. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, backed up with the talents of Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller and Morena Baccarin in what has to be one of the strangest films of all time. Deadpool is not your run of the mill superhero movie, as Deadpool isn’t really a superhero, more just someone rather deadly you don’t want to offend. Deadpool comes wrapped in a neat pile of action, guns, violence, comedy, sexual antics and fourth wall breaking moments to create a truly incredible experience that will have other superhero movies (and super heroes) taking notice. Altogether this film creates a matchless form of cinematic awesomeness becoming not just the most standout film of this year, but also my absolute favourite film of 2016.

GENEPOOL (what was your favourite film of 2016?).





With Great Power, Comes Great Irresponsibility – Deadpool

16 03 2016

Deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

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

Me: There is.

Bloke: No!

Me: Yes, it’s called Deadpool.

Bloke: Oh, is it any good?

Me: Yes.

Bloke: Cool.

Deadpool

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

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

Me: Understand?

Bloke: NO!

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Are you still here?

Bloke: Apparently?

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

Bloke: I thought this was a review?

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

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

Bloke: Then why don’t you?

Me: Because it will take too long.

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

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

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

Bloke: So why did you bother trying then?

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

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

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

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

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

Bloke: Are you referring to me?

Me: “Hey, Yeah – I wanna shoop baby”

Bloke: Sorry, are you singing?

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

Bloke: Well sure…

Me: Well thank you, now please leave!

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL





We Are The Future Charles, Not Them – X-Men

19 10 2015

X-Men (20th Century Fox - 2000)

Life as a super hero must be great; the ability to do abnormal, inhuman things, wield extraordinary powers and help out others. All the admiration of those you help and save. Your own super hero suit, a wicked super hero name; the list just continues to get better and better……….doesn’t it? Well, what if, instead of being like most super heroes, (in that you gain your powers through an event), you are instead born with them? Will you still be considered a super hero and loved by all……….or will you be discriminated for who you really are?

Released in 2000 by 20th Century Fox, X-Men is the first big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics‘ successful and much-loved Super Hero team of the same name. Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Directed by Bryan Singer, the film follows the X-Men as they go to battle against long-time foe Magneto while also fighting for their own freedom.

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In 1944, at a German prison camp in Poland, young teenager Erik Lensher gets separated from his parents, causing him to mysteriously bend some metal gates before being knocked out. Many decades later a girl called Marie accidently causes harm to a boy when they kiss. At a political and public hearing, Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) is trying to persuade his idea for a mutant registration act, which will cause mutants to publicly reveal their powers. At the event, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) meets his old friend, a now grown up Erik Lensher who is now better known as Magneto (Ian McKellen). They discuss their views on the subject, but Erik won’t waver from his view that neither species can live together peacefully. Meanwhile in Alaska, Marie, now going by the name Rogue (Anna Paquin) arrives at a bar in Alberta Canada. There she meets Logan (Hugh Jackman) who fends off two guys with sharp metal claws protruding from his hands. Rogue tries to hitch a lift with him, who at first refuses but quickly changes his mind. While in his vehicle, Rogue and Logan begin talking, with Rogue spotting the name Wolverine written on his dog tags. His vehicle crashes into a felled tree, but Logan recovers from his wounds almost instantaneously. They are then attacked however by a ferocious mutant called Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) before being rescued by two mysterious people in black leather.

Logan wakes up in an underground medical centre being overlooked by Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He darts out of the centre but keeps hearing voices telling him where to go. He makes his way into a posh looking house and sees lots of children running around and tries to hide in a small room, only to walk into a class room where he is met by Professor Xavier. He is then met by mutants Ororo; also called Storm (Halle Berry) and Scott Summers; also called Cyclops (James Marsden) followed by Jean Grey. He asks about Rogue, to which Xavier says she is safe, and that the mutant who attacked them is an associate of Magneto. Logan does not believe a word of what he is hearing, but then Xavier probes his past, revealing he is a psychic. Logan is taken on a tour of the grounds, which happens to be a school for mutants, but on the lower levels is the secret base for the super hero team called the X-Men. Magneto meanwhile kidnaps Senator Kelly and experiments on him with a bizarre machine. While in a prison cell sometime later, Senator Kelly discovers he has a mutant ability all of a sudden, and uses it to escape.

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Back at the school, Rogue gets involved in an accident when Logan accidently stabs her with his claws. Rogue uses her powers to borrow his healing power to heal her. She is later confronted by class mate Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) who tells her that it might be an idea to leave. He is however not who he appears to be, rather an impersonation by Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). Xavier uses his machine Cerebro to locate Rogue who is running away. Logan finds and convinces her to give Xavier one more chance. In the train Station though, while trying to find Rogue, Cyclops and Storm are attacked by Sabretooth and Toad (Ray Park). Magneto boards the train, subdues Logan and injects Rogue to knock her out, kidnapping her. Outside the train station, Magneto is met by the police, but he snatches their guns off and threatens them. Using his psychic powers, Xavier takes control of Toad and Sabretooth to try and end things peacefully, but gives in. Logan is furious and heads out again to look for Rogue, but runs into Senator Kelly who is at the front door of Xavier’s school. Reading his mind, Xavier discovers that Kelly was experimented on by Magneto using a machine that accelerates mutation, therefore turning Kelly into a Mutant. The experiment however nearly kills Magneto, meaning that he hopes to use Rogue to power it instead, Kelly then dies from the mutation. Xavier tries to find Rogue once more, but falls ill when the machine seemingly fails. With Xavier out of action, Jean discovers that Cerebro was sabotaged by Mystique. Despite not being strong enough to use it herself, Jean uses Cerebro to find Rogue and discover Magneto’s plan.

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Magneto plans to use the machine at a meeting of the world’s leaders, turning them all into Mutants. The team of Jean, Cyclops and Storm, along with Wolverine head out to New York and the Statue of Liberty, where Magneto has placed his machine. The X-Men are attacked by Toad and Mystique in the museum, with Storm dealing with Toad and Mystique by Wolverine. They are then captured by Magneto who places them in positions that prevent them from using their powers. Wolverine manages to escape and with help dispatches Sabretooth; too late however, Magneto starts up his machine. The energy created nearly succeeds in reaching the world’s leaders on Ellis Island, but Wolverine manages to break the machine and rescue Rogue, who is motionless. Wolverine hugs her, hoping she is alive enough to take his power to heal her. At first there is nothing, but then Wolverine’s old injuries resurface as Rogue reawakens. Back at the mansion, Xavier recovers to find Logan unconscious on a medical bed, soon recovering and stating his love for Jean, even though she is with Scott. Xavier reveals the location of a dam in Canada that could lead to answers for Logan, who then prepares to leave. He is stopped by Rogue who says she does not want him to go; he gives her his dog tags saying he will be back for them. At an unknown location, Xavier goes to visit Magneto, who is residing in a Plastic Prison, where they play a game of chess. Magneto states that despite what happened, the war between humans and mutants is still coming, but Xavier tells him that he will always be there.

X-Men is a film of several themes. On the one hand it is a film of good versus evil, on the other it is a film about freedom in a world of persecution which stems from how or where you were born. The film accomplishes these themes through its narratives, of which there are many, but not one of them hinders the other, particularly that of the films main plot. Such narratives include that of Rogue trying to find a new home, Wolverine trying to find answers as to who he is. Then of course you have the narrative of Magneto trying to prevent anymore persecution to his mutant brethren by turning humans into mutants. While the films main plot is that of the X-Men versus the evil schemes of Magneto, you then have this other narrative laced in-between everything else. The narrative and theme of persecution aimed at Mutant kind which brings into it a secondary villain. On the whole it is the rest of humanity, while technically it comes down to the actions of just one man. This theme of persecution as told through the character of Senator Kelly helps to support the main goals of X-Men’s primary villain; Magneto. It was going to be a hard thing to contain, that of a secondary hindering plot, but one that has successfully been incorporated into the film and supports the weight and views of the other characters. All in all it gives the film’s plot an extra level of detail and emotion characteristic to the films primary characters. It is from this extra plot point that helps the films characters to become far more believable and connectable to that of the films audience, as it is a real circumstance to many people today.

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The films cast have been nicely kept down to a small group. While the films later on expand to incorporate more characters, as an introduction to the characters and the ideas the films is trying to present, a small cast means there is more space for moments and narrative, as well as opportunity to get to know these characters a lot more now. The film though does like to tease fans of the comics (like me) with fleeting appearances of other characters including Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee and Pyro. One other inclusion is that of Iceman; Bobby Drake played by Shawn Ashmore. He is presented as a friend to Rogue to get her to open up at school as well as keep her momentum going in those early stages up to the point where she gets kidnapped. He gets more time though than the others. While he can’t necessarily be considered a fleeting character, he is not exactly primary. His introduction into the series however, helps him fit right in as a more primary character come X-Men 2. Then we come to Magneto’s aides. Toad is a rather enjoyable character, more so when he speaks as he produces some of the films’s best one liners. Other than that he is just a rather cool character. His fighting scenes as well as disgusting toad like moments make him something quite unique as a character, and sadly is his only real appearance in the series to date (it’s also nice to see the return of Darth Maul). Next up there is Tyler Mane playing Sabretooth. Tyler Mane is a fabulous choice for this role as it is a physical performance more than a speaking performance, but, he is given some rather good verbal scenes and is not told to keep his voice down at all during the film. As the verbal part goes, it’s more in the form of threatening language than anything else, and given by his name sake his growling shots are superb. Then you have Mystique. A lot of great effort has gone into providing a striking look for Mystique. She is one of the more shocking characters in the film, and the full naked blue body provides this shock more than just having her in clothing with a bit of blue. Her moments of transformation are superb and she even comes with her own surreal theme music to accompany her presence and transformation. But it’s not just a visual role, it is an action and verbal role, one that Romijn provides excellently. Her style of speaking as well as her fighting style is as surreal as she looks and provides an extra bit of spice.

While he is not an associate of Magneto, he might as well be, Senator Kelly is the first real antagonist of the film, but is the films secondary villain in actuality. As the man responsible for wanting a mutant registration act in the first place, he presents himself as something of a standout politician in the way he talks. He is in no way pleasant or redeeming, but he strikes a chord with the human side of the film and talks in the manner of a politician to get them on his side. But, unlike other politicians, he is not doing it for power, or legacy, but because he actually believes in the cause of mutant suppression. While it is unknown whether or not he sees his motivations that could lead to persecution of mutants, his way of going about it is through a sense of passion and belief in his own cause. And even when it comes to the point of him becoming a mutant, he still does not see the mutant’s plight, but does hear another side to it. He is not necessarily a mastermind, nor is he really a horrible person (even though he is played rightly so, and brilliantly too, a great secondary villain), but instead represents the side of the human psyche that quickly leads to the persecution of others. In turn this brings us onto Magneto. Magneto has a very brief, but quite sombre backstory. Being a young boy in Hitler’s Jewish Prison Camps, being separated from his parents is quite a hard thing for him to go through; this level of emotion reveals his powers to him. Many decades later, he is now an incredibly powerful mutant, but from going through the experiences of the prison camps he does not want mutant kind to go through the same experience and persecution as he did. The mutant registration act in turn gives him enough reasoning to go into action. While his plot to turn humans into mutants is still an evil plot, the reasoning behind his actions proves that he himself has a very good reason to go through with it. It makes him a more interesting villain than him just being evil for the sake of needing a villain, and someone who is also rather understandable and relatable to (plus it’s nice to watch Ian McKellan play something of a more sinister role).

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After that you have the X-Men team. While the film has kept numbers down, I feel like some members of the team could have had more of a part. Cyclops for instance is secondary to Jean and something of an obstacle/hindrance to Wolverine. He is quiet at best and is something more of muscle or maybe a tank to the group in that he does not talk all that much except in the field. He is the team’s leader and has his moments, especially near the film’s end, but I do feel like he has been held back to be something of a less primary character. Storm Meanwhile I felt could definitely have more. She is a supporter to those around her, but when she talks, she really does not keep down. Her confrontation with Wolverine in the mid-point of the film carries a lot of power in it and helps to grow her character. She is very caring to those around her, and everyone else too and you can see her being something of a counsellor to the school, a voice of reason. But for a primary character, I feel like she is held back a bit and could have more air time, especially in a speaking manner. Standing out that little more is Jean Grey. She is a hard person to figure out. She is something of a love interest to two primary characters while also being something of a peace maker. It is hard though to really pin her down as to who she is. She is nervous in herself of what she can do but not in what she doesn’t think she can do either. She is played fabulously and enjoyably well by Famke Janssen and gives the film an extra character to enjoy as well as an additional mystery, but then again who is she, I still don’t understand as to her real place in this film.

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Charles Xavier is a brilliant character. He is something of a friend to those he knows and to the audience too. He is neither horrible nor unpleasant, but genuinely a nice person and one you would want as a friend. He is understandable to people’s plight, but his history is a mystery. He is almost the exact opposite to Magneto in beliefs. Whereas Magneto believes that Mutants are the future, Charles believes in a future where they can live in peace with Humans. While they may not share the same beliefs and disagree on approaches, there is no real animosity between the two and still consider each other as friends. Aside from this though, the way Xavier is played (brilliantly) and portrayed, through his understanding of situations and people, to his genuine want to help people makes him more human than superhero like. Someone who talks to the audience, and that’s what makes him rather enjoyable, because like mutants, he too is different and it’s like he is talking to the audience too, not just his students.

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Then finally we come to the film’s main characters; the storytellers of the film if you like. Both telling a similar story, but it’s through their interactions that the film’s plot is driven. Rogue is a vulnerable character, one that has a lot of feelings towards others but feels like she can’t have anything, because when she touches someone, bad things happen that nearly kill them. Through this vulnerability, she finds a friend, someone who does understand what it’s like and who is going through the same emotions: loneliness, solitude, fear. In Logan, you have a character that is equally vulnerable who is not afraid to get violent. His past is a complete mystery to himself and he could either be running away from something, looking for something, or possibly even both. While he is a loner, he has real care for Rogue and sees her as a friend, and someone who needs him, giving him a sense of purpose in a confused life. To this end, Rogue feels appreciated and wanted and takes a liking to Logan rather quickly. Their ending scene shows this as he is unsure about leaving, while she does not want him to go altogether, but he gives a promise saying he will come back. I do like these characters a lot. They are story tellers and give the insight to the lonely side of being a mutant, and they both help each other through that. I enjoy these two characters a lot, watching them, learning from them and experiencing what they are going through. They are more than anyone else the real stand out characters in this film.

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The film puts to use a great deal of high-end special effects, even though the use of them are relatively minor. These special effect uses are mainly used to create the right effect in presenting the powers and abilities of the mutant characters. These effects have not aged either and are still brilliant to look at. Some effects of note include Rogues ability, Wolverine’s claws, Cyclops’s eye beams, Storms eyes, and Cerebro. Some of the effects take more of an upfront position when it is needed to shock or amaze. Things like Mystique transforming and Magneto’s Mutant making machine. The film though doesn’t totally rely on the use of special effects to make the film work, as quite a lot of it is set pieces. The set for Cerebro, the mansion, the jet, the underground facilities and Magneto’s HQ are nicely produced and wonderfully shot. The fight sequences are well done too and don’t just completely rely on use of powers. One thing that I do want to take a much closer look at though is the costumes.

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Costume design is not necessarily something I would often mention or talk about, but with this film I feel it is an outstanding and important point of mention. If you were to look at the super hero costumes in either the cartoons or more likely the comics, it’s hard to not spot how flamboyant and outstanding they are. Wolverine for example wearing a yellow spandex configuration with a hood that hooks on the nose. The use of such a costume is joked by Cyclops (“Well, what would you prefer, yellow spandex?”) before the big battle as both a reference to the comics, but also to make the serious note, that it probably wouldn’t work in the real world. The film could have kept this detail in there, but when compared to how it was produced, such a design in costume would have made it look rather silly, especially as the film’s rating is that of an older audience, not necessarily child based. Instead they went with something that was a little more adult and professional in nature, and not at all cartoony. The black leather does work a lot as it is not silly but more serious and doesn’t turn people off. The costumes do come with added characterization such as having different colours in trim for each character, such as the X across Wolverine’s, the green lines of trim on Jean’s (though in the sequels this would be changed to red) and even a cape for Storm. The leather costumes aren’t the only pieces in costumes of note. Magneto’s team have their own style; that of more casual attire, best seen from the character of Toad, with a hint of older more professionalism from Magneto wearing a much older garment.

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The soundtrack for X-Men (composed by Michael Kamen) is something I find hard to think, or even talk about. It works, it’s good and I like it, particularly the ending credits which have mixes and inclusions of the other pieces from the film; however, I just don’t find it as outstanding as the soundtrack from the later films in the series. X-Men’s soundtrack has that level of mystery as well as other themes explored here and there, and is used to great effect in the opening credits as well as scenes such as Mystique transforming, the machine nearly reaching Ellis Island, Rogue nearly dying, the tour of the mansion, Toad’s attack in the museum and the ending credits. I just feel it’s sort of lacklustre. It is rather good and done well, but because I don’t find that it is neither amazing, outstanding, nor maybe as powerful as the soundtrack in the later films, that it gets sort of forgotten in comparison. It is a shame, because it’s rather good and should not be at all ignored; I think its brilliant actually, very emotional and powerful in places and in the scene on Ellis Island does great work to ramp up the tension of the scene.

X-Men altogether is a rather brilliant film. I had not actually seen it for a few years before I watched it to write this; and I rather enjoyed watching it again. While I would not consider it the best film in the series to date, I will easily say that it is one of the best. The film is a brilliant adaptation of the comic book characters and portrays them true to who they are in the comics. The film is entertaining and tells its story plus many more through its many characters and hints towards future story points as well as an in-depth level of subplot. It doesn’t get bogged down neither in its intentions, cleverly telling two stories at the same time that both help out the other to make a rich and understanding story. X-Men is a super hero film but one that is different to others as it also conveys the idea of persecution onto those who have powers instead of showing them as the toast of town. X-Men is a really good, entertaining film. While it may not stand out, nor be as talked about as its sequel films, not for one second do I think of it as boring or a bad film. It’s actually a really powerful and exciting film that ranks among the best superhero films to date. X-Men is a seriously good film, give it a try.

GENEPOOL





A Brief Introduction To The X-Men Film Series

15 10 2015

X-Men: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox - 2006)

I don’t know if you saw my lacklustre, mediocre post on Tuesday (sorry about that, I was pretty tired when I wrote it), but in case you didn’t; all next week (Monday to Sunday) right here on this blog I will be posting the biggest writing project I have undertaken since finishing University. To cut a long story short, it’s an entire week of film reviews, one every day; and to keep it nicely wrapped up altogether it’s going to be all the (current films) in one particular series of films. Now while I could build up the excitement and tension to the eventual reveal, the title of my post pretty much tells you which film series I have decided to review: X-Men. So, before next week’s exciting series begins, I thought I would give you a (hopefully brief) introduction to the X-Men Film Series, along with other little bits of interesting information, but promise to try and not go too deep with explaining what happens in the films themselves, otherwise I have ended up wasting the last 4-5 months writing X-Men film reviews.

The X-Men film series is easily one of cinemas most recognisable film series with currently 7 films released over the last 15 years. Since the release of the first film in 2000, it has become a financial and critical success, and to this day is one of the 15 highest grossing film franchises/series to date having grossed more money than some of the cinemas more recognisable movie franchises including: Terminator, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and Mission Impossible. It is also a series of great critical acclaim with 4 out of 7 films receiving fresh ratings of 81% and higher on Rotten Tomatoes. It is one of the longest running film series this century having not one restart, reboot or remake anywhere in it (unlike other series that come to mind: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Fantastic 4, Hulk, James Bond, Terminator and Star Trek), and has turned both growing stars and absolute nobodies into some of the cinemas best known and even household names. X-Men as a series and what it has achieved over the last 15 years is unlike any other in cinema today, and is set to continue with not 1 but 3 films due for release next year, (Deadpool, Gambit and X-Men: Apocalypse) along with a third solo outing for one of its biggest stars in 2017 (third Wolverine film) and even plans for 2 other potential films already underway.

X-Men Comics

The X-Men film series is of course based on the Marvel Comics and characters of the same name. The story of the X-Men follows a super hero team made up of a second caste of humanity known as mutants. While they look the same as Humans, Mutants come with special abilities and powers, and the X-Men are made up of some of these mutants. Life for the X-Men though is a tough one, because while they are a super hero team, fighting dangerous threats and saving humanity on a daily basis, humanity isn’t exactly fond of mutants, and sees them as a threat. From the get go, the X-Men have been a different kind of super-hero team, one that while saves the day like all other super heroes, they have to fight those they try to save, and fight for a future where mutants can be free from persecution. Leading them in this charge is Professor Charles Xavier who fights for a future where both humanity and mutants can live in peace together. A difficult thing to fight for, especially when there are other mutants out there who don’t think this kind of future is possible. In step Magneto, a mutant who can manipulate metal and an old friend of Charles Xavier. While remaining as something of a friend to Xavier here and there, Magneto believes only one species can survive and thus begins the battle between the two. As the series continues, new enemies and threats enter the fold with major villains like Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Onslaught to name but a few. However, Xavier does not have to face such threats alone and with his team of X-Men including (but not limited too) Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Iceman, Shadowcat, Beast, Rogue, Archangel and many more fight both old and new threats on a weekly basis. That’s basically the general idea.

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The comic series itself at one point (if not still to this day) was (or still is) America’s bestselling comic series. Created by the combined might of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the comic series originally started back in 1963, but back then was a commercial disaster and by 1970 the series was cancelled. In 1975 the series was resurrected with help from artist Dave Cockrum, Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas and writer Len Wein. No-one could have seen what would come next as the series became Marvel’s biggest hit. Since then the comic series has gone from strength to strength. During the early 90’s; the X-Men got their own cartoon series on the Fox Network which went on for 5 series between 1992 and 1997. This was then followed up with 2 more separate cartoons in the forms of X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men. The X-Men even got their own video games. While during all this the comics continued to evolve and the X-Men themselves got involved in some of the biggest stories in the Marvel Comics, including being the hosts of the epic ONSLAUGHT Saga, as well as having a war with the Avengers much more recently.

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In 1994, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to produce an X-Men film after seeing the success of the animated series. Spearheaded by producer Lauren Shuler Donner, the first film; simply called X-Men was released in 2000 by new up and coming director Bryan Singer. It starred well know actors like Patrick Stewart (who was struggling to find work at the time thanks to being on Star Trek for so long), Ian McKellen; growing stars like Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn and Halle Berry, and even hired an absolute nobody (but who is now a household name) to play the iconic role of Wolverine in Hugh Jackman……….the rest as they say is history. Over the course of the following 14 years, new actors would be appointed, following the previous formula of well-known stars (Kelsey Grammer, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon) as well as new growing stars (Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult) as well as people who were at the time relative unknowns but are now household names (Jennifer Lawrence). Along with them came new characters and stories famous within the comics, plus of course new villains. Origins stories were told, time travelled, new weapons and machines created, plus the never-ending fight for freedom from a world that hates them. The comics quite literally came to life and through its unique perspective and style of storytelling produced one of the most entertaining, emotional, powerful, dramatic and even realistic film series to date.

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The X-Men have come a long way since their first appearances on comic book shelves back in the 1960’s. There have been ups and downs along the way, successes, failures and have even branched out into other forms of media, from Cartoons to Video Games, to of course the big screen. Since making that big leap, it has become one of the highest achieving and most recognisable film series to date and with the series set to continue; the future for the X-Men looks Fantastic.

GENEPOOL (I hope you have enjoyed reading this and enjoy reading my reviews next week as much as I have enjoyed writing this and them too).





How/Where/When Do I Start?

16 09 2015

X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught Omnibus book

After nearly 3 months since ordering it, a few weeks ago I finally received my copy of X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught Omnibus through the post. I have been looking forward to its arrival for a long time now, but my search for such a book began several months before then.

Onslaught

I have known about the X-Men comics character of Onslaught for a long time now, but I never really looked into him before, although I have always been fascinated about him. So I looked up his character and history in the comics on Wikipedia, and I was amazed at what this single character was capable of. After reading the synopsis of the story, I knew I wanted to read the comic story and looked around online for it. All I could find was a collection of 4 books (X-Men: Onslaught – The Complete Epic) showing the whole series. I wanted to buy them, but finding all 4 books proved tricky. So I left it for the time being but I kept looking back in the hope that something might happen. I discovered that there were some other comics more readily available which chronicled the road to the whole Onslaught saga, but still no real sign of those saga books.

X-Men: The Road to Onslaught, Vol. 1 (Marvel - 2014)

Eventually though I discovered a full book was due for release soon. I looked it up and checked it rather a lot for price, plus to make sure it was the same story. It was, and so after nearly more than a month of eyeing it online, I put my order in for it, and now it has arrived and is sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. I knew when I ordered it, that it was a big book at over a thousand pages; however I completely underestimated at how big it was going to be. It arrived in a big box, and was thinking that once again the supplier (like many on Amazon) provided a big box, but the item inside is only a third of the size or something. Well it wasn’t. It was very big but also rather heavy. When I put it on the shelves alongside my other big books, while it’s not as tall as some of them, it is by far the largest book I currently own. And that’s where it remains as I have yet to read the first page, and don’t know what the best strategy to read it is.

Onslaught: The Complete Epic (Marvel - 2008)

 

It’s not like I haven’t read a large book before, it’s more that it is so big that I can’t use it for my main book read, as most of those can fit inside a normal plastic bag; and I can’t use it for bed time reading neither as it is possibly too heavy for that (plus I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and find that you fell asleep while reading a comic). The issue is more that because it’s unlike anything I have read before; I feel like it requires its own dedicated time and place to read it. So it comes down to needing to find a time to read it that will best suit me, plus where I can have space to open it; most preferably across a table for it to rest on, because I doubt I will be able to hold it by the bottom of the book spine like I am able to with most other books I read. At the moment though it is something of a struggle as I have other stuff to read too; I am only one chapter into Darkmouth: Worlds Explode and I am now fully engrossed in The Enemy series having just finished The Enemy and now moving onto The Dead. Plus I have yet to finish Save The Cat! and have begun reading If You Could Ask God One Question (plus a Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle that I received for my Birthday).

Marvel Year by Year a Visual Chronicle (and you can just see the edge of a copy of the board game Taluva too).

It could be sometime before I finally make it round to reading Onslaught, but who knows, before then I may even get to read those prelude books and stories and then have an even larger knowledge of the story. I look forward to reading it too, because while I know the story thanks to Wikipedia, I will get to see it with my own eyes too. Let’s not forget; it is a comic book after all.

X-Men Avengers, Onslaught

GENEPOOL








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