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?).

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Top 10 Most Exciting Films of 2017 (First Among Lists)

4 01 2017

star-wars-episode-eight (Lucasfilm - 2017)

Jasper Fforde is a British bestselling Author whose selected works include the The Eyre Affair, The Last Dragonslayer and Shades of Grey.  He is something of an inspiration to me and someone I have not just met and had books of his signed, but have had the fantastic opportunity to have my work looked at and even edited by him; it was a wonderful opportunity and moment for me and still ranks as one of the best moments in my writing career to date. Anyway, I have been thinking a little bit about Jasper Fforde recently, mainly because of The Last Dragonslayer being shown on Sky 1 on Christmas Day, a book which was one of my favourite reads a couple of years ago.

The Last Dragonslayer (Hodder and Stoughton - 2011)

Anyway, to get back on topic, one of the books in his Thursday Next series is called; First Among Sequels. Well before I began writing this; (having awoken from a small nap on Boxing Day) I thought that it could be fun to give a personal touch to one of my early blog posts, in particular one of the early Top 5-ish posts where I talk about last year and this year in films. I was thinking that I should call it First Among Lists. Then I thought that this could be rather confusing for anyone who came along looking for a post on films, as the tile does not suggest anything along those lines. Then I thought; ‘why not’, and added it in brackets after writing this sentence. See. Just thought I would do something a bit more fun and a lot less like written uniform.

split (Universal Pictures - 2016)

2016 has passed, and 2017 has begun. Yes, it’s that time of year when we can break those freshly made resolutions and convert the newly acquired weight’s beach into a clothes horse. I prefer not to make such resolutions as I don’t see any real point in them. Why not, instead of making pathetic New Year’s Resolutions which you’re not going to complete, find something to look forward to instead, like; I don’t know – movies to be released this year? There are quite a lot of good-looking films to be released this year, including the possibility of a remake of The Empire Strikes Back, something to look forward to for many I’ll bet. As is something of an annual tradition for me and my blog now, I have had a good look through the (Wikipedia) movie release schedules and found a whole load of good-looking films to look forward to this year, and am keen to share this information with you all, including which are the Top 10 films I personally am looking forward to. Now there is quite a lot this coming year I have found, and not all could end up on my Top 10, so I just want to give a shout out to the following films: Wonder (the book is really good), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Geostorm, Despicable Me 3, Split and The Great Wall. If there is anything you in particular are looking forward to this year but is not mentioned on here, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know; but for now, here is what I am looking forward to this year.

dunkirk (Warner Bros - 2017)

10. Dunkirk – Films set during World War II don’t really get my interest. World War 2 is an important event during the entire history of this planet of course, but the use of the subject matter in the media I feel has been rather overdone; you only need to look at Video Games set during WW2 to see what I mean. Why am I interested in this then, well because Christopher Nolan is directing it, and I feel that that is a good a reason as any to not write it off as of yet. A trailer has been released which I have yet to give a proper look at, and will probably do so when I edit this post in WordPress, the one thing we have to hope for of course is that the film is done right, and does not replace the British, Belgian and French Soldiers with American Ones for the sake of the film (America was actually still one whole year away from joining WW2 during the events of the Dunkirk Evacuation).

return-of-xander-cage (Columbia Pictures - 2017)

9. XXX: Return of Xander Cage – I am surprised how long it has taken to get this film made, as this should have been done nearly 10 years ago. The first Triple X film starring Vin Diesel, Marton Csokas, Samuel L. Jackson and Asia Argento was a film I really liked and was hoping for a sequel. A sequel was what we got, but without 3 of the previous mentioned cast members, try to guess which ones. The first one was a unique blend of modern and traditional spy films with the added bonus of extreme sports and stunts, creating what I think is still quite a cool little film. While this new one may be missing Asia Argento (and Csokas of course for those who have seen the original), I still feel quietly excited by this, and hope that the juices that flowed in the original will blossom once more and possibly create an interesting franchise; 14 years late.

thor-the-dark-world (Marvel Studios - 2013)

8. Thor: Ragnarok – The first Thor film was something of a surprise to me, as I had no idea what to expect, but absolutely loved. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has the feeling about it that it might have begun to start to come to a close as the series for one feels like it’s beginning to drag and feature less of its more prominent characters. I do feel sort of glad though that Thor gets one more solo outing before that happens, but it does come with a bit of un-nerve. I have not really been tracking its production, but it feels wrong that Natalie Portman is not going to be in it. I don’t know as to the why she is not in it, but when you have been using two previous films to create a romance between two characters, only for one to leave with no real reason and probably to be replaced, I feel that is something of a bad idea, because, that previous romance has been developed, this new one won’t be to an audience point of view and will come across as more confusing, than heart-warming. It has been done before, just look at Transformers: Dark of the Moon as an example. Anyway, I still have hope for Thor, as I want it to be just like the previous two films; proper fun, enjoyable films. While the love life maybe completely in the air, what isn’t is the male cast which still includes Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins, as well as newcomers to the Thor films in Avengers regular Mark Ruffalo, and more interestingly; Jeff Goldblum.

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes (20th Century Fox - 2017)

7. War for the Planet of the Apes – The new Planet of the Apes film series has become one of the standout heavyweights of cinema, and has achieved this with only 2 films released so far. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a wonderfully thought out and brought together film which created truly marvellous moments (including the death of Draco Malfoy), this continued on with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which set man and ape against one another in a brutal fashion while also weaving in a thought-provoking plot. Now, things are set to get even deeper, as audiences have a heavy minded choice to make, as they decide whether to fight with humanity, or with the apes in a battle to decide who will be the new dominant species. Regular ape cast members are set to return, while humanity is represented by former District 12 Winner Woody Harrelson…..should be pretty interesting.

the-shape-of-water (Bull Productions - 2017)

6. The Shape of Water – In all honesty I don’t know much about this film. Wikipedia says its: “An other-worldly story, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963”. Why do I take an interest in this film you ask? Because Guillermo Del Toro is directing it! While it’s plot is currently vague with not much known about it other than production details including cast members such as Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, it is hard to expect what it could be, but considering what this film sort of suggests, part of me wonders if this could be Del Toro’s next Pan’s Labyrinth?

the lego-batman movie (Warner Bros - 2017)

5. The Lego Batman Movie – When I went to see The Lego Movie, it was clear to me who the real star of the show was: Batman (voiced by Will Arnett). I loved the portrayal of Batman in the Lego movie, just could not get enough, so was super excited when I found out that he was getting his own movie, and this year it gets released. I can still hear his awesome self-crafted theme tune going through my head right now. Have seen a couple of trailers so far, and it’s hard to work out where it is going or what it is going to do, but as long as Batman is the Lego Movie Batman (which is by far the best Batman to date), then it should be awesome (pun intended).

Power Rangers (Lionsgate - 2017)

4. Power Rangers – Is it excitement or hope why I have put this film so high in this list? I am not going to get too detailed here about this; I made my views very clearly detailed back in September. What I do want to say is that I am excited but still very nervous about the Power Rangers movie due for release in the coming months. The film is not too far from release and the trailer does look pretty promising, but given what we have seen in the past when Power Rangers have taken to the big screen, I think my nerves are a reasonable reaction. I do want this film to work, and do feel that in the right hands and with the right execution, this film could become a worthy rival to the Transformers film series. The trailer and shots from production do look pretty good, but I don’t think any of us who intend to see this film can really hope to relax until this film actually gets released, then we can find out if a third time can be some kind of charm for the Power Rangers.

transformers-the-last-knight (Paramount - 2017)

3. Transformers: The Last Knight – I have been a fan of the Transformers films from day one. It is a series I have enjoyed throughout and have continued to do so to the present day. When Age of Extinction came out in 2014, I was unsure of where the series was heading for, but was blown away by a powerhouse of a film, my favourite entry to date and have been super excited to hear there is not just going to be a sequel, but also returning with the fantastic new cast of Extinction. While Nicola Peltz is a no-show at current, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Josh Duhamel (from the first 3 films) are all confirmed for what is so far looking to what could be the most ‘confusing’ entry in the series to date (and I can’t help but wonder if the title is a reference to something that happens in the film, or is a reference to the status of the series director).

kong-skull-island (Legendary Pictures - 2017)

2. Kong: Skull Island – Soon after the release of Godzilla in 2014; Legendary Pictures announced that they were going to make some more Godzilla films, as well as possibly creating a shared universe which would also include King Kong. Well; King Kong is set to return this year with his very own reboot, as a stellar cast of actors including (but not limited to) Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman decide to explore an uncharted island occupied by a variety of horrific monsters, all of it overseen under the might of the Great Ape known mainly as KONG. So far the film is looking really good; Kong’s design especially looks terrific and while details of the story are still relatively unknown, the current premise looks pretty cool. How it will turn out is another thing, but so far, I am really excited for this one (let’s just hope Peter Jackson didn’t accidentally walk onto the set during production).

logan (20th Century Fox - 2017)

1. Logan – A lot of things have happened in cinema over the last 17 years, but one of the very few constants is the portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men Film Series. Since the series began, Wolverine has been portrayed by Hugh Jackman, and has helped not just kick-start his movie career, but made him a household name. “But all good things must come to an end” many pessimistic people have said, and this appears to be true for the relationship between High Jackman and Wolverine, but the animal is not going to bow out without one last bloodbath. Set for release this year: Logan looks to tie up the loose ends of the series so far, as the X-Men head to bold new directions (especially with Deadpool looking set to become the series main star). Expect possible tears, as well as a lot of blood as Wolverine bows out in more ways than one, delivering potentially his final chapter, with support from his long-time friend and series heavyweight Patrick Stewart returning once more to play Charles Xavier, as they face one last enemy together, possibly in the rumoured form of Mr. Sinister.

GENEPOOL (Well that is my list, what movies are you looking forward to this year?).





Only One Thing Worse Than A Dragon; Americans! – Reign Of Fire

7 12 2016

reign-of-fire (Spyglass Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures - 2002)

For what must be decades now, Movie Directors and Producers have been trying to come up with imaginative new ways to bring about the end of the world. Disaster and Post-Apocalyptic movies as they are known don’t really have much of a definitive start, I mean on the one hand you can consider Planet of the Apes to be a post-apocalyptic film, but ever since the ascension of Computer Generated Imagery, more imaginative films that really depict a sense of the End of the World have come to light. If you were to start from what I consider to be the ultimate disaster movie: Independence Day, the world has been invaded by aliens, had asteroids and meteors thrown at it, had the weather engulf it, had nature attempt to reclaim it, had hordes of zombies march across it and even had Monsters just wanting to smash it. Despite all the different forms of ending the world however, it is somewhat surprising that only one Director has thought about using Dragons.

Reign of Fire Dragon

Released in 2002 by Spyglass Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures Directed by Rob Bowman and produced by Richard D. Zanuck; Reign of Fire is a Post-Apocalyptic Disaster film set in a future England (four years from now) where Dragons have re-awoken and claimed Earth as their own. It’s up to a few survivors (including a bald Matthew McConaughey) to try and reset the balance of the Food Chain.

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In London during the early 2000’s; a young boy called Quinn (Ben Thornton) goes to see his mother Karen (Alice Krige) who is working on a London Underground construction site. While having a quick look into a supposed ‘void’, Quinn awakens a Dragon sleeping in the tunnels. He and his mother try to escape, but his Mother is killed just as the Dragon escapes the tunnels. Through a series of Newspaper clippings, a narrator divulges that soon more dragons appear and are the species responsible for killing the Dinosaurs. It is speculated that the creatures were in hibernation, waiting for the world to replenish itself with food for them to eat. The military responds to the threat, but only help the creatures destroy the earth, and humanity is brought to the edge of Extinction.

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In 2020, the now grown up Quinn (Christian Bale) is leader of a community of survivors in a Northumberland Castle. Although most trust Quinn’s leadership, others are defiant, and a small group of survivors led by Eddie (David Kennedy) want to pick some tomatoes as they are starving, and steal a pickup truck, they are attacked by a Dragon however which leads to the death of two members of Eddie’s family. Quinn with the help of his young ward Jared (Scott Moutter) and good friend Creedy (Gerard Butler) rescue Eddie and the rest of his family as the Dragon sets about reclaiming the ash off the burned field. The following day, community communicator Ajay (Alexander Siddig) and Falconer Barlow (Ned Dennehy) discover that a group of American Marauders are on their way to the castle. The community prepares to defend itself, and Quinn is introduced to the Marauder leader Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) who claims to be some kind of Dragon Slayer; he also happens to drive a Chieftain Tank. Quinn decides to let them in cautiously and is impressed that they have access to an AgustaWestland AW109 Helicopter piloted by Alex Jensen (Izabella Scorupco). True to his word, Denton Van Zan goes after the Dragon that attacked the castle’s tomato plantation, and with the help of Quinn manages to kill the creature, at a loss of three of his own men.

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Back at the castle, Quinn still has issues as to why a platoon of American soldiers is in Britain. Van Zan and Alex say that all the dragons they have killed are female, and believe there is only one male and that they are going to London to kill it, believing killing it will kill the entire species. They try to enlist Quinn’s help, but he does not want to go back, knowing that his mother was killed there by the Male. Van Zan tries to enlist Quinn’s community by force, but Quinn believes that if they find the male, it will trace them back to the castle. The two of them fight with Van Zan nearly killing Quinn until they are split up. Van Zan and his men head for London, but when they are still 66 miles from there, they are attacked by the male who kills most of Van Zan’s team in mere seconds. Van Zan and Alex survive, but true to Quinn’s word, the Male arrives at the castle and sets it ablaze. Some of the community hides in the basement with the children and Quinn, but as he goes to rescue the others; Creedy is incinerated by another attack from the Male.

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The following morning, Van Zan, Alex and the remainder of his team return to the castle and dig out Quinn and his survivors. Quinn comes up with a plan; to go to London just him, Alex and Van Zan in Alex’s chopper. Remembering what Van Zan said about Magic Hour, the point in which the Dragon’s eyesight is at their weakest, they go in to take out the Male. They arrive into London via the Thames, and find lots of smaller dragons being cannibalized by a much larger starving male. They enter into the underground construction site, where Quinn finds the cage his mother died in, and come out onto the surface, where they launch one final attack on the male. Their plan involves using crossbow heads which carry an explosive head, hoping that if they fire it at the right time, the dragon will detonate it and kill itself. Van Zan attempts this at the top of an old chimney, but the attempt fails, and he is eaten by the dragon as he attempts to go at it with his axe. Quinn and Alex lure the Dragon down to the ground, and after a lengthy staring contest, Quinn fires just at the right time. The arrow flies into the Dragons throat, explodes, breaking the creature’s head clearly off its neck. Sometime later, Quinn and the rest of his community build a radio tower, and receive a signal from France. There has been no dragon sighting for three months, and Quinn makes Jared the new community leader, while he and Alex dedicate themselves to rebuilding.

I really like this film. I remember seeing posters for this film when it first came out, the vivid image of the Houses of Parliament ablaze and a mighty dragon as big as the building high above. Unfortunately I did not get to see it until a VHS release the following year, but ever since seeing it, Reign of Fire has remained one of my most enduring films. I easily count it among my favourites, and even if it’s no longer on any of my Top 10’s, it’s a film I refuse to regret, nor never watch again, as one way or another I will always find a time to watch it again. But why exactly do I like it; well that is a question that is actually very hard to answer as I don’t have much of a definitive reason. You don’t necessarily need a reason to like something, if you come away with a positive and enjoyable feeling that should be fine, but to analyse and review a film, I still need to answer the question as to why I like it.

chieftan-tank

Reign of Fire is pretty unique, I mean how many films are there that involve Dragons taking over the world? Well thinking about it, there are 2: this and Dragon Wars, however the latter does not hold much in comparison to this as that was more an adventure based film (and only actually has one dragon in it), this is more of an action orientated disaster movie. The unique selling point of this film is of course the dragons, but simply putting a Dragon in something doesn’t make it gold. In a recent video, Alan Partridge debated the use of Dragons in Game of Thrones, stating that the beasts were “used to advertise mouthwash in the 80’s”. Simply using dragons in something is not enough. Like all good Movie Monsters, they need to have a purpose, a reason for existence. Now if this was a fantasy adventure movie, they would be like a beast/tyrant that needed defeating. Reign of Fire is a completely different story as it’s not an adventure, nor is it set in the decadent past. The purpose of this movie is to take the world we live in, and bring us down from off our high chairs and to below down on our knees. To do this, we as a race needed humbling, we needed threatening, and in a big way. Yes it could be aliens, it could be weather, but what is more terrifying than not just one giant fire breathing monster, but lots of them. We needed something that was primitive yet deadly, something that could take it all away from us, and in one sweep moving action. Dragons are a perfect fit, as Dragons by folklore accounts are fast flying creatures that can breathe fire. Not only are they hungry beasties, but volatile ones too. So instead of a Tornado laced with Sharks, we got flying fire breathing monsters who want to do nothing more than eat us. Not take over us, enslave us or anything else: just eat us. It’s a simple idea, one that doesn’t require much thought but in turn can still create a lot of depth.

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But this film is called Reign of Fire, not Reign of the Ravenous Flying teeth; so there needs to be devastation, one that works on 2 counts. The first is that these Dragons can breathe fire and set about threatening the human race while also using their breath to set fire to as much as possible. The dragons themselves have been given a very unique biology, and though while they could be seen as being like European Dragons, these have been branded and created as to be the most dangerous, devastating creatures imaginable and come with a back story to boot. They killed off the dinosaurs, and had brought the world to extinction once before, the other key ingredient though is that their breath is not just fire, but Napalm. In turn we have a pretty devastating species on our hand, but as to the rest of the planets devastation, the Dragons did not need to do that on their own. Humanity gave them a hand. It’s the double-edged sword philosophy that while we do have an almighty arsenal at our hands, they are destructive pieces of equipment also and though while could be very useful, we do need to take care as to how and when we use them. So equally the Dragons did bring an end to the world, but with a little help from our great Nuclear Weaponry. Into this we are left with a damaged world. A world crippled under the true devastation of nature’s great secret, and along with this we get further vivid imagery to boot. The film’s setting for the most part is taken in the area of Northumberland where the landscape and skies are nearly completely black. Everywhere is just grey and miserable, no light to awaken the heart, no real sky to inspire, just a depressing reminder of the world the survivors have been left with. But if Northumberland was bad, that’s nothing compared to the state of London (“TAKE THAT SOUTHERNERS”). London is a ruin, it looks melted. You look at the buildings, close up and afar, you see vehicles, the water’s edge, the tunnels, the distance, even iconic buildings, and it all looks Melted black. Some form remains, but not much are left, the world has quite literally burned during the reign of the fire beasts (ha ha).

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It is in this world we have our plucky band of survivalists. Reign of Fire’s cast is a nice pool of talent ranging from some of Hollywood’s most experienced and well known talent, to people you have more than likely not heard or seen of but still deliver fun roles. This film does a good thing of making interesting tertiary as well as somewhat extra cast who create some fun and interesting moments that are while maybe not pivotal to the film’s being, still are quite fun. These range from some of the films more diverse female cast who hardly speak a word. People like Eddie’s family member’s girlfriend, the day care staff to one woman who does not speak at all but is always brandishing a rifle. From there we get the defiant and annoying Eddie who is more of a hindrance than a challenge, who tries to act as someone who is more trying to speak the truth rather than be a villain, to people like Gideon (Terence Maynard) the Archangel who has some great vocal moments, to people like Ajay, Jerry (Gerry O’Brien) and Barlow who do real jobs within the community to help work and service the community, but in general provide some enjoyable if not completely in-depth roles. The same could be said of Alice Krige’s character and Jason (Dessie Gallagher), who while don’t survive act as a good feeder for important plot points, and in the case of Jason, some early comic relief.

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Which brings us neatly round to the film’s main batch of cast. Jared as a character I feel is not implied strongly enough for him to take much of an effect, but it does give Quinn a sense of hope and someone to include, if not executed perfectly. I really do enjoy Gerrard Butler in this film. It was the first time I got to see him in a role of any kind and thought he was a strong personality and also played out the part of being a good friend as well as the sense of reason for Quinn to work with: someone who tries to talk sense into Quinn and acts like a second in command. He is genuinely funny when he wants to, but equally dead serious too and has some brilliant one liners ranging from the funny, to the dead serious. It just feels like a shame that he was not given a much bigger role as he genuinely deserves it and I want to see more of him and Quinn, and only those two. Equally I don’t think Alex was given much of a part neither. She acts like the love interest, but a practical one at that, and who skills impress, but she spends most of the time being very dreary. She is rather glum in every situation and at times can appear to be rather clueless if not in the way and just added for effect. Her pilot skills make her an important part of the film, but from the moment you see her, you want to jump in and tell her to lighten up. It doesn’t make sense about the love interest as it is more or less added before the credits and suggested everywhere else.

Izabella Scorupco

It is pretty weird to see Matthew McConaughey without any hair, and with Muscles, and Tattoos. You see him in films like A Time To Kill or Interstellar and see this blond-haired thin man, not necessarily a muscled, tattooed bald-headed soldier. Matthew McConaughey’s role in this film I find is similar in essence (if not in execution) to that of Robert Shaw in Jaws. He is a man with a history, one who is knowledgeable about killing Dragons and believes in military discipline. He acts like a ‘rogue marine’ and shows off power by driving a tank. He is filled with volatile aggression and feels that force is the only option. On the other hand though he has a lot of compassion, he feels greatly for the loss of his men and does work to try and redeem himself for his actions, even if not completely. When he shows compassion, it’s hard for him to stop that whispered panting he does, as though when he shouts he shows his true self. It’s a hard character to really pin down. It kind of filters into this thing of America believing how good they are. America, believing they are the centre of the world, that they are in charge, and only they are in charge. So speaking as a UK-man it is rather pleasing to see them and Van Zan get their comeuppance in this film, America’s last general believing he is unstoppable only for him to be defeated. McConaughey’s last few moments in this film are pretty good though, as we see him try hard to redeem himself, and see not the soldier, but the true warrior, and who he really was.

Matthew McConaughey Reign of Fire

Christian Bale on the other hand is less can do attitude, more about knowing how to survive. He has a dark past as it was him who unwittingly released the Dragons and whose mother died minutes later. This carries heavy on his conscience and knows he has to work hard to keep others alive, and does this with a passion, even if he comes across as a tyrant. He is the opposite of Van Zan, and has knowledge of the Dragons and what they are capable of. He is looking for hope, but is cautious of false heroes and prophets. He works hard for his community, even going as far as to put on amateur dramatics of the Empire Strikes Back. He has good friendships, and people to rely on, but is brought to logger heads as Van Zan arrives. While Dragons are the main enemy, Van Zan’s arrival stirs up the community in a bad way and has to deal with that. Quinn though is not entirely cautious and will fight his corner.  I do however think a golden opportunity is missed when after the Male attacks, that Quinn does not threaten Van Zan with an Execution. Importantly however it is up to Quinn to save the day. Spurred into action by the death of both his mother and the loss of Creedy by the same creature, Quinn goes to London to carry out the Execution of the male. Christian Bale is an amazing actor, and here plays a character that while is a leader, is still just like you or me, and plays a character that is a representation of what it would be like if you or I were in the same position.

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Reign of Fire of course requires a large depth of special effects. These range from practical effects like fire and vehicle usage, to more computer orientated effects as well as clever set dresses. The main effect is of course the dragons, which are just fabulous. The designs for the dragons look amazing, possibly the best movie dragons in cinema history. The close up points of them eating people looks realistic but also terrifying, and the final scenes when faced with the monolithic male are just impressive, ranging from them staring Quinn in the face to the point of even the creature’s head rolling and rocking off its own neck. But Special Effects aren’t and don’t have to be everything as Reign of Fire is supported by a brilliant soundtrack (composed by Ed Shearmur). The soundtrack is very tense in its nature and the tension really does not disappear from any of its pieces. The theme of the arriving Marauders for instance is of course very tense and does sound very military in its style, but it’s also rather crazy and jumpy, trying to showcase a level of new fear and a lack of understanding in an increasing threatening nature.

This military theme does continue as the army enters the castle compound, showcasing a theme of might and strength, looking like military heroes coming to save the day (even if it’s a little confusing as to why they are here in the first place). Then as the film continues it returns to the silent tension, such as when the convey heads for London, to stark scary moments as the male dragon attacks the castle, back to more action orientated scenes as the helicopter and the trio walk into London, to of course the final preparations before the big battle moments of battle, all drawn together with a nice, gentle but still pretty rocky credits theme: Burn by Mad at Gravity.

While it does have its moments where it could have explored further, and moments where execution lacked: I really like this film. It’s idea, it’s themes, it’s characters, it’s Dragons, it’s effects, it’s music, all of which come together to create a near completely unique experience. Some cast members could have more and less in places, and other bit and bobs could be a tiny bit clearer, but through its ideas of a world dominated by dragons, and humanity brought to the edge of extinction by myth, when brought together create an exceptionally enjoyable film, and one I still love to this day. Its effects and setting are beautiful, its music but more importantly its design are magnificent. It’s not just a Dragon Movie, it is so much more, and does a lot more than most.: it shows the raw destructive power of these creatures and also shows that there could be a lot more truth to myth than the Bayeux Tapestry is letting on. A real classic of its generation that is really worth a watch while at the same time teaches an important lesson which is that: if you are using the London Underground, don’t shine a torch in a ‘Void’.

GENEPOOL





If You’re Going To Kill Somebody, Kill Them! Don’t Stand Around Talking About It! – Van Helsing

26 10 2016

Van Helsing (Universal Pictures - 2004)

Are Heroes Overrated? You know, some evil thing is stalking the planet, only for the hero to come in and save the day, as they do. It is all rather common at the moment, and it appears that there are a lot of heroes out there that can do the same, so is it all a bit overrated? I mean, if there are many who can do it, why do we bother putting so much faith in one Super Hero when chances are there is someone else out there equally qualified to do the job of ‘saving the day’. Why do we need to worry if something evil comes along, when we all know too well right now that someone is likely to come along at some point to solve the problem. Maybe we should all just get on with our lives, in the fullest knowledge that there are heroes out there tackling things that go bump in the night, and in the meantime we can all sit down, flick on the TV and drink Hot Chocolate!

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Released in 2004 by Universal Pictures, Directed by Stephen Sommers and Produced by Bob Ducsay; Van Helsing is a Fantasy Action-Adventure film which intends to pay tribute to the Universal Horror/Monster films of the 30’s and 40’s released by Universal and based on the works by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. Set in the horrifying (maybe not in real life, it may actually be really pleasant, who knows) area of Transylvania, the film follows the adventures of Monster Hunter Van Helsing; inspired by the character of the same name from Bram Stoker’s book Dracula. The film endeavors to include other monsters in it story too alongside Vampires including Frankenstein’s Monster and Werewolves.

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In 1887, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) has successfully created a monster with the help of Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Dracula though wants to use the creature for his own evil plans and Kills Frankenstein. While his castle is raided by the local villagers, Frankenstein’s Monster takes his creators body to a nearby windmill which in turn is burned down by the villagers. In Paris one year later, the renowned monster hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is wanted by the police, but before he leaves he quickly dispatches the elusive Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane). He returns to the Vatican in Rome, where his superior; Cardinal Jinette (Alun Armstrong) tasks him with yet another mission: to go to Transylvania, and kill Count Dracula. The mission being to help the last bloodline of the Valerious family, who may not enter Heaven until Dracula is killed. Jinette also suggests that Helsing may find out answers to his nightmares and forgotten past there too. Before setting off on his mission, Van Helsing gets weapons and gadgets from Friar Carl (David Wenham) who also accompanies Helsing to Transylvania. Meanwhile in Transylvania, Velkan (Will Kemp) and Anna (Kate Beckinsale) Valerious try to kill a rogue Werewolf, but Velkan is seemingly killed in the pursuit, leaving only Anna left.

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Van Helsing and Carl arrive in Transylvania, where they get less than a warm welcome from the townsfolk, especially the gravedigger Top Hat (Tom Fisher). Anna arrives and tries to get their weapons off them both, but then Dracula’s Brides Verona (Silvia Colloca), Marishka (Josie Maran) and Aleera (Elena Anaya) attack. After a quick attack Helsing manages to kill Marishka, which makes the other two flee. Back at his castle, Dracula orders his remaining brides and his little minion Dwergers with their supervisor Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) to prepare Castle Frankenstein for an experiment. Back at her home, Anna is knocked out by Helsing determined to protect her, only for her house to be broken into by Velkan now a Werewolf.  Anna and Helsing track him to Castle Frankenstein where they discover Dracula is trying to give life to his dead-born children using Velkan’s Werewolf DNA to power Frankenstein’s lab. The experiment fails however, and after a brief confrontation with Dracula; Helsing manages to escape from Dracula, rescuing Anna in the process. The two then stumble into an underground cave where they find Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley) who tells them that without him, Dracula cannot successfully give full life to his offspring. Believing the creature not to be evil, Helsing tries to get the creature to Rome with the help of Carl and Anna. During the night they are attacked by the Brides and Velkan, now fully consumed by the curse. Verona and Velkan are both killed but Helsing is bitten by Velkan, meaning soon he too will turn into a Werewolf. To make matters worse; Aleera kidnaps Anna and takes her to Budapest, and informs Helsing that Dracula will trade her for the Monster.

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At a Grand Masquerade ball, Van Helsing rescues Anna from the clutches of Count Dracula, but watches on in horror as Igor manages to capture the Monster. With only a few hours left until Van Helsing transforms into the Werewolf, and Dracula manages to put his plan in motion, Carl reveals that Anna’s great ancestor was the father to Dracula. Dracula was murdered but in turn made a deal with the Devil. Not wanting that on his soul, Anna’s ancestor makes a pact with the church, for his entire family and bloodline to go to Heaven as long as Dracula is killed, but was unable to do so as he could not kill his own son. He did leave messages however as to how they may be able to accomplish it, and in turn are able to find the location to Dracula’s castle. All three go there, and find out that Dracula holds a cure for Werewolves, because the only thing that can kill him is a Werewolf. Anna and Carl head off to get the cure, running into and a foul of Igor in the process, while Helsing tries to save the Monster. Too late however, Dracula’s offspring are born. Aleera tries to kill Anna, but with help from the Monster and Carl, Anna is able to kill her and proceeds to get the cure to Helsing. Meanwhile, Helsing runs into Dracula, and at the stroke of midnight he turns into a Werewolf, strong willed enough to attack Dracula, eventually killing him. Anna arrives and is about to inject the cure, but Helsing attacks her. Just as Carl is about to kill Helsing, he notices that Anna managed to get the cure into Helsing, who takes the dead body of Anna in his arms, howling into the night as he slowly becomes human again. The following morning, The Monster is given its freedom and rows out to sea. Meanwhile Carl and Helsing hold a pyre funeral, but then Helsing sees Anna and her family’s spirits finally ascend into the clouds.

Now just to be clear in case anyone got confused by my introduction, this is not a Super Hero based movie. It does not feature anyone in brightly coloured flamboyant costumes nor does anybody wield any amazing super powers that they use on and off willy nilly. In all honesty this film actually has more in common with spy films along the lines of James Bond. Yes, it is at heart a fantasy adventure film with lots of interesting well designed monsters and creates some interesting ideas in its story, however I do get the feeling that more detail could have been provided. When watching this you will be forgiven for thinking it’s a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, lots of near swashbuckling adventure scenes like those of Indiana Jones (or at least I think so) while also containing a gadget based scene not too similar to Q Branch in the 90’s and 2000’s. Once you get past those near comparisons however you can finally get in-depth with this film. It’s adventure style works quite nicely and the action is well done, but what this film tires to do is create a fun fantasy film, incorporating creatures and stories of the kinds that modern Gothic fairy tales are known for, continuing to show a real sense of peril and danger, while also making it light-hearted enough to be enjoyed to the full, and not needing to hide behind your seat.

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When looking at the film’s plot, it is quite interesting to note that this film is near two hours long, but the lack of thorough detail makes you think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong; it is beautifully crafted and creates some ideas and goes on to generate incredible twists, it just doesn’t feel all that smooth, more blocky and jumpy, like as to say they could have included a bit more detail here and there. The ending is rather anti-climactic and it feels like it is trying too hard to move onto the next scene throughout. I just feel that in the end it could have revealed a lot more; it feels like there is some stuff that is mentioned, or answered little bit but not fully. This whole history between Dracula and Van Helsing especially, the idea that there was history between them, but as to exactly what that was goes relatively unanswered, more suggested. When walking away from this film you’ll begin to wonder if Helsing is the Arch Angel Gabriel and the one responsible for Dracula’s death in the first place, something sort of suggested but again; not really answered. It is something of a shame that there isn’t enough bite, there is a squeeze of teeth and the story does try to wrap up everything neatly but I think it just tried to do too much in the end, and couldn’t wrap it all up either; however the history of Dracula is still a pretty interesting scene.

Van Helsing is made up of a rather interesting selection of cast members, all who do their role well. Well when I say well, there are a few who just fall short of the mark. While you do have people in much smaller parts like the Gravedigger who is a rather nice addition to the cast, and whose appearance be it all a bit small, he is the kind of character you want to see more of; whereas the brides of Dracula are rather annoying. Not annoying because their villains, but annoying because they are annoying! While it is fair to say that the vampire voices are rather generic and possibly a bit camp, all three brides are just over the top. Their look in Vampire mode is definitely over the top and their human presence is far more interesting, but to me their look is too, sort of, Sultan. They look like extras picked from a movie version of Arabian Nights. What did it for me is that Marishka is the better performing of the three, but when you take in all their voices together, plus a brief moment of Marishka posing off in the village, they look and sound a lot like the actress Valeria Golino in Hotshots! Part Deux. It’s just off-putting and rather unnecessary, they don’t even make good villains. With those 3 are out of the way though, the rest of the cast are pretty good. Although I would say that I think Velkan is rather over used, not as much as the three brides, but is sort of toyed around with a bit too much to the point where it is not really necessary anymore. To begin with he is, and it is a great way to show how the Werewolf curse works for the sake of the story, I just think for someone who is meant to be a Werewolf, there is a lot of human scenes.

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The film does struggle with some moments of casting I feel, especially when you consider having Alun Armstrong in a part and only have him on-screen for about five minutes. The same could be said for Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Hyde, a very interesting character that you just want to see more of, but is more used as an introduction. It’s just a shame that not one, but two high-caliber and very experienced actors, are not used in a much longer or greater position; I mean I could understand more if you had lesser known or relatively newer actors in those parts, but why the other way around. Just want to point out though that both Stephen Fisher and Samuel West do good jobs, if very minor ones for the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Victor Frankenstein respectively.

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As for the films main sightings after the above, they all do really good jobs in the roles they have been asked to do. Igor for instance does well of being conveyed as the foolish and simple Igor, who at times shows some level of his own will and even levels of grumpiness toward Dracula. It is meant to be a more comedic role, but as the film progresses you can see more of his strengths, and even who he really is as he begins to talk more sadistically and even gets into a fight, and that voice is pretty chilling too. Frankenstein’s Monster similarly has a wonderful voice; more operatic which makes me think of Dynamo in The Running Man (but thankfully not all the time). The monster is very much like the creature he is based on, at least in the popular media light fashion, although is seen to be more physically active, and a real fighter. But deep down he is not muscle; but a man wanting his right to be alive in a world that will not accept him. A lot of work has been put into his back story, and he shares some brilliant quotes with the rest of the film’s cast, especially the line: “I Want to Live!” He is a great addition to the cast, and a very entertaining one, maybe a little over dramatic in places but a real good entertaining character while also not being in any way, shape or form; the comic relief. That is more handed down to Igor and Carl equally. Carl is something of an assistant as well as a librarian, not much of a fighter, but more like Willow in Buffy. He is a researcher, someone who shows the important side and value of good research. He is something of a minor fool, who sounds like someone trying to responsibly not get into trouble, but does. In the end though, he shows his true strength, and even a little attitude, as without him they would never have been able to defeat Dracula, as in the end it came down to reasoning and understanding as well as a touch of philosophy too.

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The film’s main trio are made up of some really fine acting talent. For many years now, I have said that Richard Roxburgh’s performance as Sherlock Holmes is my favourite, and still do. Here we get a rather more different performance with him as Dracula. Yes the voice could be considered Generic, but I would not say the passion was. The way he can just say the right things in the right fashion of voice is amazing. Sometimes he could be sorrowful and sad, others he can be mysterious and cold, and others he can be grand and excited. He too has some really good quotes from talking about his lack of heart, to his lack of ring in the final fight with Helsing. Richard Roxburgh delivers in what is a rather fine and fun role, making sure that Dracula lives up to the vampire we all know and love (I know) while also making sure that we know he is the villain and why he should always be the villain; a very enjoyable character, possibly also my favourite depiction of Dracula. Kate Beckinsale meanwhile plays not a damsel in distress, but a brave and confident vampire hunter. She does possibly overplay the accent a little too heavy, but for everything else that she does, she too, like Roxburgh is rather enjoyable. Be it living up to the Indiana Jones like performance, to the voice of reason unlocking the true person of Van Helsing, to of course being the ruthless lady of vengeance. It is hard to really see her in a role like this; however I cannot see anyone doing a better job than she does. She is very Countess of Monte Cristo like in how she performs and how she talks, but in that essence she is rather cool and fun to watch. It’s hard to really pin her down as to whom she is and what she does and what makes her so good. It’s another one of those je ne sais qua moments, where she is/doing something really quirky and cool, but you don’t know what?

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Hugh Jackman is of course playing the titular character of Van Helsing. Here he plays the Vampire Hunter of course who at least to begin with is rather cold and callous, more being a simple Monster Killer than anything else. He is a man with a history, and much like Wolverine (weirdly) is a man whose history is currently not well known (and as explained in the plot section above is still rather unknown to the audience). As the film progresses however he begins to learn more about compassion, first showing it to the Monster, and then learning it through desire for Anna, who helps him see more. In her part, she is more of a secondary object, but he too begins to learn and realize more and begins to see her in a different light (although I feel that him immediately coming onto her by the end is a bit clichéd and could have been developed more). This new character though is definitely different to the one who first appeared in the streets of Paris, although his search for his missing past definitely takes something of a back seat and it seems as in the end he does not really care. One thing remains though throughout is how cool a character he is. This ranges from the way he acts to how he talks, but one thing that certainly helps is this Undertaker like look: The Hat, Jacket and standing in the shadows with a pistol.

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Van Helsing, much like many other fantasy films comes with a whole castle full of visual special effects, some of which are absolutely gut wrenching. The effects on the whole are done quite well and are mostly visible in monster designs. The Dead Born vampire spawn are really icky and creepy while also hanging around in those pulsating pods which are near stomach wrenching. Mr. Hyde is a nice little effect although be it not a long one, as too is Dracula’s Mirror Scene and the Transylvanian Horses scene. Dracula’s monster form I would say is ok, but all of these effects really tremble under the majesty of what has to be the most impressive Werewolf in movie history, that of Van Helsing’s transformation. The transformation is quite creepy, especially where the skin appears to fall off (similar to another icky effect early on with Dracula’s healing burned face), and to begin with he looks more like a gorilla than a wolf, but then when his snout takes form, and as you see him standing over Dracula, it is such an impressive sight (I keep wondering why on earth Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban couldn’t create one just as awesome), and the fight between the two I feel is not as long as it could be, and nearly wastes this amazing Werewolf. If I was a Werewolf, I would want to look like the one at the end of Van Helsing, who wouldn’t? For me that is the whole highlight of this film.

Which is more than can be said for the soundtrack! The soundtrack composed by Alan Silvestri does actually sound rather pleasant and for the genres that this film is trying to convey is a suitable fit. It’s just it’s rather overused. Not as much as The Last of the Mohicans (which I am certain only has one piece of music in it); but still quite a lot. It does have some nice pieces of music, the End Credits is good, some of the battle scenes, the funeral, the Masquerade ball, and the adventure style theme tune used prolifically throughout are all pretty cool; however, there are two pieces of music which sound near exactly the same (unless they are just one piece) which is used nearly every minute during the last great battle, and it is so noticeable (like Last of the Mohicans) as it is used prolifically in scenes that suggest Indiana Jones like action: Like swinging on a rope for instance. It’s not exactly annoying, just irritating, because the music on show is pretty good but nearly let down by one (or two) piece used too much.

On the whole though, I think this is a really cool film, maybe not the best or the greatest of Fantasy Adventure films, but overall I think it’s a really cool, fun film. It has an interesting story, a cast made up of categorically worthy actors but not overplaying their roles; keeping their roles fun and interesting, some cool special effects helping to create some certainly breath-taking Monsters and one of those soundtracks that is now rather recognisable for certain pieces used elsewhere. Yes, it does have its issues: Some cast members are near gratuitous, the plot is a bit sketchy with bits not even answered and there are a lot of uncivilized bits as scenes and effects go. Though for everything that does not work, there is more than one that does altogether creating an entertaining yet very cool and sincerely engrossing film.

GENEPOOL





Go Go Boom Or Busters – Why A New Group Of Teenagers With Attitude Could Potentially Be The Biggest Failures This Decade

21 09 2016

Power Rangers (Lionsgate - 2017)

In 1993, upon seeing the success and potential of a Japanese kids show about a group of brightly coloured heroes and their personal giant robots; Entertainment businessman Haim Saban with assistance from his business partner Shuki Levy created a TV show about a group of attitude ridden teenagers whose job it was to save the world from an impending invasion from an out of this world villain living on the moon. The show was called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and was a TV Hit for anyone aged 10 or under. Haim Saban had basically unleashed his own monster onto the world, and what followed was one of the longest running (and at one point easily the most popular) kids TV franchises in history with several toy lines being produced and even a movie.

White Tigerzord

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a bona-fide sensation with fans across the globe, including me; being glued to the screen on a weekly basis as we watched our favourite TV Heroes fight a range of rubber suited villains, before then having to call upon some giant dinosaur shaped robots to fight the ever so larger rubber suited villain. I remember, must have been for my 5th birthday receiving a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Megazord set, playing with it with my friends at Church, and then I think must have been the following Christmas receiving the White Tigerzord as well: so much fun. It was one of the biggest franchises and TV hits of the early 90’s, but since then just sort of disappeared. After a couple of years it just went away from the minds of the many, and became a show only the dear hearted fan would watch. I mean, it must have been relatively popular in order for it to continue, but it would be fair to say that it has never since the 90’s been able to enjoy the success and hype it once enjoyed when it first arrived – but could this be about to change?

New Power Rangers Zord

Back in August, for one reason or another I decided to look up clips from Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue (in particular the weird story-line about the Snake Tattoo). As to why I had that in my head all of a sudden I cannot explain, but despite not knowing how this happened, part of me was actually rather glad. On the one hand it meant that I could take a stroll down memory lane and think back upon the times I used to watch Power Rangers with a passion. On the other though; it meant that the analysis part of my brain which regularly likes to delve deep into things in such great detail could have some fun. The key question as to all of this analyzing of an in and out TV Show that has been going for over two decades and which I have enjoyed now and then; was whether or not the new big budget movie from Lionsgate; due out next year was going to be any good or not. Well, technically it was actually a bit more complex than that and it was not necessarily a question: it was more of a statement and belief that next year’s new Power Rangers Movie has a lot of potential to be good, but also a lot of potential to fail horribly. Why? Well that is what I would like to try and analyse/explain over the course of this post.

Super Sentai Logo

For my reasoning of this to be understood, I would like to give a brief but possibly detailed history of Power Rangers (if you would rather skip, please jump to paragraph 10). Nearly twenty years before Power Rangers even existed, there was a show that was produced in Japan about a group of super heroes dressed in colourful clothing who every week would fight villainous monsters both on a human giant-sized scale. The show was called Super Sentai, and is still going to this day, all be it the show has been revamped several times during that period. The show was made by Toei Co., Ltd. and Bandai, and has gone on to become one of the most successful TV franchises in all of Japan alongside such shows as Kamen Rider and the Ultra Series. Roughly less than two decades after Super Sentai’s debut, while on a business trip to Japan, businessman Haim Saban saw potential in the series. His plan was to create a brand new show for the American market which would later be known as Mighty Morphin (correct spelling) Power Rangers. He quickly produced a pilot with help from business partner Shuki Levy and spent roughly five years trying to find a channel in America willing to take it up; the eventual picker uper being Fox Kids. The show was about a group of teenagers who supposedly had ‘ATTITUDE’, and who every week would fight to save their home town (mostly) and the world from a big villain. Every week they would have to fight in hand to hand combat with the villain’s minions whom in turn would more than likely at some point get much bigger, and would then be cause for the teenagers with ‘supposed attitude difficulties’ to call down their mighty robot Zords who could transform and combine to become a much larger fighting machine to which they would then be able to defeat the greater monster.

Megazord

The show was produced in a relatively simple way that on the one hand could be expensive in one area, but in the other keep overall production costs down. Basically, the show was actually made up of footage from Super Sentai. Footage from fights between the costumed wearing heroes, as well as the fights between the giant villains and Zords was actually from the Super Sentai show and that was simply slotted into the program. Any shot involving a character not in costume was then filmed and put in alongside it, with any voicing needed for the heroes while in costume being dubbed over. It was a simple way of producing a TV show and has been done ever since, with Power Rangers still borrowing clips from the new versions of Super Sentai and then re-branding them as Power Rangers. In a more simple way to understand it all, it’s sort of like the car industry. Some cars are made outright, while others are the same model with bits changed around to make it look like an entirely different car. In the case of Power Rangers it’s like taking a model from Japan, and then changing the body and the badges: simple, effective and overall potentially nice and cheap.

Power Rangers Suits

Something must have worked because the show was a major hit when it first debuted making stars of its young cast nearly overnight. Some stars of note include Amy Jo Johnson portraying the original Pink Power Ranger Kimberly Hart, and martial arts star Jason David Frank portraying the Green, then White Power Ranger Tommy Oliver. Other stars of the show included the wise mentor Zordon (David Fielding and Bob Manahan), bullies Bulk and Skull (Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy), and series antagonists Rita Repulsa (Soga Machiko and Barbara Goodson) and Lord Zedd (Ed Neil and Robert Axelrod). Another big star of the show though was the theme tune. Something of a near metal like style of theme, very fast, very energetic and packed with the lyric “Go Go Power Rangers”. The production was simple, and so was the formula; however the show worked hard to make sure things never stayed easy, as the Power Rangers would have to come to learn and fight harder over time gaining experience as they go, but also have to come to acknowledge the occasional defeat in order to gain a future victory. As the series progressed, villains would get tougher, but in response the Rangers would get better, as well as receive boosters and upgrades for their mighty Zords which also included additional Zords for them to deploy. In the end, the show was not just about heroes, but also a lesson in the understanding of teamwork. Not everyone though could be considered a fan of the show as many parents considered the show to be rather violent for children to watch it and several complaints were made to the FCC (The Federal Communications Commission). Other issues aired included possible racial overtones in the colours of the power rangers to the colours of actors skin including casting Austin St. John, Walter Emanuel Jones and Thuy Trang as the Red, Black and Yellow Ranger’s respectively. Potentially the show also had an issue in Malaysia, as the show’s use of the word Morphin was viewed as being too similar to sounding like the drug Morphine.

As the show reached ever more dizzying heights of success, toys were released of course, but more importantly some films were made, both of which tied directly with the show at the time of release, however it would be good to say that these said film were as good as the show; which I can’t, because they were terrible. The first film: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie involved the reawakening (let’s move quickly on with this one) with an ancient villain known as (big sigh)…..Ivan Ooze. The plot revolved around the heroes having to lose their powers and then regain them to defeat their biggest threat to date. In a word; it was Pants! A couple of years later however, another film was released: Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. Now I have only seen bits of it, but I can remember it dually being weird, but not necessarily as bad (however this one was released during a later series). Despite this kink in the armour, the show looked to succeed further, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers looked like it was not going to slow down anytime soon running in total for three seasons. Then it just sort of changed. I had stopped watching the show before this, but the earlier change of characters and Zords was easier to see and understand. Future changes for Power Rangers occurred differently. Basically, out went the Mighty Morphin tagline, as Power Rangers were now not mighty, nor Morphin, some of them were not even of the previous incarnation. It started with Turbo (check aforementioned second film) and then went from there. Future incarnations of the show would become less about having long running programs, but one-off series, sometimes set in different locations and time zones. The characters were different, some colours were different, even the Zords were different. Gone was the Dinosaurs and animals, it went on to become a variety of things including cars, ninjas, animals, rescue vehicles, planes, trains, even insects. Animals and Dinosaurs would make the most re-appearances, but the show was much harder to grasp unlike its previous Mighty Morphin stage which simply continued rather than ended.

Some of the show’s later depictions would actually draw me back into it. Originally starting with Lightspeed Rescue, this new form was rather interesting as a bunch of rescue service…..teenagers would fight a horde of demons trying to take over the world. The show had some interesting new characters like Kelsey (Sasha Williams), as well as some interesting stories like the Titanium Ranger (Rhett Fisher) and his Snake Tattoo. Although looking back at it now I can see that the villains could have done with some more work as their quivering lips did not really hold much to the imagination, but they still looked pretty creepy though. I would actually continue to watch Power Rangers for a few more versions, but the only ones that really did anything for me were Lightspeed Rescue, Wild Force and Dino Thunder. After that I just stopped again, pretty much as soon as I saw that human dog thing in S.P.D. 

Zen Aku Flute

Even if you continued watching it, stopped or never saw it, Power Rangers as a franchise is still going to this day, all be it a very scattered one which is hard to keep a grasp on due to its changes of theme and story. Or could this be more due to the changes in Super Sentai. Could it be that the show changed on purpose, because the show it was being borrowed from was changing constantly, or could it be that unless it did change, it would grow stale and lose popularity? Maybe we will never know…well actually we can because according to Wikipedia: Power Rangers “In Space was a turning point for the Power Rangers franchise, as the season brought closure to six seasons of plot, and it ended the practice of having regular cast members act in consecutive seasons”.  Anyway, the show may have changed some levels of production, but others it did not. The show over the last 20 years has continued to borrow footage from Super Sentai and since its inception; Saban Entertainment has continued to produce the show except for a seven-year period when it was sold to Walt Disney, only having regained control of the show in 2010.

Power Rangers Kira

When I first heard that a film was being produced of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I was instantly interested. Back in 2013, while waiting for Pacific Rim to be released, a friend of mine sent me a link to a Power Rangers inspired rip on the film’s trailer, even going as to put the music from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the background. Just over a year later I watched that trailer version again, and from looking at the effects in the trailer for the Pacific Rim Jaegers, I saw that there was potential for a new Power Rangers film and wanted to do one. So, I was a bit miffed when one was announced, and I wasn’t involved. Anyway I thought that with all these new glossy special effects that we have today, that with some real talent as well as critical yet creative thought that a new Power Rangers Movie could have some real potential. So far we know that the film is being filmed and is due for release next year, and we have already been teased with images of possible Zords and the choice of suits for this film. We have even been provided with cast names including two big Hollywood stars in the form of Elizabeth Banks playing Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston (ironically) playing Zordon. From what has been announced and teased so far there is actually a lot to be excited about with this new Power Rangers film and it does show a lot of potential. So why is it then that whenever I think about it, I get this niggling little doubt that this film is going to fail catastrophically.

New Power Rangers Suits

When the idea was first thought about, I knew that the one thing that had to be done above all others for a big budget Power Rangers movie to work was that it had to be its own story. It could not in any way be connected to the TV Shows at the time (which was initially the plan). It had to be independent, and not rely on people needing to watch a specific storyline or episode from a show that they had all but forgotten about. Luckily the film is promising this; it’s stated that it will be a reboot of the original series. Same characters perhaps, but not the same actors, a new fresh start and a film that could be picked up to begin with at least, from the first frame; first box ticked, good start. You can forgive me though for thinking that a new Power Rangers movie though could cause an element of self-doubt, as to date we have already had two PR movies, neither of which was very good. They were both very openly boring with the first one having some of the worst special effects I have seen in any film, had a villain which did not make much sense, a story that did not make much sense either, and bits and bobs that went on to suggest that there is a hero in all of us done in the most convoluted way possible. It was all up in the air and sort of made for a film that was probably made for the purposes of money rather than producing something for the purposes of entertainment. But that is just one bit of the niggling doubt in my head.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Paramount Pictures - 2014)

When I think of this film, I feel a real sense of potential. I can see possibilities and dream opportunities. To compare to a product in aid of an image, I would say that the way I can see this film going is like that of the Transformers series which began less than a decade ago. Now opinions for those films are one thing, but when it comes to production value, you can’t necessarily say that the production of those films was not pretty well done. Visual effects have moved on a lot over the last two decades with films and series of mention coming to mind include: Avatar, Jurassic World, The Avengers, Transformers, Lord of The Rings, Pirates of The Caribbean and Harry Potter to name but a few. What do all of these films have in common, all of them are live action, and all of them are big films with varying degree of opinions and reviews but all of which have big and detailed uses of special effects. Whether or not they were any good is up to the consumer, but as to how well they were done in the visual effects department, there is no arguing that they could be considered colossal. When it comes to this Power Rangers Movie next year, one thing is clear, that in order for it to work and really grab people’s attention’s, the special effects need to be as detailed and as polished as this. If it is anything less, then it will more than likely falter. Imagination is something that this film needs to keep on its side. There is no question or shadow of doubt that this film needs to be taken double seriously and effort needs to be piled in to make it as good as possible. It needs to be grounded not overblown, it needs to be quirky not silly, it needs to be light-hearted and funny, not outrageous to the point of terrible. There is a lot that needs to be covered, because like I said before, I really think this can go all the way, and become the new Transformers. With the right detail of special effects, the imagination that this film could produce could have one of two effects, both good. For one it could inspire a new generation of children to get as excited as I did about Power Rangers when it first started, and also, those people who watched the original series could feel a wave of nostalgia building deep inside that would want to make them return and revisit. This in turn could produce a third effect, one which made Jurassic World such a successful film, the effect that those who watched the original series, now all grown up and with kids of their own may want to take their kids to go and see it, therefore bringing back an old audience while creating a new one.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

The Transformers representation is in the form that it created nostalgia for its original audience while introduced itself to a brand new audience, while at the same time grounding itself, being super serious in its production and even if in the end it was a catastrophic failure, no-one could argue that they gave it a good go. But they did, and it was good (at least I enjoyed it and its subsequent sequels). But that’s the point I am trying to make here, that with due diligence, Power Rangers could meet a similar success to that of Transformers. Special effects aren’t everything, but there is a difference between done well and done badly. A good visual effect is one that provides something reality cannot provide, but still looks real (like Jurassic Park’s Dinosaurs), while a bad one is one that is obviously noticeable and looks rather camp, shabby, blocky, not very detailed and just generally un-aesthetically pleasing to the eye (such as those of the Zords in the first PR movie). At the same time of course, it cannot solely rely on its giant robots as that was never the be all and end all of Power Rangers and so at the same time needs to weave a story of discovery but also create flaws and moments of drama as the characters come to discover their destiny’s while also the need to live in ambiguity and strain this can cause to their personal lives. One thing that could potentially be explored is that while being heroes, they could be seen as vigilantes and a future story could develop as they get sought out by the government and military for the use of their Zords but also to keep them down and answer for the destruction they may cause in saving the day (just a thought).

Power Rangers Zack

Altogether, this new film has a lot to prove. If anything it needs to take a really detailed look at itself and work hard to prove itself. It needs to demonstrate that it has forgotten its movie ancestry and is willing to improve and move on, helping us in turn to forget as well. It needs to take it’s self seriously, and be produced coherently in order for us; the audience to get the best outcome. It needs to target new audiences while also not alienating older audiences; not just those who saw it originally, but those who may be forced to pop along as chaperones to see it. It needs to be all-inclusive and provide a general level of entertainment for all to enjoy. It needs to provide the best special effects money can buy, one so that it looks realistic, and two not to look downright silly. The right effects can make a film a success these days, whether or not the actual content is good or not. If done terribly; well, we have already seen those kinds of results haven’t we? Overall, this film does have a countless deal of potential, but at the same time could create one of cinema’s greatest failures if not done appropriately. In order though for us to stop thinking like that, it needs to start showing itself to us. It needs to show more images, and a teaser trailer sooner or later, in turn providing us with the imagery needed to see what this film is going to encompass and whom it is directed for. I am genuinely excited to see this film and hope that it will be a genuinely entertaining and fun film; but let me ask you this (whether or not you are a fan, or have never even seen an episode): Are you sure you don’t have any niggling little doubts?

GENEPOOL








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