It’s Showtime – The Running Man

29 03 2017

Have you ever considered appearing in a Game Show? Like many kids of the 1990’s, I used to dream of appearing in shows like Gladiators, The Crystal Maze, Virtually Impossible, and the biggest one of them all; Fun House. As time went on it became obvious that me appearing in any kind of Gameshow was probably not going to happen, but I kept some tiny day dreams for shows like Cross-Fire, Raven, Bamzooki, Jungle Run and of course Robot Wars (which given its return to TV has got me thinking about it once more). While I may not have been a contestant, many people have as is the point of game shows, many of them striving to achieve the grand prize of money, a holiday or maybe a boat. Win or lose though, many of them should be thankful that they were not competing for the right to stay alive.

Released in 1987 by TriStar Pictures and directed by Paul Michael Glaser; The Running Man is a Dystopian Action Thriller based on the book of the same name written by Stephen King (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) where a wrongly convicted man is forced to compete in a gladiatorial style TV game show known as The Running Man. The film is set in America between 2017 and 2019, where after a worldwide economic collapse; the country has become a police state and the government soothes the population with the airing of game shows where convicted criminals have to fight for the right to stay alive with a chance of being pardoned by the state.

Former cop Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is wrongly convicted for the mass shooting of civilians at a food riot after he refuses to follow an order to kill the civilians in the first place, and is now dubbed the Butcher of Bakersfield. He along with a few other inmates including William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto) and Harold Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) escape from a labour camp, with Ben going to his brother’s apartment to hide out only to discover that it is now occupied by Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso); a composer for ICS who are the broadcaster of The Running Man. Taking Amber as a hostage, Ben intends to leave the country for Hawaii, but while at the Airport, Amber informs the authorities and Richards is captured. Taken to ICS, Richards meets the host and producer of The Running Man; Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) who tries to persuade Ben into competing in the show. When he refuses, Killian threatens to enter Laughlin and Weiss instead; upon learning this Richards agrees to take part.

The next day the show begins with people all over America and from different backgrounds tuning in to watch. Backstage, Amber; who is working on the show that night discovers some evidence that some of the news made about Richards maybe untrue and goes in search to find out more. As the show begins and Richards is introduced, Killian reveals that he has entered Weiss and Laughlin into the show anyway. Richards threatens to return for Killian, before he and his other inmate pals are sent on their way through large tunnels on strange rocket powered sledges. The Idea of the Running Man is that the contestants are forced to run through a large area of urban wasteland while being chased by an elite team of Killer Stalkers; if they survive, they are pardoned for their crimes. The Audience though love all this brutality and cannot wait for the first stalker to be introduced; that stalker being a very large hockey player dressed character called Sub Zero (Professor Toru Tanaka). The three runners are penned into Sub Zero’s own specially designed area and are toyed with endlessly until Richards uses a barbed wire fence to strangle him, killing him in the process, the first time that has happened in the history of the show. With the audience in shock, the three runners use this advantage to get away. While in the game zone, Laughlin and Weiss use this opportunity to find the network’s uplink for the benefit of the resistance. Amber meanwhile has been caught, and is forced to enter the Running Man also; she arrives just before two more stalkers enter the game zone in the form of chainsaw wielding Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch) and arc electricity user Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth). Buzzsaw fatally wounds Laughlin, while Weiss is shocked to death by Dynamo. Richards kills Buzzsaw with his own chainsaw, but spares the life of Dynamo after his electric suit stops working. Richards agrees to carry out Laughlin’s last request of getting the uplink node information to the resistance within the game zone. Off camera; Killian sends a message to Ben offering him a job as a stalker, but he refuses, and Killian sends out the next stalker; the flamethrower wielding Fireball (Jim Brown). In the studio and outside however, the audience starts cheering for Richards given his unstoppable killing streak. While being chased around by Fireball; Amber discovers the decaying bodies of the supposed winners of the last series of the show, discovering that their victory was faked. Richards then kills Fireball by blowing him up.

Running out of options (and stalkers), Killian asks the help of retired and champion stalker Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Freedom however refuses as he does not like the way the show has become compared to what it was like when he used to do it. Using body doubles, Killian fakes the death of both Richards and Amber by the hands of Captain Freedom. Ben and Amber meanwhile are still in the game zone and have been found by the resistance and their leader Mic (Mick Fleetwood) and learn of their faked deaths. Using the transmitter info acquired by Weiss earlier, the resistance launches a two-pronged attack on ICS. First they show footage of what really happened at the Bakersfield riot and present details that Killian has been lying to the audience for a very long time. Then resistance fighters led by Ben and Amber break into the studio fighting the guards. Amber succeeds in killing Dynamo while Ben confronts Killian. Killian’s bodyguard Sven (Sven-Ole Thorsen) shows up, but decides not to fight Richards as he has had enough of his boss and walks off. Killian tries to convince Richards that he was only doing what the audience were asking for; saying that they love reality TV and televised violence. Richards decides to give the audience what he thinks they really want and sends Killian off in one of the rocket powered sledges down the same tunnel that Richards went down. Killian crashes into a sign on the way out bearing his image and dies, while Richards and Amber leave the studio sharing a kiss on their way out.

One thing that stands out about The Running Man is that while it may not be the first among discussed films of the same genre, or even not as frequently mentioned as other Arnold Schwarzenegger films of note; it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable film. While maybe not Schwarzenegger’s best film or performance, this does not distract from how enjoyable the experience this film delivers. The Running Man is one of those films that is guaranteed to entertain an audience whether it be a seasoned viewer, or even those who are watching it for the first time. Saying that though is pretty simple, as explaining why is even harder. While I could immediately jump on saying that the film has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about it, I think that could be considered cheating. From an action point of view, The Running Man delivers plenty of it. It does what any quality action film does, which is always having something going on, and never too slow. It has lots of running around, plenty of fights, death, explosions while also allowing the use of drama to give those scenes purpose. It’s swift and uneasy, but does not lose sight from its main plot or setting. It’s very basic levels of action uses its scene and scenario to ramp it up and create more meaning, providing the audience with a continued reason to watch. The film’s setting, while not being fully represented, still presents an idea of what it is like to live in a dystopian America, really representing the lives of rich and poor, but also presenting an idea of how a police state could soothe tensions within the populace to keep it under a better form of control than with strong levels of violence. One thing though that probably helps a lot in its film making is how that while you are watching a film; you are also an audience member of this TV Gameshow. The Running Man is presented like many classic American game shows with the charismatic host and big budget effects, to produce the best show they can. In the case of The Running Man the show has its charismatic and popular host; it has music, dancers, merchandise as well as a reality TV effect to it which always grabs an audience. Another thing in the shows profile is how it incorporates what Pro Wrestling was like around the time of the film’s release with a cavalcade of wrestling gimmicks. While said gimmicks are pretty much non-existent to a point these days, back then it was all the range, and with the show’s Stalkers; while they are blood thirsty killers, they are taking on personas with a detailed and strong gimmick. This combination of reality TV and Pro Wrestling along with everything else makes The Running Man Gameshow the kind of show people could actually get into to, even nowadays as it’s a perfect formula conjured up from some of television’s most popular programming. While you are indeed watching a film, you are still watching a Gameshow as presented in the fictional scenario. With the films level of action, small but basic plot, and unique presentation style; creates a very entertaining and enjoyable film. That does not mean though that everything is plain sailing, or perfect.

The Running Man is actually a very small film; not necessarily in length, more in the form of detail. There is a lot going on in the background and a very strong setting is implied, but not delved into. The film says that America is a dystopian police state, but the only evidence of that is a strong police force that could be considered more as security rather than peace keepers. There are a lot of city scenes, some showing a more privileged sector, and that of a down trodden and poor area too, but there are only two scene shots of this, one on a small street area, and the other on the outskirts with the city in the background, but it does not suggest police state, just city and slums; like many a large city. We are told there is a resistance movement but because we have no grounding as to how bad this police state is, there is no real building of reasoning as to why a basic resistance movement is required or needed. That’s the major problem with this film’s setting; that while we are told this stuff, there is no visual evidence to back it up with, other than some scenes with police forces casually walking around. The only thing we have is this TV Show, and that too causes a major plot problem in that supposedly bringing down the TV Station is all that matters. The resistance works hard to bring down a game show and TV channel; but if you are living in a police state where the political elites have control, why would bringing down a TV channel solve the problem? It’s a big foot hole in the plot, because the more you watch it, the more you want to tell everyone that it really doesn’t matter, it does not really solve much, if anything; it’s just going to get worse from here on out. So the ending is a bit unhooked. It’s a real shame really, because the city from a visual perspective looks really good.

On the perspective that the producers of the film could not see into the future, the film’s game show does not lend itself to the current modern-day culture that we live in. One thing that stands out with the film’s selection of stalkers is how they are designed not necessarily around practicality, but more around gimmicks and personas of pro wrestling at the time of the film’s release. In that respect when looked at now it could suggest that the film may not have aged well, but this is only in one short way. Yes the Stalkers do look a bit ridiculous now, but back then would have looked pretty impressive, and in honesty, they are not all that bad. This however brings me quite neatly into another of the films major issues, which is that the cast on the whole is a bit shoddy. The stalker gimmicks are nicely made and it’s easy to see where the ideas came from and what the film’s producers were hoping to achieve, but there aren’t many standouts. Dynamo for instance comes packed with a costume which even back then would have probably looked ridiculous with the glowing hair and light up costume, it looks dire. Buzzsaw does not really do much other than show off his teeth, and Sub Zero is rather wasted given that Professor Toru Tanaka is actually a pretty cool big guy actor when given an actual chance to show off. In reality it makes Tanaka’s performance in an episode of the A-Team far more career prestigious than in a big action film starring Schwarzenegger. In the end it does come down to Captain Freedom and Fireball, which in itself is rather sad. For the most part, both characters; while given major credited parts find themselves on the side-lines until necessary. Fireball’s introduction is rather late on, but has a much stronger stalker part than the others. His entrance and intro is one of the film’s best looking and most enjoyable scenes, plus he helps shed some light on the malpractices of the show. Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom has a similar part as he is played as mainly the retired veteran of the sport who has great memories and respect for what he used to do and how he did it. His passion for the sport shows off well as he does not like the new wave gimmicks and probably would want to take on Richards if it was left to him and not Killian. Much like Fireball, he is a late intro and is only really referenced up to this point, but his veterancy and style portrays a really interesting character that creates an on-screen identity before he even becomes relevant. Both Brown and Ventura give good performances but it’s only worth between 10 and 15 minutes of the entire film; they both deserved well more.

The rest of the cast is pretty much near hit and misses with very few of the headliners actually standing out. I don’t really get much of a feeling for Mick Fleetwood’s character, nor Weiss, and while Amber’s character does improve towards the end of the film, it just feels rather late. There is some interesting cast minors such as Killian’s assistant Brenda (Karen Leigh Hopkins), The Running Man’s director Tony (Kurt Fuller) and of course Sven who sadly could have had more of a part. From there though we do get some cool characters; Laughlin for instance has great on set chemistry between himself and Richards. If it was not the case of these two needing to work together, he could be a really good nemesis for Schwarzenegger, but in this case what we have is a strong ally for Richards. While he does meet a gruesome end at the end thanks to Buzzsaw, he does produce one of the film’s most powerful and poignant moments backed up with that killer soundtrack. It is an interesting but good casting as it’s one that could have worked either way, be it friend or foe. Richard Dawson is an inspired casting for the part of the cold and ruthless game show host. Given his background and history of Gameshow hosting, it comes more naturally to him, as he looks and feels like a game show host, no matter what the context. He is able to draw popularity to himself through a natural form of charisma, but on top of that he is also able to play a character, one who enjoys a level of ruthlessness that comes with the power and joy of presentation and production control, one that also makes himself believe that whatever he is doing is not necessarily selfish, but right. It is an incredible part and one played by a naturally talented persona that produces a real sense of reality to a very fictional product. Arnold Schwarzenegger for me is someone whose career I have known about but have seen him in very few roles. I have seen most of the Terminator’s, Batman and Robin and Kindergarten Cop, and it’s hard not to think of the large brutish character we have come to expect from said roles. He is a big muscle guy, but it’s hard to see him in other light especially with him playing very archetypal roles. This however does allow me to see another side to him. Yes, he is the muscle-bound hero, but there is more to him here. There is compassion to his friends, love (in the end) for him and Amber but also a sense of belief between right and wrong given his introduction and background. While the film makes use of his well-known line from The Terminator (just 3 years earlier), there are more lines to come, including a very daft form of spoken humour when it comes to the stalker deaths. While he does have a very physical role to play, he shows and does more than that, and in the process allows audiences who have only seen one real side of him to see more of what is quite a cool and diverse actor when provided with a chance.

The Running man does have some interesting and nice effects to it, all be it though come mostly down to some nicely designed and created set pieces such as the tunnels and the main stage of the game show itself. The jumpsuits (I had to at some point didn’t I) are not too putting off; yes they look weird, sort of like how Arnie would look if he was asked to play Wolverine in the iconic spandex (I really don’t think bright banana yellow is his colour), but altogether look ok in different colours. It’s not the best effects of the film but more than most is definitely not the worst. But it’s not really the films effects where I want to look at; more the film’s incredible soundtrack. The Running Man’s soundtrack (composed by Harold Faltermeyer) on the whole sounds very futuristic, but also very low; not sad but grimmer, helping to construct the idea of a dystopian future. It has a lot in common I think to Escape From New York with powerful and hard-hitting keyboards with a sense of fast and light rock. There are four pieces though I would like to make particular mention of; the start of the show, Laughlin’s death, the broadcast attack and the end credits. Mick’s Broadcast attack features this very light siren like sound to begin with which appears rather irrelevant, but quickly builds to include other sounds. It is a pretty light track until the fast repeating drums come in. Before this, they feature the Running Man’s general theme, something which can be heard throughout the film; but once those drums come in, a different piece comes to the stage. It actually breaks the tension and grim sounds of the previous pieces of music and allows a lighter sense of hope as an attack comes its way. It’s in no way optimistic or celebrating, but it gives a lighter more hopeful energy which suggests change in the film’s plot. It’s still dark, low and tense and continues to produce, but it’s a different vision of what once was and is now to come.

A good film plot, as many people will tell you is about change; change from one thing into something else. The Running Man is a film which features a small but dramatic change, the change of a country from one that is cut in half by class, to one united by a common goal, the same could be said for the change in Richards, as he goes from a criminal, to that of a free man. While the broadcast theme suggests change and hope, the end credits (Restless Heart by John Parr), actually present one, as it’s a theme that is much lighter. Gone are the low-toned sounds of a despotic regime raining down on its citizens, in comes the sound of willful change and hope as we see a nation now with hope for a change in attitude, even if it is very much only suggested. It’s a nice light theme for the film to end on in general and has a nice beginning to it, which really helps provide that breath of fresh as it all comes to an end, all the excitement and adrenaline is now over, so remember to breathe.

The ICS Theme for the game show itself is actually pretty light and does not feel as hard-hitting as a game show’s introduction should be. It does not feel catchy or memorable, just light; but mix it in with the dancers, and a different perspective is revealed, that of less a game show, more of an event, and one that requires and deserves a level of build up to get the audience going before the main event begins. It’s a similar idea I think to when in The Hunger Games there is that 1 minute countdown to the bloodbath, the calm before the Storm, but held in a slightly more glorious way as this time the whole nation is backing it, and because it’s the kind of show which gives audience participation, there has to be that level of joy for them too as the show begins. One track in The Running Man that is not joyous is that of when Laughlin dies. The Running Man’s general musical theme is this sort of keyboard based riff which can be heard in several parts of the film, more of an atmospheric track than anything else, but when Laughlin dies it is played a lot heavier. It’s the loss of a good strong friend and his message for Richards, one which Richards agrees too, but also from belief that Richards should have died not Laughlin. It is a pretty funky track and sound, but especially more so at this point when the notes are pretty much being slammed by the soloist. It is a game of life and death, but becomes more real at this point, and the soundtrack goes out of its way to use this point as the most poignant reminder of this, creating the film’s and film’s soundtrack’s best and most memorable moment.

The Running Man critically is a very hard one to judge. Yes it has its issues ranging from a mainly makeshift cast, to a setting and theme which is not really delved into enough to really provide scope. On the other hand though it delivers an incredible soundtrack, some wonderfully designed set pieces, some interesting moments, but on the whole a lot of very enjoyable moments of action. As a dystopian thriller, it definitely does not hold a lot of ground and there are far better ones out there than this. But as a dystopian action film; this is one of the best. While I still prefer the Hunger Games and Battle Royale; I would happily put this up a good level. It has something that every action film fan would enjoy while also using a unique perspective to create something that is truly unique in cinema. Trust me on this when I say that this is a truly enjoyable film; I mean it, give it a go.

GENEPOOL (The poster is a bit off-putting).

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It’s The End – Logan

15 03 2017

logan (20th Century Fox - 2017)

Whenever I finish something, or feel like something is coming to a close; something big and has taken me a long time to do, my mind always jumps to the scene of the fourth Doctor Who regenerating into the fifth. I don’t know why, but it’s a nice poignant scene which carries the incredible line; it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for”. It’s that line that comes to mind when I can feel like something is the end, or that I have reached the end. But knowing what I am like, I will have prepared for it, so like when I finished reading the GONE book series, I found something to read to replace it with for instance. Well, in the case of this film, the moment has been prepared for, but the hardest hit is that it truly is The End!

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Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg, and Directed by James Mangold; Logan is a superhero film starring Hugh Jackman returning for what is intended to be his last portrayal of Wolverine, a role he has held for 17 years. When the film was first announced on the heels of The Wolverine, I was really excited as I really loved The Wolverine. Come 2015 however with Jackman announcing his retirement from playing Wolverine, I was very sad, and had begun chasing my mind around for replacement actors (if there were any), forgetting of course that before that bridge is crossed, Jackman would still provide us with one last glorious hurrah.

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The year is 2029; all mutants are supposedly dead except for a small group, and a now aging Logan (Hugh Jackman) works as a chauffeur on the border with Mexico and lives with friend Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at an old smelting plant. Xavier is now growing old and senile with his psychic powers now grown beyond control with devastating effect and has to take medication to control it. One day Logan is approached by a lady called Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks him to give her and a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen), escort to a location in North Dakota. Logan reluctantly accepts the job as the money provided will allow him to buy a luxury yacht he wants to purchase. As he comes to collect them though he finds Gabriella has been murdered. Laura stows away in his car though and goes to the Smelting Plant where she becomes friends with Charles. Just as they arrive though, a platoon of soldiers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) arrive having captured Caliban, and are demanding that Logan hand over the girl. As men try to capture her though, she quickly attacks them in a very savage and brutal way, with steel claws coming out of her hands, decapitating and amputating several limbs.

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Logan, Laura and Charles escape, and using Gabriella’s phone, discover that Laura or X-23 as she was designated; was one of several young children born and bred by the Transigen Program headed up but surgeon Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). The kids are injected with Mutant DNA and are bred to become mindless and dangerous soldiers, however unable to control the children’s souls, they all don’t want to do what they’re told anymore and most of them escape including Laura. Because she was made from Logan’s DNA, it is deduced that he is her father. Pierce with the help from the Reavers, use Caliban’s ability to locate other mutants to find Logan, and while staying at a casino in Oklahoma City the trio are nearly captured, but Xavier has one of his moments and near paralyzes everyone in the city except Laura and Logan. Logan is able to get them out of the city, but does not believe in the mythical Eden of North Dakota where they are going, especially when he finds the co-ordinates referenced exactly in an X-Men comic. The trio are eventually given shelter by a family they help out on the road and the group bond together, as Laura discovers more of the outside world, one she never experienced having been locked up all those years. During the night however, Xavier is murdered by X-24, the final project of Transigen to replace the children, who also happens to be a copy of Logan, claws and all. X-24 captures Laura placing her in very restrictive shackles and takes her to Rice, but Logan arrives just in time to face himself having found the murdered family and the dead Charles. With some help, X-24 is pinned down, and Caliban uses a grenade to blow up rice’s van. Logan saves Laura and the two head out in the night, burying Charles in the morning.

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Beside himself, and with his healing still failing, Logan agrees to take Laura to Eden, still not believing it. Eventually they arrive at a mountain range with a community filled with the other surviving experimented children all run by Rictor (Jason Genao). There Logan learns that the children will be making an 8 mile hike across the Canadian border. Logan is ready to send Laura on her way, but Laura wants to know him as a father, although he is still down and out about losing his own friends, and sees himself less as a father, and more of a threat, and just wants to die. The kids attempt to make the hike, but are soon surrounded and chased by the Reavers. Using a healing serum from Transigen, Logan takes in the full dose knowing it will kill him but should give him strength to save the kids. The kids are soon rounded up and shackled except for Laura who gets surrounded, but rescued by Logan. The serum though begins to ware off just as he meets Rice, who happens to be the son of the man behind the Weapon X Program. X-24 is set loose on Logan, but Laura is able to free the other kids who kill Pierce. Logan is impaled on a tree during the fight, but using an Adamantium bullet, Laura kills X-24, which Logan had kept for years. Eventually succumbing to his wounds, Logan dies, unable to heal and the kids bury him before crossing the border.

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In 2007; the German heavy metal band known as Scorpions released a single called Humanity. It is a song which poignantly depicts the destruction and downfall of the human race through its own acts and nothing more. It is a very heavy track and whose lyrics basically suggest, as delivered in the music video with a young boy simply saying “It’s The End!” Now this track does not appear in Logan I should point out, but that is what comes to mind as I think on this film. It’s the end of Hugh Jackman playing this part. This is an actor who has played a movie role for 17 years now. During that time there have been 3 American Presidents, 4 UK Prime Ministers, 4 (technically 5) Doctor Who’s. It is an incredible amount of time to play a film role, most WWE Wrestlers don’t even last that long, but here is Hugh Jackman still playing this role, now deciding he wants to leave. He deserves it rightly so, he is allowed to walk away given the energy, passion and devotion he has put into just one character. He has played other parts which help prevent typecasting, but possibly for the rest of his life, will be best remembered for being The Wolverine, you do not forget 17 years of the same thing in a flash. So, yes, it’s the end of Jackman as Wolverine; but not just that. It’s also the end of 2 major characters in a film series that has become one of the most critically and financially successful franchises in movie history. The X-Men film series is not ending, No! There are still more films to come including Deadpool Sequels (YES!). No, what we have here is something of what could be best described as a tragic ending, which is sad for Xavier, but more so for Wolverine as he has led a pretty tragic life.

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The story of Wolverine is a tragic one as it’s the life of a genuinely good person who has led a rough life. He is very old given that his healing prevents aging on a grand scale. Over the years he is going to meet people and see people die, a lot of people die if you live that long and that is not good for the mental soul. As life has passed by, something horrid happens to him, something so dark and miserable, but something that he has only partial memories of. So as life ticks by he has to remember these things not knowing entirely what it was, and spends life running instead of facing. Eventually though good things happen for him, he gets friends, and a family, and can care for people again, and have a proper life, but given as to who he is and what he is, none of this could possibly last, and as the years have gone by, and seen more people die, some by his own hands for the good of others, he resigns to a wishful death, and waits for it. It is a very sad story for someone who is not a bad man, someone who is actually a very good man, a caring man, a protective man. Yes, he is prone to a little bit of violence, but only when it is called for; doing what must be done, because without him to protect his friends, no-one can. Into this, we find ourselves confronted with the final act of The Wolverine. But it’s not really a super hero movie, more of a personal journey as one man reaches his eventual end, but has one last thing to do.

Logan is actually a rather small film. It’s not a mega big one like other super hero films of note, as this is not a character trying to save the world, but those around him, and as such we go less on a journey to save the world, but a more personal one. As such he is not referred to as The Wolverine, but because it’s a personal story is known better as just Logan. Logan starts off in a similar vein as does The Wolverine, with Logan having to live and come to terms with his life and the death by his own hand of someone he loved. Now coming into this film we are told something similar has happened, but we don’t know exactly what. But just like before, Logan is beat up and ruined and has resigned to live as much a recluse as possible while caring for Xavier who has become rather senile. Eventually though he is given a duty he does not want, that of looking after a little girl very much like him. He is meant to be the father, but has no care for her, caring for his friends than her; something which falters in the mind of Laura who wants to know who she is and know her father too. As the story continues and things happen as usual, the similarities between the two emerge as Laura is very much like he was in the first first X-Men, with Logan now having grown up. Logan is still resigned to wishing death upon himself, but knows that once more, he needs to do the right thing to help those that need his help resulting in one last blood bath for those who deny him and others peace. His Death though is not nice, nor peaceful, but more brutal for someone who has earned better. It is a film that makes you think deeply upon issues such as the harsh and sometimes quick deaths of others while others get a more natural one. It looks into how people desire Death, and how Death actually comes. It features a brutal end which dies just like death is a final stop. It really makes you think on if you believe that the world is a better place without you, how can you be certain of this? How do you not know that life right now is in fact better, because ‘you’ are around!

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Logan is a small film and bolsters a small but pretty strong cast. Stephen merchant I find was actually pretty good as Caliban. Caliban has featured sort of twice in the past with his most recent piece being in Apocalypse as some garish and camp clown; here instead we see what he is truly like and capable of but also what kind of person he is given his history as one of the Morlocks. Gabriella’s part is small but sweet and shares some backstory light on some of the films major issues and themes including who Laura is and why we should care. One thing though I find the film lacks is a strong villain. There are some good villainy characters and others who help fill in those parts like a few extras. Pierce himself has the nice sinister mechanical arm and some god talking points but feels more like a hindrance than a villain. Same can be said for Rice, who while is a deceptive schemer with a good voice, again just feels plain. I am not saying he’s bad, it just feels like the villains are strong because they are many, but not because of whom they are. I mean X-24 feels like a wasted opportunity and a mistake being rewritten. His appearance as Logan is a bit like the Undertaker vs Undertaker match at SummerSlam 1994; kind of surprising, but still rather silly. It feels like a wasted opportunity to bring in a new monster. I thought maybe an enhanced Sabretooth, or Maverick, or someone big and scary to introduce. With a double Wolverine, it felt more like Weapon XI in Origins all over again, and we know what happened there don’t we!

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What villain’s lack, heroes make up. The Transigen kids are a nice addition although faint on the film’s radar, mostly as people to get into trouble and allow a moment of heroism, but for this film, it really comes down to Logan, Laura and Xavier. Xavier’s part in this film is still pretty similar to past films but does do a lot more and shows what Stewart can do when allowed to do something very different. He is in some sense the comedy side kick and delivers some incredibly funny moments, but it’s through his disorientated new life that shows how bad things have become. He remains something of a hindrance to Logan after all these years, but one Logan has come to care for, as rightly he should, as Xavier is practically his last and now only friend. His death in the film is a big shock, but not a sincere one, as don’t forget we have seen him die before in more dramatic circumstances with this one more lost in the moment, but you do see his life pass in his eyes.

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Laura spends most of the film rather quiet, does not say a single word until just before the final Act. Yes there are shouts, yells and screams, but no words. This form of silence allows retention of mystery as to who she is, but also allows expressing more deeply the life she had and the new world she is experiencing. Silence can be golden at times and really works in her favour, as we see this young girl come face to face with new things, not knowing what they involve or how to interact, but when finally realising who she is and where she is, she finally speaks, knowing that she needs to for the sake of Logan, but also so she can be heard. Her desperation to get to Eden comes more as a cross between hope and instruction from others, not necessarily her own entire belief, but somehow knows it’s there even if Logan doesn’t. Her skills as a fighter are incredible and are very similar to Wolverine, but she has some heart too, not a lot as this is crowded with the same anger Logan once had too, but as things come to a close, she knows that she must carry on, even though her father; something she wants and desires cannot help her, but in some way knows that still lives on inside her, respecting his death, and making his legacy live on in more ways than one.

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Logan’s design and perception of being much older and on the verge of death is an interesting one. We have seen him go through emotions before, but then he was not on the ultimate verge of giving up, more just conflicted. Now though he desires it, more than anything else. It’s kind of hard to speak on his performance after 3 or so paragraphs of detailing his character, but one thing stands out more than most; his Death; His final hurrah. Coming into this film, I was thinking his last stand was going to be like in The Wolverine, one last heroic but still cynical fight to the death where he would come out on top but now no more energy left to continue. No, this time his death is more personal. It wasn’t a long lasted blood bath, more one which required others to save him and take on his role, and one that required others to do the work, while he acted as a decoy, once again being more of a team member than a loner. But his death does have something else in it though. Going into this I thought it would be like The Wolverine, but in that, he was The Wolverine, now he is just Logan. Calling him The Wolverine, it’s like a promise (like The Doctor), you know what he is, who he is and what he can do, but by putting ‘the’ before it he becomes a thing, not a person; this film is a much more personal one, so in this case it’s not the death of The Wolverine, it’s the death of Logan. That carries a more significant weight to it; it’s not the death of a thing, but the death of somebody. Laura in a future film could become the New Wolverine, or someone else could take on that name; but you can’t replace or take on the identity of Logan.

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The film does come packed like many other X-Men films with a cavalcade of special effects. These of course include ‘very’ detailed claws including spots of graphic detail and blood splatter; especially when piercing through the heads of some people. The mechanical hands are a nice treat showing off some more blood and limb coverage than usual. The film uses its special effects department in other ways too to create visions of the future including a scene involving driverless, but dangerous trucks. The film also comes with a soundtrack once again produced by Marco Beltrami featuring quite a few slow pieces which are used to heighten the level of reality but more a sense of realisation than anything else possibly to state that this is the end! Pieces like Old Man Logan, Don’t Be What They Made You and Goodnight Moon cover this pretty well, but the soundtrack does of course know when to get busy though and of course creates action packed pieces for when a fight is on especially in a scene like the Forest Fight at the end and also when Logan is facing X-24. The one thing though that really stands out about this soundtrack though is the inclusion of several classic pieces by Johnny Cash. Logan’s first trailer of course famously features the song Hurt, which really shows the direction the film intends to take so that the audience can really see how the film is likely to turn out but also more likely what it is all about. This piece though does not actually feature in the film, what does feature though is not a slow grim song, but a rather pleasant, peaceful and also happy song that really turns around the film’s great tragedy and helps you gain some perspective.

A few months ago I went to see the film Ethel and Ernest based on the book of the same name written by Raymond Briggs. The film has a very sad ending, but turns this around in a sense by featuring a piece of music and images within the credit roll that suggest that while the ending was sad, it does not mean that everything was as there was some really happy moments. Here we have the sad ending and conclusion to the story of Wolverine (in film), but, while he has had great tragedy in his life, and it ended as such, there is some peace we can look back on. For one Logan has attained a peace from the devastation of his dark history, but also in that history there was also, happiness, joy, peace and of course love. This is held by the film playing The Man Comes Around in the credits, a light fluffy as well as casual piece, signifying not an entirely sad ending, but shows that there has always been another side to the coin, that in the misery, there was joy, and in the darkness there was also light; and so while Wolverine does bow out, we can take a moment of knowledge and recognition about the life he had, and the legacy that he leaves behind, not just in story, but also in the entertainment and joy he has given us as cinema goers.

Logan is a pretty sad point. I know the series will continue and new stars are appearing to take the helm and the future such as Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner and hopefully Dafne Keen too, but it is a sad point, more so when I think that there could have been more. When X-Men Origins came about and really failed like it did, that is the series lowest point, so when The Wolverine came along and excelled so much, it felt like a new beginning, like that is what Origins should have been, forgetting that film and becoming the first a Wolverine Trilogy. But now it has come to an end, it feels like only the surface was being scratched, and that more was on the way. It’s like when Castle was cancelled last year; it was in it’s prime, there was more to be told, and it just ended. That’s what we have here, like something more could have come, but now we may never see that. You can only play a character for so long though, and an end would have come eventually. The end of something is exciting because you don’t know how it’s going to end, but eventually realization sets in, and you realize that it truly is the end. So even if it did continue, it would eventually end: but what an ending it was! Logan does not disappoint in providing one last fight, one last match, one last scene of steel claws, blood curdling action, eye grossing violence, but also one last moving scene as the great hero finally comes to rest in peace. Logan is a sad and tragic little film, but shows off plenty of emotion and heart in a film series that has defined just that in the super hero genre; and now Hugh Jackman can now go do something else, leaving a legacy that will live on in cinema forever, and one that no-one can match. There is only one true Logan, and only one true, Wolverine.

GENEPOOL





Other Films Of Note Due For Release In 2017

22 02 2017

the-last-jedi (Lucasfilm - 2017)

As you may know (or not know if this is the first time you have visited, in which case “Hello”), whenever a new year rolls around I like to celebrate my favourite movies of the previous year, and also look ahead into the coming year to see which films are taking my eye. I do this by doing some Top 5/Top 10 posts and choose a selection of which films I am most looking forward to. Sometimes though it can be the case that some films which I also like the look of don’t get much of a mention. This can be particularly sad if those said films turn out to be better than the ones I was looking forward too, and even more if I find out about them later on. Anyway, with a lack of decision-making in terms of posts to write about at the moment, I thought I would do a separate post, highlighting films due out this year that I am also currently looking into.

the-great-wall (Universal Pictures - 2017)

One thing I am going to do though is not rank them. These films look interesting, but at current details are still small in my mind and I don’t want to rank them based on very few details. Instead, I have ordered them by which ones I wrote down first to last when looking them up on Wikipedia (and moved one around for the benefit of the post). So this is more of a general post than a ranked post allowing each one to state their case more equally than based on favoritism. The other rule I have done is; that I think it would be a little unfair to name films that have already been released (at least according to my knowledge), as they may no longer be out and it’s a bit late to mention them (for which I apologize). Anyway, I hope you enjoy this post (I’ll try to be as brief as I can be) and maybe also gain some more insight into this year’s set of movie releases.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Warner Bros. - 2017)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law and Eric Bana; Legend of the Sword follows a young Arthur on his journey to becoming the great King of Legend. Do you remember when back in the summer of 2009 a trailer was released for a Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr? I do quite fondly. It was an interesting idea seeing the American actor of Iron Man playing a role that was quintessentially British; either way it worked out really well. Sherlock Holmes was a terrific film and still stands today as a terrific film. While we wait in the wings to see if a third film gets made, it’s good to see that Guy Ritchie has been at work taking another quintessentially British character on a road leading to another big budget movie. This is of course not the first time that King Arthur has had his time on the big screen, but it has been a while. It’s interesting to see the perspective Ritchie has chosen for this film. Upon looking at the trailer, it goes more down the route of fantasy than historical, but also it appears to carry the traits of Ritchie’s earlier works in British gangster and heist movies, with Arthur being something of a rogue before ascertaining his royal lineage. It’s an interesting looking film so far with some great differences in perspectives and is shaping up nicely to become one of 2017’s biggest epics.

Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)

Alien: Covenant – Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Michael Fassbender; Covenant tells the tale of a colony ship which lands on a remote planet, where they discover a lone android and a race of monstrous creatures. Do you remember (again) when Ridley Scott announced plans to make a prequel film to his science fiction classic Alien? It was pretty exciting news, but the more details that were released before and upon release suggested that it was not exactly the prequel we thought it was, rather a film set some time before Alien and featuring a different mythology (I quite enjoyed it). Yes, while technically meant to be a sequel to Prometheus, Scott has decided that instead of taking a proposed long route round, it might be better just drop some Aliens on a planet and let the feast begin. From first looks, it does look pretty much like most Alien films released to date, but the setting looks a lot nicer being on an earth planet like surface with some foliage instead of an inhospitable wasteland made up entirely of rocks and craters. Popular elements of previous Alien films look set to return, but hopefully it won’t entirely involve the same old plot of someone wanting to keep the creatures alive for the sake of financial gain. From the looks of the trailer it’s looking like a nice combination of action meets real horror and it’s going to be fun to see where this one leads us next (maybe even allowing Neill Blomkamp to have a go).

Despicable Me 3 (Universal Pictures - 2017)

Despicable Me 3 – Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, and starring Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig; Despicable Me 3 continues the tale of former evil genius Gru now set on his new path as a secret spy trying to bring down a former child star who is obsessed with the 80’s. When the first Despicable Me was released, I was not all that interested, but upon seeing it, I really enjoyed it and was excited to see more. Since then the Minion characters have become stars in their own sense (even though their standalone movie was pretty pants), but have stayed loyal to the series that made them stars. Given the way the story was told for the part of the small girls, with Margo having main light in the first film, and Agnes in 2, it would be nice to see Edith get her turn in this film maybe. Either way, given what the series has delivered so far, hopes are high as Despicable Me returns for a third outing later this year.

lego-ninjago-movie (Warner Bros. - 2017)

The Lego Ninjago Movie – Directed by Charlie Bean and starring Dave Franco and Jackie Chan; The Lego Ninjago Movie sees a group of teenagers hired by an old master to become Ninja Heroes and use spectacular vehicles to protect their home from an old warlord who desires revenge. In honesty I don’t know all that much about this Lego product, I have heard about it and have seen board games of it, but due to my lack of knowledge have not really looked into it. Then when I went to see The Lego Batman Movie last week and saw a trailer for Ninjago, I was mightily impressed. It looked like a good fun animated action film with some level of plot based comedy such as the hero son and villainous father (but not in a way that made me think of Star Wars Episode V, VI; and probably VIII); one thing though that I could not help but think was how similar this looked to Power Rangers.

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Geostorm – Directed by Dean Devlin and starring Gerard Butler; Geostorm is about a man who goes into space to try and prevent climate controlling satellites from creating a mega storm, while back on earth; everything is not so rosy. Currently details are rather sketchy with this one, but I do have a major reason to be excited about this one. You see, this is the feature directing debut of Dean Devlin. While that name may not stand out for many people, Devlin does have over 20 years’ experience producing several major titles as a producer; with films to his name including Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla (1998), The Patriot and Independence Day: Resurgence. OK, yes he has worked a lot with Roland Emmerich, but given what this film currently looks like, and the projects he has worked on over the last 20 years, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how this film translates, and what kind of Director he becomes in the process.

wonder (R.J. Palacio - 2012)

Wonder – Directed by Stephen Chbosky and starring Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts; Wonder follows the story of a young boy born with a facial deformity who tries to fit in at a new school, and in the process teaches others around him that beauty is not constrained to the outside. When I was studying Creative Writing at the University of Central Lancashire, I did a module on Writing for Children, a module I still consider the best and most fun module I studied. During this module, one thing we did as a class was read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio of which this film is based on. It was a very interesting book (which I managed to complete in one sitting) which really did show what it was like for someone to live with a facial deformity and how it impacted the lives of others around them. Upon hearing about this film earlier this year, my interest was immediately grabbed. It’s a very thought-provoking book and if the film does the same thing it could be an interesting film. One thing that grabbed my attention was the choice of Owen Wilson. Now given that I have not seen him much in a non-comedic role, my thoughts began to wander as to what this film turns out to be like. As I have not seen him in a non-comedic role it would be interesting to see how it turns out, but my one hope is that this film does not accidentally become a comedy for some audiences. One of the real beautiful things about the book is that even though you know the character of Auggie has this deformity, the book is respectful not to describe it, nor have other characters do the same; more just suggest it, keeping a level of respect for those who do. Having seen images of the film, it’s hard to really see how they are going to do it, but given that it appears to be in the third person, it does bring a level of worry and caution that needs to be respected throughout, as in my belief, this film should really be seen from the eyes of Auggie when he is in the scene, keeping that respect and magic from the book into the film, because in the third person I don’t know how respectful some audiences are going to be towards that character.

10-cloverfield-lane (Paramount Pictures - 2016)

God Particle – Directed by Julius Onah and starring Daniel Brühl; God Particle is about a group of Astronauts aboard a space station  who must fight for their survival after the Earth disappears, and a space shuttle appears. Yes, it does sound like Alien, and normally films like these don’t grab my attention, but this one does as it’s a part of the now finally running Cloverfield Franchise. While not a sequel to the wonderful 10 Cloverfield Lane or the first Cloverfield, a spin-off still gets me excited. Details are a bit low right now but one positive is that series creator J.J. Abrams is actively producing it. While it does sound a lot like the original Alien, given what the this franchise has delivered so far, I think it deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one and the allowance to speak for itself.

colossal (Voltage Pictures - 2017)

Colossal – Directed by Nacho Vigalondo and starring Anne Hathaway; Colossal focuses on a young woman who upon losing her job moves back to her hometown. Weirdly however she appears to be very connected with a Giant Monster (or Kaiju) currently in the process of attacking Seoul. This is a pretty recent discovery for me, which is strange given my love for Monster Movies. The trailer looks pretty good and the film is already set to be quite an interesting science fiction as well as a potentially laugh out loud comedy. It has some traits of Godzilla 2014 in its visual effects while also carrying elements of an inspired mix of both The Host and Cloverfield in its look and ideas. I don’t really have an idea of what this going to be like on the whole, but from what I sort of know and have seen so far, I am pretty, if only minorly, excited by this.

GENEPOOL (If there is anything else not mentioned here that you are looking forward to, please let me know).





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?).





Everything They’ve Built Will Fall, And From The Ashes Of Their World; We’ll Build A Better One – X-Men: Apocalypse

21 12 2016

x-men: apocalypse (20th Century Fox - 2016)

“You have no idea who you’re messing with Xavier”; a line spoken by the Mutant Mesmero in the X-Men: Evolution episode; Mindbender. An insignificant line to those who may not have seen X-Men Evolution, but to me, it is a line that took me on a journey of discovery. It was the beginning of a story Arc involving the resurgence of a powerful Mutant Villain in the X-Men World. A villain, who since the first time I heard speak of his name, I would become besotted by, and looked for any and all opportunities to find out more about him. It’s been maybe 13+ years since I first came across his name, and I know so much; and upon learning of his upcoming movie debut, I could not wait and anticipated the arrival of this film and more importantly the movie debut of APOCALYPSE.

apocalypse

Released in 2016 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, and directed by Bryan Singer; X-Men: Apocalypse is a super hero movie where the Uncanny X-Men attempt to save the world from an ancient Mutant who wishes to destroy Humanity. X-Men: Apocalypse is the direct sequel to Days of Future Past and stars the cast of the First Class series of X-Men Films, but which also looks to introduce new stories in the long-term and introduce and also reintroduce both old and new characters. At the same time it looks to introduce the arrival of the first major super villain for the series, and attempts to do this with the insertion of the first mutant; Apocalypse. The story is based on the X-Men comics Apocalypse Story Arc, as well as the X-Factor Story; Fall of the Mutants.

In Ancient Egypt, the Mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) rules the land with 4 followers dubbed his Four Horsemen. While performing a transferral ritual, he is entombed in his pyramid where falls into a deep sleep. In 1983, kid Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) discovers he is a mutant while at school, and his brother Alex (Lucas Till) takes him to Xavier’s School for mutants run by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). In Berlin, shape shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) helps rescue teleportation mutant Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground fight club and takes him to Xavier’s school; where he meets Scott, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Meanwhile in Egypt, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) is on the lead of a mysterious organisation, who are searching for something underground, and there she comes across the remains of En Sabah Nur’s pyramid, which wakes him up, sending a vivid dream to Jean Grey who foresees the end of the World.

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Upon leaving his underground tomb; En Sabah Nur walks through the streets of Cairo, to discover that the world is under the rule of Humans. He finds street urchin Ororo Munroe (Alexander Shipp) who is a mutant capable of controlling the weather and recruits her into his team, enhancing her powers in the process. En Sabah Nur then goes on to hire mutants Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy), while still searching for a fourth. In Poland, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), also known as Magneto, has found himself with a job at a steel factory, and lives with his wife Magda (Carolina Bartczak) and daughter Nina (T.J. McGibbon). One day at the factory, he rescues someone with the use of his powers, but this tips off the authorities. After an accident in an attempt to capture him results in the death of his family, Magneto kills the militia and then goes to kill the steel mill workers who tipped them off. When he arrives though he is found by En Sabah Nur who kills the steel workers, then takes Erik to Auschwitz where his powers were born. En Sabah Nur informs Erik that he cannot escape his past, and says that he was sorry for not being there when Erik needed him most, finally recruiting him and enhancing his powers.

Back at the school, Mystique wishes to talk to Charles, who has gone to see Moira McTaggart to talk to her about some of the research she has been conducting about the history surrounding a mysterious mutant called Nur. Upon returning to the mansion and talking to Mystique, Charles uses Cerebro to locate and talk to Erik, but En Sabah Nur uses this connection to tap into Charles’s mind, and use Xavier’s Telepathy to get into the minds of everyone around the world, and to launch the world’s entire arsenal of Nuclear Weapons. Alex helps destroy Cerebro to turn it off, but En Sabah Nur arrives at the mansion and kidnaps Charles. Alex tries to stop them, but accidentally causes an explosion that rips through the mansion killing him. Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a super-fast mutant; shows up in time and manages to rescue everyone inside the mansion as the explosion tears through it. With the Mansion in pieces, a military helicopter arrives which disables most of the mutants unconscious. The men on board the helicopter led by Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) kidnap Moira, Mystique, Quicksilver and Hank. Before they leave however, Nightcrawler, Jean and Scott sneak on board the aircraft as it takes them to a mysterious base in the Canadian Mountains.

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In Cairo, En Sabah Nur informs Charles of his plans to destroy the world of Humans, and how he plans to possess Charles’s body with the same ritual as earlier. Charles broadcasts En Sabah Nur’s message to the world, while also sending a secret message to Jean. At the base in the Canadian mountains, Jean, Scott and Nightcrawler discover a savage mutant who has been experimented on (Hugh Jackman) and release him on the men in the base. Upon rescuing the others being held by Stryker; the team travel to Cairo where En Sabah Nur has rebuilt his pyramid; and while Magneto uses the world’s magnetic fields to destroy major cities, Nur’s other recruits attack the X-Men team. Nightcrawler is able to rescue Charles from the transferral just in time, but it has left him scarred. Quicksilver and Mystique attempt to convince Magneto to join them, as they’re his family too, and Charles uses his connection with Nur to get inside his head and attack him from there, but Nur is just too powerful. Even when Ororo and Magneto join the fight against him, they still struggle, until Jean releases the raw power of the Phoenix Force, which burns Nur to ashes. Back at the school, Magneto helps Jean to rebuild the school, Moira has her memories of Charles returned to her and Mystique with the help of Hank, trains the first X-Men team.

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I was very excited about the release of this film, so much so that I pretty much went to see it as soon as it came out. I was expecting and hoping for so much. I was watching the trailer over and over again, watching cartoon clips of Apocalypse’s Quotes, as well as clips of Apocalypse from the film saying that Amazing line. I was so excited and was hoping for so much. X-Men 2 has always been my favourite, but my hopes and dreams, especially after Days of Future Past, was that this film was going to be glorious and possibly better than X-Men 2. It was my final day of work where I was working at the time, and to sort of celebrate, as soon as I got back to Lancaster, I checked the VUE to see if it was on and if I could pre-order a ticket (just so I could go home, drop my bag off and get changed). When it was true that I could, I did just that and went to the cinema with great excitement.

Upon seeing the film, my overall opinion was: right….? One thing that I have always found with films in the X-Men series is that it’s always best to give them a couple of watches to really get down to the nub of them, and that’s why I have waited until I could see it again before I reviewed it. It’s just the case that in the past when I have seen them again a second time, I have understood them a bit more. In terms of Super Hero movies they are in a class of their own as they deal with more than just guys with powers, as the X-men have other issues to deal with especially that of Mutant Racism that is so entwined within who they are. I think the issue for me was that I finished work that day too; at a job I was enjoying and was hoping that a treat may create some closure, but instead, my head was conflicting as my hopes and dreams for Apocalypse lay dashed on the pavement. Upon seeing it again though with a clearer head, I am a lot more favorable for it.

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The film has its issues, and the issues are a few. It’s not that they are generally bad; they are just issues that it doesn’t help, and could have with more development or better execution. The major issue it has is that it has a lot to fill in. In the past the series has orientated itself by keeping the team strong but the cast relatively low. The X-Men are a team and it’s important that they remain like that, but the more effective team is better than the biggest, if you get my drift; they’re not an army. The issue here is that, we have one big villain that of course has his own minions to do his bidding, but in order for it to make sense, it needs to be made up of new but still popular characters, so we therefore have a team of five people vs another team, but this time made up with characters that were being reintroduced to the series, important characters that needed to be introduced sooner than later as they have not been seen for a while (except for clips in DoFP of course). With so many characters to introduce, not to mention other characters taking some spotlight, it was going to be hard to fit them all in the allotted time, so what did the film makers do: extend it, but then again it doesn’t really work! It introduces, and well I will say, characters like Nightcrawler, Scott and Jean Grey, plus allow some development time if not a lot. However, on the other hand Apocalypse’s team is hardly introduced at all. They are sort of sacrificed for the benefit of other characters, which is actually a big shame as some of his team are made up of X-Men Superstars who have been members of the comics longer than most.

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Due to this issue of extra time, the film commits some faux pas that only goes to confuse the viewer rather than enhance the film. It has characters to introduce and a lot to show; what it ends up doing is showing scenes (scenes that are very interesting I might add), making you want to see more, and basically changes scene to another perspective which is OK, but then does it again, and does not return to that original perspective for a while, say between 5 and 10 minutes. With that out of your head, you feel like you have walked in to a scene from a TV Drama completely unawares as to what is going on and with no way of finding out. It’s got all these really good bits, but doesn’t put them together close enough for them to really take you anywhere: if the gap was quicker or shorter, then it would probably be alright. You can actually see how long it feels in reality as you realize that even 47 minutes of the way through, it still feels like it’s the first act, and is still introducing people, and not creating an incidental moment that takes it to the next big thing (at least not until the end of the first hour). What does not help this further is Apocalypse’s plan to destroy several major cities at once. You just don’t feel it. You feel it when you’re there; the final battle takes place in Cairo which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re trying to show global devastation it would be better if you focused on one city then moved out. Put one city in peril, for the sake of everywhere else. The images of destroyed cities are very vivid and visionary, but because the scene is not there, it does not feel like anything. If the final battle was in say Washington, New York, maybe even Tokyo or London; these are big major cities of the world, but have the final battle there, and show the expanding devastation there, so those who go to see this film can at least connect more strongly and really feel for the destruction. I don’t like Part 1 and 2 films that are being done all the time right now, it’s a motive by the studio to make more money, not really for the film’s sake to have a stronger/better story, here however I can see an argument for a film that should have a Part 1 and 2. It’s trying so hard to cram so much into what is already a very long film, if it spread things out a bit more, and split into 2 films, then at least we could have a much better developed story and things could happen quicker and better.

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Much like said above, X-Men: Apocalypses cast can be in spots feel a little wasted. They really pushed the boat out with mutant characters and have featured an all-star cast of X-Men Comic mutants which include single appearances from mutants like Blob (Giant Gustav Claude Ouimet) and Caliban (Tomas Lemarquis) as well as small appearances from Apocalypse’s original Horsemen (Warren Scherer, Rochelle Okoye, Monique Ganderton, Fraser Aitcheson), but it is rather sad that strong characters and re-introductions to this series like Angel and Psylocke are once again pretty much shoved to one side despite how much their images were used to promote the film. I am especially a big fan of Angel and was hoping his new role would be a strong one, much like Psylocke, but again it was very little and he pretty much died a quick death. Psylocke for what time she was given did provide some strong moments, and I would like to see more of her in the future. Like previous films in the series, some major guest actors were brought in to play big but still very short parts, but their inclusion does help ripen the roles of senior characters where required, with the use of such actors as Zeljko Ivanek. But these roles are meant to be one shot spots, whereas major villains or even hero characters should have more. For instance, I thought it was rather odd, that the filmmakers go some distance to include Jubilee in the story, but leave her appearances to the very minimal, especially to introduce her in such a well-developed fashion and not include her in the final battle of which the same could be said for Havok, who was a major introduction in First Class, but not really used beyond, despite how well he is played either way.

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The uses of other characters are just weird though; for instance: I genuinely believe that Hugh Jackman has no point of being in this film other than to make a small appearance. The whole scene in the Canadian mountains shows no real major point, except maybe to introduce the post credits scene, in which case, why not create a very different post credits scene? Everything is going well and Ok, then they just slam this scene in there for no real major story point. What is a real shame though I find is that the film’s major cast (who have since become major stars since their first appearances in this series), seem to be underused. They are there, and feature prominently, but given that Days of Future Past has shown what power they can give in these roles, it’s a shame that they aren’t used to perfection. Most of this could be as an after effect of the convoluted scene by scene irritation I mentioned above, and all the while they still provide goodish performances, it just feels like they have lost effect. James McAvoy for instance seems to have returned to a docile past and feels like he needed to get younger over a 10 year period. That welcoming friendliness is still there, but the power from the previous film has gone. Jennifer Lawrence (who I consider to be my favourite actress) seems to have lost passion as Mystique, she seems to talk more than do more, and does not really deliver any reason for being there, other than maybe for being Jennifer Lawrence. Nicholas Hoult just doesn’t swing it for me much in this film, and just appears to fade into the background mostly while at the same time minutely trying to provide the emotional instability between his character of Beast and Lawrence’s character of Raven/Mystique. I know these films take place 10 years apart from each other, but I didn’t know the actors not the characters had to age in between! As for Fassbender, while he is still very capable of getting very emotional which is a very good trait of his, I think it’s getting rather clichéd that he has to get low and emotional. Why couldn’t he be the big bad strong villain that he is supposed to be playing, only to be enslaved by Apocalypse rather than just join him. Why can’t Magneto just be Magneto? Rose Byrne has a waste of a performance. She was fantastic in First Class, but due to a lack of appearance in Days of Future Past, she is brought in here, and sort of reconciles with Charles really too quickly, not allowing their relationship to really blossom, and so for the most part serves as a double-edged joke and not as the inspired cast choice that she once was.

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It really comes down to the rest of the cast to sort of make up for the casting and performance mess; and some of them do more than any other. The X-Men are a team (already made this point), and as such the characters should have more of a part in the overall battle instead of leaving it to single players to do the job. Scott Summers for instance carries attitude, but not much of anything else to make his part worthwhile. After the death of Alex, he really should have more drive, but he sort of confidently hides in his shell. The same could be said for Nightcrawler who is just there to oppose Angel, and rescue Charles, but nothing much of anything else. And even though she is not part of the team, Storm is a major character in all X-Men related media, and just to be given a few speaking roles and some small appearances, it just again feels like a waste. Quicksilver does get another appearance and a much bigger one plus uses the knowledge of Magneto being his father to increase his position within the film. His rescue of the people in the mansion plus his fight with Apocalypse are two very good and well done scenes and really help to get the final half of the film going. The film’s cast though really does come down to two amazing actors delivering Fantastic Performances. I had never heard of Oscar Isaac when I first heard he had been put in this role, but I absolutely loved his performance. On the one hand I do think Apocalypse was too well held down to begin with and was very much just used to provide philosophy and theory, we didn’t get much of a chance to see his powers until the Nuke Scene and of course the final battle. I was a bit disappointed that his comic book essence, his true powers were not really put on show, but they were minor in reference. However, much like Apocalypse in Comics and Cartoons, his performance, his voice, his presence, were powerful. They were really good scenes, and ones I could both look forward too and much enjoyed. While he did take time to be seen, he was still the main villain and presented as such. I really feel like he should make a future appearance again, a villain like that does not die-hard, but I hope that if it were to be done that Isaac be brought back to play him again and that he is more like his-self in the comics, rather than filmmaker philosophy, but here and now, still well done, and also has the best quote of not just the film, but of any film released this year.

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But for me, there was one person who was better than all the rest. From start to finish her role was pretty mysterious, but the performance provided was unlike any other in the whole film and for her to become the real hero, it was wonderful to see. I absolutely loved Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, she was just epic, and for hours and days after seeing the film, I could still see Sophie Turner whenever I thought of this film. A perfect casting in my opinion that is one I definitely want to see more of in the future (please be cast again in the future).

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The film like its previous series entries does feature a bewildering level of Special Effects, which help to not only show special powers, but also help create scenes and scenarios that cannot be made but are asked of. Some of these sections I feel could have helped in other sections where they may have helped either sped up or at least not slow down the pace of the film. The destruction of cities is very visionary, and the film works hard to create its more iconic big effects like Quicksilver’s running scenes, to destruction on a large scale, to even launching the entire world’s Nuclear Arsenal. But as I have always found, no matter how great the effect is, the soundtrack always delivers more. The soundtrack (composed by John Ottman and Michael Louis Hill) once again features that incredible X-Men opening theme and titles, but does not hold itself down to just that, as it creates some amazing pieces for some of the film’s more outstanding moments, moments such as the launch of Nuclear Missiles (which is played to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7), Ancient Egypt, Quicksilver’s Mansion Run (Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics), and of course the final battle with Apocalypse, especially the rise of the Phoenix. These two things while considered maybe separate never fail to impress or provide great moments for the series, always delivering, always enjoyable, and always powerful.

I wouldn’t consider X-Men: Apocalypse to be a disappointment, nor a bad film (it’s better than at least 2 X-Men films I can think of). It’s more like an unpolished attempt leaning on the edge of greatness. Even with its issues, it has its scenes and moments; although while largely separated for long periods of time, these scenes still deliver really fun enjoyable and powerful moments that give you a good surge of pleasure. The characters may be hit and miss and mostly underused; doesn’t mean that they still can’t bring the pain; they just need to get out of their personal pain to begin with. Apocalypse might not be the same as he usually is, but he still makes a great villain and his introduction let’s open the gates for other major super villains such as, oh I don’t know, Mr. Sinister perhaps? What I would class this film as, is a good attempt. It’s something that throughout is working ok, but never gives the final push it needs to truly breakout and be what it really can be. I had high hopes, and while it did provide hours of real enjoyment, it just wasn’t enough to truly be. Maybe it’s just that I am a fan of X-Men: a fan of the comics, cartoons, (nearly) all the films, maybe that is why it did not fully work for me? Maybe, but even still, I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse to a large degree.

GENEPOOL








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