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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Play it Again Philip

22 06 2016

Philips DVD Player

This past Saturday, I bought a brand new DVD player. Not much in the extraordinary I understand: people buy DVD’s and DVD Players all the time; so why is mine so special? Well, I say this, because, the previous DVD Player I had I received all the way back in November 2005. Yes, I have had the same DVD Player for nearly exactly 11 years. Yet again, maybe not the most extraordinary thing out there to talk about, but given the time I had it for and had become acclimatised too, plus the panic and nerves I created in buying a new one, I thought it could be an interesting blog post (if anyone is interested in history of personal items belonging to other people, sort of like those posts I wrote last year about my Bed).

New Bed with Bedding

Back in 2004, I got into watching Pro Wrestling. Every Saturday morning for a time I would watch WWE Smackdown on Sky One. As time passed by, I bought some WWE DVD’s to watch, however the only DVD player in the house was down stairs, and it was hard to watch any WWE event on DVD on the DVD Player as other people were not necessarily a big as a fan of WWE as I was. After several months, I decided to buy my own DVD Player, and put it in my room with my TV. So, the day after my birthday, I bought one from Currys, took it home, hooked it up to my TV and was able to watch programming. I cannot remember much about that player, except the title screen showed bubbles, the manufacturer started with an S and it had this blue streak across the front of the machine. That machine was pretty problematic as it would not play some DVD’s, would majorly struggle with others, and by October (less than 5 months after buying it), the machine packed in and had swallowed one of my DVD’s (WWE Armageddon 2004). My Mam took me to Currys, but they could not fix it, and the following Monday when I returned, they were able to take out the disc, but the machine had already totalled. As I still had the receipt, I was able to swap it though, and under the advice of a store clerk, I bought the Philips Machine, which worked brilliantly for over a decade.

Philips DVD Player 2

The machine was a nice silvery colour, and the controller was short and fat, but easy to control. It was a wonderful machine. I remember the week I picked it up, going to Currys with the old one after College, swapping it over, watching some DVD’s on it, then breaking my Knee Cap the following Saturday. It’s not the DVD Players fault, it just happened within a few days of each other. Anyway, it was good and I liked it. Back then I had an old TV which my family had previously rented before buying which I then utilised for my room. It was perched on a table which I still have, and the DVD Player was next to it. The early history of the machine was tumultuous as there were some scart issues. The old TV had only one Scart Plug, so over the years when I got more items requiring a socket, I would have to switch from one to the other, which weakened the connection, so it was hard for it to sit in the socket properly, which was even harder when the TV would get shoved aside, which would cause colour issues. At one point I bought a multi scart from Comet which I was assured by a store clerk would work well, but did not, and it was covered by those ridiculous small prints that once the package was opened could not be returned; I wasted some good money on that thing. Eventually however, I received the old downstairs TV (a JVC), which was bigger and had multiple scart sockets, so problem solved in the long-term.

The TV

What followed was many more entertaining and wonderful years of watching DVD’s, until just a few weeks ago. I had begun to re-watch the first season of Arrow on DVD. After playing the episodes, the DVD Player would struggle to reload the menu screen. I just thought that may be due to the disc being a previously used copy, but it just got worse. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to watch Hellboy, but the machine really struggled to load the DVD, it took forever. I cleaned the disc best I could, but once again struggled. I was able to watch it in the end, but I decided to run a test, if it was the DVD, or the player. I took out my DVD copy of Pacific Rim, something I had only run in the machine twice, meaning the disc was still relatively new. I put into the machine, and it did not load. The player was really good for loading a disc in less than about 12 seconds, after 30+, it did not load. I tried to empty the machine, but it even struggled with opening the tray. Luckily I was able to get it out. I then took the DVD downstairs and put it into one of the Players down stairs, and the disc loaded in seconds without a hitch (once I put it in the right way). I tried one more time a week or so later, and it was the same result for the Philips. I did not bother trying it down stairs; it was obvious the machine was dying.

Philips DVD Player Controller

In the end, I decided to buy a new machine. The Philips I had for all that time was a very good machine and had served me well, but even I knew it was time to say goodbye. I did some pre-checking in PC World and Currys, before then deciding that this past Saturday would be the day I would buy a new machine. It was quite handy too as I had been in town before purchasing it to get some books, and watch Princess Mononoke at The Dukes. I went into Currys and had a look. It was nerve-wracking as for one I did not want to spend too much, but two, because the TV was old, it would need some form of old connection as standard in order for me to be able to use it (and three, having previously bought a terrible Matsui from Currys many years ago, was hoping to buy something not so terrible). While I was in Currys I did ponder whether it would be best to get a new TV too, but given my current employment status (desperately looking for work) I knew I would have to raid my savings to buy a new one. So for now it was just the DVD Player. In the end and with some help, it came down to 2 machines, a Sony and a LOGIK. Knowing it would be better to get a more trusted brand, or at least one I had heard of, I went originally for the Sony as it had the Yellow White Red connections in the back, but when someone in the shop said that strangely the box might not contain those cables, I thought in that case I would buy the LOGIK as it had a Scart Connection too (although did not come with the cables, but I could still use the one from the Phillips) plus the coloured connectors and USB (and HDMI I think). After purchasing it plus buying some other bits and bobs quickly, I brought the machine home, and soon after set to work plugging it in.

Philips and LOGIK DVD Player Controller's

It was relatively straight forward in the end, just swap out the Philips, plug-in the LOGIK and then test it. Yeah, pretty simple. When it came to testing it which was simple enough, I knew I needed something good and clear to test it with. The TV is not HD, and frankly I do not care about HD, but I still wanted a clear enough picture. So, I chose the film AKIRA. AKIRA is of course the animated Japanese film from the late eighties, and knowing due to the film’s high sophisticated choice of colouring, knew it would be ideal to test it with. And it worked absolutely fine. It loaded very quickly, and it was a clear picture.

Neo-Tokyo

The controller is a lot thinner than the old one, but still easy to use, and unlike the Philips, does have an open/close button. Once I watched a little Akira, I tried it again a couple of times later, watching an episode of The Detectives, and the video diary of Tim Vine (from one of his DVD’s). Altogether, I like my new DVD player. It’s thin and black and fits nicely where the old one used to be. It’s black so fits in with the Virgin Media box sitting comfortably on top (both are very light, but did not fancy placing the player on top the box, as it’s wider), is quick, and very easy to use. So turns out I did not have to worry so much. So, so far so good. Will it last another 11 years, I don’t know, but as long as it lasts a good comfortably long period, I won’t need to worry about buying another one for some considerable time. So, all in all: good.

LOGIK DVD Player

GENEPOOL (Pop Quiz Hot Shot: What is the above title a line reference too that most people get wrong)?





Godzilla News – Bad News

20 05 2016

Godzilla 2014 (Legendary Pictures - 2014)

In June last year, I put up a minor post that was just a teaser for Godzilla 2. I basically put up an old poster for the film and just said coming soon or something along those lines, and posted it for the same day as the planned release day for Godzilla 2 in 2018. Well, on Sunday evening I just went online to remember that day to possibly plan a new little teaser once again, and I got an immense shock!

Godzilla 2014 Nuclear

What I discovered is that Godzilla 2, which is still on course and is still going to be produced, has been pushed back. Not by a month or so, but to March 2019. Yes, the film has been moved back by nearly an entire year. The reason for this though was not apparent until I discovered another shock: that of the loss of the film’s Director; Gareth Edwards.

Gareth Edwards

To cut a long story short, back in 2014, after the release and success of Godzilla, Legendary Pictures announced plans to create a sequel, and possibly an entire trilogy starring the big nuclear Lizard. However, before they could sign him, Edwards signed a deal with LucasFilm to direct the first stand-alone Star Wars film. With Legendary wanting to keep the Director, they decided to give him some time to go away and make that ‘Space Movie’, and then once complete, for him to then start work on Godzilla 2. Now while this would mean a 4 year wait (again) for this next Godzilla film; I was sort of ok with waiting in the meantime as it would allow the studio to get the next one right, especially with the announcement of the possibility of Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah making an appearance in it. Anyway, it was announced that Edwards decided to split from the project to make his own smaller films after the release of Rogue One later this year.

Rogue One

This is a major loss for the studio and series as Edwards did a fabulous job and now with no current news of a director, it is going to be rough period as the studio goes looking for one. It makes sense in a way that the release be pushed back as a new director is found. In all honesty it’s rather more annoying than that. It means, that if Edwards had not signed on to do Godzilla 2, we could have had it by next year at the latest, but now we have to wait an agonising -3 more years for the new film. To be honest, part of me wondered if this might happen, if Edwards would be dropped, just so production could finally get going. To be honest, it’s also good news, in one respect. You see, last year, after the release of Jurassic World, a sequel to World was also announced, and the date was within the same month and same year as Godzilla 2. So, this sort of comes as good news for Godzilla 2 also as it does not have to compete alongside another movie involving big monsters.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

So far, the news is just shocking and sad. I am finding hard to cope, but will have to as it is not going to come any sooner. So far, still no news on how it is going to differ or connect as a sequel, and even more terrifying, no news as to whom will direct it either. Already I am having a few ideas, including Bong Joon-Ho, Guillermo del Toro and Jordan Vogt-Roberts. It’s yet another bad piece of news regarding the future of Monster Movies; especially more so after what is going on with Pacific Rim. Hopefully soon, things will happen, and in the end, I am sure I may be able to wait another 3 years. It could be an exciting time, who knows?

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

GENEPOOL





Don’t Let The Big Bugs Bite – Mimic

30 12 2015

Mimic (Miramax - 1997)

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

M5

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

M1

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

M8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).





Next Week

13 10 2015

Film Reel

Starting next Monday and running all week-long until the following Sunday is the culmination of nearly 5 months’ worth of writing; becoming the biggest project I have undertaken since finishing university.

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

Back in May, when I had finished University and was looking for work (which mostly involved sitting behind my laptop sending and waiting for emails regarding work), my Mam suggested I do some kind of project to keep myself busy. As the months progressed I got involved with some volunteer work for both Barnardo’s and The Dukes while also writing stories for the Preston Short Story Slam. In May though, I finally decided upon a big project to undertake, one that while sounding easy from the outset became so big that over 4 months have passed since originally starting it. The project was to produce a week of film reviews.

AKIRA (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1988)

Some of my more regular readers may have spotted that it has been a while since I have posted a film review on here, not since Early June with the film 13 Assassins. Film reviews are nothing new to this blog as you may already know (or not know, in which case I do film reviews). To date I have written and posted 61 film reviews (including 2 two-part reviews) with genres including science fiction, world cinema, animation, monster movies, dramas, super hero films and not forgetting best of all: Godzilla. In the past I have done film review seasons (usually taking place in June) where I review more than 1 film a month, my usual output. But not once have I done an entire week of film reviews.

13 Assassins (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2010)

It was going to be a challenge, but I decided to do it, and as such stopped producing my regular output of 1 a month to concentrate on getting all 7 films for this week of reviews ready, so then I can just plan the week and get them posted. I decided to not just do any random bunch of films, but instead chose to do a series of films, and luckily there was a series that currently and exactly contains 7 films, one that I am a big fan of. So I chose to do that one.

Godzilla (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1954)

It’s not been without its problems. One of the films I did not have on DVD so had to buy it (got a copy for 75p from CEX), to begin with I did not commit to it too much and so had to make my own time schedule to work to, finding images, links, information and videos online was rather tricky and due to time slipping past I could not have it ready as quickly as I wanted it to. Now though I am glad to say that it is ready to begin.

The Raid (XYZ Films - 2011)

Over the past few months working on this, it has been hard, but have been able to become a better writer too as now I am able to think a bit more critically about things, about my own work, time management skills and overall performance (I am even thinking about producing an Evaluation of the project in order to, well – evaluate my performance). I am glad now that I am able to share this with you all, I hope you enjoy it.

The Hunger Games (Lionsgate - 2012)

You may still be wondering what the series in question is, well; I will be announcing that later this week. Although one of the posters in this post is a clue (despite the fact I have continuously left clues here and there on both here and Facebook over the last few months), try to guess which one.

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

GENEPOOL (I did some rough calculations in my head, and have figured out that the total word count of all 7 reviews is nearly that of the minimum word count for most novels).








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