Get Off My Face! – Alien: Covenant

10 08 2017

Out in deep space, the ship Covenant is on its way to a distant planet on a colonization mission. After a tragic accident takes place, the crew of the ship discover a planet much closer by which appears to be an untapped paradise with more potential than the planet they are heading for. Upon landing on the planet’s surface however, they realize something odd about this new world, and that more importantly, they’re not alone!

Confession: I have not seen Alien. I have seen bits of it, from John Hurt looking at Eggs, to something strapped to his face and the attempts to remove it (plus the deleted scene where one crew member is being turned into an egg; which sort of lowers the uncivilized level of everything else in the world of the Xenomorph). I have though seen other films in the Alien franchise; I have seen Aliens (as close to watching the whole thing without doing it in one sitting), tiny bits of Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection (in the same capacity as Aliens), Alien vs Predator, Alien vs Predator: Requiem (again much like Aliens) and Prometheus. In fact, Alien: Covenant is the first time I have seen an Alien film on the big screen that features the word Alien in the title. But this does not explain much as to why I have not seen the first film.

It’s not like I have not had a chance too or lack of it being on either. It’s the case that the bits I have seen are the result of it being on TV. There was also the opportunity to watch it at The Dukes in Lancaster too, but I turned it down. So why have I not seen it: because I am not really a fan of gross levels of horror. I am actually rather squeamish, this is particularly true anytime and every time I have walked into a hospital or needed an injection. When it comes to these films, I know what I need to be getting myself into with its Chestbursters and its Facehuggers, but part of me is not really looking forward to those bits. But now you must be thinking; OK, then why watch any of the films in the first place then? Simple answer, I can’t help myself: thing is, I am actually, although rather grossed out by it, very interested in the Alien creature. I am a big fan of Monster Movies as anyone who knows me will testify with an especial passion for Godzilla films. While my Monster movie love though is mainly tied to giant monsters, I am still very interested in the Alien. This mainly comes in the form of its biology and how it comes to life. In the week leading up to the release of Covenant, I spent quite a bit of my time in a philosophical head space as I thought about the creature and came to the conclusion that the Alien creature is actually a rather tragic creation; but that is a story for another time.

Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox and Directed by Ridley Scott; Covenant is the latest film in the mythical series of Horror/Action films that began in 1979 with the release of Alien. Covenant looks backwards in time, as it looks to continue to tell the tale of the events leading up to the original film, as well as look into how the species was possibly created. The film acts as a direct sequel to Prometheus, but also looks to set up its own future and possibly lead into something bigger.

First thing I would say about this film is something rather obvious from the get go. While the series is technically more of a horror series of films, Covenant lends itself more to that of an action film. It does have its shocking moments that will make you launch a bit, but there is not really a lot in terms of big out of the dark surprises. It’s more like the film makers decided to go from the launch pad that as we know what the Alien is, there is less need to surprise people with what they already know. The film does contain its fair share of visually disgusting moments that we have come to expect from the series such as its facehuggers and chestbursters, but at the same time also weaves in some new little bits to keep some bits of the series fresh. This aside though, it’s content and pacing really does lend itself more to a mini action movie than a horror movie. It comes with chase scenes, tense moments, and events involving large vehicular instruments as well as gun totting characters with a trigger happy attitude when confronted with something that wants to kill them.

The film’s story is nicely brought together as it looks to less provide a ride for the ages and to introduce the series and its elements to a new group of fans with help from those of the past (sort of on a level similar to the release of Jurassic World). On that note though, you do begin to wonder how this film is helping its own series continuity, and how far back the film makers can go in both setting and technology without the events of these films unconvincingly surpass the films that they are meant to be leading up to. The story in itself does have some very interesting use of characters, although those that do stand out early on do feel rather wasted and you are left with one character whose introduction early on shows that he is just going to be un-sympathetic and rotten and thus do not care the slightest what happens to him, in some manner of form it’s actually rather pleasing. Those that remain do their best on their own as much as they can to continue to provide (though it’s hard to mention whom exactly as I don’t want to ruin who gets a feasting). Characters of note include Faris (Amy Seimetz), Karine (Carmen Ejogo), Rosenthal (Tess Haubrich), and Upworth (Callie Hernandez), however my particular mention goes out to the three main stars of this film in my opinion, those being Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Tennessee (Danny McBride) and the combination of David and Walter (Michael Fassbender).

The switcheroo between David and Walter is rather fun to watch as the two different forms of the same looking AI go head to head. On the one hand you have the now rather psychotic David and the more natural butler like machine of Walter. Walter is already a far more pleasing performance than David, but David really does carry that dark sinister sense, where as in Prometheus he is very much just a hindrance, now though he is fully on Badness. Daniels meanwhile is the sympathetic and strong second leader of the team, whose sole job is to make sure the mission is completed on time. Given a tragedy at the start of the film she feels broken, but then comes out strong and hopeful. While her scenes are actually rather enjoyable and strong, she does suffer from not being on-screen more often. She is on more often than other characters, but as the film reaches its central point she is sort of side-lined for a lecture of human philosophy between David and Walter. She comes back on strong and ends nicely that way too, but it’s still something of a miss. For me though the real attraction is Tennessee. This guy is just fantastic. Loyal and respectful, but always working hard to get things done. He shows real levels of passion in the middle stages of the film, and becomes a hard nut in the film’s ending. He is the character to root for the most as you really get attached to how nice but also how practical this character is, and from the beginning of the third act becomes the film’s lead, at least from an audience perspective.

The Xenomorphs meanwhile, although still pretty well done and cool, does suffer from a case of Missing Alien Syndrome. When Godzilla was released in 2014; there was a lot of press which highlighted that the film appeared to have very little of the title monster. Now while I did not necessarily agree with that, I would say however that such comments should definitely be directed this way. For a film that even has Alien in the title, there does appear to be a definitive lack of the Alien creatures. Now, while you could argue that in the same sense that this film is a potential new launch platform for the Alien series and it is of course important to introduce them correctly, there does appear to be large amounts of time between Alien’s being in the scene, and returning to the film. It feels like whole passages of time are passing by as we wait yet again for one to appear. It could be the case that the horror sense of what these films are meant to be is hiding their appearances, but seeing as on occasion, the scene breaks to a shot of the Alien approaching, then why is it taking so long for them to arrive? When they are actively in the scene, they do become the central focus yes; but when not in it, you begin to wonder why their name is even in the film title (maybe it should be called Human: Covenant instead)? Although: there is one big thing however that does sort of get in the way.

The film really likes to talk on the subject of life in a philosophical matter. Talking about life and death and the importance of life given to a species and whether or not they live to that potential. It is something to think on and the film really works hard to slot it in there, to get us thinking and does become the basis of some moments and decisions that characters get involved with. But this is a horror/action movie, not a scientific lecture. It’s good to see certain parts of this film and its series, important points in the creation aspect get covered, but if it’s slowing the films pace down is it worth it? This part, slotted in there really is the bug that is slicing its way through the film. You will have a moment where something is happening and going on, only to then cut to a classroom somewhere to receive a creation and zoology based lecture on creation and the meaning of life. It’s interesting yes, but is this really the time. I mean, here we are, stuck inside a building, fending ourselves off from something that wants to mercilessly shred us to bits, and you want to deliver a scientific lecture David?

The film of course does come packed with a host of visual and special effects but which frankly does not heavily rely on them. The SFX in this film are more on hand to cover and create things which cannot be done with what is available, doing them to a great level of detail, but also only producing what is needed for the film to work. The Alien effects still look pretty gross however, but in a sense are pretty more bearable in comparison to previous films in the series, once again allowing it to lean much closer to action films, not horror films. The scenes are ones that will horrify you still, however they have been done in a format that looks less like a heart transplant given by an unqualified butcher, and more like something is just spilling out of a skin coloured sofa. The shots of space craft and flying ships are pretty well done and cool too, with the Covenant ship looking a bit like the Pegasus front in Battlestar Galactica. These scenes sometimes do feel like a post off cut of Gravity, but these do not distract from the scenes in hand, and don’t want make you feel dizzy, so you can save those feelings for later. There is also a soundtrack but once again feels like it has fallen into that trap of not actually being needed for the most part. Like the SFX, it’s there when it’s needed, but several sections of this film don’t even have much in the way of music, your unlikely to spot it, other than the constant uses of the theme from Prometheus.

Despite some of its issues here and there, Covenant does not really have much in the way of issues that will make you leap out of your chair and want to tear the screen down in anger; except maybe for the film’s ending. Although it is a rather clichéd film practice which leads up to it, the end of the film creates an unbelievable shock that will leave you reeling. It make you think aloud, begging for there to be more, as it just does not seem right. It leaves you on a sinister twist that I think is very similar to the ending of Gone Girl. It is an unjustified twist that makes it feel like there is more to come, but you desire it now, because it just feels so wrong to end like that.

Altogether, Covenant is a very enjoyable film: it contains its core Alien values as well as a few shocks, but does lack surprises, but in the end does provide a rather sinister twist in a similar vein perhaps to an episode of The Outer Limits. It does have some character development flaws as early characters with promise are killed off, but does allow some good ones to live on, if only for a short time. The special effects are nicely made and blend into the film rather un-noticeably, as does the soundtrack. Alien: Covenant really is more of an action film than a horror film: yes, it will probably gross out some audiences and is definitely not one for everyone (especially those under a certain age), but there is a minimalist approach in its delivery however to provide an allowance for some to try it, without needing an instant throw-up break every now and then. On the whole though you are really getting your money’s worth and more with this one as it really does give the Alien series a bright looking future as well as provide thrills and Chestburster spills for this outing at least.

GENEPOOL (Does anyone else think this film’s plot contradicts that of AVP’s?).

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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).





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

28 12 2016

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

James McAvoy

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

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

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

Mark Strong

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

James McAvoy and Mark Strong

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

Andrea Riseborough and James McAvoy

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

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

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).





Top 5 Films Of 2013

15 01 2014

Film Reel 2013

2013 has passed, and what a year it was for great films. We have seen visions of the Future, Conspiracies, Super Heroes, Monsters and Amazing Adventures and with the passing of the year, it is time to take a look back at the films that impressed us, the audience the most. So here are my Top 5 films of 2013.

The Wolverine (20th Century Fox - 2013)

5. The Wolverine – Upon first hearing about The Wolverine I was a bit worried that it was going to be nothing more than a bad sequel to a bad film. It wasn’t. Based on the comics of Wolverine (not just the comics), The Steel Clawed hero ventures to Japan to visit a man who owes him a debt. However, the feral hero soon finds himself in the middle of something more than just a mafia turf war. Hugh Jackman returned as the title hero that helped make him the actor he is today, in a film that became one of the best comic book films to date. easily better than any Avengers film and the best Marvel film since X-Men: First Class. Alongside a great cast of characters and other lesser known X-Men characters mixed with the sights and sounds of a brilliant country and action to back the film up, The Wolverine is The Comic Book film of 2013.

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

4. Welcome To The Punch – In between all the big action blockbusters of 2013 is what could be considered by some as a small film. A film that nobody could see coming, and they didn’t, even I didn’t……….until I saw the trailer. While I initially forgot the name of the film, it looked brilliant and the mention of Ridley Scott as the Executive Producer sparked enough to get me interested, and thanks to the film’s lead actor appearing on Top Gear, reminded me of the film’s name. Welcome To The Punch is a proper British Action Cop film. Starring James McAvoy and Mark Strong it follows a London Detective as he is trying to pursue a man he was unable to catch several years previously, it is not until he finally confronts the man that he discovers a major conspiracy within the ranks. While it maybe an independent British Film, Welcome To The Punch is a film that shouldn’t be ignored. One of the film’s major points is that of actress Andrea Riseborough who gives an amazing performance as James McAvoy’s aide. With great action scenes and a plot that you will find gripping and intense backed up by a great cast including David Morrissey, Welcome to The Punch deserves its spot as one of the best films of 2013.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (StudioCanal - 2013)

3. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – Easily the funniest film of the year. instead of just being a cheap comedy film made only for the sake of making money, Alan Partridge is a piece of clever comedy with truly laugh out loud moments, I think the last time I saw a film at the cinema that made me laugh out loud was Tropic Thunder. Steve Coogan resurrects his fine comedy creation brilliantly as the former TV Presenter is forced to go enter a hostage situation being run by one of his colleagues. With jokes every minute and moments that make you want to call for a break just to calm down and with a great supporting cast including Simon Greenall, Colm Meaney and Anna Maxwell Martin, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is a proper comedy film and the best one in years.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate - 2013)

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The Sequel to the Best Film of 2012. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire brought me back into a world that had impressed me since the first instalment, but this time I had read the book before hand. While the first film (as the book) shows more of a perspective of what is going on in the current moment with the characters, Catching Fire goes on to say what happens next as well as explore the world of The Hunger Games. All the regular cast from before return to amaze the audience again. Of course the lead in this film no doubt is Jennifer Lawrence, but all the others give a great performance that cannot be forgotten including Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth and the legendary Donald Sutherland. With Great moments of both the humankind nature and action that is easily on par with the more action orientated films, backed up with a great story from one of the best book series to date, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a truly Great Film that will have you pining for more, Guaranteed.

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

1. Pacific Rim – In my opinion, Pacific Rim is pretty much the Perfect film if it wasn’t missing one key ingredient. Pacific Rim tells the story of humanities struggle in dealing with a race of Giant Monsters called Kaiju, they do this by building Giant Robots called Jaegers to fight the monster threat. In what could be considered in many ways as a tribute to the Japanese Kaiju genre that both inspired and created the idea of it, Pacific Rim is a Monster Movie taking those influences and adding its own spin to it and creating moments that will not be forgotten. Splendidly directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba with a brilliant soundtrack provided by Ramin Djawadi and visuals that rival Jurassic Park in terms of both Beauty and Scale, Pacific Rim is a titan of a film and possibly the fore-seer of Monster films to come. The Best Film of 2013.

GENEPOOL





Your Choice 5 (Part 2): Future Classics

20 09 2013

Your Choice 5

Earlier in the week I announced the start of the next and possibly the last (for now) Film Vote, the annual event where my lovely readers get to choose what film I review. As previously announced the theme for this year is Classics and Future Classics. We have seen the classics, it is now time for the Future Classics, film that have been released 2000 onwards to which have great possibility of becoming Classics in their own right in the future. So here is the choice you have:

13 Assassins (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2010)

13 Assassins: Directed by Japanese Horror Master Takashi Miike (One of the Greatest living Directors), 13 Assassins follows a group of warriors led by Kōji Yakusho (My 2nd Favourite Actor) who are attempting to Assassinate an up and coming leader of the nation who plans to end 200 years of peace and bring back the age of war. While technically being a remake of Eiichi Kudo‘s 1963 film, 13 Assassins is one of the best films released this Century. In my opinion, it is the best Period Piece since Seven Samurai. With an epic sense of Drama, Action and possibly the longest battle in movie history at 50 minutes long, 13 Assassins is one film you cannot and will not afford to miss.

District 9 (TriStar Pictures - 2009)

District 9: The first feature film from Neill Blomkamp which went on to be nominated for 4 awards at the 2010 Academy Awards including Best Picture, District 9 is a one of a kind Science Fiction film. Starring Sharlto Copley as the man instructed with removing Aliens from an Area of Johannesburg, he later becomes the number 1 target after gaining knowledge of Alien Technology. The film’s story draws upon and acts as a reminder to events that had occurred in District Six of Cape Town during the Apartheid Regime. With some amazing special effects, action and tension that does not stop growing until the film’s conclusion, this is not just some Science Fiction film, it is more than that.

Ice Age (Blue Sky Studios - 2002)

Ice Age: Produced at a time when the CGI Animation industry was already dominated by Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, Ice Age arrived out of know where by new Studio Blue Sky Studios and blasted away its competitors. The film follows a group of Mammals as they attempt to get a human baby back to its parents while trying to avoid the perils of the Ice Age. Ice Age would go on to be the first film in a series that would go on to gross almost 3 Billion Dollars worldwide. While studios like Pixar and DreamWorks continue to make films, they have yet to produce something as good if not better in my opinion than Ice Age.

King Arthur (Touchstone Pictures - 2004)

King Arthur: Released at a time when Medieval Fantasy films were taking control of Cinema, King Arthur arrived and focussed on much more than just Giant Battles. Based on the ancient legend, King Arthur and his men are on a mission to protect their nation from the arrival of the Saxons. Starring Clive Owen, Keira Knightley and Stellan Skarsgård, King Arthur is one incredible film.

Sherlock Holmes (Silver Pictures - 2009)

Sherlock Holmes: Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, Sherlock Holmes follows the master detective as he fights supernatural and dark powers to save England from the tyrannical mastermind Lord Blackwood played by Mark Strong. While not being heavy in the special effects front as another film released in 2009, Sherlock Holmes was definitely the best at Drama and Story with a twist of Comedy thrown in that will keep a smile on your face throughout, but does not stop the Action getting as tense as it does. With greatly designed scenes, a soundtrack that you want to tap your feet to, Sherlock Holmes is a film for everyone to enjoy.

Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal Pictures - 2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman: One of two films released in 2012 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the original tale, Kristen Stewart stars as the Fugitive Princess led through a magical world by Chris Hemsworth trying to run away from the tyrannical queen Charlize Theron. With an all-star cast and a level of detail that other films of its genre can only hope to achieve alongside a soundtrack that fits it well and a sense of scale and beauty over long distances, Snow White and the Huntsman is a magical journey like no other. It’s like the majestic beauty of Pan’s Labyrinth meets the size and scale of RAN.

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

Welcome to the Punch: A script rated as the third greatest un-produced script, finally released just this year with executive producer by Ridley Scott. Starring James McAvoy as a British police detective with his mind on capturing wanted convict Mark Strong who injured him a few years earlier with help from the Amazing Andrea Riseborough. With a cast of some of Britain’s finest actors, Welcome to the Punch is one gritty action packed thriller with essences of Mystery, Thriller and Intrigue. One of very few British crime films around these days, this is definitely one that no one should overlook.

So there are the choices, for you to choose from, so onto voting. The voting process for this vote is the same as the previous post. Here are the details again: Choose which film you would like to see reviewed (or if unsure, you can choose 3) by clicking in the required fields on the poll and then click vote. While the poll does block previous voters, you can always get over that by using another computer, so if you really want to see your choice win, just keep doing that. The poll will be open from now until the stroke of midnight into the new year this coming December 31st. So, take a look at the choices above choose one (or two or three if unsure), and place your vote. Don’t forget to vote in the Classics Vote if you have not done so already, check back soon for updates on the vote as well as in the New Year to see which has won. Thank You.

GENEPOOL








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