It’s Showtime – The Running Man

29 03 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Top 5 Weapons I Would Choose In The Hunger Games

18 05 2016

Katniss Everdeen

I love The Hunger Games, by that I of course mean the combination of the Film and the Book, not necessarily the setting of jumping into an arena and having to kill people. A few years ago, after the release of the first one, I remember an interview that was conducted on some of the cast members who were asked how they would act inside the arena. Now for me, I would more than likely just hide in the corner, and cry my eyes out until I was either dead, or just go mad and become some kind of psychopath. In my head though, it’s a completely different story as I would see myself being like Blade and just be invincible going round killing everyone, but that is very unlikely. Anyway I thought I would do a post on what my ideal weapon choices would be in the arena.

M110A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer

Now I decided to sort of be semi-realistic in my choices. For one, I know I cannot bring anything in to the ring, so it prevents my 3 main options: Godzilla, a M110A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer and Lisbeth Salander; although fair point, Lisbeth Salander would receive double points for having access to a cool leather jacket.

Lisbeth Salander

It’s certainly better than wearing those swimming outfits in Catching fire. I mean, what would you prefer; the swimming costumes from Catching Fire, or a Cool Leather Jacket?

Anyway, under the point that I can’t necessarily take anything in, this list is made up of choices I would choose if they became available in the arena themselves. Now, I do realise that this list may seem a little bit rushed. I have had these dreams for a while of what I would choose, but have only just decided to do this as a post, and in the end, I don’t think I have used my imagination all that much, and this list is made up of more practical stuff mixed with things from Movies, and so I may eventually regret my choices (apart from the leather jacket), and do another one of these in the future with either some additional thought, a selection of weapons from the films/books, things I just made up. Anyway, here are my choices of what I was able to simple cobble together.

Mortis

5. Mortis – What could be better than if one of the choices was the robot Mortis from Robot Wars? What could be better than Mortis, the best robot in all of Robot Wars? Now he would be ranked higher if it wasn’t for the case of a remote-controlled robot being relatively impractical as you would spend most of your time behind the robot directing it rather than looking out for the girl from district 6 creeping up on you. But forgetting that bit, its axe would be so deadly an attack, you don’t necessarily need to kill anybody, just puncture them and let them bleed out. It’s a grim idea, but it might be easier on your conscience.

M4A1

4. M4A1 Assault Rifle – Ok, this one is mostly based on what fun I could get out of MW2 Multiplayer, but yeah. Why not choose a Gun? It makes complete and total sense; you can get it over with good and quick as long as your aim is good and true. Why not add the attachable grenade launcher, then that way you can set fire to any forestry around you and force people out before shooting them. Ok, it relies on you not wasting ammo; but why on earth would the Capitol only give you one clip?

Crossbow

3. CrossbowKatniss Everdeen had her bow and arrows; I would have my Crossbow (even though I should point out this is all hypothetical and I don’t actually own one). It’s similar to the above mentioned Gun, but this time it’s a bit more quiet and lethal. Yes, I can see a Crossbow coming quite handy in the Hunger Games, and I don’t mean just some old relic of a device, no! I mean a proper modern beast of a weapon, similar to the one used in Brainiac: Science Abuse for testing armour in a modern civil war, or like at the end of Reign of Fire when Christian Bale’s character kills the Big Dragon.

Quarriors

2. Quarriors Dice – If you have no idea what those 2 words mixed together mean, it’s obvious you have not played my Favourite Board Game. In Quarriors (using a similar sort of game play to Dominion, if you know what that is), you roll and collect dice to attack other people. Dice can be used to summon spells, and summon monsters. Just imagine it, you roll the dice, and in a similar vein to Yu-Gi-Oh, Monsters and Spells come out of the dice to attack your enemies.

Heimdall

1. Equipment from Thor – When I think about me being in The Hunger Games, one thing that always comes to mind is the film Thor, quite possibly because the night on the day that I first saw The Hunger Games, I went home and watched some scenes from Thor. Anyway, I have decided to call this bit Equipment of Thor (I know it does not sound all that exciting), because there are 3 things I can think of that would be quite useful to have in The Hunger Games. As to how you would get them is relatively obvious, basically you will be covered in lightning like Thor and receive the equipment as it is bonded to your body. Anyway, the items in question; Heimdall’s Armour, Heimdall’s Sword, and Thor’s Hammer. It’s all you really need isn’t it, just the basics, and the hammer could prove to be a useful escape route as you could just plough through a wall or the roof, or better yet, send the hammer flying and destroy the Capitol, end of The Hunger Games, everyone is free, let’s go home. Basically, all this time, I just see myself becoming Thor while also receiving some equipment from the mighty Heimdall too.

GENEPOOL





To Re-Review, Or Not To Re-Review, Godzilla VS. King Ghidorah

11 02 2016

King Ghidorah (Heisei)

This is a question I have been asking myself for quite some time now. Here’s the history: back in 2010 I started writing and posting film reviews on here. In January 2011 I decided to do a film review for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. I thought it was pretty good at the time, but then in 2012, with me posting a review of The Hunger Games; I began to get itchy about the previously mentioned review. It was the case that I thought the review could have been better, and with the current format of blog reviews that I am doing, I begin to regret not waiting to do it another time, as now I think it could be even better than what it was.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1991)

Anyway, since then I have been in a constant flux of whether or not I should review it again in the form of a re-review. While it is said that there are others I could re-review, they don’t get to me as much as Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. One part of my mind thinks I should re-do it, while the other keeps telling me that as a writer I should never look back on old stuff and always go forward and improve forwards not backwards.

Godzilla (Heisei - Toho Co., Ltd.)

Anyway; I was recently writing another Godzilla review (check back next week) and once again began to consider the possibility of re-reviewing Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Unable to come up with an actual answer, I decided I would do a quick poll on here. There’s no closing date on it, just something to see where the general idea is going, and whether my readers think I should or should not re-review it. Some point I may come back to it, and see where the general consensus is going and that may help in making up my mind. Anyway, please vote and help me make up my mind.

GENEPOOL (Apologies for the short post, but I think I made up for it with the pictures of cakes and cats I put up the yesterday and the day before that).





Top 7 Films Of 2015

20 01 2016

Film Reel 2015

I have never fully understood why the film award season takes place during February. It’s neither the beginning nor the end of the year. Nor have I ever understood why the film award calendar allows films released up to the award ceremony dates in February, why on earth would something like that be allowed as it’s rather confusing that a film released in January one year is omitted from the following year because it was not released in the appropriate month/year. Wouldn’t it be better just to allow awards to be given to films released in the traditional January to December 12 month period? Then you could still have the award season in February because it would allow judges an appropriate amount of time to judge which of the films they think should win that award. But then it would go to a film that no-one has either watched or even heard of. I am not saying those films are good or bad, it’s just that it doesn’t make sense that the more popular films aren’t more consistently thought about. Sure they may get bad reviews, but if people like them, there must be a decent level of fun about them for them to be included in some form of Award ceremony, and by that I don’t mean the Razzies. In the end it just makes the MTV Movie Awards look more prestigious. Anyway that’s a completely different argument and not one I am going to get into now.

MTV Movie Award

With it now being January, I thought I would do my annual list of which films I thought stood out from the pack. Last year you may remember I did a Top 10 than my usual Top 5. Well this year it is down to 7. I was on track to just doing a Top 5, but a film came out in December (I bet you can’t guess what that was) which I thought was worthy of a mention, but I do not like the number 6, so I added another one for extra value (I really like the number 7). This time around though it’s just one post, not 2, so it’s a much easier thing to be involved with. Once again, as per usual, only films that were released in the traditional 12 month period of January to December 2015 are included and the list goes in descending order with 7 not so great, and number 1 being the best film of 2015. Now the year has not been a great year for releases, there were some failures, and not much in my opinion to look forward to, however there was some surprises and discoveries.

Pom Poko (Studio Ghibli - 1994)

One of the discoveries for me though was discovering more and more the back catalogue of Japanese Animation Studio; Studio Ghibli. This year I have seen quite a few of their films for the first time and have instantly come to love the films My Neighbour Totoro and Pom Poko. Unfortunately these weren’t released in 2015, so don’t get a mention in this list, sadly. Anyway, without further ado, here are my top 7 favourite films of 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm - 2015

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 2015 has had a large shadow over it all year round, not an Independence Day like shadow, but a great black cloud hanging over the year that at intervals would shout at you during the day. Yes it was the release of the new Star Wars, a film being highlighted by Science Fiction fans as fantastic; although that was no guarantee of that months ahead of its release, but they just ignored that bit. I used to love Star Wars, I like all of them in my own way, they are fun entertaining films, but then the fans got a bit too critical about the prequels and started to take the fun out of it. Therefore, my old love for Star Wars was gone. So, I was not looking forward to this film, but I thought I should see it anyway. Upon release I heard lots of good stuff about it, but was still unsure, then saw it. It was nice. It was nice and fun again. It was like Star Wars should have remained for me. It had new good characters, good new villains (appearances by two main characters form The Raid and The Raid 2), some interesting and fun scenes and Harrison Ford finally pulling his weight. However there was one huge problem I had with it, and it started within seconds of the film starting and carried on throughout the entire film; and that is that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a near exact frame for frame remake of Star Wars Episode IV: A NEW HOPE. Nearly everything in this film is exactly the same as the original film released in 1977. I thought the idea was to start a brand new story to take place after Jedi, so why is it then that it isn’t? I am not going to ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, it is actually a nice fun film, it’s good, it was somewhat worth all the hassle from outside forces and pin pricking in your veins from the TV, but just don’t expect anything much in the way of NEW STUFF.

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

6. KRAMPUS – (I said I bet you can’t guess) Released quite late in the year’s schedules and a film I only just got to see in the end, but overall I absolutely loved Krampus (I know that sounds wrong when said like that). It was something else, and a nice break from the consistent streams of TV adverts and trailers about a certain space movie. Krampus for those of you who don’t know much about it; is a Christmas Horror film starring the titular character from Christmas Folklore. From the first trailer I saw, I was hooked and dead set on seeing it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Terrifying and Enchanting, it was a both shocks and laughs. Very funny but also very scary, and it told both a story and a lesson in a believable setting. It was just such a fun film, and nearly made it into my Top 5. If you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth a watch, even if Horror is not your thing, give it a try (apologies that this one is not as long as the above paragraph).

Insurgent (Lionsgate - 2015)

5. The Divergent Series: InsurgentDivergent was a fun film and a very memorable one at that too. It was a film that for the most part looked more like a Hunger Games competitor and wouldn’t live up to much. But then I saw it, and rather liked it. Then I went to see Insurgent, and I was shook back. Insurgent was such a glorious film, it was big improvement over the first. There was a lot more in action scenes, there was more going on for both the setting and characters. The main characters all greatly improved, from Shailene Woodley, to Theo James, plus it saw the introduction of a brilliant character played by Naomi Watts. There were one or two things I had issues with, the number 1 being how quickly Tris surrenders (as I had thoughts that consisted of a cross over from The Raid and the opening scene of Blade: The Series). But overall, it did things different from the genre that it birthed from, and it makes the series look more promising than how it started, I have big hopes now for the future of this series, and it all comes to this Titan of the Young Adult movie genre.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios - 2015)

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Much like Insurgent, this too was a big improvement over the first film. I wasn’t expecting much from Ultron except possibly some more drivel brought on by constant mentions in the intervening films about the first Avengers film. I was glad to see that didn’t happen. I was annoyed that the opening of this film seemingly relied on the audience having to watch all the intervening films to get the full story, but as soon as Ultron took his spot, the film opened up. The cast has improved greatly, some of the love scenes between Banner and Widow I thought were possibly going in a very obvious direction, but it meant that Banner wasn’t necessarily going to get bullied like he did in the bridge scene from the 2012 film. Overall though, the film was good, brilliant in fact. All the cast were outstanding, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were brilliant additions, plus it was good to see Cobie Smulders return (although I did feel like the Vision looked absolutely ridiculous). It was a good story, had some good moments, plus it was wonderful to see the return of the War Machine.

Spectre (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - 2015)

3. Spectre – Spectre was a film I kept forgetting about until it finally came out. I went to the cinema to see it (like you do when you go and see a film I suppose), and I really enjoyed it. I went to see it again, and had the same reaction. Is it better than Skyfall? I would say No to that one. Is it as good if not better than Skyfall? Definitely Yes. It is a huge spy epic with great scenes, good acting from everyone involved, all the heavy hitters in Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz and Batista, to the secondary’s like Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott. Best of all though, it had in my opinion the best Bond Girl to date in Léa Seydoux (please let her be in the sequel). It was not just characters though, it had cool opening titles and theme to back them up, a fantastic car chase, great fight and action scenes, plus an ending that reminds me of V For Vendetta. Terrific stuff, whatever you’re doing MGM; you’re doing it right, keep up the good work guys.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Lionsgate - 2015)

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – I had been saying it for over a year, and it happened. As the curtains were charging up in the nearest plug socket, and the final scenes began to play out, I cried. It was such a big deal and moment for me; The Hunger Games series has been such a major part of my life these past 4 years, they have continuously stood out for me as some of the best and most enjoyable films that I have watched since taking a chance on the first one back in 2012, and Part 2 was no different. It had some terrific scenes, very powerful ones near the end, moments that made me cry. As the film wrapped up, I went outside, and touched the film notice board, as a sort of thank you moment, as it was there for me that the series began. This film had it all, great cast, firstly the ones we all come to love and hate from people like Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields and Donald Sutherland, to characters that really began to stand out, for me that was Natalie Dormer more than most, keeping an eye on her throughout. It was a film of action, a film of horror, suspense, conspiracy, but also one of love, and best of all, it ended the right way, and that was most important, that it end the correct way. A fitting end to a series that grabbed my heart and I it’s, and both never letting go until the time was right.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

1. Jurassic World – What else after all that was released in 2015 could possibly be better than Jurassic World? Nothing as far as I could find, I mean its right here at the number 1 spot in a list of 7 films. Now let me just say that I actually do quite like the Lost World, but for me, I agree with everyone who says it, by saying this is the sequel we have been waiting for. Jurassic Park is still number 1 in the series, but World is not far off. It is set back on the original island, ignores the previous sequels outright (like The Force Awakens ignores A New Hope outright) and creates a chilling, fun but still terrifying new story that clings to the themes of not just the work and setting of its predecessor, but also the book that started it all. Since reading the book, I can see that the island is much like what Michael Crichton envisioned and talked about in his book when he first created Isla Nublar all those years ago. World goes in-depth with the whole thing of man’s desire to control and create, but also how once again it’s easy to lose that control. World though also delves into the world of man’s desire for the need of something new, and talks in great depth about the commercialization of everything. This all though of course goes to pot in the usual case of something getting loose and terrorizing everybody, this time in the form of a brand new dinosaur. This then takes us through a 2 hour fun-fest featuring lots of laughs backed up with great acting from the likes of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, which all ends in the most spectacular way possible featuring the Tyrannosaur from the original film plus a brand new exhibit. By the end of it all, I had no adrenaline left in me. It was like a ride in itself, all brought together by one of Hollywood’s finest new Directors (Colin Trevorrow). Jurassic World is pure FANTASTIC.

GENEPOOL





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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