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

26 10 2016

Van Helsing (Universal Pictures - 2004)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL





The Strain (Should Be) Back (Soon)

24 08 2016

The Strain

Over the last few months, I have steadily begun to grow weary of nearly everything on TV. Since about April for me it’s sort of been about recording and re-recording shows on Playback, of which many shows that I do indeed like, but have grown a little weary of as I watch them while doing stuff on the laptop and have only been able to truly appreciate them when I have a Nano-second to sit down and watch them on TV while doing nothing else. I have been trying to get back into other shows on my own like Arrow, while also watching the last episodes of Castle, re-watching old episodes of Rizzoli & Isles, trying to get more involved with the good but rather cheesy Quantico, The sometimes hard to find funny when doing something else Bob’s Burgers; the enduring but still relatively light Deadliest Catch, The odd repeat of The Bill, the yet to be watched Containment, and the thankful repeats of Rookie Blue. I have watched maybe 20 minutes’ worth of the new Top Gear, but that was 20 minutes too long in my opinion, while really enjoying the new Robot Wars which continues to deliver (at time of writing). There are some shows that gather my interest such as The Closer and Major Crimes which my Mam has been recording, but altogether, the current state of TV for me is pretty bleak and near boring. All I can really hold onto is that soon or later The Strain will be back.

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For those not in the know, The Strain is a TV Series based on the book trilogy of which the first book is named written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The series (Produced by Carlton Cuse) is about a virus: a Vampire Virus. It brings vampires back to their roots as scary villains and not love icons. Basically, an ancient entity known as The Master (Robin Atkin Downes), has brought a curse upon the city of New York as he has willingly caused Vampires to return. Very quickly many people in New York have begun to turn into what are known as The Strigoi. Being vampires they can only come out at night, however, the Master has a group of major servants in the form of Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) and Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) who work for him during the day to help push and instigate his plan, that being of eventual domination. In his way however are a group of vampire hunters led by Holocaust Survivor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), Scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), rat exterminator Fet (Kevin Durand) and computer hacker Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas). That’s not all standing in The Master’s way however as he also has to contend with another batch of Hunters in the form of former convict Gus (Miguel Gomez), and his estranged half-vampire supposed son Mr. Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones). It is a losing battle however as more Strigoi are being turned and New York begins to fall further into darkness, aided further by Kelly Goodweather (Natalie Brown), Eph’s former wife, who has since been turned into a vampire herself and is busy stalking Eph and their son Zach (Max Charles).

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Now I wasn’t so sure about this program when I first heard about it (much like Blade: The Series), but I thought I would give it a go, I watched the Pilot and not only found it very riveting, but also rather terrifying and chilling. The first season pretty much just revolved around the initial spread of the Vampire Plague and the gathering of some heroes, while the second season went more into the public perspective as the plague gained more ground and became majorly noticeable, while the Master starts conceiving new ways to keep things going, whilst other characters begin to question their lives and place within this new world, and as such history and backgrounds of the events and characters begin to get more explored. Since then more characters have become more defined and brand new characters have been introduced. My favourite from pretty much the outset has been Dutch Velders, the group’s complete outsider, and whose character I have come to love and enjoy well.

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Another character that has also begun to get traction is that of The Born. Better known as Mr. Quinlan, he is the missing link of the series as he is half vampire and possibly the son of the Master, and is out to kill him. His scenes so far have turned out to be rather fruitful and really enjoyable, and as given his position as become to stand out as something of the shows version of Blade, the hunter who is of himself of the species he is hunting, he also has a rather impressive voice.

I have no idea where the show is going to head next, but Series 3 is now on the horizon, having nearly waited a whole year with the Season 2 DVD yet to come out. I know this because I have been following the show’s progress, mostly from the accounts (on Twitter and Instagram) of Ruta Gedmintas. No idea what the show is going to involve other than the episode count going down from 13 to 10 annoyingly. Having not read the books, only reading a brief synopsis I can see some direction of its path, but as of yet, still no clue. Sorry to be so anti-climactic, but it’s true; however I am certain that it should be worth the wait, the show has done this to me once previously but has done more than just deliver, and so I am hopeful it will do so again. I am hopeful it will return within the next couple of months, and will in turn make TV exciting for me, at least for a little while and maybe a bit beyond that.

GENEPOOL (I am assuming and Hoping that it’s still going to be on Watch, even though it has since changed its name to W).





Am I A Vampire?

11 05 2016

My Week

It has been very hot recently. I first started to spot it a few weeks ago while walking around the University Campus where I currently work. It was a very hot day, and I struggled with it. Since pretty much birth, Me and the Sun have never really been able to healthily co-exist, but it was not until a few weeks ago that I began to wonder if there was something more wrong with me.

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Since birth, I have been naturally ginger haired. For some reason when I was young, this made me a target for large amounts of sunburn, and embarrassing situations when I was smothered in sun cream and this continued for many years. I remember especially when I went on Holiday to Jersey with my family, and a day at a Castle (Mont Orgueil possibly) near St. Helier where I spent most of the visit in the shade, because I was unable to stand the heat coming from the sun. I was thankful when Sun Lotion came in a spray bottle later on, less embarrassing, but to be honest, I have not applied a blob of sun cream since 2009, I just don’t want to remember the embarrassment that came with it. Plus I had this hypochondria issue at the time where I would then have to go and wash it off just in case if any got in my mouth. These days I would catch the sun, but as I have got older I think I must have been able to stand it enough not to get sunburn; even more so as I wear huge amounts of heavy black clothing even in the summer. But it was not until a few weeks ago, on a hot sunny spring day, that I began to wonder the above question.

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I was outside Foster Building after a meeting with a careers officer, walking back to Vernon Building where the office I work in is currently located. As soon as I stepped outside, the sun was on me, I hug close to the building hoping to grab the shade, but when the sun hit me when travelling between shades, I almost needed to dive for cover. I kept on walking, but it felt more hot on me than usual. Now, maybe it was the case it was just a hotter day than usual, but at that moment I began to wonder, if my history, coupled with my adult self, made it all clear, that really I am a Vampire.

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Now it’s something to jump to the conclusion that you are some supernatural force when most of those things as far as we know are fictional. It’s probably fair to say that I am not, as there are other things that need considering in the case of finding out whether or not you are a Vampire, such as the Teeth, but having canines are probably not enough, I mean look at Cats, they have two pointy teeth and as far as we know don’t want to suck out your blood as the following video showcases.

But you cannot blame me too much into thinking about Vampires…..as recently I have been thinking a lot about Vampires. It comes mostly down to one TV Show and one vampire in particular: The Born.

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I am a big fan of the TV Series; The Strain. A TV Show based on a trilogy of books written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The story revolves around a virus strain that turns people into Vampires. It’s a really good show and my favourite after the Loss, Demise and End of Top Gear. During series 2 though, we were introduced to a new character played by Rupert Penry Jones who goes by the name Mr. Quinlan; but is also known as The Born. He is a character I have come to love; he carries a screen presence unparalleled almost by anyone else (possibly with the exception for Dutch played by Ruta Gedmintas). He is a vampire, but more importantly is the son of the big villain; The Master, and has spent centuries looking for him, so he can kill him. He is very much like Blade in his origins story, but I find he is near cooler than Blade; like to say that Blade might have finally met his match. Anyway, for some time now, I have found myself, quoting something the Born says in an episode, so much so that I find it hard to stop. It’s a great set of lines, and one great to speak if you have a throat issue, as it makes you sound like him.

Anyway, It was on that spring day, that when the sun hit me, that I nearly started talking like him, speaking out those lines. I thought about my sun burn issues of the past, I remembered scenes form Blade: The Series where vampires would burn from the touch. I began to think across paths, between Blade and The Born, and scenes they appear in. Now on the one side it might actually be quite cool to be one of those two, who wouldn’t want to be an indestructible vampire that was also generally a cool guy? But on the other, sun burn could still be a great issue, and you would have to live at night, which at times can be ok, but others pretty boring. Anyway, I just wondered if in those cases if I might have been a vampire due to my connection between me and the sun in the form of sunburn.

More than likely I am not a vampire, but have a similar trait to vampires in that I cannot stand the sun. However, if I start to grow pointy teeth and have a desire to suck your blood, or suddenly gain other traits of vampirism, I will let you now. Has all this taught me though that maybe I should wear sun block? No, It keeps you from sun burning your skin, but in the end it does not actually block you out of the sun or cool you down, as what Sun Block should really do, in all fairness; that’s what it’s called. So, I’d say No; still no requirement for me to wear Sun Block!

GENEPOOL





The Strain Is Back……….Sort Of

19 08 2015

The Strain (FX Productions - 2014)

Last September/October, a new TV series from FX began airing on UK channel Watch. The first episode was terrifying and scary but left an incredible impression on me. Through the next 12 Episodes I was gripped by the show’s setting, story, ideas and characters from start to finish. I just could not get enough, watching each episode when I could. But like many TV Shows, it had to end, but a Second Series was announced, so all I had to do was wait for the next series to begin. Well, nearly a year later, next week in fact; The Strain is back on TV……….sort of. The Second series has already begun showing in America, so it shouldn’t be too long until that is shown in the UK. Just over a week ago a trailer was aired on Watch saying that The Strain returns on the 26th August (when I am on holiday, but the series link record is already set up). When I looked however, it just appeared to be the pilot episode being shown, which probably means that they are going to show the first series again before the second series airs. Pity about that, but anyway you are probably wondering; “What is The Strain?”

Based on the book series of the same name by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain is about a terrifying new virus which slowly builds to become one of the most deadly and contagious disease strains in the history of mankind. A strain that turns people into Vampires. These Vampires have one major physical difference however in a very long, muscular tongue which they use to suck out people’s blood, and possibly turn them into Vampires too. The series stars Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim ‘Eph’ Goodweather; a lead agent for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), who after investigating a strange disease discovered on board a plane gets caught up in a plan to resurrect an ancient disease, one that could spell the end of all human life. In his attempts to prevent it, he is joined by CDC agents Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin). Meanwhile, the attempts to resurrect this virus has not gone completely unnoticed, as pawn shop owner Professor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) has knowledge and history of this, and begins the fight to eradicate it as soon as possible. As the series goes on however, things get bad very quickly, and before you know it, Manhattan soon begins to turn ever more quickly into blood sucking Monsters, all led by the Mysterious Master (Robert Maillet and Robin Atkin Downes).

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As the series builds, more characters are introduced, such as Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand); a New York exterminator who begins to grow ever more suspicious about what is hiding in the sewers and Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas); a computer hacker. Meanwhile, on the opposing side, there is Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde); a business tycoon who finances the operation to get the strain released, and Thomas Eichhorst (Richard Sammel), a former Nazi German Prison Camp officer who has a history with Setrakian, but is also The Master’s supposed number 2. And while all this is going on, there is an ex-con by the name of Gus (Miguel Gomez) who is soon beginning to realize there is more going on than what people are telling him.

TS3

Since the first episode I have been hooked. I really do like this TV series. At the time it first came on I was watching Breaking Bad on DVD, but since this started, I turned my attention towards The Strain. I have been saying for years that my Favourite show on TV at the moment has been Rookie Blue (although my attention on that has gone more towards Castle this year), but right now I consider The Strain as the best TV show on at the moment. It is interesting, yet scary. It has really interesting characters (I particularly like the character of Dutch) and a story that just continues to open up and be explored as it continues. It has some terrifying moments and really scary creatures as well as a creepy but cool opening intro and theme from Ramin Djawadi.

TS2

While the show has started airing its second series in the US, I take this as a note that the second series is not far from being shown in the UK. While I am a little annoyed that I still have to wait some time to watch the Second Season, I am still happy that I have the opportunity to watch the First Series all over again, starting with the Awesome Pilot Episode; Night Zero, Directed by Guillermo Del Toro himself. So, what are you waiting for? Turn on your sky box or whatever you watch TV on these days, set a record for The Strain on Watch beginning next week, watch the first series if you haven’t already and get set for the Magnificent return; of The Strain.

GENEPOOL





He Makes The Weapons, I Use Them – Blade

27 08 2014

Blade 1998 2

Since about 2007 when I watched Blade: The Series on the now defunct UK channel Bravo, I have had a long and fascinated interest in the Marvel Comics character Blade, however it is the kind of interest that doesn’t involve reading the comics as I would have no idea where to start. My interest though has always been on-going. I like the idea of him; I like the badass actions and look of him as well as his more lone wolf nature. He is all round a fantastic character. The kind of guy who would go into a situation without any planning and armed to the teeth with weapons and would make his presence known either silently or more likely by punching the first guy he sees. Despite this interest though, the one thing that has eluded me are the films. I have not had much opportunity to watch them as they are not shown on television all that often and for several years the only one I had been able to see was Blade Trinity, until very recently.

B10

Released in 1998 and directed by Stephen Norrington, the film follows the on-going battle between Humans and Vampires from the perspective of the title character. The film begins in a flashback dating 1967 where a pregnant woman who is bleeding from the neck dies as her son is delivered by C-Section. Flash-forward to a modern underground day party scene where a seemingly ordinary young man is taken to, but gets treated very differently before being drenched in blood and attacked by the party goers who turn out to be Vampires. When trying to escape he encounters a man dressed head to toe in leather and covered in a lot of shiny things, all the vampires begin to separate upon realising who it is and call him Blade (Wesley Snipes). They attack him, but are quickly dispatched by this strange new man who possess a strong array of weapons as well as athleticism and strength fighting another vampire named Quinn (Donal Logue) before setting him on fire. Blade leaves the area as the police arrive and the charred remains of Quinn arrive at a city morgue. At the morgue Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) is shown a blood sample from the body, goes down to inspect it and is then attacked by the seemingly dead person who bites her throat. Blade arrives to finish him off but is attacked by the hospital Guards. He takes Karen away from the building and takes her to his hideout where his mentor and weapon smith Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) states that Blade should have killed her and injects her with Garlic.

B7

In a board room, a group of vampires are discussing the problems that Blade is giving them before calling upon a vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) who is stirring up trouble within the ranks. Karen wakes up and discovers Whistler injecting Blade with a Serum. She tries to escape but is confronted by Whistler and Blade. They let her go but she is told to get out of the city as soon as possible. On her way back to her apartment, she is attacked by a Cop but is rescued by Blade. She stays with Blade wanting to know what is going on and crash a Vampire Club. Blade and Karen discover some articles and documents which show that Frost is looking for something. They are then both attacked by a healing Quinn and his men. With some help from Whistler, they manage to escape. Karen is informed by Whistler that Blade is a Vampire, but not like the rest. He is a Daywalker, a vampire hybrid who can walk around in sunlight. He shares all their strengths, and none of their weaknesses except the thirst. He therefore uses a serum to survive, but his body has begun to reject it and needs a new one. Out on a beach somewhere, Frost, Quinn and Frost’s supposed lover Mercury (Arly Jover) kill vampire elder Gitano Dragonetti (Udo Kier) by exposing him to sunlight.

B1

Back at the hideout Blade shows Whistler a segment of ancient Vampire Texts which Frost was looking for which says something by an ancient Bloodgod called La Magra. Karen discovers she is slowly turning into a vampire and creates a cure for herself. She also discovers that the anticoagulant EDTA causes Vampire Blood to explode. Blade encounters Frost during the day that has covered his skin in Sun Cream to avoid the exposure to sunlight. He offers Blade a truce but Blade refuses it. Frost’s men then invade the hideout injuring Whistler and taking Karen prisoner. Blade finds Whistler and gives him his gun so Whistler can kill himself. Blade attacks Frost’s men before discovering Vanessa (Sanaa Lathan), his mother. She says that Frost was the one who bit her. Blade is then captured.

B9

Blade and Karen are taken to an underground temple called the Temple of Eternal Night. There, Frost plans to turn himself into the Bloodgod. They trap Blade who is now weak after thirteen hours without his serum into a sarcophagus which drains him of his blood. Karen is put down a hole where her ex-colleague (Tim Guinee) has become an animalistic Vampire, and Mercury sets out the other Vampire Leaders in a circle formation underneath the room the sarcophagus is in. Karen escapes from the pit and rescues Blade who is dying, she feeds him her blood which give Blade the animalistic strength to fight the Vampires. Frost, through the sacrifice becomes La Magra. Bade kills Vanessa before wiping out Frost’s Men. Karen manages to get a shotgun and kills Mercury with a vampire spray Whistler gave her earlier. Blade encounters Frost who has seemingly become invincible thanks to his new powers, but Blade uses the EDTA to cause Frost to explode. Blade and Karen leave the temple and Blade asks her to create him a new Serum. The film then finishes with Blade dealing with a vampire in Moscow.

B3

Blade is unlike other Superhero or Comic Book films as in the character is more of a vigilante possibly on par with anti-hero, sort of like Snake Plissken. But because it’s not your ordinary run of the mill comic book movie and more of a realistic action movie (all be it with vampires), it makes the film more appealing to other audiences instead of just the comic book goers and as a result is able to reach a more widespread audience but does not contradict or contravene the main character. Blade is still Blade but the setting is made out to be more in times with the modern world and as such connects more with the audience instead of a setting that would need more explaining for the audience to understand.

B6

The films main cast is sort of made of on and off characters; hit and misses, some which could have had more time on-screen and others who are just that little bit annoying. Quinn plays the part of a henchman who thinks of himself as being quite cool but is actually the modern fool (tongue twister) and find his constant appearances rather annoying and find it rather pleasing that he is the first to be killed by Blade in the Final Fight. I don’t think Udo Kier gets enough time on-screen as his character needs more initial explaining along with his actual place in both the world and film. Racquel (Traci Lords) is supposedly given a main role but only really appears in the first act and is hardly seen again, if at all, Pearl (Eric Edwards) the librarian is very grotesque but the identity of the creature is not shown and you are at a loss trying to understand what it is, Officer Krieger (Kevin Patrick Walls); the cop familiar that attacks Karen, is a rotter at best, but his place in the film is not really needed other than for Karen to begin working with Blade, It is sort of bit coincidental and predictable that Karen runs into her ex-colleague, and Vanessa; Blade’s Mother now vampire has no real proper on-screen time for the shock to Blade become really apparent nor the mystery of where she has been all these years and her character is all round pointless except for maybe Frost having a tool to capture Blade with.

Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Traci Lords, Tim Guinee, Eric Edwards and Sanaa Lathan

Despite this though the film has some really good cast. Stephen Dorff is a real rotten character. He is obviously the main film’s villain but instead of being the over the top Dracula or Darth Vader type, he is the casual party goer who enjoys women and drinking. His persona as a right rotter and an egotistical maniac is played well (even if his accent makes him sound like Denis Leary in Demolition Man) and thinks very much about himself and his plans and has that want to be the top dog despite his position in the vampire world. He is however a very clever person also and obviously knows what he is doing and it’s only through those who work for him and the threat of Blade that they fail to work out. I do feel that N’Bushe Wright is somewhat out-of-place in this film. She plays the part of the unsuspecting public and as such the audience connection and introduction to the film, but I partly feel that she was chosen more to be in a glamour role or a possible love interest to Blade instead of the unbelieving witness and doctor role that her character is seemingly supposed to be. However despite that though, she is a very good character. The way she looks, acts and dresses is enough for Blade not to feel out-of-place with him covered in leather, and she wearing a trench coat like leather jacket. She is also very no-nonsense much like Blade and the way her character changes from unsuspecting witness to the films secondary hero makes her fit right into place especially with Blade showing a level of respect and trust in her at the very end of the film. Kris Kristofferson is the perfect associate/partner for Blade as in he is a lot like him and they both talk to each other in the same manner and form. He is also a lot like a father figure for Blade and shows a lot of care for him, treating him and giving him his serum as a result, but he is also very much a teacher and while he is as badass as Blade, his outer exterior and persona is that of a more calming position with everyone and is less likely to start a fight as a result and is more the talking kind.

Stephen Dorff, N'Bushe Wright and Kris Kristofferson

I am really drawn to the character of Mercury. I don’t think she gets the on-screen time that she deserves. She is in some respects the female version of Blade towards the end wielding his sword, but she is also a lot like Frost in character but gives a high level of blood lust in her role and as such is more of a warrior and animal in her nature, but her main exterior and persona works in tandem well with Frost which allows the two to have a real connection that is also realistic. While it is almost half-way into the film before she makes a proper appearance and becomes part of the main cast, her part is very enjoyable throughout and while Blade has Karen as his sort of assistant, Mercury is the opposite to this, but starts of bad and remains that way.

Arly Jover

The real star though is of course Wesley Snipes in the title role. Wesley Snipes in many respects is Blade; he is not playing it rather than actually being him. He shows no real emotion and is single-minded on the main task. Even when Whistler dies he just walks away and keeps his mind on the main task in hand. He does show some redeeming feature of this though when talking about his mother and the life he could have had, but he represents this through anger possibly showing that he has moved on from this, but it still plays on his mind. Blade’s athleticism and martial Arts skill and strength work very much in tandem with Snipes own personal Martial Arts training in Shotokan Karate and Hapkido. His use of his weapons is very much in the up close and personal style with him preferring to use his own body and weapons such as his sword which need him to be more close to the target. He still however still uses his firearms in a big way but also uses more traditional methods of armed combat with such tools as his Glaive and Sword more frequently instead of firearms. His connection to the vampire world is of course explored for the benefit of the audience but the film does not waffle on these points and instead explains these points in relatively short terms.

B5

The film’s soundtrack mostly comprises of hip hop, and electro music but has parts in it where the soundtrack is more mysterious to allow some tension for the scene exploring Blade as well as moments of fighting and explanation so that the right feel of tension and thrills can be given.

Blade though is at essence an Action Film, and with action comes violence, and Blade is a very Violent Film. The film though I wouldn’t consider as blood thirsty. There is a lot of blood in the film with scenes of body popping and explosions which in turn creates blood splatter, but generally it is not a film that thrives on it and uses Blood more for the showing of how violent the film is. I like to think of it more in relation to The Raid. It is very action packed and graphical in its violence (but not as much as how detailed The Raid was) but the violence is necessary for the action to work as the action comes from the characters, not the world around them. The film though is rather grotesque with moments of really disgusting things happening and disgusting creatures with the most disgusting scene happening at the end with the death of Frost. And on top of that you have more unnerving scenes such as the moment when Quinn arrives burned in the morgue.

B4

Blade is all together an extremely enjoyable action movie which while being a comic book/super hero movie, does more than that and instead of being goofy or silly in its design (like Batman Forever) does a really terrific job of setting itself in the real world allowing the audience to connect and understand it more without large pieces of explanation required. The film’s cast is a mixed bunch, but those who play their parts well are thoroughly enjoyable and while there is a lot of blood and unnerving/disgusting scenes, this does not stop the film from being enjoyable and in respects gives it the supernatural look the film is trying to represent. Altogether, thoroughly brilliant and it will make you thirst for more, much like it has for me.

GENEPOOL








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