Let’s Just Say I’m Frankenstein’s Monster – X-Men: First Class

23 10 2015

X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox - 2011)

It’s pretty clear to see that the characters featured in X-Men aren’t exactly, human (except for those who are). No, they’re Mutants, mutants with extraordinary powers, ones that allow them to do magnificent things for either the side of good, or that of evil. But have you ever wondered how all this came to pass, how Charles Xavier founded the X-Men and how Magneto came to be his great Nemesis? Neither have I, but for those who do want to know, you have 2 options. Either read the comics which you can find either online or in shops that sell comics, or you can just watch this film.

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Released in 2011 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Matthew Vaughn and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; X-Men: First Class is the fifth film in X-Men film series, and is the second spin-off from the main series. First Class goes in a different direction to the previous three films however, instead going back in time to tell the origins story and early history of the X-Men. The film is loosely based off the X-Men comic series First Class, and introduces several new characters into the series plus recasting a few others.

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In 1944, at one of Hitler’s Jewish prison camps, young Erik Lensher shows off extraordinary powers when he bends a metal gate. This grabs the attention of Scientist Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) who kills Erik’s mother when he wouldn’t move a coin. This enrages Erik into destroying most of Schmidt’s lab. In New York meanwhile, young Charles Xavier discovers a blue skinned mutant called Raven stealing from his family’s kitchen and invites her to join his family. In 1962, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has now grown up and is pursuing Schmidt leaving a trail of destruction in both Switzerland and later Argentina. In Oxford, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) graduates from University with a Thesis on Mutation, and lives there with his now fostered sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). In Las Vegas meanwhile, CIA Agent, Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is tracking army officer; Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower), when she discovers him talking to Klaus Schmidt, now going by the name Sebastian Shaw, along with his team of mutants Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Emma Frost (January Jones) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng). Azazel teleports Hendry to the joint war room where he gives his support for placing nuclear weapons in Turkey. Needing more advice on the subject of Mutants, Moira goes to see Xavier in Oxford and invites him to the CIA and convince Director McCone (Matt Craven) that mutants exist, and another CIA officer (Oliver Platt) shows his support for them. Xavier and Moira locate Shaw on his private boat, just as Erik tries to kill him. Shaw escapes, and Erik is rescued by Xavier who jumps in the water to prevent him from drowning. At the CIA’s X Division, the group meet young scientist and mutant Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), whom Raven immediately begins to bond with. Erik tries to leave with documents about Shaw, but Xavier encourages him to stay. Using a machine built by Hank called Cerebro, Xavier and Erik recruit other mutants to the CIA X Division: Alex Summers (Lucas Till), Armando Munoz (Edi Gathegi), Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), and try to recruit one other who is less than interested.

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One night, the young mutants show off their powers to one another and come up with codenames for themselves becoming; Havok, Darwin, Banshee, Angel respectively, with Raven choosing the name Mystique and giving Xavier and Magneto the names Professor X and Magneto. Believing they are unready to go to Russia to find Shaw with them, Erik, Xavier and Moira go to a senior Russian military officer’s (Rade Šerbedžija) house where only Emma shows up. Desperately wanting to find Shaw, Erik goes rogue, manages to break into the building and confront Emma, breaking her diamond form so that Xavier can read her mind. Inside he discovers Shaw’s plan to create a full on nuclear war and trigger the rise of mutant kind. Back at X Division meanwhile Shaw, Riptide and Azazel, find the young mutants and try to recruit them, successfully recruiting Angel to their side, and killing Darwin in the process. Wanting to avenge the death of Darwin, Xavier takes the others back to his childhood home where they all train and better master their own abilities. Havok gets better control of his thanks to a new suit, and Banshee can now fly. Hank meanwhile is busy trying to create a serum to look normal, which eventually causes a rift between him and Raven. Erik on the other hand is still struggling to get the best out of his abilities, when Xavier unlocks his mind however; he is able to do almost anything.

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With some persuasion by Shaw, the USSR decides to deploy its Nuclear weapons in Cuba. Xavier and his team decide to try and stop it, with Erik only really wanting to do it to kill Shaw. Hank’s Serum to make him look human, fails and his real form, a blue furry Beast comes into full view. In Cuba, the navies of the USSR and the USA are poised ready to fight. Xavier’s team arrive, and using his telepathy, Xavier manages to blow up the Nuclear Cargo Ship halting World War 3. Shaw meanwhile has a backup plan to absorb the nuclear reactor core of his submarine and release it through himself. Using Banshee’s ability underwater, Erik is able to lift the submarine, before crashing it on the beach. Xavier’s mutants fight Shaw’s while Erik goes inside the crashed sub to find Shaw. There the two fight, with Shaw getting the upper hand. Erik manages to remove Shaw’s helmet, which prevented Xavier getting inside his head. Erik however puts it on his own head preventing Xavier from stopping him. He takes out the coin from the day his mother was killed by Shaw, and sends it straight through Shaw’s head, killing him instantly.

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The USSR and USA decide to join forces in ending a potential mutant threat there and then, attacking the mutants on the beach. Erik, now in full control of his abilities, stops their weapons from reaching them, before sending them straight back at the attacking ships. Xavier tries to stop Erik and the two fights with Erik still sending the weapons at the ships. Moira tries to shoot Erik, but a stray bullet hits Xavier in the back. The ships are saved from the oncoming arsenal, and Erik along with Shaw’s team and Raven leave, with Xavier now paralyzed. Back at the mansion, Xavier now in a wheelchair talks about setting up an academy there, and shares a kiss with Moira, wiping her memories to protect them. In the CIA Basement, Erik turns up to rescue Emma, now calling himself Magneto.

OK, this may seem weird, but please bear with me as I quote the back of my DVD copy of the film:

“See how it all began in this thrilling first chapter of the X-MEN saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensher became Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were enemies, they were the closest of friends and gathered an elite team of mutants to form the X-Men in an attempt to prevent World War III.”

In a nutshell, that is what the film is about basically, two guys who discover they have mutant powers, become friends and prevent yet another World War. In more detail however, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Yes, it’s all the above, but entwined and intermixed together there is a lot more going on than just that. The film’s story is beautifully crafted and is one of the best stories in this series to discover. The film sort of takes the audience back to what the first film was about and concentrates the narrative on two specific characters and what happens to and around them. While the story does lead up to the prevention of World War 3, that’s not its main story. Interestingly, it happens at a time when mutant kind is not necessarily a growing political and social issue. It’s more in the discovery process but only really afflicts those who have visible mutant traits, particularly more so towards Raven. What you get instead is that it’s more of a sub plot, and the concentration is more on the growing possibility of nuclear war and one man’s attempts to start one in order to benefit more himself than anyone else. One thing I rather like about the film’s story telling is how it has combined a fictional setting with real world events. The use of the Cuban Missile Crisis really helps to make the story seem real, like it’s all happening in this world and not just some fantasy or comic book setting. It provides suggestions as to what really happened during that time. It’s not in a fictional world but actually feels like Mutants could be living amongst us. Plus it helps to date the stories and give us perspective as to how far back the film’s plot is set. The setting of the final fight also creates something of a powder keg and shows the moment when mutants first came to public light. It really sets up the scene for future films and stories. Aside from both of these however, is a story that contains lots of interesting elements that come out when characters are looked into. The film contains a lot of characters, some with large backstories for such small roles. While there are some mutants who don’t get this allowance like Riptide or sadly Darwin, others, like Havok, and Angel show an interesting level of character. Havok is so quiet in this film, and is shown as being the kind of person who prefers being alone most of the time, showing this through several insults. However there is a redeeming feature to this. When Darwin dies, Alex does have a sense of regret and sadness inside himself. As the film goes on he opens up more, but keeps his regular side, possibly showing a more vulnerable side to himself. Angel (brilliantly played by Zoe Kravitz) similarly presents a similar character. While when I first saw this film, I was angry at the presentation of Angel, as I was more wanting Archangel (in the comics she’s called Tempest), I grew to her character more and she is an enjoyable addition to the cast. Angel is an interesting character as she so quickly becomes a villain. Not through her wanting to be one, but more through not wanting to hide as a mutant forever, and be accepted for whom she truly is (plus some possible charming from Shaw).

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Other notable cast members on something of a shortlist include Banshee. An interesting part and it wasn’t until I saw this film that I had a proper understanding of what his powers were and what he could do. His costume and look appear to be a lot like they are in the comics. He doesn’t necessarily feel persecuted for who he is and is more open from the start. Xavier’s work with him really helps to grow his confidence too. Azazel I feel is trying to have a big role but I don’t think he works other than for being a hired gun. It sort of feels like an attempt to include a character like Nightcrawler, but have them as a villain. He has a few short scenes of speaking parts which help him out and he is an important part of Shaw’s team, but I don’t feel all that strongly for him. Darwin I do feel rather sorry for as he gets killed off rather quickly, which is a shame because he seemed like genuinely a nice character. Emma Frost however is fantastic. Another brilliantly played part that is both cold as her name plus a lot of fun to follow. She is intelligent and sinister as well as possibly a bit deceptive. She has a lot of loyalty towards Shaw despite having some misgivings as the way he treats her. She wears some fantastic clothing that really do help to represent her status in the film as not a hired gun but an intelligent role, plus match an element of her clothing in the comics and cartoons (minus the cape).

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First Class makes great use of big stars for minor roles and includes a stellar cast from people who play small parts, but make a big impact due to them being such famous faces. People of note being Ray Wise, Glen Morshower, Matt Craven, Rade Šerbedžija, Michael Ironside and Oliver Platt. Along with these you of course get Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw (this is not a small role). I really do like the inclusion of the Hellfire Club in this film. It’s a section of my X-Men: The Ultimate Guide I have read on many occasions, but while I have known about Emma Frost for a while, it was only in recent times coming up to the release of this film that I really began to discover who Sebastian Shaw was. It was through reading Essential X-Men a year or two beforehand that I was first properly introduced, followed by an inclusion of the character in Wolverine and The X-Men on TV. In First Class, Shaw is just as sinister and uses his wealth and power to create his grand schemes plus the manipulation of those around him. His early introduction allows the character of Erik to be brought into the story, plus the film’s first goal for a character and plot. His powers make him practically invulnerable to attack and as such require both the abilities of Xavier and Magneto to defeat him. Much like the Hellfire Club, Shaw is a brilliant character to have as a villain in this and his team of mutants works well to his character. His final death puts the film in a position ready for its next important twist plus brings out Magneto for who he is. I think Rose Byrne is somewhat underused in this film as she slowly builds to the want of a relationship with Charles, but while the Mutants train, she doesn’t appear to be there. Unlike the people at the CIA who see Mutants as something else, Moira sees more in them. She is confident and always looking for an opportunity to prove herself, which she finds hard to do. She is sort of a comparison to what mutants feel, as she is a woman trying to do a job in a still male orientated world. Despite this though, I still feel like she is underused, especially for such an actress as good as Rose Byrne; despite this though she remains an enjoyable cast member throughout the film.

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First Class immediately shows Beast, where as he was delayed from being included until Last Stand in the previous trilogy. In this he tries to hide his mutation from others from the start, and is determined to accomplish the goal of being as normal as possible. While to begin with this triggers a bond between him and Raven, this does lead to a rift as the film goes along. He eventually comes to sort of accept who he is, but struggles with it again when Raven leaves. Raven meanwhile is not flaunting her ability as she did in the first 3 films. Either this could be because she is played by a different actress, or it could be because she is struggling with whom she really is. She hates and despises how people like Charles can look normal, while she has to regularly hide. This causes an early rift between her and her foster-brother and just builds and builds. While not necessarily being a major explored relationship in the film, the obnoxiousness and ignorance presented by Xavier shows his real lack of understanding for her and begins to reveal a weak spot in him. It’s not until Magneto talks to Raven that she begins to explore her right to be who she is, and accepts this as the film ends. Xavier meanwhile is one of the key characters explored in this film. From the start he tries to show himself as an understanding person, but shows a weak flaw in that he doesn’t really understand everything, as he thinks he does. Sure, he does help those around him who need it, but his lack of understanding with Raven causes a rift between them and slowly begins to ignore her. It’s like he’s trying to ground her, instead of helping her. Xavier then is not who he will become and is still playing around a little. He tries to stay calm and respectful in the situation. He also shares some real dramatic and emotional moments, and through one of these, which connects to his belief that mutants and humans can live together ends with him losing his legs, (plus the moment when he can feel the coin going through the head of Shaw).

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But it’s Magneto who is the film’s best character. Out of all the characters in the film, it’s Magneto who I connect the most with. While he would grow to become the series greatest villain, it’s interesting to see how it all happened. From his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazi’s, the death of his mother and being experimented on; to the acts that would define and make him the villain that he is today. He has many terrific, enjoyable, memorable and fantastic scenes in this film that are bolstered by his own character traits. But it should be remembered that he does not start out as a villain. While I see other comic villains as being evil just for the sake of being evil, Magneto’s rise to villainy status is shown in a more understanding way. While he will commit atrocious acts against others, it’s hard to say that he is doing it for the wrong reasons, as he has experienced incredible atrocities onto himself. He experienced life in the prison camps, the murder of his mother, and experimentation at the hands of a monster. His life previously can only be imagined, but given what is known about the treatment of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany, it’s only fair to see what was in store for Erik growing up. As the film progresses; he begins to commit those atrocities on humanity, but I find myself rooting for him. First on the Germans responsible for what happened to him, to the eventual scene against the ships. Both that and the scene in Argentina are two of the film’s most powerful scenes, and ones I am rooting Magneto to accomplish. Every time I watch the attack on the ships, I want them destroyed, because I sort of feel Erik’s pain, and it feels like Justice needs to be served. Add to this Magneto’s theme as well as Fassbender’s amazing performance and you have a character that stands out so well, that you can’t help but feel a bond with him every time he is on-screen.

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X-Men First class is beautifully shot and uses combinations of set pieces with real settings plus some cool camera tricks to make it stand out. I particularly like the camera angles used in the fight between Banshee and Angel. Costumes have always been something of a stand out feature in the X-Men films, and First Class is no different. From things like formal and casual attire, to the super suits. Instead though being like the jet black leather suits of the first trilogy, they look more like the suits in the early comics, which I think is a neat little addition. Add to it the personal traits of costumes too; such as Emma’s Suit Dress, Banshee’s wings, Havok’s disk, and the all famous Magneto Helmet, particularly at the end of the film. From there it’s onto the special effects of which there are many. The films have moved on in special effects from the outstanding Golden Gate Bridge scene in Last Stand and include lots of big special effects to just say “WOW!” at. From the Submarine pickup, to the navy’s arsenal, to the giant Warships themselves. I like how the Iowa class battleships get a part in this film, they look so cool. But it’s not just the big stuff. The mutant powers are on show too. Some are on show for the first time like Banshee’s scream and Havok’s ability, plus old favourites too like Mystique’s transformation. It’s not all down to Computer Effects though as some are more realistic and look superb such as the slicing of the statue at X Division, to the point where Shaw picks up an Iron Bar with his hands.

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The film’s soundtrack (Composed by Henry Jackman) is just as incredible as everything else in this film, plus is so memorable too. The film’s main theme (in my opinion) has to be Magneto’s theme. It is featured in the credits which I like, plus, when used in certain scenes shows the growing darkness and aggression that Magneto carries towards those he feels have wronged him. From the Argentinian bar where he grows from a mysterious acquaintance, to the moment he reveals himself and what he thinks about himself. There is just this growing essence of anger inside it which really carries his character for him in those scenes. While in other scenes it’s played around with, it’s still Magneto’s theme and I enjoy listening to it every time I hear it. It’s just so dark and menacing.

The film does have other pieces which stand out too. The film does use pieces of music from well established artists including Love Love by Take That (a really good song) and an instrumental version of Run by Gnarls Barkley used during the recruiting scene. As for the rest of the film’s soundtrack, a lot of pieces use the same piece within them. It’s a sort of calm, joyful and pleasant piece and is used several times as a starter. It begins in the Cerebro scene, the reveal of the mansion at the end of the second act and the lifting of the submarine. It’s a nice piece, just a generally nice piece. It even has a bigger part when the jet appears over the sea above the navies, a grander tone perhaps. Add to this other pieces of note such as the lifting of the submarine which brings more a scene of amazement, or to the Cerebro scene where it quickens and I get tingles down my spine just hearing it increase in speed. There is a definite feel of the period in the film’s soundtrack, and it shows (well hears) and is so pleasant to listen to. A great deal of work has gone into the soundtrack for First Class, and it has not gone to waste.

Alltogether; I love this film. I really do. I don’t like it as much I would say as X2 which I still consider my Favourite of the series, but I would say that First Class is a close second. I really do like this film, its story is tense and gripping, its characters are fun, and new, plus connectable, it’s combination of Special Effects and Soundtrack are amazing and most of all; Magneto is Fantastic. While more films have been released since and still more to come, I still absolutely enjoy this film for everything it has. Sure, it does have some shortcomings in some of its characters, but for every minor issue, there are 10 other things that make up for them. You don’t need to know much about X-Men to enjoy this film as it is a complete beginning for these characters without being a reboot. Overall, X-Men First Class is a fantastic film; I really recommend it.

GENEPOOL

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Top 10 Films of 2014 – Part 1

18 03 2015

Film Reel 2014

When I stopped doing the Sam’s Rant Film Awards a few years ago; I did so under the point that coming up with a list of films for several different categories was just a bit tiresome. In the end I just wanted to get round to saying what my Top 5 Favourite Films of the year were. So from 2013 onwards I decided to just do a simple Top 5 post to do just that. 2014 though has brought up a rather big issue. During the year I keep a count in my head of what my Top 5/10 films of the year were; in 2014 though, there was the colossal issue that the year had a fantastic selection of films to choose from, with me in the end watching more than 5 films and loving more than 5 films. It felt like choosing a Top 5 list only was wrong as there was soooo many good films and a lot of them deserve mentioning. So this year I am doing a Top 10. Ordering them was hard as on one occasion two very different films I considered being as good as each other, it was after watching one again I was able to split them. Some films were a massive surprise and ones I put up high on the list, while others that I had not seen in a few months had to be put in a position depending on how I enjoyed the films when I first saw them. In the end though I was able to work it out.

Dinosaur 13 (CNN Films - 2014)

There are some casualties though and I would like to make special mention to 3 other films which I really enjoyed but not as much as the ones in this list; those films being Interstellar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Dinosaur 13. Also, like last year and 2012, only films that were released in the UK during 2014 apply for a spot in this list, so sadly I can’t include AKIRA which I saw a few months ago, and loved, and cannot get the soundtrack out of my head. As like previous years I will put the following films in descending order, so starting with number 10 and whatever is at number 1 will be my favourite film. OK, that’s all the formal stuff, so now onto the fun stuff. Don’t forget; feel free to comment, Like, and Rate the post too. So without further ado; here are my Top 10 Favourite Films of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon Movies - 2014)

10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The heroes in a half shell returned to the big screen this year in a big way in what was a combination of CGI MOCAP and live action. The heroes basically end up getting discovered by plucky reporter April O’Neal and then end up having to fight for their own existence. Personally I was expecting more from this film, I thought that this would be in my top 5 looking at clips and the trailer beforehand, and while I did really enjoy it, I thought it was a bit quick with several scenes going from point A to point G and generally thought that there could have been more. Either another foot clan attack, or having the skyscraper battle prolonged by having them fight their way upstairs, (sort of like The Raid), but this is a kids film so there can’t be too much violence of course. On the upside though, the main cast were all terrific especially the characters of April (Megan Fox), Splinter (Danny Woodburn and Tony Shalhoub), Raphael (Alan Richtson), and The Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) looked terrifying. We also got the brilliant elevator/lift scene too.

Divergent (Lionsgate - 2014)

9. Divergent – To be honest, I did not see Divergent coming. The first time I heard about it was when I went to see Catching Fire and was given a little supplement which had the word Divergent on it. When it was coming closer to it being released, I had a little look at it and then decided to go and give it a try (it was either that or Muppets Most Wanted). I saw it, and really enjoyed it. I liked the setting of the world, the ideas of it and it had some really good points of action, even before everything gets screwed up for the main characters. Shailene Woodley was brilliant and I thought Zoe Kravitz was terrific too. While it wasn’t as good as other films to be released during the year, I really do rate this film. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try; you might be surprised.

The Lego Movie (Warner Bros - 2014)

8. The Lego Movie – When I heard that a Lego film was coming out, my first instinct was “Oh Dear”. I just thought it was going to be ridiculous, stupid and just wasn’t going to work. Then the reviews started pouring in, and the more and more I heard them I wondered if I should give it a try. So I went to see it with my Mam, and really did enjoy it. I thought it was absolutely hilarious. It took things from other films and genres and made them silly. From terrific moments to brilliant characters, especially Batman (Will Arnett). Batman was the best thing about this film; he even had his own theme music. Pretty much, every scene he was in, was hilarious and everything he said was comedy gold. The film’s main theme; Everything Is Awesome was fun too. Basically put it was just a very fun film (for a while I did have this at joint position with Divergent; and then I watched it again). Let’s just hope that Bionicle gets featured in the sequel.

The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli - 2013)

7. The Wind Rises – I had waited a long time to see this film. I have not seen Spirited Away, or any other film by Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki, but I want to, even more after seeing The Wind Rises. The story of a young man who just wants to make good airplanes. Just one catch, the only people interested in airplane production at the moment is the military. What in a sense is mostly a love story between a young man and woman, and a young man and his aircraft designs; the film tells a story of the characters and the love for humanity. But that’s not all, the film also tells a story of pre-World War 2 Japan with the main character going on to design the Mitsubishi A6M Zero (while it has been fictionalised a bit it is based on the life and work of Jiro Horikoshi). What was generally a nice film overall, and a really pleasant experience, I loved the film’s story, characters and setting from the first minute to the last. The films ending credits theme was also rather sweet. An absolute lovely, brilliant film.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox - 2014)

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past – I had been waiting a long time for another X-Men film. The last one (not including Wolverine spin-offs, although The Wolverine was terrific) being in 2011 and then 2006 before that. When Days of Future Past was finally on its way, I was really excited, almost more than most films due out in 2014. I was particularly excited about the addition of the original trilogy’s cast; as well as the tandem with the cast from First Class alongside some new characters from the comics including the mighty Sentinels. What is more of a double sequel to both Last Stand, First Class and The Wolverine in some respects, and based on the X-Men timeline of the same name; Days of Future past was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I enjoyed it from start to finish and was really happy to see the old cast return alongside the new. Also back was the theme tune (remixed a little) from X-Men 2 in the opening titles, which I thank Bryan Singer a lot for bringing back. Altogether it’s good to know that while other comic book and graphic novel adaptations may waver, X-Men is around to provide us all with Good Films.

GENEPOOL (The normal Top 5 List should return to normal next year, as there are only 7 films I am really looking forward to this year).





Top 7 Most Exciting Films In 2015

21 01 2015

Film Reel 2015

Since 2012; I have annually produced a list of my top 10 most exciting films of the upcoming year. These are the films which I am most excited about that are due for release later in the year. This year however, there’s a problem, there are only 7 films I feel genuinely excited about. While there is the new Star Wars film due for release later this year, I just don’t feel all that excited about it, the new Terminator looks much better, but I don’t feel all that strongly for it, and while films like Monsters: Dark ContinentChappie, Minions and Crimson Peak do look rather interesting, I don’t know much about them to feel anything major for them. It’s quite the dilemma, but I have found at least 7 films that I am genuinely looking out for and so here is my list of the Top 7 Most Exciting Films In 2015 (it would have been 8 if Kung Fu Panda 3 had not been pushed back to 2016).

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios - 2015)

7. Avengers: Age of Ultron – When The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK) was released, I was relatively OK with it. I thought that having all characters on-screen could ruin it but overall was impressed with the portrayal of The Hulk. I however thought that the film would ruin future one-off releases by constantly mentioning that film instead of being its own thing and until recently was not all that excited to the release of the new film. Even when the first trailer for Age of Ultron came out, I thought it looked rather rubbish, particularly the ridiculous giant Iron Man armour (but not as ridiculous though as the upcoming Ant-Man film). The second trailer though look more refined and when I began to look at it in-depth it began to look a little more interesting. While I am sort of wavering on this film, I am a little more excited about it, and am interested to see how they are going to portray two X-Men characters in it.

Spectre (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - 2015)

6. Spectre – The next instalment in the James Bond series and sequel to Skyfall. The next film sees Sam Mendes returning to direct this new film which is set to star Christoph Waltz and former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Dave Bautista. While the plot of the new film is still rather unknown, the promise of a new bond film, let alone being directed again by the director of Skyfall shows promise.

Insurgent (Lionsgate - 2015)

5. The Divergent Series: Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent. Having not read the books myself I don’t know what is going to happen but the trailer does look rather good. Previous cast members return for the next instalment, including both Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz and altogether at this stage, the film looks rather interesting.

Blackhat (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

4. Blackhat – I have been looking forward to Blackhat for a while now. The first time I heard of it was when I was researching the biography of Legendary Pictures founder Thomas Tull. I sort of kept the film in mind before eventually finding the trailer, to which I am impressed. What looks to be a hacker based drama starring Chris Hemsworth, the trailer made this jump so high in my list. While the film has not yet been released in the UK, it has been in America, so fingers crossed, it shouldn’t be too long until it gets released in the UK (not unless it’s going to be like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all over again).

Seventh Son (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

3. Seventh Son – I have mentioned this film a lot over the last several years and it has been a long time coming. Had it not been for it being pushed back an entire year (especially as the trailer for the film was released several months before that was announced), it would have been released by now. Based on the book series The Spook’s by Joseph Delaney, the film follows the Spook taking on new apprentice Thomas Ward to fight the forces of darkness and protect the local people from the things that go bump in the night. What is supposedly based on the first book in the series; The Spook’s Apprentice, Seventh Son follows the story from the beginning. The trailer however shows things which I can’t remember in the book, and I think the character of Thomas (Ben Barnes) looks a little old for a character who is supposedly a teenager. The Spook (Jeff Bridges) however looks pretty close to perfect. While I am a little unsure of what the trailer shows, I am still excited to see what the film does.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Lions Gate - 2014

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The film series that gripped the world from its first instalment finally reaches its ultimate climax. What will be the second part of the third book (a trend that is taking over the whole of cinema), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and company will fight through the city streets of the Capitol to reach and ultimately bring down the ruthless Capitol, ruled by the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland). While Part 1 ended where I roughly thought it would, it’s going to be interesting to see how Part 2 will ultimately finish. I’m probably going to cry when this is all over, it’s been one of my favourite film series, not just in recent years, but I have seen to date, and I’m gonna miss it when it’s all over later this year.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

1. Jurassic World – I have been waiting for this film for a long, long time. I love the Jurassic Park series, to me, it’s better than it’s close rival; Star Wars. I have always loved dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park films have always been fun (even number 3 has it’s moments). Having read though the book of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton this past year, I do see the films in a different light. The trailer for the new film has been out for a long while now, but from the moment I saw it, I already fell in love with it. The film’s setting looks terrific, and the premise looks awesome and terrifying. While a second trailer is due to come out relatively soon, it won’t be too long until this film gets released, but the first trailer gives me plenty of reasons to be excited about it.

GENEPOOL (I would have included Birdman, but seeing as it has already been released in both the US and the UK, I thought it felt a bit late to mention it).





Faction Over Blood – Divergent

30 04 2014

Divergent (Summit Entertainment - 2014)

I haven’t really taken much notice of Divergent up until now. When I went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the staff were handing out little supplements of the book which I have not read. I looked deeper into it and discovered it was a Young Adult book, seemingly with something in common with The Hunger Games and that a film was coming out. Still did not take much notice, and then one time in Waterstones, a staff member suggested it saying that they preferred it to The Hunger Games (Books). I started taking a bit of interest in it though when the first TV Spot came up. For me though, going to see Divergent was going to be a gamble, did not know much about it except for a growing interest in the books, so I took the gamble to go and see it, and I loved it (similar to the gamble I took when I went to see The Hunger Games).

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Based on the book of the same name by Veronica Roth, directed by Neil Burger and produced by Summit Entertainment, Divergent is set in Chicago in the not too distant future. The city is walled, and the city itself is somewhat degraded. The people of Chicago live in a faction based system where when you turn of age, you are assigned to one of these classes (sort of like the Caste System of the Tau in Warhammer 40,000). Abnegation who are selfless and are the political system, Amity who are peaceful and are like the farmers, Candor who are truthful and are like the lawyers, Erudite who are intelligent and who are basically the scientists, and Dauntless who are brave and are the military. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) belongs to Abnegation but has always had an eye for Dauntless. When she comes of age she goes through the test to see who she is. The test is orchestrated by a women called Tori (Maggie Q) who tells her that Beatrice’s results do not conform to one faction and is therefore Divergent. As Divergent’s are capable of independent thought, they are considered as a threat and Beatrice is told to keep quite.

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At the choosing ceremony, all the come of age children get to decide which faction they want to join, no matter what their test results are. Beatrice goes against what she was raised as and joins Dauntless. As she has now chosen a different faction to her parents Andrew (Tony Goldwyn) and Natalie (Ashley Judd) she can no longer see them. Upon leaving the ceremony, she realises how crazy Dauntless are as she is asked to board a moving train, and jump through a building by young dauntless leader Eric (Jai Courtney). When she reaches the bottom, she meets Four (Theo James) who says they can choose a different name, but must stick with it, she calls herself Tris. At the training centre she strikes up a friendship with Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Al (Christian Madsen) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). She initially struggles in training and is in constant danger of being cut and becoming factionless. She has a fight with a rival called Peter (Miles Teller) who hospitalises her. She is almost kicked out until she joins a capture the flag game and helps her team win it.

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Tris now moves onto the second part of training, a mental training ground that tries to find out who she really is. She is faced with obstacles that terrify her, but when she remembers that the tests are not real, she manages to overpower them. This makes her stand out by a long margin. She goes to visit her Brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) who is an Erudite who tells her that Erudite are planning to overthrow Abnegation whose leader Marcus (Ray Stevenson) is appearing to break laws. On her way back to the training centre, she is attacked by a group of masked men, one of whom is Al who is failing in the second part of the training. When he tries to ask for forgiveness, Tris brands him a coward, and he kills himself. Four takes Tris into his own fear test and tells her that in order to hide herself as a Divergent, she needs to complete the tasks as a Dauntless would, during this he reveals himself to be the son of Marcus, four and Tris then begin a relationship. At the final test Tris completes all her tasks without revealing herself as a Divergent and goes through the initiation before having a final injection. D4

The following morning, Tris realizes that the injection is a mind controlling serum used by Erudite to manipulate Dauntless. With the army now under their control, Erudite plans to wipe-out Abnegation. Only Tris and Four are unaffected who attempt to blend in to try and stop the atrocity. They are however found out, captured and split up; Tris is rescued by her mother who was actually a Dauntless. They go to meet up with Tris’s father, but her mother gets shot on the way. Tris, her father, brother and Marcus go back to Dauntless to stop them, and use Peter who is involved to take them to where Dauntless is being controlled, but her father dies in the process. Tris finds Four who has a large dose of the serum and is under the control of Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet), but manages to break him out of it. Using the same serum they manage to stop Jeanine, and free Dauntless of the mind control. Tris, Four, Marcus and Caleb then flee on the train, and plan to go as far as the end of the tracks, towards the wall.

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Divergent is a beautifully set world. While it is in the form of a walled off Chicago, the world on the bottom, is pretty and beautiful but does not divulge too much into a futuristic setting, therefore making the world and setting very contemporary, as in, it is very much in the now. The idea of the world did make me think a lot of Æon Flux as in it is isolated from the rest of the world, but the society that exists is very grounded in its structure and beliefs. I also like the use of the commuter style trains, so instead of a mass transport style train like that in say Borderlands 2, it is very much something that most people in the world are used to seeing, and so no explanation is needed into how they work, a trains a train. The dilapidated look of the city also comes into consideration as it gives the city both history and character and brings up questions as to what happened and while these are mostly seen from the sky level and the outer stretches of the city limits, it shows what has been done to keep the centre alive as possible. It’s not just in the city though, but also what people wear which adds an element of character to the city and people. The clothes are nicely and brilliantly well designed and is definitely one of the film’s most stand out features.

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Divergent is a beautifully shot film. It’s uses of broad wide shots show the world that it is living in, and nothing too small a detail is left out including things like the electric wire on the wall, the holes in the building, the dilapidation, everything. But at its best is the way it changes scenery and how quickly it does so without making the viewer sick. You know when, if you take films that do lots of flipping, spinning, high-flying, quick changes, the viewer may feel sick. Divergent instead finishes the shot, but then cuts to somewhere else instead of having to merge them together, meaning that the viewer is neither likely to be dizzy, eye strained or feel sick throughout. The zip line scene is also wonderfully done as it shows some more of the beauty of the city that has been kept intact as well as those bits that have fallen, but is also a beautiful scene in its own right.

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Divergent’s cast are a great selection of actors and actresses who are some of the finest young and old talent around today. Particular mentions include Kate Winslet as the scheming cold villain who on the surface definitely appears to be more than she seems as well as manipulative. Molly (Amy Newbold) is an interesting character who gets minor prolific appearances throughout. She is a keen trainee who while having a cold interior seemingly has more to her than that and possibly has a sense of vulnerability about her, I look forward to seeing more of her character. The character of Eric meanwhile is a well-defined Rotter, easily someone you just want to avoid, while the Dauntless leader Max (Mekhi Phifer) underneath is truly opposite. Caleb meanwhile is definitely a man of vision but is easily swayed by manipulation and is very much the icon of the film’s term Faction over Blood. Marcus and the rest of Tris’s family are similar in that they show their exterior more than anything else but are definitely hiding something.

Kate Winslet, Amy Newbold, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd

Four is much like this but has both elements of trust and distrust but is a good character witness who can see there is more to a person than meets the eye and will eventually rat it out of them, much like he did with Tris, but shows that he is not necessarily a man of the state, but more of a kind and gentle friend in a tough situation. Tori is a nice secretive character who is easily showing how hard it is to stay hidden. While her appearances in the film appear to be mostly small and infrequent, there is more to look forward too with this character as a connection to the audience begins to grow.

Maggie Q, Theo James

The real stars of Divergent though are easily Zoë Kravitz and Shailene Woodley. From the moment you first see her; you know that Christina is going to be an important character. She gives off the feeling of someone who is a great person to be friends with but is also very committed to the path she has chosen, but is also very much a stand out character as in she will voice her opinion’s out in the open if she deems it necessary. This more open attitude is something that helps Tris to come out of the shell she has been hiding in and does this even more so by voicing the idea of getting tattoos. Why she herself is not a Divergent is a mystery. When I first saw the character of Tris I was sort of reminded of Georgina Rylance as they both seem to share a similar look with one another. Woodley’s character though shows what the world looks like to an outsider. The faction system, independent thought and what the natural human would go through to survive, this strong willed nature is hard for her to hide of course but she is able to manage in the long-term until the time is right to reveal herself. Her character is enjoyable throughout and hard to take your mind off as you feel for the character as she is more like the audience member than a citizen. And while she stays the same age throughout, her mind and realization grows and she becomes much like the disciplined soldier as well as more like an adult in mind.

Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley

The film’s soundtrack is well presented with the films main core soundtrack in my opinion being the Run Boy Run theme by Woodkid which is used a lot in the film, but not completely overdone to the point of boredom (like say in The Last of the Mohicans). The rest of the film’s soundtrack is a great mix of the types of music one would expect in a teen/young adult based drama but still not overdone as to bore other viewers.

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Divergent overall is actually a very thought-provoking film presenting the ideas of how hard it is to join a specific group as well as the peer pressure presented very much in today’s society ageing from as young as school age to even adult age into joining and conforming to the rules of specific groups. It asks questions as to what would you do in those situations as to what must be done to not just be free of such cases but also to not be frowned or looked down upon due to your position in society and generally the case of all being treated as equals in the world we live in. These ideas are shown with much diligence and are not put to one side for the time being but are constantly presented throughout. The idea of being Divergent in itself is very much the replication of those who choose to both think differently and rebel against the current system under the belief that a much better system can be forged with a little push. The idea of having such suggestions is thoroughly pushed down with the idea of such people being announced rebels and how others desire for control shows what level they are willing to do this by committing such atrocities as mass murder and genocide.

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Divergent throughout is an amazing film. Enjoyable from start to finish but with essences that will make you think along with an amazing cast, beautifully shot, thoroughly detailed and scenes that you will not forget in a hurry. It really isn’t just some ordinary teen thriller or action film, it is actually quite clever. I really do suggest that you give this film a try, as while many people may read the film from its poster or trailer, it is much more than that and deserves a good try. It is truly a wonderful film, and one that I highly recommend, not just the audiences that the film is aimed at, but to everyone.

GENEPOOL








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