Tag Archives: X-Men

X-Men: Days of Future Past | Review | Film

X-Men Days of Future PastAs bands of misfits go, it’s difficult not to relate to the X-Men. As the seventh film in the franchise (depending whether you have a selective memory about X-Men 3: The Last Stand or not), the series has gone the distance without succumbing to the allure of a reboot, and here’s hoping there’s a long way to go yet.

X-Men Days of Future PastHugh Jackman might be typecast as the poster boy for the X-Men, but there’s no hiding that he carries the role well, and this film is no exception. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine is integral to the plot, acting as the time-defying bridge between the ‘current’ cast and that of the 2011 prequel X-Men First Class.

Getting your head around the contorted plot might prove a challenge of you’re someone who needs to understand things rather than take them at face value. The key to the story is Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page)’s new mutant ability, the power to send people’s consciousness back in time.

Like many aspects of the film, no explanation is given for this, but it does give us a good excuse to why there’s two versions of a few characters in the movie, namely Professor X and Magneto.

The past sections pick up 10 years after the events of First Class and the years have not been kind to the Professor (James McAvoy) who has sacrificed his powers for the ability to walk again, thanks to a handy serum developed by Hank McCoy (Nicholas Holt), which explains why you’ll have spotted him walking in some of the trailers.

Herein lies the beauty of what Director Bryan Singer has created. Touches like that which seem like a disregard for the established canon are expertly explained. It’s clear that Singer has a great love for the franchise, and from his track record fans were excited to see him return to the helm.

Even more reassuringly, Singer’s work here is easily up to the standard he set with the original X-Men and X-Men 2. Getting the balance of so many characters right is a tricky skill, one which went awry when Brett Ratner picked up the third installment with disappointing results.

All of this adds up to a film packed with familiar characters – with big name actors to do them justice – and a complex but exciting plot. All it needed to top things off was a devastating new enemy: the sentinel.

Created by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage on top form), these towering robots, with more than a hint of the fire-breathing titan from Thor, can adapt to the abilities of mutants when they are attacked, and since they soon decided to get rid of most humans as well, a bleak future awaits mankind – unless James McAvoy and the gang cant stop them.

X-Men Days of Future PastBack in the 70s alongside Professor X is Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who has been locked in the most secure building in the world – The Pentagon. Luckily, Wolverine knows someone who can help them, leading to the introduction of the most fun character in the entire film, Quicksilver, who can move at incredible speed. One gripe with this film could be that we didn’t see enough of him.

The stakes are high with this film, not just in the story but for the franchise too, since a critical flop could have led to a loss of faith from fans. Fortunately Bryan Singer has delivered a film which ticks all the boxes and is consistent in a universe wrought with irregularities.

Whether the already announced X-Men: Apocalypse can keep up the standard remains to be seen but for now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the best film of the year so far.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

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Ten most anticipated titles of 2014 – Part 2 | Opinion | Entertainment

2014 ones to watch pt2That’s right, we ran out of space to fit in ten before – there’s just so much to talk about. In case you missed it, have a read of the first five things we are excited about this year, then take a look at another five below. After that you may go, or if you’re feeling really interactive you can leave a comment with what yours are.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – 22 May

X-Men: Days of Future PastIs more always better? We aren’t so sure. It definitely made Spider-Man 3 messy and is history is threatening to repeat itself with the second remake (see part one). That said, it’s difficult to bet against the pedigree of the cast involved with X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Promising new-ish talent in the form of Evan Peters as Quicksilver and rising star Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, while old guard like Hugh Jackman (born to be Wolverine) bring some gravitas to proceedings and knights of the realm Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bringing up the rear.

Of course this time roles are doubled up, as both Michael Fassbender and McKellen take on the iconic role of Magneto and make uneasy alliance with James McAvoy and Stewart’s Professor X.

To say that this is an anticipated title would be an understatement. Original film series helmsman Bryan Singer is back and there’s some fantastic writers on board as well, with so many great characters, special effects and action sequences to come – what can go wrong? If the trailer is anything to go by we are in for a treat.

House of Cards: Series 2 – 14 February

The first of two multimedia TV choices on this list, both significant for different reasons. Last year House of Cards was Netflix’s first real foray into the world of original programming, and thanks to its success a handful of shows, both established and brand new, have followed suit. Now they have to do it again to prove that it’s not just a one-trick pony or a fluke – a second series is serious business.

The show isn’t strictly original, since it’s a remake of a UK show, but I think given the differences between attitudes and political systems in the two countries it can stand alone with its head held high. Kevin Spacey nails the part of Frank Underwood expertly, so much so that he gained a number of award nominations, but, alas, only a (well-deserved) Golden Globe win for Spacey’s co-star Robin Wright. Netflix will want to improve on that this time around, to prove that they ‘count’ in the big leagues.

Since the scrabble up the political ladder was vicious and frantic at times in series one, viewers won’t want Frank’s journey to get too easy this time around. All the episodes drop in at once on Valentine’s Day, will they make enough impact to tear people away from their loved ones?

The Halo TV Series – TBA

HaloThe Xbox One announcement was undoubtedly a multimedia entertainment affair, rather than a reveal of ‘a games console’. Microsoft had their sights set on something greater, and still do. Filming a TV series though, takes time, and with collaborator Steven Spielberg working on other TV projects as producer his time is sure to be in high demand.

The potential of this show is what makes it such an exciting prospect though. The Halo 4: Forward  Unto Dawn web series demonstrated fantastic production values and, crucially, a compelling story which wasn’t over-reliant on the games – a very difficult balance to get right.

The expectation from series fans is high, and as one of Microsoft’s key exclusives, they will definitely want to take the time they need to get it right first time. Particularly considering all the flack they got in 2013 for various PR mis-steps.

The potential of the concept is huge though, and there’s a lot to play for. A massive captive audience and exclusive delivery platform just waiting to get going, while the interplay between the show and the game series itself, which is also keeping its audience hungry. MS have an opportunity to make a bold statement about what they can achieve in multimedia. It might not come this year in the end, but there is sure to be more revealed by the end of the year.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – March 28

Captain America: The Winter SoldierPoor Cap. Thanks to merely his name, his origin story wasn’t as well received in the UK as it was in his homeland. Luckily he has another chance with The Winter Soldier, and early forecasts are looking extremely promising.

The character established in the first film had a surprisingly deep arc compared to his fellow Avengers, and as such was short-changed by critics. In this instalment the trailer paints a very compelling picture.

Cap is still working with SHIELD, including Nick Fury and Black Widow, and is beginning to question the motives and methods of this highly destructive organisation. Not a gritty superhero story like The Dark Knight trilogy, but a very personal story which explores his character – albeit with some explosions thrown in for good measure.

Directing are little-known pair Anthony and Joe Russo, who are sure to bring their own spin to proceedings, while the rest of the crew are equally unknown to the Marvel film universe, meaning the film has that mixture of excitement and fear you often find with an unknown quantity.

The next Google Nexus tablet – TBA

Google Nexus 10 2 concept imageGoogle have been making strides over the past few months, buying up companies left and right and making progress with both software and concept hardware such as Google Glass, but since the release of the Google Nexus 7, things have been quiet in the tablet division.

The advertising for Google Play as the place to get your music, films and TV shows has seen a marked increase, giving the softest of indications that the next logical step on their tablet journey may be coming.

Another patent deal with Samsung done and dusted in the smartphones division means there’s a few more patents to play with and since there has been a lot of expectation for a more specced iPad or wearable tech. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), product launches from Google were conspicuous by their absence and after Apple’s shares took a tumble on the back of less-than-overwhelming sales performance – now is the time to strike.

The technology needed isn’t a million miles ahead of the excellent Google Nexus 10, produced by Samsung, with its screen in particular going down well and generally performance stacking up to the equivalent offering from Apple. To really turn heads though, they will need to go further. Does that mean a Nexus 11? Time, as ever, will tell, but there’s potential there for the taking.

The ones to watch: Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Division, The Fray – Helios, Rancid’s new album, Robocop, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Steam Machines, Oculus Rift, Hannibal and Game of Thrones.
James Michael Parry

Franchises and remakes: Same old story or a fresh perspective? | Feature | Entertainment

ScarfaceRolling out a re-tread of a tried and tested idea is (ironically) far from a new concept – in fact it has delivered some of the best films, games and even songs out there – but it also has a lot to answer for.

Tried and tested?

Look, a shiny new suit! What do you mean it looks exactly the same as the old one? Quiet I say!
Look, a shiny new suit! What do you mean it looks exactly the same as the old one? Quiet I say!

At present, only one or two films in IMDB’s top 250 are full remakes (though many are adapted from other sources such as books), so what is that makes Hollywood in particular so fond of taking a story for another spin?

The box office tells a different story however, with far more remakes getting a look in. Most recent of these is Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield, which controversially re-introduced the character last year, just 10 years after Tobey Maguire became the web-slinger in 2002. Of course, this case is technically a ‘re-boot’, which the viewing public seem to be more receptive to and forgiving of.

Sometimes, the remake is more successful than the original, such as Scarface (above) or The Man Who Knew Too Much, and can even go own to spawn a franchise of its own. With such inconsistency, it can be difficult to pick out whether the film has been judged on its own merits, or compared to its predecessor, something which often happens with a franchise.

The power of the franchise

Look into my eyes, boy
“What do you mean there isn’t another book?!”

In film in particular, there is a big emphasis on the strength of franchises. For the studio big-wigs, the box office numbers are king, so films can carry on for near-countless iterations before dying out, just because viewers are bought into the franchise. Often the subsequent films don’t even have the same characters, or actors, such as in later instalments of Home Alone or The Bourne Legacy.

In numbers terms, film series like Harry Potter or Twilight make great sense to studios, and so they continue to be churned out year after year, but will their massive commercial success mean they will never fall victim to being remade? (Well, it would give someone else a chance to play a slightly more emotive Bella).

It’s in the game

Dead stare-y heroin Jill Valentine wished she'd brought that HD grenade launcher
Dead stare-y heroin Jill Valentine wished she’d brought that HD grenade launcher

For games there are a variety of different types of remake. Popular with publishers at the moment is the ‘HD re-release’ (see Metal Gear Solid HD Collection). Not a remake per se, this allows games-makers to slap some hi-def polish on a game from 10 years ago and release it as a collection, which often serves to bring the younger gaming audience up to date in time for a new release in the franchise.

Another option, which is more costly and time-consuming, is the full remake, which often takes the game back to basics and gives it a full visual re-working, even adding in new content, such as Halo Anniversary or the Resident Evil Gamecube edition.

Play it again, Sam

When will it end?
When will it end?

The music industry re-releases songs like they are going out of fashion (in fact, a lot of the time, because they are going out of fashion), with a new Rolling Stones or Beatles ‘definitive’ Greatest Hits collection out every few years.

Music gets away with it somehow, perhaps due to it’s ‘timeless’ nature, but where it does drop the ball is the cover song. The lowest of all remakes, this takes a song we know and love and often minces it into a slurry which is poison to our ears. Case in point is anything uttered by hyperactive hair enthusiasts Jedward in the past few years.

On the other hand, a re-imagining can offer a new perspective to a song, such as Gary Jules’ more sombre and more thoughtful rendition of ‘Mad World’, or Gabrielle Aplin’s thoughtful and more sombre rendition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. It just goes to show that the whole concept of recycling isn’t a massive waste of time as many have speculated.

So, what’s the point?

Classics like this would never exist if it weren't for remakes, just don't mention Ocean's Twelve. Did. Not. Happen.
Classics like this would never exist if it weren’t for remakes, just don’t mention Ocean’s Twelve. Did. Not. Happen.

As consumers we have a duty to demand the best. If we settle for less, that’s what we will end up with.

That said, there is value in the remake. Ocean’s Eleven and The Departed (to name just two) are way up our all-time top film lists, and the recent Devil May Cry reboot – DmC: Devil May Cry – proved to be far more engaging, stylish and entertaining than at least its immediate predecessor, but there is a danger in not taking a risk once in a while with a new IP.

The lesson is that just because a film, game or single might be from an established name, a long-running franchise, or based on a well-loved and well-used concept doesn’t guarantee its quality – good or bad.

So next time you splash your cash, think carefully whether you are investing because you like what you’ve already heard about it or just because you think you know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it can be a foregone conclusion of course, if you don’t like superheroes then probably the next Thor or X-Men isn’t for you, but sometimes if you take a risk and go in with no preconceptions, you might surprise yourself.

James Michael Parry