The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Review

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Tonight I went to a “secret screening” of a film at my local cinema. Before the film started we were told that it was a film that is due to be released in four weeks’ time and that it was an unfinished cut so we should expect some blue screen during some scenes and that we have been asked to “use our imagination” during these scenes. Strangely there were no blue screens in the film (none that I caught anyway) so this note before the film seemed utterly pointless.

When the title of the film was revealed in the BBFC certificate a big groan came from the audience and even prompted a few people to leave. I’m sure many people were hoping that we would be treated to an early showing of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and were really let down.

The title of the film was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and a part of me wishes I had left when the title was unveiled.

I should preference this review by saying I had not seen a trailer for this film previous to this screening, nor was I aware it was a remake of a 1947 film by the same name.

The set-up of the film is that Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is boring, he day-dreams about being a hero and… that’s about it really. He’s single and uses a dating website to cyber-stalk a work colleague (Kristen Wigg) that he’s never spoken to before. His job as a photo technician (the film uses a more specific term) at Life Magazine seems like a weird choice initially because surely most people use digital photography but his job and the fact that he deals in celluloid photographs is a vital plot device so it’s fairly understandable why he would still have a job. Walter’s adventure begins when he is sent a batch of photos from Life’s star photographer (Sean Penn) with the front cover photo missing. This leads him on a hunt to track down Penn’s character which takes him to Greenland, Iceland and back again. The adventure ultimately changes Walter from an uptight, suit wearing bore into a bearded, jean wearing “cool guy”. Unfortunately this is not the only cliché that this film embraces.

One positive that stood out over everything else in this film is the cinematography, which was astounding. Not to be too pessimistic but when you are working with a backdrop like Iceland it would be hard to have the visuals anything but incredible but Stiller (who also directed the film) does do a wonderful job with many of the shots.

Unfortunately I find myself bereft of many other positive musings in regards to this film. The script felt uneven and the comedy really underwhelmed. The story itself didn’t really have much to say apart from speaking directly to middle-aged people and telling them that they can still go on that adventure that they’ve always dreamed of, there’s no need to day-dream. There are so many unbelievable occurrences in the film that by the time Walter is getting signal on his phone at 18,000ft+ up the Himalayas you just have to throw your hands up and laugh at the absurdity. A note to the film-makers: just because a character used to skateboard does not mean he is capable of longboarding like a professional (also in what world does a teenager swap a longboard for a stretch arm strong toy?!?!). I also find it impossible to believe that a man who has been stuck in a dimly lit basement office for years would have the lung capacity or the endurance to not only run further and faster than most Olympic marathon runners are capable of but also be able to climb the Himalayas with no preparation at all.

One thing that I will say about Ben Stiller is that he seemed to be really trying with this film. He did a good job at directing and he did a fairly good job in the lead role but the script just didn’t seem to match his enthusiasm. Kristen Wiig was underutilized and the script should be blamed for giving her woeful material to work with. This film made me dislike Adam Scott for the first time ever, and I don’t mean because I am supposed to dislike him because he is the jerk in the film, but because all his lines fell flat and the beard looked horrible and fake. Patton Oswalt (who plays an eHarmony colleague), a man who can’t help but be funny, did his very best with the material but wasn’t really as funny as you would expect him to be. Again I can only fault the script because Patton Oswalt is a very funny man. Maybe he should have been left to improvise all of his lines.

Ultimately this is a film which was let down in a big way by the script. The comedy fell flat; with only one moment that seemed to make the majority of the audience I saw the film with laugh (the Benjamin Button scene). The message was uninspired. The acting was average (not that the script called for much more than that). A lot of characters seemed sorely under-developed and I found myself coming to conclusions way before the characters which just made them seem dumb. When the final cover photo is finally unveiled at the end of the film it makes absolutely no sense for it to be the picture that it is.

I personally wouldn’t recommend this film but with a release date around Christmas I can certainly see there being an audience for it, and hopefully they can find more interest and charm than I could.

Don Jon Review

 

 

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SPOILERS!!

Don Jon was a bit of a surprise. The trailers, and indeed the posters, make it seem like a romantic comedy, which in essence it is as it is very funny and also quite emotive, but thankfully this film has a lot more to say about relationships than most romantic comedies. It is a film predominately a study about lust and what it is that we want from a relationship and how this can take many forms.

Jon (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is introduced as a rather shallow individual, one whose main interests in life are this body, his house, his car, his family, God, the ladies and most importantly porn. Jon makes no excuses about his love for pornography; it is his one true release in life, one that nothing else can even come close to, including sexual relations with a real woman. Jon is the epitome of a chauvinistic male when it comes to females. He and his friends (played by Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke) will rate women on their bodies, most importantly their breasts and ass, and he takes pride in his streak of always taking a woman home when he goes out. There is an interesting point to be made in the way the three friends approach the ratings of certain women as they don’t always agree with one another which is certainly true for people in general, every human has their own views on beauty and this even rings true in these seemingly shallow individuals. This is the first of many points in this film which seems to say to the audience “there is someone out there for everyone”, whether you find that someone or not is entirely up to your own interpretation of love, whether it be lustful, close affection or something deeper, a connection that can’t be described by just words.

At the beginning of the film Jon sees these women as objects, he is stuck in a cycle of meaningless sex and he doesn’t realise that he is unhappy with this cycle but does seem to have a goal of finding the woman who will do to him what porn does for him.

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Enter Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who is described as being a “dime” (10/10) and immediately Jon is prowling like a wolf, he is besotted by her looks and is even willing to put time in to get to know her to gain his goal of sleeping with her. The fact that he is willing to put time in with this woman is a source of great amusement for Jon’s friends and it seems that Jon feels that by finding a woman who is different to the others he usually encounters, i.e. a woman who won’t put out immediately, means that when they do eventually have sex he will find what he has been looking for.

Unfortunately for Jon, once he gets what he’s wanted from the moment he laid eyes on Barbara, it is a failure just like all the others but due to his infatuation with this woman’s looks and since he put in all this effort with her he convinces himself that he is in love with her. The question now becomes, what is love? Is it purely a physical attribute? If you are so captivated and obsessed with a woman’s beauty is that love? On the surface Barbara might be a “dime” but are looks everything? The relationship between Jon and Barbara starts like many others, they meet each other’s friends and eventually they are introduced to one another’s parents.

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Jon’s parents Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenne Headly) are portrayed as simple, church-going folk. Jon Sr. is an American football fanatic and is constantly shown watching American football and shouting at the TV. Angela just wants Jon to find “the one”, settle down and have a family, so when Jon finally tells her he’s met someone who he loves she breaks down in tears of utter joy. Finishing off the family is Jon’s sister Monica (Brie Larson) who plays the prototypical ‘Silent Bob’ role of not speaking at all during the film until near the end when her one line of dialogue sums up the situation, showing that while she might always be on her phone, that doesn’t mean she isn’t paying attention to what is happening around her.

Of course to keep up with all romantic comedy clichés, eventually Barbara and Jon break up. The reason for this break up might ultimately be a different source but the differences in the two characters are summed up perfectly by one scene when they are in a shop. Jon wants to go buy some cleaning utensils and the reaction of Barbara to this exhibits what is wrong with their relationship in total clarity. This clarity, which is later put into words by Monica, shows the inexperience and immaturity that Jon has in regards to relationships.  The suddenly realisation that what he thinks he wants isn’t necessarily what he actually wants is obvious to him from the point that Monica states the facts onwards and this starts a new chapter in the life of Jon. He learns from his mistakes, sees his own faults and, while he doesn’t necessarily discard all these faults immediately, the relationship he begins with Esther (Julianne Moore) opens up a whole new world for Jon in regards to sex and love.

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The relationship between Jon and Esther is one which sets Don Jon apart from being your typical romantic comedy as it severs the cliché cycle of meet-fall in love-break up-get back together-live happily ever after which most other romantic comedies cling to. This film shows that love means different things to different people, we don’t all have to cling to the fantasy of falling madly in love with someone and living happily ever after as these are dreams and it is not what happens in reality. Real life is not a romantic comedy and never will be, people (much like Barbara in this film) seem to hold on to the idea that this will happen to them, they will meet “the one” and be together in total bliss forever but the reality is this will not happen and if you adhere to this rather dated idea then you might miss out on making yourself happy. The relationship between Jon and Esther teaches Jon a lot and is a blossoming which is wonderful to behold. Their relationship shows the viewer that love as a concept has many different definitions, just do what makes you happy, don’t stay with someone if you are unhappy, search for someone who understands you, don’t stay with someone if you can’t relate to one another, don’t stay with someone out of pure convenience, find someone you can talk to about anything, someone who is willing to be in a relationship that gives as much as he/she gets, it is not always about looks and beauty or some physical attraction, it is about a connection, one that you can’t describe accurately in words as words don’t seem to hold the power that a feeling or an emotion does, because ultimately, if you can figure out what you truly want out of this concept called love, you will be a far happier person. These are the ideas which Don Jon does an awfully good job of portraying and does so in a manner which is totally relatable to a lot of people and might even give some people reason to think about their own relationships and how happy they are.

While the acting in the film as a whole is top notch, special mention should be made of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who not only starred in this film (and does a great job portraying the character) but he also wrote and directed it. Levitt does a fabulous job, one which is brimming with confidence in regards to direction and most importantly has something intelligent to say in the story. And while yes jokes could be made that in his debut he chose to make a film about porn and sex and chose to star in it alongside Scarlett Johansson as an excuse to make out with her as much as possible, it cannot be denied that Levitt does a stellar job with this film and it is definitely worth going out of your way to see as it shows a maturity which very few debut film-makers exhibit.

Review: Ender’s Game

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Ender’s Game, for those who have not read the novel or know little of the story, is a polarising film, one which can’t seem to make up its mind as to whether it wishes to be a mature young adult film which raises and questions certain morals, or whether it wishes to be a first step in a franchise aimed at teenagers much like The Hunger Games. While the film does manage to succeed in being faithful to the book in terms of Ender and his journey, it is also, unfortunately, marred by certain scenes. The battleground contests between different groups of cadets in the Battle School sometimes feel overly popcorn; the strategies (which are incredibly important so the audience can see how Ender’s mind works) takes a certain back-seat and the visuals take centre stage but alas do not offer the necessary impact but rather feel like a coming-of-age Disney film in space. This is not to detract from the visuals however, they are truly a marvel but it can be quite polarising to go from serious moral and mental investigation to ‘Go Team Go’ all in the space of a few minutes.

As the story goes, years ago a bug-like species, called the Formecs, came to Earth and tried to take over; the humans were able to destroy the invading alien species, thanks to the tactical supremacy of one certain individual, Mazer Rackham (played by Ben Kingsley). Now the leaders of Earth fear a second strike on the planet from the Formecs and start to train children to become their tactical commanders due to the understanding that people reach their peak ability at a young age and if nurtured correctly would be the best bet for humanities survival. This is where Ender enters.

Ender Wiggin (played by Asa Butterfield) is a complicated child, bred for command and a genius of strategy and battle techniques. Ender is a third which means he was the third child born to his family which is pretty much outlawed in the future world which this film takes place in. Special authorisation is given to very few to have a third child due to over-population but after seeing the potential but ultimate flaws in Ender’s genius older brother and sister, his parents are allowed to have a third child in the hopes of gaining a child with attributes similar to his siblings but can find a divide between aggression (Ender’s brother Peter, played by Jimmy Pinchak, who is nowhere near as scary as he should have been portrayed) and compassion (Ender’s sister Valentine, played by Abigail Breslin).

From the beginning of the film, and throughout, Ender is put through enough mental strain that it seems far too overwhelming for one so young but we constantly see young Ender grow and not only learn from those around him but gain trust where it seems unlikely. This is the key to the character, he is constantly learning, constantly assessing and always ready to do what is necessary.

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In the hands of a different actor Ender could seem far too cold a character for an audience to get behind and will to succeed but thankfully due to the brilliant performance of Asa Butterfield Ender becomes a character that always succeeds and always remains likeable. Asa’s performance is what makes this film work, brooding at times but always thinking, strategizing constantly, you can almost see the mind of Ender working and it is thanks to Asa’s portrayal that this is possible. Every time Ender is on screen (which is pretty much constantly) you can see him assessing his situation, trying to stay afloat when most of those around him want to push him to his utter limits. If the trailer or the general idea of the story to this film doesn’t seem interesting to you I would still urge you to see it just to marvel at the performance of Asa Butterfield as this is simply breath-taking for such a young actor.

Having read the novel I did feel like the film sped through the scenes rather quickly, Ender is quickly promoted, quickly gains the respect of his fellow cadets and quickly overcomes any obstacles that are put in front of him. In the book the development of the character is much more subtle and drawn out and while it might not have worked on film it would have been nice to see a bit more time spent on the development of the character at the beginning of his training.

One point of the story which was a total failure in my opinion was the game which Ender plays and is used by Major Anderson (Viola Davis) to assess his mental well-being. In the book this is a vital arc of the story and is put across as such. In the film there is not enough time spared for the game. The visuals of the game are also far from impressive and maybe more time and better in-game visuals would have served to amplify that arc and made it appear as important as it is.

Another arc in the book which is unfortunately left out of the film completely is the evolution of Ender’s brother and sister. When Ender leaves, Peter uses the pseudonym ‘Locke’ to post political messages on a global communication system, Valentine quickly follows by posting her own under her own pseudonym ‘Demosthenes’. This arc, in the book, is fascinating and adds fuel to the political landscape on Earth and also helps the story to question certain moral boundaries and how far people are willing to cross them. The arc also makes a particular meeting near the end of the film between Ender and Valentine notably significant but unfortunately the arc is completely exonerated from the film. It can certainly be seen why this decision was made as it would likely slow the story down on film if we are moving from the Battle School to Earth and back again but mention of what Peter and Valentine have been up to since Ender has been training would have been nice and maybe even helped the story.

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From the images shown in the trailer for Ender’s Game I was worried that Harrison Ford, playing Colonel Graff, would be a fully one dimensional character and that Ford would be as uninteresting as he has been in a lot of recent films but thankfully it seems the material is enough for him to up his game and put in a good performance as the General who has utter trust in Ender to become the hope that Earth needs and does his best to challenge Ender to become his best.

Ender’s Game is certainly not a film for everyone, those who wish for a fully faithful adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel will likely be fairly disappointed by certain scenes but one must remember that we cannot see on film that which is in Ender’s mind (no matter how brilliant Asa Butterfield is) and in the book a lot of what happens is told through Enders mind. Those unfamiliar with the story or novel may find it rather polarising but will likely find joy in the action set pieces and hopefully enjoy the development of Ender especially pleasing.

The Villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

!SPOILERS!

 

With Thor: The Dark World ending with Loki sitting upon the throne of Asgard the Marvel cinematic universe has shown itself to be short on something that might one day prove to be a down fall. This worry is that in the cinematic universe only Loki has proved to be a villain who is always a step ahead of those around him and has the power and cunning to enact his plans as he sees fit. Yes in the stand-alone films there have been some worrisome foes for the heroes to defeat but, at the moment, Loki seems to be the only one who always gets away through treachery and deceit. Loki seems to be, at the moment, the only real credible threat and menace to the heroes of the cinematic universe. How long can the creators at Marvel lean on Loki, who is a brilliant villain and is probably a fan favourite due to the tremendous casting of Tom Hiddleston, to be the cross-brand villain?

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The brief introduction of the mad titan known as Thanos at the end of The Avengers gave viewers a glimpse into a wider universal stage which is starting to reveal itself but with his absence since then the cinematic universe does indeed seem lacking in the villainous department.

Thus far, apart from Loki and Red Skull, there have been very few notable villains for the heroes to fight. The Mandarin, probably Iron Man’s greatest foe due to his genius and his use of magic to Tony Stark’s technological know-how, was squandered in Iron Man 3 and unless Marvel takes steps to reveal The Mandarin gaining the ten power rings then he is a completely wasted character which will be a huge disappointment.

The original Iron Man film had no real credible villain but was more about manipulation of Tony Stark and his company on Obadiah Shane’s part. The original Iron Man film was more of an origin film so there would have been very little time to set up a credible villain so that film takes a pass.

Iron Man 2 had Whiplash who, while a fairly credible villain in a one on one fight with Iron Man, is not a character who would worry someone like Thor or the Hulk and as such isn’t a very good villain in the grand scheme of things.

The Incredible Hulk had the Abomination as the lead villain who was a firm match of brute strength towards The Hulk but was never likely to be much of a threat except maybe to destroy a few cars and endanger the lives of people in a two hundred metre radius. Thus The Abomination is not much a villain either.

Thor had the frost giants and Loki as the main villains but the frost giants proved to be little more than pawns in Loki’s grand plan thus beginning the start of Loki’s rein as main villain in the cinematic universe. In regards to the frost giants as villains up against Thor, Sif and the Warrior’s Three, they would have never proved to be a true threat to the kingdom of Asgard had it not been for Loki. It might even be true to say that Odin himself would have been quite capable of stopping the frost giants by himself.

Captain America had Red Skull who in the comic books is one of the great villains, he is constantly resurrected by a variety of different means and due to his inventive genius, high intellect and mastery of strategies he is certainly a credible foe for Captain America and maybe even a variety of other characters in the Marvel cinematic universe. Unfortunately he was rather underutilised in the film and, while he did come across as a fairly credible threat to humanity, he was ultimately not as powerful as he could be.

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The Avengers had Loki as their main villain and he proved himself to be quite a force to be reckoned with when in good company. The Chitauri, who are led by the Other, who is himself later shown to be under the leadership of Thanos, are simply cannon fodder in the film and are ultimately faceless enemies for the heroes to smash but due to Loki’s manipulation of certain characters the Chitauri do prove themselves to be quite credible villains but only due to the actions of Loki.

Thor: The Dark World is probably the only film so far which has showcased a threat on, not only humanity, but on the entire universe and done so using a credible villain. Malekith when in possession of the Aether (an Infinity Stone/Liquid/Gem) was able to come close to destroying the so-called nine realms and it is this threat which shows the power of the Infinity Stones and why they are so desperately needed in order to exude some semblance of true, life-ending, danger.

So, barring Loki and Malekith, who else have the heroes of the Marvel cinematic universe encountered who are a true threat to the world? The answer is, unfortunately, no-one.

An interesting development in the mid-credits scene of Thor: The Dark World is the unveiling of The Infinity Stones or Gems. Many comic book readers know these stones are a vital part of the comic book universe and, hopefully, this unveiling will lead to a particularly famous storyline featuring Thanos and his collection of all six Infinity Stones thus making him, practically, a God.

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With this information, and the likelihood that the cinematic universe is gearing towards The Infinity Gauntlet storyline, it is hard to believe that the heroes of the films would be anywhere near ready to deal with someone who would obtain such awesome power as Thanos due to the rather weak villains who they have faced thus far. Indeed, at the moment, it seems like the heroes would have no chance against Ultron who has already been announced as the main villain in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

With two films left before the aforementioned Age of Ultron film it seems credible villains are few and far between.

Captain America: The Winter Solider is a storyline which involves a villain who is definitely a threat towards Captain America and SHIELD but he is not a villain who could threaten the planet.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are likely to do battle with The Collector who appeared in the mid-credits scene at the end of Thor: The Dark World. The Collector is now in possession of an Infinity Stone thus making him quite powerful (as shown by the power Malekith drew from it), if he was ever to use it. His last line ‘One down, five to go’ gives a glimpse into the future of the cinematic universe as we now have The Collector after the Infinity Stones, comic book fans knew from the moment they saw Thanos turn and smile that he must be after the Infinity Stones and with all the ties to Thanos that the Guardians of the Galaxy share it is plausible to consider that the Guardians of the Galaxy film will be incredible important in establishing villains who are a true threat to the heroes of the films but on a global scale, the likes of which we have yet to see.

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While the Guardians of the Galaxy film will take place in outer space and not on Earth it is completely obvious that this group of heroes will likely encounter the heroes of Earth sometime soon, bringing with them a villainous threat which, hopefully, will save the Marvel cinematic universe from growing stale.

Ultimately the creators of the cinematic universe must have a plan for where they intend to take the films and everything at the moment points towards the Infinity Gauntlet. Hopefully villains such as Malekith, Ultron and those who are still to come will prove to be enough of a threat that we as an audience do not grow tired of the heroes overcoming fairly good odd’s instead of incredibly bad odd’s which they should be facing.

Why Days of Future Past has the potential to save the X-Men franchise and right the wrongs of the past

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As anyone who has read the comic book arc named ‘Days of Future Past’ can attest to, the upcoming film of the same name has the potential to shift the X-Men cinematic universe back on to a course that it sorely needs.

While the initial X-Men film, released in 2000, wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it did do one thing that has lingered and grown exponentially throughout the years which was to make superhero films interesting again. Indeed before X-Men there were the Tim Burton Batman films which were a relative success along with the Superman films which also have their fans, but ever since the mockery of anything superhero related post Batman Returns, the world had looked down upon superheros on film and with the way superheros have been treated in the past, its abundantly obvious why that is.

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X-Men made us care again. The team were updated for a more modern take so instead of a full origins story we got an X-Men team that were already, at least semi, formed. Gone were the awful yellow spandex uniforms of the comics and cartoons and they were replaced by slick black leather. Wolverine was given the role of the main character which was an obvious choice due to his overwhelming popularity in the comics and the potential for interesting story-lines. Xavier was played to near perfection, but alas without much characterisation to play off of, by Patrick Stewart, the same could be said of Ian McKellen as Magneto but at least he was given more time to shine as a character compared to Xavier. We got a Jean Grey who hadn’t yet realised her full potential. We got Rogue who strangely played a main role in the story, Mystique (who was amazing), Storm (who had possibly four lines of dialogue) and Sabertooth who stood around a bunch. We also got Cyclops but this was where I feel the X-Men universe grinded to a complete halt, with the writers throwing the comic inspiration out of the window and deciding to form their own version of Cyclops, one who pales in comparison to his comic book or indeed his cartoon counterpart.

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As X-Men comic readers know, Cyclops is the heart of the X-Men, he is the leader of the team, decision maker when Xavier is otherwise occupied and the one character who has an unflinching stance in regards to his own morals and ideas. The film version of Cyclops comes across as a bit of a wimp and plays the role of the jealous boyfriend more than team leader. When he does try to lead the group he is constantly undermined or cut off before he can make his point and comes across as smarmy and unlikeable especially next to Hugh Jackman’s cool and likeable portrayal of Wolverine. He is hardly in the second film and when he is on-screen he continues playing the brooding jealous boyfriend which is so out of line with how Cyclops should be portrayed and just continues to make him unlikeable. Then to prove what a throwaway character he had become in the cinematic universe, he is quickly killed off in the third film as a plot device which is absolutely absurd. Cyclops is THE X-Man, he should be the main character, at the very least one of the main characters and should definitely be at least as important as how Wolverine is portrayed.

So who is to blame for abomination that is the cinematic version of Cyclops? Well obviously the blame should immediately shift to the writers and director. Using that logic the blame should rest on the shoulders of the man who will return to the directors chair the next X-Men installment; Bryan Singer.

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While the Bryan Singer-directed X-1 was a fairly good start to the series, his follow-up X-2 is yet to be beaten in terms of quality, it is a truly wonderful ensemble film which has time to evolve the characters from X-1 and also introduce some new ones. Unfortunately it is once again let down by its poor handling of the Cyclops character. So, apart from choosing to have no time to evolve or save the Cyclops character in X-2, Bryan Singer obviously knows how to make a really good X-Men film and I believe had he stayed on with X-3 it would have exceeded even X-2. Instead it was left in the hands of Brett Ratner which still seems like a strange choice given his previous filmography. Ratner cannot be fully blamed for the awful third film, the writers should take a lot of the blame, killing off Cyclops (mind-numbingly stupid but understandable given the poor handling of the character in the past films), poor decisions in regards to dialogue and actor choices (Vinny Jones as Juggernaut? Who thought that was a good idea?!), “curing” Mystique (an absolute travesty) and really poor character development all-round made X-3 the worst of the series, tied with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which was also a very poor film) in my opinion. The one detail that X-3 got totally right was the casting of Ellen Page as the character Kitty Pryde. Those of you who have read the Days of Future Past comic will know that that character has a lot to do in the story and I feel that Ellen Page will be able to pull it off well, both in the future and past timelines.

So Bryan Singer isn’t fully to blame, the writers aren’t fully to blame, now we must look at the actor playing Cyclops. James Marsden had the potential to be really good, he looks similar to the Cyclops from the comics and while he isn’t what you might describe as an “accomplished” actor I feel given the right dialogue and character development he could have worked well. Plus you can’t really blame an actor that is stuck being third or fourth fiddle to other characters, so the blame instead should be looked at as a conglomeration of director/writers/actor who didn’t know what they had or chose to dishonour the legacy of Cyclops by making him a second tier character when he should shine as a main one.

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Now this is where I’m excited for Days of Future Past as it has the perfect set up to do what J.J. Abrams did with the Star Trek franchise which is to divert from the older timeline (X-1/X-2/X-3/Origins/The Wolverine) and continue on the path that started in the origin film titled X-Men: First Class. Cyclops has yet to be introduced into the second timeline so they can choose wisely and find someone capable of playing a nuanced, resilient and tenacious Cyclops and most importantly make him the leader of the team who can actually lead the team.

Days of Future Past can also erase the damage done by X-3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine which made poor choices in the actors chosen for certain roles (specifically Deadpool in Origins), poor choices in characterization of certain characters and the poor handling of story arcs that should be much more epic and grander in scope.

Hopefully Days of Future Past will be a case of out with the old in with the new, ending the old timeline and evolving the new one. We still have Mystique in the new time line, we should soon see a new Nightcrawler, a new Jean Grey (and the possibility in the future of handling the Dark Phoenix Saga in a less rushed and more proficient manner), we should also see a new, hopefully much more bad-ass, Storm along with a new Colossus. Therein lies the potential for the inclusion of X-23, Gambit, a new Angel, a new Rogue (the list could go on and on) in future films. The most important factor though is how Cyclops is handled as (in the new “first class” timeline) we already have brilliant actors playing Magneto, the main antagonist, and Charles Xavier who is probably the main protagonist in the new series so far, so all that is missing is the team leader, someone who can actually strategise a plan and has the tools to back it up in a fight. This role of main protagonist will likely fall once again at the feet of the Wolverine but he is not a team leader, instead the role needs to be filled by Cyclops, a Cyclops that isn’t moping about his girlfriend possibly liking another guy, a cyclops that is given character depth and is written as a leader rather than a push-over. While Cyclops in the comic version of Days of Future Past doesn’t involve himself in much of the story I feel with the huge amendments that must be made to save the character, he must be added to it in some capacity, even if its simply teasing us with his presence at the end of the film. If he isn’t even mentioned in the upcoming film I worry for the future of the character, introducing him in a later film might lessen the likelihood that he will lead the team as Cyclops won’t have time to bond and cultivate his father/son relationship with Xavier and with that tie severed the impact of having Cyclops as the leader would be lessened significantly, which would be a terrible loss to the story.

The future of Cyclops on-screen is hazy at best but hopefully Bryan Singer will get the character right this time… if indeed he chooses to include the character at all.

Breaking Bad: The End

Tomorrow night (in America, Monday for anyone with access to Netflix) brings the return of Breaking Bad with their final eight episodes. Speculation as to what will happen in these final episodes has been rampant and through the many discussions I have had on the matter I thought it would be a good idea to present a few here and try to, maybe, piece together an idea of what may happen. Truth be told we have no idea what the writers have in store for us, for all we know everyone could die when aliens come down and destroy the planet during the final episode or everyone could live happily ever after, both conclusions are very unlikely due to the actions of characters throughout the series but remember this is just pure speculation and in eight weeks time I am bound to be proven completely wrong.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE WITH BREAKING BAD DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. INSTEAD GO AND CATCH UP NOW*

Let’s start with the main talking point and one that is unanimous with people I’ve spoken to.

Walter White, the main character of the series who has overcome cancer (although it may have made an unwelcome return), has to die. The overall arc of his character demands that he be killed at the end.

The transformation of Walter White from miserable, geeky school teacher filled with pent up anger and rage into an ego maniac who believes he cannot be touched by anyone now that he has killed off him main enemy (Gustavo Fring), who lies and manipulates all those around him to either do his bidding or to save his own hide is an astonishing one. Don’t believe me, look at the two pictures below of Walt having a gun pointed at him.

gun s1

gun s5

The first picture, from season one, is the reaction that most of us would have when a firearm is aimed at us, that is a man who is scared for his life and would do anything to not be in the situation that he finds himself. By contrast the second image, from season five, is a man who is in complete control of the situation even if he does have a gun pressed against his temple but lets face it Mike could well have been holding a water gun to his head for all that Walt cares, the look of smug arrogance is both conceited and totally justified. That transformation is very interesting as it shows just how far Walt’s mentality towards violence has changed, he no longer fears death as in his mind he is always in complete control of any situation that he is in, he has a plan and he knows it will work. Think back to the first episode of season five where Mike asks Walt about how he knows the magnet plan actually worked, his response; “Because I said so”. Heisenberg has truly taken over at that point, his arrogance and ego are at an all-time high and it must be that arrogance which will inevitably be the downfall of both Heisenberg and Walt.

So how will Walt meet his demise?

My theory on this is that due to a tragic death of someone very close to Walt he will end up buying the machine gun as already seen at the beginning of season five and will eventually look to punish and gain revenge for the death of the one that they killed. Who “they” are is unclear as it does seem like Walt is out of enemies (apart from Hank but I will come to that later). It could be the outside dealers who Mike and Jesse tried dealing their methylamine to, it could be Jesse himself in a drugged-up haze (he has to do something with all that money Walt gave him, getting high on weed isn’t going to last), it could be that Walt accidentally puts someone in danger and they die due to Walt’s actions either in a gun fight or in some arbitrary fashion, it could also be at the hand of Walt himself but at this point in time we, as a viewer, do not have enough information to properly suggest how the death of someone close to Walt would come.

Who is likely to die?

Skyler. Jesse. Walt Jr. Holly.

Those are the four names which could illicit the response by Walt that would mean him having to arm himself with a very large machine gun. Each one would send Walt into a whirlwind of depression, which would account for his new look and somber personality in the opening scene of season five, and each one would, in Heisenberg’s mind, demand revenge on the grandest scale and the big machine gun is Heisenberg living out his Scarface fantasy. Out of those four names it is my guess that Walt Jr. will be the one to die due to the impact it would have on Walt. Walt and Walt Jr. have had a very one and off relationship over the course of the series but Walt is always looking to make Walt Jr. happy and he is, in my opinion, the one person that Walt truly would miss. Holly is still very young and, don’t get me wrong here, killing Holly would destroy both Walt and Skyler but I don’t think it would have the emotional impact that still lingers in the opening scene of season five. Killing a baby might also be a bit too extreme even for Breaking Bad. Killing Skyler would also obviously be devastating for Walt but due to their very complicated and strained relationship it is my opinion that the death of Skyler would also not be impactful enough. Killing Jesse would probably be the least impactful for Walt at an emotional level because as much as he might like Jesse and want him around he doesn’t truly care for him like he does his close family. Walt has twisted and turned Jesse constantly since they met and to Walt, Jesse is a mere pawn in his empire building game.

How will Walt die?

Chances are Walt will die by his own hand. He showed back in the pilot that he would not face going to jail. If you remember back he actually tried to shoot himself when he heard the sirens and thought that the police would soon arrive but the bullet didn’t fire so instead he stood in the middle of the road, pointed his gun towards the sirens and waited but as we know it was not the police and Walter White lived on but this just shows that Walt will not be taken to jail, he cannot face the humiliation and with the knowledge that Hank now has it is likely that just when Hank is so close to finally taking down Heisenberg once and for all, Walt will turn his gun on himself and end his life on his own terms.

Now on to another discussion that has made many people theorize possibly scenarios.

What does Hank do?

walt-heisenberg

That last shot of Hank in episode eight of season five was probably the biggest Holy Shit!! moment that the series has had and in a series filled with Holy Shit!! moments that is quite an accomplishment. So what does Hank do when he pulls himself off the toilet? The popular opinion/hope is that he wipes (sorry awful joke, don’t judge me). After that it could go a variety of ways, Hank could immediately confront Walt and demand to know what that inscription is and basically accuse Walt of being Heisenberg right there and then but I don’t think that is likely. As big of an asshole that Hank can be, he is a family man, he would not confront Walt in front of his kids and also Hank is likely to want concrete evidence, an inscription on the inside of a book is good evidence but when you gain a fresh lead on someone like the infamous Heisenberg, someone who has been living under your nose the entire time, you want to be incredibly careful and that is what Hank will do. Hank will leave the bathroom, book in hand, act like nothing has happened but drop hints to Walt. Something along the lines of, “Hey Walt, I was reading this book on the can, you mind if I borrow it?”. A line like that would make Walt start to worry about whether Hank saw the inscription and has targeted Walt for his number one suspect or whether Hank just enjoyed the book, this could maybe trick Walt in to making some mistakes that Hank can capitalize on. A third, much more wild theory, is that Hank confronts Walt but instead of arresting him he instead demands a cut of the money. While this is highly unlikely and also out of character for Hank I found it to be an interesting theory as Hank is a man that likes respect and it could be plausible that Hank would have such respect for Walt for doing all he has without Hank knowing that this would lead him to keep quiet with the DEA in exchange for a sizable amount of money. Personally I find the second theory of Hank toying with Walt a bit until he finds firm evidence to be the most plausible and would lead to some truly intense moments between the two characters.

How does Jesse fit in to all of this?

As I mentioned earlier Jesse now has two bags filled with money. The last time Walt visits Jesse he is already back to smoking weed (likely due to boredom) so two huge bags of money plus a whole lot of time to kill would equal a fast track to drug abuse/addiction especially in an ex-junkie like Jesse. This could lead to Jesse somehow finding out things about Walt that Walt didn’t want Jesse to know (Lily of the Valley?) and in his drugged-up haze hunting down Walt and, possibly, killing the wrong person as I don’t see Jesse killing Walt in such a manner, if Jesse kills Walt it will be sober. Jesse killing the wrong person could link to one of the many reasons why Walt has the different appearance in the scene at the beginning of season five. Another theory would be that Jesse is no longer the young boy who wants to destroy himself like he used to, sure he smokes weed and drinks beer (who doesn’t?) but the Jesse of season five is a changed man, one who refuses to crack in the face of temptation and will likely either sit on the money that he didn’t particularly want or use to for a different purpose. So the question remains how does Jesse fit in to the overall story now that the meth cooking business has been abandoned? The likely answer is that Walt will bring him back in to the story by forcing his way in to Jesse’s life when Jesse clearly just wants to be left alone, Walt will play the sob card, Jesse will buckle and Walt will continue in his role of puppeteer, forcing Jesse to help him when Jesse really should be far away from him.

What is going on in that scene at the beginning of season five?

I’ve already mentioned a couple of reasons as to why Walt has changed his appearance and is buying a machine gun but I wanted to add another theory which is that Walt is under witness protection, hence the new look, hence the new location. Due to the terms of Walt’s witness protection he likely would have given up everything he knew about the meth business (possibly involving Jesse in a role much higher than he actually had in the business) and he knows people will be after him so the machine gun might be for protection and, if you are the former Heisenberg, you are going to want the best protection that money can buy.

Obviously there are many different theories has to what will happen over the course of the final eight episodes and there are likely many variables that I have failed to touch upon but one thing that is definite; these last eight episodes of Breaking Bad will be some of the most intense, emotional, action-packed episodes of television that we are ever likely to get, everything has built to these last episodes and I personally cannot wait to see them.

One last thing… I could not resist posting this theory

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Looper Review (Minor Spoilers)

PLOT

The year is 2044 and in 30 years time time travel is invented and immediately made illegal. This doesn’t stop crime lords of the future who send back ‘undesirables’  to the present (year 2044) where Looper’s, futuristic guns-for-hire, wait ‘Blunderbuss’ shotguns in hand, ready to blow away the ‘undesirables’ (who appear arms tied with a bag over their head hiding their identity) and then dispose of the bodies whilst collecting their reward which is strapped to the backs of the time traveller in silver bars. Things start to take a turn for the worst once someone in the future starts to ‘close the loop’ of all the Looper’s, this means that the present day Looper’s must come face to face with their future selves, kill their future selves and live the next 30 years until their past catches up with them. Joseph “Joe” Simmons is a Looper and what happens once he comes face to face with his future self sets of a chain of events that quite literally will change the future.

REVIEW

Looper is one of those films which will draw you in whilst you are watching it and will not let you go until the credits roll at which point you will likely be left in a state of wanting more, wanting to see what happens next, see if what has happened during the course of the film has changed anything and in what ways those changes have applied themselves in the future. This is a Time Travel Sci-Fi film which is far more interested in character and plot development than it is in explosions and flying cars.

There are so many amazing scenes in this film that I could ramble on about the consequences of what’s happening in a scene by scene breakdown and spoil the entire film but instead I’m going to try and remain fairly spoiler free. A couple of scenes that I must talk about briefly is the meeting of Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Old Joe (Bruce Willis) in a diner and the montage of Older Joe’s life. The diner scene is just masterful to behold as not only does it essentially lay the film’s potential paradox cards out on the table but it also manages to amp up the tension between the two Joe’s and is the catalyst for what happens for the remainder of the film. The montage scene is both important due to it being a prelude to the diner scene but also just fun to watch and see things we have seen before but from a different perspective and how this different perspective gives us a different view on certain characters, that might sound a bit confusing but you will know what I mean when you see it.

The frame of the film is that Joe works as a Looper whose occupation involves killing people who are sent from the future to his present, collecting his silver/pay which is strapped to their backs and discarding their bodies. Joe isn’t a very likeable character, he kills in a merciless manner, he is a drug addict and he drives a flashy car in an area where homeless line the streets and he shows complete disregard for their safety. But as the film takes us from rotting city to peaceful countryside his character unveils himself more and more and we as an audience begin to peak inside the mind and take a trip down memory lane with Joe to see just why he is why he is. When he finally reveals his past to the marvellous Cid (played by Pierce Gagnon) the justifications for why he has taken this route in life is more evident than ever before, at which point the viewer decides for his or herself if they are willing to excuse his previous actions.

Looper deals with some very interesting notions, most of all the idea that if you could go back and kill someone like Hitler (in this film the Hitler-esque character is the mysterious Rainmaker) when they were a baby or little kid, would you? This then brings about theories on whether you going into the past to kill someone but instead of killing them your involvement in their life could send them on a different path in life, would that be a better decision? Would it even be a decision you would be willing to make knowing what you do about what this child becomes? Looper discusses and evenly shows the positives and negatives of both aspects of this theory and will pull and divide the audience between who to route for. Do we route for Young Joe who, now knowing what his life will become, can avoid and change his life and at the same time save peoples lives or do we route for Old Joe who wants to get back to a life which has for the first time shown him true happiness and love but to do this he must do some truly appalling things, things which he hates himself for having to do but he knows he must continue for the good of not just himself but the future.

Now I’m trying to remain as vague as possible in regards to events that take place at the farm due to them being so interesting that people should go in knowing little to nothing about them. What I will say is that Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid are just incredible in their roles and Cid might well become some peoples favourite character in the film, I know he certainly became mine. I am also going to remain fairly vague in regards to the Old Joe character as he is another person whose plot line and past should remain unspoiled before viewing the film.

The cast is rounded off by crime boss Abe (the always amazing Jeff Daniels) who has been sent from the future to the present to run the Looper operations, his character is another one who might seem like a run of the mill crime lord but once you think about his character and what he does in the film the more interesting he becomes. Abe and Young Joe also have a really interesting dialogue scene near the beginning of the film and the back and forth regarding where Young Joe should go once he’s retired was genius. Kid Blue (Noah Segan) was something of a revelation for me in the film because I just thought he was astonishing as the wannabe henchman who rarely gets things right but tries his best to show Abe what he is capable of and his scenes with Younger Joe are some of the best in a film filled with stunning scenes.

Most of all it should be noted that the reason this film is as good as it has unveiled itself to be has a lot to do with writer/director Rian Johnson who has done a wonderful job directing the film, using some clever camera work whilst not being overtly flashy and creating an atmosphere which at some points could be said to be memorizing. He has also written and visually presented a screenplay which you can see was made with a dedicated passion and keen eye to detail, one that seems to be almost unfashionable in a film world of paper thin plots and one dimensional characters. With character and plot development this good it would have been hard for an actor to come in and mess up so when you have the talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt augmenting an already magnificent script you could only imagine how good this film truly is.

As with any time travel film people will find plot holes, that is inevitable, but these holes, in a script which is as tight and well written as can be expected when dealing with time travel, shouldn’t dampen your enjoyment of the film and I can almost guarantee that you will be far more interested in what is happening rather than afflicted by any nonsensical occurrences of which there are none that are outright.

Some people might find the jump from action to quieter scenes a bit jarring but stick with it and just enjoy what happens because Looper is a smart, unpredictable, stylish, refreshingly dramatic thriller the likes of which we rarely see and needs to be seen.

Rating: 10/10