X-Men: Days of Future Past

With the pending DVD release of ‘Days of Future Past it certainly seemed appropriate to give you guys a taste of what to expect, and an insight into what the film holds. As always, let me know what you think of this picture in the comments box.

There is many an X-Men film, from the Wolverine spin-offs to the original run, to this new franchise which brings us to the past (and interestingly, the future, hence that tricky title). X-Men: First Class was a re-invigoration for the series. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film took a stylish and well-scripted look into the lives of the younger, and rather handsome, Charles and Erik (or Professor X and Magento as you have probably come to know them). Vaughn made the film both look and feel hella-cool as well as surprisingly super interesting, opening up a world of strange and kooky characters, with powers (or of course more appropriately, mutations) which you and I wish we had. ‘First Class also had the power of making one re-visit older efforts from seasoned director Bryan Singer, who took the reigns with this second installment.

Lets start with whats good about this film, and there are certainly more than a few elements that make it so. The effects and make-up are the best yet, with Mystique presenting the audience with beauty and a streak of rebellion (or evil, whichever way you want to look at it), and the scenes of Magneto working his malevolent metal-wielding mutation are works of genius, and pure fascination. The cast are wonderful too. We welcome back the loveable Hugh Jackman as everyone’s favorite mutant, and McAvoy and Fassbender’s chemistry resembles a young sibling relationship mixed with a strong sense of loathing. The mix of the two makes for humorous effect, something which the franchise has become well-known for (the light relief of comedy is certainly welcomed, and marks X-Men as a series of films that never take itself too seriously).

promotional still for x-men: days of future past

promotional still for x-men: days of future past

Generally, and rather unfortunately,  ‘Days of Future Past falls flat on many different points. The film isn’t fast-paced, and actually droll’s along at the mileage of a Snail, lending to the boredom of those watching. The most interesting scene is the opener, in which we discover President Kennedy was assassinated by Magneto, and that’s both a clever and quite mischievous addition to the production. Evan Peters as Quicksilver adds wonderful humor, and brings a vibe of Scott Pilgrim or Kick Ass, as he  brings that loveable quality of youthful ignorance and cockiness to so many of the roles he plays. The main bug bare for me was the lack of screen time between Magneto and Mystique – Lawrence and Fassbender presented audiences with a simmering sexual chemistry in ‘First Class, and for that to be a missing juncture in ‘Days is something that’s sorely missed. Interjected with scenes from the 1970s are moments from the future, where robots named Sentinels are attempting to track down and kill all remaining mutants, these are well judged and never feel over-long or unnecessary (its also a great chance for the makers to show off how far the quality of the CGI they are able to use has come, and looks visually stunning).

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the second of three films, and that’s often a difficult position to hold in a franchise of films. It has that difficult task of handling characters who are now known, with new narrative traits that at times are most definitely not explained properly. The third film, Apocalypse looks to be a show-down of sorts (if the sneak-peak at the end of the credits has anything to do with it) and perhaps will help bring life back into a set of characters who we all have grown to care about. Bring Vaughn back as director, is what I say.

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AHS: Halloween continued

While Freak Show hasn’t yet been the best example of AHS on super-shiny form, this weeks episode (Edward Mordrake Part 2) was decidedly better then what we’ve seen so far. Some back stories were unleashed, and they were tough. The story of Elsa‘s history, and how she became an amputee was, for me, a little too much, and its this kind of storytelling that pushes one away from wanting to watch. Black and white scenes of tortuous sexual acts ending in the filming of a snuff film was enough to make me question why I stick with AHS. Having said that, this was a five minute juncture in a fifty minute episode, and to finally gain some insight into some of the acts at the show was certainly interesting. Mordrake, despite his malevolent intentions, may just be the character to breathe life back into Freak Show, somewhat reminiscent of a Murder House ghost. If there’s one negative to pick with the scenes in which Mordrake saves the show, its the green fog that accompanies him (hammer horror rings a bell, and although that’s most probably the intention for makers, it takes away from the serious nature of the show).

evan peters' lobster boy

evan peters’ lobster boy

Unexpected in this weeks offering was the rather sad back-story of the murderous Clown. His dirty costume, and blood-soaked mask are often enough to make you turn away by the time his scenes come round, and seeing him as a clean, and almost child-like performer before this was an intriguing juxtaposition (one which almost produced sympathy from those watching). Although what has previously happened to him doesn’t justify or even explain his psychotic activities, a look into the past is always AHS’ strongest moment. And as we say goodbye to, a character who has definitely been one of the most hair-raising antagonists of AHS, Dandy, perhaps becomes a new one (that’s right, the annoying, no-one-cares Dandy).  I think what can weaken the show as a whole is not giving enough screen-time to some of the strongest actors. Here a particular actor is certainly in mind, and you can easily guess who – Evan Peters of course. Whether he’s playing teenage ghost Tait, or Frankenstein style monster Kyle, Peters shines in these varying roles (and is so easily loveable in them). As Jimmy, he’s yet to have his moment in the spotlight, but the burgeoning chemistry between him and (off-screen girlfriend) Emma Roberts’ Esmerelda adds a nice touch to an often dark and slightly uncomfortable series.

What appears to be adding to the disappointing moments of series four is the judging and balancing of which characters are on screen, for how long, and what is taking place or being learned during this time. Angela Bassett has barely had any real air-time and Dennis O’Hare has featured in only two episodes (and collectively for less than fifteen minutes), these actors are what have helped make previous seasons’ so great, and the reason why Freak Show is so lacking. It’s important to note that while I’m certainly a little morose at the route this series has taken, I still think, on a whole, AHS is a great example of television at its best. We are only four episodes in, and the arrival of Gabourey Sidibe and Neil Patrick-Harris is yet to be had (both will add strength to an already beloved cast), and there’s still a lot to be understood about the group of outsiders Freak Show focuses on. Lastly, a turning-point for Jimmy and the rest finally came around, and not only do they have a sold-out show but a new found respect from the locals. Some interesting tweaks to the narrative meant episode four gave us perhaps a lot to look forward to (or, more appropriately, a lot to be apprehensive of).

American Horror Story does Halloween

The Halloween episodes of seasons past have always been some of the best offerings AHS have brought us. From zombies, to teen ghosts and this year an urban myth come to life; que this weeks episode Edward Mordrake (Part 1) (Mordrake being the myth). The appearance of this ghost, and legend, was definitely intended to be a terrifying attribute to Wednesday night’s episode, it didn’t quite live up to that expectation however. The introduction of Mordrake was most-certainly interesting, but not in the way it feels that AHS wanted him to be (y’know that scary kind of interesting, the enigma of what will he do, and to who). His back story made for fascinating fare and his conversation with Ethel, where this evil spirit takes sympathy with her, was a touching moment for season four. But still, there is something missing with Freak Show; the tone, aesthetic, captivating characters…this new season seems to lack pieces of all of these and more.

In previous seasons, exactly like this, there have been an ensemble cast playing characters who all share the spotlight, with Freak Show this doesn’t quite seem to be the case. Three episodes in we know little about Jimmy, apart from what has landed him and his mother into Elsa‘s care and as acts at the show, Bassett’s Desiree has barely said a word, and the most we know about Paulson’s Dot and Bette is that they dislike one another and killed their mother. There are no traits on show that compel us to be involved with these characters and their stories (so far), excluding Bates’ Ethel who this week had her moment in the spotlight as she shared her unhappy past. Its a trending theme now that AHS is starting to disappoint rather than intrigue. But, just as it seems that all may be lost, Lange (like is often the case) was on hand to once again bring some light relief to viewers eyes, and ears. This weeks song was Lana Del Ray’s Gods & Monsters, and the performance was really rather brilliant. As a lover of old meets new, its these junctures that are my favorite. Lange’s performance as Elsa brings us a slice of theatrical originality, and scenes like these stand out as a piece of kooky cinema, rather than an FX television show.

AHS welcomed back veteran Dennis O’Hare and Coven‘s Emma Roberts as a duo lacking a conscience and interested in making a quick buck. If this pair, and the others that have already been introduced can mold together and bring back the charisma seen in previous seasons Freak show could be saved from becoming an unmemorable, and frankly quite boring, addition to a generally great series. I’m rooting for it.

AHS Freak show: Massacres and Matinees

The problem with this weeks episode of the new AHS series Freak show, was it bordered so far on the surreal that it was hard to take the majority of it seriously. The only moments of real interest, and in fact sorrow, came in the final half when a cruel injustice saw Meep wrongfully imprisoned and killed. Apart from these moving moments, which saw AHS at it’s best, Massacres and Matinees fell short, and is up there as one of the weakest episodes to date. Another problem with Wednesday nights episode, is it was so boring that it leaves you with little inspiration to wonder what will happen in next weeks installment; disappointment is certainly the right word here. Monsters Among Us looked hopeful, giving the audience just enough insight about the protagonists that we were intrigued to see what’s to come, but little about the clown antagonist and his past to add the horror element the show is so obviously famous for. This unique series, like every season there has been, is the most out-there yet, and perhaps not in the fascinating way it first seemed.

This weeks offering welcomed new characters, que Angela Bassett (the shining star of Coven) playing hermaphrodite Desiree, and newbie Michael Chiklis as ‘strongman’ (and murderer) Don Teledo, Desiree’s frightening, and clearly unforgiving husband. These two provided some of the only interesting scenes, as they made themselves firmly at home in the camp, despite the reservations of Jimmy and his bearded mother (there’s a history there). If Freak show can restore itself in the episodes to come, this could prove to be one of the best yet, but if it continues to follow a formula that feels all to familiar, what are meant as shocks and twists could just become the same old. Next weeks preview looks to step things up, and lets hope so, because if AHS gives us more of the same, ratings could see a dip.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this weeks episode, leave a comment to share your insight!

Chiklis, Laing and Peters in American Horror Story Freak Show

Chiklis, Laing and Peters in American Horror Story Freak Show

American Horror Story: Freak show

American Horror Story returns with a new setting, a new array of eclectic (and rather scary, in some cases) characters and a whole new narrative for us to get our teeth stuck in to. Freak show is the perfectly apt name of the fourth season of one of the best and most original television horror series’ there’s been in a long, long time. Self-explanatory as always, this season follow the lives of a group of people cast out by 1950’s society, taken in by the astoundingly good Jessica Lange (based on Marlene Dietrich, and sporting a German accent) and trained as acts of one of the last-remaining freak show’s in America. Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, American-Horror-Story-Freak-Show-Two-Handed-ArmKathy Bates and Frances Conroy all return, once again playing characters completely unlike their predecessors.

For me, the worry of will I enjoy this season, will it be too much (like Asylum proved), or will I have to wait until season five to enjoy it again reigned over me before I began watching. However, twenty minutes in to the hour episode I was intrigued to see where these characters stories would take me, and what horrors would be presented in this so far ambiguous season. Hardly any personal details, apart from physical deformities were revealed leaving plenty of time for those poignant, and often harrowing flashbacks that AHS is now so known for. The most terrifying element so far, is the unnamed and truly haunting murderous clown of Jupiter, Florida where this season takes place. He pulls at the deep-seeded fear that many have of clowns, and gives the previous antagonists of AHS a run for their money.

Monsters Among Us, the seasons pilot premiered giving fans a lot to mull over. Paulson plays Dot and Bette, conjoined twins with spectacularly different personalities who narrate the episode, giving us insight into their sheltered lives. Peters plays ‘Lobster Boy’, a man with syndactyly, making his hands look like lobster claws (the way in which he uses this to his advantage is one of the more humorous moments of the dark episode). Lange takes center stage, which has been the case since Connie Britton’s departure in season one as a David Bowie singing glamor-puss who harbors a secret (well, many I’m sure).  The main question for most is what will be the fate for this group; Asylum character Pepper is the first to make a return appearence to the show and the fact that she ends up at Briarcliff doesn’t bode well. I’ll continue to hold out hopes that despite the horror-filled episodes to come, a positive ending could yet be in sight.