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When writing about a female led comic book/superhero movie I purposely missed out the X-Men.  The X-Women are so complicated they need their own article.  20th Century Fox currently hold the rights to the X-Men.  The film series so far consists of: X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).  The next film in the series will be X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) followed by an as yet untitled Wolverine sequel (2017).  There has also been a suggestion of a spin-off X-Force movie.

The problem is twofold, the X-Men exist as a group or team and work best as such.  The second problem, the X-Men haven’t always made best use of their female characters.  In the comic books Wolverine has been truly successful as a solo character and in turn is the only one to get a his own movie.  The one female character that could hold a film, Psylocke has never been properly introduced.  The most notable character that advances have been disappointed with is Storm/Ororo Munroe.  Many people blame Halle Berry for her performance, in reality it is more down to the writing.

Jean Grey / Phoenix (Famke Janssen) is better written for the screen but is used to the greatest effect when playing against Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.Jean Grey  Phoenix Famke Janssen

Marie / Rogue (Anna Paquin) has been used to less effect in each film until the most recent where she is reduced to a cameo.X-Men: Last Stand (2006) Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) Promoted from a cameo for to a leading role in Days of Future Past.Kitty Pryde Ellen Page

Raven Darkholme / Mystique could be the answer.  Always an interesting character in the first three movies  played by Rebecca Romijn, replaced by Jennifer Lawrence for the prequel movies, First Class and Days of Future Past, star power has been added to the mix.  I suggested the possibility of a Mystique movie five years ago.  I’m would have to be a different story to fit with the existing continuity but could still work.Raven Darkholme Mystique Rebecca Romijn Jennifer Lawrence

I mentioned about the idea of an X-Force movie, this could do two things.  Continue the old film series with some of the old characters alongside the First Class team.  It also gives the chance to introduce unused characters or reintroduced characters that were wasted in The Last Stand such as Psylocke.  Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock/Psylocke first appeared in Captain Britain, vol. 1 #8 in 1976 as a supporting character to her brother Brian Braddock Captain Britain.  Originally having precognitive abilities, then later revealed as a telepath, she also gained Jean Grey’s telekinesis ability.  She later transferred into the body of female Japanese mutant ninja Kwannon.  She gained Kwannon’s skills and elements of her personality.  The Character has a lot of millage and could introduced in her Japanese form with an origin story to follow using an English actress.Psylocke

I don’t see Fox rushing to join the race for a female comic book movie.  But like the idea of an X-Force movie.

Ever since the explosion of comic book/superhero movies there has been calls for a female led movie.  At times it has looked like no studio would take the chance on such a project, but there could now be a race to see who gets there first.  There are three major players in comic book movies, the Disney owned Marvel Studios, DC/Warner Bros. and Sony who own the rights to Spider-Man (and many associated characters) thanks to license agreement between Marvel and Columbia (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment).

Sony could be first out the blocks,  it appears Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been pushed back and will follow a Sinister Six movie in 2016 and an female led spin-off possibly in 2017.  Lisa Joy Nolan (Pushing Daisies, Burn Notice and the forthcoming  Westworld) has been hired to write but no announcement has been made about who the main character will be.  The most obvious options are Spider-Woman and Black Cat,  the latter being the frontrunner as her alter ego, Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones) was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  I know nothing about the character, a little research tells me she was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man No. 194 (1979) and has been both an adversary and love interest of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  I know about as much (or little) about Spider-Woman.  It appears several woman took the name, most notably Jessica Drew, Julia Carpenter and Mattie Franklin. originally introduced in Marvel Spotlight #32 (Feb. 1977) she went on to have her own self-titled series (1978 – 1983).Felicia Hardy Felicity Jones

DC have two options, Wonder Woman or Catwoman.  A Catwoman movie is unlikely at this time thanks to the last attempt, Catwoman (2004).  This leavers Wonder Woman.  First appearing in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941, Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior princess, known in her homeland as Princess Diana of Themyscira, she uses the pseudonym Diana Prince.  She has a range of superhuman powers and an array of weapons as you would expect for a comic book hero.  Gal Gadot has been cast to play the part in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (set for release March 2016) with a possible  Wonder Woman and Justice League movie to follow, no dates announced.Gal Gadot Wonder Woman

Marvel already have their character but don’t seem to know what to do with her:  Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow made her first comic book appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964).  She was introduced into the current Marvel film universe in Iron Man 2 (2010) played by Scarlett Johansson, also appearing in Avengers Assemble (2012) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and will appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).  Little more than window dressing in Iron Man 2, she and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) were the most interesting characters in Avengers Assemble and added a further dimension to the character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year.  Anyone concerned about the star power of Scarlett Johansson should take a look at the numbers for Luc Besson’s Lucy.Black Widow

Is it a question of who gets there first, or who gets it right?  The success of the rubbish Transformers: Age of Extinction and the failure of the excellent Edge of Tomorrow there is more to success than quality.  With budgets of up to $250million studios are more interested in fanatical success than art or critical acclaim. With this in mind, it isn’t a case of who has the best character, script or idea, but the one who thinks he can turn a profit.  It might be a case of wait and see what the competition do.

Have we run out of ideas?  below are the Synopsis for three TV shows.

  1. “When a body is found on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, right on the border, Danish inspector Martin Rohde and Swedish Saga Norén have to share jurisdiction and work together to find the killer.”Bron Broen
  2. “Two detectives work together to take down a serial killer operating on both sides of the Texas-Chihuahua border.”the brigde
  3. “Set primarily in Folkestone and Calais where detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann are called to investigate the death of a French politician. When a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, the pair is forced into an uneasy partnership as they seek out a politically-motivated serial killer who draws them into his own personal agenda.”The Tunnel

Sound familurar, they are all based on the same story.  The first is the Danish/Swedish co production Broen (Danish) , Bron (Swedish) or, The Bridge in UK and US.  Created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, The Bridge Scandinavian crime drama based on the premise of an unusual murder investigation.  The body is found on the half way point of the Øresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, giving the two countries joint jurisdiction.  The interesting this about the show isn’t the plot or the premise, or the haunting opening music (Hollow Talk by the Copenhagen band Choir of Young Believers) but the characters.  Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) from the Sweden Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) from Demark.  Hugley different characters they make a surprisingly formidable team.  At first there appears to be something a little odd about Saga, her idiosyncrasies are never totally explained but most viewers have come to the conclusion that she has Asperger’s syndrome.Sofia Helin

The second is the American remake, also called The Bridge, made and broadcast by FX.  Set between El Paso and Juarez and taking the same idea of a body found between the two justifications.  Diane Kruger plays the US Detective Sonya Cross and Demián Bichir plays Mexican Detective Marco Ruiz. The Third description is for The Tunnel, a British/French co production.  This time the body is found, you guessed it, in the Channel Tunnel.  Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy play the English and French detectives respectively.

Although I have watched both seasons of the Scandinavian original, I haven’t seen either of the two remakes.  I have heard reasonable reports on them and am sure they are perfectly entertaining programs, as much as I like Diane Kruger, Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy I cannot imagine anyone other than Sofia Helin and Kim Bodniain the parts.  Like a cover version of a song you love, it may be okay but do you really need it?  but it goes further with a TV show.  A singer may bring something new to a song, but is a remake of TV show just a cynical attempt to cash in on a successful idea?  But what of my original question.  Have we run out of ideas?  Yes and No!  The original show demonstrates that there are still original ideas out there.  But cinemas are filled with sequels, reboots and English Language remakes of European and Asian films.  But Television is in danger of going the same way.  I don’t think we have run out of ideas, it is just that in this supposed golden age of television the stakes are so high many have lost their nerve and are afraid of the new and would rather embrace the familiar.  That is why as audiences we owe it to ourselves to support the best and the most original while ignoring the generic and unoriginal.  Kim Bodnia

I am looking forward to next year’s third season of Bron/Broen but will I watch either remake? Probably not.

Two sequels, a threequel, a derivative rom-com and an even more derivative exorcism movie.  None of these films were terrible, but none were great,  however there are two gems that really were worth seeing. 

What If: A young man meets a woman at a party and is immediately attracted to her, already in a relationship she wants to be friends.  lightweight but enjoyable rom-com. Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan make a likeable couple but a lack of chemistry hampers the film.what-if-daniel-radcliffe

The Inbetweeners 2: More of the same as seen in the TV show and The Inbetweeners Movie (2011).  The action relocates to Australia, the jokes are more of the same but on the whole they work.the inbetweeners 2

The Expendables 3: The best and worst of the series depending on your point of view.  More than the first two films it recaptures the fun of 80’s action movies but also lack any teeth thanks to CGI and a 12A rating.  Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas are welcome additions to the cast.The Expendables 3

The Rover: Ten years after a little explained “collapse” a man sets out to recover his stolen car for reasons that become clear at the end.   More sombre and low key than Mad Max, the film it has been compared to.  Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson are both excellent.  Opinions will be divided on the ending, I thought it really worked and gave and overall meaning to the film.The Rover

Lucy: A young woman develops super powers when the packet of drugs in her stomach splits. The trailer makes it look like Limitless (2011) but its more ambitious and vastly different.  Far from perfect but interesting and fun.Lucy

Deliver Us From Evil: A tough New York cop and an unconventional priest investigate an unusual series of crimes.  The latest in a series of possession/exorcism movies, like so many of its predecessors it claims to be based on a true story.  It offers nothing new to the genre but is suitably dark and gloomy.Deliver Us From Evil

Sin City A Dame to Kill For:  The belated sequel to Sin City (2005).  Another group of stories from familiar and new characters.   Taken on its own merits, it isn’t much different to the original, but it isn’t new and original any more. Worth seeing for Eva Green who relishes the role of femme fatale.  Sin City A Dame to Kill For

The Rover is probably a better film but there is something about Lucy, Scarlett Johansson in another interesting role and Luc Besson back to his bonkers best, that is why it is my movie of the month.Lucy movie poster

There has been a lot of talk since the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes about the possibility of Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell receiving Oscar nominations.  But what form should this take?  A best actor or supporting actor nomination, or a new category?  I’m not sure the ultra conservative Academy is going to nominate a motion capture performance.  It is unlikely that a new category will be created now, but maybe in the future.  What exactly would it be?Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

New categories or splitting existing categories isn’t a new thing.  between 1939 and 1967 the cinematography category was split between Black & White and Colour.  In 1940 the writing category was split between original and adapted screenplays.  Most recently in 2001 the Animation category was introduced.  Defunct categories include Academy Juvenile Award, Best Assistant Director and Best Dance Direction. If a Motion Capture category was added, who would be honoured?  The actor or the animators and technicians?  The simple answer would have to be both, otherwise there would be no point in the new category.  If only the actor were nominated, this would be covered by the existing acting categories.  The same goes for the animators, if they were nominated alone this could be covered by the existing visual effects awards.

polar express

So what does all this mean?  A new category Best Motion Capture Performance would need to combine a great achievement by both the actor and the animators as seen in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  In the event of a fantastic performance by an actor were combined with shoddy dead eye animation this would be pointless.  Equally, if an actor was merely providing a framework for movement with no emotional involvement this would not work either.  Then comes the question of what is eligible.  There have been two distant versions of motion capture.  Animated films like Polar Express and The Adventures of Tintin, and live action films with animated/motion capture elements like Avatar and the Planet of the Apes movies.  There is also the question of dialogue. Silent performances aren’t excluded from the acting categories as seen recently by The Artist so they should not be in a new category, however it would clearly be harder for a silent performance to make an impression.The Adventures of Tintin,

Then comes the real issue, how many performances within a year will be suitable and how many will be making up the numbers. At the moment there probably aren’t enough suitable performances, but there will come a time when they are more common and it will surely then be time to create a new category.  But it isn’t that simple, every year the Board of Governors meets to discuss the possibility of adding new award categories. Best Stunt Coordination has been proposed and rejected just about every year since 1991.  What will happen? Only time will tell!

Over the weekend I didn’t know what to say about the sad and untimely death of Robin Williams.  The TV schedule gave me a certain prospective when I watched Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) for the first time in twenty years.  It was the first Robin Williams film that I had seen when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I have seen it a couple of times since but not for around twenty years.  I actually remember the movie best from the sound-bites that intersperse the soundtrack album.

Robin Williams Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams (1951–2014)

loosely based to a true story; Saigon in 1965, as the Vietnam War heats up DJ Adrian Cronauer ( Robin Williams) is drafted in to liven up Armed Forces Radio.  He quickly becomes a hit with the troops and his co workers but clashes with the Lieutenant and Sergeant Major (Bruno Kirby & J.T. Walsh).  The realities of the war soon become clear.

The film is very much as I remember it, filled with funny moments but with the sad and harsh realities of war. The thing I had forgotten, or more likely was unaware of at the time was what a good Vietnam movie it is, in fact it is amongst the best.  I didn’t see Apocalypse Now (1979) and Platoon (1986) until a couple of years after I had seen Good Morning, Vietnam, I would now say they are my three seminal Vietnam movies.  Fans of Robin Williams are often divided between is comic and dramatic roles (with or without facial hair!), Good Morning, Vietnam is the film that combines both sides of his ability.   We see the improvised comedy moments as well as pure acting performance.  Williams was nominated for an Oscar, the first of four nominations, he lost out to Michael Douglas for Wall Street, he finally won ten years later for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Good Will Hunting (1997).

Whatever happens now, I don’t expect to ever understand why Robin Williams took his own life, all I can do is enjoy his best films, and Good Morning, Vietnam is certainly one of his best films.

The Machine posterI haven’t posted under the heading DVD Gems lately but the low budget (less than £1million) British Sci-Fi thriller, The Machine is a worthy addition to the series.

In the near future we are in a mist of a cold war between the west and China.  Working for the ministry of defence, Vincent (Toby Stephens) is the head boffin in a project to create super soldier.  He enlist the help of Ava (Caity Lotz) who has created AI that could be the final part of the jigsaw.  It soon becomes clear that everyone has their own agenda.The Machine Toby Stephens Caity Lotz

Comparisons to The Terminator (1984), Splice (2009) and Frankenstein are inevitable, however it probably has most in common with Bride of Frankenstein (1935), not least for Caity Lotz’s fantastic duel role reminiscent of Elsa Lanchester.  Like so many of the other similar themed films about creating artificial life the film asks all the morel and existential questions you would expect.  The fact so few of the questions are answered could be considered a weakness, it is actually the films greatest strength.   To ask the questions without answering them gives the film an extra dimension and treats the audience with a little more intelligence than you would expect.  It isn’t that there is any great an mysterious subtext of subplot, the film merely asks questions that it lets it audience answer.The Machine Caity Lotz

Written and directed by Caradog W. James with imagination and vigour.  The effects are simple but effective making good use of the small budget.  The direction and editing are taught keeping filling the 90 minute runtime with ease.  The film also has a great dark and brooding visual style that is perfect.  The cast is good particularly the charismatic Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz who shows great range.  The great shame is that a an interesting British film didn’t receive a wider release.  Like most people, I had to wait for the DVD release.The Machine

Don’t expect an all action film, or a thoughtful thriller, but the film has elements of both of these ideas, and that is why you should watch the film, ideas!  The film is full of ideas.  I will certainly be looking out for what Caradog W. James does next.

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