X-Men Days of Future Past review

The following are my initial thoughts on X-Men Days of Future Past. I will try to avoid any big spoilers.

It’s hard to believe that it’s now 11 years since I went to the cinema to see X-Men 2, the last X-Men movie to have been directed by Bryan Singer. Perhaps some time-travelling is involved, which would at least be appropriate as this latest X-Men movie has at its heart a time-traveling conceit.

Days of Future Past is based on a two-part Chris Claremont story from around 1980 which depicted a dark apocalyptic future for the mutants in the far off year of, er, 2013. Mutants are being put in prison camps and exterminated by giant robot Sentinels. Adult Kitty Pryde has her mind sent back in time to her teenaged self to convince Professor X to stop Mystique from killing Senator Kelly, believing that this is the event that results in the doom-laden future.

So with some changes that is the story we get here. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it because it means we finally get our old favourite X-Men back with Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellan as Magneto and Halle Berry as Storm in the future sequences, now set in 2023. (I guess 2013 is so last year.) And it means we also get our new First Class cast members James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender appearing in the past, now set in 1973.

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Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the link between the two eras. His mind is sent back and it is his job to convince James McAvoy’s Professor X to stop Jennifer Lawerence’s Mystique. Only in this version of the story she is going after Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels, not knowing that her actions will result in her capture and the creation of even more dangerous future Sentinels.

James McAvoy returns as an out of sorts Professor X. He can now walk again thanks to a serum Hank McCoy invented, but at the price of robbing him of his mental powers. In fact he and Beast are the only members of the team left in the mansion. The others apparently were drafted or killed and the school closed.

Bryan Singer does a tremendous job of juggling the future and past action. By the nature of the story most of the action takes place in 1973 but I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of 2023 scenes that were intercut. Indeed the final battle sequence cuts back and forth between the two eras with two different generations of Sentinals causing mayhem.

In the future sequences we get to see a few new members on the team. I think my favourite there must be Blink who has the ability to open portals, thus deflecting Sentinel attacks in ingenious ways.

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And in 1973 we get to meet “Peter” who turns out to be a young Quicksilver. Wolverine recruits him to help break Magneto out of a.concrete prison. This leads to one of the best sequences in any X-Men movie where Peter uses his super speed to single-handedly stop the guards preventing their escape. We experience the slowed-down world from his point of view and see his amusing ways of deflecting the guards. It was certainly a crowd-pleasing scene for the audience I saw the movie with.

As mentioned before Jennifer Lawrence returns as Mystique. In many ways her character is at the heart of the movie. The future depends on her actions as she is now a lone operator working independently of either Professor X or Magneto. As before both her former mentors try to get her to follow their ideals with Professor X convinced that she need not turn into the heartless killer that we have seen in the previous movies.

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Before I forget, Singer employs a nice little gimmick in the 1973 sequences where we see the action as caught on period 16mm film recordings. So Mystique jumping out of a window in Paris is caught on film in all her over-saturated blue glory.

It actually feels like we got three movies for the price of one. Certainly we get an X-Men 4 with our old favourite cast members back. And it certainly has a flavour of First Class 2. But it also feels a little bit like an X-Men 0 in a way that First Class didn’t, perhaps because of the inclusion of the old cast, but also because of the inclusion of things like the Cerebro room under the mansion.

I have a lot more to say about the movie and how it will affect future installments in the series, but that comes under the heading of spoiler, so I think I will leave that for another post.

But certainly I enjoyed the movie very much. I don’t go into ranking movies in detail but out of the seven X-Men and Wolverine movies to date I would say my favourite three are the ones directed by Bryan Singer.

And the end of the review is the appropriate place to mention the post-credits sequence. It was interesting to see so many audience members staying right to the end of the credits. But speaking personally the scene we got didn’t enhance my life. File it under “Tacked On”.

Captain America The Winter Soldier review

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Being a big fan of the Marvel superhero movies I made sure to see Captain America 2 in the cinema on the week of its release. Here are my first thoughts.

Short version: I liked it very much.

Now the longer version…

The movie takes place some time after the events of 2012’s The Avengers and the usual reference is made to “New York” and the attempted alien invasion depicted in that movie. Steve Rogers continues to adjust to life decades from his own time and is now working for SHIELD.

After returning from a hostage rescue mission where he did not have all the facts he confronts Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury. Fury reveals to Steve that SHIELD has been arming itself with a powerful new weapon that is intended to destroy future threats before they happen.

As the plot develops it becomes apparent to Steve that there is an enemy within the security apparatus he works for. Nick Fury tells Steve to trust no one which turns out to be excellent advice.

Into the mix is the appearance of the Winter Soldier of the title, a mysterious assassin who has a connection to Steve’s past. Readers of the comics will be well aware of the identity of the Winter Solder but I’ll not say any more on that topic here.

A big part of why I enjoyed this movie as much as I did is the political thriller aspect of the story. Before seeing the movie I had read comments that the makers of the movie were aiming for that kind of feel and this intrigued me, although I did not know how successfully that would actually turn out in the finished product.

Well, they pulled it off. There are many sequences throughout the movie that have a distinctly 1970s political thriller vibe, albeit updated for the 21st century. This was particularly evident in an ambush scene early in the movie where Nick Fury’s SUV is cornered by would-be assassins in the middle of Washington. It’s dressed up with SHIELD gadgetry but it’s pure political/conspiracy thriller material through and through.

The vast majority of the movie takes place in Washington DC and evokes memories of movies like All the Presidents Men. This is of course bolstered by the presence of Robert Redford playing Pierce, a member of the World Security Counsel that oversees SHIELD.

I was very pleased to see Scarlett Johansson return as Natasha Romanov aka the Black Widow, one of my favourite Marvel characters. This time she has a much bigger chunk of screen time. Of all the other Avengers she is the most appropriate character to be in this movie given her espionage and assassin based background that is frequently hinted at.

Indeed this movie tends to avoid using traditional superhero characters at all and even Steve Rogers only dons his Cap costume for two or three sequences.

These standalone Marvel movies do like to introduce new characters from the Marvel pantheon and this one is no different. Joining Steve this time out is Sam Wilson, the Falcon, who in the comics was a frequent partner for Captain America.

Given it is a SHIELD-centric movie is is nice to see Maria Hill returning from The Avengers to lend a hand.

I had assumed that this movie would feel like a sequel to The Avengers given the SHIELD-centric story but there are many satisfying links back to the first Cap movie which I was glad to see. I’ve already hinted at a connection between the Winter Soldier and the first Captain America movie. Additionally there is another returning character whose plot-redefining appearance genuinely surprised me. It made me very glad I had not read too much about what the movie was about.

Overall I enjoyed the movie immensely. I would even go so far to say that it might be my favourite of the nine Marvel movies to date. (Ok, I might reappraise that after watching The Avengers again but right now I am very impressed with Cap 2.)

And now the post-credits part of the review.

As is traditional with these movies there are post-credits scenes for those who stay until the end. This time out I didn’t expect much after the awful scene in the mid-credits of Thor 2 that felt like it belonged to a completely different movie. It just looked like it had been shot quickly and tacked on as an afterthought.

This time out we got something much more satisfying. The second of the additional scenes was admittedly a bit “meh” and didn’t really add anything. But the mid-credits scene was the most intriguing yet, giving us a glimpse of two mysterious “twins” who are sure to appear in a future movie. When I inevitably get the Blu-ray I will be poring over that scene repeatedly for clues.

Jamaica Inn BBC adaptation

Today in Waterstones book shop I spotted the new tie-in edition of Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. The book features the prominent text “now a major BBC drama” across the top so you can’t miss the fact that the book has been adapted.

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The official release date for he book is 27 March so I assume that the three part series will appear in April, and indeed I’ve read “Easter” as the air date.

The book features a photo of Jessica Brown Findlay on the cover. She is playing the main character Mary Yellan and TV audiences will recognise her from Downton Abbey where she played Lady Sybil.

Which neatly leads on as the perfect excuse to show a photo of Jessica in period dress.

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Game of Thrones Location 4 Murlough Bay

Here’s a Game of Thrones location from season 2 that I have wanted to find for almost a year. It’s the scene in episode 4 where rival brothers Stannis and Renly parlay. After a bit of research I finally established that the location was Murlough Bay on the north Antrim coast a few miles east of the town of Ballycastle.

To get there drive along Murlough Road, but be advised that it’s more of a track than an actual road.

There’s a small area suitable for parking with the following sign displayed:

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On to the location photos. My photos follow the screen grabs.

First of all here are establishing shots of the scene.

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Now the cliffs visible behind Renly and Catelyn Stark as you look east.

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Looking west behind Stannis. I’m not sure if that’s a headland or Rathlin Island between the two middle guards in the screen grab from the episode. It’s not clearly visible in my photo but I did see a lighthouse flashing so I believe it is Rathlin.

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Finally here’s what I think is the closest I got to standing on the spot where they filmed based on the position of the cliffs in the distance. Note also the rocks in the foreground.

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Here’s the scene on YouTube:

I can also confirm that it was as windy up there as it looks in the episode. “Stormlands” indeed…

Finally here is the Google map for Murlough Road. Wear sensible footwear and bring a windproof jacket.


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Revolution season 2 episode 12 review

Last time Stephen Collins and Charlie made a truce with Steven Culp to help him save the townsfolk who were infected by the  Oranges of Death.

Miles, Rachel, Monroe and new compradre Connor return from their adventure in Mexico. On returning to the hideout they discover there is no sign of Stephen Collins, Charlie or indeed Aaron. After an efficient bit of searching they discover the new quarantine camp where the sick townsfolk have been taken to be sick.

They spy doctor Stephen Collins helping the Patriots. “The rat!” they snarl. Then Miles sees Charlie helping with nurse duties and they realise that the fact that everyone is wearing masks is a clue that there is a disease doing the rounds.

Now a quick interjection on Charlie’s nurse outfit. Surprisingly its her standard ass-kicking outfit of bad-ass-ness. So basically her tight jeans, cute little leather jacket and a whole load of midriff going on. Maybe it’s not the most practical nurse outfit ever invented but if I was dying of a mystery orange disease then there are worse things than getting an eyeful of Charlie’s midriff.

But I digress.

Rachel decides to go into the quarantine camp and catch up with the family. Luckily she has her own mouth covering scarf to disguise her features from the Patriot guards. She is reunited with Stephen Collins and Charlie but then Culp turns up. They agree to a truce so Rachel can help with the medical efforts.

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Charlie helps with medical research

Somehow by looking at a blood sample Rachel works out the disease has been made in a lab and the Patriots are up to no good. She gets a message out to Miles to go to the Patriot Bat Cave and get the antidote that is sure to be there. Unfortunately there is no antidote. Miles gets word back to Rachel.

Rachel works out that the Patriots are using the disease as cover to poison undesirables. It’s all very Nazi like but no reason is given for why they would do this. Perhaps we will find out in a future episode.  But it does looks like Culp knows all about it.

Stephen Collins also gets infected. Culp pats him on the shoulder saying how sorry he is. So that’s all right then.

Rachel and miles infect Culp so he will be forced to bring them to the antidote.

Elsewhere Aaron has had a nanite vision of dead teacher Cynthia. She tells him to go to Lubbock Texas. Ex-wife Priscilla refuses to go with him. After the fireflies almost drop a tree on top of her she decides to go with Aaron after all. Still, it would have been amusing to see that tree land on her…

In Washington DC Tom Neville and his wife plot to get their son out of prison. (We get flashbacks of Mrs Tom using herself as bait so that Tom could kill come guys and steal their food.) They decide to have a word with her new husband and get Jason back.

Tom turns up at a house where a dinner party is taking place to grab the guy. But it’s a trap! Tom is disarmed and he and his wife are taken off to a future that involves Patriot interrogation. And perhaps Oranges of Death…

Back in Texas Connor disguises himself as a Patriot and takes Culp into town for the antidote. Culp opens his safe and gets the vials. Then some Patriot guards storm in. There’s a standoff. Cliffhanger!

This was actually a decent episode. For once the Tom Neville storyline was interesting and I’m wondering what will happen there next.

I’m not sure what the Patriot agenda is with the Oranges of Death. Are they doing this all over the country? Are the Patriot leaders basically Nazis?

By the way, the episode title was Captain Trips which is, surprise, a Stephen King reference. It’s the name of the superflu in The Stand.

 

The Terror by Dan Simmons to be filmed

OK, this just caught my eye during a random bit of IMDB browsing. On Ridley Scott’s upcoming projects list I see he is down as executive producer on The Terror, a TV movie based on the novel by the same name by Dan Simmons.

Here’s the IMDB blurb:

Set in 1847. A crew of a Royal Naval expedition is sent to find the Arctic’s treacherous Northwest Passage but instead discovers a monstrous predator, a cunning and vicious Gothic horror that stalks the ships in a desperate game of survival, the consequences of which could endanger the region and its native people forever.

Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2708480/?ref_=nm_flmg_prd_5

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I read The Terror a few years ago (I think 2008) and loved it. It is based on the real story of the doomed Franklin Expedition that had set out to find the Northwest passage. There were some added supernatural goings-on, but what struck me most about the book was it’s detailed and authentic recreation of what life must have been like for the sailors stuck on the icebound ships for months. I’ll be interested to see what this movie turns out like.

Moebius Models Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica – photos

A few weeks ago I finally got my hands on the new Moebius Models Colonial Viper kit from the classic series of Battlestar Galactica. I don’t often make model kits any more but I wanted to try this one and I had good fun working on it.

I can’t pretend to be very skilled but overall I think it turned out half-decent and given the hours I spend putting it together I thought I would take a few snaps and put them up here.

The kit has two sets of decals, one to represent the full scale prop and the other to represent the visual effects miniature. I went for the full-scale prop markings which were thicker than the miniature ones.

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In 2008 Revell re-released their old Viper kit and I’ve included a comparison here. This new kit is a little bit larger and also has the option of landing gear. I choose to include the landing gear as the old kit didn’t have them.

At the time I made the Revell kit I deliberately painted it slightly darker than it perhaps should have been. This time around I went for what I think is a more accurate paint scheme.

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Note the old model has the optional Silver Spar Squadron markings.

If anyone is interested I used the following Humbrol enamel paints:

  • Hu 28 matt Camouflage Grey overall which seems to be pretty accurate.
  • Hu 123 Extra Dark Sea Grey for the nose intake and cockpit tub.
  • Hu 53 Gunmetal for the engine intake fans, engine detail and exhaust .nozzles
  • Hu 56 Aluminium for the undercarriage.
  • Hu 94 For for the pilot’s helmet and trousers.
  • Hu 186 For the pilot’s jacket.
  • Hu 85 Black for the control stick, boots and belt.
  • Hu 61 Flesh for the face and hands.
  • Hu 16 Gold for the helmet crest and buttons.

I considered doing some weathering but I’ll probably mess the model up if I do so. I may buy a second kit at some point in the future and attempt weathering it.

Star Trek Starships 12 USS Thunderchild

After another delay here are a few quick snaps of issue 12 of the Star Trek Starships Collection issue 12, the USS Thunderchild which first appeared in Star Trek First Contact.

Every time I read about this Akira-class “catamaran” design I see the words “fan favourite” used. OK, I’ll take their word for it.

It’s a nice enough model and has some decent detail. However yet again it sits very loosely on the stand. In fact gravity is the only thing that keeps it on the stand thanks to the extreme angle the model is displayed at.

Well, never mind my complaints. On to the photos…

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Maren Jensen photo of the day

Recently I bought the new Colonial Viper kit from Moebius Models and I’ve had fun building it. (Photos to follow in a later post.) Making the kit got me looking up photo reference online and watching a few episodes of the classic Battlestar Galactica. This in turn has reminded me how lovely Maren Jensen was as Lieutenant Athena.

Back in the original series Athena was the daughter of Lorne Greene’s Adama and sister to Richard Hatch’s Apollo. If memory serves I probably had a crush on Maren back in the early 1980s.

So in honour of how lovely Athena was I have hearby instituted a new semi-regular feature called “Maren Jensen photo of the day”. (There may or may not be any further posts in this series. We’ll see how it goes.)

Anyway, here’s the photo for today. Click for a nice high quality image.

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I cant take any credit for that scan. I found it at www.byyourcommand.net where they have lots of useful photo reference from the classic show.

Revolution season 2 episode 11 review

First to Mexico. Last time Monroe was captured by his long lost son Connor who takes him to his Mexican crime lord boss guy (who is played by that actor who always plays Central American crime lords). He says he will sell Monroe to whoever is willing to pay for the former head of the Monroe Republic.

Miles resolves to rescue Monroe and manages to break into the compound and get to Monroe’s cell. He knocks out Connor. However to complicate things Monroe refuses to be rescued because Connor would be in trouble with the Mexican crime lord guy. Miles tries to escape but is himself captured.

Connor is ordered to whip Monroe which he does after a slight twinge of potential remorse. Crime lord guy is suspicious at Connors story of how he managed to prevent Monroe’s escape.

So it’s up to Rachel to rescue the situation. She gets into the compound by befriending some crime lord minion, basically by smiling at him a bit. Inside Connor conveniently gives Rachel the key to rescue Miles and Monroe. Connor joins the trio in their escape.

Back in Texas Stephen Collins and Charlie are investigating the mystery of the Patriot oranges. They find a Patriot camp outside of town. Stephen Collins sees a buddy of his apparently being held prisoner. He resolves to rescue him. Stephen Collins and Charlie break into the camp. They are promptly captured by Steven Culp who takes them to a tent with sick people in. Culp tells Collins that typhus has infected them.

(So does Culp know about the mystery Patriots who have been injecting oranges with mystery contents? Or does he know all along?)

Aaron is with Grace who reveals that someone else was guided to her secret town hangout. It’s that lady who Aaron was married to in the flashbacks! The nanites guided her to the town as well! Er, why? We’re conveniently informed, “Oh, she helped Aaron’s computer research thing that inadvertently led to the nanites sentience”. I call that retrofitting an excuse to bring her back.

In Washington DC Tom Neville is told by his son Jason that the Patriots are going to expand their brain washing camps. Jason is not happy by this turn of events. Then some Patriot guards come and take Jason for assassinating that chief of staff guy last week.

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