A Look Back at Total Recall (1990)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching the movie and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I miss the old days when an R-rated action-packed science fiction movie can be passionately made with exceptional directing, clever writing, great camera work that’s consistently steady, solid performances from the actors, action that was not too choreographed, and visuals that heavily utilized practical effects and optical effects.

I’m talking about Total Recall, the 1990 sci-fi action movie that starred a much younger Arnold Schwarzenegger supported by Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (who directed the 1987 classic RoboCop) with a screenplay (based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman, Total Recall was a tremendous hit in the cinemas grossing more than $261 million worldwide with a production budget of over $60 million. To date, the film remains a favorite not only with fans of Schwarzenegger but also with people who love action movies, sci-fi movies, movies of the 1990s and geeks.

But before looking back at this movie, it is important to take note that Total Recall took several years of development before it finally got produced. The very first screenplay was written by O’Bannon and Shusett in the 1970s (after securing the film rights to Philip K. Dick’s short story when the author was still alive). Eventually prolific movie producer Dino De Laurentiis took the project for development. Years later, De Laurentiis’ company collapsed (due to failed projects) which provided Schwarzenegger the golden opportunity to get Total Recall by persuading Carolco to secure the rights for a few million dollars. After many screenplay drafts written and the hiring of Verhoeven as director (note: Schwarzenegger approached him personally) plus Gary Goldman, the rest became history.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox in a memorable scene.

Now, here is a look back at Total Recall.

Early Story

The story begins at the surface of planet Mars where a man and a lady (both wearing space suits) travel on foot. Suddenly, the man slips down and breaks the frontal shield of his helmet exposing himself to Mars’ air. It turned out to be an intense nightmare for Douglas Quaid who was in bed with his beautiful wife Lori. Lori asked him about the unidentified woman who appeared in his dreams, but Quaid expresses his love for her. On his way to work, Quaid saw a TV ad inside the train about Rekall, a company that sells holidays and adventures in the form of memories. At work, his fellow construction worker discouraged him from availing of any services from Rekall. After work, Quaid visits Rekall and decides to avail of an ego trip as a secret agent. Just as the memory trip was about to start, Quaid wakes up violently…

Quality

This movie is still great to watch. Let me start first with the creative team of Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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A great action scene about to start…

When it comes to the synergy between the director and the lead player, Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger make a great creative team that made this movie very special! When asked during an interview what it was like for him to work with Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven said:  Arnold is great. Switching from Rutger Hauer to Arnold is not that big a step. It’s strange to say that, because he’s this crazy Austrian, with an accent—but, for me, Arnold is the American Rutger. I think if I did a few movies with Arnold, I could do as much with him as I did with Rutger. Now, this movie was the wrong thing . . . But I think you can do much more with Arnold, explore more possibilities, than was necessary for this movie.

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Sharon Stone as Lori.

Now, it is a fact that Schwarzenegger lacks versatility when it comes to acting. Even so, Verhoeven succeeded in getting a deeper-than-expected performance from the star in this movie. Sure, we get to see Schwarzenegger fight bad guys with really rough action, fire guns, run and jump around here but what really stood out here was his portrayal of a man who discovers that the life he knew was all a lie and goes on to find the truth about himself. This role remains a standout role of Schwarzenegger’s among all the characters he played in his many other action films. What is also notable with Douglas Quaid is that the protagonist is always in danger and never invincible, very similar to how Bruce Willis played John McClane in Die Hard. If you watch this film after seeing Schwarzenegger play his invincible icon in the Terminator movies, you will feel his pain, tension and curiosity here! As if that was not enough, there is also the other role Schwarzenegger played in this movie that you should see.

Of course, Total Recall also drew greatness and depth from Verhoeven who also got strong performances from Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Sharon Stone is the beautiful wife who will shock you. Michael Ironside is the henchman who will make you root for Schwarzenegger even more. Rachel Ticotin is the brave woman who is believable with the cause she is involved with.

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Rachel Ticotin as Melina.

More notably, Ronny Cox is the all-powerful and ruthless executive who will get on your nerves and make you root for Schwarzenegger a lot, very similar to how his villainous role in RoboCop made moviegoers root for the cyborg policeman. It should be noted that the evil executive-henchman duo of Cohaagen (Cox) and Richter (Ironside) here is a directorial trademark of Verhoeven’s and it should bring back memories of the other evil duo in RoboCop. More than that, Ronny Cox succeeded in selling the concept that Cohaagen really had been the administrator of the colony in Mars exploiting the resources and the people for a long time.

More on getting the most out of the actors, Verhoeven and his team crafted a memorable hand-to-hand fight scene between Lori (Stone) and Melina (Ticotin) actually taking part in the action and stunts. Sharon Stone clearly got athletic in this movie and her efforts paid-off nicely, complete with another fight scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger (she actually even threw two high kicks at Schwarzenegger’s head) early in the film. Beyond the hard battle with Stone, Ticotin went on to take part in further action scenes in the film and she sure is believable as an action performer. To put things in perspective, Stone and Ticotin are not action stars but they excelled nicely in their work here and this also made Total Recall special.

When it comes to storytelling under the direction of Verhoeven, Total Recall moved at a medium-to-fast pace and there was never a single moment of rushing, nor a single boring moment at all. The film just kept going smoothly complete with true unpredictability which results lots of twists and surprises. I should also state that the dialogue from the finalized screenplay is still excellent, and they were nicely delivered by the actors. Verhoeven also added depth to the film by using mystery while also getting good performance from Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid finds out that life is not what it seems. I should state that the sci-fi elements of altering (and adding) human memories with the use of computers and the business of selling virtual holidays and ego trips were strongly emphasized. These also add to the film’s mystery which should engage you to wonder and analyze as the story moves on.

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The best view from an office on planet Mars.

On the spectacle, Total Recall is heavily loaded! The action is violent, plentiful and carries that particular aesthetic that only director Verhoeven has. It’s hard to explain in words but once you watch the action in this movie (plus comparing it to RoboCop and Starship Troopers), you will realize it. Even so, the action never turned this movie into a brainless affair. The action worked nicely to balance the mystery and suspense.

The visual effects here were mostly done by practical and optical ways. Special effects specialist Rob Bottin, who famously worked in John Carpenter’s The Thing and worked also with Verhoeven in RoboCop, came up with very memorable animatronics to simulate facial and physical changes on characters on key sequences involving sci-fi elements. The team also crafted really freaky looking makeup works on the Mars mutants, which really gave this film a strong sci-fi look. I also like the use of miniatures and physical sets that visualized the colony in Mars. By today’s standards, this movie’s visual effects still look great and I can only wish that filmmakers today would rely less on computers and go back to using practical effects (note: physical stuff) and, on certain occasions, optical effects.

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Really great movie makeup work by Rob Bottin.

When it comes to the physical environments, this movie was filmed a lot in Mexico, specifically on key locations and on the sound stages in an established movie production studio there. Years ago, when I first learned for the first time that the trains used in the film were real-life trains that actually operated in one of Mexico’s real-life transportation systems, I was astounded! Paul Verhoeven himself confirmed that the train sequences were not only shot on location with real trains (note: monitors were added by the filmmakers to achieve a futuristic look) but the place’s architectural design were very unique and fitted nicely with the sci-fi concept of the movie.

The Mars colony set does not look fake to me. In fact, it really looks like it has long been lived in by people and the filmmakers nicely designed it. The Venusville set looks very convincing and, within the story, it got decayed due to long-term businesses, constant vehicular traffic and people who always flocked the place. The Mars hotel meanwhile has that cleaner, nicer look with tourists who paid good money for pleasure and discovery.

I should mention that the cinematography here done by Jost Vacano is excellent. The set-ups of the camera to get great angles of the actors is special, and the same can be said about the capturing of the spectacle that happened on-screen. The flashback of Mars inside Quaid’s mind had great, floating views of the location complete with perfectly smooth movement! Vacano also worked with Verhoeven in RoboCop.

Finally, the musical score by the late Jerry Goldsmith is very memorable and this is my favorite among all his works. The music provided gave this movie a strong sci-fi feel and when suspense plays, the tunes added nicely to it. The most memorable music tracks here are the opening credits music (which is immersive) and the foot chase between Quaid and Richter on Earth (the music really keeps the pace high).

Conclusion

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid in a key scene.

Total Recall is a true, adulterated sci-fi action classic and easily it is still is one of the best ever movies I’ve seen from Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven and Stone. A few visual elements did not age well but its highly engaging story (combined with the strong performances and spectacle) remains its key selling point. There is a lot of ambiguity throughout the film and it will keep you wondering if the story (or at least portions of it) was reality or all a dream in Quaid’s mind. The way the story is structured combined with the excellent spectacle, this is a movie that is worth watching again and again! It remains an effective viewing experience for me until now.

As it contains the directorial trademarks of Verhoeven mixed with Schwarzenegger’s own style of expression and hard action, Total Recall is a very unique move of its own and it’s impossible to replicate nor match. Keep in mind that the 2012 remake of this movie was badly made (even though it had a big budget and highly advanced visual effects involving the use of computers) and ended up being a complete failure.

To put it short, Total Recall is more than just an action-packed thrill ride. It is also a mystery film that will keep viewers on the edge as the search for answers continues. Total Recall also explores the theme of what would you do when you realize that the life you remember turned to be an exceptional lie, and that you are literally caught in the middle of a web surrounded by dangerous, powerful people. I could never forget how my mind got motivated as I focused on the narrative the first time I ever saw this great movie decades ago. Total Recall was a sci-fi viewing experience like no other.

Overall, Total Recall (1990) is highly recommended! I urge you, my readers, to buy the movie on Blu-ray disc or watch it via streaming.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

X-Men at Toycon 2019

During my time at the Toycon 2019 at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City this past Saturday, I checked out the X-Men stuff. I am a long-time X-Men fan and that particular franchise is my favorite among all of Marvel’s superheroes.

As before, I looked for some back issues of X-Men at one of the few comic book sellers at the convention.

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Lots of old X-Men comic books displayed for sale.
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A copy of X-Men #1 (1991) drawn by Jim Lee featuring Magneto. I did not bother to buy this one.

After carefully searching what was available and calculating with my limited budget, I bought a few copies of Uncanny X-Men drawn in the early 1990s by Whilce Portacio. I intend to have these comic books signed by him in the near future.

As I went around the floor of the main exhibition hall of the convention center, I saw several X-Men statues and action figures. The one that caught my attention was the Dark Phoenix figure.

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Too bad the filmmakers could not find a way to replicate this classic Dark Phoenix form for the big screen. 

And then I went up to the 2nd level of the convention where there was one function hall that had several displays of toys and action figures for people to look at. Of course, the X-Men were there and here are some pictures I took for your viewing pleasure.

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I like this set up showing two opposing sides. I just wished Magneto had been placed closer fronting Charles Xavier.
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The 1990s X-Men look.
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Dazzler, X-Factor, Cable and some X-Men.
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Another 1990s X-Men set.
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I like the set up here with the X-Men and a fallen Sentinel.

For more X-Men insight, check out my Logan retro movie review, my X-Men #1 (1991) retro comic book review, my X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie review, my retro movie reviews of X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Check out my first Toycon 2019 article here.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Carlo Carrasco’s Game Review: Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, Single Player Campaign)

Believe it or not, I completely missed out on Gears of War 4 on Xbox One back in 2016. I simply had other priorities and I was unable to raise the money needed to buy the game. A year after that, I downloaded the demo of the game and managed to play

Finally, thanks to a recent sale online at Xbox LIVE, I purchased the game at last and recently managed to finish it. Gears of War 4 proved to be a lot of fun and even until now it still is a gem of game design and visual art.

To put things in perspective, I played the first three main Gears of War games from 2006 to 2011 and those games were mainly designed by the talented Cliff Bleszinski who had NO INVOLVEMENT with the latest game. Gears of War 4, by the way, is the first-ever internally developed game of Microsoft through its studio The Coalition.

The good news is that Gears of War 4 is not only a fun and engaging game. It is also a continued evolution of the game franchise’s design and it is easily the best cover shooter game design to date.

On face value, it looks like the creative team led by Rod Fergusson (The Coalition studio leader) and director Chuck Osieja decided to play safe on game design by retaining the gameplay functions from the past. Quite easily, I managed to reclaim that old Gears of War feel in terms of control, shooting, moving and aiming. Like past GOW games, you must take cover for protection from the bullets fired by the enemies then peak, aim and shoot. Then when possible move forward to take cover at the next protective object and make your way to beat the other side. Then there is the classic reload function which, when well timed, can grant you temporary strong firepower.

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Melee attacks in Gears of War 4 have improved and are more satisfying.

But as the game progressed, the new gameplay features emerged. For the first time, I can finally grab an enemy (who is crouched taking cover) from the other side of a protective object or barrier, pull the enemy and get to do a melee attack (or shoot with the gun). There is also the feature of the knocking the enemy off balance (by means of jumping over cover to kick the enemy on the other side) as well as performing the shoulder charge. Take note however that these new gameplay features – which add a lot of depth on the classic GOW gameplay – can be used by the enemies against you.

And then there are the new weapons like the Buzzkill (watch those flying sawblades ricochet!) and the Dropshot (challenging to use but very satisfying when the target gets hit!) that add new dimension to the gameplay.

More on gameplay, if you are expecting enemy artificial intelligence (AI) to be the same as before (remember all the Locusts?), you will realize that’s not the case at all. The new enemies behave differently in combat and you will be compelled to change your strategies. Expect to see the enemies (which include robots) be more tactical with their movements and attacks, and you will also realize you will need to move out of cover more and search for a new place to take cover at.

That’s not all. The weather effects impact the gameplay a lot this time. There are these windflares that not only blow strongly (watch the environment move) but also generate electricity that you must avoid touching. When the weather changes, you will not only have to take cover but be more strategic moving around as well as adjusting your aim when firing at the enemy (example: strong wind can alter the direction of the Buzzkill sawblade you fire). Lastly, there is a motorcycle chase scene that is quite action packed!

Visuals? This game really looks very great! The art is top-notch. The animation, the textures, the special effects and lighting effects really make a great showcase of the Xbox One, especially the Xbox One X (4K resolution with high-dynamic range). The character faces are very detailed and very photo-realistic! Facial expressions really will convince you into thinking you’re watching real people instead of computer-generated ones.

When it comes to storytelling, Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the previous game. You play as JD Fenix (son of hero Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud) who is accompanied by Del and Kait. In terms of personality, JD is witty, striving to figure out things and he does not carry the cynical mindset of his father. Del and Kait are likeable characters for different reasons. Del is also witty while Kait has the strong, fighting lady personality. The good news here is that their respective voice actors performed nicely.

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Father and Son.

Back to the plot, the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has been reformed but something is not right and right from the start JD and Del deserted the coalition to join the group called the Outsiders. Government leadership is felt in the story and having the COG as the anti-hero element really makes Gears of War 4’s world really look and feel new. Forget about the memories of fighting for the COG in the old GOW games, Gears of War 4 is a whole new world to figure out what’s been happening while fighting to survive. If you are the kind of gamer who has the anti-authoritarian mindset, then this game is for you.

Strangely enough, this game’s story has some notable similarities with the 2015 blockbuster film Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Without spoiling the story, I should say that Gears of War icons like Marcus Fenix (the central figure of the franchise) return in supporting roles. Instead of being the hero, he is the mentor to his son JD and even to you the gamer.

While the gameplay is excellent and deeper than ever before, the storytelling this time lacks the depth of Gears of War 3 but in fairness, this new game’s story had to show how much had changed in the world and society in general. Gears of War 3, by comparison, is a war story and the resulting build-up from the first two games led to it having a very engaging conclusion.

Back to Gears of War 4, the ending lacked punch and yet it has a lot of intrigue or even shock, especially if you paid very close attention to the small but key details in the previous games. The ending feels underwhelming as it happened following the high-octane, final battle sequence of the game. Although the conclusion lacked punch, I still felt satisfied. By the way, there is a post-credits ending scene to watch out for.

Overall Gears of War 4 is easily the best 3rd person-view cover shooter and is a true evolution of the Gears of War game design. Now that the game costs much less, it is a great bargain! At the same time, it makes sense now to play GOW4 as Gears 5 (Gears of War 5) is expected to be released this year.

Gears of War 4 is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Shazam!

I’ll just say it out loud – I had a lot of fun watching Shazam! at the local cinema today. I’m not even a fan of the character Shazam/Captain Marvel (as he was called prior to Marvel’s legal takeover of the name) and still I enjoyed watching the movie. I rarely watch comedies in the cinema but I still had a lot of fun with Shazam!

Whatever challenges the filmmakers led by director David F. Sandberg faced, they succeeded in making their movie fun, action-packed and more importantly telling a story with a lot of heart with the main characters. It also proved crucial that Warner Bros. marketing team did not spoil the pleasant surprise the movie had all along and that surprise alone is already worth the price of admission.

Shazam! introduces moviegoers to Billy Batson who has moved away from multiple homes as he searches for his mother whom he got separated from as a child. At the new family he moved into, he meets Freddy Freeman who lives with a disability. Things change when Billy meets an aging wizard named Shazam and gains his power. By simply saying the wizard’s name, lightning strikes Billy to become the muscular, adult caped superhero. Along the way an obsessed Dr. Sivana rises with a lust for power which only means trouble for the Billy Batson/Shazam and his friends.

Why is storytelling a success in this movie? Answer – it was done with a lot of heart and director Sandberg succeeded in getting very strong performances from the cast. You will really sympathize with Asher Angel as Billy Batson who lives with a missing link in his personal life and often finds himself lonely. This is a movie about a teenager who does not aspire to become a superhero at all but rather find his mother anyway he could. The superhero aspect of the film is an extension (but a very significant one) of that core concept.

In terms of storytelling tone, Shazam! looks so much like a comedy based on the way it was marketed but rest assured the movie is not a dominant comedy at all. In fact it has a lot of dramatic scenes and even some horror elements spread around. Darkness? There is some of that by means of horror elements. Grit? Very little of it too. Cynicism? Non-existent. Clearly the DC Cinematic Universe under the leadership of Warner Bros. executive Walter Hamada continues to move away from the darkness, the grit and cynicism of Zack Snyder’s influence and for me that is a good thing.

In terms of performances, this film has a lot of good acts. While Asher Angel excelled as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi truly brought Shazam/Captain Marvel to life on the big screen. Not only does he really look like the superhero (as if he was ripped straight from the comic books), Levi was successful in playing his character with the act and mindset of a teenage boy. Jack Dylan Grazer was pretty engaging as Freddy Freeman (who is the in-movie geek and superhero culture researcher) and so was Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana. The other cast members like Grace Fulton, Ian Chen and Faithe Herman were good players as well. To sum it up, the quality of performances from the cast is varied and at the same time of good quality and nice artistry. From drama to humor, these cast members really pulled it off.

Shazam! was made to tell a compelling story that can be taken seriously while at the same time it delivered the humor and spectacle to satisfy moviegoers who want their superhero cinema experience to be enjoyable. When it comes to weaknesses, I say that the first twenty minutes was kinda slow. While the film is indeed very wholesome, the horrific imagery of the monsters can scare little kids and compel their parents to cover their eyes.

As a superhero comedy, it definitely is a more fun to watch than any of the Deadpool movies. As a superhero spectacle, Shazam! is quite comparable not only with DC Cinematic Universe movies but also with other humor-laced superhero movies from Marvel Studios. As a DC Cinematic Universe movie, Shazam! is 3rd best to Wonder Woman.

Given its high amount of fun, engaging storytelling, good comedy and solid performances, Shazam! is highly recommended! I urge you to watch it as soon as you can and for the best visual experience, I recommended watching it on an IMAX screen if you can afford it. Shazam! is a lot of fun and you will love it! Very clearly the DC Cinematic Universe continues to improve and its future under Warner Bros. and Walter Hamada looks very bright!

For your enjoyment, posted below are some videos related to Shazam.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.

 

 

 

 

 

Why The No Man’s Land Scene In Wonder Woman Is Iconic

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching this feature film and doing online research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

From time to time in the world of cinema, something very significant happens on the big screen which impacts moviegoers deeply. Eventually they talk about for months or even years after seeing it. In due time, such memorable sequences or scenes become iconic. What remains talked about among moviegoers and superhero culture fans until now is the No Man’s Land scene from the acclaimed 2017 superhero movie Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins.

Released on June 2017, Wonder Woman grossed $821,847,012 worldwide and was also critically acclaimed. Its optimistic tone made it stand out among the DC Cinematic Universe movies and it has been argued that Wonder Woman was Warner Bros.’ serious effort to symbolically pull their cinematic superheroes out of the cloud of darkness that started in 2013 with Man of Steel.

Wonder Woman had it all. Great hard-hitting action, humor (nicely performed by the supporting cast), good pacing, nice cinematography and of course the very fine performances by the actors especially with Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana/Wonder Woman.

Among its many scenes, the No Man’s Land sequence is the most defining piece of the film laced with great cinematic art, meaning and powerful symbolism. It’s a very iconic scene that deserves to be seen again and again. The scene also helped the movie win the Best Fight Award of the 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards.

Why is the No Man’s Land scene so iconic?

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The moment that captivated moviegoers worldwide.

1) It introduces Wonder Woman’s iconic imagery to the world (both within the movie and to moviegoers) – Wonder Woman has been around since 1941 and for the most part she wears the tiara, the bracelets, the strapless top and the like. For the movie, the scene marked the first time ever Wonder Woman appeared wearing her famous costume (specifically a sacred Amazon armor within the story) introducing herself not only within the movie but also to the moviegoers in the cinemas. This scene was accompanied with the very powerful musical score of Rupert Gregson-Williams. By watching and listening, Wonder Woman’s first appearance in her armor symbolized the start of her effort to save people and turn the tide against evil and darkness.

2) Diana: No. But it’s what I’m going to do! – In the moments before Diana makes her appearance on the battlefield, she encounters a suffering woman carrying a child who asked for her help and tells her that their village was seized and her villagers who could not escape end up as slaves.

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Diana listening to a desperate lady whose village got ravaged.

Diana tries to convince Steve Trevor to help the affected people but he insisted on pushing through with their mission. For your reference, posted below is the dialogue from the film.

Steve Trevor: This is no man’s land, Diana! It means no man can cross it, alright? This battalion has been here for nearly a year and they’ve barely gained an inch. All right? Because on the other side there are a bunch of Germans pointing machine guns at every square inch of this place. This is not something you can cross. It’s not possible.

Diana Prince: So… what? So we do nothing?

Steve Trevor: No, we are doing something! We are! We just… we can’t save everyone in this war. This is not what we came here to do

(Diana moves away from Steve, loosens her hair, wears her tiara and turns back to Steve)

Diana Prince: No. But it’s what I’m going to do.

These moments before Wonder Woman’s rise clearly show that she is dedicated to saving people. Her disagreement with Steve was reasonable and the guy, who witnessed the Germans and Amazons clashed early in the film, underestimated Diana’s bravery and special abilities. Diana made the right decision even though her act looked suicidal to the men on both sides of the field. There is just no way she would ignore the fact that people got overwhelmed and have suffered. More importantly, the build-up that started with Diana’s talk with the suffering lady was simply perfect and very timely leading to Wonder Woman’s rise on the field.

3) She stood up for what she believed in – Not only was the No Man’s Land scene a fine display of Wonder Woman’s courage and heroism, it was also an extension of what she believed in and was she learned having grown up in Themyscira. Diana is a warrior but she’s not the type who focuses mainly on achieving victory only nor is she the type who gets satisfied with the use of violence as a means to win. She grew up oriented by her queen mother and Amazon superiors to be compassionate, brave, inspiring and loving. After turning the tide against the Germans and liberating the village, she did NOT develop a personal hatred nor grudge against the Germans. After all, she knew that men can be corrupted and yet they can still be reformed and saved. Wonder Woman stood up, moved forward, deflected the many pieces of ammunition fired at her and inspired Steve and their allies to follow her lead and turn the tide of battle. That’s a great reflection of her heroism, bravery and her dedication on standing up for what she believes in.

Wonder Woman cares about the people who need help and in return we the moviegoers care for her and look up to her as the Queen of Superheroes. She definitely is the kind of superhero we need to see more of in movies.

4) The No Man’s Land scene is comparable with real life art emphasizing struggle – Many may not have realized it until now but the iconic scene in the movie is quite comparable to real life artworks that emphasized bravery, struggle and the effort to be free if not victorious. The one classic art that comes to mind is Liberty Leading the People painted by Eugene Delacroix. That 1830 French artwork about the July Revolution showed a lady with a phrygian cap leading guiding her armed companions and leading the way as they step over some dead bodies on the ground. Liberty in that art was depicted by the painter as a lady of the people as well as a goddess-like figure. Wonder Woman in the No Man’s Land scene flowed with a nice pace using a few slow-motion shots to emphasize her ability to block a bullet with her brace. It’s like looking at a painting being animated. And then as Wonder Woman creates opportunities to beat the opposition, the allied soldiers gained the courage to climb up and run up the field to fight. As the breakthrough happens, Wonder Woman said, “Steve! Let’s go!”

Moments later there is a short shot of Wonder Woman in the foreground running (towards the camera) while the many allied soldiers in the background follow her.

The No Man’s Land scene is quite artistic in its own style and if it is not inspired by the Liberty Leading the People painting, it sure shares common themes of courage and battle with it.

Conclusion

The No Man’s Land sequence is truly iconic and it will always be identified with the cinematic Wonder Woman and even actress Gal Gadot herself. While waiting for Wonder Woman 1984 to come out, we can enjoy replaying Wonder Woman on Blu-ray and watch the story unfold. The No Man’s Land scene is always engaging and artistic to watch. Patty Jenkins and her creative team deserve our appreciation and gratitude.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Why I’m Looking Forward To Shazam In Cinemas Even Though I’m No Fan Of The Superhero

Let me start by confirming that although I am a geek and I read lots of comic books – especially superhero stories of Marvel Comics, DC Comics and other publishers – I never was a fan of Shazam (formerly called Captain Marvel before Marvel Comics took the trademark legally) nor was I fond of the Marvel Family (Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel and others) he was identified with.

But even so, I still will watch in the cinemas Shazam!, the next DC Comics Cinematic Universe movie from Warner Bros. starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer. It is directed by David F. Sandberg and it will be released worldwide on the first week of April.

For your reference, watch the latest trailer below.

 

Shazam/Captain Marvel has a very long history in superhero comics. While the superhero belongs to DC Comics, he (and the related characters) started in comics published by Fawcett Publications in the early 1940s. He debuted in Whiz Comics #2. Believe it or not, in terms of comic book sales Shazam/Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s and not even Superman could match him. DC Comics sued Fawcett on the grounds of copyright infringement and in part this contributed to the publisher’s decision to cease publishing any comics of Shazam/Captain Marvel by the year 1953. This was only the start of the long road before Shazam and the related characters became part of DC Comics.

When it comes to the DC Cinematic Universe, movie productions are now being done under the careful watch of Walter Hamada and already major improvements have happened such as Aquaman making over $1 billion in ticket sales globally. Shazam! is a film clearly made under Hamada’s leadership and based on the previews, it seems like director David F. Sandberg and his creative team have done a good job and somehow they managed to get good performances from their actors.

As to why I look forward to watching the movie even though I’m no fan of the character, here are my reasons:

1. Seeing Shazam’s literary concept translated into cinematic form – For those who are not familiar with Shazam/Captain Marvel, the superhero’s concept goes like this. There’s a homeless teenager named Billy Batson who was chosen by a very old wizard to continue a fight against evil. Being the chosen one, Billy Batson becomes the muscular, caped superhero Shazam/Captain Marvel by simply saying “Shazam” (which attracts a quick bolt of lightning to him enabling the transformation). In my view, this classic concept deserves a cinematic adaptation. Although the movie trailers showed bits of it, I feel there is more than meets the eye. The transformation from teenager to caped superhero is one thing, his character development is another. This brings me to my next point.

2. Watching the actors bring the characters to life – It seems that the right actors were hired to bring the characters – notably Shazam, Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman – to life. Having read comic books of Shazam/Captain Marvel and watched several episodes of the Shazam cartoon series on TV decades, I still remember how the traits of the characters and from what I’ve seen in the trailers and previews, things are looking good. Based on available information, Zachary Levi reminds me a lot about the caped superhero walking with a human adult body but is living with uncertainty for he really is a teenager (Billy Batson) behind it all. Levi looks good too with humor. Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy is a very avid geek which I can related with. Asher Angel as Billy Batson so far looks good in handling the character. Definitely I want to see more of their performances.

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Freddy Freeman and Shazam/Captain Marvel. 

3. I’m interested in superhero comedy from Warner Bros –  Since the release of 2017’s Wonder Woman, the DC Cinematic Universe turned a corner and gradually moved away from the cloud of darkness, grit and cynicism that started with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Wonder Woman was not only a more optimistic superhero movie, it also had a good amount of humor successfully pulled off by the supporting cast. Shazam! meanwhile is clearly a superhero comedy and it could become the most cheerful (if not the most humorous) DC Comics movie yet without being too cheesy or too childish. Director Sandberg and the actors seem to have established a lot of synergy to carefully mix action, fun and humor. I’m hoping that what was shown in the previews is just a taste of more good and fun stuff to come. While I rarely watch comedies, I’m interested in more humor in DC Comics movies. Besides, the adulterated and exagerrated humor I saw in the Deadpool movies is just not entertaining.

4. The state of the DC Cinematic Universe under Hamada’s watch – As it is already confirmed by Warner Bros. that standalone DC Comics superhero movies will be the norm for now, Shazam! is an opportunity to show where the current cinematic universe is right now with regards to connections with other DC superheroes. Already there were references to Batman, Superman and even the Justice League (as seen in the merchandise shot in the latest trailer). I’m not expecting to see much connectivity with the other DC superheroes at all but some signs as to where the cinematic universe is going would be good enough for me. Aquaman had a small reference to the events of the Justice League movie. This is, after all, the cinematic story of Shazam/Captain Marvel. The forcing and rushing of a shared cinematic universe previously done by Zack Snyder is in the past. We must remember that we are now watching the DC Cinematic Universe under the leadership of Walter Hamada.

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Justice League references.

Those are my reasons as to why I will watch Shazam! in cinemas once it opens. I’m no fan of Shazam/Captain Marvel but the superhero deserves his cinematic adaptation and so far the movie looks very promising. I feel it also has the potential to attract lots of fans as well as moviegoers who are not even familiar with the character. We will find out soon enough if Shazam! will be a hit or not.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.

A Look Back At Prototype #1

There is nothing like witnessing a superhero use technology to fly around with high speed, blast with energy, lift heavy objects using extra strength and use whatever special features to beat the bad guys and save people from harm. I’m not talking about Marvel Comics’ Iron Man here. I’m talking about the Ultraverse parallel to him called Prototype and here is my retrospective review about the 1993 superhero comic book Prototype #1 published by Malibu Comics.

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Prototype #1 cover.

Co-written by Tom Mason and Len Strazewski with art by David Ammerman and James Pascoe, Prototype #1 is the story of the armored figure called Prototype but there is one huge thing to take note here – the armored figure is actually a high-tech project of a corporation called Ultratech and it involves more than one person piloting it.

To put things in perspective, some time in the past the Prototype armor (which was very large and bulky) was piloted by Bob Campbell until a major incident happened during an aerial exhibition that cost him his right arm. Subsequently he got replaced by a much younger man named Jimmy Ruiz. In the present, Campbell is a PWD (person with disability) who was dismissed by the company which compelled him to sue them for age discrimination.

Then he attends the stockholders’ meeting of Ultratech which was organized to be lavish and showy. It is here where Prototype (piloted by Ruiz) makes an energetic appearance sporting a leaner looking armor that closely resembles a human being.

Ruiz says “Stand back, America…it’s showtime!”

Proto2
The leaner and meaner armor of Prototype.

While showing off, Ruiz encounters some problems. He has not fully gotten used to the technology and his head feels like exploding. During the stockholders’ meeting, Bob Campbell causes some trouble prompting private security to escort him away. It turns out that Ultratech really distanced themselves from him.

Of course, the company is very happy with the Ruiz-piloted Prototype and they are confident their major financial bets will yield great results. Their executive Stanley Leland stated, “He’s not just a showpiece, he’s a corporate asset!”

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Jimmy Ruiz in the Prototype suit with the Ultratech executives.

As this is a superhero story, life is not normal. As such an incident happens that, predictably, requires Prototype to take action (and entertain readers like you and I).

Technically the story was nicely told and its pacing flowed smoothly. There is a nice balance between spectacle, storytelling and character development. Ultimately by the time I reached the 24th page, I got a grasp of the comic book’s concept, the characters (especially the two pilots) and where the series was going.

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Action for you. Really nice job done by the artists.

How does this comic book compare with Iron Man? To say the least, the concept of a large corporation owning and controlling a high-tech suit of armor piloted by their employee is not only a nice alternative but a very engaging alternative to the Iron Man concept (super rich industrialist who wears a powered suit of armor and uses his special talent on technology).

The Ultraverse was the most interesting and most entertaining superhero line of comic books I read back in the 1990s and Prototype went on to become one of the major heroes of the franchise. Prototype went on to become part of UltraForce, a superhero team that had its short-lived comic book series (with famous artist George Perez doing the art in some issues) as well as a short-lived animated series based on the said comic book series.

Had the Ultraverse lasted longer, succeeded and profited, chances are Prototype would have been a major contender among all other superheroes from the different publishers  today and there would have been more merchandise and perhaps even video games based on the character.

If you plan to visit a local comic book store to buy old comic books, I highly recommend Prototype #1.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.

 

 

 

A look back at Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

My Resident Evil 3 article updated for your enjoyment.

Author Carlo Carrasco

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First released in late 1999 on the PlayStation console in America, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (Japan title: Biohazard: Last Escape) was a notable game of the Resident Evil franchise that not only proved to be a lot of fun but also a memorable experience for fans. To this day the game is fondly remembered.

In recent times, the Resident Evil franchise made waves with gamers worldwide with Resident Evil 7 (which came with a very daring change of style and gameplay) and the Resident Evil 2 remake demo (which I played the full 30 minutes of). The RE2 demo instantly brought back my own memories of enjoying the PlayStation version of early 1998. Granted, Resident Evil 2 in 1998 was truly a great sequel and its concept was epic compared to its predecessor’s. Because that game was a major blockbuster, Capcom had to come up with worthy follow-ups.

Then…

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Escape From New York Is Still A Solid Movie To Watch

In my life, I was fortunate to have visited the City of New York not once but twice. The first in 1997 and the last in 2011. Already the city was highly modernized and Times Square was often filled with people enjoying the place without worrying about criminals pouncing on them.

What I never got to discover was New York City during its dark, old days when it had a lot more crime and a depressing social atmosphere as seen through the history books of the city. This alone makes watching John Carpenter’s 1981 flick Escape from New York a more interesting experience for me personally. Anyway, here is my review of Escape From New York.

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Kurt Russell as Snake.

The movie begins with information that in the then-future of 1988, crime in America skyrocketed by 400% which compelled the Federal Government to convert Manhattan of New York into a maximum-security prison zone which is eventually surrounded by very high walls (complete with armed guards), mines on the routes out of Manhattan and armed security personnel patrolling the water (by helicopter). Those who were sentenced to imprisonment at Manhattan really have no hope escaping.

In the then-future of 1997, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is captured by the authorities for a Federal Reserve robbery attempt and eventually he gets offered a deal: if he rescues the captured President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) in New York and recovers a sensitive audio tape, a presidential pardon will be arranged for him. Before going to New York, Snake is injected with micro explosives which will blow up in less than 24 hours and they can only be neutralized if he succeeds with his mission. Snake flies into New York but his mission starts roughly.

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The gang and its leader.

That’s enough with the plot. Now I’ll talk about the quality of the film.

For a movie with a low budget of $6 million, Escape from New York looks pretty grand in certain parts specifically with the physical presentation of the streets of the city looking very deserted (note: location filming took place at the isolated and decayed sections of East St. Louis, IL), the on-location shooting at Liberty Island and the gladiator fight at the St. Louis Union Station’s grand hall. Furthermore, the filmmakers managed to stretch whatever Dollars they had to making the New York prisoners looking undesirable and dangerous.

The visual effects, believe it or not, were the result of the film crew having very talented specialists who made the photo-realistic shots. The matte paintings looked very convincing and so did the wire-frame animation sequence which was done with the use black light and special tape (which are visually visible as lighted wire frames). Not to be outdone is the use of miniatures to emphasize New York City with the flying shots. Definitely no computer-generated images here!

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James Cameron doing a matte painting for the movie.

In terms of storytelling, the film remains engaging to watch and along the way you do get to feel and relate with Snake Plissken who does not really care about the affairs of the President nor the Federal Government. He is one of those individuals who only wants to be left alone although his crime of robbery shows his desperation. Snake by the way reflects the anti-authoritarian views of director John Carpenter who in turn wrote this movie’s script after the Watergate Scandal happened.

On face value, Escape from New York looks like an action film but if you’re expecting mind-blowing stuff, intense explosions and lots of hard action, you will be disappointed. The best way to look at this movie is that its presentation of action is moderate. There is the firing of guns but don’t expect a war. There is some hard action here and there, but don’t expect extensive choreographed hand-to-hand fight sequences. What defines the action big time, however, is Snake’s “gladiatorial” battle with the big guy who overdid himself and gave Kurt Russell a truly hard time on shooting the action scenes. Snake’s struggle in the ring was truly Russell’s hard struggle. He was not acting at all during those action scenes.

Ironically, the lack of action and explosions did result the incidental acts of the many extras hired to play New York’s prisoners which really made the film’s concept of a metropolitan prison convincing. Snake’s escape from a run-down building being chased by many bad guys was fun to watch. The scene in which the good guys rode a vehicle only to be hit by debris thrown by many bad guys was intense.

With regards to performance, Kurt Russell’s Snake is truly iconic. He captures the character’s tough guy mentality and the good and honorable guy deep in the character’s heart. Donald Pleasence as the US President was pretty engaging even though he did not have the same amount of screen time as Russell. Pleasence is a very skilled actor and his handling of showing the US President as a scared and desperate person in captivity and as a cold-hearted man with power in safety is very memorable.

The other players like Lee Van Cleef (the hard authority figure), Ernest Borgnine (clearly the comic relief), Isaac Hayes (The Duke), Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins all had nice performances and they contributed well into the film’s quality.

With regards to weak spots, I could only wish the opening explanation (that crime accelerated by 400%) was accompanied with staged or archived footage of city crime to emphasize society’s downfall and make the film’s concept of turning New York into a prison more convincing. Also there was the missed opportunity by the filmmakers to use archived news footage of New York City’s history of high crime and police corruption. Lastly the final conflict between Snake and the Duke lacked impact and was underwhelming.

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Snake, his companions and the US President (rightmost).

Overall Escape from New York is not only one of John Carpenter’s best films…it is truly a Hollywood action-adventure classic with a very intriguing concept (New York City as a prison) that deserves your attention. Unlike Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Escape from New York is timeless and remains fun and relevant to watch. Just don’t expect to see bombastic action and stunts.

If you intend to watch the movie, I suggest buying the movie’s collector’s edition Blu-ray disc release while it is still available. Good luck finding a copy of it.


Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your project or business, check out my services.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version

 

 

I’m not too interested with Crackdown 3

So Crackdown 3 will finally be released on Xbox One on February 15. That Xbox-exclusive has been delayed way too long due to a very troubled production.

The game at this stage is looking better than ever and it even has popular movie star Terry Crews in it and his character can be played by gamers.

Still, as an Xbox One owner and long-time Xbox fan, I am not too interested in Crackdown 3 at all.

For one thing, I played Crackdown on Xbox 360 twelve years ago. I endured the game’s single-player campaign, explored a lot and played until I finished it.

But ultimately the whole experience was a disappointment for me.

Sure that old game had lots of action and thrills but the narrative is very shallow and there are no characters to follow other than your agent. There really was no story.

By comparison the open-world game Saints Row had a lot more depth, a serviceable story, had more varied gameplay and had memorable characters to follow. Crackdown was simply a very hollow game.

Years later I skipped out on Crackdown 2 which was released to a weaker reception.

I am not judging Crackdown 3 based on game previews alone but what I am saying is that very delayed game does not look like it can deliver the great stuff to justify the years-long wait.

I hope I am wrong about Crackdown 3. What I love to enjoy about open-world games are varied gameplay, deep exploration, characters worth following and a good story to endure that goes well with the gameplay.

Soon enough we will find out if Crackdown 3 will live up to expectations and spare Microsoft from potential embarrassment as they prepare for the next-generation Xbox.