A Look Back At Logan

What a journey it has been! When I first saw then newcomer Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie back in 2000, I was not that impressed. In X2: X-Men United, Jackman outdid himself and established Wolverine as a very defining action hero for 21st century Hollywood cinema that moviegoers can keep coming back for more.

Then Jackman played Wolverine (referred to as Logan) several more times in the X-Men movies plus the standalone Wolverine movies. His most defining performance as the cinematic icon happened in 2017 with the release of Logan directed by James Mangold.

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Hugh Jackman delivered his best superhero movie performance in Logan.

Set in what is the near future, Logan takes place in a time (note: the X-Men cinematic universe timeline was revised as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past) when mutants are dying off as a human species. Wolverine/Logan works as a limousine driver and lives at a smelting plant in Mexico with Cabal and a very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who has dementia and has been unstable with his telepathic powers which make him a danger.

The future is bleak for them. Logan is very old and his healing factor has weakened a whole lot and the adamantium coating of his skeleton has poisoned him. Xavier meanwhile needs be provided with medication to prevent him from having a seizure which, combined with his telepathic powers, affects all others around them negatively. It has also been confirmed that an incident was caused by Xavier’s seizure which killed off several X-Men members leaving them three. Logan has to work and earn as much money as he could to keep providing the medication.

One day, a lady approaches Logan to try to hire him to drive her and a young girl named Laura (X-23 in the comics, played by Dafne Keene) to a refuge in North Dakota to escape from danger. Logan accepts reluctantly but discovers that the lady got killed. He returned to the smelting plant and learned that Laura stowed away by discreetly riding his limo. Eventually mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (who met Logan early in the film) arrive at the smelting plant. From this point, Logan realizes why the lady and Laura are targets and then mayhem begins when the little girl fights the mercenaries.

When it comes to storytelling, Logan emphasizes the violent and bitter journey of Wolverine who, at a very late stage in his life, has to accept the reality that he has to make another hard adjustment as a key element from his past comes into his life which is Laura who is actually a clone of him produced from an extracted sample of his DNA. The movie has some parallels with the 1950s cowboy movie Shane (which has some scenes in the film) which added depth to the story.

Logan also emphasizes the element of aging which has not been fully explored in the superhero movie genre until now. Wolverine lived lonely, had no people to love and his personal journey has been marked with violence and death. He could only move forward with whatever opportunities he could find but no matter what he does, happiness will always be unreachable to him. For Charles Xavier, age really tore him down and being almost 100-years-old in the story, he really has nowhere else to go to but death. Not even his legacy of brilliance and teaching mutants to use their powers for good could make any profound changes.

The long journey of Logan, Xavier and Laura in the film is where the character developments really set in. Along the way, there is a scene in which Logan, holding X-Men comic books (made specifically for the story), expressed his displeasure about how people perceive the X-Men and that the pharmaceutical company fed their young cloned mutants with fantasy and lies. Also striking to me as a viewer and a geek were the scenes showing how unethical the company has been with developing the young mutants (X-23’s pals) who decide to fight to escape.

In terms of presentation, Logan was rated R and for good reasons. It was rated R not simply because of very brutal violence and swearing but because its concepts are clearly meant for adults to see. If you combine the concepts of unethical science experiments, mercenary brutality, human rights violations and unchecked destruction, clearly Logan is NOT the superhero movie made for parents and their little kids to watch together. When it comes to action and spectacle, this movie has more than enough stuff to keep viewers entertaining while at the same time it has this particular 1980s R-rated Hollywood action film feel to it.

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Dafne Keene as X-23/Laura. Her great act will be remembered for a very long time.

Performances of the actors were top-notch, specifically Jackman, Stewart and Dafne Keene. Hugh Jackman as a superhero cinematic artist truly evolved! If you disregard the timeline alteration of the X-Men films, you will realize how Jackman’s Wolverine gradually changed in terms of style and expression. In 2000’s X-Men, Wolverine was trying to figure out his place among the mutants as Charles Xavier helped him. In X2, he decided to be with the X-Men and help them out in their situation. In X-Men: The Last Stand, he has to deal with helping the X-Men tackle Magneto who has Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey (the lady Logan has feelings for). In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he struggles morally and dealt with his relationship with his “brother” Sabretooth. In The Wolverine, he moves away from the X-Men and got himself involved with a conflict (plus an old friend) in Japan. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine of the dark future goes back through time to his younger self with the pressure to alter history.

Patrick Stewart’s dying Xavier in Logan shows a new dimension to the cinematic art of the actor. He really makes Xavier look hopeless and yet he successfully made viewers more sympathetic to his character than ever before. Last but not least, Dafne Keene as Laura/X-23 proved how talented she really is when it comes to dramatic scenes. Even though she got yelled at by Hugh Jackman, Keene still moved on with her strong performance. Definitely her performance is something to be remembered for a very long time in cinema.

Conclusion

I have seen a whole lot of superhero movies in my life. Just over a week ago I managed to watch Avengers: Endgame and it was a true epic like Infinity War. Even by today’s standards, Logan is a standout superhero movie that delivers spectacle, action, solid performances, some humor and the distinct vibe of 1980s R-rated Hollywood action cinema combined. In fact, I should say that Logan is a modern day classic among all superhero movies.

As such, Logan is highly recommended and I urge you readers to watch it on Blu-ray disc format to get the best visual and R-rated viewing experience.


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

 

 

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My Observations: X-Men: Dark Phoenix Final Movie Trailer

20th Century Fox just released what is supposed to be the final movie trailer promoting Dark Phoenix (or X-Men: Dark Phoenix in other countries) to the best they could leading to the June 2019 global opening in cinemas.

Watch the trailer here now.

To describe quickly, it is a rehash about how the story will turn out. Somewhat based on the classic comic book storyline by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the trailer shows the X-Men going to space and then something cosmic happens that affects Jean Grey.

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For the first time in cinema, the X-Men go to outer space.

Of course there are clips again of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) approached by a mysterious lady (Jessica Chastain) which clearly connects to further footage showing the former with cosmic powers as Dark Phoenix.

If there is anything new shown, it is the short but very sweet moment of Professor X/Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) communicating with people using Cerebro. That is a very common aspect from the X-Men comic books that remains heavily underutilized in the movies!

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James McAvoy as Charles Xavier using Cerebro for communication.

There is also added footage of Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) showing great concern for Jean Grey which resonates with me as I read the comic books. It looks like Tye Sheridan has the talent, and perhaps enough good material from the script, to bring Cyclops to life on the big screen.

The way 20th Century Fox marketed this movie gave moviegoers and fans what seems to be the core elements of the story. I am just hoping that behind the scenes, the filmmakers have prepared a big surprise or some sort of major twist kept secret from the marketing. I also hope that Simon Kinberg outdid himself as a first-time director with this movie given the fact that most directorial debuts end up as cinematic disappointments.

Dark Phoenix will open in cinemas worldwide this June. We will find out soon enough if there are enough fans and moviegoers who will care about it more than a month after the anticipated giant opening of Avengers: Endgame.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Look Back At Halloween (1978)

A lot of people call the 1978 low-budget horror film Halloween from director John Carpenter an all-time classic that is also one of the scariest movies ever made. As a commercial product, it made around $70 million in ticket sales worldwide on a production budget of less than $400,000. When it was first released, it received a mixed reception from movie critics but two notable critics – Roger Ebert and Tom Allen – praised it and arguably propelled the film. Halloween also sparked a wave of slasher horror films that got produced most notably the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films. The slasher horror sub-genre also became a business-friendly model for movie studios that wanted to profit without spending too much on production costs.

Apart from the continued praise and accolades it received, Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry (NFR) by the Library of Congress which found it to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The film was selected by Empire Magazine as an entry in its “The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time” feature.

I learned about all those winning achievements before even getting to watch John Carpenter’s Halloween for the first time ever many years ago.

How was my 90 minutes of watching it the first time? Halloween did not do well for me and it’s not as great as I thought it was.

Let’s start with the plot. On the evening of October 31, 1963, a 6-year-old Michael Myers (wearing a clown costume) killed his teenage sister and was discovered by their parents outside their home (in Haddonfield, Illinois) still holding the knife. Fifteen years later, Michael was to be escorted from a sanitarium to a court by Dr. Sam Loomis and Marion Chambers but he took advantage of a situation to steal the car (of Loomis) and drive all the way to Haddonfield. Along the way he killed a mechanic (to wear a boiler suit) and stole key items (knives, rope and the distinctive mask) from a store.

Shortly enough Myers stalks Laurie Strode while Dr. Loomis reaches Haddonfield anticipating great danger from the Myers. Wanna know what happens? Watch the movie if you can.

Strong points

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Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter on the set of Halloween.

Halloween is not a mere low-budget horror movie that got very successful commercially. Rather it is a labor of love and collaboration. Many times during the filming, the cast members participated in the arrangement of the equipment and along the way they bonded closely with John Carpenter, Debra Hill and the other film crew members. In some ways, the bonding added to the serviceable quality of the actors’ performances on-screen as well as the clever techniques used by the filmmakers. Donald Pleasance is the true start of the film and clearly did his best on making Dr. Loomis a very believable concerned professional that viewers can relate with. Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode is memorable and will always be remembered as the archetype “final girl” of the horror genre.

Carpenter did not only write and direct the film but also provided the music which alone added to the scare factor and overall mood of the film. Definitely without the music, the movie would have been ineffective in scaring viewers. Even until now, having a movie director who is also talented and capable of providing the music is rare.

Considering the low budget, the filmmakers did a good job making the movie visually creepy. The way they had Michael Myers mix in with the shadows in the dark interiors of the houses remains great to watch. Also who could forget Michael’s emerging from the darkness in the background as Laurie Strode (in the brighter foreground) remained unaware of his presence late in the film? That sequence is true horror classic.

The cinematography by Dean Cundley is excellent to the eyes. The film looks bigger than its budget shows and there were lots of shots showing a wide, open “world” within.

As for the horror icon Michael Myers, having him as a mysterious figure was the right move pulled of here. He stalks people and takes his time killing the victims which easily freaked out moviegoers back in 1978. His mask with a very expressionless face further added to his creepy look. Back to his being mysterious, Michael Myers is truly effective as a violent horror figure as moviegoers are left up to imagine on their own why is he such a killer, why is he so cold, what could have made him like that, etc.

Weak spots

While the movie had its strong points, they are not enough to keep Halloween the acclaimed, all-time, very scary movie many claimed to be. In my honest view, I don’t find Halloween scary at all even with the combined visuals, action and music.

As it preceded the 1980s wave of slasher horror movies, John Carpenter’s movie lacked the violence and the goriness of those other films which ultimately made it look tame by comparison. It is no wonder why when the filmmakers produced Halloween II (1981), moves were made to make that sequel more violent and gory to keep up with the competition. That being said, Halloween just can’t keep up with those other slasher horror films when it comes to scare factor and violence. Really, Halloween is ultimately not scary to me.

While Michael Myers is iconic as a horror figure, he really is not that intimidating as a villain in the movie. Sure he stands from outside the place staring at Laurie Strode like an obsessed stalker but I personally don’t find that effective. In fact, I just end up saying, “Oh, he’s just posing to catch Laurie’s attention and then vanishes without a trace…like an attention grabber with some cowardice within.”

On the way things happened in the story, unrealistic or unbelievable scenarios made me lose focus on the narrative. Let’s be honest with ourselves as we try to relate to what happened and who took part in the story. Who would walk into another house alone in the dark (read: not bothering to turn the lights on) alone? Who would go to the yard alone in the dark to check on the noise or disturbance felt? The lack of lighting sure adds to the creepy factor but ultimately these are cheap tactics by filmmakers to build up suspense and jump scares.

And then there was that scene in which Dr. Loomis spent too much time standing at one particular spot only to realize that his stolen car was just parked nearby. Was he absent-minded all the time to even notice his car?

Another weakness in the film is its slow pacing which made me feel sleepy at times. The film’s dialogue lacked punch and there was a lack of interesting developments before the killings set in. As for the serviceable acting, there were a few actors playing the victims of Michael Myers who registered sub-par reactions which detracted from the targeted scare and shock values of the killings. Perhaps a few more takes and compelling the actors to perform better would have helped.

Conclusion

I know I will be bashed here by the fans of Halloween and John Carpenter but I must say that 1978’s Halloween is simply not a great film, not scary at all and it did not age well. I question not only the acclaim it received but also its status as a preserved film in the National Film Registry. Had I not seen all the other slasher horror films and limited myself to Halloween, then this John Carpenter movie would have been more engaging and scarier. Sadly that’s not the case with reality right now and I can clearly say that Halloween is over-rated. Sorry John Carpenter.


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.


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

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 deserve our appreciation and gratitude.


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.

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

 

 

A Look Back at Starman

When it comes to science fiction movies of Hollywood, the 1980s was quite an interesting decade. Released during the decade were these epic sci-fi flicks like The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Dune. Not to be outdone were the low-budget sci-fi movies that made an impact on pop culture like The Terminator and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

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Within the big mix of these kinds of films during the 1980s was Starman which was overlooked.

Released in 1984 to positive reviews (and later an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Jeff Bridges), Starman was directed by John Carpenter who established himself nicely in Hollywood with 1978’s Halloween. Between Halloween and Starman, Carpenter also directed genre classics Escape from New York and The Thing.

Starman follows an alien creature whose ship (a UFO) was shot down by fighter jets that acted in defense. The alien finds its way into the house of Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) who is grieving over the sudden death of her husband Scott (Jeff Bridges) watching a personal video of their past and drinking lots of liquor. Inside the house was an album which contained a lock of hair which the alien used to create a clone of Scott instantly from infant to full adult which is the titular Starman (also played by Bridges).

This of course shocks Jenny. She sees her husband return yet it’s not really him. Starman – the alien – clearly is not used to occupying a human body but does his best to communicate with her in English. He also carries with him seven silver spheres that allow him to do special things (specifically manipulating matter) that would appear as miracles to others. Starman wants Jenny to bring him to the Barringer Crater in Arizona within three days in order to be picked up by his fellow aliens. Otherwise he would die.

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Although frightened and hostile towards him, Jenny still was considerate enough to drive him far away.

If there is anything significant about this movie, it is the sheer depth of character development of both Jenny and Starman. Equally significant is the chemistry between Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges who made their characters believable.

Jeff Bridges is excellent in his portrayal of Starman. He’s clearly an alien who is not only struggling on being in a human body but also struggles to learn about the many ways of life and expression around him on his time on Earth. This includes learning gestures, saying words and doing things that people already find normal to do.

Karen Allen delivered a fine performance as Jenny Hayden. In fact when it comes to character development, I see Jenny a more significant character than her counterpart from outer space. While Starman adapts to life on Earth, Jenny’s character is gradually and convincingly transformed from one who is stuck with the past and being bitter into a person who gets renewed by understanding that life does have more to offer, that hope exists, that miracles do happen and finding new love and inspiration to live on.

As a Born Again Christian who went through personal transformation, who gained renewed faith in the Lord, and who left the old life behind to live on with a new purpose in life, I strongly relate with Jenny’s character development a lot. The concept of renewal and personal transformation portrayed by Karen Allen is much clearer to me than ever. Not to be outdone is the element of the healing of the soul of Jenny as a result of learning and understanding Starman.

The movie also has a solid supporting character in scientist Mark Shermin nicely played by Charles Martin Smith. Shermin is the typical sympathetic and willing-to-understand scientist who strives to discover first-hand an actual living alien which puts him into conflict the National Security Agency’s plan to capture Starman dead or alive. His talk with Starman reminds us viewers that humanity is always flawed and has many times resorted to violence as a means of accomplishment whenever a challenging situation (read: the visit of Starman to Earth by space ship only to be shot down due to fear of being invaded) happens.

With regards to storytelling, Starman is a nice mix of genre elements that goes beyond science fiction. It is also a road movie and a romance. At the same time director John Carpenter told the story with a controlled pace that gives viewers ample time to understand what’s been going on and a decent amount of spectacles that highlight Starman’s miracles.

Speaking of which, the film has elements of Christianity and the miracles of Starman are just the start of it. I could emphasize further here what the other elements are but that would mean spoiling the story and that is something I won’t do. You just will have to watch the movie to realize it.

Is Starman a wonderful movie? Absolutely! Is it one of the best works of John Carpenter? Truly it is and it deserves any moviegoer’s attention. How does it compare with other friendly alien movies like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Compared to those two flicks, Starman has the best and most mature character development of its protagonists. Its dramatic performances are also better.

Starman is a true sci-fi classic that deserves your attention even if you are not fond of sci-fi or UFO movies. I highly recommend buying this movie on Blu-ray disc or by streaming it.

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Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to your fellow John Carpenter fans and sci-fi movie fans. 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.