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It’s Only a Movie – a Column By Jordan Royce

PrintE-mail Written by Jordan Royce Tuesday, 14 June 2011

It's Only A Movie - by Jordan Royce


It has been a long month in movies and Starburst. Since we last spoke I have seen the Starburst rebirth, the beginning of the summer blockbusters, the Starburst Launch Party, and the X-MEN rebirth. A lot of potential. I was aware that last month's column was slightly negative and was hoping for some material to prove myself as a born again optimist. A champion of outstanding cinema. Yeah, that was the plan...



Our Heroes...

First up to bat was the much anticipated Attack The Block from Joe Cornish. Much anticipated is no overreaction when it came to this movie. I cannot do it justice. EVERYONE who knew I was vaguely connected with this mag wanted to know all about it. Apparently, the memories of the Adam and Joe Show guaranteed a stunning piece of celluloid? What did I actually think of the movie? I thought it was one hell of a disappointment, generously maybe giving it 7 out of 10, mainly due to the cool alien design (was I the only one who got the fact that they had been based upon the shaggy looking Space Invader on the original 1977 Taito cabinet artwork?). I really took to these buggers for some strange reason, which clearly eluded those around me. It was a straight-forward, ‘aliens invade earth’ story, but this time they chose a rundown East London Housing Estate. Other than it being a bit flat and lifeless as a whole, the script and acting was adequate. Even the (almost cameo) appearance from Nick Frost that screamed ‘jobs for the boys’, didn’t offend too badly. That was the problem for me. It was just bland. I really was absolutely neutral towards it, which is rare for me. I was watching it with our very own News Editor Kris Heys, and was relieved that we had managed to reach the end of the film without anyone illuminating a smartphone, and causing Kris to do a ‘Bill Bixby’. Then I noticed that he was less than impressed. “Was I actually supposed to care about those characters?” he asked. Then it dawned on me what a big deal would be made of THE scene, in which the female lead Sam (a low-key performance by Jodie Whittaker), was brutally mugged at knife point by the youths who we were expected to embrace as unlikely comedic heroes a mere fifteen minutes later. I had been quite surprised at the scene, and I did think the inclusion of the knife was the point of no return with regards to the audience sympathy vote. I had just assumed that the movie would underperform, but when I saw the reaction from Kris, I knew they had a problem.



The moment when we find out what our heroes are really made of...

A few nights later on the Starburst Radio Show the inevitable review triggered a similar response on a much more widespread scale. Emails flooded in with pretty much the same tone. Whereas, the intent was realism, and depth. The creation of modern, believable heroes. The general message was that the audience were firmly on the side of my shaggy Taito bad-boys. Unfortunately I made a massive faux pas by suggesting that females would be more offended by the scene (only meaning that it would resonate more, as the victim on screen was also female). This went down predictably brilliantly, as I struggled for the next ten minutes to dig myself out of this mess, and explain that my immediate ancestry was not Homo erectus. Thanks Mr Cornish, for disrupting my weekend with your social experiment. The results of which have resulted in a poor box office, and a handful of glowing reviews from publications carrying massive adverts for this very movie.



Hooray - They're back!!

Things were to get much worse. It was a week later, and I had caught the late showing of Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It was the beginning of the summer blockbusters. A Friday night in Manchester, and I really needed a drink as a consolation. I had been ‘Skylined’ again. I am not a massive fan of the Pirates franchise, but I really liked Curse Of the Black Pearl. I found it refreshing, and appreciated the fact that it had resurrected a totally dead genre, single-handedly - since the days of Fairbanks and The Black Pirate in 1926, the movie pirates had fallen far, they were box office poison. The few attempts in recent years to resurrect the genre had been disastrous. The Geena Davis vehicle Cutthroat Island in ’95 even brought down the mighty Carolco Pictures (you know, the guys that made T2 and Rambo). So when Johnny Depp & Co delivered the goods, it was a big deal. It was a shame about the following two sequels. Dead Man’s Chest was great to look at, but felt like an overlong teaser to an epic finale. Which leads us to the end game, At World’s End (?). It sure felt like it. This supposed finale was just too long, tedious, and a real chore to sit through. By this stage the geniuses had concluded that the interesting ensemble would be mere diversions to the ‘Captain Jack Sparrow Show’. Seriously, this felt longer than any movie I had ever sat through. It was like being in a Time Loop. When the saga had come to an end I did not require any further time with the good Captain. Our Journey was over. Then four years later that bloody trailer arrived…

You know. THAT trailer. The one that promised the return of the old Pirates Of The Caribbean vibe. Stripped back down to the basics. A good old-fashioned Jack Sparrow romp in the shape of On Stranger Tides. Great, they were listening to me all along, and took my advice. And how mistaken I had been thinking that all that cursing and moaning under my breath could only be heard by myself. No. They had been listening, and I had some Pirates back in my life. Sadly I found out that I had been ‘Skylined’ pretty much early on.

For those of you who are not aware of the phenomenon, to be ‘Skylined’ refers to the trailer for the movie Skyline and the fact that the entirety of the enjoyable moments from the film, were contained in the three minute trailer. To be ‘Skylined’ involves buying into a trailer so unbelievably removed from the reality of the film it advertises, that you experience emotions similar to a partner cheating on you. I have been ‘Skylined’ many times. The first time I was ever ‘Skylined’ it involved Clint Eastwood and his Malpaso Film Company. The trust between me and Clint was strong. Through my childhood he had been there for me, and then he cruelly ‘Skylined’ me with his trailer for the movie Firefox. Instead of the special-effects extravaganza, with Clint stealing, and then flying a futuristic MiG 31 Russian Aircraft. I got two hours of a Cold War spy drama, with fifteen minutes of him flying the plane at the end. I only forgave him when he decided to make it up to me, and came back to play 'Dirty Harry' again, six years later. I feel it only proper to comment that he has never ‘Skylined’ me again, and we have got on very well ever since.



Me and Clint took a while to work through this one

Pirates 4 (sorry, I'm suffering from colonic title fatigue) gets the summer blockbuster season off to a disastrous start. It suffers from a wafer-thin and overly complicated plot. It also commits the multiple sins of being dreary, tedious, and extremely dull. Fatal qualities for a blockbuster, which should always seek to entertain, even at the expense of credibility. I watched this in a packed house, and it was incredible how little the audience engaged with this film. I even had to deal with a strange pair of Frenchmen, who simply wouldn’t shut up. Conducting a conversation in French, as though they had no choice but to speak up, due to the inconsiderate volume levels in the auditorium. I don’t think that watching the movie in ‘French-A-Rama’ helped matters, but I didn’t see anybody laugh or otherwise respond to anything up on screen. It was even worse than the other sequels, in that this didn’t even have an epic feel to it. What is wrong with it? Well, I must admit it will have looked great on paper. Johnny Depp back as Jack Sparrow, Penelope Cruz as his feisty pirate ex, Pirate Lovejoy (what the hell is it with the Ian McShane fixation in this genre?), Geoffrey Rush, and a tortured Priest to replace Orlando Bloom. Yet it just doesn’t work. Depp is really subdued, like the fun guy at a really shite party. Penelope Cruz gets on your nerves from the moment she appears on screen. Geoffrey Rush seems to have taken the part to please his agent, but at least starts to act during the last half hour. Sam Clafin’s Priest is a tortured soul for a little while, before giving the Little Mermaid a good seeing to. It is all quite hideous to watch. There were two cool scenes. I liked the Mermaid attack - a cinema first, reverting back to the tales of the era, with them portrayed as nasty pieces of work, easily capable of taking down an entire ship and its crew - like the centre of Manchester on a Saturday night. I also like the fact that Captain Lovejoy held all of the ships he had vanquished in little bottles. Although this was clearly so that the Black Pearl and its crew could appear, but not be fully shown (due to the obvious cost cutting).



"Darling it's better, Down where it's wetter, Take it from me"
 - Lyrics from The Little Mermaid (1989)

One of the main reasons I needed a tipple to cheer myself up after this movie, was the strange lighting which actually had me suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder throughout the film. Everything in this movie appeared to have either been shot at night, or subjected to a filter which got rid of any sunlight. When the action finally shifted to the jungle scenes, and we finally got some greenery, I actually perked up (and believe me, the film had not improved). Why on earth they chose to shoot it in such a dreary and claustrophobic manner, again must be due to budgetary constraints. It’s a serious misjudgement, and made it feel like ‘Pirates Of the North Atlantic’. This seems to be the overriding problem that permeates every aspect of the movie. Cheapness. There is nothing sadder than watching an underpowered blockbuster. It's like watching a Pilot for the Pirates Of The Caribbean TV Series. This is a shock when you consider that it had a budget similar to the first movie. Although due to the mystique surrounding Mr Depp’s fee, it is hard to know how much of the supposed $240 million went on the actual movie.



Even Captain Lovejoy can't help me see the point of this bag of barnacles

Finally, a small comment on the length. Yet again we are subjected to a two hour twenty minute marathon. Why? What is the obsession with these long run times? With this film it’s astounding, as I would have happily seen a quarter of it on the cutting room floor (hopefully with the ‘Karen Allen Lite’ Ms Cruz in most of it). A 90 minute run time for a film this crap is the least you can ask for in compensation. It’s like attending the dentist, get in, sit down, and leave as quickly as possible - having suffered the minimum amount of pain. To extend the analogy, this experience felt like a re-enactment of Dustin Hoffman’s check-up in The Marathon Man. Surely the month had to get better. At least I had the Starburst Launch Party to look forward to…

Even though this fine magazine returned on the 14th of May, a big bash had been organised for all of the writing team for Thursday 2nd June 2011. Our Honorary Editor-In-Chief, Mr Dez Skinn was attending. If you have ever met the legendary Mr Skinn, then you will know a party atmosphere would be guaranteed. I was looking forward to meeting the other writers. This was to be the moment where the names gained faces. Dez was let down by the trains, and arrived a good four hours later than he intended. So the poor guy had to come straight to the venue. The venue itself was a no-brainer. We were holding it at the Fab Café in Manchester. A venue that I had designed and opened way back in 1998, just as the whole Retro thing exploded with Austin Powers. For anyone who has never been, it is a 14 year old's bedroom with a budget. Daleks, Cybermen, K-9, Retro Gaming, rare movie posters on every wall, and props from TV & Movies all over the place. Couple that with the 60s Enterprise Bridge as the DJ Booth dishing out the retro vibe, and the scene was set to perfection.



The Starburst writers, myself, and Dez Skinn (he is holding Issue number 1, of course)


Left Right - Our reporter Rylan Cavell, Jordan Royce (me), and Dez Skinn
- discussing the future of Starburst

Before Dez arrived I had already got to meet and greet everyone, and they were all exactly as I imagined them to be. A great bunch to be a part of. The writers had not met Dez Skinn before, and there was an air of anticipation about his arrival. This was, after all, the guy who created this magazine, and then went on to be head of Marvel UK. The sheer volume of the man’s output and creativity is quite intimidating. If you are in any doubt then check out his website www.dezskinn.com – it is almost a history of UK Comics. As soon as myself and Dez got back from the train station, I said a few words thanking everyone, and letting them know some great news - we were getting four times the amount of readers that we had projected. I was also hoping that the great man himself might be persuaded to say a few words. In actual fact he quickly dispatched me from the stage and took over with an energetic brief history of early UK comicdom, and how Starburst came to be. Brilliant stuff, and yet another example of the ‘force of nature’ that is Dez Skinn. Dez and I were then interviewed for the radio show. I was quite shocked at his candour regarding ‘other’ publications, and where he felt Starburst had gone wrong over the years. We also managed to fit in a great photo with Dez once again holding our Issue Number One. This and other interviews with the writers can be found on the 5th June 2011 Podcast of the radio show. It’s good stuff, and nothing actually goes wrong on that show. It is borderline professional. At last some fun and good times. Although perhaps the late night drinks with Dez could have been scaled back, and I would not have lost the entirety of Friday!



My last hope for an upbeat Review!

Now we approach the final stage of my plan to finally watch something good at the Cinema. Again, on paper, things were looking good. X-MEN: First Class was directed by Mathew Vaughn who delighted me with Kick-Ass. The cast seemed more than up to the job. The setting of America during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the Sixties seemed inspired, and finally we were about to see the fan favourite, Emma Frost on the big screen (I never even acknowledged the kiddie version in Wolverine).

Now, I have been a monster X fan since John Byrne re-invented the comic book way back in the mid 70s. The X-MEN franchise to me, has been a game of two halves. The first two movies I liked a lot. Especially X-MEN 2. I can still remember how blown away I was by the scene when Nightcrawler did a mid-air teleport rescue, and I actually felt that it was a living breathing scene from a comic. They were great movies on many levels. The cast was very strong, director Bryan Singer did a fantastic job of keeping it tightly focused, and then there was Wolverine. Hugh Jackman may have been physically different from the shorter, stockier, comic version of Logan, but he just fitted the part like a glove. Then Singer went away to direct my least favourite comic book movie ever, the risible Superman Returns, leaving us with the talent deficient Brett Ratner to clumsily end the trilogy with a jigsaw puzzle of a movie – X-MEN: The Last Stand. Followed shortly after by the Gavin Hood directed, X-MEN ORIGINS: Wolverine – a movie so flawed and downright awful that I cannot do it justice in this column. When I heard about the rebooting of the franchise with X-MEN: First Class, my first thought was that at least they had kindly provided us with a title for a negative review, should we need one. Luckily this film is anything but second class.

X-MEN: First Class tells the story of the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), as they take their baby steps towards forming a group of mutants. Initially aided by the CIA, they use Cerebro to track down other mutants and try to get them on board. Thrown into the mix are ‘The Hellfire Club’ led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and Emma Frost (January Drones). They would like to take a different path and would like to rule mankind and stop hiding. A simple but effective setup, which tells a nice new origin story of how the X-MEN were initially formed. It does differ slightly form the other movies, and can only be seen as a reboot, but if that means we get another three films from this stable then sign me up.

Essentially X-MEN: First Class is a sixties James Bond movie with mutants. It is one of the coolest looking films I have seen in a long time. It has everything a Bond fan like myself would need. The atmosphere kicks in immediately, and you get lost in this sixties world of Ken Adams meets Marvel. The script and the writing are superb, and a healthy dose of Jane Goldman is evident throughout. What a great posse Vaughn has around him at the moment. They seem to have this niche all figured out. As for the cameos. I hate awkward cameos. They pull me out of the movie, especially when they are dropped in post-production. This movie has the two best cameos I have ever seen, and no, Stan Lee is not one of them.



James McAvoy uses his talents to ensure a good review

The cast is very strong. The double act of McAvoy and Fassbender is simply faultless. They ooze class with the way they command the screen when they are together. With all of the rumours over Fassbender and his potential to be the next Bond, it is easy to give all of the credit to him. The reality is that the scenes with them together are when the film shines the brightest. You find yourself wanting their friendship to endure, despite the obvious outcome. The rest of the cast do a fine job - Angel, Beast, Darwin, Havoc, Banshee, Mystique, and the mesmerising henchman Azazel all blend in well. Rose Byrne adds some sex appeal as Moira MacTaggert that should not have been lacking, which leads us to the first of only three problems. January Drones…

The running theme this month appears to be that what works on paper can so often fail on screen. That is indeed the case with January Drones. If Wolverine was the fan boy fave of the original 'X-movies' then Emma Frost was destined for that pedestal in this reboot. Wolverine was the stand out character from the Byrne X-Men of the 70s, and boy were we looking forward to seeing him on screen one day. Since Grant Morrison put his stamp on his X-MEN revamp, just after the first movie came out and was a mainstream hit, Emma Frost has been the next item on the fan boy hit list. Morrison reinvented an unimpressive character into the lead of the saga. His Emma Frost was an edgy, cool British bitch, and played the villain turned X-man to perfection. You never could predict whether she would switch allegiances or would stay the course with the good guys. Importantly, she oozed sexuality. January Drones is woefully miscast in the role, and cruelly robbed this movie of a perfect 10 when I reviewed it on the radio show. Her greatest mutant power is to rob you of any erection. I agree Miss Drones from Mad Men in a stylised 60s movie sounds great, yeah. Doesn’t work though does it? There is no excuse for this. This is what screen tests are for. Even after filming is underway you can still bin someone off, if it just isn’t right. Go and ask Eric Stolzt what it feels like. Ah well, at least he has ended up with an intelligent lead role in the stylised TV sequel to Battlestar Galactica. Oh yeah, sorry. Forgot about that. Eric, get in touch. You can come on our radio show.



It's amazing how a great looking dish tastes horrible, when served cold!

Of course maybe binning January Drones was never an option for Mathew Vaughn. There are THOSE rumours after all. She has got one in the oven and refuses to comment on it. REALLY refuses to comment on it. So maybe even when you are royally screwing something up, the main question to ask is “who’s your daddy?”



January Drones enjoys a nice walk in the sun, about four months after 'XMEN: First Class' finishes filming - it looks like a lovely day!

What about the other two problems. Firstly, and amazingly, I had to endure the film with two girls carrying on a conversation, right up to the usage of my main mutant power – a look of violence. They were French – I kid you not. The third and final negative. The song by ‘Take That’ at the end. WTF!

That is me done. Next month it's the turn of Green Lantern and Transformers 3 - hopefully neither will be in French-A-Rama…

Jordan Royce can be contacted at Jordan.royce@starburstmagazine.com and Co-Hosts the Starburst Radio Show with News Editor Kris Heys, every Sunday 9pm until 12am GMT on Manchester Radio Online – www.manchesterradioonline.com






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Comments  

 
+2 #2 Matt Tender 2011-06-20 14:28
January Drones lol. this is even funnier than last month. i even had to kick my dad off the pc as he now waits to read this column every issue. Xmen is my fave movie this year, and thanks to starburst i avoided pirates.
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0 #1 Mr Cheese 2011-06-19 23:09
Whilst I admit "drones" surprisingly hits a bit of a duff note in that ensemble, Clint is rocking the futuristic Russian Blue Oyster look...
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