Past Features

Turning Off The TV #22: X-Men

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: X-Men.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The X-Men film series is set in an alternate universe, where some people are born with superpowers. These people are known as ‘mutants’, and are often misunderstood and frequently mistrusted by ‘normal’ humans. The films follow the students and teachers of Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters, founded by Charles Xavier aka Professor X, as well as Professor X’s former friend and now adversary, Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto.

This doesn’t cover one particular film, but the series as a whole. And no, of course I didn’t pick the First Class poster just so I could have a certain Irish-German gentleman on my blog… I’m doing something a little different this time, and recommending my favourite X-Men comics, rather than novels people might enjoy if they liked X-Men. It just feels a bit silly when there are hundreds and hundreds of different storylines and arcs involving our favourite mutants. I just want to emphasise that all Marvel comics I have read have been out of order, and I’ve never had any issues following storylines. So if that’s a worry to you when starting any of these, it shouldn’t be!

Ultimate X-Men: Volume 1 by Mark Millar Geoff Johns

Ultimate X-Men, Volume 1

The Ultimate X-Men series is a modernised re-imagining of the X-Men, and Ultimate X-Men: Volume 1 by Mark Millar collects the first year of these comics. The team consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Iceman, with Storm and Colossus as new additions from the original 1960s line-up. There have been several artists and story writers working on the ‘Ultimate X-Men’ series, which ran for eight years, from 2001-2009. I can only comment on this particular volume but I’d definitely recommend it as a good place to start, especially if you want some more modern-looking art.

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker & Mike Choi

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand

The Uncanny X-Men storyline is the longest running arc of the X-Men series (since 1963), and Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker and Mike Choi is one of my favourites of the series so far. It features Cyclops and Emma Frost as the leaders of the Xavier Institute. They’re called to San Francisco by Archangel, who has discovered something very strange – part of the city seems to be stuck in the 1960s! I really loved all the 60s fashion and colours of this one, and it was a pretty fun storyline. There is also a small arc with Nightcrawler (*BAMF!*), Wolverine and Colossus travelling through Russia.

X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost & Diogenes Neves

X-Men: Worlds Apart

X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost and Diogenes Neves is different from the other X-Men books I’ve read, in that it follows Storm, and Storm only. It’s always fun when characters that don’t normally get their own spin-off books get them, because it allows the reader to learn much more about their personality, origin story etc. Wolverine gets plenty of his own stories and I’m getting a bit bored of him to be honest… I’m not so big on the art style in this one, but I liked the story. Storm is Queen of Wakanda and married to the Black Panther, and sets out to investigate a mysterious murder. It was great to finally meet the Black Panther, who I’d only ever heard about!

Are you a fan of X-Men? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Favourite Sci-Fi Films

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I touched briefly on my favourite sci-fi films in my introduction post, but I’d like to go into a little more detail this time. To start with, I have to admit that apart from the occasional film, most of my science fiction film viewing has been of more recent releases. I’m more than happy to take recommendations of any classics I may have missed. You’re more than welcome to join in and I’ve added an InLinkz widget at the bottom of the post, where you can share your own favourites! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
And now, in no particular order, my top ten sci-fi films, plus some honourable mentions – because I’m rubbish at deciding…

“The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors, they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them.”

1. Alien – I would be completely amazed if any of you have never heard of this one! It’s a science fiction classic and inspired the ‘survival film’ genre. The entire film is set on the Nostromo, making the viewer feel very claustrophobic at times – especially when the alien is loose on the ship. With a whole bevy of shocks, including the infamous chest-burster scene, this is one film never to be forgotten.

“A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”

2. Prometheus – the divisive prequel to the Alien movies, released last year, I absolutely loved this one despite its cheesiness and rather stupid characters (RUN TO THE SIDE YOU SILLY WOMAN!). The presentation of the film is brilliant – dark and mysterious, with flashes of blue and silver finishing up the colour scheme, and the original score by Marc Streitenfeld is perfect. Not to mention that Michael Fassbender does a fantastic job as David. I read in this month’s Empire magazine that there will be a Prometheus 2, so I’m pretty pumped for that!

“A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.”

3. Avatar – if you haven’t heard of James Cameron’s Avatar, then you must have been living under a rock for the past couple of years. When it was released there was a lot of fuss over it, as it was shot through motion capture for the majority, came out in 3D (first 3D film I saw in the cinema) and used many new cinematic advances. When I first saw it I completely fell in love with Pandora – anyone want to move there with me? Whilst the story is a bit hit and miss in places, I don’t care because whilst watching it I just sit there soaking in the beautiful sights and sounds (thank you Mr. James Horner for the soundtrack).

“As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.”

4. War of the Worlds – yes, I actually like the 2005 adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic! I love the book, and think this puts quite a nice modern spin on it, transporting the action from London to the US (I forget where it starts but I know it ends in Boston). The utter helplessness of the human race against the tripods is both terrifying and fascinating, and the sounds that the tripods make in this film could haunt my nightmares!

“In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.”

5. Looper – two words: time travel. The explanation for time travel in this film is passed over, to make way for the consequences of altering the past, and how even small decisions can change the path you take, and somehow the explanation doesn’t really seem necessary. I thought this film was really clever, and it’s not particularly a ‘big scale’ science fiction film – as in the only futuristic technology we really see is the aspect of time travel, although telekinesis does come into it. It’s very gritty and delves more into character development than you might expect.

“A team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years into the future.”

6. Sunshine – a highly underrated film that I absolutely love. Maybe there’s something wrong with me that I enjoy all these ‘survival’ type films so much: anywhere where small groups of people trapped in an enclosed are threatened by some sort of alien/mysterious force. There’s also a Doctor Who episode that really reminds me of this film – 42. So if you enjoyed that episode, give this wonderful film a shot!

“During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.”

7. Jurassic Park – I’m trying to work out when I first saw this film: it was released when I was three, and I think I must have been six or seven when I saw it. And ever since then, it has remained one of my favourites (one of my big ‘childhood three’ which also includes Jumanji and Mrs Doubtfire). I was one of those kids who loved dinosaurs and I collected gemstones and fossils, I even wanted to be a paleontologist for a while. I think this is what  lead me onto a love for history, and eventually archaeology, even though archaeology and paleontology are very different fields – don’t ever ask an archaeologist what dinosaurs we’ve dug up recently. Ever. There have been three films in the series so far, and they’re currently working on number four, for release in 2015. And if you haven’t read the book by Michael Crichton – do it.

“A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a utopian facility.”

8. The Island – okay, so it wasn’t received to great critical acclaim, and it’s a Michael Bay movie which means that anything that can explode explodes. And anything that can’t. Actually everything explodes. But still, I really enjoy this film and think it’s good fun, especially with Sean Bean playing the villain (of course). I first saw it in year 10 biology class, where we were studying cloning! It may not be a masterpiece but I have a soft spot for this film.

“In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III.”

9. X-Men: First Class – firstly, I am sorry for covering your lovely face, Mr McAvoy. This is my favourite of the X-Men films, and as I discussed yesterday I’m really excited for the sequel next year. This one focuses a lot on the relationship between Erik and Charles, so ends up being a lot more centered on character development than the previous films. It also has a pretty great 1960s themed soundtrack, and plays cleverly on real events.

 
“Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.”
 
10. The Hunger Games – I sped my way through all three books in this series, was so excited for the film when it came out and was not disappointed. The source material is quite violent, and I think they did really well at portraying that without making it an 18/R-rated film. I’m excited for the second film, Catching Fire, which looks to be even darker and greatly build upon the world of Panem.
 
What do you mean I haven’t included Star Wars?? Well, I wanted to but I think I will nominate that as my favourite science fiction film series. I love them all, minus Attack of the Clones which was just boring. Yes, even The Phantom Menace – that was the first one I saw in the cinema and it brings back warm, fuzzy memories. I remember my dad borrowing the original films on VHS from one of our neighbours, then sitting me and my sisters down to watch them all when I was about seven or eight years old. 
 
Honourable mentions also go to TRON: Legacy – although I think it’s a visually stunning film with a brilliant soundtrack it does tend to drag a bit, and Blade Runner – great film, but I actually preferred the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
 

What are your favourite science fiction films? Do you have any recommendations for me?