Episode 20: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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In This Episode:

Chris and Allen recount the plot and pitfalls, of Hugh Jackman’s first solo outing as Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hang on to your seats because timelines are all over the place in this movie, and franchise generally.

Origins is the fourth X-Men film but is a prequel and was intended as the first in a series of X-Men spin-offs. This movie stinks so bad however that even though it took over $300 million at the box office (in the face of a copy leaking online ahead of release) the critical reception and negative fan reaction was strong enough to stop X-Men Origins: Magneto dead in its tracks, and subsequently the spin off series never came to pass.

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The Movie:

Origins is an unfocused, messy film that borders on incoherence. The opening stages of the movie cram 150 years of conflict, and story elements from the six issue comic story arc  Origin, as well as setting up the dynamic between Wolverine and his bloodthirsty half-sibling Victor Creed/Sabretooth into about 10 minutes of screen time. This happens at breakneck speed, which is a shame because the ground covered (very artfully) in the credit sequence is what the movie should really have been about. The effects of war on two warriors struggling to come to terms with their powers and their rivalry as siblings. Instead we overrun the battling bros until they crash headlong into Col. Stryker’s (Danny Huston) Team X mutant commando force. Where the movie becomes a generic, loud superhero mash up and the threat level is reduced because our heroes are almost indestructible.

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Trying to live a new life far from Stryker’s clandestine plan, to create the perfect mutant weapon, his former X Team members are being killed and Wolverine is being drawn back into his old life. It’s inevitable that Wolverine will soon be back in action, beserker attack style, to stop Stryker. But the down side is the filmmakers aren’t 100% sure how to get from here to where we find Wolverine at the beginning of X-Men.

And Deadpool! I mean this movie takes the merc with the mouth, stitched that bit shut creating THE worst take on the character (along with what they did to Gambit) and could have destroyed it for everyone! We should all be thankful that Ryan Reynolds hung in there and we got Deadpool (2016). A movie that hopefully shows that it’s okay to make comic book movies for grown ups and still make bank at the box office. Of course some people think the Origins version of Wade Wilson got more right, so what do we know.

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Snikt! Snikt!:

The X-Men movie universe had begun brightly. Bryan Singer created a solid foundation for the franchise with his brace of mutant filled films, X-Men (2000) and X2 (2006). These films were made only a few short years after the comic book disasters of Batman & Robin, Steel and Spawn (all 1997) almost destroyed the superhero genre. In a time before Raimi’s Spider-Man, Nolan’s Batman or the blockbusting behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe the X movies felt like a return to the Burton era Batman halcyon days.

However Singer jumped from the project early in the pre-production stage of, what would become, X-Men: The Last Stand choosing instead to bring Superman Returns to the screen. Singer was initially replaced by Matthew Vaughn, who would drop out due to “personal and professional” reasons but would later return to direct X-Men: First Class (2011). Vaughn’s exit would see Bret Ratner take over. His bloated, meme referencing,  movie was overstuffed with characters and stands as one of the weakest in the, currently, ten film franchise. With a budget of $210 million dollars, still the most expensive of the series, and drawing from one of the most popular X-Men storylines from the comic, in the “Dark Phoenix Saga” by Chris Clearmont and John Byrne, and being able to capitalize on the two previous films it should have been much more than the emotionless exploding SFX mess we got.

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Keen to continue the franchise Fox began plans to kick off a series of spin off films. Beginning with a solo adventure for the breakout star of the franchise in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, albeit with a slashed budget. Even then you could almost make Deapool three times over for the same money, and we know how well Deadpool came out!

It’s odd to think of anyone other than fan favourite Hugh Jackman flash the claws, but he wasn’t first choice for the role. Fox lucked out with his casting and his muscular, growling performance was a perfect fit, more than deserving of a chance to expand the character. At the second try The Wolverine (2013) was a perfectly serviceable movie, if weirdly disconnected from the rest of the franchise at large, directed by James Mangold who would re-team with Jackman for Logan, which promises to finally give the character a movie he deserves, and a fitting send off.

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Our Remake:

We at Diminishing Returns wanted to prove that budget wasn’t everything. Playing to our strengths of understanding the character, staying true to the source and ensuring a classic look. We are proud to present our adaptation of the same material. Made for a budget of $0 (well the cost of a Burger King Kids Club meal in the 90’s) and produced independently it covers all the important stuff that Origins did.

All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

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Episode 19: With Apologies To Julian Cope.

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In This Episode:

Chris and Allen are back for another bonus episode. Rounding up all the sequel news that’s fit for your listening pleasure. Whether cheering on a prompt Equalizer sequel, losing Affleck from Batman, shocked that Suicide Squad is Oscar nominated or celebrating Lady Gaga we have you covered.

Allen is unhappy with the WWE buying the rights to remake his favourite Norwegian slasher movie, Cold Prey (2006), and is wishing he hadn’t edited his pitch for a Friday the 13th sequel out of our Halloween episode, now that Paramount have dropped plans for the next installment in the franchise they need that pitch now more than ever. Chris, meanwhile, seems to be at another stage in his ongoing breakdown, or emotional evolution, and is claiming to be a millennial. He is taking the blame for the Beauty & the Beast live action version.

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Product Placement:

During the episode we do talk about two amazing Scottish eateries, they don’t give us anything (yet!) but they make real tasty treats. You can visit Tantrum Donuts on Old Dumbarton Road in Glasgow and The Pie Maker on South Bridge in Edinburgh. If you do, tell them the podcast brought you there. Or you could hit them up on Twitter or Facebook

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Trailer Talk:

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Fast & Furious 8:

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had two movie trailers air during the Super Bowl. Baywatch and, our first trailer selection, Fast & Furious 8 (possibly also known as The Fate of the Furious). Wouldn’t it be brilliant if this was a prequel to Mad Max Fury Road and is actually Charlize Theron’s Furiosa back story. Instead it looks like more loud, exploding bombast from your favourite band of car thieves, who double as super spies.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:

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Vin Diesel looks like he’s lost his gig on the Guardians sequel as Groot is now the super cute Baby Groot.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the sequel to one of the top five Marvel movies is going to be a giant hit. Both Chris and Allen are big fans of director James Gunn and are confident this will be amazing!

Spider-man Homecoming:

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Now that Marvel and Fox have sorted a deal we are about to see Spidey make his, full length, MCU debut. The casting of Tom Holland has, possibly, the best onscreen Peter Parker/Webhead yet with an almost teenager playing a high school kid.

The Marvel movie machine seems to know how to pump out blockbusters with ease these days. Hopefully this is another one, as we don’t want a disappointed Chris on our hands.

It can’t go far wrong, can it?

Beauty & the Beast:

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This is just an utterly redundant exercise. Disney, buoyed by the success of live action versions of Cinderella and The Jungle Book, are looking to make bank with more properties they already own the rights to.

We’re all glad Kevin Kline is working but there is no need for this. It looks like a shot for shot remake. While there are moments of dialogue that hint that the House of Mouse have updated things, it’s pretty clear this is far from revisionist fairy tale and more like a bleak tale of an imprisoned young woman suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 Fifty Shades style Super Bowl spot.

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Episode 18: Miss Congeniality 2 Armed & Fabulous.

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In This Episode:

Ugly Ducklings, Allen and Chris, get deep into the the pageantry of the Miss Congeniality movies. Taking on the topics of tacked-on romantic subplots, gay caricatures, female led franchises, Sandra Bullock’s resume and why film makers never seem to capitalize on the heavy lifting of the first film.

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The Movies:

Miss Congeniality (2000) is a pretty fun, though predictable, makeover comedy. Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Heart, a tomboyish but competent FBI agent currently on desk duty, due to disobeying orders during an operation.

When the Miss United States pageant looks like it could be the next target for a mad bomber the FBI steps in. The Feds, however, are woefully short on female personnel and Gracie has to go undercover as a contestant. Along the way the slobby agent is beautified and softened but discovers, shockingly, that she can still do her job and look good doing it.

The movie actually prizes unity among the pageant contestants over bitchy back stabbing and has a, very slight, hint of feminism to proceedings which is refreshing. Bullock’s performance is wonderful, filled with subtle character ticks and a nice helping of physical slapstick.

Returning to the role in 2006, for Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous,  and Agent Heart’s professional, and personal, life is falling apart as she struggles to come to terms with her fame in the wake of the Miss United States case. After a botched operation Gracie is teamed up with Regina King’s antagonistic Agent, Sam Fuller, as Heart is given a new role as the face of the FBI. However the odd couple pairing clash on the PR tour for Agents Heart’s book about her pageant experiences. So when the current Miss United States, and Heart’s friend, Cheryl Burns (Heather Fraser) and pageant boss Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped the squabbling Feds have to work together in order to save them.

In the sequel all of the hard work to show that Heart can easily maintain her wardrobe, manners, career and love life, comfortably and still be the equal of the male agents in her unit has gone. Instead Gracie loses herself in the persona of success and clashes frequently with Fuller because, well the writers needed that to happen. I mean two capable women surely can’t just get along, can they.

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Of all of the possible avenues that could have been explored with the beauty queen cop concept the makers just restored to hackneyed, stereotypes to raise laughs. Well they try to at least. The grotesquely over (c)amped performance of Diedrich Bader, as Heart’s stylist Joel, and the gaudy backdrop of Las Vegas are two other aspects of the film that fail to have their real strengths put to good use.

All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

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Episode 17: Everybody Loves Boobs!

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In This Episode:

It’s another bonus episode in which Chris and Allen give a round up of sequel news and some upcoming trailers. Hear Chris and Allen run, in slo-mo, at diverse topics like why is J.J. Abrams giving up on remakes? What is Larry Wilcox’ problem? Is Ridley Scott just trying to fuck with us? and when did the wheels come off the whole Tim Burton thing?

Baywatch:

Go see this movie, make it a huge hit. Then hopefully the sequel will be based on Baywatch Nights, when The Hoff was a life guard by day and PI by night- one that fought Aliens and weird beasts!

 

Also. Rock please start a singing career.

Logan:

 

Hopefully in the wake of Deadpool everyone agrees it’s okay to make superhero movies directly for grown ups.

Cars 3:

 

You’ve got to admit, based on this trailer, there are heavy parallels to Rocky IV.

Alien Covenant:

FUCK YOU! Ridley Scott.

All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

Hey John Peters!

They’ve already ruined Caddyshack, go put your mechanical spider somewhere else!

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Episode 16: Footloose(s)

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In this Episode:

Chris and Allen compare the 1984 and 2011 versions of Footloose. Where kids try to overturn the outrageous and ludicrous ban on dancing in their town. They discover along the way that it’s based on a real town, the soundtrack is amazing and Chris is really going through something here.

The Movies:

Footloose (1984):

Footloose (2011):

In both films big city kid Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon and then Kenny Wormald) moves to a small rural, God fearing, town where community leaders have banned public dancing in the wake of a local tragedy.

It’s funny that simply because Ren likes to dance, has read Vonnegut and comes from the city marks him out as agitator in the town. When in actuality he’s a stand up guy who set about getting a job as soon as he could and actively tries to avoid trouble. Small towns small minds I guess.

 

For such lightweight and teen-centric movies about dancing and filled with bright, uptempo, pop hits the underlying theme is grief and how people deal with it. From Ariel’s (Lone Skye and Julian Hough) self destruction to her father Rev. Shaw Moore (John Lithgow and Dennis Quaid) beginning to lose control in his home life, and community as the come to terms with the loss of a brother and son, respectively.

Alongside the pop songs and dance numbers there is plenty happening. The darkside of a rampant moral majority, domestic violence and vehicular games of chicken. The tractor showdown in the original does out shine the ‘stock car’ bus fight in the remake.

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A Hotwheels version of Ren’s car.

Both movies have great casts and plenty to recommend them. The world didn’t really need a Footloose remake, it already had a successful stage version produced. They both have flaws, but which ever you choose it will get you where you’re going in a classic scrappy gang of underdogs fighting the powers that be tale.

 

All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

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Episode 15: The Right Kind of Terrible

…A Star Wars Story

 

In this episode Chris and Allen have a little, spoiler free, chat about Rogue One and their initial thoughts. So join their stroll through the Uncanny Valley as they chat about the turkeys of 2016, Hollywood nonagenarians, Ridley Scott projects and the awesome Walton Goggins. And of course Trailer Talk.

Transformers: The Last Knight

 

The Mummy

War For Planet of the Apes

Death Race 2050

 

All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

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Episode 14: A Good Day To Die Hard

In This Episode:

The discussion was meant to centre on the fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise, however it is possibly the worst film Chris and Allen have looked at for the show to date. So we, instead, cover the other, better, Die Hard movies, the ingredients that work in them, the number of knock off’s inspired by them and the evolution of the character of John McClane from vulnerable, wise-cracking everyman to a seemingly bulletproof superhero.

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One of Allen’s holiday snaps from his trip to “Nakatomi Plaza”

The Movie:

Die Hard (1988) is based on Nothing Lasts Forever, a thriller by American crime writer Roderick Thorp. The book was his second featuring ex-cop Joe Leland. His first Leland novel was used as the source for the 1966 Frank Sinatra film The Detective. So when 20th Century Fox pressed ahead with their Nothing Lasts Forever project they were contractually obligated to offer the lead role to Sinatra. The only snag? ‘Ol Blue Eyes was 73 years old, so passed on the offer. Fox removed any connections to The Detective and retooled the script as a sequel to Commando (1985) for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He too passed on the project and it was altered again, including renaming the lead John McClane, to become a stand alone film.

A summer sleeper that became a blockbuster, reshaping action movies forever and turning Bruce Willis into a giant star. Four sequels would follow beginning in 1990 with Die Hard 2, sometimes referred to as Die Harder. The most recent, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), sees Willis, as McClane, going on a mission to Moscow to reconnected with his estranged son, who happens to be a super CIA spy.

The film is the first original Die Hard movie, not based on an existing source, it is also the furthest removed from the taught, contained, high octane thriller of the original. McClane’s journey throughout the series has seen him evolve from a wisecracking, foul mouthed everyman to a seemingly bulletproof, indestructible man-machine, the antithesis of the John McClane we came to know and love in the early outings. The vulnerability of our hero from the previous films, which make his struggles to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds even more incredible and gets the audience behind him, is completely gone. Instead its replaced with father/son bickering with a backdrop of loud explosions  which can’t, as Leonard Maltin points out in his review, even muster a decent one-liner for Willis.

 

Clearly our opinion is in the minority. The movie took a huge amount at the box office in the face of a negative critical response. Holding a 14% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes but taking over $300 MILLION at the worldwide box office.

Ho Ho Ho! Now I Have A Machine Gun:

A Good Day to Die Hard feels like it was built for the sole purpose of easing John McClane out of the franchise and replacing him with McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney) to reinvigorate the property for Fox, and years to come.

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Latterly the original movie has become a perennial holiday favourite, with a meme filled internet flame war over whether it should even qualify as a Christmas movie or not. Whether you subscribe or not shouldn’t take anything away from Die Hard, a stone cold classic. The follow up comes close in quality, the third has a wonderful pair up of Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, the fourth is just a generic internet action thriller and finally we round out with the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard, Yippie Ki Ay Mother Russia!

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