About mike

A journalist who has a love for films and music.

X-Men X-Pansion

Of all the superhero teams out there the X-Men were one of the first, in comic book form and on the silver-screen. Although in the beginning (of the comic books) the line-up simply consisted of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel and Beast, this evolving team constantly added characters to their ranks such as Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm. One of these line-ups happened to appear in a film in 2000 (check), and from then on the X-Men franchise has grown into seven films; and it isn’t about to stop any time soon.

Apocalypse

Before the last film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, was released, returning director Bryan Singer had already announced that the follow-up to this film would be released in 2016 and would be titled X-Men: Apocalypse. For any fans of the comic books the super-villain Apocalypse, or En Sabah Nur, needs no introduction, for anyone unfamiliar he is regarded as the first ever mutant; a hint to this was given in the Days of Future Past end credits sequence, when we saw him as a child building the pyramids of Egypt. There are many villains in the Marvel universe, some are much more dangerous than others, and two of the most powerful are Apocalypse and Thanos. Seen as The Avengers will eventually be battling the latter in 2018, it only seems right that the other super-powered team on the big screen should clash with a character just as horrific.

The film will be set in 1983, 10 years after Days of Future Past, and will see James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters and Hugh Jackman reprise their roles once again; and will also feature young versions of Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey, along with a cameo from Channing Tatum as Gambit, before his 2016 solo film.

The title may very well give something away about the plot of the film, perhaps this is going to once again alter history and be the end of the X-Men due to this foe. Apocalypse is definitely up to the challenge, he was already powerful, but that power increased when he merged himself with celestial energy. Along with being able to regenerate himself, mimic other powers and control his molecular structure so that he can be as malleable or tough as he likes, he is also telekinetic, telepathic and a genius in the sciences. So the team will definitely have their work cut out for them this time.

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Television Series

It appears that with the acclaim that the X-Men franchise has had, 20th Century Fox are trying to take the heroes to the small screen; with their own television series.

Not much is known about what the series will depict at the moment as Fox are still trying to buy the rights from Marvel; Fox own the film rights to X-Men, but not the comic book rights. With Marvel having so much on their plate the moment, with TV shows Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter coming later this year, plus Daredevil, AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders all in the works they might not feel that another superhero team on TV is needed. However it would be great to be able to sit in front of the TV each week and see the team battle a new enemy, which could also tie into the films and introduce many more X-Men.

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Although the X-Men franchise took a slight swerve at times, it appears that it is safely back on track now.

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Ex Machina

Alex Garland delivers an unforgettable sci-fi film in his directorial début; which will not only entertain but also have you questioning your moral choices.

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Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander lead the cast in this account of meetings between human and A. I. (Artificial Intelligence). Caleb (Gleeson) works as a computer coder and has just won first prize in a competition at his company, and will get to spend five days on the estate of the company’s owner Nathan (Isaac), something not many people get to witness. However after arriving at the simplistic yet futuristic house of his boss, Nathan reveals that the real purpose for Caleb being here is so that he can test his new A. I., Ava (Vikander). The Turing Test is set up to determine whether a human can be engaging with an A. I. and come to the conclusion that they are actually conversing with another human, if they believe that they are then the test is a success. This is usually done with a wall between the human and A. I. however, what Nathan wants to find out is whether the test can be successful after Caleb has had numerous encounters with Ava, and believe that she does in fact have a living consciousness inside her. As Nathan says, they will be writing history.

Caleb gets to know Ava more and more, her human-like personality and the way she talks makes him get lost in what it is he is really trying to find out, and his mission turns in to aiding Ava with what she desires most…freedom.

Just like horror films, sci-fi films can sometimes be hit and miss, as you are never sure if you are going to get a good one or not. Ex Machina just goes to show that you don’t need huge effects and amazing spaceships to make a truly great sci-fi, all it takes is a simple location, some convincing portrayals and a gripping script. Speaking of the script, it was just the right amount of science. In a film of this nature there is always the chance of losing a viewer, or at least confusing them, in the explanation of the science behind it. Ex Machina gives you just the right amount, by explaining itself, but in terms which the majority, if not all, of the audience can understand.

As you watch Caleb and Ava converse every day and get to know each other better, you begin to put yourself in Caleb’s shoes, questioning to yourself what you would do in this situation; stay true to your intellect and simply do the job you were put there for, or sympathise with Ava and decide what is morally right. Is it right to keep an A. I. which is so lifelike and appears to feel real emotions locked up, is it just a machine or a life-form, where do you draw the line between A. I. and human. These are the questions that ExMachina has you questioning as you watch.

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Domhnall Gleeson’s convincing American accent and depiction of the, in some ways, typical 20-something year old man help the audience to side with him, as they may see something of themselves in the choices he makes. Whereas Gleeson’s character has a slight scientific view to the situation, it is sometimes clouded in sympathy towards Ava. That is why the only other main human figure in the film is, in some ways, the opposite. Oscar Isaac’s role as the incredibly smart, yet comedic and laid-back avid dance floor fanatic Nathan, clashes with Gleeson’s character on many occasions as he attempts to show him the reality of the situation; who is human and who is not. Alicia Vikander steals the show in Ex Machina though as the A. I. unit which you just can’t help feel remorse for. Although some incredible effects are used to give her appearance, it is Vikander’s pure talents that convince the viewer of what she is, her android type movements mixed with her cheerful, and at times, sombre persona convince the audience that they are genuinely witnessing a being in need of help.

Ex Machina is every bit the meaning of the genre ‘ science fiction’, and has gained its place next to such greats as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Prometheus.

Paramore: A Decade On

In the small town of Franklin, Tennessee two brothers, guitarist Josh and drummer Zac Farro were keen to start a band but nothing seemed to be clicking for them; that is until 13 year-old Hayley Williams moves into town and begins to write for them. Jeremy Davis, who Williams already knew, soon took the position of bass player and Jason Bynum took on the role of rhythm guitarist. Now that they had their line-up all they needed was a name, and the suggestion of ‘Hidden Corporate Messages’ from an employee at Taco Bell didn’t seem to fit very well. They decided to take the name Paramore, as it was the maiden name of the mother of one of their past bass players. The name also evolved from the French phrase for ‘secret lover’. Although very young at the time, the youngest member being Zac Farro at 12, this band from a small town in the USA set out on a mission to conquer the world – I think it’s safe to say that after 10 years and 4 albums that goal has more or less been accomplished.

Paramore were signed to the niche record label Fueled By Ramen and began writing songs together as a band, the first being the song ‘Conspiracy’ which would feature on their first album. After playing a few shows Jeremy Davis left the band due to personal reasons, and was later replaced by John Hembree. However the band marched on and wrote their début album ‘All We Know Is Falling’ in 2005, whose opening track ‘All We Know’ is actually written about the hole that Davis created when he left the band. The album was a great first record that showed the world what Paramore are made of. The Farro brothers’ raw guitar and hard drum beats gave it that rough rock sound, and Williams’ soft but high vocals brought a feeling of calm about it. ‘Pressure’ was the first single released from the album, which, although did not chart at the time, has since become a fan favourite. Second music video ‘Emergency’ and live video ‘All We Know’ followed; by this time Hunter Lamb had replaced Jason Bynum on rhythm guitar and due to the band’s pleas, Jeremy Davis had returned to play bass in place of John Hembree.

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In the summer of 2006, the band played to thousands of people and promoted their name around America on the Warped Tour; that same year saw them play not only their first headlining shows, but their first headlining sold out shows. The support just carried on coming from then on, although they were still quite an unknown band at this point, it seemed the UK definitely wanted to hear more as they were voted best new band in British magazine Kerrang! and Hayley Williams was also voted #2 in the ‘sexiest female’ category. Hunter Lamb left the band soon after, leaving Williams, Davis and the Farros to continue on as a quartet.

With a début album which had been well received among their fans the band now had to write new material; and that material would need to be leaps and bounds better than All We Know Is Falling. As the band had lost their rhythm guitarist, old friend Taylor York stepped in as a touring guitarist. In mid 2007 Paramore released their second album ‘Riot!’ – this record blasted the band into the mainstream with such singles as ‘Misery Business’, ‘That’s What You Get’ and ‘Crushcrushcrush’. The album represented the growth that the band had gone through since their first album, Williams has said herself that the lyrics for ‘Misery Business’ were more honest than anything she’s ever written before. The raw sound of the band was slightly pulled back for Riot!, replaced in some places by lighter chord progressions, however Josh Farro’s melodic guitar playing was still present throughout.

The year 2008 saw the band take to the big screen, with their tracks ‘Decode’ and ‘I Caught Myself’, being featured on the soundtrack for ‘Twilight’; the first in The Twilight Saga. Decode became one of the group’s most famous tracks, selling over one million copies, and was later featured on their third album as a bonus track on the international release. The band only wrote material for the first film in the series as they did not want to be known as “that Twilight band”.

Heading up to releasing their third album there were many problems in the group; the constant touring had created friction between the members and it had become difficult for them to constantly be around each other. Josh had also raised concerns that the media were more focused around Hayley rather than the entire band. Nonetheless, Paramore’s third album ‘Brand New Eyes’ was released in 2009, and reminded their fans that they still had fire left inside them. Singles like ‘Careful’ and ‘Ignorance’ brought back that rough sound that was present at the beginning of the band’s career, and slow, peaceful ‘The Only Exception’ and ‘Misguided Ghosts’ brought back Williams’ soft tones and meaningful lyrics. Mid-album track ‘Looking Up’ was Williams’ view on the trouble that the band had had with each other, and how they had come out on top. Concluding song ‘All I Wanted’ also saw the vocalist attempt to expand her abilities in the form of this track, which took her voice to higher notes than we had ever heard before. Soon after the release of Brand New Eyes, Taylor York became an official member of the band.

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Unfortunately, it appeared as though the trouble between the members had never really been resolved, as in late 2010 Hayley, Jeremy and Taylor released a statement on paramore.net explaining that Josh and Zac Farro would be leaving the band, as they did not want to continue with the group. Josh stated that he thought the band had become a manufactured product of their record label, something which the remaining three members felt they had addressed years ago.

With two of their founding members gone, the future looked bleak for Paramore as the trio had to decide what their next step was. Not wanting to let down the fans, and wanting to carry on themselves, Hayley, Jeremy and Taylor announced that they would be releasing new music in 2011. Although this music would not be a full-length album, 2011 would definitely see the band keep busy; along with writing for their fourth album the band recorded the song ‘Monster’, which appeared on the ‘Transformers: Dark Of The Moon’ soundtrack. They then released three songs, ‘Renegade’, ‘Hello Cold World’ and ‘In The Mourning’, which became known as ‘The Singles Club’, and were only available to download from Paramore’s website.

Their fourth album, which was self-titled, was then released in mid 2013, and ranked #1 on the USA’s Billboard Chart. The record was very different than any of their other albums, firstly with a 17 track-listing it was much longer than their previous offerings; but what had altered the most was the sound. Although Paramore’s sound had slightly changed through their previous three records, the essence could still be felt through the songs; it seemed that after the departure of Josh Farro the band had decided to take a slightly different road in their music – something which the trio had earlier expressed would happen. This was not to say that they were not the same old Paramore that we had come to know and love, as songs such as ‘Now’, ‘Anklebiters’ and ‘Part II’ (which is sort of a sequel to the song ‘Let The Flames Begin’ from Riot!) still screamed classic Paramore with their hard guitar riffs and intense vocals. However tracks like ‘Still Into You’, ‘Grow Up’ and the three ukulele songs showed that the band had not only stuck to their roots, but also taken a trip down the pop side of things. Something which seemed to play off in their favour in some respects, as last released single ‘Ain’t It Fun’ went on to be the band’s highest charting song.

Whether you love them or loathe them, there is no denying that this pop-punk band from Franklin, Tennessee have accomplished a whole lot in their 10 years together. They have lost members and gained members, and although Williams may have made some slightly odd choices recently with her various appearances in rap songs and sporting a very questionable fringe, right now the band seem closer than ever and world domination is still in their sights.

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Who would have thought that when this unknown band released their début album All We Know Is Falling, they would ignite a fire that would still be burning 10 years later.

Paramore’s Album Catalogue:

All We Know Is Falling – 2005

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Interesting Fact – The album is actually dedicated to 16 year-old Lanie Kealhofer, Hayley Williams’ friend who died on May 2005; the song Brighter on the record is also dedicated to her.

Riot! – 2007

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Interesting Fact – The back-up vocals provided on the album’s concluding track Born For This, were from fan Mary Bonney who had previously won a competition to sing on the song.

Brand New Eyes2009

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Interesting Fact – The butterfly that appears on the cover of Brand New Eyes is one that Hayley Williams found dead in the drive-way of her mother’s house; they pinned it to a fence and took a picture of it.

Paramore – 2013

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Interesting Fact – For their music video for Ain’t It Fun the band set about trying to break as many world records as they could, in total they broke 10.

Marvel’s Phase 3 Is Revealed

The news is in, at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Marvel announced what the next films up until 2019 will be in their Cinematic Universe. Be warned Marvel fans, you will be excited.

So we already know that the avengers sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, will sign off Marvel’s phase 2 in 2015, and Ant-Man will kick-off phase 3, also in 2015. Just like Iron man had his own third film, so will Captain America and Thor in 2016 and 2017. With the Captain America sequel being called ‘Civil War’ is it possible that we may be seeing one of the greatest comic book story lines of all time brought to the screen, let’s hope so.

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James Gunn is once again going to bring the Guardians of the Galaxy to the screen in a 2017 sequel, whereas James Gunn’s GOTG took the Marvel Universe into space themes, 2016’s Doctor Strange film will take it into the magic and parallel universe side of things.

As the list continues, we are finally going to see an African-American crusader have their own solo film with Black Panther in 2017, and we will also get a female avenger in her own solo film; Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel. The third avengers film will be the all out brawl between our heroes and the almighty Thanos, it will be split into two films and the second will finish off phase 3. We will also get another super group as well in the Inhumans film, with all these heroes together it is looking to be an action-packed next five years.

The full film list is as follows:

Captain America 3: Civil WarMay 2016

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Doctor Strange November 2016

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Guardians of the Galaxy May 2017

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Thor: RagnarokJuly 2017

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Black PantherNovember 2017

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Captain MarvelJuly 2018

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Inhumans November 2018

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The Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2May 2018 and May 2019

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer

The much-anticipated trailer for the second Avengers film – Age of Ultron – has officially been released, after it was leaked one week shy of its intended date. However instead of complaining about the trailer being leaked, Marvel did the adult thing and released their own Official HD version…and blamed the leak on villainous world organisation HYDRA.

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Fans of the Marvel franchise probably know by now that the main antagonist for the film is the artificially intelligent android Ultron, but it is only in this trailer that we really see how terrifying the character is. Along with the soothing-yet-merciless iconic voice of James Spader, fans worldwide will now know that Age of Ultron is going to be a step up from the previous film. Avengers Assemble saw the villain Loki drawn into war mostly by bitterness, but he was a character that had the chance to change his actions along the way. Ultron on the other hand has one goal: world domination, and nothing less.

With Marvel releasing Ant-Man next year it appears that Hank Pym will not be Ultron’s creator as he was in the comics, but rather Tony Stark instead. It is hard to take much from this short teaser trailer, as it seems to mainly introduce the villain and his helpers; Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch. What we do know is that the Avengers – being Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye – are all back to save the world from any possible threat.

However a lot has changed since the first film; most of the characters have evolved through their other films, such as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, and S.H.I.E.L.D has also been disbanded, as we saw in The Winter Soldier. Director Joss Whedon has said that it is going to be a lot like the The Godfather Part 2, in that a lot has happened since the previous film and throughout Age of Ultron we will find out what that is.

By the end of the trailer we are greeted to a fully functional Ultron who is explaining through a quote from the Pinnochio song ‘I’ve Got No Strings’ that he is not bound by anything and is free to do as he wishes.

We should all be very afraid.

Benedict Cumberbatch to play Doctor Strange

So Marvel are finally in end talks as to who is going to play the amazing sorcerer supreme: Doctor Steven Strange. It is going to be none other than charming, British, velvity-toned Benedict Cumberbatch. Many of you may remember him from his previous role as the villainous Khan in 2013s Star Trek: Into Darkness or in his modern day Sherlock Holmes portrayal in BBC’s Sherlock.

Now that Marvel have introduced their main characters for the Avengers team, and have also given most of them a second and third film to develop their personalities, they can begin to bring forward the lesser known individuals who also fought along side these caped-crusaders in the original comics. Arguably, some of the best avengers are still yet to be introduced, one of which is Doctor Strange, who is a skilled neurosurgeon and practising magician, and has saved the world on more than one occasion.

At the moment the Doctor Strange film is looking at a 2016 release date. Marvel are also getting ready to unveil more of their best avengers: Ant-Man in 2015 and the animal like Black Panther from Wakanda. The Black Panther film however is still quite far off, with its release possibly being in 2017, along with Black Widow’s solo film which could be in the same year.

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Kids In Glass Houses – Farewell Tour

As the crowd slowly wanders in to The Hub, a 450 capacity club in Plymouth. There is already an exciting yet mournful mood to the atmosphere. Tonight this crowd is going to be given a show by five guys from Wales. They are a band who have created four outstanding albums that made fans all over the world want to put their headphones in and drift away to; and tonight will be the last time they play here.

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Tonight’s support band are Save Your Breath, and while the five-piece do get the crowd ready for the night ahead of them. There just doesn’t seem to be enough of their fans here this evening. These fans just appear to be here for one reason, and prolonging that is not going to go down well.

Kids In Glass Houses have always had a thing for showmanship, such as decorating the stage with flowers when touring second album Dirt. So once Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein begins to play over the speakers, the crowd knows that the last show they will see by this band is about to begin.

A roar of cheers greet the quintet as they walk on stage, and burst right into second album opener Artbreaker I. A track that gets the crowd moving and ready for what is to come. The cheers become deafening as the band then play arguably their most famous track Give Me What I Want, which is welcomed to a sing-a-long of the entire song. The first half of the set barely sees the band slow down or the fans stop dancing as they play song after song of classics from their records such as: The Best Is Yet To Come, Undercover Lover and Animals. Whilst also slipping in Set Me Free and Drive from their most recent album Peace that go down with more adoring screams.

Easy Tiger feels nostalgic as it takes us back to the first video we ever saw of the band back in 2008, Fisticuffs forces all of our hands into the air to pump along with lead singer Aled Phillips and Dance All Night makes us want to do just that.

Kids In Glass Houses – completed by Iain Mahanty and Joel Fisher on guitar, Philip Jenkins on drums and Andrew ‘Shay’ Sheehy on bass – announced that they would be parting ways in early 2014 much to the disappointment of their fans. The year 2008 Saw the band release their début album Smart Casual which put them on the map for one of the front-runners of the pop/punk genre, 2010 album Dirt only strengthened this position. 2012’s In Gold Blood saw the band go down a much darker route than their previous albums, it saw them introduce a more raw guitar sound whilst still keeping their catchy hooks. Although still a strong album it came under fire from their avid fans who preferred their older sound. Their 2013 offering Peace, put both of these elements together to create a record that captured the essence that the band started with and a sound that showed their growth. At least they have ended it on a high note.

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Tonight the band are here to entertain everyone. Not only the fans who just know the well-known singles but also the fans who have been with them from the very beginning. That is shown as Aled takes to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand to give the crowd a personal slowed-down version of Raise Hell from their first record. It is in singing this track that you really feel the fans showing how much this band means to them, and the feeling is reciprocated through the vocalist.

The second half of the set concludes the powerful Artbreaker II which sees many feet off the ground, an on-stage strobe light show and the singer walk halfway around the wall and hang from a support beam. But the night is not over.

Oh no, with a whole back catalogue full of well-known tracks, this band isn’t finished just yet. An encore ensues which sees them roar through crowd chanting songs like Young Blood (Let It Out) and Saturday. As the guys thank the fans for all the support over the past 10 years and the opening riff for Matters At All slowly rolls in, you realise that this is the last time we can dance to this band that has brought us a decade of great music.

The Slam Dunk Tour got to hear Smart Casual in its entirety, and their previous show in Cardiff got In Gold Blood in full. But tonight was special as it showcased the incredible music from all four albums that the band have created throughout their career, and thanks to shows like this, for their fans, the diamond days will never fade away.

Full set list is as follows:

Artbreaker I

Give Me What I Want

The Best Is Yet To Come

Undercover Lover

Set Me Free

Drive

Fisticuffs

Easy Tiger

Dance All Night

Animals

Diamond Days

Sunshine

Raise Hell (Aled Phillips Acoustic)

The Morning Afterlife

Hunt The Haunted

Artbreaker II

Encore:

Peace

Youngblood (Let It Out)

Saturday

Matters At All