Euro 2016 Second Round

Having lost 8 of the teams, including my beloved if horribly incompetent Austria (No, really guys, the one time you could get away with being terrible in qualifying, you’re awesome and then totally screw up the finals!!!), this is what the interconnectivity diagram looks like:

SecondRound

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There are actually very few changes, partly I think because relatively few teams were cut, and also because a lot of the teams cut were those that had fewer links to other teams. Iceland stands alone because most of its players who were linked to another country were linked to Sweden who are out. The nearest national team to the centre are Italy, the club team nearest the middle is Rennes. Juventus and Liverpool have the most players left, with 12 each, followed by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United with 10. I think this might be further evidence of the Premier League’s multi-national nature and its pulling power. The comms view looks like this:

SecondRoundComms

Belgium and England are in the same community because of the number of Belgian squad members who play in England (11 out of the 23). Everyone else is their own community.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Well that didn’t quite work.

And I’m not sure why.  I’m also not sure why a film with an alleged running time of 2 1/2 hours feels like it’s missing half its story.  I think it could have done with 6 months extra work on the story and the script.  It all feels a bit bland.

Spoilers from here on in.

In particular, I feel it could have done with more about the Horsemen and something, anything, in between the final battle and them rebuilding a school.  I think it’s mostly I can’t see Erik being that forgiving, especially given his last rage-bender lasted for ~20 years.  (Yes, I have no problem with him being imprisoned in solitary confinement for 10 years without going crazy, but I have trouble with him being forgiving.  I know I am everything wrong with comic-book fans.)

I didn’t like was how Apocalypse felt like an afterthought in his own movie.  I’m not sure why it felt that way, but it did.

I think it would have been a better film if they’d hired someone who could act for Scott Summers.

I also refuse to believe that there isn’t one young German actor who can tolerate latex make-up that they could have had as Kurt.  Nothing against the guy they had but really!

Michael Fassbender can join Hugh Jackman in the list of actors who can’t pull off a big ‘NO’.  No offence intended to either of them, since I ❤ them muchly, but they can’t.

I do like that the film doesn’t even try to pretend Erik’s wife and child aren’t dead meat.  Even non-comic book readers know what is about to happen.  The details are suitably horrifying (because doing the right thing is what outed Magneto, and the actual deaths were an accident and …) but the final result was very similar to that bit in Wolverine: Origins, down to the flannel and no-ing.  (Although I approve of the flannel and the cinematography for the Polish bits).  I was deeply amused when he (far too suddenly, see also the ‘half this film seems to be missing’) changes sides at the end.  The minute that X flew down you knew who it was because who else on that battlefield had quite that flair and need for the over-dramatic.

You could also tell which bits they’d been forced to put in to prop up the next Wolverine movie.  I love Wolverine as much as the next person (actually depending who reads this, more than them) but I could have done without his cameo.  It felt kind of forced (although I did love that the minute I saw the helicopters I went ‘oh no, Stryker, yuck’.  All three of the actors who have played him have done bang up jobs of being truly, truly vile.  Well played, sirs.)  But I suppose you have to put that in if you’re suddenly got a 27 year age gap between two actors.  I know she won’t be, but I do hope we get Famke Janssen at some point in the next Wolverine film.

There was, basically, too much CGI and not enough real peril.  The only bits where I felt the characters were in danger was Angel and Nightcrawler at the beginning, and then Mystique and Quicksilver at the end.

That’s my complaints out of the way.

I would have complained about how much more martial Prof. X was at the end if it hadn’t turned out to be deliberate.  Doing it deliberately I am happy with.  (Because it works with the theme that he, Mystique and Magneto can and should learn from each other.)

On to the stuff I really liked:

1 – The opening.  Go team normal that defeated (or very nearly defeated) Apocalypse and his Horsemen.

It was a bit too obviously shot for 3D but was so prettily done that I am almost tempted to watch the film again (even though its not that good) just to watch it.

2 – Moira.  Go, go, secret agent Moira.  Who is a better person than I am for not smacking Charles when he reveals what happened.

3 – Storm, although she was one of the characters who could have done with more time, because she at least got a character arc.  The actress does a damn good job given the lack of scenes, the lack of dialogue and general telling, not showing of her bits.

4 – Angel.  (Who is not Warren Worthington as far as I’m concerned).  Just yes.  Very convincing when they gave him stuff to do, and I loved how the film made it clear he was just as much a prisoner of the fight club as Nightcrawler was.  I also loved the bit when Apocalypse recruited him.

5 – Alex.  Okay, I knew he was also dead meat because the actor has a new TV job and he was suddenly very present after being absent for film 2 but he was so good in what we did have.

which leads to

6 – Oh Peter Maximoff.  I knew Evan Peters could act, but … oh Peter.  Just … he was fantastic, in all his doubt and amused self-loathing.

I also liked that he couldn’t save everyone, because it’s a nice counterpoint to the silliness of the rescue scene.

7 – The music.  Throughout.

8 – Charles Xavier.  Who has grown up.  That’s what I got from the film.  He’s not as wide-eyed and bushy-tailed as in First Class, but he’s accepted he has responsibilities, which he didn’t in Days of Future Past.  And even enjoys them.

Also, I loved that he went along with Apocalypse’s thing just to get his own message out there.  And his complete and utter trust in Jean.

9 – Hank!! Always Hank.  He’s just so … he’s the kind of person who really would knock up a pair of red quartz glasses and pretend he just had them lying around his workshop.  So that his friend’s little brother won’t feel bad.

10 – Mystique!  Who turns into Field Marshal Mystique when needed and hates being a hero and is doing her best.

I am deeply amused that Caliban’s response to hearing that Magneto is in trouble is to pass it on to Mystique.  Everyone knows!  Hank’s response to hearing this is even more fun.

Then there’s the scene in the plane, which calls back to both the equivalent scene in X-Men 2, where it’s Rogue, Pyro and Iceman who are the newbies, and the scene in First Class, and that heavy silence when Mystique has to tell them that they’re the only survivors from First Class.

I actually really like how they tied this in to both the other two Reboot films and to the Originals, because, for all people say that the Originals have been ret-conned out of existence, they’ve done something much cleverer, which makes the “conversation” Xavier had with himself vital for the ‘new’ future’s existence, and yet avoids a few continuity snarls.

~~~~

So yes, overall I like what it was trying to do, but I don’t think it quite worked.

Euro 2016 Interconnectivity Diagrams

GroupStage

Looking at the chart, 3 things really stand out for me.

1 – Liverpool and Juventus are the two club teams with the most players represented at the Euros (12 players each). As a fan of the evil zebras, this gives me an odd sort of pride. Given Liverpool didn’t win anything, I find it interesting that so many Liverpool players are present. Ditto Spurs (who are next with 11). Manchester United at least won the FA Cup (10 players) and of the next three most represented teams (Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Fenerbahçe, with 9 each), Bayern and Barca won their respective leagues, although Fenerbahçe didn’t.

So either national managers are going with their tried and tested, and to hell with recent form or there’s a lot of non-Euro 2016 qualifying players playing for the national champions of England and Turkey.

2 – Wales*, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Iceland don’t have any players playing in their own home league. England are the only team where all their players play in their home league. The days of ‘play at home or else you’ll not be on the team’, are over, if they ever existed in football.

3 – What happened to Dutch football?

I don’t just mean, “how do you go from World Cup semi-finalists to not even qualifying for Euros where 45% of the teams get to play in the finals?”, I mean what’s happened to Dutch football from top to bottom.

There are more players from the US and Qatari leagues than from the Dutch leagues. There is precisely 1 player representing the Eredivisie (Arkadiusz Milik of Poland).

I think it’s such a shock because it used to be that for the smaller (in football terms) countries, it would always be ‘they’ve got no superstars, but they’ve got X who plays for PSV (or Ajax),’ and that doesn’t seem to happen any more. (By the looks of it, Switzerland has taken over this role.) I’m not sure why this has happened or if it’s an actual shift or just a quirk for this Euros.

If you look at the community view:

GroupStageComms

it amuses me greatly that both Austria and Switzerland and the Czech Republic and Slovakia are joined in communities. Poland and Hungary are joined because of the number of Hungarian players playing for Polish teams. I presume England, Belgium and Spain are joined because of the number of Spanish and Belgian players playing in the Premier League. Ireland and Northern Ireland are joined because they both have players playing for Blackburn Rovers and Derby County, who have no other players representing them and West Brom, who only have one other player representing them that doesn’t play for one of the two Irelands.

*Yes, I know Wales have Swansea and Cardiff players playing for them but both of those teams play in English leagues.