Xmas Post: ‘Tis The Season To Blog!

Never Mind The Baubles…

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“On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with ‘A Merry Christmas’ on it. The enemy had stuck up a similar one… Two of our men then threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads. Two of the Germans done the same… our two men [went] to meet them. They shook hands and then we all got out of the trench” – Frank Richards: ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’ (1933).

I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire.

Blazes, last year’s Yuletide only seems like yesterday – you can’t tell me that one whole year has gone since the last one! Hardly done any shopping, only put the tree up on Tuesdaysorry, Bing, it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s okay, you will get no bah or humbug from me – it just feels as if we’re still in September. 

Christmas was always a fab time in the Brad household: Mum creating the most fantastic dinner in a white hot kitchen; balloons bursting in Dad’s face as he tried to, erm, blow them up; and Hannibal – our constantly petrified brown tabby – attacking the Christmas tree (then scarpering from the living room when it keeled over on top of him). Aah, happy times…

It was the best time of year to swell my collection of Star Wars action figures, and Annuals of my fave comics; consume lots of chocolate and mince pies, and catch some HUGE movies on the telly. But that wait for the Big Day to arrive was always long and arduous. 

Now, of course, the zest for this festive season has long since gone, just like my childhood; Christmas just comes and goes in a flash, and before you know where you are, it’s the (Happy?) New Year already…

Ah, but the dinners are still fantastic. 

…As are the mince pies.

So please, bliss out by the fire, and help yourself to some… 

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“Hey, Mr. Churchill comes over here
To say we’re doing splendidly
But it’s very cold out here in the snow
Marching to win from the enemy
Oh, I say it’s tough, I have had enough
Can you stop the Cavalry?”
– Jona Lewie.

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
Till I believed in the Israelite.

Being chosen to play one of the Three Wise Men in that school year’s Nativity production would be – you’d think – a highlight of my acting career. Let’s just say there were artistic differences between the director and my rather confused self.

Honestly, what were those idiots doing, hanging around a manger in the early hours of the morning?! They had brought NO toys (and no mince pies!) Pretty sure Dad would have told ’em to naff off…  

Seem to recall making a deliberately impudent remark concerning the Nativity Play and managed to get meself banished to the “choir” instead. Since then, though, the Star of Bethlehem has attracted my scientific curiosity later in life. What is particularly intriguing is that, rather than a comet, the Star was, most likely, a double eclipse of Jupiter in 6 BC, the year now widely accepted as the birth of Christ. Roman astrologers said that it “signified the birth of a divine king.”  

But hey, rather than carry on down this high-brow tangent, let’s just take it easy.

Put your feet up (against the fire).

And have another mince pie. 

Anyway – as this is indeed the time for giving – here is a little treat to help you, dear reader, through the perishing cold and unwanted socks. Without further ado, here is one of the greatest – not to mention one of the most hilarious – moments from SF cinema history:  

“You don’t have to follow me! You don’t have to follow anybody! You are all individuals” – Brian Of Nazareth. 

“Yes! We are all individuals!”

“I’m not…”

And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise.

It always bewildered me how one elderly, bewhiskered lunatic in bright red snazzy jim-jams could deliver pressies to all children around the world… in one night. 

Having been told all year round by our parents NOT TO TALK TO “STRANGERS,” come the most wonderful (bat-shit bonkers) time of the year, and we were actively encouraged to sit on the lap of a stranger – with a ridiculously false beard no less – and tell him what we wanted…

And the less said about his frickin’ flying reindeer the better…

Even to my delightfully innocent infant mind, none of this madness added up. Then again, if they handed over some Star Wars gubbins, yours truly wouldn’t make a scene. Honest. 

Supposedly this is the point in which the obligatory Christmas Carol is uploaded. Well, nuts to that… 

This is my blog, baby, and something more entertaining is called for; been waiting for the opportunity to upload this for ages. Granted, it’s not “seasonal,” but wow, it’s enough to get any party goin’; and it has a very sci-fi feel to it. Yes, Jon is using a theremin – that bizarre instrument used on soundtracks for classic B-movies of the ’50s. You know what they say: “We’d better let him in – he’s got a theremin.”

Really, you don’t get bands this cool, frenetic, anarchic and downright talented these days; why not…? 

Have a very Merry Christmas! And be sure to enjoy as much good grub an’ grog as you possibly can!

Cheers!

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I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear.

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Rey Of Light: Who’s That Girl?

The Scribe Scrutinizes The Scavenger

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“People are getting tattoos! Of my face! Already! It seems insane to me” – Daisy Ridley.

“…The movie has a major problem in this central character. [Daisy] Ridley can barely act at all.” 

Eh? Come again?

“Her facial expressions are limited and repetitive, her interactions with her fellow stars unconvincing, her physical repertoire – running, fighting, shooting – awkward…”

So writes the obviously disgruntled film critic for the London Evening Standard who – like just about everybody else – awarded it four stars. Everybody knew that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to obliterate box office records around the world; some fans fretted over whether it would fail to satisfy their expectations; but hardly anyone – after this weekend – is none the wiser as to who Rey, the staff-wielding scavenger, really is.  

Finding out about Daisy Ridley is easy.

This 23-year-old Londoner – whose previous appearances include just bit parts in UK TV dramas such as Mr. Selfridge and Casualty – may have seemed like an ordinary bookworm and “Speed Garage enthusiast” up until last week, but now, of course, she has suddenly become one of the most famous women in the world. Also, she swears like a Stormtrooper, which makes her a natural successor to Carrie Fisher. 

By the way, major plot points will be included; but seeing how the latest widespread box office records indicate that everyone in the US, UK and the Outer Rim Territories have seen the movie, there is no longer any need to worry about dropping spoilers.

As my review pointed out, The Force Awakens is an undeniably exciting spectacle, and yet – as the days go by – key plot points and a rising pile of questions just baffle me even more, making me reconsider whether it is an episode to embrace wholeheartedly.    

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do: who is Rey?

“Well, Rey starts alone – and I did not mean ‘Solo’ when I said ‘solitary’,” she laughs.

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“I said: ‘Don’t go through the crew like wildfire.’ I also told her not to take any advice from me” – Carrie Fisher.  

“You start thinking: give her time, she’ll loosen up, it’ll get better. It never does.” 

Grief, this fella’s starting to annoy me…

“And she’s the heroine, the very heart of the film. So that doesn’t work.”

Yes, it does, dullard! Just take a look at all the other reviews: Ridley has instantly won over critics and fans alike. From the first few (captivating) moments we saw Rey, she was intriguing – we wanted to know her story, especially as her surname has been deliberately withheld. 

“People naturally assume that I am Han and Leia’s daughter,” Ridley has remarked, which – the more you read it – seems to imply that it is a misleading assumption… 

In the movie, SF’s most famous couple fret over their son, now ensconced in the First Order; tellingly, neither of them acknowledge Rey in any way to suggest that she is their child as well. Instead, should we be looking to the other Skywalker to discover her parentage?

As the film progresses, it is quite evident that there is more to this mere “scavenger” than meets the eye… Her skills are apparently limitless: just for starters she can climb (and rappel); not only can she pilot a ship, she can fix it as well! The most obvious giveaway that she is Han’s daughter is that she’s good with a blaster, but – hang on – on the other hand, she defeats Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel and plays a faultless Jedi mind-trick on poor, unsuspecting Stormtrooper TK007 😉 which would suggest that she’s Luke’s girl…

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“The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in” – Maz Kanata.

Look at one of the movie’s best moments: Kylo Ren tries to summon Luke’s lightsaber – incidentally, how on Earth Takodana did such a revered artefact come into Maz Kanata’s possession? – but it whisks straight past him and into the hands of Rey. As the script notes reveal, Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber: “calls out to [Rey] wanting her to become its new master.” 

Moreover, that beloved overweight glob of grease: R2-D2 only powers up once Rey arrives at the Resistance base…

Expect Luke’s monologue from the second trailer (unused in the film, did you notice?) – most likely spoken to Rey – to form a vital crux of Episode VIII’s dialogue…

Ridley’s resistance to the media mind-probe these past few weeks has been particularly strong. She just emits that huge, full-beam, brilliant-white grin: “Is she an orphan? Who’s to say?” 

[cue coquettish wink]

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“[Rey] is an ordinary girl, in extraordinary circumstances” – J. J. Abrams. 

“This was the first day! And I honestly wanted to die. I thought I was gonna cry, I couldn’t breathe.”  

Why?! What happened?

“JJ probably doesn’t remember telling me that my performance was wooden,” Ridley explains. “And there was so many crew there… It was so hot… It was… awful.”

No worries: overall, she did a great job: “My experience has been incredible. I’ve felt supported and respected the whole way through.”

Seeing how it took only seven months and five auditions to win the role of the newest New Hope, it’s only fair that Daisy should get the final say:

“First and foremost for me, I want people to enjoy the film and think that I did a good job…”

Absolutely: “you have that power too.” 

“Beyond that, I don’t know… When I actually first heard about the job, it was months before I auditioned. And I got a funny feeling in my body.”

Ha, pun intended?

“It felt like the whole time – even though I thought I was doing a shit job in the auditions – there was something pushing me on, telling me this was going to happen. So it kinda feels like the wheels continue to turn.”  

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  • The first spinoff: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, currently in production, is set to hit theaters on 16 December, 2016;
  • Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII is slated for release on 26 May, 2017;
  • Star Wars Anthology: Han Solo Movie arrives on 25 May, 2018;
  • Star Wars: Episode IX opens sometime in 2019;
  • Lucasfilm is also developing a Third Star Wars Spin-Off Movie, which is presumably set for release in 2020.

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“Classified? Me too…” – Rey ___??

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Bradscribe Review

Episode VII: Luke Skywalker has vanished… 

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“The idea of being involved in it frankly felt dangerous” – J. J. Abrams. 

“Come on, baby, don’t let me down!” growls everyone’s favourite nerfherder during one of the many exhilarating moments in this record-smashing latest installment of the galaxy’s greatest saga. This perfectly sums up the expectations – not just of my humble self – but millions of fans as the weeks, then days, till release were agonisingly counted down.

No worries; fortunately for all of us, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a triumph, and deservedly so. J. J. Abrams has crafted a superior space fantasy, offering so much more than just a fanboy pastiche – embellishing this blockbuster with plenty of brand new and intriguing delights, forging the franchise in a bold and promising direction. Give him a film project with ‘Star’ in the title and – yay – he will work wonders…

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“I’ll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum” – Daniel Craig. 😉

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“People were like: ‘Oh my God, you’re Rey Solo’ – this is what people do, they just assume I’m Han Solo’s daughter, it’s not even a question any more” – Daisy Ridley.

It’s fantastic to see the new generation of Wars stars: Ridley, Isaac and Boyega – and, what the heck, BB8 as well – establish themselves firmly and convincingly in this beloved galaxy. 

As the central character, newcomer Daisy Ridley more than holds her own as the resilient Rey. Most curiously, when we first see her, she is merely a scavenger, searching for scrap from the now-legendary Battle of Jakku (and selling it to Simon Pegg! 😉 and – bizarrely – squatting in the shell of a fallen AT-AT. Pretty soon, she’s – what the-?! – not only flying the Millennium Falcon, but perfectly adept at the Ways of the Force. Blimey, Charley! She’s just too good to be true…

In Finn (John Boyega), we have a completely different type of character: a stormtrooper who – after a change of conscience – wants to defect to the Resistance. Through a compelling plot development, he helps the escape of star-pilot: Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The time is right for Star Wars to have a new cocky young flyboy, and Dameron certainly makes the grade. 

Must – at this point – express what a delight it was, at last, to meet the wonderful, yet enigmatic, Maz Kanata. She reminded me a lot of the old dears who sell jasmine garlands in downtown Bangkok. Her “castle” is the sort of blissed-out, rad dive this blogger would have loved to frequent during his college days.

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“I feel there’s a recklessness about him that’s maybe not normally associated with the Dark Side. You normally think of order, and structure… he’s just a little bit more unpolished” – Adam Driver. 

For me, by far the best, most tantalising new addition to the cast is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He not only looks right, but – by Jove! – he sounds menacing enough. Black-robed and badass: that’s how we dig it around here! Could it get any better? 

In time-honoured tradition of Star Wars – with his ragged crossbeam lightsabre and disconcerting mask – he has captivated and freaked out the entire fanbase in equal measure. 

Hey,  don’t mean to brag, but his true identity was sussed on this blog months ago. And what he does towards the end of this episode – with Rey, Finn and Chewie looking on in horror – actually came as NO surprise. At all. 

Before moving on: let it be known that Supreme Leader Snoke was superb and sufficiently sinister – another unforgettable contribution from Andy Serkis.  

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“I didn’t have the imagination to recognise the future potential for the character. I was only going to do three of them, so I wanted to use the character to supply some bass notes, some gravitas” – Harrison Ford.  

It was just amazing to see that wondrous piece of junk – not Han Solo, ha ha! – but his eternally supercool Corellian freighter which – inexplicably – just happens to be standing neglected on Jakku AND in the exact area from which Rey and Finn must make their escape?! How opportune… 

There is no dramatic build-up to the entrance of Han and Chewie together, but the lump in the throat is still inevitable. Funnily enough, after all these years, Han is STILL moody and obsessive over the Millennium Falcon, forever quick to remind anybody that it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 14 – sorry! – 12 parsecs. 

But when General Leia first steps into view after 32 years, quite frankly my tear-ducts burst. SO GOOD to see Carrie Fisher in a Star Wars movie again. 

As a HUGE fan of the X-wing Fighterit was, after all, my very first Star Wars toy – the sensational sequence featuring a whole squadron of them skimming the surface of that lake was irresistibly stupendous. The ensuing dogfight offered an enticing spectacle. This movie also honoured one of this franchise’s more stirring trademarks: TIE fighters chasing our heroes through ever-narrowing tunnels of vast installations.

Just can’t get enough of that wrecked Star Destroyer embedded in the sands of Jakku. 

Impressive. Most impressive.

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“In the street, they call out: ‘Hey, Princess!’ which makes me feel like a poodle” – Carrie Fisher. 

Yes, there are a few quibbles:

  • Having been enthralled at the prospect of Captain Phasma: a female stormtrooper, we looked forward to finding out what she would do. Bah! A couple of forgettable lines and nothing else hardly seems worth the bother…
  • Been waiting on tenterhooks to hear the new score by legendary composer John Williams. Don’t know about you, but there were no discernible epic tunes here.
  • The movie ends on Skellig Michael, a World Heritage site off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. That’s the problem: without any CG tinkering whatsoever, it looks exactly like it was filmed… off the coast of County Kerry, and NOT in a galaxy far, far away…  
  • Seeing Joseph Gordon-frickin’-Levitt all greened-up, supposedly as Yoda? (!) at the Hollywood premiere on Monday night. Jeez, what a prat… 

Let’s not deny it: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a successful re-engagement with the myth and magic that has made this the best-loved and most durable franchise.

Despite being several notches down from the glorious masterpiece that was The Empire Strikes Back, this is still a Magnificent Seventh Episode in its own right. 

And – oh yes – the Force IS strong with this one! 

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© All Rights Reserved

Any scum and villainy who dare swipe any of this stuff for their own nefarious ends shall be cut down by my crossbeam lightsabre!

Grumble, grumble, disturbing lack of faith, etc, etc. 

100th Post! Full Circle: “There’s Something Familiar About This Place”

What Can We Expect When The Force Awakens This Thursday? 

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“The secrecy has been beyond ludicrous. For heaven’s sake, it’s a movie. When I got the script it was typed in black on paper of the deepest red so you couldn’t photocopy it…” – Anthony Daniels. 

It’s May 1980.

A new Star Wars movie is just DAYS away. 

An all-consuming swirl of excitement and curiosity warps my infant mind. ‘CAN’T WAIT!!’ is the only – albeit frantic – message my brain will process. It’s impossible to do anything else. How can a second Star Wars movie hope to be (half) as good as the one all of us at school know and love?!

At the cinema, once the Battle of Hoth gets spectacularly under way, all our expectations are met. And then some, as we are thrilled by the AT-ATs, giggle at Yoda (before realising how powerful he was) and gawp at the climactic lightsabre duel. My generation cannot believe their eyes! Or their luck. 

(Fortunately, Dad took me to the cinema five times to help satisfy my cravings for fun, frills, fx and Fett. Actually, we managed to see The Empire Strikes Back only three times, including the much-heralded double-bill – the infamous FULL HOUSE sign was strategically placed outside the main doors twice).

This is not just a smash-hit movie, but a monumental phenomenon! No other movie matters. 

Now that the release of the Most Anticipated Movie of the Decade is imminent, there is an eerie sense of deja vu – the fanfare is cranked up to maximum; the teensiest gobbets of information are trundled out; photos of the stars suddenly become ubiquitous across all media; and – oh yes – the merchandise is being trundled out ad infinitum. Honestly, it feels like 1980 all over again. 

“I sense something. The presence I have not felt since…”

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“If you are telling a continuous story, as we are, then all the episodes have to fit together to form a cohesive piece, and this middle act – The Empire Strikes Back – has to be a slower and more sombre piece in a way…” – Gary Kurtz.  

“It is a dark time for the Rebellion,” so began the legendary scrawl for Episiode V. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and-” 

And you’re thinking: Hang on! Major Bummer! What – and how much(!) – did we miss?! One minute our heroes are receiving medals and the next… they’re hiding in an igloo on one forlorn side of the galaxy(!) How did that happen?! This infant and millions of others of course – demanded a full report. It felt like we had got into the cinema way too late…  

“There’s been an Awakening. Have you felt it?”

Yeah, fella, but – yet again – we feel as though we’ve joined this brand new Episode way too late. Not only have thirty years passed since we last saw our happy heroes in the forest of Endor, but thirty years have passed in this galaxy. In that time, the apparently epic Battle of Jakku was waged, the remnants of the Empire reformed – relatively swiftly – into the First Order i.e. it’s a dark time for the rebellion (now the “Resistance”) once more. So, that party with the Ewoks was all for nothing…

One of the more enigmatic figures to emerge has been Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver). He’s not a Sith, but affiliated with a mysterious sect known as the Order of Ren. Ever since we first glimpsed him staggering through a snow-covered forest energising his fearsome, yet crude, red cross-guard lightsabre, SW fans have speculated who he might be, especially since seeing Vader’s battered helmet in his possession.

The most telling fact is that he works for a character known as Supreme Leader Snoke: “who is a powerful figure on the dark side of the Force,” yet to be revealed, but we know it will be the latest motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis (a personal fave at this blog), responsible for providing the sinister narration for SW:VII’s first trailer.

As a supercool bonus: we have the chrome-clad Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) to savour as well! And watch out for Maz Kanata, (another CGI character played by Lupita Nyong’o): “a pirate who dwells in a castle populated by all manner of aliens and assorted scum.”  

Some intriguing aspects to look forward to…

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“I went up to Skywalker Ranch and they told me they were gonna do more Star Wars movies… So here I am. I got to write for Harrison Ford again after 30 years…” – Lawrence Kasdan. 

Inevitably, the background story of Anakin Skywalker – the Jedi who became a Sith Lord – received the prequel trilogy treatment. Naturally, as one of the original fans, there was a certain curiosity to find out how it all came together. But, oh boy… Talk about having a bad feeling…

There was absolutely no way multitudes of heartbroken fans like us could unlearn the travesty we learned back in 1999. Moreover, in 2002, Episode II did NOT correct the ills of its forebear: no! It succeeded in being an even more painful experience to endure.

This time, though, with reliable Star Wars aficianado JJ Abrams at the helm, particular attention to the visuals – and the script (so glad to see Lawrence Kasdan back onboard) – has been honoured; so far, the clips and stills look impressive – most promisingly, a return to the more practical special effects we know and love is assured.

The first trailer was good, but it wasn’t until the second trailer when my eyes widened – and my jaw dropped – as the camera panned along to this shot: 

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At this point came the realization that something quite special was in the works. Maybe, just maybe, the old magic will be invoked. And why not now? After all, 2015 has been the Year of Nostalgia; with dinosaurs and Terminators making a comeback, it seems fitting that we should be treated to the (ahem) return of the Jedi. 

So, huzzah, 35 years later, we have come full circle. Not surprisingly, advance ticket sales have broken all records. It would be amusing – not to mention, astounding – to learn that my ol’ popcorn parlour has had to dust down its FULL HOUSE sign…

For me, the excitement felt yesteryear may have faded – the memories of those wretched prequels still gnaw at my advancing cranium – but an unashamed desire to find out how the saga that not only captivated but redefined popular culture continues has shone through. 

At least, we all feel more confident now than we ever did back in 1999. And 2002 for that matter… 

It’s December 2015.

A new Star Wars movie is just DAYS away.

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No other movie matters…

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

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Yay! Made it to the Big 1-0-0! Couldn’t be happier!

Believe it or not: this is actually the first time that this blog has appeared during the month of December. The last two years the coming of December meant recharging my batteries over the festive period, but now – especially after having struggled through a rather uncompromising and uncreative November – the need to carry on writing grips me more than ever.

It would be nice to take this opp to express how awesome it’s been to meet so many other amazing bloggers on my wild yet wonderful jaunt through the blogosphere these past two years. 

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Honestly, this blog would not/could not have made it this far without all your support.

So, what should we do next?

Something good?

Something Brad?

Bit of both…?

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A bit of both! 

 

Bradscribe will return. 

Who’s The Doctor? Who Knows?

The Tale Of A Time Lord: Are You Coming And Going… Or Going And Coming?

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“You may be a Doctor, but I’m the Doctor, the definite article you might say” – The Doctor.

By the gods of Gallifrey, it was only a matter of time before my attention turned to Doctor Who: that beloved, enduring phenomenon of British TV. This weekend, BBC1 showed “Heaven Sent,” the penultimate episode of this current series – a fascinating outing featuring just Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, in a creepy castle constantly reconfiguring itself, stalked by a mysterious veiled entity: “extraordinary; one of the best episodes ever.”

Admittedly, it looked a more engaging viewing pleasure than usual. Too many of the stories in recent years have been incomprehensible, or just dull. Looking – and sounding – so radically different from the Who of old does not help either. Despite their notoriously shoddy sets and terribly-dated special effects, their classic scripts sparkle stronger than ever. 

A huge fan of the series between 1979-1984, it was a joy to be introduced to this Saturday evening ritual during the years of the Fourth – and arguably the greatest – regeneration played by Tom Baker (1974-1981).

Having witnessed the demise of the show in 1989, hearing about its resurrection in 2005 failed to instill any excitement or curiosity whatsoever. David Tennant turned out to be surprisingly successful as the Tenth Doctor, but failed to interest me; the same, alas, can be applied to the Eleventh reincarnation: Matt Smith. Just as well really – working abroad in recent years has kept me away from the BBC’s longest-running series.

However, things are looking up with Peter Capaldi – probably the best casting for the role since, well, Tom Baker. 

Bless both your hearts, Doc. 

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“Homo sapiens, what an inventive, invincible species… Puny, defenceless bipeds, they survived flood, famine and plague – they survived cosmic wars and holocausts; now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They’re indomitable… indomitable…” – The Doctor.

Since 2005, of course, the series has metamorphosed into something bigger than ever, even attracting a huge following on the other side of the pond, which is fantastic, considering how quintessentially English this phenomenon traditionally set out to be.

No matter where the Doctor (not just the Fourth, but any of them for that matter) and his companions ended up – Gallifrey, Skaro, Traken, etc. – the aliens always spoke impeccable English, and their planet looked suspiciously like a more terrestrial quarry. Whenever the more malicious species decided to invade Earth, they always ended up targeting England. 

One reason why this bigger (better?) incarnation has failed to lure me in is the standard of the scripts. The writers assembled for the Baker years (1974-1981) were a formidable bunch, including Terrance Dicks, Chris Boucher and Terry Nation (the creator of the Daleks, the Doctor’s most fearsome – and consistent – foe), but particular praise should go to Robert Holmes, who is responsible for penning some of the best-loved stories: including The Ark In Space (1975, above), Pyramids of Mars (1975), The Brain of Morbius, The Deadly Assassin (both 1976), and The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (1977). His scripts really exuded charm, even intelligent dashes of wit – how often can you say that of the series now? 

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“I can see your long rest hasn’t done anything to cure your megalomania. Have a jelly baby” – The Doctor.

What set the the Fourth Doctor apart, and endeared him to multitudes of fans worldwide – besides Baker’s wonderful performances and consistently amazing scripts – was his iconic look: the floppy hat and that seemingly endless scarf, plus the amusing habit of offering any of his adversaries a jelly baby.  

9 million viewers at Saturday teatime sat enthralled or, as legend would have it, “cowered behind the sofa.” During the 1970s, the show was heavily criticised for being too scary and too violent. None of it scared me – on the contrary, it never failed to excite.

And engage my imagination: once that week’s thrilling cliffhanger was absorbed, and taken over by the haunting theme tune (it still induces goosebumps even now), it was off to Gallifrey (i.e. my bedroom) and convert the wardrobe into my very own Tardis. 

To all those fans who insist that Tennant is the best Doctor (pah!) please feel free to (try and) make your case in the Comments below – recommend any stories or individual scenes worth my while.

Good luck: surely there cannot have been any stories in the past decade as stunning as Genesis Of The Daleks (1975). The following scene from that story out of all 41 of Baker’s reign is my all-time fave – not just a classic Dr Who moment, but one of the most impressive scenes in the history of British TV drama.   

You don’t have to wait – the Doctor will see you now…

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“It’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for” – The Doctor.

“Everything Is Blue”: A Celebration Of One Of The UK’s Finest Writers

Sophisticated Suspense.

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“Why shouldn’t you have a bit of fun while dealing with the deepest issues of the mind?” – Alan Moore.  

“My killers dislocated my electroskeleton…

Bent the clear note of my being out of pitch…

Out of harmony with the earth…

Barred from my planet’s emerald heart…

And unwilling to burn…

The turquoise ferns and duck-egg pebbles…

The aquarium light filtering through clouds of bleached cobalt…

“Everything is blue.”

Seeing as it’s his birthday today, this Post has been set aside to honour Alan Moore, acclaimed creator of such classic comic literature as Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,  From Hell and V For Vendetta; we shall focus instead on Swamp Thing, because that is where my startled discovery of his great talent was made.

Originally created as a simple eight-page modern gothic tear-jerker by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson for House of Secrets #92, in 1972, scientist Alex Olsen was “killed” in a chemical explosion, his flaming body hurling into the bayou, only to be soon resurrected as a mossy and morose muck-monster. 

Each edition of Moore’s Swamp Thing offered individual brilliance, but for me, none more so than Issue 56 (dated Jan 87).

Can remember reading this one for the first time; entitled: “My Blue Heaven” it was more a case of bewilderment, than being gobsmacked. Rather than displaying the traditional lurid coloured inks of say, Superman or Wonder Woman, this particular issue told a unique story utilising an ingenious monochromatic technique, adding instant mood and atmosphereevery panel was blue. 

Didn’t know what to make of it initially, but one thing was clear: here in my hands lay an example of a drastically different form of graphic art, and all my comic-reading years had never prepared my senses to savour a script quite like this. 

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Happy Birthday To The Wonderful Wizard of Northampton!

Moore, Veitch, Alcala - Swamp Thing, My Blue Heaven

“Forever.

I will spend forever here…

An immortal wandering endlessly towards eternity…

Across a monochrome landscape…

One color, ome word.

So many shades…

The color of saxophones at dusk…

Of orbiting police lights smeared across tenement windows…

Of loneliness…

Of melancholy.

The blues.”

When planning a movie adaptation of Watchmen, Terry Gilliam (who Moore revealed would have been an excellent choice to direct a Watchmen movie) asked: “How would you make a film of Watchmen?” 

“Well, frankly,” Moore replied, “If anyone had bothered to consult me, I would have said ‘I wouldn’t’.”

Moore had written Watchmen expressly to explore the possibilities of the comic book medium, utilising narrative devices that deliberately set out to be unfilmable. So with this title, Moore could really experiment with ways in which a superior sophisticated graphic novel could be presented.

What Moore could you want? Who better than the beloved bewhiskered Brit to take this tragic figure but present him optimistically as a creator of his own realm?

Instead of wallowing in loneliness, the Thing creates his own doppelganger: “manipulating… two sets of muscles… I stand and walk toward myself… We touch… marveling to find not the cold hardness of mirror glass… but another palm, cool and dry.” 

Thus unfolded a dream-like narrativestrange: most certainly; compelling reading: oh yes…

And for company, he (re)creates Abby, his long-lost love:

“…As the flowers blossom… in a pale mane from her scalp… I am breathless. 

“Oh, she is beautiful… and I am lost.”

Blue

“We kiss… then kiss again…

Embracing, we sink to our knees,

Through the dreamlike phosphorescence…

Of air too rich in rare gasses, 

We tumble… a kinetic progression…

Of stop-motion glimpses…

Sensual and inevitable in their sequence…

A blue movie.” 

Swamp Thing helped pave the way for DC Comics to handle more mature topics in an increasing number of titles specifically aimed at a much older readership. Amidst other bold and brilliant titles branded as: “Suggested For Mature Readers,” Swamp Thing did his own distinct and bizarre thing on a monthly basis.

For four years, Moore took this unlikely titular vegetable hero and revealed it to be just a tragic “shambling mound of foliage” that has merely acquired the consciousness of the dead scientist (now referred to as Alec Holland). This inspired the kind of extended, positively surreal, character study that Moore relishes.

Ultimately, the Swamp Thing must banish all thought of ever having been human in the first place, let alone trying to devise the bio-restorative formula to regain that glimmer of humanity. Thus, the creature must – over several episodes – contemplate not only the worthlessness of its existence, but decide what it should do with itself from then on.

Where else could you find a comic book where the central character foregoes living and merges with the mass-psyche of the earth itself, becoming a vegetable in all senses of the word?

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“Like blue bile…

The scream floods from my throat…

And I turn and run…

Past cars that are gradually losing their shapes to the rain…

“I try… to hold the world together in my mind… 

“But it slithers from a grasp… made slippery by sap…

In despair… I let it die…

I let the buildings unravel…

And the children fall dead in the streets…

I stop the hearts… of the perspiring old men…

I kill the world.

Blue murder.” 

John Constantine, the British occult mage/annoying smartass – whose character would about to be considerably expanded in his own highly successful, critically-acclaimed ongoing series called Hellblazer – made his debut in The Saga of The Swamp Thing #37. 

Here, he makes another distinctive cameo appearance – as this is Swamp Thing’s own dreamworld, so John is nothing more than an illusion, but still offering an annoying supporting role! Odd, yet compelling material. 

Finally, as this Post comes to it’s end, so we reach the final lines of Moore’s classic script:

“I leave… the world that I have made… behind me…

It shall remain here…

As a decayed monument… to the pain… of sundered romance… 

A bitter love letter… left tear-stained and crumpled…

In the obscure corner… of the universe…  

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“A blue valentine.” 

“A Naked American Man Stole My Balloons…”

Possibly The Most Entertaining Horror Film Ever Made… 

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“I will not be threatened by a walking meatloaf!” – David Kessler. 

For me, there is no horror movie more shocking, more deliriously funny, more exhilarating than An American Werewolf In London. 

Having gained considerable success with the riotous comedy: Animal House (1978), John Landis unleashed “a different kind of animal” in 1981. People went into Landis’ next feature expecting something just as hilarious. Many walked out, clearly not prepared for the gory and grisly drama that would unfold.

The UK TV premiere came (very late at night, of course) in 1984. It was shown not long after we had bought our very first VCR. After much pleading, my father agreed to stay up and tape it for me. The morning after, watching it avidly, a strange, spine-tingling sensation soon gripped me and held my attention throughout all 97 minutes of it.

One thing for sure: there would be many repeat viewings.

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“I mean, look around. Isn’t this a fun place?”

The film’s opening shot features the Yorkshire moors at dawn. Over a montage of such serene vistas, the first of three versions of Blue Moon (by Bobby Vinton) is played. Actually, in his original script, Landis wanted Moonshadow by Cat Stevens, but Yusuf Islam wouldn’t budge. 

After hitching a ride in the back of a farmer’s truck, backpackers: David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) arrive at East Proctor, supposedly in Yorkshire, Northern England, but the location photography was done in Powys, Wales. Especially love the gentle piano score by Elmer Bernstein as they find a traditional little pub called: The Slaughtered Lamb. These exterior shots were taken outside a private house in Crickadarn, a village in Powys. 

“Those sheep shit on my pack…” 

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“‘Ere, Gladys! Tom! Did you hear the one about the crashing plane?”  

The “nice-looking group” inside the warm and cosy Slaughtered Lamb just happens to include some of the most recognisable character actors in the British film industry at that time.

That’s Brian Glover (the warden from Alien 3), the chess player telling that Alamo joke; his opponent is Rick Mayall, a well-loved TV comedy actor; David Schofield (a scheming senator in Gladiator), a disturbed darts player; and there’s even Pat Roach (who challenged Indiana Jones to a bare-knuckle fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark that very same year). These interior shots were filmed inside The Black Swan, at Martyr’s Green, in Surrey. 

“Excuse me, but what’s that star on the wall for?” 

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“You made me miss! I’ve never missed that board before…” 

This is certainly going to go down as the highlight of David Schofield’s career. No action, no gore: just a genuinely chilling moment. Still gets me three decades later. 

Taking drastic leave from The Slaughtered Lamb, after Jack dropped that bombshell, it’s back to the moors they (inexplicably) go.

As they trudge away, the heavens open. Love the way they’re bawling Italian opera without a care in the world…

“Then murder it is! It’s in God’s hands now…”

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“Ah shit! What is it?!” 

Feel the tension as we cut back to The Slaughtered Lamb and the frightened expressions on the locals’ faces as the distant cry of the werewolf is clearly audible.

“You hear that?” “I heard nothing!”

Of course, the two boys have to stop in the middle of the cold, dark and wet moorland to reassure themselves that there are no coyotes in England… 

With every viewing, the gradual loudness of the wolf’s howls is unsettling – fantastic sound effects and a skilful upsurge in suspense as the boys have nowhere to run.

And then! The howl comes (from offscreen) directly in front of them! In their panic, David slips, Jack leans in to help, and suddenly, the beast attacks. Jack is mauled to death; the wolf is shot down by the villagerswho arrived a minute too late. Before passing out, David turns to look at the beast, only to find a dead man lying beside him…

“Maybe that pentangle was for something supernatural…”

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“Mr. Kessler, try not to excite yourself!”

Here you go: yet another reason why An American Werewolf In London is well-cherished – especially among my generation.

Confused and disorientated in a London hospital, David receives a visit by a Mr. Collins from the American Embassy. As soon as you hear the voice you realise: yes! That’s Bert from Sesame Street! Miss Piggy (who actually has a cameo during a dream sequence – how freaky is that?) and of course: Yoda from the Star Wars saga. 

Up until then, Frank Oz had been an anonymous, yet amazing, puppeteer and voice artist, but to see him here:

one couldn’t help but get excited!

“These dumbass kids, they never appreciate anything you do for ’em…” 

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“I’ll send someone in to keep you company…” 

Holy shit! 

Just as you are convinced that this is five-star fare, Landis (and Baker) crank it up to an even more awesome level. Having suffered a few dream sequences already, David drifts off into his most terrifying yet: at home, his siblings are watching The Muppet Show; there’s frantic knocking at the door… 

Get this: a band of Nazi ghouls wielding sub-machine guns shoot up and burn down his home, slaughter his family (even kicking Kermit – the fiends!) then kill him. Will never forget how exhilarating it was watching this scene for the first time all those years ago; reckon the tape was rewound twice to savour each delicious, unbelievable frame! 

At such a young age, this was by far the most mind-blowing sight these wide, disbelieving eyes had ever seen! It remains one of my all-time goosebump moments. As this sequence was sooo cool, it gets two pics. 

And – hey! – we haven’t even got to David’s transformation yet…

“That’s Punch and Judy – they’ve always been violent.”

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“Can I have a piece of toast?”  

With every viewing, the first view of the undead Goodman boy never fails to astound. The make-up applied to Griffin Dunne here by Rick Baker is sensational, but would this scene be outstanding if it did not begin with that absurd line?

This is a pivotal intervention as Jack explains how he died “an unnatural death and now walk the Earth in limbo until the werewolf curse is lifted.” 

“Shut up!”

“The wolf’s bloodline must be severed; the last remaining werewolf must be destroyed… It’s you, David!” 

This is my kinda drama!

It’s kinda creepy how Jack just carries on as he did before, talking about that girl he fancied, only this time complaining about the insipid company of the undead.

“You ever talked to a corpse? It’s boring!” 

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“I didn’t mean to call you a meatloaf, Jack.” 

Amazing how Nurse Price takes David back to her place – which just happens to be:

64 Coleherne Road, 

South Kensington, 

Greater London. 

– where he receives even better treatment. You simply can’t get that kind of care on the NHS nowadays…

Actually, Dad pressed Pause when the shower scene came on. He let me sit through the gore, but Van Morrison was strictly off-limits… 

Another visit from Jackhe is decomposing rapidly; after taking a quick butcher’s at the nurse’s pad, he sits down to repeat much of what he said earlier, although more desperately this time.

This is where my deep admiration for Creedence Clearwater Revival came from. In that far-off pre-internet era it took years to find out who did that killer song: Bad Moon Rising.

“I’m still not hungry…” 

At last, the full moon; David burns up.

Naughton admitted later that the transformation scene took a whole week to accomplish, with approximately ten hours a day applying make-up, five hours on set, and three hours just to remove it! The Academy honoured Rick Baker’s stupendous contribution to this film, with the inaugural Award for Best Make-up.  

In any other werewolf movie, an ominous (and ultimately forgettable) score would have heralded the coming of the lycanthrope, but here, it’s the highly unexpected choice of Sam Cooke’s Blue Moon. This arrangement is not supposed to work, but somehow, surreally, it does. 

Could not proceed without putting up this scene. In addition to gasping at the ingenuity of the effects, listen to those bloodcurdling sound effects, enhancing what turns out to be a credible and undeniably excruciating transformation. 

Modern CGI be damned… 

Especially dig the nice touch at 2:04, just to remind you that –yes – this dramatic scene takes place in somebody else’s living room…

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“I can assure you I don’t find this the least bit amusing… I shall report this!”  

The first victims: the unfortunate couple – Harry and Judith – arrive at Sean’s place:

The Pryors

East Heath Road, 

Hampstead. 

Then there are the three tramps; Tower Bridge is clearly visible in the background.

The sixth and final murder: Gerald Bringsley in the London Underground holds a particular personal fascination. A regular user of the “Tube” whenever in the capital, it’s always a great thrill to follow the same route through Tottenham Court Road station where a horror legend was made. To see for yourself, take the Northbound Northern Line service (not the Central Line), disembark at Tottenham Court Road and make sure to take the middle Exit. 

Amusing how Gerald could buy chocolate from a confectionary machine on the platform – another privilege denied to us now.

“Oh, Good Lord!”

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“I’m genuinely pleased to see you…” 

David wakes up naked in London Zoo. 

How he manages to get back to Alex’s flat involves a string of hilarious set-pieces, including my all-time favourite line from any horror movie – why not make it the title of this Post?

When Alex tries to bring David back to the hospital, they hail a taxi (on Wilton Crescent, Belgravia).And yes, the driver is played by none other than Alan Ford (best-known as Brick Top from Snatch).

There then follows a very bizarre scene: Jack beckons David over to a porn cinema in Piccadilly to meet his victims. Fresh and still blood-spattered, they each offer ways on how David can take his own life, thus breaking them from the curse.

Jack – in another finely-detailed make-up job – is now a gruesome cadaver, but still keen to help.

“Do you mind? The man’s a friend of mine!” 

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“There’s been a disturbance in Piccadilly…”

The climax involves the chaos as David runs amok once more. The above behind-the-scenes pic could not be resisted. To perfect the sequence in which the police inspector gets his head bitten off, Rick Baker literally had to operate one of his model wolf heads himself.

The director’s cameo is very difficult to spot. Landis is the bearded man who is hit by a car and thrown through a plate glass window.

The end comes far too hurriedly. Always bewildering how Alex doesn’t get shot accidentally; there’s plenty of police marksmen in that dark alley, and she’s standing just yards in front of them…

“What do you mean: how did he look? I’m an orderly, not a bleeding psychiatrist; I push things around!”

Over thirty years later, An American Werewolf In London remains a unique and original feat of film-making – still scary and spellbinding, but has never failed to enthrall… and split my sides. 

The  current crop of horror directors – who consistently fail to create anything half as clever and creepy as this – should be forced to study the ways in which this masterpiece came to be, and succeeded on so many levels. 

How best to describe it?

Is it a zany outing with truly horrific moments:

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…or a horror movie with the most unexpected comedic moments?

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“Hello David!”

Final Thought: To think that studio execs wanted Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi to play the two leads.

The Blues Brothers: as backpackers?! Come off it… 

A naked Aykroyd scampering around London Zoo?! That would have been truly horrific… 

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Happy Halloween!

Beware the moon… and stick to the road…