Blade Runner 2049: The Bradscribe Review

Future Perfect? More Sequel Than Sequel…?

“This is not some clunky franchise-farmed cash-in… With all the art and craft of the original, Denis Villeneuve has… gotten down and dirty in the gene pool, marinated in its enzymes, slept in its bed and dreamt its dreams. And then he’s gone to work” – The Sunday Times.  

“I want more life!” demanded Roy Batty, the peculiar, but poetic, doomed replicant from the classic original Blade Runner. 

Well – after all this time – should that masterpiece, one of the greatest – and self-contained – SF classics reviewed here: have been granted an extension of its existence?

Remarkably, these past few weeks, some critics have argued that Blade Runner 2049 has surpassed the original, taking the issues of humanity, genetics and identity to whole new astounding levels. 

Now, considering how this blogger included himself as one of those teeming masses baulking at a “new” Blade Runner movie, it is a revelation – not to mention a relief – to report that Blade Runner 2(049) has turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing visual and emotional experience.

“Despite all the overlaps, this is not a simulacrum of a Ridley Scott film. It is unmistakably a Denis Villeneuve film, inviting us to tumble, tense with anticipation, into his doomy clutches” – The New Yorker.

The plot of Blade Runner 2049 begins with Ryan Gosling, turning in an appropriately vacant and artificial presence as a new Runner: K (as in Philip K. Dick?), paying a visit to the isolated warehouse/abode of Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton – retired from the rumble-tumble world of WWF to a barren sector of the Californian wasteland to Grow Green Stuff, Man. What the officer’s surveillance equipment discovers onsite leads to the main plot development: K questioning the nature of his own existence – “basically Pinocchio with more eco-pollution” as one reviewer rather facetiously described it.

When we eventually get to see the Main Man/Replicant/? Himself, it’s nice to see Villeneuve honour that traditional sci-fi dystopian trope of the protagonist wandering into somebody else’s gaff without even a knock or a “Yoohoo!”

As tired and drawn as the world he now (barely) inhabits, Deckard cuts a haggard, whiskey-slugging figure, with only a dog and a holographic Elvis to keep him company. Perhaps Ford’s finest performance in years. 

That wasn’t a real dog… was it? 

Shame it wasn’t a sheep – that would’ve been neat. No, seriously, in the novel, Rick Deckard keeps an artificial sheep on his roof, and only takes the job to retire those wayward  Nexus-6 replicants so that he can afford to buy a real domesticated ruminant mammal with a thick woolly coat…  

“The question at Blade Runner 2049’s pulsating heart has no glib answer… With dazzling adroitness, [Villeneuve] has built on Scott’s legacy to create something grander in scope and emotional range” – London Evening Standard. 

What about the Soundtrack? 

There are no exceptional tracks here – nothing to compare to Vangelis’ sumptuous Blade Runner Blues, the sensuality of the Love Theme, the achingly beautiful Memories Of Green, or the sweeping grandeur of Harps Of The Ancient Temples – regrettably, the score is just as equally soulless as its artificial antagonists…

There is another unsettling observation concerning Blade Runner 2049 that has largely gone unmentioned in other reviews. In this post post-feminist “society” women can look forward – ha! – to not much in the way of beneficial or progressive roles. There are some strong female characters – who can forget Sylvia Hoeks’ “Luv”? Robin Wright is enjoying a promising upturn in her career – here she plays K’s superior: Lieutenant Joshi, in an interesting, but underused, performance.

Apparently, Blade Runner 2049 fails the Bechdel Test i.e. can two female characters share the screen and NOT have a conversation about a man? Morover, this movie just falls short of the Bradscribe Test, specifically: are there 3-4 lines cool or snazzy enough to be quoted herein? When you consider how the original movie positively brims with terrific lines and conversations, sill fondly remembered and quoted 35 years later…

The virtual love interest is brought to you by Joi (Ana de Armas), a hypnotic beauty, but then, she would need to be a top-of-the-range model distracting enough to make any man (or woman?) forget that they exist in a murky dystopia beset with biospheric collapse, child labour camps, distracting neon billboards and Jared Leto – blind, bearded and as bonkers as a bat – ruling the roost from his ambient asylum, inflicting poor, unsuspecting souls with his unintelligible pseudobabble. His (mis)casting as Niander Wallace is perhaps my biggest grumble with this otherwise captivating movie.

Tell you what: going for a spin in his spinner, tha last thing Brad (hopefully not looking as old and thoroughly dischuffed as Harrison Ford does here) will want is to be distracted by a 50 foot holographic ballerina pirouetting past the bally windscreen, thank you very much…

“Blade Runner 2049 has been made with impeccable craftsmanship and taste, yet the film is so terrified of disreputability that it renders itself dead from the waist down, unable to derive pleasure even from a theoretically kinky robot three-way” – Slant Magazine.

Will 2049 end up matching – or even surpassing – its predecessor’s revered status in the pantheon of SF greats? 

Well, no. 

Look at its core components: more bleak, more brutal, less memorable and less inspiring – can these really be considered to be superior traits…?

Certainly not. 

Those folks who reckon this movie supersedes the original are merely revelling (somewhat prematurely) in hype. Nevertheless, during all the time we were suppressing the prospect of a sequel, little did we know that such a wondrous filmmaker as Denis Villeneuve could even exist…

“You’ve never seen a miracle,” Sapper Morton mumbles before being wiped off the cast list. Considering how much the audience were fidgeting, yawning and groaning throughout 2049’s 2hrs, 44 mins (unlike the spinners, time doesn’t fly in this hazy, amber-tinted future), it looked like they were being hard-pushed to find anything exceptional in this languid concoction. 

Always keen to watch more sophisticated, less action-stuffed film fare, my patience, however, was awarded with incredible visuals, an extraordinary narrative atmosphere, and the golden opp of seeing – no matter how grumpy he looks these days – the Ford Legend grace the big screen once more…

In answer to the question: “would you recommend it?” it strikes me as being one of those movies absolutely magnificent to watch once, but fails to incite the urge to pay it numerous viewings. Guess one misses that rain-soaked Chinatown and those fire-spewing ziggurats of good ol’ 2019 a tad too much… 

Brad doesn’t know how long it will take to get round to watching Blade Runner 2049 a second time.

Who does…?

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 out of 5 glittering C-beams, but ooooh, only just…

 

“I was quit when I come in here, Bryant, I’m twice as quit now” – Rick Deckard.

 

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Voight-Kampff Test Retaken: Blade Runner: The Bradscribe Rereview

Is This To Be An Empathy Test?

“Memories. You’re talking about memories…” – Rick Deckard.  

“Blade Runner is such an amazing movie. A mesmerising mix of sci-fi, action and film noir, it is quite unlike anything you have seen before…” were my words used to describe this seminal SF masterpiece, back in 1986. That school project required us to produce our own magazine. At last! Something to really engage my interests and talents.

The result: Film File – twenty pages, crammed with reviews and profiles written in different coloured ink – was awarded A+ by my gobsmacked English teacher. Blade Runner had had its TV premiere that year, and my VHS copy was swiftly getting worn out at an exponential rate. Naturally, consumed by Ridley Scott’s scintillating verve and vision – over and over again – when it came to compile this rag, Blade Runner took centre stage.

“Harrison Ford makes a fascinating lead character here,” my write-up continued. “The performances are particularly memorable, but it is the spectacular “visual futurism” created by Syd Mead that is sure to become the template in which all subsequent dystopian thrillers will thrive…”

“I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them?” – Dr. Eldon Tyrell. 

Even now – with just two years to go before we reach the timeframe created therein – what can Brad write about a movie that holds a reserved place in his All-Time Top 5: honestly, one does not just watch this movie – you experience it…

But then, remember that yours truly is a Professional Wordsmith – it’s my job to find the right words, ma’am. 

What better way to begin than from the beginning: the opening shot of the imposing Tyrell Corp pyramid dominating the cityscape is sumptuous enough, but a seemingly mundane scene involving Holden testing a subject called Leon ends in such an unexpected, dramatic way, my attention was drawn in from that moment – still get goosebumps marvelling at its intricate editing – and the exceptional sights and sounds that unfolded  kept me hooked right up to its melancholy conclusion.

One of the quintessential elements to enhance the classic status of this sophisticated replicant-busting package is the synthtastic score by Vangelis. As the movie has fuelled its fanatical fan-base to ask numerous questions over the years, there is one particular poser that always fascinates my speculative faculties:  

Who – or what – else could have evoked better mood and enhanced the drama? 

Choosing just ONE track from the classic Soundtrack is challenging enough, but this one gets me every time:

 

My very own unique arbiter of good taste: my father, loved the movie as well – ’twas he who had to stay up (extra late) that weekday night in ’86 and record it, editing out the commercials (bless ‘im!)

The “Boy, have you got a treat in store!” look on his face the next morning is one of those priceless moments @ Brad Manor… 

Leon Kowalski (played viciously-cool by Brion James) had more of a profound effect on The Original Brad than on me. He really enjoyed quoting Leon’s lines non-stop:

“Wake up, time to die!” 

“Okay, OKAY, I WILL tidy my room already…” 

“What do you mean, I’m not helping?” – Leon Kowalski. 

And then of course, the main female character became equally iconic.

The fashion sense and hairstyle of eternally-lovely Rachel (Sean Young) added a distinctive 1940s vibe to these “futuristic” proceedings -enhancing that elaborate noir touch in amidst all that neon…

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachel. 

“It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” – Gaff.  

“Personally, the added unicorn dream sequence looks more incongruous than the original drive-away ending that consisted of outtakes from The Shining! If anything, this unwelcome addition looks like a shoddy outtake from Scott’s 1985 movie: Legend – an even more absurd anomaly…” so argued my write-up prepared for a local newspaper to coincide with the cinematic release of Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut in 1992. The then-Editor didn’t seem all that impressed as my Reviewlike most of my best material – never saw publication.

Thankfully, my opinion towards this sequence has mellowed over time.

“To me, it’s entirely logical,” Ridley Scott explained in a 1982 interview. “Particularly when you are doing a film noir, you might as well go through with that theme, and the central character could in fact be what he is chasing. You could say it is corny or not corny. Something is usually only corny according to execution. It was cut into the picture, and I think it worked wonderfully.”

Although filmed for the original theatrical cut, there again, meddling studio execs advised him to extricate the scene because it complicated the narrative even furtherWithout it, of course, the later appearance of the origami unicorn makes no sense. 

Part of the initial appeal was Ford’s droll narration. Never had a problem with it myself – was unaware that it was an explanatory device reluctantly added later. As a writer, it is understandable now: how the endless revisions and rewrites it had to go through became a source of irritation for the makers.  

Actually, what about that other question: was Ford miscast? 

Many of his fans thought so, and the negative word-of-mouth contributed to Blade Runner‘s surprisingly dismal run during its initial release.

On the other hand, his presence primarily influenced my decision to sit down, watch and have my life changed forever…

“Are you for real?” – Zhora.

 Gaff: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem, bitte! 

Sushi Master: “He say you under arrest, Mister Deckard.” 

Deckard: “Got the wrong guy, pal.” 

Gaff:Lófaszt! Nehogy már! Te vagy a Blade, Blade Runner!” 

Sushi Master: “He say you Blade Runner.”

Deckard:Tell him I’m eating.”

To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, in 2007, Blade Runner: The Final Cut was released. Working abroad where it received no theatrical release, it was just a matter of time before finally seeing what Ridley Scott had originally intended.

Strangely enough, it has taken another ten years before getting round to renting a copy of Blade Runner: The Final Cut! Just last month, in fact, intricate rituals had to be undertaken to prepare me for this superior sensory sensation. Yes, that same tingling feeling throughout is still there…

Future perfect? Perhaps… 

The most perplexing question: “Is Deckard a replicant?” has been argued to almost monotonous degrees among critics and fans alike.

For aeons…

Scott insists that he is; Ford has always denied this aspect of his character. Actually, look at it this way: it’s an aspect best left open and UNanswered; let viewers decide for themselves – very few movies possess the capacity to allow audiences to react in such a way. The point that people are still arguing over this issue 35 years later is a testament to the power and intrigue that Blade Runner has – and continues – to generate.

“We need you, Sebastian. You’re our best and only friend” – Pris.

“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave” – Roy Batty.

That other oherwhelming question: “Should this classic have a sequel?” has always been answered from this quarter with a stern:

NO, A Thousand Times No. 

When news finally broke confirming the go-ahead of the dreaded Blade Runner 2, it seemed like such an abysmal admit-defeat scenario had unfolded.

However…

In the promising hands of Denis Villeneuve, who lavished the extraordinarily impressive Arrival upon us all last year, prospects suddenly don’t look so dire. Plus, unexpectedly glowing initial Reviews have trickled in. Some critics have even had the nerve to comment how Blade Runner 2049 not only complements the original, but supersedes it in terms of depth and quality. 

Uff, we’ll have to see about THAT…

So, always up for a challenge, your correspondent will give 2049 a go, and report back to you later in the week… 

Let it be said: Villeneuve  will have to go SOME WAY to try and produce anything to equal the original’s Final Act: still cited by many as the Greatest Scene in SF Cinema History – it is certainly one of the leading contenders. 

Honestly, how could we finish This Post without it? 

Tears in rain? Tears on my keyboard, more like.

Every time…

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Reaction time is a factor in this so please pay attention. Answer as quickly as you can.”

 

“Life? It’s One Big Phantasmagoria”: Harry Dean Stanton: A Tribute

The Great Harry Dean Stanton Has Passed Away, Aged 91

“There’s nobody like Harry Dean. Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) – and a great human being – so great to be around him!” – David Lynch. 

After the overwhelming number of losses we suffered from the movie and music worlds last year, there would be no more heartrending Obituaries on this site. But after learning of the passing of great supporting actor Harry Dean Stanton yesterday, the opportunity to relate what his phenomenal body of work means to me should not go unmentioned.

Born in 1926 in rural Kentucky, after serving as in the Navy during the Second World War, he dropped out of studying Journalism at college – don’t blame you, Harry (that route didn’t become one of my best life-choices) – to attend acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949.

After gaining small parts in Western TV shows, he was able to make a poignant mark in a classic Paul Newman movie. Cool Hand Luke (1967) is one of the most powerful dramas ever produced. One of its numerous highlights is Harry’s moving rendition of that ol’ gospel song: Just a Closer Walk with Thee:

With his “weatherbeaten visage and anti-heroic mien” he lent considerable gravitas to a wide range of cool movies. Harry Dean Stanton was one of Kelly’s Heroes (1970); he played a gay hitchhiker in Two Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman’s existential road movie from 1971; and – goddamnit!things ain’t workin’ out” for outlaw Homer Van Meter, fleeing Ben Johnson’s G-Men in the brilliant Dillinger (1973):

“Here kitty kitty! Ah… kitty crap…” – Brett. 

Besides a brief appearance in The Godfather Part II, he got involved in another five-star masterpiece during th ’70s. Ridley Scott cast him as a crew member aboard the ill-fated Nostromo in Alien (1979)

At first, he felt reluctant to commit to a “monster movie,” but still managed to create an iconic hangdog cosmic labourer with – let’s face it – the coolest shirt beyond the stars… right?: 

In 1981, Harry played Brain in John Carpenter’s cult classic: Escape From New York.

Let’s not forget – how can we?! – his speed-sniffing car repossessor in Repo Man (1984) and Molly Ringwald’s hopeless dad in Pretty In Pink (1985).

He played St Paul in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1987); Toot Toot in the Stephen King adaptation The Green Mile (1999); and, appeared in several projects by David Lynch, including Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and, latterly, The Straight Story and Inland Empire.

“…You did scare the hell out of some pigeons though. Big and green, and buck-assed nude… You an alien…? From outer space, an alien?” – Harry The Security Guard. 

“I needed to get Banner from the horror of what he had done… He needs somebody who will just accept him,” said Joss Whedon in an interview to promote his blockbuster The Avengers (2012).

Having come face-to-face with the classic xenomorph, Harry would easily accept a green goliath in downtown Manhattan quite well. It was a pleasant surprise to see Harry Dean Stanton in a sweet – albeit brief – cameo in The Avengers (2012).

Harry Dean Stanton in the MCU? Well why on Earth not?! 

His participation came through The Avengers’ Director of Photography, who had just been making a documentary about this cult supporting actor. Overwhelmed at having the great man on board, Whedon ended up writing 13 pages devoted to this small and surreal scene, knowing that much of the filmed material would end up on the cutting room floor anyway. 

“I was like, oh, this is great, Banner falls into a Coen Brothers movie!” Whedon continued. “The fact that they [the producers] even let me keep that concept and that we actually landed Harry Dean to play it was very exciting.”

“And besides, to work with Harry Dean and to quiz him about Alien and The Missouri Breaks? What a privilege.”

“He ran through the flames toward the only two people he loved… but they were gone. His arms were burning, and he threw himself outside and rolled on the wet ground. Then he ran. He never looked back at the fire. He just ran. He ran until the sun came up and he couldn’t run any further. And when the sun went down, he ran again. For five days he ran like this until every sign of man had disappeared…” – Travis Henderson.

There was indeed a “peculiar kind of sadness,” about Harry Dean Stanton – mix of vulnerability, honesty and laconic perseverance. 

This would appear most evident in Paris Texas (1984) – his only lead role – perhaps the movie he will be best remembered for, and certainly the one with which he was most fond. Having got drunk with writer Sam Shepard, Stanton found himself offered the lead in Wim Wenders’ Palme d’Or winning gem.

When it came to choosing a suitable clip to honour his Lifetime Achievements, this one – obviouslyhad to be selected.

Brad and his father instantly fell for this mesmerising road movie. Dad enjoyed Ry Cooder’s music even more. Within this enigmatic movie lay some astonishing similarities: both he and Travis found themselves as father to a charming blond moppet relatively late in life.

After The Original Brad became One With The Force, this song remained on my mind – and in my heart – for many months after…

Very few supporting actors could elicit laughter, gasps, screams and tears from me, but with this fella from Kentucky, you could be certain you were going to see something really special. Every time.

Thanks for everything, Harry…

“After all these years, I finally got the part I wanted to play. If I never did another film after Paris, Texas I’d be happy” – Harry Dean Stanton.

 

Electric Dreams II: The Return Of Retrowave

New Ways, New Ways, I Dream Of Wires

“My only exposure to electronic music before this had been Kraftwerk, but they were always trying to be machine-like… Then The Human League came along and their music had a human feel to it. It worked for me” – Gary Numan.

“One of my friends told me how genius it was that at the start of Cars [1979] there is just one note that stays and stays and stays,” recalled affable high-flying Electro Overlord Gary NumanI had to break it to them that when I was in the studio I started playing the first note and couldn’t think what to do next. I wasn’t a genius at all, just bereft of ideas.”

Ha! Such a self-effacing Overlord.

He paved the way for the innovative New Wave electronic pop outfits of the ’80s, who, in turn, have helped influence the current music genre guaranteed to lift my spirits: Retrowave, aka Synthwave.

Can’t go wrong wth a roster of retro vibes.

Thus, this selection includes just some of the audio pleasures to have sustained me during the last few weeks of alternating levels of creativity. Compiling the first instalment of this series turned out to be such a blast so this further indulgence was in order. Would like to think that you can find some gems in this collection that can inspire your writing too.

What better way to begin than with Miami Vice: the epitome of class ’80s TV.

Crockett is a consistently good Retrowave artist – and knows how to set the right mood when my writing kicks in – in fact, one or two of his tracks have single-handedly inspired pieces of my fiction!

With this vid, all me groovy ’80s small screen memories come flooding back; you’re watching and all of a sudden – @ 00:38: BAM! there they are: Crockett and Tubbs – woo-hoo!! The boys are back in town! Together in Electric Dreams…?

“…I was always convinced that electronic music wasn’t just another genre; it was a different way of approaching the composition and production of music. It was about the idea that music is not only made up of notes and harmonies, but could be made with sound…” – Jean Michel Jarre.  

There are a least three YouTube channels constantly loading new material on a daily base; the quality and diversity on increasing offer  is simply breathtaking – a mighty fine accompaniment to my working and creative sessions.

Such a gem starts off sounding akin to one of John Carpenter’s more creepy movie scores before transmogrifyng into something by Gary Numan.

Surely, that is high praise, indeed? 

This is glorious: 

I have heard the music of the future – don’t look for anything else” – Brian Eno. 

Cosmic!

Not only one of the most scrumptious words in the English language, it always presents mighty fine and dandy excuse to explore the good stuff – and escape from the bad. 

Synthwave is the only genre producing the kind of spacebound sounds that help Brad achieve just that.

From Turboslash to Turbo Knight – let’s face it: it’s these ecstatic moments of beautiful symmetry that keep bringing you back to Bradscribe.

Isn’t it? 

This track is accompanied by some Japanese anime – always expect the unexpected on this site!

LOVE the deeeep intro to this – far out, man…

“…I went back to the big, original Moog and did everything electronicallyIn a computer. In ’77… I suppose I helped modernise the sound of pop…” – Giorgio Moroder. 

“I get credit for being a pioneer,” Numan continued. “But you open a door and it allows other people who have got great ideas to come through and take it even further. You hear other people doing things and you think: That’s great!’”

Well, what an amazing door.

Even better – heartening, even – to know that a considerable range otalented auteurs of audio awesomeness have seized the opp to not only revive ’80s’ pop vibes, but draw upon that decade’s eclectic mix of SF movies (and their soundtracks!), videos and other media to create these retro-wonders. 

This week, one of my more intelligible spam Comments (for one of my comic reviews, of all things) read: 

“Built-in grooves to connect numerous units together.”

Yes, that is all it said…

Would like to think that some really snazzy built-in grooves have been assembled here for your enjoyment this evening.

This is another Synthwave artist who can do no wrong @ th mo – there’s no ace like HOME: 

Something new was in the air with electronic sounds. We were a younger generation. We came up with different textures” – Ralf Hutter (Kraftwerk). 

“It all began, appropriately enough, in science fiction,” wrote Jon Savage, in a blisteringly compelling exploration – published five years ago – of the development of electronic music. 

He went on to confirm a personal belief held for some time that: “…the possibility of other worlds – and the transformation achieved of leaving this one – is a sure-fire way of abstracting from any problems that one has on this Earth…”

At this point my text rambles into something utterly profound – but hey! – it’s getting late, and everyone just wants to party.

Don’t they…? 

“…Annnd it’s half past groovy – you’re listening to Bradscribe FM, beaming LIVE from the Cosmic Cakery across the Outer Rim Territories – playing the platters that matter on the station where the fun never stops!

“Get on the good foot, pop-pickers!”

“…On the wall back there is a black panel. Blinky yellow light. You see it? There’s a quarnex battery behind it. Purplish box. Green wires. To get into that watch tower, I definitely need it…

“I got one plan, and that plan requires this frickin’ quarnex battery, so FIGURE IT OUT!” – Rocket Raccoon. 

And if this Third Rock From The Sun is all too much, you can always escape with Brad into some right snazzy realms of the imagination.

Where else in the blogosphere can you jump at such a chance?

As far as the universe is concerned, we are but fleeting and randomly assembled collections of energy and matter, forever foraging for greater meaning in our lives…

(Aha! Told you he was going to slip something hi-brow in…)

The cute but courageousScribe may NOT hold all the unswers ye seek, but what DOES matter is that we don’t waste what precious little energy we have.

Sweet dreams…

“Keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!”
David Bowie. 

“Mind Your Head, Sleepy Chicken”: Mishaps With Creativity In The Age Of Outrage

The Daze In The “Life” Of A Flustered Writer 

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The Ancient One – “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all. ”

Dr. Stephen Strange – “Which is?”

The Ancient One – “It’s not about you.”

“We don’t care. We don’t really care,” retorted the script editor (whose name shall remain undisclosed to protect MY innocence). “The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean, 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English. And it doesn’t really matter.”

This – one of umpteen rejections foisted upon me over the years – just confirms what has been niggling my noddle lately. Such a rebuke – stern but to be expected – is, essentially, cancelling out my worth as a wordsmith. On a major motion picture. 

The prospect of movies limping along with next to no script does not exactly come as a great shock to me. My intentions of making it in the movie industry appear to be growing thinner by the day. Sure, it’s a classic case of not what you know, but who you know. Believe me, rejections here, ignorance there, and my resilience well and truly wrung – Brad would prefer not to mingle with such types…

Anyway…

Apologies for not publishing a Post sooner. But you would not believe the ridiculous setbacks encountered on my travails! While my concentration gets lost amidst the daily hustle and bustle of 21st century strife, too many people around me are losing their tempers all too easily – upon offering to help, their only rebuke comes in the disagreeable form of “Get lost.” Or (coarse) words to that effect…

Why, oh why, so much unrestrained hostility? Don’t tell me: this is the Age Of Outrage. 

My problems are probably ten times worst than theirs, but you don’t see me blowing my stack. However, considering what your correspondent Has Had To Go Through This Past Two Weeks it’s a mystery he hasn’t blown it several times already! Thankfully – between you and me – years in a Southeast Asian temple Being At One with my Inner Cha-Cha, closely supervised by a half-human half-pangolin guru have mentally prepared me for my nonchalant return to what they laughably call Western “Civilization.”

Apart from the obligatory technical glitches, trying to carry out research in the Public Library: someone has lost/misplaced a required book; then, someone else broke wind in the Self-Help Section forcing the whole bally building to be evacuated… 

At my former Alma Mater, my luck fares no better; due to the heightened security around the City, my status as Alumnus does nothing to persuade the bouncers @ Reception. Handsome? By jove, always! But “suspicious”? Do me a favour…  

In other news: my novel has stalled, primarily after studying the latest book survey revealing that two-thirds of novel readers are women. Set in a 12th century abbey, the most horrifying aspect of this medieval sci-fi adventure is the head-scratching realization that it has NO female characters! This needs to be readdressed, of course, but after a disconcerting fall in the Stats from this site, this makes me seriously ponder: will anyone want my novel…? Perhaps the answer lies in converting it into a graphic novel – but then again, my artwork (normally quite therapeutic) has not gone as snazzy as hoped…

The case continues…

scn_0004

“For, in their savage ignorance, they feel only hatred for any among them who may seem… different! They long for peace, yet gird for war! They search for love, yet harbour hate!” – The Silver Surfer. 

“By living life for itself, don’t you see? Deriving pleasure from the gift of pure being,” remarked the nameless Martian, last custodian of his long-vanished civilization. 

Following the sickening terrorism act a few months ago in Manchester (where my degree was gained!), and again as the appalling news from Virginia broke over this past weekend, this beautiful sequence of dialogue (from The Martian Chronicles 1979 TV adaptation, written by Richard Matheson) returned to my fevered mind.

All too easily, these sage Martian words are simply ignored. Hate, regrettably, has become far too common and rampant. Rather than wallow in the throes of despair, these atrocities invigorate me to produce a unique brand of positive, entertaining and thoroughly wholesome fare at a more exponential rate.

Out of the multifarious dark and evil acts committed around this Pale Blue Dot, projects of ever-increasing worth and vitality have prevailed. Consider this impressive history: disillusioned by the collapse of the short-lived New Republic in 17th century England, James Milton wrote Paradise Lost; disturbed by the horrors he experienced at the Western Front, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien fought off the nightmares by “escaping” to Middle-Earth and creating an epic fantasy saga called The Lord Of The Rings. 

In turn, yours truly has had to stem an incessant surge in personal, social and economic problems by summoning the last vestiges of his resilience to produce evermore entertaining reams of writing (that you will enjoy here shortly!). 

With nine out of ten of my applications, enquiries and job pitches “lost” or ignored, this blogging platform remains the only means by which anyone and everyone Can See What Brad Can Do…

Keep Calm and Carry On Writing…

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees” – T.H. White.  

“You don’t want [readers] to read your story, you want them to feel your story.”

This writers’ tip has held particular resonance these past few months. Having vowed to pay more attention to my levels of description, injecting all the right feels into my fiction no longer pose any problems. Considering what we have had to endure over the past eighteen difficult months, my work can now exude a heavier, more personal, more loaded edge. 

Whenever a piece of my fiction fails, (and too many pieces have floundered by the wayside recently) one quote from Confucius instantly comes to mind: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

To me, if my “path of creation” is hindered, an alternative route is taken… but my physical and mental batteries are now so depleted that finding the energy and enthusiasm to concoct something as ridiculously easy-peasy as a comics review devolved into an unnecessary struggle. But do not fret, my friends! 

It’s official: Brad is on the rebound!

HUZZAH!!

And: TOP tip for this month?!: “Write rubbish!”

Bingo, fella, whaddya think this writer has been doin’?! ‘Tis the only skill @ th mo at which he excels… bah!

Seriously though: the key is to settle into the right room as well as the right frame of mind. You’ll be delighted to learn that a number of intriguing new projects have emerged on my Dashboard! Granted, the first few drafts looked messy and confused – understandable, bearing in mind what woes and worries hung heavy on my mind – but, as all exterior tensions faded (meditation, plus mocha and blueberry muffins, usually help) and my senses gradually immersed into blissful concentration, my compositions evolved into something more groovy and coherent. 

And as this ramblin’ ram-packed Post comes to a merciful close – don’t want to rant, but let me say just this: 

Cultures shape values, and those values shape history; therefore, our values shape our future. However, repugnant values have brought on these antipathetic and violent times; they have been allowed to fester by the very same factions of ignorance directly responsible for denying me my vocational and socio-economic progress.  

Politicians talk loud, but never say anything positive or progressive to help me. 

Instead, the rise of negative hypernationalist movements (regrettably a global outbreak) MUST be counteracted by RATIONAL thinkers and campaigners willing to offer a progressive values-based world vision – a different path based on UNITY across racial, gender, ethnic, and religious lines… 

Now you know: this past fortnight, Brad has been too busy freedom-fighting to blog…

Quite frankly, this evening, my head feels like an ex-Communications Director is locked inside it, yelling expletives…

Still, this migraine is worth the effort. 

In this life, it is ALWAYS PREFERABLE to create than hate…

“…Live as well as possible, expect no more. Destroy nothing, humble nothing, look for fault in nothing, leave unsullied and untouched all that is beautiful.

“Hold that which lives in all reverence, for life is given by the Sovereign Of Our Universe, given to be savoured, to be luxuriated in, to be… respected…” – The Martian.

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart” – Confucius. 

 

 

“Pardon My French!”: It’s Tremors!!

Nothing Like Taking Regular Trips Back To Perfection!

Earl Bassett: “I ask ya: is this a job for an intelligent man?” 

Valentine McKee: “Well, show me one and I’ll ask him.”

“I can’t believe we said no to free beer!” 

Brad can’t believe that it’s 27 years to the day since Tremors – one of the most enjoyable monster movies of recent times – appeared in cinemas. So, how about a retro-review? 

This is a prime example of a movie that sunk without trace at the box office, yet became a smash hit on the video rental circuit and is now regarded as a cult classic – still holding up with a respectable 85% on Rotten Tomatoes!

It’s not important that the origins of the (prehistoric?) crypto-beasties here – giant worm-like creatures nicknamed: “graboids” – are never explained, this captivating tribute to 1950s low-budget desert-based sci-fi-thrillers such as Them! and It Came From Outer Space boasts a stellar, better-than-expected script that works wonders in developing such entertaining central characters – who must be (two bums-with-hearts-of-gold) Val and Earl.

“We deny everything!”

Fred Ward is Earl Bassett, while Valentine McKee is played by Kevin Bacon – oh yes! Kevin Bacon!

No one handles garbage better than they do!

And they always determine which one is going to do something by playing rock-paper-scissors… 

A clever mix of action and humour, and along with its catchy old-timey harmonica score, Tremors alwaysno matter how many times you watch it! – offers a real feelgood movie experience. 

“We decided to leave town just one damn day too late!”

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya, you bastard?!” – Burt Gummer. 

The “City” of Perfection is, literally, stuck in the middle of nowhere, consisting of three buildings and the odd shack or “mobile” home; population: 14. With the phones out and exit-road blocked, naturally, the sense of isolation accentuates the fear factor. The unprecedented action that ensues centres around Walter Chang’s Market. 

Interstingly, the monsyers – or “motherhumpers” as they are referred to – take their time before they get to hog the cameras. Gradually, in good ol’ monster-movie tradition, the tension builds; something sizeable and sinister lurks under the ground… Somehow, seismographs become scary(!) the boys are shocked to discover a nasty snake-like thing attached to the back of their truck.

“Goddayamn! What the HELL are those things?!”

Then the “snakes” attack their horses…

When the creatures are revealed to their full extent, for the rest of the movie the fx team utilize an impressive array of animatronics, puppets and miniatures. 

The appearance of Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) the “new seismology student” moves proceedings in a charming direction, especially for Val who’s been expecting his Dream Girl to just turn up there out of the blue! Of course, on the very day they decide to drive out of Perfection for good, Val and Earl start to uncover all kinds of crazy shit: that damned ol’ boozehound Edgar stuck high up on a pylon; slaughtered sheep; and a whole station wagon – with both its headlights and radio left on! – buried boot-first in the sand…

Makes a drastic change from their usual humdrum baloney-an’-beans lifestyle! 

They even get a chance to do a spot of pole-vaulting with Rhonda! Groovy… 

Among the unlucky fourteen, there happens to be doomsday prepper couple: Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) and his wife: Heather (Reba McEntire) with their own extensive range of rifles, sub-machine guns and flare pistols(!), ready to blast away at whatever bursts out of the ground…

“Yeah, but where do they come from?!”

Quite clearly, the cast had fun making this; fortunately – in one of those rare cases – the enjoyment is easily passed on to the viewer. 

“You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun?” – Heather Gummer. 

Tremors also holds a rather more personal distinction:

Honestly, yours truly does NOT NEED his own copy, for he can – and has, on numerous occasions – watched this movie in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Ely (the Cambridgeshire cathedral city famous for its eels – how cool is that?!)… as well as Palembang. 

Whatever mood/situation you find yourself in, whatever country you find yourself in, nothing can put your mind at ease quite like Tremors – one of the most universally-broadcasted Universal Pictures ever!

Almost ten years ago, having flown into Palembang, a city on Sumatra – Indonesia’s largest island – to present my research paper into that region’s “lost” pre-Islamic civilization at an Archaeological Conference, everything seemed quite daunting. As you can imagine: a lone, golden-haired stranger landing in the most remote – and rain-lashed – part of the Third Rock From The Sun; hoped the (non-English-speaking) cab driver knew the location of the (right) hotel; had received no confirmation that the moderators had received my power-point presentation as requested; and, ugh, too many more concerns to divulge here! 

However, that first evening – while the monsoon raged on into the night – all my worries dissolved as soon as a delicious dish of nasi lemak was delivered straight up to my plush, air-conditioned room from the in-house “ristorant,” and – oh yes! you guessed it! – it was really comforting to find Val and Earl saving Perfection once again (on Channel 38).

HUZZAH!

Valentine McKee: “Hey, check this out! I found the ass end…!”

Earl Bassett: Man! That’s one big mother...”  

 

“In Reflection Of How It All Came To Be”: The Saga Of J’Son, Meredith And Peter

They Talked, And Came To Know Each Other,

They Touched, And Came To Love Each Other…

“After all, he is Star-Lord… my finest creation… my one true moment of glory… how it has all led up to this moment…?” – The Master Of The Sun. 

“Our destinies, mine and Star-Lord’s, were first glimpsed when a craft alien to the planet Earth crashed in the Colorado mountains…

“Meredith Quill was the sole witness…”

Quite unlike anything heretofore seen in Marvel Comics, this “saga” is narrated by a benign and bearded humanoid known simply as The Master Of The Sun.

Ever since the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie enriched our lives in 2014, this has been The Essential Star-Lord comic to acquire! Unfortunately, it has become such an obscure ish; moreover, it has taken AEONS just to discover the title and the date of said rarity. And establishing the identities of its co-auteurs of awesomeness was something else… Curse your shorts, boy! Why, oh why, couldn’t you have remembered these details?! Better still, just KEPT the comic… 

Three years ago, most critics believed that Marvel Studios had produced their first turkey – taking such a huge risk, introducing characters that NOBODY had ever heard of before. Ha! Yet again, you see, they had underestimated Brad. To me, there seemed to be something very familiar about that name: “Star-Lord”…

Confusingly, in 1978, a (short-lived) weekly science fiction comic called Star-Lord was published in the UK, but it had absolutely no connection to Peter Quill. No, not that – pretty certain that the cosmic hero to grab my attention was indeed Peter the halfbreed. After an epic marathon of deduction, the ish in question just happens to be Marvel Spotlight #6 (May 1980). With a script by Doug Moench, and art by Tom Sutton: “The Saga Of Star-Lord falls well within my initial comic collecting spree.

In this yearlong BA quest, this proved to be one of my most elusive targets…

Instead, Future Tense – another science fiction weekly from Marvel UK – had to suffice; the Saga had been reprinted through the first four ishs (all appearing during November 1980). Incidentally, the front cover of the much-coveted debut ish features that now-classic portrait of Nick Fury In Space (by Jim Steranko) – but named here as Star-Lord! It has taken until just last month(!) to finally track down this particular monumental mag. (The original cover for Marvel Spotlight #6 was reproduced as the cover of Future Tense #4).

Here, on the classic page 3, savour the romance of how an Earthwoman named Meredith Quill found – and fell in love with – a man from beyond the stars. 

Ah, bless the Bronze Age!

Surely, there is nothing in today’s Marvel Comics that can compare with that achingly beautiful fourth panel…? 

“Whoever this is, wherever he’s from, I can’t just stand aside and let him die!” – Meredith Quill.

“Nine months later, a male child was born to her. She named him Peter Jason Quill and one night soon after his birth, for a reason she could not explain… 

“She took him outside and held him up to the stars.”

‘Tis unfortunate how J’son has “disappeared without trace,” relegated to further obscurity in the annals of Marvel history – and has now suffered the ignominy of exclusion from the movies. The impact of this misstep is lessened somewhat when you take into account that he appears in only five panelstwo of which he is unconscious! Following in the tradition of Marvel’s innovative series: What If?: supposing he had fought that space war victoriously, would J’son have returned to Earth…?  

Disgruntled at the realisation that he doesn’t have a father like the other schoolkids – a bitterness alluded to briefly onscreen during Vol. 2, at least – not surprisingly, Peter becomes a loner, refusing to play shortstop with the other kids; there he is, reading a Weird Science comic all by his lonesome…

Going for “long solitary walks”anticipating, perhaps, the return of his father – one day, amid dense woodland, the boy is: “…visited by a celestial light… by a miracle from the beyond.” Surely, unmistakably, this spaceship can only belong to ONE very special person… 

“At once terrified and ecstatic,” he runs home to tell Mom…

 

And take a look at that dynamic page 26 (the pen-penultimate page of this ish, below).

That first panel showing an irate trio of Ariguans looks oddly familiar; a feint memory of this scene may very well have lodged in my frenetic infant mind – “zheor,” indeed!

Also, get that middle panel: that should have been etched onto my brain long ago – such an ultracool pose by the adult Peter in his full Star-Lord clobber (but note how he is strangely without his trademark helmet throughout this ish).

Aha, and that killa line!

“I don’t think anything, “Ship.” I know what it is and who’s inside it. Don’t ask me how, but I know. The occupant of that craft is in danger. He’s also the closest thing to a father I’ve ever known…” – Star-Lord.  

“I have done both good and wrong. One has led to the other. I was entrusted with the ultimate secrets of science… A science so advanced it approaches sorcery. 

“I chose my path and I do not regret the way, though I do repent it.”

And so, The Master Of The Sun must prepare to relinquish his human form, having failed to fulfil the higher purpose expected of him. Yet he could take comfort in his sole achievement: turning a halfbreed Earthboy into the Star-Lord. 

As is the case with most classic comics: some really jaw-dropping details hit you on the last page. This one startled me:

“Know that you were to be only the first of an entire legion of Star-Lords…

to ensure peace and seek justice throughout the vast cosmos.”

Thus, the story concludes with Peter honouring the memory of the being who was The Master Of The Sun: by obeying his will “to accomplish good works.” “Ship” blasts off into space, sending the Star-Lord to seek his destiny among the stars…  

Ironically, this used to be the sort of awesome ish that made me speculate what it would be like if made into a movie… Now, my wishes go… in the opposite direction. For all the intricate complexities that modern sfx can offer nowadays, the best “blockbusters” play in our minds…

Perhaps we were all mesmerised by a CG-regenerated Kurt Russell but, ultimately, it is still a tad unsettling to consider how this… this non-J’son individual steals the show. No matter how enjoyable he made both Guardians movies – yes! What we really needed was a space opera starring a groovy fella wielding a Walkman!how…?

How can James Gunn justify fiddling around with a back-story like this?

How can a completely different Marvel character be presented in J’son’s stead?!

Are such revisionary tactics acceptable…?! 

Approaching halfway through this year and does Mr. Gunn respond to ANY of my e-mails?!

Does he fairy cakes…

Theoretically, one would be… quite flattered if another writer attempted to create their own Fartlighter Bradventure. 

Yeah-es, buh-ut…

Kill off any member of Brad Company via something as wretched as a brain tumour… uff, that’d be REALLY PUSHIN’ it, fella… 

Honestly, on some occasions, my viewing of the first film has begun by skipping to the point where distraught Peter is whisked off the hospital grounds in Yondu’s ship…

Not only is the opening scene JUST WRONG, but tonally too bleak to connect concisely with the otherwise frivolous nature of what follows…

And 10CC’s I’m Not In Love is my FAVE track on Awesome Mixtape Vol 1 – goldarn it!!

So… (catch yer breath ya ol’Brit loon, fercake’ssake…) after two Guardians movies, it seems an injustice that Miss Quill’s extraordinary story has not been sufficiently told on the big screen… 

Still, thanks to the wonders of Bronze Age comics – it’s out there (if you can find it). 

She enriched her life trying to save J’son; 

she sacrificed her life trying to save Peter… 

This is for Meredith…

“I just don’t like the character [J’son] very much. I also thought it was too much like a Star Wars thing because of the royalty and all of that…” – James Gunn.