So Low: Is Brad Done With Star Wars?!

Star Wars: The Last Straw…?

Yes, You Were Right, Luke, This Did NOT Go The Way Brad Thinks…

“What do you know about the Force?” – Luke Skywalker.

On the day in which Solo: A Star Wars Story began at our local popcorn parlour last week, there it stood on the library shelf: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Available to rent for one week. A whole week?! The prospect of watching it for SECOND, or –Dyzan forbid – a third(!) time (>_<) filled me with such dread and nausea that yours deliriously had to sit down… before he fell down… 

Yes, folks, even five months later, DON’T try bribing me with egg custard tarts, there is no way you could make me wade through THAT… “experience” again…

Is it a coincidence that it had been placed right next to fellow turkey: Geostorm…? Somehow, this most recent instalment in the galaxy’s biggest franchise makes Gethard Buttwad’s most recent flop look like a veritable masterpiece of modern cinema.

No matter how you look at it, it’s undeniable – The Last Jedi IS a complete mess.

Pondered going to watch the much-troubled Solo: A Star Wars Movie, but, considering The Last Jedi’s shortcomings, plus the uneasy prospect of watching a Corellian smuggler movie without Harrison Ford, Brad eventually decided to give it a miss, hence no Bradscribe Review. It’s maybe just as well: initial reviews citing disappointment; reports of the most annoying character (a droid?!) since the prequels; and a plethora of dimly-lit scenes (the problem blighting modern movies, and TV series’ that infuriates me the most!) all make for unpleasant reading.

Perhaps improbable now, but Brad actually became one of the few heartened by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, encouraged by the introduction of such intriguing new characters: Rey, Poe and Finn. Of course, as we were all crestfallen to discover, The Last Jedi failed to embellish these characters with ANY meaningful, or consequential, developments whatsoever. 

Cue scene of this blogger standing forlornly on a cliff edge, chucking his copy of the now-pointless Force Awakens over his shoulder…

When Rey states: “I need someone to show me my place in all of this,” weh-heh-hell! DON’T look at Rian Johnson – he’s The Last Nerk to ask for directions… …

“I was shocked. I said to Rian, Luke is the most optimistic, hopeful character and now he’s this miserable, despondent hermit… I had a real problem, because I don’t believe a Jedi would ever give up…” – Mark Hamill. 

“It says right in the script: ‘forget the past! Kill it if you have to!'” wailed Mark Hamill during a Q&A session at one fan function, before turning to his director, lounging inappropriately gleeful on the couch beside him. “You’re doing a pretty good job!” 

And everyone in the room accepted that. As a joke

Speaking of unbearable puns, notice how Rian Johnson is listed as “Writer” as well as Director…?

In his somewhat twisted mind, Brad envisaged a creepy Majestic-12-like committee, lurking deep within the fiery Mustafar-like pit that is Disneyland – its sole purpose: to concoct the insane plot-threads to be spun for this current trilogy.

No, dear friends, the truth is far more sinister than that! 

There is NO such committee; thus, no such plot(s) or plans have been laid out. Astonishingly, Johnson came in and singlehandedly put together Episode VIII, apparently with little to no collaboration from Lucasfilm/Disney. 

How much did he actually write? 

Judging from the ineptitude and incoherence displayed onscreen, you get the impression that the crew were just making (breaking…?) it up as they went along…

“Never mind, eh? All the “little niggles” will be sorted out with Episode IX!”

So certain are you…?!

Can’t see how any of this tosh could be rectifiedTotally bereft of a logical, or progressive plot structure, with all the original characters written out, there is no sensible direction for this embarrassing charade to take.

Having wondered extensively as to the background story of Supreme Leader Snoke, only to squirm at his premature – and ridiculously swift! – demise, the bewildering realisation that there is absolutely NO rationale – or justification for the existence of the Worst – sorry, First – Order becomes immediately (and eye-rollingly) apparent! The First Order persists, simply because the trilogy demands a considerable antagonistic element (no matter how one-dimensional!)  

Such a ludicrous set-up only enforces my suspicions: NO planning went into this guff! NONE at all! 

And let’s not bang on about this – for plenty of disgruntled fans have already done so – but that miserable, old blue-milk-supping git arsing about in The Land Of The Porgs is definitely NOT the Luke Skywalker we grew up with. You know it’s a calamity when even Mark Hamill himself has to speak out against the wrong direction of one of SF’s most beloved characters…

If anything, the ONLY enchanting moment of the whole movie involved the reappearance of Yoda. And his original puppet at that, voiced as always, and reassuringly, by the irreplaceable Frank Oz. Alternatively, Brad would have been fine and dandy paying to watch a crazy, cosmic comedy, featuring just this crotchety Odd Couple:

“Your turn to fetch the blue milk, Short Round!” Lukewarm chirps, to which Master Yoda replies: “My turn?! My dimpled ass! Your turn, it is…” 

Star Wars: The Last Rian Johnson Film? 

‘Fraid not… 

We can expect not just one more movie from him, but The Clusterfuck Trilogy! Coming To Theaters Near YOU! 

Ah, not me, baby! Gonna grab my blue milk an’ split the scene, man… 

“There are no Jedi here anymore; only dreamers like this fool” – Baze Malbus. 

So, all is lost?

Not so, my young padawan.  

It is reassuring to remember that we still have Rogue One – the movie Brad waited only 36 years for (and to that end, dreaded it more than anything) but was pleasantly surprised nevertheless. However, that jubilant – and relieved! – reaction (albeit only eighteen months ago) now seems like a far, far away, almost vague, recollection…

This reminds me of just one of the many reasons why Revenge Of The Sith sucks: the main point of watching that was to witness the finale that finally graced the Final Act of Rogue One.

Unlike The Last Jedi, Rogue One is blessed with an engrossing script, coherent action (and editing), great participants; some may argue that their characters were not properly developed, but then again, why worry about that? We knew, alas, that they were all doomed anyway. It’s easily the best Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi. Let’s face it: it’s the ONLY decent Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi! (Search your feelings: you KNOW it be true! 😉 )

For the time being, yours truly will stick with the OT and Rogue OneBut please, let me stipulate that it must be the original Original Trilogy – not those so-called “Special” Editions that ruined the franchise’s 20th Anniversary. The tampering with Mos Eisley was unforgivable – you will never find a more wretched hive of CGI and pointlessly inserted trash. 

Return of the Jedi suffered the worst: shockingly, inexplicably, my fave song performed by Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band was replaced with a “new” derisory number. And what’s with the line-up of Force-ghosts? How could anyone replace the distinguished  Sebastian Shaw with that lameass dipwit from the prequels?! 

There is nothing on the horizon that might assuage my gnawing doubts. 

A solo Boba Fett movie, perhaps? 

No! Absolutely NOT!

Part of what makes this badass Mandalorian so great is his mystique – it’s cool that we know barely anything comcerning his origins or devious history. Let’s keep it that way (but nobody listens to Brad these days…) If any characters deserve their own big screen outing, it has to be those other bounty hunters glimpsed in The Empire Strikes Back for the most fleeting seconds: Bossk, IG-88, Dendar, 4-Lom and Zuckuss of course. (Brad was only the 7th kid in his class to acquire that latter action figure – one of the finest achievements from my scholastic period!)   

Naturally, those days when excitement and giddy anticipation seemed inextricably linked with all-things-Star-Wars are long gone.  

Regrettably, we are lumbered now with the crass commercialism and mediocre machinations of a corporation that fails to understand what generated mass appeal for Star Wars in the first place.

Business is business. Except it’s none of Brad’s business… 

For me, the Wars are over, but there will be no cheer. No celebrations. Not even manic Stormtrooper-helmets-as-drumkits levels of revelry can shatter the uneasy tranquillity that now pervades the musty (dark-but-not-as-ineptly-dark-as-Solo-A-Star-Wars-Story-dark) halls of Brad Manor…

For those of you who still believe this franchise remains the one true, unfaltering bastion of awesomeness in modern sci-fi cinema – or reckon a morose old moofmilker like meself should just “snap out of it”! – you are more than welcome to bamboozle Brad with logic, concise arguments and/or wisecracks in the Comments section graciously provided.

May The Force Be With YOU! (Alas, it snuck out of my life. A long time ago… …) 

 

“Stockpile of Last Jedi DVDs in range, General!” 

“Target! Maximum firepower!” 

Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Found this vid which, unlike Disney’s interpretation of Star Wars, is actually quite clever and entertaining. 

At least, Ryan Reynolds voicing our fave Sith Lord is preferable to trying to endure Laura frickin’ Dern as Admiral Hairdye.

Admiral?! HA! 

Out of all the ill-advised, cringe-inducing “humour” foisted upon The Last Jedi, this ill-advised concept, instead, is what really amused Brad.

Be warned: there’s some coarse language herein, but this is nothing compared to the multitude of expletive-laden rants overheard on that fateful evening last December. Staggering out of the screening of you-know-what…

Knock ’em dead, Poolboy:

 

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Panther Tracks: The Rough Guide To Wakanda

This Is NO Rinky-Dink Panther…

“Strange! Though we’ve never met, I have a feeling about you. Why do you search my face so intently?” – T’Challa.  

“The tracks are gouged deep into the snow as if seeking permanence against an umpermanent environment. The Panther moves as the great cat, stalking impulsively…”

“Jungle Action was a collection of jungle genre comics from the 1950s, mostly detailing white men saving Africans or being threatened by them,” recalled writer Don McGregor. “I voiced a lament that I thought it was a shame that in 1973 Marvel was printing these stories, and couldn’t we have a black African hero…” 

He remembered that back in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had introduced an African superhero called the “Black Panther” – none other than King T’Challa of the secretive state of Wakanda – in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) so planned to make the title the Panther’s own. 

Hard to believe now, but giving a black character his own ongoing series was deemed to be such a risky move back in 1973. Although Jungle Action was cancelled after only 26 ishs, with McGregor‘s amazing writing – plus art by Billy Grahamit has become a cult classic. 

Anyway, ever since this character bewitched me in an extraordinary ish of Fantastic Four – #241, Render Unto Caesar! April 1982; reviewed here: – at the very beginning of my quest for Bronze Age awesomeness eighteen months ago, knowledge of this king and his country has been duly sought.

The most crucial point to bear in mind is that in the Marvel Universe, as Earth‘s solitary source of vibranium – the most precious, but least understood, mineral of all – Wakanda has become the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world.

Lee and Kirby may have brought the Black Panther to life, but McGregor can be credited with not only developing T’Challa’s character but creating the cultural and geopolitical entity that is the kingdom of Wakanda. 

And what a truly marvellous country it is too!

 

Wenzori: “Watch out, Jakak! It‘s that panther-devil ! Get out of my way and I’ll sear him in half!”

Jakak: “But how can it be him, Wenzori? We were with Killmonger when we left him for dead… left him for the wolves of the mist to devour!!”

“The ruby lasers infrared scope changes the night into weird, surrealistic shapes. The sleek, pantherish figure becomes an abstract being against a spectral icescape. It is easier to kill an abstraction than a human being!”

Jungle Action Featuring: The Black Panther is a phenomenal classic title.

The story arc: Panther Rage – unravelling from #s 4-26 (1973-76) is regarded by comic historians as the very first graphic novel, and one of the masterworks in an age brimming with experimental and groundbreaking comics.

Recently – on my last few expeditions into the capital – this series his eluded even my superior tracking skills. Did manage to find a collection of back ishs in excellent condition, but they were going for extortionately-high prices…

However, only last month, a single copy of Jungle Action ish #13 (January 1975) emerged @ my local awemonger’s emporium. The God Killer is an intriguing story; much of the action takes place on an icy tundra – can this really be the heart of Africa?!

Page 14 is just sensational; here is Billy Graham’s original pre-colour draft:

“It was almost like a mythical place to us – to a lot of us, as African-Americans. And that was a very big deal for me to be able to tell this story” – Ryan Coogler.

“There are two major religions in Wakanda. T’Challa wears th sacred attire of the Panther religion. It is torn and crusted with blood and sweat, but it is no less sacred a garment. 

“The regal, savage beings that congregate below him are the foundation of  Wakanda’s second religion. They have the stature of gods… the awe-inspiring White Gorillas!”

Undoubtedly, Wakanda is a deeply spiritual place.

In ancient times, the panther goddess Bast bestowed the power of vibranium to the very first Black Panther, granting himand all his descendants – super-strength and enhanced agility.

Fast forward to 2016, and what appeared to be a baffling appointment: National Book Award winner: Te-Nihisi Coates to write the current manifestation of Black Panther.

No worries, it has become a critically-acclaimed, unputdownable success – highly recommended. Not to be left out, your correspondent was glad to pick up #17 (October 2017) and yes, that is Storm of the X-Men sharing the cover. They were married, (until the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover forced T’Challa – as High Priest of Wakanda – to annul that union.)

Rather helpfully, Te-Nihisi included a map of Wakanda. Landlocked, and seemingly impenetrable from the outside world by the mountainous Jabari-Lands to the northwest and the sprawling Lake Nyanza to the east, any outsider would, nevertheless, recognise its big and bustling cities (known in the Wakandan tongue as ‘Birnins’) sprawling into the jungle and touching the sky with super-sleek skyscrapers.

All seven Birnins are named after the greatest Panthers in antiquity, and each actually resembles a fortress, rather than an urban area. The Panther Throne is set in Birnin Zana (th Golden City), while the spiritual centre of the country lies to the south of Birnin Bashenga. 

Mena Ngai (The Great Mound) is where the vibranium lies – hidden in plain sight…

“Move! Or you will be moved!” – Ayo.

“The sun never penetrates Serpent Valley! It is banished from the lush, primeval interior by the dense cloud forest that has been the only “sky” this land has ever had…

“Erik Killmonger maintains his brisk, tireless pace. The others sweat profusely, but Killmonger’s brow remains dry and he seems not to notice the sweltering vapour…”

Before signing on to make the 18th MCU movie, writer/director Ryan Coogler informed Head Honcho Kevin Feige that he would have to travel to Africa to be able to effectively create an amazing African adventure. 

Although Wakanda is a fictional country, it was deemed imperative that the essence of Africa – its sights, sounds, smells and tastes – be represented in all its stirring vitality on film. Ryan spent several weeks (alone) in various locations in South Africa.

Was he able to capture th essence of Africa on film? 

“We’re trying to explore that through every means of communication. Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the colour of walls. And through the ugly stuff too. Through conflict. Through weapons.

“It’s all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society. 

“You know what I’m saying?”

Judging from the ultracool clips we’ve glimpsed so far, the movie looks every bit as cool and colourful, exciting and emotional as any of the MCU’s finest entries. Besides, how can a movie set in a highly-advanced Afrio-futuristic wonderland where the Monarch of the Panther Throne is protected by a crack troop of female bodyguards: the Dora Milaje (see above!) NOT be awesome?! 

“He has not spoken for 24 hours, and the words come from blistered lips, deeply split by the glacial cold. Dried blood is on his tongue, and speaking has ripped the healing wound open. Fresh blood spills into his mouth. 

“He wonders if they have understood one word of his clever repartee…”

Blood and death? Is this all I am to hear for the rest of my days? Could you not find pleasure in the act of love… or have you become so perverted that you find excitement and entertainment only in brutality?” – The Black Panther.

 

Pecs, Pies And Videotape: Confessions Of An ’80s Video Junkie

Slap It In The VCR And They Will Come…

WARNING: Contains strong violence, some mild language and scenes of a dodgy sexual nature

time slip

“Lay me place and bake me pie, I’m starving for me gravy” – David Bowie.  

Know you now of days long past.

A time when the world was young, when video recorders thrived;

the worldwide web but a twinkle in its inventor’s eye,

and wild adventure was fore’er in the offing…

What better way to spend this Bank Holiday Weekend than traipse through the Mall of Nostalgia?!

My life changed forever in mid-August 1984, when we acquired our very first video cassette recorder: VHS you understand (the cool one); the sole kid who often touted the “merits” of Betamax would invariably get beaten to a pulp by the bigger boys.

From that hallowed point onwards, life revolved (spooled?) around tapes: tapes of action movies, tapes of TV comedy shows, tapes of planes, trains and automobiles for Dad, and ballet for Mum, tapes of this an’ tapes of t(h)at. Back then, you see, being able to watch a TV programme a day, a week – or months(!) – after its broadcast date shouted sheer genius! 

And don’t forget the pies… 

Possibly the main reason why best school-buddies: Ed and Boz dropped by my gaff at weekends, and during holidays, involved the double fix of excellent videos and scrumptious pies! In those days, our considerable larder came ram-packed with meaty goodness: steak and kidney, minced beef and onion… but one couldn’t stomach cheese and mushroom – still can’t. All supplemented by a kitchen drawer overflowing with potato chips of every possible flavour!

Probably the coolest addition to the high street was the video rental store. Our local awemonger: Video Stop received frequent visits by yours truly. Don’t regret admitting that more time was spent in there browsing around its ram-packed shelves than in the school library…  

If you – like me – are a child of the 80s, then you will know all-too-perfectly-well what this blogger is blatherin’ on about.

“Don’t insult my intelligence! Please, don’t make me kill you… It will spoil all my fun” – Diana.

For weeks, the latest sci-fi TV sensation from the States had been advertised.

Just known as V – Earth’s first encounter with extraterrestrial visitors! Arriving in fifty motherships, they seek water and resources to save their dying planet, and in return they will bestow upon us all the fruits of their knowledge. TV cameraman Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) stows away aboard the LA mothership and discovers the shocking truth: they are reptilian invaders come to collect humans as food!

The original 2-part opener thrilled me and Ed on the Monday and Tuesday nights respectively. As it went out @ 10:30pm, Dad stuck around to check its suitability for us; he got swept along qith the engrossing drama and SF thrills, and – seeing how enraptured we younglings clearly were, he went out to purchase a VCR on the Wednesday morning.

Way ta go, Daddio!

For that night, the 3- part series: V The Final Battle began, and the whole caboodle got so much better.

Marc Singer was a revelation. Or – more precisely – his pecs motivated me to build upon my embarrassingly weedy frame and maybe – just maybe – rather than beat me up in the playground, the girls would instead start to respect and, perhaps, fancy me…

Another main reason to watch V, of course, was Jane Badler as scheming scientist: Diana – hotter than a pie that’d just come outta the oven.

‘Tis a pity she’s a lizard…

Really, we could not move on without mentioning one of the ultimate SF badasses:Ham Tyler. He holds a reserved place in Brad’s Badass Brigade. Take a butcher’s @ this classic scene and you’ll see why:

“Now that’s a waste of good luggage” – Ham Tyler.

“Just give me some meat an’ a bowl a’ noodles, and make it snappy!” – Hsiao Feng.

Back in the day, you could, inevitably, get titles so indescribably bizarre.

Take – for instance – Time Slip aka GI Samurai: a madcap Jap piece a’ crap. Caught in a sinister storm, an army division is hurled back to the Samurai Era. In the batshit-bonkers carnage that ensues, their tank fires on cavalry charges and all Sonny Chiba (yes! for it is he!) can do is watch his men wiped out by wave upon wave of arrows…

Most of the titles on offer in Video Stop seemed to be rip-offs of either Alien or Mad Max. The latter – fantastically awful titles that had more cheese than, well, a cheese pie – already received somewhat “fervent” attention in this Post.

If a rental proved too turgid to sit through, one constantly-reliable go-to could always be slapped back in the VCR.

Beach Of The War Gods – directed, and starring, that great Taiwanese action-star: “Jimmy” Wang Yu (yes! the one and only!) – is a gloriously hard and funky epic from the legendary Golden Harvest stable. During the 16th century, the Japanese laid siege to the Chinese coastline: killing, looting, burning and other frightful deeds. The petrified plebs of the Windy City dread imminent attack until-!

The Stranger moseys on in…

He persuades Iron Man (yes! Iron Man!) and Brother Li Love (a moody paleface with twenty daggers strapped onto his tunic) to aid him in leading the locals to fight off the Jap hordes.

As to be expected, the dubbing is hilarious, the foley artist is having a gas, and the surf guitar (yes! surf guitar!) soundtrack is outta sight, man!

The climactic battle – hackin’-an’-a-slashin’ through the city streets – is faster and more furious than your average Chinese flick, featuring scintillating choreography, and it just keeps on going and going!

…And going!

But the very first bout a’ blade-battering – when Hsiao Feng Two-Blades kicks off! – is particular gobsmacking. To me, this scene will ALWAYS be a frenetic fave and as-cool-as-fudge:

“Anything you say can and will be held against you…in the court of Robocop” – Jerry.

ALIEN BODIES…

One classic film that constantly eluded me was the original Alien. Although one unforgettable day did come mighty close to changing that…

The box read: “Alien: Starring Tom Skerritt” written in black felt tip. Aha, that’s the bunny! methinks, me quest is over!

Sure enough, Ed and Boz stopped what they were doing and pedalled frantically over to my gaff. Ed had the king-size steak and kidney, Boz tucked in (rather unbelievably) to the cheese and mushroom, while Brad had the beef and onion. Three chip packets rustled in unison as the video started playing. Hmm, no 20th Century Fox logo; funny, not even those iconic credits came on neither…

Strangely, the screen opened, NOT on the dark, foreboding world of LV426, but in a brightly-lt bedroom. On a huge double-bed reclined three young women, with barely one bikini between them.

We gawped in horror as they proceeded to do something unmentionable. With a light bulb…

Searing into my soul, Boz fixed me with his most intense where-the-fudge-is-Tom-Skerritt?! stare: “Jeez, Brad! Ya tryin’ ta corrupt us, fella?!” he blurted. “This must be one of dem Video Nasties that Mrs. Shufflebottom warned us about in class last week! Fer pity’s sake, mate, put Beach Of The War Gods on again, willya?!”

“BLAZES!” yelled Ed, almost spitting his pie out. “I can ‘ear yer Dad comin’ up the hallway! Eject, fella! EJECT!!”

The jittery vid-jockey lunged towards his VCR, an itchy finger quivering over the Eject button.

The bally thing!

It clicked; it whirred. The picture took FOREVER to switch off.

The tape chugged out, just as Dad marched in. To pick up a pencil…

Remember only too well THAT looong, wretched slog back to Video Stop. Too embarrassed to glance at other passers-by – felt like they were staring at me with utter disgust.

Honestly!

A boy of my age…

Carrying SUCH SMUT through a densely populated area…

Too timid to look the video store worker in the eye and hand over THAT TAPE Or have the nerve to inform him that this was definitely NOT the version “directed” by Ridley Scott…

Imagine my utter relief to find, upon arrival, the lad-in-charge had popped out for a pie! The offending article could simply be dropped in the Returns box. Huzzah, my anonymity – not to mention my dignity! – remained intact! To be on the safe side, managed to avoid the store for a WHOLE WEEK so they wouldn’t be able to trace me back to that… that ghastly horridness.

Of course, the three amigos never spoke about it…

Don’t think any of us dared go near another Tom Skerritt movie…

“Okay, who ordered the Burly Beef?” – Sarah Connor.

My dear father and the joy of video rentals granted one of the most memorable birthdays of this boy’s life. Inevitably, Ed and Boz came round for my 14th – with cards and gifts (tapes, obviously).

And lo!

It came to pass that Dad had got me a swell gift – he’d sneaked out and rented a video! (blub)

The cover alone was ultracool – a futuristic dude holding a groovy shoo’er, but sporting the MOST IMPECCABLE PECS! Suddenly, such good vibes emanated from this tape…

Two groovy fellas travel back in time to Los Angeles to hook up with the same clumsy waitress. And then the big guy gets blasted away. Uff, so what…? But then – SWEET BABY JESUS! – he only gets up and spends the rest of the movie chasing the other two across LA! Turns out that he – ha! get this: happens to be a cyborg, sent back to terminate that po’ woman presumably before she can do any more damage to that Diner.

It’s the most ridiculous thing, but pulled off with such great gusto; the action is top-notch, while the pace? Relentless! You know its title; it’s become one of THE iconic SF greats of the 80s – and deservedly so.

Dad was absolutely delighted to see me so happy, and – bless ‘im – only rented ANOTHER video!

He felt chuffed to bits, convinced that he’d got THE PRIZE. As you well know, Aliens is the sequel to the film that would, eventually, take another THREE YEARS to reach my Christmas stocking…

The awesome merits of Aliens appeared not so long ago in this Post.

But what turned out to be really mind-blowing? Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) is also a stalwart member of the the Badass Brigade – Hey! This is turning into quite a nifty reunion! Plus, Biehn had already showed off his pecs in that other Movie of the Day!

A Michael Biehn double-bill the perfect birthday present for anyone!

GOD BLESS MICHAEL BIEHN.

“You could warn them… if only you spoke Hovitos!” – Dr. Rene Belloq.

“Yo, fella, save the BEST till last.”

The BIGGEST movie of Summer ’84 had to be something called: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Knew that it was an old-fashioned action/adventure movie, but that was all. Until Ed clarified that it was actually a sequel to a blockbuster that caused a sensation back in ’81: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Not only promising the ultimate pie-eating experience, we reckon this was our VERY FIRST rental. Whoa, what a visual feast to get the ball – or, in this case, boulder – rolling!

Raiders is a MASTERPIECE; yes, yes, Brad concedes – it IS BETTER than Beach Of The War Gods…

Here is one of its undisputed highlights – one of the finest action sequences EVER produced. John Williams excelled himself here. On my all-time chart, his pieces that give me goosebumps include: The Imperial March; the Tattooine Theme, and the sequence that begins here @ 1:54

Best moment? 4:38ha ha!

Let’s go!:

“Didn’t any of you guys ever go to Sunday school?” – Indiana Jones. 

That, my fellow thrill-seekers, wraps it up for this May Day Weekend.

Since our TV set switched to a digital network, access to our video channel has become a bugger to fix; mould has damaged some of the tapes; Video Stop vanished long ago – the unit is now a softcore hardware store; those friends are long gone; Brad himself is still chooglin’.

However: “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage” – his teeth are worn and bent; his hair is thinning like no tomorrow; and he doesn’t seem to remember ever owning a droid…

But his pecs are – by Jove! – still as firm and pliant as ever!

HUZZAH!

Be Kind, Rewind

 

Arrival: The Bradscribe Review

What Is The Purpose Of This Movie?

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“The premise is that aliens are landing in places that make no sense, and nothing is happening. The world is freaking out… I love that” – Denis Villeneuve.

“I was in love with the exaggeration of reality or exploration of the world from a different point of view, which is science fiction” explains Denis Villeneuve.

When the French-Canadian director admits that “it’s tough to find good science fiction material,” at least he has tried – and succeeded – to rectify this matter in the intriguing form of Arrival, the sort of thought-provoking SF that rarely gets the big-screen treatment.

Based on Ted Chiang’s novella: “Story of Your Life” – a “highly scientific, not inherently cinematic” work – twelve massive, shell-shaped spacecraft appear in the most unlikeliest locations around the world. And the race is on to find out What They Want.

On a university campus, comparative linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks, (played by Amy Adams)realises that constant low-flying jets and a collision in the car park signify that this is turning out to be no ordinary day.  

After learning about the Breaking News of the Century – strangely enough on an HD TV, not via smartphone – the Prof is soon whisked away by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to Montana where the USA’s very own extraterrestrial representative has chosen to hang around. 

There is no explanation as to why a section of the craft opens up every eighteen hours, or how this arrangement was initially achieved but, nevertheless, a palpable sense of wonder ensues. 

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“…At the end of the day, it’s a story about a woman and her child, and the choices she makes. That’s really interesting to play in a sci-fi movie about communication and global war” – Amy Adams.

Why are they here, indeed.

For the central role, Adams puts in an engaging performance, one of intimacy and empathy, managing to elevate this material from the depths of absurdity to which it could so easily have sunk.

And despite its disturbing nature, the gradual unravelling of international tensions actually makes for compelling viewing.

Perhaps the most enthralling scene is the intrepid hazmat squad’s literally breath-taking ascent into the spacecraft, and their conversion to a vertical gravity. One discrepancy and all the guests would hurtle back/down to terra firma!

The visitors referred to here as  “heptapods” appear and dissolve in mist behind a transparent screen. They reminded me of the tentacled martians as depicted in The War Of The Worlds; the whale-like sounds they emit are particularly haunting. 

“Abbott and Costello” – how charming! Why do we see just two of them? …And we didn’t get to find out why they each have seven legs, either.

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I didn’t think it would look as big and expansive as it is. We’re in a black box. With a white screen and a hazmat suit… It emotionally wrecked me” – Jeremy Renner.

What a relief that Arrival spares us the eerie and stereotypical dramatic scenes of the alien armada ominously approaching Earth. Quite unlike more standard alien invasion flicks –gadzooks! They’re here already! An unsettling touch if ever there was one. And it is nothallelujah! – an invasion anyway!

Such a welcome cavalcade of subtle ideas: scientific, cultural and – oh yes! – linguistic. Part of the fascination for this movie centred on wondering how Villeneuve et al would bring it to a satisfactory denouement. Had expected a twist, but on a non-linear level? Heavy, baby.

Ultimately, its stark themes convince us that this film is not about the aliens, but about us: the complicated bipeds. In attempts at First Contact, these proceedings instead invoke that inherent inability to effectively communicate among our own species. Not only does communication (and co-operation) break down, in this hi-tech age, it gets switched off! 

As one news reporter rightly remarked at one point, whatever benevolent need our visitors require, why do they come in twelve ships, when only one would have sufficed?

It is startling to realise that in that cramped and bustling army camp in Montana, Dr. Banks is the only major female presence. Really?!

It is almost miraculous how she and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) crack the intricacies of the alien non-linear orthography in unbelievably short time and in such stressful geopolitical circumstances.

Thankfully, this film is more engaging than Interstellar, and undoubtedly light years more worthwhile than Independence Day: Resurgence. 

Perhaps Arrival’s greatest asset is that, in a world increasingly tearing itself apart through social unrest and breakdowns in diplomacy, it could not have been released at a more apt time…

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BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4-out-of-5

Lingua Extraterrestria: What Would First Contact Entail?

When We DO make Alien Contact, What Will We Have To Say? And How…? 

And By What Means Can We Begin To Comprehend What THEY Want?

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“What the hell are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?” – Private Frost. 

“Thousands have taken to the streets amid growing unrest at the perceived “alien invasion,” reads the Breaking News banner.

“Governments across the globe have declared a state of emergency urging residents to remain in their homes until meaningful contact can be made.”

What do they mean by “meaningful contact”?

The exciting, yet cautious, notion of first contact with (intelligent) extraterrestrial life has often popped up in movies, books and essays, but they all – frustratingly – fall short of supposing how such a landmark event could be achieved.

The most prominent SF extravaganza to tackle this premise (refraining from military antagonism) and emphasize attempts at establishing connections with alien visitors happened to be Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), in which initial connection transpired through exchanges of musical motes. 

Groovy – fortunately, variable tones possess the same harmonics elsewhere in our galaxy!

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“I really misunderstood that linguistics was closer to being a translator… When you’re approaching language, you look at structure, anthropological, sociological… how it exists inside of that. It’s got very complicated” – Amy Adams.  

Just opened in cinemas this week is Arrival, a most-welcome package that dares to offer something more cerebral rather than just aiming to be visually spectacular. 

After twelve ovular smooth and shell-like spacecraft appear in skies at various locations around the world, answers – rather that action – is called for. The military (led by Forest Whitakerenlist the services of leading academic linguist Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) to try and work out why they are here, and what do they want. 

Curiously, every eighteen hours, a section of the craft suspended above the plains of Montana opens up, allowing Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to try and facilitate a basic exchange of communication.

The new Arrivals are revealed as seven-pronged starfish-like creatures dubbed “heptapods.” Intriguingly, these visitors do participate in contact, but only by emitting a highly sophisticated form of non-linear orthography – rings of swirling black “ink.”

How can Dr. Banks hope to suss out something like this?:

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“Some supporters of linguistic relativity think that the cognitive benefits of language helped spur its evolution. This is relevant to the movie, as the fate of humanity depends on us understanding their language” – newscientist.com

Among the earliest systems of writing, wedge-shaped cuneiform tablets were produced by the Sumerians in the Ancient Near East five thousand years ago. 

Having had the privilege of studying this bewildering civilization at university, one could not help but observe that they seemed so incongruous to World History – the notion of extraterrestrial origins should not sound so fantastical.

Incidentally, their religious texts quite categorically describe “the Ancient Gods who descended from the Heavens…”

Since the Phoenicians developed the first alphabet, scripts for Indo-European languages – of which English is just one member of that family – generally run horizontally from left to right, but with the observation that Arabic runs from right to left, should the heptapod circular “language” be read clockwise or anti-clockwise? 

Moreover, at what point on each billowing ring should Dr. Banks begin to decipher these messages? So many syntactic and semantic aspects to consider in such a fascinating and – considering what is at stake – frightening voyage of discovery!

As Dr. Banks wonders:

“They use non-linear orthography. Do they think like that too?” 

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“Are you dreaming in their language?” – Ian Donnelly.

Having already notched up five-star reviews and an encouraging string of superlatives from a wide range of film magazines and websites, Arrival looks set to be the phenomenal, thought-provoking classic that gives SF a good name.

Ultimately, this movie sets out to be more about human understanding, memory, love and fortitude than just delivering yet another tiresome alien invasion CGIfest far beyond the sensationalist reach of such dumb, inconsequential fare as Independence Day: Resurgence (which we were so kindly subjected to earlier in the year).

To find out how “distinctly original” and “truly exceptional” Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival really is, Brad will be checking it out this weekend. Therefore, a Review is sure to follow!

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Keep watching the skies… 

From All-Star To Dawnstar: Recent Vintage Acquisitions Read And Reviewed

The Quest For Classic Comics Continues…

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“Silence, please, everyone! I’ve been a little worried about how to tell you this … but, in my identity as Carter Hall, I’m going to enlist in the US Army!” – Hawkman.

And with this bombshell, so begins “Never Step On A Feathered Serpent!” the fifth issue of All-Star Squadron, a title whose debut ish (in September 1981) – with its mix of of superheroes and World War II history developed into an unputdownable phenomenon in the Bradhouse. 

My only regret is that (apart from #10, ten years later), no further ishs could be found.

Staying in the UK on extended leave, belaboured over the bonce by the Mace of Nostalgia, yours truly set aside this Summer to finally track down those comic classics from the so-called “Bronze Age” that eluded me all those moons ago, as well as checking out previously unseen titles. 

Three months ago, perusing the back ish departments of some handy awemongers’ emporiums in London, the ball started rolling with the purchases of All-Star Squadron, #s 5 & 7.

Was it a good start?

  • Squadron scrambled, or brain scrambled?

Amazingly imagineered by the invincible creative team of Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler, its reserved status in my collection is well-assured! But equally astounded at how this ish could have slipped past my Radar of Ninth Metal back in the day…

#7 is equally compelling, with the introduction of the Nazi costumed super-villain: Baron Blitzkrieg! 

Already looking forward to snapping up further ishs of this great title!

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“I’ll have to hit-and-run – use my speed and Kree-training to counter his brute strength – and try to wear him down!” –  Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel #15 (March 1978)

“Carol Danvers a woman who had it made – until the day radiation from an exploding alien machine gave her the skills and powers of a Kree Warrior, plus an uncanny Seventh Sense – transforming a human woman into… a heroine!”

With a proposed Ms. Marvel movie in the works, now would be a good time to catch up and get to know her – if anything, isn’t everyone curious to find out what radiation from an exploding alien machine does to you? Moreover, this Seventh Sense – it sounds groovy! – could we have some?

The woman with the Kree powers must battle Tiger Shark. This villain looks supercool on that dynamic cover (see above) and makes for a mighty antagonist inside.

The script is provided by Chris Claremont – always a big plus in my book! 

But when you consider the premise: woman in leotard is punched and has cars hurled at her by lunatic dressed as a shark… 

  • Marvelous, or Ms. Fire? 

Despite this dodgy premise, this ish is fab; the art by Mooney & DeZuniga is great, and there is a craving for more of this title.

Please note: his captive (who turns out to be the cousin of Namor – y’know: The Sub-Mariner!) is actually fully-clothed during the few panels in which she appears, so no fish-scale bikinis or strategically-placed hubcaps herein…

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“The thing is: that’s my Mom up there! What’s come over her since she won the Earth election?” – Colossal Boy. 

Legion of Super-Heroes was a title hugely enjoyed as a nipper. Now, an irresistible curiosity to find out what other ishs looked like spurred me on. #273 was the ish selected. 

Such characters as Wildfire and Tyroc were as cool as fudge, while others such as Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad(!) made the title unintentionally hilarious. 

One member of the Legion of Super-Heroes stood apart from the others: a graceful figure with a stunning pair of wings, her name was Dawnstar – or as her co-Legionnaire: the blond, green-skinned Brainiac 5 called her “Dawny.”

Hey, just be thankful this Post was not entitled Finding Dawny jeez, that sounds as corny as heck…!

  • So, Legend, or just leggo…?

What a swiz – she’s not in it! 

Undoubtedly, this is a compelling epic, bristling with drama!; intrigue!; the craziest super-cozzies you will ever see! And the story-line involving a revered Legionnaire framed for murder, wasn’t bad, but considering the immensity of the issue, and a high turn-out, where was the yellow, tassled one?

By the Black Nebula! It feels like your correspondent has been stood up…  

That other strong fave, Wildfire, barely got a look-in either.

Its been great to look at art not seen for 35 years – one or two other ishs will certainly be tracked down…

Even if it is just to see her again…

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“I am Gaius Tiberius Augustus Agrippa! I am power! – What kind of beings are you? Is all the world now the domain of monsters?” – 

During online research for comic art a few years back, my trail led to pages for an ish of Fantastic Four. Although not a fan of this so-called “World’s Greatest Comic,” both pen an’ pencilling duties for #241 (April 1982) belonged to the legendary John Byrne.

In “Render Unto Caesar,” S.H.I.E.L.D. has detected a mysterious power source emanating from the interior of Africa. With the aid of the Black Panther, the Fantastic Four go to investigate and discover – “Jupiter!” – a being, once a soldier in a distant outpost of Emperor Caligula. Almost two millennia ago, he stumbled upon alien technology to create a fabulous city, more splendid than the Roman Empire at its height.

He even neutralises the Fantastic Four’s superpowers. Irate at being selected to be his “Empress,” Sue Storm removes his golden helmet, only to find that- ha! Well, don’t let me spoil it for you! 

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  • Really Fantastic, or just a 4-letter word?

When this Summer of nostalgic comic-collecting set forth, a mental note was taken to look out especially for this one.

That priority was well-rewarded. 

Yes! Fantastic by name – undeniably fantastic by nature. With terrific guest-star appearances by Nick Fury and the Black Panther – two characters high on my Wanted list, this story: “Render Unto Caesar” is an absolute classic.  

Particularly enjoyed the amusing nod to Raiders (above), a light moment that presents its creator perfectly at the height of his enchanting powers.  

Feel the Byrne!

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“The X-Men would have trained me to use my mutant abilities more efficiently… If only I had joined them when I had the chance!” –  Dazzler.

Dr. Doom happened to be one of those characters sought after 30+ years ego, but never got him – could not find the relevant ish of the Fantastic Four that featured him.

Dazzler was a cult figure – “gifted” with the ability to convert sound into dazzling light – who got her own solo series.

The Monarch of Latveria guest-stars in #s 3 & 4. Ended up picking up the latter (it has a slightly more thrilling cover).

  • So, truly dazzling, or just dazzled off? 

Nah, this is not one of my better purchases.

The art by Frank Springer is good enough, but the prospect of a cutie mutie (…on frickin’ roller skates, fer cryin’ aht lowd!) never excited me even way back when yours truly was cute an’ supple enough to arse about with frickin’ roller skates. 

White flares are no match for a yellow, tassled cozzie. Any day… 

Good Grud, this is precisely the sort of infantile mag a chap of my age should not be bothering with – so will sell this on asap!

Hang on… 

If a character as lame as this could get her own series… and a popular fave such as Dr. Doom – or Dawnstar, for that matter! -couldn’t, well… 

Undeterred, my quest – delving further into the dense jungle of back issues – continues… 

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“This is one time… all the words in the Universe aren’t enough…” – Dazzler.

The War Of The Words: Why Does No One Talk Much In SF Films Any More?

Direlogue!

The Quality and Quantity Of Good Movie Dialogue Is Declining! We Need To Talk About It… 

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“…Do I talk first or you talk first? I talk first…?” – Poe Dameron.  

Wouldn’t it be cool to watch SF movies where you can just listen and enjoy good lines instead of being bombarded by noisy, meaningless CGI buffoonery?

As a writer who has dabbled in the art of good chatter – even trying (struggling!) to compile suitable quotes for my Star Trek review last week – it cannot have escaped your attention that there is decidedly less dialogue to get excited over these days.

Any writer of quality fiction/scripts/plays will tell you: there is nothing like good dialogue to drive any scene.

However, it should be pointed out that in  Mad Max: Fury Road – undoubtedly the Best Film of 2015 – the titular Road Warrior himself managed to grunt only 52 lines of dialogue; back in March, this year, Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seemed to phone in his scenes with a measly 43 lines.

Where can we listen to cool and catchy prattle beyond the stars these days? 

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“George, you can type this shit, but you sure as hell can’t say it” – Harrison Ford.  

On our Third Stone From the Sun, today, about 7000 languages are spoken (Goodness knows how many other thousands of languages have died out in the last few centuries!).

Imagine that!

7000 ways to say: “Hello!” and 7000 ways to ask: “Got any cake?”

And yet…!

An intriguing paradox is lodged at the core of human communication: if language evolved to allow us to exchange information, how come most people cannot understand what most other people are saying?

No matter how globalized the 21st century would appear, there are numerous far-out, obscure – dare one say it: alien – places in this world where a dash of basic local lingo is essential in order to just get by.  

In the realms of science fiction, a dazzling coterie of pseudo-technical jargon has gradually arisen to aid in the hopefully-convincing creation of alien worlds and “futuristic” technologies.

This leads us to the now-legendary quote (above). George Lucas had immersed himself into this far far away sci-fi set-up to such an extent, that an outsider like Harrison Ford was easily stumped by having to spout it.

There is a very telling reason why less dialogue in modern movies is becoming the norm. 

The Chinese sector has taken over the American market as the largest box office territory in the world. Not only does less dialogue mean less subtitles/dubbing for them, but – alarm bells among screenwriters everywhere – Chinese cinema-goers are attracted primarily to the spectacle. 

Apparently, the (Western) world is not enough. 

We have reached the stage (regrettably) where the movie industry is geared towards doing good business, rather than making fine art.

For movies to make a profit (as substantial as poss, of course) they need to do well in Asian cinemas, not just in American. This should go towards explaining why major blockbusters are released in places like Thailand and Singapore (my former stomping grounds) well before the “official” dates in the US and UK…

Dialogue seems to have lost its power to influence – how and where can memorable lines fit into a world where people spend more time sending texts of abbreviated jargon, and emojis and Instagram encourage more image-based communication?

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“Can you speak? Are you programmed to speak?” – Harry Booth.  

How aliens communicate is a source of constant fascination in SF films. Star Trek is synonymous with species which are nearly all carbon-based bipeds. As a result, they invariably speak as humans – for the sake of not bamboozling TV audiences with distracting subtitles! – in perfectly-rendered English (preferably with American accents).

For the movies, the Klingons had their own language – specially created (Trekkies can even get their own Klingon phrasebook for pity’s sake!)

Of increasing concern is the prevalent problem of character under-development. How many times have we complained about that? Dialogue provides an important key to our understanding of a particular protagonist or, for that matter, antagonist. 

With the notable reduction of spoken lines in blockbusters, we are almost forbidden to learn their intentions or directions. Presumably, our attention must(!) be focussed on the digitally-enhanced action and explosions; if we want to learn what they’re thinking, we’ve gotta go and buy the novel/comic book that this spectacle is based on.

Let the cynicism flow through you… 

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“No, no, no, no. You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say “affirmative,” or some shit like that. You say ‘no problemo.’ And if someone comes on to you with an attitude you say ‘eat me.’ And if you want to shine them on it’s ‘hasta la vista, baby’” – John Connor. 

Luke who’s talking…

In Star Wars: the Force Awakens, some fans were disappointed that the pivotal character remained mute in such a climactic, yet brief, screen time. Having been in that incredibly annoying situation myself where the right, poignant words for a crucial character just won’t come together, this is grudgingly possible to understand. 

Honestly, no matter how many alternate approaches or drafts are churned out, saying nothing at all can be the best, (safest) and most effective outcome.

Harrison Ford’s enervated Sam Spadesque narration for the original version of Blade Runner is partly what drew me into that “flawed classic.” After those “explanatory notes” were totally eradicated from the “Final Cut” the film is now regarded as a masterpiece.

My plans of breaking into screenwriting seem to be dwindling to the same extent as the very requirement for fine lines itself!

Judging from the upsurge in quality TV drama serials, good dialogue is allowed to flourish on the small screen, where the action and spectacle of the big screen is diminished, and more hours to fill provides opportunities for developing characters.

There, good scripts still matter.

The power of the spoken word, when crafted well, determines whether the captivated viewer comes back for the next episode(s).

So, rather than look for Brad on the big screen, you’ll be more likely to find my niftiest nuggets on Netflix.  

“To make anything work, you gotta find the right words.”

Now ya talkin’!

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“Come on guys, can we talk this over? …Good talk” – Iron Man. 

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