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

 

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“Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures”: The Short-Lived Comic Books That Live Long In The Memory

Another Frenetic Excursion Through Bronze Age Awesomeness. 

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“Easy with that pig-sticker! You and your buddy ought to be more discreet about where you have spats…” – E. Hammond Preiss.

“Not quite a year ago, I composed a brief text feature on the letters page as an introduction and I’m writing what amounts to an epilogue.”

So wrote David Kraft, in an Editorial, snazzily titled: “Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures,” effectively announcing that this: Creatures On The Loose Featuring Man-Wolf #37 (June 1975), would be the final ish.

He explained how: “Sales, of course, are generally the deciding factor. But not totally.”

Apparently, despite “doing well on the newsstands,” it hadn’t been doing well enough. Kraft explained that granting J. Jonah Jameson’s hairy star-cursed son his own book was given “very serious consideration,” but at that time, Marvel had already laid extensive plans to launch a variety of new series.

Wonder if any of them reached the heights of Man-Wolf?

With Kraft‘s script and George Perez’s art, the final ish of Creatures On The Loose is a rip-roaring yarn.

It’s only fault?

Who knows if the savage progeny of the moon managed to land the spacecraft and save his friends on the last page…?

And now, we take a rare venture into DC territory – from Man-Wolf to Ironwolf – hey, get that symmetry!

“You’re no better than the Empress – you’re worse! At least she doesn’t hide her evil behind fine words and gracious hospitality!” – Ironwolf.

The tenth and final ish of DC’s Weird Worlds: Ironwolf #10 (November 1974), features an Editorial called: “Weird Words.” It states that despite being both a critical and commercial success, this title has to close – why?

“In a word: Ecology.

“For years, we’ve been publishing stories in the comics, warning of impending shortages of vital materials… The problem is real. One proof is that there will me no more Weird Worlds. We can’t get enough paper to publish it. Simple as that.”

Hmm… your correspondent is NOT convinced.

This “serious paper shortage” does not appear to have affected all the poor and underwhelming titles churned out – by both DC and Marvel, not to mention other indie publishing houses – during the intervening four decades (thus justifying my love and belief in Bronze Age books).

This particular ish – featuring Ironwolf: a sword-wielding adventurer in the John Carter of Mars mould – has lots to commend it, especially lively art by Howard Chaykin. The story is pleasing galactic fun, enticing enough to make me hunt down further ishs – there are only nine of them, so it shouldn’t be an extensve hunt…

“Fool! My defensive screens can easily neutralize your pathetic attack. Can you do as well against my ionic sword?” – Salia Petrie.

“She’s forcing me into a corner and if her sword punctures the copper foil skinsuit under my costume, I’ll age a thousand years in a second!” – Vance Astro.

The third selection in this eclectic mix also happens to be the final ish of a classic title unfairly terminated much too soon.

Three reasons drew me to Ms. Marvel: a woman as the central character; news of her own forthcoming movie; and perhaps the most obvious excuse: it was written by Chris Claremont – the same auteur responsible for making The Uncanny X-Men such a stupendous – and enduring – series.

After acquiring both impressive and disappointing mags in this series, this ish: #23 (April 1979) is one of the best in the series. Abducted by The Faceless One and taken to the space station known as Drydock, she finds Salia Petrie – a fellow NASA colleague whose mind is being controlled by the cosmic villain.

And there is a cameo appearance by Vance Astro, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxywho will be all the rage in cinemas again next month!

Actually, it is not that difficult to see why the fate of this particular series was sealed: apart from the constant change of artist – always not a good sign Carol Danvers’ drastic change in costume appears to have been a desperate misjudgment. Moreover, being terminated in 1979, alas, meant that female-led series still had a long way to go before achieving mainstream acceptance…

“You people kidnapped me, you seek to destroy our planet… Do you expect me to show you mercy? If so, forget it, fiends. There’s nothing I won’t do to stop you. Nothing!” – Dejah Thoris.

“I have never been one write letters to the editor. However, something has come up that I cannot let pass. Simply put, the termination of John Carter of Mars, Warlord of Mars is an injustice,” stated one disgruntled reader, printed in #26 (August 1979) – the penultimate ish.

On the strength of this exciting – and yet moving – mag, other copies have been sought this past few months. It was truly a great expedition when #7 (Decemper 1977) came into my possession, and at a reduced sale price too. A keen John Carter fan for most of my life, Marvel did a fine job on this series.

This particular ish just happens to be blessed with the pulsating pencils of Gil Kane. And its title: Dejah Thoris Lives promises a suitably feisty appearance by one of science-fantasy’s most iconic princesses. In the hands of that other exceptional Wolf: Marv Wolfman, this ish does not disappoint!

Again, it is such a shame that this brand of awesomeness was ultimately defeated by the crass excuse of “poor sales.”

1979 was one of my favourite years; and yet it seems to have been less than favourable as far as comic books are concerned…

“Awwright, ya flap-eared yahoos! Everybody git your tails inside an’ git them fishbowls off!” – Nick Fury.

Know you this: Nick Fury is one of my all-time fave Marvel characters. It has been an absolute pleasure tracking down the work of the legendary Jim Steranko, arguably the greatest artist to bring this deadly Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to bold and wise-crackin’ life. You’d think that he would have no trouble saving an experimental title like What If? from the dreaded sales figures curse, but no…

Stan Lee presents: A Stunning Saga Of An Alternate Reality, indeed!

#14 (April 1979) boasts the incredible question: What If Sgt. Fury Had Fought WWII In Outer Space? On the morning of 7 December 1941, the Pearl space station is attacked by a squadron of “crummy Betan lizards.” Such a bizarre premise proved too irresistible; plotted by Gary Friedrich, drawn by Herb Trimpe – and narrated by The Watcher of course! – this special bumper-sized edition is certainly unputdownable stuff!

All the ishs featured here hold reserved places in my ever-expanding Bronze Age collection, although it is a shame that that it is their ephemeral nature that link them together. Ironically, the discontinuation of these titles has bolstered their value – not to mention made them more difficult to come by.

At the end of the day, sales figures proved to be far more effective at crushing heroes than any nefarious plan concocted by the most devious costumed supervillains.

Thankfully, David Kraft and George Perez were allowed to produce the two concluding episodes of the Star-God Saga in a couple of ishs of Marvel Premiere four years later.

Kraft ended that editorial in 1975 by stating: “Doing this series has been a lot of fun for all of us here, especially George and myself, and we hope that you’ve gotten some entertainment out of it along the way.

“We’re only sorry it had to end so soon.”

“I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad – you’re all the same…! You’ve got to be stamped out – no matter what the cost! And if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, you will be!” – J. Jonah Jameson.

 

“Valhalla Be Mine!”: Could Hela Be The MCU’s Greatest Villain?

It’s Main Event Time…

“‘Tis Hela who is the power here – Hela whose word is Law! I be Death incarnate, Whitebeard, and Death dares all” – Hela.

“I know what you’re thinking…”

How wicked is this?!

Ever since all of us were treated to the suitably awesome Teaser Trailer for Thor: Ragnarok at the start of this week, Brad has been mesmerized by Cate Blanchett’s devilish grin.

Odin’s blood, methinks – this movie be not upon us for another seven months yet, but already anticipation for one of my all-time fave Marvel characters grows.

Foolishly, ’twas thot that a Preview of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 could be battered out this weekend – ha!

And nay! 

Not e’en the giddy delights of a Star Wars teaser trailer wert enow to dissuade me from the fiendish allure of the Queen of Niffleheim – the Goddess of Death.

This teaser sets up what appears to be a very promising outing for Odinson.

As a huge fan of The Mighty Thor comic – thus sparking a lifelong fascination with Norse mythology – and reasonably satisfied with both solo movie ventures for the God of Thunder, a main drawback however (especially in Dark World) was the preponderance of scenes on Midgard (Earth). It appears that Grandmaster Feige and his merrie MCU band realised this and upped the ante accordingly to devise the gobsmacking cosmic adventure we deserve.

Look ye here: the triumphant spectacle of the HULK in battle armour(!); Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster(!) AND Chris Hemsworth’s haircut(!) are all irresistible ingredients in their own right, but Galadriel in her elaborate headgear surely tops them all… 

So, be on your Asgard, as ’twere:

“You who now come claiming my father’s spirit as though the soul of Odin were some bauble that you had won!” – Thor.

“Asgard is dead…”

My introduction to Hela could not have come in a finer form; the main story in The Mighty Thor #314 (which takes pride of place on my desk this evening as these words are frantically typed) stands as a personal uplifting favourite, but it is the additional Tales Of Asgard bonus story: Judgement – And Lament! in which Hela has usurped radiant Valhalla, and – with her icy touch – remade it in the imge of her own cold, cruel and foreboding kingdom of Niffleheim.

And all because – deeply moved by Sif’s love for Thor – she could ne’er, as a woman, consummate longings for compassion – desire – love…

Tending to his fallen Valkyries, Odin – ruler of the gods – comes to set things a’right.

And part soothing words to the Bringer of Death, enow to quell the anger and hurt within her.

Whene’er she made a cameo in the Thor comic book, she stole every panel with her menace and vile intent. In my quest for Bronze Age comics, those back ishs of Mighty Thor featuring her have proved elusivemayhap ’tis not a surprise to learn that those ishs are among the most valuable…

“Can you believe we’re having this conversation? It’s 2017 and we’re talking about the first female villain? It’s ridiculous. There’s so much untapped potential villainy in women. It’s really exciting. I think finally it’s beginning to be acknowledged that women and men want to see a diverse array of characters, and that’s race, gender across the sexual spectrum” – Cate Blanchett.

“Hi there!”

What is it – for me – that sets the Queen of Niffleheim apart from other female characters in the Marvel canon?

Her steely looks and the devious design of her outlandish garb are startling enow, but it is her macabre headgear that strikes thee the most. Naturally, most – if not all – her appearances have been brilliantly written…

“She’s been locked away for millennia getting more and more cross,” as Blanchett explained in a recent interview, and she is bent on exacting her vengeance against Thor. And Odin.

By not only holding Mjolnir, but destroying it(!), Hela makes quite an impact; her intentions of unleashing Ragnarok – the fabled destruction of the gods – are machinations not to be taken lightly!

Verily, from what we’ve learnt this week, she is shaping up to be quite a formidable antagonist indeed. And to think that, up until this year, Loki has stood as the MCU’s most dangerous evil presence. With barely any competition. Ant-Man’s Yellowjacket was underwhelming, and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Ronan The Accuser merely spent his screen-time sulking rather than exuding adequate menace.

And – although promising to “bathe the star-ways with your blood” – we have yet to realise the full extent of Thanos’ power. But surely, without terrifying headgear, can he muster the right modicum of imposing threat…?

“Hela’s able to manifest weapons,” Blanchett added. “Her headdress can be weapons. She can manifest weapons out of different parts of her body. I won’t tell you which — I’ll leave that hanging…”

“Hope doth blossom in the presence of life… and thou art the Queen of Death. But I may grant thee enlightenment. Open thy mind… Let my wisdom flow into thee…

“And thou wilt understand the way of the world” – Odin All-Father.

 

Origins Of An Ace Oddity: The Blogger Recognition Award!

Yay, Let The Word Go Forth! Bradscribe Is Officially Awesome! 

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“Omnium rerum principia parva sunt [Everything has small beginnings]” – Cicero.

Thanks to Michael J Miller @ mycomicrelief for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award!

Michael not only writes consistently brilliant reviews of comic books, but is a superhero ‘imself, having decided to take a stand on the side of Truth and Justice and SPEAK OUT about what is happening to his country. His site is well worth a visit or three! It’s ram-packed with goodies and he’ll be pleased to see you!

It’s always a thrill, and a great honour, to be recognised – and highly regarded – by your fellow bloggers; and it only seems like yesterday when I nominated him for the Mystery Blogger Award!

Personally, February is always the most trying month for me – this year’s has brought its own extraordinary events (best left unmentioned); writing usually pulls me through hard times, but considering how substandard the drafts produced during this past frenzied fortnight are, well… (best left unpublished! – most unlike me, innit?!)

Michael’s unexpected – and uplifting – congrats message this week could not have come at a better time.

Bless yer heart, amigo!

Anyway, here are the rules for the Blogger Recognition Award:

1) Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2) Write a post to show your award.
3) Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4) Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
5) Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6) Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Right, how in blazes did all this madness begin?

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“A beginning is a very delicate time” – Princess Irulan. 

Know then that it is the year 2555.

Living in a predominantly Buddhist country, that was what it said on our Buddhist calendar.

You knew it better as 2012. 

Early in that year, after yet another dispiriting reply from a prospective editor – more of a “better luck next time,” rather than an outright rejection – he wanted to see “my blog.” Such a platform had frittered away @ the back of my mind for a few months, but that provided the impetus to get it started. 

Every good writer needs a portfolio of work; without anything in print/online – it was imperative to sort something out. And PRONTO.

But how?

This involved swottin’ up on specific technical gubbins from scratch. Having downloaded the necessary How To files, well…. sheesh, it might as well have been in Lithuanian – none of it made any sense. Weeks – then months – passed and the stalemate had not shifted; it wasn’t until eventually watching a YouTube vid over and over again did the rudiments of blogging finally sink into my stubborn noddle.

And then… hey! Holy Danish inter-lockin’ blocks, Bradman!

Now yer ready, whaddya gonna write about?!

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“Ready are you? What know you of ready…? This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!” – Yoda.

Brad won’t fail ya – Brad‘s not afraid. 

In the beginning, my Very First Post irresistibly concentrated on my unique background back then: living on the Gulf of Thailand. A world traveller with 5,000 Followers, producing Posts attaining 300 Likes each, Liked me straight away – instantly providing me with my own initial band of potential Followers to invite over to my site! It took only my second Post: Science Friction to collect NINE Likes – wow, methinks, this bloggin’ lark’s a doddle…

Even @ that initial stage, SF had not become my main focus, but after scant success with other Posts delving into various other beloved topics such as history, coffee and whatnot, SF became the official theme of this blog. Over 150 Posts – produced in three different countries – have carried the Brad Seal of Awe Since 2013. 

When my laptop’s screen went on strike last July, the remainder of ’16’s Posts had to be prepared @ a few Public Libraries in the local region.

One morning, while compiling one of my more ambitious Posts, one crusty, dreadlocked youngling – with skateboard in hand – leaned in, having recognised Arsene: our cute bunny forever immortalised as my Gravatar. 

“Hey, I really dig that site! It’s-” 

Upon seeing me activate my Dashboard, he gawped.

“Blimey Charley!” he chirped in amazement. “You- you’re Bradscribe?!” 

“What, didn’t think I wuz this ridiculously good-lookin’ in real life, huh?” 

After being evicted from the building (hey! you’re not allowed to natter in libraries) we skedaddled to the nearest coffee den.

“I wanna blog, man,” the rapscallion sniffed. “How can I be as successful as you?” 

“Well, two tips must ye learn to become a successful blogger… but first, m’young an’ eager padawan, help yerself to some ginger cake.”

Ah yes, the CAKE – hoo-boy, he LURVES a scrumptious slice a’ sveetness aound ‘ere, doesn’t ‘e, eh?!

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“Okay, first of all, you’re copying me from when I said I had a plan… And secondly, I don’t think you even have a plan!” – Rocket Raccoon. 

“No, really, kid – THESE are the TWO most important essential titbits I reckon ya need:

1). Be a friendly host

“Blog it and they will come!”

Nah, no matter how awesome your writing, there is no way to ensure that any readers will immediately swing by. Remember, MILLIONS of of blog posts are produced DAILY, so you have got to get out there and invite them over. 

And when other like-minded bloggers folla the courtesy of leaving a kind Comment, always reply: thanking them and generating a rapport. So they feel obliged to come back for more. The few times me Comments have appeared on newcomers’ sites, only to be ignored; not surprisingly, they vanished from the blogosphere soon after… 

ALWAYS reply, ya dig?! 

And:

2). DON’T pick yer nose while I’m explainin’ this to ya – jeez, man! 

Are ya done…? Good.

2). Be unique

A hefty proportion of those countless blog Posts are movie reviews – some are so formulaic it’s all too easy to get confused as to which blogger is which. Not only blog about what you love (and love whatchu blog), whatcha write should represent YOU as an individual: your thoughts, your interests, your personality.

In order to stand out from all those MILLIONS, it’s best ta produce something different – something distinctive. 

Be unexpected, unusual and – oh yes -unique. 

And if all else fails, it ‘elps ta offer them something irresistible. Hence, the cake…

“All the best to ya, kid. Good luck…”

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“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood. Once, I was a cop. A road warrior searching for a righteous cause. As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who had more cake… me… or everyone else…” – Max Rockatansky. 

As the rules for the Blogger Recognition Award stipulate no number of Nominees, we’ll go with my lucky number: 7.

So, all you lucky Nomineesmy (whisper it: all-female!) Magnificent Seven– time to stand and save a Mexican village from bandits and be recognised!:

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Cheers!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: A Bradscribe Review

State Your Elation For The Record:

This Rogue Is The One To Rave About!

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“The first thing that you have to do is get over the fact that you’re doing a scene with Darth Vader. That took me a little while, because I’m a first-generation fanboy” – Ben Mendelsohn.

One of the many disappointments with Star wars Episode III is that it denied our chance to see how the Rebel spies stole the Death Star plans.

For TOO LONG has yours truly revelled in the intrigue induced by the legendary scrawl:

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…and wondered how that premise would… (eventually?) make such a great movie…

And here it is! It only took three and a half decades for delivery.

Like the seemingly impossible mission for which this ragtag band a’ rebels volunteer, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story defies the odds to present such a welcome addition to the galaxy’s greatest saga.

Well! Where do we begin?!

A big fist-pump to this band of lovable rogues. They represent a superior Suicide Squad: more thrilling and thankfully less puerile. We do end up caring about their fate, which seemed to be the ultimate challenge here.

Quite frankly, Felicity Jones is a revelation as Jyn, galactic tearaway and daughter of Galen Erso, the reluctant creator of the Empire’s new superweapon. Admittedly, Jones looks an unlikely action star, but she pulls it off with aplomb. 

By far the best of the main bunch are Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yenstill can’t believe he fits so well in this galaxy!) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) – the fighters from Jedha. 

Love the relationship between Cassian and Kaytoo, although this charming lil plot device was crying out for further attention and development. Considering what an obvious win the reprogrammed Imperial droid turned out to be, he deserved greater opportunities to scene-steal. (If they couldn’t grant him more lines, at least give him that blaster!). 

Still reckon that Diego Luna makes a way cooler Star Wars name than Cassian Andor…

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“That’s right, I’m playing the male lead! I didn’t really think that would be such a big deal…” – Felicity Jones.

The main problem with SF these days is that sfx have reached such stupendous levels, other elements such as plot and character development sometimes tend to fail in comparison. But Rogue One overrides that problem – all elements fuse reasonably well to produce something that is undeniably enjoyable. 

Here, the effects are suitably grandiose and awe-inspiring, from the graceful flights of the supersleek spacecraft(s) to the simply stunning vistas of Jedha and Mauritiuis – (sorry!) Scarif.

What about the aliens? 

Sorely underused – a personal gripe. For my Rough Guidequite tactfully, details relating to Pao and Bishan were dropped. Naturally assuming that they might not receive too much screen-time, they didn’t even get a word in – not even an indecipherable one! Between them!

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“I’d have loved to have taken a Stormtrooper outfit but we weren’t meant to take anything. I got away with a couple of small things but I can’t tell you what” – Mads Mikkelsen. 

Of the Imperial personnel, Ben Mendelsohn is particularly impressive as Director Orson Krennic. 

It was wonderful to see that well-known (well-despised?) officer from A New Hope make a dramatic reappearance. Was expecting to burst into tears upon catching sight of this beloved actor, but, just when you think how sophisticated CGI has become – let’s face it – he doesn’t look natural! No real presence = no credible menace. Moreover, they did not get the voice right!

But what about Vader?!

Surely, this film could never have worked without everyone’s fave Sith Lord. The build-up to his long-waited “return” is tense; his first scene (shared with Krennic) presents him in typically moody and magnificent mode.

His second scene?

Deep breath: WHOA! He REALLY gets busy – showing a Dark Side darker than anyone had ever expected! This is REVENGE of the Sith right here! 

Aren’t we so grateful that James Earl Jones could lend his esteemed vocal talents to Star Wars once more!

Sadly, however, the rest of the Imperial Officers are just anonymous. 

Is it possible to have a Star wars movie without a John Williams score? Some fans may argue that Rogue One does not feel right, precisely because of that vital exclusion. The music here is rousing enough, especially the mystic twang played when the proceedings reach Jedha.

As these rogues are rougher, the action more gritty, the dogfights more spectacular, for me, Rogue One is bigger and better than The Force Awakens.

There have been a few five-star reviews appearing in the last two days. Obviously, those critics have enjoyed the exhilarating ride that uberfan Gareth Edwards (the force is strong with him!) has concocted here, but, to be fair, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story falls short of the brilliant standard of The Empire Strikes Back – a veritable 5* package if ever there was one. 

The power of what we are dealing with here may be immeasurable to some, but this first-generation fanboy is pleased (relieved!) to bestow upon it a solid:

4-out-of-5

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“For my 30th birthday, we visited the Skywalker home in Tunisia. I stood at the same spot where Luke watched the sunset. My girlfriend said: “For your 40th birthday, you won’t be able to top this!” For my 40th birthday, I was directing Rogue One…” – Gareth Edwards. 

Doctor Strange: The Bradscribe Review

Open Your Eye…

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“It’s Strange” – Doctor Strange.

“Maybe, who am I to judge?” – Kaecilius. 

When you’re strange, faces come out of the rain.

When Bennybatch is Strange, Marvel go ALL OUT to make the fourteenth – and latest – entry in their formidable Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange, a spectacular and one-heckuva-trippy outing. 

Straight after the new, enhanced Marvel Studios logo is unveiled, we are led on a blistering ride of energy-harnessing and reality (re)shaping.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a long way from Holmes in the role of arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, whose self-centred world comes crashing down around him after losing the use of his hands in a horrific car accident. He is advised to travel to Nepal, where answers of a mystic kind can be attained… providing he foregoes his stubborn defeatist attitude that “this material universe is all there is.”

Cumberbatch has the right look, mood and elocution to create this extraordinary character – no wonder the studio upheld production until he had completed his Hamlet sting in London’s West End!

Having got over initial reservations concerning visuals designed TOO closely to the aesthetic originally concocted for Inception and The Matrix, such scenes as soaring through the multi-dimensional vortices and the confrontation with the dread Dormammu are suitably good fun.

“Have you seen THAT at a gift shop?”

Fortunately, complementing the impressive visuals is a really snappy script: bold, intellectual, coherent and invariably humorous. 

For a handy intro to this character, see here:

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“You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?” – The Ancient One. 

Much controversy centred around Tilda Swinton’s casting as The Ancient One. Changing the ethnicity to Celtic (?!) was (ahem) strange, but when you consider that the original setting for all those mystic arts was switched from Tibet to Nepal so as to appease the Chinese box office, it all becomes so painfully politically “correct.”

By the Rings of Raggadorr, the Power of Yen conquers all it seems. Business is – annoyingly, regrettably – business. 

Wong (Benedict Wong)his forever-faithful, forever-making-tea manservant from the comics – has been upgraded to Head Librarian. Amazingly, the titular role and the librarian are both played by top British thesps who share the same forename: Benedict – how strange!

Kaecilius – as noted before, is a character NOT found in the comics. Maybe he is not given as many memorable dastardly moments as we would like, but hey! The fact that it is played to sinister perfection by Mads Mikkelsen, possibly my – and your! – fave villainous character actor provides enough reason to rejoice.

And when you’re starting to wonder how this visual treat ties in with the rest of the MCU, there IS the honorary Stan Lee cameo – that is hilarious! To help bring further MCU relevance to these proceedings, Wong helpfully states:

“The Avengers protect the world from physical enemies… we safeguard it against more mystical threats.”

Too right, Wong!

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“Steve Ditko is one of the greatest Marvel artists in history… We are now able to take his trippy comic panels and have the technology to put that into big 3-Dimensional space on a movie screen… it’s amazing” – Kevin Feige. 

Okay, let’s get the most annoying problem (which applies to too many movies these days, not just Doctor Strange) out of the way first.

As is all too painfully predictable in modern cinema these days, Rachel McAdams has woefully little to do here, worryingly described as the “love interest.” As is so often, her “appearance” is reduced to insipid underdevelopment. And Stephen shows little Interest anyway. Yet again, we are left wondering what necessitated her inclusion at all…

It would have been really groovy if Martin Freeman’s American character from Cap America: Civil War had made a cameo somewhere here! Talk about opportunity missed…

Once again – as expected, Vishanti be praised! – Marvel has produced another great hit. It’s well worth checking out. Remember to stay for the post-cred scenes; BOTH are impressive – one features a cameo from one of Marvel’s well-established heroes (Hint: he does NOT like tea!)

As for me, multiple repeat viewings are assured – while you go and enjoy this one, Brad will be pleasantly coming down. Preferably with tea.

No mushrooms! Just tea. With a little honey. 

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BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 Eyes of Agamotto out of 5 – hey, four Eyes is nothin’ ta snigger at!

“Let Them Eat Static!”: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Revisited

What Better Way To Celebrate 50 Years Since The Starship Enterprise First Set Out On Its Mission To Explore Strange New Worlds?

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“This is damned peculiar…” – Admiral James T. Kirk.  

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

While on a school holiday camp in 1983, me, and me room-mate, both HUGE Star Wars fans, thought it might be a good laff to go and watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. After all, the laughably-monickered: Star Trek: The Motion(?!) Picture had famously failed to resonate with fans and critics alike;  this would be just something to “pass the time.” 

BLIMEY! HOW WRONG WE WERE…

Back in the day, the original TV series went out at 6pm on Monday eveningssomething to watch while eating dinner, no more. Personally – in the year in which Star Trek celebrates its 50th Anniversary – some of the original scripts, not to mention most of those costume designs(!), have not stood the test of time well.

But Star Trek II did exceptionally well to entice and surprise the neutrals such as myself and convince us that the Gene Roddenberry Universe could offer its own wonders…

From the moment that Ricardo Montalban reveals himself as the genetically-engineered Khan Noonian Singh on Ceti Alpha V and starts fiddling with those gruesome Ceti Alpha eels (NOT to be watched with your Monday evening dinner…) you just knew that these proceedings were turning out to be a decidedly different – and more intriguing – Trek than usual – certainly several Warp Factors more sensational than what this ongoing mission had served up for us before…

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“He tasks me! He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up…” – Khan Noonian Singh.

Alas, the Motion Picture failed partly due to baring no resemblance to the legendary TV series that spawned it. However, by reintroducing one of the series’ more charismatic villains, from the 1966 episode: Space Seed, the stage was set for an epic showdown. 

Sure, at once, Khan made very much an 80s villain – big hair and big pecs – and as Shatner and Montalban both exuded larger-than-life characters, the scenes they shared together were electrifying, reslting in some of the best exchanges in SF cinema. 

Acquired a movie magazine from 1982 this week, containing two articles about this movie, including a review by a self-avowed Trekkie who thought it“stunk.” Apart from having “a silly script,” he remarked that Montalban‘s performance as Khan was “so outrageously over the top, it threatened to go over the edge.”

What rot! 

Charismatic yet dastardly, Khan is actually one of the great SF villains – now universally regarded as such. Goodness knows what said same hack makes of some of the lacklustre villains we have had to endure in recent big screen offerings!

To hell with the fact that Ensign Chekov didn’t even appear in the original Space Seed episode so wouldn’t have recognised the significance of Botany Bay!

Look past this obvious goof and get immersed in the flawless and endlessly riveting outer space action! Also mercifully extricated was the first film’s inexplicable predilection for dentist uniforms; sure, in 1979, that sort of thing would have been expected, but in 1982 – the year that also brought us Blade Runner, Tron and The Dark Crystal (remember that?!) – big and bold visions were the IN thing.

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“Admiral, the Commander of the Reliant is signalling. He wishes to discuss terms of our surrender…” – Lt. Uhura. 

While there could not have been any Trek movie without the phenomenal success of Star Wars, again, one redeeming fault of the Motion Picture was the banaland, quite frankly, tedious – way in which it tried to be too cerebral. Good to see this sequel jettison all that. 

Glorious galactic spectacle was not enough though; some major Star Wars-style action scenes were required. And some top-notch battle sequences were added. The initial attack of the Reliant was superbly handled – as you can see here:

…As was the Battle in the Mutara Nebula.

Over thirty years later, these effects still look remarkably special, but let’s face it: would they have been exhilarating without the stirring score supplied by the late great James Horner? Probably not…

And, after all this time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the yardstick by which all new Star Trek movies are judged. 

Will the brand new Star Trek: Beyond be able to sit comfortably beside it? 

We shall see…

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“I have been, and always shall be, your friend” – Spock. 

Obviously, the great twist: SPOCK DIES was such a bold move.

Although neither of us avidly watched the series, we understood how integral to the series format its token Vulcan officer was, and applauded this incredibly bold move to kill him off…

Apparently, there was only ever to be these two movies, and to have one of the central characters meet his end seemed the only (ahem) logical way to end it all. This scene – according to Hollywood legend – was the only reason that Leonard Nimoy agreed to reprise his most famous role anyway. It still puts a lump in my throat every time it comes on – a superbly acted and directed sequence. 

Such a shame that the huge box office success of Wrath Of Khan meant that Star Trek III had to go ahead. And with one of the most ludicrously contrived plots ever committed to film as well! 

What would modern SF cinema look like today if the Trek franchise had ended with the view of Spock’s coffin on Genesis…? 

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“Are you out of your Vulcan mind? No human can tolerate the radiation that’s in there!” – Dr. McCoy.

Star Trek: Beyond is in cinemas now.