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

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“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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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. 

Star Wars Prequel Blog-a-thon: Attack Of The Clones [Week 2]

Star Bores Episode II: Attack Of The Inanities. 

There is unrest in my brain. Several thousand cells have declared their intentions to rebel against the prospect of having to sit through this tripe a second time… 

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“I have a bad feeling about this…” – Obi-Wan Kenobi.  

Greetings, my young padawan! 

Here we are again, in collaboration with boxofficebuzz, on the Star Wars prequel trilogy blog-a-thon.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones is an absolutely marvellous piece of work. 

Against all odds, it managed to be EVEN MORE DETESTABLE THAN THE PHANTOM MENACE. Which, unbelievably, is quite a feat. 

Unfortunately, in my time, too many trips to the cinema turned out to be lousy and ultimately wasted days out, but, without a doubt – and, by Jove, it pains me to say this – Attack Of The Clones is one of the MOST UNDERWHELMING SF MOVIES EVER.  

So we were promised far less of that annoying Gunganso what? We were lumbered with an even greater diverse range of crud to seriously spoil our already somewhat lessened expectations…

And they made that Gungan a Senator… 

Rather than suffer through that great disturbance of a movie all over again, a few scenes were selected. What’s it like going through this material 14 years later? 

What Works (This Is Going To Be Tough):

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“You must join me, Obi-Wan, and together we will destroy the Sith! …It may be difficult to secure your release…” – Count Dooku.

First, and foremost:

If anyone could bring the required menace the Dark Side deserves, then it was the Master of Horror himself. His voice alone is tinged with “Sith Lord.” But would the character have been named “Count” if anyone other than Lee had played him…?

However, there is just one quibble that annoys me: just think of the terrifying names of some of the characters this late legend has played: Dracula! Scaramanga! Saruman! Dooku! Dooku…?! Get outta here: always sounds more like a puppet on a daytime kids TV show…

  • “You wanna buy some death-sticks?”

“You don’t want to sell me death sticks.”

“Ah, I don’t want to sell you death sticks.”

“You want to go home and rethink your life.”

“I want to go home and rethink my life.”

At this point, numb with boredom, yours truly felt like having a good chortle. As it had been so long since having a good laugh, thought it best to exercise the necessary muscles, just to see if they still worked… 

  • The lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan/Anakin/Yoda and Count Dooku: 

Distinctly remember the groovy lighting effects as Anakin fought Dooku alone in the darkness. When Yoda hobbles in, his saber flies into his hand and then – whoa! – see the pesky Little Big-Ears GO! Whoo-hoo! 

That got the biggest laugh in the cinema! Come to think of it – the only laugh…

  • Jango Fett does his blaster twirl:

The only highlight of the Geonosis arena sequence. Nice touch… 

  • Slave 1 chasing Obi-Wan through the asteroid field: 

Trying to select the outstanding scene from this Episodebelieve me, it was such a struggle. This was the first that sprang back to mind. One of the very few scenes to catch my sagging interest on that fateful sole viewing, it was amazing to see Slave 1 again and get some well-deserved action. Other than spectacular visuals – what is most impressive about this sequence are the sound effects, particularly those seismic charges. Oof, Brad digs a good seismic charge.

But hey, just this once, let’s overlook that problem of having sound effects in space at all…

Stand by!

What Doesn’t Work (How Much Time Have You Got?):

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“If you are suffering as much as I am, please, tell me” – Anakin Skywalker.  

Let’s deal with the main offender straight away: 

  • Hayden Christensen: And you thought Jake Lloyd was bad…

The inner torment, the struggle to suppress conflicted emotions, the lure of the Dark Side calls for deep, insightful drama, tackled by a fine young actor. Shame this production could produce neither…  

  • Natalie bloody Portman: (aargh! yet again!):

She turned out to be just as awful as you can imagine. This time, her “acting” (if you can call it that!) is more annoying than the script. How Padme still wants to have younglings with that whining, petulant whelp is one of modern cinema’s inexplicable quandaries…

  • That chase on Coruscant: guaranteed to give me a migraine just thinking about it… 

The worst scene ever featuring Obi-Wan is when – extremely against character – he leaps through a window, somehow grabs onto a probe and gets whisked through the busy sky-lanes of city-planet Coruscant. There then follows a quite ridiculous chase for a bounty hunter (other than Jango Fett); Anathema – ha ha! sorry! – Anakin just drops out of the speeder and – through thousands of other crafts whizzing by – somehow manages to land on precisely the one (eureka!) in which the shape-shifter is in (bollocks). It binds us, it penetrates us, etc. but no use of the Force canand should – ensure such error-free reckless daredevil antics. Suspension of disbelief, my eye…

“I hate it when he does that,” Obi-Wan complains. Funnily enough, so does Brad… 

Which brings us neatly to:

  • The Obi-Wan/Anakin “friendship”: 

Constant bickering, complaining, disagreements, and so on and and so on – sorry, but what friendship”?! Here, their incessant uneasy and turgid interaction provides anything but compelling viewing. At one point, Obi-Wan makes a remark about “falling into that nest of Gundarks.” Yeah, why couldn’t we watch that instead? Sounds infinitely more intriguing than the drivel we had to sit through… 

Whenever hearing Alec Guinness say: “And he was a good friend,” all one can do now is cringe… 

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“We’ll have to try something more subtle this time…” – Jango Fett. 

  • Obi-Wan’s fight with Jango Fett: Should be in the What Works column – but, hey! – isn’t…

Was really looking forward to this – a classic showdown between two of the saga’s greatest assets! In the end, however, it turned out to be flat and forgettable. This serves as a sad reminder that whatever talents Lucas had as a Director, they had well and truly dried up by this time. Also, his writing here was particularly poor, most notably in:  

  • The “romance”:

Such a catastrophic failure, considering how pivotal the love between Anakin and Padme is supposed to be at this stage in the saga. Banal dialogue and atrocious acting merge to create such mediocre viewing, it’s almost painful. Add that awful WTF moment in which Anakin tries balancing on the back of some wild quadroped-thing and the psychological damage cannot be undone…

What a waste, considering how epic John Williams’ sweeping score: Across The Stars (Anakin and Padme’s Theme) turned out to be.

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“Kin chasa du Jedi. No bata tu tu” – Watto.

  • THIS THING!!

Whatever it is, this ugly brute symbolises the tedium of the whole Geonosis arena sequence – quite possibly the most un-Star Wars scene imaginable. Did anyone thrill to the sight of (ahem) Padme riding some giant lizard, pulling along a wheelless chariot in which her beloved is fending off insectoids with his lightsaber? Ha, thought not… 

  • The Battle of Geonosis: 

This should have been awesome, but instead – addled with copious dollops of CGI – it looks shallow, too artificial – nothing more than a video game. Sure, we get to see other Jedis, but really, blink and you miss them; they show up merely to promote their own individual action figure (methinks somewhat cynically). Considering the substantial budget, the field of marauding battle-droids and sci-fi war machines look decidedly amateurish and anything but exciting. 

Last, and by all means least…

  • The script: Let’s get this out of the way… 

It is appalling how this damning fault from the first Episode was never rectified and allowed to grind on, ruining this second instalment as well. The “story,” perhaps easier to follow than its predecessor, still fails to engage. It’s not helped in any way by the stream of incomprehensible events that litter the screen.

Where was Lawrence Kasdan when we needed him?! 

*

We will stagger regardless to the third and – thankfully – final episode in this shoddy trilogy in the next Post (“He doesn’t seem to take a hint this guy!”). 

Hopefully, my life, limbs – and sanity – will still be intact once this challenge is done. 

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May The Force Make It All Go Away…

Star Wars Prequel Blog-a-thon: The Phantom Menace [Week 1]

Star Bores I: A Spent Force… 

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“I’m sure this one will do fine…” – George Lucas.  

Always gratifying to expunge one’s demons, so they say. So it is with the wretched Star Wars prequel trilogy. 

As part of a blog-a-thon devised by Ashley over at boxofficebuzz, these much-maligned prequels have come under scrutiny, and she gladly accepted my participation.

Back in 1999, the hype for a BRAND NEW STAR WARS MOVIE(!) was phenomenal. George Lucas was ready to come out of his directorial hiatus and tell us how Anakin Skywalker – the Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force and became Darth Vader. So, what did Brad make of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? 

Let’s just say it was a trip to the cinema he will NEVER forget…

This Post follows boxofficebuzz’s What works/What doesn’t work format, although – let’s face it – the latter is going to be a significantly longer section…

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“I was apprenticed to the most powerful being in the galaxy once. I was destined to become… so much more” – Darth Maul.

What works:

  • Darth Maul: by far the standout element of Episode I. 

As a fan of aliens/villains in hooded cloaks, it’s difficult not to be mesmerised by the spectacular choreography of Ray Park. The extraordinary makeup is both devilish and distinctive. And hell, he’s everyone’s fave Dathomirian Zabrak ‘cos of his supercool dual-bladed sabrestaff. Strangely enough, this Sith apprentice was the very first aspect of preview images to catch my attention. Remember thinking at the time: we’re in for one helluva good cinema trip…

Rather than inevitably load up that lightsaber duel scene itself – still amazing after 17 years – this featurette is worth a look: 

  • The Pod Race

Admittedly, this was fun the first time we watched, and the only sequence not including Darth Maul worth extra viewing. Sebulba is a particularly dastardly figure, and the ensuing carnage makes for compelling viewing. Obsessed with Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders, watching them twenty years later taking pot-shots at the pods was a joy. But please, leave out the two-headed commentator (speaking English?!)

  • John Williams triumphs with the music score. As always. 

Undoubtedly the most outstanding track here is Duel of the Fates. Could you imagine the lightsaber battle without it? 

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“How does it feel to see my designs out in the world? All you can do is sit back and watch in amazement” – Iain McCaig.

  • The conceptual designs of Iain McCaig:

One of my favourite SF/fantasy artists is Iain McCaig. It was a really exciting day when news broke that he was working on Star Wars: Episode I. He was the artist solely responsible for creating the terrifying look of Darth Maul, and designing the outlandish costumes worn by Queen Amidala. 

Although some of his concepts – such as the most reviled alien in the universe – did not make the transition to the big screen so well, his exceptional artistic contribution should be honoured as one of the prequel trilogy’s scant saving graces.

  •  The J-type 327 Nubian Royal Starship:

Super-sleek, covered in chromium, this vessel carries more class and sophistication than any of the dialogue or acting. Such a wonderful design, it does not belong in such a below-average blockbuster. 

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“Phantom Menace is, ultimately, so extraordinarily objectionable… Nothing has the right to bore and disappoint us this much” – Peter Bradshaw. 

What doesn’t work (where do we begin?!):

At the beginning, of course…

  • The beginning: is so lame and monotonous. 

“Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” 

Really? Who gives a monkeys? Suddenly, John Williams’ oh-so-familiar perpetually-stirring theme tune feels incongruous when set to this mind-numbing scrawl. Honestly, this is the intro to a NINE-PART SAGA, and that is the best you can come up with, George?! Remember the opening scene of Episode IV? Yeah! NOW THAT is how you begin a blockbuster! 

  • The taxation of trade routes:

How was this needless attention to economics and politics supposed to engage with the infant cinema-goers?

  • The script: NONE OF THIS RUBBISH MAKES ANY SENSE.

More than the original trilogy, the inanity of the dialogue is called into question; you can’t call any of these figures “characters” because they are never fleshed out/explained. There is no reason/motivation for these figures to stick together, just as there is no reason/motivation for them to travel from one side of the set/planet to the other and – most of all – there is zero character development, so nobody comes out alive (literally).

  • The CGbloomin’I 

Those aliens aren’t real; that droid army certainly isn’t real; fx over here – fx over there – fx every-frickin’-where. And it’s all so tediously obvious. Thus, the screen is beset with absolutely no sense of wonder. And the magic – that endeared the original trilogy to millions – is depressingly absent.  Look, George, it would have been a whole lot easier melting my retinas staring at a video game for 133 minutes instead…

And while we’re on the subject:

  • That droid army: What a bunch of fragile, useless, near-sighted scrap piles!

It’s far too easy to destroy them. The old phrase: “Could knock them down with a feather” could not be more apt. Nothing to fear then, especially during:

  • The Battle of Naboo:

As a fan of SF battlefields, this should have rocked. Instead, the droids – and their battle-tanks – are assembling on the opposite hill – so what? Everybody has seen how ineffective they are – therefore there is no tension, no trepidation for the battle to come; as for the Gungans, by this point, everyone in the cinema is rooting against them, so it’s such a wasted opportunity. Again, more worthless CGI to sit – and yawn – through. Speaking of yawning…

  • Natalie Portman: seems to be a byword for lousy acting.

Cringing in my cinema seat thinking with dread: Shit! We haven’t got to put up with her in the next two episodes, have we…?

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  • Qui Gon Jinn:

Apart from sounding like he was named afer a bottle of Korean alcohol, WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?! The original trilogy was quite specific: Yoda trained Obi Wan. So to learn that this “Qui Gon” fella was not only training the young Obi Wan, but ready to train Anakin as well, annoyed me immensely – ’twas an affront to my supposed status as All-Knowing Star Wars Honcho. Without any character development whatsoever, there is absolutely no audience reaction to his death.

So long, Qui Gon – didn’t know/care much for ya anyway. 

Liam Neeson obviously signed up under the impression that he was going to be part of something special… as did: 

  • Celia Imrie: What was she doing?!

She’s one of the finest TV actors in the UK, so upon discovering she was to join the Ep I cast, it seemed perfectly logical that she would be playing Anakin’s mum, thus providing the right gravitas and emotional intensity required – but no. Bloody typical: overwhelmed to be involved with Star Wars she wrangled her way to big screen mediocrity by appearing instead as one of the fighter pilots. Honestly, her gain was everybody’s loss…

  • Ewan McGregor: He does NOT save this movie, despite so many protestations to the contrary.

He just sleepwalks and drones his way through, only “coming to life” during that confrontation with Darth Maul. And cut that lame pony-tail off! Bad, padawan, bad! And hey! He’s responsible for the oh-not-so-cool: 

  • Death of Darth Maul:

Why kill off the coolest asset of the trilogy in the first Episode?! Maul’s duel with Qui Gon on Tatooine ended with the latter jumping onto that sleek chromium ship. It would have been really clever to end the Obi-Wan/Maul saber-scrap in a similar fashion, with the Sith somersaulting onto an escape ship, leaving the Jedi to watch helplessly as it blasts high into the sky, knowing that this Sith must be hunted down in the next episode... But then again, no one listens to a word Brad says… hello? 

Last, and by all means least:

  • THAT ALIEN WE ALL ABHOR!

Don’t need to mention the lanky, goofy one by name – everyone knows who it is, and enough antipathy has been hurled in his direction since 1999. There is just one more thing to add here: was this figure deliberately intended to look, sound, move and act as derisory as he did? If so, WHY?!

Having blotted out this confusing but colourful mess of a movie from my mind, it was hoped that this would be a mere unforseen one-off misstep, and George would get his mojo back in order to deliver a darker, more dramatic, Episode II.

Besides, the signs were favourable: we were promised less of the lanky, goofy one; the legend that was Christopher Lee was rumoured to appear(!) and the return of Boba Fett looked more likely than ever. 

Really, how could it possibly go wrong?

They couldn’t fuck it up a second time!

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…Could they?

Rey Of Light: Who’s That Girl?

The Scribe Scrutinizes The Scavenger

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

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

Eh? Come again?

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

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

Finding out about Daisy Ridley is easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grief, this fella’s starting to annoy me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[cue coquettish wink]

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

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

Why?! What happened?

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

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

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

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

Absolutely: “you have that power too.” 

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

Ha, pun intended?

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

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

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“Classified? Me too…” – Rey ___??

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Bradscribe Review

Episode VII: Luke Skywalker has vanished… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impressive. Most impressive.

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

Yes, there are a few quibbles:

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

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

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

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

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© All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

What Can We Expect When The Force Awakens This Thursday? 

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

It’s May 1980.

A new Star Wars movie is just DAYS away. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some intriguing aspects to look forward to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s December 2015.

A new Star Wars movie is just DAYS away.

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No other movie matters…

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

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

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

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

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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

So, what should we do next?

Something good?

Something Brad?

Bit of both…?

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A bit of both! 

 

Bradscribe will return.