Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Review
Dec18

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Review

Like many people I’ve been to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and like many people you’ve probably seen it too even if you haven’t because you’ve probably seen the original Star Wars and without wanting to spoil the film too much this new release is almost exactly the same. In much the same way that J. J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek you can more-or-less consider Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be a reboot of A New Hope with a splash of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi thrown in for good measure. Did I like The Force Awakens? Yes. It was a big sci-fi spectacular, it had good action, good characters, and it all felt warm and familiar. It’s a good film because the original Star Wars trilogy was good. That said, there was nothing new in it at all and I’m really hoping that this is addressed in the following two; I’m going to be mightily disappointed if all we can look forward to is ghost Jedi, swamps, and muppets in forests again. So, let’s see what The Force Awakens is like. The desert planet Tattooine still features, only this time it’s called Jakku. The person on that desert planet with the notably absent parents who dreams of fighting for the rebels and who has the Force flowing within them, originally Luke Skywalker, of course, this time is Rey. An aside here: I really liked her. She’s a tougher character than Luke ever was, handy in a fight, taking no nonsense, and only grudgingly accepting help. I approved of Rey a lot. The evil Empire is now the evil First Order. The evil Emperor is now the evil Supreme Leader Snoke. It will be interesting to see if any back story of Snoke appears in the upcoming movies as I understand he became truly evil because his parents Snufflywubs Giblets and Jar Jar Jumblybum didn’t give him a cute enough name. The Darth Vader character – the Sith Lord, all in black, with a family connection to one of the main characters – is now Kylo Ren. With his helmet removed he reveals himself to be Young Sherlock Holmes. The pipe is truly evil and explains the husky voice. The bit where the Millenium Falcon is captured, boarded, and the pilots are hiding below the deck plating is there. Han and Luke dressed as stormtroopers pretending to take a captured Chewbacca through the evil base is now an actual stormtrooper – Finn – pretending to take a captured Poe Dameron through the evil base. The Death Star is now Starkiller Base. Nobody thinks...

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Star Trek – The Electronic Game
Dec14

Star Trek – The Electronic Game

Who remembers the electronic game based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture as produced by Coleco and listed in their Coleco 1980 Catalogue? No, me neither. Still, let’s take a look at it since it’s almost Christmas and you might sink one too many Snowballs then feel like whipping yourself around the sun in reverse and travelling back to purchase it from a better time in every way except for wages, health, technology, general safety, cleanliness, entertainment, and disturbingly scratchy clothing that you couldn’t get too close to the three bar electric fire while wearing if you didn’t want a trip to the Burns & Melting ward to be your overriding memory of the festive period. Looks sort of like the Enterprise, so that’s good, although sort of like the Enterprise after the episode Encounter At Trash Compactor, so that’s less good as that was one of the early Next Generation episodes before they thankfully killed off Flippy the Space Toad (though not in the trash compactor, sadly). I wonder how you play it. It’s the U.S.S. Enterprise versus V’ger in this action packed, electronic space game for 1 or 2 players! The opposing forces orbit over a runaway planet – their mission to gain possession. They fire at the planet attempting to neutralize it and claim it for their own! V’ger fires a green energy bolt – the Enterprise raises a protective shield around the planet – the bolt is deflected! Now, the Enterprise fires a photon torpedo – V’ger raises its shield too late – it’s a hit! Photons are fired again – and again – five hits and the neutralization is complete. The planet is won for the U.S.S. Enterprise! I see. I have a few problems with this game. I’m going to have to put my nerd hat on and I’m not going to take my nerd cap off first. The runaway planet didn’t appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture; the runaway planet appeared in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier but it was cut from the movie as the studio felt its story arc wasn’t as strong as that of the bald guy with bad teeth protecting his holes from the emotional Vulcan. Roddenberry was very specific when it came to warfare in his space opera. The Enterprise usually neutralises a planet by having Kirk (later: Riker) give everything on it a venereal disease and for privatised healthcare provided through insurance from the shadowy “Federation” to then quell the global populace. Any Star Trek fan will tell you that you can’t just press a button and extend the shields around an entire planet....

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Rare Atari Game – Starwombat
Oct24

Rare Atari Game – Starwombat

Starwombat was released for the Atari 2600 in March 1978 but was withdrawn very soon afterwards owing to two mistakes with its production run. The first issue was that the back story to the game – that of the fictional history of the titular Starwombat, its role in future space warfare, and the honour and responsibility of the people tasked with caring for these magnificent creatures from birth to death – was sadly missing; the story, originally written in Japan, was shipped across to America for translation but lost at sea (along with several thousand cartridges of the game) when the ship it was sent on disappeared. When those games that had already been distributed to America and Europe were released anyway without much in the way of explanation as to what to do the result was a confusing experience for everyone. The second issue was the now infamous Game 18, the Starwombat Vaccination game, the purpose of which was to administer a series of vaccinations through the creature’s thick pelt. Sadly, without an adequate description the game more closely resembled an early porn game as one player tried to ram a long spike into the opening of the creature controlled by player two. This led to a raft of complaints and a rapid withdrawal of the game from circulation. The Atari 2600 video game cartridge Starwombat is highly sought after by fans of the console. In 2011 a cartridge sold on eBay for over...

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Morris Men, Stealing Sheep, And An Apparition
Oct07

Morris Men, Stealing Sheep, And An Apparition

A fabulous music video for the song Apparition by Stealing Sheep featuring the Abingdon Traditional Morris Side and the Oxford City Morris Men. I’ve got some history with Abingdon Traditional Morris having photographed them on one or two occasions before (Mayor’s Day 2011, Mayor’s Day 2012, and the Abingdon Extravaganza) and from having a wife and a best friend, both of whom are cousins of one of the dancers (the bearded one you can see stepping over the broom at the start of the video). The song is great and it’s made greater by the video which is wonderfully choreographed and expertly directed by Dougal Wilson with some lovely effects and a fantastic attempt to feel like a one-take video, without actually being one. Extra points go to the band for learning some of the steps too. Stealing Sheep is Rebecca Hawley, Emily Lansley, and Lucy Mercer. Their sound in general and the sound in particular for this song fits perfectly with this video. Quirky is the...

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Movies I’ve Made My Wife Watch
Oct03

Movies I’ve Made My Wife Watch

Over twenty years ago, in the period before I met the woman who would soon move in with me and much later become my wife, I used to watch movies quite a lot. This was the golden age of VHS video and small video shops with quality making way for quantity meaning there was a neverending stream of films to rent of every genre imaginable. Some were great, some were appalling, some were both great and appalling. In the period since I met my now-wife I have introduced her to some of these films as they’ve sprung to mind or I’ve accidentally rediscovered them somehow. I love all these films for their nostalgia factor or because I genuinely think they’re fabulous. My wife does not always share my opinion despite repeated attempts to change her mind. Cry Baby My wife – being a woman with eyes – already had a bit of a thing for Johnny Depp. Thus, she had no problems at all agreeing to watch Cry Baby and there was no need for The Restraining Device. This, along with Hairspray, formed my introduction to my wife of the wonderful world of John Waters. Is there a more enigmatic film director on the planet? There is not. The film is a great 1950s-style musical with great songs and wonderful cast. “Look!” I said to my wife. “That’s Traci Lords.” “Should I know her?” she asked. “Er.” “Where do you know her from?” “Er.” Wife’s review: So good. John Waters can do no wrong. The Beastmaster My wife describes this fantastic fantasy adventure (my words; not hers) as my “Hawk the Slayer”, meaning I feel about The Beastmaster in the same way she feels about Hawk the Slayer; she has fond memories of the latter while accepting its many flaws and assumes I feel the same way about the former. I do not feel that way, though. She is wrong. It has Marc Singer, witchcraft, human sacrifice, Rip Torn, scary leathery bird things, and ferrets. That’s the sort of pedigree you won’t find anywhere else. The Beastmaster shits all over Hawk the Slayer. That’s all you need to know. Note: under no circumstances ever watch Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. Just. Don’t. I’m not kidding. Wife’s review: It’s nice that you like it but it’s not very good. Running Scared Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. Cops. Sick and tired of getting nowhere with the criminal elements of Chicago they decide to retire to Miami. They’ve just got to survive the homicidal tendencies of Jimmy Smits and a montage to the sound of Sweet Freedom by Michael McDonald....

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Close Encounters And Other Movie Title Translations
Sep03

Close Encounters And Other Movie Title Translations

I happened upon an old Japanese poster for the science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind recently (pictured below) and was pleased to see it contained the title that the film was released under in Japan. If you’re not familiar with the Japanese language then it roughly says “The aliens who keep stealing our stuff are back” which, I think you’ll agree, is a much more descriptive title for the immensely flawed (yet enjoyable) film. Close Encounters isn’t the only film with a better title in a foreign market release. Here are a few others you might already know: 1972’s science fiction movie Silent Running was known in Iceland as Crazy Space Gardener. The distributors of 1980’s Caddyshack in Portugal knew they’d get better attendance with a film called Disruptive Golf Course Rodent. Also from 1980, the comedy 9 To 5 became known in Saudi Arabia as This Is Why Women Should Not Work In Offices. Fantastic Voyage was given a 1966 release in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) as Very Small Donald Pleasence Movie. It was the same reverence for the actor that also saw Upper Volta give a 1980 release for The Pumaman as Donald Pleasence Versus The Flying Man And The Giant. The excellent 1982 Steve Martin movie Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid has a wonderfully surreal title in English but in Nepalese it makes far more sense as Monochromatic Film With Most Amusing Coffee-Making Scene. In 1989 the modern classic Road House was released and the following year saw the film make an appearance in Honduras as Incompetent Doorman Keeps Getting Employed. The distributors of Afghanistan were obviously a little confused with Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris in 1972, hence the title of its limited release, Not Entirely Certain What Is Happening Outer Space Film. Of course, you can’t have a list of oddly-translated movie titles without including (and finishing off with) 1977’s surprise hit, Star Wars. In Lesotho: The Princess In The Sky Ball. In Tonga: Colourful Sword Warriors In Space. In Czechoslovakia: Gold Robot And White Robot In Robot Story. And, finally, in Guyana, demonstrating that sometimes cinema distributors just use the posters as guidelines: White Couple Erotic Adventures In The Great Black...

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