Blade Runner 2049 run up

So Blade Runner 2049 is finally hitting cinemas next month. It seemed like a far off dream that was never going to happen but we’re finally here. Over the years I’ve practically ate anything that was Blade Runner related and in preparation for next month maybe you might want to do the same also.

Blade Runner

The movie is probably the best place to start since it’s what we are actually getting a sequel to. There are a few different cuts out there, two in particular that have radically different endings. The best thing to do is watch all cuts of the film.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

It’s really a fantastic novel and well worth reading whether you are a fan or the film or Philip K Dick. Obviously it’s very different to the movie with a different spin on the characters but there are similarities and if you’ve seen the film first this will have an effect how you view the characters. While watching the trailers for Blade Runner 2049 it seemed to me that some of the landscapes describe in the novel will be brought to life in the next film.

We Can Build You

This book is something of a prequel to ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ Some characters in this seem to be related to his later novel.

Total Recall 2070

A prequel TV series to the 1990 movie ‘Total Recall’ this series is far closer to the paranoid world of ‘Blade Runner’ than it is ‘Total Recall’. Visually the city of ‘Total Recall 2070’ has all the aspects of the city of ‘Blade Runner’, the dark film noirish streets to the futuristic japanese advertisements.
Lasting only 1 season the series starts off well, hits of string of generic detective episodes and then hits back with an unfolding drama involving the main character David (who has got a look of Ryan Gosling about him). Well worth watching but be selective with the episodes. The episodes in the series arc involving the corporate espionage of Rekall are quite good. Self aware androids and people with Chips in their brain not knowing who they really are. How Philip K Dick can ya get?

Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Have to give this a mention. The series producers were also inspired by ‘Blade Runner’. Human Cylons are the replicants of the series. The weapons in the show were based on the design of the gun that Deckard uses and the Cylons are given the nickname ‘Skin jobs’ just as Replicants were.
You have to watch this show.

Soldier (1998)
An American sci-fi film with Kurt Russel that seems like a rip off of ‘Universal Solider’. It was written by David Peoples, who co-wrote ‘Blade Runner’s script. Peoples considered ‘Soldier’ to be a spin-off/side sequel to ‘Blade Runner’. You don’t need to watch this. It’s not good and you will find nothing thematically similar to ‘Blade Runner’.

You can’t actually watch this since it was never made. It was a proposed prequel web series to Blade Runner by Ridley Scott.

Natural City (2003)

Remake, yes, this is a South Korean remake of ‘Blade Runner’ set in the year 2080. The story is heavily changed to turn it into an action flick with hero and damsel in distress. Watch if you are curious but you won’t be satisfied.

Dead or Alive: Final

Set in the future of 2346 with androids but without a ‘Blade Runner’ budget. There are some very direct homages and inspirations taken from ‘Blade Runner’ in this crazy Japanese film by Takeshi Miike but it is not as good as his first two ‘Dead or Alive’ films. Only watch if you are really curious.

You do not need to watch this. Basically it’s a japanese pornographic film of ‘Blade Runner’.

Others: There are the sequel novels to ‘Blade Runner’ which I have not read. There is also the comic adaptation of the novel and a prequel comic called ‘Dust to Dust’. Recently some short films which serve as prequels to ‘Blade Runner 2049’ have been released. They are…

  • 2036: Nexus Dawn
  • 2048: Nowhere to Run
  • Blade Runner Black Out 2022
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Star Trek Discovery

I have to say I felt quite let down with the Pilot/first two episodes of the series. That’s not to say it’s bad and I do have hope that the rest of the series will be more promising. It seems the producers themselves might even have the same opinion and have mentioned in interviews that the third episode of the series will be like a “second pilot”. Here’s hoping they are talking about not only about the introduction of new characters and ships but the actual direction of the show too.

The problems I have with the first two episodes range from picky things to more problematic things.
The first thing I noticed is that it’s tech/star trek Jargon heavy. It’s check the sensors thingy and the thingy will go on fire in .32 seconds blah blah. It seems that the writers noticed how much this was missing in the recent movies and decided to throw a bunch of Trek Jargon in our faces with Discovery to remind us that this is fan’s Trek?
It doesn’t help that the actors who have to remember all this stuff are quite stiff in their delivery. There is a clear feeling that this is very, very new for them and they aren’t at all settled in their roles except for perhaps Doug Jones as Saru. Maybe the filming was rushed a little because of the series been delayed.

My other problem is with the talky talky Klingons who go on and on about uniting houses and Kahless religion stuff. I dislike the changes to them. They seem to be a bit too much ‘nail on head’ in regards to what they represent in today’s world. The music, design and religious war themes are unsettling as the scenes are like something out of a Hollywood movie featuring terrorists. Even the Klingon language spoken in this series has more of an Arabic sound to it which I felt really uncomfortable with.

The action here is not all too impressive. We get tons of new Starfleet and Klingon ships but the battle between both is very generic and rushed. There’s not much in regards to battle tactics with this pilot. It’s just things shooting at each other and what the hell is the point of a Cloak ship (may canon forgive us) ramming another ship when it could just as easily fire on it.

What I did like about this series is that there is a lot of potential there. I think they have a great cast and a good creative team. I’m really hopefully that much good will come from a series that has Nicholas Meyer involved in it. I like the design and the higher production values of the series and I am curious to see the USS Discovery.

How this episode stands against other Star Trek Pilots, i’d rank it about mid range. ‘Broken Bow’ is still the best in my opinion. Compared to the recent movies we have gotten I dare say I am leaning more towards the movies in preference to this and that’s mostly because I felt acting and action here wasn’t all that captivating.

Favorite Quote: My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now.” – Saru

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Star Trek: The Academy Years

AKA: ‘Star Trek: The First Adventure’

For the past 10 years, yes, 10 friggin years! I have been trying to get my hands on this script. Still have not been able to find it. There was someone I knew who had a hard copy of this script and lost it while moving (insert Anime style fall over). Since then there has been little found on this script except through interviews and a review on AICN.

So where to start? At the very beginning. Harve Bennett, producer of Star Trek II, III, IV & V had a pitch for Star Trek VI which he got from producer Ralph Winter. The script was written by The Final Frontier screenwriter David Loughery. The story, a Prequel featuring Spock and Kirk in a coming of age adventure as they both enter the Academy at the ages of 17.

It opens in the 2280s/90s after ‘Kirk Vs God’  with Dr Leonard McCoy addressing cadets at the academy and reminiscing about the time when he first met Kirk and Spock which takes us back to 2315 with Jim Kirk crashing a futuristic crop duster biplane in Iowa much to the dismay of his brother and Mother.

2315 is not the Federation we have conceived in our minds. Racism, slavery, economic woes are still evident on other planets which in turn reaches earth as cadets from all over the galaxy join starfleet with their own preconceived ideas.

Some other interesting pieces of new continuity we could have snug up to in Harve Bennett’s movie would have been….

-John Malkovich and Ethan Hawke were rumored for Kirk and Spock.
– Warp is still in it’s early stages and Dilithium is being experimented with to take it to the next level.
– Kirk’s father “disappeared” during the first Dilithium-fueled Warp jump on a ship named ‘Bonaenture’ and thus Kirk grew up without him.
– The Villain Kalibar is also an Academy Cadet, he is a prince from another world that has an economy founded on slavery. He is kicked out of Starfleet after he beats up Spock in a racist attack on the first Vulcan in Starfleet.
– Kirk’s room mate is Bones who is a few years ahead of him in the Academy.
– There is another USS Enterprise. An older, Warship Enterprise that came before the Constitution class and it’s Captain is a man named Geoffrey Thorpe.
– Kirk and Scotty steal a prototype Warp ship ‘Bonaventure II’ with dilithium to save the Enterprise and thus conduct it’s first successful test.                                                      – Washington and Lee University was selected to be Starfleet Academy for the production.

At the climax of the movie there’s an exciting battle among the rings of a planet with ships fighting between rocks and chunks of ice. It would have been a very visual treat. The enemy too is outwitted in classic Star Trek style with Kirk using the dilitium crystals to give him an unforeseen advantage in battle.

I like the idea behind this script, I like how Spock and Kirk actually get time to deal with their own flawed youth and the trouble they get themselves into rather than brushing over this period quickly and sticking them on a ship.

Some negative points; again Kirk is brash and something of a rebel which seems like the fully formed character we already know and love. I’d like to have seen a far more different character who was unsure of himself. The 2009 film has the same problem, basically making young Kirk that same one we know and love from the original series. The problem with this is that the character has little room for growth and development which has been one of the problems with Chris Pine’s Kirk in the recent movies.

What I like about Star Trek the Academy Years idea is that this was an old School script, this was a prequel movie in the hands of the people who gave us the original series cast movies, from Khan to the Voyage Home. Secondly, it’s not a reboot, it invents continuity rather than trying to conform to it or wipe it away completely. It fulfills an area of Trek history that had been unexplored for years up until the 2009 movie. It’s an idea that has been banded about even before there were any Trek movies around with Gene Roddenberry saying at a World Science Fiction Convention way back in 1968 that a prequel movie might be the way to go…

Again in the early 2000s William Shatner came to Paramount with a Pitch for an Academy TV series before turning into a Novel.

Harve Bennett came back with the same concept again and proposed it to Paramount while ‘Enterprise’ was still on air also.It wasn’t until 2006 though that we got some semblance of the idea with  Abrams taking on the idea. But what the 2009 movie did was to quickly brush over the academy years and get on with putting the characters in the setting we grew up with, thus taking a lot of the originality out of the concept and not been tied to the original continuity also took away the interest of seeing how these characters truly came together.

Unfortunately many things were against this movie. There was a regime change at Paramount, most of the original cast who were not in it beyond Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley were openly again the film and the fans who got wind of the film and the untrue rumor that it was going to be a comedy like Police Academy, finally a number of vocal fans wrote in their numbers against it when news about it came out. Because of the film not taking off and the short time Paramount gave Bennett to come up with something else before the 25th Anniversary he decided to wipe his hands of the whole thing. Here’s what he had to say in an open farewell letter.

My only regret is that I was unable to bring to the screen the STAR TREK I believe could have been our best. Our final draft script was called STAR TREK: THE FIRST ADVENTURE, and it dealt with Kirk’s return to the Academy and his memories of life, love, and how it all began. It was a beautiful story. It had nothing to do with the”Police Academy” trash tag that unknowing people labeled it with. My only disappointment after ten years of proving my abilities to you all is that there were some of you who engaged in a letter campaign to destroy a work of art on hearsay evidence. I think I deserved more trust than that.”


Favorite Quote: ”It’s called Pon Far” – Spock (when trying to pick up a chick)

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Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon

In ‘Jack Carter and The Mafia Pigeon’, the second prequel novel to ‘Jack Returns Home’ AKA ‘Get Carter‘ Jack Carter takes a well earned break in Spain and while reading this novel I felt the author was taking a bit of a break too.

What we have here is a hard boiled British crime novel that has funny moments inbetween. I wouldn’t call it a dark comedy but a slightly more humorous take on the genre. Jack Carter is still as cold and dangerous as ever, yet he is surrounded by more lighter characters that we the readers take less seriously. It’s Carter’s reaction to the situation he finds himself in that makes this funny. There aren’t jokes, but the hard edge of Carter’s personality is sprinkled with a little more dry wit this time around. It’s a somewhat refreshing take compared to doing another straight up crime story. The downside is though that it’s not entirely imaginative, there are elements that are arguably taken from previous Carter novels and there isn’t a sense of a end game as I progressed through the book. Two characters show up near the end of the novel which seem to have been stuck in late to wrap things up after a certain number of required pages had been met.
The resolution of the story, though slightly predictable sucks all the air out of the room and takes us back towards the darkness of the prior novels.

Jack Carter and the mafia pigeon is the last in the Get Carter series of books. Most reviewers rate this fairly low compared to ‘Get Carter’ and ‘Carter’s Law‘. While I agree that it isn’t as good as the novels that came before, it’s still Jack Carter, and an evening with that character alone, his actions and inner thoughts, are enough reason to read this.

Since this is the last of the Carter books to review I’d like to mention the author Ted Lewis. Sadly he died in 1982 at the young age of 42 from alcohol related problems.
Reading his short bio at the end of the book I learned that he was fortunate enough to be recognized with talent at a young aged and encouraged into the arts. There’s a nice note at the end of the book where it mentions how he forwent fairy tales, since they belonged to a bygone generation that once had the luxury to embrace them and gave us realism that he had first hand knowledge of. Although he found success with some of his novels he seems to have struggled as a writer and never reached that place where he is now held today in the eyes of many readers and fans. The Father of British Noir.

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Kung Fu Zombie

The title alone was almost enough to make me want to watch this movie. Kung Fu and Zombies, where can one go wrong? With favorable odds and a few favorable reviews (the rest highly unfavorable) I plunked myself down for a viewing. From the opening scenes it seemed that I had been gypped with the title. Zombies? No, these are Jiangshi which are those hoping ghosts or vampires you might have seen in other Chinese or Hong Kong ghost stories. Yes, they’ve also been lumped in with Zombies but since they are creatures that absorb Qi (energy) and usually appear at night and sleep in coffins they are more commonly associated with Vampires. Well, they aren’t the only creatures in this movie, there is a ghost too trying to get himself brought back to life by placing his spirit into another body. By the end of the film there is an actual  vampire with fangs and blood sucking to boot.

Ok, getting sidetracked here…
So anyway I was thinking “oh here we go, another bad Kung Fu movie that I am going to force myself to sit through” but actually it’s not so bad, in fact it’s highly enjoyable. It’s crazy, it’s a mess, the english Dub I watched it in is hilarious. The cinematography is somewhat impressive, the Kung Fu action is entertaining to the likes of Dragon Ball with fairly nice fight choreography.

If you like movies like ‘The One Armed Boxer’, ‘Master of the Flying Guillotine’ and ‘The Drunken Master’ than you’ll enjoy this. Don’t expect high production values but do expect fun. Invite a few friends and have a few beers. The running time of the version I saw was only 78 minutes. Where can you go wrong?

This is also the bad point though. It’s only 78 minutes long. There is obviously a more coherent version out there. There is a 100 minute Japanese version of the film and a subbed version might prove more enlightening as to what’s actually going on, although that wouldn’t be as hilarious.

Favorite Quote: “Lalala I’m going to jail! Lalala Going to jail!”

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The Mighty Peking Man

The Mighty Peking Man’ aka 猩猩王 aka ‘Goliathon‘ might, at first, look like a cheap knockoff of King Kong, it might be a film that sharknado fans would get a kick out of. What’s incredulous to me is not how bad and laughable it is but the seriousness in which this film was made. What you see onscreen is NOT down with a tongue in cheek flare but in a sincere approach at making a film that was to amaze audiences in a more serious manner.

This was the most expensive movie made in Hong Kong at the time and it was set to cash in on the craze surrounding the 1976 US remake of King Kong (which nobody fondly remembers). They even brought over Godzilla’s special effect cinematographer Sadamasa Arikawa from Tokyo to help develop Hong Kong’s first giant monster movie.
Did they really let the Director get away with making a film like this? Even the poorest offerings in Hong Kong cinema from the 70s can’t compare with the complete audacity of what was filmed here.

From the early reveal of the Mighty Peking man you know that there is no sense of build up or reveal here. The only reveal we do get throughout the movie is the jungle girl running around with one of her lady bits hanging out which makes me question who is the film for? Is having a Giant Monster in your movie, the first of it’s kind in Hong Kong, not enough of a draw?? If the jungle girl had any kind of a character this might be forgiven as a giant flaw but unfortunately her character is more of a “Me Jane, you Tarzan!” type, little else as she runs almost naked around the jungle, climbs up trees and swings a cheetah around her shoulders (yes, a real live frickin cheetah!).

The male character, Johnny, who goes to the jungle in search of Kong isn’t all that compelling either. He catches his brother sleeping with his girlfriend and while drinking it up at a bar he is approached to lead an expedition to a jungle in India to find the Mighty Peking Man. Romance between Johnny and Jungle girl Samantha ensues with generic 70s music and a real live cheetah being flung around. A Jealous Might Peking Man watches on.

After we get past these waste of time scenes we get to see the Mighty Peking man tear it up in the city. Considering that this movie is one of the first of it’s kind to be made in Hong Kong I have to say that the miniatures are fairly impressive, the effects of Mighty Peking Man himself, from the suit, giant hand and facial expressions are not so bad. What is poor is the marriage between that and scenes filmed on location on the real streets of Hong Kong. The film makers don’t seem to know how to marry the effects with the real setting of the city, the blue screen looks pretty poor and when the Might Peking Man picks up people and throws them on the ground what you have is an effect with a cut to the real actor jumping onto the ground after being dropped from 30 feet.

Despite how much a mess of a film this is there is a good film in there somewhere. I think the final 15 minutes of the film which take place on top of the Jardine House building are pretty good, even great in some parts and there is clearly some symbolic meaning behind Mighty Peking Man getting taken down by a British colonial police force.

Ultimately what this represents is a joke to some, a interesting piece of Hong Kong film making History and a lost opportunity to see something truly special. The film makers here seem to be much like those wanting to catch the Mighty Peking Man in the movie, more concern with the monetary goals rather than film making ones.

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Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child takes place 19 years after the end of Book 7/Movie 8. It’s exciting to finally delve into the future we only glimpsed at the end of Book 7/Movie 8. The feeling was that everything was all well when we saw adult Harry, Ron and Hermione but the story of the cursed child opens up divisions between Harry and his younger son Albus. This is the main theme of the story, it’s a family focused story which we haven’t really had in the world of Harry Potter before.

While this is a new Harry Potter story that takes place after the events of Book 7 it is written by Jack Thorne and only based on story ideas by Rowling. I have not seen the play so I am basing my review solely on the Play Script. To me the characters are quite off. OK, 19 years have passed but the voices of the characters presented here don’t really belong to the ones we know. Hermione and Ron are more like caricatures, Harry just doesn’t feel like Harry although he resembles something of the boy he was, he is a bit of a dick here, sometimes cold and unsympathetic. The most glaringly different characterization is Dumbledore who is a blubbering mess in the scenes he appears and feels so out of character that you’ll cringe while you read it.

The new trio of characters are fairly underdeveloped and my impression reading the script was that they were much younger than those presented in the play. At least Rowling understood what older kids in school were like. These new characters are something out a cBBC show (kids afternoon programming)

While there are a few shining moments that explore family relationships this is a story that pales greatly in comparison to what we have come to love.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not a bad story but without JK Rowling firmly behind the wheel I feel it’s a bit of a wasted one.

Favorite Quote: “The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” – Harry (quoting Dumbledore)

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