TRIBUTE: Bob Hoskins 1942-2014

Mark Berryman pays tribute to Bob Hoskins who passed away today


 

Today, we three members of the Order of Trinity, much like the rest of the world, were utterly shocked and saddened by the passing of actor Bob Hoskins.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a geek or a fan of film in general this loss, as with the losses already this year of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harold Ramis, is a hard one to swallow.

I remember properly becoming aware of Bob Hoskins through Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a film I only watched again last week. His performance along side his animated co-star is still to this day the benchmark every actor should strive for when acting against someone who isn’t really there. The chemistry was fantastic, I was instantly a fan. As the years have progressed I have been blessed as an avid movie goer to watch this man shine and shine again in every film. Whether he is the vile bad guy in Unleashed or the lovable shoe shop owner in Mermaids he was second to none.

My personal favourite film of his is Mrs Henderson Presents; a beautiful film where he starred alongside one of my other favourite actors, the great Dame Judi Dench. Their chemistry was unlike anything I’ve seen before, they were utterly stunning together. My wife and I are planning on watching it tonight in remembrance of a man, who as long as there are movies will never be forgotten.

So I hope that you will join me in remembering a man who put his heart and soul into movies. A man who shone in a way that few others have every managed to do.

RIP Bob Hoskins, we will never ever forget you.

NEWS: Star Wars – The dawn of a new Saga.

Mark Berryman discusses the casting list for Star Wars Episode VII which was finally announced today.


 

Star Wars was my first love. I remember when I was 5 years old, I walked into the living room and my Dad was watching A New Hope. As Tantative IV flew across the screen, chased by a Star Destroyer I sat down next to him and for the next two and a bit hours my love affair with a galaxy far far away began.

Now, like A New Hope, I’m 36 years old and the excitement I felt that day has come back with a vengeance! Less than an hour ago of me writing this the cast for the new Star Wars movie had been announced. Now I’m going to put my cards on the table, I love all 6 movies and I love the Clone Wars TV show. Yes the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones have their faults (Jar Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd etc etc) BUT they have some epic moments that to be honest will stand the test of time. Obi Wan and Qui Gon facing off against Darth Maul, Yoda showing Count Dooku that he’s not as bad ass as he thought he was are just two off the top of my head. When asked which my favourite movie is I have a hard time splitting up The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith. I’ll be honest I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m wrong for not completely hating the prequel trilogy, we’re all entitled to our own opinions after all.

So that brings me to the new cast. For those who haven’t heard yet, here it is:

John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker.

The first thing that hit me was I don’t recognize all of the names on the cast list. When I looked at their IMDB profiles I recognized a few of them. Having a mostly unheard of cast worked well for Lucas the first time and I’m sure our new overlord JJ will have done his homework and it will work again this time. Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow are the names that excite me the most and I’ll be counting down the days until we find out who they’re playing!

I remember the first time I saw Revenge of the Sith, I thought to myself that I had to make the most of it, this would be the last time I would see a new Star Wars movie at the cinema. I think this is yet another part of why I am so excited, a new movie, a new chance to feel the excitement of when STAR WARS crashes onto the screen and that score by John Williams blasts into my ears. The excitement of seeing another visit to my favourite sci-fi universe. As I write this I feel like I did on Christmas eve as a child, impatiently waiting those last few hours before Father Christmas would come and bring me loads of new toys. I know from past experience that this excitement is going to build and get bigger and bigger. I’ll read every scrap of information I can get my hands on, I’ll watch every trailer and scrutinise every photograph.

If you’re one of those people who used to be a Star Wars fan as a child but aren’t any more, remember how you felt way back when, remember how much you enjoyed it, and give the child in you a chance to enjoy it all over again. Yes it may be rubbish, but maybe, just maybe it could be one of the best things you’ve ever seen.

So on December 18th next year, the day before my birthday you know where I’ll be and no doubt as soon as I get home I’ll be writing a review for this page, gushing over how much I loved it. I hope that wherever you see it, you’ll be enjoying it at least half as much as I will.

 

REVIEW: Robocop The Animated Series

In the first of a new series Tony Wilkins will be looking at animated series that have been largely forgotten over time.


 

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Robocop was one of those truly iconic movies of the 1980s. Ludicrously violent and over-the-top it had a fascinating subtext about American culture and how for many people the company they work for is more important to them than the government; the company feeds them, clothes them, provides medical cover and so on. Robocop brilliantly embodied this in that the man, in this case the almost deceased Officer Alex Murphy, became an extension of the company Omni Consumer Products known more universally as OCP. Because of his cybernetic body he was effectively owned by the company. While animes such as Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed would look in to this aspect of cybernetics more closely Robocop remained true to its action rather than discussing the moral and ethical implications of Murphy’s predicament.

Given the extent of the violence in the movie it surprising that it was translated in to a cartoon aimed at children. The motivation behind this move was, as with a lot of children’s entertainment in the 1980s, profit from merchandizing. Although the franchise had a very mature audience it had obvious toy appeal and to reinforce this (and also explain why kids wanted toys from a very 18+ rated movie that they shouldn’t be watching yet) the cartoon was created.

In fairness the animated show remained as close to the source material as possible. The opening explains that Alex Murphy was indeed gunned down as in the movie although the scene appears briefly and nowhere near as graphically. Like many animated series of the time the opening more or less sets the entire scene for the show meaning you can effectively start watching it at any time and know what its about without having seen prior episodes. The opening is one of the only times we see Alex Murphy before he is “killed”. Bizarrely he and his partner Anne Lewis from the movies are drawn so similarly they look like brother and sister. The only noticeable change to Murphy as Robocop was the addition of a sliding red dot on his visor similar to those found on Cylons in Battlestar Galactica.

In order to tone down the violence (which in children’s shows is euphemistically called ‘action’) the guns were replaced by lasers. This along with the lack of coarse language were really the only major changes to Robocop’s format. The series remained quite an action filled affair up to the point of actual deaths. Innocent people were caught up in and injured in several episodes. For me this was one of the strong points of this show compared to similar cartoons such as Rambo: The Force of Freedom. Like Robocop, Rambo: Force of Freedom was based on a mature movie franchise but aimed at kids however that show completely reworked its format until it became Rambo in name only.

Robocop: The Animated Series has stood the test of time relatively well. The animation is quite clunky compared to modern cartoons but when put in context it is still pretty good. It’s 12 episode run however has been one of the reasons it hasn’t really made it into the repeat arena in the same way as the 7 season strong The Real Ghostbusters and its a shame. Robocop The Animated Series in many ways reminds me of the feel of the hugely popular animated Batman series of the 90s in that while it was a kid’s show it easily appealed to an adult audience. Sadly in the 80s, before animated movies/series were really acceptable for grown-ups, it meant that Robocop: The Animated Series was just a little misplaced.

ARTICLE: My journey with Doctor Who

Mark Berryman recalls how despite coming late in to the Whovian Universe he now embraces it with open arms.

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My earliest memory of Doctor Who was as a child watching it with my Dad. The only part of it I can remember was Peter Davison’s 5th incarnation squaring off against Davros, or Stavros as I thought it was back then. The next vivid memory I have is of sitting down to watch the ill-fated Paul McGann TV movie.

I would call myself a huge Doctor Who fan, I love everything about it. But most people are quite surprised to find out just how late I came to it all. My wife and I knew that the Doctor had regenerated from David Tennant into Matt Smith, but we had barely seen any of the new Who between us. So before the 11th Doctor hit the screens we decided we were going to catch up. So in quite quick succession we watched the fantastic Christopher Eccleston relaunch the Time Lord. He was great, I don’t think enough people give him the credit he deserves for just how well he played the character. Whatever his reasons for leaving were, none of us really know, it’s all just speculation, when he regenerated I was sad to see him go. But then came the man who would properly get me into Doctor Who. David Tennant and his cool hair began what would become the start of Doctor Who’s most successful time. I thought he was great, my wife loved him even more! He is still her favourite. She (we) still have a little cry every time we re-watch the show and he regenerates.

The first time we watched new Who live was the 11th Hour. My wife was not happy that someone new was going to be taking over, I was looking forward to seeing what this newcomer would do. By the end of the 11th Hour I had found my Doctor, the one who I think will always be my favourite. The thousand year old Time Lord who looked like a young man, but felt like an ancient time traveller. With Eccleston you could feel the bitter soldier, who had had to kill his entire race, he was angry and at times he struggled to contain it. Tennant I always thought had the weight of the world or worlds on his shoulders. The smile that millions of women fell in love with all over the world hid the pain he felt, but he had managed to do away with some, but not all of the anger. Smith managed to merge the two, while bringing in a new sadness to the role, a sadness that would haunt him all the way to the end of the Day of the Doctor. I always look at him when he is lined up with the other Doctors at the end and think, for the first time since he came back onto our screens, he was truly happy. He was a crazy science teacher, who wasn’t fully in control of his own body, but felt like a thousand year old man. He really was the old man in a young man’s body.

A lot of abuse has been thrown at Stephen Moffat, a lot of it I think unjustly, but whatever he threw at Matt Smith, he always played a blinder on screen. That is part of why he, I think, is my Doctor. Even if it was a not so good episode he stepped up and performed the part wonderfully. When he regenerated on Christmas day, I finally understood how my wife had felt when Tennant regenerated. She told me after that I really did embarrass myself during that episode, I may or may not have had a bit of a cry! Matt Smith had one hell of a job following David Tennant, but he did it so very well. I was at first a bit bitter towards Peter Capaldi, I’ve said many times the only person I wouldn’t have been bitter towards would have been James Callis, someone who I still maintain would make an amazing Doctor. But since the regeneration I have come to terms with the new face and to be honest I am quite looking forward to seeing what Capaldi brings to the part. I think he will be much darker than we’ve seen before and that will be great. With the divine Jenna Coleman still playing Clara and the rumours that Charles Dance (who for me saved season 3 of Game of Thrones) will be playing the Master, series 8 is one I am now very much looking forward to.

So long live Doctor Who. Whoever plays him in the future I will be watching and I hope enjoying until one day it reaches it’s inevitable end.

REVIEW: The Real Ghostbusters “The Last Train to Oblivion”

The ghost of Casey Jones, an old train engineer who died in one of the worst train crashes in history, comes back to try and commandeer a modern train. Unable to use the modern controls he kidnaps Peter Venkman, who is as it turns out a closet train enthusiast, and forces him to shovel coal on an antique train that looks set to crash into an express train on the mainline. However it is Peter who works out that Casey Jones’ ghost cannot rest until he prevents a train crash like the one that killed him in the first place (even if it means creating the situation himself).

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“The Last Train to Oblivion” was one of the show’s second season episodes first airing in 1987. It would probably have disappeared into obscurity had it not been for the ghost that was the main antagonist. Casey Jones is an example of a spirit with unfinished business which in this case is to nearly cause another train crash like the one that killed him so he can avert it from happening again. This plot point is one of the weakest parts of this episode for me. If Casey Jones really wants to make amends I am sure there have been plenty of opportunities from him to avert the many naturally occurring disasters that have happened over the previous 80 years. What has Casey been doing all this time? One can argue that the modern train Casey tried to board first was going to crash in to the Amtrak train we see later (which was early thus causing a collision) but if that was the case then by scaring the people off it he had effectively prevented the crash and therefore he should have passed on at that point.

More than any one of the other Ghostbusters this is Peter’s episode. We learn a great deal about his love of trains and it was fun to see. The line that really made me laugh was that originally he studied engineering for two years thinking it would be about trains only to find out it wasn’t and so he switched to parapsychology. While it may seem unbelievable at first if we think about it at least one of the Ghostbusters having an engineering background makes sense considering they devised all their own equipment.

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As we saw repeatedly throughout the animated series Ecto-1 is capable of stunts that would put the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee to shame and this episode was no exception. We see the car leaping on to the back of the train landing perfectly on to one of the trucks. You can’t help but smile as you try to imagine this happening in real life with the real Ecto-1.

This episode poses several questions about the world of the Ghostbusters mainly are all ghosts evil? Casey Jones is really open to debate on this one. He wanted to prevent a crash but whether it was entirely for his own benefit or for the people he may have saved aboard the train he tried to hijack first we will never know. This was also one of the only times where we see a ghost “pass over” rather than get busted and this additionally poses the question; should every ghost get busted? These are metaphorical questions that can’t really be addressed in a TV show intended for children. Certainly the franchise makes an effort to demonize nearly all the ghosts we see so that we support our heroes but you have to wonder if the jogging ghost in Ghostbusters II was evil or just an innocent soul with some unfinished business of his own.

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Thanks for reading….

ARTICLE: Establishing canon between BSG Blood & Chrome and BSG Razor

ImageBlood & Chrome did much to restore the greatness of the revamped Battlestar Galactica. After the failure of Caprica (I personally enjoyed that show but few others agree) and the rather poultry TV movie “The Plan” the franchise was looking weakened. Blood & Chrome gave us what we always wanted to see; a true Cylon War story. It had plenty of action, great drama and unlike some prequels of other franchises it actually did much to expand the mythos of this universe.

It did however present a problem.

We had already seen in the webisodes of BSG Razor, William Adama during the First Cylon War and rather than being the experienced war hero we all assumed we actually discover that the last battle of the war was his first taste of combat. Blood & Chrome has now dispelled this so if we want to establish an explanation for this within the timeline we have to examine certain dialogue and events and interpret them to this aim.

Firstly, the Adama in Blood & Chrome appears younger than in the webisodes. This lends weight to the fact that these two events are separated by time. The key problem to address however is dialogue in the webisodes that keep referring to Adama as a ‘rook’ when we know he is anything but. Here is my theory; at the end of Blood & Chrome Adama joins a special squadron aboard Galactica. What if that squadron was like the SAS or Delta Force and that the names of its members are classified? Adama could have flown with this unit for a short while on special ops until it was either disbanded or he was forced out for an as yet unestablished reason and then when he returned to duty as a regular pilot (in the webisodes) he had to keep his past operations a secret therefore everyone thinks he is a new ‘rook’.

It’s not a perfect explanation by any means. In Blood & Chrome he interacted with several crewmembers aboard Galactica and when he returned pretending to be a ‘rook’ one of them would probably remember him from the earlier events. It does however give us a link between these two events that we can work off.

Disagree or have a different view? Please comment and let us know.

Thanks for reading…

 

COUNTDOWN: Top 5 Star Trek Battles

The risk with lists like this is that they could get filled with Dominion War battles so I am limiting it to just one to give the list a bit of variety.

So here goes…


5. Ramming the Doomsday Machine (Star Trek “The Doomsday Machine”)
File:STDoomsday Machine.jpgThis whole episode left fans in awe when it first aired in 1967. The fact was that we saw for the first time that ships like the Enterprise weren’t all powerful and we saw another Constitution-class starship, the USS Constellation, getting the decks blown out from it. Only once more did we ever feel the same way again and that was when we saw the Galaxy-class USS Odyssey destroyed in the Dominion’s first episode of DS9 having seen the Enterprise-D being nearly immortal for the past seven years in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

4. Firing through the cloak (Star Trek VI)

Probably one of the tensest battles to have ever taken place during Star Trek’s history the whole engagement was long and nerve wracking yet never boring. On the contrary it feels like you are on the Enterprise-A being shot at by an invisible enemy. The battle is stolen by General Chang quoting Shakespeare. I know this angered some fans but boy did it give this fight drama.

3. Battle of Wolf 359 (Deep Space Nine)

An amazing thing about this battle is that it was so infused in to Star Trek’s folklore that we didn’t really need to see it on screen. We knew it was the Federation’s biggest loss (up to that point) in a single battle and the name of some of the ships but seeing it in the opening scene of DS9 was still a treat. For me the most memorable scene was watching the USS Melbourne get it’s saucer section blown off.

2. Battle of Sector 001 (Star Trek: First Contact)

Oh how things had changed. In “Best of Both Worlds/Emissary” firepower alone was not enough to defeat the Borg at Wolf 359. Now however the Federation fleet can penetrate the dampening field surrounding Borg ships. Data even says that the Cube had sustained heavy damage by the time the Enterprise-E arrived but as a testament to the Borg the ship can still fight. Only Picard’s knowledge of the Borg finally tips the balance and the Cube is reduced to scrap. As the old saying goes Payback’s a bitch!

1. Retaking Deep Space Nine (Deep Space Nine: Sacrifice of Angels)

Compiling this list very nearly became a list of DS9 only battles. There were so many good ones but I had to chose one that I thought was the most interesting and tactically sound. I chose this battle therefore for several reasons. Firstly we hadn’t really seen anything on this scale before or since in Star Trek; two massive fleets slugging it out. The scale even surpasses the movie battles! Secondly, for the first time we saw some real effort in devising tactics – targetting the Cardassian ships to create a hole, having the Galaxy-class ships with their superior firepower and shields take flanking positions for the smaller ships and finally the Klingons outflanking the Dominion fleet and breaking up their lines.

The scene stealer was of course watching the Galaxy-class ships burning that Cardassion Galor-class. Imagine if they had the three nacelled dreadnought version from “All Good Things”.

Thanks for reading…

 

REVIEW: Airwolf


I was probably 12 years old when I first watched Airwolf. That was around 1996 so the show had long since passed by then. My uncle brought up two VHS tapes of the show he had got at a car boot sale (garage sale to the North American readers) and handed them to me knowing I had a keen interest in aviation. The first was the pilot episode/tv movie and the second was the season 4 two-parter “The Stavograd Incident”. Needless to say I was intrigued upon watching them and I sought out the whole series.

In case you have never seen the show, Airwolf is about a futuristic attack helicopter developed by the US government. It is the only helicopter that can fly faster than the speed of sound (in reality the fastest helicopters can barely break 250mph). As well as this phenomenal speed the aircraft was heavily armed with an array of weapons. In the pilot episode it is stolen for the Libyans by the very man who designed it and it is up to Jan Michael Vincent’s character, Stringfellow Hawke, to recover it. With the help of Dominic Santini (played by the late, great Ernest Borgnine) Hawke recovers the Airwolf and uses it to force the CIA to try and find his brother, an MIA in the Vietnam War. As the series progresses Hawke and Santini use Airwolf on a string of missions to help Archangel of the CIA who is (it appears) looking for Hawke’s brother in return. This was the basic premise of the first three seasons.

I will clear something up right now. I will distinguish between the first three seasons and the final season for reasons that will become apparent later.

The first three seasons have surprisingly stood the test of time very well. Watching them back recently this show was a true Cold War thriller in the Tom Clancy style and as long as you remember that this was the early eighties the show really stands apart. Yes you had the hi-tech helicopter but first and foremost it was about spies, political intrigue and world affairs. I remember Airwolf itself quite vividly but watching it again has made me realize that the helicopter had around 10 minutes of screen time in each episode at the most.

Jan Michael Vincent wonderfully portrayed the Vietnam Veteran Stringefellow Hawke. I have seen him in other things and his performance for me has never matched what he achieved in this show. Ernest Borgnine was probably an unlikely choice for a pseudo-sidekick given his age but he did a damn fine job and the two of them had excellent chemistry on screen. I truly believed these were life long friends. Another actor worthy of mention is Alex Cord as Archangel. He really had the CIA spy role nailed down and although there were episodes where he appeared to be helping Hawke find his brother you always had this feeling he was out for himself.

 

Over the course of the first three seasons the show did go through some changes; the special effects became better and an additional character was added to the Airwolf crew in the form of Caitlin. Nevertheless the show retained its basic premise although more episodes seemed to focus on drug cartels and organized gangs rather than the Soviets as in the first season. Then in the forth season the whole series was revamped – and for the worse.

Season four saw Dominic get killed, Caitlin disappear(?) and Archangel get reassigned. A whole new crew was introduced (headed by Hawke’s brother who was in surprisingly good health for a 20 year PoW in Vietnam!) and the production of the show changed. The new show was more glitzy with fancy effects that just made it look cheap frankly. It was the scriptwriting however that suffered the biggest hit. The stories in Season 4 were terrible in comparison to the previous seasons. In fairness season 3 hadn’t been spectacular but it was still better than the forth season. The only episodes that stood out were the two-parter of the Stavograd Incident (one of the very videos that set me on the path of enjoying Airwolf). These episodes had a storyline based on the Chernobyl power plant disaster and were released on video as a movie – “Airwolf II – The Stavograd Incident”.

Season 4 spelt the end of Airwolf and rightly so. In truth it was starting to die out in season 3 and season 4 now appears as a desperate albeit misguided attempt to save it. I hate it when a show can’t die with dignity especially after such an amazing start. I still remember the early Airwolf with fondness for its complexity, maturity and drama and this overshadows the lousy end it got. Sadly Airwolf was not the only show that suffered this ignominious fate. Quantum Leap anyone?