Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Weird Wednesday...

I Saw What You Did There: The Legacy of The Jigsaw Killer Lives on in Spiral...

A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw.

Working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson), brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of a grisly investigation into murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past.

Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

Spiral stars Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, and Samuel L. Jackson, and is produced by the original Saw team of Mark Burg and Oren Koules.

The film is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger.

D&DVD Of The Week: Sorceress (1982)


In a rare break from tradition, the poster (also the DVD cover) for the Roger Corman-produced 1982 sword-and-sorcery flick Sorceress is actually surprisingly accurate.

All the characters pictured there - including the griffon/manticore creature, the ape-man, the snake and the fancy sword - really do appear in the story, to some degree or another.

However, it's been a long time since I've watched a movie that so felt like its plot was being made up as it went along.

Evil sorcerer, and possible '70s sex cult leader, Traigon (Robert Ballesteros) has pledged to sacrifice his first born to the gods, in exchange for "great power". Only his wife gives birth to twin girls and refuses to reveal which was born first.

The realm's magical martial arts master Krona (Martin LaSalle) spirits the girls away, and leaves them in the care of trusted peasants, who raise them as boys!

Mira and Mara grow up to become Leigh and Lynette Harris, identical twin Playboy Playmates, who clearly weren't hired for their acting chops, but rather their willingness to disrobe when asked.

Honestly, they're young men... with breasts!

The girls - who think they are boys - are discovered skinny-dipping (of course!) by horny satyr Pando (David Milbern), the travelling companion of pseudo-Viking Baldar (Bruno Rey), who looks like he's stepped off the cover of a Dungeons & Dragons novel and spouts random Norse words as oaths.

Although Pando can only communicate through bleating and mime, he fails to tell Baldar that the girls are actually girls, so that when Baldar comes to them in the wake of their adopted parents' murder by Traigon's wandering warriors, he fails to see through their 'cunning disguise'.

Krona pops up again to dispense some words of wisdom, setting them all on a quest to defeat Traigon, before walking into the parents' pyre.

Arriving in the city, they meet an old friend of Baldar's, the pun-cracking, permed barbarian rogue, Erlick (Bob Nelson), who tags along to make up the numbers.

Casual nudity aside, there's a definite Dungeons & Dragons vibe to this adventure, as the core "party" expands, then fractures off into smaller units for side-quests, but it's full of random fantasy names and verbiage that doesn't feel like world-building, but rather obfuscation of the fragile main plot thread.

The Harris twins as Mira and Mara

Everything culminates in a grand fight in a crumbling temple - although there's a parallel, sub-surface dungeoncrawl by Baldar and one of the girls - which features explosions, duelling gods in the sky, and some pretty cool-looking zombie-mummy-ghouls that rise out of the ground to serve Traigon.

As the "two who are one", Mira and Mara share a psychic bond that is actually employed in the story, although it's most memorable use is during a 'comedy' sex scene that leads Baldar to initially think one of the women is being tortured.

Possibly because he is cosplaying as Sturm Brightblade from the Dragonlance Chronicles, Baldar, it has to be said, is the best character in the 83-minute movie, not only looking the part but also maintaining a heroic persona throughout.

For all its Corman-inspired cheapness, dodgy special effects, and musical score lifted from Battle Beyond The Stars, Sorceress does have an overall engaging look about it, as well as Baldar's costume, Traigon's forces all wear these (probably totally impractical) neat-looking beaked helmets, for instance.

Ultimately Sorceress (there is no 'sorceress') isn't actually that bad, it just lacks a coherent story for its quirky characters to fully engage with, leaving much of what happens to come across as just a bit random.

The Bad Batch Are Ready To Take On The Empire In New Disney+ Animated Series...


The story begun in The Clone Wars continues in the new animated series The Bad Batch, which debuts on Disney+ on May 4 (naturally) with a special 70-minute premiere, followed by new episodes every Friday starting on May 7.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch follows the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch (first introduced in The Clone Wars) as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch - a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army - each possess a singular exceptional skill that makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

First Look Footage From Season Five of The Greatest Cartoon In The Multiverse...


Do You Read Weekly World News? It's The World's Only Reliable News...

 

Out of the blue, the other week, I got an email from David C Collins, the new President and CFO of the legendary newspaper Weekly World News, thanking me for my write-ups of their stories that I used to run (such as here, here, and here).

He explained that while the publication had been in "hibernation" for a few years, he was now part of a campaign to bring it back to life, starting with their snazzy website, Weeklyworldnews.com and shop.

Among the items for sale at the shop is a Greatest Covers compilation of over 40 years-worth of front pages from WWN.

David and I exchanged a few emails, and he offered to send me some WWN mementos, even though I pointed out I was all the way across The Pond.

This morning, the above envelope dropped onto our doormat and I carefully opened it up to find a handwritten note from David and this collection of half-a-dozen WWN bumper stickers:


This is how you build a devoted fan base - one person at a time.

I also take this as another great cosmic sign, along with the rekindling of my desire to work on my Knight City superhero RPG setting (in which the Weekly World News played an integral part) that I'm heading in the right direction.

Don't be surprised to see the return of WWN-related posts here on HeroPress now either.

Meet The Cast and Characters of Kung Fu...


Discovering that the plot of Kung Fu includes a quest for a mystical sword has me even more hyped for this show.

Monday, 29 March 2021

When The Raven Flies aka Revenge of the Barbarians aka Hrafninn Flýgur (1984)

Having survived a Viking raid when his parents were killed and young sister kidnapped, Irish youth Gest (Jakob Þór Einarsson) spends 20 years planning his revenge.

Arriving in Iceland, it isn't long before he's Yojimbo-ing things up between his two targets, the blood-brothers Erik (Flosi Ólafsson) and Thord (Helgi Skúlason).

These Vikings had fled to Iceland with their men, to escape the wrath of King Harald of Norway after a failed coup attempt, so they're not exactly trusting to start with.

Gest very quickly starts playing them off against each other, and when one is killed you expect the film to be heading into its final act.

However, things get complicated when Gest discovers not only has one of the men married his sister (Edda Björgvinsdóttir), but also fathered a child, Einar (Gottskálk D. Sigurdarson) with her.

An almost legendary film that's hard to track down these days, When The Raven Flies goes by several names (the "When" seems to be optional in the main title, for instance), including Revenge of The Barbarians in the States and Hrafninn Flýgur in its original Icelandic.

Touted as the "most authentic Viking film ever", this Icelandic-Swedish co-production from 1984 certainly benefits from its shooting locations in Iceland, complete with black beaches and craggy hills; and unremitting weather, alternating between torrential rain and gale-force winds; as well as a cast speaking Icelandic.

But When The Raven Flies also owes a debt to the sword-and-sorcery genre so prevalent in cinema at that time, not that there's any magic or monsters in this one, but it has that gritty, Earthy, small-cast feel of so many similar cinematic stories featuring people swinging swords and axes.

While the overarching plot may not be that original - we've seen it played out with samurai, Wild West gunslingers, fantasy warriors, and gangsters - the Viking period, with its set attitudes to honour and ritual, gives it a fresh feeling.

The verisimilitude is heightened through the use of unusually-fashioned weaponry, which I'm presuming are the 'real deal' compared to flashier Hollywood armaments.

I also loved the fact that everyone rode the small but powerful horses native to Iceland, just adding another layer of authenticity to the drama.

The film is, naturally, violent throughout, but the bright red 'blood' - and avoidance of too much dwelling on injuries - lowers the gore factor down to almost Saturday evening family viewing.

Easy to root for, Gest is a pretty cool hero, armed with his spear-concealing shepherd's crook and an array of deadly throwing blades.

While he's barely set foot in Iceland before he's killing off bad guys, it's all part of a methodical, long game.

And I couldn't stop myself from making Batman comparisons (inspired by the murder of his parents before his eyes), even though it's never expressly stated how long Gest spent on his training and how long on actually setting his Machiavellian scheme in motion (we discover that it began quite some time before he arrives in Iceland).

Possibly because it's subtitled, I must confess at times I felt this 105-minute tale dragged a bit in the middle (there is an English-language cut of the film on the DVD, but that was about quarter of an hour shorter and I wanted the full experience).

However, the pay-off at the end is worth the time invested, especially as it sets up the potential for another cycle of violence... as happens with blood feuds.

When The Raven Flies turns out to be the first part of a Viking Trilogy, but, except for brief trailers on the disc, I know nothing (yet) about the subsequent films, In The Shadow Of The Raven and The White Viking.

I was lucky enough to snag a DVD - via eBay and shipped in from Germany - for just over £3, around a tenth of the price I've seen the film listed at (when it crops up on either eBay or Amazon).

If you like Viking films, then I'd definitely say this is one worth hanging on for, just be careful not to pay over the odds.

Hawk The Slayer Profiled In Past Perfect...

The latest 80-page issue of Past Perfect, the digest-sized fanzine for geeky media of the '60s, '70s, and '80s, dedicates 15-pages to an in-depth appraisal of (to quote the front cover) "the greatest cult movie of all time"... my beloved Hawk The Slayer.

Having begun life as a British comic book review 'zine, which then expanded to embrace other mediums, Past Perfect eventually transitioned to a wholly PDF format for a while, before, in recent years, reverting to print.

A full-colour, beautifully illustrated publication, Past Perfect is clearly a labour of love for writer and creator Paul Ware, who appears to generate all the text, scan all the pictures, and design all the issues on his own.

This month, among pieces on vintage Marvel and DC comics, classic Star Trek, old British magazines etc, Paul takes a considered look at 1980's Hawk The Slayer.

His deep-dive critique dissects the movie almost blow-by-blow, highlighting stand-out moments, memorable dialogue, and the appearances of numerous British character actors and what they brought to their roles. 

One thing I particularly appreciated was that Paul clearly "gets" the appeal of Crow, the divisive elf archer, portrayed with almost Vulcan-like passivity by Ray Charleston, accepting that the elf's on-screen persona was based on deliberate choices to present an "alien" being, rather than simply a cosplayer with pointy rubber ears.

The article draws attention to the crucial contributions made by the stunt co-ordinator, Eddie Stacey, and editor, Eric Boyd-Perkins, in shaping Hawk The Slayer's unique look.

Paul breaks down a number of the tropes, references, and possible influences that also went into the Hawk The Slayer melting pot.

Ultimately, while not shying away from addressing Hawk's shortcomings, he concludes that the film persists in the public consciousness due to its " idiosyncrasy" and the obvious love its creators had for the sword-and-sorcery genre.

Whether you're already a fan of the movie or simply Hawk-curious because of the decades-long buzz around this unique gem of British cinema, it's worth picking up this month's issue of Past Perfect.

Past Perfect #188 (April 2021) can be purchased  from Paul via eBay here.

Ray Guns of The 1930s to 1950s...


I'm no gun nut, but I can't help but grin wistfully at the sight of these vintage (1930s to 1950s) Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers inspired "ray guns" found over at Wil Wheaton's Tumblr.

I could easily picture any of these in the arsenal of a  modern-day supervillain seeking to conquer the world in style.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Why Are You Not Reading Savage Avengers?

When Marvel transported Conan The Barbarian to the contemporary Marvel comic book universe I was at first confused, then excited by the possibilities.

While still continuing his sword-and-sorcery exploits in the Hyborian Age (currently under the stewardship of superb writer Jim Zub), "modern day" Conan - primarily in the pages of Savage Avengers - has proved more than a match for superheroes and supervillains alike.

Penned by Gerry Duggan, Savage Avengers is ostensibly a team book, but, despite the odd issue where he's not front-and-centre, it's really another Conan title.

One of the traits that has made Robert E Howard's character so enduring is his cunning intelligence and adaptability, and that has come to the fore in Savage Avengers as we see Conan learning about the new world he has been dragged to.

He isn't the stereotypical "dumb barbarian", but a canny warrior and that's one of the things that makes Savage Avengers such an entertaining read.

While I fear Marvel's plans to bring other Howard characters to life have died on the vine (the Dark Agnes mini-series was a victim of the pandemic closedown and there's been no further mention of Solomon Kane), having two parallel, and unconnected, Conan titles - one in his classic setting and one in the modern world - seems to be working very well.

The Cimmerian's adventures fighting alongside Wolverine, Deadpool, The Punisher, Doctor Strange et al will clearly have no impact on his Hyborian tales (nor should they). 

The two story styles are distinct and very different, and should remain so.

Honestly, as much as I enjoyed Savage Avengers from its opening salvo, I initially thought it would have a limited shelf life, but the further Duggan gets into Conan's stories, the more I want it to run and run.

I have been genuinely surprised by how well Conan fits in the contemporary Marvel comic book universe, and can't wait to witness his interactions with more costumed characters.

Could Conan establish himself as a major crime lord in NYC, will he be invited to join the main Avengers squad, will he be discovered by Hollywood and have a new career as a stunt man, or will he simply continue to roam the globe having picaresque adventures?

All these options could work.

Savage Avengers is a beautiful synthesis of two of my favourite genres: superheroes and sword-and-sorcery; it's a rare alchemical mix that tastes amazing.

Wacky team-ups and wild crossovers are the bread-and-butter of comic books. Not all of them work. But some go like gangbusters and deserve to run and run.

I also reckon if Savage Avengers gets enough issues under its belt that's my best chance of getting a Marvel Legends Conan The Barbarian action figure.

X-Files: Rinse and Repeat...

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Let's Make Black Widow A Winner For Disney+, So We Get More MCU at Home...

Marvel and Disney have announced another this-is-it, definitely-this-time, release date for Black Widow, July 9.

What I think makes this date concrete is the fact that it was revealed the film will be simultaneously released in cinemas and as a Premier Access purchase on Disney+

This will finally signal the start of the MCU's much-delayed Phase IV slate of superhero flicks, and will be followed by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on September 3.

The Eternals
is still on course for a November 5 release in the States.

I really hope that Black Widow's simultaneous home and cinema release remains the formula for all future Marvel movies.

I, for one, certainly don't begrudge paying the additional Premier Access fee, for the pleasure of watching a blockbuster movie in the comfort and safety of my own home, in lieu of having to hike to a cinema, pay through the nose for a ticket and treats, then put up with the aggravation of sharing the space with other members of the audience (with their inane chatter, poor phone etiquette etc)

While the fee is slightly higher than the current cost of a single cinema ticket, once I've purchased the film on Disney+ I can rewatch it as many times as I like, pausing it for snacks and comfort breaks.

This is the future!

So, let's hope enough people pay to see Black Widow at home to make Disney realise that there is a big enough share of the market to offer this alternative in a post-pandemic world.

Don't Get Too Attached...

Eternally (2020)

A zombie love story created in quarantine with Unreal Engine 4.

Friday, 26 March 2021

James Gunn & Harley Quinn? The New Suicide Squad is Going To Be A Wild Ride!


P.S. You may wonder why I've pasted in the trailer from Twitter, rather than the usual YouTube jobbie. Simply because I object to YouTube's new "verify your age" nonsense to allow the viewing of red band/grown-up trailers.

P.P.S.

Aquarium of The Dead Could Be The Greatest Asylum Flick Since Sharknado!

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Olivia Liang's Nicky Chen Poised To Be Our Next Butt-Kicking, Revenge-Seeking Hero...

I Do Loves Me A Bit Of Rural Horror...

As the world searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, a scientist and park scout venture deep in the forest for a routine equipment run. Through the night, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness, the forest coming to life around them.
As long as it's better than director Ben Wheatley's earlier A Field In England, then I'm on board.

I can't help but think of the infamous Lamentations of The Flame Princess adventure module The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time when I see that poster I've shared at the top of this article.

Steampunk, Superpowers, Corsets & Chaos...

Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event that gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing.

But no matter their particular "turns," all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger.
It falls to mysterious, quick-fisted widow Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and brilliant young inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) to protect and shelter these gifted "orphans." To do so, they will have to face the brutal forces determined to annihilate their kind.
In the UK, The Nevers debuts a month after it airs in the States, with the first part arriving on Monday, May 17, on Sky Atlantic.

Kara and Her Crew Are Ready To Save The World One Last Time...

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Weird Wednesday...

#RPG Episode Four: "You're A Big Man, Bob McCubbin, But You're In Bad Shape!"


Previously On 
The Theoretical Science Foundation
:

The sealed airlock barring entry to the submerged portion of the base - under the frozen waters of Lake Tahoe - was quickly thwarted when Federal Agent Dick Tate (Kevin's character) remembered the correct protocol for gaining admittance.

Followed by Onyx (Erica's cat burglar), he dropped down into room below, managing to shoot the militia guard waiting there.

The rest of us then came down and slowly, and carefully, we picked our way through the base, with Dick in the lead.


The next guard we captured Dick was able to interrogate and, despite his overconfidence that 'the base was under their control', still gave away that there were eight of them down there, plus "the boss".

We made it to the meeting room, where the overweight "boss" - whose name we would later discover was Bob McCubbin The Third - sat at the far end of the table.

However, we were caught out by his three kung fu vixens, who somehow got the drop on us. 

Dick ended up rolling around on the floor with one, Father Ned (Simon's character) grappled the second and choked her in a most unpriestly manner, while Freya (Clare's character) traded gun shots with the third.

Buck (my character) had a clear line of sight on Bob and unloaded both barrels of his shotgun into his target from the doorway, then - as he popped out the spent cartridges and loaded a fresh pair - hopped upon the table and walked down to face the bleeding headman.

"Call off your dogs, fatman," Buck growled, with his shotgun pointing at the quivering man's face.

Although he raised his hands, Bob was too terrified to speak.

Not that it mattered, as our team had overcome the militia women anyway, despite picking up some bruises along the way.

Dick grilled Bob, learning the locations of the final three members of the rogue militia, as well as the two TSF scientists who were being held hostage.

We managed to corral these remaining intruders without further bloodshed, each giving themselves up when they realised their position was hopeless.

On the way, we had glanced over the screens in the monitor room.

While the CCTV confirmed the positions of the weekend warriors, the other televisions had shown us news reports from around the country of the zombie apocalypse.

Things were looking bad in the densely populated cities and towns, while in the countryside humanity had been able to make a stronger stand.

Towns and cities were being overrun by the undead...
Rural posses were successfully hunting down the living dead.

Although two of their number were dead, the militia - battered and bleeding nonetheless - were all secured in the meeting room, their captives freed.

But just as we were congratulating ourselves on a job well done, an alarm went off back in the monitoring room.

To Be Continued...

 
The Theoretical Science Foundation - The Cast:
  • Buck Hannigan - played by me
  • Dick Tate - played by Kevin
  • Father Timothy 'Ned' O’Flaherty - played by Simon
  • Freya Larson - played by Clare 
  • Onyx Jones - played by Erica (absent)
Showrunner - Pete

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)

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