Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Good, the Fan and the Theory - A Spaghetti-Western Dollars Trilogy Head-Canon

'The Good, the Ugly and the Bad'
It's halfway through the year already and I've hardly posted on...Well I just haven't really posted! Laptop troubles and stuff...Anyway! Finally time for a post that's suitable to the background!

As we all know, we're in the thick of the new generation of Star Wars movies; saga installments supplemented with anthology spin-offs! Spectacular! ^^ But of the inspirations and influences for the original trilogy, the one area of cinema that always speaks to my preferences are the Spaghetti-Westerns. In particular, those three films directed by Sergio Leone, scored by Ennio Morricone and starring Clint Eastwood as 'The Man with No Name'; A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, & The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
   For specific references, Eastwood's 'Man with No Name' character(s), 'The Good' in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, heavily influenced the bounty hunter Boba Fett for The Empire Strikes Back. Whilst more recently Lee van Cleef's 'Angel Eyes' (aka 'The Bad') influenced the take-no-prisoners bounty hunter Cad Bane for The Clone Wars.

Cad Bane - Clearly Inspired by 'Angel Eyes' ('The Bad')
Boba Fett - Inspired by 'The Man with No Name'

So why am I going through this? Well, this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of my most favourite films of all time. And there has been discussions over whether it is connected with the other 'Dollars' films or not...it was released after the other two, so because of the acquisition of the iconic costume Eastwood wears (poncho et all) occurs at the end of GBU, some assume that it's a prequel. Officially, the three films are separate entities, as evidenced by 'The Man with No Name' being referred to with a different name in each film, among other slight inconsistencies (though it's never explicitly stated that Eastwood's character names are his...he never introduces himself...they are always given by others and they are how others refer to him). However, with a bit of creativity, there are ways that you can consider them as a trilogy and, as such, an ideal way to watch them all together (similar to how '451236' is the best way to watch the original Star Wars films)...The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, THEN A Fistful of Dollars, THEN For a Few Dollars More (or...'312' if you prefer!)

The Man with No Name
But does '312' work for the characters and events if Eastwood is the same character the whole way through? Well, here's where the titled head-canon begins:

First, there's the big question of the end of GBU and then the beginning of AFOD; what happened to all that money Blondie rode off into the sunset with? When we do consider that he's the same character throughout, the $200,000 in gold coins that he obtained had all gone by the time we see him again. So let's consider the biggest factor in his acquisition of that money; Tuco (aka 'The Ugly').

The Good and the Ugly - A Partnership Made in Hell
Throughout GBU, Tuco was just greedy for as much money as possible. But after he felt betrayed by Blondie by being left in the desert, he relentlessly pursued, and then tortured, Blondie for revenge. And since he told Blondie from the start that 'nobody crosses Tuco and lives', Blondie must have known that leaving him alive at the end of GBU (after what Tuco would have seen as another betrayal), would come back to bite him in the bum, sooner or later. But Tuco wasn't present during two 'Dollars' films, so one solution would be that Blondie would have spent/ditched the money to help throw Tuco off and then kill him...though that would seem a little bit harsh for Blondie, especially considering how lenient we have seen him be towards Tuco. A more likely scenario would be if Blondie had only managed to spend a small proportion of that gold (it was a heck of a lot of money) before Tuco tracked him down again...and since it's all Tuco lives for, Blondie would end up giving up all of his money to the ratty bandit. Even if it was a case of Blondie ditching the majority of that gold to throw Tuco off, you can still picture a scene in which Blondie thinks he still has something for food and drink, but then Tuco appears away from him, chuckling as he jingles the last pennies Blondie had, before riding away.

So now Blondie has nothing but his clothes, his effects and his horse...Tuco is now out of his life for good, but at a literal price. And so begins the next chapter of his life, keeping a low profile, wandering from small town to small town, making a decent dollar where he can, even being payed in meals and drink. He starts to get crafty in the ways and means of his earnings...learning to keep an eye open for any situation possible where money can be made. He no longer has anyone to refer to him by his old nickname, so he takes to the most average name folk refer to him as (instead of 'stranger'); 'Joe'.

AKA 'Joe', in San Miguel
Soon enough, Joe rides into the town of San Miguel and discovers that being in the middle of two feuding families is an ample opportunity to make some money. For the most part, he is successful. However, since the Rojo gang worked out that he freed their hostages, he was tortured again...this time resulting in a severe injury to his firing hand. He eventually managed to slip away and train himself to fire properly again in order to kill his torturers, but his hand was a lot weaker than it used to be. Leaving San Miguel as soon as the violent Rojo gang were disposed of, Joe knew that a simpler approach to making money was his true calling. As such, he once again got back into the business of what he did best; hunting down bounties...but now, on his own and having learned not to trust bandits at the very least, he works more in favour of the law.

In the few more years that go by, Joe makes a bracer-gauntlet for himself to help strengthen his wrist when firing and actually saves his whole arm for when he needs it the most, learning how to do everything else with just his left hand; lighting (and smoking) his cigars, drinking, even developing a one-handed fighting style. This helps to define his new bounty-hunting reputation with a new moniker; 'Monco' (Spanish for 'one-armed').

(The following segments will also attempt to explain why there seems to be multiple characters who look like other characters...For the different bandits who are played by the same actors, a broad explanation can be attributed to coming from large families and generations of bandits...Mostly illegitimately...Because, y'know, sordid crimes...)

AKA 'Monco' (Note the bracer on his right arm)
And so 'Monco' makes his way as a bounty killer and eventually lands his eyes on a huge prize; El Indio. He is content with hunting the average price to pay for his own upkeep, but something about El Indio strikes him; he has heard, and taken note of, El Indio's gang and the relatively low prices on their heads, but he had never seen a poster with El Indio himself before...this criminal looks similar to (at least one of) the Rojo brothers he encountered (and killed) a few years before...Could they be related? It wouldn't be a surprise...And if he is, it's a good enough reason for Monco to start pursuing him and ending the twisted bloodline. However, as would be expected, he isn't the only hunter to be bold enough to go after El Indio...

On the trail of El Indio, Monco lands in the town of El Paso, Texas. There he gets word of another bounty killer, so he goes to investigate...Strangely enough; this is another person who looks like a figure from Monco's past. Back when he was known as 'Blondie', he and Tuco tussled with a common enemy who used to be a big part of their past; 'Angel Eyes' ('The Bad'). Monco is curious; how can two, seemingly unrelated, figures from his past have prominent look-a-likes in his present?

The Other Bounty Hunter, Colonel Mortimer...
...And the long-dead Angel Eyes...Brothers...?
May all be a coincidence...But with the slightest chance that this other bounty hunter is related to 'Angel Eyes', Monco cannot trust him. After a late night where he tries to throw the other hunter out of town and they subsequently butt heads, the two begin to realize their skill-sets are evenly matched and decide to work together to bring down El Indio's gang. Despite this, Monco still doesn't completely trust this other bounty hunter; one Colonel Douglas Mortimer. (And does his name imply 'Angel Eyes'' real name?)

An Alliance they Had to Work at to Achieve...
Monco's clear distrust makes him try at least once to throw the Colonel off...but this is a man who fought in the civil war; he's wily in his years and, most important to Monco, he's a man of integrity...Ultimately they go after El Indio for different reasons and it's Mortimer's reason that Monco discovers by the end that really makes him trustworthy. El Indio was responsible for the death of Mortimer's sister...The Colonel has pursued him for her honour and subsequently did not take a single cent of the cash rewards for El Indio and his gang members.

Twisted Family Connections - El Indio Holds the Image of Mortimer's Sister
A family connection between Mortimer and Angel Eyes would make sense; Mortimer's service in the army would have been wildly different from Angel Eyes, the black sheep of the family who used positions in the army that he hadn't earned to pursue his own dastardly interests. Colonel Mortimer would have felt too disconnected from Angel Eyes, feeling like he had lost him, so he would end up focusing on looking out for the one member of the family he has left; his sister.

Monco, meanwhile, rides off into the sunset with nothing but the riches he had wanted from the start with no hassle. He was told by Mortimer that bounty hunting is a line of business where you don't last long. One could take that to mean it would kill you, but Monco would apply the 'Old Man's' words to his desire to eventually settle and retire from the business. With the money he now has, he's in the best position to call it quits. But whether people have known him as 'Blondie', 'Joe' or 'Monco', he leaves a lasting impression like no other across the American west as 'The Man with No Name'.

And there we go! Hope this provided to be an interesting read! (And I am aware there have been extended tales in literature, but since I'm only familiar with the films, that's what this post is based on). Any comments or queries, do stick 'em below!


(Images - Lucasfilm, MGM)

Monday, 6 June 2016

City in the Sky

A new documentary series started on BBC Two last night (Sunday, 5th July) called City in the Sky, with Dallas Campbell and Dr. Hannah Fry, detailing the inner workings of air travel...it's fascinating, mesmerizing and even a little bit thrilling. I recommend to anyone with access to iPlayer to have a look.

Anyway, I came up with the most ridiculous idea just because the title sounds like a pun, so here's a parody of the song Spirit in the Sky, for the show:

When I fly and I lay back to rest
Gonna be on a plane by Southwest
When I get on board to fly
Goin' up to the city in the sky

Goin' up to the city in the sky
That's where I'm gonna go when I fly
When I fly and I lay back to rest
Gonna be on a plane by Southwest

Adventure though; you know it's a thirst
Gotta have a friend in Airbus
So you know that when you fly
They gonna recommend you to the city in the sky

Gon' recommend you to the city in the sky
That's where you're gonna go when you fly
When you fly and you kick back to rest
Gonna be in safe hands with Southwest

Never filled my case...too much
I got a friend in Qantas
So you know that when I fly
They're gonna set me up with the city in the sky

Oh set me up with the city in the sky
That's where I'm gonna go when I fly
When I fly and I lay back to rest,
I'm gonna go to a place in the west
Gonna be on a plane for the west

Hope you like!


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Star Wars: The Feminism Awakens

Well, it's nearly the end of 2015, so just wanted to stick something in before 2016 rolls on...

'Rolls on' like BB-8, for instance...!
As of writing I've seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice (and that's tame by other fan-standards), but along with the return of one of the most influential pop-culture franchises in cinematic history, we've seen something different, something...changed...Something that has...awakened...

Okay; name all of the female speaking parts in the Original Trilogy apart from Leia...Beru, Mon Mothma...That lady in the Rebel Hoth base that informed everyone to standby for the Ion Cannon...Screaming civilians in Cloud City...You get my point; like a lot of things back then, 'diversity' meant having one person in the overall thing to represent those who aren't male (or white)...Unfortunately some still think and do this way, BUT...

(Slight spoilers up ahead for Episode VII!)

Leap into hyperspace from 1983 to 2015 and; lead characters, baddies, wisdom-bearing elderly figures...Oh my...! Along with Mad Max: Fury RoadAgent CarterSupergirlJessica Jones and others, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made 2015 the year that women got to shine in front of the camera with a range of characters as complex and broad-ranged as can be...And also behind the camera, too! Just consider the astounding work director Rachel Talalay and writer Sarah Dollard have contributed to this years' ninth series of Doctor Who...But also (returning to Star Wars), the current president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. Of course there's a heck of a lot to do for equality and full representation and inclusiveness and such (glares at Hasbro), but as starts go, this is a damned good one!

I always said Finn would be a Red Herring, regarding the lightsabre...
The point is; Star Wars has evolved and moved with the times whilst still managing to capture the magic of the original trilogy. Kathleen Kennedy, a long-time producer with a phenomenal list of credits under her Hollywood-pedigree belt, has brought back Star Wars with a clear message; it's for everybody. And J.J. Abrams, the director of The Force Awakens, has clearly learned from the mistakes of his previous film (and staying away from those writers helped too) and has taken this project on board with incredible results. The fact that Star Wars is space-fantasy, rather than full-on sci-fi, means that virtually anything is possible...So why not representation? ^^

In The Force Awakens, we have a healthy mix of background characters of both genders filling the workstations of both The First Order and the Resistance. And for the main characters, we have Maz Katana (Lupita Nyong'O), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and the return of Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). But of course the main character for this, and presumably the next two saga instalments, is the character of Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. Rey is such a relatable, interesting, natural and exciting character! An example of progression, she has clearly been developed as much as male protagonists throughout film history. Her gender was actually put aside for her character so much that the fact she was a woman was hardly ever brought up in the film itself! 
And that, in my view, was the best way to go about it...Anybody could identify with her.

She's been defending herself with that staff for most of her life; a lightsabre's just an upgrade for her!
Rey gets up to all kinds of awesome things in the film; fighting off thieves and 'troopers, piloting the Millennium Falcon, but most significantly of all, discovering her abilities with the Force. (Mind-games with Kylo Ren and mind-tricking 007 for two things...) I almost cheered aloud when Anakin's lightsabre whipped past Ren and into Rey's hand...and the ensuing dual was just spectacular for so many reasons.

A quick search on 'The Force Awakens' and 'Rey' tags on social media and you'll hear and read many stories about how young girls are watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and becoming so excited to see a hero on the big screen (especially big if it's IMAX) that they can connect with...And this is on top of those kids with multicultural backgrounds watching John Boyega and Oscar Isaac and seeing Finn and Poe Dameron become their idols.

Rey, Finn...And BB-8! What's not to love! ^^
Of course, nothing's fundamentally stopped the femme-fandom from grabbing lightsabres (and other Star Wars-y things) in the past, but in recent years we've seen a rise of amazing female characters on our TV screens; Ahsoka Tano (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels), Asajj Ventress (Clone Wars), Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren (Star Wars: Rebels) and many others...And now leading the way in film, we have Rey...

Cue The Force Theme...

Another thing is; I've been watching The Force Awakens as a proud Briton too...Production returned to the UK after the Prequels spent so much time Down Under...And Daisy Ridley, our leading lady, is of a very British acting pedigree. You see, for those who may not know, Daisy is the great niece of late English actor Arnold Ridley, who played Private Godfrey in the classic WWII sitcom Dad's Army...And, since a new film adaptation of the series is coming in 2016, the BBC have been repeating the series, so it's very much at the forefront of the mind.

Arnold Ridley fought in both WWI AND WWII, so he was at the front-lines for battles a lot of us nowadays couldn't even imagine...But now many different battles are fought, including social and cultural battles for equality and representation. 
And I like to think that Arnold would be looking upon Daisy now with pride (not just because she's in one of the biggest movies of recent times), because she's on the front-lines of feminism in something so culturally significant to so many and, however much she intended it or not, she's helping to make that change...With two more films for her under the wings of Carrie Fisher and Kathleen Kennedy, it's a force for good in the name of progress.

We'll have to wait and see in the long-term, but if The Force Awakens can make as big-a-cultural effect as A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, then the future is very much with the Light Side of the Force.Star Wars is for everyone...Just ask that young lady in the front row when you go see 'Episode VIII' & 'IX'...

So for now, it's a Happy New Year from me...For 2016 continues the diversity by bringing the first Star Wars Anthology film to our screens starring Felicity Jones; Rogue One. And I cannot wait. ^^

Felicity Jones leads the cast of the band of Rebel Spies set to steal the plans for the Death Star


(All images are Lucasfilm/Disney, courtesy of Wookieepedia)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

If My Calculations are Correct...!

Great Scott! We're at the future! On precisely this date, October 21st, 2015 Marty, Jennifer and Doc. Brown arrive!

But you all know that, by now! Now, I can list comparisons to Bob Gale's 2015 to reality like video-calling, wearable technology, drones, bio-energy, etc. but lots of articles have done that...

Thing is, despite dedicating an episode of the Fandomain to Time Travel in which we talk Back to the Future's legacy, I don't have a lot to offer for today...So I prepared some photos of the DeLoreans I have for you all!

(The three 1:24 models were from my love, Kristyn! ^^)

And as a bonus...That time a couple of years ago when the National Media Museum hosted a free screening of the first film...A DeLorean came to visit, but I could only go as one kind of Doctor...

(In true time-travel fashion, I kinda predicted LEGO Dimensions before it came about! Hah!)

Happy Future Day, everyone!


Sunday, 18 October 2015

From Preston Comic-Con 2015!


Now then, with doing my radio programme at BCB (the hub of which is still here), it's encouraged me to DO SOME THINGS. So earlier this year, I realized that I could take the show on the road and grab an interview at Preston Comic Con this summer!

If you want to hear the result of my convention trip, GO HERE. It contains the Fandomain's very first celebrity interview!

Meanwhile, over here will be a few images from the event...Right now!

Waiting in line...Volunteer groups like the 99th Garrison
and the Judge Dredd guys entertain us whilst we wait!
But everyone wanted a pic with this fella; Lil' Star-Lord! He stole the show!
Inside the con! But this is only beneath the main area...
The arena! Look at the size of this thing!
Clever use of the space with the seats and stuff! ^^
As you may have seen, I went as my Doctor; the 9th Doctor! ^^
Doctor party; yeah! That brown-suited 10th was
the one in charge of that TARDIS!
And next to that TARDIS were a variety of props and models and stuff...
Some of which were on sale!
Two awesome ladies from the 99th Garrison passed
by; and I saw them at Burnley, last year, too! ^^
Time for a panel! This was the Doctor Who/Hobbit panel, and at this point,
we were awaiting the guest speakers Adam Brown (Ori), Sylvester McCoy
(Radagast/7th Doctor) & Sarah Louise Madison (Weeping Angel)
McCoy likes to spoon people. (You had to be there!)
The panel in the midst of discussion...And fez-fashion.
You can tell I was happy to meet the only other 9th Doctor there! ^^
Sarah Louise Madison! As a Doctor, I had to say hello to the Weeping Angel;
she revealed at the panel that her brother was a gas-mask child in The Empty
/The Doctor Dances! I didn't blink, but whoever took the photo must've done!
Was very keen to meet Mr. Ian Whyte! He has been the predators inAVP & AVPR
and also the Engineer(s) in Prometheus! Wanted a Fandomain interview, but he
had to decline...Still got to tell him about NECA's upcoming AVP figures! ^^
And finally met Nathalie Cox again! ^^ Thankfully, I managed to nab an interview
with her and that's what you hear on the related Fandomain episode! ^^
After all was done, I had to grab a pic of the Guild Hall building from outside.
Very apt that a Doctor was leaving in this image!
The NatWest branch in Preston...Now before you start, have another look; does that not
remind you of the 2015 town hall from Hill Valley...? Perhaps it's a sign of things to come!
So there you have it! If you want to, the Preston edition of the Fandomain is riiiiiiiiiiight here!

Until next time...If we have the time...! Give me 1.21 gigawatts and we'll have all the time we need! WE GOTTA GO BACK!


Friday, 26 June 2015

Open Letter to Vivid - Reacting Against Hasbro

I've had a long-held loyalty to Hasbro, due to the brands they have licences for, and I've regularly welcomed the products of theres that I want into my collections. But this is 2015 and there is still a fundamental problem with Hasbro; they still think they should only cater for boys.

Their lines I have gotten toys from in the past have included Star Wars, Transformers and the Jurassic Park films. (And if you know me; that's very much obvious.) They also produce Marvel lines too, which I have a fleeting interest in, but never actually bought from...And I most likely won't...

Hasbro has suffered from various issues to their products over the past few years including quality control (paint applications and plastic tolerances), price inflation for less amounts of toy, and the production of themes and sublines that nobody actually wants (go check out the masses of Star Wars Rebel Command and Star Wars Angry Birds products clogging up the shelves...I've NEVER seen anybody pick them up). And not to mention sub-par customer service and not taking into account what consumers actually want. And we toy collectors have been grumpily going along with the general reductions in quality of the main figure lines and the extremely pricey figures that are actually worth looking at, but off-putting for those who cannot afford them (i.e. nearly everyone).

But perhaps more worryingly, Hasbro would rather waste money on these unprofitable (and undesirable) lines than do the one thing referenced at the beginning at this post; invest in the girls. Like I say; it's 2015, we know full well that boys and girls these days do not have a problem with liking toys from whichever range it may be (even if their parents might). Gender identity across the board is nowhere near as simple as it was years ago and to kids today, it isn't a big deal. Yet Hasbro (amongst others) STILL insist on continuing to market the majority of their lines in favour of boys. There has been a systematic continuation of this across the Star Wars and Marvel ranges in particular, virtually erasing all but a few of the women characters from existence. When the Hulk himself can get angry about this development, you best believe it's a problem.

But the reason for finally writing something like this is thus; in Jurassic Park (and Jurassic World), it's practically common knowledge that the majority (if not; all) the Dinosaurs of Isla Nublar are female. It's a major plot-point in the first film and a reiterated fact in the latest. Yet somehow, Hasbro have managed to release their Dinosaur toys describing them with masculine pronouns. It's been confirmed as an error, which in this case is slightly forgivable, but the fact that the masculine pronouns are more-or-less 'default' goes to show how ingrained male-orientated Hasbro's lines are (and thus, indicative of the larger social construct). Call it the straw that broke the Dinosaur's back (NOT a spoiler, by the way), but even though it's an error, Hasbro still have a very misogynistic target. It's not that they should be attracting female fans, but they should be providing for them, because practically half of Star Wars fans, of Marvel fans, etc. are women and girls and it doesn't take a lot of research to work this out. Yet only one tiny two-inch Gamora figure was available for Guardians of the Galaxy, only one Black Widow figure (in the expensive 'Legends' line) in the entirety of her onscreen appearances since 2010 has appeared and there's been no Scarlet Witch for Avengers: Age of Ultron and so-forth. And the only Princess Leia figure in the Star Wars 'Black Series' (6-inch...Also ridiculously expensive) line was her 'slave outfit'...The metal bikini...The ONLY LEIA. This, along with many other reasons mentioned (and not mentioned), is why I hardly buy any Hasbro these days...

So I ultimately write this not for Hasbro, but for Vivid, the biggest toy company in the UK. Because as readers of this Blog know, I've really gotten into Thunderbirds Are Go, but what I mentioned little of in my recent Blog post was how much effort has been made to really develop the female characters from the original series and give them much more prominance, updating them for today. And very soon, Vivid's first wave of Thunderbirds Are Go toys will be hitting the selves. Now, understandably, they've gone the usual business route and produced the most major components for the series, the first four Thunderbird vehicles, the five brothers and the villain. Sadly, we haven't heard if they will be producing figures for regular characters Kayo, Lady Penelope or indeed their vehicles, the Thunderbird Shadow or FAB 1.
Thunderbird Shadow - Kayo's own covert ops Thunderbird

Tanusha 'Kayo' Kyrano, Head of Security at Tracy Island
London Agent Lady Penelope, her dog Sherbert & her driver, Parker
Lady Penelope's Gadget-Filled FAB 1
So this is my plea to Vivid; please do not go the Hasbro route and solely focus on the one gender; consider the female fans of the programme and consider everyone who will be wanting the very awesome Thunderbird Shadow AND the iconic FAB 1 in their vehicle collections at the very least (including myself). I know it's early days, but with thirteen episodes already, the programme has clearly made leaps and bounds for diversity (not just gender, but with ethnicity too) and I hope your products will reflect that too. Thank you.


(All images courtesy of ITV/Pukeko)

29-06-2015 UPDATE: I Tweeted this post to Vivid; they responded! ^^ Basically Expect Lady Penelope & Kayo in some form or another in the future! Thank you, Vivid!

(Just responding alone scores them more points than Hasbro! XD)

14-08-2015 UPDATE: Vivid actually responded AGAIN a few days after their Tweet-response, via their customer service thing, taking FAB1 in particular into consideration. They stated they'd pass it on to the design team! Hurray! ^^ But I update you all with this nearly two months later, because just today I've also read a news report of the sales, stating that the first waves are doing well. At the bottom, they note that Kayo, FAB1 and more vehicles are planned for next year! ^^ Basically; the first general official confirmation!