Day 212: Vans Off The Wall… Literally

A deleted scene from “The Day Of The Doctor” featuring the hitherto unknown giants of Gallifrey…

July 31

Those green Vans really ruin the colour palette of today’s image, but this far into the challenge, I’m not fussy!

The BBC revealed recently that “Day Of The Doctor” was the most watched BBC drama of 2013. Not bad for a 50 year old show, and all those viewers got to see a hell of an episode. I loved it, bit then hey, I’m an unapologetic Who apologist (does that make sense?). I even liked Matt Smith’s final story, “The Time Of The Doctor” against the flow of fandom opinion. Not that I thought there weren’t problems with it (it didn’t make an awful lot of sense, and sold us short on explaining some ongoing mysteries), but there’s was so much fun to be had as well – especially some cracking dialogue and wooden Cybermen – I came away remembering what I did enjoy, rather than fixating on what I didn’t.

The Leftovers cult smoking

I’m increasingly finding that’s something that’s more and more difficult to do with a many American telefantasy series. I can see that there’s an awful lot to admire in shows like The Strain, Extant and The Leftovers (especially The Leftovers, actually, which has moments of near poetic visual beauty which tell the story without the need for reams of dialogue*). But they’re also near wall-to-wall dour. I like the fact that SF these days doesn’t have to be all silly and tinselly and cheesy dialogue, and that it’s allowed to deal with “real” human drama and big existential issues. But an hour of unrelenting grimness can be a tad wearying. (*Admittedly, The Leftovers can’t rely on dialogue all the time, as it features a cult of self-imposed mutes.)

the-strainNot that I’m suggesting these shows should all suddenly have a song and dance number and a pie fight every episode (though maybe The Strain could pull that off; it does have a comedy rat catcher after all) but a few variations in pace and tone would be welcome. Extant, especially, needs to stop worshipping at the altar of Stanley Kubrick when it comes to character interaction.

I find it especially odd that The Strain is so ponderous as times. Having seen three episodes now, I reckon they could easily have been tightened up into one much pacier episode. And this is a show partly written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro – a guy who clearly knows who to deliver a pacy film. It’s almost as if the shorter running time of a film forces him to make clever, economical storytelling choices (such as characters being defined in a couple of deftly-crafted establishing scenes) whereas the broader canvas offered by TV series and books allows him to go all flabby and wibbly.

A cliché that became more and more prevalent during my time on SFX was TV showrunners claiming, “We make a mini movie every week.” If only. These days we get seem to get one 120-minute movie stretched over 10 or 13 weeks.

I suppose it’s all a matter of taste, but I like the fact that with Doctor Who, even if the plots don’t always ultimately hang together, most scenes in any given episode will feature something fun or exciting to keep you entertained; whereas with a lot of US shows too many scenes seem to be included purely to further the plot and aren’t actually that much fun in and of themselves. It’s like all Aaron Sorkin’s innovations to inject some life into the dialogue scenes in The West Wing were for nothing.

Game-of-Thrones Purple WeddingYou know what? There is one currently telefantasy show that does both; it satisfies in terms of the bigger picture, but works hard to make sure each and every scene earns its place, using shocks, revelations, humour, action, power-plays, politicking, intriguing character dynamics, horror and even (let’s be honest) gratuitous soft porn to keep things varied and constantly watchable – Game Of Thrones.

See you tomorrow.

Donate buttonUsual Sign-Off

• Current total: £1,075

• Remember this is all for charity, so any pennies or pounds you can spare PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.

• Follow me on Twitter to make sure you see what trainers I’m wearing each day.

• If you have any trainers you could donate (either on loan or old pairs you’re getting rid of) which are size 9 (ish – I can do anything  from 8 to 10) contact me at davegolderSFX@gmail.com so I can arrange collection.

• Please, please, please leave comments below! I’m after ideas for mini-challenges, future photoshoots and how I can find enough pairs of trainers!

 

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Day 211: Stephenson’s Rocket Raccoon

The Sole of Sci-Fi goes off the rails with a Guardian Of The Galaxy…

July 30 main

Marvel has already given the green light to sequel for Guardians Of The Galaxy, even though the first film hasn’t been released yet. Let’s hope it’s not a Green Lantern-style flop, then.

It seems unlikely, as the buzz about Marvel’s first space opera movie has been incredibly positive. It seem that audience are more than willing to believe that a Raccoon can talk. Rocket looks like he could be the break-out star of the summer.

Believe it or not, it wan’t until I got home after taking today’s photo that I thought up the Stephenson’s Rocket connection. Suddenly, looking at those rails, it was obvious. And while today’s headline doesn’t have a trainer-related pun, it was infinitely preferable to the headline I did have in mind: Toe Guardians Of The Galaxy.

The trainers are another pair on loan from Simon Withers, who’s been a great source of running shoes and Vans during this challenge. I’m running a bit low on supplies again at the moment, so feel free to lend your support! I can provide testimonials from previous loaners that trainers are returned in great condition!

I have a day of Ghostbusters-related gubbins ahead today. Amazingly, i’s the 30th anniversary of the first film this year. I really must ignore the sun outside and do some real work for a change!

See you tomorrow.

Donate buttonUsual Sign-Off

• Current total: £1,075

• Remember this is all for charity, so any pennies or pounds you can spare PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.

• Follow me on Twitter to make sure you see what trainers I’m wearing each day.

• If you have any trainers you could donate (either on loan or old pairs you’re getting rid of) which are size 9 (ish – I can do anything  from 8 to 10) contact me at davegolderSFX@gmail.com so I can arrange collection.

• Please, please, please leave comments below! I’m after ideas for mini-challenges, future photoshoots and how I can find enough pairs of trainers!

 

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Day 210: Flash Of The Titans

Hmm, get the feeling I’m promising more than I can deliver with that headline, unless a flash of my naked shin will do…

July 29 main

Loch Ness may have its monster, but Chew Valley Lake near Bristol has a Kraken. And it’s not quite so camera shy. Plus it likes my Green Flash trainers (okay, I know they look blue but… see day 19).

Okay, I had a little help from the late great Ray Harryhausen’s take on the mythical Greek sea monster. The stop motion maestro was one of my heroes when I was growing up. Admittedly, I was an odd child. My heroes were supposed to be poodle-permed footballers and implausibly muscled action heroes. Instead, I was worshipping filmmakers like Harryhausen and Hitchcock. The fact they never made a movie together is one of cinema’s great losses, I reckon. Imagine what The Birds would have looked like if Harryhausen’s two-headed Roc had menaced Tippi Hedren in that attic.

Pegasus-Clash-Of-The-TitansI have to admit grudgingly that Clash Of The Titans isn’t one of may favourite Harryahausen films, even though it features some  of his best animated sequences: the Medusa scene, the capture of Pegasus, the Calibos fight. On the other hand, the two-headed dog Dioskilos is a bit rubbish, and some of the matte work is embarrassingly poor, not helped by the fact that often the background plates seem to have been shot on a completely different grade of film to the foregrounds. It’s a film I want to love, as it’s Harryhausen’s last (and it does have Medusa) but it’s all a bit of a mish-mash lacking the simple charm of Jason And The Argonauts or The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad.

So, for no better reason than I love Harryhausen films – and this is my blog, so if I can’t be self-indulgent here, where can I? – here are my Top 10 Favourite Harryhausen creatures.

 10) The Minoton

Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger

10 Minoton

I doubt the Minoton would make many people’s fave Harryhausen monsters lists, but sometimes we can like things for intensely personal or bizarre reasons. I liked the Minoton because I’m a Taurus. I’m not into astrology in any big way, but when I was a little kid, I thought it was cool that there was a monster in a film that looked like my star sign. In fact, he was clearly based on the Minotaur and not Taurus, and it’s a shame that we never saw Harryhausen’s take on the Theseus in the Labyrinth myth.

He actually does very little in the film, being little more than a glorified gondolier. He also has a rubbish death. I once interviewed Ray and told him that as a kid I was waiting for the big climatic fight between Sinbad and the Minoton and was severely disappointed when he was instead crushed by a rock while trying to break into a pyramid. Ray actually admitted that he may have missed an opportunity there.

But the Minoton’s sheer visual presence – like a bullish, slightly short Talos – remains impressive, and I like him, and this is my Top 10.

9) Harpies

Jason And The Argonauts

9 Harpies

Harryhausen was always great as reptilian flying creatures (the Homonicus in Golden Voyage, the Pteranodon in Gwangi) but the Harpies in Argonauts are just brilliant. The ooze evil, as they torment the blind prophet Phinneas (Patrick Troughton) and they have those great little character twitches and ticks that Harryhausen was so good at injecting into his creatures.

8) The Figurehead

The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad

8 figurehead

The ship’s figurehead that comes to life in Golden Voyage is basically just a wooden variation on the bronze giant Talos from Argonauts. But I love Talos, so slightly less brilliant imitations still get me excited. Plus, seeing the wooden maiden carry on fighting while she has axes and arrows sticking out of her is a really effective image.

7) The Rhedosaur

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

7 Beast 20000

The prehistoric star of Harryhausen’s first movie in charge of FX is a reptilian King Kong (a theme Harryhausen would return to a number of times); you actually feel more empathy for the re-awoken monster who mistakes a fog horn for a mating call (poor guy) than you do for any of the human characters.

6) The Allosaurus

One Million Years BC

6 One Million Years BC Ray Harryhausen Allosaur Attack

Common wisdom would place Gwangi in this Top 10, and I have to admit the the lassoing sequence in The Valley Of Gwangi is one of Ray’s masterpieces. But as a character, I’ve always found Gwangi a little bland; he’s another of Ray’s reptilian Kong substitutes, but a strangely unsympathetic one, more the brooding teen than the noble beast. The Allosaurus  in One Million Years BC, though, is a wonderfully vicious little brute. This guy isn’t misunderstood; he’s pure evil on two clawed feet. He also has one of Ray’s best ever swishing tails.

5) The Ymir

Twenty Million Miles To Earth

5 Ymir -20-million-miles

This time it’s an alien Kong substitute! The Ymir has an unfair advantage over some of the other creatures as we first see him as a cute little baby reptile alien before he grows into an elephant-wrestling giant. After you’ve seen newborn Ymir wiping his eyes with his ickle claws, it’s impossible not to be on his side for the rest of the film.

4) The Skeletons

Jason And The Argonauts

4 Jason-and-the-Argonauts-skeletons

Best skeleton sequence in cinema history. CG has never and will never better this. Still awesome today. And each skeleton genuinely seems to have a personality all its own. Genius.

3) Kali

The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad

3 Golden-Voyage-of-Sinbad-Ray-Harryhausen-Kali-Fight

The Kali sequence is superb in its entirety, but the stone goddess rates so highly on my list for one particular reason: the way the swords appear magically in her six hands, one by one. It’s a brilliant WTF moment years before WTF moments were even created.

2) Medusa

Clash Of The Titans

2 Medusa

Great creature design and superb animation (both of which you expect from Harryhausen) coupled with moody lighting and suspenseful direction (both of which you rarely expect from the hacks who directed his films); everything comes together to create a breathtaking sequence that the CG remake spectacularly failed to match.

1) Talos

Jason And The Argonauts

1 talos-in-jason-and-the-argonauts

Was there ever any doubt who’d be number one? The bronze giant with the Achilles heel and the Colossus Of Rhodes ambitions is a lumbering, creaking movie behemoth.

See you tomorrow.

Donate buttonUsual Sign-Off

• Current total: £1,075

• Remember this is all for charity, so any pennies or pounds you can spare PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.

• Follow me on Twitter to make sure you see what trainers I’m wearing each day.

• If you have any trainers you could donate (either on loan or old pairs you’re getting rid of) which are size 9 (ish – I can do anything  from 8 to 10) contact me at davegolderSFX@gmail.com so I can arrange collection.

• Please, please, please leave comments below! I’m after ideas for mini-challenges, future photoshoots and how I can find enough pairs of trainers!

 

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Day 209: Frelling Trainers

Farscape’s Chiana admires some Cons that are charity trainers in two ways…

July 28 main

Ah, Farscape, the show that introduced pissing muppets and fart gags to sci-fi. And I loved it.

While a bit of the anarchic spirit of Farscape lives on in Defiance (not surprising since it was developed by the same guy) no SF drama has ever been quite so brilliantly bat’s arse. It embraced concepts and characters that you wouldn’t have expected to work outside of Hitchhiker’s or Red Dwarf, and made them work in a show that could also rip your heart out with emotion at times. It may have silly but it was not lightweight.

This was the show that had two versions of its main character swanning about the universe for a whole season; this was the show that made a star out of neural implant; this was the show that had its main villain appear in a rabbit costume; this was the show that had its star wake up in women’s clothes in a peep show attraction; this was the show that got away with an animated episode for heaven’s sake.

fascape alienThe input from Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop made sure the aliens were truly unique, and the costume design was often like a fetish convention.

I miss Farscape. But at least it ended in style with the Peacekeeper Wars mini-series which was a bizarre and spectacular as any fan could want. The series was an acquired taste, but if you acquired it, you were rewarded tenfold.

Smeg fridgeThe Swear Box

Farscape also followed a grand SF TV tradition of making up swear words that then went on to be used by geeks in day-to-day conversation. Farscape gave us frell, a not very subtle combination of f**k and hell, but also  dren, which never passed into the zeitgeist in quite the same way.

Arguably Red Dwarf started the trend with smeg, a cheeky shortening of “smegma”, the fancy name for knob cheese, that somehow made it past BBC censors. It also meant that no one could ever take a certain brand of fridge seriously ever again.

Admittedly the original Battlestar Galactica had already introduced frak (hmm, that sounds a little bit like f…) in the ’70s, but the word wasn’t popularised in fandom until the reimagined 21st  century series. Thankfully, the original series’ other swear word, felgercarb (which sounds like a performance enhancing drug), was not championed in the new series.

Equally thankfully, nobody over the age of 12 ever thought that using Monk And Mindy’s shazbot (which sounds like an Essex version of the Buffybot) in normal conversations was acceptable.

firefly1Then Firefly came along with, gorram which, despite sounding like the not-very-objectionable “God damned”, remains perennially popular as a geek swear.

Defiance is currently trying to popularise shtako, which is making some inroads into geek culture, but its only vague semblance to sh*t may prevent it becoming the new frell or gorram. Stargate’s Mik’ta was onto a loser from the start as it doesn’t sound like any pre-existing swearword at all… AND IT HAS A FRELLING APOSTROPHE IN IT!

Finally, if you want to be really obscure – but get serious kudos points from anyone else who gets the reference – try using Belgium in a swear word capacity.

Finally, honourable mentions to two non-TV franchises Star Wars for poodoo – which is clearly crap – and Judge Dredd for drokk, which manages to make dross sound about 20 times harder.

A word on the trainers, which are Cons with a curious design on them saying, “DESI(RED)”. The label inside indicate that proceeds for the sale of this range went to AIDS, TB and malaria charities. And now I’ve got them, they’ll be sold on once more in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK. So a very charitable pair of trainers.

Which reminds me… have you sponsored me yet? These blogs don’t write themselves you know.

See you tomorrow.

Donate buttonUsual Sign-Off

• Current total: £1,075

• Remember this is all for charity, so any pennies or pounds you can spare PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.

• Follow me on Twitter to make sure you see what trainers I’m wearing each day.

• If you have any trainers you could donate (either on loan or old pairs you’re getting rid of) which are size 9 (ish – I can do anything  from 8 to 10) contact me at davegolderSFX@gmail.com so I can arrange collection.

• Please, please, please leave comments below! I’m after ideas for mini-challenges, future photoshoots and how I can find enough pairs of trainers!

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Day 207: A Giant From Beyond The Wall

Who needs a Game Of Thrones-style budget when you’ve got a few action figures?

July 26 main

You’ve heard of Vans Off The Wall trainers? Well, these  are Vans Beyond The Walls trainers.

Thanks to SFX for providing the new Game Of Thrones actions figures, which are great and incredibly well-detailed, even if Tyrion does look a little bit like Mark Hamill does nowadays. The only problem is that they came my way post-magazine photo shoots, in a jiffy back full of severed limbs and a jumble of weapons. Ironically Ned still had his head; in fact, it didn’t seem removeable, which is surely one of marketing history’s greatest missed opportunities.

I was going to a bit of research to work what belonged to whom, but then I slept in this morning and couldn’t be arsed to be honest. I have watched every episode (I think Thrones is my second favouite thing on TV currently) but I’m not into sword porn, so I never take much notice of whether a Northern hilt looks different to a Valyrian hilt. (I don’t even know if I’be got the terminology correct in that last sentence.) I’m too busy getting excited about dragons.

So I did reunite Dany with her hand and  Jon with his arm, but I’ll leave it to you to work out “Who who fight with a weapon like this?”

Game Of Thrones action figures

Game Of Thrones weapons

Click on the images for larger versions.

The trainers are on loan from Simon Withers again. I think he has more pairs than me – he says he’d forgotten he even owned these.

Don’t forget! I need new donations to make sure I attempt a mini challenge in  Ausgust. See Saturday’s blog for details.

See you tomorrow.

Donate buttonUsual Sign-Off

• Current total: £1,065 (Thank you Lisa Wood!)

• Remember this is all for charity, so any pennies or pounds you can spare PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.

• Follow me on Twitter to make sure you see what trainers I’m wearing each day.

• If you have any trainers you could donate (either on loan or old pairs you’re getting rid of) which are size 9 (ish – I can do anything  from 8 to 10) contact me at davegolderSFX@gmail.com so I can arrange collection.

• Please, please, please leave comments below! I’m after ideas for mini-challenges, future photoshoots and how I can find enough pairs of trainers!

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Day 206: A Nike-mare On Elm Street

Englund’s dreaming…

July 25 main 3

Today’s Sole Of Sci-Fi feels old school. No, not Vans Old Skool. It’s like one of my posts from the early days of this charity challenge. No Photoshop, just an action figure on loan from SFX and a pair of Nikes on loan from Steve Gotobed.

To be honest, I needed a simple set-up today, because I did drink rather a lot last night, and feeling a little delicate now. This aways happens when I’m out with Viv. She’s a bad influence on me. Not that I need much encouraging.

The Freddy Krueger action figure has a brilliantly detailed head, but the jumper is a bit mid-’80s children’s TV presenter – it makes him look a bit cuddly and tubby rather than lean and scary. Also, for some reason, no matter what pose I put him in, he looked like he was doing Frank Sinatra karaoke.

Freddy Sinatra

More toys from the SFX office tomorrow.

I may be a day late with next observation, but I couldn’t NOT mention it. Quite the most disturbing image I’ve seen on TV recently (and I’ve been watching Hannibal) was former Captain Jack John Barrowman’s entrance in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, emerging from the crotch of giant kilt like a little tartan willy.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 08.15.17

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Don’t forget! I need new donations to make sure I attempt a mini challenge in  Ausgust. See Saturday’s blog for details.

See you tomorrow.

Donate buttonUsual Sign-Off

• Current total: £1,060 (Come on guys – let’s raise this a bit!)

• Remember this is all for charity, so any pennies or pounds you can spare PLEASE DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.

• Follow me on Twitter to make sure you see what trainers I’m wearing each day.

• If you have any trainers you could donate (either on loan or old pairs you’re getting rid of) which are size 9 (ish – I can do anything  from 8 to 10) contact me at davegolderSFX@gmail.com so I can arrange collection.

• Please, please, please leave comments below! I’m after ideas for mini-challenges, future photoshoots and how I can find enough pairs of trainers!

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