The return of Smersh

Not just a name from Bond stories, Smersh (“Death to spies”) was a real organisation. As much an instrument of terror to control the civilian population as an intelligence unit, it was responsible for thousands of deaths on its own side.

Now the name has resurfaced in the Ukraine war, though it’s unclear whether there’s a new version of the organisation operating or if it’s just being used for propaganda purposes.

The Museum of Classic Sci-Fi

The drive from Penrith to Allendale was an adventure in itself, and the Museum of Classic Sci-Fi was one of those surprising, eccentric gems you find in the oddest of places.

It’s fitting that a museum with a lot of Dr Who memorabilia should pack so much into a relatively tiny space. This is just a sample of what they’ve got, and doesn’t include any of the promotional announcements by Davros!

If your in the Allendale area, you should definitely drop in. Check opening times though.


Ambulance is a Michael Bay film, full of action, stunningly shot, and with escalating craziness. It’s basically a live action Grand Theft Auto 5 mission, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Estranged brothers Danny and Will pick a bad day to try to reconnect, as Danny drags Will along to a multi million dollar bank heist. The carefully planned operation quickly unravels, and we lose the barely introduced and fleshed out supporting robbers. Will and Danny, with $16 million in big bags, hijack an ambulance- with an injured policeman and feisty (and, obviously, gorgeous) paramedic inside- and set off on a prolonged car chase through Los Angeles.

A tighter focus, fewer characters, and lower stakes make it easier to stay involved in this film than any of the Transformers flicks. He’s shown he can do it before, with Pain & Gain, and I hope he does it more often in future.

I got Ambulance from my Cinema Paradiso subscription. Streaming is good, but there are loads of films only available on disc. And there are a lot of them I want to watch. And for the blockbusters, there’s nothing like enjoying some of the special features. Click on the link (or this one) to gind out more. (Affiliate link.)

I have questions about Top Gun: Maverick

*Spoilers below*

The aerial scenes in Top Gun: Maverick are stunning. They had me hooked and excited all the way through. But after the film was finished, I was left wondering about the bits between them. So, a few things I’d like to know more about-

Who are ‘The Enemy’?

At no point is the regime targeted in the film’s mission named. They are The Enemy, and they’re going to enrich Uranium. They also have some of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world. They’re probably not Russia, particularly as they also operate old American aircraft as well. Are they former allies? Were the F14s captured in some earlier conflict?

Presumably The Enemy aren’t named so the film won’t risk causing offence on the international market. You can’t blame the producers for that, even if it does feel a bit silly.

What are the 5th generation fighters called?

As soon as we’re told that The Enemy has 5th generation fighters, you know that Maverick is going to be engaging them in a dogfight before the end of the movie, and coming out on top despite their supposed superiority. But surely such fighters would have a name. US Navy top guns would know about the fighters, and would have studied everything known about them. They’d also have a name for them, whether it was the official designation or a nickname they had come up with.

‘5th generation fighter’ is such an unname it’s clumsy and embarrassing. It’s a rookie writer mistake, to conjure up a big bad so terrible only our plucky hero can defeat it, then not even name it.

What’s the rent on an old aircraft hangar?

At the start and end of the film, Maverick is hanging out in his massive workhop/garage(/home?), working on his P51 Mustang and surrounded by all his cars and bikes. As he’s still only a Captain after all these years in the Navy, can he actually afford all these toys, and the space to store them? This looks more like the sort of place that millionaire film star Tom Cruise would own.

I’m sure there are more questions that need asking, but I’ll leave those for when I re-watch the film in a few years.

I got Top Gun: Maverick from my Cinema Paradiso subscription, which sends me DVDs and Blurays by post. There are loads of films only available on disc that I want to watch, and this is teh best way to get them. And for the blockbusters, there’s nothing like enjoying some of the special features. Click on the link (or this one) to find out more. (Affiliate link.)

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)


Hugo Drax is a national hero in mid-fifties Britain, having risen from amnesiac wounded soldier to millionaire businessman. He is spearheading, and funding, Britain’s ICBM programme- the Moonraker of the title. However, horrors, he cheats at cards.

This is where Bond enters the story, as M asks him to show the cheater a lesson. This would probably have been a more thrilling sequence if I knew the rules of Bridge. Amped up on one of his less appetising cocktails- champagne and benzedrine- Bond fleeces Drax for fifteen grand, somewhere in the region of seven times his annual salary.

Then, the story proper starts. A security officer at the Moonraker site has been shot, before he could report something he deemed important. Bond goes in as his replacement, to work with undercover Special Branch officer Gala Brand. I won’t give away any more plot points, but, together, they foil a nuclear plot.

Bond doesn’t really do much to uncover the plot. He simply stirs up some trouble trying to find out what his predecessor had stumbled upon, whilst the key discoveries- and the solution- come from Gala Brand. He suffers some serious batterings, and writes off another Bentley, along the way.

The plot of Moonraker hinges on a lot of coincidences. Indeed, Bond himself muses on all them toward the end of the book. But, in the reading, it rolls along at such a pace that you don’t really notice the happenstance until the hero draws your attention to it.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews

The wonderful world of Mad Max rip-offs

As I’m writing a story inspired by Mad Max and the whole post apocalypse road warrior genre, I’ve been watching quite a few eighties era rip offs of the original.

A fair few of them are mentioned on this list, and I’ve gone searching for the ones I haven’t seen yet. Be warned, you are not going to encounter high production values, subtle acting or coherent storytelling if you follow me down this path. But most of these films are enjoyable in their own clunky ways.

(Don’t tell anyone I told you, but many of these films can be found, complete, on YouTube. Often ripped from VHS copies, the reproduction can leave a lot to be desired. But, as so many of them are currently unavailable any other way, this could be your best chance of seeing them.)

Source: The 10 stupidest (and most shameless) Mad Max rip-offs

Lights, Quadcopter, Action!

If I was making a movie I’d be calling on Team Black Sheep, or a local equivalent, to get some aerial footage. The night-time flight high over a cityscape has become something of a thriller cliche, but just imagine how much of a surprise it would be to viewers if you then flew into a boathouse or under a bridge as they do in this video. The quadcopter could allow directors to plan more surprisingly intimate aerial shots. If they haven’t been used in a full length film yet it can’t be long.

DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s “The Fantastic Four”

Back in 1994, legendary B-Movie filmmaker Roger Corman produced one of Marvel’s first movies. It was a feature film adaptation of The Fantastic Four, which at the time never saw the light of day. It has since been bootlegged and leaked, and has gained a cult following over the years.

Director Marty Langford has created a documentary called DOOMED!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s “The Fantastic Four” which gives us the full behind the scenes story of the film’s troubled production and release.

via Trailers for DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s “The Fantastic Four” — GeekTyrant.

Peak Shark!

In the wake of Mega Shark v Giant Octopus, we’ve seen the likes of Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus, Two-Headed Shark Attack, Sharktopus, Malibu Shark Attack, Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Ghost Shark. All of them follow the same blueprint, and none of them is really about sharks. The sharks in these films could realistically be any scary thing. You could feasibly be watching Two-Headed Zombie Attack, or Megavampire Vs Werewolfosaurus. Which, now I’ve written it down, is something I really want to see. But that’s not the point. Somewhere along the line, the majesty of sharks became shorthand for generalised cheapo scares.

Yet I shall probably watch them all.

Avalanche Sharks: have we reached 'peak shark'? | Television & radio | The Guardian.