Tag Archives: Indiana Jones

Machu He Wrote

IMG_0498He may not be Stephen King, JK Rowling or Dan Brown, nor is he breaking records on the New York Times Best Seller list but Dave Phillips does have a book bearing his name on book shelves. Two to be precise.

There was no multimillion pound deal, no pitching or pouring over manuscripts, this was self-publishing using a fantastic service and software from Blurb. They say that everyone has a book in them, with Blurb it couldn’t be easier to make it a reality.

And that reality is ‘The Last Picchu Show’.

Dave Phillips has been a keen blogger on WordPress for several years with his mix of reviews and acute observations. His blog, Writer on the Storm, began predominantly as a travel blog, charting his travels across America.

Peru_2011_424This odyssey was followed was followed by an even greater epic journey, one this time that would take him down the Amazon and into deepest, darkest Peru (marmalade sandwiches optional) and to Machu Picchu.

If adventure has a name then it must be David Phillips. It was this journey that I decided to take and put into print form, to produce it as an actual book.

It sounds like an easy cut and paste job, far from it. By the end of producing this ever so special limited edition book I almost felt that I had been on the actual journey with Dave as well.

IMG_0496I’d had to read each and every word, scour each picture and add ever so minor tweaks and edits to ensure it fit on the pages properly and looked the best it possibly could. I’d immersed myself in the work completely, it taking over whole evenings into early mornings in the race for a Christmas deadline. This was to be the ultimate gift for Christmas.

In many ways it was also the culmination of something that started over 20 years ago as when we were both aged 13 or so we attempted to write our own horror novel together.

Dave’s style drags you into his world of adventure, it’s a very likable prose and his regaling of events is enthusiastic and makes you feel a part of the experience as if it were your very own. It’s one part Michael Palin, one part Dave Gorman, one part Indiana Jones but unmistakably whole part Dave Phillips.

Of course I’d read it before as the adventure originally unfolded over time but I’d never consumed it all in such a short period of time. For me it was the equivalent of devouring a whole DVD series boxset in one weekend.

The original content my not have been my own work but important choices in size, font, which images to use, cover design and back cover blurb were all editorial decisions to be made by me. With great editorial power comes great responsibility, I guess, and for me it was only there to muck up.

I knew (hoped and prayed) Dave would be impressed by the end product but I’d set the bar high and wanted to do the work justice, I wanted to produce something that looked felt and smelt like a book you could buy on Amazon or in Waterstones.

There is the odd silly error (on my part) that I’ve noted but considering I was acting as a twilight one man publishing machine, with a helping hand from the Blurb design system, I think the book is something of a mini-triumph.

I was so impressed with how it looked online that I went and ordered myself a copy, there still isn’t anything much greater than seeing something you have helped create and nurture in physical print. Something that you can hold, touch and flick through. I knew all about it and I was still blown away by how good it looked.

peru backI think it is safe to say that Dave was rather taken aback with how good it looked, you’d swear some of his pics were library pictures, and read as well, it never fails to amaze me when you read back your own work and think, ‘how did I even think of that?’ After all, Dave hadn’t read much of his blog entries from that time since he had originally posted them.

It was great to hear that even after having it a while he was reading his own book on the train to York. With my copy there are currently only two copies of the book in existence. I’d love to see everyone on that train to York reading it.

That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds as with Blurb the more books you self publish the lower the price, there are a whole host of other print on demand possibilities as well. Bottom line is we can take another pass at it and republish it better, faster, stronger. Who knows Dave could go from sailing up the Amazon to selling his books on it.

Now…how do I top that this Christmas?

peru-2011-763[2]Of course technically if his travels to the US get the book treatment that would be a prequel, so continuing the loose Indiana Jones thread that would make it his Temple of Doom (minus chilled monkey brains – although there was a Guinea Pig – and Short Round). Does that mean any third travel adventure would have to be with his dad?

The Force is with them: Disney buy Lucasfilm and are set to return to the Jedi in 2015

With the news of the Walt Disney Company buying up Lucasfilm and announcing a brand new Star Wars trilogy it would appear that as Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker at the end of the original Star Wars, and in turn us the audience, ‘the force will be with you…always’. How right the old bearded fella was.
 
You’ve got to feel at least a little bit sorry for all those folk who have only just shelled out for Star Wars (yet again) when it was released on bluray.
 
You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that someone was playing some serious Jedi mind tricks when the news was first unleashed. It was more a case of what Disney? rather than Walt Disney when it was announced last night of the sale of Lucasfilm to the house of mouse for 4.5 billion dollars.
 
That’s more than enough money to fill a sarlacc pit. And that’s not all, laugh it up fuzzball, as Disney then went on to announce that it was slating a new Star Wars for 2015 release, followed by two more after that with Lucas on board as Creative Consultant.
 
As Darth Vader might say: whhhhhhaaaaat!!!
 
Unsurprisingly, that news sent much of the internet and social media into something of a spin and attracted more postings and comments quicker than a death star with its tractor beam on full power.
 
So, was the move by Lucas and Disney right?
 
Certainly, if the stock exchange were open I’d love to see the impact on the Disney share price.
 
They have amassed quite an Empire now, if you’ll pardon the pun, with Marvel, the classic Disney back catalogue, Pixar, and not forgetting The Muppets, all now part of their ranks.
 
Strike them down and they will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine
 
It’s all a far cry from the late 70s when everyone was attempting to jump onto the Star Wars band wagon, Disney itself adding The Black Hole into the mix, which did just that in terms of box office takings, disappeared into a black hole. Other similar sci-fi and fantasy fare from Disney, such as Dragonslayer, Tron and even the animated The Black Cauldron – all with Star Wars undertones in one way or another – all tanked.
 
Certainly its offerings under the Marvel banner, such as The Avengers, have all struck CP30 coloured gold, as did The Muppets reboot, a franchise harking from the late 70s that had also lost its way.
 
But then we come to Disney’s John Carter from earlier this year. In theme and feel it was very much pitched as a Star Wars adventure for a new generation. The till receipts suggested otherwise and it was last seen heading not to Mars but straight into the mouth of that very same Disney black hole.
 
Disney might have a slippery Hoth glacier to climb with fans expectations, but Lucas himself has left the franchise in something of a state and to be fair the quality control rot had been there since…well, a long time ago. You only have to look as far as the Star Wars Holiday Special, The Battle for Endor and Caravan of Courage and of course multiple elements from the prequels, which, rather fittingly, were a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes as Lucas couldn’t see the woods – or should that be words – for the trees.
 
That was the past, so what of the future?

Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels must be sat somewhere waiting for their phones to ring, and who can blame them.
 
In some way shape or form it would be nice if there was a passing of the baton, or should that be lightsaber, from elements of the old cast to the new one. Perhaps even David Prowse might see a way back of sorts, after he and Lucas had a major falling out.
 
It may all be set a long time ago but the reality is that 2015 is not far, far away which suggests that the studio is already some way down the Episode 7 road.
 
Perhaps it will be direct continuation based on the critically and commercially well-received Timothy Zahn novels with followed the Star Wars children as it were.
 
Who knows, Harrison Ford may even get his wish and have Han Solo killed off, just as he wanted in Return.

The purchase of Lucasfilm also raises a multitude of exciting questions and possibilities.
 
What does this mean for the much mooted Star Wars TV series?
 
Does this purchase also include LucasArts and could that mean a Monkey Island film in the not too distant future?
 
For that matter, with Marvel and Lucasfilm under one mouse eared roof could a Howard the Duck reboot be on the cards. I’m not saying it should, just asking.
 
The Henson and Lucas link could of course mean a belated Labyrinth sequel could be a possibility. It has been a long time since the original but look at Tron Legacy and The Dark Crystal follow up is already in the works.
 
Does the Lucasfilm sale have any impact on that other Lucas series, Indiana Jones?
 
The possibilities for related rides etc will be endless at the already well established global Disney parks. It could even be something that emulates the success of the Harry Potter Tour.
 
One other thing, will filming, like it did for the original trilogy, return to the UK?
 
We won’t even mention Jar Jar.

The Return of the Jedi and other characters

Disney might now well be running the bucket of bolts that is star wars but you can be sure, despite the clunky prequels, that this first new film will be no goofy movie (that was Phantom) and that this new trilogy will make the jump to box office lightspeed on, surely, May 4th 2015.
 
Even if it will be without that Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox fanfare, something which has become as synonymous with the franchise as that word crawl, but then moving studios hasn’t done Bond any harm.

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 3

It’s the final part of our Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour experience and there might not be a Potter gold at the end of this trilogy, but there is the gift shop and more behind the scenes magic to be enjoyed…

As we stepped out into the sunshine, we took a few moments to take in the views of full size versions of the Knight bus (which Isabelle was rather obsessed with and was hard to get her off the back of it), the Weasley’s car and Hagrid’s motorbike and side car, all of which you could get in and have your photos taken in or next to…so obviously we did and it of course would have been rude not to.

This was great as back in Studio J there was the opportunity to have photos of yourselves sat on a broomstick whizzing through London or sat in the Ford Anglia car veering out of the way of the Hogwarts Express for the princely sum of £12. We might have done it if the queue time wasn’t an hour and Isabelle wasn’t getting a bit niggly.

Isabelle clearly enjoyed driving the car, with me in the driving seat (most of the time) on Hagrid’s motorbike and side car, trying to evoke more of a feeling of Indiana Jones and Henry Jones Sr from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade than say Wallace and Gromit or (even worse) Olive and Arthur from On the Buses! Isabelle did get a little bit stuck/lost in her seat but was quite comfy all the same!

 

 

 

Before embarking on previous said images outside and indeed inside vehicles (calming gritting teeth to queue jumpers I might add – I nearly gave them a lashing of my parcel tongue but thought better of it save for the rather loud PG comment or two) we enjoyed a cup of Butterbeer between us, which at nearly £3 I’m glad we did share.

It was somewhat disappointing that it came in a plastic cup and not in a small tankard that you could keep for a couple of quid extra, I’m sure it isn’t served as such in Florida’s Wizarding World of Harry potter, the only other place in the world where Butterbeer is served. And the taste, not to be all Jilly Gooldon, but it was one part melted werthers original meets cream soda, something of an acquired taste and rather sweet, even for me, but no doubt everyone who passes through will give it the taste test.

In that same outdoor area you also found a couple of other structures, including the exterior of the Dursley’s Privet Drive, filmed in an actual street for the first film but recreated on set for all instalments after that, the crooked house and part of the great bridge that connects Hogwarts.

Note Isabelle hanging onto the door knocker!

Round the edges of this area are some of the memorable chess pieces that formed the battle at the end of the first film that nearly saw poor old Ron meet his maker, it’s a shame they are hid in the shadows and not set up on an actual giant chess board or something.

It was then back inside to the Creature Workshop which showed you some of the models, animatronics and general FX magic that went into creating the menageries of creatures and beings that we encountered along with Harry. It was certainly odd coming face to face (or should that be head to head) with Nearly Headless Nick’s head, which I guess in many ways would actually make him Really Headless Nick!

His head could be found with shelves of others that could have easily looked macabre but for me was one of the highlights of the Tour, having seen such similar things from the makings of everything from Star Wars to Labyrinth and the Stan Winston Creature Workshop, it was great to see some of these creatures up close and personal.

It was also nice to see that even in this world of CGI there was still plenty of room for physical effects and creatures and that it wasn’t all just done inside of a computer and that the world still cried out for giant spiders and snake heads.

I don’t recall seeing the rather intriguing Shark Man (top right corner of the image on the right)  before though, who reminded somewhat of that awful Craig T Nelson starring Peter Benchley miniseries, The Creature, about a half man, half shark. As bad as it sounds.

The sheer quality and detail of work on display soon cleared that thought from my mind, with some amazing work, especially the life-size figures of Harry and Dobby, which made it look as if they were in some sort of cryogenic stasis.

It was at this point that Isabelle went exploring on her own and I had to chase her up Dyagon Alley, there’s a phrase you don’t find yourself using every day! We returned with Sarah in tow to see the range of shops and all they had to offer, alas you can only walk past them and they aren’t actually selling goods but this recreation is gift enough.

Passing through the shops I thought that we’d find ourselves back in the Harry Potter shop but to my delight we came across a wonderful display of concept art for creatures and locations, followed by some really rather intricate model work in paper that has to be seen to be believed.

If nothing else, after this tour you can really appreciate why the credits for such films are so long as there are just so many (until now) unsung heroes who are working on each and every single aspect of the film creating plans and drawings for buildings as if they were for real, which after they had weaved their magic, very often were.

Hogwarts is where our tour began, in The Great Hall, and Hogwarts is where our Tour ended, with a model of the castle that the word model doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.

It was a giant of a model that was used in background and really was astounding in its sheer scale, detail and delight it raised in everyone who saw it. Each side as impressive as the next as you walked round it through the changing light of day into night and the end of our adventure at the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour.

VERDICT

Now, to be honest, it is something of an obvious statement, but, if you don’t like the behind the scenes film making process of films or don’t like Harry Potter (you can be a fan of either or, it helps if you are both, it really doesn’t help if you are neither) then this probably isn’t the place for you, certainly not at those ticket prices. But then, you wouldn’t pay upwards in price of what individual tickets cost to go and see a band if you didn’t like their output would you? I think it is the same here really.

Did we buy the guidebook, yes, did we go for the audio tour, no, because we thought we had spent enough, knew enough about Potter and also those on the audio tour kept t on getting in the ruddy way moving Walking Dead like from one ‘press the next button spot’ to another. I’m sure it was very good and informative but we felt we knew enough without needing to hear the Potter patter.

We paid £28 per adult ticket and Isabelle was under 4 so she was free (I see us going to see so much stuff before she is 4 I can tell you!). All in all, for us, we thought it was great value for money and a magical day out for Muggles everywhere.

We were there for over three hours, which would have been longer if we were on our own but was enough with Isabelle, and talking of which, after her long and exciting day she was soon fast asleep, all hufflepuffed out!

Gremlins

To describe Gremlins as a kid’s film would be like describing the Bates Motel as a swell place to stay.

Cutesy in a typical Spielbergian world at the very beginning, sure, but it is soon revealed that we, the audience, and indeed the Peltzer family are sorely mistaken and have somewhat misread the situation in the ultimate ‘always heed the instructions’ moment in cinematic history

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas, such is the number one life lesson that we can all learn from the Spielberg Executive Produced, Joe Dante Directed, Gremlins. Rounding out this trio of talent is then scriptwriter – later Harry Potter Director, Chris Columbus – who was on something of a roll after penning scripts for both The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes around the same period. This ‘E.T. with teeth’ captivated and entertained and still stands tall as a comedy horror Christmas classic, and you don’t get many of those.

Originally a spec script by the young Columbus the feature was set to be a very different ‘beast’ with the Gremlins being even more dark and twisted, with the irresistibly cute Gizmo turning into Stripe, Barney the dog getting hung and Billy’s mum’s head rolling down the stairs!

Being a Joe Dante film it is a veritable reference of film and cartoon delights, from a cameo by the legendary animator Chuck Jones to a blink and you’ll miss it Steven Spielberg disappearing in a Time Machine

It’s a deliciously wicked and rich film, even until this day and has an almost timeless charm about it like that other 8o’s classic Back to the Future, which also shared the Universal backlot as its main set that created the town, Kingston Falls, and it does so spectacularly.

We get suckered into the cute, furry routine just like the Peltzers. It’s a family movie alright, but more about a families survival than in the traditional sense of the word. As such it caused such shockwaves Stateside and was one of two films that year, 1984, that helped create the PG 13 rating in America, the other film being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

For all the Gremlins’ attacking from a Christmas tree, driving a bulldozer into the Futterman house, causing mayhem in the streets it’s a very low key scene that lingers in the memory and proves to be the most distressing, that classic monologue by Phoebe Cates on why she hates Christmas, a chilling story of them finding her dead dad stuck up the chimney dressed as Santa Clause. Inspired and perhaps only pipped by the SS Indianapolis story speech by Quint in Jaws for its powerfulness and evococativeness.

The set pieces and the imagery, their swirling lights of the swimming pool when Stripes throws himself in at the deep end, the tension of the death of the college tutor scene played against the rapidly beating heart on the projector, on par with anything in The Howling. Not to mention the discovery of the pods and the classic kitchen scene.

It’s a shame that Dante went for out and out comedy in the sequel as it would have been an interesting study in terror to see them go really, really dark. Of course, a remake or reimagining has been mentioned but it really does remain to be seen whether the Gremlins would hold the same appeal us knowing that they were merely pixels. The Gremlin creations by Chris Wallas are pretty much pitch perfect in design, that other unsung hero of the film is also Jerry Goldsmith and his blistering score that manages to be both comical and scary in equal measure.

It really is a nasty piece of work, and is all the more beloved and beautiful for it. Full of great energy, Dante clearly has great fun letting the Gremlins run riot in the usual Spielberg-like world, albeit one full of B-movie horror high jinks, and it all works wonderfully thanks to the film’s humour and the charm of its young leads. It maybe a special effects lead film but it’s the story that drives it, just like Back to the Future again in many respects, remember when that happened?

Alien is often mooted as the monster sci-fi movie of reference but for me it will always be Gremlins, for me it will always be a great big little monster movie.

Dean Newman and the Dentist of Doom

You remember that bit at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? You know that bit round the table with the diamond swap and a tux wearing Dr Jones finds out he has been poisoned and must get the antidote.

Well that was me earlier today at the dentist, minus the tux and the diamond of course, but I felt exactly the same as Indy, sweaty brow, blurred vision and loss of hearing after being given two anaesthetic jabs for some filings.

Asked to wait in the waiting room, where else, whilst they began to take effect I suddenly found myself burning up and ringing stamping out any other noise as I tried to regain focus on some woman singing about making pizza’s on CBBC…I’m fairly certain this was on TV at this point and it wasn’t me just being delusional.

I was then summoned back into the dentist’s chair but the dentist and her assistant’s face said it all as there was a buzz of activity and hushed conference between them as an almost fainting me was ushered into the chair and positioned so blood could rush back to my white as a sheet face. I’m pretty pale at the best of times but they said that the rest of the colour had completely drained from my face and was promptly given a glucose drink and asked to keep speaking to ensure I didn’t loose consciousness.

I’m not the biggest fan of dentists, thanks Marathon Man, but this was all brought on by a combination of the heat, my worry and not having had any lunch. Next time I’ll be packing a chocolate bar (and tooth brush for after naturally), my wife (handily a nurse – even though she laughed at my pale face in that chair today, and they call it the caring profession. I was assured it was a caring laugh though) and take the option of being knocked out. After freaking the bejesus out of my very nice and calming dentist I’ve been deferred to another practice, but I’ve heard great things about the Pankot Palace Dental Surgery and if you are really well behaved you’ll even get chilled monkey brains afterwards (hey, I started with an Indiana Jones theme so felt I had to end with one as well.)

Luckily my wife works just next door and she was summoned to help me navigate my way down the stairs, to be honest I felt a little bit like Rain Man (kind of dazed wandering) meets Lembit Opik (weird mouth and speech from me still being all numb), but am just pleased we were able to walk out as naturally as possible and not have to run behind a giant rolling gong and jump through a high rise window.