What about snake swords…?

This one goes out to Georganne.

The other day I finally got around to watching The Road Warrior. It was time, given the maledictions of my peers. Make no mistake – the censures were meet and just. Every SFF buff should watch the second installment of the Mad Max series.

I won’t do a deep dive here, as I’m almost 40 years late to the party, but a few notes:

1. Ah, so that’s where the dog companion (especially in post-apocalyptic wasteland setting) trope comes from!

(Update: Nope.)


2. Great mix of low and high tech and interesting flavor choices. Gun ammo seems to be a rare and valuable commodity, so some firearms but not a ton. Flamethrowers, crossbows, gyrocopters? Yessssss.

3. Characterization wasn’t very strong, but it didn’t need to be. The main villain was kinda cool and mysterious. The sidekick was amusing. The townsfolk included a hot Amazonian chick. Mad Max was Mad Max (though his departure directly through the bad guys’ camp was a head-scratchingly dumb-ass move; would a survivor like him really do something so brazen and foolish?). The world building makes up for this.


There were a lot of cool fights and much violence, but my favorite element may have been the weaponization of snakes by the gyrocopter pilot dude. When I reflected upon this brilliance, a couple of Twitter friendlies pointed out that it was also done by Thulsa Doom.


True! I almost forgot about that!

Two things, though. In Mad Max, Gyro uses the snakes as projectiles at one point, tossing them from above onto baddies in punked-out roadsters. This is a bit different from Thusla Doom’s use – shooting them like arrows. If we had to give points here, I’d award them to Doom for style.

So far as precedent, though, it either goes to Mad Max or ends up a wash. Conan the Barbarian was released in May of 1982. The Road Warrior came to the US a few days later in the same year, but was released in Australia in 1982. So really Mad Max did it very slightly earlier.

Either way, snakes as ranged weapons: Yesssssss.





The truth about Princess Leia

The internet is teaming and writhing with hot takes on Star Wars. Personally, I haven’t seen The Last Jedi and I feel no great desire to. I only finally watched Rogue One a few months ago on Netflix, so I may catch TLJ on TV or streaming out of curiosity someday. For me it isn’t so much moral outrage, even though a lot of the people involved in “New Star Wars” do show contempt for those of us with more traditional and conservative values. It’s more that I’ve reached my Star Wars saturation point. I still love the original trilogy. Knights of the Old Republic was great, and the old Expanded Universe was hella fun. The Clone Wars animated series was pretty well done, too.

But slapping the Star Wars label onto something isn’t enough for me to like it, and I’ve seen enough of the franchise’s recent offerings to know that I’m not really its target audience anymore.

Incidentally, when you’ve lost Bishop Barron, you know you’ve taken a wrong turn. I mean, the man is an excellent critic and can throw a strong rhetorical jab, but he’s also pretty charitable when it comes to contemporary media. After all, the whole “Word on Fire” thing of his is about engaging with and finding Christ in our modern culture, no matter how buried He may sometimes be. So when he watches your movie and falls asleep, and laughs at your protagonist…

The Bishop’s chief criticism of New Star Wars and the people involved with it comes down to this:

“The overriding preoccupation of the makers of the most recent Star Wars seems to be, not the hero’s spiritual journey, but the elevation of the all-conquering female. Every male character in The Last Jedi is either bumbling, incompetent, arrogant, or morally compromised; and every female character is wise, good, prudent, and courageous.”

I don’t want to say this 3rd-wave feminist mindset isn’t concerned at all with good storytelling, but certainly it’s far more interested in intersectionalist narrative and female/minority empowerment (whatever that means) than overall quality. That is to say its agenda is not entertainment but messaging.

I noticed this apropos thread in my Twitter timeline this morning and picked out a couple pieces:

Obviously not everyone is buying into this baloney, but the whole line of thought seems to be indicative of an all-too-common reductivist false duality: Either a female character is a Strong Womyn who needs help from no man or else she is a regressive damsel in distress and of no use to us. #NotMyPrincess

For the sake of brevity, I won’t delve into the character of Rey in The Force Awakens or the chick from Rogue One (I honestly don’t even remember her name). Let’s talk about Leia and the original trilogy.

The fact is, yes, she was a damsel in distress. Quite literally – she was a princess in mortal peril (about to be executed) upon the Death Star. Whether the princess can or does physically ask the knight to rescue her from the dragon’s lair is irrelevant.

She was again saved at Jabba’s palace by Luke and Lando.

She was also a strong female character. The two facts are in no way contradictory.

The thing is, even though the characters of the original trilogy fall into certain archetypes, they were layered. They developed. They all had strengths and weaknesses. And none of them were defined exclusively by their sex, race, or any other one element of their identity.

Let’s look at some more facts about the original trilogy, with a focus on Leia but keeping the other main characters in mind.

A New Hope

Luke: A farm boy who is good at flying. He is saved by Obi-wan twice early on in the film. Not a particularly great shot with a blaster. Not particularly quick to learn the ways of the Force. He is courageous, and he helps rescue Princess Leia. He is rescued by Han at the Battle of Yavin, allowing him to score the shot that blows up the Death Star.

Han: A somewhat greedy, roguish smuggler. He’s got tricks and skillz. Doesn’t want to bother with rescuing Leia until enticed by wealth. He’s gutsy and somewhat impetuous in a fight. He helps rescue Leia. Ultimately does the right thing and comes back to rescue Luke.

Leia: A princess with a lot of moxie. She’s got attitude and is willing to die for a righteous cause. Pretty good in a blaster fight (she might have even nailed a few more stormtroopers than Luke). Not a pilot; not a gunner; not a brawler; not a Force sorceress. She is rescued on the Death Star by Luke and Han and crew.

The Empire Strikes Back

Luke: He’s coming along. Does some jedi training. Rescued by Han early on on Hoth. Tries to rescue his friends on Bespin. Gets rescued by Leia when he’s hanging from a wire.

Han: Rescues Luke on Hoth. Shows some brains to match his fighting and flying skills. Woos Leia. Gets carbonited and his friends try to save him.

Leia: Does the courtship dance with Han. Admits her love for him. Kinda sorted rescued by Luke on Bespin, then rescues him. Tries to save Han from Boba Fett.

Lando: Put in a tough spot, he sells out his friend but in the end he decides to try to atone and make good.

Return of the Jedi

Luke: Helps rescue Han (and Leia). Instrumental in recruiting the Ewoks native to Endor to the cause of the Rebellion (and shows mercy in resolving the capture of him and his friends peacefully). Finishes his character arch as a space knight/wizard. Redeems his evil father. Still not insanely powerful in any regard, though the guy’s a man with his own skillz now.

Han: Rescued by Luke, Leia, and crew. Now he’s all-in with the Rebellion and with Leia. When he thinks she loves Luke, he’s even willing to step aside for the sake of their happiness. Quite a bit of progress from the selfish smuggler from the first film.

Leia: Helps rescue Han, then is rescued by Luke. Slays Jabba the Hutt personally. Fights alongside Han (and Luke) on Endor.

Lando: Helps save Han (and Leia). Plays an instrumental role in destroying the second Death Star, along with the heroic Nien Nunb.

So for the original trilogy, here’s my rough count:

(I’m not counting Lando here and only really listed him above because yes, there was a major black character in 1980 who did heroic and cool things. Finn was not the first.)


See, the thing is, in Star Wars a bunch of friends and comrades help each other out. They are all rescued at some point. They all need help. And they all reciprocate. Unless you give Luke an extra credit for blowing up the Death Star, Leia’s actually got a better ratio going than him! So yes, she needs rescuing! She also helps save her friends!

The pitting of the sexes against one another is idiotic. Luke, Han, and Leia are all brave. Luke and Han are men, and they show it. Leia is a woman, and she shows it.


There’s nothing shameful about this at all. She was a great character and a strong woman back when the men of Star Wars were strong and great, too. Before they were forced to compete and lose by inferior, agenda-driven writing. Back when she was Princess Leia and not General Leia. And the greatest sin here isn’t the incorporation of certain values and beliefs into the new Star Wars stories; it’s that it’s become so central as to render good storytelling secondary.



King Lance

This morning I was listening to the Midnight because they’re the best.

For some reason I then felt compelled to Google this scene from Terminator.

Hey – who’s that at the 1-minute mark? It’s Bishop from Aliens! Who is that guy, anyway?


Hey, he’s been in a lot of stuff. Mostly bit parts, looks like. But hey, as recently as Into the Badlands. Cool. He also did some voice work in the Mass Effect games.

Wait. Hold on a sec.


Oh snapola – he was the King in the Super Mario Bros. movie!


Time to go home. This has been a productive day.




Worth a Watch: The Babysitter (2017)

Despite my growing fondness for weird tales and Gothic fiction, I’m still not really that much of a “horror fan.” A lot of modern horror movies are too reliant on cheap scares (oh shit something popped out and there was really loud string music!) and also I like being able to sleep at night without dwelling on dark and terrifying alternate realities.

But I do make allowances, particularly for horror movies that some might not even consider real horror. Netflix’s teen horror comedy The Babysitter is such a one. The trailer looked kind of goofy in an Evil Dead kind of way and gave off a sort of late-80’s-early-90’s camp flick vibe.

I gave it a viewing last week and on the Bushi Binary Watch Scale, I give it a 1 for “Watch.” Without saying too much about the plot, it’s able to successfully build and maintain tension while scattering in plenty of humor. While there are certainly a few gaping holes should you make the mistake of taking the story too seriously and there are silly moments, I wouldn’t call it a silly movie.

A word of caution – there’s a bit of dirty language, and that girl-girl make-out scene featured in the trailer does carry on a little bit longer in the film. It doesn’t get much more graphic than that, though, with the exception of a very brief scene with a couple in bed and a rather unsexy handjob apparently going on under the covers.

Aside from that, of course there’s gratuitous blood and violence. But in a fun way.

Evil Dead II
Pictured: Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams


Kaiju commented that it is definitely an homage to classic slasher films like Halloween. Personally I can’t point to any of that, but it did feel like a throwback to growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. The wardrobe and the cultural references were dead-on. There’s even a “hot girl getting in the pool” scene!


If any of this sounds up your alley and you’ve got a Netflix subscription, go check it out! There are definitely worse ways to spend an hour and a half. Like watching Mazes and Monsters.

Oh, and Bee’s SF Dream Team kind of sucks. Picard is a waste of a slot!





Mazes and Monsters

There is a film from 1982 called Mazes and Monsters, starring a young Tom Hanks. What? You’ve never heard of Tom Hanks starring in a fantasy Dungeons and Dragonsy movie? That’s because this isn’t really a fantasy movie, and it isn’t a good movie.

Mazes and Monsters is about a group of college kids who play the titular game. Tom Hanks takes on the role of a transfer student looking to make a new start after becoming too absorbed in M&M to the detriment of his grades. Almost immediately he meets a young (and unconvincing) genius who also happens to be the Dungeon Master Maze Controller for a small group of players on campus. Hanks initially declines, but is eventually pulled in after meeting one of the other players, who happens to be a girl. The fourth member of the group is a hunky blonde dude who apparently can’t find love because nice girls are put off by his good looks.

The movie kind of crawls along. Things happen. There’s an inconsequential romance. The genius MC convinces the group to graduate from tabletop play to LARPing in a dangerous nearby cave.

For some reason Tom Hanks has some kind of psychotic break in the darkness, and he takes on the identity of his “holy man,” Pardieu. Somehow he’s living with this new personality for weeks and his friends don’t really notice anything other than him acting “a little weird.”

Then he disappears. His friends eventually track him down to New York City, where he’s gone to seek “the Great Hall,” some crazy fantasy version of his long lost and probably dead brother. Some punks try to mug him and he knifes one of them, seeing a lizard beast.


His friends wind up saving him before he takes a dive off one of the Twin Towers, but the film ends on a bleak note. Despite his mother saying that he’s much better, the group discovers that he’s trapped thinking of himself as Pardieu. He tells them that the inn he’s been staying at (his parents’ house) is a good place and asks them to accompany him on an adventure to the dark forest beyond the enchanted lake, just off the family’s property.

So this isn’t a fantasy story of magic and adventure. It’s the story of a stressed out kid who goes crazy and retreats to a game world. Shame. I was hoping for something like Dragonslayer but with Tom Hanks instead of the guy from Ghostbusters 2.

If for some reason you’ve read this and still want to see it, it’s currently on Amazon Prime.




Fire & Ice and Warcraft 3

Fire & Ice is currently available on Amazon Prime. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a 1983 fantasy flick animated by none other than Frank Frazetta. If you’re a pulp fan, you probably know who he is. Even if you’re not, you may have seen some of his work:


So on one hand, Frazetta is awesome. On the other hand, the film was directed by Ralph Bakshi, whose name is also attached to the ill-fated 1978 animated Lord of the Rings film (not to be confused with the excellent Rankin and Bass movies).

I gave F&I a watch, and I have to say it’s okay. It’s not bad, and although Frazetta was a lot more skilled at stills than animation, I loved watching his art here. And that’s basically what the movie was – a vehicle for his art. The story wasn’t great, but it was serviceable in that role.

One thing that struck me – as far as I’m aware no one from Blizzard has cited F&I as an inspiration for pieces of Warcraft 3. But.

I mean come on. Also Frazetta was the master of thick chicks.


Also Nekron is a gaylord.




McLintock! and the Minstrel of Gondor

I recently discovered that Amazon Prime’s got a nice little cache of westerns and have been picking through some of the old John Wayne flicks. Yesterday’s lunch break selection was McLintock! – a kind of comedic western about the titular wealthy, but of course manly, cattle baron (Wayne) and his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara). I was pleasantly surprised to see her in the leading woman’s role. Hadn’t realized the two of them had co-starred in so many films together!

Anyway, there was something familiar about movie’s opening song. It took me a moment, but it was that lead vocalist. Sounds a lot like the vocals from that 1977 animated Rankin and Bass Hobbit production. Well, turns out that’s because it is!

Glenn Yarsbrough, who just passed away last year, had a real nice timbre. Here are a couple of his pieces that I remember fondly, despite not knowing who he was until now.

The Minstrel of Gondor! Not a bad post.

RIP, Minstrel.