Crawling towards The Last Jedi…

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In the absence of any hard news about where Rian Johnson is going with Star Wars Episode VIII, this photograph from the director’s Instagram feed is sure to get pulses racing.

The photo shows the title, The Last Jedi, being dropped into the film’s now iconic title crawl.

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With a considerable wait still in front of us until the film’s December 15th release, it’s heartening to know they’ll be sticking with tradition for this and not suddenly introducing a flashy Suicide Squad style opening with garish neon colours and helpful info-dump graphics. Although, after seven previous movies in the saga, maybe that would be useful for latecomers…

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Rare Grooves – The Last Dinosaur

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Welcome to the first in an occasional series of articles where I’ll be looking at the songs that have graced some of my favourite films through the years. Of course, since this is OODH, it’s unlikely I’ll be tackling anything from Grease or The Little Mermaid (fabulous as the Ashman & Menken tunes were in the latter).

In 1977, Japan’s Tsuburaya Productions (creators of Ultraman) teamed up with Rankin/Bass in the U.S. (famous for animated specials such as Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Mad Monster Party) to co-produce an odd little gem, the Tokusatsu movie, The Last Dinosaur. Richard Boone and Joan Van Ark star as two Americans who travel to an Arthur Conan Doyle/Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired lost continent beyond the polar ice caps (accompanied by a Maasi warrior tracker and a scientest, played by Luther Rackley and Tetsu Nakamura), to find a lost geologist, played by Steven Keats.

Co-directed by Alexander Grasshoff and Shusei Kotani, billed as Tom Kotani, the finished production aired in the United States February 11, 1977 as a television movie on the ABC network and shortly afterwards was released in Japan as a theatrical feature.

The film comes roaring from the gate, all guns blazing, with its astonishing main attraction right from the outset. That’s not, as you might imagine, the snarling, drooling Tyrannosaurus Rex as featured prominently in the film’s posters and trailer, but rather the snarling, drooling, sexist, drink-sodden, wealthy big game hunter, Maston Thrust (…no, really). Hollywood legend Boone gives his all (and then some) as the aptly-named Thrust, starting out at ten and then dialling up the amp from there. Subtle and nuanced the performanced isn’t, but it sure is a thing of beauty!

Maury Laws was chosen to compose the film’s score (a job he did for many of the Rankin/Bass specials and series) while the title song, with lyrics by Jules Bass, was sung by Nancy Wilson, and arranged and conducted by Bernard Hoffer.

Bass, of course, was also one of the film’s producers, while Hoffer was later the composer of the theme song from beloved 1980s animated series, Thundercats.

Singer Nancy Wilson, also known as “The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice”, was world-renowned for her career in blues, r & b and jazz. For The Last Dinosaur, her vocals show no condescension at the material and she gives a superb performance in this Bondian recording. The lyrics can hilariously – and quite rightly – be read as referring to both Maston Thrust AND the film’s killer T-Rex, an achievement never topped by John Barry or his lyricists for any of the James Bond title songs.

Sit back, pour yourself a shot of whisky and let your ears be seduced by the 70s elegance of The Last Dinosaur.

 

And the title for Star Wars Episode VII is…

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…yes, as you can tell from the header image, it’s The Last Jedi.

Your illustrious writer has meticulously pieced together all currently verified information, taken his life into his hands by scouring the perilous and murky backwaters of internet rumours and can confidently conclude this title will refer to Luke Skywalker. Unless it refers to Rey. Or maybe Kylo Ren, if he does a last minute turnabout over to the side of the Force that isn’t the Dark Side.

Meanwhile, Lucasfilm released the following statement alongside the title and teaser poster:

We have the greatest fans in this or any other galaxy. In appreciation of the fans, we wanted them to be the first to know the title of the next chapter in the Skywalker saga: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.

If we’re really lucky, the last Jedi will turn out to actually be the Force ghost of Jake Lloyd, the young actor who portrayed Anakin Skywalker in… brrrr… The Phantom Menace, still jumping around sporting that pudding basin haircut and yelling “Yippeee!” everywhere.

Go, go away, Power Rangers…

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In all honesty I was never a fan of Saban’s hugely popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show: too shrill, too forced. I’d be much more likely to watch an episode of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the 16th instalment of Toei’s Super Sentai franchise, from which the American show borrowed footage.

Conversely, I found the movie in 1995 kind of fun to watch with my brain parked firmly in neutral, but not fun enough to make me want to revisit the series.

I’m saying all this by way of admission that it was entirely possible I would not be the target audience for the brand new Power Rangers movie. Regardless, a full trailer has now been released and… well, I have no idea what the heck it is.

There’s your disparate group of good looking teens (“We’re all screw ups!” announces anonymous teen # 4 with all the intensity of a wet weekend in a UK seaside town that’s been closed-up for the winter), there’s a bunch of signposts suggesting they’ll find their way through their screw up-dom to become the heroes they were meant to be, there’s a bunch of rubbish-looking giant CGI thingies doing what they do and there’s a slightly more grimdark version of them all hanging out in their glittered up colour coordinated team outfits. .

Oh, and there’s the much loved Elizabeth Banks as villain, Rita Repulsa. Well, let’s hope she got some kicks out of this, at least. Or at least a new extension to her house.

Frankly, the tone of this trailer is all over the place, starting out with a dark-ish, tormented teen riff on Josh Trank’s Chronicle as they discover they have super powers and ending up with a wisecracking robot sidekick. Who knows what the hell the final film will feel like!?

Anyway, if you’re a fan, here’s your trailer and I hope it’s what you want. I think I’ll just hang on until the next Pacific Rim movie comes along.