Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Blue Angels

While the Royal Air Force’s flying displays by the Red Arrows are world famous, and the US Air Force has a Thunderbirds team, there’s a US Navy squadron that seems to be less well known outside America. The Blue Angels was first launched in 1946 and, in spite of some federal budget cuts, are still flying today with their standard blue and yellow livery. 

The Blue Angels current jet of choice flying in demos is the Boeing (MD) F-18 Hornet. A premium quality diecast model produced by Hobby Master proved un-affordable, so far, but I have a Motor Max version (in 1:72 scale) that’s a perfect place-holder, until I can find £40 to spare.

Older aircraft flown by the Blue Angels in previous decades, include the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II (1969-73), which is one of my favourite planes, and I have a Corgi model of this in 1:72 scale  

Another plane from an earlier period is the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (alias, T-bird) used by the Blue Angels in the 1950s. The Falcon model is excellent quality in the much preferred 1:72 scale.

The Blue Angels use a US Marines-crewed Lockheed KC-130F Hercules, nicknamed Fat Albert, and my Corgi model of this (in 1:144 scale) makes a superb addition to the collection.

I hope to get older planes like Grumman’s F6F-5 Hellcat and F-11F1 Tiger, also in the Blue Angels colours, but the models of these planes by Falcon and Hobby Master are too expensive.

Monday, 8 December 2014


While the Marvel comicbook Guardians Of The Galaxy was a memorable combination of space opera and superhero action, James Gunn’s movie rejects the original comic’s ‘cosmic Avengers’ - a team of genetically adapted 31st century humans, in favour of a newer but dumber generation, in a line-up of supposedly media-friendly stereotypes. Although it’s good to see a blockbuster ‘space movie’ that is not just another pointless addition to the Star Trek franchise, or an undesirable continuance of the overworked Star Wars universe, it’s a shame that Disney fare has been crudely shoehorned into a Marvel venture, and I suspect that many fans of previous space operas, Farscape and Firefly (TV shows that were frightfully over-rated), might enjoy this GOTG movie far more than I did.

Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon are primary influences on this lone-Earthman-lost-in-space adventure, that’s hampered by its affectation for 1980s references (Kevin Bacon was a cultural hero in Footloose?) with a mix-tape batch of tiredly unimpressive (but, probably, easy to acquire the copyright clearances for?) pop songs that can hardly be considered ‘classic rock’ exemplars. They add no dramatic spirit or sense, or even faddish value, to the interstellar warfare scenario that desperately needed some social concern or political relevance in accessible, if metaphorical, terms.

As green Gamora, a weaponised slave ‘daughter’ of death deity Thanos (introduced in Avengers Assemble), Zoe Saldana can do nothing more than overact and strike blank-faced action poses. As blue Nebula, former Doctor Who starlet Karen Gillan so easily out-classes Saldana, especially in their scenes together, that it’s embarrassing to note the misjudged hierarchy of casting choices. Champion wrestler Dave Bautista makes a fist of vengeful Drax the Destroyer, but never manages to grant his intentionally stilted dialogue the right measure of tongue-in-cheek appeal. Glenn Close plays Nova Prime (leader of the star cops) as if she’s got bills to pay and is having a bad hair daze. Michael Rooker makes noble savage Yondu into a blue-skinned variant of The Walking Dead’s redneck Merle.

Apart from the welcome presence of Benicio del Toro, as the creepy Collector, there is very little here that is appropriately uncanny with eerie alien improbability. Cheap TV show Lexx boasted rather more genuinely imaginative and witty use of its sci-fi weird aspects, and even the Riddick movies had a greater dosage of astronomical and inter-planetary strangeness. Now if only they could hurry up and remake Blake’s 7 on such a widescreen scale as this, that might offer us a lot more chills, and real fun!