Fearsome Critters – Toren’s Guide to Everything Podcast Episode 8

Around 1900 there was a tradition among lumberjacks in North America to ascribe mysterious noises and happenings to a growing menagerie of fabulous beasts that became known as ‘fearsome critters.’ If there was a strange noise in the woods, it was attributed to the treesqueak. If a windstorm knocked down a tree, it was the splinter cat. If a ‘punky’ branch fell on or near a lumberjack, it was the agropelter. In episode 8 of Toren’s Guide to Everything I go into great detail about these and many more folklore cryptids.

Listen to the podcast:

https://anchor.fm/torensguide/episodes/Fearsome-Critters-Episode-8-etqfc7

Battletruck AKA Warlords of the 21st Century (1982) Post-Apocalyptic Movie Review

Merciless ex-military warlord and his goons drive a giant truck around the wasteland, terrorizing wanderers and settlers alike. The warlord’s daughter, having run away from her evil dad, hooks up with a lone wolf on a sweet motorcycle and they defend a settlement from the BATTLETRUCK.

Better than I expected, this was actually made at the same time as Road Warrior so not sure if it’s fair to say that it’s a ripoff. Though it takes place “in the near future” technology is more or less the same with the exception of some fancy grenades and the advanced console of the BATTLETRUCK. The lead actress is uncharismatic and the lone wolf only slightly better. There’s no real chemistry between anyone in the film but it’s nice to see pre-Cheers John Ratzenberger.

Tropes: damsel has sex with her rescuer; idiot toady of villain; traitor in the good guy’s camp; lone wolf hero rides into the distance because he’s got to be free, lady; vehicles explode for mysterious reasons

Toren’s Rating: 4.75/10

Now back to Toren’s Post-Apocalyptic Movie Guide

Stryker (1983) Post-Apocalyptic Movie Review

In a water-scarce post apocalyptic wasteland, a young woman who holds the secret location of an endless spring, and the colony that guards it, breaks out to share it with the world. The evil forces of the warlord Kardis capture her and try to torture (and rape) the secrets out of her, until she’s rescued by a stoic, uncharismatic manly man of few words, Stryker, and his sidekick Bandit. Eventually she and amazon-inspired, pants-eschewing battle maidens lead Stryker and his brother’s clan back to the spring, where a not-so-epic showdown between Kardis and Stryker inevitably occurs.

Cirio H. Santiago relies on his usual post-apoc playbook once again, complete with gangs of sand-dwelling dwarves, a beer-bellied bodyguard goliath and unremarkable desert roads and sand dunes.

The only stand out here is a rare tactical use in film of smoke grenades.

Tropes: flashbacks; villain with hook hand; semi truck full of water; damsel falls for her rescuer; hero dragged behind car.

Toren’s rating: 2.5/10

Now back to Toren’s Post-Apocalyptic Movie Guide

Toren’s Best of 2020

Best word added to Oxford English Dictionary: IT’S A TIE:
bird colonel, n.: “A full colonel, as distinct from a lieutenant colonel. Also in full bird colonel.”

cakeage, n.: “In a restaurant: the cutting and serving of a cake that has been brought in by a customer from off the premises; (hence) a charge levied for this…”

Best newly discovered non-spider species: THREE species of greater gliders! Petauroides volans, Petauroides minor and Petauroides armillatus

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Best newly discovered spider species: Iran’s velvet spider Loureedia phoenixi 

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Best Darwin Award winner: “Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, what trying to prove the Earth is flat, was killed when he crashed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off in the California desert.

Best meme:  Nature is healing. We are the virus.

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Best Film Documentary: My Octopus Teacher

Best Magic: The Gathering card: Skyclave Squid (Zendikar Rising set)

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Best animated series I haven’t watched yet: More episodes of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal!

Best Star Trek release: Lower Decks “Crisis Point”

Best new animatic presented as a short film: Ruin Nation

Hostile (2017) Post-Apocalyptic Movie Review

A scavenger in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, trapped overnight in her overturned vehicle with a dangerous man-creature roaming around, reflects upon her life choices.

I don’t usually review ‘zombie’ films, but it’s not entirely clear what the creature is, despite the fact that it seems highly resistant to injury, so I choose to believe it’s some kind of viral mutant. Regardless, without the post-apocalyptic monster angle this would be a pretty by-the-numbers tale of a rich man getting involved with a pretty heroine addict.

Tropes: trapped with a nocturnal monster; light stops working; radio stops working; twist ending

Toren’s rating: 6.5/10

Now back to Toren’s Post-Apocalyptic Movie Guide

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ) 1984

Let me start by saying that the trailer posted here does not do justice to the film. The dialogue is clunky, read without any nuance, and the song is not part of legendary Joe Hisaishi’s wonderful score for the film, which goes from orchestral, to sitar + tabla, to 1980s synth masterfully. So, ignore the trailer.

I first saw this film in its dubbed, Americanized version called “Warriors of the Wind,” with over 20 minutes cut from the original, rented, no doubt, on VHS. The cover art for the box, below, shows gun- and lightsaber-toting characters who have nothing to do with the movie, with the main character relegated to the back corner. It wasn’t until 2006 that Disney released the full film in the west, though I’m sure I got a sneak peak through my habit of tape-trading through the 90s.

Regardless, the movie took hold of my imagination like no other. The design of the world, the creatures, the flying machines, and the characters are fantastical yet immersive. You feel the grandeur of the world, but the highly curious and compassionate princess Nausicaa also makes it intimate, with her connection to it.

In brief, 1000 years ago a global war culminated in the “Seven Days of Fire” which decimated human civilization and created the Sea of Corruption–a toxic jungle full of giant insects and deadly spores which threaten to consume the world. Nausicaa lives in a farming community in the Valley of the Wind which keeps the forest at bay. Regardless, her father, the king, is dying from spore contamination. As she tries to unlock the secrets of the toxic jungle, a flying fortress with a deadly cargo crash-lands in the Valley, involving Nausicaa and her people in a conflict between warring nations.

The movie takes enough time that you can appreciate the visuals, the sound design…you can almost smell it at times. You feel the power of the war machines and the giant god-warriors, and the awe, mystery and alien-ness of the toxic jungle and its denizens. Nausicaa has a profound capacity for empathy that connects her with any creature she finds, and which takes her enemies aback, but that empathy also gives rise to uncontrolled rage when turned by injustice and pain. The viewer identifies with her as someone who is just trying to understand the world while getting caught between cold, thoughtless assholes with their power-grab agendas. But even then this movie, through Nausicaa, brings you close to these characters so that you understand their point of view, if not their actions. And when the shit hits the fan in the last act you are with Nausicaa all the way.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is based on Hayao Miyazaki’s original manga

The minor quibble I have with the story is the ‘bird man’ prophecy angle, which I feel is unnecessary and tacked-on. Other than that, this movie is, for my money, a perfect piece of art that is filled with heart. 10/10