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Posts Tagged ‘freakin’ awesome’

The Shadow Out Of Recess

November 16th, 2010 No comments

This is great stuff: an artist challenges a group of kids aged 8-18 to draw the monsters of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction. The results? Surprisingly good! (Okay, so everyone had to make a sanity roll before lunch, but that’s a small price to pay for art!)

You can see galleries of youthful interpretations of the Elder Things, Old Ones, Shoggoths and even Great Cthulhu himself at David Milano’s blog!

Oh, HELL Yes

June 29th, 2010 No comments

Something I did not know about until five minutes ago, but now cannot possibly wait a moment longer to see: a live-action version of the classic Japanese animated space opera Space Battleship Yamato (aka Star Blazers):

So You Think You Can Dance, Batman?

June 16th, 2010 No comments

Categories: Weird Tags: , ,

Oui Je Souhaite Voir Ceci

April 8th, 2010 No comments

A trailer for Luc Besson’s latest film, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. From what I’ve been able to determine, it’s an adaptation of a series of graphic novels about an early 20th century adventuress. Mummies? A pterodactyl? I’m in!

The Box Of Delights

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

The other, non-a cappella reason I was largely incommunicado these past couple of weeks was that I was prepping for Winter War, Champaign’s annual wargaming convention. Unlike many past years, when I only showed up long enough to participate in the auction, this time I signed up for three days of events.

I played:

  • Age of Conan (a Risk-like strategy game set in the world of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian hero)
  • Heroscape (a rules-light wargame set on a massive board with a mixture of snow, lava and swamp terrain, plus a big castle in the middle)
  • Doctor Who (which I thought would be the new role-playing game based on the TV show, but was actually a terrible, old Games Workshop boardgame I used to own before I happily got rid of it for its awfulness)
  • Battlestar Galactica (everyone’s favorite “who’s the secret Cylon?” boardgame, with the “Pegasus” expanded rules)
  • Warhammer 40,000 (a tournament event of the popular tabletop futuristic wargame)

Age of Conan was enjoyable, though I think I’d hesitate in adding it to my collection. I already have a bunch of games that involve pushing plastic soldiers around a map of the world/galaxy. Plus, it’s expensive ($80 SRP), and perhaps a bit too complicated for a night of casual gaming. My Aquilonian empire got off to a crummy start, unable to generate more than a couple of soldiers while the Turanians were out making diplomatic woo to all their neighbors, but by the end of the game we were knocking on the doors of Cimmeria itself and I managed to take second place.

My friend/co-worker Deane and his daughter were among the Cylon suspects who played Battlestar Galactica. For the uninitiated, BSG is a semi-cooperative game in which the players are characters from the TV show trying to survive frequent attacks by Cylon space fleets and sabotage by certain members of their own group who are secretly working for the other side. This was the first game of BSG I’ve played in which I was one of the Cylons…and it was also the first game in which the Cylons failed to stop the human fleet from reaching their destination.

As for the Warhammer tournament…well, I’m coming to that.

First there was the game auction. I love the auction. It is–no joke–one of my favorite things each year. This year I took a vorpal sword to my game collection and unloaded a storage bin full of stuff. And if that had been all that happened, it would have been enough.

But then there was the Box.

The Box was an oversized Sterilite container chock-full of plastic gaming miniatures. Mostly Dungeons & Dragons, but also Star Wars, Heroscape, Heroclix and Mage Knight. There were even a few lone stragglers from Creepy Freaks, Dreamblade and Horror Clix, not to mention a few zombies from the Zombies!!! boardgame, a Lego skeleton, a Darth Maul toy and, inexplicably, a dry erase marker.

And when I saw it, I said, “I will walk out of here with this box.”

The Box.

The Box.

I wound up paying a mere thirty bucks for it, which was a steal considering that I would’ve gone as high as sixty and still felt good about it. I also bought a big bag of Heroscape terrain pieces (presumably from the same person, as it was a similarly random assortment of stuff) for $15.

The Bag o' Heroscape.

The Bag.

That evening I pieced it out. There were 360 D&D figures, 88 Heroscape (without their army cards, but still) and 54 Star Wars. Lots of rare figures, too, including a Huge Red Dragon and a couple of Rampaging Wampas.

Contents of the Box.

Contents of the Box.

Contents of the Bag.

Contents of the Bag.

I sorted out what I considered to be the dross (including all of the Mage Knight minis) and sold it the next morning for ten bucks to a guy who just wanted some fantasy miniatures for his kids. Net cost: $35.

They say that money cannot buy happiness, but they did not bring home a metric fuckton of plastic fun.

Sunday morning brought the Warhammer 40,000 tournament. I hadn’t played 40K in a couple of years, and had never played with the current edition of the rules. I was kinda nervous about it, and spent a lot of time in the preceding two weeks relearning the rules and adding some fiddly bits to my Sisters of Battle army.

Turned out that I needn’t have worried, since I was one of only three people who signed up. That was okay, though, as I wasn’t really in it for the tournament anyway. I just wanted an excuse to blow the dust off my space nuns and get up to date on the new rules.

"To battle! In the name of the Emperor!"

"To battle! In the name of the Emperor!"

Good thing too, as I got slaughtered by the other players’ Space Marines. The only game I won was the the third one, and that was because my jetpack girls were able to “capture the flags” and get them back to my side of the board. Turns out that my army–which is based entirely around what I happen to have in my collection–isn’t really up to fighting a fully tricked-out Space Marine force. It was disheartening to see gal after gal fall under what seemed to be a never-ending stream of long-range fire. Still, it was okay, as I had no intention of actually winning.

The cave tunnels were especially frustrating for my jetpack troops.

The cave tunnels were especially frustrating for my jetpack troops.

However, I did win the “sportsmanship” award, which ought to be amusing to anyone who has gamed with me on a regular basis. Granted that I’m far from the poorest sport I’ve known, but I certainly shouldn’t be getting any awards for it.

The event organizer also graded our modelling and painting skills*, and that was when I dearly wanted to say something that would’ve cost me my sportsmanship recognition.

Look, I have no illusions that I’m any great shakes as a model-builder. When I was a kid, I made my dad build and paint all of my monster models.

But when I think about the state of my abilities when I bought my first set of space nuns to where I am today, I’m very proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish over the years. I’ve become much more confident and more likely to experiment with modifications and conversions.

*That’s actually pretty common for events based on Games Workshop games, as modelling is such a big part of the hobby.

So I was pretty annoyed when the organizer went down his painting checklist:

paintscore

First off, I really wasn’t bringing my army to show off my mad painting skills.

Plus, even though I realize that what I’m asking for here is an “Everyone Gets a Prize” prize, I feel as if I ought to at least get some credit for the progress I’ve made. And for bringing such an oddball army as Sisters of Battle when everyone else had boring, ol’ Space Marines.

And finally, while the winning army was more technically proficient, Marines–most of whom are encased in relatively featureless ovoid armor suits–are not nearly as tricky to paint as Sisters. Battle Sisters are 1) smaller, 2) insanely detailed and 3) less likely to cover their faces with helmets. (I hate painting faces!) I mean, really…figure skating and diving give points for degree of difficulty; why not wargame modelling?

So, even though I don’t regret participating in the tournament, I don’t see me ever doing it again.

In the end, I had a great weekend overall. For the first time in far too long, I felt energized and ready to take on the next week! (Maybe I’ll practice my painting.)

Categories: Games Tags: , ,

Hey, Hey Kids!

January 6th, 2010 No comments

It’s the opening sequence of The Simpsons, done up in live-action for Estonian TV!

Categories: TV Tags: ,

Sixty Things I Like About Who: #58 – 60

January 4th, 2010 No comments

And so we say goodbye to David Tennant as Doctor Who

#58:  “The End of Time”

This song is ending, but the story will never end.

I watched the second half of “The End of Time” with a mixture of sadness and relief: sadness over the impending death of the 10th Doctor, relief that the story ended so well. Russell T. Davies’ season finales tend toward an everything-plus-a-neon-encrusted-kitchen-sink approach. For all the spectacle and joy, there are usually at least a couple of eye-rolling, Earth-towing moments.

Part one threatened to take a hard turn in that direction. John Simm’s incarnation of the Master was already brimming with lunacy, and “The End of Time” added to that a botched resurrection that left him bursting with energy, jumping fifty feet in the air and gobbling down whole chickens. And that was before he used the Immortality Gate to transform nearly every person on Earth into a maniacally laughing duplicate of himself. So it wasn’t without reason that I feared that the conclusion would journey into the gone-too-far territory of “Last of the Time Lords.”

Speaking of Time Lords, part one ended with the biggest reveal since the Dalek army in the concluding moments of “Bad Wolf”: Timothy Dalton as the (saliva-intensive) Lord President of Gallifrey presiding over a massive assembly of the Doctor’s own people. There had been hints of the Time Lords’ return–notably a publicity photo of Dalton wearing their telltale robes–but I honestly didn’t anticipate that all of them would be coming back, or that they’d be bringing their planet with them.

In hindsight, it had to happen. After five years of references to the Last Great Time War and the Doctor’s status as the last remaining Time Lord (more or less), it was fitting that Tennant’s tenure ended with the possibility of overturning that status quo, then demonstrating why that would be a bad, bad thing for everyone.

I admit that I’ve missed the Time Lords, but I can understand why Davies did away with them. If they were truly as powerful as often had been suggested,* then why wouldn’t they step in and sort out universe-threatening problems before they started?

As it turned out, the Lords of Gallifrey were themselves out to destroy the universe and thus to win the Time War. I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised; the Time Lords had always been assholes. They’d birthed more than their share of mad power-mongers, and in their prosecution of the war against the Daleks, they’d shown their willingness to transgress their own legal and moral boundaries in reincarnating the Master** to fight for them.

*Never mind that in most of the Gallifrey-centered episodes of the original series, the Time Lords were seen as doddering bureaucrats incapable of turning back a handful of aliens made of cellophane, much less the amped-up Daleks of the modern era.

**Interestingly, Dalton’s character was apparently Rassilon, the long-deceased founder of Time Lord society. I wonder, did they resurrect Omega, Borusa and other renegade Gallifreyans as well?

The visuals were spectacular, but what really made this story sing were the quiet scenes between the Doctor and the Master, as well as the Doctor and Donna’s grandfather, Wilf. We learned what the Doctor felt about his endless cycle of death and rebirth. And we found that after all of the death the Master had caused, the Doctor still saw in him the friend he lost.

The Master was even allowed a redemptive moment that, surprisingly, didn’t seemed forced. Perhaps that was because it seemed less about saving the Doctor’s life than it did about the Master venting his rage against Rassilon for visiting madness on him in the first place.

With both Master and Time Lords dispatched, the Doctor appeared to have cheated the prophecy of his death. But in the most heartbreaking moment, we heard those four quiet knocks and realized that sweet, old Wilf would be the one to bring his end.

The next fifteen minutes may have been similar to the multiple epilogues of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but like that film trilogy, I felt that the last five years of Doctor Who had earned its long goodbye. It was nice to see everyone one last time, my favorite reunion being the Star Wars cantina riff featuring Captain Jack and a multitude of returning aliens.

At last, it was time to say farewell to the 10th Doctor.

That brings us to:

#59:  David Tennant

I don’t want to go.

And I didn’t want you to go.

My first Doctor was Jon Pertwee, and I count Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy among my favorites, yet I think that David Tennant was my favoritest of all. His Doctor was enthusiastic, joyful, quirky, manic, angry, compassionate and loving. In other words, all of the previous Doctors in one gangly package.

Plus, he had an awesome coat.

It didn’t hurt knowing that Tennant himself was an uber-fan. On the other hand, that’s why I thought that he might stay longer than his three-years-and-change. The previous four Doctors (C. Baker, McCoy, McGann and Eccleston) had such short lifespans that I’d hoped David would aspire to the Tom Baker end of the scale.

Ah well, it was not to be. British actors are notoriously fickle about tying themselves to a long-running TV role.

So long, Doctor Ten.

And so long to:

#60:  Russell T. Davies

Now, I’ll admit that I’m ready for Davies to move on. I’m hoping that the show will get past his vision of a vengeful, dangerous Doctor. And, as I’ve mentioned, Davies doesn’t always quite know where to draw the line between a good idea and a what-the-fuck one.

But I absolutely must give Davies his due. Without him, Doctor Who might never have come back, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have regained its prominence not just as a mass-market phenomenon, but as a by-the-grace-of-Rassilon international franchise.

He made so many right decisions, from his impeccable, risky casting choices to his decision to respect the past without wallowing in it. Lesser producers can (and have) taken the show in less-fruitful directions.

While his writing is at times prone to excess and deus ex machina, his character scenes are excellent. And he’s been responsible for some of my favorite episodes, including “Tooth and Claw,” “Smith and Jones,” “Gridlock,” “Partners in Crime,” “Midnight” and “Turn Left.”

So, props to Russell T. Davies, David Tennant, and the many, many cast and crew members who made the last five years in time and space one hell of a ride!

Movie Manna

August 7th, 2009 No comments

Help me!Just stumbled across the most amazing website: The Wrong Side of the Art, featuring what appears to be well over 1,000 exploitation, sci-fi and horror movie posters scanned in at huge size. Suitable for computer wallpaper, or for printing out and papering your actual walls! Just keep reminding yourself…it’s only a movie (poster)…it’s only a movie (poster)!

Star Trekkin’

May 11th, 2009 No comments

The biggest fans of the new Star Trek film must surely be the tourist board of Riverside, Iowa, who just found their attempt to brand their hometown as the birthplace of James T. Kirk rendered canonical. And as a bonus, the U.S.S. Enterprise itself was built there. High fives all ’round, Riverside.

The promos proclaim “This is not your father’s ‘Star Trek.'” They’re right. If you’re a young adult moviegoer, this is your grandfather’s ‘Star Trek.’ What’s now unspooling in multiplexes across the country is the purest distallation of  Trek since the original series went off the air in 1969.

If the sold-out crowd at Friday’s 7:15 show was any indication, Star Trek may finally be cool. When it was over, the audience burst into spontaneous applause. My wife applauded. And then she said, “They need to do another movie right now.”

From the nearly pitch-perfect casting to the sense of wonder, whimsy and–most of all–fun, this is the Star Trek movie I’d been waiting for since the noble-but-bland premiere of 1979’s The Motion Picture. It may not have had quite the emotional wallop of The Wrath of Khan, but that had the benefit of the original, beloved cast.

spockbootyOne thing I really liked about the new film is that it gave everyone something to do. The old show was very much built around Kirk, Spock and McCoy; we never found out what made Uhura or Sulu tick. Here, Uhura was very much a major character. And Chekov–Chekov!–got one of the best moments with his last-second transporter rescue. While Chekov the Whiz Kid was a new take on the character, I found that it gave him a great hook.

Two aspects of the plotline that initially gave me pause were the time-travel element and inclusion of a Next Generation-era villain. My hope had been that the film would take the Casino Royale approach and simply start the series over from scratch. However, I suppose it’s necessary to throw this sop to the Trekkies: that the old continuity really “happened,” and may even still be happening, albeit in a parallel reality. 

Plus, there was plenty of fan service on display. We finally got to see Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru “no win” scenario. (Possibly my favorite scene; Chris Pine nailed the old, cocky Kirk.) We got Captain Pike…in a wheelchair, no less. We got green Orion women. We even got a tribble.

That said, the film made it clear that nothing will ever be the same again. By making a major deletion to the makeup of the Federation, they’ve loudly announced things are going to be different, and that we’d all better stop worrying about the “canon.” (I will admit that I’m somewhat glad that I learned about this particular spoiler in advance, as I’m enough of an old-guard Trekkie that it might have thrown me if I hadn’t been prepared.)

Okay, I’m going to get a few quibbles out of the way. I did find some of the comedy to be perhaps a bit too slapstick, especially Kirk’s big hands and the Scotty-in-the-pipe sequence. I’m not sure why the upper decks of the ship look like an Apple store but the engine room looks like a boiler, complete with riveted girders. And the writers seem to have no sense of outer spatial relationships: Vulcan is only a 10-minute warp flight from Earth, and the ice planet Delta Vega appears so close to Vulcan to be one of its moons. And just how far away was the Enterprise when Scotty executed that mid-warp transport? It had presumably been warping away from Delta Vega for hours by that point in the narrative, and thus far, far too far for even the most Scotty-riffic transporter use.

However, that really is pretty minor stuff compared to what’s great about the film. There were terrific performances by Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as McCoy, plus good work from pretty much everyone else. While Ben Cross didn’t really do it for me as Spock’s dad, I thought that his relationship with Spock was well explored, and liked that we finally got a sensible explanation of why he married a human woman. (Two of ’em, actually, and the second one brought a tear to my eye.)

In the end, what I love about this Star Trek is that finally takes the franchise back to its roots. The later generations of Trek had their pleasures, but Kirk, Spock, McCoy and company were the template. It’s great to have these characters back, not as aging, increasingly unlikely action stars, but in the prime of their careers with nothing but an unknown future ahead of them.

Also, Starfleet miniskirts. Glad to have those back as well.

The New Star Trek Movie In Three Words

May 8th, 2009 No comments

Oh, hell yes.

Too many? Here it is in two:

Vic applauded.

More later.