Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Squad Update

I'm sure you all remember my first post about First Squad.

Well, apparently it was shown at the Cannes Marche du Film, and to celebrate they gave us a new trailer. Check it out RIGHT NOW:

EDIT: It sounds like the story is based very loosely on some Soviet propaganda YA novels. Now that's pretty awesome.

SECOND EDIT: After spending quite a bit of time trying to hunt down the novels mentioned in the interview, this is the best I could do. It's called "Young Guard," not "Pioneer Heroes" like in the interview, but the content sounds very similar. Still, the interview says that the stories were popular in the 80's, and "Young Guard" was published in 1947, so I can't really say if I'm on the right track.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lackadaisy Volume 1, or, A Lesson in Good Timing

You may recall that, some months ago, my lady and I met Tracy J. Butler at Wondercon 2009. Ms. Butler was offering to sketch a Lackadaisy character with each book ordered at the con, so my lady took the opportunity to order one. She paused a moment to decide which character to request, but we both knew it was an obvious choice. Though she does like many of the characters quite a bit, Mordecai, the punctual, articulate, and ruthless hit man for the Marigold gang is definitely her favorite character (and mine as well). She placed the order, paid the money, and wrote down the address. She also bought a signed poster, and I bought a pin.

Weeks passed, then months, and we began to worry. My lady wrote them to see if everything was all right, and they assured her that they had her order and were getting to it. More time passed, and I started to wonder if she had written the address down wrong, or perhaps the book had been lost in the mail.

You may have noticed that today marks the anniversary of my lady and I seeing each other for six months. How fitting, then, that my lady received something in the mail today.

My lady somehow managed to resist the temptation to open the book until we could open it together. So we brought it to my apartment, opened the package, removed the book from the bubble wrap, and admired the cover. Then we saw the sketch and immediately understood why the book had taken so long.

Somebody seems to have forgotten to tell Ms. Butler how to do a book sketch. You draw a quick, loose-lined drawing of your character in about ten to twenty seconds, then move on to the next book. There is nothing wrong with this, as it allows artists who are already quite busy to create something personal for huge amounts of fans. Instead, Ms. Butler drew, well, this:

I cannot describe how grateful I am for the time and effort Ms. Butler put into creating this image.

Six Months

What can happen in six months? In that span of time, one can...

  • debate Wolverine vs Putin

  • watch Carnivale

  • find out about new comics

  • go off the record

  • learn about the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency

  • keep an eye out for stairs and other places someone can step up on

  • set up a rat oil business

  • conquer the underground kingdom of the Mushroom Men with an army of Dinosaur People and become Khan of All Dinosaurs

We'll see what the next six months bring.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

These Are The Voyages (warning: contains spoilers)

Don’t wanna sing now or play guitar
I wanna get drunk in a seedy bar
Get in a fight and kill a red shirt
And bring this f***er to red alert
--Warp 11, "Red Alert"

On Saturday, my lady and I went with two of our friends to the California Theater to see Star Trek. It surprises nobody to learn that we are all Trekkies, and we all had high expectations going into the movie. To me, this movie was do-or-die for the Trek franchise. Gene Roddenberry is gone, rest his soul, and the shows have steadily declined in quality since DS9. Enterprise was a sad, divisive last gasp of a beloved franchise that alienated its longtime fans while failing to attract new ones. Now studios seemed to be giving Trek one last opportunity to prove itself. No excuses: it would have a huge budget, J J Abrams, a large cast of good-looking, at least moderately famous people, and enough marketing to make a Ferengi blush. I felt that the franchise had woken up to find the head of its favorite targ next to it in bed. If this movie didn't work, that would be it.

Fortunately, Star Trek is making money hand over fist, and I don't think we need to worry about that dropping off any time soon. I know that my lady and I are already planning our second viewing (something we were actually doing before even seeing it the first time!), and I am sure that many of our fellow geeks will be boldly going where they have gone once before to see it again.

I could go on and on about the way this movie brought the fun and the "wow" factor back to Star Trek. There were several moments where I realized that I had been smiling without knowing it. Rather than boring you to death with endless babbling, I will share a few of the things that really made this movie, and some of the things that were not so good.

First, the good:

  • Karl Urban nailed the character of Bones McCoy, from the first moment we hear him declare off-screen that, damn it, he's a doctor. I would have a very hard time picking a favorite TOS character, but if someone held a disruptor to my head, I would probably pick McCoy, so I was glad to see him done so well. Urban nailed McCoy's quirky charm and comfortable drawl, and yes, my dear, the eyebrow!!

  • Along those lines, the parts where Spock sits down at the controls to the future spaceship and says "Fascinating" and where Scotty says "I'm giving her all she's got!" were absolutely perfect.

  • Simon Pegg played Scotty. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of "Spaced" knows why this was an absolutely inspired choice of casting. He seemed to be having a blast every single second he was on the screen, which is perfect, because one of the best things about Montgomery Scott was his joy.

  • Scotty's little sidekick alien was absolutely hilarious. If, before I saw the film, you would have told me that the movie would give Scotty a little sidekick alien, I would have told you that it's a horrible idea and I would have listed ten reasons why Scotty should never, ever have a little sidekick alien. But the second I saw that little critter's lip wobble when he thought Scotty had deserted him, I knew that these two deserved each other.

  • Leonard Nimoy was absolutely perfect. It's a testament to Zachary Quinto's acting that his portrayal of Spock wasn't completely overshadowed by Nimoy's. It was as it Nimoy was saying, "You can be Spock now, but don't forget that you have some serious shoes to fill." Nimoy's Spock was wise, kind, and full of a startling reservoir of emotion. In a word, he was legendary, which is exactly what this movie needed him to be.

  • A lot of the comedy in the film worked very well, which is good, because the amount of humor is one thing that separates the original series from the later shows. The "Weektor Weektor" scene was my favorite.

And now, the bad:

  • The villain. Nemo was utterly bland, and what's worse, I think it was intentional. I'm almost tempted to believe that the producers were afraid their villain would out-shine their heroes and thus defeat the purpose of a reboot, but if that could ever be the case, they really should have had more faith in their cast. Facial tattoos do not make you interesting or scary. You need a two-bladed lightsaber if you want to pull that off.

  • The Kobayashi Maru scene was, in retrospect, something of a let-down. As this blog points out, the Kobayashi Maru test is supposed to be about Kirk's inability to accept a no-win scenario and his willingness to do whatever it takes to overcome his obstacles. Instead, it comes across as Kirk being somewhat insufferable. That said, the movie does tell us that this is his third time taking the test. If it would have shown more of Kirk failing, fighting off frustration and defeatism and finally triumphing, the scene would have given us a lot more than Kirk sitting in a chair, eating an apple, and preening.

  • A lot of the stuff with Sulu fell flat for me. First, he forgets the external inertial dampeners when he is about to go to warp. When I was restoring my iPod just now, it warned me that I was currently syncing my iPod, and made sure I still wanted to restore. So a spaceship in the future doesn't automatically warn you that the 'parking brake' is on? Then we get the fight scene on the drill. I thought it looked really cool when he pulled out his sword (fanboy moment), then was immediately let down by the fight that followed. It was some of the worse fight choreography I had ever seen. Almost Blade-esque. (If you ever want to see how not to film a sword fight, watch the original "Blade.")

That's about all that I want to complain about. As a nerd, it is my duty to nit-pick (and there are probably more nits I could pick), but it's Star Trek, and I loved the movie, so why focus on the negative?

So here's hoping that this new cast and crew boldly go many, many more times.

As a final note, how come Star Trek gets to rock its 21st century incarnation so hard, when my most beloved franchise, Star Wars, gets Little Annie and Jar-Jar? Well, despite my love for Star Wars, I am a Trekkie as well, and it is a good week to be a Trekkie. Now, if they would only make a movie featuring Klingons and filmed entirely in Klingon....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

TF2 Woes

I was playing TF2 today, because my lady digs it and her enthusiasm for it made me want to play once more. I was playing Sniper, my lady's favorite class, because Sniper had previously been my worst class and I wanted to get some better stats with him. My previous best life was 1 headshot and 4 points. This time I made 4 headshots and 12 points by finding a nice hidey hole in Goldrush next to a sentry gun/dispenser near the enemy base. I played several more games, then TF crapped out on me when I alt-tabbed from the game. I got back in, but when I tried to look at my weapon loadout it gave me some sort of error about not being on Steam. No worries, though, I quit and came back in... to find that I was back to 4 points, 1 headshot with the Sniper. Lame!

But you all believe me, right?

Now, here is a picture of the Team Fortress classes as women:

Is it wrong that I find the Pyro the sexiest? And the Medic is definitely second.


UPDATE: And here's another one. And it's not the only other one I've found. Man, internets.

Monday, May 4, 2009

...and what he does is not very nice

They've deviated slightly from the source material in the... in... in Wolverine, to... to make it work for... for the purposes of the film.
-Ryan Reynolds, on his character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

(Warning: this post is mostly me bs'ing. Also, lots of spoilers.)

It all started with me geeking out over how cool Wolverine is after having seen the first trailer.

Then my enthusiasm for the project was somewhat lessened by the second trailer.

Now that I have seen this movie, it's a bit hard to wrap my brain around it. My lady* and I had been looking forward to this film and speculating about its content (and projected levels of awesome) for so long that I sometimes catch myself wondering what Wolverine will be like, having momentarily forgotten that I already know. In fact, watching the movie was very much like watching the trailers: some incredibly badass moments separated by scenes I was already trying to forget before they were over.

To start things off, I should mention that Hugh Jackman really is the only person who could have played Wolverine and pulled it off. He spends much of the movie growling, roaring, and attacking people with claws that come out of his hands, and he makes it as believable as any actor could. Sure, it's a superhero movie, so realism really doesn't play a terribly big part in the whole thing, but it's nice to watch a movie in which the main actor is putting himself into the role.

We all know that a movie version of a character is going to be different from the comic version, because a lot of the over-the-top drama and action in comics has to be dialed down to keep from looking ridiculous in movies. This leaves a gap in the character, and a truly good comic book movie actor will fill that gap with humanity. Hugh Jackman does this for Logan, wearing the character like a battered leather jacket that years of comfortable wear have molded to his body. Rather than trying to ask himself "What would it be like to be (insert the entire Wolverine Wikipedia article here)," Jackman seems to be asking himself, "What would it be like to be a loner with animal instincts, an unbreakable skeleton, and claws that go 'snikt'?"

And who doesn't want to see Hugh Jackman in character as Wolverine, striding slowly away from a towering explosion?

Credit also goes to Liev Schreiber, who plays Victor Creed (Sabertooth) and does such a good job of it that I did a double-take when I saw a picture of the Sabertooth from the original X-Men film. This new Sabertooth is brutal without being savage, unhinged without being a raving lunatic. I really liked the fight scenes between Jackman and Schrieber. They were well-choreographed and sold by both actors. There's one scene where Creed throws Logan into a stack of lumber that made me wince.

The montage at the beginning with Logan and Creed going through wars together was awesome.

Given that the relationship between Logan and Creed is what holds this movie together, I would say we have a good, solid foundation to this movie. Unfortunately, nearly everything this movie tries to build on that foundation fails.

Each of the Weapon X characters is completely bland and relies entirely on special effects to create an audience reaction. Agent Zero was a lot cooler when his name was Cleric John Preston and he had an entire movie dedicated to him**. The Blob was fat and stupid. The machine-controlling dude made faces that made elevators go. Wraith filled the role of The Cool Black Guy Who Thinks The White Guy Is Cool (see: the weapons guy from Batman, the Air Force guy from Iron Man). Stryker was completely generic, which is a shame because they actually brought up his backstory involving his mutant son, only to do exactly nothing with it. Also, I guess Ryan Reynolds was in it. I think he played some obnoxious dude with swords, but I can't really remember him that well since he's only really in it for one scene. He comes back at the end as a laser-eyed, sword-armed shirtless dude, which I thought was pretty cool. I'm not entirely sure which Marvel character that was based on, but I'm sure I'll think of it eventually.

The love story was so completely generic that my lady couldn't help but laugh. Whoever thoughts that Wolverine should be named after some whiny tearjerker myth, rather than the fact that he's a hairy badass who flips out and wrecks people, needs to be severely reprimanded. Though I did like Hugh Jackman in the scene where his wife makes him kiss her goodbye. He really sells the happy balance between a man who is hopelessly in love and wants to be romantic while still being a man's man. It's too bad the woman he was cast beside was utterly bland and brought nothing to the role.

I was also not too happy about the part where the wife touches an angry redneck and calms him down. The film gives us an unnecessary sound effect when she touches him, making it bleedingly obvious that she is using a mutant power on him. It would have been just as effective, and a whole lot more satisfying, to leave the sound out and make us wonder, so that later in the film when we learn she has powers we say "Oh, so that's what happened with the trucker earlier..."

I wasn't a big fan of the claws in this movie. Wolverine's claws looked aluminum and too wide, while Sabertooth's grow out of his fingers for some reason.

There were other mutants in this movie, as well, such as Cyclops and Emma Frost. Emma Frost looked like a bimbo who could cover herself in bulletproof styrofoam, and contributed nothing to the plot. Cyclops continued to prove why he's the least interesting character in X-Men. Oh, and apparently his laserbeams can cut through entire buildings now. He's sure come a long way since the days of the 90s X-Men cartoon, when his lasers would sometimes push people back and make their clothing smolder a little.

I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by Taylor Kitsch's pleasantly laconic portrayal of the not-so-ragin' Cajun, Gambit. When I said nearly everything this movie tries to build on the foundation of Logan and Creed fails, the one other part that did not fail was Gambit. His pimp staff was a bit too magical, both when he was climbing walls with its two halves and when he was chopping falling buildings in half with it. Also, he was apparently telekinetic. Well, never mind all that. In his ten minutes of screen time, he was roguish and likable, and that's what Gambit is all about.

To wrap up, I'd like to say that Ryan Reynolds once apparently expressed interest in playing Deadpool in a Marvel movie. Whatever happened to that? I hope they let him give it a shot someday. He'd make a really good Deadpool.

*and how awesome is it to have a lady who is genuinely excited to see Wolverine with you (and whom you can kiss when he says his famous line)?
**credit goes to my lady for showing me Equilibrium