Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, Supernatural, and Star Stuff

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Why We Love Fringe...



The gadgets!

Supernatural: Weekend At Bobby's


For Jensen Ackles' first stint at directing, he was wisely given a Sam-and-Dean-lite story, which instead concentrates on the show's most resilient supporting character Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver).

Weekend At Bobby's is a long overdue look at Bobby's life outside of being the Winchester brothers' go-to guy - and it turns out that he's the go-to guy for a lot of other hunters as well.

The main plot of this sparkling episode, that really allows Jim Beaver to shine as grumpy old Bobby, is the aftermath of last season's deal between Bobby and everyone's favourite demon, Crowley (Mark Sheppard), for the old hunter to regain the use of his legs.

Turns out Crowley isn't too keen to surrender Bobby's soul back to its rightful owner, so Bobby has to do a bit of digging and find a chink in the demon's armour.

Along the way, as well as giving us insight into the "behind-the-scenes" life of a hunter, we are reminded of Bobby's "interesting" relationship with the local sheriff (Kim Rhodes), he helps Rufus (Steven Williams) dispose of a body and saves a rather love-hungry neighbour (Jennifer Aspen) from attack by a Japanese monster.

With Sam and Dean off hunting a Greecian Lamia, I'm getting the impression that this season's main storyline is something along the lines of the world's monsters now seeing the human population as an "all you eat buffet" in this new, post-Lucifer set-up.

With this and the angelic civil war, it looks like Sam, Dean et al will have their hands full for some time to come.

Oh, and we also discover that Crowley has stepped into Lucifer's shoes (as it were) and is the current "king of Hell" (can't think of a better man for the job).

There's some crackling banter between Crowley and Bobby in a couple of key scenes, with both men showing their great acting chops.

As well as the insight into Bobby's life (and Crowley's pre-demon days), Weekend At Bobby's is also a crucial episode for Supernatural mythology as it introduces us to a new demon weakness (as well as featuring one of the best demon death scenes in the series to date).

Having taken the risk to sideline the show's main stars, Weekend At Bobby's still managed to be a major slice of fan-service as well was a triumph across the board (from Jensen's directorial debut and the central performances of Beaver and Sheppard through to the tight script by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin).

I can see this episode ranking high in a lot of fan's "all-time episode" charts - it's certainly in mine.

Next Week:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Beginning Of Captain America?



Does this latest TV spot for next month's Captain America "give away" the beginning of the movie, or even, in Titanic-style, the ending we all know is coming?

Game Of Muppets: Two Of My Favourite Things... In One Package!


Some great Muppet re-imaginings of the characters from The Game Of Thrones have been doing the rounds recently, but casting Beaker (best Muppet ever) as Littlefinger (one of my favourite characters from the show, because I'm a big Aiden Gillen fan) was a stroke of genius - especially pairing with Bunsen as The Spider, the bald eunuch!

More of these masterful Muppet-ations can be found at The Mary Sue here and here.


The Three Musketeers... Now With Added Airships!!!



The Three Musketeers from Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson. Wouldn't cinema be dull if people simply retold old stories or remade old films without adding their own spin on it? This certainly doesn't look dull!

DVD Of The Week: I Am Number Four (2011)

A heady cocktail of Smallville, Twilight, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Heroes and countless high-school romantic comedy dramas, I Am Number Four is far more than the sum of its parts.

With a script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (of Smallville) and Marti Noxon (of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) this tale of an extra-terrestrial schoolboy with superpowers - one of a handful of survivors from his doomed planet - certainly played to the strengths of the writers.

And there is a lot of very predictable plotting in the character development ('superboy' turns up at new school, befriends nerdy kid and falls for the ex-girlfriend of the star footballer player - whose dad happens to be the local sheriff - thus gaining the enmity of jock clique), but an easy-going script and genuinely likeable cast make I Am Number Four a pleasure to watch.

Former Alex Rider, Alex Pettyfer, plays the titular Number Four, living a clandestine life, always on the move, with his guardian, Henri (the ever-reliable Timothy Olyphant), trying to stay one step ahead of the Mogadorians, a hostile alien race killing off the the benevolent alien wunderkind from the planet Lorien in numerical order (why it is necessary to kill them in order isn't explained) before the good guys can stop the Mogadorians from taking over our planet.

All is going well until Henri - the Obi-Wan to Number Four's Luke - moves them to the town of Paradise (as he has some plot-relevant personal business there) and Number Four, using the alias John Smith, starts to attend the local school and, naturally, falls for quirky photographer Sarah Hart (Glee's Dianna Agron).

Smallville/Buffy-esque jock bullying of John and his geeky mate, Sam Goode (Callan McAuliffe) ensues, until John eventually loses his rag and unleashes his legacy superpowers (his parents, like those of all the other Numbers, were members of their homeworld's elite guard) and the Mogadorians start to close in - having already snuffed Numbers One to Three.

All this time an enigmatic blonde (Teresa Palmer), clearly not in league with the murderous Mogadorians, has also been tracking Number Four and she only shows her hand in the climactic confrontation.

The movie's enthralling and entertaining, with some great special effects, interesting aliens, the requisite amount of teen angst (but not enough to be nauseating) and a spectacular slam-dunkin' final showdown in the school between John and his gang and the evil Mogadorians and their giant hound/bat hybrid monsters.

Although only a 12 certificate, if watching with impressionable younger kids be aware there are a few moments of subtle violence (especially when the Mogadorians are involved) that are suggestively icky - no gore, but you know exactly what's going down!

With Michael Bay as producer, you also know this movie is going to be more about spectacle than story, but it still manages to steer a steady - if well-frequented - course through the choppy waters of teen romance and high school hijinks between the explosions and the cartwheeling cars.

While it puts an interesting, although certainly not wholly original, spin on a superheroic comic book origin story, I Am Number Four's biggest fault comes from the pedigree of its scriptwriters in that, with its open ending, it ultimately feels more like a high-quality pilot for a genre TV show than a self-contained movie (which, really, it isn't anyway).

Harmless hokum, with a pleasant cast, well-made, if nothing special, I Am Number Four is perfect popcorn fare for some easy-going superpowered fisticuffs blended with teen romance (ie Smallville again, seeing a theme?) that leaves the door open for a sequel that will probably never come... but would be more than welcome if it did.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Boardwalk Empire - Season Two Tease...


Not quite Game Of Thrones, but still compelling viewing.

If Picasso Illustrated Comics...


See Mike Esparza's wild and weird selection of Picasso-style re-imaginings of top superheroes over at Bit Rebels.

Musical Monday: Game Of Tunes...

Suffering Game Of Thrones withdrawal? Then check out these funky fan renditions of the title theme on a variety of musical instruments...



or on a banjo:



or a mandolin:



or an accordion:



or a cello:



or as an 8-bit NES theme:

Musical Monday: Roll A D6...


Roll a D6 from Connor Anderson on Vimeo.

A fine Dungeons & Dragons-fueled parody of the annoyingly addictive Like A G6.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Traveller + Star Trek = Prime Directive Traveller!


For those who haven't heard, Mongoose (current publishers of Traveller) have signed a deal with Amarillo Design Bureau, manufacturers of the Star Fleet Battles wargames and the Prime Directive RPG, to produce a Traveller-powered iteration of Prime Directive.
"Star Fleet Battles was based on the Star Trek universe as of 1979 and includes elements of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Animated Series. Federation elements were heavily based on concepts from The Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual. Unlike the mainstream Star Trek universe, Star Fleet Battles seems to consider some, but not all of The Animated Series, as being a canon material source, thus leading to the inclusion of aliens such as the Kzinti, which had originally been created for a non-Trek story series."

Mongoose is also collaborating on a miniatures game with ADB: A Call To Arms - Star Fleet which will, hopefully, mean some lovely Original Series-era space ships.

However, I lost interest in what Mongoose were doing ages ago (hence missing this news when it was first announced), although I did like their initial Traveller rules book, and am slightly apprehensive about getting too excited.

I've been burned by Mongoose many times before - from badly edited books to miniatures lines/games/book series dropped as quickly as they are begun (where are the other 10 or 11 volumes of the Mega-City Archives, for instance?).

I'm hoping it's a success (even if it does, potentially, muddy my 'one game to rule them all' discipline I'm trying to enforce), but I might wait a few weeks after it comes out and see if there's a follow-up press release announcing the cancellation of the line or a recall of the books because of some design error.

The Acrobatic Flea Springs Into Action Again...

More gorgeous art by Rebecca Whitaker
My alter-ego, The Acrobatic Flea, makes another appearance in Al Bruno III's light-hearted superhero serial The Local Heroes in a short story entitled A Penny Earned.

Read it - and tell him how great that "Acrobatic Flea" character is!

Negotiations - Battlestar Style!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Boldly Going... And All That...

Kirk vs Kirk


The Captains: premièring on July 21 on EPIX HD as part of Shatnerpalooza, a forty-eight-hour "on air marathon" of Shatner’s television and movie work.

To quote from Trek Today, The Captains "takes an “in-depth look at the Star Trek franchise through the experiences of each actor who has played a Starfleet captain, including Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, Avery Brooks, Chris Pine and Shatner himself."

Behind The Mask: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...

click to embiggen!
This is the big surprise I was talking about earlier in the week - specially commissioned Agents Of COMPASS artwork by the hyper-talented Rebecca Whitaker.

Nick Law
The Watchman
Nightshade
Skyscraper
The Surgeon
Rockette
Kokopelli
I don't have the words to express the awesomeness of this artwork - but if you ever wanted an indication that my Knight City/Villains & Vigilantes campaign was still a going concern (even if on the backburner at present), then here it is.

Dexter's Lab - D&DD


Vezi mai multe video din animatie

Via Steve Lopez's Big Blog Of Fun

Ladies & Gentlemen, The March Of Progress Continues...

Another week of feeling "bleurrgh", another week of semi-inactivity, but at least I've taken the positive step of passing the gamesmaster baton along to the more-than-competent Pete to ensure that the Tuesday Knights can still get their 'game on' while I'm not feeling my best.

It'll also be nice to get to play a game again - and I can use the intervening time to continue work on Knight City and scheme my schemes about what I'd like to run next.

But enough self-pity, let's join together to welcome the latest signing to our blossoming superteam:


* Matt of Matt D Fonseca's Lameness

Friday, 24 June 2011

BEST. REALITY. SHOW. EVER!!!

picture from My Time Machine
HISTORY and the producers of Top Shot and The Ultimate Fighter are looking for America’s toughest and bravest for their new competition series Full Metal Jousting.

Yes, we said JOUSTING. If you are a skilled horseback rider and have the heart of a warrior, then you might have what it takes to become America’s first Full Metal Jouster and win the $100,000 grand prize.


This hard-hitting competition will recreate the raw, crushing force of hardcore jousting battles by arming 16 fierce competitors with lances, armor and a 2,000-pound war horse — all charging through an arena with one goal in mind… to become champion.

You don’t need to be an experienced jouster, but you DO need strength, determination and the desire to win.

We teach you how to joust. You crush the competition.

The application deadline to participate is July 20 - so get on this, people!

Much more information can be found over on the Pilgrim Films & Television website where it makes it clear that applicants need to be at least 21 years of age, proficient in horseback riding, and a resident or citizen of the United States of America.

It also appears that the chosen contestants will live in a "Full Metal Jousting house" - without access to the outside world (no TV, phone, Internet, radio etc) - from mid-October to mid-November.

So I guess this is going to be like a "reality TV show" - although thundering down the lists on a war horse, armed with a lance and wearing plate armour, makes going into the board room at the end of The Apprentice look like a walk in the park.

This is taking LARPing to a whole new level (and yes, I know jousting tournaments are staged all around the world all the time, and there are Ren Fairs and the SCA... but this is televised... and for a large sum of cash, which adds a degree of 'old school' reality to the proceedings).

  • Once the warriors are unhorsed will the combat continue on foot? 
  • Isn't there going to be blood and broken bones (it seems likely)? 
  • Will the ultimate champion become a household name?

Personally, I can't wait to see Full Metal Jousting.

I guess the success of Game Of Thrones has a lot to answer for, but if it's going to encourage this kind of thinking by TV executives, long may it last!

Perhaps we're lucky (or maybe not) that Spartacus: Blood & Sand hasn't been more of hit!

Cap Shows His Character...



Definitely the best, and most comprehensive, Captain America trailer to date...

And it's also reassuring to hear that Hydra is a part of the Nazi war machine and hasn't just been rewritten as an ersatz, family-friendly, toy-selling iteration of the ultimate bad guys.

Fleamarket Friday: The Quest Is Over And The Grail Obtained...


Equal parts frustrating and rewarding, eBay has done me a great service this month.

A gentleman was listing a huge run of issues of Knights Of The Dinner Table - yet I only needed a couple of them. So when the bundle didn't sell, I contacted him to see if he'd be willing to sell me just the two issues I required.

He promptly agreed, I paid him (via cheque - remember those?) and very soon afterwards the two errant issues (#86 and #92, pictured above), which have eluded me for years, were in my hand and my collection was complete and up to date.

Well, I say "complete" - technically I'm still missing issues one and two (although I have them in pdf form and collected in the first volume of Bundles Of Trouble), but I don't expect them to appear on eBay (for a sensible price) any time soon.

To quote myself from this time last year (when my completionist quest was at its height): "As well as being brilliantly funny, well-observed and cuttingly satirical, The Knights Of The Dinner Table never fails to provide inspiration for my own flights of fantasy about running the definitive, open-ended, sandbox roleplaying campaign.

"While my favourite strips remain the ones centred around the gaming table, especially when the titular Knights are playing Hackmaster, the universe of Knights Of The Dinner Table has expanded to such an extent that interesting tales continue to pop up in all kinds of environments and the roll call of characters resembles a Cecil B DeMille movie.
"

My love for the magazine as a source of both entertainment and gaming inspiration remains unabated and I hope Jolly Blackburn and the Kenzer Krew continue to publish this wonderful resource for many years to come.

Fleamarket Friday: Agents Roll Snake Eyes!

This week saw the release of the first adventure for Agents Of S.W.I.N.G since the game was officially launched back in May.

Written by the game's creator, James Desborough, this 40-page romp sees your hip and happenin' agents following a trail from "smoky rooms in London to the sapphire seas of the Caribbean and to the den of sin and iniquity that is Vegas. Hot on the trail of a villainous organisation known only as COIL".

Gamemaster mechanics for COIL (aka the Capital Oligarch International League) are available on James' Postmortem Studios website if you wish to use the group in your own adventures.

Snake Eyes is available as a pdf download from the usual outlets for £1.23 or as a POD book from Lulu for £3.50.

As an added bonus to fans and followers of Agents Of S.W.I.N.G., James has also published write-ups for Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) analogues as playable characters.

DVD Of The Week: The Rite (2011)

The horror film makers of Hollywood have long sought to recapture the definitive brilliance of The Exorcist with a variety of exorcism films and this year's The Rite is the closest they have come to that Holy Grail in many years.

Devoid of the shock and gore that drowns most current horror fare (cf. torture-porn), The Rite will immediately come across as rather an outlandish concept to modern viewers as its primary focus is on character development and out of these characters the story evolves organically.

Escaping his life in the family funeral home, Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) follows the other family tradition and joins the priesthood.

However, his faith is never that strong and even after four years of study he feels he is simply using the church as a method to run away from his old life.

On the verge of quitting, he is sent to Rome to study exorcism at the Vatican and soon finds himself apprenticed to unorthodox Welsh priest Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins). The two butt heads frequently as Michael believes the 16-year-old pregnant girl that Lucas is currently in the process of exorcising needs psychiatric help rather than spiritual help.

From there, things only get worse...

The power at the heart of The Rite is, of course, the incredible Anthony Hopkins who even gets the opportunity to channel a bit of Hannibal Lecter later in the movie.

His performance helps create the sense of internal Truth that elevates the film up towards the dizzy heights of The Exorcist.

However, O'Donoghue is also totally convincing as the doubt-riddled student.

If the film has a weak link it is the slightly unnecessary introduction of a pseudo-romantic sub-plot through Kovak's meeting with journalist Angeline (Alice Braga), who is researching an article on the exorcism training course and also happens to have had a mentally-ill brother who "heard voices".

Although this character does have a role in The Rite's dramatic climax, you can't help but feel that the introduction of a such a random female character is almost a sop to contemporary audiences who "need" a romantic angle... even if the romance goes nowhere.

As well as character, the film is heavy with atmosphere and while the 15-certificate means the demons are a lot politer than The Exorcist's Pazuzu (no F-bombs, inappropriate uses of crucifixes or telling priests what their mothers are up to in Hell here), it doesn't make the scenes of supposed demonic possession any less unnerving.

After the slow, methodical build-up of the story, the horror elements seep in gradually and cleverly and are never more graphic than something you'd come across in an episode of Supernatural.

Nevertheless, writer Michael Petroni manages to sow in some deviously clever elements, such as Kovak's phone call back home to his father, that are genuinely quite inspired and a rather strange scene involving a pillow case and a frog.

Another sop to modern audiences is the need to pretend that this is "based on real events" and that the characters are "real people" - to give the fiction a faux documentary credibility.

This is all shenanigans, of course, and doesn't really add anything to the movie even though it is "inspired" by Matt Baglio's 2009 novel The Rite: The Making Of A Modern Day Exorcist where he, in fact, took the role of the female reporter in the movie and supposedly came "face-to-face" with The Devil!

As just a point of interest, if the devil (or his demons) are really taking over these random souls (in much the same way that "aliens" only appear to backwoods hicks and the mentally challenged) why don't they take over world leaders or people with some influence instead (as in that other horror cinema classic The Omen)?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Behind The Mask: What's Happening With Knight City?


Since my announcement the other day that I'd be stepping away from Gamesmastering duties on the Villains & Vigilantes/Knight City campaign, I'm sure you've been losing sleep wondering what would become of Knight City itself.

Well, fret no longer, dear reader. Knight City isn't going away - it remains a "work in progress", but with less pressure on I shall work on developing it at my own pace.

I still have plenty of ideas and material to post up on the campaign blog (The Knight City Chronicles), including one particular surprise that I'm as excited to see as anyone!

So, if anyone has anything they wish to contribute to the ever-growing Knight City 'universe', rest assured it is not dead (just dreaming) and the Tuesday Knights will revisit it again one day.

In the meantime, Pete will be returning us to his wicked Top Secret SI campaign and I'll have a chance to play again, which - of course - frees up more time and brainpower away from the games table to continue work on Knight City and my ideas for also returning to Tekralh.

Supernatural: The Third Man


And in a single bound, Supernatural is back on winning form after a couple of slightly shaky episodes.

Castiel is back in the mix (yay!), bringing with him a civil war in Heaven, angels trading in souls and religious artifacts and some of the most gruesome scenes ever witnessed in the show.

The Third Man opens with a series of shocking deaths; policemen involved in a cover-up as Sam and Dean discover - all killed in the style of Old Testament plagues.

Turns out in post-nonpocalypse Heaven, things have gotten a bit chaotic, factions are feuding over who should take control and certain angels have gotten a bit light-fingered and made off with powerful WMDs from the Heavenly armoury.

Not only is this episode rather gruesome, but the return of Castiel also brings back a welcome shot of deadpan humour to add a bit of light to the darkness.

The switch in roles in the characters of the Winchester brothers is also highlighted in The Third Man - with Sam now the hunt-hungry, poon hound, while Dean is the the more conservative and reserved one (as he is still very much attached to his superhawt girlfriend and her son).

The contrast is actually so striking - particularly after their reactions to Castiel's "torturing" of a child to find the name of the 'weapons-dealing' angel - that Dean even points out that "something isn't quite right" with Sam after his mysterious return from Hell.

A blockbuster script from Ben Edlund that reassures me that Supernatural can still deliver the punches when it has to, even if I remain slightly concerned that the show might just be covering old ground with just different set decoration.

Next Week:

RPGs - Think Of The Children...

Long-time friend and supporter of HeroPress, Brian Pedersen is appealing for your support with the Kids Need To Game project.

He explains: "Kids Need To Game is a program that I started in March of 2010 in order to solicit donations of new and old games and gaming material for my school’s gaming club, making it the very first-of-its-kind in Denmark.

"Roleplaying gives young people the opportunity to acquire exciting and complex skills. The games as such invite creativity and learning, for example, oral presentation and language development. Gaming is also responsible for stimulating flexibility and negotiation in social contexts, promoting cooperation, and promoting learning history and culture.
"For students of a non-native English speaking background, playing and learning in English also allows them to develop fantastic use of the English language."

In the short time the program has already been running it has expanded to embrace five different schools and Brian is now looking to start a summer program (to help keep the kids gaming and out of trouble)

He has already received donations of material from Mongoose Publishing, Triple Ace Games, Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd, Arc Dream Publishing, Evil Hat Productions, Contested Ground Studios, Rogue Games, Alderac Entertainment Group, Arion Games, DivNull Productions, Mantic Games, and James Edward Raggi IV, but still needs more:
  • Role Playing Games
  • Card Games
  • Board Games
  • Wargames
  • Gaming magazines
"If I were to generate a wish list, I would like to get Dragon Age box sets, Pathfinder books, D&D Essentials books, The Legend of Drizzt Board Game, Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game, Castle Ravenloft Board Game, Magic: The Gathering card sets, any sorts of (preferably) pre-painted fantasy minis (from Mage Knight, D&D minis, etc.," Brian says.

"The games don’t have to be new! If you’re a private individual with a few games to donate that you don’t play any longer, they don’t have to be in the greatest of shape.

"If you’re a company with some damaged but still playable games, that is fine, too. What matters is that you are willing to help out to not only kindle interest in our beloved hobby, but to sharpen young minds as well.
"

To find out more about Brian's work, the educational benefits of roleplaying games and how you can help read his full article over at Geekcentricity.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Live Long And Pillage!

Yes, that's Spock giving Wolverine a Vulcan nerve pinch!
And so the human centipede of the OSR blogosphere spawns another link. Evan, over at In Places Deep, extrapolates on comments left under Jeff Rients' own article on suggested use of the boardgame map from City States of Arklyrell as a campaign map.

In his bullet-pointed thoughts Evan makes this pair of suggestions:
  • It's unlikely that humanoid life would develop on such a planet, so maybe the inhabitants are the descendants of Earth colonists in the far distant future.  The colony probably got cut off in a style similar to Tekumel, but maybe without getting ripped out of the universe.
  • That means some of the dungeons might have ray guns.  Let's make those phasers.  In fact, let's make some of the races and monsters descendants of Federation aliens.  I wouldn't really stress it, but it'd be there.
Being on a bit of a Star Trek revival this year, this gelled with an idea I've been kicking around since watching several seasons of Deep Of Space 9 (or "Keep On The Borderlands in Space"), that many of the races of the Star Trek universe can easily be transposed into their generic Dungeons & Dragons' analogues, but bring with them a richly developed racial background, complete with ceremonies, belief systems, cultural attitudes and easily mimicked stereotypes.

Not that I'd ever probably use it as I'm currently leaning more towards a human-centric fantasy setting (à la Game Of Thrones), but - aided by Mike Berkey's Microlite20 Where No Man Has Gone Before - the analogues almost jump off the page.
  • Vulcan = elf
  • Romulan = drow
  • Ferengi = goblin
  • Tellarites = dwarves (imagine the gaming awesomeness of making your dwarves argumentative Tellarites  rather than corny Scottish stereotypes)
  • Klingons = Orcs (smooth-head, old school Klingons would be half-orcs)
  • Gorn = lizardmen/dragonborn
  • Androids = warforged (although we're slipping dangerously in 4e territory now!
Can't see a place for halflings, Andorians or Orions yet and I'm bound to have left out some really obvious species, but I reckon this is a good place to start for a full-on Tekumel-style "isolated world" in the Star Trek universe.

They're Evolving... They Have A Plan...

More indications of the impending arrival of our ape overlords...




Now, I have to confess that I'm not entirely convinced these are real (one from an "unknown Japanese documentary", the other "amateur footage from a German zoo") as Fox is clearly releasing these little virals to build up excitement for The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (not that they need to round here, as excitement is already pretty high).



Two things strike me from this awesome trailer:

(a) I shall probably be on the apes' side; and

(b) this could be another Free Willy/50 First Dates fiasco where I spontaneously erupt into floods of tears... come on, when Caesar hugs John Lithgow, don't tell me you weren't moved a teeny-tiny bit? What are you? A rock?

Smell Like Captain America...

And now the onslaught of Captain America promotions begins, with the film due to open in a month's time.

First off the blocks is Diesel’s ‘Only the Brave Captain America Limited Edition’ cologne which, apparently, allows you to "embrace your inner superhero" and is all about "adventurous, limitless living inspired by the strength and bravery of Captain America".

That's a mighty powerful cologne then for $15 (from department stores across the States) and best of all it comes in Captain America comic strip packaging designed by legendary illustrator Bryan Hitch.

Doctor Who: The Gunfighters (1966)

Having a soft spot for both black and white Doctor Who stories and westerns, The Gunfighters was always going to be a hit with me - but I was surprised by the brilliance of the story, a compelling retelling of the legendary Gunfight At The O.K. Corral in a BBC studio and on a 1960's BBC budget.

The First Doctor, Dodo and Steven find themselves in 1881 Tombstone - a couple of days before the famous gunfight.

The Doctor has toothache and goes to Doc Holliday's (Anthony Jacobs) newly opened dentistry (as you would in the 19th Century Wild West... rather than turning round and getting straight back in the TARDIS).

The Clanton boys are in town, gunning for Holliday the former outlaw, but they mistake our Doctor, who is using the alias of Doctor Caligari (he of the infamous Cabinet), for him and things spiral out of control from there.

Donald Cotton's cracking script takes enormous liberties with the established events of the gunfight (bringing in characters - real and imagined - who weren't even involved) and rather bizarrely The Doctor spends an inordinate amount of time trying to divert destiny, constantly trying to talk Wyatt Earp (John Alderson) - who he gloriously calls Mr Werp throughout - out of engaging the Clantons in gunplay.

As well as the deliberate mispronunciation of Wyatt Earp's name, The Gunfighters is peppered with fluffed lines, not just by William Hartnell, but other several members of the cast.

Come the final shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, the Clantons either took shooting lessons from Imperial Stormtroopers or Wyatt and his brother Virgil (Victor Carin) are somehow bullet-proof because the gunfight begins with the Earps walking down the street as the three Clanton's blaze away at them. Now I know gunfights were historically very wild affairs, with very few bullets actually hitting, but this was just a tad ridiculous.

But the thing about The Gunfighters is, for all these minor niggles and inherent oddities, it features pacing decades ahead of its time, first rate dialogue and some stand-out performances from the central cast (the Clantons' wandering accents are also best overlooked) that override these drawbacks.

The 100-minute story uses an innovative framing device in the form of musical narration - the Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon - which coupled with the surprisingly effective scenery certainly contributes to the verisimilitude of the Old West (even if it's the Old West of Hollywood, rather than the Old West of history).

It's quite possible that this was the first Western produced for British television, and while it can't compare to the Spaghetti Westerns that were drawing fans to the cinema in the mid-60s, it stands the test of time rather well.

The Gunfighters' sometimes less than serious tone (Steven is particularly annoying in this respect) has contributed to this story's poor reputation among some Whovian factions, but I have to say, as a one-off experiment, this enjoyable Western pastiche scores more hits than misfires.

Hartnell gets much more out of the comedic potential of the script by playing things straight, while Peter Purves (as Steven), despite drawing some humour from contrasting his romantic view of the West with the real cowboys of Tombstone, is too broad and too pantomime for my tastes.

On a trivial geeky note, given the recent resurgence of interest in "weaponising Time Lords" (as touched on in A Good Man Goes To War and, of course, Lawrence Miles' brilliant Alien Bodies), one has to wonder the value of the tooth Doc Holliday extracted from The Doctor and what became of it. Fanfic beckons...

Wonder Woman Wednesday (Twofer) ...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bring Me My Dungeon Wenches...



Okay, so it's an advert for some crappy computer game that claims to be an RPG, but I think we can agree that we all need "dungeon wenches" to make our game-playing environment complete.

Beware, although there's no nudity, graphic violence or profanity, some may consider this Playboy featurette NSFW as it does feature scantily-clad babes.

My Life And Role-Playing: Licensed To Game!

When we resume gaming next month, after our Summer hiatus, it's going to be all change for the Tuesday Knights.

Pete has just confirmed his willingness to resume our Top Secret SI campaign from last year.

The Great Blogger SNAFU the other month rather took the wind out of my 'world-building' sails for Knight City - the base for my Villains & Vigilantes campaign - and this coincided with a dip in  my health and energy levels.

Although I was rather proud of my main post-SNAFU contribution to the ever-growing Knight City (with the help of material originally generated by Clare for an earlier iteration of the setting) and thoroughly enjoyed our last gaming session, I found my concentration and enthusiasm for the setting seriously waning.

I've still got some surprises lined up for the Tuesday Knights re: Knight City and I expect I'll find myself drawn back to its grubby streets eventually, but for the moment I've decided it's probably time for me to take a break and step out from behind the gamemaster's screen for a while.

My thoughts have been veering off V&V these past few weeks anyway, and the long gap between games has allowed me to reconsider my "game of choice" without the rosy tint of nostalgia and come to the conclusion that, as I have said in the past, "I'd rather be killing monsters" (but without the 4e overtones).

This is, naturally, the danger of gaming only 10 or 11 times a year, it leaves large amounts of time for my Gamer ADHD to creep in and whisper of all the possibilities I'm missing out on by sticking to a single game. Which is also rather perverse as my dream has always been to be involved in a single, epic, long-running campaign similar to those that the hobby's founders spoke of with such fondness.

The problem is though I can never settle on a single game system (or setting). Definitely a case of "the grass is always greener..."

So depending on how things shape up for the rest of the year, I'm thinking that when I sit back down behind the screen my next game of choice will probably be something more in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons, as that was, of course, my gateway drug all those years ago and the default setting my brain clicks to when I think of "role-playing games".

This would mean a return to Tekralh in some updated form.

Doctor Who: The Awakening (1984)

The Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough arrive in present day (1984) Little Hodcombe, a quaint, isolated English village where Tegan's grandfather - the local historian - resides.

However, they soon discover that not only is her grandfather missing, but the village is swept up in an increasingly brutal English Civil War re-enactment.

An alien entity known as the Malus, dormant in the church for hundreds of years, has awoken and has created a "confusion in time", linking the village back to the original bloody Civil War conflict of 1643.

It is using the psychic energy generated by the re-enactors to increase its control on the surrounding area.

With overtones of The Wicker Man (and similar British rural horror movies), and the Third Doctor story The Daemons, The Awakening is a fantastic, fast-paced, claustrophobic tale.

At only 50 minute duration (two episodes), this story was also - unknowingly - laying the groundwork and pacing for the modern era of Doctor Who and stands up well (overlooking the effects and budgetary limitations of the 1980s) in comparison.

It's strange to think that the character of Will Chandler (Keith Jayne), a 17th Century peasant boy pulled through the "time confusion" by the Malus, was being considered as a possible companion for The Doctor, when local schoolteacher, Jane Hampden (Polly James), one of the only locals not  caught up in the madness embracing Little Hodcombe, is made out to be the better fit. She even grasps the opening mechanism for the TARDIS doors very quickly!

Except for the pivotal role he plays in the story's resolution, Will contributes little to the story, while Jane is a crucial ally to The Doctor from the moment they meet.
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