Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
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MORTAL ENGINES (December 22, 2018)

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Electra Woman & Dyna Girl: The Movie...

Torn From The Headlines: Helping Your Player-Characters Take A Shortcut To Hell...

Stull cemetery in Kansas, as it appeared in the Supernatural episode Swan Song

Following on from Tuesday's list of places that could be used in-game as various different takes on the idea of "Hell on Earth", here's a couple of links to articles on the Blumhouse horror site that claim the existence of real gateways to Hell in both Kentucky and Kansas:
Both locales are heavily laden with folklore and prime fodder for gamesmasters looking to add an air of authenticity to their contemporary horror investigation games (the creepy Kansas site even featured in Swan Song, the finale of the fifth season of Supernatural). 

Top Ten Star Wars Rebels Moments...

Ahead of the season two finale of Star Wars Rebels in the UK here's the countdown of the top 10 moments from the show... so far!

Throwback Thursday: The War Game (1965)

Finally released on Blu-Ray this week, by the BFI, The War Game is Peter Watkin's hugely controversial 1965 docu-drama, shot for the BBC, about a nuclear attack on Great Britain.

A Chinese invasion of South Vietnam sparks fears of a global war, which escalates as the Americans threaten nuclear retaliation against China, and the Russians in turn threaten West Berlin unless the Americans back off.

Famously shot - and set - around where I live in Kent, the 50-year-old film might be dated in some of its global politics, military hardware, vehicles, and fashions, but the deadpan British cynicism - particularly when delivering the half-baked and hopelessly optimistic Civil Defence guidelines or the stalwartly naive views of the Church - feels very modern.

The War Game was informed by government documents of the day - and NATO war games - as well as information extrapolated from the aftermath of the Second World War bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima.

It has a running time of just over three-quarters of an hour, but what starts of as matter-of-fact preparedness for nuclear war becomes increasingly bleak and horrific after the bombs actually drop on Kent.

In a news magazine format, the film deals with not only the physical damage but the emotional trauma of being caught up in a nuclear attack, then the inevitable societal collapse and civil unrest that would come in the wake of such an occurrence.

Strip away the "period dressing" and The War Game remains as harrowing today as it was five decades ago, with many of the sentiments voiced by "the man on the street" still echoing in the proclamations of popularist politicians in 2016.

The Cold War may not be what it once was, but nuclear weapons remain a threat, be it from rogue states or terrorist organisations, and so the message of this documentary is still pertinent.

Legendary critic Kenneth Tynan said The War Game "may be the most important film ever made" and it won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1967, even though the BBC was too afraid to show it for 20 years after they commissioned and financed the film.

You can read about the the documentary being pulled from viewing schedules and Peter Watkin's ensuing fractious relationship with the Beeb on the filmmaker's website here.

The Hatter's The Matter When Alice Goes Through The Looking Glass...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Torn From The Headlines: Superhero Seeds And Other Ideas From The Watch House...

As my gaming tastes slowly realign with the other main outlet for my geekery (comic books and superheroes), veteran gaming guru +Craig Oxbrow has recently shared a couple of useful links, on his Watch House blog, that are overflowing with ideas and story seeds for superhero games:
As an extra bonus, he also published a link to 10 Vital Storytelling Lessons I Learned from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, by Charlie Jane Anders (author and io9 editor),which also serve as useful tips for gamesmastersing a variety of genres.

Fans of Craig's work can look forward to him being featured in this weekend's Six Of The Best column on HeroPress, when I talk to him about his two parallel gaming blogs, The Watch House and The Door In Time.

Coming Up On Legends Of Tomorrow...

Retro Comic Book Cover Gallery...

Wonder Woman Wednesday (Megan Gale: The 'Lost' Wonder Woman)

Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, from George 'Mad Max' Miller's abandoned Justice League Mortal project from 2009. Production photograph by Mark Rogers.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Torn From The Headlines: Hell On Earth...

Picture credit: Remote Lands

Sometimes throwing monsters, mobsters, supervillains, or the supernatural against your player-characters just isn't enough. Sometimes you want the very ground beneath their feet, or their environment, to be the challenge.

The Hammer website has another of its fantastic, evocative, lists of the most "hellish places on Earth" - from Turkmenistan's infamous Door To Hell (pictured above) to uncharted lake depths - that can either be used as is or serve as inspiration for even more fantastical locales.

Top Ten Batman Fights Of All Time...

As a counterpoint to the Top Ten Superman Fights Of All Time here's DC Comics take on the Top Ten Batman Fights Of All Time.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Inside Man

The President of The United States organises an international symposium on the Inhuman situation, in Taiwan, and sends along the new head of the ATCU, Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), along with Phil Coulson and a selection of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives for security.

Talbot has his own ideas about security and has recruited Carl Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) - aka The Absorbing Man - as his bodyguard, much to the chagrin of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, especially Hunter who has a personal beef with Creel.

Coulson's crew are looking for information on any Inhumans that other nations may know about as well as a possible "inside man" planted by Gideon Malick. Unfortunately, Malick has set an elaborate trap for Coulson at the conference, which he springs as a vote is being taken to establish a "safe haven" for Inhumans in Russia.

Meanwhile, back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, Fitz and Simmons stumble upon a possible vaccine against Terragenesis, a "cure" for the Inhuman "contagion", which sparks an ethical debate between Daisy, who is horrified by this development, and Lincoln, who believes it will give people a much-needed choice.

It was great to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doing some full-on, pulpy spy stuff again in The Inside Man, giving May, Bobbi, and Hunter, in particular, a chance to shine. This is presumably laying the groundwork for the pilot episode of Most Wanted, the spin-off show featuring Bobbi and Hunter.

Over in the Hydra camp, we not only got confirmation that Grant Ward is definitely dead, but also a few more teases about the horrific nature of the "first Inhuman's" powers.

Next Time:

Game Of Thrones, Season Six, Trailer Asks: "Are You Afraid?"

Monday, 28 March 2016

Daredevil: A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen

While I was impressed by the intelligent storytelling and metaphorical narrative of Jessica Jones, Daredevil is truly my jam. It was the announcement of this series, in particular, that spurred me to take up Netflix in the first place. And the beautiful, complex, and entangled plotlines of A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen demonstrate just why.

As Elektra and Daredevil get tooled up at Melvin's for their final showdown with The Hand (Daredevil gets his trademark billy-club at last), Foggy is offered a job by Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), which - presumably - means he might be appearing in a future series of Jessica Jones, and Karen got herself kidnapped - along with a score of other innocents - as bait.

A rescue is on the cards; even if Elektra and Daredevil, again, have very different motivations.

Frank's back as well - and the couple of glimpses of his skull-adorned top were worth the price of admission alone - but ends up in the wind. If he doesn't get his own Netflix series after this, then he has to guest in one of the other shows on the horizon. He's too good a character, too charismatic, to let slide into the shadows.

And, unless I missed something, there are still some major mysteries left unsolved at the end of season two (i.e. the pit and the blood-draining), so Daredevil has to come back.

Karen's (apparently) a qualified journalist now - I'm sure her peers at the newspaper are delighted that she's swanned in, with no experience, and been given her own office - so that opens up the possibility of her appearing in any number of other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows or, even, movies taking place in and around New York.

Oh well, at least we only have to wait until the end of September for Luke Cage.

Babymetal Of The Week: The One (Live)

Daredevil: The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel

This was the episode for big reveals.

The Hand manages to kidnap Stick from under the noses of Daredevil and Elektra, and so the two former lovers head off to track down their old master - one to rescue him, one to kill him.

Not only did The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel get to unmask The Blacksmith (I think), and reveal (not to anyone's great surprise) that reports of Frank Castle's demise were a tad premature, but also the identity of The Hand's ultimate living weapon (who'd been hiding in plain sight all along).

A warning to the squeamish (myself included): once The Hand get hold of Stick there's a particularly nasty torture scene... that (within TV limitations) gives Syriana a run for its money and goes on... and on...

Try to ensure you're not eating during this sequence.

The horror movie aesthetics continue when Frank heads to the cabin the woods. Don't tell me it didn't make you think of The Evil Dead?

Musical Monday: Blue Monday (Orkestra Obsolete)

New Order's Blue Monday was released in March 1983, and its cutting-edge electronic groove changed pop music forever. But what would it have sounded like if it had been made 50 years earlier? In a special film, using only instruments available in the 1930s - from the theremin and musical saw to the harmonium and prepared piano - the mysterious Orkestra Obsolete present this classic track as you've never heard it before.

March's Picture Parade...

Sunday, 27 March 2016

My Favourite Earth-2 Easter Eggs...

Amongst all the fantastic moments in this week's UK episode of The Flash, Welcome To Earth-2 (and aside from the mind-blowing shots of Supergirl, Jonah Hex, a Legion flight ring etc in the brief Multiverse sequence), my favourite Easter Egg was this fleeting glimpse of Earth-2 Barry/Bart Allen's speed dial numbers.

Bruce as in Bruce Wayne (Batman); Hal as in Hal Jordan (Green Lantern); and Diana as in Diana Prince (Wonder Woman).

I'm sure they were only there as a treat for observant fans, as I don't see how Earth-2's unpowered Barry/Bart Allen would have such heroes on his speed dial, but it's still really cool.

Looking at the Multiverse sequence through the dimensional portal: Supergirl, of course, we know is teaming up with The Flash soon, and Jonah Hex is due to appear on Legends Of Tomorrow.

I wonder if that alternate Green Arrow is another candidate for a Legends Of Tomorrow appearance? Perhaps this also means The Legion Of Superheroes are going to show up on Legends or one of the other DC TV shows?

The 'other' Flash we see briefly in the sequence is John Wesley Shipp's version of the character from the early '90s TV show and is, possibly, just another nod for the fans (as Shipp plays Barry's dad in the current Flash show)... or it could mean we're going to see Barry meet The Flash of another Earth, who just happens to be the spitting image of his father!

Welcome To Earth-2 has set my levels of expectation for next week's episode, Escape From Earth-2, and its possible Easter Eggs, dangerously high!

Daredevil: .380

All the clues point to the elusive drug lord known as The Blacksmith as the root cause of Frank's - and the city's - problems.

Karen slips away from her police protection to meet up with Castle, and he takes her to a diner so they can chat. Dressed with the vibe of a '70s crime thriller (I'm thinking Taxi Driver here, a frequent touchstone for Punisher moments), it's another of Frank's fantastic speeches, but his little tête-à-tête with Karen is also bait to lure out the bad guys.

Frank is directed to the docks, just as Daredevil - having found his own sources of information - gets there as well.

In the ensuing chaos, it looks as though Frank may have made his final stand. But, come on, this is The Punisher we're talking about.

At the hospital, Claire runs afoul of bureaucracy, when her boss tries to cover up the assault by The Hand, which claimed the life of one of her colleagues, and the fact that when they go to autopsy one of the dead ninjas, he's already been autopsyed before!

I have to confess, given my previous apathy towards the character in his comic book format (for reasons I've already stated), my favourite character in this show is turning out to be Frank Castle. And not just because of all the cool violence he brings down on the shitbags of NYC, but it's the depth of the character that surprised me.

Obviously Jon Bernthal's performance has a lot to do with this, but on more than one occasion I've found myself way more interested in Frank than in Daredevil (a comic book character I've been following since the Miller years).

Daredevil: The Man In The Box

With the aid of the police, Daredevil gets the survivors of The Farm shipped to hospital, to be cared for by Claire.

Matt, Foggy and Karen learn the "full story" of what happened during the Central Park shoot-out that claimed the lives of Frank's family, but then everything goes to pieces.

The Punisher is back on the streets and a bloody trail of vengeance begins, although Karen is convinced that it's "not Frank's style".

Matt pays a visit to Wilson Fisk, to confront him over Castle's escape, and is horrified to discover that Fisk is now running the prison.

Meanwhile, Elektra's attempt to leave the city is thwarted by the arrival of charming assassin.

Although bullets and fists flew in The Man In The Box, this was another 'calm before the storm' episode, as the city takes a breath before Hell reigns down upon it from various quarters.

It looks as though my attempts to link Castle's backstory to that of Simpson's (from Jessica Jones) was possibly a reach too far, but there's clearly more to Castle's "origin" than we've been told already.

And what's going on with the creepy, grey-skinned, people rescued out the basement of the Yakuza factory?

That's Where He Was The Whole Time...

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Heroes In An Easter Egg Shell...

How could Rachel possibly outdo last year's Easter present, the chocolate Darth Vader? Only by snagging me a chocolate R2-D2 this year (keeping up the Star Wars theme)!

The filmic element of this year's gift basket was a bale of turtle-fronted movies: the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick (in 3D) as well as a box set of the first three, original, live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies.


Marvel superhero wrapping paper!
I've always had a soft spot for the Turtles, but haven't been as good at keeping up with their comic book adventures as I have with other costumed crimefighters.

However, finding the documentary Turtle Power: The Definite History Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Netflix the other month rekindled my passion (that and the crossover with the Ghostbusters in a recent IDW mini-series), and Rachel has been kindly feeding this.

And let's not overlook Megan Fox in 3D!
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