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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8, 2018)

Monday, 31 July 2017

[V&V3.0] Mighty Protectors Are Coming...


With the Kickstarter months behind us, fans of Villains & Vigilantes have been patiently waiting for the first of the books to drop... and our patience has paid off.

The final PDF of the fully-illustrated and heavily playtested core rules, with a gorgeous colour cover, arrived in our in-boxes the other day, with the news that printing and shipping of the dead tree editions would follow shortly.

Then over the weekend, the first of the Kickstarter 'add-ons' arrived: a seven-page PDF Foe File detailing the dangerous Doctor Killjoy and his kid sidekick Spoilsport (including character sheets for using the evil-doers as antagonists with both the new Third Edition - aka The Mighty Protectors - and the Second Edition of Villains & Vigilantes).

You'll recall that I own the original artwork for Doctor Killjoy and Spoilsport from wayback, but as with all the art for the new iteration of the classic game Jeff Dee - artist and co-creator of Villains & Vigilantes - has recreated the killer combo for a new generation.

A Sharknado For Your Gaming Table...


Combining two of my great passions (cheesy monster movies and roleplaying games), someone on Reddit has posted this lovingly crafted DIY Sharknado 'miniature' from their Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

Frankly, I'm in awe and just a tad jealous.

The Reddit thread (is that the right term?) that the picture spawned also includes a stat block for a "shark typhoon", should you wish to employ a Sharknado in your own Fifth Edition games.

In The Land Of The Giants...


By sheer chance, when Rachel and I took Alice for her Sunday constitutional stroll through Tonbridge sportsground we came across a fun dog show.

As neither of us had seen any advance publicity for the event, we only managed to catch the tail end (see what I did there?) of the show.

Nevertheless, Alice made up for lost time, making new friends - both human and canine - as we did a couple of circuits around the small event.

Alice's favourite moment (ours?) came when our fearless wee pup was interacting with the enormous Newfoundlands (picture above).

We'd seen Newfies at shows before - a time that sticks out was them demonstrating their lifesaving skills in the lake at Hever Castle - but this was the first time Alice had had an extended chance to nuzzle with some.

Newfies are gorgeous, but they are so large. I can't imagine us, in our little home, ever being able to cater for one without someone getting squashed (and the slobber is a bit of an issue as well!)

Musical Monday: A Million On My Soul (Alexiane)



Alexiane's A Million On My Soul from the soundtrack of Luc Beson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

You can stream or download here.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

It's Almost That Time Of Year Again...



It's almost Sharknado season!

The fifth episode - Global Swarming - of the 'classic' SyFy series is due to hit the UK on Monday, August 7, at 9.10pm.

Watching the trailer it's almost if the budget has stayed the same (ie. very small) since the first movie, but the boffins at The Asylum keep pushing the boundaries of what they want to do anyway, stretching their special effects beyond breaking point.

If the franchise keeps going at this rate, future films will eventually become unwatchable (literally a blur of indecipherable pixels). But that's not going to be anytime soon...

From War To Peace And Vintage Flights Into The Future...


This week the War & Peace Revival show returned to the Hop Farm - just down the road.

Sadly it wasn't the fun event for us that it used to be, because of the organisers inability to find anyone (so they said) willing to rent out mobility scooters to visitors that needed them (you know, like aged or disabled military veterans... or just civilians like me who need them to get around large events such as this).

We watched The Jive Aces (one of Rachel's favourite bands) do their set for an hour, and then tried to explore the rest of the sprawling grounds.

But I just wasn't up to it. Fearing another 'passing out' incident, we gave up after a difficult hour and a quarter of meandering in the heat, and headed home.

However, while we were there, we still managed to speak to some lovely people, and visit a few trading stalls.

At the wonderfully eclectic D&B Militaria stall I stumbled across an old 1940s book about space travel, Flights Into The Future, which I immediately knew had to be mine.

Eight pounds well spent and worth every penny.


A 1948 Christmas present to someone called John, the 126-page hardback, published by The Thames Publishing Company, is a mix of essays on scientific fact and speculation (as understood  at that time) and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Jungle Of The Air), Jules Verne (From Earth To Moon And A Trip Round It), and AS Long (Last Days On Earth).

Illustrations come in black and white line art and eight beautiful colour plates.

For me, this stunning vintage book made the day worthwhile and I know Rachel was delighted to see the Jive Aces again.

Whatever Happened To Mace Windu? (A Star Wars Fan Film)

Sometime after the fallout of Revenge of the Sith and before the events of Rogue One, Mace Windu found his way to a desert planet with no name, where he prepares his counterstrike against the Galactic Empire and his nemesis - Darth Vader.
Filmmaker Chris Notarile explains:
Written, shot and directed in the style of a Quentin Tarantino film, this short is meant to be as much of an homage swell as a possible epilogue to Mace Windu's story.

This project was filmed over the course of four different Sundays, since schedules were not in my favour. We shot in Bronson Canyon in Hollywood, at the infamous Batcave from the Adam West Batman TV series. If you're a fan of my work, you also recognize this cave from my other film The Weary Traveler. For the record, it's an awesome location, and I love it.

I really wanted to make this feel like Tarantino made this film, rather than a Blinky film. So in doing so, I took great care in studying the pacing and trademark shots that makeup a Tarantino movie. In fact, the only part of the film that is "Blinky" is the Vader vs Mace fight, and there's a good reason for that.

This short was essentially two separate ideas merged into one. Everything from the beginning of the film, to the part where Mace walks off after dispatching the Imperial Officer was my "Tarantino" concept. Everything involving Darth Vader was another idea, in which, I wanted to give Darth Vader the horror treatment, much like I did with Batman in my short Batman - Dante. The Rogue One hallway fight with Darth Vader was beyond epic and I really was inspired to try something like it. So I decided to merge both ideas into one short. Hopefully the results are entertaining.

Friday, 28 July 2017

D&DVD Of The Week: Assassin's Creed (2016)


Not being a video game player, I came to Assassin's Creed (the film) knowing next to nothing about the franchise, and after sitting through this 100-minute movie I still know next-to-nothing.

This poorly scripted adaptation of the popular computer game managed to somehow be overstuffed with exposition and simultaneously obtuse in its plot and goals.

The script felt like it had been produced by either a troop of monkeys flinging their own shit at a wall to see what sticks or someone transcribing the stream of consciousness ramblings of a young child telling a story ("Then this happened, then this, and whoooosh, then this person came in...").

Or maybe a bit from column A and a bit from column B.

The wonderful Michael Fassbender stars as condemned killer Cal Lynch, who sits in prison under sentence of death.

Only, his execution turns out to be a fake, and he wakes up in an experimental facility in Spain, where he is soon plugged into a machine called The Animus.

This allows him to experience - but not influence - the life of his ancestor, the 15th Century assassin Aguilar.

The secret society operating the machine, modern day Knight's Templars', headed by Jeremy Irons's Rikkin and his daughter Sofia (Marion Cotillard), need Cal to find out what Aguilar did with an ancient artifact they are after, called The Apple Of Eden.

This object (and there's even a fleeting hint that it might be a remnant of Ancient Alien technology, which got me all excited) supposedly contains the DNA code to free will (the evil Templar scientists want to end violence by removing free will from mankind; there's a nice line about how religion and consumerism have failed in this task, so why not science?).

And here's one of the major problems with the film. The sequences where Cal is "living the life" of his ancestor are a 'film within a film'.

And we're often watching him watch this "film".

Although Cal is 'acting them out', while attached to the Animus, he can't change anything that has gone on in the past, so although they are spectacular sequences (and the rooftop escape is stunning), that's all they are. Spectacle.

Except for eye candy, these extended sequences add nothing to the contemporary sci-fi story, where all we - and the evil scientists - are interested in is the end result.

Storywise it would have made more sense to 'insert' Cal into Aguilar's life nearer to when he disposes of The Apple.

We just wouldn't have had so many fight scenes and rooftop chases...

Now, I try to make it a rule not to criticise films for what they don't do, and instead focus on how well they do what they do.

However, Assassin's Creed feels like two disjointed films forced together by Hollywood/video game science. And both of these could have done a better job on their own.

I'll be honest here: I'd have a preferred a film set entirely in 15th Century Spain following Aguilar and his fellow members of the Assassin's Creed trying to steal the Apple Of Eden from The Inquisition and The Knight's Templar.

Those sequences - which were sadly fewer than I was expecting - were the highlights of the movie.

All the modern sci-fi nonsense simply diffused and distracted from the excitement of these "flashbacks".

All the plot holes, clichés, and groan-worthy moments of Assassin's Creed come in the contemporary parts of the story (for instance, why did the Templar scientists operate The Animus in a building where they also allowed all their Assassin's Creed prisoners' free rein?), which then all got wrapped up in a very hurried ending that left me mentally shouting at the TV screen: is that it?

But I'm guessing all the weaker parts were essential elements of the video game's mythology and so had to be there for it to be an Assassin's Creed movie, rather than a straight-up thrilling Medieval action romp.

And the bizarre thing is, this film has a cast to die for: as well as Fassbender, Irons, and Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael Kenneth Williams all put in not insignificant appearances.

Either this was some bizarre Hollywood dare; they are all fans of the video game (or have relatives who are); or they all needed some pocket money, but I can't believe a coterie of such calibre could all agree to take part in a film so clearly riddled with inconsistencies and brazen silliness.

And God Said, Let There Be Polyhedrals...


When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplaying games, I have two main requirements:
  • Ascending Armour Class (Time is precious in our short, monthly, gaming sessions, so the fewer tables I, as DM, need to consult during a game the better).
  • The use of multiple polyhedral dice (We've all got them, so let's use them!)
I'm always on the look-out for exotic and funky new dice, and stumbled across (on Amazon), this d60 (pictured above), which was this week's acquisition.

It's essentially a golf ball with numbers on - and rolls as such!

I knew there were d100's (but I've seen them priced for insane amounts, e.g. £25... for a single dice... not made of gold!), but had never seen a d60 before.

The same Amazon vendor also had d120s - claiming that geometrically (is that the right word? I can't remember exactly how they phrased it) that's the most number of sides you can have on a functioning dice.

Having rolled my d60 a number of times, I can only imagine that rolling a d120 is akin to rolling a snooker ball.

While nowhere near as pricey as the Zocchihedron d100, the d120 was still quite rich for my budget this month.

I'm sure, though, it won't be long before I'm chasing over the floor after it having rolled the spherical die on the table and watched it make its escape...

Of course, none of this means I have less love for the trusty d6, the backbone of my 'infinite dice pool'.

I recently managed to snag, via eBay, this pair of 'stormtrooper' themed dice:


I guess I shouldn't use them for rolls 'to hit'!

Fleamarket Friday: Spider-Man Comes Alive In Audio Adaptation Of Stan Lee Classic...

Broke - again - and running out of excuses, Peter Parker goes looking for trouble, hoping to snag some rent-paying photos of his alter ego in action. But trouble comes to him when the Kingpin and the Maggia converge in a battle for a mysterious tablet!

When the fight spills over to Empire State University, Peter finds himself in the crosshairs of not only the city's most nefarious villains, but also his friends - and the police!

But the story doesn't end there: When the assumed-dead leader of the Maggia resurfaces, it'll take all of Spider-Man's wits to track him down! It doesn't help that Peter's beloved Aunt May may be dying. Can Peter fight off his enemies, save his aunt and graduate from college?

Has the ol' Parker luck disappeared for good?
Stefan Petrucha adapted the classic Stan Lee '60s Spider-Man story The Stone Tablet Saga into novel format, as Spider-Man: Forever Young, and now the talented team at GraphicAudio has brought it to life in a full-cast, seven-hour, production.

You can hear a trailer and a sample of Spider-Man: Forever Young at GraphicAudio's site, where you can also order the play as either CDs or in a direct digital download.

The Dark Tower: There Are Other Worlds Than These...


Fleamarket Friday: Comics Are A Drug...


Our Valued Customers may no longer be publishing original cartoons, but for the time being author Tim Chamberlain is offering the telephone directory-sized, softback collection of all 1,566 single-panel gags for just $25 (plus shipping).

It's a whole chunk o'funny and well worth the money!

My copy, acquired via the earlier Kickstarter, is a treasured possession, perfect for dipping into when I need a random pick-me-up.

July's Picture Parade...

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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8)

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