Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Snowy, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Simians, and Silliness

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Welcome To Brit-City 2143, Punks - You Are Now In The World Of Judge Dredd...

"It’s Brit‑Cit 2143, and it’s time to explore the world of 2000 AD’s futuristic London, in a brand‑new fantasy sci‑fi experience.

This two‑hour, immersive live‑action attraction, will test both brains and brawn as you and your fellow perps escape from the iso‑block and discover an ultra‑modern, subterranean London.

You will need ingenuity to outwit the iso‑cube, skill to make it out of the iso‑block, before navigating future Piccadilly Circus and its inhabitants, and onto the laser‑tag battle in the Cursed Earth, before the grand finale in the New Old Bailey.

Whether you’ve been banged up for organ‑legging, body‑sharking or just possession of Umpty Candy, it’s time to breakout and traverse the new world before you."
Rebellion, publishers of 2000AD, and Little Lion Entertainment, creators of the Crystal Maze Live experiences, have teamed-up to bring a Judge Dredd-themed escape room experience - Uprising - to Central London next year.

This offer teams of five the chance to live - and try to survive - in the futuristic world of Judge Dredd for a couple of hours.

Judge Dredd Uprising: The Live Experience is said to include immersive live theatre, five zones of mental and skill challenges, a Cursed Earth laser tag arena, and a variety of different storylines.

I must confess, I'm rather envious of my fit and able-bodied readers who'll be able to enjoy this - sounds like a fantastic adventure.

Boy, Oh Boy, The Boys Are Back...

A tease from the opening of the first episode of the upcoming season two of The Boys, in all its bloody, glory.

#RPG Tonight We Hope To Finish The Witch, One Way Or Another...

Baba Lysaga's "Creeping Hut"

The witch Baba Lysaga is proving to be a problem for Syr Edvard and his Merry Band Of Miscreants in Simon's 5e Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft campaign.

The Tuesday Knights started fighting her two sessions ago, spent all of last session fighting her, and this evening will enter our third session of conflict.

I, as Syr Edvard, have a plan to bring this battle to its conclusion... but, sadly, I'm starting tonight's adventure unconscious, because of the battering I took last time from  one of the giant, animated, tree legs of the witch's mobile home.

This will be out seventh "virtual" meet-up - via the Zoom app - during lockdown.

No One Escapes The Barge People...

A group of friends sets off for a relaxing weekend away on the canals of the glorious British countryside, unaware of the flesh-eating mutants lurking in the water...ready and waiting to feed.
The Barge People will be available On Demand, Digital HD, DVD & Blu-ray August 18

Monday, 29 June 2020

Continuing Our Celebration Of The Breathtaking Works Of Ray Harryhausen...

We celebrate the centennial of stop motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen whose fantasy films ushered in a new era of special effects. From his early days on Mighty Joe Young to the birth of Dynamation and Sinbad to the literary adaptations and dinosaur movies to his mythological masterpieces Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of Titans.

DVD Of The Week: The Invisible Man (2020)

Two weeks after escaping the high-security home of her abusive, controlling, husband, Cecilla (Elisabeth Moss) learns he has killed himself.

However, as strange things start to happen in her life, she begins to suspect that the genius optics entrepreneur has actually faked his own death and really found a way to turn himself invisible!

This is something he had taunted her with in the past, saying then he could always keep an eye on her.

Has he done this? Or has he just got it into her head that he could do this? One final mind-game from beyond the grave...

Of course,  we, the audience, know that - given the title of the movie - Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has somehow achieved his devious ambition, Cecilla's friends and family refuse to accept her wild claims and we see her grasp on sanity slowly slipping away.

Written and directed by horror veteran Leigh Whannell, Universal's new spin on The Invisible Man is the terrifying sci-fi horror that could relaunch its aborted "Dark Universe", where Tom Cruise's The Mummy failed so spectacularly.

Sure, there are a couple of moments that stretch credibility, like Cecilla's cop friend, James Lanier (Leverage's Aldis Hodge), being allowed to sit in on her interrogation when she is framed for murder, and Cecilla finding Adrian's mobile phone, complete with incriminating pictures, and not sharing it with anyone.

But overall, this is a near-perfect masterpiece of escalating tension, psychological horror, and the terrifying possibilities of weird science.

The film was off to a good start with its leads. Elisabeth Moss and Aldis Hodge are excellent in everything I've seen them do, but Whannell brings an attention to detail (barring minor hiccups mentioned above) that escalate the creep factor to near-breaking point.

He wisely avoids a lot of 'floating objects held by invisible person' gimmicks, and instead, generally goes, at least initially, for subtler, more disturbing, effects that you might not even catch first time round.

I'm sure I missed some things.

The other clever aspect of this iteration of the well-known HG Wells story is that it is told entirely from Cecilla's perspective; Griffin - the demented supervillain of the piece - is barely seen or heard until the final act.

As well as a straight forward horror movie, The Invisible Man also works as frightening portrait of an abusive relationship, highlighting the incredulity and disbelief that Cecilla's allegations about her "dead husband" are met with.

This carries right through to the final act, after a surprise twist that could be seen to put Cecilla in the clear actually makes her situation worse.

Engrossing and psychologically disturbing, The Invisible Man - released on disc in the UK today (Monday) - is an impressive, contemporary, take on a classic sci-fi story, and well worth two hours of your time.


A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth.

John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary.

Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them.

As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.
That's a pretty impressive cast for what is, essentially, an Asylum-style disaster movie.

Musical Monday: Ace of Spades (Motörhead)

Celebrating The 100th Anniversary Of The Birth Of A Special Effects Titan...

Ray Harryhausen
29 June 1920 - 7 May 2013

I've mentioned on HeroPress many times over the years how the work of Ray Harryhausen was a the single biggest influence on my gaming when I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the late 70s and his style of animation and storytelling has continued to inspire me to this day.

Of particular importance to me were Jason And The Argonauts and the Sinbad trilogy (especially The Eye Of The Tiger, which was my first exposure to the world of Sinbad and became a direct inspiration for a world-spanning, nautical campaign I ran for Gublin).

The skeleton fight in Jason And The Argonauts is always my role model for fights against animated skeletons (if not all fights!) while the Medusa in Clash Of The Titans is, of course, the definitive look for the snake-haired demon whenever she appears in one of my dungeons.

As I've said before I wouldn't be the person I am today - proud gamer and geek - without the cinematic masterpieces of Ray Harryhausen which informed and coloured my childhood.

Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger
has a bad rep in some quarters, but for me this is where it all started.

Back in the mid-70s, when Tonbridge still had a poky little cinema, my parents took me to see this and, literally, my life was never the same again.

In the same year that I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and saw Star Wars for the first time; 1977 was the making of me.

My very first Dungeons & Dragons character was called Sinbad (he killed - some say 'murdered' - a couple of dwarves in a drunken tavern brawl, changed his name to Bassin and fled to sea) and the first 'campaign' that Gublin and I played was ripped, whole-cloth, from Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger.

It was a make-it-up-as-you-go, seaborne adventure unfolding on an ever-extending roll of artpaper (or wallpaper, maybe), where we just drew in islands, land masses, reefs and ice barriers on a whim. There was, of course, a "top of the world" (through the ice barriers) where we, unsurprisingly, found a magical temple (as seen in the movie) aka the Shrine of the Four Elements.

Even though it was (teenaged son of mum's friend) Steve Grover's evocative recounting of the plots of Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings that led him to introduce me to D&D originally, it was that campaign with Gublin that cemented the connection between fantasy gaming and cinema (which remain my two great passions to this day) in my brain.

So, yes, Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger might have some shockingly poor green-screening, but it's a very special movie to me - and it's got Ray Harryhausen monsters in it!

Let's not forget the fact that it also stars John Wayne's son, Patrick (which was a big deal to a little kid like me at the time) and a scantily dressed Jane Seymour - which is always a big deal!

Seriously, she looks stunning in this film and the sight of her topless - even fleetingly - to an 11-year-old boy has been permanently etched into my brain (thank God for the invention of home video).

GAME MATERIAL (Swords & Wizadry)

(trogloditus giganticus)

The trogs are a peaceful, humanoid species bred as a slave race by the Arimaspi (the spellweaving inhabitants of the lost, northern land of Hyperborea, who also used giant sabre-toothed smilodons as we use guard dogs today). However, when the Arimaspi fell victim to their own hubris and were wiped out by the magical forces they believed they had ultimate control over, the trogs were left to thrive in the lush, green valleys the Arimaspi had magically created at the North Pole.

Standing about 10 or 11 feet tall, the horn-headed trog can look quite intimidating. However, they are easily spooked and are afraid of the unknown. When one discovers newcomers in its land, it will try to warn them off - or warn them of the dangers ahead - but as it has no concept of language, its gestures and weapon waving may easily be misconstrued.

Trogs are very gentle towards females and would never attack a woman - unless she had physically wounded him in some way first - and are easily befriended with the right approach.

#ENC: 1d3
Size: Large
HD: 4+1
AC: 5 [14]
Attack: Weapon (usually a giant club for 1d10 +3, or any other oversized weapon for +3 damage). Its head-horn can only be used against other large (or bigger) sized creatures, for 1d6+3 damage.
Move: 10
Alignment: Lawful
CL/XP: 4/120
Saving Throw: 13

Summoned Ghouls

Summoned Ghouls are nightmare creatures conjured up by a wizard that knows the correct spell. They will appear out of the nearest large, man-made fire - be it a fireplace or a camp fire - and, although only five foot tall, their appearance strikes terror into the hearts of those who see them.

They look like demonic skeletons wrapped tightly in an inhuman skin, but with giant bug-like eyes. Two-thirds will arrive already armed (usually with swords or axes), while the rest scavenge what they can find from the surrounding area.

The ghouls live to kill, communicate by chittering between themselves and will only obey the mental commands of their summoner.

#ENC: 1d4+1
Size: Man-sized (5')
HD: 3
AC: 7 [12]
Saving Throw: 14
Attack: by weapon (long sword/battleaxe 1d8+1)
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
  • Damage Resistance - a summoned ghoul can only be harmed by any single attack that does enough damage to kill it (e.g. a ghoul with 12 hit points can only be killed by a single attack that does 12 or more points of damage). Anything less than that amount, even though the weapon may pierce or batter the ghoul, has no effect.
  • Spell Immunity - summoned ghouls are totally resistant to fire-based attacks.
  • Surprising Appearance - when summoned ghouls first appear, any humanoids within sight (except the summoner and his allies) must save versus magic or be unable to act for a single round.
CL/XP: 5/240

Giant Walrus

Found in the coldest parts of the world, the giant walrus is very territorial and will attack any creatures it believes are invading its turf. However, much of its attack is bluster and should a walrus suffer a loss of over a third of its initial hit points, it will attempt to escape back into the sea. Its ivory tusks are each worth (1d6x100) gold pieces.

It is also rather slow and plodding outside of the water and so suffers a -1 penalty on Initiative rolls.

#ENC: 1- 2
Size: Giant (25ft long, about 15ft tall at head)
HD: 10
AC: 5 [14]
Attacks: Tusks - usually for batting aside prey, 1d0+3 damage plus STR check on 5d6 vs STR+LVL, for be knocked (four + 1d6) feet. Sometimes tusks are used for stabbing (at -2 to hit, but 1d12+3 damage). The walrus can also trample fallen prey for 1d10+3 damage.
Movement: 6/12 (swimming)
: Neutral
Special: Immunity to cold-based attacks.
CL/XP: 10/1,400


A unique fusion of black magic and technology, brought to life by the dark arts but kept moving with a golden, clockwork heart (worth 1,000gp if it can be salvaged somehow).

Created in the shape of a minotaur (a giant, muscular man with the head of a bull), the minaton is an eight foot tall animated bronze statue that is relentless, untiring and totally loyal to its creator. Gifted with superhuman strength, it is incapable of independent thought or any form of speech/communication.

It is only capable of acting when given direct orders (and only by its creator), otherwise it will stand totally motionless and not react to any outside interference.

#ENC: Unique
Size: Large  (8ft tall)
HD: 10 (50 HP)
AC: 3 [16]
Attacks: Weapon (any oversized weapon for +4 damage, usually a giant spear for 1d10 +4 damage)
Saving Throw: 5
Movement: 8
Alignment: -
  • Damage Immunity: the minaton is immune to non-magical weapon attacks, as well as spells that affect the mind or frailties of the human body (such as charm, paralysis, poison etc), but takes full damage, as normal, from aggressive spells such as fireball, lightning bolt etc
CL/XP: 12/2,000


Potion of Transformation
: a powerful draught found in a small, locket-sized vial (with 1d8+1 sips remaining), that can transform the drinker into any small (non-monstrous) animal - of the drinker's choosing - until the animal takes a second sip of the potion.

Out of its container, the potion can evaporate reasonably quickly and so if there isn't enough left to trigger a reversion to human form, it is possible for the drinker to be subjected to a partial restoration (ie. they will revert to human form, but some part of them will remain in the shape of part of the creature they were - although scaled up to human size).

However, the potion can also be used as an ingredient in a transformation spell (using two sips worth), which will then transform its victim permanently into a smaller-then-human-sized creature (although not a bird or insect).

The transformee will retain his human intelligence (but obviously not the power of speech) for 1d4 months, then gradually begin to revert to the creature's true animal nature - taking a further 2d4 weeks until the transformation is complete (and irreversible).

If a sip of the potion is fed to an ordinary animal, bird, insect etc it will transform into a monstrous-sized version of its original form and will no doubt attack anything within sight.

As we celebrate 100th anniversary of Ray Harryhausen's birth, we mustn't forget The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation's informative and entertaining podcast - The Ray Harryhausen Podcast.

Featuring a mixture of archival interviews with Ray, as well as specially recorded commentary on his movies, recorded in the years just before his death in 2013, the podcasts are hosted by Collections Manager Connor Heaney and Foundation Trustee John Walsh, discussing Ray's work, his films, and items in the Foundation's collection of more than 50,000 pieces of Ray's art, monster models, props etc

The podcasts come out, roughly, monthly and episodes range in length from around 20 minutes up to an hour (for the current Top Ten of Ray's creations, as voted for by this fans).

So, if you're a fan of Ray's work (and who isn't?) you really need to subscribe to this podcast.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Terrifying Timely Trailer...

Successful author Veronica Henley (Janelle Monáe) finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late.

Stay Frosty For The Full Aliens Boardgame Experience

It's time to lock and load, Gale Force Nine announced this weekend that the the complete "Aliens boardgame experience" will all be released this year, starting with the core game in October.

Two expansions (Aliens: Ultimate Badasses and Aliens: Get Away From Her, You B***h!) will follow later in the year, adding to the experience with new characters, missions, and game mechanics.

Here's a tease, from GF9, of what these all include:
Aliens: Another Glorious Day In The Corps
• Play iconic characters
• Recreate awesome scenes from the movie
• Quick and easy rules
• Dynamic co-op gameplay
• And all the Aliens you can kill!

Aliens: Ultimate Badasses
• Increase your Fireteam with six new Characters
• Gain Experience cards to give your Characters new abilities.

Aliens: Get Away From Her, You B***h!
• Play as the Alien Hive
• New campaign missions and locations from the movie
• Recreate the epic duel between Ripley and the Alien Queen

You've Made It Halfway, Just Keep Going...

Saturday, 27 June 2020

We're Going To Need A Bigger Wall!

The trailers - for the forthcoming monster flick Land Shark (aka Luxingsha) - may be in Chinese, but you don't need to understand the language to grok the story they're trying to sell.
The boss of a pharmaceutical company has invested in the establishment of a biopharmaceutical research laboratory located deep in the jungle.

By modifying the shark gene to develop a new type of anti-cancer drug, a huge crisis also came quietly: due to the change of the shark’s gene, the gene mutation was fierce and showed the characteristics of other organisms.
It's almost as though The Asylum has opened a new branch in China.

All credit to Bloody Disgusting for highlighting this marvellous movie.

Artist Appreciation: Albert Kallis

Albert Kallis is the genius who created these glorious schlock horror movie posters for the ever-inventive Roger Corman and his compadres.

You can see a broader selection of his work here at CineMaterial, and learn more about his background via the brilliant Design You Trust website.

Sadly, the days when film posters on their own had the power to draw you into a cinema are long gone, and creativity of this calibre is a rarity in modern cinema promotions, when they've probably already hooked you in with trailers and online content.

Also, I miss the days - not that I'm old enough to remember these first time round - when movie titles sounded like they'd been randomly generated by drawing half-a-dozen assorted words out of a hat.

I wonder how often the poster and/or name came first and the film-makers then had to write a script to merit its use.

The Boys Are Back In Town This September...

There is a new "hero" in town: Stormfront has joined The Seven. Check out this clip from Season Two of The Boys!
An unsurprisingly NSFW tease of what's to come in the new season of The Boys, which I understand will drop its first three episodes on September 4, then an episode per week after that (as seems to be the new format everyone is experimenting with).
The even more intense, more insane Season Two finds The Boys on the run from the law, hunted by the Supes, and desperately trying to regroup and fight back against Vought.

In hiding, Hughie (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) try to adjust to a new normal, with Butcher (Karl Urban) nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, Starlight (Erin Moriarty) must navigate her place in The Seven as Homelander (Antony Starr) sets his sights on taking complete control.

His power is threatened with the addition of Stormfront (Aya Cash), a social media-savvy new Supe, who has an agenda of her own.

On top of that, the supervillain threat takes centre stage and makes waves as Vought seeks to capitalize on the nation’s paranoia.

Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics (2010)

Narrated by Ryan Reynolds, behind the amazing tales of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a host of other well-known characters is the equally impressive story of the challenges, creativity and triumphs of the company that brought those characters to life.

Secret Origin: TheStory of DC Comics is both a celebration of the best writers and artists in comics and a thoughtful exploration of 75 years of DC Comics history.
Here's my review of this 2010 documentary, from when it was released on DVD:
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a sucker for documentaries about superhero comic books.

Celebrating DC Comics' 75th anniversary this year and narrated by the Green Lantern himself, Ryan Reynolds, Secret Origins: The Story Of DC Comics moves faster than a speeding locomotive in condensing seven-and-a-half decades of comic book history into 90 minutes.

From the creation of Superman out of the melting pit of America's immigrant culture, then the appearance of Batman as a fellow defender of the weak and eventually the rather bizarre origin of Wonder Woman, the documentary charts the ups-and-downs of DC Comics with talking head contributions from some of the mediums creative legends.

With access to archival footage, as well as recently filmed interviews, the film even manages to sneak in some cheeky footage of the that notorious curmudgeon Alan Moore talking about Swamp Thing, alongside old interviews with the fathers of Superman - Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - and a fair amount of input from one of my personal comic book heroes, Julius Schwartz.

Breaking up the highs (e.g. the unprecedented sales of The Death Of Superman and The Dark Knight Returns) and the lows (e.g. the idiotic wave of hysteria provoked by Fredric Wertham's allegations against the comic book industry) are eloquent and entertaining insights and anecdotes from some of  DC's greats - from Neil Gaiman, Neal Adams and Grant Morrison to Geoff Johns, Denny O'Neil and Mark Waid.

As a starting point for someone new to comic books, who is interested in finding out "where they came from", or as a refresher for old fans like myself, this is a great documentary.

Secret Origins
does a great job of highlighting the various tipping points of the fickle and volatile comic book industry - and its subsequent peaks and troughs - such as the post-war apathy to superheroes and then later the eventual backlash against the grim and gritty heroes that followed the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.

The documentary's only fault is its brevity. Sadly there are no extras on the DVD with additional or extended interviews, but clearly such a broad topic could easily sustain itself over the duration of a series of documentaries (in the style of Ink! Alter Egos Exposed) with more time devoted to the both the internal and external events that shaped the various "ages" of comic books (Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern) as well as the careers and personalities of the creative talents involved.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Bill and Ted Comic Book Prequel Slated To Arrive After They Face The Music...

After defeating the evil dictator De Nomolos in Bogus Journey in 1995, things aren’t looking as excellent as they should for either Bill and Ted or Wyld Stallyns.

There’s tension in the band and worry at home.

Bill and Ted’s obsessiveness with writing the one song to bring peace to the world is affecting their playing and their relationships with their families.

The band is losing favour with fans and the future isn’t shaping up as they were all led to believe it would from past (and future) events.

Desperate for a solution Bill and Ted burst in to announce their great idea to revive the band’s fortunes: A world tour to spread the love-and the rock, and the love of the rock-to the world.
In a typically entangled piece of time travel trickery, a prequel comic to Bill and Ted Face The Music is due out after the film is supposed to hit cinemas in August.

The four issue mini-series, Bill and Ted Are Doomed, from Dark Horse Comics, which is also a sequel to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, is due to launch in early September, while the movie is - pandemic-willing - currently scheduled to open on August 14.

Epic Sci-Fi Saga Will Be Foundation Of My Future Apple TV Subscription...

Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire.

Foundation stars SAG Award-winner and Emmy-nominee Jared Harris as Hari Seldon; Lee Pace as Brother Day; Lou Llobell as Gaal; Leah Harvey as Salvor; Laura Birn as Demerzel; Terrence Mann as Brother Dusk; and Cassian Bilton as play Brother Dawn
Foundation is one of those epic sci-fi sagas that I've always been aware of, but now feel I ought to know more about it before I get drawn into watching the show (I'm currently pestering Rachel, who made the mistake of admitting she was thinking of getting an iPad, to ensure that it includes a free Apple TV subscription... purely so I can watch this!)

On the other hand it's sometimes very liberating to come to lore-heavy shows like this with as little pre-knowledge as possible.

SHAZAM! Captain Marvel Origin Bombshell!

While the original Captain Marvel was one of the first superheroes I ever encountered, and I've always been a fan of the character, I wouldn't say I was particularly knowledgeable about much of his broad mythology.

I, like many I guess, have always taken it as gospel that young Billy Batson received the powers of Shazam from "The Wizard" (as we saw in the recent movie).

However, recently rereading his first comic book appearance (in 1940's Whiz Comics #2, reprinted in DC Comics' Shazam! A Celebration of 75 Years) that turns out not be exactly true.

Billy still meets the "old man" - who says his name is Shazam (see above) - but then he explains his backstory:

The old man, Shazam, isn't a wizard... he was the previous Captain Marvel.

And he was doing the job he has just passed on to Billy for 3,000 years!

How cool is that?

DC, which now owns Captain Marvel, has always been big on legacy characters, so I don't see why they didn't stick with this idea.

I love the suggestion that the magical powers Billy has been gifted with could keep him alive for another three millennia.

The character clearly grows old, but at an incredibly slow rate.

So Billy is going to be essentially a kid for centuries yet.

And picture the 'future history' stories that could be told - Captain Marvel could join the Legion of Super-Heroes for one thing.

Or stories of the previous Captain Marvel (before he became the "old man") circa 1,000 BC.

That could tie nicely into the origin story of Black Adam. It's similar enough to the accepted story of Black Adam that it wouldn't take much tinkering to adapt to this new vision.

Then you leapfrog either a further 3,000 years back from the Black Adam era or a further 3,000 years on from the 50th Century and explore other Captain Marvels up and down the timeline.

A purchase from several years ago of what I believe was the first issue of Shazam!
that I read as a small child. Now framed on the bedroom wall

Jealous Of Sheldon Cooper's Success, Raj Broke Bad After Big Bang Theory Ended...

Out on DVD on July 20, Think Like a Dog follows 12-year-old Oliver, a tech prodigy whose middle-school science fair experiment goes awry, creating a telepathic connection between him and his furry friend, Henry. The bond brings Oliver and Henry even closer as they join forces to comically overcome complications at school, and help Oliver's parents rekindle their marriage along the way.

Review Round-Up: Crawl; Paradise Hills; Skyscraper

Crawl (2019): While trying to rescue her father during a Category 5 hurricane, Floridian Haley (Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge's Kaya Scodelario) finds herself trapped in the fast-flooding crawlspace under their old family home with a couple of very pissed-off alligators.

Crawl is brilliant in not hanging around, it gets us to the meat of the action within minutes and then barely lets up for the duration.

Kudos to director Alexandre Aja, and writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, for constantly finding inventive ways to keep ramping up the tension.

The film's very good at letting you think things are just about to get better for Haley and her dad, Dave (Barry Pepper), then making them 10 times worse.

Another thing in Crawl's favour is that both Haley and Dave are people you'd want around in a crisis like this: she's gifted athlete and he's very practically minded.

While there are other people in the story (mostly as meals for the gators), this is really a magnificent two-hander from Scodelario and Pepper, who must have spent innumerable, miserable, days submerged in cold water, suffering for their art.

While I think gators probably have a way to go before challenging sharks as cinema's (non-fictional) apex predator, Crawl, on Sky Cinemadoes an impressive job of making a solid case for your consideration.

Paradise Hills (2019): In a near-future sci-fi setting with a distinct class delineation between the "haves" and the "have nots", rich socialite Uma (The Hunt's Emma Roberts) wakes up in a strange, yet idyllic, finishing school-come-health spa that her mother and prospective husband have sent her to (against her will).

The aim of Uma's enforced stay is, supposedly, to smooth the rough edges off of her confrontational personality and persuade her that her arranged marriage is a good idea.

The bizarre resort, run by The Duchess (Resident Evil's Milla Jovovich), has all the oddities and eccentricities of The Prisoner's Village and the school in Morning Glories, if all the residents were attractive young women and all the staff dead-eyed male models.

Uma doesn't plan on hanging around and is constantly scheming, with the trio of friends she makes, to escape.

But, as plans are set in motion, the women scratch below the surface of Paradise Hills and discover what is really going on.

The thing is when the big revelation came, I was pleasantly surprised as it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be.

However, there is a further twist involving The Duchess that feels like an aberration left over from an earlier draft of the script.

The set-up is fantastic, beautifully styled by the story's originator and director Alice Waddington, but while a delicious serving of eye-candy, like candy the film's also rather lacking in lasting substance.

The script by Brian DeLeeuw and Nacho Vigalondo, based on an original idea from Waddington and Sofía Cuenca, can't decide if it wants to go hard science or something more mystical.

Why can't it go both, you ask. For the exact reasons on display here. In trying to have its cake and eat it, Paradise Hills fails to truly address either thematic strand of its narrative.

Which is a shame, because if it had settled on one (I'd have stuck with the hard science, personally), it could have been a powerful tale with a lasting impact.

Paradise Hills is currently on Netflix.

Skyscraper (2018): Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno. With The Rock.

There's no denying that Skyscraper is nonsense, but it's glorious, beautiful nonsense.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is Will Sawyer, a security expert hired to inspect the world's tallest building (in Hong Kong), which - for reasons - catches fire while his wife and two children are trapped inside.

Will then has to get back inside the building - while pursued by police who believe him responsible for the conflagration - to battle bad guys and save his family.

This is old school disaster movie fare mixed with a crime drama, peppered with modern technology, and served up with deliciously preposterous, physics-defying, stunts.

There are plenty of moments where you will gasp, and prepare to have your vertigo triggered by some shots.

Skyscraper is currently available on Sky Cinema and Netflix.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

#RPG Knight City Lives Again, Again!

emoji created by Jim Miller 

Recent weeks have seen the green shoots of recovery over at my dormant - yet ongoing - thought experiment-come-future superhero RPG campaign setting, Knight City.

I can't full explain what got me working over there again, but - bizarrely - the Harley Quinn animated series played a role in it.

The first, and most important, article I'd like to draw your attention to is the write-up of America's foremost superhero: Anthem.

This character is based upon one created, and run, by the late David Cotton, who died suddenly at the end of last month.

Although I never knew him, David was a dear friend of Adam Dickstein, who wrote, movingly, of the loss of his friend here.

When I read about David's love of the superhero gaming genre something clicked in my head and I approached Adam about memorialising one of David's characters in my setting as a non-player character.

I can't claim credit for this idea, though. I first came across it a year or so ago (time's a bit blurry these days) when a mother was asking people online to think about including an NPC in their campaigns based on her Dungeons & Dragons-loving son who had also tragically died too young.

I thought this was a lovely idea and it came back to me when I learned of David's passing.

After I drafted my version of Anthem's origin story, and ran everything by Adam, I got to thinking how cool it would be - once my luck points run out - if, one day, my own Acrobatic Flea could live on in other people's superhero roleplaying games.

Other recent postsings over at Knight City, which currently utilises my own personal hack of second edition Villains & Vigilantes (the superhero game that I grew up with), include:
  • A redacted FBI document about investigations into a secretive organisation known as The Great Shadow Brotherhood. Initially, this idea spun out of my discussions with Adam about Anthem, as, in his games, that character's major foe was the SHADOW organisation. So, I took that, combined it with my love of cults and conspiracies, and wove together this potential plot hook.
  • Another plot hook - and a couple of potential NPCs - came in a newspaper write-up about a new signing to Knight City's LAW Studios. Or was it simply an excuse to use some pictures of the gorgeous Cara Delevingne on my campaign blog?
  • Finally, we have a write-up of the Weekly World News' Spycat. After featuring the character in my current weekly delve into the story potential of that wonderful publications headlines, I was encouraged by Justin 'Pun' Isaac to give Spycat some game statistics... and that's just what I did. As I was writing it, I started to get quirky Venture Bros./Rick and Morty vibes from the idea of presenting Spycat as a serious player in the universe of Knight City, which I rather liked.

Between 2005 and 2007, Spycat has his own comic strip in Weekly World News, by Dick Siegel and Ernie Colón

All The Dead Waynes: Every Time Bruce Wayne's Parents Have Died On Film...


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