Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, Swords, Sorcery, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Scares, Silliness, Sauciness, Smeg, and the Supernatural

Sunday, 30 May 2021

The Sandman Is Everywhere...


Published originally at a time when the mainstream was beginning to see comics as an adult art form rather than just disposable kids' fare, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman was a game-changer.

Then last year we were blown away by Audible's peerless full-cast audiobook adaptation of the first volume of Sandman tales, and now Netflix is gearing up for its live-action take on these seminal stories.

Following the earlier announcement of key cast roles, such as Morpheus himself and Lucifer (see below), Neil Gaiman, DC Comics and Netflix have dropped the names of another dozen central cast members in the show (see above).

You can read more about this announcement over at DC's website here or get creator Neil Gaiman's personal take via a Netflix blog post here.


And it looks like we'll be getting further news on The Sandman - as well as other eagerly-awaited genre shows - during Netflix's Geeked Week next month (June 7 to 11).

Sweater Weather With Velma - Week Five...

They Want Brains? Guess I'm Safe...

Saturday, 29 May 2021

The Clue Is In The Title: China's Giant Spider Is Not A Film For Arachnophobes...

Located in a mysterious laboratory in the desert, the experimental spider used for genetic research has mutated and turned into a giant spider-monster, and the laboratory has been reduced to a giant spider nest.

A few days later, a special operations team led by Captain Gao Qiang, escorted Quanzhi Group scientist Doctor Chen to the laboratory to rescue the trapped personnel and tried to retrieve relevant scientific research materials. However, Doctor Chen concealed the internal layout of the laboratory. The situation becomes desperate…
Unsurprisingly for a film called Giant Spider (巨蛛), this new Chinese monster flick features spiders... lots of spiders.

So, going by one of our recent gaming sessions, this will not be a movie for my friend Erica.

However, my interest has been seriously piqued by the glimpse we get in the trailer of what appears to be a scientist morphing into some kind of human-spider hybrid.

Now, I just need to track down this movie once it's released.

DVD Of The Week: The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

When genius Los Angeles-based computer scientist Hannon Fuller (Shine's Armin Mueller-Stahl) is murdered, police detective Larry McBain (24's Dennis Haysbert) suspects Fuller's long-time partner and successor in the firm, Douglas Hall (Boston Legal's Craig Bierko).

However, the transition of power is further confused by the sudden appearance of Fuller's previously unknown daughter, Jane (Boardwalk Empire and Perry Mason's Gretchen Mol).

On the thirteenth floor of his corporate tower, Fuller had been working on a highly secretive project, creating a virtual reality simulation of 1937 Los Angeles.

Somehow, Fuller had become aware that someone was after him.

Without telling his assistant Whitney (Daredevil's Vincent D'Onofrio), Fuller left a message for Hall in the simulation, but Hall - when he finally "jacks in" for the first time - is unable to find it.

Parallel to the murder investigation in 'modern day' Los Angeles, Hall has to navigate the 1930's simulation to try and recover his mentor's all-important message.

While the late 1990's ideas of "sci-fi" technology in The Thirteenth Floor already look horribly dated to modern eyes, the story itself is incredibly smart and engaging.

While it's a film I was passingly aware of, it wasn't until its praises were sung so highly in the simulation hypothesis documentary A Glitch In The Matrix (which, I have to confess, has really got under my skin of late), that I thought I'd better check it out.

Acquired for a couple of quid on eBay, The Thirteenth Floor has elements of The Matrix, Westworld, Dark City, The Truman Show and probably several other reality-challenging stories that I can't put my finger on right now.

It's very much a mystery, rather than an action movie, with the observant viewer twigging what's really going on just minutes before the protagonist does.

Even the aspects that, initially, come across as a tad clumsy - such as the romantic sub-plot - are eventually explained in the superb script from Daniel F. Galouye Ravel Centeno-Rodriguez, and director Josef Rusnak.

And I really get why the "simulation theorists" in the documentary rate this 100-minute movie, as its approach to the core theme, while superficially simplistic, is actually quite textured and fascinating.

While I'm usually an advocate for leaving old properties alone, I reckon The Thirteenth Floor is due a 21st Century remake - in the style of the HBO's Westworld reimagining of the original 1970's Westworld films and TV series.

Sub-Zero VS Scorpion (a Mortal Kombat fan film by Chris .R. Notarile)

Long ago, two men from rival clans met, and fought in a bitter battle to the death. Now, finally learn what caused these legendary ninjas to engage in their deadly duel.
Underwhelmed by the recent big budget Mortal Kombat?

Have no fear, prodigious fan film creator Chris .R. Notarile brings you his take on Sub-Zero vs Scorpion.

Chris said:
"I've wanted to do a Sub-Zero VS Scorpion fight for years, dating all the way back to my time in NYC. But for many reasons, I was never able to make it happen. But it never left my "wish list" of things to make. Then randomly one day, I got a friend request from Gary Choi, who graciously offered me his skills and stunt team. It had been years since I had a true stunt team at my disposal, and there was no way I was gonna pass up the offer.

Gary had asked me what I would want to make, and the first thing that came to mind was Sub-Zero VS Scorpion. We geeked out about it for a while as we discussed how to make it happen. I told him I wanted it to be as authentic and representative as possible. I wanted Japanese and Chinese actors for Hanzo and Bi-Han respectively, and more than anything, I didn't want them speaking English.

Believe it or not, I'm actually a fan of kung fu movies, and I have a lot of respect for the time, effort and skill that goes into every epic fight. One of my biggest goals with making this short, was to be able to replicate that style and feel. I didn't want rapidly edited quick cuts. I didn't want shaky shots. I wanted smooth, steady, wide shots that did one thing and one thing only- showed off the fight in all its glory.

We filmed in Griffith park in Hollywood. It was a real pain having to shoot in between children and louder hikers playing and or passing by, but we made it work. Kevin Chambers and Leon Sheen gave it their all and completely out did themselves in this epic fight. It was brutal and emotional. I can't tell you the pure joy I had getting to film Scorpion and Sub-Zero beating the stuffing out of each other. It was just so damn cool!
"

Friday, 28 May 2021

Flying My Geek Flag Proudly Around Every Corner of Our Forever Home...

The Office


As we hopefully come out the other side of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions are easing, it means Rachel's parents can pop round more and help us get our "forever home" more shipshape.

Part of that has involved hanging more pictures that we never got round to pre-Coronavirus.

I'm particularly pleased with how the office wall (adjacent to one of my shelves of semi-organised comic books and graphic novels) has turned out.

Complementing the original framed comic book covers of Zot! (the greatest comic nobody talks about now) and a particularly striking Conan The Barbarian cover from Jim Zub's current run on the title, we now have

A new, signed, Karen Allen picture also went up in the gamesroom, along with a signed Louise Jameson-as-Leela in Doctor Who shot, but otherwise the gamesroom is pretty much done and dusted.

However, I am in the middle of trying to have a massive clear-out of my back catalogue of gaming material that I strongly doubt I will ever look at again (which does mean stacks of books on the floor, cartons of miniatures on the table, and a tower of empty Amazon boxes, waiting to be put to use).

Down the garden, in our "craft room" (ie. the garden room), which also doubles as "the gym" (as it's home to our running machine), we've also hung some pictures there, including a couple of signed photos of "inspirational, powerful women" (which is how I sold them to Rachel, although I don't think she was convinced): namely Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman and Lucy Lawless as Xena, Warrior Princess.

Be Inspired!

Sands Of Time Running Out For Those Trapped On Tropical Beach...

This summer, visionary filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan unveils a chilling, mysterious new thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day.

The film stars an impressive international cast including Golden Globe winner Gael García Bernal (Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle), Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread), Rufus Sewell (Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle), Ken Leung (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending), Abbey Lee (HBO’s Lovecraft Country), Aaron Pierre (Syfy’s Krypton), Alex Wolff (Hereditary), Embeth Davidtz (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women), Emun Elliott (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), Kathleen Chalfant (Showtime’s The Affair) and Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit).
Right, then, who's got a theory? I reckon it's something to do with the sand in an hourglass and the sand of the beach... they're all trapped in God's egg timer!

TV's Pennyworth Earns Alfred His First Solo Comic Book ... As A Cold War Spy!

Pennyworth - the surprisingly successful TV show recounting a version of the formative years of Batman's faithful butler Alfred in a twisted alternative reality - is making the jump to comic books in August.

He may be Bruce Wayne's oldest ally, and a father figure to the Caped Crusader since the Golden Age, but this will be Alfred's first comic book outing as a headline act.

Spanning the years between the hit TV show and today, Pennyworth tells the continuing adventures of Alfred Pennyworth as an MI6 counterintelligence agent - this time in Cold War-era Soviet Russia.
When Alfred and his partner receive intelligence that nuclear weapons are being manufactured near the Arctic Circle, they're off to infiltrate the remote military base to learn more.
But things don't go exactly as planned, and the ramifications of this mission may be more far-reaching than anyone could have guessed, as our present-day butler gets dragged back into his past...

Issue one of the new seven-issue mini-series Pennyworth, written by Scott Bryan Wilson with art from Juan Gedeon, is due out on August 10.

Clearly this is a sign of DC's current drive to abandon the concept of continuity and embrace "everything" it has produced as equally important because as much as I enjoy Pennyworth it clearly has no connection to 'real world history' or even the generally-accepted history of the Batman comics most of us grew up reading.

The Leverage Crew Are Back In Action...

In this new iteration, and new world, the Leverage crew have watched as the rich and powerful continue to take what they want without consequence.

Grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf), hitter Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), and hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) have watched the world change over the last eight years.

Since their last job, it’s become easier - and sometimes legal - for the rich to become richer and the powerful to squash anyone who gets in their way.

To address the changes in the world around them, the team finds new blood in Harry Wilson (Noah Wyle), a corporate lawyer who is looking for redemption after realizing he’d been sitting on the wrong side of the table for his entire career, and Breanna Casey (Aleyse Shannon), Hardison’s foster sister who has a knack for computers, robotics, and getting into trouble
.

Hooray for Mary Jane!

Thursday, 27 May 2021

CHANGES AT HEROPRESS: TAKE NOTE!!!

As I trudge towards the 15th anniversary of HeroPress next January, I'm slowly implementing some changes to the blog.

The MOST IMPORTANT immediate difference will be the way I share articles via Facebook. From the start of next month (June), articles pertaining to comics and superheroes (including movie/TV coverage and relevant games) will be shared ONLY on my new HeroPress Facebook page, so please join that if you wish to be kept abreast of developments in that area.

All you need to do is 'like' (and 'follow') this page: https://www.facebook.com/HeroPress2 and ensure you're notified of any new postings.

Simultaneously, all articles relating to swords-and-sorcery/fantasy etc (again, including games, films etc) will now only be shared in my I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters group on Facebook.

Entry is free to this club, all you have to do is promise not to be a dick.


Obviously, what I REALLY would you like you all to do (if you haven't already) is to "follow" this blog directly (by clicking the "follow" button at the top of the right-hand column of this blog, and thus adding your icon to my ever-growing Legion of Whom) or, at least, through your blog aggregator (such as Feedly).

Going forward, I'm planning to phase out a lot of my cosplay coverage by the end of 2021, keeping only the beloved Wonder Woman Wednesday as a regular feature.

This is in line with my personal attitude to blogging that saw me shelving Picture Parades and similar image-heavy posts.

In that arena, I'll still be hanging on to Weird Wednesday posts, the occasional Artist Appreciation, and, of course, my monthly Geek Pin-Up, all of which I feel have some merit and justification in the HeroPress ethos.

Book Your Ticket For A Wild Jungle Cruise...

This summer, join Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt on the adventure of a lifetime. 🚢 Watch the new trailer for Disney’s Jungle Cruise and see the movie in theaters or order it on Disney+ with Premier Access July 30 (Additional Fee Required).

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s Jungle Cruise is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton.

Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila - his ramshackle but-charming boat.

Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities - possessing the power to change the future of medicine.

Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate - and mankind’s - hangs in the balance.

Jaume Collet-Serra directs the film, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramírez and Jack Whitehall, with Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti.
Jungle Cruise looks like it'll be a great addition to the action=packed pulp oeuvre of Tales of The Gold Monkey, Brendan Fraser's The Mummy, Indiana Jones, the Hollow Earth Expedition roleplayng game etc

I strongly suspect I'll be buying a ticket for this ride (care of Premier Access, of course).

#RPG Okay, I Got Distracted...

Have no fear, gentle readers, my main gaming focus remains Knight City and the wonderful Amazing Heroes rules system, but as my new game buying days are drawing to a close I thought I should check out Jonathan Hicks' Those Dark Places.

Having trumpeted its release first on my now-mothballed Alien-themed blog, Game Over, Man! Game Over!, and then on HeroPress, I felt it was my civic duty to support a British games writer.

Everything I've read about this game meshes with my new-found love for mechanical simplicity.

The atmosphere Jonathan is seeking to emulate with the game is certainly one I'd be more than happy to bring to the table for the Tuesday Knights (even though it's totally counter to the foul-colour Silver Age zaniness that I picture as a distinct possibility in my superhero campaign). 

I've only had time to skim through the book, and I'm already getting Traveller-meets-Alien vibes from it, which - unsurprisingly - piques my interest no end and gets the old gears whirring in my noggin.

I aim to properly dive in to this lovely-looking little hardback (from Osprey Publishing, purveyors of fine historical text books as well as gaming products) in due course and report back.

The publisher already has a good bit of free downloadable support material for Those Dark Places, including a gamesmaster's booklet from Jonathan, available here.

Jonathan has also released a new PDF adventure for the system as well: The Ana-Sin-Emid Report.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Weird Wednesday...

#RPG Episode Eight: Descent Into Hell

 

Previously On The Theoretical Science Foundation:

Our heroes plunge into the depths of an abandoned mine, facing assault from enormous arachnids and mutated insects, to rescue their errant colleague.

Having returned Jeff to the farm house and broken to him the sad news about the demise of both his assistant, Jimmy, and his sister, Jill, we grabbed some shut eye to recuperate from the ordeal of the battle with the strange giant insects... little knowing what the next day would hold for us.

Come the morning, Jeff, having regained his senses, was super-excited about his discoveries and insisted on showing us a photograph (at top) of Jimmy in a new cave system that had been opened up by the recent tectonic shifts.

He pointed out the existence of series of man-made steps in the cave and convinced us that we should accompany him on a fresh expedition.

We loaded up with caving equipment and set off into the snowy wilderness.

Jeff led us to the entrance, just up a ridge from the old mine we have visited the day before.

Our guide told us he had been exploring this new cave when he'd been grabbed by the "mantis creatures" and carried back into the mine, but then he believed a subsequent rock fall had cut off the connection between the two subterranean systems.

Descending into the cave, through the hole in the ceiling, we spied ancient paintings on the walls, depicting primitive men hunting creatures that resembled large buffalo and mammoths, but also worshipping the fires of a volcano.

Freya (Clare's photojournalist) began snapping pictures to document our journey.

Following the ancient steps, Buck (my explorer) and Jeff both noted the odd cleanness of the lava tubes that formed a network of tunnels stretching down from this first cave further into the belly of the Earth.

With an eye to an easy escape route, we struck out in a generally northwards direction, slowly picking our way through the labyrinthine tunnels.

At one point, Jeff spotted a piece of worked gold in some rubble at the side of the path. It appeared to be part of a small hoop, so we held onto it for later examination.

As with the mine, the further we went the hotter the air became, and that's probably what dulled our senses a bit and made us prod at a large pile of rocks.

This turned out to be a pair of enormous vicious rock crabs, their shells about a metre wide, their pincers able to inflict some serious damage.

When it became obvious that we couldn't really hurt them, we turned and ran down the passageway, while Dick (Kevin's G-man) guarded our rear. 

One of the creatures had slipped by him which now meant it was between Dick and the rest of us, so Dick heroically leaped on its back, pressing his pistol at the base of the creature's eyestalks, pulling the trigger and giving the beast a massive headache.

Artist's impression of Dick on back of giant rock crab

The befuddled creature turned away from the rest of us, deciding it was time to return to its mate, so Dick sprung off and re-joined his fellow spelunkers.

Having found an unbearably hot tunnel leading to an underground lava river, we backtracked and came upon the nest of an inconceivably large lizard creature (which Freya identified as an enormous, poisonous, fire salamander).


As the creature advanced on us down the narrow tunnel, we, once again, decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and fled as best we could... but the monster caught up with us easily.

And it would have devoured us all as if we were flies, except for Onyx (Erica's cat burglar) tossing a couple of lit sticks of dynamite under it, blowing off a leg and its tail.

The creature was still pulling itself towards us as we reached the end of the corridor, turned as one and those of us with firearms - everyone, bar Fr. Ned (Simon's priest) - let loose a volley of bullets that finally slayed the beast.

While trying to move the giant corpse carefully out of the passage, Dick came in contact with the lizard's skin, accidentally poisoning himself. 

After the body was moved, Dick collapsed, wracked with muscle spasms that none of us knew how to stop, although Oynx - the only one of us with any medical skills - was confident it would soon pass.

Meanwhile, we explored the salamander's nest and found a pool of warm water, in which floated a number of football-sized eggs, and a pile of lizard faeces, containing human bones, rusted mining equipment, and the remains of a broken, golden crown that slotted into the part we had found earlier.

Pieced back together, it became obvious that the crown had strange markings on it.

Free-thinker Buck, obsessed with finding a passage to the Hollow Earth, believes this crown could be some magical artefact from a lost civilization and that it could be the clue he has been looking for all his life.

To Be Continued...


 
The Theoretical Science Foundation - The Cast:
  • Buck Hannigan - played by me
  • Dick Tate - played by Kevin
  • Father Timothy 'Ned' O’Flaherty - played by Simon
  • Freya Larson - played by Clare 
  • Onyx Jones - played by Erica (absent)
Showrunner - Pete

Missed an episode? Catch up with this hot new show right here.  

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Black Widow (2021) + Shangi-Chi (2021) + Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) + The Batman (2022)

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