Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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{originally written 2013 May 23, then banished to the Drafts folder for no good reason when I never got around to finishing it.}

Spoiler-free review:  A solid sophomore outing for the NuTrek crew, but it’s no Wrath of Khan. ====== Spoilers follow =========== Continue reading “Review: Star Trek Into Darkness”

Review: Serenity Found

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Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly Universe
edited by Jane Espenson
Rating: 3 out of 5

What can I say? Meh. Another collection of essays (following the superior Finding Serenity) discoursing on the deep meanings to be found in the universe of Firefly, a short-lived TV series as well as Serenity, its major-picture followup.

Let me preface by saying: I “get” Firefly; I’d be a Browncoat if I were any sort of joiner. I loved the show, which I discovered post-mortem like most people; and I think that Serenity is the best-made science fiction movie of at least the past decade. Its technical execution is mind-blowingly awesome. I’ve bought Those Left Behind (the limited-run comic series), and the RPG, and, and the soundtrack for the TV show and the one for the movie, and both versions of the Serenity DVDs. I get Firefly; I’m a fan.

After which, all I can say is: Meh.

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Star Wars at 31

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Apparently Spike TV is running all of the Star Wars movies as a “mega saga event” over the course of the next weekend. I happened to come across their “ultimate trailer” online, which stitches together bits from all six movies. And strung together like that, all those bits suddenly make clear what’s gone so horribly awry in the Star Wars franchise:

The later movies (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) are certainly much busier than the first three.

But they aren’t any better.

It would seem that George Lucas’ sole “lesson” is “more lasers! more droids! more ships! more explosions! Oh, dear God, many more explosions!” It’s become a cliche that modern filmmakers allow special effects to overwhelm the story; George gives them a play-by-play on how to do that.

Meh.

Lunacon 51 (2)

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Lunacon 51 (2)
Some thoughts on my second con (should that be “sec-con”?), jotted down at midnight, though they’ll be posted much later.

The first panel I intended to attend was “Yesterday’s Tomorrows”, a documentary on the failed vision of futurists from the 1930s through 1960s. Due to the weird layout and unpredictable spacetime anomalies that have caused the Lunarians to christen this hotel the “Escher Hilton”, I arrived at the room far in advance of the panel. Indeed, I arrived at the start of “Not 2B Toyed With”, a 12-minute movie that the moderator assured us was absolutely hilarious. She had to assure us, because she couldn’t show us, because in the rush to pack for the con, she’d left the DVD at home. 🙁 But she was appropriately contrite and, at the suggest of a snarky audience member (me), proceeded to illustrate by sock puppets, stopping only when, well, she ran out of socks and hands to put them on.

As it turned out, “Not 2B Toyed With” – even though it never actually showed – was a better presentation than “Yesterday’s Tomorrows”. The latter, it developed, was a 1999 documentary financed by Disney and shown on Showtime exactly once. The moderators liked to call it “the documentary Disney won’t let you see” (since the studio hasn’t released it at all) but there isn’t anything spectacular about it. Instead it was a bunch of self-involved baby boomers narcissisizing about their impressions of the vision of futurists. It had a lot of cuts to semi-celebrities pontificating, like you find in those “I Love the 80s” shows on VH-1. It was a true waste of my 90 minutes.

I spent some time in the game room, watching some people play “Ninja Burger”, a Munchin-esque game from Steve Jackson Games. It looked pretty fun, actually, and funny and clever as you’d expect from SJG. I also played a round of BANG!, a spaghetti Western shoot-em-up card game. It’s one of those games with hidden objectives – no one knows who the outlaws or deputies are – that had a complicated but manageable cardplay system. I was “The Apache Kid” and the renegade, and I did well for two rounds, until I was accidentally blown up by the very same dynamite I’d put into play. *Sigh* It’s from Mayfair Games, and I think I’ll try to find it online when I get home.

I dropped back to my room to get some dinner (the restaurant was closed by now – a costly mistake on my part) and then went to “Sex Done Right”, a panel on writing about, well, sex. And though it’s easy enough to dive for the gutter, it was actually a semi-serious writers’ craft panel. It had a certain self-involvement among the panel members, though, that quickly killed my interest in their thoughts on writing. I checked out as soon as one said, in all seriousness, “But then the werecat morphed and I had to think, will he rip through her? She couldn’t morph, of course, since she was a vampire….” That told me I’d wandered into a particular corner of fanspace, one that holds no attraction for me (and, to be snobbish, one that seems to draw poor talent).

I was also reintroduced to that universal con character, Annoying Guy One Seat Over. There was a nebbish first-time con goer sitting next to me who was too enthusiastic, too eager, and too clueless to be tolerated. Many panels seem to develop such a guy – who has to comment on everything, who is clueless about his cluelessness, and who overrates his own intelligence/humor/relevance. The major ecological function of Annoying Guy One Seat Over is to spread humility – to remind us that we too can be annoying, overbearing, etc. Many a time in a panel I sit back and ask myself, “Is that really a valid point? Or am I devolving into Annoying Guy One Seat Over?” It’s a useful check.

Lunacon 51 (1)

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Well, here I sit in the Hilton Rye Town waiting for Lunacon to get started. If you are paying more attention to this blog than you should be, you’ll recall that I attended Lunacon 50 last year as well. This year I managed to reserve early, so I am staying at the correct hotel and don’t need to shuttle back and forth. I also arranged to come up on Thursday (the night before the con opened) so that I wouldn’t feel rushed. Originally, this was intended to be my entire Spring Break trip (before committing to go to Ocala to see my mom).

It took longer to get here from NJ than I had expected — nearly four hours door-to-door. Some of that was just waiting for trains, of course; and some of it was being whisked around Rye, NY by a cab driver who, it turns out, didn’t actually know where the Hilton Rye Town is. 🙁 At least this time there wasn’t a sudden blizzard. 🙂

It leaves me with the question of what to do until the con starts. Since I dragged this laptop all the way up here, some of the time will hopefully be spent writing (and more than just blog posts).

Another propaganda poster

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As has been usual, this is another exhortation to “Work to Win”. My “study” of WWI and WWII posters indicates that almost all fell into the “Work harder” or “Buy more bonds” categories. True to form, this poster says, “Victory up here… begins down here“. Overhead are a Retro Rocketship and a DV snub fighter. On the ground, in a vaguely-factory-ish compound, is another Retro Rocketship. It’s not so easy to make clear that this one is being assembled or worked on. I put in a forklift and a repair bot, as well as a guy welding something to the periscope hatch. (He’s hard to see, on the top of the ship.) Actually, I had to go find models for almost everything, as I didn’t have a lot of industrial nick-nacks lying around.

dug


The Mongrel Dogs at Sea (4): Review: Next

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Insta Rating: 4 out of 5

OK, it’s a little odd to be reviewing a movie when I’m supposed to be off on a wonderful cruise. But as mentioned before I was pretty wiped out, so I decided to take advantage of the onboard movie theater and catch Next starring Nicholas Cage and Jessica Biel. I remember when this came out but I never got to see it, despite being a sucker for a Philip K. Dick movie

Nicholas plays Chris something, who was born with the very Dickesque talent of being to see the future but only his own future and only two minutes ahead. He’s making a living as a second-rate Vegas magic act and just trying to have a normal life. The only exception to the rules of his talent is that he saw Liz (Biel) at a diner some indeterminate time in the future. He’s been visiting that diner for a week trying to meet her, which he does, acting in a manner which he hopes isn’t too creepy (but which kind of is).
Unfortunately for Chris, there’s an FBI agent who’s somehow become aware of his talent and wants to use it to track down a missing Russian nuclear warhead which has been smuggled into the US. The movie is about bringing Chris around to the greater good and stopping the bad guys.

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New Poster: Ready?

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I’ve got a new, rarer “landscape” poster ready. It shows two Zarkov rockets at a docking tower, with crew running to man the ships. A DV snub fighter is lifting in the background, and the ever-lovable jetpack guy has just launched himself. The tag is “They’re Ready to Do Their Part … Are You Ready to Do Yours?“, with the ubiquitous “Work to Win” slogan. I am particularly happy with this one because it is not based on an existing poster, at least not as far as I recall. More below the fold.
Ready to Do Their Part

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New Poster: Loose Lips…

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This is a variant of a classic saying from the Second World War: “Loose Lips Crash Ships!. Of course, in the original, it’s “Loose Lips Sink Ships” and the image is of a cargo ship going down beneath the waves. Well, cargo ship clearly becomes rocket ship… but then I was stuck. You see, my rocket ship models are all intact. I haven’t yet mastered the art of deforming, breaking, or otherwise mangling a triangle-mesh object, so I had to work around it.

My solution? Two ships, one pointing into the ground and the other, some distance away, pointing out of the ground. The intended effect was to imply a single ship broken in twain by the crash. I also sought out some fire effects and decided on — believe it or not — a Witch-Burning set by Peemot. (I can’t find the name of the creator of the terrain piece used. Sorry.) I like to think it works but you’ll have to be the judge…

Loose Lips Crash Ships