Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Origami Yoda and Darth Paper

Ah, Star Wars. How you permeate our society. How ubiquitous you are. Example #10,483: A new series of young adult books called "Origami Yoda."

The concept is simple. A kid at school makes an origami Yoda finger puppet. The kid does a Yoda voice and  says wise things. The only weird part is that the paper Yoda is actually helping people. Does it have force powers? The series then continues with Darth Paper Strikes Back. The kid with the origami Yoda gets kicked out of school and it all might be the evil Darth Vader's fault!

These books are riddle with Star Wars references, obviously. I wonder if George Lucas had to officially okay these books or if Tom Angleberger (the author) could get away with using the names and likenesses of characters by saying it's a spoof or something. *quick internet search*

I'm back and, because everything you read on the internet is true, I now know that someone at one of Lucas's  companies had to okay the use of Yoda. Seems the person drove home, chucked the script at their kid and said, "Read this and tell me if we should do it." Lazy parent. I hope you give your kid 10% of your paycheck. Anyway, the kid said yes, and Origami Yoda was born.

Superman Movies - Summary Reflection

This entire month 1LR has reflected upon the Superman movies and their different iterations. The bottom line? Despite Hollywood's best efforts to ruin Superman, the Big Blue Boyscout still saves most of these movies. All of them are far from perfect, however. Which causes us to ask the question, "Why is a Superman Movie so hard to write?" Could it be that Hollywood simply doesn't know what to do with an absolutely pure and good man? Hollywood literally took decades to put together Superman Returns and they STILL got it wrong. They seem to meddle with him at times to add different powers or to make him more "relate-able." At other times it seems like Hollywood wants to distract the audience from the main character with long subplots. The Superman movies are at their best when they allow Superman to be exactly what he is - an example for the rest of us to follow.

In the final analysis, here's how the Superman movies stack up according to this movie reviewer, ranked from best to worst:

  1. Superman: The Movie (original)                   - 18/20
  2. Superman: The Movie (Expanded Edition)   - 17/20
  3. Superman II: The Richard Donnor Cut         - 16/20
  4. Superman II                                                 -15/20
  5. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace              -14/20
  6. Supergirl                                                      -12/20
  7. Superman III                                                -10/20
  8. Superman Returns                                        - 9/20
  9. Steel                                                            - 8/20
Pray to God that the studio finally puts all of the pieces together in the upcoming Superman reboot.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Impression: rpgKIDS

In a recent CNN article about kids and gaming, Enrique Bertran was interviewed about his game, rpgKIDS. It's a gaming system specifically designed to be easy enough for kids to play. I'm intrigued since I have a four year old, a two year old, and a zero year old. I don't want to wait until they're twelve until I start to teach them RPG games. They already sit at the gaming table and roll the dice for me. Enrique's own daughter was four when he started playing rpgKIDS with her. The main book is available for a $2.99 download. I'll have to check it out! You can find rpgKIDS at along with a bunch of other content for new gamers and dungeon masters.

Conan the Barbarian: The Musical

A song written summarizing the Conan movie posted by legolambs on YouTube. It's pretty funny and the clips are well put together.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Obi-Wan VS Colonel Nicholson

"Colonel WHO?" you might be saying. It's okay - until very recently I didn't know the name either. I'll repeat it. Colonel Nicholson.

Alec Guinness famously played Obi-wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy but he ALSO played Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). I had never seen BotRK until very recently and I've got to say that I was very impressed. I'm not a big fan of war movies but this one has a completely original tale that I've never seen duplicated since. Alec Guinness's dignified and proper Colonel Nicholson is undoubtedly the highlight of the film (he won the Best Actor Academy Award for the roll).

His character is so great that I think he's changed how I view Alec Guinness. At the beginning of BorRK I thought, "Hey! That's Obi-wan!" but I'm quite certain that next time I watch Star Wars I'll see Colonel Nicholson where I once saw Obi-wan Kenobi. I'm betting that if you give Bridge on the River Kwai a chance you'll feel the same.
The Geneva Convention is what gives a Colonel his powers.
Don't you DARE use those explosives to blow up that bridge!

Geek Gear: Marvel Squinkies

You know, it never sees to amaze me how the same characters can be redesigned, repackaged, and sold time and time again. I couldn't even begin to guess how many different versions of the same Marvel characters are on sale right now. But the Squinkies caught my eye when I was walking through Target recently. There are a whole bunch of Squinkie lines including Cars, Hot Wheels, and Hello Kitty.

A Squinkie is about an inch tall and has no movable parts. As you can see, they're "cute" versions of the characters. There are currently five lines of Marvel Squinkies - Series 1, Series 2, Super Hero Squad, X-Men, and Good vs Evil. Each line is very limited - about 12 figures in all. You can buy them in small random packs but it is nice that you can buy the entire series for about $10 in a bigger pack as well.

There's some overlap in characters from series to series but they make them slightly different, such as Johnny Storm with flame and without.

I think the cute little guys would be great decorations for around your workspace or on a bookshelf at home. I would be tempted to set them up to recreate classic scenes from the comics.

Star Wars D6 - Gaming Notes #5

After completing the spice and gun running for Jabba, we got to hang out in his palace for awhile. My Wookie, Mallawar, got to meet Boba Fett. That guy thought he was too good for me! Alright... he is. But this encounter just made Mallawar more determined to become a famous bounty hunter!
After three guys came in and started lipping off to Jabba, he sent us on a short mission to drop three unlabeled crates in the middle of the desert. The crates looked large enough to fit a human body into them... what a strange coincidence. We took his sail barge and threw them overboard, trying not to notice the arm that came out of one of the boxes.

Since Jabba was done with us for now, we decided to head back to Vader. Lou, the force-sensitive plant humanoid, sensed Vader and took us to him. We reported the location of the hidden rebel base on Thiela and Vader ordered Lou to mount an attack. The rest of the party decided to score some quick bucks by picking up the bounty on Han, Luke, Chewie, or Leia so we headed off to the rebel base in advance of the attack.
When we arrived, we warned the rebel leaders of the attack and the evacuation was, once again, underway. Leia wasn't there but Han and Chewie were so we tried to get aboard the Millenium Falcon as it was taking off. Han wasn't having any of it, however, so we turned our attention to Luke. We disabled his X-Wing so he wouldn't be able to take off in hopes that he'd take a last minute transport with us. No such luck... instead, that blasted astromech droid repaired the ship enough so it would fly but not out of the atmosphere.
We signaled the Empire to get a tractor beam on us as we subdued the 32 rebel troops that were on our ship with some knockout gas. We were reunited with Lou but had failed to capture any of the major bounties we were after.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Impression: Scrabble Flash

I'm a huge fan of scrabble but I've got to admit that some of the Scrabble variations have been less than stellar. I didn't like Scrabble Slam! or Super Scrabble at all. But I've got to say that I'm pumped to try out Scrabble Flash.
As you can see from the above picture, you have five electronic panels that display a letter. What's cool is that the panels communicate with one another and they know when you've arranged them into a word. They keep track of your score, the time, and everything. Isn't technology wonderful? 

There are several other "Flash" games available including Yahtzee Flash and Simon Flash. Online I saw them priced for $29.99 at the Hasboro site but you should be able to find them for about $20. Makes a great gift for Christmas (cough cough - hint, honey, hint)!

Games From My Youth: Pac-Man Board Game

I fondly remember owning a Pac-Man board game. I wonder what happened to this old gem? My parents probably pitched it with my DnD Player's Handbook!

As you can see from the picture below this game was an almost literal translation of the video game. The pellets were represented by white and yellow marbles. There were several different Pac-Men (red, green, blue, and, of course, yellow) that the players controlled. The game came with two ghosts.

On each player's turn they rolled two dice - one to move a ghost and one to move their Pac-Man. You collected marbles that counted as your points for the game. If a ghost hit you you moved back to start and gave the player who controlled the ghost two of your marbles. Yikes! You could eat a yellow power pellet and then move over a ghost, eating it and sending it to the time-out box.

All in all, a fabulous game that showed some real ingenuity with its game mechanics. It truly had the feel of the video game! This one might just be worth picking up on eBay if I can get a copy for $20.00 or so...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Game On! - Funny Video

Another brilliantly funny and well produced video from The Guild. Game On, indeed. Game on.

Lone Wolf - Corruption of Ikaya (D20)

Corruption of Ikaya is an adventure for the D20 Lone Wolf RPG. It is available for download in Signs and Portents #39 and #40. You can find them here.
Earlier, I reviewed The Corruption of Ikaya, the Lone Wolf Multiplayer adventure. Although that adventure is nearly identical to the CoI D20 adventure, I thought I'd review them separately because the presentation and formatting in the D20 version is so different from the Multiplayer format. I'll refrain from duplicating my remarks on the adventure itself.

This adventure is presented in a much better way in the D20 version. Enemies are fully fleshed out with abilities, skills, and equipment as you would expect in a D20 adventure. This version actually gives you stats for the Nightfire Rod! The rules for ship control and details are a nice touch that was left out of the Multiplayer version. The inclusion of maps (warhouse, ship, and Ikaya itself) are welcome since they were left out of the Multiplayer version. The rules presented for things such as the Avalanche are much more precise than the Multiplayer version.

Still, this adventure has some serious flaws such as relying upon random encounters too much, being too deadly, and a lack of a clear story thread from the player's point of view.

1LR Review - 14 out of 20 - It's a Hit! 

Superman Movie Review: Steel

I was dreading watching Steel. To be complete in my Superman movie reviews, however, Bryan lent me his copy (which you can only get through the Warner Brothers Archives Collection, by the way). According to every account I heard, this movie is complete trash. Simply horrible. Unwatchable! Which is why I was surprised when it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. 

First, the cast is decent. Annbeth Gish, Judd Nelson, Richard Roundtree, and Charles Napier... not exactly A list but recognizable faces. Shaq is a bit wooden in his acting but not horrible. 

The story is actually a pretty decent one. John Henry Irons designs weapons for the military but when a test goes wrong and his friend is paralyzed, he quits. His military weapons end up in the hands of street thugs and he creates a steel suit of armor to go take on the bad guys. What's wrong with that? It's actually executed fairly well with a nice supporting cast that help round out the movie.

Effects wise, the film is okay. Nothing great but nothing that stands out as spectacularly cheesy as well.

The action was fairly realistic throughout the film. Since Steel doesn't actually have any super powers, he relies on technology to fight crime. He's actually more like Iron Man than Superman. I thought it was a TAD bit unbelievable that he was able to make super weapons in a junkyard. I also wondered why the bad guys didn't just shoot him in the exposed part of his face. I liked the sequence where the cops chased him, thinking that he was actually a criminal. The worst part of the film is when Steel must get rid of a grenade by throwing it through a basket-ball-rim-sized hole in the wall. Really?  

The character's storyline very closely mirrored his origin story from the comics, minus the actual character of Superman. Perhaps DC didn't want the stink from this movie to be connected directly with Superman. Steel's character was missing the Superman "S" from his chest (in the comics, he eventually ditched the "S" anyway) but they did prominently show Shaq's Superman "S" and "Man of Steel" tattoo ("Man of Steel" was Steel's original full name). Nothing (except perhaps the Superman tattoo and a brief reference to Superman in dialogue) connects this directly to the Christopher Reeve Superhero movie but nothing directly contradicts anything from the Superman and Supergirl films either. I'm guessing it is out of continuity but fans can make up their own minds.

Perhaps some fans may have been upset by Steel's use of his hammer as a gun which, I believe, is not in the comics continuity. That didn't bother me too much. Overall, while this movie isn't GREAT it isn't TERRIBLE either. Certainly not the worst superhero film I've ever seen! 

1LR rating: 8 out of 20 - It's a Miss!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marvel Character Origins for Kids

It's always good to make your core concept easily accessible to fans. Marvel has attempted to do this a number of different ways over the years but the latest seems to be a series of books featuring Spider-man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men that retell each of their origin stories.


While that sounds great, I wondered a few things... from the solicitation write-ups it is very unclear whether or not this is a reprint book or represents the origin retold with new art and stories. One clue might be from the X-Men book because it says it features Storm and Wolverine (among other characters) when both Storm and Wolverine didn't come around until much later in X-Men continuity. 

Another point is the price - Sure, books are expensive but Marvel made these hard covers at a $9 price tag. If the idea is to introduce future fans to your characters why not make them soft cover and give them away for next to nothing?

Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride Available at Target!

I was walking through Target the other day and my jaw just about hit the ground when I saw that Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan were both on sale in their toy section! I don't know how widely available this distribution is, when they started selling them, or how long they'll be on sale there but I was quite shocked to see them. Until recently it seemed that major retailers were ignoring the widespread demand for these popular games.

A quick internet search revealed that Wal-Mart is carrying Ticket to Ride (online, at least) and Toys R' Us has a wide selection of Catan and TTR games as well as other popular "geek" games such as Puerto Rico (once again online... not sure about the brick and mortar stores).

I'm pleased for the gaming publishers Mayfair and Rio Grande because their products are getting exposure to a much wider audience. This can be nothing but good for the gaming community as a whole as our hobbies continue to get more mainstream attention. I guess the only people that might be upset by this move are gaming stores that up until now have had been an almost exclusive outlet for these types of games.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Space Warped: Why Is Star Wars So Easy To Make Fun Of?

The comic series Space Warped is solely dedicated to mocking Star Wars. Sure, it calls itself a, "Loving, affectionate parody." But why is it so easy to make fun of Star Wars? It may very well be the most parodied property ever (the only other one that comes close that I can think of is Indiana Jones). Space Warped is just the latest in a long line that includes Spaceballs, Robot Chicken Star Wars, Jay and Silent bob Strikes Back, Family Guy Star Wars, and Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace.

I think the first factor is how well known Star Wars is. It's universal. It's part of our very culture at this point. Because it is so well known it makes parodies of it accessible to a large group of people. Sure, I could parody "Dan in Real Life" but who would care? A much smaller segment of the population than would care about a Star Wars parody, for sure.

Another factor is passionate fans. I mean, PASSIONATE. On "How I Met Your Mother" Ted's friend Marshall tells him to break up with a girl because she doesn't like Star Wars. If you run into somebody that hasn't seen Star Wars you say, "WHAT?!?! How can that be?" Fans discuss every aspect of every character and every bit of trivia and minutia is analyzed to the tenth degree... which makes a parody so interesting for fans. Sometimes the source of the humor is something you never considered before, such as, "What would happen if a Jedi dropped a lightsaber on a spaceship?" (Robot Chicken provides the answer.)

Finally, because of the fantasy / sci-fi aspects of Star Wars it allows great room for jokes. Because we're dealing with alien races, spaceships, and something called "The Force" it's a little absurd to begin with. So, naturally, this can be exploited for comedic effect in a parody. You don't ever seen a parody of Schindler's List, do you now?

Parodies of Star Wars are done with a fun spirit by people who love Star Wars and it is clear by their reception that fans receive them in this spirit. It's part of the fun of being a Star Wars fan.

Happy Thanksgiving, Geek!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. As you're cutting the turkey today pause. Because the question of the day isn't "What are you thankful for?" but "Who are you thankful to?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Review

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is considered by many to be the worst Superman film ever. I would disagree. Is this film, "good?" Maybe not, but there's a lot of good in it and it is certainly better than the series oddball, Superman III.

First, the good:
This film shares a lot in common with its predecessors, particularly Superman and Superman II.. Some may call this a negative but if you liked it the first time, why wouldn't you like it this time? This film fits very nicely with the first two films, returning Lois Lane as a central character and Gene Hackman as Lex (his "parting is.... inevitable" line is brilliant!). Superman reveals his identity to Lois (again), flies with Lois (again), does the Super-kiss (again), the plot of the film involves missiles (again), Lex summons Superman using ultrasonics (again)... I could go on. I liked how this movie addressed the worldwide geopolitical repercussions of Superman's existence. It's easy to show Superman rescuing cats out of trees but why doesn't Superman end all war? The nuclear issue was THE hot button topic in the 80's and I think this movie expressed what a lot of Americans were feeling: We wished the nukes would just go away. Superman's speech to the UN is awesome. It was also good to see Superman fighting an actual super villain in this film. The Nuclear Man proved to be a real threat to Superman. In fact, my wife watched this film for the first time recently and midway through the film she wondered out loud if they would really kill Superman. The whole plotline with the Warfields buying and ruining the Daily Planet brought out the best in Perry, Clark, and Lois. The characterization of Clark was dead on: "He's the oldest living Boyscout. He's trustworthy, helpful, loyal, obedient..."

And then, the weird, the bad, and the weirdly bad. Superman films NEVER get the rules of space and/or time correct. So here we see Superman speaking in space, a normal human being carried into space, and Superman can apparently hear radio waves (he responds to a Russian singing inside his space suit). Anyway, that runaway satellite would have killed that astronaut in an instant. Superman flies Lois across the country in a very brief period of time... 3,000 MPH would have killed her!

In this film it is also implied that Superman hates the earth. He cuts the top off of a mountain to stop a volcano. Really? This is going to work? Ever heard of corking a volcano? He also moves the moon for the sole purpose of blocking the sun. Why not just fly into the moon's shadow? You really had to cause worldwide tsunamis for a small, brief tactical advantage? Then Supes risks a full-fledges Chernobyl event by dropping the Nuclear Man into a nuclear reactor. Wait... isn't that murder? Since the Nuclear Man had Superman's genes does this mean that this method could also kill Superman? "High school physics?" Huh?

I never understood the whole, "Disarm the world" thing. It says that the governments aren't willing to disarm themselves, but then they fire their missiles into the sky where Superman collects them one by one. Why the change of heart? Or were the countries actually trying to destroy one another, hoping that Superman would miss a few missiles? And how does Superman know he got all of the missiles?

Powers are, as always, wacky in Superman films. I guess I accept the whole telekineses thing but Superman rebuilding a destroyed Great Wall of China in mere seconds with some kind of weird vision is too much. Superman also cooks a duck through a wall and the oven with his heat vision. Since when can heat vision pass through walls? Mind explaining how the Nuclear Man's scratches turned Superman into a sickly 80 year old? Wait, I thought if the Nuclear Man lost contact with the sun for even a few minutes he'd shut down... so why didn't he shut down when he flew into the volcano's core?

Oh, and it's always nice to see a vindictive Clark use his powers to nearly kill a civilian like when he drops a 200 pound weight on a jerk in the gym. Way to teach him, Clark! I could go on, talking about cops wearing headphones to listen to a car speaker system, Superman understanding just who Nuclear Man means when he randomly asks the question, "Where is woman?", how easy it was to cut Superman's hair in the museum, and the irresponsibility of hitting baseballs into space where, you know, the astronauts Superman just got done rescuing are. And don't even get me STARTED on the Nuclear Man clothing issue.

Nitpicking aside, at the end of the day I like this movie. It may be pure nostalgia, but I feel it does a great job of capturing the zeitgeist of the 80's. Both Superman and Clark Kent are spot on and, at the end of the day, that's what you bought the ticket for. Not a great film, but not the worst in the series either.

1LR Review: 14 out of 20 - It's a Hit!

Lone Wolf (Multiplayer & D20) - Free Downloads - City Write-Ups

There are many different city write-ups for Lone Wolf. These write ups are of use in any version of the game (none of the information presented is tied to game mechanics - it is simply world builing information). They are available as free downloads from Signs and Portents here. See the list below for specific issues.
#71 - Toran
#72 - Anskaven
#73 - Ruanon
#74 - Eshnar
#75 - Tyso
#76 & 77 - Holmgard
#89, 90, & 91 - Lof

These city write-ups are all excellent! I like how they are presented without in-game language so they can be used for both the Multiplayer and D20 versions of the Lone Wolf RPG. They each have tons of information including detailed histories, economics, politics, law, and places of interest. Specific locations are noted on a map and given little write-ups with notable NPC characters described as well.

As a gamemaster, I could see two ways of using these write-ups. The first would be to simply drop my players into a specific location and let them go to town (no pun intended) sandbox-style. The other would be to integrate them into an existing campaign and use them to enhance the flavor and feel of the game. The city articles really do a great job of making the environment a living, breathing part of the game with a unique flavor.

1LR Review - 18 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Oh Captain, My Captain

I know this is late coming but I just stumbled across the news article about this. Before the Captain America: The First Avenger film was released there was wild speculation that "America" or "Captain America" was going to be dropped from the film's title internationally. See, we Americans aren't that popular abroad, the theory goes, so if the film had "American" in its title it wouldn't do well oversees.
Well, as it turns out, that's a bunch of whooie. First, the film starred a wide range of European personalities in the Howling Commandos (true to the comics). Secondly, it ending up grossing $189 million oversees. While that's not great it isn't a disaster either. Believe it or not, it was more successful in Brazil and Mexico. Go figure.

Anyway, the film WAS released under an alternate title in just THREE countries (as far as I can tell it wasn't released in China at all... go figure) - Russia, Ukraine, and South Korea. In Russia it made nearly $9 million (not bad), in South Korea it did nearly $4 million (not bad... it is South Korea), and in the Ukraine it didn't even make $1 million (but then again, what do you expect from Ukraine?). I wonder how much different the box offices from these three countries would have been if the film had been released under its full title? I understand the logic in Russia and I guess I can extend that to the Ukrain... but why South Korea? North Korea - sure - but South Korea? I thought they liked us? Hmmm...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Metamaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic

If you've never read Maus... stop what you're doing right now (reading this blog) and get a copy. You can get a copy from any library in America. Do it now.

Welcome back to those of  you that just ran out, got a copy of Maus, read it, and returned.

Now, if you loved the only graphic novel to ever win a Pulitzer Prize like you should, you'll want more. Well, you're in luck because MetaMaus was just recently released. This thing is the ultimate behind-the-scenes documentary. This book is packed AND it includes a DVD with an copy of the Complete Maus that is linked to archives of audio interviews with Art Spiegelman's father and much, much, much, much more. This is the ultimate insider guide into Art Spiegleman's creative process and for $35.00 you might actually feel guilty you didn't pay more.

Do You Remember When Santa Claus, Superman, Captain America, and Ronald McDonald "Liberated" Bulgaria?

Of course you don't. Because it wasn't American pop culture figures who did that. It was Soviet soldiers who overthrew Bulgaria's ruling government. In fact, there was a statue erected to this historical event in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Recently this statue was "vandalized" but an unknown individual or group. I think the definition of "vandalized" may be "greatly improved." Check it out:

Depicted, from left to right: The Mask, The Joker, Wolverine, Santa Claus, Superman, Ronald McDonald, Captain America, Robin, and Wonder Woman. 

Apparently this all happened in one night. This group is obviously artistically talent and nothing short of sheer genius. Just seeing Santa and Superman carrying guns makes the whole thing worth it. And how does Robin make an appearance but not Batman? 

What was the artist(s) trying to say? "In step with the times," said a cryptic message below the painted statues. Times, indeed...

First Marvel and Disney Character Crossover

You knew it was only a matter of time. And it was.

Marvel and Disney are having their first official character crossover. Prep and Landing, two elves, are dealing with the Avengers in a backup story in several Marvel comics this month.
While I think these moves are going to be inevitable in the future, I don't think they are necessarily a good thing for Marvel... then again, there have been some worse Marvel crossovers before such as Ren and Stimpy or Archie meets the Punisher...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lone Wolf Multiplayer - Free Download - Shipwrecked! Review

Shipwreched! is a free adventure for the Lone Wolf Multiplayer RPG available in Signs and Portents #92 starting on page 58. It's available here.
This adventure is billed as "Part 'Lost,' part 'Treasure Island,' and part 'Survival Horror." It definitely has a different feel to it than other Lone Wolf adventures and not in a bad way either. This adventure is suppose to be the first in an ongoing series of inter-related adventures.

The summary of the adventure is that the heroes were taken captive by pirates and stripped of their gear when the ship wrecks. The heroes and pirates wash up on a uncharted tropical island.

I can't see many players being thrilled with the first part of this adventure. While I applaud Darren Pearce, the author, for putting the heroes in a true wilderness survival situation, I think players will balk at being nickle-and-dimed for one point of damage over and over again for things such as fire, cold water, food, etc. While I'm sad that the players are taken out of the "proper" world of Magnamund, I like that the PCs have to scrounge and be resourceful just to live. Seeing the various character classes operate without their monasteries or guilds would be a good change of pace in Lone Wolf.

This adventure does a good job of introducing the PCs to the setting. There's nothing really that strange in this adventure but perhaps future installments will have the players further explore the island location.

Unlike most LWM adventures, I think the heroes won't have any problems overcoming the threats presented in this adventure which is a good thing, especially since it would be hard to get back-up characters into the story.

1LR Review - 15 out of 20 - It's a Hit!

Superman Returns Movie Review

Superman returned but, as it turns out, he doesn't refund. Because after I saw this movie originally in the theaters that is what I wanted to ask for: A refund. The shame of it is this film does so much RIGHT yet misses the mark so completely. I'll spare you the suspense: Worst Superman Movie of All Time. But, let's first highlight the positives:

  • This film has a healthy respect for the property and the original two movies.
    • The John Williams score is iconic and evokes the essence of Superman immediately.
    • Brando footage - how awesome is it that they used the actual voice and image of Brando as Jor-El? Freakin' awesome, that's how awesome.
    • Keeping Superman I and II in film continuity is a stroke of genius... in concept. In execution.... see below in "the bad."
    • Even the opening credits style mirrors the originals.
    • Superman strikes a pose in one scene that mirrors the cover of Action Comics #1. 
  • Kevin Spacey portrays an excellent Lex Luthor. My favorite line, "We've got time to kill!"
  • The entire first portion of the film is amazing. 
    • Director Bryan Singer respected the audience by not rehashing the entire origin of Superman. You get a plot synopsis, a travel through time in a title sequence and then the movie starts.
    • Superman's crash into the field is visually amazing and there are quite a few very nice character moments.
    • The "Superman learns he can fly" sequence fills in an important gap and is a very cool sequence... but it hardly seems necessary to the film and is in no way relevant to the plot.
Now, the bad. And there's a lot of that as well.
  • First, Brandon Routh. He's no Reeve, that's for sure. I'd say he is my least favorite Superman AND Clark Kent out of EVERYONE that has played these roles. Even Dean Cain did a better job. Routh just looks mean and kinda creepy.
  • Some of the main plot points are very weak.
    • Astronomers seem to have found Krypton. Oh really? How, exactly? How did they know it was Krypton? And, it turns out, there's really nothing there after all. Say what?
    • Wait... so Lex's big plan is to create a new continent that looks like the Fortress of Solitude? Have you seen that thing? Who would want to live there? That terrain is extremely uneven and hard to navigate... let alone, you know, grow crops on or anything. Oh, and to top it off, let's make it radioactive with Kryptonite!
    • Superman flies a MOUNTAIN ISLAND of Kryptonite Crystals into outer space? Wait, I thought a softball sized chunk of this stuff almost killed him in the first movie... Does... Not... Compute....
  • The fact that they kept this film in continuity is great but they seemed to count of the audience not remembering the other films. For example:
    • Lois whispers to Superman that the child is his. Sure, she could figure this out because the kid heaved a piano but Lois doesn't REMEMBER having intercourse with Superman. After all, Superman wiped her memory with a Super-kiss in Superman II. Isn't Lois at all... you know... curious about when Superman impregnated her? For that matter, wasn't she at all curious when she got pregnant HOW she got pregnant and who the true father was? During SR Lois doesn't show any other signs of remembering Clark's secret identity. Very odd.
    • At the end of Superman II the fortress's control panel and the crystals are destroyed but here it is perfectly fine and fully functional with all of its crystals. Huh?  
    • In Superman II, Clark sleeps with Lois AFTER giving up his powers so how does his son have superpowers? 
    • At the end of Superman II, Superman says, "I won't let you down again," to the President. Are we to believe he then promptly takes off for five years? Thanks a lot, Super-Jerk!
  • Superman travels to Krypton and back... a trip that takes five years. 
    • First of all, Superman returns in a Kryptonian spaceship. Where'd the ship come from? Not from the Fortress of Solitude since it was rendered inoperable in Superman II. 
    • Why did Superman even need a spaceship? Clearly he can travel faster than light on his own (turning back time in Superman : the Movie) and he can survive in space (as seen in multiple Superman movies).
    • Where did the spaceship go after the landing? In one scene we see a weakened Superman collapse and in the next sequence Clark looks out over the field... no spaceship at all and no crater, burn damage or trench where the spaceship hit.
    • Are we to believe nobody investigated this "meteor hit?"
  • Sometimes when the film "honors the original" it simply is laziness. Do we need a repeat of the rotating door gag or Lois flying again or Superman saving another plane or the old "Lois interviews Superman" thing? No, probably not.
  • A big problem is that this movie just STALLS OUT half way through. HOW BORING. Upon repeated viewings I actually had a hard time staying awake. Not a good sign. And the ending is so weak.
  • Probably my biggest complaint is the characterization of Superman. In this film he's nothing but a selfish, creepy voyeur. 
    • Using his Super-hearing to eavesdrop on the meeting between Perry and Lois.
    • Spying on Lois in her house.
    • Trying to steal Lois away from Richard, her very, very boring fiancĂ©e.
    • "I'm always around, Lois." Wait, is that a threat? Are you stalking me? Answer: YES.
    • Clark drinks a beer then flies off to save a plane. Yeah, that's the Clark I remember. From Superman III when he went evil! I can just see it - Superman gives his "air travel safety" speech and flies off. One reporter turns to another and says, "Is it me or did Superman's breath smell like Budweiser? Maybe THAT'S where he's been for five years! Living inside a bottle!"
    • How can we make Superman cooler... hmmm.... how about making him a deadbeat dad. Yeah, everybody loves a really heroic deadbeat dad!
So, in the final analysis, I applaud Bryan Singer's INTENTIONS. If he had managed to pull this off it would have been sheer genius. For whatever reasons (perhaps, like, 20 years of rewrites or something) this film fails on almost every conceivable level.

Superman may have returned in this film but I wish he hadn't. Skip this film totally lest it tarnish your image of the Man of Steel for good.

1LR Review: 9 out of 20 - It's a Miss!

Star Wars D6 - Gaming Notes #4

When last we left our intrepid adventurers they were on the last leg of their run to drop off weapons on Coruscant for Jabba the Hutt.

We landed on Coruscant and, after a minor barroom brawl, and small Imperial intanglements on a bus, and some skulking around dark alleys in the Undercity, we finally arranged our drop with our contact, Mickey. Dave's character, Lou's, connection with Darth Vader certainly helped smooth things over a bit.
In the course of flashing his credentials around, Dave attracted the attention of the Emperor himself. Summoned to the Emperor's side, the Emperor convinced Lou to become his own personally apprentice, turning his back on Darth Vader. Lou continued to slip deeper and deeper into the Dark Side, much to Dave's chagrin.
There are some perks to being in the Emperor's good graces, however. Mallawar, my wookie, became an officially licensed Imperial bounty hunter. We were outfitted with a brand spanking new Imperial ship.

When we returned to Jabba's palace we still got treated like punks, however. Jabba gloated over us and irrationally refused to accept payment against the debt we owe him. I'm guessing before it's all said and done Jabba will be dead. At least that'll be the case if Mallawar gets his way...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Geek Gear?: Glow-In-The-Dark Cats

Okay... this one is weird. Scientists have created a cat that glows in the dark. How? They fused monkey genes into a female cat's egg. The monkey genes just happened to be "tagged" with jellyfish genes for a fluorescent protein. So this thing is some hybrid monkey/cat/jellyfish that's super immune to disease? Does anybody have ANY doubt that when humanity is wiped off the face of the planet it won't be because of nuclear war but because we've breed a superior species or supervirus in some lab somewhere?

Anyway, here's the cat. Bow to your new master.

Superman Movie Review: Supergirl

I remember watching Supergirl, released in 1984, as a kid but I don't have very clear memories of the film. So, I recently rewatched the expanded edition with 24 extra minutes of footage. Now, for an expanded edition that's quite a bit of added material! So if I write about a scene that you don't remember, that's probably why.

This film is an odd entry into the Superman franchise. First, it is officially and 100% in-continuity with the other Superman films. But where? In the film we hear on the radio that Superman is on a peacekeeping mission in another galaxy. While that's convenient so the filmmakers don't have to deal with Superman running around that explanation in and of itself raises many questions. Does this mean humans have discovered one or more alien races other than the Kryptonians? Were we are war with them? If not, why does Superman feel he can bring about peace in a conflict? How did Superman and Earth learn of the aliens? All unanswered questions. Supergirl was released between Superman III and IV but there's nothing to indicate that it is before or after either of those films in continuity. There was a planned Supergirl II but poor results at the box office squashed the hopes for a sequel.

Now, on to the movie review! First, the positive:
  • Supergirl is cute and I felt the actress, Helen Slater, did a fine job. The costume was perfect.
  • The character of Supergirl stuck to the honest, honorable and noble roots of Superman.
  • Supergirl sticks strictly with the Superman Continuity. It was a nice touch to have the character and the same actor that played Jimmy Olsen appear in this film (especially since he was sidelined in Superman III!). Supergirl's roommate is Lois Lane's sister (small world!). Concepts from the Superman movies are carried over into this film such as the phantom zone and advanced Kryptonian technology and science. 
  • Supergirl's ignorance of Earth culture was refreshing. Superman arrives on Earth as a baby so he grows up learning about Earth culture. Supergirl is ignorant and you get some of those same fish-out-of-water moments as when General Zod, Ursa, and Non explore Earth for the first time in Superman II. 
  • The use of magic in the film is at first a little odd because all the rest of the Superman films are strickly Sci-Fi. But when one considers that Kryptonians have two weaknesses - magic and Kryptonite, it makes sense.
  • The film attracted Faye Dunaway and Mia Farrow. Since Superman had a big-name father and villain, it makes sense that Supergirl should have a girl-name mother and villain!
  • The way the lead dragon grew around the omegahedron (a powerful energy source) was very cool.
Now, there's plenty of weird and simply bad things in this film. Some of this stuff is simply just sloppy or lazy storytelling.
  • The presence of Argo City, an entire city of Kryptonians, on Earth is never fully explained. Sure, it's in "innerspace," but why didn't it get blown up with the rest of Krypton? It is strongly implied that it was created as a refuge by Zaltar, saving the Kryptonians inside. When Kara breaks a window there is a seeming void outside and when she leaves in her "spaceball" vehicle she seems to be traveling through space only to fly out from beneath a lake on Earth. Huh? At the end of the film she returns, once again flying back into the lake and we clearly see Argo City underwater. I just don't get it.
  • Kara seems to be very aware of her cousin, Clark Kent's, activities on Earth. She knows he works for the Daily Planet, knows his name "Clark Kent, know that he is Superman, and knows that they are cousins. How? Once again, it's never explained. If she's so knowledgeable about Clark's activities on Earth how can she be so ignorant of basic Earth concepts like trees, rocks, or trains?
  • Perhaps Supergirl's costume has some Krytonian technology in it because she can quickly alter it to look like her school uniform. That, I can buy. But what about her hair? In an instant it goes from being long and blonde to being shorter and brown. 
  • While we're on the topic, why does Supergirl bother joining the school at all? For Superman, a secret identity makes sense because he lives on Earth permanently. Kara was simply looking to retrieve the omegahedron and return to Argo City with it. Sitting in class when she could be searching for omegahedron (which her people will die in days without) doesn't make much sense. In fact, in one scene she could chase after the omegahedron but a scolding from a teacher causes her to give up pursuit. Huh? Why does her secret identity hold any value for her? Kara doesn't seem to be in that big of a rush to save her race from extinction.
  • The love interests in this film struck me a little... odd. Linda (Supergirl) and her roommate Lucy Lane are both in high school yet the much older men, Jimmy Olsen and Ethan the gardener, don't see anything wrong with pursuing them romantically. Linda and Lucy are either 16 or 17. Jimmy has had a full time gig as a photographer for year  and the gardener appears to be older - I'd put them both in their early to mid 20's. Statutory rape, anyone? Plus, why don't a think Lois would be thrilled with Jimmy making out with her high school sister?
  • Likewise, the obsessive interest that the Selena the witch takes in Ethan, the lowly gardener is very odd to say the least. Here we have a woman who want to rule the world but she spends all of her time obsessing over an uneducated clod. 
  • Girls running around in their bras and shower scenes just didn't seem to fit with what was otherwise a clean, fun, family film. 
I'm sure there's about another thousand nit-picky things I could mention about this film (such as how it was the dead of night when Supergirl rescues Ethan from the amusement park but daytime when they land on the beach a little bit later). But what would be the point? Supergirl, although fun in a nostalgic way, is not a good movie by anyone's standards. If I HAD to rate it against the other Superman movies, I would still put it higher than Superman III and Superman Returns. Just because Supergirl is cute.

1LR Review: 12 out of 20 - It's a Glancing Hit!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Geek Gear: Surviving the Zombie Outbreak: The Official Zombie Survival Field Manual

Relax, general populace! Go back to the warm, comfortable glow coming from your television sets! Ignore sirens, cries for help, the smell of smoke, or that banging sound coming from the kitchen. Everything is okay! There is no need to panic!

Well, actually, in that scenario, perhaps you should panic. Unless you own a copy of Surviving the Zombie Outbreak: The Official Zombie Survival Field Manual. Then you've probably got the situation well in hand.

Now, how, you might ask, does want write a manual for surviving a type of disaster that has never occurred before? Well, I'd imagine it involved lots of watching zombie movies. And perhaps watching what burnouts do as they stumble around the city trying to figure out how they're going to get their next fix.

You might also ask, in what manner is this manual "official?" Did some government entity sanction its creation? What it, in fact, sponsored by a group of zombie survivalists - or perhaps the zombies themselves?

My answer? Don't worry about it... you should go back to your video game and try to beat level 12 again... ignore the sounds of feet slowly shuffling across your floor...

Geek Gear: Air Mags (Back To the Future II Nike Sneakers)

Air Mags as seen in Back to the Future II

Don't you love it when a film is made set in a future year and when we finally get to that year reality is nothing like the movie? Where are the manned flights to Jupiter as depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Well, while that tickles my funny but I enjoy it even more when a movie set in the future actually predicts the future or, even better, shapes the future.

Thus, I present to you: The real world Air-Mags, as made in limited quanity by Nike!

Don't look to get your hands on a set of these, however. Nike only made 1,500 pairs and auctioned them off to raise money for Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's research foundation.

Oh well. Maybe by 2015, the year Back to the Future is primarily set in... I'm no slave to fashion but I've got to say that I'd drop 150 bucks or so on a pair of these bad boys! I wonder if they really auto-lace...

Friday, November 18, 2011

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die

I've read thousands of comic books in my time, but I wonder... have I read the best ones? Sure, I have my favorites.

Thor 385 features an unbelievably epic Hulk vs Thor fight that has never been matched before or since.
Amazing Spider-Man #400 is an absolutely beautiful issue when Aunt May dies as Peter recites from memory the directions on how Peter Pan tells Wendy to get to Never Never Land - fly to the star "Second to the right, and straight on 'til morning!"
The Siege on Avengers Mansion from Avengers #277 is a fantastic issue. At what cost - victory?
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #20 features an enraged Spider-Man taking on a foe he could never beat - Iron Man 2020! Simply Spider-Man at his best.
Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1 is epic on another scale. This one features every single cosmic entity in the Marvel Universe as an omnipotent Adam Warlock struggles with his own selfishness. Tons of mind-bending cosmic philosophy in this one.

I could go on and on and on... trust me. Perhaps I will someday. Each of the above mentioned comics is certainly worthy of its own posting. But as I said... have I read the best the comic book medium has to offer? Well, the recently released book "1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die" may hold the answer. I'm certainly interested in taking a peak at this book to see how many of the comics I've read. I wonder if any of the above mentioned gems made the cut?

I guess the problem I'd have is... if I haven't read the comics what can I do? Buy hundreds of trade paperbacks? Seek out expensive and hard-to-find comics online? Borrow what I can from friends? The shame of it is - if you haven't read a comic from this list you'd have a hard time getting your hands on it without laying out some cold, hard cash. Doesn't this mean that the best works in the comic book medium are destined to be forgotten sooner or later? Perhaps some of these 1001 comics could be made available for free online as a part of a "comic book ambassador" movement... A fellow can dream, can't he?

Gamers Trump Scientists - Solve 15 Year Old AIDS Problem in 10 Days

Yeah, you read that title right. Take that, Ph. D. scientists! Gamers rule! on the website gamers were tasked with playing a game that is actually decoding complex enzymes. In this case, it was a critical enzyme in AIDS. So apparently scientists, frustrated and desperate for help from any quarter, threw this 15 year old riddle at the gamers. The gamers laughed and said, "No problem." Ten days later the mystery is solved. No biggie for a bunch of min/maxing gamers. Check out the news article here.
So I'm thinking we should go ahead and throw a whole bunch of other problems at gamers as well. Maybe, say, the economy. I'm betting gamers could run the economy pretty well. Or how about peace in the Middle East? I'd say gamers could have both of these problems solved in under a month if you turned them into a real-time game online. Maybe unsolved crimes could be next! And theological conundrums!

No problem or mystery is to great for gamers to solve! I am gamer! Hear me ROAR!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Superman III Review

This image pretty much sums up Superman III. Richard Lester, who took over Superman II from Richard Donnor, was allowed to run wild with this film. What was Richard Lester drinking when he directed this? I would call this the worst of the original Superman movies. Still, it's not without its positives, so let's start there.
  • The bit with Clark's old high school sweater was neat. At one point he holds it up to his chest, the giant "S" mirroring his Superman icon. At another time he wears it tied around his neck, draped down his back like a cape.
  • Lana Lang was a welcome addition. Her character was wonderfully ADD and seemed to embody Smallville's innocence. 
  • When Superman takes an interest Ricky, Lana's son, this mirror the father-son themes from the first movie. Since Jor-El "dies" in both the first and second movies (well, at least the Richard Donnor cut), it was refreshing to see Clark take a fatherly interest in Ricky.
  • Evil Superman caused by synthetic kryptonite. Clearly the highlight of this film is the "Dark Superman." Right after the world is threatened by Zod and the other criminal Kryptonians (try saying "criminal Kryptonians" ten times fast) they witness a Superman without inhibitions. It was cool seeing Superman pick up chics and getting blitzed. But Superman's "crime spree" is more like a series of childish pranks - straightening the Leaning Tower of Piza and blowing out the Olympic torch. I liked the color scheme of the "Drunk Superman" and I noted that it was very similar to the color scheme using for Superman Return's creepy voyeur Superman. Irony, anyone?
  • The Clark Kent / Superman fight is epic. You're never quite sure if this is real or all in Superman's head but it is awesome to see Evil Superman gloat as he kicks Clark Kent's press pass across a junkyard. And how awesomely out of character is it to see Clark choke the life out of Superman? Makes you think that even though Clark won, he'll never be the same...
  • This is the first Superman movie that I actually remember going to see in the theater and my one true memory of seeing this movie the first time is Vera turning into the mechanical computer woman. MAN DID THAT CREEP ME OUT AS A KID!
Now, on to the... sigh... bad... I'll try to be brief as there's just so much of it...
  • First, where's Superman? The Superman action in this film is incredibly limited. In fact, for that matter, the CLARK action in this film seems limited. WAY too much time was spent on Richard Pryor's character, Gorman, and the film's boring villain, Webster.
  • It seems Lester just wanted to get rid of the entire supporting cast: Lois is off to the Caribbean, Jimmy breaks his leg early, and Perry is stuck in Metropolis while Clark is off to Smallville. Lex Luthor is replaced with a stupid villain, Webster.
  • The film really shows its age. Since computers are the primary focus, every time a computer is shown you just think about how old they are. Also, Gorman gets cut off of unemployement after 36 weeks. He views himself as a bum. Today you can get unemployment ranging for up to 99 weeks! Talk about changing times!
  • Stupid slapstick. Why did Lester feel that Superman movies needed more stupid visual gags? He was the one responsible for the windstorm in the second movie. Now he brings us more slapstick with mimes and blind people. Oh, the blind man walked through the painting and used the street line drawing machine as a seeing eye dog! Ha-ha-ha-Ugh.
  • The very little Superman action we do see is either inconsequential or very unrealistic. 
    • Thrill, watching Superman stop a wheat harvester!
    • Gasp as you witness Superman freeze and entire lake, lift it up, and then the lake melts before it can hit the ground! Wait, why didn't Superman just cool the acid tanks or put the fire out with his cold breath?
    • Don't blink or you'll miss Superman rescue a guy from a car improbably filled with water!
    • Take you heart meds to prepare for Superman RECEIVING A AWARD!
    • Stare in amazement as Superman DRIES OUT THE GROUND AFTER A RAIN!
    • Try not to freak out as Superman FIGHTS A COMPUTER! *Yawn*
  • The entire plot is very, very, very weak. Wait... you're telling me that all of this is so a businessman can control the coffee crop and oil industries? Isn't that how it works in reality anyway? 
So, in conclusion, Superman III is bad. Not as bad as Superman Returns, which I will tear apart in the next installment of the Superman movie reviews, but bad.

1LR Review: 10 out of 20 - It's a Miss!