Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Death of the Incredible Hulk

Death of the Incredible Hulk is the last live-action, made-for-TV film in the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno series, as the name suggests. It was released in 1990.
David Banner is once again using an alias and working at a research facility as a janitor. He's breaking in at night and secretly helping the lead scientist with his genetic research. Eventually he's discovered and, instead of reporting him, the scientist adopts him as a son. They are on the very of curing Banner when Jasmin, an operative working for a spy organization, disrupts the procedure. The doctor is in a coma and Banner proceeds to help thwart the plot by the spies, eventually falling in love with Jasmin. 

Bill Bixby is, as always, top notch in this film. In the beginning of the film, Banner is acting like a dim-witted janitor and Bixby nails it. I actually started wondering if there was something that happened to make Banner meek and feeble. Ferrigno puts in a good final performance as well. The Hulk action is, as always, a highlight of the film.

The bad guys in the film are a little too vaguely defined for my tastes. Kasha, Jasmine, Zed, and Bella (Ashanko) all belong to an organization and prompt one another with things like, "You must do it for the cause for which we all believe!" But the organization or the cause are both not stated, thus leaving the goals of this group undefined. Why do they want the scientist's secrets? There are a few twists that you don't see coming (Jasmin's sister, who you think is held hostage, is actually the leader of the organization and wants to kill her own sister!) but after you stop and think about it, they don't make a whole lot of sense.

Likewise, the character's relationships seem artificially accelerated. Banner is adopted as a son to the scientist and his wife. He also falls in love with Jasmin (including a sex scene uncharacteristic of the series) very quickly. All of this is done to lend emotional weight to the Hulk's eventual death but it seems rushed.

The title itself is a bit grotesque. Anybody tuning in is watching to see the Hulk die. I don't know why they felt it was necessary to put such a definitive (and negative!) ending on the series. Why not let Banner heal himself and live happily ever after if you wanted to put a period at the end? They certainly don't do anything that extraordinary with their final opportunity to use the characters. The movie has the feeling of "just another episode" until the end.

The sequence in which the Hulk dies will live in infamy forever. Of all the ways you could imagine to kill the Hulk, falling from a plane isn't one of them. Watching Ferrigno lying on his back and flailing his oversized arms and legs like a baby as the camera zooms in to simulate falling is just sad. Bixby redeems the scene slightly with his masterfully delivered last line, "I am free." Now that's poetry. 

All in all, the series goes out just like the Hulk himself - with a wimper, not a bang.

1LR Review - 13 out of 20 - It's a Glancing Hit!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012!

I know I'm pretty down on the comics industry... there's a lot to be down about, in my opinion. I may be doom and gloom, forecasting a bleak future for the once great American institution. But I do see some rays of hope. One of them in Free Comic Book Day! This is the 10th year for FCBD and the event has only grown and gotten bigger.

I, myself, always make sure I snatch up several hundred comics so I can give them out to kids. After all, they're going to be the future of comics.

I always get excited when I see what companies are releasing. This year doesn't disappoint with Mouse Guard, Peanuts, Bongo, Star Wars, Transformers, Avengers, Diary of a Zombie Kid, Spider-Man, Donald Duck, My Favorite Martian, Tinkerbell/Smurfs, Top Shelf Kids Club, and Animal Planet (to name a few).


The Great Debate: How Should Settlers of Catan Be Set Up?

There are few issues that divide people like this one. I think that Hamas and Israel might come to a mutual understanding before these two camps find peace. Who I am I talking about? The folks who believe that Settlers of Catan should be set up like the picture in the rulebook every time and those that think it's okay to randomize everything.
I, myself, fall in the randomization camp although I certainly understand the other position. I would recommend the "standard" setup to beginning players only, however.

This is the "standard" set-up.
One of the great things about Settlers of Catan is that you're able to make the game board different every time. To me, it would be quite boring to play the same board over and over again. If they wanted it to be that way, they'd save themselves the trouble of making all those tiles and numbered discs and just print a standard game board. But they didn't. The hex tiles and numbered discs allow you to make every game unique. A completely randomized game board allows for each game to be completely different.

On the standard set-up, experienced players don't have to think about where to build. They play out the same strategies game after game. The same spots are going to be good starting positions time and time again. Not so with randomization. Randomizing the board makes the players question even their initial placements.

A fan of the standard set-up might say, "But randomizing can create stupid set-ups, such as the desert, 12, and 2 being next to one another or two eights and a six meeting at one intersection." To this, I would say that my experience has proven this to not be a problem. If you've got a "hot spot," the competition in this area will be fierce. These battles for control can often be their own little mini-games with people cutting each other off and building just to block their neighbor. These hot-spots also tend to attract the thief quite a bit as well, limiting their upside. Meanwhile, probability-dead zones allow for other players to expand unhindered, perhaps building a long highway into the wilderness to take the Longest Road.

Another thing that standardization fans might say is, "Randomizing the board doesn't allow for balanced resource creation. All of the high probability numbers might end up on one resource while another isn't generated at all." This is, of course, true, but I don't see this as a negative. When these things happen, it increases the value of ports, encouraging players to build toward the edges of the board. If tons of ore are being produced, then you can bet it'll be a foot race to the ore port. Other players may wish to quickly build on a 3:1 port just so they can get some of a resource that is in short supply. Even in a standard set-up I've usually found this happens anyway because the dice don't perfectly mirror probability. Any experienced Settlers player have regularly seen games when, for example, 8 isn't rolled at all and 4 is rolled twenty times.

So in conclusion, randomization is the way to go when setting up Settlers of Catan. It adds great replayability to the game and poses unique challenges to experienced players.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Trial of the Incredible Hulk

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is a 1989 live-action, made-for-TV movie set in the continuity of the Incredible Hulk TV show. Once again, it featured Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno.
This film starts with Banner down and out, again. In some bizarre twist of fate, David Banner is blamed for attacking a girl. An over-the-top Kingpin makes sure the victim fingers Banner to protect his own goons who actually committed the crime. Daredevil then comes to the aid of Banner as his lawyer, blind Matt Murdock. For some reason, The Kingpin thinks if he kills Daredevil all of the crime lords will fall in line under him so he arranges for Daredevil to fall.

This movie is a bit of a mess and not only that but it's incredibly boring.

Let's start with Daredevil. His costume design (a all black jump suit - no horns or DD insignia), while practical, is very dull to look at. The film spends lots of time developing Murdock and his supporting cast (once again floating the concept like in a pilot) but it never seems to get past some really bad jokes about sight and blindness. There are a couple of sequences that show the world in Daredevil's "radar vision" that are pretty neat but beyond that when I see Murdock or Daredevil on screen, I want to yawn. Any real action comes from the Hulk.

The Kingpin is likewise horrible. He fails to be menancing in any way. For some reason, this version of the character is camera obsessed... perhaps because it was a tech fad of the day. He is completely obsessed with Daredevil but you don't see how Daredevil could be a real threat because he's an incompetent buffoon. You end up wondering how The Kingpin ever became a crime lord at all.

The whole concept of Banner being locked up is an interesting one. The sequence with the Hulk breaking out of jail is one of the rare highlights in the movie. The other is actually a dream sequence with Banner transforming into the Hulk right on the stand in court! Seeing the Hulk lift the jury box with Stan Lee in it is a nice treat.

The rest of this film is a slow paced mess. They even messed with the classic Hulk opening sequence!

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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How It Should Have Ended... Funny Videos

There's a geek-funny series of cartoon videos on YouTube called, "How It Should Have Ended." Basically, the name says it all. They take popular movies (particularly those that geeks might be interested in) and give it an alternate ending. They are quick astute and pointing out absurdities in movies and rectifying the situation by providing their own hilarious conclusions. Check out the samples below.

Their website is or you can find them all over YouTube.

Reporting From The Renew Community Church Game Night

I just got back from the RCC game night. I thought it was a lot of fun! The gentlemen from KGS ran the games Fluxx, Axis and Allies Miniatures, Pass the Pigs, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Word on the Street.

The turnout was light but everyone had a good time. Many of the non-KGS folks who showed up were novice gamers who were trying the games for the first time ever. Word on the Street seemed to be the most popular game of the evening. Here are some pictures from the event:

Brett shows Cindi, Kevin, Ben, and Anna how to play Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride... Did black block green?

Pass the Pigs... not the best angle.

Chris teaches Christi how to play Word on the Street with Brett and Anna.

The early stages of Carcassonne.

Bryan gives Carcassonne a thumb's up while Sam, Cindi, and Kevin look on.

Jarred was quite proud of his high score in this game of Pass the Pigs.
Sam teaches John, Jan, and Lauren how to play Carcassonne.

Oh, how Carcassonne grew...

Bryan lays out the rules of war in Axis and Allies miniatures for Cindi and Kevin while Ben watches.

Dice! Dice! I must conquer!

Michael and Jarred just HAD to rematch after Jarred beat Michael the first time.

Word on the Street played until all of the letters are used. I guess Michael got his revenge.
This was the first time I myself had played Fluxx and Word on the Street. I thought both were good games and I could see adding either or both of them to my gaming collection.

If you think the people above look like they're having a good time, you can check out Renew Community Church in York, PA at

Comic Store West and Keystone Gaming Society both sponsored this event. You can check them out at and A special thank you to both organizations!

Baby Kal-El Mystery - New Information Presented!

I want to thank captaincelluloid from Superman Homepage for his tip regarding the mysterious identity of the baby Kal-El from the first episode of The Adventures of Superman.

According to him, the rumor is that baby Kal-El was played by none other than Aline Towne's own infant son. Aline Towne, of course, played Lana, Superman's biological Kryptonian mother in the same episode.
Aline Towne - Arline Towne as Lara
Aline Towne played Superman's real mother... could it have been her actual son who played baby Kal-El?
Rest assured, faithful reader, that 1LR is working tirelessly to verify or disprove this claim. We'll report back when we have more information to pass along.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Incredible Hulk Returns

The Incredible Hulk Returns is a 1988 live-action, made-for-TV movie featuring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. It was made after the Incredible Hulk television series was cancelled.
In this movie, we pick up with David Banner two years after his last transformation. He is working as a scientist on a Gamma Transponder that can be used to generate energy. Secretly, it also hopes it can cure him. Unfortunately, one of his ex-colleagues, Dr. Donald Blake, seeks him out and accidentially wrecks everything by unleashing Thor. In this movie, Thor is a separate entity from Blake, called forth (and sent back) when Blake holds the hammer and shouts, "ODIN!"

The element that makes this movie different than all of the previous shows is Thor. Thor represents the first true threat that the Hulk has faced in this series as the first superhuman he had to fight. The action sequences between the two are done in the style typical of the rest of the show which makes this meeting of titans seem a bit ho-hum.

Thor himself is fairly well designed. The origin stuck close to the original from the comics. I liked the crypt sequence with Thor being "resurrected." The choice to include magic in a sci-fi show is a bit odd. They altered the costume and went for a more authentic Viking look, which was a good choice. At times, the mortal characters toss around Thor's hammer, Mjonlir, as if it is quite light. Having held a REAL replica Thor hammer I can tell you this is not the case! Thor does seem to be too much of a "prettyboy" for my liking. Still, he does come across as rowdy and brash (the bar scene is later mirrored in the Thor movie). This is certainly not the refined hero from the comics. The Thor character, if successful, would have been launched into his own TV series but he was not.

The plot for the movie is generally pretty weak. The bad guys are trying to steal the massive Gamma Transponder which somehow descends into petty kindnapping. The weakest sequence in the whole movie is the attack on the beach. Thor and the Hulk combined fail to take down a single helicopter. That right there is jump-the-shark material.

Overall, this is a refreshing return to a fan-favorite series but it failure to integrate the Thor character in a believable way or provide a true threat for the heroes weakens the effort.

1LR Review - 13 out of 20 - It's a Glancing Hit!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Geek Gear: Firefly Les Femmes Posters

These posters are a must-own for Firefly fans. The only question is do you have enough wall space to accommodate all ten of these 24" x 12" posters? What I love are how the essence of each character was captured with a unique design but thematically they're all tied together with a similar color scheme and title design. Saffron might be my favorite... what about you?

Gaming Notes: Dominion

Wow, have I been playing a lot of Dominion lately. I got this game for Christmas and I've probably played 40-50 games since then. The replayability on the game is through the roof due to the card-selection mechanic.
The last time I played was with the guys over at Keystone Gaming Society. Sometimes, I wonder why I torture myself in trying to teach them new games. Granted, often experience is the best teacher when it comes to board games, but KGS seems to want to hurry up and get started without fully understanding the game and then complain about how their lack of understanding limited their enjoyment or success.

We played with the beginner setup. My strategy was to buy very few action cards - at the end of the game I only had five. Instead, I purchased silver and gold when I could. By the time KGS realized I was quickly scarfing up victory points, it was too late.

Nobody likes it when the guy who brought the game wins and KGS voiced their displeasure. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I really took it easy on them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gaming Notes: Stars Without Number

The fellas at Keystone Gaming Society and I recently created Stars Without Number characters. 
I've got to say - I was impressed with the simplicity of the character creation process.

First, the stats are intimately familiar for anyone who roleplays - they are exactly the same as D&D. 

Secondly, there are only three character classes - the Warrior, Psychic, and Expert. Each of these can then be modified with backgrounds and training packages. So even though Bryan and I both chose Warriors with the same background, our training packages, equipment purchases, and skill specializations made our characters very different from one another.

All told, we had four characters made in about 45 minutes. That's impressive.

I'm intrigued to play the system. If the game players and easily and smoothly as character generation, it'll be a winner. 

Who Was Baby Clark Kent?

As I was watching the first Episode of The Adventures of Superman (1951), I wondered... who played the baby Kal-El? As far as I know, the role went uncredited. But that guy would only be 62 or so right now. I wonder who it was? I wonder what he went on to do with his life? 
I looked on - The Internet Movie Database. They're exhaustive in the credits they have listed... but still, nothing. I even looked in their listings for the character "Clark Kent" but still... nothing.

Anyone out there with a tip or information that could help me solve this mystery, I would greatly appreciate it. I'm curious as to what the first baby Superman went on to do with his life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Incredible Hulk (1982)

The Incredible Hulk is an animated television series from 1982. This series only lasted for 13 episodes.
This series uses all of the classic elements from the Hulk mythos. The Hulk presented is savage and strong, growling, uttering short phrases, and dealing with his problems in a direct, physical way. The origin story is modified slightly but Bruce's relationships with Betty and Rick are straight from the classic Hulk era.

One of the best things about this series is the narration by Stan Lee himself. Stan goes out of his way to keep his signature phrases and style intact for the series.

The animation is capable and somewhat reminiscent of Scooby-Doo. Oddly, when the Hulk transforms back into Bruce Banner his suit goes from being torn to shreds back to being undamaged.

The villains chosen for the series are a bit odd since most of them aren't usually associated with the Hulk. The Puppet Master, Doctor Octopus, Hydra, and Spymaster usually fight the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man respectively. The Leader and the She-Hulk make appearances to the credit of the show.

While most episodes end by returning to the status quo, some do not. In particular, one episode ends with Banner's identity as the Hulk becoming known by the Army. This is a nice touch that defies the conventions of most cartoons from the era.

The majority of the plots seem a little thin and contrived. For example, one story relies completely on Betty and Bruce being sent to Paris with a secret key for a huge gold shipment that somehow causes them to meet Quasimodo. Huh? All I want to see is Bruce turn into the Hulk and destroy a bunch of stuff!

Overall, this series is held up by a few quality episodes while the rest may leave you scratching your head.

1LR Review - 13 out of 20 - It's a Glancing Hit!

Game Night for Renew Community Church

The gentlemen at Keystone Gaming Society and I are going to be putting on a game night at Renew Community Church this Sunday evening from 6-8. RCC meets at the Strictly Fitness gym in York, PA.

The purpose of the game night is to have a fun family time where folks who aren't gamers can try out some of the more common strategy board games in a non-threatening atmosphere. It's really great to see a group of gamers reach out into the community to promote gaming. Way to go, KGS!

Here are the games that are going to be run:

Brian - Fluxx
Sam - Carcassonne
Brett - Ticket to Rider (American Map)
Bryan- Axis and Allies Miniatures
Chris - Word on the Street
Dave - Settlers of Catan
Me - Pass the Pigs

It should be a lot of fun. I'll report back to you after the event to let you know how it went.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gaming Notes: Settlers of Catan #1

I have been doing quite a bit of gaming lately but I've been tardy in writing it up for this blog. I apologize - if you notice a great increase in the number of "Gaming Notes" in the near future, I haven't become unemployed, I'm just catching up.

It's been quite awhile since I've played Settlers of Catan. I recently got to do so in a five player game with my fellow Keystone Gaming Society members.
Sweet come-from-behind victory in Catan!
I guess you could say it started out on the wrong foot. We had a difference of opinion as to set up the board - the "prescribed" way or completely random. Completely random won out.

As any good Settlers player knows, initial placement is critical. You've got to find just the right mixture of board placement, probability numbers (high probability without duplication is best), and diversity of resources. Many a Settlers game has been lost before it ever began by poor initial placement. Well, when I deliberated for nary two minutes, the KGS fellas were giving me all sorts of grief. It gave me some satisfaction when Sam rushed his second pick only to realize that he had chosen the same numbers he already had.

From there, they complained about the board set-up, their lack of resources, and the slowness of the game. In my experience, the game was about an average length for a five player game - an hour and forty five minutes or so. I can never tell if they're joking or if they're serious...

Anyway, I persevered, monopolizing brick for myself and slowly expanding.

I won the game with a three point turn. Having one road left with which to build, I built a road, extending my chain to nine roads long and stealing Longest Road from Sam. In the same turn I also upgraded a settlement to a city, thus increasing my 7 points to 10 in one turn and winning the game. It was a good thing to because two other players were at 9 points!

The Adventures of Superman (1951)

I just watched the first disc of The Adventures of Superman from 1951 starring George Reeves. 
I appreciated it for what it was and the era it came from. I can see why this series is remembered fondly. I thought the strength of the series was the acting. Reeves makes for a very believable Clark Kent and Superman, although his Kent is very different from Christopher Reeve's. Christopher Reeve's Kent was a simpering wimp, more like Peter Parker. George Reeves's Kent is bold and self-confident. He often sets aside inquiries like, "Gosh, how'd you get here so quickly?" by taking control of the conversation by saying something like, "It's a long story. Now tell me what's the problem?" Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and John Hamilton as Perry White are both legendary. 

The plots are pure cheese, however. These mysteries seem more suited for Nancy Drew than Superman. Entire episodes revolve around a monkey in a Superman suit or men breaking plaster statues they paid for or a parrot that says, "Help! I'm drowning!" 

Plots aside, these are worth watching for every comic fan simply for their historical value. Reeves's Superman should make Brandon Routh's Superman ashamed. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Incredible Hulk (1977)

The Incredible Hulk is a television series that ran starting in 1977 on CBS. It was on the air for five seasons. This review includes the pilot episode and the second episode, Return of the Incredible Hulk, both of which were originally released as made-for-TV movies.
This series has a very memorable title sequence. Not only does it quickly summarize the basic concept of the Hulk it holds some memorable images. For example, the close up of the "DANGER" button that originally cuts off the "D" to spell "ANGER" and then pulls back to reveal the full word is brilliant. The split screen of Banner and Hulk is iconic.

This series is pretty formulaic but that's not necessarily a bad thing. From episode to episode, David Banner walks from one situation to another unrelated situation. There is very little continuity from one episode to another and the only true ongoing plotline is the reporter Jack McGee who is chasing the Hulk. The Hulk's transformation sequences are a highlight of the series. And, of course, every episode ended with sad piano music and Banner walking down some lonely highway. 

The Hulk is played by Lou Ferrigno, a roll that he played so convincingly that the Hulk is still associated with him after decades have passed. The Hulk's origin is changed from a gamma bomb to a more scientifically based laboratory setting. Visually, the Hulk was fine for its day but the costume shows its age. The wig is bad and some of the facial enhancements are comical. The worst may be the body paint, however, because you can clearly see it often washed or rubbed off in certain areas.

But it was truly Bill Bixby that carried this series. The man was an legendary actor with quite a range. He brought a quiet peacefulness to the Banner character. When he said the famous line, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," he managed to sound both friendly and threatening at the same time. Bixby showed true range in his acting and he was able to contort his face in such as to show extreme emotion. 

Of course, as it has been much discussed, the creators of the show changed Banner's name from "Bruce" to "David." Banner is actually the real hero of the series, not the Hulk. Whenever the Hulk does good he is merely doing what Banner was unable to do. When Banner transforms into the Hulk without good intentions, we see a savage beast. 

All in all, although this series seems slowly paced by today's standards it holds up exceptionally well.

1LR Rating - 16 out of 20 - It's a Hit!

Game Defeated! Super Mario Bros.

Okay, this is going to sound stupid... But I just beat Super Mario Bros. for the first time. Yes, THAT Super Mario Bros. From the 80's for the original Nintendo. I've probably logged hundreds of hours on that game over the years. I've beaten all the other Mario games. But I never beat the original. Until now!
I think one of the big things I did that helped me was I played it straight through - not taking any of the warps. This allowed me to build up 9 extra lives. I was on my last life when I beat it! BTW- The screen shot above was obviously taken by someone who DID use the warps (because of the low score), not me.

Man does it feel good to beat that game after almost 20 years!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Games From My Youth: Scotland Yard

Big name board game companies CAN make interesting strategy games. Remember this one?
Scotland Yard is a game where five players control detectives. The detectives move about the board using underground (subways), taxis, and buses. The goal of the detectives is to capture the elusive Mr. X! Mr. X is controlled by a sixth player. So although this game is a "co-op" game, you're not playing against the board - all of the players are trying to beat one other player.

What makes this game unique is the "Mr. X Mechanic." While the detectives are represented on the board by clear plastic tokens with colored dots on them, Mr. X's movements are shrouded in secrecy because Mr. X merely writes down his position without a playing piece on the board. At several set points in the game, Mr. X's position is revealed and the detectives try to quickly swarm to cut off his escape routes.

This game is a ton of fun. As a detective, it's grand tradition to look for any clue as to the whereabouts of Mr. X. Players carefully read Mr. X's eyes to see where he's looking on the board. Body language is interpreted for any sign of stress or anxiety. Even the movements of the pen are interpreted... Did I just see top of the pen move as if he wrote a one and then an eight? Is Mr. X on 18? Scotland Yard is definitely a thinking man's game. The players must use a good deal of deductive reasoning and psychology to figure out the moves of the opposition.

I still have my original copy of the gem. If you don't, fortunately, you can find them cheap on eBay.

This isa Spiel des Jahres Award winner from 1983 that shouldn't be forgotten.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons Re-released!

I'm elbow deep in 1e D&D right now and loving it. Wizards is re-releasing the core rulebooks for first edition to raise money for the Gary Gygax Memorial Fund which is trying to build a statue in his honor. These books are "premium" books and have a new cover on them.

I applaud Wizard's efforts on the behalf of Gary Gygax. Ultimately, anything that keeps the history of Dungeons and Dragons alive is good in my book. There's just a small problem - the price! The core rulebooks together cost more than the same books in 4th edition! There are two ways to get this same material much cheaper - eBay and Osric (two LEGAL options, that is).
Check out the books are Wizard's release statement here. I hope the project is a success for them and for Gary's fund.

Thanks to Sam for bringing this to my attention!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was released today (2/17/12). It's the sequel to the original Ghost Rider movie, starring Nicholas Cage.
The storyline of this sequel divorces itself from the original almost completely, except for the basic concept of the deal with the Devil. Johnny Blaze finds himself in Europe. Gone is the entire supporting cast from the first film. In fact, the character of Johnny Blaze seems to have completely changed. Gone are the stunts and jelly beans, replaced with angst and insanity. Even Ghost Rider is very different, now "eating souls."

Ghost Rider remains visually very well done (especially in 3D), this time with oily black smoke rolling off of him. But as a character, he's the equivalent of a robot with a circuit loose. His behavior doesn't make sense most of the time and the film doesn't explain it. One time he rides into combat but just stands there with his fist raised into the air. I think there's a few times when he "eats someone's soul" (he opens his mouth wide but besides that there's no other visual clue) but he chooses to do it in the middle of active combat, allowing the bad guys to defeat him.  At various times in the film, Ghost Rider uses vehicles other than his motorcycle, all of which burst into flame just like his bike. Most ridiculously is a what appears to be a large earth-moving construction vehicle of some type. Ghost Rider's partial transformations come across as ridiculously cartoonish.

The main villain is the Devil and a human named Carrigan. The bad guys that he struggles to defeat are, for the most part, normal guys who he should have been able to take care of without a problem. Carrigan is transformed into a decay demon (who apparently is suppose to be Blackout, though he is never called that in the film). Carrigan's decay powers are selectively applied even though he's suppose to be unable to control them. How is he able to drive for hours if his touch destroys anything in mere seconds? The Devil himself proves easy to dispatch since he was "reimagined" to need a frail mortal host to survive.

This film fails on almost every level. At times, the film attempts to break new ground, inserting "comic bookish" sequences, but these come across as being exposition heavy momentum killers. The plot is extremely simple but seems muddled because basic concepts aren't explained until late in the film (why is there all the fuss over this kid again?). Characters are cardboard cutouts lacking any real emotion, backstory, or motivation. Even the editing and camera work is extremely poor. The film missed out on major opportunities to explore themes like the difference between vengeance and justice. I don't want to give away the ending but lets say that the logic behind the "new" Ghost Rider doesn't make any sense.

There were two funny moments in the film. One was when Blackout tries to eat but all of the food decays as he touches it... except a Twinkie. The second was seeing Johnny Blaze squirm as he's asked hypothetical questions by a kid, a la Mallrats. "What happens if you have to pee when you're on fire?" the kid asks. "It's like a flamethrower," Blaze replies. The accompanying image is hilarious.

But what isn't funny is wasting your money on this film. I expect nobody is going to be happy with this slop of a movie, Ghost Rider fans or not.

1LR Review - 6 out of 20 - It's a Failure!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

You, Too, Can Be a REAL Jedi!

So, how does one become a Jedi? Aren't I, "Too old for the training?" Well, it turns out, I just have to read this book (and the three after it):

The thing is, these people are SERIOUS. I mean, SERIOUSLY serious. Here's what is says from the New Illuminati Protocols website:

"The Book of Jedi is a free publication that prepares the Initiate for training in a Jedi Academy. It has been imbued with specific thought seeds and a secret internal rhythm that will awaken an awareness of The Force within you. Simply by reading through this document in it’s entirety, certain inner preparations will be made within you. The Jedi Order has existed quietly on Earth for centuries, awaiting for this moment in history to come forward and make our training available to many more who qualify to learn the ways of The Force. In the final pages, instructions will be given to you should you choose to request additional information about formal training in one of our academies."
Download an Unregistered Version Instantly, Here
So look out, bullies who picked on my in high school. I'm a JEDI now and I don't take no gruff from nobody! Man, it was easier to become a Jedi than it was to bulk up on muscle like that Charles Atlas ad on the back of comic books promised me! Sweet!
Perhaps this explains all of those Jedi reported in the UK census...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Geek Gear: Stay Puft Caffeinated Marshamallows

Do you know what I'm thinking about? That's right - Stay Puft Marshmallows. Once again, the movies have given us real life products to glory in. While I don't think these marshmallows are likely to become the physical representation of a major demon, I would avoid snacking on them while chanting Bloody Mary or playing with a Ouija Board.
As if there wasn't enough goodness in these things already, they somehow managed to make room for caffeine in a 100% sugar product. Only in America, folks. Only in America.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi

I've got to admit - it's a question I've never spent much time thinking about. Where did the Jedi and the Sith come from? In Star Wars history, there is literally tens of thousands of years of history between these two factions. But certainly there had to be a time before force powers were discovered, right? How did that happen exactly? Well, that's the question the upcoming Dark Horse limited series, Dawn of the Jedi, sets out to answer. And I've go to admit - now that the question's been posed, I'm very anxious to find out the answer!


The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) - Review

Please note: This is NOT part of the Marvel Media Mania series (it's not THAT Captain Marvel)! This is a bonus review of the black and white serialized Captain Marvel adventures from 1941. My research tells me this is the first depiction of a superhero on film.

I expected this serial to be completely corny but it wasn't. The plot is actually quite intriguing. Each episode, of course, ends with a cliffhanger (such as a plane exploding with Billy in it) that actually made me anxious to watch the next installment. The big villain is The Scorpion (there are some other minor bad guys as well). The basic plot is that a mystical artifact of great power is broken into pieces by the men who discover it and the Scorpion is out to collect those pieces. One of the mysteries in the series is the identity of the Scorpion. It's a genuine mystery. I found myself watching each episode for clues and, one by one, the suspects are ruled out. The series pays off in the end with the revelation of the Scorpion's identity and some real surprised.

 One of the things that amused me was the vengefulness of Captain Marvel. At one point, he mows down fleeing men with a machine gun. At another point he throws a defenseless henchmen over the side of a tall building. When Captain Marvel gets into combat, his usual tactic is to simply punch someone, pick them up, and throw them as hard as he can. And you actually get the idea from watching Tom Tyler (who played Captain Marvel) stagger under the weight of these men that he is picking them up unassisted.

The stunt work and visual effects are actually surprisingly good for their time. The flying sequences appear to have been done several ways. The first is with a dummy on a zip line. This looks amazingly real as Captain Marvel goes streaking across open roads and countryside. The second is a close-up of Tom Tyler hanging from a wire. Sometimes these wires are visible but the effect is pretty good nonetheless. The transformations from Billy to Captain Marvel and visa-versa are likewise convincing. Set pieces are detailed and do a good job of getting across that pulp adventure feel.

Overall, this series was extremely enjoyable. I recommend it to any comic book or film buff.

1LR Review - 17 out of 20 - It's a Solid Hit!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Geek Gear: Deadpool Pencil Cup

I think putting this thing on your desk would cause your boss to think twice before dropping that big project on you at noon on Friday. But you've got to keep your pencils and pens organized SOMEHOW, don't you?
The throwing stars are the icing on the cake for me on this one. I don't even like Deadpool but this thing is just cool.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Geek Gear: Minty Personality Marvel T-Shirt

At first glance, this awesome T-shirt appears to be just a typical spread of Marvel character head shots. But take a double look - notice the nameplates?
I think my favorite descriptions are the Thing, Thor, and the Kingpin. Debonare. Heh.

I'm a 5.0 Playtester

I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, so I signed up online as a playtester for Dungeons and Dragons 5.0. We'll see what happens. I'd say I'm pretty much a game designer's worst nightmare. Monte Cook had better have an amazing rules system to wow me. A grizzled gaming veteran like me isn't easy to impress. I'll keep you updated.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider is a 2007 movie that presents the origin story of the title character.
Ghost Rider starts out so well. The entire opening sequence with the young Johnny Blaze, his father, and Roxanne works. They cast fantastic younger look-alike versions of Nick Cage and Eva Mendes to play the teenage versions of Johnny and Roxanne. I liked how the deal-with-the-devil was worked out and the bitter irony of it.

When the movie transitions into modern day with a middle aged Blaze it initially holds my attention. The way the action unfolds with Blaze's jump over the helicopters is cool and his pursuit of Roxanne is also very cool. I  initially liked how quirky Blaze is - eating jelly beans, watching stupid TV, and living recklessly (but not WRECKlessly... haha). Over time, however, Blaze ends up just coming across as a social moron whose initially charming quirks turn into debilitating weirdness.

Ghost Rider looks awesome. They went for a complete CGI character and it was a good move. The initial transformation to Ghost RIder is fantastic and the change back to Blaze was similarly well done! I liked the Ghost Rider bike and how his appearance changes throughout the movie, adding a chain and spikes.

 It is when Blackheart and his cronies show up that the film goes down hill. First, Wes Bentley does an absolutely horrible job as Blackheart. Blackheart comes across as a spoiled child, not a serious demonic threat. The rest of the villians "The Hidden" are so forgettable I couldn't even tell you their names if I didn't look it up online (Abigor, Wallow, and Gressil in case you were wondering). In any event, Ghost Rider defeats each one in very easily about 20 seconds or so. Yawn. In the first fight I wondered why all four of them didn't just gang up on Ghost Rider. Instead, they attack him one a time like bosses in a video game - Beat level 1, level 2, level 3 - HEAD BOSS! If that doesn't sound that interesting, you're right.

The police storyline is an oddity. It goes nowhere. The police are tracking down evidence at the scene of each fight. They even detail Blaze, question him, and lock him up only to have him transform into Ghost Rider, break out, and get chased by the police. Then the police apparently completely forget they were interested in Blaze because you don't see or hear from them again for the rest of the movie. Weren't their video cameras in the prison to catch Blaze transforming into Ghost Rider? Didn't the police want to... you know, continue questioning Blaze for an unsolved murder case?

The movie is riddled with these little logical holes and oddities. Ghost Rider apparently doles out brain death to common muggers on the street. Roxanne apparently has no problem dating somebody who transforms into a demonic entity every night. Really? Cause I got to tell you - that'd be a deal breaker for most women. At the end of the movie, Caretaker (AKA Western Ghost Rider) rides 500 miles with Ghost Rider to the final showdown... and then doesn't fight. Instead, he transforms back into a human for the last time and apparently rides the 500 miles back home but instead on a normal horse this time. Huh? Why not have him fight a little and then get knocked out or killed or something? Weird.

I wanted to like this movie and it does some things right but ultimately misses the mark. Let's hope the sequel is better.

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

Friday, February 10, 2012

3D Star Wars Ep. I - The Review

I just got back from seeing Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D. For the purposes of this review, I'm not going to review this as a film, per say (what could I say that would be new?). I'm going to review it as an experience. My goal is to answer the question, "Is it worth seeing the 3D version of Phantom Menace?"
First of all, the 3D is of mixed results. The quality of the 3D is fine - it's not dark or blurry like I've seen in other films. But it's not spectacular either. You can definitely tell that the film wasn't made for 3D. The 3D effects feel underused. I took my four year old son with me to see it and I warned him ahead of time, "Don't be scared - it may look like there are things coming at you." But that doesn't happen it all... at no point do things seem to "pop" out of the screen at you. Things look more layered, the background looks deeper, but you don't have starfighters zooming out at you or even laser fire coming your way. The action is still contained on the screen which diminishes the value of the 3D. Of course I know the film wasn't made with 3D in mind, but that's the point I'm making, isn't it?

I'd say most of the value in the re-release is for the existing fans, both young and old. Like I said, I took my four year old son and I've got to say he was THRILLED! He's watched all of the movies and the Clone Wars cartoons and loved them. It was great to be able to take him to the theater and let him have the experience of watching the movie on the big screen. For older fans it is always a treat to see Star Wars on the big screen. But I don't think many new viewers will be going to see the 3D movie... if you haven't seen it by now, why would you pay movie theater prices to see it when you could watch it cheaply (or for free) from many other sources?

Ultimately, if you're a fan of Star Wars, go and see the 3D version, if for no other reason than you could then speak intelligently about it as a fan. 

1LR Review - 16 out of 20 - It's a Hit! 

3D Star Wars Ep. 1 - New Insights

Lucas is right - there's just something different about watching a movie on the big screen of a movie theater. I've seen Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace a few dozen times. But watching it in the theater again (this time in 3D), I certainly walked away with some new observations. 

First, perhaps because it was 3D, I found my eyes being drawn to various things that I had never noticed before. Small things, like how there seemed to be a lot of folks walking around on Tatooine with full spacesuit helmets on. I noticed for the first time that Anakin's ship doesn't leave any marks on the floor when it crashes into the droid control ship. I focused on the people standing behind Jabba and looked at the different designs for each Gungan. 
I also walked away with new questions. When Qui Gon is going into town, why does he take Jar Jar with him? At the climax of the film, why does Nute Gunray say, "This one is an imposter!" in regards to the disguised Queen Amidala (why did he think she was the queen at all, in other words)? If Qui Gon has 20,000 republic credits, why didn't he just book passage off of the planet with someone like Han Solo (republic credits may be no good on Tatooine but a transport vessel wouldn't just stay on Tatooine, would it?)?

Additionally, I picked up on how many moments there are in the film that are completely unnecessary to move the story forward. These moments seemed designed to do nothing but show off visuals. This is particularly striking when compared to similar scenes in Ep. II and III. For example, ship lands and take offs seem to take  up more time than necessary (in the sense of film making). The scene where the Sandoo Aqua Monster eats the Opee Sea Killer... do we need to linger for a few seconds to see it rip it in half? Do we need to watch the Naboo fighter ship after it's shot down... all the way to the ground? 
Seeing a movie on the big screen definitely opens me to a different perspective than watching the DVDs. Just the size of it allows me to pick up on small details that I may have missed previously. Which, in the Star Wars world, I can never get enough of.

3D Star Wars Ep. I - Were There Changes?

Star Wars: The Complete Blu-Ray
Did you buy this? Get ready for the newest version of Star Wars to be released to disc.
After seeing the new "3D edition" of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, the guys and I were sitting around in a coffee shop talking about it. Were there any changes (other than the obvious conversion to 3D)? All of us are fairly well versed in Star Wars lore and we all agreed that we thought there were.

First of all, it should be said that the 3D movie contains all of the changes that were made on the Blu Ray editions - the digital Yoda, etc. In addition to the newest version, we specifically thought that there may have been foreground/background elements added to give the feeling of depth. But it's actually hard to tell without seeing the versions side-by-side. Is it an actual change or does having it in 3D simply change your perceptions, drawing your eye to elements it otherwise didn't notice?

Either way, I'm sure that the 3D versions of the films will be released on Blu Ray, making the versions that were just released outdated. Again.

3D Star Wars Ep. I - The Fan Experience

I just got back from seeing Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D on opening day. The environment was great in the theater - the show I had tickets for was apparently even oversold - I was suppose to be in auditorium 12 but was directed by management to auditorium 11! Everyone received exclusive Ep. 1 "Darth Maul" 3D glasses which is a nice touch. Some of the kids there had lightsabers. Everyone had such a positive reaction to those kids!

Here are the pictures from the show:

Geek Gear: Star Wars Hoodies

1LR reported the cool Iron Man hoodie. Now come the Star Wars hoodies! Check these out. I can't decide if my personal favorite is Chewbacca or Vader. Combine the Boba Fett backpack with the hoodie and you've got yourself a complete costume, just about.

              <em>Star Wars Simple Boba</em> Zip-Up <em>Hoodie</em> pre-order - 2XL