Friday, 30 October 2009


Taking classes on science fiction mean that I now can't watch a movie without thinking about deeper meanings. Dammit. I want my shallow reading back! Case in point, last week we learnt about how science fiction questions "what does it mean to be human?" and then I've just watched Surrogates.

The main problem I have now is: what message was this movie trying to convey? The basic plot is fairly straightforward: everyone has a Surrogate, a robot they can plug into and go around their lives in. Someone has a gun that can destroy these machines, and the people running them. Who? And what will become of it?

And, as I intimated, what do Surrogates tell us about being human? The obvious conclusion there is: we don't want to face the world, which can hurt us, so hide behind Surrogates so we can be protected. Which doesn't take away the pain, just helps us hide from it. This is exemplified by the "arc" of Tom (Bruce Willis) and Maggie (Rosamund Pike) who are hiding from the death of their son. This point is made well in a "show don't tell" way, but this does mean the rest of the movie gets in the way.

And it isn't quite clear what the rest of the movie is supposed to be. James Cromwell is the creator of the Surrogates, although is split from the company now, but I kept flashing back to I, Robot in which he was one of the robot creators and also trying to get humanity away from them. Very similar theme here and there. It's not that the Surrogates are bad, but they need to be dealt with, so we can return to our humanity.

After that point is made, the rest of the movie gets in the way, and just pads it out. I'm not one to denigrate action sequences, but they didn't add much to the narrative. It's not even ninety minutes, but in some ways it could have been even shorter (don't know how the comic plays out).

An adequate movie with a message that could have been delivered quicker.


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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Thirty-Fourth

We looked out at the huge area, facing a god in chains and a myriad of creatures trying to get through those chains to free it. Three chains had already been ripped out, and it was up to us to close those tears (well, it was up to Reed to close those tears, and up to us to protect Reed so he could close those tears).

There were medium creatures. There were large creatures. There were even huge creatures. Two Eldritch Giants, to be precise. The only thing we could do was big our first tear, and go for it. With the warlock/wizard blocking our rears, we moved in, and initially seemed to do well. Then one creature laid down a zone [oh, there were so many zones], and all of a sudden we could do sod all. Obviously it had to die. Fortunately, I was the one that smacked its arse. Aside from one flying creature continually picking me up and dropping me from a great height, this part of the battle was over.

Two tears closed, one to go, and then three nasty demony things turned up, two of which were Aspects of Orcus. As a follower of the Raven Queen, I'm not in favour of Orcus, so they were my preferred targets. That said, it was the other creature we focused on, with its two-headed-ness. Not fun, and took a while, but we concentrated and smacked it down.

(Some time during that Reed closed the last tear and was transformed by the god he was channeling. Guess that will happen.)

After that fight, we found ourselves left in the chaining room, with no obvious way out. Well, except for the rituals two of us knew, and my new ability to walk us anywhere (and I mean anywhere).

I wonder what next Fate has for us?

[We'll be taking a break from these characters for a while to play some Rogue Trader. We will come back some time to finish off getting to level 30, but for now we'll rest from that...]


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Monday, 26 October 2009

Gorgeous Game

Check it out! From the makers of Samorost comes a new game, full blown, with 30 levels of puzzles to get though. Have a look at this.

Go check out: Machinarium!


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Sunday, 25 October 2009

SJA: The Mad Woman in the Attic

That's just... such a better script that Prisoner of the Judoon. Was that really Joseph Lidster?

In series one, the Trickster changed the past. In series two, the Trickster changed the past. In series three... what? No the Trickster? Instead we are in the future and Rani has managed to wipe out everyone else. But how? How?? HOW???

This is, it has to be said, a great script! It is centred on Rani and she is integral to the story and it's a very human thing that leads to the problem. I'm not sure how well the kiddies will deal with it (the first part is rather darker than typical), but it was very well done and the second part was amazingly positive. (Again? This is from Joseph Lidster? Really?)

The positiveness continues with happy performances, especially from Eleanor Tomlinson as Eve (this is one episode I would like to see the behind-the-scenes material). Souad Faress is a terrific Old Rani, picking up on small traits that Anjli Mohindra has put into her character. Also liked Brian Miller as Harry.

Amazingly impressed with how much this has lifted from the opener. Hopefully this quality will continue with the next episode and its specialty...

NEXT WEEK: He is coming...


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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Steve Berry Bah!

Having read and (broadly speaking) enjoyed Dan Brown, I thought I would give Steve Berry a go. The local library had three of his books, including his latest "The Alexandria Link", which I'd seen advertised on the back of buses, so they seemed to be the goer.

Oh dear. Dan Brown he ain't. He does have some puzzles and mysteries and connecting many ancient world object but he also tries to mix in action and doesn't manage to pull it off.

The first one I read was The Third Secret. It's about how one man goes on a journey to find out a secret, unraveling clues, until he comes across something that will shake the very foundations of Christianity. At the same time, there's a power play for an institution (the Papacy in this case) of a clearly bad man trying to get to the top.

The second one I read was The Templar Legacy. It's about how one man goes on a journey to find out a secret, unraveling clues, until he comes across something that will shake the very foundations of Christianity. At the same time, there's a power play for an institution (the Templars in this case) of a clearly bad man trying to get to the top.

See what I did there? Yep, they are basically the same book. The second one introduces his hero du author of Cotton Malone. However, there was a problem which started in the first book, and got worse in the second. I got bored. By the end of the first book I was scanning pages. By the second I was skimming them.

The third book was The Alexandria Link, which was about Cotton Malone finding out something that will shake the very foundations of Christianity. And there was also a power play. At least, I think so. I really wasn't paying too much attention as I flipped the pages. Never has a book been read so fast, and by 'read' I meant 'had the pages flipped while pretending to take it in'.

He looks to be a very popular author, with much acclaim and many books to his name, but can't say I'm waiting for his next blockbuster...


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Thursday, 22 October 2009


Another month, another WARGS, another Shadowrun mission! Not as many people playing as last time, although quite a few people did turn up, but those board games were just too popular.

In the mission, we had the hard task of helping someone deliver a truck. Woo! Although we did start with combat, which took ages... just too many people doing lots of things, with lots and lots of dice rolling. Hey-ho. Not too much from me as I don't do combat.

Anyway, back to the truck, it seemed so simple. It was a truck. There was grain. And there was someone else who wanted it. And people who didn't. At least there was some cybercombat this time, before it ended rather abruptly.

Not too hard, and not too much monies either. Sigh.


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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

SJA: Prisoner of the Judoon

The Sarah Jane Adventures are back, and this time in a slap-stick run around with Paul Kasey in a large bulky costume... which isn't necessarily a unique descriptor...

A Judoon crash lands while escorting a prisoner, and now they all have to hunt the prisoner down. But not before it displays some remarkable powers and turns Sarah Jane into her evil twin. Or, at least, her twin with a bad rictus grin.

I doubt I'll make friends when I say: Elizabeth Sladen can't do evil. It just comes across as creepy, and not in a good way. Bad creepy just makes her seem like she doesn't know how to act the part. That said, she could do with turning down the endearing side a notch, but going into the dark side didn't work either.

The rest of the cast are their usual good selves, with the parents getting into absolute hilarity as they run around the building!... oh wait, that's not necessarily a good thing. And Paul Kasey didn't come across as 100% comfortable lugging that outfit around. Also we have guest star Terence Maynard, whom I know I've seen in something else, but can't remember what (maybe Revolver? Doubted I remembered that much of it.).

SJA is back, and not with an amazing episode, but one that is typical.

NEXT TIME: Oh, a bad wish episode. Ho hum.


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Monday, 19 October 2009

HC Again

More HC. Due to Pete having problems, I'm in charge, and this time I can do what I want, as it concerns the building. I put the new guys through the riddles, but they don't do to well. And then I get to advance my own agenda, although with a minor modification. Don't get that much successfully done, though. Building Fun.

Then we go into a normal mission, where two of us (including me) are on a No Brainer. (What can I say? I enjoy The Mentalist!) I don't pay that much attention, although still manage to work out who was responsible (although whether it was because I remembered, or did work it out, I can't say), but didn't say anything. Burn the Witch Redoux.


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Moon shot

It was screened during the film festival, then went on to an extended screening at The Paramount. Which I'm glad, as it gave me a chance to see Moon. I've heard good things about it from other sources, so was looking forward to catching it some time.

It's about a guy, on the Moon, who is the sole person crewing a station that extracts energy (in the form of H3) from the dark side and sends it back to Earth. He suffers and accident and only he can save himself. (I don't want to reveal more.)

It has to be said that it is very well shot, but again I don't want to go into details. We've come a long way, baby, in terms of effects.

While it's definitely science fiction, it's not what I was expecting (not that I knew too much about what the movie was about). There is an interesting backstory that plays out, although some elements of the story were obvious (I'm not sure how much they were supposed to be obvious, but some were). Didn't make the story less enjoyable though, just minorly irritating over points that the characters were slow on picking up on.

Sam Rockwell has the lead as Sam Bell, and he has a lot of work to do, and does it very well. I had a problem with Gerty the robot, in that I didn't hear Gerty's voice so much as heard Kevin Spacey as Gerty's voice, if you can get the difference. (It's an issue I sometimes have with voice overs by big name actors.) The other main lead was also well played.

Definitely take the opportunity if you have it and see this movie.


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Friday, 16 October 2009

The FAQs about Time Travel

Very interesting movie came out earlier this year, and it's British, so you know it's got an actual story. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel is about... well... time travel. And having a pint in a pub.

In particular, three guys find themselves having a few problems with time, and the story gets more convoluted from there. The best thing about this movie is that it shows that if you plan things properly, you can get away with many moments of crossing ones own timeline, which happens more than once. This seems to the Jamie Mathieson's first film (according to IMDB), and it's something any of us would like. By us, I mean us sci-fi (it's "science fiction") fans, but it's light hearted, not an angsty "how can I let this happen?" pic.

Stars are Chris O'Dowd (IT Crowd), Dean Lennox Kelly ("Banished like a tinker's cuss, I say to thee...") and Anna Feris. (Very amusing line "Little bit weird, but ummm... turns out everybody in the future, American.")

Should definitely be checked out!


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Thursday, 15 October 2009

First Flight of Green Lantern

Finally got around to watching the WB Animation's take on Green Lantern: First Flight. It's Hal's origin story, and has some elements from the actual comics, but by and large is a 'retake' on most of it. (It isn't the first story, nor is it Emerald Dawn (still have to see the live action movie to see how well they do that).)

Hal gets the ring, is taken to Oa, and has to help Sinestro deal with the threat of the yellow element. With that set up, those in the know can tell where it's going, but still not the standard take on Qward by any means. Have to say, it's not really that ambitious, in that the plot is rather obvious and it's largely a matter of waiting for it to play out and the final fight to happen. It's still enjoyable, but they don't do that much with Sinestro unlike, say, Emerald Dawn II.

Speaking of things they don't do: the rings are all powered off the central battery, so there is no "recharge eery 24 hours off the local battery" moments. This means the oath is missing, although they still find a great moment at the end to recite it. Also while there is the "yellow impurity", it isn't the show stopper it is in the comics. It makes the Lanterns a little more vulnerable, but nothing like "cannot affect anything yellow". Meh. Kinda undercuts the power of getting control of the yellow element.

The production is standard, in that the characters are drawn with a wide brush, and everything is well produced. Some big names, such as Tricia Helfer as Brodika, and Michael Madsen (as soon as I saw the name, I thought 'he'd be a good Kilowog') as Kilowog. Didn't recognise the main actors, but their voices worked well. (Also a cameo by Olivia d'Abo as Carol Ferris.)

I picked up the two-disc version. On disc one are 10 minute bits about other movies (would have liked to see the same for this movie). On disc two are some other Green Lantern bits, mainly about the current comic arcs (which I am completely not paying attention to), and some special Green Lantern related cartoons. One is a two-parter from Justice League Unlimited, with a very over-bulked John Stewart (although there is an amusing moment where Hal Jordan shows up). The other is a Duck Dodgers cartoon, the Green Loontern, which, I have to say, as a 22-minute cartoon, is a more enjoyable take on Green Lantern that the movie was! Certainly written by someone who knew the comics, it hits all the high points and has many, many, many recognisable Lanterns. Neat. :)

If you aren't wanting to pick up a copy, Armageddon (in a few weeks time) will be screening it, so check it out there.


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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Ijjer's Tale, Story Eight

Not that worried that one of our party was kidnapped, we continued on towards Paktharkis (or whatever the name is), and the secret passage inside. Except that one the way we discover a fight that was fought, between dragon warriors and elvens. There was one human still alive, although he wore dragon armor. Before we could "discuss" anything with him, we were beset upon by more draconic warriors, and we happened to be warned by the one who was supposedly on their side.

While they were many, we had recently been joined by a Dwarvian Warlock called Filthy, or something like that. Not that he proved too helpful in battle, but we were used to them by now, so they did not pose a real challenge. We then returned to human who say he fight on winning side, and since we won, he would like to join us. With some distrust, he accompany us.

After more distance and more travel, we got to Paktharis, to see army march out. Human say there are many more inside. We head for the secret way in, which is along a valley. Nice valley, except for the trolls. They were a much harder fight, and only due to Dwarf with firey abilities do we really put paid to them, but for a while it was looking grim. There was loot nearby, but no more magical items for me.

We make it into the passage, and find it branches out. We pick one path, but then see that it could get blocked behind us, so we go another way. We find another source of loot, but ghost of dead body wants to take us on first. It pretty good at knocking down nearby foes, although I remain unhurt. Eventually we put it out of our misery, but only item found useful for barbarian.

Huh. Hopefully something more for me when we continue after our next rest...


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Monday, 12 October 2009

Lost The Symbol

So, just finished reading The Lost Symbol. Umm... have to say, this made me want to slap Dan Brown in a way his other books didn't.

His other books, while potentially contentious in their content (Jesus had kids? Whatever.), were at least based in some kind of reality, in which people believed severely deluded things, but still, people made statues, thought about codes, etc. Fine.

In this book, we get more of the same of that. I doubt the Freemasons will be as bothered as the Christians were, so Brown should dodge trouble there, and I also have no doubt that he got as much wrong in his interpretation as he got right. But it was his interpretation, and it's not like he was suggesting reality worked differently...

Oh, wait. There was this whole lot on Noetic Science, in which human thoughts have mass and can affect the world around us. While thoughts are neurons firing in the brain, and we can indeed change the world around us by, say, thinking about moving something and simply picking it up and moving it, this isn't what he means. The human soul can be experimented on, and psychic powers are real. He even mentions IONS and PEAR (also check out PEAR). And the scientist has done other experiments that prove all this...

Really? The hell? I'm not sure where Brown got this research from, but clearly it's more than slightly questionable. In that it's complete rubbish. No scientific evidence at all, in fact.

(I'm sure others are as annoyed by his other research, but this is what I know about.)

Noetic theory may should like a neat idea, but it doesn't hold up. Ancient texts cannot tell us about modern scientific ideas without a lot of "interpretation", at which point anything can be interpreted to what you want it to mean. You can't pick and choose which bits can be related to scientific ideas, if they get some parts "right" (ie interpretively close) and others wrong. It's just wishful thinking.

An assessment which applies to the final message in the book. It's trite and depressing, but I don't want to give details away.

No doubt everyone will read this, and we'll have the movie in a few years, but it certainly isn't winning awards for intellectual honesty...


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Sunday, 11 October 2009

Go 'Bots!

Given that it was Robots, of course I had to go look. Thistle Hall is not exactly in the middle of town (at least, not in the middle of the town where everything else is), but still easily in walking distance.

Robot Show is a collection of Robots, most of them made from "found" objects (aka junk). Some really amazing creations there, and well worth checking out. (Although it does finish today, so get in quick!)

A few Dalek references in there, and some that were more stuffed toy than robots. One set I did like was a set of Aristocratic dolls, created by Graeme Thompson, that had been robotised, with one in particular catching my fancy. It was for sale, as were most of the other pieces, but that art is not something I was willing to pay that much for... (it was a really nice piece... damn, still tempted to go and get it...)

I would say this could be checked out, but unless it starts touring the country, I'm thinking most people won't get to see it.

Oh, just found a Facebook page, and there's a YouTube video [at 2:10 was the robot I mention above]!


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Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Thirty-Third

So, we were in whiteness, having just beat up some angel things, and avoided a nasty trap, and pushed on through a white door into more whiteness. And more angels. And a Dwarf Fighter by the name of Orsik. Only one of these things were useful to us.

Certainly not the angels. It was a big beat up fight, that just went on and on, with so many of us doing stuff. One of the angels marked me, so I went over to sort him out... only angels can fly, which makes most of my abilities obsolete. Nuts. I backed off and got my bow out, although I did swap around weapons a bit as things came onto ground level.

But there was that one that marked me. Finally, it was time to deal to him. I let loose two arrows, and... bam! Right up the angel highway. [I needed to roll amazingly high to hit, and got two crits with the one power! Woo! Best I will ever do!] Next people to hit him also laid down the smack on him. [Next hit on him was a crit, and I think also the one after that as well.] Pretty much the only time in the entire fight I managed to hit anything (which wasn't to say I wasn't doing damage, just that I wasn't doing any due to my weapons).

After that, we took stock, then headed into the final confrontation, only to get our minds assaulted. I managed to overcome the psychic assault without problems, although the others had some difficulty. Meh, some of us are made of sterner stuff.

That just left a god to deal to...


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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

DW: The Krillitane Storm

Last up, and while the first book didn't mention the monsters, the second book made a pun, in this case... not even not trying to. The Krillitane Storm by Christopher Cooper.

It's the twelfth century, so you know there's going to be lots of aliens, including the Krillitane... which is handy, as that's what we get! (What? Why? Can not we have an actually historical historical? But this isn't the first time I've complained.

Clearly, the obvious reason for this being set that then is... nothing to do with Earth. It's more about the Krillitane history, and without time travel being all over the place we have to be in Earth's history. That said, not sure why we have to be on Earth, per se, other than an easy setting (in which, yes, aliens can be put).

It's an interesting take on the Krillies, to make them slightly more complex than "we eat you!", but at the end, during the big fight, I really couldn't care who won, and wondered if "kill them all" was an option. Not to mention not being exactly sure why there were some fights going on, other than it was the climax, and that's what you do. Bit of a mess all round, story-wise.

Not that much better character-wise. The aliens look human, and even have extremely human names. (What? Really?) Not sure where they all came from either, as we haven't really had many humanoidal races in Earth's past. (That said, I'm suddenly flashing back to The Empire of Glass.) The pseudo-companion may as well have been human, and the bad guys were basically one-dimensional. Unfortunately, I doubt the blue-skinned woman was a reference to Raffalo.

Some interesting premises here, but largely a run-around.

ORDER: Yeah, whatever.


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Monday, 5 October 2009


So, when this is posted, I'll be in Auckland, all things going well. I'll be popping up the night before(*), so wouldn't have had a chance to catch up with people I know.

It's a really fly-by visit for work, but there are a few things I wouldn't mind going up to Auckland to try. Walking, or even jumping off, the top of the Sky Tower (although the prices don't impress). Maybe consider bungy jumping. Although more likely just cruise the sites.

However, don't get to go up that often. Usually when I do, it's because of some other event. That said, haven't gone up for a sci-fi conference recently, and Armageddon isn't the draw this year (and isn't in the main town centre anyway).

Any particular parts of Auckland you think are "Must See"?

(*)What tense structure do you use when writing something that should have happened by the time this is read?


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Sunday, 4 October 2009

HC Again

Catching up, last week I sharked in on Saturday's game. Logan was wanting someone else to take over GMing reigns when he finished, as he's running low on mods at the moment (waiting for new CSI-style shows to start, and has been indulging in MMO playing). However, we provided another option whereby we take a long time to do a single mod. Ha! And Terry has reached 'danger zone' in poz... Madman and Asylum.

Then yesterday had my usual day, although with Terry down I was on my backup character, and then Pete wasn't there, and Marcus was on a no-brainer... which just left Dale (another Australian, playing Bruce) and myself to really carry the case, with Dale in the lead role. Unfortunately, things do go that well, and then Dale's brain switches off, and it's left to me. Last time, I failed to solve the mod... no pressure. Indy Redoux.


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Friday, 2 October 2009

DW: Autonomy

Yet another book, this one Autonomy by Daniel Blythe. Go on, just guess what villains are in this book. Can you?

(Quick note to those who read this full review before they read the book: there's a skip of four years between the opening "prologue" and the first chapter... although this is in no way clear.)

Take Rose, remove anything not to do with Autons, and expand the scene of the Autons running around the stores... and expand it into a book. Hey, you've just done Autonomy! Although there's far more development of the Autons than what kicked off the series (admittedly the Autons were never the point of Rose), however there's also a large dash of "anti-plastic" (not quite the same when not said in a Northern accent).

Daniel takes his time getting on with it, with plenty of one-off Auton attacks, and generally goes at a casual pace revealing the plot. Which indicates there isn't a lot of plot, but also that he isn't really trying to great character development either. We have Kate Macguire, the pseudo-companion, some kids, Reece and Chantelle, and some badly done villains, say hello Max. (Actually, that reminds me of another way to present this story. Take The Long Game, and insert Autons... and, bam!, Autonomy again!)

It's an adequate, if not innovative, read.

ORDER: Reference to a few stories, although not to Taking Of...


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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Dog Star Children

Ah, classic New Zealand science fiction/fantasy! I saw (at least some of it) a long time ago, read the book, which cleared up some confusions, and have now seen the DVD release.

An alien device starts making a young girl go sleepwalking, and under cover strange alien components in the swamp. Which is tapu, and should be left alone, as the Maori characters tell us at least once per episode. And after all the mystery is built up to promising a really exciting climax in episode six, it all goes down the toilet. Not sure what the ultimate point was, but the series does undercut itself.

Not sure what the intentions of this series were: was it that ancient traditions should be respected? Certainly the "leave it alone" meme does well. Was it to watch out for alien space craft? The series mines the Dogon Sirius link, which has been discredited since.

The three child stars were Sarah Dunn, Jeison Wallace and Hamish Bartle. Not huge careers in TV it would seem. Roy Billing has a big role as Gretchen's... uncle?, but I last saw him as an evil Wilberforce.

Special effects consist largely of a nice Brass Daisy prop, and some glows around things. Oh, and an alien creature that looks impressive until it moves, shame about that.

Enjoyable, though, until the ending.


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