Sunday, 30 September 2012

Asia Precinct

The Wellington Zoo opened a new area yesterday, the Asia Precinct, for their tigers and sun bears. Being a Zoo Crew member, I got in before the general public... too early, I have to say. Saw one resting tiger, and no bears (at least, not actual bears). Maybe later...

While I was there, also took video of The Roost, the Cool Creatures Up Close talk, the Green Zoo exhibit, and one special animal...


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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Just a Minute

I'm slowly making my way through a slew of Just a Minute episodes. It's a great half-hour panel show that has caused me more than a few outbursts of laughter, and needing to pause a few times upon occasions to get some control back. The basic idea is to talk for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation. [This could be a great show to have during a convention.]

Paul Merton does very well. Clement Freud tends to go for the joke then bow out. Ross Noble is great at just blathering, Sue Perkins does better than she thinks, and Giles Brandreth did a great speech once for 75 seconds. I've only heard one old show (at time of writing), to which I say Derek Nimmo was great, but someone shut Kenneth Williams up please.

For the 45th Anniversary, they did televisual episodes. Check it out, although some of the peoples may look rather older than you remember...


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Friday, 28 September 2012

Ice Ice Ice Ice Age Baby

It's the fourth movie! Or maybe one of the earlier ones. It's repeating so many ideas it's hard to be sure.

Scrat kicks things off with breaking up the continents (because that's now how it happened according to American education), the crew are running around getting split up and trying to get back together... as they have done in every movie since the second one! (Was there one where they went to Hell, or am I imaging things...maybe it was just dinosaurs under the ground...) Only this time there are pirates. And, because it is his turn, Diego gets the love interest of Shira. And, yeah... if you've seen the earlier movies, you can guess entirely what's going to happen, and there it happens...

Of course we get the main actors returning, with added guests of Jennifer Lopez, Nick Frost and Alan Tyduk if you don't blink and miss him. Production style looks exactly like the other movies, but I'm not sure what advancement in that area would look like.

If you like the other movies... you've already liked this.


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Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Meddle Min

Recently I finished an online course on the history of the internet. That didn't cover the pornography industry, which, while understandable, does skip over a large motivation for a lot of innovation. Perhaps it might have been able to get a few people to find out about that if it referred to this movie.

Based on a true story (yeah, right) of one of the producers (well, maybe then): two idiots set up a billing website, basically creating the idea of credit card transactions over the internet. They get rich, but, as mentioned, they are idiots. In comes Jack Harris, who establishes their business side, and slowly gets entranced into the pornographic side as well, to the detriment of his family. Then, mixing in a Russian mob, other people who are trying to screw over these people, and the FBI, it gets messier right up to the end.

I'm not sure I would go all out on 'comedy', but certainly 'nicely light' is appropriate. Luke Wilson is Jack, and he looks like he has put on a few pounds. Other actors scattered through this are Giovanni Ribisi, James Caan, Kevin Pollak, Rade Serbedzija and even a cameo by Kelsey Grammer.

This would be rather ignorable and generic, although the 'true story' nature does give it extra interest power.


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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The I IInsiiide

Mystery. Sci-fi. Thriller. Yeah, I'd agree with those keywords. Although the sci-fi aspect is faint. Still, a mostly decent movie for the first hour.

Simon wakes up in 2002 after an accident... but he can't remember the past two years. But then it's two years ago, but he can still remember two years later... and what he does in the past can change the future...

There's a lot of mystery in the set-up. What happened to him? Why is he suddenly moving in time? Just who are these people, and what is his relationship to them? It's all quite interesting... but then they have to explain what is going on, and that's where it starts letting down. Let alone I made a fairly educated guess as to the real reason... and I was right. Kind of disappointing there.

I'm sure I've seen Ryan Phillippe before, other than just one movie. Sarah Polley and Piper Perabo were also faintly familiar. I did eventually recognise Robert Sean Leonard (the camera angles were bad), which would be... right before he got his role on House. And similar for others as well...

So, a mostly decent movie. Just cluttered and messy at the end.


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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Retributive Evil Residents

Good news: if you are looking for an all-out action movie with a different set piece every five minutes, this is the perfect movie for you. Bad news: if you want a decent movie...

An Alice (at this point, who knows which Alice is real...) is busted out of an underwater Umbrella facility... and that's about it.

As this looks to be a set-up for another movie, there isn't anything substantial to this movie. What we get is set piece after set piece, with various not real sequences, or sequences that are real but not to Alice, or... possibly it's all just Paul W S Anderson's fantasy... but there is no actual story here. (And what pretense there was to a plot reminded me of bits of Alien movies.)

We get a lot of call backs to the previous movies, with reappearances from various characters (although I can't recall if they are the same character... or even the same actor). Milla Jovovich gets naked again, and Michele Rodriguez does some ass-kicking as she is want to. And a bunch of other people, but as everyone is basically just there to shoot, it doesn't matter.

Not a long film, and considering that there is a LOT of slow motion shots it should be even shorter. As a set-up to the next movie, fine, watch it, whatever... but go when it's cheap, and when you aren't interested in a plot.


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Monday, 24 September 2012

DW 7.4

This reminded me of The Lodger. In that the set up was a lot more thought out and worked better than the actual alien menace they had to tack on to explain it all.

So it is a very slow invasion indeed. Enough for us to see Amy and Rory live ordinary lives, interrupted by the Doctor. Which has been a common point across the previous episodes, but why be implicit when you can tell and not show? There are some nice moments in the build up... but let's face it, mainly due to Brian. The actual alien menace is a complete load of pants and solved with basically flipping a switch. No point to it really. (And why create androids with those large mouth pieces? What did that serve?) But at least it is all in the service of the ideal of being with the Doctor... (eyeroll)

And I'm calling bullshit on the heart attacks being reversed. If the cardiac arrest killed the person, they were dead long enough for severe brain damage if not permanent death, no matter how much zapping to the heart is done afterwards. And there is absolutely no way they are just getting up and walking away. Complete fail there while trying to get an 'everybody lives' moment. Just... fail.

As for Kate Stewart [not sure how this links with Downtime, but I will credit them with using the same name... hang on, does this mean Marc Platt gets the royalties?], it reads like they (Chibnall and Moffat) forced in a connection to evoke the Brigadier...which didn't work. Marc did the daughter far more realistically. Can we consign her to the pile of recurring characters that should be referenced again but never are? (As opposed to someone making a return.)

An attempt, but better luck next time...but please don't force the title so badly, not when 'The Year of the Slow Invasion' would have been far better, and probably was the original wait, the original was 'Cubed'...sigh... Fail, guys... just... fail.

Next time: They are in this huge sweeping city... so why does it look like it's going to get set inside one building?


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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Of Steam, Steel and Murder

We go into the Sphinx. And it's not spoilers to say we come out again... although it would be spoilers to say how. This is an explosive season finale!

Bert wants to change some of the game mechanics around, so eventually got around to closing this season. There will be a while until the next season as we switch to playing another game and Bert works on writing this up. (And there may be other GMs dabbling.) But, as it is the finale, there is the chance for doing a few things differently...

Aurally examine Game 62. Rapidshare. Hotfile.


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A Film from Serbia

I heard about this movie, about how it is rated as one of the highest 'eww' movies of all time. While I can see that... I also wasn't that affected by it, for a number of reasons (probably highly significant ones being that I watch these at faster than normal speed and because I have trouble with immersion at the best of times). The keywords for this movie are Horror, Mystery and Thriller. Might I suggest we add in "Comedy"? Incredibly black, dark, nasty comedy, yes, but still comedy.

Milos is a retired porn actor, but needs the money to help support his family. He is approached to participate in another film, and offered a lot of money. But they don't tell him what the movie is about... and that's about where you can tell what's coming up is going to be a downward spiral for Milos. He starts, gets uncomfortable with the subject matter (which I don't want to get too much into as various filters on sites might get triggered - which tells you a lot), and wants to pull out... and then he wakes up several days later, and has to piece together what happened, what he did... and how far he went... [And I guessed several reveals before they happened, which didn't help me getting into the movie.]

[An important point is that Milos is not make out to be the bad guy, even though he's the one doing the things. He tries to get out, and is pulled back in and drugged, and when he realises... other bad people are bad, yes, but the film does excuse him.]

If you can guess some acts, they are mentioned if not on screen, but it goes further than you'd think. Definitely going to trigger squick factors here. However, at this is why I'm going for the comedy angle, I just couldn't read this movie as serious. Although it tried to be serious (aside from some actually funny moments), it goes over the top, and shows us things that... yeah, I just can't take as serious. It is dark, as I said, and going to gross people out, but still... various repeated ideas (Serbia, for a start) and the effects, no, it can't be taken as real. [Possibly these things do happen, humans don't surprise me in what we are capable of, but even within the context of the movie, I can't credit the movie as taking them as real.]

Definitely a 'fucked up' movie that most people wouldn't watch... but far easier to deal with if you read it as intentionally humourous.


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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Good Hair

Susan Arendt mentioned this in an Escapist Podcast, so I had to check it out. Good Hair is a documentary about the role of hair in the Black community... and it is all kinds of surprising.

Chris Rock leads this documentary, mainly centered around a hair convention run by the Bronner Brothers, and leading up to a Battle of the Hair Stylists (with big (for them) productions). Along the way, we find out about Relaxer, Weaves and you don't touch a Black woman's hair. And it is a big dollar industry. And not, I have to say, without a little racism (with the talk about how the Black community doesn't own the empires selling the products, it's the White Asians).

Chris often makes comparison to keeping up the hair habit with being on crack / heroin. And with the monies they are spending (thousands a month), it's not hard to see why. And hard not to agree with him.

It's a fascinating movie and after watching it... I'll be happy to go bald.


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Friday, 21 September 2012

Attend the Escapist Expo

Have you heard about the Escapist Expo? It's on September 14th-16th... you know... last weekend. Did you attend? No? Well, you can see it anyway.

Most of the panels (and I don't have a panel listing within one second of me writing this) are available on the Escapist site. So far there are five videos of panels, and another five panels as audio recordings. As most panels are on the order of an hour, that's a lot of extra content. (As of me writing this, I've seen the videos, and listened to the podcast.... so, yeah, it'll take a while.) More might be added as time goes on.

And some stuff will be available on YouTube, in that the LRR panel will probably be hosted there... and this is the LRR panel from Pax Prime, because the Escapist panel is there.

Maybe next year, if it is on again... but it is in Durham, North Carolina and that sounds extremely out of the way and a lot of effort for three days...


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Thursday, 20 September 2012

The First Return of the Dark Knight

If you think of major 80s comics, you would name Frank Miller's opus, and Warner Bros have decided to turn it into a cartoon movie. Well, two, of which the first has been released.

And it is pretty much the comic in movie form, with several images straight from the comic. In the first half, we get Batman versus Harvey Dent, and then he's up against the mutants with the help of the new Robin. If you've read the comic, you've seen this movie. (And next movie, we get Frank Miller's Superman!)

If from that, you are thinking 'faithful adaptation', you'd be right. It's a long time since I've read the comic, but this certainly brought back memories. Bob Goodman (screenwriter) had a pretty easy job of it. And it is a decent movie, with WB's usual animation standards working well, and Peter Weller as the voice of the bat.

Part 1 is decent and Part 2... is next year...


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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Adventures of... The Scary Bunny

[Because I know people who... spent some money, we are now taking part in the open playtesting for the new Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight: Edge of the Empire, in which we are all scum and villainry trying to make our way in this verse... hm... could easily recast the setting for Firefly...

But as such, I'll probably be talking more about the mechanics than usual.]

[We started with character creation, as you do, with the incoming intention of making sure our characters were compatible as a group. Yeah, that didn't happen explicitly, but fortunately we had a good range. Three humans, a Rodian (me!) and a Twi'leck. [Important point: I'm going to misspell things, and I don't care.] Had a Bounty Hunter/Assassin (with Doctor add on), a Tech guy, a Hired Gun, another Bounty Hunter (I think), and a Smuggler Pilot (me again). So, yeah, that worked nicely.

A different mechanic with this game is to bring into the game Obligation (why you get brought into adventures) and Motivations (why are you doing what you are doing). For me, I went with the Obligation Blackmailed, and Motivation Support the Empire (yeah, 'cos they like aliens like me... I'm going with the Lolz of it all). I reckon my character transported cargo for a group that were actually Rebel Alliance, and am now working for Sinesa the Hutt because he will reveal this if I don't. I didn't mean too, hey, I'm all for the Empire, so... whoops!

Characteristics are based on species, and then skills depend on Career. You can spend XP at creation, which is the easiest time to up characteristics as that is a long way off in the normal upskilling. The points don't go a long way towards that, but they aren't supposed to. They also don't give a lot of credits for gear. You can get more xp/credits at greater cost to your obligations, but I decided to stay within the opening amount. And ended up with crappy gear. For names, I went with the random roll, so welcome Wac Pqeewdk. Yeah, say that ten times fast... or even once!

Then there's the ship. We get a ship, and we decided on a Millennium Falcon look-a-like. Which also needed a name. Damn humans, they decided to call it the Scary Bunny. It sounds better in Rodian.

With all this set, we were finally able to start.

Note: This is the adventure from the book, so you have been warned.]

Sinesa called us in to help one of move some crates of crate dragons from Tatooine to Nasheda. No biggy, just some complicated medical procedures to follow to keep them safe. Then Tuskan Raiders turned up...

[So, combat. Forming the dice pools, with the wacky dice familiar to those from Warhammer Fantasy 3ed, was easy enough. With the small problem of the negative dice often killing us from actually succeeding. That said, griping aside, it's not like any of us got hit. Combat initiative, of 'this is a PC slot, in which any PC can use up to act' is a little different and will take some getting used to, instead of the typical 'your turn next' structure. Still, we were getting there after a few rounds.]

Shooting back, we got ourselves to the ship, with only minor confusion over how the medical treatment to keep the crate dragon sedated went. Getting some cover shipping cargo of Bantha dung, and hearing a rumour there was an explosion on Nasheda, we headed out there.

[As the pilot, I did the astrogation roll. I had 4 dice with one upgraded, and only one challenge dice, so I had good odds, and indeed got lots of advances... but no successes. The book doesn't say what to do in that situation, so we decided that it was a peaceful journey, although slightly longer than usual.]

Next stop, Hutt homeworld!


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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Ass-lum Tapes

I'm not sure if this is a "found footage" movie or not. They may have said at the beginning, but I wasn't paying attention, and this movie doesn't encourage me to ever go back to it again.

The basic premise is... really basic. These people decide to go to an abandoned mental institute and stumble around what turns out to be a huge place, then... die... or something. Again, not paying attention. [Although I did catch one moment when the camera had to suddenly reposition itself to avoid looking out the window and seeing that the place wasn't that far away from everything...]

And, on the whole, this is a shame, because it does have the promise of being a good movie. With a bit better production quality than they could afford, this could have been a great scary movie. But... they just fall shy of that.

But the worst thing of the whole movie, is that generally "these people" would be "these friends". However... they aren't friends at all. They are complete assholes to each other. One gets scared, they make fun. Two get scared, nah, don't care, press on. A bunch of other friends assholes turn up, and they become even more "friendly". No wonder in a lot of these movies, you have people killing each other, it's not out of fear or a mistake, it's because they are assholes!

So, a decent effort for the plot... but the usual typical (ie bad) affair for the characters.


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Monday, 17 September 2012

DW: 7.3

What? No reference to this being a scape that is far? Nor going through a gate to the stars? Nothing? Probably just as well...

Okay, not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Although I did think it was nearly over when Ben got killed. Instead they change the episode to one about being right or wrong about actions in war... and yet, no reference to what the Doctor did during the Time War? It might have been implicit, but some explicit mention would have worked too. (And couldn't the other doctor have simply set the explosion, then left? It's not like the Cyborg could scan for him.)

Ben plays Isaac straightforwardly (which is the polite way to say he's one note). The doctor guy (who I can't be bothered to look up) doesn't seem to get his one-note sorted out. And the gunslinger is hampered by all the prosthetics to tell what he's doing.

The best I can say about this is the script tried something. Can't say it succeeded, but it tried... One last question: did anyone not see the RoboCop ending coming?

Next Week: It looks decent! Dare we dream?


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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Tokyo Fish Attack

I did read the Gyo manga, and now have seen the Gyo movie. There is a big change in that where the manga was Tadashi's story, the movie is Kaori's story.

Kaori, Erika and Aki are on holiday when the fish start walking, and they barely get through it (Aki showing off the rather 'straight to adult' rating this movie was clearly going for by having a (clothed) threesome on screen). Then Kaori's boyfriend goes missing, so she heads back for him, running into a reporter who sees her as the key to helping him get the story from Tadashi's uncle. Which they do, although it is highly abbreviated from the manga, as is the entire ending. And Tokya isn't really under attack from the fish.

While the manga set up with fish attacking, it did get down to business with explaining what was going on, and having weird encounters. The movie doesn't really get away from the fish terribly much, and casts Kaori and the reporter into the main lead roles with some weird adventures, but not many because the movie is quite short and it preferred the walking fish set up. The final moments are there, but the movie tails off rather than concludes.

Not a bad movie, but, like Uzumaki, isn't transferred well from the manga.


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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Carbon Nation

It seems there is this thing called "global warming" and "scientists" think that humans are responsible. Pfft. As if we'd do something like that. Carbon Nation is a movie that looks at what we can do about this.

First up, let's switch to Wind Power! Because that doesn't cause problems. Then, the Department of Defense needs to be better power users. And trucks need better heaters and air conditioners. Fortunately, we can use algae to make fuel. Not to mention rub hybrid cars... with battery issues still prevalent. And just look at what Geothermal can do! We need buildings that don't rely on coal, and give jobs to retrofit all the old current buildings. And people can install solar panels everywhere! We should stop burning forests and visit them, so we should go vegan. Which would help when we switch to organic farming. And trap carbon in grass. We just need to put a price on carbon. All this can be achieved if we have people to lead us.

You might think that jumped around a lot, but this movie covers a lot of topics. It is very positive, but also alarming with pointing out what climate change has done. This does cover a lot of material that would be familiar to others, and, while positive, is also realistic about the challenges ahead... to a point. Frankly, I think (from seeing that nothing much has happened) that government lack of policy change is going to be a killer in this area and we'll only really get actual change when it becomes what we inescapably have to do (some might say we are already past that point, but clearly not). It will be interesting to see if a change of leadership to a younger generation will make any difference... but I'm skeptical.

A nice recap of what we should be thinking about, but this will quickly date.


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Friday, 14 September 2012

Then what's the point of you?

I've remembered a conversation I had a while ago which was just...

The set up was that I wanted a meter to check that the power socket in my wall is operating within correct parameters. With not a lot of electrical stores around, I popped into a place that is an anagram of Dcik Smtih. After spending some time just trying to find the meter range (I can never find ANYTHING by myself in that store, I always have to ask):

Me: I'm looking for a multimeter I can use to check my power socket.
Clerk: This is our range of meters over here.
Me: (Looking over it) I checked on line, and this looks to be the one I want.
Clerk: (Checking back) It looks like it. [It more than covers the voltage and ampage.]
Me: Now, can I hook this up to the wall socket.
Clerk: I'm not sure. I don't think so. Let me take a look at the instructions. [Open package, looks at the book, can't find anything in there about not using it.]
Me: So, can I use it then?
Clerk: I can't tell you you can, because then we would be liable if you get electrocuted. I suggest you go talk to [different store chain entirely].

Right... so you have the device that does what I want... but you can't tell me it does what I want... I admire the covering of your ass, but you are passing me off to a competitor (possibly to pass the lawsuit over to them too), so... why should I ever come to this store again if you aren't allowed to tell me you have the product I want?

I am reminded of this...


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Thursday, 13 September 2012


Take a Mothman legend, sprinkle in an Indian curse, add UFOs, stir in Men in Black, and set on a layer of government storage of chemicals, and leave for over forty year... and then fight off Eyes of the Mothman.

There is very little conspiracies this movie does not like, never mind how far away, both in distance and time, from the Point Pleasant Mothman incident. Sure, we've all seen the movie, but none of us contemplated expanding a mythology to over two hours based on it. It's just amazing how much gets tossed in here. Just why would a Mothman care about a bridge anyway?

Interestingly they often say 'they were a good Christian person'. What does that have to do with it? Christians can't be mistaken? By, you know, things other than religion? And they do get a little (just a tad) skeptical about the creature itself, comparing it to a crane (although it seems that a barred owl might be more appropriate), although not without throwing in the possibility of mutagens in the water making it twice as large... (this is due to chemicals leaking out from the storage tanks for TNT the government set up, which are in fact there and leaky as wet paper bag.)

Mostly, I was just amazed this was 150 minutes, a testament to self-delusion...


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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Complete Remembrance

Not so much 'based on the book', but 'based on the movie that was based on the book'. There are a lot of nods towards that original movie, and a lot of repeated scenes, only the phrase 'like the scene in that other movie, but done far worse' could be applied every time. Even more so, and it has been a while since I read the story, near the end of the movie, I was wondering, 'what does this have to do with recalling anything?'. It became such a generic sci-fi mess of 'surround the actors with steel-grey technology and have them punch each other', at times I did think 'what movie am I watching?'

In this version of the movie, there's a big elevator shaft through the world that connects the United Federation of Britain with Australia The Colony, and this is a bad thing because... er... the Colony = the slums? The 99%? A really long commute? Chinatown? It's not clear at all. We're told that the 'Fall' is a bad thing and... yeah, we're just told that. (And I don't believe the geography of where the two points connect actually does go through the centre of the planet, and even if it did the gravity switch over doesn't work like that.) Anyhoo, the slub Quaid gets bored, gets a memory change up, then things go pear shape then we have a chase scene, then another chase scene, then another chase scene (involving some of the stupidest lift moving systems in a building that I have ever seen) and then some more chase scenes and... bah, something, big fight, it ends. Along the way, we rip off several moments of the better movie, and, of course, off-screen deaths don't count. Whatever.

I do want to compare one scene in particular, minor spoilers at best here. It's the 'you are still in Recall' scene. Remember the original movie? Arnold works it out because of a logical point. [You think it wasn't that logical? It was stone-cold hard-core reasoning compared with this version!] In this version, we get the logical point for not accepting 'still in Recall'... but then completely move past it! Instead, it's a completely non-sensible emotional reason to end that scene! May as well still be in Recall for all that scene gives us! Gah!

So, Colin Farrell did a decent job, and there was a brunette woman in this with a physical role... or possibly two, only slightly differentiated by their hairstyles. (Yes, I can tell Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel apart (even if I can't remember Jessica's name), but at times the only difference between them fighting on screen is spotting the hair style difference.) Bill Nighy looked rather uncomfortable and stilted with his delivery, and Bryan Cranston played the capital of Denmark... or possibly some guy named Cohaagen, it got confusing.

Basically... go watch the original again. It's a better movie.


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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Big Uneasy

Remember Hurricane Katrina? Sure, we all do. Do you remember the full detailed report that came out showing what lead to the hurricane causing so much disaster, and what could have been done better, let alone what could be done now? No? Well, check out The Big Uneasy then!

 Harry Shearer directs this documentary that looks at the people who investigates the Katrina disaster, and what they found about the the levees that were improperly constructed. And also about the Army Corps of Engineers response that was, at best, underwhelming, and, at worst, inadequate and counter-productive.

While not really touched on, I do think there was a lot that could be said about the expansion ideas of New Orleans in the first place, where they decided to build and what they decided to do to protect themselves that slowly lead to their own current situation. But they could could have protected themselves a lot better, and more accurately, but they didn't. And now the clean up effort is just as ham-handed for one basic reason: politics.

It gets political quickly, and this movie shows that the Army Corps is not fully taken to task, and has the backing of Congress, and generally isn't going to get away with any bad light shone on it. On the other hand, those that shone the light are suffering essentially career death because of them attempting to stand up.

You should watch this documentary. And as a taste take a look and just how the water flooded:


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Monday, 10 September 2012

DW: 7.2

Hey look, Dinosaurs! Because the Mill know how to do those, because of that other show! And how light and fluffy is this story? (With some dark moments.)

Firstly, let's address the elephant in the room: The Doctor and Rory kiss! Yeah, about time! Amy all the time, and now Rory. Watch out Brian, he has a taste for Ponds! (Although from Rory's expression, he isn't impressed by the Doctor's kissing ability.)

Anyhoo, this is a Silurian ship. Nice continuity note, and I should have seen it coming, but there was no sign the Silurians had any form of space going technology, so that all came out of nowhere. But, hey, they didn't have teleporters either, so whatever. At least the robots were cool, and practical, although it now raises the question of which is the better comedy duo in Doctor Who, Mitchell and Webb or Hale and Pace?

And what a cast of characters: we have Filch (I totally couldn't see him as anything else) and Nefertiti (because the Doctor gives anyone a trip through time now) and some hunter guy that Nefertiti, the ostensible power woman, completely submits to, I guess, because she's in his time, not he in hers (although how they'll be able to communicate without the TARDIS helped, who cares)... and the point of all these people are? Seriously, Chris, tell me, what was the point of giving the Doctor a gang? Are you so unable to write a non-gang after Torchwood that you can only do ensemble shows now? Or was it so you could split up Amy and Rory and still have a way for Amy to give exposition? Still, at least there was no ham-fisted attempt to suddenly establish a relationship that needs repairing and then repair it with Rory and Brian... oh wait...

So Amy and Rory are left behind again for plot contrivance... and are we supposed to think they are different and special to other companions? We've already seen three come and go just this new series alone, so why them? Get on with it already! (Yes, I know, patience...)

This so wants to be a light and fluffy episode that still has something to say, that it ends up being a mess. Congratulations on that. Almost makes you want RTD's tight death grip on rewriting stories back...

Next time: Can't say I'm impressed by the trailer. Hopefully there's something substantial about it.


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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hauntless High

If I said Danny Trejo, Charisma Carpenter and M C Gainey, would you be interested? As in them all being the same movie? Uh huh. And now if I say the movie is a 'Syfy Original'? Ah, there's the hope dying in your eyes...

Behold: due to a stupid evil teacher, a hellmouth is opened, and the previous dead principal (who is the grandfather of one of the characters) comes back, and people are slowly killed off. Well, actually, they are killed off quickly as individual deaths, but the deaths are spun out over the movie. Then there's the other students with the other skeevy teacher, the other students with the fat kid, and the janitor who can't break down a plywood door. While the last ten minutes are very nearly approaching good, there's the rest of it to get through, and 'approaching' is not the same as actually being.

As for the names I mentioned, Danny Trejo is the incompetent janitor, Charisma Carpenter is only on screen for a few minutes at the beginning (she's the librarian!) and M C Gainey compensates for being in this by going over the top in everything he does. And there are some other people in this as well.

Is Syfy worse than Asylum? At least Asylum shows signs of improvement, whereas Syfy just gets in any ol' movie someone else makes, without any thought for quality. Congratulations, Syfy, on trying to do an episode of Buffy, and getting it so wrong...


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Saturday, 8 September 2012

I have no (Gangnam) Style

Okay, I get that this is insanely popular... but I'm not entirely sure why. The hardcore beats? The foreign language? That he is just having so much fun? Either way...

(And what does the title mean, anyway?)

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Friday, 7 September 2012

Phila-derp-ia Experiment

What do you do when you want to remake an old idea, and what it to be really bad? You make it a movie on the Syfy channel!

With a mere 40 Teslas you can make something invisible... or create an energy field that links back to the original Experiment and pull it forwards in time. This is then a good excuse for having it appear in wacky places around the planet and destroy things! It also means you can have old granddad team up with granddaughter and... run around a lot? Not to anything of note anyway. And then try to solve everything by rewriting the timelines, because that's something else you can do with 40 Teslas.

You might guess this is not a great movie, and you'd be right. Did The Final Countdown teach people nothing? (Actually no, because they did a sequel of that.) You end up needing some dodgy CGI and even dodgier pseudo-scientific babble to get away with it, and it just doesn't work. And the human story works if you can make it compelling. Running around does not compelling make.

And it stars people who should have known better, but I guess after Sanctuary was over, what else were they going to do? We get Nicholas 'Ratboy' Lea, Ryan Robbins, Emilie Ullerup and even Malcolm McDowell! Most of them seem to be in it to be in front of a camera, and none of them can be interesting in bothering to act in this (can't say I blame them).

Another churned out movie from Syfy. And it is because they are churning them out we are getting quantity over quality...


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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Savage Math

I'm about to partake in a Savage Worlds game, and I was reminded that I came up with the calculation to be able to work out the chance of succeeding a roll. And since I didn't post that before (that I can find), I'm going to try to explain it now. [So, yes, there will be formulae.]

First some terminology. When you roll, you are going for Target Number. You roll a Skill Die (d4, d6, d8, etc...) which might have a Modifier. Because you are a PC, you also have a Wild Die (usually a d6), which might also have a Modifier. In Savage Worlds, if you roll the highest number on the dice, you roll again and add to that number (it explodes!). You roll both the skill and wild dice and as long as you make the target number on either dice (you take the highest (exploded) roll), you succeed. [Getting higher is better, but here I am only considering making the target number.]

Letter time. TN = Target Number. SDT = Skill Die Type. SDM = Skill Die Modifier. WDT = Wild Die Type. WDM = Wild Die Modifier. As an example, let TN=8, SDT=4, SDM=-2, WDT=6, WDM=-2. [If you are unskilled, your skill die is d4-2 and your wild die is d6-2.]

First, let's consider just the Skill Die and work out the probability of success for that. What you are in fact trying to roll is TN-SDM (8--2 = 10). For this you will need to roll the die ceiling((TN-SDM)/SDT) times. Ceiling((8--2)/4) = ceiling(10/4) = 3 [Ceiling means 'round to the next highest integer'.] Call this SDR = skill die rolls. You need the die to explode SDR-1 times and then need to roll whatever the difference is between the target number and the lowest multiple of the skill die. In this example, we need to explode twice, then roll a 2 or better. Exploding is a 1 / 4 chance, and then we need to roll ((TN-SDM)-4*(SDR-1))/4. [I prefer, and will do so, to write that as (4*SDR-(TN-SDM-1))/4] What we get from putting this together, is that the chance (SDChance) is (SDT*SDR-(TN-SDM-1)) / (SDT^SDR). [Yep, that's SDT to the power of SDR.]

Now the Wild Dice Chance is the same, so first WDR = ceiling((TN-WDM)/WDT) and then WDChance = (WDT*WDR-(TN-WDM-1)) / (WDT^WDR).

However, we need to combine these chances. And need to consider that it is possible for both dice to succeed. This can either be written as SDChance + WDChance - SDChance*WDChance, or as SDChance + (1 - SDChance) * WDChance.

And there you are. Do the math, and an unskilled person trying to get a target of 8 has... just over 12% chance.

Or you use this TN Calculator I created...


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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

DW: Dark Horizons

The next in the full hardcover novels that the BBC is now doing is Dark Horizons by J T Colgan.

The Doctor lands back in ye olden days with Vikings at sea, or rather washed up on the land as they are attacked by fire. This leads to the puzzle of... fire at sea, what the? Interlinked with this is the story of Corc, the village leader who is having trouble connecting with his sons, and the story of two would be lovers from different sides of the tracks.

While there is a lot of  'repeated ideas' (as it were), J T does handle them skillfully. Though it was obvious where the story elements would go, I enjoyed going along for the ride. There was definitely more focus on character than the sci-fi parts, but this gave us believable characters, with several interesting takes from Henrik on the TARDIS. (Although Henrik does do a very quick turn around from Viking! to Nice Guy(tm).) The Doctor was also well done, and I could hear Matt Smith's voice (and it didn't hurt that I've been watching his Doctor recently).

Decent read, although I would like to see her tackle something without being to obvious with the cliches.


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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Down on Victorian Farm

There's a new range of documentary series developing, that of long range projects (then being compressed into just a few episodes). TV series film over a long period, but usually with a lot of output. Now we are getting a short series of something that takes place over a whole year.

Case in point, Victorian Farm, in which three people lived life as it would be on said Victorian style farm... for a whole year, shown as six episodes. I'm not entirely positive they did spend every minute there, but according to the program they did. Now, they did have livestock to take care of, but I am not entirely believing they cooked and did laundry and such every day in the Victorian way. Certainly they did seem to have a BBC team of camera people with them the entire time too (with needing to accommodate them), and the three presenters presumably were paid for this? And were away from their families for the entire time?

Either way, we do get to see life as it was, and they have plenty of people come in to help demonstrate the 'latest technology' or to help them with various animals, and such. All dressed in appropriate Victorian period outfits, of course (but then the BBC have never had a shortage of period costume). They've spawned some follow ups, including the 12 part Edwardian Farm!

It represents a heck of an investment for the few hours of entertainment it produces. And yet... it is very popular. How long before this takes over reality tv entirely?


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Monday, 3 September 2012

DW 7.1

And... this is what we are starting with? Lots of CGI to say "hey, look at all the CGI!" And the introduction of a new... well, maybe not. (And the rest of this post is hidden from the front page.)

I wanted to be more excited by this. It's... the Daleks. The Daleks with a new conversion feature (how exactly do the nanomachines convert bones and such into metal eyestalk and gun? Let alone why an eyestalk, when they already have two serviceable eyes?). That should be scary, but you were just waiting for one of the companions to get into trouble (just like in... say... The Time of Angels). And yes, it is Amy who gets into trouble. Quelle suprise. Still, it creates that great Moffat moment of them declaring their love for each other so they can be dropped off for next week's episode... what?

But, hey, new companion! Although it was only because BBC's twitter feed gave it away that I knew it was JLC (who looks a lot like Summer Glau!), which possibly worked against me because I thought it might be a nice change up to get three companions back in the TARDIS again, and so Oswin would be save... except fake out! And a chance for another Moffat plot point coming up. (The Doctor could change history so she doesn't crash, but then would the Daleks remember him? But then they couldn't all chant "Doctor Who?", and we wouldn't want to miss out on that... oh, if only we could...) Anywho, we have a taste of the upcoming flirty genius companion... possibly, but I need to stop being distracted by her Summer Glau-ness to properly appraise her.

On the whole, I wanted this to be better than we got.

Next time: a really uninspiring trailer for some form of creatures on a transport...


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Sunday, 2 September 2012


You'd think from the poster that this would be like Transporter 2, namely Jason Statham protects a kid from the bad guys in the movie. (Never saw the trailer, so don't know what that portrays.) Well, that does happen, but that's only part of the movie.

The Asian kid is a mathematical genius who is used by one crime team, and gets involved in a deal. During a problem that develops, she gets away and coincidentally crosses path with Jason Statham's down and out ex-cop character. After some exchanging of plot, they split up and then it's a two-... three-... maybe four-way fight? I didn't keep track, but there's a lot of scenes of Jason going around and killing groups of people, and that's all that matters anyway. And there's the last fight... which I like a lot.

Jason Statham is his typical action self. Catherine Chan does a good job, and could do well in movies. James Hong is playing one of his usual characters. And... others are in this film too.

Probably has more of a plot than I was paying attention too, but not a bad action movie.


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Saturday, 1 September 2012

I've Been Watching...

Although I've got plenty of DVDs and Doctor Who ones in particular, this one had to take a priority place in the queue, one of my favourite stories of all time The Krotons! Although this is certainly not the case for everyone. I wrote about it back in an old issue of RTP... and if I had the file handy, I'd reprint it here...

This story is a nice run around, with lots of action demanding dashing about the place. And, let's be honest, it's the Doctor's fault that the Krotons are woken up (although to be fair, people were dying before he stepped in... and although people do continue to die, in the long term they are better off). An interesting point about this story is there is no date/time to hook it into the rest of the universe. However, with the Krotons now turning up in the Expanded Universe(tm), no doubt this can be positioned if it needs to be. Checking AHistory for example puts it... as still unplaceable. Ha!

One of the aspects of this that I usually need to point out is the use of incidental music. Or rather, the lack of it. Incidental music isn't something I typically notice, and when I do it is usually because it doesn't work. Furthermore, if you need incidental music, then what it is about the scene that is lacking in itself that it doesn't convey what you need it to, and have to cover the gap with music? The Krotons works great without it, and is a good example for not needing it at all (new series take note especially!).

The features on the DVD are a bit non-specific. We get an overview of the entire Second Doctor stories, Frazier Hines talks about various stories he did, and, aside from the photos, the only documentary about the story itself is the piece by Joseph Lidster and Simon Guerrier... which, to be honest, I could have done without. Note that the commentary or subtitles have an easier time of it, the commentary overloading on people who can't remember the story (although I would love for the costume designer's sketches to be available, in general as well as specific), and the subtitles spends time going on about things that aren't happening on screen, never a good sign.

Never a poster child for Who, I still think The Krotons is a solid story, even if the DVD struggles with giving us substance.


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