You can find the general guidelines under which I post about things (as far as spoilers and such) in this post.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Books -- Zack Parsons' My Tank Is Fight!

So, what is it that caught my attention about My Tank Is Fight! Deranged Inventions of WWII? Well, doesn't the title say it all?

Perhaps even more than that, is the author's description of his work as "Pulp History." All of the things in this book wouldn't be out of place in the wildest pulp stories, and yet all were at least on the drawing boards, and a few actually saw prototype.

Things like the Panzer VIII Maus, the largest tank ever constructed (and it's possible larger cousin, the over 1000 ton Landkreuzer P.1000 Ratte). Flying tanks. The HMS Habbakuk, an aircraft carrier made from ice. A Nazi space station. A helicopter backpack. It's all in there, and more.

All of it with a fair degree of snarky commentary, which fits well with some of these harebrained schemes.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Movies -- First Thoughts -- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I just got back from seeing Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It's still early, so no big spoilers yet. But...

They did some very good things here. I wish it had been longer (I was surprised, looking at Cinemark's web site last night, that it was only around 90 minutes) but they did good with it. The group dealt with very real issues among them, while dealing with the greater threat, and all of it seemed to flow naturally along.

There were a few cliches, like the authorities who won't listen to people who know better. And the thing behind the Surfer... I think they handled the visuals about as well as they could have. More details on that in a month or so.

So, at the very least, it's a definite matinee pick. If you loved the original, it's a definite.

Movies -- Fantastic Four

With the sequel coming out tomorrow (and I more than likely will get out to see it fairly early), I figure I should talk a little about the first Fantastic Four movie.

Well, the first released Fantastic Four movie. I've never seen the legendary Roger Corman version.

Fantastic Four was one of the early wave of comic book movies that came out after the smash success of Spider-Man. It was also more along the lines of "fair" in my ratings. Maybe that's something about team movies. Although X-Men is still highly acclaimed, the main development occurred among Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine, leaving even poor Rogue relatively neglected, and Storm as almost a total cypher. The attention is spread a bit more evenly in Fantastic Four, but it still never quite grabs you like the other movies did.

Of course, the development of the group's new powers takes rather longer than simply being bitten by a radioactive spider. Having Doctor Doom share their origin is a great way to condense the story into something a two hour movie can handle, while keeping the broad brush strokes of the Von Doom-Richards relationship in the mix. The length of time involved makes it feel a lot slower, though.

The main problem, I think, is that the stakes never seemed very high. The characters were only reasonably developed, and Doom's motives were more petty than megalomaniacal. It's still a fair movie, but only fair.

And let's face it, Stan Lee as Willie Lumpkin, the FF's postman. Who else out there remembers that old comedy issue of What If? that posed the question "What if Willie Lumpkin became Herald of Galactus?"

The sequel, although Rise of the Silver Surfer is a rather silly name, deals with one of the definitive storylines of the original comic run. I'm hoping this is more what Spider-Man 3 wasn't.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Farewell Mr. Wizard...

And I read just after this evening's game that Don Herbert, television's Mr. Wizard, has passed away at the age of 89. And I'd thought he was getting along in years back in the 80s, when I was watching Mr. Wizard's World.

Something tells me he'll have to be honored with a character on the Rolemonkeys, at least when we get back to GODSEND Agenda.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Books -- John Moore's Heroics For Beginners

I've decided on my book list to only plan one book ahead rather than two, especially as my backlog stack isn't immediately in front of me.

You'll recall my qualms about Heroics For Beginners, though. Unfounded. It's physically short (under 300 pages if I recall correctly), and a quick read. I didn't find it uproariously funny, but it was still quite amusing, with the characters being completely aware of genre conventions and playing with the readers' expectations.

Regular guy (if maybe a bit persuasive) Prince Kevin of Rassendas is courting Princess Rebecca of Deserae, with competition by heavy-duty military guy Lord Logan of Angostura. Things are going well for Kevin (especially since he already has something of a relationship with the princess), when Deserae's Ancient Artifact (a model seven!) is stolen. Logan volunteers to lead a force to retrieve the artifact and defeat the Evil Overlord, Lord Voltmeter, in return for Princess Rebecca's hand. Kevin decides to try to beat him to it.

It's amusing and quick, reminiscent of a mix of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and one of the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker parodies (like Airplane).

Friday, June 8, 2007

There I go....

...thinking I'm going to keep the books I'm about to read in some kind of order, but I'm finding I'm not sure I want to put Heroics For Beginners up next after Blood Rites. For one thing, I've just got the next two Dresden books (Dead Beat and Proven Guilty) which catches me up to just before the current hardcover, and Timothy Zahn's new Star Wars book Outbound Flight, which I'm reading at least in part as research for a campaign idea I have with the new Star Wars Saga Edition Role Playing Game.

On the other hand, I've read four Dresdens straight by now, and that's how I burned out on Xanth. So, maybe keeping that in the queue is a good thing.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Anime -- Trinity Blood

So, one of my roommates started collecting an anime series after seeing some YouTube videos made from it. I've watched the first four episodes thus far, and find it intriguing. The series in question is called Trinity Blood. Or maybe it's TrinityBlood. Either way, it's good. Think of it as supernatural post-apocalyptic steampunk -- while not technically true, that's what it feels like from set and character design.

The first episode opens with a description of the end of the world, and what recovery humankind could make... and then vampires showed up. With those preliminaries out of the way, a traveling priest wheedling an airship flight attendant for some tea with a lot of sugar. She's called to the cockpit, and a vampire attacks while she's there, killing the crew and hijacking the airship. The priest (named Abel Nightroad) stumbles across this scene while trying to track down the attendant, and soon reveals himself to be a bit more than your average priest. A bit more than your average vampire, even.

Additional interesting characters come into play in later episodes, as well as an apparent divide in the world between humanity (represented by the Vatican and some other nations) and an eastern Empire run by the vampires -- and although early episodes give the impression that there is a definite conflict between the two, it becomes a bit less certain by the end of episode 4. Never mind the shadowy cabal in the background trying to antagonize things, of course....

It's interesting enough that I'll likely track more of it down at some point. It has been a while since I've let the anime fan out, after all...

Friday, June 1, 2007

Movies -- Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl

As I lead up to talking about the most recent installment of Disney's Pirates of the Carribean series, I start with the first.

Of all the genres, perhaps the two that tend to not do well in the last few decades are the western and the pirate movie. Westerns do better, though, especially with the acclaim of Clint Eastwood's last few offerings. Still, neither are often seen.

Sure, we've had Roman Polanski's Pirates, which I haven't seen. Renny Harlin's Cuthroat Island was underrated, I thought, but not extraordinary, being basicaly yet another treasure hunt. And one day I really should do an entry on the Gilbert and Sullivan parody/pastiche, The Pirate Movie.

Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl managed to be a little more, with it's cursed Aztec gold and deposed Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). The pirates aren't looking for treasure -- they already have that. What they need is a way out from under it's curse, and that brings into play the unlikely team of Sparrow and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith who up to this point wants little to do with piracy, considering his father's history in that sordid profession. They both seek Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly), daughter of the local governor, whom the crew of the Pearl have taken to fulfill their debt under the curse. Oh, yes, Jack wants his ship back, too.

Several love triangles, plenty of swashbuckling action, ancient malign magic, and Depp's acting all take this offering far above the average. Of all the efforts Disney have spent doing movies of their various rides (others including The Country Bears and The Haunted Mansion, neither trailer having sold me much on them) this is the treasure trove.

In a few days, a look forward at Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest.