Movie Review: Serenity (2005)

The Adventures of Pluto Nash (DVD)The first time I saw an advance screening (or “sneak preview,” if you will) of a movie was The Adventures of Pluto Nash, starring Eddie Murphy. Now, I’m pretty sure that the idea of the sneak preview is to generate “buzz” about a movie; get the old word-of-mouth machine in motion. Well, Pluto Nash was godawful. At the end of the movie I felt that the theater owed me eight bucks and a cup of coffee. I told pretty much anyone with ears that they were best to avoid Pluto Nash. Probably not the buzz the distributor had in mind.

Serenity (DVD)Last night’s viewing of Serenity was the second advance screening I’ve attended. The fact that it was at the same theater (and quite probably the same auditorium) where I’d seen Pluto Nash didn’t occur to me until right before the movie started, but proved to be nothing resembling an ill omen. Simply put, Serenity was a lot of fun.

I don’t think that there are any spoilers below, but just in case…
Continue reading Movie Review: Serenity (2005)

Scavenger Hunt

I feel a bit remiss for failing to mention this before.

Goodman Games presents Scavenger Hunt, a carrion-collecting card game for 2-6 players.

Game design by Gunnar Hultgren (AKA Miscellaneous G™).
Art by Brendon and Brian Fraim.

Scavenger Hunt

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Scavenger Hunt several months ago, when it existed only on index cards. Though I haven’t picked up my own copy yet (Comic Heaven was sold out last week), I’ve seen the deck that Miscellaneous G™ used to run demos down at GenCon last month and it looks incredible. The art is fantastic and funny, the card layout is sharp, and I know from experience that the gameplay is a lot of fun.

Whither KJToo.com?

I’m not sure what the problem is, but the availability of KJToo.com over the past couple of days has been a bit flaky. I don’t remember my midPhase customer service credentials off the top of my head, so I can’t log a service ticket from work, but I’ll create one when I get home tonight. I can’t complain too much about midPhase as they are incredibly inexpensive, but it would be nice to get some notice when they’re going to be messing with the server on which KJToo.com resides.

The end is the beginning is the end.

When you hear people wax poetic about how their TiVoOr other, inferior DVR. has changed the way they watch television, you may want to scoff. I mean, what’s the big deal, right? It’s frickin’ teevee for God’s sake! The thing isn’t the second coming of the Messiah, it’s an over-priced, over-hyped, fancypants VCR! Get a life already!

Yeah. Okay. You need to shut up. Seriously. Until you’ve got one, you couldn’t possibly understand. You’ve never been there!

TiVo served up some tasty, tasty viewing victuals for me to watch over the weekend.

LOST season premiere
Ah, we love the LOST. The season premiere was a fairly strong start, although I was a bit disappointed with how the “surprise” at the end of the episode was entirely unsurprising. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was pretty much telegraphed in one of the flashback sequences.

Battlestar Galactica season finale
Very nice cliffhanger to wrap up the season, and it shows just how much the younger and elder Adamas are alike. The new season begins in January, which is about three months sooner than I expected.

Path of Destruction
Okay, I haven’t actually watched this yet. On the one hand, it’s a movie that was on the Sci-Fi Channel at 8:00 Saturday evening. On the other hand, Danika McKellar is not hard to look at.

Grey’s Anatomy season premiere
This wasn’t actually on the TiVo, and I really don’t know why I watched it. Laura had just finished watching the season premiere of Dangerous Housewives and wandered off in search of something on the Internet. The show was on and I don’t mind looking at Sandra Oh, so I watched it and played XIII during the commercial breaks. It seems like a cross between ER and Scrubs.

Also, last week’s Threshold, which was better than expected, and a couple episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from last week. I like sitting down for an hour and a half and watching an entire week’s worth of The Daily Show. It’s like mainlining Funny.

Still to come: Last night’s episode of Surface. Oh, and I still haven’t watched Collateral, which has been sitting there for at least two months.

The winner, it’s me!

Last week, I submitted the following as an entry in a Hero Biography contest. The prize is custom hero artwork, and ten winning entries were selected from the 80+ entries. The ten winners were announced this morning, and I was very pleased to be among them.

Max Barstow was once the star of Paragon City Gladiator™, a popular television series featuring tests of strength, stamina and athletic prowess. Max’s on-screen persona, Maxx Damage™, was immensely popular and the network plastered his image and trademark battle cry (“Let’s do some damage!”) on everything from t-shirts to lunch boxes and bumper stickers. Max even did the voice for the animated Gladiator series (based not on the original show, but on the Wonder Comics licensed comic book series of the same name).

Then David Gimbal, a former contestant on Gladiator, sued the network. The ensuing investigation revealed that Max was a mutant; the network distanced itself from their golden boy, settled the lawsuit and canceled the show. Gimbal then sicced his lawyers on Max.

Despite hiring Fenton Withers, a very competent attorney, Max was unable to build an adequate defense and ultimately lost the suit. He was ordered to pay exorbitant damages to David Gimbal that drained his bank accounts.

Max was broke, ostracized due to bad press, and out of work. In his despair, he made several bad judgment calls, including breaking and entering the home of PCTV network head, H. H. Gottlieb. Arrested for breaking and entering, destroying private property and disorderly conduct, Max again found himself in court. Fenton Withers was able to keep Max out of jail… but not for long.

Convinced that he would never catch a break again, Max turned to a life of crime. Unfortunately, he was not an adept criminal, though his bumbled attempts at larceny were enough that even Fenton Withers couldn’t prevent the former television star’s incarceration.

Withers refused to give up on Max, and learned of an experimental rehabilitation program aimed at turning superhuman criminals into heroes to help combat Paragon City’s rampant gang activity. Max agreed to enroll in the program and was released under strict probation.

Max initially used his old Gladiator alias, Maxx Damage™, but soon found himself the defendant in a trademark infringement lawsuit. The network legally owned the name and would not allow Max to use it unless he paid them stiff licensing fees. Unable to afford the fees, Max chose to re-dub himself Cardelion, a name he hopes will one day be as well known as Maxx Damage™ once was.

Max continues to harbor a great deal of resentment toward H. H. Gottlieb, former Gladiator co-star Robert “Rocket Bob” Pritchard, and Randall Tremaine, the head of Wonder Comics. When not pummeling gang members, he is required to attend bi-weekly sessions with a court-appointed anger management therapist. Though the sessions appear to be only marginally effective, Max Barstow finds that he is most at peace dispensing brutal justice on the streets of Paragon City.

Maxx Damage and Paragon City Gladiator are registered trademarks of Paragon City Television (PCTV) and its parent corporation, Transparent Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

The bio is a combination of the original bio blurb I wrote when I created the character and a short story I was writing this spring. I managed to tweak the storyline a bit to construct (I hope) a little more cohesive timeline than I’d originally created, then fleshed out a few of the details that will make writing a full-blown short story a little easier.

I’ve seen a couple samples of the artist’s work, and it’s definitely very slick. I’m sure I’ll be posting the artwork here once it is finished.

Finished: XIII (Xbox)

XIII (Xbox)XIII

I think I picked up XIII when the local Blockbuster was closing up shop and selling their used console games for half price. I hadn’t played it too much until this past weekend, when I randomly pulled it off the shelf and guided the amnesiac hero through the twisted conspiracy until he learned the identities of all twenty members of the mysterious Cult of XX.

David Duchovny provides the voice of the hero, while Adam “Batman” West is General Carrington and sometime hip-hop artist, sometime actress Eve is the sassy and deadly Major Jones. Adam West and Eve both deliver solid performances, but Duchovny sounds almost bored throughout the entire game. Hey, Ubisoft, if you make a sequel (XIV?), consider somebody like Bruce Davidson (Nowhere Man) instead of double-D. Just a suggestion.

Speaking of sequels, the developers of XIII seemed fairly certain there would be one, if the way the game ends is any indication. Though I haven’t heard anything about that sequel being in the works, I’d definitely like to play it, because despite Duchovny’s lackluster performance XIII turned out to be a very enjoyable game. It’s mostly a stealth shooter (a la the excellent Splinter Cell series), but at times it turns into a balls-to-the-wall, kill-everything-that-moves FPS.

The graphics are all cell-shaded, which perfectly matches the comic book styling throughout. Each mission opens with a mosaic of panels and one or more narrative boxes outlining the mission objectives. Every time XIII stealth kills an enemy, three panels flash in the upper left to show the villain’s demise. Likewise, as the ultra-sneaky XIII detects guards patrolling, floating panels pops up to show their movement. When hiding around a corner or in another room, XIII can hear people walking nearby, and this shows up as “TAP TAP TAP” on the screen, the size and position of the text indicating just where the perambulator is located and in which direction he or she is moving.

XIII has a variety of weapons at his disposal, my personal favorites being those designed for stealth kills: throwing knives and a scoped crossbow. In addition to these, there are grenades, several pistols, shotguns, machine guns and (of course) a bazooka. XIII can also grab an enemy in a headlock, drag him or her to a secluded location and administer a non-lethal (I think) chokehold.

There are also a few items in XIII’s inventory not designed for dealing death: medkits, a lockpick, a “shotgun” microphone and a grappling hook (which can be a lot of fun). Throughout the game, XIII picks up “important documents,” which don’t appear in his inventory, but can be accessed through the main menu. Sometimes, these documents add new skills (dual-wielding weapons, improved sniping); other times, they provide insight into a cult member’s identity or other information on the conspiracy.

The conspiracy involves the assassination of President William Sheridan. More specifically, the aftermath of the assassination. All evidence points to the game’s protagonist, XIII, as the assassin. Unfortunately, XIII has a whopping case of amnesia and can’t remember anything about the whole mess. In trying to put the pieces of his life back together, XIII meets some old acquaintances, discovers that the Cult of XX would really like him dead, and begins to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy. It’s a fairly satisfying plot, though a major problem is left unresolved, setting the stage for a sequel that may never be made.

And really, who can blame him?

I have a confession to make: Laura and I totally got sucked into Dancing With the Stars earlier this year. We were flabbergasted and dumbstruck when Kelly Monaco (and partner Alec Mazo) won, and we tuned in last night to watch the showdown and results of the rematch. During John O’Hurley and Charlotte Jorgensen’s first dance, I had an epiphany.

ME: You know why I like watching John O’Hurley dance with Charlotte?

LAURA: Why?

ME: Because he always looks as though he wants to bang her like a screen door.

TV Nite

Laura was feeling a bit run-down last night and after dinner I siezed control of the remote.

I watched the series premieres of:

Supernatural. The X-Files meets Father Knows Best. What really struck me about this one is that it’s on the WB and I actually watched it. Sam is trying to get accepted to law school and put the problems of his past behind him. Then his older brother, Dean, shows up in the middle of the night to tell him that their father is missing. Sam and Dean go to Jericho, California to find their father, who is a sort of supernatural bounty hunter (searching for the paranormal critter that killed his wife). Do they find their father? Well, that would be telling. But they do encounter a Woman in White. Spectral antics ensue.

Surface. The X-Files meets SeaQuest: DSV. A young boy encounters an unusual sea creature while boogie boarding off the Carolina coast. Later, he returns to the area and retrieves a strange egg. An oceanographer in a Navy submersible encounters an unusual sea creature while exploring thermal vents five thousand feet beneath the surface of the ocean. A diver encounters an unusual sea creature during a recreational dive near an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. A government scientist is called into examine a submarine that disappeared for forty-six hours only to resurface in the Antarctic Sea, its crew missing and its hull damaged by what appear to be huge bite marks. This was one of the more satisfying premieres of the lot, and I appreciate the fact that the audience gets to see glimpses of the beasts right from the start, rather than leaving them entirely unseen for the first half-dozen episodes. The encounter near the oil rig was especially good.

Invasion. The X-Files meets War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise version). As hurricane Eve bears down on Florida, a research plane is destroyed by strange lights in the eye of the storm. Once Eve makes landfall, strange lights appear in the swamp and individuals who went missing during the storm turn up very much alive… and somehow changed. Extraterrestrials, government cover-ups and shades of pod people! I’m going to keep watching this one for a while.

Threshold. The X-Files meets War of the Worlds (C. Thomas Howell version). After an extraterrestrial presence is detected in the Atlantic Ocean, a government contingency plan called THRESHOLD is activated. The analyst who created the plan accompanies a team of experts to investigate a ship that encountered some manner of alien craft. Many aboard were killed, some are missing, and the sole survivor remaining aboard has been changed by the experience. The team observes strange fractal geometries on all shipboard computer displays, disfigured corpses, and mutated animals; some team members find that they, too, have been altered in some unexplainable manner. I was kind of disappointed with this show. The dialogue is clunky and the story is ridiculously predictable at times, and seems to be a little preoccupied with finding different ways to make the fractal pattern appear. I’ll give it a couple more episodes to see if things improve, but it may be the first new show I drop.

My Name is Earl. The X-Files meets Joe Dirt. Earl has done some pretty lousy things in his life, and now he’s afraid that karma is catching up with him. Hoping to make his life better, Earl makes a list of the 259 bad things he’s done and sets out to rectify each and every one. My Name is Earl looks as though it’s got potential and starts out strong. It’s very funny, and I don’t get the feeling that I need to give it a few episodes to hit its stride.

I did not watch the season premiere of Lost, though the array of ones and zeroes necessary for me to do so waits patiently on the TiVo.