May. 30th, 2015 @ 08:52 pm A Most Curious Development,or, Birds Of Prey Forever
Forever Knight
Latest Whim: crankycranky
Sounds Like: Birds Of Prey Complete Series DVD, Arrow seasons 1 & 2
Batman's little girl is all grown up.

So I buy a DVD set off EBay, from a seller that has "All our DVDs are Region 4 PAL" in all of their listings, and when it gets here the region listed on the back is 1 NTSC. Recalling that the Blu-ray player has played a region 2 PAL DVD before, I put the disc in the machine to see what happens. It plays. Perfectly. My region 4/B PAL machine plays NTSC. Suddenly a list of TV series I haven't seen in years, unavailable in region 4 or B, may now be watchable.

Off to a good start, with great potential, cancelled after only 13 episodes. After all these years, why do I like Birds Of Prey so much? From a technical standpoint, it fixes most of the problems I've always had with superhero shows and movies. The focus is on a team, instead of a single character, and they are not the only ones of their kind in their world. Not only are the costumes stylish, they are used to examine what it means to wear a mask. Continuity and chronology are neither sloppy nor obsessive. And the basic premise, of what happens to Gotham when its most well-known citizen goes away, is not only a great twist, it breathes whole new life into the story. On this last point, personally, as much as I like Batman, I've always been more interested in his support staff and proteges, particularly Alfred, Barbara Gordon, and Huntress. Coincidentally, I also have this issue with Arrow: half the supporting cast are more interesting than the title character.
May. 26th, 2015 @ 12:09 am Captain Rex Is The Ultimate Soldier, or, I Still Hate Mondays
OB Fix Problem
Latest Whim: draineddrained
Sounds Like: Guardians Of The Galaxy, Star Wars The Clone Wars, Bohemian Rhapsody Star Wars Edition
We are fighting a bigger fight - Ahsoka Tano.

The prospect of seeing Star Wars Rebels interests and excites me more than Star Wars The Force Awakens. There, I said it. Leaving aside any potential confrontation between Darth Vader and his former apprentice, the fact that so many characters from The Clone Wars are not only still around during this time but confirmed to be returning - suffice it to say I have lost count of the number of times I have watched the Rebels season 2 trailer. All hail David Filoni.

I am glad to see that the most useless and least interesting character on Orphan Black has finally been killed off. Good riddance to a pointless waste. Hopefully this will mean more screentime for the Cyclops.

In other news, my sleep cycle seems to be settling back into a familiar, less disruptive pattern that makes it easier to maintain the illusion of normality. Though, vampire hours still.
May. 17th, 2015 @ 08:46 pm Uppitty Awayness, or, Sleep Cycle Still A Mess Of Villainous Proportions
Latest Whim: lethargiclethargic
Sounds Like: Home soundtrack, Ladyhawke, Sleepy Hollow, Robin Of Sherwood
Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive...

As much as I've enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe of late, there was a time when I read both DC and Marvel comics. I liked the Christopher Reeve films, as well as the old Batman, Wonder Woman, and even the black-and-white Superman television series. There was a lightness to DC back then, fun and uplifting, which seemed to drain away sometime around the Michael Keaton films. Although I do consider Michelle Pfeiffer to be the definitive Catwoman. Of the recent films, I have only seen The Dark Knight, and then only because a friend paid for the movie ticket. I have absolutely no desire to watch the upcoming dark-and-brooding launch-a-megafranchise Batman/Superman glaring contest. You do not bow down to Superman, if you are in the same room as him you stand taller because you are inspired by his presence. Although I am intrigued by Suicide Squad, as its version of Harley Quinn seems to dress like Doctor Who's companion Ace if Ace was a Cyndi Lauper fan. So it is with welcome surprise that I find myself looking forward to two DC television series: Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow. Even if it means I might have to get into Arrow and The Flash, which they grow out of. Legends won me over at the return of seasoned time-traveller Arthur Darvill. The fashion award for most sensibly dressed live-action comic-book character goes to Supergirl. And I might also consider Gotham, as that is the most interesting portrayal of Penguin I have seen in too long a while.
May. 8th, 2015 @ 10:25 pm Star Wars Marathon Imminent
In The Early Hours
Latest Whim: listlesslistless
Sounds Like: Star Wars
I need Star Wars icons.

JB HiFi had a 20% discount sale on blu-rays and DVDs. So I bought Star Wars The Complete Saga Blu-ray boxset, in addition to the Star Wars Clone Wars The Lost Missions Blu-ray I went in there to buy.

Sleep cycle shot to hell again.

Front lawn littered with other people's rubbish again.

May the Force be with you
Apr. 29th, 2015 @ 09:31 pm Thanos: To Infinity And Beyond
What's Ragnarok?
Latest Whim: draineddrained
Sounds Like: Big Hero 6, Marvel Cinematic Universe, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (Pink Floyd)
Avengers Ages Of Ultron was pretty good, funnier than I expected... and would have been harder to follow if I hadn't spent the weekend marathon-viewing all the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Some of the earlier DVDs clearly were not made with large television screens or home theatre systems in mind, I might have to replace them with blu-rays; although, the first in the series, Iron Man, now actually seems slow and dull in comparison to more recent entries. As much as I enjoyed this movie, and will see it again soon and don't like saying bad things about stuff I like, if there is one flaw that could derail it for a wider audience it is that a significant amount of time and plot development is spent upon setting up events in future entries in the series. Also, as comical as some scenes and one-liners in Age Of Ultron were, they never provoked the level of hysterical laughter from the audience that the trailer for Ant-Man did.
Apr. 18th, 2015 @ 06:54 pm In Other News Cruella De Vil Is My Favourite Disney Villain
OB Few
Sounds Like: Once Upon A Time season 4, Robin The Hooded Man (Clannad), The Division Bell (Pink Floyd)
Season 3 of Orphan Black starts on SBS in a couple of days.

I was going to spend this weekend marathon-watching seasons 1 and 2 again.

This week I got hold of complete series DVDs of Robin Of Sherwood and Jim Henson's The Storyteller.

Another benefit of being cloned would be finding the time to watch all this...
Apr. 13th, 2015 @ 10:01 pm I Will Still Be Pre-Ordering The Blu-Ray Set When It Is Available
Once I've Won
Latest Whim: cheerfulcheerful
Sounds Like: Once Upon A Time seasons 1-4 marathon
So I finally got tired of waiting for Channel Seven to air season 4 of Once Upon A Time. Most of it seems to be on youtube in relatively good quality. And the inclusion of Frozen seems to warrant fate certainly seems to have a sense of humour wry commentary in the style of Mister Gold. Because Elsa and company fit so naturally into the show you have to wonder if it was planned all along. Which is not exactly possible. True, early in season 1 the word frozen gets stressed a fair bit. And when Charming first meets Snow, in episode 1.03, he thinks that trolls are little people. However, those episodes were written, filmed, and aired not only before Frozen was commissioned, but before the script settled into the story we now all know, and before the name was changed from Anna And The Snow Queen. Also, the link between Maleficent and the Saviour was laid with the unicorns in the first two episodes. Which leads me to wonder, in circuitous ways, if the likes of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm ever copped as much flak for "rebooting" stories as much as Hollywood is accused of. Three versions of The Maltese Falcon in ten years might sound a lot, to pick a historical example, but it is nothing compared to all the different versions of folk-and-fairy-tales that existed back in the day.
Apr. 3rd, 2015 @ 09:21 pm It Is Not The End
Death Reversed
Latest Whim: contemplativecontemplative
Sounds Like: Frozen Fever, Cinderella, The Book Of Life, Big Hero 6, Jesus Christ Superstar
My name will mean nothing to you ten minutes after I'm dead - Jesus Christ Superstar

One of the advantages of being (technically speaking) Catholic is that Good Friday put me in the best possible frame of mind to see The Book Of Life. Which now I have to see again.

As much as I enjoyed Maleficent and Cinderella, and continue to enjoy Once Upon A Time, a few recently announced live adaptations might not be the best of ideas. Beauty And The Beast could be worth a look, Dumbo and Winnie The Pooh not so much. I suppose at this point it is easier to ponder which Disney properties won't make their way to Storybrooke or the big screen sooner or later. Though I am willing to bet on Darth Elsa joining the Avengers.
Mar. 28th, 2015 @ 07:21 pm I Will Add Fist-Bump To My Care-Giving Matrix
The Invaders
Sounds Like: Vikings, Big Hero 6, Ghostbusters
As much as I saw Big Hero 6 three times on the big screen, it wasn't in 3D. Despite the trailers I originally saw for it being in 3D. So of course I bought the 3D Blu-ray soon as it was released. Awesome.

If there's one tired old belief science fiction fans cling to that absolutely must die, it is the idea that, simply because they are sufficiently technologically advanced to visit this planet, aliens are automatically benevolent and intellectually superior and all-around better than humanity. And now I want to see Home again.
Mar. 22nd, 2015 @ 04:49 pm A Sidekick Truly Worthy Of The Caped Crusader
Latest Whim: amusedamused
Sounds Like: The Lego Movie, Warehouse 13 seasons 3 & 4, Pink Floyd
Forget about the Boy Wonder...

Can a title get any more awesome than this?


How they have not gotten their own spinoff animated series by now is a total mystery.
Mar. 15th, 2015 @ 10:26 pm The Return Of The Greatest Countdown In Television History
Best Ship In The Galaxy
Latest Whim: ecstaticecstatic
Mar. 13th, 2015 @ 10:30 pm How I Learned To Stop Hating First Person Shooters (By Not Playing Them)
Hang On!
Latest Whim: listlesslistless
Sounds Like: Frozen, Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Lego Movie, Wreck It Ralph, Blade Runner
You should've quit at "I can't feel my legs". - Rubi Malone (Wet)

Linear levels are a design limitation you simply have to put up with if you want to play some videogames, especially first person shooters. Easy to overlook, to the point of amnesia, if there's over-the-top action and a way-cool soundtrack, e.g. Wet and Bayonetta. One straw away from the final one in more "realistic" games. Cases in point:

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 2. You can take a hail of bullets directly to the face, not die, crawl away to hide behind cover, recover your health (as a normal human being, lacking either the mutation/infection of Resistance Fall Of Man or the stylish moves of Wet) completely, wait for your attackers to stop looking for you, then snipe from cover and take them out with single shots one by one. And that's the point at which I lost interest in the game.

Killzone 2. If the NPC you're buddied (i.e. saddled) with goes down, you can revive him. By pressing a button, you suddenly abandon cover, stand up, and apply first aid. And he goes on fighting like he was never hit. But if you get killed, he doesn't revive you, all he does is stand there screaming and crying about how you're down. Worse, you can shoot this NPC point-blank and all he does is complain "hey, shoot them, not me!" Quite immersion-breaking.

Like a science fiction film that gets some of the science "right", only to sacrifice character development for lots of expensive CGI, it isn't the "realism" that's really at fault. It's the inconsistency with which the internal rules are, or appear to be, applied. No matter how much you enjoy bits of it, the overall experience is a bad one.

I still haven't decided whether or not to keep playing Deus Ex Human Revolution. One of the tutorials shows you how to drag away and hide the bodies so as not to attract the attention of the bad guys you're sneaking past. Yet I found it more effective, and fun, to attract the bad guys attention, retreat to cover, wait for them to stop shooting and send someone to investigate, do a non-lethal take-down, and loot the body. Repeatedly. Seriously, you can lure the bad guys into being picked off one by one, and pile up their bodies on top of each other. Sometimes you need to throw a garbage can or something to make a noise and get the last bad guy to remember you're there. *sigh*

In any event, my sleep cycle this week went from almost back to tolerable to completely shot to hell again. Which is why I might be up all night watching science fiction DVDs.
Mar. 6th, 2015 @ 11:16 pm What Was It Arthur Dent Said About Ethics...
King Thar
Latest Whim: frustratedfrustrated
Sounds Like: 28 Days Later, Big Hero 6; Bayonetta, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Killzone 2, Heavenly Sword; Falling Skies
A while back, hoping to be exposed as snobbish and wrong in my disdain for fan-oriented spinoff media, I took a chance on Big Finish audios. And regretted it as much as I feared I would. So now I am selling them on EBay, so far for more than I paid. The few I listened to, it took me a while to find a word for how they made me feel. Exploited. I felt exploited. Should have listened to my instincts, spinoff media exists primarily to exploit the fans. And EBay makes me no better, given some of the crazy collector prices I often get for my gaming collection. I am tempted to stop using EBay, given how finicky and annoying using it has become of late. Though possibly not before I have increased my collection of PlayStation 3 games. Which are fun and all, but keep sacrificing gameplay for graphics like so many of them do and I might have to go back to playing Dungeons & Dragons. I mean, linear levels and long cutscenes are the equivalent of the tournament modules and NPC speeches that D&D grew out of before I started DMing. On the other hand, the increased crossover between the role-players and computer gamers since then would go a long way to explaining many of the passive/plot-slave players I'd rather not deal with again. Also, I still haven't written the definitive history of Trans-Dimensional Services And The Eternity War because the outline alone would require 497 volumes.
Feb. 26th, 2015 @ 06:38 pm Eveything Is Frozen, Everything Is Cool When You Work For Disney...
Paranoid Android
Latest Whim: amusedamused
Sounds Like: The Lego Movie, Frozen, Wreck It Ralph; Scarecrow (John Cougar Mellencamp)
Feb. 22nd, 2015 @ 08:34 pm Jupiter Derailing, or, I Should Have Waited Till Cheap Ticket Tuesday
Best Ship In The Galaxy
Latest Whim: disappointeddisappointed
Sounds Like: The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, Inception, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Jupiter Ascending
Delayed six months for reshoots and more time to work on its 3D CGI, Jupiter Ascending was always going to compare unfavourably with Guardians Of The Galaxy. A lot of interesting stuff gets underutilised, and the movie falls short of its potential. The Terry Gilliam cameo, for example, feels like a detour into a whole other movie - and if it had been set up earlier in the movie, this visit to bureaucracy planet would not have been so jarring. However, that's not where I started wondering what movie I was watching. The first big action set piece takes place in the same neighbourhood as the climax to The Blues Brothers, with bounty hunters and hoverbikes that look like cosplay reenactors of a similar chase sequence early on in Star Wars II Attack Of The Clones. And, Maria Doyle Kennedy's portrayal of the title character's mother, all too reminiscent of the same relationship in Orphan Black, made me wonder if the rest of Clone Club were going to turn up at some point. Like all too many Hollywood blockbusters of late, there seems to have been too much work on the visual feast and not enough on the story. I'm not knocking films as such here, as film is a primarily visual medium and with a screen that big filmmakers would be foolish for not filling it with something interesting to look at, e.g. opulent spaceships and futuristic costumes. The problem is that the main characters seem to become romantically entangled for no other reason than this is a Hollywood movie and therefore we are programmed to expect them to. This isn't a bad movie, and doesn't deserve some of the negative reviews it is getting. It isn't as good as movie as it could have been either, and that makes it harder to overlook all the little things that ordinarily wouldn't be nitpicked until the third or fourth rewatch. Like, for a movie whose basic premise is that humanity is a billion years old and has colonised practically every planet in the universe, the cast seems awful small and not particularly diverse. While I do want to see this movie again - and maybe buy the definitely-a-highlight soundtrack sooner or later - it will be in 2D on a cheap ticket Tuesday. Not so much to save money, but because a number of times I took off my 3D glasses to check to see I hadn't accidentally wandered into a 2D screening. I doubt that Jupiter Ascending will make enough money for a sequel, and that's a pity, really, as like John Carter it feels like a lot of groundwork has been laid, or at least non-tip parts of the iceberg sufficiently hinted at, for there to be a whole series to follow. Which might also explain why it sometimes felt like there were whole scenes cut out during the editing process, possibly to inject humour that fell flat.
Feb. 19th, 2015 @ 03:13 pm Zen And The Art Of Cookies
Latest Whim: contemplativecontemplative
Sounds Like: Frozen, Once Upon A Time, Boom Crash Opera
Feb. 17th, 2015 @ 04:34 pm Calling All Clones
OB Few
Sounds Like: The Lego Movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy
Feb. 15th, 2015 @ 03:59 pm You Can't Even Bash Down A Door In The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion
Old School Gamer
Latest Whim: annoyedannoyed
Sounds Like: Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6
In a game of Dungeons & Dragons, there are a few basic strategies for getting past a locked door. First, everyone has a chance to break down the door. Given that the chance is based on a character's Strength, this is best handled by a Fighter; however, anyone has a chance, and the whole group can combine their efforts. Second, a Thief can use their Open Locks special ability. Third, Magic-Users have access to various spells, from Knock to Dimension Door and Passwall, that let them open a locked door or circumvent it. Fourth, and this is one of the strengths of a face-to-face role-playing game run by an actual real life person, the group of players can brainstorm and problem-solve their way through.

As much as Oblivion wants you to believe that you can play any character you like, game design - both in terms of rules systems and world-building - dictates otherwise. While there are three basic types of characters - specialised in Combat, Magic, or Stealth - there is only one way of dealing with a locked door or treasure chest. You need to pick the lock, with either lockpicks and the Security skill or Open spells. There are a lot of locks in the game, many barring access to areas and some of them vital to various quests. Ultimately this makes Security a necessary skill. And, whilst all skills can be trained by paying various NPCs, the only way you can increase your Security skill level is to try picking a lock.

The basic problem with using Open spells is that you need to both buy the spells from various NPCs and increase your Alteration skill. The latter is easy; simply cast any Alteration spell repeatedly in Get Rocks Throw Rock fashion. Like all of the magic skills, you can increase the skill simply by casting a spell repeatedly, regardless of circumstances. You can increase Destruction skill by aiming up into the sky and casting attack spells, Restoration by casting healing spells even if you are already at full health, Illusion by casting invisibility spells, etc. Marksman only increases if you fire at a creature or NPC, and not one of the many archery targets you can find all over the place. You can fire a hundred arrows into an archery target, and not get any better at the skill. Unlike, say, when I actually did so in real life.

Oh, and about the only way you can afford to buy Open spells is by going adventuring in dungeons. Where most of the loot is locked away. What this means is that you end up having to compromise and play a hybrid character, with a mixture of combat and magic skills and emphasising a small group of necessary skills like Security for no reason other than it being the only effective strategy to play the game as programmed.

This is bad game design.

To say nothing of the number of times I have noticed features in the game environment that, if your solo character could manipulate them in any way, could be used to deal creatively with various challenges and situations. Or recalled numerous instances in various role-playing campaigns when a character whose special skills made them the best for a task stepped forward. It almost makes me want to DM again. Almost.
Feb. 10th, 2015 @ 03:10 am Making Another Assault On The Shelf Of Unread Books
In The Early Hours
Sounds Like: It's Blitz! (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Wreck It Ralph soundtrack, Pink Floyd
Finished reading Cathedral, Forge, And Waterwheel by Frances and Joseph Gies, and The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, Penguin Classics edition.

Currently have bookmarks in The Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Oxford World Classics edition, and Hero In The Shadows by David Gemmell.

For my birthday my mother sent me A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking. Of which the paperback copy I bought twenty years ago is still in near-mint condition. The only significant difference to the new edition is that it is bigger for no apparent reason.
Jan. 28th, 2015 @ 01:25 am Disney Owns Star Wars And Tron, Crossover Please
Ever Alert!
Latest Whim: amusedamused
Sounds Like: Tron Legacy & Raiders Of The Lost Ark soudtracks