Thursday, April 30, 2015

Product Review--X-Wing Miniatures Game, VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek)

I bought this VT-49 Decimator because I thought it would make a good addition to the Imperial side of my Redshift Chronicles Campaign, and, I have to admit, because I felt it was really cool looking.

I'm happy to report that the same quality that went into making the Tantive IV was incorporated into this Imperial assault ship.

(Image:  A VT-49 on patrol "out in The Black")

Like the Tantive IV Expansion Pack, this kit contains a beautifully detailed model, lavishly illustrated cards, playing aids and an additional scenario, Mission 11:  Interdiction

Several famous, or infamous, individuals in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (SWEU) are associated with their time spent aboard Decimators.  Three of the four ship cards included in this kit are:

With my attempts at being cinematic, what I like most about this expansion pack is the model's scale seems appropriate to the other ship figures in my collection.

(A Decimator overtakes a possible smuggler)

While the members of the cast of characters listed above are long-gone by the current Redshift Chronicles Campaign, there'll still be plenty of Decimators patrolling the galaxy, giving non-Imperials grief.

Decimators are highly rated by other buyers, and are still available at a discount on the following sites:  Miniature and Boardgame Geek's Marketplace.  (At this time, they're sold out on E-Bay).


The clear-plastic stands in Pictures #2 and #3 were edited out, while the images were done over with an "ink sketch" program using Paint.Net

The star mat used as a backdrop is by Monday Knight Productions, while the YT-1300 light freighter seen in the last picture, is actually a toy of unknown origin I bought from my friend Adrian.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Watch Mojo's Top 10 Major Plot Holes in Movies

Writing a tightly woven plot is difficult work, and writers--even best selling ones--often fail to plug the Plot Holes.

Watch Mojo gives us their Top Ten Plot Holes in movies.

There's plenty more. 

Can you think of any plot holes that truly annoy you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Movie Review: The Thin Man Series

(Image from:  True Classics blog)
My wife and I just finished watching four of the six Thin Man Movies on our TCM Greatest Classic Films DVD
I can't say enough about these delightful, comedy-mysteries. William Powell and Myrna Loy star as crime-solving couple Nick and Nora Charles--along with their dog Asta
I'd rate these two as the best on-screen couple ever.  Apparently Hollywood thought so too, because they were paired-off in 14 movies together.
Oh sure, the stories are a bit formulaic, with the killer being revealed in dinner party/parlor game style.  But the breezy, irreverent style of the movies' leading stars keeps the audience entertained.  And unless you've watched these films before, it's still hard to figure out whodunit.  (I've seen all but the last two twice now).
(Image from: Eleven-Nineteen blog)
So if you're looking for a batch of couples movie to binge-watch, you can't go wrong with The Thin Man and it's sequels (with plot synopses/spoilers):
The Thin Man Goes Home (I'm pretty sure I've seen this one before, but I'm not looking at the plot synopsis, just in case)
Song of the Thin Man (I know I haven't seen this one, so I'm definitely not peeking at the plot synopsis).
(Image by Mike Maihack)
My trolling of the internet extensive research also revealed that The Thin Man was based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett and a TV series.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

(Image from:  Comic Book Movie)
In addition to watching The Avengers, in preparing for the sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, I also got around to finally seeing Iron Man 3.
In this film, Tony Stark is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from his experience fighting the alien invasion of New York City (as depicted in the first Avenger movie).  His condition is causing a rift between him and his girlfriend/Girl Friday, Virginia "Pepper" Potts.
But trouble is also brewing outside the Stark Mansion.  A terrorist leader calling himself The Mandarin, has been staged bombings within the United States.  The motives for these attacks turn out to be "demons from Tony's past" in the form of Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen
In the end, Tony unmasks Mandarin, tries to save Pepper, but she saves him from Killian, while James Rhodes rescues the president. The full plot synopsis is available on Wikipedia.
What I liked about the movie is that it showed Tony Stark to be more vulnerable and becoming more personable.  That is, he's treating people like human beings rather than objects.  He's not quite there yet, but he seems to be working on it.
What I didn't care for was the plethora of Iron Man suits, and even their individual components, can be powered remotely.  If so, then why bother climbing inside one?
As to the Mandarin, I have mixed feelings about the movie version.  On the one hand, I thought the "Big Reveal/Plot Twist" was funny, when Mandarin turned-out to be a doped-up British actor, played with great understated comedic effect by Ben Kingsley
On the other hand though, the producers diminished and threw away one of the best known arch villains (comic book version of Mandarin) in comic book lore.  While I realize this was done to avoid the Yellow Peril Trope, there's a lot of comic book fans who aren't happy with the Phony Mandarin.  (See also the Comic Book Movie link under the above image).
But overall, there was more to like about Iron Man 3 than to dislike about it.  Plus I thought the post-credit scene of Tony Stark relating his tale to a dozing Dr. Banner was hilarious.
Iron Man 3 is worth the 3.5-star investment.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Avengers (2012 Film)

(Image from HD Wallpapers The Avengers Movie 2012)

The Age of Ultron is almost upon us!

To prepare for this, I finally got around to watching The Avengers (2012) the other night. 

Even though Earth's Mightiest Heroes have undergone "50 Shades" of artistic transformations over the past five decades I still found the film an exciting super-hero smash-up.

Take the demigod of mischief, Loki, add a Summoning Artifact of Doom in the form of the Tesseract and this equals big-time trouble for the mere mortals on terra-firma.

Against the judgment of a shadowy council, Nick Fury issues a call-to-arms for the Avengers to assemble.  Getting this pack of temperamental superheroes to work as a team proves almost as difficult thwarting Loki's plans. 

In fact, the Avengers spend most of the time arguing and outright battling each other:  Dr. Erik Selvig and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) fall under Loki's spell, Natalia Romanoff (Black Widow) nearly gets smashed by Hulk (Bruce Banner); while Iron Man, Thor Odinson and Captain America come to blows quarreling over custody of Loki. 

As Loki activates the Tesseract on top of Stark Tower, unleashing a horde of Chitauri upon Manhattan, the Avengers finally get their act together, and defeat the denizens from another dimension.  Loki gets slammed senseless by Hulk and then brought back to Asgard by big bro Thor, along with the troublesome Tesseract.

The film won 21 out of 74 award nominations.  Quite a coup for a popcorn flick.

I certainly enjoyed it.  But what I liked most aren't the super heroes at all.  As I mentioned in my Battle of Five Armies movie review, the stories that resonate with me the most are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. 

So my favorite character in the movie is Agent Phil Coulson.  True, there are other non-superhero types on, or associated with the Avengers Team; like the hard-as-nails Nick Fury, his by-the-book deputy Maria Hill, the dour Black Widow, the somber Hawkeye.  But it's Phil Coulson who embodies the pleasant, quiet professional--even when facing-down a demigod like Loki.

The encounter goes badly for Phil.  In fact, the mild-mannered agent dies, which is the spark the superheroes needed to avenge their fallen comrade.  If I had seen this movie a few years ago, Phil's death would have had me reaching for the Kleenex.

But this is a comic book movie, and Phil has been brought back to life, thanks to super-secret alien medicine and is now leading a team in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I definitely want to add The Avengers (Wikipedia entry with plot synopsis) to my superhero movie collection.

And speaking of collections, this brings me to the only cautionary note about the movie:  The Marvel Cinematic Universe (see also Marvel Movies) has become so interwoven, that it may be difficult for new viewers to appreciate the films unless they're watched in release-date order.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Fly-By to the Emerald City Comicon 2015--Cosplayer "Quotes"

(Image:  Emerald City Comicon Banner)

Here's my "Cosplayer Finale" to this year's Emerald City Comicon (ECCC)!

I decided to have a little fun and "put words" in the mouths of the cosplayers my stepson and I met.  I'll start off this narrative by "discussing"...

The Reasons for Cosplay

Why do people get involved in cosplay?

This Timelord may have one answer, to this mulit-faceted question:

(Quote attributed to:  Doctor Who--the Fourth Doctor)

Hmm.  Possibly.

But whether one's a grown-up, or child; lots of people like to portray their favorite heroes, even if they don't have super powers.

(Quote attributed to:  Phil Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the episode The Beginning of the End)
Though not many people can change the world single-handedly, so teaming-up requires...

Interacting With Others 

One of the great aspects of conventions, like ECCC, is that it gives us nerds a chance to leave our hovels and interact, face-to-face, with our fellow fans.

Although, some folks find attending crowded events to be a bit outside their comfort zone.

(Quote attributed to:  Londo Mollari in Babylon 5, in the episode The War Prayer)

(Quote attributed to: Gamora in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy)

Fortunately, dancing isn't a mandatory activity at ECCC, so there are other ways to interact with your fellow con-goers...

(Dialogue attributed to the 2003 movie Peter Pan)

Okay, maybe this is pushing "interaction" too far, so maybe some notes on proper manners are in order.

Convention Etiquette

People attend the ECCC to escape from the troubles plaguing the real world for a weekend.  So leave the hot-button topics outside the convention center.
(Quote attributed to:  Londo Mollari in Babylon 5 in the episode The Gathering)
(Quote attributed to:  Londo Mollari in Babylon 5, in the episode Point of No Return)

Whether you cosplay or not, when attending any convention, it pays to always be on your best behavior.

(Quote attributed to:  Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas)

If you can't say anything nice about a cosplayer's costume, then don't say anything at all. 

(Quote attributed to Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back)

Cosplayers appreciate compliments.  But even if their outfits don't fit canon (the show's "reality")...

(Quote attributed to:  The EMH/Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, in the episode Life Line)

...and they seem to be able to handle themselves...

(Quote attributed to:  The EMH/Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager in the episode Message in a Bottle)

...or they don't seem all that approachable in the first place...

(Quote attributed to:  Gamora in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy)'s no excuse for being rude.  

So that means no hitting on the pretty women (or guys for that matter), just because they're wearing pretty (handsome) outfits.

(Quote attributed to:  Belle in Disney's 1991 film, Beauty and the Beast)

And leave a cosplayer's props alone! 

(Image derived from:  The Wizard of Oz)

Attending Next Year's ECCC?

My stepson and I enjoyed this year's convention, and everyone we talked told us they were having a good time.  Most, if not all of us, would like to make this an annual event.

However, as is often said, "Life gets in the way," which can make regular attendance problematic at best.

Some folks may have a rigid work schedule and will be unable to take the time off.

(Quote attributed to:  Phil Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in episode Heavy is the Head)

While for others, the odds of attending each year may seem too daunting. 

(Quote attributed to:  Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back)

If however, an opportunity arises, but you feel like you're at a virtual crossroad, an outside voice may ask...

(Quote attributed to:  Merida in Brave)

Although, keep in mind:

(Quote attributed to:  Doctor Who--The Fourth Doctor)

But when you do return to the ECCC, you just might feel like this:

(Quote attributed to:  Han Solo in Teaser Trailer #2 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Author's Notes:

I used the ink sketch tool on my Paint.Net program to make it look like I actually drew these pictures.  Then I utilized Comic Life to create the word balloons and the occasional sound effect, while the one visual effect was made with the Windows Paint Program.  The words "spoken" by the cosplayers I encountered are derived from actual quotes made by the characters in their respective movies, or TV shows.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Watch Mojo's Top 10 Fantasy Movie Cliches

I've loved fantasy ever since I started reading Conan the Barbarian comics as a teenager.

However, as with every genre, fantasy literature is loaded with clich├ęs.

Watch Mojo gives us the Top 10 tropes found in our favorite fantasy stories.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Watch Mojo's Top 10 Worst Movie Plot Twists

Plot twists are an awesome tool to keep your readers & viewers engaged in your story.

However, some plot twists fall flat.

Watch Mojo has come up with the Top 10 flat-line plot twists in movies.

After watching this video I'm thankful I haven't seen most of the films that "made the cut."  Especially The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Savages.

The climax to both movies turned out to be "it-was-all-a-dream" scene.

In the writer's workshops I've attended, I learned this was the #1 way to tick-off your readers & viewers.  I'm surprised the producers of Breaking Dawn and Savages thought the viewers would be okay with the "oh-never-mind-the-cool-finale-that-didn't-really-happen."

But then again, I never read either of the books the movies were based on.

While I hated the 2005 version of War of the Worlds, I'm more forgiving of the plot twist, because I did read the original source material (now 107 years old).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Watch Mojo's Top 10 Typical Movie Character Stereotypes

Stereotypes are a quick & easy way to define characters for readers & viewers.

However, they're often overdone, to say the least.

Watch Mojo identifies the (debatable) Top 10 Typical Movie Character Stereotypes.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sunday Fly-by to the Emerald City Comicon-2015--Encounters with Cosplayers

(Image:  Emerald City Comicon Banner)

Comicons are events where writers, artists and fans gather and express their love for comics, graphic novels and their TV shows and movies.  

Cosplayers are a special group of people that don't just admire their favorite characters from afar.

No, they immerse themselves in the roles, often to the same degree as professional actors.  Some are even considered professional cosplayers, such as AZ Powergirl and Ivy Doomkitty, both of whom attended this year's ECCC.

While Alex and I didn't meet either of the pros, we were impressed with the "rank-and-file" cosplayers, starting off with...

...The Men:

The first guy we ran into was distinguished Ambassador Londo Mollari from the show Babylon 5.

Londo walked with Alex & I for a few moments and he confided with us about the one difficulty he had with his otherwise elegant costume:  His head-piece didn't allow him to tilt his head back to drink.  So he had to drink fluids through a straw.  In fact, Londo was holding his left hand behind him not only to strike a regal Centauri-like pose, but to hide the soda bottle--with straw--he was drinking from.

After Alex & I parted ways with Londo, we encountered an other-worldy ambassador:  Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas

I have to admit that my "geek credit" is a bit anemic in some areas, especially with computer, or on-line games.  

So I'm not sure who this guy is...

...or this guy, although I at least recognize the Ghostbusters arm patch and lapel pin.  

Now here's a guy anyone with low geek-cred can identify:

Alex and I ended up running into Han Solo a few times during our walkabout.  As it turned out, Han is an actor currently performing with the USO.

Not every costume needs to be elaborate, "scruffy-looking," or otherwise. 

Sometimes all you need is a suit and badge, like S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson demonstrated:

Formal attire wasn't limited to civilians.  There was the pre-red-white-and-blue Captain America in his Eisenhower Jacket...

...and his trusty Vibranium Shield

And speaking of trusty companions, there was at least one "doctor in the house" Alex & I encountered.  In this case it was the Time Lord Doctor Who in his fourth regeneration...

...and his faithful K9.

The Women: 

The good doctor wasn't the only Whovian Alex & I met.  By my count, there were two Weeping Angels, and I managed to snap a picture of one of them in her Quantum Locking Defense

I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't seen the movie Guardians of the Galaxy yet.  But at least I recognized Gamora.

Another space-traveler, was Officer Ripley...

... from the Alien Films and her Chestburster "pet."

Sometimes it was hard to tell who was the pet...

...and who was the owner.  Or maybe dinner, in the case of this Graboid costume from Tremors

Alex & I spotted several cosplayers in various Star Trek uniforms, but only one... vinyl.  (Maybe she was posing as Holodeck program?)

Coming back from "the final frontier," where "no one can hear you scream," there were Disney princesses a-plenty.

I managed to get pictures of some Disney Princesses, from bow-wielding Merida...

...from Brave, and Belle...

...from Beauty and the Beast wearing her ball gown and a Mona Lisa Smile.

Couples & Pairs: 

Cosplaying doesn't have to be a solo endeavor either.  It's even more fun to have a friend or partner with you.

But sometimes two cosplayers can be twice as confusing.  I'm guessing these women were dressed... their versions of Harley Quinn

Fortunately, even in the dark there was no guess-work about Dark Phoenix...

...and Wolverine.  (I think having Cyclops around would have made things awkward for these two).

Love triangles aside, some cosplayers put on a micro-performance.  Outside the Show Floor, the Wicked Witch of the West...

...tried to remove the Ruby Slippers from Dorothy Gale's feet.

Meanwhile, Wendy Darling...

...admonished Peter Pan about it being time he grew up.

Cosplay Team:

There were more than just pairs of cosplayers at this year's ECCC.  Alex's eagle eyes spotted this pack of Minions behind us...

...and I managed to snap a picture before they set out on their mission of mayhem. 

Now as this Cosplayer Encounter post draws to a close, I'd like to thank the folks who helped make this year's convention a success...

(Image from: Archie McPhee's Flickr Page from ECCC-2012)

...the Emerald City Comicon Minions!


If you're interested in being on the Minion Team next year, log on to the ECCC Minion Application Page as the event draws near.