Wednesday, December 21, 2005

King Kong Rules!

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the title wrote itself. I liked it, the F/X were first-rate, the dialogue and the acting was decent and the plot was a unchanged from the classic original. Andy Serkis, who brought life to Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings, has done the same for King Kong and has clearly established himself as the best in the business when it comes to "performance capture" work. My one criticism of the movie is that it is just too darn long. Although similar in length to each installment of LOTR, it seemed longer. That's not a good sign, because it suggests this is a case of "less is more". I shudder to think how much more footage will be added to the DVD release. Still, overall, King Kong is well worth a look.


Monday, October 31, 2005

DOOM...not half bad

I'll start off by saying, I hate computer games. Okay, not all computer games, I love Sid Meiers' Civilization II. I also enjoy Age of Empires and a few other real-time strategy games, but I hate first-person shooters. I tried Halo II once and I died 16 times in a row at the same corner, about 20 seconds into the game. Oh what fun!

Needless to say, when I heard a movie based on DOOM was coming out and some of it was shot from the perspective of a first-person shooter, I had pretty low expectations. However, The Rock and Karl Urban (Eomer from The Lord of the Rings) were both in it, so I thought I'd give it a look. Turns out, it was pretty good. No, not great, but it neither gave me a headache nor did it have me checking my watch at the one hour mark, both of which happened when I went to see Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. All the usual cliches were there; the beautiful, brilliant blond science babe, the special forces team of misfits (doesn't anyone do psych profiles on these guys?) and the top secret research into things man was not meant to know. There is a lot of running around in dark wet tunnels (apparently the days of sterile, clean research facilities have gone the way of the dodo) and the usual techniques for building suspense (note to minions, when you look down a dark tunnel, wait a few seconds longer than you otherwise would, you keep turning away just before the passing shadow). Still, despite the fact that everything was derivative, it was still worth my $10.95. It was also refreshing to see a movie that didn't have a 105 lb. woman throwing 300 lb. marines around a room like they were ragdolls. It may be sexist, but I simply can't suspend my disbelief when Cameron Diaz takes out the trash at the local Hell's Angels hangout.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Serenity Rocks!!

I went to see Joss Whedon's Serenity this past weekend and I have to say, it is Whedon at his best. For the uninitiated, Joss Whedon was the writer/producer of the hit series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but less well-known was his short-lived sci-fi series, Firefly. The latter lasted less than one season, but in my opinion, deserved better. The show revolved around the crew of Serenity, a Firefly-class starship. Led by Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (played by Canadian actor Nathan Fillion), the crew of misfits tries to get by on the fringe of a harsh interplanetary empire known as the Alliance. Captain Reynolds and his righthand woman, Zoe, are veterans of a failed insurrection against the Alliance. The pilot, Wash, the engineer, Kaylee and the muscle, Jayne make up the rest of the crew. Add to that, the preacher, Shepherd Book (played by Ron Glass of Barney Miller fame) , the courtesan, Inara, the doctor, Simon and his enigmatic sister, River.

The movie, Serenity, revolves around River. In the TV series, we learn that River was subject to some kind of experimentation at the hands of the Alliance as a result of her mysterious psychic abilities. Her older brother Simon, rescued her from the research facility and the two are on the run from the authorities who desperately want her back. Captain Reynolds figures if the hated Alliance wants her back badly enough to pursue her to the edge of explored space then that's reason enough to protect her. I won't give away anything from the movie, but the humour we've come to expect from Firefly, as well as the dark vision of the future are both present in good measure. All that was missing was that awesome theme song.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Welcome new team member

I'd like to welcome Derobane-bane to the "Roll for Initiative" team. I have played D&D off and on with him for several years now and I'm sure his posts will be insightful.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My gaming history

So who am I and why do I think I can write about gaming? Well, I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in 1980! Yes, I started 25 years ago, back when Gary Gygax still wrote material for the game and Wizards of the Coast didn't exist. I saw the 80s explosion when every gamer and his dog had a published RPG on the market and I played a lot of them. Although D&D/AD&D/AD&D 2nd ed./D&D 3/3.5 is still my favourite game, I've tried my hand at GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, RIFTS, Traveller, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Alternity, Chivalry and Sorcery, Mechwarrior, Star Wars d6 System and Pendragon. I've also played my share of wargames, namely Star Fleet Battles, BattleTech and Warhammer. Now, a quarter century later, I'm still playing, even though I've gone through a half-dozen different gaming groups. I just hope whatever retirement home I end up at in another 30 years has a good gaming room and a bunch of guys who know how to roll a 20-sider.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

d20 Future campaign

I am currently running a d20 Future campaign. This post will explain the background.

Early in the 22nd century, an American deep-space probe discovers an enormous object just beyond the orbit of Uranus. It was clearly of artificial origin, a toroidal structure some 26km in diameter with a parabolic interior surface. For the next century, probes from the Western Alliance (consisting of most of the Americas, Australia, the UK and Japan), the Euro-Islamic Republics and Neo-Imperial China study the artifact. Eventually it is determined that the alien structure is a singularity gate designed to send spacecraft across vast distances in virtually no time by way of extreme distortion of space-time.

Meanwhile, the three global superpowers grow increasingly belligerent as the awesome power of "the Gate" becomes clear. Border skirmishes break out in central Asia and on Mars. Also, extreme religious and political groups instigate terrorist attacks on every continent. The threat of a global conflict looms large.

It is this threat that causes a group of wealthy philanthropists to create the Covenant Foundation, an organization dedicated to sending humans to the stars. They begin by funding a series of robotic exploration missions to travel through the Gate with the goal of finding inhabitable planets. After dozens of missions, a marginally-suitable planet was discovered in the Epsilon Eridani system. The planet, which was named Acheron, was much older than earth. Vulcanism had all but stopped and life had never evolved beyond the level of single-celled organisms, but it had water and a breathable atmosphere. As the geopolitical situation continued to deteriorate, it was decided that the mission would proceed. 6100 young, married couples were selected from among many tens of thousands of volunteers to undertake the one-way trip to the new world aboard the first manned vessel to go through the Gate, Ark I.

Ark I (also called Ark Prime) consisted of six colony pods, each housing one thousand colonists in cryo-sleep. The remaining 100 colonists were housed in the command module which would serve as an orbiting space station after the colony pods landed on the surface of Acheron. Each pod would land along the equator, equidistant from one another, establishing six individual colonies. The pods themselves were designed to be disassembled and used as structures to house the colonists. One year of pre-packaged food was included as well as seed and hydroponic equipment to sustain the colonies until further supplies could be sent. It was intended that additional colony ships would be sent at ten year intervals. Ark I was launched on August 3rd, 2217.


Friday, September 09, 2005

My New Blog

I have been blogging now for about nine months and my original blog, Random Thoughts from Cowtown has taken on the characteristics of a political forum. There is nothing wrong with this, but I feel I need a another forum to let my geek side flourish. This blog will be dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons, movies, sci-fi and fantasy literature, whatever my inner fanboy decides to talk about.


Edit: The Random Thoughts from Cowtown blog has been discontinued and will remain so.