Monthly Archives: March 2014

Cowboy City

This was the first video I made when I upgraded my editing program back in 2005. I’m still proud of it, all these years later.

Attack on Titan Review

attack-on-titan-2The wife and I just finished watching Attack on Titan last night. I think it’s the first new anime we’ve completed together. We also finished it in record time when compared to how long we’ve been trying to get through Arrow and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m a lucky guy to have a wife that gets excited about anime with giant people/monsters and zipline sword fighters.

Kendra loved the show. I liked the show. You wouldn’t think that would be a big difference in opinion but I’m learning that it is, in fact, a large gap. To love the show the show means to have no complaints. To like the show means those who love it think I hate it. Which isn’t true.

First, the good. The animation is great and probably got me most excited about the show in the beginning. It’s smooth and fast, with perfect coloring and neat designs. The music isn’t overbearing and blends well into the background. The voice acting is good and no one has an annoying sound like Naruto. It’s all played straight and I like that.

The action, when it comes, is great. It’s the kind that I watch anime specifically for, fast and out of this world. The 3d manurvering is one of the coolest things I’ve seen and I wish I could get a set. Flipping in the air like Spider-Man, swords spinning and Titan’s above and below. How can you not feel like a superhero?

Oh boy, and the Titans. They are never not creepy. The big ones are menacing and grotest and they’re like running into a T-Rex. The smaller ones are especially disturbing. They’re fast, they have giant smiles and they only want to eat you. The move sparaticly, have eyes that are focused but vacant…man, I’m creeping out just writing about them.

There’s also some great twists in the story, especially some character ‘fate’ reveals. There were plenty of times Kendra and I looked at each other saying “Holy crap!”

Okay, so that’s why I liked the show. Now on to why I don’t love it.

AttackOnTitan-1First and probably the biggest, are the characters. They are all useless. Skill wise, they all fall short of a standard the show sets for them. They’re supposed to be able to kill Titans? They act like they haven’t had years of training and expectations before the first battle. Only one or two characters ever succesfully kills a Titan and the rest end up running and dying. This is the city’s defense? They’re also all stupid as all get out. Characters are supposed to make bad decisions once or twice, but not when the right answers are so obvious. In one instane, a group of characters refuse to let a certain character use his power that would save them, because they want to prove how strong they are. Then, they all die because they’re have zero skills. Then, the character uses his power anyway and feels guilty about letting the others die. Because they made him. This is dumb characterization by way of Smallville.

The main character is as whiny as Shinji Ikari was, except he’s addes angry screaming to the mix. It’s rough when the character you’re supposed to be rooting for is one of the most annoying. By the end, I was actually more interested in Armin, because he’s had the most growth. Or Mikasa, because she’s the only smart, capable character on the show.

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Find more of these!

The second problem I had is the pacing and it seems to be an issue a lot of people have raised. During the beginning, during the big attack on the city when everything should be hectic and insane, characters just stop and talk for half the episode. Now, I understand long conversations that seem to only take a second in the show’s timeframe are a trope of the medium, but not every one has to be as dull or pace-killing as this series would have you believe. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood had long talks but they were always made to hold the viewers interest and push the story foward. Here, on Attack on Titan, they just seem like ways to stretch episodes out for time’s sake. Fortunetaly, this problems seems to resolve itself near the end, but not before it severly damaged my interest in the show as a whole.

Also, twenty-six episodes and no ending? How spoiled did Trigun and Cowboy Bebop make me!

But, you know what? It’s still a pretty cool show. The concept might be stronger than the execution and I might fall into the catagory of people who see the show as a little bit overrated, but I had fun watching it and it was nice to watch it with my wife. Being able to relate to people about having to check under the bed for Titans is great and I love the pictures online of people recreating the attacks. I also enjoyed how much of a giant mech show it was in disguise. I’d never not suggest the show to someone but I think the love one feels towards it will vary from person to person depending on patiance.

 

Loose Ends

This was one of the last anime music videos I ever made. It seems like forever ago…

What to game, what to game…

As a roleplayer, I’ve been on both sides of the Dungeon Master’s screen. And, like most roleplayers, I prefer to be a player rather than the guy running the game. But, on the other hand, being the DM means you get to play whatever type of game you want!

When I’ve been the DM, I’ve run all types of games; fantasy, zombies, superheroes, dinosaurs, pirates and pulp. I try to make every game I run a game I would want to play. But, there are some types of games or ideas I just haven’t been able to figure out or lock down. Every time I decide it’s time to run a game, I go through all the same motions and concepts and decide they’re not right yet and come up with something else. But what about the game’s I can’t glue down yet?

Space Opera
To this day, it remains to be one of the few genres I haven’t even made an attempt to run. You would think, with my love for space and science fiction, this would come easy. But you would think wrong. I can’t figure out how to make this type of game work. I can’t get the governments right, I can’t think of aliens and I can’t help but fall in the shadow of material like Firefly and Star Wars. Maybe it’s a case of having to much to work with, but when I think of doing Space Opera, I freeze up like a Space Deer in Space Headlights.

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Running is all you do in a dinosaur game!

Dinosaurs
Here’s a case of me having, at one time, done a successful dinosaur game. It was much like Jurassic Park, or Dino Crisis and heavy on the survival horror. However, it was a one shot and one of the first games I ever ran. Ever since then, it’s like I’ve been trying to capture lightning in a bottle for the second time. The problem with dinosaurs, in roleplaying, is that they are just too dangerous. You can hit an orc with a sword or shoot a zombie in the head, but if you try and stand your ground against a dinosaur, you’re dead meat. I keep trying to think of ways to run a dinosaur game where they are scary but not invincible, dangerous but not unmanageable. Unfortunately, a T-Rex is going to eat you no matter how you write up its stats.

Sliders
Remember the show called Sliders? Well, I didn’t watch it either but it was about a bunch of people jumping from parallel universe to universe. So you can do anything. Abe Lincoln is the new Emporer of America? Sure! Robots run Walmart? Right on! But the problem for me is that nothing matters after a while. You have situations where you need someone saved but if the heroes don’t save ’em? It doesn’t matter because they’ll be in a new universe tomorrow! Also, once the characters find their way home, they’re home. End of story.

l5rSuper Villains
Here’s an idea I’ve had for a long time. It’s always been based off of the idea of the Thunderbolts, or the Suicide Squad. The players are super villains, but maybe they want to be better people! The reason I’ve never done this type of game is because I play with some morally ambiguous people who might not want to use their role as a bad guy to learn how to be good. They might, instead, want to use their powers for things I wouldn’t want to describe. To be frank, I’m scared of the horror the players would inflict upon their GM.

Samurai
I would love to run a samurai game, especially one set in the Legends of the Five Rings realm, but it all comes down to knowledge. While I have an affection for Japanese culture, my knowledge of their history and customs are severely lacking. I’m too ignorant to run this type of game!

But I guess that’s part of putting together a game, deciding how to make your robot pirates against British goblins work.

 

Scifyed

mpasunshineposterbI’ve been in a science fiction mood lately. It started when I rented Sunshine from the library. The movie worked for me on a lot of levels; it was dark and (as Kendra likes to say) depressingly uplifting. It was well acted, the science was a little rubbery but done well, and it had a beautiful soundtrack (which is used in the X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer, so whenever the tune stated up in the movie, I kept hearing Xavier ask, “what’s the last thing you remember?”).

In a lot of ways, Sunshine reminded me of The Grey, in both at what it did and how it made me feel afterwards. But the difference is I wouldn’t want to fight wolves but I still think I would risk a trip to the sun.

Sunshine also reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey, because both movies show how lonely space is and how dangerous it can be. Honestly, Sunshine actually curbed some of my ethusiasm for space travel because it really is a dark, dangerous place that’s hostile to life and is, for the most part, depressingly empty.

Combine that with the fact that I watched The Planets and How the Universe Works on Netflix, and my scifi itch continues to be scratched (and grows, because it’s probably a scifi rash that I shouldn’t mess with). I think space actually does depress me on some levels because during one episode of HTUW, they were talking about how, someday, the universe will run out of hydrogen and the stars will slowly die out. They were talking about it, the music was swelling and sad and they showed images of the stars dimming and fading, and I swear I almost cried. I never thought I would care so much about the fate of stars.

Luckily, I was reading David Brin’s Startide Rising, which is filled with space travel and aliens and talking dolphins and all kinds of scifi goodness, so space started feeling fun and filled with adventure again. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to fly ships into the void with dolphins and chimps, but I would like to and Brin gives me hope of seeing those dreams fulfilled.

Having done all that, I began to realize that I’m not as well versed in the scifi universe as I would like to be (a realization I see everytime I look at how many Hugo winners I haven’t read). So, I decided to find some movies in the genre and finally watch them instead of talking about wanting to watch them.

Including Netflix and the library, I grabbed Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, Silent Running, and the original Solaris. So now it’s time for some capsule reviews/thoughts about all of them!

silent_running_xlgSilent Running was the first movie we watched and I liked it. It has that’s 60s vibe to it, with the ‘save the planet’ messege, even if the only way we can save the planet is to send it into space. I liked Bruce Dern in it and it was funny that we watched it Saturday night and then the Oscars the next day, onyl to find Dern up for best actor for Nebreska. I guess everyone but Kendra and I knew who the guy was! On a side note, I’ve had that hippie song from the movie stuck in my head for weeks now.

Soylent Green was next. Since the ending is well known, the movie had to stand up on it’s own and not how surprising the twist was. Charlton Heston was good (as he normally is), as was everyone else in the movie. The world was interesting but the movie was slow, even compared to older films. I guess I’d say the movie was simply alright. It doesn’t really add anything to the world outside of the “Soylent Green is people” line.

Next, we watched Logan’s Run. This movie started off really well and had that cool, 70s scifi feel to it with its beeping soundtrack and Michael York-like class to acting. It had me for most of the movie, but then that weird robot shows up and freezes people. And then a weird old guy goes on about cat names. And the movie stops for about twenty minutes. The end is decent but the movie never regains the fun of earlier.

The Blob was super dissapointing. When I was a kid in fifth grade, my school’s library had a book series on movie monsters that I absolutley devoured. The one book on the Blob was one of my favorites and I always wanted to see how cool the movie was for myself. Twenty-five years later, I see the truth and I’m worse for it. The movie is boring, especially considering it’s a 50s monster movie. I don’t know how they failed with this. Whereas Invasion of the Body Snatchers is still grade A monster movie making. It’s still creepy, still well acted and I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The Cold War analogy is a little strong for my taste, but it works in context with the film.

solarisI ended with Solaris, which is ironic because it’s the one I wanted to watch most after Sunshine. It’s another movie that reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a slow movie and one that challanged my patience but it had enough charisma to keep my watching. It’s more about human relationships than space and that’s okay. The film has some incredible shots and cinematography, especially the weightlessness scene, and the constant white light from the planet outside is almost maddening. Looking back, I wonder how many Russian films I’ve seen because I can’t remember many besides this one now. Interestingly, though maybe only to me, is that somehow I did the math wrong in my head between when I started this movie and when it would end. When it was over, it was twenty minutes later than I had figured. With the films strange style and my poor math skills, I felt like this movie achieved its goal of messing with space and time.  

cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey-first-season.21012Last night, since I was still coming down off this science fiction high, I decided to watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on demand. I was pretty dissapointed with it. It may be because it was the first episode and the show is building up to the good stuff, but in the first hour I didn’t learn a thing. The Cosmic Calander was cool, considering humans have only been around for the last hour of the universe, but that was the only big piece of interest. To be fair, I might be asking a lot since I’ve been reading and watching a bunch of stuff about the universe, but I don’t understand how you can’t say anything worth knowing in a whole hour. I almost feel like the show is for the dumb people of the world.

That may sound harsh, but I’m sticking by it. If you, as a human being, don’t already know the order of the planets, than you are dumb. If you don’t know there’s an astroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, you are dumb. These are simple facts about the solar system you are in. This should be common knowledge. It would be like not knowing the names of the continents or not knowing the surrounding towns of your home. You don’t know the first thing Google shows when you type in ‘planets’. But maybe there are people who don’t know these simple facts. Maybe Cosmos will help them. But that makes me sad.

There also seems to be a lot of beating up on the Church. These things bother me because I’m a Christian and I love learning about science and the universe. It’s strange how the more we learn, the more I see God, while others see less.

But, to get back to my main point, I’m in a big science fiction mood and I don’t know how to get out of it…

Meh, it will work itself out. It’s not like I’m planning to watch The Omega Man or The Day the Earth Stood Still this weekend…Oh shoot.

planets_image

First image when Googled…