Wolf In Your Grandmother’s Nightdress

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Sep 292012
 

Hi guys, me again. No, not Gigs. This is my spot, not his, despite what he may have been telling all of you people. Do not listen to his lies!

THEY ARE LIES!

In any case, this was sort of supposed to have been done earlier in the week but because of poo-brain and sickness it did not. As  a result this post itself will likely be a little slipshod. Also no Gravity Falls post for you guys either. We shall get to that later.

Let us proceed before it gets too awkward.

The Power of Three was… an episode. I am not sure, personally, how I felt about it. A lot of factors went into it, including the external knowledge that the Ponds will soon no longer be traveling companions of the Doctor. This induces a sort of Pond Panic and artificially charged the episode with, as the tumbler puts it, The Feels since they were the focal point of the story. Do not delude yourselves, it was all about the Ponds and their internal turmoil over what they should do with their lives: live or Live? Unfortunately the joke is on them as the real answer will be C: DIE… maybe?

Mind, we also get to see more of Brian whom I adore and we also get a big old dose of the Doctor being twelve. Okay, maybe just a bit (a lot) A.D.D. when he is forced to actually exist for an extended period of time… in one time period. So to speak. We’ve seen this before (Vincent and the Doctor) but it seems to have gotten a lot worse since he started dropping Amy & Rory back at home between jaunts with them. One of Eleven’s quirks is that he is an Antsy Bugger. Brian proves his diligence and that the Williams boys have a lot in common, what with the pockets and the waiting. It really made me want HIM to be a companion, but that’s grasping for stars I know.

Then there are the Boxes. Which are really slow time bombs. Not one-hundred percent sure what was up with the random-assness of them all going berserk  unless it was to give some people a good reason to get rid of them so they didn’t kill everyone? But that doesn’t make sense either since they were there to outright wipe humanity off the galactic map? I don’t know. Speaking of which, Get used to this face. Ain’t that just the loveliest smile you ever did see?

The Shakri are a ball out of left field. One that is going to bounce off of something and come back at us at least once more, you can take that to the bank. When you have an Alien Species introduced as Gallifreyan Boogiemen you are going to see them again. I don’t know if it’ll tie into the season ending shebang or what but I wouldn’t be surprised. I will only be surprised if we do NOT see them again this season. Or next season, depending on how things go.

OH! And UNIT! We got UNIT back! Also The Brigadier’s daughter! Ha-HA! That was good, nice little heart-string tug there. Er, ahem, in any case. What was up with the people on the ship? Were they keeping a few random folks around as a Whitman’s Sampler of Humanity? And if so why? More questions that may or may not ever be answered.

And that ending line! Ugh. I groaned. I really did. That was just terrible.

In any case, I’m going to sleep and you’re going to read this and then I’m going to steal the next episode and HOPEFULLY, since I am no longer (as) sick and I have nothing else to do today I will actually get this regular article moved to something more suitable like Tuesday. Maybe. Hopefully.

 

Sentinels of the Multiverse

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Sep 242012
 

I like super heroes.

I like card games.

This thing is a super hero card game.

Joy ensues.

Yeah, Sentinels of the Multiverse is a super hero card game. A cooperative super hero card game.

So here’s the deal for those of y’all new to the geeky board game thing. There’s a sub-strand to gaming where the players work together to beat some sort of elaborate puzzle or mechanic. My personal favorite game, Arkham Horror, happens to be such a game. There’s a bad guy to beat that plays something like a RPG end game boss– looking over the game, messing with stuff from afar and then laying the smack down on you at the end of the game. It’s all about playing against the game itself rather than playing against the other players. That’s what you get with Sentinels of the Multiverse. Each player is a super hero, and they’re working in unison to take down the super villain chosen for that particular game.

The game itself is pretty simple. Each hero has a deck of cards from which they draw cards into their hand. In addition to that, each player has a character card that tells you how many HP you start with and gives you your starting Power. Each turn you play a card from your hand, perform a Power on one of the cards already in play, and end the turn by drawing a card for future use. The villain pretty much does the same thing on its turn: play a card, follow what it says, and follow what the villain’s character card says to do that turn. There’s also an Environment deck that messes with everyone, villain included, that adds a little flavor to the goings-on.

What makes this game cool isn’t the actual gameplay. It’s a straight-forward “play a card, do a thing, try not to die” sort of thing. What makes this game one of my new favorites is how it captures the feel of super hero comics.

Each character feels different. While everyone shares basic game mechanics– dealing damage, avoiding damage, drawing extra cards, using extra Powers, and so on– it’s how each character’s deck brings all of this together to make each character unique.

Let’s look at Legacy, the game’s Superman equivalent. The way his deck works plays off of Superman’s capacity to be that symbol of hope and leadership. Superman isn’t just some guy in spandex flying around and punching, he’s the sort willing to sacrifice himself for the betterment of others and inspiring his fellow heroes with speeches and action. His starting Power isn’t an attack, it’s the ability to buff everyone else’s damaging Powers by 1. His most potent abilities further buff other characters in some ways. He has one card that allows everyone else to ignore damage, and on the card’s art we see Legacy blocking a nuclear bomb from landing in a city. Legacy still takes damage, and he even has to take damage to play this card, but he’s doing so to make sure no one else takes damage for that turn. Even one of his attack cards doesn’t do that much damage, but it heals other characters at the same time– probably meant to represent him holding back the villain temporarily so that the others get a breather.

The other heroes have that same vibe. The mythological god as hero character, Ra, has a deck built around obtaining his magical item: The Staff of Ra. While Ra has that staff, he does massive damage, and his deck has ways to get that staff back even when it gets destroyed. The psychic character, The Visionary, does things that mess with the villain, like making him attack himself or shutting him down for brief amounts of time. The Batman equivalent, The Wraith, is all about gadgets and diverting damage away. Every character nails their intended hero stereotype in this way.

The villains are the same way. Each one has ways to attack the heroes and whatnot, but they each have different ways in which they try to win. Baron Blade, the game’s Doctor Doom wannabe, is trying to crash the Moon into the Earth. This countdown is represented by his discard pile. As things get discarded, the Moon’s getting closer to the Earth. Once so many cards are in the deck, BOOM, the Moon’s smashed into the Earth and we’re all dead. But if you deal X amount of damage to Baron Blade before this happens, his doomsday machine is destroyed, the timer is gone, and it comes down to fighting Blade in a giant robot. Another villain, Spite, is a serial killer. Victim cards appear in his deck, and you have to do certain things to have those victims rescued before the “kill a victim” cards appear and off them. You wanna do that because A) a certain trigger deals damage to Spite equal to the number of saved victims and B) Spite heals each time he kills a victim. He’s also trying to get all of his Drug cards into play, each of which makes him that much stronger. Once they’re all in play, he stops killing victims and goes Akira on the heroes, all mutated and tentacled and super strong.

Combined all this with the Environment deck, which brings a new threat (or potential ally) into play each turn that makes things difficult for each side. Maybe a bunch of raptors from some lost land are attacking. Or maybe there’s a hostage situation that keeps the heroes from going full tilt. So you’ll have a turn where Legacy bolsters his allies while Baron Blade is two cards away from crashing the Moon into the Earth, but the Raptor card pops up, dealing Blade that last 5 damage that destroys his doomsday machine.

That’s what makes this game awesome. Through the interaction with these different decks, a genuine super hero narrative is created. None of it feels mechanical and artificial the way some card games do– each game feels like a legit super hero comic. Good stuff, man.

 

Dredd

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Sep 232012
 

Did you see The Raid earlier this year? That Indonesian movie about a SWAT team trapped in a run-down building trying to take down some crime boss? Yeah, the one with the completely useless “Redemption” subtitle for the US release, causing almost every other reviewer to sound ridiculous when they tell you the name of the movie.

Yeah, if you saw that movie you already saw the new Judge Dredd movie, for the most part.

And if you saw The Raid, you need to see Dredd too for that very fact. Also for the fact that Dredd is pretty damn good.

I’m not too familiar with the Judge Dredd/2000 AD universe. I read a couple of comics back in the day to get a feel for it, and I saw that godawful Stallone movie from the 90s, but that’s about it. So I’m not coming into this with that sort of insider perspective. I can’t tell you if this is accurate beyond my basic, superficial opinion on the thing.

I know Judge Dredd gets accused of being a fascist wet dream– that sort of Dirty Harry ideal where the man of action doesn’t just face off with the criminal, he doles out government-sanction justice without that bureaucratic red tape. Then again, people who make those accusations of Dirty Harry are the ones who can’t see it for the satire it is, so based on that and based on what I saw in this movie I’m gonna assume Dredd’s been getting the same bad wrap.

Yeah, the concept of cop as judge-jury-executioner has those sorts of connotations, but in practice it’s clear that we’re dealing with some deliberate exaggeration. It’s a case of everything being taken to extremes– cities consisting of 800 million citizens, neighborhoods with 96% unemployment, fear of “mutants” living among us who are human but different– the ills of this world are your classic sci-fi extremes masquerading as real world problems, all decked out in CG and make up for easier consumption. It’s what most good sci-fi has done since the genre was born.

What Dredd’s getting at is the self consuming, self-fulfilling downward spiral that is this sort of shit. Kneejerk reactions beget kneejerk reactions. This world’s gone from nuclear war– the nigh-destruction of civilization as we know it. When that civilization is threatened, civilization reacts in irrational ways. Someone blows up your shit? You ramp up the security in ways that end up hurting your citizens more than the threats which you’re supposedly combating. The way the justice system works in this world is that sort of kneejerk reaction– as crime rises, it seems to free the justice system from expensive trials and the like, but said extreme practices create villains all too willing to fight back with even greater force. The criminals fight back, the Judges fight harder, and so on. Snake eating itself and all that shit.

That’s what’s going on in Dredd that makes it pretty damn relevant and not just another “stupid action movie.” Not that I’ve ever found that to be a bad thing– I don’t need a moral excuse for my action scenes– but it’s nice to know that this is more in line with Dirty Harry than it is with the rah-rah militarism of shit like Transformers.

That action’s solid. The use of slow motion actually makes sense in the context of the movie, since the illegal drug of choice makes the brain believe time passes slower than normal. When it isn’t going for those through-the-druggie’s-perspective scenes, the action’s fairly clearly shot. Not quite as good as the aforementioned The Raid, but not every movie can be that perfect.

The movie manages to have a sense of humor to it. Dredd’s a pretty good deadpan sort of character. He’s dead serious about what he’s saying, but you can’t help but laugh at that stark, blunt honesty at times. And I gotta give Karl Urban props for never taking that helmet off.

My only real beef with this movie is the lack of a suitably striking villain. Ma-Ma, the female drug lord behind all this mess, is cool and all, but she doesn’t stick in your brain like the best movie baddies. Let’s compare Dredd to its closest movie counterpart: RoboCop. Yeah, RoboCop takes on a bunch of OCP suits and the father from That 70s Show, but what comes to mind first when you think “RoboCop Bad Guy?” ED-209. It wasn’t the main bad guy– it was just a security drone used by him– but it has that sort of iconic oomph of the best villains.

Dredd’s lacking that. Ma-Ma needed a henchman who stood out like that. Going back to The Raid, Mad Dog was just that. He was the boss’ right hand man, but he’s who you remember the most. Dredd needed his own Mad Dog.

Yeah, this one’s gonna be on my 2012 best movie list.

Wibbly Wobbly

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Sep 222012
 

Okay guys, sorry, I lost track of what day it was and haven’t done a write-up of a Town Called Mercy. That’s on me. I’ll either get to that today-ish or have to make up for it with a double blog next week. Also look forward to a couple of other posts from me about Gravity Falls and some other things.

Maybe soon.

My bad.

 

Edit: Here’s something from someone else…

HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!

Guess Who.

Well, it ain’t Landon.

Since ThreeDark lacks the CONVICTION to write about Who, I’mma gonna do it.

“A Town Called Mercy”, like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, this ep’s more about the adventure than the whole BIG PLOT TWEEST! OH HAI RIVER that’s been the Eleventh’s MO in past episodes. But “A Town Called Mercy” does throw in a bit of character exploration.

The gist of this ep is the Doctor goes to the Wild West. He and the Ponds find themselves in a town called Mercy, which is at the mercy of a mysteeeeerious Gunslinger who prevents anyone from coming in or out of the town. With no supplies coming in, the town’s on the verge of imminent starvation.

The Gunslinger’s demands are thus, bring him the “Alien Doctor”.

Blahblahblahspoilerblah, the Alien Doctor is not the Eleventh, but simply another alien who happened to be an actual doctor with PHDs and such.

Right off the bat, you realize the alien doctor is a bad guy because of how absolutely good and pure he is. No one that nice could possibly be a good guy, and yeah, turns out that this guy is a war hero who performed countless hideous and heinous atrocities during the war to create the Gunslinger and his ilk. Now that the war’s over, the Gunslinger’s broken free of his programming and is after the alien doctor for revenge.

Now let’s get to the point. The core of this episode is a bit of character exploration on the Doctor. Doctor Who villains tend to be pure evil, like Solomon from “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” or the Daleks or whoever. But here the Doctor is presented with something of a conundrum. The alien doctor was once a scientist/surgeon who performed horrific and inhumane experiments to create biotechnological weapons for the war. And the guy’s pretty unrepentant about it, since in his mind, he sacrificed thousands to save millions.

On the other hand, post war, this alien doctor has been making amends. He’s haunted by the screams of his “patients” and he’s done what he can to help the town called Mercy. He even saved the entire town from cholera.

It would be easy if he was repentant about his past, but he isn’t. He did what he had to do and he’s standing by it. He represents a clear case of someone who is both extreme good and extreme evil. In fact, depending on what “mode” he’s in, kindly doctor or war criminal, he behaves differently as well. Just to make it clear to us viewers that he’s good… and that he’s bad.

In theory, this is all great. In execution, it falls a little flat. And that’s entirely TV’s fault. You see, in the modern viewer’s mind, death is seldom a just punishment anymore. Not unless you’re a complete monster.

Shows and series like Rurouni Kenshin and so forth, have hammered into the modern viewer’s mind that sincere attempts to make amends, or even simply the desire to live a peaceful life, is sufficient consequence for a lifetime of atrocities. It doesn’t matter how horrible you were, just so long as you’re not actively hurting anybody right now.

As a result, we don’t really get behind the Doctor when he goes on a spiel about how you don’t get to choose how to make amends for past misdeeds, especially since the Doctor is all about trying to wipe the sins off some off-screen sinning he did.

Ultimately, this was a watchable, even decent episode of Doctor Who, but it’s far from being one of the good ones. It’s pretty lackluster in fact.

Aaaaand that’s it, ThreeDark should do a post anyways.

Oh, and the cast member who stole the show? Susan.

Memes Ain’t Innocent

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Sep 212012
 

I love Ghost in the Shell. The first movie was one of those gateway drugs in the 90s that I could get almost anyone to watch. The two Stand Alone Complex TV series make up some of the best procedural television ever made. Even the original manga’s pretty damn good-looking, even if it feels like an awkward, evolutionary missing link at this point in the franchise’s history.

But my favorite part of Ghost in the Shell is the second theatrical movie: Innocence.

I get the grief people give this movie. Most of the dialogue is lifted straight from religious and philosophical texts. Characters quote entire passages in their discussions. When people call this lazy, I get it. When writing blog posts and shit, I wish I could just copy/paste some other dude’s writing and pass it off as my own thoughts. That’d be heaven for my inner and outer slacker. But I can’t do that shit because half the time no one’s said the stuff I want to say, so I have to take the time to sorta organize my thoughts and spew them forth into WordPress using my own damn words. That’s how peeps expect you to communicate. Usually.

But I see what Innocence is getting at with this quotation-as-communication. These characters are constantly jacked into this future version of the internet. Your very consciousness can travel across the net and access almost any information possible. Looking up a quote to share with someone is far easier than looking it up in Google and copying it into a Skype chat box. Your mind works faster than your fingers, and it’s literally quicker to download a Descartes quote relevant to your thoughts and spout it out than it is to reform your concept of Descartes ideals into your own words. And not only is it easier for you to regurgitate rather than interpret, that person you’re talking to can just as easily access that quote to better understand its meaning. You don’t have to worry about someone not getting your reference because they can look up said reference in less than a second. Communication seems convoluted and ritualized to someone without this permanent mental connection, but for the participants it’s pretty damn simple and streamlined.

That idea’s fascinating and disturbing. It’s cool that these characters can flow from one complex idea to another just by streaming ideas gathered from online sources, but at the same time I’m not fond of the idea of exclusively using the words of others to express your own thoughts. That process of taking your background knowledge, processing it through your own lens, and reinterpreting it as your share that information is a different experience from simply copy/paste/communicate.

It reminds me a lot of memes. Someone wants to crack a joke or communicate an emotion or thought, so they slap up a picture of a cat with a prefabricated quote. Everyone who uses that picture is communicating the same thought. They might not have the same inflection or intention behind their use of that meme picture, but it’s being expressed in the same way each time someone uses it. That’s what’s going down in Innocence– the characters are communicating in the same way as someone who posts a meme phrase or picture, except instead of referencing Dr. Who or Futurama the characters in Innocence are referencing the Old Testament.

And yeah, I don’t like it. I hate memes. The rub me in all the wrong ways. You see someone post some crappy picture or crack some easy-to-remember joke. The next time you come across a similar situation, you opt to reiterate the very same thing you saw someone else say. It might express your feelings, but it isn’t really you saying it, just like how Batou’s expressing these feelings of identity and shit, but he isn’t using his own words to do so.

It just doesn’t feel right, man. Fascinating on a conceptual level, but shit like robots rising up and murdering all humans because biological life is deemed obsolete is also fascinating on a conceptual level.

Yeah, don’t let the memes go Terminator on our linguistic asses. See, there’s a reference, but it’s my reference.