Monday, November 23, 2020
Sunday, November 22, 2020
The New Mutants (Josh Boone, 2020) isn't the complete disaster I expected. Blending the superhero and horror genres makes the difference, transforming a generic superhero coming-of-age story into a mildly interesting, claustrophobic chiller. Tonally, the film is, at least, consistent; this time around, the mutant teens study not in a palatial mansion, but an abandoned ruin, and rather than the sympathetic Professor X, their mentor is, essentially, a mad scientist. It's all very gothic and rusty, with a few effective freakout moments.
That the characters feel true to their comic book origins also helps, as do the performances; the actors do pretty well with a bland screenplay, and their abilities are captured quite faithfully by the visual effects. It's also nice that this is the first mainstream majority-women superhero team to appear in film. (It would be nice to see more of that; there's no reason Disney or Warner couldn't assemble a mostly-women team of Avengers or Justice Leaguers.)
The plot, however, is by-the-numbers teen angst; there's a nice kid, a mean kid (good at heart, of course), a blossoming romance, rebellion against authority, awakening adolescent sexuality, and finally the necessary teen bonding, the resolution of their inner turmoil through the conquest of horror, and finally the promise of further adventures (a promise surely to be broken, now that Disney is taking over production of the X-Men films).
This is not to say that The New Mutants is good; merely that the filmmakers avoided a Dark Phoenix-level catastrophe. And so the Fox X-Men films go out with a reasonably dignified whimper.
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Friday, November 20, 2020
One day in the future, when it's safe to gather in restaurants again, I'd love to try the following gag:
Before we enter the restaurant, I stuff a few peanuts up my nose. I think I could fit at least one peanut in each nostril; perhaps even two or three per nostril.
Then, I order something with peanuts in it.
I enjoy the dish normally. But as soon as the server comes around, I start to look a bit ill and frightentened. "Oh gosh," I ask, "Does this dish have peanuts in it?"
When the server says "Yes," or even "I don't know," I yell "I'm allergic to peanuts!" And then I sneeze the peanuts out my nose and onto the dish.
Of course I would leave a generous tip for the server.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Paul Gross’ Passchendaele (2008) starts off strong with a gripping, evocative, and even artful small-scale battle in the muck and rubble of a ruined small town. I had high hopes for the film based on this sequence, but once Gross’ character winds up back on the home front in Calgary, the artistry and power of that opening is replaced by a not terribly compelling story of young love and PTSD that feels like a TV movie of the week. The film does pick up a bit when the story moves back to the battlefield, but even then the filmmakers fail to show why Passchendaele was such a milestone moment in Canadian history. Instead, we get an obvious and awkward homage of Christ’s carrying the cross to his doom, for no particular reason that I can see.
It’s not that the film isn’t competently made; the performances are solid, and the melodrama is fine, if not ambitious. But it’s too bad that Gross couldn’t sustain the excellence of the opening sequence throughout the rest of the film.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
I figure Dread Pirate Rogers fell in with a really despicable lot, and is now looking for a way out. But first, he needs some loot to finance a less-troubled lifestyle...
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
My favourite games supported by this computer probably would have been Rescue on Fractalus, Ballblazer, Preppie, Karateka, and Star Raiders II.
Sean and I retired almost all of our Atari hardware a couple of years ago to help create more space at Mom and Dad's place. I rescued this manual, among other Atari detritus. I was going to recycle it, but Sean will take the materials into his care instead. They're certainly fascinating artifacts of a lost era.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Miner 2049er was a top-tier game for the Atari 8-bit line of computers. Sean and I and our cousin Darwin poured hours and hours into this charming platformer. You control Bounty Bob, a Mountie who must reclaim an abandoned mine by touching all the platforms on each level of the mine. Simply walking over the platform tiles does the trick, but you have to avoid deadly radioactive monsters, falling from heights, being crushed by pulverizers, beaming into a monster while using the teleporter, and accidentally blowing yourself up by using too much dynamite for the level with the cannon. Bounty Bob's death animations were particularly satisfying and cartoonishly gruesome.
Friday, November 13, 2020
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Even though I wasn't clever enough to do more than scratch the surface of Infocom's 1987 text adventure The Lurking Horror, the game's dread atmosphere, chilling surprises, and pervasive sense of doom made it one of my favourites in the genre.
Infocom games were famous not only for their excellent writing and clever puzzles, but for the "feelies" they included with their games, such as this guide to the university you explore in the game.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Here is all that remains of Sean's copy of Autoduel for the Atari 8-bit computers. It's a thick manual rich in complexity and lore, back in the days when computer games often included not only really well-produced manuals, but also maps, keyboard or joystick inserts and attachments, reference cards, and, best of all, little tokens and toys that represented something you might encounter in the game.
Autoduel itself was a fantastic game, based on Steve Jackson's popular Car Wars strategy game. The premise is simple; you start out with $2000 and need to buy a car to start "auto duelling" in the arena or on the highways of the northeastern USA. Sean and I played that game for years, until at last the disc stopped working.
The road to fun with this game got off to a rocky start, however. Sean bought the game with birthday and Christmas and allowance money he'd saved for quite some time, and the first copy we bought was defective. Sean and I returned to the computer store in Heritage Mall where he'd purchased Autoduel, and the proprietor refused to help, claiming we were returning it under false pretenses and had pirated a copy of our own before returning it.
This is one of the few times I've gotten really, really angry in public. All I remember saying is "He's ten years old," in quiet fury. The man behind the counter grumbled and muttered a little more, but in the end he exchanged the defective copy of the game for a fresh one. Thankfully, the new copy worked.
Incidentally, Sean and I recently Kickstarted the latest edition of Car Wars, so at some point in the future, when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, we'll get together to reignite the spirit of a game we really loved back in the 80s.
Monday, November 09, 2020
This morning, Sylvia informed me that I've been talking in my sleep again. According to her, this is what happened:
"Do you really want pizza at three in the morning?" I asked, waking her.
"Yes," she said, playing along, thinking I was joking.
"Okay, but I don't think anyone delivers this late...what do you want on it?" I asked.
I picked up my phone and prepared to order online. "Spinach, bacon, feta, and fresh tomatoes?"
"Earl, what are you doing?" Sylvia said, alarmed, realizing that I was actually about to order. "You're sleeping!"
"Oh," I replied, and put the phone down.
But shortly after, I piped up again. "Why do you want Rice Krispies squares? I don't think we have any."
Sunday, November 08, 2020
I finally watched The Lion King today, expecting greatness given the film's position on many best-of lists. But the film left me cold. I felt nothing for any of the characters except mild annoyance, the music left me unmoved when it wasn't actively annoying me, and I felt the story was not only generic but told in the laziest possible way.
I didn't always feel this way about Disney films with singing, dancing, and talking animals: I remember enjoying Lady and the Tramp and Robin Hood back in the 70s. Therefore, I don't think it's my general indifference to animals* that's affecting my enjoyment. And it's not as if there's anything wrong with the animation, the screenplay, the music, the editing, the performances, or any of the other factors so important to film. I recognize the artistry and competence of the creators.
Sometimes a film clicks for you, sometimes it doesn't, I guess. Hakuna matata, as they say.
*By "indifference," I mean that I feel no particular affection for animals in general. However, nor do I wish them harm, and I recognize that not only are they vital to our ecosystem, they also deserve respect as living creatures for their own sake.
And yet, for reasons I don't understand, I simply don't feel the emotional bonds that most people form with animals, no matter how cute those animals may be. I feel a lot of guilt about this and I've spent my life trying to change it, but that fundamental bit of humanity just seems to be missing in me.
Saturday, November 07, 2020
Friday, November 06, 2020
|Muckraker Peter Kent.|
My friend and colleague Meric Moir has another podcast up; this time, he shepherds a band of adventurers through a bone-chilling train ride to Hell in "3:10 to Salvation," an adventure for the latest revision of the Deadlands roleplaying game. I play a supporting role as muckraker Peter Kent. Spoiler alert: I spend most of my time in the adventure taking photos of the action, but I do have a moment of derring-do later on.
Thursday, November 05, 2020
Wednesday, November 04, 2020
Tuesday, November 03, 2020
Monday, November 02, 2020
Nearly devoid of colour, entirely devoid of actors save the urgent but dignified offscreen message from the far, far future (voiced by Tilda Swinton), the film yet bursts with the full flower of life, or at least the implication of it, generation upon generation of an ever-changing humanity that in the hour of its doom calls back to us.
Strange that a film capturing just a single landscape as its visual component, with no humans at all visible--merely our monuments--manages to capture the importance of human connections in such a compelling way. A worthy companion to Olaf Stapledon's epic.
Sunday, November 01, 2020
I read that it takes about 24 hours for this stuff to cure. This will become important when I finish applying Green Stuff, because it means I'll have to wait for that 24 hours before I start adding sand, rocks, grass, and other materials.