Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Land of the Lost: Season Three (Episode Five: Medusa)

Season One: Part One, Two, and Three.
Season Two: Part One and Two.
Season Three: Part One, Two, Three, and Four.

Episode 5: “Medusa”

This episode provides more evidence for the Alternate Reality Theory, while also letting us know that some things are still the same between the two versions of the Land of the Lost. Holly and Will have built an outrigger to take them and Cha-Ka down the river, hoping it will help them find a way home. Obviously, the first season episode “Downstream” never occurred for them. At least, not in the way it happened for the other Marshalls, but more on that later. On the other hand, Will plans to do some fishing on the trip and recalls his unpleasant experience fishing with Cha-Ka in Season Two’s “Nice Day."

While Will and Cha-Ka cut fishing poles, Holly sits in the boat and is accidentally carried downstream by a sudden increase in the current. The reason for the change is that a green-skinned, snake-haired Gorgon in a toga has opened a hole in a small dam downriver. We don’t yet know why, but we do get a demonstration of her powers when she turns a praying mantis to stone for “daring to offend Medusa” by crawling over her foot.

Will and Cha-Ka hear Holly’s distress cries, but choose to run and get Jack instead of immediately helping her. It's a stupid, disappointing choice meant simply to keep the plot moving.

After the break: Holly meets Medusa and sees an old friend from Season One.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Favorite Board Game: Fury of Dracula

This week's item from Calvin's list comes with a caveat: My favorite board game is always the last one I got. That said, I'm a huge fan of strategy games and my previous favorites are Betrayal at House on the Hill, Pirate's Cove, and Mwahahaha (though that's more of a complicated card game than a true board game). Right now though, it's all about Fury of Dracula.

I understand that it plays similarly to Scotland Yard, though I've never played that game. One player is Dracula and the others are vampire-hunters from the novel: Lord Godalming, Doctor Seward, Van Helsing, and Mina Harker.

The object for the Dracula character is to collect points while eluding the hunters, moving in secret around a map of Europe. He gets points for creating new vampires, defeating the hunters in combat, and just surviving the day. Once he reaches a certain number, he wins. The players work as a team to find Dracula and destroy him before he gets all his points. If they succeed, they win as a team.

I've only played a few times, but it's a much more balanced game than it first appears. Every time I play with a new group of people there's some distrust that things are easier for Dracula than for the players. That only lasts for a while though and the hunters are usually able to locate him after several turns. Once that happens, it's much more difficult - but not impossible - for Dracula to disappear again. It takes a lot of skill and strategy to play either side.

One of the things I love most about it is that it doesn't matter how many people play or who plays which hunter. All four hunters are used regardless of if there's one person playing them all or several people working as a team. The game tells you that you can't have more than five players (one for Dracula and each hunter), but that's not true. You can have an unlimited number of folks on the hunters' side, putting their heads together to come up with the best strategy. And if someone has to leave the game - it does take a few hours to play - it's not a disruption to either bring in a replacement player or just have one of the other, current players take over that character in addition to her own. That flexibility is unique among strategy games. It's also a good training game for kids who are attracted to strategy games, but not that good at them yet (so long as the adult members of the team are patient and willing to teach).

Elsewhere... adventure never looked so good


Last weekend's Five for Friday assignment was to Name Five Favorite Projects/Books From Fantagraphics Not By Charles Schulz, Los Bros, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes Or Peter Bagge. I'm always glad to poke holes in the perception that Fantagraphics publishes nothing but impenetrably artsy comics for snobs. It's just not true. Here's my pick of five great adventure comics they've put out (after forgetting that they also used to publish Usagi Yojimbo).

1. Delphine, Richard Sala
2. Interiorae, Gabriella Giandelli
3. Black Hole, Charles Burns
4. Almost Silent, Jason
5. Castle Waiting, Linda Medley


And speaking of artful adventure comics, this week's Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs was about Sam Hiti's latest graphic novel, Death-Day, Part One.

Quote of the Week: You Listening, Nolan? know what I’d like to see Christopher Nolan name the third Batman movie? The Caped Crusader. That’d be pretty awesome, right? Yeah, I knew you’d agree.
--Mike Sterling

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coming Soon: Countdown to Halloween

I'm behind on my Internetting, so I don't have a lot to blog about today. Instead, I'm taking the day to get caught up and work ahead too. October's coming and I need a head start on this year's Countdown to Halloween. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How's Nikita working for you?

I wanted to give it a couple of weeks, but I still haven't made up my mind about Nikita yet.  I've dug Maggie Q since her appearance in the first season of Alias (and again in Mission: Impossible 3 and - oh yeah - Balls of Fury), so she's a plus. And my only experience with the source material is Point of No Return, so I don't have to wrestle with how faithful or not it is to that.


I've enjoyed watching Nikita try to take down Division and I like the way she's going about it: interfering with one mission at a time until Division gets a reputation for failure. That's a good story engine. It can drive the show for a long time without pretending each week like Division could fall any second now. There's also a nice balance so far between Nikita's orchestrating events Oracle-style from her hideout and showing up in the field at just the right time to kick some bootie.

I'm undecided about this whole Alex thing though. I think my unease about her is that I like her and I don't like seeing her in danger of getting found out every week. They did a nice job of presenting her as someone who needs protection in the pilot; maybe too good a job, though she seems better able to take care of herself in the second episode. Hopefully she'll reveal more toughness in the next couple of episodes and I can stop worrying about her. Though I suspect that I'll have a new reason to worry by then because they'll confirm that Nikita's the one who killed Alex's parents and there'll be the fall out from that to be concerned with. Which could be all good; I just haven't decided yet if I'm enjoying Alex's putting me on edge. I'll figure it out.

I also don't know about this Michael guy. Is it cool or lame that he thinks he can protect Division's agents from the inside? Is that a realistic goal? We're going to have to see some serious success in that area - and soon - or Michael will become a joke really fast.

I'm a little less confused about Percy. He knows a lot of secrets and that keeps him in power, but he comes off as a slimy weasel instead of menacing. I want to see Nikita take him down, but for the wrong reasons I think. If I'm going to stay interested, Percy's going to have to dial the threat level up a bunch.

What about you guys? Anyone watching it? Have you made up your mind yet?

Art Show: Come with me to the Casbah

The Swords of Shahrazar

By Michael W Kaluta. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Steam Queen

By Ted Naifeh.

Dame White

By Craig Wilson. [Art Jumble]

Black Canary

By John Bolton. [Stormantic]

By Evan "Doc" Shaner. This one's from my own collection. I bought it from him at SpringCon this year.

All I know about the cosplayer is that her name is Molly, that she's apparently a cat lady who's not afraid to talk about the effects of nail care on certain bodily functions, and that she gets quadruple points for the awesome, blue leggings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Land of the Lost: Season Three (Episode Four: Repairman)

Season One: Part One, Two, and Three.
Season Two: Part One and Two.
Season Three: Part One, Two, and Three. 

Episode 4: “Repairman”

The Sleestaks are still trying to figure out how to get rid of the Marshalls and come up with another plan, thanks again to the Library of Skulls. The Skulls tell them how to manipulate the Sun Pylon so that it creates solar flares and threatens to wipe out all life in the Valley.

Not realizing that the flares aren’t natural, the Marshalls hole up inside the temple and hope that they’ll soon pass. But when they run out of water, Jack has to go find some and discovers an odd, bow-tied English gentleman sitting in the jungle. He introduces himself as William Blandings and says that he’s been waiting for Jack. He evades Jack’s questions about where he comes from, but he’s able to find water in the ground with a crude divining rod he pulls from his valise.

Back at the temple, Blandings explains that he only has six hours to help fix the sun. He continues ignoring the Marshalls’ questions, explaining that “everyone has to answer to someone” and that he’s only permitted to reveal so much. He promises them however to be truthful, trustworthy, and as forthcoming as he’s allowed. As a show of good faith, he offers to get more refreshment for them and when Holly fantasizes about a chocolate malt, Blandings produces some from his bag.

Next, Blandings announces that he has to visit the Sleestaks as part of whatever protocol he’s supposed to follow. Jack refuses to let Blandings go alone and Blandings says that he’s grateful for the company. Blandings is able to protect them both from the flares with an air-conditioned umbrella and he’s also got an amulet that creates a protective force field and keeps them safe from Big Alice and the Sleestaks.

In the Lost City, Blandings goes straight to the Library of Skulls and finds the crystal the Sleestaks removed from the Sun Pylon to create the flares. Unfortunately, he accidentally drops and smashes his protective amulet and the Sleestaks capture him and throw him into the Pit. Jack’s able to escape, but he soon returns with Will and some homemade bombs made from swamp gas and water bags.

They rescue Blandings – who’s no worse for wear from spending time with the God of the Pit – and the three of them get away, repair the Sun Pylon, and close it off so that the Sleestaks can’t get in again. Then, exactly six hours after he first appeared, Blandings disappears.

It’s hard to know what to make of this episode. Does the reality of the first two seasons also have a repairman? If so, why didn’t he appear when Will and Holly screwed up the weather or when the Sun Pylon broke before and stopped the sun? He seems to serve a similar function to the Skylons, so is he just this reality’s version of them? If so, that’s a huge difference in the way this reality’s Valley operates. What else is different? Is there a Builder in this reality? Is that who Blandings answers to? Lots of questions; I don't expect we'll ever get answers to any of them.

Art Show: Too Many Dinosaurs!

The Great Fury

By Ken Kelly. [Illustrateurs]

Space Jungle Girl

By Gene Gonzales.

Jungle Girl

By J Scott Campbell. [Comic Art Community]


By Tom Fowler. [Comic Twart]

King of the Dinosaurs

By Michael Berenstain. Michael is the son of The Berenstain Bears' Stan and Jan, which is where I sort of got the title of this post. When David was younger, we read a lot of those books to him and noticed that Too Many... or Too Much... was a recurring title formula. It was usually followed by something awesome like TV, junk food, or action figures. I have a feeling that Mama would have found something to disapprove of about T-Rex too. (I'm mostly kidding. While Mama was sort of a buzzkill, we obviously liked those books or wouldn't have read so many of them. And there's evidence that perhaps Mama was tolerant of Brother's dinosaur obsession.) [Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs]

Wonder Woman meets Rima the Jungle Girl

[Shanna the She-Devil Blogger]

How was the Hawaii Five-O Pilot?

Well, I wasn't disappointed. How about you?

Probably some SPOILERS below.

I'd read that it started off too dark and I can see where that critic was coming from. It was jarring to go from the heavy emotion of the teaser sequence to the fun theme music. But that's one of only three glitches I found in the entire hour.

I loved the casting and not just the main stars. William Sadler (Die Hard 2) played McGarrett's dad, James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville) is the villain who kills him, and Jean Smart (Designing Women, Samantha Who?) is the governor who sets up a task force to bring Marsters (and others like him) to justice. Examined closely, the plot isn't anything special, but this wasn't a plot-driven episode. It was all about the characters and if the show stays that way, I'll be a happy viewer for a long long time.

Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin from The Shield and Moonlight) is appropriately gifted and cocky. A lot's been written about Jack Lord's real personality's spilling over to his version of the character, but that is what it is and McGarrett needs to be kind of a butthole now. But in this episode at least, there's a reason for his abrasiveness and O'Loughlin comes off as likable in spite of the darker aspects of his personality. It'll be interesting to see if he continues being so troubled or if - with the supposed resolution of the pilot (I didn't hear that they ever found the body, did you?) - he'll lighten up. Personally, I hope he stays troubled.

After the break: the rest of the cast and those glitches I mentioned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Night Tide (1961)

Dennis Hopper was sort of the Crispin Glover of his generation, wasn't he? I never realized it because he was already a respected, tenured actor by the time I showed up. I just figured that he happened to get (or at worst, like) weird parts. I never figured it was actually him making them weird. But he was only 25 when Night Tide came out and his role is a nice, young sailor. A normal guy who unfortunately falls for the wrong girl. At least, he looks normal on paper.

Actually, there's a little creepiness in the script. Johnny Drake's on shore leave in a little town on the coast of California when he meets Mora (Linda Lawson) in a beatnik coffee house. By "meets" I mean he sees her across the room, sits down uninvited at her table, bothers her by talking over the band she's clearly trying to enjoy, then follows her out the door and won't go home until she tells him where she lives and agrees to see him again. About the only point to his credit is that she doesn't leave because of him. She's spooked by a woman who enters the bar, gives Mora a threatening look, and then takes off again. But still, Drake's game needs a lot of work.

Once Mora decides he's okay though, he becomes a pretty decent guy. And if Hopper had played it a bit differently, he wouldn't have come across as desperately lonely and intense as he does. That performance lasts the entire movie too, so that Drake always seems a bit unhinged. His decency comes from the script's not allowing him to kill anyone.

It's not so kind to other characters though because this is a horror movie. Mora works as a sideshow mermaid on the boardwalk, but there's some question about whether or not that's just an act. As some of the locals tell Drake, Mora's last two boyfriends ended up drowned under mysterious circumstances. Some think that Mora believes she really is a mermaid - the siren variety who lures men to their watery doom. And the woman from the coffee shop may just be another siren, here to bring Mora back home to the island from which she was rescued as a girl.

I've fallen in love with low-budget, black-and-white horror movies from the '60s. Though Night Tide was written and directed by Curtis Harrington (adapted from his own short story, "The Call of the Sea"), there's a Roger Corman quality about it. The horror is mostly psychological with few special effects. And what effects it has are charmingly cheesy. It's a weird, pleasantly unsettling film with an interesting mystery and a strange, but likable main character to unravel it.

Three out of five mermaids.

Art Show: Ape and Human United Against Mutated (and Tentacled) Monsters

Captain May

By Grant Gould.

By Jessica Hickman. At some point I asked Grant and Jess to draw me as a pirate. I can't believe I've never shared these before.

Too Heavy to Fly

By Jeremy Vanhoozer.

After the break: giant fish, Planet of the Squid, merpirates, and DC's undersea heroines


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top 5 Scary Comics Adaptations

My buddy Ken's been thinking lately about superhero movie adaptations that would make him nervous and sent me an email wondering about my thoughts on it. I asked him if I could use the question as blog-food and he said, "Sure!" So here are the Top Five superhero comics that I'd be most skittish about getting made into movies. I would've guessed that it would be a similar list to my Top Five Favorite Superheroes, but that didn't end up being the case. Shang Chi, for instance, ought to be very easy to get right and I wouldn't be scared until I heard that Michael Bay was the director.

5. The Defenders

There are several team movies that I'd be really nervous about. I'm both excited and worried about The Avengers in equal measure, but I feel like there's a plan for that and - so far - it sounds like a good one. But when I think of everything that could go wrong with a Justice League movie for example, I lose my desire to ever see one. Same goes for other teams I like even more than the JLA, like the Champions and especially the Defenders.

My main concern is the difficulty of balancing that many characters in a two-hour movie. When I think of how convoluted and awful the '90s Batman movies became or Spider-Man 3 was, I cringe. The first couple of X-Men movies were okay though, so I know it can be done. It would just need a very talented writer to get it right.

4. Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD

This one's in the works and yes, I'm nervous. I love Samuel L Jackson and have no problem with him as Nick Fury, but I'm afraid that the force of his personality is going to overwhelm the groovy, '60s spy feel that I want a great Nick Fury movie to have.

3. Wonder Woman

I wouldn't have thought that this would be that hard to get right, but Joss Whedon's proposed treatment of a young Amazon girl finding her identity in Man's World made me realize how wrong someone can get this character. I was encouraged when Hollywood ultimately rejected Whedon's take, but I'll still be nervous until the right one is approved.

2. Aquaman

DC hasn't shown yet that they've figured out what to do with Aquaman, so how can I expect Hollywood to? DC's obviously working on it though; they just haven't revealed their full strategy yet. I'm hoping they've got it unlocked and can pass that knowledge on to a movie production, but the decades of history working against them aren't encouraging.

1. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange has the potential to be one of my favorite characters, but he isn't. I've yet to read the story that perfectly balances his occult concept with his role as a superhero. Both are needed or he isn't Doctor Strange. If you go too far in one direction, he's just Harry Dresden in an outlandish costume. Too far the other direction and he's just a superhero who gets his powers from magic. Find the balance and he's spooky and cool, but that's going to be tough to do in any medium.

So what superheroes would you be nervous to see adapted for film?


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