Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

Jupiter Ascending is just Fabulous

May 28th, 2015

Jupiter Ascending was, in a word, Fabulous. In two words it was Absolutely Fabulous.

My slightly longer review is that I think I understand why reviewers aren’t liking it much: because they don’t understand that it is the film version of a Space Opera roleplaying campaign.  I don’t know WHY they were expecting something else, let alone WHAT that was.  But when you consider other space opera includes Star Trek, Flash Gordon, Star Wars and even The Fifth Element (which is also fabulous but quite nonsensical most of the time) – none of this has great dialogue, all have over the top characters and action scenes, and most are episodic in various ways.

Here are my thoughts and comments from a few different blogs and sites over the past two months, put together in one spot and (hopefully) a little more coherent.  I saw it with Dave and we both came out of it wondering why people keep complaining about the crazy plot. It was obviously a movie that was supposed to be lighthearted and funny and not take itself too seriously. The actors were in on the joke, but it seems a lot of the critics didn’t get it. Maybe they were wanting a dark and gritty Matrix clone. But it is Space Opera! Not Cyberpunk.

The is The Wachowskis Do Space Opera. And they did it brilliantly. I loved that Jupiter decided to save the earth instead of her family. I love that she spent the whole movie hitting on Cane while he tried to be restrained. I loved that – unlike most sci fi movies – the female lead was fully dressed the whole time. In the gamut from Barbarella to Lilu Dallas, I can’t really recall a time when that happened before.  And the romance was great – tbh I find space opera is all romance, whether of a regency or a planetary kind. I’m good with that, it is one of the reasons I love the genre.

I can only guess that most of the reviewers who keep going on about the cra-cra plot aren’t that familiar with space opera, including the various roleplaying games and computer roleplaying games. It was there by the truckload, and tbh one of the best renditions I have seen.  I just don’t get what other people were expecting from a space opera movie no matter who made it.

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Theatre review: Les Misérables (Sydney)

May 18th, 2015

Dave and I went to see the new Sydney production of this show recently – he has never seen it on stage before, although he has of course seen the musical version movie.  On the other hand I have seen it at least 6 times before on stage (it may be 7, I lost count), including several previous productions / casts.  Original Australian production (1989 Sydney cast, both versions), original Broadway production (in 1991), 10th anniversary Australian Production (1997), plus very familiar with the International soundtrack which blends cast members from around the world.

Do you hear the people sing?

Do you hear the people sing?

Overall, I am torn about this new production.  The music was good (ie the orchestra).  I thought the new set design, incorporating digital images in place of the revolving stage was good – although there were definitely times when I missed the revolving stage.  The stage direction seemed to make a lot of changes that were borrowed from the film version.  I guess that was ok – although the prologue in the warship rather than in the mining colony was imo unnecessary.  Not only was it a change from the story, it then negated how Valjean was able to set up in business mining the same material.

But oh my – the individual performances?  Incredibly disappointing.  The review in The Australian said that the cast has no show stealers, that “cast members don’t impose their personalities on their roles. Rather, they channel them.”  I feel that is giving most of them too much credit to be honest.  Some of them felt like ghastly caricatures, and were painful to watch – and listen too.  Also while the overall sound of the ensemble was really good, there was another issue – everyone was fast, way ahead of the music.  Not just the ensemble, but soloists too.

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TV Review: House of Cards

July 28th, 2013

One of my all-time favourite tv adaptations is House of Cards with Ian Richardson and Susannah Harker.  It was a 4-part BBC mini series based on a novel by Michael Dobbs, although the ending was quite significantly changed.  Dobbs then wrote two subsequent books based on the ending that the mini series created.  The series was just pure political perfection.  Exquisite story, superb performances, subtle and understated in that magnificent way that only the British can do.

And then I heard that there was going to be an American remake, by Netflix not a tv network.  On the one hand, every part of me is kind of screaming  NOOOOO!!! inside, for many reasons.  But on the other hand, one of my favourite actors, Kevin Spacey, is going to take on the role that Ian Richardson played.  He will be Francis (Frank) Underwood instead of Sir Francis Urquhart, a Congressman from South Carolina instead of the youngest son of an Earl.

We saw the pilot a few months ago.  I did like it with some reservations, but we didn’t have any of the other episodes so it was hard to fully judge.  But now we have the whole of season one on Blu-Ray (13 episodes), and are starting from the beginning.

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Some thoughts on Mass Effect 3

October 29th, 2012

I am currently doing my second play through of this game, with my original Shepherd character that has been with me since the original Mass Effect game.  She is a Sentinel class, and has been used for 2 playthroughs of ME, ME2 and now ME3 (some achievements can only be unlocked with a second playthrough of the same character).

I’ll switch to my Soldier at some point and take the more renegade path choices that I am yet to explore.  And I am trying to do somethings differently on this playthrough.  But there are somethings that my Sentinel can’t and won’t do.  I don’t mean that she is  not capable of these things – the decision tree options are there – but my Sentinel is mostly paragon with a chunk of renegade.  She has been pro-AI, pro-krogan redemption, pro-rachni, pro-sapient species working together for 3 games.  My soldier is the one who let the Council die and collaborated with the Illusive Man, but my Sentinel Shepherd would never do that.

Which brings me to the Tuchunka sequence.  I have to say that this is probably the best storytelling in the game, and up there with the best I have ever experienced in a CRPG.  The choices involved go back to the first game – whether you shot Wrex or not.  Then there was the choices in the second game, including if you saved the female krogan and kept the research for the genophage cure for the krogan or destroyed it.  And this time, it was about curing the genophage and gaining the support of the krogan, or sabotaging it and getting the support of the Salarian.

In the middle of this is Wrex – the squadmate from ME turned Krogan leader in game 2, who was an interplanetary war leader in game 3.  Pretty much THE war leader.  Well if you didn’t shoot him in the first game.  If you did that is too bad, you are dealing with his untrustworthy brother instead (and that is a different scenarion in itself).  Plus there is the Salarian Scientist Mordin, a squadmate from ME2 who is one of the most interesting and nuanced characters in the series (likewise Thane, but he only makes a brief appearance in ME3).

The thing about the Tuchunka priority mission is there really is no right or wrong decision.  It is about the moral decision that your character would make (or I guess if you play that way, the one that gets you the most war assets).   There is the obviously paragon option which is just moving and brings me to tears to watch.  There is the renegade option, but it is only available if certain steps have or have not been taken.  And there is the Machiavellian option which gets the most war assets but causes Shepard to act in a way my Sentinel would not behave and would cause her to deliberately bring about the death of a friend and companion.  I think I could do it with my Soldier, she is full renegade and very self interested.  But not with the character I am playing now.

That might seem odd to people – it is just pixels on a screen and how can a decision effect the way a character is played?  Well this game is all about the choices made and the long term effects.  To me that is important, one of the things that appeals to me about the game.  Actions have consequences, and after wars are won and the major players go home, the little people still have to live there and deal with the consequences of those actions and decisions.  And I am the one making the decisions here, I don’t make them lightly.  I do want to explore how the game plays out in different ways, but I think I will have to do it with another character.

And so, in honour of a great storyline, fantastic character acting, and some of the best crpg characters I have come across, here is Mordin’s song:

I am the very model of a scientist Salarian!
I’ve studied species, Turian, Asari, and Batarian.
I’m quite good at genetics (as a subset of biology),
because I am an expert (which I know is a tautology).

My xenoscience studies range from urban to agrarian –
I am the very model of a scientist Salarian!

It had to be him, someone else might have got it wrong.  And he Held the Line.  Mordin and Wrex both rock.

I hope to do a review of other parts of the game at some point, but as this is pretty much my favourite part of it I wanted to write about it now.  This is what good writing for gaming can be like.  I wish there was more of it.

A Pliocene / Intervention / Galactic Milieu reflection

September 21st, 2012

Seeing as The Great Intervention is nearly upon us (due next year in fact), I am doing a reread of the Julian May books – Saga of the Exiles, Intervention and the Galactic Milieu trilogy.

For those who like their stories on a grand scale with a lot of philosophy, Jungian archetypes, history, pseudo history (which, because it is in the future, hasn’t actually happened yet), religion, and a good dose of literary references thrown in, this is a good series to get your teeth into.

Part sci fi, part fantasy (particularly the Exiles books) there is a bit of something for everyone – and the writing does get better as the series progresses.  I find the series quite good to start with, and even more enjoyable once Uncle Rogi becomes the narrator from Intervention onwards.  The scope is a looping time-travel sequence that covers millions of years, and the start is the middle is the end kind of thing.

I actually read an interview with May online that was posted some years back, and I was looking for it again.  I haven’t seen it, no doubt long gone.  In the interview she mentioned that she actually wrote the Galactic Milieu books first, and submitted them but they were rejected by publishers.  So she then wrote all four books of the Saga of the Exiles in the space of about 3 months, and used the background from the Galactic Milieu books she had already written – the metapsychic rebellion, the Remillards, the Intervention etc.  However by using the time travel motif she was then able to create a kind of sci fi version in a fantastical earth of ancient myths.  They proved to be a hugely popular success, and then she was able to rework the Galactic Milieu books (and I suspect added not just Intervention but also Uncle Rogi at that point) before getting them published.

Anyway as I searched around hoping to find this old interview, I found a fan site of the series that I though had a lovely summary of what the entire sequence is about:

  1. An unpardonable and heinous sin.
  2. A great Intervention; and,
  3. A remarkable Atonement.

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Game Review: Fallout New Vegas

July 18th, 2011

I have put off writing this review for a while, because I really wasn’t sure what to say.  I loved Fallout 3  so much and spent hundreds of hours playing the main game and all 5 expansions as they came out.

So I was really looking forward to Fallout New Vegas when I heard about it, and was intrigued by the  idea behind the new setting, an area that was not directly attacked during the war two centuries earlier.  I tried really hard to get the Collectors Edition, as I regretted being unable to find it for Fallout 3 (I still would like a Vault Boy bobblehead!), but was unable to locate the version I wanted anywhere in Australia.  I even held off buying it when it was first released in case I came across the Collectors Edition online or somewhere local.  But eventually I gave in a purchased the normal game, doing without the Lucky 38 Platinum chip replica, the deck of cards with characters from the game, and so on.

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Game Review: Lord of the Rings Online (Part 1)

January 21st, 2011

I have never been interested in Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games in the past, I’ve had a bit of a look at some of them and there was no appeal.  But the Star Wars game Old Republic has been in works for a while now, and I was kind of interested in that, and wondering if my laptop would be able to run it.

And then a gaming friend introduced me to Lord of the Rings online (LotRo).  One of my all time favourite settings, and the chance to be part of the story.  I was able to pick up a cheap copy of the initial game, Shadows of Angmar, and then had to do a 35,000 file update overnight.  But the next day I was ready to go, and it was with great excitement – and quite a bit of trepidation – that I logged in for the first time and started to use my free one month trial.

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Movie review: The Lovely Bones

April 7th, 2010

We saw this movie in January.  I knew it was a murder mystery, and based on a book, but not much more than that going in.

The movie was set in the early 70s, and the overall visuals had a lovely warm, yellowish colour, like an aged photograph.  Given the narrator’s love of photography, I’m sure this was quite a deliberate effect.  There also wasn’t much mystery for the viewers, as we got to see what happened to Susie Salmon early on.  Therefore it was more a family drama about how those left behind dealt with her absence and not knowing what happened.

Visually the movie was really good.  The performances were all excellent.  Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg were great as the Salmon parents; Stanley Tucci was justifiably nominated for an academy award for his role as the antagonist, and Susan Sarandon stole every scene she was in as the alcoholic grandmother.

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Movie review: Avatar

April 6th, 2010

I saw this on Boxing day and have been meaning to write something but couldn’t be bothered.  It has pretty much been said, but just in case my opinion is required:

– very pretty to look at

– shit boring script, being ‘Heroes Journey, ‘Dances With Wolves’ variation

– Sam Worthing still has the acting talent of a plank of wood.

I spent most of the movie admiring the luminous biosphere and trying to work out what was feasible, but of course I have no idea.  The 3D effect gave me a migraine, and Daedalist is unable to see in 3D anyway so we were not fans of that.

I can’t be bothered writing more than that, but happy to discuss further if anyone actually cares.

Series review: Ultraviolet

October 26th, 2009

This is a classic BBC miniseries from 1998.  I had seen the first two episodes when it originally screened, but never seen the whole series.  Dave had not seen it at all, so when I discovered a friend had the series on DVD, I thought it would be great to watch the whole thing (thanks Keat!).

Ultraviolet is only 6 episodes long, each fully self contained.  It revolves around Michael Colefield (Jack Davenport), a Detective Sergeant, whose best friend goes missing the night before his wedding.  It leads to his involvement with a secret government department – with ambigulous ties to the Catholic Church – that investigates people who are no longer exactly people.

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