Sunday, June 27, 2004

Videogamer wish fullfillment

Watched a relic of the 80's film Saturday with my dad. It was an unexpected find for my dad when he bought it on noticing the "Collector's Edition" label on the DVD, though bootleg it is. The movie in question is The Last Starfighter.

The awesome looking Gunstar of Rylosian Design, a CG experiment using a Cray Supercomputer for its rendering

The premise of the movie was straightforward and kinda thin, a teenage boy who wanted to leave behind his dull trailer park roots when he graduates high schools gets his hopes dashed but keeps seeking his solace in playing the Starfighter arcade game. Unknowingly, the game happens to be a so-called Excalibrate Test conducted by the game's creator, who happens to be a intergalactic con-artist, Centauri.

Centauri goes about convincing Alex Rogan into the joining the ranks of other starfighters to defend the Frontier from Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. Alex was bewildered and confused with this reality presented to him and opted to go home. Alex subsequently changed his mind after a brush in with a Zando-Zan Intergalactic hitbeast, courtesy of Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. Seeing Centauri hurt and prompted by his android stand-in, he returns back to a devastated Gunstar base brought about by Xur's treachery and terrorism. Alex is now teamed up with the remaining navigator to pilot the only operational Gunstar to bring the fight to the Ko-Dan Armada at the Frontier's edge. Alex's Beta Unit stand-in had to keep alert for further assasination attempts on Earth.

Navigator Grig explained to Alex that this prototype Gunstar is slightly different in certain performance respects as well as the inclusion of one particular weapon system yet to be tested. The weapon system in question would be used to full effect for one scene.

Alex, having gotten his fear and performance anxiety out of the way, puts up a good fight on knocking out the communications turret on the command ship to cripple the deck fighters' communications. After sniping away at a couple of deck fighters in some passes, the Gunstar gets really surrounded by the enemy. This is where the best part of the movies shows, *drum roll.* the use of the untested weapon system.

The weapon system in question is called the Death Blossom. As I recall from the dialogue and from the novelization of the movie, the Death Blossom basically allows 60 seconds of overfiring all the weapons available on the Gunstar. Of course, the opening of 4 hatches or petals as it was called, brings in additional weapon arrays and launcher to fling energy beams and ordinance into the fray. Its a visually impressive scene to see the Gunstar gyrate gyroscopically in place while shooting off missiles and energy beams to obliterate the huddled mass of fighters in its firing globe.

Gunstar, though close to nil power, was able to outmanuever the command ship and take a few potshots before the command ship meet its end with a collision course with a moon.

The movie rounds up all in all with Alex being awarded for his bravery and faced with the prospect of teaching a new generation of Starfighters to rebuild the Starfighter Legion. Alex of course, opted to pick up someone back on Earth and say his goodbyes before undertaking the position. He gets to go back to Rylos with his girlfriend and then end credits.

The movie was ground-breaking as it raised the bar more in terms of CG effects with reference to an earlier CG heavy movie, Tron. The Gunstar in question was created as a set of blueprints and subsequently scanned into a CG model using a Cray Supercomputer to do all the animation work and such. This also covers for the other CG objects in the film. The story regarding the CG production called for is located here.

Tron was more of foreshadowing to the cyberpunk genre as compared to Last Starfighter which is a wish fullfillment for a videogamer. I mean this movie has enough allure to the teenager in us to have such a fantasy happen in such wild circumstance. I mean how cool it was then to go to the stars because of your great adeptness with a videogame you play?

I'll review another old 80's movie soonest when I have time.

*Bleeps and other digital sounds emanate from the doghouse.*

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Memories of a Glaive...

The mention of the the word, glaive, would bring some familiar memories of those who watched this movie back in the 1983 and besides the more correct term known by D&D enthusiasts and fans of medieval weaponry and armor. The movie I speak of is Krull.

The movie was rather maligned by current generation movies fans and those of the jaded set. In spite the negative criticism about it, I enjoyed the movie when I saw it the first time.

It was a British-made movie and it was made in a time before such excessive innovations we know now as CGI. The SFX had to be done the hand-crafted way and the old camera tricks. It was a very good effort in terms of production though admirable and small compared to the current kind of productions major budgets are shelled out.

The story in Krull is rather simple and derivative. A Prince and Princess of two separate kingdoms were to wed but Princess is abducted by the Beast, who resides in a fortress that moves from place to place after every sunset. Prince Colwyn has to go about the quest of obtaining the mythical weapon called the Glaive to aid in his quest of rescuing the Princess Lyssa. Colwyn later acquires quest companions Ynyr, Ergo The Magnificent, Rell The Cyclops and others before they finally set upon the Beast's fortress.

Opposition presented to the band of adventurers come in the form of the Beast's soldiers called Slayers and changeling assasins. The Slayers are rather impressive cannon fodder to see in film and makes quite an impressive to one such as me when I was young. Slayers are equipped with cool weapons which fire laser bolts and easily turned over into hand blades they wield for CQB (Close quarter battle) encounters. It was cool to see them fire those laser bolts and wall crawl the castle walls in their raid scene. Of course, the D&D geek in me would place such a weapon as a combination of +1 /+2 blade with an integrated wand of magic missiles in it.

Changeling assasins in one segment of the movie have a good suspenseful touch especially how one was able to kill one party member and so close to killing Colwyn.

A good scene in there has to do with how Ynyr had to seek aid from the Widow of The Web. It has a large crystal spider that accosts those that trespass its web or one who has given up the mantle of being Widow of The Web.

The closely visually impressive scene with SFX is the firemares scene. The group has to make use of firemares to reach the Beast's fortress in time of sunset before it moves again. It was rather spectactular to see though it can be better down with current generation SFX tech.

The movie is a cult classic to a number of people who fondly remembered seeing it. The movie was maligned as a copycat of Star Wars in terms of certain elements. Added further comparison injury is the recent appearance of the Lord Of The Rings movies. Krull is a movie that incorporates sci-fi and fantasy elements into one film. The other thing is its a very poor way of judging a lot of fantasy movies from then to now since they follow a number of fantasy elements and followed archetypes and similiar frameworks known in all fantasy literature.

I am very much looking forward to Krull again on borrowing the VHS copy from my bro when I have the chance.

*Looks proudly at the Glaive mounted on his doghouse's wall.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Sick over the weekend and other strangeness...

Seems to me I'm not the only who got hit by some manner of illness or other.

Started out Thursday for me with a bad round of sneezing spells. It compounded further by Friday when it definitely triggered an onset of asthma and also a brief bout of fever. Luckily it was actually a slight one I got. Saturday, I still felt lousy with asthma but the fever is gone. Sunday, all I got left to contend with is coughing and some sticky phlegm in my throat.

The strangeness part that occured through this happened in the early morning of Saturday. Given its a tricky business for a bit to get a good position to sleep with asthma, I have to shift and change every couple of minutes to keep comfortable. A little turnning and moving of position in bed happens. I was starting to hear voices in my head as I do some of these sleeping position changes that point in time. At the start, the voices were indistinct but after a while longer the voices clear enough to be intelligible. They just speak out of entreaties to me of comfort as I shift into a different position to gain some comfort to rest. But a little later after that, the voices were debating as to having some top position among them. I somehow isolate the voices coming my respective directions on my person. That is my head is North, feet is South and so forth. After a while of deliberating from 4 directions from myself, center, east,west and south, they agreed on doing something else to do. East and West is always in agreement and working together. South was more bolder than Center. As to what they agreed upon on doing, it was pretty much a grim topic, something to do with humanity. I can chalk up the topic came about from reading issue 12 of Global Frequency by Warren Ellis.

The craziness that happened on Saturday has to do more with the old TV in my room not turning on. My dad tried to have it fixed but it seems that the potential cost of repairing its power supply is beyond the stated limit he quoted to the repair guy. So my dad bought a new TV for my room. Added crazy quirk was that the VCR ended up a smoking black box since my dad plugged it into the wrong outlet since my dad was puzzled with the plug layout under the desk here in my room and we forgot that the VCR runs on 110V as compared to the other items plugged in are at 220V. Good thing a capacitor burned out and no further damage happened to it. The VCR fiasco cost my time of watching the 2004 MTV Movie Awards but I'll try to catch it again on the rerun within the following days when I catch it.

I hope my weekend turns out a lot better than this one. Next time.

*Rests a bit easier in climate-controlled shelter of his doghouse.*

Friday, June 11, 2004

Too Much Reality...

Been watching my decent fill of TV shows back in Seattle in 2001-2002. Most of it attributed to Cable TV, basic package or otherwise. By around 2002, I started to notice something about some of the shows offered on the major channels. Its the slew of "reality" shows I have come across since the passing mention of it from reading my brother's zentertainment email though zentertainment is no more.

I have never yet watched the well-liked "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey, but it appears more prevalent now that most shows would follow such a format. Whether it be a date that clicks or not, an exploration and confrontation of one's fears and moreso which deserving talent stays or not by high-standard judges in the entertainment industry or by the number of votes phoned in, the truth has been apparent: The viewers of early 2000 TV are hooked on so-called Reality TV.

No aspect of everyday living is considered spared from the gaze of public fascination through the lens of the video camera. Whether they be mundane domestic concerns in any setting or in controlled enviroments the cameras takes in the interaction and scenery within reason of one's privacy allowed. Moreso that it harkens the sci-fi idea of a society under close surveillance 24-7/12-365 by an omnipresent government. Its kinda like Big Brother meets the Matrix in a way.

The US started churning these shows given that the viewers are out looking for the new thing since everything else is "been there, done that". It was just a unexpected stroke of success they have doing these shows that are like looking into a fish bowl, a hamster cage or an ant farm. Its like a more involving version of a documentary that's more dynamic than its clinical treatment done on the subject matter. People would see emotions, the snide remarks, the whole enchilada if possible within the standards of decency or not.

Such explorations with "reality tv" have been done to a lot of effect in sci-fi and other milieus in terms of parody or a social commentary.
I mean the stuff so far we have at present are pretty tame and safe currently but what about when shows later on show real suffering and violence like televising the hunt of a convict-contestant where his/her price is freedom and some other rewards. The catch is that the contestant is pursued by hunters of all stripes to indulge their skills and bloodlust. This premise was used in some sci-fi books, videogames and while back in the Arnold-starrer "Running Man".

I guess entertainment have gone through both range of the spectrums from "virtual" to now at "reality", though virtual shows are not fully realized yet but the leaps in technology would allow it happen soon. Reminds me much of Max Headroom and the many virtual idols made in Europe and Japan. Very much a reminder of Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson of Neuromancer fame.

I just hope that the state of entertainment doesn't spiral down on account of looking for the next big thing to catch the viewers' attention. *Turns off the TV in the doghouse.*

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Fascination with Horror

My fascination with some of these zombie flicks stems out of the initial impression of fear I have when I was young on seeing their trailers back then for any horror movie or moreso with gruesome effects. I built up some tolerance for it now given how my bizarre fascination on hearing the wild and fantastic stories connected to the horror genre, within a certain level of tolerance.

Some books helped me along with that as well as plus the mystique and fascination brought in by the Cthulhu stories. What got me drawn further in was the emergence of these "survivor-horror" games on the PS1, especially the mention of Silent Hill and Resident Evil series though I played the RE series in reverse due to thesequence of procurement at the time.

I guess the steady viewing of those episodes from Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales From The Dark Side built up my tolerance slightly. Those shows that deal with the unknown also added it further: X-Files and Psi-Factor pretty much adds it in further until it makes me sure I'm ready, whether it scares me crazy or not. Of course, my fear of ghosts kinda sticks since I got unsettled by this joke pic about 2 years ago.

Ghost stories or movies pretty much put me on edge after watching such. I guess some movies would have an impact on you and gets known by your friends to be used for certain effect. Ghosts and associated wraith-like entities like in the category of Sadako from Ringu or those in Fatal Frame 1 and 2 scare the daylights out of me while doll or mannequins unsettles me less than the earlier mentioned ghosts.

My dad now tells me I have to stay away from such things since it was sticking into my head and freaks me out at times, moreso when my niece would exploit that fact to get even with me. She does here impression of Sadako at times and given how the stereotype of evil children sticks in most minds of people, it kinda heightens the edge of fear with it.

Sometimes my mind would play tricks in my mind given my prior exposure to PS1 games Silent Hill, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and the Hellraiser-esque RPG Kult. It makes me see a brief scene playing in my head at times that draws on previous exposure and things familiar to me from everyday things.

Enough on the thoughts of scary for now. Onto other topics next time. *Closes the door to the doghouse with a brief lookaround of caution.*

Remake of The Dead

Just got back earlier from watching 2004 remake Dawn of The Dead. It was quiet a shock of a viewing experience for me. It was just as unsettling when I watched before 28 Days Later a few months ago.

It seems to me that the current generation of zombies now in movies are the fast moving variety with the standard lethargic gait in non-chase mode. Its still a given that zombies sense and home in onto live normal humans for them to feed and further the spread. Kinda reminds that attribute point aspect from All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG, "one bite and you're hooked".

The movie gets into the thick of the zombie menace as the first 10 minutes would put it. Just compared to the 1978 version, the
DOTD happens to be a remake of the 1978 version done by George Romero. The version back then was a social satire about the commericialism aspect of society in the US. It was loosely retained but seems to more on the matter and realities of survival with such a gruesome scenario to happen in anywhere, anycountry.

The movie was rather much also the depiction of the human condition when faced with survival issues of such bizarre magnitude. At least a part of the movie relieves a bit of tension and gloom that pervade the earlier part of the movie. It just boggles any sane viewer as to the matter of figuring a plan of reinforcing a pair of mall shuttles with aluminum siding, barbed wire and some other add-ons which pretty much harkens back to the improvisation days of The A-Team and Macgyver.
Of course with the human condition matter brought up, the slightly off-tangent matter has to do with the dog (Yay for Chips the dog!!! ^_^) in the movie. Its current master goes into the thick of the deadheads in the streets to attempt a rescue of the trapped canine that prompts 5 men to go in bail her and the dog out with one casualty. It also upped the timetable for their departure since the inevitable overrun occurred.

In this case for a horror movie, the ending didn't turn out so cheery, especially if one sits through the ending credits. It was just an open-ended yet grim outlook given overrun with zombies where humans used to be living normal lives.

Makes one think: If such a thing happened here and you made it out of your home in one piece, which mall would you go? With whom for that matter?

Unexpected thought provoked eh? I'll tackle a similiar matter on my next post. *Secures the doghouse and loads up his guns.*

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Horrible Stuff

A bit delayed as usual for me to post a new entry for this blog. Without further ado, here goes.

I have never got into writing an entry that relates about something negative. What I have stumbled on made me think otherwise.

It all started by a search engine query for homebrew paper-and-pencil RPGs (Role-Playing Games and not the explosive ranged munitions used by rebels and other known military milieu.) I skimmed through the search result and encountered mention of this review here(*Blog writer's warning: Clicking the tubgirl link on that page would lead you to a very disgusting picture, its very disgusting for me not to elaborate.*)

The earlier search through the results page also mentioned another badly done RPG called Senzar. I recalled immediately purchasing such a book at CQ Megamall many years ago. It basically gathering dust in my cabinet. In retrospect I never realized that I'm among those of the morbid curious. What's to expect with spare cash on hand and taking a chance?

One of the loudly argued RPGs that is categorized with the bad kind of RPGs is Rifts by Palladium Books. The complaint directed at it was the derivative rules akin to early edition AD&D, 2-3 decades prior to this Microsoftesque RPG system called D20. Rifts was also considered to a munchkin/powergamer's playground given the multitude of characters classes and moreso the "kewl" powers/abilities and the massive toybox to use, especially when you have a small library comprised of the many sourcebooks and worldbooks that contain the extra stuff.

I take a step back at reading mention of this accusation of munchkinism and powergaming. Munchkinism(Earlier known as Monty Haul Campaigns.) was more relating to overpowered and unbalanced gaming style done by the problem player or players that give the poor GM a major headache which problem sets his story off the rails or a merciful suicide shot to the head in a manner of speaking. I just say that I may be lumped in with such but its basically the GM's ability of rectify any random situation as best he can within reason or more so with deviousness to fix the problem. Powergaming is basically a phase of later matured and responsible gamers go through while under the misguided notion that the amount of freedom presented with a whole lot of power is fleeting and an illusionary crutch in the long run.

Now onto this nasty piece of work, Fatal. Like the title of the game says, it reads pretty....repugnant for the more intellectual and sensible of gamers. I read the reviews and cringed as to how poorly constructed and represented the games concepts and ideas go. I braved through the 20 Mb. download to see it for myself and its a shocker. Its a very misogynist game about hack-and-slash, poor use of historical and philosophical info, oozing with promise of graphic sex and other horrible things. I mean for Pete's sake, there is a character stat pertaining to how long and thick a male character's manhood is as well in the case of the females, size of the breast and width of the female orifice and how deep it is. Pretty racy stuff to say. This is definitely one game to keep away from young gamers for sure and moreso from impressionable gamers of whatever ages. This game is really bad that it can give RPGs a bad rep since those earlier inquisitions about RPGs back in the early 80's.

That's all for now on this post. I better sanitize the area from all this putrid stuff. *Puts on a Reinforced Hazmat suit and goes about sanitizing the area with really strong chemicals and radiation.*