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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Rare Earth: Sengakuji - Where They Buried The Soul Of Japan...




The first instalment of a new online series, Rare Earth, documenting "the stories that aren't being told, but deserve to be seen", from "the chemical weapons of the Uzbek Aral Sea to the Buddhist untouchables of Japan".
"The first thing we wanted to focus on in Japan is found at Sengakuji, a temple in the south of Tokyo whose graveyard harbours a very important story: the 47 Ronin. In many ways, it is the foundational legend of Japan. If nothing else, it is a testament to sustaining one's duty in the face of hardship, illegality, and fear."

Friday, 26 May 2017

DVD Of The Week: Jupiter Ascending (2014)


Never listen to film critics! I was all poised to pick Jupiter Ascending up when it came out on Blu-Ray, but when the movie was released it was met with a tide of scathing reviews that made me reconsider my investment.

I finally purchased it the other week (admittedly a lot cheaper than on its original release) and discovered that the critics had been unnecessarily harsh on it.

Written and directed by the Wachowskis, I can see that Jupiter Ascending might be an acquired taste, with its shifting tones and episodic nature this is space opera with a heavy dose of fairy tale.

But it was a taste I very quickly acquired.

Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, the daughter of a Russian refugee, working in her impoverished family's cleaning business, who finds herself drawn into the grand machinations of a feuding family of super-rich extraterrestrial nobles fighting over the ownership of Earth.

Grand ideas, beautifully-realised alien races, starships, space stations etc all provide the backdrop for the fairy tale romance between the "princess" (Jupiter Jones) and "huntsman" (satyr-like Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum) on their picaresque journey through this 'new' universe, like a spin on The Odyssey mixed in with a large serving of Ancient Aliens.

The layered script bombards its audience with brilliant ideas; as well as learning the true history of the human race, the film throws out explanations for crop circles, the importance of bees, and much more.

Each of the three alien sibling nobles tries to court Jupiter in their own segment of the story. This is interwoven with other sub-plots such as the Brazil-like stop at a bureaucratic space-station where Jupiter is put through an ordeal by red tape to claim her rightful inheritance (this sequence even features, rather knowingly, a cameo by Terry Gilliam).

Accentuating the alienness of the humanoid antagonists, there is a lot of very mannered delivery - such as Eddie Redmayne's whispering turn as the main villain of the piece, Balem Abrasax - but I loved it, simply because it was so odd.

Jupiter Ascending is weird and wonderful, overflowing with innovation, and highly stylised in a manner very akin to that found in the two Guardians Of The Galaxy movies (although, admittedly, darker and without the constant flow of humour).

I'd hoped I would - finally - like this film once I got to see it, I just didn't expect it to speak to me as it did, touching on so many concepts I love to have rattling round in my head as fodder for my gaming.

Even the denouement, which I initially found a bit peculiar given everything that had gone before, I eventually realised was simply adopting a well-worn comic book trope of the superhero's secret identity (this was Superman putting on the glasses and returning to his life as Clark Kent, the mild manner reporter).

The main fault I found with the film was a technical one - because of the huge variation in sound levels, between some of the dialogue and the bombastic effects, I kept having to reach for the volume control, alternating between ensuring I could hear what was going on and not annoying the neighbours too much with the sounds of massive space battles.

Faith Headlines Her Own Time-Travel Tale...


In my new-found love affair with Valiant Comics, one of the characters that has really stood out for me is the good-hearted geek Faith Herbert aka Zephyr.

I've been catching up on her exploits in her on-going title, but was delighted to hear she's also getting a self-contained, time travel-fuelled, mini-series, Faith And The Future Force.

This story kicks off in July and you can read more about it on the Valiant website here.

Gone & Forgotten Is Most Wanted...


Knowing my deep-felt love of Villains & VigilantesInternet Tomfoolery writer Al Bruno III (creator of The Night Blogger serial and podcast) has drawn to my attention a recent article on the Gone & Forgotten site, which  casts a wry eye over obscure items of superhero and comic book lore.

The site had decided to take a crass, but loving, look at several of the more outré characters created for Most Wanted, Vol 3, a Villains & Vigilantes source published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1985.

This old RPG supplement features some of the first published artwork by Patrick Zircher, before he went on to make his name illustrating comics for DC and Marvel.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Weekly World News: "I'm Not Saying It's Aliens, But It's Aliens!"


Alongside Bat Boy, aliens have been a popular fixture of the Weekly Worlds News since its inception and here's just a small serving of the wild stories about extraterrestrials that have graced its pages.

All of these are prime fodder for the enterprising gamesmaster of contemporary campaigns that happen to be open to a bit of outside interference.

Alien races, for instance, form a key part of the backstory to my own Knight City setting.

As a additional source of inspiration for those thinking of including aliens in their games, there's a recent article over on RPG.Net about this very subject, which provides a useful check-list of points to consider.

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