Saturday, 31 December 2011
It should be written into American law that if ever a Hollywood suit has the cockamamieidea of trying to do a big budget adaptation of an HP Lovecraft horror story he should be forced (possibly at gunpoint) to first watch the HP Lovecraft Historical Society's Call Of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness to see how it can be done well and with due respect to the source material.
The Whisperer In Darkness is the latest cinematic enterprise from the foremost producers of Lovecraftian replicas and gaming props, The HP Lovecraft Historical Society, and like its predecessor retains its verisimilitude through the use of black and white film - although unlike Call Of Cthulhu this one is a talkie!
Taking Lovecraft's tale as its base, the movie expands the set-up and adds in an entirely original finale to give the story a classic three act structure, rather than ending on the shock revelation of the short story, it attempts to humanise Lovecraft's protagonist more, give him an emotional investment and throw in a more 'traditional' Hollywood style ending - but still managing to neatly stitch in a suitably Lovecraftian twist.
The Whisperer In Darkness tells of Miskatonic University folklore professor Albert Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) and his sceptical investigations into supposed 'monster' sightings in the most remote hills of Vermont after some particularly violent flooding.
His search for the truth begins with footprints around the property of the isolated home of Henry Akeley (Barry Lynch) and quickly spirals into madness as he unearths more than he was bargaining for and discovers the future of mankind is at stake.
Like their inspiration, film-makers Sean Branney and Andrew Leman rely primarily on suggestion and atmosphere and it's only really when the true face of the central creatures are revealed in the final act that the excellence of the tale wobbles slightly.
Saving both time and (more importantly) money, the team went with CGI animation for the alien Mi-go instead of the costlier and more time-consuming stop motion (which I get the impression a lot of fans would have preferred).
By no means a deal breaker, but there is no escaping the truth right in front of your eyes when you watch the movie that the CGI Mi-go, especially in close-up, really stand apart from the rest of the film (and not in a good way).
We've waited a long time for this movie to appear (more than two years I believe since the original announcements and teasers) and I'd have gladly waited longer, but I totally understand the HPLHS's desire to get the film done and for a decent budget (as it is Sandy Petersen, creator of the Call Of Cthulhu RPG had to step in and help with the funding to get the movie finished).
They also, rather cheekily, added in a new, most 'unLovecraftian' character in the form of a little girl, Hannah (Autumn Wendel), whose life is in jeopardy because of the alien creatures in the hills, and Wilmarth takes her under his wing and attempts to protect her from a possible fate worse than death.
Whether he succeeds is for you to find out when you purchase the movie directly from the HPLHS for a very reasonable $24.50 - plus postage.The two-disc DVD set includes a disc chock full of extra features including a bevy of informative behind-the-scenes documentaries, trailers and deleted scenes.
You won't regret the purchase. This ranks as one of the strongest adaptations of Lovecraft's stories of indescribable monsters and things man was not supposed to know.
Outside of HPLHS's own productions, the only live-action Lovecraftiana that has come close to getting under my skin - as Lovecraft's words have the power to do - are John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness and Cigarette Burns (from the TV series Masters Of Horror), even though neither of these are actually Lovecraft stories, and Stuart Gordon's Dagon and Dreams In The Witch-House, also from Masters of Horror.
Thus John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon would be exempt from my proposed law above; everyone else - watch these movies before you dare even contemplate trying to bring Lovecraft to the big, or small, screen yourself.
The Mi-go/Fungi From Yuggoth, and their fiendish devices, have already been well covered in various old school gaming products, including:
- Carcosa (from Lamentations Of The Flame Princess)
- Realms Of Crawling Chaos (from Goblinoid Games, for Labyrinth Lord)
- Deities & Demigods (from TSR, original printing, for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons)
- Malleus Monstrorum and others (from Chaosium, for Call Of Cthulhu)
Tomorrow sees the dawning of 2012, "the year the world ends" (according to some liberal interpretations of ancient Mayan whiffle or some such nonsense) - an Apocalypse as plausible as the repeatedly postponed Rapture and every other lunatic fringe, doomsday prophecy!
I guess it must be time to wrap up those long-running campaigns, cancel your magazine subscriptions, settle your debts (and grudges), quit your job, sell all your possessions, move to a shack in the Appalachian Mountains and await the end of all things. Don't forget to turn the lights and the gas off on your way out...
Or you could just carry on like a normal, rational human being who hasn't had brain bypass surgery and ignore all this ridiculous hokem.
But enough of that, let us commence with the welcoming of the latest signings to our joyous expedition into the world of role playing games, genre television, comics and trashy movies:
* Meredith Watson of She Kills Monsters (stalwart member of The Tuesday Knights, she uses her new blog to share her computer gaming wisdom)
* William Dowie of Ramblings of a Great Khan (a rather excellent old school roleplaying blog)
* George of Underworld Cleaning Service (a relatively new, but no less awesome, OSR blog)
Friday, 30 December 2011
The season finale of Merlin kicks off with great gusto as Arthur, Merlin and a handful of stragglers flee Ealdor. Matters take an even darker turn when Merlin goes full-on Dragonlord and summons The Great Dragon (Kilgharrah) to rain fire down on their pursuers.
Unfortunately this has the side effect of herding Agravaine and a number of Morgana's soldiers into the cave system where Arthur and co are hiding out. Then we see Merlin taking a trip to the Dark Side when he slays the soldiers and keeps Agravaine alive just long enough to taunt him a little bit more before the axe finally falls on the serpent at the heart of Camelot.
However after this, The Sword In The Stone (Part Two) doesn't quite live up to the potential suggested by its first episode, or even the bulk of the season up to this point.
While I've grown to accept the fact that the show takes great liberties with Arthurian mythology (i.e. getting the Gwen/Lancelot romance out the way quick sharpish), my biggest problem with The Sword In The Stone (Part Two) is its fumbled fudging of the core "sword in the stone" myth.
The storytellers seem unable to decide whether it's a complete fabrication of Merlin's (possibly assisted by the Kilgharrah) - in which case he has also convinced the entire population of Camelot about this old legend that no-one had previously heard about - or it's simply a rather key myth from Camelot's past that everyone knows about... except Arthur.
Of course, the sword is also actually Excalibur (adding strength to the idea that Merlin is making it all up and has somehow won round the knights and citizens of Camelot to his bogus tale about the first king), so at least that mighty blade has found its way into the hands of the Once And Future King (even if by rather unorthodox methods).
While I like the idea of a "trickster" Merlin (as seen in the short-lived Camelot series) and of the sword being set up a test of Arthur's right to remain king, the fact that no-one else was seen trying to pull Excalibur from the stone rather lessens the symbolism of the act when performed by Arthur (with a bit of magical grease from Merlin). As far as the watchers know, any random bod could have pulled the sword out!
Then, there's poor old Gaius, in the dungeons of Camelot, matter-of-factly stating that as a physician he knows he is about to die, whether he eats or not, and then come the end of the tale he's back on his feet as though nothing had ever happened.
Given Isolde's knack for attracting injury in these two episodes it's quite surprising that she survived this long. You have to wonder if, maybe, Tristan could have taken some steps earlier towards either getting her better trained or perhaps steering her towards a less dangerous occupation.
That said, as with the previous episode, there are some magnificent swordfights here - even if director Alice Troughton does rather overdo the "dramatic slo-mo" - and both Gwen and Morgana continue to increase their badass status by proving to be dab hands with a blade.
Katie McGrath is, naturally, smouldering as Morgana but Angel Coulby continues to impress as the role of Gwen becomes more fully-rounded.
Merlin's neat trick with the poppet (a enchanted corn doll to sap Morgana's power that has been used a number of times in the show already) was a stroke of genius and I appreciated the way that, in his aged Emrys persona he even manages to taunt Morgana by swanning in and out of Camelot beneath the noses of her guards.
Clearly this tougher, more manipulative, dare I say 'darker', Merlin is the way forward and major kudos to Colin Morgan for truly capturing the complexities of the character as it evolves.
Bonus points also, of course, for the appearance of the youngling Aithusa at the close of the episode, promising intriguing power dynamics for the fifth season if Morgana is getting her own draconic support as well.
I can't wait for next season, even if the show continues to grow as it has done it would be such a tragedy if Season Five (as rumoured) becomes its final season. At least, the chances are, at this rate, it will go out on a high.
March sees the launch of a new five-issue mini from Zenescope that puts their trademark spin on another classic story - this time Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.
Grimm Fairy Tales Presents The Jungle Book, written by Mark L Miller, features a female Mowglii raised by wolves and finding herself in the middle of a civil war or what the animals term "The Great Animal Battle".
According to Zenescope's marketing manager Stephen Haberman:
"Mowglii must learn her place in the jungle and fight for survival against many exotic beasts. But she is not the only human in this jungle island. Three other children have been raised by different animal tribes: Bomani grows up in the tiger tribe that is led by the conniving Shere Kahn, Akili learned the ways of the jungle from the mischievous Tavi mongoose tribe, and Dewan comes of age within the unpredictable Monkeys of Bandar Log, which is led by the insane King Bandar Louis. Mowglii and the rest of the human cubs play key roles in the ongoing Great Animal Battle of Kipling Isle as they approach adulthood."
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Take a gander at the Japanese trailer for John Carter (with an introduction from director Andrew Stanton), that really sells the premise for those not au fait with character, then wrap your senses around the new Russian trailer for The Avengers.
2012 ain't looking so bad now, is it? With these, Prometheus, The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spider-Man at the forefront of releases to look forward to, we could be in for a bumper year of blockbusters...
So, how does The Doctor repay the kindness of the woman who helped him find the TARDIS after he'd survived a plunge to Earth out of the upper atmosphere in 1938? He returns three years later and puts her, and her two children, into mortal peril!
Oh, Doctor, when will you ever learn? Sometimes a "thank you" card will suffice.
It's Christmas Eve, 1941, and Madge Arwell (Outnumbered's Claire Skinner) has learned that her bomber-pilot husband Reg (Alexander Armstrong, the voice of 'Mr Smith' in the Sarah Jane Adventures) has been lost over the English Channel returning from a mission.
Determined to give her children, Lily (Holly Earl) and Cyril (Maurice Cole), the "best Christmas ever" - before breaking the news about their father's death - she relocates the family to their uncle's old house in Dorset.
However, instead of the usual caretaker (who presumably had a sudden win on "the lottery"), there they find a particularly manic Doctor - masquerading as The Caretaker - doing a very impressive Mary Poppins impression with animated furniture, sink taps that produce lemonade, bedrooms full of childish delights etc
His main present though is a gift-wrapped box that contains a dimensional portal to a snow-cloaked, Narnia-esque world of 'living' Christmas trees that spontaneously grow ornaments (the trees' seeds).
Unfortunately, the "safest place in the universe" has been targeted by futuristic strip miners - who just happen to arrive at exactly the same time as The Doctor and the children - looking to melt down the forest (with acid rain) and convert it into precious fuel.
The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe is typical Steven Moffat Christmas fare, a convoluted tale told at break-neck speed that builds to a suitably, seasonally, upbeat ending.
There is, unsurprisingly, much too much going on throughout - with the cameos from Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir as the Douglas Adams-lite 'lumberjacks' from the future being almost pointless - and several of the set-pieces (such as Madge piloting the giant mecha robot) border on the absurd. In fact, the characters from the 1940s are remarkably okay with the whole idea of time and dimension travel and seem pretty much unphased by most of what happens to them.
But as is often Moffat's way, the plot barrels on regardless, steamrollering over any WTF moments or plot holes, to get to its happy ending for Madge and the children, followed by a surprising sweet ending for The Doctor as well.
For me, the story didn't really come into its own until The Doctor and the children were trapped inside the lighthouse made of trees. Up until then, I'd found the velocity of events slightly heavy-handed and the 'manic' Doctor (when he first appeared as The Caretaker) was actually rather irritating and certainly not the charming, bumbling Doctor I usually enjoyed watching.
There was also an inescapable whiff of Moffat going for the soundbites that would make for good trailer material, definitely playing up the similarities to The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe that the title suggested, but really weren't there beyond the visuals of a snowy land reached through a "magical portal" and explored by children in 1940's dressing gowns!
It's quite telling though that the episode didn't end with a "next time..." or "The Doctor will return in..." because, of course, now fans have the long wait until Autumn 2012 for the next season of Doctor Who to begin.
My thanks to Brother Cal of Calvin's Canadian Cave Of Coolness for the magnificent public service of drawing the flame-haired, tattooed and freckled gorgeousness of alt-model Hattie Watson to my attention earlier this year.
Honestly, there will be some more substantial content coming down the pipe soon...
Based on the number of comments, the rundown of my top 10 Worst Movies Ever was the article on I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... that generated the most reaction in 2011 (as part of Alex J Cavanaugh's Worst Movies Ever Blogfest!) ... and only one of those actually (belatedly) called me out on my choices, the rest were pretty much in agreement.
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
If you're a comic book reader and not subscribed to Grace Randolph's new online show, Stacktastic, for weekly updates (courtesy of Bleeding Cool) then you're missing out!
And the news about Alan Davis could see me adding Captain America back onto my pull-list, just as I thought I'd whittled 99 per cent of the cape titles off it...
Personal Moment Of 2011: Being named godfather of Nick and Clare's handsome baby boy, Alec. I can't begin to express the pleasure this has given - and will continue to give - me.
I mention this today because today is Alec's first birthday and Rachel has teased me that I'm spoiling Alec, but she also knows that my affection for the little chap goes way beyond the fact that his parents are one of my oldest friends and a former housemate of mine who met at our wedding!
Geek Moment Of 2011: Not a single moment per se, but a series of events made possible with the advent of modern technology. Through the power of the Internet, this year I have chatted online with Cody Deal (star of The Asylum's Mighty Thor movie) and Albert Pyun (director of The Sword And The Sorcerer), while getting my aged Hawk The Slayer novelisation signed by the film's writer/director!
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
A Game Of Thrones: I realise I came to the party rather late in this case, but I had always stayed away from this style of multi-part, encyclopaedia-sized sagas because of my Moorcock Rule. However, A Game Of Thrones simply blew me away with Martin's addictive writing style and now I wish I'd been picking these books up when they were first published.
I've subsequently set myself a target of at least one more volume of the Song Of Fire And Ice saga per year and I can only hope that neither Martin nor I go into the long night before he actually finishes this mammoth undertaking.
Scrivener's Moon: the latest masterpiece from my favourite author, Philip Reeve - continuing the story of young Fever Crumb.
Season One of the epic Game Of Thrones condensed into six minutes. Season Two (as well as Winter) is coming in April!
Other highlights of 2011: Fringe, Warehouse 13, American Horror Story, Misfits, Merlin, How I Met Your Mother, Glee and Teen Wolf.
|American Horror Story - the ultimate haunted house tale|
|Misfits - cast of season three|
Monday, 26 December 2011
If there's nothing to watch on TV, kick back and enjoy the first seven-part season of the great Dungeons & Dragons-y webseries, JourneyQuest.
Join duff mage Perf (Christian Doyle), elfish bow-maiden Nara (Anne Kennedy), priest Carrow (Brian Lewis) and enthusiastic fighter Glorion (Kevin Pitman) as dysfunctional adventurers on a quest to destroy the mythical Sword of Fighting.
JourneyQuest, from the creators of The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is a comedic adventure through the fantasy world of Fartherall, where intellectual orcs, incompetent wizards, and holy zombies form the living (and not-so-living) backdrop to an epic story of unrequited love, burning passions, and severely reluctant heroism. And running away. Lots of running away…
Season One of JourneyQuest is also available on DVD from Amazon.
Sunday, 25 December 2011
Written and sung by Michelle Osorio.
Here's the story of a dear father we know
and his sacrifice made such a long time ago
Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el
Gone is the father of Kal-el
In a Krypton town was a boy child's birth
But impending doom made him a Saviour to Earth
Jor-el knew Krypton's end was drawing near,
Which brings up the question. How did Supes end up here?
Jor-el looked it up on Google Sky
and he said Earth has nice folks, even though they can't fly.
Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el
Gone is the father of Kal-el
He put his son in comfy big rock
Then he stood with his wife and they told him good luck
He gave his life that his one son might live
who saves us quite often, what a nice gift to give
Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el
Gone is the father of Kal-el
Saturday, 24 December 2011
In a year that saw the arrival on American TV of Grimm and Once Upon A Time, this short from director Adam Green, Fairy Tale Police is a COPS-inspired reality show where two human police officers keep order in a land full of storybook villains, magical monsters, and other cartoonish characters; starring Rachael Leigh Cook.
Despite the holidays, I'm delighted to say people are still finding the time to sign up for our big adventure. Please join me in raising some suitably hot toddies to welcome our latest recruits:
* Michael of Gutter Cult (a gaming blog that Michael describes as "neglected")
* arcadayn of Realms of Arcadayn (currently empty, but looks like it's going to be a gaming blog)
Friday, 23 December 2011
Packed tighter than a Bag of Holding on the way out of Acererak’s tomb, this issue has everything you need to make your next saving roll vs. lame gaming!
Dedicated to Ken St. Andre, Fight On! #13 features new rules, new settings, ten new adventures, and the slew of tables, classes, races, NPCs, magic items, humor, and so much more you’ve come to look out for in every issue.
Pick up lucky issue 13 in PDF or print from Lulu.
Table of contents:
- The Swashbuckler (Calithena) 3
- Elves as Green Men (Walt Jillson) 4
- Variant Kindreds (Age of Fable) 5
- Grognard's Grimoire (Erin "Taichara" Bisson) 6
- Cantrips Gone Wild! (John Laviolette) 7
- Battle School (Ken St. Andre) 10
- Mysterious Laboratory of Xoth-Ragar (Alex Fotinakes) 15
- Knights & Knaves (Andrew "Venomous Pao" Trent) 22
- Creepies & Crawlies (garrisonjames) 25
- Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Hudson Bell & Cal) 27
- Slaughter in the Salt Pits (Gabor Lux) 28
- The Library of Karvu Naudra (Jason Vasché) 33
- An Unfamiliar Encounter (John Larrey) 36
- The Goblin Market (Richard Rittenhouse) 40
- Bonus Tables (Jeff Rients) 45
- What is this Monster Scared Of? (Dustin Brandt) 46
- Fruiting Towers (Patrick Wetmore) 47
- Tricks & Treats (Andreas Davour & Wayne Cayea) 58
- Mythal (Calithena) 61
- The Tale of an Egg (Baz Blatt) 69
- The Darkness Beneath (Makofan) 78
- Champions of ZED (Daniel Boggs) 98
- In the Shadow of the Catskills (Michael Curtis) 111
- Scramp! (Richard Rittenhouse) 116
- Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox) 120
- Top Tips for Tunnels & Trolls (Big Jack Brass) 121
- Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric (J. Linneman & K. Green) 122
Level 1, Magician, White Magic
When cast, the magician will gain an insight into the weather for the general region he is in for a coming number of days dependent on his level (first to third: one day, fourth to sixth: two days; seventh to ninth: three days; 10th to 12th: four days; 13th to 15th: five days; 16th to 19th: six days; 20th plus: seven days).
Therefore he will know that if his prediction is false, then there is probably foul sorcery at work.
This spell is a good excuse for the DM to work out a calendar and weather patterns for his campaign setting.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
Like her mum, Rachel really gets into the Christmas spirit with an infectious joie de vivre that has transformed areas of our house with plentiful seasonal decorations.
Our traditional tree is shown above, while the intricate, annual festooning of two rooms in Rachel's impressive dolls house is shown below.
We even took the time the other evening to make a quick visit to the temporary ice rink in Calverley Grounds, Tunbridge Wells - which turned out to be a lot more attractive (and busy) than I expected (in my normal, cynical way).
Not that either of us were up to braving the ice, although we did enjoy a cupcake and a chocolate brownie as we watched people skating!
Had we not already been feeling it anyway, that certainly would have put us in the festive mood.
I hope you all have great holidays, however you celebrate them. I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... will soon be switching to 'automatic' for a few days, during which time I've programmed a number of amusing and/or appropriate items to pop up at regular intervals.
Reviews of Christmas geek television (i.e. the Doctor Who Christmas Special and the Merlin season finale) will appear, retroactively, in their correct slots in the timeline... once I have the willpower to drag myself away from plates of turkey, stuffing and roasties.
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