Archive for the Action/adventure Category

So now I’ve seen all the Neil Marshall

Posted in Action/adventure, Horror, Movies with tags , on June 19, 2012 by Cara Marie

I watched Dog Soldiers this afternoon, which means I’ve seen all Neil Marshall’s movies now. Good times. Dog Soldiers is his first, and it’s clearly the one with the lowest budget. But it’s tight, it’s stylistically coherent … it’s just a really good horror movie.

While I would not give up Doomsday for all the world, Marshall’s horror movies work rather better. I don’t think I ever posted about Centurion when I saw that, but whilst I enjoyed it, I can’t say it was a great movie.

Actually, it was quite funny watching Centurion, because my copy has this serious-film packaging, as if it’s an ‘important’ movie. Which I think put me off watching for a while.

But then I only had to watch it five minutes to see a Roman soldier skewered while taking a piss to remember, oh, right, this is a Neil Marshall film. He’s never one to shy away from gratuitous gore, whether that’s exploding rabbits (Doomsday) or people’s guts falling out (Dog Soldiers). And Centurion was a lot more fun (and less boring) than the reviews I’d read would have me believe.

But then, my love for Doomsday is completely non-ironic. I haven’t exactly got the classiest tastes in the world. But, I am pretty sure Dog Soldiers is actually a good film! Just as long as you’ve got a strong stomach.

Northlanders 1–3

Posted in Action/adventure, Comics with tags , , on April 28, 2012 by Cara Marie

I wish I could like this comic. I picked it up because I knew Dean Ormston worked on some of it, but sadly assumed that I’d like it, and thus ended up with way more than I could ever need. Volume 1 is a complete story itself, and I liked the protagonist reasonably well. It was an enjoyable if not particularly memorable story. Volumes 2 and 3 each contain multiple short stories, and they’re where the nihilism really starts to set it.

Part of it is the need to be gritty: grr, argh, violent men! Blood and guts! Torment and torture! And … I am not opposed to these things? But I feel like Wood fails to express anything else.

Then there’s sneaking suspicion I got that Brian Wood was not especially interested in historical accuracy. Even though it feels like that’s what the grittiness is meant to be. This became clearest in volume three, which features a story about three women who have survived the destruction of their village. And at one point, one of them says, ‘You talk of our future. What future is there without men? What good is wealth? What can we spend it on? What can we be allowed to own?’

So, what everything I learnt about Vikings as a kid was wrong? Women didn’t get to keep the property they brought with them to a marriage? They couldn’t own land?

I think Wood is actually making Vikings less interesting.

Also in the issue ‘The Viking Art of Single Combat’ there is this commentary on Loki as a god of war.

The young among us will happily chirp out ‘Thor!’ when asked about the gods of war, but a proper warrior, the sort who won’t do something as cowardly as bleed out in a shield wall when he’s supposed to have your back … that man will smile and talk of Loki.

Slippery, slippery Loki. The ideal war god, sure, but also the god of poetry, education, deceit and trickery, all rolled into one.

Which is … no. As a description of Odin, that would do well. With Loki’s name there, I don’t buy it.

The other problem with that issue was the sheer amount of narrative text, which detracted from the flow of the art. The issue is a single fight scene, which you’d assume goes by relatively quickly, but the narration slows it down so much that you can hardly make sense of the action. Maybe it’s deliberate, and he wants to slow the fight scene down and imbue it with meaning … but in slowing it down, it doesn’t parse as a fight scene any more.

The artists, at least, are all excellent. I am a big Ormston fan, of course, and his issues were the ones I enjoyed the most, but I also thought the other artists did some gorgeous work.

It’s just a shame about the writing.

Failed scary movie night

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Science fiction with tags , on December 31, 2011 by Cara Marie

The theme of our latest movie night ended up being ‘107 minute long films’ – Cargo and Pathfinder.

Cargo is a German sci-fi movie, set after environmental devastation on earth means everyone is living in space stations – except for those lucky few who have the money to go to Rhea, a newly settled and terraformed planet. Our heroine is a doctor who’s taken a job on a cargo carrier – four years there, four years back – and who is trying to save the money to go live with her sister on Rhea.

The film starts off feeling more like a horror movie – and L thought the last act, where it turns out not to be, brought it down, but that was the part I liked best. The ‘things are not what they seem’ here is not a horror trope but a sci-fi one. Maybe not an especially original one, but it was still a pleasant surprise.

The shots of the ship in space were fabulous – the effects and the set were just generally really well done. The character interactions on the other hand seemed a bit off – maybe it’s a cultural thing but even little introvert me expects people to talk more! There are some scenes where certain people don’t say anything and it just makes no sense why not.

It’s a slow film, but held my attention far more than the comparatively action-packed Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is set during the attempted Viking settlement of the Americas. During an initial raid, a young boy who refuses to kill some of the village children is left behind to die; instead, he’s taken in and raised by the villagers.

Years later, the Vikings return, and I don’t really need to summarise this plot because I bet you know exactly what happens. Why did this movie need to exist? I don’t know. The only redeeming feature is that Karl Urban spends a lot of time shirtless. Okay, and there’s some nice scenery. The trees are very nice.

I’d thought this movie might be stupidly entertaining, but it didn’t really manage it. The action sequences weren’t even very good: difficult to follow, and the whole thing is so dark you can barely see what’s going on anyway. Pathfinder is no good even for mocking.

My favourite game, again

Posted in Action/adventure, Fantasy, Games with tags on December 4, 2011 by Cara Marie

The last few weeks have basically been work work work, but the site I’ve been working on went live yesterday – hooray! – so the stress is of and I have energy to do things other than blob in the evenings.

One thing I like to do to blob is play computer games. This probably isn’t good for me, because when you’ve been staring at a screen all day, your eyes don’t thank you for staring at a screen at night as well. But it’s what I do.

I started playing Skyrim, but my inability to walk in a straight line sent me quickly back to Dragon Age 2. For the third time – this is a new record for me and RPGs! So most of it’s very familiar, but there are still new things.

For one, I finally know why people were always talking about Anders’ Manifesto! I somehow never came across it in my earlier games – and I did look for it. Obviously, when you are unambiguously pro-mage, Anders doesn’t feel the need to leave it lying around.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not pro-mage in this run-through. I’m just trying to play a character who’s a bit more skeptical. It’s difficult. I would like to have a run where I side with the Templars, but I don’t know if I’ll manage it. I’ve read people saying they found it hard to understand how anyone could side with the mages at the end, after all that’s happened, but my brain can’t hook into that perspective. Wanting to tell them to screw themselves, sure. Helping the Templars slaughter them for a crime they didn’t commit – and which I can’t necessarily even condemn – no way.

But I feel I should try it at least once. I’ve even metagamed it so Bethany would be off with the Grey Wardens, because siding with the Templars when she’s in the Circle would be too much. (Although from her character’s perspective, seems like she’d be better off there, or would be, if Kirkwall weren’t so messed up.)

I was a bit worried heading into the Deep Roads with two mages and two archers was a bad idea – it was the only way I’d get the result I wanted – but turns out it was an awesome idea. Tank? I don’t need no tank. The more mages, the better.

Basically, roleplaying a pro-Templar character is hard and I just fail at it. But asides from that, I’m having fun! And that’s all I’ve had energy for, working on a giant site migration. Hopefully my pastimes will be more diverse again now.

Still reading all the comics

Posted in Action/adventure, Comics, Fantasy, Superhero with tags , , , , on July 10, 2011 by Cara Marie

As I now have Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery on standing order, I thought I would go back and read some of the older Thor comics. Most recently, I have read the first volume of J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Thor. I’m not completely in love, but I’m interested.

A panel of Don Blake sitting in a diner, light streaming in the windows. It feels like the sun is low in the sky, and the light is very hot and clear.

I mostly really like the art, which is penciled by Olivier Coipel, inked by Mark Morales. The exception being I really don’t like Thor’s face (she says shallowly). But the colours are what really make it for me. Laura Martin’s work here is excellent – the skyscapes especially are lovely (well, it is a comic about a thunder god!) – and I find the colours really evocative. They give each scene a strong sense of place.

In a pleasing coincidence, the day after I read this, Fantastic Fangirls did a discussion post on it (Part One and Part Two). That’s almost as good as being able to read the letters pages in old comics! And I agree with a lot of what they say, particularly being uncomfortable with the New Orleans/(imaginary country in) Africa issues. The story wasn’t unaware of the potential skeeviness, but I don’t know that the balance was quite right.

As someone who would consider myself a new ‘reader’, I found it interesting when Caroline commented that “JMS is building this story that is supposed to reinvent Thor for a new era, and three issues in the momentum comes to a screeching halt so that [Thor and Iron Man] can argue about something that happened in a different series and was stupid anyway … the Iron Man scene feels out of place here. This should be a book that I want to hand to a new reader, but that part makes me hesitate.”

I’ve never read Civil War, but somehow I’ve managed to absorb enough that I know roughly what went down, and the scene with Iron Man actually worked with me. It felt partly like a breaking of the status quo: maybe things worked one way before, but things have changed, and this isn’t the comic it used to be. Whatever that was!

I was more confused by the relationship between Don Blake and Thor, and what that meant with regards to the other gods whose souls had been hiding in humans. When Thor woke up the other gods, I assumed that their relationship with the host would be the same as the Don/Thor one. Except you never see the people again. And I couldn’t figure out why we didn’t see them swapping too, and it put me off to think that the gods’ desires would automatically trump the humans’, that they would run off to Asgard and leave these people’s lives and families behind.

So it was quite a relief when I realised that Thor was the only one who switched between forms, and that the other gods came out their hosts and left them behind. But we were four gods in before this was clear!

I am looking forward to seeing how Thor gets Sif back, and I think Straczynski did a good job of making her a strong presence even though she’s not actually there. Also I am bad and enjoy seeing Loki gallivanting about in her body, so, um, may there be lots of that too.

Digest-sized awesome

Posted in Action/adventure, Comedy, Comics, Middle fiction, Superhero, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on July 2, 2011 by Cara Marie

So I have been achieving very little outside of work lately. But I have managed to read a great deal of comics. Some of the ones I’ve enjoyed most have been the little digest-sized collections put out by Marvel: X-Men: First Class, Wolverine: First Class and Thor: The Mighty Avenger. They’re low on angst, high on adorability.

X-Men: First Class I find quite interesting because of the ways it deals with the limitations of its source. The series is pitched as untold stories from the original X-Men comics, which is Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman and Angel. The other character in every issue is Professor Xavier: so you’ve got one female character against five male ones.

And First Class is aware of this, and it finds ways to show f-f relationships anyway. Probably my favourite issue was one where Jean is trying to use her powers to fly: she’s been practicing in secret, and when the boys find out, things get frustrating. (This made me feel very fond of her, because I don’t like people seeing me trying new things either.)

So, Prof X is like, well, it must be tough for Jean, being stuck with all these annoying boys and no female mentors. Let’s send her to go hang out with Sue Storm!

Jean is pretty psyched about this, and she and Sue have some good bonding time, and some ass-kicking time, and the boys are convinced Jean’s going to leave them and go make it the Fantastic Five. It’s totally charming.

No, actually. They fight crime.There are also these little side-strips, illustrated by Colleen Coover. which they’ve reprinted at the end of the digests. Some of these are making fun of Magneto. Some of them are about the adventures of Marvel Girl and the Scarlet Witch. Together they solve crime!

Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, appears in some of the other issues, and immediately became my favourite. I sadly do not think I will find much else with her and Jean being buddies.

(No crime-fighting, but here is another one of the strips, with Jean and Xavier using their psychic powers for hilarity.)

I love school stories, so these are more satisfying to me than a lot of the other superhero comics I have been reading. Part of it’s the positivity: they are learning to be the most awesome people they can be! There is a story in Wolverine: First Class where Kitty and Logan are investigating a mutant presence: they end up being attacked by the townspeople. “Th-they’re not making any sense …” Kitty says, and Logan says, “Fear does that to people. Whatever mutant presence Charlie sent us to run down has scared the sense right out of ’em.”

Kity looks at a photo of a mutant girl with white skin and hair, elven ears, and pupilless eyes, dressed up for prom and holding the arm of an ordinary-looking young man. The photo has been smashed, as has the next one we see Kitty holding: the girl with her football team. The narrative text reads: 'This girl--clearly a mutant--didn't look like she lived in a town filled with prejudice. In fact, it looked like this tiny town completely embraced her strangeness, in a way tiny towns sometimes do. So what happened? What changed? How could everything have gone so horribly wrong so horrible fast ... unless ...'But this is not a story about how it sucks to be a mutant (though obviously peoples’ fear of mutants forms a backdrop). Kitty ends up in the house of the girl they’ve come looking for. There, the evidence is clear that her community has not been driven mad by fear, and that something else is going on.

Which was quite nice after House of M.

Wolverine: First Class is basically all about Kitty saving the day. And also being a teenage girl. The second story has Kitty trying to convince Logan he wants to chauffuer her and her friends to see the amazing *Dazzler*. Begging and cajoling doesn’t work, so she throws him a special surprise party and arranges him a date with his lady friend Mariko. This rather gets spoiled when some guy from Logan’s past turns up. There’s some fighting, then said evil guy then tells Logan he has to choose between saving Kitty and saving Mariko. Hmm.

Logan chooses Mariko, because of course Kitty can get herself out of anything, but as it turns out, by the time the men have finished their scrapping, Kitty has already saved her. See, evil guy, maybe Logan will never transcend your skills in beating people up, but at least he has an awesome student.

After that Logan really has no choice but to play chauffuer.

Kitty is fantastic in this, and the part of me that loved her in the cartoon as a kid feels redeemed against all the other, blander versions of her I’ve seen. She feels realistically young, without being annoyingly so, and the teenage squabbles are countered by the adorableness. Despite Wolverine’s name in the title, Kitty’s the star of the show.

(I still don’t get her crush on Piotr though.)

But the most charming digest of them all is Thor: The Mighty Avenger. A lot of this is to do with the art, I feel – there’s something very appealing about the inking, and the simplicity of the style.Jane looks all concernedly at Thor, before saying, 'I ... I don't know if you want to hear this ... but this is my world, and I'm sort of ... fond of it. Thing is ... right now, this is your world too.' With amazing pictures!There are fights and things, people to be rescued (and sometimes it is Thor that needs to be rescued), but the heart of the comic is the relationship between Thor and Jane, and the ways in which Thor comes to love Earth.

There are two volumes of Thor: The Might Avenger – I’ve read the second one, and I’m waiting for the first. It’s just such a warm-hearted comic. Because it’s an AU from the rest of the Marvel universe, it’s easy to rec to people too; it might crossover with characters from other titles, but it’s still very self-contained.

Some unlikely ninjas

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Superhero with tags , on June 16, 2011 by Cara Marie

The theme for our last movie night was ‘unlikely ninjas’. We tried to mix it up with a movie about train terrorism, but sadly James Bond plus Professor X does not equal awesome. Not that ‘unlikely ninjas’ necessarily equals awesome either …

7 Mikroi Kommandos

This is a Greek movie from the 1980s. A group of Nazis are set upon invading a small village, and have rounded up all the men and taken them prisoner. It is up to a group of children, lead by the grandson of the head Nazi’s arch-enemy, to save the village!

This is an extremely low-budget movie. There is not much in the way of acting going on, although the head Nazi is delightfully over-the-top; and the villagers amusedly unimpressed. The Nazis are all addicted to ouzo. There are impromptu drunken dance routines. It ends up being very funny, and I think some of that was even intentional.

Still, I can’t help but feel that’s an hour and a half of my life that I’ll never get back. I like a certain level of competency in my films. (In which case, why I am watching things L downloads, I have no idea. Clearly, it’s masochism.)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

S commented that this film was far better shot than it deserved. This was quite a relief after 7 Mikroi Kommandos. It was also nice to watch a film that realised it had to develop the characters of its heroes before you reached the half-way point.

I think it probably worked better in the eighties. The references are definitely dated; on the other hand, watching people fight in turtle costumes cannot be boring. The crushing on the journalist lady was a little weird, but I guess even mutant turtles are aware of what society considers attractive. Sad for them though, because reciprocation was never considered. Maybe in the later movies they get to have angst about that.

One day I may even find out. L bought the blu-ray box-set, and it’s very impressive. It’s done up like a pizza box! The blu-rays are pizzas! Oh, the novelty!

Wanted

This wasn’t part of a movie night. Sometimes I watch stupid things all on my own. I’m sure this can’t be the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, but it is pretty high up there.

I almost thought this was going to involve ninjas too, but then I realised I was just on the wrong audio track. Instead it is just a guild of assassins, who pretty much have superpowers except the movie never discusses that these are superpowers. Everyone could shoot bullets along curved trajectories, if only they didn’t let those damned ideas about physics get in their way.

James McAvoy is our hero, and he is really a bit of a loser. This is so he can admonish the audience at the end of this film – because he stopped being a schmuck (I have never felt so not a part of the target audience). It only took being bet up an awful lot to get him there.

The first half of the film was fairly tedious. Partly because it takes McAvoy a while to get his act together and start shooting things,but also because the film uses a ridiculous amount of slow-mo. It doesn’t make the fight scenes more exciting, it just interrupts the flow, an excuse to show off their fancy cgi. And funnily enough, I don’t watch action movies for the fancy cgi.

But around the half-way point, the movie crosses above the ridiculousness threshold, and I stopped being annoyed by these things.  It might’ve been the point where they started blowing up rats. And physics schmysics; McAvoy sells the curving bullets. It was very satisfying watching him turn into a badass.

I’m not sure I was meant to laugh so much – but then, there’s no way this movie was made with a straight face. Right?

God, I hope not.

Raging Phoenix

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies with tags on May 23, 2011 by Cara Marie

Raging Phoenix starts off ridiculous – a fight scene against people on bladed pogo-boots, anyone? – and only gets more bizarre as it goes on. At first this is a good thing. Deu, who is sulky and determined, is a great protagonist, and her interactions with the men who rescue her from a kidnapping ring are great. The men have all had their own loved ones kidnapped, and Deu gets recruited to help out. This involves learning to fight in drunken hip-hop style – the training sequence is amazing – and everything is over-the-top and fun.

Then we find out why women are being kidnapped – (skip) to make perfume from their tears of sorrow. And only women with the right pheromones. To which the only possible reaction is, what the hell? As the move slips deeper into weirdness, the sets also get more bizarre and impossible, and the relationships more twisted. The subplot is romantic, focusing on Deu’s crush on Sanim, who rescued her in the beginning. But Sanim’s heart belongs only to his bride who was kidnapped three years ago, and the way this plays out is not what I was expecting.

The film ends with Deu in tears. They have triumphed, but her wages are pain. It all feels slight off.

I did enjoy the fight scenes, though I think Jeeja Yanin (Deu) was rather underused, considering she’s the star. Whenever the men had fight scenes without her, I was bitter because she wasn’t involved. And the ones where she fights with them are best. Particularly because of the dance elements in the style. There are lifts! The point of which is to allow Deu to inflict all the more violence! I wanted more of that.

I’m not sure what I think about the movie overall, but all that weirdness does make for a good movie-night film.

Playing the past

Posted in Action/adventure, Fantasy, Games with tags , on April 21, 2011 by Cara Marie

I finished Dragon Age: Awakenings last night, which is a bit backwards of me, I know. Hurrah for happy endings! It’s quite satisfying to get your epilogue come up with, ‘And you were awesome, and your Arling was awesome, and your Keep was awesome, dwarven architecture is awesome, all your companions were awesome, except maybe the one you picked up at the last minute, she went off and died.’ We’ll ignore the part where it tried to tell me Deve’s true love was Alistair. Nu-uh. Zevran all the way ♥

The epilogue was especially a relief because I’d looked at the Codex while off hunting the Mother, and all the character entries for people I’d left at the Keep said they’d died D: I thought, I built those walls for nothing? And was so distressed I had to get a cup of tea.

But no, happy ending!

I do prefer the framing device around Dragon Age II. The possibility for lies allows for future games in a way the straight epilogue doesn’t … I’m looking at you, Anders. Although I’m not sad that DAII happened to him. (I am a little confused as to how he possibly could have got to Kirkwall in time to meet Hawke.)

It’s funny, in my second playthrough of DAII I decided to romance Anders so I could have an even more traumatic ending … except I played a mage, so it was actually more triumphant? There was a moment after he blew up the Chantry when I thought, oh god, I could have talked them down! But then I thought about it, and was like, well, it would only happen again next week. Anders is right, down with the Chantry! (Sorry, Sebastian, I’m not going to kill my lover just ’cause you’re not down with the revolution.)

Having gone back to an earlier game, it now clicks why people were so frustrated with the recycled layouts. Awakenings has so many excellent, different settings, more moments of visual gorgeousness/creepiness. But on the other hand, DAII is way easier for me to navigate. Less realistic, maybe, but I like not getting lost, so it’s an acceptable trade-off.

Playing Awakenings also reiterated for me the joy of having a voiced PC. I kept feeling like I should be reading the dialogue out … Voicing means the timing’s better, you get a better sense of character, you get little asides and comments where player choice isn’t necessary … the Warden comes across as a taciturn person, who never even goes ‘huh’ to anything. Even if her dialogue is that of a persuasive, charming person.

This is the Warden I used for my latest DAII run-through (and because Zevran showed up in the battle against Meredith!) so I now have a bunch of head-canon where Hawke and her buddies hop on a boat with Zevran and seek refuge in Amaranthine. Read more »

Justice does not approve of my obsession with you

Posted in Action/adventure, Fantasy, Games with tags , on April 9, 2011 by Cara Marie

After I made a distressed facebook update re: my completion of Dragon Age II, one of my friends asked whether my reaction was due to the no-win plot, or just because the game was nowhere near as awesome as Dragon Age: Origins.

Well, the no-win plot. But also I’m not sure that it’s not as awesome as the first game. I said I was willing to forgive a lot on account of not having to trek through the Deep Roads for hours on ends, and that’s part of it: even though Origins wasn’t actually any longer, I think maybe each quest required more time investment. II cut down on all that trekking, and that makes it way more replayable, for me.

I mean, I was so distressed about the ending I decided I had to replay it immediately so that I could romance Anders and get even more heartbroken. And then I actually did. And now I’m halfway through, and that’s the farthest I’ve ever got in a replay of an RPG! And I’m looking forward to getting it back to it. And I’m getting different things out of it. (And I haven’t even started my pro-Templar playthough!)

The two games are quite different experiences, and maybe Origins is more suited to the word ‘awesome’, but I feel like II actually offers me more. It’s the book I have to reread immediately, not in another couple of years.

When I mentioned to my friends last month that I was looking forward to Dragon Age II, S said that he’d heard it was bad. And I was a bit D: because, why would you tell me that? But also, not true. I was excited about this game then, and now I’ve finished it, I’m still excited about it.

II is another step closer to my ultimate game, the game that will eat my soul and keep me trapped in my room forever. And I just know that’s going to be a Bioware game. I swear, one day I will finish an RPG by another company! Just not any day soon. I’ve got another playthrough to finish :D