Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pic of the Day 13

Samurai Storm Shadow from the Sigma 6 line. These figures are so great, the have so many accessories, really good articulation, and lots of ninjas. I love ninjas.

Remember Kids: In the heat of battle, heroes emerge, sometimes from the most unlikely of sources.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Pic of the Day 12

Halo 3 Brute Stalker by McFarlane Toys. The Halo 3 line is great, but in order to be the completionist I want to be of DCUC I'll be almost completely dropping this line. I'll still get the little mini helmets though. I love mini helmets.

Remember Kids: Resistance is futile!

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sure I was...

I read Ra's al Ghul: Year One today, and I was going to write a post about that. I was going to try to finish the post I started a couple of weeks ago about comic art. I was going to finally work on the next review for Batman: The Animated Series and post that. I was going to mention that I beat Guitar Hero: 3 on medium, and that it was time to go back to Guitar Hero: 2 on hard (or maybe go back and do easy first). I was going to work on updating my DCUC checklists. I was going to take a bunch of new pictures and queue them up for the next week's Pic of the Day posts.

But now I can't.

I have to go into work at 3 am tomorrow. I normally do my blog posting from 12 am to 2 am since I don't have to get up until 8-ish. But not tonight, as I'll need to go to sleep by 10 so I can get up at 3.


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Pic of the Day 11

The Mouth of Sauron mini bust, by Sideshow Toys/Weta Workshop. I love this mini bust. It illustrates how much work was put into the Lord of the Rings movies, of which I am a beig fan. Check out the amazing detail on this thing, click on the image to view a much larger image, so you can see the details. There's all sorts of runes around the edges of the mask, his lips and teeth are super nasty.

This bust came to me due to a friendship I developed on the SWAN Forums a couple years back. I met a guy named Daniel, who lives in New Zealand and works as a designer for Weta Workshop, which means he worked on the coolest movie trilogy in recent history, and possibly of all time (okay, I still probably prefer the Original Star Wars trilogy).

Daniel is one of the coolest people I've had the opportunity to talk to, and his friendship has also been beneficial to my collecting. He set me up with a few LOTR items that I thought I never would have had otherwise (sure, many of them are cheaper now on eBay than what I paid for them, but at the time I got a great deal). The pictured Mouth of Sauron bust he got for me on sale, and he also got one of my most prized collectibles, the Balrog Flame of Udun statue, which I'll have to post pictures of someday. Additionally, he let me send him a book I had, The Art of the Lord of the Rings, and he signed it and had a bunch of other people sign it for me. It is awesome. I'll do pictures of it later next week. He also picked up the AFX Exclusive Animated Ringwraith maquette for me, again it's cheaper now than what I got it for, but I got it not too long after it came out when it was going for much more, so that's cool.

Anyway, Daniel's a great guy, and a very talented artist and designer. You can see the results of his work in the Lord of the Rings films, or more directly in the Art of... books, there's one for each film, and one for the trilogy. Additionally, he is featured in some of the bonus features on the LOTR DVDs.

Remember kids: Wraiths! Wraiths on wings!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pic of the Day 10

Star Wars Republic Gunship Transformer.

Remember kids: Together we can rule the galaxy!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pic of the Day 9

Venom mini bust, by Sideshow Toys

Remember Kids: What doesn't kill me, has made a tactical error.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Pic of the Day 8

Ice Dragon, by McFarlane Toys

It's a man-eating horse of doom!

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pic of the Day 7

From the GI Joe Sigma 6 line: Sigma Strike Duke (which TRU are still flooded with, even though the figure is 2 or 3 years old) and Heavy Duty.

Remember Kids: Sometimes you have fun, and sometimes the fun has you. - Schlock Mercenary

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pic of the Day 6

The Twins from Matrix: Reloaded, by Gentle Giant.

Remember Kids: When you want something done right, do it yourself. And if that's not enough, go back in time and tell yourself to try it again. -

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Pic of the Day 5

Raven Spawn 3inch trading figure

Raven Spawn 2

A inferno keeps you warm, and a hail of bullets makes you feel alive. Until you die. - Scary Go Round

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pic of the Day 4

Saruman mini bust by Gentle Giant. The Palantír lights up.

They will find the Ring, and KILL the one who carries it!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pic of the Day 3

I haven't written about Star Wars in a long time here, and since Star Wars kicked off my collecting habit (both in classic and modern times) I thought I should make a small post about it. I was initially going to put up a picture of the Sideshow Darth Maul, but you'll have to wait a couple days for that one, and instead we'll take a trip down memory lane.

Way back when I was a sophomore in High School Hasbro started up a new line of Star Wars figures, called Power of the Force, the second line with that title. Quite possibly the first Star Wars figure, nay, the first toy I ever bought for myself was the above pictured Boba Fett. It also might have been the Luke in Stormtrooper Disguise, or Jedi Luke, but I lean towards Boba, and since I don't have the two Lukes anymore Boba was the only option for the photo.

Sure, it's kinda beefy, as were all the figures in that line, but it's a pretty great figure nonetheless, and that's why I didn't sell it when I did the Lukes. When I went to Colombia (the South American country, not one of the US cities) for two years Boba went with me. He's been with me longer than my wife (since we didn't start dating till we were seniors), and I hope he's with me to the end. Though I don't want to be buried with him. That would be weird. My DCUC collection maybe, not beefy Boba. I'll give him to Katie or whichever of my kids still likes Star Wars when I'm about to go.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pic of the Day 2

I have given a name to my pain, and it is Batman.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Pic of the Day 1

This blog needs more pictures. I've got so many figures, many of which have never seen the camera, or whose pictures have never seen the light of a computer screen. I'm going to see how many consecutive days I can post pictures. My bets on like 5.

As (almost) always, click for a nice, large version.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Updated Joker Pic!

This month's Toy Fair magazine has a picture of the upcoming DCUC Joker figure. Everyone should go buy the issue. We still don't know when exactly this figure will be released, except that it will be this year. Current rumor-mongering and conjecture places it in this year's Walmart exclusive wave.

Frankly, it's awesome and I can't wait to get it.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Small update

I changed out the music, so you could hear some of the new music I've been listening to. Well, not all of it is new to me, but Korn, Massive Attack, and My Chemical Romance certainly are. It's interesting stuff. Depeche Mode is in no way new to me, that's the band I've been listing to the longest of almost everything I still listen to, and I have nearly everything they've ever released. The Evanescence stuff is available to download free on the internet, as it was never released through a music label.

Anyway, I hoped to have a Batman post written and posted by this morning, but it didn't happen, because I was busy playing beating Guitar Hero II on medium, and starting Guitar Hero III on medium, which is freaking hard. I also meant to post something regarding a Batman comic I read last week, but I forgot to do that last night, so look for that to hit tomorrow sometime, and then hopefully by Saturday morning I'll have a new Batman: The Animated Series post up.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

DCUC Wave 9 Announced at NYCC

Yesterday was the Mattel and DC panel at New York Comic Con, wherein Mattel made a few announcements regarding their DC lines. Of course, the ones that matter are those regarding DC Universe Classics, currently the best toy line in existence, as well as the best toy line ever. Specifically, Mattel announced wave 9, as well as giving us a couple points of info regarding the rest of the year.

Thanks to Action Figure Insider and Toy News International for the pics, visit their sites for more pics and info from NYCC.

Lets start with the non wave 9 info. Several weeks ago Mattel announced four 2 packs they wanted to release, but the actual release of these 2 packs depends on getting enough pre-orders for them. They are available for pre-order at many online retailers, my personal favorite being Corner Store Comics, based in California, UPS Ground only takes 2 days to get to me. Another popular retailer that I've never used, since they're in Missouri or someplace over there, and for me generally more expensive than CSC, is Enchanted Toy Chest

As I said, Mattel announced four of these packs, but only gave us pictures for one, so orders for the others have been slow. The first to be released features a re-release of last year's (wait, since we're in 2009 now, it's not last year's line anymore, it's 2007's) DCSH Clayface and black/gray Batman, although the Batman has been mud splattered. I don't need this pack as I was able to get both of these figures at retail. Yesterday at NYCC Mattel showed off the second 2 pack for this year, Superman and Brainiac, Superman being a kitbash of Eradicators heat vision eyes head on the Kalibak wave's Superman, so we can get a more classic, short haired Supes, as opposed to Mullet Superman which many people don't care for. Personally, I like Mullet Supes, because all the Justice League comics I own feature post-Return of Superman Mullet Superman or Blue Energy Superman.

Of course, the important piece of this 2 pack is classic All-I-Want-Is-A-Decent-Pair-Of-Pants Brainiac. Sure, it's sort of a goofy look, green legs/hands/head, white boots, black shorts and pink polo shirt? But it's still Brainiac, the design used in the Super Friends show (which I barely remember), and that design has recently returned to the comics, where Brainiac is a very scary robot. And I do kinda like the look, so I'm definitely going to order this set from CSC as soon as I have sufficient funds.

Notice you can see Batman vs Clayface in the background.

Mattel also showed us the figures from the next exclusive 2 pack (the first being Adam Strange and Starfire): Alex Luthor and Ultraman. They're from an alternate universe, Ultraman is an evil version of Superman, while Luthor is a good version of Lex Luthor. They look good, and I'll be getting them (you'll be hearing that a lot any time I talk about DCUC).

Other news: We will finally be getting the brown Man-Bat that was cut from DCSH in wave 10. Yipee! I'm really excited by this, since until I'm ready to fork over $40+ for the SDCC Exclusive version I am without a Man-Bat. We will be getting a new Joker figure based on wave 8's Gentleman Ghost, and it will look AWESOME.

Now, on to Wave 9, due out late Summer 2009.

Let's see, who to start with? Might as well be one of the most requested figures, one of the most recognizable of the figures, a well known member of the Justice League of America: Green Arrow. It looks like he'll come with four arrows of different styles, including his boxing glove arrow (which is dumb, and even his son thinks so, but then he was forced to use it, and it worked, and it really surprised him). Frankly, Ollie looks great! He's got the Errol Flynn look down, and he pulls it off well. He's got all all new chest, biceps and forearms (with archery bracers), and New Hands! With a pin/hinge wrist joint, it'll look perfect! It appears he has the standard pieces every where else, along with a new head (as ever figure does). People were saying he would have a real bow string, as opposed to the plastic string he's displayed with, but I don't remember reading that, but that would be cool. I'm quite looking forward to Green Arrow, he'll definitely be one of the, if not the favorite figure of the wave.

To go along with Ollie, is his wife (or girlfriend, I'm not sure if they were ever married in the Satellite era), Black Canary. She also looks really good, of course, that's a silly thing to say, since this whole line was sculpted by the Four Horsemen, and they do amazing work; Every figure in this line looks great. Anyway, since whoever decides these things is in love with the Satellite era of the Justice League, the main members of the League have been of a more classic look, as opposed to the better, modern look. :D Hence, Dinah has blue leg underneath her real fishnet tights, instead of the bare legs of a later look. She's got a short leather jacket, which means she gets all new arms and hands, she's got what looks like a retooled Wonder Woman torso, and I don't think we've had boot tops like those on a woman yet, so those are probably new (and look like they would work for Power Girl, hint hint). I would have preferred the modern Black Canary, even if she doesn't show as much skin as the classic version does, but that just because I tend to prefer the modern artists more. Anyway, Black Canary is another one fans have been clamoring for, as she's an integral part of the Justice League (again, going to the modern era I think she's actually the chairwoman of the Justice League, I'll know for sure in a few weeks when I finally get the first storyline from the current Justice League of America series).

Now, getting to the figures that will probably be my favorite, wave 8's addition to the ever growing set of New Gods figures: another one of Darkseid's minions, Mantis I've not read many comics featuring the New Gods, so I wouldn't have called myself a fan before this line, but the figures are so great that I'm definitely a fan of the New Gods now. It's a good thing the Four Horsemen are such fans and getting a new addition with almost every wave. As with many comic book characters Mantis is some guy with a funny looking costume. Goofy wings on his back and a funky helmet with antenna on it, and yet once sculpted by master artists who are also fans of the guy, he comes out looking pretty neat, despite the odd stripes on his costume, but again, they make him look good, just like they did will Killer Moth from wave 6, who has to have one of the goofiest costumes EVER. Mantis looks good, and I want him, check out his new gloves and boots.

And more importantly, Mantis gets a variant (similar waves 6 and 8 New Gods characters having variants). Exactly like wave 8's variant though this variant is based on the redesign for the Super Powers toy line of the 80's, and let me say, this is the best redesign ever. I loved this figure as a kid (I'm not actually sure if I had it myself, or if I just new of it and really wanted it). The robo-insectoid Mantis looks much scarier than the original design, and I'm tempted to get a couple, and set them up with the Parademons as though their generic soldiers in Darkseid's army. Mantis is extra detailed, looking mechanical and insect like and creepy and awesome, and everything looks like completely new parts (like both versions of the Parademon). I expect this to be my favorite figure of the wave, by quite a bit.

The figure that will probably be my next favorite (after robo-Mantis and before classic Mantis) is one of DC's most renown assassins, Deadshot. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Deadshot production sample was not on display, so we only got a glimpse of him from Mattel's slide presentation. And he looks great. Like Deathstroke, Deadshot is more detailed than the average super hero. He's got ammo belts, armored sections, and weapons (Deadshot is known for his wrist guns), he's got a scope thing over one eye, and a big target over his heart (so David Cain can shoot him in it, but he gets better). His head even looks like a retool of Deathstroke's masked head. I'm quite looking forward to him, he'll be really fun to have.

The remaining figures are terribly interesting to be, but they look nice, and I need the C&C, and I'm buying all the single packed figures anyway, so I'll be getting them. Guardian is the most exciting to me, although he's going to look too much like a Dr Fate wannabe. I know nothing of Guardian, so I won't say anymore.

Wildcat is an integral member of the Justice Society of America, which means I know absolutely nothing about him. He doesn't look bad, and there's no reason for me not to get him. He will also come in a blue chase variant, which I don't care about, but I'm tempted to get two Chemos, so maybe I will.

Finally, another one high on everyone's want list, and very puzzling that he wasn't in wave 7 along with Captain Marvel, Black Adam! Normally I'd be excited to get him, but alongside the more visually interesting figures above, Black Adam looks rather boring, frankly. He's a cool character, and saw a lot of use in 52, and he does come will a nifty ankh medallion, so he's definitely a welcome addition to the line, he just looks really plain next to the likes of ROBO-MANTIS!

And finishing up with the C&C figure: Chemo!

One last point of interest, the Ame-Comi line of DC statues. I'm not a huge fan of anime, but I don't hate it either, and this line really interests me, though they're too pricey for me to collect them in any regular manner. Wonder Woman has been my favorite so far, and I really wish I could find her for $30, cause I'd get it at that price. At NYCC we were shown the next two, Classic Catwoman, and modern Batgirl, and I must say, Batgirl I will have at any price.

And that's mostly everything. Mattel announced a 6 inch line of Ghostbusters figures that I'm interested in, but as they will be exclusive to Matty's website they will be coming out every other month and cost $20 each, so I'll probably be passing on them. They are also starting a line of mini deformed figures, similar to Marvel's Super Hero Squad, or the Star Wars Galactic Heroes, which would be fun to get for my girls, but I won't be collecting them for myself.

Remember kids: If you are what you eat, I could be you by morning.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

The Legends of Dune Trilogy

A few months ago I decided it was time to read Dune again, probably because the final book in the series (book 8) was finally released and I wanted to read it, but I'd have to start at least with book 6 to have any idea what was going on. So I decided to read the entire series of 14 books instead, in chronological order, because publishing order wouldn't have helped. For those who don't know, the Dune series originally consisted of 6 books by Frank Herbert. The protagonist of the first book was Paul Atreides, and the story followed his rise as the leader of the Freemen of Arrakis, the planet also known as Dune, and his conflict with the eternal enemies of the Atreides, the Harkonnens. It's a very popular book series, with one motion picture adaptation, and two (or possibly three) television mini-series.

So. The Legends of Dune Trilogy consists of the books The Butlerian Jihad, The Machine Crusade, and The Battle of Corrin. I've read this set only once before, I think it was shortly after the third book came out. The whole idea is similar to the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy: A few references in the Original Series sparked the imaginations of readers with images of humans battling evil machines (ala The Matrix or Terminator movies) and eventually Frank Herbert's son decided to cash in (probably after the huge success of the previously mentioned movies). Actually, Brian Herbert decided to cash in on his father's legacy long before the Legends Trilogy, by co-writing a Prequel Trilogy of books with Kevin J Anderson, who's a well known Sci-Fi/Fantasy author. The Prequel Trilogy details key events in the life Duke Leto Atreides, Paul's father.

The Legends of Dune Trilogy was also written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, and takes place something like 5000 years before the events of Dune. The citizens of the worlds belonging to the League of Nobles are at war with the Synchronized Worlds, the machine worlds under the rule of Omnius the Evermind, and have been at war for around a thousand years. We are introduced to four humans, key throughout the series: Xavier Harkonnen, a courageous officer in the Army of Humanity; Serena Butler, a young but courageous and determined member of the ruling council of the League of Nobles; Iblis Ginjo, a low ranking but respected foreman on the Synchronized Worlds (on Earth, to be exact), in charge of a construction crew; and Vorian Atreides, a high ranking human trustee on the Synchronized Worlds (also Earth), son of the Titan Agammemnon, the cyborg general of Omnius' machine forces. Through an interesting series of events Serena is captured by the thinking machines, taken to Earth and introduced to Vorian. She shows him what it means to be an independent free-thinking human, despite her current situation as a servant of the machines. When her child is murdered (by the independent machine Erasmus), it sparks a rebellion among the human slaves, led by Iblis Ginjo, and Vorian uses his high rank to flee Earth with Serena and Iblis. They return to the free human worlds and convince them to step up the war, and it becomes a Jihad, a Holy War in memory of Serena and her murdered child, hence the Butlerian Jihad.

Of course, in the end humans utterly defeat the machines (and the cyborg Titans), but first they struggle through deadly plagues, machine incursions , the complacency and indifference of human leaders, and the treachery of other humans. In general, it's quite an entertaining set of books. There's a big war between logical, intelligent machines, they have a plethora of information, but little wisdom and little insight into human behavior, and the creativity and ingeniousness of humans, shackled by morals and indecision, and short memories. But it's mostly a story of characters, such as the aforementioned four humans, but also Erasmus, the most interesting of machines, he is one of the few thinking machines on the Synchronized Worlds that isn't tied in to Omnius, he has his own independent personality. We see how they live and die, how they feel and grow and respond to the various circumstances. Most of the characters are easy to sympathize with, even some of the machines are, and it's easy to get drawn into the conflict and be caught up with how it will end.

However, part of that sympathy is in conflict with a common flaw of the series. It's always been a flaw of the series (in my mind) that the time isn't constant. I don't know, it does help with the storytelling, but at the same time it breaks flow between the books. Subsequent books do not usually pick up where the previous book left off, so you loose your frame of reference, because the status is not quo (to quote Dr Horrible). It was a particular difficulty for me in the original Dune series. It wasn't too bad between books 2 and 3, only around 10 years had passed, so not a whole lot had changed, we were following characters who had been infants at the end of book 2 so we hadn't really developed a relation to them anyway. But five thousand years pass between 3 and 4, so EVERYTHING has changed, except for the once constant character throughout the original Dune books. Back to the Legends books, The Butlerian Jihad ends after humans nuke Earth into oblivious, and the Jihad is in full swing. But The Machine Crusade picks up 25 years later, and the characters we knew and loved from TBJ are not the same. Especially Iblis Ginjo. He was a very sympathetic character in TBJ. A foreman on a work crew on Earth, his job was to manage a construction crew whose purpose was to build monuments to the greatness of the Titans (the cyborg generals). He had a little authority which he used to improve the lives of his workers, to inspire them to hard work for their machine overlords.

A quick side note: Erasmus spends is life examining and learning about humans. He feels his independence is a benefit to Omnius, as he has a different perspective on humans and their behavior. In an effort to prove to Omnius that he understands humans better, Erasmus bets that he can turn a trusted human against Omnius, and he succeeds. He unexpectedly starts the rebellion on Earth by trying his bet out on Iblis Ginjo (among others). Iblis is convinced that there is a secret underground movement brewing, and he takes steps to be ready: recruiting his workers, preparing defenses and offenses (hiding rocket launchers in the statues his crew builds), and getting ready for when the time is right and the sign is given. When Serena's baby interferes with her willingness to obey Erasmus, he decides to remove the distraction, and he kills the baby (drops him off a ledge to the ground below), in full view of Iblis and his work crew. Serena flips out (understandably) and attacks Erasmus, but his bodyguard robots intervene. She manages to knock one of the bodyguards off the ledge, and it smashes to pieces on the pavement below. This shocks all the humans present, and Iblis realizes there is no better time, and launches his work crews into action, setting off the rebellion that eventually becomes the Holy Jihad in memory of Serena and her murdered baby.

So that's Iblis at the end of The Butlerian Jihad, fervently leading a holy war against the demonic thinking machines. But at the start of The Machine Crusade he's a fat, power-drunk, bureaucrat, living high on the authority granted him due to the war. He's very much taken advantage of the fervor of the people, and gotten himself appointed Grand Patriarch of the Jihad, and has set up a very Nazi-esque secret police, the Jihad Police who root out machine sympathizers and spies and it all sounds very much like witch hunts to keep the populous afraid of the machines and keep Iblis and his Jihad Council in control of the League of Nobles. We eventually find out that some of the so-called spies actually were spies, but low ranking, unimportant spies, "found out" by the true spy for Omnius, the head of the Jihad Police, whose name I don't recall at the moment. It doesn't take long for us to completely dislike Iblis, because we're supposed to, but those feelings are in stark contrast to how we were supposed to feel about him in the first book. It's all very confusing and makes it more difficult to get into the subsequent books.

Another thing I remember not liking from my first read through was the fact that EVERYTHING of importance from the original Dune books finds its beginnings in this trilogy. The Spacing Guild and space folding? Books 2 and 3, check. The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood? Book 3, check. Mentats? Books 2 and 3, check? The Atreides/Harkonnen fued? Well, that was actually one of the main purposes of this trilogy (or at least, that's how I remember them being advertised back when I first bought them), so of course, check, though it just barely sneaks in at the end of the third book, almost like they had forgotten they were supposed to setup the feud, because Vorian Atreides and Xavier Harkonnen become very good friends in the first book, and remain so until Xavier's death in the second, and Vorian transfers his friendship to Xavier's grandson in the third book. The feud does feel kinda thrown together at the last minute. Anyway, the phrase "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of the human mind" book 3, check. The Corrino line of Emperors? Again, book 3, check. Oh, and how can we forget the founding of the Freemen of Dune, books 1-3, check! Glowbulbs, shields, suspensors, they're all to be found here for the first time.

I tried to pay more attention to all these beginnings and the time frames this read through, and it's not quite as bad as I remembered. The books span something like 150 years, so it's not quite so forced as it felt before, but still, every important socio-political relationship is setup in these book. Sure, the Mentats and Sisterhood aren't very far developed, and neither is the Spacing Guild really, but the obvious beginnings of the three come to pass in the same 50 years of the last book. Same with the Freemen, although a lot of their beliefs and practices are acquired throughout the books. It just feels a little too rigged.

Now, lest you think I didn't enjoy the books, let me set your mind at rest. I did like the Legends of Dune trilogy. Quite a lot. most of the beginnings are very interesting, there are a lot of sympathetic characters for us to like, and lots of very not sympathetic characters for us to dislike. The stories surrounding the formations of the various entities are very interesting. For example, the first Mentat, the humans that can think in fast and logically like computers, is trained by Erasmus. And it makes perfect sense of course, what better way to learn to think like a computer than to be trained to do so by a computer? And it sets up an interesting father/son relationship for Erasmus. The Freemen have interesting stories, we learn more about the slavery they suffered that we heard about in the later books, and we see them learn to ride the Sandworms for the first time.

There are a lot of interesting, engaging stories in these books, and they're definitely worth reading. They're also a lot easier to get into than the original Dune, it's lighter writing than Frank Herbert used, so I recommend these books to sci-fi fans, or those who don't mind sci-fi for a good story. Oh yeah, and there's a giant war with robots and cyborgs, so what more could you want?

Continue reading...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Underworld - U: Evolution - U: Rise of the Lycans

I saw a really great movie earlier last week, but first, a quick update on Batman: TAS (if anyone still cares). I will be getting back to that soon. There's still one thing that will occupy my nights for the next week or two, but once that's taken care of I'll make better use of my time than just playing the XBox all the time (I just got Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which is pretty cool) and get some Batman reviews done too. Along with the cartoon I plan to review some comics; I finished Batman: No Man's Land Volume 1 recently and want to discuss it, as well as a few books from the Dune series.

There will be spoilers for the previous two films, and probably some for this one as well.

I thought Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was a great movie. The relationship between Sonia and Lucian was really well executed and they're both quite sympathetic characters. Viktor, on the other hand, is NOT a sympathetic character. It's interesting to see how the point of view of the films changes.

The first, Underworld, was mostly from Selene's point of view, from the perspective that the vampires with the good side of the war, and the lycans were the bad; Viktor was Selene's hero and her savior. But as we get to know Lucian through Michael (Michael was bit by Lucian, and as he undergoes his first werewolf transformation he sees Lucian's memories) we learn that Lucian's woman was executed by her own father, Viktor, for loving him, because she was a vampire and he was a lycan.


Then there's the big reveal later that it wasn't lycan's that slaughtered Selene's family, with Viktor arriving in time to save her life (only to turn her into a vampire so she could hunt down lycans for the next 600 years), but that Viktor in fact was her family's killer, and he spared her because she reminded him of the daughter he had lost. So with Viktor the bad guy at the culmination of the movie, Selene kills him and the lycans leave her and Michael in peace.

Underworld: Evolution picks up soon after the first, with Selene and Michael hiding from the vampires, with Selene planning to return to her coven and wake the last remaining Elder Vampire, Marcus, to explain everything that transpired in the first, in hopes of winning amnesty for Michael from the vampires. It's again told very much from the vampire perspective, this time Selene and Marcus. The plot of the first film was that the lycans were trying to combine the vampire and lycan bloodlines to create a hybrid which would be more powerful than either, and they succeeded in Michael (which is why the vampires want to destroy him, Abomination!). However, they also inadvertently turned Marcus into a hybrid, only he's a much more powerful hybrid, he being the original vampire, he's more a bat-man and he looks really cool. Anyway, he seems to have gone a little insane from the transformation, and he decides to kill all the vampires in his coven and find out why Viktor thought Selene was so important (and then kill her). And free his brother.

Turns out his brother, William, is the original werewolf. Marcus and William are the sons of Alexander Corvinus, a noble of types from centuries ago. A plague swept through the land and killed all of those under Alexander Corvinus, he too contracted the virus, but somehow he didn't die. His body was changed such that he stopped aging and getting sick, and he became the first immortal. He could still die, of course, by violence, but natural causes of death no longer affect him. I guess sometime after this point he had two sons who grew to adulthood and stopped aging, the virus and its effects having been passed to them. Then one was bitten by a wolf and the other a bat, and the vampire and werewolf species came into existence. But the werewolf that William because was not like the lycans of later days. He was permanently transformed into a large, somewhat humanoid wolf creature, and became completely feral, all his past humanity lost. Also, he was highly infectious. He went on murderous rampages throughout the countryside, and those he murdered would come back to life as crazed wolf-creatures like him.

At some point Marcus came to Viktor, a human noble or ruler of some type, who was dying of old age, and he offered him immortality. Viktor turned his armies and the nobles of his court into vampires and immediately took over as the ruling vampire. He and his armies hunted down the feral werewolves, trying to exterminate them, and in a concession to Marcus, to capture William. This is actually the point at which E:U started, which the capture of William, and his eternal imprisonment. We see some more that Viktor is actually a really big stupid head and convinced of his own superiority over all others we have no reason to like him.


Okay, so back to Marcus hunting Selene and Michael. He learned that Michael has been wearing a pendant that Lucian had all through the first movie, which we learned he took from Sonia after she was murdered, which had been given to her by her father, Viktor. From another rather old vampire Selene and Michael had learned why Viktor had murdered Selene's family, for it wasn't just to feast on the blood of humans, it was to guard a secret - the location of William's prison, for Selene's father was the one that built the sarcophagus that William is imprisoned in. And the pendant is part of the key. Marcus kills Michael, finds out where the sarcophagus is being kept (because vampires and werewolves can read each other's memories through drinking each other's blood - which I thought was pretty cool), and rushes off to free his brother.

Selene takes some army-type guys with her (who are actually in the employ of Alexander Corvinus) and rushes off to stop Marcus from freeing the most infectious and powerful lycan. They bring the body of Michael with them. Marcus frees William, who attacks the soldier guys, quite easily killing them (so they can shortly rise as rabid dog werewolves for Selene to kill. Then she's left to face William and Marcus, but Michael's body finally finishes healing itself and he joins the fight. Marcus and Selene fight up on a bridge, while William and Michael fight down below, Michael being cleverer and more agile he eventually wins the fight by getting on William's back, grabbing William's upper snout, and tearing his head in half. This distracts Marcus enough that Selene is able to push him into the still rotating blades of a crashed helicopter so he can get blended into bite size bits, and the movie ends with Selene and Michael probably going to be able to live the rest of their lives out in peace.


And finally back to the movie I'm trying to review, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. This movie appears at first to be told from the vampire perspective, but is really all about Lucian and the lycans, with a little bit from Sonia and Viktor thrown in. You know, for guy who died at the end of the first movie Viktro got as much or more screen time in the sequels than the Selene did.

I started this review Wednesday morning after having seen the film, and it is now Sunday morning, and I've really forgotten quite a bit of the movie. I'm not sure if I remember how it started, or what for explanatory dialog there might have been at the beginning. Guess I need to go see it again. This movie takes place hundreds of years in the past (compared to the first two movies which take place in the now), as U:ROTL starts the vampires are at war with the lycans, but these are the original breed of lycans, the vicious, feral lycans; the mindless murderous beasts. The vampires have a nice big fortress they live in, with Viktor as the lord of the vampires. It's shown that the vampires have several of these lycans imprisoned, though I don't remember why, maybe to torment them, or experiment upon them, something or other. Anyway, the important point is that one of these feral lycans had a baby. A baby that wasn't a wolf-creature, but a human baby boy. Viktor kills the mother, and it just about to kill the boy, when he suddenly has a change of heart.

The boy of course, is Lucian, and he is raised as a slave of the vampires. He is quite intelligent, and unlike the lycans that gave birth to him, he can transform between wolf and human form (at the full moon). He is used by the vampires to create more lycans like him, taking from the human slaves the vampires keep. We also learn he is the (or a) blacksmith for the coven, and the favored slave of Viktor (and not the favored of the slave keeper, of course). We are also introduced to Viktor's daughter Sonia. She's an independent woman, strong and courageous, often disobeying her father to leave the safety of the fortress to hunt down the wild lycans. And eventually we are shown what we already know from the previous movies, Sonia and Lucian are in love, despite the class and racial differences.


I rather expected that we would see Kraven in this film. Evil Vicious Cousin Derek and I looked the movie up on last week to see who was in it, and seeing whoever as Kraven from the previous two films excited me a little, because he was a sneaky, slimy , backstabbing worm in the first film (and died in the first 20 minutes of the second) and I wanted to see his involvement in the origin of the war between Viktor and Lucian, and expected him to be one of Viktor's primary lackeys. But he wasn't. His lackey in this one was Tanis, the historian we met in Underworld: Evolution. Which was cool, I rather liked Tanis, and he had a very large part in this movie. For example, when Lucian and Sonia sneak out to boink he sees them together, and puts two and two together. But he's also cool and doesn't snitch on them to Viktor.

Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a plot recap of the movie, more a general review and my thoughts on it. The action was good. The CG lycans were good. Viktor was a hateful evil monster, just like the first two movies, but he's a great actor and had a great presence in the film (and the first film too, I really, really liked Viktor in Underworld, right up until the end when we found out he was the bad guy). The design of the props, sets and costumes was really cool - the lycan slaves were fitted with collars that had 4 silver spikes in the front, so if they tried to transform they'd get skewered in the throat, the vampires were all very well dressed, especially Viktor, with intricate designs on his fancy robes and armor. Rage has the freakiest voice of anyone I have ever heard. And it's awesome.


The execution scene was excellent. We saw it in flashbacks in the first movie, and this recreation was very faithful, and very emotional. Lucian, of course, was torn apart (emotionally) as he was chained in front of Sonia to watch her die. At first he tried to be the brave one, trying to distract Sonia from her impending doom, but as the skylight was opened he lost his focus and control and completely broke down, trying to break free and save her, and finally slumping in defeat, while in contrast Sonia maintained her calm, even as the sun fell upon her and turned her into ash. Then when Viktor came back into the chamber (after night feel) to see how it went, he pulled the pendant from her neck, Lucian transformed, freed himself, took the pendant, and escaped, Again, just like in the flashback, but new and exciting all the same.

What we didn't see in the flashbacks is what Viktor did during the execution. After leaving Sonia and Lucian chained in the chamber, he went to Sonias room, and wept like I wouldn't have believed possible. He loved Sonia like no other, and was apparently really broken hearted to have had to sentence her to death. Speaking of which, she was brought before the council of vampires to be judged, he presented the crime and the sentence (death) and asked for a vote. Each of the council members voted in favor of the sentence, and he was the last to have to vote. And he hesitated. For several long seconds he paused, and in fact, there may have been flashbacks to her as a child, like when he gave her the pendant, but I don't remember for sure. But he hesitated a long while before finally saying, "Aye." So he sobbed and sobbed in her room, while his daughter burst into flame.


Lucian escaped, the wolves overran this fortress, and killed all the vampires except Tanis and the three elders (Marcus and Amelia, who were slumbering, and Viktor, who escaped after a near fatal encounter with an enraged Lucian) who escaped to presumably form another coven someplace else. And that's when the movie should have ended. Everything was perfectly awesome up to that point. Then there were the last thirty seconds or so.

Seriously. The movie was totally awesome, possibly the best of the three (the guy behind us said as much, but I very much enjoyed the previous two flicks), except for the last thirty seconds, in which they needlessly put in footage of Selene from the first movie, the opening shot of the first movie where she was perched on a ledge at the top of a tall building, with a voice over by Kraven, saying something (I don't quite remember actually, but it seems like it was something about how the consequences of the events of this movie would cascade down through time). It was completely pointless, and I'm sure somebody felt it was needed to tie this movie to the first two, maybe to make clear that this one is a prequel to the previous films, but it was so completely unnecessary and ham-handed that it almost spoiled the movie. It surely broke the mood we were in after the seeing the true ending of the film.

If you go see the movie (which I highly recommend to anyone that doesn't mind the rather copious amounts of blood), do yourself a favor and leave after Viktor leaves on the boat.

The abomination growing in her womb was a betrayal of me and the coven. I did what was necessary to protect the species. As I am forced to do yet again.

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