Hugo Capsules: The Movies

Better late than never. As it is now nomination season for this year’s Hugos, it seemed an appropriate time (if it can be called that) to belatedly finish and post my reviews of last year’s nominees, and offer my thoughts on contenders for this year’s awards.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

1. Interstellar

Phenomenal. A tour-de-force. The science is hard, the effects are fantastic, the visuals imaginative and gorgeous. The filmmakers put so much effort into getting the science right that an actual scientific paper was published as a result of research done for the film. If a science fiction film that leads to actual scientific discovery isn’t worthy of a Hugo, I don’t know what is. But that is not all. This film is a triumphant celebration of the wonder of Creation, courage and fortitude, reason and knowledge, and familial love. It is a condemnation and rebuke of utilitarianism, political correctness, and cowardice. “The glory of God is man fully alive,” and that glory is on full display here. This film was, for me, both the best science fiction film of the year, and the best religious one (and I say that not as a snarky science-worshiper, but as a Roman Catholic).

2. Edge of Tomorrow/Live. Die. Repeat./All You Need is Kill

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

Ranking the middle of the pack was quite difficult, as all of these films were well executed, and highly enjoyable. All You Need is Kill (to use the superior original title) edged out the two Marvel films partly by dint of not being a Marvel movie. Much as I love superhero films, I’ve also had seven straight years of them since 2008’s Iron Man. Kill was fresh and different, and had powered armor, and slivers. More important to its higher ranking, it was the most science-fiction qua science-fiction film of the bunch after Interstellar, a science fictional conceit forming the core of its plot, and the climax and resolution hinging on understanding that premise. I also appreciated the understated manner in which the romance was handled.

Winter Soldier was a wonderfully timely cautionary tale about surveillance technology and fascism, and a darn good action flick. Also, it had Captain America and Black Widow in it, and Captain America x Black Widow in it (even if Age of Ultron would later undercut this, but I digress). I was a bit disappointed by the climax however, as big-things-blowing-up-all-over-the-place felt 1) too much like the climax of The Avengers, and 2) clashed with the more intimate scope of the rest of the story. The film’s ringing praise of liberty and hatred of fascism earned it its spot above Guardians of the Galaxy, which was no less enjoyable, but which had less lofty goals, and chiefly concerned itself with being the best unabashed space opera cinema has seen for too long.

5. The LEGO Movie

I would never have thought to see this on the Hugo ballot, but it made me smile to do so. As someone who grew up with the wonderful toys, this movie was great fun for me, with it’s wacky inventiveness, and lack of cynicism. A few elements have come to bug me more after re-watching it several times: Batman’s jerkiness is quite funny the first time around, but becomes one-dimensional and less funny upon repeated viewing; and Wildstyle is ultimately not a very interesting character, and at times she seems to exist just for the screenplay to rebuke her and make Emmet look cool in comparison. Bear in mind though, that this is after many viewings, which the film was good enough to merit.


Fantastic Four: Not Half Bad

…and I mean that literally. The first half of the film is an interesting approach to a superhero origin story that lays ground for a promising second half that never shows up. That second half appears to have been mugged on its way to the studio by 20th Century Fox executives worried that audiences wouldn’t go see a superhero movie that didn’t need a doomsday scenario and a high-stakes action set piece against the series’ most iconic villain to be interesting (though somehow, they still managed to give said villain an uninspired character design. You’d think they’d have learned from their first go at this). Read the rest of this entry

Hugo Capsules Inbound!

I’ve got a lot of plane travel to look forward to over the next few two weeks: Pensacola this week and Japan the next. I also have my beloved Kindle Keyboard* stuffed to the brim with Hugo Nominees for Best Novel, Short Story, Novella, and Novelette. Despite what you may have heard, us Sad Puppies like to read things before we vote on them, and I have a golden opportunity here to not only read the heck out of the Hugo packet, but review the heck out of it as well. Some stories will inevitably get more attention than others, but I will make sure each story gets at least one sentence on what there was to like and dislike. I’ve already cracked a few of the novellas, and let me say, Kratman is giving Wright a real run for his money with Big Boys Don’t Cry (this big boy may or may not have cried), but I’ll have to reread Pale Realms of Shade to be sure. One Bright Star to Guide Them, sadly, left me underwhelmed, though I wonder that I may not be the right audience for such a tale, and will perhaps appreciate it more when I have grown older and more tired, and am therefore in greater need of a booster shot of hope.

*This XKCD strip sold me on the merits of the Kindle Keyboard. I successfully went my first two-and-a-half months in Japan with my Kindle as my only mobile communications device. I, no kidding, learned how to drive my predecessor’s stick-shift from Wikihow.

E-mails Win Wars!

Also, a bit late, but I am a Japanese-Cherokee-German-American and I am #notyourshield.

Using this as a informational link depot for various blog posts relating to the current Sad Puppies/Tor brouhaha.

John C. Wright’s blog is where I first learned that he, I, and all other Puppies, Sad or Rabid, were, in the view of a senior staffer at Tor Books, ‘neo-nazis’ (or perhaps merely ‘unrepentantly racist’).

Cedar Sanderson, among others, has called for an e-mail/letter writing campaign in wake of news that earlier complaints about Gallo’s comment had been dismissed as the mischief of bots and spammers.

L. Jagi Lamplighter has augmented this campaign by collecting photos of fans’ SFF collections (particularly their Tor purchases) in a master post, to demonstrate that we are real fans (with real money), not robots. To this, I contribute the following:

The fact that all the Magic stuff showed up in the background is a happy but accidental consequence of having a messy gaming table. Be advised TOR, John C. Wright is one of the chief reasons you get a chunk of my Magic budget.

The fact that all the Magic stuff showed up in the background is a happy but accidental consequence of having a messy gaming table. Be advised Tor, John C. Wright is one of the chief reasons you get a chunk of my Magic budget.

I don’t have much to add, except that on a personal note, as the grandnephew of four courageous men who overcame actual prejudice in order to go fight actual Nazis (and how! Go for Broke 442nd!), I didn’t much appreciate being labeled ‘unrepentantly racist’ nor a ‘neo-nazi’. But, as Wright said, a pro-forma insult is satisfied by a pro-forma apology, which has been given. At this point, the e-mail/letter campaign should be more focused on letting Tor/MacMillan know just how many people Gallo insulted, and that anyone telling upper management we are just a bunch of robots and spammers is lying. I will also add that this whole thing is a real shame, because Gallo has done a really bang-up job of picking out cover art for Wright’s books (especially the John Harris pieces for the Count to a Trillion books).

Pokeblades, Gotta Slash ’em All!

“Don’t make eye contact. Just don’t make eye contact. Just get to Riverdale City without making eye contact with anyone,” the young boy muttered to himself over and over as he cautiously picked his way along the trail leading out of the woods. The trail led into an open field where the road split three ways. Shoot! The boy cursed himself for not paying more attention in tracking class. If he had, he could have kept his gaze safely fixed on the ground and still determined which path led to the city. As it was, the only thing he could see on the road was the shadow of a road sign, and the another, human, shadow next to it. Which meant that the moment he raised his eyes to read the sign—

“Hey! The name’s Cor, and you just made eye contact with me, so we have to duel now!”

The other boy had piercing green eyes under the bill of a silvery-gray ball cap set upon his dark hair. A single, miniature sword gleamed darkly from his belt. Thank goodness, he must have just started his journey as well.

“I’m Arry.”

“What, like a Cockney saying Harry? ‘Arry?”

“No, just Arry,” said the first boy, whose name really was just Arry, “and my sword spirit’s in pretty bad shape right now. It won’t be much of a duel.”

“Then I guess we know who’s walking away from this ¥150 richer,” grinned the other. Why again, did they bet Japanese money on sword fights, wondered Arry as he steeled himself for the inevitable. Was it because the Japanese had developed the Master Sword? “Now, summon your noble sword spirit!”

Arry drew the small, broken blade from his belt and called aloud, “I summon, Narseal!” There was a dazzling flash, and a magnificent yet very wounded pinniped appeared. It has a great mane of red and white flames, and it’s fur shone like silver.

Cor drew his own, darker blade, and raised it aloft, calling “I summon, GraySwanDeer!” Out of a dark cloud emerged a horned beast, like a stag, but with great gray wings stretching out from either shoulder.

To be continued…when I can think of more to write than just fictional sword puns I really wanted to make.

Space opera fans rejoice! JUPITER ASCENDING ascends to great heights!

D.G.D. Davidson’s excellent review of Jupiter Ascending persuaded me to go see it. It did not disappoint. I haven’t had this much fun at a movie since, well Insterstellar, but Insterstellar was fun more like carefully assembling an intricate model kit is fun, whereas Jupiter Ascending is action figures and nerf guns and silly string and too much sugar kind of fun.

“Jupiter Ascending: Beauty and the Beast/Snow White meets Warhammer 40,000, with fewer skulls for the skull throne,” was what I immediately blurbed upon returning from the theater, and that’s a pretty good starting point. Read the rest of this entry

LotR SBG Sci-fi Mod

The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game has been a lot of fun so far, so I’ve come up with some ideas for how to run sci-fi games with it as well. I’m a fan of gaming both Hard SF and Space Opera, so elements of both are reflected in the proposed modifications. Update: I’ve included the two army lists I’m using for the first session at the bottom.

New General Rules (a.k.a Pinning):

•If a shooter scores a hit, his target is knocked down.

•Standing up requires a Courage Check. Roll equal or below Courage on 1D6 to stand up. Otherwise, you remain knocked down.

•Come on, men!

If a hero passes his Courage Check to stand up, all friendly warriors within 3″ do not need to check Courage to stand up. A hero may give up half of his move to take a Courage Check even if he is not knocked down, for the benefit of his subordinates.

•Jump Troops/Jetbikes: Treat as cavalry, except they may fly over any obstacles in their path. They do not receive a movement penalty in woods, but must test on the Thrown Rider chart whenever they enter, move through, or exit woods. Ignore any result except for a 1, in which case the rider is thrown and the jetbike (if any) is destroyed.

New Missile Weapon Rules:

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We are the fighting Uruk-hai!

These chaps were a blast to paint, and successfully broke me out of an almost year long painting slump. The banner and two-handed weapon wielding captain were converted from pike Uruks. This is the 500 point army I put together to fight my brother’s Rohirrim. It’s been a load of fun to play, and I look forward to adding some Marauders and Berserkers as additional screening units to prevent my hedgehog from being outflanked.

The main force

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Capsules III

These have been fun to do, so I’m going to make them a fairly regular feature.

Image from Allison and Lillia

Image from Allison and Lillia

Something I’m watching: Fate/Stay Night

I’m giving this one another shot after thoroughly enjoying Fate/Zero. It still suffers from the slow pacing in the beginning that made me drop it previously, but I find all of the cast and the overall story far more interesting now that I’ve seen the prequel and know things they do not (MWAHAHAHA). This may turn out to be a double-edged sword though, as any poorly done characterizations of the Heroic Spirits will look all the worse in comparison to Fate/Zero. I’m going to try and stick with Fate/Stay Night through to the end, but from what I’ve read, it’s the weakest part of the series, but necessary for understanding Fate/Zero completely, as well as Unlimited Blade Works, so I’ll see how this goes.

Something I’ve just watched: Allison and Lillia, Generation One

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A Sampling from my March For Life Playlist

Tomorrow my friends and I begin our epic car ride up to D.C. to march in front of the capitol for the rights of the elderly, the comatose, prawns, and babies-who-have-not-yet-been-shoved-headfirst-through-someone’s-vagina-which-somehow-means-they-don’t-count-as-people-go-figure-leftists-have-weird-notions-of-humanity.* I’ve been burning some CDs for the drive, and figured I’d share a sampling below for anyone interested. To save space on my main page, only the first five items are above the cut.

Men of Harlech from Zulu

This Will Be the Day (feat. Casey Lee Williams) by Jeff Williams

To the Beginning by Kalafina

Isaiah 61 by Matt Maher

Starkindler by Michael Card (who, by the way, does the singing voice of Aragorn in my head) Read the rest of this entry