Bluray Review: Star Trek TOS Season 1

Ahhh, Star Trek, The Original Series (TOS), on Bluray.  Many a geek has been waiting for this to be released.  This release is second only to Star Wars in terms of geekdom waiting for it.  If any series is desrving of a high definition treatment, Star Trek is it.

Fans will not be disappointed by this set.  The episodes have been digitally remastered, and though I’m only through disc 2 (there are 7 in the set), so far I have not seen any print errors that slipped through.  The picture quality is simple out standing.  Sharp, clear, vivid, makes the viewing aspects of these espisodes thoroughly enjoyable.  Sound has also been remastered into 7.1 surround sound, which does enhance a lot of the “backgtound sounds” of each episode.  Things like the electronic hum of panels, the “whossh” of the doors, all comes through in a “natural” way.

The big things to be found is in the reworked special effects, digitally enhanced matte paintings, and the reworked special effects in space shots.  For the most part these new effects are seemlessly integrated.  They are not done in such a way that they appear out of synch with the episodes.  Well, for the most part.  In the very first episodes, such as “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the enhanced effects can be a bit jarring.  This is mostly due to the surrounding technology being a bit “behind the times” to produce say a screen image next to it.  Even so, using the same episode as an example, they have done some wonders to enhance the over all feel of the episode and story.  A great, if subtle example is in how they digitally tweaked the matte painting backgrounds for Delta Vega, tweaking colors and such to better reflect the stated time of say in story, and to give greater depth to the painting to enhance the sense of scope.

Purists may still rejoice though.  The episodes are also on each disc in their “original” though remastered formats.  Original mono sound track, original effects and all.  These versions are “merely” digitally cleaned up, but otherwise left unaltered.  There is the ability to switch between the two versions while watching, so one may compare the original recordings with the new enhanced versions.  It’s quite an interesting thing to do.  Though as usual, your milleage may vary.

The special features are a mixed bag so far.  There is the usual bits on “making of” and some commentary.  The first disc has a “double enhanced” track for “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”  One one side you have pop up information boxes on items and characters, providing a bit more depth to some of the one shot characters and special items seen in the episode.  On the other side you get some commentary from a variety of persons, some involved in the remastering, some in the original episode, and Bjo Trimble (who can be annoying).  Paul Carr (Lt. Lee Kelso in the episode) steals several moments with his commentary.

Any fan of Star Trek, or of SciFi in general should get this set.  At around $100 it’s not cheap, but it is oh so worth it.

PS3 Game Review: MLB09 The Show

With the regular Baseball season in full swing now, it’s past time to put up my review of this latest entry.

There is good and bad to be had in MLB09.  I’ve had the game for a few weeks now, and wanted to get in a good deal of play time in various modes before putting everything down in writing.  Baseball fans will still enjoy this title immensely, and there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in the various game play modes.

The main strength of MLB09 is their propietary Road to the Show (RttS) mode.  In this mode you create your own player, and try to build a MLB career with them.  You start by customizing your player.  The degree of customization available is impressive.  While most people won’t be spending that much time adjusting chin size, it’s there for those that do.  You can set just about everything for your new player.  Age, vital statistics, skills, position, uniform number, and so on.

You then have a choice.  You can either enter the draft, and take whatever team team drafts you, or go the free agent route and try to sign on with the team of your choice.  I took the draft option with my 1B player, ending up with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  At this point, it’s on to spring training.  It’s tough to make the team as an 18 year old rookie.  I didn’t do it.  Instead I was sent to AA for my first pro season.  Due to some injuries at the ML level, I was promoted to AAA after about 6 games.

You must take advantage of your opportunities, just like in real life.  I made the most of my promotion, and stuck at the AAA level.  I didn’t make the 40 man roster at the end of the season, and began my second year in AAA.  Spent the entire year in AAA, no try out for the majors.  End of contract, and the Angels offered me a 6 year deal to be the major league starter.  Cut it back to 5, as I did want to be able to “move on.”

If you are on your teams 40 man roster, you get to go through spring training.  This is unlike previous versions where if you were on the MLB roster, you just fast forwarded to the regular season.  This gives you more chances to improve your player in a more balanced way, so you don’t skew one way then another during your career.  The other great feature to be had, both in spring training and in the regular season are coach called for training sessions.  This could be extra batting practice, featuring specific pitches, or base running training.  These allow you to put your generated skill points into other areas, and give you a better over all skill set.  I haven’t played as a pitcher yet, so I don’t know what training sessions they get as yet.  I’ve also heard that there is fielding sessions, but I haven’t had one of those as yet.

Your progression is tied more intimately to your skills.  Yes, your stats matter, but your skill levels are more important.  Much like the actual majors, they won’t rush you to a higher level if they feel you aren’t ready for it.  This can be a bit frustrating for a player “languishing” in AAA, but if you meet the majority of your in season goals, and improve your skills across the board, you can still rise quickly.  Case in point, in my 3rd pro year, I was the starting 1B for the Angels.

So far, I’ve found the balance in playing to much improved over previous versions.  In MLB07, it was just too easy to hit 60 HR with a .400+ average.  In MLB08, getting stolen bases was ridiculously easy.  I had over 200 SB in one season.  In MLB09, the balance has been quite refreshing.  The statistics and what you can generate are far more linked to your skill levels than ever before.  A player with only say a 40 in power isn’t going to hit many home runs, no matter how well you hit.

I’m sure that as I progress to higher skill levels, the ridiculous numbers will follow, but so far, they’ve been more than reasonable, and reflect the skill progression I’ve made in game.  In my second MLB campaign, I’ve started off rather well, with very reasonable statistics.

The other modes can be just as fun.  Manager mode can be real frustrating, just like real life.  Having to sit and watch your players choke is just awful.  But managing your bull pen, giving signals is as much fun in game.  Franchise mode is for the budding GM in every baseball fan.  Take a team, and to your best Theo Epstein impression.  It’s not always as easy as you think.  Injuries and problem players will tax your patience at every turn.  Then add inn budget concerns, from revenue to spending allocations, and you see why these guys make the money they do.  It’s not all just player management.  Season mode is pretty straight forward.  You play out the season.  Some player movement happens, but you pretty much just use the stock rosters.

However, while there has been some great additions and improvements, there has been a bit of a back slide in some areas.  Mainly these are graphix issues.  The camera can be a pain in the ass, with players disappearing, odd angles that don’t allow you to make plays, or views of peoples feet in the stands (this happens a lot in Minnesota).  There is also an issue of players running through walls to make catches (really annoying), the ball disappearing as it comes at you while hitting, and the usual “super fielding” ability of the AI.  There is also an issue with the announcers saying the wrong name for a player.  This only happens with computer generated players, but it can be disconcerting.  It also happens with pinch hitters, where the hitter is not who is announced.

The AI itself still sucks badly.  It makes very strange decisions all the time.  David Ortiz bunting with the bases loaded and no outs.  A-Rod batting lead off.  Sending players for an extra base too often with the wrong base runners on.  The AI bunts far too often, and in all the wrong situations.  The defensive AI also makes odd choices at times, going to the wrong base, or just always taking the easy out.  Take for example a situation where you are up by a run, there’s a runner on third and 1 out.  The batter bunts, the pitcher fields it.  Instead of going home, where the runner would be out, he goes to first, allowing the run to score and tie the game.

The in season manager interactions could also stand to be tweaked.  In my current RttS season, I’m second in the AL in RBI’s, and Mike Scioscia is whinging about my “lack of RBI production.”  Say what?  Only Dan Uggla has more RBI than I do, and I have 31 RBI in 25 games.  What lack of production?  So I haven’t had an RBI in 2 games.  That’s a bit touchy, more so as the team won those two games.

The music provided with the game is OK.  Nothing special, and at least you can turn off anything that annoys you.  Same with the voice announcers Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and the god-awful Rex Hudler.  Hudler has to go.  Get anyone else.  Well, maybe not Ken Harrelson, but someone else for sure.  The commentary beyond Vasgersian is lame at best, and pathetically awful at worst.  Far too often, the commentary is off by a wide margin, inappropriate to the situation.  But, like with the music, it’s easy enough to turn off, and you don’t really miss anything.

On the whole, this is a mixed bag of terrific improvements, and awful backslides.  If you like the franchise, and are into the whole create a player thing, the bugs and such are little more than annoyances.  Otherwise, you may find some of the frustration to be more than it’s worth.

7.5/10

PS3 Game Review- Resident Evil 5

Without a doubt, this will be the early odds on favorite for Game of the Year (GOTY).  One of the more highly anticipated games of 2009, this does not fail to deliver the goods.

The game picks up some time after the events of Resident Evil 4.  You take the reigns as Chris Redfield once again, this time as an agent of the Bio terrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA).  You are teamed up with Sheva Alomar, another BSAA agent, to investigate an occurrence of Bio Organic Weapons (BOW) research in an unnamed West African nation.  The usual and expected Resident Evil antics happily follow.

Game play is essentially the same as in Resident Evil 4.  The view is an “over the shoulder” view, with some specific views, such as when you use a sniper rifle.  Movement, aiming, combat actions, and the like are all ports of the RE:4 system, so those who have played RE:4 will already be familiar with them.  I must admit it took me a bit to get used to them again after playing so much Call of Duty, and it having been so long since I played RE:4.  Even so, it all came flooding back in short order.

Unlike previous Resident Evil games, there is a strong co-op play element here.  It is not necessary to play co-op to complete the game, as the co-op AI is fairly intelligent for once.  Not perfect, but more capable than many games.  It does not pay usually to get too separated from one another, as if either you or your partner dies, it’s game over.  With such a strong co-op aspect to the game, there are some “new” commands to work with that are situation specific.  If you or your partner is trapped or pinned by the enemy, there is a command to help them out (or call for help), which is indicated once you are in range.  If you or your partner are dying, you can rescue them by getting close enough and pressing the O button.  Doing so will restore just enough health to get you or your partner out of the dying status, but you better have an herb or first aid spray ready.  In addition, there are several situations where you will have to separate yourself and your partner to get past an obstacle or to gain an item.  One will “assist” the other in a jump, which will be indicated on screen.

The co-op play aspect is very central to the game.  While not necessary to have a partner to play with, I can see where it will enhance the game play.  I have not yet tried co-op in any form.  You can play co-op both online or off line.  Off line is split screen, so having a “big screen” TV will be an asset here.  Otherwise I suspect you will lose detail, and the play will actually be hampered by the lack of ability to see enemies approaching your partner.

Combat, as previously stated, is the RE:4 engine, just refined a bit.  Weapon combat is relatively unchanged.  You aim, you fire, repeat as needed.  Where the noticeable improvement comes is in hand to hand combat.  In the right circumstances, you get opportunities for some “special” hand to hand attacks.  As an example, Chris Redfield can do some nasty upper cut type punches, knocking back and stunning enemies, and in some cases, kill an enemy.  Sheva has some of her own as well, but I haven’t had an opportunity to try them out yet.

The weapon assortment is nice.  The weapons are all real world items, from the M92 pistol, to an RPG-7 type launcher.  I’m not quite sure why there are 3 different models of sniper rifle though.  There just isn’t quite enough variation between them honestly.  In total, there are: 4 Pistols (M92F, H&K P8, SiG P226, M93R); 4 shotguns (Ithaca M37, M3, “Jail Breaker,” “Hydra”); 4 SMGs, though 2 are Assault Rifles (Vz61, AK-74, H&K MP-5, SiG 556); 3 Sniper Rifles (S75, Druganov SVD, H&K PSG-1); 3 Magnums (S&W M29, L.Hawk, S&W M500).  Ther are some “special wepaons” as well.  There is a grenade launcher (like the ARMSCORP rotary launcher), the mentioned RPG-7 style launcher, a stun rod (suped up cattle prod), a long bow (so you can go all Rambo), a Gatling Gun (think Jesse Ventura in Predator), and at times, some turret weapons, mounted on trucks or fixed emplacements.  Just as with RE:4, you can buy upgrades for each weapon, increasing various aspects.  Unlike RE:4, there is no “mysterious merchant” from which to get items and upgrades.  Instead, you can buy before you resume a game, after you die, or between chapters.  This is a good/bad thing.  The good is that if you get stomped, you get a chance to upgrade after dying.  The bad is that you don’t get an in game opportunity mid chapter as in RE:4.

The enemies are a varied assortment of bad guys from previous Resident Evil games.  I mean, who knew that having played the Resident Evil: Outbreak series would ever come in handy?  Most of the opposition are variants from RE:4, the Las Plagas infected zombie types, and such.  The bosses are interesting for the most part, with varying degrees of difficulty.  There are a few “old friends” who make their appearance in the game as well.  I won’t go into details here as I don’t want to spoil any of the story elements.

The story itself is interesting.  The designers and writers have definitively moved the game story on, and are not just rehashing the same scenario over and over.  OK, so they are in a very broad sense, but the devil is in the details.  The biggest change is the setting.  Instead of being in a dark urban setting, or in a claustrophobic base set up, you are in the wide open of West Africa.  No brooding storm clouds hang over head, it’s not perpetual night.  The sun shines brightly, sometimes too brightly (to be expected in a tropical clime).  The various open spaces, such as the villages, are actually more troublesome than the close confined spaces of previous games.  If you’ve ever seen the movie (or read the book) Black Hawk Down, there are several scenes in game which will evoke those same images.  The combat situations tend to be short, intense affairs, and can come somewhat unexpected.  I say somewhat, in that you know something is going to happen, but the timing is just off enough to throw you a bit.

A quick note here on the game story and the Resident Evil: Degeneration movie.  While it is far from necessary to have seen the movie for the game’s story, it will give you just a bit more back story to the bad guys in game.

The graphics and sound design on this game are superb.  The cut scenes are extremely well rendered, using motion capture technology to improve the movements of characters.  Much like many of the current generation games, the scenery itself is worth just taking a moment to look around.  The villages are wonderful in their details, the shading and light sourcing is paid careful attention to (shadows are “correct”), and the characters and enemies move “naturally” (though there are still moments where things don’t look quite right).  The sound is well done as well.  Not only do you get the “background noise” of an environment (wind, water dripping, machinery, etc), but even “proper” sounds of running enemies, and things going crash when they get shot or knocked over.  A good example is in Chapter 3 when you’re cruising around a lake on an air boat.  You get a proper meshing of the engine whirring, and the water splash from the wake and the boat slapping up and down.  Majini (the “new” basic zombie) also make a nice thud when you run over them in the boat.

I had been eagerly awaiting this game since the end of last year.  I even “geeked out” and went to Gamestop’s midnight release to get it.  I still am of the opinion that RE:4 was one of the best games for the PS2 I ever played.  So, my expectations for RE:5 were fairly high.  I had played the demo several times prior to release, but all that did was whet my appetite.  The full game has not disappointed me at all.  As I have not yet played any form of co-op, I can’t speak to that.  Nor can I speak to the DLC available.  Nor have I attempted the Mercenaries or Versus modes yet.  I’m not that good yet.  Even so, there is replay value here.  After surviving a first play through, you should have enough stuff, upgrades, and points to spend, that you can be a bit more thorough in a second or thrid play through.

9.5/10

Bungling Banks get Billion$, Vets get the shaft

(Stupid WordPress didn’t put a link in for the Day by Day site.  So here it is: Day by Day)

So, the policy of the Obama administration seems to be, the bigger you fail, the more tax payer dollars you get.  AIG gets a hundreds of millions of bail out dollars, GM is about to get the same, and to help pay for all this, Obama wants to bill US veterans, particularly those wounded in combat for their medical bills.

Does this make any sense except to the nut cases in Berkley?  If there is one group of people that this country as a whole owes a nearly unpayable debt to, it is our veterans.  We, as a nation, should be paying for, with out question, whatever medical treatment these men and women need.  How can anyone think that having these people, who we have asked to risk the ultimate sacrifice for us, pay up front for their service related medical costs is “fair” or “just” or even sensible?

How’s this for a thought.  Instead of spending billions on chowder heads like AIG and GM, we instead use that money to fund the VA?  Let the big corporations fall apart into hundreds of little companies.  That’s how it supposed to happen.  And then let us pay off the real debts we owe to people who deserve to be repaid.

Several veterans organizations have sent a letter of protest to Obama over this.  They even had a meeting with Obama, Rahm Emmauel, Gen. Shinseki, and a couple of nigh useless bean counters.  From the news reports, the meeting was not very constructive, as American Legion National Commander David Rehbein came out of it “disappointed.”  You can read the actual letter HERE, and it is signed by the presidents of: The American Legion, AMVETS (American Veterans), Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. inc, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Vietnam Veterans of America inc.

I still can’t wrap my head around this one.  It makes no sense what so ever.  More so in the whole “we support the troops” mantra that gets espoused.  This is not how you support the troops folks.  This is how you disuade them from stepping up when the time comes.  This is how you weaken the very people who defend this nation.  This is a morale killer people.  The worst thing is, it comes from our own government, not from enemy action.

Some links for those interested:

American Legion

VFW

AMVETS

Blinded Veterans Asscoiation

Disabled American Veterans

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Jewish War Veterans of the USA

Military Officers Asscoiation of America

Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. INC

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Vietnam Veterans of America INC

NY Politics, more of the same old same old

Well, it’s been an interesting 2009 so far here in the Empire State.  From the usual budget shenanigans, to the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to Joe Bruno’s “indictment” to David Patterson struggling for his political life.  And it’s only February!  So, where to start?

Oh, might as well go in order, so it’s the “budget” fiasco du jour.  Again, I’m somewhat wondering where to start.  Do I begin with Patterson’s “austerity plan,” or the back room dealings that have gone on between the all Democratic “leadership,”  or the ever worsening revenue shortfall predictions?  Feh.  Ok, let’s look at the budget revenue short falls.  What was once a $4billion short fall has grown to about $10billion.  Sure, it’s no where near California, but it’s still a huge change.  The whys of this all depend on who you talk or listen to.  It’s everything from the unstable stock market, to the lack of CEO bonuses (yes, that is an important revenue stream for NYS), to the middle and “upper” classes fleeing the state (due to property, income, business taxes, utility costs), to businesses fleeing the state, and everything in between.  So what does our Legislative “leaders” want to do?  Why exacerbate the problem of course by increasing taxes across the board, plus new fees and taxes.  What has been causing a steady decline in the state’s population over the past 30 years is the “remedy” Sheldon Silver and Malcolm Smith want to use to raise revenues.  The problem with this is that it’s a short term solution.  Yes, they can “close the gap” somewhat for a year, maybe two.  But beyond that, it will only serve to force more people, more businesses to relocate out of the State of NY, which then will worsen the already weakened revenue streams.  Even using the supposed cash forthcoming from the “stimulus bill,” it won’t actually solve anything.

David Patterson I think sees this, but is somewhat handcuffed by his party and politics.  He’s been quite vocal about wanting to avoid any “tax increases,” but that applies solely for income taxes.  He’s quite happy to raise taxes on products that are non-politically correct, or maybe nebulous to try and collect (Internet sales).  Patterson has even gone so far as to actually suggest budget cuts, and in very politicized programs.  But he’ll never get it past his “colleagues” in the Legislature and Senate.  Still, it’s better than I could have expected.

However, despite some very public “forward steps,” there has been a bit of a backslide.  To whit, the return to the smoke filled back room deals that characterized many a budget process of the past.  This was supposed to be the “new era” of “open and accountable government” in New York.  Well, that went out the door when Silver, Smith, and Patterson all met behind closed doors, with not even the minority leadership present.  This is a departure from the recent past, where at least the minority party leadership was present.  I’d lay odds that they won’t ever disclose any “member items” either when the time comes, but I doubt anyone would bet against it.

So this is what passes for leadership here in NY.  Lovely isn’t it?  We have David Patterson, the well intentioned, but still accidental governor, Sheldon Silver, the Manhattan Citycrat, beholden to several special interest groups as our Assembly “Leader,” and Malcolm Smith, another Citycrat, with the charisma of a wet paper towel.  The Republican side isn’t much better, at least state wide.  Dean Skelos?  A capable administrator, but that’s as far as it goes, and as far as he ever should have gotten.  Jim Tedisco could be something, but he’s too much of a fighting bull dog to really take the reigns (more on Tedisco below).  This doesn’t even cover the nitwits and whackjobs that comprise the majority of our Congressional delegation.

Speaking of the morass that is Congress, Patterson shocked many a pundit with his appointment of Rep.Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.  With names like Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy being bandied around, “Gilly” was a long shot to most pundits and commentators.  More so, as other names mentioned had greater “party appeal,” and “fit the national agenda” of the Democrats.  But Patterson, to his credit, went against the grain, and nominated a moderate upstate Democrat to the seat.  How moderate is Gillibrand exactly?  Well, her appointment ticked off several Citycrats who sit in Congress, to the point of where they boycotted her nomination press conference.  Even Chucklehead Schumer looked a bit queasy, but he’s a power player, so he showed and spoke.  A quick note from Gillibrand’s nomination press conference.  Tom DiNapoli (State Comptroller) needs to shut his yap.  He nearly killed the whole event with his prattling.  He just doesn’t know when he’s gone over the edge, and someone needs to gag him before he does.

So, with Gillibrand leaving Congress for the Senate, there will be a special election to fill her seat on March 31st.  The parties have had their individual shake down sessions to determine the candidates.  On the Democratic side, we have Scott Murphy, a “venture capitalist” (with a mediocre at best track record) from Glens Falls.  On the Republican side, Assembly minority leader Jim Tedisco grabbed the nomination.  I haven’t read how Murphy got his nomination, the Democrat’s process was rather arcane, though some sort of weighted format was used.  Tedisco got the GOP nod by securing the support of the Saratoga and Rennselear County GOP parties, the two largest in the district.  By doing so, with the weighted romat used by the GOP, he out gained former minority leader, and gubernatorial candidate John Faso.  FWIW, I was hoping for Faso to get the nod, and take the seat.  It’s not that I don’t like Tedisco, I just thought the State was better served by having him remain Assembly minority leader, and having Faso go to Washington where his personal strengths would be best used.

This all has put Patterson in a difficult political position.  He’s getting plenty of flak from his own party as well as the GOP.  He’s getting beat in Quinnipiac polls in a theoretical primary against Andrew Cuomo, and is neck and neck in a theoretical match up against Rudy Guilliani.  Patterson is getting gruff from Silver and Smith, as well as loud mouth nimrods like Carolyn Maloney (over Gillibrand’s appointment).  Jim Tedisco has been hot on his heels over being excluded from the budget process, and even Dean Skelos has been seen on TV deriding the secretive nature of the triumvirate.  But he’s put the Democrat’s in the position of possibly losing a Congressional seat (the 20th), and perhaps even one of NY’s Senate seats to the GOP.  Tedisco can (and should) win the 20th, which had been held by Gillibrand.  As much appeal as Gillibrand has held in the 20th, I don;t think she can win State wide, between the growling of the NYC contingent, and the persistent rumor that Rep.Peter King (R-LI) will run for the seat.  If King does run, he should beat Gillibrand by a solid, but not spectacular margin in 2010.  He’s well liked in the City, and will have enough Upstate appeal to win.

Meanwhile, the allegations surrounding former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno have taken another twist.  The US Attorney has gotten an indictment on several charges against Bruno.  It is the “culmination”  of all the Spitzer inspired “investigations” when Bruno and Spitzer were at loggerheads.  At best these charges are tenuous.  At worst the spurious.  Even money says that 2/3 of the charges will be dropped, and Bruno gets acquitted of the rest.  If he doesn’t, then I hope the US Attorney turns his attention to all the other members of the NYS Senate and Assembly, as they are all equally guilty of exactly the same “charges.”  But I doubt this will happen, as the charges themselves are so nebulous as to be night impossible to get a conviction on.

Time Bomb Comics

Thanks to Pat at Comics Castle (store here ) I have finally been able to get my hands on the two independent comics releases from Time Bomb Comics.  I have been looking forward to these two UK releases for some time, but finding a cost effective way of getting them here on this side of the pond has been problematic.  However, a recent “deal” between Comics Castle and Time Bomb allowed a small shipment to be made, and offered for sale here in the USA.  A total of 20 copies of each was shipped, and as I check, there are still a few copies left.  It shoudl also be noted that these copies are signed by the creators, all for the cover price of $3.50 plus shipping.

Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead: One part Night of the Living Dead, one part Scarlet Pimpernel, one part Brigadoon.  The story revolves around Dick Turpin, notorious highwayman, and his compatriot, Gentleman Dick.  This one shot story is a solid piece.  The black and white art (a concession to costs) actually is a preferable medium for the story.  I found it to be very reminiscient of the old Hammer horror films.  A cameo by Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, or Michael Gough would not have been out of place.  Steve Tanner plots a well paced script, balancing the character interplay with the action.  The script is well complimented by Andy Dodd’s art work on the panels.  Some will inevitably deride Dodd’s work here as “sub par.”  While it may not be in the same class a Jim Lee, it is excellent work, worthy of any comics fan taking a look at.  It works extremely well for the story, and as with any artist, will get “better” (a highly subjective pov) over time.

Ragamuffins-Stitches in Time: The first release from Time Bomb.  A tale of a group of misfits assigned to fixing problems with time (the chronoverse).  This issue, also a “one shot,” has some very intriguing characters, leaving any reader demanding more about them.  A short story arc, it begins and ends well, leaving little, if anything dangling.  This would be a worthy entry from an established company or creative team.  For a first release from a start up independent, it is astounding.  Andy Dodd’s art is a bit more straight forward here, compared to his more moody work for Dick Turpin.  It has a definitively “British” feel to it, as fans of 2000AD and other publications will note.  Steve Tanner’s plot and script are well laid out, and flow very well.  While character development is a bit light, what’s to be expected from a one shot comic?  You get what you need for the story, and it plays out very well.

I cannot reccomend these two issues highly enough.  It is unfortunate that Time Bomb is currently unable to get a US distribution deal (they have one in the UK ATM).  So those on the other side of the pond should check these out, as they are available more readilly there.

OK, full disclosure time.  I “know” Steve Tanner.  He is also a member of the CCL message boards, where we have conversed on a number of subjects. I think he’s still shocked I knew who Dan Dare was before the Virgin series came out.  😉  He posted his previews of these issues there, way back when.  I loved them, but due to the issues of exchange rates and air mail shipping, I was unable to get my hands on them.  Now I have, and I have no regrets.

Free plugs:

CCL

Comics Castle

Time Bomb Comics

Bluray Movie Review- Event Horizon

Let me begin by saying I was not one of those who saw this in the theatre.  So I did not bring all that baggage with me when I first saw it.  I first saw this either on video (VHS or DVD), or on one of the movie channels.  Thus I had the ability to watch this in the comfort of a home, even if it wasn’t my own.  A lot of people were disappointed with Event Horizon when it came out.  Personally I blame the Paramount marketing folks for this.  They couldn’t make up thier minds if they wanted to push Event Horizon as a SciFi flick or as a horror flick.  In the end, many people ended up going into the movie thinking it was one thing and getting another.

But I like the movie.  It was not a traditional SciFi movie, nor was it a traditional horror movie, though it has elements of both.  The story is fairly striaght forward.  Sam Neill is a scientist who had designed an experimental space engine to travel vast distances instantaneously.  The initial flight went wrong, and the ship disappeared for 7 years.  But it reappears, and a rescue ship, captained by Laurence Fishburne is sent, with Sam Neill in tow to investigate what happened to the titular Event Horizon.  Naturally, nothing goes as expected.

The most stunning part of this movie is the visuals, and is one of those movies that just demanded a Bluray treatment.  The secenes with ships, the fly by, the near orbit space station, and even the singularity drive were impressive at the time.  In Bluray, on an HDTV they are still so.  Yes, there are a few instances where the CGI shows through, mainly in the opening sequence with objects “floating in zero-g.”  Some of the object look decidedly like CGI constructs, and the lighting is off in a few scenes.  Even so, there’s more to praise than detract visually.  The ships alone are worth the price of admission.

The audio didn’t seem to me to have been remastered in anyway.  Then again, it was done originally in a high end Dolby at the time.  So the actual sound quality is fine, if not spectacular.  Even so, it could have been remastered into Dolby Digital for this release.

The etcras are fairly typical.  The usual making of short, commentary tracks, and deleted scenes.  They obviously did some new interviews for one of the segements, which was interesting to watch.  Interviews with Paul Anderson (director), Jason Isaacs (DJ), as well as production team members were actaully fairly interesting to watch for once.  Not a whole lot of insights to be had, but the anecdotes were of value.

On the whole, this is a more than worth while pick up for fans of the movie, or of similar genres.