MOMBcast Talks Moon 2

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With all the work that we’ve been doing on Moon 3 as of late (seriously these biscuits don’t eat themselves) it’s sometimes easy to forget that lots of people are still picking up Moons 1 & 2 for the first time. Reviews are difficult to come by once your first issue is out but in this case the lovely Michael Georgiou took some time on the latest MOMBcast to chat about Moon 2 a wee bit.

It’s great to know that new people are still picking up the book and digging what they find in there and in Michael’s case it’s especially pleasant as he’s a heck of a talented creator in his own right.

You can listen to the review by going here and you won’t even have to do any shuffling as Moon’s the first thing on the menu.

Thanks MOMB!

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(P.S. Iv’s surname is pronounced Matilla, not Matilda. Matilda was the telekinetic devil child of children’s fiction. Iv does have telekinetic powers but this is purely coincidental).

New Characters IMAGE SLIM

 

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Thor: The Dark World: A Beyond the Bunker review

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BTB Reviews Movie

Marvel’s got a hell of a challenge ahead of it, particularly with Thor. With Robert Downey Jr hanging up his french waiter moustache and goatee until Avengers: Age of Ultron, the weight of convincing crowds that Marvel has what it takes to make us deal out the dosh to see Captain America: Winter Soldier, Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy before the next team building exercise and universe bending threat to humanity falls on the not insignificany shoulders of the God of Thunder himself, this time directed by Game of Thrones' and first time blockbuster movie director; Alan Taylor.

Of the three (four) big hitters in the Avengers, Thor's films are by far the broadest in setting and effectively most responsible for setting the outer limits of the Marvel Universe, presenting a massive challenge. It was the villain of Thor (Tom Hiddleston's Loki) that represented the threat in the showcase movie Avengers (we don't call it Avengers Assemble here) after all – so while Thor is the least profitable (by a small margin) and arguably the slightest of the original three movie franchises that lead to Avengers in spite of capable direction from Shakespearite Kenneth Branagh – it carries with it the burden of being potentially the most influential. This film is no different, with Iron Man 3 resolving Tony Stark's story arc until the new Avengers film and the trailer for Captain America making it clear that it's focus is one of internal conflict and very human warfare, the onus is on Thor to kick the excitement for Avengers: Age of Ultron up a notch. This it does with absolute aplomb, a wry sense of humour and a sense of it’s audience rarely seen in an established franchise.

We find a cast very much changed by the events of Avengers, some of which finally have the opportunity to be developed more effectively with a plot that deals much more with the nine realms of which Earth (Midgard) and Thor's home (Asgard) are only two. Most improved are the formerly peripheral and comic book mainstays otherwise known as the Warriors Three (Hogun, Fandral and a slightly less voluminous Volstagg) and Thor's female interest in Asgard, Sif. Though Tadanobu Asano's Hogun is out pretty early on. The film pauses deliberately to present these characters a little better, Volstagg now better realised by the brilliant Ray Stevenson (Rome, Punisher: War Zone) and Zachary Levi as dashing Fandral stirs memories of old Robin Hood movies. Sif's clear love for Thor as a subplot is an interesting and welcome development in Sif's character, though she is used sparingly in action sequences and the first to be removed from the equation when the action begins to heat up, something regrettable as Jaimie Alexander is such a capable actress, Sif an interesting character and both are such bona fide hotties.

Rene Russo's Frigga, as Thor's mother takes a more prominent role in proceedings as well, as the influence she has over her husband Odin (Anthony Hopkins), her real son, Thor and step son, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the linking subplot that allows three warring characters to find any common ground.

But, hilariously, it's the master stroke of Stellan Skarsgård's Dr. Erik Selvig and his burgeoning mental illness that wins the film over. Rather than sideline him as a result of him being driven mad because he 'had a god in my head', Selvig becomes welcome relief from earnest and worthy moments threatening to become too overbearing and tipping the plot into farce by taking itself too seriously. Kat Dennings' assistant Darcy Lewis and her 'interns intern Ian Boothby played by Jonathan Howard create very neat comic moments and IT Crowd's Chris O' Dowd as Dr Jane Foster's (still ably played by Natalie Portman) doomed alternative love interest rounds out a very well used set of side characters.

Playing Doctors and Norses: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) meet up in a pub car park....

Playing Doctors and Norses: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) meet up in a pub car park….

If I haven’t mentioned the primary cast of Hemsworth, Portman, Hiddleston and Hopkins (and Idris Elba as all-seeing Heimdall) it is because there is little change amongst any of them. They are uniformly great, with only Hopkins seemingly phoning it in a little at the very beginning. They occupy the centre of the plot brilliantly, each fulfilling the potential of the characters well. Hemsworth himself proves himself a generous and humble actor in scenes with others, giving a the god of thunder the depth of storm clouds in quieter moments and allowing other characters to share the limelight in one on one scenes.

It is perhaps the familiarity of the archetypes that causes the film to slightly dip in the centre however. Away from the cast of unusual and offbeat side characters the course the characters take is almost unavoidably predictable. Not boring at any point, and peppered with nice moments which will make you laugh unexpectedly. However, the main tract of the tale take second place to the decidedly enjoyable character moments. When the main plot takes over, it can’t help but become a slightly predictable, if exceptionally well paced and directed, fantasy fare.

Aside from occasional hiccups in the edit the film is littered with curiousities and odd decisions that are later satisfactorily resolved, which highlights how this film isn’t being written by template. It can be argued it under utilises a cast capable of greater emotional depth but it does so in order to remind itself that it is a superhero yarn and one that demands a heavy dose of fun and would suffer from too much hand-wringing. Never the less the relationship between Odin and Thor at loggerheads in the first film as a loving father and son incapable of agreeing on anything is satisfyingly realised here. The writing of a character as unpredictable as Loki leaves you guessing how many bluffs and double bluffs you’re seeing with red herrings subtle and layered as the God of Mischief tries to justify his actions enough to disappoint everyone all over again – a highly enjoyable tight rope walk for a sympathetic character – and one that pays off nicely.

Portman’s involvement draws parallels with the Star Wars franchise and there are touches of Padme Amidala in her appearance, but it is the blend between mythology and science fiction, well realised in this case, that makes Thor: The Dark World the film the Phantom Menace and Clone Wars should have been. The idea that technological advancement creates worlds reminiscent of fantasy epics works because secretly it’s an ideal existence, a comfortable blend between nature, control of physics (advanced science giving rise to magic that utilises great power) and balance. Here, the Marvel universe draws together the ideas that the Star Wars saga failed to and it’s exciting and impressive to behold.

Perhaps most notably for a resident of the denizens of London, it looked (with only one exception) like the city we know well, a refreshing change from interesting global landmarks used as interchangable backdrops for unintelligible action sequences or the foppish, lamp lit London of Richard Curtis romantic comedies. Neither does it rely on overly recognisable landmarks, this film is brave enough to put the action away from the obvious tourist track and for that it deserves credit – though recognisable landmarks to Londoners are used briefly and effectively to raise a smile. Having said that, those with a clear knowledge of the underground will definitely take umbridge with one otherwise well placed London Transport gag. Put simply, without showing the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s, the O2, The London Eye or Trafalgar Square this film manages to depict a city both recognisable to Londoners and attractive to tourists. Something it’d be good to see in other films.

Enormous ideas are realised with effective visual shorthand and a recurring light touch. Happily, having watched a film that involved alien starships, multiple dimensions and gods the thing I admire most about it, particularly after the seemingly pointless carnage of Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel, is it’s self control. Thor maintains the Marvel tradition of understanding that devastation doesn’t have to be global, total or even city wide. With effective set pieces the final battle, while grand, is geographically contained (at least while limited to this dimension) but is more engaging as a result.

This an incredibly assured debut to mainstream film making, with the risks that Marvel are taking paying off film after film. If any of you are waiting for Marvel to falter, this film most certainly isn’t it. Based on the trailer of Captain America: Winter Soldier and the now traditional title sequence clips, Marvel isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. Unexpectedly, perhaps, the concern over the end of Downey Jr’s run as Iron Man as a franchise in it’s own right was misplaced, his absence now allowing focus to fall on extremely worthy elements of the Marvel Universe. We say more of this and Marvel will secure its place with one of the finest legacies in movie history.

The Tale of Captain Jack Sparrow – New Lonely Island Album Has Dropped

I know this isn’t strictly geek related but it is both comedy and pirate related so I think it counts. The new album from Grammy-nominated fake rap group The Lonely Island comes out today. It’s called Turtleneck & Chain and it’s well worth a download. For the uninitiated, Lonely Island are a three piece rap group who began life on Saturday Night Live and have since gone on to work with everyone from Justin Timberlake to Natalie Portman. They’ve also been known to be on a boat.

Lonely Island’s shtick is basically to do funny rap songs with massive production values and big name guest artists and in that regard Turtleneck delivers. I can’t decide yet whether it’s better than Incredibad or not but I’m leaning towards ‘probably not’. The Rhianna track is basically just a rehash of the joke from the Jack Black song on the last album and there are a couple of tracks that are longer than they need to be but on the whole the good far outweighs to bad. Plus, who doesn’t want to own a song in which Michael Bolton professes his love for Captain Jack Sparrow?

Ok, that’s the closest you’re gonna get to a review out of me! Just listen to the damn thing! 😉

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Paintballing: Delta Force

Went Paintballing yesterday. My girlfriend (fiancee) bought me a Paintball for two Sporting Gift. Literally the only ‘sporting gift’ I could’ve been bought. Once I’d opened it and because of the young couple beaming out from below their visors – lifted up in a clear breach of their own health and safety guidelines – leaning on a log, paintball guns in hand – I assumed, wrongly that this was intended for us to both go together. I thought that her later attempts to suggest I should go with my mate were sheer thoughtfulness however it was because she never really wanted to go. This continued on until the day before when she told me she’d never really wanted to go and my guilt about not being sure she would enjoy it was entirely redundant the whole time.

We used a Paintball for Two Sporting Gift from the Activity Superstore. Tori bought it from Debenhams and it provides you with a code at the website. Once entered you can choose from a number of real world sites belonging to Delta Force Paintballing (http://www.paintballgames.co.uk/) the biggest paintballing company in Britain, originally founded in South Africa (FYI). Bringng up the map online of possible sites its an impressive sight – offering three types of location -Red. Minimum age 10 (easy pickings), Yellow. Minimum age 12 (XBox trained), and National Paintball Centre (the only one in Ireland (minimum age 16 – surly). According to the site ‘90% of UK’s population liv(e) within 1 hour of a Delta Force Paintball Centre.’ They’re the Ribena of Paintball centres.

I tested this out and found one within 20 minutes of my house, and another only 40 minutes away. We opted for the closer one as it is a 9.15am start which is insane if you ain’t sporty. Having booked, I got a phonecall from a smiley, and slightly sexy female voice checking to make sure everything was okay with the booking and a text reminding me of the booking and offering me a number if I wanted more people to join up. My cynical mind kicked in. ‘They’re not busy at this time of year,’ I figured ‘, so they up the marketing schmoosiness in order to get more people. Charlatans.’

THE DAY

It was easy enough to find and collect your kit, visor, overalls and paintball cannister and 100 paintballs. It was cold as I’d heard it can be at that time in the morning and I was getting nervous I’d be found face down in a frozen ditch, my first paintball locked frozen in the barrel. The place was rammed. 400 people piled in and started gearing up. At that time in the morning there’s a tension in the air, not least coming from Tori as she put on the body armour (offered to Women and Children but not men who want to go all SWAT). I became wary of people with pony tails – always aware that people with ponytails are often good at things like paintballing and hunting down and killing small animals. Tori and I disappointed when it turned out that 30 children aged 11-12 were not bearing green arm bands (masking tape) and so were not our opponents.

We, bearing the mark of the original paintballers, wore plain masking tape and were the browns. After the safety talk in which Tori discovered that paintballs travel at 186 miles an hour and ‘will blind you.’ they even revealed their own Stig, the Aveley Terminator. His job; to march out onto the battlefield and challenge someone of his choice by pointing both weapons at them.

The first battle was in a copse with two bases and was straight annihalation. Noone got annihalated. Eventually, after some sheepish ducking, the adrenaline started to kick back in for everyone and my legs remembered how to crouch and the game was on. I got increasingly aggressive verbally, barking that ‘I f@cking hit you, now f@ck off,’ to at least two cowering individuals probably just checking to see if the paintball had broken on them. I took two in the stomach from an unseen assaillant.

Second was the Vietcong Village, a territorial dust up involving five huts, one central. This was aggressive stuff, requiring a charge into heavy fire to begin with. It could’ve done with a chopper drop to get things going and sniper rounds from the long grass but otherwise it didn’t ring like a battle in a B&Q Garden ornmaent section that it could do, it actually took on the shape of a proper conflict with people darting from one position to another, dodging overhaed fire and manoeuvring from hut to hut and trying to take out the opposition while watching their own flanks. Whoever had the most huts at the end was the victor (just like Vietnam). We took the central hut immediately (thanks to orders from me) and one further on their side and overwhelmed them in the second taking all five huts!! I was fortunate enough to take the fifth hut and the feeling of success is pretty cool, though lacking the relief a proper soldier does that he didn’t get shot in the face. In spite of my orders, noone was hung up by their nipples and summary executions were not enforced.

Deltaforce uses Flashbang fireworks (bangers), smoke grenades and paint grenades and I never got my hands on one but they were effective. Flashbang’s did stop the field in their tracks but tended to scare the guy who threw it so didn’t really affect the state of play. A smoke grenade was thrown later but kind of acted as a clear sign they were coming through that way, which seemed to put the opposition off, having announced it just before with pink smoke. I never saw a paint grenade fired but its unlikely they’re as effective in real life as they are in my head and that entire rooms are sprayed in multicolour shades, anyone inside falling out of door rubbing their eyes covered entirely in Dulux thick colour but they all add up to the scene and make it as close to battle as possible without having to pull the dead over your head to protect you from indiscriminate shelling and death gangs.

The third was an airfield assault, one side having to place a bomb inside an airplane shell that was defended by the other side. The scale of this one was impressive, with a plane shell, armoured vehicles and a command tower. Placed ahead of the incoming attack one detail of Delta Force became clearly more entertaining. At other paintball places a hit to the gun or your head is a kill shot; Delta Force allow head shots and gun hits which means you’e in the game at all times. This makes you braver and allows for pitched gun battles from vantage points.

Here, the most exciting moment took place. I’d managed to convince the team (in a moment that caused Tori to wander off out of embarrassment) that we had to push forwards in two big groups, firing wildly and cover as much ground as possible. We identified the quickest (slimmest) among us and identified the set of barrels I’d been hiding behind, just short of the plane itself as the best opportunity to get close enough to the plane to get the runner in and drop the bomb through the tail window. But it was a close one, the opposition could get their quicker unless we kept them at bay. e did. Charging forwards and firing at any head that moved, the greens instinctively ducked away allowing three of us to gain access to the rear of the barrels. While those behind us laid down suppressing fire and attempted to take out the Greens as best as possible I discovered I’d exhausted all of my paintballs in the initial assault. Speedy (as he will now be known) was beside me, staying down, with the barrel bomb in his hands. The only option was clear. I would run interference as he made a break in the opposite direction for the tail window. I called out to others to stand and fire all at once on my word which presented itself, unsurprisingly to anyone who works with me / lives with me as a guttural roar. The back positions rose and opened fire simultaneously as myself and Speedy made a break for it. While I confused a few and took several hits, firing blanks at the uncertain greens, Speedy darted expertly across the field, along the wing of the plane and threw the barrel into the window. As he was hit by (he claimed) 15 paintballs as he attempted this his aim was slightly off and the barrel clattered off the window frame and onto the floor below the wing. My game was over, as was Speedies but the Brown’s were not done yet. A second push was made shortly afterwards – with someone managing to grab the bomb barrel and hurl it into the plane window – winning the game.

It was this point I was asked for my name by the marshall. I was up for Best Player which was worth +1 to the team the winner was on. I was pretty chuffed as you can probably tell (see below). I was never to pick up a prize though as my day had come to an end.

After a quick kit check, both myself and Tori were out of balls at this point, with half a cannister between us but we ploughed into the next game. One fraught with Political espionage and national security!

The President (a selected member of the team) was in town and had to make his way across a battlefield and into a bus on the far side, avoiding heavy fire from the opposition. His soldiers had to protect the President at all costs and could regenerate by touching the derelict bus on their own side (just like A Few Good Men). The President of the Green Nation decided on a mad dash, carrying, obscurely, a barrel, which only really served to slow him down allowing a kill shot. In the reverse game we opted for a hgolding position, the smallest member of the team pinioned between two crack shots behind the most central barrels. Covered from both sides by more troops who would hold position and one other marksman behind central cover to pick off any attempts from either side to get around the defenses. It was impressive and fairly futile as both sides sat there and waited for the other to make their move. My cannister empty I unloaded imaginary paintball pellets for several minutes before making a dash in the dying moments to add a bit of spontaniety to the proceedings. I took one in the leg about 4 feet from the bus.

At the risk of sounding like an advert for a Museum of historical games involving circles, It was a great day all round. Both myself and Tori found something to like about it (myself from behaving like a 4 star general and Tori by being able to go at her own pace because of the scale, layout and the well organised games). We got a Pizza lunch, 4 out of 6 games and a fair bit of excitement. I’d recommend it to anyone as its more inclusive than some of the other indy sites in the UK and it allows people to play at varying pace and get something out of their day. Also; rules in place such as minimum three metre shooting distance means that Dan would be thrown off site for shooting me in the arse like he did last time we went. Which is great.

Minimum Carnage

I’ve been trying to get back into reading monthly comics again, following a couple of years of being (like Steve) a strictly trades man. I’m pretty out of the loop on current storylines so it’s been rather nice to wander into a comic shop and just see what grabs me. Of course, getting back into Marvel or DC in these days of decompressed storylines and mega-crossovers can be a little daunting – I’ve already spent far too much pocket money on back issues of the various Avengers books and attempted to work out what the hell’s going on, with varying degrees of success (Iron Man feels like putting on a comfy old hoodie that I’d forgotten I owned while Shadowland may as well be written in Japanese). So I was rather surprised to see that on the very month that I was setting to work on building my collection again, a new mini series was starting up centring on a true guilty pleasure of mine.

Ok, let’s get this clear right from the off: I know Carnage is rubbish. He’s a shameless knock off, he has all the depth of an earwig’s paddling pool and his entire gimmick (that he, you know, creates carnage) is hopelessly neutered by the fact that he inhabits a teen rated book. But the fact is that I am a child of the 90s (or more specifically an early teen of the 90s) and as such am as hopelessly wed to Venom and Carnage as they are to…well I won’t make a dumb symbiont gag. As much as the cynical adult in me wants to run a mile from “The return of Carnage”, the kid in me won’t let it happen. If the book has symbionts in, it’s going on my pull list.

Which leads me to my second surprise, Carnage #1 is actually rather good. Clayton Crain’s art is really well suited to the tone and it turns out that goofy 90s villains actually look pretty scary when you’re not drawing them in goofy 90s colours. I’ve not encountered Zeb Wells before, but he seems to be from the school of super hero writing that I like, fun but high stakes. Maybe it’s the art style but it actually reminds me a little of Iron Man or Captain America, which can never be a bad thing. There is one minor issue with this Carnage story…Carnage is actually in it. Not yet anyway. This either means that the book is building its bases carefully ready to open up with a big payoff once the big gun arrives (like a good game of Starcraft) or this issue was a one off and as soon as everybody’s second favourite alien shows up it’ll descend into a mess of tentacles and brawling (like a good game of Starcraft). Time will tell, but for now I feel like I’m in safe hands and while it probably won’t be a classic, it’s nice to know that I’ve got something fun to follow while I work out what the hell is going on in X-Force these days.

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