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Friday, May 8, 2015

Brief Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Hey there Chaos fiends! Welcome back to the dreaded Chaos Corner. I have taken a bit of a break from 40K painting- I intend on resuming in the next two weeks. I've been busy lately- work stuff, and I got a shinny new Xbox One, so it has distracted me from my usual addiction. Fear not, as this is only temporary (I need to beat the very creepy game The Evil Within first). At any rate, I'm here to offer a brief review of Avengers: Age of Ultron.


First, I musty say- don't believe the naysayers. This movie is a blast, a ton of fun. Whether its better than the first Avengers (its DARN close) is debatable. Is it the best Marvel movie- no, that title belongs top Cap 2. The truth is Avengers 2 is an action packed movie with a good sense of humor.

I think the problem is expectations. After Avengers 1 and Cap 2, the expectations were sky high. Through the roof. Impossible to reach. I suspect that some who haven't enjoyed this movie simply kept comparing it to Avengers 1- and their DREAMS of Avengers 2 should be. It was never going to match that.


I must admit, the movie has flaws. It feels rushed in several areas- particularly with Ultron himself (who is fascinating but needed more time to develop). There were some beats that didn't quite work (Quicksilver). The movie also feels overstuffed with characters- they ALMOST manage to successfully juggle them, but they don't quite get it right (unlike Cap 2- when you think about it, that film has lots of major and minor characters, but they balance them very well). They dispense with some things far too quickly (von Strucker).


On the other hand, the film gets a ton right- more than enough to make up for its flaws. The team's chemistry remains spot on, and each of the Avengers gets a chance to shine at some point. The humor is also very sharp and witty. The action scenes are top notch- filled with excitement but never too much to follow. The movie (despite its 2 1/2 hour length) moves briskly. I was also very happy with how they handled Vision. I can't wait to see more of him. The movie also has a bigger scope, with the Avengers running to several nations to fight Ultron (Korea, Eastern Europe, "Wakanda"). Ultron was an impressive villain- a dark reflection of both Iron Man and Banner (I just wished we got more time with him).


So- I didn't give any spoilers, but I think Avengers 2 is a great movie- action, humor, good actors. Better than Avengers 1? Does it have to be? I don't know. I do know it was a fun time at the theater, and it certainly is strong enough to be in the Marvel Pantheon. For me, the Marvel films are fun, and I love watching them. But- they are not deep films. Certainly Nolan's Batman is deeper and more thought provoking- taking current issues and using them for comic book stories while also having emotional resonance. The only Marvel film that has done that is Cap 2- NSA / drone strikes along with the sinking feeling that Cap's fight against Fascism / Totalitarianism has not been won, rather it is only just begun. Its current, but also resonant emotionally. The rest of the Marvel films are fun affairs, and seeing these characters handled with such respect has been a pleasure for this former comic book collector.

If you like the Marvel films, go see Avengers 2. It is, at the very least, a fine comic book film. Chances are you will enjoy the heck out of it! I know I did. In fact, I am hoping to see it again soon...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Examining A Movie: The War of the Worlds (1953)

Hey there Chaos followers and assorted mutants. Old Man Chaos has been working on lots of Warhammer stuff- I'm trying to finish up my Harlequin vehicles while also working on some new stuff for my Khorne Daemonkin force (loving that book at the moment). However, I'm not done with anything to show yet, and as you know I don't want this blog to just be about 40K... So, I've decided to do a little movie review. With that, let us now turn to...


First, a little personal background: I loved this movie as a child. My parents were both into Sci-fi to one extent or another, and between the two of them I was introduced to tons of Sci-fi stuff, including Star Trek, The Black Hole, Star Wars, Alien, and a whole lot more. So, of course my parents ended up watching this, and I was just sucked in. Since they owned it on the old Videodisc format, I know I saw it many times as a young kid. It would also be a movie I would revisit quite often; I watched it over the weekend on Netflix, as a matter of fact!


The movie is very, very loosely based on the famous book of the same name by H.G. Wells. I have read it twice- the book is about a British man trying to survive a Martian invasion of England. The character (who is the narrator and hence never gives his name) tries to find his wife, while seeing the horrors of an alien invasion. The Martians, in their tripod walkers, lay waste to the British army with both "heat rays" and poison gas ("black smoke"). The book is written in older English, and it really helps if you know the geography around London. The book was quite revolutionary for its time, and also serves as a critique of British Imperialism. The Martians, so technologically and mentally advanced are able to sweep the British away so easily (just as the British seemed to do to other Asian/African peoples). Allegory? Perhaps, though the book has more than just that going on. The book has become a classic, inspiring Sci-fi creators for over a century.


The 1953 film is, as I said, a rather loose interpretation of the book, though they are accurate when it comes to the broadest strokes (and gist). This time, the story takes place in America, where Dr. Clayton Forester takes the lead in examining a crashed meteor in California. Of course, its not a meteor, but a cylinder that contains three Martian war machines. The American military goes against these Martians, and they are totally destroyed. Now, Forester and Sylvia must try to survive while also, hopefully, finding a way to defeat the alien invaders, who are seemingly unstoppable.


First and foremost, the special effects make the movie so memorable and striking. Now, I admit they are dated, but actually hold up better than you might actually think. The Martian war machines hover and tick menacingly, gently gliding along, incinerating anything in their path. The heat ray is quite simple in look, but effective due to the sound effect that goes with it. The martians themselves, which you never get a close look at, or appropriately weird. Their eyes are obviously a poor effect, but their flesh moves and pulses, which actually looks creepy and real. You also get to see all kinds of US military hardware on display, including a flying wing and an atomic bomb.


The big battle scene, which takes place in the middle of the movie, is still rather exciting, even now. Tanks, planes, and all kinds of ordinance are fired at the Martians, blowing up spectacularly, but also without result. Martian shields prevent any damage, while their death rays just vaporize the army. It is thrilling to watch, even now. We throw everything at them, and they just move forward at an even rate, not stopped by our "powerful" weapons. Later in the film, even nukes cannot harm them.


The other big scene of destruction comes at the end of the movie, with the war machines descending upon Los Angeles. There is no army. No resistance. The Martians are just destroying everything in their path without mercy. It is not as thrilling as the earlier battle, but you get the feeling of hopelessness. It seems no power on earth con stop them.


The movie, surprisingly for 1953, isn't afraid to get its hands dirty. As the people flee LA, there is chaos and anarchy. Mobs of wild people (some criminals, others just left behind) attack any trucks or cars. One of the trucks has important scientific equipment on board; Forester begs the mob to stop, but they won't listen. From that point on, Forester is a desperate, slightly crazed man, without any hope. Not bad for 1953.



The movie is not an allegory, though the Cold War comes up obliquely here. The Martians are cold and unsympathetic, their home world a frozen wasteland. They are advanced in technology, but not in morality. Americans viewed the Soviets in such terms (even before Sputnik was launched). Their "godlessness" is also emphasized. One of the first people the martians kill is a minister; later, references are made to God, creation, etc. Finally, as the Martians burn LA, the only place of safety is the church- take that you godless commies, er, Martians.


What this movie really is, though, is a kind of prototype of future Hollywood sci-fi / destruction films. Whether its Independence Day (which is, in many ways, a direct rip off) or any other large scale disaster film, it is War of the Worlds that sets the tone. The film's main character is a famous scientist advising the military. The smaller characters are either killed or forgotten with total abandon. The scenes of destruction are top notch. The film also has a montage, showing other nations fighting (and losing to) the Martians. This film set the tone and troupes that many movies would use. Frankly, it does it better than half of them do today, that's for sure.


The acting is good enough, as it is the action and effects that will make the movie, not the actors. That said, Gene Barry does a good job of making a "thinking man's hero" out of Dr. Forester. He is a genius, but he realizes early on that even his gifted intellect is of no match for the Martians. As his hope evaporates, he breaks down, becoming near hysterical at the end. His "girlfriend" (they aren't dating but they fall for each other during the Martian assault) Sylvia, played by Ann Robinson, has little to do but scream and run, though she suffers the personal loss of her minister uncle. Finally, Les Tremayne plays General Mann, an Eisenhower-esque soldier who relies on Forester's knowledge and America's brute strength, and he too does a good job of showing frustration and defeat, though he never "loses" it as Forester does. Tremayne has a the air of command, making Mann a tough, but reliable soldier.


The film starts slow, but once it gets going it simply doesn't stop. The action, special effects, music, and solid lead acting make War of the Worlds a first rate classic. It may not be as thought provoking as say Day the Earth Stood Still or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it is still a great movie, and it set up incredible precedents, which are still with Hollywood today. If you are a Sci-fi fan, check this film out. I know you won't regret it.



** For the record, Steven Spielberg made a version of War of the Worlds in 2005. That movie is also very good (for different reasons). It is a "bit" more faithful to the book, and the alien war machines are very cool looking. The film is also a strong Allegory to the War on Terror- is that blood or oil? However, I prefer the 1953 version (I can only take so much Tom Cruise running and little girl screaming, which the movie does in spades). Perhaps I should review this one in the future...

Until next time...

  


Monday, April 13, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen- I Give You... The Bloodthirster!


Hey there my fiendish fanatics! Welcome back to a special edition of Chaos Corner. Old Man Chaos has a confession- I was supposed to be working on my Harlequin vehicles, but, alas, the Khorne Daemonkin book came out. And, as you all know, my dear readers, Chaos is my true 40K love. How could I resist the lure of the book? Or the new Bloodthirster? What can I say? I am weak. So, without further ado, I give you... the Bloodthirster of Khorne!!


First off, the model is huge. Absolutely huge. It makes the old Bloodthirster look like a minor daemon. The new guy is just terrifying- muscular, vicious, pure aggression. The model is simply fantastic- those huge wings, gigantic weapons, the baroque armor plates... this thing is a pure monster, simple as that.







What's great about the model is the various options. The weapons are all cool looking (except the flail- its OK, but not my cup of tea). The three faces are also very different and very nasty looking. But, no matter what choices you make, this thing is an evil looking daemon. I chose the Great Axe of Khorne. In friendly games, I can just say he's a Bloodthirster of fill-in-the-blank. I just love the huge axe- its bigger than a Terminator! I also decided not to do chest armor, because I just see him as this all powerful daemon of war that needs no armor to kill his foes.




In terms of painting, I used several techniques in GWs own video. The flesh is done with the following steps- Khorne Red, Nuln Oil, then, careful drybrushes of Khorne Red, Wazdakka Red, and Evil Sunz Scarlet (very careful, you want the various reds to show slight variations in skin tone). Finally, I used Wild Rider Red as an edge highlight. I DID NOT use the Bloodletter Glaze- I like glazes for several things, but I thought it would produce the wrong red.






The armor and axe I did Balthazar Gold, with a wash of Earthshade. I then drybrused Griffon Gold- in some places heavily, and lightly in other places. Finally, I did Ironbreaker around the edges, skulls, etc. I didn't think it would work (I was planning on using Brass Scorpion- but the video convinced me otherwise). The armor is very cool looking, and different from any armor on my World Eaters, but close enough to be the same Khornate force.




The wings were a bit of fun. I did Bugman's Glow, followed by a wash of Crimson. Then, I drybrushed Bugman. With that done, I drybrushed with Cadian Fleshtone on the raised areas on the outside of the wings, and on the deepest areas on the inside, making for a nice visual effect. Finally, on the Chaos markings on the back of the wings, I highlighted with Kislev Flesh, to make them stand apart from the wings. Finally, I did the wing veins with Incubi Darkness.



The horns I did black with some grey edge highlighting, followed by 'Ardcoat. What can I say? My Khorne Daemons have always been influenced by Darkness in Legend. So the horns are a shinny black against the deep red of his body. Like I said, all my Bloodletters are done the same way.


The hair I did with Stormraven Fur, and the skulls are built up from Zandri Dust to various bone hues (Ubshanti, etc.). There are a lot of skulls on the model, but not enough to really detract from the creature itself. I say that because I find the Khorne Daemon Bloodthrone to be waaaaaayy too overwrought (seriously, one of the worst models GW has ever made). The Bloodthirster is not that at all, thankfully.


 As for the fire- again, I mostly copied the video- Yellow Glaze, followed by Orange Wash, Yellow Wash, Crimson wash, and finally a bit of Yuriel yellow paint.  I did not do Nuln Oil, as I felt the Crimson turned dark enough on the fire.


Finally, I tried some of the Martian Ironearth for his base. I really didn't like it that much, so I did the rest of the base my usual urban wasteland grey. However, I kept the Ironearth around the fiery skulls- the land burning upon his taking off/landing.


Of course, the Bloodthirster has some company. I already had 2 Daemon Princes of Khorne. One of them is from GW, the other is from another place that I can't seem to remember the name of. The last, and most recent, is a Daemon Prince I bought from my local "used" for 25 bucks. Now, normally I wouldn't do that, but buying him used saved me 10 bucks, and I really liked his pose. Plus, there was absolutely NOTHING wrong with the model, so why not? After all I just bought the Codex, cards, and Bloodthirster- surely a $10 break is justified.




I painted him with the same techniques that I used with the Bloodthirster (at the same time too)- so they do have a rather consistent look to them. The Daemon Prince is clearly the Bloodthirster's subordinate, both waging war in the name of Khorne.


I must say that putting the 3 Daemon Princes with the Bloodthirster is a great visual- plus I would hate to face that on the battlefield! That's a lot of Daemon coming at you!


Speaking of, I did play my first battle with the Daemonkin book last week (sadly, my Bloodthirster was not ready so I did not use him, as I never use a model that I haven't finished painting).  I won the battle, score 2 to 1, as I managed to kill my opponent who had the relic. It dropped, but the game ended at that point. The book was a lot of fun, very fluffy but not overpowering. A lot of my guys died to Grey Knight Terminators, but each death created more Blood Tithe tokens (which I made myself by the way, using square fantasy bases). The more he killed, the more I was able to summon bloodletters, a daemon prince, and a pack of flesh hounds. True to form, the hounds pursued the unit with the relic, tying them down till the Maulerfiend arrived and finished them off. It was a great game.


At any rate, I should get back to painting my Harlequins. But... the lure of Chaos... is... too strong. Want to do... more... for my Khorne Daemonkin...

Until next time!



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Introducing: The Masque of the Red Death

Greetings once more to my fellow Chaos fanatics! How are things in your neck of the Eye of Terror? What do you think of Khorne Daemonkin? I can't wait to play a game or two with this codex. It may not be "perfect", but it looks like fluffy fun indeed. I am currently painting a new Bloodthirster (damn, that thing is huge).

But I also put the finishing touches on some Harlequins (finally- took a long time to paint them). I still am working on the bikes and one vehicle. So--- let us begin:



My biggest challenge was to do a decent Harlequin force that would make a good ally for my Dark Eldar that would look complimentary, but quite different. My Dark Eldar wear black armor with red highlights. Now, how the heck would I be able to match em up?



After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that I would do their masks red- the red would match the DE well enough. Their jumpsuits would be black (with grey highlights). Then, I picked two opposing colors to red- purple and yellow. Thus, the look was born. Yellow was a pain in the arse to paint, I must say. However, it turned out good enough. I had fun, painting purple and yellow on opposing sides, etc. My only regret was that I absolutely couldn't do the check pattern. My hand simply shakes too much for such fine lines. I tried several times, but gave up.



My Solitaire I did in all purple with a pink mask, befitting of the actor who plays Slaanesh. The Deathjester I did in dark colors, though again the mask was red (kinda making him look like the Red Skull). The Shadowseers I was able to have fun with, paining red, purple, and yellow in different ways.




 I bought 2 Shadowseers because I figured Dark Eldar have no Psykers, so why wouldn't I go for more? I may get a third at some point- we shall see. Of course, I HAD to do a conversion on one Shadowseer- using a Kiss arm instead of a gun.



Now, why would these particular Harlequins ally themselves with my Dark Eldar? To answer that question, here is my Harlequin's story:


The Harlequin players known as the Masque of the Red Death were among the first troupes to appear after the fall. Their original name has been lost to time. They initially performed at the Iyanden Craftworld, but traveled far and wide to other Eldar, including the Dark Eldar.


The performance they are most famous for is the comedy/drama known as The Red Death. They have performed it so many times that they are now known as The Masque of the Red Death. The play has a particular relevance for the Dark Eldar. Indeed, the hero of the piece is in fact a Commoragh prince at the time of the fall. 


The play has several acts/dramas, but the central character throughout is Autë Lar, a wealthy inhabitant of the port city of Commoragh. The play begins with the beginning of The Fall. As Slaanesh is born and the Eldar are dying, fear grips all in Commoragh. Though they think they are protected, they can't be sure that Slaanesh won't get them- the doubt gnaws at the Commoragh Eldar, even though that fear doesn't make them change their depraved ways. Prince Autë Lar has a large palace, well hidden and protected (even by Commoragh standards). He invites his friends to stay with him, providing both safety and entertainment. Indeed, the guests engage in all manner of depravity and degradation as The Fall continues unabated in real space. 


When the gala is at its height, Autë sees a guest wearing a mask that he doesn't recognize- a smiling mask- stunning in its beauty. Autë personally invited all of his guests- how could there be someone here that Autë doesn't know? And no Dark Eldar would wear such a mask. Autë gives chase, pursuing the stranger throughout his fortress. The masked stranger retreats towards Autë Lar's most protected and private chambers. Autë pursues, thinking he has cornered this interloper. 



But the joke is on Autë Lar. The masked stranger reveals his true self to Autë. The stranger is in fact an aspect of Cegorach, the Laughing God; a fragment of the divine being given shape. Autë does not  doubt it at all, for he can feel the power of this entity; even the cynical Autë Lar must bend his knee to this living embodiment of a god. Cegorach explains that the Eldar gods are falling, and if they ALL fall, even the Dark Eldar won't be safe in their lair. Cegorach knows that Autë is calculating and cunning, with the strength and wits to overcome nearly any foe- but he is also mortal, and can easily be unseen to gods and daemons who are busy waging war at this moment. If ANY Eldar are to survive, Cegorach will need seven artifacts scattered throughout both the webway and real space. Only Autë can retrieve them. With no real choice, Autë agrees, and is immediately dispatched on this quest. Dark Eldar audiences laugh at Autë becoming the reluctant hero, knowing full well how foolish the very idea sounds- a heroic Commoragh Eldar? Impossible, absurd, and hysterical. 


Throughout the play, Autë is put in both dangerous and humorous situations, escaping each time just barely. The climax of the play comes as Autë must journey into the warp itself to find the last artifact. Within the warp, Autë (protected by Cegorach's power)witnesses the epic battle between Khaine and Slaanesh. In the midst of this titanic struggle, Autë is like an ant, scurrying around the footfalls of gods. In the end, Autë finds the last artifact, just as Khaine is about to be defeated. It is then that Cegorach appears, and uses his deceptive powers to protect Khaine's essence- allowing the shards to go into the craftworlds. It is at this point that the full cast of players come on stage- each one being a piece of Khaine. This dance is called The Red Death (hence the name of the play and Troupe). The dance starts as a lament, but builds into a hopeful piece, as parts of Khaine escape to fight again someday. As Slaanesh is about to take her rage out on Cegorach, Autë uses the artifacts to help Cegorach make his escape. The artifacts allow Cegorach to hide entirely in the webway, protected from Slaanesh. 


And what of Autë? The play never fully explains the fate of Autë Lar. The play ends with him in the warp helping Cegorach escape. Cegorach flees in a blast of blinding light. When it dims, all players except Autë have left the stage. Autë is kneeling near the artifacts, with the spotlight only on him, dimming until the stage goes dark. 

The character Autë Lar
Does he die? Escape? The ending is ambiguous, leaving it to the audience to ponder his fate. Some say that Slaanesh consumed his soul. Others believe that he made it back to real space, deciding to live on an Exodite world. Yet others think he MAY have gone with Cegorach- the first Harlequin perhaps? Again, the Dark Eldar audiences laugh at this suggestion.

Cegorach given living form in the play
Hope you have enjoyed the pics and my little back story. I will show you the rest of my Harlequin stuff (and my Bloodthirster) as soon as they are done. Until next time...


(Note: Just for fun- of course Masque of the Red Death is a short story by Edgar Allen Poe. I used the story as a springboard for the Harlequin play. Further, Autë and Lar are both Elvish words for prosperity. In Poe's story, Prince Prospero is the chasing down the unknown guest in his castle while the outside world is succumbing to an illness known as the Red Death).