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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America

Hey people! Welcome back to the latest edition of Chaos Corner. I've played two games of 40K in the past couple of weeks. I won one, lost the other (both as Dark Eldar- I will go back to Chaos one day! I vow to Nurgle himself!). I'm going on vacation this week; afterward, I intend to play more games in August.

At any rate, I saw Captain America today. The last of the superhero movies for this summer: Thor was good (whoever would have thought we'd have a good Thor movie), X-Men: First Class was unexpectedly good, and Green Lantern was mediocre, at best. Will Cap be the best? Or the worst? So, away we go with our Captain America review:

I've been hoping that Captain America would be really good. I love the character, and thought the idea of having him IN WWII as he should be was a great move. Then, past few days, I've read numerous reviews. Some loved it. Others liked it. Plenty hated it. Hmmm. After seeing the movie, I recalled 2 of the reviews. One of them said "It's not perfect, but its entertaining"... uh, since when do movies (let alone highly subjective comic movies) HAVE to be perfect? No movie is perfect. Not even Empire Strikes Back, Godfather, or The Dark Knight. So, why walk in demanding perfection? The other suggested that Captain America spends too much time dwelling on "building up to The Avengers" instead of being a real movie. This is misleading. Marvel has done something incredible here. They have taken the idea of a comic universe mythos, and make movies that do the same thing (not single one-off characters, like most comic book movies). These guys (Thor, Cap, Iron Man, etc) all exist in the same world. There's spill over between the stories, characters, technologies, etc. Criticizing Cap for relying too much Iron Man/Thor while building to next year's Avengers misses the whole point. These Marvel movies are a mosaic. Pieces of a whole. Slamming that is like saying that Fellowship of the Ring spends too much time setting up pieces for Two Towers. Marvel's ambition with these is staggering, now that I've seen them all and how they all interlock (in obvious and in subtle ways). Iron Man 2 is bad not because it is building a Marvel mythos, but because the story just isn't good. Thor builds on the universe AND is a decent movie. And, it turns out that Captain America is the strongest entry yet in the Marvel Movie Universe. Here's the Good/Bad breakdown:

The Good: First, credit to the filmmakers for doing the World War II route. I'm sure there was pressure to "modernize" him- I'm glad they planted him firmly in WWII. It's essential to his character. Second, I have to credit the cast- they are truly perfection here. Chris Evans is a "pretty boy", and I was worried that he'd be as bad as Ryan Reynolds. I'm pleased to say that's not the case. Evans does a great job- he's an honest guy, a good guy that you want to root for. He plays Cap straight- a guy who wants to do the right thing. His strength isn't his body, but his heart. His morality. He doesn't WANT to kill, but to save innocents he'll do what he must- even if that means sacrificing himself. Equally good is Hugo Weaving, as the sinister Red Skull. Weaving had to walk a fine line here- there is nothing redeemable about the Red Skull. Unlike many comic book movies that have tragic, misunderstood, or victimized villains, the Red Skull is anything but. He is the ultimate expression of Hitler's Nazism- absolute power for the sake of power. No tragedy, no good ends through ignoble means- nope. The Red Skull is evil. That's it. It would have been easy to have the Red Skull be a caricature- a mustache twirling villain. But Weaving is good enough to give the character some shading- subtlety. And the "skull" effect is great- I felt I was looking at the Red Skull from the books. The supporting cast is great too- Tommy Lee Jones is great (tough but funny) as the Colonel, and Toby Jones is quirky but realistic in the role of Armin Zola. Finally, there's Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, the scientist that creates Cap. He's a deep character, filled with sadness and hope in equal measure. In other areas, the special effects are great all around, the action is well done (if a bit too brief at points), plays like a WW II adventure, makes nods to current Cap comic stories, and ultimately makes great connections to the Marvel Universe (I guess, chronologically, this movie should come first). I won't spoil them all, just keep your eyes open and make sure you've seen all the Marvel movies.

Well, Colonel Tommy Lee Jones, if you're trying to make up for Batman Forever, then mission accomplished!

The Bad- The action was a bit iffy at points, since some of the bits were over too quickly. This is a function of the second half of the movie- which is more of an overview of Cap's actions against the Red Skull throughout the war. The plot reflects that- you WANT to see more, but you're racing throughout the war to the end. The last half of the movie is kind of episodic, which is a shame. I'd love to see Cap go against other villains in WWII- Baron Zemo, for example. But, he's out of WWII by the end of the movie, so I guess not.

Ultimately, Captain America is the strongest Marvel movie yet (just a hair better than Iron Man). It handles the character with respect, is a fun WW II adventure (Indiana Jones, if you will), and really connects with the Marvel Universe. It says it all when you come to the end and you want to see what happens next. I'd give it three and a half Marks of Chaos out of four. Until next time, Make Mine Marvel, er... Nurgle.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Game Review: Warhammer 40K Kill Team

Welcome back to Chaos Corner. This time I'll be reviewing a video game on this site (its a first for the Chaos Corner). The game today, appropriately, is WH40K Kill Team! So, away we go...

I believe everyone knows that THQs Space Marine is coming out this fall. It looks really good. I am a big fan of third person shooters (the great Gears of War, for example), and Space Marine appears to be well done. Very excited for it. At any rate, THQ announced a couple of months ago that they were releasing an XBox arcade game to in "celebration" for the upcoming Space Marine. I don't know about that, as I suspect that they're trying to get those ignorant of 40K in on this, so this arcade game will act as advertising for Space Marine. Cash grab, commercial, fan service, whatever... the point is you have a top down/ isometric shooter for the XBox Live Arcade. Is it any good you ask? Yes, indeed it is...

The Good- the game IS in the 40K universe no doubt about it. The weapons, the Marines, Orks, Tyranids, etc, are all 40K. You play as a Space Marine (you can pick from different chapters) and you can be one of several types (Librarian, Sternguard, etc). Each marine has different combat characteristics- some shoot, others prefer melee. Once you've chosen, prepare for a wild ride as you go into the bowels of an Ork ship, killing all that moves while sabotaging the ship and gunning for the Warboss. It's really fun as wave after wave of Orks come at you (all different types too, including a Weirdboy). There's also Tyranids too (and they make it plausable that both are on this ship, its all good). It's kind of like Gauntlet in terms of enemy numbers (just without the maze). You move with one stick and shoot with the other- kind of like SmashTV. There are power up options to help you along the way too. I must mention the weaponry. They did a great job of making the weapons FEEL and PLAY as they should. Firing a Heavy Bolter is amazing. Using the Librarian's force sword and psychic blast is great. Flying with your jump pack and using your lightning claws is a thrill. Plus, you are just mowing down tons of Orks! You really see why Space Marines are the best of the best in this game. A ton of fun- especially when you play with a friend!

The Bad- well, there are a few negatives. The Ork ship is understandably dingy and patchwork, which is great, but the levels are pretty much the same looking. The last level is cool, but the rest are a bit monotonous. Also, the game is really short. Just 5 levels, plus survival mode. It goes by quite fast. Finally, sometimes the camera turns, preventing you from seeing the enemy or you fall into a pit or something because of the turning camera.

Yes, its short and the levels are (mostly) all similar. However, this IS an 800 point arcade game, so you get a good value, ultimately. It is a blast to play though. You feel like an Adeptus Astartes- slaughtering all in your path, while your captain says "show no fear" or "let not the xenos live". Great stuff for a 40K fan (or, an old style arcade shooter / video game fan). I give it 3 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. If you're a 40K fan, pick it up!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts I and II

Disclaimer: This is my review for the final installments of the Harry Potter saga. If you haven't yet, go back an read my reviews/background for all the Harry Potter movies. My tale is a bit sad, a bit humorous, a bit hopeful...

Hey friends! Chaos Corner is back and ready to review the last films of the Harry Potter series, The Deathly Hallows. I had already seen Deathly Hallows Part I in 2010, but it is tricky to review without seeing the second part. Indeed, the Deathly Hallows films are very, very dependent upon one another. More so than most sagas. Yes, you need to see all to fully get it, but one could enjoy Return of the King with out seeing Two Towers. You'd get Revenge of the Sith without Attack of the clones. However, Parts I and II of HP:DH cannot exist apart- they must be viewed as a whole.

This became apparent in 2010 when I saw DH1- it was a bit it was a bit all over the place, with threads hanging, end the end having no resolution at all. Suffice to say, it was not my favorite HP movie- Half Blood Prince was vastly superior.  So now, how would DH2 fare? Well, we come to it at last. My wife got an email from her friend that AMC theaters would be playing a double feature Thursday night July 14- at 9 would be DH1, and then at midnight DH2 would be shown. My wife wanted to go, and so we got tickets and went. It was crowded, complete with people dressed as Harry and Dumbledore. People were lining up for other midnight showings... at 7 PM! Whoa!

So, at 9:15, the lights went down, and DH1 began. Here's my Good/Bad analysis for DH1:

The Good: HBP ended on a great cliffhanger- Snape Kills Dumbledore. the Horcruxes can't be found, Harry's whole world is collapsing. DH1 continues that darkness quite well. Harry only has Ron and Herminoe, an impossible mission, and few resources. A few are still trying to protect him, but its not looking good. The despair here is palpable, and that's cool. The 3 kids are good, as usual- they all do well in their roles, they make for good late-teens, angst-filled and frustrated and afraid. I was also thrilled with the parable of the Deathly Hallows as presented here. The animation is cool, and the story is well told. Indeed, the special effects as a whole are great- whether its the battles, the creatures, etc. they all look great. It all builds to Harry beginning to understand how to wreck Voldemort's day, but it won't be easy- and the movie ends on a bit of a downer with the death of a minor character- but the death is well handled. By the end, you can't be sure if the good guys can win this.

"Yippee Ki Yay... mother fucker..."
The Bad: There are a ton of plot elements here, and at times it can get confusing. Even on second viewing, a lot was happening quickly, and its hard to get a handle on it. It's a lot of set-up for part 2, but I think it could have been trimmed a bit, especially the "Harry and gang go camping" section- it really drags. I also have a problem with the "fan service"- characters come and go SO damn quickly, it becomes hard to know them at all. Making matters worse is Rickman, Finnes, and Gambon barley appear. Neither does Jason Isaacs, which is a damn shame- he's another great Brit, but he gets the short shrift here. Smith and Broadbent are missing entirely. The 3 kids are good, but you need the old Brit vets to anchor it. It hurts the show to see Rickman's wily Snape appear in one scene only. Finally, as a middle in the "final arc trilogy", it doesn't quite have enough pull to it. It brings in all the pieces for the final confrontation, but it isn't as powerful as say Two Towers or Empire Strikes Back as middle segments go.

HP:DH Part1 is a decent movie, though the plot can be a bit murky and convoluted, there's a bit too many characters and "fan service", it drags in the middle, and it lacks  dramatic pull, since there are no major revelations or twists here. I did enjoy the feelings of dread, and the growing maturity of the 3 kids. The Deathly Hallows parable is well done, and it's a great symbol for the rest of the Potter saga, and about what death is exactly and how men will do anything to "cheat" it. It's a mixed bag, no doubt, and not as good as HBP. Therefore, I'd give it 2 1/2 out of 4 Marks of Chaos

At this point, it was like 11:30 or so. We had to wait till midnight for them to show the next, so it was off for snacks and bathrooms. Once midnight struck, the began DH2. The crowd went wild with the opening logo, and for each character. But forget emotion- how was the movie?

The Good: Wow! There's a ton of action in this one. Explosions, magical bolts, warring wizards- this one had it all. Voldemort and the Death Eaters lay siege to the school, while the kids, their teachers, and Potter try to hold out. It's great stuff, filled with both special effects and emotional moments. It all ends with the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. Now, first of all, the acting is first rate all around. At last, Finnes gets to show off in his role as the arch-fiend. Finnes portrays Voldemort both as omnipotent and vulnerable. Finnes knows how to do this, like he does in his incredible role as Amon Gothe in Schindler's List. He's a great menace and foil for Harry. And then there's Alan Rickman. Finally, Snape gets his due here- a great showing by the actor- portraying someone who IS arrogant, selfish, superior, but also in love- which redeems him and pushes him to acts of bravery and self-sacrifice, and Rickman handles it with great skill. The supporting players get time too, like Coltraine, Broadbent and Smith. More than anything, though, the movie's greatest success is how it capitalizes on the theme developed for the entire series, but really emphasized since HBP- namely, how does a person face death. Something that all have to go through- the great equalizer. That's what Harry Potter has truly been all about- he grows up, going on life's journey- having friends, learning, achieving, finding love, seeing that your heroes are flawed, and ultimately, knowing that, one day, your life will end. For Voldemort, he is afraid. He is afraid of death, because he really hasn't lived. He will do anything to avoid death- killing any in his path to do so. And if he can cheat death, what does he need to be afraid of? Why can't he conquer all? No threat, no judgement- he can do anything. But it is not natural. Not the way of things. And that's where Potter comes in. He can see what happens with this kind of power- his parents died because of it. And he also learns that there is something worth dying for- love. In the Deathly Hallows parable, the one "modest" warrior gives the cloak to his son, then he accepts death. That is natural- the right way. Harry embodies that. That's what is truly at stake in the final battle. And this is the strength of the movie- forget special effects and "fan service"- this is the soul of the movie. And it works so well.

The Bad: There are some negatives here, despite my effusive praise above. You NEED to have seen the others (why wouldn't you have at this point?)- but I think you need to be familiar with the books to get it all- the references, the back stories of all the characters and students, etc. See, LOTR's movies weren't like that. You could watch the movies without any knowledge of the books, and you'd be fine. But with HP, it seems as if so much has been cut from the books, that movie side-characters are truncated, and yet given important stuff to do. The case in point here is Neville Longbottom. My wife describes him as the "fourth wheel" in the books, being close to HP and company. But, by my reckoning, he isn't in the movies all that much, a minor role at best. But, in the books he's more important than he is in the movies. That is, until HP DH2. Here, he gets a ton of screen time, AND he delivers the deathblow to the last Horcrux, which neither Hermione or Ron can do. It's a dramatic moment, but I turned to my wife and said "who is that guy again"?

"You may not know me, but I saved the world"!

It was distracting and frankly, bad for the movie. It should have been Ron or Hermione. Instead, a vital moment at the climax is handled by a second or third stringer (movie-wise). Indeed, the movies are littered with cameos from people who are more important in the books, but reduced to little here. Cirian Hinds plays Dumbledore's brother- a good actor in a brief role. Again, my wife said there's more to him in the book, but they cut it short. That's a problem- either do the character justice, or don't use him/her at all. As a viewer who hadn't read the books, it just confused me. Ugh.

DH2 makes up for the shortcomings of the first part, concludes the "trilogy" and the entire series very, very well. The themes of life and death have reached full circle with Harry and his friends having made their peace with those "adult" notions. This is driven home by the brief epilogue, which I thought was a great way to end the series.  I'd give this one 3 1/2 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.

Movie Review: Harry Potter Movies in Brief (except the last two)

Welcome back to the Chaos Corner, folks. I've just seen the final installment of the Harry Potter saga. As I type this, it is making a billion bazillion dollars at the box office. But, before I can review the Deathly Hallows, I feel that I must review the previous ones, as well as my perspective on fantasy films, how I was exposed to HP to begin with, and how my thoughts have changed over time. So, let us begin the tale of tragedy and triumph!

First (Potter is an untalented, lackluster child)- I have not read ANY of the books. Now, I read a great deal (not just 40K novels ;-), but have never been interested in HP. I barely registered that the books even really existed. They were on the periphery for me. When the first movie came out, I heard about it, but again, it didn't interest me. It was a children's thing, I thought. However, I ended up seeing the movie on DVD in 2002- I was teaching, and the grade took a trip to Pennsylvania. On that trip, they wanted to see HP. It was hard to hear some of it over the kids on that bus, but I got the gist. For me, it was a kid's movie, though I did appreciate the performances of Richard Harris and of course Alan Rickman. Indeed, Rickman in particular made the movie interesting- was he the bad guy or not? Rickman's great in just about anything, and his "past" as Hans Gruber and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham only made his turn better. Chris Columbus can't direct his way out of a paper bag, but the British actors made it fun, and the 3 kids were harmless (ie. not annoying) So, I liked the movie enough... but then, it happened. The kids wanted to watch it again. Yes, again. That minute. Right now. Ugh! No kidding, we watched it like 4 times total (damn traffic!). Now, there was no way I could withstand that. My mind began to break down. By the third viewing, my mind was reduced to a quivering mound of useless jelly. By the end of the umpteenth viewing, I hated it. Loathed it. Swore a blood oath to Khorne to never again see the cursed movie or any that followed. Well, you can already see where this is going...

Yes- this is what the bus looked like for me on the 80th viewing of Harry Potter! And still the kids  said "Again!"...

Second (The power of love)- For most of its run, I ignored Potter's doings. I did notice how much money they made, and how they briefly competed against the superior LOTR (more on that later). I also thought it was funny when people broke the news "Snape Kills Dumbledore" (due to hilarious spots on YTMND and other sites). Otherwise, no interest or contact with HP. But then, it happened. In 2009, my girlfriend (and soon to be wife) revealed that she was a Potter fan. She had read the books, seen the movies, etc. She wanted to see the then new one coming out, HP: Half-Blood Prince. At this point, I told her my horror story on the bus to Penn in 2002- the first movie on infinite loop with a bus full of screaming 8th graders! Hell is real, my friends! My wife explained that the first two movies weren't really great, but the series gets better, and that they take dark turns as the books progress. Partly out of curiosity, but mostly out of love, I agreed to give them a second chance.

Third (I've had teachers like this. Heck, I am a teacher like this)- Thus, my learning of HP lore began. Watching the first one again, I nearly had a seizure (yes, I saw little pink 8th grade monsters at the margins of my sanity), but with my wife, I recalled my appreciation for the British actors, and the kids did a good job. About two weeks later, we watched Chamber of Secrets. Again, Columbus can't direct, but the strengths of the last one were here again. Plus, a cool spider and monster at the end. Not too long after, we watched the Prisoner of Azkaban. Ah! Now it gets interesting. The kids are a bit more mature, the dangers a bit more dark (Dementors!). Having Gary Oldman also helps (great actor). Michael Gambon steps in as Dumbledore- whereas Harris was grandfatherly and nice, Gambon is rougher around the edges- appropriate for the darker tone of the movie. A strong movie, no doubt. The Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix blur together for me a bit- we were watching them quickly now to be caught up for HBP. The kids are fighting their hormones as much as the Death Eaters (to good effect), I got a kick out of the temp headmaster Umbridge (is JK Rowling parodying Margret Thatcher? Yep- you bet), and we get to see Voldemort in the flesh, played by the excellent Ralph Finnes (though his role is underdeveloped in these movies). Finally, we went to see Half Blood Prince opening weekend. I absolutely liked this one. Really, it's the start of a trilogy, if you will. It sets up the pieces for the rest of the tale. The mood, imagery, development, and effects are all excellent. Jim Broadbent does great work here, as do the usual suspects (Rickman, Gambon, the kids). The last half is great stuff- drinking the poison, the fires and Dumbledore saving Harry, and then, of course, Snape's actions. Wow. Now that's a cliffhanger. Now, would Deathly Hallows be so good? Hmmm...

Am I as good a teacher as Snape? Heheh!

Fourth (You have the ring, and I see your wand is as big as mine)- Now, of course, I am a Sci-Fi and Fantasy fan (I play Warhammer, how could I not be?!). These HP movies are fantasy (LOTR), no doubt, and they are a serial epic (Star Wars).  So, how does HP compare? Well, I'll need to give my thoughts on the final two to give the complete answer, but as of seeing through number 6, LOTR no doubt was better. Far and away, for dozens of reasons. As for SW, well- the original trilogy can't be touched. However, as compared to the prequels- Azkaban and HBP are great- dark, foreboding, and well done. The Prequels are hit and miss. Ep III saves the whole enterprise, but... could HP be better? Hmm. I now have an idea for a future article here... hehe! Certainly, the series has come a long way from that bus in 2002 if I'm suspecting that HP rates better than the SW Prequels!

I will soon post my review of the Deathly Hallows Parts I and II. What will the verdict be? You'll have to wait and see!

Book Review: Age of Darkness

Book Review: Age of Darkness (Horus Heresy)

This book is the second anthology of the excellent Horus Heresy series. The previous anthology, Tales of Heresy was truly a mixed bag- some stories were excellent, others were truly awful. I am pleased to say that Age of Darkness was a much bigger improvement. Even the weakest here was still pretty good. I also enjoyed how each book contributed to the notion that the Emperor's dream is already dead. The moment the heresy began, the hopes of enlightenment and prosperity were vanquished by Horus, the rebellion, the Dark Gods, and humanity itself (ultimately). Each story contributes to that theme, and it is a nice way to ling the short stories. Normally, I do Good/Bad analysis, but since these are short stories, I will highlight each one:

Rules of Engagement: When I first read this one, I thought it was lackluster- wait! Huh? McNeill (Storm of Iron and Fulgrim) can't let me down like that! A story about how Guilliman comes up with the Codex is not good? That can't be! Ahhh! On its own, the story of how Guilliman is refining his Codex and having Remus "practice" these doctrines was OK- as I said, lackluster. However, after reading the anthology, the story becomes much stronger. What IS Guilliman's plan? What are his motives? After reading the rest, this story is actually a lot murkier than it first appears. Good job! I knew McNeill wouldn't let me down!

Liar's Due: Ah! This is a fun little tale, with nary a Space Marine or Custodes in sight to boot. It is about small backwater world fearing the ramifications of the Heresy on their own lives. They ask great questions like "should we choose a side" and "who cares who is at the top". Then, a stranger blows into town, and neighbor turns against neighbor in fear and terror. The dark side of humanity, unleashed by the heresy- even if Horus or the Dark Gods ain't around. James Swallow is usually solid (disliked his short story in Tales of Heresy, loved his Eisenstein and Nemesis books), and  he presents a Twilight Zone parable here. A nice change from the usual 40K fare, and it gives you a sense of scope that even the smallest peon is impacted by the Heresy.

Forgotten Sons: Not one of the strongest, but it is still an entertaining story. Two wounded marines (an Ultramarine and a Salamander) are sent to negotiate on Bastion to convince the planet's elders to stay loyal, meanwhile Horus has sent emissaries to convince them to break away. Now, to me, the Imperium would have simply invaded, not took the time to talk. I understand that the rebels have ulterior motives, so that makes sense. There is a twist, with the secret activities of a hidden traitor legion, but it only raises more questions than it answers. A decent story, but not as good as the others here.

The Last Remembrancer: This is another small scale, "intimate" story that really begins to drive the theme home that no matter who wins, everyone loses. It involves Rogal Dorn, former Sons of Horus fav Qruze and one of the original Remembracers, Solomon Voss. Dorn begeins to question if the Emperor's dream of an enlightened humanity will survive the war, or if the Imperium will have to give up on soft notions of learning, arts, and self-discovery in order to win, thus becoming "a cruel machine of iron, and blood" in the process. Dorn is particularly real here, and he is upset about how victory will "have its price". A sad, foreboding story, setting the tone for the rest of the tales to come.

Rebirth- well, now I'll have to read Battle of the Fang, as Chris Wraight does a great job here with a tale about some Thousand Sons who had been sent away from Prospero just before the Space Wolves razed it. The story alternates between a "first person" account of being interrogated, while flashing back to how the Thousand Sons got to this point. I don't want to give anything away, but its a fun tale with a few twists and turns. Suffice to say, I want to see how he handles Wolves vs. 1K Sons round two in his new book.

The Face of Treachery: This is the other lackluster showing, by Gav Thorpe. Again, its not bad, just not the best in this anthology. This story tells the tale of how Corax and the Raven Guard escaped the chain axes of the World Eaters on Istvaan. A tale of two battleships, Delerax's WE, and Branne's RG ships. Delerax wants to stick around and aid Angron, but the Warmaster's emmisary orders his ship away. Meanwhile, Branne has to come up with a way to break though to Istvaan, rescue the remnants of his legion, and get out of dodge. It's a decent story, but I wish I had gotten a better feel for the two antagonists. It ends with the Alpha Legion pulling a fast one, leaving me to wonder- just what side are they on? Abnett's Legion has magnificently set that up- what is their true agenda? And having them pop up here only reinforces that. It is this twist that saves this one.

Little Horus: From the other side of the Heresy, Dan Abnett focuses on Little Horus Aximand. As someone who loved the original 3 Heresy books, it was nice to see Abnett expand (just a little bit) on some of his creations, such as Aximand and Loken. Aximand has his doubts about the future himself, though they are expressed only in dreams. Abnett shows quite clearly that AximandAximand (and the legion) for following Horus into treason IF they are designed to be the "spitting image" of Horus in all respects? Aximand's subconscious is "screaming" at him that something is wrong, that the legion will be "haunted" by their actions, but how can he heed it if every factor makes him just like Horus? A great little tale, with great questions to be asked.

The Iron Within: Much has been written about how Horus used the Iron Warriors both to siege AND garrison worlds. Some have postulated that this strained the legion, adding to Perturabo's paranoia, and bring them to damnation. But, on all those garrisoned worlds, one Iron Warrior Warsmith didn't get the Heresy memo- Warsmith Dantioch is steadfastly loyal to the Emperor (Peturabo be damned). The traitorous Iron Warriors are forced to lay siege to Dantioch's fortifications. A bloody battle ensues (with Dantioch aided by his own warriors and an Ultramarine); it is not Peturabo's finest hour, let's put it that way. The story starts off slow, and at first I thought it was weak. But by the end, it was a page turner, I was hooked. As for the lead character, Dantioch is great. Old, cantankerous, and wise, he's a good hero in this story. I am hoping to see him again; the end promises that we may see him in a bigger battle to come (hehe!).

Savage Weapons: I am a big fan of Aaron Dembski-Bowden. I have enjoyed his work on the Night Lords (I'll be reading Blood Reavers next), thought First Heretic was excellent, and Cadian Blood was a great read (Nurgle zombies? I'm down with that!). In this story, the Dark Angels have been fighting a sector wide conflict against the Night Lords. I have never been a fan of Dark Angels, but ADB handles them with great skill, and I have come to like Lion El'Johnson. He wants to break the Night Lords quickly, and has been bothered by the lack of help (where's the damn Ultramarines?). He gets a chance, if he agrees to meet with Konrad Curze for a parley. What ensues is a great tale of The Lion meeting (and then battling) his wayward brother. Again, ADB has a flair for the Night Lords, and it's great to see Sevetar here again. Curze tries to turn his brother (utilizing his doubts about Guilliman), but it is to no avail. The talks turns into a bloody brawl, and it ends as you know it would- stalemate. However, The Lion's doubts are only increased, and he is left unsettled by the encounter. Great story to end with.

Overall, a great anthology. Only a few clunkers keep it from being excellent though. I do like the theme linking the stories. I'd also love to see the Battle of Calth at some point- now I'm not sure what to make of Guilliman, after reading these. I'd give it 3 1/2 Marks of Chaos out of 4. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Battle June 30- Kin Wars

Welcome back to the Chaos Corner. I must confess that it's quite funny (and ironic) that I wanted to create a blog (in part) to take a look at all things Chaos for 40K, but all I talk about is the new Dark Eldar. I can't help it! They're new, shinny, and some of the best models out there for 40K! I also think the codex is good- great fluff, a challenging list to use (though better than the last one), and some nice artwork make it a great book all round.

So, last week (June 30) I played a game with my old college friend Joe. Like me, he owns a few armies, but I think he's great with Eldar. He's got a nice assortment of models, some great poses, and some nifty forgeworld stuff too. I only wish he'd paint them!!

Anyways, we had a 1700 point game- Capture and Control with Spearhead deployment. The game was a real back and forth affair. I was pissed when Lilith was gunned down like a bitch before she could do any damage. I also couldn't destroy a vehicle to save my life (couldn't get it on the vehicle damage table). On the other hand, My Talos wrecked his war walkers, and my warriors did damage via shooting (Wraithlords HATE +4 to wound on splinter rifles). Oh, and his Avatar had a hard time taking out 3 Reavers in cc for some reason... In the end, the game was a tie. Neither could get to the opponent's objective.

Before the new 'dex, if I had failed my rolls like that, the army would have died a quick death. But the new book gives enough surprises to permit SOME mistakes (I'm looking at you Flickerfield). Thus, I was able to mount a strong defense of my objective, stopping him from taking it.

So, here are some pics of the battle. Hope you enjoy. I'll be battling him tomorrow (Kin Wars Part II)!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers 3 Movie Review

Welcome back pardners to another edition of the Chaos Corner. This time, I'll be reviewing Transformers 3, which I saw Friday. This is a bit complicated, so before I do the basic good/bad section, let's start with a couple of preliminaries:

First, does a movie have to be smart to be entertaining- particularly Science Fiction? Certainly, the best movies accomplish both at the same time. Whether it's Empire Strikes Back, Inception, or Alien, Sci-Fi can bring up new ideas, be involving, and entertain with great ease. Then, there are those movies that are smart, but don't do a good job of engaging the viewer. I know this is heresy, but that is how I've always felt Blade Runner- it's a bit dull. It's a marvel in terms of effects, and has many ideas, but the movie itself feels cold somehow. This brings me to Transformers. It is NOT a smart movie. Not by any means; anyone expecting that from this franchise and Michael Bay must be from another planet. Being smart wasn't even a consideration. So, can a moviegoer see T3 and just be "entertained"?

Second Preliminary- what role should 3-D have in movies? I have, to date, not been a fan of 3-D. I think that the process makes the film too dark looking, almost a gray wash over the film. I also think that it is poorly handled by filmmakers. The 3-D rarely adds anything to the movie. Last, 3-D gives me headaches. I take off the glasses constantly because of it. Is 3-D worth it? Transformers 3 has adveristed itself as a big 3-D release. Does 3-D make a difference here?

Third Preliminary-  I have loved Transformers since I was a kid. As a child of the 1980s, Transformers was a staple (like GI Joe, Voltron, etc.)- I still have many of the old toys. However, I am not a fanatic. It was a part of my childhood; I do not spend my time thinking about Transformers or watching the old cartoons. As for the movies, I thought Bay's first entry was entertaining, but that's about it. The action was good, and I loved that they got Peter Cullen back for Optimus. For Transformers 2- ugh! What a terrible movie. I won't drag it out here, suffice to say that I was disappointed in the whole thing from start to finish- the Fallen defeated in 10 seconds is ridiculous, they made poor use of Devistator, etc. So, Bay is 1-1 for me. Can he pull this one out?

That being said, what did I think about Transformers 3?

The Good: The movie IS indeed entertaining. There was a ton of action. The battles were very clear and sharp enough to follow. And yes, the final hour of mayhem in Chicago is as thrilling as anything recently put to film. Cullen was again great in the role, but now he's aided by Mr. Spock himself as Sentinel Prime. Nimoy is no stranger to Transformers, and it was nice to see him back here as Optimus' friend and mentor. Also helping was the fact that Bay finally "got" Starscream a bit, with him being unduly obsequious to Megatron. Having Frank Welker do Soundwave again was also a bit of fun. Shockwave was awesome, though he says little, he and his "assistant" are fantastic. The movie slowed down just enough to breathe, and then got right back to it. And then, of course, there was a "twist" to the story. Yes- I would never have expected such a "twist" from Bay, and when it happened, I couldn't believe that not only was it clever, but he sent out a clear sign early on, and I missed it. As a nerd, it was very nice homage (in more ways than one). Finally, the 3-D was great. I couldn't believe all the action (robots being decapitated, buildings destroyed, etc), and the 3-D actually served the action (instead of the other way around). I didn't even get a headache, and I would recomend seeing this in Imax 3-D if possible. 

The Bad: Yes, there are still many problems with the plot itself. Indeed, it doesn't even sync up with Bay's other movies, continuity wise. Then, there are some stupid jokes throughout the first half- ugh. Not funny at all. Then, there were some wierd performances (John Malkovich? Seriously?) that detracted from the film. And, of course, Shia LeBouf and his girl/job troubles were little more than a distraction, even when Bay tries to wrap it all together. Speaking of, the new Megan Fox isn't better than the old one. No one cares- we're here to see Transformers, nothing more. But, these deficiencies are nowhere near as bad as they had been in the last 2 entries, and I'm greateful for that. 

The Bottom Line: The movie is clearly worth the time if you are a Transformers fan, or a fan of action/sci-fi- as long as your goal is to be entertained, and that alone. If you're looking for "cerebral entertainment", go elsewhere. This was an action packed ride, with plenty of nerd boy shout outs. Mr. Spock would give it 3 out of 4 marks of chaos:

Nimoy is "da man"!