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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

Hey there Chaos nuts! Old Man Chaos is back with a new post, this time a brief review of the movie World War Z. Yes , I know I want to do a Man of Steel review as well, but I need to see that movie again before I even attempt a review (it has many layers that I need to examine again). However, on the spur of the moment last night- a few buddies of mine and I decided to see World War Z. So, is World War Z a solid entry into the zombie movie pantheon, or is it just an ego booster for Brad Pitt? Let's take a quick look...

Let me start off with a few things- I love zombie movies- they are one of my favorite sub genres, no doubt about it. I love the original Romero "Dead" trilogy (and even Land of the Dead, to be perfectly honest- though his most recent efforts are fairly bad). I have enjoyed the newer movies that have spiced up the genre, like 28 Days Later (but I hated its sequel), and even the Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake (better than it had any right to be). I would be remiss if I didn't mention my undying (haha) love of Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. I must also state that I have read the book World War Z, and as a history guy, the method of telling the story via "oral history" is something that historians have been doing for some time, and it was an interesting take.

So where does that leave World War Z? Well, for sure, it bears just about zero resemblance to the book- I knew the book would be virtually impossible to put to film, but this doesn't even really try. Further, the movie isn't that traditional zombie movie- not only do these zombies move fast, they are different in several key ways. That said, World War Z is indeed a really entertaining, at times thoughtful, and an interesting and unique take on the zombie genre. They have mixed zombies with a Hollywood action blockbuster- and its a great mixture. I'd like to quickly highlight some of the really great aspects of this film, but I caution you about spoilers:

1- The Scope and Scale- first off, this is how Romero and others undoubtedly envisioned the zombie apocalypse. Put simply, it is EVERYWHERE. No part of the globe is unaffected. In Romero's movies, this was only hinted at or discussed- and while that ratcheted up the dread and despair, you never saw it. The Dawn remake showed some news clips, but that was about it. Only Zombieland showed various parts of America gone, but the focus was tightly on the 4 heroes. In WWZ, they show it- the scale of the carnage is incredible. Society seems to break down in about 10 minutes- panic, hysteria, each man for himself, looting, murder, explosions, you name it... They show it happening all over the world, and not just in video/news clips/montage. Brad Pitt's Gerry Lane actually witnesses a lot of it. There were certain moments that were breathtaking in showing the scope and scale of this- I loved it!

2- The Zombie Plague- these zombies (and the term IS used in the movie) are quite different from previous incarnations. On their own, without stimuli, the zombies are quite familiar to us- slow moving, drooling, (they say "dormant"). But, if the zombies become stimulated (sound often attracts them), they begin to run and attack. Their only biological imperative- bite the non-infected in order to pass on the plague. So, they don't eat people as such- the virus just wants to spread to other viable hosts- an interesting twist. Further, as more and more zombies are about and attacking, they seem to hit a critical mass- they become so fast, vicious- like a virus or like hordes of ants- they simply overwhelm everything in their path, like a tidal wave. Not just people, but entire cities are engulfed by them. The bigger shots of the zombie horde are CG, but the close up ones are real, so don't sweat that too much. The concepts behind them and how they are put on the film is different from the usual zombies, but I liked it for this movie- I hope that other movies also experiment with their zombie approaches.

3- The Action Set Pieces- this movie is more of an action/thriller than the traditional horror movie, and as such has action set pieces. Think of it as say Die Hard or The Bourne Identity but with zombies. For example, Gerry and his family trying to survive first in Philly and then in Jersey have the traditional zombie beats, but it also is very fast paced (less dread, more running)- can they get to the copter in time? Later, when Gerry goes to Israel, all hell brakes loose and the zombies begin to flood the city- it is race against time to escape (I must say that the Israel attack is very startling and compelling on film- it is the main set piece of the movie and it is excellent). Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the "Zombies on a Plane" sequence. When I saw this hinted at in the trailer, I scoffed at it, thinking it looked silly. Boy was I wrong. It was a very well handled scene and very intense- I loved that bit, as it turns out. Like I said, great action here.

4- Brad Pitt's Performance- the character of Gerry Lane is quite boring, and that is simply great. He's a UN bureaucrat, that's it- not a soldier, not a superhero; he's an average guy; only that he has been "lucky" to have served the UN in war-torn countries in the past and has shown an uncanny ability to survive in such environments. When we meet him here he has quit that job, as it had taken a toll on him and his family. When zombie hell breaks loose, Gerry has the skills to survive, albeit just barely. When he and his family are rescued by the military, they want him to work for them, and he refuses- they have to basically blackmail him in order to get him to go back out there. Pitt plays the role of the reluctant hero very well- he's modest, average, just slightly skilled, and he is scared. Pitt plays it very well; he avoids any flash or scenery-chewing. The role and movie becomes that much more believable as a result.

5- Political Commentary- under the surface, there is a bit of a political undercurrent at play in WWZ, in the best zombie tradition. In this case, the nations of the world really aren't coming together to fight the zombie plague. Indeed, they seem to have taken a "go it alone" posture, to the detriment of the whole world (a nuke even goes off at one point- which nation does this you never find out, making it that much more unsettling). The movie gets into how places like North Korea, Israel, India, the US, Europe, and Russia have all tried and pretty much failed) to deal with the menace. Forget international cooperation; forget fighting for humanity. Nope- each country seems to be trying to hold its own, and they can't quite get their acts together. One can't help but believe that this indeed would be the case if such an even truly happened, and it makes the movie that much more bleak. Which is great.

6- The Ending- although there seems to be a strong hope at the closing of the movie, humanity's survival is not guaranteed. Indeed, Pitt's narration makes it clear that humanity has a shot at survival and nothing more; it is a fragile chance at best. So, while it isn't the haunting and bleak ending of say Night of the Living Dead (or either Dawn of the Deads), it doesn't have the mandatory  Hollywood Happy Ending either, and I appreciate that.

Now, there are problems with WWZ to be sure. First, there are several coincidences that are just too convenient (those planes were ready to leave Israel a bit too quickly). Some of the actions taken by the characters strain credulity. There is a total lack of gore- no a movie doesn't need gore, but a zombie movie should have a lot more than this (will there be a harder cut on DVD? I'm not sure, actually, as they were making a action movie here). Some of the supporting players are just fine, like the Israeli soldier, while others, like the WHO doctors, are actually pretty stupid or annoying- this sometimes detracts from the movie.

World War Z gets a lot right, more than I thought it would going into it (rumors of it being a bad production, re-shoots, etc.). It is a new twist on the zombie genre, and it feels fresh and interesting again. It does have some problems, of course, but what movie doesn't? As far as zombie movies go, I don't know what will ever touch the Romero Trilogy, but World War Z was a really strong entry into the zombie cannon. I give it 3 Marks of Chaos out of four.

Until next time...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Go See Man of Steel---- Now!

Hey there Chaos fanatics. Old man chaos is here with a public service announcement. If you are in any way, shape, or form a comic book fan (DC, Marvel, it doesn't matter), a sci-fi fan, or an action fan, you owe it to yourself to stop reading this blog post and go and see Man of Steel. It is a bold, complex, and totally engaging movie- it takes the more "realistic" tact of The Dark Knight series but tweaks it, and adds in a lot of sci-fi. I think this movie will once again change the comic book movie as art form  paradigm.

Just go see it. Love it or not, it is worth seeing. I will be back for a review, as soon as I can see it again...

What are you waiting for?! Go see it!!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chaos Special Missions From Me To You

Hey there Chaos fanatics. With summer upon us, I am hoping to get in some modeling and gaming over the next couple of long hot months. I have World Eaters, Daemons, and even some Death Guard and Dark Eldar stuff I want to work on.

I have a couple more missions that I have worked on. Once again, I have borrowed from lots of sources (White Dwarfs, older books, etc.), but I have made lots of tweaks in order to fit them into 6th edition. With these three, one of the players MUST be Chaos Space Marines. So, let's take a look:


1) Chaos: Terminate The Daemonvessel!           

Overview: The forces of Chaos are planning on summoning a foul Greater Daemon to aid them in their bloody work. One of their own number will be host to the Greater Daemon- willing to be consumed by the entity for the greater glory of their god! However, the enemies of Chaos have learned of the plot, (The Inquisition learned of it by torturing a heretic; the Hive mind sensed a change in the warp) and are now rushing with all haste to kill the daemonvessel before the Greater Daemon can enter this reality!

Set Up- After placing terrain, the table is divided short edge down the middle. Chaos forces may deploy 12” from their short edge. The enemy must deploy within 18” of theirs. With this done, the players roll off for deployment as normal. After deployment, the Chaos player decides which character is the Daemonvessel. This is marked down in secret. The opposing player must try to figure out which is the vessel and destroy him.

12” Chaosà
 18” Opponent

Primary Objective: The Deamonvessel
Secondary Objectives: Slay The Warlord, First Blood, Linebreaker

Special Rules: The forces of Chaos want to complete the ritual and summon the Greater Daemon, while their opponents want to prevent it. This is a race against time, and the victory points work out accordingly:


> End of Turn 2
End of Turn 3
End of Turn 4
Lives- 1 VP
Lives- +1 VP
Vessel becomes Greater Daemon: +1VP
Kills it now- 3 VP
Kills it now- 2 VP
Kills it now- 2 VP

Note: If the vessel becomes the Greater Daemon, the opponent gets 1 VP if he slays it by the end of turn 5. If it lives, Chaos gets an additional VP.

Game Length: Game ends on at the end of turn 5. 

2) Chaos: Total Devastation

Overview: The heretical forces of Chaos seek to destroy every single thing, in honor of their vile gods. They wish to slaughter every living thing, destroy every structure, and defile all that is good and natural.

Set Up: The table is divided in quarters. In the center of each quarter a building/structure is placed. After this is done, players roll off for deployment- they select diagonally opposite table quarters. They may deploy anywhere in their quarter, as long as it is 12” away from the center.


Opponent’s Deployment

Chaos Deployment


Primary Objective: The forces of Chaos want to destroy everything, and these buildings are their targets (Civillians? Leaders? Factorums? Shrines? It doesn’t matter- they just want to ruin all). The defenders want to slow down Chaos as much as possible, and protecting these structures will do just that. Each building is worth 1 victory point. At the end the game, each building left standing is a VP to the defender. Each building destroyed is a VP to Chaos.

Secondary Objectives: First Blood (only)

Special Rules:

Targeted Buildings: These structures are all considered to be armor value 13 (no matter their appearance), and they have 4 Hull Points. They have no guns or other defenses. They may be shot or assaulted as if they were vehicles. All other buildings are treated as normal.

Game Length: Random

3) Chaos: Black Crusade

Overview: The forces of Chaos are on the march, and they have grown bolder, and more repugnant- each murder that they commit only drives them on to further acts of violence and depravity. At this point, the ranks of Chaos swell, and the blessings of their gods are upon them. With their full strength gathered, the Great Enemy now launches a genocidal campaign against their enemies, taking their lives as well as their souls. They will leave none alive!

Setup: The table is divided down the middle. The players roll to chose table halves. Then, the defender MUST deploy first, 12” from their board edge. Then, Chaos deploys, 18” away from their table edge. Once deployed, roll a D6. On a roll of 2-6, Chaos goes first. On a 1, the defender goes first.

Chaos 18”

Opponent 12”

Primary Objective: Utter Destruction, folks; it is kill or be killed in this game. Each enemy unit that is destroyed is worth 1 victory point.

Secondary Objectives: Slay the Warlord, Linebreaker

Special Rules:

All Hope Lost!- With the forces of Chaos in the ascendant, their power grows ever greater, and warp energies build around them. To represent this, all opponents are at -2 leadership if they are within 12” of the forces of Chaos (this includes for psychic tests).

Meat Grinder- to represent the idea that the commanders are throwing everything they have into this battle, any non-vehicle units that are destroyed are then replenished and put into reserve, arriving from their table edge. However, if they are destroyed again, the opponent gains another victory point, etc.

Game Length: The game ends at the end of turn 6

Well, that's it for now. Once again, I hope these missions will be entertaining, or will inspire you to make your own. Until next time...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Some Star Trek Fun and Other Stuff

Hey there Chaos fanatics. It's my busy time of year, so I'm not getting that much 40K done... Soon though. Soon I will get back into high gear and really start humming along. Just another week or 2... At any rate, I've been thinking about Star Trek Into Darkness and Trek in general. Although STID was far from perfect, it was a good movie and a solid entry in the franchise. Indeed, I think STID may be a turning point, as I suspect new creative people will get on board the new Trek train, and I hope that this alternate universe begins to break away from TOS and explore new ground, both in plot elements and in defining what a Trek movie can be.

In the spirit of that, I would like to get into some neat ways that STID reflects TOS without outright stealing from it (that I will discuss later on). So, I will caution you now that there be spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk....

Still there? OK good. My first bit is a count down of things that STID did right in terms of being faithful to the TOS ideas. Now, I don't mean the camaraderie amongst the crew or Simon Pegg's accent... No. I'm looking at some things that you might have missed at first glance, and even 1 or 2 controversial elements:

1)  Blinkered Commodores, Admirals, and Other High Ranking Psychopaths, Lunatics and Otherwise Bad Guys Totally At Odds With Starfleet Ideals:

Many have made issue with the JJ-verse, saying that it forgets too much about the higher ideals of humanity and Starfleet. Nonsense I say! JJ has it about right on that score. Humanity is far from perfect, and must struggle to live up to those ideals. In STID, Admiral Marcus is the REAL bad guy. On the surface, he wants to protect Earth from future threats, but at his core he is a power hungry and war mongering menace. Some have said this is in violation of Roddenberry's spirit for humanity and Starfleet. Oh really? Check this out (cue The Gonk Music here)...

Lord Garth- The New Master of the Universe indeed- absolutely batshit crazy
Commodore Decker- I can excuse his madness, due to the Planet Killer
Commodore Ron Tracy- willing to break the Prime Directive and slaughter thousands for personal gain
John Gill- humanitarian, historian, and creator of Space Nazis- who kill thousands in his name
Admiral Cartright- engages in a conspiracy to prevent peace with the Klingons, which could spark a war that could kill millions
Kodos- a planetary governor who seizes total power and kills thousands (seeing a pattern here?)
Dr. Adams- conducting mad experiments on prisoners... for a better Federation ;-)
Dr. Daystrom- the guy who invented the new computers on starships is willing to let hundreds die in order to protect his precious M-5
I could go on (as there are more in future incarnations of Trek, but I'm sticking to TOS), but the fact of the matter is JJ and co were drawing on a long history of bad Starfleet/Federation people, and Marcus is quite rational by comparison.

2) Star Trek could be called Sexy Trek:

Some have complained about the scene in STID in which Dr. Marcus takes off her clothes:

Now, why any red-blooded male would complain is besides the point. Even one of the writers disavowed the scene as "gratuitous". Now, that may be, but I am sure you are aware that Roddenberry was a bit of a horndog himself, and that Trek was made in the swinging 60s baby! Shall we begin?

One of my favorite futuristic styles, courtesy of Droxine
Yes, Trek has never been tawdry or sexy. No sir.
Next, on Galactic Gladiators!
Yes, robots have side-boobs too...
Look at that see-through dress... I would stay in the Mirror, Mirror Universe for her!
If you don't see it, there may be something wrong with you

Now, there are a TON more from TOS- but I think you get my point. Trek always had scantily clad ladies, and JJ keeps that tradition alive and well.

3) Old Gen or Next Gen technology? Forget that! I "Khan" do you one better!

This is a bit of a nerdy one, I admit. I love the USS Vengeance. Not only is it a bad ass ship and a dark reflection of the Marcus agenda for Starfleet, it's background is positively nerd-tastic. Number one, it is built by Khan. I love the idea of taking his genetically engineered intellect and applying it to the 23rd century. And even better? Khan is capable of making a ship that is, quite possibly, even tougher than Picard's Enterprise D from Next Gen. That is incredible and cool! Let's see: the Vengeance be run by one man? Picard can't do that. It can travel with what I can only assume is Trasnwarp Drive (from ST III, no less). Picard can only go safely at like Warp 9. Has a huge railgun that looks so devastating that it would have cut the Enterprise in twain if it wasn't for Scotty's sabotage. Picard has the same armaments as the old Enterprise, oh and a Tachyon emitter, whatever that is (sounds lame).
In other words, Khan is a bad ass genius, who could take over the galaxy, and I love how JJ showed that possibility while using Next Gen sensibilities.

4) Never Violate The Prime Directive... NOT!

In STID, a big issue is the fact that Kirk breaks the Prime Directive. Spock reports Kirk to Starfleet about it, and Kirk gets reamed by Pike. According to TOS ("The Omgea Glory"), a ship Captain's most solemn oath is that he would give his life, and even his crew's, rather than violate the Prime Directive. JJ is really good about showing how Starfleet SHOULD respond to such an egregious breaking of the rules. Kirk's attitude about breaking the Prime Directive is pretty consistent with TOS Kirk, considering how many times that Kirk violates the Directive. Hmmm....
Kirk violates the PD by giving a whole lesson on the US Constitution

Who are the primitive ones again?
Kirk violates the PD to blow up the evil computer Landru

They are going to fix a problem that resulted from violating the PD... by violating it again!

Kirk violates the PD... again... to destroy an evil computer... again.
Another sad result of Kirk violating the Prime Directive
I think JJ Trek is actually better about the Prime Directive than TOS was, as a matter of fact. Kirk faces punishment for it in STID, but in the show it is pretty much a joke that Kirk breaks the PD in every other episode.

Well, that's the list of things that JJ and company did well on in terms of tying their Trek to TOS. I think overall JJ is indeed quite faithful to the spirit of Trek overall.

Now, I want to get into the issue that bugged me. Khan himself. Or rather, the actor that is portraying this version of Khan, Bennedict Cumberbach, Now, he was really good in the role (and though I did not enjoy The Hobbit, I already KNOW that he will be the best part in the next one, due to his work here), combining a haughty tone, a vicious streak, and a bit of empathy all into one. He did a fine job, don't get me wrong, but... yet it wasn't the right part from him.

See, Khan is a genetically engineered man from the late 20th century. According to Space Seed, he is from Northern India- a Sikh as a matter of fact. Now, in the 1960s, they got Ricardo Montalban to play the part. True, he is NOT Indian or even Middle Eastern, but in those days, they did not cast many Indians in TV roles. Thus, the part went to Montalban, who was always given all kinds of ethnic roles (Latin lover, Spaniard, Native American, and now Sikh). Montalban had an exotic look to begin with, and with his accent, penetrating eyes, and forceful manner, he WAS Khan, no question. Further, he really made the role his own in Star Trek II- he goes for broke there, making Khan a warped madman, a genius whose abilities have been wasted on Ceti Alpha 5. No one could forget that performance.

Some have likened Khan to The Joker. This is both true and misleading. While Khan is the most famous of Kirk's foils, he has only EVER been portrayed by Montalban. The Joker has been portrayed by several actors, and has seen many interpretations in comics, cartoons, movies, etc. Thus, Heath Ledger was just one more interpretation as The Joker. Whoever was going to be playing a role that was solely Montalban's, their task would have been difficult. 

So, who did JJ get? A pasty British guy. While he has a sinister voice and all... it just doesn't make sense. He looks and sounds so radically different from Khan... that's like saying the Joker won't have white skin and green hair and not wear purple... Huh? Cumberbach is just wrong for the part- I like him, he gives it his all, but it at no time makes me say "Ah. A modern take on Khan". That is a shame, and it hurts the movie.

Even worse, I feel JJ had already worked with a guy who could have pulled it off: Naveen Andrews. Look at him as Sayed from Lost. Holy Cow! He could have shaved the beard, pulled his hair back and presto- a more realistic and ethnically more correct Khan. Plus. the actor has the chops to do it. On Lost, Sayed was intelligent, cold and tough but had a soul. He could be menacing and sympathetic all at the same time. Why didn't JJ pick him I'll never know!! Just look!

Which looks like a more realistic take for a modern Khan?

Seriously!! Look again! Same dark coat look!

Well, that's just my two cents regarding Star Trek Into Darkness. Hope you've enjoyed this humorous read. Until next time...