Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Sunday somewhere right?

Hi everybody!
So a short one today because.. well life.
But for those of you with the inclination to like Tabletop RPGs do I have a story for you!
A friend of mine is running a Kickstarter for an Australian written and produced Role Playing Game and the initial art for the book looks amazeballs.
I mean seriously;

So if you want to support an Australian RPG which looks the business drop on over to:

Still to come: That Dune Documentary, some boardgame reviews (at last!) and my 13.79192934c on the doom that came to the Star Wars Expanded universe.
Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I'm watching now: Frank Herbert's Dune (2000 mini series)

Next we come to the Sci Fi channel mini series version of Frank Herbert's Dune, directed and written by John Harrison. Just like the 1984 film adaption the 2000 mini series creates strong opinions in fans of the original novel, it is both applauded with doing so much with a limited budget and derided for poor effects work and pacing.
Much like many early drafts of the 1984 version, the mini series is a massive undertaking, clocking in at almost five hours long. In many ways it follows a similar path to the movie, it focuses very heavily on Paul's journey from man to messiah, but the extra screen length of the mini series format allows the motivations of other characters to be explored more fully. (Or does it? That's an issue I will get to below...)
Being a mini series we do need to look past issues of budget just a little, in 2000 CG was still very primitive and the huge battle sequences of the Lynch film could not be reproduced in any real way. The CG that is used is fine, and for the most part somewhat less effective than the model work of the original. Same with the acting, the talent gathered for a Sci Fi channel mini series was never going to be near the cast Lynch put together his for Dune. (Srsly Dean Stockwell, Patrick Steward, Sean Young, Max Von Sydow, Jürgen Prochnow etc etc etc) So I want to focus primarily on where this adaptation could improve on the film; script, plotting, pacing and communicating the complex narrative of the novel. The rest, FX, Costumes, sets are really low hanging fruit. 
John Harrison's adaptation is often held up as a more faithful version of Herbert's novel by it's fans; I'm not sure that is the exact word I would use. A more comprehensive adaptation maybe, but it suffers from many issues caused by the Transliteration of the text into another medium. While the plot of the novel is there, much of the dialogue has been reworked for a contemporary audience and to remove or explain some of the novel's more obscure and complex elements. The most glaring example I can think of is the begging, like Lynch the film starts in a slightly different spot and reorders the events pre departure for Arrakis. However if you cut the 1984 film's version's much debated Guild Navagator scene, Lynch's version is closer to the novel. Paul in fact starts the mini series complaining about his duty and how he never sees his father to Jessica, a scene that feels just odd in this particular universe. Alec Newman brings a much more leading man element to Paul in his depiction, as opposed to the awakening man child as depicted by Kyle MacLachlan, and this also does not sit well with the world. These little changes are littered throughout, from Princess Irulan visiting Arakkis and meeting Paul, to the almost totally removal (again) of the Fenrings as characters.
What rings even stranger is that many of the scenes (such as the Test of the Box) are almost shot for shot remakes of Lynch's scenes from the 1984 film and almost totally drained of any gravitas by very flat direction. The battle for Arrakine is almost totally non existent, a good choice as the series budget would not have been able to create the sort of battle scenes needed, but the few scenes of the battle we do see have a muzak version of Toto's score from the 1984 film under them. I'm not sure how deliberate these echoes back to the Lynch version are, but they are everywhere and always come of not quite as good.
The length allows Harrison to do very well by two very pivotal characters who are both in many ways better than their 1984 counterparts. The primary one is the Baron Harkonnan, who is given much more room to breath and exist in this version. His scheme to use the Emperor to rid himself of the Atredis and elevate his house (via Feyd) to its former glory is better presented and explained here. He is not simply an existential evil, he is a cunning an dangerous mastermind. Although even when this is going well, the poor direction of the series drags him down, such as the moments when he breaks the forth wall at various points. (Also what the hell is up with the pronunciation of Harkonnan? Lynch had Herbert on set so we can assume he got it right. So why change it when the version that had the author as a direct consultant and all other media seems to pronounce it the other way...?)  The other is the Lady Jessica who seems to just fade into the background after going into the desert in the film version. Jessica as a character is much more felt out, more proactive and intelligent. She is given much more to do and interacts with many characters to move the story outside of Paul's rise.
Many of the minor flaws could be overlooked, but the pace of the piece is just so glacial, something that I would forgive if it was in order to present the story more completely. But the story is changed, many things are still omitted and additional scenes are added. While this is a more complete telling of the story, it still isn't quite there.

Sunday post: Mornings of Futures Past

Ok, Dune miniseries review should be up tonight but I feel I need to post more regardless. (Especially as I now have a shiny new Keyboard) I'm about to totally nerd it up and play a "Call of Cthuhlu" LCG tournament, I think I shall write about it in my other space as I have neglected my tabletop gaming side this year so far...
But I leave you with some awesomeness from Youtube. Do you want to know how much the Japanese love gambling? Well the videos above were made for a Macross Pachinko machine, not a remake or Blu Ray remaster or anything, a Pachinko machine. They are *amazing* and make me more than a little teary with nostalgia for the series I rediscovered my love for last year.
Till later in the evening...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Technical difficulties

Do You know how important a space bar is to blogging? Very when you do it in English let me tell you. So my coverage of all things Dune was hampered this week by the deterioration of the quality of my keyboard, which eventually decided not to space entirly.
This topic has been a much more interesting one than I at first thought, Lynch's Dune honestly deserves a very detailed critical re-examining at some stage, one that puts it in context with other versions of Herbert's novel and Lynch's other works. (I'll be doing that briefly in these virtual pages but a more detailed examination could be done.)
To keep you all tidied over for the time being I managed to find a wonderful interview on Youtube with Lynch and Herbert just before the film was released. It actually confirms many of my own thoughts about the novel and film as well as getting to hear Herbet himself talk about the process of film adaptation. (And why Authors are often so bad at it, I'm looking at you King)

The Miniseries watch continues, amazingly I have been side tracked by another adaptation in Brain Fuller's "Hannibal" TV series which I am enjoying for the most part. (Especially as it does not simply ape "The Silence of the Lambs" in form or feel)

Type again (with spaces!) soon.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Aside: Sunday, The Tomorrow People and my second fave series returns for 2014

Hello readers. Real financially paying life has been busy so my posts are getting slower, something I am endeavoring to correct with some time off soon. (And then in Japan again, what a whirlwind)
First cab off the rank, still watching the Dune mini series. It is long and a little hard going in places, but I hope a review in the coming week along with a history of Dune and gaming.
Second a MASSIVE shout-out to the #freebabylon5 folks on twitter who have said lovely things about me and my reviews of the series. @mister_murphy1 , @crazydan9 , @anakaty831 and @doikea ありがとうございます!

This week I have also started seeing trailers for and hearing people talk about the US reboot of "The Tomorrow People". Currently I don't know what to think about it, I may give it a try if it starts to look promising and not just an Xmen homage wearing the title of a 70s UK sci fi show. Personally I am unsure if the lightning in a bottle that was the 1960s/1970s pop culture can ever be recaptured, as most reboots of classic shows seem to desperately attempting to demonstrate. For every BattleStar Galactica reboot, there is a The Prisoner reboot... The Tomorrow People itself is also a series very much at odds with the way we see the world now. It was a work of very optimistic transcendental humanism; a group of young people who represent humanities future in the stars. I'm not sure you could make a teenage action/adventure series where the main characters have special powers and a genetic predisposition against violence now days...

Now we tend to talk about Genre fiction around these parts and I have been remiss to not mention my second favorite show (This is my favorite) and current 300 pound gorilla of Television Genre fiction "Game of Thrones" as of yet. Primarily as everyone else on the tubes talks about GoTs and I tend to like steering the boat into less written about waters. But heck yes I am excited for the new season. Now one thing that has happened is that someone I know is in the new series, only a minor part but still awesome. She is an Adult entertainer and there seems to have been some fake controversy kicked up by click bait websites around the number of porn actresses that have been hired in the new series. Really in this series? You're upset that the Actor who appears nude in a scene may not keep their bits under their clothes the rest of the time? Who gives a crap to be honest, and Aeryn has done a very good job standing up to this low bar tabloid reporting. (Not to mention shithouse art criticism, something that we here at the Tomorrow's sound megaplex are dead against) So if you partake in that sort of online entertainment, show her some support. If you don't well, watch Game of Thrones anyway :P
In a second Porn related anecdote this week, and I forgive you if you are becoming worried that this blog is becoming all porn all the time, I managed to geek out on Twitter this week with a Japanese Porn Star over the Walking Dead finale. She replied and everything! Twitter is something I need to write about, it is a very unique and often easily discounted internet thing.
Until next time folks!