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Summer movie preview 2016!

That time of year approaches! When assorted entertainment mags like Entertainment Weekly release their mega-sized issue to add more hype to the summer movie season! How many rom-coms, goofy comedies, toddler-tranquilizing animated films, and explosion-crammed tent-pole films can you take? Oh, and a bit of counter-programming here and there. So put on your seat belts, time to ramble about waaaaaaay too many movies and not enough money for popcorn and drinks for all of ‘em.

With a tip of the hat to Heath Ledger and Stuart Scot… here…. We… go.
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It's ironic watching Batman v Superman Friday and catching Batman Begins now on cable. Nolan’s seminal film, along with ‘iron Man’, started something very special. Nolan’s films took the super-hero genre and used it as a way to look at the real world. Meanwhile 'Iron Man' brought us Nick Fury's pithy line about the Avengers. What was meant to be a joke if the film bombed became a dream, then a reality, and finally the ginormous, money-machine which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both films took what was just another revenue stream for the movie industry and gave it much deeper story-telling cred and huge box office potential.
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So the movie industry looks at the massive rush of superhero films and is petrified. ‘How long can we keep this up?’ ‘Are people gonna get sick of these?’ ‘Aren’t there too many movies?’ Execs and marketing people wonder how long before the bottom falls out and even Robert Downey Jr. can’t save the next Avengers sequel. What do the numbers say? What do the graphs and surveys mean? Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria! (Sorry, I’m crossing streams in a big way but I couldn’t help it.)

But maybe the answer isn’t in the graphs, charts, and last years’ box office receipts. Perhaps what should be surprising is there aren’t more of them. The popular idea is these films are an escape from our dreary world. I’ve got a different hypothesis. They are not an escape. They are a reminder that as dark as things may be, we are more, can BE more.
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Window shopping on-line can be hazardous to your pocket book. For instance I'm poking around here and there and found a loose Megazord. It was missing some accessories but it Megazord itself was complete and came with it's sword.

So I'm looking at Azathoth, one of my latest creation;


And wow... it's REALLY big... hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... that's awfully big compared to the other piece I made... maybe it's time to find... something bigger as an adversary. But what's about 12” tall? Tall... big... powerful... weapons.... A MEGAZORD!!!! OH YEAH BABY!!!

So one click and a few days to ship later, a mostly complete Samurai Megazord thingy was at my home, waiting to make the transition from super-sentai mecha to inconceivably large, god-like 'bot to face the equally inconceivable, madness-inducing power of Azathoth! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

… yeah, I was a tad excited at the prospect. Nyah.

So what happened? Ok, ok, it's not the most impressive thing in the world, but I like it. I didn't mess with the general look of the Megazord. I liked the way it looks like a giant, bad-ass, monster-beating machine already. So what to add? Not much, mostly flourishes there and there. Some extra 'armor', here, a few more fins and other details there.

I am very proud of the extra weapons I created.

'Dude, if this thing is as big as Azathoth why does it need a giant daisho and bow?'

Um... well... 'cuz... ya see... HEY IT'S A MOUNTAIN-SIZED MECHA WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR MEGA-QUANTITIES OF DAMAGE AND FIGHTING A GOD, IT NEEDS A GIANT BOW AND DAISHO... 'cuz... giant robots need that stuff. Yeah. So there.

The 'katana' is based on the sword which game with the Megazord. I reinforced the 'spine' of the blade since it was bent. The 'wakizashi' was another Bionicle piece that I kit-bashed into a sword. I'm very proud of the bow. It's kit-bashed from odds-and-ends.

Everything is designed to be on the Megazord's 'armor'. The bow is slung on the 'back' while the daisho slips into slots on the hips. And there's an additional shoulder cannon on the right shoulder of the Megazord.

Of course gotta have a stand!!! The theme I've followed with this Cthulhu-tech of ancient tech continues. I created a city-scape that's seen much better days. Chunks of 'gravel', structures which have been smashed into ruins, and a lone, massive tower stands defiant to any force.

There ya go!

Super-sized samurai 'bot!


Giant 'bots need giant, abandoned cities to pose with.


All the weapons racked-up


Yes, if you're the size of a mountain you still need a shoulder-cannon and swords

And a bow!

So a while ago I built this giant sword wielding, flying robot thingy that looked like a combination of Voltron and giant bugs. Neat and creepy, so bear with me. So if it’s a giant merging bot/bug… you gotta have the individual vehicles/bugs, right? Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

So here they are. I just hacked a Manga Spawn figure into five sections and cobbled together some other parts for the ‘drone’ that’s on the ‘bots back. The last vehicle/bug is a combination of the giant sword held in the right hand and the massive spike on the left arm.

‘Dude… um… they all look… creepy!’

That’s the point! The combiner is meant to be a combination of bugs and whatnot. Hey, if we’re gonna go Cthulhu-tech, go all in! So the vehicles/bugs are meant to emphasize the organic as well as tech aspects of the vehicles. There are odd-shaped wings, creepy legs, and weird tentacles… yea, I said tentacles!!! Ok, not HUGE ones, but some pretty eerie looking, stalk-ish… things!

So that’s the vehicles/bugs for this massive creation! Bwahahahahahahahahaha! But now… things like this… they need a base don’t they…

Hey, if you’re gonna have all of this, it’s not fun just having them sit on a shelf. Bandai’s Soul of Chogokin line of deluxe robots come with display stands that are freaking amazing. They’re designed to hold any extra weapons and just look super cool over-all.

I decided to take a different slant on this. Rather then a stylized shelf, I created a ‘base’ of operations for the vehicles and the giant bug ‘bot! The base uses a huuuuuuuuuge piece of packing card board as the base. I loved the ‘rocky’ texture of the cardboard, giving it a Mayan pyramid vibe to it. And yes, there’s a giant ‘hole’ at the ‘front’. I liked it there. Creats another layer to the piece. Technically there’s nothing there, but it still begs the question ‘What’s inside?’ Hehehehehehehe! To give the base depth I added another level to in. This time I used a giant piece of plastic from an old tub. I glued it to the ‘back’ of the ‘base’ to create another level.

The extra ‘bling’ all over the place is assorted odds and ends. An old speaker with some wire. Chunks from an old flash light. In the end it’s a whole lot of stuff that’s meant to LOOK really odd and wonky. I flocked the piece with ‘gravel’ and other stuff to add to the ‘aged’ look of the entire structure.

The center of the base is designed to hold the giant ‘bot and it’s stand or to leave that area blank depending on my mood.

So there it is! The final piece to this massive build! Well, relatively speaking for a ‘giant’ robot that’s about six inches tall.


Geek project: the dragon 'bot!

Soooooooooooooooooooo this is what happens when I get a bunch of figures in a lot. So many extra figures in the box soooooooooo many possibilities. Like this one.

‘Um, dude, why so many robots?’

Stephen King talked about that once about his writing. Why does he write horror stories that are a serious mind-job? His answer? Why do you assumed he can write anything else? So MORE ROBOTS MUST BE BUILT! BWAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Um… where was I? oh yeah, the this creation! A lot of loose figures included a lot of Manga Spawn figures, one of them one of the neat alternate figures they did. This one switched the usual right arm with a MASSIVE cannon thingy and came in a beautiful all black color. The figure was released in a big ‘Fish-tank’ and is gorgeous. This figure had a few pieces here and there missing so it begged to be kit-bashed!

So what happened? Well since it already had a giant cannon on the right arm, why not just build on it? I have a ton of Lego-ish pieces which have a ton of joins on them. So, what to do with a energy cannon… how about turn it into a giant bow? And since I’ve got the added joints, how about have the bow fold and unfold? Sweet!

But let’s not stop there. Since the ‘drone’ on the original figure was missing I decided to give this thing massive wings on the back. As I tinkered more and more with the figure and peeking at my bits-box, a theme emerged. Wings… I’ve got this monster head I can put on the chest… huh… a dragon ‘bot? Yes!!!! The ‘tail’ I added for stability so it was a perfect addition to the figure.

The paint job was simple. It already came in a gorgeous black so everything was meant to compliment it. A bit of sliver here, some green there.

And the base? I decided to go with a abandoned, aged look. The base is meant to evoke a damaged, ancient structure. Lots of gravel, lots of ruins, all hiding a mysterious fighting machine. Hehehehehehehehe!

The dragon 'bot and it's stand! !


There you go darling! Give me rage! Give me aggression! Look like you want to kick some ro-beast butt!

The bow closed!

Geek project: Surtur!

Projects are funny. Some stuff is brewing in my head and I'm dying to build it. Some stuff just pops up and it takes MONTHS if not YEARS for it to come together. Take this one. A while ago I got a lot of McFarlane figures for a project. One of the figures was from their Wetworks line. It was a nice figure, very bulky, nice articulation, blah, blah. But what to do with it. At first I was going to turn it into Goldar from the 'Space Giants' show. Baaaaaaad idea. So it sat on my shelf, kinda/sorta being worked on but waiting for something really special.

Finally, after a looooooooooooong wait, as I pounded out a plethora of giant robots and robot gods like Horus it finally dawned on me... if you have a god, you need a giant bad-guy... but how... something big... something REALLY big... SURTUR, THE FIRE GIANT FROM NORSE MYTHOLOGY!!!

And here it is in all of it's scorching glory! To some height to the piece I trimmed off it's feet and used old pill bottles. The 'flames' covering Surtur are chunks of scrap plastic. I liked the random look to add to the illusion of flames. The tail is from assorted Bionicle pieces with a giant chunk of scrap plastic to add a nice axe-looking bit to the tail.

The stand uses some packing cardboard for the base, cardboard for the back, and scrap foam for the massive 'columns'. It's all meant to create a subterranean/lava look. (A tip of the hat to Kilauea and Madam Pele.)

A giant demon ain't a giant demon without a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge sword! Again, more scrap pieces which have been sitting around forever, waiting for the right project. The part that looks like an axe is an ax from another action while the top silver 'blade' is also some ramdom piece from a toy which has been sitting in my bits-box for ages. Combine and you have Surtur's giant sword.

There it is! And sooooooooooooo many other pantheons for inspiration... hehehehehehehehehe!!!!

Surtur! And the gods of Asgard tremble! And get ready to make s'mores...

side-by-side with the giant lava stand!

A giant fire god/monster/demon just isn't cool without a huge spike tail.

And you gotta have a giant honkin' sword!!!!
'OMG dude, how many of these things have you made????'

Er... plenty... not that I obsess or anything! Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha! And since I'm on a giant robot kick and looking for some off-the-wall 'bots, what else is there. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... how about a god... but not just any god... something that looks funky, bad-ass... oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Horus! The falcon-headed got of retribution!

'Um... dude... why does an Egyptian god need a robot..'

Because... um... er... hey, that's the way I roll! So there.

Horus is constructed from the Samurai Spawn figure. I LOVE the Manga Spawn line from waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. However the Samurai Spawn figure just looked... bizarre. Sure it's very ornate, beautifully painted, blah, blah, blah, but why is it a samurai???? Oy. However as I looked at my broken figure I got in my box of Spawn figure, the crest on the head reminded me of Yul Brenner as Ramses in 'The Ten Commandments'. BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From there it's the usual madness. A ton of bits and pieces. The crest on the helm is actually a broken piece of the figure so it blended in perfectly. I threw on some glass 'jewels' to add a lot of 'pop' to the figure. The giant sword? That's from a bulk box of Lego Bionicle pieces! Woohoo! The staff in the left hand was built from scratch from all sorts of odds and ends. It's meant to remind you of Horus' symbol, the falcon. Speaking of Bionicle pieces that joints which allow the wings to move so well are Bionicle pieces. Hurray for multi-tasking toy pieces! The pieces all have very tight ball-joints so the wings have a wonderful range of motion. And yes, Horus has an energy cannon on it's back.

'Um... dude.. Horus is a god...'

Yes, but it's also got a sword and staff so why not an energy cannon on the back! Ha!

One of the added touches is the staff and sword can both be stored on Horus' back. Woohoo!

The base is an ancient Egyptian city. Hey, if I'm gonna do Horus, gotta go continue the look!

So there it is, in all of it's glory! Whew!

Horus in all of it's revenge-filled glory! On a pretty stand that looks like ancient Egypt.


Not quite downtown Cairo but...


From the back. Wings folded, energy-cannon up (Yes, cannon... hey, my 'bot, my weapons.) and holding the word on the right side of Horus and the staff on the left side

Wings at full estension

Yes, it has a mystical energy cannon! Why... cuz! Nyah!

Geek project: Azathoth!

Yes, I've been on a Lovecraft kick. Cthulhu gets the most recognition because it's iconic. The tentacles, the mountainous size, the wings, the works. The Dunwich Horror is just a nasty, whacky mess of head, tentacles, limbs, and general ickiness. But it's easy to forget Azathoth, the madness at the center of the universe:


Done reading? Yes, I built my take on it. No, it's NOT the size of my work-shop in the basement! Although it's pretty dang big. Hehehehehe!

So how did this thing come about? Well the base for the piece are a multitude of items. The very top that's two 'horns' is a monster-creator from the miniature game Heroscape. That was glued on top of a plastic container. The next level, with those freaking protrusions and giant 'stock' in the 'middle' was the stand for an Iron Man figure. The was attached to another large plastic container. From there it's a ton of odds and ends glued on. With LOTS of tentacles all over the place. You'll also notice a few patches which are all bubbly and blistered. Those are patches of paper from the paper-plate I use to hold my glue gun. Over the years it's accumulated tons of glue streaks and blobs. Wanna create a nasty, gross, creepy, organic chunk of flesh? Bingo.

Although the piece has a giant red laser cannon/weapon thingy in the 'front' the piece isn't meant to have a 'front' or 'back'. The entire top can pivot 360 degrees on the Iron Man stand.

'Roy, isn't it supposed to be a giant mass of limbs and protoplasm?'

Technically, yes. But hey, I'm a mech fan so I had to add a ton of tech flourishes to it.

The nice thing about a Cthulhu-esque piece is odds and ends from all over the place work WELL. Granted in the unpainted picks it looks like a giant hot mess.

And the second set of pics is the beauty of it painted! Fine, so 'beauty' is all relative! Bwahahahahahahaha!

The base is gray to emphasize the starship/tech feel of the piece. And from there I've used a lot of peach tones to emphasize the pasty, nasty, organic look of a Lovecraft creature. I've thrown in a few purples as well since it's such an odd, otherworldly color it just seemed right. To add a bit more 'pop' and give the piece a more organic feel I also flocked the 'blisters' with sand and green 'grass'.

One of the touches I like about this piece is the under-side. Look at the close-ups and you'll see some extra 'blisters' and other nasty looking details on the underside of the ship.

'But dude, why would Azathoth decide to go all tech?'

Well, why not? Ah, another story waiting to be told...

Profile shot

Yes, the top of this thing does rotate

The 'back' of Azathoth... back?

Told you, rotating cannon of awesome!

Yes, it's that big.

In all of it's painted, freaky glory!


Eeeeewwwwwweeeee blisterly ickiness... also kinda awesome!

More ickiness on the other side!

Leeeeets get ready to rumbllllllllllllle!!!!

Movie review: Interstellar


Talk about good timing. Yes, this film has been on the release schedule for a while. What look what else happens? About the same time the ESA's Rosetta spacecraft rendezvoused with a comet and launched it's Philae probe and LANDED on the comet. Also a counter-point to the destruction of Spaceship two and the death of one of it's pilots. Over-all though a very important reminder of the dangers of space travel, the challenges it poses in terms of technology and lives, and to be blunt the fact going into space is not for wimps.

One of the sad effects of the shuttle program was the fact traveling into space became almost mundane. Yeah, yeah, that space truck is going up again with a bunch of guys and stuff to do science. The years and years of launches, even with the intervening tragedies of Columbia and Challenger, caused the exploration of space to become just another thing on the news. Which is a shame. Exploration should never be mundane. There should always be a sense of wonder, awe, achievement, challenge, and at times also of heart-break and fear.

The hard lessons Chris Nolan meant to pass on to folks via his latest film 'Interstellar'. The joy and sorrow, the wonder and panic, all of it. Oh, and along the way to tell a pretty freaking awesome sci-fi story with incredible special effects that makes even Neil DeGrasse Tyson give a thumbs up. Folks, welcome to aboard the inter-galactic ride which is 'Interstellar'.
But first, spoiler-shields up!
Ok, are we good to go? Sweeeeeeeeeeeet!

Nolan and his crew go where few dare in film; sci-fi stories that don't involve blowing crap up. Now don't get me wrong, it's FUN watching that stuff. However there's something to be said to emphasize the SCIENCE in sci-fi. In this case let's take a disaster film and raise it to global proportions. We're in the near future, REALLY near, and unfortunately we're in trouble. Down the road our farming techniques will finally piss-off nature enough that crops are dying in droves and the planet is turning into a dust-bowl.

Things are so bad that Cooper, a pilot and engineer, has become a farmer. It's so bad only certain students are allowed to become engineers because in the eyes of the planet we really need farmers.
So how do we dig ourselves out of this mess? Well, someone somewhere... or some-WHEN, is giving us a hand in the form of a worm-hole to a far away galaxy. Ok, far FAR away is actually more applicable. Prof. Brand, Cooper's teacher, and a group from what's left of NASA have come up with a plan. There appear to be a few viable planets Over There which were discovered by a group of brave, crazy, bit of both, scientists who took a one-way trip into the worm-hole to see what planets looked promising. Cooper is picked to be the hot-shot pilot for a team a scientists to go through the worm-hole and find humanities salvation.

Easy! Suuuuuuuuure it is. If you thought the first explorers on Earth had problems, you ain't seen nuthin'. Everything from the obvious things like problems with the ship to really exotic problems like time dilation threaten to wreck everything. Time runs out faster then you can imagine as the mission in space AND engineers and scientists on Earth try to save humanity.
Oh, and while the crap is hitting the fan Up There, things on Terra Firma are also kinda nutty as the plan to save humanity, and Cooper's family, are going hay-wire. Oh, and Cooper has kids and his daughter hates him for abandoning her.

Yeah, there's a LOT going on here. The beauty of the film hits you on so many levels. First, this is old-school sci-fi. No laser guns. No Xenomorphs. SCIENCE fiction, think ‘Robot and Frank’ and ‘Moon’. And it is sooooooooooo refreshing. Granted I like the robo-porn of ‘Transformers’ and the epic insanity of ‘Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’. However to have a story that feels grounded and real is a wonderful, welcome change of pace.

Next, it’s tempting to wonder ‘OK, if we got to the Moon what’s the big deal about getting to Mars?’ Folks, this is why exploration is NOT for tourists, it not for pussies. YOU WILL DIE, YOU WILL FACE HELL. Actually dying is the GOOD part. The worst part is you are stranded along for YEARS with no chance of rescue. ALONE. On a landscape that may try and kill you. With nothing but the same freaking paperback book to keep you company. Yeah, kinda sucks! So you have some MAJOR cajones if you do this. Or you got crazy… or both.

And for the MacGyver fans out there watching Cooper pull out every engineering and piloting miracle out of his hat is a joy to behold. Anyone who loved ‘Apollo 13’ will love this stuff.

The story also feels frighteningly relevant. The destruction to our environment. Poke around news sites and you'll hear horror-stories about how close we could be to have our crops obliterated the way they are in the film. And ask anyone who's been to Arizona about those dust-storms. Eeek! And unlike the film, we do NOT have any special plan to save ourselves... gulp.

But that isn't all. In the midst of so much techno-babble and feeling like you're getting a crash-course in astrophysics, there's a story about humanity. The story is a reminder of our place in the universe and our will, hell our NEED to strive further then the next hill, the next ocean, the next star. It's what we are, it's what we do. It's not just a source of hope and inspiration, it's what we are as a species. If all we did was sit on our ass and be content then we would have died peacefully from exposure after the first Ice Age. We didn't, and the film drives home that need of our species.

A hysterical surprise is TARS. TARS is the obligatory, multifunction robot in the film. He looks like a shiny version of The Monolith from '2001' but in reality he's a super-complex 'bot with incredible skills. I had visions of just a quiet ‘bot who just does stuff. Oh hell no! As warm and fuzzy as Baymax is in 'Big Hero 6', TARS is a cynical, snarky bastard but you get to love his frankness and sacrifice.

Oh, and be warned, there are twist and turns here. No, seriously. If you're a Nolan fan you're accustomed to his wackiness. 'Memento' is too obvious, even 'Inception' is way obvious. 'The Prestige' is the best example of Nolan's habit of throwing in a change-up when you least expect it. (Note to M. Night Himalayan, THIS is how you do The Twist.)

Perfect story? Ok, this is when the nit-picking comes in. Do we HAVE to have some dues-ex-machina come in to save us? Yeah, yeah, I used an Ivory Tower term for the little people who sent the wormhole. But again, this is nit-picking.
Oh, and the film is long. Not like 'The Avengers' where you go 'Holy crap that went by fast!' It's NOT like 'The Hobbit' where you're looking at your clock going 'Um... are we done yet?' No, it's like 'Lord of the Rings'. It's a fun story, lots of cool stuff to watch, but after a while... you... start... to get... a little restless. Oh, and be wary how big that beverage you got with your popcorn.

Visually… it’s getting boring seeing giant castles and epic battles on a plain. Or even giant robots and what not. Seen that, done that. Seeing a freaking WORMHOLE????? Or the edge of a black hole????????? HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!

The cast is exceptional. Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine are wonderful as the father-daughter team of Dr. Brand. I've heard some folks say they didn't like Matt Damon but I loved him as Dr. Mann. Is he quirky, wooden, and off? Sure, but considering what's he's gone through and OTHER things, it's quite understandable.

Bill Irwin is wonderful as the voice of TARS. Just a bit of snark... ok, a LOT of snark, a ton of sincerity, and an amazing amount of heart. And all done without a face to work with.

Matthew McConaughey is outstanding as Cooper. That easy smile and drawl becomes defiant as he sees the world crumble and he must decide if his family is going to be sacrificed for the world. And then watching him turn into freaking uber-pilot/MacGyver during the mission is a wonder to watch.

Last call? This is opening night, midnight showing stuff. This is a story of epic proportions. It's a tale of love, hope, nightmares, humanity, the works. It's told with the type of visual effects that leave you breathless, and done with a cast and crew that is loving the ride. It's a film that strives to be MORE then just a story with pretty eye candy... wow, kinda like humanity striving for more. Huh...



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