Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: The Gamemaster

Last week one of my coworkers lent me a DVD of the 2002 Role Playing Game-themed film The Gamersproduced by Dead Gentlemen Productions.

The film alternately switches between two storylines; the first, a group of gamers playing a tabletop role playing game (RPG) that is obviously meant to be Dungeons & Dragons, and the second, a fantasy story which is an enactment of the game being played out.  The film is very low budget, the acting and writing is passionate but clearly at a beginners level, and the sound is sometimes less than perfect (although still significantly better than in Ghost Chase), but as someone who played tabletop RPGs through my teens and twenties, this film really understands exactly how the gameplay for a standard session works.

For me personally, I related most to the Gamemaster, the character who sets up the game, describes the world the characters inhabit and puts up with then nonsense that players spew at him every time he sits down to entertain them.

An example wherein the playing group is meeting a new character:

The Gamemaster: Guys, please! I want you to roleplay this.  Remember you've never met this guy before, the last guys you met tried to kill you, and you're standing in the ruins of an evil, cursed castle, Just act appropriately.

Magellan: Hello, I'm Magellon, a travelling mage. I notice your group has no wizard.

Rogar, the Barbarian:  You seem trustworthy.  Would you care to join us in our noble quest?

Magellan: Yes. Yes I would.

Gamemaster (pictured above) I feel your pain.  If you’ve never really played any RPGs, there are probably a number of better ways you can spend 48 minutes of your day, but for gamers, past-gamers, and people who have lived with gamers, this is a pretty fun movie.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happy Early Father's Day to me!

As my eldest daughter is spending June in France for summer school, she decided to take me to The Duchess - a fancy bakery here in Edmonton to celebrate earlier.

Even though we got there as it opened, the line up was pretty crazy so I saved us a table while she got us coffee and baked goods.

She ended bringing me a bunch of macarons, as well as some sort of berry custard tart thingy - very tasty (and pictured to the right).

Although it wasn't officially Father's Day, it was a really nice way to hang out for it ahead of her trip, and the baked good were delicious!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Things I've noticed: June will be tricky in terms of movies

As we are leaving May I've seen the two big theatre movies I was hoping to (Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness), but my plan to stick to two movies a month gets tricky in June.  

First up in June is This Is The End, which puts together a bunch of my favourite comedy actors, my love of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films and the distinct benefit that my wife might be up for checking it out with me.

Chances of me seeing this is theatres - 85% assuming we find a good time and location to check it out.
Next up is Man of Steel - on the plus side, my youngest daughter may be willing to see this with me, and I've enjoyed most of the versions of Superman I've come across (definitely loved the animated series - Superman IV: The Quest for Peace - not so much)
In the end I'm likely to give this one a shot.

Chances of me seeing this in theatres - 75% (but up to 80% if my daughter wants to come along)

Finally we come to World War Z.

On the plus side you have zombies, an apocalyptic setting and Brad Pitt wearing dad pants (at least in the poster - as a dad, I know of what I speak and tan cargo pants are nothing if not dad pants)

On the negative side, I haven't read the book, and I'm a little concerned with a PG-13 rating for a zombie film - not that I need a lot of blood and guts, after all I loved Warm Bodies, but I'm just not sure.

Chances of me seeing this in theatres (85% - actually 95% as the ladies in my house are fond of Mr. Pitt)

So there you go - I have a pretty good chance of seeing all three films, but not if I want to stick to my two films a month policy - after all I've got work, school, family and friends who all want a bit of my time and I can't devote it all to movies.


Nope - I'll have to pick two.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: George from Demons

Last Friday I watched the 1985 Lamberto Bava directed Italian horror film Demons.  The premise - a movie theatre audience is attacked and possessed by demons while watching a movie in which people are attacked and possessed by demons.  For me, the movie begins with an interesting premise and then goes on into weirder and weirder territory as the various theatregoers attempt to escape the attacking demons.

One of these theateregoers is a young man named George (played by Urbano Barberini pictured above), who along with his friend Ken has come to this theatre to see a free screening of a random movie - apparently no one in the audience was aware they would be watching a horror film (which starts out as a demon movie, but quickly movies into a Friday the 13th-style slasher movie, based on what little of the film-within-a-film we could see).

George does his best to help protect himself, his friend, and the two cute girls they sat next to when the demons attack.

There isn't actually a lot of story after that, just a strange series of scenes where they almost get away from the demons, but then the demons appear again.  I liked George as his motivation seems pretty obvious and with only a few exceptions, he is pretty clever in the many ways in which he evades the demons.

I actually got this movie for trade-in on one of my used book store runs, so for the cost of $0, it was pretty fun - gross and more than a little disgusting - but pretty fun nonetheless.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: The Last Colony

So I just finished the third novel in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, and I’ve got to say it was a lot of fun.  Moving away from the sheer shock and awe tactics of the original Old Man’s War, and the dark storyline of The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony brings us full circle back to the life of James Perry, the main character from the first book.

Like many of my favourite series, Scalzi has allowed Perry to grow and change between novels, so although he is still recognizable from the first book, his character and the story have changed since the last time we saw him.

As Old Man’s War does better the less you know about it, all I can really say about The Last Colonyis that it nicely ties the series together, it should be read after the other two, and I found it fast paced and satisfying.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Things I’ve Noticed: Folks on Flickr are pretty nice!

While working on an upcoming assignment for my Children and Youth Services course, I’ve been scouring the Internet for good animal pictures.  The tricky thing is that some of these animals have pretty specific looks to them.  So I was very happy to find pretty much exactly the picture I wanted on Flickr.
To make sure everything was on the up-and-up, I contacted the artist and asked permission to use their picture for my assignment.  Within a day I got a very nice response including permission.
As one of the easiest ways I can say thank you is to send online traffic to the Flickr account in question, I heartily recommend that you check out Critters by Chris at:
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Max the Wolf

This weekend I read the 2011 novel Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham (of Fables fame), and was introduced to it's plucky hero, a Boy Scout called Max "the Wolf" who also happens to be something of a detective.

Max awakens in a strange forest, similar, but definitely not the forest of his home town, and although he begins his experience alone he quickly finds a number of animals, that can talk.

Travelling with a badger, a barn cat, and a bear, Max has to elude strange hunters called the Blue Cutters and try to figure out where on earth he is and how to get home.

One of the neatest things about the book for me was it took a pretty familiar story (the plot shares more than a few twists and turns with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), added a boy detective (not unlike Encyclopedia Brown), and took me on quite a fun little adventure.

The supporting characters are great, the villains get more back story than I tend to expect in children's fiction and the main character, Max, is just one of those great kids you find in fiction that you just want to cheer for as they make their way through the story.

A great read.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day at Bookmonkey's Place

Just a short one today folks, as we're celebrating Mother's Day for my lovely bride.

Happy Mother's Day to my own mother, and all the other mothers out there.

Also - check out this bizarre/cool book art flower thingy my daughter Lorisia made for her mom (pictured right), pretty cool!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Things I’ve noticed: All my shows are ending!

Even though it’s May 10 today and I’ve still got a few precious weeks with my regular shows, the end is In sight for each of them and pretty soon I’ll be left to work through all the TV series I’ve purchased on DVD since last summer.

Right now I’ve got a couple shows saved up – both Grimm and The Americans sit with more than 10 episodes on my PVR and although I haven’t seen any episodes of Grimm since it’s mid-season hiatus and haven’t even seen the pilot of The Americans, I’m pretty excited to check both of them out.

Past that I’ve got both a lot of books and a video game going on right now – it’s God of War III, and I’ve spent my last three hours of game play doing the same battle over and over again (just a few more hours and I’m sure I’ll defeat that guy!)

Oh yeah, and I’m taking a class in school right now (Children and Youth Services) which is both very interesting, and a huge expenditure of my time.

Hmmm…. Maybe it’s a good thing my shows are running down.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

When I think back the earliest monsters in my own memory, before horrifying aliens, or slasher killers, or zombies, heck even before floating vampire kids (shudder), there was one that freaked me out more than any other.

I’m talking about The Medusa (pictured above).
And I’m specifically talking about the creature created by Ray Harryhausen for the 1981 film, Clash of the Titans.  This thing, rattlesnake tale, lower body of a snake, and snakes for hair freaked me out like nothing else, and the fact that you could never look at it, or you would be turned to stone, simply horrified me as a child.

Although I’ve seen, and appreciated many more of the creatures created for the movies by Ray Harryhausen, for me The Medusa from Clash of the Titans is the thing that showed me just how dark fantasy could get, and in a lot of ways started my lifelong exploration of the genre.

Thanks Ray.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

On Saturday friends and family got together to go see the latest Marvel Studios release, Iron Man 3.  The film, set after the events of last year's The Avengers, was pretty great.  I'm going upfront and honest here - so let me state that other than the recent films, I have little experience with the original comic books featuring Iron Man, and I'll try to keep my post as spoiler-free as possible, as I know some readers prefer to experience a film with as little pre-knowledge as possible.

The film was a whole lot of fun.  I felt that following up something as amazing as The Avengers was last year would be a challenge, but the direction from Shane Black and the screenplay by Black and Drew Pearce was sharp, acknowledging the previous film, but creating a world all on its own.  Also, as this was the first Iron Man film not directed by Jon Favreau (who did still appear in the film), it felt like a good move after the game-changing events in The Avengers.
At 120 minutes the film is the longest-running Iron Man movie to date (and by the wasy, I can’t believe people still leave these movies as soon as the credits roll – the fact that end scenes exist for these films is not a secret, but I’m always in the last 10% of the audience who sit through the credits and wait as compared to those who leave immediately after the “directed by” credit runs.

Although I can’t tell you how many minor characters and businesses from the Marvel Universe are mentioned in the film (honestly, I have no idea), I can say the story has a lot of heart, kept me intrigued the whole way through, and will definitely be making it’s way onto my DVD shelf when it becomes available.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Things I've noticed: Choosing a book can be hard!

For my book club meeting this Sunday, I've got to select our June title - usually this is pretty easy, I've got a lot of books on the go and simply select whichever one the library has a lot of copies of to be the next title we read.

Problem is, all of the books I'm reading next month either have not yet made it to the library, or only have one copy.

So tonight I'm going to have to go through my bookshelves and figure out if any of the many titles in my "to be read" collections might work.

Also I'll be following up a pretty gritty title for our May title (Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami - which I've read before but am totally excitted to check out again), so I'm looking for something which will represent a nice change of pace.
In the end I think I'm going to find something either related to school (maybe not), or something related to one of my favourite authors...

I'll let you know when I do!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Margaret Leigh

As a soon-to-be librarian myself, I’ve always been a sucker for librarians in fiction.  Whether the love interested of a time traveler on a mission in Stephen King’s 11/22/63 or the supportive mentor for a young girl in trouble in Jo Walton’s Among Others, I simply start to smile when any book I’m reading introduces a librarian as a character, rather than simply a stereotype.

In Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, that librarian is Margaret Leighand unlike a lot of fictional librarians I can think of, she has a pretty unique ability.

The problem is, I really don’t want to spoil any of the story of NOS4A2 – which went on sale yesterday, as the book is just so darn good. In simplest terms, I like Margaret because she comes across as a three-dimensional character, and even though there are shades of the mythical Cassandra in her, she seems very much a person with her own identity.

The novel follows a young woman, Victoria McQueen, through an incredibly dark experience in her childhood and then races forward to her own parenting years and puts her in an even darker spot, as this time her child is at risk.

The novel is definitely Dark Fantasy, is clearly influenced by the works of Stephen King (in a great way), and had me putting an immediate hold on the only Joe Hill book I haven’t read so far, his 2010 Novel, Horns.