Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's 2014

Happy 2014 Everyone!

Thanks again for spending a year checking out my blog on and off again, and I'm hoping you're all having as wonderful a New Year's celebration as I am.

Your pal,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Things I've Noticed: I may be developing a LEGO problem

For the past few weeks (by which I mean a month) I've been working my way through the PS3 game Marvel Lego Super Heroes, which has been a whole lot of fun.

The problem is, having now finished the game, I keep wanting to play just a little more and collect just a few more playable characters - yesterday I unlocked Ghost Rider and this morning I'm on the way to unlocking Blade (who you get to race in a pizza cart!), and although the game is really simple to play, I keep wondering - should I quit before I realize that somehow, somewhere in this game I can potentially unlock The Punisher?

Aw darn it.

...I think I may have a problem.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 from Bookmonkey

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to wish a quick Merry Christmas to everyone from your old pal Bookmonkey.

Christmas here was a pretty great affair as we followed our usual traditions and had some pretty great surprises to boot.

Here's hoping you all has a great a Christmas as I did.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Early Christmas with Bookmonkey

Over the last few weeks I've received some very lovely early Christmas gifts from friends and wanted to brag about them a little.  First off, my friend Ron got the me the 2013 documentary film, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th on Blu-Ray - which clocks in at just under SEVEN HOURS in length and is an in-depth, film-by-film look at the Friday the 13th series from part one straight through to the recent reboot.

Created by the same people who did the Nightmare on Elm Street documentary Never Sleep Again, the film is a really interesting look at not only the a making of each film, but also who they were received by both fans and critics at the time, as well as a lot of behind the scene info I was completely unaware of - I'll admit it here - I used to think I was a pretty big fan of the series, but I have nothing on the people who put this film together.

Next up my friends Mike and Trish got me both the film Insidious and the video game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - which I've only played a little of so far (I'm still unlocking characters in Lego Marvel Super Heroes) but so far I've got to play a stage as Darth Vader - which was pretty fan-freaking-tastic, and definitely has me interested in playing the rest of the game over the holidays.

My friends are pretty awesome.

Thanks everyone!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Things I've noticed: The trouble with Extended Editions

So here I am, a huge fan of the recent Hobbit films - I mean no, not quite as big a fan of them as I was of The Lord of the Rings, but definitely a big enough fan I would like to have them for my own collection (singing dwarves and all).

The problem comes down to the whole extended edition/complete collection box set issue.

When we first saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, back in 2001 I knew I wanted to own it on DVD; luckily enough, my wife had heard there would be an extended edition coming out so we might want to wait until it became available, in case it was better than the theatrical release (not necessarily better, but for long-time Tolkien fans like my family, a beloved edition).

Fast forward a few years and after The Return of the King: Extended Edition, came out, there was an inevitable boxed set including all three films - so we sold off our copies of the first two films, and bought the boxed set (which sits very nicely on our shelves to this day).

Now that the first Hobbit film has released its extended edition, the question gets a little more complicated - do we wait until all three extended Hobbit films come out on DVD to purchase them as a boxed set?  Will there be an even bigger Hobbit/Lord of the Rings boxed set if we wait?  Should we be getting it on Blu-Ray rather than DVD?

It's pretty tricky, so for now we're waiting to see, and who knows, by the time the last film comes out all extended-like, maybe there'll be a new medium to purchase it on - micro-Blu-Rays or some kind of crystal?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Genre Character of the week: Gizmo

Over the month of December this year, my family has been enjoying some of our fondest Christmas movies, first up was Elf, then came Love Actually, and last week was one of my personal favourites, Joe Dante’s 1984 film Gremlins. For those of you who have never seen the film – stop reading now, and go check it out (maybe make sure your kids are old enough to see it though, as Gremlins (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) was the reason for the creation of the PG-13 rating in the United States, although it isn’t as violent as some films, certain sequences are pretty darn terrifying).

Are you back? Great – let’s talk about this week’s genre character, that adorable little Mogwai, Gizmo.

In the film, the main character, Billy is given Gizmo as a pet by his father for Christmas. Gizmo may be one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen on screen – seriously, his facial expressions, movements and voice (performed by Howie Mandel) work together to make him incredibly engaging and sympathetic to the viewer. He’s spunky, heroic and genuinely loves his friend Billy.

In many ways the film is sort of a reverse of the standard “Boy and His Dog” story, as it works a little better as a “Pet and his Boy” story – Billy watches and reacts to a lot of what is happening, but Gizmo is one who (mild thirty-year-old spoiler) saves the day and spends the whole film concerned about what evils may come about due to the introduction of the Mogwai called Stripe.

The film is really fun, but kids should probably be out of elementary before they watch it as the scenes do tend to be a little more intense than expected. Otherwise, this is a pretty great Alternative Christmas film.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Catching up on the genre classics: Necroscope

I've been seeing them since I started getting into horror fiction back in Junior High, while looking through the horror section at bookstore for the newest Stephen King or Clive Barker, they've always been patiently sitting on the shelf, knowing that at some point I would inevitably get around to trying them out.  Well, today is that day (or yesterday, to be more precise).  I've finally started reading Brian Lumley's horror series, Necroscope.

I'll happily admit that a big part of what has kept me away but interested all these years is the bizarre cover art by George Underwood (see left), which shows both a skull with tendrils moving through it and a man lit in blue in the background with his eyes closed.  As a kid, the cover images for the series (almost twenty titles), were both fascinating and horrifying, so much so that I could never quite give the series a chance, even while I was picking my way back and froth through some other pretty horrific stuff as the mood took me.

Last year while on a used-bookstore trip with my BFF Mike I finally picked up the first book as a trade for some titles I was getting rid of, and it's sat on my "to be read" shelf ever since.  Until yesterday when I decided to finally give the book a shot.

So I'm now about 200 pages into the title and it's pretty great - the whole thing is a strange Cold War era battle between agencies in Britain and the USSR between psychics - kind of a proto-Nightwatch if you will, and follows two psychics with some pretty disturbing abilities as they make their way through life.

Oh yeah and those skull tendrils on the cover the unnerved me so much as a kid?  Yup, that's actually a pretty good representation of something one of the psychics in the book can do - Yikes!

I'm not finished book one yet, but so far it's a pretty fast and fun read, so there you go.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

A few days before my wife and I went to see an advanced screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Thanks Tribute), I read the original James Thurber short story (published in 1939) and absolutely loved it. Honestly, if you’ve never checked out the short story before it is only six pages and is a delight to read.

On to the movie – first of all, it isn’t really a true retelling of the story, some characters have been changed (the original Walter is married) and the film, at just under two hours goes on much longer than the original story, which takes place over an afternoon shopping trip.

Secondly – I absolutely loved it.

First of all Ben Stiller is really great in this film. Over the years I’ve seen most of his film and television work (right back to his first appearance in an episode of Kate & Allie), and he fits into the character of Walter so completely he almost disappears. Walter begins the film as an incredibly quiet, soft-spoken man, drawing virtually no attention and living his life in his very active imagination. When forced by circumstance to step outside of his routine, however, we begin to see the vibrant person living inside, and I was shocked by how wonderfully Stiller shows this throughout the course of the film. The movie has a wonderful sense of humour and considering just how beautiful it is to look at and listen to (amazing soundtrack, by the way); it really comes off as a very personal character piece.

This may actually end up being one of my favourite films of the year, and I strongly recommend checking it out in theatres if you have the opportunity.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Genre Character of the week: Aiden

Over the last week I’ve been working my way through the PS3 game Beyond: Two Souls, wherein you play two characters, a girl named Jodie Holmes (played by Ellen Page) or an astral being named Aiden (pronounced Eye-den, and not having a physical form, isn’t played by anyone). The game follows the two characters over maybe fifteen years in a non-linear format; wherein the player can choose to play either Jodie or Aiden interchangeably. As I don’t think I’ve ever come across an astral being as a player character in a video game before, I thought it might be neat to look at Aiden as this week’s genre character.

Aiden is never (up to the point in the game I’m at) shown as a complete entity – from the player’s point of view he is a kind of purply-blue cloud of light with a tether attaching him to Jodie – when she is younger the tether is quite short (maybe 10 feet or so) but in the stages where she is an adult Aiden can travel quite far before he hits the end of his tether. When you hit the end of the tether the screen goes dark and the sound goes low, except for Jodie saying something like “Not so far Aiden – it hurts” or the like.

What I really like about the character is that you can play him any way you like – he is not just a manifestation of Jodie’s psychic abilities, he is a person all his own and has the opportunity to act for or against Jodie as he wishes, although most characters in the game assume Aiden’s actions are actually being done by Jodie. This makes for a really interesting dynamic in the game as you can decide scene-by-scene whether you want to be helpful, harmful, or indifferent to Jodie depending on mood (usually I picked helpful, but found I defended Jodie against those who have wronged her much more severely than I would have if I were playing a human character).

Although the game does have some limitations – it’s a narrative rather than a sandbox style game, so you are pretty limited to the plot and don’t have as much option to explore as you do in other games, the graphics and sound are pretty amazing. I can definitely see why they hired known actors for the various parts as the images are much more lifelike than in earlier games I’ve played.

So for the game is definitely worth trying out, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sometimes even preparing isn’t enough

So I was asked to take part in a panel interview today with a bunch of scholarship winners and we were doing the interview on Adobe Connect, which I am sure is a wonderful piece of software that when, used correctly does all sorts of amazing things.

For me however, the loading screen took about 10 minutes to load and then my connection was choppy at best. I was able to say a few things using the text chat window, but my audio connection really didn’t work at all.

The crazy thing is that I prepped my computer for this yesterday, making sure my software was up to date and that the system recognized me, and even popping onto the “meeting room” this morning to make sure my connection at work was doing fine.

In the end, I guess you just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got – and I hope I got my points across using the text window with the time I had.

At least I’ll now have more sympathy for future presenters suffering from technical difficulties – they can really throw you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Things I've Noticed: So my computer died...

A couple weeks ago my 2008 iMac desktop computer probably died.  The image went all crazy and then when I rebooted the computer I couldn't ever get past the grey loading screen.  We took it in to a local Apple retailer (not The Apple Store - as the local ones are a bit of a trip for me) and although they weren't helpful in pretty much any other way, they did collect my data from my old computer and put it on an external hard drive I had purchased.

So now I've attached my external hard drive to my lap top (which I'm on now) and am in the process of slowly, but surely gathering up all the various info I'd stored on my computer since 2008 (which includes all the info I'd stored and transferred from my 2004 computer) and am putting it together for easier access.

Now I'm just trying to decide whether I'd like a new desktop computer or not - my laptop is doing me fine, but I'm still a little nervous going entirely mobile rather than stationary (I still have a land-line after all).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Genre Character of the week: Barr of Wreath

Being a father of two girls who can best be described as young adults (21 and 16) I’ve found my Dad skill set has had to change over the years. When they were very little, I had to put up with a lot of fidgeting, yelling, laughing and the occasional hospital trip, as they got older I had to worry about homework, making sure they did their chores and acted nice in front of company.

These days it’s more about letting them do their own thing, and being supportive where I can, which is why I recently found such a great comic book character, I wanted to share him with you – may I introduce this week’s genre character, Barr of Wreath, from the comic book series Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Barr is an armorer, and the father of Marko (one of the series leads), he first appears in the sixth issue of the series after coming to the aid of his son. It is here he meets Marko’s new wife, Alana, and his first grandchild, Hazel.

In the world of Saga, Marko and Alana’s people have been at war for centuries, and the two leads are army deserters who found love with each other and then skipped out on the war altogether. In the first issue Alana gives birth to their daughter Hazel (the series is narrated by an adult Hazel speaking in past tense), and the majority of the series focuses either on the new family on the run from both sides of the conflict, or on back story elements for the characters. When Barr and his wife Kiara first appear in the series (sorry for the mild 16-month old spoiler here) he accepts his new in-laws with a great sense of decency and immediately begins to work to better their lives, which in the end, is how I hope I’ll react to the future spouses of my kids (although it might be nice to meet them before I get any grandkids – hint hint!)

If you’ve never read Saga before, it is totally worth a look, as it is an excellent example of great Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Review: Mr. India

Over the last few months my friend Ron has been introducing me to various Bollywood films (Filmed in Hindi, watched by me with English subtitles, lots of singing and dancing, etc.) and this weekend I saw the 1987 film Mr. India. Directed by Shekhar Kapur (who would later direct Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age), and starring Anil Kapoor (the game show host in Slumdog Millionaire) and Amrish Puri (who played Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) the film focuses on a young man named Arun (Anil Kapoor) who takes care of a young group of orphans and happens to live in a house that is desperately needed by the evil mastermind Mogambo (Amrish Puri) to enact his plans for world domination.

Most of the film involves Arun’s various plans to keep his home up and running, while the world seems bent on evicting him and the kids from their home. To offset costs he takes on a young woman as a boarder (played by Sridevi), and inevitably she falls for Arun and the children as well.

Also Arun happens to come into possession of a bracelet which has been scientifically modified to make the wearer invisible.

Upon his possession of the bracelet, Arun becomes Mr. India, an invisible superhero who fights for the common man in India. In fact this is where a lot of the fun of the film comes from as it plays on a common man versus basically a villain out of a James Bond film to save a delightful group of orphaned kids (also as the film was made in the mid-80s a couple of the kids break dance, which is AMAZING).

Although I was a fan of Amrish Puri in Temple of Doom (Cover your heart Indy!) Mola Ram has nothing on the Evil Mogambo, who rules his minions so well that they willingly diving into a pool of acid for him and also has the films best catch phrase (Mogambo Khush Hua! – literally Mogambo is pleased) which he uses regularly throughout the film.

The music is pretty great, and I loved the mix of superhero action and romance both in the main film and played out through the various musical numbers.

In the end, the best I can say is Bookmonkey Khush Hua!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Things I've Noticed: I'm Seven Eighths of the way to my Masters Degree

Whew - I'm almost at the end.

Although I still have one more class to attend on Tuesday, I've handed in all of my required assignments for this term which puts me seven eighths of the way through my Masters Degree.

This is actually pretty cool as I've been working at this degree since I started the program back in the fall of 2011 and have been taking courses year-round since then.

Also I got to do both of my "if only" courses in the program - meaning "if only I have the time and opportunity, I wish I could take these courses" being one focusing on Multimedia Literacies and one focusing on Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries.

Also it means I've got my last month off between courses, as the new ones don't start up until the beginning of January, so my plan now is to catch up on books, movies and games I've borrowed from friends and family.