Fourth Time's A Charm?

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D&D 4th Edition will hit the shelves next week. I game so infrequently that I don't know if or when I'll make the switch and admittedly had not been paying much attention to the impending release. That being said, I realize it's a significant event amongst the RPGers still out there and I've been become more curious as the release date approaches.

As I read about some of the changes, I was reminded of this teaser video that Wizards put out last summer. I'm no Harvard Business grad, but we nerds are definitely a special breed when an effective marketing pitch goes something like "here comes a new version of a product which will probably be broken in many ways like it's predecessors, but that you'll buy and love anyway".

There are some hilariously true segments in the video. I remember explaining THAC0 over and over and over again to the casual members of our 2nd Edition gaming group. And don't get me started on grappling. Jesse, wherever you are, I hope you feel some remorse about putting us through that misery on a weekly basis.

Anyhow, let's put those past grievances aside and talk some 4th Edition. Are you making the jump? Why or why not? What are you looking forward to? What seems like questionable design?

Making Sense of Pac-Man

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Someone on one of the message boards I read pointed out this T-shirt you can get that gives some explanation of Pac-Man. It doesn't really explain Mrs. Pac-Man, but I'm not really sure I'm ready for that explanation.

The artist, Travis Pitts, has some other neat designs you can view at his site including a Lando Calrissian "Hoth 45" ad.

(Nerd) Lunch Special: Argentinean Empanadas

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My wife and I recently swung by Scott Dogs for a late dinner. I have heard good things about the restaurant and Chef Scotty from multiple sources, but I had not been able to swing that far out of my way for a visit. The good word has obviously gotten around, as the place had a lively dinner crowd even after 7 PM.

Scott Dogs falls into the category of classic Chicago style fast food, but also offers some specialties that are not part of a typical fast food menu. To give me a frame of reference, I ordered a Chicago style hot dog (the namesake Scott Dog) and an order of fries. My wife went with one of the specialties, two Argentinean empanadas (mostly obscured in the upper right of the photo) which I was able to sample as well. 

Hossin' at Scott Dogs

The Chicago dog was merely good; the dog itself was not the usual Vienna beef and the cucumber slices on top didn't work for me. However, the fries were some of the best in my recent memory. The empanadas were also very tasty; a GB&D (™ Alton Brown) crust filled with ground beef, onion, and green olives. All in all, it was some quality fast food. Scott Dogs is definitely worth a return visit and I look forward to seeing how their gyro compares to the competition.

00Walrus #5: You Only Live Twice

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YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
Bond: Sean Connery - 1 tusk
Along with the franchise itself, Connery begins showing his age and his performance in general isn't as exciting as any of the previous four films. And with a rather substandard story (more later) I can see why Connery phoned it in for this movie and hung up the tux afterwards.

Girl: Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki - 1 tusk
As is beginning to be the norm, there are several Bond girls, with at least one good and one bad. Here, there's a bit of a twist with Aki, the "main" Bond girl, dying before the end.

Gadgets: Little Nellie - 1 tusk
A relatively gadget-lite entry into the franchise, but Little Nellie, a souped up mini-copter gets a rather suspense-free scene when Bond takes her up to scout out the volcanoes and then takes on four enemy helicopters. The projection screening in this movie was weak overall, especially in the car chase scenes, and that makes this particular scene hard to view. It also had a bit of the "From Russia" problems where they explain all the weapons he has and then five minutes later, Bond is up in the air using them one by one. Really no need for the unnecessary exposition.

Opening Theme: "You Only Live Twice" performed by Nancy Sinatra - 1 tusk
While completely fitting for the movie, this theme is much softer and not as brassy and bold as the two previous entries. This does not rank high on my list of Bond themes.

Villain: Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld - 2 tusks
Although Mike Myers has forever put his mark on this portrayal, this Blofeld stands out in my mind as the best. I wish they had kept him for continuity in the next two movies.

Pre-title opening sequence - 1 tusk
While I prefer the mini-adventures of the last two, here we establish a real interesting threat that will playout in the rest of the movie. The eater of spacecrafts was a great mystery and fits in nicely with the Cold War era. However, the opening falls apart when they introduce Bond and then pretend to kill him off without much of an interesting set up.

Story:
It's very regretful that they made this movie next instead of the intended On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I've not read the books, but I know that in the You Only Live Twice novel, Bond is dealing with the death of his wife. When he subsequently has to pose as being married, it's difficult for him. In the movie, this angst is gone with the exception of Bond's brief grief over the loss of Aki.

Following Thunderball, the Bond producers could go in two directions. They could try to top themselves, or they could try to bring the stories back down to a slightly smaller scale and focus more on the character of James Bond. They chose the former and missed great opportunities to have Bond go through some real emotional turmoil. Had they done OHMSS next with that in mind, they might have been able to convince Connery to stay for one more really good follow up in YOLT. As it is, they're switched and YOLT starts to fall apart.

For example, I never really got why they "killed" off Bond in the opening. They explain that it's to keep his enemies off his back, but he's not able to use his newfound anonymity very long. Even without the knowledge of who he is specifically, people try to kill him. So, what was the point?

The ninja training was cool, but should have been expanded. Sounds like the book really deals with this much more in depth. But then, why is he being paired up with a wife? It makes no sense in the context of the story in the movie. What advantage does he have with that marital status? None that I can tell.

From here on out, the Bond movies aren't the cohesive, complete package they have been. Now it's about picking and choosing what's good and then just focusing on those things.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball

00Walrus #4: Thunderball

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I'm trying to get through these all in a year, but at my current pace, that isn't going to happen. I'm going to have to have a Bond Marathon some weekend soon to catch up to where I'm supposed to be. I should be watching Roger Moore by now.

THUNDERBALL
Bond: Sean Connery - 2 tusks
Connery still rocks as Bond, but by this point the luster seems to be fading. The performance isn't quite as inspired as the three previous but that's not a problem as he has a natural gift for this part.

Girl: Claudine Auger as Domino - 2 tusks
Although she is only one of four Bond girls in this movie, she is the primary one. Domino harkens back to the Honey Ryder-type Bond Girl from Dr. No although, maybe not quite as innocent either at her introduction or at the end. She winds up being a distinct character and not just another pretty girl to dress up the movie.

I also have a soft spot for the atypical Bond girl role in Paula Caplan. I liked the assistant role and like the idea of a team surrounding Bond. But then, that takes away the uniqueness of Bond.

Gadgets: Rocket Belt & More - 2 tusks
The gadgets show up big time in Thunderball starting off big in the opening with the rocket belt and ending with use of several gadgets underwater including the mini-breather. The Aston Martin shows up again briefly and there is the underwater jet pack as well. As I've said before, I prefer a gadget-lite Bond, but here they have usefulness and haven't gone off the deep end as far as believability.

Opening Theme: "Thunderball" performed by Tom Jones - 2 tusks
It's Tom Jones. What more is there to say?

Villain: Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo - 2 tusks
The thing I like about Largo is that he was the kind of villain who got into the thick of it. He wasn't just concocting the scheme or sitting safely behind a desk and a control panel. The guy was literally diving into the thick of it and getting this work done. He was "Number Two" and you can see why. He wanted things done right, so he did them himself. And would have had no problems pulling it off if not for Bond.

Pre-title opening sequence - 2 tusks
Another mini-adventure sequence in the same style as the opening from Goldfinger. I love it when we get a James Bond short before the movie opens.

Story:
This has long been one of my favorite Bond films. It pushes the limit of action without going too much into absurdity. It's a very simple story. It's the classic "villain steals weapons, holds world ransom" plot. By this point in the series, the formula is setting in and it begins to seem somewhat derivative of what we've already seen, but it's "bigness" makes it seem like we haven't seen this. It's a hard movie to top and I don't think it really ever is.

That's not to say the series completely goes downhill after this. There's still Moonraker to look forward to.

[By the way, special bonus tusk for the awesome movie poster artwork by Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy. I love McGinnis' poster and book cover artwork from that era.]

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger

(Nerd) Lunch Special: Jimmy John's

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The Vito Like the rest of the crew here, I enjoy a good sammich. Places to get a submarine / hero / hoagie sandwich are a dime a dozen, but one of my absolute favorites is Jimmy John's. The chain started out in the original Nerd Lunch stomping ground of Central Illinois and expanded, first to college campuses in the Midwest and then all around the country. Franchises are not quite nationwide at this point, but it won't be long before they will have blanketed the lower 48.

The odd thing about Jimmy John's is that I can't point to one reason why I enjoy their sandwiches so much. Most people order straight off the menu without any customization, there's no oven toasting, and no hand dipped milkshakes or specialty items on the side. What they do offer is relatively simple sandwiches served up quickly and for what I consider to be a reasonable price. Perhaps simplicity plus quality still amounts to a winning formula.

So here's to you, Jimmy John Liautaud. I hear you're a difficult man to work for, but you make mighty fine sammiches.

Three Nerds and a Baby

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All right Nerd Lunchers, I need your help...

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I hope that Jeeg and PLee will indulge me in a little shameless self-promotion.

I had the opportunity to participate in a 24 Hour Film Contest over this past weekend. At 9 am Saturday, we were assigned the theme of "knowledge" and had until 9 am Sunday to write, shoot, and edit a 3-5 minute movie short. We were able to complete a nice little story in about 21 hours and turned it in an hour early. It stars me and I helped write it and I also edited it.

Anyway, Tallahassee.com has all of the entries available to view on their site and you can vote for the one you think is the best.

Here's where I need your help. I need you to scroll about halfway down the page and vote for "Making Rainbows" as many times as you possibly can. And, moreso, pass this request along to everyone you know, post it on your Facebook/MySpace pages, or your blogs asking for MULTIPLE votes for "Making Rainbows."

Help us win this thing. Thanks!


UPDATE

We won the clicking contest. Thanks for all your help!

True Believers

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Hulk - Summer 2008
Ant-Man - Unknown
Iron Man 2 - April 30, 2010
Thor - June 4, 2010
The First Avenger: Captain America - May 6, 2011
The Avengers - July 2011

Well, there's the schedule for Avengers-related movies that are in the pipeline. I put Ant-Man in there in the hopes that Marvel will get that out in 2009.

CT and I have often debated the best way to do a Captain America movie --- how much time do you spend in WWII before you move him to present day? This might provide a clue . . . you do your Cap movie entirely in the 1940s, probably laying the groundwork regarding a threat (the Skrulls working with the Nazis?) that will return in present day. End on a cliffhanger, with Captain America lost in the Atlantic.

Two months later (or sixty-five years later), the Avengers assemble, Sam Jackson thaws out Captain America, and all's right with the world.

That Guy: Miguel Ferrer

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Miguel Ferrer I first noticed Miguel Ferrer for his portrayal of upstart executive, Bob Morton, in RoboCop.  Even though Ferrer has had a few fairly high profile supporting roles (Crossing Jordan, Twin Peaks) and spots in ensemble casts (The Stand miniseries), he got his start playing bit characters on TV shows like CHiPs, Magnum P.I., and Miami Vice. Lately Ferrer has made hay doing cartoon and video game voice work, further making him a familiar presence to which you probably can't put a name.

When you do realize who Ferrer is, you find a solid nerd body of work.

  • 80's TV - CHiPs, Magnum P.I., TJ Hooker, Miami Vice, Kung Fu: The Next Generation
  • Star Trek III
  • RoboCop
  • The Stand
  • Cartoons - Justice League of America, Superman, Robot Chicken, Justice League: The New Frontier
  • Halo 2

Ferrer is much less known, but is just as enjoyable a performer as his cousin, George Clooney.

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