Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Sci-Fi Season

This is just a quick note to let all y'all know that Film 4 is having a Sci-Fi season with a SF film showing every night at 9 o clock, it's been running for a week and I've had a chance to catch up with films I'd never seen before like The Day After Tomorrow, Cypher, Vanilla Sky, The Core and Solaris.

It looks like it'll be running at least another week with films like iRobot, Equilibrium and Close Encouters still to come.


Monday, 23 April 2007

The Smith Virus Incursion

As Redpills in the Matrix started to think about how to celebrate the second anniversary of the truce between man and machine, events were drastically interrupted. As if the General’s abduction of Sati, causing an imbalance in the weather code, and Seraph’s seemingly crazed attacks weren’t bad enough, Smith once again made his presence in the Matrix known.


The first signs were, perhaps, th
e most obvious. Crazed programs known as Smithlings began sporadically attacking Redpills all over the city. They had the outward appearance of the former Agent and were also, for unknown reasons, wreathed in flame. The flames had the appearance of the deadly flame virus, but thankfully they did not spread to others and they didn’t seem to do much damage to the Smithlings or those who they attacked. While the Smithlings were a powerful force, they certainly did not match Smith’s power, and were much weaker than even ordinary Agents which meant that Redpills were able to successfully keep them at bay. When a Smithling was defeated, the source of the problem, a tiny fragment of Smith’s Code, was then possible to extract, preventing the program from returning.

Smith Virologists

These programs (or possibly redpills) were recruited by the Oracle to combat the Smith Virus and aid redpills as they fought against it. All the Virologists I saw were attractive females with dark hair wearing official business like clothing not unlike Agent Pace’s attire. I don’t know if this is because they are all the same “type” of program or whether this as just the characteristics of the ones I saw, but that is generally how they appeared. It is possible that their appearance was a disguise to protect them from Smith because in one incident a virologist came to a gathering of redpills and gave them all disguises to give them a similar appearance to her and sent them out to assist in the fight.

One notable thing about the virologists was that they were intermittently wreathed in green flame, a result of them processing and neutralising the Smith Virus. The Virologists tended to place themselves near monuments in the city so as to be easy to find by redpills and they gave out special items to redpills who agreed to help them.

Virologist’s ticket.

This ticket, in the form of a cookie, contained code directing the redpill who bought it to the Oracle for an explanation of events and assistance in fighting them. Unfortunately the code in them also seemed to draw the Smithlings towards the holder, and the user would often if not always have to battle through a group of Smithlings to get to the destination indicated. The cookie would eventually lead the operative to the Oracle who would give them special weapons against the virus, and when they were done it made an excellent snack!

The Oracle’s mission

The Oracle equipped operatives with tools to combat the more dangerous power of the Smith Virus that could overwrite a redpill’s mind and turn them into Smith himself. The Oracle gave them these tools and sent them off to fight the good fight. For those who stuck around she offered an explanation of events. Tiny fragments of Smith, scattered all over the city when Neo defeated him had over time managed to coalesce into fragments big enough to cause damage and self replicate to a degree that could threaten the Matrix.

Smith’s End Brownie

Coming from the Oracle, the weapon used to combat the Smith Virus was of course a product of her kitchen. The brownies she gave to redpills contained code that could neutralise the Smith Virus if it had overwritten an RSI. Fortunately, the brownies didn’t need to be ingested by the target so operatives were able to get close enough to smash the brownie against an infected person’s chest to disinfect them, creating a green gassy flame similar to that seen on the virologists.

Oracle’s Cookie

The Smith Virus was of course weakened by Neo so when it overwrite RSI’s the infected redpill still retained a degree of lucidity for short period at least, enough to try and free themselves from Smith’s grasp. Knowing this the Oracle supplied the Virologists with special cookies which a redpill could use to purge the virus from themselves, the cookies also assisted in healing.

Smith’s Rage Pill

Being infected by Smith wasn’t all bad, sure you lost your mind, but it also made you a lot faster, stronger and more resistant to damage. The Virologists were able to extract these elements, and if given three Smith Virus fragments were able to distill from them a black pill which gave all the benefits of being Smith and the only downside was that it could induce a temporary rage on the user.

The Virion

The Virions were concentrated elements of Smith’s code packed into a small black box shape with code running visible down its sides. These Virions were the most dangerous presences in the Matrix and thankfully there were only a small number of them. The Vitions were extremely attractive to a redpill and drew them to it despite their fears and concerns. Once a redpill possessed a virion they became Smith, in appearance and mindset and they would travel around the city engaging anyone they came across, and spreading the Smith Virus into them. The possessor of the Virion was noticeably different from other infected redpills in that they had the flame effect seen in the Smithlings. I was possessed by a Virion for some time and was lost in Smith’s madness, I have vague memories of going round infecting gang members and redpills. However recent innovations, such as combat shields made infection more difficult as it had to be done in close combat, giving redpills more of an advantage than they had against his last invasion.

The Smith Virus

Lastly more powerful eminences of the Smith Virus, far more powerful and intelligent than the Smithlings made themselves known and spread chaos and destruction across the city. Redpills fought back valiantly, winning some encounters, losing others. The Visus spread its message, determined to succeed. However it failed to completely dominate over redpills and eventually withdrew. The Oracle encouraged redpills at their success, but warned that there were no guarantees that this was over completely.

Events 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

((Note that this is pretty much 100% my roleplay and while all the items/events did occur during the event, the descriptions are all of my own making))

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Doctor Who - New Series, new species

Hello reader(s)

A new series of Doctor Who is now upon us, bringing us a new companion and all new adventures. I don't really want to review them here as that will end up taking too long and won't be too interesting (though I may give my thoughts on the year 5 billion episodes at another time, but there's a whole essay's worth of material there) so instead I'll indulge in something a little bit more nerdy and a little bit more fun - cataloguing the brand new alien species introduced as the series unfolds. Thanks to the Tardis Wiki for all the images and info as well as the Official Site also.

Judoon - These fellas were an impressive start to the series, storming out of their spaceships over the moon's surface to a hospital that had unexpectedly been plonked there. The black armour with huge oversized helmets were an impressive sight to behold, and the fact that it's a rhinocerous's head stuffed under there didn't make them any less cool/original.

The Judoon are a powerful race that act as law enforcement for hire, hunting down dangerous felons with little fear of causing collateral damage as long as they remain within the loose guidelines of the law, nor do they care about the wellbeing of others as long as justice is carried out. Their language consists of monosyllabic words uttered in quick succesion, though they can assimilate other languages after obtaining only a small sample.
Their technology is advanced, their weaponry can disintigrate a large mass with one blast, their scanners can discover the race of the person scanned, though they can be fooled by close contact with another species. They also utilise a H2O scoop to transport a suspect's entire location to "neutral territory" In short they are a powerful race, and though technically a force for good, their blind obedience to the technical letter of the law and their tendency towards logic and ignorance of emotion and imagination makes it dangerous to get in their way.

Plasmavore - I wasn't as bowled over by this species and I kept waiting for it to turn into something else. Though a necessity of Science Fiction, species that are identical to humans are a bit boring to see. However the actress playing the part was very good, and the character was well written too, especially using a straw to suck a victim's blood! Note that her victim's name was Mr Stoker, an obvious vampire reference there.

Plasmavores are a dangerous race, little is known about them other than that they appear (or at least are able to appear) to be human, close enough to fool human medical agents. They take the blood of other species for sustenence, which is what makes them so dangerous. Assimilating human blood made one of them human enough to fool a scanner into thinking she was human, it is unknown if absorbing the blood of other species gives them their properties. This ability makes them blend in well with other species (humans at least) and hide from those who might want to destroy them.

Slab - Obviously these guys were just blokes in motorcycle gear, but nonetheless they were pretty cool and worked well as the first signs that something was off in the episode. The concept behind them was good, and very Doctor Who.

Slabs are an android race, designed to fulfil whatever task their owner requires of them. They are designed to appear as anonymous, background people to best serve their masters. They obey without question, and have a physical strength higher than most humanoids. They are composed almost entirely of one material, in one instance there were Slabs composed entirely of leather and given helmets to make them appear like motorcycle couriers. As they have no vital organs, presumable projectile weapons are of little use against them, though radiation and energy weapons work quite well. Slabs invariably come in twos.

Carrionite - Obviously this is Doctor Who's interpretation of witches. This was yet another "It's an alien" moment where every mystery in the universe is solved by saying "it's an alien" yet despite this it actually worked well and was a good episode. The Carrionites were intriguing and didn't spend too long being stereotypical witches either. The power of words thing was quite interesting too, though RTD did quite chuffed with himself for coming up with the idea of words having power over physical elements - I think Genesis 1 beat you to it Russ!!

The Carrionites are an ancient and powerful race bent on death and destruction. They were so powerful and dangerous that the Eternals (don't ask me 'cause I don't know) banished them to the Deep Darkness (possibly the void- my theory). However William Shakespeare inadvertantly freed three of them, who planned to manipulating him into freeing the rest of their species so they could descend on the Earth.

In terms of appearance they closely resemble humans, though they look wrinkled and ugly. They can manipulate their appearance to that of a human and sustain that visage for some time. They can levitate and teleport naturally and use words as a form of power, manipulating people by extracting samples of them and creating puppets and presumably they have many other abilities too. However they were foiled in their attempt to take Earth and were returned to their prison so little else is known of them, though it is likely they who encouraged thoughts and myths about witches in human culture.

Well that's it, the Macra (crab things, or "tulips" as RTD calls them) in episode 3 were actually a returning species so I won't mention them now, but I'll leave by informing you that there's a lot of Matrix-based news coming up soon.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

TMNT - A review (some spoilers)

Sorry folks, been a bit busy of late but I'll try and keep the good stuff coming. A while back I went to see the epic return of the greatest heroes on webbed feet. Oh yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles finally made their return to screen and what a treat it was. It was great to see Leo, Raf, Mikey and Donny get out their bandannas, their weapons, their skateboards and of course their pizza in another epic adventure.

The story is set after the defeat of the Turtle's greatest enemy, the Shredder, and the brothers, without their great enemy to give them a united goal, are drifting apart - all narrated fantastically by Laurence Fishburne. Some have managed to get used to "normal life" (Mikey is a big hit children's entertainer) others just can't give up the glory days. And with Leo sent away to train by Splinter, the rat sensei and father to the brothers it's harder and harder for the group to stay together.

But a new threat arises, Max Winters, a billionaire and also an immortal warlord hires what remains of the Foot, Shredder's minions, to retrieve ancient artifacts and triggers events which lead to four stone warlords being unleashed on the city, while bringing an army of monsters out of hiding. As the battle rages the turtles must work out who to fight and who to trust and just how to save their city from utter destruction.

This new perspective on things and the development of the turtle's personalities and lives is a great aspect to it and it was good to see that they weren't just retreading old territory or "remaking" the original storyline. There was some great voice acting, especially by Patrick Stewart, who fitted into the Winters role very well, despite his distinctive voice you still believed him as a character. There were other new characters as well that were good too, such as Karai, the leader of the Foot - April and Casey made a welsome return too.

My slight dissapointments with the film are that Donatello didn't have much of a role, and he's my favourite turtle. Secondly the animation style was a little bit lacking, the human characters and monsters were done on a high quality level - similar to the Incredibles, which is very good to be true, but the turtles themselves were so brilliantly constructed that the other characters looked a bit too cartoony when stood next to them. This wasn't a hindrance to my enjoyment, just something I noticed.

That'll do for now folks - there's a few ideas bubbling under so expect to hear from me soon.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Star Wars weekend

I managed to get myself in to a Star Wars weekend in Seacombe on the Wirral last week and I had a pretty darn good time. The event took place at a science museum, specifically directed at astronomy etc. so it was a fitting place for the event to be held. There first was a queue of some significant length, but we were kept entertained by folks in Stormtrooper outfits marching up and down, keeping us in line as well as posing for photos with children etc. There were an impressive amount of them there, they were from a semi-proffesional costume group called Knights of the Empire who had a decent array of high quality costumes including stormies, Vader, A Tusken Raider, several Boba Fett's/Mandalorians and even a Padme who soon retreated out of the cold! This gave rise to some decent photo ops, I managed to get hold of a hefty clone trooper rifle for a pose with Vader, then got a shot of me trying to eat Darth Revan's candyfloss!!

There were a few props around, such as a full sized speeder bike as well as the odd gun here and there. There was also a never before seen behind the scenes film of Return of the Jedi (made when it still had the title Revenge of the Jedi) centering around Warwick Davis, who played an Ewok before going on to be a legendary actor doing, as he said, small parts! Warwick wandered around, bumping into Harrison Ford, Mark Hamil and Carried Fisher before eventually winding up on Endor and then making it back in time for tea. It raised a few eyebrows, but it was an interesting look at how films were made in the days before DVD bonus features.

The highlight was to meet some of the actors who played parts in the original trilogy, there was Dave Prowse, who played Vader, Jeremy Bulloch who played Boba Fett and the aforementioned Warwick Davis, who actually looks younger now than he did playing Willow etc. The group were all chargind £10 plus for autographs and were swamped by children so it was hard to get anything out of them, but at least I saw them. But there was also Karen Traviss, who is a Star Wars author and I got her to sign one of her books which was cool and I also managed to chat to her for a little while, getting her to confirm that Boba Fett will be making more appearances in Star Wars literature and that the next Sith Lord will, unfortunately, not be called Darth Blair!!

Well, that's about it - I've been to see TMNT so I'll try and post a review up soon and I've got some Matrix stuff to talk about too

Au revoir