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Category Archives: Movies

The Trap Door

Sometimes stuff bubbles up from the depths of my subconscious that I didn’t know that was there for decades, like in a pot of a very inclusive stew that all of a sudden shows the head of a small monkey[1]. In this case what it too was me and my girlfriend talking about speech development in children and how that is hampered with cartoons in an early age (1-3 years old), when all of a sudden I remembered a series I watched avidly for a while in my early teenage years. I remembered it was kinda gross and claymation, and full of monsters and strange beasts living in a castle.

E Voila… The Trap Door. A British series from the mid-80s, with monsters and bizarreness galore, all created in gloriously animated claymation. It’s about a monster called Berk (yes.. seriously) working for the big boss upstairs, having to deal with all the strange stuff coming up from the dungeon. It seems to be a bit of an classic in UK (and well, I saw it in Germany in the 90s), but only 40 5-minute episodes ever were produced, which is a bit of a shame.

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[1] one of my old pastor’s favorite stories about his travels in Africa

 

 

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The Hobbit: Observations

So, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey… too good to really be bad, too sedate and full of padding to really be good. Comes out as mediocre. Fans of the LOTR movies might like it. I didn’t like the movies so much even though I loved the books, so this one left my kind of cold as well. Some observations:

1. I don’t think there was ever a better presentation of dwarves in film than this one. These dwarves are earnest and melancholic, but also able to lose themselves in food, drink, and song. And nearly all the actors were chosen perfectly for their roles.

2. Radagast the Brown has, if I remember correctly, about 4 pages in the whole of the Hobbit, LOTR, and Unfinished Tales. You might not think so when seeing this here. On the one hand I am a fan of Sylvester McCoy and like him in every role for the  sheer presence he manages to show, on the other hand this was basically a Doctor Who/Hobbit crossover.

3. A rabbit sled. A rabbit sled without snow. A rabbit sled without snow that can outrun wargs. Brain hurts.

4. Martin Freeman is perfect for his role, although I slowly suspect he just always plays the same role. His Bilbo is kinda close to his Watson. And come to think of it: his Arthur Dent as well. Also: why always book adaptions?

5. They are now making three movies out of the book. This movie was as long as one of the LOTR movies. There was a lot of padding and sedate moments involved. A lot of padding. All of the padding was somehow grounded in the writings of Tolkien, but it felt kinda odd to have flashback after flashback to what happened back then, whenever.

6. 3D needs to die. We weren’t even in a 3D showing. Me and my colleagues decided to go to a 2D showing because we didn’t want to wear the 3D glasses over our normal glasses. Did it help? Well, every time there was a scene that showed something that might look absolutely AMAZING in the 3D version the whole picture blurred and we saw, basically, just some shapes. So 3D is even ruining movies when you watch them in 2D. Not that that was a surprise. You know these stupid scenes when they tried to show how awesome their CGI was in the early 90s? They do the same things with 3D right now, only people watching it in 2D don’t even see it. They notice that something awesome is happening though. After all the picture just got blurry and they don’t see what’s going on right now.

Bonus: for some reason the cinema we were at found it necessary to show two different trailers for “The Impossible”. The “extraordinary true story” about a group of rich and very white tourists who experience the 2004 tsunami. Seeing it once made me cringe, seeing the second trailer I wanted to puke and sign a petition barring the leeches responsible for this piece of shit from ever making a movie again.

[Traveller] Inspiration: Planetes

Planetes

Planetes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Planetes is an excellent Japanese anime about debris haulers in space. The series is rather mature and thanks to the involvement of the Japanese Space Agency JAXA also one of the hardest Science Fiction series around.

All the technology in the series is extrapolated from real life technology, and most of it would be manageable today, if anyone had the funding for it.
The series follows the adventures of the Debris collection department of Technora Corp. Put down as “half-section” by their coworkers and considered the dregs of the company, the department has all the prestige of garbage men while being badly paid and extremely dangerous.

Half Section is a PR gimmick: they get funding from official sides for cleaning up debris from 130 years of space developement because it makes space travel safer. Unfortunately there is no big money in cleaning up the mess of others. They do the good work and still are constantly in danger of being closed down by executives looking for revenue instead of safety.
The characters (a multinational crew including Americans, Japanese, Russians, Indians, etc.) are faced both with the problems of working in space (brittle bones, leukemia due to decades of space raditation), politics interfering with their work, and of course good old character developement in all the wrong moments.

During the course of the series there is both a surge of terrorism (funded by poorer nations left out of the space exploration by richer nations) and the ongoing project of space exploration (the main character joins the crew of the first Jupiter mission).

The series is a beauty to behold: the animation is good even in normal scenes and gets even better when in space. There is no sound in space except what the characters hear in their EVA suits, characters and crafts move realistically in Zero-G and most of the plots are based on sound scientific principles, while also being interesting and having quirky but relatable characters. The voice acting is wonderful, at least in the Japanese original (both the English and German dub that I listened to were horrible).

Definitely one of the better examples for Japanese Animation.

Note: I am a fan of Japanese anime, but I do realize that there is a lot of crud around barely worth watching

What to steal from here:
Well, there is a reason I post this on my roleplaying blog after all, mostly because I think it is a good source for inspiration for Science Fiction games with a certain Hard Science bent, especially for Traveller. Which is not really that hard a setting, but at least it tries in a lot of places. The series itself already is good because it gives a good picture of a mid-tech space environment: neither too shabby, but also not too advanced. Going to space is not casual, but not an adventure either (a trip to the moon is treated as a expensive cruise, people for all that matters lead a normal life on the space stations and the moon). People in orbit are there mostly because they work there, and while they are considered specialists they often are low paid grunt workers  (but they wouldn’t want to give it up because they love space). The space station in the series is big, but not too big, and people obviously have limited space for their quarters (most of the characters sleep in a dorm with Zero-G bunks). Smoking is prohibited on most of the station, but special smoking rooms are common.

Areas of special interest:
Kessler Syndrome
Kessler Syndrome happens when a large object in orbit disintegrates and creates more debris by that. Normally even small objects when destroyed might lead to secondary debris, which in turn leads to more accidents and even more secondary debris. The work of the debris haulers is a constant fight against this problem. The true problem might come when a really large object (such as, say, a space station or a large ship) is destroyed, and all the debris from that one object shrapnels into other objects in Earth orbit and creates even more problems. All of a sudden space travel becomes pretty much impossible as both the launch and landing of crafts is made impossible.
A planet might become completely cut off the rest of the world tradewise by something like that. Of course in the series this was used as a threat by terrorist organisations. Earth in the series had become so dependant on space resources that it was impossible to survive without them.

Scenario ideas:
* the Ine Givar (or any other terrorist organizations) is threatening to blow up a large space station (maybe the highport) of a high TL  world and cut of the world from the Imperium for at least a few months. Enough to lead to mass starvation and riots on a world that is highly dependant on imports. Normally the Navy would take care of it, but they are just out of reach, taking care of a problem too far out to act quickly enough. The characters somehow are thrown into the whole ordeal
* The aftermath of exactly the same situation: 40 years ago the high port of a world exploded and made space travel to and from the world impossible. Now the debris situation has been resolved so far as to allow the first Travellers onto the world again. What do they find 30 years after the last transmission from the world was received?

The Golem: How He Came into the World

The Golem: How He Came into the World (Orig.: Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam) is a 1920 silent movie by Paul Wegener depicting the legend of the Golem. It also is a fantastic fantasy movie.