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It’s ruined!

July 21, 2014

I’m getting back to painting after one of my hobby-uninspired periods (see this blog post from four years ago). Sort of like exercise, you have to ease yourself into it after a break, so I figured I’d start easy and built a few ruins for my Pacific Rim project. After all, those cities are going to be hit and wrecked, so I’ll need plenty of replacement pieces for destroyed buildings.

After buying a bunch of Monsterpocalypse buildings and popping them off their bases, I was left with plenty of empty plastic bases which I didn’t feel like throwing away. These provided a great base for ruins. I then simply slapped on rubbish – mainly plasticard cut-offs, sprue pieces, sand and small rocks, undercoated with black and gave the whole thing a quick drybrush treatment. They turned out quite nice, and I wasn’t going for beautiful diorama pieces anyway as they’re rather just glorified tokens.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

The pieces work nicely on the battlefield. Here’s a shot of the kaiju Knifehead with one of the ruins. I like the way the base fits in!

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

As and added bonus you can combine them and they work well with 28mm too, which is always a good thing:

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Setting up the mini diorama above prompted me to throw together some ruins, Knifehead and some of my city terrain and smoke pieces to show you what it’s meant to look like eventually:

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

As always, all comments welcome!

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All quiet on the blog front

July 5, 2014

Tumbleweed-006

It’s been ages since my last post despite me being on my summer holiday, prompting one of these “come on, stay with me man!” posts. I primarily blame the following two things for my extended blog rest:

FIFA World Cup – I love football, and the World Cup is one of the few sports events that glue me to the screen. Despite my favourite team, Italy, being knocked out early on, the cup has been awesome so far. Still, on average the games have taken approximately 3-5 hours of most of my days.

Steam - I work with computer games (in the “parents, this is what you need to know about games” department) but rarely have time to play as much as I’d like to. With the holidays on, I’ve finally had time to play some of the games I’ve gathered in various Steam sales – including the latest summer sale. Games like The Wolf Among Us, Infested Planet and Dota 2 have been keeping me busy and I’m looking to tackle Shadowrun Returns next.

I haven’t been doing any hobby stuff for a while know, my hobby life being in the ebb phase currently. I did go see Edge of Tomorrow which was mighty inspiring, though, and made me want to do some 28mm for a change as well.

Anyway, things are coming to the blog, starting with a long overdue review of some more Predastore Predators. Stay posted!

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Running for my life – Zombierun Finland

June 8, 2014

zombierunfinland

While the blog’s zombie content has dwindled in the last few years, I still love the genre. As it happens, I also like running – or rather, jogging. When the opportunity arose to combine these two, how could I possibly miss it? I didn’t.

If zombies and jogging sounds like a familiar idea, you may have run into the game Zombies, Run! (see my review here) which is basically an audio adventure you listen to while running, and has zombies chasing you at random times meaning you have to pick up your pace. Well, Zombierun Finland was basically this but as a live action version: a group of runners sets off for an approximately five kilometre run, with the route infested with zombies of both the shambling and the running variety. Every runner has three “lives” represented by plastic streamers attached to their clothing, and the zombies try to grab these streamers. If a runner loses all of their lives, it’s game over for them.

A group of six from our kung fu school entered as a team (“The Rage Monkeys”). The happening was advertised as a combination of exercise and pop culture experience, and it most certainly was. It was a warm day and it had rained earlier, so it really turned out to be a sweaty evening. I wasn’t just because of the weather, though…

Zombierun Finland was mostly an excellent event. There were some glitches with the biggest being the whole group running off-route before the organizers managed to turn the runners in the right direction. Some runners lost all their lives very early in the run, which was obviously a letdown for them. However, considering that it was a fairly large, first time event produced by volunteers, it was very well executed! The zombies had excellent makeup and props, as you can see from the photos. This really added a lot to the feel of the event.

With the glitches dealt with, on to the good stuff. For me the absolute best thing about the event was the way it created many of the things I love in the genre. The whole run started with a very authentic mass panic. I think a fair few people were expecting an easy start with the zombies steadily trickling in along the way. I know I was. Instead the horde attacked us right off the bat and it was full-on chaos. I was just going along with the crowd when it started parting and it seemed there were zombies everywhere. People were screaming, zombies were moaning…awesome! When we got our group together a few hundred metres later, there was a genuine “is everyone ok? Did you lose any streamers?” dialogue very much in the vein of “did anyone get bitten?”

There were plenty of other genre moments. The slowly starting panic as a runner zombie attacked a large group from behind and created a sort of stampede where you couldn’t see who’s a zombie and who’s a human runner. That was very much 28 Days/Weeks Later. There was the solidarity between strangers in the lull between attacks (“So, where are you from? Man, I was expecting something far easier…”), the cruel logic of letting the runners in front of you distract the zombies to allow you to pass, the tired desperation of not wanting to run another step and seeing zombies up ahead and that feeling turning time and time again into determination to survive. At one point I was genuinely happy to catch up with my two remaining teammates and we had a great “so we’re the last ones alive?” moment.

For me a memorable moment was one near the end of the run, when we entered an abandoned factory. It was dark inside, and I made the mistake of staring into a bright window for a moment, causing a blinding afterimage to obscure most of my vision. Through the afterimage I could vaguely make out zombies shambling in the dimly lit room, adding a good touch of genuine panic to my escape.

So, how did I do? Fairly well, although I didn’t survive. Like plenty of others, I met my end in the murderous final room of the factory – a small enclosed space with too many of the undead. Of our team of six, only one made it to the end alive. Afterwards, with no need to run anymore, we sat at the end zone sweaty, tired, happy and fake-bloody, munching on the donuts, apples and canned pineapple chunks provided by the organizers. Not a bad way to spend time with your friends.

All in all, it was an awesome, fun evening and a really memorable experience. I’m really looking forward to attending next year, and maybe helping the organizers to make it even better. If any of the organizers are reading this, a huge thank you from both me and our whole team for creating such an event and doing a great job with it!

Here’s a bunch of photos lifted (with permission) from the event’s Facebook group. I hope they manage to convey some part of what made Zombierun Finland 2014 great. You can click on any image for a larger version – they open in a new tab. The second photo has our team, clad in black. Yours truly can be seen in the back, entering the underpass.

Photos by Matti Tervonen:

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Photos by Ritva Savonsaari:

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Photos by Anna Eskelinen:

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Morning glory

May 22, 2014

I happened to get up earlier than normal today (6:15 am in fact), and there was such a lovely light in my game room that I snapped a photo of the current state of my Pacific Rim setup. It’s actually an Instagram photo, so I slapped a retro filter on it, and I think it turned out nice. So, here’s a mood piece for you to hopefully enjoy!

“We’ll never forget May 22, when Knifehead hit us around sunrise.”

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Godzilla (2014) – a review

May 17, 2014

Godzilla-new-poster

The new Godzilla film has been my most anticipated movie since Fellowship of the Ring, so you can imagine that I had pretty big expectations when I walked into the cinema. I was also excited and a little bit fearful – after all with high expectations comes a high risk of disappointment. Happily enough, I wasn’t let down by the film. I saw  the 2D version.

I will try to keep this film fairly spoiler free, but if you are such a purist that you haven’t even watched any trailers, I suggest you stop reading here.

The basic premise of the movie is simple enough. There are giant monsters, they fight each other and mankind gets caught in the middle. However, I like how they’ve managed to keep the film feeling fresh and interesting instead of simply having a two hour CGI slugfest. Luckily, that’s not to say there isn’t a good bit of monster punch-out involved.

Let’s start with the best parts. First of all, the visuals. Godzilla looks very, very nice. The shots of Godzilla and the other monsters wrecking civilization (and there are plenty of those) are excellent. There’s a great sense of scale, and a feeling of weight often missing from CGI. The monsters feel big, heavy and physical as does the destruction they cause. There are some actually beautiful shots in the film, balancing serenity with destruction – an aerial shot of a Navy fleet following Godzilla was a particular favourite, as was Godzilla looming over the lanterns of San Francisco’s Chinatown. There’s plenty of colour and variety of locations in the film, from the islands of the Pacific to the deserts of Nevada.

The sound design was great as well, supporting the visuals. Again, the roars and screeches of the monsters are impressively loud and animalistic, and the theatre rumbled with the roars and the destruction. There is often a nice contrast in the film with calm moments in the audiovisual storm, before the movie again erupts into full-on chaos. My absolute favourite is a sound used a few times in the film, where the destruction of a tower building’s windows creates an ethereal, hauntingly beautiful tinkling. If you’ve seen Gareth Edwards’ previous film Monsters (and you should), there’s a lot of similarity in feel here.

The real beef of the film is of course the combination of monsters and destruction. After all, when you’re going to see Godzilla, you’re going to see a film with monsters destroying stuff. The movie does not disappoint. There is plenty of both available and with loads of variety. You will see the monsters fighting ships, planes, tanks, helicopters and infantry and destroying power plants, trains, skyscrapers and landmarks. There’s even a tsunami thrown in. Godzilla looks a lot like a catastrophe movie, as it should. The monster designs are very nice and things are kept interesting.

I want to dedicate a paragraph to the monsters themselves. Monster choreography in Godzilla is excellent. The battles between monsters look like something out of an awesome David Attenborough -narrated nature document. The monsters look, feel and act real, and mostly they don’t feel like movie heroes and villains, but simply giant, monstrous animals, which helps sell them to the audience. I also liked the fact that despite modern day visuals, they haven’t completely done away with the “man in a suit” feel of Godzilla.

As you might guess, the plot and the human characters don’t particularly shine  in the film. Both are adequate for the film, and the plot has a few interesting twists, but let’s face it: in a genre film like this, I’m not going in to see awesome drama, deep characters and an intricate plot. If anything, the film tried to inject too much character and family drama into the film, but it didn’t really work. While it didn’t really fall flat on its face, the end result was still a little meh and felt unnecessary. The same thing plagues pretty much every big apocalyptic film (with the exception of Pacific Rim): the destruction of millions of people is not seen as tragic enough, but there always has to be the story of a family separated by the events. In Godzilla it isn’t as cheesy as several other films (say the god-awful 2012), but the plot device didn’t really work. All the actors turn in a solid day’s work, but there really isn’t anything remarkable on offer. There are a few minor irritations, my personal not-favourite being Ken Watanabe’s Japanese doctor, who should be an expert on the subject but tends to only offer cryptic and dramatic lines in a gruff voice instead of being of any help.

There was an element of environmentalism in the movie, which didn’t feel too forced, nor was it really heavy handed. After all, the Godzilla franchise has always been about radiation and its dangers, so this was perfectly in line with the previous films. In a great avoidance of plausible explanations (which never work in movies like this) it’s simply stated that the monsters thrive and feed on radiation. That’s cool with me.

In a genre movie like this, there’s often a tendency to go with a mass of obvious irritating tropes. Director Gareth Edwards and writer Max Borenstein are obviously quite familiar with these, as the movie often sets up situations like this, and then resolves them in a smart manner. An example is a scene where Godzilla is at Golden Gate bridge, and a courageous bus driver with a bus full of children decides to make a run for it through barricades, tanks and all. As the scene unfolded, I was rolling my eyes, as I knew exactly how it would turn out. Despite the chaotic situation, the heroism of the driver would of course clear all the obstacles previously established, there would probably be a groovy one-liner (“Hold on kids, this is gonna get bumpy!” or something similar) and then off they go. I won’t spoil it for you, but things took a more realistic turn. Things like this had me liking the film a lot. Other favourites included an intelligent, sensible military and its non-crazy, non-murderous commander – both aspects always missing from films like this.

Overall verdict: Godzilla is a nice catastrophe movie, and an awesome giant monster movie. It avoids most pitfalls of the genre and offers a wonderful audiovisual experience. If you go in expecting plenty of character development and an intricate plot, you’ll be sorely disappointed – then again, if that’s what you’re looking for, why on earth would you go see Godzilla? If – like me – you go in expecting to see cities levelled and monsters brawling against each other and the military, you’re in for a treat. Godzilla takes second place in my giant monster top 3, behind Pacific Rim but ahead of Cloverfield.

 

 

 

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From the painting desk #27 – Knifehead

May 3, 2014

After painting two jaegers, it was time to tackle a kaiju – they obviously need someone to fight. The first mini in my monster queue was Knifehead, a kaiju from the Pacific Rim movie.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

The miniature for it is a Pacific Rim Heroclix one. I forgot to photograph it before painting, but here’s a catalog image:

knifehead

Painting Knifehead was very different from painting the jaegers. The machines are all straight lines, flat surfaces and clean, bright colours, whereas the kaiju has plenty of texture and organic shapes. This was sort of reflected in my painting of him, as I went for a more irregular layering (read: not as neat), did some drybrushing and used several washes. The end result is very different from the jaegers both stylistically and in feel, and I think it was a good call as it accentuates the whole organic vs. mechanical setup. It also had the benefit of being super fast – the whole mini probably took me a few hours from start to finish.

While I liked the colour scheme of Knifehead and the rest of the kaiju in Pacific Rim, I wasn’t too fond of all the bioluminescent markings, so I did away with them. Instead I went for a blue-green scheme, almost looking like verdigris. In fact, in it’s early stages the model looked a lot like a statue. Again, the tones are very different from the jaegers’. While obviously straying far and white from the canon (schmanon), the end result was worth in my opinion.

As you may know, I like my bases very simple. This time, however, I added a little extra touch in the form of a tiny tank. Instead of completely flipping it over, I just positioned it at an angle that suggests its toylike insignificance compared to the kaiju.

You might have noticed that I seem pretty happy with Knifehead. I am! I was very sceptical of it at first, it being a clix repaint, but I was happily surprised with the end result. There are some awful, awful mould lines there, which I didn’t clean (“Come on, it’s a vinyl clix mini, not worth the hassle, let’s just get it on the table”) but even those don’t show up too badly.

 

 

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From the painting desk #26 – Seeing red

April 30, 2014

Another miniature done! Not completely happy with my previous jaeger, I decided to pick a colour I was much more comfortable with – red. I went to work on another Reaper CAV miniature, Hawk. I wasn’t originally too impressed with the mini. I thought it was boring and looked like a generic Transformer. Nevertheless, I started painting it and slowly it grew on me. Now that it’s finished, I’m really happy with it. I spent more time than usual on layering and washes, and I hope it shows!

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Inspiration for the colour scheme was another jaeger from Pacific Rim, Crimson Typhoon:

crimsontyphoon

While I would’ve loved to add some fancy freehand detailing, I’m simply rubbish at it. I settled for a few yellow transfers that I painted over a little and added a few dots to make it more interesting, and I think it doesn’t look bad at all. This also stylistically ties it together with the first jaeger I painted. I would’ve loved to paint on some weathering, but in my game setting the kaiju action is only just beginning, and the jaegers have yet to face any – hence no battle damage.

With the first two jaegers painted, it’s time to tackle the first kaiju. Comments and constructive criticism always welcome!

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