Archive for the ‘Sci-Fi’ Category

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From the painting desk #29 – Old lead

January 19, 2015
Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

As you can see, I finished my second miniature of 2015, the facehugger attack from Leading Edge’s old Colonists’ Last Stand. I freshened up my layering work, and the end result is a little less drybrush heavy than my previous effort. I painted the base to match the rest of my Alien-inspired scenery, and to make the egg and the colonist the focal points of the scene. I painted some of the tendrils on the base the same colour as the egg to better tie them together, and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out. I picked the fleshy colour of Aliens instead of the more yellow one of Alien for the facehugger.

I’m really happy that I finally finished the model. Not only is it a great sculpt, brilliantly capturing an iconic event in the Alien franchise, but it’s also a miniature from 1992. Just think about that for a while. When this model was popped out of its mould, I was ten years old. It was the year the Cold War officially ended, the European Union was founded, Yugoslavia fell apart, Denmark won the football European Championship and Bill Clinton was elected president. Neymar was born, Isaac Asimov died.

It’s now 23 years later, the world’s a different place, I’m all grown up and that miniature is finally painted. There’s something really cool about that.

 

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More Predastore Predators

January 18, 2015

My ever-expanding Predator review keeps on going. Three more Predastore miniatures have now been added: Stalking-Hunter, Executioner-Hunter and Mermaid-Predette. Go check out the full review here.

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Executioner-Hunter. Click for a larger version

Executioner-Hunter. Click for a larger version

Mermaid-Predette. Click for a larger version

Mermaid-Predette. Click for a larger version

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Off the back burner

January 4, 2015

New year, newfound enthusiasm! I can already feel myself getting interested in miniatures again – spending several hours today working on them is a sure enough sign. I figured I’d write a few words on the subject of getting back in the saddle after a half year long break, based on what I’ve been doing today.

For me the important thing is to get going, to actually do something. I need to put water in that dried-out pot and give my paints a good shake if I ever actually want to paint something after a break. It doesn’t matter what I paint or whether I have a huge project planned, the crucial bit is getting things done.

I noticed today that budding inspiration needs to be carefully nurtured. I started thinking about my projects: which one should I work on? It started to feel overwhelming, so I changed my approach. Instead of focusing on results and progress, I decided to do something fun and inspiring and to not be too self-critical. I actually ended up with two things:

The first one is a piece from Leading Edge’s old Colonists’ Last Stand set. It’s a great mini, showing the fateful moment a facehugger latches on to an unsuspecting victim. As you can see from the photo, this one was in a half finished state. To make it fit in with the rest of my minis, I had glued it onto a circular base and added some xenomorph-y tendrils with greenstuff. I’d even undercoated it and given the victim’s coveralls their first layer of paint. The mini had then sat on my desk collecting dust before getting returned to the cupboard housing my un- and semi-painted miniatures.

Why did I pick this one to finish? I’m on a bit of an Alien franchise kick again, after watching blu-ray versions of the first three films and reading two books: Alien – the Archive and The Art of Alien: Isolation. On top of this, the miniature was well on its way to being finished and I’ve always loved it. Not to mention that it doesn’t have a lot of fiddly detail, making it a pleasure to paint. It doesn’t have any real use as a gaming piece other than as an objective marker or something, but that’s okay. Actually, it just might be what makes it appealing right now.

hugtime

Click for a larger version

I took some ProCreate putty and added some more tendrils to cover the base up a bit more. I wasn’t too careful, as the base will get a hefty dose of glue and gloss varnish to make it look nasty and wet. I’m pretty happy with it at the moment!

Another thing that I’ve recently been interested in is the Witcher franchise. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a grim and gritty fantasy world created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, focusing on a witcher – a monster hunter – named Geralt of Rivia. There are books, games, comics and even a cheapish tv series (which has also been cut into a poor movie) available. I bought the PC games years ago in a Steam sale, and they’ve been sitting unplayed ever since. I finally decided to tackle them, and it was a great call. Altogether I spent some 60+ hours on The Witcher and The Witcher 2 and read three of the four published books.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

While the idea of a small project based on the franchise isn’t a far-fetched idea, I decided to start small – with a single miniature. Naturally it was Geralt himself, the White Wolf of Rivia. I went for a quick plastic and putty type of thing, and knocked him together from a bunch of old WHFB Empire plastic pieces. I roughly shaved a bearded plastic head, resculpted the mouth area and turned his fancy leggings into boots. All in all, it’s rough with mould lines, uneven putty and the like, but hey, it should look decent once painted. Again I went in more with inspiration than self-criticism, which seems to be a good choice! I haven’t done fantasy miniatures in ages, so this was a fun diversion. Who knows!

I’ll leave you with the intro cinematic to Witcher 2. If this doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what does…

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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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