“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” has been on my summer movie radar (and Helen’s) since we first saw the trailers for it. And, given that “The Fifth Element” is one of my favorite movies of all time, I had pretty high expectations for Valerian.

I had a chance to see it this evening with Helen — and while it’s not a bad movie, overall, it’s really, really not good. It reminds me a lot of Avatar — a movie that I very much enjoyed looking at but couldn’t stand listening to.

The world Luc Besson has realized for Valerian is fantastic. The titular “City of a Thousand Planets” (also called Alpha) is essentially Babylon 5 blown out to the nth degree — a spaceborn utopia where all the universe’s races can come together and coexist (unlike Babylon 5, though, Alpha actually works). Visually the whole thing is stunningly beautiful. And, like The Fifth Element, I spent this entire film wishing there was a Star Wars-worthy line of toys that included all of the various aliens and vehicles and locations. Nobody does sci-fi set and character design like Besson.

But then people start talking. Dane Dehaan plays Valerian — and since he’s in the movie’s title he talks a lot — and he is so bad he brings the entire movie crashing down. He has terrible dialogue to work with (legitimately terrible dialogue), but he brings absolutely nothing to the role. He’s a dead fish on the screen and spends the entire film with essentially a single facial expression that screams “I’m confused.”

Cara Delevingne gets worse dialogue than Dehaan does, which hardly seems possible, but she seemed to be making an effort to do something with it. Her relationship with Dehaan is completely unbelievable and, since he’s a lieutenant and she’s a sergeant, would probably get Valerian court martialed. The completely nonexistent chemistry between them (due in large part to Dehaan constantly appearing confused) doesn’t help matters any.

Ultimately, what Valerian is missing that Fifth Element had is humanity and heart. Valerian has nothing remotely resembling a “Leeloo Dallas multipass” or “Negative, I am a meat popsicle” moment, or a Ruby Rodd character for comic relief (although Valerian tries with the trio of Shingouz), and it’s worse off for it.

It’s well worth seeing in theaters for the pure visual spectacle. And there are plenty of redeeming qualities — the alien residents of the planet Mül, for instance, who we meet in the first scene after the intro to set up Alpha, are legitimately good characters. But unfortunately the good stuff is overshadowed by how bad the movie is when the two main characters have to talk to each other.

150-ish word movie review: Guardians of the Galaxy

WHAT: Guardians of the Galaxy
WHEN: Friday, Aug. 1
WHERE: Bemidji Theatre

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Chris Pratt’s Star Lord in a fighter during the film’s final battle.

I’m a few days late on this, having seen “Guardians of the Galaxy” on Friday with Helen; but even after having some time to reflect I must say I remain completely in love with this movie. While it has some issues — the early exposition that tried to explain Ronan’s vendetta against the Nova would’ve been something better seen than explained, for instance — there was so much about Guardians that was simply outstanding that the areas where it fell flat ultimately didn’t matter. Chris Pratt was fantastic as Star Lord — everything you see about him being this generation’s Han Solo is entirely appropriate. Rocket — by far this movie’s biggest risk — was excellent, and it was because of the energy Bradley Cooper gave the character’s voice. Hell, by the end I even bought John C. Reilly as a member of the Nova Corps. This is a Day 1 BluRay purchase, without question, and I’d return to the theaters to watch it again without hesitation or remorse. Fabulous movie.

150 (ish)-Word Movie Review: “Godzilla”

WHAT: Godzilla
WHEN: Friday, May 16, 7:15 p.m. show
WHERE: Bemidji Theatre

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So, I really liked this movie. A lot. It felt entirely too short on the monster-on-monster fighting action, and I was caught off-guard a bit by the fact that Godzilla was never really attacked by human armies (although they were planning to blow him up as collateral damage to kill the two monsters they *did* want to kill), but overall this movie was really fun. You can really appreciate what can be done with modern special effects, and the scope of city destruction in this movie just further hammers home how far overboard the Superman/Zod fight went in “Man of Steel.” The roar was great; Godzilla looked like a believable, modern Godzilla; they had the good sense to include the nuclear breath as a finishing move; the “bad” monsters were very cool and were suitable Godzilla foes. They also dropped a subtle, but awesome, Mothra reference.

I’d go see this again in the theaters without hesitation.

Helen’s story, too many words on Transformers: Legends, and a recap of my weekend movie blitz

Helen’s lion story
A couple of weeks ago I had the girls in my office for a half-hour or so to account for some unusual schedule quirk between Mel and I. During that visit, Helen took a red pen and wrote a story for me on two Post-It Notes. Here is her story (with her spellings).

“Once apon a time there once was a lion that was 74 years old and was good at socker. And a professional ninja and his favorite subject was geography.”

Tell me you wouldn’t read the rest of that story if there were more Post-It Notes.

Teaching social media in schools

I just think there are way more important things to teach kids without diverting more valuable education time to something like social media…

Transformers: Legends
There’s a game available on iOS and Android called “Transformers: Legends”; it’s a free download with in-app purchases, and I started playing it about a month ago. It is a typical game; you can play for free, but your actions are limited by the game’s currencies — two of which you can buy for real money if you are so inclined.

The three currencies are credits (money used to pay to combine a Transformer’s robot-mode card with its vehicle or other alt-mode card to create a more-powerful version, or to use cards as raw materials to upgrade other cards); Energon (an “energy” that is used to undertake missions; each attempted mission segment costs 10 Energon. You start with 100 but can increase your upper limit to 136 by progressing through the game); and Battle Cubes (which are used one at a time to buy essentially pointless player-vs-player battles, and more importantly to begin fights with bosses in special weekly events called Episodes). Energon gets used up pretty quickly; you can spend a full charge of 13 turns in a few minutes, and when you have emptied the full 136 it takes 2 hours to recharge. Battle cubes can be expended in less than a minute, and recharge at a rate of one per hour. The Energon and Battle Cubes can be purchased with money.

Each turn in a “mission” has one of several outcomes — you play a mini game to shoot down incoming rockets by tapping them to earn credits; you discover one of three common or uncommon character cards assigned to that mission; you get to face off against a “boss” that has about a 20 percent chance to drop a rare-quality weapon; or you play the worst implementation of five-card Monty ever in a game for a chance to win a rare-quality character card. The rare is one of five cards on a board, which are flipped over and “shuffled,” and you tap a card to select the one you think is the rare. However, you will quick learn that the shuffle animation is the same very time and offers no clue as to where the rare ends up. So to win, your best bet is to just pick one of the five cards and stab it every time until the rare happens to be there. It is super lame.

The game also adds regular (weekly, basically) episodes — contrived storylines involving some Transformers characters that you are supposed to defeat for some reason. Basically it just adds a fifth possible element to each mission turn — a “boss fight” matchup against an opponent you can buy the opportunity to fight for one Battle Cube (or fight it with additional damage bonuses for two or three Cubes, which you should rarely if ever do). You earn points for beating each boss, which escalate as the bosses get stronger (and quickly to the point where you have to ask other players for help to defeat unless you want to spend many of your own Cubes to attack it repeatedly yourself — which is a waste of the game’s most valuable resource), and when the boss is defeated everyone who participates gets some sort of reward — typically tokens to buy more cards from the in-game store.

The episodes have two different reward ladders — one is based on your overall ranking for most points earned among all players who participate in the event, and the best rewards are locked up here. For this to be worthwhile at all, you have to finish in the top 5,000 (that level gets you an ultra-rare card, its alt mode and its matched weapon; if you don’t have all three the character is basically useless from a gameplay standpoint) — which at this point in the game’s life means you have to play pretty heavily during the episode and really work to maximize your boss points-per-cube metrics in the last three or four days of the event. By that point there is essentially no advantage to fighting your own bosses; you are better served to farm killshots from bosses fought by other players and get essentially free points over and over and over again.

The second tier unlocks different rewards depending on the total number of points you score. The rungs on the ladder are close together early on so its possible to get enormous rewards early in the event. However, and completely ridiculously, you reach a point where there are diminishing returns on the rewards — basically, relatively quickly you reach a point where your reward for reaching a point threshold is lower than the reward for reaching the previous threshold. Because by the time you reach those steps, your only motivation is to compete for a position on the overall leaderboard, so the game reduces the rewards to force you to buy the currency you need with real money in order to keep pushing up that second ladder. It is a seriously dirty trick on the part of the developers.

Also, the point rewards have become characters that if you have played at all seriously up until that point you will already have. So those rewards you can easily win are of minimal value; they will give your team a minor boost during the event due to their attack bonus, but once that bonus expires at the end of the event you will probably end up putting that character on the bench.

So, really, once you complete the four mission nodes on the globe and acquire everything there is to acquire on the 18 “missions” at each node, the game becomes totally pointless to play. You exist only to farm points during events, which is most efficiently done by sniping the killshot on episode bosses — which doesn’t even require you to play the game. You just sit at the event menu and wait for a notification to pop up that somebody needs help. If the boss has less health than you can deliver damage with one currency point, you kill it, earn the currency point for delivering the killing blow, and then repeat for as long as you can stand to stare at the app and deliver the three screen taps it takes to participate in a fight.

If you have a collector mentality there is some interest early in the game in acquiring the different characters and their alt-modes. However once you get all of the common and uncommon characters, you just have to play a game of chance against a virtual dice roll to complete the lineup of rare characters. Beyond that are the super rares, and it is essentially impossible to collect those without spending money. And the very good ones in terms of in-game power are reserved for episode rewards requiring a volume of points you are not going to score without spending lots of money on Battle Cubes for boss fights. But once you reach the point where your primary method of advancement is to farm killshots during episodes until your Battle Cubes run out, the game becomes pointless to play.

I reached that point on Saturday. So unless something changes, I am pretty much done with this.

Memorial Day weekend movie blitz

Star Trek Into Darkness Friday night. Completely outstanding movie, and without question the best movie I have seen so far this year. Oblivion isn’t in the same ballpark, and Trek even blew away Iron Man 3, which I also thought was quite good. Very excellent villain(s), I very much like this current iteration of the crew, and the effects and fight scenes are great. This gives me great hope for what JJ Abrams will do with Star Wars 7.

Epic Saturday afternoon. Fun kids movie; Helen loved it and Millie spent the entire movie being three. It will be fun to see again on BluRay at some point.

Hangover 3 Monday afternoon. There was really no way this could have been worse than Hangover 2, but it still wasn’t very good. The bar set by the first one was just so, so high; the two sequels were almost failed from the very start. This third one was OK; it was Chow-centric which was good, but for some reason the Chow character has spent the last two movies as a different character than he was in the first one. In the first he was fun and flamboyant and had this maybe-he-is-gay vibe; in the second he just became dirty and mean. In the third one he is a weird combination of the two; they have tried to create him as this super-villain but they pushed that so far that it’s no longer a good character, I don’t think. The writers also tried to weave in this redemption-of-Alan subplot that honestly just didn’t work. There were funny moments to be sure, but not nearly enough to say this was a good movie.

Has there been another movie franchise where the first film has been so incredibly good and the two sequels have been total duds? The Matrix comes to mind obviously, but I can’t really think of another one. A lot of really wasted potential here.

Star Trek, social media at work and Google Reader replacements

Star Trek Into Darkness
I’m going to have to let this simmer for a bit and see if I still feel this way tomorrow, but I just got home from Star Trek Into Darkness and thought it was completely fantastic. At first blush I get why the hard-core original series Trekkies would be displeased, but if you’re not in that camp it’s difficult to see what there is to not like about this movie. Fabulous.

Social media
Pinterest’s announcement from Monday about “more useful pins,” with added capabilities to display information about movies, recipes and items for sale, has had me thinking again about how I’m using social media for Bemidji State.

When I read announcements like this, my mind always immediately starts going to “Ok, now how might I be able to twist this and use it in ways that they’re not explicitly announcing support for?” This Pinterest announcement was the same way. What sorts of things to we do that aren’t movies, recipes or items for sale that might be able to make use of some of that same functionality? There are a number of things I immediately glommed onto for athletics marketing — ticket sales, merchandise, etc., and there might be some clever things you could do with the live-update data for game coverage. That’s all just ideas in my head without doing much initial exploration into how any of it works though. But there are some cool possibilities there, particularly given the certainty that Pinterest will be expanding this functionality in the future.

Still, it again raises a question of how to roll new things into an overall strategy. There’s already so much to keep track of, and despite what I feel is a pretty successful social presence for the university right now I still realize we’re barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. We need to start making use of Pinterest; we need to start making use of Instagram; we need to start expanding what we’re doing with Google+; we probably should have a Tumblr strategy. I want to make the time this summer to really dive into this and try to put all the pieces together; ideally I’d like a clear calendar for about two weeks to just hammer away at this. I think I could put together a compelling package; right now I’m just experimenting with toys, but those toys could quickly become pretty powerful tools if I took the time to learn them properly.

Google Reader
I’ve been a bit slow to identify an alternative to Reader since Google announced in March that it was going to be shut down. Given that it will still be alive and well for another month, I figured there was time.

I had been using Reeder, which I liked; there wasn’t anything amazing about it, it just did the job of letting me manage my feeds and keep read status synced between my laptop, iPad and phone. Although its devs have announced that it will have a future after the shutdown, right now it’s a Reader client and only a Reader client. So I suspected that I would need to find an alternative in the event that the revamp wasn’t ready when Reader shut down.

I bounced around to a couple of the different alternatives that were initially discussed after Google’s announcement, but I think I’ve settled in with Feedly.

Visually, Feedly has some significant differences from Reader that I like; I follow a lot of feeds that are primarily photo or graphic posts, or have graphics as a significant element in most/all posts, and Feedly has a display option to include a thumbnail image of the graphic along with the headline and a post snippet that is large enough where it’s sometimes not even necessary to click through to the post to get the content.

But, the biggest difference for me is the visual cues that Feedly has built into the “look at all posts from all feeds chronologically in one list” view. Feedly puts some breakers in like “today,” “yesterday,” etc., that make it pretty easy to scroll through a list and catch up on the most-recent things. Particularly if I haven’t checked a particular feed for awhile, Feedly’s layout makes it pretty easy to decide to skip everything older than a week or two.

It also breaks out three “featured” posts that it identifies by running some traffic analysis on whatever feed you’re viewing and pulling out the three posts that are getting the most number of shares or Facebook posts, etc. It’s interesting, but I’m tempted to turn them off because I’m not sure how helpful they are.

Return of the Jedi
Tomorrow, May 25, is the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi. I have a story. I’ll share it tomorrow.

22 questions about “Oblivion”

Saturday night, I took Melissa to see Oblivion. The trailers looked interesting, I had heard good things about it, and read some decent reviews online from non-mainstream movie critics (Filmdrunk gave it a B+, for instance). So when we got a date night, I suggested we go check it out.

Not a good movie. There were a few scenes that were likable, and the drones in the film that Tom Cruise’s character is on Earth to repair are pretty cool (Tom Cruise has a pretty cool helicopter-like vehicle, too). But overall the movie is not good at all. Rather than explain why, I am just going to repeat the list of questions that I asked myself after it was over in my attempt to figure it out. The more questions I asked, the worse the movie became.

In no particular order…

  • if the aliens have the technology to build enormous universe-traversing spaceships, build and deploy hundreds of enormous factories from that ship that are capable of draining energy from out oceans over the course of decades, and deploy hundreds of nigh-bulletproof drones armed with laser cannons to protect them, why in the hell did they need an army of Tom Cruises (TC) and Emily Riseboroughs (ER)?
  • what happened to the other at-least-50 Tom Cruises and at-least-51 Emily Rossboroughs?
  • when Tom Cruise 49 went to Tom Cruise 52’s house, why didn’t Emily Riseborough 52 notice the big-ass “49” on TC49’s uniform?
  • and why did ER52 not at least ask him what had happened that caused his face to get all beat up?
  • why did the aliens put their clone tanks in their mother ship’s hangar bay?
  • why did the aliens give the TCs a vehicle capable of space flight, when visiting the mother ship would absolutely give away their ruse?
  • why does TC’s helicopter vehicle thing have seating for two since his partner is supposed to absolutely refuse to go to the surface under any circumstances, and he isn’t supposed to encounter anyone on the surface?
  • how did Olga Kurylenko (OK) know that the Tet being examined by the Odyssey was the object in Earth orbit, since she was in hibernation when they found it?
  • how did Morgan Freeman discover the Odyssey was in orbit above Earth? The entire movie depends on Odyssey returning to Earth, but given the tech available to MF’s rebels it is difficult to imagine that they had any means to detect it.
  • and, given that the aliens’ mission involves the extermination of humanity, why would they allow a pod full of humans to remain on orbit around the Earth for six decades?
  • if the aliens have zillions of TC clones, why would they give a crap if the drones occasionally kill one/some of them? The drones’ inability to kill TC was the only thing that allowed OK to live, and yet there was absolutely no reason for the drone to choose TC over the human it was sent to kill. OK was an enemy and TC could be replaced in minutes.
  • how did TC and ER live in their home for however long they lived there and not know there was a secret drone in their basement?
  • why were the secret drones in the basement, which seemingly existed only to exterminate drone repair teams when the need raised, so much bigger and more bad-ass than the drones that were out hunting people?
  • when the aliens found the people they knew were the enemy, why did they attack them with only three drones?
  • and why did they never deploy any of the heavy assassin drones to do anything other than kill one lady who had never been out of her house?
  • the TC and ER clones have had awareness for only around five years or so. They have never had any other human contact. They cannot possibly have any concept of religion. So why would the alien central mind try to appeal to fear of a creator by telling TC “I am your God” before TC destroys the ship? How would TC even know what that means?
  • why in the hell, three years later, was TC52 still wearing his Tet uniform and not the same kind of clothes the other human are wearing?
  • how did the drones not find, and destroy, Tom Cruises’s cabin? Why was an area of vegetation not in a “radiation zone” so TC49 could find it to begin with?
  • why do the clones need think they are on Earth? Why couldn’t the clones just think they are part of an occupying force on an alien world and there for a mission? There really is no reason for the aliens to set the ruse up the way they have. It would’ve been far easier to set up a situation where they wouldn’t have to put so much effort into keeping a secret. Even so, any time a clone discovered the truth it could easily be assassinated and replaced anyway. So, really, the entire central plot point exists only so the aliens can fail.
  • how would Morgan Freeman possibly know that the aliens were traveling the universe, destroying planets and then moving on to the next planet? How would he know anything about the aliens at all since his only contact with them has been via TC clones and killer robots?
  • who shot the cable TC49 was using to escape from the library, and why would they do that? The fall could have killed him, and they just as easily could have captured him on the surface.
  • what was TC49 fighting in the library? They weren’t drones; they couldn’t have possibly been people… So what were they?
  • why do the TCs have numbers, anyway? Wouldn’t it be easier to just let the clones think they are alone on the planet, since if the alien plot is to succeed the clones cannot possibly meet anyway? Why even bother with “sure, there are literally dozens of other people down there doing this. But, no, of course you can never meet them.”

I really could go on all night. The more I work on this list the more I think to add to it

The shootout in the library sure was cool though…

Finally bought a light for my drawing table

Melissa went to the gym this morning, so I had some kid time out in town. We went to Rafael’s for donuts, which is always fun, and then went to return the lights we bought for the kitchen at Menard’s. They had restocked their swing-arm magnifier lights for craft tables, which I’ve wanted for a long time but have never pulled the trigger on; empowered with birthday cash from my parents (thanks, parents!) I finally picked one up. It’s not perfect — but for $40 I wasn’t really expecting perfect — but it should provide a significantly better lighting situation at the drawing table in my office. Better to the point that I might actually use the drawing table.

I like the track lights I installed in here quite a bit, but they’re seriously useless for providing lighting to work, and the six-dollar desk lamp I bought from Target to provide a close-up way to fill in the shadows I was getting from the overhead lights was barely functional.

I want to try this setup out this weekend sometime; I’m so, so, so far behind on my postcard project, and it would be really fun in May between the end of the semester and the start of summer school / getting Megan up here to get caught up on that and churn a bunch of these out for my friends. They’ve been waiting long enough…

What I’m Listening To
I started a Daft Punk station on Pandora this morning on my phone, and I’m not gonna lie it’s pretty great. I’ve never listened to much electronic music at all (really, my only experience with it has been Daft Punk’s work on the TRON: Legacy soundtrack and the tremendously great Deadmau5 concert on Netflix), but it’s proving to be excellent background music while I’m trying to get some stuff done in my office today.

What I’m Shopping For
Just for fun, I have been pricing out a wide variety of laptops at Apple’s online store — five different laptops ranging from a 13-inch Air to a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, ranging in price from $1,400 to $2,280. I’d really like to have an Air just for the insane portability (but I wonder if most of what I could do with an Air I could also do with an iPad and a quality keyboard case), but the 13-inch MacBook Pro is pretty compelling at only $1,400. I would totally love to have a tricked-out 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, though — 16 gigs of RAM, etc. Big difference between the compelling 13-inch Pro and the $2,280 I’d drop on the 15-inch Retina Pro I specced out… Ah, well. It’s only window shopping at this point!

The toy history of characters in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

Toys can be an important merchandising tie-in for summer’s blockbuster Hollywood movies, and this summer’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation is no different. As it is based on characters which appear in Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy line, which made its debut in its current format in 1982, toys are a focal point of the merchandising for this film.

The movie features 11 main characters — seven heroes on the G.I. Joe team and four members of their adversaries in the evil terrorist organization known as Cobra. Each of those 11 characters are represented in action figure form in the merchandising for this summer’s film. However, given that the history of G.I. Joe now dates back more than 30 years, those interested in pursuing toys of these characters might also be interested in digging into the deep and often varied stories of these characters as they have appeared in toy form throughout the decades.

Some of the characters in Retaliation have been mainstays of the G.I. Joe universe for the entire life of the property, and collecting each of their appearance in toy form will require chasing down more than five dozen different toys. Others have been rather infrequently immortalized in plastic, with as few as three different toys made of the character.

In total, pursuing every toy made of the 11 primary characters in G.I. Joe: Retaliation would lead to a collection of more than 320 action figures. Here’s a breakdown of the number of times each of the film’s 11 primary characters have shown up as toys in the last three-plus decades.

Cobra Commander
Cobra Commander is supreme leader of the terrorist organization which contains the villains in Retaliation. Hidden behind a helmet for the majority of the film, Cobra Commander is played by Luke Bracey. The Commander was one of three villains released in the very first series of G.I. Joe figures in 1982. Since then, he has appeared in action figure form 51 different times, including three times in the line of toys to support the film. However, none of the three film-line toys represents how the character appeared on screen.

Duke
Duke is the field commander of the G.I. Joe team, played (briefly) in the film by Channing Tatum. Duke first appeared in the second series of G.I. Joe figures in 1983, and has since appeared as 48 different action figures. He has one figure in the toy line to support Retaliation, but it does not represent how he appeared on screen.

Firefly

Firefly is Cobra’s saboteur and demolitions specialist, and the character was played by
Ray Stevenson in Retaliation. Firefly has been represented as an action figure 26 times since the character first appeared in the third series of G.I. Joe figures in 1984, including three times in the line of toys to support the film.

Flint
Flint is a warrant officer on the G.I. Joe team, played in the film by DJ Cotrona. The character first appeared in the fourth series of G.I. Joe toys in 1985, and since then he has appeared as an action figure 20 times. He has two toys in the series supporting the Retaliation film.

General Joseph Colton
Joe Colton is the original G.I. Joe, the man from whom the team of heroes takes its name. However, he did not appear in toy form until the 13th series of G.I. Joe figures in 1994. The character is played by Bruce Willis in the film, and in total he has been represented in toy form only three times. He has one figure in the toy series supporting the film.

**Jinx**
Jinx is a ninja affiliated with the G.I. Joe team, and the character first appeared in 1987. Played in the film by Elodie Young, the character has appeared in toy form six times under three different names — Jinx, Agent Jinx and Kim Arashikage.

Lady Jaye
Lady Jaye first appeared as a character in 1985 and is one of only a handful of female members of the G.I. Joe team. The character has been represented in toy form nine times, and was played in the film by Adrianne Palicki.

Roadblock
Roadblock appeared for the first time in 1983 as part of the third series of G.I. Joe toys. The main character in the Retaliation film, Roadblock was played by Duane “The Rock” Johnson. There have been 23 different versions of the Roadblock character over the years, with three in the toy line supporting the film as of this writing.

Snake Eyes
Snake Eyes is one of the 12 original G.I. Joe figures released in 1982, and has appeared in more incarnations than any other character in this property. The ninja commando, who cannot speak, was played in the film by Ray Park. Since making his first appearance, there have been 66 different Snake Eyes action figures released — including a total of six in the toy line supporting the Retaliation film.

Storm Shadow
Storm Shadow is Cobra’s ninja assassin; the character made his debut in the third series of G.I. Joe toys in 1984. Played in the film by Byun-hun Lee, Storm Shadow has appeared in toy form a total of 47 times, including three times in the toy line supporting the film.

Zartan
Zartan is a master of disguise and was played by Jonathan Pryce in the film. Zartan first appeared in the third series of G.I. Joe figures in 1984, and has appeared as an action figure a total of 21 times. He has one figure in the toy line supporting the Retaliation film, but the figure does not represent how the character appeared on screen.

Interested in learning more about the hundreds of characters and thousands of action figures that make up the G.I. Joe toy line? Visit YoJoe.com, the most complete fan-maintained encyclopedia of G.I. Joe collectables on the Internet and start your own collection today.

Social media checklist, Day 3

Today is Day 3 of my experiment with using a daily social media checklist.

What’s working:

• Facebook. Setting a goal of three status updates per day seems like a good goal; I’ve managed to hit that relatively easily, but not without having to think about it occasionally, so I’m comfortable with that.

• Twitter. The goal of 10 tweets and three responses has been good; the responses especially I like. I’ve been more engaged with Twitter the last three days than I have been in awhile, and it hasn’t felt overwhelming or overly distracting from my other tasks.

• Instagram. It’s forcing me to look for opportunities for photos, which is good for me.

• Pinterest. Five pins seems like a good goal; it’s been tough the last two days to come up with five things that haven’t felt like I was just shoveling content up there to reach the goal. It’s good content.

What’s not:

• Read and three things from Pocket. This wasn’t a good goal, because I quickly found that I don’t have three things a day in Pocket that I want to read and delete. Pocket’s becoming a repository for stuff I want to read and keep track of for awhile. This goal has been adjusted to just “check Pocket.”

• The “write three paragraphs in an offline journal” goal. I just don’t know that I’m going to be interested in doing that every day; this is day three and I haven’t done it yet – mostly because I haven’t had the urge to write anything that couldn’t just go here. I’m leaving this goal on the checklist for now, but I could easily see deleting it in the next few days or, at the very least, finding some way to severely modify the criteria.

Writing workflow
This week I’ve been experimenting with using iA Writer in my production workflow at work for stories. In the past, I’ve drafted stories directly in InDesign and saved an INDD file and a PDF in my archives. This year I began drafting in Pages and then moving text into InDesign; my motivation for starting was to mess around with saving documents to iCloud (I really don’t like iCloud, but I’ll post on this another time. It works just fine, but its limitations when compared to Google Drive or Dropbox are difficult to deal with). I’ve had iA Writer for a long time; I bought it on my iPad when it was on sale a while back, but I’ve never really used it. Likewise with the desktop version; an update to the desktop version brought it back to the top of my mind, so on a whim I decided to just start using it and see how it worked out.

In short, so far I am enjoying writing in iA Writer quite a bit.

The only limitation I’m running into so far is there is not remotely a straight-forward way to get Markdown-formatted text from iA Writer directly into InDesign and save the formatting. The cut-and-paste process works just fine, but then I’ve got to go through and clean up all of the Markdown indicia. For what I’m writing it’s a relatively minor stumbling block (very rarely do I write anything over 600 words), but it’s a factor to consider when thinking about using iA Writer for anything more significant until somebody comes up with a straight-forward way to import and save the formatting.

Skyfall
Mel and I went to see Skyfall tonight; what an incredibly fun movie. It was basically the perfect James Bond film – and so far and away better than the last outing, Quantum of Solace, that it’s hard to believe both movies are consecutive entries of the same franchise. Skyfall even got the opening credits right; Adele’s theme song is fantastic, and the animation was a throwback to the really excellent Roger Moore-era Bond intros. This entry eschewed Bond’s crazy gadgets – and even joked about that, with Q asking Bond if he expected to receive an exploding pen – but was filled with touches that threaded this movie back through familiar elements from the previous Bond movies. There probably will be reviews that savage this movie for its portrayal of women – which aside from Bond’s boss, M (Judy Densch), is pretty horrendous  – but in all it’s a fantastic entry in one of the most enduring film franchises out there. And, it’s simply an excellent action movie that’s well worth seeing on the big screen.