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Friday
Aug212009

Seven more cast for The Game of Thrones

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news last night, and George R.R. Martin has confirmed (with some commentary) the casting of seven more major characters for The Game of Thrones. The actors and actresses range from unknown to slightly famous and all look like pretty good candidates for the roles. Everything seems to be shaping up nicely for a great roll out. Let's just hope that there is enough of an audience for gritty fantasy out among the masses to keep the series on the air.

 

Here are the new actors:

 

 

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as bad boy Jaime Lannister. I loved Coster-Waldau in New Amsterdam, a very underrated sci-fi series that didn't even manage one full season. He is definitely not who I mind-casted in the role while reading the novels, but he is an enormous talent. Much like Nathan Fillion though, he seems to bring the curse of cancellation with him wherever he goes. Hopefully, Martin can get some of New Orleans buddies to work their magic and remove the bad mojo before filming starts.

 

 

Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys, the fire from the Song of Ice and Fire. Merchant played one of King Henry the VIII's eventually beheaded wives in The Tudors (hope she doesn't get typecast as the woman who stars in projects that involve beheadings). I haven't seen her scenes in the Tudors, but Martin seems impressed, saying her sex scenes were “as hot as anything I've ever seen on T.V.” I'm not sure at what age saying something like that gets a bit creepy, but I'm pretty sure Martin is past that age. Regardless, male fans of the series apparently have a hot Dothraki deflowering to look forward to.

 

 

Alfie Allen (Lily Allen's little brother!) as Theon Greyjoy. Allen moved into the role of Alan Strang in Equus when Daniel Radcliffe tired of flashing around his wand, so he should have no trouble playing the series' biggest wang, Neddard Stark's young ward (and, well, you know--hostage) who repays his honorable treatment by the Stark family with blood. Allen has a kind of smarmy douchebag look that should work well for Theon.

 

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark. This is a pivotal role for my enjoyment of the series and Maisie is, appropriately, a complete unknown. It is really in the second book that she starts to distinguish herself, so Williams should have time to grow into the role. For the Game of Thrones, she just needs to be boyish and bratty—actor or not, most kids could pull that off.

 

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark. Another important role, another near unknown. I really think this is the way to go for the series and I have faith that a team as experienced as the one working on Game of Thrones will do a good job. The quality of these two roles should give these young ladies a chance to go from unknown to famous in no time.

 

 

Richard Madden as Robb Stark. Madden is a British stage actor who recently played Romeo in a London production of Romeo and Juliet.   He certainly has the look for Robb. As Martin mentions, Robb's story arc will take the ladies for a quite the emotional ride if the series manages to make it through a few seasons.

 

Iain Glenn as Jorah Mormont. Glenn gets the plum role as creepy, older dude lusting after thirteen-year-old Daenerys. Of course, in order to pull off the sex scenes with Kal Drago, Daenerys will be older here than in the books, so he Mormont probably come off as an honorable knight who, after being crushed by his first love, bravely dares to love again...while spying on her for the king.

 

That's the new cast. Most of the roles are now filled and, despite the bit of snark above, I'm pretty excited by the mix. Can't wait to start seeing publicity shots of these guys in full costume. We will keep you guys informed as news rolls in.

Tuesday
Aug182009

PS3 getting the "slim" treatment.

 

PS3 is finally getting the "slim" treatment, which should help with the cost of production. It is said that Sony has lost millions on this system so far because of the cost it takes to make them. With the slimmer version, available on SEPT 1st, the price also drops 100 dollars. It will be available with a new matte charcoal finish. Also getting a upgrade is the storage capacity, which will now be 120 gig standard.

Saturday
Aug152009

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolfe?

I have a confession.

I am forty-two years old. I have been reading science fiction and fantasy for at least thirty. In all that time, I’ve read many of the classics, I’ve loyally followed several authors, and I’ve read much stuff of questionable merit. In all that time, however, I have never read anything by Gene Wolfe.

Oh, I knew about him and read much about him and his work. Now that I think about it, that may have been the problem. I’d always heard how his works were “literary” and defied the genre in which they were published. There’s also lots of discussions concerning allegory and religious symbolism, particularly within the volumes comprising The Book of the New Sun. None of this scared me. I’ve read Moby Dick, for crying out loud. And then there’s the use of archaic and exotic words, again mostly within The Book of the New Sun. That didn’t frighten me, either. I’ve read Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicle of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever – twice. (Yes, I had to keep a college-level dictionary in hand both times.)

I still don’t know what kept me away, unless maybe, it was the “mythic” reputation that surrounded Wolfe’s works. When I’d mention reading any of his stuff to anyone, I would either get a firm “I love it!” or a sudden, almost overwhelmed wash across the poor soul’s face and a half-whispered “couldn’t do it.” It’s not dissimilar to talking about tomes like Moby Dick or The Fountainhead. At one point, about 10 years ago, I bought a used copy of The Shadow of the Torturer. As a fan of SF & F literature, I felt an obligation to try to make it through the book. I had done the same thing with Moby Dick in college. As a Lit. major, I felt I had to read it. After three attempts in about twice that many years, I finally did it and loved it. I felt the same about The Fountainhead. I finally broke down and read it. I quite enjoyed it as well. I don’t know what became of the Wolfe book. I lost track of it on my shelf, and it ultimately vanished entirely from my collection.

I never read it.

Life went on.

Every year, I try to attend two or three SF & F conventions, and one of my favorites is DragonCon. I get giddy with anticipation as the days draw near when they begin releasing their guest list. This year . . . Well, you don’t even have to guess whose name I saw first on the initial list. Let’s just say that when I saw it, I felt something that could only be compared to shame. Then I asked myself how I could call myself a true fan having never read works that have won the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula, the Locus Award.

So I began.

I ordered a second-hand copy of Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer, the first volume of The Book of the New Sun. I’m now over halfway through it, and I love it. I more than love it. It’s one of those books that I look forward to picking up again. I become so absorbed in the tale of Severian, the torturer, I forget that I’m actually reading. Before I had finished the third chapter, I was at my computer ordering the rest of the books.

The language in the book is fluid – like prose poetry at times. And the archaisms do not interfere with the work at all. (Okay, maybe in the first chapter when you’re not used to them.) While reading Donaldson, the words interrupted the flow of reading at times; they seemed more like added speed bumps than part of the road. Not so with Wolfe. If anything, the words add to the atmosphere of the piece. It’s almost as if you can feel the inexorable doom of the world while the red sun hovers in the sky.

Severian’s world is in our far future, yet you can’t help but feel you’re reading a medieval romance. There’re guilds and halberd-carrying guards and walled cities. Occasionally, however, some sort of ship will fly over. There’s talk of traveling among the stars, but that was long, long ago. The distinction between technology and magic no longer exist.

But what’s most remarkable to me is the narrator/protagonist, Severian. He’s a dishonored torturer, who is forced into exile beyond the only world he’s ever known. He is definitely not a typical hero (or anti-hero as today’s trends seem to favor). Besides being a torturer, he’s down-right unreliable. At the beginning of the book, he tells us that he has a perfect memory. Shortly thereafter, however, he states that he is insane. And then he seems to forget when he has told certain information. In one discussion, he even contemplates the fact that lies become truth over time.

So what’s the truth in this story? I don’t know, yet. I may never know, but that’s okay because that’s a powerful message in itself. The tale itself is beautiful and beautifully told. Sometimes that’s enough.

Anyway, I can confidently say that I will finish Wolfe’s wonder-filled The Book of the New Sun, and I’ve a feeling I’ll be reading more, too, like the Books of the Long and Short Sun, the Soldier series, and the Wizard Knight duology. I’m just sorry I waited so long to begin. Gene Wolfe is deserving of every bit of his praise and then some. So, take my advice: there’s nothing to be afraid of.

 

Thursday
Aug132009

Casting for "A Game of Thrones", so far...

 

Casting for HBO's long-form television series A Game of Thrones has moved along quite rapidly since the initial announcement of the casting of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lanister.

My favorite casting so far is Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon. He has been around a while, but most people are familiar with him as the father on the US sitcom Still Standing and as Dave from "The Full Monty". He should have an easy time playing the hard partying, self-loathing, whore-mongering king of the realm

Sean Bean, an immensely talented actor from Britain, who has already delved into this genre with much fanfare, will be playing the beloved Eddard Stark. This is probably the most important role from the get go since Eddard Stark is really the guy whose actions the books revolve around--especially early on, and casting someone like Bean is a strong sign that HBO is going to pull out all the stops for this series.

Harry Lloyd has been cast as Viserys Targaryen, slimy brother of Daenerys Targaryen. Lloyd is best known for his role in Robin Hood the TV series.

Jennifer Ehle has been cast as Eddard's wife Catelyn Stark. Ehle, a Meryl Streep clone, is probably best known for "Pride and Prejudice" a TV series that she won a BAFTA for in 1996. Again, I think this will be a good casting, though admittedly, I'm not as familiar with her as the other actors I have mentioned. Catelyn will be a hard role to play. She has a lot of grief and will require an intense performance from the actress. I look forward to seeing how she does.

The role of Joffrey Baretheon and John Snow will be taken on by two relatively unknown child actors, Jack Gleeson, with Kit Harrington, respectively. Both are really important parts, particularly that of Jon Snow, who is central to the storylines taking place in the north.

Throw in the fact that George R.R. Martin has announced on his own blog that there have been six more cast members signed but yet to be announced. Of the six, one is Jaime Lannister, another Theon Greyjoy-- two characters that you love then loathe from book to book. I will keep you posted as they are announced. Filming starts in October.


Wednesday
Aug122009

Review of Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game

 

 

 

 

 

Harry's Grand Slam Baseball

Designed by Harry Obst

Published by Out of the Box Publishing

MSRP: $9.99

  

 

The Spin: “Each Player manages a team and plays cards that simulate actual baseball plays”—from back of game box.





The Story: Harry’s Grand Slam Baseball Game “recreates” a nine-inning (or more) baseball game with cards that have effects based on happenings from real baseball games. The offensive and defensive events are in the same deck, which is shared by both players.




The Play: Harry’s is an exceedingly simple game. Players have hands of three cards that they draw from the same deck. The deck has a set of offensive plays (single, double, triple, home run, walk, hit by pitch, error, wild pitch, passed ball, stolen base, and balk) and a set of defensive plays (Ground Out, Strike Out, Fly Out, and Double Play). It also has some cards that can be used to a benefit on offense or defense (Sacrifice Bunt, Pitch Hitter/Relief Pitcher).

The two players choose which one is the home team and the visitor starts on offense. On a player’s turn, he or she simply plays a card from a hand of three, moves the runner and/or records outs, and then the other player goes. The cards themselves act as the base runners and are positioned around the bases of the small die-cut infield that comes with the game. After three outs have been recorded, the team’s half of the inning is over and the two teams switch sides. If a team is in the lead at the end of regulation the game is over. If not, the teams go to extra innings.

The interesting element of game play is that other than at the end of every third innings, players do not reshuffle their hands. So, tension is created by the fact that the awesome defensive hand that you have will any moment become a terrible offensive hand. Also, since players must play a card each turn, one is often forced to play a card that benefits the opponent. I’m not sure which is worse—having to play a hit on your opponent’s half of the inning that drives in a run or having to play an out on your offensive set with the bases occupied.


My Take: There isn’t an overwhelming amount of strategy. This isn’t a simulation by sport’s game standards certainly. It is a light card game that is themed around baseball. The theme is rock solid though. The game mostly follows baseball rules and any player without basic knowledge of baseball will be lost. That said, this isn’t APBA or Strat-o-Matic. It is to those games what Crazy Eights is to Contract Bridge.

I found this game to be a wonderful, light filler. As a baseball fanatic, having a quick-playing baseball-themed game really scratches a particular itch. Since there is hardly ever a tough choice, the real fun is watching how the game plays out.

The Components: Harry’s Grand Slam Baseball Game is part of Out of the Box’s Heirloom Game series. As such, the components are amazing. The game comes in a small tin box slightly larger than double deck of cards. Inside is an exact replica of the original Harry’s from 1962—box, cards and ruleset. In addition to the original rules, the game contains larger, better organized rules that aren’t as detailed but cover most of the situations players may encounter. There is also the aforementioned infield used to mark outs and base runner positions and, most impressive, a great tri-fold scoreboard with working dials used to track both score and inning. The entire package is attractive and the quality adds to the playing experience.


Score: 3.5/5



Pros: Fast Playing, well integrated theme, great production value

Cons: very light on strategy, limited number of choices