DVDs: Community Season 3, what hardcore fans may well end up calling "the last real season" with Dan Harmon out of the picture, is, despite the hiatus in the middle and some hastily put together episodes towards the end, just about as good as the previous two. Not only are there some excellent concept episodes - the standout being the parallel timelines one, but I could mention this year's fake clip show, the History channel documentary, the musical or the 8-bit episode - but they often end on a heart-warming character moment, which is rather rare for comedies about extreme personalities. That said, I'm not a particular fan of Professor Spacetime. I'm afraid it's not Whovian enough for me. I don't know what Community will be like without Harmon pushing for its darker aspects and genre-bending. Likely, the crazy characters will carry the show through standard sitcom plots. Might be enough to be a good show, but not a great one. The DVD includes fun commentaries on every episode, tons of very dirty outtakes, some deleted scenes, and making of featurettes on the musical and documentary episodes.
1911 is historical epic about the revolution that toppled the Chinese Empire, and feels a heck of a lot like it was made to order by the State. Its problem, beyond its forced patriotism (although it's possible to see it as a call to revolt against Communism too), is that it is trying to do too much. We might follow Jackie Chan as a haunted revolutionary, or the political story, or the crooked prime minister, or the compelling Empress Dowager and her son, but the film (at a trim 99 minutes) keeps jumping around between them at a furious pace, filling in the blanks with tiny tiny historical subtitles which you can hardly read at the same time as the dialog. It's too bad too, because individual scenes are expertly shot and stylish, and the acting is excellent (except for the labored English or French-language stuff, where terrible accents and wooden delivery reigns). This might have been THREE good films, but as a whole, doesn't amount to much. A thing of parts. The DVD includes some good deleted scenes and a half-hour of raw behind the scenes footage without even the benefit of subtitles. A number of modern Chinese DVDs include this, but it's very dull to get through.
RPGs: Played Hong Kong Action Theater this morning, a gun fu scenario I called Bullet Ballet (unrelated to the Japanese film of that name), more or less in the style of John Woo. It was based on a scenario in the core book about a trio of Triad members trying to protect a ballerina who ran afoul of their boss' plans. Good fun with room for both action set pieces and character moments, and I think an inspired choice of soundtrack (if I do say so myself), with a performance of Swan Lake playing in the background during the climax, the beats of which affected or reflected game play satisfyingly. I posted the review and poster on our fake movie studio website.
Fanzines: Diary of the Doctor Who RPGs #5 (Dec. 2010) includes a fair bit of variety. Its main articles are a list of SF films that can inspire Doctor Who games, a nut'n'bolts discussion about how to convert any number of d6 rolls to d10 rolls (useful for game design, but nerdy in how complete it is), a detailed convention report (Chicago-TARDIS-2010, which seemed outrageous fun), and somewhat disappointing GM tips on pacing, wielding time management like a club rather than a scalpel. There are also articles on post-game player etiquette, adventure scenarios (a time-loopy race to find a hard drive is fairly good, but I rather like the players on trial on a robot planet better - it's entirely insane, which is awesome), reviews (my CCG pal Simon's Solitary Story game, and FASA's Rebel's Gamble solo adventure), and a few other shorter features for amusement's sake. As usual, the pdf fanzine is abundantly illustrated and in full color.
Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iii. The Confessional - Zeffirelli '90
Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Aquaman to Armageddon.