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The Life, Times and Advances in Puppetry with Mike Quinn

14 Jun

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Mike Quinn is a man of many cinematic trades—a talent mentored by Jim Henson and Frank Oz—and he sees a bright future for puppetry, a style of performance theatre. His passion for it predates meeting these two icons and he is fully aware of its rich history. At an early age, he staged his own live puppet shows for family and friends, and he was always encouraged to pursue his dreams.

This form of entertainment can be traced back to the days of early man. Some simply manipulated the stuffed dolls with their hands and others took the form further, like to have a light source cast upon them so their shadows are projected upon a larger surface. This technique not only helped make them become larger than life but also create a mystique to enthral many a viewer. Quinn is well aware of the many styles of puppetry that can be used to tell a story. In the 90’s, his shift to work behind the camera showed his passion also included directing. He worked on many a TV pilot in the UK and said Mira Mara was one program where he brought in skilled shadow puppeteers to perform while a human actress was regaling fantastic tales to a cast of puppets. It went to full series production, was filmed throughout Wales and Scotland, and was broadcast in Gaelic speaking countries.

“I think this style is a very poetic and abstract artistic way of doing visuals. I also enjoy watching a different form known as bunraku (Japanese puppet theatre). You have three people working a full figure on a tabletop. They are usually seen behind the puppet, sometimes dressed in black, partially visible … they study forever to be very precise. It’s incredible!” observed Quinn.

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You Know It’s Solo, A Star Wars Story Not Quite Rogue

25 May

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Harrison Ford is Han Solo. He made being a scruffy nerf herder charming. As the daring Indiana Jones, he knows when not to cheat death. George Lucas had a vision with the Young Indiana Jones series, to educate first and entertain second, the end product worked. Sean Patrick Flanery made us believe he was Indy and he was young enough so audiences can imagine his ageing process.

At least ten years must exist between when Solo (played slightly convincingly by Alden Ehrenreich) is seen running amok in the streets of Corellia trying to escape his life as a street urchin. He joins the Imperial Army and is soon kicked out due to insubordination. He hooks up with criminals and they hope to commit the Ocean’s 11 (technically not) of all heists. But it all goes terribly wrong, horribly wrong.

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May the Fourth Be Coming to Free Comic Book Day

3 May

Free Comic Book DayBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Free Comic Book Day is coming, and it’s happening after May the Fourth. Star Wars fans can rejoice as a tale featuring Han Solo is offered. Bounty Hunters Zuckuss and 4-LOM have found these smugglers for hire, and just what happens will require stopping by a comic shop so I can find out! The brief synopsis offered online does not say much, but it’s enough to get me curious.

Fans who are unaware of this saga’s long history in this medium can also talk to the staff of their local comic book store in what else to look at, or pick up. I followed the run back when they started at Marvel. Dark Horse continued the love a decade later with a terrific Dark Empire saga (and much more), but these days they are back with Marvel. Other chapters include a Star Wars: Rebels tie-in with Kanan. I miss this computer-animated series and honestly, the poster tease for the new Resistance looks too bright and colorful. With IDW on board to publish tales from the Forces of Destiny line, no shortage is planned as long as Lucasfilm/Disney is involved! Just how well received it will be depends on the story direction.

At least there are other franchises to consider on Free Comic Book Day. Teasers to Overwatch, Riverdale, Street Fighter and Transformers are just a sample of what people can find at their local comic book store.

These works are usually one-offs. Some have even become collectibles because of the extra work put behind releasing them. Gold Comics are titles which the publishers put a touch more work behind to release “free,” and those Mouse Guards I have from previous years will forever be treasured.

The following are my top ten picks of what must be considered. They are not necessarily collectible, but as a primer for what’s planned by the big publishers, to start here is a must!

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The Vintage Tempest’s First Days with Star Wars: Legion

11 Apr

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Fantasy Flight Games has a new miniature battle game for Star Wars fans to enjoy. Legion is different from Armada such that players are commanding soldiers than spaceships. The rules are the same; the dice are different coloured and length of time to play better than the space-faring cousin. It’s possible to play short skirmishes. I went to a demo at my nearby game store to get my Jedi on and instead went Sith!

I am impressed with the plastic figures which come in the base set. Vader and Luke command their respective forces, and the bits include barriers for the Stormtroopers or Rebel Forces to hide behind. With no surprise, since laser blasts are guided by the roll of an eight-sided dice, neither can hit the broad side of a barn. The rules are nice and simple. Those who have played Armada know how this game works. Combat moves fast.

As for how much larger these battles can get will depend on expansion products offered. Prop packs to recreate battles on other planets exist, and for the adventurous modeler, Mos Eisley can be recreated.

With only two major factions offered in the main box, the enjoyability comes in how many times can Vader lay the smack down on Luke. I normally side with the forces of good, but to know how powerful Vader is requires looking at this character translates into gaming. The abilities are by no means unique. For Vader, he has “Master of the Force,” which means one of the upgrade cards can be ready for use. Luke has “Jump.” Since both are Force users, they have “Immune: Pierce” to sidestep certain attacks and “Deflect” since they have lightsabers to bounce laser blasts.

This game is no different from the augmented reality cousin, “Trials of Leadership” in Star Wars: Jedi Challenge. The electronic version has you pointing your wand (lightsaber) to direct forces to strategic points to defeat the opponent. The miniatures have a lot of rules to consider and it is more turn-based to decide the outcome of the game. I enjoy this physical version more for the simple reason that calibration for the said stick is always fickle and the click from this stick feels off when compared to using measuring sticks to find out how far a team can go in the battlefield.

This game has potential when expansions come out. I’m looking forward to Hoth (Empire Strikes Back) and seeing AT-ATs enter the field. In the items offered now, the smaller AT-ST and RTs are available.

In what is available now, it’s possible to simulate the land fight from the Battle of Endor. No Ewoks are available yet, and as for whether Fantasy Flight Games will include them, fans will have to wait and see. Inevitable sets will include the Separatist Droid army commanded by Dooku, the Clone Troopers with Yoda and the First Order with either Kylo Ren; General Hux; Captain Phasma in command. The latter can be fun and perhaps this time, Phasma will not get her butt kicked. She is an embarrassment in the films.

For diehards, I can imagine a multi-table setup where players move from infantry battles to get to a waiting cruiser, and whoever captures that, moves on to a space-based fight in Armada. To play this sequence can be epic. However, to have all the miniatures needed to recreate it is a pricey investment. I’m sure the rules can be adapted so fans of LEGO Star Wars (the scale is almost the same) can use minifigs. It may be cheaper than buying Fantasy Flight’s products, and at least for me, it can be more fun than playing another TT Games licensed product.