Do we still need these preambles? Let’s not bother today. On to I:
Movies: Iron Man
I’m sorry, but if you don’t like Iron Man then you can talk to the repulsor, ‘cos the faceplate ain’t listenin’! I was excited when the Iron Man film was released in 2008. Even though I was familiar with Tony Stark’s origin story, I was excited to see the twist they would put on it for the film. I was also interested to see how they would do the suit after they announced that Stark would not wear the classic chestplate under his normal clothing. That little change got over one of the big stumbling blocks for the believability of that character. How did he ever get away with wearing a big metal breastplate under formal dinner-wear?
The film was a success and kickstarted the current Marvel cinematic universe. No Iron Man, no Avengers. It really does all stem from this film.
Robert Downey Jr, on whom I had long had a man-crush for his performances in Chaplin and Ally McBeal, is the perfect Tony Stark. Scratch that. He is Tony Stark. He played the millionaire playboy turned hero with such an easy charm that it is difficult to recall that he is acting at all.
The film is just a perfect thing. The transformation story that sees the selfish and egocentric Stark become a slightly less selfish but just as egocentric hero is well executed. The special effects, music and the performances of the supporting actors (even Paltrow) all hit just the right note to push this film as close to perfection as could be. Iron Man should be remembered as a true classic film that transcends the superhero genre.
Television: (The) IT Crowd
There are certain producers on whom you can always count to produce fantastic television. Whedon and Sorkin stand out for, as does Graham Linehan. Linehan is known for his sitcoms, Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd.
The IT Crowd follows the lives of three IT professionals in a large London-based company. The humour really appeals to me and although a laugh is had at the expense of the rather geeky central characters, it doesn’t feel cruel or disrespectful in the same way that The Big Bang Theory is. I also like that although a lot of the humour is quite direct, there is also quite a lot that is quieter and more understated. Much of this quiet humour comes from Moss, the character played by Richard Ayoade:
Much like Linehan’s other sitcoms, The IT Crown is, for me, incredibly rewatchable. I can go back to the show again and again and again and they don’t really get old.The humour, the sympathetic characters and the outstanding performances of both the main cast and supporting actors makes for a great show. From series 2 onwards, I particularly love the character played by Matt Berry. That man has one of the greatest voices I have ever heard.
Board Games: Incursion
Nazi werewolves and Nazi zombies under the control of Nazi scientists and SS officers take on power-armoured American GIs under the Rock of Gibraltar. Doesn’t that sound great?
I picked up Incursion a few years ago when West Wind were running a sale. Background-wise, the game is based on West Wind’s Secrets of the Third Reich, a weird war 2 miniatures game. Gameplay-wise, it plays a lot like Games Workshop’s Space Hulk, but with more options and variety. The board is largely static, but can be adapted with judicious placement of doors and other features. Like Space Hulk‘s Genestealers, Incursion‘s zombies are limitless in their number, continuing to enter the board until the game is won, specific conditions are met or their ingress is physically blocked. In addition to these low-level beasties, there are also named characters and more powerful monsters for the Nazi side to choose from. The Americans meanwhile, are given the choice of several heavily armed and armoured GIs that look less like men than like hulking metal gorillas. The parallel with Space Hulk‘s Terminators is pretty clear.
The game is straightforward and does not take long to learn, but offers a wide range of options and missions. It feels reasonably balanced as well, which is always a bonus. My experience has been with the first edition of Incursion rather than the current edition which was relaunched through Kickstarter. The new miniatures are fantastic, by the way.
Music: I Wrote These
I’ve been a big fan of Julia Nunes since early in her YouTube career. In the video she released to celebrate her first thousand followers, you can see my username in the scrolling list. I Wrote These is Julia’s second album and consists entirely of original compositions including several of my favourites, such as:
- Maybe I Will
- Into the Sunshine
- First Impressions
- Pen to Paper
- The Debt
First Impressions is a particularly good inclusion, being one of the songs that first got me hooked on Julia’s music. Into the Sunshine is the song that is widely considered to be her theme song and is a more polished version than the one in her first album, Left, Right, Wrong. Here is the video Julia released for her song, The Debt:
I think that this video really captures the charm that the early Julia Nunes video had, but was late enough that we do see the improvements in quality and production value that happened over time. Also, you know, the song is great!
J next, dawg!
I really can’t pull that off…