News and random musings from the Sculptdude.

Friday, December 16, 2016


A long time ago in a suburb far, far, away. a great adventure took place.

I can't begin to recount my entire experience of seeing Star Wars for the first time, and you probably wouldn't want to read it anyway. The summer of 1977 was a period of transition for me. It marked the point we moved from Turtle Creek in east downtown Dallas to the suburbs of Pleasant Grove, formerly known as Urbandale. I left Catholic school and would be attending public school for the first time starting fourth grade. During the summer I managed to miss all manner of marketing for the film except one.

The Story of Star Wars - I saw a few commercials on TV for this and ran across a copy in one of the big chain department stores, while shopping for new school clothes. I wouldn't have to be wearing a uniform anymore. After getting the album home I had no idea what to expect but it reminded me of the Disney read-along book and record sets that I had from a few years back. There was a color book inside filled with pictures from the movie. After playing the album over and over I begged my mom to take me to see this.

It was probably September that I saw it the first time and was completely transformed. I was already a "movie buff" at age nine and was a rabid fan of Planet of the Apes and King Kong (the original AND the 1976 remake). I knew who John Chambers was and Rick Baker. So for me the experience happened on many, many, levels. When I left the theater at Northpark General Cinema there was a little table outside with memorabilia from the film. For $2 I took home the Official Souvinir Book and devoured it's contents vowing one day I would create miniatures just like the ones in the movie . . .

THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW (does include stuff seen in the trailers)

I haven't missed a Star Wars opening day since I first saw The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 when I was twelve. For the past 40 years it has all been a great source of inspiration and wonder. When the lights dim, and the logos appear, I feel the same thrill as I did so many years ago. Today was no different.

The Opening was as understated as I expected. It was indicative of the Rebels TV series and fit just fine. I knew it would be different from the numbered film installments because it was outside the regular numbering of the series.

The Direction was superb. Gareth Edwards knows how to work on a big budget effects pic but still gave it an intimate feel when it needed to be. Although the set pieces are huge and spectacular, it all fits as if the characters don't notice any of it at all. That sucks the audience in and makes you feel like you're along for the ride.

The Cast couldn't be better. I was familiar with a handful of the leading cast from other things but that  wasn't distracting. They inhabited the characters and were very convincing. There was no overblown ham-fisted dialogue for them to chew on. It felt direct and urgent.

The Costumes and Set Design were massively detailed. Everything on screen has layers of textures and carries that hallmark Star Wars-ness gritty lived-in look as you would expect. Everything that's on screen is a piece of art because it's all crafted to carefully recreate the aesthetics of the 1977 film. Even the details of Darth Vader's iconic suit are faithful down to the last blinking light.

The Music while subtle is exactly what I wanted. Hints and pieces of previous themes but an all new score. Michael Giacchino has become one of my favorite composers and knows what it's like to follow in the footsteps of other big composers with iconic themes. Mission Impossible and Star Trek both were big shoes to fill. Like with those, he takes this score and sprinkles enough familiar in it that it is not distracting. It is just right.

I will resist going into what the story elements are for the sake of avoiding spoilers but it was what it should be. When stacked up against similar movies like Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, and The Guns of Navarone it fits right in. Star Wars has now grown up with the rest of us and has finally delivered what we have deserved as fans all along, something fresh, new, original, but completely familiar.

Thanks Gareth, Kathleen, and crew. You honored the spirit of the setting without kowtowing to a fan-service rehash.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lancers crew

Since this is my hobby blog and I rarely have much time for hobby these days, here is a team of rascals I painted up a while back for playing demos at the local game shops. Not only are they painted by me, I also sculpted all of them and the weapons and robots were made in ZBrush.

Counterblast Lancers crew

Counterblast Lancers crew

Commonly seen operating throughout the Outer Reaches and other regions of space are bands of miscreants, fortune hunters, and those merely struggling to survive. Known as 'Lancers', many are privateers or mercenaries seeking honest employment. Hard times can drive some to unlawful activities like smuggling or piracy while others embrace crime freely, tempted by the profits to be made in spite of the risks. 

Lancers hail from many worlds. Many species, such as Humans, Illyrians, Alanti, Shrinaar and even the rare Neiran exile may comprise Lancer crews. Some Lancers are loners, operating alone as bounty hunters, bodyguards, prospectors or other types of free agents. Most Lancers possess highly specialized skills, but all of them boast at least a modicum of martial skill, be it ranged or hand-to-hand. Indeed, some are highly renowned fighters.

Their travels sometimes charted through the gray areas of law, Lancers are viewed as disreputable by many in the Galactic Defense Force and treated accordingly. Even Galactic Recovery Agency security teams will harass Lancers given enough provocation and in the absence of bribes. Needless to say, Lancers avoid these groups whenever possible. Their furtive behavior and the GDF and GRA's habit of shaking down even law abiding Lancer crews has made trust and cooperation between the two factions difficult.

Lancers are found throughout the galaxy, able to thrive in highly populated systems as well as regions of space where law enforcement is weakest. There's always work for a Lancer if one knows where to look. Someone is always needing transportation to somewhere, protection from someone, or goods moved someplace and Lancers can provide these services on the fly. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond

Star Trek: Beyond

*Spoiler-free review*

I’ve seen just about every Star Trek film on opening day since 1979 when I was 12. I can safely say that Star Trek: Beyond was probably the most satisfying Trek experience for me to date. It should have been called Star Trek: Beyond Adventure, because that’s what it’s all about. Although most Trek incarnations can get quite cerebral and heavy-handed as a morality play at times, this doesn’t let itself get bogged down in any of that. This latest installment of the franchise seems to be what TOS wanted to be from the beginning, immersed in it’s pulp sci-fi roots of pure space adventure.

Now, to be honest, I’ve always leaned a little more towards the Star Wars side of the fandom, but still grew up watching The Original Series frequently, and later through all iterations of the subsequent television series. I do not count myself as a dyed-in-the-wool “Trekker” in the purest sense, but I do know quite a bit of lore, etc.

The disdain for the reboot franchise notwithstanding, it’s pretty much what I want out of a Trek film. Simon Pegg certainly has a firm grasp on all of these characters and the script handles all of them in their truest forms. The subtle nod to TOS material is deft and off-handed, exactly the way it should be. My favorite thing about it was each and every member of the crew had a critical role to play in the story which reinforced that overall theme.

Justin Lin (several Fast & Furious flicks) certainly knows how to handle breakneck action,  which rarely lets up. The performances are spot on again and all of the new cast really makes these ingrained characters their own. The only thing I miss is Chris Pine pushing the Shatner-esque delivery a little more. It’s there in a few places, but I can understand it shouldn’t be over the top.

I can’t even begin to start on the visuals which are stunning beyond belief. The production design of the sets, epic vistas of space battles, and alien planets are just as detailed as the new magnificent layered and textured Starfleet mission uniforms. Everywhere you look is something new to discover. The visual style established in J.J. Abrams’  introductory installment is prevalent, but not distracting.

I thoroughly enjoyed it as an action flick and found it much more satisfying as an all new, original tale than the previous derivative installment. See it on the big screen the first chance you get.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ZBrush Work

Here is a sampling of a few things I've sculpted digitally in ZBrush.

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Bot - a practical mini

Due to the buzz this week over a certain movie trailer, I found myself looking at few spare parts on the workbench in a different way. So I decided to kitbash this little guy from some leftover bits.

All he needs now is some basing and a little paint and he's ready to roll!

These are the bits I used here:

36031 - Plastic Dome Sprue

33008 - Counterblast Lancer HLpR Bot

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Sculpts for Shieldwolf and Dark Sword

Shieldwolf Miniatures

Shieldwolf Miniatures

Dark Sword Miniatures

Dark Sword Miniatures

Friday, February 06, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

According to the Tomatometer:

From the streets of Chicago to the far-flung galaxies whirling through space, "Jupiter Ascending" tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who was born under a night sky, with signs predicting she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people's houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along-her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.
Ordinarily I will go for the jugular on stuff like this and call out tons of stuff about performances, cinematography, editing, and on-and-on. It's totally irrelevant, however, considering the material and the Wachowsis have unlimited resources to deliver the goods, so it's level in that regard. This is not Zero Dark Thirty. Not every thing needs to be. Sometimes things are just fun for the sake of fun. I care for Tatum less than Ron Silver as a actor and I find him completely watchable in this.

This is literally Cinderella meets Dune; with just about every other sci-fi trope thrown into the blender for good measure. The only thing missing (which I really hoped for) was the cliff-hanger ending so common with serials of the ‘30s. Here’s a spoiler for you, Pygar gets his wings back and if you don’t know what that references you will likely not “get” this movie either.

If you are going into this expecting a tromp as cerebral as The Matrix’s reality-within-reality, you’re missing the point. I think that the host of poor reviews for this completely missed the point, as well. The Matrix was a derivative of the Cyberpunk genre fuled by injections of William Gibson. The Wachowskis already did that, this is something else entirely.

This is the galaxy-spanning-empires-of-evil-corporations-threating-to-doom-the-earth with a bit of Flash Gordon thrown in for good measure. This is their take on complete space opera. Jupter Jones is our modern Flash character that is just as two dimensional as our action heroine needs to be at this point. Hell, her name even screams pulp sci-fi! Save her dark brooding reflections of the implication of galaxy-wide genocide for the sequel. A pacing deterrent like character development would only slow down the action and keep us from whizzing from planet to planet to see more interesting things and meet more fascinating characters. Like with all great pulp sci-fi, there is never time to linger too much on any one thing since there is so much at stake. Also be aware, Jupiter get rescued way more than Dejah Thoris ever does.

I would put the tone squarely between The Fifth Element and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The peril is real and the action is what all of the 30’s serials could never even dream to be. But the pacing zips along and never lets you question too much about what’s going on, because who cares really? This is fantastical entertainment at its purest. But it does not descend into the silly like HGG, with a wink towards the audience, because that would spoil the illusion.

So - if you want a dose of Lensman and Leigh Brackett or Poul Ansderson thrown at you at 300 miles per hour on rocket boots, this certainly hits the spot. I recommend screening Barbarella, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers first to get you in the proper frame of mind.

I'm giving it

for effort on the Nostalgia-o-meter.