News and random musings from the Sculptdude.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Empire Strikes Back - 40 Years

I would like to thank the one man who made Star Wars great on this 40th anniversary!
Gary Kurtz!

What? Who? Not George Lucas? Bullshit!

Although GL created a great margarita recipe by blending a lot of ingredients, Kurtz is the man who selected the quality of those ingredients, added his own seasoning, salted the rim of the glass, and added the lime wedge to finish it off.

Don't believe it? Watch the trilogy again and notice the striking change in tone between Episode V and Episode VI. I can distinctly recall sitting in the theater opening day of RofJ and seeing the weird cartoon characters in Jabba's palace, the belching frog thing sitting outside, and the torture scene with mechanical robots(!) and thinking to myself, "This is stupid! It's not Star Wars." And I couldn't figure out why it was so different until later . . . .

If that makes me a "toxic fan", fine. I say it's bullshit!
I still love the original two movies, not so much that goofy wrap-up with another Death Star and those damned Ewoks! I do admire Rogue One, and Solo for their contributions, plus the new TV things are cool like Clone Wars and Mandalorian. The rest of it I have zero interest for. But it all goes way further back for me.


General Cinema NorthPark Mall - Dallas TX

So, it's May 21st 1980 in Texas. In the scorching heat, my best bud Michael, who I met in the 4th grade three years earlier, and myself are lined up to get tickets for the first showing on opening day of The Empire Strikes Back.

Michael (L) and me (R) - 1978

When we arrived, the line was already wrapped around the corner of the building. In those days the movie would only premiere on one or two screens in a city since each print of film could cost $250,000. We were seeing it on 70mm film for the very first time. So an hour and a half later we made our way to the box office, bought our tickets and then returned to the line to wait for the doors to open.

By this time we're cooked. Anticipation, fan chatter in line, and having to stand in the Texas heat, was all a part of the experience. One person standing in line in front of us was reading a paperback copy of the adaptation of the film. In those days, merchandise was released ahead of the movie like now, but spoilers had not yet become a thing.

So the line starts to move, everyone cheers, and we file into the theater. The rush of cool air-conditioning is a welcome relief! There are no assigned seats and no stadium tiers, it's every fan for themselves to get the best view of the screen.

With our seats secured and our eyes glued to the curtain, yes, in those days a curtain opened in front of the screen, we waited. The lights finally dimmed and a roar went up from the crowd. The 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm logos appeared and the fanfare blared, then fell to silence as the familiar words appeared:

A long time ago in a galaxy far,
far away . . . .
You could feel the heartbeat of everyone in the room.

Another roar from the audience went up as the the Star Wars title once again appeared and the familiar music transported us to that distant galaxy. The text was new, what had happened to our heroes since last we saw them? All that was washed away as the experience continued to unfold.

Every time I see this film it takes me right back to that place and time, on a hot Texas day hanging with my best bud, doing Star Wars stuff. If you had told me when I left the theater that day, I could watch that movie anytime, anywhere, at the click of a button:
I would have said, "Bullshit!"

I am a Texan after all . . . .

The Sculptdude

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I liked it. I even liked it better than Return of the Jedi and felt that the emotional resolution of Rey and Ben/Kylo’s relationship was more satisfying and without silly shit like Ewoks. 4 out of 5 Lightsabers for this one.


I’m not even going to apologize for posting this when the internet has already ruined much of The Madalorian for me.

Typically what I like to cover in my reviews usually includes the contributions of the major departments but the production level of the film is state of the art in modern cinema. It’s got Mouse Money behind it, so everything looks and sounds top notch as usual.

With all things being equal, this will focus on narrative and resolution because that’s the driving factor of any film.

First off, JJ did pretty well mopping up the shit that Rian Johnson left all over the place in the previous flick. And did it well. It wasn’t ham-fisted and rolled along as if really nothing had occurred in Ep VIII at all. As a matter of fact, you could really just drop that one out now and no one would really care. I won’t miss it at all.

The Trio + Chewie is a bit stronger in this one and is written better, but some of the banter is still a little too “Marvelly” and could have been dialed down a little. There’s still a bit too much treasure hunting going on and introducing the Sith dagger McGuffin was clunky and out of place in a setting of holograms and lightsabers. Also, lining up the silhouette against the debris of the Death Star was absurd. What if the characters were coming at it from another direction? Actually this entire script suffers from convenienceitis in a big way. Way too many coincidences and convenient events passed off as the will of the Force. I found that very lazy.

Kudos to bringing back EpIV 3P0. This is probably the best version of C-3P0 since the original movie. I hated how he devolved into a whining fuss-budget in The Empire Strikes Back. That was never funny and writing that the the other characters were also annoyed by him didn’t give it a pass. When he agrees to the memory wipe and takes “one last look at his friends”, I get choked up. Every. Time.

Clearly the connection between Rey & Kylo is deep. The reveal about her background is not a surprise, fit in well with the story but brings up a whole slew of other questions/problems. Here are a few: If Palpy had a grandkid, when could he ever have been a parent? While in the Senate before the Clone Wars? Clearly not afterwards. Where was his wife? Why were his kids not identified as Force sensitive and sent to Jedi school? It's clearly a RetCon issue.

If you were going to bring back the Emperor this was the EXACT way to do it right. I loved all of that and it really lifted a lot of concepts out of Star Wars: Dark Empire. I wish they had gone a little bit deeper into detail about that like in the comics and show more of the Sith stuff to get a better sense of the threat. It kind of comes off as rushed. I wonder why.

Leia’s training flashback was really forced to me. No pun intended. That should’ve been revealed in VII and would have taken a lot of the weirdness out of floaty-Leia from VIII. I think that was only included here as part of the retcon mopping up.

Digital Leia was pretty seamless although her sacrificial contact of Kylo through the Force was pretty understated and lacked the emotional impact it might have had. I think this was mainly a limitation on what they could do with the character since Fisher’s passing.

Ghost Luke was much better, and had a lots of Ghost Obi-Wan overtones. 

The one shot of Wedge in the turret of the Millennium Falcon was a nice touch. Welcome back, Denis Lawson, for one final hurrah.

Why did the customary celebration montage at the end of the film show Star Destroyers deployed over various planets and then suddenly begin “crashing” when the purpose of the assault on the shipyard clearly indicated they couldn’t navigate away from the planet without the assistance of some broadcast tower?

There’s probably more that I will come across on subsequent viewing but this was my initial impression. I didn’t hate it and was pretty satisfied with how everything wrapped up. Glad that’s over.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why We Bought a House and Tore It Down

Because many of you have asked how it's going with the property here is a brief overview.

In February of 2017 we began looking at options to move to in order to separate our business from the house. Bombshell Miniatures is five years old now and it has taken over about half of our home. While at first the commute was terrific in a work-at-home situation, as the product lines, production areas, and shipping/receiving areas have grown, we can no longer escape "being at work."

At first we looked at property in the mid-west, like Missouri, having a better proximity to attend shows and conventions, with an ideal climate. Later we determined this wasn't as practical and decided to stay in Texas near to family.

The houses in our area are in a seller's market with the current influx of businesses moving to the region. We have twenty years of equity in our current home and are very close to paying off the mortgage loan amount. This would allow us to buy another property outright and develop it to suit our needs.

LeeAnn Kearney - Realtor
So, in August with the help of our awesome realty agent LeeAnn Kearney, we finally found a suitable site at a price that was about 30% of the current value of our existing home. We purchased that property with the intent of renovating the existing house if it was possible. The property is a corner lot 12 minutes south of Greenville, TX and is a full acre with fantastic neighbors, a beautiful open view, and lots of space for development.

Throughout the entire month of September, Vicky and I set to task to do the demolition and determine what would need renovating. We knew there were structural issues with the added sunroom as well as some other areas that had flooded at the front of the house after a walk-through and a professional home inspection.


After tearing out the sheetrock and carpet to see the extent of the issues, it uncovered a lot more work than just a cosmetic remodel would fix.

  • There was cigarette smoke damage and odor throughout the house
  • There were live termites under the flooring in the sunroom and laundry room
  • There was water damage and rot to most of the studs along the front and side walls
  • No internal plumbing or drainage was properly run
  • Attic piping to the hot water heater had leaked and caused damage
  • Mold was present in all of the outside walls, studs and insulation
  • The foundation had sunk below the grade of the drainage swell at the front
  • The ceiling joists where the sunroom attached were not properly supported
So, after we tore enough of it out to determine the extent of the issues, we decided to complete the demolition and replace the house with a new modular/manufactured home. It would be a completely new building, all built to code, complete with a manufacturers warranty. Vicky and I visited Recreational Resort Cottages in Rockwall, TX to select a suitable floor plan and choose all of the options on the interior/exterior. This is the model we chose.

We hired SML Demolition in Greenville to remove the house structure as well as break up the foundation concrete and remove all of that. They have been fantastic guys to work with and have done a terrific job clearing the site for our new home. They managed to deconstruct the structure and salvage/recycle a lot of the materials.


We are expecting to receive shipment of the new house the first week of December and will be posting updates to our photo albums on Facebook as we prepare to move in. During this time, construction continues on the 1200 sq ft production facility and studio for Bombshell Miniatures. You can see all of the pics on the progress in the albums here.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Konflikt 47 Firefly Squad

With the Warlord Games Con coming up Memorial Day weekend in Oklahoma City, I wanted to get my Konflikt 47 models ready to take along in the event I can get some introductory games in.

My initial force list was set up in Army Builder. I decided to make a fast attack, mobile, and versatile force that can claim objectives quickly but still deal with heavy opponents like tanks. To see the force list PDF you can click here.

The first unit I wanted to start with was the Firefly squad. Rather than just settle with the standard boxed set I decided to do a little customization to give them a real dieselpunk/pulp sci-fi vibe.

For this project the following parts were used:

The first thing was to sort out the poses of the figure bodies and select which ones would go on the flight stands. The overall look I was going for was a succession of rocket troops coming in for a landing. Some troops would be already on the ground in a firing position while others were still airborne and coming in for a touchdown.

After cleaning mold lines off the parts, I drilled appropriate mounting holes in the bottom of the figures with a 3mm bit. Once they were dry fit on the flying posts I cut the feet from them and re-attached them using ProCreate sculpting putty. I also added some padded kneepads to their fatigues.

I picked one of the bare heads on the infantry sprue and sculpted a flight cap over it. This will be cast in resin for each of the figures' helmets.

Once the squad is assembled it will be on to priming and painting.


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.