11.13.2017

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 vol. XXXIX

All good things must come to an end, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 vol. XXXIX is likely the last DVD collection of episodes from the original series.  (After this, it seems it'd be too expensive to get the rights to the rest of the movies being riffed.)  This collection wraps things up nicely for the series -- and has an interesting bonus for those of us who ordered it early.

MST3K XXXIX has three episodes, all from the Mike Nelson time of the show.  Girls Town is a black and white borderline-exploitation film with tough gals, teenagers in gangs, reform school nuns, and even a few musical numbers from crooners.  The Amazing Transparent Man is a blend of a crime movie and the invisible man.  And Diabolik is about a groovy criminal mastermind -- and the final episode of the original show.  While these aren't iconic episodes of MST3K, they all provide plenty of laughs.  Each disc also has extra features as well.

For something different, the fourth disc -- Satellite Dishes -- has just the host segments from several episodes, from the third season (when TV's Frank joined the show) up to Quest for the Delta Knights.  While it feels a bit strange watching the bits that would be around the movies without the actual movies, these demonstrate that MST3K had plenty of humor on its own, from musical numbers to Crow's evil dark specter twin (Timmy) to the early invention exchanges.

And folks who ordered this collection early got a bonus DVD: The Complete Poopie!  This has two different sets of bloopers, plus Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy segments trying to sell this collection during the Turkey Day Marathon.  And they're all funny -- especially as the folks on screen would keep going or crack jokes after they knew they flubbed their lines or part of the puppets or set fell apart.

I'll miss seeing new collections of the first Mystery Science Theater 3000 series (while hoping the new series gets released on DVD), but at least Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXXIX is a nice way to wrap up the releases from the series.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

11.04.2017

THOR: RAGNAROK

Who'd have guessed a movie with such strong apocalyptic themes would also have such a large amount of humor?   Thor: Ragnarok is one of the sillier movies in the Marvel cinematic universe, though there's plenty of action as well.

Things begin well enough for Thor (Chris Hemworth).  He slays the demon Surtur, who was foretold to have brought abour Ragnarok, the destruction of Asgard.   He exposes Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who had been pretending to be Odin, and the two brothers find the real Odin (Anthony Hopkins) on Earth.

That's when things start going bad.  Odin passes away, and with his death his previously unknown daughter Hela (Kate Blanchett) is released.  Hela is the Goddess of Death, and she is tremendously powerful: casually flinging weapons from her body, slaying Asgardian soldiers by the dozens, and even shattering Thor's hammer.  Her goal: conquer Asgard, then use the Rainbow Bridge to conquer the Nine Realms with her army of undead soldiers and giant wolf.


As for Thor and Loki, they get lost in transit, winding up on a war-planet, where Thor is captured by the Asgardian warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and forced by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to fight in gladiator-style combat.  Worse, the Grandmaster's champion is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who liked being there and has no problem fighting his fellow Avenger.

Thor: Ragnarok is one of the lighter Marvel superhero movies, but it's still enjoyable.  There are numerous cameos from Marvel characters from the movies and comic books, plus humor coming from seemingly everywhere.  In addition, the cast is quite good, and Cate Blanchett makes a very menacing villain, fine with slaughtering anyone to get what she wants.  The action sequences are good (if very CGI-filled) and this ties into the overall Marvel cinematic universe without overdoing the connections.  This is far from the best superhero movie of 2017, but I enjoyed it.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

10.15.2017

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN

Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston led an interesting life, many elements from which can be found in his famous female superhero creation.  Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biopic that explores Marston's relation ship with two important women -- and how it all led to Wonder Woman.

The movie opens in the 1940s, with William Mounton Marston (Luke Evans) being grilled on the salacious elements of his Wonder Woman comic book by Josette Frank (Connie Britton), a member of the morality police.  This is intercut with flashbacks to Marston's life.
In the 1920s, Marston was a professor at Harvard, teaching the then-new science of psychology and working on inventing the lie detector; he also teaches his students DISC theory, which includes dominance and submission elements and the idea that women would do better running the world than men.  He worked with his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), a blunt-spoken psychologist who's unhappy she's not being given the same degree as her male counterparts.

Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) is a student of Marston's who also becomes his research assistant.  She also inspires a tangle of emotions and desires between the three people, leading to the two main sections of the movie.  Early on, there's a question of what will happen, as everyone seems attracted to each other (though Olive has a fiancee).  Later in the movie, they adopt their "unconventional lifestyle" and deal with the consequences, both good and bad.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is an enjoyable look at some unusual people.  The movie is very pro-kink, as the intricate connection between the trio is more than just a man wanting to be with two women, but all of them having relationships with each other.  While not heavy-handed, the movie shows how experiences in Marston's life became part of Wonder Woman's world, from the lie detector becoming the lasso of truth to a BDSM demonstration (and prototype for Wonder Woman's costume).  The actors are all good, though Rebecca Hall has the most fun as the woman always ready with a quip or sarcasm.  Given the popularity of the recent Wonder Woman movie, this is an informative (and adults-only) look at how she came to be.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch


10.06.2017

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

There have been plenty of times through history when the differences between men and women have been determined by all sorts of competition.  Battle of the Sexes is a biopic depicting this direct clash on the tennis court in 1973.

The early 1970s were a great time for Billie Jean King (Emma Stone): She was the premiere women's tennis champion in America and, in fighting for equal rewards for female tennis players, founded her own all-female tennis league.  She also began an affair with Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), which Billie wanted to keep under wraps, both for fear of hurting her husband and for fear of losing her sponsors.

Meanwhile, 50-something Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) had his own issues.  A former tennis champion, he loves gambling and hustling, while chafing at working at an office job set up by his father-in-law.  His plan to return to competition and fame: Set up big tennis matches between him and female tennis players, with him taking on the role of a sexist villain.  ("I'm putting the show back in chauvinist.")  Billy turns him down, but when she's beaten by Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) who then gets trounced on the court by Bobby, Billie takes up his challenge for the dignity of female tennis players -- and women everywhere.
Battle of the Sexes is decent but uneven.  While Steve Carell is pretty much regulated to a self-involved clown,  Emma Stone is the focus of most of the movie as Billie, a woman being pulled in several directions -- champion, wife, lover, defender of womankind -- in the public eye.  While she's good in the role, the movie seems to spend far more time on her same-sex affair than on the tennis issues, making the big match seem almost like an afterthought.  Battle of the Sexes could have been a period piece, if it didn't let itself get so distracted.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

9.19.2017

mother!

Well, I think I found my worst movie of 2017.  mother! is pretentious, artificial, and really made me wish that I didn't sit through every movie until the end.

None of the characters have names, but here goes.  Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a house in the country with her husband, Him (Javier Bardem).  She spends most of the time working on the house, which belong to Him (His?) before it burned down.  Mother also has hallucinations, including imagining that the house is alive.  As for Him, he's a poet working on a new work but suffering from writer's block.  He also has a large crystal that's the only thing saved from his original house.
The couple is interrupted by Man (Ed Harris), who mistakenly thinks the house takes visitors.  Him is delighted to let Man stay with them, while Mother is annoyed.  Then Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Man's wife, shows up and makes herself at home -- and pesters Mother with lots of personal questions.  Pretty soon there's a virtual parade of people coming through the house -- which, somehow, leads to a nightmare of crowds, war, celebrity, motherhood, religion, and whatever else happened to be running through writer-director Darren Aranofsky's mind when he made this.
I don't think there's a single thing I liked about mother!  A cast of normally fine actors is wasted here, as every line feels phony and no characters interact in any way remotely approaching the real world.  The story (such as it is) wants to comment on everything but winds up saying nothing.  And I wanted the movie to end far, far before it finally wrapped up.  This one was painful from beginning to finish.

Overall grade: F
Reviewed by James Lynch

9.06.2017

THE CIVILIZED GUIDE TO TABLETOP GAMING by Teri Litorco

The world of gaming is wonderful and varied -- but there's a lot that goes into it.  How does one play well with friends, strangers, and family members?  What goes into hosting a gaming session?  What can you expect at conventions?  How do you deal with dicks at the game table?  The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming: Rules Every Gamer Must Live By by Teri Litorco covers all this and more, providing both concrete instructions and etiquette advice for the rookie and experienced gamer.

The Civilized Guide provides plenty of advice for playing, preparing, and teaching assorted games.  There are step-by-step rules for being a good player -- in both victory and defeat -- for getting players, for teaching players, and even for building one's game collection and loaning out games.  Manners are also handled, whether it's behavior at one's friendly local gaming store (FLGS), at conventions, and even online.  There are numerous references to actual games for illustration, and Litorco mixes in small-but-nice doses of humor to keep the discussion from becoming too dry.

Having dealt with the best and the worst of gamers, I can highly recommend The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming.  This is a quick read (sections can be read individually, and many chapters can be finished in minutes) that has plenty of practical advice and very little I disagree with.  Whether you're looking to start playing games with others or to improve your experience with gaming, this book will help you.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

9.03.2017

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE: MEN THAT HACK

 While the characters in the comic Knights of the Dinner Table usually role play in the sword and sorcery world (HackMaster), they sometimes branch out into new genres.  Knights of the Dinner Table: Men That Hack has the characters branching out into the James Bond-esque world of espionage, with two full-length, disaster-filled adventures.

The first story begins with Pete persuading the burned-out B.A. to pick up Hacknoia: The Role-Playing Game of Conspiracy, the Unknown, and Espionage.  B.A. is convinced his adventure will be "the best adventure I've ever run."  He has Bob, Dave, Sara, and Brian playing NSB agents sent, unarmed, to investigate mysterious crop circles in Canada (which Dave never stops believing is a Communist country).

Unfortunately, Bob and Dave trying to find out what's in the secret envelopes they pass to B.A. leads to to a "it never happened" reset.  Then the players arm themselves at Ahkmed's Guns, Booze, Chew, and Ammo (plus Bob stealing a stapler from R&D), get in a massive gun battle at customs, run into the descendant of an enemy from HackMaster, and turn on each other.

The next story happens two years later, as B.A. returns to Hacknoia.  ("But you hate that game!"  "I never said that."  "Dude, you drop kicked your books off the Jackson Blvd. bridge.")  This time around the players are trying to find a nuclear bomb being delivered to Canada.  This time the players are bristling about the fact that there are two NPCs with them -- and one is assigned the lead in the mission.  Chaos (and another trip to Ahkmed's) ensues.

I've had the first story in Men That Hack as part of my KODT live readings for years, and the additional material by Jolly Blackburn suits the strips quite well.  The second story, put together from webstrips and new material, is also quite funny, from Bob and Dave paying to roll up decent characters (and suffering from the dreaded Appendix Q table) to the overarmed and under-intelligent players messing everything up.  There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments through both stories, and Men That Hack shows that the Knights can be as amusingly incompetent in the spy world as in the medieval fantasy world.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

9.01.2017

AMERICAN SCARY dvd

There was a time when television networks would get "horror hosts" to introduce, and comment on, the horror movies the networks were airing.  American Scary is a look at this tradition, from its beginnings, success, and vanishing.

Most of the horror hosts have a good deal in common: incredibly low budgets and production values, silly and corny sense of humor, appearing on regional/local TV stations, and either adoring or trashing the movies that they were showing; many of the female horror hosts amped up their sex appeal.  Heck, the names themselves give a feel for the sensibility that they gave: Ghoulardi, Vampira, Svengoolie (and Son of Svengoolie), Baron von Wolfstein, Elvira, A. Ghastlee Ghoul, etc.  Many of these former or present horror hosts are interviewed; and there are commentaries by such folks as Leonard Maltin, Neil Gaiman, and Joel Hodgson.

The horror hosts appeared as a way to add something more to a movie that was often not that good, and over time many of them became as or more popular than the movies they were showing.  As many of them appeared long before the VCR, lots of people would sneak around or stay up late just to see them.  Some horror hosts used the Internet to communicate with each other and the fans, while others migrated to the Web for their fans.
After the gushing and fandom, there's a real sense of loss when the horror hosts went into decline as television stations had less and less local programming and more national shows.  But there's a sense of revival when Neil Gaiman had the chance to be a horror host for a time, and how Mystery Science Theater 3000 sort of carried on the tradition.
I've seen few of these horror hosts (except for the new Svengoolie on MeTV), but American Scary makes me wish there were more of these hosts, to inform and joke about the horror movies that get broadcast.  While this documentary is unabashedly all in favor of the horror hosts, it provides a great look at their history and influence in the television world.  These folks may not be scary, but this is worth checking out.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

8.28.2017

RIFFTRAX LIVE: DOCTOR WHO -- THE FIVE DOCTORS

It's always kind of weird when the folks at Rifftrax set their sights on a movie or TV show that I actually like.  This was the case with the Rifftrax Live: Doctor Who -- The Five Doctors.  Fortunately, the trio were able to get plenty of laughs from this special Doctor Who episode.

The evening began with Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy taking on Play Safe, a British safety film where two animated birds talk safety while kids act amazingly stupid around power lines and power pylons.  ("I feel a My Girl moment coming up.")  From there, they moved on to The Five Doctors.
Much as I liked this "special" Doctor Who episode, there's plenty that doesn't hold up -- and the Rifftrax trio made fun of just about all of it.  There's the first Doctor being replaced by a new actor, a character inexplicably falling down and being stuck at a small hill ("Take that, Mad Max: Fury Road!  An old man just helped a woman up a slight incline!") or the elaborate and silly costumes.   ("Time to get back to my Faberge egg cosplay.")  The laughs were big and consistent, with humor coming throughout the evening.
If  Rifftrax Live: Doctor Who -- The Five Doctors streams on the Rifftrax site or returns to the theaters, it's very worth checking out.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

8.16.2017

WIZARDS OF THE TABLETOP by Douglas Morse

Tabletop games are more popular than ever -- but what about the folks behind these games?  Wizards of the Tabletop: A Rogues' Gallery of Board Game Designers and Conspirators by Douglas Morse is a coffee table book that provides both written and visual information on this diverse group of professionals in the game world.

As one might expect, most of the features folks are game designers, and we get a brief biography of them -- in and out of the gaming world -- usually accompanied by a photograph of their game on the opposite page.  It's a simple and effective way of learning about the person and then seeing what they've created.
There are some additional folks covered.  We learn about some of the people publishing the games, the website BoardGameGeek, the webseries TableTop, the group the Game Artisans of Canada, and even the folks at Geek Chic, who design custom furniture for gamers.
Wizards of the Tabletop is a very good look at both the greatness of the tabletop gaming world and the men and women who are vital to its success.  The people covered are interesting and enthusiastic about the game world; and the photographs really help to illustrate what they're talking about.  This is also a nice source for learning about games that might interest you.  (At the end of a book is an index of all the games discussed; in addition to the page it's on, it includes the year it was published, the publisher, its designer, its artist, and awards it won at Spiel des Jahres.)  Wizards of the Tabletop is a really good read mixed with really good visuals.  It's a must-have for any gamer -- and a good gift to get non-gamers interested in gaming.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

7.31.2017

ATOMIC BLONDE

While Atomic Blonde is being advertised as "a female James Bond," it doesn't go into fancy gadgets and gimmicks.  It does have a solid plot, some very good (and brutal) fight scenes, and lots of fun for star Charlize Theron.

The movie opens in 1989, days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  We see British agent James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) killed by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), who steals his watch.

Next we jump to an office, where British spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is being debriefed by MI6 execitive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman).  Gasgiogne has obtained a list of all covert British agents, which he had on microfilm in his watch; the list also had the identity of Satchel, a British double agent who had been providing information to the Communists.  Lorraine (who had been Gasciogne's lover) was sent to both East and West Berlin to get the list and learn the identity of Satchel.
Unfortunately, the mission is a disaster almost from the start.  Lorraine is quickly identified and attacked.  Her British contact is David Percival (James McAvoy), an agent who's gone native and seems more interested in drinking and partying than getting information.  Agents from numerous governments are after the list, and going to and from East Berlin is a challenge.  Then there's Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a nervous man who claims to have memorized the entire list.
Atomic Blonde is a decent spy movie.  Charlize Theron does a great job as the title character, an agent who always seems to keep her plans, ideas, and suspicions very private; she also does quite well in the numerous fight scenes.  As for the rest, the plot is a fairly standard spy setup -- who can be trusted?  Who will survive?  Who's the double agent? -- with some twists but no big surprises; and the near-constant pop hits from the 1980s get overdone somewhat quickly.  This is an action movie that's not revolutionary but is satisfying.
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

7.16.2017

THE BIG SICK

Romance is tricky -- especially when something tragic happens.  This is the surprising basis for The Big Sick, a mix of romantic comedy and drama.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a young Pakistani-American happy doing stand-up comedy in Chicago. along with driving an Uber and working on a one-man show.  He also has regular dinner with his family, which almost always involved his mother having single Pakistani women "just drop by."  Kumail resists these set-ups, though he keeps the pictures of the women in a cigar box in his apartment.

Kumail meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) when she either calls out to or heckles him during his comedy act.  They date for a few months, until she finds his box of photographs, realizes why he'd been so reluctant to introduce her to his family, and they break up.  Some time after that, he gets a call to visit Emily in the hospital; when her infection is far more serious than first thought and she has to be put in a medically-induced coma, he decides to stay by her side.
The hospital is where Kumail meets Zoe's parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter).  Terry is laid back and friendly to Kumail; Beth is openly hostile to him, but then defends him against a racist heckler during his act.  They keep getting together as Zoe's situation progresses; there's also plenty of tension between Terry and Beth, making Kumail uncomfortable.
The Big Sick is quite a few things: comedy, drama, romance, reflection on dealing with a family from Pakistan while being a pretty mainstream American.  The movie handles them all well, though there's a largely low-energy feel to the movie.  There are several funny moments (though oddly usually not from the comedy club scenes) and the cast is good (especially Holly Hunter as a passionate, almost manic, mother).  While all the parts of the movie are good, none of them are really great.  The Big Sick is, overall, a pleasant film.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

7.13.2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

It's time for the portrait of the superhero as a teenager.  Spider-Man: Homecoming is the latest summer superhero film, with a whole lot of high school drama as well as superheroics.

Homecoming wisely skips the very familiar origin story and jumps into the life of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) after the events of Captain America: Civil War.  Peter is bored by stopping petty crimes and wants more action, even hoping to join the Avengers.  But he's being watched and mentored by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who want him to remain "a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."  They also give him a "super suit" with numerous setting and a talkative A.I. named Karen.

When a gang is stealing and selling advanced and alien technology, Spider-Man sees a chance to prove himself by taking down the gang and keeping it a secret from his handlers.  But the gang is led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who dons a truly frightening high-tech Vulture costume to step in when his gang is threatened.
All of this is accompanies by plenty of high school drama.  Peter lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), who he doesn't want to know he's Spider-Man.  Peter's friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) finds out he's Spider-Man and geeks about it all the time.  Peter has a crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), is bullied by Flash (Tony Revolori), and always seems to run into sullen Michelle (Zendaya).  And Peter thinks if he becomes an Avenger, he can completely skip school to be a full-time superhero.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is pretty good.  Tom Holland perfectly captures a teenager whose duties as a hero keep interfering with his personal life, and one who's learning as he goes along.  Michael Keaton is a suitably creepy villain, and the high school characters are all solid.  The action is done well, and there's plenty of comedy, from Peter's nervousness to Captain America's very square recorded PSAs played for high school students.  I do think the movie spent a little too much time in high school, which made the film feel a little long.  But Spider-Man Homecoming is a worthy addition to the Marvel cinematic universe.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

7.10.2017

The Pixies, HEAD CARRIER

When it comes to alternative music and a punk-new wave sound, the Pixies are legends.  And while most of their albums were released in the late 1980s-late 1990s, they've released two albums in the 21st century.  Head Carrier, released in 2016, continues their tradition of amazing guitar riffs, dubious lyrics, and a good amount of shouting.

This time around, the Pixies are made up of Black Francis, on lead vocals and guitar; Paz Lenchantin on bass (replacing Kim Deal); David Lovering on drums; and Joey Santiago on lead guitar.  They all fit together very well, supplementing each others' sounds and making the songs feel very tight.


As for the songs themselves, Head Carrier has a pretty wide variety.  There's balls-to-the-walls screaming in "Baal's Back."  There also plenty of sentimentality, from Paz singing "Might as Well Be Gone" to the closing "All My Saints."  There's plenty of lunacy, from the band-loving "Oona" to the weird and wonderful "Um Chagga Laga."  There's even the surprisingly straightforward "Talent" about the sycophants in the music industry.


Head Carrier is a great reminder that alternative music is still out there.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch


7.02.2017

THE DWARVENAUT dvd

The sculpted dungeons and terrain from Dwarven Forge are some of the most beautiful and sturdy gaming accessories out there -- but what about the person behind it all?  The Dwarvenaut is a look at the life, history, and even process of Stefan Pokorny, the founder and chief sculptor of Dwarven Forge.

The main story of this documentary is Dwarven Forge's then-current Kickstarter, for a modular medieval city.  While the previosu two were successful, Stefan says they need to earn at least two million dollars or the whole company could be in jeopardy.  We see how Stefan and the company try to reach this ambitious goal: raising awareness at Gen Con, shooting more videos for their project, and so on.

Mixed in-between the countdown of the Kickstarter, we learn all about Stefan.  It's no surprise that he played D&D as a child, but he's atill an avid DM, running games (in costume!) for assorted players, complete with lots of Dwarven Forge sets.  He sees D&D as more than a game: To him, it's a way for people to connect, forging connections in a cold, technology-driven world.  He even takes a trip to Gary Gygax' childhoom home.
We also get, in non-linear fashion, the history of Stefan himself: his parents, how he developed his love for and skill in art, his flaws and his strengths.  In many ways, Stefan is living the geek dream life: He does what he loves, he gets to play as well as work, and even when stressed out he has high energy and enthusiasm.
The Dwarvenaut is a very fun look at one person's past, present, and future, as an artist, businessman, and unapologetic geek.  While there's no detailed description about the creation and production of the Dwarven Forge items, by the end of the movie we know how Stefan Pokorny uses his skills and ideas to create them.  This is a very good look at one person's creativity and history.  (DVD extras include deleted scenes, commentary, and the Kickstarter videos from Dwarven Forge.)
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

7.01.2017

JUNK ART

I may not know much about art, but I know it when I stack it.  This could be the theme for Junk Art, a game from Plan B Games where 2-6 players compete in constructing their own artwork -- but it's trickier than that.

In Junk Art, players are competing to build their own unique artwork to earn fans in different cities; whoever ends the game with the most fans wins.  At the start of the game, there are four sets of 15 unusual-shaped wooden pieces, identical in shapes and in four different colors.  Each player also gets a square base -- about 1" x 1" -- to build their art on.

If the game were just about building the tallest art, this would be pretty dull, as the person with the best balancing abilities would win.  However, Junk Art mixes things up with multiple cities.
Every city has different rules for earning fans.  Usually, players pass cards, with a specific piece and color, to their opponent for them to add to their sculpture; sometimes players pass their whole hand of cards, sometimes just one.  Players usually work on their own sculptures, but sometimes they have to work together on the same sculpture, or move to another player's sculpture each turn.  There are different rules for what ends the turn, such as a player having a certain number of pieces fall off.  Earning fans varies as well, whether all remaining players get fans or the player with the tallest sculpture gets the most fans.  (There's a tape measure included for the latter.)  And after three cities -- with a new sculpture created for each city -- whoever has the most fans wins!
I really enjoy Junk Art.  While balancing the pieces on a very small base is key, it's also important to choose what cards to give other players, to try and get their sculpture to collapse.  The variety of cities and their accompanying rules mean no two games are the same -- even before the different cards are passed around.  And the rules are quite easy to teach.  Junk Art is a lot of fun.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch