innocent_man: (bishop)
OK, guys. I'm officially abandoning this journal.

This breaks my heart, but there's just not the same community anymore, and that's what I miss. I'm gonna continue with my movie reviews, characters, game-writeups and so on over at blackhatmatt.com, and I'd love it if you joined me there.

I'm gonna leave this journal up, though, because there's too much here that I want to keep and I want to find the best way to archive it (plus I need the links to my movies and characters and games and so on).
innocent_man: (darkling)
The Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Hayao Miazaki film, dubbed into American with Anna Paquin, James van der Beek, Cloris Leachman and Mandy Patinkin.

In a world with sky-pirates, floating fortresses and coal mining, a young boy named Pazu (van der Beek) catches a girl (Paquin) falling from the sky, slowly, with a glowing crystal around her neck. They make friends, and he reveals that he's looking for Laputa, the fabled floating civilization, kind of like Atlantis but covered in clouds rather than water. His father photographed Laputa once, but never made it there.

Turns out the girl, Sheeta, is the lost heiress to Laputa, but the government (led by an evil operative voiced by Mark Hamill) and some sky-pirates (led by Cloris Leachman as the pink-pigtailed, rough and rowdy matriarch) are all after her. Pazu and Sheeta eventually wind up hooking up with the pirates so they can continue on their way without endangering anyone, but of course everyone arrives at Laputa anyway, where it's revealed that Laputa used to dominate the world until their arms-race mentality doomed the whole civilization. Now their magitech is left for nothing but gardening, with huge, long-armed robots doing the upkeep.

It's a pretty classic Miazaki movie, absolutely beautiful to watch. I think that, story wise, it goes on a little longer than necessary and it's not anywhere near as tight as Spirited Away or even My Neighbor Totoro, but it's definitely worth having, and my kids liked it.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: Elf
innocent_man: (abyssal)
Fletch Lives is, of course, the sequel to Fletch, though interestingly it's not based on one of the novels. It stars Chevy Chase, Hal Holbrook, Julianne Philips, R. Lee Emry, Randall Cobb and Cleavon Little.

Chase returns as Fletch, an investigative reporter for an LA paper. He gets fed up with his boss (Richard Libertini) jerking him around just about the time he inherits an 80-acre Louisiana plantation from his aunt, quits his job and moves down south. The first night there, he beds the executor of his aunt's estate (Patricia Kalember), and then wakes up to find her dead.

The investigation introduces him to a television minister (Emry) trying to buy up all the land in the area to expand his Bibleland amusement park, as well as said minister's daughter (Philips), as Girlfriend. I actually wish that they'd somehow kept Kalember as the love interest. Her character was, to me, more interesting and capable in the brief time we see her before she's fridged.

Fletch does his usual thing of putting on disguises and telling outlandish stories (claiming, while in a biker bar, to own Harley-Davidson, for instance), but unlike Fletch, here it's not as often about getting information as just letting Chase perform. In the first movie, he'd be just silly or offensive enough to get a rise out of someone, here he just kind of rambles in places. I dunno, sometimes it works, but for the most part they ditched the mystery and kept this comedic.

A standout: Cleavon Little (whom those of us with taste in movies know from Blazing Saddles) plays Fletch's occasional sidekick here, Calculus. He's kind of a caricature, but it's implied all the way along that he's much more than that...and lo, turns out he's an FBI agent investigating the same things Fletch is. All in all, the movie works, even if it's not quite as interesting as the original.

My grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Castle in the Sky
innocent_man: (calvin)
Fletch was our first half of our annual New Years Double Feature. It's a detective comedy starring Chevy Chase, Tim Matheson, Joe Don Baker and (briefly) Geena Davis.

Fletch (Chase) is an investigative reporter trying to find the source behind the drug traffic on LA's beaches. In the course of his investigation, he's approached by a millionaire named Alan Stanwyk (Matheson), who, thinking Fletch is just a junkie, offers him 50 grand to kill him; Stanwyk claims to be dying of bone cancer. Fletch, knowing a set-up when he sees one but sensing a story, digs into Stanwyk's life and uncovers unsavory connections to the local police chief (Baker), the drug traffic, and Utah.

I've never read any of Gregory McDonald's Fletch novels (and holy crap, there are a bunch), but apparently the movie differs considerably from the book. McDonald still loved Chase's performance, though, and I have to say that this is before Chase kinda sold out so he's still fun to watch. There's some physical comedy, but mostly it's about Chase assuming different identities and taking on joke names to get what he wants, and playing off of people flawlessly to gain their trust. I didn't realize before what an accomplished con man Fletch is in this movie, but he's really good at saying just enough to get people talking and then shutting up and letting them talk.

Anyway, the movie is pretty understated. There's a car chase just so we get a little hit of action, there's implied sex (with Stanwyk's wife, played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), and some fun flirting with Fletch's office assistant, Larry (Davis). The movie flunks the Bechdel; the only time two women are even in the same scene is at the end when the widow Stanwyk (spoilers!) meets Larry, briefly, and I don't even think they talk to each other at all. But Ms. Stanwyk actually does have a bit of life and agency to her, right up until Fletch tells her the truth about her husband, at which point she wants to do something but winds up just doing what Fletch says. Can't win 'em all.

Fletch isn't really edgy, but it's got some fun moments and it's a good story, and it's a fun window into Chase's early career.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Fletch Lives
innocent_man: (dmh)
So, in honor of Xmas and everyone being around to play Deadlands, figure I'll do an Xmas special. This is Nikolai in the saloon, the Xmas tree being decorated, telling stories about Xmas back home in Mother Russia. He tells them the story of how Xmas was almost ruined one day by a horrible green monster that came down from the mountain and stole all the presents on the first night, all the decorations on the second night, and was coming back to steal all the children on the third night.

This is the standard holiday special in which the characters take on different characteristics of folks in the story. So Nikolai is Santa Claus, Lillie is the Whispering Witch (lives up on a hill); Suzi is Lady of the Hearth; Shortstop is Ivan, the plucky little boy; and Sheriff Mark is the Bogatyr, the mystical knight from beyond the city.

The horrible green monster, I'll just use Night Horror (p. 102) and maybe some ghouls or something as minions. Basically it's a save Christmas kind of scenario. Ho, ho ho!
innocent_man: (lsd)
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory is a movie based on the novel by Roald Dahl, and not, as some folks seem to think, a remake of the 1971 movie starring Gene Wilder. This one stars Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, which means it must also have Helena Bonham Carter (yep, as Mrs. Bucket) and Christopher Lee (yep, as Unnecessary Daddy Issues). Oh, and Tim Burton directing.

I actually really like this movie. I think the modern imaginings of Veruca, Violet and Mike are perfect, and I think that Deep Roy did a fantastic job as every Oompa Loompa ever. Really, everyone in this movie is perfect except for Depp and Lee, and I can't blame Lee.

See, in the book, Wonka doesn't have a past. He's presented as this funny, eccentric but very kind old man. He is unfailingly polite to everyone in the factory (I mean, he tells a parent to go soak her head, but she totally deserves it), and he loves the factory and he likes kids. In the 1971 version, he's close to the book version but then he does the freakout at the end and there's the test with the gobstoppers and blah. In this one, he's this weird mishmash of Howard Hughes and Michael Jackson, he doesn't care about anyone else, he hates families and parents, and his dad was a dentist who refused to give him candy.

And OMG, I forgot how clumsy the flashbacks were, especially if you know the book. It really reads like Burton inserting his own issues throughout the movie, and it's completely unnecessary. And it wouldn't be so bad if the rest of the movie weren't do so skillfully.

It took a while to get this made because they had to wait for Dahl to die; he was so unhappy with the 1971 film. I have no idea how he'd feel about this one. I like it, but I kind of want to fast-forward through everything Burton added.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Either Elf or Fletch
innocent_man: (mouseketeer)
An American Tail is a Don Bluth animated film from the mid-80s, featuring a little very early CGI, a few not especially catchy songs, and some voice work from Dom Deluise, Madeline Kahn and Christopher Plummer as a French pigeon.

This was in the days before animated movies tended to have all-stars casts, dontchaknow, so the headliner is a mouse named Fievel (Philip Glasser). Little Fievel and his family are Russian mice (Jewish Russian mice, in fact; they're celebrating Hanukkah as the movie opens) under constant attack by cats following the Cossacks. They undertake a long journey to America, and get pretty much the same treatment as the human immigrants doing the same thing; they have stars in their eyes about how it's all awesome, but getting there, they have to struggle to make a place for themselves.

Little Fievel, though, is separated from his family en route, and the movie is really the story of him meeting various folks and getting mixed up in the anti-cat struggle for freedom (the cats are led by Warren T. Rat, who is actually a cat in disguise, and voiced by John Finnegan). And then they build a giant, firework-breathing mouse to scare the cats away, and then the movie goes on for another 20 minutes for some reason.

It's cute, and it gave us the song "Somewhere Out There" (made famous by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram), but it's very much pre-Disney-Renaissance. The plot is thin and rambly, and though there are a couple of laughs, there's no real attempt at the more sophisticated humor we see in kids' movies now (though that said, the parallels between human and mouse culture are nice).

My grade: B-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
innocent_man: (r&g)
Brave is a Pixar movie that didn't get the same kind of love as Up or Monsters Inc, but is still very much worthy of the company.

Merida (Kelly MacDonald) is a Scottish princess who's stifling under her mother's (Emma Thompson) rules. Her father (Billy Connoly) is a bit more like her - loud, passionate, likes to fight and boast, while her mother is more staid and reserved. But Merida's real passion is archery, and so when the four clans assemble so that the firstborn sons can compete for Merida's hand in marriage, she defies her mother and tradition by competing for her own hand, handily winning an archery contest.

Which would be bad enough, but then after a blazing fight with her mother in which she slashes the family tapestry, she runs to the woods and buys a spell from a witch wood carver. Said spell takes the form of a cake that, when eaten, turns her mother (and her three little brothers) into a bear.

Turns out this happened once before - the bear-creature, Mordu, stalks the land even still! (And it's not like it's just a legend; fricking thing ate the king's leg when Merida was just a wee lass.)

The movie is a fairy tale, complete with princess. And it's easy to see why a lot of audiences thought it was nothing special. EXCEPT, you have to look at what's different.

Merida doesn't fix her problems by acquiescing, first of all. She's active, passionate and vocal, but unlike with Belle, those qualities aren't her undoing and they're not necessarily seen as bad things (her mother doesn't tell her to shut up, just to act with some decorum).

And then there's this rather important bit - Merida is a princess with two living parents. Name another one (I can't). Also, it's her mother that's the focus of the character arc. Her father is there, he's present, and he obviously loves his family, but for the most part he isn't an antagonists or a stubborn idiot (he does lock Merida in a room, but to protect her from a bear, and I kind of have to give him that one). Both Merida and Elinor have a distinct character arc, and their relationship - mother/daughter, which is never explored in kids' movies - is the focus of the story.

If I have a quibble, it's that the wood carver character and that whole scene felt cutesy enough to be out of place. The rest of the movie had a mythic quality to it, and then the wood carver has a magical phone menu? Eh. It felt like that scene was thrown in because someone didn't feel the movie was relatable enough. But really, beyond that, the movie is beautifully animated and really well acted. It might not be my favorite Pixar movie, but I like it and it definitely improves on second viewing.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: An American Tail
innocent_man: (buttons)
Flatliners is a 1990 film starring Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt and Billy Baldwin in some wacky medschool hijinks, directed by Joel Schumacher.

OK, not so wacky. Actually, I really like the premise of this movie. The characters are a group of med students, at the top of their class. One of them, Nelson (Sutherland) has the bright idea to experiment with life after death by inducing brain death and having the others revive him. As he puts it, "Philosophy failed. Religion failed. Now it's up to the physical sciences."

They all have their own reasons for going along with this, of course. Steckel (Platt) is writing a memoir. Hurley (Baldwin) wants to be rich and famous. Lebraccio (Bacon) is Nelson's friend, but also thinks this is all bullshit and wants to be right about that. And Manis (Roberts) is obsessed with NDE anyway.

Nelson "dies" for a few minutes, and comes back talking about his senses being finely tuned, comforting presence, blah blah. But after Hurley does the same thing, odd things start happening - a pivotal moment from the characters' pasts haunts them. In Nelson's case, said pivotal moment is a 9-year-old kid he accidentally knocked out of a tree and killed when he was a boy, and that kid shows up at random points and beats the shit out of him. In Hurley's case, he sees images of the women he cons into bed and then secretly videotapes (he's engaged, by the way). Labreccio sees a little girl he used to bully at school, while Manis sees her long-dead father.

Steckel never flatlines, and that's actually a complaint I have about this movie. I like Platt's character. He's rational and well-spoken, but he's also a privileged ass. He never really risks anything (other than by participating, which I guess is something), but he talks like he has a stake in all this to match the others. I would have liked to have seen that character with a few skeletons in the closet.

But that's actually a pretty minor point. The movie works fairly well, and I like that it never really explains what's going on. The characters make a lot of assumptions - it's people we've wronged who want revenge (by the way, Manis makes that suggestion to Labreccio, and he responds, "I don't know how it works," and then the next day, she says "You said it yourself, people we've wrong want revenge" - no, honey, you said that), we need to make amends, atone, gain closure, it's God, it's the dead, it's the afterlife, who knows. It does seem to be the case that it's not so much the most pivotal thing that a character does (you can't tell me that bullying a classmate was the worst thing Labreccio ever did) as what that character holds onto the tightest. Likewise, we see it in that character's context. Hurley, based on some of the things that his phantom women say to him (implied to be lines he used on them) has come perilously close to date rape, but when his fiancee finds the tapes and leaves him, he sticks to "those women meant nothing to me" - he hasn't learned a lesson, but that's the end of his character arc. Are these flatlines, then, less about making karmic balance and more about dredging up the worst in a person's own mind, giving it a voice or a pair of fists (or a hockey stick) and letting it go to work? Is it a Jungian shadow?

(Can you tell I've seen this movie a bunch of times and played a lot of Wraith: The Oblivion?)

Anyway, it's good movie in premise and in performance. The script and set design are a little overwrought, but y'know, Schumacher. This is a flick I could see getting remade with some success, though you'd maybe have to compensate for the fact that we totally know more about NDE than this movie wants to admit.

Oh, and another thing: I could see this movie as an RPG. I don't know what game, exactly. Probably something froofy and indie. But four guys, one girl, with all the guys trying to either fuck or protect her? Yeah. That's totally how it would go in a lot of circles.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high, but I admit I'm weird

Next up: Hmm. Well, technically Brave (I got some movies for Xmas), but we've already scheduled Fletch, so it'll be one of those two.
innocent_man: (tick)
Jackie Chan's First Strike, since that's the full title, technically should have gone under "J", but fuck it, we already watched it. It's one of his Police Story series; I think the only other one I've seen was Super Cop, and I can't really remember.

Anyway, Jackie Chan plays himself as a Hong Kong cop working with Interpol to track down an arms dealer (I think), but then he gets mixed up with FSB, sent to Australia to find the sister of the CIA double agent who's stealing a nuclear warhead. And then there's this climactic underwater battle with a killer shark and POW! Everything is fine.

Well, there's more to it than that, but honestly you don't watch this movie for the plot. The plot is pretty straightforward, though I don't know how much of that is due to the dubbing job. I know it was released in (mostly) Mandarin, and I don't know how much of that changes things. But really, the awesome bits of the movie are Jackie kicking ass with various household implements. The scene where he takes on a gang of folks with a stepladder is pretty amazing, especially when you stop to remember that he does all that shit himself (always the takeaway message to a Jackie Chan flick).

Personally, I like Rumble in the Bronx better; the fight scenes are more interesting and the story is easier to follow and more compelling, but this is fun, too. Plus he wears koala underwear.

My grade: B-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Flatliners
innocent_man: (drama)
Finding Neverland is a dramedy starring Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, Freddy Highmore, Rhada Mitchell and Dustin Hoffman. It's a limited biopic of J. M. Barrie, the playwright who wrote Peter Pan.

Barrie (Depp) is a playwright who's kind of lost his edge. His producer, Charles Frohman (Hoffman) has just taken a bath producing a play that kind of flopped, but is confident that Barrie will get his mojo back (just, y'know, do it soon). At the park one day, Barrie meets and befriends a young widow (Winslet) and her five boys. He winds up playing pretend with them, and while there might be attraction between him and Sylvia, that's really secondary to the fun he has with the kids.

He goes home to his wife (Mitchell), who notes that Sylvia's mother, Emma du Maurier (Julie Christie) is an important woman. She invites the family over, but Emma, as it turns out, doesn't approve of Sylvia doing anything but getting remarried, and so that kind of chills things. But Barrie continues to hang out with the family, including trying to get young Peter (Highmore) to let out some of the grief and anger he's feeling over his father's death. Barrie begins to write Peter Pan, using the family as inspiration.

Along the way, though, Sylvia takes ill with Dramatic Coughing at Bad Times (actually it was cancer IRL, but that's never stated in the movie), and doesn't get to the see the play in the theater (which, as we all know, was very well-received). A poignant moment: After the play, Peter, who's gone to see it as his mother's request, is standing in a crowd of people and they start saying he's Peter Pan. Peter, kind of indignantly, says he's not - Barrie is.

What's interesting about that is the Peter, in real life, grew up to hate the play and was very upset that he didn't get any money from it when Barrie died. He (Peter) committed suicide.

(Actually, most of the brothers didn't fare too well. George, the oldest, died young in WWI. Michael drowned at age 20 with another young man who was probably his lover; folks still aren't sure if it was accidental or a suicide pact. Peter killed himself. Bad scene all around.)

I like this movie a lot. Yes, it's a kind of standard weepy drama, but Depp brings a nice vulnerability to his portrayal of Barrie. In the movie, as in life, he's accused of pedophilia, but it never really goes beyond "hey, people are talking." Hoffman as Frohman is nicely understated, but you get the feeling that he believes in Barrie, even if he's worried about losing money on him (by the way, Frohman died on the Lusitania because he refused a seat on a lifeboat).

It's a good performance by Winslet, and she manages to make her portrayal of a dying woman moving without going full Lifetime. Freddy Highmore, of course, is the standout as Peter - it was this role that led to him playing Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

There's a scene in the movie were Barrie's wife, Mitchell, expresses a desire to go to these worlds he creates, and that she's jealous that he includes Sylvia and the boys in his creative process but not her. I remember seeing this movie in theaters and having a conversation with Heather about that. I asked her if she ever felt excluded from my worlds. She said, "Not really. It's pretty scary in there." She had a point. :)

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: First Strike
innocent_man: (bluelaser)
Monday was Marvel. Notice how I'm only, what, three days later doing this write-up, rather than seven.

Oy.

Anyway. )
innocent_man: (Default)
(But before I began, I was bored before I ever began, shoplifters of the world...)

Anyway. I haven't made a character...well, it hasn't been six months, but over four. My initial plan was two a week. As the kids say these days, LOL. Maybe try one a week going forward? See how that does? Sundays are generally a pretty good day for it.

OK, well, with the rabbit in the oven and another half-hour to go, I think I can do a quick character. That means not something I'm terribly unfamiliar with. The next few on my list, if we were to go in that order, are a bunch that I don't know, so I'm gonna skip down a bit.

The Game: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
The Publisher Margaret Weis Productions
Degree of Familiarity: Getting better. I'm running it currently and it's a lot of fun.
Books Required: Just the one.

So, I have, of course a lot of supers games, and even one from Marvel. This one, though, is nice in that you assemble your dice pool by looking down the sheet. You're usually rolling against an opponent, but sometimes against the doom pool, which grows as shit gets real. This is one of those systems that doesn't work for loosey-goosey, fake-the-system GMs. Like NWoD, FATE and curse the darkness, it's a game that only works when you let it.

But here's the thing I don't dig: There's no chargen system. It's designed for playing existing Marvel characters, which is balls. Who wants to play other people's characters? (I know some people do, I've just never understood the fascination.)

So what I'm gonna do is recreate the first character I remember making when I picked up the old TSR Marvel game. I'm doing this from memory, and the memory is...geez, 27 years old at this point? (OMG. I have literally been running games long than some of my gamers have been alive.)

OK, so what do I remember? His name was Shapeshifter. He was a mutant. He had a kickass black outfit with red accents. He had multiple limbs (yeah, weird, I rolled him up randomly), he could turn invisible, and I'm sure he had other shape-shifty powers, too. I don't for the life of my remember his real name, so let's call him Miles Farley. Seems a moderately dorky name.

That's a really weird power set. Let's work it! I'll make up the details I don't remember.

Affiliation: In the game, you roll an Affiliation die based on whether you're solo, with a buddy, or on a team. I think Shapeshifter would work best with a buddy. He's not trusting enough to be a true team player, but his powers are good support. I'll take Solo d8, Buddy d10, Team d6.

Distinctions: I get three of these, and they need to be potentially a help or hindrance. OK, well. As I recall, Shapeshifter manifested his powers when he was young and awkward and tweeny (much like me when I rolled him up), but I played him as an adult. So I'll split the difference and say he's in high school now, and give him the Distinction: High School Nobody.

For my next one, I'll need to make something up, because I'm drawing a blank. We'll say Shapeshifter is really self-conscious about his powers (the extra limbs, especially) so I'll take Desperate to Fit In.

Finally, since I need something that ties into my super-identity a little more, I'll take Hero or Freak?

OK, now Power Sets! I think I need two, because there's not a Power Set for "extra limbs" specifically. I'll take "Extra Limbs" as one set and "Unstable Form" as my other one.

For "Extra Limbs," I want Enhanced Strength d8 and Climbing d6 (he can use his extra hands to grab hold and steady himself). For SFX, I'll take Afflict (for Grappling). I'll also take the Limit for being a mutant (basically I'm vulnerable to certain attacks because I'm a mutie).

So then my Unstable Form set. I take Invisibility d10 (I want to be good at that) and Stretching d8 (allowing him to reach down an elevator shaft). I debate taking Shapeshifting, but it really only lets me mimic people unless I take it at d12, which I don't think is appropriate. Hmm. OK, well, how about we take it at d8 so I can hide my arms, and then I'll play with SFX and Limit.

I want Shapeshifter to be able to knock people back with his arms, and I think the Extra Arms combined with Stretching means he can hit multiple people at once, so I'll take Area Attack. I like Counterattack, too.

But I want a Limit to reflect Shapeshifter's low self-confidence, so I'll make one up. I'll say he's Freakish. I'll just use the system for Uncontrollable; same idea. His powers can go a little bonkers sometimes, or people just make fun of the arms.

OK, now Specialities, which are like skills. You only use them if you're really badass at something. I would like to take Combat Expert, but I don't see him being that good at combat. I will take Covert at Expert (he's stealthy as hell) and, what the hell, Acrobatics at Expert.

And finally, Milestones. These are kind of plot progressions for my character. I know I want one to be "Who Am I, Really?" He's suffering from an identity crisis because he's ashamed of who and what he is. So we'll say


  • Gain 1XP when someone makes anti-mutant jokes or rhetoric around you.
  • Gain 3XP when you choose not to accept credit (or blame) for heroic actions (that is, I bugger off invisible).
  • Gain 10XP when you come out to your family as a mutant.


Good, that's one. Need one more. Hmm. I think it'd be fun to play with the notion that his powers haven't really solidified yet. How about "This Isn't My Final Form?"


  • Gain 1XP when you use the Freakish Limit in an action scene.
  • Gain 3XP when you use Shapeshifting to change your body in a new way.
  • Gain 10XP when you alter a Power or Limit.


And that's me done!

innocent_man: (coffee)
OK, so! I finished God-Machine Chronicle yesterday. Now Michelle just needs to get the last edits done and it's officially out of my hair for a while. What else is going on?

Well, lots of things. I gotta say, I lament the death of LJ. I really miss being able to post something and get a lot of responses and comments. I can do it on Facebook now, of course, but that's not the same. It's too public, too open, and I can't control the discussion enough (which for certain topics is necessary). But at the same time, it's too impermanent. Once something's off your timeline, you'll probably never see it.

I think sometimes about porting this over to blackhatmatt.com or something, but I dunno. I like the interface here. Ah, well. It is what it is.

Stuff I gotta do:

  • Get edits back to Road to Hell on Earth authors: this week.
  • Get Demon outlined and to authors: As soon as I get the bible.
  • Get my bit of Tragedy done and to Michelle: this week.
  • Do write-up from the game last freaking Monday: momentarily.
  • Notes for tomorrow's game: today.
  • Make a character: today.


Let's get started! The Key, Part III. )
innocent_man: (mine)
Finding Nemo is, of course, the Pixar movie about the little clown fish who goes out in the big ocean to find his son. Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres, and a lot of other awesome folks do voices.

Marlin (Brooks) and his wife Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) have their very own anemone by the dropoff, and have 400 eggs that they're eagerly waiting on hatching. But then a big ol' fish rocks up, kills Coral and all but one of the eggs, and leaves Marlin the single dad of a little fish called Nemo (Alexander Gould). A few years later, Nemo is ready to go to school, but Marlin is terrified and overprotective, which leads to Nemo getting taken by divers. Marlin, panicking, runs into a blue tang named Dory (Degeneres), and they go on a crazy adventure to find him.

This is complicated because Nemo has been added to a saltwater tank in a dentist's office. The tank includes a group of fish that readily take him in, but their leader, Gil (Willem Dafoe) has ongoing plans to escape.

Like most Pixar movies, the script is amazing (it got a Best Screenplay nomination, in fact). The way in which the ocean comes together to spread the word about Marlin searching for Nemo. I also like that there's not really any sugarcoating that animals eat each other, but it's understood to be nothing personal ("Sorry if I ever took a snap at you," says Nigel (Geoffrey Rush) the pelican). Marlin's character are is really well done, doesn't feel forced, and he starts off not only scared but actually kind of a jerk, but winds up learning to enjoy himself and displaying not only courage, but faith in his son and other people fish.

The emotional moments in the movie are genuine (the bit after Marlin thinks Nemo is dead where he tells Dory that all he wants to do is go home and forget, even though that essentially consigns Dory to losing the only home she has - with Marlin, she forgets where she is and why - tears me up every time), the laughs remain funny even though I've seen it a bunch of times, and, by the way, the amount of detail that went into making the fish swim correctly was insane. This is one of Pixar's best.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Finding Neverland
innocent_man: (tick)
Holy crap, I've been putting this off all week. Better do it before a full week elapses.

OK! So! Last time the characters had a little shoving match with the Federal agents, not really a fight. This week, having set up their super-lair, they split up to go searching for clues as to what was happening.

Inferno flew off by himself, while Duplex and Spore went searching for evidence of the Phylum. Duplex configured a scanner to find the spores, but was thrown off by Spore being in close proximity. He did, however, get an energy reading that was similar to the Phylum, so they followed that.

Meanwhile, Pink (in her secret identity as Jolisa Anderson) took Arcanix to Washington University to get clothes. They tried to get him to look normal, but wound up highlighting his awkward even more.

Inferno, meantime, flew to the arch - there was a crowd of people gathering and looking up. They showed him camera footage of a bird flying under it and vanishing, and he contacted the others to come have a look.

(I ran all this as an action scene, because I wanted to build up the doom pool to include 2d12. Having done that, we changed scenes - everyone assembled at the arch.)

At that point, Pink started to glow with a bright white light, much like when she was on the plane that got hit by the bolt from above. The light arched out from her and struck the space in the arch, which then opened into a portal. Arcanix pointed to Pink and declared she was the chosen one, from the prophecy (it's one of his Milestones). And then the aliens came.

They were humanoid, blue-ish, and carrying laser weapons and wearing body armor. They emerged from the portal and started shooting. Pink clotheslined a few, Spore used his spore-blast to infect some, and he realized that these folks were all infected by the Phylum.

Arcanix swooped down and grabbed Pink, and pulled her out of the fight. He figured her presence might have been keeping the portal open, which is somewhat logical, but he didn't say that. Pink struggled, and fell...into the Mississippi. She took a bunch of stress from the fall and became stressed out (one of her milestones, in fact). Inferno threw a bunch of fire at the aliens, setting stuff ablaze, and adding "Terrorized d6" as an a scene distinction for them.

They fired lasers, but Spore just absorbed it (Invulnerability SFX), and Duplex caught it with his Absorption SFX and threw it right back at the aliens. They kept fighting - taking the aliens out, putting up scene distinctions, but with folks rolling 1s and using d4s, I had enough dice in the doom pool to beat them on a lot of rolls. Everyone wound up taking some stress, the aliens streamed into the city, and the fires started to spread. Duplex wound up becoming stressed out in Mental stress, and Arcanix and Inferno took a bunch of stress in physical. But they managed to stem the tide of the aliens, fighting them to roughly a draw.

At that point, I spent the 2d12 from the doom pool, gave everyone 2XP, and said that the fires were going out but the aliens were holding fast and the portal was open. The characters fell back, Arcanix had rescued Pink from the water, and they decided to go and find the government agency that Spore had worked for so they could look into the captured/recovered aliens bodies.

The second act starts next week!
innocent_man: (bender)
Fight Club is the movie adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter and Meat Loaf.

So you probably know the story: Norton's nameless character is an insomniac, hopeless, depressed office worker who meets Tyler Durden (Pitt), a cool, rebel, soap-makin' troll (I'll come back to that). The get to be buds, Nameless moves in with Durden, and they start Fight Club, an underground thing where Gen-X and Y dudes beat the crap out of each other. This blossoms into a terrorist organization that romps around the city doing horrible things, and culminates with them blowing up several credit card companies (the thinking there being everyone's debt goes to zero, and "it'll be total chaos"; I'm not sold on that point).

Oh, and the third act starts with the Big Reveal: Nameless is Tyler. Tyler's a hallucination. Wheee!

The movie is well-made from a technical and scripting standpoint, and it improves on a second viewing because you get a sense of how utterly insane Nameless seems when he's being so horrible to Marla (Bonham Carter) the mornings after; as far as Nameless knows, it's Tyler fucking this woman he can't stand, and he has to kick her out. Likewise, the scenes with Tyler and Nameless at Fight Club get weird if you remember there's only one of them, so who's talking out loud at any given point? I've never gone scene by scene to figure it out and I don't honestly care that much, but like I said, it's pretty tight in that sense.

Does the premise work? Is it believable that Tyler forms a cult of men who are so dissatisfied with their lives that, after getting hit in the head a bit, they're willing to give everything up and become terrorists? Or how about the police, bus drivers, sanitation workers, security guards...Tyler tells Nameless at the end of the movie that everyone's been cleared out of the areas around the buildings they're going to blow up, and in fairness financial districts don't tend to be very well populated at night, but seriously, as 9/11 showed us, you blow up a building and the debris can kill people easily enough. So any sympathy that Tyler might have gotten from us kinda should go away.

Which brings me back to the truth about Tyler: He's a troll. When we meet him, he's pissing into soup and splicing porn into kids' movies. He's a horrible, destructive asshole who operates under that "we're all animals at heart, women are our problem, we're all repressed" MRA bullshit that I and all right-thinking men hate so much. Now, in the context of the movie, he's not real - he's the pinnacle of cool from the perspective of a man who's so empty inside that he has to joined cancer survivor groups to pretend to have some depth.

The violence in the movie is graphic and explicit, but it always felt to me like the fights were too easy. Yeah, we see some hints that people have been injured, but slamming your head against concrete can, like, rattle your brain in your skull, which is a problem. But I don't know, maybe the amount of blood and teeth they throw around makes up.

Norton and Pitt both turn in great performances. Bonham Carter's character, I thought, was pretty well realized for what it was (a focus for the crazy between Norton and Pitt, a convenient scapegoat and some wasted third-act drama); Michelle felt she was kind of cardboard. Meat Loaf has a fun turn as a cancer survivor who joins the terrorist cell and winds up getting shot in the process.

All in all, it's a good movie in the sense that it's well-made, but I don't think it's aged well, and it doesn't resonate with me the way it did when I was 24 and seeing it in theaters. Which is good, 'cause I don't want to be like those assholes.

My grade: A- (love or hate the movie, it's kind of an important one)
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: Finding Nemo
innocent_man: (lsd)
The Fifth Element is a sodding weird sci-fi action movie starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm.

So: Every 5000, a giant evil planetoid comes to destroy all life, and it's up to an advanced race to assemble the four elements (air, earth, water, fire) around a fifth element, which creates a weapon to stop the evil. We learn about this in 1914, and then 300 years later, it's about to happen. A priest (Holm) with the passed-down knowledge of how all this works tells the President of the Federation (Tiny Lister) about all this...and then the craft carrying the "supreme being" gets shot down.

But then resurrected by an awesome 3D-life-printer as Leeloo (Jovovich). Watching the movie again, they do talk about how the supreme being has the same kind of DNA as a human, just a lot more genetic knowledge (if that's a thing) packed in. So I guess it makes sense that she's human-looking. What doesn't make a lot of sense is how she phonetically decodes English when she doesn't speak it, but whatever, she's super-smart.

Anyway, she escapes, crashes into a Special Forces op-turned-cabby named Korbin Dalls (Willis), and they eventually wind up saving the world from the evil.

The scripting and editing in this movie is amazing. They created this freakish, vibrant, at times dirty and oppressive and at times beautiful and awesome world. We have our second-tier villain in the form of weapons dealer and all around rich fucker Zorg (Oldman), who's trying to get to the Elemental Stones to sell them. For money. We learn pretty early on that for as scary as he can be, he's terrified of the evil (which he refers to as "Mr. Shadow" and is under the mistaken impression he'll be alive to spend the money). We also get Ruby Rhod (Tucker), the celebrity DJ who acts as sidekick to Dallas for the second act.

I personally think Tucker is annoying as hell, but that's what he's here for and he's not in the whole movie, or even the majority. Yes, he steals scenes, but he's good at backing off and requiring exposition, so he's got a reason to be there (also, he macks on girls with freckles, and I can get behind that).

If I have a complaint, it's that Korbin saying the magic words ("I love you") to get Leeloo to fight the evil was maybe a little hokey. But then, much is made of how innocent and vulnerable she is, so maybe it's appropriate. It's kind of a Raimi moment, almost - by the time the movie reaches that point, it's already been so over the top (OMG THE COSTUMES) that you don't care.

The production design is fantastic, the soundtrack is awesome, and the costumes are amazing. The movie is delightfully weird, and paced so well that it feels much shorter than it is.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Fight Club
innocent_man: (woola)
It's been a while, after all, since we've played Spirit of the Century.

Well, last time, the apes were under attack! Gar and Elitza were heading back on the speeder while Raenna, Justin and Xax were in the monastery with Garus and the rest of the apes. Mar'ik, Praeceptor of the Fifth District, led squads of ground troops and a squad of flyers, as well as a boat with a big fuck-off ion cannon, to attack the White Ape Monastery.

Raenna and Justin tried to call up the spirits of the Green Martians to possess the reds, but it didn't work out and they abandoned that idea. Elitza and Gar zipped under the fliers, staying stealthy, but I compelled Gar's Vengeance!! Aspect and he shot at them. They turned on the skimmer and fired at it, and Elitza bailed out and scaled the wall of the monastery.

Garus and the apes lobbed rocks at the fliers, and then, with Raenna leading, jumped down off the walls to engage the ground troops. Justin jumped onto the boat and took out the crew there, and fired the ion cannon at the ground troops, vaporizing a bunch.

Elitza (after a compel for Didn't Think This Through - everyone should have an Aspect like that) jumped onto a flier, tossed the pilot off, then jumped to another. The ground troops were losing and although the other fliers had done some stress to Gar, his Integer Pistol was holding them off. Mar'ik called a retreat and the fliers sped off, leaving the surviving troops as prisoners.

The characters discussed their next move. It was pretty obvious that the Master of Chains had sold them out, but maybe that was good - if they could funnel him misinformation and it would end up with the Empire? The device would create water, but also a devastating explosion, so they needed to get it to the Sea of Tranquility. Maybe they could lure the Xenon armies there, too, and use their beacon to get all of their other allies away?

Justin asked Garus is he, as a tactician, had any suggestions, and Garus was just worried because using the Master of Chains this way was risky. But if Elitza went to him and offered to join him, and if they could intercept Mar'ik before he got back and made a report...

So it was settled. Xax quickly used the capture fliers and the ion cannon to soup them up. Justin and Gar would go after Mar'ik and his squad and take them out before they reached Xenon. Elitza would go on ahead to Xenon and "join" with the Master of Chains. And Raenna and Xax would transport the device to the Sea of Tranquility. Raenna, for her part, wants to learn, there, why she's the Mother of Dragons.

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