innocent_man: (l&o&b)
A Few Good Men is a military/courtroom drama based on the play by Aaron Sorkin and starring Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollack, Keifer Sutherland and J. T. Walsh. Like everything Sorkin does, it's very dialog heavy, people walk quickly through hallways, but he manages to make people talking not boring, which is a gift.

So: Danny Kaffee (Cruise) is a lawyer who's joined the Navy for a three-year stint in JAG before he gets a real job. Jo Galliway (Moore) is an Internal Affairs lawyer who catches a case of two Marines in Gitmo who accidentally killed a squad-mate during a "Code Red," that is, a disciplinary measure within the Corps (common, but against the rules). Cruise wants to plea it out, the prosecutor (Bacon) is amenable, but the men won't go for it - they won't admit guilt. Cruise is ready to give up, but then he realizes that he was handed this case precisely because he always pleas out.

So it turns out that the base commander (Nicholson) and his senior officers (Sutherland and Walsh) were really responsible, insofar as they gave the orders for the Code Red (well, Walsh didn't, he wanted the dude transferred). The defense basically cooks down to "they were just following orders," but Cruise digs a little deeper into the psychology of the Marines in Cuba and why they do not question orders, ever, even if the orders are obviously morally wrong on their face. And he wins, insofar as Nicholson is arrested for perjury and the accused Marines are acquitted of murder (though, appropriately, they are dishonorably discharged).

It's good, it's iconic, and if you've ever heard someone thunder "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH," this movie is why. Cruise turns in one of his standard "cocky, young whatever" performances, but he's young enough that it still works. Nicholson gets to be an asshole, which he seems to enjoy, and you can see the progression in Sutherland's voice work that eventually landed him the gig in Monsters vs. Aliens.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium. Say what you want about Sorkin, he's very watchable.

Next up: The Fifth Element
innocent_man: (sun)
Bridesmaids is an Apatow comedy, sort of. It's his company it feels kinda like his humor, but it passes the Bechdel without even trying. It's awkward as hell, enough to me me squirm, but very funny.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is kind of at a loss. She's working at a jewelry store, but is a lousy salesperson. She's living with a brother and sister (Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas) who are...not especially bright, invade her privacy and are generally creepy. Her mother wants her to move in; she's resistant. She's in a FWB relationship with an absolute creep (John Hamm). Her best friend (Maya Rudolph) Lil is her one source of joy...and now's Lil's getting married.

Happy for her friend, if a bit jealous and worried about how their relationship will change, Annie agrees to be maid of honor, and then meets Lil's fiance's boss' wife, Helen (Rose Byrne), who immediately sets about trying to usurp the position of "best friend" from Annie. Helen is beautiful, over-the-top, and rich, and Annie can't really measure up, but she tries (which is really the problem). The central conflict of the movie, then, is Annie fucking everything up - her job, her relationship with Lil, a promising relationship with a cop (Chris O'Dowd) who tries to help her come to terms with her fears...

Of course, that's ignoring the other bridesmaids, which would be a shame, because they're amazing. Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is the best of them - raunchy, blunt, overtly sex-positive and self-assured (she was nominated for an Oscar for the role). Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey) is a mother of three horrible teen boys and has long since abandoned any identity of her own except complaining. Becca (Ellie Kemper) is a sweet newlywed, but as she talks with Rita she starts to realize that maybe she might be missing something. The chemistry between the actresses (Rudolph, Byrne and Wiig included) is fantastic.

I have to say, too, that O'Dowd is awesome in this movie. He doesn't swoop in and save Wiig, and when she hurts him, he says so and backs off. He's got a lot more identity than the Girlfriend roles that generally happen in male-oriented comedies (which may be due to this script being written by women - both the male and female roles are well-realized. Why do we suck, guys?).

The humor in Bridesmaids comes from suffering, but it's not a Job comedy in the vein of Meet the Parents. Instead, Wiig brings it on herself (and sometimes her friends) by being self-absorbed and depressed, and it's only when she takes a breath and works to correct her life that it improves. That's different than being a generally good person and have horrible shit happen to you - I like this way better. I'd rather see characters with some agency choose to be better.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: A Few Good Men
innocent_man: (buttons)
I keep thinking of "The Cold Black Key" off the Where's Neil When You Need Him? album. I used that on my soundtrack for my Werewolf game, though.

Anyway, running a little behind on this, yeah? Well, in fairness, my dishwasher's been busted this week, so naturally I've been slow doing game write-ups.


Continuing our playtest. )

System Notes: Conditions. I think they work OK, Michelle suggests that the system might need to be a little more homogeneous (like, that you choose an effect from a list, maybe?). I worry that'll make them feel more like Aspects than they already do. We didn't get to do combat; I had hoped that Mallory would catch the dude and in retrospect, I should have had him trip or something. Next time.
innocent_man: (peekaboo)
The Adventures of Tintin is an animated film based on the comics by Herge, about a teenaged reporter named Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his dog, Snowy. They've had their fair share of crazy adventures, and this time they're following the story of a 17th-century ship called the Unicorn, wrecked centuries ago for reasons unknown.

Tintin falls in with a besotted sea captain called Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis), last descendant of the captain of the Unicorn. He knows the secret of the ship, but he's so drunk most of the time that he can't remember it. Also pursuing the ship's treasure is an evil dude called Sacharine (Daniel Craig), who, it turns out, is the descendant of the pirate that took the ship and killed its crew.

The movie is amazing in its animation and art, but also in the scripting (the screenwriting team includes Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright, and I don't know who contributed what, but I love Wright's tight screenplays, and how nothing ever gets wasted or ignored - that's present here). The story isn't some lame-ass hero's journey. It's about Haddock, and it's very much just another of Tintin's adventures. He's never in any personal danger, this isn't his fight. He's just here for the story.

Haddock, however, has family honor and his own self-worth at stake, and so it's interesting for the POV character to be someone with only a professional interest. That makes Tintin a somewhat flat character story-wise, but since the story's not about him (the way it is with, say, Blade), that doesn't matter. And there's plenty of butt-biting humor from the dog to keep the wee ones entertained (Cael's sick, or he'd have been way more into this than he was).

Supporting cast (including Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two bumbling, identical policeman and Toby Jones as a kleptomaniac) is also fantastic. Action scenes are just exciting enough to get a kid's heart going, but not enough to be scary. And, again, the animation - the action scenes especially - is awesome.

All in all, I'm hoping they make a sequel, because it would be fun to see more of these adventures.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Bridesmaids
innocent_man: (devil)
So, yesterday I ran Dresden for the first time in two months. Wanna see? )
innocent_man: (calvin)
Which happens in about 25 mintues. Yiii. Read more... )
innocent_man: (punkrock)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an iconic 80s movie starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara and Jeffrey Jones. It's a John Hughes flick, and like a lot of his work, it's about pretty, rich white people having problems. The problems in this movie, granted, are pretty darned minor compared with the abuse and depression of Breakfast Club.

The title character, Ferris Bueller (Broderick) is a charming but kind of smarmy high school senior who's decided to ditch school today. He talks his neurotic best from Cameron (Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Sara) into joining him, and they bop around Chicago while their principal Ed Rooney (Jones) stalks Ferris (completely unsuccessfully; he has no idea where to look). Meanwhile, Ferris' sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey) tries to cope with her jealousy and hatred for her brother.

Now, that by itself isn't much to speak of, but the movie has its moments. Ferris talks to the camera quite a bit, involving us in his lovable-scamp antics. They steal Cameron's father's prized Ferrari, which winds up getting wrecked when Cameron finally loses it. And, of course, there's the ongoing side plot that the whole community rallies around Ferris, whom everyone things is dying.

Like I said, the movie is an 80s classic...but here's the thing. I hate Ferris a lot more now that I have kids. Ferris not mistreated. His parents are not strict; indeed, they dote on him. They spoil him rotten. But they're so damned kind - they don't smother him, they aren't even especially overprotective (note that his mother goes home and checks up on him when the principal informs her of Ferris' chronic truancy), and it's hard not to be annoyed, as a parent, that Ferris is taking advantage of them so blithely.

Likewise, Sloane is kind of a useless character. She's there so Ferris can have a girlfriend, but we know nothing about her. When Cameron says that he's not interested in anything and so will have a hard time picking a major, we kind of feel for him because we know enough about his home life that his comment is in some kind of context. When Sloane agrees, it's kind of fluff because she hasn't really given us any sense of who she is other than "Ferris' boyfriend" (this movie does pass the Bechdel, however, because of scenes between Jeannie and Ferris' mother).

Cameron is really the only character with a story arc. No one else changes (you could make the argument that Rooney does, since at the end of the movie he looks directly at the camera, something that until now only Ferris does). Cameron, however, finally breaks at all of the abuse that his father (and, let's be honest, Ferris) throw at him, and when his father gets home, he's going to have "a little chat." Of course, wrecking the car is more likely to mean things get worse, but this being a Hughes movie we don't really worry about aftermath.

All in all, the movie is funny, but Ferris annoys me a little. I bet he grew up to be a hedge fund manager.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Adventures of Tintin
innocent_man: (abyssal)
Last Monday, our heroes reconvened.

We begin with a Transition Scene; the heroes getting interrogated by the press. Inferno holds up pretty well (but then, he's used to it, being a hometown hero and all). Duplex gets flustered and flies off, and Arcanix shies away from the cameras, eventually leaving his name in a flashy magic lights as he vanishes. Pink answers some of their questions, but then leaps away to try and rejoin her family at the ball park. This leaves Spore, stuck answering questions. He refers to himself in first person plural (since he thinks of himself as "we"), and tells the reporters that he works for the government and has a handler. Eventually he flies to the top of the arch to muse on the nature of the vine.

Duplex goes back to his lab, Inferno goes back to the office, Arcanix follows Pink to her car and waits. There, he tells her that he isn't sure where to go - he doesn't have a home, and his creators didn't program him with all of the knowledge he'd need. Pink rummages around in her car and finds him a track suit, and they start heading out, Pink mentioning that she needs to eat.

On the arch, Spore realizes that the vine is Phylum, like him, but a different stage - being cut off from the hive-mind, he doesn't know much about what the Phylum actually does. About then, a helicopter shows up and demands he get in. His handler, Carlson, tells him that the brass are concerned that he's been infecting people with those spores, and that he might be a danger, connected to the vine. Carlson pulls out a device that supposedly can stun or drain Spore, but Spore resists, escaping the copter and flying toward the ball park.

Meanwhile, Arcanix and Pink have left, going by the men in black suits checking IDs (Arcanix doesn't have one, but Pink masterfully talks her way by). And they see Spore flying in, followed by a helicopter, shooting energy beams at him. The men on the ground likewise draw guns.

Inferno, watching out the window, sees this, dismisses his employees for the day and sneaks out to the join the fray. Duplex, in his lab, hears as well, and dons his armor again. The battle is joined, with the government dudes trying to subdue Spore.

Pink pulls the car out and miraculously finds a parking space (she also puts the aspect Utter Confusion on the scene). Duplex jumps in and socks a g-man, but doesn't do any real damage (and in fact takes emotional stress from suddenly being under a lot of official notice). Inferno, however, shows up and throws a bunch of fire-walls around, telling everyone to cool it. That emotional stress on the g-men, plus some from Spore being all intimidating, ends the scene.

They meet Carlson and the others on the roof (Duplex walks, as his armor has overloaded; he activates his Limit). Apparently hospitals in the area are admitting people with spores in their systems. They aren't doing anything but wandering around, dazed, but this is apparently backlash from the attack. Also, they're picking up weird energy readings coming from Pink.

The heroes promise to figure this out, and Inferno reveals his true identity to Pink. He also buys them a building for use as a base, and they meet there. Arcanix starts telekinetically cleaning the place up, and they start forming a plan.

Meanwhile, across town, a bird flies under the arch...and vanishes in a blue-black flash of light.
innocent_man: (mouseketeer)
Fantasia 2000 is, of course, a sequel of sorts to the 1942 Disney classic "concert movie" Fantasia. Like its predecessor, it's a series of classical music pieces set to animated shorts, and it includes "Pomp and Circumstance", "Rhapsody in Blue", "Pines of Rome", "Firebird Suite", Beethoven's fifth symphony, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2, "Carnival of the Animals," and a repeat of the original's "Sorcerer's Apprentice."

It's very pretty, and having celebrities introduce the various pieces was a nice touch. The Firebird Suite, in which the forest is ravaged by an erupting volcano taking the shape of the fearsome firebird, is beautifully animated, and the Carnival of the Animals, where we have a flamingo who just wants to yo-yo, is fun. Pomp and Circumstance set to the myth of Noah's Ark was a nice touch, though it's such a somber piece that having Donald Duck in the background being wacky felt out of place at times.

The Rhapsody in Blue segment, animated in the style of Al Hirschfeld, is the best one, in my opinion. It's not as complex art-wise as some of the others, but it's the most playful and the most fun. My kids liked the movie as a whole a lot more than I thought they would, but that, I think, was their favorite (maybe the flamingos, too).

On the whole, though, I don't think it approaches the heart and innovation of the original. I think part of that is that in 1942, it was hugely original, and my father was there in Philly when it first opened, 10 years old, and said that "Night on Bald Mountain" scared the hell out of him. There's nothing so scary as the demon Czernobog in Fantasia 2000, and the movie kind of reads like chasing the high of the first one. Worth watching, though.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Ferris Beuller's Day Off
innocent_man: (bishop)
Fallen is a supernatural horror/thriller movie starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, and Embeth Davidtz. It's easily one of my favorite movies, in part because it shows that you can do a demon movie without getting...I dunno. Overly religious, or too geeky.

We open with a man in the woods, flailing around for keys, and then apparently dying. A voiceover informs us that he's going to tell us about the time he almost died. And then we back up a ways...

So Detective John Hobbs (Washington) is a cop who's responsible for the capture of serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas). But on the eve of his execution, Reese, unrepentant and unafraid, shakes Hobbs hand...and then apparently leaves his body upon death, enters the body of a guard, and flips into other bodies by touch. He immediately sets about fucking with Hobbs, who investigates weird killings. Meanwhile, he follows up on clues that "Reese" left him, and that leads him to another cop, who died 30 years ago after stopping a killer similar to Reese. That cop's daughter, Greta (Davidtz), is reluctant to help Hobbs, but seems to know more than she should.

Long and short: It's a demon called Azazel, and it moves by touch to whoever it wants (but for whatever reason, it can't enter Hobbs by touch). It jumps into his co-workers (including a younger James Gandolfini), his nephew, and makes him kill an innocent man. It leaves him messages written on bodies, and frames him to the point that his boss (Sutherland) and partner (Goodman) aren't sure what's really happening. And then Hobbs figures a way to kill it - the demon is vulnerable without a body, and if he can trap it in a dying body, miles from nowhere...

All through the movie there are voiceovers in Hobbs' voice that tell us about the struggle between them, but the end of the movie sees Hobbs, now possessed by Azazel, flailing around in the snow...well, shit.

The writing in Fallen is really tight and clever. The story is seamless, and everyone's performance is nicely understated. Washington, in particular, manages to convey the role of a good, moral man in the midst of a downfall that he doesn't deserve and can do nothing to prevent, trying to control himself and just succeeding. His reaction upon his brother's (Gabriel Casseus, in another amazing performance) death is one of the most moving things I've seen from Washington.

Anyway, among its many merits, Fallen is an exercise for GMs in how to make it look like you meant this all along, which I've used to great effect in my games. If you haven't seen it, I apologize for the spoilers, but really, watch it.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Fantasia 2000
innocent_man: (labrodors)
Face/Off is a John Woo action flick starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. It's pretty absurd, especially where little things like physics are concerned, but that's kinda par for the course for Woo.

Sean Archer (Travolta) is a high-ranking FBI agent. Castor Troy (Cage) is a terrorist-for-hire. When Troy tries to kill Archer, he accidentally kills Archer's five-year-old son instead (something I never noticed before: Before he takes the shot, Troy looks down at his drink and misses that the boy is snuggled up to his dad; he waits until he thinks the kid is clear before shooting. That's subtle, and I like that it's never called out). Archer, naturally, spends the next X years obsessively tracking Troy and his brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), until he finally catches up with them. Both brothers are caught, but Castor is supposedly killed.

But no, he's just in a coma. And a good thing, too, because there's this bomb that's going to blow up in LA, and only Pollux knows where it is. So, obviously, the only option is an experimental surgical procedure that switches the faces of Archer and Troy (like, literally, they take their faces off and graft Troy's to Archer's head, along with a half-dozen other little procedures to cover the face that Cage is much leaner than Travolta). And then Archer (now in Troy's face and body) goes into Erehwon prison (a secret, illegal prison somewhere in the ocean), talks Pollux into revealing where the bomb is, and all is well...

Oh, except Troy wakes up, has his goons go get the doctor responsible and the two agents who know about the plan (this is all highly illegal so it's off the books), and has the doctor make Troy into Archer. DUN-DUN-DUN. (Oh, then he kills everybody, which personally I think might have been a bit of an oversight. Why not kidnap the doctor and keep him alive, so that he could switch them back eventually? Then again Troy isn't presented as the most lucid of individuals.)

So now Archer has to escape, find Troy, foil his evil plans, convince his wife that he is who he says, blah blah.

The movie actually has some interesting nuance, and it's easy to miss under all the stupid physics. Troy, no matter who's playing him, is gleeful, chaotic and violent, almost Joker-like, but then his brother dies and it's just not fun anymore. He gets it back a little in the final confrontation, but there's an anger and a personal hurt that wasn't there before. The actors really put effort into creating these characters and then playing them differently, and it reads (as does Archer's anguish at having to be Troy). There's almost a moment where Troy starts to understand what he really did to Archer, but it doesn't quite read (at the graveyard; I'd like to know what Travolta was going for there). And then there's the bit in the one gunfight where they wind up pointing guns at mirrors, therefore at the people they'd really like to shoot.

Body count is high, but yeah, it's a Woo film. Lots of slo-mo, some doves at the end. It's a good action flick, and it twigged me a bit when I first saw it, but I was 23 and in a weird place. Now it just is what it is.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low. Little heavy for fun action, little stupid for serious action.

Next up: Fallen
innocent_man: (buttons)
Monday night I ran a World of Darkness game using the rules revisions from the upcoming God-Machine Chronicle. So here's what we've got.

The characters are all law enforcement...but from different cities:

  • Ashton King, behavior psychology and profiler from Detroit.
  • Khandi Cochrane, medical examiner and forensic expert from Tulsa.
  • Ryan Mallory, fresh recruit and crack shot from Columbus.
  • Walt Lundy, FBI agent and the team's handler from Washington DC.

Here's what happened: Three nights ago, three murders took place (Tulsa, Columbus, Detroit). Each murder happened at the same time, in exactly the same locked or closed rooms, with no witnesses. The prevailing belief is that this has to be a group pulling some kind of trick, but the powers that be, after a lot of media exposure and talk about the "Phantom Killer" or the "Tri-State Ghost", put together a task force, one officer from each city, and put a plane at their disposal. This is mostly show for the media, and the departments have their own investigations ongoing as well.

So the characters meet up, introduce themselves (in Tulsa, which is where Cochrane's lab is, of course) and start going over data. The three victims were Rosa Kerby (Tulsa; female, 43 years old, husband was home at the time); Craig Lowder (Detroit, male, 26 years old, lives alone, multiple locks on door which weren't disturbed); and Gloria Ault (Columbus, female, 35 years old, husband was out of town, house alarm wasn't tripped but was armed).

The victims had nothing in common. They hadn't moved recently, they'd had no common cable or repair companies, and they never met each other. They were different races (Kerby was mixed Hispanic/white, Lowder was black, Ault was white), different ages, and different socio-economic status (Kerby was lower-middle, Lowder was blue collar, Ault was upper-middle). Each had been killed by a single puncture wound to the throat, piercing the carotid artery; they bled to death in seconds.

In all three crime scenes, a strange doodle was found on the wall in black marker. The actual marker was found in Columbus. Put together, the doodles resembled a key. CS teams also found a set of fingerprints at each scene, one that didn't match any of the inhabitants and (thus far) hadn't turned up in any databases).

Cochrane and Lundy went to the lab to go over data and assist with the autopsy of Kerby, while King and Mallory went to the local hospital's psych ward to interview her widower (he was still in severe PTSD and shock).

Cochrane discovered that the wound on Kerby's neck was thin and narrow; her best guess was an ice pick. There was one wound, forceful and decisive, but very precise, probably delivered while she was standing or sitting up by an assailant in front of her using his left hand or behind her using his right. There was some kind of residue in the wound, probably from the blade; analysis revealed it was rust. Blood toxicology came back negative, and her stomach contents revealed she'd eaten dinner and nothing after that.

Cochrane made some calls and found that Detroit was dragging their feet on the Lowder autopsy, so she called the airport and had them make the plane ready; she'd just go do it herself.

Meanwhile, King and Mallory were at the psych ward. They questioned Bill Kerby, Rosa's husband, and learned that he'd had trouble sleeping so he'd left the bedroom and gone to the living room to read. About midnight he heard a thud from the bedroom, rushed in (thinking she'd fallen) and discovered her on the floor, bleeding to death. He hadn't seen or heard anyone, and the door the bedroom was still closed. He had, obviously, been the first suspect, but King felt his grief was genuine. The forensics didn't match anyway.

The characters regrouped at the crime scene and studied the initial photos and the room. The doodle (the top of the key) was scribbled on the mirror next to where Rosa had fallen. Based on the blood splatter, the group concluded that she had been sitting up in bed, had thrown the covers off (maybe to get up), and had been stabbed from behind by a right-handed assailant who was slightly taller than she was. The arterial spray hit the wall, she fell right out of the bed and onto the floor...but that's where it got weird.

There was no way someone could have gotten out from behind her and out of the room without leaving footprints, and there were none, not on the bed or through the blood. The killer had, apparently, simply vanished.

At this point, the characters decided they'd head to Detroit and look into Lowder's murder. So that's where we pick up next time.

System notes: Honestly nothing to report. We used the new system for extended actions, but since the new stuff only comes into play when you fail or exceptionally succeed (neither of which happened), that didn't really change much. The group wasn't crazy about Aspirations, but that was mostly because it was the first session and they're hard to set until you've played the character once or twice (which I've amended the text to reflect).
innocent_man: (mouseketeer)
The Expendables wants to be something that it's not. It wants, I think, to be a mashup of action movie stars in the way that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a mashup of Victorian literature. It comes close...

Sly Stallone stars as Barney Ross (he also directs), leader of the Expendables, a group of badass mercenaries. We first see them taking out a bunch of Somalian (we assume) pirates who have kidnapped some American citizens and are holding them for ransom. One of them, Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) goes nuts and has to be subdued. "Life got to him," notes Barney. "It'll get to us all."

We learn a little about Lee Christmas (Jason Steakums); he's dating a girl (Charisma Carpenter) who's traded up for a dude that doesn't vanish for a month at a time with no contact. This stings, but he copes.

And then a scene at the group's hangout with their fixer, Tool (Mickey Rourke), and a meeting with the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) and a competitor (Arnold Schwarzeneggar), and then zoom! Off to the island nation of Vilena to look into assassinating the evil General Garza (David Zayas), but then they meet Sandra (Giselle Itie), who turns out to be the general's daughter...

Look. The whole movie is an excuse for some kickass action scenes, lots of gunplay, a little knifeplay (which of course I appreciate), and a lot of testosterone. The finer points of the plot aren't exactly so fine, and mostly it's about getting all these dudes together on screen.

Which would have been fine: the team is Stallone, Statham, Jet Li (so far, so good)...but then we get Terry Crews and Randy Couture, both athletes, but not action movie stars (yes, they've both been in movies, but really, up next to longtime stars like Lundgren and new hotness like Statham?). They tried to get Wesley Snipes and couldn't because he wasn't allowed to leave the country, and several other attempts to get people who were more widely known failed. I'd be interested to see the sequel just because the team expands a bit and we get Van Damme and Norris, who both make sense.

It's an interesting premise, there are some cool stunts and fight scenes, and the movie is just internally consistent enough to be watchable. I'm not a fan of the girl getting tortured until she can be rescued (seriously, girls ain't shit in this movie but plot devices, but at least they don't get raped or killed, just beaten and waterboarded), and what was probably intended as a cute naming convention (Toll Road, Hale Caeser, Yin Yang) just kind of comes off corny. But hey, if the aim was to put together a movie reminiscent of 80s action, they came pretty close.

My grade: B
Rewatch Value: Medium-low

Next up: Face/Off
innocent_man: (morbo)
Evolution is a silly comedy in the spirit of Ghostbusters, but without nearly the skill or wit, starring David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Juliane Moore and Seannnnn Willllliammm Scotttt, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

Duchovny and Jones are college professors at a community college in a small town in Arizona. Jones, who is the local rep for the USGS, goes out to investigate a meteor strike (and takes his colleague Ira Kane (Duchovny) along "in case I actually have to do something scientific"; he's the Venkman of the group). Turns out the meteor is filled with a blue goo teeming with single-celled organisms, that rapidly evolve into mutli-celled, then flatworms, then insects, birds, reptiles...and they're spreading.

The army, led by General Woodman (Ted Levine) and with a CDC rep in tow (Moore), rolls in and seals the area off, but not very well. The creatures are spreading, and it's up to Kane, Block (Jones), Reed (Moore) and a local firefighter cadet Wayne Gray (Scott) to fight the aliens and kill them! With truck full of shampoo.

OK, unlike Ghostbusters, which had a problem and a solution full of psuedoscience that it didn't even try to explain, Evolution actually tries to make a shred of sense, and there it fails miserably. The third act is appalling in its laziness - the aliens grow and evolve in response to fire, so Jones just lights up a cigarette (despite not being a smoker) and tosses the match. This is utterly unrealistic; adults do not spontaneously start smoking because there is no pleasure in smoking unless you already have a standing addiction, and the only way to get that is to become hooked as an idiot teenager.

Ahem. Seem to have wandered a bit. No, really, it's just a contrived way to set the aliens on fire because that shows our heroes that the general's plan to napalm them is a mistake. Also, Duchovny's realization that because moving two down and one over from carbon on the periodic table gives you arsenic (poison to us), doing the same thing for nitrogen gives you the aliens' poison (since they're nitrogen-based, and that makes selenium their poison). Kind of a strange leap to make, and I'm pretty sure that if the screenwriters had consulted Dan Ackroyd (on hand to play the governor of Arizona), he might have been able to come up with a more elegant means of destroying the aliens, or point them toward someone who could.

But for all that, the movie is fun. Jones, Duchovny, Moore and even Scott have some nice chemistry between them, and they seem to be having fun. Yes, there are perhaps more butt and fart jokes than I need, but there are also a couple of decent chuckles, and although the special effects having aged especially well, the creatures look pretty cool in places. It's not high art, but it's not terrible.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Medium high

Next up: The Expendables
innocent_man: (haveaheart)
So, Monday we had our first session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Gotta say, I really enjoyed it.

We only did one Action Scene, because I took some time at the beginning of the session to explain the rules and put everybody's datafiles in context for everyone. I was worried as we started that it was going to be a big cakewalk for the players; my doom pool started at 2d6, and while the big plant monster they were fighting (see below) had some d8s to throw around, I found myself thinking, "they're gonna stomp all over it in nothing flat."

Well, that's not really what happened. Kinda, but read on.

First of all, go back one post and meet the characters. All good? OK, then.

We're in St. Louis, and Inferno, in his everyday guise as Steven Lewis III, is in his family's office building listening to a presentation. Arcanix is in the top of the Gateway Arch, using his magic to blend in, watching over people. Pink is at the nearby baseball stadium watching the Cardinals play, Duplex is over the river at the Cahokia Mound searching for rumored alien technology, and Spore is with his handler in the park near the Arch soaking up sunshine.

Arcanix feels the Arch shake, and the lights flicker. The security staff start evacuation procedure and people panic; Arcanix magics himself into a security guard so he can stay behind and sees what looks like a huge tendril wrapped around the Arch.

Inferno sees this as well. As the people in his office crowd to the window to watch as a huge plant erupts from the ground and wraps around the Arch, he sneaks out of the building, dons his costume, and flies for the Arch to cheering civilians.

At the baseball game, the footage of the Arch pops up on the Jumbotron, and Pink sneaks off, jumps out of the stadium and changes clothes. Spore and Duplex, likewise, upon hearing the ruckus, head for the disruption.

Arcanix uses his magic to stabilize the Arch, while Inferno blasts the plant with fire. The plant grows tendrils and plucks people off the street, and flings one at Inferno. He tries to catch it, but misses, and watches in horror as the victim flies toward the ground. But Pink leaps, bounding off the sides of buildings, and catches the hapless dude! She lands and a cheer goes up, and she leaps back into the fray.

Duplex arrives and blasts the thing with his lasers, and Spore flies to the top and slides down, ripping out the tendrils with people. He lands at the bottom, and then grabs the base of the plant and rips it out. Inferno fire-blasts it again, and Duplex lasers it...but now it releases a huge cloud of spores. Arcanix teleports out of the Arch and conjures a net to grab the spores, and Pink grabs the end of the plant, runs up a building, and flips around the Arch, unraveling the vine ("Wheee!"). She lands, and the plant crashes dead to the ground. Arcanix flings the spores into the Mississippi, and the press crowds in on the heroes. They want to get a shot of Inferno, of course, but also Pink, since she kind of did some highly visible stuff. "What's your name?" they ask.

"I'm Pink!" she exclaims. End of issue one.

The doom pool now stands at 6d6, 1d8, 1d10. Inferno has a d6 of emotional stress. We'll see what happens in a couple of weeks.
innocent_man: (tick)
Marvel Zombies? Nah.

I'm running Marvel Heroic Roleplaying tomorrow, and I need to design an event. Making characters in this game is really pretty simple, but making milestones (the character progressions that lead to XP) is a little trickier. So I'm gonna make the Event and then go back and do milestones for the characters.

Oh, first the characters:

  • Pink: Jolisa Anderson was on a plane on her way back from a track meet for her university when the plane was struck by a weird bolt of energy from above. She discovered that she had enhanced strength, durability and leaping ability, but her metabolism kicked up like crazy; she has to eat a lot, or she crashes.
  • Duplex: Al Argyle created his own armor, sort of like Iron Man's, but it fires lasers and allows him to fly...but not a heck of lot else, yet. It's still under construction.
  • Inferno: Steven Maxwell Lewis III was a rich kid who, while walking home from school, erupted into a pillar of fire. He can fly and control and generate fire, but is still coping with the destructive aspects of his powers.
  • Spore: A seed pod from another world crashed to Earth, and grew into a humanoid being composed of spores. This being feels something most of its race doesn't - compassion. It wants to protect humanity from its race, the Phylum.
  • Arcanix: A robot created by two supergeniuses to be this world's Sorcerer Supreme. Arcanix is largely controlled by the mystic runes on its body, but it wants to be its own man.

No read, playerz. )
innocent_man: (drama)
Ever After is a retelling of "Cinderella" starring Drew Barrymore, Angelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Megan Dodds and Melanie Lynskey.

We start off with the Brothers Grimm visiting a French noble (queen? hard to say), who tells them that their little story about "the little cinder girl" was true, though they got many of the details wrong. We then go back in time to A Long Time Ago, and see a man with a young daughter. Said man has just wed a Baroness (Huston), and she's brought her two little daughters, but he drops dead of a heart attack the next day, and leaves his new wife in charge of the estate. Turns out she's completely selfish and grasping.

Fast-forward 10 years. Now Danielle (Barrymore) is sleeping in the cinders, cleaning up after Stepmom and her daughters, evil, spoiled Marguerite (Dodds) and cowed Jacqueline (Lynskey). Mom's trying to put Marguerite with the prince of France (Scott, as the whiniest prince ever), but he's in an arranged marriage and hates it. On a day out, trying to escape the duties, he meets Danielle, and steals one of her horses. He pays her for it, and she impersonates a noble to free a member of the household who Stepmom has sold to paid debts. In the process, she meets the Prince again and makes an impression, and they fall in love. Aw.

Problem is, of course, she's a commoner and he's the prince, and Stepmom's evil, so there are issues. But eventually, with a little help from Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), the Prince gets his head in order, marries Danielle, and Stepmom and Marguerite are forced into labor. Jacqueline, meanwhile, quietly falls in love with a royal groom, and does just fine for herself.

The movie is cute. Huston is pretty fabulous as the wicked stepmom, not just because she's so good at being cruel but because her motivations are so obvious - she's horribly jealous of Danielle, terrified to be thrust into the position of a manor-house owner when her husband dies, and can see no way out but marrying money. Danielle just wants to run the house and be with the family she's always known, and the Prince does a passable job of morphing from Whiny as Hell to Somewhat Less Whiny (though I buy his depiction of NRE and the heady rush it leads to). Da Vinci is a fun mentor, and I like that the Prince doesn't save Danielle from anything so much as get his head screwed on straight and choose to be with her. So it's fun, if not entirely high art.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium. Interested to see if Teagan would like it.

Next up: Evolution
innocent_man: (geist)
Last night, I ran the end of my Geist: The Sin-Eaters story, Johnny's Banjo. So check it out:

Last time, the characters had a fight in a restaurant, and then fled to meet Carl at the marina, on Nixie's boat. There, safe from any chaos happening in the city, they tried to go over what they knew.

They knew that the One-Who-Gazes wanted Johnny Mac, but had taken Johnny Jackson instead, almost out of spite. Carl revealed that he'd run across the One-Who-Gazes before, in New Orleans, when his wife had been the sacrifice demanded by the demon (specifically, the person had to kill someone in sight of the victim's loved one). The characters tried to consider how they might break a bargain with a demon, but such bargains are too varied to have general breaking conditions. They also tried to suss out the demon's motives - why try to end the world? Unless the song was only meant to end the world in a smaller area? They weren't sure.

Sam Nguyen called Cassie and revealed that Johnny Jackson had vanished from prison, and there were videos of him at the restaurant circulating...but that some government agency starting with a V (which Johnny Mac recognized as "VASCU") was asking questions. Why had Johnny been so over this time? Carl's hypothesis was that the characters had changed something, and since the biggest change they'd made was in the Sound (back here), they decided to head out.

As they did, Nixie noted that her geist was paying attention (never a safe position to be in). the weather started getting choppier. The waves pitched against the Rusty Bucket, and Carl, Cassie and Alistair were swept overboard. Carl teleported back to the deck, and the others threw flotation devices to Cassie and Alistair, but the weather was getting worse. Nixie reached out to her geist and asked it to help them get where they were going...

And then everything went dark, there was a sudden pressure, and they found themselves in the Underworld, the boat floating on the River Lethe. They got the others back in the boat and started heading downstream (but not before Ian took a flask and filled it with the waters of Lethe).

The water grew rougher, and the river split into two tunnels ahead. Nixie threw the boat left, and the waters were white and churning, and in an immense, dark tunnel they heard music. Ian used the Pyre-Flame Shroud to light the place up, and they saw ghosts on the side of the tunnel, standing on a small ledge, singing, each with the tell-tale throat wound marking them as Johnny Jackson's victims.

Except...Johnny Jackson was one of them. And Ian noted that some of these people were obviously much older than the modern era, some by centuries.

Johnny Mac stood at the bow of the boat and asked the demon what was going on. The demon spoke, and requested, smugly, that the characters keep their eyes open on the way down.

Johnny Mac finished off his bottle of Cutty Sark, had Ian pour him a bit from the flask, and drank the "The man who first discovered music, first stretched a piece of leather or gut and strummed it, and heard the first note...I was the man standing next to him, watching him do it." The demon wanted the song to end, wanted the finality and wanted to watch the world drown. But by ending the song, the characters could prevent the damage, stop the world from ending.

Sadly, drinking the Water of Lethe saps a dot of Intelligence...and Johnny Mac only had one. As his memory and personality faded away, he turned to his friends and said, "Stop the song."

A howl went up from somewhere - the demon, outraged that Johnny wouldn't be able to see the demon's victory. One of the ghosts, possessed now by the demon, jumped from the ledge and landed on the boat. It threw Carl off and started for Johnny, but Ian slashed at it with his Memento sword, stunning it. Alistair used Stigmata Marionette to control the ghost. Strands of control shot out from the ghost's neck-wound to all of the other ghosts, and Cassie strummed them, trying to control the song, help the ghosts to pass on.

The note was deafening. The White Dog, still self-aware, took control, turning into the Phantasmal Marionette, ready to leap at the demon. But Nixie asked her geist for help again - could it save them? It could, it responded, keep the core of them intact, but that was all it could do. Nixie agreed, and the Rusty Bucket went over a waterfall, dragging an untold myriad of ghosts behind by the strings playing the song, down into the Ocean of Fragments.

For the characters, everything went white for a moment...and we'll catch up to the them later.

For the ghosts, they immediately lose their most tenuous identifier: "I am possessed by a demon."

The song ended. The rain stopped.

Epilogue: A man pulls his boat into the marina, thanks God he was able to navigate the storm, and then clutches his chest and falls dead. Carl, nearby, pulls himself out of the water, and curses his geist for killing a man so that they can live. He looks back at the calming sea, and starts walking toward the city, the song finally gone from his head.
innocent_man: (funtime)
See, here's the problem. Facebook allows me to post things as I'm thinking of them. As such, where once an idea would have bounced around in my head, picking up speed and refining itself before getting posted to LJ, now I just basically say it (or tweet it), and that's that. But occasionally I feel like I should use this blog. Although I don't know, it's more out of habit than anything. I don't know if anyone's really still reading (which makes me really sad, because I miss the discussions we used to have here, "y'all"). I use it for a dumping ground for my movie reviews, my game write-ups (and even then, those get posted to RPG.Net, too) and, once in a blue fucking moon, character creation.

I had planned on doing two characters a week; the last one I did was here, and that was almost three months ago. Now, since then, I've developed a book and written stories and run games and done lots of other stuff, but making a character requires energy and it requires me to have read a damn book.

That said, I know what RPGs I need to read. I need to read Marvel Heroic Roleplaying because I'm running it next week, and I need to have characters statted up and an Event planned before that. I need to read Monsterhearts because Morgan asked me to run Werewolf when I come to Atlanta next month, but what she really wants to do is emulate the Teen Wolf TV show, and that's not Werewolf, that's Monsterhearts. And I need to read Nobilis 3rd because reasons. :)

Really, though, one reason I haven't logged on is that I haven't actually run one of my regular games in a while. Promethean is on hiatus (hence the Marvel game), Spirit of the Century likewise until Sarah can rejoin us. I'm running Geist on Saturday, so I need to take notes for that, but not tonight. Dresden got cancelled for this month, but we're playing on the 3rd, and Changeling is over but we're playing curse the darkness as a bit of a palate cleanser, and deciding what to play next, on the 4th.

OK, then. Oh, and Tragedy. I need to do a write-up of the awesome game we played last week. Maybe tomorrow night I'll get the table cleaned off and spend some time writing. But, for those of you following the Kickstarter: We're at $4275, very respectable. I still think we could make $5000 before the end (10 days!). Also put this video up today:

Oh, and, more characters every day over at the company site. Which reminds me: I'm behind, so better go do that.
innocent_man: (Default)
EuroTrip is a rather juvenile but funny as hell comedy starring no one I knew except Michelle Trachtenberg (but seriously: Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Travis Wester are the other four principals).

Scotty (Mechlowicz) and his buddies Cooper (Pitts) and the twins Jenny (Trachtenberg) and Jamie (Wester) have just graduated from high school in Hudson, Ohio (not so far from me). Scotty is immediately dumped by his younger girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk). That's cruel enough, but then at a party, she gets up onstage with the lead of a pop-punk band (played by Matt Damon), who sings the catchiest song ever:

Following this, Scotty goes home and discovers an email from his German pen pal, "Mike," asking for a date. Drunk and not entirely bright and not exactly fluent in German, he writes back to say "fuck off," and passes out.

Turns out that "Mike" is "Mieke," a beautiful girl, and Scotty decides he's falling for her. But she's blocked his email, and since this is before Facebook or anything like that, he gets on a damn plane to go to Berlin to find her. Whew. There. There's the damn plot.

The movie is silly, and it doesn't treat its women especially well (flunks the Bechdel badly, there's a lot of quasi-sexist humor, and a lot of objectification), but it doesn't seem mean-spirited, for what that's worth. The guys get abused, a lot of stupid stuff happens, they meet a lot of colorful characters (Vinne Jones as a football hooligan, which might not be much of a stretch for him), Jamie and Jenny wind up snogging after getting blitzed on absinthe, and Scotty finally meets Mieke in Rome and bangs her in a confessional booth. At the Vatican. FUCK YES.

Ahem. Anyway, there are some laugh-out loud moments, and the script chugs merrily along. The original ending had Mieke rejecting Scotty and being reasonable, which flopped with test audiences, because seriously, at that point we want reason? After the Penis Beach and Lucy Lawless as a BDSM sex club owner and the creepy-ass Italian man on the train? Please. We want them to hook up because it makes as much sense as anything else in the movie, and we want to root for Scotty, because he's not a dick (Cooper is, but he's the one who gets his ass beaten at the club, so it's OK).

"Scotty Doesn't Know" has been in my ALL DAY.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Ever After


innocent_man: (Default)

January 2013

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