Ringing in the New (Half) Season

March 31, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John (not bad, fun, but a little forgettable)

I liked it. It wasn't astounding in a broad sense but there was a lot of small goodness.

Strong banter and flirtation between Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman (as the new companion Clara Osgood) although I hope it does not become outright romance. I've had enough lovesickness from Rose, Martha, and Amy.

Interesting villain in the Shard not as a whole but in the details. The scenes where Miss Kizlet is forced to be "reduced" and when the Doctor confronted her through the cafe patrons show precisely where the mundane can be turned extraordinary with some strong directorial vision. This director and cinematographer really performed excellently.

Less interesting was the villain behind the villain. The reveal was so soft that it was difficult to feel its significance. The Doctor has so many recurring enemies, so why is this one so important or fearsome? Hopefully, this only means a greater payoff down the line, but as an Act III reveal, it was forgettable.

Let's hope the chemistry between the two principal actors isn't simply sex appeal.

No body, just skin

March 15, 2013

Spoilers for Jennifer's Body (nothing special)

Juno had no real structure. The Ellen Page character had no real character arc. It's not a hero cycle in any way (the world isn't changed by her actions, or lack of actions). And it's not a tragedy.

It's a bunch of snappy invented slang, some quirky performances by Ellen Page, and Michael Cera playing the same role he always plays. Only Jason Bateman's character actually had any real conflict, and he's technically the antagonist.

So I tried my best to tackle Jennifer's Body with an open mind. And it was ok. It has some pacing problems. (If I'm bored in a horror movie, then there is a problem.) It's not really very deep. And despite Amanda Seyfried acting the hell out of the role, it doesn't explain the character acting horrified and shocked in one scene only to be blasť with it the next.

And hell if I know what drove the Megan Fox character to do what she does. Is Jennifer jealous of Needy? Is she attracted to her? Why kill these random boys? Does she even know that she's a demon-possessed monster? Is she a demon-possessed monster? Or is really just a bitch with an eating disorder?

It's just not daring enough, and it could have been. What a great setup with a flat letdown.

Small Town, Big Heart

March 8, 2013

Spoilers for Cedar Rapids (definitely go watch it)

It didn't do so well in the theaters if this article is to be believed.

But you know, I liked Cedar Rapids. It's a quirky little comedy. It has a bunch of characters that are really kind of fun to watch and listen to.

On the other hand, it was missing just a little bit. You don't get to see much change with the peripheral characters. Dean (John C Reilly) starts off as a douchebro but turns out to be a trubro. Joan (Anne Heche with a really strong performance) starts off as a sexpot and ends up a woman trying to balance life and work and some small unhappiness. And Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr) starts off as a stuffed shirt but turns out to be a stand-up guy.

But why do they care about the main character, Tim (Ed Helms)? Why do they stick with him? It's really understated, maybe too understated, that he's the last innocent, true-believing insurance salesman in existence. They aren't changed by his arrival at the conference. Maybe a little. But is it enough?

So this movie is a coming of age story for a man who has been in arrested development. Kind of like 40-Year Old Virgin. But at the end, when he admits that he spent the conference having an affair, almost hooking up with a prostitute, and getting blitzed on every drug known to man, woman, and beast, and is rewarded for it, I could only think that most people come of age in their 20s by getting away from that kind of life.

More Nerdy Than Nerd

March 1, 2013

I'm trying really hard to like the new, post-Dan Harmon Community, and I do like it, kinda, just like I kinda like Big Bang Theory.

But I don't love it like I used to.

Community never had any real subtext. There never was any implicit or hidden meaning behind the characters. They were all mostly very open and honest about their own weirdness. But Dan Harmon's Community had metatext, an additional layer of movie and television tropes (I hate that word!), references, and filmic styles and shots. Harmon was the Tarantino of sitcoms.

But now even the metatext is presented baldly, but not badly. Some of the lines are very clever, but a lot are really on-the-nose. There isn't really a lot of play going on with the genre references anymore.

I think Dan Harmon's Community was so much more geared toward nerdy audiences than Big Bang Theory. While the sitcom humor of BBT was by-the-book sitcom structure and really don't need nerdy characters to be funny, you had to be a movie and television nerd to catch Dan Harmon's wink, wink, nudge, nudges.

Community used to be niche, weird, and hard to understand. Kind of like a nerd.

A Radio Song for the End of the World, And I Feel Fine

February 21, 2013

This awesome dude here took an fan-made Apocalypse World playbook of mine and made it look awesome.

Did I mention I think he made it look awesome?

The image of having a survivalist, stuck in his or her hole, reaching out for human contact just seemed too funny or ironic not to have in a post-apocalyptic world. I'm sure when the zombie hoards rampage over the countryside, there will still be people claiming the world will end in some other disaster.

The playbook is on nerdwerds' website (and he has turned other peoples' creations into pretty pretty playbooks, so check it out), or you can download it here:
The Radio

Please try it out and tell me what you think.

Welcome, True Believers!

January 31, 2013

My group has been playing Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, published by Margaret Weis Productions for the past couple of months. Not everyone can make each session, but since the comic book genre constantly has guest stars, missing heroes, and random team ups, it actually works well.

There is something about the game I really like, despite some of the not-insurmountable problems; the core rulebook needed another editing pass, there needs to be more work explaining the use of Transition versus Action Scenes, and the dozens of small options per roll really can confound new players and bog down experienced ones.

But the Datafiles for each superhero really does mechanically and narratively emulate each particular superhero. When Iron Man shuts down one of his powers to boost another, it feels like a scene from the movies. When the Thing doubles down on a punch, but tosses a die into the Doom Pool, it feels like a Big Deal around the table. Even when Spider Man gets knocked out, but resurrects himself by handing over dice to the Watcher (the GM), it really does feel like the game has escalated.

And it's a superhero comic book game, so any ridiculous over-the-top narration from the players and the Watcher is appropriate, so it's incredibly freeing to say yes all the time.