MOVIE REVIEW – CENTURION

August 16, 2011

Centurion

Directed by Neil Marshall

 

 

 

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Another review of a film from last year. But I will start doing some more current flicks soon, promise! Centurion (hereafter referred to as Centurion) is set in Britain during Roman rule in the second century. It concerns a band of Roman soldiers, led by Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender as the Title guy) and their attempts to reach friendly territory after surviving a bloody ambush where their entire legion gets wiped out by the Picts.  The Roman Governor (Paul Freeman) has grown weary of the never ending Vietnam-like quagmire that Rome is caught up in Britain, and has ordered General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West and what a great character name!) to lead his entire Ninth legion northward to kill the Pict king Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) and end the war in glorious Roman triumph. Of course, once the Romans get out into the country, the scout Etain (Olga Kurylenko) quickly leads them into the previously mentioned bloody ambush and the chances of Roman Triumph are greatly diminished.

The film now goes into Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid mode with Dias and his small band being pursued all over England by Etain and a mounted group of Picts. (Think LeFors, but hotter) Along the way, they run across Arianne (Imogen Poots), a super hottie Pictish woman who shelters and feeds the fleeing men in her big, empty house. Arianne apparently lives alone; there’s not a man in sight, because…apparently that’s how just super hottie Pictish women roll.

After Dias and Arianne exchange the customary Davy Jones twinkle eyes, the Romans decide to to make a last stand at a nearby abandoned Roman outpost.

This film actually has a pretty good look to it. The design of the film is well thought out and there were some bucks spent in both real stuff and CGI. The sound design was average. Nothing jumped out at me as glaringly wrong (no sync issues, or bad ADR) but nothing jumped out at me as exceptional. The costumes and sets are both good. The actors try hard, and most do well; it’s too bad they are handcuffed by a such a weak story. Besides the story, a couple of things raised major red flags for me. First and foremost is the character of Etain. She is completely and utterly unbelievable. From the moment the Governor introduces her to General Virilus, all she does is stare killer daggers at every Roman in the tent and is basically making the slashed throat sign to all of them, all the time. Yet they trust her implicitly and follow her into the abattoir without a second thought. I must point out, however, that despite her homicidal anti-Roman tendencies, in many ways she is the perfect woman. Beautiful, scantily clad…mute. (A cookie to anyone who can name the movie that quote is from!) Second is the politically correct casting. Our Roman survivors are, because of today’s day and age, a nice ethnically diverse group. In addition to several Romans we get a Nubian (“What’s a Nubian?”) and a Syrian thrown in the mix. The third thing is the anachronisms that pop up through out the film. For example, Dias, in bad narration style, says this about Arianne “Is she angel, or demon?” Really Dias? You’re a Roman – in fact you’re a Roman before the conversion to Christianity. Your religious beliefs don’t include such concepts as angels and demons. Those are more of Christian ideas. I know it’s only one line, but things like that are all it takes to push a film into crapsville.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

Here is a perfect setting for Dungeons and Dragons. You can have a big set piece battle to start, and then get into the role-playing. Or just start with the aftermath of the ambush. The only thing missing is magic. The film itself has no magical items, spells, or magicians. The film makers do suggest that Etain might be using magic to help in her tracking (we see her taking ashes of the dead and boiling them in kettles and stuff) but they don’t follow through with that idea. So, some magic would have to be added in. If a chase adventure doesn’t sound exciting enough, you can always add in some other goals for the party to try an achieve. If I were running it, I would split the party in two and let one group take on the roles of Etain and the Picts, and let the players match wits against each other. You can always keep the Roman Army in  your back pocket as the cavalry coming over the hill, if you need to.

 

 

 

Look for Noel Clarke as the Nubian runner Macros. A lot of you will recognize him as Mickey The Idiot from Doctor Who. While I’m glad to see the actor get out and do other projects, I did find him a bit distracting. Once I saw him, I started looking for Rory, the plastic Roman (Arthur Darvill) to show up….

‘Course, what do I know? Now if you will excuse me, I’ve going out to find me a super hottie Pictish woman…

You can check out this review as well as all the others at the Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

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Date: 8/7/11

Play Tester Game Playing Level: High

The Crew player began the game cautiously, only sending out the engineers Milton and Britt to attempt to fix the damage in Cargo Hold Two while the Captain went to the Computer Room to consult the ship’s Computer. The Monster, only at Stage Zero of it’s life cycle, spent the turn hiding from the crew and attempting several unsuccessful attempts at damaging several of the sections located on C and D deck.

The majority of the Crew continued to remain in the Hibernation room constructing electrical prods to fight the monster. This strategy backfired when a door malfunction occurred (thanks to a SM Event play) and the affected room was randomly determined to be the Hibernation room – trapping 4 crew members for the rest of the turn.

The Crew spent this time deciding to form into teams (Crew Event) and constructing high strength nets. Again the Space Monster spent the turn down on the lower decks, this time damaging the Engine room.

Turns three and four saw the Crew start making a concerted effort to hunt down the Space Monster. They also managed to repair the Engine room. But the monster proved to be elusive and avoided detection, while continuing its attempts to damage the ship. Finally, the Monster attacked two crew members in the Engine room and killed Navigator Hamm. The end of turn four saw the player decks expand to 40 cards (which happens after the first death of the Crew) and the Monster evolve to stage one.

The Crew spent most of turn five performing damage control – managing to keep the number of damaged compartments down to three. The monster, playing an Event card, evolved to stage 2, An ominous sign.

Turn six saw the game come to a violent and bloody conclusion. The Captain, went into the air ducts in an attempt to flush out the monster (again a Crew Event), and almost succeeded, dying at the final moment. The Monster, then began attacking the Crew and in two separate attacks, wiped out the remaining five Crew members, several dying after getting hit by the monster’s toxic blood (one of the attributes the Monster player chose for this game).

Game Result: Major Space Monster Victory

While a good time was had by all, both players agreed that since this was the first game, they were trying things just to learn the rules and game mechanics rather than for optimal strategy. The next time around, both vowed to focus on winning the game. We shall see…

Click here for more information on SPACE MONSTER.

The Space Monster

August 10, 2011

Hey, this is Steve from Toxic Bag Productions. Starting with “Dungeons & Dragons”, Axis & Allies and Risk in High School to “Call of Cthulhu” and GMT games today, I’ve been a gamer my whole life. (And you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that my dating life in that time has been….sparse)

About two years ago I decided to make my own board game. I had built up in my head what I was looking and hoping to find in a board game, and nothing on the market was meeting my ideas. So, I got to work, taking the general ideas and concepts in my head and somehow translating them into an actual game.

The end result of this endeavor is now here: Space Monster. Like the best sci-fi and horror stories of the last 50 years, this game pits the human crew of the space ship TCS Brown against an unknown hostile life form that has gotten aboard via a meteor collision. As the game progresses, the monster evolves, becoming stronger and more dangerous. The human crew can construct weapons to defend themselves, search the vessel for the monster and attempt to repair the ship to keep it from being destroyed.

The player controlling the Monster gets to choose (secretly) several attributes that will give the creature offensive, defensive and special abilities. With over 20 attributes to choose from, each game should have a different and unique monster.

Space Monster is a two-player board game that uses a strategic card engine to drive the game. Both players have their respective decks of cards that can be played either as the events listed on them or as points to move the crew and monster around the game board. But a card may only be used one way at a time. So as a player, you have to decide how best to use your cards. For example, as the crew, do you play the event to get the special tracking devices to help you in hunting down the monster, or do you use that card for the points to move your crew members? The randomness of the cards coupled with the monster attributes should provide lots of replay ability.

Designing the game has been quite a challenge. Every solution seemed to bring with it several new problems. But finally, we have (I think) a stable game that not only works, but is fun and exciting to play! For the past six months we have been play testing the game. I have been recording notes from each play test and thought I would post after action reports of each one as a record of the games development.

Hopefully you will find them interesting. All comments, questions and criticisms are welcome.

 

Click here for more information on SPACE MONSTER.

The Last Exorcism

Directed by Daniel Stamm

Running Time: 87 mins

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Now, I know that this flick came out last year, but I’m gonna review it now anyway, in case anybody missed this little gem of a movie.  The Last Exorcism (hereafter referred to as TLE) is about a preacher in Baton Rouge named Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) that is having a documentary made about him. As we see him preaching, he explains the showmanship in his work, and in a great gag involving a recipe, we quickly become aware that Cotton is moved by money more than God. Soon the documentary turns to demons and exorcisms. “I don’t believe in Demons,” he announces, but he does believe in good healthcare. As far as he’s concerned, if people want to pay him to conduct an exorcism, then why not. He’s totally willing to put on a show, and he has, many times. But since he has read about people, including young children, who have died in exorcisms, he has decided not to do them anymore. Iris (Iris Bahr), the producer of the film, convinces him to do one more for the movie and Cotton decides to let the film crew tag along on the last exorcism.

TLE then moves to the Sweetzer farm in rural LA. There, Louis Swetzer (Louis Herthum) believes that his teenage daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed. In another great sequence, we see Cotton prepare for the exorcism – complete with hidden iPod and speakers producing spooky noises and a smoke-generating crucifix. Later, he puts on a spectacular show, ending in the grand tradition of Zelda Rubinstein pronouncing, “this girl is clean.” Thinking that the job is done, Cotton and the film crew return to their hotel and begin planning the trip home.

That plan quickly unravels when they find Nell in her pajamas waiting for them at the hotel. How she has managed to get there is a mystery. She has no car and had no idea which hotel the group was staying in. The mystery of the Sweetzer farm quickly deepens as Cotton and the crew return Nell, and try to uncover what is truly going on.

The filmmakers do a great job in not tipping their hand too early, instead letting the audience discover what is going on along with the characters. Cotton and friends all have their “I’m in a horror movie” moment at the right time. It’s believable, and feels right, which makes it even more scary! The look of the film was effective and creepy. The documentary style of long takes gives the film a realistic look – in that what we are watching are real events and not scripted scenes. Only the occasional scoring of horror music in several scenes betray this effect. I guess the filmmakers decided that the film wasn’t strong enough on its own and needed them. Too bad, cause I think it works pretty damn good without them. One final note on the sound design: Fantastic! The designers did a great job without throwing it in the audience’s face.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

This is a film the H.P.Lovecraft himself would heartily endorse. It’s chock full of all the “There’s something dark and evil lurking everywhere” ideas that he constantly wrote about. And the setup is perfect for “Call of Cthulu” games, in any time period. In fact it would be fun to try this story set in the 20’s. The film also has just the right amount of research moments. Not sot many that they give the farm away, (no pun intended) but enough to provide the characters with enough information to try to solve the mystery. A good group of role-players would have a field day with these characters. From the cynical preacher to the true-believer father and the girl who may or may not be possessed, there are lots of nuggets to play with. If your group isn’t quite into full blown role play, then the story itself should be quite enough to ensure a fun evening or two of gaming.

I’m not gonna say much, cause I really don’t want to blow anything. However I must point out an important lesson from TLE: If a possibly possessed girl draws pictures of you being horribly, painfully killed, DON’T JUST LAUGH IT OFF, RUN!

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out this review as well as all the others at Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.