Hey guys,

Here are the links to the stuff we talked about in the August Podcast.

Enjoy!

J.J. Abrams Interview

http://moviepilot.com/posts/3443925?lt_source=external,manual

Flash Season Two

http://moviepilot.com/posts/3378403?lt_source=external,manual

Tomb of Horrors

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/153646/Tomb-of-Horrors-4e?term=tomb+of+horr

Directed by Marcus Nispel

 

 

 

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

THE REVIEW

Conan the Barbarian (hereafter referred to as CTB) is a reboot of the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick. This time around Jason Momoa gets to play the Mullet that became a king by his own hand. Joining him for the CGI ride is Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang, Rosie McGowan, and even a badly done narration bit by Morgan Freeman. The story begins with our Cimmerian being born in the middle of a battle. This apparently means that Conan is going to be a warrior. We see this confirmed in the very next scene as the now 9-year old Conan single-handedly kills a gaggle of Road Warrior extras, all while holding an egg in his mouth. (I am NOT making that up. There is a reason for it, it’s kind of a stupid one, but there is one.) At this point Khalar Zim (Stephen Lang) shows up. He’s looking (in LOTR fashion) for a missing piece of an ancient snake mask that the opening narration was kind enough to tell us about. A long time ago, this mask was apparently broken and hidden to stop anybody from possessing it and taking over the world. (Is it just me or doesn’t it seem like the ancient world was chock full of artifacts that would either destroy or enslave the world?) Khalar and his witch daughter Marique (an eyebrowless Rosie McGowan) kill Conan’s dad, find the mask piece, and then leave our little barbarian to burn to death. Which we all know is a classic super villain mistake, since Conan escapes and lives to fight another day.

From there the film jumps to a grown-up Conan (Momoa) moving from one mindless CGI filled battle scene after another until he bumps into Khalar and his crew. Which was confusing to me, since he had the full mask, yet somehow 15 years had passed and the new dark age had not started. Apparently he’s now looking for the last descendant of some ancient blood line to resurrect his dead wife. I’m not really sure, the plot silliness had gotten so bad that I had kind of lost interest by this point. Suffice it to say that Conan hacks and slashes his way through the rest of the film.

This film was basically a mess. An expensive mess, but a mess. Costumes and props were standard but uninspired – straight out of the Fantasy movie playbook. Like any fantasy film today, there is a lot of CGI and some of it was actually pretty good. My real problem was the sound design. Now, it could have been the sound system in the theater, but the sound design was horrible. The mix was so bad that unless a character was shouting, every line of dialog was unintelligible. For example, in the scene where Tamara (Rachel Nichols) tells Conan her name, the mix was so bad and mushy, I had no idea what it was until the end credits.

The other thing about this film that disappointed me is that it quickly became apparent that the film makers had little or no knowledge of the Conan character from the Robert E. Howard stories. Basically, they got that he was a pirate (which he was in several stories) but that’s about it. Everything else in the stories that made Conan who he was, was gone.
One thing that always sticks with me from the Arnold flick was Conan’s search for the answer to the riddle of steel. Thulsa Doom ultimately provides Conan with the answer when he tells him, “Steel isn’t strong, flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?” If we change steel to CGI and flesh to character, plot and heart, we get to the main problem that besets all fantasy/sci-fi/horror films of today. What does state of the art CGI get you if there is no high quality character development, plot and heart (what I would call direction and production) to control it and make it meaningful? The answer is, alas, nothing but a wasted 113 minutes of your life – like you get with this film.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

Obviously the Conan system is the way to go for this, with Dungeons and Dragons being a close second. You would have to work a lot on the plot to make it into a workable scenario. But the basic elements are all there. I could see a lot of potential for a campaign with your party trying to collect the various pieces of the mask before Khalar does. Each mask piece would be a different adventure. You can even have the mask pieces try to influence the party and get each of them to want to possess it. Now we’re talking! Party strife and conflict is always fun!

 

 

 

The best scene for me is when Khalar and Marique unleash several sand demons against Conan. The ensuing fight scene pitting Conan against warriors made of animated sand was pretty cool. Of course, the film makers didn’t take it as far as they should have. When it started, I thought they were copying the classic skeleton fight scene from Jason and the Argonauts. But instead of defining how many sand warriors were animated, they just had them (or maybe just one) jumping out of the sand periodically. Again, I enjoyed the scene, but it could have been done sooo much better.

If you really want to see a good Conan flick, I suggest you skip this mess and just pop in the DVD of the Arnold flick. Even after all this time, it still hacks quite a slash!

‘Course, what do I know?

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

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.

Season of the Witch

Directed by Dominic Sena

Running Time: 95 Minutes

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

THE REVIEW

Season of the Witch (hereafter referred to as SOTW) is a curious little film. I say that because it seems like the filmmakers couldn’t make up their minds on what type of movie they wanted to make. Horror or action? Instead of picking one, they compromised and decided to do both. The result is a 95 minute mess. A well made mess, but a mess nonetheless. Now, let me stop for a second to say, I enjoyed the 90+ minutes that I invested on this film and didn’t feel like the six dollars I spent were wasted. But Lord of the Rings, this ain’t.

SOTW is about two 14th century Crusade knights who, fed up with the endless killing in the Holy lands, desert and return to Eastern Europe. Once there, they come upon a land rife with plague. At the heart of the pestilence is a girl (Claire Foy, named only ‘the girl’ in the credits) who is believed to be the witch that unleashed the plague. This supposed witch is to be sent to a faraway monastery where she will be tried and killed, thereby lifting the curse and ending the plague. Our two knights, Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are quickly recruited by the local Cardinal (Christopher Lee – I know, wow, the dude’s gotta be 80!) to transport the witch. If they accept, the Church will forgive them for deserting the Crusades.

Behmen and Felson are joined by a fellow knight named Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen) a priest named Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kay, (Robert Sheehan) a knight wannabe. Rounding out the intrepid band is Hagamar, (Stephen Graham) a trader who knows the way to the monastery. But is the girl really a witch? Debelzaq is convinced of her guilt, but he is a priest and might just have the Church’s best interests at heart. Or, maybe she is a scapegoat, like Eckhart thinks, and the Church is intent on killing her to show the local populace that they have the answer to the plague? But if she is a scapegoat, then who or what is unleashing the deadly illusions and packs of CGI wolves that appear almost immediately? And what about the Davy Jones eyes that the Girl and Kay share?

The last reel features the final CGI overload showdown at the monastery against the ‘true’ evil of the film.

The look of the film was pretty good. The dark, menacing woods were quite effective, and the makeup effects were good. As far as the acting went, it was OK. Both Cage and Perlman clearly had a boat payment due, and don’t really bring anything extra to the film. Along with the rest of the cast, they gamely try, but the limited script doesn’t give them much to work with.

The same can be said for Dominic Sena’s direction. He seems to know what to do, but the script handcuffs him into going straight down cliché alley for most of the picture. Again, I think that the initial decision by the producers to hedge their bets and try to make a combination horror-action picture (and a PG-13 one at that) instead of going all in on one genre or the other, doomed SOTW to mediocrity.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

This type of thing is obviously perfect for D&D. Although for a truly engaging story, the journey would have to be fleshed out a bit, with a few more encounters along the way. Maybe some more bits of story expo to help prove the girl’s innocence or guilt.

As far as role-playing goes, there is nothing wrong with the secret agenda. For a veteran gaming group, one of the players could even tackle the character of the witch. Now that can be fun. She can plead her innocence and try and turn the other characters to her side, all the while, setting them up for the big fall. Or not; maybe she is just a pawn. There are a lot of ways to go on that. And lots of ore to mine, with the right group of players.

When SOTW finally reaches the monastery, we find that all the monks there are dead from the plague. The witch is not really a witch at all, but is in fact a demon possessing the girl. It seems that the demon needed to be brought to this monastery to get a holy book of Christian rights and chants (there’s always a holy book!)  This triggers a massive battle against the CGI beastie, who suddenly is just another monster to be hacked and slashed. I really hate it when films do that. Here we have a demon who for the whole movie is hiding in a girl’s body and perpetuates this witch-plague story so it will be taken to this monastery, yet once it gets there, it quickly becomes this winged fire breathing dragon-like beastie that looks like it could have saved everybody the 95 minutes and just flown to the monastery and grabbed the book on its own. I guess that in this age of movie making, the audience is expecting the climactic battle, so this is what we get.

‘Course, what do I know?