November 16, 2014

Hey guys, in this months podcast I mentioned several articles during the Popculture Update.

Here’s the link to article on Syfy channel:

http://io9.com/syfy-basically-admits-they-screwed-up-1651974076

Here;s the link to article on the Marvel movie schedule:

http://io9.com/marvel-debuts-their-new-phase-3-movies-including-capta-1651832265

You can get the podcast here:

http://toxicbagpodcast.wordpress.com/

 

Thanks for listening!
Steve

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.

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.

Yes, it’s me.

July 22, 2009

Hey there! I’m Steve, AKA Blood, from Toxic Bag Productions, Inc. We’re an audio visual production company located in the Burbs of Chicago. For over 10 years we’ve been providing sound effects for role playing games. And, as you might have guessed, I’ve been a gamer my whole life. Most of my gaming time and energy is focused on Call of Cthulhu. But I try and at least keep an open eye to what’s going on in the Gaming world.

My business partner and friend Joe Griffin is currently writing the award-winning “toxic blog’s bag”. After seeing all of the bling and women that have come his way because of his drunken ramblings, I decided to give it the ole ‘GED equivalent’ try.

So, from time to time, I will be spouting off on various topics including gaming, films, tv, or whatever.

So join me, if you want, here at my fortress of blogitude….

Blood