Sunday, June 29, 2008

Scantabuviews: Shaky-cam Edition

I watch a shit-ton of bad horror movies. In order to make the world a better place I review them to better help you, the horror movie fanatic, to make good bad horror decisions.

So what did I watch this week? Let's begin!


Yep, right out the bad horror gates is a really expensive horror movie with a high level of CGI directed as if it were a low-budget Indy film.

Basic premise: Extremely attractive group of successful twenty-somethings hang out together in New York at a big party. One guy is in charge of recording the party on a hand-held camcorder. Then a 40-story Godzilla monster appears and smashes everything in sight. Camcorder guy tapes it all Blair Witch-style.

Does it work? Sure. The actors ain't too bad, compared to what I'm used to with these kinds of movies, but then again they're getting paid an order of magnitude more money than those in the 'spring class project' horror movie realm, so they should be fair-to-good actors. Plus there is more than the one monster/creature in the movie so there's a lot of room for tension even when they're hiding from the big bad, though the protagonists do always seem to be within three square blocks of the Godzilla beast throughout the movie.

Its got the monster tension of the original Jurassic Park, which was a really fun movie to watch, though this one doesn't promise family-friendly deaths (Hey kids look! The T-rex ate the stuffy lawyer, Ha ha ha!). Most of the protagonists do stupid stuff that you'd never think you'd do in real life, but that's what bad horror is all about and why we watch it. Also, this movie also has nearly Transformers-level military battles, meaning that you've got army dudes wildly shooting bazookas every which way throughout the movie, which I wholeheartedly endorse.

Final analysis: Six Mothras and a Godzilla Junior out of Seven King Ghidorahs! Go watch it!

Diary of the Dead

George Romero is back from Land of the Dead with one-sixteenth the money! Hooray!

Basic Premise: This movie is about a group of college kids (*groan*) shooting a horror film for class (*yawn*) in a spooky forest. After spending far too much time in the forest arguing about their particular problems with eachother (I guess this is character exposition?), they hear about the zombie outbreak over the radio and decide to head back to campus to see whats going on.

The whole movie is again shot in Blair-Witch style, only in this one they really only have the budget for the one camcorder. All the iconic college character classes are present: the athlete, the film geek, the computer nerd, the southern gal, the tough Jesse Spanno gal, and the drunk english professor. And they all give a Sci-Fi channel original movie level performance, which is to say, very craptacular.

This movie movies really, really slow. When the zombies do show up they are in fact legit Night of the Living Dead zombies, but by that time you don't even really care, you just want the college kids to die. Especially the jackhole with the camera. And in order to deal with the problem of making the plot move forward in a medium that requires the camera to be involved with the action, they take the route of a lot of loud noises just off-screen and then exposition by the actors (usually covered in a new spray of blood) about "what just happened" and "what the camera guy just missed." There are some sweet old-school Savini-style zombie deaths, but they don't make up for the 70-year old college professor shooting zombies (off camera) with a compound bow and acting cool about it.

This movie makes me sad Romero was involved, though I'm glad he's still working at least. And its better than The Dead Hate the Living, if that means anything to you.

Final analysis: Rotten and falling apart. Avoid if you aren't a hard-core zombie movie fan! If are a hard-core zombie movie fan, then there's probably something in there for you about the fall of society and how the National Guard always end up being dicks in zombie movies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ash is 50!

Hey! Its Bruce Campbell's 50th birthday today! Hooray!

You know, Bruce played Autolycus in Xena the Warrior Princess.

Speaking of Xena, I recently encountered a very interesting game formula while digging around in the local Gamestop bargain bin:
[(Xena * Diablo 2) + anti-aliasing graphics update] = Titan Quest!

Yep, that's good ol' Rex Thunderguns, deadly dual-sword wielding ranger with his trusty feral dire guinea pig companions Presto and Chango, scouring the lands of Greece of its infinitely huge population of monstrous satyrs, ravenous boars, and blue cat-people.

Interesting note about the blue cat people. They're all female, and they all wear leopard skins. Funny thing is, I haven't encountered a single leopard, but I have slaughtered enough bikini-clad cat sorceresses to open my own leopard-skin bikini shop.

Anyways, the reason I'm bringing up Titan Quest is that it is a beautiful Diablo clone, which occasionally is just what the doctor ordered. I love me some Diablo, and throwing in some Minotaur mazes and Greeky names like "Autolycus, the prince of thieves" can only make it better.

Killing things and taking their stuff is one of the most precious and noble doctrines of sword and sorcery fantasy, and teaming up with buds and killing things and taking their stuff is what D&D is all about. This is why people so love games like World of Warcraft. So the question I get asked is, why would I play Titan Quest instead of WoW? Well, MMORPGs like WoW or Guild Wars come with some baggage that utterly ruins the level-grinding, gem-enchanting, sword-swinging fun, and that is the dreaded people on the internets.

I still remember the first time I waltzed into town in Guild Wars. I had just carefully crafted my avatar: Bonk Rockfist, savage barbarian of the Tyrannozaun people, whos very struggle for survival in the bitter cold shadow of Mount Frostdeath makes them some of the the strongest mortals in the realm. So Bonk adjusts his loincloth, readies his oak club, and waltzes into the city of adventure. What does he find? About a thousand scantily-clad sorceresses and gothy emo necromancers standing in a big circle playing air guitar and screaming in all-caps text over their heads "FRSOT OIL FROST OIL!!1!!! MOB BUFFS"

I don't even know what that means, but right then I knew that MMORPGs were not for me. I'll stick with the direct-connect cooperative games, thanks. I'm sure Bruce would agree.

PS: If anybody wants to team up and play some Titan Quest, I'm all about it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fourth Edition is here!

Yay! I have an entire bookshelf full of out-of-date material!

But fortunately, I picked up the fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook this weekend, and worked up a character for our game on Monday.

Yes, I know I'm normally our Monday DM, however one of the players (who is also a DM) got all the books through checking the bits along the torrents and has crafted an adventure for us already. So I get to step back and actually play a few games until we 'port over their 3.5 characters (which will be interesting, considering we have two gnomes, a monk and a sorcerer in the crew), and then he and I will switch off as previously planned throughout the "campaign".

Anyway, pouring through the flashy new 4th edition PHB I was struck by a couple things. First, the artwork is really well done. I was worried it was going to look like DnD Modern looked, all cartoony and big-handed and stupid, but fortunately it doesn't. Second is that it is so different from 3.5 I am actually quite confused about some rules. Less confused than when we playtested the Shadowfell adventure, but still a little confused. Oh well, we'll see how it'll play out.

Now, I understand that nothing is more boring than hearing a person talk about some great thing their character did in a game you weren't present at. This is one of the social pitfalls of nerdery, one of the many pitfalls that gives all science fiction fans a bad name. I refer to this as the "Half-Orc Paladin" syndrome. As in having to yell at a stinky squatter at Pegasus Games: "I don't freaking care about your half-orc paladin!" Of course now that Half-orcs no longer exist in 4e I'll have to come up with a more esoteric and stupid race/class combo for that reference.

But I digress, the point being that hearing someone talk about a DnD game you weren't involved in rates up there with hearing about how someone beat the second-to-highest score on Elevator Action. On the other hand, recapping the awesome feats of derring-do of your mighty adventurers with other players who were involved in the game is about the funnest thing possible. Hell, Brando and I still reminisce about the exploits of The mighty Vampire Slayer Quinn of the Dancing Blades and his trusty sidekick, Garsome Cinderheart: Dwarven Orc-Smasher!

All that said, I'm still going to summarize my character creation process for our adventure, in full awareness of my nerdery. I eventually narrowed it down to two options:

1) Rex Thunderguns: Ancestor to Mighty Chief Theogrim Grudgebearer, Slayer of the Twelve Bear-Men of Wereblight Valley, Retriever of the Bone Axe of Ghorz Bloodharvest, and Bedder of the Nine Beautiful Daughters of King Amorinous!

2) Vincent Von Grimm: Decendent of the Half-Dragon Necromancer Xanthugar Nyarlthotep, Banisher of the Black Beast of Butcher Bog, Keeper of the Six Orbs of Ioun Fellhammer, and Bedder of the Nine Beautiful Daughters of ArchDeamon Nicodemous!

Then I found out that one of the guys in our group was making a Dwarven Fighter named "Cuttem Ta'Pieces," so Rex will have to wait. Von Grimm it is! Half-elven Warlock of the Eldritch Arts! Keeper of the Sinister Secrets Man was not meant to know! Singer of the Six-Hundred and Sixty-Six Songs of Sensuous Suffering! Conjurer of Fell Magics Beyond Comprehension!

Behold his power and quake in fear!

I present to you...Vincent Von Grimm!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

To hear the lamentations...

Everybody knows the Arnold quote from the Conan the Barbarian movie about what is best in life. Its a good enough quote, sure. But I was surfing over at The Cimmerian today and was reminded of why the real Conan quotes are a thousand times cooler than anything Arnold could ever chew on in a movie. Here's a quote from "Queen of the Black Coast," where Conan and his Pirate Queen lover are enjoying the spoils of a recent raid and discussing life in general:
“Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”