Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Badabook

This originally played at a film festival, and I missed it there, but now I have seen this Australian horror film.

A single mother and her son are trying to get by, but the son tends towards the fantastic a little too much, and the mother is just worn down trying to deal with it all. She loves him and reads him books, but when they read Mister Babadook, things start going a little strange. The kid now thinks Babadook is coming after them, but the mother isn't ready to accept that anything odd is going on... until she really can't avoid it anymore. Which may be too late.

This is more thriller than horror, with heavy symbolism for what the mother is going through. Almost too much so that the horror elements become rather muted and secondary when given the mother's arc and how invested the movie is at making that seem real. It's rather unbalanced, all up.

The acting isn't bad, with Noel Wiseman putting in a... "performance" as the kid. Essie Davis has the lead role and isn't bad, but another couple of takes might have made things better still. And the Babadook itself is... inconsistently realised. And I have no idea what the ending is supposed to represent.

To be honest, I'm glad I saw something else during the festival, and just caught this on my own time.


Read more!

Friday, 19 December 2014


With the recent two parter combing the series of Flash and Arrow, why not talk about them? And Peter is also!

One element I liked was that in the Arrow episode, they point out the rather severe tonal differences of the show. Arrow is a lot darker, and Flash is so much brighter and upbeat. And it's not that one show has death and the other doesn't, there has been plenty of death in Flash, but that show doesn't get down over it. Perhaps in a season or two when it's built up some characters we might care about, and then kill them, maybe then, but not for now. The metahumans get silly nicknames (that just so happen to be their DC supervillain names), and the show is lighter. Which does give Arrow a problem, in that no-one wants doom and gloom all the time. I'm still watching, but it's easy to believe that others aren't.

Anyway, we have this two-parter... which isn't actually a proper two-parter, because there's no continuing story from one episode to the next, it's just one lot of characters turn up in the other series and then vice versa. It was nice, but what was the point? We already know they are the same universe, and the shows tried to tease the idea of 'who would win?' between Flash and Arrow, when it's kind of clear that the guy who can outrun arrows has a bit of a leg up...

It was also kind of disappointing that Flash went with Rainbow Raider for their emotion manipulating villain. Psycho Pirate is there begging to be used, and opens up the whole possibility of Crisis... And Arrow used Captain Boomerang, who is more known as a Flash villain! Because Arrow doesn't have any villains of its own to reference? Then again, Arrow is referencing Ra's Ah Ghul at the moment, which is more Batman... use your own rogue's gallery, dammit!

It's nice to see superheroes on TV (and I'm loving the references Flash is giving to the CBS Flash series), but there are better things to do with cross-overs. (Let along that Flash and Arrow hook up with Green Lantern more often than each other.)


Read more!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

New Amsterdam Forever

Have you heard about the series that's set in New York and features a chap that's immortal, living with his son that is elderly, and helps solve crime? Yeah, I've seen both of those shows! When I started watching Forever I felt there was something familiar, but couldn't put my finger on it. Then someone reminded me of New Amsterdam. [Amusingly, there's a book called Forever that claims to have a similar premise, but neither series claims to be set on it.]

New Amsterdam was a series that only lasted eight episodes (because Fox) that screened in 2008. The main guy, currently going by John Amsterdam, was around when New York was New Amsterdam, and he was made immortal until he found the woman who was his soul mate. In the pilot, he appears to do this, but it's obvious that the series would be over quickly if he actually did meet your mother (I see what I did there), so of course he picked the wrong woman, but the current part of the series was focused on that storyline while solving mysteries.

However, while Forever has gone for 11 episodes so far, New Amsterdam did so much more in the fewer episodes it had. In Forever, the main chap is afraid people will find out he's immortal, and meets someone else who claims to be immortal... and that's about as exciting a premise as they are getting to. However, in New Amsterdam, they discussed racism, alcoholism, police corruption, rape, conning people... yeah, it went for the big punches, and they worked too. What the hell is Forever doing? [Although Forever does have Burn Gorman, so that's something.]

Basically, for a better, and gustier, take on the idea, go look up the older series.


Read more!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Star Warsian

[Reminder that this is the open beta test game, so spoilers ahoy.]

There we were, out near the mountains, three days hike from base camp... exactly where we wanted to be. Nearby is a valley, and in the valley is likely the ruins we are wanting... and there they are.

Walking through the ruins, we see a dome in the distance that draws our interest, and we spend time chatting about the masonry... which is why the lizard barbed beast things are able to get the jump on some of us. While the others are attacking, I run away... I mean, I get into a suitable position, then convince the beast I'm confronting that it is terrified of me (go dark side points!). I frighten it away, two of the other beasts are killed, and one is wounded enough it runs off. Victory to us!

In the dome, we find a wizened old man who is a servant of the great Sith Lord who resides here. We talk carefully for a while, but then his madness gets in the way and he attacks us... ineffectually! I reach out and peacen his mind... at which point his mind snaps the rest of the way, as he realises the impact of the nearby Sith Lord has had on him.

So of course we go after the Lord. We're PCs! We find a tomb in which there are still standing statue, a large sarcophagus and... bigger beasts. Two of us run for the sarcophagus, because of course the beasts will stay away from that... I mean, attack us anyway. Sigh. And then the Sith Lord appears... or does he?

We get the sense there is more going on here, the form of the darkness is what we bring with us! We attune ourselves with the Force, bring peace and quiet (and get hit some more), before finally turning the Light Side victorious. And, nicely, in the clean up afterwards, get ourselves some lightsaber crystals. Sweet!

From there to pastures greener... [And a bit of a break before we return to the gaming table... for things I can't talk about.]


Read more!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Newsroom now old news

And that's it. No more. The series is over. Aaron Sorkin is dead, long live Aaron Sorkin!

Series three brings things to a close, by changing the way the series works, by being different, and by tying back to the first episode all over again. Which makes me want to go and watch series one again... which I have on BluRay, with commentaries and such.

The series was just so brilliant. People have raved about Aaron Sorkin's writing before, and it is good... and there are a lot of monologues (as one of the characters points out!), and while he does tell you definitely what he thinks, he gives the audience a chance to think as well.

And then there are the character relationships. So much back and forth and who ends up with who... It is both simple and complicated and realistic. (And I do know that's three somethings.)

I really need to watch West Wing, which I also have on disc (DVD not BluRay).

Fantastic series, and I look forward to whatever he comes up with next.


Read more!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Moon High

Another would be pilot, this time from SyFy. This one is a mystery on the moon.

A convict doing work on the moon finds a flower, and then the area around him explodes! His brother comes in, and happens to be a high poobah of authority and starts investigating. There's a thing with the Russians, then other cultures get involved, and... it all gets a bit silly really.

To be honest, I was thinking of Moonbase 3 most of the time. And Moonbase 3 is a far better show than this. There was a lot of "ooh, look at this special effect" but the story is rather lacking. Possibly because this is a pilot, and thus they were hoping there would be a full series and be able to explain it better? But you ain't gonna get a series if the pilot is a mess, as this is. (And this has Bryan Fuller behind it.)

This features mainly men, and the few women around get to be in pretty dresses, because the moon... yeah, um, what? Just another thing that annoyed me. (And now I'm thinking the better show of Star Cops.)

And you know what? I would rather rewatch those other series I mentioned, than talk about this more, so off I go!


Read more!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Rule Breaking

I listen to a fair few RPG podcasts, and recently (well, actually for a while, but came to the fore recently) some particularly annoying issues bugged me. And now I'm going to annoy you with them! And, to be honest, this is largely because I get anal over the rules.

"This game isn't very good." Hey, guess what. I've played with that mechanic before, and perhaps you're PLAYING IT WRONG! Yeah, if you're applying the rules badly, there's a chance you'll have a bad experience. In many cases, I'd like to reach in, slap them, and then run them through a game properly. But it gets worse when they keep coming back to it. If you don't enjoy it, stop doing it, or get someone who actually knows what they are doing.

"Just roll me that." And then there are times when they claim to know the rules, and yet clearly don't and make it up. The mechanics are there for a reason, if you aren't going to bother getting them right, why bother using them at all? When you make up some of them, but use the proper mechanics otherwise, the game won't be balanced, so no wonder you're having a hard time telling a decent story. It becomes either too easy or too hard, so it's not an enjoyable experience. A cakewalk is not necessarily a good thing.

"We're gonna house rule a few things." Similar to above, but here's there is a deliberate choice to avoid using some of the rules. And it can get quite extensive. Which then leads to... why bother using them all? There are very few mechanics in games that are so tied to the narrative and/or atmosphere that you couldn't just use the setting with some other system. There are many hacks for a reason. I'm aware of at least three different cyberpunk rule sets, so it's not that hard. Again balance comes into it, but please, it's not that hard to pair a setting you like with a system you know and can use well.

There are many things that bug me and can make me stop listening (from audio quality to just the sound of someone's voice), and there are plenty of listening options out there, so this is just three things that can be addressed to make for a better show.


Read more!