August 7, 2007

Movie Review 2007 #92: Spaceballs

An absolutely goofy parody of Star Wars (and a couple of other SF movies), starring Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, and directed by (and starring) Mel Brooks.

Spaceballs came out in the mid 80's after the first Star Wars trilogy, and Star Wars is the man target for this parody which, if it doesn't reach the level of Blazing Saddles, is still amusing years later.

The movie opens with its own screen crawl, a la Star Wars, and its own "long spaceship" shot, with a cherry on the end of it to show that, if you hadn't guessed from the screen crawl, that this movie was planted firmly tongue in cheek. The plot doesn't really matter, and is an excuse for visual jokes, bad puns, and the occasional gross humor. There is even a metafictional bit, where the spaceballs watch a videotape of the movie they are in to find where the protagonists are hiding.

Some of the humor will not make much sense to someone not conversant with the era. For example, cameos by the Doublemint gum twins and the guy who was famous for making strange sounds are just not going to be recognized by a twenty year old, today. Joan Rivers, fortunately, has done Shrek 2 recently, and so her character has aged better, even if the pun of her name (Dot Matrix) will mean little today.

Still, since i am familiar with all of the humor, the good, bad and indifferent, while I wouldn't rate it as high as I would have back then, may the Schwartz be with you.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:45 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2005

The Passion of the Christ

This weekend, among the other movies I watched in a low key "stay at home" weekend, I watched a Netflixed copy of Mel Gibson's controversial Passion of the Christ.

It's wrong, IMO, to judge something without experiencing it yourself. So, having heard much about it, I decided finally to do so.

I recommend it, but with strong reservations.

The movie depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus on Earth, from just before Judas' betrayal through the Crucifixion. Within that time frame, Mel Gibson has focused mainly on just that time period, with a few flashbacks of Christ's life thrown in for good measure.

Two of my favorite actors are in the movie, a motive for seeing it. Jim Caviezel's Jesus is hard to get to know, for reasons I will soon explain. Mary Magdalene, as portrayed by Monica Bellucci, is a sympathetic strong character who makes the best of what she is given.

The movie is also not in English. Indeed, the dialogue is in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic, with subtitles through much of it. In what has to be a directorial move, some of the dialogue, especially during some of the more brutal scenes, is not translated, adding to a sense of isolated and a focus on Jesus.

Pontius Pilate, in this version of the Passion story comes off as a much more sympathetic figure than as I have usually seen him characterized. It seems that with great reluctance does he give over to the will of the Sephardim, and put Jesus to the cross. His wife Claudia (I have no idea if there was such a historical figure) acts as Pilate's conscience, to the end begging her husband not to do this.

As far as the actual cinematography, I have to mention the brutality and the violence. I do think its excessive, far beyond what is needed to establish the point of Jesus' suffering. Unless Gibson intended his audience to turn away from the screen in revulsion, I think he goes too far with the corporal aspects of Jesus' trial.

Other than that, I liked the film. Gibson is a decent director (cf. Braveheart, The Patriot) and he does well here...except for the damnable focus on turning his main lead into a bloody mess. There are ahistorical and apocryphal things thrown into this Passion--the fate of Judas, for example as well as the depiction of Satan. There is even a few daubs of humor, such as a flashback to Jesus creating a modern table and Mary doubting its utility.

Recommended, with STRONG reservations.


Posted by Jvstin at 2:55 PM

November 23, 2004

Monday Mashup: This is Spinal Tap

Population: One: Monday Mashup #46: This Is Spinal Tap

Byrant returns with a Monday Mashup that takes on that movie cultural touchstone, This is Spinal Tap.

A long slide to mediocrity, without even knowing that things are falling apart around you. The humor of cluelessness.

Maybe something like Buffy could work with this, with the players unknowingly under a curse as they go on a cross-country road trip, running into baddies as always happens, will it or no.

The opponents they are taking on get progressively weaker, but they are not immediately aware of it, because their powers have been sapped by the curse. Finally, it becomes far too obvious to the PCs that they have hit bottom, and then somehow have to extricate themselves from this predicament, perhaps hundreds of miles from home.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:02 PM

July 6, 2004

Monday Mashup: Spiderman

Ah,a Mashup I am more familiar with. The last one I had no clue what to do with it, and so I didn't try.

Spiderman, now he I can do.

I agree with Bryant that using Supers is a bit of cheating...so I won't.

Instead, I am going to run with Feng Shui and have the PCs slowly grow into their abilities as they realize they can be more than the ordinary. I'd restrict them to starting templates which are modern day (no 1st century sorcerers, ghosts or futuristic robots).

Feng Shui to me is very much like "Big Trouble in Little China" writ large, with an additional theme that the characters really can be competent and do some good and not just blunder through. They might not be the big boys, once they meet some of the larger problems out there, but they can deal with their niche, and do more than they imagined.

With great power comes great responsibility. Once they have control or aegis over a minor feng shui site or two, get some good shticks...

Posted by Jvstin at 5:38 AM

June 15, 2004

Monday Mashup 43: New York Subway

The latest Monday Mashup, number 43, is something I have ridden many, many, many times.


The New York City Subway System

The NYC Subway was for me in NY, the way I got from place to place. It was the means by which I travelled from the Battery to the Cloisters, from Times Square to JFK and Shea Stadium.

I've had dreams of the subway, dreams of subways of alternate New York Cities, even. And there is the fodder for my mashup.

I'd probably use a system like GURPS, borrowing from their Time Travel book for it. Set the characters in New York, taking the subway to some destination. When they get to the stop and see that its the "Royal Museum of Natural History", what will they do? And if they continue to work through the subway, they will get further and further from their home reality, until they start to work with the map of the Subway and begin to figure out the patterns inherent.

And just what do you do now that you've found an interdimensional subway system, anyhow? I can see a lot of campaign fodder out of the idea.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:48 PM

April 20, 2004

Monday Mashup: The Titanic

This week's Monday Mashup, The Titanic, is actually one of my own suggestions based on my recent entry on the sinking of the Titanic.

It is a good Monday Mashup because you can take the Titanic and use its themes in a variety of games and genres.

For my choice?

Just to show the diversity of the setting, I will steal from an old computer game, Ultima Underworld II. Imagine a flying fortress like Killorn Keep, created by a powerful arrogant wizard as the ultimate in travel and living, a way to traverse the land and slowly get from place to place. An impregnable, unstoppable floating fortress.

The PCs job is to find a way to provide the metaphorical iceberg. Hired by sorcerers guild jealous and envious of the wizard's power, they would like to see his hubris repaid in kind.

The trick is for the PCs to board and discover the secrets of the Keep, and find a way to end its flight--without losing their own lives.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:39 PM

April 5, 2004

Monday Mashup: Madonna

Bryant's latest Monday Mashup is the pop icon, Madonna.

And, no, Ginger, I am not going to do Pop star in a D&D world...

I'd use her in none other than Nobilis. I see Madonna as an anchor for a Power of pop music, pop culture or other related fields. A plot for a game could revolve around her continual renaissances...is this something that the Power who has her anchored is doing? And what if this meddling conflicts with other anchors and Power's plans for entertainment? How much is Madonna aware of the Nobilis world, anyhow?

A chameleon, ever-fascinating person that's perfect as a "real-world" NPC to be dropped into the Nobilis realm. While, sure, the bit with doing famous people as anchors or Powers can be overdone, the GWB (from what I have read of it) does it anyway--Helen of Troy, Newton, and others.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:42 PM

March 31, 2004

Monday Mashup: Partridge Family

Bryant's Monday Mashup this time around is the Partridge Family.

C'mon get happy!

Like Ginger mentions that she could run this within HOC, I could similarly run this within Strange Bedfellows.

Get Fiona's bardic daughter Brandeigh to set up a little jam band with the more musical of her cousins and travel around as such. Adventures in shadow ensue during their adventures. Easy enough.

As an alternative, try Nobilis. Get a Power of Music, or Song, add in a couple of other Powers and anchors, and set them out onto the Tree to explore and have a good old musical time.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:28 AM

March 9, 2004

Monday Mashup: The Lensman Series

Bryant offers an intriguing Mashup this week: The Lensman series

What the Lensman series is to me are psionicists (two rival groups), secret societies, and long term plans between two long-lived races, using their pawns and allies as the main combatants.

Somehow, I think you can do this in a fantasy (D20 if you insist) setting.

On one side, the evil Eddorians. In a fantasy world, the premier antagonist psionicists are none other than the Mind Flayers. So they are on one side, manipulating their pawns, advancing their alien goals.

On the other side, the Arisians, we'll throw in a set of psionic dragons.

Why dragons?

Well, like the Mind Flayers, we need something non-human with goals which are their own. Even if they are protagonists, they should be somewhat different than the PCs. And Dragons are far more likely to work through intermediaries, or disguised, than other choices.

The Dragons and Mind Flayers have been working for thousands of years against each other, subtly, carefully, influencing the civilizations of humans and the other humanoid races. This would be a large game-long campaign arc, with the PC party slowly growing into psionic talents of their own, and slowly becoming aware of the overreaching conflict.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:12 AM

February 4, 2004

Monday Mashup: Around the World

This week's Monday Mashup is the classic Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days.

What to choose, what to choose?

So many ways to go with this one, I am going to go a bit off the wall and pick an unusual game choice.

Nexus, the Infinite City. I know that Bryant has seen this, since he mentioned it in one of Ginger's Game WISHes. Others of you might not be familiar with it. I'll give a review of it in detail sometime if people are curious. Think of it as a world similar to Cynosure and a game system using mechanics later refined in Feng Shui.

Anyway, the mashup:
Set it as a race in Nexus, with the players starting and ending in Angel City. In between, the characters can vist lots of locations, with variable constants of magic and technologym desperately trying to cover a race course that is guaranteed to be interesting in each Zone, especially given the quasi-anarchy that dominates most of the City.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:48 PM

January 21, 2004

Monday Mashup: Iowa Caucuses

Bryant's Mashup:

The Iowa Caucuses...

Political intrigue, outsiders, veterans, young punks, and old stablehorses competing for office.

It can happy just about anywhere that has any semblance of elections.

Ginger already took ADRPG as the other half...which would be the obvious choice.

So I will do a little jujuitsu and use...Everway!

Take an out of the way world that the player characters discover via a gate. They arrive in the middle of an election period, and, being Worldwalkers, are recruited and courted by the various factions to lend their voices and their talents to the candidates' cause.

Which candidate will they choose? And why? This would be a social game, with no clear "win or lose"...but a chance to influence the fate of a world.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:59 PM

October 21, 2003

Monday Mashup: The Boston Red Sox

Bryant's unusual mashup this week involves the Boston Red Sox...

Beloved Losers of Beantown? Or cursed by some unseen force? Keeping it in a mostly real modern world suggests a couple of games to me, but someone already picked In Nomine.

Instead, I am going to pick Nobilis.

Make the PCs Nobles of a Chancel with convenient exits to the Boston area. Even better, if at least one of them is originally from Boston, and has a tie to the Red Sox as a bond. Even better if a PC is the Power of Baseball. (Sure its a small Estate, but given its influence in America and the world, it could work). Or a more general Nobilis of Games.

Now, let the PCs be exposed to yet another heartbreaking season for the Sox, and plant the idea, if they don't have it already, that they might investigate this odd "curse".

So what is the curse? Depends on how you want to play it. You could do anything from a simple spirit which follows the team, seeking to cause it misery and anguish, to another Noble who has decided to hold a grudge against the team and ensure its perennial heartbreak (the team might even be an anchor in that manner!), or if you really wanted to ramp up things, make it that the Cammorae, Lord Entropy's henchmen, are behind the annual losses.

And then the PCs can decide what, if anything, they will do about it...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:54 PM

October 13, 2003

Monday Mashup: Silence of the Lambs

Bryant's latest Monday Mashup is none other than the Oscar winning Silence of the Lambs...

What do you think of when you think of Hannibal Lecter? Brilliance, Genius, Horror, and a keen edged madness. And of course, using an Evil to combat an equal or at least an uncontrolled Evil.

The game I would use for this is obvious: Nobilis.

Make the PCs Nobles who are either Angels or of the Light. There is a nasty imminent Excrucian plot afoot to excruciate one of the more important Estates, and the one person that the PCs need to contact and get help from...is the Noble of the Dark, Hannibal Lecter. He lives in a twisted, dark chancel, a disturbing place that combines all the worst of an asylum, hospital and jail...but everything immaculately clean and organized, even in its grotesqueness. And the personal quarters of the Noble would be a model of neatness and taste, even amid the horror of the rest of the place. The spider at the center of his lair.

Can they trust him? Sure, he's brilliant, intelligent, and deductive, but can they truly trust all that he says? Is he trying to corrupt the PCs or manipulate them for his own hidden agendas? Can they even get him to help?
The clock is ticking...

Posted by Jvstin at 2:16 PM

October 7, 2003

Monday Mashup: I am Legend

Bryant's Mashup this week is the Richard Matheson classic I AM LEGEND.

Zombies/Vampires, the Last Man on Earth..its a powerful story, filmed a couple of times (perhaps most memorably as THE OMEGA MAN, with Charlton Heston). In a sense, the recent movie 28 Days takes this theme as well...a few humans in a midst of monsters...with a lot of ambiguity in dealing with the infected.

Amber would be perfect for this...but its' already been snatched up twice, by Nuadha and Ginger.

Ah well. I promised when I started doing these Mashups that I would try not to make Amber out of all of them, and so here goes.

Game system: d20 D&D with heavy use of Manual of the Planes and perhaps also inspired by Ghostwalk.

The plot: The PC's party winds up trapped on the Plane of Shadow. As advertised in the MOP book, it is a shadowy, dark place that things like Undead can feel very comfortable upon. But with a twist, I am using a less malevolent form of Undead, dropping the idea of alignments a la Monte Cook.

The PCs were transported into in a large city, let's call it Brandenburg. Brandenburg is an old city, ruled by a council of Vampires and other higher undead. Its starkly beautiful, strong evocations to the cities of the dead of New Orleans would be the visuals I would push for this place. Or the City of the Dead in McAuley's CHILD OF THE RIVER (of the Confluence Trilogy)

The kicker is...this city and all of its inhabitants are under siege.

The PCs are at ground zero, because an army of fanatical anti-undead humans are at the gates of this city, visitors from an alternate (to the PCs) Prime Material Plane...but still recognizably human. Said humans are determined to wipe out any and all undead, and have brought the battle to Brandenburg.

Naturally, the PCs are caught in the middle. The true monsters here are their own kind, not the undead which populates this necropolis-like city that they are trapped within. Can they learn to trust the Undead (and vice versa!) to keep them all alive against this powerful army of "good" paladins and clerics and other ostensibly heroic characters?
I think its an intriguing story, anyway.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:58 AM

September 30, 2003

Monday Mashup: Star Trek

Bryant's mashup this week is Star Trek.

Not Next Generation. No DS9. Voyager need not apply. And Enterprise is out, too. Just the original...

There are a couple of good ideas in the comments, in fact one of them dangerously close to my original idea...so I will go with my alternate.

Let's mashup Gamma World with Star Trek.

Kirk, Spock and their crew are the crew of a riverboat (on the former Mississippi and its feeder rivers--the Missouri, Ohio, Minnesota, etc.) Scions of a settlement which has sent them to explore, make contact and make sense of what was once the United States.

Spock, clearly, is a mutant--he has the ears, and odd abilities, too. But the Federates are not that intolerant of mutants.

They'll be contact with other colonies, new civilizations all along the rivers. There will be a couple of mutant groups who have gotten to the point where they, too, are sending boats along the rivers--Klingons and Romulans.

And plenty of green-skinned babes for the Captain to seduce. Who could ask for anything more?

Posted by Jvstin at 2:38 PM

September 23, 2003

Monday Mashup: The Dukes of Hazzard

Bryant has a light and fun Mashup this week...The Dukes of Hazzard.

Considering my age (32 in October), I will cop to having watched the show--quite a bit. My father especially liked it, but when you are in what are now called the tweens, racing cars, Daisy Duke and old fashioned fun had a lot of appeal, even for the likes of me. So I am quite familiar with the show.

And what's more, this is a Mashup that I actually did, in my first ever campaign that I GMed. You see, I had a friend, Anthony, with whom I played AD&D. For reasons to this day I am still not sure, he decided to name one of his characters Hazard.

And thus was born the germ of an idea. I was not very original in those days, in my first attempt to GM (DM according to terminology of the time). After all, the main city of the campaign was called Dunedain, the country was named Aragorn...the capital of it was named Weshington...and other weird ideas such as Elves using irrigation to reclaim a desert, Israeli style.

Anyway, with a name like Hazard, I had his party reach the borderlands of Aragorn at one point, and stay at an Inn. I had them overhear that a local farmer was in debt to the lord of the Land, and the lord was going to seize his property.

Well, naturally these guys were convinced (by the farmer's beauteous niece with a penchant for short skirts) to help get the money to "Lord Davis", who happened to be a short man with a penchant for wearing white. And of course there were his bumbling knight henchmen who looked suspiciously like the two policemen from the series. In the end, the adventurers paid off the farm, and got out of the principality with the knights frustrated and unable to catch them in order to put Hazard and co. in jail on trumped-up charges.

Lots and lots of fun.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:32 PM

September 10, 2003

Monday Mashup: Beach Boys

The Monday Mashup this time is...The Beach Boys?

This one stumped me for quite a while. I resist using Amber and coming up with a sun-washed Empire in shadow with beautiful beaches...because Arref already has done one of those.

This is not to say I can't do light and fluffy games. Not everything I do involves something seriously out of joint, so here goes:

Game system is...Blue Planet. A light Blue Planet scenario or game, set on one of the uncharted islands on Poseidon, maybe in the Pacifica Archipelago. No terrorisms, struggles between new and old colonists, or any of the usual themes of the game. Teenaged or young-adult protagonists, evading responsibility and having a good time on a completely new planet. Blue Planet is partly about freedom, the freedom of a new (and sometimes deadly) world. So I think it would be a natural.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:42 PM

September 2, 2003

Monday Mashup #7: Shogun

This week's Monday Mashup is the James Clavell classic, Shogun...

I was actually thinking along these lines a few weeks ago. During one of the Olsons' trips away for the weekend, I found myself watching a slice of Shogun on a cable channel (the same channel that later showed the entirety of I, Claudius), and as I watched it, I mused about the possibility of mixing an Amberite's history with a Shogunesque theme. I debated just which of my characters might do well in such a story and how it might fit into their history.

To me, Shogun is about a man who enters a world which he considers barbaric and uncivilized, only to learn the rules and culture of an alien society and become an active force within it. It's that raw plot which is the juiciness of the novel/miniseries. I should read the novel, its on my list of classics to pick up and read...

So, I am going to mashup Continuum with Shogun, and put the player character (Shogun seems to be more suited to a single or few player setup than a large gaming group) in an alien environment in the past. The PC could be asked to work in a Corner in an earlier culture as an experience tool--or even have a Gemini which suggests that they must do this in order to avoid frag. That is to say, make it clear that a period spent in such a milieu *must* be in their Yet. So, the PC will have to learn to work within a culture which is certainly primitive compared to their home time, and learn to see the worth and the complexity of that culture. It wouldn't even have to BE Medieval Japan, although the more unusual from the standpoint of the character and player, the better.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:48 PM

August 26, 2003

Monday Mashup #6: Huck Finn

Today�s Monday Mashup inspiration is the classic, Huckleberry Finn...

Huckleberry Finn is the great American Novel, and the great Mark Twain novel. Thusly, the novel is rich in ideas and themes, and a game created from it has to, I feel, pick and choose from the themes. After all, to get them all together himself, Twain wrote a book. A game or a scenario is more limited.

Anyway, when I think of Huck Finn, I think of the quest for Freedom, a journey down the River, and meeting strange characters all along the way. I didn't realize it at the time, but my ACUS scenario Ghosts of the Past inadvertently takes a couple of these themes, since its source material, Sean Russell's the One Kingdom, apparently does as well. So in a sense, I could cheat and declare GHOP as a pre-existing mashup.


But skipping that for a moment, let's choose the game system Adventure! Set the characters as not knowing much about each other, stuck on a boat going up the Amazon, or the Orinoco, or the Nile or any of the other mysterious rivers in the Adventure! world. With those strange energies, the characters are bound to eventually run into weird and interesting things. In the meantime, as their boat slowly makes progress, the story-telling and tale-swapping of Huck Finn could come into play, as the characters introduce themselves to each other through tales of their previous exploits.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:23 PM

August 19, 2003

Monday Mashup: Fantastic Four

This week's Monday Mashup is: The Fantastic Four

I'd do the Fantastic Four as a Nobilis game. The idea of familia is one already in Nobilis, its possible that an Imperator would have chosen four members of an already existing family to be his or her Powers. Naturally, it would be a rather odd Imperator with estates of Fire, Transparency, Stone(?) and Flexibility(?) but I've seen odder combinations on the Nobilis List. Considering the Richards family's devotion to Mankind, they would be Nobles of the Light, of course.


I don't thinK I'd give them the full points; making this a little underpowered (to, say Amber character level than full Nobles) would make for a more satisfactory game experience. But with Excrucians and agents of the Dark as opponents, it would certainly be a more action packed Nobilis game than the usual...but I think it could be a lot of fun, as well.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:48 PM