CIFF 2014 Reviews – Round 1: In Order of Disappearance, Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, The Salvation and The Congress

Hey hey! The 2014 Canberra International Film Festival started last Thursday, and I’ve been spending most of my free time since then watching movies. I’ve seen seven of the twenty-two (potentially twenty-three) on my schedule so far, and honestly I’ve loved them all. Unlike last year’s aborted attempt, this year I’m determined to review all of them. In the interests of making that manageable, I’ve set a couple of guidelines for myself. I’ll be reviewing them in batches of four films, and limiting myself to five hundred words per film, give or take a hundred words each. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but as always with my reviews, there’s no guarantees, so consider this your fair warning. If you want to be really safe, just read the summary I put at the start of each section. I’ll even put the poster for the movie after each summary so you know where to stop reading, so you know, never say I don’t do anything for you.

Now as I always say, I’m no serious film critic. I tend to go pretty easy on films so long as I find something to enjoy in them, and I make no apologies for that. So far this year I haven’t rated any of the films lower than a 4, and I think last year I only rated one of them as a 1 or 2.

Now that the preamble is out-of-the-way, let’s get this show on the road. For Round 1, I’ll be talking about In Order of Disappearance, Why Don’t You Play In Hell, The Salvation and The Congress. Each title is linked to the page for the film on the CIFF website, if a trailer is available for it, you can find it there.

Continue reading

Review – “Pariah, Missouri” Vol. 1: Answering the Call

“Welcome to the Weird West.”

That’s the first thing I thought when I read volume 1 of Andres Salazar’s comic Pariah, Missouri. For anyone who doesn’t know me well enough to tell, that’s a good thing. A really, really good thing. While I may not get many chances to play in it, Dead Lands has long been one of my favourite RPG settings, and the mix of western and supernatural influences in Pariah, Missouri, scratches the same itch for me. I’m by no means a fantasy purist, in fact the best way to describe it is that I love nothing more than having my chocolate (the fantasy genre) mixed with peanut butter (sci-fi, horror, westerns, whatever genre floats your boat). Note that this only applies to my tastes in fictional media (games, novels, movies, and so on)… bring any actual peanut butter anywhere near me, well, pray the gods have mercy, ’cause I sure as hell won’t. It’s not that I’m allergic or anything, I just really hate the taste of peanuts. Anyway, let’s get this back on track and into the actual review.

Continue reading

Initial Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy.

So I saw Guardians of the Galaxy on the weekend… I want to review it. But I don’t know if I can. I honestly can’t think of the words to describe it properly. Everything about it just made me so happy. Once I’ve had a chance to let it all sink in, and maybe seen the movie again (maybe even a few times), I might try to do a proper review. But for now,  I thought I’d throw out some initial thoughts about it. Seriously though, just go watch it. I don’t care if you thought the Guardians didn’t deserve their own film, or how silly you think the concept is, this movie is amazing. This is pretty much entirely spoiler free, except for one major one right at the end of the post (there’s another warning and an image there just to make sure you don’t accidentally see it while reading).

Before we get stuck in though, just a quick note about upcoming stuff. I’ve got five updates for The Unusual Suspects in the works, but it’s going to take a while. Been struggling to get the descriptions written, and these aren’t my characters, so I’m waiting on some details for some of them. Still, hopefully I’ll have the first one up within the next week. Moving on…

Man, even just seeing that poster makes me so happy.

Man, even just seeing that poster makes me so happy.

Casting: Only going to talk about the main characters here.  Chris Pratt was adorably silly and loveable but had his moments of seriousness; Zoe Saldana was wonderful as Gamora (and on a side note, it was nice to see they didn’t shoehorn in a nude scene for no reason); Dave Bautista played Drax as a great mix of melancholy and unintentionally comical; and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket was something else entirely. I mean, the depth he managed to bring to that character, showing that he’s more than just a talking racoon who happens to be a nutjob with a fixation on big guns. Then there’s Groot. I don’t care that pretty much all he says is “I am Groot”, with varying inflections depending on the context, Vin Diesel completely nailed it, and with the few words he was given to work with managed to hit me right in the feels (probably unsurprising to those who remember his role as the Iron Giant around fifteen years ago). Lee Pace was surprisingly dark in his role as Ronan the Accuser for the overall tone of the movie, but it worked really well. Karen Gillan… well, I’m more used to seeing her as Amy Pond, the adorable red-headed companion of Matt Smith’s incarnation of Doctor Who, but damn if she wasn’t fantastic as Nebula, the cyborg killing machine. Also very blue, and very bald. Yet still sexy somehow… is that weird? I guess it’s a little weird. But whatever.

Story: Easiest way to explain my thoughts on this is to use the Avengers film as a comparison. Avengers was very much a serious movie with moments of comedy, and the characters are heroes from the start. Guardians of the Galaxy on the other hand is a straight up comedy with moments of surprising emotional depth and seriousness. It throws you a bunch of criminals who, while very likable, aren’t exactly all about Truth, Justice and the American Way, then shows their gradual transition into Big Damn Heroes or, at the very least, Big Damn Anti-Heroes. It’s violent, it’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s extremely well told.

Visuals: It’s gorgeous. Everything about it is just beautiful to look at, even the occasional horrible stuff. I can’t really say much more. Total feast for the eyes sums it up nicely I guess.

Conclusion: Without a doubt, this is my favourite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, and I’m unbelievably happy that they’ve already confirmed a sequel. Oh all the other films have been great (I’m ignoring even Edward Norton’s Hulk here, I’ll admit there’s an MCU Hulk film when they give us one with Mark Ruffalo in it), but they’ve all been fairly serious stories with characters who are, as I said before, undoubtedly heroes (okay, Tony Stark may be a jerk sometimes, but he’s still an unequivocally good guy). It was refreshing to have a bunch of anti-heroes just bantering with each other as they bumbled around trying to figure out what to do. I have to admit, I’m glad I sprung for the premium tickets. It was great being able to lie back in a recliner, have people bring me wine and cocktails and food throughout the film, and just lose myself in the spectacle. I laughed, I rooted for the good(ish) guys, I gripped the edge of my seat where appropriate… and I cried. That’s right. I cried. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and anyone who’s seen the movie can probably take a pretty bloody good guess at where I lost it. I bloody well defy anyone to see that movie, get to that scene, and not feel at least a tear welling up!

SPOILERS BELOW THIS IMAGE!

They may be criminals, but I love them anyway...

They may be criminals, but I love them anyway…

For anyone who can’t work it out, or doesn’t mind spoilers, the scene that made me cry is pretty late in the film. The ship that the team is in is going to crash, and in order to save them, Groot turns himself into a cage to protect them… when Rocket realises what’s happening, he pleads with Groot to not do it. I may have the lines a little wrong here, as I was a bit tipsy by this stage, but it goes something like this…

Rocket: Groot, no… you’ll die! Why are you doing this…
Groot: We… are… Groot

Holy shit guys, that scene just sucker-punched me right in the feels. I mean Groot hasn’t said anything beyond his trademark “I am Groot” the whole way through the film, and he so clearly wanted to say “We are friends” to Rocket, but couldn’t get that last word out. Even thinking about it now, I’m feeling like I’m going to tear up.

END OF SPOILERS

—————————————————————————————————————-

Written while listening to A Sound Mind. They’re an Australian band who unfortunately only ever released one album, Harmonia. I was lucky enough to see them when they were in Canberra one time, they were selling their album on the street after I’d finished my training course and was catching up with some friends… some random guy comes up, asks if I like music, then shoved some headphones at me. Had a listen, bought the album, and they threw in tickets to the gig that night. They’re a mix of rock, synth and pop, with some really uplifting lyrics. It’s not all non-stop happy joy, but the general theme is less “Life sucks” and more “Life may not be great right now, but hold yourself up and things will change for the better”.  I did just find out that it looks like the band members have split off and created two separate bands, PLUDO and Capio, so I’ll be tracking down some of their stuff for a listen very soon.

Review – Pathfinder Tales: The Redemption Engine

Alright guys, we’re back with another review.

As I mentioned last time, I’ll be reviewing the latest Pathfinder Tale’s novel, The Redemption Engine.  Please take this as your warning for potential minor spoilers for the novel, because damn it I have to talk about it to review it, now don’t I. Not much else to say really, so let’s just get straight to it.

The Redemption Engine

James L. Sutter

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Used under the Pathfinder Community Use Policy

Salim, Pathfinder’s answer to Captain Jack Harkness, faces off against an angel. Wait a second… aren’t angels the good guys? Like, by definition?  What gives?

From the Paizo.com blurb:

When murdered sinners fail to show up in Hell, it’s up to Salim Ghadafar, an atheist warrior forced to solve problems for the goddess of death, to track down the missing souls. In order to do so, Salim will need to descend into the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, following a trail that ranges from Hell’s iron cities to the gates of Heaven itself. Along the way, he’ll be aided by a host of otherworldly creatures, a streetwise teenager, and two warriors of the mysterious Iridian Fold. But when the missing souls are the scum of the earth, and the victims devils themselves, can anyone really be trusted?

From acclaimed author James L. Sutter comes a sequel to Death’s Heretic, ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011!

Continue reading

Cancelling the Apocalypse! – Pacific Rim Review

So. I saw Pacific Rim yesterday, and felt the need to write something about it. Obviously I’m not a professional critic, so I guess this might be a little rough, but honestly some of the reviews I’ve been seeing from the professional critics have annoyed me. I don’t care if they don’t like the movie, that’s their right, but some of them are showing that they’ve clearly got no idea what the movie was trying to accomplish. Saying that it owes its existence to Michael Bay’s Transformers is a bloody joke, especially given the fact that the movie is clearly intended as a way to introduce a new generation to the concept of Kaiju and giant robot films. There were a number of other inaccuracies, but I can’t really be bothered with them now beyond pointing out that things like this are why I rarely bother with reviews by professional critics before seeing a movie. I normally find reviews by average viewers to be of much more use, since I’m more likely to be judging a movie on similar criteria to them.

Hence why I’ve decided to review this in the hopes that it helps some people decide whether or not to watch it. First though, let’s make something clear. This is a movie review, so this could quite conceivably be considered to be spoilerific. You have been warned, and you read on at your own risk. That said, I have done my absolute best to avoid things I would consider to be spoilers. Pretty much all of the plot info in here is stuff you’d get from watching the trailer. Now then, let’s get into it…

Continue reading

Guest Post: Professor Jimbles.

I’m not being paid for this. Not a great start to a blog post.

Our illustrious blog-master and my deadly DM is currently caught in China with a respiratory tract infection. While that sounds like a the beginning to a Spycraft session, I’m serious. Because the great Firewall of China blocks WordPress (Alongside Twitter and Facebook.) I’ve been asked to take over posting duties for just a moment.
Sad news is I’m terrible at it. I’ve decided it was a good idea to bring the World of Darkness into direct light. Maybe illuminate a section on which I may have a slight edge on.

The World of Darkness is a modern horror roleplaying game by White Wolf (Now published by The Onyx Path.) using the “Storytelling” system. As a horror setting, the Storytelling system is a rules moderate. It doesn’t quite get as fly-by-your-pants, stats-mean-nothing-only-drama-is-allowed as Freeform, and it definitely steers clear of the D&D/Pathfinder pitfall of having rules for everything under the sun.

The mechanics are simple. All rolls and contests are decided by a number of 10 sided dice. Rolling a 8, 9 or 10 is considered a “success”. A 10 allows you to roll again, giving a chance to increase your successes. This form of open-ended rolling can lead to truly unexpected results, far more so than a standard “critical hit”.

While I can harp on about the crunch of the system, the main draw is the mood, themes and stories found in each book. The FLUFF! White Wolf’s fluff is the best in the business. Each rule book spends at least 50% of the time talking about how it feels to be chased down a darkened street by a brutish beastie. In the Vampire setting, much thought is given to the question “What do you do if you live forever?”, something that can be considered a driving question. This gives a personal element to the game. Each storyteller is primed to ask deep questions to reinforce and build player’s characters.

Most recently, I was playing an SCP Foundation type game with a skilled Storyteller. Through careful application of the mechanics and descriptions cribbed from the WoD core book’s stories, he successfully terrified the lot of us. I feel as if we were using a less evocative system, one without a focus on lethality and danger, his efforts would’ve been subdued.

Thanks for reading my guest post, feel free to leave questions in the comments, and I’ll try to get to them.