Friday, December 15, 2017

Movie #438: Moonstruck

Moonstruck is an 80s rom-com starring Cher, Nicholas Cage, Danny Aiello, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis, and Feodor Chalipin, Jr. It was nominated for a shitload of Oscars back in the day, and has the distinction of being a movie I saw on a "date" when I was in...what, probably eighth grade?

Loretta (Cher) is a widow who's been seeing Johnny (Aiello) for a while. It's not a terribly passionate relationship, but they like each other OK. He proposes, she accepts, but he needs to go to Sicily to see his mother on her deathbed. He makes one request of her: Contact his estranged younger brother and invite him to the wedding. Loretta goes home to tell her mother Rose (Dukakis) and her father Cosmo (Gardenia) what's going on; they accept it, though they're not exactly happy about it.

Loretta meets Ronny (Cage), Johnny's brother, and learns that they're estranged because Ronny got his hand caught in machinery while talking to Johnny, and his fiancee left him shortly afterwards. This is by no means Johnny's fault, but Ronny is a melodramatic idiot. She and Ronny wind up getting drunk and sleeping together, whereupon Ronny decides he's in love with her. They wind up going to the opera and actually deciding they're in love, which of course is complicated.

Meanwhile, Cosmo is having an affair, and Rose knows it, but isn't sure what to do about it. This is all intercut with scenes of Loretta's grandfather (Chalipin Jr.) and her aunt and uncle (Julie Bovasso and Louis Guss, respectively), lots of talk about moons and love and so on.

So, Michelle really loves this movie. I'm...less of a fan. It's a great performance from Cher (better than Glenn Close for Fatal Attraction, who was also nominated that year? Eh), and it's light and funny and sweet. Where I get hung up, I think, is Cage - he's just such a loudmouth dork in this movie, and his complaint with his brother doesn't make any damn sense (and it could have worked with a better performance, but as it was I didn't buy it).

Overall, though, it's pretty good as rom-coms go, and it presents Loretta as the main character and having some agency, so that's pretty cool.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Mortal Kombat

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Prometheans in the Park with George

When I was in middle school, I had really bad insomnia and wound up going down into our basement and watching TV. Of course, late at night, pre-cable, you got PBS and then not much else of interest. I wound up watching Sunday in the Park with George late one night, and ghosts of the opening song still flit about my head from time to time.

All of which has nothing to do with Promethean, but you're here, you cope with my non sequiturs.

So! The characters go to the park, except for Grimm (who nips over to the police station) and Skip (whose player was out sick, so Skip went back to the hotel to keep an eye on things with Virgil).

Grimm fills out a form and gets the info on the accident, but doesn't learn anything new - the driver of the truck reported that he had a green light and smashed into Daley's car. That's consistent with what Grimm had learned elsewhere, and with the notion of a Frankenstein Wasteland in the area.

The others go into the park, and Enoch, Feather, and Matt look around and find Lurch's camp. Moldering blankets, some depressing Pilgrim marks carved into the trees, and a bunch of books about death, the afterlife, coping with death, and funerary practices (some of which are library books). Clearly Lurch was obsessed with death, but why? Maybe he was dying, but what kind of sense does that make? He's a Promethean.

Avalon wanders the perimeter of the Firestorm area looking for evidence, but doesn't find much; it's been too long and the Firestorm seems to have wiped away the Pyros (like it do). Grimm returns and the Prometheans figure that maybe someone could track Lurch from the campsite, so Enoch finds a bloodhound (remember they're in a dog park), pets it, and then uses this Chimera Distillation to turn into one. He follows the scent from the camp out into the city, but loses it around the library.

Feather and Avalon return the books, claiming they found them in the park, and Avalon notices an employee kind of blanch at seeing them. She gets him aside and charms him into telling her why - he gave Lurch a library card even though he knew he was homeless, using a fake address and name (Andre Holt). Avalon gets the address and the throng goes to check it out, but it's a vacant lot. There's a Pilgrim mark on the wall - "fake safe place."

Figuring that if Lurch is still in the city, he might be hiding his Azoth, Feather uses Heed the Call and amps up her own Azothic radiance to detect him. She gets a hit and the Prometheans get in the van and follow it, and wind up at an office park. They pick the lock on a door leading into a warehouse area and Grimm and Matt go in, but they don't find Lurch. They find a van similar to the one they saw at the park and then the hospital.

Checking it out, they find the back has a bunch of automatic weapons and grenades. Grimm notes that the guns have special protective technology - they won't work for anyone without an RFID chip on (or in) their person. The characters also find a bunch of photos of Lurch around town, clearly taken from security cameras, a map detailing his movements, and pictures of them outside the hospital. Feather finds mattresses and living space in the office building next door, but very little in the way of personal effects - these folks are well-trained. Avalon finds a roster, though, apparently for guarding Daley, and finds their names: Fields. Hanson. Ramirez. McKinney. Moss. The documents don't reveal what agency these folks are from, but the letters "TFV" show up occasionally. Avalon also finds a post-it note under the "HOT LEADS" section of their murder-board...with the address of the hotel where the characters are staying.

They take the time to disable the guns, and Grimm scoops up a couple of grenades. Figuring they're probably on tape here, Avalon uses Arc to short the transformer and cut power to the building, and the Prometheans take all their pictures and maps (probably they have backups, but this might slow them down). Then they figure they'd better go check the hotel, so they head out.

As they approach, they see smoke rising. So next time, we'll check in with Skip and see what happened (but next time won't be until January, because the next Monday we'd play this is Xmas day).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Some Quick Promethean Notes

I used to keep notes for all my games in notebooks. I don't do that anymore for a number of reasons (my wrist cramps when I write more than a few sentences, and my handwriting has deteriorated over the years), but sometimes I do miss it. But the only reason I miss it, really, is that taking notes right before the game leads to two blog posts in a row about the same game.

Which is, probably, a kind of neurotic thing to fret over, but hey, my brain is a fatty mystery.

Movie #437: Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Monty Python & The Holy Grail is the first feature-length movie from Monty Python, and as such stars John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, and various other Python regulars like Carol Cleveland, Neil Innes, and Connie Booth.

In AD 932, King Arthur (Chapman) and his faithful servant/horse Patsy (Gilliam) ride across the land, first looking for knights to join them in Camelot and then, after deciding not to go to Camelot (as it's only a model, and is also a silly place), receive a quest from God: Find the Holy Grail. What follows is them bumblefucking their way through multiple roles, trials, and tribulations until finally they discover the resting place of the Grail...and promptly get arrested by fourth-wall-breaking cops, ending the movie.

Seriously, though, if you're reading this, the odds are that you've seen this movie at least once. It's probably one of the most-quoted movies of all time in geek circles, and even if you don't know it, you know parts of it. It's spawned a hit musical and a whole bunch of other merch. But how is the movie, really?

It's actually really funny the first couple of times you see it. The problem is over-saturation, and I've been through the period in my life where I had a Grail quote for every occasion (Futurama probably takes up that position in my life now, if I'm honest). But the jokes are good; the right mix of Python-esque absurdism and enough of a story that it doesn't just feel like random craziness (which was my problem with Meaning of Life). Watching it with Teagan was fun because she hadn't seen it, just a few clips here and there, and then listening to her start to quote it with Al was like watching myself as a teenager, and it's a testament to the movie's staying power that the silliness carries through.

If I have a complaint, of course, it's that like a lot of Python things, there's nothing here for women to do. The only time in the movie we get any women of consequence is the Castle Anthrax, and then it's a bunch of teenage girls getting really worked up over Galahad the Chaste, which is funny as far as it goes, but then beyond that the only women characters are fairly inconsequential or Terry Jones in drag. So that's a bummer. Otherwise, though, it's a fun, light movie, not really parodying anything in particular.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: High, though higher when I was younger

Next up: Moonstruck

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Night's Black Agents: The Truth

Last night, Night's Black Agents ended an op (but by no means the game as a whole). Let's watch.

Last session, the characters broke into the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, cracked the secret vault, and stole a bunch of shit. This session, having retreated to their safe house, they watch the news and learn that the museum's first floor was heavily damaged using explosives (which was much more damage than they did). The conspiracy, it seems, is quite will to blow up the place and kill some of the security in order to increase the heat on the agents. The government is involved now, as well as Hajnal's people. They're going to have a problem getting the hell out of Belgrade.

They decide to give it a few days and look over their data. The notebooks are written in a combination of Russian, Serbian, and English (all of which Hanover reads) and a made-up code language. He and Parker get to work cracking it, and meanwhile, the agents watch some of the videos.

The notes in the notebooks appear to be experiment records corresponding to the videos, which is handy because there's no sound. In the first one, a man in a mask brings a dead body into the lab, puts it on the table, pumps some blood out with a machine that resembles a dialysis machine, and then pumps some blood back in. The body twitches and spits up a lot of blood, but then ceases to move. The notes record this as a failure.

The next few entries and videos are more of the same - failures and differing dosages and methods - but then the masked man gets it right. He moves his mask (facing away from the camera) and tentacles snap out and strike a living body, kill it, and then the blood infusion. This, based on the notes, creates what the agents have been calling a "brute." Success.

These experiments continue for a while, and then the video that really brings it home: Vilmos Hajnal enters the shot, following by the masked man...but without the mask. The man grabs Hajnal from behind and chokes him out, and then straps him to the table and sets up the machine. The machine gives Hajnal an infusion from a bottle, clearly biological but not blood. When it's done, the man unstraps Hajnal and inspects his mouth, helping him unfurl his tentacles.

The man is unquestionably Nikola Tesla. The agents have found the first vampire.

They all make some Stability rolls, and Hanover and MacAteer lose the most. The agents decide to back off a little and try and get out of town. They've digitized all of the notebooks and sent the data to Sedillo, but digitizing the VHS tapes has to happen in real time. They figure that maybe that oughta happen in not-Belgrade.

They do some checking around and find a trucking depot. They figure they'll steal a truck, pack the people into the back of it, drive to Montenegro and catch a cruise liner out of Kotor. Traveling as tourists might keep them under the radar. They leave the house severally - MacAteer first, in disguise, carrying the videotapes (Disguise is his MOS, so he's safe). Then Gambone and Ess, and finally Hanover and Parker.

MacAteer enters the depot, disguised, and makes a Bureaucracy spend to get a truck without hassle. The others meet him at a truck stop and start unloading enough cargo to get into the back.

And then another truck pulls by them, turns and blocks the exit ramp. Two guys get out, holding assault rifles. Two SUVs pull into the stop. The agents are made.

They pile into the truck - Parker, Gambone, and Ess in the back, MacAteer driving, Hanover riding shotgun. MacAteer, eschewing subtlety for survival, guns it and smashes into the back end of the truck blocking them. He knocks it out of the way and keeps going, but hears metal grinding metal - this truck isn't long for the world. The SUVs are in pursuit, of course.

Hanover leans out the window and shoots the driver of one SUV, sending it off the road. MacAteer leans out the window on the other side and shoots at the other, dropping it back behind them. The agents in the back, banged up from getting jostled when the truck collided with the other truck, open the back. Parker dumps debris, forcing the SUV to swerve, and Ess shoots the driver, crashing the car. The agents are away...for now.

They pull off the highway, ditch the truck, and steal a lorry. They head for Montenegro, keeping off the main roads. It takes a while, and the stress takes a toll on their Stability, but they eventually make it to the border. Parker, using a cover, rents a car so they don't try and cross the border in a stolen vehicle, and they book passage (using their covers) on a cruise liner bound for Marseille. They leave Kotor apparently ahead of the conspiracy, but still being pursued both by Interpol and Hajnal's people. (We're also now using the extended chase mechanic, which is much less forgiving, but I think it's a good point in the game to make use of it.)

Next time, they'll watch the rest of the tapes and learn of their most recent setback. It's kind of a doozy.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Body Un-Disposal

Monday was Blades in the Dark, as the title to this entry implies. Let's get to it.

The scoundrels have heard rumors on the streets of Doskovol. Storms are raging in the Void Sea, capsizing ships and making it hard for leviathan hunters to retrieve their cargo. Likewise, the Skoval city of Lockport is getting pounded, and that's making refining demon blood harder, which hasn't impacted Doskovol yet, but it will (imported goods are already getting expensive). A new gang called The Grinders is hitting cargo barges in the canals, which is going to be a problem at some point. Also, rumor has it that the Path of Echoes is paying for inhabited spirit bottles - if you can find one of them to sell to (Cage in particular finds this interesting, as he's been corresponding with the Path of Echoes via anonymous letter in preparation to join).

On this particular "day", Cage finds himself chatting with Flint, a spirit trafficker and friend. Flint says that he has a job that Widdershins might be interested in - he's going to transport a bunch of spirit bottles from Charterhall (the university) to Silkshore (a brothel called the Red Lamp). Really, he just needs the crew to pick up and transport - he's got access handled.

Elsewhere in the city, Siren is having a drink at the Veil after singing her little heart out. A man approaches her - Steiner, a friend and assassin. Steiner, hiding his face from the room, tells Siren that he screwed up. He took a job, killed a guy, and was supposed to retrieve the ring from his left hand, but fucked up and took the one from the right hand. Then he weighted the body down and sunk it in a canal near Six Towers, and now he's got people on his tail - probably the people who hired him. He asks Siren to retrieve the ring so he can try and fix this.

The crew convenes at the Watchtower and chats about their prospects. In addition to this gig, they also have the line on the "retrieve eggs from the Crematorium," but that job still seems a little too intense for them. That leaves retrieving a ring from a dead guy (and doing a favor for a friend in the process) or smuggling some spirit bottles.

On its face, the latter seems better - it's more profitable, sure, and it's very much in line with what the crew does. But Cage has some misgivings; stealing spirit bottles from the university might put them in conflict with Lord Penderyn, who, in addition to being someone you probably don't want mad at you, is Cage's vice purveyor and erstwhile spiritual advisor. Likewise, helping out Steiner means they have an assassin who owes them a favor. Either job sounds good, so the crew splits up to do some research.

Copper and Siren hit the streets, looking for information on the dead dude (Phin Dalmore) and his ring. They learn that Dalmore is probably related to Lord Dalmore, the executive officer in charge of the Ministry of Preservation, which is in charge of transit between cities and disbursing food and resources. No wonder Steiner is getting some pushback.

As they're looking, they realize they're being followed. Copper, since she has her demon-wolf (almost trained, and now named "Button") with her, isn't very stealthy, so she distracts them while Siren slips around behind the pursuers. She surprises them, bluntly asking what they're doing, and one lashes out with a punch-dagger in surprise. Copper handily disarms him, and recognizes these guys as members of a rival gang called the Wraiths.

The Wraiths, despite their fearsome name, are apparently quite receptive to being intimidated, and spill the beans - there's word on the street that the ring that Dalmore wears is worth a good price to the Foundation (a kind of Masonic-like organization), so there are a few interested parties. They heard Siren and Copper asking about Dalmore and decided to follow them and see what they knew. The incident resolves without violence; no one really wants a fight.

Meanwhile, Cage and One-Eye get an audience with Lord Penderyn. Penderyn is non-committal about the spirit-bottle affair, but tells Cage to listen to his heart, apparently indicating that if he takes the gig, it's his to deal with. One-Eye, not impressed with Penderyn (or, like, anything) stops off in the alchemy department, steals some components, and bribes her way to some new designs to incorporate into her alchemical/mechanical eye.

Cage, for his part, goes to Silkshore and finds Flint at the Red Lamp (he's reliable with the ladies, apparently) and questions him a bit more. Flint says that he's getting the equivalent of 12 Coin for this, but since he's really relying on the crew to do the work, he'll just take 2.

The crew reconvenes, and decide that grabbing the ring should be quick and relatively easy; it's not as much money, sure, but if they can do it quick, they can still do the job with Flint. Besides, Steiner's in a jam. They know the location of the body, so they rig up a gondola pole with a claw at the end, and head out to the site (and get a critical on the engagement roll, so the first obstacle - get the body out of the water - is handled).

One-Eye lifts the body out with the claw and snips off the ring finger...whereupon the body comes to life and grabs her neck. Copper grabs the ring, but drops it onto the boat deck and knocks it further away trying to grab it. Siren pushes the pole away from One-Eye...but then the lamps on the nearby shore go out, and the crew sees people jumping across rooftops to the edges of the canal. They are, it seems, not alone...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Chill: Voices

Sunday was Chill. Check it. You know, or don't. You do you.

Last time, the envoys opened their investigation into a killing on the University of Idaho campus. We open today with Dee and Dylan at the vet, and Jordan and BB heading back into town from the ranch. The envoys meet up for brunch so that Dee can get day-drunk, but they also decide that they should head back to campus, look at the steam plant, maybe try and get a sense of what's happening a bit more. They stop at a church near the university and Dee (now more than a little tipsy) asks the priest about whether he's heard of increased violence at the university. He says he hasn't - sure, there will always be tragedy, but it's not abnormally bad out there, apart from the young man who was just killed (Mendoza) or the student who committed suicide last year.

This isn't the first time the envoys have heard this mentioned, so Dylan does a bit of quick research. The guy's name was Sidney Bass, and he jumped off the Gym Tower. The articles at the time state that he had dealt with depression since high school and was on medication for it; some of the editorials talked about the link between certain psych meds and suicidal ideation. The envoys note that Bass was a member of the Delta Tau Delta frat - no immediate connection to Mendoza, then.

They head back onto campus, and climb Gym Tower to see where he jumped. There's a dried-up bouquet of flowers, but no evidence and no Unknown. They check the base of the tower, too - if Bass has returned as a ghost, they don't see any evidence of that. They head back over toward Greek Row to ask at his old frat house, and are met with crowds and first responders. Last night another student was murdered - Stacy Diaz.

The envoys are a bit shaken by this (Jordan especially, who winds up with a Minor Trauma), but they resolve to try and figure this out. Jordan goes to the hospital and tracks down an EMT buddy and buys him lunch, and he tells her that the kid's head was bashed in with something heavy and with defined edges - probably a brick. They found Stacy's body in a ditch, between Greek Row and the dorm where he lived. The EMT mentions that Stacy had some defensive wounds, so he probably got a good lick in before he died.

The envoys check the area. It's wide open, but at night it would be completely unlit - not a bad area for an ambush. They can see the dorm, Greek Row, and Morrill Hall (a small classroom building). Dylan and BB check out the DTD frat house and rouse a member, who tells them that the chapter president (Doug Campbell) is away at class. Sensing that they're being fed BS, Dylan and BB go to Dylan's office to look up Doug's schedule. On the way, they pass Morrill Hall, and BB notes a pile of bricks - some light construction going on here, and probably that's where someone got a murder weapon.

Dylan finds Doug's schedule, but by the time he does (slow computer system), Doug should already have left class. The envoys regroup and go back to the DTD house, hoping to find Doug there. Dee brings a couple of pies and her now casted and somewhat doped up dog.

Two frat boys are in evidence, the somewhat slow one from before (Jason) and a much sharper guy named Ben. Jason doesn't say much at all, but Ben is adept at deflecting questions and saying nothing while still talking (he's pre-law). The envoys noticed multiple pairs of shoes by the door; someone else is here. BB checks the bathroom, and finds a bottle of pills with Sidney's name on it (which he pockets), and paper towels with blood on them in the garbage - looks like someone cleaned up a cut.

Jordan slips upstairs and finds Doug's door. She knocks and opens it, surprising Doug. He's sitting on the bed, perhaps pretending he's not home, and he's got a nasty black eye and a cut on his cheek. She leaves him be and goes back downstairs - it looks like Doug killed Stacy, but why?

Dee gets Jason in the kitchen and tries to get him talking. She senses the Unknown and realizes it's all over the place, but it's more like a bunch of echoes just bouncing around - not a solid, specific presence. Jason zones out, and then starts answering much faster. His speech patterns are different, and Dee notices it. She asks who she's really talking to, and Jason seems confused by the question.

Reasoning that Doug is really the problem, Dee and BB go upstairs to get him, figuring that if Dee can't talk him down, BB can punch him. They smell smoke, though, and BB kicks in the door to reveal the room burning. They head downstairs and evacuate the house, and the firefighters put out the blaze with minimal damage. By now, more of the frat has arrived, and the envoys see Jason, Ben, and two new folks named Joey and Dave talking heatedly. Jordan, ever the picture of subtlety, confronts them, and it's Joey who breaks.

He reveals that it was supposed to be a prank - someone was supposed to swap out one of Sidney's pills, since missing one just made him weepy and morose for a day or so. But all four of them did it, and Sidney killed himself. Joey reveals that someones he hears a voice telling him things, but it doesn't sound like Sidney...it doesn't even sound human. And then he has dreams, too, dreams of falling and dying.

The envoys arrange for all of the frat to come stay at the ranch. They figure that'll let them keep the boys under surveillance and out of harm's way. They have Darnell bring a bus down to get them, and then they start focusing on Doug. BB tracks him away from the house, but loses the trail as it gets into the heart of campus. They can see the steam plant up ahead, though...