Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Promethean: Fires and Frying Pans

So! Last time, Avalon was flying around in bolt-fly form, and then got grabbed and tossed into a bag. Oh, dear.

Feather saw this happen from the apartment. Grimm told her to open the door, and he used Chimera to turn into a pigeon. He flew out, swooped up over their car, turned into a grizzly bear, and dropped on the hood of the car.

Let that image sink in.

The three men did exactly what you would do in such a situation - ran like fuck. Matt chased one of them and tackled him. Grimm charged after the other two in bear form (bears are fast!), but when they ran out into the lighted streets, he changed back to human form and tackled one.

And then, from beside him, heard, "Freeze! Put your hands up!" Grimm was arrested (which, silver lining, turned out getting arrested is a milestone for him), handcuffed, and tossed, naked, in the back of a police car.

Meanwhile, the others rocked up on the guy that Matt had tackled, but they weren't very scary...until Avalon, having rejoined her body, used her Terrify Alembic on the guy. Panicking, he revealed who'd sent them: Devon Parker. And then he ran away.

The Prometheans chatted a bit about what that meant, and then Feather realized that Grimm was missed and was a couple of miles away. They tracked his signal, and wound up at the police station.

Meanwhile, Grimm was booked (hoping his hands didn't belong to anyone too terrible or, like, known to be dead), and placed in a room. A detective asked him what had happened, and he claimed he'd been at home with his girlfriend, naked for a good reason, and had seen someone spying through the window. He'd given chase, naked, and tackled the guy. The cop didn't quite buy it, however. Grimm gave his girlfriend's name as Robin Schwartz (Feather's alternate ID), but couldn't provide a phone number.

Feather and Avalon went into the station (since girls go places together, Avalon noted), carrying Grimm's clothes. They weren't allowed to see him, but Robin was interviewed by the detective and gave a statement. She more or less aid what he did, except that she didn't offer up the "naked" bit initially, and said that there were multiple people staring in the window with binoculars. The detective took her statement, but said that Grimm (or rather, Craig Wizowski) would be booked in the morning, and they'd need to come to the courthouse.

Meanwhile, Avalon struck up a conversation with the cop on desk duty. She also saw a very well-dressed man come in, and say "Donald Shaw, attorney for My. Billings."

The Prometheans went back to the apartment, rather dejected and pissed. Avalon mentioned the expensive attorney she'd seen, and wondered if that had any connection. Enoch tried to call Parker, but left a message with his answering service. Without anything to do, the characters waited until morning.

In said morning, Feather called the JCC (she'd been working for them) and asked for a recommendation for an attorney. They gave her a number for Jacob Siegel, who quoted a price that made Feather cough a little (but in fairness, any lawyer's retainer would have), but Enoch remembered he'd stolen a bunch of money from Calogero's warehouse and volunteered it (making a milestone, share or donate something ill-gotten). They headed to the courthouse.

Meanwhile, at the jail, Grimm was shackled and loaded into a van. He heard mumbling outside, and kicked on Somatic Humour to listen in. He heard two men talking about him in a way that made it clear that he wasn't being taken to court.

At court, the characters met with Mr. Siegel. Feather told her story again, admitting (falsely) that she and Grimm had been having sex at the time of the altercation, which clearly made her uncomfortable. Siegel said something was weird about this whole thing - someone very powerful was applying pressure, and Billings (the guy Grimm had tackled, who was now pressing assault charges) was being represented by Shaw, a mob lawyer. Siegel said he'd work to untangle this, but for now, just settle in.

But Grimm wasn't even there. He got out of the van into bright lights, and his hands and feet were locked into an iron contraption. He tried to shapeshift to get away, but failed. A hand grabbed a big-ass syringe from the table next to him....and next time, we'll figure out why.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Movie #304: The Italian Job

The Italian Job is a remake of a 70s heist movie. This one stars Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green, Mos Def, and Jason Statham.

Charlie (Wahlberg) leads a team of thieves, having taken over said leadership from John (Sutherland). They're in Venice stealing $35 million in gold, and the plan goes off without a hitch. But, as the team leaves the country with the gold, Steve (Norton) betrays them, murders John, and steals the gold, leaving them all for dead.

A year later, they've tracked him to Los Angeles, living under an assumed name. They recruit John's daughter Stella (Theron) to help them with the heist, and then they heist the shit out of that gold, using Mini Coopers. The end.

No, really, there's not a heck of a lot more to it. It's a heist movie and it's kind of clever in places, but the heisting is all based around car chases and physical theft, so it doesn't have the clever mind games and con artistry of, say, Ocean's 11 (we'll get to O). The action is decent, but it's one of those movies that probably should have been R-rated, but wasn't, so it winds up feeling a little watered down.

The crew is also kind of...half finished. Like, we know enough about them to know about them. We get little character sketches of Lyle the hacker (Green), Left Ear the demolitions expert (Mos Def), Handsome Rob the driver (Statham, who kind of looks uncomfortable with the fact that he's not in charge, as I watch this again). But we never learn a thing about Steve, and that makes him feel flat as a villain. Why wasn't his share of the money enough for him? Why is so he so willing to murder people for the gold? Why doesn't he have any aspirations of his own? It's kind of a clever bit that he bought what everyone else wanted, but...why? I'm sure Norton has like a 20 page bio for the character, and I'd love to see it (Edward, if you're reading, I loved you in Incredible Hulk).

Anyway, it's a fun watch, but it'd have benefited from a little more attention to story.

My grade: C
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Jacob's Ladder

Movie #303: It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life is one of the more famous films shown around Christmas; due to a copyright niggle it was public domain for a while, so it got shown on TV like whoa. It stars Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, and a bunch of other people. Fun fact: This was my first time seeing it, though of course I was aware of the premise.

Said premise: We open with God, probably, talking about this dude named George Bailey (Stewart) who's on the verge of suicide. We then see his whole freaking life, starting from when he was 12 and saved his brother Harry (Todd Karns, as an adult) from drowning, which cost him his hearing in one eye. He grows up, wanting desperately to get out of his shitty little town, but keeps staying due to, basically, being a decent guy - he stands up for people and is very self-sacrificing when he needs to be. This eventually results in him getting married and settling down, rather than leaving to see the world, and he and his wife Mary (Reed) have four kids.

And then one day his idiot uncle (Mitchell) loses $8000 from their building and loan company (which is promptly stolen by Mr. Potter (Barrymore), the evil rich guy in town). Faced with a bank fraud charge and with losing everything he's ever worked for, Bailey considers suicide. Clarence (Travers), an angel trying to get his wings, stops him, and then Bailey admits he doesn't actually want to die, he just wants to never have been born. Clarence obligingly shows him what the town would have been like without him around to stand up to Potter, and Bailey realizes that he wants his life back. Yay!

So, it's a feel-good movie and it utterly flopped at the box office, but has since become a classic. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The dialog was fun, the script is funny pretty much throughout, and since the first 2/3rds of the movie is establishing Bailey and the town, it actually has an impact when we see the characters without his influence. Stewart has a couple of really moving moments, Barrymore is appropriately nasty without actually twirling a mustache. I didn't care much for Clarence, but that's the character more than the actor.

You know me; I like films where people take care of each other, and one thing I found interesting about this one is that when Bailey talks to the people of Bedford Falls, they listen. That's a different narrative take; they're listening now because Bailey has to be the stabilizing influence in town, so his absence can be notable.

Anyway, it's fun, and it's a much happier film than, say, A Christmas Story, which has kind of become its successor in some ways. Runs a little long, but that's really my only complaint.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Italian Job

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Promethean: Translatin' Like Whoa

Not a terribly exciting title, I guess.

So, last time, the characters were heading from Enoch's place (surrounded by crazy typhoon storm) to Feather's place in Skokie. They needed juice, though, so they snuck down to the rail lines to grab the third rail.

Everyone juiced up...except for poor Matt. His fire was still out, and he looked a zombie having a bad day, he was so torn up. He grabbed on to Feather as she shocked herself, but it hurt, so he let go. It seemed to be helping, though, so Feather grabbed him, holding on (though he tried to get away) until he was fully healed.

Healing him, though, did nothing for his Fire. Feather held on a little longer, and this trigger an Elpis Vision. The light grew between them, but rather than fall into it and chase the vision, Matt let Feather do that.

She saw herself behind a glass screen, watching a throngmate (she wasn't sure which one) getting stalked by monsters with claws. She yelled a warning, but the throngmate ignored her. Finally, she smashed through the screen and jumped in front of the throngmate, to protect him/her.

The characters talked a bit about how to help Matt. Feather thought that she could treat Matt as a new Tammuz, burying him in mud and raising him anew, but no one was sure what that would do. The others offered to each donate a bit of their Fire to restart his, but Matt refused - he said that he would just carry on and have faith that his Fire would reignite on its own.

With that in mind, Feather let go of Matt, and the Prometheans headed above ground to Skokie. Once there, Avalon wrote out a few pages of the missing notes, and Feather used her Community of Power Distillation to make Grimm's Translator's Eye Distillation a teamwork action. They burned through the first couple of pages. The very first words were: caveat lector.

The rest, though, was a discussion about Maxwell Clarke, the vampiric Prince of Chicago. How he came to power, his methods, and so on. Then the focus shifted to Max Maury, the monster in the Undercity, and how someone ought to burn him, but doing that would be really dangerous. The characters realized they were looking at notes assembled across years dealing with the vampires of Chicago - no wonder someone had stolen it.

They figured out that there was a tag at the top of the pages they'd translated that meant "vampires." This document, then, talked about more than just the bloodsuckers. They skipped to the last page, and read an account of how Calogero had gone to the Undercity as a mortal, but had been stopped by an angel. Something, he wrote, was down there, something big that ground the bodies of the missing for its fuel.

By now it was dark, so Feather secured the place - drew the blinds, locked the windows, and so on. Everyone else went to sleep, and Grimm had a vision. He saw himself walking through a desert, and came to a place where the road forked - one way led up through the complex, rocky foothills, the other through the flat, simple riverbanks. He walked down the riverbank and saw people rafting, and a raft drifted to the shore with a lifejacket and a space for him. They offered him a lift, and he considered his first impluse: To refuse and shove the boat back into the current without him...but that'd be a very Copper thing to do, wouldn't it?

Feather, meanwhile, heard a noise at the window. She investigated, and saw, out in the parking lot, a man wearing nightsight goggles. She woke everyone up, and Avalon used her Stone Alembic to make the windows too heavy to open. Then she used The Soul in the Software to send a little bolt-fly out to investigate. She failed the Stealth roll, though, and true to form, the player took the Beat for a dramatic failure.

She buzzed close enough to hear them talking about the people inside. "Four people, maybe five. One looks dead." And then everything went black - someone had grabbed her and tossed her into a bag. "You guys need to pay more attention," said a voice.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Quick Game Notes

Business, business business, numbers.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Movie #302: Idiocracy

Idiocracy is a dark comedy directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepherd, Terry Crews, and with some cameos (Stephen Root, Thomas Hayden Church, probably some others). It's funny in places, but also problematic as shit.

Basic premise: Smart people aren't having kids to the same degree that stupid people are. This has the effect of lowering the median IQ (worldwide, apparently, which is weird, but I'll get to that), Meanwhile, a totally average, middle-of-the-road schlub named Joe (Wilson) gets assigned to an Army experiment to put him into cryogenic stasis for a year, to test the program for use with more useful people. The Army also wants a female guinea pig, but can't find an average woman in the Army. So they settle for a prostitute named Rita (Rudolph), loaned to the army by her pimp, Upgrayedd (Scarface).

An aside, here: It also confused me that the Army couldn't find a suitable female candidate, and more to the point, I wondered what conclusion the audience was supposed to draw. That all women in the Army were exceptional and superior? That's sweet, if a little patronizing. That there aren't enough women in the Army to provide a good enough sample to work from? In-story, it's just an elaborate set-up for the female test subject to a prostitute, but that storyline never really goes anywhere. I mean, there's this running joke that Joe thinks Rita is a painter, and we get to see her freaking out about her pimp, but it doesn't really mean anything in the context of the movie aside from some hooker jokes.

This is mean, but you know what I think? I think the screenwriters (Judge and Etan Cohen, not Ethan Cohen, obviously) had no idea how to write an "average" woman. Their conception of an "average" guy is very much like Luke Wilson - white, not unattractive but not impressive, either, not dumb but not terrible educated (we'll come back to that, too). You know, just a guy. The default. But since they're both kind of hacks (sorry, Judge, I know a lot of people thought Beavis & Butthead was some kind of fucking cultural touchstone, but mostly it's what made the 90s suck), they couldn't think of a woman character, so they just wrote a stock "hooker" template. For what it's worth, Rudolph does a pretty good job with the material.

Anyway, due to the Army dude in charge being involved in a prostitution ring, the whole project gets scrapped but the people forgotten, and they wake up 500 years later. The world has gotten so dumb that the average person's intelligence is, like really dumb, right? And the world is in crisis because they water their plants with a sports drink. Anything remotely literate is decried as "faggy", and (here's my favorite) the English language has (hang on, I'll quote it) "deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner city, and various grunts."

So, Joe goes through various trials and tribulations, but winds up Secretary of Interior because an IQ test reveals him to be the smartest person alive. Appointed to the position by President Camacho (Crews), he comes up with the brilliant idea to water plants with water, which, eventually, causes them to grow, and things start to turn around. The movie ends on a bleak note; Joe and Rita marry and have three very intelligent children (you know, by comparison). Joe's lawyer and companion, Frito Pendejo (Shepherd), has 32 extremely stupid kids.

Wow. So, first off, the movie is funny in places. I'll give it that. The over-the-top depictions of the world, and some of the little touches ("St. God's Memorial Hospital") are clever, and honestly, it's easy to see the descendants of reality TV and some of the other dumb facets of our present culture. But the whole premise of the movie is...difficult. The smart people at the beginning of the movie (who aren't breeding) are obviously wealthy. The dumb people (breeding like crazy) are poor, and, based on their accents, Southern. The depictions of the idiot descendants of mankind later in the movie take a lot of their cultural cues from lower socio-economic status folks, and in particular it's hard to ignore the "deterioration" of the English language as including mostly "hillbilly" (Southern/redneck) and "inner city" (black/Hispanic). No one speak "valley girl" is ever depicted.

And where the hell is the rest of the world, here? Did everyone in the world become stupid? There's no army picture (except the Guitar Army), and the police are well armed but completely incompetent. It's easy to picture another, smarter, more civilized country (like, say, Luxembourg) rolling in and taking over.

All in all, it's got some funny bits, but it gets more uncomfortable every time I see it because it's such a white-guy understanding of concepts like "intelligence", "language" and "society." Bleah.

My grade: C-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: It's a Wonderful Life

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movie #301: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper, Vin Deisel, Dave Bautista, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and Michael Rooker. And a lot of other people getting their piece of Marvel pie.

As a little boy, Peter Quill (Pratt, played as a boy by Wyatt Olef), is present for his mother's death from cancer. He runs out into the night, and is abducted by aliens. Fast forward a couple of decades, and now Quill, calling himself Starlord, is stealing shit with a crew of Ravagers headed by blue-headed badass Yondu (Rooker). He steals a mysterious orb, just barely beating Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou) to it, but winds up getting arrested when he can't fence it alongside space-assassin Gamora (Saldana), who's after the Orb for Ronan the Accuser (Pace); Rocket (Cooper) a bounty hunter after Quill; and Groot (Diesel), Rocket's tree-buddy. In prison, they befriend Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), a warrior looking for revenge on Ronan, who killed Drax' family.

Whee, so many names. I could summarize the rest of the movie, but honestly if you're reading this you've probably seen it. Long story short: Ronan is trying to destroy planet Xandar because his race (Kree) are fuckers. He tries to acquire the Orb, which is one of the Infinity Stones (we've seen at least two in the MCU before; the Tesseract and the Aether) to do it, betrays Thanos in the process, and then lands on Xandar with Thanos' other adopted daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan) as muscle. They fail, however, because the Guardians of the Galaxy (Quill, Gamora, Drax. Rocket, and Groot) stop him, blowing him to pieces with the stone. Bam! The grateful Nova Prime (Close) gives them a new ship, and off they go to superhero!

So, it's an origin story, kinda, but it's also very space opera. It's a James Gunn movie, so it's funny and light, but also surprisingly violent and dark in places. The dialog is fun, and all of the characters get to be clever, useful, and funny, which makes me happy. The interplay between the principles is great, because Rocket and Groot especially, even though Groot only has only phrase he says ("I AM GROOT."). Standout scene for me is Rocket, drunk, railing against people calling him names, and venting the loneliness and alienation he feels; there's nothing else like him, and it eats at him. You don't expect to feel pathos from a raccoon, but here we are.

Now, some issues: Gamora and Nebula don't have much to do. I mean, they have fun stuff to do, but they don't get a hell of a lot of development. It's a busy movie anyway, but I'd have liked a standout scene for them. Also, Quill calling Ronan "bitch" and Drax calling Gamora a "green whore" are splinters, especially since Drax is literal - he has no reason to think of Gamora as a whore, and yet here we are.

Also, Ronan is a boring villain. He just kind of roars and rants, and his motives are interesting (purification), but they're never really explored. I think we could have learned a little more about him, and about the Collector (Benicio del Toro) and Knowhere, and that'd have been cool.

Generally, though? I really like this movie.

My grade: A-
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Idiocracy