Goblin Interstitial: Accentuating the Positive

Hey folks. So, today I was going to do a look at GamerZ, a neat Scottish film about a fantasy role-playing game group, but I’ve had some issues.

Thing is, I want to like the films I talk about. The whole point of this is granting exposure to the gamer films I want people to see. While I still want to look at GamerZ eventually, I found myself being pretty negative towards it, or at least passive-aggressive, which isn’t fair to it. It’s actually a pretty decent movie. The camera quality is a little low, but the characters are realistic (as they can be), and the fantasy sequences are really visually engaging.

Whenever I turn on my reviewer-senses to sit down and watch a film, I tend to be much more critical (in the negative sense), and this bugs me, because not everyone watches films with the intent to pick them apart.

I think one of the problems is my subject matter. I’ve gone over this before, but the genre that I’ve chosen, gamer films, tend to be a little on the dramatic side, focusing on the characters, rather than the plot. The problem with this is that gaming should not be a dramatic thing. It should be a fun diversion from the drudgery of modern life. (not an escape as many use it as).  A lot of gamers (but not all, I’m not trying to stereotype here…) in real life are at least a little bit unbalanced, preferring fiction to reality, being socially inept (i know the feeling), some even have diagnosed mental problems, such as Aspergers, ADHD, and other various mental maladies. These people should not be made into dramatic devices, at least not in most circumstances.

In GamerZ, the love interest character, Marlyn, is actually really creepy, identifying too hard with her character, even getting a tattoo of her on her back, and trying to stab the DM when he PK’s the party and her elf gets captured by orcs, meeting a “sticky end”, if you catch my drift. I have not a single good thing to say about this character (except maybe that the actress did a really good job of portraying a deranged woman), and the fact that so much time in the film is directed towards her–being the love interest and all–bugged me. I found myself making a lot of crude jokes at her expense in my first draft of the post, and as much as I admire critics like The Spoony One and his early text reviews and were inspired by them, I don’t want to write like them. I want to be my own goblin, and I want to be positive. Currently I don’t think I’m in the right mood to discuss a film of this “depth” in the manner that I want to. Join me in a couple of days for a different review, of a film that still fits my hint.

Request to the Readers: Feedback

Hey friends! I just thought I’d bring something up. I understood when I made this blog that, eventually, owing to the subject matter, I’d run out of subjects to discuss. This time hasn’t come yet, but it will someday. What I’d really love from anyone who stumbles across my little patch of swamp is to please, leave a comment. Some honest feedback would mean more to me than any numbers my dashboard throws at me. If you want more of my thoughts on a film, especially one under my bailiwick (my favorite word!), or if you have questions about various aspects of gaming, please, let me hear it. Looking forward to a long and healthy relationship! See you next time!

Diceroller Flicks: Tripod vs. The Dragon

Are you ready folks? Today is a very special one, at least, I think it is. You decide.

Tripod Vs. The Dragon is a filming of a stageplay put on by one of my favorite comedy music groups from Australia (big list of contenders, I know, but they’re seriously really funny, check ’em out) Tripod, and Australian singer Elana Stone. The concept title was Dungeons and Dragons: The Musical, but they changed it for legal reasons.

The story starts (and they won’t let you forget this) at the dawn of time. The goddess of the word, The Tree of Knowledge, was attacked by wizards so they could steal a branch to forge a Spear of Knowledge.

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And would you look at that production value! Such beauty! An overhead projector never looked so good!

Meanwhile, in the real word, it’s Saturday, and and the game is just starting. Our Players (in the theatrical sense, not the other one): Elana, who plays the DM, as well as the Lady in Red, aka Somethingsomething. Scod: Resident numbers-man (or munchkin, as they are better known) who plays a wizard. Yon: He plays a cleric, but if he had his say, he’d be playing a dog-man. Finally, Gatesy: The new player in the group. He wanted to be a bard, but the wizard wouldn’t let him.

Being new to the game, Gatesy asks what he can “do” in the game. He decides to go busking. The DM allows this, despite protests from the other players.

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Although everyone knows that a REAL D&D game always starts with “you all meet in a tavern…”

Inside his lute-case afterwards, he finds a map with a big empty space missing from it. They decide they need to fill in the gap and their adventure begins. After a run in with an orc, they go to a tavern for Open-Mic night. Gatesy meets a fellow singer and the woman of his dreams, the Lady in Red, whose name he neglects to learn. She sings a beautiful song outlining the entire plot, which goes straight over his head. She then tells him outright that if he goes to the blank on the map, he’ll get eaten by a dragon. This again goes right over his head. Did I mention that he rolled poor intelligence? They vow to meet again someday.

Continuing their quest, the group gets split up in the mountains, and Scod the Wizard gets lost in the dark. He happens upon the Twin Wizards, two brothers who offer him ultimate power and a cool party hat if he can kill the dragon that guards the Tree of Knowledge.

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They look trustworthy, right?

They bequeath him the Spear of knowledge and send him on his way. He rejoins the others, and they hop a boat to the spot on the map.

Arriving in a beautiful garden. Gatesy sits back and relaxes, when the red dragon, guardian of the Tree appears and begins divebombing the adventurers. Shoving the Spear into Gatesy’s hands, Scod shrinks to the back and Gatesy thrusts the spear at the dragons hide, piercing it. The dragon begins to die, revealing it self to be none other but Somethingsomething, the Lady in Red!

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Awkward…..

Scod runs off and gets his hat and flashlight from the Twin Wizards. But ultimate power is not without it’s price, and he soon grow to regret making his friend kill the woman he loves. He sends him a note with instructions: How to get to the underworld. He and Yon separate, Yon going to find Scod, and Gatesy going off to confront the Devil.

Scod and Yonny fight the twin wizards, almost getting boiled inside out until they snap the Spear in half and use it on the wizards. This scene is neat, but only exists to tie up Scod’s story line.

In Hell, after getting past Cerberus, Gatesy confronts The Devil, offering to play the best song ever in exchange for the release of Somethingsomething’s soul. He does so, playing one of my favorite tracks on the soundtrack, Heart of a Fighter. Impressed, Satan lets them go, and they travel up and out of the underworld, only for the game to end.

Portrayal of RPGs – 4/5

Because the film spends most of its time inside the game world, there isn’t a lot of room for meta-humor, but you can tell that Tripod are or at least have been gamers at one point of another, If you don’t believe me,  listen to the final song of the production, and my favorite song, Bard. It’s a neat tune about being an ostracized schoolkid, and speaks volumes to me.

The Plot- 5/5

I rate this one so high because, as you may have guessed, not only am I totally in the tank for this film, but these ratings aren’t really ratings of quality, they’re my rating of whether or not the film does it’s job. The acting was pretty on-par with those groups that go to schools to to PSA skits about bullying and drugs. Not masterful, a little hammy, but I love it, and I think it really works here.

This movie is one of my favorites. It has all of my favorite things. A classic fantasy story with a few twists, gamer humor, well put together music. If anything, the music is the best part. The soundtrack is available on Itunes and Elana Stone’s voice alone is worth the listen. The film itself is available on Amazon, or you can find it on Youtube, but I’m not going to link to it because it isn’t an official video.

If you think I was a little biased toward this movie (teehee!), leave a comment or email me at goblingilmartin@gmail.com.

See you all next Sunday, where I’m going to look at a movie with the word “gamer” in the title.

Ramblings of a mad Goblin: Gaming on the brain in Unicorn City:

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last six or so years thinking about how gaming affects the people who play them. The cause and effect is tough to wrap one’s head around. My review of Unicorn City brought some of these old thoughts to the surface. In the film, during the first playing session, a few things happen:

On the first viewing, the scene in meant to set up the characters. Specifically Voss and Shadow Hawk. Voss is the intense leader, and Shadow is the douchebag GM who cares more about his story than his players.

Thing is, we’re thrown into this out of context. The first thing we see is Clancy complaining about not having a thumb to hold a sword with. Shadow denies him this thumb, because his character is some big cat person, and has been since the game started.

This is totally reasonable from one perspective. Shadow is right. The character that Clancy CHOSE to be should have had its limitations fully aware to him at the beginning. That isn’t the problem though. The problem is that Shadow isn’t working with the players. He’s working against them. A good DM would listen to his players, and try to do something for them later, like, I dunno, a magic glove of opposable thumbs. It doesn’t even have to be a good item, but it would be valuable because it’s something the player WANTS, and can be used to get him to do things the DM wants him to do. DM-Player relationships should be symbiotic. Instead, he’s a huge ass, and Voss isn’t helping. He demands that his character be brought back into the Material Plane, and that Clancy’s character have thumbs. Then there’s that whole thing with the sword through the table. Look at his face after that. He seems to be completely regretting that that happened. He actually had a temper strong enough to make him stab a table.
I would NOT want to game with this guy.

Voss spends most of the film in this very intense, let’s-get-down-to-business mind frame, brought on by his belief that “he is what he pretends to be”, which in this case, is a bard/paladin knight. This is really to his detriment, as it leaves him blind to the feelings of the other characters at several important points in the narrative.

As the knight he believes he is, he’s TOO GOOD for things like fish tacos. This leaves him WITHOUT A JOB, with an eviction notice on the door, and no way to pay rent except for unemployment, but that’s okay, because he got the girl and the moral high ground in the end. See the problem

Once the players decide they really don’t care for Shadow’s game, Marsha writes her own campaign set up. Voss states that you can’t just “willy-nilly” a game together. YES YOU CAN. Spontaneity has been one of my biggest motivators as a gamer. Many a game has a started with a simple “You know what would be cool?” or simply stating “I want to play a game of Call of Cthulhu”. A mindset like that, making gaming into something that has to always have serious thought put behind it, is really dumb.

Games are fun! I play D&D to try out a new twist on a character, or to see how players will react when I toss them in a pit with a bunch of slime creatures, not as some expression of how into it I am.

As a writer, I get that it is hard to wring drama out of playing an RPG, I’ve tried. Drama comes from intense emotions and situations, gaming is a bunch of geeks getting together to have fun, if anyone takes fantasy too seriously, that’s when the questionable mental states come into play. If it isn’t fun, you shouldn’t be playing, if tempers flare, then the environment is just not right. As a gamer, I’ve been in situations where I need to do a bit of manipulating of people to get them to just sit and play. These days, I’ve gotten sick of solving everyone else’s problems. If it’s that much of a hassle, then just drop it. All this forcing it is gonna make someone blow out an O-ring.

Was this coherent? Would you want to read more interstitial posts  like this? leave a comment, or drop me a message at goblingilmartin@gmail.com

Diceroller Flicks: Unicorn City

Hey folks, after an 80 dollar replacement hard drive made its way to me, I’m back in business.

This week, we’re taking a look at Unicorn City (which came out in February of this year).  Distributed by Gravitas Ventures and Written by Adrian and Bryan Lefler, one of whom had a hand in Napoleon Dynamite. Unicorn City is a solid whole of a film. It won a bunch of awards at film festivals and even got “Best Film” at Gencon.  It’s when I turned on the critic-vision and looked closer that I had some issues with it, but I’ll get into those later. 

The story follows a man named Voss, and his attempt to get a job at “Warlocks of the Beach”. This film suffers from a heavy case of “don’t sue us, please”, replacing well known entities with off-brand names in order to not have to deal with intellectual property issues. Expect to see that a lot here. Anyway, on with the summary:

The film opens with Voss and his gaming guild playing a game of DoD (Dawn of Days), run by a creepy old guy who goes by his character’s name, Shadow Hawk. Shadow Hawk, is a “me vs. them” DM, also known as the worst possible kind. The usual suspects have been gathered: a gaming group composed of our main characters: Guy with his girlfriend hanging off him, quiet girl who seems to be there more for the players than the game, the foreigner, a guy who reminds me of Badger from breaking bad if he gain a ton of weight, and a biker looking guy. Voss seems to be the intense one, taking things pretty seriously, arguing with the GM, and in a moment of passion, stabs the gaming table with a sword.

As Voss and Marsha (the quiet girl who would like nothing better than to be in a Voss sandwich) head home after the police show up, it is revealed that Voss works with his brother selling tacos, but has a job interview with Warlock of the Beach. Also Marsha is e-dating someone named Tanick Stormblade. Don’t you just love fantasy character names? Me, I tend to stick to faux-Greek sounding names and Disney characters, but that’s just me.

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Unfortunately, her animal companion is a flounder.

Voss tells Marsha that his girlfriend broke up with him, and you just feel that wave of holycrapyesyesyes!!! that she is suppressing because of the ladyboner that she has for Voss that he’s too wrapped up in his own little word to see.

As Voss fixes a real knife onto one of his miniatures, he expresses his philosophy “you are what you pretend to be. “Wanna be a knight? Pretend you’re a knight, live by their code. Think like one and in the end, you are a knight”. Well, this much is true. Actually I’m just pretending to be a blogger. Seems to be working out so far. At least, better than that time I pretended to be a licensed OB/GYN. Waay better.

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Is this thing on?

Then in walks the Hobbit- Lover himself, Kevin Weisman, playing everyone’s older brother who rocks sleeveless shirts, wears sunglasses at night, and takes himself way too seriously and puts his siblings in choke-holds. Apparently they’re going to be evicted from their apartment if Voss can’t help with the rent.

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“Say you like Dave Matthews, go on, say it!!!

Social anxiety Stacy is playing Shmerld of Shmorcraft with the online boyfriend she mentioned. She breaks up with him because Voss is now available. That’s cold. She then runs over to Voss’ house out of nowhere and says she wants her character and Voss’ character to be love interests, all while the man hasn’t finished brushing his teeth yet. You know, if she weren’t so endearing and anxious and pretty, and the object of her affection so oblivious, this would be stalking.

He interviews for a position managing an ARG, but the interviewer says he needs to have experience leading a team and gives him a couple of weeks to wow him with some kind of project demonstrating leader-type qualities.

Voss comes out to his group that he wants to be the new gamemaster. They all jump at the chance to get away from the creepy old man in the shiny shirt. The GM cheats and issues one last challenge: Defeat the final boss of the campaign, whose stats have been secretly boosted up. After a couple of bad rolls, his character is killed, and he storms off to plan his next move.

Marsha brings it up that they should start a new campaign, and Voss says you can’t just “willy-nilly a campaign together. My thoughts on that later. She says that the other players trust him to lead them in a game, so why not in real life? Why not indeed…

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Definite upper-level management material, don’t you think?

He figures out a solution to his problem. Starting a LARP! but he can’t tell his friends why, because they “won’t be themselves”. Somehow this works, and all of his friends are willing to drop everything for days and come with him to the mountains.

Their first adventure is a hit, and Unicorn city soon gathers more LARPers for their project, including a centaur, a kenku, an elf, a knight and a succubus.

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Llllladies…

During an unsuccessful mission, The elf gets picked up by the police for loitering.

Getting nowhere with Voss, Marsha is persuaded by her friend to do a seductive dance by the fireside, for some reason she’s wearing her bra on the outside. after this doesn’t ellicit the response she wanted, she takes Voss aside, throws caution to the wind and kisses him. This gets his attention, but she freaks out and runs away.

The next morning, trouble brews. a Greyhound bus sits across from their camp, and evil should lurk inside? It’s the douchebag GM from earlier they all ditched and a bunch of guys dressed up as orcs, Also known as any average convention weekend.

And soon a news crew appears and wants to interview Voss. They ask for a shot of him on top of a mountain for their piece, and he and the Badger-looking guy from earlier, Clancy, get in the back of their van. When they get far enough away from the camp, the “news crew” ditches them. I’ll just let what Cat-man Clancy had to say speak for itself:

“How did we not see that coming? We were such idiots, man. Like, there were no channel numbers on the van, and then we got in and they’re like ‘hey, you want some candy?’ and then we’re like sure, take us to an undisclosed location and dump our bodies!”

After fighting with Clancy, Voss takes the long, silent walk back to camp. He arrives to find that his entire camp has deserted him, except for Marsha of course. Figuring Shadow Hawk had something to do with his abduction he challenges him to a duel, the weapon? Yo Mamma jokes. No, I’m serious. Someone call Wilmer Valderama. I can’t be the only high school sophomore to have seen that show, can I?

Voss loses, and is banished. In the resulting scuffle, Marsha gets smacked across the face. At this point Voss might as well be double banished. and he goes home to his brother.

After he gets some sense choked into him, Voss returns to the camp to win back his people, and Marsha, who’s being worked over by Shadow Hawk, who reveals himself to be none other than Tanick Stormblade. Posing as a 26 year old online is a great way to pick up chicks. Understandably skeeved out, she escapes just as the police show up and explain that the entire area they’ve been camping in is a toxic dumping ground, hence the elf being arrested for loitering previously. After chasing off Shadow Hawk and getting tased by the cops, Voss leads a charge that chases off the police. You can just smell the “not gonna end well” from here. A SWAT team arrests them, and they get taken to court, where the judge lets them off with community service, turning Unicorn City into a community event where people can bring their families and play games.

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Although I admit this gives me a sudden craving for snow cones. 

The judge did have one minor stipulation though. He’ll knock 100 hours off of their punishment as long as he gets to be the king.

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S’good to be the king.

Also Voss gets the job, of course he would. the interviewer says a canned food drive probably would have been enough. He turns it down anyway to be with Marsha. He sets up Unicorn City in the city park, and it becomes a smash hit. All’s well that ends well, except that our hero is still jobless, with no way to pay his rent except for unemployment.

Portrayal of RPGs – 2/5

I wasn’t happy with the way gaming was portrayed in this flick. It seems like thanks to suffering from “don’t sue us” syndrome, where really obvious facsimiles for real world companies and products stand in for the real thing, they end up glossing over a lot, and it seems poorly handled.

Another big aspect of the film was the LARPing. Like I stated before, somehow over a dozen people are just able to drop everything to come to this LARP/camping trip on a moments notice, it’s a suspension of disbelief that I have a hard time with in a realistic setting. But that’s just my own opinion. I spent the entire duration of Man Of Steel cringing at the property damage during the final action scene.

I’m going to put up a mini-post in a day or two with some extra thoughts about gaming in this movie.

The Plot – 3/5

Honestly, the first time I saw this movie, I really liked it. On my second viewing, with my reviewer hat on, I thought it ran a little long. Not in a really damaging way, but I think the middle-third could have used a little trimming. Everything works out in the end, kinda.
All’s well that ends well, except that our hero is still jobless, with no way to pay his rent, because he’s too good to sell fish tacos, and this is all glossed over. As someone who is currently unemployed, I’d take that job in a hot second.

I have a bit more to say on the subject, but I’m going to save that for it’s own post. too much to discuss.

I’d just like to close saying that I really wanted to like this movie, and it isn’t all that bad. if you think you might like this movie, it’s available on all sorts of on demand services, like Hulu and Netflix, also you can purchase a copy of the film from the film’s website, unicorncity.com.

Also sorry about some of the image sizes in this post, I’ll fix ’em so that the ants can’t get to them. I hope you liked these ramblings of mine. If you did, expect a little something extra soon. If not, I’ll see you next Sunday for the next full review. I’m keeping it a surprise this time. Bye!

Diceroller Flicks: Technical Difficulties, my thoughts on films, and Zero Charisma

So, I was hoping to have a new review up today or Sunday, Unfortunately, my laptop hard drive got corrupted, and It’ll cost me about 80 bucks to replace it. I’m posting from a public library right now. I was thinking I’ll tackle Unicorn City next.

A note about the mind behind my reviews, I used to be a very cynical person in high school. These days, I’ve tired of all the unnecessary snark. These days,  in my mind a movie needs to do a few things for me to receive it well:

First, it needs to be consistent within itself. If you went and saw THACO after my last post, you may have noticed that the acting is very…stage-y. While I understand that different art forms have different requirements, the film was adapted from a stageplay, and I find it worked in the flick’s favor. I listened to Monkey in The Cage Podcast’s review of the film. They didn’t like it, and that’s their opinion to have, but I like building up the films in my bailiwick. In theory, it’s like buying a burger. Sometimes you just crave a McDouble with a McChicken shoved inside it. It won’t ever be called a masterpiece by any stretch, but it was still good.

Second, a movie has to hold my interest. Anyone ever seen the MST3K riff of Eegah? That film is one of my least favorite films, not because it’s bad, but because it’s boring. The Satellite of Love crew couldn’t save that one from  a cave man simply  walking around for a half hour. THACO, on the other hand, was clever at points, played to my interests, and you could tell the actors were gamers themselves, discussing something they knew well.

Third, and this one kind of ties in with number one, it has to present itself well. And I don’t mean it has to have perfect sound and display in HD, it just has to be visually consistant. I bring up number one again because for the most part, the sound was consistent,  the editing was solid without too many glitches, and even though you can guess that it was shot on a cheap and or borrowed DV camera, it doesn’t overstep its bounds which is the real gauge of quality. I think a lot of movies we consider bad are thought of as such because they try to present themselves as something they are not, like The Room. Among the 1001 other things wrong with that movie, I think the biggest offense was that it tried to play itself off as a thoughtful, artsy, heart-wrenching story about a man betrayed by his wife, when in reality, it’s a poorly written, poorly acted, over-advertised train wreck that you don’t want to stare at, but you can’t look away. The delusions of Mr. Wiseau were many.

In closing, I just wanted to mention Zero Charisma, a film that comes out in a couple of days on the 11th.  The money for it was raised on Kickstarter and the trailer looks good (I’ll link to it at the bottom of this post). It’s just the kind of movie I hope to tackle on here, and maybe I will eventually, but first I want to get some other stuff out of the way. Anyway, I’ll catch you next time for Unicorn City.

Zero Charisma Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtgoAt7ZTyE