Gamers (2006)…let me elaborate.

So I’ve had a couple of stressful days away from this film, and I have a few more things to ad. 

My biggest issue with this film is how very crappy the characters are as people. We’ve got (and I’m stealing most of this from the sparse tvtropes.org page):

  • Paul: A telephone relay operator who lives with his parents. 
  • Gordon: A low-level public television employee who lives with his parents.
  • Kevin: The GM. A musician (in the loosest sense of the word) who rents a room from his grandparents. Kevin insists on never fraternizing with the players outside the game.
  • Fernando: Sent to America from Argentina after he embarrassed his family by sucking at “the soccer”. Fernando supposedly learned English by playing DND. Lives with his girlfriend but suspects correctly that she is cheating on him. He jerks off horses for a living.
  • Reese: A late addition to the group who none of the other players much care for. Fills just about every stereotype of the annoying and creepy gamer. Lives in a one bedroom apartment with his mother.

These characters gave me nothing. NOTHING to care about. They’re either losers, creepy weirdos, or jerks (see what I did there?). They don’t even seem to like each other. Why should I care about them, or their gaming streak, or any of the weird, stupid stuff that happens to them? I’ve got my own problems, that involve real games. 

I may have issues with GamerZ ( which I’ll get too soon, i hope. Also, can we decide on something DIFFERENT for a gamer movie title from now on?), but at least I thought the characters were interesting, if not likeable. They were strange, but they were strange in a way that made you WANT to see what happened next. Gamers started right away with the gags and crappy jokes, and gave you nothing. I payed for this movie, with real money. Don’t waste yours. Or do, I’m not a cop.

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In response to The Gentleman Gamer

The other day, The Gentleman Gamer (the suavely voiced VtM expert) posted a video about how D&D isn’t a good game to start off new players with.

While I can understand why he said what he did, and I agree at times, I have to counterpoint him here.

He says that the amount of books you need to play it, and the contents of said books can be daunting to new players. Yes. But yours truly learned D&D by myself with only one other friend who had never played before. We sussed it out over the course of a couple of afternoons in highschool.

The complexity of D&D I think is actually a good thing. If you start on D&D, and you master it, then nothing else can phase you. If you start players off with a very simple game and they get comfortable with that, then you will most likely meet resistance when trying to bring them to a different system, especially one with more “crunch”.

Another interesting benefit of D&D is it’s  malleability, and based on your DMing style, you can prepare players for other games. If you want to stick to dungeoncrawls or war simulations, then you can introduce your players to different types of battle games with less resistance. If you play it very story heavy, or political intrigue-y, you can move onto games like Vampire or noir, or detective games.

I don’t really have closing thoughts. Umm…..Read any good sourcebooks lately?

Here’s the video I’m referring to, by the way:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK3cZ0s-T-w&feature=c4-overview&list=UU366ezryJzVHMZeoaXdD3hg

Goblin Interstitial: Fantasy Sequences

So, it could be argued that a gamer movie is usually made up of two things. Reality and fantasy sequences. Film being a visual medium that it is, it helps to take the viewers in for a closer look at what goes on in the heads of the players. Usually this consists of the actors playing the players dressed up as their characters. Some movies get artsy with it, like GamerZ, and it’s easily the best part of that movie. Some movies go half and half, like The Gamers, and the counterbalance is really neat. I had a thought though. No single gamer pictures a scene the same way. You say ” Inside the dusty room, there is a table with a frayed red tablecloth lain across it, and on the table rests a dusty old book” You have three players playing. Let’s call them Bob, Jasmine, and Ozymandias. All three players will focus on the book. Here’s what they see:

Bob:

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Ozymandias:

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Jasmine:

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She has issues.

Point is, even a single, simple detail can be seen different ways by your three players. So why are they always the same in movies? I propose something different. Those of you who have been on Cracked.com have probably seen After Hours. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a group of people from Cracked sitting at a diner and talking about stuff. What stuff? Doesn’t matter. They discuss pop-culture stuff, and occasionally, like a gamer flick, they slip into a kind of imagine spot. But the main difference is, every character in After Hours has a different artist illustrating their brain.

This is  a free idea for anyone working on a film. Try that. Show each fantasy in a vastly different way. Imagination is important because no two are alike. Might be a nice shake-up. Have fun!

Diceroller Flicks: The Gamers

Okay. On with the show…

This week we’re looking at The Gamers.

Made in my home state of Washington by Dead Gentleman Productions in 2002 for about $1000, The Gamers is a love letter to late night gaming sessions with your friends. It opens with almost VGA level graphics of the main player characters, it’s acting is a bit on the poor side, and the writing was good not great, but none of that matters. If you have any experience with gamer movies, you’ve seen this one.  It pretty much invented the genre, or at least defined it. You can tell by their casual mentions of “the dark elf with the scimitars”, that they were being very careful to not get into any legal trouble, and the name of the game is never actually mentioned.

The movie starts off with an introduction to the player characters (and yes, I finally mean players in the gaming sense, you can relax now) and a text crawl that mentions an evil plot by a villain called The Shadow. bunch of dorks standing in their dorm hallway, chatting about something gaming related, one of whom wants to use the new sword of ogre decapitation he got, when a girl in a nearby  who is trying to study for finals goddammit tells them to be quiet. I’ve never been to college. Do people actually study there? I thought it was all drunken orgies…nevermind…

The gamers enter their little conference room, and get set up for their game. One of their players, Mark is absent, being out with this girlfriend. More dialog is tossed around that at a glance sounds like something a gamer would say, but isn’t: “I got your dice right here!

Then we learn that the DM has gone with the classic tried-and-true method of character motivation: Killing everything and everyone the character has ever loved.

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WHYYYY!?!…Because I said so. That’s why.

They receive a letter telling of a kidnapped princess, whose only hope is them. They go to investigate, and decide that the answer they seek might be at the bottom of a bottle of dwarven ale in nearby tavern. I’ve only been in one game where drinking a bottle of dwarven anything has ended well.

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Uh…Rogar? Buddy? You alive?

The thief goes to get more drinks, and in the process tries to steal everything physically possible from the guy sitting at the bar, including his pants.

Then the director walks in, angry that they left him behind to die in a previous battle.gm3

God I love director cameos, don’t you?

The angry warrior is about to kill the party, when Nimble the Thief attempts to backstab the poor guy with a ballista. There’s nothing against backstabbing with siege weapons in the rules, so it’s okay, and he proceeds to turn the obstinate giant into chunky salsa all over the tavern walls. Since they’ve now scared everyone half to death and can’t get any information off of the gore-splattered commoners,  they leave.

Having ruined any chance of the DM being able to give them information, he resorts to having the princess show up as a blue jedi spirit and tell them where she is.

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Help me…Please help me…I am a prisoner in the dungeon of the castle. My name is Zelda…wait, what? Shit, wrong game. My bad.

The group journey’s onward until they reach a river, and thanks to a system of flaws and perks, the mage is afraid of water. In their attempts to knock him out they get a little overzealous and end up killing him. Short one party member, they travel along the waters of Puget sound until they get ambushed by “The Bandit King”. The elf kills the Bandit King before he gets a chance to pontificate overlong (that means make a boring speech, for those not in the know). The DM vetos this, and continues on anyway, attacking the group. They appear to be losing, until they remember that Mark’s character has been standing in the background, staring off into the middle distance. Mark shows up, and wrecks house, winning the battle with a berserker bonus

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A thousand-mile stare like that is usually reserved for the DM when he realizes one of his players is missing…

So they continue on to the castle where the princess is being held, and outside they find a familiar face. Their mage from earlier, or, wait, a completely different mage who just so happens to be played by the same actor and player. Adding new characters to a pre-established group is hard, okay?

They travel through the castle, until they come upon The Shadow, an evil Dread Pirate Roberts-type. After getting their asses handed to them, the mage comes up with a plan. Using baleful polymorph, he turns The Shadow into an ogre. The rest of the party consider this a very bad idea, until the fighter remembers the sword of ogre decapitation in his bag. They curbstomp the ogre and the day is saved, except that…the princess is nowhere to be found. they travel further into the castle, eventually stumbling upon a strangely well-lit corridor with a door, behind which they can hear voices. They decide to take no prisoners and charge into the room, in which a bunch of familiar dorks are sitting, Playing D&D. This leads to the most literal case of a total party wipe in existence as the movie ends with the girl from earlier storming in, not noticing the bodies, and tells the characters to shut up so she can study.

 

That was trippy, right?

Portrayal of RPGs – 4/5

The movie really feels written by a gamer, albeit one who was prevented from making more specific jokes thanks to copyright. I think if the movie had been allowed to actually say what game they were playing (all of their gamebooks had the covers taped over, but you could see they were using D&D 3.5 manuals) as well as reference it, it might have been a bit funnier, like it’s sequel, which we’ll get to next time.

The Plot – 4/5

I actually wasn’t sure how to rate the story here. It’s a standard fantasy save-the-princess plot. The dialogue was poor, and sounding like things someone thought a gamer might say if the observer had only been to a couple of games. But this movie did a great job with very little. was a pretty solid flick that made it’s way to having a cult-following among role-players. It’s got definite heart, and every gamer should check it out, unless they have to study.

 

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.

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.

ariel_warrior

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.

uc2

“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