Friday, November 29, 2013

Movie #228: Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls is a 1955 movie based on the stage musical of the same name, and starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivan Blaine, Stubby Kaye, and Robert Keith.

So, if you've been to high school in the US, you know the story: Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) is trying find a venue for his floating craps game, but the local police, in the personage of Lt. Brannigan (Keith) is cracking down on such things. Meanwhile, his long-suffering fiancee, Adelaide (Blaine) is getting impatient and he's promised to give up the game. But, he's managed to find a possible venue...but he's short on cash. So he bets another gambler, Sky Masterson (Brando) that he can't take a particular woman to Havana - and the woman he picks is Sarah Brown (Simmons), a missionary.

So Masterson does take Sarah to Havana, where she gets drunk and they fall in love. The game happens (more than once), Sky faces his feelings, Nathan reconciles with Adelaide (more than once), and it all ends in a double wedding (Sky and Sarah, Nathan and Adelaide).

That's a brief summary for a long movie, though. There are a lot of memorable songs ("Luck Be a Lady," "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat," "Fugue for Tinhorns," and so forth). The movie changes a few things around, but it remains pretty faithful to the original script. It cuts "My Time Of Day," which is a shame, because I like that song (I played Lt. Brannigan once), but the most significant change is one I approve of.

See, in the stage show, Adelaide meets up with Sarah and they commiserate about how they love their respective men, but they wish they could change them. They then resolve to "Marry the Man Today" (and changes his ways tomorrow), and proceed to do just that - at the end of the stage show, Sky, already married to Sarah, has joined the mission, and Nathan has resolved to go straight. But in the movie, Sky talks with Adelaide and points out that if she loves Nathan, she needs to love who he is, not what she thinks she could make of him, and when they all marry, Sky is still Sky. I think that's a better message overall.

It's a 50s musical, so it's very much a product of the time (the scene in Havana is not, shall we say, the most culturally sensitive thing in the world), but it's classic and the songs are fun. It's also really, really long, much longer than I remember the stage show being, but that's probably because I was in it and I could go hang out in the green room during the boring bits.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch Value: Low

Next up: Hairspray

Turn and Face the Strange (P-P-Pirates)

Last Monday was Pirates. S'pose I should do the write-up.

So! We were on this island, going through the Cliffs of Blood. There we were, in the jungle, when suddenly, drums!

The trees around us erupted with darts, felling a couple of our NPCs. Blaine boosted Maddie up into the trees to engage the enemy, and then jumped up himself and starting punching motherfuckers. Jamison, our guide, hid. Morgan stood front and center and shot at one of them in the trees, and that got a reaction, but the reaction wasn't "run away!", sadly.

They continued to shoot darts at the pirates. Francois climbed up a tree to engage and cast his armor charm (which helped). The natives were tough, though, and hard to hurt, even for seasoned combatants like Blaine. So then their chief came charging out of the brush, wearing repurposed Conquistador armor and a big ol' face mask.

So Blaine swung out of a tree, landed on him, and jammed a blowgun (that he'd commandeered from another native who no longer needed it because Blaine threw him out of a tree) into the chief's neck, and communicated his intent to kill him if the others advanced.

The natives relented, and then the communication problems began. They spoke no English (or French), and we spoke no whatever they spoke, but Jamison spoke Spanish to them and that seemed to work. They told him that the temple, the golden helmet, is beyond the waterfall - so that's where we headed. Blaine took some of the indigo dye and put a blue handprint on the chief, and instructed Jamison to tell them that if he wished to, he could call down lightning any time and kill the "marked" chief.

And into the waterfall we went.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Board Game: Pandemic

The game that should scare the bejeesus out of you, especially if you know any anti-vaxx idiots.

The Game: Pandemic
The Publisher: Z-Man Games
Time: 20-30 minutes
Players: Me, +Cheyenne Rae Grimes+John Mathys+Michelle Lyons-McFarland

Gameplay: You're all CDC workers! Four diseases (blue, yellow, black, red) have broken out across the world (North America/Europe, South America/Africa, Middle East, Asia). Every turn, you infect a few cities, but if a city has too many disease cubes, it outbreaks, spreading all adjacent cities (which can outbreak in response). Characters can move around the world, charter flights to cities (if they have the proper card), build research stations, treat diseases, and research cures. But it's a race against the clock.

If you run out of any kind of disease, if you run out of cards, if you have too many outbreaks, YOU LOSE. The disease spreads and kills millions. It is really easy to lose this game.

Winning requires curing all four diseases. Curing a disease requires getting five cards matching the disease's color and then getting to a research station. After that, if you remove all the cubes of that disease from the board, you eradicate it entirely, which is nice, but eradication usually wastes more time than it's worth.

Each character has a special ability, by the way. The Medic (nickname: Jesus) can cure a whole city for one action, rather than burning an action on each cube.

Opinions: I really enjoy this game. Like most co-op board games, there's a chance that one player who thinks he knows it all will try and run the table (which is why Cheyenne wasn't keen on it before), but with a group that recognizes what "cooperative" means, it works just fine. And it's hard. It's not like Forbidden Island where there are definite strategies that can work, a bad run of cards can just screw you. That said, it's a challenge I enjoy, the artwork is beautiful, and the little disease cubes are fun to play with.

We cured three diseases, and then lost to outbreaks. TWICE.

Keep? Yes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monsterhearts, episode 2

I'm a little bleary (it's early) and I have to go to work soon, but I'm awake and I have coffee so let's do this.

Last time, which was a while ago, the characters were getting ready for the bonfire. Well, three of them were. Genesis was in the ocean, having just discovered a body, and Dora was sneaking back into school.

Genesis swam down to the body (remember, she's a Selkie, otherwise she couldn't free-dive this; this becomes important later). Dora, meanwhile, has entered the school and gone to her sanctum, and, using a CD she stole from Kevin Gable's car (Kevin was the high school student that punched Dora and then vanished from school mid-day). She casts the hex, but there are some unintended side effects. She can see through Kevin's eyes, and sees...water. She looks up, and sees Genesis swimming to "her."

The body moves, and Genesis realizes it's Kevin. She holds steady, and then swims to the surface for more air. She swims back down, and realizes Kevin is chained to an anchor by his ankles. She works at freeing him, all the while Dora is trying to grab for Genesis kind of blindly (this hex doesn't normally allow motor control - side effects!). Unable to undo the chains, Genesis uses ocean's breath to have the ocean give her something to help her - and it sends her a tiger shark.

The shark swims in, bite Kevin, ripping him from the chains and taking him out to sea. On the way, Dora/Kevin lashes out physically against the shark, beating it, but it doesn't help much. Dora comes to, spitting up a lot of seawater. Genesis swims to shore, where the bonfire is already happening.

Rook and Skylar were at Pi, the pizza place, and go to the bonfire together. Cassi and her clique are already there, dancing. Skylar is drinking beer, getting buzzed, and Rook calls him to dance. Skylar initially refuses, but then says she will after this beer. Rook responds, "Promise?" and Skylar agrees.

Genesis comes up out of the water and starts screaming that she needs a phone. Cassi gives her hers, and Genesis calls the police, telling them that she found a body in the water. Someone (we're not sure who) grabs the phone and flings it into the surf - the kids are all drinking, after all. The music stops, as does the dancing (meaning Skylar broke his promise to Rook, meaning Rook gains two Strings on Skylar). Gensis tells the others what she saw, and reactions range from horror to outright disbelief to Skylar's reaction, which is "fuck Kevin." He says this to Genesis trying to shut her down, but fails, and I trigger Skylar's Darkest Self - Skylar vanishes, and no one can see her. Unwilling to let this go, Skylar upends a beer over Genesis' head (everyone assumes someone threw it), and uses unresolved trauma since people are talking about dead bodies and such, placing the blamed condition on Genesis and Rook.

Cassie, at some point in here, also tries to shut Genesis down, and places the narc condition on her (gaining the bitch condition for her trouble). She calls her father and manipulates an NPC into getting him to contact the police and explain that this was a crank call. Genesis, angry and without a phone, stomps off toward the school to find someone to help her. Some of the football players follow her. The kids hear sirens, but they stop (apparently getting word that it was a crank call). Rook actively looks for Skylar, and this allows the Darkest Self to fade; Skylar returns to visibility.

The kids at the bonfire tear everything down, figuring it's over for the night. Skylar, Rook and Cassi talk about what to do next, and Rook turns Skylar on. Cassi, not to be outdone, turns Skylar on as well, and the three of them head back to Cassi's place.

Meanwhile, back at the school, Genesis runs into Dora, who confesses that she saw the whole thing through Kevin's eyes and believes her. The police, in the personage of Officer Feldner and his unnamed partner, show up and Genesis tells them what she saw. When they hear how far out she was when she saw the body, though, they're incredulous; it's not possible for a person to be swimming that far, that deep, and not be dead from pressure or sucked out to sea by the undertow. They put Genesis in the back of the car to deal with her, and talk to Dora, but all Dora says is that she was heading to the bonfire, but is now going home.

They take Genesis to the police station. Dora heads home and gets Genesis' pelt, and uses it to cast the same hex, this time successfully. She sees through Dora's eyes as she's taken to the station and interrogated a bit. Eventually, the cop returns with Principal Miles, of all people, who also tells Genesis that she couldn't have seen what she saw. The police finally agree to get a boat and go looking, and drive Genesis to Dora's house (they earlier claimed that she was staying with Genesis, although on paper, Genesis is staying with a crazy old lady who lives near the beach).

Meanwhile, sex! We had the fun of sussing out sex moves when three PCs have a three-way, which I can't imagine is the only time that's ever happened in Monsterhearts. Cassi's is easy; Skylar and Rook gain the condition one of them, meaning they're effectively part of Cassi's clique and she can read their minds. Rook asks both of them to promise to do this again (which they do), and Skylar gets to ask them both a question (and get one asked in return). They ask each other about crushes and distrusts in the classroom (Skylar has a thing for Angela McAdams, the field hockey player; Rook distrusts Dora), and then go to sleep.

Over at the Marquez place, something similar is happening. Dora returns Genesis' pelt, and then turns her on. Their sex movies are likewise resolved; Dora takes Genesis' bikini top (as a sympathetic token) and Genesis gets a string on someone Dora has slept with - in this case, Omar Diaz (whom, you'll recall, Genesis snogged with last episode).

All of that craziness over, the characters sleep, then wake up the next morning/afternoon. Dora is left in charge of her two little brothers. Cassi and Rook had plans to take Genesis dress shopping today, so Cassi (using a new cell phone from daddy) calls Dora to find out if she knew where Genesis was (this made sense in context, I just don't remember why). Genesis is, of course, there, which causes some raised eyebrows, and Genesis agrees to meet them to go shopping, though Dora declines.

Cassi, Rook and Skylar pick Genesis up, they get lunch, and head for the mall. While there, a woman approaches Cassi, and asks if she goes to Perdido High. She introduces herself as Kevin Gable's mother, and explains, tearfully, that Kevin has been missing since yesterday and he isn't answering his phone (Cassi has that phone, of course, but it's long powered down by now). Cassi says that she doesn't know where Kevin is, and his mother says that someone talked to the police, and does Cassi know where that person is?

Skylar, at this point, runs away, and the scariest person there (Cassi) gets a String on her. Cassi attempts to hold steady and fails, so she flubs a bit and points out Genesis. Mrs. Gable talks to Genesis, trying to find out what she knows, but Genesis says she should talk to the police first, as Genesis doesn't feel right telling her. Mrs. Gable nods, not quite understanding, and leaves, digging for her phone to call the police.

Dora, meanwhile, drops her brothers at a playground and goes into the school. She finds the janitor's closet and steals a couple of things she figures could be tokens, and then goes to her sanctum and uses her watching hex to see through his eyes. All she sees is cold and dark; he appears to be dead. Confused, she drops the hex, and hears footsteps outside the nurse's office. When they pass, she leaves, and sees black, sticky, footprints, already fading. She follows them and and sees Mike the janitor going into the basement.

Not wanting to go down there alone while he's there, she leaves, and heads back to the playground. Her brothers are missing. She asks another boy where they are, and he says they got into a cop car a minute ago. Dora panics for a second, and then the car returns, and her brothers get out unharmed and head for the monkey bars. Officer Feldner waves at Dora, and then does the "I'm watching you" hand signal.

Roll credits.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Movie #227: The Guardian

The Guardian is a pretty terrible horror film from William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's any good, though. It stars Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, and Brad Hall.

The movie opens with title cards informing us that druids used to sacrifice people to trees and those trees had guardian spirits or some shit, and they we see a couple leave for the night, leaving a nanny to watch their two kids (one probably four and one just a baby). They come back to retrieve forgotten glasses and OH NOES BABY MISSING! An unseen woman takes the baby to a tree, the baby disappears and becomes a wooden "carving" in the tree, boom, movie starts.

Phil (Brown) and Kate (Lowell) are a young couple who move from Chicago to LA so Phil can take a job at a marketing firm (maybe). Kate is pregnant, and has their son Jake about 20 minutes into the movie. They go through the normal baby issues; not sleeping, money troubles, earthquakes (LA), and meet the architect who designed their house (Hall). They decide to hire a nanny (Seagrove), and you see where this is going, the nanny is actually a tree-spirit-guardian who controls coyotes (they sure looked like wolves to me, but whatevs) and, in four weeks when "the blood changes," she'll take little baby Jake to the tree to sacrifice him.

Along the way, we see her kill some biker would-be rapists with the tree's help, and the unfortunate architect, who pulls a full-on Acteon and follows her to the grove. But then she tries to straight-up take the baby from the hospital (where he's being non-responsive, but we never really learn why), and Kate stands there completely useless while a crazy druid lady takes her baby, but then Phil comes back and acts like an actual parent, i.e., knocking the nutty woman the hell down.

Oh, and then he goes after the demon-tree with a goddamn chainsaw. That's how you get shit done, yo.

This movie is terrible. It doesn't make a lot of sense on the face of it (you'd think the police would notice frequent child disappearances, all involving the same nanny, all in the area of this one particular stretch of forest), and the characterizations are just south of horror-movie stupid. Oh, and there's a lot of poo-pooing of breastfeeding, which of course annoys me. And there's the bit where Phil makes himself a root beer float in the middle of the night, which I always forget when I watch this movie, because then I want one. So bleah.

My Grade: D
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Guys and Dolls

Movie #226: The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo is a short film originally broadcast on the BBC, and screened in some theaters in the US (had to be, since it was an Oscar nominee). It's an animated, stop-motion film based on a children's book by Julia Donaldson, and stars Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, and Rob Brydon.

So, simple enough: A mama squirrel (Carter) tells a story to her little squirrel kids (pups) about a mouse (Corden) who goes walking in the "deep dark woods," encountering predators like a fox (Wilkinson), an owl (Hurt) and a snake (Brydon), but scares them off tell stories of a monstrous creature that, he thinks, he's making up as he goes. But then he actually meets the creature, the Gruffalo (Coltrane) and has to trick him into thinking that he, the little mouse, is the most fearsome thing in the woods.

The story is cute, the animation and characters are beautiful, and the voice-work is pretty top-notch (I especially like Brydon's snake). The story goes on a little long for my taste, especially since it's so repetitive - it's very fairy tale like, which is fine, but you can kinda see where it's going easily enough. That said, it's an easy way to kill 40 minutes if the kids don't have time for a full movie.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Guardian

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Promethean: Into the Snows!

We played Promethean on Monday. Yay!

The characters reconvened after their downtime, meeting up at an abandoned house where Feather was squatting. As they arrived, they found the thin layer of grime over everything that indicated her Wasteland, and then settled in to chatting (she'd made cookies). They talked about their experiences; Matt's job at the monastery, Feather's conversion to Judaism, Avalon's trip to Burning Man, Grimm's adventure out east, and Enoch's meeting with Father Licavoli. Skip was not mentioned.

After a while, Fluffy (whom Avalon was pleased to see), mentioned that the house was structurally unsound - the foundation was weakening, probably due to Feather's Wasteland. This made her sad, as she liked having a house, but they figured it was probably time to move on. They spent the night, and dreamed...

Grimm dreamed of being arrested. Justine Berry was taking his fingerprints, and she looked at them and said, "these are all from different people," and whapped him on the head with the fingerprint card. "Who are you, really?"

Feather dreamed that she was standing in front of a cave. There were children in the cave, and wolves approaching the children. She stood poised to fight them, but one wolf approached with a hand in its mouth. It dropped the hand, and she saw that the hand was Avalon's. Off in the woods, she heard a ticking sound, growing slower.

Avalon dreamed of skiing, hurtling down the mountain, and seeing something furry and dangerous in the trees, watching her.

Matt dreamed of light, the sun on the snow, growing blinding.

And Enoch dreamed he was blind, but walking Fluffy on a leash and seeing through his eyes. He heard a voice that may have belong to a throng-mate say, "Hey!" and woke up.

The next morning, the Prometheans piled their stuff into the van and drove to the Garden of the Gods. Feather (who'd been here on a pilgrimage of sorts) showed them around, and then they decided to see if they could make it Pike's Peak...but given the weather, they decided that might be unwise. Figuring Avalon in particular would love it, they tried to go to Manitou Springs, but ran into a detour. Following it, Grimm felt the van lose traction on a narrow road, and (his player failing and then taking the dramatic failure on a Drive roll; love it when the universe aligns like that), the van tumbled down the mountain.

The characters were dinged up, but mostly unhurt. The van, however, was a wreck, and no one had a phone. As they wondered how far they were from anything, another vehicle drove up - a shuttle taking people from the airport to a resort called "Angellus." The driver offered them a lift, and, not having a lot of demands on their time, they agreed.

The shuttle contained six other people, all going to Angellus for a wedding. They were Babhi (the groom), a pre-med student from Boulder; his parents, Naresh and Anjali; Leslie Serrano and his wife, Madison (both in the wedding party); and Damien West, a groomsmen and film grad from UC Boulder. The characters chatted with them, and, both by conversation and just reading nuance (which some folks do better than others), they learned that Babhi is meeting his fiancee (Serena, a biochemistry major) and the rest of the wedding party at the resort, and then the couple and Babhi's parents are flying out to Madras to visit with the rest of his family. The characters noted some tension when Feather asked if it was going to be a big wedding, but weren't sure why. Madison also mentioned that a huge snowstorm had hit the area and blocked off most of Manitou Springs, but that the resort itself was still accessible. Should be plenty of powder for skiing, though (Leslie was thrilled, Madison not so much).

The characters arrived at the resort, and met Ella and Ferdinand Omertz, the owners. They were willing to give them half off the rooms (better than nothing, and they have the space), but then Enoch asked if maybe they could work for room and board. Ella agreed (with the wedding, there was work to be had); the characters could work and they'd comp rooms tonight, charged half for any rooms going forward, and comps their meals.

With all of that in mind, the characters retrieved their stuff from the bus and walked into Angellus.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Promethean notes

I took some notes a couple of weeks ago, but I needed info from the players, which I now have, so here we are. I need to figure out the angel and its mission here. I should probably also think about the ongoing chronicle a cit.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Movie #225: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a 1993 comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell and directed by Harold Ramis.

Phil Connors (Murray) is a Pittsburgh weather man who is almost completely egocentric. He has very low opinion of people in general, and somehow has the balls to consider himself a "celebrity." He gets sent tPunxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the groundhog coming out to see his shadow. Not entirely thrilled by this, he is also saddled with a plucky new producer (MacDowell) who's entirely too happy for his tastes.

Arriving in town, he does his job, and they try to head home...but get stopped by a blizzard and forced back. The next morning, he wakes up...and it's groundhog day. Again.

This continues. Phil goes about his day, and then quickly realizes he's reliving the same day, over and over. No one else notices (and indeed, the other people around him go about their day very predictably), but Phil learns everyone's routines and exploits that knowledge. He gets to know people and their routines, and steals money, gets laid, and generally enjoys knowing that no matter what he does, it has no consequences. He sets his sights on Rita, putting himself up to the challenge of seducing her...but can't, because she can see through his false sincerity.

He gives up (which I think is a really important point, because eventual redemption is not based entirely on Rita) and despairs, killing himself multiple times, but that doesn't help either. And then, with Rita's help, finally shakes himself out of his depression, using his eternity to learn languages, poetry, music, and, more important, to learn and help the citizens of Punxsutawney.

I really like this movie, in large part because Bill Murray is so awesome as an insufferable jerk, but he's not actually a horrible person, he's just really selfish. He learns to get out of his own head, and that becomes his redemption. It's not about Rita, it's about, incidentally, becoming worthy of a real, grown-up relationship.

One issue I had: There's a side plot with an old homeless man that, when Phil finally notices him and tries to help him, dies every night. Phil takes him to the hospital and tries to save him, but can't. And then he figures that he can't, and the subplot just kind of goes...nowhere. I'd really have liked to have seen some kind of resolution to that, even if it's just a conversation with Rita about death and how everyone only has so much time - could have been poignant.

But even then, it's good stuff, and family friendly enough that my daughter really liked it.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: The Gruffalo

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Movie #224: Grosse Pointe Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank is a comedy/action movie starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Ackroyd, Alan Arkin, and Joan Cusack. It's one of my favorite movies.

Martin Blank (Cusack) is a hit man who's not entirely thrilled with his job. He's good at it, but lately he's been slipping. His assistant Marcella (Joan Cusack) gets an invitation for his 10-year high school reunion, an his therapist (Arkin) encourages him to go and maybe not kill anyone for a few days.

But there's a kind of hitch: Martin left on prom night, 10 years ago, because he was, well, fucked up. His mother is mentally ill, and his father (dead as of the events of the movie) was apparently a drunk, and he realized on prom night that he wanted to kill someone, so he left, joined the Army, and eventually became a government-trained assassin. Thing is, he left his girlfriend (Driver) waiting, and never looked back.

So Blank returns, but nothing's ever easy. He's got an assignment while he's there (penance for fucking up another job). He's got another hit man (Benny "The Jet" Urquidez) on him on an unrelated issue involving a dead dog. He's got another hitter, a former associate named Grocer (Ackroyd), trying to put together a kind of assassin's guild, he wants Martin in, and won't take "no" for an answer. And into the mix, he's got all the usual "coming home and learning your childhood home is now a convenience store" issues, and on top of that, there's Debbie, the lost love of his life, seeing him again.

I really, really, like this movie. The chemistry between the cast members is amazing. Every single relationship in the movie works perfectly, from the obviously affection with maybe a touch of fear that Marcella feels for Martin, to Martin's unsteady relationship with his therapist, to the vaguely and unpleasantly paternal relationship with Grocer, to the obvious romantic and sexual chemistry with Debbie. But you feel like Debbie and Martin were really a couple, they know each other's jokes and patter. You feel like Martin's best buddy Paul (Jeremy Piven) really missed him, and really cares about him - enough to literally help him hide a body. And when Debbie finally finds out that, no, all those times when Martin says he's a "professional killer" he was not fucking around, she freaks out completely believably.

The action in the movie is pretty amazing, too. The fight scene between Martin and the European hit man Felix La Pubelle (Urquidez) is fast, brutal and awesome ("Cusack's been training for this since Say Anything," as Michelle noted). The dialog is snappy and well-written, and Martin's confession at the end doesn't feel out of nowhere because he's obviously been building to it the whole time.

The only thing that bugs me about it is the line "Everything about you is a lie," because literally nothing Martin says is a lie, ever. But that's a minor point, I think.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Groundhog Day

Yarr, pirates

Been a crazy week! The Demon Kickstarter is going like fucking gangbusters, and I haven't had time in the evenings to do game write-ups or anything!

So here we are.

Last time, we were on the ship, heading to Isabella, but ran afoul of no wind and then no water (to drink). The Seahawk pulled up near us, but our genius doctor hid the people with prices on their heads and then whipped up some plague-makeup. The Brits gave us water, but did not set fire to our ship (because Georgina made sure to tell them we didn't have smallpox).

And then we found our wind again, and put in to Costa de la Hacha to resupply!

We left Francois on the ship, and Blaine, Georgina, Morgan and Maddie went ashore to buy stuff (Francois later came ashore anyway because HE DO WHAT HE WAAANT). We were shopping, and soldiers approached Maddie and demanded she come with them - apparently she stole a ring from the local Baron's cousin. We intervened, Blaine disarming a soldier and Morgan whacking one over the head with a sap, and the captain surrendered before we beat his goons all to hell. Blaine and Maddie went before the Baron, who said he could make this problem go away if we brought him the Golden Helmet - which was, supposedly, in the city we were going to.

Blaine agreed, because what choice did we really have? But we'll see if he keeps that promise (he has the Heroic Hindrance, not Code of Honor).

Back on the boat, and back on the ocean, we sailed to Isabella, and from there into a channel and BOOM, there before us were the Cliffs of Blood.

We anchored the ship, and split into two lifeboats. Rowing there, Georgina noticed one of the crewmen bleeding from the nose and ears. Actually, it turned out that the stuff coming from his ears wasn't blood, but earwax tinged with blood, which was weird. We set up camp and the crew was muttering about a curse, so Blaine got some hard tack from Maddie, put it in a little sack, borrowed some indigo dye from Francois (he'd used it to dye a sacrificial goat; that dude's weird, what can I say) and had the crew take Communion, claiming he'd had the crackers blessed by the bishop while meeting with the Baron. It's bullshit, of course, but Blaine's about the morale, anyway.

And then sleep. Next time - into the island!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Character Creation: Better Angels

I figure I'm going to run this game, I oughta make a character. +Michelle is helping out (by which I mean, making a character as well).

The Game: Better Angels
The Publisher: Arc Dream
Degree of Familiarity: Not much. I backed the Kickstarter, played it once at GenCon, and my players made characters for a monthly game (but we haven't actually played yet). I have some experience with the one-roll engine, which it uses.
Books Required: Just the one.

Better Angels is a game in which you play a supervillain. The basic idea is that some people are possessed by demons, and in order to make the demon happy but not too happy, you indulge in eeeevil. That's different from actual evil. Eeevil is over-the-top, weird, and ultimately nonsensical, if you think about it. Evil is, well, evil. Efficient, cold, calculating.

Character creation is pretty quick, but it works best with a group, because the player to your left (of course) adds some things to your demon. So!

Step One has us spending 20 points on the human side of things. Now, the stats in this game are Strategies and Tactics, which are further split into good and evil (or heavenly and infernal, if you like). For instance, the sinister Tactics are Greed, Espionage, Cruelty, Cowardice, Corruption, and Deceit. You'd roll Cowardice when you're trying to get away or change a situation. The flipside of that is Endurance, which you'd roll when you're trying to survive, rather than escape, something. That's paired with a Strategy, which are also divided thus, so you'd roll Open Endurance to soak up an attack, but Sly Cowardice to dodge one.

Strategies cost 2, Tactics cost one, and Specialties (specialized areas of knowledge; they don't add to rolls, but you can't make a roll to do brain surgery unless you have the Brain Surgeon Specialty) cost 2. I need to think about concept some.

Well, I like dogs. I think my guy used to run a dog shelter. He didn't take cats (deathly allergic), but he had all kinds of mutts that people dropped off or that wandered in off the streets. And then a demon came along, possessing a dog, and traded up to human.

That in mind, and knowing that putting points into the left-hand traits may come back to bite me, I'll dump all 20 points into my right-hand traits. I take two in Generosity, Patient, Knowledge, Open (actually I buy one, but I get one free), Insightful, Honesty, three in Endurance, and one in Nurture.

I don't bother with any Specialties; you don't really need them, and I'm not convinced that this guy would have them (maybe Dog Wrangler, but I don't see that as being so hyper-specialized that it would need a Specialty).

Of note: This game is not a physics emulator. The stats, and the rolls, are very much narrative; you roll what you roll based on what you're trying to accomplish and how, and there is no "average" stat. This would bug the hell out of a lot of players, and it does take some readjusting even for me.

Anyway, Step Two, I get to pick a primary Strategy, an Aspect, and a Power for my demon.

Well, for my primary Strategy, I feel like my demon is pretty animalistic, predatory, and vicious. I'll pick Cunning. I'll take Animal Form as my power (which means at some point I'll need a point of Espionage or two); my guy can turn into a black, slavering, Hellhound. And for my demonic Aspect, I'll pick Flame-Wreathed.

Now, Step Three, we switch character sheets. I now get to spend some points on Michelle's psychology grad student, Cherie. She studies psychoanalysis and dreams, and I know Michelle took Terror and Ghost-Form for her.

That in mind, I'll buy up her Devious to 2 (I can't buy it any higher because her Insightful is already 3, and there can only be 5 points between them), and Cruelty to 3. She consolidated her points pretty well, so I'll fill in the gaps: 1 in Greed, Cunning, Corruption, Deceit, and because I'm nice, one each in Endurance and Courage. And then 2 into Espionage and Cowardice. And I fill in the extra point she gets in Open, because I don't think she remembered to take it.

And now I just wait for her to finish with my guy so we can go on to the next step!

Right, here we go. Step Four, we pick a Power and an Aspect for the other player's demon. Well, her Cruelty and Espionage are (now) high enough to be worthwhile. I don't think she's thinking of this character as a powerhouse, so I'll give her Clairvoyance as the Power (which keys off of Espionage) and Horned (which doesn't necessarily mean horns, it just means some kind of natural attacky kind of thing, which she can figure out).

And now I just wait for her to pick my stuff. Sneaking a peak at my sheet, I see she upped my Cruelty, maxed out my Espionage at 3, bought my Cunning up to 2. Also Cowardice and Devious, and 1 point in Sly. And then she gives me Arrogance (which is a defensive power) and Darkness-Shrouded (I can call up darkness as well as fire all around me, which is pretty badass).

Now we just need names. Well, my mortal name is Henry Hanson. As a villain, let's just call him "Hellhound." It's not terribly imaginative, but Henry's not a flashy guy (I think that his best friend may have suggested "Baskerville" at first). Michelle informs me that my demon's name is Sirius. Makes sense.

And that's us done, then!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Movie #223: Bringing Up Baby

Bringing Up Baby is a 1938 screwball comedy starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Also a leopard. Couple of them, actually.

Dr. David Huxley (Grant) is a rather nervous, straight-laced paleontologist putting together a brontosaurus skeleton and hoping to talk the lawyer (played by George Irving) of a rich old lady (played by May Robson) into donating a million dollars to the museum. He's also waiting on the last bone for his dinosaur skeleton. He's also getting married tomorrow, to a woman...probably affiliated with the museum (I don't think her actual position is ever stated) named Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker).

While playing golf with Peabody, the lawyer, he runs afoul of a flighty heiress named Susan (Hepburn), who proceeds to accidentally make his life a living hell. As it happens, she's the niece of the rich old lady, and swears she can fix all this, but just manages to make it worse. The next morning, she calls David up, under the impression he's a zoologist, because her crazy brother has just sent her a leopard.

Things get weirder from there. They take the leopard to Connecticut to stash it, but then Aunt Elizabeth shows up with her big game hunter friend, Applegate (Charles Ruggles), and the family dog steals the bone, and they steal a car, and Susan deliberately works to keep David there because she falls in love with him. We end up with another (much less tame) leopard running around, everyone getting put in jail, and Susan getting the money, which she gives to the (now-single) David.

It's a screwball comedy, so it's fast, funny, and absurd, but very heavy on quick dialog and physical comedy. Everyone in it utterly commits to the absurdity, and say what you want about post-Code Hollywood, but it's nice to see comedy where no one farts. Susan is flighty, but she's quite capable. David is frazzled, but he's decent and brave. And the end of the movie makes clear that while Susan is always going to be clumsy and difficult, David is always going to love that about her.

Plus, leopards are cute when they nuzzle people.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Grosse Pointe Blank

Movie #222: Adam's Rib

Adam's Rib is a 1949 comedy starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, in which they play lawyers on opposite sides of a case. This rather sitcomy premise, though, is a little more involved than it sounds at first.

So: Adam Bonner (Tracy), an assistant DA, has a perfectly loving relationship with his wife Amanda (Hepburn), a defense attorney. One morning over breakfast, they discuss the odd case of Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday), who shot her husband, Warren (Tom Ewell) and was arrested for attempted murder of him and his mistress (Jean Hagen). Adam feels this is pretty cut-and-dried; she followed him to the love nest, shot at both of them, and wounded Warren.

Amanda, however, notes that if this had been a man who shot his unfaithful wife, he'd be acquitted. Adam agrees, though he doesn't like it any more than Amanda does (note that point, it becomes important later), and Amanda takes Doris' case. Adam is initially incensed, but agrees that Amanda has a right to make her argument - that women should be treated equally - and promises to cut her in 12 little pieces and feed her to the jury (this is evidently how members of the species homo lawyerus flirt).

As the trial progresses, though, their marriage becomes somewhat strained. It doesn't help that their neighbor, Kip (David Wayne) openly lusts for Amanda and writes a song about her, or that the papers are following the case closely. Amanda builds her case on two points: Doris was not, in fact, trying to kill anyone, just to scare the mistress; and besides, men get away with this kind of bullshit all the time.

Finally, the case is decided - not guilty. Adam leaves Amanda, but not because of her argument about equality, but because this women shot someone and won't be held to account for it. He comes back the next night and holds a gun on Amanda and Kip, and Amanda, terrified and angry, tells him he has no right - at which point he takes a bite of the licorice gun (ew) and says that's all he wanted.

They do get back together, because they really do love each other, but I think it's nice that their reconciliation takes its time in the movie - Amanda doesn't fold after the gun incident, and them getting back together comes with some emotional display from both.

I really enjoyed this movie. For one thing, Katherine Hepburn is amazing, and you probably already knew that. But her chemistry with Tracy is, understandably, amazing, and I love movies with snappy dialog. This wasn't a movie I'd heard of before, but I'm quite glad we own it now.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Bringing Up Baby

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Promethean Downtime

So, last night we got together and did the bookkeeping for Promethean. I gave the players 8 months of downtime, and told them they could earn 5 Experiences each by coming up with cool things their characters did over the break. They did not disappoint me.

Enoch: Advised the group that, since three of them had succumbed to Torment and all of them were coping with the loss of Skip (which they all had complicated feelings about), they should split for awhile and then meet back up in Denver later. Enoch, himself, followed Avalon, wanting to know more about this strange Promethean. He tailed her to Burning Man, and found himself feeling oddly paternal as she got to know Hector (see below), but stayed out of her notice (must have dampened his Azoth, now that I think of it). After that, Enoch headed toward Colorado. He picked up a copy of a book called Hank's Journal, a fictionalized account of this chronicle, and then received an angelic vision - he learned that his answer to the question ("What are the angels?") might damage the whole group's quest, since it wasn't what the angels were looking for. He traveled to Denver and met up with a Catholic priest named Father Sebastian Licavoli. He also met back up with Matt, there, who was at the Synod running some errands. Somewhere during all of this, he switched to the Refinement of Mercury.

Avalon: Left the group and hitched around, spent some time at a coffee shop where she spent days browsing Wikipedia (remember, she's eidetic, so she remembers everything she's learned). She eventually wound up at Burning Man, where she traded her crafts expertise for crash space and supplies. She studied the people there and made a friend (and probably lover) name Hector Diaz, who called himself "Agor" at Burning Man. She learned to make paper, learned how to weld, played Go, and danced at the pyre. She also picked up a handmade clock, but the guy who traded it to her mentioned that he made the frame, but not the workings. She then detoured through Las Vegas, where she hung out in casinos and met a drunk gambler. He told her stories of strange deaths and disappearances about a year back at a poker tournament (last story of this chronicle). Avalon switched back to Aurum before heading to Denver to meet up with the others.

Matt: Matt went to the wastes, in the desert close to Truth or Consequences, and then returned to the trailer park and his construction job. He worked that for a while, and then took a job as a groundskeeper for a monastery in the area. He got to know the monks, there, and eventually gave confession to one of them, revealing what he was and his affinity for angels. He traveled to the Synod, running errands, met up with Enoch and also spoke with Father Sebastian, and eventually realized he had to leave the monastery before his Wasteland destroyed it. He also got a tattoo on his left arm - the angelic mark he'd drawn on Trent McKean back here. He's staying on the Refinement of Lead.

Feather: She, took, went to the wastes. She found a mountaintop in a Navajo reservation and stayed there, far away from people, until the Torment bled off. And then she went in search of someone who could help her interpret the symbol in her hair. She eventually wound up at a synagogue in Denver, and talked to a rabbi named Samuel Benjamin, who told her it meant "sister." She learned about faith from him, and wound up converting to Judaism and attending Hebrew school with the children (she's always been good with kids). She left when she saw Disquiet start to creep in - the kids were getting possessive of her, and that's never a good sign. From there she made a pilgrimage up Pike's Peak, considering her place in the throng and the value of prayer and faith, and changed to the Refinement of Bronze. Somewhere in here, she also met the Tall Blue Man and told him at least some of her story.

Grimm: He went to the wastes, off into the desert, and spent much of his downtime alone in meditation. When he finally got too hungry for interaction, he left the desert, took the van, and drove east, looking for others of his kind. He saw a pack of werewolves in the desert, but chose not to interfere or make himself known (practicing his Refinement), and eventually ended up in Pennsylvania, where he saw a woman being attacked by a vampire on Christmas Eve. He shot it multiple times, but it kept coming, so he grappled with it and took its fangs as a trophy. The woman he saved, as it happens, was Justine Berry, an Erie cop who has already encountered vampires (Justine doesn't know it yet, but she's going to have an interesting spring, too). Grimm left her a number to contact him with, and headed back west. He's remaining on Copper, for the time being.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Night's Black Agents: Murder Prep

So we wound up doing some actual gaming last night, not just spending points. Ahoy!

The characters went to Bonn, Germany, and after some creative Digital Intrusion had a suite at a nice hotel. Hanover made contact with a contact in the BSI, name of Klaus Hinckel, to get some data on Renate Bauer (who is, recall, the BSI agent who took a meeting with Tasse CEO Simon Thibault and viewed the body of Vasily Avilov in Paris - she's a little too connected to the characters' activities). Hanover also asked Klaus to try and check up on what happened to Ivana Sisek, but that's for another session.

Klaus told Hanover that Renate had been promoted and effectively was the one that other agents answered to on the subject of money laundering. She had been to Paris lately, yes, but she'd taken vacation time to do it - it wasn't an official assignment. Klaus did some further digging and found out that Renate had taken personal time over the last few years to visit Paris, Croatia (specifically Osijek), Hungary (Budapest), and Russia...but never simply to go to Frankfurt, where her family lived.

Since Renate was a hacker and computer expert, the agents decided to have another go at tracing the money (they've done this before, but always get hung up around the Isle of Man). This time, Lockwood helped out with some Cryptography, and Hanover broke the codes - it was, indeed, Renate, funneling money from all over the Europe. It was coming in from sources the characters recognized (Russian mafia, Hy-Klass Escorts [which, Rousseau noted with some satisfaction, had taken a major hit of late], Tasse Medical) as well as some odd deposits from several banks in Budapest.

Digging into those a bit more, using Data Recovery and Electronic Surveillance, they found that the same well-dressed man made all the deposits. They investigated him, and found his name was Dr. Janos Sas - a staff doctor at a prison in Budapest. The accounts corresponded to inmates at the prison, and looking back, Hanover discovered that sometimes an account would close, corresponding to an inmate's release or death. Renate Bauer, it seems, was pretty deep in this - she was laundering the money for the conspiracy. Taking her out, then would put a major crimp in their finances...

...but, of course, it would also tip the characters' hand. Lockwood was enthusiastically in favor of killing Bauer, wanting to set something on fire and "set the rats running." Rousseau agreed, though perhaps for more altruistic reasons. Hanover and David, too, felt that this was a smart play, especially since the heat had cooled off, so it was a low-risk as it was ever going to get. Smith cautiously agreed, but stressed that they needed some intel first, so they knew how to approach this without it all going wrong.

That, then, is the current op - kill (or, maybe, kidnap and interrogate?) Renate Bauer, and learn her role in the conspiracy.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Game Notes!

I'm running Night's Black Agents later today and Promethean tomorrow. Actually, in both cases, we might just be recapping what's already happened, spending XP and doing some stage-setting, but since I have ideas for both games, I should take some notes.

Better Angels!

Yesterday we (that is, the group that had, in the past, played Misspent Youth and Dresden Files) decided to start up a new game. We've been playing one-shots for a few months now; last one was A Tragedy in Five Acts, but I wanted to run something consistently, so here we are. We decided, after some consideration, on +Greg Stolze's demon-possessed supervillain game, Better Angels. I was a Kickstarter backer and I played in a sort of so-so game of it at GenCon (the "so-so" bit was in no way reflective of the game itself, I think), and the players were enthused by the premise, so we got to work.

All we did yesterday was make characters; I haven't read the book thoroughly, so I need to do that before I run it. The players were highly amused by the snippets I read them, the Cloven Hooves Aspect in particular. Here's what we came up with, character-wise:

  • Gary Greer (no supervillain name yet), possessed by Mammon of Avarice. A former track and field star who sold himself out for wealth, fame, and so on. Powers: Dominator Strike and Psychic Object. Aspect: Wings and Horned. 
  • Arvo Aulis Kurkinen, aka The Iceman, possessed by Nidhogg the Malice Striker. Finnish race car driver who was fired from his team and took up with the demon for revenge. His player has some ideas about doing Jigsaw-like things; giving people "tests" of their integrity or intelligence or something (but that are fairly stupid, not nearly on Jigsaw's level of GAH). Powers: Ineffable Defense, Wither. Aspect: Flame-Wreathed (blue and cold), Invisible. 
  • Livi (no last name given), aka Amber Alert, possessed by Glasya-Labolas. Livi is a little girl who just wanted to be bigger and tougher than her brothers. She got her wish. Powers: Animal form (komodo dragon), Terror. Aspects: Flame-wreathed, Giant. 
  • Willa Williams, aka Britannica, possessed by Baal. A fairly normal librarian who picked up the wrong book one day. Powers: Terror, Dead Ringer. Aspects: Cloven Hooves, Wings. 
So, one thing we noticed is that all of these people (except maybe Willa) accepted demonic possession, which changes the game just slightly. But I need to read the rest of it and get comfy with the mechanics, because the system for this game ties in with the themes of the game, rather than being a physics emulator (which is fine with me). I'm looking forward to it. Probably make my own character for the chargen project later today. 

Board Game: Chomp!

One more from last night.

The Game: Chomp!
The Publisher: Gamewright
Time: 20 minutes or so
Players: Me, Teagan, Cael, +Michelle Lyons-McFarland+Sarah Dyer

Game Play: You've got cards with various sea creatures on them. They're divided out evenly, then each turn everyone turns one up. You slap the lowest card on the food chain (sharks eat everything, seals eat everything but sharks, big fish eat everything but sharks and seals, etc.), and then collect everything lower than you. If someone gets an electric eel, it's a feeding frenzy and anything is fair game, if there's an octopus, then all cards are set aside and next turn, the winner takes them, too.

If all your cards get chomped, you're out. Game ends when two people are left (you count cards and highest total wins).

Opinions: It's a cute little kids' game, and it's complex enough that adults can play it and not get bored out of their minds, but simple enough that my five-year-old played and stayed engaged. The artwork is pretty and the seal picture looks demonic (Cael initially thought it was a sea monster). My only complaint is that, like similar games, one player can win a hand and stay in the game, dragging things out. But really, a five-player game only took about 20 minutes, so that's fine.

Keep it? Yes.

Board Game: Fury of Dracula

Yesterday we made characters for our next game (post coming soon!) and then had some time, so we ate ratatouille and played Fury of Dracula. One of my favorites, as you may know.

The Game: Fury of Dracula
The Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Time: Varies. It can end in as little as an hour. I've seen it take as much as five.
Players: Me, +Sarah Dyer+Michael Taylor+Rob L, Jess.

Game play: One player (me, in this case) plays Dracula. The other players control the Hunters (Lord Godalming, John Seward, Van Helsing, and Mina Harker). The board covers much of Europe (the Isles over to Constanta), and the Hunters pick where they start. Dracula then chooses what city he starts in, but the Hunters don't know that. The Hunters act in sequence, moving from city to city, searching for Dracula, and equipping themselves with item cards (weapons, horses, dogs, etc.) event cards (which can give them allies, hints and special abilities...but you draw them from the bottom of the deck, because some of them go to Dracula).

Dracula leaves a trail (you can see it at the top of the board), which fills with cards as he moves through Europe. If a Hunter finds his trail, they might discover an encounter he left behind for them (fog, minions, baby vampires, rats), but should be able to figure out where he's been and track him down. If they find Dracula, they fight! Hunters don't die; they can be defeated (which gives Dracula victory points) and Bitten, but then they get shipped to the hospital to recover.

Mike and Sarah consider their impending doom.

Combat involves both parties picking from a hand of weapon cards (Dracula gets a bunch more, including Claws and Mesmerize, at night), and rolling a die. High roll wins and some effect happens, depending on who played what (stakes hurt!). Every time Dracula has a turn, the time marker advances, progressing through three turns of day and three of night. Every new dawn, Dracula gets a victory point and the Hunters get Resolve, which they can spend to do things like find Dracula.

The Hunters win by killing Dracula. Dracula wins by reaching six victory points. Dracula gets victory points by waiting (1 every dawn), defeating hunters, or having new vampires "mature" (they "fall off" the edge of the trail with no one finding and killing them).

Jess is unperturbed. Rob hides from the camera.

In this particular game, the Hunters drew Jonathan Harker as an ally early on, which I thought would be a problem (he reveals Dracula's sixth location card), but then I pulled an event card that let me move twice and push a baby vampire off the edge, netting me two easy victory points. And then I kicked Van Helsing's butt (though it was a close thing) and got two more, and at that point it was just a matter of waiting for the dawn. So I won, and Dracula triumphs again!

Opinions: I really like this game, but you need players who are interested and will stick with it. It requires patience and there's a certain degree of frustration, because if Dracula pulls Evasion (teleporting anywhere on the board), I've seen players give up. Likewise, there's a great deal of psychological warfare that goes on, because smart players can track your eye gaze and figure where you are on the map (there's actually a mini-map for Dracula to avoid this, but I find it hard to use). And, as mentioned, this game can take a few hours, so if you're playing it, settle in.

That said, I really enjoy it. I enjoy being Dracula a lot more than being the Hunters, but either's good.

Keep it? Yes.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Movie #221: Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is, obviously, the sequel to Gremlins, though it came out six years later. It stars some of the same cast (Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, and Howie Mandell as the voice of Gizmo) and adds Christopher Lee, John Glover, Robert Picardo, Haviland Morris and Tony Randall as the voice of the "Brain Gremlin."

It's several years after the destruction in Kingston Falls, and in New York City, the real estate dealings of billionaire Donald Trump Daniel Clamp (Glover) have intruded upon the curio shop owned by Mr. Wing (Keye Luke). Clamp's slimy henchman Forster (Picardo) offers to buy the old man out; he refuses, but dies soon after, leaving Gizmo homeless.

Gizmo flees, but is captured and taken to a genetics lab in the massive Clamp Tower, home, among other things to the Clamp Cable Network. Billy (Galligan) and his fiancee Kate (Cates) now work there, Billy as an artist, Kate as a tour guide. Billy works under the hyper-stressed New York career exec Marla Bloodstone (Morris), and isn't anyone in particular until Clamp shows interest in his work.

Somewhere in here, Billy realizes that Gizmo is in the building, tracks him to the genetics lab run by the somewhat ghoulish Dr. Catheter (Lee), and frees him, but in a series of wacky missteps, Gizmo gets wet, one of the resulting mogwai gets brought home because Kate seriously doesn't pay attention, they all (minus Gizmo) eat after midnight, gremlins arise, get soaked, and take over the building. And Billy, Clamp, Kate and Marla have until nightfall to sort this out, or else the gremlins will be loosed upon New York!

Unlike the original, which starts cute and takes a hard left into horror with a side order of slapstick, Gremlins 2 starts out stupidly comic and satirical and never looks up. The gremlins are give much more in the way of personality, but it's mostly sight gags. They eat a bunch of genetic material in the lab and mutate; a bat gremlin injected with sunblock smashes through the wall leaving behind the Batman symbol and inadvertently brings Mr. Futterman (Miller) into the story. The motley crew manages to destroy the gremlins because one of them turned into living electricity and they use that to electrocute the rest.

But really, at this point, the storyline isn't important. The movie cheerfully breaks the fourth wall, bringing in Leonard Maltin to repeat his panning of Gremlins and then get immediately attacked by the little monsters. The body count is much lower (just Dr. Catheter, I think, the first victim of the electric gremlin), and the gremlins aren't vicious and evil so much as silly and obliquely threatening. The most menacing one gets turned into a half-spider, then shot and burned by Gizmo, wearing a Rambo-style headband and wielding a flaming arrow made from a white-out bottle. It's absurd.

And yet...the satire is at least partially on point, if you were around in the 90s. John Glover's Clamp is affable and reasonable - you'd never see the same character played that way now, since we now know that Wall Street rich guys are sociopathic monsters. Clamp, meanwhile, is friendly and a little childlike, and a bit too enthused about everything.

Actually, the support cast - Lee, Morris, Glover, and Robert Prosky as late-night horror host Grandpa Fred - are the best things about the movie. Galligan and Cates are just kind of bland and likable, but compare them with the intense commitment to the absurd that we got from the leads in, say, Airplane!, and you see where this movie falls down. For all that, it has some charm and some funny moments, and if you know the 90s and some movie history and don't try for a minute to take it seriously, it's actually pretty fun.

My grade: C
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Adam's Rib