Tag Archives: Movies

A Brief Digression Into Media

A brief digression? On this blog? Shocking!

Not the digression part; the brief part.

Just so we’re clear.

Still milking the multiple header gag, I see. Sigh.

Still metacommenting on yourself, I see. You can go blind doing that.
Saw Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. I enjoyed it, but (no spoilers), it showed me how spoiled I’ve become by long-form arc-style TV series. In order to fit every plot point into a two hour movie, it, like many other genre films, had to do this:
“Hi, audience! Here’s a nice case of guns. We’re going to put one on this mantelpiece, one on this mantelpiece, and one on this mantelpiece. Don’t worry, they’ll all be fired. Oh, but there are some surprises. Here, here’s a nice red herring. We’ll be sure to label it “red herring” for you, not that you need it labelled, since there’s really only room for one and it’s not like we can devote a lot of time to it.”
 
Long form TV allows for more subtle planting, slower exhibition, time to build up plot threads that genuinely don’t look like false leads because they’re given the same nurturing as others. The writers can assume the audience (well, those who really care) will binge, freeze-frame, and discuss details endlessly, and this allows them the freedom to put in things someone might miss or overlook, then see on a second viewing or be made aware of by a recap or discussion. On the other hand, a major plot point that’s too subtle in a movie leads to angry viewers who feel ripped off or confused, and people generally don’t watch a movie multiple times, they can’t freeze it or back it up.
 
Technology changes storytelling. The medium isn’t the message, but the medium alters what message you might wish to send.
 
(Babylon 5 is sort of the Archaeopteryx in the coalmine, to mix metaphors like a horse in a barrel. It will likely be looked on as the first great hybrid of episodic and arc storytelling on television.)

Shark, Three Headed

Shark, 3-Headed, 3-Versions

Inspired by cinema…

Pathfinder Version

Three Headed Shark

The sight of a great white’s fin breaking the water is fearsome enough, but then the creature’s three heads appear briefly above the surface, turning this way and that in ceaseless rage…

Three Headed Shark CR 13
N Huge magical beast (aquatic)
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., keen scent, low-light vision; Perception +14


Defense


AC 27, touch 9, flat-footed 26 (+1 Dex, +18 natural, -2 size)
hp 189 (18d10+90)
Fort +17, Ref +12, Will +10
DR 5/magic; Immune fear


Offense

Speed 10 ft., swim 40 ft.
Melee 3 bites +25 (1d12+8/19-20/x3)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 jaws, 2d8+12)


Statistics


Str 26, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 10
Base Atk +18; CMB +28; CMD 39 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Bleeding Critical, Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Great Fortitude, Improved Critical (bite), Iron Will, Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Acrobatics +5 (-3 to jump), Intimidate +6, Perception +14, Swim +21
SQ devouring bite, ferocity, hero points, land survival, leaping bite, regenerate head


Special Abilities


Devouring Bite (Ex) The three-headed shark ignores half the hardness of any material it attempts to bite through. It can easily tear through the wooden hull of a warship, the stone walls of a seaside fortress, or even the iron plates of a gnomish submersible.
Ferocity (Ex) Fights without penalty even while disabled or dying.
Keen Scent (Ex) The creature can notice other creatures by scent in a 180-foot radius underwater and can detect blood in the water at ranges of up to a mile.
Land Survival (Ex) The three-headed shark can survive for up to 10 minutes outside of water before it begins to take damage.
Leaping Bite (Ex) If it starts its turn in the water, the three-headed shark can leap up to 40 feet horizontally and 20 vertically as a full-round action, and can make a single bite attack at the end of the leap.
Regenerate Head (Ex) A sunder attack with a slashing weapon that does damage equal to 1 1/2 times the three-headed shark’s hit dice will remove one of its heads, depriving it of a bite attack… momentarily. In 1d4 rounds, three new, smaller, heads will appear in place of the missing head. These heads have a reach of 5′ and attack as secondary natural weapons (-5 to the normal head attack bonus), doing 1d8+4 damage.


Ecology


Environment any ocean
Organization solitary or pair
Treasure standard (in stomach)

Three-headed sharks are spawned in regions with large amounts of magical pollution — the bay of a city with a large alchemist’s guild, the site of a sea battle with many spellcasters involved, or near planar rifts. They are vicious creatures which attack without provocation or even hunger… they will tear prey to pieces and then leave the remains behind. A common tactic is to come up beneath a boat and tear the hull to shreds, then feast on the sailors trapped in the rapidly-sinking remains.

Terrifyingly, some sahuagin have found ways to tame and ride these monstrosities. Only their most elite, particularly rangers and druids, can master these nightmare creatures. When seen, it is usually at the forefront of a massive army.

Most three-headed sharks are mutations of great whites, but other species, primarily hammerheads and makos, have been spotted. Rumors of a mythic three-headed shark the size of a megalodon remain, thankfully, only rumors.


Design Notes

Done with the help of Hero Labs, so blame them for math errors. The damage is high for its CR, but it’s supposed to be. As with a lot of mid-level and up creatures in Pathfinder, you run a real risk of the encounter being nerfed by a failed Will save (less risk with Reflex or Fortitude, though it’s always there.) GMs might want to add “+4 vs. mind-affecting effects”. I left that out of the “official” version because my “Gygaxian naturalism” opposed it, but if you use this thing, it’s your campaign, run it your way!

Please note: The bites have a x3 critical multiplier.

Please also note: I created the charcharodoom about 12 years ago, long before this movie, or the prequel (Two Headed Shark Attack, of course!) came out.

There's two kinds of people who see things like this in their heads: Game designers and serial killers. I'm the kind that pays less. Hint: It's the first one.

There’s two kinds of people who see things like this in their heads: Game designers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays less. Hint: It’s the first one.

Arduinish Version

SHARK, THREE-HEADED This thing makes Jaws look like a goldfish! HD 10+2 to 15+2, AC 2+2 to 2+4. Number 1-3. Speed 18 water, 2 ground. %liar too stupid to. ATTACKS 3 bites 3d8+8 each, teeth act like sword of sharpness. Looks: 30′ long great White Shark with three heads! Sense of smell can detect any living thing in 184 feet or twice that if bleeding, doesn’t need light to attack. If a head is cut off, three smaller heads appear in 1d4 rounds, each attacks as if 4 HD less and does 1/2 damage. Can leap out of water for up to 40 feet (20 feet up) and then bite. Survives out of water for up to 10 mins. before starting to “drown”. 100% immune to fear, charm, etc., they live only to EAT and EAT and EAT. Sometimes tamed by EVIL mermen as riding beasts. Oh, and they have the “steel bite” that chews through anything less hard than adamantine (up to 6″ thick per round).

(Does anyone know enough CSS to tell me how to tighten the space for the monospaced font?)

Design Notes

Design? Please, this is old school! Even the stat block format changed from monster to monster.. the order, format, and inclusion of any attribute was random. So I just went with what felt right. I tried to make sure I got all the most important things: AC, hit dice, and damage/attack.

AD&D Version

FREQUENCY: Very Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: -1
MOVE: 2″//24″
HIT DICE: 14-16
% IN LAIR: 25%
TREASURE TYPE: Q (in stomach)
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 3-12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Rending and see below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Animal
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
SIZE: L
PSlONlC ABILITY: nil
Attack/Defense Modes: nil

Three-headed sharks are thankfully rare mutations that sometimes appear in areas with magical pollution, such as runoff from an alchemist’s lab. They can attack up to three targets per round, but if they hit one target with two or more bites, they will rend it (like an ape) for an additional 2-16 points of damage.

If they are in water, they can leap out of it up to 4″ and make a single bite attack when they land. They can survive up to 10 minutes in air before suffering any ill effects, are immune to fear, and can chew through non-magical material at 1″/round.

If a “20” is rolled when attacking with a two-handed bladed weapon, a head will be severed. In 1d4 rounds, three tiny heads will regenerate. Each attacks as a creature with 4 fewer hit dice and does 1d6 points of damage. These heads do not regenerate.

They normally look like great white sharks of the largest size, with three heads. Representatives of other species, such as makos or hammerheads, have been reported. Fearful sailors have claimed that in the deepest ocean, a three-headed megalodon exists, but this is surely nonsense.

Design Notes

AD&D hints at a strict formality of design, with a clean and consistent layout… but it’s mostly an illusion. Hit dice, damage, special abilities, etc., were all assigned in a “whatever seems to work” fashion, and many creatures had “one off” mechanics… only apes have the “rending” power, for instance. I used sharks and bulettes as my main guideposts for setting the numbers, but I mostly just winged it.

Force Awakens Spoiler-riffic Thoughts

Force Awakens — Random Thoughts

Warning: Contains spoilers, and won’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t seen the movie. Important: I loved it and am totally going to see it again. And again. And buy the Extended DVD and the “Making Of” and watch all the Robot Chicken parodies and…

But as anyone who has been reading my epic Arduin saga knows, just because I love something, doesn’t mean I don’t mock, nitpick, and criticize it…

Things I Learned From Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • There’s no need to train Jedi from infancy. All you need to master telekinesis, mind control, and light saber combat is to simply be told there is such a thing as the Force a few hours earlier. It’s like Hagrid saying, “You’re a wizard, Harry!”, and Harry going, “Cool! Avada Kedavra, Dursleys!”
    • Addendum: Having had some time to settle in my brain, and having read other analysis that bring up points I missed, I realized it was strongly implied Rey had prior Jedi training which was somehow buried in her mind, and she was more than likely recovering knowledge she’d rightfully earned.
  • A slightly less long time ago, in a galaxy just as far away, there is still no OSHA.
  • Transporting droids carrying information vital to the Rebellion is a great way to get into trouble. Again.
  • JJ Abrams left most of the lens flare home, but doubled down on the daddy issues.
  • It’s possible to have an economy based on scavenging ruined spaceships… without anyone to sell the scavenged parts to. (I don’t mean the sleazy guy buying the junk. I mean, who is he selling it to? He’s clearly a middleman… so who is on the other side?)
    • Addendum: Somehow, I wrote ‘too’ for ‘to’ twice. Corrected.
  • A planet roughly a thousand miles in diameter can have 1-G gravity and a breathable atmosphere.
  • Trailers lie — in a good way. A lot of the scenes in the trailer happened in a different context than I thought, and that’s good.
  • Escape now, hug later, is good advice.
  • Even garbagemen (sorry, “sanitation engineers”) can be heroes. Seriously.
  • Jedi can invent weapons which contain a plasma field perfectly, using a power cell a few inches log, but never invented elevators.
  • We will be absolutely freakin’ besieged with Mary Sue self-insertion fanfics about Kylo Ren, because he’s so mopey and emo and conflicted and just look at those big pouty lips and quivering eyes. An entire generation of tween girls entered puberty the instant his mask came off. I guarantee it.
  • Skywalker family gatherings must redefine “awkward”.
  • FTL travel, sapient robots, and personal plasma weapons? Sure. Better graphics than an Atari 2600 on your targeting computer? Not so much.
  • JJ Abrams really doesn’t understand how space works. This is much more forgivable in Wars than in Trek.
  • Contrary to a lot of high-falutin’ nonsense from lit-crit majors, it is sometimes the case that the original creator of a work of art is not actually the best steward of it.
  • A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, a black guy standing around minding his own business is still going to get jumped, knocked to the ground, tazed, and called a thief.
  • Wookies are the most patient and forgiving species imaginable. If I took a tenth as much crap for being Jewish as Chewbacca does for being a Wookie, I’d be in the JDL.

Brief Thoughts On SHIELD

(Posted on FB, but it occurs to me I could use actual content here once in a while.)

So, #AgentsOfShield is finally the show I wanted it to be. Contrary to some claims, neither I, nor, I think, most fans, wanted “a Marvel movie every week”. If anyone expected that, they were morons. What I wanted — and what we’re finally getting — is what I expect from any good action drama: The sense that Our Heroes are up against a tough fight, that (other than the knowledge of plot requirements) they can lose, that victory is a struggle, and that they’ll survive by being smarter, stronger, or more determined than their enemy.

Having what seems to be serious, and permanent, changes in characters — hopefully with no reset button, because, damn, someone left the Moral Event Horizon in their rear-view mirror a dozen headshots ago (So, HYDRA agents are trained to take headshots. SHIELD agents aren’t. This is why HYDRA is winning, people!) — is icing on the cake (which is a lie), but what really matters is that it’s no longer easy. They aren’t the most elite team of the most elite agency with every resource at their beck and call. They’re down to a rag tag fugitive fleet…er… airplane… and they have a traitor in their midst. And it’s good-guy spy agency vs. bad-guy spy agency, which is what SHIELD began as in the comics and what it needs to be now.

Thus, the ratings are probably tanking. Joss Whedon wanted to really get us comfortable before pulling the rug out, but it took long enough that I was just about convinced the rug was nailed to the floor. I’d stopped expecting to be surprised, which in one sense is good, but if people aren’t watching when the surprise finally comes, that’s not good.

At this point, SHIELD deserves a second season, and for the first time since the premiere, I actually care if it gets one.

Oh, this link has nothing to do with SHIELD. Just buy my book!

Rango As Post Apocalyptic Setting

So, the spousal unit and I just returned from Rango, a film where I greatly suspect a huge chunk of the script consisted of “Let Johnny Depp do something for 45 seconds, then go to next line.” While, obviously, I have great sympathy for any film in which the hero is reptilian and prone to fits of storytelling, I was generally very impressed overall by the humor, the animation, the amazing level of detail and texturing in the world, the voice acting, and the constant little nods to classic westerns and other films. As I watched it, though, it occurred to me that with very few changes, it could be a Gamma World or similar style post-apocalypse movie.

Warning!

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!!

This article will discuss the film in significant detail and reveal many Cool Bits you might not want to see revealed. Be warned!

Heck, let’s just insert us a lil’ ol’ “Read More” kind of line, OK?

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