"I wonder if that was from the pastrami rueben I had yesterday?"

Monday, November 19, 2012

A night at the theater


            I applaud the Daniel Craig series of Bond films for taking him in a new direction, even if I do not think it is an entirely successful direction.  Bond is back, and Bond is very human.  In Casino Royale, but truly falls in love and actually has to convalesce from his wounds for an extended period of time.  He even has to be saved from poisoning by his love interest.  Skyfall continues along this same vein.  This is a Bond that feels, a Bond that bleeds, a vulnerable Bond at times.  This makes the endless chase scenes more exciting, because we are keenly aware that this Bond could fail (perhaps even die?)
            It’s hard for me to evaluate a modern Bond film because of my memories from boyhood.  My mother took me to see my first bond film when I was around 11.  I can’t match the enthusiasm or willingness to suspend disbelief that I had then.  To my failing, jaded adult eyes, this film scores a solid B.  I don’t give A’s to many films, and Skyfall never approaches anything nearing perfection.  The talents of Judy Densch and Ralph Fiennes are largely wasted in this film.  Oh, their characters are likeable enough, but I wanted much more from their interactions with each other and the rest of the cast.  These are heavyweight actors in an action fantasy, I know, but why cast them if you’re not going to let them reach their full potential.  There is a deliberate lack of gadgets in this film (which is the source of some self-referential humor in a brief scene between Bond and the new Q) and I’m ambivalent about how that plays out.  I like exploding pens and cars with ejector seats.  More of that, please.  That’s not what this Bond is about, though.  He’s about blood and guts, real blood and guts, and he demands the suspension of your disbelief through shock and awe as Bond is battered by forces that are largely beyond his capabilities to effectively confront for much of the film.  Roger Moore never seemed to so much as spilled a drink on one of his suits.  This Bond goes to work with bullet holes in his.  One is left to wonder, in fact the very question is posed by more than one of the characters in the film, why Bond perserveres through it all.
            If you’re looking for a fairly innovative take on the Bond character, go see this film.  The old theme music is worth hearing at a theater.  If you’re at all nostalgic for cars that turn into submarines and watches with lasers in them, you’re going to be disappointed, but perhaps not entirely.  There is a notable cameo from Goldfinger towards the end of the film.  I could have lived with shorter car chases if it brought the film down to 2 hours instead of nearly 3.
            Thanks to Coach for taking care of Lily while Kim and I saw the film.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunday's session

We last left our heroes in the bowels of the Misty Monk Monastery and Brewery.  They had encountered several monks with bloated stomachs and twisted, demonic faces who spewed forth animated ale that then attempted to worm its way down the throats of the nearest humanoid.  The monks and the ale monsters were dispatched, and Ripley the thief (a rogue by class, but a thief by some poor life choices) unlocked a door to a hallway lined with many large barrels.  As the company proceeded cautiously down the hallway (much to the displeasure of Graela the barbarian, who disdains caution) Several of the barrels fell off the shelves and coalesced into a humanoid shape with glowing eyes. 
Without waiting for a consensus on whether or not to act, Graela and Bolo the fighter proceeded to try to chop the barrel monster into kindling with their massive swords.  They made short work of the beast, but not before Graela was dropped once to the floor, bleeding profusely.  Thanks to some healing from Witch Hazel, the barbarian was quickly back on her feet but still low on hit points.  Mixx the alchemist lobbed a bomb into the fray, expertly avoiding setting any of her teammates on fire.
No treasure was found on the vanquished abomination, but the hallway did have two closed doors to examine.  The one to the right was locked (and trapped, much to Ripley’s chagrin).  Ripley narrowly avoided becoming a Halfling shishkabob by virtue of his quick reflexes, just missing falling into a spiked pit.  After rigging the platform to stay put, Mixx listened at the door and heard voices discussing the noise outside.  ‘Something activated the trap,’ said one.  ‘Get ready for whatever comes through the door,’ said another.  Deciding to leave the paranoid denizens of the monastery well enough alone, the party elected to try the door to the left, which was not locked, trapped, nor did anything jump out at them when they opened it.  How dull, thought the DM.
Before they could proceed down the next hallway, Hazel (whose player had heretofore been occupied with a squalling real-life baby...) allowed as how she wanted to talk to the people in the trapped room.  So they went back down the hallway and let Hazel wave a white flag on a stick poking through the door.  (The flag was fashioned from fabric from one of the poor fallen monks in the entry hall.)  After a bit of brief negotiation, the group learned that the bank hiding behind the trapped door was the Father Superior mentioned in some of the letters Hazel had read earlier in the adventure. 
The ale at Misty Monk Brewery, it seems, was possessed by demons who were summarily dispelled by a priest from the Temple of the Five before it was shipped out and consumed by the general public.  This process gave the ale a taste that no other brewer could replicate.  Unfortunately, something had gone wrong with the latest batch, and the ale had escaped it’s magic circle and began pouring itself down the throats of the hapless novices involved in aiding the ritual possession and exorcism.  The party’s aid was entreated and they consented… in return for some platinum pieces, a magic sword to help defeat the main demon in the summoning room (who might even now be attempting to gate in more of its brethren), and the title of ‘count’ would be bestowed upon one of the lucky adventurers.  Mixx thought to give a hard look at the Father Superior to see if he was on the level, for his methods of ale making were suspect at best, but her powers of sensing motives were dim, and so far as they could tell his offer was on the level.