Characters of Cimmeria: Jevaninada II

Time to talk about the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy), King Jevaninada II,  leader of the evil Xorians and first of the draconic vampire Dragovinians.

image

King Jevaninada II leads the Xorian people both as their monarch and as the living avatar of Blendegad’s divine might. Jevaninada II grew up under the feminist regency of his mother, Queen Anajakaze. Blendegad attacked and turned Jev into a Dragovinian on the same night that he became King. Jevaninada spent twenty years undoing his mother’s reforms and spreading his condition to those he deemed worthy within Xoria. Over the last five years, King Jevaninada led an invasion into Eastern Cimmeria against the Second Alliance. Continue reading

Advertisements

Minions Movie Review

Minions Poster

My wife and I saw Minions this weekend and we were both a little disappointed.

We both liked the first two movies, but the series is suffering from sequelitis where each new movie is a little worse than the one before.

Part of that problem is honestly a stronger focus on the minions with each new movie.

They’re good as sidekick characters, but a mute slapstick comedic lead hasn’t worked since Buster Keaton. People just expect more out of their movies now.

The plot of the movie is summed up pretty well in the trailers if you’ve seen those. Three minions try to find a villain to serve. They find Scarlet Overkill who tells them to steal the Queen of England’s crown. Hijinks ensue and Scarlet Overkill ends up wanting to kill the minions.

The trailer used most of the funnier bits of the movie in it, so there weren’t many surprises left to see.

The best part that was left out of the trailers was the Nelson family, a group of bankrobber fans of Scarlet Overkill.

They’re just a happy loving family that also happens to rob banks and idolize super villains.

Back to the general point, why didn’t the movie work for me? Because none of the characters were interesting (besides the Nelsons).

The minions are cute and funny, but they don’t speak. They literally cannot deliver punchlines to jokes.

There are basically only two other characters in the movie besides the minions, Scarlet Overkill and her dopey husband, Herb.

Scarlet is the embodiment of rage. She rages really well and Sandra Bullock was a great cast to play that character, but is she funny? NOPE! I don’t go to the movies to see people get mad over petty things. I don’t got anywhere for that sort of thing.

And Herb… He’s newspaper comic level funny. I can literally read the jokes he does every single day in the comics section. It’s just weak stuff.

My wife and I are fans of the series, so we’d be the most likely group of people to enjoy this movie, but we just didn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it to other adults who liked the first two Despicable Me movies. Maybe for kids, but not adults.

Another thing my wife and I had heard the movie was sexist before going to it. Gotta say, that was entirely wrong.

Minions has the same problem every other movie has with a lack of female characters. There’s Scarlet and the Queen. That’s it.

The Queen is barely present, so most of the sexist accusations would have to revolve around Scarlet’s portrayal or just the general absence of female characters. Since nearly every movie is missing female characters I assume what we’d heard was directed towards how Scarlet was portrayed.

And it just wasn’t sexist. She’s a powerful woman with a husband who is the “power behind the throne.” Basic role reversal already.

At one point she’s getting put into a corset-type dress which one could claim is sexist, until the dress turns into a giant rocket 2 minutes later in the movie.

You could also claim her desire to be pretty was imposing society’s values of what women should be, but that just feels like a stretch.

The final issue might be Scarlet’s life long dream to be Queen of England. You could see that as her wanting to be a princess or you could see it as her wanting to be the ruler of a country.

The sexism just wasn’t there (besides the no female characters thing).

Anyways, most of the people who read this blog are adults, so I recommend that you don’t see this movie. Even if you are a fan of Despicable Me. Just watch the trailer again. It’s pretty much the same and will save you a lot of time and money.

-GoCorral

Kingsman Movie Review

The day after my in-laws helped me moved in was my birthday. Wheee!

We were still moving in so we didn’t do anything super fancy.

My wife and I went out to eat for breakfast. Not like we had another option because we hadn’t moved the food over from the old apartment yet…

The breakfast restaurant was Italian themed and is rapidly becoming our favorite restaurant in Davis. It’s called Cafe Italia if anyone is interested in going.

After breakfast we unpacked more stuff. My one birthday event was going to a movie that I got to pick. I chose Kingsman (as if the title of this post and the picture weren’t enough clues for you to figure that out already).

The movie was pretty awesome, filled with action scenes and callouts to other spy movies.

The plot follows Eggsy, the son of a man killed while working for the mysterious Kingsman.

The Kingsman are a secret spy organization working independently of other intelligence agencies to keep the world safe from evil people. They’re a small group and everyone is named after people from the King Arthur stories. The leader is King Arthur, the person filling Q’s role from the Bond films is named Merlin, Eggsy’s mentor is named Galahad, etc.

I love the King Arthur stuff and it’s coupled with the agents being chivalrous and knightly in their mannerisms.

Eggsy’s initial selection is a lot of fun. Bar fights, car chases, evil step-fathers. Awesome stuff! Some of it you’ve already seen in the trailer if you watched the trailer. Go watch the trailer!

After he joins the training program the movie slows down a bit. Eggsy’s mentor, played by Colin Firth, investigates the villain’s plan to kill half the Earth’s population, while Eggsy goes through a series of unusual training exercises.

The concept of the training exercises is fun. One of them is six people sky diving and after they’ve jumped Merlin informs them that only one of them has a parachute. Unfortunately, the training sequences just aren’t as fun as the car chases and bar fights in the first half hour.

The movie heats up when Eggsy finally takes on the villain with help from the other Kingsman. I don’t want to give too much away from that part of the movie though.

I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a solid action movie and my wife said it was even a little bit thought provoking.

And it’s just barely still in theaters as I’ve been dragging my feet about making blog posts. Quick! Go see it!

-GoCorral

Fake Chinese New Year’s Eve

My D&D group had our hangout with our friend in San Jose this weekend. Someone suggested naming the event, “Fake Chinese New Year’s,” because its an additional party after the official Fake New Year’s, just like Chinese New Year’s is in the USA.

I picked up my spy partner from the previous post and we went to our San Jose friend’s house together. After catching up a little we started the gaming off with a few rounds of Three Dragon Ante.

Three Dragon Ante is a game made by Wizards of the Coast for D&D. It’s meant to be a card game that the people play in D&D worlds. It’s a bit like poker with a three card hand, but with tons of other rules and suits thrown in. Each suit has a special effect when you put it into your flight (the hands are called flights because they cards are all dragons). The special effect only activates if your card is weaker than the one your opponent played previously. The person with the highest hand at the end of the round wins the pot. You can see that you have to balance between activating your effects or playing high cards to win the pot.

Three Dragon Ante has a nice flow to it and we played two games of it. After that we went to pick up some pizza and talked about which roleplaying system we’ll be using for my next campaign. I and a few other group member have gotten tired of playing D&D 3.5. We feel we’ve explored everything we can with the system. The new systems I’ve looked at are D&D 4E and Hackmaster. Hackmaster has a lot more appeal within my group so we discussed a few of the benefits of that system.

Our next game was Samurai, an old card game where each player is a samurai in feudal Japan. You attempt to gain honor by faithfully serving a respectable daimyo. The daimyos fight each other and there’s a lot of espionage and backroom deals to gain more power as well. I won that one, but just barely.

Another of our buddies showed up at that point. We switched to playing a new card game I’d gotten for Christmas, Villainy. Villainy is all about completing your villainous schemes as a super-villain like Lex Luthor. You have to gather a team of loyal henchman, commit nefarious crimes, complete your master plan, and finally defeat Fantastiman, Defender of Good and Justice. I played the nefarious Frog Tamer and attempted to decaffeinate the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, Master Asaurus Pain completed his vile scheme to release Fantastiman’s browser history before me, thus winning the game.

We went out for dinner at a Filipino place that served exclusively dishes with meat and eggs. We watched the final quarter of a football game between the Ravens and some other team. After that I had to head out. I dropped my friend off back at his house. On the drive home I listened to part of a Hardcore History on World War 1 that described what the USA was doing prior to entering the war.

And that’s the word on Fake Chinese New Year’s! I have yet to talk about Christmas stuff yet, but I’ll be getting there soon.

-Mister Ed

Dracula Untold Review

I saw Dracula Untold the other night in theaters.

It was decent, but not as good as the trailers made it seem to me.

The movie attempts to juggle a lot of different themes and ultimately fails on most of them.

The movie attempts to unify the historical story of Vlad the Impaler with the mythological story of Dracula. It does a decent job.

The historical story is heavily condensed, turning a three year war into something that takes about a week, but that’s to be expected when making a movie. The personalities of the participating characters are changed as well, but that was necessary for the story the script writers wanted to tell.

The mythological story is compromised to make Vlad seem more appealing to the audience. This is an origin story, so Vlad doesn’t start off as a horrible bloodsucking villain. He’s a family man who fights the Turks to protect his country as well as his son. He’s all but turned into card-carrying monster by the end of the movie though.

But if Vlad is a good person, how does he become a vampire? The “evil vampire” is a monster that is trapped by a curse within a cave. The vampire can turn someone else into a vampire. If that person does not drink blood within the next three days then they will turn back into a human. However, if they do drink blood then the original vampire will be freed from the cave to do horrible vampire things to people.

Vlad takes this deal with the devil to protect his family from the coming Turk invasion. The three days don’t prove to be enough to stop the Turk invasion, mostly because Vlad wastes his second day doing nothing of significance. Vlad chooses to extend his gift into eternity by drinking blood. He then shares his gift with a few of his loyal soldiers and they wreck the entire Turk army. The tactics employed by the vampires reminded me so much of the short story Out of the Dark by David Weber that I’m sure the script writers read the short story as well.

There’s lots of actions and special effects. A few wonky camera angles that mess up the movie, but those are fortunately rare.

I think my main issue with the movie was the multiple different personas Vlad has. We all act differently in different situations and around different people, there’s nothing unusual about that.

My problem was that there was no obvious transition between Vlad’s different personas.

Vlad comes back home after encountering the original vampire. This is before he makes a deal with the original. The vampire killed two of Vlad’s most loyal soldiers.

Vlad returns to his family, puts on a happy face, and kisses his wife. She notices he seems distant and he says, “I was only distracted by your unbelievable beauty.” Vlad then goes on to play and joke with his children before tucking them into bed before having sex with his wife in the bathtub.

But he just saw two of his men killed by a demon a few hours before this? It is possible that he transitions this quickly. He probably needs to do so often as he is a military ruler of his country with the nickname, “The Impaler,” but the audience does not see this transition. All the movie needed was to show Vlad outside the door to his family room before going in. He could sigh and shake his head before entering, having mentally prepared himself for hiding the brutal murders he just witnessed from his family. Nothing like that is in the movie. It goes straight from a discussion with a monk about the vampire to him reuniting with his family.

That’s not the only issue. When Vlad first accepts the curse of the vampire he understands that it might cost him his soul. He realizes that later on while praying in a church. Yet when he’s about to lose his power if he doesn’t drink blood, he doesn’t remember. The person who he drinks the blood of doesn’t remind him either. There should’ve been some discussion of whether his soul was worth expelling the Turks from Wallachia and saving his son’s life, but there isn’t! We at least get an anguished scream from Vlad after he drinks the blood, but that’s all. No traumatic battle between good and evil within him over becoming a demon. Just a battle over the sin of cannibalism.

Who would I recommend this movie to? Probably not fans of the historical Vlad the Impaler. Too much of the story is changed to truly match the real version.

It feels more like a typical action/adventure movie. If you liked The Mummy or Raiders of the Lost Ark then this will be a good movie for you to watch. Not as good as those classics, but a decent movie with fighting and special effects to entertain you. The characterization isn’t great and the plot… Well we all already know what happens in the Dracula story.

-Mister Ed

Skyfall Movie Review

The other day I watched the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

In the past I’ve been a little disappointed by the newer James Bond films with Daniel Craig.

The newer movies are too violent.

Not that the old movies weren’t violent, but in the newer James Bond movies, James Bond himself is too violent.

In the older movies it was always the villain who was doing cruel things, like how Goldfinger dipped people in gold to kill them.

The new character doesn’t torture people, but he is reckless and uncaring for civilian life beyond what I would expect from a secret service agent.

Part of that is required in a James Bond movie. If he acted more reasonable then it would be a cop movie, not a spy movie (Not that the cop genre doesn’t have its own problems in this area).

For example, in Skyfall the opening scene is a perfect example of Bond’s recklessness.

In the process of chasing down a criminal he wrecks pretty much every street vendor cart in the city’s market district.

The criminal gets trapped in an open area and fires on Bond with an Uzi or something. Bond isn’t hit, but what are the odds that the dozens of bystanders weren’t?

The criminal shoots three cops who showed up on the scene and steals one of their motorcycles.

Bond steals a civilian’s motorcycle to follow the criminal on the rooftops of the historical market district.

They end up on a bridge where the criminal jumps onto a passing train.

As the train speeds up, Bond wrecks his stolen bike into the side of the bridge to give himself the momentum to catch the train.

On a cargo car of the train, Bond starts driving a backhoe and wrecks the 5 BMWs on the next car with it to try and reach the criminal.

The criminal decouples his car, but Bond won’t allow that! He digs his backhoe into the roof of the passenger car in front of him to keep it attached to the cargo car.

Bond climbs up the backhoe and jumps through the hole he created in the roof to stay on the train.

The cargo car then detaches fully, leaving an obstacle in the railroad.

Total casualties: Several business ruined, several civilians shot, three policemen shot, one wrecked motorcycle, five wrecked cars, three wrecked train cars, and other possible obstructions created during the chase that could create further accidents.

It just didn’t seem worth it to me. Any rational person in Bond’s position would’ve told himself, “I can chase him, but I have to do it discreetly or the people around me will get hurt.”

So that’s why I don’t like the new Bond films. He did this sort of stuff in Quantum of Solace too.

The villain is introduced after the first hour and the film improves rapidly from there. I just wish the movie could’ve skipped to that point a little faster.

-Mister Ed

Order of the Stick

I read a few webcomics and one of my favorites is called Order of the Stick.

There are different genres of webcomics just like any other medium.

My favorite genre combination happen to be humorous comics about video games or D&D written by physicists or computer scientists.

Anyways, Order of the Stick fits pretty well into that genre.

Order of the Stick is drawn and written by Rich Burlew, a game designer who now does the comic full time.

The comic is about a band of adventurers named the Order of the Stick fighting the evil lich, Xykon.

As you can see the comic is drawn in a fairly simple style which is occasionally lampooned by the characters themselves. For example, Roy’s feet are different sizes and there is a comic where he talks about how his big shoe goes on his left foot.

Speaking of Roy, the main characters of Order of the Stick!

Roy is the black guy on the far right of the picture above. He is the leader of the Order of the Stick, an intelligent and principled fighter who fights Xykon due to an oath sworn by his father.

Next is Haley, a rogue with a complicated past. She joined the Order of the Stick to earn money to pay her father’s ransom. She’s stayed on due to the good work the group does and because she’s started dating the next person in line.

Elan is the blond guy playing the musical instrument. He is hyper aware of storytelling tropes. He also has an evil twin, a good mother, and an evil father. Elan is a bit dumb when it comes to anything that isn’t a storytelling device, but he has a pure heart.

Durkon is the short bearded guy. He’s a dwarven cleric. He looks out for everyone else in the party. He has a strong sense of honor and is always ready and willing to do the right thing.

The short bald guy behind Durkon is Belkar. He’s an evil halfling psychopath. His journey with the party is basically a form of community service for murders he’s committed in the past. You’d think this is weird, but its a fairly common gimmick used in D&D. The cat walking next to the party belongs to Belkar and is named Mr. Scruffy.

Flying above the party is Vaarsuvius, an elven wizard. Vaarsuvius is arrogant and uses magical power to cruelly avenge the slightest insult. Vaarsuvius’ gender is never revealed in the comic and is joked about on a few occasions.

Xykon is close to achieving his goal of using an ancient evil to rule the world, but the Order of the Stick is ready to stop him. Of more concern is Xykon’s assistant, Redcloak, who is planning on double crossing Xykon at any moment.

That’s enough on one comic for now!

-Mister Ed