Monday, March 13, 2017

Movie Review - Kong: Skull Island

I had a choice last Friday to see Logan, Shin Godzilla, or Kong: Skull Island as a cheap morning show. Logan started too early, actually, and I've heard Shin Godzilla is decent but a bit slow, so I opted for Kong.

Obligatory Warning: Is there cursing in the movie? A little, but your kids probably won't notice unless they're already swearing when you're not around to hear it.

On to the movie. It's a giant monster movie, so you shouldn't really expect an amazing, painstakingly crafted plot, or fully three-dimensional characters. You basically go to these things to see the monsters destroying things and fighting other big monsters, and the human cast trying to survive. And that's what you get. It's not the worst giant monster film I've ever seen, but it's not the best, either. There are plot holes large enough for the star attraction to walk through, unnecessary characters, inconsistent characters, and cheesy dialogue. I was entertained well enough by the CGI spectacle, but some of the other choices made with the production of this film left me nonplussed.

The good points revolve around Kong and the various monsters that inhabit Skull Island. The creatures are interestingly designed, and the monster fight scenes are fun. There's a big cast of human characters, many of whom don't make it to the end of the movie (I don't think that counts as a spoiler, because I won't tell you who). Oh, and seeing soldiers thinking they're on their way home from the Vietnam War only to find out they've got one more mission that involves giant monsters? That was well done.

The bad points include the premise for why no one's visited Skull Island before (ridiculous pseudoscience meteorology that might have worked in a 1930's milieu but seems out of place in a movie taking place in 1973). Characters that mysteriously appear with no introduction in Act 2, serve no important plot points, and are pretty much just there taking up space (although one, Jing Tian's character, does provide some nice eye candy and provides a second female character in a very male dominated cast). Oh, and then there are characters who seem to have no idea what sort of work their job descriptions require. There are veteran soldiers who seem to have no sense of strategy or tactics, a photographer who sees a giant creature rise up in front of her party and after a minute remembers to take ONE photo then lowers her camera, scientists who don't really seem to have much background in science...

There were a few interesting things from a world-building perspective that might be inspirational for a game. That's one reason I love B-movies and big budget but stupid films like this. Somewhat tangential to the plot is a Hollow Earth theory to explain where the monsters come from, that could possibly be a set-up for a sequel.*

There's some cool stuff in this film, and while there are lots of weak points I could point out, you do get giant monsters, Samuel L. Jackson/John Goodman/John C. Reilly putting in amusing performances, and people trying to fight kaiju with M16s and M60s. I'm glad I only paid matinee prices to see it so that I don't think it was a waste, but I'm also thinking maybe I should have left home a bit earlier and seen Logan instead.

*Edit - Just found out that I completely missed a post credits scene (I typically stay to the end of the credits regardless, but really had to pee after this one so left early). Also, this movie is in the same fictional universe as the American Godzilla movie produced a couple years ago and IS setting up a sequel.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pursuit and Loot

Being a continuation of the journal of the stalwart Green Knight Jack Summerisle, and companions various and sundry, exploring the hidden inner world of Pellucidar beneath the outer world of Eberron.

Having rejoined my companions Rhea, Yuv, and Makarak outside of the Snake Queen's lair, Makarak noticed the trail left by the snake-tail of the Queen through the jungle underbrush, and we set out in pursuit. As we went, we could hear her singing her foul magic songs again in the distance when suddenly, to our surprise, the jungle around us seemed to come to life and reach at us from all sides with grasping vines.

Cassius, my trusty mount, was entangled, as was Yuv. To our horror, we then saw that Cassius and Yuv were being drawn into the grasping maw of a feminine plant horror, the Venus Fly Trap. As she sank her fangs into my faithful andrewsarchus, I set to with my axe. Makarak was quickly at my side with his own axe, and Rhea assisted Yuv in escaping the clutches of the botanical beast.

But, the strange adversary had more and more vines, an inexhaustible supply, so it seemed. I was wrapped up repeatedly, but managed to slash through the vines as Cassius disappeared into the plant's jaws. Yuv and Makarak were also entangled, and Yuv drawn into the creature's waiting maw next. It was a mighty struggle, but in the end we slew the creature.

As I pondered our situation -- we were battered and bloodied but as yet undefeated -- unbeknownst to me, Makarak beheaded the Venus Fly Trap and placed the severed head, both claws, and several of the grasping vines in Rhea's Bag of Holding. We decided to return to the Snake Queen's lair to find the Rod of the Giant High Priest, if we could, as that was or true goal.

Returning to the lair, we searched the tunnels until I noticed a crack in a wall where none should rightly be. Using our artifact magic rock drill, Makarak made a tunnel past the secret door, causing a minor cave in, but opening our passage. At then end of the corridor we came to a finely worked door, covered in the demonic symbols of the Demonic Invaders of the Ancient Past, of whom my sect the Greensingers allied with the Gatekeepers to defeat long ago. The door was of stout workmanship, possibly bound with spells in ancient times, but after several hours of axe-work by myself and Makarak, the door was breached.

Inside was indeed the treasure chamber of the Snake Queen, but much of her "riches" was made of worthless (to us) sea shells, polished rocks, and the like. We did locate the Rod, as well as a Giant's Battle Axe (too large even for Makarak to wield), a magic wand of undetermined use, a broken lute also magical in nature, and three carven masks which also detected as magical. We decided to rest then, and examine our newly acquired loot as time allows on our way north to the City of the Giants, where with the aid of the Rod, we hope to wake the slumbering Mountain Spirit.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Snakes and Rods

Being a continuation of the journal of the celebrated Green Knight Jack Summerisle, and companions various and sundry, in the hidden realm of Pellucidar, deep below the Khyber underworld of Eberron.

Having ascertained that the Rod of the Giant High Priest was being held by the Serpent Queen in the eastern mountains beyond the Great River, our band, consisting of Rhea the Human Witch, Yuv the Dragonborn Cleric of Bahamut, Flagan the Halfing Pugilist, Makarak the Half-Orc Barbarian, Thea the Elven Storm Cleric, Jade the Half-Elf Archer and myself, sought out the serpent lair and managed to locate it, and dispatched the land-based crocodilian guardians outside the entrance. Yet, flying reptile creatures still guarded the entrance, circling above it in the air. After much debate in which I staunchly urged my companions not to desecrate the corpses of the slain guardians, we managed to distract the flying creatures and made our way inside.

The cavern led us to a pit full of snakes. Thousands of serpents writhed around in what I can only describe as a most likely delicious and nutritious mush of confectionery dinosaur cream. Unsure how to best proceed, I called up on the Greensong to let me converse with these snakes, who informed me that their Mother would not want us to cross, and that we should leave. As they would not willingly let us pass to treat with the Serpent Queen, we used flaming brands to create a pathway through their midst, and crossed to the other side.

Shortly thereafter, we came upon the Queen's Chamber. I attempted to negotiate, but the foul beast was already singing her own foul magic songs, which were affecting my companions, forcing them to stand helpless, or even transforming them into serpent creatures. Our band set to, and met her guardians in battle. These guardians consisted of an enormous serpent which swallowed Flagan whole at one point, and several crocodilians armed with poison darts. Our spells and weapons proved superior, and the guardians fell dead while the Queen made her escape out the back.

The escape tunnel was much too narrow for Yuv and myself to follow in our armor,  but the remainder of the party crawled up the tunnel, and were pelted with rocks, acid, and other forms of hindrance before they reached the top. I set to work looking for the treasure trove, as the Giant's Rod was our goal, not slaying its guardian. Yuv doffed his plate-and-mail and followed after the others. As they reported back to me later, they followed her trail to another chamber with an entrance to the surface, where she escaped into the jungle.

I had no luck in discovering her treasury while my companions were so occupied.

This is actually last month's session. I forgot to write it up. The write-up for this past weekend's session will be posted tomorrow.