Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Max Payne...

I have very little to say about this film that can't be described in three words. Bridge to Terebithia.

OK, I might need a little explanation on top of that. Exhibit A - the Max Payne trailer

OK, so what can we take from that trailer? First half tells be, in words and pictures, that this is a supernatural movie. The second half tells me that this is an action film? Is that a fair assessment? I think it is.

I am, of course, wrong. Just like Bridge to Terebithia was advertised as a Narnia-esque children's fantasy and turned out to be an examination of the effect of death on the young psyche, Max Payne has no more to do with the supernatural than Toy Story II. Those winged creatures? Hallucinations brought on by some sort of supersoldier serum which the ... oh I could tell you more, but its just too silly. There are vague references to Norse mythology that have no tie to the film. 'The Devil is building his army...' - he might be, but not in this film, randomly injected voodoo stereotype. There is a woman who is some sort of russian ... I dunno, its never explained. She has a gun. Her sister gets killed. She has goons which disappear as soon as she gets a speaking role. She even says 'You know what I do...' No, pet, we don't - you have never said it. And your Russian accent disappears half way through the film as well!

It has three saving graces. Minor ones at that. First, the action scenes are reasonable. Nothing we haven't seen before, better, but at least they didn't mess it up (except for Max taking a shotgun blast and a full burst from a sub in the chest and just carrying in as per usual). Second, the Sin City style cinematography was pretty sweet. Not sweet enough, but very nice. Third, there is a rather nice sequence with Olga Kurylenko thats almost worth the price of admission *wink*

However, for the lame ass plot, the absolute fabrication of a trailer which completely missold the film, the holes in continuity that you could drive a planet through and just about some of the worst acting I have ever seen - and so much more - Ladies and Gentlemen, The Scorpion King has been dethroned. We have a NEW NEILS WORST FILM EVER - and it is MAX PAYNE.

I watch them, so you don't have to!

Monday, November 10, 2008


... is one of the strange words that my screwed up Geordie accent cannot handle. Rather than mAsterclAss or ma(r)stercla(r)ss, I pronounce it mAstercla(r)ss. An aside.

Now, I know this is going to embarass him, but I can honestly say I think I saw a masterclass in GMing yesterday from Andrew, our 4e GM. We give him a rough time sometimes and he consistently churns out awesome. This week was a session which was focussed on one of our characters, a dragonborn. It was the pivotal session for his character, a session with some iconic martial and political scenes. It was a session that established part of the metagame for the Paragon tier. It had everything and it was, to all intents and purposes, focused on one player.


Not in the slightest. The session was designed - crafted, almost - to keep the other two players involved. The battles were done in such a way that we played as a team. The political scenes were such that either we could be involved in some little way or they were so entertaining that the theatre was worth watching! There were little side scenes where we could help out and get involved with the interactions. There were scenes in the City of Kings where we could push the plot whilst other, more central things, were happening. It was, to be frank, superb.

I have tried to think about a way I would have handled the situation better and I simply cannot. Kudos needs to go to Nigel as well, for one of the most eloquent, quick-witted and politically barbed sessions I have seen as well!

Great stuff. And next session, it gets better!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bits and Bobs

Loads of little things happening at the moment.

1. My self-imposed Duty & Honour rest period appears to be working. At least now if I consider looking at stuff for it again I don't feel like ramming a pencil through my eye. I think, partly, this has a lot to do with the remarkable success of the game now that it has been unleashed on drivethrurpg and rpgnow. Its been selling really quite well and the Almanac is flying out. I've also had to do a small reprint, all within budget, to see me through Dragonmeet and probably Conpulsion. Things are going very well indeed - I had no real data point for pdf sales so I didn't factor them into my budgets, so strong pdf sales are a welcome boost!

2. We kicked off a new G2 game on Thursday, using Fate 3.0 SRD to create a dark urban magic game based in Prague. The characters are all quite different and the background that we came up with was excellent, especially the idea of the magical iron curtain, which was inspired. I'm looking forward to sitting down and getting my teeth into it. That said, I'm not 100% convinced that Fate is the best system for it, but we shall see!

3. The preparation for Blood Bowl has began in earnest. We have our first date - hopefully for pre-season games - on the 16th November, and I have started what I think will become a marathon painting session, bringing the Marienburg Stealers to life. Its been twenty years since I have painted a figure in anger and it took a little while to get my eye worked in. Its great to know that Games Workshop have still not sorted their pigments out, so red and yellow refuse to make orange still... I have to admit that some of the fine detail work is shocking. I think I might have to accept that my eyesight, whilst still pretty damned good, simply isn't what it used to be!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

No We Can't!

So, history has been made. Not only do we have the first black Formula One champion but we also have the first black American president. OK, the former might not quite be on the same scale as the latter but poor old Lewis is being forgotten in the rush. He'll just have to console himself with the attentions of his Pussycat Doll. Poor lamb.

I stayed up and watched the election results until about 05.30am, just after Obama's acceptance speech. It was a funny old night. I chose to watch the BBC coverage because I cannot abide ITV and I think I would have cried at the overload of the CNN/FOX coverage. I should have probably watched SKY. The BBC coverage was atrocious. The technology was barely working, the studio was in chaos, the OB stuff was rarely prepared. It was embarassing. Bumble-by in the chair looked mostly pissed, was padding like a champion and rarely seemed to be able to get any enthusiasm up for it all.

Some of the guests were awesomely bad too. Simon Schama decided that the BBC should have called the election at around 100/200 and just mocked them for being scaredy-cats. The former US UN Ambassador was on, basically bad-mouthing anything that was said anti-Republican as BBC and liberal media bias. He was a cock. There was another guy on who I sort of recognised and all he did was rip into Sarah Palin at any opportunity. The best of the bunch was the politics professor with the dodgy wig who was just like an American version of Jon Snow!

In the depths of the night however, I did finally get it. For years I have become increasingly interested in America, Americans and Americana. I have found the marked differences between Brits and Yanks to be fascinating. Last night, listening to Obama's acceptance speech (and McCain's concession speech) the penny finally dropped. I may be making massive generalisations here, but America's history has been shaped by its politicians in a way that ours simply has not. Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Johnson, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and now Obama. Even their none-political figures, like Martin Luther King, seem to have a greater resonance in popular culture. I watched the crowds and I listened to the passioned rhetoric and I realised that deep down, the Americans really do LOVE their country and the ideals that it stands for and whilst they may not like big government, they love big personalities to lead them and to champion those values that they love so much.

In contrast, we just don't. The majority of the population has precious little respect for the Royal Family - tolerance is about the best it gets. We despise anyone who dares call themselves a politician, from the lowest student politico to Gordon Brown and David Cameron. We have no core of values that we would dare own up to as the beliefs that bind the country together - look at the reaction of any exercise in 'Britishness'? We're even in a situation where if someone was to stand in the UK and make a speech like Obama did last night, I honestly believe some people would accuse him of being right-wing, racist and draped in nationalism. Well, he certainly was the latter because that is something that Americans have never had a problem embracing. We have and we will continue to until we overcome a little bit of our inner turmoil over Empire. Do we need an Asian Prime Minister? Could we handle an Asian Prime Minister? I don't think we could and thats sad.

I thought last night, as I was brushing my teeth, what sort of impact Obama could have on UK politics. Could Cameron capture that zeitgeist or is he too wrapped in the cloth of the established politic system? I doubt Brown could. Maybe the nearest we came to it was Blair in 1997 but even that wasn't quite right. What would happen if someone stood up in the UK and said that there was no North, no South, no Scottish, Welsh, English or Irish, no working class, no upper class, we are all British. What would happen if someone said to the British people that we have to stand by our core values - democracy, social justice and equality? What if someone asked the British people not to be a bunch of blame-game playing, super-cynical haters? To throw away the attitude of 'why the fuck should I?' and 'its not my fault!' and instead use the simple credo of 'yes we can!'

Sadly, I suspect the answer would be 'No, we can't. Now lets turn over to Eastenders.'

OK, so I might be being a little harsh on us here, romantacising the Obama charisma and generalising like a bugger but wouldn't it be fantastic if, just for once, we had someone who could wash away the self-hate, the distrust and the apathy and unite the United Kingdom? In our time maybe?