Seen: “Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God” ★★✰✰✰

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Who in their right mind would have thought that I’d watch a D&D flick again after that first one. I actually watched D&D at a press screening, because I was working for Mattel Interactive, then publisher of Pool of Radiance – Ruins of Myth Drannor. I can highly recommend press screening, free tickets, free popcorn, empty cinema, and months before anyone else gets to see the movie.

In the case of D&D, it was horrible. If anything is an indicator for suck, it is the reverberatingly loud slap of my friend Martin’s hand hitting his face in writer’s pain.

I was also asked to be the movie company’s roleplaying advisor, but I couldn’t say yes after I saw the film.

BUT as I now feed on fantasy for our upcoming “Dungeons” game, to get in the right mood, I also put D&D 2 on my Lovefilm flat rate list.

Well, it’s better as a movie. In D&D1 we had more classic low-level situations, but that plot and villain were just awful. This time dungeons can be entered in groups, not only alone. What I think is interesting is that the movie was even more of a flop than #1. According to IMDB, D&D1 grossed half of its 30 million budget, and D&D2, with half that budget, didn’t reach a million. AND there are more D&D movies after it.

They have succeeded in cutting out the moments of total failure this time, but what is left is just plain straight generic fantasy. I don’t think there was any scene which made me hot for roleplaying, IT Crowd Season 4 Episode 1 does a 4 times better job, and that’s comedy, but done by somebody who actually knows good roleplaying!

It’s super rare that a movie gets made about a roleplaying game. So why oh why does no one try to capture the spirit and magic of a good roleplaying group? I honestly believe, they check out 1 group of novice players and think “I got it”. Then they head off to write a simple, childish script of basic D&D spirit: Everyone is an archetype, but not in a good way. In a “I am a random generated two dimensional piece of paper” way.

Everything anybody says is soulless and efficient. Every 2nd line is exposition. “I can do that because I have that skill!” “That happened because that magic does this…” BLA. JUST LIKE the programs in TRON. Programmed to be a fantasy character class. “See! I am a rogue! I disarm traps! Look there is a trap! I just disarmed a trap!”

The villain is 100% evil here, and he talks to himself in an evil way, slow and menacing, all the time. I like the main character, though, he has at least something happening under that shell (He feels he doesn’t have it anymore but then rises to the chance). And I liked the female elf, she was looking just right and hot. The other female characters look like they have just walked in from an episode of Baywatch.

There is no real character growth. The only thing they have learned is “damn we forgot about another way to kill the final boss”. Then the end just comes, hops of a cliff and dies.

It’s nowhere as BADD as the end of D&D1, where suddenly all characters meet on top of a tower, like at the end of a school play. But it doesn’t mean anything. At least to me.

Let’s look at it like this: Comic book movies have grown, movies like “Dark Knight” are for adults, serious, deep. D&D2 is clearly for children, who are happy about flat black and white cardboard characters, and very basic D&D sessions. IMAGINE that the movies had not learned more about comic books after the Batman series with Adam West.

I know, maybe I want too much out of it. I am obviously hardcore, having 100 roleplaying books in my basement. I just KNOW that there is so much untapped magic in a well-done roleplaying session. I mean, the best groups I was in hardly used dice at all. There were wild characters, with a lot of depth, a lot of spontaneous dialogue, fear, sadness, anger, excitement, great and breathtaking plots.

Too long, didn’t read. Music hmm well, sound guys: 12. Average I think.

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Seen: “The Ninth Gate” ★★★✰✰

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I am testing Maxdome now, while I wait for my new Lovefilm DVDs. Mighty suspicous, complex fine print, automatic contract extension and shite.

BUT I get to choose from 500 old movies for free, streaming, so let’s do that, so that I have something to do while my computer is loading something or so.

Still not sure if I can stand German synchronisation for good. I know, I know, part of my job, but still – the voice actors are all cool, but some of the accents hurt me, and they often sound like they do a vacuum cleaner TV ad, “HellO! It is ME! I am calling YOU on the phone, with my normal very natural sounding voice! And now, the News!” In German of course, duh.

And, streaming… I want DVD features. Subtitles? Menu? Sniff?

The Ninth Gate is old, but I haven’t seen it before so… I like the diabolical theme, but somehow I miss any depth to it. I don’t believe there is meaning beyond what happens on screen. I cannot sense any inner motivation, the protagonist seems likeable but not really personally involved to me.

Re the music, it’s composed by Wojciech Kilar (had to copy paste that hehe), composer of Coppola’s Dracula apparently. And I thought this score reminded me of Dracula at times, I don’t suck so much do I? The main theme and those dark themes around it I liked really much, especially as they were performed by one of my favorite orchestras, the City of Prague Philharmonic. But, if the main theme sounds like a mix between Dracula and Interview with a Vampire plus two buckets of goat blood, the theme for the hero sounds like a satanic clown. Funny short plucks and trumpet … Sounds very out of place to me. And not only to me, quoth Google.

Sound: Ok this is 1999, and I count only 6 sound guys. That’s definite bottom of my short list of movie bloggage. Wow. Quality-wise, I was parts happy parts not so. Some parts are clearly disconnected, and very often, foley is too loud. The protagonist’s bag sometimes sounds like a bell of doom as he walks away from the camera. My opinion. And who am I to judge?

Seen: 300 ★★✮✰✰

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OK, another step in my fantasy-related movie streak.

I don’t know. A primitive, masculine piece. Simple plot, a lot of fighting, a few interesting aesthetic choices.. A few very good scenes. A lot of short one liners of mixed impact.

Now to the music, HOLY SHIT I stepped into something. Tyler Bates is the composer. I try not to look that up beforehand, and then I try to recognize the composer. And I did! After 4 minutes, I hear a almost perfect copy of Titus by Elliot Goldenthal. I was confused, is this a … traditional I didn’t know about? So after some research I found out that we have here one of the most blatant cases of plagiarisms of the soundtrack scene! I mean, he copied most of the melody of the first 50 bars or so, and the complete rhythm section of Titus!

Apparently, Bates went shopping at a few other soundtracks, too, without permission! This went so far, that the production company issued this awesome statement:

“… a number of the music cues for the score of 300 were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture Titus. Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter”

And they added this cool Asterix behind the composer’s name on poster and DVD credits: *Derived in Part from Preexisting Compositions Not Authored by Tyler Bates.

This really spoiled a large part of the movie for me. Still, it has a very notable different mode, tone and look. But I wouldn’t watch it again, wouldn’t know why. 2 1/2 Stars, because a few key scenes towards the 2nd half were really nice I thought. A 2 stars movie wouldn’t have any redeeming qualities I guess. I took away at least half a star for that music controversy.

Sound: I count 16 guys working on sound. There are a lot of events without sound, and the individual battle sounds are actually quite similar… Hmm.

Seen: Pirates of the Carribean ★★★★✰

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Still have a lot of pages to write today, have to deliver a script today. But, while my next sideshow DVD loads, a quick review of Pirates of the Carribean.

Yes, Owwwld, I know. But last time I watched only parts of it. To busy downing rum, apparently. And as I currently check out swordplay movies to inspire myself for our game “Dungeons”, I thought I’d put it on the list.

And I didn’t regret it! Well deserved success. Story is sound, action is present, nice ships, and dirty pirates, all you need. Re Success: interesting fact, did you know that – in USA – the movie made the same amount of dollars altogether as the game Modern Warfare 2 did on just its first day?

Ahh, to see Steve from Coupling in a major role was a surprise, totally forgot about it. He is awesome, and the series is one of the best comedy serieseses around. Also: I am happy that LeChuck got a new role after Monkey Island, but I am afraid he is indeed a little typecast.

This is one of Hans Zimmer’s best works in my eyes. I listened to the score 100 times or so, it’s one of my 200 regular scores I bath in. Not only are all themes interesting and nice tunes, it is also much quoted and copied everywhere. It took what we knew and loved from the genre’s music and redefined it for the new century.

And for our friends of noise: I counted 19 people working on sound effects and foley. Awesome.

Seen: Tron ★★★★★

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For the thousandth time. But, as I need to write a LOT today, binch writing, I warm up with a quick blog post.

Recently, while constructing some cupboards – I have been living here for almost 4 months, I might as well add some furniture – I watched Tron on TV. I love to revisit movies from my childhood, because I know so many shots and dialogues, and it really moves me. I relive the awed feeling I had as a child. I really recommend it. Do yourself a favour, and go rent a movie you saw a lot when you were 12 or so, and haven’t really watched since.

I think Tron is still the most important vision of how it might feel to be a computer program, and a must-see for nerds. I think the plot, and the style, are top. Like Star Wars, I think it still looks awesome today, timeless really because it is so special.

Sound design inside the computer world is iconic. Excellent choices.

Wendy Carlos with her very edgy, kind of random score, is somewhat annoying at times to me. I like some of the themes very much, the sad one, and the decending line of 4 tones. But at other times it sounds like a drunken rat chase on a midi keyboard. Wild, annoying notes that seem so random… The best of is compiled in the adaption by “Video Games Live”, check that out.

But hey, I love this movie. Now, while I return to my hectic writing, I will watch 2 more films thanks to my flatrate and will try to post a quick drive-by review.

Seen: 1408 ★★★★✰

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And while I wrote an interview and blogposted a little, I watched the 2nd of my flaterate movie.

A horror movie close to 5 stars. Protagonist is a writer, on the hunt for haunted places, and checks into this haunted hotel room in which apparently 50 people have died.

And from then on, a rollercoaster ride starts, horror idea after idea happen in quick succession, all kinds of creepy things happen to him, for all senses, many of them weird and total new. And his personal issues get involved too.

Imagine a horror movie team taking their tool box of their 100 most scary things they came up with and emptying it over your head. Definitely worth a 2nd go.

Why no 5 stars? I don’t know, I am not good with this rating thing. I “Liked” National Treasure more, and my brain was much more pleasantly shagged by 1408. 1408 touched my sense for good work, art, good horror techniques. But I don’t care for the character, and I am not “touched” by it. There is no place for a story as such. Nothing is explained. For the creativity: Certainly 5 stars. For my personal “I love this movie” scale, a good 4 stars.

Maybe I don’t want to be messed with concerning dying children. Please, I am a father, I don’t find that entertaining. Ok let’s say that’s it, – 1/2 star for dying daughter. I think that is cheap and off limits.

Music: Gabriel Yared is awesome in this one. I am happy that he apparently stepped out of the typecasting that has happened after his unforseen success with The English Patient. This one’s QUITE a different, haunting, creepy score. Nothing I would hum under the shower, of course, but everything is dead on. The soundscapes are hot. Inspiring.

Ok so why has this movie 8 sound guys and Natural Treasure has 20? That is insane. The amount of work cannot be compared, an intense horror movie like this one has sounds everywhere, massive destruction, raging elements, things out of this world, distorted voices and whatever. *shrug* All top notch. Also inspiring.

Ok the 2 movies go back tomorrow. I wonder what’s next.

Seen: National Treasure ★★★★✰

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While I am trying to empty my inbox, sorry if you couldn’t reach me today, disk quota reached again, I was watching National Treasure.

See, that’s why I mean by “Adjusting your expectations”. Same score from me, 4 stars, as Dark Knight? Well, Dark Knight is supposed to be God’s taste for movies melted, shot into Unicorns, distilled from their pee into crystal rainbow sunflower meth. Chocolate Cake. Ice Cream. National Treasure on the other hand sounds on paper like a Dan Brown nonsense blend of legend, history, rubbish and bad writing.

But, hey, it’s funny, it’s exciting, there are a few cool elements of good camera work and good direction. Hot female lead (Diane Kruger). Almost logically sound in itself.

OF COURSE it is no masterpeace of cinema to change us forever. That’s not it’s job. It’s job is to be an adventure, exciting, to tell a classic adventure tale without me wading through a mile of cheese. Man, Woman, reflection sidekick seek to solve a century old secret. Well done!

What I am missing is some kind of mysterious opposition, but that lies in the subject matter. Also, Diane is hot but not extremely convincing (unless she tries to convince me to do her, 5 stars for that attempt). Nicolas Cage is playing himself as usual, as he has a range of 1 character and 1 facial expression. But who cares.

Music by Trevor Rabin is … hmm functional. Not my favorite, but interesting to see how many action cues you can stick behind each other… Sounds like hard work to me. I think it is well done, it does its job, but not outstanding to me. Melody-wise, really nothing special. But appropriate. Hell what am I saying, I would kill for a job like that. 😀

Sound Design was good, with only a few scenes where it was off (in my eyes). Sometimes there was a phaser effect which I really can’t stand. Otherwise, it’s of course a comparably easy job to make sound design for a movie that close to everyday reality. Would be hard to mess up. Number of sound guys: 20. Holy moses!

As my Inbox is working again, I will have lunch and then attack my 2nd flatrate rental DVD.

Seen: “King Arthur” ★★★✰✰

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While I do prefer the classic Arthur saga over this sober interpretation, I am still a sucker for gritty medieval settings. I’d love to be part of a big RPG in such a setting. Sometimes it’s a bit too much I think, as in Lord of the Rings and most of these big Hollywood movies. I’d love to see one without the tears in the wind, banners high, suns rising and angels singing.

I am not sure if it’s a matter of style or a matter of self-reference that I recognized Hans Zimmer after a few seconds (not knowing that he did this score). It’s still very well done but it’s so amazing how similar his scores are. And: Keira Knightley painted blue is super hot.

3+

Seen: Dark Knight ★★★★✰

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My first flatrate DVD, gotten and watched.

Wow, one of the most successful films ever. Possibly filling a vacuum, because many recent Batman movies were like toys, shiny, bite-sized. It doesn’t feel “special”, but as it goes on, I realised, it’s longer, more mature, more developed than the usual action movie. It’s more like “action movies should all be like this”. Realigning the standard? I hope.

We do not only rush through our set pieces (which we do), there are also a few deep, tricky situations here. It’s not so streamlined, the movie takes its time, takes us through layers, evolves the plot,slowly. But not nearly as mind-shagging as Inception, though (same director).

Biggest flaw for me was Batman’s voice in the English original, man that is weak. Like a growling teddy bear, oh come on! Why does any character take Batman serious when he speaks in that troll voice? Adam West would kick his butt.

Joker: Not bad.

Movie Addiction for Dummies

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I admit that in my busy life as an interactive music rockstar slash prodigious rolemodel for our youth
*cough haaawk scratch*

…I missed most of the good movies in the last 3 years or so. Going to the cinema… not practical most days. Witch son and all. Watching DVDs, yes, a lot, but mostly series, which are more easily split into small chunks.

But enough! I will now pimp my movie knowhow. How? Easy!

I joined Lovefilm.de, an Amazon service. Took a movie flatrate. Amazon has 35000 DVDs available. Compiled a wishlist.

And watch movies while I work. It’s not much different to podcasts. I focus on the sound track anyway, check out their sound design, discover new good music, get inspired.

I will from now on mass consume recent movies and the odd classic, while going through my inbox, doing promotion, searching for new jobs and so on.

I even introduce a new Movie category to my blog.

First stop: DARK KNIGHT. Now playing.