May 2012


Interesting post here by Ron Miller about a proposed movie called Pentizel, which never got beyond a synopsis and a bunch of concept art.

Totally not Catwoman

Reading about it, this paragraph struck me, and made me think the movie would’ve been wicked awesome:

The reporter does eventually catch up with Pentizel…only to discover she’s a great deal more than he or anyone else has bargained for. And not the least of his discoveries is that Pentizel has been manipulating Omninet and her creators as much as they have her…

It’s like discovering that Frankenstein’s monster has a rather clever scheme of his own.  And is also a hot naked babe.  And… wait, this is also sounding like shlock.

Looked at from a slightly different angle, the project was a bunch of male geeks with one more sf dystopia, with the usual Nature Is Best atavism presented with more than the usual sexualization.  (That really is a beautiful image up there, but the poor panther-girl is holding what must be a terribly uncomfortable pose.  It’s intended to suggest a cat’s crouch, I guess, but a crouch is preparation for a leap.  The girl could hardly jump from that pose, or do anything else– it’s preparation for nothing.)

Just as there’s only one real robot story, there’s generally only one Sexy Female Assassin story.  And not much more than one Evil Dystopian Corporation story.

I don’t think anyone actually sets out to make a schlock movie.  Everyone would really like to make something awesome.  The thing is, there’s always so much to do for a movie that people lose track of whether it’s actually awesome or not.  It’s not that hard to get some great concept sketches, not even that hard to get great characters, great actors, and some great action sequences.  All these involve technical skills, and you can pretty much buy whatever you can afford.  Plus you have to keep everyone busy, so you have them work on the pictures and the sets and the action sequences and figure it’ll all work out when you have a final script.

But you can’t buy a killer plot.  You should be able to– lots of people love to write, and you can get a new script in a month if you want one.  But a really amazing script is a rare beast.  Most blockbusters get by merely with having everything else really well done.  (Blade Runner is the Robot Story with stunning set direction.)  And if some things aren’t so well done– well, with a mediocre script and other mediocre elements, you end up with shlock, without ever intending to.

Now, I’m not slagging this project in particular– maybe it’d be the exception.  But really, don’t we kind of know how the above paragraph would turn out?

  • Reporter tracks catgirl down.  There may be a fight.  There will certainly be some making love.
  • Catgirl shows reporter some even more gruesome things his employer is up to.
  • They resolve to Fight the System.
  • They fail.  Optional: Catgirl is caught and tied up, has to be rescued.
  • They have a daring new plan that requires a lot of climbing up scaffolding, sneaking through labs, clawing henchmen, blowing up enormous things, and finally doing some sort of spectacular violence on the final boss.

It’s an OK plot, but again, whether the movie is Batman Begins or Aeon Flux depends mostly on how good the non-plot elements are.

Anyway, that’s enough for now as I’ve got an awesome idea for a movie.  Don’t want to put in too many spoilers, but it’s going to have fantastic cityscapes, beautiful and deadly girls, and horrific monsters.  All in the same movie!

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Back in the late ’60s, the Russians made their own Winnie the Pooh cartoons. They’re pretty good! Here’s one with subtitles in case your Russian is rusty.

Though the story is about the same, they made an interesting and I think quite successful major change: they bagged Christopher Robin.  This removes a lot of the twee elements of Milne, and more importantly removes a character who looks down on Pooh.  Pooh is somehow funnier and easier to take when he’s the smartest character onstage.  Plus I like the voice acting for Pooh, not overly childish.

This is another argument for not letting media corporations keep characters under copyright hostage forever.  We don’t miss what we don’t see, and so we’re not aware of what we miss out on with long copyrights– stuff like these Russian cartoons.

This is a cute minimalist animated short, from Lilian Hardouineau. It has all the camera angles and action, it just doesn’t bother with texturing.

With one cavil. There are several points during the race through the city where the Evil Car is ahead. The white car should’ve braked hard and gone down a side street.

Well, I said I’d do something dumb, and I did.  I got to character level 11 and dungeon level 4.  I had the whole Vampirism tree down and was getting the Sight one– I wanted to get to Laser Eyes.  Single monsters were no trouble, and even half a dozen weren’t so hard.  Then I opened a monster zoo– something like 130 monsters, which is out of control.

I had some acid flasks though, which helped thin them down… eventually ran away, then made my way back, edging toward them, using traps… in short, I cleared the room.  Only there were still 55 monsters left; they were in another room.  I could see it on the minimap.

And here’s where I made my fatal error.  I’d just cleared a roomful of monsters; I could do it again!  And if not, I had Invisibility to get away.  But this was foolish, foolish overconfidence.  I was out of acid flasks and the bombs I had were no equivalent.  But the real killer was that a monster snuck around me, blocking my exit.  I kept trying to escape, not quite grasping that there was no route.  I should have used my Sparkly skill but I was too focussed on escaping.

Oh well.  Still finding it charming.

I picked up Dungeons of Dredmor in a Steam sale. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I notice I’ve played 13 hours, which means it’s doing something right.

It’s a roguelike, which means it’s like Rogue which I’ve never played, which in turn was basically D&D.  You make a character (which consists of picking a gender, setting the name, and choosing 7 skills) and head into the dungeon, where you kill stuff and find loot until you die.  Which you will.  Especially if this happens:

This is not a petting zoo

The first time I ran into a monster zoo, I used an invisibility potion and got away… then died to a single named character (i.e. a miniboss) elsewhere in the level.  Tonight I lobbed some bombs and such into the crowd to thin it out, and then ran.  I wandered around, got back to full health by killing monsters (my character is a vampire) and finally headed back to the zoo to finish it off.

Now, as you can see from the screenshot, the graphics are minimal, about 1995 level.  Also the icons for attributes and such are tiny inscrutable things, and the inventory management is primitive, and the minimap is hard to read.    But you have to forgive such things in an extreme indie game.  (It was made by about three people, IIRC.)

I’m told that the Right Way to play this sort of games is with permadeath on.  You die and you don’t respawn.  You can save at any point, but your saves are erased when you die!  This adds, you know, drama.  To encourage you to play this way, Dredmor only hands out achievements if you keep permadeath on.

The first few times I tried it this way, I died on level 1 and can’t say I liked it.  On the other hand, as the levels are random each time, it’s not that repetitive, and you do end up learning the basic system, and you can try out different skills.

I started a new game tonight, and I’m down on the third level, and there’s certainly satisfcation in being still alive, if only barely sometimes.  My chief enemy at this point is carelessness– even if I run into a monster zoo again, I’ve got potions of health and invisibility.  But it’s easy to run down your health if you run into one monster too many, or just a new aspect of the game.  Anyway, I’m trying to do the right thing and it certainly makes me more careful, but I reserve the right to go back to using saved games.

I got bored of Torchlight after an interminable number of samey levels.  But what Dredmor’s mostly got going for it is its wildly parodic sense of humor.  The early monsters at least are goofy-looking, the rooms and artefacts all have wacky names, the skill descriptions are full of jokes, and there are references to everything from Twilight to Hitchhiker’s Guide to Harry Potter.  The dungeon is equipped with vending machines, mini-fridges, and shrines to lutefisk, and it’s suggested that dwarven craftsmanship generally sucks.  Best of all, the monsters constantly complain (“Help!  I need an adult!”) or insult you.

Anyway, the normal price is $5, so it’s worth a try if you want a simple, amusing dungeon crawl.

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