This week I begin my end of the year movie binge and I kick off with several thrillers of varying quality and a few book adaptations.

Breach (2007)

I watched this movie on the recommendation of Ben. It took a while to get to but it was worth the wait. Based on the takedown of Robert Hanssen played by Chris Cooper. Eric O’Neill, played by Ryan Phillipe, is assigned to investigate Hanssen for sexual deviancy. The initial investigation goes nowhere until, O’Neill’s handler, Kate Burroughs, explains that Hanssen is a traitor who has been selling secrets to the Russians for years. The lying, thrills and relationships in this movie are top notch.

Watch It: If you’re in the mood for a slow, but expertly crafted thriller.
Skip It: Don’t.

The Loft (2014)

Another thriller with a faster pace than Breach. The Loft tells the story of five married men who share a condo for discrete encounters. Led by Karl Urban’s Vincent and James Marsden’s Chris, we watch the five men deal with a dead woman in their hideaway. As the story unfolds, we flashback to the precipitating events that led to the girl’s death. Slowly, it is revealed exactly what, how, and why things transpired the way they did.

Watch It: If you’re in the mood for another thriller with some decent twists.
Skip It: It’s pretty skippable. Certainly not a top tier thriller.

Wildcard (2015)

Billed as a “crime thriller”, this was more of an action flick and poor Jason Statham vehicle. Statham plays a gambling addict who currently pays the bills by chaperoning1 rich people as they visit Las Vegas. He’s called in by a friend of his, Holly played by Dominik Garcia-Lorido, to help her get revenge against a local gangster. The movie follows Statham as he follows up on leads to locate DeMarco, played by a creepy Milo Ventimiglia.

Watch It: If you’re willing to suffer through a bad film to see some good Statham fight scenes.
Skip It: If you want something, anything, of substance.

Goosebumps (2015)

A film I caught in theaters, Goosebumps is an entry banking on timing, and boy did it work. Released in October, it’s a perfectly not-so-scary scary film catering to kids. It’s also using nostalgia for all of the now-all-grown-up 90s kids. Jack Black did well as R.L. Stine and the villain was absolutely on point. The themes were resonant. All around good film. Not so much a book adaptation but a series adaptation.

Watch It: Good humor. Fun scares. Interesting characters.
Skip It: You have an issue with puppets.

Seventh Son (2015)

A second book adaptation film, Seventh Son is based on The Spook’s Apprentice, which I haven’t read. But it doesn’t seem to matter because from what I gathered on wikipedia, it was nothing like the book. It had a few actors I like. Julianne Moore. Jeff Bridges. Alicia Vikander. But the plot was lacking anything distinguishing. All the women being evil, with one exception, didn’t help either.

Watch It: If you need to see a high-ish fantasy flick.
Skip It: If you want to save yourself from boredom and a string of tropes.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)

I remember liking the original Hot Tub Time Machine while catching it on Netflix a year or two ago. But this follow-up was an unnecessary mess. The characters are the same and still haven’t grown up. And playing with the paradoxes of time travel is a little heady for this film and the ending is unsatisfying at best.

Watch It: If you absolutely must see these guys attempt to solve a murder mystery.
Skip It: If you want to retain any shred of your sanity.

The Duff (2015)

The final movie this week is the young adult comedy, The Duff. Despite Mae Whitman being ten years out of high school, she manages to pull off the age of the role pretty well. Her co-stars do a solid job opposite her and I appreciate the message of the movie, even if it’s been done so many times before. This time the magical moment of exiting her cocoon of blandess, isn’t so magical and unbelievable. The transformation is just the right amount.

Watch It: For the laughs and awkwardness of another high school rom-com.
Skip It: If you’ve seen this theme one too many times.

  1. Aka bodyguard-ing 

Another good session in the books. We’re still getting used to all of the mechanics. The GM is carefully setting up a bunch of different scenes so we can get used to all of it. I’m getting a better handle on my force powers. They’re pretty nebulous because they were all created by the GM. And while I’m familiar with the Star Wars universe, I don’t have the same in-depth knowledge that the GM and some of the other players have. So, I don’t always think about using my force powers to do stuff. That being said, I spent all of my Force points and all of my Fate points. I needed all of it but it worked out.

Oltar1, the Twi’lek mayor of Katrial has driven the group into town in a speeder. The imperial checkpoint involved a bit of Force to distract them. Oltar agrees to take Cal back to the USS Minnow while the rest of us go into La Carra.2 Our first stop is a bar called Mother’s Milk. Cole and Phae interview the bartender while Aquila distracts the local militia members in her own unique way.3 Liv kept an eye on Aquila just in case.

This led us to another bar, Skree for Skree? We met a red skinned Twi’lek, Phyzeek. He gave us a fair amount of information on where we might find Ulaa and sold us a pair of speeders. Ulaa was going to be shipped to spaceport in a speeder convoy that left an hour before dusk from the city.

We decided to setup an ambush. Aquila setup a sniper’s nest above the canyon while Liv and Cole were on a speeder and Phae was on the other. Unfortunately, there were four swoops and two speeders which negated Aquila’s position. We had to leave her behind as we pursued the convoy.

Liv really got a chance to shine in this scene. Riding with Cole, she force leapt to one of the enclosed speeders, cut through the roof with her lightsaber and peeked inside to find it filled with militia. Phae and Cole started shooting down the swoops and Liv leapt back to Cole’s speeder. Moving forward, she had to leap again to the other speeder. This time she started slicing off parts of the speeder itself without opening it up. Eventually, just before the point of no return, Liv managed to down the speeder and get the militia to surrender, rescuing Ulaa.

This was a tough battle for me and Liv. I used up every remaining Force point and all of my Fate points to keep the cinematics going. Liv was almost taken out of the fight but managed to stay upright but at the cost of a moderate consequence (hamstrung). It was a good fight but we were down two players that probably would have helped out significantly. But I like that the GM rolled with it and kept the encounter difficulty amped up.

The girl didn’t want to return to her father, but we didn’t have a good way of getting back into the city with her. So we returned to the USS Minnow to meet up with Cal and Oltar. We offered to take Ulaa with us if she helps us get off the planet.

  1. I’m not 100% on the spelling of any of these names. 
  2. Cal’s player, Jen, was away in Clearwater with my fiancĂ©e for wedding things. 
  3. Aquila wanted to see if there were any bounties. The militia just wanted to use her body. Got resolved when they started negotiating price. 

On Friday, I participated in my first session as a player in a Fate campaign and it was a mostly positive experience. Game system-wise, I learned a lot just from the two combats we were in. The mechanics are simple enough to master with just a few sessions. Still have a bit to go with the tactics but I’m starting to understand them from a GM perspective.

I think the transition from Dungeons and Dragons to Fate is smoother than the one from D&D to Fate Accelerated. While I enjoyed FAE, I think the skill system of Fate just feels more natural than FAE’s approaches. After playing on Friday, I think this using Fate instead of FAE will be good for my Time and Tide Campaign group. When we experimented with FAE on Memorial Day, it was good and fun, just difficult to adjust to, especially for a single session.

We started en route to the Twi’lek homeworld.1 We’re dropping of a cargo shipment of photon torpedoes for the Rebellion to one of Phae’s contacts, Tarth Onasi. As we’re preparing to exit hyperspace, Liv gets a bad feeling. Cole and her hop onto the turrets while Cal and Phae pilot the ship. We exit to find a star destroyer that hails us. We end up in a dogfight and two other star destroyers are closing to cut off our escape. Cole and Liv manage to take out both bombers and two of the six TIE fighters while getting beat up. Phae keeps bringing the shields up but it’s not enough. Our ship gets mauled and we’re forced down onto the surface.2

This hot and dusty planet is immediately hostile. We gather what supplies we can and head away from the crash site before reinforcements show up. During our trek, a gang of hunters show up and drop our team pretty quickly, but not before Cole manages to blast one of them dead.3 The two speeders we’re imprisoned in get ambushed by the local militia. The speeder without us keeps right on going while our’s hits a mine in the road. With the other hostile killed in the mine explosion, Aquila joins our group and we escape the ambush site before the militia can get down into the canyon.

We arrive at a small farming town, Katrial. The Twi’lek leader hides us from the militia and feeds the group before offering us assistance. He asks us to search for his daughter while we’re in town. We agree and head into town the next morning.

We need to get our ship fixed, or acquire a new one. Make contact with Tarth and find a way to run the imperial blockade comprised of three star destroyers. We’re in trouble.

The odds were a bit overwhelming and it led to a feeling a bit of a railroad but that’s okay. The GM has two (maybe three) new players to Fate and one of those players is new to role-playing games altogether. He’s doing a good job of trying to cover all the basic mechanics and get the group assembled. I have some concerns about Aquila just not being on the same page as the rest of the characters. I was also careful to make sure I didn’t reveal Liv’s force power just yet. But to maximize her effectiveness, I’ll definitely need to lean on her lightsaber, force powers and Fate points.

I’m also hoping to write one of these recaps a few days after every time we play.

  1. We being Liv, Cal, Cole and Phae. 
  2. Affectionately, and temporarily, named the USS Minnow
  3. Aquila is among their forces. 

Getting my digital house in shape. Trying to gather up old blog posts from around the internet and collect them back here. Old Concrete Chaos posts, our first failed project, MiNext and my current project Culture Conquistadors.

I’m excited! Towards the end of last month, we wrapped up a story arc in a D&D campaign run by one of my friends. It was a pretty straight-forward dungeon crawl setup and I appreciated that. Pretty different from the other games I’m participating in. That said, I was glad for it to wrap up. I’m just doing a few too many D&D campaigns at the moment between that one (which was every Wednesday), Polite Company (every other Monday), Midnight Oil (every other Thursday) and Time and Tide (every other Sunday).

With Amber dropping and Jen adding, it gave us a chance to consider playing something other than Jesse’s D&D campaign. He suggested Star Wars. I’ve seen the beautiful Star Wars by Fantasy Flight Games in the comic stores and always wanted to play. I spent a few days perusing them and read a bookmarked review from the Alexandrian which came to the same conclusion that I did. The dice mechanic of FFG’s Star Wars is too complex. I shared these with Jesse and he opted to play a Fate-based Star Wars game.

We did some basic character creation a few weeks ago and submitted our backgrounds on Friday. We settled on a Rebellion Era game. I’m playing Olivia ‘Liv’ Eclipse, a Jedi Knight who currently works as a smuggler for the Rebellion. Yesterday, Jesse and I went over the Force powers and such.

Liv travels with Cole, her good friend and smuggling partner for the last decade; Cal, a Mon Calamari pilot; Phae, an weapons industrialist scion; and Aquila, a freelancing bounty hunter.

I’m kind of surprised no one else wanted to play a Jedi, or even a force sensitive character. At the same time, I’m glad that I’ll get to shine in that area but that we’re a fairly balanced party. It seems like we may have some difficulty with Aquila, who’s a bounty hunter and doesn’t have the same strong connections that the rest of the characters do.