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August 29th, 2009 No comments

Categories: Weird Tags: , ,

I’m Lost, I’m Lost, Find Me

June 8th, 2009 No comments

When I first heard that the film adaptation of Land of the Lost would star Will Ferrell, I was puzzled and dismayed. Not that I dislike like Will Ferrrell. Anchorman is one of the funniest flicks I’ve ever seen. I wondered, was it possible that Ferrell was trying to branch out into Brendan Fraser/comic action hero territory? Or that the producers thought that Ferrell would bring a bit of sly humor to their otherwise straightforward kid-friendly adventure? They couldn’t possibly be thinking about turning a sorta-beloved ’70s Saturday morning show into a typical Ferrell slob comedy? Right? Right?

Denial is such a wonderful thing.

So I saw Land of the Lost. Look, I had one of those “Movie Money” certificates packaged with the DVDs of the original series. It could only be used for Land of the Lost. Essentially, I’d already paid for the ticket. Why shouldn’t I go? Don’t judge me!

I know that some would say that I could do better things with those 90 minutes. But, honestly, taking a good look at my life and the things on which I spend my precious time on this Earth, it would seem that my standards aren’t all that high.

Anyway, Land of the Lost was very much a missed opportunity. They could’ve easily turned out something akin to last year’s successful 3D kidventure Journey to the Center of the Earth, with dinosaurs and weirdness for the younger set, and a bit of nostalgia for the fortysomethings. Or they could’ve embraced the goofiness of the old show and gone for a balls-out comedy. What they did instead falls between those two stools. Or, given the film’s fondness for dinosaur poop, two stool samples. (I’m here all week; enjoy the Sleestak steak.)

It all starts off promisingly. There’s a prelude in which a stranded, space-suited astronaut finds himself lost in a jungle and confronted by a hungry T-Rex. It seems to be setting the stage for a quirky, Men in Black romp.

Some of it was funny. I got a chuckle of the notion of Ferrell playing a “quantum paleontologist.” I also enjoyed his interaction with the skeevy versionĀ of Chaka the monkey boy; their instant dislike was amusing. I don’t know that I found the bookend scenes with Matt Lauer as hilarious as did some others, but I give Lauer credit for being game.

The production design was wonderful, working those old Krofft studio sets into locations both nifty and cheesy. The best of these was a vast desert filled with artifacts from throughout time and space: everything from a flying saucer to a Universal Tour tram. Iconic Land of the Lost locales such as the “Lost City” and the Library of Skulls got a reworking, and the mysterious pylons were imaginatively reinvisioned as transparent on the outside, weirdly extradimensional on the inside.

Indeed, there were lots of references to the old show, right down to the “Beware of Sleestak” warning scrawled on a rock. However, much of it was superficial; the makers lost sight of what these things originally meant. Enik the Altrusian, who was something of a tragic figure back in the day, winds up as a stock villain here. And while the Zarn (who was originally a creepy alien made entirely out of lights) got a namecheck–and a pointless, two-line voice-over cameo by Leonard Nimoy–here he’s just another member of Enik’s race. I know, I know, why expect a fannish level of fidelity when they went and cast Will Ferrell?

I wasn’t expecting much, but I found Land of the Lost disappointing nonetheless. It has moments of fun and whimsy, but it falls short of being truly hilarious. It makes me wonder why anyone went to the time and trouble to drop $100 million on this remake without having a better idea of what to do with it.

A Whole Lot Of Poo

September 28th, 2008 No comments

Last Friday evening, our gaming group completed their first adventure in my Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

It all began innocently enough, with the adventurers gathering for a meal at “Gutworthy’s,” a pub specializing in greasy, filling food. Their revels were interrupted by a screaming woman in the nearby market square: “My baby! It’s taken my baby!”

The “it” in question was a giant rat, which had grabbed her infant son in its teeth and scrambled down a nearby sewer opening. There was, of course, little choice for the heroes but to follow.

Wandering the maze of twisty passages without a map, they soon entered a long, straight tunnel in which the ceiling and walls seemed to be crumbling. Taking little heed of the surroundings, they were ambushed by several large centipedes!

Meanwhile, while scouting up ahead, Cynfael the rogue found himself unexpectedly attacked by a dreaded gelatinous cube, a large, transparent scavenger that had crept quietly up behind him. The creature engulfed and attempted to digest him! (DM’s note: I have a well-documented fondness for the gelatinous cube.)

Cynfael managed to extricate himself from the jelly-like mass, and eventually the party overcame the menaces. Tuk’-Ja the eladrin wizard found himself a magic orb within the body of the slain cube.

Traveling further, they reached an intersection. There the phrase “GO BACK STOMPERS” was written out in some manner of unwholesome “paint.” A crazed voice cackled from somewhere within the walls: “Who dares invade my kingdom? My subjects will gnaw your bones!”

Several dire rats tumbled out of the pipes and challenged the heroes. Seconds later, with a clanking sound, a strange device rose up from the floor at the end of the passage and a mechanical arm began tossing exploding firepots at random combatants.

The trap nearly proved to be too much for the group, taking down their healer, Hariah the half-elf paladin, with a lucky hit. (DM’s note: I used a trap straight out of the Dungeon Master’s Guide that was allegedly appropriate for characters of their level, but found its high accuracy and damage rate both to be a bit much.) For reasons known only to them, they chose to battle on within its arc of fire rather than getting behind the machine. They did, however, rescue Hariah and finally shut down the device.

After a short rest they pressed on, only to find the lead members of the party sliding helplessly down a slick slope into a large chamber with a stinking pile of muck at its center. To no one’s true surprise, a bulk emerged from beneath the offal surface. A slavering, tentacled otyugh attempted to pull Hariah into its maw, while more centipedes, attracted by the battle, scuttled into the room.

The other characters voluntarily slid down the slope to join the fray. Protected by the difficult terrain of the muck pile, the otyugh nearly overcame the group. (DM’s note: The otyugh is a 7th-level monster which I scaled down to 5th for the purpose of this encounter. Its high Armor Class and Fortitude values, coupled with the combat minus for fighting within its stench aura, made it very difficult to hit. The party was severely lacking in powers which could attack its relatively low Reflex defense.)

Poor Hariah had quite a time before finally breaking free of the otyugh’s grip. In the end, the foul beast went down.

Shortly thereafter, the party had another run-in with tentacled sewer dwellers, smallish beasts which dropped from the ceiling and attempted to wrap their tendrils around their victims’ necks. (DM’s note: These were actually “chokers” from the Monster Manual, “re-skinned” to resemble the darkmantles of 3rd edition D&D. Their favorite trick was to grab a victim and use it as a shield against other attacks.)

The sewer tunnel dead-ended in the foundation of a building which had fallen into disuse. The large, underground vault was festooned with broken furniture, and dominated by a “throne” made of discarded crates and various animal and human teeth.

This was the “palace” of Loomis, the self-styled “Rat King.” This human lunatic had been sending his rat minions to the surface to kidnap male children in hopes of identifying one to serve as his “heir.” In fact, three babies were present, and Loomis intended to test their worthiness by dropping them into a water-filled cistern. His assumption was that a Rat Prince would be a good swimmer. (DM’s note: Loomis was an unused villain from my friend Dave Lartigue’s defunct 3rd edition D&D game. I was so taken by the concept–and the Lego minifigure that Dave L. had designed for him–that I asked to borrow both for my own game.)

Sergeant Kesek the dragonborn warlord ordered Loomis to surrender the children, but the Rat King set his pets against them. (DM’s note: This was another chance to use one of my favorite D&D miniatures, the “rat swarm.”)

The battle didn’t go well for Loomis: most of his minions were cut down before he could effectively rally them. He began suspiciously backing toward the far end of the room and its oh-so-convenient trap door, pausing only to fire a few rounds from his “ratapult.” (DM’s note: Loomis’ ranged attack involved plucking one of the smallish rats constantly crawling on his person and firing it with a sling.)

As Kesek gathered the would-be rat princes and the heroes closed in, Loomis threw a blackout bomb at the ground and fled through the aforementioned trap door, vowing vengeance.

The party searched the Rat King’s “nest” and discovered a nifty lightning-powered longsword which was claimed by the paladin. Returning the children to their parents, the heroes enjoyed a small, but gratefully-given reward, as well as the opportunity to clean off all that poo.

30 Rock On!

April 11th, 2008 No comments

30 Rock returned last night with its first post-strike episode, and it was a winner. Paying off a joke set-up earlier in the season, the story was built around the finale of Jack’s show-within-a-show, the reality hit “MILF Island.” As the announcer intones, “Twenty MILFs, fifty eighth-grade boys, no rules!” A pitch-perfect parodic mash-up of Survivor and pretty much every dating show airing on Fox or VH1, the only wonder about “MILF Island” is that no one has gotten around to producing the series for real. (However, you can buy the t-shirt.)

While everyone sits around waiting to see if Debra will win out over Deborah to conquer “MILF Island,” Liz attempts to elicit a confession from one of her staffers, anonymously quoted in the New York Post as saying that Jack is a “grade-A moron” who can “eat my poo.”

Enough yap. Here it is.

While never the ratings hit it deserves to be, 30 Rock was picked up for a third season last week by NBC. Possibly because they’ve got so little else going on that they’d have to do “MILF Island” instead.

Categories: Tina Fey Tags: , ,