Sunday, May 1, 2016

The "You vs. Fiction" Game [rules]

A few weeks ago I was browsing /r/whowouldwin. That's the site where users are invited to design battles between (usually) fictional characters and the commentators decide who will win, citing canonical facts and feats of strength along the way.

Some of the best scenarios pit the army of Mordor against the Roman Empire, Jackie Chan holding a baby vs. Jackie Chan holding vases "but doesn't want any trouble," and Home Alone's Kevin vs. the characters from The Purge. More recently, it seems "MacGyver with a $1,000 gift card to Home Depot" is becoming almost as popular as "Batman with preparation."

I love this kind of stuff.

My favorite scenario from the site was "You vs All of Fiction," but for reasons unknown to me the detailed list of rules were removed and it didn't get much attention in the first place. Nonetheless it kept me awake for hours. It's a really great (and kind of dumb) excuse to get your imagination flowing.

Here's how it essentially worked:

  • You have the ability to inherit all the powers of any fictional character you kill.
  • The object is to become so powerful that no fictional character can possibly defeat you.
  • You want to do it in as few moves as possible.

The catch is you will be fighting these characters in the real world and not their fictional universes. Initially, you have to choose a character you could defeat with your actual strengths and abilities in order to gain their powers before moving onto the next character (and so on). You only get an hour to prepare before each battle and you can only use weapons and resources you have in your house right now. So no, you can't visit the army surplus store beforehand.

There were a ton of other rules the original poster laid out, but I don't remember them all. If I remember correctly, he or she did state that Suggsverse was fair game, but I personally think that's cheating. I think it's best to stick with more popular characters and franchises, but it's fun coming up with your own rules, too.

One of the hardest parts is choosing that first character to fight. They shouldn't be chosen haphazardly. Part of the fun for me was approaching the exercise with complete seriousness.

My choice for the first character to fight was initially Carrie White, before her awakening, but then I immediately ran into a problem: it was stress which more or less unlocked her true power. If she finds herself in a duel to the death, who's to say she wouldn't realize her telekinesis then?

After that I briefly considered Henry from The Time Traveler's Wife (the book version because the movie looked fucking terrible). Then I reminded myself he was an active jogger and I'm an ex-smoker with a penchant for pizza. Maybe I could fight him after the frostbite got a hold of him, but even if I could score a serious blow, I'd run into the stress-activation factor again and possibly just knock him into another year. Never mind his version of time travel was so random it was more like a curse than a power.

Bruce Banner was an even briefer consideration. Again: the stress factor bites you in the ass.

I'm also beginning to think it's probably cheating if you choose to fight them at a certain point in their lives, e.g. "before the awakening" or "after the frostbite." After all, that would require time travel, which doesn't exist in the real world where the fight must take place. I suppose the advanced rules of the game would specify that you have to fight them as they presumably exist today, i.e. ruling out characters who died or who would otherwise be dead today. So that means no John Coffey, because he died in his story, and no period-specific characters like Indiana Jones or The Shadow because they likely died of old age long ago.

So if you kill a mutant who's been "cured" of the X-gene (as seen in X-Men 3) do you get their powers? I personally don't think so, but hey, it's all for shits and giggles so play any way you want.

At any rate, I'm still trying to come up with my definitive answer for #1.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults [VHS]

Senseless moral panics will never go away, but the 80s and early 90s did it best, as proven by the following video. From the uploader's description: "Come, relax and watch a middle aged man point to giant pentagrams on a bikini girl's stomach while random, creepy synth riffs play in the background."

Oh, what a delicious slice of cheese.

The introduction has the sweater-clad host inviting us to "pay attention and notice the reverse of everything that is normal becoming abnormal." What does that even mean? Vague statements like that sound suspiciously like the kind of nonsense you'd hear an actual cultist say.

It's not long until the video brings in a fake expert (YouTube commentators refer to him as "Joe Dirt") who visits a neighborhood park. There he stumbles onto the remnants of a Satanic ritual. Unfortunately for him, it's clear the only orgy that actually took place in that park was the orgy of evidence manufactured by the unscrupulous filmmakers. "Oh, look! There's a pentacle right there, mere feet from where we set up our cameras! Let's go have a look!"

As expected, the video manages to link Satanism to decorative candles, video games, modern music, homosexuality, pornography, and everything else "concerned parents" wanted to condemn at the time. Then there's the excessively detailed list of signs that indicate your child may be the victim of a Satanic cult. This list is indistinguishable from a list of "signs your kid might be abused, period," but the filmmakers seem convinced only Satanists are capable of harming children.

I think this is where Jerry Springer got the idea for his background

While the Guide to Satanic Cults is chock-full of hilarious (and potentially dangerous) misinformation, the middle section drags. When Joe Dirt's segment ends, I'd suggest fast-forwarding to the aforementioned "bikini girl" scene (begins at 1:08:57), which is obviously the host's excuse to touch a nearly naked model. I don't know how she didn't crack up laughing when he removed the fitted sheet from her body and I imagine the editors had to use a pretty advanced noise gate to cover up all his heavy breathing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

John Carpenter's hypnotic "Night" video

Now that's what I call high tech, low life.

Even though he's no longer making movies, John Carpenter's still kicking ass at the age of 68. I'm just now getting around to Lost Themes II. It's a little trippy considering my insomnia has kicked into overdrive this week. I feel the need to warn you I'm not entirely certain I'm typing coherent sentences here, but if that's the case then I suppose you already know.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go Negan myself so I can get some sleep. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Stephen King's Cell adaptation coming to VOD on June 10th

According to Bloody Disgusting, Cell will begin a limited theatrical run on Wednesday, June 8th before premiering on VOD services the following Friday. I'm kind of bummed it's not going to be a bigger deal. Back when Eli Roth was planning to direct it, I had (stupidly) gotten my hopes up for a big budget horror movie for adults, knowing he wouldn't shy away from the crazy shit. (Early on in the novel, an insane man tries to bite a dog's ear off, one of the numerous King images that stick.)

Considering the disappointing level of CGI in the trailer, I'm beginning to suspect the producers weren't planning a major release anyway. At least it's got a killer cast, right?

I'm just stoked we finally got a trailer and don't have to wait long for the real deal. After Hulu's 11.22.63, my favorite anything from 2016, I'm excited to see more Stephen King productions as long as network TV stays far, far away. I know his popularity owes a lot to the TV adaptations of The Stand and IT, but that shit was dank compared to the books.

I loved Cell despite its issues. The premise was a hundred times scarier than the execution and it got mired in the unstructured weirdness King crams into the end of his novels whenever he gets bored writing 'em. But man, what a scary concept.

 * * *

Yeah, I haven't been blogging much lately. I've been busy on another project.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chuck Norris vs. Communism (2015) is streaming on Netflix

With the current popularity of lazy pseudo-documentaries, which seem to have more in common with reality TV and self-help books than Morris and Herzog, it would be easy to dismiss a title as sensational as Chuck Norris vs. Communism. I almost did, but films about films have remained surprisingly unspoiled by whatever miracle-woo-bullshit is trending at any given time these days. Film is one of the purest subjects for a documentary, I guess because film is the one subject filmmakers know a lot about.

Following in the wake of American Grindhouse, Corman's World, Machete Maidens Unleased!, and the highly watchable Cannon documentary, Chuck Norris vs. Communism represents yet another slice of history dealing with the cultural significance of film. This time the focus is on Irina Nistor, a translator who dubbed three thousand bootleg videotapes in spite of her country's repressive regime. According to one of the film's subjects: "For regular people, video nights were the one thing that helped us survive."

The documentary is chock full of endearing quotes like that. Here's another bit of insight from one of the people involved: "The films changed what you thought, what you were looking for, what you were interested in. You developed through films."

Set toward the tail end of the Cold War, Nicolae CeauČ™escu is the General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and shit generally sucks for common folk. Censorship is so extreme, CeauČ™escu's broadcast lackeys are going over every second of television programming with a magnifying glass. They delete anything which might even begin to suggest that life might be better elsewhere. 

Although VCRs can cost as much as a car there, people are buying them and showing western films to their friends and family despite frequent raids by the secret police. After the movies, the children go outside to make believe they're Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, and Chuck Norris. Meanwhile their parents draw comparisons between the movie's injustices and their own. 

One interviewee points out that they couldn't talk about these movies on the bus the next day. There was no telling who'd be listening. No telling who'd turn them in.

The well-shot reenactments, which make effective use of brutalist architecture, are part political thriller and part espionage (think: The Secret Lives of Others). These taut scenes of suspense are sandwiched in between interviews about how films can and did change people for the better. This is one of the leanest documentaries about film I've ever seen. If you love films, you'll probably love this one.

Cinema obviously wasn't the only force pressing for the revolution, but it was an integral one.