Lost Mine of Phandelver Session 2-Massacre of the Goblins

Fresh off defeating the bugbear Klarg and his cadre of goblin and wolfish defenders, our heroes delve deeper into the cave hideout of the Cragmaw Goblins.

Leaving Klarg’s lair, the group stealthily discovers a room within the cavern that is half-filled with two large pools of water.  A battle ensues between the party and many goblins, with reinforcements arriving bringing two more goblins and a wolf.  The party managed to deal with the threat, but took some scratches and dings of their own.  An investigation of the room and the pools gave the party the intuition that the way the pools were set up had them serve as a security system for the main entrance into the cave.  Posts could be knocked loose to unleash a torrent of water to hopefully wash-out any intruders.  Since the party managed to avoid the main corridor on their way in, they were never noticed, and the security system was left unused.

A choice lay ahead of them as two paths led out of the cave they were in.  They chose the right after their rogue, Draxan (Corey) scouted ahead.  He discovered that this path led back down to the main corridor (and a potential sneaky back up to their current level) and that the other path led to a rope bridge above their current position.

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Basically, they are all at (4) above on the map, where there is loose gravel and rock that inclines about ten feet up to a flat surface, and then after that another ten foot escarpment to scale before arriving in the upper hallway.

Cue the hilarity.

Agnar (Erik) the dwarven paladin manages to climb up with a successful Athletics roll (and Dexterity saving throw roll) and drops a rope to the rest of the party.  Unbeknownst to the party, if anyone fails on the saving throw on their way up, the entire slope of escarpment lets loose.

Magnus the dwarven barbarian (Miles), failed his saving throw and tumbled ass-over-teakettle down the incline, landing on his back in the stream, defeated, dejected, and damaged from the fall.

Maran, Tuck, and Draxan make their way up to Agnar with due to low athletics rolls on their part, and successful strength checks saw Agnar doing almost all of the work to get them up, leaving Wil and an embarrassed Magnus last up to join the group.

Cue the group strategy session when Draxan scouts ahead and finds out the path their climbing up to connects across the bridge to the twin pools cavern they came from earlier and that there is a room in front of them with five goblins arguing over a cook fire.  They decide to split the party (GASP!) so that they are spread out to deal with the force, and are in the middle of a debate of their own regarding ambushing the goblins or trying to draw some out when one of them says he’s going to check with Kleenex (spontaneous Goblin name I came up with) the bridge guard to see if he wants some of the food.

The players rolled well on stealth checks and the goblin rolled poorly on his perception checks so he moves out into the hallway, oblivious to the danger he’s walking into.  The group begins to debate whether or not they should grab him and have Agnar, who speaks Goblin, try to draw out more or if they should just take him out.  This lasts for a couple of minutes so I begin rolling behind the screen to see if any other goblins move out.  I set a high DC for this roll and just kept rolling for the remaining four goblins while the group talked.  Adam was the first to notice I was doing this, and urged the other players to make a choice.

After the debate continued, Adam made the choice himself.  Leveling his longbow directly between Tuck and Maran, he fired an arrow that connected with the goblin’s collarbone who then let out a yelp of pain that alerted the rest of the goblins that something was not right.

ROLL FOR INITIATIVE!

The goblin’s fellow archer buddy rushed forward and failed to notice Agnar in the shadows, (whom I forgot to have him roll his stealth check at disadvantage due to his armor, now that I think of it), but did see Tuck down the hallway so fired an arrow at him for some damage.

The party then hears a disembodied voice yell from the room in Goblin, “What’s going on?! Are we being attacked?”  Unbeknownst to them, this is Yeemik, the leader of the goblins, and he has Sildar Hallwinter, the human the group is searching for, hostage on the upper level of the room.

The three goblin fighters rushed up and attacked Magnus, managing to almost take him out before the party dispatched them.  With one goblin left, Yeemik yells to the party in Common, “TRUCE, or the human dies!”  As the lone goblin henchman remaining tries to retreat back into the cavern, Magnus gets and attack of opportunity and manages to slay him, launching him into the room for Yeemik to see.  (Had Yeemik rolled high on my check to see if he followed through on his promise, the party could’ve walked into the room to a downed and bleeding out Sildar).

The party entered the room and began to parley with Yeemik.  He tells the group that he wants to be the leader of the entire hideout, and if they bring him Klarg’s head, he’ll let the human go free.  (Unbeknownst to him, Klarg has already been defeated, along with every single other goblin in the hideout.)  Wil and his fox fetch the head and bring it back to him.  Yeemik, however, decides to push for more and demands 500 gold pieces in addition to the head of Klarg to free Sildar.  Numerous attempts to persuade (AND AN AMAZING INTIMIDATION ROLL OF 1 FROM MAGNUS) bring the situation no closer to being solved and as players start to close the distance between them and Yeemik, he decides that he’s had enough negotiating and shoves a almost-dead Sildar off the edge the 10′ cliff he stands on.  Sildar, at 1 hit point, takes enough damage to go unconcious, and the players make short work of the lone goblin.

Maran stabilizes Sildar and the human tells the party that Gundren had indeed found a map to the fabled Lost Mine at Wave Echo Cave that houses the fabled Forge of Spells, a great source of magical power.  The town of Phandalin prospered before a host of orcs invaded form the North and laid waste to all in their path.  A monstrous battle was fought between allied humans, dwarves, and gnomes against the orc forces and the ensuing spell-heavy war destroyed much of Wave Echo Cave and few survived the battle and cave-ins, leaving the location of the site lost for centuries.  The map was taken from Gundren when they were captured and he believes it has been sent to the goblin chief at Cragmaw Castle.

He’s glad they dispatched the denizens of this hideout, as he had overheard that they have been ambushing travelers and supply wagons along The High Road from Neverwinter for a while.  He asks the group to escort him to Phandalin whereupon he will pay them a 50 gold piece reward for rescuing him.  They rest and recuperate for the evening and continue the journey with the mining supplies and now Sildar to Phandalin.

I’ll spare you the give and take in town between the PCs and townsfolk unless it’s either super funny, or super important.  They’ll chat up some NPCs, buy some equipment, get some quests, etc.

Long story short though, Phandalin has a local thug problem.  The Redbrands are an issue for everyone, and the party might have to try to put a stop to them somehow.

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As the campaign progresses (in its young state, only two sessions) I’m getting a better idea of the power level of our party.  Goblins aren’t really hardy creatures (they have 7 hit points) and even at level 1 the characters are generally one-shotting them.  So going forward, I’m going to be looking at trying to balance the encounters more so that it’s more of a challenge than a cakewalk for the group.  I’ve been doing the enemy initiative rolls separating enemy groups (i.e. the goblin archers from the fighters) and going forward I think they are all gonna be on the same initiative so that the party gets a tad more pressure put on it.  I dunno, we’ll see how it goes.

This was also my first time wearing the DM hat as well as playing a character since Rich had to miss.  I didn’t get Maran, the dwarven cleric killed, so I guess that’s a success on my part!

See you next week! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Lost Mine of Phandelver Session 1-Goblin Ambush!

Setting up the table for our first D&D session had me feeling quite a mixture of emotions.  Firstly, I was super-excited to finally be doing playing the game with a group of friends.  Secondly, there was definitely an ample amount of nervousness and anxiety that came with the fact that I was responsible for telling the story, describing everything the characters saw, heard, felt, smelled, etc.

After sitting down in the DM chair at the head of the table I took a deep breath.  “What did I get myself into,” I asked myself aloud.

Turns out, a lot of friggin’ fun!

Our player’s characters (from here on out referred to as PCs) are contracted by a dwarf named Gundren Rockseeker to escort a cart of mining provisions from the city of Neverwinter to a trading post in the town of Phandalin.  He’s found “something big”, and needs the goods delivered there post-haste.  He goes on ahead of the PCs with a warrior escort named Sildar Hallwinter to “take care of business” in Phandalin before the PCs arrive.

Being the over-prepper I found myself turning out to be when it comes to being a DM, I queued up the sound I had on my iPad for a cart being pulled by oxen.  (Yes, that exists in Spotify!”

Even though we went forward with the idea that they all somewhat know of one-another in accepting this job, I asked our PCs to introduce themselves to the table.  Miles unveiled his dwarven barbarian’s accent too much laughing and snickering from the table, and Adam’s mysterious half-elven ranger’s introduction consisted of “I’m Wil.”  It seems like the other PCs will have to tease more out of him if they want to know more.

A few days of travel on the trail had Rich’s character Maran driving the cart, Miles’ character Magnus “had a rough night” and was trying to sleep in the back of the cart among the shovels, pickaxes, and bags and barrels of supplies.  They came upon a grisly scene blocking the path when they found two dead horses, riddled with black-tipped arrows, that they recognized as Gundren’s and Sildar’s horses.

Our heroes stopped the wagon, and went on high alert.  This wasn’t good.

Erik’s Paladin Agnar moved forward to investigate the scene, and from the woods heard a Goblin yell, “NOW!”

Roll.  For.  Initiative.

For me, watching the player’s strategize this battle (and ensuing ones) was one of the best parts of the night.  With some rough rolls from me, the goblins didn’t surprise the PCs, but suddenly five of them poured out of the woods near the horses, with three charging Agnar and two hanging back to pelt the characters with arrows.  Corey’s rogue Draxan managed to peel off into the woods, moving around to flank the goblins.

However, their ambush did not go as planned.  A well-timed entangle spell from Louis’ druid Tuck managed to catch a pair of the front-line goblins in a mess of vines that grew from the ground and wound their way up to restrain the goblins.  The third was able to pull free in time to jump back.  (Being restrained gives enemies advantage to hit (they roll their 20-sided attack die twice and take the higher of the numbers and gives you disadvantage on your own attacks where you roll it twice and take the lower of the totals).

Agnar is hard to hit normally (though he did get tagged by the goblin leader early), but with disadvantage on attacks the goblins only managed to bash their scimitars off of his shield and armor, with no hits taking purchase after the vines were in play.  Wil fired his longbow from the rear lines and felled a goblin archer with one hit to the heart.  Slowly but surely, the tide of battle was shifting towards the PCs.  Goblin archer #2 took an arrow to the shoulder and abandoned the field and rushed into the underbrush and our final goblin fighter was slain, giving our adventurers their first victory!

Investigating the area revealed that this area had been used for goblin ambushes for quite a while, and Wil’s ranger tracking skills noticed a trail where the retreating goblin ran, finding tracks of about a dozen of the creatures as well as marks that looked like two larger creatures were dragged from the road.  Our players deduced that Gundren and Sildar were captured and decided to hide the wagon and its goods and follow the goblin trail.

Goblins are tricksy folk, but Wil and Draxan lead the group in proceeding cautiously, uncovering and avoiding both a snare trap and a pit trap on the trail following the tracks.  They follow the trail for about five miles and come to a clearing where the trail leads into a cave with a stream flowing out.  As they approach, they come upon a clearing and surprise four goblins (the escapee from the earlier fight telling the tale of their clan member’s demise) and manage to surprise them and dispatch all but the injured party whom they interrogate for information.  They learn that the leader of the cave, Klarg, is a bugbear who answers to the goblin King, Grol.  Gundren and Sildar were kidnapped on the order of The Black Spider.  Sildar is inside the cave, and Gundren was taken to Cragmaw Castle along with his map.

Our heroes decide they need to rescue Sildar so enter the cave on the sly.  Creeping up into it, they find three wolves chained  up in a room and decide they aren’t a threat and keep going forward into the cave.  (The wolves eventually are agitated by the intruders, and two of the three break free from their chains and attack).  After dealing with the wolf threat, Magnus the Barbarian manages to scramble up a 30′ rock face and feed a rope down to bring up his compatriots.

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Within the chamber they’ve scrambled into, they spy two goblins, a wolf, and the bugbear, Klarg.  Yet again, they’ve gotten the drop on their enemies since apparently I can’t roll good perception for the monsters to save my life.  What ensues is a full surprise round for the adventurers, and they lay waste to the not-so-mighty-when-surprised Klarg and his allies.

They find his hidden treasure chest among crates and barrels of stolen provisions and end up with some bling in the form of copper pieces, silver pieces, some healing potions and a small jade statue of a frog.

That’s where we wrapped it up for the evening.

As I wrote in the last entry, I wanted to get into D&D so that I could roll a character and be a player, but I (a bit begrudgingly) decided that if I wanted to play with my friends, I’d have to take up the mantle of DM.

It was WAY more fun that I had anticipated!

Some of my favorite takeaways was seeing the guys actually get into their characters.  Trying voices, (sometimes to great comedic effect), thinking like their character would and making in-game decisions based on that, (even if it led to contradiction when one character questioned and let the goblin go, and as the goblin moved to escape, another slew him where he stood), and the various in-game zings sent each-others way over a roll, or something said, etc.

I can’t wait to see what happens next and how the guys get even further into their characters and I’m glad you’ll be along for the ride!

Guys, I play D&D now…and am even going to run it for others!

Almost two years ago, I wrote up a post in which I confessed that I played Dungeons and Dragons by myself as a teenager.  D&D/Critical Role Blog Post

How I managed to grow up well-adjusted from that harrowing experience, I don’t know.

But in that post I discussed my discovery (and here I’ll detail the ensuing obsession) of the online show where “a bunch of crazy-ass voice-actors play Dungeons and Dragons”.  Since then, it’s been nearly a two-year journey watching those people play the game with such passion, have so much fun, and tell such a great story.

But one of the things that always appealed to me was the fact that these 8-9 people regularly got together every week and just friggin’ have fun together.

So it got me to thinking…life is short.  If I know I would have fun doing this, why aren’t I doing it?  I came to the realization that if I wanted to play D&D, I’d have to search for it or create it myself.

Although I really wanted to play a character, I started to understand with no friends who played the game, I was in the same situation as I was in middle-school with no one to play with or run a game for me.

It hit me, that I had to be the Dungeon Master.

So a couple of months ago, I bought the Player Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, the D&D Starter Set adventure pack, a bunch of dice sets, and minis, and battle mats, and Dungeon Master screens, and pencils and notebooks, and…..you see where this is going.

I tossed an invite out to a group of friends.  Some excited, some luke-warm, and some downright not interested.  I’ll admit I was a bit deflated after both the time and monetary investment I made.

I figured I’d scratch the itch another way.

So I looked around online for the Plattsburgh area (and even Burlington…I pondered commuting to play) to see if there were games anywhere and found that Medusa Comics and Cards hosted a weekly game.  Success!  Or so I thought.  When I contacted them about whether or not they accepted new players, I found that they do, but basically just host the venue for a group of friends who play there, and their party was full.

That’s when I found Under One Roof video store (Under One Roof Video Store) hosts a Adventure’s League game (basically just public organized play sanctioned by the company the makes D&D, and Magic: The Gathering for that matter, Wizards of the Coast) every Thursday night.  I reached out and found that I was welcome to show up and play!  Excitement!  Celebration!  Loud noises!

I don’t remember how much time was in between finding out I was going to play D&D for the first time in what no joke amounts to over twenty years.  I did have the advantage of learning all of the rules basically of 5th Edition D&D through watching hours upon hours of Critical Role so I was by no means going in as a noob.  I threw myself into making characters.  I’m pretty sure I ended up making at least 10 characters, some with complete back story and personalities set, the way they look figured out, the whole shebang.

I anxiously awaited Thursday night, and I remember telling Nicolette before I went that I was legit nervous.  Even as a 35-year-old, it still felt like going out on a first date in middle-school.  Like that feeling of walking into a situation completely blind, knowing no one, and not knowing what is expected of you or what is going to happen.

I was the first one there, which didn’t help the nerves at all, but I can without a doubt say that the Dungeon Master Don, made me feel welcome immediately.  Out of the bazillion characters I made, I decided on Perrin Hilltopple, the halfling ranger.  I’ve been playing him for a little over a month, and look forward to Thursdays every week.  I’ve met a bunch of other people who enjoy D&D, and it is truly an awesome experience.

Playing the game got me thinking more and more about wanting to get a group together of my good friends though.  I reached out to the guys I coach with, and they were excited.  They in turn reached out to others, and I grabbed one of my buds that I had touched base with at the very beginning, and out of that grew that table of six that I am going to DM for on Tuesday nights!  Nicolette’s mom was gracious enough to let us use the backroom of her store to host too!

I’ve basically spent all of my free time prepping what you’re about to see below.  I compiled a word document that ended up being 79 pages JUST FOR THE GUYS TO MAKE THEIR CHARACTERS.  Print-outs of spells, reference documents for racial bonuses, the friggin gamut.  I made playlists for background music to play during the adventure, curated into different situations like “battle”, “travel”, “tavern”, and the like.  I was so excited I arrived an hour early to set this up:

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We spent a little over three hours just making their characters, and it was awesome.  Out of the 6 players I have, three are brand-new to the game, two others have played here and there, and one is pretty much my veteran who plays weekly online.

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Starting Tuesday night, with all my nervous/excited/anxious splendor, I’ll be running six of my friends through Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Our party of adventurers consists of:

Willroar Cupshigh, Half-Elf Ranger, played by Adam

Tuck Blackwater, Halfling Druid, played by Louis

Agnar Granitebuster, Dwarf Paladin, played by Erik

Magnus Moremead, Dwarf Barbarian, played by Miles

Draxan Stormwolf, Elf Rogue, played by Corey

Maran La’saen, Dwarf Cleric, played by Rich

I’ll post more about our dear adventurers as the campaign progresses.

DVD Purge-The Adjustment Bureau

Movie #4: The Adjustment Bureau (2011), starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, directed by Geroge Nolfi. 

The premise of this film according to IMDB.com is thus:  “The affair between a politician and a contemporary dancer is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.”

At a deeper level, the film explores the conflict between free-will and destiny.  Do we make our own choices, or is there an unseen path laid about before us and we’re just following it?

Exploring this idea within a sci-fi thriller/romance hybrid is an interesting vehicle on its surface.  But the story itself comes from a short story written by Phillip K. Dick, whose writings have also been adapted to the screen as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and The Man in the High Castle.

Our two main protagonists (Damon’s congressman David Morris and Blunt’s dancer Elise Sellas) meet in a men’s room as David is practicing his senate bid concession speech and Elise is hiding from security after crashing a wedding.  This chance encounter results in instant chemistry between the two (and serves as the beginning of many scenes of witty/entertaining banter between them), that makes it clear to them and us watching that this is a meant to be encounter.  Kismet, serendipity, destiny, what have you.

The twist here is that they were never intended to meet by the mysterious figures wearing snappy suits and fedoras.  These creepy guys meet up and watch over things from isolated places.  They are the guys, as told to David, who make sure things happen according to plan.  Who’s plan?  They are decidedly mum on that detail.

David ends up running into Elise by chance again, (which was never supposed to happen but was allowed by Anthony Mackie’s (Falcon from our recent Marvel movies) fedora wearing Harry falling asleep when he was supposed to delay David), they share more chemistry, her phone number, and she hilariously plops his cell-phone into his coffee in what was one of my favorite scenes of them together.

In a fun but eerie chase scene that involves David arriving at his office and going about his routing without noticing that the entire place and people in it are frozen in place, David walks in on the Bureau “adjusting” the frozen head/brain of his friend/chief-of-staff/right-hand-man guy Charlie (House of Cards’ Michael Kelly), David is eventually caught by the Bureau and sat down because they have to figure out what to do with him.

Here’s where I got a little feeling of “really?”  In a split second, it’s explained to David that he’s “seen behind a curtain he was never supposed to know existed”, he’s witnessed these guys apparently teleport (the fedoras and hats allow them to supernaturally move from place to place through normal doors) and the immediate solution that is set forth is to just tell him “don’t say anything, ok?”  (With the threat of completely erasing his mind, yeah, but still, this seemed awfully quick to just let him go with the trust that he’d keep quiet about what he saw.)  It’s explained that he cannot be with Elise, now or ever.  She is not on his path.  They destroy her phone number in front of him.

Three years pass, with David riding the same bus to work where he last saw her everyday, and he chances upon her again.  This starts a cat-and-mouse game between David and Elise, desperately trying to stay together after repeatedly feeling so drawn to one-another, and the Bureau, doggedly trying to keep their ducks (and outlined future for David) in a row.

The everyday Bureau agents can’t keep up with David’s improve or determination.  So in comes Thompson, a higher-up in the Bureau played supremely creepy and seriously by Terence Stamp, who lets David and the audience know that the Bureau goes WAY back. When David asks why man can’t just have free will, Thompson explains that the Bureau brought man from hunting and gathering to the height of the Roman Empire, and when left to their own devices, mankind gave the world the Dark Ages.  When given another chance after 600 years in 1910, man responded with World War I, the Depression, Fascism, the Holocaust, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The Bureau was done letting mankind freestyle.

From here, the movie does ramp up towards a climactic ending.  David finds out that if he continues to pursue Elise, that not only do his dreams as a politician die, but so do hers as a dancer.  A lot must be sacrificed…is it worth it?

Overall, I remember enjoying this movie the first time in theaters seeing it with Nicolette. This time, while decently entertaining, I had a hard time remembering what I liked about it so much.  Damon and Blunt are incredibly likable and definitely play off one-another well, and there are some good performances by Mackie and Mad Men’s John Slattery, but ultimately I found myself very “meh” on it this time around.

Fun tidbits:

  • After seeing this movie, Nicolette said something along the lines that it was the “best movie she’d ever seen” or that it was the “best movie of all-time”.  I kid you not.  Screw you, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Godfather, Shawshank Redemption….I could go on…give Nicolette (at least at the time, she recognizes the that is was basically just the high of seeing the ending now) The Adjustment Bureau!
  • The trailers on this DVD shown before the film were cringe-worthy…Blue Crush 2 and Bring It On The Musical.  Wow.

Verdict: I don’t recall what I would’ve rated it walking out of the theater (5 stars for Nic, obviously), but today it’s 3 out of 5 for me.  It’s our first purge.  Adios!

Next: A Few Good Men

DVDPurge-500 Days of Summer/I’m Back!

So, again, it’s been a while since I last posted.  I need to make a better effort to make time for this, since in the beginning it was supposed to function as an outlet for me to flex the very small creative muscles I have.  (When compared to say my wife’s gigantor creativity muscles).

So, we are going to start the DVDPurge yet again….though so far it hasn’t purged much at all.  It occurred to me this morning that I probably own a lot of these movies because I love a lot of these movies.  But if I don’t actually watch said movies, what purpose to they serve besides taking up space?  Perhaps the chopping will begin soon?

That said, we’re back to business.  Here’s my review/ruling on 500 Days of Summer:

Movie #3: 500 Days of Summer (2009), starring Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, directed by Mark Webb.

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This is QUITE a shifting of gears from our previous film, 300.

Being told, up-front, that this story is not a love story, is an important thing that sets the tone for the movie right off the bat.  Given the (for me personally at least) magnetic charm of both leads (Gordon-Levitt’s performance was nominated for a Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical Golden Globe, which ended up being won by Robert Downey, Jr’s performance as Sherlock Holmes), the foreshadowing of a not-so-happy ending didn’t leave me disappointed from the start, but rather curious to see how this story played out. This is a different take on the typical romantic comedy. The back and forth nature of the film, going from Day 355 to Day 24 to Day 192, etc. was in some cases confusing, annoying, frustrating, and dizzying, but in a way, isn’t that the way that love is?

I first saw this film in theaters on a date with my then girlfriend (now wife, Nicolette).  I definitely don’t mind going to see these types of movies but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, which garnered its own Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.  (Lost out to The Hangover)

The music/score is wonderful.  Songs by Regina Spektor (“Us”, “Hero”), The Temper Trap (“Sweet Disposition), and Feist (“Mushaboom”) all fit perfectly within the wonderful editing and storytelling/writing that the film boasts.

But overall, I think it’s the honest and serious but also funny at the same time take on courtship and relationships that resonates.   The film expresses the awkwardness of meeting someone and beginning a courtship of that person, the high that comes with being around them, learning about them, thinking about them, and then the ecstatic celebration of the beginnings of a relationship/involvement with them.  JGL’s hilarious montage of seeing Han Solo’s rogue-ish smile reflected in a car window, and subsequent flash-mob dance-fest to Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” is both hilarious and heart-warming (complete with animated bluebird).  Relationships are AMAZING!

Which segues nicely into Day 303, where Summer is gone and there is misery in all things for Tom.  Relationships can also SUCK and your heart gets ripped out.

Balancing happiness and misery, the taking of risks, exposing and talking about vulnerabilities, learning the ins and outs of a person…all of these things are illustrated in the film in such a real and honest manner.  Love and relationships are friggin’ complicated.  They take work.  That doesn’t change whether you’re on Day 5 or Day 4997 (which is how many days I’ve been with Nicolette).  They can be incredibly uplifting and baffling at the same time.  You can absolutely love someone and simultaneously hate them (perfectly summed up by Tom’s list of things he loved about Summer juxtaposed with the same exact list being things he hated about her).

The expectation versus reality scene was so well done.  How many of us can think back to a situation where we basically experienced something like this?  How on-point is this in terms of the way we visualize a relationship and moments with someone and how much they can differ from what really ends up happening?

With an absolute bittersweet ending, (spoilers?  If you haven’t seen this movie in the 8 years it’s been out, I’m not sure what to tell you…), it’s easy to see how relationships can seem like a waste of time, that some people are doomed to be unlucky, etc.  The park bench scene where Tom states that Summer was right (about true love not existing) and Summer asserting that Tom was right (because she just woke up one day and felt like she wanted to marry the man she was with after him) is heartbreaking because the timing wasn’t right for them.  Both characters experience a change in outlook when it comes to love and relationships. Tom for a short time becomes cynical about it all until he chooses to move on and get over fears of rejection and investment and asks Autumn (a little on the nose, but a cute joke about seasons changing and transitions nonetheless) for coffee.

It all boils down to the idea that sometimes relationships and love doesn’t work out or last.  That doesn’t mean in the slightest that it wasn’t real, didn’t mean something, and didn’t teach those involved any valuable lessons or skills to go forward with.  Love is great and love sucks.

Sometimes they do work out, though.  I  married my Summer.

Random tidbits:

  • relationship advice from a young Chloe Grace Moretz!
  • Vance, aka Clark Gregg, aka AGENT COULSON!?
  • Oh hi, Minka Kelly!
  • Who knew how cool chalkboard paint walls could be back in 2009?  They are all the rage now, but man, a chalk headboard looked awesome.

Verdict: Gonna go 4.5 stars for this one.  Love the honesty and original take on everything.  Keep.

Next up: One of Nicolette’s all-time (not a typo) favorites…The Adjustment Bureau

 

Don’t Choose Fear

I know it has yet again been a while since I’ve posted. There are a million excuses I could give but let’s be honest, I’ve dropped the ball. 

I didn’t think I’d ever post something political on here, but I think I just need to get some thoughts out of my brain before I’m overwhelmed by them. 

Donald Trump is our 45th President. 

::shocked silence::

I didn’t think it could happen. I didn’t think that our nation would ignore the openly hostile, hateful, misogynistic, racist, ignorant, awful things he’s said about people of color, women, those who are LBGTQ+, just about everyone who isn’t a white male….but we did. 

Now what?

Personally, I woke up from awfully fitful sleep, wondering how this happened. I turned everything off at midnight and the alarm went off at 6AM. Disillusioned would be a good word to describe what I’m feeling. I keep saying in my head “is this real life?” like the kid in that wisdom tooth video on YouTube. I’m hoping to avoid the drug-induced rage part. 

What keeps popping into my head though is “I have to find a way to be optimistic.”  Believe me, right now, with wounds so fresh, it seems impossible. 

It’s hard not to think about what might have been if we’d given Bernie Sanders a chance. 

But here’s the thing, one thing I can’t bring myself to do is just give up, retreat into a shell, and adopt the mindset of “well, I guess I’ll just watch the world burn.”  Maybe that does start happening, but if we lose all hope of anything positive then we’re lost as well. 

So I think it’s important for everyone, regardless of who you voted for, to strive to adopt a growth mindset over a fixed one. Instead of feeling like “I give up”, “my way or the highway,” or blaming others for what I perceive to be a mistake, I should instead choose to embrace a challenging situation and figure out a way that I can make it better in the short-term, long-term, small-scale, big-scale. 

In a simple sense, that means I can increase my efforts to make the day of anyone I come into contact with just a little bit more awesome in some way. I’m using this national happening to try and focus on being a better person instead of crying “the end is nigh!”

Maybe that means a tighter hug, a kind word where it’s not expected, recognizing moments of greatness in what most see as monotony and mediocrity…maybe it’s just suspending my realist brain from doing its thing and forcing it to be a little more optimistic than it wants to. We create our own reality in a way, right?  Well, I’m gonna create a kind one…for myself, for others, for all. 

Am I sad this morning?  Scared, even?  Sure. I bet tons of people are. 

To paraphrase Will Smith in the movie After Earth (oddly poignant): “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Fear is a choice.”

Refuse to choose fear. Be positive. Make someone’s day. Make your own day!  Surprise yourself. Together, we can make it better. 

No fear. Never fear.  

DVDPurge-300 (Yes! Two blog posts in one day!)

Movie #2: 300, (2007), starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, directed by Zack Snyder

Boy oh boy, where do you start with this spectacle of violence?

The movie comes from the source material of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, and I think that stylizing provides ample punch to the amazing visuals put forth by director Zack Snyder (Batman vs. Superman, Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, The Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead) and company.

I’ve always been drawn to movies, books, and stories that dealt with heroes, underdogs, honor, duty, valor, etc.  There’s something about those ideals that have always spoken to me.  When I found this tidbit about Miller, I totally understood:

When he was a child, Frank Miller saw the Rudolph Maté film The 300 Spartans (1962), with Richard Egan as King Leonidas, and was deeply affected by it. He has explained that the film altered his perception of the ‘Hero’ concept insofar as he came to realize that the hero didn’t always win and that sometimes, to be a hero, one must sacrifice oneself. Ever since he saw the movie, he has been fascinated with Thermopylae.

Thermopylae is where most of our tale is set, in a battle against the Persians, their King Xerxes, and their Immortals.  I mentioned in my 80 Days post that I had always had an interest in history and the Civilization games, so when I first watched 300 in 2007, Xerxes and the Persians were well known to me.  I had been playing Civ since the 3rd version of the game came out in 2001, and was well-aware of this guy…(he looks a tad different in the movie, obviously.  The Persians were lead by Darius I or Cyrus in the next version of the game and then again by Darius I in the latest iteration).

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But yes, even in the Civ games, the Greeks and Persians can participate in a little brouhaha.

However, the level of violence and insanely complex fight choreography is downright incredible.  The sheer amount of technical work, not to mention that countless hours of rehearsal and weapon’s training, is amazing by itself, and the time put in definitely shows on screen.  This movie is a text book when it comes to the fight scenes.

For all the terrific action sequences though, there are slower moments where the narration of actor David Wenham (Faramir from Lord of the Rings) truly carries the storytelling.  In the very beginning, one of my first notes was to find out who the narrator was, because the voiceover work seemed top notch.  Then all of a sudden, we’re hearing that same voice coming from Wenham’s character Dilios.  (While the movie wasn’t recognized by the big award shows, Wenham’s performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film awards, so at least some people enjoyed it as much as I did).

I felt Lena Headey’s turn as Queen Gorgo completely set the tone for her big future role.  (Also nominated in the ASFFHF **I totally made that up**awards for Best Supporting Actress).  It’s plain to me, that this role 100% influenced her casting as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones.  Her best scene is where she delivers her speech to the council, and then comeuppance to Dominic West’s Theron.

One of my favorite images from the movie:

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Couple cool notes:

  • Young Leonidas (not teenage Leonidas that fights the wolf in the above image) is Eli Snyder, son of director Zack.
  • 300 served as feature film debut of one Michael Fassbender as Stelios.  He had only acted in television prior.
  • The quote, “Then we will fight in the shade,” is an actual one from history, spoken by the Spartan warrior Dienekes when warned about the enemies’ arrows. It is also used by Greeks today as emblems on soldier uniforms.

As much as I find myself saying “am I going to watch this again?”, the answer is undoubtedly a resounding “probably”.  🙂  Does that fly in the face of the purpose of purging a DVD collection?  Absolutely.  But, for the visuals and fight scenes, not to mention the fantastic music (especially the early choral chanting), make it a DVD I cannot part with.

Verdict: With four out of five stars, it’s a keep.

Next: 500 Days of Summer (will have to wait for Nicolette on that one!  Quite the genre change there, too.)