I haven’t gotten a chance to see a lot of stuff in the theaters since Sofia was born, so I try to catch up when and where I can on DVD or Pay-per-view. Here’s a few of the ones seen recent(ish) and possible uses in a role playing setting:

Captain America — Probably one of the best movies of the year, despite a few hiccups at the end, this movie is perfect for stealing ideas for a pulp game, or a World War II-based game. The characters are very well written, the acting is solid to superb (Hugo Weaving), and the pacing is tremendous. The flavor of the movie fits with similar war comics of the time, from Airboy to the original Captain America stuff. It’s also a good look at how superheroes in historical settings can be done.

And along that note…X-Men: First Class — I had zero hopes for this one, and by the end it went on my to-buy list. The acting from Michael Fassbender and James MacAvoy (always good) is fantastic, and the rest of the cast does well, even Rose Byrne, who I find boring in almost everything I see her in. The movie is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which in this universe is being launched by the machinations of Sebastian Shaw, head of the Hellfire Club (played well by Kevin Bacon…) It’s a James Bond flick with superpowers and even better than Captain America, and excellent primer on how to do espionage in the 1960s, or superheroes in the 1960s. One of my friend’s fervent wish is for another “Magneto hunting Nazis in some exotic locale” film.

Strangely, it’s a better feel for the time than watching an old James Bond picture, which are fairly conservative (there’s the famed line about having to listen to the Beatles with earmuffs). First Class has mod fashions, a soundtrack that evokes the period well. It also does a superb job of pacing. There’s a lot going on, but the movie never bogs down in the exposition and character bits, never overloads you on action (like, say, Quantum of Solace.)

Burke and Hare — a little movie by John Landis about the infamous grave robbers turned murders in 1820s Edinburgh. The movie gives a good look at life in early 19th Century Scotland and you could use this in early-period steampunk games. The movie centers on the famed medical schools of the city competing to gain access to cadavers for anatomical training. Executions were dropping with the repeal of the Bloody Code and the heavy demand for graverobbing (a cadaver could bring upwards of £6!) made supply of bodies scarce, so the characters decide to create their own supply. Eventually, Burke — who’s name now applies to a form of murder, the asphyxiation while compressing the torso of a victim — is caught and hanged. His body, by the way, is on display in the Edinburgh’s Museum of Anatomy, if I recall…)

This one is played as a romantic comedy and it works mostly due to excellent performances by Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg. It’s definitely worth a look.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes — Another shocker…it’s really good. A medical chemist (James Franco) is desperate to save his father (John Lithgow, knocking it out of the park) from late-stage Alzheimers goes rouge when one of the chimps from a failed experiment shows mental improvement. He tests it on his father who improves, and actually exceeds his former self. Caesar, the chimp, is like a son to the men, but when the father’s dementia comes back, Caesar gets himself thrown in an animal sanctuary when he defends the old man from annoying neighbor (Stargate Atlantis‘ David Hewlett.) The company is working on a new version of the drug and Caesar escapes the abusive sanctuary, retrieves the drug, and “awakens” his mates so they can escape to the Redwoods north of San Francisco.

It might sound dumb, but it’s not played that way and works quite well. The kicker is why the apes are successful; sit through the credits for it. There’s a lot going on, but the pacing is so good that the movie feels much more complex and fuller than the 1:45ish run time.

The Unit — I finally got a chance to watch the entire series. If you want to see how to do modern espionage with a team, instead of the lone or pair of spies, here it is. The first two seasons are the best and hew closely to the sort of work the special forces do; the last two seasons drift too much into contrived conspiracy land…but it’s still fun. The show was loosely based on Eric Haney’s book on Delta Force, and the series was produced by Shawn Ryan of The Shield and famed playwright David Mamet. It’s worth it for a lot of reasons, not the least bit being Dennis Haysbert in the lead.

Fright Night (2011) — The remake’s better than the campy 70s/80s flick in that it’s got some fabulous performances by Colin Farrell and David Tennant. Same basic story — a creepy guy moves in next door (Farrell) and the lead character (Anton Yelchin) finds out he’s a vampire. Mayhem ensues. He enlists the aid of a Chris Angel-esque magician (Tennant) to help him. Farrell has a truly skin-crawling moment where he’s stuck at the stoop of the door to Yelchin’s house (he hasn’t been invited in) and is giving him truly sex offender-like advice about his girlfriend. You don’t know what’s worse — him being a vampire or him being the guy that would try for your underaged daughter or mom.

The flavor’s just about dead bang on for a Supernatural campaign or similar light humor/horror game.

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