Tom Chick

In Deep Sixed, no one can hear you scream at things that break at the worst time

, | Game reviews

Dark Star was John Carpenter’s 1974 riff on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Imagine 2001 without Kubrick’s visionary serenity, where the astronauts are the hippies, stoners, and surfers a USC film school student would have known in 1974. That’s screenwriter Dan O’Bannon in the foreground as Pinback. To release a planet-busting bomb, he twists his arms inward to grasp two dials or levers. It doesn’t look very comfortable. He holds it for the countdown from 10, and then for the release, he sharply rotates his hands outward. It’s the gesture a magician would do to reveal which hand the quarter is in.

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The Thunderbirds boardgame to the rescue in a post-Pandemic world!

, | Game reviews

The boardgame renaissance began about ten years ago when humankind finally invented good boardgame design. It had taken centuries. Previously, we had a bunch of roll-and-move junk, nerdyman wargames no one cared about, and old chestnuts like chess, Monopoly, and Settlers of Catan. Things like worker placement, deck building, and traitor mechanics hadn’t been invented yet. It was a dark time.

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Qt3 Movie Podcast: The Cloverfield Paradox

, | Movie podcasts

So that’s why Netflix stealth released it.

Next week: Black Panther. Also, our Make Us Watch Whatever You Want 2018 Fund Drive is officially underway! For every dollar you contribute to our PayPal account at 3×[email protected]artertothree.com, you get a vote for the drawing to be held at midnight Pacific on March 11 to determine which movie we’re doing for the March 18 podcast.

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Not the worst thing you’ll see all week: The Ritual

, | Movie reviews

There’s only so much you can do with characters lost in the woods stalked by a malicious supernatural presence. At some point, the presence is just going to kill them or drive them mad. Now the story is over. GG.

But Adam Neville’s novel, The Ritual, realizes this. So after subjecting its lost characters to brutality, exhaustion, and terror, it does something different and a little silly. It goes from scarily horrific to absurdly horrific. If you were to turn it into a movie, it would feel like two different movies. Maybe even a bait and switch. Which explains why the adaptation of The Ritual, just released on Netflix, is completely uninterested in the second half of Neville’s novel. What’s left is competent, but mostly unremarkable. There’s only so much you can do with characters lost in the woods stalked by a malicious presense.

The script leans a little too hard into exploring the main character’s psyche, which is problematic when he’s the least interesting character. At least Rafe Spall is pretty good at doing least interesting. And director David Bruckner visually manifests his psyche in some strange set pieces. If you look at The Ritual as a creature feature, it does what it needs to do, despite a forced attempt to live up to the title. But if you’re looking for a lively twist or an unexpected payoff, you’re just going to have to read Neville’s book. The woods in this adaptation are well trodden and entirely familiar.

That darn princess! It’s tough to be a Unicornus Knight.

, | Game reviews

One of my favorite things about Spirit Island, my current favorite solitaire/co-op game, is how R. Eric Reuss’ design isn’t the usual solitaire/co-op paradigm. You know the paradigm from Pandemic, Arkham Horror, Flash Point, Zombicide, Dawn of the Zeds, Nemo’s War, and so on. Four bad things spawn, but you only have three actions to take bad things off the board. Now survive until the game clock runs out. It’s a rote exercise in plugging leaks that arbitrarily ends at some point and you either made it and won or didn’t and lost. The other alternative is punching something with a lot of hit points until you win. Sure, there are some exciting variations in the punching, such as the superhero decks in Sentinels of the Multiverse or the economic engines spooling up to cycle cards in a deck-builder called Aeon’s End. But it still comes down to punching a big bag of hit points.

Enter Unicornus Knights, a refreshingly unique solitaire/co-op game with its own paradigm. Want to play a cool game where secret destinies unite allies and enemies, interesting characters navigate a randomized map, and love conquers all? First, allow me to introduce Princess Cornelia, who is going to screw it all up.

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What the heck is up in Fup, the weird tale of a mallard hen?

, | Book reviews

Most of Fup feels like a comedic short story. Like more profane Charles Portis or less absurd George Saunders. Maybe the sort of thing John Kennedy O’Toole might have written if he’d been alive to keep writing. But Fup stands apart for where Jim Dodge goes with his humor. He’s writing to amuse, to be sure. But he’s also writing to bring you someplace philosophical, perhaps even spiritual, but without any of the weight of philosophy or spirituality. It’s ultimately a tangle of homespun wisdom that lapses into folklore. The punchline isn’t really a punchline. It just might be a parable.

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Charterstone makes its distinctive mark on legacy boardgaming

, | Game reviews

The Charterstone box is a nearly perfect expression of the experience of playing. It’s mostly blank. An empty sky. There’s nothing there. It’s unpainted. A canvas. Or rather, it doesn’t even exist yet. Not a void that has swallowed stuff, but an immaculate space waiting for your contribution. Oh, look, there’s a little patch of artwork on one side. A tiny zeppelin hovers over some crates. There are two quaint and assuming buildings behind it. This is how your game of Charterstone will begin. Twelve games later… Well, I’ll get to that in a sec.

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Twin-stick shooter developer 10tons’ Tesla vs Lovecraft sets the genre back 15 years

, | Game reviews

10tons Ltd., an indie developer in Finland, has been making twin-stick shooters since 2003, when they released Crimsonland. Since then, they’ve done various workaday projects — anyone for a round of Sparkle 2 on the iPad? — but their heart is clearly in the the top-down wholesale slaughter of innumerable dumb enemies. With Tesla vs Lovecraft, they’ve gone back to their first love.

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