Munchkin

Munchkin

Game Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Game Type: Card Game/RPG
Players: 3-5
Age Range: 10+
Play Time: 1-2 Hours

In the game of Munchkin, players create a character in the same vein as Dungeons & Dragons….but a bit more silly. Using cards drawn from a main deck, players will construct their characters using cards that grant Race, Class and Equipment and then delve through a dungeon – kicking open doors and fighting monsters to go up in level and to get treasure. The goal is to be the first player to reach level 10. Leveling up can be accomplished by defeating monsters, with random Level Up cards or by selling $1,000 worth of Gold Pieces. To achieve all this, players will undertake in some underhanded tactics like backstabbing, forging alliances and stealing from other players.

I was introduced to this Dedicated Deck-Building Game while at residency during my time with Stonecoast. I’d never played it before, and had sort of been out of the board game loop for a while, but I had a lot of fun with it. For best results, I strongly suggest playing the game with as many people as possible as it creates the most tension and the most unexpected alliances and a constant theme of change within the game, keeping it fresh and exciting. However, the game can be played with as few people as possible (and honestly, my girlfriend and I play it with just the two of us and it’s just as fun).

There are a TON of expansions to this game – including expansions featuring Conan The Barbarian (yes, and it is licensed), and smaller ones that feature characters from Penny Arcade, The Guild, Skullkickers and even Axe Cop. I haven’t delved much outside the fantasy realm with this game series, but there are also other themed sets such as Zombies, Superheroes, Space, Old West and others. You can combine all the cards you want to create the ultimate Munchkin experience, but I tend to only blend the fantasy ones together (though I’d love to combine the Space version and the Cowboy one for a Steampunk-themed deck).

This game is consistently fun, fairly cheap and there are just so many options to choose from that I can’t give it any less of a score. The possibilities are virtually endless. Give it a try, honestly.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Instructional Video On How To Play Munchkin

Advertisements

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: June 8, 2001
Director: Dominic Sena

Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) just wants a normal life with his daughter, but being a convicted computer hacker is putting a damper on those desires and he can’t afford the legal fees to battle for her custody. In comes Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), a cold-as-ice leader of a counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, who wants to hire Jobson for his hacking skills in order to break into the government mainframes to get a $9.5 billion payoff with old DEA money that’s been in an encrypted account for years. Jobson has to choose to stay clean or break the rules one more time for a final payoff that might just get his daughter back.

First off, we need to get one thing straight: Watching people type on screen is not extremely entertaining to watch, even if there is some dramatic music playing in the background. Unfortunately, typing/hacking sequences are what the movie is mostly comprised of. If the director and writers had included many more scenes with typing only, the film would be much worse off.

There are a lot of logic problems in the film, too,  and I almost hate watching computer-hacker movies because inevitably, they are written by people who seem to know nothing about the internet or computers, at all. Not that I’m an expert, either – but if even I can tell that what they’re doing is ridiculous, then that’s a huge disconnect.

The biggest draw to this film is pretty much the star power, besides the sleaze-factor. We have Don Cheadle, Halle Berry, Vinnie Jones, Hugh Jackman and John Travolta who make an otherwise run-of-the-mill film sparkle a bit more than it would have, otherwise.  Most of the characters are pretty intriguing, too – so kudos to the writers and actors for that.

The pacing of this film is actually pretty good (despite my reservations about the typing scenes) and there are lots of cool explosions and some legit-tense moments. Overall, it’s your pretty standard action-thriller without a ton of actual action.

Let me know what you think.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Swordfish

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a successful publisher who inherited the majority of his father’s money and business and lives a carefree life where nothing ever goes wrong and everyone caters to his every need. During David’s posh birthday party, his friend Brian Shelby (Jason Lee) shows up with who could very well be the girl of David’s dreams – Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz). David has to decide if she’s worth changing his life for. However, there are consequences to every action, and a very manic and depressed “fuck buddy” of David’s, named Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) waits on the sidelines in quiet anger and desperation.

Let me first tell you that I am often not a fan of Tom Cruise. Or Cameron Diaz. Or Penelope Cruz. About the only actor I initially liked in this movie in other projects is the amazing Jason Lee.

None of that matters, though, because this movie completely blew me away.

It’s a remake of the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) in which Penelope Cruz reprises her role. Many think that Abre Los Ojos is far superior, but to each his own. I felt that Vanilla Sky hit harder with me under Cameron Crowe’s direction.

I rented this one night on a lark, not really knowing what to expect. Tom Cruise turns in one of the most memorable performances of his career, donning makeup that makes him look disfigured throughout the film when he’s not wearing the facial prosthetic/regenerative mask. Cameron Diaz has mostly unimpressed me (aside from There’s Something About Mary) but she was perfect for Julie Gianni’s moody, depressed character. Jason Lee was awesome as Brian, the best friend character….and Penelope Cruz was charming as the independent Sophia. Oh, and KURT RUSSEL. Seriously.

I have seen this movie so many times that I can quote it by heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry. The music was amazing (I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film), the cinematography was gorgeous.

This is a highly underrated film and didn’t get much attention when it first came out. I think it has staying power and an extremely strong message that I definitely identified with. It’s commentary on life, on love, on material possessions and existential thought. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Vanilla Sky

Frailty (2001)

Frailty (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: April 12, 2002
Director: Bill Paxton

A mysterious man named Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) confesses to FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) that his father (Bill Paxton) used religious fanaticism in order to get him and his brother to murder people he said were “demons”. Agent Doyle bites and listens as Meiks unravels a tale of religion and evil and murder.

First off, I need to say that this movie is severely underrated. Almost all of my friends, some of them even movie buffs, haven’t seen this film (until I force them to watch it). It was Bill Paxton’s directorial debut and he did a fantastic job with it, and also as the (maybe) fanatical father.

The talent in this movie really shines, especially from Powers Boothe (who is always great, in my opinion…the man can act, let’s be honest) but even McConaughey (who I think is so-so usually) did a great job. The child actors, Matt O’Leary (Young Fenton) and Jeremy Sumpter (Young Adam) turned in stellar performances as well and gave it a sort of Stand By Me feel.

We all know Bill Paxton. It’s hard to be scared of the man (amirite?!), but his quiet, matter-of-fact delivery in his role as Dad Meiks was a shining moment for him, I believe. I was truly terrified for the kids because of this character.

The movie has a lot of surprises in store for you and it’ll keep you guessing until the end with the way everything unfolds. WATCH THIS, or I will come to your house and make you watch it. Maybe. Probably not.

But I’ll be sad if you don’t. 😦

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Frailty