PopCult Podcast – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish/Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

It’s attack of the IPs in this cineplex double feature. One movie is a spin-off of a trilogy of animated films which themselves have become an ongoing meme. The other is an adaptation of a beloved tabletop game using Marvel flavoring for every element in the movie.

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Movie Review – The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
Written by Matthew Fogel
Directed by Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic

Despite numerous adaptations to film & television, live-action & animated, Mario remains one of the most nebulous pop culture characters regarding his narrative arc. Most cartoon shows begin in media res; Mario is already the hero and, accompanied by his friends Luigi, Toad, and Peach, fights the good fight against Bowser & his Koopa Troopas. The hybrid Super Mario Bros. Super Show television series exists as this strange liminal object, with the framing device of Captain Lou Albano & Danny Wells, as Mario & Luigi, respectively, introducing audiences to cartoon stories about them. Yet, there is never an apparent effort made to establish the timeline of events. The 1993 live-action movie starring Bob Hoskins & John Leguizamo veers off into its own unique & bizarre direction, positing a parallel dinosaur-dominated timeline. As much presence as Mario has in American & Japanese culture since the 1980s, no one seems very concerned about the story behind the plumber. In this way, The Super Mario Bros. Movie exists as the first origin story that adheres closely to the designs & relationship dynamics of the video games.

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Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Ironsworn Part Two

Ironsworn (Tomkin Press) Part Two
Designed & Written by Sean Tomkins
You can download Ironsworn for FREE here.

Read Part One for a brief overview of the rules for Ironsworn.

To play Ironsworn, I used a remarkable and free online play resource called Iron Journal. First, I chose the Truths for my version of the Ironlands default setting. These are as follows in a more summarized version than the game presents them:

The Old World: There was a pandemic that ravaged our homelands, and people fled in droves; many were tossed overboard when they were found to be sick, and those who survived have carved out a home in this new, rough land.

Iron: The weather here is brutal, and the sun rarely breaks through the clouds. Those who make it here that can survive the long winters are said to be made of iron.

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Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Ironsworn Part One

Ironsworn (Tomkin Press) Part One
Designed & Written by Sean Tomkins
You can download Ironsworn for FREE here.

I’ve written previously about the types of games that fall under the solo banner. However, when most people think of tabletop roleplaying, they immediately think of Dungeons & Dragons. It makes sense due to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s acting as some of the best marketing the game could ask for. So, when most people imagine RPGs, they think of people sitting around a table rolling dice to do skill checks and fight monsters in a dungeon. That can be tricky with solo tabletop because of the crucial role a Dungeon Master or Game Master plays in that scenario. However, designer Sean Tomkins has cracked that code with his incredible Ironsworn system. To accomplish this feat, he borrowed heavily from a game system not as many people are familiar with.

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Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Artefact

Artefact (Mousehole Press)
Created and Designed by Jack Harrison

The world of solo tabletop roleplaying is made up of a lot (but not entirely) of what you could classify as world-building exercises. These are some extremely fun games that could be easily used to spark ideas for a campaign in another, more complex system. I saw someone refer to these types of games as toys for the GM, something the person planning sessions can play that also helps build the background of stories. One of the best options in this subcategory is Artefact, a brilliant game where you play a magical item, telling your story over the course of anywhere from a decade to millennia. Your life is framed through the Keepers who wielded you over time.

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Movie Review – The Fisher King

The Fisher King (1991)
Written by Richard LaGravenese
Directed by Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam is a director I can’t quite decide on. There are movies of his I think are brilliant (Brazil, 12 Monkeys), but so much of his work, even the stuff I like, feels messy & cluttered. That’s the charm of Gilliam, though. He’s a filmmaker whose personality is imbued into his work, much like David Lynch. This means his movies are polarizing. People love or hate most of them, with a few managing to find that middle ground of neutrality. The Fisher King seems to be one of the more universally liked Gilliam pictures, and I can see why. The story is grounded for the most part, the fantasies are never presented as potentially real, and the characters experience a pretty traditional arc where they get to live happily ever after.

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Patron Pick – Before Sunrise

This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Before Sunrise (1995)
Written by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan
Directed by Richard Linklater

I never stepped foot in Europe until 2021, at 40. Although, I did have friends & acquaintances in college who found their way to the small continent, primarily through study abroad programs. So, I don’t know anyone who just floated around Europe for a few months. Yet, director Richard Linklater works his movie magic, and I feel like I know what that would be like after watching Before Sunrise. Beyond the unfamiliar circumstances, there are some universal experiences here. Mainly thinking we know what it means to love a person and coasting on that interpretation or misinterpretation. The pair in this movie lives in limbo, entirely convinced & devoted to this single day of love but also firmly planted in reality, knowing this is a lark, a fun fantasy for a day that cannot last.

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Movie Review – Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2022)
Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

When I finally made myself sit down and watch Ana Lily Amirpour’s feature debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, I was very impressed with the mix of style & storytelling. It was atmospheric but restrained in all the right ways. The film was clearly a creator’s unique perspective translated into film, combining elements from various genres, and it just worked. I could see the influence of Iranian cinema in her work, but also pieces from pop culture and things she had come to love throughout her life. It made me excited about what she might do next. Then she released The Bad Batch, and I was overcome with embarrassment. That movie is awful. Maybe her third attempt would bring us back to that original magic; she was just experiencing the “sophomore slump.” Unfortunately, I don’t think she was.

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Patron Pick – Slumberland

This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

Slumberland (2022)
Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman
Directed by Francis Lawrence

The collective American memory is a fickle thing. There have been pieces of art that reached astronomical levels of fame within the culture a hundred years ago that have been completely lost to the masses. I tend to think this is intentional. It’s dangerous to have a society where people remember. In remembering, we will make connections, and when that happens, those in power don’t have long on their thrones. Like a dream fading in the first few minutes of waking up, we’ve forgotten about Little Nemo in Slumberland.

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Movie Review – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman
Directed by Ron Howard

Why? This is a question I often ask when going back and looking at older films, especially those adapted from popular IPs. These days it’s surprising when a film playing in the theater isn’t a cash grab on a well-known character or a single piece of an endlessly sprawling cinematic universe. In 2000, we were by no means in a golden age of cinema, but at least you could see something and be surprised by it. For years, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, had refused to sell the film rights to his children’s books. He’d okayed some cartoon shorts but held fast that he didn’t want movie theaters to be showing bloated versions of his simplistic texts. Then he died in 1991. “Take that, you book-writing bitch!” Hollywood seemed to cackle. By 1998, the boys in LA had convinced Geisel’s widow to sign over the film rights of The Grinch. She stipulated in a letter that whoever plays the Grinch must be of the stature of “Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, and Dustin Hoffman.” All this makes me want is a Nicholson-led Grinch. Can you imagine?!

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