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Last Week: Onward, The Invisible Man, The Good Place, Braggart, Betrayal at House on the Hill

Week ending Sunday 8 March 2020

I had a nice long weekend filled with LEGOing and the watching of things, which left me quite chipper. Obviously by this far into a week (Wednesday – egad!) I’ve thoroughly squandered the languid lie-ins we achieved. We were intending to visit the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience in Leicester on Saturday, but found it was closed due to the “Light Up” festival taking place, which seemed odd as the exhibition seems to be entirely illuminations… Oh well. I was a bit annoyed that my poorly-planned intentions were so easily scuppered, and with them a self-indulgent trip to the Leicester Vintage Toy Shop and it’s many examples of beloved and dreadful plastic tat. Next time, possibly next week… Still, it did give me quite a lot of extra time to play with LEGO. I don’t have any updated pics yet, but I was highly gratified this week when a friend popped round and exclaimed with delight at its progress (before I knocked chunks off in my haste to show it off).

Games Night – Braggart, Betrayal at House on the HillThe Last Word

I also had a nice chance to play some boardgamey things (other than as part of vital team building at work!)

I introduced the mob to my current favourite card game (excepting Fluxx and Gloom), Braggart. It’s a delightful little storytelling game, based around the idea that you’re all winos in a fantasy tavern bragging about your made-up adventures and conquests. The cards offer you parts of a story (scene, deed, foe and result), and as long as you have the two central components you can offer your boast, ideally with wild embellishment and braggadocio. Your companions may nod sagely or cry “liar” and swap high-scoring cards in your yarn for low-scoring cards in theirs, eg previously you fought a mighty demon, but in reality you punched an orphaned child.  If it’s accepted unchallenged you can get the points (coins) on your cards. It’s a fast, silly and splendidly fun game with remarkable replay value. Note for the designers: I would kill for an expansion.

We grew a little more serious and horror-struck with Betrayal at House on the Hill, which I’ve heard of but never played. A random assortment of folks with various physical and mental attributes explore a haunted house, revealing new room tiles as you pass through doorways until someone comes across too many Omens and you trigger the “haunt”. As far as I experienced, each room is filled with nightmares that instantly wiped out my twelve year-old boy’s mental faculties before stumbling into a skeleton-strewn inside garden and plummeting into the grim basement area, from which I never escaped. I did find “a girl” and “a dog” to be my companions, so I guess that’s good. Not a great deal happened before I triggered the haunt, becoming the titular traitor and taking control of the monster, Crimson Jack. He was defeated within one round of becoming active, and that ended the game… It looks like it has a lot of potential with complex and interesting possibilities,  but we didn’t encounter a lot of that. Most of our enjoyment came from laughing at the awful things happening to my character rather than from the game itself!

We’ve played The Last Word before, and it performed as expected. You get a stack of subjects and another one of letters, the task being to name as many things in that subject beginning with that letter, before the buzzer goes off. The time period is random, and the goal is to the last person to say something vaguely cogent within the time limit. It’s fun! Largely this is just yelling things which are tangentially related to the subject and hoping the people you play with will allow them. Lots of give and take, a lot of filthy suggestions and semi-hysteria. Good. 

Watching: The Good Place

If you haven’t seen this yet, then either you lack Netflix or the pressure of other people who saw it and loved it. I really enjoyed it, and we wrapped up the final season this week, having waited until the tedious dripfeed of weekly episodes was over and we could binge it properly. Difficult to summarise by the end of the fourth season I guess… but plainly spoilers are imminent.

A quartet of humans die and awaken in “the good place”, except they were all sorts of failures at being good people and it turns out that they’re actually being psychologically tortured in “the bad place”. And that’s just the beginning. Our four humans are Eleanor, a scumbag person from Arizona (the splendid Kristen Bill), fatally-indecisive philosophy professor Chidi (the remarkably buff William Jackson Harper), ghastly name-dropping socialite Tehani (Jameela Jamil, playing the sort of person who I imagine writes the Metro celebrities pages) and genuine cretin Jason (played with stupendously vacant happiness by Manny Jacinto), In time they fully grasp their situation, grow as people, become good, and ultimately restructure the afterlife. They’re aided in their adventures by the Architect of their particular afterlife (staggeringly on-form Ted Danson, with very good wig) and his infinitely powerful Janet (D’Arcy Carden)  who comes to believe that humans can be redeemed and that there’s something very wrong with the whole system. All of that plot belies that this is an utterly charming character-based, intensely plot-driven sitcom. It’s very funny, packed with pop philosophy and psychology, delightful character turns and relationships I ended up feeling very invested in. It’s a proper heart-tugging finale too.

Watching: Onward

PIxar dig deep into the hearts of its audience to yank some heartstrings, this time playing them in a modern fantasy realm where everyone’s given up magic and uses technology, and their magical past is remembered only by those playing a thinly veiled Dungeons & Dragons. In keeping with Disney sensibilities, we have a nice family with a dead dad, and on the youngest lad’s sixteenth birthday they get the chance to bring him back for a single day. Cue adventure. With a cast headed up by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt it’s quite snappy and the characters are all charming, though I think they could have been played by almost anyone and you wouldn’t really notice. It’s pretty fun, especially as someone very casually aware of what happens in D&D, since most of the comedy and action are based in learning magic and various questing stereotypes. I enjoyed it at the time, but like everything Pixar’s made since Up, it’s rapidly fading from memory (this is in five days!) Good for the kids and fans.

Watching: The Invisible Man

Once more, Universal Studios attempt a resurrection of their classic monster characters, and for the first time since The Mummy (Brendan Fraser’s, obviously, not the fuckawful Tom Cruise tediothon), may actually have succeeded! I should qualify that a bit… This is the invisible man as domestic violence perpetrator and psycho stalker. I guess that’s what anyone who wanted to be invisible probably would be like. I’m not good at horror/thrillers at the cinema, and this one had me twisting in my seat and chewing my fingers. Elizabeth Moss is electrifying as the bullied spouse, Cecilia, it’s a harrowing performance. Creepily shot as if two people are in frame even when it’s just Moss, it swiftly becomes deeply disturbing. Obviously the fucker is gaslighting her like crazy and ruining all her relationships, as you do when you’re a total arsehole. The film really ramps up a gear when Cecilia starts fighting back, and I found it immensely satisfying. GOOD!


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