I’ve talked a lot about theme in board game before and how I like board games with a good theme on them. Instead of talking so much about why I like themes in board games, I think I’ve covered that decently well, I’m going to […]
Are you excited for this game review, because the game sure is. Yes, Clank! In! Space! has all those exclamation points in the title and it’s really excited to have a TableTopTake written about it! So let’s get jazzed, people, and jump into this game […]
Now, as I normally do, a disclaimer/clarifying my title since I just write catchy titles, or something like that. This isn’t only going to be about gaming with a baby around, it’s going to cover a number of nerdy things.
So, for those of you who aren’t friends of Kristen and myself, I can’t remember if I posted anywhere on Twitter or on Facebook for Nerdologists that we’re expecting our first kid. Which is super exciting, stressful, and life changing. One thing that I’ve been thinking about is how that’s going to affect the website, playing games, D&D, anime, movies, books, etc. I mean, clearly it’s going to affect it, but how much is it going to affect things.
First, I think that the Dungeons and Flagons podcast is probably going to take a bit of a break. Though I’m not sure about that, it’ll depend on a number of things, but at least a little bit of a break and more so than it has. We did just record recently, but once the baby is around it might be more of an official break.
However, I don’t want to get away from my nerdy roots and stop doing things that I’ve loved doing the past few years for the website as well as just in my life. I’ve found that a lot of these things, like playing Dungeons and Dragons, going to AcadeCon, starting up board game night and playing games like Risk Legacy, Gloomhaven, and Charterstone regularly have been great experiences. They also help me because I’m an extrovert and being around people keeps me energized and ready to go as well as keeping me in a better frame of mind.
So what are some tips and tricks for this? How do you balance wanting to do nerdy things and having a kid?
I don’t have a ton of answers for this, and for every person, it’s going to be different. But I think that there are a few things that I’ve been thinking about, that may or may not work, but that I think we’re planning on trying.
- Be fine taking the kid places. They have to get used to being at other peoples places, and while we have to take care of their needs as they arise, just because they want something, doesn’t mean that they are going to get it right away. Also, with our friends, we have friends, who are already modeling this some with taking their young children to our place another others places. There just has to be flexibility with Kristen and myself, as well as with others, because things aren’t going to run as consistently with a board game if Kristen or I have to step away to check on the baby, feed the baby or change the baby.
- Be fine having people come to a messy house. Small children and babies are horrible messy monsters, or something like that. But seriously, it’s going to be hard staying on top of cleaning when there is a small child who needs a lot of attention and makes a lot of messes so our house isn’t going to be as clean as it might be normally. And Kristen and I aren’t over the top and think that our house has to be completely clean when people come over, but we do try and keep it neat. It just might be a little less neat until the kid can pick-up after themselves several years down the line.
- Make intentional space for nerdy things. Now, with this, some of it is creating physical locations for these things where we can kind of keep board games separate from the baby by me finishing cleaning up and getting my games sorted and set-up in the basement or the corner of the office set-up for retro video gaming. But it’s also time wise, keeping going things like board game night or the Wednesday nights of playing Charterstone and Risk: Legacy or the Tuesday nights of Gloomhaven. But being flexible with them, which we already are, but trying to keep those things on the calendar will be important for me. And for Kristen, helping her keep time where she can play Breath of the Wilds or Dragon Age: Origins.
- Find faster nerdy things to do or fit them in where we can. Right now, I will probably watch a couple episodes of an anime before Kristen gets home from work. That might not be as possible in a few months, but watching one during down times and being intentional about those things is going to be how we can get in some more nerdy things. Probably won’t be able to play Arkham Horror every night, but getting in a quick round of Sushi Go! Party with Kristen after the kid has gone to bed and before we do, that’s certainly possible. Let those every day nerdy moments still happen whether it’s reading while in bed for a little bit a new fantasy book or watching an anime or sci-fi show.
So, I’m not sure how well most of these will work, and how much brain power Kristen and I’ll have on nights without a ton of sleep. But these are ideas that I wanted to get out of my head and into an article now, because otherwise, while I’m sleep deprived, I’m probably not going to remember any of them.
Do you have kids, or know someone who does, how do you keep nerdy things going yourself or with those people? What changes in nerdy things have you made, and what opportunities has it opened up? I know I’m excited for a few years down the line when I can start playing board games, not the normal kids ones, but some of the new kids games with our kid or introduce them to D&D or some RPG for the first time or until they can do better than me at Mario (that last one probably by the age of one).
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There’s an adage that all stories have been told. That everything written, every new story, is derived from something that has come before it. Your story is the heroes journey, it’s about death, love, taxes, or some other constant in the world, and all the […]
The final of the current Cloverfield movies. Like Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane, Cloverfield Paradox goes in a completely different direction than the previous films. This is, what I would call, the early 2000’s TV Sci-Fi version of Cloverfield. The plot tries to be pretty dramatic with the earth in a power […]
We had some people from Minneapolis, Minnesota reach out to us about their Sci-Fi story podcast. They heard about our podcast, Dungeons and Flagons, and asked if we’d be interested in sharing anything about theirs as they are currently doing a Kickstarter for additional money to get the whole series fully recorded and produced.
Listen to their introductory episode which is up on SoundCloud.
Also, check out their Kickstarter which is up currently.
If you’re interested in helping a produced audio series. Pour some nice Scotch and listen to a new Sci-Fi story.
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Valerian and the Cit of a Thousand Planets – By Luc Besson
Kristen and I got a chance to see this on Tuesday, and it’s officially releasing on July 21st, 2017. So as you’re making your plans for the weekend, I get to help you answer the question: is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets worth seeing?
The story is based on a French comic called Valerian and Laureline, which was first published in 1967 and wrapped up in 2010. Needless to say, they didn’t try and fit the whole story into the movie. The story revolves around the two main characters, Valerian and Laureline, as they try and determine what is going on in Alpha City, the City of a Thousand Planets, and why an attack is happening that is making parts of the city and station uninhabitable. This city was sent away from its decaying Earth orbit after it got too large, but that was 400 years ago. Since then, this city, which had a good number of alien inhabitants while around Earth, has picked up many, many more aliens, and everyone lives together peacefully for the most part. However, there is a zone of radiation that is growing, making parts of the station uninhabitable. So Valerian and Laureline are tasked with helping Commander Filitt, played by Clive Owen, find out who is behind it all.
Some initial thoughts about this movie — first of all, it was better than I expected. I thought it was very likely that we would see nearly all of the thousand alien races, but we probably only saw several dozen It was still a lot, but the trailers made this movie look like it was going to be shiny alien races galore and not much plot. Now, that’s not to say that there is a great plot — there are multiple plot threads and one that runs throughout the whole thing, but it isn’t a tightly constructed plot. In fact, we meet a character pretty early on in the film who seems to be a Chekhov’s gun; however, the film then forgets about him, and we’re left wondering whether there was something left on the editing room floor, or if the writers just forgot to come back to him. The best compliment that I can pay to this film is that it is very reminiscent of The Fifth Element, another Luc Besson film (albeit shinier — which wasn’t always in its favor).
Let’s talk about the acting in this film. The simplest way to put it was that it was kind of a hot mess. This film focuses heavily on the characters of Valerian and Laureline played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. It seems Valerian is supposed to be very like Korben Dallas from The Fifth Element; however, in Bruce Willis’s portrayal of Dallas, the character had rough edges but ends up being generally likable. Though it’s clear that DeHaan’s Valerian is supposed to be likable, he isn’t given the same rough edges and depth that Korben Dallas has. Some of that is because the portrayals of Laureline by Cara Delevingne and Bubble by Rihanna, both whom are evidently supposed to help Valerian grow and develop as a character, do not work all that well as foils to him. Rihanna’s performance generally just seemed to take up space in the film, as it ended up adding nothing besides a dance scene and an attempt at boosting Valerian’s character growth. Cara Delevingne’s performance was better; however, her acting range seems limited, so while she was believable, for the most part, as the government agent partnered with Valerian, she wasn’t as believable as a character who was supposed to grow significantly like Valerian and also encourage him to be a better person. While DeHaan did a decent job of trying to show that growth, the fact that Delevingne’s acting style is reminiscent of Nicholas Cage’s (i.e. they seem to basically play themselves in films) meant that there wasn’t much for DeHaan to play off of. Despite these flaws, though, there were a few solid performances. For example, Sam Spruell, who plays a General on the Alpha Base/City was really enjoyable to watch, and it was compelling to see him make tough decisions.
The aliens in the world are generally well done. However, they weren’t without flaws either. There is an alien race that you meet early on, called the Pearls, that felt like a miss to me. They are generally humanoid and almost remind one of the aliens from Avatar. They were presented as a very happy and peaceful race, and this was conveyed through their flowing, almost dance-like way of moving. This didn’t make any sense to me, though, as it would be impossible to maintain without having much more muscular shoulders than these aliens had; they were generally tall and wispy looking. This was a shame, as we meet them early on, and it gives the film a bit of a rocky start. But the CGI and other special effects were generally quite well done.
One last critical note — I do want to talk a little bit about the length of this film, and some issues with the story itself that I saw, without giving away too much. This film is two and a half hours long, which I felt was a good 45 minutes too long for the material in the film. Now, some of this comes from the creators trying to jam more aliens into this film than needed, but a fair amount of it is just odd pacing, or odd additions of comedy at certain points. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets needed one more good pass-through by the editors, director, and studio to trim the fat. It also needed better direction in terms of the protagonists’ relationship — since the movie takes place in under 24 hours, it feels like the studio determined that the film needed to include a complete love story that resolved by the end. That was just a bad plan, as it felt rushed, and there was no real reason to bring it full-circle. I felt it would have been more compelling if, at the end, they’d had the girl kiss the guy and say something like, “We’ll see where this leads down the road,” to leave things more open-ended. There was no real reason to rush it and force it.
So I’ve talked about how this film was better than I expected — so why was that the case? First off, I’m sure it was partly because it exceeded my expectations by a long way. I was pretty sure from seeing the trailer that while it looked like it could be interesting, it was more likely going to be mostly a slog, punctuated by lots of pretty or impressive-looking aliens with no strong plot to pull it together. However, it did have a decent overarching plot (albeit a bit weak and overdone). Second, I liked it because it has a nostalgia factor due to its simliarity to The Fifth Element. These two films very much feel like they’re essentially the same film, and that’s not a bad thing. I still prefer The Fifth Element to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but there was something familiar about the film that made it more enjoyable for me. Finally, once you figure out that it isn’t trying to be a serious film and that it’s meant to be a popcorn flick, it allows you to enjoy some of the more well-done characters — for example, the Shingouz, who are information brokers. The three of them go to great, comical lengths to get Laureline to like them, and feel like a cross between Alf and half Howard the Duck.
What is my final takeaway from this movie? In short, it’s a popcorn movie; there isn’t much more to it than that. It touches loosely on some deeper themes, like the pitfalls of colonialism, but that mainly felt a bit borrowed from Avatar and didn’t add a great deal to the story. Is it worth seeing in theaters? It certainly was pretty to see in 3D, and there are lot of shiny aliens and special effects, but I don’t know that I would want to pay full price to go see it. This film is not a great piece of filmmaking, but I and most of the theater found it quite enjoyable nonetheless.
Critical Grade: D
Popcorn Grade: B-
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