I’m On Board

I love board games… and party games, trivia games, word games, card games, puzzles, and even a few video games. Yep, I’m one of those people.

I also love to have friends over to my house. Sometimes we watch  TV, sometimes we enjoy a movie, often we just sit and talk for hours. But I’ve always found that one of the quickest ways to get to know people is through playing games with them.

The other night we had some friends over for dinner, and afterward we played a game. It had been a very long time since we had done this, and we were all feeling a little brain-dead after a long hard week. So let’s try something easy. A movie trivia video game would do it. We pulled out MOVIE Scene It?: 2nd Edition. If you haven’t played before, I highly recommend it.

Click to see and purchase!It’s technically a video game that you play through your DVD player. There are trivia cards, too, where you ask and answer questions about pop culture, movie slogans, and the like, but it mostly plays out on your television screen. There are pictograms, fill-in-the-blanks, still pictures with items removed, and movie-poster identifications—and lots of other little things like that. But my favorite category is the movie clips.

The game plays out a short scene from a film, and you (or yourClick to see and purchase! team) must answer a question following the clip.Now sometimes the question is easy. “What is this movie?” Somewhere in Time. Sometimes it’s more difficult. “Name the actress from this scene.” Jane Seymour. And sometimes the questions are all about paying very close attention to the set or something the characters say. “What is the room number on door behind them?” 116.

It’s just fun. And after a difficult week of work or school, it’s a great way to spend a few hours with friends. Scene It? even has a setting called “Party Play” where you don’t even need a person operating the remote control. It will just spin out question after question for anyone to answer.

Scene it? also has game sets and player packs for classic movies, classic TV, the Star Trek universe, James Bond, and others. If you’re especially adept at Disney movies, there’s a game just for you.

Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase!         Click to see and purchase!

What are your favorite board games or movie games? I’d love to hear!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Red Shirt Diaries

There is a well-known rule in writing, movies, and story-telling in general. It is that you must kill your Darling. That beloved side-kick with the fun sense of humor—that adorable and plucky comic relief with the gleam in his eye—must die.

 I hate this rule!

I hate this rule.

Of course, it’s absolutely right. There comes a moment in every great story when the main character has been beaten down and hasn’t an ounce of strength left to carry on. They have lost all reason to fight. They have weighed the costs, and the battle just isn’t worth it any longer. And that’s when it happens.

Their best friend, from whom they may have just walked away, takes one for the team. They’re gone. Lost to the enemy. Sliced down by the antagonist’s most powerful weapon, or caught in the head by the unseen sniper. It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that the protagonist sees it happen. The hero is there to catch the Darling in their arms and reassure them that they will be avenged.

Thus the hero renews the courage that they didn’t even know they had in order to vanquish the foe and save the world. This is why the rule works, and why it’s employed by every great writer and allowed by every avid reader or movie fan. Notice the sad eyes of this dog toy? Click to purchase! 

But what about “Red Shirts”—are they considered Darlings? Hardly.

For anyone who might not be a Trekkie, a Red Shirt is the nickname given by fans to the Star Trek character that appears in the opening scene of an episode, usually wearing a red shirt, and usually with a name like Johnson or Smith. This man may make a remark of some kind regarding how peaceful the planet they’re on might be. Then, from out of nowhere, an alien melts him into a puddle of goo. Captain Kirk and Spock are now forced back to the Enterprise to defend the rest of the crew, and most likely the entire galaxy.

A Red Shirt is not a Darling, because the audience has no invested interest in him. He is there merely for exposition—to reveal the imminent threat to the main characters, and to start the story rolling. Even the main character’s interest in him is usually minimal. Someone out there is killing people indiscriminately. This is how they’re doing it. The charge to the hero is simple: find out why and stop them before someone else gets hurt.

And if you’re watching closely, you will know right away who the Darling is, and you can begin to prepare yourself for their end. Maybe. You hope it won’t happen, but you know it will. You can’t watch, but you must. You can’t turn another page, and yet the pages turn.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Far Out!

I love space movies! Whether they claim to be set in the near or distant future, or “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” I love them.

I believe that the stars have always provided humanity with sparks for the imagination. How many stories have been told around campfires as listeners stare up into the Milky Way? How many voyages have our dreams taken to distant worlds?

The movies—from the very beginning—have been along for the ride. One of the first commercial films made took us to the moon, and countless motion pictures since then have carried us to Mars, Venus, and beyond our own solar system. Space travel of any kind fascinates us. It holds fast to that corner of our mind and occasionally sends us on daydreams of wonder.

What are your favorite space movies? Are you a fan of the Alien franchise? Star Wars?  Star Trek? Maybe you like the classic serials like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers? I love the characters and the human relationships that give these star-set adventures universal appeal.

Some have garnered critical attention and A-list actors. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) took on the traditionally campy space adventure and focused on the serious silence of space. Gregory Peck and Richard Crenna headlined Marooned (1969).

My October picks for space alien romps embrace the goofy, pre-Apollo missions. I adore classics like Rocketship XM and Destination Moon, both from 1950, and Cat-Women of the Moon from 1953. All of these movies send their courageous characters into undiscovered countries beyond our atmosphere and throw alien creatures, meteors and other dangers their way. Are they serious character studies with profound life-lessons? Not at all! Are they fun for the whole family? Absolutely! Pop a big bag of corn, put on your footy-pajamas, and let the credits roll!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

What Makes a Story Science Fiction?

After spending a weekend at FenCon IX in Dallas, I discovered a whole new world of science fiction. I’ve always been a sci-fi fan. I grew up with Star Trek and Star Wars. I just always thought of science fiction as any story set in space. I had no idea.

I found myself surrounded by men in kilts paying homage to Highlander. There were super heroes and swashbucklers everywhere. It seems even Sherlock Holmes himself was a sci-fi guru. Muppets—yeah, there were pigs in space. Phineas and Ferb? If a satellite crashes to Earth, Candace is in charge—conditionally. And don’t get me started on Perry the Platypus and his gadgets. Where is he, anyway?

We discussed Ray Bradbury. We chatted about fairy tales. We spoke of Tolkien and Lewis. We talked about Wonder Woman, Superman, the Hulk and Iron Man.We shared the love of Malcolm Reynolds as well as The Doctor.

We watched movies about Mars, a trailer for The Hobbit, and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. Even Monty Python held a place of honor.

There were fairies, furries, foxes, and fans of every color, literally. One woman in a Starfleet uniform was painted Kelly green from head to toe. Another young lady wore a purple princess dress and My Little Pony ears, tail, and unicorn horn. Anime and Steampunk both made bold statements at the convention. It was fantastic, in every sense of the word.ked at science fiction with new eyes. I walked through the artists’ gallery in wonder. There were bronze sculptures, jewelry, large-scale paintings and small-scale pen and inks. My husband won a watercolor painting of Robby the Robot, which will soon reside in our game room next to our collection of movie posters. My son won a painting of a Cthulhu character inspired by Lovecraft. I’m not a huge fan of tentacles, but the painting is lovely.

Every element of the convention opened my mind to the definition and possibilities of science fiction. I’m looking at nearly every movie I’ve ever watched through a new filter. I’m thinking about all of the stories I’ve read with a new appreciation.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.