Black Messiah, Curse of the Dragon Slayer, and Retro Gaming


What I’ve been listening to…

With the ongoing absence of a local modern rock radio station, I’m finding it more and more difficult to discover new music in my preferred genre, so I’ve been working to expand my tastes as a means of musical survival. To that end, I’ve come to rely on a combination of Amazon’s music offerings, Pandora when I have wifi, YouTube/VEVO, and Facebook.

Facebook is where I discovered D’Angelo and the Vanguard‘s album, Black Messiah. A friend and former co-worker praised it after a noisy knitting circle at her cafe of choice drove her to put on some headphones to get some peace.

Black Messiah

I’ll be frank. It’s a soul/RMB album.

That’s never really been my music of choice. I don’t dislike it; I’ve just never craved it. So, I was skeptical of the recommendation, but I did some research. I sampled some tracks. I enjoyed what I heard and ordered the CD and received an MP3 version, which I immediately downloaded to my phone. I got the CD in the mail a couple of days later. And yes, the album is a little heavy on politics, but if you can listen to Rage Against the Machine and not be bothered by it, then you won’t mind this one. It also helps that even after listening to the album over a dozen times with earbuds, headphones, computer speakers, and stereo speakers, I can’t understand the majority of the lyrics. Some might consider that a drawback, but it works for me. The emotion and timbre of the vocals fit seamlessly with the other instruments. You may not understand what’s being said, but you can feel it.

The stand out tracks (or the ones I bob my head to most at work) for me are “1,000 Deaths” and “Sugah Daddy.”

“1,000 Deaths” is easily the most serious of the two. It just marches along like a smooth bad ass. And-this is silly-but the track title reminds me of a certain luchador.

“Sugah Daddy” just sounds fun. And I can picture D’Angelo and his band smiling at each other while they perform it. I just kind of hope it’s not really about something terrible, because then I’ll feel like a jerk. Also, it reminds me of Bart’s Nightmare, the limbo dreamworld stage where you try to hop onto the homework papers. Go figure.

So, give either of those two tracks a listen or try some others if you’re curious. There are plenty enough reviews out there for this album, too, if you’d like a more informed opinion.

What I’ve been watching…

I had a mild headache one night not too long ago, so I took a break from copy editing to lie down and watch whatever was on Netflix. This mediocre-rated fantasy movie, Curse of the Dragon Slayer, showed up in my recommendations. There was an elf girl with cool eyes, some orcs, and a dwarf on the cover art. So, I was sold. I’m a fantasy author; this stuff is my bread and butter, usually.

Just a quick note, the movie goes by an alternate title or two. I didn’t know this until I looked it up on IMDB later, but the hyperlink goes to the IMDB page.

Curse of the Dragon Slayer Cover

While this movie has a 4.9 rating on IMDB, I wouldn’t describe it as mediocre, boring, or middle of the road. It’s a combination of extremes. It’s sugar and vinegar. And that’s a shame, because I think with just a few script tweaks, tweaks that would have actually saved on the already apparently low budget, it could have been a pretty solid little cult fantasy flick. Heck, they could have worked out a deal with Paizo to make it into a Pathfinder movie (if it were better), by just changing names and such. The old Golem would have been pleased.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the movie’s problems:

  • Unrealistic fights against multiple opponents… man, was this bad. The evil minions would fight the heroes a couple at a time while the majority of them bounced in the background. They’d have been better off adjusting the plot so there wasn’t an army of minions to dance awkwardly in the background.
  • Underdeveloped and unresolved character story arcs.
  • Teased subverting the classic paladin (cleric?) hooks up with elf scenario, but didn’t subvert it, and then didn’t deliver on the cliche. See the point before this one.
  • The BBEG went down faster than the BBEG in a Season 1 scenario against an 6-man party comprised entirely of paladins and barbarians… That’s a Pathfinder reference… sorry…
  • Teased the whole rape the female captive bit, because it’s the new dead parents.

Here’s a breakdown of the movie’s strengths:

  • Danielle Chuchran as the elf Nemyt Akaia. She looked great and was a lot of fun to watch.
  • Also, props to Paul D. Hunt as Kullimon the Black.
  • The chemistry among the three main characters.
  • Most of the paladin’s story arc… They really needed to expand on this more.
  • There’s an evil dwarf armed with muskets and black powder bombs.
  • Some good one-on-one melees.
  • It was better than the D&D movies

Get some friends together. Have some beers. Put this movie on. There are plenty of worse ways to spend an evening.

What I’ve been playing…

I picked up the Gamerz Tek 8-Bit Entertainment System. I might have been a little buzzed at the time, but I’ve been wanting to try one of the new retro consoles. I still have a functional NES, but why use it, except for special occasions? Sometimes, I just need to blow off some steam and run through some Ninja Gaiden or Metal Storm. And this little guy, being about the size of 2~3 stacked NES cartridges, let’s me do this with a lot less fuss.

I unpacked it and hooked it up to my HDTV. It was packed pretty neatly. It smelled new and felt sturdier than I feared it would be. I popped in some Ninja Gaiden and slashed through the first few stages. Unfortunately, the controllers it came with became randomly unresponsive. So, I plugged in one of my original NES controllers and it worked fine. I’m debating if it’s worth trying to exchange the system for another one to get some functioning controllers. The controllers for retro consoles like these never get high marks…

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