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March 24, 2023

Victoria Alonso Confirmed Fired; and a Review of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Variety confirms what everyone already knew. Victoria Alonso did not just decided to leave Marvel on a Friday without any warning and without any new job lined up.

She was fired.

The veteran Marvel Studios executive and producer of the nominated film "Argentina, 1985" was stopped on the red carpet, posing for photographers assigned to capture top executives on Hollywood's big night. But something shocked her.

"Look at this! Two women!" Alonso said of the female photographers hired for the gig (as in most corners of Hollywood, women are outnumbered by men on the photo line). Emotional, Alonso insisted the pair put down their cameras and pose for a photo with her in front of a giant Oscar statuette. As they all smiled, she told them, "We've worked so hard to get here and we're not going anywhere."

Eight days later, she was fired as Marvel's president of physical production, post-production, VFX and animation, three individuals familiar with the matter told Variety.


While the cause of Alonso's termination is unclear, the sources said, the decision was made by a consortium including human resources, Disney's legal department and multiple executives including Disney Entertainment co-chairman Alan Bergman (to whom all of Marvel Studios reports). Alonso's longtime boss and Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige felt mired in an impossible situation and, ultimately, did not intervene, one source added. Alonso was blindsided, another insider added.

A representative for Alonso declined to provide comment for this story. Marvel Studios had no comment.

The article flacks for Alonso by noting it was Disney's top executives who ordered Marvel to flood the zone with crap, just to have "content" of dubious value on Disney+.


That breakneck distribution schedule, a product of the pandemic and the need to constantly feed Disney+, was not of Alonso's making. Marvel was far from the only studio tasked with delivering feature-level content for a newly launched streaming service. But it was Alonso's job to get each of those titles through Marvel's gargantuan post-production process. By the summer of 2022, cracks began to show in the company's seemingly impervious armor.

Starting on Reddit, followed by a series of stories published across the internet, visual effects artists began to loudly complain about Marvel's demanding post-production schedules. Complaints ranged from unrelenting overtime to chronic understaffing to the inability to avoid delivering substandard work due to constantly changing deadlines. Some singled out Alonso as a "kingmaker" who would blacklist artists who have "pissed her off in any way."

One visual effects artist recently told Variety that the biggest issue for them was Marvel's inability to provide clear guidelines.

"The show I was on really struggled because it was an established character whose powers they were reconceiving for the MCU," the artist said on the condition of anonymity. Most complaints, they said, came down to one refrain: "Marvel doesn't figure shit out beforehand."


[T]the drumbeat that Something Is Rotten in the State of Marvel Studios only grew louder with the release of "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," a film that finished shooting over a year before it was due in theaters and still weathered repeated criticism for "generic" visual effects that looked like "CGI glop" and were "very flat and cruddy-looking." Even more critical: The movie has grossed $463 million globally to date, the worst performance of the "Ant-Man" franchise and a figure that means that it will struggle to break even in its theatrical window.

Regarding Dungeons and Dragons, I got an exclusive offer to see this movie early. By "Exclusive Offer," I mean Amazon offered tickets to an advance screening to anyone with Prime. I thought "What the heck, I can get a post out of it," and bought a ticket.

The movie opens up for common plebeians like yourselves on March 31.

There are some background reasons to not see this movie, and I don't ever want to recommend a Corporate Enemy-Comms Product without warning people.

But I'll deal with that stuff after the actual review. And this will be a long one.

On the merits of just the actual movie -- putting aside the background stuff -- it's a recommend. I'd almost say an enthusiastic recommend.

If you liked the tone of the trailer, or the Speak with Dead clip, then you will like the movie, as the movie maintains that level of humor throughout.

One of the first scenes, featuring Chris Pine trying to convince a board of pardons to release him from Fantasy Mega-Prison, is laugh-out-loud and puts you in a receptive mood for what comes later.

It's an extremely goofy movie. The Tolkein movies attempted to portray a realistic world-- there is magic and there are fairy-tale races like Elves and Dwarves, but the books and movies are present all this in a plausible enough way that it feels real-ish.

That's not Dungeons & Dragons. The game is anything-goes, kitchen-sink homage -- or rip-off -- of Conan stories, John Carter Barsoom stories, Tolkein's mythology (the Tolkein estate threatened legal action), science fiction, Kung Fu movies, and whatever else interested the game's players in the 1970s, whether it fit in or was plausible or not. The movie apes the game's "It's just a game, don't think about it much" ethos and presents a world which is, essentially, the modern world with modern technology and modern modes of thinking and speaking, but the buildings are made of stone and roofs are made of sod or thatch so you know you're in "the mythic past."

Shakespeare's plays are sometimes done in modern dress, so they're ancient, medieval, or Renaissance stories but in modern day clothes. This is the opposite -- it's a thoroughly modern world, except people dress up like they're going to a Ren Faire (with a loose dress code that permits anachronisms). In one heist, each member of the team has magic "sending stones" allowing them to talk and hear their other team members at a distance. In other words, they're cell phones except they're rocks, and the team members just hold the rocks up to their faces and talk like they're teenagers at the mall.

"Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," and likewise, sufficiently plentiful magic is indistinguishable from technology.

At no point will you feel "transported to another world."

It's all very dumb and dopey but it's also good-natured. It's eager to please, and that's a rare thing nowadays. And, as one review said, "Chris Pine is the most Chris Pine in this movie than in any Chris Pine movie in recent memory." He's great, and I think that this kind of performance will make him a lot of money going forward. He's in Steve Trevor mode here, only sillier.

True to the spirit of the game, the movie rips off everything and just paints it with a light coating of "Dungeons and Dragons IP." The plot is lifted right from Guardians of the Galaxy -- a team of misfits and losers is assembled by a charismatic-but-flawed hero who still grieves the death of someone he loved. The movie even steals the "We're all losers, we've all lost" speech that Chris Pratt gives in that movie, and at about the same time in the film's running length. For a second they disguise it by having Chris Pine talk about being "failures" rather than "losers," but then nope, he starts talking about losing everything, just like Starlord did.

Oh, and it takes even more from Guardians of the Galaxy, introducing a warrior who does not understand idioms or irony. And there's a... special surprise I won't reveal connecting it still closer to Guardians of the Galaxy.

The goofy, half-winking tone and the colorful, completely-unconvincing sets and backgrounds are lifted right from Thor: Ragnarok. Including using Led Zeppelin in the trailer. I think Ragnarok used "The Immigrant Song," this uses "Whole Lotta Love."

Much like Thor: Ragnarok, this movie is just a comedy containing some action. It's not an action-comedy, just a comedy with some fighting. The comedy is too silly for there to be much concern about the effects of violence on a human's body.
The action is fun and it's all fast-paced, but you're not going to feel much in the way of suspense or thrills.

There's a magic implement that duplicates a beloved piece of technology from a beloved video game. It's a straight rip-off.

Just everything in this is pretty much stolen from something else, and it doesn't really matter, because Chris Pine is so funny in the lead as the Jim Rockford-style guy who gets by on charm and tries to avoid fighting. He's not a coward, exactly, he just knows his talents lay somewhere other than getting hit in the face.

Hugh Grant is also very funny, and at his Hugh-Grantiest, as the sleazy but charming conman "Forge." As in a superhero movie, he's Chris Pine's dark reflection. Chris Pine's character fell to thieving due to a moral lapse; Hugh Grant's character had no morals at all to lapse. One part of his character is wondering, and hoping, that somewhere inside of him is a good man. Spoiler: There's really not.

If you actually have played D&D, there's just reference upon reference and fan service upon fan service.

The movie name-drops or features a lot of stuff from the rulebooks -- particular spells, particular major personages -- and a lot of names from the Forgotten Realm settings, including all the places they made videogames about. It features a lot of the D&D "intellectual property" monsters, the weird gamey monsters the game made up (or from A.E. Van Vogt), rather than creatures from folklore or fantasy lore.

The movie takes the sensible position that you've already seen the Lord of the Rings movies, and there's no way this movie is going to beat Lord of the Rings, so they're not going to go classic, they're going to go weird.

The typical fantasy races of elves, dwarves, and halflings are only present in the background. One of the main characters is a half-elf; and he's half-black, so, twist. (His lineage is black on the human side.)

The main characters are not the typical Thief, Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, but Bard, Barbarian, Druid, and Sorcerer. Yeah for non-players it's pretty much just Thief, Fighter, Cleric, and Magic-User, but they're leaning into the stuff that makes D&D Legally Distinct from Tolkein.

The reference I got the most excited about comes near the end of Act 2. The heroes are forced to fight for their lives, and we quickly see another two groups of heroes in a similar position. One of those two groups will be highly recognizable to anyone who grew up geek in the 80s.

But you have to be sharp eyed, because they're shown very quickly. Spoiler-- don't click on this if you want to be surprised during the movie. But if you're curious, here is that other group of adventurers.

I mean, it's exact. (I never even watched that, but I've seen their likenesses.)

Given that that group was a big D&D inside joke, I'm wondering who the other group was. One of them was a dwarf. Maybe they're characters from the D&D videogames? I dunno, I never played those.

Anyway, a surprisingly fun and even competent movie. It succeeds at doing the things it sets out to do.

I would recommend it...

except for all the reasons I would hold back that recommendation:

Hasbro, the corporation that owns Dungeons and Dragons and is getting a fee for this movie and counting on this movie to expand the brand, is woke and leftwing. Hasbro even gets a production credit through E-One entertainment, which is a Hasbro company.

They're making money off it, and they don't deserve to. Over the past five or seven years they've embraced every single woke demand that lunatic activists on Twitter have demanded of them, including filling their quasi-Medieval game with gay and transgender characters, including specifications as to their preferred pronouns.

Woke Twitter activists told them that "orcs shouldn't be evil, no race is evil, to even suggest that is racist!" so now all the traditional enemy races in the game aren't evil, but range from good to neutral to evil, and are really just misunderstood and maybe victimized by evil humans and their human-like kin.

Twitter activists also told them to get rid of racial adjustments -- like, that halflings take a -2 to strength because they're the size of children -- so now every race can do everything, and halflings can be as strong as Conan, because it would be racist to suggest that some fantasy races have any traits that differentiate them from any other race.

Crap like that. And if you complain about it, well, you're a troglodyte. But don't worry, troglodytes aren't evil any more, and they're also not stupid. Don't make any assumptions about troglodytes, Bigot.

#DoBetter, bigot. #DoBetter.

Another reason you might not want to patronize Hasbro is that, despite posing as progressive leftwingers who really care about social justice, Get This, Hasbro are actually a greedy soulless corporation filled with virtue-signalling shit-libs who want to shake the public down for every red cent in their pockets.

I know, unbelievable, right?

They just tried to screw a large section of their player base because they felt that the game was "undermonetized," and were bothered that once you bought the rulebooks you just owned them and were no longer sending money to Hasbro.

They are trying to create a recurring-payment model for the game, where you keep paying them every month -- for a "virtual tabletop" service -- as some videogames do.

They also attempted to claw back their "Open Game License," which allows third parties to make adventures and rules supplements for the game without worrying about being sued for doing so. The OGL itself says that it's irrevocable; but Hasbro decided, well, we'll revoke it anyway, and replace it with a new OGL that gives us a cut out of sales for projects that make a lot of money. They saw people making a lot of money on Kickstarter for new adventures or monster books, and decided they would like some money now, please and thank you.

They also gave themselves the right to cancel anyone's project, if they, in their corporate wisdom, decided your project was bad for the image they were projecting. If you wrote a supplement in which there were no "preferred pronouns," maybe they'd send you a cease-and-desist. Who knows. Their power to terminate was without limits.

They also wrote up a new term in their open license which said that they could steal any content you yourself wrote. If you created a new type of giant, the new license gave them the right to just take it and add it to their own products without compensation. Now this last one was probably just put in for the same reasons movie studios make you sign a disclaimer saying you have no rights to sue them if they steal your script. They don't really want to steal your script (usually); but they don't want to be sued if they produce a script which has some similarities to yours. So they just make you sign over any right you have to sue for plagiarism.

I think the "we can steal your stuff" thing is just to avoid legal hassles if they independently came up with new giant like the new giant you made up. They want to just say, "you can't sue, we already own it, check the license."

But still.

By the way, in case you're thinking "They own the game, they can set whatever restrictions in their license that they like," well, the first OGL stated that it could not be replaced by a more restrictive one, because any user could opt into the terms of the first, very generous OGL. They said they could not do what they were now trying to do, to force you into an ungenerous license.

Also bear in mind, what can they sue for, exactly? It's established law that you can't sue for game rules, just the particularized expression of those game rules. You can't plagiarize their actual writing -- but you can steal game concepts and mechanics and the law says that's not stealing.

The OGL basically said that they wouldn't sue people for just using their rules to create compatible products, but in fact, this is barely even a concession: They probably couldn't sue for just making a compatible product. Or, they could sue, but they probably wouldn't win. The main legal threat here was just to file a suit which they couldn't win, but which would cost you money to fight.

D&D players rebelled against this corporate crap and began abandoning the game for alternatives and, in fact, threatening to boycott the Dungeons and Dragons movie itself, which really seemed to alarm Hasbro. Or it alarmed the studio, maybe, who then put the squeeze on Hasbro to stop f***ing everything up.

Hasbro did retract their plans to change the license, so everything is, allegedly, better now.

But they only relented under duress. When they thought they could just roll right over people, they were prepared to do just that.

I don't know. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Finally, in one of the worst own-goals I've ever seen from a team of Hollywood creatives, the directors decided to announce that their favorite part of the movie is how they "emasculate" the male leads.

'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' Directors Admit To "Emasculating" Film's Male Leads, Claims This Was Done "Not For Woke Reasons" But "Because It's Funny And Fun And Fresh"

Spencer Baculi
March 7, 2023

In this climate, with the male audience just sick to death of constant attacks from woke Hollywood, they announce that the main selling point of their movie is emasculating male characters?

Doing their part to continue one of the most uninspired entertainment in recent years, the directing duo of Johnathan Goldstein and Jon Daley have admitted their their upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves emasculates its male leads -- though they claim this was not done for "woke reasons", but because they thought the idea was "funny and fun and fresh".

Goldstein and Daley, perhaps best known as the screenwriters behind the titular web-slinger's first official MCU outing in Spider-Man: Homecoming, revealed their less-than-flattering approach to their film's male character during a recent interview with Variety's Adam B. Vary.

Following brief discussions regarding their own personal histories with the original game and their ostensibly-respectful-but-ultimately-cynical feelings towards working with established IPs, the pair were eventually met with an observation from Vary that "the lead female characters -- Michelle Rodriguez's Holga and Sophia Lillis' Doric -- are at the forefront of the action scenes, and the men are often hanging back."
Sophia Lillis plays Doric in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures and eOne.

"That was not an attempt at wokeness on our part," defended Goldstein in turn.

"Swear to God, it wasn't," Daley backed up his creative partner. "We liked that Holga is the bruiser that does the dirty work for Edgin, and he doesn't like to get his hands dirty. We also love emasculating leading men. "

"Just because it's funny and fun and fresh," said the former Bones star. "It was the dynamic we had with Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman's characters in [our previous co-directorial outing] Game Night."

Emasculating male characters is not "funny," and it's certainly not "fresh;" it's done in almost every single movie directed at a majority-male audience nowadays.

But here's why this is an own-goal: They don't really emasculate the male characters. They're accusing their movie of a woke provocation that it's actually not guilty of.

As I mentioned, the Chris Pine character is like Jim Rockford. Or Brett Maverick. Or the sheriff in Support Your Local Sheriff. Or any James Garner role not set in World War II. He's the charming guy who doesn't want to fight. He can fight -- a little -- but he'd prefer accomplishing things by wit or charisma.

This doesn't make him "emasculated." Yes, the Holga the Barbarian character played by Michelle Rodriguez is incredibly strong and gifted at fighting. I mean, she's a 120 pound woman in a male-targeted action movie; of course she can take out 220 pound stuntmen with ease. How could it be otherwise? Everyone knows how much more physically gifted women are then men, as all the women now losing to men in athletic competitions prove.

But that's just a stupid current year trope. I didn't really see this as "emasculating" him. He was the brains, she was the brawn. Both had their specialty. I'd say he was "emasculating" him if she disrespected him, talked down to him, insulted him, or if she proved that Girls Are Just Better Than Boys by also being better at his specialty, planning and leading, than he is.

But none of that happened. They're platonic best friends. They both respect what the other brings to the table. And Pine's character, while not really good at fighting except for what the game would call "sneak attacks," is actually good at planning. He's not shown as some buffoon. He's not an ineffectual man who has to be saved by smarter, more capable women.

All of his plans either work, or almost work, and fail just because you can't plan for every unexpected event. He's competent, in his particular niche.

The other male character who gets "emasculated" is the half-elven sorcerer who "has no confidence." The girl he likes, the Druid, doesn't like him back because he lacks confidence, and his lack of confidence makes him incompetent at magic.

Guess what his character arc is. I mean, is it "emasculating" to go through a character arc?

Anyway, it is true that the girls are the main combat strength of the group throughout most of the movie -- the Druid girl beats up things not in her human form, by shapeshifting into big dangerous animals -- but, despite this, it kinda made sense in context. It didn't feel that woke.

At least, not by current year standards.

Like I said, if Chris Pine's character were put down a lot and if his plans kept failing -- if he was just another worthless man (spit) that women don't need like fish don't need bicycles -- I'd say that's emasculating.

But he's not. He's the star of the movie and critical for the team's success.

Yes, the Druid does question his plan-making abilities:

But she just met him. She doesn't know that he's got a 16 Intelligence. (And a Wisdom of 8.)

It's just bizarre that the directors attempted to paint a movie which isn't really that bad as far as male characters as the typical woke piece-of-sh**.

So I don't know what the hell to tell you. On one hand, I had a great time watching it, and chuckled throughout.

On the other hand, Hasbro is a woke asshole corporation and the directors of the movie are selling it as woke.

Now here's a bit of wokeness you probably won't even notice:

The bad guy organization in this is called "The Red Wizards of Thay." They being a country.

But remember what I said? That lunatic Twitter activists have demanded that no race be evil?

Well, they couldn't let you think that all Thayans are bad so halfway through the movie they add a new character who is morally pure and upright Paladin, who is good at everything (better than the main characters, in fact) and who is Thayan.

Just so you don't think that all members of this fantasy country are bad.

It's weird, he's not a member of the main four characters, but shows up for an extended sequence in which he almost becomes the star, and then, once you learn your lesson (along with Chris Pine's character) not to hate all members of this fictitious country Thay, he just peaces out and is out of the movie.

The actor also appears to be Middle Eastern and speaks with a pseud-Arabic accent.

Are we being lectured about Islamophobia in a movie that takes place in another universe?

It's not a bad part of the movie, but it's... weird. What other movie introduces what seems like a Main Character Hero halfway through and then has him leave just before the climax?

Just to teach you not to be bigots towards Thay. Hashtag #ThayDidNothingWrong.

So you tell me. What the heck recommendation am I supposed to give?

The movie isn't really woke, but the corporation and the directors behind it are.

Feel free to use this as your own movie/tv/book recommendations thread.

digg this
posted by Ace at 04:10 PM

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