Emerald City Comicon Day 2

On Saturday, we got up early in the morning because our friend Anna was going to meet us at our place before we left for the con.  Anna only got tickets for Saturday, but this was her first con, and she didn’t really know what to expect.  Comic conventions are awesome and crazy wonderful, but they can also be chaotic, crowded, and overwhelming, so I have to give props to anyone willing to brave it for the first time!

Once we got there, we quickly picked up Anna’s badge, and then went up to the main hall by escalator again skipping the packed line to get into the showroom.  This time there was also a line to get on the elevator, though not nearly as bad.  What WAS bad were the convention center representatives, who I guess hadn’t really talked to the people running the con or something?  They didn’t seem to know how the line was supposed to be organized, or didn’t know how to handle the crowd, but they were just randomly screaming at people to go here, then go there, then you can’t be hear, contradicting each thing they wanted us to do with the next, and being very unpleasant about it at the same time.  So naturally, the crowd completely ignored them, which just made them more angry.  But then they started letting people into the top floor, and the line moved away from the convention center reps anyway.

For day two, we started by going to the “Wil Wheaton Vs. Paul and Storm” panel, which I guess is actually a show that they tour.  Paul and Storm are a musical/comedy duo I was not very familiar with, but Ellen was.  I was just figuring on going to see Wil Wheaton’s panel on Sunday, but Ellen really wanted to see this one too, and it was very much the right choice.  Their show was quirky and histerical.  I’ve always known Wil Wheaton was good public speaker, but he does stand up (I guess the show could be considered stand up?) very well, and played off Paul and Storm nicely.  Plus, I got to see the greatest 36 seconds on the internet (just google “kitty sail” and laugh…. and be sure to watch WITH music).

After that the three of us tooled around the show room a little bit, got a quick bite, and made our way down to the gaming area for a panel on Wil Wheaton’s web show, Tabletop.  Wil wasn’t their, just the producer of the show, but he was very informative and gave us a lot of background and behind the scenes info on the show.  He also gave us lots of suggestions on running our own game nights, and talked about what kinds of game were good for different situations, and what kinds worked well for episodes of the show (as well as what kinds didn’t).  While he couldn’t out right say it, he STRONGLY suggested the first season will be coming out on DVD in the not too distant future.  Then of course he took the opportunity to plug International Tabletop Day.  He told us all about what the day was supposed to accomplish, how to participate, suggested using the #tabletopday hashtag on twitter as much as possible, and the like.  Being a fan of the show, it was pretty cool!

After eating a real meal, we headed back to the show floor to check out the artists and booths.  One of the things that’s awesome about Comicon is just seeing all the artists there, signing autographs, talking to people about there work, and often drawing sketches for people (usually for a price, but what do you expect?).  We’d looked around the show floor before but this was really the first extended amount of time we’d spent there.  Then, I bumped into my old DM, Seth!  This is the second ECCC I’ve run into him, and it was great to catch up.  I have been too busy to play in his campaign for a while now, so this was fun!  At one point when we were on the show floor I found the booth for Working Class Villains.  They are a group of independent artists that produce action figure inspired works of art.  They had an incredible 3D representation of the dungeon of Castle Grayskull on display that you can actually look up online (they have it for sale on their website).

Our last panel of the day was Gillian Anderson.  I used to be a big X-File fan back in high school, and Ellen has recently become a fan herself, so we were kindof excited.  Well…. she’s certainly aged well.  She’s not really red headed anymore, but as beautiful (if not more so) than she was during the show.  But that’s really all I can say in favor of the panel.  She was a pretty terrible public speaker.  Nervous, flighty, talking a lot without really saying anything.  I guess she did have some bizarre questions to deal with (one young lady told her that Skully was her role model, and was Ms. Anderson familiar with Skully and Mulder slash fiction?…. yuck)  Her best moment was the last question where the guy just rambled on for 10 minutes until she pantomimed handing him a joint.

After this, I we went down to the bottom floor of the gaming area to try a few games.  We started with a few games of Tsuro, which is one that was featured on Tabletop.  It’s very light weight, and quick (you can play a game in 10-15 minutes) and will definitely be featured at our Tabletop Day game night.  We followed this up with a strange little game called Dungeon World.  At this point we were trying games brought by the Seattle Story Games group.  Story games are RPG’s that are more narrative based then character based, and often are played without a Game Master.  Dungeon World seems as though it tries to split the difference between more mainstream RPG’s (sharing a large amount of DNA with D&D specifically) and the more indie type story games.  While it does have a GM, it has a number of mechanics meant to help drive story, and give a greater amount of narrative control to the players.  I am not sure what I think of it.  Conceptually I like the idea, but one play through, though enjoyable, was not enough for me to decide how successfully it hit its goals.  After that, we played a lovely little game called Zombie Cinema.  This one was a full fledged story game, proudly showing it’s indie roots.  It’s a GMless RPG where the players ultimately build a Zombie movie from the ground up.  Intriguingly, and unlike just about every other Zombie themed game I have ever heard of, the point is not to get your player to survive, but to build the best zombie movie possible.  As such, getting killed in the game can actually be viewed as a GOOD thing!  I still need to play it a few more times to get a real feel for it, but I think I just might be in love with this game.  And it comes in an old fashioned video cassette box, how awesome is that??  (I’ve already ordered a copy, and will post a full review ASAP!!!)

Well, that about wraps it up for day 2!  I can’t believe how much we did over the weekend.  Up next, Day 3!

Advertisements

Emerald City Comicon Day 1

We went to Emerald City Comicon last night (a birthday present from Ellen!), and it was bigger and better then ever!  The line up of celebrity guests was just mind blowing.  There was no way for us to see everyone we wanted too (bigger shows mean more programing, and it’s to the point that you aren’t able to go to everything you’d like) but I was more then happy with what we did see!

Our first day was Friday, and we got there bright and early to pick up our badges.  Unfortunately so did everyone else!  I don’t know what the stats are this year, but last year 50,000 people had tickets (to give some idea of how large the event is).  We got our badges quickly enough, but the line of people waiting to get in was HUUUGE!  Fortunately, our first event was on the top floor, which is somewhat separate from the main floor, and didn’t have the giant line.  When 10:00 rolled around, they opened up, and we got great seats.  Some people might say the seats don’t matter THAT much, because they have two giant screens in the auditorium to see what’s going on on stage, but it really does.  Seeing someone on screen is not the same as seeing them right close up in real life!

So, we had good seats for our first panel, which was Felicia Day.  If you don’t know who she is, you can look her up on Wiki easy enough, but for a quick rundown; she is an actress known for a number of works, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, The Guild webseries, and Eureka.  She also writes and produces The Guild, and in the past year started a You-Tube channel called Geek & Sundry which airs geek centered programming such as The Guild, Tabletop, Dark Horse motion comics, Learning Town, and several others.  Felicia always comes across in almost everything she does as real cute and adorable, so I was shocked and amazed to discover that in real life she’s actually… cute and adorable!  She talked a lot about what goes into producing both a web series, and running a youtube channel (hint: a LOT of work) as well as talking about some of her experiences both in the acting world, and in the geek community (if you don’t know, she’s very involved in the geek community, being know as an avid video gamer).  After that, she took questions from the audience and just shot the shit with us for a while.  She also took the opportunity to promote upcoming International Tabletop Day, which celebrates on of the webseries on her channel.

We stayed in our seats for the next panel, Mr. Billy Dee Williams!  The man is starting to show his years, but he’s still slick as ever.  I feel bad for him, as it seemed like almost every other question he got was Star Wars related (I got the chance to ask a question myself, and asked him about playing Harvey Dent in Batman).  Regrettably he had no information for the audience about weather or not he’d be returning to the new Star Wars movies to play Lando again (he said that the script was still being written, and he didn’t know yet what they were doing with it), but he did say the character was very important and he didn’t want anyone else to ever play it.  He also told us that IF it was offered, he would certainly take the part!  At this point his manager spoke to the audience telling us if we wanted to see him in star wars again, to write Disney, Lucasfilm, and J.J. Abrams and ask for him.  He did also get to talk a little about the rest of career, working with people he admired, and even talked about some of his painting work (did YOU know he was a painter?)

After that we tooled around the show floor for a bit, checking out the booths, the merchandise, and the costumes.  Some people come in really crazy costumes.  Some people come in really….  funky costumes, but it’s all in good fun.  We stopped at one booth where I talked to Tom Cook, who worked in Filmation on several classic cartoon shows, including Bravestarr, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,  Star Trek The animated Series, and The Ghostbusters (often known as the OTHER Ghostbusters, as it had nothing to do with the movie, but rather was based on a TV show from back in the 60’s or 70’s so in some ways pre dates what we think of as “The Real” Ghostbusters).

After that Ellen wanted to see a panel on being geek and feminine.  It was entertaining certainly having 4 panelists who are all very interesting personalities (though the only one I was actually familiar with was Bonnie Burton who runs in a number of the same circles as Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day) but I think Ellen was rather disappointed in it.  It ended up being more about sexism in geek community and touched on more general elitism in the community (both of which ARE very real problems these days) when Ellen had thought it would be more about resources for geek girls to both explore their femininity and their geekness.  In Ellen’s word’s it ended up being more of a giant group hug.  I would agree, though I do think Ms. Burton at least made some very insightful comments.

That was our last panel for the day.  After that we played some retro games in their retro arcade (well, rather we played the Star Wars pinball machine…. awesome!) and then looked around the gaming area.  They expanded the gaming area this year, adding an extra level, and it was really quite impressive.  The focus was more on table top games, like boardgames, RPG’s, and card games, then video games.  They regrettably didn’t have the paint your own mini table this year which was a blast last year, but you can’t have everything.  We went out for dinner, and saw Chris Tulach (the organized play manager for Wizards of the Coast who we used to see at Uncles Games all the time) at another table.  That was kindof funny because we ran into him last year at the con too, but we didn’t go up and say hi not wanting to interrupt.  We went back into the gaming area to try out some story games (a type of RPG which plays without a GM and is generally more centered on the idea of producing a good story as a group) bt they were closing down, so we decided to call it a night.

And that was just the first day!  I’ll have a write up on day two tomorrow, and maybe some pictures (and MAYBE a video!)

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ll do my best not to give away too many secrets of the movie!

First things first, this is the best movie I have seen in the Theater this year.  Better then Spider-Man, better then Prometheus, better then The Avengers.

Second things second, this is my favorite film in what I call the Dark Knight series, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.  It is my favorite, but whether or not it’s the actual best, well, there your mileage may vary.  Many are going to like The Dark Knight better, as it’s closer to source material, and some will like Batman Begins because it’s a more traditional comic book movie.  The Dark Knight Rises tries some different things than these two though, and in my opinion, succeeds for it.

Christopher Nolan, the director, drew on several Batman stories from the comics for this one.  The one that strikes me the most is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  While it takes little if anything from the actual plot of that story, it feels very much a spiritual brother.  In Returns, Batman puts on the mask again as an old man, years after retiring, to battle the Joker, Two Face, several gangs, and in the end even throws down with Superman.  In Rises, we have a Bruce Wayne who abandoned the Batman persona 8 years prior (at the end of The Dark Knight) who put’s on the mask again to fight the evil terrorist known as Bane.  And evil is about the ONLY word to describe Bane.  The Joker was scary, but Bane is downright vicious.  He thinks nothing of casually breaking necks, and seems to enjoy causing pain and despair even more then death.  The movie also draws heavily from well known Batman stories Knightfalls where Bane breaks Batman’s back, and No Man’s Land which saw Gotham isolated from the world by an earthquake, with Batman the only one keeping order in the city.  In scale, it’s vastly more epic and grand then either of the two movies that came before.  This one feels like it moves beyond the whole vigilante aspect of the first two, presenting us with something bigger.  Another thing this movie does is introduce a large number of new characters, including Bane, Catwoman (though never called Catwoman in the film), and the new characters John Blake and Miranda Tate.  These new characters are juggled to mixed effect with Selina Kyle/Catwoman and John Blake coming across very nicely, but Miranda Tate rather under developed, and at times taking actions that seem somewhat unmotivated (you know, like randomly hopping in bed with Bruce Wayne, cause, you know, we needed to see his vulnerable side…or something)

Okay, so how about returning characters?  We also have Bruce, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon returning.  Bruce is very different in this one, almost a broken shell of a man.  It’s nice to see Bale play him so differently from the first two, though I’m not entirely sure that the events of The Dark Knight merit him turning into a reclusive hermit and abandoning the Bat.  Alfred injects a good deal of heart into Alfred, and into the movie in general, and it’s a shame to see him disappear half way through the film, but at least he shows up again towards the end, and has his character’s story very well paid off.  Gordon get’s put through the ringer, but Gary Oldman does a very nice job yet again with his understated Gordon.

There are a few plot holes, but they aren’t movie killers, so I won’t go into them at depth.  The biggest has Bruce traveling halfway around the world with no explanation as to how he accomplished it.  As it plays out in the movie, it works fine I guess.  The movie also departs from the comics much more then the previous two, but given Nolan’s previous success with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I think he’s earned the right to spin things his own way.  I might mention that the movie almost requires a knowledge of the previous two though.  Rises picks up a number of plot threads from the first two, particularly from Batman Begins.  That being said, the three movie considered together very much form a beginning, a middle, and an end, making Nolan’s Batman more of a saga or an epic than any other take on the character.  It’s also worth noting that Rises probably has more in common with Begins, then The Dark Knight.  Thematically at least, it is very much in the same arena as Begins.  I have heard it mentioned in reviews that people feel there is not enough humor in Rises, but I would argue the movie is considerable lighter then The Dark Knight was, especially during the first hour when Bruce is sort of getting back into the game.  A lot of stuff with Selina Kyle/Catwoman is very funny and charming.

The actors across the board do great work, with Hathaway standing out as the new Catwoman.  The only actor who doesn’t seem up to par is Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, but that is more to do with an under written character then any problem with Ms. Cotillard.

Overall, this one gets 9 out of 10.  It’s a great cap on the Batman series, and it is nice to have such an epic and grand climax, rather then just turning out story after story ala James Bond!

Review: He-man and the Masters of the Universe issue #1

I know MOTU isn’t for everyone, but I grew up with the toys, the cartoon, and comics.  I first started collecting the toys when I was in the hospital as a 3 year old after my burn accident.  Apparently (though I don’t remember it) one of the times they took me out of my room for one of my treatments (which were unpleasant to say the least) balling I screamed at my dad that I wanted Beastman.  Why I screamed that, I don’t know, but he got me the Beastman action figure, and almost everyone who came to visit brought me a He-Man figure of some sort.  I built up a nice little collection of them!  Since then the toy company has periodically tried to bring them back, The New Adventures of He-Man in the 80’s, a new cartoon, toy and comic in the early 00’s, and now they have a line of “collectors” action figures, and starting the 4th of July, a brand new comic returning to there original publisher, DC comics.  It has a bit of competition, as I thought the 2002 comic was hands down the high point for the franchise.  So how does the new comic stack up?

Well, first I’ll look at the art.  Often art can make or break a comic, and in this case it’s very hit and miss.  It’s not terrible, but it’s not consistent either.  There are a few gorgeous pictures of Beastman in the issue, including one really stand out splash page.  The art however changes from one panel to the next, and some pictures are real angular and lacking detail.  The first couple pages (the dream sequence) are out right terrible.  Another thing to note is the redesigns on the characters.  Some of the colors are changed, some have new oddly segmented armor, and almost all of them seem to have random patches of scale mail armor added, and all I can say is WHY?  If you are going to do redesigns, at least do GOOD redesigns (see the 2002 comic).  It’s no surprise that the best picture in the book is Beastman who’s design unlike the rest is almost unchanged.  On the the plus side however, the cover is spectacular, and about as iconic and quintessential He-Man as you can possibly get.  If only the rest of the book had stuck stayed on par with the cover and the pictures of Beastman.  A few small bits I did like, the basic design of “woodsman” Adam, and the brief look we get of his father (apparently Randor??  though I could be wrong)  Oh, and the COMPLETE over haul of Teela into a generic blond in a metal bikini?  Are you KIDDING ME?  What lame brain came up with that?

Now, onto the story, which ironically, can ALSO make or break a comic.  While it is nothing stand out here, we’re on much better footing then the art.  The basic gist is that at some point, Skeletor won, and somehow erased everyone’s mind, leaving Adam thinking he’s a lowly wood cutter with no memory of being He-Man.  This starts to change however when he has dreams of his former life, and sees a mysterious falcon in the woods.  This spurs him on a sort of self identity quest, and he attempts to leave his forest, only to run into Beastman who is apparently supposed to prevent him from leaving– battle ensues!  Nothing complicated, and not great, but it does have a sort of classic fantasy feel to it, and better, it allows a reader to follow Adam and discover the world of Eternia for the first time through his eyes, making this extremely accessible to someone new to the world.  Apart from that though, this is just a small piece of the story, and I can’t give a more detailed and thoughtful review until I’ve read a few more issues, and get a clearer picture of where they are going.  Over all a solid, if not exactly stellar opening to what COULD be a very promising story.

Final Grade – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review of The Avengers

It’s been a long time since i’ve written a movie review, and I know Avengers has been out for a week now, but still I felt like puttin up my thoughts.

I’m going to have to buck with popular opinion on this one.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still liked it, but it sure doesn’t top out the Marvel Movie Universe films for me.  I think it actually goes toward the bottom, above Iron Man 2, but below the rest (that’s right, I even place The Incredible Hulk above this).

Okay, let’s get the painful stuff out of the way first.  My biggest issue, and I admit that there’s not much that could be done as it’s pretty much the very nature of the film, is there are so many characters that none get explored very much, and the story is particularly flat.  It goes something like this, Bad guy (Loki) shows up with generic “plan” to conquer or something.  Bad a$$ (Nick Fury) forms team to stop bad guy.  The team can’t get along, and there squabbles enable Loki to….um…..further whatever it is he’s doing.  Then all hell breaks lose, but the team comes together to save the day.  That actually makes it sound even more complicated then it plays out!

The nature of the Marvel universe has always been one of flawed super heroes, and they make a go of it here.  Perhaps it’s an attempt at “drama” but the way it comes across is several caricatures that all have an issue of some sort, and they all try to “work them out”, I.E., an hour and a half of grown men (and a woman) bickering until the big showdown!  Also of note, the utterly BLAND music.  Terrible score!

Okay, now to the good stuff!  While the characters are underdeveloped, and the story is by nature shallow, all the actors come across fairly nicely.  If you’ve seen the other Marvel Movie Universe films, the characters work for the most part.  While they are undeveloped in this movie IF you’ve watched the others, they work just fine.  Even Scarlett Johanson is okay acting wise here, and I usually don’t care for her (HATED her in Iron Man 2).  I think the director probably gets credit there for pulling good performances all around.  On special note is Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  He comes across as the only actual “character” in the film as opposed to a caricature.  They really cracked the Hulk, which 2 films down already shows him to be a hard character to figure out.  The action, expertly done.  You can actually tell what’s going on.  Great special effects, and good dialogue.  Seriously, Joss Whedon was born to write dialogue, and his skills shine through on that one!  The film also has something lacking in a lot of movies these days, fun!  So many films are so dower these days, and a sense of fun is a real breath of fresh air!

So, final score, 3.5 out of 5 stars!

On a side note, here is how I rate the Marvel Universe films from best to worst.

Thor

Iron Man

Captain America

The Incredible Hulk

The Avengers

Iron Man 2 (a long way below the rest)