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!

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

ANYONE who knows me knows I love me my Zombie films.  Lately there have been a lot of Zombie films too.  We’re sort of in a zombie renaissance.  I feel we’ve reached a point now too where there are so many that the only real point of producing new ones is to mess with the formula.  Perhaps that’s why Romero’s last two films were not really all that well received…  where he was once experimenting with the formula he himself developed, his last two were really more of the same.  Maybe I’m being a little harsh, I haven’t actually seen Survival of the Dead (so I am only going by heresay, but the heresay on it is pretty one note) but I can’t imagine anyone really standing up for Diary of the Dead.  It can’t stand up to any of his earlier efforts, even Land of the Dead (Romero’s only full on mainstream film I can think of).

In any case, I’m getting a little side tracked.  Continuing the trend of monkeying with the formula, Warm Zombies…  I mean Bodies was just released.  It’s not particularly heavy or deep, but it is a lot of fun, very sweet, and more then a little heart warming.  It may be the first Zombie movie I can think of with told from the Zombie’s perspective, with a zombie protagonist.  On that note it does cheat a little.  I don’t mind the inner dialogue of “R” (he can’t remember his name, only that it starts with R) but they do have trouble straddling the line of mindless automaton, and thinking and feeling zombie.  It’s a difficult juggling act, which they don’t completely succeed in, making the zombies a little inconsistent from one scene to the next, but given what they are trying to do with the story, it’s hard to imagine how it could have been handled differently.  Zombie movies tend to be very much about setting up a system of rules, and then showcasing what those rules mean for the universe, and here they aren’t able to follow there own rules 100 percent, so you end up with a few leaps of logic that don’t make a lot of sense.  It’s a minor nitpick though, and remember we’re talking about a movie involving walking corpses who not only eat human brains, but literally eat their memories.  That leads me to an interesting point in this film, they introduce a new rule to the mix where zombies experience the memories of their victims by eating their brains.  This to my knowledge has never been suggested before, but makes a good explanation for why zombies specifically eat brains, but still leaving the more general carnivorous proclivities intact.

One thing I find interesting about the whole genre, is by and large there has been a shift in tone from one of general hopelessness to one that actually feels rather uplifting.  This is strange because right now it seems to me that most movies and genres are actually trending the exact opposite.  Everyone seems to have a very poor outlook on the future right now, but looking at the modern state of Zombie films, you have a feeling of “We’re gonna make it after all”.  Maybe the makers of Zombie films just feel that hopelessness has been played out.  In any case, this movie has as hopeful a message as you could possibly want.  Not only would we survive the zombie apocalypse, but one day will learn to be best friends with the zombies!  (it doesn’t come across QUITE as cheesy in the movie)  This I think is very nice message for our times.  I think the hopeful outlook is something people need right now.

The actors mostly acquit themselves nicely, though the heroine is really kindof a bit bland.  John Malcovich is always a nice addition to any movie, and though he is a bit underused as the heroines obsessed militaristic father, his few scenes really shine.  “M” is also a very nice character played in an unusually strait manner by the usually comic Rob Corddry.  He is R’s best friend whom R often ALMOST has conversations with!  And of course we come to the protagonist, R, who really steals the whole show.  His “inner monologue” if it can be called that, really holds the whole thing together, and makes you feel for this mindless automaton.  He also handles his gradual transition from traditional moaning and groaning zombie to thinking feeling and speaking “almost” human quite well.  He is played by Nicholas Holt who seems to be a bit of an up and comer right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his career take off in the next few years.

All in all, 8 out of 10 stars!  (I’m not really very good at quantifying my ratings….  I may have to put some thought into a more coherent ratings scale!)

Bonus Review:  Die Hard 57 – Yippy-Ki-Yay?  Yippy-Ki-Nay Mother F&^%er!