Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Albrecht Fell and The Empire of the Hydra

Albrecht Fell clung to the top of the speeding car as it careened down the mountainside.  The roads cut into the mountain had neither lines nor guard rails, simple lines of pavement navigated by the native inhabitants with ease.  They were not made for the speed at which the car travelled, and the precipice below yawned wide and hungry with every switchback turn. 
Fell’s grip on the car was improvised; one hand held the edge atop the windscreen, while the other kept a white knuckled grip on the dagger driven into the roof.  While his grip was secure, Fell was forced to move his weight with every turn, ever mindful that the men inside were no friends of his, but agents of The Leviathan.  The cultists had emptied their guns of bullets some time back, most pointlessly peppering the car’s roof with holes.  Only a few deadly slugs had found Fell’s flesh, but were stopped by his heavy great coat and inhumanly hearty skin.  Now they were trying to shake him off.
Fell knew that soon he would have to make his move.  There was no way this car would survive to the bottom of the mountain, no future which held anything less than a long fall to certain death on the rocks and switchback roads below.  But Fell could not allow the men inside the car to escape; they knew too much about The Leviathan’s operations…too much about Fell himself.  That two-fold knowledge was too important for Fell to allow to escape.
“He is still hanging to the roof!” one cultist shouted to another.  He was a stocky man, dressed as the others were in slacks and high necked sweaters.  In his hands was a shotgun, long ago emptied into the roof to little effect.  His nose was broken, dried blood crusting his face from a punch Fell had thrown at him hours earlier.  It was a testament to the insane devotion of The Leviathan’s agents that he was still active, let alone willing to talk.  The pain was incredible.
“We must break his hold upon the roof!” the driver replied, swerving the car back and forth on the thin road.  There were no other automobiles out at this time of night, as the mountain road was deemed virtually impassable in the dark.  It was only by the heightened senses of The Leviathan that he could see…but even those had their limits.  But his resolve to shake Albrecht Fell from his car, push the ageless warrior to certain doom, made up for his sensory failings.  He drove by will alone.
The broken nosed man unbuckled his seat belt and held his shotgun tightly in one hand.  He had a single shell left, but it was difficult to load the weapon in the speeding car.  Curling his body he slowly opened the weapon’s breach and loaded in the shell.  He knew that he would have to climb from the car in order to get a good shot at Fell, but to do so would open himself to the pale man’s counter-attack.
Fell was not idle while this was occurring.  He knew that the car must be stopped before they were all thrown to a plummeting demise.  Bringing up one leg, Fell drove his knee into the car’s roof with preternatural strength.  The vehicle shuddered, the impact driving its body down closer to the road for a moment before springing up again on its suspension.  The driver fought for control and for a moment, Fell feared that his actions had sealed his fate.  But the car stayed far enough away from the cliff to ensure survival, just enough to cheat grim Death for another time.
The blow dented the roof near the gunman’s head, and but for sharpened reflexes he nearly dropped the shell as it was loaded into the firearm.  Closing the weapon he used its butt to break the window, locking one arm around its frame as they came upon another switchback curve. 
Seizing his chance, fell released his grip on the windscreen ledge and reared back over the car, balanced only by his dagger and his planted knee.  He drew back a single great fist, his black great coat flapping in the speeding air.  Fell knew that his attack had to be perfectly timed, a miscalculation would mean death.  Just as he did so, the gunman slid from the window and reared up against the darkness of the precipice.  His grip was unsteady, one hand braced inside the vehicle while he held the shotgun one handed.  Such was the fervor The Leviathan had instilled within him that he cared not if this action meant his own end; anything to lay the final blow of death upon Albrecht Fell.
Fell reacted on instinct.  As he brought down his fist with preternatural strength he dropped his body flat on the car.  The fist punctured through the roof, coming down beside the driver’s head as the man prepared to turn the car into the switchback.
The shotgun’s blast went wide, much of its buckshot tearing into Fell’s coat and ripping through it, the rest flying overtop of him and impacting harmlessly with the rushing rock wall on the car’s opposite side.  The gunman was not as lucky as Fell, however, for the weapon’s recoil blew it from his hands and loosened his grip on the car, leaving him unsteady.
Hands gripped tight to the wheel, the driver found himself at a loss as the great grasping limb beside him reached down and took the wheel.  He fought against Fell’s strength, screaming, “Release the wheel, you fool, or you will kill yourself as well as us!”  Fell only smiled, a lips pulling back in a terrible grimace of macabre joy.  He laughed, but the wind tore the sound away into the night; it never reached the other men’s ears.
The two fought over the wheel while the third tried to keep his balance, tried to prevent himself from meeting death moments before the others.  But Fell was the stronger of the two, and even with two hands the driver knew he had met his match.  The wheel was torn from his hands and Fell pulled it to the side, sending the car skidding towards the rock wall of the switchback.  It tipped, going up on two axles, throwing the gunman back into the car and roughly against the window behind the driver.
Fell pulled his arm back and released his hold on the dagger, legs pumping to throw himself from the car as it began to tip over on its side.  Mighty reflexes, honed by centuries of practice, worked together with his inhuman strength to propel the pale man over the car and onto the mountain road.  He rolled over his shoulder in the Japanese fashion, great coat expanding around him, shedding his speed as the car went into a roll, finally slamming against the switchback wall with jarring force. 

The sound it made was the long screech and tortured metal rending of vicious jaws finally clamping down upon their prey.  Smoke billowed from its engine block as Fell picked himself up off the ground and walked towards it.  Reaching into his coat, the pale man removed a hatchet and prepared to close with the cultists, should they still have fight left in him.  The grin had not left his face.  These were the moments he lived for.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Kamen Rider Drive

I gotta admit, friends, I'm not so sure about Kamen Rider Drive.  Emily and I watched the first two episodes and...they're ok.  Just OK.  There is a weird tonal dissonance in the series.  It wants to be a serious show about a town in crisis, about a police officer who is tortured by the memories of a failed arrest and a partner he left crippled, about a secret conspiracy of monsters who want to take the world by force.  That is some old school Kamen Rider shit right there. 

...ON THE OTHER HAND, it has sentient Micro-Machine cars who produce their own tracks, a talking Driver belt who is basically KITT's more sarcastic cousin, and the running gag that the main character is very lazy, so one of his fellow officers MAKES A POINT OF ARRESTING HIM every episode just to make him go to work.  Also "drive" and car puns.  EVERYWHERE.  *EVERY GODDAMN WHERE*. 

The Drive outfit also just isn't doing it for me.  The giant tire in the middle of his chest was OK as a giant tire in the middle of his chest, but when it gets paired with super powers like "Funky Spike" (...I think these are supposed to be car or tire brands...I would NOT invest in a brand called "Funky Spike") it just looks ridiculous.  And yes, I know, I'm the man who loves Fourze, who at one point ran around in a gold foil suit wielding a club made of electrical sockets.  But my point stands.  Drive looks RIDICULOUS...and he doesn't *FEEL* like a Kamen Rider.

And I don't just mean because Kamen Riders rider motorcycles (their name literally meaning "Mask[ed] Rider").  But the show's overall tone has more in common with Sentai series like Ressha Sentai ToQger, Engine Sentai GoOnger (which was adapted into the FAR more serious and far more AWESOME Power Rangers RPM), and, god help me, Gekisou Sentai Carranger (which saved Sentai, but as Power Rangers Turbo almost DOOMED Power Rangers). 

See, here's the thing: You can have light hearted Kamen Rider a point.  Kamen Rider Den-O was pretty light hearted.  Fourze could be light-hearted, but could also turn very serious at a moment's notice, tackling themes like depression, PTSD, duty vs. friendship, and addiction.  OH BOY HOWDY did Fourze tackle the subject of addiction.  Its also notable that Fourze was made lighter following the tsunami, as its creator wanted to make a show that children could feel GOOD by watching, after living through such a national tragedy.  And, to be fair, the recently ended Kamen Rider Gaim was HELLA DARK in its latter half.  But...somehow Drive's many components just do not feel like Kamen Rider.  It feels more like a truncated Sentai, like Drive will eventually team up with four other "Kamen Riders" with car themes and together they'll create Drive King, a giant robot made of cars.

...also, "The Heaviness".  One of the main pieces of the show is a series of gravitic anomalies that fuck with the progression of time.  It turns out these are caused by monsters, because it slows down their prey for easy hunting.  But the slowed-time effects are jerky and problematic, and call back to the far more enjoyable, and far more interesting Kamen Rider Kabuto, where the monsters and Riders would "clock up" to move at superhuman speeds.  In fact, I kind of just want a dude in a kimono and clogs to step out in front of Drive during a fight, raise his hand in the air, and state that he is "Walking the path of Heaven, the Man who will rule over all"...and then pull his crazy red alien robo-beetle out of the sky and transform.

I am not enjoying Drive.  Which is rare.  I enjoy most Rider series.  But Drive just ain't getting me into gear.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Fools

And thus begins April Fool's Day, a day of douchebaggery.

I had an April Fool's episode planned, but work and life conspired to prevent me from having the time to properly work on it.  I produced a script, laughed a lot at it, and then realized that I'd encountered a problem.  Its a problem I frequently encounter, and one I'm normally pretty good at spotting: The jokes were only funny if you were in on them, but utterly failed to be funny if you weren't.  And explaining the joke ruined the joke.  It was a paradox of failure.

Here's how it WOULD have gone down: I'm working on a documentary called Touring Bus which Tom White and I filmed at MAGFest last year.  This is a legit thing, and I consider it a really interesting look into how we approach improv and shared memetic thinking.  It is also 100% parody and discusses a movie which does not exist.  I'm HOPING to have a rough cut ready for ConBravo this year, but once again its a matter of finding time and energy, two things which are in very short supply these days.

I will cop to having a lot of doubts.  I doubt the quality of my work, of my scripts.  Doubt plagues me often, and I find it difficult to work around it.  Work drains me, life drains me, and overall that's been a big problem these past 8 or 9 months.  I'm TRYING to work my way around it with these ToQger vlogs, and getting the Lets Plays back on track. 

But anyway.  This episode.

I was going to do an April Fool's review of Bus.  A review in which I managed to say precisely *NOTHING* about the film itself, composing all actual clips of it from dubbing over scenes from other movies and TV shows with the names of the characters.  I will admit, I still laugh that John and Bobert's epic exchange is a clip from Patton, "You magnificent [BOBERT], I read your book!", with its reply being a dubbed over Kirk screaming "JOOOOOOHN!  JOOOOOOHN!"  But...unless you know the joke premise we provided our improvers with FOR filming Touring Bus (that the main characters are John, Marsha, and Bobert), it all falls apart.  It isn't funny.  Its kludgy and stupid and it lacks craft.

I hold craft to be a pretty big thing.  When I say something on my show its because its something I feel is worth saying.  Even if its something ridiculous.  If the joke is dumb, if it won't work, then often I'll cut it.  Sometimes when I'm editting the episode because things just don't work the way I want them to.  This is one of those times.

I'm proud of my past April Fool's episodes.  They're something special for me, and something I try to craft with great care, because I want to provide something funny and ridiculous but still entertaining.  I went out of my way to get Sad Panda's permission for the Game of Thrones review (not to mention Featherweight's AMAZING title card), and spent a *LOT* of time working on a very serious discussion of Hoverboy.  But this year April 1st kind of snuck up on me.  I quite literally realized last Thursday that April Fool's was just around the corner and I hadn't done...well...ANYTHING. 

I'd originally had plans to work with my pals Manda Whitney (Whitless), Leeman (Ask Lovecraft), and Debs & Errol to create something really silly for April Fool's, but I failed to firm up on those and just lost track of time.  Which leaves me kicking myself, because I had a whole month to put together something awesome and I frittered it away.

So.  No April Fool's episode.  Because I would rather give you something GOOD (the three-week overdue Kamen Rider Gaim review, which features a wonderful little sitcom number with my friends, Jen and Alex) than something half assed and too bizarre to understand.  I don't know.  Maybe I *DID* create something worthwhile and I'm just being too hard on myself.  But doubt, as I said, is a constant companion, and I worry about throwing something moronic out there thinking it art.  I'm a week behind on the ToQger vlogs, but that's OK, actually.  It works out.  I have a *LOT* to say about the Gaim crossover, but not much to say about the week before's episode.

So that's kinda that.  I wanted to explain, because...well I feel like I don't really talk about what goes on behind the scenes enough, and sometimes I feel like I owe my audience an explanation for these things.

Be seeing you.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Lego Movie (Spoilers...SPOILERS!)

Ok.  Lego Movie. 

I don't generally do text reviews, but I've never been a fan of ranting at the camera for 20 minutes in a vlog about a movie I just saw.  I've done it a few times, and wasn't pleased with the results.  So, instead...TEXT!  (insert relevant clip of Egon Spengler: "Print is dead.")

From the moment my wife and I saw the trailer, we have been enthralled with the idea of the Lego Movie.  Unfortunately, she's down in South Carolina right now, so I had to go and see it on my own.  Thus there was no companion to witness some of the expressions I made.

How do I describe this film?  Its...well its DIFFERENT.  I've heard it described by people as a film about every time you played Lego as a child.  And...yup, that's pretty much accurate.  Also it has Allison Brie (Annie from Community) voicing a rainbow cat-unicorn-thing who sounds, and acts, like Pinky Pie...until she eventually loses her ever loving shit and turns into some sort of feral demon thing.  Which, my wife tells me, is a fairly accurate description of Pinky Pie.  So My Little Pony fans...there's your daily dose of pink crack.

The whole gist of the film is an every man discovering the magic within himself.  Even though he is the single most boring person on the planet.  Its an ODD film where every single other character (literally EVERY SINGLE OTHER CHARACTER who speaks to or about him), including his co-stars, tells the main character they are a useless idiot.  "You're the chosen one...dear GOD are you naff."  A bunk-bed couch WOULD be awesome, though.

I don't quite get which message the film is trying to deliver: Its either "believe in yourself", or "individuality just gets you into arguments, work together on a single plan to succeed...until that fails, then devolve into THE POWER OF INDIVIDUALITY!"  But heck if I care, because it has giant Lego robots and a plot which somehow is a hybrid of The Matrix and Toy Story

Basic plot: Lord Business has taken over the universe, built walls between the various Lego sets (except Bionicle, Ninjago, and Barbie...because those are embarassing, weird, and nobody wants to talk about them), and is planning on bringing the universe to utter stasis because chaos triggers his OCD.  He is aided by a legion of robots who all somehow look like the aliens from They Live, and larger "Micro-Manager" robots who look like the Sentinels from The Matrix triology.  So...basically the Technocracy from Mage: The Ascension.  But there's a flaw in his plan, namely a single mysterious dingus glued to the back of our boring protagonist, and it all just sort of devolves into sheer insanity from there. 

Every Lego set (save the Marvel ones) somehow make an appearance.  Star Wars?  Yup!  DC Comics?  Hells yeah (though I'm unclear on why Batman has his gadgets, Superman has his powers, and yet Green Lantern doesn't have a working power ring...maybe he just builts things out of green blocks, I dunno).  Old time Space Patrol?  THEY HAVE THE OLD TIME SPACE PATROL!  You have no idea how much I geeked out over that...Space Patrol was the BOMB back when I was a wee lad!

The basic plot structure is a fairly standard hero's journey...until the final quarter.  When it gets weird.  I mean arc of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man weird.  I mean like the entirety of Rocky and Bullwinkle (the live action movie) weird.  I mean "Emmet travels down a sparkly tunnel and finds himself in the real world, where he is just an inanimate toy, yet still has full sentience, free will, and is able to find basic motive power even though it turns out that the entire movie has occurred because a kid decided to mess around with his father's carefully constructed Lego city in live action" weird.

...that run on sentence was an accurate description of the last quarter of this film.  SPOILERS!  Ahem.

The true glory of the Lego Movie is that in that sentence is contained the seeds for the sole time in cinema that Lovecraft's true vision of horror has ever been fully realized.  Emmet goes from his standardized, block-based reality (where everything is made of blocks, from the water to laser beams) into a world his mind and eyes literally CANNOT COMPREHEND.  The film tries its best to make everything from Emmet's point of view abstract, to try to show the alien nature of a world wherein shapes are defined by randomized organic lines, attachment is performed at a molecular, rather than contact, level, and where his very universe is laid out in miniature as a toy of incomprehensible giants engaged in some sort of bizarre meta-narrative which somehow affects his world even as they treat himself and his fellow Legonians as inanimate playthings.  This is Lovecraftian horror at its finest.  I spent the first few minutes of that scene just staring at the screen, mouth dropped open, eyes twitching, because they somehow stumbled into it.  Without meaning to, they gave life to Lovecraft's universe far better than any actual adaptation of Lovecraft's works (with the possible exception of In the Mouth of Madness) ever have.  No tentacles were needed.  No naked characters.  Just...the stark reality from Emmet's point of view that he has emerged into a truly alien cosmos, a foreign landscape to which he has no point of reference but which yet has utter control over his own.  THERE IS A CHILD WHO LITERALLY STEPS ON HIM WITHOUT REALIZING HE'S THERE!  DAMN!

That said, the true story that the final quarter of the Lego movie tells is that the entire film has been a metaphor for a son trying to relate to his father.  That his father's obsessive need to structure the perfect Lego city, then freeze it in time directly conflicts with his view that Lego is an interactive toy which is built, destroyed, and rebuilt to make any sort of play imaginable.  His father is damn near downright emotionally abusive...and I admit, I had flashbacks to my own childhood and my late stepfather denigrating how I played with my toys because it lacked order, apparent continuity, or boundaries between realities, franchises, or even types of toys.  And yet somehow, a reconciliation is established when the child makes his father SEE that this imposed structure, harshly enforced to the point of denigrating every change the child has made, no matter how skilled or creative, is actually HURTING his son.  Hurting him to the point that the child has chosen to represent the evil Lord Business as his own father.

...of course, it all ends with a laugh when his sister's Duplos invade, yet another alien cosmos enforcing itself into the Lego world.  Lovecraft lives!

This is a movie with far more depth than a film about Lego people who build with Legos should be.  Its genius, well performed, and actually pretty well written.  It drags on occasion when it gets too bogged down in the possibilities of...well...BEING LEGO, but that, I think, is the creators showing their love for the medium.  Its message may be mixed, but perhaps in the end it has no message (given that Morgan Freeman's speeches all boil down, quite literally, to the "Hang In There" cat poster with the word "BELIEVE!" at the top).

I give it four out of five, and recommend that you go see it.  Its definitely a *LOT* of fun.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Went out and saw The Wolverine last night. First three quarters of the film were GREAT. Last quarter (final fight scene) was...meh.

The Wolverine is an American attempt at making a Japanese film. It really is. There is a wonderful contrast set up with Logan as the powerful, skilled ronin living in the wilderness, seeking kinship with beasts. He is found by the loyal retainer (Yukio) of a man whose life he once saved, despite their being on opposite sides of a war (Logan saving Yashida at Nagasaki). Logan the Ronin has forsworn his warrior's life following the death of a woman he loved (Jean), who was married to another man (Cyclops), and the death of his own lord (Professor X). The whole story focuses on Logan finding new purpose, first serving Yashida's dying wish to protect his daughter, Mariko, and then avenging the crimes done in Yashida's name (before the big reveal). All the while accompanied by Yashida's loyal retainer, Yukio...who is probably the single best character in the movie.

They...they made an American samurai movie. And for most of the film IT WORKS. The actual filming style has a certain Japanese aesthetic to it, an almost manga quality at times (and this is ignoring that Yukio works entirely on her own set of anime/tokusatsu-esque physics). We're not talking ridiculous framing with lotus blossoms or falling cherry flowers, but rather just the general right-to-left way that many of the scenes are blocked, as well as the fact that many scenes are performed in unsubtitled Japanese. The audience rides along with Logan in a foreign land which...isn't really so much a parody of Japanese society as a juxtaposition of new and old social values.

This is a *HUGE* step up from Origins, which was deeply steeped in stupidity and a 90s-era Marvel approach to storytelling. The Wolverine has a much cleaner, sometimes more complex and definitely better told methodology, and it shows through. Jackman does a great job portraying Wolverine less as a superhero hero and more as a rogue samurai hero, which is helped because, until the end, no one has powers that make shit glow or do anything particularly weird. Yukio's death sight power is thankfully never shown, leaving her as something of a grim champion who goes through life with an absolute knowledge of the mortality of both herself and everyone around her, a sort of literal reflection of the values espoused in the Hagakure.

Yukio is...pretty much one of the most awesome action heroines I've seen. This is largely because her gender is not really an issue. At all. She doesn't have a romantic plot or subplot, she doesn't get hit on, she doesn't really talk about relationships at all. She is the loyal samurai to Logan's reluctant ronin, and the fact that she IS a she is secondary to her character. Yukio is also probably the most kick ass character in the film. Sure, Logan has his moments, but Yukio straight up beats down any opponent she encounters with any object that comes to hand, and does it with credible style and panache. Rila Fukushima, the actress who plays Yukio, has a very distinct look to her, and pulls off what could be a one note character with a wonderful degree of depth and glee. Yukio isn't in this for revenge; she's in it for duty, both to Yashida and to Mariko, and because she genuinely enjoys what she does. GREAT character.

Wasn't as happy with the twist for the villains at the end. The Silver Samurai bit was just too big a tonal shift from the relatively high action, low-science fiction parts of the movie. The ninjas were neat, though, and pretty much required for an X-Men film taking place in Japan. But then...BAM. Giant robot.

Liked Lady Viper. Interesting take on the character. Think she was a bit underused at the end in terms of personality and acting talents.

LOVED the post-credits stinger. Always great to see Ian McKellan reprise his role as Magneto, especially when he's not decked out in purple. He is substantially more terrifying as the character when he's just an old man in street clothes who could pretty much murder everyone around him with a blink of the eye.

Overall, very fun movie. Four out of five. Worth seeing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

ConBravo 2013

So as some folks may be aware (and some may not...I was a moron and forgot to make a video announcement so that people WOULD be aware), I was a guest at ConBravo 2013 in Hamilton, ON this past weekend.  This was my third time at ConBravo, as well as my third time visiting a convention as a guest (the past two times being ConBravo last year and Con-G this year), and going in I knew that I wanted to give back to the convention that has really helped me to get where I am today. I went on six panels.  Hi, my name is Derek the Bard, and I am a MORON.

It all started with three panels.  First, obviously I wanted to do another live What We Watched, because the one at Con-G went over so well and was a lot of fun.  Plus it would be an excuse to spend several nights with the wife just watching cartoons and being snarky.  Then I figured...why not?...I could just screen a pair of Z-grade indie films I had previously reviewed, just to share the wealth with friends.

...what I failed to bank on was: 1) Now that I'm with This Week in Geek
, obviously I'd be on their panel.  2) Of COURSE Tom would run another Audition, and I'm ALWAYS on those.  3) I got a line item in my itinerary from my buddy, Luke Williams (who handles guest relations) saying "Hey, there's a puppet death match on Sunday and all those involved want you to MC it".
Bam.  Six panels.  I figured "Hey, this just means more exposure." (in this I was correct).  "I'll have PLENTY of time to do other stuff." (...technically correct, but factually not so much).  "What could POSSIBLY go wrong?" (...see?  MORON!)

Now, first I DO I want to say a few words about ConBravo: It.  Is.  FANTASTIC.  The crew who run it, headed by my good friend and inestimable badass, Mark Tjan, KNOW how to run a convention.  They've been constantly hunting down other cons to see how they handle things, they are always receptive to feedback, and after four years they've gotten pretty darn good at managing their small army of volunteers and using them to good effect.  The result is always an excellent convention experience, both when I was a general attendee back in 2011 (when the convention ran for two days, I figured "Hey, the Nostalgia Critic's gonna be in town, I should go!"...and proceeded to make some of my best and closest friends in the span of 48 hours), and when I've been a guest these past two years.

The weekend actually started on Thursday (which I thankfully had booked off work).  I've known Nash since around 2008ish, and so when he started chatting about coming to ConBravo I was pretty stoked.  I see this guy MAYBE once a year, if I'm lucky, and no matter how much I chat with him on Skype or IRC it just ain't the same.  So I knew he was coming up, but on Tuesday morning I get a text from our mutual friend Fox saying "Hey, Nash is asking for a place to crash on Thursday night before the con."  Well, I have a couch, and I had Thursday I offered, and pretty soon we're hanging out and having adventures.  No, seriously, we had an adventure to parts of Toronto I ain't ever been before, in search of a guitar for him to play over the weekend and then auction off for Child's Play.  Good times.

...of course this also means that I had to spend a great deal of time convincing Nash that, no, in Canada we WALK places.  This thing called fresh air is not poisonous, and yes...this street car IS taking a while but we're all just used to it.  Such is the life of the non-driver.  It was fun times, and really prepped my energy for the con. he INSISTED that we (myself, my wife, and he) sit down and watch as much "Hey Ash, Watcha Playin'" as possible on the TV.  ...then he bitched about the Apple TV, but I've been hearing that refrain from him since I bought the damn thing.

On Friday morning (ish, more early afternoon) we headed over to the convention.  We were HOPING to get a GO Train over, but the GO system is ass backwards and there are no direct trains to Hamilton...lord only knows why.  Got to the convention center and hotel pretty easily, met up with Emily and I's roommates, and got settled in.  Our room had actually been planned out for many months, since just after MAGFest, and I was really happy with our crew: Jess (Ladyspaz), Kyle (Oancitizen), Ven, and Mouse (who...we barely saw after the first day, as Kyle was filming with Doug, Jess was FILMING Kyle filming with Doug, and Mouse and Ven were off doing their own stuff).

Friday I was screening Fable: Teeth of Beasts at 11, so Emily and I had just planned to hang around the convention centre after opening ceremonies, meet up with friends (and in Em's case get her introduced to the usual gang of reprobates I hang out with at these things), and scout the dealer's room for whatever tickled our fancy (both of us were enjoying windfalls from a couple of pretty solid paycheques following Summerlicious, as well as some frugal savings).  This...didn't really succeed as well as we had hoped.  We got our con badges pretty easily (there was some waiting in line for Emily's, then figuring out she WASN'T on their comp list, then just turning up the charm on the volunteers to get it sorted out without having to bother Luke or Mark), and went to opening.

Just before the ceremonies started I was approached by one of the con leads who says "You need to go down to the photography booth at 6 to get new headshots." (yeah...I felt AWESOME at that point; the convention was paying for me to do a friggin photoshoot!)  So...ok, opening is supposed to END at 6, so I figured Em and I would mosey on down there and scout the place.  I don't know if you've ever seen James Portnow (sp?) speak, but when the man gets rolling it is obvious that he knows what he's talking about.  He was the key note speaker, and his presentation asking simply "Why are video games important?" was rivetting, moving, and just KEPT ON GOING.  So much so that I lost track of time, realizing it was quarter after 6, and left Emily with the gang while I ran off to vogue.

...these headshots are amazing.  That's all I can really say of the guys at Convoke.  They do good work.

So yeah...Friday was a whirlwind, especially when we discovered that Em's phone doesn't do voice for some reason, and as a result we were reduced to texting to coordinate our locations.  Still, good times overall, and go to meet up with the Chez Apocalypse crew when they arrived, as well as Doug, Leo, and Lewis.  I hadn't seen any of these folks since MAGfest, and it was good to see everyone, but we were all pretty exhausted.

Have you ever fallen asleep while watching a movie?  Or while on a panel?  Or while on a panel ABOUT watching a movie?  This was the Fable: Teeth of Beasts screening for me.  I was taking 60 second micronaps during it, but it was a good time overall.  The audience HATED it, which was to be expected, but they had some fun riffing on it.

By Saturday I had pretty much the whole day free, with the Edison Death Machine screening at 5, the TWIG panel at 7, and the Auditions at 11.  We gave the vendors hall a really good once over, scoring a few things here and there.  From my swag: Victor Krum's wand from Harry Potter (WONDERFUL design, and adds well to my other wands: Sirius Black's and the Elder Wand), the leaf pin of the Fellowship of the Ring, I almost bought...oh about a dozen other things.  By Sunday I'd add another leather pouch to the swag, because it looked good and was a good price (also its big enough for my phone, a character sheet, some cards or dice, and generally for my LARP stuff.

We also met Pete Williams, the creator of underGRADS.  Pete is an AWESOME guy, did the voices for all four of the main characters on the show, and is now starting up a campaign on Facebook to bring the show back.  I shot a video to that effect, which will be going up online in the next day or so.

Saturday was also the Hilarious Food Adventure, and the source of my only real complaint about the convention.  They ordered pizza for the guests.  And put them in the VIP lounge, which has a glass door.  You could see the boxes and boxes of pizza.  Then they used the VIP lounge for guest interviews, and placed a staffer in front to keep people out.  So there are 8 or 10 other guests with plates of pizza walking around, and my wife and I, staring longingly through the glass at the food, so close and yet so far.  After coming back several times to find more and more interviews, we finally just said screw it and went to the food court.  I wasn't ANGRY, but I was rather hilariously and deleriously frustrated.

...just prior to this we'd swung by ConOps to ask if Holly (who came for the weekend and wound up working the back end of the convention...dear god, that woman never stops working!) and Luke if we could pick them up anything.  Holly: "I'll take the healthiest thing you can find." Luke: "I'll take the UNHEALTHIEST thing you can find!"

Thus was Luke Williams forced to eat a Double Down.  I have pictures.  It was horrifying.  ...I, on the other hand (and Holly) had teppanyaki, because it was rather more healthy.  And wasn't likely to reduce either of us to a mummified state thanks to the salt content.

And then...THREE PANELS IN A ROW!  Edison Death Machine screening brought out maybe 20ish people, including Mike Bennet (Philbuni), who is basically an expert on this flick.  I introduced him to it at MAGFest two years ago, and since then he's gone on to watch it a dozen or so times.  This movie is *GREAT* for collective viewing: Its to horror what The Room is to drama.  It invites riffing on all levels, and has some gloriously bad scenes that you have to quiet the audience for just so they get the full experience.  This was a very fun screening, even after the DVD/VHS player apparently ate my DVD and turned it into a cassette (pressed the wrong eject button: Cassette came out; pressed DVD eject DVD came out...this was eventually fixed).

Ran to the TWIG panel, which largely involved us talking about our con stories and experiences.  Which meant I got to promote Touring Bus, and talk more about the experience of filming it.

(For those wondering, Touring Bus is held up at the moment by technical issues; Nash is building me a new computer which fill resolve them and then I can get back to work...I also need to get around to comissioning some artwork for it and talking to my boss, Mike Dodd, about talking to some nerd bands about using music for it)

After that, I got to do something I'd been looking forward to all weekend: I got to hang out with Gregg Taylor from Decoder Ring Theatre.  Gregg had tweeted at me on Friday, asking if we could meet up while I was in town, and did not disapoint.  I haven't seen Gregg in person for a few years, but we've chatted occasionally online, so it was fun to catch up and talk about the show.  I also spoke to him about my desire to get involved with DRT for voice work at some point, and he seemed yeah, I may well be in the Red Panda or Black Jack Justice in the future!

At the same time I was also hanging out with gang from Retroware TV, ProJared, Nash, and others (pubs just make great central places to meet), and that was a fun time.  I don't meet a lot of game reviewers, its just not my bailwick, but this was a lot of fun and they're a good gang.  Also Joey (Roo) cheats at Monoply and one day I WILL DESTROY HIM!  Ahem.

The Auditions on Saturday night went *GREAT*.  Better than great.  This may be Tom's best script yet, and the performances were WONDERFUL.  I still think that Justin (JewWario) did it best with his King of the Sun Monkeys.  After that was drinking, then bed.

Sunday was...sunday was BUSY AS FUCK.  Nash and I had been filming a crossover this weekend, and I had written it to be far more complicated than our schedules would allow.  We shot most of it on Saturday, but there was a bit with Leo (SciFi Guy) we had to shoot on Saturday night at a late ass hour, then more that I had to shoot alone on Sunday.  The result is some hilarious continuity errors that I will have to just toss a rather large lampshade on...but the jokes come through, I got some GREAT cameos from people, and the analysis in and of itself should more than make up for it. there's a part where I get chased by an angry mob, and another where I'm almost murdered by the entire convention-going public.  Good times.

Sunday morning saw my live What We Watched opposite Lewis' live Atop the Fourth Wall panel.  As such, attendance wasn't great, but those who WERE present really engaged with the material and had a good time.  Still working out the technical bugs from these video presentations, but each one gets better.  Also learned that my scripts STILL need to be shortened.  I think next time I'll just do one TV show.

A couple hours after that was possibly the most fun panel I was on all weekend: THE PUPPET DEATH MATCH!

See, it turns out that I know three puppeteers: Dan (Foldable Human), Mike (Philbuni), and my good bud, Devin (Featherweight).  So I got to MCing the build, talking like Howard Kosell and a carnival barker interchangeably.  My voice was SHOT, though, so thankfully they started taking questions, engaging with the audience, and talking about the building process.  They made some GREAT puppets, each in a very different and very individual style, which was awesome.  The audience really got involved with the conversation, and it was a great chance for everyone to talk about their work, to discuss their styles and reasons, and just in general to have a good time.  I took some video of the very end, where they talked about the puppets they had built, but it was generally agreed that this was one of those panels you had to BE there for.  It was a wonderful experience.

With the death match over, I was free!  No more panels.  Just time to hunt down various people for cameos, most of which literally did not happen until the 11th hour.  Said goodbye to the folks who were heading out early (Nash, Leo, Doug [...who somehow I wound up saying goodbye to three times, as we kept running into each other while he was in the process of leaving and I was going about my business], Roo, Gerald, Shire...a lot of good folk, some of whom I'd barely seen all weekend due to being so busy), and we got some last minute swag from the dealer's room. 

Also got a chance to talk about Touring Bus more at closing ceremonies.  I have my schpiel down about it.  I don't stumble.  I just straight up talk about it as if it were the most real thing in the world.  I also confirmed this: Touring Bus *WILL* be ready for screening at ConBravo 2014 (though I'm HOPING to have it ready by MAGfest).

Went out for dinner with most of the remaining guests: Chez Apocalypse, Lewis, Pat (Coldguy), and...Mara Wilson, who is pretty cool, but with whom I'd maybe shared 10 words all weekend.

The conversation turned to filming, and what resulted was my helping Elisa and the gang shoot something for an upcoming Maven of the Eventide video (mainly because I have a top-of-the-line shotgun mic and they...well needed a shotgun mic; here's hoping the video came out well, wasn't sure regarding the audio).  I can also say that Mara screaming at the camera with a look of hate and rage is a DAMN FREAKING TERRIFYING THING.  Its just...something about her face, man.  It goes from normal, amused really, then contorts into this rictus of malevolence, the shadow turns her eyes almost black, and her voice makes the walls shake.  I know only one other person who can do that (Diamanda Hagan can literally make the walls of the more memorable revelations from filming the Trollhunter review back at MAGfest 2012). 

This was the DEFINITION of 11th hour filming here...we were damn near RUNNING from the shoot to get our bags and get downstairs, catch a ride from a generous volunteer, and get over to the GO station to catch the last bus home.

ConBravo 2013 was a wonderful, memorable experience.  All the more so because my wife was with me (I know I haven't mentioned Emily a lot here...she had her own things to do sometimes, but mostly was by my side the whole weekend).  The staff were great, friendly, and helpful.  The congoers were really nice, their costumes were PHENOMENAL, and the fans who came up for autographs and pictures just blew me away.  Really gets me energized again to work on the show, and gives me great hope for the future of what I can accomplish with it.  I send special thanks out to Mark Tjan and Luke Williams for getting me there and being such a HUGE help.  These guys are awesome.

ConBravo was also a place to see my friends.  Being as we're all on various parts of the continent, I don't see nearly enough of these folks.  They're good people, and meeting them is one of the best perks of what I do.  Most of us won't see each other again until MAGfest, but until then we're going to keep chatting on Skype and IRC, keep planning and working together, and just in general have a damn good time.

Be seeing you.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


The second part of my Con-G 2013 updates!

So most of you are familiar with a little show I produce called What We Watched. Well, back when I was invited to Con-G as a guest, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and perform the show live as a panel. To fit it into the time slot, I decided to talk about not one, but *THREE* shows!




So sit back and watch this two part video, and learn the amusement of power armour and robot battles, dinosaur-riding telepaths fighting aliens, and idiotic dinosaur shapeshifters.  Yee haw.