January 30, 2015

Constantine Set Visit Photos

Back in November I went on a set visit that took a group of media behind the scenes of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Powers, and Constantine. I'm always impressed by the amount of work that goes into building the fake worlds we watch on our television screens and all of these sets amazed me with their size and quality. From the Salvatore mansion to Constantine's millhouse - I was inwardly flailing for a few days. Okay, outwardly flailing sometimes too, but I did my best to stay professional.

I mentioned Constantine's millhouse and holy smokes, it was like walking around in a candy store. The two-story set was decorated to the nth degree. Production designer Dave Blass made it feel like a real home. It's practically overlowing with books, gadgets, and oddities. And let's not forget all the easter eggs. In fact, if you're a DC Comics fan and you're not following Blass on Twitter, go remedy that now. He shares photos, sketches, hints, and all kinds of goodies about sets in Constantine all the time.

And Blass was a delight during the set visit. He answered our questions - sometimes repeatedly - and let us wonder around the millhouse to take a closer look at whatever we wanted. One area was off limit for spoilers, but for the most part, we were allowed to take pictures at will. And I did. Here are a few of them:

A photo posted by Amy Ratcliffe (@amy_geek) on

Look at the Zatara poster:

A photo posted by Amy Ratcliffe (@amy_geek) on

Looking down from the second floor before going down the spiral staircase:

A photo posted by Amy Ratcliffe (@amy_geek) on

Chas was here:

A photo posted by Amy Ratcliffe (@amy_geek) on

Investigating mysterious happenings:

A photo posted by Amy Ratcliffe (@amy_geek) on

So many books.

Yeah. I would have been happy to spend the entire day in the millhouse - as long as I could avoid all the traps. Read all about my Constantine set visit at IGN. More importantly, keep watching Constantine live to help its chances for renewal!

January 28, 2015

Genderbent Jack Frost and Elsa Costumes

Elsa from Frozen and Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians make the perfect pair. And by perfect, I mean adorable/attractive/etc. It seems like fans started shipping the two characters right after Frozen hit theaters, and it wasn't long before they were mashed up (an Elsa braid with a Jack Frost costume, for example) or cosplayed together. I know there are tons of other icy heroes and villains Elsa could go for, but I'm sticking with this one. I was reminded of why when I saw this gender swapped Jack cosplay and Elsa cosplay:

So. Gorgeous.
Diana, a.k.a. Dids Rainfall, is Rule 63/genderbent/gender swapped Jack Frost and DinyChan is Elsa. (Psst: DinyChan posted several shots documenting the making of her Elsa costume. They're worth a look).

Photos by Peck Photography

h/t Cosplay Blog

January 26, 2015

The Many Expressions of Han Solo

I have Han Solo on the brain. I'm finally reading the Brian Daley trilogy (I just finished the first book and am so on board), and I'm writing an article about the scoundrel for StarWars.com. It seemed like a good a time as any to pause for a moment and recognize the varied and wonderful facial expressions of Han Solo.

No one does eye rolls like Han Solo.

That smile.

This is me every Monday, Han. I understand.

Plans are overrated.

There's the lightbulb going off.

Just don't even.

Who me? Nope, I was nowhere near the place. I was dead at the time.

We don't know either.

No words.

So indignant!

Thank you, Harrison Ford. Can't wait to see what new gifs I'll be able to add to this list after The Force Awakens.

All gifs via Giphy.

January 22, 2015

10 Minute Star Wars: The Force Awakens Sith Cosplay

It turns out that snow is good for something. Don't tell anyone I said that.

Nah, I actually don't hate snow. I strongly dislike it, but I recognize that it can be positively beautiful. Just over a week ago we received buckets of snow, and I took advantage of the fact that it was snowy but too cold and went for a long walk at Squire's Castle metro park (yes, there actually is an old castle). When I posted a video of falling snow, some smart folks suggested that all the woods were missing was the mysterious figure/Sith named Kylo Ren holding a trisaber from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Hmm. I put it in the back of my head, but the snow melted in a couple of days.

I noticed the snow falling steadily yesterday morning and the gears started turning. I knew I had enough pieces in my wardrobe and cosplay arsenal to put together a makeshift The Force Awakens Kylo Ren costume and re-create the snowy forest scene from the trailer. It took me ten minutes to change, 40 minutes in the car to the metro park, and 20 minute outdoors and this happened:

What I'm wearing:
Black long sleeve t-shirt
Black jeans
Black skirt that's asymmetrical and layered - I thought it would make the line of the costume better but just ended up making me look like I'm wearing MC Hammer pants because I had to stuff it into my boot
Black knee high cuffed boots
My dark green-gray Merida cape turned inside out to show the black lining
Black leather gloves
Darth Vader plastic lightsaber

It was tricky to replicate the exact pose and lines of Kylo Ren in the teaser. If I didn't pull the cape in just right, I looked weird. If I didn't put my right leg far enough out, I looked weird. If I tried to crouch over too much, I would fall. But I'm happy with the result. It was a fun way to spend an hour.

A screencap from The Force Awakens teaser for reference:

Yes, my trisaber is more Amy-sized. And yes, it stopped snowing as hard once we got to the park. Of course.

Photo edits:
Obviously the forest isn't that shade of blue at midday so that was altered, and the trisaber was added over the Darth Vader lightsaber I was holding.

Photo and edits by Thom Zahler.

January 21, 2015

My Reaction to the Star Wars: Episode VII Boy-Targeted Merchandising Plan

I am a fan of Star Wars. To the point of being obsessive. I purchase toys, clothing, props, housewares - a variety of goods featuring Star Wars logos, characters, everything. Despite that, it feels like I'm not wanted by marketing because I'm a girl. We're often excluded and ignored, and I'm so weary of gender based marketing that I could punch things. I recently discussed the lack of Hera and to some degree Sabine in Star Wars Rebels merchandise, noticed that neither Black Widow or Scarlet Witch are part of this group of The Avengers: Age of Ultron toys from Hasbro, and today? Well, female fandom got another kick to the gut courtesy of a Star Wars: Episode VII merchandising plan.

Jedi News grabbed a picture of the plan at the UK Toy Fair. Please click to enlarge to see all the details.

This is the plan for The Force Awakens merchandise being sold in the UK. Aside from the part where they misspell Carrie Fisher's last name, let's focus on the merchandise target:

Priority: Boys 5-12
Secondary: Parents/Gift Givers

That sound you hear? Me weeping tears of rage and frustration. I know it only mentions the primary and secondary target demographics and not all of the marketing targets, but why is it "boys" and not "kids?" Why must this gender based crap continue? It hurts to be excluded entirely. Women could fall into the secondary categories so at least there's that... I guess?

And it does have an effect. If it stings for me as an adult who understands the context and shitty yet inexcusable business reasons surrounding this, think about how it would make a young girl feel. To give an example of how it goes both ways, a friend said her boys were both excited to see Strange Magic until they heard George Lucas say it was for girls. Then they weren't interested. Thanks for reinforcing gender stereotypes, all of society! This is why we can't have nice things.

Because this issue has hit me so hard recently, I don't have any more words at the moment. I don't have the answer. For goodness sake, I was outside in the snow this morning dressed as a Sith - what do I have to do to prove I am a fan worthy of being marketed to? Argh. So, my reaction in gifs.

When I first saw the merchandising plan:

source: moviegifss
A few minutes later:

source: CafeMom
Then anger:

source: HarryPotter.cc

And then back to:

source: Reddit
And finally:

source: Reaction Gifs

January 20, 2015

Review: R2-D2 Sixth Scale Figure by Sideshow Collectibles

You can relax, everybody. I've found the droid I was looking for! Whew. Sideshow Collectibles had it all along. R2-D2 is one of my favorite characters in all of Star Wars so I was excited when Sideshow announced their R2-D2 Sixth Scale Figure complete with accessories, compartments that open, his drink tray from Return of the Jedi, and a Princess Leia hologram. That last accessory makes me particularly happy. The R2-D2 statue isn't scheduled to ship until February-March, but Sideshow sent one my way for advance review purposes. It happened to arrive at my doorstep on my birthday last week which seemed like a good sign, and this little astromech model didn't disappoint.

My R2-D2 arrived in a white box since he shipped early and was in simple but secure packaging. Every part was carefully nestled into place, and I can see that it won't be a puzzle to get all the parts back in if I ever need to put R2-D2 away. As you see, the package has the droid, the serving tray and arms, cups, Luke's lightsaber, Ben Kenobi's table, a Leia hologram, and lots of tools that you can insert into all the compartments that open on R2-D2's body.

Has R2-D2 ever looked so pretty? At 6.75 inches tall, he's big enough for you to appreciate all the little touches. The panels are all weathered just right, and it's apparent Sideshow's artists spent a lot of time looking at reference pictures of R2-D2. The wires look just right, the legs are spot on, and in short, it's like a mini R2-D2 walked off the screen and into my house.

Several panels pop open on R2-D2's front and on the top of his dome. You can use the magnetic end of the lightsaber to make them swing open too! I found that quite entertaining and recorded a short video to show you how it works. You can open the panels on top of his head by pushing in to release them. Inside you'll find the life scanner and periscope! If you can't get them to extend, just gently turn R2-D2 upside down and shake them out. They'll stay extended until you retract them. Another cool moving part: the third leg extends and retracts. Again, all you have to do is push in to release it and then push the leg back in to lock it. Easy as pie.

Artoo is loaded with gadgets, gizmos, and Luke's lightsaber. He's basically prepared to get you out of any scrape you find yourself in. We know he's good at saving the day and this is one reason why: he has everything he needs on hand.

You can take the many accessories and insert them into any of R2-D2's open compartments. There are plenty of mix and match options so you can trick R2-D2 out or give him a holiday.

If you really want to put R2-D2 to work, make him serve a round of drinks! The serving tray fits easily over R2-D2's legs, and the seven cups snap right into place without pushing them very hard. And yeah, each cup of green liquid looks detailed.

The part I like best about the serving tray is the serving tool. It slides onto a peg on the top of R2-D2's dome and is completely articulated. You can stretch it out and move it around so you can pour liquid into each and every glass. Wouldn't want to leave anyone on Jabba's sail barge out!

Did I mention the light-up parts? No? Well, let's remedy that. R2-D2's dome and the table both have on/off switches to add an extra bit of oomph to the figure. The dome portion of the figure easily comes off so you can control the battery; it then lights up the projector, Artoo's "eye," and a couple panels on the back. Obi-Wan's table has the power switch on the bottom, and you can turn Leia on and off by pressing down on one of Obi-Wan's salt and pepper shakers (what else do you think he used to add flavor to bantha steaks?)

My figures and statues are organized in a messy way if that makes sense. There's not a rhyme or reason to how they're displayed. But that might change because of this R2-D2. The details, the lights, and the accessories all add up to a gorgeous collectible that makes me want to build a diorama. I want to create Ben Kenobi's Tatooine home so I can re-create the scene where R2-D2 reveals Leia's plea for help. Now, will I actually complete that? I don't know. Not any time soon. The point is that this statue makes me want to.

You can pre-order a sixth scale R2-D2 of your very own for $149.99 or set up a payment plan for $75/month. He'll be shipping between February and March, and I expect you to send me pictures on Twitter or Instagram when you receive yours.

Ready for the long list of what comes in the box?
Highly Detailed R2 Series Astromech Sculpt
Rotating Dome with Articulated Projectors Ports and Hinged Panel Utility Access Ports
Light Up Logic Function Display, Processor State Indicators & Holographic Projector
Extending Life Scanner
Extending Periscope
Hidden Skywalker Saber Hilt with Magnet Tip for Panel Access
Articulated Terrain Tread Legs
Articulated and Retractable Third Tread Leg
Two (2) Articulated Control Arms
Three (3) Application Arm Compartments with Hinged Panels
One Access Compartment with Hinged Panel
Articulated Drink Serving Arm
Multi-Tiered Serving Tray Attachment
Seven (7) Drinking Glasses
Ben Kenobi's Table with Optional Illuminated Princess Leia Transmission Hologram
Computer Terminal Arm
Grasping Arm
Power Charge Arm

Yes, you can pose him until the banthas come home!

Need more pictures of R2-D2? I've got them at Flickr.

Full disclosure: R2-D2 was provided by Sideshow Collectibles for review purposes. This did not affect my review of the product.

Cut Into a Delicious Wampa Cake

Luke Skywalker exacted some pretty satisfying revenge upon the wampa for hanging him upside down and planning to devour him, but you can take more jabs at the creature from Hoth by cutting into a wampa cake! I mean, you have to make said wampa cake first, but Kathleen of Yummy Crumbles has you covered. Look:

Kathleen was inspired by some wampa cupcakes by Sugar Swings and made her cake from red velvet (because of course), cream cheese frosting, and sweetened coconut. The teeth and horns are made from different kinds of frosting. The blood is optional, but come on, you have to include it. You could use red gel food coloring or strawberry glaze to achieve the "just fed" wampa look. Pretend he snacked on anything but a cute yet smelly tauntaun.

Recipe and instructions at Yummy Crumbles. Thanks for sending the link my way, Kathleen!

January 19, 2015

DIY Star Wars Rememberlutions/Memories Jar for 2015

When the end of the year rolls around - and it will before we know it - it can be all too easy to beat up on yourself for everything you didn't get done. I scrambled at the end of 2014 to cross a couple of goals off my list, but I still felt like a loser for missing the mark on others. And I shouldn't. I worked hard, I tried new things, and I added a lot to the "WIN" column of life last year. Because our brains tend to forget about all the positive and focus on the negative, it's a great idea to keep track of all your accomplishments and happy moments and you can make it extra fun by crafting a "rememberlutions" jar, also known as a memories jar.

BuzzFeed posted a how-to for rememberlutions jars, and a friend sent the link around to our girl gang (we're going to have jackets made one of these days) and suggested we make them. Is the idea of a memory jar cheesy? Maybe a little, but I don't care because I'm already looking forward to opening up the jar next December. Speaking of my jar, here's the finished product:

I know. You're all shocked that I tied it in to Star Wars. I made a giant label because I wanted to cover up the one already there (I upcycled a jar of salsa), and it says "Great, kid! Get cocky." It's a reminder to myself that it's okay to pat yourself on the back from time to time. I used Mod Podge to seal the label once it was applied.

I painted the lid with a few coats of black acrylic paint and then used a white gel pen to draw on stars. I had an extra Millennium Falcon Micro Machine lying about (I have a problem when it comes to Star Wars miniatures) and I hot glued the tiny ship to the top of the lid.

As for all that glitter, well, I might regret my decision to put glitter on the inside of the jar when it's time to open it next year. I used my finger to smear a thin coat of Mod Podge wherever I wanted the glitter to stick, poured in the glitter, swirled it around, and dumped out the excess. I accidentally dumped some of it into my lap and will undoubtedly be finding silver glitter on my desk chair for months to come.

For the finishing touches I glued a black ribbon around the neck of the jar and cut some stars from black craft foam. You can tell I freehanded it because the stars are all lopsided. Once I hot glued the stars on, I dabbed on some Mod Podge and added glitter because I just really like glitter.

Once the glitter, glue, and paint were all dry, I wrote down a couple of great things about 2015 so far and added them to my memories jar.

My favorite part about this project is that you can decorate your jar with whatever you want. We had a cute Groot jar in our group with Groot inside the jar, a jar with Darth Vader wearing a pearl necklace, and one decorated with Hello Kitty, Sailor Mars, and Pinkie Pie.

Here's what you need to make your own rememberlutions/memory jar:
Any ol' jar
Your choice of craft supplies like glitter, stickers, pom pom balls, googly eyes, feathers, ribbon, paint, puff paint, paper, etc.
Pictures you print from the web or cut-outs from magazines or comics
Hot glue
Mod Podge (I always seem to need Mod Podge and not just because I love the smell)

You can do anything to your jar that makes you happy. Add your favorite quote, your favorite character, and whatever decorations you want. You'll be looking it all year long so pick a design you won't tire of seeing. Visit Pinterest if you need some memory jar inspiration.

Then, whenever anything great happens to you - and it will - write it on a piece of paper and add it to the jar and include the date. Write down all accomplishments or exciting moments - big or small. Examples: "I built a new database for work," "I sold my first feature length article to a magazine," "I cataloged all my books and didn't cry." You get the idea.

If you end up making a memory jar, please send me a picture on Twitter.

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