December 13, 2012

Spoiler Free Review - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Guest Post)

On this eve of the official premiere for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, many of you are probably watching the trailer on repeat, listening to the soundtrack, and thinking about dwarves - I don't think it's just me. Several lucky folks have already seen the film (some more than once!), and reviews have been hitting the internet at a rapid pace. I've read mixed things, but that's okay because 1) I'll see for myself and 2) The opinion of people I trust is valuable to me and their reviews have all been positive. So, when I saw Brian Ward was looking to share his feelings about The Hobbit, I asked if he'd want to post them here. He's a huge fan of Tolkien, but I also know he's able to separate his love for the material from the evaluation of the film - he's cool like that. So without further delay, check out his review (and yes, he discusses 48fps):

What do you do when you finally get to see The Hobbit and have so very much to say about it but don’t have a personal blog? Clearly, you seek out another Tolkien geek with an amazingly awesome blog and you write a guest post for her! But this isn’t a review of Jackson and Co.’s film, per se; though I’ll certainly be expressing my spoiler-free opinions on the movie, including, yes, the controversial high frame rate in which the trilogy was shot and is being exhibited in a limited number of theatres. This blog is everything that went through my head as I left that theatre in “beautiful downtown Burbank” on Tuesday night. And, for this opportunity to unload the terrible burden on the association areas of my cortex, I couldn’t thank Amy nearly enough.

And so it begins…

Just as it’s been for SO many people throughout the 75 years since its original publication, The Hobbit is a very personal book for me. When I was five years old, growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I was outside playing with the neighborhood children when they—as backwoods kids tend to do—decided to poke a nest of wasps (the actual Apocrita; not to be confused with yuppies) with a stick. Moments later, with an ice pack over my right eye and bawling, I was being cradled within my mother’s arms, seeking comfort after a stinger had found its way into the inner corner of my eye. I was thoroughly convinced that I was heading briskly toward death. Or, at the very least, blindness. Instead, only moments later, my eyes were opened then and for the rest of my life. Unless, of course, I actually go blind one day. So in the case of legitimate blindness, let’s just say this statement is strictly metaphorical.

“Son,” began my father, as he sat me down on the sofa. “Something just came on TV that I think you’re going to want to see.” And there it was in every bit of its Rankin/Bass glory. In a television screen in my family room there lived…a hobbit.

To say the animated movie is an abridged version of Mr. Bilbo Baggins’ journey to, well, there and back again would be a bit of an understatement. Much is left out from the already short novel, but the film did everything it was meant to do. It entertained me. It thrilled me. It made me laugh, gasp and, you betcha, cry. It even inspired me to sing “Down, Down to Goblin Town” often as I marched toward my bedroom. And when my father explained to me that it was based on an even better book, the Rankin/Bass movie just made me want to learn to read at whatever level necessary to read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Since the third grade, I’ve read The Hobbit and its sequel once a year and, yes, I have just as much glee today as when I first read them in 1985.  In fact, no matter my love and appreciation of Sir Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Gandalf the Grey (and later, the White [and later, the Grey…again]), the Rankin/Bass film was so influential to me that, to this day, I can’t read either novel without hearing the thunderous, yet paternal voice of John Huston in my head.

It was my personal dream to be the man who brought The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, though “they” said it could never be adequately done. So when I heard the news that the latter was in preproduction at New Line Cinema, I was absolutely crushed. When I heard a split-second later that it was to be co-written and directed by Peter Jackson, I was absolutely elated. I’d been introduced to Jackson’s work while a student at Appalachian State University, a small town many would argue—at least at the time—wasn’t so unlike something you’d read about the Shire itself. Everyone knew one another. Tales of yesteryear still spread throughout the community. And there were plenty of adventures to be had if you only dared to take that first step outside your dorm room and into the Blue Ridge Mountains. While there, I happened upon a film called Heavenly Creatures, a true story about two young Kiwi girls responsible for the death of one of their mothers. The story was brilliantly executed, using a fantastic blend of live-action and computer-generated effects. None of it was too flashy and all of it was imperative to put you into the mindset of these two very desperate girls. Later, I discovered that the director—one Peter Jackson—had also been responsible for two other dark comedy/horror films I’d seen and loved called Dead Alive (overseas, it was known as Brain Dead) and The Frighteners. I was hooked and needed to see as much as possible from this director. My best friend and I found very hard-to-get VHS copies of his even earlier works, Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles, and loved them for very different reasons. And with that, it was settled. If Peter Jackson could create fare that ranged so dramatically in genre and tone, but entertained so equally, he would become my new favorite director. So hearing that these movies were being made without my involvement, but by my favorite director was, needless to say, incredibly bittersweet.

That is, until I saw my first bit of footage from Fellowship of the Ring. From then on out, I had nothing but confidence, admiration and joy that my favorite director was helming this epic. I’d have never been able to accomplish the feat he and his team would.

The immediate follow-up question after the tremendous success of The Return of the King was whether he’d move onto The Hobbit next. And that question was repeatedly met with a negative response. And I never blamed Peter for it. The tone of The Hobbit is considerably different. It’s basically a story for kids, while The Lord of the Rings is decidedly not. The trolls—named Bert, Tom and Bill Huggins, for god sakes!—, for instance, are basically comic relief and barely pose any kind of real threat. This is fine, because it’s only the first of many tests of character, strength and faith that get increasingly more difficult as The Hobbit progresses. But these aren’t characters you’d have ever found in The Lord of the Rings. After all, the first menace the four hobbits face in Fellowship of the Ring is a creepy-as-hell Ring Wraith. Much, much different tone. Making The Hobbit wasn’t something Jackson wanted to do. I respect that. But he was basically forced into the director’s chair, once Guillermo del Toro had to step down.

Jackson needed something to get him excited about returning to Middle Earth and, ultimately, competing with his own masterpiece. Ironically, technology was the answer to this problem. A theme woven thoroughly throughout Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is anti-industry or, more to the point; the effects industry has on the natural world around us. But in this era of filmmaking, it’s that very technological revolution that seemingly brought Jackson’s excitement for Middle Earth back. The piece of technology in question was the RED camera and its ability to synch multiple cameras running at the controversial high frame rate of 48 frames per second.

When film was introduced to audiences, it was done so with hand-cranked projectors that relied on the projectionist to run the film at a reasonably steady speed. The films those projectionists were cranking were shot using a camera that was also hand-cranked by a camera operator, so viewing of these films were rarely perfectly simpatico between the director’s vision, the cameraman’s arm and the projectionist’s arm. But as time moved forward and automation came into play, the standard frame rate for film—in order to make movement look as lifelike as possible—became 24 frames per second. With the advent of television over time, broadcasts began the standard of video mastering, which runs at 30 frames per second, hence one of the distinct visual differences between film and television. But film has always remained loyal to a 24 frame per second standard, due in large part, to the audience’s comfort level with it. After all, very few—if any—of us remember anything less and certainly have seen very little of anything more.

But, like the titular hero of The Hobbit, Peter Jackson sought adventure. He knew there was something out there beyond the confines of the Shire (24 fps) and seems to have found Rivendell (48 fps). The controversy over the higher frame rate comes with our perception of movement. The very familiar film “blur” with which we’ve grown accustomed and even comfortable is nearly non-existent in this new presentation, making many things easier on the eyes, especially in 3D. That easier feeling, quite frankly, is oddly uncomfortable for many. It’s very reminiscent of old BBC television or live TV specials where there’s something just a little bit faster or more fluid than a standard movie. Add in the 3D effect and, well, now you’re watching live human beings performing a stage play on a large film screen. You notice fewer cuts in each scene and you begin to have the sneaking suspicion that you’re literally watching 13 dwarves, a hobbit and their great wizard running the scene right there in front of you live. It’s awe-inspiring and, yet, for some, very worthy of downright loathing. It does change the way you see a movie and some have argued that it makes everything look fake. But, personally, I don’t think the frame rate really has much—if anything—to do with that.

To shoot effective 3D, you obviously need depth. To see that depth, you obviously need to light it thoroughly. And therein lies the problem. The Lord of the Rings is quite dark and moody. Praised for its realistic effects, miniature work and even computer-generated imagery (CGI), The Lord of the Rings relied and benefited greatly on the use of light and shadow. Light a miniature the right way and no matter how small it is, it’ll look like it towers miles above your head. If you light it improperly, it’ll look like something made by a 7-year old with an endless supply of popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue and an unsteady hand. Clearly, in today’s technological age, it’s not a difficult feat to shoot something in high levels of light only to make it look considerably darker by adding shadows and contrast via computer. But these scenes rarely look genuine, often replacing black with shades of blue and giving audiences far too many details that should otherwise be hidden by shadow. Unfortunately, most scenes within Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit are too well lit, giving everything an artificial quality not seen in The Lord of the Rings. The opening attack on Erebor, for instance, looks like we’re watching live humans super imposed into a set the size of Mattel’s Castle Grayskull. It doesn’t instill a great deal of confidence for the rest of the film, particularly when you’re also trying to process this new thing called “high frame rate.” And, sadly, I feel like it’s this simultaneous processing of the HFR that’s taking the brunt of the blame when I legitimately feel it has more to do with the production of the 3D.

If there’s one thing, besides the (sometimes uncomfortable) feeling of having a live performance right in front of you, that absolutely appears to work in HFR 3D, it’s CGI. Don’t get me started on how much I despise the use of CGI in most occasions, but as Jackson proved with Gollum/Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings and later with King Kong, CGI can be done well and reasonably convincingly. I wasn’t expecting pleasant things, when I thought about the fact that you’d have to double up the amount of CGI rendering to accommodate the additional 24 frames per second and the thought of seeing these things in 3D…ugh. I wasn’t expecting what I got. And what I got was very lifelike digital creations. The “Riddles in the Dark” scene between Bilbo and Gollum is all I need to point to. Granted, it was the very first scene shot on The Hobbit, so they’ve had more time with it, but Gollum is so lifelike, I swear I could’ve lassoed him with a piece of Elven rope and taken him home with me. The movement is so smooth and the weight and dimension of the character are so convincing, it literally solves the problem of computer-generated images not appearing to exist within the same frame as their live counterparts. Sure, there are scenes with CGI creations that look, quite frankly, video gamey, but when it matters—and Peter Jackson and his team at Weta seem to know exactly when it matters—the CGI is given a lifelike quality that I’ve never seen on film before. And I have to believe this is chalked up to the audience seeing it in the combination of 48 frames per second and 3D.

I’m eager to see the film in 24 fps to see if my next hypothesis holds true, but the HFR 3D does seem to have an effect on performances. Once again, Sir Ian McKellen plays Gandalf the Grey quite magnificently and Martin Freeman is a natural Bilbo Baggins. However, as I’ve said, when watching the HFR 3D, I got the feeling that I was watching a live show in front of me. It was like watching a stage play and, as anyone who’s seen their fair share of stage plays can tell you, there’s a distinct difference in the feel of performances. There are edits in The Hobbit, mind you, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was simply watching one single take from many angles and the performances felt more like stage acting than film acting. And this is something I attribute to the feeling the HFR 3D gave me. Only by seeing the film in a standard format will I know for sure, but it’s certainly something to consider.

Here’s my biggest lament. HFR 3D could absolutely be the future of cinema…but it won’t be. I’m eager to see more of it. It’s distracting—disturbing, even—when you see it for the first time. But I firmly believe, like anything to which we’re exposed over and over, it’s something I could very easily get used to. By the end, I loved the intimacy it gave me with the film. I only wish we could experiment with it for a while to figure out exactly how to light a scene and still make everything feel as intimate as The Hobbit does. I’d also like to see a film that doesn’t rely so heavily on visual effects play with HFR 3D. A straightforward action movie could really go places with this new technology. And, I dare say, a romantic comedy could even benefit. Imagine one of those cheesy scenes between boy and girl or boy and boy or girl and girl on an ice rink with one slipping and sliding all over the place as we track along with them… In 48 frames per second and in 3D, we’d literally feel like we were a third wheel watching this meet cute. And I kinda wanna see that. Sadly, though, the backlash that Peter Jackson seems to be getting from audiences, critics and theatre owners is going to quash this format for studios too quickly to really get a sense of what we can do with it. But, personally, if I can sit for two hours and watch a Quentin Tarantino movie made to look like the celluloid was run through battery acid a few times, I can just as easily sit through a Peter Jackson film that looks like an intimate personal performance right in front of my face. It’s a visual style choice like any other. And it’s one of which I’d like to see a lot more.

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of Tolkien, you’re going to be a fan of this movie. Like with Lord of the Rings, Jackson’s taken a liberty or two, but for the most part, they’re liberties with which I’m comfortable because they appear to make sense within the narrative. There are a few things inserted that fans only of The Hobbit novel won’t recognize, but fans of the extended appendices of The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion will certainly welcome. For some, it drags in places, though I never felt the time pass. Regardless, the last hour is truly something to behold. And I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. To be honest, just as I’ve always felt with The Hobbit, I’m very ready to go there…but I’m not so sure I’m ever going to want to come back again.

December 11, 2012

Muppet Babies and Star Wars Are a Thing?!

I have fond - if somewhat vague - memories of watching Muppet Babies as a kid and loving the show. Much to my mom's regret, I went through a phase of trying to be funny like Fozzie Bear and would spend most of the time in the car during road trips practicing my jokes (seriously, I recall pointing out the lines on my palm and telling my mom they were there because I was cracking myself up). An issue of Muppet Babies was also my first comic. I vaguely remember coloring in it - I mostly don't do that anymore.

I didn't know what Star Wars was when I was little and even if I saw the Muppet Babies parody episode back then, I wouldn't remember it. My memory is not the best. This means I just get to be delighted about the same things repeatedly! Muppet Babies and Star Wars came up on last week's Forcecast and one of the hosts mentioned the mash-up episode. I hoped it was on YouTube and tada!

Don't mind me, I'm just over here dying of adorable.

Gonzo also makes a Star Wars parody in "Gonzo's Video Show:"

It turns out that Star Wars was also parodied in one of the issues of the comic so I did what any reasonable person would do and ran across the internet to eBay. I love when worlds collide.

November 27, 2012

Review: City in the Desert

Monsters, mythology, a creation story, action, treachery - Moro Rogers' City in the Desert: The Monster Problem has it all.

The gist is that the world is riddled with monsters, but the brave and enterprising can pay their bills by hunting the creatures and selling them for their scales and various parts. Irro and his assistant Hari prowl the desert outside their city's walls looking for monsters to take down and bring back to merchants. You can tell they've been following that path a while; they're comfortable together and have the easy back and forth teasing and conversation of people who've spent time together and risked their lives together.

Their routine is jarred when a stranger comes into town claiming he can solve the monster problem by doing one simple thing. Just like any sales pitch that sounds too good to be true, it is. His actions make the residents of the city act bizarre - except for a select few. Irro's exempt and it seems like Hari might be. It's up to them save the day.

Rogers has a background as a storyboard and concept artist, and City in the Desert is her first graphic novel. I wouldn't have guessed it - she doesn't stumble at all. The story flows along in such a way that you just want to get to the next page but at the same time, you don't want to rush it. Though the art follows a manga style and seems to minimize lines, there's plenty to absorb in each panel.

Though I enjoyed getting to know Irro and Hari (they are fun to watch), my favorite part is the creation myth prologue. It reminds me of a Native American story and effectively sucks you into this different, fascinating world. And it's a small thing, but it fits that the art would change from black and white to the desert hues once Irro and Hari's story begins.

Overall, it's an engaging adventure that you can get wrapped up in because of Rogers' impressive world-building skills. My only real disappointment with the book is that it ends. I missed that it was the first volume in a series and almost released a Vader "Noooooooo" when I reached the last page.

Get Archaia's City in the Desert at your local comic book shop or order it online!

November 13, 2012

I hope I never have to hear the phrase "fake geek girl" again

I've been meaning to post about this ad that is appearing in DC Comics for almost a month:
From Club Jade
Here's the full comic as seen on College Humor:

Do you hear that sound? That's my head hitting the desk.
Granted, College Humor doesn't just pick on girls. There are comics for several stereotypes. I don't find any of them particularly funny, but The Imposter one got under my skin. Just the clothing choice alone! I love Star Wars. I like Hunger Games. This girl could be me.

I saw it online and then a few days later, I spotted it in the back of a DC Comic. Specifically, in the back of a Wonder Woman comic. After reading about a strong heroine, this ad felt like a slap in the face.

I know it's a parody. I know it's meant to be amusing, but the "fake geek girl" joke isn't funny anymore. This ad sends the message that girls aren't wanted. I feel it also perpetuates the belief that we must question geek girls. If you want to be really extreme, you could say this comic encourages people to stop girls who are wearing Star Wars shirts and quiz them about the movies to ensure they've earned the right to wear it.

This shouldn't be a thing. But it is. This very discussion comes up semi-regularly, and it's disheartening. It seems that there are still enough people whose knee jerk reaction to meeting a geek girl is to question her "cred." I experienced a couple of instances this summer that speak to that.

At Star Wars Celebration VI, I rushed into a screening of the season five premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I was covering the red carpet and sent my boyfriend in early and asked him to save me a seat. That seat ended up being beside a guy who looked at the Rebel Alliance tattoo on my shoulder and asked if I got it because of my boyfriend. He wasn't kidding. He wasn't being mean, he was really just that clueless. I set him straight, but he didn't seem to get a hint. Even after I had to inform him which characters the voice actors on stage were, he made comments as we were leaving about how it was nice for me to come to the convention for my boyfriend. I looked at him and in a not polite tone of voice said, "Actually, he's here because of me. Not the other way around."

Then at Baltimore Comic Con, my boyfriend was introducing me to another male creator - the guy said hello, looked at my Avengers t-shirt, and asked if my boyfriend made me wear it.

He was joking, but I wasn't laughing.

It gets old. I know male geeks have their own stereotypes to deal with, but I don't think they are made to feel unwelcome or excluded on a regular basis.

Along that line, female cosplayers have had to put up with a few ridiculous situations in the past month. MONTH. Not weeks, not years - four discussions in a month. First, Mandy Caruso detailed how she was harassed by press at New York Comic Con. She was wearing a Black Cat costume that revealed cleavage, and the male interviewer asked her to spank him and asked what her cup size was. Then, cosplayer Molly McIsaac posted about how people wearing costumes doesn't mean you can treat them like pieces of walking meat. And finally, just over the weekend, there was arguing about a faux nerd girl meme that used the word "whore." Intense discussion surrounded all of these posts - from all sides.

Today's incident takes the prize though. Artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) posted the following on his Facebook page:

Click to Enlarge -  image from Jill Pantozzi
Once you've digested that  rant and the usage of the word "yer", take a look at the comments.
This is one of my favorites:

Apparently men know everything and don't have to take the exam. Nope, just us ladies are the ones who have to prove our knowledge and our geekdom. Oh, and we wear costumes to taunt men. Yep. We just pander. Don't mind me, I'm over here dressing like Amethyst and pandering.
Harris isn't calling out all women cosplayers, but I feel like he's saying the majority of cosplayers are fakers.

I know people - men and women - who have dressed up as characters they didn't know inside and out so that they could participate in a group cosplay. Does it matter? No. If anyone is cosplaying a character just because he or she likes the outfit design, that doesn't matter either. I don't get how that harms anyone. Poison Ivy was the first costume I wore at a convention. I mostly knew her from cartoons, television, and movies and not so much from the comics. I liked her attitude and style. And thankfully no one stopped me to past judgment. If anyone would have, I might have been put off cosplaying. I have a thicker skin now, but back then, it wouldn't have taken much to discourage me from playing dress up at conventions.

And it would be bad enough if this was just about cosplayers in general, but no - he targets women in the tackiest possible fashion. It's a difficult conversation and point to make, sure. But approaching it in such a vitriolic manner is not the way. It just pisses people off. He's commented on the post since and said that he should have included men in his statement. Uh-huh.

It's all exhausting. I don't want to fight hard. I like stuff. I love stuff. It'd be cool if I could carry on without being questioned or having people think I'm doing it for the boys.

Side note:
A positive thing has come from the Tony Harris business. Gail Simone started a #CosplayAppreciationDay tag on Twitter, and it's trending right now. A lot of us take pride in what we do and looking at that feed will make you smile - which you probably need after reading the above.

November 9, 2012

Five Animals From Fiction I'd Love To Own

In real life, I might be a crazy cat lady. Even if I don't own dozens and dozens of them, the lifestyle just suits my personality. Few things can pull me out of a bad day faster than cuddling with one of my cats or playing with a friend's dog. That effect is maximized if there are kittens or puppies involved - I make high pitched noises and flail. This tends to happen whether I see them in real life or on the printed page or on screen on the television or internet. I like animals, okay?!

So after recently finishing my first viewing of Avatar: The Last Airbender (SO GOOD) and falling for Appa and crying repeatedly during the episodes when he was lost, I got to thinking about which other critters from fictional series and books I'd like to call my friends - I don't know if pet is exactly the right word for any of these guys.

Besides being impossibly cute and sweet, Appa is loyal and saves the day repeatedly. Aang and company would be screwed repeatedly if they didn't have the air bison to hop upon and fly away. Appa hauls them all over the nations! He's key to battle, too, and the series would have been entirely different without him.

I happen to adore Kitty Pryde, but even if I didn't, I'd still love her companion. The cat-sized creature is part of a dragon-like extraterrestrial race. Duh. He flies, breathes fire, and can understand human speech. He's saved Kitty's life a few times and has been her companion for years. What's not to love about a miniature almost-dragon? See more great pictures of Lockheed here.

As much as I respected owls, I was mostly scared of the birds of prey until I got to know Hedwig. I'm still a little frightened by them, but Harry Potter's pet, protector, and messenger at least allowed me to relate to them differently. She is fierce, and you get the impression she always knows exactly what is being asked of her. I'd never feel like I had an important enough task to give her.
Random fact: she was actually portrayed by male birds in the films because female snowy owls aren't completely white.

Just because K-9 was built instead of born doesn't make him any less awesome. He's smart, has an incredibly handy laser weapon, and can get into small places. He might require some regular maintenance, but he doesn't require walks - yay minimal clean-up! He's pretty much the perfect animal - er, animal-like - pal.

I can't pick just one of the Starks' direwolves - they have all shown their faithfulness and ferocity. It has to be traits of the species. Grey Wind, Summer, and Ghost have saved the lives of their humans. I can't think of a better protector. If I were going to be walking alone on the King's Road in a world like Westeros, I'd want one of these animals at my side.

Which animals from fiction do you want to bring home?

November 7, 2012

Peter Parker Drinks Tea With Aunt May

No, it's not quite coffee but it is a hot caffeinated beverage!

See previous installments of superheroes drinking coffee here.

November 6, 2012

Why I'm looking forward to Brian Wood's Star Wars comic

Do you see Leia looking completely badass in the flight suit on this cover?
Yeah, that reason above all else is why I can't wait to read Brian Wood's upcoming Star Wars series.
Star Wars #2 Cover by Alex Ross
If you haven't heard about the series, it's coming out in January and it's simply known as Star Wars. The basic premise of the story is to continue events from A New Hope assuming none of the other movies were ever made. It leaves a whole lot of fresh canvas; you can read more details here.

As I highlighted above, one of the awesome things we know about the series is that Leia is an X-wing pilot. In the handful of Expanded Universe stories I've read around the original trilogy timeline, Leia is mostly a diplomat. She's fantastic at playing that role - just like her mother - but it does make you miss her take charge, take blaster attitude from A New Hope. It looks like we'll see that side in the Star Wars comics. Woods tweeted a bit of the script recently that made me smile:

Hell. yes.

And I know the future of Star Wars comics is up in the air after the news last week, but Wood tweeted on Sunday that as far as he knows nothing has changed. Thankfully. I want to read this story, and I'd be willing to kick a mouse if it got in the way.

November 5, 2012

Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland Was So Worth The Price of Admission

Confession: even though I go to Disneyland as often as I can tolerate the traffic on the drive down, I get stuck in ruts. I go on my favorite rides, eat my favorite foods, and generally follow the patterns that I know make me happy. I've been trying to do at least one new thing on each visit and I've been making it a point to check out special events. This year it was finally time to see what Mickey's Halloween Party was all about.

I was worried about it not being worth the cost of admission, but I'd definitely go again. The event started at 7pm and went until midnight and only guests with tickets for the party were allowed in the park. Everyone with those tickets had wristbands, and somehow the cast members managed to get everyone else out of the park. This meant much clearer walkways and a very short wait for rides like the Haunted Mansion and Star Tours. To be honest, I'd probably fork over extra money once in a while just to enjoy the park with minimal crowds (if I didn't have a job I'd be there on winter weekdays all the time).

That was one of the main perks of the Halloween Party, but there was more! These events are pretty much the only time that adults are allowed to wear costumes within the park. Kids can dress up any time, but it's more limited for grown-ups. Disney villains were stationed in several places for photographs and they closed the night with a farewell song by the train station on Main Street! I see the Evil Queen and Cruella de Vil around the park regularly, but they were joined by other villains I'd never spotted like Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame and Cinderella's Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters. So. cool.

And let's not forget the candy. Holy cow there was a lot of it. Trick or treat trails dotted the park, and each was marked with a giant ghost Mickey that you could spot and dash towards. They gave you a bag upon entering and mine was stuffed by the time I left. You received a handful of candy at every station and sometimes you got stuck with apples or carrots. The lines were all manageable and moved quick, and it was hilarious to see the kids get hopped up on all the sugar and come crashing down as it got closer to midnight.

I don't even want to think about how many candy wrappers the maintenance crew has to pick up after the Halloween parties. Yipes.

There were other little things too: the cast members who weren't operating rides had special Halloween uniforms, the Rivers of America were covered with fog, eerie lighting was rigged throughout the park, the castle was cast in a creepy light and had projections going across the surface, and there was a fantastic group that sang Halloween tunes while floating on a raft in front of Tom Sawyer's Island.

It was a blast.

I haven't trick or treated in at least fifteen years, and I had so much fun acting like a kid - more than I normally do. Other adults must get that kick out of it too because there were a lot of other childless ones there. And the cosplayer in me was impressed by the sheer number of people who arrived dressed for the occasion. I saw a few Doctors, lots of Star Wars and Avengers costumes - and I can't remember the others. Too much was happening for me to retain everything I saw.

I know it's too late for this year, but if you've ever considered going to the Halloween Party or will be in the area next fall: do it - it's a wonderful time!

November 1, 2012

The next episode of The Clone Wars explores just how lightsabers are built

The Clone Wars episode airing this Saturday, 11/3, is going to reveal some secrets of the lightsaber building ritual - with adorable Younglings. Pardon me while I go watch these previews repeatedly:

October 31, 2012

My thoughts on Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm

By Geekleetist- Get it as a t-shirt!
Once I stopped flailing last night, I wrote about my thoughts and concerns regarding the Disney Lucasfilm deal. You can read all about it at Nerd Approved.

October 30, 2012

Disney Buys The Galaxy Far, Far Away

Sometimes you're going about your business, having a normal day and then Disney announces they are buying Lucasfilm! WHAT!

The full press release is pasted below, but for now the highlights:

- The biggest piece of news is obviously A NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. No, I am not going to stop using all caps inappropriately. Disney states they are on target for a new movie in 2015. Yes, Star Wars: Episode VII  is a thing.

- George Lucas says: ""It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products."

- More feature films are planned to grow the saga.

- The press release does not mention the live action series that's supposedly almost ready to go. But maybe Disney would have the money needed to move forward?

- It mentions the successful relationship between Lucasfilm and Disney on theme park attractions. Does this mean a whole Star Wars theme park?

Burbank, CA and San Francisco, CA, October 30, 2012 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.
Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.
"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. "This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value."
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products."
Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Warsfranchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.
Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney's global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.
The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.
Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm's legendary Star Warsfranchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks.Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world's top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney's strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.
The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney's very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company's unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney's portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company's ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world's highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.
The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.

9 Last Minute Geeky Costumes You Can Throw Together Fast

In case you've forgotten: tomorrow is Halloween. You probably aren't the only person without a costume for the office, for trick or treating, or for a party. I haven't decided what I'm wearing to work tomorrow, but luckily, I have a closet full of options. If you are still trying to figure it out though, don't go to the Halloween costume store in a panic! The shelves will be almost bare, people will be crazed, and you'll leave cranky. Trust me.

Try out one of these ideas instead. Chances are you have most of what you need for these costumes around the house and can run to a department type store to fill in the gaps.

Katniss Everdeen
You need: black v-neck tee, green pants, black boots (ideally lace up), and enough hair to pull into a side braid. That's it. Bonus points if you have a Mockingjay pin, a black rain jacket, or a quiver, bow, and arrows. You can also wear a marathon type sign that has "12" on it. This can easily be switched up to be a guy's costume and you could be from any district!

Classy Superhero
I've seen tons of superhero dress designs this year, and though I adore the evening gown styles, you probably can't pull that off at the last minute unless you have an old prom dress of the right color in your closet or feel like sifting through racks at thrift stores tonight.

Instead, look for any solid color dresses you have in your closet. If you have a green one for instance, you can add some gold accessories and become Loki. Then apply some lovely eye make-up (pictured above) to complete the look. Jangsara has tutorials for lots of superhero pallettes and even some Star Wars characters. If you have a Loki neclace, like this one for example, wear it with the dress!

Inspiration for this costume idea is from Janna O'Shea who has worn lovely Lady Punisher and Classy Marvel Girl costumes and from Jill Pantozzi  - she formed the Classy Lantern Corps.

Two by Two Hands of Blue
You'll need: a suit and blue rubber gloves. Go forth and be creepy.

Add a Mask
If you like toys and collectibles, chances are you have a mask or helmet of some kind. I have a Boba Fett helmet for example. Take whatever you have - Captain America hood, Vader helmet, etc - and pair it with something unlikely. Go with pimp Vader or Fett like above, pair a Stormtrooper helmet with your renfaire gear, or just choose randomly from your closet. The results will probably be funny, and the only uncomfortable part of your costume will be the mask.

The Boy Who Lived and the Boy With the Bread
Why not mix Harry Potter and The Hunger Games? Don glasses, paint a scar on your forehead, and carry around a baguette. You could wear a Harry Potter-esque school uniform or jeans, t-shirt, and an apron.

Alter Egos
Unless you have a Spider-Man or Superman spandex outfit lying around, being a superhero is out. But! You can be their alter egos. Dress like Peter Parker, Selina Kyle, Steve Rogers, Clark Kent, Barbara Gordon, Matt Murdock, Hal Jordan, and so many more. The best part about this is there are tons of comics, movies, and TV shows to pull references from!

Witness of The Silence
You'll need: a cord with a washable black marker to wear around your neck and you'll have to draw hash marks all over your visible skin (don't use a Sharpie). It's simple and spooky. Bonus points if you get a red wig to look like Amy Pond.

Battlestar Galactica Crew
This one might be a bit trickier to scrounge up, but I bet you have the basics for the BSG BDUs: gray tank, black tank, green pants, black boots. If you have dog tags (even if they aren't BSG ones), go ahead and wear them to help sell the look.

Any Character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Scooby Gang represents a wide range of the fashion spectrum. You can go from the trendy Buffy to the more comfortable choices of Willow. Dudes can rock the Giles librarian look or mostly-in-black Spike. This option is more fun if you can get friends to join in and make it a group costume.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas so that you aren't costume-less tomorrow! Keep in mind that you can stash these ideas for last minute cosplay for conventions, too.

October 10, 2012

When #drhorrible trends the world is less horrible

A few cool things happened last night: Dr. Horrible aired on television for the first time on the CW Network, #drhorrible trended on Twitter for a few hours, and Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day live-tweeted the West coast viewing. It very much had the same feeling of excitement and enthusiasm when the web series was first released five years ago. I've owned the DVD for a while (in fact, I received it in the coolest way possible) so I've seen it on a bigger screen but to have it live on TV was a different experience. I was happy that so many people had an opportunity to see it, and I hope the screening brought the awesome that is Dr. Horrible to new people. The thought of thousands of folks realizing that Bad Horse is actually a horse makes me smile.

Seeing tweets from Captain Hammer, Penny, and the writers was just as fun as actually watching the super villain musical. Some of my favorite tweets from the night (click to enlarge);

If watching the singalong blog again or for the first time last night has you longing for more of Dr. Horrible, don't forget that there's a comics collection and a companion book.

October 5, 2012

Five Times Tyrion Was Awesome In Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister excels at stealing the scene whether it's in the books or on the screen. He's one of the most intelligent characters we've met in Westeros (maybe the smartest), and he is a constant source of quips, general knowledge, and he's skilled at knowing just what to say to and about the worst of human behavior. He's developed his mind to make up for his stature and all that he has to put up with from the world at large because of it.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” 
I could make a list a mile long of all the times he's been amazing in the series - I could do that just with his quotes - but there's only so much room on the Internet, so I'll just keep it to five. 

Warning: spoilers for seasons one and two from here on out. 
"I am a vile man, I confess it. My crimes and sins are beyond counting."
When he confessed his crimes to Lysa Arryn and outsmarted her by asking for a fight and using her own rules for trial against her. He shows off his cleverness and his ability to make any situation humorous - even considering his life was on the line and he was dealing with a crazy individual. I also like that this is where his friendship with Bronn started.

"I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things."
When he designs a special saddle for Bran so that the boy can ride again. It's a pity that he's met with suspicion by Robb, but Tyrion really just wanted to help - partially because he's who he is and also because he suspected his sister and brother were involved with Bran's injury. It was touching and revealed his compassionate side.

"Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!" 
His epic speech / pep talk during the Battle at Blackwater can't be overlooked. I can't imagine that Tyrion ever wanted to be thrust into battle except maybe to try to gain the approval of Tywin but alas, he ended up in the middle of things anyways. It might not be the speech that someone like Jaime or his father would give, but it sufficed for the soldiers and the viewers LOVED it.

"I intend to serve as Hand of the King until my father returns from the war. And seeing as you betrayed the last Hand of the King, well, I just wouldn't feel safe with you lurking about."
I love the scene when Tyrion arrives in King's Landing and just strolls into the Small Council meeting like it's the most normal thing in the world. I might like Cersei's reaction to her little brother's appearance even more. It was clear in this moment that Tyrion was in his element and was going to be perfectly fine messing with the politics and treachery of the capital.

"Joffrey: You can't talk to me like that. The king can do as he likes! 
Tyrion: The mad king did as he like. Has your uncle Jaime ever told you what happened to him? 
Meryn Trant: No one threatens his grace in the presence of the Kingsguard! 
Tyrion : I'm not threatening the king, Ser, I'm educating my nephew. 
Tyrion : Bronn, the next time the Ser Meryn speaks, kill him. 
Tyrion: THAT was a threat. See the difference?"
I'm cheating now. Every time Tyrion sets Joffrey in his place is fantastic, and yeah, it's even better if the talking-to is accompanied by a slap or two. As Tyrion says, Joffrey is a vicious, idiot king. He's constantly trying to instill manners, lead by example, and I very much admire that he is not afraid of Joffrey. Even Cersei is cautions around her unpredictable kid, but Tyrion doesn't hesitate to knock him around. And I adore him for it.

I have nothing but gold stars for Peter Dinklage. He embodies the character to a crazy impressive degree.

What are some of your favorite Tyrion moments and lines?
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