By Scott Murray
I've been a big fan of Overwatch since I first purchased the game over a year ago. However, the Skill Rating concept in the competitive game is beginning to take a toll on my passion. In this audio commentary, I share my frustrations and offer some solutions.
The explosion of geek culture has had several effects on the entertainment industry. We can now count on comic book movies being made every year. More and more geek themed television shows are hitting mainstream and on-demand channels. Not to mention, comic conventions are growing and expanding.
Case and point: Salt Lake City launched their first comic convention back in 2013, and over 70,000 people attended it. Since then, they've topped over 125,000 attendees at their event. This year Las Vegas is hosting The Amazing Las Vegas Comic Convention, and they've already booked guests like Adam West, Burt Ward and Stan Lee.
With new conventions popping up all over the country, many people will finally get the chance to experience one for the first time. They can be fun and memorable, as well as tiring and overwhelming. That's why it's a good idea to plan ahead and try to prepare yourself for the experience. Here are some comic convention tips to consider:
Take pre-convention arrangements
Be sure to read up on all of the parking, shuttle service, convention times and entrance/exit information. If the event is taking place in your hometown, it might be a good idea to drive by the location and get a sense of where you need to go. If you're coming from out of town, take advantage of hotel and travel packages for the event. For example, if you're going to travel to that Las Vegas convention, look for hotel and flight deals on places like Vegas.com.
Be prepared to re-charge
With everything that is going on at a convention, it's easy to drain a cell phone and gain an appetite. However, it isn't always easy to stop and get food if you've got a full itinerary planned for the day. Plus, food lines at conventions can be long and time consuming. So, bring snacks to keep your energy going, and bring a portable charger for your phone.
Be sure to know the autograph rules
Autograph guidelines can vary based on the show size and the management of the convention. Sometimes, it's as easy as walking up to the table, paying and getting a signature. Other times, you might have to pre-pay for an autograph ticket, and those might be limited. There are even times where only certain guests require a ticket. So, it's best to become very familiar with how your convention handles autographs.
Lines don't have to be just about waiting
While at a convention, you're with like-minded friends. A lot of times, standing in lines is an opportunity to make new ones. Feel free to strike up a conversation with someone as you wait for a panel, autograph or photo op.
Be patient with the staff
Sometimes comic conventions can be a little chaotic (especially brand new ones). New circumstances and situations can sometimes challenge the staff. If you get frustrated, try not to take everything out on them. Many of the people that work these conventions are volunteers, and the situation may not be directly their fault.
At the end of your convention experience, you'll probably develop some of your own likes, dislikes and strategies for your next trip. At least these tips well reduce some things many people learn the hard way.
Star Wars Celebration Olrando was my first Celebration. Ever since I heard about Celebration Anaheim in 2015, I couldn’t wait for the day I would get to attend a Celebration myself. I purchased tickets for Orlando the day they went on sale. Then came the hard part - waiting. The wait for Celebration this year seemed eternally long, but it finally ended and this is my rookie Star Wars Celebration Orlando report.
The Eve of Celebration
Like many other Celebration attendees, I travelled to Orlando on Wednesday. It was a good thing too. The party seemingly started before I got on the plane. It was obvious who was headed to Orlando for Disney World and who was headed there for Celebration. The Disney travelers had mouse ears. The Star Wars fans, at least some of them, wore Star Wars t-shirts and carried lightsabers.
Once I arrived in Orlando, the Star Wars presence continued to increase. The number of travelers wearing Star Wars gear steadily escalated the farther I got from my plane. Star Wars t-shirts, jackets, and accessories were everywhere.
Then I arrived at my hotel. Within an hour, I started meeting Star Wars fans I had only talked to online. It was great seeing people that I previously recognized only as a tiny Twitter images. The 501st was also staying at my hotel. Those guys were the life of the party. They congregated in groups around the lobby talking Star Wars at all hours. The environment was perfect.
Day One - Wristbands
I decided against sleeping over at the convention center. Although it would have been cool to get into the live stage for the 40th anniversary panel, I just couldn’t sleep on a concrete floor overnight. Therefore, I got up early and headed over a few hours before the exhibit hall opened. The wrist band system for the premiere panels of the day confused me at first. A wristband was required to attend one of the half-dozen or so premiere panels of the day. Celebration permitted attendees two wristbands per person per day. One obtained a wristband for their panel of choice by waiting in line. Once you obtained one wristband, you could line up for another.
I took one look at the lines for wristbands and made a strategy. I checked social media in the morning, and I knew the wristbands for the live stage for the 40th anniversary panel were already gone. The lines for the overflow rooms were lengthy. Therefore, I went for a wristband for another panel first. I selected Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo’s panel on Animated Origins and Unexpected Fates. Then I lined up for the 40th Anniversary panel. The result was that I got into the Animated Origins panel and an overflow room for the 40th Anniversary.
The 40th Anniversary & Animated Origins Panel
My preference for the 40th Anniversary panel was the live room. However, the Behind the Scenes Stage was incredibly fun. Even though the Star Wars celebrities were in another room, that didn’t stop the excitement. Watching that panel online in my office would have been fun. Watching that panel with a couple thousand other people...well, that was something else entirely. The atmosphere was electric. Three was a minor glitch with the feed in our room at the beginning. The staff soon corrected it. The audience gasped and cheered when Kathleen Kennedy introduced George Lucas. If you saw the panel, then you know the rest. It was historic. If you haven’t seen it, check it out online as soon as possible. In short, attendance at the live stage is not required to enjoy the marquee panels.
There was no option for the Animated Origins panel. Either you saw it in person, or you didn’t see it at Celebration. For those that enjoy Star Wars animation, it was well worth it. Filoni and Hidalgo reminisced on the origins and fates of many characters including Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, and Cade Bane. The highlight of the panel was a previously unreleased and unfinished animatic of a duel between a young Boba Fett and Cade Bane. I won’t spoil the scene. I recommend you find it on the day one live stream on YouTube if it is available.
Day Two – Autographs
Before Celebration, I pre-ordered several autographs from Topps Authentics. There was no shortage of celebrities to choose from. I settled on the cast of Rebels. I already met Steve Blum (Zeb) last year in Dallas. Therefore, I ordered autograph tickets for Tiya Sircar (Sabine), Vanessa Marshall (Hera), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Kanan), and Taylor Gray (Ezra). I suspected that the autograph process was likely time consuming. So, I made the tough decision to skip The Last Jedi panel. My thought was I could watch the panel online on my phone while waiting for autographs.
My plan failed. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi on the floor was unreliable. In addition, cell coverage was mediocre at best. This was disappointing. I heard numerous stories from Celebration Anaheim where attendees watched The Force Awakens panel on their phone. It just didn’t work in Orlando. Despite that, I entertained myself by chatting with others waiting for autographs. The advantage of Celebration is that everyone is a Star Wars fan. You always have that in common with those around you.
My pre-order tickets for Friday included Tiya, Vanessa, and Freddie. I started in line just before 11 a.m. for Tiya, and finished with Freddie just before 3 p.m. I had assumed the autograph lines at that time would be shorter with many people attending The Last Jedi panel. That assumption was just wrong. However, with the comradery of my fellow fans, the wait didn’t seem that lengthy. The bigger issue was the line. There just wasn’t enough room. Lines began to overlap and it was confusing.
Despite the line issues, the autograph experience was enjoyable. Tiya Sircar and Taylor Gray were my favorite autograph experiences. Both were extremely personable. They took the time to chat with the fans and truly made the experience worth it.
Day Three – Rebels
I devoted the first half of day three to Rebels. I spent the previous night attending Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After dropping off friends at their hotels, I didn’t get back to my room and settled in until after 1 a.m. I still wanted to get into the live stage for the presentation of the Rebels panel, so I got up at 5 a.m. and finished a podcast episode. Then I cleaned up and headed to the convention center. Unfortunately, I missed getting a wristband for the live stage by mere minutes.
However, not all was lost. After waiting to get into the overflow room, I learned my media credentials would get me into the room for the live panel. I was glad I made it. Dave Filoni and the cast of Rebels provided an excellent presentation. Of course, the big news was that season four of Rebels will be the last. That was hard to take, but we had the chance to see a trailer for the upcoming season as well as the first episode. I won’t say more about it, but it was good.
The rest of my day was spent on the exhibition floor. I did some shopping. I toured the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit. I ran into friends from social media and made some new ones. Plus, I took in all the cosplay that was around me. There are some seriously creative cosplayers in Star Wars fandom.
Day Four – Winding Down
By day four of Celebration, I was exhausted. It was a good kind of tired though. I only had one thing on my agenda, and that was to get my final autograph, which was Taylor Gray. After that, I spent my remaining time at Celebration exploring the merchant booths and the art show, hanging out at the Star Wars Live! stage, and catching up with friends before we all headed our separate ways. Sunday was relaxing in that way. I elected against attending any panels. There was no pressure to get anything done.
I heard a lot of advice before attending Celebration. Many people suggested bringing snacks. Although simple, it is excellent advice. It is very easy to get caught up in “the next thing” at Celebration. There is a lot to do, and I found myself constantly putting off meals to make it to the next panel, the next autograph line, or a meet up with friends. Having a snack in my backpack helped curb hunger until I could finally sit down and eat.
Another lesson is that you can’t do it all. This is also often repeated by Celebration veterans. With that in mind, I revised my Celebration schedule several times prior to getting to Orlando. By the time I got there, I had a third of the activities on my itinerary that I started with. Even then, I still couldn’t do it all. You must consider the lines, the crowds, and the unexpected. A positive and flexible attitude is a must.
Finally, sleep is a valuable commodity. With after convention meet ups and parties, bedtime keeps falling back on the schedule. Resisting the allure of late activities is difficult. Therefore, skipping some of the earliest panels isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Those are usually available online later.
Merchandise and “Swag”
I’m not the biggest collector out there. I have limited space for my collection, so I exercise restraint when shopping at conventions. That is hard to accomplish at Celebration. Convention exclusives are everywhere. The line for the Celebration store scared me away. However, I still managed to acquire a few choice pieces.
First, I pre-ordered Jerry Vanderstelt’s print Arrival. It is gorgeous. This print features Darth Vader’s arrival at Cloud City. Jerry was incredibly gracious when I met him to pick up my print. I resisted purchasing any additional art. Again, space is at a premium, and I didn’t want to stress out my wallet.
I made several purchases from the Disney store on the Celebration floor. Disney recently debuted new additions to the Droid factory series. I acquired many of these droids. They are small, fun, and they don’t take up much space.
Swag is the key to many of the best conventions. Celebration had plenty. Lucasfilm offered a free Princess Leia print after the 40th anniversary panel. Since I didn’t attend The Last Jedi panel, I missed out on the movie poster giveaway. However, I obtained a copy of the Del Rey sampler and countless pins, patches, and cards from podcasts and websites.
Celebration wasn’t without its difficulties. News of long lines just to get into the convention on Thursday morning made the news. Indeed, it took some attendees three hours or more to get into the convention center. That issue improved over the weekend with additional entrances opened and added security. The autograph and photo op area of the convention center was challenged by overlapping lines and poor visibility. That situation improved drastically by Sunday as well. The organizers apparently learned quite a bit over the weekend.
Despite the challenges, Celebration was an incredible experience. The fan community was amazing. I didn’t even discuss the podcast stage shows I watched or the after convention meet-ups I attended. The props on the floor and the exhibits were impressive, and the panels delighted fans. It was a busy and exhausting four days. Fans know the next Celebration is not until 2019. However, we don’t know where. Here is hoping it isn’t a long trip, because I can’t wait to go back.
By Scott Murray
Some of the best movies are the ones that provide us with several memorable lines. Without question, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is such a movie. It was tough picking just a handful of them to feature here, but here goes nothing:
It seems to be that the only thing you've learned is that Caesar...was a salad dressing dude.
It's always funny when older adults try to repeat contemporary high school vernacular. However, Mr. Ryan needs to do that in this scene in order to make a point. When he does, his delivery is sincere...and hilarious.
How's it goin', royal ugly dudes?
To me, this line is about comedic timing and choice of words. Things seem to be going well for the guys as they attempt to rescue the princesses from having to marry against their will. However, when King Henry suddenly appears, it takes the air out of the room. At this point, anything could be said coming out of the awkward silence, and Bill picks something that mixes a common greeting with a funny insult.
All behold, he ate the pig. Thus proving that he's a...Ziggy Piggy!
I'm not sure the REAL Napoleon would've tolerated the crazy Ziggy Piggy waiters, but who cares? It's amusing seeing them get in his face, poke him, stick a button on him, call him a pig and oink at him. After all, those guys have no idea who's in front of them. While suspending disbelief, I also tend to wonder what it would be like to have to act like that as part of your job.
Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!
I know it's just one word said over and over again, but it's Napoleon bowling! As a bowler, I've never had this particular thing happen, but I've been mad at my ball enough to want to repeat the words.
Tell me about your mother.
Aside from, "You can call me Siggy," Freud attempting a random therapy session at the police station is quite hilarious.
The only true wisdom that consists of knowing...that you know nothing. That's us, Dude!
I loved these lines so much, my wife bought me a t-shirt with them on it.
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
The line itself isn't original, but the use of it was GENIUS. Nobody could see it coming, and I remember the movie theater bursting out in laughter when Socrates said it. Bill & Ted probably don't watch soap operas and had no idea what he said, but we did. I love that kind of random and unexpected humor.
Here's the deal...what I win, I keep. What you win...I keep.
All of the historical figures have their moments, including Billy the Kid. It was clear when he walks into the room that people were intimidated. Yet, our clueless heroes just thought he was cool enough for their report. In my interview with Dan Shor about Billy the Kid, he mentioned that he did research on the real man, but was told to throw it all out the window. Nonetheless, his card game rules made for a great line.
San Dimas High School Football Rules!
While many of the historical characters probably weren't rooted heavily in fact, we all know that this guy exists in several high schools. He didn't do the work, and it was apparent to everyone. However, he still had to get up and do something. So, why not leave the stage with a bang by turning the presentation into a pep rally?
By Dennis Keithly
After catching up on some television shows in my effort to be a better-informed geek, I decided to turn my attention to some movies. But, where to start? While pondering that question, the trailer for Alien: Covenant was released. Instantly I knew what I needed to watch next. As a fan of the original Alien movie and its sequel, Aliens, I had long wanted to watch Prometheus. Finally, I was going to have the chance.
What I Knew Already
I remember hearing years ago, when Prometheus was in the development stage, that Ridley Scott was helming this project. Reporting in the early days of the project seemed somewhat muddled. Some reports stated Prometheus was a prequel to the Alien franchise. Other reports claimed this was an something entirely different.
Somewhere along the line, the mystery vanished, and it was commonly known that Prometheus somehow concerned the “Space Jockey” seen in the original Alien movie. If you don’t recall the Space Jockey, this was the alien pilot found on board the alien spacecraft that the crew of the Nostromo discovered. The pilot died at his station among a field of pods on the bridge of his ship. Of course, those pods were eggs for the Xenomorphs, the famous aliens of this series.
So, I knew going into this viewing that the story had something to do with the Space Jockey and the Xenomorphs.
Before I get into my initial reactions, I will comment a bit on the story. The movie begins on a planet with an abundant source of water. A humanoid alien, that viewers will come to know as Engineers, stands on a cliff near a waterfall. He ingests a dark liquid, and the audience sees his DNA begin to break down. The Engineer then convulses and begins to fall apart, literally. Next, the Engineer’s body falls into the water, and again audiences see his body disintegrate. But wait, the DNA reactivates in the water of this world.
I’ll admit, I was thoroughly confused by the prologue of this movie when I saw it. It was only after I finished the movie and reflected on the beginning that I began to understand. At least, I think I understand. The Engineer sacrificed himself to seed this world with life. That was intriguing.
The Search for “God”
After the prologue, the focus shifts to a cave in Scotland. Archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) explore the cave and find a cave painting depicting a giant figure set against some spheres believed to be distant stars. Humans discovered the art of many of earth’s earliest civilizations all over the world.
Of course, Shaw and Holloway conclude that the figure depicted is an alien being of some sort. Furthermore, they deduce this alien engineered life on Earth. Using their discovery, they convince Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) to fund an expedition to what they believe is the alien’s home world. In other words, they are on their own quest to find God and settle any and all creation myths on Earth, but fortunately, this isn’t Star Trek: The Final Frontier.
Things Fall Apart
Eventually, the starship Prometheus arrives at this planet. David (Michael Fassbender), an android left to watch over the hibernating crew, awakens mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theoron), Captain Janek (Idris Elba), and the rest of the crew. The atmosphere on this planet is toxic, so the crew wear suits to protect them from the environment and set out to explore an alien structure. Once inside the structure, things start falling apart.
As this blog is not meant to be a comprehensive review, I’ll highlight a few plot points. The Engineers are indeed found, but they are believed to be dead. However, David finds a lone surviving Engineer in stasis. Peter Weyland accompanied the crew on this mission in the hopes the Engineers could save him from death. The Engineers had other ideas.
Apparently, the Engineers were in fact bio-engineers. They conducted experiments, and eventually at least one of their creations escaped containment killing nearly all of them. Contrary to the hopes of the crew of the Prometheus, the Engineers had a nefarious purpose. Their creations in this compound were intended to destroy life on Earth for an unknown reason. As the crew of the Prometheus explores the mystery, all but one fall prey to the bio-creations of the Engineers, thus this becomes a classic Alien story. The film concludes with the birth of what Alien fans would recognize as an early Xenomorph.
The greatest strength of Prometheus is the lore and world building. The prologue makes little sense until the rest of the movie is viewed. Out there in the galaxy is the answer to the question, “Where does humanity come from?” The Engineers have a story that is intriguing and perplexing.
The visuals were fantastic. Prometheus captured the aesthetic of Alien and Aliens. The interior of the Engineers’ stronghold is a clear predecessor to the architecture of the Xenomorphs in the Alien films. The Prometheus starship is a clear predecessor to the Nostromo from Alien. The Engineers and their creations clearly belong in the same galaxy as the Xenomorphs.
David, the synthetic or android, was interesting as well. Weyland manipulated him from behind the curtain. However, Weyland was conflicted. Although, he didn’t have a soul, and he was loyal to Weyland, he cared for Shaw at the very least. Or, perhaps his loyalties changed when Weyland perished. Regardless, he seems to be a favorite subject of debate and discussion for fans.
However, even after I finished the film, Prometheus leaves plenty of questions unanswered. For instance, why did they want to destroy life on Earth? What had humanity done to warrant a death sentence? In addition, if they didn’t come from the planet the crew of the Prometheus discovered, where did they come from? Were these Engineers rogue scientists or were they acting in accordance with the will of their people? What was their mission?
Fortunately, Prometheus has a sequel coming in Alien: Covenant. One can hope that many of these questions will receive answers there. I have my doubts. Covenant looks much more like Alien and Aliens. The focus of those movies was action and survival. Where the Xenomorphs came from was not as important as surviving. In fact, their origin was irrelevant to the story and resolution of the crisis at hand.
I think I went into Prometheus expecting a film much more like Alien. In that, I expected a survival tale. The premises of those first two films in the franchise was survival, containment, and escape. Granted, those are indeed elements to Prometheus, but they are secondary. Shaw and Holloway set out to find answers to a mystery. That was paramount. They found some of those answers, but they also discovered more questions. Also, I found it frustrating that a ship containing a scientifically literate crew continually made unscientific decisions, such as removing their helmets just because the atmosphere appears breathable without conducting more tests.
It is not that I didn’t enjoy Prometheus, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. However, having had time to reflect on this movie and discuss it with friends, Prometheus would likely benefit from a second viewing to further examine the mysteries of this film. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I would or could make time for that.
Also, given that I am not itching to do so solidifies my opinion somewhat. To be certain, Prometheus was a superior movie to the sequels to Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. I’m hoping Covenant will be even better.
By Scott Murray
I don't need to tell you that movies can generate emotional responses. Films that make you laugh and cry are nice, but the ones that generate an epic geek-out can be even better. With geek movies now hitting theaters every year, we get plenty of geek-out opportunities, but not all of them will last. In other words, you may geek-out the first time you see it, but after that, as B.B. King would say - the thrill is gone.
That's why I wanted to highlight three of my classic geek-out moments that continue to generate a geek-out response every time I see them. They just never get old.
"General...would you like to step outside?"
I was 7 years old when Superman II hit theaters, but that was old enough to be really mad at General Zod for causing havoc all over the country. It was really tough to sit there and watch all of that happen while powerless Clark Kent could only stand by and watch. That is what made his re-emergence at the Daily Planet so epic.
Once Superman asked Zod to step outside, I had a geek-out moment that internally said, "YEAH! Party's over, bitch." Okay, maybe not those exact words at age 7, but you get the idea. This scene still generates a response today.
"Here it comes."
I've said it for years - I'm a Kirk guy. I love his swagger, cockiness, and confidence - especially when it comes to sticking it to the bad guy. There was arguably no better time to witness that then in Star Trek II when Khan thought he had beaten the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately for him, Kirk doesn't believe in a no-win situation.
I remember seeing this movie in theaters. As Kirk, Spock and Saavik pull up the prefix code, the fantastic music of James Horner began to swell. An over-confident Khan thought he was going to get a transmission of Genesis information, but when Kirk says, "Here it comes"...it drops Reliant's shields and allows the Enterprise to counter attack.
When this happened, the crowd in the theater burst into applause. I still feel like doing that every time I watch this scene.
"Jabba...this is your last chance. "
Speaking of over-confidence...Jabba the Hutt exuded plenty of that, especially when he had Luke, Han and Chewie standing over the Sarlacc Pit. Luke was my hero growing up, and nobody wanted to see him master The Force more than me. Watching him enter Jabba's Palace and making quick work of two Gamorrean Guards was a pretty good indicator.
Yet, watching him stand on that plank as Jabba scoffed at his threats to free them or die...I have to admit I was a little panicked. There seemed to be no way out. Then suddenly...
and whoa, GREEN LIGHTSABER!
Then opening a can of Jedi Whoopass on Jabba's cronies!
It was just so awesome. It remains my favorite Star Wars moment. The best part about seeing this scene today is that I not only geek-out a bit, but I still feel some of that child-like emotion from the first viewing (though I like experiencing it better without the EXTRA Sarlacc mouth in it).
I guess you could say there's a common thread here. All of these scenes involve the good guys turning the table on the bad guys. So, yeah, I guess I'm all about the heroes. Don't get me wrong - I think Zod, Khan and Jabba are cool too. They're just not supposed to win.
In keeping with my resolution to become a “better informed geek,” I decided to check out Gotham. I initially passed on this series when it debuted in 2014. My thought was that if it took off, I could always catch up. Over sixty episodes later, I’m just getting around to it. Therefore, I watched the first two episodes from the first season.
My Initial Reluctance
Gotham tells the story of a young James Gordon before he became commissioner of the Gotham police force. One of his earliest assignments is to investigate the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Yes, they are the parents of Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman. Chances are you already knew that about this show. My initial reluctance to embrace this show was the pitch. I had heard that series featured Gordon combating Batman’s enemies while Bruce Wayne grew up. This wasn’t appealing. I had visions of Gordon with a bushy mustache taking shots at Penguin complete with his top hat, caw, and umbrella. I’m pleased to say that the final product is far better.
Caution: Not a DC Guy
So, up front, I should say that I’m more of a Marvel kind of guy. I always have been. Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Over the past few years, I’ve read an increasing number of comics and focused on Thor, Iron Man, and The Avengers. As for DC titles, I have only read a few issues here and there. But…Batman. Who doesn’t love Batman? If there is one character from the DC universe for whom I feel I have a reasonable knowledge base, it is Batman. So, even though he wouldn’t be appearing in this series, that is why I decided to check out Gotham. How does it do?
In nearly any Batman story, there is a theme of corruption. That theme primarily presents itself in the police force. Gordon, whether as commissioner in the comics or a as young detective in Gotham, struggles combating that corruption. In Gotham, his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is a little too comfortable with a local crime boss known as Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). Later, in episode two, when a homeless veteran is murdered in the streets, Gordon confronts the first responder that should have secured the crime scene. When the first responder retorts that he was at a restaurant that pays him $50 a month to look after the place, Harvey sides with the first responder. These examples demonstrate how corruption is both subtle and patent in this series.
Bullock’s and other officers’ ties to the criminal underworld create difficulties for Gordon. Another crime boss, Carmine Falcone (John Dorman) takes notice when Gordon is taken hostage by Mooney’s gang. Before Gordon and Bullock are butchered, Falcone and his gangsters show up to save them. Falcone explains to Gordon how he had an understanding with Gordon’s father, a former district attorney, about the criminal underworld and how it should be run. Ultimately, Gordon must fake the murder of one of Mooney’s henchmen, whom DC fans will recognize, but more on that later, in order to save himself and family.
Gordon’s fight against corruption puts him at odds with the rest of the police force. He clearly doesn’t approve of Bullock’s methods, but as a novice detective he has little leverage to push back against them. He certainly tries. A certain amount of corruption is expected by the police force in this series. It is the cost of doing business in Gotham. Clearly, Gordon’s resistance to and fight against corruption is a theme of the series, and it is done well.
Bruce Wayne and Alfred
Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz, teases behavior that might one day lead him to become Batman. In the premiere, he balanced precariously on the roof of Wayne Manor until Alfred (Sean Pertwee) noticed and called him down. Later, Bruce holds his hand over a candle attempting to see how long he can stand the pain before Alfred barges into the room. Alfred has a heavy burden. He is clearly the guardian to a troubled ward. Pertwee turns in a good performance as a firm parental figure who is both loving and stern when needed. However, he knows Bruce needs a mentor in a fashion that he cannot provide. Therefore, he turns to Gordon.
Likewise, Mazouz plays a young Bruce Wayne very well. Bruce is clearly confused and conflicted. He doesn’t know how to handle the death of his parents. He understands someone is to blame, and he wants some sort of vengeance. His inner conflict leads to self-destructive behavior. Of course, audiences know he will grow up and don the mantle of the Bat someday. His scenes in the first two episodes were short but adequate. Bruce clearly respects Gordon. So far, he is showing just enough hints that he’ll one day become the man under the cowl.
Batman’s Rogues Gallery
What is a good Batman story without his rogues gallery? Gotham gives a fresh take on many of the Bat’s enemies. There aren’t any vats of chemicals or other terrible, random accidents to give rise to these villains. They are all grounded in the grittiness of Gotham city itself.
First, there is the “Cat.” Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), the Catwoman from the comic books, is a young, and apparently homeless, woman who witnesses some of the largest crimes in Gotham. In the premiere episode, she is a silent witness and petty thief. That changes with the second episode. She takes on a much larger role. As an orphan child, she is often overlooked on the streets until someone specifically begins targeting such orphans. She hasn’t yet become the expert burglar seen in the comics.
Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), the Riddler, is already in the habit of asking annoying questions. He starts the series as a forensic examiner working in the lab of the police department. At least in the first two episodes of this series, he isn’t a villain. However, it is easy to see his style develop. He cannot resist teasing out his discoveries to the rest of the police force when he has a bit of forensic discovery to share. Bullock has little tolerance for Nygma’s antics and shouts the examiner down rather than indulge him.
Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, was a henchmen of Fish Mooney. He made a power play to displace her. Unfortunately for him, his power move failed, and he fell out of Mooney’s graces. It was Cobblepot that Gordon had to pretend to murder. Of course, Gordon doesn’t murder in cold blood, and he let Cobblepot go. Whatever you do, don’t call him “Penguin.” These first two episodes set up an ongoing plotline detailing the Penguin’s rise to power.
Finally, there is Ivy Pepper. Ivy is the daughter of a man framed for the murder of the Waynes. She is a witness to his demise. Although she is just a child, there are clues to her alter ego. First, of course, is her name. Second, she is surrounded by plants in her parents’ apartment. Compared to other children, she is a quiet child. Like Bruce Wayne, she has her own tragic childhood that will likely shape her future.
Gotham is not as colorful as many superhero themed shows. At least in the first two episodes, there are no super powers displayed by anyone. Of course, Batman didn’t have any. However, he had plenty of enemies that did. Instead of telling stories of epic battles between heroes and villains, Gotham focuses on Gordon’s detective work and the rise of Batman’s many enemies. In that way, it is similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
This show has piqued my interest. I’ve heard unflattering reviews of this series. However, I found it engaging. Batman has been done many, many times. Some, such as the aforementioned Dark Knight trilogy, are successful. Others, not so much. Batman’s story is well known throughout geek fandom. Therefore, it is difficult to engage those fans who have high expectations. This show may not have met everyone’s expectations, but I’m enjoying it. I didn’t expect to like watching a young Bruce Wayne, but I find his development intriguing. Gordon is the white knight of this series. His armor is slightly sullied, but he is a man of principle. I’m looking forward to following his journey and the rise of Gotham’s most vicious criminals.
By Scott Murray
In last week's Geek Directive Podcast, we discussed the new subscription box that Disney is putting together. Evidently, it will include movies, TV shows and video games all in one place. So, GANNIN asked us if we could create our own content box...what would we put into it? The answer for me was easy - I'd want one called RETRO BOX, filled with 1980s greatness. Here are some of the stuff I'd want inside of it.
I miss the days when "MTV: Music Television" was about actual music. It was so great to be able to turn it out and basically get a visual radio station featuring great bands and some very creative music videos. I've wanted to have a channel on satellite TV to offer hours of classic music videos for some time, and I think a retro box would be a great place to queue them up! I'm talking everything from Huey Lewis & the News, The Cars and Cyndi Lauper to Van Halen, Twisted Sister, Midnight Oil and ZZ Top.
I realize that a lot of classic shows are available on DVD and Blu-ray, but it sure would be nice to scroll through them all in one place. It would have to include the original V television series. I would also want The Muppet Show, The A-Team, and Knight Rider. I'd want comedies like Silver Spoons, Different Strokes, Night Court and The Jeffersons. Finally, I want some of the shows that are hard to find today like The Powers of Matthew Star and The Wizard .
AFTER SCHOOL SHOWS & CARTOONS
I would definitely like to have some of the programs I watched before/after school, as well as some Saturday Morning Cartoons. Granted, some of these shows may not hold up in my adult brain, but it would be fun to re-visit most of them. I would want some classic shows produced by Sid & Marty Kroft. There would have to be some Battle of the Planets, Masters of the Universe, and Star Blazers included in the mix. I'd also like to queue up some Fat Albert, and some classic Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry.
How could I have a Retro Box without movies? The 1980s were an awesome time for movies, and there are several titles that still hold up. Naturally big franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, Terminator, Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones would be in there. I would also need The Last Starfighter, Wargames, Back to the Future and E.T. It wouldn't be complete without classics like Weird Science, License to Drive, The Breakfast Club, Can't Buy Me Love and Coming to America. The list could go on and on, but they would all have to be there.
No Retro Box would be complete without video games. I would want the manufacturer to produce produce more of these than the Classic NES consoles. Considering it felt like Nintendo made 12 for the whole country, that wouldn't be a tough order. However, I would also want games from classic systems like the Atari 2600. This means titles like Ka-Boom and MegaMania. I would also like to play stuff from the arcades, including the classic Star Wars games, Spy Hunter, Drangonslayer, Galaga, Phoenix, Afterburner and Tempest.
It seems as though Disney will sell their new box for about $100, and this box would definitely be worth that price. I'd feel like a kid in the 1980s again...only with a hint of 2017 kids since I would be on it all day and would never go outside.
By Dennis Keithly
I made a New Year’s resolution. Let’s call it a “soft” resolution.
I decided this is the year I’m going to catch up. It seems the older you get, the busier you are. The busier you are, the less time you have to indulge in all your favorite geek passions. So, over the last dozen years, I feel like I have missed out on more and more. Therefore, this is the year that I start catching up.
All those wonderful super hero shows that Netflix has been releasing? I’m going to watch more of them. Those crazy science fiction films from the past few years that weren’t exactly family friendly? I’m there. This is where it begins. Taking a cue from Comic Book Noob, I’m dedicating some of my free time to becoming a “Better Informed Geek.”
Where to Start?
I don’t want to give the impression that I haven’t seen anything from the past few years. I’m a Star Wars die-hard. If it’s available, I’ve seen it. The Marvel cinematic universe? I’m all over that as well. I was thrilled with Deadpool last year and let down by the DC cinematic offerings of Batman vs. Superman and to a lesser degree, Suicide Squad. With that in mind, I decided to try something a little different. My first indulgence is Firefly.
I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “I can’t believe you haven’t seen Firefly!” Honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it either. It seems to have a huge following. At Dallas Comic Con last year, I saw countless references to it. So, I decided to give the premier episode a viewing.
What I Already Knew
I knew very little about Firefly. Of course, there was a starship, and I knew its name was Serenity. I also knew that the lead character and captain, played by Nathan Fillion. I’ve heard many people compare Fillion’s role to Han Solo from Star Wars, or at least state it was inspired by Han Solo. I also knew that Alan Tudyk, a darling of geek culture that provided the voice for K-2SO in Rogue One, had a role in the show as a character named “Wash.” Finally, I was aware that Morena Baccarin had a role. I must admit I was only aware of her from her role in Deadpool.
First off, the environment of Firefly surprised me. I had never paid much close attention to the details of the imagery I encountered for Firefly. My brief glimpses gave me the impression that the show was somewhat steampunk inspired. That really isn’t the case. Firefly is a western in space. Indeed, it contains many of the trappings of the classic western. The attire of the cast features pants, shirts, vests, hats, holsters and other accoutrements of the old west.
Despite the presence of motor vehicles and starships, citizens populating this galaxy frequently employ horses of all things. The show features a frontier doctor, Dr. Simon Tam, played by Sean Maher. It even has a frontier preacher, known as a Shepherd, Darrial Book, played by the recently departed Ron Glass. Even the soundtrack for the show lends a decidedly western atmosphere.
Next, the use of the starships was intriguing. This isn’t Star Wars or Star Trek. Fuel and upkeep are paramount to the crew of the Serenity. Like the Enterprise, there is an engineer, played by Jewell Staite as Kaylee. However, the Serenity's maintenance is much less formal than what you would expect aboard the Enterprise. Kaylee’s love for the Serenity is no less than Scotty’s for the Enterprise though. Beyond that, the ships of the Firefly universe, at least in the first episode, seemed far less armed. Instead, attacking vessels rely more on running down their opponents and boarding them. The climax of this episode involved the Serenity and its crew attempting to outrun a gang of savages. Weapons fire was never exchanged.
The world building accomplished in a single episode was remarkable. Granted, when viewed commercial free, this episode is 86 minutes long, so there is more time than a typical one hour show to establish an environment. However, in that 86 minutes, Firefly provides a prologue in which Captain Malcolm Reynolds (I know his name now) and Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) fight in the Unification War (I admit I looked that up).
Their side is overwhelmed by the Alliance in the war, and thus, he becomes a smuggler with Zoe as his second-in-command. Over the course of the episode, the western feel is neatly established through character costumes, titles, mannerisms, and technology (they use guns that look like six-shooters at times). Joss Whedon, the show creator, writer, and director, established a rich universe in the confines of a single episode.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen all of Whedon’s creations. However, I am very familiar with the Avengers franchise. Unfortunately, a movie like Avengers sets the bar incredibly high. So, I was slightly disappointed with the overall production of Firefly. This isn’t a fair criticism. For one, Firefly is nearly fifteen years old. Also, it likely didn’t have anything near the production budget of a movie like Avengers.
This relates to my second point. Most of the budget for this show seems to have been spent on special effects for the spacecraft. The sets, outside of the ship, were minimalist. It worked for the most part. It was only slightly distracting that this show seemed like it occurred on a backlot, similar to the original Star Trek, rather than on the plains and small towns of a frontier space colony.
The initial episode tells a satisfying story of a captain and his crew trying to make their way in a galaxy coming to terms with a recent civil war. Captain Reynolds is a determined man and loyal to his crew. His crew reflects that loyalty as they make their living smuggling goods and transporting passengers throughout the galaxy.
The tone of this show is somber. Although it has its light hearted moments, that isn't a label I'd use to describe the first episode. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for alternative take on the classic science fiction space odyssey. I’ll certainly watch more episodes, and just maybe I’ll blog about them here.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.