Friday, November 28, 2014

Episode 128: Interview with GB Hajim

Welcome! Sit down there by the campfire and I'll tell you a story about an interview with the COO of this year's breakaway success event, HawaiiCon, GB Hajim. Jarys and Mike (we swear) learned about the wonderfully comfortable fan-celebrity atmosphere at HawaiiCon, as well as some of the guest list intended for next year. "Mike", Jarys, and GB also discuss the third season of "The Newsroom" and touch on GB's work as an activist. The conversation turned to social justice as it intersects with geek culture and good times were had by all.

Episode 128!

Check out HawaiiCon's Official Page and Discounted Tickets (until Jan 1st) at

Please support HawaiiCon's kickstarter at

It's here! The Episode VII trailer is here!

The time we've all been waiting for has arrived. Check out the first trailer for Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens right here:

I haven't watched it yet myself - we're seeing it in IMAX later today - but let us know what you think in the comments! Does it looks like JJ has the right feel? Is it the Star Wars movie we're all waiting for?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What We're Thankful For

I've been sitting here, struggling with how to write this article, for a few hours now. Initially, it was going to be a site-relevant, list of things in the geek world we've been thankful for this year. The camaraderie of conventions, getting to see a new Star Wars trailer, that sort of thing. A nice, simple article to go down easy this morning.

But with everything going on lately, that just feels...wrong. Distasteful, even. To pretend that everything is hunky dory while parts of our cities burn, and people I've known for years start showing sides of themselves I've never seen.

In the past twentyfour hours, I've seen two calls for murder and many more for assault. I've seen an entire group of people likened to "savages" and "animals". We've talked on this blog before about the importance of narrative, and how much research you should do before you try and pretend you know something. But all I've seen in the last few days is the narrative working. So many people believe what they've read in the newspapers, what their friends are posting on Facebook, without even a second glance. I've caught myself doing it several times - we all just want to live in our own echo chambers, where nobody disagrees with us and everything we believe is true.

So this Thanksgiving, what I'm most thankful for is the people I've seen, on both sides, who are willing to reach across the aisle and educate. There are a few of them, and I've learned a lot from watching their reactions to Ferguson. As they've strived to understand each other, they've allowed me to understand them both.

The original legend of Thanksgiving - and who knows how true it really is - is about two very different groups of people coming together to help and celebrate each other. Imagine what our world could be like if they had kept that ideal in their minds - if men hadn't let their lust for power and land drive a people to near extinction. Imagine a world we could live in where people understand and accept each other's differences, and troubles, and experiences, without dismissing them.

That's the kind of world I want to live in, and I'm thankful for everyone out there who's working towards that goal.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief and Podcast Co-host of the Ace of Geeks.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BLADES OF GLORY - An Interview with Shondo Blades

     My first introduction to Shondo Blades was on ABC's The Quest. Initially, I was interested in the idea of a fantasy reality show. As the show progressed, I became slightly disappointed with the show's 'slight of hand' trick played on the audience. The show claimed to be a test to see who the 'one true hero' was. However, it appeared to be more of a Big Brother type of popularity contest where lemmings determined both the public perception and fate of their counterparts. (We agree. - Ed) But I digress....I'm happy to say that I came away from the show inspired. The inspiration did not come from the gorgeous landscape. Nor did it come from the fantastic makeup. It also did not come from the amazing actors who gave near perfect performances as the lands inhabitants. For me, the inspiration came from one person...Shondo Blades. Why? Because here is what I saw on the show from Shondo: He always gave 100%. He didn't complain. He didn't tear anyone down, and always lifted people up. Especially himself. I think that's what was most inspiring. It was nice to see someone speak well about himself without an excessive amount of hubris. That's why when I had a chance to speak with Shondo on that sunny Los Angeles afternoon a couple of weeks ago I was more excited than I've been in a while to speak with someone. Little did I know that I would find out he was even more powerful and direct one on one than on television.

So, I hear you played football? 
Yeah, I played football all through high school and college. At the tail end of college, I decided to do something that I had wanted to more in control of, and that was MMA fighting.

Wow. It was just that simple. And you seemed to excel at it as well. 
Yes, I did excel in MMA. I think it was the athleticism of football which aided me. That and YouTube. I had YouTube accessibility so I would watch videos of technique and fighting styles. I really do need to give a shout out to YouTube! You can learn pretty much anything on there. Anyway, I went on to do my first fight and I was hooked. Went on to win in the men's division.

A Music Video Featuring Shondo Blades.

So how did you make the transition to acting?
I was training for a fight in LA and I was encouraged to try acting. So, I went back to Texas, packed everything up, and I was in Hollywood a month after that.

And you even booked some national commercials? 
Yes. Nike, Chevy, some music videos. In one particular music video for Wilkinson, I even played a twisted version of a black cupid. After that the deal with ABC to do The Quest went through and it was all good.

That's awesome! How was it auditioning for The Quest
Auditioning for The Quest was like any other audition. The best part of the experience I had was when we each had to stand up and say why we belonged in a show like this. I announced my love of GhostBusters and whoever wanted to challenge me on GhostBusters trivia could go down there and then. Afterward, I was told that I hadn't filled out something correctly on my paperwork. So, I needed to stay for a minute while they had me fill it out. Little did I know, that was their way to slyly get me to stay and do another 30 minutes of audition.

So, what's the next step for you? 
I want to be the next action star. When I watch the movie rush hour I feel like I have the ability to deliver a combination like the film: laughs and ass whooping. Almost a new era of Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop.

That's really awesome and I can definitely see that. So, your powerfully positive attitude...where does it come from? 
Definitely from my Mom. She's a motivational speaker and always taught me that the glass is half full. She had a simple approach to everything, and now I have a simple approach to everything. I'm very self sufficient because she taught me from a very early age that nobody's gonna love you like you. Positive self talk is vital. It's what I do because the spoken word is powerful and can manifest itself.

Do you feel that minorities can benefit from this positive approach? 
Yes, they can definitely benefit. Especially if they are feeling like they are 'less than' someone or something.

Being a minority in Hollywood, have you experienced adversity or challenge? 
Let me just say that I don't see it that way. I just see myself as a person. Now, keep in mind, I'm not blind to understand the current state of affairs in the industry. However, I feel like that can often be a handicap for others because that's all they see and it ends up stopping them. When I went into the audition room for The Quest, I said to them that it would be beneficial to have African Americans represented, and I would like to be that person for them. You see, I don't see it as a challenge. I see it as something to empower me.

That's really fantastic. So, what are you working on next? 
A show for Bravo might be on the horizon, although, I can't say much about it. I'm currently shooting a pilot for a show that follows me around as an actor/performer in Hollywood. I want to clear up any misconceptions that people might have about me. I've even heard some think that I have childhood issues, but I want to show them the other side. I had loving parents, a good childhood, and I want people to see that and disperse with those misconceptions. Because I'm just normal. Of course, I've been called so many things I can't even count. But the best is when they call me delusional. I'm Shondo, baby, and I was delusional enough to be on ABC on Saturday nights!

Thank you, Shondo. It's been a real pleasure! 

So, as you can see, Shondo is an amazing human being. He doesn't let people or circumstance define him, and does it via positive perception and the celebration of the human spirit in all of us. This kind of positive energy is what we all need. Not just in the entertainment industry, but in all industries around the world. I wish that more people subscribed to this school of thought. Because we might not see the amount of hurt and destruction in the world today. Let's get everyone to let their inner "Shondo" shine and howl  at the challenges that we face.

I have a feeling that you're going to see some VERY BIG things from Shondo in the years and even upcoming months.

Brian J. Patterson is a writer, producer and actor that splits his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. His house is a shrine to Wonder Woman and Xena.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Watch the Jurassic World trailer right now!

Once again, shaky low quality internet leaks get us all good content early. The folks at Universal have released the Jurassic World trailer way earlier than they originally planned:

So what do you guys think? I'm...cautiously optimistic. It looks fun, and I love the idea that the park has finally opened, but I'm worried about all the extra sci-fi elements being added. It could be awesome, or it could be overwhelming. We'll see when Jurassic World hits theaters in June.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Star Wars Trailer to Debut in Select Theaters this Weekend!

As has long been churning in the rumor mill, we now know that the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer WILL debut over Thanksgiving weekend in select theaters. And when we say select, boy do we mean select. The full list of theaters that will be showing the trailer (before every movie) is here:

UPDATE: The list has grown SIGNIFICANTLY thanks to an update at Here is the new, full list. This is a MUCH better cross section of the country. Original reactions still below.


That's...not a lot of places. If you're in one of those areas, go see it and tell us how it is! If you're not, be like us and desperately hope they'll be releasing an official version online.

JJ Abrams chimed in with a note to make us all feel better over Twitter:

Thanks, JJ - I just wish more of us would get the chance to see it.

Thanks to our friends at Aggressive Comix for the heads up.

Cosplay Shennanigans: O, Brother Warth, thou? ....and How to Make a Blue Lantern Battery!

I promise I will cut down on the lame puns, including the elephant ones.

In my SDCC Costume article, I learned a couple of things about my Brother Warth costume, the biggest of which is to HAVE MORE POCKETS!!!

Brother Warth 2.0, with improved torso armor and... apparently a messenger bag.

Brother Warth 2.0 does not differ too much, but I made some improvements:  have a different torso armor, so I can carry a messenger bag.  The new armor, which is made out of vinyl, matches my arm bands, and is overall much easier to walk around in.  It was also foldable, so I can carry it in a bag while I took the train to the LA Convention Center.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I, Human: Transhumanism and Gender - By Jarys

     Transhumanism, the belief that humanity will evolve or adapt rapidly beyond our current understanding through applied sciences and technology, is a hallmark of futurism. The "singularity" is coming, we read; an event in which this change and adaption will accelerate beyond control. At or before that point, Transhumanism will become reality. This can appear in a number of ways, and we look to science fiction for clues. Robots and programs might reach human intelligence or surpass it (I, Robot, The Terminator, Her). Humans might affix machines to themselves and merge with information technology (The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, pretty much all of Cyberpunk), Humans might bioengineer themselves to transcend our environment or concepts of individuality or gender (Bioshock, numerous superheroes).  Just look at our literature and media, you will find copious examples teeming with hoped for or feared possibilities for our future.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity, and the Difficulty of Modern Franchises

Video games have evolved as the art form has demanded. From one off games came franchises that rose and fell. For a franchise to succeed, it has to constantly keep up with current technology, add new features, but still stay true to what makes the franchise work. Some games like Super Mario, Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto, and Legend of Zelda constantly put out high quality games that tend to receive rave reviews. This is rare and difficult to maintain; Bioware has had its struggles with Dragon Age, Activision and its various Call of Duty developers have had troubles of their own, and now it seems that Ubisoft is having trouble with its flagship title Assassin’s Creed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cosplay Shennanigans: Creating Captain Cold


It was around Halloween time, so that means the start of a new year's worth of cosplay planning.  I don't really know what gets me started on a costume.  Sometimes, it's a character that just compels me.  Sometimes it's a really COOL material or gadget that I wanna use.  Sometimes, it's those awesome cosplaying friends.  This time, for Captain Cold, it's a bit of all three.  

I previously planned to make an ice-based character because of this awesome device.  It's called a Torridal Emitter, which is a miniature fog emitter, with a built-in fan or blower.  It even has a bright blue LED as an indicator light, but it also highlights the fog as the white fog reflects the blue light. 

My first thought was Mr. Freeze.  After all, I loved the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Heart of Ice."  I even planned out how to make the most complicated part, which is the dome head and helm collar.  I thought to use spandex coverings instead of coloring my skin white.  Somehow though, 2013 passed, and the costume never got past the planning stage.  I was somehow FROZEN in my indecision to move forward.  I wasn't sure why.  

Early 2014, I watched the first episode of Young Justice when it came on Netflix, and it reminded me of my ice-based costume plans, because Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Speedy were fighting four ice-based villains.  It was also the time Flashpoint Paradox came out, and I saw a different side of Captain Cold: Citizen Cold.  Being the leader and apparently most honorable of the Rogues, he would have been the guardian of Central city in Flash's absence.

This roused me a bit, but not enough to dust off my Fog Gun.  After all, during this time, I was making other costumes.

Then, fast forward to Fall of 2014, and I had gotten reacquainted with an old cosplay friend, someone so dedicated to cosplay that on the masquerade I first met her, she joined twice!  She was my new inspiration, motivation, and [apparently] fabric fairy.  She had an abundance of white faux fur, which she bestowed upon me.  When I saw that fur, my mind went back to those glimpses of Citizen Cold in Flashpoint Paradox, and that battle in the first episode of Young justice between Flash and Kid Flash and Captain Cold.... I had to take my Fog Gun out of COLD STORAGE... well, a plastic tupperware storage bin, but the same difference.   

Mr. Freeze was out; Captain Cold was now in production!

Faux fur on the glove's gauntlets.  

... and on the trim of the hood, which I LOVE LOVE LOVE the feel of!  

 Also, instead of altering a blue jumpsuit, I instead altered a matching pair of royal blue Scrub Pants and Jacket, which breathes more than a jumpsuit.  I also loved the yellow trim on Captain cold's belt,and if you've read my other cosplay articles, you'll know that I have an unhealthy love for pockets.  This let me create utility belt pockets where I can put my phone, cameras, and other important convention necessities like a portable phone charger and protein bars.

My fabric fairy, Amy of Dual Star Cosplay. It's her fault/virtues (depending on your perspective) that I unleashed Captain Cold upon this world of cosplay and conventions! 
All through this time, Amy, the fabric fairy, was helping me with things like zipper-sewing tips, but more importantly, she was my most vocal and encouraging force.  

All the sewing actually took a little under a couple of days to do, so it was rather CHILL.  My fabric fairy, did something else very awesome, and cosplayed an ice-based character, Ice from the 90s Justice League!  That was so COOL.  Cosplaying beside her was fun too as we liked searching out other ice-based characters, and making A LOT OF ICE PUNS!

The Coolest Photo out of Comikaze: Amy/Dual Star  as Ice, Ash  a Elsa, Frostplay  as Jack Frost, and myself as Captain Cold. 

 So perhaps, liking a character, and having cool gadgets were only the TIP OF THE ICEBERG (I promise, this is the last in this article), and sometimes the most important part was the human element, someone to encourage you, someone to have fun with, and most importantly, someone who say ice puns with.

Plus, our friends at Burton Photography let us have fun as Ice and Captain Cold:

How the cold-hearted treat heroes!

I... probably deserve that.

Why does she need my ice gun anyway? Doesn't she have her own powers?

I suppose being shot by my own ice gun, by someone who already has ice powers just doubles the irony.  Maybe that's Ice's powers after all.
John Garcia is a long-time convention goer and cosplayer. You can see some of his other cosplay constructions in our archives.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who's Annette, and why is she Running?

A friend sends me an invite on Facebook for an event: Official Net Runner Tournament.   The catch was that it was at a card shop near me called Anime Imports, and it was a Friday night.  That means that Magic the Gathering events would be going on at the same time.  What the hell - I need to write an article, so I plan to show up.  Nathan tells me that I should play in it.  He'll teach me how to play on the day before.  That sounds like a recipe for success, right? (No. -Ed)

Monday, November 17, 2014

City of Heroes - Gone But Not Forgotten

Like so many other fans, I miss it. I miss Atlas Park. City of Heroes was my home game since the "Going Rogue" expansion in 2009, and I played it until server shutdown in 2012. I had been introduced to it by my boyfriend, who played City of Heroes from day 4 of the first live release in 2004 right through to server shutdown.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Maleficent DVD and Blu-ray Review

Disney's Maleficent was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 4th. I'd been waiting for a chance to watch it, since I didn't see it in theaters, and just based on what I saw in the trailers I knew it was something I wanted to own.

So I bought it. And I have to say, I don't love it. I don't hate it, either. And I don't regret spending the money on it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Geeky World of Body Building

  • What is the signifigance of C6H12O6 and C5H10O4 being so similar? 
  • Why have some Branch Chain Amino Acids been utilized in an attempt to treat certain cases of Hepatic Encephalopathy? 
  • Why is friction an important factor to take into consideration when utilizing this equation: W=fR,1? 

Review those (rhetorical) questions that I posted for just a moment. What type of the person do you think would be most familiar with the answers to those questions? I polled a pretty wide group of people for their replies. Most, if not all, said something to the effect of biologist, biochemist, doctor, or research specialist. However, each of the three questions make up a fraction of knowledge which the majority of dedicated bodybuilders posses. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Big Hero 6: A Triumph in Transcendence

The story begins like so many, with tragedy. It was the year 2000, and Walt Disney Feature Animation studio was going through turmoil. Operating a traditional pencil and ink animation studio was driving cost of production up, and films were not succeeding, or barely breaking even. Facing competition from computer animated features generated by competition such as Blue Sky Studios and DreamWorks Animation, Disney’s only successes of the early 2000’s came from the Feature Animation Florida studio’s Lilo and Stitch. The Burbank Studio eventually began to convert to a CGI studio in 2004 (a 2 year transition) and began to rid itself of staff and traditional animation equipment.

However, this ailing studio was rescued by an erstwhile partner, Pixar. When Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, Pixar execs Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter assumed control of Walt Disney Feature Animation. Lasseter and Catmull, resolved to turn the studio around, brought the “film first” philosophy of Pixar and changed the name to Walt Disney Animation Studios. From that point on, the animators have jumped from success to success, culminating in last year’s huge film, Frozen. Now, they have released Big Hero 6, and it seems that this is the culmination of the rebirth of the now-hybrid Disney Animation Studios, a place where the old and new blend and the sky is the limit.

A Comic Book Reimagined 
Big Hero 6 began as a side project by Steven T. Segale and Duncan Rouleau, and intended to appear in Marvel Comics Alpha Flight #17 in December 1998, but appeared in their own miniseries prior to that release. Hiro and Baymax appeared again in their own six issue miniseries in September of 2008. Their original conception (1998) was of a young boy and a large winged green monster. In 2008 their appearance is changed, Hiro now dressed in a school uniform and Baymax a large combat robot seeming on the verge of sentience. Hiro is a brilliant programmer and inventor, who is dealing with not only the problems of adolescence but the issues that come being part of a secret team of super heroes. If anything, Hiro’s personality is that of a smart precocious teenager who is not given to disobedience. He has a strong sense of curiosity, defined boundaries of right and wrong and a personality that tends towards service that is often attributed to those who join the real secret services of nations. The comics are entertaining, but leave the reader wishing for more of an origin story.

The film takes the bare bones of the Marvel IP and for the lack of better word, “Disneyfied" the characters around a Pixaresque story. These are not bad things, in fact they are excellent qualities. Looking at the body of work starting with Meet the Robinsons (2007) to present, Disney’s full length animated features have markedly improved. Big Hero 6 looks as if all the previous films were examined and broken down to their constituent parts, and distilled into a new and greater whole. This alchemical process yielded an engaging tale of loss, growth, and personal discovery that provides a powerful moral grounding for children to ponder and learn from. I really, really, hate spoilers, so I’m going to avoid spoiling the plot and instead focus on what I feel is the critical element of this film that caught my attention the most. The screen play penned by Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, and Jordan Roberts is set up similar to many recent Disney and Pixar stories. There is the exposition where the principle and supporting characters are introduced; followed by a conflict or loss that becomes the driving force for the plot. As the film progresses, the characters learn more about themselves and arrive at a crossroad, presented with a choice of how to act in a critical moment. This is followed by the ultimate resolution of the conflict and a wrap up to tie all the loose ends. In point of fact, our protagonist Hiro is faced with numerous and potentially life altering choices throughout this film. If anything, that is the most endearing and captivating aspect of this movie, the portrayal of youth facing Janus. For those of you who are not up on your classical mythology, Janus is the Roman God of doors and choices and is described to have two faces. Adults who watch this film will immediately recognize the choices put before Hiro and be engrossed watching a young prodigy navigating issues he may not have the worldly experience to fully understand. Children and teens, depending on their ages, will be in awe and inspired by the adventure and the courage shown by a young boy touched by loss and tragedy, and wondering if they could bear up and be strong in the same situation and the animated protagonist on the screen. It is this focus on choice and consequence that takes Big Hero 6 beyond its previous counterparts such as Frozen or Wreck it Ralph by adding “real world” elements to fiction, therein making the story more personal than a fairy tale or the emotional crisis of a video game character.

Characters: There and not There 
Like its recent counterparts The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen, Big Hero 6 has a small core of strong principle characters supported by an excellent supporting cast. Hiro Hamada is a 14 year old prodigy who builds complicated robots with ease. Because of his intelligence, Hiro is somewhat brash, youthfully arrogant, self-assured, cocky, and looking for a way to prove his worth. At the beginning of the film, Hiro is a hustler in illegal bot fights who uses his unassuming early creation to lure opponents into underestimating him before Hiro takes them for all their worth. Hiro’s brother Tadashi is a perfect foil for the ne’er-do-well protagonist. Tadashi has had to study and work hard to get to where he is when the story begins. He attends the local university in San Fransokyo where he works on his thesis project, Baymax. Tadashi is confident in age and knowledge, but knows he is not as brilliant as his little brother. Rather than resenting that, Tadashi assumes the archetypical role of the “wizard or old man” and attempts to guide his brother through adolescence. Both boys are orphaned and live with their Aunt Cass, and Tadashi is thus Hiro’s male role model/parent. Instead of being overbearing, Tadashi uses well-meaning cunning and guile to guide his brother with a soft hand rather than an iron fist. The final main character is Baymax, the personal healthcare companion. Baymax is the personification of innocence in both image and deed. He does look like a cross between a comfortable pillow and a marshmallow while speaking with a melodious, soft toned and caring voice. Baymax’s primary function is to take care of his patient and monitor their health. He is activated by any iteration of a “pain noise”. He then scans patients and assesses their injuries doing his best to treat the patient. This kind fluffy robot serves as comic relief as well as a security blanket for Hiro offering comfort, care, and well-meaning though often poorly timed medical advice.

While these principle characters are quite well developed in their personalities, the supporting cast of Tadashi’s friends who end up forming the team Big Hero 6 are not as well realized. Their names are GoGo Tamago, Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and Fred. All of them (with the exception of Fred) attend university as students of the Robotics and Engineering program, while Fred is the school mascot. When they are all introduced in the film their fields of study, or lack thereof, are displayed for the audience to puzzle out. Hiro will later make “super suits” for each of them custom designed based on their personalities and talents. What bothered me most was the seeming lack of deep character depth or at least an exploration of their relationship. My first impression during the film left me wishing there was more exploration of each of the future team members. I guess I wanted more of a back story to explain their different personalities. Also the fact that Tadashi’s four best friends would all rally around Hiro after only meeting him for a short period of time bothered me a bit. But for the expedience of film production this is not a major drawback. In a perfect world I would have gotten all the character development I wanted, but the world is not perfect and my complaint is minor if anything. The cool function of all of these team members is that they eventually all become different role models for Hiro to learn from. Each of their personalities represents a different aspect of Tadashi and they become a large informal family for Hiro to lean on and learn from.

The Look and Feel 
As audiences have come to expect, films from Walt Disney Animation Studios are beautiful. The animators have blended traditional and new animation techniques to create amazing looking environments that enhance the visual aspect of the film. Moving away from the comic book’s setting in Tokyo, the screen writers envisioned a melding of San Francisco and Tokyo called San Fransokyo. Somehow the Disney animators managed to blend the two cities together in this film in a seamless manner. It seemed as if the high rise and neon of Tokyo was picked up and dropped on the San Francisco footprint. They then added in elements of classical San Francisco architecture and kept all the landmarks that locals will know and love. Before I saw this film, I was curious to see what a hybrid San Francisco/Tokyo would look. As the film unfolds I found myself noticing land marks I was familiar with and still awed by this new city. It was as if Chinatown and Japantown took over the whole of the city and it looked amazing. The sweeping aerial shots of the city combined with street level scenes lent a feeling of authenticity to those familiar with either city - whether it was watching Hiro try to dodge to densely packed pedestrian traffic, or watching Baymax ride a cable car.

Big Picture
Looking back on this year, I realize that I have not seen many movies. It seems that more and more that I am of the opinion that I can wait for the film to come out on Blu-ray or ITunes and purchase it then. It is rare that I am drawn to see a film from its first trailer. When I found the trailer for Big Hero 6 I was captivated by the innocent robot that could not pick up a ball. When I saw the film my joy and interest were confirmed and expanded upon. Drawn in by the magical art of Disney, I sat in my seat watching an orphaned boy deal with sorrow, rage, confusion, and acceptance. I watched Hiro come to an understanding not only with his emotions but with a general truth; that the dead are always with us. But it was not some wise old sage or knowledge gleaned from a book that taught this boy. Rather it was a robot, created by his older brother, that only desired to heal the sick. And in the end, Baymax did exactly that. Leaving the theatre I was astounded by the simple lessons on how to deal with tragedy in one’s life. There are few Disney films that I hold dear, many are of the old school such as The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Black Cauldron, and the Rescuers. I now have a new film that I will have to buy when it is available. When I have children of my own I will show them this movie, so that they might experience the same joy I did.

David Losey is a writer, actor and stagehand in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Episode 126 - Days of Bombadil Past

Picture Mike and Jarys are joined by Gamer Geekus' Dylan Gregory over the magic of the internet to discuss some of the huge geek happenings of this week! We've got the title of the new Star Wars film, we know some new details on Marvel's Secret Wars event, and a discussion of the new Hobbit trailer dovetails into a debate on relationships in film and ultimately, whether Tom Bombadil is a worthwhile character or not.

Episode 126! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Final Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Trailer!

Someone decided today was a great day to be a geek on the internet. Behold the final trailer for the Hobbit in all of its glory!

Secret Wars Revealed!

Yesterday, you heard our theory on what Marvel's Secret Wars teasers could mean. Today, more details were revealed by Marvel itself, and they're damned exciting. Hit the jump to watch the video!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review

Gamers who play first person shooters are always looking for the next big thing. That game changer, that alters how shooters are made. Bay Area company Sledgehammer Games may just have that in their brand new installment of Call of Duty. Why is it special though? Is this reviewer just perpetuating internet hype, or is there something to this latest installment of the storied Activision Franchise. Based on my time with the game, I can say that Sledgehammer Games has the pedigree of a great design company, as well as the wisdom to innovate and borrow from other games to make the one of the best first person shooters out on the market.

Sledgehammer Games' Roots
 Sledgehammer games was started by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey. They are veteran developers who left Electronic Arts developer Visceral Games, after starting the Dead Space franchise, to start their own company. Their first work as a new company was to co-develop Modern Warfare 3 with Infinity Ward. If anyone reading this has played those games, then you will know that those are some solid bona fides. If you’ve been living under a rock and never played either Dead Space or Modern Warfare 3, I suggest you start educating yourself. They were both seriously great games. Either way, Sledgehammer’s owners made a killer and down right deviously scary horror/shooter for EA and their new company cut its teeth on a previous Call of Duty game. They were ready to develop this one on their own.

Multiplayer; its what really matters right?
Since Valve launched Counter Strike, multiplayer has become the driving force of shooters.  Since then, new games have to evolve to survive. Whether it was increasing the number of players on a map, adding vehicles, or a slew of other options multiplayer can be what makes or breaks a game. We saw that with Mass Effect 3, who’s multiplayer mode felt like an almost complete part of the game. It was a survival mode instead of team deathmatch; admittedly it tied into the story portion of the game to drive players towards it. Previous COD titles have had varying structures of multiplayer design. Whether it's adding on new modes or adding new options for custom classes; Activision's developers have always tried to add new things.

Instead of going for something new, Sledgehammer borrowed from aspects from a variety of titles and perfected them. Players who played Call of Duty Black Ops II will enjoy a return to a familiar mechanic: the fully customizable load out system pioneered by Treyarch. Here players can alter their guns through attachments, equip exo suit abilities, change perks, alter their killstreaks, and add Wild Card perks. Unlike Ghosts and Black Ops I, there is no money or coin system that earns new guns or attachment faster, so players will have to be patient and level up to get new guns. New to the game are Exo abilities. Exo abilities are specific perks that have a battery life. Once activated the battery drains and does not recharge. The Exo abilities allow you to do very Crisis-like things, like run faster, or cloak.

Another borrowed mechanic that is “new” to COD is the Supply Drop. This is not like the killstreak reward, but rather a post match reward that unlocks new rare items. Those familiar with Mass Effect 3 multiplayer will remember either spending hard cash or grinding out in game currency to purchase supply drops for new guns, buffs, or new playable characters. In Advanced Warfare players earn them by leveling up or by completing challenges. They contain random items that vary from a free in game reward like a supply drop, different cosmetic clothing or armors, to rare varieties of base weapons earned in the game by leveling up. The values are denoted by colors: Enlisted (green), Professional (blue), and Elite (orange). Slegdehammer has also reintroduced the competitive ranked modes from Black Ops, for those players who either play professionally or want a greater challenge than offered in public matches. There is a survival mode that plays similar to Halo ODST's Firefight mode, but allows players to choose between 3 Exo frames ( light, heavy, or specialist) each with its own available weapons, as well as benefits and drawbacks. Finally, Zombie mode will also return to the game at an undisclosed time as DLC. 

Story: It's Important, and in this case, worthwhile!
For the competitive player who enjoys first person shooters, story mode is an afterthought. In the case of Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer added a gimmick that may just drive players to play through their story to earn a competitive edge against their friends and opponents.

Before the gimmick, let it be said the narrative for Advanced Warfare brings new emotional currents to the well known COD story. There is a formula to COD stories: Exposition, Act One, Conflict/Betrayal, Act Two, Climax, Resolution, and finally a cut scene set up for next game. I won't be revealing the story in this article, but play the campaign, its worth it for the story alone. I will say that what the writers at Sledgehammer Games injected emotional life into their shooter that is rarely seen outside of a role playing game. The writing team encourages, nay drives, players to emotionally connect not only with the character they are playing, but with the villain as well. The writers inject real emotions to each glimpse of joy, frustration, or sorrow that occurs in the game.

The gimmick added by the game developers is tied into the Exo Suit upgrade systems. Throughout the campaign, players are encouraged to complete challenges: getting a certain number of kills per level, headshots, grenade kills, and the ever present "collect the intel." As each level of the challenge is completed, an upgrade point for the Exo Suit is earned. Players can upgrade their suits to get better passive better response from their suit. Upgrades range from increased reload speed, to threat detection, to sprint duration. There are 2 upgrade levels, with level one costing one point, and level two costing two points. As upgrade levels are maxed out, players will unlock multiplayer supply drops earning players a potential edge to online combat.

Design for the sake of art and brilliant mechanics
Call of Duty hasn't always been the best looking game. Granted, the franchise has stayed abreast of industry standards but rarely can I say that the game was beautiful in the same way Skyrim or Mass Effect 3 were beautiful. That being said, the artists and creators at Sledgehammer Games have made a beautiful looking game. Game levels have depth of field, and beautiful texturing that grab the eye. The cut scenes are film quality with principal character faces and bodies are completely motion captured. The dialogue helps bring emotion to the campaign as well as creating a stage for Kevin Spacey to run wild with acting chops worthy of Calculon! Looking at this game is a feast for the eyes. One can tell that the developers took time and care making this game.

The game mechanics for this game feel like a return to Modern Warfare 3, with bits of Black Ops and other games tossed in. The speed of multiplayer is reminiscent of that game. Players are not being slaughtered left and right but now players need to think in new directions. The Exo suit allows players not only to boost jump but to dodge quickly on the ground as well as in mid air. Possibly borrowed from Titanfall, this dodge ability feels smoother and more practiced in its new home. Players now can reach new heights in their attempts to find sniper hideouts, as well as new avenues for escape to dodge incoming fire. Exo abilities grant players timed bonuses to make them tougher, faster, quiet, or nearly invisible. This grants each player with new avenues for strategy to deal death upon their opponents. These new tools breath fresh life into Call of Duty while retaining the core values that have made the IP great.

Play it all

When it comes down to it, this new addition to the Call of Duty family is a great game made by a company that cares about quality. They borrowed and adapted aspects and mechanics from previous games to bring new life to a multiplayer franchise that had started to feel stale, as seen in Call of Duty: Ghosts. The return of the ranked competitive playlists will surely make competitive gamers happy and content in an arena designed for professional tournaments. For myself however, what made this game great was the story. A story of a man tired of the failure of governments who takes a step too far. Like the Greek tragedies of old hubris brings the downfall of a man who reached to far, and the player is the deus ex machina that resolves the imbalance. A great cast led by Kevin Spacey dives into a story that touches our current problems and provides a cautionary tale of loss, sorrow, righteous anger, and ultimately the futility of attempting to end violence with violence. Sledgehammer Games has released a classic that has set a new benchmark for the Call of Duty franchise as well as shooters as a whole.

Star Wars: Episode VII Title Revealed!

It's such an exciting time to be a geek these days, folks, and today is no exception. Through an announcement that principle photography had wrapped at, we learned the official title of the JJ Abrams-directed Episode VII. It will be titled Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What does it mean? Likely the return of the force after a long absence - from the rumors we've heard so far, the Jedi will still be broken and the force still a mysterious presence at the beginning of this film, which leads this writer to believe the new trilogy will be about re-building the Jedi Order. We can't wait to see what it all means.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases December 18, 2015.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Marvel isn't Rebooting their Universe.

It's a striking image, to be sure. After weeks and weeks of throwing us bones both exciting (X-men '92!) and confusing (Age of Ultron vs Marvel Zombies? Why?), it seems the endless teasers from Marvel for their Summer 2015 event, almost certainly Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars, have ended. They've ended on the above image, promising that everything will end. Before we get into what it could possible mean, let's talk about what we know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On Cheating, Honor, and Competition

Mike posted about me the other day.  It went something like this:

Seth.  Hey Seth.  Seth.  Seth, hey Seth.  Seth.  Write something.  Hey Seth, hey, write something.  Write something, Seth.  Write it.  Write something.  Seth.  Thanks. (write something).

Or at least that's what I got out of it.  Unfortunately, I didn't really know what to write about.  The tournament scene for miniature wargaming is winding down in this area, and most of you tune in for those pictures.  I'd covered most of the cons that went on, and the few that I had been to did not have large scale competitions.  None of you had any good ideas, so I was sitting around until my friend Dan tossed this little gem into my lap:

"Hey, did you hear about the Feast of Blades tournament in Denver?"

Google Search.  Read read read.  ooooooOOOOOOOoooooohhhh.

Apparently the champion of the tournament was accused of cheating, and immediately disqualified himself.  The allegation came from another person, who had found one of his dice under the table and saw that the die was not fair.  The champion made a public statement where he apologizes for the mistake.  He chose to disqualify himself and bow out of the tournament, declining his prize, trophy, and recognition.  Words like "honorable" and "do the right thing" and "honest mistake" were used to describe the situation.  Huh.  Ok, we'll come back to that later.