“The show created for you”

This Saturday, I’ll be in attendance at the 2022 edition of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, best known as C2E2! I’ve been going to this convention since it started in 2010 and every trip to C2E2 has deepened my understanding of different fandoms and given me a chance of interact with both talented enthusiasts from around the world and the luminaries of the comic book industry, including Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-Men), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and the late, great Neal Adams (Batman). On top of all that, I’ve always had a lot of fun at the con.

If you’re in the Chicagoland area and you have an interest in attending C2E2, take some of my advice if you want to have a good time:

  1. Have a plan for what you want to check out. There’s a lot to do at C2E2, which can be incredibly overwhelming for a newcomer…or even a veteran congoer like me. Make sure there are panels, exhibits and vendors that you know you want to see so you’re not wandering around the show floor waiting for something to happen.
  2. Budget your money wisely. You don’t have to break the bank in order to have a good time at this convention.
  3. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy! Make sure to pack a lunch and water to stay energized and hydrated and keep the C2E2 health and safety policy in mind.

I hope to see you there!

Image source: t.ly/a9sl

“This gets better every time we see it”: For Love of the Film (2005)

The sixth and final part of the latest Disney+ Star Wars series, Obi-Wan Kenobi featuring Ewan McGregor reprising his role as the title character and direction by Deborah Chow (The High Cost of Living), streamed last week and was met with a mostly positive reception if you ignore the racist dweebs who are throwing a tantrum just because a black actress, Moses Ingram, was given a prominent role in a Star Wars production. Incidentally, Ingram, who portrays a Force-using Jedi hunter named Reva, gives a very different performance compared to a lot of other villains in the franchise. In a nice change of pace from the icy, understated calculation of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin and the operatic rage of Emperor Palpatine and Kylo Ren, Ingram approaches Reva as someone who is desperate to achieve a higher status within the Imperial structure even though she doesn’t truly believe in her mission. Reva comes off like someone who’s trying very hard to be threatening solely because her job calls her to be a menace but her heart isn’t in it. Ingram consistently and effectively sells this characterization and it pays off very well in the final part of the series.

Despite the griping from the racist trolls, Ingram’s performance has received a lot of praise from the majority of Star Wars fans, which goes to show you the importance of positive voices in any fan community. The Star Wars fandom has a lot of toxicity problems to address but I’m confident that those issues will always be dealt with in various ways, whether it’s through charity, discussion spaces or creative endeavors. The subject of today’s post is For Love of the Film, a 2005 short film directed by the current head of Marvel Studios security Barry Curtis and the winner of the 2005 George Lucas Selects Award at that year’s Star Wars Celebration. I’ve chosen this short because it reminds me of how diverse the fandom truly is, especially now. People of various races, genders and ages have always loved the series and no amount of gatekeeping can change that. The Star Wars fandom is not perfect but there will always be bright spots that make it all worthwhile.

Credit: Barry Curtis

“A struggle as old as time itself”: Star Wars: The Lesser Evil

Contrary to what some trolls might lead you to believe, the Star Wars franchise is stronger than ever. This past weekend, the fan gathering known as Star Wars Celebration took place in Anaheim, CA, where fans of the Galaxy Far, Far Away attended various panels about upcoming Lucasfilm projects (including a look at a new series based on the cult fantasy Willow), behind-the-scenes retrospectives, a 20th anniversary celebration of the second installment in the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones, and a screening of the first 2 parts of the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+. Of course, for most fans, the main draw of Celebration is getting a chance to meet fan-favorite Star Wars actors and creators and connect with fellow enthusiasts in a variety of ways. Speaking from experience, the 2019 Celebration in Chicago was one of the best conventions I’ve ever attended when it came to making new connections with passionate and innovative fans.

In Celebrations past, the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards were the biggest showcase of the creativity of Star Wars fans. At Celebration 2015, which also took place in Anaheim, the contest winners were screened before the attendees. Today, I’d like to showcase the winner of 2015’s Filmmaker Select Award, Star Wars: The Lesser Evil, directed by Andrew Kin and Sy Cody White.

Credit: Iron Horse Cinema

“Strong, silent type”: World’s Finest by Sandy Collora

Before I go into the main topic of this post, I would like to do something unusual for this blog: a review of a recent movie.

Music by U2’s the Edge not included.

I have just seen The Batman, Matt Reeves’ revamp of the Caped Crusader starring The Lighthouse’s Robert Pattinson as the title character. The most impressive attributes of the film are the visual effects and Greig Fraser’s cinematography. I especially love how the lighting changes over the course of the movie, going from nearly pitch black in the beginning to the more vibrant and naturalistic colors that we see in the end, which represents how Batman’s mission changes from a quest for vengeance to a crusade to help the downtrodden. Pattinson delivers a more humanistic portrayal of Bruce Wayne than we’re used to seeing in live-action. Zoe Kravitz’s energetic performance as Catwoman and chemistry with Pattinson provide a welcome amount of tension, Jeffrey Wright’s stern but warm portrayal of Commissioner Gordon is an effective counterpoint to Batman’s stoicism and Paul Dano’s demented Riddler provides a chilling contrast to the more flamboyant depictions provided by prior Riddler actors like Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey. Wrap it all up in Michael Giacchino’s fantastic score and you have a film that I’d place in the upper echelon of Batman movies alongside Mask of the Phantasm and The Dark Knight.

If you’ve already seen the movie, which is now on HBO Max, check out World’s Finest, a 2004 short film directed by Sandy Collora featuring a then-hypothetical team-up film for the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel and using most of the same cast and crew from his prior short, Batman: Dead End. It’s an interesting time capsule to a simpler time when movies like this were things that fans could only dream of. At the very least, the characters were utilized in a better way than in Batman v Superman (sorry Snyder fans).

Hope you enjoy it!

Credit: 72Christos72

“Genetic Nightmare”: Spider-Man: Enter Morbius by Throwbackstudioz

Initially created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in 1971 as a vampiric adversary for the amazing Spider-Man, Dr. Michael Morbius is now the antiheroic subject of the newest installment in Sony’s scattershot attempt to create a shared universe adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe by drawing from Peter Parker’s ample supporting cast. The pre-release reactions to Morbius, starring 30 Seconds to Mars frontman/psychopath Jared Leto as the title character, have been…unkind, to say the least. However, the fact that the Living Vampire is the hero of his own movie is still an interesting surprise, especially when his most notable appearance prior to this was 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series, where he drained blood plasma from his victims through suckers in his palms instead of his fangs.

Once again, I’ll celebrate the upcoming release by showing another fun short produced by Throwbackstudioz, this time focusing on a modified origin story for Morbius. It starts a little awkwardly but it really picks up at the halfway point.

Hope you enjoy it!

Credit: ThrowbackStudioz, neilwiththedeal

“As you wish”: Mandalorian Dance

A few weeks ago, the latest Disney+ live-action Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, aired its season finale. Although its release lacked the immense hype of the first 2 seasons of The Mandalorian, the involvement of El Mariachi director Robert Rodriguez, Ming-Na Wen and Temuera “Jango Fett” Morrison created some buzz. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the show, even if it felt more like The Mandalorian Season 2.5 at times, complete with a episode where Fett didn’t even appear until the last few minutes. Then again, Boba Fett being a small part of his own show lines up with his portrayal in the 9 mainline Star Wars films. Contrary to his substantial presence in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Boba only has about 8 minutes worth of screen time in the 9 episodes of the Skywalker Saga. Despite his brief appearances, Fett has retained such a very devoted fan following that his iconic armor was the basis for an entire culture within the Star Wars universe, which might have been the main reason he earned his own spinoff.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun at Fett’s expense. For instance, take a look at Canadian animator Patrick Boivin’s short film featuring our favorite intergalactic bounty hunter as the lead in a Flashdance-inspired dance routine.

Hope you enjoy it! I have spoken.

Credit: Patrick Boivin

“Maybe he’s some kind of fashion victim”: The Fanimatrix: Run Program

So…how ’bout that new Matrix movie? Capsule review: I enjoyed it. The Matrix Resurrections isn’t as good as the first film but its unique approach to following up on the original Matrix trilogy and the new ideas that it presents put up above its predecessors The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions. It also kicks multiple forms of ass so check it out if you haven’t already.

Today, I’d like to showcase an example of the influence that the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking science fiction franchise had on its initial wave of fans. This is The Fanimatrix: Run Program, a 2003 fan film produced in New Zealand by director Rajneel Singh and stunt performer Steven A. Davis, who stars in the short as Dante, a warrior who joins his partner Medusa (Farrah Lipsham) in a fateful mission into the Matrix where he battles an Agent to the death. The stunt work and fight scenes in the short are an impressive facsimile of Yuen Woo-ping’s choreography in the original film and the filmmakers nailed the gritty, cyberpunk-inspired aesthetic of the films even on a budget of $800 NZD. Not bad for a video that’s still the world’s oldest active torrent.

Hope you enjoy it and let’s all have a happy and safe new year!

Credit: SPV Films

“Gotta make a beer run”: Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

Thanks to a new franchise installment, the eyes of pop culture have once again turned toward Ghostbusters. What started in 1984 as an expression of actor/comedian Dan Aykroyd’s fascination with the supernatural has grown into a incredibly lucrative property with animated shows, video games, comics and, of course, a fervent cult following which can be a major boon or a debilitating curse. An embarrassing example of the latter was part of the reaction from the fanbase towards the 2016 female-led reboot of the original film, where certain sects of the GB fandom lobbied hate speech at cast members like Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy just because of their gender. On the other hand, the Ghostbusters fandom can be a creative and welcoming bunch, with countless fan creations that embrace the most appealing idea this franchise ever had: anyone can be a Ghostbuster. You don’t need special powers or an important destiny to wield a proton pack. To paraphrase the great Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), all you need is “the tools” and “the talent” to take up the profession. I believe that central conceit is the reason why this franchise still endures and has the potential to draw in new fans. I haven’t seen the latest film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but from what I can tell, the story seems to take its cue from the somewhat populist idea that any ordinary schmoe, even some random kid, can trap a ghost.

Tonight’s subject, often said to be one the earliest Ghostbusters fan films, plays with this idea. In 1998, David Sadler, Brandon Crisp and Rob Cleaton released this nearly two-minute short featuring a pair of GBs taking a nearly peaceful smoke break. Like a lot of early fan films, it’s crude but has a relaxed vibe that doesn’t take the property too seriously.

Hope you enjoy it and remember to never get involved with possessed people.

Credit: DrTart

Reverend Mothers of Paradise Island

Last week marked the occurrence of significant events in the lifespan of two very important pop culture icons. October 21st was the 80th anniversary of the debut of Wonder Woman, the most famous superheroine in history, who made her dazzling debut in All Star Comics #8 back in 1941 before becoming the star of the anthology title Sensation Comics in 1942. Ever since the first appearance of William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter’s creation, the adventures of the Amazing Amazon have thrilled and inspired countless fans around the world, such as Leo Kei Angelos, the director and stunt performer behind the 2014 Wonder Woman fan film First Impressions, an exciting short which features Hailey Bright as Princess Diana and a villain portrayed by the incomparable Doug Jones (The Shape of Water).

The second event was the release of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction tale Dune. My capsule review: it’s a visually arresting film and a great retelling of a well-known story but it might be too dry for viewers who are more accustomed to the mind-bending insanity of the 1984 David Lynch version. All the buzz around the new film made me think about the first time I learned about Herbert’s saga of the violent battle for control of the desert planet Arrakis. In 2001, Westwood Studios, best known for the Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy games, released Emperor: Battle for Dune, their third and final game based on the Dune franchise. I’ll admit that I haven’t played the game in a very long time but I do remember that my decision to play it was based solely on the fact that Michael Dorn of Star Trek fame was prominently featured in the game’s live-action cutscenes.

Hope you enjoy them and remember that the slow blade penetrates the shield…unless that shield is Wonder Woman’s indestructible bracelets.

Credit: [ActionLeo], hellhouse Oldies LP

“Our better half”: Spider-Man: Venom Fan Film by Throwbackstudioz

The sequel to the 2018 cult classic superhero film Venom debuts tomorrow and the early buzz for the Andy Serkis-helmed Venom: Let There Be Carnage seems to peg the movie as a crazier and more creative follow-up. To commemorate the release, I’m showcasing a charming fan film produced by the Atlanta-based independent film company Throwbackstudioz featuring a heavily-truncated adaptation of Venom’s comic book origin. The ending battle between the Lethal Protector and the Webslinger is easily the highlight of the short but the costumes are pretty decent and I appreciate their usage of Udi Harpaz’s wonderful score for Spider-Man: The Animated Series.

Hope you enjoy it and remember: Spider-Man PS1 Venom is best Venom.

Credit: ThrowbackStudioz, BigGameBoss