Thursday, January 29, 2015

FanX Starts Today!

Today marks the start of the second annual Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience. And as with Salt Lake Comic Con and FanX in the past, Mormon Geeks will be there to cover the convention.

In addition to local artists, authors and creators that have been there for past events, this year will feature celebrities such as Christopher Lloyd, Carrie Fisher, Matt Smith, Brandon Routh, Tom Felton, Felicia Day and many others.


If you'll be attending for the first time, or would just like some pointers for how to make sure you have a great experience, be sure to read Joe's post on how to survive FanX: http://www.mormongeeks.com/2015/01/how-to-survive-fan-x.html

And if there's anything you'd like Mormon Geeks to cover at FanX, let us know. Stephen, T.J. and I will all be there (Joe and Andrew will not, as they have escaped to DisneyLand for the weekend). And while we will certainly be spending some time having fun geeking out, we're there to cover what's going on.

So if you see us at FanX, be sure to say hi. And may it be a truly awesome experience for all involved!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to survive Fan X

It starts tomorrow.
That thing we've all been waiting for.
The Salt Lake Fan X!!!
If you read my post on How to Survive Comic Con, this is basically the same thing, because in terms of concept they're the same thing, but if you haven't...


Coming from where I can now safely say is a place of veteran status when it comes to this thing, I want to share some of my infinite wisdom with those who are getting ready to head out this weekend. These tips and tricks have made my convention time more enjoyable and I hope they help you have a great time.

1. Bring a water bottle
This thing is expected to have 50,000 plus people, all packed into one convention center. It's going to get hot. As with any big event, they're will be bottled water available to buy, but as with any big event they will be marked up beyond all reason so it's best to have a bottle you can refill whenever you can. If you're going to stay for at least a day think of the whole thing like if you were to go camping: If you don't have to pee you aren't drinking enough.

2: Bring snacks
Again, they're will be food available, but my experience has been if you want something decent you're going to have to pay for it. Luckily, the Gateway food court is about two blocks west and the City Creek food court is about two blocks east, both have a great selection of stuff to grab, but oh no! You're waiting in line to see the Green Power Ranger and your tummy's rumbling! Good thing you've got snacks! I prefer beef jerky and trail mix, anything with high protein will keep me satiated until I can find something made of meat.


3. Plan your day
As soon as you get your paws on a master schedule, sit down and figure out what you want to see and when. Nothing is more disappointing than finding out you were an hour late to hear Kevin Conroy talk about the time he pantsed Mark Hamil during a voice taping for Batman: Arkham Asylum. Remember to read the descriptions carefully as some panels are the talent talking about their work while some are fans talking about the talent's work. Also, for smaller panels make sure to get in line about a half hour for the event while anything in the main hall make sure to be in line an hour before the event. Which brings me to my next tip:

4. Combat ADD. Bring stuff to do.
If you want to see a bunch of these awesome celebs, you're going to have to wait in line. That's just how it works. If you're a really outgoing person you could probably make friends in line and enjoy meeting new people, but if not I suggest having a few emergency projects on you just in case. A 3DS is my biggest recommendation since they're are people who go to this thing just for the street passes. A book is always a good idea, as is an iPod full of tunes. Fellow Mormon Geek Stephen and I always bring our sketch books to draw the Cosplayers. Whatever you're into it's a good idea to bring it, just in case.

5. Pick your souvenirs beforehand



The vendor floor is massive, and full of wonders and delights to spark the geek heart, and believe me it's really easy to drop $100 in one day. Without a plan you'll get home and find yourself with a Darth Vader helmet two sizes too small and a pair of Zelda briefs three sizes too big, and your bank account significantly smaller. Give yourself a target price, it helps if you keep in cash on you, and have an idea of what you want. Maybe you're looking for something from Legend of Korra, or maybe you're only going to pick up art, then keep to your plan. If you do see something you absolutely have to have, call someone who knows you and talk it out first, especially if it's over your target price. Sometimes a second opinion can help you make the best decision.

6. Bring your charger
By the end of this thing you're probably going to have to bring a Sherpa just to cart in all your stuff, but trust me all this stuff is for the best. They're is so much stuff to take pictures of at this place, from costumes to displays to stuff to buy to seeing your friend buying those Zelda briefs that were three sizes too small because they didn't read this blog... Your phone's going to run out of juice. Of course you may have an actual camera, in which case bring batteries. Either way you'll thank yourself when you do.

7. Don't be a jerk
Conventions like this is about the celebration of fandom, and that means all fandom. Those warm and inspired feelings you get from watching Dr. Who or Avatar the Last Airbender, someone else gets from Twilight or My Little Pony. So if you're not into someone else's fandom, don't knock it. They're here to have fun, not be teased. Your love of Firefly doesn't make you better than anyone else. If you really don't get why someone would invest money into creating a realistic Cogsworth cosplay outfit, ask them. You just might learn something.

8. HAVE FUN!!!

-JOE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Search- Book Two of the Graphic Novel Sequels to Avatar: The Last Airbender

A few months ago I wrote a review of The Promise, the first of three graphic novel sequels to the hit series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Today I'm going to review the second in the series of sequels, The Search.

Hardback Cover of The Search
Since the Avatar TV series ended, fans have been left with the unanswered question of what happened to Zuko's mother. Though her fate has been teased in both The Promise and the pilot episode of The Legend of Korra, for years, the answer to this question has been left a mystery. Finally, in The Search, the question is answered.

As seen in The Promise, Zuko got nowhere when he questioned his father about the whereabouts of his mother. But after the events of The Promise, Zuko decides that he needs the closure of finding out what happened to his mother, and he commits himself to finding her. Team Avatar is only too happy to help him with his quest.

But there is a twist, as the one who holds the biggest clue as to where his mother disappeared is none other than his sister, Azula. And Azula will only reveal what she knows if she is allowed to come along. Azula is still just as crazy as when we last saw her in Avatar. And it's quickly revealed that she has her own motives for wanting to find her mother, and they are not nearly as pure as those of Zuko.

Cover for Part One of The Search
While Zuko, who really wants to improve his family relationships (if at all possible), is willing to trust Azula to a point, the rest of the group is much more resistant to having her in the party. And while having Azula with them is necessary in their search for Zuko's mother, it also complicates the mission.

The Search has its share of twists and turns and revelations. It also delves more into Aang's relationship with spirits and his role as the bridge between spirits and humans. It also explores Zuko's mother's past, and most importantly, answers the question of what happened to her after she disappeared.

Cover for Part Two of The Search
The story was definitely not what I was expecting, and there was also a big red herring along the way. Overall though, it was an enjoyable read, with enough action and mystery to keep me reading from start to finish.

Although The Search did not do as much to bridge the gap between Avatar and Korra as The Promise did, there is still one more story to be told in The Rift. And since Part Three of The Rift is now out, once I finish reading it, I will post a review of the final chapter of this trilogy.

Cover for Part Three of The Search
Just as The Promise and The Search have been, I believe that The Rift will continue the same great story-telling that began in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Into the Woods - A Review

This past Friday, my wife and I went on a double date with some friends where we actually went to dinner, a movie, and then dessert afterward.

Our movie of choice was Into the Woods.

Initial review: I really liked it.

If you missed my rant not to long ago, let me remind you: I do what I can to NOT compare a book to a movie. The same goes for comparing a play to a movie.

Why? Why would I not compare them? This goes back to my Apple Theory. If a book is compared to an apple than a movie is comparable to apple pie. The apple itself is only one element in a movie.

Honestly, if I were casting this movie, Bernadette Peters would've been on the big screen. Why? Because I know she was in the play and she is one of my favorite actresses in a fairy tale world. But again, I was not the one casting.

I saw a story that I've seen twice before (I vaguely remember the first one to be honest) and I saw it on a big screen. The story was told well and I loved how the narrator was portrayed. I love the effects and the simplicity of the set. Some of the story felt rush (the play does that too in my opinion.)

Also, the singing wasn't bad. Do I think they deserve Grammys? No. Do I think they deserve praise? Yes. Anna Kendrick was perfect as Cinderella. She wasn't the blonde petite figure that Disney so loves to portray. Ms. Kendrick did a beautiful rendition as the most often retold character in fairy tales. Her singing was good (hello, it's Anna Kendrick.) The other thing about her is she's not a drop-dead gorgeous actress. But her beauty is simple and stronger on the inside. That's what made her a great Cinderella.

I was much more impressed with Chris Pine and James Corden and their singing voices. As much as I was intrigued by Corden's casting as the Baker, I was extremely pleased with his ability to portray the character so well that I don't think I could find a better actor for that role now. He was just perfect for it. Oh...and guess what, this is all subjective so if you don't agree with me...oh well.

But if someone said "Do you think Chris Pine could sing?" I'd be like "doubtful." And I would've been wrong. Again, I'm not handing him a Grammy for his rendition of Agony. But he sang it well enough. The problem I notice with musical fans is that they expect the perfect singers to portray the characters. Singing is a talent independent of acting. Many can do both, but not necessarily great at one of them. Chris Pine did his job as the charming Prince, making him independent of the charming Captain Kirk.

The best casting, in my opinion (besides James Corden) was Meryl Streep. She was awesome as the witch. You're talking about a very talented actress portraying a role she thought she'd never be interested in playing. Kudos to her for playing the witch with such finesse.

And then there's the music. Waking up at 4 in the morning having you brain set on repeat for "Into the Woods" is never ideal. Believe me. I know from experience. Especially since I'm referring to literally those 3 words. But I gotta say I love the style of the music. For the most part, the songs were well done. Agony was hilarious (which is more important than being beautifully done), the opening sequence was continually fun, and Meryl Streep's "Last Midnight" was just so awesome.

I've heard that people said there was too much music. Well, for a musical, yeah there was more than a normal amount. (Comparing to Chicago, for example.) However, it was almost operatic with how much music there was. The story is told through the music as much as its told through the lines. Where in most musicals, the songs seem to segue from one thing to another with only a few songs being a plot movement.

So...when I look at the movie as a whole, I loved it. I'd own it on DVD. I'd let my kids watch it. I found nothing wrong with the film that I should in any way "hate" it. In the end, my favorite movie I've seen in theaters this year. (For those keeping track, the total movies I've seen in theaters this year is 1.)

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blast from the past-Joe's board game reviews!

Couple years ago I tried doing a series which reviewed board games in under five minutes. Due to time restrictions and a wedding I needed to plan and attend, I fell out of doing them. But now it's 2015, I'm happily married, and... Well... Okay I don't really have a lot of time still, but I'd still like to revive it. Check out these retro reviews of Joe with long hair and let me know if this is a series that needs a Star Trek: The Next Generation style reboot or if like Star Wars we should just leave the poor thing back in the vault.

Carcassonne
This game is one part puzzle, one part chess, and all parts fun. An inventive little midevil building game where you take over large streches of rural France using the strategic placement of Meeples, which is probably one of the funnest words to say in gaming.

 Dominion
This game is a great gateway game into deck building games. Think of Magic the Gathering and Pokemon card games but instead of having to go take out a mortgage on your house for new cards instead you get them all at once in a box and the players build their decks in the game itself. Incredibly addicting with beautiful artwork.

Perfect for beginners and has tons of expansions

Fluxx
All versions are compatible with each other
Great casual party game. The rules are simple and there's enough different types of decks out there to cater to any fan, or just buy the vanilla Fluxx game and go from there. My favorites though are Zombie Fluxx and Wizard of Oz Fluxx.

 Run For Your Life Candyman
For the sadist in us all, there's Run For Your Life Candyman. It's a subversion of the usual Candyland game with a twist: Whenever you pass an opponent, you have the chance of damaging them and tearing off one of their gingerbread limbs. As the pieces fly it not only becomes a race to the finish line but a battle to the death. This is the real Hunger Games

Can be played using normal Candyland rules

I have no idea what the bananas have to do with words..
Bananagrams
Like Scrabble? Of course not, not many people do. But what if Scrabble was timed, more competitive, and involved bananas in a confusing way? Then check out Bananagrams! A fast paced word game that's great for all ages, well all ages who can spell, and is sold for an unbeatable price.



-JOE






Monday, January 5, 2015

The Apple Metaphor

Did you read the book? Did you love it? Did you imagine up your Harry Potter or your Edward or your Tris or your Katniess? Then did you see the movie? Did you hate it? Did "they" ruin the book? Yeah, you and I won't get along.

I absolutely dislike it when people compare books to movies. With vehement passion.

This issue started when I took an old girlfriend to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. At this time, I had not read any Harry Potter. I didn't care much for Sorcerer's Stone. Chamber of Secrets was okay. And then the previous of HP:POA made me interested in watching it. (Come on, Hermione punches Malfoy. Awesome.)

And then after the movie, my date and I went to dinner. And she complained. "They did this wrong. They did that wrong. They left out all these 'important' plot points that were just wrong to leave out."

Here's the thing: had I read the book? Nope. Did I feel lost in the movie? Nope. So was the director wrong? Nope. HP:POA is absolutely my favorite of the series. I love the style, the music, and even the story. Did I need to know who created the Marauder's Map? Nope. It wasn't relevant for a movie. Did I need to know more about the back story of Lupin and Black and Potter and Pettigrew? No, actually as a viewer, I didn't. So in the end, what's left out from the book was not important for a viewer. 

Maybe a reader was upset. But that's not who goes to see movies. A reader isn't reading a movie, they're watching it. There's a difference. And just as a reader is reading an author's story, a viewer is watching an interpretation of that same story. They are not watching the author place actors about and tell them what and how to say.

Here's where the metaphor comes in.
The trigger to this post is Dan Wells' recent post on FB about having seen Into the Woods and that he loved it. If you don't know, Into the Woods is based off a play. So the "adaptation" conversation came up. And then I got tagged into the discussion. Rob Wells actually referred to a post I made a long time ago.

This is Rob's quote on my quote: 

" I heard a great comparison once from T.J. Bronley, talking about adaptations: He said that you're not taking the apple to remake the apple; you're taking the apple to make apple pie. In other words, the source material (book, play, music) is one of the ingredients that you draw on to make the new product--but it's not the only ingredient."


Hey, I said something that someone found noteworthy once upon a time! I'm taking credit for a moment. 



But I stand by the thought. You don't bake a pie and say "the apple was better." Well, I don't anyway. The farmer preps his apples. He hopes people will love them. But when a baker takes some of his apples to make a pie, why would someone compare the baker's apple pie to the farmer's apples?

When Twilight came out, I heard a lot of people say "That's not my Edward." Of course it isn't. You have someone very specifically placed into that role. When I read the first four books to the Newport Ladies Book Club, for some reason I had Annette Lyon portraying the role of Olivia. (Newport Ladies is a series of 9 books written by 4 different authors all told via the title characters' POV.) Someone said to me once (when I said that) that it was because it was Annette's book. Actually, Annette wrote Paige, not Olivia. Just the way Olivia was described, for some reason, I saw and even heard Annette.

If I were to go cast the movie, I probably wouldn't cast her (unless she wanted to perform the role). But when Julie Wright wrote the book, I don't believe she had Annette in mind. Nor did Annette have a friend of mine from college in mind when she wrote Paige. But that's who I saw.

Casting is just one the things that is extremely up for interpretation. It was easy to see Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as I read Harry Potter 4-7. They'd already been given to me. But I hadn't seen the actress playing Umbridge. So I imagined my 2nd grade teacher. Vastly different person. But really, well done to the casting team for who played Umbridge. Man, was she awful! (The character, not the actress.)

Okay, I think I'm done ranting. What? Joe got his last rant of 2014 in last week. I just figured I'd start off the year following suit.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Joe's last rant of the year

Disclaimer: I know that living a homosexual lifestyle goes against the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. However, the church also teaches "Love Thy Neighbor" and in recent years has told members to love and care for our brothers and sisters no matter what their sexual orientation. To me that means that if I have a voice then they should be free to have a voice too, weather that's in politics, choice of partner, or in popular media. Homosexuality has been a marginalized voice in media for centuries, and my offense comes from continuing to portray a group of people inaccurately or like their very being is offensive. Happy new year.

I know that now's the time to look back on 2014 with fondness, maybe remember the good times or make a best and worst top ten list... But this has been sticking in my craw and I can't let the new year come in without getting it off my chest...

Legend of Korra.

You know the drill. Spoilers yeah yeah....

I'm late to the party on this so most LOK fans have already heard of the big controversy so for the uninitiated allow me to explain: At the series finale of Legend of Korra, our hero Korra and her friend Asami decided to go on a vacation together, getting away from all the crazy that's happened in the last five or so years. The last scene shows the two women about to start their new adventure, look at each other, and hold hands.

That's it.

Not so bad, right? Well it gets better.

The writers of the show immediately came out and said that the characters were gay, and that the last scene of them holding hands represented their mutual attraction to each other and that they were about to start their lives together.

That's when I got mad.

Okay, before you think I'm some sort of homophobe, my problem here is NOT the idea that they're gay. If the writers wanted to write gay characters then by all means. Legend of Korra is certainly not for children anyway, so the whole "They're corrupting our kids!" nonsense can be tossed. My problem is that up until the very last scene, and even then, the characters showed no signs of being gay or being attracted to each other. They don't need to be stereotypes, but these two were established as heterosexual. They even dated the same guy at one point. Even the holding hands scene isn't that monumental of a jump. The Golden Girls held hands to show solidarity. Thelma and Louise held hands at the end of their movie to show sisterhood. It's a common practice for women to hold hands in our society. That last scene was vague at best.

This is as bad as when JK Rowling told the press that Dumbledore was gay three months after the final book. Did anyone actually get that vibe? Yes, Dumbledore was unmarried and you never heard of him having an attraction to anyone, but does that mean gay?

My overall problem is that writers telling us about the sexuality of their characters after the final take to me isn't bold or fresh, it's cowardly. If you want to show support, show support! Otherwise, don't say anything. 

-JOE