Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 2

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Right back at ya with Part 2 of my report from Sci Fi Weekender 9.  Apologies for the delay, I’ve had some issues with memory banks getting wiped.

Day 2 of the festivities began with a monumental shock for our crew.  One of our team, Ensign Davies, had succumbed to a strange, planet borne virus.  When we awoke, there was no sign of our comrade.  He soon made contact however with news that he had beamed back up to the ship to recover.

Never the less, yet again the crew were falling prey to illness.  We would need all our stamina to see this campaign through.

First Mate Adam was up and out on patrol early; he went to view the new film from Tom Paton: “Black Site”.  Tom’s work had been witnessed before at SFW, and expectation was high for this new production.  Adam was happy to confirm that the movie was, indeed, excellent and well worth viewing (along with the cast and crew Q&A).

Myself, I took a local planetary transport omnibus to the nearby settlement of Porthmadog in order to feed my vinyl craving.  Crew members Greeny and Kurt remained in the static exploration cabin; monitoring visual communications.

Upon my return, the crew and I ventured out for further reconnaissance of the SFW9 event.  This involved in depth examination of merchandise for sale and photographing some of the unusual and impressive costumes on display.

Saturday evening was all set up for a big entertainment explosion in the Main Void, with the Imaginarium in full swing.  The action began with the Area 51 dancers disrupting visual scanners with fire eating and other astounding acts.  There was also Merlin the Escapologist, who managed to escape from a giant fish bowl on his head.  Or something like that, I was quite far away and it was packed out.

Whilst chilling with my crew and imbibing some refreshment, I managed to completely miss the highlight of the whole weekend: the Cosplay final.  I as absolutely horrified to realise I’d missed this, as it’s always a genuine highlight of SFW.  Luckily I was still able to capture some images of many of the guests; to my shame this was not enough however.

Instead I enjoyed the brilliant BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who performed live a veritable feast of electronic sci-fi sounds.  Chief among these of course were themes from Dr Who, a real treat that brought back some fond memories.  I’d missed the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on previous excursions, so I was delighted to hear their evocative experimental ear-worms properly.  Fantastic stuff.

I then made my exit from the Main Void, as the next feature wasn’t to my taste.  I appear to be the only person at SFW – out of hundreds – who doesn’t dig The Dark Room.  I’d seen the start of the previous night’s show and wasn’t into it.  It was just Peter Stringfellow with a bad temper.

Maybe it’s because I’m not into computer games, or maybe – for once – I’m just not geeky enough.  Either way, I’m in the minority as far as The Dark Room goes, and that’s fine with me.

So off I went to see Blues Harvest, a multi talented rock band with a penchant for all things nerdy.  They put on a great show, including Star Wars themes (performed by a rock band, remember) that were simply superb – all set to a cool visual edit from the movies.

Funnily enough my memory banks appear to be somewhat fried at this point, but I do recall Blues Harvest playing a storming Bowie tribute (“Life on Mars?” and “Magic Dance”, I think!).  Their final number was the Huey Lewis and the News chestnut “The Power of Love” – rounding off a fabulous set that combined rockin’ goodness with nostalgic treats.

The night was played out by the living legend that is DJ Level Up Leroy, who did a fine job of spinning a pulsating mix of tunes.  The sci-fi theme was continued nicely with come choice cuts and awesome visuals!

And that, ladies and gentle beings, was that.  Sadly for another year, the spectacular Sci Fi Weekender was at a close.

Before I leave you, some thanks: to all the Cosplayers, you were fantastic!  Fun and friendly, everyone of you was a joy to behold.  Yet again your talent and creativity were mind boggling to see.  Well done all!  I’m sorry I didn’t get more photos, but my sincere appreciation to all of those I took pics of.

Finally, to all the Sci Fi Weekenders, from across all known worlds and galaxies: THANK YOU!  You make this event the success it is.  Sci Fi Weekender is all about camaraderie and celebrating the things we love as one big tribe (to borrow Professor Elemental’s words).  It was a pleasure to meet you again or for the first time; long may it continue.

Epic group shot

Look, I’ll tell you what.  This blog is a monster.  To save delaying posting it any longer, I’ve got no choice other than to do a Part 3.  So the final batch of photos (don’t worry, I’ve run out of ramblings) will be soon.  Stay tuned!

The Sci Fi Weekender website is here.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

And yes, it’s a long awaited return to the fantastic Comic Con that is MCM Birmingham!  Held every March and November at the NEC, this event is huge – and one of my favourites.  All Comic Cons are fun, but MCM Birmingham has a feel and flavour all of it’s own.

Part of that reputation is down to the pure spectacle of size.  The events halls in the NEC that house this function are truly huge – like aircraft hangers.  They seem big enough to hold the S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-carrier, never mind an Avengers quinjet.

But the main reason that MCM Birmingham is so much fun is the people – specifically, the amazing, talented cosplayers that travel from far and wide to show their genius costumes.

Whether it’s little kids in store-bought superhero outfits or full fledged cosplay supremos spending months perfecting their craft, the whole extravaganza is awesome.

When you add in the myriad replica film props, models and paraphernalia, it all adds up to a thrilling day out.

The scale of this event seems to ramp up every time I visit it.  There a vast number of stalls, as previous, selling all manner of items.  This years hot pieces appeared to be pocket watches (want) and Funko Pops.

I resisted the joy of Funkos for a long time.  Now I wish I hadn’t, as I’ve missed several that I would’ve loved.  I started collecting them earlier this year, have a few cool ones, and want so many more.  Funko Pops seemed to be everywhere at this years Comic Con.  Which makes me happy.

There were also loads of interesting guests to meet, though due to budgetary issues I didn’t get any autographs this time.  In particular, I wanted to add the signature of Pauline Peart, who appeared in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, to my Hammer Glamour book.

Never mind, hopefully we’ll cross paths again.

We arrived early at the event, having early bird tickets.  This allowed us early entry, and it was a little quieter to begin with.

It was also a bit quieter on the Cosplay front till later that morning.  I guess that makes sense; if you’re a cosplay afficianado, you’re more likely to be perfecting your stunning costume rather than getting in line early doors.

 

So it was a bit slow on the photo front at first, things soon got going though!  There were costumed characters of every possible description literally all over the place by midday.  I got some great pictures of as many as I could – you can see the results on this page.

As I always state, I’m by no means a professional photographer.  Luckily the camera seemed to be on form on this day (not sure I was) so I captured some pretty good images.

The results are to the credit of the cosplay enthusiasts however, not any photographic skills on my part.  My thanks to everyone of you that posed graciously for me, I hope these photos do some justice to your creative skills.  All of you were friendly and enthusiastic, my respect to you all.

And with that, we’ll conclude part 1 of this MCM Birmingham blog.  Part 2 soon – with more photos – plus anything else I can remember about the day!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

19/20 November 2016 

I have loads of photos to share from my recent trip to Birmingham NEC, so thought I’d share some more.  As I mentioned previously, there were loads of fantastic Cosplay costumes being worn – so here are some additional pics.

In fact, it seemed to me that there were even more costumed attendees than ever!  MCM Birmingham is the biggest and best Comic Con I’ve been to (I’ve not made it to London), and the number of cosplayers seemed to be higher than ever.

There were some truly amazing outfits. Whether film or TV, book or comic book – it seemed like hundreds of heroes (and villains) were walking the halls.

Maybe it was just the abundance of Harley Quinns, but it seemed like there were many more females dressing as characters this time.  Nothing wrong with that, as comics and science fiction have always been more of a boys club.  Nice to see the ladies being involved and doing things so well.  No offence to the Harleys, by the way – the more the merrier!

There were some classic costumes from the boys this year too, though.  Deadpool and the Joker seemed quite popular, and were represented well with some superb renditions.

In my opinion, when I was last here Marvel characters slightly out weighed DC.  This November, DC were definitely fighting back!

Lots of Walking Dead, too.  I mentioned last time the amazing Daryl Dixon who I photographed, but messed up the picture.  Probably for the best, Mrs Platinum Al would be drooling forever.

There was also a Negan, who was an amazing look a like.  He should get some stunt double work on the show, he was so good!

Another dead ringer was Breaking Bad’s Walter White look a like – an amazing resemblance!  Check him out at @walterwhitelike on Twitter.

img_4962

All in all a superb day was enjoyed by all.  Thanks to all the various cosplayers who gave me permission to take their photo.  Everyone was really kind, gracious and friendly – I thank you for your patience.

Now I’m looking forward to a return to MCM Comic Con at the NEC in March 2017!

Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 2

Way back at the start of 2015, I wrote an article speculating about the content of new Star Wars films.  Not Episode VII, which we know is just a few short months away.  Rather, I was intrigued by the “spin off” movies that would focus on characters and events within the Star Wars galaxy, but not directly within the continuity of the major films.

Of course we now know that these “spin offs” will be called Star Wars Anthology movies.  The first film we will see is “Rogue One”, directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and centred on the adventures of resistance fighters, stealing the plans for the first Death Star.

There are also plans for a Han Solo movie, telling of his early exploits before the events of Episode IV.  Those of you who read my original blog on this topic may remember that a solo Solo movie was considered back then.

So with that earlier success in mind, here are a few more ideas for Star Wars stand alone movies I would like to see:

Rogue Squadron

I’m assuming that “Rogue One” will not be related to legendary rebel pilots Rogue Squadron.  A film exploring the adventures of Wedge Antilles and comrades would therefore be pretty cool.  It would need to be set around the time of the original trilogy, tying into events as the Rebel Alliance fight against the Galactic Empire.  No thoughts on a new Wedge yet, but I’m working on it.

Lando Calrissian

One thing that currently troubles me about Episode VII is the total lack of Lando Calrissian.  The other major players are present and correct (except Denis Lawson/Wedge, but more fool him), so where’s Lando?  I’d love to see how the biggest scoundrel in the galaxy managed to “acquire” Cloud City.  Think Oceans Eleven style heist movie maybe?  But who to play Lando…

Mace Windu

Surely Samuel L Jackson would be up for his own stand alone movie, starring the enigmatic but under used master Jedi?  Hell, make it into a Clone Wars movie and get Ewan McGregor in as Obi Wan too.  This one HAS to happen – we saw hardly any Clone Wars on film.  Tarantino to direct.

Jabba the Hutt

Why not dive head first into the seedy Star Wars underworld with a film about intergalactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt?  Intrigue and menace would be the order of the day, with the big old slug up to loads of nefarious exploits to maintain his criminal empire.  Scorsese to direct; Robert De Niro as the voice of Jabba; Ray Liotta as Bib Fortuna and Joe Pesci as Salacious Crumb (obviously).

Admiral Ackbar

Just how did Ackbar get to command the Rebel Fleet, what are his experiences and motivations?  This could explore the struggle against the Empire from another angle, and also show how the Rebel Alliance developed to topple it.  You can guess the tagline.

Any more ideas for Star Wars Anthology movies?  Who should direct or star in them?  Leave a comment below if you have a suggestion…

You can read Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 1 here.

In Memoriam – Sir Christopher Lee

Lee

Sir Christopher Lee

27.05.1922 – 07.06.2015

I was genuinely saddened to hear that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away.  Over the years Lee had become one of my favourite actors.  Perhaps my absolute favourite.  I certainly own more DVDs of his work than any other star.

My first encounter with Lee’s films would have been the brilliant, still unsurpassed The Three Musketeers (1973).  Or perhaps his turn as one of the best Bond villains ever – in one the best Bond films – Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun.

It wasn’t until my teens that I was able to catch up with his work for Hammer (and Amicus), when ITV started showing old horror films way past the witching hour with the advent of all night television.  I stayed up late, or recorded them all on the VCR to ensure I saw them all.  Those classic British horror movies captivated me – and still do. Whether playing Frankenstein’s Creature, Dracula, The Mummy – Lee was central to their success.

Monsters had always fascinated me.  I remember drawing them from an early age, though I wasn’t old enough to watch the films.  My early horror experiences came from Marvel comics, and a few movies such as King Kong and Boggy Creek.  Oh, yes – and the series of Fu Manchu movies shown on BBC2; again starring Christopher Lee.

The link to Hammer came from Star Wars.  I loved the cantina scene – still do – with its bizarre creatures; after all, I loved monsters.  Later, a connection from Star Wars would lead me to Hammer – I discovered that Peter Cushing wasn’t just Grand Moff Tarkin.  It was inevitable that I would explore the Gothic creations of the great British horror studio.  So I was understandably thrilled to find out that Christopher Lee would become part of the Star Wars family, as Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones.

Lee had something of a resurgence from the late 1990s.  He started to work with Tim Burton and seemed like he’d found a new home.  Sleepy Hollow (1999) was Burton’s love letter to the old Hammer movies, and Lee would return again and again to participate in the Director’s dark tales.

The fact that Christopher Lee found a new audience over the last decade and a half – with the Lord of the Rings films, even a return to Hammer with The Resident (2011) – is wonderful.  And gratifying for those, like me, who’ve admired his work for a long time.

Let’s not forget the many other talents Lee displayed.  How about releasing Heavy Metal albums in his nineties?  Check them out – they’re great.  And his wartime exploits (Google it) are worthy of a film in their own right.  A life time of incredible achievement.

I had hoped, as people often do, to one day meet my hero in person.  Unrealistic, I know – but Christopher Lee was always the top of my list for the old “three people you would invite to dinner” game.  I would have loved to tell him how big a fan I am of the films he’s helped create.  Alas, that will never happen now.  It’s sad that tiny bit of a dream will never come true.

Thank you Sir Christopher Lee.  Your constant creative progression is an inspiration.  The impact you have had on our imagination – both dreams and nightmares – is your greatest gift.

Star Wars Spin Off Movies – part 1

2015 is a big year.  Audiences around the world will get to see Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.  Something I honestly never thought I’d see – a continuation of the Star Wars saga.

There is another disturbance in the Force, however – the prospect of new, stand alone, spin off movies set in a galaxy far, far away.  These films are to feature characters from this rich universe,but who they will be at the moment is a mystery.  Will they be minor characters or well known favourites?

There are various rumours about who the projects will concentrate on, of course.  I’ve decided to add to the swirling speculation and anticipation with some thoughts who I would like to see appearing in their own Star Wars movie.

Let’s start with some of the obvious choices.

Boba Fett

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Boba Fett.  He’s only in the films for a few minutes, and doesn’t do a great deal  I always thought the pre-Empire buzz about this new character was a bit of a let down, so I never got the cult of Fett.  He does have one of the coolest looking ships in the Saga, however.

Regardless of my ambivalence to the character, Boba Fett would be a great choice for a stand-alone movie.  He’s got a ready made, massive fan base – and it would be an ideal opportunity to flesh him out and show exactly why Fett is the top bounty hunter in the galaxy.  His mercenary buddies from the Executor bridge in Episode V could also make welcome cameo appearances.

Just one thing – the film would need to be set during the Original Trilogy.  Why?  Because Fett dies in Return of the Jedi.  That’s right – he died, and HE DOESN’T COME BACK.  Clear?

Plus I love the Original Trilogy and it would be great to explore more of this time.  Let’s see Boba Fett in action, as one of the bad guys (because he is a baddie, face facts) causing trouble for the Rebel Alliance.

Han Solo and Chewbacca

The Corellian space pirate and his Wookiee pal have featured in their own series of novels years ago.  Their popularity makes them a great choice for a spin off film.  Again, this should be around the time of the Original Trilogy, maybe prior to Episode IV; or between that instalment and Empire.  What exactly happened to the reward Solo got for his part in the rescue of Princess Leia? MF1

The problem with a film of this type is casting a young Han Solo – whoever got the gig would have their work cut out for them playing Harrison Ford.  That’s not to say that it can’t be done – River Phoenix did a fantastic job of impersonating Ford in the third Indiana Jones movie!

What would be really scary though is recasting such an iconic character as Han Solo could be a stepping stone to that horror that none of us want.  That’s right – a “reboot”/remake of the original film.

May the Force protect us from that ever happening…

Palpatine

How did Palpatine become a Dark Lord of the Sith?  How did he weasel his way into the role of Senator of Naboo?  Just exactly what was he capable of, and what did he do to attain such power?

The early years of the Emperor to be could be a really fascinating story, full of Jedi Knights, Sith Lords and galactic intrigue.  Betrayal, deceit, evil plots, darkness on a massive scale.  Sign up Peter Jackson for this one now.

That’s all for now, though I will return to this subject soon, with more potential spin-off movie ideas.

May the Force be with you!

Star Wars Episode VII – Why I’m not thrilled about the sequels

Those of you who know me well, will know that I am a fan of Star Wars.  Just ever so slightly.  Oh alright then, I’ve been completely obsessed with that galaxy far, far away since I was five years old.  You may be surprised that this is my first Star Wars themed blog post on the Virtual Hot Tub, infact.  However, you may be more surprised about my feelings for the new Star Wars sequels.

I remember being sat at this very computer on that day in October 2012, when Disney announced it’s acquisition of Lucasfilm – and the planned seventh episode of the saga.  I was not impressed.

Not that Disney being the home of the saga bothered me.  At the end of the day, Star Wars is a kid’s film – and what better home for it than the House of Mouse?  I have no problem with that.

Final Episode

What bothers me is setting the new films after Return of the Jedi.  The sixth episode has been the final episode for a long time.  Sure, I wanted to see more films back in 1983, when I was a kid.  But as I’ve grown older, I’ve been happy with the conclusion of the series.  It’s an upbeat ending.  The Empire is defeated, the Alliance is victorious – peace and freedom from oppression is restored to the galaxy.  It’s exactly what the story needs, and it’s perfect in it’s intention (if not always it’s execution).

But if that’s not the end, then what’s next?  If the battle against evil goes on, then to some extent the sacrifices and hardships of the “middle” trilogy lose some of the potency.  Of course, in a real world, conflicts and rivalries continue.  But this isn’t the real world, it’s a fairy tale – a big, outer space fairy tale.  And there was no “Snow White 2” or “Revenge of the Wicked Step Mother” when that story arc came to an end.

EU-rrghh

I guess I’m most afraid of the horrors of the Star Wars Expanded Universe taking hold in the film versions.  I did read a lot of EU stories – novels and comics – before Episode I was released.  After that, I gave up on non-canon works as they often featured contradictions to what was appearing on screen, such as the origins of the Death Star.

Much worse than any slight inconsistencies, however, were some of the bafflingly bad concepts splurged onto the page by EU creators.  A criticism of the Star Wars EU is a topic for a whole blog post of it’s own – and I admit it’s not all bad.  I was never a huge fan of the Thrawn trilogy (too much of Zahn’s own creations with ridiculous names, not enough film characters), though other series were much worse.  The big problem I had with the EU though, was the lame device of bringing back the bad guys – Emperor Palpatine returns!  Boba Fett didn’t die!

Oh, come on.

I enjoyed many of the comics and the books set within the time frame of the original movies.  And I think this is where the big problem lies: all those brilliantly dastardly bad guys are dead.  How are they going to replace them?  One thing’s for sure – the new writers have a hell of a lot of work to do.  Let’s hope they steer clear of the EU for inspiration.  I don’t even want any sly nods to keep the fans happy.

New Talent

So talking of the new talent: is JJ Abrams up to the job? To be honest, I have never seen anything that the guy has done, so I can’t comment.  The good news is Lawrence Kasdan, who scripted Episodes V and VI, is back onboard. Thank God.  Why was he never involved in the Star Wars prequels?  Any help with answering that conundrum much appreciated.

Another interesting rumour (or more-than-rumour, these days) is the return of the original cast.  There’s been a huge amount of interest in the return of Hamill, Ford and Fisher to the saga.  I’m not sure about this either, sorry.  Baby Darth Vader in Episode I was hard enough to accept – do I really need to see a 65 year old Luke Skywalker?  I’m not sure about seeing my childhood heroes as old people.  I’d sooner they were timeless and forever as they were at the end of Jedi.

Who else will we see return?  R2-D2 will return, it has been reported.  So what about C3PO?  If we have Luke, Leia and Han, then surely we will need to have Chewie and Lando?  Please bring Chewie along, Lucasfilm – you can’t let him die in one of those awful books!

A New Hope

I don’t want to be totally negative about this new venture.  One thing that does excite me is the news of stand alone movies, possibly featuring lesser characters.  These stories could – and should – occur within the time frame (or immediately preceeding) of the earlier six films.  Again, Episode VI should be the end, but I’d love to see the early years of the Rebel Alliance.  That would be very cool.  More on this in another blog post…

Whatever adventures we experience with Episodes VII to IX, I want to be optimistic.  I’m a Star Wars fan, and I hope my fears above are wrong.  I have my doubts, though I would love them to be cast aside.  Will that happen?  In the words of one wise being: “Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future.”

Let’s hope the Force is with us.