Buffy Redux: Watching BTVS with my Daughter

I have a confession – I made my daughter cry. Not on purpose – well, not exactly – but with an admitted amount of foreknowledge. You see, I let her watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer from start to finish.

Not in one sitting, but almost. We started in December and finished it only a few days ago. I knew the characters she’d grown attached to, knew their traumatic ends, and yet I did nothing to warn her.

The Scooby Gang at the end, copyright WB Television Network
The Scooby Gang at the end, copyright WB Television Network

She sobbed.

We bonded. Continue reading Buffy Redux: Watching BTVS with my Daughter

Review – Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show

Showrunners © Black Sheep Productions
Showrunners © Black Sheep Productions

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show is a Kickstarter-funded documentary film and book that examines the role of the showrunner. Not all that long ago, nobody had ever heard of the term “showrunner” and only die hard fans knew the names of anybody involved in creating their favorite TV shows beyond the main cast. In the last decade or so, all that has changed. Showrunners like Joss Whedon, Bill Prady, and Damon Lindelof are now household names each with their own devoted fanbase who follow their careers between shows and across media.

Showrunners the Movie is a 90-minute exploration of just what it is a showrunner does, how and why they do it, the challenges they face, and more. In creating it, the producers interviewed dozens of showrunners including Jane Espenson (Caprica), Hart Hanson (Bones), Janet Tamaro (Rizzoli & Isles), and Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse) and quizzed them about every aspect of their work. What makes a good showrunner? What does your work day look like? What are the best (and worst) parts of the job? What results is a broad look at TV production in the teenage years of the new millennium. It’s an industry in flux as new distribution and funding mechanisms such as Netflix, Amazon Originals, webseries, and Kickstarter-funded productions such as Veronica Mars leave traditional networks scrambling to assert their place. That sense of mild confusion is palpable throughout both the film and the book.

Joss Whedon in Showrunners © Black Sheep Productions
Joss Whedon in Showrunners © Black Sheep Productions

Although the film is interesting in that it covers a lot of ground and thus allows a wide variety of thoughts, opinions, and stories to be voiced, it suffers in that that same breadth never allows for much depth to occur. The film asks a question then jumps from showrunner to showrunner seeking answers. As fascinating as it is to see that variety (every showrunner takes a different approach—after all, the production of a serialized show on HBO has to differ greatly to that of a mainstream network procedural), I would have loved to see some focus. Show me a day in a showrunner’s life in detail. Let me see the minutiae of their workday, the ups and the downs, the tough decisions and the great laughs. Of course that’s a difficult thing to capture on film. As the showrunners being interviewed explain themselves, no two days are the same and different problems are being thrown up every day, but at least is would have gone some way to prevent the slightly superficial feel that the film suffers from.

Showrunners Book Cover © Titan
Showrunners Book Cover © Titan

The book provides more of the same, broadly following the same path the documentary did but without the constraints of time. This allows it to include the full answers given by each showrunner to the many questions they were asked. If you read the book soon after watching the documentary (as I did) you will constantly find lines that you remember hearing spoken out loud. Chapters include “The Script is King” which looks at staffing a writers’ room, an explanation of pilot season, and a look at the basic TV act structure, “The Politics of Making Television,” and “Connecting to the Matrix,” which discusses the internet and its impact on showrunning. Between these chapters are “In Depth” features which look at subjects like “Women & Minority Showrunners” and “How Lost Changed Showrunning,” as well as longer, focused segments on specific points such as showrunner “burnout.” One of the most interesting sections is a piece from Joss Whedon on how he considers himself a “company man” and his surprise at finding himself labelled a “rebel.”

The accompanying book has many of the same problems as the documentary. The question/answer format seen on screen is translated onto the page, so you read the question, then a series of answers from each showrunner. There is no flow, just a series of loosely connected anecdotes, opinions, and stories which quickly serve to make the book feel monotonous even though the content is actually very interesting and insightful. I even spotted chunks of answers/dialogue being re-used in multiple chapters on more than one occasion. With better formatting Showrunners would have been a joy to read, as it is the book suffers from creating the sensation of reading dictated notes. However, if you’re the kind of person who has a real interest in TV production, Showrunners is a window into a world most of us will never experience.

GeekMom received this book for review purposes.

“Big Giant Me,” Joss Whedon’s Kid-Friendly Folk Song

Big Giant Me
“Big Giant Me” cover art by Emma Klingbeil © Shawnee Kilgore.

Longtime fans of Joss Whedon are well-acquainted with his songwriting prowess. From the theme song of Firefly to the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More With Feeling,” fans know that Whedon is a remarkable songwriter with a talent for telling a story. And we know that Whedon often finds smaller, quieter projects while working on his blockbusters. (See: Much Ado About Nothing.)

So while it really shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Whedon teamed up with an Austin musician to write a folk song while he was working on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, well, it’s still a surprise. A sweet surprise of a song that tells a tale that kids will love.

“Big Giant Me” wasn’t intended to be a children’s song, but kids can easily identify with its lyrics and story. (There is a lyric about things needing to grow or they will die, so use your own discretion on the appropriateness for your own kids.) Whedon describes the song as “about the idea of change, and how much someone will accept you for yourself and what you are and what you’re going to become.”

Shawnee Kilgore sings with a voice so sweet and clear that makes it a perfect song for quiet time at the end of the day. And through it all, Whedon fans will smile, knowing one of their favorite creative talents is behind the words.

You can buy “Big Giant Me” by Shawnee Kilgore now on iTunes and CD Baby. A full album from the pair is coming soon.

Why You Should Consider Reading Joss Whedon

Reading Joss Whedon © Syracuse University Press
Reading Joss Whedon © Syracuse University Press

Joss Whedon. If I had to make a shortlist of people who could become the Patron Saint of Geek, he would be at the top of it. These days, his body of work is so broad that you’ll struggle to find a geek who doesn’t love at least some parts of it. From The Avengers to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, through Firefly and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the sheer range of genres within the Whedonverse is astonishing, although each one features a certain something in their dialogue and overall attitude that make them distinctly Whedon.

Whedon’s work is in fact so highly regarded that it has given rise to it’s own academic group, The Whedon Studies Association. The association hosts biennial conferences—this year’s conference takes place in just a few weeks at the California State University in Sacramento—and also produces its own peer-reviewed journal, Slayage. Slayage is free to access and filled with papers on every aspect of the Whedonverse. The current issue, published this month, is a special double issue focusing only on The Cabin in the Woods, but with titles like “What’s Your Fetish?: The Tortured Economics of Horror Simulacra in The Cabin in the Woods” (Jerry Metz, 2012) and “’C-can[sic] we rest now?’: Foucault and the Multiple Discursive Subjectivities of Spike” (Andrew F. Herrmann), you can immediately see that this is not light reading. For anyone interested in the concept of Whedon Studies and wanting to delve deeper into the Whedonverse but unwilling or unable to sit down with a full academic essay over lunch, Reading Joss Whedon might just be the book you’re looking for.

The Cover of Reading Joss Whedon © Syracuse University Press
The cover of Reading Joss Whedon © Syracuse University Press

Reading Joss Whedon collects together articles that cover all types of Whedon’s work, although there is naturally something of a focus on his television productions. It is arranged into collections, beginning with a set of essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, moving through Angel, Firefly/Serenity, and finally, Dollhouse. Collection/part five, “Beyond the Box,” covers Whedon’s non-TV work with four essays on Dr. Horrible (webseries), Buffy’s Season Eight (comic series), The Cabin in the Woods, and The Avengers (films). Each TV series is also given a brief introduction for readers less familiar with them. The final part of the book covers “Overarching Topics” and covers subjects that stretch across multiple Whedon works with essays including “Technology and Magic: Joss Whedon’s Explorations of The Mind” (Jeffrey Bussolini) and “Hot Chicks with Superpowers: The Contested Feminism of Joss Whedon” (Lauren Schultz).

A second table of contents is also provided that groups the essays by subject. This is especially useful to those of us looking to use the book as a reference tome. The subjects used include Human Identity, Gender, Narrative & Writing, and Myth & Intertext. Together, they do an impressive job of summing up what the Whedonverse does best and the questions it repeatedly raises.

One of the things I took away from early in the book was a comparison between Whedon and Shakespeare. The comparison wasn’t discussing talent or output, simply their working practises. Whedon is known for working with a small group of actors repeatedly (Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, etc.) in much the same way that Shakespeare’s plays were usually performed by the same group, The Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men. It’s a point hammered home by Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, a production he has himself referred to as “a love letter—to the cast.”

Another point I found especially interesting was a discussion on the way Whedon’s work often focuses on the concept of “chosen” family rather than family as defined by blood. It’s a recurring theme I hadn’t ever really thought of. The Scoobies in Buffy, the crew of the Serenity, even The Avengers. All are groups who have found their “families,” rather than being born into them. It’s far from being an idea unique to Whedon; the TV shows Supernatural and Warehouse 13, for example, address the concept regularly and somewhat more explicitly, but it’s certainly a recurrent Whedon theme. Even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which premiered too late to have essays included in the book, has drawn on similar themes.

I am not a die-hard Whedonite; rather I have remained on the fringes of his Verse, dipping my toes into almost every one of his creations (to date the only Whedonverse show I haven’t watched is Angel). However, despite not being familiar with every last nuance of the Whedonverse, I found Reading Joss Whedon a deeply insightful collection that not only made me look at the Whedonverse with different eyes, but at other media as well. I especially loved “All Those Apocalypses: Disaster Studies and Community in BTVS and Angel” (Linda J. Jencson), which looked at the ways disaster and survival was presented throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The essay has me thinking in new ways about not only my own fiction, both written and viewed, but the way these subjects are presented by the real-world news media as well. Not being a huge fan, I occasionally had to do a little googling when episode titles were casually thrown in as references (it’s been a few years since I last watched Buffy), but this didn’t detract from my overall understanding or enjoyment.

Reading Joss Whedon is a great book both for Whedonites looking to read more about their favorite verses and for those interested in storytelling and media as a whole. If you’re after something to really stimulate the mind as you lie on a beach this summer, this might just be the book you’re looking for.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Geek Date Night Approved

Geek Date Night Approved
Geek parents Mark and Melody approve this movie photo. Photo by Melody Mooney.

The movie date night. It’s a long-standing, sacred institution for parents. Whether you are geeks or Muggles, the age-old question begs: Whose turn is it to pick the movie? To decide, some folks may flip a coin, play rock-paper-scissors, or even roll a D20. In full disclosure, we couldn’t remember who got to chose our last movie outing. Sadly, getting out to the theater does not happen as much these days, and that rarity makes the decision all that more important.

It would seem that the latest offering from the Marvel Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, would be a no-brainer, but we had some questions.

I was interested to know if it would hold the same emotional weight as the first Captain America movie. Would there be solid, satisfying performances and character development, as well as high-impact action? Chances were good with names like Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. My husband, who is a lifelong Marvel comic book reader, wanted to know how Captain America would deal with conflict separate from The Avengers. He also had concerns about the storytelling, confessing that he didn’t like the pacing of Iron Man 3.

Captain America Disney Store
The Disney Store window for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Photo by Ella Rose.

Another factor in our decision process was whether we could see this as a family, and we carefully considered its PG-13 rating. I have seen tie-in toys, like the more muted for undercover mission Captain America suit and shield, heavily marketed to children at places like the Disney Store and Target. It gives me great GeekMom pride that my three-year-old daughter recognizes The Cap. However, due to the visually intense hand-held-style cinematography, the film’s violence and its emphasis on action, I would recommend The Winter Soldier for teens and adults only.

After debate and consideration, we took a leap of fan-faith and went to see the movie without our daughter, and I am going on record as stamping Captain America: The Winter Soldier as “Geek Date Night Approved.”

It moves quickly with great pacing, though it can sometimes be a bit disorienting. The movie has solid performances—Evans beautifully captures both sides of Captain America/Steve Rogers—a man out of time and a superhero.  Johansson returns as the smart, kick-ass spy who holds her own with The Cap. (Warning: minor spoilers follow.)

The Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is intriguing and moves in and out of his scenes with a quiet strangeness that can be downright chilling. But I’d have found the revelation that Steve Rogers’ best friend is his biggest foe to pack more of a punch if it weren’t listed in the credits. Nonetheless, the Winter Soldier is a gripping character

Redford is also an amazing addition to the cast and his minor character holds much of the plot twists and mystery. The introduction of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) as The Falcon proves to be another high point.

Although I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed at times by the violence, which took me out of the politically charged thriller, I did enjoy the amazing scene that showcases a Stark Industries-pimped SUV driven by Nick Fury. The vehicle responds by command to a crisis situation much like an Iron Man suit. I sure could use that car in L.A. traffic!

As a special treat and because our readers love to be in on the latest geek info, here are 10 fan-favorite moments that are full of Easter eggs, tie-ins, and insider knowledge (with some more major spoilers).

captainamerica2532c9465b82f8
Captain America: The Winter Solider red stylized photo courtesy of Marvel.com.
  1. Stan Lee’s Cameo: Stan’s appearances in Marvel movies always bring a huge smile to my face. In The Winter Soldier, he plays a Smithsonian Institution worker guarding the Captain America exhibit. He discovers that Cap’s costume has gone missing and announces that he is “definitely going to be fired.” Fun moment!

  2. I (Heart) Hawkeye: Natasha/Black Widow wears an arrow necklace as a token of her affection for the Hawkeye character. She does get one good kiss in with The Cap, but it seems they are just close work friends.

  3. Doctor Strange: My husband was happy about this one. When Captain America is told about the Project Insight agenda put in place by the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez), Steve Strange is listed as a target of elimination.

  4. End Credit Teaser Scenes: Everyone loves post-credit teaser scenes, and we get two after this movie. A mid-credits scene, directed by Joss Whedon, gives us a peek into The Avengers: Age Of Ultron and features Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) with Loki’s scepter, making the connection that an Asgardian may be in Ultron. Von Strucker also reveals test subjects Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. In the second scene, Bucky finds out about his past while in the Smithsonian.

  5. The WarGames Nod:  A cool geek moment in the film is when Black Widow and The Cap find the first S.H.I.E.L.D. base, a secret bunker beneath his old training facility. We learn that H.Y.D.R.A. is really in control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the base supercomputer is an AI version of Arnim Zola, a nod to blueprints in The First Avenger, which shows Zola’s change from doctor to robot.  Black Widow turns on the Zola computer and types, ‘SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?’  Black Widow explains, “It’s from a movie.”

  6. The Falcon: One of the fan-favorites who helps The Cap bring The Winter Soldier to reckoning. There’s an implication he may join The Avengers.

  7. Stark/Avengers Tower: In a Helicarriers targeting sequence, we see a glimpse of Tony Stark’s rebuilt Tower with The Avengers’ logo.

  8. Abed from Community Cameo: Danny Pudi appears as the IT guy The Cap uses to gain access to the Triskelion. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo also worked with Danny on the show Community. He plays the super nerd and fan-favorite Abed.

  9. Iron Man Tunes Up the Helicarriers: In The Avengers, Iron Man saves the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and all aboard. His inadvertent changes lead to other Stark Industries updates, which are applied to the post-New York invasion Helicarrier fleet.

  10. Garry Shandling as Senator Stern: In Iron Man 2, we first met smug Senator Stern (Garry Shandling). He is back in The Winter Solider with an “ah-ha” moment. Upon exiting a court house, he whispers “Hail H.Y.D.R.A.” to Agent Sitwell.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens nationwide on Friday, April 4, 2014.

Buffy’s Back! Complete Recap for Newbies and Returning Fans

Buffy the Vampire Slayer © Dark Horse
Buffy the Vampire Slayer © Dark Horse

Since its premiere in 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has established itself as a perennial favorite both to a core of die-hard Whedonites and to a broader mainstream audience. The show wrapped in 2003 after seven seasons on television but returned for an eighth in 2007, this time as a comic series from Dark Horse. The series was so popular that the initial 25-issue run was expanded out to 40. In 2011 the series returned for Season Nine wrapping at the end of last year, and this week the tenth season has begun.

The beginning of a new season is a great jumping on point for anyone interested in joining the Buffy-verse for the first time, or for those returning after an absence. However with nine seasons of backstory there’s now a lot of history to get through. All seven seasons of the TV show are currently available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video but that’s a whole lot to sit through even for those with a lot of spare time, and that’s before you get to the comics. So for those of you interested in diving headlong into the show again, here’s a (mostly) spoiler-free recap of the road so far.

Buffy Season One (Giles, Buffy, Xander and Willow) © Fox
Buffy Season One (Giles, Buffy, Xander, and Willow) © Fox

Season One
After being expelled from school, 16-year-old Buffy Summers and her mother move to Sunnydale, California, in the hopes of starting afresh. Secretly Buffy hopes to leave behind her life as a vampire slayer but life isn’t that simple and within her first day at Sunnydale High the supernatural is already closing in on her. Soon she teams up with fellow students Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris who, along with Watcher/school librarian Rupert Giles, form the Scoobies – a team who will go on to fight evil in countless forms over the coming years.

Season Two
The relationships established in season one increase in complexity during the show’s second outing. Xander hooks up with school top dog Cordelia and Willow with Oz, a guitar player with a canine secret of his own. Even Giles gets in on the action by establishing a relationship with computer science teacher Jenny. However these relationships and the issues they encounter pale in comparison to Buffy’s own relationship with Angel which will irrevocably affect everyone around them.

Season Three
Buffy returns to Sunnydale after unsuccessfully attempting to start a new life in LA and she’s not the only person arriving in town. The Watcher’s council send in Wesley Price to replace Giles, fearing that he has become too emotionally attached to Buffy, and a second slayer named Faith also arrives. Throughout the season, which marks Buffy’s final year of high school, the Scoobies work against the town Mayor who is planning to make their graduation more memorable than any before and for all the wrong reasons.

Expanded cast of Season Four (Oz, Giles, Xander, Riley, Buffy, Spike, & Willow) © Fox
Expanded cast of Season Four (Oz, Giles, Xander, Riley, Buffy, Spike, & Willow) © Fox

Season Four
Buffy and Willow enroll at the University of California: Sunnydale where each begins a new romantic relationship; Buffy with graduate student Riley and Willow with Tara—a witch like herself. The vampire Spike returns but soon finds himself at the mercy of The Initiative, a secret military organization based beneath the campus but with many links above ground. Eventually Spike teams up with the Scoobies and together they fight against the latest monster to be unleashed on the unsuspecting town.

Season Five
We are shocked to be introduced to Buffy’s younger sister Dawn, and even more surprised when every character acts as if they have known her from the beginning. Buffy meets the season’s key “Big Bad”, an exiled Hell God named Glory who is looking for her way back downstairs through the use of a key which will open the door between Hell and Earth. As the season progresses Buffy’s family life is shattered, and when Glory kidnaps Dawn she has to decide whether or not to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Season Six
A contender for the show’s darkest era, not one character escapes from season six unscathed. Buffy falls into a deep depression and begins a mutually abusive relationship with the one person you would never expect. Concerned about her reliance on him, Giles leaves for England, and Xander’s forthcoming wedding is ruined by a last minute decision. Even Dawn begins suffering from kleptomania and Willow’s addiction to magic continues to grow. When a fight between Buffy and season Big Bad Warren Mears results in an accidental death, Willow’s powers turn dark forcing the Scoobies to fight against her.

Buffy Finale (Giles, Dawn, Faith, Buffy, Willow & Xander) © Fox
Buffy Finale (Giles, Dawn, Faith, Buffy, Willow & Xander) © Fox

Season Seven
The final television season introduces the First Evil, an incorporeal power that is killing off all potential slayers and raising an army of ancient vampires. Giles gathers a number of potentials who seek refuge at Buffy’s house as the First Evil and the preacher Caleb work against them and cause activity around the Hellmouth to increase. Soon most of the population of Sunnydale has fled. Several characters return for the finale with Willow activating all potential slayers for an almighty showdown. Not everyone makes it out and the town of Sunnydale is destroyed completely but the show ends on a positive note regardless.

Season Eight
One year after the destruction of Sunnydale, Buffy and the Scoobies have set up a military-like approach to slaying. Now based in Scotland the Scoobies organize over 500 slayers in squads around the world, however they are seen by the US government as international terrorists and many groups are actively working against them. Soon a new pro-vampire world order is established and the groups are forced into hiding as relationships between them grow more complex. When the true identity of the season’s Big Bad—Twilight—is revealed, things become even more intense. After the death of someone close, a distraught Buffy destroys a powerful artifact which subsequently removes all magic from the universe and leaves Buffy as a pariah.

Buffy Season Nine © Dark Horse
Buffy Season Nine © Dark Horse

Season Nine
Buffy and most of her friends are now living in San Francisco. Buffy works in a traditional slayer role as Willow departs on a quest to restore magic and a new team slowly begin to come together. Because magic is now gone from the world Dawn begins to fade from existence, devastating Xander who has now formed a relationship with her. He is approached by the demon Severin who wants to restore magic and the two begin secretly trading information. Buffy and the Scoobies travel to the Cotswolds in an attempt to save Dawn, eventually facing off against Severin. Magic is restored and the season ends with the revelation of an entirely new form of vampire, however Watcher’s Council is destroyed and the pages of their primary research book now blank.

The Buffy-verse is one of the most complex out there and this recap only begins to scratch at its surface. Alongside the primary Buffy TV series there was the Angel spin-off which itself has transitioned into multiple comic series—Angel at IDW and the more recent Angel and Faith through Dark Horse. Dark Horse also produced a 63 issue run that ran alongside Buffy on television prior to Season Eight. Joss Whedon produced the Fray mini-series about a future slayer, and of course there are dozens of novels and collected short stories—not to mention the original 1992 film. For anyone entering the fandom, the sheer volume of material can be a little overwhelming.

I hope that this recap gives you a taste of the series and allows you to step into this brilliant world. I’m reading to dive back in and so we say, “Once More with Feeling!”

Window Shopping Leads to Gift Ideas

river song's journal
River Song’s journal, part of the GeekMom geeky journal collection on eBay. Photo via eBay.

My eBay Collections were curated as part of a sponsored collaboration with eBay.

I’ve spent some time during recent months putting together groups of items for eBay to help launch their new Collections. I expected a lot of searching before I found just the right items, and that turned out to be exactly right, though it was also fun. But the hardest part happened when I was done. After looking over the GeekMom collections, I wanted to buy everything. One reason for that is because I filled collections with stuff I wished I could have in my own house.

For example, the S.H.I.E.L.D. collection has items featuring the current show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., including shirts with the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, a keychain, custom collectibles featuring Nick Fury and Black Widow, and sunglasses to complete your Agent Coulson look.

If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s work beyond his current show, like me, well, I couldn’t resist a Joss Whedon is My Master Now collection. This includes t-shirts, DVDs, and other items from his previous shows, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and Firefly. Though my favorite is the mash-up t-shirt with the logo: “And Buffy Staked Edward. The End.”

Some of the collections. Image: eBay
Some of the collections. Image: eBay

I moved over to my other interests for the remaining collections. I admit, I got lost on eBay for a while looking at all the amazing teapots available. I pulled a few for the I’m a Little Teapot collection, from the black cat teapot perfect for Halloween to the one that looks like a house to the Lenox pumpkin teapot. I also grabbed some infusers—yes, they come in robot-style—and loose tea. There were more sellers of great loose tea than I expected. Score.

With Must Have Coffee, I exchanged the pots for coffee makers, mugs, and several types of coffee. My skewed sense of humor immediately settled on a coffee mug that resembled a grenade entitled “complaint department.” But I also found mugs featuring Grumpy Cat, one featuring the actual Grumpy of the Seven Dwarves, and some beautifully made pottery-style mugs. There are also several coffee makers, including a Keurig machine, and Keurig coffee K-cups. And if you’re a purist (like my husband), whole bean coffee too.

steampunk, watch gears, men's watches
STEAMPUNK New Mens Swiss Design Men’s Silver Skeleton Man’s Mechanical Watch

The other collections are somewhat unrelated but I like to think Sherlock Holmes (the Elementary My Dear Watson collection) would love the Watches That Reflect the Steampunk Style. Sherlock Holmes—be he from the original Doyle stories, Jeremy Brett, or Benedict Cumberbatch—doesn’t feel right without the proper pocket watch.

Finally, you’ll need proper boots from my Coolest Retro Boots collection to run from zombies, though there are other ways to survive in the Zombies and How to Survive Them collection. Certainly, using the pirate boots from the boot collection to take over a ship and sail away from zombies would completely work as an escape. (I need to research whether zombies can swim. They can’t run, so surely they can’t swim?)

If not, the Zombie Survival Kit, gas mask, zombie slayer knives (pretend), or some movies in the Zombie collection might help even the survival odds. And what is more important to survival than keeping the proper notes to pass on knowledge?

The Geeky Journals collection can help with that. Besides the River Song journal, pictured above, there are journals with the Bat-signal, with illustrations from The Hobbit, pocket notebooks, a weather journal, and one with a Hunger Games-theme. (Katniss really knew something about survival.)

I loved every second of putting these collections together, except it was torture to not be able to buy everything I was adding to them. But it helped me create a wish list for myself for the future! Though I hope I won’t ever have reason for the Zombie Survival Kit. Hmm..perhaps my next collection should include boats.

My eBay Collections were curated as part of a sponsored collaboration with eBay. #FOLLOWITFINDIT

TV Preview: Will Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Break Whedon’s Streak?

AgentsShieldCast
Photo Courtesy ABC

I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon’s work since I first stumbled upon Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the old WB Network back in 1996. Since then I’ve looked forward to, and genuinely enjoyed, just about everything he’s done.

But I have to admit that his track record on television hasn’t exactly been consistent. It’s been 10 years since Buffy saved the world for the last time on TV, and nine since Angel followed her into the rerun abyss. Firefly may have a passionate fan base now, but when it aired it didn’t earn enough viewers to sustain a full season. And Dollhouse was a bold, but ultimately doomed experiment. Compare that with the massive success of The Avengers on the big screen and you couldn’t blame Whedon if he never returned to television again.

And yet, he has.

Triumphantly.

I got a chance to see the pilot episode of Whedon’s new series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., at the D23 Expo last weekend, where attendees were treated to a free screening hosted by Jeph Loeb, executive producer and head of Marvel’s television division.

It was only the third time the pilot had been screened publicly (the first time was during the show’s Comic-Con International panel and the second for critics at the TCA press tour). The D23 Expo screening was announced the week of the show and wasn’t listed in any of the printed material, so I suspect the powers that be were waiting to hear the reaction from those first two groups before putting the pilot out there again.

They needn’t have worried. Judging by the cheers that went up the moment Loeb casually turned around to reveal the tag line “COULSON LIVES!” on the back of his T-shirt it was clear the show couldn’t have found a more enthused or receptive audience.

This is the point where you might want to stop reading if you haven’t yet seen The Avengers, the feature film which precedes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You should probably take care of that if you plan on tuning in this fall, because you’ll not only be spoiled for the film, you’ll be a bit lost when it comes to the series. So go and do that and then come back and read the rest of this review.

AgentsShield3
Photo Courtesy ABC

So, now that it’s just us, I can answer some of the questions you might have without giving too much away. BUT THERE ARE MINOR SPOILERS, SO BEWARE BEFORE READING FURTHER.

Yes, the series takes place sometime after the epic Battle of New York in The Avengers and yes, Agent Phil Coulson seems to have come back from the dead. Or the mostly dead, as it turns out. He explains that Agent Fury thought it would motivate the Avengers if they thought they had something to… well, avenge. Coulson has spent the past few months recovering in Tahiti and his return to the agency has been kept a secret from everyone below clearance level 7, including the Avengers. There are hints that there may be more to his revival than even he knows, but we’ll have to wait for that tantalizing mystery to play out in future episodes.

Whatever logistical and thematic pitfalls there may be in bringing back a character who died such a poignant death, it was the right decision to make for this series. As he demonstrated in the Marvel films, Clark Gregg has a rare combination of wry delivery and subtle gravitas. His appearances tied those movie worlds together and proved he could stand shoulder to shoulder with giants. These qualities, along with his popularity among fans, make him a strong central character to build a team around. Which is exactly what happens in the first episode, as a newly formed group of agents sets out on their first mission together.

After an “unregistered gifted” (Angel‘s J. August Richards) performs a feat of incredible strength on a city street, Coulson and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, returning from The Avengers, though how much we’ll see of her in the future is uncertain) hand pick a team of agents to bring him in before someone else does.

Our first look inside the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. comes via Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a black ops specialist who gets high marks from Hill in everything but people skills. There’s also Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), a renown pilot and skilled fighter who has left the field for unknown reasons. Coulson finds her working behind a desk and convinces her to come back to fly the team’s mobile base of operations. Every show like this needs its genius tech geek, and this one has two—a British pair known collectively as Fitzsimmons. Separately they are Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), and their intricate mastery of gadgetry seems to know no bounds (seriously, it’s almost ridiculous how many vital elements of the mission are left up to them to figure out). Finally, there’s a mysterious woman named Skye (Chloe Bennet), a computer hacker whose relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. is somewhat adversarial.

AgentsShield2
Photo Courtesy ABC

There’s so much to set up in this first episode that the story is often forced to the back burner for the sake of exposition. Plot points are glossed over to make time for witty banter and cute moments intended to endear us to these people we’ve just met. I’m willing to forgive that sort of thing in a pilot, because in the long run it’s more valuable to know the backstory and to see the character dynamics in action than to understand the motivations of a minor antagonist or how a particular piece of tech works. But beginning with episode two, the balance had better shift increasingly toward the story side or viewers may lose interest.

Fans of Marvel looking for references to the comics may find a bone thrown their way here and there, but for the most part all of the characters are original creations. There are nods to the films too, of course, and not just the Marvel/Disney productions. Whedon maintains some continuity of style by directing the pilot himself (he also co-wrote it with his brother Jed and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen), and given the constraints of a television budget it held up surprisingly well on a big screen. Not every episode will be able to have chase scenes through the streets of Paris, an enormous cargo plane, or the surprise FX shot at the end that’s too good to spoil, though. It’s more likely that the slick glass and steel confines of the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters will be the look to take away from this. Which is still going to look great on my HD screen every week.

And you bet I’ll be tuning in every week.

It may be premature to say that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be a guaranteed success, but it’s shaping up so far to be the Whedon series fans have been waiting for. It’s funny, action packed, and full of intriguing characters I’d like to get to know better. And when you add in the Marvel fans it’s likely to bring in, there’s a chance that it might even last for more than a season. Which means it could still be on the air in the run-up to the release of the next Avengers film Age of Ultron. Imagine the possibilities.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres September 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a “Shakesperience”

Much Ado About Nothing © Lionsgate
Much Ado About Nothing © Lionsgate

When Joss Whedon needed a break after the hectic filming of The Avengers, he didn’t go on vacation. Instead, he invited his close friends to his home for two weeks to make a film: William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. At last night’s kick off for the Seattle International Film Festival, a theater packed with 3000 eager Whedon fans cheered and laughed at the Bard’s comedy just like we were all groundlings gathered at the Globe.

Much Ado About Nothing is a tale of love, focused on two romantic pairings mixed in with a fair bit of drama. After returning from war to rest at the home of Don Leonato (played by Clark Gregg), Claudio woos the sweet Hero, which serves as the main plot of the story. But it’s the pairing of the reluctant Benedick and Beatrice, played by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker respectively, that provide the more memorable and entertaining moments of the film. (If you’re a longtime fan of Angel and you want to see Wesley and Fred get the happy time together they deserved, buy your tickets now.)

The fast-paced “skirmish of wit” between Beatrice and Benedick translates well to this updated version, with a bit of slapstick thrown in to give the movie some real laugh out loud moments. Granted, the theater was filled to the brim with swooning fans, but there was something magical about a Shakespeare comedy giving the older gentleman next to me a fit of the giggles. Continue reading Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a “Shakesperience”

The Cliffs of Insanity: Mommy Bloggers

GeekMom News
So are GeekMoms “mommy bloggers?” Can’t speak for them but I won’t reject the title.

This week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity include a rumination what being a “mommy blogger” means, a great article on why the new Wonder Woman series is disappointing one female comic reader, and a link to a continuing celebration of the 75th anniversary of Lois Lane, and where you can find me as Wonder Woman. Live and in person, even.

When I was doing the Geeky Jules radio show last Friday night, I was asked a question that I’ve been pondering ever since. Jules asked what I thought of GeekMom being called a “mommy blog,” as that term is a pejorative to some.

The term “mommy blogger” seems inherently somewhat dismissive because it’s not “mom blogger” or even “parenting blogger.” It uses the least formal parenting name for mothers. Plus, I’m immediately suspicious of those making judgments about the worth of something that’s inherently female.

In other words, if you call me  “mommy blogger,” my initial reaction is to pick that label, wear it with pride, and say “and your point would be?,” just as I did years ago with the term “bitch.” (Yes, I actually possess a baseball cap with the word “Bitch” on it.) Continue reading The Cliffs of Insanity: Mommy Bloggers

Can 2013 Beat The Amazing Year of Movies That Was 2012?

 

I can’t remember a better year to be a geek and a movie lover than 2012. The Avengers crammed a pile of our favorite superheroes together onto one screen, and the summer iced that cake with The Dark Knight Rises. Love or hate the high frame rate, we got The Hobbit. Musical lovers got Les Mis while the friends they dragged along got Wolverine, Catwoman, and General Maximus (who next year turns into Jor-El) singing with a side dish of Borat and Bellatrix Lestrange. Talk about a strange dinner party. There were Nazis on the moon, time-traveling blunderbusses, Mandingoes, and for the love of John Carter, a vampire throwing a horse at Abraham Lincoln.

That’s a tough act to follow.

I’ve seen more movies this year–and in theaters!–than maybe any other year of my life, certainly any other year since I had children. I’ve been steeling myself for a while to accept that it was a special year and that 2013 just won’t be the same. It couldn’t be. Could it? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s look at what’s coming. It’s time for a movie year throwdown.

CATEGORY

2012

2013

PROJECTED WINNER

Sci-fi and futuristic Looper, John Carter, The Hunger Games, Prometheus, Men in Black 3, Resident Evil: Retribution, Chronicle, Cloud Atlas, Iron Sky Star Trek: Into Darkness, Elysium, Ender’s Game, World War Z, After Earth, Dark Skies, The Host, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Pacific Rim, Riddick, The World’s End 2012 was a pretty good year, even if we’d had nothing but Looper, The Hunger Games, and Cloud Atlas. But 2013 is ready for the sci-fi smackdown with our next entry in the Star Trek franchise, the next Hunger Games, Pacific Rim, Ender’s Game, and the long-awaited World War Z. Edge: 2013
Fantasy The Hobbit, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Jack the Giant Slayer, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones You either loved or hated The Hobbit, and despite having two of the most amazing costume designers ever to put their work in front of a camera, neither of 2012’s Snow White stories was much to rave about. But they looked promising a year ago, and 2013 could tank just as hard. Tentative edge: 2013
True story/history-based (however loosely) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Argo 300: Rise of an Empire Is 2013 the year that forgot history, or have I just not found those films yet? And I had to take one that really should be in the next category just to give one to 2013! Clear edge: 2012
Comics-based, graphic novels, and superheroes The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Dredd Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, VS (All Superheroes Must Die), Man of Steel, Thor: The Dark World, Oblivion, I Frankenstein, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Kick-Ass 2 The summer of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises was a huge contribution to this great year for movie geeks. But by sheer numbers and the return of Hit Girl, it’s edge: 2013.
Animation Wreck-It Ralph, Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, The Lorax, The Secret World of Arrietty Escape from Planet Earth, Planes, Monsters University, Frozen, From Up on Poppy Hill, Despicable Me 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Epic There were the good times. The times of Brave and Wreck-It Ralph. And then there were the lesser times. There was Frankenweenie, which was like a very, very, very long version of its trailer. I’m not dying of anticipation from much of the upcoming list, but I’ll give it tentative edge: 2013 for optimism and a big-screen Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Documentary Indie Game: The Movie, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Jiro Dreams of Sushi $ellebrity, Unity, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony We Are Legion was both a moving story for those who already knew it and a solid introduction for those who didn’t, and I’ve heard great things about Jiro. But it’s hard to compete with the words “John de Lancie goes to BronyCon.” Edge: 2013
Toy-based Battleship G.I. Joe: Retaliation Game-peg-shaped torpedoes or round two of something that wasn’t any good the first time? Draw. And a request to stop making movies based on toys, unless it’s Jenga.
Remakes, re-releases, and “haven’t we seen this?” Total Recall, Dark Shadows, Finding Nemo 3D, Monsters Inc. 3D The Evil Dead, Carrie, Jurassic Park 3D, Top Gun 3D, The Little Mermaid 3D, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones 3D, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith 3D I’m tenuously interested in The Evil Dead remake, but is the new movie motto, “If you can’t make something good, make something old 3D”? Edge: 2012 for Johnny Depp in excessive makeup over 100-foot-high Anakin nostrils. (Possible reconsideration after Top Gun volleyball scene in 3D.)
Other interesting bits not covered above but worthy of note Skyfall, The Cabin in the Woods, Django Unchained, Safety Not Guaranteed John Dies at the End, Noobz, Much Ado About Nothing, RED 2, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Horror Whedon or Shakespeare Whedon? Bond or RED? Edge: 2012, due to a lack of Tarantino in 2013.
And the winner is… Giving half points for a “tentative edge” and none for the draw, it’s 2012 with 3 points and 2013 with 4 points. Anticipated winner: 2013

I’m sorry, 2012. You were great, but it looks like you just might get taken down by 2013. Your obituary will tell how you were the Year of the Whedon, giving us both The Cabin in the Woods, dripping with Whedonosity in a commentary on classic horror tropes, as well as The Avengers, the third highest-grossing film ever. (In 2013, we’ll get his take on Much Ado About Nothing, with a lineup of the Whedon favorites, from Nathan Fillion and Amy Acker to Alexis Denisof and Tom Lenk.) You were the year of too-fast-to-count video-game cameos. Of the 50th anniversary of Bond. Of what may be Quentin Tarantino’s most controversial work–and that’s saying something when it’s a guy whose last film was about Nazis and had a title with two intentional misspellings that he preferred not to explain.

2013, you’re looking pretty. Captain-Chris-Pine-Kirk kind of pretty. And Pacific Rim kind of stunning. (Don’t let me down, Pacific Rim.) We’re going to be dropping in on Oz and going on a quest for the Golden Fleece with a bunch of half-bloods. You want superheroes? Like IronManWolverineSupermanThor? We won’t be able to recover from that many abs on display until Arrow gets cancelled. We’ll try not to get the vapors, because there are Jacks to keep straight. Tom Cruise will be playing a guy named Jack, but not Jack Reacher (that was 2012), and not Jack Ryan, which is 2013, but a whole other movie, which also has Chris Pine. The Girl on Fire will be on her Victory Tour, and it looks like the whole of Hollywood is coming along. (Did I mention Q goes to BronyCon?)

Once that’s through, I’m not holding my breath for two years of greatness to stretch into a three-year run of awesome, but we can hope. May the odds be ever in our favor.

Written By A Kid: An Interview with Creators Josh Flaum and Will Bowles

One of my all time favorite shows on the internet right now has to be Written By A Kid on Geek & Sundry.

Full disclosure: I do host a show over on Geek & Sundry called #parent — but I liked this show long before I became part of the G&S family. In fact, I know Josh and Will from my days as a writer on Attack of the Show! — they were two of our favorite actors to have in sketches; they’re both super talented, very versatile, and incredibly funny.  If you haven’t checked out the show yet, you really should click take a look. If you have kids, or spend time with them, you are familiar with the twists and turns their stories can take, and I think this show is doing a genius job of capturing the feel of surrendering yourself, and going on an oratorical journey with a child.

The show up for several awards including TV.com’s Best of 2012, under the category Best New Fiction Web Series.  They’re also up  for an IAWTV Award for Best Visual Effects.

And, as we discussed over on Geek Dad: now when you fly Virgin America, you can catch the show on their in-flight programming!

So here we go: My interview with Josh & Will:

Kristen Rutherford: Hi. You don’t have to be nervous or anything.

Josh Flaum: Can I pretend to be nervous? [Will], how are you feeling? I’m very nervous.

Will Bowles: Yeah?

JF: Yeah, I got the jitters. The stomachs.

KR: It’s me. I’m very imposing.

JF: You are! I’m nervous that you’re going to be overly harsh! Continue reading Written By A Kid: An Interview with Creators Josh Flaum and Will Bowles

GeekMom Gift Guide: Books, Books, and More Books!

You’ve likely started your holiday shopping, or at least feel guilty about not starting your shopping. But the whole process is a lot less work since the advent of internet commerce. Books are perfect for purchasing through this conduit, since one size fits all and they aren’t that fragile. Here are the GeekMom writers’ recommendations for books to buy your loved ones this holiday season. There are a very  large number of them, so be sure to click to see them all!

Image: Potter Craft

Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families by Natania Barron, Kathy Ceceri, Corrina Lawson, and Jenny Williams
$19.99
First on our list of recommendations is the brand new Geek Mom book, written by GeekMom’s four editors! A great gift for any geeky mom (or, let’s face it, dad) on your list, this book is chock full of projects, activities, essays, history, and factoids about the world in which geeky moms reside.

Image: Candlewick

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan
$24.99
A graphic novel representation of the true story of three incredible journeys around the world, Around the World is a delight for history buffs, adventuresome souls, and those who appreciate fine illustration. This book is a great read for kids and adults.

Continue reading GeekMom Gift Guide: Books, Books, and More Books!

Jane Espenson and Brad Bell on Husbands, Creating a Web Show, and TV's Future

Jane Espenson and Brad “Cheeks” Bell. Photo by Ruth Suehle. CC-BY-SA

If you haven’t yet discovered Husbands, it’s a charmingly witty, web-based sitcom from Jane Espenson and Brad Bell that launched just this past March but has already won a Telly Award and been nominated for a Webby Award and Indie Soap Award. The show follows a new couple: Cheeks, a well-known entertainment personality played by Bell, and Brady Kelly, a Dodgers baseball player played by Sean Hemeon. At a marriage equality event in Las Vegas, they end up getting drunk and getting married. The final episode of season two hits the web tomorrow.

The episodes are super short–you can watch two seasons in about an hour. (“We’re the kind of show you can watch in a night!” Bell exclaimed in our interview.) Its YouTube channel has more than 16,000 subscribers and nearly three million views. In their Dragon*Con panel last week, with the second season coming to a close, the team announced that the show will now become a six-issue comic from Dark Horse. Each issue has a different artist and an alternate-universe premise.

Moving to the page affords the project a lot of options that couldn’t be done on a web-show budget. Also during that Dragon*Con panel, Espenson and Bell joked about the many ways to “burn money” producing a show like this one. Its second season was funded by 956 backers on Kickstarter, donating $60,001, but Espenson said they’re reluctant to turn to Kickstarter again for a third season.

Continue reading Jane Espenson and Brad Bell on Husbands, Creating a Web Show, and TV's Future

SDCC Firefly Panel: Prepare to Bawl

Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion
Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion cheering the crowd as the crowd cheers them. Image source: YouTube screen shot.

San Diego Comic-Con was a blur of awesome, as usual. Now that it’s over, I’m glad to sit back, rest my weary feet, and enjoy what was arguably the most awesome event of all: the Firefly reunion panel. I missed it in real life: couldn’t devote a whole day to standing in the thousands-deep line for Hall H. Hooray for YouTube. I made it about forty-five seconds into this video (“He wanted to be introduced as a bounty hunter and sandwich maker, but you know him best as a leaf on the wind”) before I teared up. How about you?

See 47:33 for a truly heartwarming moment: Joss Whedon (and much of the cast) getting choked up at the question, “What do the fans mean to you?” Nathan Fillion leads the panel in a standing ovation of the audience — a poignant tribute to the devotion of the fans, and a testament to the reciprocity of the relationship between Firefly‘s creators and its deeply loyal viewers.

“When I see you guys,” said Joss Whedon, “I don’t think the show’s off the air. I don’t think there’s a show. I think that’s what the world is like.”

Yep, I wept.

Review: The Cabin In The Woods Visual Companion

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I know when it comes to Joss Whedon movies, this weekend is all about The Avengers. But if you haven’t seen The Cabin In The Woods yet, it needs to be on your weekend agenda. Call it a double feature. And if you have already seen it, you no doubt have a few questions along with a strong desire to watch it on DVD with a pause button. Until then, let me recommend The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion.

From here on, this post contains spoilers. If you have not yet seen the movie, back away. It’s for your own good–even if you usually like spoilers.

The Cabin In The Woods is an exceptional showcase of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s mutual brilliance. And according to this companion book, they wrote the whole thing in just three days, locked in a Santa Monica hotel room together, taking turns writing scenes. The first part of the book is an interview with the two of them about the creation process for the film. My favorite story involves writing Anna Patience Buckner’s diary. Goddard was working on the basement scene when he got to the diary and thought Whedon would probably like to write it. Just minutes later, according to Goddard, Whedon had the diary completely written. Goddard says:

…six minutes later, he ran upstairs with it, this full page, this beautifully written horror diary of a prairie girl. I was like, ‘How did you write that fast?’ And he’s just like, ‘Some things I was born to do.’ . . . I couldn’t write my own name repeatedly as fast as he wronte that diary.

(Are you still reading this review without having seen the movie? Get out of here! I promise; you want to go in knowing nothing. Go enjoy this humorous song about Firefly instead.)

The book offers sketches and photos of many of the monsters–but not all of them. I would have loved a complete list of everything in each of the cells. (There is, however, a photo of the whiteboard that lists the bets placed and explanations of some of the less-self-explanatory ones, like “Kevin.”) The book ends with ten double-page spreads featuring the Buckners, the werewolf, the merman, the ring-mouth ballerina, the unicorn, the blob, and many background creatures.

There’s also a photo of the functioning (and delightfully steampunk-esque) blood machine. It’s ten feet tall and again, completely functional. Just in case later somebody needs to appease some ancient gods–it’s already built.

You can examine the cabin, in and out, stage and location versions. The painting that covered the mirror? It was specifically made for the movie and takes up half a page of the book. Study a layout of the control room–and better, photos of the basement. Try to match items to monsters! (Whedon specifically said at SXSW that if you look, you’ll find the unicorn’s cause.) If you need to debate the finer points of dialogue, the book also includes the full script.

Are Hadley and Sitterson really Whedon and Goddard? Is Fran Kranz actually one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Is there a TARDIS involved? And just how do you clean up that elevator room between shoots? Grab a copy of The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion and find out.

Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion: Must-Have for Whedon Fans


Between The Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers, you might feel like you’re swimming in Whedon lately. (And if you’ve read my GeekMom posts, you know I’m a fan of that pool!) But if you can’t get enough Whedon, there’s a little more to love in Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion.

This self-described “essential guide to the Whedonverse” is 496 pages of essays compiled by PopMatters on nearly every aspect of Whedon’s work. About half of the book is devoted to Buffy and Angel, followed by smaller sections on Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible, Firefly, and his work in comics and other films. The introduction is slightly out of date as of the book’s release date, referring to the “future” releases of The Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers (released three days after the book in the US and weeks earlier in the UK), but the final chapter does include essays on these two movies. And of course, we hope the title itself will quickly be out of date as well, making the book no longer a “complete” companion, as Whedon’s career is far from finished.

Note that this is absolutely not a book like The Cabin In The Woods Visual Companion. There are no pictures, no scripts, no reflections on the joy of washing down gallons of blood with boiling water. Most of the essays are written with an academic slant, with titles like “Pedagogy of the Possessed” and “The Ethics of Malcolm Reynolds.” If you prefer to sit back and enjoy the entertainment value of vampires and apocalypses, it might not be the book for you. On the other hand, if you’re interested in things like humanism, free will, and feminism through the lens of Whedon’s work, you’ll be quite pleased. But as the editor points out in his introductory note, “it’s different all the way through.” There are plenty of interviews with actors and writers from the shows, and nobody says you have to read every page. You can skip about to the parts that interest you. And if by chance Cabin or The Avengers was your introduction to Whedon and you’re ready for more, several chapters introduce you to pieces of his work. The first few chapters made me want to watch Buffy from the beginning.

The essays admire Whedon’s work, but they don’t treat him or his work as flawless. The book is not a loving, uncritical, rave review. Rather it’s an in-depth examination of an already wide body of work, the themes that pervade them, and the mind behind them. Dive into more Whedon–grab a copy of Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion.

There’s a Lot to See–Plan Your Summer Movie Schedule Now


As I sat through a half-hour of trailers at The Hunger Games this past weekend, I realized how many geektastic movies are coming out this summer that I’m going to want to see. Seriously. It’s absolute madness how many geek-appealing movies are crammed into the next few months. I’m already behind, having not yet seen John Carter or Mirror Mirror yet. And since it’s not often an easy task to get out to a movie when you have small children, that means it’s time to make a list and start prioritizing! Bookmark this post with what’s coming between now and September, and let’s make a pact together to see as many as we can. Who’s in?

  • Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (April 6)
    This one came out a few days ago, but that means you’ve still got a chance to see Morgan Spurlock’s shot at a documentary of the con-fan experience.
  • The Cabin In The Woods (April 13)
    I was lucky enough to see this at SXSW. As I told you then, don’t watch the trailer, but if you’re a Whedon fan, don’t let this one out of the theaters without seeing it.
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits (April 27)
    A PG rating for Hugh Grant’s first animated role means you can take some of your kids to this swashbuckling flick based on Gideon Defoe’s books. The cast also features David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, and Martin Freeman.
  • The Raven (April 27)
    For the high school Poe nerds. John Cusack.

  • The Avengers (May 4)
    May the fourth be with you… no, wrong movie franchise. Couldn’t help it. But this is really the summer blockbuster we’re all waiting for, isn’t it? And when I mean waiting, I mean four years since the first teaser at the end of Iron Man. No pressure, Whedon.
  • Dark Shadows (May 11)
    Frankly, I’ll see anything with crazy Helena Bonham Carter being crazy. This Tim Burton take on the late-60s TV show looks fun, but maybe dollar-theater fun.
  • Battleship (May 18)
    When I heard they were making a movie based on a board game, I imagined a two-hour long version of the old commercials. The trailer looks fun after all (and Alexander Skarsgård? I’m there…), but this movie better feature the line, “You sunk my battleship!”
  • Men In Black III (May 25)
    Really? Sigh. But… who among us of a certain age doesn’t have quite fond memories of the first two? So you know you’re going to have to see this one too.

  • Snow White and The Huntsman (June 1)
    I admit to derisively referring to this as “Snow Twilight.” The movie still looks good, as long as I can get over the casting. Or I could just see Mirror Mirror and call it good on summer doses of that particular fairy tale.
  • Prometheus (June 8)
    This was originally meant to be a two-part prequel to Alien, but has become more of a same-universe story than a prequel. Still wouldn’t hurt to re-watch Alien beforehand.
  • Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8)
    This movie based on a classified ad in The Copenhagen Post seeking a time travel partner (Know your meme!) was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

    The “safety not guaranteed” classified ad, from KnowYourMeme.com
  • World War Z (June 21) Correction: This one won’t be out until 2013.
    Post-apocalyptic horror based on the book by the same name. I’m not a Brad Pitt fan, but I do like zombies and Matthew Fox. I’m making a note to read the book first.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)
    Based on the novel of the same name, this can go only two ways: really good or really bad. There’s no middle ground in a Lincoln/vampire mashup.
  • Brave (June 22)
    There’s nothing about this animated hero we aren’t looking forward to here at GeekMom. Move it to the top of the list.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
    Just in case your childhood hasn’t been sufficiently relived and/or slaughtered by movies in the last few years, here’s one more dose.

  • The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
    Here’s how this reboot happened: “No Spider-Man 4? Whatev. Guess we’ll just start over.” But it’s Spider-Man, so of course we’ll all see it. The sequel is set for release May 2, 2014.
  • Ted (July 13)
    The quantity I can qualify this as “geeky” is low, but it’s Seth MacFarlane as a talking teddy bear in the story-after-the-story. What happens when the lights go down on a delightfully warm Disneyesque animated flick? This. I saw parts of it at SXSW, and it looks hilarious, as long as you like bong-smoking teddy bears beating up Mark Wahlberg.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
    MOAR Batman. Personally I’m looking forward to Anne Hathaway’s presto change-o shoes that seem to go from stilettos to flats in pre-release photos.

  • Total Recall (August 3)
    By August, we may feel like we’ve seen it all before… comic-book reboots, eternal sequels… And a remake of Total Recall, this time with Colin Farrell instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and no trip to Mars.
  • The Bourne Legacy (August 3)
    Bourne movie #4, with no Matt Damon. But it’s not a reboot, and he hasn’t been replaced. It’s simply a whole different movie set in the same universe, but with no Jason Bourne. (I think we can safely put it on the wait-for-dollar-theater list.)
  • ParaNorman (August 17)
    An animated movie with zombies and one kid who can talk to them. Oh, and the witches and ghosts too.

Whew. That gets us through the summer. And if you survive these blockbuster sequels, prequels, and remakes, you’ll be rewarded this winter with The Hobbit in December and (at some point) Mass Effect.

Did I miss any? What are your top three must-sees?

LEGO Avengers Poster!

LEGO Avengers
Image used with permission

Ok, I’ve been trying to play it cool and not get my hopes up about the new Avengers movie coming out in a little over a month. There have been way too many horrible super hero movies made out of material that should have been awesome. Batman & Robin. Spiderman 3. Green Lantern. Need I say more?

So yes, I know this one was directed by Joss Whedon, and he didn’t end up quitting over creative differences or anything.

I started to get a bit more excited about the Avengers when I saw Joss Whedon’s panel at SXSW. He addressed a lot of the concerns I had. This is a movie full of heroes able to carry their own movies, and they’re all together for reasons that better be a bit more compelling than “Gosh, let’s all hero together for a bit.” Whedon assured us that he’d thought of this too and had found a way to both show the discomfort these heroes had with working as a team and the necessity that pushed them into that position.

There’s still a month to go before I can see if this is a movie I’ll sing tales about to my grandchildren, but in the mean time there’s this LEGO Avengers poster that’s just too awesome to ignore. Great. It’s made me want to go buy tie-in products on May 4th, too.

Well played, LEGO Avengers. Well played.

Do Not Watch The Cabin In The Woods Trailer

Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Kristen Connolly, and Anna Hutchison at the SXSW premiere of The Cabin In The Woods (Photo: Ruth Suehle)

The Cabin In The Woods premiered as the opening night movie at SXSW Film. All I knew going into it was that it was a horror movie by Joss Whedon. I assumed based on the name that some people would go to a creepy cabin in some woods and all get brutally murdered in some sort of suspenseful, creepy way. I tried to imagine what a Whedon horror movie meant. Then I remembered how many other writers have wandered out of their usual fare and made something that seemed completely out of character. I then thought it might be just “Horror Movie (oh, PS, it happens to involve Joss, which should suck in you Whedon lovers)”.

With all of that consideration in mind, combined with the fact that I’m not the biggest horror movie buff, I went anyway just because I wanted to see Joss Whedon in person. I’m a big fan of every single other thing he’s done. And that alone should have reassured me that this wasn’t going to be just any horror movie. And it wasn’t.

If “whedon” were an adjective, The Cabin In The Woods would be wholly whedon. It’s whedonly. It’s whedontastic. Whedonriffic. Whedonstravaganza. It is precisely what happens when Joss Whedon makes a horror movie. If you love Whedon with a fake-blood budget that might rival what I spent on my house, then you’re going to love it.

But I have one piece of advice: Don’t watch the trailer.

I strongly feel that The Cabin In The Woods is best seen with no more information than I went into it with. It is a horror movie. By Joss Whedon. Named The Cabin In The Woods. The trailer gives you too much more than that.

Long-time Whedon fans will be happy to see Amy Acker, Tom Lenk, and Fran Kranz. It also features Chris Hemsworth (Thor). And Whedon doesn’t get all the credit—it’s co-written by Drew Goddard, who also wrote Cloverfield.

If you’re still reading hoping for more details, I’ll add that Whedon introduced the movie by asking the audience to tell their friends to see it—but not to tell them the details. It’s best enjoyed spoiler-free. Listen to Joss. Just see it. Listen to me. Don’t even watch the trailer.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

Screen capture of Nathan Fillion's Twitter (Image: Mandy Horetski)

When Nathan Fillion tweets a link, it doesn’t take long for thousands of his loyal fans to click on it. He tweeted a link last night that has Joss Whedon fans all over the internet buzzing.

The link was to a website that just had a little information such as that this is a film named Much Ado About Nothing that written and directed by Joss Whedon and is based on a play. It also states that principal photography is finished as well as giving a list of names, including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof and Sean Maher. Those three who have been in other Joss Whedon works like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

According to the press release, it is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s comedy by the same name. For me, I’ll be watching for news on this and definitely will be going to see it when it is released. It is a little surprising to see a Joss Whedon project since he is still busy with The Avengers.

But it’s exciting too.

Update: The official press release came this afternoon. Much Ado About Nothing from Bellwether Pictures and the official movie site.

Happy Birthday, Joss Whedon!

Joss Whedon at SDCC 2010 (Image: Wikipedia)

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog turns 47 years old today.

I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon’s work since I discovered Buffy in college. I didn’t get the channel Buffy was on, so my mom taped it for me and sent me the tapes. So I would watch hours of Buffy at a time.

Because of Buffy, I watched Firefly from the beginning. And it was love at first watch. I became a Browncoat at that point and a lifelong fan of Whedon’s work.

So happy, happy birthday, Joss Whedon!

If you want to help celebrate, there are many CSTS showings throughout the country in honor of his birthday.

 

Why Firefly?

Image: Fox

It may come as a shock to some that I don’t like sci-fi. Well, strike that. With the exception of Star Trek and the original Star Wars, I don’t like sci-fi and, for some hardcore sci-fi fans, it could be argued that both of those are entirely too mainstream and commercialized to boot.

This is not an arbitrary decision based on non-exposure either. I’ve read AND watched Dune and didn’t like them. I’ve been given a chance to try to read Foundations and while I couldn’t get through it I have no desire to try again. (This is unlike my keen desire to finally make it through Lord of the Rings. I love the book, I love the writing, but Tolkien is, um, verbose. Don’t shake your head at me, you know full well what I’m talking about! I will read it. Eventually.) I’ve others under my belt and am just not thrilled by them. It’s no reflection on the books, subject matter, or fans, it just not my thing.

So it was not a stretch for me to have absolutely NO interest in Firefly. In the early days, my heart strings were tugged just a bit by Joss Whedon’s name. I was and still am a Buffy fan. I didn’t hear about Firefly until long after it was taken off the air and the more I looked the less interested I was; Whedon’s involvement alone couldn’t manage to sway me. First, it only made it one season. No show worth its salt can only last one season. And last, two words: Space. Cowboys. Really?

I knew others absolutely loved the show, others including close friends of mine. I never said it was a bad show, just not one I was interested in watching. These same friends poked, prodded, pleaded, begged, bribed, and eventually threatened to feed me to Reavers (this made no sense to me at the time) until I agreed, half-heartedly, to finally watch the show. I found a box set of the entire series plus the Serenity movie in my hands before a week had elapsed on my begrudging “Ok, fine.”

So, being a woman who stays true to her word, I popped the first DVD in, started the first episode and was confused as hell. On my friends’ advice, I watched them in sequential order, as the show was designed to be aired.  Seeing as a certain network apparently chose to experiment with playing series out of order, the show suffered. Knowing this going in, I figured watching the first episode would make sense since I had the benefit of watching it, well, first. It didn’t. I spent the whole thing staring at my TV, one eyebrow arched, and my head tilted to the side, trying every which way to make sense of what I was seeing.

Then the episode ended. And I immediately started the second. Normally suffering from that much confusion and having no idea what the point or purpose of the storyline was would have been enough to make me tap out the next round. But I found myself drawn to the characters. I didn’t know any of them… but I wanted to.

I really wanted to know how happy, bright, slightly crazy Kaylee ended up a mechanic. I had to figure out why I seemed to like Mal when everything he did really should have annoyed me. Simon and River were a whole other mess that my brain had to figure out. It wasn’t an option, it was a mission. Jayne cracked me up for so many reasons. And how did “warrior woman” Zoe end up with Wash? Not that I had a problem with Wash personally, as my geek crush on Alan Tudyk expanded a bit. I hadn’t realized he was a part of the cast. The more I watched, the more things made sense, as is normally the case.  (The episode “Out of Gas” helped tremendously.)  But instead of the intrigue wearing off as my questions were answered, it only grew. I wanted more. I felt the addiction forming before I’d made it halfway through the episodes, not to mention the movie, Serenity.

Due to parental obligation it took me a over a week to finish the series, being forced to wait until after bedtime to indulge and needing to remind myself nightly, that I too had a bedtime. I loved, and craved, the show but it is definitely not appropriate for my three year old. I watched each episode, soaking it all in, pleased by the appropriate level of drama balanced by comedic relief. (I heart Alan Tudyk, might have mentioned that already.) Witty sarcasm and clever dialogue plus an ingenious little bit of plot and subplot development appeased the writer in me. Horseback riding, old fashioned guns, and badly mangled southern drawls appeased the Oklahoman in me.

However I re-watched the entire season this weekend while my daughter was with her dad for Father’s Day. It was glorious although being the sympathetic viewer/reader I am, I’m struggling with using proper English today. It should be said that Nathan Fillion has been added to my list of geek crushes and that I’ve decided I will never buy an album featuring any music of Joss Whedon. I love him. But not as a singer. For you fellow Firefly virgins, he composed the opening theme song.

I’ll not publish any spoilers in case you are not yet a Firefly fan and have been considering giving it a shot. I highly recommend it and I’ll give you a few good reasons.

It only made one season. It was a brilliant season and it was not the show’s fault it got canceled. It was the network’s.

While it is sci-fi, it has a good basis in reality. That’s always my struggle with sci-fi. I’m entirely too logical to accept the surreality necessary to enjoy sci-fi. Firefly handles this well.

Two words: Space. Cowboys. Yeah, really.

 

 

 

Geek Crafts: A Roundup

Image: Courtesy of Stephanie Lau

An international effort to create a more realistic Link amigurumi was successfully posted over at Craftzine this week. Previous attempts have been, in this crafter’s opinion, too complicated for amigurumi, or looked nothing like the character. Apart from the Hylian shield. this looks to be both simple and realistic. Stephanie Lau, who designed the shield and sword, has graciously posted the pattern on her blog.

In other amigurumi goodness, the delightful Wolfdreamer has produced a pattern for one of the penguins from Madagascar. It’s a nice basic shape, I can easily see the eyebrow-line being adapted into an Admiral Ackbar pattern at some point.

Wee Little Stitches continues to add patterns to her etsy shop. Amongst the “Pixel People” there you can find all eleven Doctors, the crew of Serenity, and Star Wars: A New Hope.

Among things you wish you could make but would never have the patience for, there is a customized Legend of Zelda chess set. I’m still holding out for the potentials/vampires edition – c’mon Joss!

This week’s truly geeked out craft, obsessed beyond obsession? Hand sculpted Star Wars characters, each on a wax crayon.

Confessions of a Vampire Addict

An addict is someone who is obsessed with an activity or substance. It could be anything from drugs to pizza; to shoes to sci fiction. I don’t consider myself an addictive type of person. I don’t own a thousand pairs of shoes and only have wine on occasion. However, I am fixated on vampires. I love vampires. I can’t get enough of them in books, movies, television, you name it. I think this may have driven my parents a little crazy as a teen but once I was out of the house, I could indulge my addiction as much as I wanted.

The first vampire I remember that had an impact on me was from the movie Love at First Bite. Ok, I might be dating myself a bit there, but there was something about George Hamilton and that crazy guy who played Wrenfield. Of course, I watch that movie now and think it was super cheesy. The next vampires that showed up on my radar were The Lost Boys. I watched that movie ad nauseum. I had the entire thing memorized and wished I could live in California, dress like Star, and party with Jason Patric. That movie set the bar for the next several years. Vampires were all about big hair, sleeping all day, and partying all night.

Vamp Grrl Original art by Brigid Ashwood

By this time, my family was aware of my addiction and began to act as enablers. My aunt told me about a novel called Interview with the Vampire. Ahhhh… my next fix. This novel took the vampire and made him into a tragic, misunderstood creature. Poor Louis hated himself for what he had become and decided to live on animals rather than people. While Lestat was all about the vampire power trip. Throw the vampire child Claudia into the mix and it made for a compelling story. Anne Rice went on to write an entire series of the novels entitled the Vampire Chronicles.

My next obsession arrived with a watcher, a blond ponytail, and a gang of sidekicks. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her posse saved the fictional Sunnydale from certain doom from 1997 to 2003. The show had witty writing, interesting plots, and tons of vampires and demons. In 1999, Joss Whedon created a spin off entitled Angel which featured Buffy’s ex moving to Los Angeles and opening a detective agency to help people with supernatural problems. Angel ended in 2004 which had me searching for a new fix.

During this time, I stumbled upon the Twilight series. What caught my eye at the book store was the book cover. I picked up the book and devoured the series. While I loved the book series, I haven’t been a huge fan of the movies. But they are out there if you are in need of a vampire fix.

In 2007, Moonlight came to the small screen. This sexy little series featured a vampire named Mick St John as a private investigator who falls in love with a human named Beth. This smart show was a victim of the writer’s strike in 2008 and only had 12 episodes before it was cancelled.

There was a noticeable lack of vampires on the tube after that, so I turned to the printed word and found the House of  Night series by P.C. and Kristen Cast. The series poses that vampirism is a physical, genetic change that teenagers go through, similar to puberty. However, there is the possibility that their bodies reject the change and they die. In the Cast’s series, vampyres have learned to coexist with humans. At least temporarily. I have a special affinity for this series as the authors are from my home town.

The latest offering on the television has been The Vampire Diaries. The story follows a pair of brothers who were turned into vampires by the same woman in the 1800’s. While the plots can be a bit sophomoric, Damon Salvatore is my new favorite vampire. There is just something about his eyes.

My vampire familiars have run the gamut from silly to sexy and while my addiction has changed over the years, there is always a new vampire story waiting in the wings.