All posts by Bree Brouwer

Bree Brouwer is a copywriter and content marketing writer who specializes in the online video industry.

Kasdan/Kinberg Join New Star Wars Films, Vader Returns, & Other Lucasfilm News

If you haven’t been keeping up with all the news about the upcoming Star Wars films, we’re not sure where you’ve been the last few weeks, but we have you covered.  Quite a bit has been leaked about the films since Disney bought Lucasfilm, enough to possibly fill the hidden cargo holds on the Millenium Falcon.

Matthew Vaughn to direct Star Wars VII

For one, rumors started going around that X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn would be hired to direct the upcoming Star Wars VII, and shortly thereafter the fan base exploded in excitement when Harrison Ford said he was open to the idea of reprising his role as the iconic Han Solo, despite his continual avoidance of the franchise and surrounding events.  Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had already been informed of the new films, and both have also expressed interest in reprising their respective roles as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

Does Vader return for Star Wars VII?

Now one rumor in particular that has surfaced is causing the fan base to explode in pseudo-excitement again: several media companies are claiming that the infamous Darth Vader will appear in Star Wars VII.  How, no one really seems to know yet, and details are limited if not entirely fictitious.  The unidentified source involved in the film’s production merely said that the creative team considers Vader “integral” and that “the plan is for [Darth Vader] to return and play a significant role in the new films” [Screenrant].

Vader returning like a Jedi (or Sith, technically) worries many fans, who over the past few weeks have claimed that if Disney tries to physically resurrect the asthmatic villain through some sort of technological cloning process, they will lose faith in Disney’s ability to properly stay true to the Star Wars universe.  Others have said that it’s only logical that Vader should reappear as long as he is shown in flashbacks and memories.  No further news has been reported on this issue as of now.

Michael Arndt to write Star Wars VII

The newest information about the upcoming Star Wars films has been predominantly focused around the writing and producing.  The Hollywood Reporter said that Michael Arndt, screenwriter for Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, was brought on board to write the script for Star Wars VII even before the Disney buyout of Lucasfilm.  StarWars.com confirmed this is still the plan for the 2015 movie. Considering Arndt recently penned the script to the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, his script for Star Wars VII should hopefully have good balance of drama, comedy, and action.

Simon Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan will produce & possibly write Star Wars VIII & IV.

Finally, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi writer Lawrence Kasdan has come on the scene in addition to the writer of the new X-Men movie, Simon Kinberg.  Though it’s been confirmed that the two will help produce Star Wars VIII and IX, their exact writing roles are not yet decided.  The news of Kasdan returning is positive indeed; having a veteran to the Star Wars franchise should help keep it true to its roots, and Kinberg’s credentials are nothing to balk at, either.

Star Wars news is sure to keep spilling over the next few months and years.  The Grizzly Bomb will do our best to act like Bothan spies and get the information out to you as quickly as possible, so keep watching for updates!

Not So Big and Scary: My First Con Experience

Despite touting myself as a geek for years and being proud of that status, I didn’t realize conventions were actually a “thing” until I saw The Terminal and realized Zoe Saldana’s character was a Trekkie who loved going to cons.  At first I thought it was a joke, a cute little character development the writers of the movie decided was a unique way to set her apart.  Yet the more I looked into it, the more I realized that conventions were indeed a thing.

I didn’t make it to my first con until this month.  Call me undedicated to the world of geekdom, but I preferred to be able to afford food, clothes, and a roof over my head instead of spending all the money on a temporary hotel roof, plane ticket, and convention eats.  Fortunately, I got a press pass to attend my first con, Anime Nebraskon, and I stayed with a cousin, so that helped my decision to attend by a significant factor.  I’ve decided I really like press passes.

Yeah, I am not 100% sure who that is, but the name sounds familiar. The character, not the state.

Anime is a realm I never got into.  Watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and marveling over the beautiful artwork in the Final Fantasy games were the closest experiences to anime that I had ever come.  And yet here I was attending a con based solely around this genre; I felt lost as I looked at the weekend program.  The only anime-related session title I recognized immediately was Legend of Korra (that saved my skin a bit), and after perusing the program more closely, a few more titles seemed vaguely reminiscent from what I’d heard friends and Internet people talk about.  I fortunately found other sessions to attend like one about Rooster Teeth hosted by a community member I’d met on their website, as well as a fantastic session by voice actress Stephanie Young about what types of female characters voice actresses often play when they have a lower vocal range.

The best thing about the sessions and panels I did attend was that Anime Nebraskon, though one of the larger conventions for this Midwest area, still boasted small enough numbers that each session I sat in on did not seem like there were too many people for the moderators or hosts to interact properly with them (unless you were talking about the celebs like Stephanie Young and Steve Blum, and then of course the rooms were packed to the brim).  One guy even hijacked the “How to Create a Podcast” session when the real host failed to show up after 15 minutes of waiting, and since the hijacker said he did a Brony podcast, he decided to just teach the rest of us 10 or so attendees what he had learned from his experiences.

Avengers cosplay group – I like the drinking Tony Stark.

Also, I was very glad I had decided to dress in appropriate attire, and by appropriate I mean at least one geeky item of clothing or accessory.  For the first day, I decided to wear my Star Wars Her Universe Han and Leia t-shirt along with my Imperial logo earrings.  The second day, I plastered on dark eye makeup, wore my old Freelancer Tex shirt from Rooster Teeth, and dressed it up runway-style, with skinny black jeans, black boots, black military blazer, and a maroon fedora; I called it my “If Tex Were a Bad-Ass Fashion Model Instead of a Bad-Ass Killing Machine” look.

Unfortunately, by the time I found out about getting a press pass to Anime Nebraskon, I didn’t have time to make a costume, and no costume I owned seemed fitting for an anime convention (a self-created Amazon warrior via slave Leia costume, or Galadriel from Lord of the Rings).  I was wrong.  Though the majority of attendees were indeed in anime-style costumes, there were more than a handful of gaming characters there like 2-3 different Master Chiefs, Marvel and DC characters (including an epic grey Spider-Man who told me it took him over a year to put the entire costume together), and even some very realistic Jedi Knights and Clone Troopers running around.  Next time I’ll have to remember that pretty much any geeky costume will do.

BEAUTIFUL Master Chief armor. It lit up and everything.

I’d have to say the best part about the entire Nebraskon experience was the way that the convention organizers created a positive experience for all the attendees.  All the Nebraskon staff were willing to help out when asked a question or two, and many even seemed energized instead of drained by the crowd around them.  Though most people roll their eyes at or even jeer security staff, none of this happened that I could see, and most attendees were very respectful when security asked them to move closer to the wall or keep moving so as not to block other attendees’ pathways.  In addition, the con organizers made sure to put this sign up all over the convention center:

That’s right, it’s not.

With all the issues surrounding sexual harassment of specifically female cosplayers, this sign was refreshing to see.  What was more refreshing was the fact that I saw it enforced by the staff and security and respected by the attendees; I never once saw a guy take a picture of a girl without her permission, even if she was in full armor of some sort.  From what I’ve read, many cons, especially the larger ones, only wish they could expect this type of civility amongst their costumed patrons.

Overall, Anime Nebraskon offered a wide range of sessions and panels to attend for its intimate size, lots of time-intensive costumes to admire, and a positive, no-hassle atmosphere that makes me ignore the fact that only pizza was offered as the on-site caterer (yes, there was only one).  Would I attend Anime Nebraskon again?  Yes, most definitely.  However, I’ve now been bitten by the con bug; the experience only made me eager to make it to some of the larger and most famous ones out there.  That means you, PAX and San Diego Comic-Con.

* PLEASE NOTE: ALL PICTURES ARE COPYRIGHT BREE BROUWER.  CONTACT HER WITH PERMISSION TO USE THEM ELSEWHERE.

Oh, yeah: there was “YMCA” dancing on stage at the cosplay contest, too.

Halo 4 Review: You’ve Left an Impression of Sorts on Me

Once upon a time, or more like ten years ago, this female gamer decided to buy her very first Xbox because she played Halo at a friend’s house and fell in love.  Ever since then, a passionate love affair has existed between her and subsequent Halo games, so of course you could expect her to highly anticipate Halo 4.

But as with most love affairs, there are ups and downs, sacrifices to be made, and compromises to be had.  Halo 4 is like a compromise, but one that’s growing into a hopeful up.  After playing through the entire campaign, all of the Spartan Ops, as well as many hours of multiplayer, here are my initial thoughts and reactions to the game.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.  DO NOT READ IF YOU’RE A HALO 4 VIRGIN.*

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CAMPAIGN/SPARTAN OPS

Story – The plot surrounding Master Chief and Cortana’s survival and of course the continuing salvation of the human race has little issues and runs very fluidly from one level to the next (and oh, man, is Cortana’s rampancy excruciating to watch).  Many fans were wary of how the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana would play out considering the fact that neither is actually romantically tied to the other, but 343 Industries stayed true to that status, keeping the couple’s relationship based 100% on mutual trust, dedication, and shared experiences.  How this will play out in future games, though, will be interesting not only because of the apparent loss of Cortana, but also because Master Chief suddenly has to deal with the fact that he has emotions that she slowly pulled out of him, and that he is more human than he’d like to believe.

My only concern with the campaign was that outside of the immediate Chief/Cortana storyline, there are threads of stories that tie in to theirs that are never truly explained or satisfied.  For example, Halo 4 starts 4 years after Chief disappeared, and suddenly humans are fighting the Covenant again, a fact which is never explained.  The game also starts with an officer questioning Dr. Halsey about her involvement with Cortana and Master Chief; the only valuable information we get out of this is that the leaders-that-be consider Chief to be dead and they want to replace him.

However, after finishing the first five Spartan Ops, my husband and I watched the video that was released to us for completion, which clarified one of my concerns about the story.  I must say that if 343 Industries planned to leave these threads in the campaign unanswered simply to be filled in by the Spartan Ops videos and other supplementary material, all I can say is that they made a genius marketing decision.  I’ll want to make sure I can download every single video to get the entire story, and I’m sure many other players will be hooked on this method of storytelling, too.

Gameplay – A blast.  I only experienced one glitch total, and the rest of the time gameplay was tight, fast-paced, and purposeful (there never seemed to be a ridiculous  number of enemy waves or useless confrontations of any sort).  Many new weapons are introduced and though I could get into the benefits and drawbacks of all of them, I think in general that the Promethean/Forerunner weapons are not impressive and tend to be lesser versions of both human and Covenant alternatives (this is especially true in multiplayer).  Personally, though, I am glad to see the beam rifle back, which was my favorite sniper weapon for quite a while (yes, even above the human sniper) even though I’m not that good at sniping.  However, the binary rifle is quickly becoming my top favorite because of its smooth, quiet functioning.

The new Promethean enemies were fun to figure out considering they are purely digital constructs, a concept that may be hard to grasp at first for some Halo players because we’ve never fought enemies of this sort before.  Specifically, I love that the Knights are able to teleport closer to you and swipe their swords right across your face.  The experience was different from previous games, which made it a challenge and forced me to stay alert and interested in the game the first time through.

Music – I have to throw this in here because I simply fawn over all the previous Halo soundtracks, even ODST.  At the initial load screen of Halo 4, a haunting, single female voice starts chanting in the style of ancient Celts or even Egyptians, reminiscent of the original Halo theme of a monk-like, a capella chorus.  I was excited to hear the rest of the score as I continued play.

However, there were several instances throughout the campaign where I felt that something was amiss, and I finally pinpointed the issue ¾ of the way through the game: the composers brought in too many horns for my taste.  The horns overpower the strings on a fairly regular basis, which is frustrating because Halo music became famous because of its ability to combine what normally doesn’t get put together (strings, guitar riffs, drums, and chorus) in an epic, powerful wave of sound.

On the credits list, I couldn’t find either Martin O’Donnell or Michael Salvatori, composers for all previous Halo games, which would explain why the score for Halo 4 sounded different.  The new composers seemed to be going for the traditional heroic sound with triumphant horn crescendos, but I prefer the old-school Halo strings and monk singers any day.

MULTIPLAYER

Gameplay – In general, 343 Industries has some work to do on multiplayer.  Almost every game that I played (that loads properly) had some sort of glitch or situation where, even if I wasn’t doing that well, should have turned out a bit more in my favor.  Then again, I’m sure many players right now feel this way.

Multiplayer feels like a throwback to Halo 3, where reactions seem slightly lagging and less tight than what Halo: Reach achieved this last year.  I know many disagree with me, but this is what I have experienced thus far.  Melee has a split-second pause from when you pummel to when the enemy dies, or vice versa.  Sometimes the Spartan abilities don’t load at all, which makes sense then that you can’t always call in ordnance properly, either.  Grenades are pretty bouncy and may or may not go off where you’d like them to, and let’s not even get started on how unbalanced the weapons are.

Weapons/Vehicles – No, actually, let’s talk about that.  As I mentioned earlier in the Campaign section, I felt that the Forerunner weapons were crappy versions of human and Covenant weapons.  The bolt shot, for example, is a less powerful version of a human pistol, and the suppressor is good for what its name implies, but little else.

The only two Forerunner guns I prefer are the rail gun and binary rifle; otherwise, I avoid all else in favor of traditional Covenant and human weapons.  This could be because I am used to these, but I truly feel that the Forerunner weapons have good uses in the campaign, but are hard to work with in multiplayer.

In regards to vehicles, I think that the Mantis, though a great new addition as a vehicle, is overpowered and will probably have its damage infliction reduced in future updates.  It’s a bit much to have a Warthog, Mantis, AND Banshee coming at you in some of the maps, and nearly impossible for the team not in control of these machines to have a balanced and fair game.  Fortunately, though, the Banshee and Warthog have all remained in similar states to what they were in the past, and haven’t received any game-altering updates.

Maps – We need some diversity.  Right now, most maps are medium-sized spaces that really don’t allow for proper one-on-one combat nor long-range options.  There’s no such thing as a massive Sidewinder version nor lots of compact maps like Blood Gulch.

My other problem with the Halo 4 maps is that they involve lots of little environment details that unfortunately only hang you up as a player.  My husband and I have had several instances already where we get caught on a branch while we’re backing up, or where the Warthog wouldn’t drive over a rock.  That seems really inconsistent when you’re a freaking Spartan warrior and can supposedly flip over a Warthog all on your own; I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be able to crack a branch under your foot.

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So there you have it.  As a Halo fan since the original game, I am disappointed in the multiplayer experience this week, and yes, I do realize that 343 Industries is most likely receiving constant feedback and planning to implement patches on a regular basis.  However, since 343 kept their promise to stay mostly true to the Halo universe in regards to the Campaign and Spartan Ops missions, this is why I am calling Halo 4 a compromise in my love affair with the entire franchise, a compromise that will hopefully grow into a more positive experience over time.

Star Wars VII Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Starring Harrison Ford?

Star Wars introduced me to geekdom.

I was about ten years old when I first sat in front of a massive CRT and VHS setup on vacation at my cousin’s cabin in the woods.  Except I wasn’t scared in the least bit.  I was mesmerized.  So started fifteen years of action figures, extended universe books, costumes, excitement and consequent disappointment at the prequels.

You can imagine then my surprise at the news last week of Lucas selling his empire to Disney for over $4 billion.  I posted my initial reactions to that corporate decision on that day on my Geek My Life blog, but since then I have realized that this sale was probably the best thing for Lucasfilm to re-energize it.  I’m assuming, of course, that Disney will re-energize faithfully to the Star Wars franchise, and with the latest rumors coming out of the Hollywood offices, I think they’re on the right track.

Several sites claim to have insider information that Matthew Vaughn dropped the sequel to the X-Men movie because he was offered directorship of Star Wars VII.  Vaughn has a solid and many would even say impressive resume that consists of StardustKick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class.  All of these films were successful in their own ways, a hard accomplishment in the cut-throat, short-attention-span industry of movies.

Vaughn directing on the set of X-Men: First Class.

These films exemplified strong directing mixed with entertaining, consistent story lines and easy-to-follow pacing.  If Vaughn is able to do the same thing with Star Wars VII, I doubt few Star Wars fans will find anything substantial to complain about in regards to storytelling, especially since Vaughn is a writer.  “If [Vaughn] ends up directing Star Wars, we’d also be getting someone that could solve script issues on set” [Collider].  This is especially important considering that my digital media professor keeps emphasizing that the successful professionals in entertainment are the ones that know more than just one craft.

But what about the characters?  What will Disney do with them?  After all, people like Luke, Han, Leia, and even the non-humans like C-3PO are many of the reasons why fans are in love with Star Wars in the first place.  Though the film hasn’t officially been scripted yet, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have already gone on record to say they are excited to see the future of Star Wars.  How ironic considering that when Hamill was younger he said that “[Return of the Jedi] has to be the last one, period” [Huffington Post].

Harrison Ford decided to join the ranks, kind of last-minute like when Han decided to join the Rebels.  But he took it a step further, saying that he is open to the idea of being in the new film, not just supporting it off-screen.  Considering that he thought Han Solo “should have died in the last one to give it some bottom” [EW], it appears that Ford’s attitude towards his character and the franchise is coming around.  Ford probably “won’t go to the next level of contract talks until there’s a script and director in place” [EW], but him coming back as Han Solo for Star Wars VII could very well be one of the turning points to returning the Lucasfilm franchise to the grand old way it was.

Don’t do it, Han! I mean, Harrison. I mean, yeah… just don’t do it.

There are a lot of “we’ll see” and “what ifs?” flying around right now in the Star Wars fandom, but it’s better for them to be flying around at lightspeed like the Falcon than to not be around at all.  That would mean Star Wars VII isn’t happening, which would be disastrous.  Besides, many of us are just starting to get used to saying Star Wars VII without questioning the reality of it.  We’re in a happy place now.

Zombies Prepare You for Terrorists and Emergencies

Welcome to November – it seems like just yesterday we were putting candles inside of pumpkins and dressing up in costumes. Oh, wait. Halloween was last Wednesday. But while we regular citizens were dealing with trick-or-treaters or eating too much candy we bought for ourselves, many of our armed forces decided to do some zombie apocalypse training.

During a counter-terrorism summit yesterday on an island off a San Diego bay, Marines, Navy special ops, police, firefighters, and more brave men and women were put through a training experience unlike any other. These forces were presented with an scenario where a VIP and personal detail are trapped in a village that is being attacked by zombies, and when a bomb goes off, the VIP is wounded and they have to fight their way out to medical treatment and safety. Some of the personal detail would get bitten by zombies, while others would stay zombie-infection free.

Why would a zombie apocalypse scenario be presented at a counter-terrorism summit? Simply put, to prepare military, armed forces, and medical workers for the worst. Brad Barker, CEO of the security firm which hosted the event, said, “”No one knows what the zombies will do in our scenario, but quite frankly no one knows what a terrorist will do” [Detroit News].

“The defining characteristics of zombies are that they’re unpredictable and resilient. That may be a good way to prepare for what the Pentagon calls asymmetric warfare,” defense analyst Loren Thompson said [Detroit News].  You can see some of the zombie participants on the story’s video here.

This training scenario is not the first time government agencies have enlisted the zombie phenomenon to help them prepare for dire situations. Over a year ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started a Zombie Preparedness page on their website, the goal of which was to bring awareness to the public about the necessity of being prepared for real-life emergencies. “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack,” says Dr. Ali Khan on the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness page.

The CDC’s zombie campaign was so popular in bringing attention to emergency preparedness that they kept it up, even bringing in a short novella in the comic book style about a couple preparing for zombies who are taking over their town. Apparently, by October 26 of 2011, “the novella had already been downloaded over 40,000 times, according to Khan, who called the initial success of the campaign somewhat surprising, with traffic temporarily ‘overwhelming’ the blog” [WNYC].

Given pop culture’s obsession with zombies the last few years, Khan and other CDC leaders probably should not have been surprised at their novella’s success. The novella also provided a checklist at the end so that families could make sure they had everything they needed in case of a real-life disaster. You can check out the zombie novella called “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” on the CDC’s website.

The fact of the matter is that biological warfare is still a serious threat in our world today, and though most people assume zombies could never happen, we could still very easily have to deal with a widespread virus at some point. After all, we may have held off the Cold War but we still haven’t cured cancer. The foreign or rapidly changing nature of many viruses is what terrifies us into believing in zombies could be real for the future. If viral zombies ever did come about, however, at least we would know the CDC, Marines, special forces, and other units would be ready to protect us.

Although if we get necromantic zombies, we’re going to have to find another way to deal with that.