Saturday 31 December 2016

Supanova Brisbane 2016, Recon Report Part 2 - Creative Arts at Imagineer's Playground

Continuing Part 2 of our convention intel from recent trip by the Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) to Supanova Brisbane last month. Supanova includes educational activities for creative arts conducted at the Imagineer's Playground. Although it sounds rather fancy, the actual playground comprised of a cordoned area on the main expo floor with about 30 seats setup for presentations by industry players, experienced cosplayers and fan communities. Topics covered in Imagineer's Playground include cosplay design, script writing, sewing, and more. Here's the lowdown on just a few of the presentations:

Introducing your Cosplay Ambassadors: Echoing Artemis and A.K. Wirru

So what is a cosplay ambassador? A cosplay ambassador is the voice of the cosplay community to event organisers. The cosplay ambassadors' objective at Supanova is to be able to give back to the community in whatever way possible. In Echoing Artemis's case, she is a clinical psychologist and helped create anti-harassment rules at Supanova to ensure that cosplayers and guests alike do not cross a certain line. A.K. Wirru on the other hand was nominated due to his informative tutorials on crafting cosplay props. The cosplay ambassadors will rotate after a year of service and anyone can be a cosplay ambassador as long as they are able to put something on the table to give back to the community. Unfortunately A.K. Wirru was unable to attend as he was occupied with judging the preliminary Madmen cosplay competition.

Echoing Artemis (left)

Workshop #1: Picking up Patterns: A Beginners Guide to Sewing with Echoing Artemis

Do not let the title fool you. In actual fact some basic knowledge in sewing is needed before patterns could be created. A sewing pattern is essentially a recipe for making an item of clothing that could either be store bought or drafted by hand. What is typically included in a sewing pattern is the information on what you will need to compete the garment, pattern pieces (strips of paper to be used as templates when cutting fabric) and instructions for sewing the pieces together.

Echoing Artemis cosplaying as Supergirl speaking about sewing patterns

"Do we really need sewing patterns?"

Guideline on where to purchase patterns. Spotlight is available in Malaysia.

Tip on Choosing Patterns

Easy & Tricky Alterations

The Envelope Pattern

Important notes regarding The Envelope Pattern

Echoing Artemis' Choice of Weapons When Sewing

Sizing Is Important

Getting Started on Sewing

Layout & Cutting Fabric 

Example of a Finished Cutout

Workshop #2: Hackerspace - Electronics For Props

Hackerspace is a community-operated "Not For Profit" work space for people with common interests to socialise and collaborate. These interests include computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art. In this workshop,  representatives from Hackerspace shared about using electronics to light up props. The most commonly used lights are LED lights. For more elaborate lighting, there are NeoPixels, programmable LEDs. By using an Arduino circuit board (micro controller) it is possible to program LEDs for use in cosplay. For instance, NeoPixels can be programmed to write words or draw patterns. A switch may be added to start/stop programs for more control or just conserve battery power. Devices like a ball chamber can function as a switch in the weapon prop to trigger light and/or sound effects with each swing.

Hackerspace speakers demonstrating their programmed LED word strip

Power Supply

Micro Controller Board Used to Program Lights

Workshop #3: Costuming for Conventions - A User Guide with Reverend Armageddon T Cosplay

This talk focused mainly on the planning out of a costume and the considerations needed when choosing, making and maintaining your costume. An emergency repair kit is also really important to carry around as it would save you a ton of time if something goes wrong with your costume.

Starting A Costume
Here are some questions to ponder about before making a costume:
  • How often will I wear this?
  • Will it be heavy? If yes, can I use any substitutes to reduce the weight?
  • Will it be bulky? If yes, conventions tend to be very packed and wearing a bulky costume might cause you to have a wardrobe malfunction or leave you stuck outside the convention.
  • Will it rip off or break easily? Choose the material wisely to ensure that pieces will not break or rip.
Using Worbla
Worbla is a type of thermoplastic that can be molded and shaped after applying heat. Since Worbla is very expensive, the most efficient method is to first apply layers of foam then place Worbla as the final layer. Another tricky part to using Worbla is that if you make a mistake, it can be glaring and easily seen. Therefore, shaping the Worbla to the shape of your choice is important before setting it on a piece.

Essential Items That Makes The All-Important Emergency Repair Kit

Cosplay Can Be Impractical In Certain Aspects. Choose Your Build Wisely.

Workshop #4: Balancing Cosplay - Making Quality Costumes on Budget with A.K Wirru

Instead of talking about making props on a limited budget, Ameno Kitarou Wirru, or simply known as A.K. Wirru / Wirru switched around the perspective in making use of the budget available. Wirru suggested to separate types of cosplay into a big budget major cosplay, where costs is “no limit” , or a small budget casual cosplay to work with limited resources / time and money.

A.K. Wirru Cosplaying As A Team Instinct PokemonGo! Trainer.
Not forgetting his Dabdos lurking in the background

Goals Of Cosplay

Approaching Cosplay With A Budget

Defining "Budget" in Your Personal Context Is Important

Major Project Vs. Casual Project
Standard Procedure Cosplay Vs. Experimental Cosplay

When proceeding with a major project, try to stick to the standard procedure (know what you are doing) to ensure that the quality is maintained. The experimentation procedure is coming up with alternative more cost saving measures to get the results that you want (be prepared to waste materials)

Planning Is Essential!

A.K. Wirru was a cosplay guest at AniManGaki Malaysia 2016 held in Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre so aspects of his presentation may be familiar to some Malaysian readers.

Supanova Brisbane 2016, Recon Report Part 1 - Event Hall & Cosplay Sightings

Coming Soon:
Part 3 - Celebrity Guests.

Thursday 22 December 2016

VR through your past lives with the Animus in Assassin’s Creed

by contributing writer Michelle Chee

For almost a decade, gamers have been having a world of adventure with the Assassin’s Creed video games, comprising of 9 core releases and many other side games. It’s therefore no surprise that the games have garnered a huge following and so it's just a matter of time before the franchise hits the big screen.

The Assassin’s Creed movie does not follow any of the story lines in the games, and is an independent story line by itself. However, many of the concepts in the movie are found in the game, such as the garments worn by the Assassins, the martial arts they practice and the element of time travel.

Before we jump into the review however, let’s just run through the movie’s plot, which will help some of you who are not familiar with the games...

Brooding and Ominous,  Assassins watch over us

In Assassin’s Creed, there is a war going on for centuries between the Templars and the Assassins. The Templars started out as knights in the medieval era, bent on bringing peace to the world through control and strict regulation of the masses. This brings them in direct conflict with their nemesis, the Assassins, fighting for mankind's given free will. So, basically, it’s the Fascist versus the Liberals, which is a mirror of real life human administrative dynamics too. 

The story begins in the present day when the Abstergo Foundation, the modern day manifestation of the Templars, captures Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) and subject him to experiments on a machine called the Animus . Callum Lynch is descended from a member of the Assassins named Aguilar de Nerha (also Michael Fassbender), who  is the last person in possession of a device called the Apple of Eden.  Abstergo and the Knights Templar hope to use the Apple to remove free will from humanity  and bring peace to the world.  Leading Abstergo are Dr. Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons)  and his daughter Sophia (Marion Cotillard) who use the Animus on test subjects to relieve their genetic memories. Callum Lynch is joined by other descendants of the Assassin’s Creed brought in for testing.

As Callum synchs up with his ancestor’s memories, he has to figure out where his loyalties lie and how to deal with a troubled past in today's modern world.

Fassbender (left) and co-star Ariane Labed as medieval Assassins

Movie fans will remember Fassbender as Magneto is the latest installment of the X-Men franchise, and his serious demeanor makes him an excellent choice to play Callum Lynch, who is struggling with his self identity. French actress Marion Cotillard as Sophia Rikkin similarly plays conflicted roles between scientist or Templar. Whilst Cotillard’s acting was commendable, but her accent did come across as awkward in some scenes, especially when conversing with Jeremy Irons.

Marion Cotillard (left) and Jeremy Irons who play the father and daughter Templars, Alan and Sophia Rikkin

Here is a trailer of the movie to give a feel of what’s to come:

As a non-gamer, I went into the movie screening with little expectations, but left feeling really satisfied. Not many action movies deliver this depth of thought and I was particularly fascinated with the para-scientific logic and reasoning behind how the Animus works. The action sequences were awesome to watch, and were not too prolonged overall.  The movie, IMHO, stays very true to the spirit of the game. 

Fassbender, Cotillard, Irons and the rest of the cast did well in their roles, except that I wished I could also see the lives of the of the other Assassin’s Creed ancestors. I thought the portrayal of medieval Spain was very apt, and that many of the sentiments the Templars expressed mirrors strongly how governments of the past and present function, by using various means to control their citizens. However, hope is always present when there are small groups fighting for freedom, personified by the Assassins. 

Without revealing too much, one of the scenes that really strikes me was how the Assassins used their  parkour abilities to outrun their opponents, making cartwheels and skyline jumps look effortless, almost like a dance rather than an act of desperate escape. The chemistry between the main characters is really on point, especially between Callum and his ancestor Aguilar, as well as with his father.

The cinematography is visually stunning as the camera swoops down on medieval Spain before every flashback starts, and the colour choices really transports you back in time, and drags you back to the cold and stark present. 

Last Sunday an Assassin's Creed Fan Gathering was held at Comic Fiesta. It's the first fan panel in the style of overseas Comic Cons organised at a local convention with support of 20th Century Fox, distributor of the Assassin's Creed movie.

Convention attendees enter the panel room under watchful eyes of the Templars.
Full house of Assassin's Creed fans.

The kicked off with introduction of the panelists comprising Cappy Lenoire as moderator with Chel C. representing cosplayers, Kok Jia Wern offering a gamer's perspective and Iain McNally looking through lens of the movie. Short featurettes of the Assassin's Creed movie were screened followed by panelists sharing their thoughts on the subject featured, such as backstory of Templars versus Assassins and the incarnation of the Aminus in the movie.

Screening featurettes of the Assassin's Creed movie.
Panelists share their thoughts; (left to right) Iain McNally, Chel C., Kok Jia Wern, and Cappy Lannoire.

Following the panel discussions, attendees had a chance to win movie premiums by participating in a True-False game. Video was screened with trivia from the movie whereby contestants had to determine whether the statements are true or false. Through elimination of contestants by wrong answers, two winners were determined. 

Winners (middle) of the Assassin's Creed True-False trivia game.

The panel session closed off with group photos of Assassin's Creed cosplayers and then everyone present in the room. A final surprise was revealed with invites for movie preview randomly placed under the seats. But no one left disappointed anyway as Assassin's Creed movie leather bracelets were given out to everyone in attendance.

Cosplayers group photo.

All together now and show off those movie preview invites!
There were even a group of Templars sword-fighting a lone Assassin at Comic Fiesta!

Check out more photos of the panel from Ezli Qamari on Facebook as well as photos from the Assassin's Creed movie preview screening on 22 December 2016 at GSC Mid Valley Megamall.

Cosplayers at the Assassin's Creed movie preview screening at GSC Mid Valley.

For fans of the movie, the Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) has tracked down some Assassin's Creed memorabilia to bring home your experience:

Golden Screen Cinemas is conducting a contest from now until 3rd January 2017 where you can win an Assassin’s Creed diorama. All you have to do is pose with an Assassin’s creed poster or display, put it up publicly on your Instagram and tag it with the hashtag provided. 

GSC is also giving away limited edition Assasin’s Creed tankards so you drink your ale like a stealthy Assassin that works in the dark to preserve the light. You can redeem one tankard for every 2 Assassin’s Creed movie tickets purchased for Gold Class or every 4 tickets for Premiere Class (where available while stocks last).

Over at MM Cineplex (formerly Cathay Cineplexes in Malaysia) is giving away assorted Assassin's Creed movie premiums via their Facebook Page.  Just Like the photo and post your answer in the comments section for chance to be randomly selected for prizes.

MSI Malaysia is going all out with its Assassin’s Creed promotion this time, and they’re having several different lucky draws in almost 50 locations nationwide from now until early January 2017 with prizes that include Assassin’s Creed keychains, movie passes, MSI gaming CPUs, gaming laptops, overseas trips and other gamer hardware.

If you’re interested to read more stories from the Assassin’s Creed universe, Popular bookstore is offering a boxset of 7 books by Oliver Bowden based on the characters and concepts from the game.

Malaysian Movie Blog Screenbites is running an online contest with mysterious Assassin’s Creed goodies to give away, so start sending in your entries here.

Those of you who want to subtly insert some badass Assassin’s Creed element into your daily lives can check out this Desmond Miles inspired hoodie on Lazada. Lazada actually has a ton of really awesome Assassin’s Creed stuff you can check out, from sweaters to hidden blade armbands for cosplay, as well as backpacks and the video games themselves. See them all here.

Assassin’s Creed, though marketed as an action/adventure series, is really about reconnecting with your past. As you watch the movies and experience the games, take some time out to think what life must have been like for your own ancestors you’ve never met, and how their life choices has led to you being you.

Assassin's Creed in cinemas now nationwide.

Disclaimer: Assassin's Creed and other trademarks are copyright to Ubisoft and/or 20th Century Fox, referenced here for fan service announcements without intent to infringe.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Blood Goes To War - Underworld Prequels Revisited

The Underworld franchise as we know is coming to an end (or is it?) with this year's release of Blood Wars and Selene seems on track again, in danger of her own life to end the war. Back with smokey grey hair-ends, it's definitely her rendition of "Winter is Coming!"

Selene in Underworld Blood Wars (2016)

The Underworld franchise pioneered the Gothic action genre that we have grown to love so much today, had not much of a loving beginning. The early years of the new millennial housed still-conservative movie and comic buffs alike and did spark some mixed reactions when the first film titled simply "Underworld" released in 2003.

Underworld (2003)
Kate Beckinsale plays Selene, a young Death Dealer vowed to eliminate the Lycans whom allegedly murdered her family. She discovers the pursuit of a human, Michael Corvin by the lycans and later uncovers a plot to destroy the Vampire Elders, and a shocking revelation about her father figure Elder, Viktor.

Selene learns that vampires and lycans are not supernatural creatures, but rather the product of a virus. It is later revealed that Alexander Corvinus is the first in both lines, the only survivor in his village after a plague hit and his body was able to mutate and accommodate the virus - thus giving him "immortality". Alexander gave birth to 3 sons, 1 bitten by a bat, 1 bitten by a wolf each creating the first lines of vampires and lycans. His third son did not inherited such trait but has the Corvinus strain within his blood - that over time developed the Hybrid strain.

Selene confronts Viktor towards the end of the film realising that it was him that slaughtered her family when she was a little girl, and ultimately slices Viktor in half. Selene and Michael flees the estate to avoid pursuit from the coven.

Underworld (2003) Movie Trailer:

Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Evolution picks up after the battle between Selene and Michael against Viktor, where they seek refuge in a vampire safe house as they plan to return to Viktor's estate to awaken the last Vampire Elder - Markus. Little did they know that he has already been awakened by the blood of Singe - the dead scientist. 

Markus isn't keen to help Selene, after "reading" Singe's blood and wants to steal Selene's memories for personal gains. While on the run, Selene and Markus discover that Markus is actually the first vampire of the Corvinus strain, and intends to free his imprisoned brother, the first werewolf - William. Markus succeeded in freeing William but they were both laid to waste by Selene with the help of Alexander Corvinus' private military contractors, before they could escape the old castle.

Underworld Evolution (2006) Trailer:

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
Before Lycans could alternate between human & werewolf form, they were savage and uncontrollable beasts, once bitten. Rise of the Lycans tells the story of Lucian, a human-like baby born into the werewolf line. Lucian was special. He carried a mutation of the original virus allowing him to alternate human & werewolf forms.

Lycans were slaves to the Vampires at night, and guardians by day. However Viktor's daughter Sonja and Lucian fell in love and became pregnant. To prevent the blending of the species, Viktor killed Sonja, and that led a revolt against the Vampires by Lucian by summoning his Lycan & human army. The force overpowered the vampires of which most of the are killed, which left Viktor fleeing from the scene, only to be confronted by Lucian. Lucian traps Viktor by exposing him to shafts of sunlight and stabs him through the mouth and pushed down into the waters, thinking he was dead.

Oh Contrary.

Lucian would later strike a deal with Vampire Kraven to eliminate the Vampire Elders, thus ending the war. But as usual, mistrust and duplicity caused a fall through and the two lines continue to war.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) Trailer:

Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Underworld Awakening picks up 12 years after the events of Evolution. Selene wakes up in a cryogenic chamber, only to discover humans are now aware of both Vampires & Lycans and have been taking actions to eradicate both species. Trapped in a facility she attempts to escape with the help of someone else's point of view. The person is later revealed to be Selene & supposedly-deceased Michael's daughter - Eve. Both Selene and Eve has the ability to see through each others' eyes.

Selene and Eve were shunned by the coven and they did not want anything to do with her, besides surrendering her to the Lycans. With the help of another vampire David, Selene soon discovers the creature-hunting company Antigen is run by Lycans in human form with the goal of tricking the humans to think the Lycans to be extinct, so they can eliminate the Vampires. She soon face Antigen's experimental beast - a super-Lycan. Selene comes across "Subject 0" and realises its Michael and attempts to free him by shooting at his cryogenic tank. They were then chased by lycans forcing them to flee the scene. Selene returns only to find the tank empty and vows to search for him before they (lycans) do.

Underworld: Awakening (2012) Trailer:

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Selene continues to strive for survival & her vow to find Michael as the Vampires and Lycans are hot on the pursuit of her and her daughter Eve's blood to become the Corvinus-Hybrids, whom Michael Corvin (lover of Selene) was the first to display this strain.

Now hunted by her own kind & the Lycans, lead by a new leader Marius, she seeks closure with her new found abilities, with the help of Michael's blood granting her "super vampire abilities". 

Blood Wars is now showing in all cinemas nationwide.

Blood Wars Trailer:

Golden Screen Cinemas is giving out a Limited Edition USB Drive on Facebook. Contest ends this Sunday, 4 December 2016

Thursday 1 December 2016

Supanova Brisbane 2016, Recon Report Part 1 - Event Hall & Cosplay Sightings

The Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) recently trekked down under for Supanova Brisbane over from 11 to 13 November 2016 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. The roadtrip crew comprised our commander and the event team to look into the content and culture differences of a western pop culture convention compared to equivalent events in our native shores and Asian counterparts.

Our Commander who has attended conventions in 4 continents told the team to highlight experiences from the Supanova panels and the hallmark activities. Boy has it been a blast with great exhibits, vendors and activities for all.

What is Supanova you ask? It’s Australia's biggest pop culture expo which tours major cities across the country. Our convention roadtrip brought us to Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland in the east coast of Australia. Brisbane was the penultimate location for Supanova this year located on the eastern seaboard of the continent in late-spring with temperatures around 25 degrees on sunny days. 

We started our adventure on a quiet Friday and we were somewhat dumbfounded by the relaxed atmosphere on the convention. Nonetheless popular panels were well attended and needed to queue early to get a good seat. Come Saturday, the convention was flooded with thousands more attendees building up lively traffic jams that we are so used to in Malaysia.

Facebook Live videos while we were there:

Live from Supernova Brisbane 2016!
Posted by Outpost Productions on Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day 2 @ Supanova Brisbane. Let's go!
Posted by Outpost Productions on Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 2 @ Supanova Brisbane
Posted by Outpost Productions on Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 3 @ Supernova Brisbane!
Posted by Outpost Productions on Saturday, November 12, 2016

Here’s the link to the digital download for the Event Programme.

Western conventions has strong movie and TV influence where else Asian pop culture conventions will bring you more digital content from the Japanese anime. Here are the invited guests for Supanova Brisbane. 

A-list guests

  • Nathan Fillion (Castle,Firefly)
  • Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars)
  • Holy Marie Combs(Charmed)
  • Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob)
  • Karen Fukuhara (Katana from Suicide Squad)
  • Greg Grunberg (Heroes,Star Trek, Star Wars)

Creative Workshop

  • Weta Workshop
  • Artemis & Wirru as Cosplay Ambassadors

Voice Actors

  • John Dimaggio (Futurama Bender, Adventure Time Jake)
  • Billy West (Futurama Frye, Dr. Zoidberg)
  • Veronica Taylor (Pokemon Ash Ketchum)

Live Concert

  • Jason Hayes (Blizzard Composer) and his band Critical Hit
  • Kaoru Hayano (Japan Pop Idol, AKB48 member)
  • Meri Amber (Australian Geek music composer)

Retail stalls full of pop culture merchandise.

Artist booths.

Token for purchase of autographs and photos with guest celebrities.

Zone for celebrity autographs and photo booths.

Walking in the entrance was  a Ghostbusters Ecto-mobile for photo opportunities. 

The Australian Wrestling Federation with their well narrated Supanova special episodes of wrestling.

High-end PC gaming rigs with VR experience by Origin PC

Laser Tag

Vintage Console Gaming Section

Various photo environments were scattered along the walls of the convention hall brought about by the fan communities. The 501st Legion setup 3 thematic backdrops brought to life by their members in movie-accurate costumes. There was also a huge Dr Who display of the Tardis with Darleks. whilst fan clubs for Star Trek and Lord of The Ring showcased their memorabilia. All the fan clubs encourage donations to charity for photo opportunities.

Songs of Obiwan Saber Academy performed lightsaber duels and conducted beginner training.

The 501st Legion hunt down rebels.

The Lord of the Rings fan community.

Treat for Dr. Who fans to take photo with the Tardis.

Display of Dr. Who fan made costumes.

Star Trek fans share display their memorabilia with Tribbles.

What can be commonly found in Western conventions whilst seemingly scarce in Asian are the variety of costumes and props for medieval LARP (live action role play). The other noticeable difference was the influence of cosplay from classic games from Nintendo and Western Comics. 
While it's not difficult to find cosplay of Japanese high school characters with coloured wigs, at every western con there are frightful cosplay by hairy men cross-dressing as girls like the heroines of Sailor Moon. The artistic styles of fan made products at creative booths also showcase more handcrafting skills compared to the doujin counterparts in Asia.. 

Here are some of the amazing cosplays we’ve spotted:

The Sailor Moon men!

The Supanova Cosplay Competition definitely showcased a different perspective in terms of skit performance and effects used on stage. Most of the cosplayers showcased their craftsmanship in their costumes and props with great passion for the hobby. 

There’s just so much to talk about here at Supanova we’ve decided to break up this recon report into a trilogy. Our next post will cover the Panels & Workshops we attended and then finally the Cosplay Competition plus stage performances. 

Follow-up Recon Reports: