Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: Out With Dad 4.15 “Heading Out” (in 360)

I know I just posted about Out With Dad, but I thought this episode was well worth writing about due to the interesting nature of the way it was filmed.

"Heading Out" is the fifteenth episode of season 4 of Out With Dad, my favorite webseries. This episode was filmed in 360 degree cinema.  As creator/director Jason Leaver explains in a "Making of" video this technique involves using a stationary camera during filming, and then allowing the viewer to pan around the scene when viewing. Jason recommends using a smartphone for this, but since I don't have one I used Google Chrome, which is my favorite browser anyway.  Yes, you heard that right. I like Chrome a lot. Highly recommended.  Anyway, this method of filming makes the episode a lot like a live stage performance.  The scene is, unless I'm way off, filmed in one take, and though you can "look around", you cannot zoom in or out, just like you were sitting in a seat at a theatre. The director is really giving up lot of control by using a stationary 360 camera. He can't cut out, zoom in, combine shots, and whatever else those guys do that I don't know. So this is a very different experience in viewing.

As for the episode itself, it is all about Rose and her Dad getting ready to meet their former loves.  Rose going to see Claire who is back in town, and Nathan seeing Valery. Their interaction is cute as they pick out clothes for each other without looking, and fret a lot while supporting each other. They also make tea, including Rose using the phrase "hot the pot" which I don't think I've ever heard before. Finally, Nathan also mentions the possibility of Rose talking to Vanessa after all this time.  Rose is NOT receptive to the idea.  Jason noted this as an important episode, but it looks like a little downtime before the "big event" to come next time.  It's solid, but not one I'm likely to re-watch a lot.

But...does the 360 thing add to the episode?  I'm going to It's pretty neat to "look around", but there's this big problem I had: there's not much to look at. I looked at the ceiling, the door, the floor.  Then I looked at the characters. And it was like watching them on stage (as I mentioned above). But I think this technique would be more interesting if used on a video where there were things all over the place to look at!  Where you could watch several times and see something different each time. This episode wasn't very visual at all, really. It's  about character, not action.

Still, at least I got to watch my first 360 episode of something. Thanks to Jason for daring to try something different!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: The Ontario Science Centre Outing (OWD 4.14)

I'm almost caught up with my reviews of Out With Dad, season 4.  Happily, Jason and Co. keep making them faster than I can write about them.

The Ontario Science Centre Outing, OWD episode 4.14, is an extremely fun episode. It is the tale of Rose and Vanessa II's first date. Or is it a date? The episode centers around Rose telling friends Alicia and Owen about her day at the Ontario Science Centre

with potential new love interest Vanessa II. (If you're reading this but for some strange reason haven't read other reviews or watched the show, Rose's first, high school love interest was also named Vanessa, hence the need for a modifier.) Rose tells her friends about how much fun it was doing all the sciencey things with Vanessa II, without the pressure of it being a "date". She enjoyed just hanging out with Vanessa II as a friend and was relieved that the interaction didn't get romantic.


Before saying good night, Vanessa unexpectedly kissed Rose. Or, maybe it wasn't so unexpected. Looking back, Rose realizes there were plenty of hints all along that Vanessa II was taking it very seriously as a date. Rose was just too naive, distracted, or perhaps unwilling to see it. So...what should she do now?

I absolutely loved this episode.  It is very reminiscent of the second season episode "The Museum Outing", in which Rose and Claire have their first social interaction, with hints of future romance.  I wonder if some people will think it too much a repeat of that episode, but there are important differences. Mostly there's Rose's reaction to the "dates". But also. there's the difference of age and experience.  Rose sees the Science Outing as a nostalgic trip down memory lane. But she's not in a hurry to get into a relationship, and maybe this is why her thoughts stay so innocent.

One thing's for sure, it will be interesting to see where all this leads!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Apama- the Undiscovered Animal

The Apama is the most ferocious animal that has ever existed.  What's that you say? You've never heard of the apama?  Why, of course not!  It is, after all, the UNDISCOVERED animal.  That's right!  The apama is the meanest, most deadly, of all beasts, yet no one has ever heard of it...until NOW!

Apama is a truly wonderful independent comic book created by some film maker from the Cleveland area.  The story even takes place in the vicinity of Cleveland,  Yes.  Cleveland, Ohio, Which might also explain why no one has discovered the apama, since everyone ignores Cleveland. Anyway, creators Ted Sikora and Milo Miller created Apama as a film project about a super-hero. Then they created the comic that the main character in the movie was trying to create.  Got it?  Well, you don't really need to know all the background to understand the comic, because it's just about the comic character.

The main character is Ilyia Zjarsky, an ice cream truck driver, who is obsessed with old Native American legends and eventually gains the power of the apama, a ferocious beast that disappeared form history because it was a loner.  Ilyia is also a bit of a loner, probably due to hid being so weird and kinda a loser. There's nothing really remarkable about him. He's just an average Joe.  Or a bit below average really.  He tries hard, but he's not confident in himself, and he messes up a lot.  He's just enough of a sad sack to be hopelessly funny and not miserably depressing.  In other words, he's a great character.  Someone you can root for, but doesn't have the easy path to victory.

But I must now tell you of the thing that attracted me to Apama in  the first place. Benito Gallego does the best John Buscema imitation I've ever seen on the pages of this book.  And I mean that in a totally positive way!  Benito captures the very best qualities of Big John, who is my favorite comic artist of all time!  The art if wonderfully 70's-Marvel, which fits the story perfectly. I just can't really say more but to show some examples here.

Apama comes with  my highest recommendation!  This is my favorite comic I've read all year!! In fact, I'd say it's the comic I've been waiting for for years!

 I eagerly anticipate more!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Counselling Vanessa 47 & 48 (OWD 4.12 & 4.13)

I've been busy at the SPACE comic con, where I received an award for my webcomic, Mutant Elf.  I will post some pictures of it soon, but right now I need to get back to my comments about the current season of the award-winning webseries, Out With Dad.

Counselling Vanessa 47 & 48 are the first episodes of the series-within-a-series that have run back-to-back,  Creator Jason Leaver states this is because of the next Rose episode taking longer than usual.  However, it is rather fortuante since these two Vanessa episodes are a perfect pair.

In session 47, Vanessa is obviously tired and the counselor tries to determine what is causing the sleep loss. The conversation turns to how Vanessa's mother treats her brother and his new baby, hinting that she'd like the child christened (which I believe is a way to make the child "officially christian", implying she's scared little Ollie will be raised muslim!) Vanessa's mom also hints that she'd be happier if Vanessa would date a guy rather than a girl (since bisexuals can just choose anyone I guess...) .  Also, Vanessa's relationship with her little brother Jacob, because Vanessa was the cause of their Mother moving out.  Which is sorta true, but it's really her mother's prejudice that required her to leave.  If she could have accepted her daughter (and daughter-in-law) she would still be living with the family.

Then the conversation turns to Vanessa running away.  Vanessa is mostly happy she did so because of the positive results. But there is the big negatives which comes up in the next episode.

Which starts with Vanessa crying as she discusses the sexual assault she survived when she ran  away.  More exactly, we viewers pick up Vanessa's description of the events right at the end.  I find this an excellent choice as to when to begin the episode. Jason spares the viewer the full description so that we can learn about the healing process.  Vanessa's been through a lot at this point, but this looks like the point where it starts to really turn around.  What's happened to her is unimaginable for me, but Jason and Lindsey make it seem so real.

In the end, Vanessa leaves us with a little smile.  Great to see that!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Review- Persia Blues: Leaving Home

Persia is the ancient name for the modern country of Iran.  Or something like that. I must admit I'm not too knowledgeable about Persia/Iran.  I believe I first heard of the country when I was in grade school, in the late 1970s.  A group of Iranians had taken Americans hostage after invading the American embassy in Tehran.  That's not the best way to come to know about a country.  So there was a lot of hate towards Iran going around ("bomb Iran") and some fear that the USA would get involved in another war. This was not long after Vietnam- a war I do not remember.

Anyway, my point being that when there is conflict between two countries it is often easy to accuse the other guys of being inhuman monsters.  We so it all the time.  Since I was raised in the Cold War era, I heard about how Russians were "not like us".  And this, somehow, leads me into talking about Persia Blues.

Persia Blues tells the tale of Minoo Shirazi, a young Iranian woman and an ancient Persian warrior with magic powers. Yes, somehow she's both.  The story changes settings regularly and with great effect, keeping the reader interested and wondering what is going on.  The art is different in each era.  In ancient tomes, artist Brent Bowman uses a grey pencil effects with lots of cool shading.  In modern times, he uses ink lines for a traditional, black and white comic book look.  He also draws horses very well- just thought I'd mention that 'cause it's cool.

Since this is volume 1, we don't get to find out the ultimate connection between Minoo and Minoo, but they are definitely the same person somehow.  I'm hoping there's something here I'm not seeing that ends up a big surprise.  In the story in ancient Persia Minoo is a swords-woman and has some magic powers. she ends up on a quest involving some gods and has a over and companion accompanying her. It's very classic fantasy I'd say.  In the modern world we learn Minoo is a bit rebellious and not conforming to the strict religious rules of Iran. She has the same independent personality as the ancient Minoo, and this leads her to getting an education in Oklahoma.  Or maybe it was Columbus.

Writer Dara Naraghi was also born in Iran and educated in the United States.  So he's really writing about what he knows.  At my age, I really enjoy learning about other places and cultures. It's nice to see that people are, in general, the same everywhere.  We need to be careful about stereotyping "those people" as "not like us".  As the Russians ended up regular human beings, I'm sure all our "axis of evil" foes will turn up likewise eventually.

By the way, I wrote a review of the preview of Persia Blues some time ago.  And I should note that Persia Blues is an award-winning comic!  Volume 1 and 2 are currently available.  Se details here


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: Day Drinking with Alicia and Rose (OWD 4.11)

I'm only reviewing one episode of Out With Dad today. This is so I can do the next two Counselling episodes together, since they go together well.

So in this episode we have Rose and everyone's best friend Alicia talking while drinking at Alicia's place. Alicia has just found out about Vanessa II's name.  They talk about Rose's plans with Vanessa II and how Rose will miss the GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) meeting.  There's a neat little thing here how Rose doesn't want to go to the GSA meeting. Avoiding being the "lesbian" I think. Rose is unsure how to approach a first date. For example, she doesn't know what to wear to "impress a girl".

Then Claire calls!  Yes, it's the incredible return of Claire!  Sort of.  I mean, she's in the episode via a video chat, but not actually IN the episode.  But it's still more than a cameo appearance.  It's a real appearance.  Whatever they call that in Hollywood talk I don;t know.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Claire calls and has a slightly awkward but kind conversation with Rose. Claire also seems to be having some trouble with her living arrangements.  Very vague. Hopefully more on this later.  Then Claire gives Rose some amazing dating advice.  Claire is sweet and just amazingly Claire-like.  I'm glad Jason didn't go with having them get in a argument or anything like that. They sounded like a pair of adults!  Bravo!

Still, this episode is the set-up. The payoff should be the REALLY interesting episode!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: The Peanuts Movie

I didn't watch "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" this year.  But I did manage to see the recently released "The Peanuts Movie" and I feel the need to discuss its merits.

First, I am a huge fan of Peanuts, and I believe Charles Schulz is not just a great cartoonist, but a true National Treasure.  His little creations have captivated audiences for generations, do so all these years after his death (despite no new comic strips) and will certainly continue to entertain people for many decades to come, if not until the end of time itself. I reviewed the early Peanuts strips in this post back in 2014.

Now, the legacy of Peanuts was long ago transferred to the big and small screen via some really clever animation and  classic story lines, chief among these being the first Christmas and Halloween specials on TV. There have even been some animated special produced since Schulz's passing. However, this version of Peanuts is different on one big way: it's animated using modern 3-d technology.  When the first trailers came out, I heard a lot of people decry this choice, not wanting to walk all over the classic look of the strips and previous animation. However, I'd say the animators did a wonderful job translating the Peanuts characters and environments. They didn't try too hard to make things special just because they were 3-D.  What I mean is there wasn't a lot of gratuitous 3-D scenes. Instead, the animation really takes a back seat to the story.

And the story is classic Peanuts! There's one new character, who's really a figment of Snoopy's imagination, and a lot of classic characters that aren't updated, modernized, or made "cool".  This movie should be enjoyable for generations to come.  The only thing I noted they took liberties with was having all the kids attend the same school, when we all know Peppermint Patty and her gang are supposed to be from "across town".  And the ending is a little saccharin, but I think they had to give Charlie Brown at least one win.  After all, his charm is that he stays the nice guy and keeps trying no matter how many failures life hands him.

Snoopy has a great subplot also, interacting with the rest of the cast in the zaniest ways. I laughed a lot at the Snoopy scenes, but also at plenty of others, including Peppermint Patty;s inability to stay awake in class.

As I said, classic Peanuts!  I'm hoping for a sequel!