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New Buffy Fan Film from Germany

Film Review, Review, TV series Review, Web Review

A new Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan film has been released in Germany. Read my review of the film as well as an interview with the creators and a list of the best (and worst) Buffy and Angel fan films the internet has to offer!

"Die Jägerin" - A Buffy fan film

“Die Jägerin” – A Buffy fan film. (Image: Die Jägerin-Team)

 

On 5 May 2014, a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan film premiered on Youtube. On first note, this is probably nothing special – people make fan films all the time!

Mostly low-budget, these films can often be parodic in nature and are set (at least in part) in the same universe as the original series – in this case: Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.

So when I heard about the new fan film entitled “Die Jägerin” (The Slayer) – a low-budget production by the two young German film makers Kurt Kliebisch and Kevin Schmidt – I was sceptic at best, especially because this is the first German Buffy fan film I’ve encountered.

But, having finished all my Buffy comics, I thought, “Ok, let’s give this a go!” and sat down to watch the one-hour-and-three-minute film on Youtube.

And boy, was I positively surprised!!!

The film is set in the Buffy- and Angelverse, ten years after the Angel season 5 finale. In a German town, girls have gone missing and a splinter group of the Watchers’ Council is in dire need of slayers – four of them to be exact. Miriam – the local slayer – as well as Elisabeth, Magdalena and Robin – three slayers, who travel from town to town and have been specifically called to assist the watchers in this case. Together with Miriam’s twin brother Elias and their watcher Gabriel, they go on the hunt for whatever evil has taken over the town and kidnapped the girls. But what they find is not what they expected and may change their lives forever…

I’ve embedded the film at the bottom for you to watch and would love to hear what you think of it! But first, let me tell you why I think this is not just any fan film:

The acting

I often find that German film and TV actors over-act a lot. For a visual explanation of the phenomenon – called ‘actoring’ – see Tomska’s video on Youtube. Watching “Die Jägerin”, I was expecting to see a lot of this, but actually was quite impressed with the acting. For an amateur film, the characters are delivered believably and consistently and the plot evokes enough emotion for the viewer to care about what is happening to the protagonists. Especially in some scenes towards the end, the characters’ emotions really came across well and I felt with them. Some relationships, for example between the slayer Magdalena and her boyfriend David or between Elisabeth and Elias, could have been expanded to add more depth to the characters, but over all, I liked it.

The travelling slayers: David and his girlfriend Magdalena, Elisabeth adn Robin

The travelling slayers: David and his girlfriend Magdalena, Elisabeth and Robin (Image: Die Jägerin-Team)

The plot

According to the “Jägerin”-film team, they used the TV shows as main reference for the film, so the plot doesn’t account for the events happening in the comic books. Readers of the Dark Horse Buffy series (currently starting season 10) may want to start a discussion about why the film’s plot wouldn’t be able to happen and what is or isn’t canon – but let’s put that aside for a moment and see the film for what it is. One always has to remember that not everyone reads the comics, and for some people the story ended in 2004. I think the film deserves to be seen as a work of its own and as inspired by the show. As such, it works well, draws on parallels from the show and picks up some plot threads. From a fan’s perspective, some actions in the film (without giving too much away) could seem a little far-fetched. But the plot has sense and direction, and is well put together.

Amber and Gabriel seek to undo a spell cast by Willow in BTVS.

Amber and Gabriel seek to undo a spell cast by Willow in BTVS. (Image: Die Jägerin-Team)

The directing / choreographies

Ok, the fighting isn’t always kick-ass. Again, the simple explanation is that these guys probably didn’t have the budget to hire a martial arts expert or train all their slayers for years to make their fighting look super real. I think this is hard to achieve and I wasn’t looking for amazing stunts in this film anyway. The scenes had some good angles and followed each other well – explaining enough to know what is happening, but not too much so as to preserve the sense of mystery that stays for the main part of the film.

Excerpt from the behind-the-scenes footage showing the choreography of the fights

Excerpt from the behind-the-scenes footage showing the choreography of the fights

The effects / props

This is what really won me over! I have since researched some other Buffy fan films (see further down) and I can honestly say that nowhere have I found vamp-dusting effects that are as good as these! I would even go so far as to say they look better than some effects in the early seasons of BTVS! (Sorry, Joss…) The props were also well-made! If you go to the team’s facebook page or their Youtube channel, there are some photos and videos about the behind-the-scenes work, from vamp make-up to crafting the headstones (here I thought some of them were real!) and even the making of the teaser. It all looks like it was a lot of fun! And I don’t know where they got the props, like the cool axes and crossbows or the Buffy scythe, but they look impressive. (Mega jealous right here…)

Magdalena and the scythe

Magdalena and the scythe (Image: Die Jägerin-Team)

 

What is remarkable about this film is that it isn’t a parody. It doesn’t aim to copy BTVS or Angel. It is legitimate fan fiction. Even though it is in German / set in Germany, the theme makes it universally applicable. That is the beauty of the Buffyverse: By ending the shows the way he did, creator Joss Whedon made it possible for millions of fans to think up their own stories and characters. Their stories can be about the set of established characters we all know and love, but they don’t have to be.

I think the creators of “Die Jägerin”, Kurt Kliebisch and Kevin Schmidt, accomplished what they set out to do with this film very well, and they made a work of fan fiction / fan art that can be seen as a stand-alone story and as part of a larger universe.

Speaking of the creators, I had a chance to interview them on the process of making the fan film. So here it is – the story of making “Die Jägerin”:

[WARNING! – Spoilers ahead!]

Kurt and Kevin have been fans of BTVS for years, and have already made a couple of short films together with their friends and fellow Jägerin-contributors Adrian Jankowiak and Christian Nickel. According to them, the idea for the Buffy project came one evening at Kurt’s house, where they found a replica from the series and hence started spinning ideas for a story set in the Buffyverse. The script was co-written by Kurt, Kevin and Adrian. Although it changed through time, their idea to connect it to Willow’s spell (to make all potentials into slayers) and the First Evil remained the focus point. Kurt also handled the cut, sound and special effects.

The team mainly took the shows as reference for the story, but also drew on the Fray comic for inspiration. This can be seen in the characters Miriam and Elias – because he is Miriam’s twin, Elias has inherited some of the slayer powers (like prophetic dreams), which is a homage to Harth Fray. Fun fact: some of the other characters’ names are also inspired by the original Buffy and Angel actors – for example the witch Amber (named for Amber Benson – Tara) and Magdalena’s boyfriend David (named for David Boreanaz – Angel).

Over all, it took them one year to produce the film. Although they launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the film, the budget must have been one of the hardest things to manage – out of the € 1,000 they set as their campaign goal, they only received € 236. But thanks to some generous sponsoring of make-up, gas (for transport), electricity and invested time as well as an additional funding of € 500 on the night of the premiere, they were able to complete the film none the less. All the actors in the film worked free of charge. Many of them were friends and others, who were recruited online, became friends during the making of the film.

The film premiered in Nordhausen, Germany, on 5 May – the cast and crew rented out the Filmpalast Nordhausen to watch the film together with all contributors, family, friends and fans. On the same day, the film premiered on Youtube. So far, it has got over 4,000 views. That may not seem like a lot, but for a fan film with a low-budget production, it is impressive.

I can only congratulate the team of the “Die Jägerin” film. They created an inspiring piece of fan fiction, made a film that can hold its own against other international fan film productions and it looks like they had a lot of fun doing it!

Ok, I’ve talked enough about it, so here it is for you to watch. The English subtitles are a little slow sometimes, but I think it’s still comprehensible.
Please leave your own reviews in the comments, as I would love to read what you think of it!

Scroll down for a list of other Buffy and Angel fan films I’ve found online.

 

Film Poster for "Die Jägerin"

Film Poster for “Die Jägerin” (Image: Die Jägerin-Team)

Other Buffy and Angel fan films

Sunwalker

A story about the Scooby gang, taped on VHS in 2002, with the Buffy part quitting after the first act. Best part: the guy playing Xander – his jokes are spot on!😉

Muffin the Turtle Killer

A parody of Buffy – for those who don’t take things so seriously and enjoy a good laugh. The same guy also makes Vangelis – an Angel parody.

Revelations

My French is a little rusty, but as far as I can tell, this is a story about the Scooby gang (though not a parody). There are only parts 3 and 4, but these guys are also making a new series called L’alliance (Buffy/Angel) which seems to continue after BTVS season 7 / Angel season 5.

Lurk

This is only a teaser, since this is still in development. But so far, it seems like this will be a film version of the Fray comic book! Looks a little more pricey and very cool, but sadly there isn’t any more info yet. They have a campaign, too, which has already reached its funding goal.

 

If you know any more fan films from the Buffyverse to add to my list, or if you have suggestions for other topics you’d like for me to discuss, please leave them in the comments!:)

Fall TV Review

Review, TV series Review

(…or Autumn TV Review)

Hey Peeps!

December is almost upon us, and soon the first ‘batch’ of TV shows that started in September are coming to a close. So I thought it was time to review some of the old favourites and newcomers with potential. My criteria are simple: How believable is the acting, how compelling the storyline, and finally, would I spend the money to buy the season box-set?

The reviewees this time are: Arrow, Bones, Castle, Downton Abbey, Grimm, Revolution and Supernatural. So let’s get started.

WARNING!!! SPOILERS LIE AHEAD!!!! You have been warned!

1. Arrow

The greenish tint on all clothing and lighting kinda reminds me of the Matrix

I must admit that I never continuously followed Smallville, but I did notice that there was a version of Green Arrow in it at some point. Hence the surprise I felt when it became clear that Smallville‘s replacement on the CW was not a continuation of that character’s story, but a completely different take on the Robin Hood look-alike. But since I wasn’t a fan of the previous show, I wanted to give Arrow an unprejudiced shot. There have been six episodes so far, and still I cannot figure out whether I like the show or not. Main character Oliver Queen, played by Stephen Arnell, seems a little unbalanced to me, and not just because he just spent five years on an island cut off from civilisation and is setting up a vigilante alter ego in his home town Starling City.

Is it just me, or does it sometimes feel like all that is moving in Stephen’s face is his mouth? He is really rocking that living robot impression, and not just when he’s “showing his real self”. Even more off does it feel when all of a sudden he turns more ‘normal’ in select situations “to show he still pretends to be the playboy from before.” Ok, to be fair – there is a possibility this odd behaviour is still to be explained, the more we learn about his time on the island through flashbacks, but I don’t know – I just would love to see some more emotion on his face. I found it a little hard to believe that anyone going through what Oliver Queen has doesn’t suffer at least from some form of PTSD, and maybe wakes from a nightmare in cold sweat and arches an eyebrow about it or at least flinches in private after hearing his ex-girlfriend say she saw no remorse in his eyes. It doesn’t make it more believable that he has the same composure in the flashbacks, where he is supposed to be desperate and lost.

Story-wise, I think there are a lot of alleys to explore and threads to follow, so I’m excited to see where it will lead. I especially like the teaser at the end of episode one… if anyone didn’t catch it, the character Dinah ‘Laurel’ Lance, played by Katie Cassidy who we all know as the original Ruby from Supernatural, is a reference to Black Canary, a Justice League member and the Green Arrow’s partner (and girlfriend) in the DC Universe. I don’t know if this Laurel is meant to turn into Black Canary at some point (because she’s usually blonde…) but I thought that was a nice little teaser!!😀

I can’t say I’m overall convinced by the series yet, but it has only just started, and it has a lot of potential.

2. Bones

Bones cast looking especially sexy here…

I watched all of the Bones seasons last year during my David Boreanaz phase (after finishing all five seasons of Angel, again). I love this show a lot, because it is about crime scenes and has David in it, but also – most and fore-mostly (is that how you say it?) because of the Booth-Brennan relationship.

I have to say, this season is not as compelling as some of the previous ones were. There are some good episodes – finally catching that hacker-dude being one of them – and recently episode six about the homeless guy who turns out to be a hero, and dealing with America’s trauma ten years after 9/11 did bring me to tears several times. But there are some things I miss about the good old days of Bones.

a) The serial killers/ continuous cases. I love having lots of different cases, but I feel like there should be a thread leading through the season, some mystery that needs to be solved, and so far I don’t see it. Hence my attention is a little lessened this season.

b) Booth + Brennan. I feel like the relationship has got into a rut. There is nowhere for it to go at the moment – the stress the separation caused has been dealt with, they can’t really break up because they have a child together (not that I would want that anyways) and I don’t see them getting married either because they just don’t really seem that passionate about each other at the moment. (Though that is probably what is going to happen…) Yes, I know there are the occasional moments where they kiss and are all cute together, but those are few and far between. I just don’t feel it any more…

c) Brennan’s awkward disposition. I know it is supposed to be Bones’ thing to critically analyse social situations and not understanding the emotional viewpoint and meaning, and her way of talking is supposed to be quirky. But, and I’m sorry to say it so crassly, but it is really getting on my nerves! I just don’t know if maybe, after eight years (or more), the joke that Brennan is an Anthropologist and has no clue about social interaction is getting a little old…

Anyway, that’s just how I feel. Please do feel free to correct me if you have a different opinion! The acting over all is still very good and I still love watching the show, so hopefully the little dry spell will be over soon and new drama will grip everyone’s attention.:)

3. Castle

Such a cute couple!❤

I started watching Castle because of Nathan Fillion originally (one of my favourite actors). I’ve recently got more into crime scene investigation and cop shows, and loved the concept of a book author and a detective working together. Castle has always been hillarious, full of Whedonverse easter eggs, and the storyline is so compelling, especially with reoccurring serial killers and the outstanding mystery of Beckett’s mother’s murder.

This season has seen the long-awaited union of Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, and the difficulty of hiding their relationship first from their family and friends, and then from the workplace. I’ve especially loved this budding romance, something that was bound to happen (and not too soon) and is due to create more interesting problems for Beckett and Castle.

An episode I enjoyed more than everything else was ep. six, which was a festival of easter eggs and geeky references to other show – specifically Joss Whedon’s Firefly and the Avengers. Set at a sci-fi convention, the team from the 12th New York Police Department investigate a murder that occurred inside the showcase of a science fiction show that was cancelled after 13 episodes, didn’t have good ratings but is still very much beloved by its fans, including Kate Beckett herself. This obvious comparison to Firefly, together with Castle’s quotes like “Shiny!” or “that Joss Whedon show,” just made the episode a delight for Whedonites and sci-fi fans alike. The constant stream of Iron Men and Captain Americas walking through the background also made me laugh more than once. While Castle is renowned to have a load of Firefly and Whedon references throughout its seasons, I felt it was extra nice and awesome to dedicate a whole episode to this very huge fan-base. I hope there is more to come in the future.:)

The only reason I’ve hesitated to buy the box-sets for this show, btw, is that there are so many already and I currently don’t have the money to buy them all…

4. Downton Abbey

The cast seems to get bigger every year…

This show has really been a delight to watch since its beginning. I’ve only started watching it this autumn, when season 3 started while I was staying in the UK, but I have quickly become a huge fan and already own all three box-sets.😉

Everything that comes out of Maggie Smith’s mouth as the Dowager Countess of Grantham is pure gold, and just absolutely captures the social awkwardness and issues of the time period.

The beautiful setting and costumes also really speak of the work and research that go into the design of Downton. The only thing I would have to say against it is that the storylines of the individual characters seem a little predictable at times, but this is made up for by the eagerness with which one waits for the interplay between the family’s fictional story and the historical events that take place. As a German, I am especially interested to see how the 1929 depression and the onset of WWII will be portrayed, which will probably take place during the Christmas Special and season 4.

5. Grimm

good cop – big bad wolf

Grimm is a real favourite of mine. From what I’ve heard, there is not a massive following for it, but I don’t really know why. In the beginning, I started watching it because it is made by David Greenwalt, one of the creators of Angel (It all comes back to that it seems), but it soon grew beyond that. Initially worried that it was going to rival Supernatural with its onset of detectives investigating supernatural homicide cases, I was quickly reassured that this was a very different kind of series. While the traditional follow-through of a different monster every week introduces the viewer to the world of ‘Wesen’ and ‘Grimms’, a mysterious background-plot threads its way through season one and two, although it looks like all will be revealed in the season two finale! (eeeeep!!!)

This show definitely has a little of the Buffy and Angel monster-vibe, even though these are mostly CGI and less prosthetics, but the camping trailer full of medieval weapons and detective Nick Burkhardt pouring over old tomes describing all varieties of demonic creatures definitely reminds me of the good old days of the Scooby gang or Whes and Cordy.

Again, being German, I relate to this show a lot, with its very unique approach of the Grimms fairytales, even if the often cringeworthy mispronunciation of German words and attempts to name the Wesen with German descriptions – Blutbad, Hexenbiest, Fuchsbau, Hundsjäger – are a little off. (If the Grimm-Producers by any chance happen to read this and would like a consult on the German language and someone who is also very familiar with the Grimms’s works, my contact information is on the  about page!)

Story-wise, I really feel like it is getting more and more compelling! In the romantic department, the budding relationship of Rosalie and Monroe is just so cute to watch, and the visible heart ache of Nick over Juliette’s memory loss is very touching, as well as the feelings between Juliette and Captain Sean Renard. I love the use of different languages in the show, the humanity of the Wesen and the inhumanity of some of the humans, the rich mythological backdrop and the humour. This is definitely a show I would buy on DVD – as soon as it’s out.:)

6. Revolution

Definitely has that LOST feel, too.

A show with a lot of current import, Revolution shows us what our world would be like after an electric blackout. With a certain feel of the Hunger Games, there is a lot of potential here to explore dystopian and utopian ideals and go deeper than just the “girl with a bow is chased by two guys who love her” concept. I think the most surprising development so far has been Charlie’s, whom I expected to be a doe-eyed goodie-goodie, but who turned out a lot more kick-ass and hard-core, with a definite dark side to her, despite her soft core. I also like the pre-blackout flashbacks and character explorations that emanate LOST as well as the mysterious pendant storyline, and why the blackout happened. And most importantly – if it can be reversed! Still, I feel it is a little too soon to pass judgment on Revolution, even though there have already been eight episodes… We’ll see how the finale goes and say more then.

7. Supernatural

Now with their new side-kick, Kevin the prophet

Now this is definitely a show that has seen its share of judgment. And I won’t deny that I was, for a long time, of the opinion that the series should have ended with the conclusion of the angel storyline in season five. However, with the exit of Sera Gamble, I feel like a new leaf has been turned and the plot has got a little more back to the old way, more fun and less gray-scale. I’m still watching, and I do enjoy the occasional guest stars from Buffy and Angel, such as Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters as a witch couple, or Felicia Day as the geeky computer-wizard Charlie (who is returning soon, btw!). But I am still not sure how much still needs to be told of the very unfortunate, yet absolutely gorgeous Winchester brothers. After having explored heaven, hell and now purgatory, what could still be left?

Anyways, while in season seven it often looked like Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were really fed up with playing the grumpy Winchesters, they do seem more happy and into it this season. Now if we could just get a female recurring character to join the cast, and dump that annoying habit of killing off main cast characters, I think the show can be saved! But seriously Female main cast character!!! Us girls (and let’s face it, we are the main viewership) need someone to identify with, and probably someone neutral, not one of Dean’s or Sam’s love interests, which always seem to get killed off…

Okay, guys, so far so good, I know there are a lot more shows I haven’t talked about, but which are new or very interesting to look at. Maybe I will reprise this review at the start of the spring shows. ‘Till then, keep an eye out for new posts.

Peace out, Gwen xxx

P.S.: Leave comments and tell me what YOU think about these shows!

A Geek Opinion of the Presidential Elections

Editorial, Review, Web Review

So, it’s that time of year again, when the leaves turn red and fall, and the ghosts and goblins come out to walk amongst the living… the time of the Presidential elections in America. (Why – what did you think?)

And while I’m sitting comfortably on the other side of the pond, following Obama’s and Romney’s campaigns and mildly shaking my head at the latter, specifically for his utterly misinformed stance towards health care and the leaked videos of his REAL attitude towards his voters (not to speak of his PSY interpretation to hook in the young voters, however fake) there are actually people out there, who are taking a stand and talking about what is important to them about their presidential choice.

Now, today, days after it was posted because guess what – YouTube in Germany is censored and I can’t always watch every video I like (STUPID RULES!), I have found my absolute favourite video on YouTube  EVER IN THE HISTORY OF TIME! (And that says a lot because I DO spend around 56 % of my time watching funny cat videos, so…)

In a time of financial, economic and social crisis, after Sandy has just wrecked thousands of lives – especially those of Call Of Duty Black Ops players because the blackouts in NY affected the game servers as my brother informs me – my personal Jesus and world-famous and acclaimed hero JOSS WHEDON informs us why he will vote Mitt Romney. Or Zomney, as he will henceforth be called.

Besides the utter genius of the content of this video, I find it remarkable how willing Whedon and other celebrities have become to voice their opinions and concerns for America’s future and to speak up about their choices.

Granted, this is a country where the voting of the president runs along the lines of a popularity contest I would normally expect in a high school’s vote of the homecoming queen, but hey, it’s America, the richest country in the world. (1% of the population at least) What I feel more and more is that Romney really emanates the stereotype (or spot-on truth) of America: a country that is built on the principle that every man stands for himself and has to make his fortune, even if that means holding down three jobs simultaneously to support his family of seven because contraception is also forbidden and his wife already got fired for ordering the pill from her doctor… yeah, this blog post got a little more political and rant-y than I expected…

But anyways, I just wanted to share this. To my American readers and friends out there I would like to add: Choose wisely America. And maybe read and/or watch The Walking Dead as some educational warning, just in case.

Emma Caulfield’s Advice vlog

Review, Web Review

Hi gang!

I know I’ve been neglecting my geeky responsibilities, but only because real life (and real work) got in the way. But now that my dissertation is done and dusted, I will return to bringing you up-to-date and interesting articles about all the stuff that the internet gives us (Thanks Internet!).

While I’m working on a longer feature on Game of Thrones, here is a little gold nugget I found today. Maybe some of you already know it, maybe not, but here it is:

Emma Caulfield has a vlog, and gives advice to all willing viewers! :O She takes questions and problems from her twitter, facebook and tumblr, and answers them! She’s been doing so since July this year, and uploads two videos per week. Aside from very original advice, Emma also does reviews of trailers, books, movies etc in a feature called “Grab Bag”.

Emma’s channel on youtube

Ever wondered what happened to Anya from Buffy The Vampire Slayer? This vlog (to me) is basically like what Anya (the character) could be doing now, if she hadn’t died horribly in the final battle of Sunnydale. Emma is quirky, hilariously funny and honest, albeit reminding us that she cannot held liable for any advice she may give. A wise statement, when looking at a particular episode.

But seriously, check out Emma’s youtube channel, ESSNEMMA. Just a little something to brighten up your day.:)

New videos are uploaded every Tuesday and Thursday

Becoming a Podcaster

Editorial

Hi everyone!

While I’m still working on new blog posts about various topics, I have some exciting news to share with you!

I’ve been asked to join a new podcast about Vampires, looking at several Fang-themed TV series and movies including the Twilight franchise, The Vampire Diaries, TrueBlood and even classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The podcast is called Vampire Hype and is part of a series of podcasts on Hypable, a really great website that my friend Selina writes for (she was the one who let me be on the show.😀 ). You can find the episode called “TrueBlood and Twihards” here. Go check it out!😀

Btw, my recent post about D&D was also republished on Hypable and can be found here.😀

Dungeons & Dragons – pen and paper RPGs in the digital age

Editorial, Game Review, Review

Hi ya,

Sorry I’m late with this post – I meant to update the blog weeks ago! I do have a few hot irons in the fire, but they’re not quite ready to post yet, so bear with me!😉

Talking of fire, and smithing, swords and the realm of Fantasy that this train of thought ultimately leads me to, I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire books recently. (I know I’m late, I did watch the TV series first *gasp*) Although I used to be a MAHOOSIVE Lord of the Rings fan, I hadn’t delved into fantasy worlds in a while, but A Game of Thrones and a certain classic RPG have rekindled my love for it.

So this time, gather around as I tell you about my newest Dungeons & Dragons adventures, different means to play online across continents and oceans, and the magical world of Avani!

(DISCLAIMER: Avani and all associated names are copyrighted by Marie; she also provided most of the links you see in this post!)

You wouldn’t think this picture took me a whole afternoon to assemble, but it did! I even MADE the background! :O

How it happened

About a month or more ago, I was feeling a little depressed from the “all work and no play” situation that had arisen out of my university life. But lo and behold, I stumbled upon a fellow deviant artist’s journal post calling to arms all players and admirers of Dungeons & Dragons to play a campaign together, set in her own created fantastical world called Avani. Naturally, I immediately uttered a squeal of delight and confirmed that I was gonna do this!!!

Some weeks later, I met up with Marie to create my character through a join.me live session (you can chat and see the host’s PC/laptop screen) in a brilliant programme called HeroLab. Forget rolling up your stats and filling out that pesky character sheet; Herolab does it all, using an internal virtual dice roller  and calculating all the attack bonuses and feat effects for you! By the end, what you’re left with is a printable pdf sheet of your stats, possessions and animal companions. Really practical!

Btw, in case you don’t have all the D&D books as pdf versions on your hard drive (Thanks Mambwe!), you can find descriptions of everything from races, classes and monsters to supplies, weapons and animal companions here.

A screenshot of what hero lab in the join.me session looked like.

HeroLab itself costs $ 29.99, but it’s worth the investment if you do a lot of role-playing. If not, letting a friend that has it help you out works just as well.

I should interject, at this point, that although I am new to online RPGs, I am no virgin to pen and paper role-playing. During the first and second year of my undergrad course at university, I was introduced to Warhammer RPG, Vampire – the Masquerade and ultimately D&D by my ex-boyfriend, whose friends had been playing for a while. It was an amazing group, the people as well as their characters, and it’s still some of the best time of my life. It all ended sadly when the majority of them left uni and we didn’t see each other any more.😦

But anyways, even though by now I had forgotten most of the rules of D&D, that background experience had left me with a longing to play again.

Let me explain:

To most of you who read my blog, creating stories, art, anything “creative” probably comes quite naturally. There is a certain beauty and excitement to imagining and birthing – wit pen, pencil, brush, mouse or voice – a new character designed by you, a world of your own, with your rules and systems, filled with magic and exotic creatures.

For some time now, I had felt like I had lost that feeling. While I had been honing my writing skills via my course, I hadn’t been “creating”… But playing RPGs, even though it is a game that already has an existing world and rules, is much like writing a story. You create a character that can be you, can look like you or what you want to be, or it can be someone completely different; another gender, skin colour, hair, species. He or she can be a mage, a warrior, a hobbit, they can be good or evil – it is all up to you. I hope I don’t sound like I have a god-complex, but that kind of power is just intoxicating!!!

And not just that: Playing the game is just as creative. Imagine sitting around a campfire and telling a story taking turns. Everyone has their own character and ads their viewpoint to the story that you’re experiencing together! That – is role-playing.

Overcoming frontiers

The difference this time was that all of us were from different parts of the world. Most of the others live in North America, but me being over here in Wales and another girl living in Turkey did make it difficult at first to find a common time to play. We settled on two different sessions, one on Friday nights and one on Sunday evenings (as seen from my time zone: GMT)

Because we were all spread out, pen and paper D&D just wouldn’t work, so we had to figure out how to play online. Maybe some of you now say, “Of course, that’s how we play all the time!” but it was a completely NEW concept to me!

First we tried a downloadable FREE programme called Maptool, which looked really promising, but presented us with massive difficulties (because it just wouldn’t work), and thus our first session took place on AIM chat – and in our imagination.

Marie – our formidable Game Master (GM) – quickly came up with a new tool: Roll20. The best thing about it: no downloads necessary; it’s a web community, so all you need is create an account (FREE) and join a campaign. It has a handy map tool, on which each player can either move around their sprite icon or draw Xs in various colours, as well as having a private chat window including a dice roller.

In Roll20, the GM creates the maps, which are presented in a birds-view perspective, like a board game, with as much detail as is needed. We’ve had inns and whole towns, a mansion, the dirt road and the wild and a dungeon so far. Your imagination is your limit! The GM can also choose to only partly reveal some of the map to players, to keep up the suspense. ;) Obviously, making maps can take a while, which is why we only play every second Sunday.

Roll20 is still in beta, and there are still a few kinks in it, but over all it is working quite well! What we tend to do is use the chat window on Roll20 for the in-game actions and speech, while discussing OOT (out of character) stuff on a separate AIM window.

So guys, that’s my little story of how I rediscovered D&D. Hopefully it gave you some pointers on how to set up your own campaign online and play together.:) Thanks for reading, and watch for more posts soon!

I’ll leave you with a character art piece of my halfling rogue Cory.

Guilty Pleasures

Editorial, Review, TV series Review

I have a few very exciting posts lined up for you that I’m currently writing / collecting, but in the meantime, I want to talk to you about guilty pleasures.

We all have them, be it ice cream late at night, watching trashy TV or procrastinating in every form necessary. Admittedly, I am guilty of all of the above (and so much more), but I figure it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

For example, if I use my guilty pleasures in order to add some more posts to my blog, and discuss, say, a TV show I’ve gotten into recently… maybe something good will come of it, because maybe YOU know that series and want to talk about it, or maybe you’ll get into it too – and then talk to me about it. Seriously, I want to hear your opinion, and don’t be shy to counter any arguments I make!:)

My newest guilty pleasure is a TV series called Awkward, which runs on MTV. As the name suggests, it is centred around an awkward 15-year-old high school student called Jenna, who faces humiliation and social dilemmas daily at her school. She is supported by two friends, Ming and Tamara, aaaaand of course she has a crush, too – Matty. (cute, popular guy from her school. With abs and model looks. Who does NOT look 15. Or 17 for that matter. Figures.)

Now before you say, “Whaaaaat? A high school drama about a girl that lusts after a guy and feels invisible? Come on, we’ve had millions of these!”, let me rectify that concern:

In the first episode, Jenna hooks up (as in, has sex. Granted – not full frontal nudity, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on) with Matty at summer camp. The entire first season continues her having secret sexcapades with him, while he kind of acts like a jerk for not wanting to go public. Yeah, pretty mature for a teenage TV show. While swear words are beeped out and the finger (which is surprisingly frequently given) is blurred, the show could be seen as a slightly lighter version or prequel to HBO’s Girls – which is another guilty pleasure I won’t get into now for multiple reasons, but I wanted to mention it.

Jenna is the sort of main character that seems to be the only sane person in a world of craziness, kind of like Steve Carell’s character Frank in Little Miss Sunshine, or Emma Stone’s Olive in Easy A. Jenna seems a little too cool for school (ha, get it?), since she seems to know all about parents giving their children body dysmorphic disorders and comic-con… But to be honest, it doesn’t bother me that much. In my opinion, she’s not supposed to be a realistic take on a 15-year-old misfit – she’s a representation of every 20-30-something geek girl or social outcast who looks back at high school and imagines all the cool things they could have said, the way they should have reacted to people publishing naked pictures of them or thinking their accidental choking on aspirin, dropping the bottle and hence slipping and breaking their arm in the bathroom while their hair dryer falls into the filling tub is an accident. (Yeah, that IS what happens.)

So far, so good. But here is where it gets a LITTLE annoying. So while Jenna is secretly doing it with Matty, other hot gorgeous boy from school Jake starts to like her, kisses her at one occasion and by the end of season one is willing to dump his cheerleader girlfriend to be with her. In the meantime, while Jenna thinks Matt’s evasiveness is because he doesn’t want to be seen in public with her, it becomes pretty clear that he does actually like her.

That’s right… he’s shirtless…

In the end, the whole thing turns into what seems to have become the romantic stereotype – a pretty brown-haired girl (who doesn’t of course know she’s a freaking model) being chased by TWO absolutely gorgeous guys. THANKS TWILIGHT!!! The show is literally The Twilight Saga meets The Hunger Games, just without the Vampires, Werewolves or teenagers killing each other.

Yeah, if you’re wondering why I’m sounding pissed off about it, it’s because I am. The kind of romantic image and expectations the show throws out there (and every other Young Adult novel for that sake) is worse than what the Disney films did to us! On top of that, it probably makes girls think it’s ok to date someone who will readily have sex with you behind a dumpster but won’t even talk to you in front of his friends.

Before I go on though, let me say that Jenna DOES confront Mat about that and the story takes a different turn (Redemption’d). I actually think that because of the very obvious clichés in the show and the fact that it airs on MTV and does have a lot of adult language, I think it is meant more as a parody of those YA novel ideals than providing another one. At least I hope so.

For now, all I can say is that I’m a total sucker for it. Awkward. My new guilty pleasure.

The Dark Knight Rises Review – and why we haven’t seen the last of Batman

Film Review, Review

Today was the hottest day in Cardiff in WEEKS! And I spent a good half of it in a windowless room underground, writing my dissertation – yeah, boring, I know. To get to the point, in the afternoon, I decided to go see The Dark Knight Rises with my housemate.

CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD, PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

I really liked this third installment of the Nolan-Trilogy. I loved the first film Batman Begins because it wasn’t the funny, clichéd Batman from the old films, as was exactly the film’s intention. Just as the Batman: Year One comic was originally the one that gave Batman the gritty realism it had previously lacked. [While the Nolan-directed films aren’t explicitly based on the Year One comics, they did have an influence and there are several similarities. See Wikipedia.]

One of the comic covers of Batman: Year One. Commissioner Gordon looks suspiciously like Gary Oldman. Hmmmm…

However, while I thought the realism and seriousness of Batman Begins was a brilliant contrast to other superhero films like the X-Men films or the massively disappointing Superman Returns, I didn’t like the second installment The Dark Knight (TDK). Here, in my opinion, Christopher Nolan and especially Christian Bale started taking themselves a little too seriously. Besides an over-complicated plot that took me several viewings to fully understand, the main focus seemed to lie with Heath Ledger’s Joker, who had nearly as much / almost more face time than the Bat himself. Bale was reduced to the nearly-voiceless dark avenger, with almost no character development throughout the whole feature.

That is exactly why I absolutely loved the third film. The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) delivered a perfect ending to the trilogy – a feat not always achieved these days. But let’s get into detail:

First:

The tone. Yes, TDKR is still very serious – it’s just one of those films in the end. But I thought there was still humour – especially in form of the stunning and brilliant Selina Kyle [Anne Hathaway]. TDK had more direct humour because of the Joker, but this took much of the focus off Bruce Wayne/Batman. Here, Selina brought the humour back to Wayne. Also, more than being funny, this film was actually touching! The lack of an emotional connection with Bruce Wayne in the second film (even though Rachel dies and everyone hates him) made me so apathetic towards Batman that I sometimes found myself routing for the Joker instead. :S

Alfred gives a touching speech / a look at frail older Bruce Wayne

In TDKR, scenes like Alfred’s goodbye speech or Bruce’s ordeal in the prison – and OF COURSE the entire last 15-30 minutes of the film – had me gushing tears in attempted silence. The whole EPIC mood of the film just made it so much more fun to watch. Every time Batman fought his way back from being old, frail and broken and once again donned the black suit, I was fist-punching the air and hissing “Yessssssss!” – and this happened TWICE.

Second:

Tying up loose ends. Of course there had to be a little explanation at the beginning to tell viewers what has happened in the eight years since TDK. I thought this was cleverly done via the Memorial Day and later on in the flashbacks to the first film.

But also bringing back old ‘friends’ like Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow or Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, and filling the blanks or explaining plot hooks with flashbacks really tied you in as a viewer. Nostalgia always gets us in the end, and who doesn’t like that “Aaaaahhhh – that’s why!” moment, when everything clicks into place.

In the end, it all makes sense…

Third:

The villain. I love the fact that Bane is both a step up from the Joker (see picture above), as well as bringing the storyline back to Ra’s Al Ghul, because Bane is apparently his son. I especially thought it was poignant that Bane is so much stronger than Batman – because the latter is out of form. Halfway through the film, he breaks Bruce’s spine, effectively killing Batman!

HOW Bruce comes back from that in Bane’s prison by merely having a vertebra pushed back without being semi-paralysed, is not quite clear to me… Plot-wise, I thought the long time Bruce spends in Bane’s prison is a bit of a speed-bump, but it makes sense to have him train his way back into form.

Bane’s end at the hands of Selina Kyle is almost non-descript and forgotten. Of course, by that point the REAL villain is revealed and Bane becomes expendable. Yet I think that made the story even better. The fact that Miranda Tate / Talia Al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) manages to stay the innocent damsel throughout the whole film without an ounce of suspicion, even getting into bed with Bruce, just shows the genius writing of the film, as well as the outstanding acting skills displayed by the whole cast!

Finally, two more things I wanted to comment on were the lighting – we actually had some daylight scenes in this one people! – and Selina Kyle. I know I talked about her already, but I’m mentioning her in a different context. I know we were all looking forward to Anne Hathaway wearing a skin-tight leather / whatever their suits are made of these days outfit, but it was Catwoman’s character that sold Hathaway’s performance like a MILLION TIMES better than, oh say, Halle Berry (just UGH! She was NOT the real Catwoman!!!)

Coolest Catwoman to date!

Not just her non-clichéd cattishness and the feat of playing Catwoman without once being called that during the entire film (i think), but above all the crackling chemistry between her and Bale were just an absolute joy to watch! I LOVED the Batman/Catwoman relationship as a child watching the cartoons. I don’t know what it is – the fact that she’s a villain and yet Batty can’t resist her? But in any case, Hathaway was the right choice for Selina Kyle, and the way she was presented fit perfectly into the rough and darker Gotham of the Nolan films.❤

A Cat without Clichés

So, after some generic banter and review of the film, let me come to the second part of this blog post’s title…

AGAIN: MEGA SPOILER ALERT! WATCH FILM BEFORE PROCEEDING!!!

By far my favourite thing about The Dark Knight Rises is the character John Blake, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The internet, magazines and geek community had been conspiring and guessing for months why Gordon-Levitt had such a focus, even in the short trailer, when all he seemed to be was a younger Detective Gordon (Gary Oldman).

Is it just me, or does Joseph Gordon-Levitt make a very sexy cop?😉

Throughout the film, there were various clues that he was more than met the eye -> like the scene where he kills those two construction guys in such an… acrobatic, almost… manner. (Cue: “Ooooooooooooh!”) But it was on the bridge, after the bomb has detonated and he throws his police badge into the river that I knew he was meant for something else!

I almost don’t want to mention it because it is such a massive, ultimate spoiler, but I gave enough warning, so here it is:

When it was revealed that his “legal name” is in fact Robin John Blake, I was literally biting my fist suppressing screams of excitement! Honestly now: if they were ever to make another Batman-film, who better to play Robin, or even Nighthawk or Batman of the Future, than Joseph Gordon-Levitt?!? Come on!

Now, don’t get me wrong: I think the Nolan-Batman films have come to their end, and they closed up well. Wayne Industries is going to rebuild itself, Alfred retires and Bruce and Selina elope to Florence, while Blake takes up the cape and ensures the future of vigilante crime fighters in Gotham. There couldn’t be a more perfect ending. It leaves room for a possible next film, but doesn’t provide the need for it.

If  Warner Brothers ever decide to take up the Bat material again, it will be a while. Nolan has moved on to Man of Steel as producer and Bale becomes a Knight of Cups, where he stars alongside Natalie Portman.

But setting up Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character has its reasons. Levitt has been a busy bee these past couple of years. He’s appeared in both some big budget productions like Inception and the soon-to-be-released Looper, as well as a row of popular indie films like 500 Days of Summer and recently 50/50. With his own production company / online production community project HitRecord, he has also established himself as an exception to the Hollywood cliché, as “one of the people”. Mark my words, that guy is one to keep an eye on! AND he’s still young (born in 1981 he’s just 31) so that leaves lots of time to make films, perhaps eventually another superhero one!😉

To conclude:

The Dark Knight Rises was a glorious end to the Batman/Dark Knight films, and certainly to the ones directed by Christopher Nolan. Whether the Batman, or another masked crime fighter of Gotham City, will ever return to the screens in the future remains to be seen. So far I’ve found no evidence of future plans, but I’ll keep you posted about updates.

In my opinion, Joseph Gordon-Levitt should be in it!😀

DeviantArtist NickVestige designed this fake sequel to TDKR featuring Robin, Catwoman and what looks like The Riddler!