Book Review: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain RailroadLet me first start by saying that Big Thunder Mountain is one my favourite rides in Disneyland Paris (the only Disney resort I’ve visited), only narrowly beaten by Les Mystères du Nautilus. So of course, when Marvel and Disney announced that everyone’s favourite runaway main train was being turned into a comic, I was excited.

Design wise, it’s very pretty. Like all other Disney Kingdom series books it comes only in hardcover. Which is bad because it means a fragile flap and a higher price than what you’d pay for a trade paperback version. On the upside, once the flap is removed, you get a really nice sketch of the ride. That aside, from personal experience I know that Marvel soft cover editions tend to be rather more robust, so I’m not really into Disney’s money grabbing ways here, pretty look or not.

Photo of the day: 15.6.2016 (day 167)

Now onto the story: Disney is basically retconning the original ride back story for their Californian park, making this one the one and only correct one.

For ride and Disney geeks, this is of course really interesting, and probably worth reading for this alone. It still leaves all the other Disney parks hanging when it comes to their back stories though, and to be fair, reading this comic, that’s not a bad thing.

Without giving away anything of the story: it’s a fun enough tale when it comes to a mining town setting in the Wild West era of the United States, with just a little hint of the Weird West we’ve all come to love.

In itself the characters are nothing original either and development is simply lackluster. The story is, all in all, just like the characters: plain unoriginal. Also the choice of the female lead/heroine feels a little forced. Whilst I applaud strong female characters, it just feels very force fed in this story, possibly because it’s just not an original story. It’s, once again, daddy’s girl isn’t pleased with society’s view on how a women should behave and look, and rebellious as she is, she “does something about it”. But in the same way we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, trying as it may, is just not an original story, it doesn’t manage to grab and hold attention properly like it should. And sadly nothing can really change that.

The art is alright, but also not the most fine comic art (definitely not the worst either so there is that).

All in all, it’s just rather disappointing. It feels like Disney figured that people would buy this book anyway because of the popularity of the ride (they’re not wrong) and that because of that, they didn’t have to do a real effort. I can only hope they are doing a better job with The Haunted Mansion because this was one of the most disappointing comics I’ve read all year. It certainly does no justice at all to the iconic ride so many have come to love over the years.

“A Place of Bright and Blaring Color”: New York Night in 1946

Life magazine in August 1946 featured a series of photographs taken by Andreas Feininger of New York City at night. The text that introduced the pictures was quite evocative and is worth quoting in full:

In New York the first lights start to come on at night long before the last light has gone out of the sky. The skyscraper workers, scurrying toward the end of day, turn the tall office buildings into bright honeycombs whose illuminated blobs seem to drop down to the darkening rivers around the island. Then the advertising signs taken over the streets of the city, competing so violently with each other that they throw on the sky a glare seen 60 miles at sea. Their clutter is thickest in the streets around Times Square where, in the world’s greatest neon gallery, the enormous acreage of blaring tubes and bulbs and the unashamed piling of color on garnish color make a confusion which is dizzying, outrageous and always wonderful.

Click here to read the original article, available on Google Books.

Event Review: Starcom/Comic Con Gent

Starcom 2016Comic Con Gent/Starcom
What: pop culture convention
Where: ICC, Ghent, Belgium
When: Sunday, July 10 2016
Website

Originally this convention appeared on the Belgian convention schedule last summer, as a small but fun day. This year, with an ongoing name change to Comic Con Gent (yes, Gent spelled the Dutch way), they came back seemingly out of the blue, bigger (literally) and stronger than the year before.

They took the reviews of last years program to heart, and limited it to fun things people expect from conventions such as guests to meet, game demos and a cosplay competition and added their own, such as opening with a party and shops where you could really find things you don’t see at other cons.

Belgian comedian Xander De Rycke returned to the convention scene after Micro Comic Con in Antwerp last month with his famous podcast Mosselen om Half Twee (Mussels at half past one) and the comedy didn’t end there because there was also a Geek Comedy Open Mic with lesser known comedians to represent the Belgian humoristic scene.

The program was in fact a two part one. On one hand you had the items set to a certain time, and on the other you had tons of things to do that lasted throughout the entire day such as the search for the golden Pikachu.

Starcom

They’re also the only convention with an 18+ part of the program, with Super Hero Burlesque, a Hentai lipdub and legendary mangaka Toshio Maeda, known for the infamous Legend of the Overfiend (probably his best known work). Anyone familiar with his work probably gets why he was in th 18+ section. That aside, all artists were available for autographs and photos throughout the day, so even if you couldn’t attend a Q&A, you could still meet them.

It was also good to see that they tried to get different guests than other conventions on the whole.

It was, in general, a very fun list of things to do and see, so even if you didn’t go there just to hang out with friends, or to shop, you could find something to do and have a good time. The organisation also had taken in mind visitor comfort, with wide enough lanes to walk through even when it was busy and people would stop to browse shops. To make sure there weren’t too many spaces where people would get stuck in one spot, they had separated the exit and entrance, which really worked rather well.

Contrary to some other Belgian conventions, there were no daft demands for see through bags, bag size limitations of medical proof for the need of carrying medication. Weapon rules were also tossed out in favor of the sensible: bring props but don’t hurt others. Which definitely contributed to the warm and relaxed atmosphere of this convention.

Starcom

What was definitely also a bonus is that you were allowed to bring in your own food and drink and that there was enough room to consume it. So whilst they had a variety of traditional convention foods and drinks, people with dietary requirements they didn’t cater to could just eat their own lunch on the picnic benches, or benefit from the warm weather and the Citadel Park literally right outside the gates of the venue for a meal outside, as the park has plenty of benches and picnic tables. They even had a couple of food trucks outside, in what seems to become a Starcom tradition. It’s a good tradition to have.

Because a full day at a convention can be quite tiring, Starcom traditionally has a room with plenty of seating available upstairs which serves as nothing else but an area where you can just sit and chill out for a bit. Which is an excellent addition to the event. Every convention should have one.

Contrary what you would guess from the program containing an 18+ section, Starcom is one of the most family friendly conventions you’ll find. We saw many people with their children, even with children cosplaying. At Starcom, cosplay is definitely an all ages affair, and you can find some seriously amazing cosplays there. Cosplay wise, it really doesn’t have to give in for big conventions such as Made in Asia and even Japan Expo.

Starcom

Starcom

The only downside to the convention was the infernal heat, which was not something the organisation could do anything about. They did what they could, but in the end of the day a hot day and plenty of windows and glass walls simply provides a greenhouse effect, so visitors beware: if you go to the next edition and it’s a hot day, dress appropriately, consider yourselves forewarned.

In conclusion: Starcom may be a small convention, but it is steadily growing. What it lacks in size it makes up in atmosphere, opportunities to really find original items, regardless of your fandom, do great deals on comics (we saw them as cheap as € 1 per issue) and simply have an enjoyable day out in Ghent. And if you’re disinclined to spend an entire day at a convention, the ICC venue is situated literally around the corner of both the modern arts (SMAK) and fine arts museum. Nothing but great reasons to visit this convention’s next edition really.

For more photos of this event, click here.

Movie Review: The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan

There have been dozens and dozens adaptations of the famous books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, of which The Legend of Tarzan is the latest in line, and currently in theatres.

This version is a bit of a mixed bag. They do take a good amount of parts from the books, such as Jane Porter being an accomplished adventuress in her own right, rather than just a damsel in distress; and including the legendary city of Opar (without any of the actual literary back story and with different characters) and couple it to _some_ historic facts about the Belgian occupation of the Congo. With a _lot_ of fiction added in of course, because this isn’t a historical movie but a big budget Hollywood production. Which leads me to believe the money wasn’t entirely well spent as the CGI used for the creation of many of the animals is rather subpar. The mountain and jungle views, however, are stunning.

I won’t go into the plot, because as is a Gatehouse tradition, reviews are spoiler free (and will remain spoiler free), but what I will say is that casting is often times a bit doubtful. Alexander Skarsgard does an adequate job as Tarzan, and especially his return to his more feral nature of Tarzan from Lord Greystoke is pretty well portrayed. Margot Robbie is an admirable Jane, successfully portraying a strong female lead that feels like a real person. Samuel L. Jackson just isn’t at his best, even though he’s not exactly doing a bad job either portraying Tarzan’s companion George Washington Williams. Williams is one of the characters based of an actual person with the same name, and some of his actions in the movie are actual historical facts (so don’t click the name link if you don’t want spoilers!). Who really carries the movie, however, is Christoph Waltz as Léon Rom, the antagonist out to see his dastardly plans realised. Without Mr Waltz’ performance, the movie definitely wouldn’t be quite as enjoyable. Matter of fact, Léon Rom isn’t just a made up character but based on a real life historical Congo administrator. Other influences for the movie consist of the historical works King Leopold’s Ghost, so there’s indeed a good mix of history and fiction in this particular movie.

I’m aware that his has received quite a few bad reviews, but even though the plot felt a little forced in some places, I found it a fun watch. It’s also nice to see how they basically took the Tarzan books as well as King Leopold’s Ghost, mixed both up and gave their own twist to Tarzan whilst clearly having respect for the original. I also liked how they did their best to portray the fictional characters as close to the books as possible. But what I really enjoyed is that feel of adventure of classic Tarzan movie adaptations, the entire atmosphere. That sense of adventure that the books are famous for and that has made Tarzan such an iconic character in the first place. And that is exactly what a Tarzan movie should be in my opinion. So even whilst this isn’t the best movie adaptation with the best Tarzan (although let’s be fair, it’s hard to beat Johnny Weissmuller’s classic Tarzan), it’s still one worth watching at least once if you like the setting and character.