HarmonQuest

Last night, I went to see a screen­ing of Dan Harmon’s new show, Har­mon­Quest.

HarmonQuest

I am a big fan of Com­mu­ni­ty, Rick and Morty, and RPGs, so I was pret­ty excit­ed about this. Oh, and there was a Q & A ses­sion with a pan­el of cast mem­bers after, too. I did not know much about the show before­hand, oth­er than that it was going to be a tap­ing of Dan Har­mon and friends play­ing Dun­geons and Drag­ons. I was expect­ing some­thing like Crit­i­cal Role, where we watch the Dun­geon Mas­ter and par­ty as they play for a cou­ple of hours.

Instead, it was short­er, about 23 min­utes like a TV com­e­dy, and start­ed with the play­ers gath­ered around a con­fer­ence table. Spencer Crit­ten­den is the Dun­geon Mas­ter and sits at the head, and Dan Har­mon, Erin McGathy, and Jeff B. Davis are par­ty reg­u­lars who sit along one side. Join­ing them each episode is a guest star. In the first episode, that was Paul F. Tomp­kins, but they will also have Chelsea Peretti, Steve Agee, Aubrey Plaza, Thomas Mid­dled­itch, and Kumail Nan­jiani, among oth­ers. They briefly talk about their RPG expe­ri­ence and then dive into the gam­ing ses­sion. The “in-char­ac­ter” seg­ments are all ani­mat­ed, and the char­ac­ters look like the actors, except in fan­ta­sy garb. The show is filmed in front of a live audi­ence.

The gam­ing ses­sion itself is much lighter than Crit­i­cal Role. The char­ac­ters are less coor­di­nat­ed with one anoth­er and seem to try weird things for the hell of it. The fight­ing is sim­pli­fied and Spencer han­dles all dice rolls. The only time I saw a char­ac­ter sheet ref­er­enced was when Spencer asked a char­ac­ter to dou­ble-check his total hit points to see if he died. The ani­mat­ed com­bat is quite fun to watch, though. Every­one enjoyed see­ing lit­tle num­bers float up every time some­one took a hit, just like in video games. The lighter nature also opened up the group to be goofy and ban­ter more, which was hilar­i­ous.

After the episode, it was time for the Q & A pan­el. Jeff B. Davis, Spencer Crit­ten­den, and Dan Har­mon took some ques­tions from the mod­er­a­tor and then the crowd.

HarmonQuest panel

Sor­ry about the poor qual­i­ty. I turned off flash and held my phone over my head to get a clear line of sight. A few ques­tions in, Dan pulled out a flask and every­one was like, “We’re at a bar, we can get you a real drink.”

I learned that:

  • Har­mon­Quest is a spin-off of Dan’s Har­mon­town pod­cast, where Spencer just showed up in the audi­ence because “he knew it was their des­tiny to get togeth­er and play DnD.”
  • NBC Uni­ver­sal expressed inter­est in Har­mon­Quest before SeeSo (their com­e­dy stream­ing site) was even cre­at­ed.
  • The actu­al taping/gaming ses­sion is about an hour long, which they then edit down to the 23 min­ute mark. (If he could go back, Dan would want to make each episode a bit longer so they would not have to cut out as much mate­ri­al.)
  • Dan said this was his first time doing a mul­ti-cam show, and edit­ing was sur­pris­ing­ly chal­leng­ing. (The hard­est part was get­ting audi­ence laugh­ter to not sound canned.)
  • When asked about the gam­ing expe­ri­ence of the guests, Spencer said that most guests had played 0 – 2 times. Thomas Mid­dled­itch is very expe­ri­enced and actu­al­ly drove straight from their tap­ing to his reg­u­lar Call of Cthul­hu game. One of his favorite episode was with Aubrey Plaza, who real­ly drove her ses­sion despite not hav­ing any pre­vi­ous RPG expe­ri­ence.
  • Dan as a play­er did not want too much infor­ma­tion or input about the over­all plot, but Spencer worked a lot with the net­work to flesh out a sat­is­fy­ing cam­paign over the course of the sea­son.
  • Spencer will also pri­vate­ly hint to guests ahead of time if there is any­thing “above and beyond” expect­ed of them. In the first episode, he asked Paul F. Tomp­kins to come up with a “great oath.”

The entire 10-episode sea­son goes up tomor­row on SeeSo for your bing­ing plea­sure. I will def­i­nite­ly be check­ing out the rest of the series.

Legend of Tarzan

A few weeks ago, I signed up for WB Tick­ets, where you can get free tick­ets to advanced screen­ings of new movies. The first one I was able to snag was for Leg­end of Tarzan.

Tarzan poster

I was not very excit­ed by the trail­ers, but I am not one to turn down a free movie. And I am a big fan of Christoph Waltz. On the Mon­day before gen­er­al release, I ran home after work, changed into a t-shirt and bas­ket­ball shorts, and caught the train down to the Dol­by The­ater. Hol­ly­wood and High­land is always jam-packed with tourists, so I did not know where to go from the sta­tion. Besides the usu­al throng, there were met­al secu­ri­ty bar­ri­ers along Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard and lines for Tarzan pop-ups in the par­tial­ly-closed street. The first looked like a pho­to booth with some card­board cut-outs. The sec­ond was big­ger and looked like a jun­gle-themed bar. I walk towards the Dol­by The­ater entrance and there are addi­tion­al bar­ri­ers from the street up to the the­ater to keep passers-by from inter­rupt­ing some sort of red car­pet-ish event. There is no actu­al red car­pet, and no press, but the crowds are just stand­ing along the bar­ri­ers with cam­era phones in hand.

I ask a secu­ri­ty guard how I get into the movie screen­ing, and he tells me to go to the box office. The box office is on the oth­er side of the bar­ri­ers, but I talked to anoth­er guard right by it on my side, and he tells me the line starts on the street. I head back out to the street and go to the begin­ning of the bar­ri­ers, where a third secu­ri­ty guard impa­tient­ly tells me the screen­ing pass says exact­ly where I am sup­posed to line up. I go to the cor­rect spot, which I had pre­vi­ous­ly dis­count­ed because there was a stand for a local radio sta­tion there and I thought it was a line for anoth­er event. It turns out, the radio sta­tion was check­ing in VIPs, but the nor­mal line was also there. So I am in line, which has now dou­bled back away from the offi­cial check-in point, no one has looked at my pass yet. I oscil­late between feel­ing like a dum­b­ass and wor­ry­ing that I will not make it in. Some peo­ple in line are incred­i­bly well dressed, like they are going to the opera.

The appoint­ed start time comes and goes and I am get­ting more ner­vous. Final­ly, the line lurch­es to life. After I round the cor­ner and up the stairs, some the­ater staffers have a check­point. They scan my pass, give me a quick once-over, and bot­tom-deal me a tick­et from a giant stack. I hus­tle into the the­ater, where free pop­corn and Coke prod­ucts are avail­able. A series of ush­ers show me to my seat, which is in the very upper left cor­ner of the orches­tra lev­el, in a fold­ing chair in what I assume is a wheel­chair spot. The edge of the mez­za­nine lev­el blocks a slice of the top of the screen from my view, so I am a lit­tle annoyed, espe­cial­ly since I see peo­ple who were behind me in line mov­ing for­ward to bet­ter seats. The bet­ter-dressed peo­ple.

After every­one is set­tled, the lights dim and two men step out in front of the screen.

Tarzan screening

It turns out, this was not just an advance screen­ing. This was the Hol­ly­wood pre­mière! Those two men were David Yates and David Bar­ron, direc­tor and pro­duc­er. They pro­ceed­ed to thank the cast (who were sit­ting in the audi­ence!!!), and some behind-the-sce­nes folks, includ­ing a pro­duc­er who passed away. Also attend­ing was the First Lady of Gabon, where the aeri­al shots of Africa were filmed. And with that, the movie start­ed.

Based on the trail­er, I thought it was going to be a fair­ly stan­dard retelling of the Tarzan sto­ry. Instead, it starts lat­er in his life, when he is “civ­i­lized” and back in Eng­land, hav­ing reclaimed his family’s lands and title. He is already mar­ried to Jane, and goes back to Africa at the invi­ta­tion of the Dutch king. His orig­in sto­ry and his ear­ly rela­tion­ship with Jane are cov­ered through inter­spersed flash­backs.

The plot is so-so, along the lines of any sum­mer action/adventure flick. Every­thing keeps flow­ing despite some non­sen­si­cal points. The Earth­porn shots are amaz­ing. Samuel L. Jack­son, who I did not even know was in the movie, was comedic gold. He plays the straight man to Tarzan’s super­hu­man feats, and even though he can­not car­pet f-bomb because it is a PG-13 movie, you can see it in his facial expres­sions.

Mar­got Rob­bie has talked up her desire to play empow­ered wom­en, and this Jane def­i­nite­ly fits. Besides refus­ing to scream “like a damsel” as we saw in the trail­er, she fights again­st her cap­tors every chance she gets. The natives, on the oth­er hand, are not empow­ered at all. They are can­non fod­der in the “nature vs. tech­nol­o­gy” or “native vs. invader” or “black vs. white” war, and are basi­cal­ly just anoth­er resource at Tarzan’s dis­pos­al. Sure, Tarzan respects his adopt­ed tribe and the chief makes a valiant sac­ri­fice, but in the final show­down, the com­bined tribes lit­er­al­ly stand on the cliffs and do noth­ing as Tarzan takes out the invad­ing army sin­gle-hand­ed­ly.

All in all, see it for the great shots of Africa and for Sam Jack­son. As for me, I will put my the­o­ry to the test by dress­ing up next time to see if I get bet­ter seats.

Captain Atom — Vol.1 — Evolution

Fol­low­ing my Flash Vol. 1 write-up, Cap­tain Atom Vol. 1 is next on the read list. It takes place after Jus­tice League Vol. 1, and the Q-Pad is fea­tured fair­ly promi­nent­ly.

Captain Atom Vol. 1

J.T. Krul — Writer
Fred­die Williams II — Artist

Pub­lished 28 Nov 2012.
Col­lec­tions Cap­tain Atom 1 – 6 (21 Sep 2011 — 15 Feb 2012)

Art
Sto­ry
Aver­age

Art

Gen­er­al­ly very clean, but gets a bit chaotic in the fights. That could be an intend­ed design choice, though.

Story

The whole book is about how Cap­tain Atom has God-like pow­ers. In fact, one char­ac­ter says of him,

He turned the inor­gan­ic [Air Force jet] into organ­ic [feath­er]. And he didn’t even need a rib to do it.

so the com­par­ison is very well estab­lished. The only draw­back is that if he gets dis­tract­ed long enough, he could dis­si­pate into noth­ing­ness. Except his whole orig­in is that his human body dis­si­pat­ed into noth­ing­ness in an exper­i­ment, and he was still able to pull him­self back togeth­er. So real­ly his only dis­ad­van­tage is that he does not want to use too much pow­er again­st oth­ers. He zips around the world fix­ing prob­lems big and small, includ­ing tak­ing down a mech suit vil­lain in Chicago, avert­ing a simul­ta­ne­ous nuclear reac­tor melt­down and vol­cano erup­tion in New York City, cur­ing a lit­tle boy’s can­cer in Kansas City, sav­ing a bill­board work­er from falling in Seat­tle, help­ing a moth­er lift an I-beam off a child in Atlanta, sav­ing bystanders from a dri­ve-by shoot­ing in Hous­ton, and tak­ing the pills out of a girl who tried to com­mit sui­cide. Then he goes to Libya for an impromp­tu team-up with Flash to help rebels, end­ing with him absorbing the force of a nuclear blast. Even Flash, among the strongest of the Jus­tice League, is blown away by his pow­ers. The great­est chal­lenge to Cap­tain Atom is a rat that went through the same exper­i­ment and has sim­i­lar pow­ers. He gets attacked by the mil­i­tary, who want to take them both out, but has no prob­lem tak­ing care of both threats. (By the way, he beat the rat by using too much pow­er and mak­ing it dis­si­pate into noth­ing­ness.)

Connections

This book intro­duces Nathaniel Adam (Cap­tain Atom), Dr. Ran­i­ta Carter, Dr. Hein­rich Mega­la, Dr. Scott Alexan­der, Mikey Park­er, and Gen­er­al Wade Eil­ing. Pan­do­ra gets her cameo in the Man­hat­tan bystanders as Cap­tain Atom neu­tral­izes the vol­cano. It is men­tioned that the Jus­tice League reject­ed him because they con­sid­ered him too unsta­ble.

All-in-all, Cap­tain Atom just seems too over­pow­ered to be com­pelling. He either needs to be nerfed or meet a vil­lain that hon­est­ly chal­lenges him.

Next up, Sta­t­ic Shock Vol. 1 Sav­age Hawk­man Vol. 1.