Author - Jennifer Paxton

SAG-AFTRA Video Games Industry Strike

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 2, 2017) – During a major rally today in Los Angeles, SAG-AFTRA members called for the 11 struck video game corporations to end their bargaining standoff. Members contend the long-running strike can be concluded with a fair agreement benefiting both sides.

SAG-AFTRA’s approximately 160,000 members have been on strike against an 11-member bargaining unit, which includes video game corporations Activision Publishing Inc., Electronic Arts Productions, Inc. and WB Games, Inc. among others, since Oct. 21, 2016. The strike came after 19 months of negotiations wherein the corporations refused to alter their bargaining stance, or make any concessions. The rally in Los Angeles, which began at SAG-AFTRA Plaza and continued at the nearby La Brea Tar Pits, marks the two-year anniversary of the bargaining process on the interactive contract, which governs video game work.

“This is a crucial time. The video game companies are getting ready to start production on a slate of new titles. They need and want our members’ talent to be on their games,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “I urge these video game corporations to accept the industry-standard agreements that they know are fair and right so we can get back to work – together.”

Carteris on Thursday addressed a crowd of approximately 500, which included SAG-AFTRA members and members of WGA, DGA, Actors Equity, IATSE, UNITE HERE, SEIU, the Teamsters and AFM, which sent a New Orleans-style brass band to lead a march down Wilshire Blvd. Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, Rusty Hicks of the L.A. County Federation of Labor and Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu also spoke to the crowd. Rapper Murs performed.

National Executive Director David White said, “Enough is enough. It’s time for the video game corporations to stop stalling and meet us halfway. Working together we can achieve continued growth for their companies along with fair compensation and safe sets for our members. Their continued stalling is only going to slow down their game production and hurt their bottom lines.”

SAG-AFTRA Interactive Negotiating Committee Chair Keythe Farley said, “I can’t believe we’re still fighting for this contract two years later. I thought we’d be done by lunch on day one. I figured we were all eager to update the substandard, 20-year-old contract that we’ve been operating under and start fresh with a modern, industry-standard agreement that protects, and fairly compensates, performers working on today’s video games. The one thing that keeps me going is our members’ dedication and commitment to a fair contract. It’s the same dedication they bring to their performances, so I guess it’s no surprise, really.”

Meanwhile, Interactive Negotiating Committee member Phil LaMarr announced that nearly a dozen games have been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s new interactive contract, which includes secondary compensation, transparency and stunt safety provisions. “These deals show that other companies see that what we’re asking for is reasonable,” LaMarr said.

Universal Studios Hollywood Chinese Lunar New Year 2017

Universal Studios Hollywood is celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year with a bang. In their central plaza you will find all manner of costumed characters from Universal IPs, such as Kung-Fu Panda, Curious George, and a whole lot more (my personal favorite was Woody Woodpecker). You will even find the evil Decepticon known as Megatron, arch-enemy of the Autobots, speaking Mandarin to guests in celebration of the holiday. Finally at the plaza area,  you will find an assortment of Chinese-inspired foods and snacks, as well as be able to write your own message of hope to add to the beautiful, blossom covered archways. I give a ton of kudos to the park designers as the plaza area is beautiful – they did a terrific job.

On the day we went, it was raining cats and dogs, the height of the most recent Southern California storm system, but we didn’t let that stop us. We purchased some Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed rain ponchos and had a terrific time. The lines and crowds were short, allowing us to get into anything we desired within a few minutes of waiting. The world famous Universal Studios Tour was even considerate and had vinyl rain flaps deployed on each side of the trams (although for us in the front corner, the rain came in anyway, lol).

I highly recommend checking out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the rain and wind. Nothing says real English weather like gloomy clouds and downpour, and it adds to the overall effect of being in Hogsmeade. Also, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has returned to its pre-eye strain 2D film mode. I couldn’t ride this enough! The goggles and 3D film during the attraction’s opening were not well-received and the park listed to its guests. The 2D ride film is plenty immersive, and waiting just a couple minutes to ride meant we could go on as many times as we could go through the rain to get back in, lol. It is not uncommon for the ride to have wait times in excess of 60 minutes – yet we rode the attraction seven times in a row! Thank you sweet, sweet rain!

I use any reason I can to get out to Universal Studios Hollywood. It is a terrific theme park and truly a Southern California treasure, reflecting our Hollywood history and providing hope for its future. The fact that the park is also culturally-progressive and forward-thinking enough to pay tribute to our Chinese American brothers and sisters with the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration is a testament to that way of thinking and yet another reason for us all to come together in unity. Get your butts out to Universal Studios and celebrate with them!

You can get ticket information and more at USH’s official website.

Photo Gallery

Mountain High Media Day 2017

Mountain High was once again nice enough to invite us to their media day to kick off the ski season. The snow has been falling like crazy in Wrightwood over the past couple weeks and it is keeping quite nice on the mountain – so nice that, on the day we visited, they were able to open the other side of the resort as well as the Tubing park! Our day started off with a cold drive up into town which was stopped temporarily as CalTrans was requiring people to attach snow chains to their tires in order to go any further into town. If you have never put snow chains on before, I highly recommend that you practice before you get to this point! Thankfully, the chains I have are auto-tightening which made things pretty straightforward but, if you don’t have those you are in for a time of it. Once we arrived, we hustled into the lodge and met up with the Mountain High / Oster Ads PR crew who provided some light breakfast foods and lift tickets.

From there, we embarked on our skiing and snowboarding adventure in some seriously cold weather. We were at about 30 degrees and active snowfall while we were there, which caused “white out” conditions for a time. You can see how things looked in our photo gallery below. We are still new to skiing and so we spent a lot of time around the practice slope just getting used to our skis. Going up the lift to the higher slopes would have been mighty harrowing with that weather the way it was! Usually, our Southern California Winter seasons don’t offer the kind of snowfall they are seeing at the mountain right now. It is a great time to go skiing as the powder is fresh and your board or skis will glide very easily over it, making for some quick downhills. We eventually settled into an après-ski lunch and then headed on into Wrightwood proper for some sightseeing and sledding (unfortunately, there is no place to bring your own sled or toboggan into Mt High).

Be sure to check out the gift/pro shop in the Mountain High lodge for souvenirs of your day’s fun as well as any supplies you may have forgotten. We personally forgot ski gloves, so we picked them up in the shop. The resort also offers equipment rentals, so don’t feel like you have to bring your own skis, boards, poles, or boots. The rental process is pretty straightforward, just head inside the building and use the terminals along the wall first – THEN wait int the line for the rest of the gear. If you wait in line before using the terminal, you are wasting your time. Also located on the resort is the Bullwheel Grill, where you can get something to eat and drink. Unfortunately, the grill was closed on the day we were there, but we have eaten there before.

Also, parking is available on site but you will probably want to be there as early as you can as the lots tend to fill up quickly. There is additional parking at the East and North resorts but that might not be where you want to spend you time depending on your goals, skill level, etc so it’s your call. For my purposes as a beginner, the West resort was best as that’s where the lodge and practice hill are located. If you feel like doing some tubing, the Tubing area is located to the North of the resort and tickets have to be purchased on site. I would recommend doing this early as the tubing park will sell out for the day after a time. Tubing is a lot of fun for adults and kids alike – the experience is a total blast.

Overall, we had a great time visiting Mountain High and highly recommend it to any of you Southern Californians looking to get your skiing or snowboarding adventures on. Plus, once you are done at the resort you can head into Wrightwood and enjoy some small town shopping and dining experiences. Lift tickets, season passes, and more are available at the official mountain high resort website. Also of note is their M.A.X. Pass program, which is a shared annual pass between Mountain High and 38 other mountain resorts! If you are a ski buff who chases the snow throughout the entire year, you might seriously consider this.

Mountain High Official Website

Mountain High Media Day 2017 Photo Gallery

X-Wing Miniatures Game Review

The Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Games from Fantasy Flight Games is not only an excellent strategy game but, also, a perfect game for Star Wars fans in general. What’s cooler is that the game is played with small, detailed miniatures of ships from the Star Wars universe. Players send their X-Wings, Tie Fighters, and a whole lot more up against one another to see who is a better tactician. Starting out with X-Wing is fairly simple as all you need is the $40 dollar starter kit. This kit contains revamped (post-The Force Awakens) rules as well as two First Order Tie Fighters and one T-70 X-Wing fighter to throw against one another in combat.

Each ship, modification, and crew member costs a certain number of points. Usually, each side gets a pre-determined number of possible points for the players to work with in setting up their squadrons. In our office, we usually give 100 points per side as we have several people playing (but more on that later). After the sides are configured, the play space is agreed upon (usually a 3 foot by 3 foot area) and the miniature spacecraft get deployed.

A big battle we setup using additionally-purchased ships.

Each side selects maneuvers to be performed by each ship in their squadron. These maneuvers are selected via “maneuver dials” which come with each miniature ship purchased. Fast ships like the A-Wing can traverse greater distances, while more maneuverable ships like the Tie Fighter can perform sharper turns. Certain maneuvers are displayed as red instead of white, meaning that it is harder to pull off. These maneuvers cause your pilot “stress”, which prevents them from performing another red maneuver until an easy “green” maneuver is performed. The selected dials are placed face-down so that the other player cannot see what you are planning. Then maneuvers are performed in descending order of pilot skill (listed on the pilot’s card), always starting with the Imperial side. After each ship movement is complete, that ship can perform an action as listed on their pilot cards. These actions can be to “focus” for the chance at greater damage on the enemy in the forthcoming combat phase or “evade” which grants additional chances of dodging enemy fire (there are other action types, but you get the idea).

After the movement phase is complete,the combat phase begins and ships, in ascending order of pilot skill, can attack their targets. Targets have to fall within a ship’s firing arc and range to be eligible for attack. The starter kit will provide a measurement tool to figure out if a target is within range and arc of the player ship. Each ship has a different attack and defense rating – representing how many dice will be rolled for either action. The attacking player will first roll dice to see if any of their attack dice hit (can be standard or critical damage) and then the defending player rolls their defense die to mitigate that potential damage (or evade it altogether if they are lucky). After the combat phase, the game goes back to the movement phase and it starts all over again. This continues until victor conditions are met for either player.

These are just the bare basics of the game, but are enough to give you the general idea of how it is played. Most games are played force-on-force, winner take all. However, some creative folk setup scenario-based objectives. These could be anything from satellite capturing to protecting the Millennium Falcon so Chewbacca can make it to his annual Life Day celebration. Technically, the X-Wing Miniatures Game is meant for two players – however, you can easily play it, comfortably, with four players. Each player will control a subset of ships on their team. This method of play takes a bit longer for everyone to decide what they are going to do, but can lead to some great banter between players as well as teamwork and “strategery”! Overall, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game is a terrific game of strategy and dice rolling that is sure to please not only Star Wars fans, but also fans of strategy boardgames and war games. The Force Awakens Core Set for the X-Wing Miniatures Game retails for $39.95 and is available now. Also available are a host of additional ships that you can purchase – even “large” and “huge” ships if you want to add an entirely new level of strategy to your games!


X-Wing Miniatures Game Review Score:

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

The Walking Dead Attraction Review at Universal Studios

The Walking Dead walk through attraction, the latest feather in Universal Studios Hollywood’s cap, is scheduled to open on July 4. However, we were among the lucky few to get access the attraction at a recent park media event which saw several members of the AMC show’s cast and crew in attendance. As alluded to, The Walking Dead attraction is based on AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead, which is based on Robert Kirkman’s amazing comic series, The Walking Dead. No, this just isn’t a grab for Google search terms, there is just a lot of The Walking Dead zombie goodness to go through.

The Walking Dead walk through attraction can best be described as a Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights maze taken to “11”. The sets, props, and animatronics are all outstanding and look like they belong on the set of the television show. The starting cue area of the attraction was populated by Negan’s goons – however I am unsure as to how many of the actors will be on-site during actual operating hours.

the-walking-dead-attraction-004-universal-studios

A big positive aspect of the attraction was that guests are permitted into the experience in groups of about 5 people at one time. The attendants space the small groups out just enough so that each one gets an individual experience. Hopefully they can continue this when crowds get larger. I have found that a cattle call of guests can ruin an attraction like this – especially one that features tight corridors and timed effects/scares. Smaller groups also help make the attraction more intimate – it feels like your group’s personal story of the zombie apocalypse instead of just an animatronic museum to walk five feet, look, and repeat ad nauseam. With these group sizes, you ARE part of the experience.

Also used, albeit with way more restraint than in the park’s Horror Nights mazes, are some smell effects! Again – they are sparingly used to a much greater effect in The Walking Dead attraction, which I appreciate. I have always felt Horror Nights mazes rely on those scents too much, but I digress…

the-walking-dead-attraction-039-universal-studios

After going through the gauntlet of Negan’s goons, you end up in the Harrison County Hospital featured in The Walking Dead’s pilot episode (where Rick wakes up, confused and hurt). From there, it is a very cool walk down memory lane – going sequentially though the (so far) six seasons of the AMC show. You will visit several of the show’s major locations – all made real by some seriously talented craftsmen. The prison, Arno Farms, and a lot more are featured so look sharp for little Easter Eggs planted about the various sets you’ll walk through.

A big question we kept wondering was what would happen to the attraction during the park’s annual Halloween season Horror Nights event? Would it become a maze or would it stay the same. It appears as though that the attraction will get additional set pieces, live-actor talent, etc to ratchet it to an even scarier level! This is a brilliant move by Universal Studios and I can’t wait to experience it first-hand when the scary season comes around. Does this mean that the attraction will take the place of any other The Walking Dead experience for Halloween Horror Nights? Time will tell.

the-walking-dead-attraction-050-universal-studios

Speaking of live actors – yes, there are definitely live actors portraying both the living, the dead, and the walking dead inside the attraction. However, more of the scares and gimmicks come from some amazing animatronics than a traditional haunted house with live monsters around every corner. This smaller amount of live actors does not detract from the experience, however, as the actors that are in the walk through attraction are used to great effect and, as I mentioned, the animatronics and props are incredible.

Overall, The Walking Dead walk through attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood is a terrific addition to the park and shows off a lot of elements from the AMC television show which fans will love. I definitely recommend checking The Walking Dead attraction out when it opens on July 4, it is a scary and fun romp through an amazing television show brought to life all around you.

The Walking Dead Media Event Photo Gallery

Laylax Named Krytac’s Japanese Distributor

krytac-laylax

September 25, 2015 – California, United States – KRYTAC, KRISS Group’s premier brand of training weapons and recreational shooting products, is proud to announce Laylax Inc, a premier source of airsoft upgrade parts and accessories, as the exclusive distribution partner for Japan. Initial availability of KRYTAC models and accessories will begin in November 2015.

“Laylax Inc. was the obvious partner to represent KRYTAC in Japan,” states Tim Seargeant, Marketing Manager for KRYTAC. “Their longstanding reputation and commitment to the growth of the community fit perfectly with our strategy to bring KRYTAC to Asia. We’re excited to expand the KRYTAC brand across the globe and to be doing so with an esteemed partner such as Laylax Inc.”

“Owning real firearms is prohibited in Japan, which is why airsoft enthusiasts admire real gun manufacturers,” according to Masaki Koshida, Senior Licensing Manager at Laylax Inc. “When KRISS Group launched KRYTAC it excited the Japanese airsoft community and they have been keeping a watchful eye on the brand. We feel honored to have been chosen as the official distribution partner and we are ready to establish KRYTAC in Japan.”

Starting this fall, all variants of the Trident M4 series will be available to Japanese airsoft enthusiasts. Also part of the initial release, the Officially Licensed Warsport LVOA AEG will be available for pre-orders.

All airsoft models will be compliant with Japanese muzzle velocity regulations.

For more information on KRYTAC, please visit www.krytac.com. For more information on Laylax Inc., please visit www.laylax.com.

Marvel Announces All-New and All-Different Marvel Universe After Secret Wars Concludes

all-new-marvel-universe-1

New York, NY – June 5th, 2015 – Marvel Comics, the home of the greatest Super Heroes of all time, introduces a new direction for the Marvel Universe. This is All-New All-Different Marvel!

Coming this fall, all fans will be introduced to the perfect start to the Marvel Universe featuring the biggest creative names in the comic book industry – Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Mark Waid, Dan Slott, Charles Soule, G. Willow Wilson, Jeff Lemire, along with many more, will have a hand in crafting an all-new and all-different Marvel Universe.

“This is the Marvel Universe,” says Axel Alonso, Editor In Chief.  “This fall, we will be inviting readers into a universe comprised of bold new landscapes populated with characters and teams both familiar and brand-new.”

all-new-marvel-universe-2

“This is going to be an absolute game changer for Marvel,” says David Gabriel, SVP of Sales & Marketing. “Similar to the most successful comics industry program of this century – Marvel NOW!, All-New All-Different Marvel is going to be presenting fans new #1’s for every title coming out during this event. This is a brand new beginning that honors our past 76 years, yet takes a bold step with daring, and accessible, entry points. Simply stated – this is Marvel!”

This fall, the comics industry’s greatest creators invite fans into a spectacular universe that truly represents the marvelous world outside your window!

The All-New All-Different Marvel Universe has arrived!

Jurassic World: Asset Containment Unit Fan Film Released #JurassicWorld

jurassic-world-containment-unit

If you keep up with the world of airsoft, chances are you are familiar with the exploits of US Army veteran Gregory Wong, also known as “Spartan117GW”. He has posted up a new Jurassic World fan film on his YouTube channel – a film he and a few others made on virtually no budget whatsoever. The results? Pretty good!

Jurassic World: Active Containment Unit

Batman: Arkham Knight Voice Cast Revealed

batman-arkham-knight-23

May 7, 2015 — Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment confirmed the voice talent behind some of the most notable characters in Batman™: Arkham Knight, the epic finale to the award winning Batman: Arkham trilogy from Rocksteady Studios.  Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) joins the cast as James Gordon, Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga) as Barbara Gordon, John Noble (Sleepy Hollow, Fringe) as Scarecrow and Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, Hart of Dixie) as Nightwing.

Banks, Greene, Noble and Porter join an ensemble cast that includes fan-favorites Kevin Conroy, who returns as Batman; Tara Strong as Harley Quinn; Troy Baker as Two-Face and Nolan North as Penguin.

You can view “The Official BAK Video – The Voices of Arkham.” featuring Banks, Conroy, Green and Noble its entirety here: http://youtu.be/tbg9Bqsvifg

Batman: Arkham Knight is based on DC Comics’ core Batman license and will be available on June 23, 2015 exclusively for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, and Windows PC.

Batman: Arkham Knight brings the award-winning Batman: Arkham trilogy from Rocksteady Studios to its epic conclusion. Developed exclusively for the new generation of consoles and PCs, Batman: Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady’s uniquely designed version of the Batmobile. The highly anticipated addition of this legendary vehicle, combined with the acclaimed gameplay of the Batman: Arkham series, offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City. In this explosive finale, Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city that he is sworn to protect, as Scarecrow returns to unite the super criminals of Gotham City and destroy the Batman forever.

For more information on Batman: Arkham Knight, please visit www.batmanarkhamknight.com, https://www.facebook.com/BatmanArkham or https://twitter.com/BatmanArkham.com.

Fast & Furious – Supercharged Ride Extended Behind the Scenes Video

fast-and-furious-supercharged-2

Universal City, California, April 28, 2015 – Universal Studios HollywoodSM shifts into high gear for the June 25 opening of “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” with the launch of “Road to Fast,” a dynamic campaign featuring a series of original images and an engrossing behind-the-scenes video, including interviews with the cast of its new thrill ride: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Luke Evans.

A collection of six images, each featuring the stars of the ride depicted in a variety of action sequences, will be unveiled sequentially beginning today with a group shot of the characters racing alongside a Studio Tour tram. A lengthier, more complex look at the making-of this revolutionary new attraction, featuring insightful perspective and commentary from the cast and producers, is also being released, and can be seen here.

“Fast & Furious—Supercharged” is a technologically advanced, epic ride that reunites stars from the Fast & Furious series in a groundbreaking mega-attraction designed to catapult guests into the high-stakes underground world of street racing at perceived speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour. This high-octane ride is conceived as a new installment to the Fast & Furious franchise and will debut as the grand finale to Universal Studios Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes Studio Tour that can only be experienced at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.

Sharing their enthusiasm for the ride, the cast of “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” had this to say:
“This is new territory for us…to create something as immortal and immersive as this…that all the fans of our franchise can actually live through and be a part of,” said Vin Diesel. “It’s a testament to that loyal and dedicated fan community that has always been our #1 champion.”

“Once you go on the ride, it’s an opportunity to physically feel some of the adrenaline that we feel everyday while we’re filming,” continued Vin Diesel, adding, “Yeah, I’m excited to ride it!”

“When you have something as unique and special as the Fast & Furious franchise, you want to create an experience for the fans that they can only feel and experience at Universal Parks,” said Dwayne Johnson, continuing, “To be immortalized in a ride, is a very cooI thing. I get a chance to become Luke Hobbs and kick ass…all in 3D.”

“You’re in Hollywood already…you’re able to get on the tram and experience your favorite movie and TV show sets; that’s a big deal. Everything about Universal Studios puts you in the driver’s seat to really experience Hollywood,” said Tyrese Gibson, adding, “Fast & Furious has the best fans in the world!”

“It’s really a sensory driven experience, and I can’t wait to see what happens,” said Michelle Rodriguez, adding, “It’s so cool — the Studio Tour!”

“You’re completely immersed in the experience…you’re on a high-speed chase…it’s an amazing experience, and the guys that build these are true magicians,” said Luke Evans.

This dynamic hydraulic motion-based thrill ride will tell an original Fast & Furious story, fusing sophisticated hyper-realistic special effects with a state-of-the-art 3D audio system and 3D-HD imagery projected onto the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen. Spanning nearly 400 feet in length to encircle Studio Tour guests within a newly constructed 65,000-square-foot structure on the legendary backlot, the sprawling custom-built screen will employ 34, 4K projectors and a sophisticated projection configuration system to envelop guests in unprecedented realism.

Coupled with an intense blend of visceral effects, “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” will take guests on a wild ride that begins the moment they board the Studio Tour. Exclusive interstitial content—that was filmed with the cast members—will be featured on the tram monitors, highlighting interactions as they engage guests en route to the ride’s climatic scenes. Along the tram route sightings of numerous prop cars from the Fast & Furious series, including Dom’s Dodge Charger, will enhance the story.

Join the conversation online using #FastFuriousRide, and for all the latest news, “Like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @UniStudios.

Universal Studios Hollywood, The Entertainment Capital of L.A.SM, includes a full-day, movie-based theme park and Studio Tour; the CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex, the Universal CityWalk Cinemas and the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue. World-class rides and attractions include “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land,” the critically-acclaimed mega-attraction, “Transformers™: The Ride-3D,” the intense, award-winning ride, “King Kong 360 3-D” on the behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, “Revenge of the MummySM—The Ride” and “Jurassic Park® —The Ride.” As part of its milestone 50th anniversary celebration in 2015, new attractions include the electrifying 3D-HD thrill ride, “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” as the grand finale to the famed Studio Tour, “Springfield,” hometown of America’s favorite TV family, adjacent to the award-winning “The Simpsons RideTM” and the “Nighttime Studio Tour,” offering tours of the iconic movie backlot on select evenings.