Sunday, July 30, 2017

Florida Supercon: The Good, The Bad, and the OMG, WTF Were Organizers Thinking

For the last four days, fans flocked to the Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward Convention Center for the biggest comic convention in South Florida - Florida Supercon.  For those not familiar with comic cons, they are much more than comic books and memorabilia. Sure, there is a ton of merchandise - from t-shirts, toys, and artwork, to DVDs and rare collectibles, but there is also a variety of panels, improvs, games, and contests happening. Plus, cosplayers, cosplayers, and more cosplayers!! The highlights for me, however, at any com-con, are the celebrity appearances. Although, some of the best fun I've had at these shows is with lesser known guests who really give their time and attention to those who stop by for a visit. 

Related Post: Palm Con 2016

DC Comic Artist, Jose Delbo
Another highlight, Meeting Chris Sarandon
aka Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride

This year's predominant theme was anything Dr. Who, led by the appearance of the twelfth doctor, Peter Capaldi. Fans I spoke with said he is one of, if not the biggest, star ever to grace the Florida Supercon's line-up. All one had to do was look around the exhibit floor to notice Dr. Who fever was rampant. Also, appearing was Karen Gillan (who played Amy Pond) and Sarah Louise Madison, who is best known as one of Dr. Who's scariest monsters, the Weeping Angel. She is anything but scary in real life. My son and I were thrilled to meet all three (We waited nearly two hours in line to meet Capaldi - TOTALLY WORTH IT) and grabbed seats for Gillan's Q&A session over an hour in advance.

The Doctors are in the house! 
Missy and The Doctor

Amy and Rory

While event organizers were anticipating 53,000 attendees, they may have miscalculated their numbers causing a slew of logistical nightmares. Thursday and Friday were the mellow days, with the crowds starting to increase Friday night. By Saturday, it took me an hour to drive the 20 minutes from my hotel thanks to the traffic - which is nothing compared to the three to four hours it took some people to get through the last few miles leading to the venue. According to many fan tweets, some just gave up and turned around. Other fans told me that after waiting in traffic for 3 hours, they arrived - with pre-purchased tickets in hand - only to be held outside for a half an hour because the event was sold out, and they weren't letting anymore people in. The droves of people wrapped around the entire convention center at one point! Event organizers quickly tweeted that Saturday tickets would be honored on Sunday. This really IS a big deal and proof that, if the event is going to stay at this location (the event used to be held in Miami), organizers are going to have to deal with parking, traffic, and ticket sales issues. 

The only legal picture I was allowed to take of Capaldi - the
photo nazis were out in full force! 

Cosplayers getting into character
Not a com-con without Princess Leia, and BABY

The traffic wasn't anymore organized once inside. The wall to wall crowds could be forgiven, but queues to get autographs were very cramped. My biggest complaint about the flow of things inside is the operation of the escalators. For some reason, most escalators were heading upwards, so when hundreds of people exited Gillan's panel, they had to walk the length the center, passing six or more nearly empty UP escalators, to find the ONE down escalator. 

My son testing a lightsaber
The problem I have with any of these conventions is the outlandish prices organizers charge the patrons for autographs and photo ops. For example, a one day ticket for Saturday was $45. That will get you on the exhibit floor and into the panels. But, if you want a photo-op or autographed picture, you will pay anywhere from $20 to $155!  Yet, as long as people are willing to pay (and many ARE!), the prices will keep going up. Another fan brought up the fact that if conventions didn't charge for autographs, non-fans would just stock pile signed pictures and merchandise and profit off of them online - which makes sense. But, still......this is not a cheap form of entertainment and family fun! 

When all is said and done, my son had a blast and going rounded out his 13th birthday celebration just perfectly. However, as with others I spoke with, the event would be better off returning to Miami. Next year, I'd probably skip it and just drive a bit further to attend MegaCon in Orlando. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Best VEGAN Burgers for Summer Grilling

Summer means burgers on the grill, and just because you might be vegan or vegetarian, or simply want to go plant-based for a meal, doesn't mean you have to forego this favorite American cookout food! While there are more and more cruelty-free BBQ options popping up, these are my two favorite substitutions to the traditional beef or turkey burger. 

The recent unveiling of The Beyond Burger by Beyond Meat boasts it is perfect for those non-meat eating individuals who want a more beefy consistency in their veggie burger, complete with "blood" - courtesy of beet juice. I'll admit, at first, the thought of a vegan burger that acted more like a real meat burger grossed me out. If I wanted my food to bleed, I would just eat animals. But I don't, so I was hesitant to give these burgers a try. 

But, boy, am I glad I did. The Beyond Burger definitely beats the more common (and drier) black bean burgers popular in restaurants and the frozen food aisle. On the grill, these meatless burgers are fabulous, and I enjoy experimenting with the toppings. Here, I topped my burger with lettuce, tomato, and avocado and served it with a side of grilled zucchini. 

TIP: Since I really didn't want a vegan burger that "bleeds," I grilled mine for five minutes on each side, instead of the recommended three minutes. The burger is still juicy and delicious, and leftovers warm up nicely the next day. 

My second favorite "burger" is a grilled portobello mushroom. Simply brush each side with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling. This one is topped with tabouleh, lettuce, and Follow Your Heart pepperjack vegan cheese. 

TIP: Make sure you cook the mushroom all the way through, otherwise it will be tough (up to ten minutes on each side, depending on thickness.) 

Finding tasty vegan or vegetarian alternatives is getting easier and easier, and I love hearing from people who give these options a try - even if just for "Meatless Monday." 

Have a good topping suggestion for me? Please let me know in the comments section. 

Read more of my Going Vegan series here

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Nik's Piks)

Spider-MAN? Well, maybe not quite yet, but this 15-year-old is getting there. We were first introduced to Tom Holland's Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War.  I loved him then, and I love him now in the recently released Spider-Man: Homecoming. Die-hard fans must forgive me. This is not a comparison to any other Spider-Man film or portrayal because I've never seen any others. With that said, I can only say this is yet another Marvel success and a truly enjoyable superhero film. 

"If you're nothing without this suit, then you shouldn't have it." ~ Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming is not an origination film, but is the coming of age story of the youngest Avenger. Having recently been recruited to assist Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, (Robert Downey, Jr.) in the battle against Captain America, Peter now finds himself back in his mundane high school life waiting to be called upon again to help the Avengers. In the meanwhile, he gains experience using his new suit created by Stark Industries and being the friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man by fighting crime in Queens, NY. When Peter finally stumbles upon something big - enter the after-plot of the 2012 film The Avengers - he must prove to Stark, and, more importantly, himself - that he is worthy of the suit and a place on the Avengers team. 

Holland is adorable (Yeah, I know, not the first word that comes to most people's minds when they think superhero.) and he, along with his sidekick Ned (Jacob Batalon) will have you laughing the entire film. The film also stars Michael Keaton as our villain, Vulture, Marisa Tomei as Peter's Aunt May, and Zendaya, as Peter's classmate, Michelle. 

Watch Official Trailer

Spider-Man: Homecoming is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments. What does that mean for parents? There are a ton of loud explosives and action sequences that might be too much for young viewers, but nothing gory, and the worst of the language is "bullshit" and "shitty". In my opinion, as far as PG-13 superhero films go, this reboot of a Marvel classic is one of the more family-friendly films. 

Check out more summer movies including Wonder Woman

Read more Family Movie Reviews and Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews for mature audiences. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Wonder Woman (Nik's Piks)

Well, I have nothing to say - nothing negative, that is.  I finally went to see Wonder Woman, a film I was excited to see, then wasn't, then heard such great things about it, I figured I would go.  However, I am sure that if someone (ANYONE) told me Chris Pine co-stars in the film as our heroine's love interest, I would have made a harder effort to get to theaters on opening weekend! Needless to say, Robin Wright's performance of Antiope made my day as well! 

"It is our sacred duty to defend the world." ~ Wonder Woman

As all first installments of superhero films go, the entire film is the backstory to Princess Diana aka Diana Prince, whose current day resurrection was introduced to movie fans in the 2016 film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  From the secret Amazon island of Themyscira, to the battlefields of World World I, the story of how everyone's favorite Amazonian came to be was nothing short of spectacular. In fact, don't be surprised if you get chills when she finally lets her hair down and goes to battle. 

Gal Gadot is the perfect Wonder Woman - strong, determined, and absolutely beautiful on the inside and out - not an easy feat when you consider she had some big shoes to fill.  I am sure the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, was proud of Gadot's portrayal of the beloved television character Carter brought to life some 40 years ago! If I have to give one criticism about the film, I would say that it was a shame Warner Bros. didn't bring Carter back for a cameo appearance - you know, for old time's sake. How cool would that have been??!!

Watch Official Trailer

Regular readers know I prefer Marvel to DC, but, with that said this is the best DC film, and I loved the not-so-subtle messages of how humankind is its own poison. The film also boasts the first female director, Patty Jenkins, of a studio superhero film. Double bravo! This film will please most, if not all, moviegoers, whether they are comic fans or not. As of the writing of this review, the film is still out in theaters, so try and get there if you can. 

Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content. 

Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Szen Zone (Book Review)

NOTE: I received this book free from the author/publisher requesting an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.

The self-help book, Szen Zone: Reaching a State of Positive Change by Gary Szenderski took me months of attempting to finish it, and, although I made it through most of the book, I just couldn't do it.  It has a great concept - I mean, who doesn't need even a little bit of help being more positive - but, often the concepts were not fully explored. The book is very choppy and unclear.  

When I was first approached with this book, I was looking forward to it and figured it would make a great nightstand book - one that can be read piece by piece each night and reflected upon.  However, while Szenderski does provide the reader with some opportunity for self-reflection,  he provides little to no concrete steps for self-improvement.  At least, no innovative ones. 

I enjoyed some of the relatable stories and scenarios, and, at times, they did draw me in, only to lose me again with the imprecise chatter that followed. 

The best self-help books are written in a way that not only inspire and encourage, and identify common misconceptions or practices in us, but does so in an entertaining way. Unfortunately, this author falls short of that.  Overall, the book is nothing more than a collection of obvious observations with no new insight. 

Read more of my Book Reviews