Con Man: Alan Tudyk Vimeo Series Ends on a High

Sean Astin, Alan Tudyk and Nolan North

Alan Tudyk’s homage to all things convention-al, as in Con (vention) Man on Vimeo has ended on a hilarious high note. The last three episodes were released on October 21, aka BTTF day, and had some of the funniest moments yet. Apart from all this humor and nods, winks and hat doffing to Firefly, Tudyk, and his gang, decided reward all those fans who plunked out to rent the entire series.

Literally a day before the final trio of installments were aired, Alan, via Vimeo, announced that those of us who forked out for the whole shooting match, as it were, now own the series and can watch it “until the end of time.” Or something along those lines…

This is a pretty epic turn of events for anyone who: a) was not on board to fund the project but excited about it anyway and b) or finds Tudyk’s comedic talents naturally funny.  Remember Alan was adept at comic performances as long ago as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story which was years before Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

The last episodes had more of Fillion and included the lovely, and oh so funny Amy Acker who proved that she too is incredibly adept at comedy.  It also saw the return of Alison Haislip as Jack’s assistant (Only mentioned because this reviewer has a huge crush on this performer because not only is she gorgeous but her comedy chops are strong as well…just saying.).

Kudos to Skyler Day, there cannot be many performers who can pull off “blissfully stoned” so well and to that “fat-suit” placed on Liza Lapira. Not since the Korean high school horror flick Wishing Stairs has there been so convincing a prosthetic. 

Fans who coughed up donations for this comic fest of in-jokes and cameos by a plethora of Joss Whedon alumni and the big guy himself, must be pleased. There were bits by those who are not from the Whedon “stable” like Michael Dorn and Casper Van Dien as the bartender (a number of times) and other “icons” in Geekdom like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. Along with many others from the science fiction world.

Some of the middle bits, those with Leslie Jordan failed to connect with this viewer but fortunately the video game voiceover artist that is legend, aka Nolan North being part of the series, along with a number of other favorites and sly winks to Firefly made up for  the lackluster bit in the middle. Also a quick peek at Jewel Staite in full Captain Mal garb was another lovely treat.

Stand out moment of the last three episodes (apart from the sleeping pee scene in Jack’s bathroom) had to be Jack Donner and his 90 year-old “lady stuntman” schtick. The scene between Mindy Sterling and Donner has me in hysterics. Note to other viewers, if easily embarrassed do not watch this scene in a fast food restaurant. 

Honorary shout out to Fillion’s running about with the cops handgun, as Jack, and “Screw Vegas.” Amy Acker channels her inner crazy beautifully.

As anyone who has ever attended a comic con, or Star Trek convention, or any themed con, will recognize the madness and excitement levels that are all apart of these events.  This is also a lovely way to see many of the old Firefly and Serenity players together, albeit mostly via cameos, but together all the same.

Alan Tudyk’s Con Man ends on a high note and the Vimeo series was funny as well as fun.  Enjoyable gags and great cameos make this one heck of a great series.  Check it out and prepare laugh all the way through.

 

 

Con Man: The Hilarity Continues on Vimeo

Alan Tudyk in Con Man

Alan Tudyk’s Con Man (short for Convention Man) continues to shine on Vimeo. Some fans have complained that the price of viewing all the hilarious antics of Tudyk’s character is too steep.  If one rents the entire “season” it does work out to be a little on the dear side.  While the overall tempo of the series is a little uneven, the bits with Leslie Jordon sagged and felt forced. This could, however, be down to the viewers personal taste and not from the material on hand.

Each episode of Con Man is presented in “blocks” of three or more.  the initial offerings were presented on October 1, and included three episodes and guest star Felicia Day. The next release date, October 7,  made four further episodes available and the last “installment,” October 14, went back to three.

The end result of this shotgun release of episodes is appreciated as having to wait for, say another week, for the next 10 to 17 minute installment would have been frustrating. With a number of segments that can be viewed in one sitting, the action, even the bits with Leslie Jordan, moves smoothly and the comedy has a sort of continuity.

The series, if one can call it that, is improving with each multiple release. The last trio of episodes were beyond hysterical.  With Wray Nerely (Tudyk) being fired from a video game voice over session (with veteran voice over artist Nolan North and Milo Ventimiglia staying on) and then getting a call from his old Spectrum buddy, and costar, Jack (Nathan Fillion) about doing a film together and Milo offering up a comic book gig that pays $5K.

At Jack’s house, Wray gets bad news from Faith (Alison Haislip) while playing Marco Polo. Later at the comic book store an inebriated Nerely manages to insult his marine assistant and barely escapes a mob out for his blood. Said mob includes Michael Dorn, Seth Green   and Kevin Grevioux

The last three episodes are beyond hysterical as Wray stumbles from one disaster to another.  One scene, with Ventimiglia, where Nerely keeps putting his elbow in what looks to be paint, is spot on.  With his booking agent texting him repeatedly throughout the interaction between Wray, the dumpster and Milo.

Each episode feels like a “spot the celeb” or even spot the science fiction icon, or Firefly costar, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau and Fillion all are in Con Man, although Fillion is billed as “starring” and the rest are in cameos.  Rather interestingly, Maher has an incredibly long cameo, lasting over three episodes.

The entire series, which is getting funnier with each episode, feels like a sort of science fiction convention potpourri. There are performers associated with Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica,  et al, along with Geek Goddess Felicia Day,  the iconic Wil Wheaton and Seth Green as well as a plethora of “names” like Nolan North (who is, perhaps,  the man who has voiced more video games than anyone…ever).

Con Man cast...partial...

Con Man has only three episodes left in its first season.  Wray Nerely has gotten the worst possible news and while Jack, his film star buddy from Spectrum is overjoyed at the prospect of doing a film with his old pal, Wray is beyond distraught.

This fan-funded project, via Indiegogo.com is  a real treasure. Sure, at $15 for the entire season it is a bit “costly.” But…For fans of science fiction, Joss Whedon (and yes Joss has a cameo), Firefly, The Guild, and all things geek and sundry (see what we did there) and who actually suffer “nerdgasms”  at the thought of attending the  next  Comic Con?

It is so worth it.

Con Man, playing on a Vimeo screen near you…or on your laptop, tablet, smartphone…well  you get the idea…

Horizon: Science Fiction Web Series is Cracking Entertainment

Steven and Chloe see the ship

Paul Dudbridge is, in essence, the English Robert Rodriguez of science fiction webisodes with his cottage industry approach. Directing, co-writing, co-editing, producing and working as cinematographer on what is obviously a labour of love. The end result is Horizon, a 10 part web series (with the tagline: In 2015 Everything Changes) which follows the  journey of five people who are affected by the sudden appearance of spaceship over Bristol.  The series starts on 5 October, 2015 and from the first frame, the viewer is caught up in the events on screen.

Starring, Paul Tonkin, Simon Pierce (who also co-wrote the series along with Paul and Chris Marshfield), Kate Marie DaviesCassandra Charlick, Alicia Ancel, Kessie Bartlett and Jason Allen, the webisodes, that run from four to 10 minutes in length, look brilliant and the acting,  based upon a pre-screening of the first three episodes, is spot on. Combined with exceptional CGI effects this is compelling viewing. 

Each segment moves quickly and contains a “bit of business” from certain characters and a bit of action.  (There appears to be a “hidden” thread as well, keen eyed viewers will notice a small mark…) The  webisodes project a sense of realism, from the use of ITV real-life newscaster Ian Axton (who also played a newscaster for the superlative ITV drama Broadchurch) to the “everyman” characters we watch attempting to come to grips with the “invasion” and their efforts to escape the threat.

Other “bits” includes Davies’ character Nicole, after being helped from the wrecked car by Steven, she grabs her cell (mobile) phone and after checking it, leans close to Steven, peers closely at his mouth and asks, somewhat accusingly, “Have you been drinking?” Positively brilliant bit of business that had this viewer chuckling and nodding while acknowledging that if one were in Steven’s place, it would be so annoying from his point of view.

Later on, Dudbridge uses the cell phone as a scene enhancer and as a sign of just how much the smart phone has become an essential part of our lives. The  scene shows that these bits of modern technology control us as well.  In the same setting, on top of a carpark where Steven’s younger sister Katie is hanging with her hoodie mates watching the spaceship, when the alien craft defends itself against attacking aircraft, the device shows us what the aliens used; EMP.

This is science fiction presented on an intimate level yet it feels big. The airliner,  the escalation of events and  that huge alien spaceship hovering over Bristol. Entertainment that delivers enough impressive set pieces to raise goosebumps on the viewer.  After the spacecraft sets off the EMP blast there is a jet airliner that comes zooming into the frame, just over the fleeing hoodies.  The aircraft is so low that it causes the snotty Katie and big brother Steven to duck for cover. For such short blasts of entertainment this is a wonderful bit of business.

Steven, Dan, Chloe and Nicole set out to gather supplies, and Katie, in order to escape to the  country.  Despite the shortness of the episodes, the characters are clearly defined and their interactions with one another are revealing.

The cinematography is  spot on and, for once, the sound is perfect. The actors are not drowned out by the soundtrack and the “foley” effects do not override the action. The blend of ambient sound along with the dialogue is just right.

Horizon is cracking entertainment that leaves the viewer ready for more. Dudbridge has said there will be a second season if all goes according to plan. These type of shows are what the Internet could have been invented for. Slick, polished and feeling like a big budget production with some stand out acting from the cast, this is magic in a web series.

The cast of Horizon

Horizon starts 5 October and for more information about the show, the crew, the cast and the story head over to horizonwebseries.com. Like the tagline says, “In 2015 everything changes,” check out the series site and see why.

 

My Summer Vacation: Acting and Adventure

My Summer Vacation

The film I worked on this summer has now been made available for public viewing on Vimeo. It was filmed in July around Sidmouth, England with an intimate cast and crew. I worked with some brilliantly talented people and hopefully will work with them again. The experience was another life changer for me.

I had given up the idea of ever working in a profession that I’d been hooked on since my teen epiphany that this was the ideal occupation for me. When I reluctantly turned my back on it, I knew that I would never have the chance to prove that I still had the chops for this type of work. I was wrong about that, just as I’ve been wrong about many things in my life. One thing I think I’m right about is, I have always honestly believed that people are born to be actors, writers, directors, et al. I still do.

Just as there are people who have certain party tricks; like being able to imitate Christopher Walken or John Wayne after a couple of drinks, there are others who have a talent that they were born with. They enter the world as a sort of idiot savant. The ability; the talent, exists already. All they need is the opportunity to develop the skill required to polish and hone that innate talent. Like the joke goes, it takes practice to get to Carnegie  Hall.

My month of July 2013 (my summer vacation, if you will) was filled with excitement. Not only did I get to step in front of the camera for the first time in years, I also got to prove to myself that I had not lost the urge, or the ability, to act. It was still a part of me and though I’d turned my back on it, the creativity had not left me. Nor had the imagination needed to “pull it off.”

The end result was a project that I could take pride in. All because Natasha Harmer took a chance to use an old out-of-practice actor, who could have turned out to be  a ham or an actor who could not act. She writes a blog titled Films and Things, which was the name of the production company incidentally, and if you haven’t already, you should go check her out.

For those of you who want to see the film, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, just click on the link. Once you’ve seen it, drop by and let Natasha “Tash” know what you thought. Personally, I think that every single person attached to the film did a bang-em-up job, but I could be a little prejudiced.

My Summer Vacation
In Mandela House July, 2013

The second thing I did in July was to travel to South Africa to track down a couple of sources who’d turned our paper, the Las Vegas Guardian Express (guardianlv.com) onto the news that Nelson Mandela was no longer with us. Despite the huge smoke screen thrown up by the world’s press, based on news released from his children who have their own reasons for not acknowledging the great man’s passing, we received information that was disturbing and obscene. We’d been told by quite a few sources that the man was really gone.

I will not go into the story, you can follow the above link to see the articles written by myself and other journalists in the paper. I was chosen, at the last minute, to fly to the country and search for the truth. I have written about my experiences and will be adding more of what I learned about the country  in the paper itself.

I met people in Johannesburg who watched over me in this dangerous area of the world and treated me like a long lost family member. I travelled around the local areas, saw where the poor lived and the rich. I went to Pretoria visiting  the hospital where Madiba was interred.  I spoke to fellow journalists who were camped outside the hospital waiting for the next act in this tragedy to unfold.

This trip was another life changing event. It  made me realise that I was addicted to the adrenaline rush. The feeling of hyper-reality that comes with the territory of increased heart rate and focussed vision. Johannesburg emits a feeling of underlying danger, somewhat akin to working in the prison service when there is trouble brewing from certain elements. You are on edge and, seemingly, aware of everything going on. Afterward, you are exhausted by all of the hyper-awareness.

I have been incredibly lucky in the time following my near brush last year with the grim reaper. I have, in essence, rediscovered myself. I’ve learned that there are some things in me that will never change. The actor in my soul will never die and my yearning for adventure, aka adrenaline addiction, will always be a constant companion. I have also rediscovered my love of writing.

I’ve written about all the above mentioned  things before, but, I’ve been a bit lackadaisical with my blog of late. My  work for the paper has pretty much overtaken everything in my life at the moment. But I will remember to make time for my inner actor and will soon be preparing a showreel to see if anyone else would like to hire an old “not-so-out-of-practice actor again.

Until then, my summer vacation with its adventures in acting, world news, and dangerous surroundings will be in my memory book. If I close my eyes, I can see South Africa unfold before me just a vividly as the day I arrived. It is amazing that the end result of being so close to death has made me feel more alive than ever before.

I have been truly blessed by whoever, or whatever, is in charge. I thank all of you lovely people who take the time to follow my little blog and who leave comments or like my efforts. May you all find what makes you feel truly alive in your lifetime.

Michael SmithMy Summer Vacation

United Kingdom

18 October 2013