When I submitted my 2020 vacation requests back in December, I had all kinds of fun activities in the works. In addition to taking a week off in March for a Spring road trip that would never happen, I also took a chunk of July off for fan conventions. The idea was to attend G-FEST with my sons, Days of the Dead Indianapolis with my friend Jason, and see Svengoolie at Flashback Weekend here in Chicago. Unfortunately, this would not be the year for any of us to travel or partake in large gatherings. When the world shut down in March, I still hung on to the naive hope things would be back to normal by the summer but it was not to be the case. By the time July rolled around, the only event standing was Days of the Dead. Prior to all this, my friend, Jason had purchased his plane tickets from New England while generously getting us both VIP passes. Exactly a week before the event, and with their guests dropping like flies, I persuaded him to postpone his visit for Chicago in November (assuming things are better by then). Jason successfully switched his airfare and DOTD had no problem swapping tickets. They also offered folks who did make this show “half off” on their next one. This amiability, however, would not prevent them from getting roasted on social media by many who found them irresponsible for not just postponing this show in the first place. Undeterred, DOTD would remain steadfast as long as it was legal for them to do so. In a related story, the city of Atlanta shut down there next show in August just days before this one. I’m not sure why they went through with Indianapolis amidst all the controversy but I’m guessing it had something to do with whatever arrangement they had with the Marriott. Regardless, there was no question that this would be a crippled convention; hemorrhaging vendors and guests right up until their doors opened last Friday. For my part, I decided to honor my hotel reservation, follow all safety guidelines, purchase a regular weekend pass, and go by myself. I had the luxury of self-quarantining afterward since my kids would be with their mother and I was not due back to the office until August. Furthermore, I looked forward to pampering myself in a nice hotel while taking a little break from single parenthood and having worked my ass off throughout the shutdown. I make no apologies for my attendance and, at the risk of being judged, will now share that experience.
Boy, that quarantine sure made me appreciate my physical media collection. With so many folks at home streaming, most services had to reduce their quality and, with a few exceptions, didn’t have much I was interested in anyway. I already stood on my physical media soapbox last year so today I’m going to focus on some of the products themselves. Imprint Films is a new premium blu-ray label courtesy of an Australian company called Via Vision Entertainment. Last March (just before the Apocalypse) they advertised their first five releases; films that were never upgraded to Blu-ray before. Three of these, I really wanted in my collection and quickly pre-ordered despite the steep shipping charges. They finally arrived last week and I eagerly watched all three. Was it worth it? Well, let’s dive in and see. Also note that, despite coming from the land down under, these releases are all Region Free and will play on US Blu-ray players.
Although the Covid-19 virus had already begun hitting the news – with many of us probably already walking around with it – we could never have guessed the 2020 C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo) would be our last major gathering before a social Apocalypse. Back then, Corona was just a side story and the only masks seen here were the kinds used to conceal one’s secret identity. If I’d known then what I know now I’d have done all three days of this event rather than just Sunday. But no-o-o-o-o. I had to give in to work demands while saving my vacation days for a Spring break road trip that would never happen. Sadly, “2020” would be an insane year rather than hindsight but it is what it is. So let’s look back on that carefree day that now seems like a lifetime ago.
Board games have sure come a long way since the days of Sorry and Monopoly. My family still enjoys those games from time to time but with my youngest now sixteen years old, we’ve been seeking more sophisticated games to bring to the table. A couple of my kids have formed gaming groups with their friends and I was just in the process of putting one of my own together when the Covid-19 virus hit. Pandemic aside, we’ve been living in an exciting era for board game enthusiasts with new releases being revealed each month. Not surprisingly, many of our favorites have movie themes or horror elements that make them even more enticing. Here are few in my collection we’ve been playing since the “stay at home” policy went into effect.
Regular horror con attendees have their own “A” list celebrities, ones the average theatergoer has probably never heard of. These include folks like Kane Hodder, Felissa Rose, and Tom Atkins – guests who treat their fans like friends. Us horror fans are nothing if not loyal and, in return, make multiple trips to their tables, support their external projects, or even dedicate vlogs and blogs to them such as this one. Amongst those hallowed individuals are the Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia. These twin film-makers from Canada have a reputation for ramping up the excitement level at every show they attend while leaving with a legion of devoted followers. Somehow I’d never met them, but the 2019 Days of the Dead in Chicago gave me an opportunity to rectify this. On the morning of the convention’s second day, the two would kick off the day’s celebrity panels with a special Q&A. Needless to say, my friends Jason Schoolcraft, Ron & Angela Urban, and I made sure to take advantage of our VIP passes and get ourselves a front-row seat.
Chicago’s 2019 Days of the Dead took place at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont; a new venue for this convention but certainly not for me. After fifteen G-FESTS and a handful of Flashback Weekends, I was well acquainted with the place as well as its monolithic manager, Don Johnston. This event took place last November; not the most ideal time for me but workable. Several months earlier, my friend Jason Schoolcraft generously purchased VIP passes for us and arranged to fly in from New England to join me. As many of you know, the man loves film and I always enjoy our pre/post-convention movie marathons. We arrived at the hotel around 3 PM that Friday and were greeted by my friends, Ron and Angela Urban. I was just introducing them to Jason when Richard Dreyfuss breezed past us. The Academy Award-winning star of JAWS and Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a bit shorter than I’d envisioned and had noticeably bad knees but there was no denying it was him.