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Interview with Aurora O’Brien

Interview with Aurora O’Brien

 By Michael Bradley

[Note:  This article is for publication in The WOD Magazine and a future podcast of KWOD Radio.  Aurora O’Brien is one of the many awesome Arizona cosplayers and models.  Haven’t moved to Arizona yet?  LOL, you have no idea what you are missing.]

 MB:  Today our interview is with Aurora O’Brien, an outstanding young cosplayer and professional model.  Most people see you at events or photos and have no idea the true diversity of your interests.  You studied at the Art Institute of Phoenix and are an artist as well as a model correct?

AO: Yes! My dream has always been to be an artist. To create something from nothing is the best feeling in the world.  After attending though, I lost interest in art completely, not drawing for over five years. I soon realized I had to let out my creative energy somehow so I decided to give modeling a try. I later linked up with famous American comic book artist Steve Rude and became his model in exchange for lessons! He helped me regain my passion for art, and now I can’t stop!

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MB:  Tell me about your outdoor lifestyle.  I know you have an interest in motorcycles, riding horses, and even welding.

AO: Oh yes! I’m just one of those people who loves an adventure! These are my escapes from reality. There is nothing like hopping on my bike to go see my horse, spending the afternoon with her, then making my way back home to help fix something. A fun lil fact, is that I did not learn to ride before getting my bike or horse. I just decided I wanted to do it, and learned along the way!

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MB: How long have you been into cosplay now, and what got you started?

AO: I first became interested in cosplay in middle school…well, I mean I wanted to dress up like my favorite anime characters. I went to my first con in 2009 and had the time of my life! I felt like I had finally met people I could connect with. Sadly, I did not have much money and I was only able to attend two others in the next few years. After I began modeling though, things changed. One my amazing photographers paid for my ticket and gas costs to get in just so he could take my picture and hang out. Then I began getting paid to be a booth babe and asked to cosplay more characters! It’s so amazing how things work out sometimes!!

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MB: What are some of your favorite characters to cosplay?

AO: Revy from Black Lagoon & Red Sonja for sure! I just love their rough around the edges attitude and the way they rose up from a rough past. As they say, the flower that blooms from adversity is the most beautiful…or in this case, badass!!

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MB:  Do your cosplay choices match those you read and watch, or are there some differences?

AO: Yes, 100%. I cannot cosplay the character unless I can connect with them in some way. Otherwise it just isn’t all that fun. If I have a request for a cosplay, I will check out the series first. Besides, it’s just another excuse to watch more anime!

MB:  How many cons and events/photo shoots are you doing per year?

AO: That is a hard question…Sadly I cannot afford to attend many cons. Usually, I only get the opportunity to go to about three or four a year. As far as photo shoots go, I average around 75 per year and the events are always a surprise. I am a brand ambassador so I work anything from a cigar girl at Barrett Jackson to promoting liquor at clubs on the weekends or holidays, and even caddying for golfers (including the D-backs) for charity events. What can I say? I am all over the place.

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MB:  You look a lot different in many of your shots, which is a credit to your modeling skills.  When I saw you at Amazing Arizona Con with Mary DeBalfo, I at first did not recognize you.  You even had a contest to find you this year at Phoenix Comic Con.  How many people were able to found you each day?

AO: Thank you so much, it’s something I take a lot of pride in. I was shocked at how many people found me each day! I certainly felt the love! It was so great to finally meet the people who follow my page in person! It’s much better than just reading messages!

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MB:  No one naturally looks good on camera.  I never met a model who had it easy.  When you wore your Red Sonja outfit one day at Phoenix Comic Con, I was kind of shocked at how ripped your abs were.  It reminded me of Toni Darling, and I know she does physical training for a living.  Do you have a special diet and exercise regimen as well?

AO: Oh my, you are so sweet to say that!! Well, honestly I don’t enjoy working out in conventional ways. Sure I do some crunches and yoga from time to time, but I find that hula hooping, dancing, riding my horse, jump roping, and playing Kinect on Xbox is WAY more fun!

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MB:  Are there certain photographers you have recently worked with that you would recommend to other cosplayers/models?

AO: Adam Patrick Murray is fantastic!! He is so easy to work with, creative, and catches the character in a simple, clean, yet engaging way. Another one would be Dave Kelley. He is sort of my go to guy, and one of my best friends. We just had our 30th shoot together the other day!! He is amazing and SOOOO creative!! As far as professional modeling photos go, Michael Luna is the best Arizona has!!

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MB:  What are some of your favorite events or locations?

AO: The geek in me loves Amazing Arizona Con! It’s not too big, not too small….its juuuust right! You have much more time to get to know your favorite artist and authors. Not to mention you can actually walk in the aisles without getting bumped and crinkling your brand new comic book!! The rebel in me however, loves working bike week selling cigars! The crowds are so free spirited, fun, and are always offering me free beer!

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MB: Do you make all your outfits or do you have some preferred helpers?

AO: Here is where the pros will get mad at me… I cannot sew. Instead I go on the hunt. Thrift stores are wonderful for piecing together outfits, and finding other clothes to bring to photo shoots.

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MB: What are some of your best cosplay moments?

AO: Meeting fans is always a touching moment. It’s still hard for me to believe that people are legitimately interested in meeting me and hearing my opinions. That being said, one of my all time favorite moments, was at an anime con before I was a ‘public figure’. It was help at a hotel that had a bar in the center. Since I was cosplaying Revy, it only seemed appropriate to have a drink…you know, get into character and all. As soon as I sat down, a man ordered me a shot of rum, winked, then walked away (Black Lagoon fans will understand).

Soon after another guest approached me & bought me a shot then handed me a six inch moveable Revy statue (which I still use today for my art). He said I did an excellent job with the cosplay and he would consider it an honor if I took the gift, and a shot with him! We downed our drinks, hugged and he left…I think there were about three others that came almost immediately after to have a shot with “Revy” before I decided that was enough.

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MB: Do you cosplay just for fun, or do you have a store and blog site we can plug for you?  Also, for photographers out there and people needing advertising or spokespersons, what is the best way for them to book you?

AO: I cosplay for the fun of it! What other reason is there? I do have a store where prints are available, but that’s only to help with some of the costs of cosplaying. You are welcome to visit my store at aurorart.storenvy.com. If anyone is interested in hiring me for an event they can contact me on my website, www.auroraobrien.com or send me an email at dmobrien88@gmail.com

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MB: How safe do you feel at cons now that the attendance has grown so much? Is it safe to walk from parking lots in costume? Are the bigger crowds bringing out “touchy” people who break barriers they shouldn’t?

AO: I am exceptionally thankful to say I don’t really get messed with at cons. I think I have a natural aura around me that says, “ I may be cute, but I can kick your a**”. I’m pretty thankful for that too, because I would hate to subconsciously knock someone out over a wandering hand… again.

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MB: What advice do you have for people starting out?

AO: HAVE FUN!! There are no rules, you are among friends. Be fearless, and if anyone makes fun of you, just laugh it off. For those people, just aren’t your people, and are probably just jealous of how awesome, brave, and fun you are!! Just be you, and make new friends. That’s what it is all about, don’t forget that.

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MB: Who would you like to give a shout out for being someone who helped you get started with modeling and cosplay and friends you look forward to seeing at events?

AO: My shout out would be to all of my amazing fans, photographers, family, friends and supporters! If it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t have the confidence, nor the drive to get as far as I have. Before I entered the modeling world I was not in such a good place. Since then though, I have met countless amazing people who have shown me what it is to be happy, strong, loved and simply not ashamed to be me.

 

 

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Interview with Cosplayer Sara Moni

My Interview with awesome Sara Moni, coming up in an upcoming issue of The WOD Magazine.  If you need a cosplayer at your upcoming con, or a great model, you can’t beat having Sara Moni.  Please, no creeps, or I will find and will Liam Neeson your butt!  She is a professional and sweetheart.

Sara Moni Interview

MB: Today our interview is with Sara Moni, an outstanding young cosplayer. How long have you been into cosplay now, and what got you started?

SM:  I started really cosplaying in 2010, but I was making costumes and T-shirts before that. I’ve always liked superheroes and sci-fi and I love dressing up in costumes. It was inevitable.

MB: What are some of your favorite characters to cosplay?

SM:  I play so many that I love, but if I had to name two favorites, it would be Wasp and Sailor Pluto.

MB:  Do your cosplay choices match those you read and watch, or are there some differences?

SM:  Every character I cosplay I am a fan of, or the series that they came from. I never pick costumes just based on how they look.  Every time I dress up it’s as a fan.

MB:  I know you started as a Marvel girl. Are you all Marvel, or you like them all now?

SM:  I love Batman like everybody else LOL, but I just find that Marvel has more intriguing characters that I like and identify with. I’m starting to read more DC now though. I also like some Image and Dark Horse comics.

MB:  How many cons and events/photo shoots are you doing per year?

SM:  About ten or so cons and even more shoots!

MB:  What are some of your favorite events or locations?

SM:  Phoenix will always be number one!

MB: Do you make all your outfits and make-up or do you have some preferred helpers?

SM:  Yes I make it all, unless otherwise specified as a collaboration, and I do all my own make-up as well.

MB: You have a very exotic look. Does it help that you can pull off so many different looks?

SM:  Absolutely.  It helps being able to pull off whatever I need. It’s nice being a ringer for a character, but it’s in even more fun challenge to tackle something that is totally different, like my female frost giant.

MB: What are some of your best cosplay moments?

SM:  There are so many. My most recent was in Salt Lake City where a girl with autism said that I inspired her to cosplay. It almost made me cry!

MB: Do you cosplay just for fun, or do you have a store and blog site we can plug for you?

SM:  I definitely think you can do both as long as the fun dominates. My prints are at saramoni.storenvy.com and all of the proceeds from that go right back into my costumes. You can also find me on Facebook at Sara Moni Cosplay.

MB: I see you have worked with charities. Do you have a particular memorable experience from helping others?

SM:  I am an active member of the Arizona Avengers and when we have events for foster children or sick children there is nothing that can top seeing them smile.

MB: How safe do you feel at cons now? Is it safe to walk from parking lots in costume? Are the bigger crowds bringing out “touchy” people who break barriers they shouldn’t?

SM:  I feel very safe. I don’t put myself in sketchy situations in or out of costume. I always walk in a group and I do carry physical deterrents with me! Ha that’s the nice way of putting it.

MB: What advice do you have for people starting out?

SM:  Always remember why you started and don’t forget. When it stops being fun, it’s time to stop.

MB: Who would you like to give a shout out for being someone who helped you get started and friends you look forward to seeing at cons?

SM:  So many! The Arizona Avengers of course – my friends from high school that were cosplayers and any new people I meet that share the same fandoms that I do!

MB: Any upcoming projects or events we can see you at?

SM:  On Free Comic Book Day I will be at Drawn to Comics – and I am scheduled for several upcoming conventions.

MB: I saw a tweet from Nathon Fillion (Captain Malcom “Mal” Reynolds from Firefly) commending you on your cosplay of Inara Serra, his love interest on the show , was that an awesome moment? Are you planning to get a photo with him at Phoenix Comic Con?

SM:  It’s still surreal and I’ll still get twitter alerts from it now! I saw him at FanX but wasn’t able to talk to him. Hopefully at Phoenix I will!

NOTE:  Blog link to Inara Serra cosplay article on Sara Moni – http://www.bloglovin.com/viewer?post=2559828447&group=0&frame_type=a&blog=3888164&link=aHR0cDovL2Zhc2hpb25hYmx5Z2Vlay5jb20vY29zdHVtZXMvYS1nb3JnZW91cy1pbmFyYS1zZXJyYS1jb3NwbGF5Lw&frame=1&click=0&user=0

 

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Movie Review – World War Z

Warning – Some Spoilers.  My movie review on World War Z for The WOD Magazine.

World War Z

Movie Review By Michael Bradley

I was looking forward to seeing World War Z after the trailers on television.  The thought of Brad Pitt bringing his resources to a film along with “fast zombies” looked interesting.  Unfortunately, the trailers are more exciting than the film.  In summary, you get to see lots of close ups of Brad Pitt wondering what to do next, amazingly convenient plot devices, and zombies that had me laughing at several points during the movie, along with others in the audience.

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It is not that Brad Pitt acts poorly in the film, but there is absolutely no character development.  He has a family he cares about that his friends use to blackmail him into helping them.  How is that for a story?  His character is some vague UN investigator, leaving you to wonder if he was para-military, medical, just good at mysteries, or what?  The movie never really explains what his expertise is in.

The beginning is the best, and even slightly scary, as zombies attack with lightning speed and people turn in just twelve seconds.  It gets you fired up for an action packed thriller that never happens.  Instead, Brad Pitt is so important, though we never find out why, that they break out all resources to rescue him.  After that, he whisks magically to Korea, Israel and Cardiff despite the world falling apart.  In each place he observes a few people un-attacked.  The story is so linear that you know at each point he will get a clue, move on, and solve the problem.

There are so many plot holes but one bares mention above the others.  Israel has managed to heed early warnings and protect its people behind a huge wall and track entrants through controlled ports of entry.  Do they bother to have even one guard or weapon on the walls?  Of course not, let’s not notice the zombies until they are jumping over.

After he and his friend along the way magically survive an aircraft crash and then magically find a WHO research center while both wounded, he gets a revelation why the zombies don’t attack certain people.  One that there is absolutely no reason for him to come up with based on the movie.  What follows includes zombies that squawk comically like chickens and one that clicks its teeth like Fire Marshal Bill from In Living Color.  At both points the audience was actually laughing out loud.

After that, Brad Pitt’s character magically communicates his vaccine around the world despite a dead satellite phone, UN personnel around the world put together the cure despite worldwide crisis, and Brad Pitt is picked up and taken across the Atlantic to be with his family.  It was the least scary zombie film ever and one of the most poorly written mystery/adventure films as well.  The movie’s earlier action scenes are entertaining, but overall the film is a disappointment.

 

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Star Trek: Into Darkness Movie Review

One of my recent movie reviews for The WOD Magazine:

Star Trek: Into Darkness 

Movie Review By Michael Bradley 

Recently it was pointed out to me by a fellow columnist that I am a movie critic while they are a movie reviewer.  Having given some thought to the distinction I would have to agree.  In an era where the focus is on advertising and trailers, I believe movie studios should be held to a higher standard when spending tens or hundreds of millions to produce a roughly ninety minute entertainment.  That is why I am glad for once to be able to wholly endorse a film – Star Trek: Into Darkness. 

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Canon is important to me, even in a movie line which has been “reset” into an alternative timeline.  What made the original Star Trek TV series such a phenomenon was not big budgets or special effects.  It was the great characters, interaction and vision of humans with the same foibles and attributes as now, cast into the future.  The characters are well known – Captain Kirk, the brash, egotistical womanizer, whether with human or alien women, always ready to fire phasers but fiercely loyal to friends and stupidly brave.  Spock, the stoic, emotionless logical being struggling with his human half.  Bones, the wry, cynical doctor.  Uhura, the modern successful woman officer.  Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu along with all the other characters overly defined by national accents and quirky personalities. 

The new Star Trek movies capture those characters and that spirit of human interaction under futuristic alien conditions better than I had ever hoped possible as a long time fan.  The casting is simply perfection.  Chris Pine nails Captain Kirk as the lucky but arrogant leader that you cheer for even though you know they deserve to get in trouble.  Zachary Quinto was born to play Spock.  Zoe Saldana recreates Uhura with an appropriately strong modern take on the role.  Karl Urban plays Dr. McCoy so well I swear I see DeForest Kelley on the screen.  Simon Pegg brings the perfect humor to scenes without being campy or foolish.  No offense intended, but I actually prefer Pegg’s portrayal to Doohan’s original.  The interaction among them all brings pure pleasure to my fanboy senses. 

You might wonder why I am at paragraph four and have not mentioned the plot.  That is the beauty of a well written and directed Star Trek feature.  You don’t even care what the plot is, you just enjoy watching it happen.  The plot is great though as well.  For die-hard fans you will recall that Captain Christopher Pike was the original USS Enterprise Captain in the series pilot, and later was returned to the scene of that episode.  In this time line, things happen differently.  Pike is the father figure for Kirk who lost his father at the beginning of the last film.  The search for family, friends and belonging while growing into responsibility are foremost to the new Kirk.  This is the theme shared by other crew members as well as they chafe on each other while clinging together for friendship and belonging. 

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Benedict Cumberpatch of Sherlock fame plays the villain.  His updated portrayal of Khan loses all the 1970s campiness of the earlier version played so over-the-top by Ricardo Montalban.  The movie is modern, edgy and has great visual effects.  However, it is the personal drama that makes it so enjoyable.  

The film has geo-political overtones about what people are willing to do to get an edge on their potential enemies and where lines should be drawn, including a “drone strike-like assassination” versus “arrest and trial” decision for a terrorist.  It was good that unlike other recent fare that have come off as preachy or even as propaganda for particular partisan beliefs, this one leaves the questions more to the viewer without giving definitive answers.  Kirk makes calls which are illegal, but you are not always sure they are right or wrong. 

As a Star Trek fan, I grew weary of the long line of mediocre films that preceded the last two.  It is great to see that the new reboots were able to capture that original sense of wonder, fascinating characters, sense of family with all the squabbles, and a great plot with little unnecessary diversion.  The very end was not as I would have made it, with the final confrontation with an Admiral seemingly too willing to be fully evil.  That character sticks out all the more because all the others are so complex. 

Alice Eve joins the cast as Dr. Carol Marcus, a new romantic interest for Kirk.  In the original timeline Kirk and Marcus produce a child during a tryst unknown to Kirk.  The grown child meets Kirk and is then slain.  Who knows what will happen in this timeline?  The good news is that Alice Eve was able to be strong and feisty enough to hold her own in screen time with Chris Pine, though the relationship between Spock and Uhura is by far more interesting, as you will see when you enjoy this outstanding film.

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