Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Most Notable Comic-Con Panels Of All Time

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With Comic-Con only days away, we decided to take a little look back to put the giant event into perspective. Although sometimes the movies promoted at the convention don’t break through to a mainstream audience, there have been many panels throughout the years that could be considered monumental or important for a variety of reasons. Here are the ten most memorable, in chronological order.
1. Star Wars and Blade Runner Begin It All (1976 / 1981)
Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 3.29.42 AM
In 1976, Charles Lippencott famously hosted a panel for “Star Wars”, showing slides from the film to a somewhat skeptical (and not full!) audience. While it took some years for someone from a film other than a publicist to present a film panel at Comic-Con, footage (screened in 16mm, natch) was luckily not far off, perhaps most notably in 1981 when a “Blade Runner” panel screened a featurette before featurettes were a thing, that can now be found on the 30th anniversary blu ray.
2. Convincing The Fans About Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1988)
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(Tim Burton circa 2013)
In 1988, fans were so overwhelmingly against the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman, the studio’s consultant on all things geek knew they had to do something to prove that Burton’s vision was everything the fans would want in a “Batman” movie, not the rehash of the campy Batman series the hardcore fans so feared. So “Batman” creator himself, Bob Kane, appeared at Comic-Con with a slideshow and fans soon found themselves warming up to the whole idea after getting a peak of Anton Furst’s designs of Gotham City and watching a Tim Burton led tour of the set, Bat Suit and Batmobile. This marked the beginning of a change in fan perception towards the film, as it unleashed word of mouth that turned entire fan community around.
3. Dracula Breaks Through (1992)
In what is now old hat, 1992 marked the first time an Oscar-winning director came to Comic-Con to show fans his genre film, as Francis Ford Coppola arrived in town with a a lengthy featurette and practically taught a class in filmmaking to a rapt audience (a feat the giddy legend would repeat at the “Twixt” panel some years later) . It was a huge moment to have someone in the film world of that caliber attend Comic-Con. Back in 1992, Comic-Con was one of many similarly sized genre conventions around the country, and Coppola went on to appear at many others that year promoting the film, to fantastic results, as the film was a surprise hit.
4. Comic-Con, Meet Joss Whedon (1997)
In a rare occurrence, Fox decided to combine their film and television into one panel, with one relatively unknown talent linking the two – writer and creator Joss Whedon. The move made certain logistical sense, as that year Whedon was involved in two geek properties, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Alien: Resurrection”. “Alien”, seeming like the bigger project, went second in the line-up, and when a third of the audience got up and left after “Buffy” had concluded, the geek world knew they might have a television phenomenon on their hands. Whedon has spoken about the experience as a turning point in his career, enjoying himself so much that he returned in 1998 with the entire Buffy cast (sans SMG who didn’t appear until “The Grudge”) and has since become one of the icons of fandom.
5. Lord of the Rings Comes To Life (2000)
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Back in 2000 when the largest room at the convention was 6CDEF, the Con removed the temporary walls separating 6CDEF from 6A and 6B, creating a 6000-person room, comparable in capacity to the current hub of all things major, Hall H, in order to host a screening of brand new clips and behind the scenes footage from “Fellowship of the Ring”. Can you imagine a studio greenlighting a panel in the largest room at Comic-Con just to show a long featurette? But the panel was a massive success, capped off with a surprise appearance by Ian McKellan, who had been hanging out at the Marvel booth, and decided to come up and watch the footage for himself. This panel manages to represent both a bygone era of Comic-Con, and provide a sneak preview into what it would become.

6-10 and the year 2000 onwards on
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Film Lover's Guide to Comic-Con 2013

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Comic-Con celebrates its 45th (as “Dr. Who” celebrates 50 years, gloriously displayed on the cover of this years program guides) year with an eclectically jam-packed schedule and more shenanigans than ever before. Pirate Ship for Assassin’s Creed 4? Check. Giant “Ender’s Game” tent thing whatever that is? Check. Multiple massive inflatable cartoon characters, AT LEAST 5 different gaming lounges, and roughly 8 bajilliom  network and magazine sponsored lounges? Check! But even though Comic-Con is becoming more and more of an exciting place off-site, the real magic always happens inside, during panels celebrating beloved properties or introducing brand new ones. So here is our guide for film lovers on how to make the most of your trip. 
And be sure to read our list of the 10 Most Memorable Comic-Con Panels of All Time!
Entertainment Weekly’s The Visionaries
Entertainment Weekly returns with its regular panel focusing on different types of genre movers and shakers, The Visionaries. This year, the panel features three completely different directors, Marc Webb, Edgar Wright and Alfonso Curaron, all appearing on the same stage because of their successful forays into genre. The three are also all appearing on other panels throughout the Convention, Webb with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, Wright with “The World’s End” and Curaron with “Gravity”, but the Visionaries panel is a chance to hear them not focus primarily on promoting their new movies, but discuss the art of filmmaking overall.
Thursday July 18, 2013 2:30pm – 3:30pm
“Ender’s Game” / “Divergent”
Controversery or no controversy, Summit is pulling out all the stops for their adaptation of “Ender’s Game” at Comic-Con this year, with a panel, signing, events and parties happening throughout the entire week. Head here for an extended look at the film and talk with Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Asa Butterfield and more. Sharing this panel is “Divergent”, the film based on the hugely popular YA series by the same name and present for the Q&A will be the novelist, director, and *nine* cast members, including both Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, so if you ever wanted to pretend there might be the possibility of a The Spectacular Now panel at Comic-Con, now would be the time.
Thursday July 18, 2013 3:50pm – 4:50pm
“The World’s End”
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return to Comic-Con with the third in the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, following “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hut Fuzz”. Here, they will be showing off some footage for the comedy, but the real treat here is just getting to see these guys interact with each other and the fans. The perfect Comic-Con morning!
Friday July 19, 2013 10:00am – 11:00am
“Veronica Mars”
As if the morning wasn’t perfect enough already, immediately following the Focus panel is one on Veronica Mars, featuring a magical cast of magic, including regular cast members Kristen Bell, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni,Percy Daggs III and Jason Dohring, plus ensemble members Ryan Hansen, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino and Krysten Ritter. Producer/director Rob Thomas will also be on hand to screen footage and discuss the phenomenon that was the film’s Kickstarter Campaign. In the true spirit of Comic-Con, a tv show that got canceled due to low ratings is now the subject of one of THE most anticipated panels of the entire convention. Love it.
Friday July 19, 2013 11:15am – 12:00pm
Sony & Screen Gems
Talent and hopefully footage from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” “Robocop” and “The Amazing Spider-man 2” will all be on hand this Friday afternoon in a massive 2+ hours panel. Andrew Garfield in particular has a lot to live up to after blowing everyone away with his genuine love for Spider-man at his last appearance for the first in the rebooted series, where he “asked a question” from the audience in full costume. Can he out-adorbz himself is clearly the question on everyone’s mind. Or at least mine.
Friday July 19, 2013 4:05pm – 6:15pm
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Preview Their Upcoming Lineups
Warner Brothers prepares to wow Comic-Con again with its regular Saturday morning spot, this time bringing footage and talent from “Godzilla”,” Seventh Son”,” 300: Rise of an Empire”, “Gravity”, “The Lego Movie”, and
“Edge of Tomorrow”. Going into the panel, my money would be on Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” or Gareth “have you seen V/H/S/2 and realized what a genius I am yet?!” Evans’ “Godzilla”, but you never know with a panel chock full like this one.
Saturday July 20, 2013 10:45am – 1:15pm
Lionsgate – Featuring I, Frankenstein and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
“I, Frankenstein” is gonna be cool and all but “CATCHING FIRE” AHHHH. Jennifer Lawrence?! Will you be there? Are we besties? Is the footage going to be amazing? Am I gonna volunteer as tribute?! Am I going to make myself a dress made entirely of Catching Fire pins and then catch myself on fire BECAUSE I CAN?!?! Point is – first ever “Hunger Games” panel. HAPPENING.
Saturday July 20, 2013 1:35pm – 2:35pm
All the program guide says is TBA, which is probably the greatest thing ever because the only thing we can really glean from it is DO NOT MISS THIS PANEL. Because, come on, if all a studio will announce is that they are a studio having a panel, you know that sh*t is going to be epic. Not. To. Be. Missed.
Saturday July 20, 2013 4:15pm – 5:45pm
Marvel returns to Saturday evening to close out the film portion of Hall H with this look at the second movies for Thor and Cap, and if we are being honest, there will  probably be some “Guardians of the Galaxy” stuff in there  too and most likely some announcement of something happening next cause that’s how Marvel rolls. Holy crap does Saturday rule this year.
Saturday July 20, 2013 6:00pm – 7:00pm
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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Indie Watch: July 2013

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The Way Way Back

This Sundance hit that closed the Los Angeles Film Festival last week comes to theaters riding all sorts of hype. Although ads tout the film as being from the “studio that brought you “Juno” and “Little Miss Sunshine”", “The Way Way Back” is more similar in tone to directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s Oscar winning screenplay “The Desendants”, leaning heavily towards the genuine rather than the quirky.

“The Way Way Back” is firmly grounded in reality (although Steve Carrell playing such a horrible human being does take some getting used to), as it tells a classic coming of age tale surrounding a 14 year old boy as he starts working at a water park and finds a mentor in Owen, the enthusiastically loquacious man in charge, portrayed with usual vigor by Sam Rockwell. Don’t wait too long to catch this one, as it might seem rather slight when held up against its early praise. Ultimately, “The Way Way Back” has its heart in the right place and is worth a watch, even if it might not be the sleeper Oscar darling Fox Searchlight is hoping it will be.

Crystal Fairy
In this indie flick that made the festival circuit rounds to relatively positive reviews earlier this year, Michael Cera plays an American on vacation in Chile determined to have a hallucinatory cactus trip on the beach. In a bold move, Cera portrays his most unlikeable character yet as Jamie, a self-involved, judgmental twenty-something in desperate need of redemption. The stand out here, however, is Gaby Hoffman, as the titular free spirited woman who Jamie encounters along the way. It’s questionable whether or not this arthouse flick would have seen the light of day without the attachment of Cera, but if you’re willing to go on the journey, you may find that “Crystal Fairy” has lot to say about how and why we look inward and outward, playing with notions of perception and introspection in an easy, hands-off sort of way.

Fruitvale Station
Keep an eye on director Ryan Coogler’s Sundance Grand Jury and Audience Award winner. If you want to be in on this conversation early, before the hype becomes too much to live up to, head to a theater this weekend to catch this fictionalization of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (an outstanding Michael B. Jordan), the young man infamously and unjustly killed at Oakland’s Fruitvale Station by police officers in 2009.

Only God Forgives
Warning: Nicholas Wending Refn’s next movie, the most anticipated of his career following break out hit “Drive”, is not a crowd pleaser. “Only God Forgives” is strange, slow, violent, morbid, disturbing, and absolutely nothing like “Drive” beyond the fact that Ryan Gosling stars in both and, for the most part, speaks in neither. It follows a mother (a deliciously diabolical and undeniably fantastic Kristen Scott Thomas) seeking revenge for her eldest son’s murder, and the role her youngest son (Gosling) plays in this misguided mission. “Only God Forgives” is a full sensory experience that Winding Refn himself likens to an acid trip. It may fascinate you, bore you, piss you off, or some combination of the three.
Not in 3D. Thank god.

The Act Of Killing
This unsettling documentary first made its mark at last years Toronto and Telluride film festivals and further demonstrated its popularity with sold out screenings at SXSW and LA Film Festival in 2013. This month is your chance to finally see this powerful, surreal and chilling doc in which Indonosian death squad leaders reenact the mass killings they themselves have committed, in the style of their beloved American movies. To further the strangeness, these men are considered heroes in their country, a notion fundamentally counterintuitive to what we as a people believe and are capable of perceiving. But if you have ever wanted to see the perpetrator of mass genocide star in his own western/musical/gangster flick about committing said atrocities, well hey, now is your chance! Do not miss your opportunity to catch this brilliant piece of filmmaking while it is in theaters and don’t be surprised to hear of it a hell of a lot more come Oscar season.

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