Monday, July 13, 2015

Con-Man: San Diego '15 Saturday

Ready for an old timer story? Back in the late 2000's, I'd wake up at 3:30 AM, get down to San Diego Comic-Con around 6:00, have breakfast, jump in line and walk into the show. Cut to 2015, my 11th year attending and 4th volunteering in my usual 6:00 9:00 AM spot and walking over to the convention center at 5:30 AM there were already shuttles and lines with throngs of attendees. The last two years I directed traffic for various toy or autograph lines but on this day got put in for ADA, that's when you wait in line for someone who is physically unable. My fellow volunteers and line waiters were fun to chat with, I met one woman who has been coming to the show for 20 plus years and still loves it and surprisingly have met several first time attendees. In line I also met Comic-Con celebrity, The Button Lady, a woman who dons one of six capes adorned with themed buttons she makes herself of Firefly, Marvel, etc.

After hearing that people were walking into Hall H for the Warner Brothers/Superman VS. Batman panel, I tried my luck and went over for Quentin Tarantino's Hateful 8 where the writer/director would be unveiling footage along with cast members like KURT RUSSELL, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern. Sadly my streak of being able to walk in ended after 30 minutes in line, the chute in front of me made it in but not mine. A friend relayed some photos and info from inside and I got to see Russell's bitching mustache. Next I wandered the floor some more then headed to the Hilton for some programming in the Indigo Ballroom. I ran into Nerd Reactor reporter and Unicorn enthusiast Laura and spotted several guests and celebs having lunch. Guess how much a Moscow Mule runs at the Hilton's Odysea Bar? $18 frigging bucks! And it's not even gallon sized! A couple of Jameson Gingers later I popped in to catch John Barrowman doing his one man panel where anything goes. The Torchwood, Doctor Who and Arrow star is a ball of energy who made himself and the audience laugh. The Barrow has fond memories of working on Who and Torch but is quite enjoying his stint on hit Arrow at the moment. He and a question asker went into a beat box version of the Who theme song after Barrowman had the gent bounce his pecs. Openly homosexual and married, Barrowman was an inspiration for the audience to be who they are and do what they love as long as you know, nobody gets hurt.

Next was a panel I was super pumped for, an early screening of SyFy's 10 part series The Expanse followed by Q&A with the cast and creators. Based on a series of novels by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the duo moderated and let us know that the show isn't quite finished but still looks Damme good. And they weren't lying. Set in a future where factions on Mars, the Asteroid Belt and Earth compete for air and water, we meet Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) as he sweet talks hookers, bashes heads and searches for the missing daughter of a very rich man. Then there's the ice salvaging crew of the Rocinante headed by Holden (Steven Strait) who respond to a distress signal from a derelict vessel. While on Earth we meet business woman Chrisjen (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who works to keep the "Belters" in their place. All in I really enjoyed the episode and look forward to more, heck, I've even like to check out a couple of the books now. Sets of Mars, space stations and ships are impressively huge and there's a nice working class element to everything as Miller's space phone is cracked, you have to smack the elevator controls to make them work, etc. Jane is cool, a touch shady with heart, looking very trim and noir here in dark clothes, vests and a fedora while Strait has a tired but strong authoritative quality that works well for the character.

Afterwards, a huge panel was introduced starting with the King of WeirdCool himself, Thomas Jane followed by Strait, Aghdashloo, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham producer Naren Shankar, writer/producers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. Cast and crew talked about having three stages at Pinewood in Toronto, including the largest for the show which was rare for television to physically represent such scale. Changing things from the book and taking elements from future installments for the first season, Fergus and Ostby praising novelists Abraham and Franck for being natural screenwriters, letting the series breathe versus compacting like in film, Thomas Jane imagining he's a rocket pilot while sitting on the toilet and how many "shit"s or curse words the cast gets per episode. A fun panel and a terrific looking show, I'm excited for the premiere in December. Outside I ran into the great guys from #ThatHashTagShow Daniel and Josh as they were compiling and rendering all of their videos, photos and news from the day. D and J attended Sunbow Celebration and I'm looking forward to having them out for another event soon.

It was back to the floor for some more walking where I found a buddy from Rotten Tomatoes, photographer homie Jeremy and founder of Beyond Fest/Mad Movie Titan himself, Mr. Christian Parkes who was set to speak on a panel. The Bold Voice of Contemporary Horror Film: Fantastic Fest, Beyond Fest and SpectreFest brought together actor/producer Elijah Wood, filmmakers Sarah Adina Smith, Roxanne Benjamin, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead along with Mr. Parkes, XYZ Films' Mette Marie Katz and Blumhouse Development exec Ryan Turek. The panel spoke about the current state of independent horror being at an all time high with several festivals giving them the spotlight rather than being relegated to midnight. The entire panel were fans of horror as youngsters and now as professionals are banding together to make, sell and distribute their work with low budget, friend and family produced films finding audiences, leading to bigger and better things. Previews for several upcoming horror flicks were shown with Wood's comedy/fright mash up Cooties looking like a funny and bloody time while I can't recall the other two titles...One was an Australian flick about two brothers whose mother comes home from surgery a changed woman and it looks creeeeepy! In a Comic-Con first, I saw rules being broken as Parkes threw out DVD's to the crowd which is apparently strictly forbidden, probably for liability reasons, being warned by staff then doing it again. A quick round of trivia closed the entertaining hour with winners being given passes to Beyond or Fantastic Fest in LA and Austin.

Parties awaited but lines are lame so we opted for some libations and conversation at the Comic-Con'do. Leaving the next morning I realized this was the most fun I'd had in 11 years of attending. There's nothing else like San Diego Comic-Con and there never will be. Many a friend commented that it seemed to be less crowded with less cosplay this year so maybe my prediction that the Hollywood bubble bursting, more shows popping up and casual fans giving up is coming true. It's still the biggest and the best Con I've been too and I've been to a lot. See ya next year!

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