Entertainment & Events

WonderCon 2016

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WonderCon was in Los Angeles this year after having been in Anaheim since 2012 (previously originated and held in San Francisco) due to a scheduling conflict with the Anaheim convention center.

Badge scanner system made its debut; a trial run for Comic-Con in July.  In order to combat pass forgeries and smuggling of badgeless guests, visitors were given scannable badges and each person had to “tap” the badge onto the scan tower at multiple checkpoints scattered around the entrance and exit areas.  It’s relatively easy, although there were  some complaints, such as inoperative scanners, inconvenient height of towers and tapping points for some people.  The true test would come when it’s implemented at Comic-Con, which always draws the largest crowd and longest lines.

Since I primarily focus on feature films (although I do cover TV premieres from timeP1200728 to time at past Comic-Con and WonderCon), there’s not much to report this year on this front.   I only attended for one day and it’s extremely light on movies.   There were only two movie panels and of the horror genre, “The Conjuring 2” and “Lights Out.”  James Wan, director of “The Conjuring 2” was there, rolling out scary sneak peeks.  The second movie, “Lights Out,” which was produced by Wan’s production company, brought out its first-time feature film director, David Sandberg, along with co-creator/star Lotta Lotsen, producer Lawrence Grey and star Maria Bello.

Wan talked about his style, very grounded and classic in aesthetic.  Regardless of budget, he said that it’s still necessary to be creative, because at the end of the day, it’s the story and characters that would make people care.P1200704

In an interview with IGN, Wan revealed something about his upcoming superhero feature, “Aquaman” (whose cameo could be seen on the latest “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” movie).  The tone of his movie would be fun.  He wanted to show a cool, badass side of this character and looked forward to exploring potential sea monsters and cool creatures.

P1200812What’s more interesting to me than the panel was to check out Microsoft Theater.  Microsoft Theater has been touted as Hall H’s competition, with Los Angeles trying to lure Comic-Con out from San Diego.  I must say it’s a swanky spot; theater setting, plush seating with cup holders.  Although not without hassles.  To enter, all visitors must undergo a metal detector and bag check.  Some guests were turned away due to certain features in their costumes, having glass bottles or beverage cans.  And then there’s the walk.  The walk from the main convention center was pretty far.

All convention goers expect to do a lot of walking, but the Los Angeles Convention Center takes it to another level.  It is really sprawling, particularly in contrast with the compact Anaheim Convention Center.  Another snafu was the few most popular TV panels were held in a small room (less than Ballroom 20 capacity), making it impossible to get in.

P1200778Outside of the horror panel, I attended TV Showrunners, Romance in Sci-Fi & Fantasy and Spiritual Themes in Comics panels. The TV Showrunners discussed a showrunner’s role, essentially like a director of a film, and challenges they faced – from budget, resources, negotiations, storytelling, making life-and-death decisions about characters, and facing fan reactions.  In attendance were showrunners Ali Adler (“Supergirl”), Craig DiGregorio (“Ash vs. Evil Dead”), Scott M. Gimple (“The Walking Dead”), Damon Lindelof (“The Leftovers”), Melissa Rosenberg (Marvel’s “Jessica Jones”) and Paul Scheer (“Party Over Here”).

P1200791For Romance in Sci-Fi & Fantasy, one of recurrent topics brought up was to show the softer side of characters before intense scenes, such as going into battle or being superheroes.  For the audience to care about the characters, they would have to get to know them first.  As far as relationships go, women can be portrayed as strong, without being threatening; however, men would need to be able to hold their own or you would not find an audience.  For Spiritual Themes in Comics, there was an emphasis on writing about spirituality realistically and not shy away from it, as it’s natural to worship something and people had been doing it for ages.

One highlight of the day was CBS’s press roundtable interviews for “Scorpion.”   TheP1200746 producers and cast members in attendance (Nick Santora and Nicholas Wootton; Robert Patrick, Ari Stidham, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Scott Porter) took individual interviews, visited each of the press tables and chatted with us about the characters and their evolution, and storyline moving forward.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, “Scorpion” is a TV series (now in season 2 and renewed for season 3) inspired by a real-life genius and computer P1200763prodigy, Walter O’Brien.  The eccentric team, led by a tough federal agent, is comprised of misfits; a behaviorist, a mechanical wonder and a statistics expert.  The last “recruit” is an average Jane with a gifted son.  She helps them communicating and interpreting the world around them.  They use their masterful minds to solve highly charged cases.  The show is outrageous and knows it; P1200759it doesn’t take itself seriously, making it fun.  There’s a strong focus on the dynamics among the team members.

The show’s producers promised two big cliffhangers and a huge twist we would not see coming.  The ending would propel the show on the emotional side.  A certain question in a major relationship would be asked.  It’s one love affair and another love affair-to-be.

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An interesting development came out from the convention.  I had a chat with Joe P1200687LeFavi, Head of Marketing for Comic-Con HQ.  Comic-Con HQ is a new channel featuring a mixture of programming; original TV series and select movies, behind-the-scene features, as well a number of recorded, live streaming scenes (including panels) straight from the Comic-Con convention.

Sign up for a beta access at Comic-ConHQ.com.  Comic-Con HQ will go live on May 7 and be free until July 25.  Afterwards, you may subscribe for a fee (pricing is yet to be determined).

Copyright (c) 2016.  Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven(sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

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