Entertainment & Events

Comic-Con 2016: Feature Films, Talk Shows, Fan Experiences

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P1210724Last year’s superhero panels were the highlights for me, with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Kate Mara, Daniel Radcliff, Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and many more in attendance.

This year I had a pretty mixed balance of movie and TV pilots and previews, press lines, art- and design-related programs, exhibit halls, interactive fan experiences and live talk shows.


Here are some of the memorable highlights: (please note that TV pilots and panels will be on a separate article at a later time)

“Trolls” (November 4, 2016)

P1210781In attendance: director Mike Mitchell, co-director Walt Dohrn, producer Gina Shay, stars Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and Christopher Mintz-Plasse

DreamWorks Animation presented an animated comedy-adventure.  A couple of incompatible trolls embark on a rescue mission, filled with misadventures, to save their kidnapped friends.  Music is an integral part of the story.  It includes original music produced by Justin Timberlake (he’s a big hit P1210795with the moderator and fans) and classic songs.  The final clip showed a grayed  scene of trolls transforming into vibrant colors, with the tune of “True Colors.”   The troll-haired fans livened the up the room, especially during selfie time.  The panel took a selfie with the audience before exiting the stage.

Before leaving, the producer delivered a public service announcement on body image.  It’s important that the movie reflects normal body image, especially for girls.  It breaks the “princess rule.”  The smurf-like characters come in all types of body shapes.


“The Boss Baby” (March 31, 2017)

P1210799In attendance:  director Tom McGrath, voice actor Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin made his first appearance at Comic-Con, bringing in a surprise footage.  He took in the scene of the packed hall and was wowed.  In the animation, the baby is not your average baby.  He wears a business suit, carries a briefcase, and speaks with authority and snark.  The scenes between the boss baby and his older brother, spliced together, didn’t make much sense, except that they’re strangely hilarious.



“Snowden” (September 16, 2016)

In attendance: director Oliver Stone, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley and Zachary QuintoP1210834

“Fugitive.  Soldier.  Patriot.  Traitor.  Hero.”  These words flashed on the screen, leading up to an intense trailer.

A trice Oscar winner, director Oliver Stone also made his first-time ever appearance  at Comic-Con.  He wanted to tell a larger-than-life story and reach out to the next generations.  Screenplay was initially a nightmare and needed to be simplified. Financing-wise, he was turned down by every major studio.  Stone mentioned that he spoke to Edward Snowden and his lawyers.  The infamous whistleblower, who was responsible for the biggest data leak in U.S. history, was described in many words.  Still a mystery, he’s an optimist, cooperative yet covert, neat, polite and old-fashioned.  He doesn’t have any friends and he isn’t close to his family, but he has a long-term girlfriend, Lindsay Mills.

It’s an opinionated panel, and a very ‘Snowden-friendly’ one, with the presenters passionately articulating their individual viewpoints about the controversial subject, political and contemporary issues, such as privacy and government transparency.


“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (July 21, 2017)

P1210873In attendance: director Luc Besson, producer Virginie Besson-Silla, stars Care Delevigne and Dane DeHaan

While director Luc Besson had been to WonderCon, this marked his first time at Comic-Con.  He was greeted warmly and presented with this year’s Comic-Con Inkpot award.  He put it aside for a dramatic effect, and picked it back up after an enthusiastic reception to the frenzied footage.

Den of Geek perhaps describes it best; it looks like a mix of “Mad Max Fury,” “Star Wars” and “The Fifth Element.”  Standout scenes include a young female operative disarming two guards before running into a few small aliens, and a frenetic scene where two agents, in a school bus, are doggedly pursued by an alien-like creature across a desert before jumping into a spaceship.

Prior to the sizzle reel, Besson-Silla introduced numerous colorful, richly rendered concept arts – the city,  planet, spacecrafts and aliens.  The movie has 2,000 special effect shots, compared to 200 in “The Fifth Element.”

Based on a French graphic novel, The movie is set in the year 2700 and tells a story about two time-and-space traveling agents, Valerian and Laureline, who are called to an intergalactic city of Alpha,  inhabited by thousands of species (we may see 200 in the movie), to investigate threats to humanity.


“Power Rangers” (March 24, 2017)

In attendance: Naomi Scott, Becky G., Ludi Lin and Dacre MontgomeryP1220089

This was a small, intimate panel hosted by Screen Junkies in a bar, away from the convention center.  Comic-Con organizers should consider doing something like this for certain panels to make more room for people.  It’s a decidedly different setting and carried a more relaxed vibe.  In this get-to-know session, the relatively unknown, young and diverse cast were genuinely excited to be selected to play the iconic characters.  They recalled the touching, disbelief, hilarious moments when they found out about the news.


The biggest movie news streaming from Comic-Con this year include “Wonder Woman” trailer, “Justice League” teaser, “Captain Marvel” casting announcement (Brie Larson), introduction of Baby Groot (“Guardians of the Galaxy 2”), and updated logos of “Black Panther,” “Thor Raganok,” “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” and “Doctor Strange.”  From the trailer, “Wonder Woman” looks very promising.  Also check out the official poster if you haven’t already.  Simply resplendent.  Costumes used in the movie were featured inside the exhibit halls.  “Suicide Squad” also had their costumes displayed for photo ops.


Press Lines

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I stopped by the CBS press room strictly for its stars lineup.  Stars in the press lines include Daniela Ruah and Eric Christian Olsen (“NCIS: Los Angeles”);  Wilmer Valderrama (“NCIS”); Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Jadyn Wong (“Scorpion”); Kirsten Vangsness (“Criminal Minds”); Lucas Till and George Eads (the new “MacGyver”).  I could have stayed for the roundtable, but I already did something similar at WonderCon earlier this spring with “Scorpion” and attended the new “MacGyver” panel earlier in the day.  I don’t watch either “NCIS: Los Angeles” or “Criminal Minds,” so I wouldn’t be able to formulate the best questions about the shows.


Live Talk Shows

P1220355The live taping of the Conan O’Brien’s show was arguably the hottest ticket in town.  Like last year, I scored a VIP seat, so it was a no-brainer decision to go.  The jokes and skits were pretty funny (superhero Conan, anyone?), but I was also there for the special guests that evening, the cast of “Suicide Squad” – Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Adewale P1220381Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Jay Hernandez and Adam Beach.  They were super chill, strolling onto the stage dancing and having fun.  Each member of the audience left with a Funko, the Joker doll and an IMAX ticket for the movie, which will premiere on August 5, 2016.

Another event that I attended was the Syfy channel talk show hosted by Will Arnett.  The guests were Tony Hale, Alan Tudyk, Zachary Levi, Rose McIver and Wilmer Valderrama.  Valderrama came in a parachute, as if he just landed onto the stage.

This talk show was held outdoor, on a hotel rooftop deck.  I was more interested in P1210996observing the preparation of what would make a lively show on TV.  The show runner pumped up the audience big time, reminding us to up our energy.  The folks in interesting costumes were placed front and center.  Like other talk shows, the show was a hybrid of pre-scripted (host) and impromptu conversations (guests’ responses).  Acts were pre-planned.


Art & Design

Other programmings I attended include art direction and worldbuilders.  Security turns out to be a top concern for production designers.  If you are sketching a storyboard with a resurrected character, for example, a leak could kill an entire plot.  Marvel was said to have the highest level of security.  There was an interesting tidbit about a timed script-reading.  Once the time was up, even if you’re not finished reading, the script would be taken away and shredded.

As far as worldbuilding, the rule of thumb is to not contradict your own rules (i.e., the world where your characters live) down the line and understand the limitations of your characters. And if you have to break the rules, make sure that they make sense.  Be consistent.


Interactive Fan Experiences

Outside of the convention center, attractions were free and open to the public.  Those of you without a badge, make a trek to downtown next time and join in the celebration all around Gaslamp Quarter, Petco Park and Seaport Village areas.  Motion poster is ‘in’ this year.  Custom memento is always memorable.

P1220165“Timeless,” a new NBC TV series coming in the fall, take visitors back in time, though news clips of milestone events in our history and time-travel simulation via Graviton.  Gravitron is a centrifugal force ride that pins each rider against and up the wall, as the room is spinning around.  The g-force is strongly felt on the chest and up the chin and face.  It’s certainly a unique experience.  The show will feature three strangers – a history professor, a soldier and a scientist – chasing criminal(s) through time to prevent the past from being altered (and thus impacting the present and the future).  “Timeless” left each visitor with a motion graphic photo that shows a scene as if you’re in a time machine running through time.

NBC  also had another booth to introduce another TV new series coming in the fall, “Emerald City.”  Details were kept under wrap except that the show would be about the rise of a new ‘Oz.’ Visitors could stop by and create a motion poster with the backdrop of a character’s superpower or magic.

P1220133The Hard Rock Cafe was transformed into “Suicide Squad” headquarters.  Take a 360P1220135 degree photo inside of a Belle Reve jail cell.  Experience a virtual reality scene from Harley Quinn’s viewpoint during an attack.  Do a personality test to determine which character most fits you, and have an animated picture taken with the character’s head frame around your head.  Or create a tattoo in the Harley Quinn tattoo parlor.  Another giveaway was an exclusive T-shirt with a personalized skull imprint.


It helps to have a variety of interests.  Despite skipping the superhero panels this year, I had a super time and look forward to another year!

Stay tuned for the TV panels and pilots!

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.

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Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic (rottentomatoes.com/critic/nathalia-aryani). She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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