WonderCon 2015

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P1170264 The 2015 WonderCon was TV-heavy, and while it’s great for certain members of the audience, one would typically have to be fans of the shows to enjoy the panels.  There’s barely any movie presence – studios, exhibits or panels alike (with minor exceptions, see below).  Panels were dominated by TV or industry professionals and exhibits ruled by comics.


The feature films segment, presented by Warner Bros, was initially planned for an hour, but cut down in half at the last minute.

As lackluster as it was, here are the highlights:

“Mad Max: Fury Road”

The opening scene, with a lone figure standing in a wasteland, is the calm before the P1170266storm. A man with a partial steel mask rising from the sands trying to free himself from the chain that ties him to another man.  And this other man, presumably dead, is trapped in a vehicle buried in the sandstorm.  He tries to shoot off the chain and bite the other man’s hand to no avail, so he carries that man with him.  He encounters several scantily-clad beauties in white, washing themselves off with water, and also a one-arm woman, appearing to be the leader, first eying him warily and then ferociously charging at him.  It turns into a frenzied fight; hard-hitting beating, kicking, punching, rolling, bashing and dragging.  Then a desert battle shown in rapid-fire scenes; firefights, explosions and chases (although not clear who’s chasing who or for what) with road-bikes, tankers and war rigs.

Wildly kinetic and viscerally brutal, that was one heck of a footage!

“San Andreas”

In attendance: director Brad Peyton, stars Carla Gugino  and Alexandra Daddario

It’s been said that California is due for “The Big One.”  Here viewers got a devastating P1170154taste of what possibly could happen if the massive earthquake struck.  It’s special effects-galore with lands cracking and splitting, skyscrapers crumbling and slamming down, ships blown up, tidal waves rolling and swallowing up everything in its destructive path.  It reminded me of “2012,” but the footage also zoomed in on one family and its struggle to survive.

The director would like to build a ride and put the actors on it, presenting the worst-case scenario (although it’s unlikely that every chain of event would happen at the same time), but also ground it in the realm of possibilities. It’s a story about honest reactions of a family under attack and what these people are going through – not from aliens, dinosaurs or monsters – but from something that could possibly be real.  The actresses mentioned about tons of stunt work, such as getting dropped several floors down and being immersed in the biggest water tank possible for the underwater scenes.

It looks like the movie goes for big, both on the action and emotion.


P1170182Highlight of TV pilots:

“The Messengers”

(CW; April 17, 2015) – in attendance: executive producer Trey Callaway and co-executive producer/creator Eoghan O’Donnell, stars Shantel VanSanten, Jon Fletcher, J. D. Pardo, Joel Courtney, Diogo Morgado, Anna Diop and Craig Frank

After an extraterrestrial object crashes into earth and explodes, five ordinary strangers fall dead and come back to life.  They will soon realize that they’re connected and destined for a greater cause.  They’re now bestowed with supernatural gifts and are known “Angels of Apocalypse.”  Each character has a dire moment on the show where illuminated wings can be seen sprouted from his or her shoulder.  Their paths will cross and choices must be made.  They must unite and prevent the impending apocalypse.

This is a story about the hope we hold in the end and the people we love the most.  It’s also a story about faith; finding faith in ourselves, and sometimes putting our faith in strangers, and in things greater than ourselves.  Lucifer, “Prince of Death,” makes an appearance and plays a role in tempting and testing humanity.  And finally, it is a story about good and evil, right and wrong, and how our choices affect everything and everybody around us.

I’m not a fan of angsty teenage supernatural shows on CW in general and the execution wasn’t the best.  But the premise appeals to me, so I will give this a try.

P1170196“American Odyssey”

(NBC; April 5, 2015) – in attendance: executive producers/writers Peter Horton, Adam Armus and Kay Foster, and star Peter Facinelli

A U.S. Special Forces team, which successfully killed an Al-Qaeda leader, is ambushed and murdered in Mali.  These heroes are not massacred by Islamic extremists, rather, an American private military group, purportedly sent by corrupt entities to cover up some criminal, for-profit dealings.  The sole survivor, coincidentally saved by the virtue of timing, is the only female soldier, also a wife and a mother.  She happens to be the one retaining suspicious evidence in a flash drive, a large money transfer document between a local bank there and a U.S. corporation.  She must use everything in her power to remain alive, find the right allies, and make the long, arduous journey home.

Back in the States, a corporate litigator (formerly a U.S. attorney) gets wind of the shady conspiracy and starts digging.  But before he could go deep, the investigation claims its first casualty.  There’s also a political activist, in communication with a computer hacker and reporter, trying to prove that the soldier is indeed alive and to uncover the truth behind the story fronted by the U.S. government.

P1170257The panel discussed the shooting of the show, initially set to be in Toronto, but moved to Morocco for authenticity.  The studio found a Morrocan boy, who had no acting experience, a block from their office.  He plays a character who is imperative for the soldier’s early survival. The lead actress (who wasn’t present at the panel) was said to be drawn to the show because of the physical, mental and emotional challenges.  And for Facinelli, he would like to do dramatic and enjoys conspiracy thrillers.  The show is about a soldier, lawyer and protester trying to set the truth free at all costs and make a difference.

I found the pilot to be dramatic and bleak, but engaging.  I hope the show will connect the dots soon and don’t drag them out so that it won’t be one too many players or extends its welcome.  At the same time, the show has a tough task balancing out the layers so that it will last as a series.  For now, the show has promise and I will make it into my initial viewing schedules.


P1170296I also attended a writers panel of some of the most popular TV shows.  Discussions include writers creating a blue print for their series, and story break, where a writer pitches an idea and breaks things down beat by beat, either show how each character would act and move forward or go for the big moments and merge them into one story.  Writers pay attention to chemistry among actors and how they grow, and they do adjust scenes based on what they see on set.  A TV pilot, said to be the captain of the series, could be changed.  For example, a pilot might be shot in New York and when the series gets picked up, the shooting might be moved to Los Angeles due to tax credit.  As a result, the audience might not see the exact same sets in subsequent episodes as they appeared in the pilot.



WonderCon is getting more popular every year, as proven this year by sold-out tickets and growing attendance (now topping at 60,000).  Even with minimal programming this year, it’s  enjoyable as ever (just check out some of the cosplays!).  While nothing comparable to Comic-Con, it is  an entertaining alternative for pop-culture fans.  A word of advice, buy your ticket early next year!


Copyright (c) 2015.  Nathalia Aryani

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

Photos by Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

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