WONDERCON 2015 [The Bible Scale, Pt. II]: The Lost Angels of Anaheim.
GodHatesGeeks is back with our second volume of The Bible Scale. In this edition, we present all of the panels we attended at WonderCon 2015 that were non-comic related: TV, movies, video games, and the like. So, it’s no surprise our Geek TV priests, Derek “Divine” Vigeant and “Brother” Myke Ladiona went to everything. Joining the the dynamic duo from The Fandom Podcast is the wonderful “Lady Croft” Stephanie Panisello and our resident video game guru “Papa Justified” Spencer Fawcett.
Let’s get to it.
Be Impactful: Your Influence in Video Game Communities and Game Development – I decided to meander into a panel that I was more adept in, and wouldn’t you know– what ruined it wasn’t the developers or community; it was the host. Genese Davis – self-proclaimed gamer and owner of MMORPG.com – invited several professional game developers to the panel, which included Naughty Dog level designers and an Obsidian Entertainment/InXile Entertainment writer. But you would never know that the panel was about Video Game Communities as it immediately went into about what specific games impacted the panelists. Okay, fine. An icebreaker never hurts to make the panelists relatable to the audience. After that it was about thought process on narratives and whether writing a story that impacts the gaming community or making a great game comes first. (Odd, I thought that would be fairly obvious.) 15-minutes later, the panel finally gets on track. The developers, all very humble about their upcoming projects (Uncharted 4), never really spoke out against the buggy and broken Master Chief Collection at launch but was appreciative of a fan that loves Nathan Drake. And then, here comes Mrs. Davis with an unrelated anecdote and a not-so-subtle attempt at plugging her own book. People that cosplay are less subtle about their interests than you, Mrs. Davis. Relatively inert and low energy throughout, those that asked questions always made sure that the panel was on track. They asked about the Mass Effect 3 ending, etc., but the panelists didn’t want to speak ill of other games/developers. As I walked out of the panel, I heard Mrs. Davis talk about what a great discussion we had and how to follow the developers on Twitter and engage in other menial social media nonsense. No, Mrs. Davis. Nothing of relevance was said and, if that qualified as a “great discussion,” then there will continue to be nothing said about the relationship between video game communities and developers. – Spencer Fawcett
American Odyssey – The Divine One relishes in watching one new show after another like a Kardashian starves for public affection. When it comes to naming genres such as “Mystery” or “Thriller”, if they don’t have one for “Government Conspiracy” they should. The new NBC series features Anna Friel (Pushing Daises) and Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie). A.O. begins well with Friel’s Odelle Ballard and her US military unit in Mali taking down one of the world’s biggest terrorists and enjoying their victory. Then, unfortunately, they are gunned down in a literal “Blazzzzeeee of Glorrryyyy” by Osela — a private military group which Balllard escaped. It is announced stateside that their heroes have been tragically killed by terrorists. The nation is sad, but Ballard lives! Uh-oh. There’s a plotline with Peter Decker (Facinelli) is doing some shady money deal and is likely covering things up like they did in the Middle East. Plus, there’s the required crazy conspiracy guy storyline: He knows something is going on and he’s trying to enlist the help of a protest leader (Jake Robinson) for help. Too much right? I agree. The second half of this show is pretty brutal in that it suffers from clichés and predictability. The writers appear like they spent all their creative energy on the plot, but then got lazy on the follow through. Perfect example: There’s a scene where “the whistleblower” is about to cross the street and a guy behind me in the panel says, “He’s gonna get hit by a car.” BOOM! He does. Dead. I look back at the guy and say, “Did that really just happen?” We both shake our heads. I don’t think I need to tell you all anymore. – Derek Vigeant
Warner Bros Presentation – Around 12:50 p.m. in the Arena I came to a depressing realization: the whispers I heard from the audience and random people on Twitter seemed to be correct– the Warner Bros. panel was really only going to be 30-minutes. However, since we were going to get glimpses of the new Mad Max: Fury Road, thirty seemed like plenty of time to be blown away. Luckily the moderator made quick with his anecdote of seeing The Road Warrior as a child and threw to an exclusive clip (only previously shown at SXSW) right away. After a few short bursts from the trailer that everyone has already seen, we were treated to a short scene from the movie that featured Max meeting Charlize Theron’s character for the first time. It was very light on the dialogue, but heavy on some much-welcomed throwback action filmmaking sensibilities. Then, we were treated to another montage of never-before-seen footage of an ambush that took place later on in the movie. It seemed like the silver screen gods were shining on us that day. (Continued below)
(Cont…) But alas, San Andreas came and shook that optimism out of the audience’s hearts. After seeing a more slowed down version of the trailer that was released months ago, the director came out with stars Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario (True Detective, Parenthood). WB couldn’t even pass us The Rock. For the remaining 20-minutes of the panel, we were held hostage by a conversation that seemed to exist solely to validate seeing San Andreas as a geek film. Director Brad Peyton quickly steered the interview to the topic of how his CG earthquake movie was more than just CG. He quipped on how Paul Giamatti asked, “where are the green screens?” when he first walked onto set and Gugino went into a dull anecdote about doing wirework that consisted of her being dropped a few feet without using a stunt double. When they weren’t just basically pleading to the audience to take their movie seriously, they were buttering up the fact that The Rock was the star of the movie. Peyton told the audience that it was, “the best I’ve ever seen Dwayne,” and Gugino and Daddario made the usual comments about how fun it was to work with him. Yeah, it would have been nice to see that chemistry on stage, guys. – Myke Ladiona
The Messengers – Ah, so what is the CW rolling out this time? Pretty people in peril? Well, kind of. It’s an ensemble cast — with several characters having individual storylines — so the panel began by introducing them all one by one in various situations (a mother, a televangelist, etc.). And, of course, here’s the connection: A meteor lands out in the middle of no man’s land (a.k.a. where the two scientists are based, obviously!), and it sends a crazy pulse/shockwave that carries for miles– only affecting these certain individuals. Hello, powers! Better yet, their mirrored reflections show them their newfound wings. Ghastly. So, here come the lot of questions to coincide with all the freakishness: What will they need these powers for? What about the crazy guy that is shown walking naked from the meteor site?! Not unlike the most famous deranged naked guy with powers, he kills a poor old mechanic minding his own bee’s wax. Antagonist established! Though yet hard to judge The Messengers immediately, the Divine one enjoyed enough of the premise and the pilot set-up. Now, it’s up to the network that delivered us Buffy, Arrow and The Flash as to whether we’re going to enjoy all the possible ridiculousness of Angels & Demons, or the wondrous possibility of a modern day Heaven & Hell war. It’s enough to get my interest. – Derek
TV Guide’s Fan Favorite Showrunners – In this post-Gilligan / Cuse and Lindelof world, are geeks still unsure about what a showrunner is? According to the awkward first 15-minutes of TV Guide’s Showrunners panel we apparently still have no idea. TV Guide’s Michael Schneider couldn’t help but to try and coax his panelists to wax poetic about what is already television’s most glamorized behind-the-scenes job, which did no favors for an audience that was already bearing witness to a very random showrunner lineup. Luckily for Schneider, Community’s Dan Harmon shines in the face of awkwardness and will shamelessly ramble on until he gets either a laugh or someone else to jump in. Dan turned Schneider’s awkward “how is working with Yahoo,” lob of a question into an interesting ground rule double of a rant about how Yahoo doesn’t have to adhere to the Nielsen rating system anymore and now he gets an honest sense of how many people are really watching community. Turns out, it’s billions. Okay, maybe just a lot more than he really thought. Alex Hirsch (Gravity Falls) was more than happy to tap in for Harmon, and his musings on how he got away with writing Disney XD’s darkest moments elevated the conversation. (Cont. below)
(Cont…) Schneider still got in a few awkward questions. He had to force Salem’s Brannon Braga into the conversation with a spoiler and failed to get a laugh with an incest joke about Kerry Ehrin’s Bates Motel. Fortunately, the Q&A came early and the audience steered the showrunners into some interesting talking points. Adam Goldberg (The Goldbergs) was uncanny about how hurt he was when people insulted his character, since they are directly based on his family. He even went on to showcase embarrassing pictures of himself as a kid. Orphan Black’s Graeme Manson finally jumped into the conversation on the topic of what surprises audiences these days. “Nothing violent is surprising. Only being sexual is surprising,” he went on to say. Peter Horton (American Odyssey), who had just been on the stage in a very dull pilot-screening panel just before appearing with the other showrunners, even got to talk about shooting in Morocco and working with some very seasoned military consultants to address issues like PTSD. Overall, this wasn’t a great way for fans to learn about their favorite TV shows, but it was much more of an interesting conversation than Schneider’s dull talking points would have led you to believe. – Myke
Wayward Pines (Pilot screening/Q&A) – M. Night Shyamalan takes his first run at producing a TV show. So, you’re probably thinking dark, spooky, and weird, right? Correct! Thankfully, the pilot rules. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a big fan of Shyamalan– despite purposely avoiding his last pair of films (After Earth? No.). Based on the novel “Pines” by Blake Crouch, the story begins with FBI Agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) getting into a car accident and waking up in a hospital room in a town he is told is named Wayward Pines. Being the typical assertive lead character, there’s no way he’s going to stay put: Burke goes about leaving the hospital to wander and stick his nose where Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard) does want him to. There is the typical town-isn’t-what-it-seems thing going on, sure, but it’s shrouded well enough to where it slowly sucks you in. The awesome cast of familiar faces (Carla Gugino, Juliette Lewis) adds to a show that appears deep in a puzzle worth figuring out. After the screening, there was a panel with actors Reed Diamond (Harold Balinger), Tim Griffin (Adam Hassler), and Exec. Producer Donald De Line, with moderator Sandra Gonzalez. To which Sandra introduces herself last and says “But none of you care about me.” Oh I do, Sandra. Yes– she’s hot.
- Reed: “Very early on, we find out what’s going on. And — instead of taking the air out of the story — suddenly it just explodes. When the twist is revealed, I thought this was the most amazing thing I ever read.”
- De Line: “We were drawn only because of the fantastic story. [Night] wanted to do something original and not like everything else on television.”
- Tim: “This is one of those shows where they are very generous in exposing secrets. You don’t have to wait seven years.”
- De Line on getting such a great cast: “Who wants to come for this 10-episode journey? It was like a limited run of a play; we’re going to create something special.”
- Tim: “[Night] and all the directors were very generous in letting you bring your choices to the character… I know it sounds like a cliché, [but] the fact that everybody wanted to come join [the ensemble] because you get to tell a story in a way that you can’t tell in even the greatest films– is very exciting.” – Derek
Cartoon Voices Panel – I was automatically attracted to this panel as a voice over artist. The host Mark Evanier brought together a great group of voiceover artists who packed in tons of comedy, improvisation and wisdom of the business. I was very pleasantly surprised to see two familiar faces: Julie Nathanson from Final Fantasy XIII and John Mariano from Animaniacs. The panel also included Sumalee Montano (Transformers), Bob Joles (Winnie the Pooh), Greg Berger (Garfield), and Kathy Garver (Firestar). They spoke of their favorite people to work with and “oddest jobs”, in which they said every job is odd. They ended with a cold read of the Cinderella which was a huge hit with the audience. This panel is highly recommend by myself and others in our congregation. – Stephanie Panisello
Orphan Black (BBC America) – Hour-long TV show panels are always a gamble. There isn’t enough time for dramas to screen a new episode, but there is far more time than some shows seem to realize by the lack of clips they brought. But there was no way I was going to pass up on joining Wondercon’s Clone Club, a way easier club to get into than its SDCC counterpart with its 3-hour long line. Besides the length, another shortcoming the Orphan Black panel was faced with was the absence of one Tatiana Maslany, which meant the absence of at least half of the characters on the show. In order to compensate, almost every other cast member showed up instead and everyone was just as warm, hilarious, and generous as Tatiana is known to be. Right out the gate, we were treated to a long clip that really got into what the new season looks like it’s going to be about. That clip alone, along with the trailers that bookended it, would have been enough exclusive content to satisfy the enthusiastically packed room, but there was more. Way more. Entertainment Tonight’s Leanne Aguilera did a great job at getting the actors to ride the line of talking process and discussing their favorite parts of the show in a very insightful way. On top of that, she showed a scene that teased their character’s arc in the upcoming season for every actor on the panel. What put this panel over-the-top has a lot to do with the what makes the show great. Orphan Black’s celebration of gender equality and tolerance of the struggles of every person comes out in its cast and crew just as much as it does in the amazing storytelling in the show. Jordan Gavaris, who plays Felix on the show, summed it up best when he said, “there’s a million shades to everyone,” and when went on to describe his character’s sexuality, “I try and remember [that] there’s so much more to Felix than his sexuality.” The anticipation for the show’s third season may be at an all time high, but if this panel is any indication than the cast and crew have kept their passion and respect for the fans and the material even higher. – Myke