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Comic-con 2013 Sunday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 31st, 2013 4:05AM

It seemed as though I had just fallen asleep when I was being shaken awake and told it was already 2 AM and we had missed our planned wake up time of 1 AM. But a glance at the clock confirmed we had merely misread the numbers and it was 11:56 PM, not 1:56 AM. Since we were awake we got dressed and went down to get in line for Hall H. We were there by 1:15 AM and it was amazing how many hundreds upon hundreds of people were already in line. I had doubts that we're going to make it inside the 6500 seat hall. I had just settled down to sleep on the grass and was dozing when suddenly all of the sprinklers turned on. It's funnier the more distance I have from it but at the time it was annoying. All told we waited in line over 8 1/2 hours but we made it into Hall H. Starting off the morning was Supernatural, and their annual gag reel presentation brought some much-needed energy to the crowd. Series stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were on hand as well as series regular Misha Collins and recurring guest star Mark A. Sheppard. Surprising the boys was Felicia Day, who plays Charlie, and she announced that she would be returning for season nine. Breaking Bad was next and we got to see an exclusive preview of the final set of episodes. Bryan Cranston entertained the audience with a Walter mask. One of the main reasons for people to be in line for the better part of a day was to attend the next panel which was the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary. We were treated to an extended preview and got to hear current Doctor Matt Smith and his companion Jenna Coleman talk about their characters and where they think the series will go. We learned the 50th anniversary special will not only feature Matt Smith but also 10th Doctor David Tennant and to no one's surprise the Daleks. Exterminate! Knowing nothing could top the panels we'd seen, plus being so very exhausted, we decided to leave and spend our last few hours walking the Exhibit Hall floor as well as eating. Community and Its always Sunny in Philadelphia are shows we don't watch so we felt that it was karmic goodness to let someone else have our seats.

Comic-con 2013 Saturday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 31st, 2013 3:59AM

Today we spent our time over at the Hilton Indigo Ballroom as opposed to waiting for the Hall H panels like so many other people. We started off with the Machinima panel during which we learned about some upcoming videos including a new offering from the guy who brought us YouTube sensation Hughes the Force. Next up was the Geek & Sundry Panel, one of the reasons we were in line for the day. We Heard Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day talk about some of the upcoming vloggers for the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. The next panel was our motivating force for skipping the convention center panels-- the one and only How I Met Your Mother panel. We were treated to a Robin Sparkles sing-along, a very humorous clip, and Neil Patrick Harris running down the aisles in order to give a fan the highest of fives. A panel for the CW's The Originals, a spinoff of the highly popular The Vampire Diaries, was next and while The Vampire Diaries isn't a show I currently watch the presentation for The Originals certainly made its case well for me to watch it. Following The Originals was the panel for The Awesomes, a Hulu plus cartoon show created by Seth Meyers. We got to watch the pilot and were treated to some trading cards. It was genuinely funny and seems to have a lot of places they can go with it. Our final panel of the day was The Nerdist, led by the poster boy for workaholics, Chris Hardwick, who was cosplaying as his favorite The Walking Dead character. He was joined by Matt Mira and Jonah Ray, and the trio threw their support behind a movie called Zero Charisma they are helping to distribute. We got to see the trailer and could see why the gang is so excited.

Comic-con 2013 Friday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 19th, 2013 11:42PM

Today is a long day so only a summary of events I'm at which are within the Holy Grail of the Cnvention Center, Hall H. Please feel free to ask questions if you've got 'em, I'll reply ASAP!

World's End Panel: hilarious interactions between Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. The trailer and a mash-up are among the treats.

Veronica Mars: An incredibly grateful cast led by Kristen Bell takes over Hall H and treat fans to clips, Q&As, and the first footage of the forthcoming movie.

Kick-Ass 2/Riddick: Jim Carrey is a no-show and Chloe Grace Moretz appears via satellite. The combination of this panel with Riddick means only time for some clips and a few questions but the audience appreciates the clips. Riddick sees Katee Sackoff and Vin Diesel entertaining the crowd with Diesel being especially verbose.

The Walking Dead: teasers of season four and a large number of the cast are present including fan favorite Norman Reedus. the audience demands a Rick/Michelle pairing and the creators are amused.

Game of Thrones: Winter may be a way off still but the King of the North, his mother, the mother of dragons, Jon Snow and his lady love, Sam, and Tyrion Lannister are here and receive an enthusiastic reception to say the least. An "In Memorium" compilation is the perfect way to begin the panel.

Sony Pictures: Cloudy With. A Chance of Meatballs 2, Robocop, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and the Amazing Spider Man 2 are the mini-panels within this block. clips and teasers are shown for all but the guests are the highlights. Michael Keaton,Samuel L. Jackson, Andrew Garfield, and Jamie Foxx are the most whoop-worthy.

Metallica: Lucky fans get free tickets to the group's performance tonight.

I'm exhausted for the best reason I can think of (while massively sleep deprived) so I am off to catnap.

Comic-con 2013 End of Day One
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 18th, 2013 9:14PM

So as promised here is my update after the panels of day one. I'm happy to report getting in to see not only my beloved Psych panel but also Intelligence, a new CBS drama starring Josh Holloway and Marge Helgenberger, Star Crossed, a new CW show starring Matt Lanter of 90210 fame and Beauty and the Beast, making its second appearance at Comic-con.

Intelligence seems at first look like a typical spy procedural, with the hook being a chip which instantly downloads all of the world's digitized data into Holloway's Gabriel's brain. There's the typical will they are won't they dilemma, a tough boss who secretly understands more about the characters than we are led to believe, and two lead characters who are ruled more often by their hearts than their heads. It's a successful formula which works well in a show like Alias and more recently Covert Affairs, only time will tell whether or not Intelligence lives up to the genre. The panel was very engaging, especially Holloway, whom the crowd adores.

it's not surprising first day bugs pushed the panels back 15 minutes, meaning there wasn't time for Q&As with some shows like Star Crossed. The Beauty and the Beast panel boasted one of the funniest gag reels I've seen in awhile, and Star Crossed elicited a definite emotional connection to the material from the target audience members in the crowd.

But the highlight of the day is definitely Psych. The entire cast was on hand and seemed genuinely excited to be interacting with the crowd, many of whom got a chance to see the cast members the night before for an exclusive engagement wherein the upcoming musical episode was shown at local theaters. As a special treat for audience members who missed the chance to see the musical, James Roday and Dule Hill treated the panel to an acapella performance of one of their songs. It was a special treat to have Cary Elwes moderate the panel, as he is a fan favorite not only from his iconic role in The Princess Bride, but also his role on Psych as criminal master mind Despereaux. Psych also is the first panel of the convention to give me swag in the form of a free t-shirt which is always appreciated.

I skipped out on the rest of the panels in order to spend my remaining time walking the floor of the exhibit hall in order to try and obtain as many of the exclusives on my list as I could. I can report about 80 percent in my possession as we speak. One of the things I know from today is I'm going to wake up at an even more insane single digit hour in the morning so until tomorrow I bid you all a fond farewell.

Comic-con 2013
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 18th, 2013 10:57AM

Here we are once again at San Diego and Line-con...er I mean Comic-con! So far all my time is being spent waiting with brief moments of movement (#thelineismoving). Mix in a dash of disappointment as I see things being sold out (I'm looking at you NerdHQ) and you can imagine you're with me! I hope to get in to see the Psych panel later today and will update if I do!

Thomas Jane talks about dialogue--and its absence
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- October 31st, 2012 8:52PM

For the last couple of Halloween seasons, I've been checking out horror movies and other frightening media as October rolls around. I'd literally just finished watching Eyes Without a Face on Hulu when a PR rep sent a digital copy of Dark Country, Thomas Ott's graphic novel tied to the movie and short story of the same name.

The first thing you notice is what you don't see: words. It was a bit of a surprise to realize it when I was done reading, but it works well that way. The short story is included with the graphic novel; reading it reminds you that telling stories just in images can be really creepy.

Thomas Jane, who directed the movie and, with Raw Comics partner Tim Bradstreet, oversaw the graphic novel, said he "stole a lot of his images" for the movie version of Dark Country from Ott. "He was a big inspiration for the look of the film."

Jane wanted to repay the favor with the artist, and Ott, taking a look at the original short story on which the movie is based, decided it was right up his alley. Jane headed off to Europe to work with Ott on the project.

"Ott's got a sort of signature style. First he does his scratchboard style, scratching a black board to scratch away the black," Jane said. The other part of Ott's style is the absence of dialogue. "It's kind of like a silent movie, very very creative. He's got quite a lot of fans over in Europe."

"Thomas' take on the graphic novel is pretty much his own personal style. It's a really creative way he can tell a whole story using just visuals," Jane said.

The movie, of course, wasn't silent, although Jane did concentrate on visuals.

"I think movies today rely too heavily on dialogue. When movies were silent, people had to be a lot more creative," Jane said.

Jane said he'd like to one day direct a silent movie himself, noting that Chad St. John, the writer of his The Punisher: Dirty Laundry short, has a no-dialogue script. "Not silent--no one talks. It's a brilliantly executed way of telling a story. Captivating.

"It really just depends on what the story is, if you find the right story."

The movie Dark Country was Jane's first feature as a director. "It was a great sort of student film to cut my teeth on. I bit off a bit more than I could chew." Dark Country was the first all-digital 3D movie, which required a lot of invention on the technical side. Jane acknowledged "a lot of mistakes in it" and noted that the studio asked for 10 minutes' more footage, which means it drags in places. However, he's been encouraged by the response at screenings at horror and comic conventions around the country.

Dark Country is the first graphic novel/movie combo Jane's been involved with, although Alien Pig Farm 3000, a previous Raw Comics title, was considered for filming.

Jane's second feature, The Magnificent Death, starts shooting in spring 2013. "A lot of people told me I should do a Western," he said.

As he preps, Jane--who is collaborating with Bradstreet on the movie--has been immersing himself in the old West, both on film and in books, to capture the feel of his 1879 setting. "It's the history of Westerns at my house every night," he said. Just recently, he's been watching Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dynamite, John Ford's Two Rode Together, Richard Brooks' The Professionals with Lee Marvin, and George Stevens' Shane. He's also been looking at the Western photography of Ansel Adams and Timothy O'Sullivan. He's also been going East--looking at the samurai movies which were influenced by Westerns.

For more on the movie Dark Country, check out Clark Douglas' DVD Verdict review here. Ott's Dark Country graphic novel was published by Raw Comics; other Ott works are Fantagraphics Books releases.

Director gives "Silent Hill" the power of reality
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- October 22nd, 2012 9:52PM

"Imagine Alice in Wonderland filmed through the eyes of David Cronenberg."

That's how British director Michael J. Bassett (Deathwatch) describes his new movie, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, due in theaters on Friday, October 26, just in time for Halloween frights. The movie returns to the strange world under a West Virginia town, seen in the movie Silent Hill and the video game series that inspired it.

He compared it to classic 3D movies like House of Wax in that "I'm trying to do the same thing. I want the 3D to be entertaining." At the same time, he notes the technology has gotten much better, allowing him to do more. "I want to immerse the audience in detail, make them feel they're looking in a window."

He says Revelation 3D is done "a little less exploitatively, a little more artistically."

That includes the influence of surreal artists such as Hieronymous Bosch. "It's essential to have an artistic eye, to draw on many influences, even multiple medias and disciplines."

Bennett put his eye to work in set design, costuming, and other production detail. "I'm an old-school filmmaker. I want to use virtually no CGI."

Bassett relied heavily on "prosthetics, makeup, and men in suits," along with locations that included a Toronto-area power station and real sets, because he wanted the movie "to feel like a real world." He did use some digital effects to create "things that couldn't be achieved," like the video game's fog world and one character who couldn't be done with prosthetics.

"I can't stand just standing in front of a big green screen."

With younger actors, "I want them to really feel it." Carrie-Ann Moss (The Matrix) and Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) have worked with green screens a lot, but star Adelaide Clemens (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), who plays young Heather Mason, hasn't. "I gave her the opportunity to have real responses." Veterans and newcomers alike seemed to appreciate the old-fashioned filmmaking experience, he said, even if the power station--"a carcass of industrial complexity"--at times proved to be "a horrendous location."

Moss, he said, particularly liked not having eyebrows, matching character Claudia Wolf's appearance in the Silent Hill video games. "I want to have the unusual look," she told him.

Bennett, a fan of the Silent Hill video games, wanted to make the strange look of the video games real, with lots of detail that gamers will pick up on.

"There's a difference between a movie and a video game that's quite profound," he said. "You want to make that stuff come alive."

The result, Bassett hopes, will be "frightening and hugely entertaining."

Looper's Summer Qing has roles in past, present, future
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- October 6th, 2012 12:51PM

Summer Qing hopes American audiences will soon recognize her after appearing as Bruce Willis' wife in the new movie Looper. She's already a familiar face in China. Looper gives a nod to that with a hammock scene in which the book Laughing in the Wind, which was the basis for one of her Chinese TV series, is seen.

Qing spoke to Cinema Verdict through a translator just after the time-travel movie--also starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, and Emily Blunt--was released in both the United States and China.

According to the British Guardian newspaper, Looper topped Chinese releases, with a gross estimated at $23 million-$25 million. With a $21 million opening in the States, that makes it the "first blockbuster to boast a bigger opening weekend figure in China than for its US debut," the Guardian said. Qing said she was pleased with Looper's strength in China.

Director Rian Johnson was looking for a Chinese actress for the U.S.-China co-production, and liked Qing's work in the historical epic The Founding of a Republic and the Hong Kong action picture Flash Point, in which she played a "good bad girl." Qing didn't get to do action scenes in Looper, although she has done some in Hong Kong and China.

Her Chinese career leans toward historical epics like Farewell my Concubine and The Emperor's Shadow. Qing says she enjoys both styles of movies, although they give her a "different feeling."

For Looper, Qing traveled between Louisiana and China, filming scenes with Willis around New Orleans and a beach scene with Gordon-Leavitt in Shanghai.

Qing finds the differences between working in China, Hong Kong, and the United States small. "What does matter is to have a good team," she said, noting that she's been fortunate in that regard, working with actors who are "professional and passionate about what they do."

Qing hopes she'll get to show her skills in a stateside action movie soon. In the meantime, she's got three projects--an action movie and two biopics, all optioned from books--in the works through her own production company and destined for international release. Qing's company has already released two films, and she enjoys the variety that having her own company brings.

Seeing the light
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 26th, 2012 5:19PM

I just saw The Dark Knight Rises and noticed an irony, given the horrible opening-day drama in Colorado. There's a message in there somewhere. The movie is about standing up to fear and terrorism, both in Bruce Wayne's personal confrontation with Bane and in the city-held-hostage plot. Thus, it already speaks quite well against the sort of nightmare that it opened to.

A Comic-Con Noob Shares Her Experiences -- Sunday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 21st, 2012 3:52AM

Sunday saw me in line by 3 AM. No that's not a typo…I was lying down on the sidewalk with hundreds of my fellow attendees awaiting the opening of Hall H. Once the doors opened I was thrilled to get in and find a seat as it meant I was going to get to see the Fringe panel but more importantly I had a guaranteed seat for Supernatural which followed. The Fringe panel was unexpectedly emotional as Jasika Nicole, Anna Torv and Lance Reddick all broke down in tears at one point. The panel attendees all received high quality Fringe fedoras featuring a ribbon imprinted with the logo as well as an announcement of the final season. It was by far the coolest swag I got for going to a panel.

And then it was time for Supernatural featuring stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as well as Misha Collins, Mark A. Sheppard, Jim Beaver, executive producer Jeremy Carver and producer Ben Edlund who was seriously on some kind of mood altering substance. Was it simply too much caffeine? Maybe. Did he come across as being on speed? Definitely. The panel shared a sneak peak of the gag reel which will be included on the upcoming season seven Blu-ray and DVD release coming out in September as well as a clip package created especially for the panel.

Once I was done swooning over Mr. Ackles and company it was time to hit another comic panel, this time DC Nation. (Yes, I left the Doctor Who panel so someone who was a true fan could take my seat. Karma at work, I hope.) Moderated by surprise guest Kevin Smith, the panel focused mainly on upcoming offerings Young Justice, Beware the Batman, and Teen Titans Go! Proving what a true fan he is normally verbose Smith merely nodded at any comment directed his way and pointed to the panelists, indicating where he thought our attention should be directed. Although fans of the original Teen Titans may have left disappointed with the direction their favorite characters were headed it was a worthwhile panel nonetheless.

I couldn't think of a better way to end my panel experience than with Buffy turns 20, a panel featuring someone from every incarnation of Buffy, starting with the motion picture and ending with the current graphic novels. Clare Kramer, who was the “Big Bad” Glorificus of season five, moderated the panel which featured Nicholas Brendon, (Xander from the series) James Marsters, (Spike from the series) Jane Espenson, (writer/producer) Georges Jentry, (graphic novel illustrator) Scott Allie (Dark Horse publishing editor) and Randall Batinkoff (Jeffrey from the feature film). The highlight was Nicholas Brendan doing the Snoopy dance. It was the perfect ending to our last day at Comic-Con.

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