Saturday, February 23, 2008

WonderCon 2008 - I Want to Believe

Today was Day Two of WonderCon. I got ready for the big rainshower that was supposed to hit San Francisco sometime after the convention began, and layered for the cold that hit me last night. As it turned out, I never got wet, and I never got cold. So, that being said, going to WonderCon was totally worth it today, mostly for a surprise that greeted the Hall A crowd halfway through the programming.

But first I went to see if Noel Neill was still there. She was. There were about six or so people standing around her, but nobody was buying anything. She had about six or eight photos in front of her, really large ones, larger than 8x10. I brought my notebook with me today so that I could carry something back, but these photos were too large. All of them were wonderful -- photos of her backstage as Lois Lane, photos with George Reeves. Even one hugging Christopher Reeve.

But I saw the guy in front of me buying her book. I didn't know she had one. A book I could get home without too much damage to it. So, without looking inside of it, I asked her to sign one to me. I also told her how I had watched her growing up, and said "thank you" over and over. This time I got a good photo as she was about to write the inscription in the book. She smiled at me and thanked me. She's 87, and her last role was two years ago. Wow.

I left the dealer's room to go to Hall A, but you can't get there from here. They had us rerouted -- through the dealer's room, if you can imagine -- because the stupid cafe's chairs and tables obstructed the huge crowds going in that direction. I got the two little giveaways -- one for Get Smart and the other for 10,000 BC -- and then took a seat on the far side. My home for the next five hours.

The first panels were 10,000 BC and Get Smart from Warner Bros.

10,000 BC is Roland Emmerich's (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot) latest project, and he came out to tell us all about it, he and his two stars, people I have never seen before. He showed us an extended trailer. I have to say, the visual effects are magnificent, and I'm sure there's a little story there, but I doubt if there's really a there there. I doubt if I'll see it. The only thing that Roland said of any import was that he didn't wake up one day deciding to become a director. He went to film school interested in art, and eventually started directing in order to see his vision through.

Get Smart was one-half hour of a lot of fun. Anne Hathaway kept trying to match Steve Carell's non-sequiturs, and she just couldn't keep up. She did say that Steve and director Peter Segal tried to get her to do some improv, and she did a little bit. Steve, of course, is a master, as he's also a writer. The extended trailer they showed us was terrific. The only thing that bothers me is that Anne Hathaway is no Barbara Feldon, and apparently Agent 99 is not written the same way. Barbara's agent was demure, self-effacing, kind when Max would screw up. No so this time. We did find out that Steve's Maxwell Smart says a lot of the same catchphrases as in the original, which is good.

Disney presented The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which is a long way from being completed, and WALL*E, the new Pixar movie. Hearing from the visual effects supervisor for Narnia, and then director Andrew Stanton for WALL*E, well, both were real treats. And the footage they showed up was exceptional. The Narnia footage was really, really rough, and that's always fun. And Stanton showed us three small clips from WALL*E which explained the love story.

Then we got treated to a real bore of a 20th Century Fox release: Shutter, which is about spirit photography. The director, Joshua Jackson, told us that one-third of Americans believe in ghosts, and a show of hands in the crowd seemed to bear that out (although this is a biased group, for sure). And the audience recognized stars Rachael Taylor (from last year's hit, Transformers) and James Kyson Lee (from the T.V. hit, Heroes).

At a break between sessions, Jennifer came by to see me and chat a bit. She was very much looking forward to seeing the X-Files people. I met her and her partner Amy at a Battlestar Galactica convention about a year ago, and they were kind enough to invite me to the Razor premiere at their house in Oakland. And a little while later Amy came by to talk about Highlander, etc. Very nice people. I hope we can get together at the Grand Slam in April in Burbank, maybe for dinner or something.

The second X-Files film is finally being made -- principal photography is still ongoing -- and I was surprised at all the hoopla in the audience when Chris Carter came out, along with Frank Spotnitz. But the crowd really hit the roof when Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny came on out as well. They weren't advertised online in the programming notes, but I see (hours later) that they're mentioned in the WonderCon program. It was a joy to see them again. They were a part of my life, of a lot of our lives, for many years. As Chris Carter said, the T.V. show was all about that poster that Mulder had in his office, the one of the flying saucer: I Want to Believe. It was his search for God. I get that, but I think it was also the relationship between the scientist and the believer, between two people who couldn't be more different. When it was clicking, there was nothing better.

The clip from the new X-Files movie was a bit confusing - ha! That's no surprise. But it was visually arresting. Both stars said they came onto the set the first day, thinking they knew how to do this, be their characters, and both were stumped, looking for it. It looked to me that the two get along much better than ever before. They've matured. They're servicing the material.

I had a chance to see Gillian at a Creation convention many years ago, and always kicked myself for missing it. She said she wanted to see what it was like. She never came back, so I guess that tells you something. So it was a great thrill to see them both on stage, and see them let their hair down. Gillian gave as good as David gave, which at one time may not have been true. And Chris said, as his stars concurred, that seeing the enthusiasm for their project confirms that people haven't forgotten.

Half the crowd left right before writers and directors of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay came out, accompanied by one of their stars, John Cho. The extended clip that I saw didn't look all that funny to me, but -- wait -- come to think of it, I spent most of that time in the line for the bathroom. Still, they reported that Neil Patrick Harris has a lot of time in the new movie, and that can't be bad.

And then, Iron Man. Oh, yeah. We're waiting for this one. The film's director, Jon Favreau, showed us a GREAT clip on how Robert Downey Jr. tests the rocket boots. Really nice sequence, showing Downey's command of the character and his sardonic sense of humor. I just can't get used to the mustache.

Oh, I forgot to add that, contrary to schedule, Steve Sansweet from Lucasfilm squeezed in at some point and showed us a clip of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated T.V. show that's coming soon. He had an hour later, but I guess he wanted to tell us to stick around. I didn't. Still, from what he showed us, the animation and character development looked really good. AND some of our favorite characters come back, like General Grievous. And that Emperor guy. I may have to watch.

So, at 5 pm, I scooted out and ran over to a small room where the new Starship Troopers: Marauder was going to debut. Oh, not the movie, but a clip, and, important to me, Casper van Dien was going to be there! Starship Troopers was one of my favorite movies, a movie where women, whether they were grunts or pilots, were treated the same in the military. Casper was there at the end of some comic book talk and was posing for photos and signing autographs. And, as it turns out, Jolene Blalock is his costar in the movie!
Jolene, of course, is from Star Trek: Enterprise, and a few people asked her questions about that series. The trailers they showed us, I have to be honest here, looked rather cheesy. There's one scene where one of their men jumps on a bug that's about to explode. And there are several seconds when everybody looks at him and he looks at everybody, and then he dies and they're sad. Geez. Still, I'll probably see it. I understand Paul Verhoeven was involved, but not directly.

And then I stayed another half hour for Gabriel, which is supposed to be an Australian movie. It's about angels and archangels and battles with evil, etc. They showed a lengthy clip, and it's all dialogue and pretty one-dimensional acting. They told us they made it for $175,000 (U.S. money), and yeah, it looks like it.

So that was my day. I packed up, put my coat back on, had the umbrella at the ready, and plunged into the San Francisco night. Only to rain. It wasn't even that cold. I could hear the Chinese New Year parade in the distance, and actually, when I got to Market, I could see a little of it. All the band performers were in transparent rain slickers, ready for the boom that was supposed to come a little later. Since I had posters in my little giveaway poster sack -- I think I'll keep that one! -- I was anxious to get on BART, out of the elements.

I doubt if I'll go back tomorrow even though there's a promotion for Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. I hate to miss it. But I'll see the kid who's in that at the Grand Slam.

After all, I have to prepare for the Oscars on Sunday night.

A good WonderCon! Soooo much smaller than Comic Con, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. That last interaction with Casper Van Dien and Jolene Blalock -- that's one of the best things about's small. People posed for photos afterwards with them, and got autographs, and you can do that there. Maybe not in Hall A, but certainly for these smaller films in smaller rooms. And that's really nice.

Friday, February 22, 2008

WonderCon 2008 - Finish What You Start

I was just going to pop in and out of Moscone South where WonderCon was, but I actually had a good time at the few things I did attend. Bad weather or not, I hope to go back tomorrow for the movie preview onslaught.

Today I started out by cruising the dealer's room. I came across the autograph bank, and didn't see anyone of note, but there, towards the middle of the gigantic room, was a line of tables for more autographs. The names above them announced people who mostly weren't there, although I noticed that Peter Mayhew (of Chewbacca fame) had quite a line. There, though, in a quiet corner was a little old lady, with longish white hair. Could it be...?

It was, and the sight shocked me. It was Noel Neill.

I grew up watching Noel, who was the second, and better, incarnation of T.V.'s Lois Lane, the Lois to George Reeve's Superman. And, of course, when George shot himself, her Lois Lane career ended. I saw her pop up in Christopher Reeve's Superman movie, as a train passenger, watching as Superboy whizzed past the locomotive. But I hadn't seen her since. I had wondered if she was still with us.

It's a bad photo, and I'm sorry for that. But, if you can, notice the Superman emblem underneath her jacket. If she's still there tomorrow, I'll try to get her autograph.

I showed up half an hour early for J. Michael Straczynski's talk, mostly because I just wanted to rest. Joe came in promptly at 4 pm, grabbed the microphone, and, once the technical difficulties of the microphone were figured out, dove right in.

"Before I take questions, if you take nothing else away from me today, take this: Finish what you start." He went on to say that you might think the project will be great when you finish it, but you never finish it, and it still has that "but it'll be great" attached to it. Finish it. Finish everything. And be judged by it. And learn from it.

Then he said: everything is driven by character. Wow. I really liked that. Many people, he added, spend too much time trying to get their character into certain situations so we'll see how they'll react. If you write the character well enough, those situations will come.

He took a poll of those who had come to see him, and the smallish room was packed. About one-third were writing "prose." About one-third were writing screenplays or scripts. And the other third were writing comic books. Kind of amazing.

He took many questions, and they all had serious questions, questions which necessarily had to be answered in the space of minutes. But each person who asked laid bare themselves, almost to ridicule. One woman wrote morning, noon and night but didn't want to share any of it with anyone. One guy -- no, make that several -- said he was distracted by creating other characters, and losing focus. Joe gave good advice to each. I'm really sorry I'll miss his hour tomorrow. I'm also sorry I have nothing for him to autograph; the guy is one of the most gracious writers/producers I have ever met, gracious with his time for the fans.

After JMS's talk was through, I went over to Hall A, which is where trailers and film panels are presented. It's the largest programming hall, and I'll be spending my entire day here tomorrow. I expect to lose my place several times as I get up to go to the bathroom. It would really help if I had someone with me. That's why Ricky is so valuable at Comic Con; actually, he's valuable for many reasons, but that one always comes to mind when I do the miniature Comic Con in San Francisco.

Of the panels and trailers I saw, I can kinda tell: Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a dud. It's written by a favorite comic actor, Jason Segel (from How I Met Your Mother), and has some wonderful people in it (Kristen Bell,

Mila Kunis
), but, ohmiGod, when you realize that they show you the best at the trailer, it suddenly hits you how bad this thing is gonna be. Since I am not a fan of Judd Apatow's stuff (he's the producer), I shouldn't be surprised that I didn't like the clip.

But even worse: Journey 3-D, starring Brendan Fraser. They kept talking about the visual effects, and I have to say some of them look awesome. The award-winning visual effects supervisor was onboard for the film; James Cameron, who did the Abyss and Terminator 2, etc., was onboard. Why don't they talk about the award-winning SCRIPT writer? Because the story doesn't mean much to these filmmakers. Oh, and by the way, Journey 3D is based on Jules Verne's classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Good story, bad screenplay.

However, Wanted looks fairly interesting and a dazzling cast. And charming James McAvoy was there to tell us about it. How incredible that James came all the way up to see us when he will obviously be at the Academy Awards tomorrow night to cheer on Atonement!

Now, THAT's pushing your film. And we appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Duper Tuesday!

It's Super Tuesday. I'm glued to the T.V. set.

I wanted to write about the raw deal that I think Hillary is getting. The media is reporting it, but it didn't start in the media. It started around 16 years ago when the First Lady tried to get a health care agenda through the White House. She was destroyed by Hillary Haters. It continues today.

Last fall I went onto to see if I could pick up a Hillary Clinton t-shirt. What I found amazed me. Most of the shirts weren't go Hillary, or Hillary in 2008. They were slathered with slogans villifying her, sometimes in the most disgusting way.

One of the worst, I thought, was: Monica Lewinsky's Ex Boyfriend's Wife for President '08

And this is for something who is FOR Hillary Clinton??

Here are some more bumper stickers and t-shirts, and not just at CafePress but from other sites:

GoPee on Hillary

Run Hillary Run: If Republican Place on Front Bumper, If Democrat place on Back

Oh, but gosh, there are so many more, and many posted on anti-Hillary websites, like:
No Way in Hellary!
The Bitch is Back
Life is a Bitch, Don't Vote for One
Huck Fillary
Anyone But Hillary

And there are quite a few equating Hillary to Communism. What is THAT about?

But, in my mind, the absolute worst: Hillary Meal Deal: 2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts, and a bunch of left wings."

Would you ever see such a display of anti-woman, mysognistic, sexist crap about ANY other candidate? This one is a woman, they're saying: she's fair game.

One thing I haven't seen, and I'm glad: nobody's talking about her hair. Isn't that a relief?

I was ready for this layering of vitriol on the female candidate. Get ready for this kind of campaign. However....there's a new target in town:

John McCain.

McCain is not a true conservative. Rush Limbaugh declares him unfit to hold office. Several Republicans high in office have claimed they won't vote for the man; they'd rather have Hillary or Obama in office.

My God. Is a Democratic victory going to be that easy?

So, stay tuned. We'll see how much vitriol there is in American politics. It may be stupid, it may be crass and so beneath us as intelligent voters, but it sure is interesting.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hillary Is Hard to Find

I went to the Montclair Farmers Market this morning, one to collect my mail, and two, to find where the Hillites are. They were supposed to have a table there, but Simone didn't tell me when.

No sign of them, but I was there at 8:30 am, and they may have shown up later. I went to the corner (in front of the WaMu bank) where there's usually a political table, and there was....for Obama. Clever of them to get there so early as the first people jog over to the market.

But I had to get to Jack London Square to be there by 10 am for the gathering. The rally. Probably more like a small table.

I walked up and down as the various people put up their tables and put out their wares. At 10:20, I gave up, went over and bought some potatoes and onions, and sampled the popcorn.

Judging by the fact that the BART rally posted on the website had the wrong date on it, that nobody showed up at either place, I'm gonna make the judgment that the campaign has some serious organizational issues. Well, just this little segment of Oakland.

So, instead, I went over to Susan's and Linda's house for a SuperBowl party, and we rooted on the Giants to victory. if it weren't for us, Eli Manning wouldn't have closed the deal in the last minute. Well, I'd like to think so.

I can't wait until Super Tuesday. I just wish I could've been more of a part of it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton is my Choice for President

It wasn't a hard choice, actually. A woman in the Oval Office. A woman who has worked on universal health care for longer than her Democratic opponent has been in the Senate.

And I will admit this if no one else will: a candidate who is not a dove but who has a realistic view of war and when to use it. Her vote on the Iraq war was not a negative to me: it showed she can pull the trigger.

Women face that argument all the time, don't they. They're not "man" enough. They have no spine. They cry at sad movies. I challenge anyone to stand up against Senator Clinton and say she has no opinion, she can't do the tough things.

I have made contact with the Clinton organizer in Oakland. I'll be attending two rallies in Oakland tomorrow, I hope: one at the Montclair Farmers Market (which, I believe, will be small), and one at Jack London Square.

So, that being said, I am really excited to exclaim that my Clinton stuff arrived today! Well, some of it. Separate buttons that claim her for Women, Jews, and Gays.

I shall wear them all.