2016 New York Comic Con Review: Day 2

2016 New York Comic Con

Friday, October 7th 2016
Jacob K. Javits Center, New York, NY

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

The Jacob K. Javits Center in the heart of New York City once again played host to the annual New York Comic Con on October 6th-9th where for four days the sprawling complex became the epicenter for all things comics and pop culture. The event which is now in its 10th year was once again put on by the Connecticut based company Reed Pop a company who puts on some of the largest pop culture events around the country. This year’s Con was no exception boasted appearances by some of the biggest names in comics, film and television.

For our coverage this year we chose to check out the events taking place on day two of the convention. Friday’s schedule included panels with the casts of “Steven Universe”, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” and “Underworld: Blood Wars”. Autograph signings with “Game of Thrones” star Jack Gleeson, “Stanger Things” Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbour, comic creators Greg Capullo, former My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way and making his final NY Comic Con appearance Stan Lee. Needless to say we were quite excited for the day’s events. Right off the bat the event seemed a bit different this year. Despite the entrances still being overly crowded causing extended wait times once you were inside the venue however, the normal wall to wall congestion seemed much lighter than in previous years. This could be related to the addition of several off site venues which were now hosting panels and screenings throughout the day and/or the newly introduced digitally monitored cue lines which were now required to attend a panel in hopes of alleviating chaotic line ups right before the start of an event. Though this alleviated some congestion it still created a number of new problems and a fair amount of confusion amongst attendees. The new offsite venues which included the Theater at Madison Square Garden and the Hammerstein Ballroom were welcome additions however they two weren’t without issue as once attendees left the main convention hall upon returning he or she would again need to wait in the entrance lines.

Despite the new changes and the fact that we probably weren’t going to be able to see as much as we had in years past we made our way to the main convention floor. As always it was like a bustling mini city packed to the rafters with everything from limited edition figures and books to unique clothing and tchachke’s. It also was the home to some of the pop industries biggest names including everyone from Marvel and DC to Funko and Lego. Displays ranged in sizes from the minute to the immense as each vendor uniquely showcased their latest and greatest products. The main floor is also a lot of fun because you never know who or what you are going to bump in to. This year we ran smack dab into WWE Hall of Famer Sting as he was shooting some segments for the WWE Network while showcasing some of the new WWE themed “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. An area garnering a good share of attention but tucked back along the wall in an area known as “The Block” was promotion for the recently released “Shin Godzilla” film. The display which featured several posters for the film and lush red carpeting also included a chance to get your picture with the real life Godzilla! Ok maybe it was just a guy in a Godzilla suit standing in front of a backdrop but, it was still cool!

As we continued walking the endless isles and floors of the center we quickly realized that the day was quickly coming to an end and that our comic con adventure for 2016 was about over. Though we weren’t able to take in nearly as many panels as we had in previous years the added space to move around in between events was a welcome addition. The new digital cue system still could use some work however over time I think it will help make for a much more enjoyable con experience and one we will definitely being looking forward to for 2017.

Event Coverage: New York Comic Con 2015

New York Comic Con 2015
Date: Thursday, October 8th – Sunday, October 11th
Venue: Jacob K. Javitz Center, New York, New York

As the leaves begin to fall and Halloween decorations begin to go up it marks the change in season for most but for pop-culture fans it acts as the tell tale sign that New York Comic Con is just around the corner. The ginormous four day event which marked its 10 anniversary this year and once again acted as the culmination of the week long “Hero Week”. Fans of all walks of filed into the vast Jacob K. Javitz center where over the course of the events four days more than 160,000 fans would walk the halls of the center making it easily the largest convention on the East Coast

Thursday of the convention was once reserved for press and special ticket holders however in the last two years the day has been opened up for single ticket holders and pretty much anyone else who wanted to traverse the ever expanding crowd. In comparison to previous year’s attendance was definitely up as several panels we planned to cover couldn’t even accommodate press due to the at times overwhelming numbers. Thursday’s panel highlights included those by HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, Tru TV’s “Impractical Jokers” a special panel appearance by “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman along with appearances by the cast of AMC’s “Comic Book Men” with the panel being moderated by none other than Kevin Smith. Even though the entire cast of the show was present a majority if not all of the questions were directed towards Smith. Over the course of the hour long discussion Smith detailed his ideas behind the creation of the show and his thoughts on the series success which will celebrate the start of its 5th season on Oct. 18th. Prior to the panel’s conclusion Smith announced that he will begin filming the long awaited sequel to his film “Mallrats”. The sequel which will begin shooting this winter in Pennsylvania centers on Brody played by Jason Lee attempting to save his beloved mall from terrorists. Shooting for the film will begin shortly after Christmas and casting for extras for the film will be announced via Facebook. Smith noted that this is the first of two movies he has planned to shoot in 2016 however he did not say what the other film would be. My hopes would be “Clerks 3” which Smith has said in previous panels he does plan to shoot. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

In between attempting to squeeze into the several desirable panels we wanted to cover we ventured to Artist Alley which is always a hot spot for those wanting to meet their favorite comic artists. Atop the rooms upper tier on this day was Seth Myers who had brought his set to the con and was interviewing attendees for a segment of his show “Late Night with Seth Myers”. This certainly added traffic to an already bustling room which showcased booths by some of today’s top artists including “Amazing Spider Man” artist Humberto Ramos, “Deadpool” writer Gerry Duggan, “Wonder Woman” artist David Finch and former Good Charlotte guitarist Billy Martin who is currently drawing for IDW’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

With time beginning to dwindle we made our way to the main convention floors which were packed not only with various vendors but every sort of cos-play character you could think of. We even managed to bump into a shoeless Thomas Jane who was attending the convention with his daughter. All the costumes and media personalities jamming the isles only added to the massive amounts of eye candy which were on display.

Everything from the latest in vinyl figures to endless amount of comic books both new and old was available for purchase or pre-order. Some of the bigger more impressive set ups included the always prevalent Midtown Comic’s and one by Pepsi who was on hand to promote the upcoming release of “Pepsi Perfect” the futuristic soda originally featured in the film “Back to the Future II”. The display was complete with sleek looking tables and counters which displayed the curvy bottles. To top it all off the display included its very own Delorian time machine flanked by none other than Marty and Doc Brown impersonators.

After an exhausting day of searching crowded aisles for numbered display booths, a thwarted attempt at getting a picture of the one and only Grumpy Cat and being shut out of several high profile panels we took account of all the positives we saw throughout the day despite the few negatives and made our way to the 7 train for our journey home. With final attendance be calculated at around 167,000 for the events four days it’s unsure if the Javitz Center will be able to handle the conventions continued growth. However with numbers which are rivaling San Diego Comic Con the future seems bright for the NY show and we couldn’t be happier to see it continue to grow.

Blu-ray Review “Escape from New York: Collector’s Edition”

Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Season Hubley
Director: John Carpenter
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: April 21, 2015

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When I thought to myself, “do I really need another edition of Escape from New York on Blu-ray”?, I quickly remember that this was being released from Shout! Factory and they give a lot of love to their releases. This film was previously released in 2010, but this new Collector’s Edition includes a new 2K scan of the inter-positive, struck from the original negative and a butt-load of new special features. This film is still a classic and a blast to watch. Kurt Russell is so iconic as Snake Plissken.

Official Premise: In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the US president (Donald Pleasence) crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken (Russell). But time is short. In 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake’s mission, and his life, unless he succeeds!

The Collector’s Edition of “Escape from New York” includes a nice improvement over the 2010 Blu-ray. with its 1080p transfer presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I was expecting a little more from the new 2K scan but there was a nice improvement in quality from the previous release. I believe the same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which sounds classic score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Also included is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track but the 5.1 is easily the winner here.

There are special features filled out on both discs. The first one features, a brand new audio commentary with Actress Adrienne Barbeau and Director of Photographer Dean Cundey. This is worth the purchase alone, love these two. There is also an audio commentary track both Director John Carpenter and Actor Kurt Russell, as well as another with audio commentary with Producer Debra Hill and Production Designer Joe Alves. Each track is amazing in its own way and worth checking out for any fan.

Disc two kicks off with a collection of high-def extras. “Big Challenges in Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects of Escape from New York” looks behind-the-scenes with some interviews with Dennis Skotak, Director of Photography of Special VFX and Robert Skotak, Unit Supervisor and Matte Artist. “Scoring the Escape: A Discussion with Composer Alan Howarth” chats with the composer on creating the sound for the film. “On Set with John Carpenter: The Images of Escape from New York” is a collection of work from Still Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker.

There are two more interview features, the first is “I Am Taylor: An Interview with Actor Joe Unger” and the second is My Night on Set: An Interview with Filmmaker David DeCoteau. There is a deleted scene for the original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence including optional commentary by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. “Return to Escape from New York Featurette” is a cool vintage EPK with interviews. Lastly there are Theatrical Trailers and Photo Galleries included.

Convention Review “New York Comic Con 2014”

New York Comic Con 2014
Date: Thursday, October 9th – Sunday, October 12th
Venue: Jacob K. Javitz Center, New York, New York

Fall in New York City has a different meaning to the millions of people who scurry about the streets each day however for fans of Comics and Pop Culture fall means it’s time for Comic Con! The massive four day event which for the first time ever was preceded buy hero week set up shop at the Jacob K. Javitz center where over the course of the events four days more than 150,000 fans would walk the halls of the massive convention center. With those types of attendance numbers your probably wondering what makes this event so special. Well here is my account of what was going on throughout the day on Thursday of this year’s event.

After giving up on the non-existent free shuttle we hopped on the 2 train and then made our way on foot to the convention site. It seems as though the attendance for Thursday was a little underestimated as the convention staff all seemed a bit confused as to how things were supposed to be working for the coming weekend however after a brief security check we were finally able to make our way onto the event floor which even early on was bustling with activity and excitement. Thursdays in past years was always reserved for press and VIP ticket holders however this year single Thursday tickets were available. Cool if your fan, not as cool if you are trying to see everything and write a review. Though the added people certainly made getting around the venue a touch more difficult it wasn’t anything were weren’t prepared for.

Several big press conferences were scheduled for the day including those from toy creator Todd McFarlane and Marvel. McFarlane was on hand to announce the release of his newest brick building toy line. The line is based on AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead” and feature several sets ranging in price from $9.99 for smaller sets and $64.99 for larger sets. Some of the display models on hand for viewing was “The Governor’s Room”, “The Prison Tower” and “Daryl Dixon and Chopper”. All of the sets we checked out lived up to the McFarlane name and you will certainly want to grab them when they become available in late October exclusively through Toys R Us. Next up we made our way through the never ending droves of cos-players to attend Marvel Comics announcement of their latest venture. Marvels Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada was on hand to announce “The Marvel Experience” a hyper reality traveling tour which puts fans directly in to the action of their favorite comics/movies. The traveling tour produced by Hero Ventures will feature seven domes housing state of the art displays and 4-D motion rides which throw you into the middle of a full on Hollywood scripted adventure. The first run of shows will start on December 15th in Scottsdale, AZ. The tour will also be making stops in Texas and California throughout the months of January, February and March with more dates/cities set to be announced in the near future.

It wouldn’t be a Comic Con unless we made a stop to Artist Alley and checked out all the amazing talent assembled for this year’s event. Though not as busy as the conventions main floor it was a nice break to be able to walk amongst the isles and see a lot of great work not only on display but also being created right before your eyes. Some of the bigger draws for Thursday were “Batman” artist Greg Capullo, DC Comics Jim Lee and Spiderman artist Humberto Ramos all garnered lines that required quite a bit of waiting. Those looking for rare variant covers and other hard to find comic pieces were certainly in their glory on this day.

Before heading back to the main floor we made a quick journey to the basement of the complex which was playing host to the autograph area along with countless panel viewing rooms and creative workshops. Probably the biggest draw for the panels this day was for that of Rooster Teeth which featured series creators Monty Oum and Kerry Shawcross along with the voice of “Yang” Barbara Dunkleman. The three were on hand to show some new and behind the scenes footage of “RWBY” Volume 2. On hand for autographs this day was Karl Urban, Kevin Conroy and Giancarlo Esposito to name just a few.

With only a few hours left in the day we ventured back to the main exhibit floor to check out some of the vendors on hand selling everything from comic books and graphic novels to clothing and other collectable memorabilia. New York’s own Midtown Comics continues to impress me year after year with their massive set up that has pretty much everything you can think of comic related. With booths all trying to make the most of their spaces none seem to rival Midtown. As we made our way through the tight and poorly labeled booths it was easy to become frustrated as finding smaller booths in the sea of heavy hitters made traversing the landscape of vendors a bit tiresome.

After a busy/tiring day we left this year’s Comic Con with full backpacks and big wish lists as it was impossible to buy everything we saw and wanted. Sadly the shuttle situation still had yet to be ironed out as convention staff still was clueless as to when or even where you could pick up the shuttle that they provided. As we shook our heads in disbelief we knew that it was time for the day to be over. Minus a few small hiccups New York Comic was once again a great time. Whether you had never been or are a long time attendee of the convention there is always something for everyone and 2014 had that and then some.

New York Film Fest “Birdman” Press Conference

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s reality-bending Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) closed the 52nd New York Film Fest this past Sunday. The film which opens on October 17th stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson an actor trying to distance himself from an iconic superhero film franchise by starring and directing his own broadway production. Keaton’s huge cast of co-stars includes Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough, all of whom joined the director at a press conference after the film at AMC Lincoln Center.

Much of the film revolves around Riggan’s struggle with his own identity versus his public image. Specifically he’s faced with a particularly vicious theatre critic whose sole objective is  to destroy Riggan’s show with her pen. Michael Keaton however maintained that he keeps himself in the dark when it comes to critics now. “This is where I’m really a dope” laughed Keaton who looked at reviews in his early days but not so much recently.  “I thought originally…you should be courageous and read everything and I did that a couple of times and I thought ‘well I’m not doing that anymore!’  Although he did add “Admittedly if someone says ‘hey you had a got nice review’ I’ll read it. I’m open to making myself feel better!” Addressing an entire auditorium of NYC critics he concluded “I think I’ve been treated basically fairly, I know I’m the wrong person to ask…There’s probably a lot of you out there going “Oh no you haven’t!”

            British theatre actress Andrea Riseborough, who plays Riggan’s co-star also avoids critical reviews “because [she finds] them debilitating, not because [she doesn’t] respect them” Riseborough added that there’s a certain element of fear when it comes to actors encountering critics, rather than hostility, especially in the world of theatre. “You know, they saw Gambon doing his bit back in the day and now they’re going to come and see me. It makes me just want to shit myself!”
 Zach Galifianakis confidently chimed in “I’ve never had a bad review, so I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about. It sounds familiar. I’ve heard people talk about it. But I’ve never had one” cracking up his cast and the audience.

Naomi Watts compared some of her theatre experience to the unorthodox way Birdman was shot: “I can say, I haven’t done a huge amount of theatre, but just from back in the days when I was studying and you know, doing plays then, a lot of my nightmares revolve around being on the stage; And forgetting my lines, or having the wrong clothes on or no clothes at all. So it is that classic recurring nightmare. A lot in the way this film was shot, with this speed and the high stakes and the technicalities and the dependency on each other and the, also the effects, you know the props and things, the cameras, the lighting and the removing of tables and putting them back, you know all those things sort of created this high level intensity and pressure that felt sort of emblematic sort of how it feels on the stage.”

Soon to be joining Watts in stage experience is Emma Stone, who in November will replace Michelle Williams in the current broadway revival of Cabaret. I asked her how she felt between making this film about a movie star entering Broadway and now actually facing that in reality.
“Well, you know, I did write the character of Sally Bowles and I’m directing the production”  the Amazing Spider-man star laughed, then added  “No, I you know, of course this movie brings up a lot of horrible fears of coming into the broadway community and having a Tabitha [the film’s villainous critic]…it feels very different. But I will say that making this  movie and kind of what we had to contend with, as actors, in making something like this, all of the pieces that Naomi was talking about had to–you know, having the table moving out and needing to rely on each other  the way the company does, I think is incredibly helpful now going into theatre in that way and realizing that you’re you know you operate very much as a unit. We all operate as a unit. And in a lot of films it’s not that way at all. It’s a very separate experience. So yeah, I’m nervous as hell. I’m shitting myself!”

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu elaborated on the challenge he and DP Emmanuel Lubezki faced in shooting Birdman in mainly long contiunous shots. “Basically all the camerawork, all the blocking and all the lighting was pre-assigned in advance, months in advance. So there was no improvisation everything was precise, meticulously…Without the editing everything has to happen in the flow and then so you have to really get everything together…So the difficulty was the point of view–where this camera would be located to tell the story right. Who has to be in frame or not. Who has to be the listener…The challenge of that was that there was no lights, shooting film lights. Everything was practical lights and sometimes it was 360 degrees in tiny cooridors with guys with microphones. So all that thing that they’re talking about–the things moving and the ‘you have to be behind him’ and then you go under the legs of somebody and then crawl over the other side. It was kind of the kids playing a theatre play and the camera going around with this 17mm lens which is a wideshot. So every bit, every line, every open door has to be performed exactly the same…it has to be right.”

Actress Amy Ryan described this process as causing a “happy accident” whereby Keaton’s character had to be laying on a dressing room counter top in order to accommodate the camera manuevers “That was the only place really that worked best for every moving part in the scene, boom operator and [Lubezki], myself, Michael. And now I can’t think of a better choice for that, that’s exactly where he should be in that moment.”

Of course with a past Hulk, a Gwen Stacy and an iconic Batman in the room, the idea of the Superhero Film had to be raised with the cast and although the film is definitely not that, it doesn’t entirely shy away from some CGI effects. Keaton was pleased with this “When the special effects come in, I mean it’s just outta nowehere! And I totally dig it. I go yeah, there’s a little treat…A little megaplex action superhero movie dose for you right there…”
He and Edward Norton previewed some footage at New York Comic Con the evening before.  “Michael and I went over to New York Comic Con last night to do a little panel there,” said Norton, “and in the dark right before we went on I looked at Michael and said ‘do think this is the ultimate bait and switch?’ Can you imagine if you go to this actually thinking it’s a superhero movie?”

Birdman is now in limited theatrical release.

First Time Fest Returns to New York City

FIRST TIME FEST a unique film festival celebrating first-time feature filmmakers, makes it’s triumphant return to the Big Apple next week, running from April 3-7.

 Aimed at discovering and providing exposure for the next generation of great filmmakers from around the world, FTF is a five-day event with a competition section showcasing new and exciting debut films as well as a series of screenings and discussions with now-prominent filmmakers presenting their first films and then mentoring the first-timers.  

In the words of Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese, who presented Darren Aronofsky with the first John Huston Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema last year,  FTF  “is very, very important to encourage young filmmakers.”

FTF will present ten Competition Films, which will be judged by a panel of industry luminaries and the FTF audience. All of the films in competition at FTF are the very first feature of the writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer or composer of each film.  All competition screenings will be followed by “Hot-Seat” discussions between the jury and filmmakers, and all audience members will vote on the films as well. Together, the jury and audience will ultimately select the Grand Prize winner, which is offered theatrical distribution and international sales representation from the renowned American film distributor, Cinema Libre Studio.  And with FTF’s new relationship with Scandinavian Locations – the consortium of Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Danish film commissioners – the winning filmmaker will also receive a trip to Norway and Sweden to spend a week at a writer’s cottage in Northern Sweden to work on their next project.  Scandinavian Locations will also be hosting our Filmmaker Kick-Off event on April 2 at NeueHouse.

FIRST TIME FEST also features a retrospective series called First Exposure which showcases the auspicious and ambitious debuts by artists who went on to become major filmmakers.  These screenings are highlighted by personal appearances by the filmmakers themselves.  This year’s  First Exposure series features the following filmmakers and films: our Opening Night director Jennie Livingston presenting Paris is Burning, Albert Maysles (Salesman), Julie Taymor (Titus), Michael Moore (Roger & Me), Kelly Reichardt (River of Grass), Cinematographer Frederick Elmes (Eraserhead), James Toback (Fingers), and Peter Bogdanovich (Targets).

 This year’s First Exposure program kicked-off on February 24th with an out-of-fest screening of Robert De Niro’s directorial debut, A Bronx Tale, followed by a conversation with Mr. De Niro and FTF Director of Programming David Schwartz. 

The Stand Alone series will feature incredible conversations with Peter Bogdanovich and Michael Moore on April 5 at 3.30pm at the Loews Village VII theatre.

A special panel, entitled Women in Entertainment and Media, is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada Wealth Management Group andwill include Brooke Shields, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Carol Alt.

For complete schedule and location of panels, please visit http://www.firsttimefest.com/panels/

New York Comic Con: Main Stage Highlights

Photography by Elizabeth Phillips

            Media Mikes had an awesome time at the Main Stage of the Javit’s Center throughout this year’s New York Comic, here’s some of the highlights of the panels we enjoyed. Click on any of the banners to take a look at additional photos from each.

            Same as last year, the Adult Swim panels on NYCC’s Friday evening, Venture Brothers followed immediately by Robot Chicken, were hilarious. Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick brought no clips but assured the crowd of a great premiere of the next season of the show–chiefly because it was originally intended for the fifth season’s finale!

            The Q&A session featured much discussion of David Bowie and was capped off by a fan in an amazing Venture-covered dress being too nervous to ask Doc a question, “ARE YOU TOO NERVOUS TO DANCE WITH ME?” he replied before launching off the stage and sharing a short dance to, oddly enough “Greased Lightning” from Grease.

            Robot Chicken’s panel, or the meeting of the silly hats club,  was moderated by Adult Swim VP Keith Crofford and included co-creators Matt Senreich and Seth Green and actors Clare Grant, Breckin Meyer and, in his “annual public appearance”, Macauley Culkin. Later, Doc Hammer emerged from back stage for a bit of light streaking and group hugging that ended with Seth Green licking Doc’s nipple (“He tastes like Dr. Girlfriend!”)

            The Q&A with fans produced their now-traditional sexy pose request and a sudden rivalry between Meyer and a ten-year old audience member named Emmett, who came to the mic with a beef against Green’s new sitcom “Dads.”

            On Saturday, The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel was light on cast and crew—moderator/executive producer Jeph Loeb spoke with the duo of Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge who play techies Fitz & Simmons on the show. A short Q&A was followed by a screening of the “Eye Spy” episode of the show. In the pre-screening talk, De Caestecker discussed his desire for his character to gain a pet monkey while Henstridge offered supervillain Loki as her favorite Avengers character.

            Also making showings on NYCC’s Saturday were three tween hit shows with MTV’s Teen Wolf and the CW’s Beauty and the Beast and Reign. The latter two screening full episodes which, admittedly had some of the audience impatiently shifting in their seats anxiously for the Walking Dead that evening–fans seated in the Main Stage are not cleared between panels–making waiting it out a popular option. Meanwhile, the Teen Wolf panel of Dylan O’brien, Linden Ashby, and Jeff Davis was one of the loudest of the day with a hugely enthusiastic crowd.

        Finally the people behind The Walking Dead took the stage to a huge reception from the crowd. An awesome surprise was Dead fan and Community star Yvette Nicole Brown moderating the panel. For a show about a zombie apocalypse, there was quite a bit of arguing over coupling on the show. On relationships in the show, Brown yelled at the crew, “You don’t have to put love in the show, we’ll put love in…we’ll add it in our minds!” From the fan Q&A, a young boy decked out as Daryl Dixon threw down a challenge to actors [Lauren Cohan and Steven Yuen], “Since Maggie is such a bad ass, do you really think she needs Glen to protect her?” 

Event Review “New York Comic Con” October 10-13, 2013

New York Comic Con
Date: Thursday, October 10th – Sunday, October 13th
Venue: Jacob K. Javitz Center, New York, New York

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

The annual New York Comic Con kapowed its way into the Jacob K. Javitz center once again this year for 4 days of fandom and craziness. From 10/10-10/14 the massive multi level convention center played host to the annual event which showcases everything from comics and video games, to pop culture icons and informative workshops. With 2012 convention attendance being reported as over 100,000 attendees for the 4 days this year’s events would easily be able to match if not top that number.

This year’s con featured a slightly different layout than that of previous years which proved to be a plus as several high traffic areas which normally wreaked havoc on fans were redesigned allowing for smooth passage to the different areas of the venue. This also included the entrances of the venue which saw expansive security fencing and added staff to help keep fans from spilling over into the bustling streets surrounding the hall. These two changes right off the bat made my time at the convention a lot better and a lot less sweaty. (If you have ever experienced the con you know what I mean). Though the convention seemed smaller than that of previous year there was certainly still plenty to keep fans busy over the 4 days. On the main convention floor fans were treated to impressive booth displays by Nintendo, Ubisoft and New York’s own Midtown Comics which all played host to a number of cool merchandise. As my assistant and I made our through the packed isles we stumbled across a number of different media personalities. Charlie Adlard of “Walking Dead” fame was spotted working commission pieces, Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria/ Evil Ink was signing for fans as were a number of other guests though out the event. To the left of the main hall was “The Block” which like in previous years was home to a bevy of multi medium artists who were on hand showcasing their newest works and products. Once again you never know who you will run in to as this time around I was lucky enough to meet punk icon Jerry Only of the Misfits who was on hand for the unveiling of the new Misfits Records logo.

Artist Alley was a buzz of excitement as hardcore comic fans filed in to meet their favorite artists and have their most prized books signed. Some of the longest lines on Friday belonged to the likes of artists Aaron Kuder (Amory Wars, Amazing Spiderman), Humberto Ramos (Superior Spiderman, Uncanny X-Men) and David Finch of “The Dark Knight” and “JLA” fame. There was certainly lots of talent on hand in this area of the convention which in my opinion was like a whole other convention in its self.

The Autographing area which much like last year still seemed worlds away from the constant bustle and activity happening on the main floor however a break from the crowd noise is always nice. On this day the longest lines belong to “The Office” star BJ Novak, “Star Wars” Anthony Daniels and “Dr. Who’s” Colin Baker. It wouldn’t be until Saturday/Sunday that the Hollywood heavy weights would turn out as booths laid in waiting for the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sylvester Stallone who after a bit of research I found out was charging $395 per autograph and an additional $445 for a photo! Yes you read that right.

Also in the same vicinity as the autograph area was the always popular panel viewing rooms. Everyone from AMC’s “Comic Book Men” to the 25th anniversary of “Child’s Play” had events going on in one of the various rooms. Probably two of the biggest events for this day would be the “Comic Book Men” panel hosted by none other than Kevin Smith himself and the 10th anniversary panel for “The Walking Dead” comic which featured creator Robert Kirkman. Featured panels for the weekend included talks with “Robot Chicken”, “The League” and AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead” which featured a majority of the cast.

Though this year’s event seemed a bit scaled back in the way of big celebrity guests other than the above mentioned and the main floor seemed lacking in several big name companies many of which are on the verge of major releases (Sony PS4 and Xbox 720 where both nowhere to be found) NYCC 2013 was a great time. Both my assistant and I were left shell shocked by all in which we took in and will probably use the time between this year’s event and next year’s event just to re-cooperate we certainly can’t wait to do it all over again in 2014.

Kevin Smith talks “Clerks III” and “Tusk” during 2013 New York Comic Con

Media Mikes had the pleasure of attending the AMC “Comic Book Men” panel held during this year’s Comic Con Convention in New York on Oct. 10-13. The panel featured show creator Kevin Smith along with cast members Brian Johnson, Walter Flanningan, Ming Chen and Michael Zapcic. Though the panel was originally meant to discuss season 2 of the hit AMC show the audience quickly turned it into their opportunity to grill Smith about a few of his other upcoming projects, namely “Clerks III” which Kevin had this to say.

Kevin Smith: “Clerks III” is currently going well enough to where the script is done and we are just waiting on finding our money. In an effort to keep my mind off of worrying about finding money for that movie I wrote this film titled “Tusk”. That is what I am going to be doing next. In a few weeks I will be heading to North Carolina to start filming. The film stars Justin Long and Michael Parks and it’s basically about a kid trying to turn another kid into a walrus. The film is based off of a UK add on a Gumtree website where there was actually a guy who made up this hoax about a person looking for someone to wear a walrus costume they made. The hoax was done by a guy named Chris Parkinson who we reached out to and actually made a producer on the film. Without his dopey idea I wouldn’t have come up with this. So while waiting on the money for “Clerks III” which I wanted to take to Sundance as it will be the 20th anniversary of the first “Clerks” films things were looking less and less likely so I wrote this stupid walrus movie. I wrote it in about 20 days under the mindset of not really wanting to make a movie but if I had to what would I want to see. I loved Michael Parks in “Red State” so I just built this around him with the idea that it would make it easy for me to sit on set for weeks and weeks as I would get to watch Michael work. When I got the script done it was like pornography and Michael Parks. (Laughs) We just pushed the ideas we had and thanks to some really good weed we said “fuck it” and tried pretty much everything. Over the next couple of months this film started to become more real than “Clerks III”. This is a much smaller scaled film that is easier to get in and out of. “Tusk” has now taken the place of “Clerks III” at Sundance this year as I thought fans would want to see something different rather than just more “Clerks”. We will still be doing “Clerks III” however not until March or April of 2014. I hope to have it done for the 20th anniversary as the original film came out in October of 1994. All of the crew from “Comic Book Men” will be in this film as could most of the people here in this room. “Clerks III” is going to be a massive fucking movie! I say that without a hint of irony.

New York Film Festival Review “12 Years a Slave”

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Fox Searchlight
Rated: R
Running Time: 133 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As evidenced by his first two features, Hunger and Shame, director Steve McQueen is fearless in his approach to difficult subject matters. The same is true here in his unflinching and unforgettable third feature, 12 Years a Slave.

The film is based on the true life account of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in New York who was deceived and sold into a life of slavery from 1841 to 1853. The film opens with Northup already in this role working on a sugar cane plantation and then brings us back to his family life in New York leading up to his deception. The men who will eventually drug and betray him come in the form of Brown and Hamilton, played by Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam, who offer Solomon the promise of violin work in Washington DC. The whole sequence is reminiscent of a sort of hellish version of Pinocchio being lead off by the circus folk and it plays out with a dreadful inevitability that left my stomach churning. When Solomon is awoken in chains, Ejiofor’s bewilderment is heart-wrenching as he struggles between fighting for his identity and recognizing how powerless he’s just been rendered.

Ejiofor is at the center of an embarrassment of acting talent throughout this film with even smaller roles occupied by the likes of Brad Pitt, Michael K Williams, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, and last year’s Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Benedict Cumberbatch has a key role as Ford, Northrup’s first owner. Ford is initially presented as a sympathetic man, even seen as such by Solomon himself, but the way McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley disillusion us of the very notion of this idea is masterful. For all Ford’s sympathetic looks and guilt about the institution he is undoubtably a part of, he will still allow a family to be split at auction and won’t hear a word of Solomon’s story despite recognizing his intelligence. Actions speak louder than words and under Ford, Solomon still suffers through some of the harshest tortures in the film. Including selling Solomon off again to the monstrous Edwin Epps in the film’s final act.

Coming from both Hunger and Shame, Michael Fassbender successfully reteams with director McQueen again as Epps. Fassbender is fascinating to watch as his character rages against his slaves with frightening conviction he backs up with biblical scripture. He is further driven to violence by his complete inability to deal with his unhinged infatuation with his most productive slave girl, Patsey (incredible newcomer Lupita Nyong’o).

Truly however the film belongs to Chiwetel Ejifor who imbues Northup with an unwavering determination to not only survive his ordeal, but as he says, to live. To not give into despair. Moreover when it comes to his re-emancipation, we feel the weight of the time lost as much as the relief of freedom.

12 Years A Slave opens is now playing , I screened it as part of the 51st New York Film Festival, you can read our red carpet coverage from the event with an interview from the film’s star Michael Fassbender.

New York Film Festival Review “Exhibition”

Starring: Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick, Tom Hiddleston, Mary Roscoe
Directed By: Joanna Hogg
New York FIlm Festival
Running Time: 110 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Set in London, “Exhibition” focuses on a middle-aged married couple, known only in the film as D (Albertine) and H (Gillick). Both artists living a spectacular modernist house, itself built by an artist, we join them at the critical moment of their decision to sell the place. D is hesitant to make the move from a home that has defined their lives for nearly two decades.

It’s surprising to learn that the two leads of the film were themselves not actors. Albertine, the guitarist for band The Slits and Gillick, who is actually a conceptual artist himself, have an amazing chemistry as a long married couple. Though much of the film finds them in a state of disconnect–they communicate with each other through a very clinical intercom system in the house–we get these small moments of levity that make their relationship feel very lived in despite their tensions. You feel a sort of united front the couple present when they are engaging with painfully chatty outsiders like their neighbor going on and on about her children or the constantly upbeat realtor attempting to reassure D they’ll find good buyers (Hogg’s former film alums Mary Roscoe and Tom Hiddleston, respectively). Albertine has most of the screentime and she goes a long way in selling her attachment to both her home and her husband through her heartfelt pleas for H not to go wandering the city at night and later her running outside to confirm the ambulance down the block has nothing to do with H. Her anxiety about a prior ‘incident’ she doesn’t wish to repeat is never fully explained in the film but the desperation you sense when D alludes to it is enough to explain her unease.

I was fortunate to see this film, Hogg’s third feature, as part of a series showcasing all her work at this week’s New York Film Festival. Her first two features, Unrelated and Archipelago, established Hogg’s tremendous control over and emphasis on setting. Though Unrelated and Archipelago took place on family holidays and Exhibition is confined to the house, the sense of place feels like an additional character in her stories. Aesthetically beautiful as they are, they can also turn alienating at a moment’s notice. “Exhibition” takes this a step further through Jovan Ajder’s amazing sound design that morphs the home from a shelter from the sirens outside, to an oversize cavern with all it’s metallic creaking and huge sliding doors that dwarf D when she is on her own. Though D professes to a friend over Skype to be able to feel the love of the previous owners of the house in the walls, the audience may need some convincing. Hogg’s sound design coupled with her meticulous visuals bring us into the growing anxiety that D feels.

“Exhibition” is screening as part of the 51st New York Film Festival taking place through October 12th in Lincoln Center. For more information on it’s remaining screening, visit FilmLinc.com

Convention Review “Scare-A-Con” Verona, New York

Scare-A-Con
Date: Friday, Sept. 13th – Sunday, Sept. 15th
Venue: Turning Stone Casino, Verona, New York

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Scare-A-Con is an up and coming 3 day movie/pop culture convention which is now in its second year of be held in the upstate NY area. Originally held in Syracuse, NY the event this year has moved to a larger venue which is part of the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY. The con hosted a who’s who list of film/music stars, displays and vendors that gave those in attendance plenty to keep busy with over the course of the three day event.

I attended day two of the 2013 Scare-A-Con event which after a soft opening on Friday was in full swing by the time I entered the main floor of the convention. After making my way through the admission line the first thing I noticed was the sprawling layout which allowed guests some costumed and some not room to mingle freely amongst the guests and vendors. For me this is something I always notice as it’s nice to have some room to breathe when taking things in. Everything from horror house exhibits to comics and several steam punk exhibits could be found while making your way to the various celebrity signing tables which were located throughout the venue. On hand were legendary television actors like Felix Silla and Butch Patrick to more recent actors like Scout Taylor Compton and Naomi Grossman. The longest lines of the day belong to former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley and the lovely Linda Blair who is still capable of turning heads other than just her own. Other notable celebs in attendance who also garnered quite a bit of attention throughout the day were Tony Todd, Ernie Hudson and Sean Whalen of “People Under the Stairs” fame.

Though some of the prices being charged by celebrities in attendance were a bit high and several celebs listed were MIA I still had a good time taking in all Scar-A-Con had to offer. A lot of times with the newer conventions you see celebrity no shows or prices being a bit higher than some of the larger conventions however that’s just the way things are. All in all Scare-A-Con was a fan/family friendly event that had a little something for everyone. My only hope is that they continue to grow and expand on all of the good things the event has going for it.

For more information on Scare-A-Con you can visit the official website at www.scareacon.com

Event Wrap-Up: New York Comic Con 2012

New York Comic Con 2012
Date: Thursday, October 11th – Sunday, October 14th
Venue: Jacob K. Javitz Center, New York, New York

The largest comic convention on the East Coast kicked off on Thursday, October 11th in New York City as thousands of rabid comic/pop culture fans made their way through the streets and subways to converge on the Jacob K. Javitz Center. The sprawling 4 level convention center has been the site of the event since its inception and seems to be a fitting home. With 2011 Convention attendance being reported as over 105,000 attendees for the three days this year’s events would be sure to top that number.

This year’s con featured several highly anticipated events and booths which were hot beds of action during all three days of the convention. Square Enix was on hand to promote their highly anticipated video game reboot of the popular “Tomb Raider” game. Lines stretched for what seemed like days as costume clad fans waited to get a glimpse of the new game. The new version of the game features an archery element and to capitalize on that feature fans were given the opportunity to test their archery skills on a real life archery range. This booth along with the mega sized “Just Dance 4” display featuring the newly moved Brooklyn Nets NBA cheerleaders were major highlights for gamers. Another notable mention was the crew from “Assassin’s Creed III”. The new game will be released in November and though their booth wasn’t as impressive as others the game looks amazing and really spoke for its self.

Artist Alley was a non-stop sea of comic fans waiting to meet their favorite artists and have their books signed. Several new titles were being showcased one of which titled “Gekido” written by Greg Weich and Brandon Wilson features celebrities Coco Austin and Adrianne Curry as you guessed it, super heroes! Also on hand to meet fans was the legendary Stan Lee, Claudio Sanchez owner of Evil Ink Comics and lead singer/guitarist for the music group Coheed and Cambria as well as Slipknot/Stone Sour vocalist Cory Taylor who was on hand promoting his 4 book mini series titled “House of Gold & Bones. The series being released via Dark Horse comics will coincide with Stone Sour’s next two albums “House of Gold & Bones Part 1 and 2”.

As we made our way down to the Autographing area which seemed worlds away from the constant bustle and activity happening on the main floor it was nice to get a breath of fresh air and be able to spread out a little bit as this floor of the show seemed a bit less crowed even though there were several big name stars going through sharpies like crazy. Carrie Fisher of “Star Wars” fame had impressive lines throughout the event despite the $60.00 charge which seemed to be the highest of the convention. Also signing throughout the weekend was “Harry Potter” star Tom Felton, Christopher Lloyd and Adam West. However the most impressive lines were for those of writer Anne Rice and Kirk Hammett guitarist of Metallica who was on hand promoting his new horror collection book titled “Too Much Horror Business”.

After returning from the subterranean depths of the autograph area I braved the main floor of the convention which at all points in time was shoulder to shoulder people many clad in their favorite comic/film character costumes. With this many people, exhibits and vendors crammed in to one space trying to look at the masses of comics and merchandise on hand was a bit difficult. Once here you could find everything from Lego’s and replica weaponry to the latest Marvel edition Vans sneakers. There really was something for everyone in this section of the hall. In fact there was just so much stuff to see it made my head spin and almost hurt from sensory overload.

Before making my way back home I checked out several of the impressively assembled panels which are always a highlight of these conventions. Right off the bat was the headliner of all headliners “The Walking Dead” panel. With a good number of the cast on hand to answer questions lines in to the IGN Theater stretched on for what seemed like eternity. Prior to the Q/A session fans were treated to a sneak peak of season 3’s first episode which premiered on 10/14 and only excited me and other fans even further for the shows return. Other notable panels throughout the weekend including those put on by Adult Swim, the Stephen King “Carrie” reboot featuring Chloe Grace Moretz which looks to be an interested revision and “The Following” a thriller featuring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy.

After a long and tiring weekend I can now say that I survived the 2012 New York Comic Con. Though at times the lines were long and I needed to dodge several would be attacks from costume clad attendants a good time was had by all. The organizers of the event handled everyone like pro’s and were always courteous when you had a question. If you can only attend one convention on the east coast make sure it’s the New York Comic Con.

CD Review: Sweet “New York Connection”

Sweet
“New York Connection”
Produced by: Andy Scott
11 tracks
Running Time: 40 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

From the moment this CD kicks off, it rocks mega hard and doesn’t let up until the CD ends. The Sweet are well known their Glam Rock during the 70-80’s and though still they sound just as good as they ever have. “New York Connection” is comprised 11 cover songs including the 2011 single “Join Together”. There is also a revamped original recording for their 1972 b-side “New York Connection”.

If you are a fan of 70-80’s rock, then you are going to love this album easily. The album kicks off with the great song “New York Groove” and just includes on great hit after another. Some of the other great cover tracks included are “You Spin Me Round”, “Because the Night” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”. All the covers sounds really kick-ass and get your toes tapping and head rocking.

Peter Lincoln takes lead on vocals on 8 out of the 11 tracks. Andy Scott takes lead vocal for “Sweet Jane” and is a great tribute to The Velvet Underground. Bruce Bisland belts out “Blitzkrieg Bop” and doesn’t let down the Ramones. Lastly Tony O’Hora puts a new spin on Patti Smith’s “Because the Night”. Overall, the guitars are well…sweet! The music is loud and sums up a great 40 minutes you will experience with this album.

Track listing:
1. New York Groove
2. Gold On The Ceiling
3. All Moving Faster
4. New York Connection
5. Shapes Of Things
6. You Spin Me Round
7. Because The Night
8. Sweet Jane
9. Blitzkrieg Bop
10. On Broadway
11. Join Together

The Film Society & IndieWire’s Special Screening/Q&A of “Mary Last Seen” (Martha Marcy May Marlene) with Director Sean Durkin and Cast

“Mary Last Seen” was the short that Durkin wrote and directed prior to the full feature. It introduced the world of the film while also working as a standalone story. Fortunately it didn’t have to stand alone and now it makes for an eerie precursor ‘Martha’. The short screened prior to the “Martha Marcy May Marlene” Blu-ray release at New York’s Lincoln Center. In attendance for the IndieWire sponsored event were director Sean Durkin, producer Antonio Campos, cinematographer Drew Innis and actress Alexia Rasmussen (Mary).

In discussing the short, the filmmakers emphasized that if ‘Martha’ was a feature about exiting a cult, ‘Mary’ was about entering it. The connective character between the short and the feature is Brady Corbet’s Watts. Here we get to see how he goes about luring the cult women onto the isolated farm, cutting them off from the world. It’s disconcerting just how much damage the loss of a cell phone can do. “It’s the numbers” Mary laments, accentuating the modern reliance on automated contact lists. If nothing else, the short serves to help understand how Martha in the eventual feature film could have fallen off the face of the Earth to her family.

Click here for our DVD review of “Martha Marcy May Marlene”