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The 10 Biggest Highlights of WonderCon 2015 (UPDATED w/Flash Sizzle Reel)

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Insidious: Chapter 3

We’ve now learned that this weekend was the last WonderCon for the city of Anaheim, CA, and it was a great four years of accidentally turning into the Disneyland parking lot before making a U turn to find the Anaheim Convention Center. I still miss WonderCon San Francisco, which was far enough away from home to justify spending the whole weekend there, but that’s not an issue for any of the out-of-towners who’ll make an event out of next year’s WonderCon Los Angeles anyway.

This year, the movie studios pretty much forsook WonderCon except for Warner Brothers and Universal, but the latter was only there at the behest of Blumhouse productions, who produced two of the films Uni and its indie arm Focus are distributing in 2015. The TV networks were all there in full force, and most of our news this year came from the world of television. I heard a rumor there was something about comic books going on too. Be sure to check back with Topless Robot later this week for our WonderCon cosplay gallery!

10. Max Max: Fury Road and San Andreas “Rock” Anaheim.

Sounds like they showed the same Fury Road scene we saw at SXSW, with Max (Tom Hardy) fighting to break free from being chained to an unconscious Nicholas Hoult while Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her desert ladies attack him from all sides. I’m bummed I didn’t get to see the second clip they showed, but we’re only about a month away at this point so why not wait for the whole film?

Dwayne Johnson was not there for the summer earthquake movie San Andreas, but director Brad Peyton and his costars Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario talked about how The Rock wanted to expand his dramatic abilities. He plays Daddario’s father and Gugino’s soon-to-be ex, so there are feelings to be felt.

We’ve seen The Rock do drama before though. Gridiron Gang, Faster and Snitch were all serious, with a little bit of punching and shooting. Maybe this’ll be the one that actually gives him good material, because Snitch had a script so incompetent, Johnson’s character dropped a bit of life-altering news as casual exposition in the final scene. San Andreas, however, showed scenes of buildings falling, the Hollywood sign crumbling, Johnson flying a rescue helicopter and diving underwater with Daddario. So yeah, this is a family drama.

9. Marvel Comics’s “Next Big Thing” Is Still a Secret.


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Marvel’s Secret Wars

Oh look, an actual panel about comic books. And I wasn’t there, because I was too busy with film and TV. Please don’t fire me, Luke. Judging by L.A. Times’ Hero Complex recap, the “Marvel: Next Big Thing” panel was more evasive than their movie press conferences.

A few telling bits did come out, like the fact that there are no Doctor Strange comics planned. That seems odd considering the Doctor Strange movie coming out next year. And since the next big thing in Marvel comics is Secret Wars, they characteristically couldn’t say anything about it. Insert your favorite “secret” pun here.

Perhaps most telling was how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had an impact on the comic book authors. Rick Remender said every Iron Man writer hears Robert Downey, Jr. in his or her head. “Writing Tony Stark, I can’t not hear Robert Downey Jr. now,” Remender said. “It made him have a new voice, but it’s one that we all hear, and it doesn’t impact the publishing or the story.”

But can the artists improvise drawings when they ad lib new lines every panel?

8. The Devil Comes to the CW.

A lot of us already had the theory that the CW was the devil’s work. Just kidding; they’ve actually done right by us with The Flash and Arrow, and The 100 is pretty cool. Their new show The Messengers premieres Friday, April 10 and it really is about the devil. That’s where I was going with this.

The Messengers are several different people who black out and wake up with special powers and a calling to meet in Albuquerque. At the end of the pilot, one meets the Man (Diogo Morgado) who seems sketchy, if not Satanic. So we all think he’s really the devil, but Morgado disagrees.

“The scene you saw in the pilot is the closest you’ll see him as being the devil,” Morgado said. “Everything from here, he’s a normal guy. He’ll be around the corner to help you when you fall, and then he will be engaging in a conversation and suddenly you’re doing exactly what he wants. It’s real. He could be anyone. That’s why he’s the Man and not the devil.”

Then the show’s creator Eoghan O’Donnell (pronounced Owen) said he is the devil. So why is Morgado telling us he’s not? Producer Trey Callaway had the perfect answer: “Ah, well, you can’t believe the devil.”

Let’s go back to something else Morgado said. Maybe the Man seems like the devil when he’s trying to psych out the Messengers, but that’s based on the Christian mythology we know now. The show is going to take that and run with it.

“We can say that he’s the devil in terms of what they’re using from the Book of Revelation, but for this story, he’s the Man,” Morgado said. “He acts and behaves exclusively out of our own human fears and weaknesses. He doesn’t have any special power. He doesn’t do a voodoo thing and controls your mind. He allows you. There’s free will all the time. He only uses human resources to control and manipulate because he’s not allowed to interfere.”

Callaway’s right. The devil would say that.

7. Gary Lives on Last Man on Earth!

The producers of Fox’s post-apocalyptic comedy The Last Man on Earth have been pretty protective of their spoilers. Those of us who saw the pilot early did our best not to imply that there would be a woman on the show, and I honestly didn’t know how quickly they would keep introducing new survivors.

But when it came to the show’s real emotional heart and soul, they just couldn’t leave us hanging. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind The Lego Movie and 21/22 Jump Street, gave interviews for Last Man. I asked if Gary the volleyball, Phil Miller (Will Forte)’s answer to Cast Away, was really dead and Miller assured me Gary would return. We last saw him crushed on the floor.

“Gary, thankfully, due to the miracle doctor work of bike inflating pumps, will come back to life miraculously,” Miller said. Then Lord gave him shit about spoilers.

“That’s a big spoiler, Chris,” Lord said. Miller added, “I know. I feel like they need something.”

Before you blast us for spoiling next week’s episodes, let’s be clear we’re all joking. The volleyball, and the host of other balls with faces drawn on them, are inanimate objects. Really, it’s ridiculous Forte’s character is still talking to them when he’s actually found other humans. But yeah, balls don’t actually die.

“It’s like a soap opera where characters die and then they come back to life,” Lord said. “It was a twin.”

The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 9 on Fox.

6. Zombie Sex Is Coming to iZombie.

Another CW show, iZombie, stars Rose McIver as Liv, a recently infected zombie who stays pretty lucid thanks to eating the brains of other dead bodies. But she’s lonely, and she’s left her living fiance Major (Robert Buckley) for fear of infecting him. Series creator Rob Thomas (the Veronica Mars guy) said he’s going to give Liv a new romance, and we’re not sure how we feel about that.

“Major is sort of off limits to Liv but we did want her to have some romance in her life,” Thomas said. “Romance is only possible really for her right now with other zombies, so she may meet a cute zombie. An adorable zombie might be coming down the pike.”

Right, so that’s two dead people? McIver was classy about it. “Come on, it’s television,” she said. “There’s got to be a love interest. Her relationship with Major was definitely going to be fraught with the risk of spreading zombie-ism, so I knew that that would be something they’d look into. I do understand where a lot of the great conflict in it comes from, being that she’s not over her relationship at all. She’s only not with Major because she’s a zombie, so the idea of pursuing a new relationship has certain challenges.”

The episode will go there. I mean, the conceit of iZombie is already hot zombies. It is the CW, but this is borderline necro. “There’s some, I think, internal monologue about the lack of possibility for zombie babies,” Thomas said. “We had lengthy conversations in the writers room about what zombie sex would actually entail. Do zombies ejaculate? Thees are the sort of questions we ask in the writers room.”

You said it, Rob, not me.

5. Gotham and The Flash Spoilers Galore

Because I was doing so many other interviews, I wasn’t able to make it to the Gotham or Flash panels, so thanks to sites like Comingsoon.net, IGN, Collider and Comicbook.com for confirming the news announced. Gotham had producer John Stephens mention some villains we’ll see in season two. Clayface and Mad Hatter. He called Victor Fries a “science villain,” as opposed to a supervillain. It’ll be interesting to see how they use science to make Mr. Freeze not suck.

Stephens also said we’ll see more Jerome in season two. You may remember Jerome as the carnival kid who is so the Joker. I mean, they’ve teased a lot of potential Jokers including a standup comic in the pilot (Killing Joke, anyone?). Jerome was cackling so hard it would almost be too obvious, but he was awesome. And Stephens also said Bruce Wayne would develop his billionaire playboy persona. I hope that means a time jump, because 12-year-old Bruce is too young to get laid.

The Flash‘s 21st episode is reportedly titled “Grodd Lives,” so the big ape gets his very own episode. Danielle Panabaker pretty much confirmed that Caitlin Snow will become Killer Frost “sooner than you think.” Season two will bring us the villains Mirror Master, Doctor Alchemy and a third that producer Andrew Kreisberg hopes “people will lose their minds over.”

Kreisberg also revealed plans to show flashbacks from when Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) was in a coma, to explore how Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) and Iris (Candic Patton) became a couple. He also said the third DC show, spun off from Arrow would be “just insanity.” The plan is for characters to go back and forth between the third show and the respective Arrow and The Flash.

4. WonderCon Apparently Found out David Lynch Left Twin Peaks.

Somehow, yesterday’s news that David Lynch would not direct the Showtime relaunch of Twin Peaks came out of WonderCon. This story from Business Insider says the news first came from tweets from WonderCon attendees. So I guess now you don’t even have to put on a panel at WonderCon to get on the news cycle. Quite clearly, this happened behind closed doors at Showtime, but hey, it’s not really news until people at WonderCon tweet about it!

It is, of course, a huge disappointment. Just in January, Showtime made such a big show of bringing Kyle Maclachlan out to give the Showtime president a cup of coffee. MacLachlan probably still has a job, but Lynch confirmed in a series of very formally written tweets that he is out.

Not even a damn good piece of pie can soften this blow.

3. Insidious 3 and Sinister 2 Rule the Blumhouse Slate.

The only movie panels at all were from Warner Brothers and Blumhouse. Blumhouse has become the inverse Jerry Bruckheimer Films of horror, putting out several branded titles a year, but keeping budgets as low as possible. They premiered a teaser for the sequel Sinister 2, which in 16 seconds managed to up the ante on the first film. Now there are more ghostly stalkers in the cornfield and more people watching 8mm film of family murders.

Blumouse also has Unfriended, which opens in a few weeks, and The Gallows opening this summer. Then there’s Insidious: Chapter 3, the directorial debut of screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who took over while James Wan went on to do Furious 7. Chapter 3 is a prequel set before the first two films.

“Way back in 2008, in a pre-Instagram world,” Whannell joked. “Because it’s happening back in time, there’s no entrails of the other films, so to speak, that you need to pick up on. By setting it in the past it sort of nixed all that and it let us come up with a standalone story.”

Maybe it’s not so standalone, according to Dermot Mulroney. Mulroney plays the father of a girl (Stefanie Scott) plagued by The Man Who Can’t Breathe. “It’s got great little bits that you know that it’s taking place beforehand, but there’s some crossover with some of the demons in the Further,” Mulroney promised. “It’s really fun for the fan groups. Really, I think the difference is that this being has a face and a character. The Man Who Can’t Breathe is a real thing, so maybe that’s what sets it apart and gives it a little more punch. You know who that guy is and you’ve thought about him before. Each person has. Everybody’s thought about that. “

So far every Leigh Whannell movie has had a big twist, and every time he nails me. You’d think after three Saws, two Insidiouses, Dead Silence, Cooties and The Mule I’d be onto him. Scott said there’s another big twist coming. “There’s one twist in the beginning that nobody knows about until you see it,” she said. “There are no hints whatsoever, and I think that’s the biggest shock of the whole movie.”

All right, Leigh – I’m onto you now.

2. How to Train Your Dragon 2.5 Comes To Netflix.

Netflix, home of the Arrested Development revival and inevitably the Full House revival, announced a new saga in the How to Train Your Dragon legacy. Dragons: Race to the Edge will be set after the movie How to Train Your Dragon 2 and promises “more dragons than anyone has ever imagined,” executive producer Doug Sloan said at DreamWorks Animation’s panel.

There was already a DreamWorks Dragons set between How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2. Most Disney TV spinoffs can’t get the movie’s voices back, but Dragons always had Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, T.J. Miller and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and so will Race to the Edge., Not Gerard Butler or Cate Blanchett, though, for possibly obvious reasons. Still, more dragons in a 13 episode epic. And, you know, it’s on Netflix so they can show dragon boobs now.

1. 23 Jump Street and Lego Movie Sequels

This is by far the biggest news of WonderCon for Franchise Fred. While interviewing Lord and Miller for The Last Man on Earth, they gave an update on the third 21 Jump Street film which we all assume will be called 23 Jump Street. Last we heard, they were considering crossing over with Men in Black. More importantly, they have plans to keep the 20 fake sequels at the end of 22 Jump Street in continuity.

“We’ve found a way that we love that makes those imagined sequels canonical and yet does something that we haven’t told you about yet,” Lord said. “The sequels are canon.”

On their Last Man panel, Lord and Miller were also asked why they are not directing the Lego Movie sequels. The short answer was that animated movies take a long time and they want to be available for other movies. (They made 22 Jump Street while finishing Lego Movie but I can’t imagine…) The more interesting answer is that they also wanted to use the Lego franchise to give new directors a chance to expand the medium of Lego movies with their visions. Community‘s Rob Schrab is set for The Lego Sequel, Chris McKay for Lego Batman and Charlie Bean for Ninjago.

So Lego will be the Mission: Impossible of animated franchises, where a new director can make the definitive animated vision of his or her work in each sequel. Franchise Fred approves.

Also by Fred Topel

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The 10 Nerdiest Things At SXSW 2015

The 10 Nerdiest Movies and Moments of Sundance 2015