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A tribe of handsome Scots in kilts took to the streets of San Diego with bagpipes, heralding the arrival of the Comic-Con panel for “Outlander,” the hit time traveler romance from Starz.

Stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, along with author Diana Gabaldon and executive producers Ron Moore and Maril Davis, brought out tribes of devoted fans, who packed the largest ballroom at the convention center late Saturday.

Despite all the kilts and plaids and even some whiskey, the panel focused on the series’ big departure in season two, when Claire (Balfe) and Jamie (Heughan) head to Paris to pursue a new life.

So how will life in France change the story in Season 2?
Based on the second book of the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber, season two follows Claire and Jamie to Paris, where they try and stop the Jacobite rebellion, said series creator Ron Moore. The new backdrop changes everything, with new characters and storylines and some inevitable departures from the book.  But author Gabaldron will be writing one of the episodes, keeping things true to her novel.

What about Scotland?
For fans who already miss Jamie in his kilts, rest assured they will be heading back to Scotland in the second half of the season.  And though Jamie assumes a new identity and a new character, “there’s still an element of Scottish-ness about him,” Heughan assured the fans.

Also, a bottle of Laphroaig appeared on the table
Things took a turn when a bottle of scotch whiskey appeared and Heughan poured glasses for the entire panel – challenging his co-star to a drinking game of “say it straight faced.”  She faltered over her first line, and the drinking began.

Sneak peeks that only Comic-Con fans can see
A look ahead was shown for the gathered fans, but not released for the public.  There were glimpses of Tobias Menzies, Frances de la Tour as Mother Hildegard, Fergus, a duel, court life, a hot moment between Claire and Jamie, and a lot of lush silks and satins.

Do they know how it all will end?   
Gabaldron admitted that she’s written the last scene of the last book, and both Ron and Sam have seen it.  But no one else in the world has read that scene.  And no one knows when the rest of us will read it or see it.

Hugh Dancy and Bryan Fuller at the Hannibal panel at Comic-Con

NBC might have canceled there series, but Hannibal’s “fannibals” were out in full force at Comic-Con as the series’ showrunner and head writer Bryan Fuller and stars Hugh Dancy and Richard Armitage wetted fans appetites for the rest of the current season –- and the possibility of a Hannibal film in the future.

The highlight reel from the Comic-Con panel:

A peak into the future: what’s ahead this season

In a preview clip, the Comic-Con fans were treated to a peek at Richard Dolarhyde’s transformation into the Red Dragon. Dancy also mentioned a time jump that sees Will in the not-so-distant future, retreated from the FBI and Hannibal and finally finding “a life” – at least for a moment. Fuller offered another peek into the future: a Blu ray version of the series that won’t blur Dolarhyde’s dragon-tattooed butt cheeks.

The future of the franchise

Fuller hinted that a feature film might in the future.”We’d like to continue with the show so the way this season ends, there may be an opportunity for a little break and then hopefully we’ll find a way to bring Mads [Mikkelsen] and Hugh [Dancy] back to you,” Fuller announced to the audience, which was full of fans holding up “Fannibals Forever” signs. But he lauded NBC for allowing them to do “some crazy sh*t for three years.”

Richard Armitage talks about transforming himself into the red dragon

To fully understand the twisted mind of his character, Armitage went deep into the Red Dragon book. “He’s a man uncomfortable in his own skin, and he sheds his skin to become something more powerful than he really is. I actually did put on a new skin, beginning of the dragon’s creation. (We’ll see with more with the digital effects in the coming season, he hinted.)

Deconstructing Hannibal

A huge David Lynch fan, Bryan Fuller also set out to draw from the works of David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick and Tony Scott. “I love visually aggressive filmmakers, and we try to be visually aggressive with Hannibal.” He’s also been influenced by Francis Bacon, the artist who painted dark, emotionally charged figures.” His paintings were inside Fuller’s head, and a lot of Francis Bacon went into the series.” (“Also a lot of bacon,” Dancy added.)

Choosing their own gruesome death

When a fan from the audience asked the panelists to pick a way they’d like to die – from among the twisted fates of the show’s characters – Fuller had the best response: “I wouldn’t mind the cello, I think it’d be awesome if someone played me.”

The most interesting job on a TV series: “Food Stylist”

A fan asked about the “Feeding Hannibal” blog from Janice Poon, the woman who plans the meals for the series – meals involving pig tails, prosthetic intestines, or someone’s leg, for example. “We have some really weird late night email chains that have made it into the scripts,” Fuller explained, as Poon has to figure out how the meals would be prepared and presented, both literally and on a symbolic level.

The second most interesting job: Body Artist

To transform Dolarhyde into the red dragon, Richard Armitage had to begin each day on his stomach in a makeup truck, as two of TV’s most artistic make-up artists applied the full body dragon tattoo to his back “They knelt at my naked backside each day, painting my crack, and then they had to scrub it off at end of the day with towels.”

What they’ll miss most when NBC ends the series run

Fuller paid tribute to the avid fan community that has been “so overwhelmingly supportive and passionate.” Dancy added that he was grateful “to be part of something that feels like it was so embraced and engaged with.”

Imagine if the Allied powers lost World War II, and Americans lived under totalitarian regimes, the eastern states ruled by Nazi Germany and the western states ruled by an Axis-powered Japan.

That’s the premise behind The Man in the High Castle, the Amazon Original Series coming this fall from Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and Frank Spotnitz (X Files). Based on the Hugo Award-winning Philip K. Dick novel from 1962, the series raises big questions – including a few controversial ones from the Comic-Con audience.  Below, six reasons why the series – and the panel – are making waves:

An alternate pledge of allegiance

The panel marked the debut of the trailer for the series, which evokes a combination of goose bumps and gravitas as it reimagines our pledge of allegiance in an alternate version of history “with liberty and justice for none.”

The question of what is real

Alexa Davalos, who plays the lead, Juliana Craine, brought up author Philip K. Dick’s central question from the novel, which asks how much of reality is in our heads, how much is perception, and how much actually exists. “That’s the world we’re living in in this series,” said Davalos, “always questioning what is real.”

The love triangle

Davalos’s Juliana is torn between her boyfriend back home (Frank Frink, played by Rupert Evans) and a mysterious man she meets in the neutral zone in the middle states (Joe Blake, played by Luke Kleintank). The two men represent different ideologies, which appear to shift as the series unfolds, but they also represent the two different paths she could take in life.

Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa

Born in Tokyo and raised on U.S. Army bases in the deep South, the actor known for playing bad guys (Mortal Kombat, Revenge) has spent his life reconciling the worlds of east and west. In The Man in the High Castle, he finally gets to play a good guy – and embody his own personal struggle in the character he plays, Nobusuki Tagomi, a trade missionary who might just be a savior.

Rufus Sewell

Another perennial bad guy, Sewell (Killing Jesus) pays the penultimate antagonist in the series: a Nazi who is celebrated as an American Hero. Even more challenging is that his character reveals a human side. When an audience member asked if playing certain roles challenged the actors’ moral boundaries, Sewell stepped up to explain his point of view: “If there’s anything that we need to learn, it’s that human beings do these evil things, not Germans.  We need to understand it.”

What’s at stake

“We as Americans are not used to losing, and seeing our values challenged like this makes us think,” said series co-creator Frank Spotnitz. “You watch this and realize what’s at stake,” he added. “It makes us think about our own history and the things we take for granted, and it makes us question what it means to be American. It’s an idea that requires replenishing with each generation.”

Zombie Outbreak in Hall H

July 11th, 2015 | Posted by arno in Comic-Con - (Comments Off)

My interest in “Fear the Walking Dead’ increased after Friday’s Comic-Con panel, but I wonder if AMC should have scheduled the new show’s panel before “The Walking Dead” instead of after it.

To kick off the back-to-back panels, “The Walking Dead” cast and show runner Scott M. Gimple took the stage armed with a season 6 trailer, an announcement that the premiere episode would be 90 minutes in length, and news that the zombie herd would be growing this season – 654 walker extras were used the first episode.

GImple also let it be known that while “we sometimes play with the truth in trailers” that Rick and co. would face multiple threats early in the season, and he’s excited and terrified by the fact that the first three episodes will push the audiences rather hard.

One of the main threats, The Wolves, will be part of the new season but “hopefully in a way you won’t expect” according to Gimple.

Masterfully stoking the rumor mill even further, Gimple admitted there would be some character flashbacks in season 6 but gave no hints as to whose past we might get to see. Later he tipped his hand a bit by indicating that we may find out this season what Morgan had been doing with himself prior to finding Rick. In the present, Morgan will represent a fundamental challenge to the way Rick has been leading the group.

Wrap up all that news and speculation with the cast’s familial chemistry and ability to work the crowd — by now you’ve seen the photos of Melissa McBride walking on stage with a plate of cookies — and you have the best kind of Hall H entertainment you can imagine when the cast really can’t say anything about the upcoming season of their program.

“Fear the Walking Dead”’s cast were in the exact same position — they’ve only shot the pilot episode of their six-episode first season — so the hour-long panel felt a little thin, especially since the cast has yet to develop a repoire. In fact, the cast all met on the day of the first table read in Vancouver.

Elizabeth Rodriguez and Ruben Blades worked with the crowd and their inability to share much information the best. Rodriguez’s character is in nursing school, and she let it be known her skills are a vital part of the series. Also intriguing: Blades’s character is forced to confront a past from which he was trying to get away.

Co-creator Dave Erickson did a good job framing the story as the fall of a major city, especially one where people go to become someone new, which sounded as ominous as he quietly intended. He referred to the zombie outbreak as “the shark you don’t see …we don’t get to full apocalypse until late in the season.”

Quick Hits – Star Wars: The Force Awakens Panel

July 11th, 2015 | Posted by arno in Comic-Con - (Comments Off)

J.J. Abrams had his mom make him a Jawa costume for Halloween when he was 13.

Domnhall Gleeson’s character name was revealed; he’ll be playing General Hux, a high-ranking officer in The First Order. Oh, and he’s stationed at Starkiller Base.

Oscar Isaac asked Harrison Ford for advice about piloting; Ford said, “It’s fake. Also it’s in space so the same stuff doesn’t apply.”

John Boyega took Harrison Ford to a Nigerian restaurant in Southeast London. A waiter there asked: “Are you Harrison Ford?” His response: “I used to be.” That joke aside, Ford looked amazing consider the leg-shattering accident he suffered recently. I also got the inside scoop on how that happened…

“They were right about the acid flashbacks.” — Carrie Fisher on being back on set.

Abrams quote: I sat with John Williams to show him a Star Wars movie he hadn’t seen yet..

“We didn’t have a lot of conversations about being good and evil while filming. It was more about what’s bad versus what’s right.” Adam Driver on developing his character with JJ Abrams

Domhnall Gleeson’s response to the question “Is your character evil?”
“He’s British, so yeah.”

“A little bit like before except we looked a little melted this time. But it was good, like, a Force-melted.” — Carrie Fisher about being back on set with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.

The panel’s answers to “What color light saber would you have?”

Blue – Kathleen Kennedy
Red – J.J. Abrams
Black – Lawrence Kasdan
Gold- John Boyega
Silver – Daisy Ridley
Rainbow-colored – Oscar Isaac

“Doctor Who” Teases Season 9

July 10th, 2015 | Posted by arno in Comic-Con - (Comments Off)

Season 9 of “Doctor Who” begins airing in the U.S. on September 19, and Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez and writer/executive Stephen Moffat teased the show’s return at yesterday’s Comic-Con panel.

Here’s what we learned and we left feeling:

Peter Capaldi got used to playing The Doctor:

“The writers know me now and want to write for me. Because Clara and the Doctor feel more in a groove, they’re really enjoying being the luckiest people in all of history.”

His answer to the question ”When did you feel like Doctor Who?”
“I think it’s when they threw a rubber spider at my face and said: ‘Fight it!’”

Q: How would you react to being in an episode with Sherlock?
A: “More cleverly.”

Michelle Gomez quietly owned the panel:

Gomez on Missy in season 9: “[She] has to come at it from a different angle, which is surprising and exciting to play. “There’s something slightly different to her. Another eyebrow-raising comment: “Who do you think the Master is, and what do you think he/she/it wants?”

On the Doctor/Master dynamic: “This great friendship that just went wrong. It’s her life’s purpose to chase the Doctor and make him realize that ‘No, you started it. I’m right.’” She later added: “We both kill a lot of people. He feels bad about it, I don’t.”

Jenna Coleman describes Clara’s perfect day:

“Teaching a bit of Jane Austen, going to the stationary store, opening the door to the Tardis, and then jetting off to like Jupiter. Or Uranus. Kill some octopus-shaped alien, get some tea, and then hang out with the Doctor.

Chris Hardwick from Nerdist is the premiere Comic-Con moderator:

“I love that you’re cranky and intense, and I kinda don’t know if you’re a good guy or not.” – Chris Hardwicke to Peter Capaldi

“I feel like you kinda dommed the Doctor this season.” Hardwicke to Jenna Coleman

There was a surprise cameo at the end of the Season 9 trailer:

“Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams appeared at the end of the minute-long trailer. “You! said the Doctor. “What took you so long, old man?” was her response.



After his run on Sons of Anarchy, Ron Perlman knew he wanted to stay in TV, “the most exciting place to be right now,” because he wanted to do something original that would push the envelope and grab an audience.

At the first panel at this year’s Comic-Con, Perlman woke up the morning crowd with some profanity, discomfort and confessions. He was there to talk about his upcoming Amazon series, Hand of God, in which he plays a corrupt judge who begins to have religious visions after a tragedy.

“It’s a show about zealotry and the power it can give you,” explained creator Ben Watkins. “And it’s about the kind of behavior that makes people uncomfortable, so uncomfortable we have to call it inspired or crazy.”

Perlman had some inspired moments at the panel. Below are the highlights:

He likes to be scared

When he read the script for Hand of God, it scared him. That’s right, the guy who played Hellboy was scared. So of course he had to do it.

Speaking of Hellboy, he wants to finish the trilogy

He got in some hot water when he tweeted about the need for a Hellboy finale. “It’s a covenant we made, a non-negotiable destiny,” he told the Comic-Con audience. “We owe it to you the fans.” His tweets about Hellboy earned him 60,000 new followers and a few angry calls from Studio execs. “I apologized. Then I doubled-down,” he said to cheers. He’s got plans to talk to Guillermo del Toro.

He apologizes for offending people

Perlman swears, a lot, but he’s sorry about it. “I’m so f*cking sorry if there’s any f*cking kids in the room. But you should’ve thought twice before you brought your f*cking kids in the room.” When a pastor took to the mic, he apologized before the man could ask his question. Then he acknowledged that the series makes the audience wrestle with faith and disbelief. “You can talk about religion all your life and never come up with any answers.” The pastor did not seem offended. “Lord help us live with ambiguity,” he responded.

He likes not knowing

When people send Perlman scripts, he doesn’t want to know what role he’s being considered for. But after reading the pilot for Hand of God, “it had to be Judge Harris,” he told the fans. “I could have played Mrs. Harris,” he added, “I’m a versatile character.” But he knew he had to play the troubled judge, walking that line between justice and revenge.

He sees purity in a sex worker

Even in the midst of his religious awakening, Perlman’s character has a relationship with a woman who is a prostitute (the beautiful Emayatzy Corinealdi). But as Perlman pointed out, she’s the most pure character in the series. “She’s the only one with no agenda. She’s not trying to get even or reposition herself. She’s not aiming for anything close to piety. And yet she’s not asking anything from anyone.”

He’s as cool as he seems

His co-star, Julian Morris, testified to the fact. “He has gravity just by doing nothing.” Morris, who plays a conman turned priest in the series, is pretty cool himself, as the audience could attest. The British actor has a hefty fanbase from his roles in Pretty Little Liars, 24, Once Upon a Time and New Girl.

But he did have a Sally Fields moment

When he heard Marc Forster was attached to direct the pilot of Hand of God, the guy behind World War Z, Finding Neverland and Quantum of Solace, Perlman was convinced he’d lost his shot at Hand of God. Then he got a meeting with the director, and before he could sell himself, Forster was selling him. “I had a Sally Field moment,” Perlman confessed. The director really liked him.

The Comic-Con fans really liked Perlman too. The line for his autograph stretched the length of a ballroom. You can watch the pilot for “Hand of God” for free at Amazon Prime.

- Melissa Roth

A Comic-Con Farewell to Katniss, Peeta, & Gael

July 9th, 2015 | Posted by arno in Comic-Con - (Comments Off)

I like living in an entertainment world where Conan O’Brien gets as much applause at Katniss Everdeen. “I’m #TeamJosh!” O”Brien exclaimed as walking out on the stage, augmenting Lionsgate’s preferred hash tags for their Comic-Con presence. “I’m middle-aged and I don’t know what any of that means,” he said.

Conan’s wit and the sibling chemistry between Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth charmed to no end, it was almost as if this wasn’t the curtain call for The Hunger Games at Comic-Con.

Here are some remarks and things we learned about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2:

There was a strong indication from Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence that the first Mockingjay installment was a little exposition heavy, and that Katniss is back in action for the finale.

Liam Hemsworth positioned Gale as a big part of the plans after being on the sidelines for a while (too long). He and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) devise ways to ambush and trap the enemy.

A lot of fans would like to see the books from Peeta’s point-of-view.

When asked which outfit she’d most want for herself, Lawrence joked: “I love the wedding dress from Catching Fire because it’s so understated. The wet suits would be hilarious to take to a beach. The orange backpack from the first Hunger Games. I have so many memories of hiding my phone in there.”

“The truth is [my favorite moment] is in this movie but I don’t want to spoil it.” — Jennifer Lawrence’s response to Conan’s question about her top Katniss memories.

Josh Hutcherson can perfectly imitate the sound of a cricket and a sheep, but his Rue/Katniss whistle always sounds like “The X-Files” theme.

The best moment of the panel was a quiet one. When asked about wrapping production on the last movie and what it meant to them, Jennifer Lawrence turned to both Josh and Liam and asked: “I’m your best friend, right?”

Bill Murray Opens Comic-Con 2015

July 9th, 2015 | Posted by arno in Comic-Con - (Comments Off)

A superhero of his own design kicked off the first day of Comic-Con 2015; an apparently hungover and unslept Bill Murray took the stage to delight the Hall H crowd and to promote Rock the Kasbah, director Barry Levinson’s comedy about a veteran music manager who discovers a teenager with an extraordinary voice while on tour in Afghanistan.

Here are the top Murray moments and quotes of the presentation:

He walked through the crowd to the tune of “Smoke on the Water” and soon said: “We started the morning with bagels and tequila.”

Murray’s character Richie Lanz is partially based on concert promoter Ron Delsener, who was responsible for bringing Van Morrison to the U.S.

After Glazer remarked, “We were driving around during Ramadan…”, Murray said: “It was great – there’s no traffic.”

“I go to work with a knife strapped to my leg; it means people will know their lines.”

Bruce Willis was a page when Murray was on “SNL”. His job was to refill the M&M and peanut bowls. He said Willis once said: “Only you and Gilda were nice to me.” Who knows if that’s true but it’s brilliant.

“These are all my lines from other movies.” — A response to reading Kasbah‘s script.

“I’m in the [Writers] Guild but I don’t take the credit. You get away with a lot more if you don’t take the credit.”

“Miley Cyrus is really f_cking good. I thought she was just going to be this knucklehead you’d want to go on a road trip with…maybe she wouldn’t have ID. I don’t want to hear anymore knocking of Miley Cyrus.”

Answering moderator Josh Horowitz’s question about whether he actually was up for the role of Han Solo and whether he’d try out for the just-announced Solo movie: “I can’t say I was ever up for the role originally, but I’m up for the new thing. I’m working out – just a lot of swimming and Pilates.”

In response to a fan question about his favorite role to play: “Well, once upon a time, I did save New York. I had the coolest damn car to drive around Manhattan.”

Winter is coming. Well, it’ll be here in six months. Right now, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is heating up as it approaches season five’s penultimate episode. Several key characters are making dramatic political moves, none of which are making their subjects (or brothers) love them. But among our 50 kingdoms – er, states – there’s a far-and-away frontrunner. In the Game of Popularity, American IMDb users have chosen… Jonathan Pryce (aka High Sparrow).

Were you expecting Khaleesi (Emilia Clarke) to rule our users’ hearts? We did, too. She’s perched at #4 on our STARmeter. Sitting at #13, as of the week of June 1, is Sophie Turner, aka Sansa Stark. Natalie Dormer, who plays Margaery Tyrell (#17), Lena Headey, known better as Cersei Lannister (#27), Kit Harington, who plays Jon SnowGwendoline Christie, aka Brienne of Tarth (#85) and Iwan Rheon, the despicable Ramsay Bolton (#79), are all in the Top #100 of STARmeter, and yet none of them ranked as highly in 33 states as the High Sparrow, the guy who’s scrubbing all the whoring, boozing, and fun out of Kings Landing. Not exactly a party animal, that Sparrow.

Looking at Pryce’s long career, he probably wouldn’t be considered a dark horse in this competition. The British actor is one of the most recognizable and consistently working professional actors in film and television. In 2015 alone, he’s appeared in Woman in Gold as well as co-starred in the U.K. series “Wolf Hall.”

Jason Momoa Left Quite an Impression

More surprising are the remaining actors who came out on top in various individual states. Some of them are easily explainable, such as Jason Momoa lording over Iowa, Arizona, Georgia and Mississippi. Arizona is ranch country – perfect for Khal Drogo! – and Momoa was raised in Iowa. As for Georgia and Mississippi, it’s hot down South and the man looks great shirtless. Everybody gets to dream, right? (This is only a guess.)

However, Momoa did not over-index in the state of his birth, Hawaii. Rather, “Game of Thrones’” island viewers are surfing most frequently to the name page of season five newcomer Jessica Henwick, the actress who plays Nymeria Sand.

Another long-dead character, the lovely Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte (she of the famed “You know nothing, Jon Snow” quote) and does not appear in season five, comes out on top in New Mexico and Nebraska.

Carice van Houten on Fire in the South

Then there’s Carice van Houten, who plays Melisandre, a character fond of setting people on fire. She’s the most popular “Game of Thrones” actress in Alabama and Texas (both states that are fond of barbecue), Nevada and California (are they fans of her live magic act?) and Alaska (where the night is dark and filled with terrors).

And speaking of dangerous women: Charlotte Hope, the actress who plays Ramsay’s jealous psycho of a consort Myranda, is the “Thrones” actress of choice in Kansas and Utah. Knowing this… gives us pause.

Results for which we have no simple theories: Nell Tiger Free, the young actress who plays Myrcella Baratheon, is the most-searched “Game of Thrones” cast member in Wyoming. And actor Dean-Charles Chapman, the boy king Tommen Baratheon, is the top search in Rhode Island and South Carolina.

So how did we get these results? We based them on a data pull that focused on actors and actresses who over-index in popularity in a particular state versus the entire U.S. This is measured as a percentage of page views from our main “Game of Thrones” title page within the 60-day window leading up to May 27.

Got more theories on our data? Share your thoughts!