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Updated: 7 min 14 sec ago

WonderCon: ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ no questions, no Bryan Singer

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 20:30
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Sunspot (Adan Canto), left, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) prepare for an epic battle to save their kind in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

Ian McKellen returns as Magneto in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

Young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets his older self (Patrick Stewart) in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

Brian Singer, direcotr of "X-Men: Days of Future Past," will appear at the 20th Century Fox panel. (Fox)

Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage, seated) plots to eradicate mutants in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

Beast (Nicholas Hoult) unleashes his inner animal in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

Ellen Page, left, as Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore as Iceman in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” director Bryan Singer had been scheduled to take the WonderCon stage Saturday to tout his upcoming mutant sequel. But Singer canceled his promotional plans in the wake of a teen sex abuse lawsuit filed against him this week. So it was writer-producer Simon Kinberg who spoke to fans about the film, stirring excitement with an extended clip showing mutants of the future, including Sunspot and Iceman, facing off against the destructive Sentinels.

Notably, no audience questions were allowed during the “X-Men” portion of Fox’s arena presentation.

“Days of Future Past” adapts one of the most popular storylines from “X-Men” history, a two-part story from Chris Claremont and John Byrne that originally ran in 1980. The story takes place in two time periods: in a dystopian future in which mutants are hunted by the deadly Sentinels, and in the 1970s, shortly after the events of Matthew Vaughn’s recent prequel “X-Men: First Class.”

Kinberg avoided mention of any controversy, kicking things off with the dark and thrilling scene that recalled Singer’s mastery of depicting multiple mutant powers interacting effectively in a quick action sequence.

Kinberg said the film features the largest number of X-Men assembled in any of the films so far.

“On some days there were 12 names on the call sheet that were all major characters from the franchise,” Kinberg said.

One of the promised highlights of the film is seeing the original cast and the “First Class” cast in the same story, though not necessarily onscreen together. However, one scene will feature the younger Professor X, played by James McAvoy, interact with future Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart.

Kinberg revealed that scene was shot during McAvoy’s first day on set.

Kinberg, who has been involved with the “X-Men” films since “The Last Stand,” said that the last time the team attempted a fan-favorite storyline — the Dark Phoenix saga in the third “X” movie, which was directed by Brett Ratner — it wasn’t treated with the proper importance.

“This is our attempt to right the wrongs of the past,” he said.

To make sure the time travel elements were handled appropriately, the team consulted James Cameron for advice on how to best deal with that aspect of the narrative.

“He gave us advice and scientific evidence to study,” Kinberg said (and pointed out that, of course, time travel isn’t possible, even for Cameron).

Like “First Class,” Kinberg said, “Days of Future Past” would continue to have fun with real U.S. history. In this case, it’s President Nixon who will make a cameo in the film, interacting with the mutants and finally giving us the “real story” behind those actual missing tapes recorded in the Oval Office.

Don’t expect Nixon to be a villain.

“It’s complicated,” Kinberg said.

– Patrick Kevin Day

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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WonderCon 2014: Bill Paxton talks ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ ‘Avatar’ sequels

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 20:00

Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski and Tom Cruise as Bill Cage in the sci-fi thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.” (David James/ Warner Bros.)

“Godzilla” might have made the most waves at the Warner Bros. WonderCon panel in Anaheim on Saturday, but the audience in the arena of the Anaheim Convention Center still had lots of love to give to Bill Paxton, famed for his roles in “Weird Science” and “Aliens,” among many other genre favorites.

Paxton was on hand Saturday to discuss his role in the upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi action film “Edge of Tomorrow,” and he told the audience that he suspected it was “Aliens” that got him the job: “They needed someone to yell ‘Game over, man,’” Paxton joked, recalling his famous line from “Aliens” as panicky space marine Hudson.

In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Paxton plays a platoon sergeant who must whip a new soldier (Tom Cruise) into shape to stage a Normandy-style retaking of Europe from a conquering alien horde. Except that in the Doug Liman movie, based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s award-winning novel “All You Need Is Kill,” when Cruise dies on the battlefield — over and over again — he restarts his war experience from the beginning, “Groundhog Day” style.

In the film, Paxton, Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt wear bulky exoskeleton-style armor. Despite the preponderance of CGI in modern science fiction films, those suits were very real, Paxton said.

The actor recalled arriving on the “Edge of Tomorrow” set in England’s Leavesden Studios and entering a soundstage to find Cruise trying on a prototype of the suit, surrounded by crew members taking notes.

“Paxton, you been working out?’” Cruise called out to him, Paxton said. “’This thing weighs 75 pounds!’”

Between takes, the actors would be suspended by chains from iron frames to take the weight of the suits off their shoulders. While Paxton and Blunt commiserated about wearing the suits, he said, Cruise was the leader. “He’d say, ‘Let’s go! Let’s put on the suits.’”

“I went through hell to get my bonus,” Paxton said.

Paxton also revealed that he’s working to mount his third film as a director, “The Bottoms,” adapted from the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, and hopes to shoot it in the fall.

And if James Cameron should happen to have a role for him in any of the upcoming “Avatar” sequels, Paxton — who appeared in “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “True Lies” and “Titanic” — is more than ready.

“I describe Jim Cameron calling me up as being like the Batphone in my house,” Paxton said. “It’s like Commissioner Gordon. ‘Yes, Jim, what do you want me to do? Set myself on fire? I’m in! I’m in, Jim!’”

– Patrick Kevin Day @LATHeroComplex

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WonderCon: ‘Godzilla’ director Gareth Edwards shares monster secrets

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 19:46
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Aaron Taylor-Johnson, center, as Ford Brody on the set of "Godzilla." (Kimberley French / Warner Bros./Legendary)

A scene from "Godzilla." (Warner Bros./Legendary)

Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody in "Godzilla." (Legendary/Warner Bros.)

Director Gareth Edwards, left, and Bryan Cranston on the set of "Godzilla." (Kimberley French / Warner Bros./Legendary)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody in "Godzilla." (Legendary/Warner Bros.)

Bryan Cranston, left, as Joe Brody and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody in "Godzilla." (Warner Bros./Legendary)

Director Gareth Edwards appeared at the Warner Bros. presentation at WonderCon in Anaheim on Saturday to unveil footage from his upcoming “Godzilla” remake, due in theaters May 16. The glimpse fans saw provoked a wild reaction.

“And that’s why we make movies,” he said as the lights came up after the screening of the footage.

What drove the fans into a frenzy? It wasn’t just the glimpses of Godzilla rising from the Pacific to lay waste to Honolulu, although the footage, even with incomplete visual effects, was impressive.

It was the presence of a creature that, until now, has not been seen in any of the film’s marketing. In the new film, fans will get to see their Godzilla fight Mothra, or at least a giant winged creature that bears a vague resemblance to a moth. Edwards did not utter the M word during his appearance.

Edwards spoke of his adoration of Steven Spielberg’s films, and the influence was apparent in the scene showed to the WonderCon crowd, which paid homage to the famous shot in “Jaws” that revealed the outline of the giant shark swimming beneath Quint’s boat. Replace Quint’s boat with an aircraft carrier and the shark with Godzilla, and the scope of Edwards’ film becomes clear.

“I grew up watching Spielberg movies,” he said. “What they did so well — as well as having epic, fantastic spectacle — they made the characters feel real and human. We were trying to do the same thing here.”

The clip climaxed with Godzilla confronting the Mothra-like creature on the tarmac at Honolulu’s airport. For the first time, fans got to see the new Godzilla facing the camera directly and letting loose with its distinctive roar.

Edwards said that going into the film, he thought designing Godzilla’s new look would be the easiest thing to do, since everyone already has an idea of what Godzilla looks like. But that turned out to make designing Godzilla one of the trickiest tasks for the film’s crew.

“I feel the best designs are strongest when they work in silhouette,” Edwards said. “We built him in 3-D and designed him in black and rotated him. If you saw a sign warning ‘Godzilla crossing,’ you’d know right away it was not a deer or a bear.”

Creating the monster’s new look took the better part of a year, Edwards said. It was a puzzle, but “it’s not a Rubik’s Cube,” he said. “You can’t cheat and pull off the stickers.”

The film sees Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson leading an ensemble cast, but Edwards said he specifically told the performers not to approach the film as a big, commercial blockbuster.

“Forget the giant monsters,” he told them. “If this really happened, it would be a life-changing experience. You have to take it seriously.”

Edwards said he couldn’t describe the film the way most other directors discuss their big-budget remakes, talking about how they were making things gritty and grounded. He said the original 1954 film was as real as it gets, with its direct and sustained metaphor for the nuclear horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Edwards didn’t reveal exactly what Godzilla’s motivation throughout the film would be, but he definitely hinted that the movie would include more than one creature.

“The other thing, whatever it is, is very much related to the life cycle of Godzilla,” he said. “Everything Godzilla does in the film feels animalistic and natural.”

Many of “Godzilla’s” secrets were divulged at the panel, but one that Edwards is keeping to himself, at least for now, is how the monster’s distinctive roar was created.

According to film lore, the original roar came about by rubbing a hand in a leather glove over the resin-coated strings of a double bass. But when sound designer Eric Aadahl tried that, he couldn’t re-create the effect. Eventually, he hit on a method, but he refused to tell Edwards what it was until the final week of work on the film.

“It’s as crazy as the double bass thing,” was all he would say.

– Patrick Kevin Day

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Angels miss their chances in 5-2 loss to Tigers

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 19:46
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