Lionsgate links with Comic-Con for streaming service


For anyone unable to get badges to San Diego Comic-Con this year, Lionsgate and Comic-Con are giving subscribers unprecedented access to the pop culture mecca with the launch of Comic-Con HQ.

The ad-free subscription service, which launches Free Beta Access on May 7 (Free Comic Book Day) will feature live and exclusive coverage from San Diego Comic-Con July 20-24. It will also include original and unscripted series, daily and weekly entertainment commentary.

“For nearly half a century, Comic-Con has served as the definitive common ground where the fans of genre entertainment come together to express their passion for comics and pop culture,” said Seth Laderman, EVP and General Manager for Comic-Con HQ. “Comic-Con HQ aspires to extend that exchange 365 days a year, bringing everything we love about Comic-Con to the world in ways never before seen and experienced. The new platform will provide a year-round destination to enjoy all facets of the community and access the vast diversity of content the world has come to expect from the largest and longest-running pop cultural celebration of the year.”

Since SDCC attendees often wait hours (or days) for a coveted seat in Hall H or Ballroom 20, panels won’t be live-streamed. But, CCHQ will offer other exclusive programming and live-streams, including airings of select Comic-Con panels, and immersive access to the convention floor and sanctioned events never before available to the public such as the Masquerade and the Eisner Awards. Members will enjoy interviews and previews available only on CCHQ in a growing library of new and archival panels, bonus features, behind-the-scenes previews and more. 

Programming will include: A 1:1 interview series from G4 alum Adam Sessler (“X-Play”); fellow G4 star Kevin Pereira (“Attack of the Show”) and his company Attack Media will executive produce an entertainment pop culture news show and a late night talk show format; and the scripted comedy show “Kings of Con,” is inspired by real-life fan convention experiences and features “Supernatural” stars Richard Speight and Rob Benedict.

“CCHQ is welcoming both attendees and fans new to the Comic-Con phenomenon to join our community and enjoy all aspects of the experience in ways never before imagined,” said David Glanzer, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer for Comic-Con International. “Lionsgate is a terrific partner in this venture and uniquely qualified to provide quality programming that speaks directly to our fans. We’re excited to see what we can accomplish with a dedicated Comic-Con channel 365 days a year.”

More news about upcoming programming and partnerships will be announced in the coming weeks. Anyone can now pre-register for free beta access on to enjoy a full platform of programming starting May 7 via their browsers and iOS/Android devices. The paid subscription service will roll out across more connected devises in the months to come such as Roku, AppleTV and Xbox One, with additional devices and distribution platforms becoming available throughout the year.

It’s 3-D, Charlie Brown

20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang (Franklin, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty and Sally) revel in a snow day in "The Peanuts Movie, which opened Nov. 6.

20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide
Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang (Franklin, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty and Sally) revel in a snow day in “The Peanuts Movie, which opened Nov. 6.

When I first heard that “Peanuts” was being brought back to the screen in CGI and 3-D, I was worried. I thought, good grief, they’re going to ruin these characters. As a lifelong fan of both the strip and animated films, I didn’t want to see Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang reimagined, I wanted the timeless classics.

After seeing “The Peanuts Movie” this weekend, I learned I didn’t need to worry. When I heard the first notes of Vince Guardaldi’s “Linus and Lucy,” I knew we were in for a nostalgic treat. If I could describe the movie in one word, it’d be “charming.”

I found myself smiling throughout the film as we saw familiar scenes recreated on the big screen — Snoopy as the World War I flying ace fighting the red baron and attending a school dance as Joe Cool, Lucy giving advice for those cold, hard nickels at her psychiatrist stand, the kite-eating tree, Linus snuggling his trusty blue blanket and pondering life’s big questions with Charlie Brown at that brick wall we’ve seen on countless occasions.

With the help of Charles Schulz’s son, Craig, and grandson, Bryan, director Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”) succeeds in a faithful adaption of the beloved comic strip and the film is a love letter to the “Peanuts” gang.

The driving plot of the film centers on our favorite “blockhead” Charlie Brown once again pining away for the Little Red-Haired Girl, who this time moves across the street from the Browns. Charlie Brown sees this as a chance to have a clean slate with her. Finally, someone who doesn’t know of his past failings — buying a pitiful Christmas tree, failing to kick a football time and time again, never being able to keep his kite in the air. But, of course, he wouldn’t be Charlie Brown if things went well, so we see his good intentions throughout the movie derailed by his constant bad luck.

While CGI wasn’t how I’m used to seeing the gang, the animators stayed true to Schulz’s style, going back at the more than 18,000 strips for reference. Martin0 said the complexity of the animation was getting it to look so simple. The crew had to develop a technique that allowed them to keep the “soft wiggle” of Schulz’s work while translating characters in a 3-D world.

There are some small changes — all the kids, except for Sally, are in the same class. Even Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Franklin, who went to a different school in the “Peanuts” universe. It makes sense tough, in a 90-minute movie, there wouldn’t be time for everything. But, it works well and keeps the core gang all together.

There are some Easter eggs for long-time fans including mid-credits scenes involving Lucy, a Blockhead and a football, a group of Christmas carolers, the odd dance moves that we were accustomed to, Snoopy’s voice from specials long ago and traditional animation for Charlie Brown’s inner thoughts. In other words, something for every member of the family.

Screenshots of the Unboxing of the New “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” X-Wing Fighter

The pieces are said to me much sturdier and less likely to break. The X-Wing has a pop-up droid that, when pushed, releases the wings from the locked position to form the X-position. Attachments are set up differently than previous toys, in that they only fit the slot for which they are designed, meaning that each wing’s attachment will only fit the correct wing.




The Name Behind Your Childhood

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with his work, even though you may not know his name and have never seen his face. You’ve probably doodled or sketched the characters he made famous, or maybe had their likeness on your pillowcases. The toys you grew up playing with were based on the characters he had a part in bringing to life.

His name is Tom Cook. No? Doesn’t ring a bell?

Tom animated and directed some of the most incredibly popular animated cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s. His work includes everything from “He-Man” and “She-Ra” to “Brave Starr” and “Ghostbusters.” Now retired, Cook was a recent media guest at Pittsburgh’s “Steel-City Con,” where he was welcomed by thousands of happy fans, excited to finally put a face to the name they saw on every closing credit of their youthful Saturdays and weekday afternoons.

Tom Cook discusses his animation during a panel at Pittsburgh's "Steel-City Con"

Tom Cook discusses his animation during a panel at Pittsburgh’s “Steel-City Con”

Cook was a bus driver, content with his job, before he became an animator. He saw an ad for a college art course at a local school and thought he would like to expand his talent for sketching into something a little more substantial. In a short time, the teacher told him that they were looking for animation assistants for cartoons that were being developed for network television. Cook kept his bus route, but decided to take the step of faith into following his passion, or at least an attempt to test the waters.

Cook’s first animated sample was “The Flintstones.” Prior to his career change, he would draw Fred Flintstone from different angles, seeing how the positioning and movement would look. He began familiarizing himself with how muscles and bone structure can look by studying the work of Jack Kirby and the characters created by Stan Lee in various comic books. He saw that animating could show a level of human realism and still work as a cartoon-type of character.

Because he wanted to be a full-time animator and work as much as possible, he went to Filmation Studios, which supplied us with his most well-known years of work. He did the animation for “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and “Heathcliff,” as well as most of the Saturday Morning cartoons that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. He says the most difficult to animate was “The Smurfs,” because there were so many of them in every scene. “It’s not that I disliked them,” he said, “you just always had to draw so many.”

Cook worked on movies, like “The Cunning Little Vixen” and the “Roger Rabbit Short: Tummy Trouble,” which was associated with the movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” He says his favorite character to animate was always “Thundarr the Barbarian,” which aired on both, NBC and ABC. Cook enjoyed the realistic look and movement of the character.

Cook has made appearances at conventions all across the country, sometimes appearing with the actors who gave voices to the characters he animated. Although he misses 2-dimensional animation, when it made way for the digital animation we see today, Cook was able to transition smoothly, because he was familiar with computer animation programs and was able to help in the training of other artists and animators.

“Many of the animators,” Cook said, “ignored the change and went from making more than $100K a year to having to take jobs as security guards because they were unable to learn to adapt.”

Since retiring, he began playing drums for a worship team at his local church and got married. His wife knew he was an artist, but wasn’t married to him during the time he was animating. She was surprised when she attended a convention with him recently and a fan came up to tell him he was a legend. He has since used that to his advantage with her in saying, “Legends shouldn’t have to take out the garbage around the house.”

Ant-Man Overshadowed by Humor

Ant-Man promotion covered each city street lamp in San Diego this past weekend. Though Marvel had very little presence themselves at the San Diego Comic-Con, they did send symbols of their featured movie premiering this weekend across the globe. After seeing the movie, I understand why they were hesitant to show up.

Comic book movies are meant to be a heroic journey of discovery with a nemesis who the audience comes to hate. This was Marvel’s journey into comedic, over the top sarcasm and cute pleasantries. Mind you, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t their best effort.

The movie follows an out of work ex-con, just released from prison, for a Robin Hood type of crime against a large corporation. He has a daughter with his ex-wife, played by the incredible Judy Greer. The step father, of course, has a vendetta against Paul Rudd’s character, which leads to a second incarceration.

Not to give anything away to those who are looking forward to seeing this film, Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) recruits Paul Rudd (Scott Lang) to stop his former company, now controlled by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from using a shrinking ray that minimizes the space between atoms from falling into the wrong hands (Hydra). The problem isn’t that the storyline is just weak compared to other Marvel properties, it’s that it tries too hard to be cute. The humor goes too far and becomes almost a parody of itself. Scott’s daughter becomes a pivotal character, which would be fine, except the language in this movie makes it unacceptable for children. So who is the target audience?

There is a pretty impressive performance given by Michael Douglas. He is a redeeming quality of an otherwise mediocre (for Marvel) movie. Evangeline Lilly plays his daughter, Hope. She has been distanced from her father because of the death of her mother, the former Wasp character from the Avengers comics. Lilly plays a tough, hard-nosed character who works to eventually attempt to double-cross the bad guys.

As with any Avengers movie, there are cross overs. Be sure to stay past the closing credits for a view, albeit a small one, of Captain America’s next project. You’ll also recognize ABC’s Agent Carter and Tony Stark’s father early on in the movie.

Overall, I’d guess that most people will like this film more than I did. Personally, I will give it a solid B-, but you be the judge for yourself. Ant-Man is rated PG-13 for strong language, action and violence.

How Conan O’Brien Won Comic-Con

San Diego was brimming with the core target audience of late night talk shows last week. 18 to 30 year olds who are looking for entertainment value and willing to spend money to get what they want. Comic-Con is a pharos for the men and women who venerate entertainment of all sorts. It was only a matter of time before one of our modern day late night hosts willingly gave the fans what they were asking for.


PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – Conan O’Brien looks over notes between segments.

Conan O’Brien announced earlier this year that he would be taking his show on the road, as he did in Texas the previous year, to San Diego. This notion was brilliant, as the convention would be filled with casts, writers and directors promoting their films and television shows. The Hunger Games final entry, “The Mockingjay: Part II” and the latest installment in the X-Men franchise, along with the Batman vs. Superman release were highly visible productions all over town, adorning the cover of magazines and the side of trollies and cabs. Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead adorned the side of buildings and bus stops, as zombies were about the convention floor, scaring guests and giving fans photo opportunities.


PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – Conan and the cast of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II pose for a photo during commercial break.

What Conan did made sense. He traveled a couple of hours away from his regular locale to one of the most pleasant cities on earth, to 1,600 fans per night the convenience of a smaller version of what those who had waited in line for 12 hours at Hall H – Comic-Con’s largest panel -had seen. He also brought his A game when it came to his comedy. His monologue perfectly paralleled the week, allowing the audience at home to ascertain and get an impression of what those lucky enough to get attendance badges were able to see. He covered the gauntlet with his banter, satirizing everyone from fans of anime to Star Wars, without ridicule.


PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – An awkward hug between Liam Hemsworth and Andy Richter is one of the best things you’ll ever see.


PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – Conan O’Brien, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson take time for a few dance moves during the break.

As if attendees weren’t fortuitous enough to get into the historic Spreckles Theater, where Conan’s show was recorded, Conan and the toy company, Funko gave each individual in attendance a free, exclusive Conan toy. They varied each night, from a Batman Conan to a zombie Conan, along with others, but it was SWAG that people were happy to receive. Throughout the city, Conan would stop and talk to fans, taking photos and telling jokes. Politicians couldn’t have done it better. Conan won over the entire convention, from celebrities to each genre of fandom.

We were fortunate enough to meet Conan a couple of times on Thursday. Even after the show, he came into the audience and hugged my wife and me. It was genuine appreciation for the fans he certainly had gained from the week of shows. He had created, through his week of “Conan-Con” shows, a way to give back to the audience. That’s something that is unusual in any media market, or at least on this level.

Besides the cast members of the highlighted shows, guests dropped by each night, unannounced. The unofficial mayor of San Diego Comic-Con, Seth Green, had a light saber duel, Chris Parnell dropped by to sign his fictitious book, saying that it was the least expensive booth to rent at the convention and Wolverine auditions took place, with everyone from Nick Offerman to SDCC favorite, Patton Oswalt.

In all honesty, there was no one who could have done it better than Conan. His approach was palpable and natural and the fans at SDCC would be the first to know if it was anything but. The only way to improve on Conan’s 2015 visit to San Diego’s 46th year of Comic-Con would be if he made it a yearly event for his show.

Seeing the X-Men in a New Light

The Reading Theater in San Diego is steeped in history and beauty. When the sun hits the marquee just right, the colors change and its nearly like a transposition of seasons instead of a sunset. During San Diego Comic-Con, it’s hard to notice this as you are hustling by trying to get to your next panel destination, but while we stood in line for the “X-Men: Days of Future Past – Rogue Cut” for what will be its only cinematic airing, I noticed the marquee and realized I was in for something unique.

We were there with the initial intent of covering the release as press, so we were first in the door and quickly nestled on the back row of theater 8 with a popcorn and a Coke, waiting beside other photographers with valuable camera equipment they were using as pillows after a long day of convention walking. Other members of our media line were simply hoping to catch a glimpse of director, Bryan Singer and see what he had to say about the film’s purpose, since it was a simple 15 minutes of added story.

The director of the X-Men film discusses the changes he made to this new cut of his film.

PHOTO BY DUANE MADDY The director of the X-Men film discusses the changes he made to this new cut of his film.

PHOTO BY DUANE MADDY Cosplayers filled the street during San Diego Comic-Con just a block down from where the Rogue Cut would be showing.

For me, this was a chance to see the movie in a different light, much like the marquee in front of the theater.

Singer came in to a standing ovation. Rightly so, he created a masterpiece with this film. 20th Century Fox has done something extraordinary with this classic Marvel Comics tale. Singer said, for him, it was a chance to show how just a few changes in perception, camera angles and added minutes could greatly alter a film. It gave editors a chance to replace some clips they loved and the audience to see Anna Paquin’s beloved character, Rogue in a very heroic, yet distressed, volatile and somewhat tired state.

For most of the movie, there aren’t any changes and shouldn’t be, but the changes you’ll notice come late in the film. Not giving anything away, Rogue is needed. Her powers of soaking in the power of other mutants is the only thing that can serve the X-Men on their quest to “fix” the past. This cut gives us a chance to see more of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X character and Ian McKellen’s Magneto in action sequences that are amazing. The dynamic of the movie is changed without hurting the original intent.

For true fans of the film, it is worth the X-tra purchase. There are tons of bonus features and the blu-ray makes your purchase a good one. We were fortunate to get it early from the Fox booth at Comic-Con, but you can pick it up anywhere today. If you’re a casual fan, you may not be impressed enough with the changes to spend the money on this, however, you’re probably not reading a review of the Rogue Cut if you’re a casual fan.

As we left the theater, it was dark and the street lights and night life had replaced the convention goers from earlier. The marquee was bright, but the light only blended with other bright lights, blue and red police lights, and headlights from traffic as they waited for mass crowds to cross the street. The theater’s ominous presence faded into the background of an evening of animated reality.

Team Coco Takes Comic-Con


Thursday, the first official day of the convention, was the best day we’ve ever had at a convention. Before we left home, I spent 3 hours getting tickets to a live taping of “Conan” on Thursday. Conan O’Brien moderated the “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” panel and I hoped the cast would be guests on his show that day. Thankfully, I was right. We got up at 2:30 a.m. to get ready and head to the theater and got in line around 4. Our dedication paid off and we were reward with two seats right up front.

Hanging out at Wired Cafe. Amazing time and all free!!

Hanging out at Wired Cafe. Amazing time and all free!!


We spent a couple of hours at Wired Cafe, which provided us with free food, drinks, charging stations (the struggle to keep devices charged is real) and plenty of selfie opportunities. They were incredible hosts and an event I definitely would love to attend again.


One of the nicest celebs we've met. Total class act and the man responsible for making our trip the best it could be!

One of the nicest celebs we’ve met. Total class act and the man responsible for making our trip the best it could be!

We headed back over to the historic Spreckels Theater to catch a glimpse of Conan arriving. Not only did we succeed, we were the only ones there when he was dropped off! He gladly gave us an autograph and photo. We then settled in to see the “Mockingjay” cast arrive. Seeing Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth was #1 on list of to-dos and our mission was accomplished!


As if the day couldn’t be better after seeing JLaw and the crew, the taping went above and beyond our expectations. Jimmy Vivino and The Basic Cable Band were on point, Andy Richter was the perfect sidekick and Conan pretty much made our trip. Duane had worn his University of Kentucky shirt to the show. Since Jennifer and Josh both hail from the Bluegrass state, they took notice and during two separate commercial breaks gave props to Duane from the stage. So, Katniss and Peeta talked to my husband! It was unreal. When the show ended, we were also among the few audience members that Conan hugged. We still can’t get over how perfect the day was.

So, even with the miles logged so far, our feet can’t wait to carry us through the rest of Comic-Con 2015.

Disney’s Promotion: Hit or Miss?

For more than 40 years, San Diego Comic-Con International has been a launching ground for comics and science fiction. More recently, they’ve become the go-to residence for the movie industry’s multi-billion dollar science fiction and comic book blockbusters. Unfortunately for the fanbase that has built that industry, Disney has other things in mind.

Disney has now apparently decided that SDCC is just another on its list of potential speed bumps. LucasFilm and Marvel were, to the dismay of longtime fans, gobbled up by multi-billion dollar Disney acquisitions in the past few years. This worried devotees of both companies that Disney would decimate the franchises of each company, rendering them nothing more than Disney-fied versions of their favorites.

Disney now has their own convention, the D23 Expo, which will be held in mid-August, less than a month after Comic-Con ends. They’re expected to bring surprises for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and upcoming Marvel releases such as “Captain America: Civil War.” What they’re not doing is promoting these properties to the best of their ability at San Diego Comic-Con. From releases earlier this week, the biggest part of the convention this year is expected to be the 6,000 seat Hall H Star Wars panel. Lucasfilm now says the presentation that devoted fans waited days in line to see won’t include an unseen trailer or new film footage. The panel promises a behind-the-scenes look at the secretive production, but fans are camping out for more than just behind-the-scenes tidbits of information. This news comes after finding out that Marvel is skipping the convention altogether. Marvel claims they have no new footage to screen, but will that change when they hit the D23 stage?

Disney may have a game plan, but does it include the fans who got them to this point, or is it just Disney magic?

W.Va. ranks 1st in Redbox horror movie rentals

The 2013 film "The Purge" was Redbox's top-rented horror movie in West Virginia

The 2013 film “The Purge” was Redbox’s top-rented horror movie in West Virginia

West Virginia is the No. 1 state for horror movie rentals, according to data collected by the kiosk DVD rental service Redbox.

According to a press release from the company, West Virginia leads the nation in horror movie rentals, followed by Mississippi at No. 2, Kentucky at No. 3, Louisiana at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 5.

Does this mean there’s a direct correlation between heart disease and horror movies?

I’m not sure if Redbox is counting total rentals here, or rentals per capita —  I requested the numbers, but the PR people didn’t send them to me — but at least West Virginia is No. 1 something that isn’t totally bad.

To get a little more precise, Wheeling was the top Redbox market for horror movie rentals, followed by Huntington and Charleston.

The top movies rented in West Virginia and the Charleston market are:

  1. “The Purge”
  2. “Carrie” (the 2013 remake)
  3. “Oculus”
  4. “Devil’s Due”
  5. “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”

Nationwide, “Carrie” is the most rented horror title, followed by “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” “Devil’s Due,” “Insidious Chapter 2” and “Oculus,” according to the press release.

America’s favorite Halloween movie, however, is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”