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Comic-Con 2014 Day One highlights: Matthew McConaughey, Dwayne Johnson and more

Matthew McConaughey (pictured at left) and Dwayne Johnson (pictured at right) at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 24, 2014
Matthew McConaughey (pictured at left) and Dwayne Johnson (pictured at right) at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 24, 2014
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The 2014 edition of Comic-Con International in San Diego kicked off on July 24, 2014 with a lot of the expected excitement befitting the world's largest annual convention for fans of horror, sci-fi, thriller and fantasy entertainment. Not that long ago, movie studios dominated the biggest parties and giant promotional displays at Comic-Con. Now, TV studios and TV networks have taken over that realm at Comic-Con. However, the movie panels still get the most buzz at Comic-Con, usually for the "surprise" unannounced stars and footage that are on the panels.

The biggest "surprise" was the first Comic-Con appearances from Matthew McConaughey and director Christopher Nolan, who were there to promote and show exclusive footage from their movie "Interstellar" during the Paramount Pictures panel. Most of Nolan's films are the kind that Comic-Con audiences love (including "The Dark Knight" and "Inception"), but Nolan has famously been super-secretive about his movies before they are released, so he has previously resisted going to Comic-Con, which thrives on being able to reveal "exclusive" footage/info to fans.

According to Variety, McConaughey described his "Interstellar" character (who becomes an astronaut) this way: “Cooper is a pilot, an engineer, and a widowed pilot of two children where civilization is just sustaining. There’s food, clean water, but they don’t need any explorers, no new bright ideas. Then something happens and the dream of being a pilot again knocks on his door.”

Nolan added, "“To be an astronaut was the highest ambition. The idea to keep exploring space farther and farther… it [fell] off greatly. We are in a period of incredible technological change, [but it’s about] what’s in your pocket, your living room. I like the idea that we are on the cusp of a brand new era and we are traveling outwards more.”

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson also made an appearance during the Paramount panel to promote his movie "Hercules," which had a free advance screening for Comic-Con attendees later that evening. (The movie opened on July 25, 2014.) I was at the screening, where Johnson made a brief introduction before taking a selfie with the audience in the background. The movie is what you would expect from an action flick starring Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner. The "Hercules" sneak-preview audience seemed to appreciate the touches of humor in the movie. The applause at the end of the movie was but politely appreciative but not enthusiastic. It remains to be seen if this "Hercules" movie will get a sequel, but it's sure to make more money than "The Legend of Hercules" (starring Kellen Lutz), which was a flop when it was released in theaters in January 2014.

Other highlights of the Paramount Pictures panel: Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, shared the first look at the movie "Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of the Water," which is due out in 2015 on a date to be announced. Megan Fox, Will Arnett, director Jonathan Liebesman and producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form showed footage from their movie "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." "Project Almanac" director Dean Israelite and stars Jonny Weston and Sofia Black D'Elia were on hand to introduce the movie and invite Comic-Con attendees to free advance screenings of "Project Almanac" that were held later that evening. Clark Duke, who played the nerd in "Hot Tub Time Machine," made an appearance surrounded by attractive women to premiere the red band trailer for "Hot Tub Time Machine 2."

Also at Comic-Con on July 24, 2014: DreamWorks Animation had a panel to promote "Penguins of Madagascar" and "Home." (Click here to see what "Penguins of Madagascar" voice actors John Malkovich and Tom McGrath had to say during the "Penguins of Madagascar" press conference that was held before the panel.) Sony Pictures had a panel for "Goosebumps" (star Jack Black and director Rob Letterman attended) and "Pixels," featuring director Chris Columbus. The Weinstein Company's panel for "The Giver" had stars Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush; author Lois Lowry; and producer Nikki Silver.

Lionsgate's "The Expendables 3" didn't have a Comic-Con panel this year, as was done for the previous two "Expendables" movies, but "The Expendables 3" co-stars Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz, Dolph Lundren and Randy Couture were at Comic-Con for an autograph session.

Meanwhile, the first mtvU Fandom Awards took place at Petco Park. The "Veronica Mars" movie (the first major-studio film released in theaters and on VOD on the same day) won the top prize: Fandom of the Year. Tina Majorino, who plays Mac in “Veronica Mars,” accepted the award. The "Veronica Mars" movie was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and currently holds the Kickstarter record for the most money raised for a movie.

“The Book of Life" stars Channing Tatum and Diego Luna were also at the mtvU Fandom Awards to introduce the public's first look at footage from the movie. In addition, Chloë Grace Moretz presented an exclusive clip from her film “If I Stay.” Highlights from the awards show are featured in a one-hour program titled “mtvU Fandom Awards Special,” which premieres on MTV and mtvU on July 27 at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT. Other winners from the awards show included “Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones,” “Hannibal,” "The Fault in Out Stars" author John Green, the characters of Damon and Elena from “The Vampire Diaries" and “Teen Wolf."

I attended the awards show, which had a carnival theme and featured performances from rock band Linkin Park and rapper G-Eazy. The event was packed to capacity (about 4,500 people, according to organizers) and is probably going to end up being the biggest party of Comic-Con 2014.

Meanwhile, "Snowpiercer" is another movie released on VOD in 2014 that is getting some props at Comic-Con. According to a press release, RADiUS TWC, in conjunction with Sonifi Solutions (a leading service in hospitality entertainment), are promoting "Snowpiercer" (which was released on VOD in July 2014, two weeks after its theatrical release) by "targeting the enormous fanbase of genre entertainment at Comic-Con with something a little more personal. Comic-Con hotel guests are turning on their televisions to be greeted by 'Snowpiercer' star Chris Evans, welcoming them to the convention and offering them the chance to see the film in the comfort of their own room. This direct-address call out marks the first time RADiUS or Sonifi have ever done a Comic-Con promotion of this kind."

"Showrunners" is another movie making news at Comic-Con 2014. The documentary, which is about executive producers of popular TV shows, has a sneak-preview screening at Comic-Con on July 25, 2014. The day before the screening it was announced that Submarine will bring the film to U.S. cinemas in October 2014 on a date to be announced, while Gravitas will release the film on VOD on the same day as the theatrical release. Among the executive producers featured in "Showrunners" are J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Fringe"), Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly"), Terence Winter ("Boardwalk Empire"), Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"), Damon Lindelof ("Lost"), Janet Tamaro ("Rizzoli & Isles"), Jonathan Nolan ("Person of Interest"), Ronald D. Moore ("Battlestar Galactica") and Matthew Carnahan ("House of Lies").

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