Written and Directed by Richard Shepard
Jon Voight as Sandy Thunder
Paul Schneider as Jimmy Marcel
Kim Director as Lola Kaminski
Seth Rogen as Rocco Matthews
Matt Dallas as Danny Bird
Aaron Yoo as Bob Kwan
Jessica Lucas as Calinda Brown
With Jay Mohr as Jerry Burwick
& Ricky Gervais as Arthur Valentine
Tagline: "Some events are far more than advertised"
Synopsis: A look at the effects of product placement in our society as seen through the eyes of different employees at a popular Comic Book convention:
Prolific, free-spirited artist SANDY THUNDER (Voight) founded Thunderbolt Comics more than thirty years ago. Since then; his small NY-based studio quickly turned into one of the most profitable graphic art publishers in America. Millions of fans worshipped his creations and he had happily served as the company’s chairman and spokesperson… until last fall.
For college freshmen (and hardcore Thunder fans) DANNY BIRD (Dallas) and BOB KWAN (Yoo), there was only one thing on their calendar for the upcoming weekend: Thunder-Con 2008. The widely known “pop culture” convention showcased the latest in comics, films, animation and video games so for two guys like Danny and Bob; working as volunteers during the three-day event was more a free, backstage pass to Sandy Thunder’s world than work itself.
Ruthless; plus occasionally whiny and demanding, marketer JIMMY MARCEL (Schneider) had been a huge success in the branding division of Thunderbolt Comics for the last two years so when he was named coordinator of the company’s highly lucrative Thunder-Con by Sandy Thunder himself, nobody was surprised. It came as a shock, though, the board’s decision to withdraw Thunder from his leadership position and leave him only as the company’s spokesperson. Rumors claimed Thunder, at age seventy, didn’t take it well ( even if his last two years as chairman hadn’t been the best) but Jimmy Marcel only cared about keeping the news out of the spotlight.
Rising star CALINDA BROWN wasn’t a bitch but simply, she wasn’t nice either. She had not slept her way to the top but she knew she had slept it at least to the middle. “Golden Amazon” was set to make her a household name and now she just needed certain “key” demographics to watch her flick. Her last promotional duty before the film’s release was a press conference at Thunder-Con 2008 with the apparently well-known creator of her character and her costars.
LOLA KAMINSKY (Director) had had it. Her boss, a self-absorbed douche named Jimmy Marcel, was driving her crazy (although he was spending most of his time talking to the famous panelists like that it-girl Calinda Brown), her authority as staff coordinator of Thunder-Con 2008 was being disrespected by a bunch of kids who only cared about the exhibition stands and to complicate things even further, the legendary Sandy Thunder had yet to show up.
Contractually obligated to promote “Golden Amazon” during Thunder-Con and other public events, “eccentric” character actor ARTHUR VALENTINE (Gervais) knew he could sacrifice some of his prestige in return for a nice paycheck. Playing the villain in a comic book adaptation was not his usual work but according to his snotty agent JERRY BURWICK (Mohr), providing the voice for the CGI-creature fighting the title heroine would increase his popularity among younger audiences. He was wrong…
Struggling artist ROCCO MATTHEWS (Rogen) was on his late twenties and still waiting for his breakthrough. Since his idol Sandy Thunder “made it” when he was over thirty, Rocco was hopeful. Thunder-Con was the right place to display his work but just like many other exhibitors had realized before, smaller publishers like the regularly stoned Matthews couldn’t compete with Thunderbolt’s branding.
An hour before closing night’s main event, the auditorium was packed with both fans and media. It was pretty obvious they were not there for Calinda Brown and that’s when Jimmy Marcel knew he was in trouble… How would people react to Thunder’s absence? How would this affect the company’s reputation, their new movie and mostly; his job? But even worse, what would happen if Thunder actually showed up?
What the Press would say:
Decisions… There’s a price to pay for each one we make and as "The Matador" director Richard Shepard’s clever dark-comedy Convention so distinctively expresses, there’s always a lesson to learn from each one too. A world controlled by marketing, reputation and perception is carefully analyzed by Shepard’s witty screenplay as his tragicomic characters interact with each other in the most casual (yet appropriate) setting we could think of: a comic book convention...
Starring as the renowned artist Sandy Thunder, Jon Voight is a dominant presence (even if he is not on screen most of the time). All characters are directly or indirectly affected by him and the specific way he is seen by each of them (from iconic artist to aging hippie) makes his last fifteen minutes on screen pivotal to the film’s satisfying conclusion. When the half-drunk/half-pissed off Thunder finally shows up to the press conference and sets the record (very) straight, we just don’t want him to disappoint his loyal fanbase or to ruin his solid reputation. Voight is simply a treat for the audience and thanks to his humorous and ultimately touching performance, it’s simple to understand why the man and artist Sandy Thunder (not his real name by the way) was surpassed by his larger-than-life brandname. Voight brings the house down!
The rest of the ensemble is also memorable. Paul Schneider, not your typical leading man, succeeds as the unpredictable Jimmy Marcel. Schneider adds a lot of physical comedy and (delicious) sharp-tongued malice to his portrayal and the result is one of the most accomplished on-screen antiheros of the year. Additionally, supporting turns by young actors Matt Dallas and Aaron Yoo contribute to the pic’s optimistic nature and the recognizable Seth Rogen provides an enjoyable look of an actually depressing scenario. An extended cameo by Jay Mohr as a critical agent who enjoys dissing everyone around him reminds the viewer that what or "who" could seem particularly important during the convention could not be it to the outside world.
Kim Director is particularly empathetic as the only character actually doing some work on the convention. Thanks to the blue-eyed beauty, we feel for her character’s unfair treatment but we also like her even more when she finally puts everyone in place, including the annoying Jimmy Marcel. In contrast, Jessica Lucas’ amusing portrayal of a pampered, self-centered celebrity shows how hollow people, fictional or not, can be (although the final payoff when her character discovers she isn't "Sandy Thunder" big is definitely worth watching).
Ricky Gervais steals the show as the “peculiar” Arthur Valentine. An award-nominated actor seduced by money and the chance of a career boost. Gervais makes Valentine an sympathetic personality and him, just like director Shepard, is not afraid to push the envelope when needed (like that memorable scene where Gervais meets Rogen’s character to weed-friendly, hilarious results).
Thanks to Shepard’s engaging direction, his refreshing screenplay and the colorful ensemble; Convention becomes an event moviegoers simply can’t miss this year and one AMPAS members already should be planning to attend.
For Your Consideration
Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical (HFPA)
Best Ensemble (SAG)
Best Director (Richard Shepard)
Best Actor (Jon Voight)
Best Supporting Actor (Ricky Gervais)
Best Supporting Actor (Paul Schneider)
Best Supporting Actress (Kim Director)
Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Lucas)
Best Screenplay (Original)