Con Man: Alan Tudyk for the Win (Review)

Bobbi, Wray and Karen in Wray's room in Con Man.

Having come late to the Con Man Web Series (which started as an Indiegogo project a mere  six months ago), it was with keen excitement,  and not a little fanboy giddiness, that the entire first season was rented via Vimeo online. This project, which is being written and directed by Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Serenity, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil), is a great “spot the guest star” series that is an epic  win for the performer.

Con Man, which is short for Convention Man (“Because it sounds cooler” according to the show’s publicity campaign.) follows the adventures of Tudyk’s character who, like Alan, played a pilot in a very short-lived television science fiction show. Wray Nerely (Tudyk) is an actor who, like the name implies, is nearly a star.

While the science fiction conventions Wray attends allow him to be adored by the fans of Spectrum, the Con Man version of Firefly, his career has stalled out. Frustrated and anxious Nerely has issues with his convention organizer, the fans, his aide, friends and just about everyone he meets and interacts with.

Nerely’s co-star from the cancelled series, Jack Moore (Nathan Fillion) has the success that Wray dreams of.  Films, fame and rubbing elbows with the world’s celebrities make up the life of Moore post Spectrum.

The first four episodes of Con Man take place prior to, during, and just after a science fiction convention. Guest stars are: Sean Astin, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, Nolan North, Will Wheaton and  Mindy Sterling.

The dialogue is brilliant. Obviously Tudyk has written the lines based upon comments heard at conventions.  In episode one, Stalled, the  exchange between Nerely and a fan, while both are on the toilet  in adjoining stalls, is priceless. The obnoxious fan, who will not take no for an answer, is voiced by The Greg Wilson:

“Did you ever see that show Spectrum?”

“No.”

“Greatest canceled TV show ever.”

While that exchange screams Firefly, it also has that element of truth about the fans who inhabit the convention world.  References to the Joss Whedon series abound, as do other film nods and winks. Nolan North appears in what looks suspiciously like one of the soldiers from Galaxy Quest (a comedy film about another popular canceled science fiction series).  There is also a fan who clearly is a reference to Mystique from X-Men as well (she drops off some bourbon balls).

Fans of Nolan North will be impressed to see that not only is the man hysterically funny at Comic Con but he can do “proper comedy” as well. Granted the man is an actor of great skills and range, but to many he is the “video game’ voice of Nathan Drake – Uncharted, Desmond Miles – Assassin’s Creed, The Prince  – Prince of Persia and about a million other video game characters.

Felicia Day plays the “con” volunteer (who dresses exactly like Nerely) and does her usual perfect job with precise comic delivery that many only dream of. In some ways, Con Man feels like it belongs firmly  in The Guild territory. Fans of that web series will remember that Fillion also appeared in an episode of the long running show that Day created,  wrote and starred in. The web series made Day the pinup girl for geeks and nerds everywhere.

Fillion has a cameo in Con Man where he gets some great lines, delivered as only the Castle star can. Nerely gets a call from his now very famous former co-star and Wray asks Moore to put in a good word for him with Clint Eastwood (He has an audition for an Eastwood western):

Moore: “All famous people don’t know other famous people, Wray…But yeah I know him. He borrowed my lawn mower. He owes me a favor.”

Tudyk is the real star here, his comic timing is superb and his character’s visit to the convention is one long comedy of errors. From his booking agent not putting him in first class to his mixing a pain pill and alcohol before a platinum member meet and greet, the performer sails through each catastrophic event with ease.

In Retarding It All Up Wray tries to recover from the platinum party and his “I hate Science Fiction gaffe” from the night before. As Nerely begins his talk at the scheduled Q&A the actor in Tudyk appears to channel his “inner Joss.”  He speech pattern and tone appear to be a spot on imitation of Whedon that is truly funny.

Available on Vimeo, Con Man is geek gold. Fun to watch, amusing enough that if one watches it in a crowed public place they should prepare to be embarrassed (not shooting your drink through your nose embarrassed but close).  This is an epic “win” of a web series where spotting the celeb guest stars is almost as much fun as the show itself.

Kudos to all involved. There is not one clunky performance from any of the actors on this series.  Special mention goes to Mindy Sterling and while all the scenes were funny…The Nolan North monologue about Mo-Cap was hysterical as was the laptop gag with Tudyk and the cup of coffee.

Head over to Vimeo and check this out, as if fans needed urging,  and prepare to laugh hard and a lot. Con Man; Alan Tudyk as Wray Nerely  from Spectrum (a thinly disguised Tudyk from Firefly) is comedy brilliance on demand.

 

Dark Matter Two Hour Season Finale (Preview)

Will Wheaton, Alex Mallari Jr and Mark Bendavid
Fans of Dark Matter who have been tuning in each week, and/or binge watching via Hulu, will be stunned by events that take place over the course of the season finale. Two hours of this exciting verse in one sitting that will leave the viewer gasping as the end credits roll and asking a collective question or several. MikesFilmTalk has seen the finale and part of the price of admission, for those who have been allowed to “pre-view” the season finale footage, is to avoid  spoilers so not much can be revealed…yet.

While this does make it difficult to go too in depth on events, some things are admissible. For instance, the presence of Will Wheaton as guest “villain” has been mentioned by at least one other website, TIBS (ThreeIfBySpace.NET) who do a riff on the beard that Wheaton’s character sports in the first half of the two hour finale. So it is acceptable to mention that “that kid from Star Trek: The Next Generation” is the guest big bad.

Preview recap: Two learns more than she wants about her beginnings, One and Three still do not trust one another, Five learns something that upsets her deeply, Four proves he trusts no one and Six plays protector when Five reveals how afraid she is. The Android shows just how much her program is flawed and Calchek may or may not have set up the crew of the Raza yet again.

In another one of those nods to the science fiction genre, we have Wheaton as what seems like the kindly puppet master (maker?)  aka kidnapped scientist, who the team are sent to “rescue.” Alas, things are not as they seem and it is soon all hands on deck as the crew of the Raza fight for their very existence.

As promised by show creator/executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, a lot is revealed in the last episode of the season as in every episode building up to the finale. For whatever reason, the last two episodes have been slapped together so a lot more is discovered while simultaneously asking new questions.

As this is a preview and not a review or recap, things can only be looked at in the vaguest sense. (As mentioned above.) So Two learns about her origins, but not too much or, more importantly, why. Alex (Wheaton) may be the welcoming committee but he is no more the man behind the curtain than he is the chap who is really in charge.

In these last two episodes we learn just how brave Five is and a lot more about her abilities. There are some disturbing things brought to light and Android does something very surprising.

Thus endeth the short recap/preview.

This series has been top notch in not only peeling back layers for each mysterious character in the show but also in keeping just enough back to make the viewer  return for more. Each member of the crew has secrets and the season has slowly exposed them. There are, however,  a number of things that still remain hidden. There are also those nods and winks to other works in the genre.

One thing is certain, Five learns something that shakes her faith in another crew member and this unsettling information is weighing on her mind. Although what is apparent from the moment things go awry, the trust factor has been damaged with more of the Raza crew than just the youngest member of the team.

Five’s backstory has not yet been revealed and now, with the surprise ending of Dark Matter, there is now another character whose history may be a little different than originally shown in the show. The series zooms out of thriller territory and lands firmly in mystery as the finale becomes a cross between Ten Little Indians and a very large “closed room” scenario.

There are still enough comic moments to keep things from getting too heavy  (But not too many.) and there is still that Mass Effect 2 thing going on. Fans of the show will enjoy this last look at season one. Some characters, despite the new “suspicions” continue to act in character…except for one that is.

Zoie Palmer fans will love her performance and as the Android, Palmer does more than touch the viewer’s heart, she keeps them on the edge of their seat for an impressive amount of time. Wheaton as villain also stands out. (Only Will can manage to be so “snotty” in his villainy and yet unsurprisingly, turn out to be a little “b*tch” when things get tough.)

*Sidenote* It is nice to see David Hewlett back as “handler” Talbor Calchek. There can never be too much Hewlett.

Dark Matter airs on Friday as part of SyFy Friday and the season finale will air on August 28. Prepare to be amazed at the end of the first season. Readers of MikesFilmTalk can expect an interview with show creator Joseph Mallozzi and, if the time zone Gods play along, another interview with Four, aka Alex Mallari Jr. talk will be of the finale and the verse. Not necessarily in that order…