Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Plus a description of the Comic-Con footage
Abbie Cornish and Vanessa Hudgens are just two of the stars in the female-ensemble action-fantasy 'Sucker Punch,' written and directed by Zack Snyder
When I visited the Vancouver set for Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch," producer Deb Snyder spent an hour of the tour explaining the film's plot to us, using storyboards, production art, and the sets themselves.
And I still couldn't tell you what the film will be about.
What was obvious during that set visit just became obvious to about 6500 people on Saturday morning when Warner Bros. premiered the first footage from the film during their panel. Whatever "Sucker Punch" turns out to be, it is absolutely a Zack Snyder film. This is the first time he's not working from existing source material, and as a result, every fetish and fascination of his seems to be front and center here.
The film deals with a girl named Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning, who lives with her abusive father and her younger sister. When her father snaps one night and murders her sister in front of her, Baby Doll sees it happen. Her father decides to send her to an insane asylum so they will lobotomize her, erasing all memory of his crime. Baby Doll is introduced to the other girls in the asylum, who have all found ways to survive their imprisonment, and as she starts the countdown to her lobotomy, she attempts to rally the other girls to escape. The thing is, the way Snyder defines escape in this movie is a tricky thing, and "Sucker Punch" may well turn out to give "Inception" a run for the money in terms of the way it plays with levels of reality and fantasy.
A full run-down of what was shown in Hall H
Yep... it's The Avengers, along with Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige, onstage at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Technically, my Comic-Con is over, but I've got a fistful of articles, including this one, before I'm done with my Comic-Con experience. Which guests showed up at things and what happened in general has been well-reported by now. All I can offer at this point is my perspective and my reaction to the footage and the conversations at the various panels I attended, with a final piece that will wrap up all the random little odds and ends left worth sharing, and there will definitely be a few.
The last panel I attended in Hall H this year was the Marvel panel, one of the two most anticipated things for me this time around. I wanted to see "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," and I wanted to see the Marvel panel. And in both cases, I think they were absolutely worth the anticipation.
The Marvel panel was moderated by Geoff Boucher of the LA Times Hero Complex blog, and it was divided into three distinct parts. First up, Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige brought out Joe Johnston, Chris Evans, and Hugo Weaving to represent "Captain America: The First Avenger," and they showed us two bits of footage. The first was a costume test that they managed to build into a sort of a teaser trailer, using a lot of newsreel footage to set the WWII tone properly before revealing two quick shots of Cap standing in a warehouse somewhere. And I mean quick, too. They don't linger at all. After the title comes up, there's one last quick shot of Cap hurling his shield right at the camera, and that's it. It was as big a tease as a tease can be. You can't help but wonder why, and I'm still not sure about what I saw in that quick flash of him in close-up.
The ensemble cast talks injuries and icons during the panel
Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Jason Statham are a team of hired guns in the new '80s action throwback 'The Expendables'
At the end of the second day of Hall H panels, I'd say the panel Lionsgate threw for "The Expendables" was by far the greatest concentration of testosterone to hit the stage so far, even if Harry Knowles was moderating.
"I'm going to represent estrogen up here today," the Ain't Cool News poobah said before he started introducing the panel participants. Harry's been friendly with Sylvester Stallone for several years now, and from the conversations about that unlikely friendship that I've had with Harry, it's obvious that he still considers it one of the strangest and most thrilling byproducts of running the site in the entire 14 year history of it. His excitement at getting to moderate the panel was palpable, and he was giddy as he brought the cast out one at a time.
Terry Crews ripped his shirt off and threw a spontaneous gun show for the crowd. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Dolph Lundgren. Randy Couture, whose forearms terrified Harry on the set. And, of course, Stallone himself. I wore my "Rocky" t-shirt all day yesterday out of respect for Stallone making an appearance at the Con this year, and I have to say, I think he absolutely crushed it, giving a great hard-sell for the ensemble action adventure.
Harry asked the assembled cast what it was like to get the call from Stallone to be in this film, a call that other actors like Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris were able to refuse. Crews was effusive in his praise for Stallone and referred to "The Expendables" as "the manliest movie ever made." Austin talked about playing the film's villain and how much fun it was to kick the crap out of the guys.
It may not be a simple mainstream film, but it offers universal truth in a spectacular package
Michael Cera IS Scott Pilgrim.
Credit: Universal Pictures
I am prepared to stand face to face with anyone and defend Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" as a genuine, no-joke, out-of-the-ballpark masterwork, a pure expression of voice in service of a potent metaphor, an amazing ensemble comedy that works on the emotional level of the most joyous and romantic of the great Hollywood musicals. It is a jaw-dropping visual experience, and a sonic assault of pure pleasure. It is genuinely unlike any other movie I can name, and from the opening 8-bit Universal logo to the note-perfect final frames of film, it is shot through with confidence and with a wry understanding of the difficult realities of adult love. It is smart and sweet and left me buzzing when it ended, and I can't wait to see it again.
Based on a six-part series of comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley, the last of which was just published on Monday (and which is sitting here next to me, mostly unread still), "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" is a fairly simple story underneath all the style. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22-year-old dude living in Toronto, a year out from a fairly awful break-up. He lives with his gay friend Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and basically spends his time either hanging out with his band, Sex Bob-omb, or with his brand-new 17-year-old Chinese schoolgirl girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He's hiding from adulthood, and quite successfully, too, until he meets the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and she sets him on a path towards either enlightenment or total destruction.
Plus video games, kung fu, and musical numbers.
Will today's Hall H audience end up in the movie? Plus: Watch the new trailer and check out a new photo
Garrett Hedlund, Steven Lisberger, Jeff Bridges, and Joseph Kosinski all share a moment on the set of 'Tron: Legacy"
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
The San Diego Convention Center has become a very familiar setting for the filmmakers behind the new film "Tron: Legacy," and this year, their third in a row at the now-gigantic pop culture event, was easily the most impressive, with eight minutes of new footage and audience participation just part of the appeal for the 6500 assembled fans.
The panel today consisted of Joseph Kosinski, the film's director, as well as producer Sean Bailey and the writer/director of the original "Tron," Steven Lisberger. From the cast, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, Bruce Boxleitner and the great Jeff Bridges all showed up to discuss their work in the film and to get their first look at some of the finished footage in 3-D.
Kosinski and Bailey talked about the process of putting the film together and the unorthodox way it progressed through development over the last few years. They talked about the way the camera technology for shooting the 3-D kept evolving right up to the minute they rolled film, and how that means we're seeing maybe the most cutting-edge live-action 3-D yet with this one.
Asked about playing the young version of himself, Jeff Bridges called the experience "psychedelic." It's so great to watch him in front of a crowd these days, because it feels like people are finally fully appreciative of the man and his gifts. He also seems to be just plain enjoying it right now, and there was so much love for him in the room today. He talked about the thrill of butting up against the cutting edge of technology in 1982 and again today, and how exciting that is.
Plus some hints about what you'll see at Friday's Hall H panel
Eric Balfour and Donald Faison wake up to a very, very bad morning in Los Angeles in the new SF film 'Skyline'
Credit: Universal Pictures
On Friday, I'll be moderating a panel for a Universal SF film that was, until last week, completely off my radar, and I'm willing to bet off your radar as well.
The Brothers Strause have made one film before, and when I walked into the room with them last week to see some of what we'll all be checking out for the first time on Friday, I was curious to see who they really are as filmmakers. I've been through the process at 20th Century Fox, so I have a hard time holding a film like "Alien Vs Predators: Requiem" against anyone in particular.
With "Skyline," we're going to see who they are, and so far, it looks like they are geeks unleashed, guys who own their own cameras and their own FX house and their own equipment for post, and they finally realized, "Why aren't we making the films we want to see right now?"
Here's what I'm allowed to tell you so far:
In the sci-fi thriller Skyline, strange lights descend on the city of Los Angeles, drawing people outside like moths to a flame where an extraterrestrial force threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth.
Your first look at the film's big bad guy
Nicolas Cage stars as a vengeful father escaped from Hell in the new supernatural thriller 'Drive Angry'
Credit: Summit Entertainment
Considering how crazy the industry is for 3-D product right now, there are surprisingly few people I would call "experts" at shooting in the process at this point.
Patrick Lussier may well be one of the few guys who deserves that title. When he shot "My Bloody Valentine," he did it all as in-camera 3-D. No post-conversion from him. And the same is true of his wild new movie "Drive Angry," which will be roaring into Hall H at Comic-Con 2010 on Friday, July 23, at 11:15 AM. I'll be moderating the panel, so I went to check out the presentation you'll be seeing yesterday over at Summit.
First, it's true. When you go to the Summit offices, you are personally greeted at the door by a shirtless Taylor Lautner, who carries you around piggy-back style the entire time you're there. And I've never actually been to offices where people were blowing their nose with $100 bills, but I guess that's what "Twilight" money does to you. Aside from those little eccentricities, it was a great visit, and I walked away thinking that we're going to see a truly unhinged ride when "Drive Angry" actually hits theater screens on February 11, 2011.
Is sheer velocity enough to make the movie work?
Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Angelina Jolie are the key players in the crazy action/thriller 'Salt,' in theaters this weekend.
Credit: Sony Pictures
"Salt" is a very silly movie, and by the end of its brisk and breathless running time (and I mean that literally), it makes the "Bourne" movies look like documentaries.
I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.
Angelina Jolie is, in my opinion, a casting problem in anything at this point, and it's simply a side effect of her megafame. She projects such a powerful, fully-formed persona that it is difficult to accept her vanishing into a role. She's a talented actress, she works hard in her films, and I feel like no one could ask more of her than she already gives for her movies... but that hesitation on my part remains. You watch her onscreen, and it's Angelina Jolie, no matter what.
Part of it is the way she looks, sure. She's a cartoon, a comic-book artist's idea of the dangerous bad girl. Because she is so visually extreme, I don't buy her as, say, a spy or someone who is meant to be anonymous or adaptable. I still think the notion of the "little grey man" is the most potent notion of who a spy should be, someone you wouldn't look at twice. No matter if she's wearing long blonde hair or a dyed Morticia Addams do, Jolie stands out in any crowd.
But part of it is that there is some part of her as a performer that feels unbending, like she can't submerge her own personality enough anymore to convince as someone else. That actually serves "Salt" to some degree, because the character she plays, Evelyn Salt, is living several different roles at once, with a central core that remains unchanged no matter what situation she's in. That's a gift in the film's opening moments, where we see her in North Korea. She's been captured, and she's being tortured in an effort to convince her to confess that she's working as a spy. She keeps denying it, over and over, her cries becoming more pathetic as the main title is revealed and we cut forward in time to her release. She's being traded for a North Korean who ended up in the hands of America, at the insistence of her boyfriend Mike (August Diehl), who has no idea what she does for a living.
Is it September yet? Please?
Either you go to Fantastic Fest, or Fantastic Fest is sending these dudes (from 'IP Man 2') to your house to explain the error of your ways to you... and that would be a very bad thing.
Credit: Mandarin Film Distribution
Oh, boy... just as I'm getting ready for the madness of Comic-Con, this happens and I find myself suddenly looking at the first announcement of titles for Fantastic Fest in September. I love that the year is basically broken up into one giant thing to anticipate after another. Certainly keeps it interesting.
This is the very first announcement of titles, so this is not the "BIG STUFF" designed to get maximum press attention. Instead, this is the foundation that they're building this year's festival on, and the line-up is already appealing. Rather than try to re-describe a bunch of films I haven't seen, I'm going to let you just read the full line-up as announced, with some commentary at the end.
"Fantastic Fest is proud to announce our first wave of programming for the sixth edition of Fantastic Fest, happening September 23-30 in Austin, Texas.
This batch of 13 feature films includes bloody revenge from Korea and Australia, South African and German zombies, Swedish musical terrorists, a renaissance of action heroes from Hong Kong, more disturbing images from Serbia, aging Yakuza from Japan and a psychokinetic automobile tire from France.
Fantastic Fest is scouring the globe for the very best in action, horror, science fiction, fantasy to the truly bizarre in contemporary cinema for your viewing pleasure. Look for many more announcements in the weeks to come, including information on our gala events, parties and AMD Next Wave filmmakers in attendance.
Plus where you'll see more of it this weekend
The Goon and Frankie, brought to 3-D life by Blur Studios, will be well represented this weekend in San Diego at the panel for 'The Goon' movie
Credit: Blur Studios
When I mentioned to our own Greg Ellwood that I was planning to post an article about the upcoming animated feature film version of 'The Goon,' his response was very telling.
"I've never even heard of 'The Goon.'"
Greg reads comics... in some cases, he's a more regular comic reader than I am. Still, Eric Powell's brilliant long-running series is not a household name, and I can understand why. It's a genuinely unhinged book, crazy and wild and violent and delightful in every way. I think Powell's an amazing artist, and one of the hardest parts in translating the book to the bigscreen will be capturing the style of the thing, which is part '50s-era "Mad" magazine, part H.P. Lovecraft.
Thankfully, it seems like Blur Studios is on the case.
The first artwork from the proposed film appeared online in March of 2009, thanks to Quint at Ain't It Cool. Since then, they've been working on animation tests, and David Fincher's kept an eye on the way things have been progressing. There was a Comic-Con appearance last year by Powell, with a wee tease for fans, and now he's heading back down for another panel on Saturday of this year's Con. And he's bringing a bunch of test footage with him.
Even more exciting, it sounds like he's going to have David Fincher (who is a producer and a potential director on the film) and Paul Giamatti (who is doing the voice of Frankie, The Goon's misanthropic sidekick) there on the panel with him, talking about the current plans for the film. I hope they announce it's been greenlit and it's not just more talk about development. I'm not sure if they're bringing Clancy Brown, who is giving voice to The Goon, but that would be amazing.