Friday, July 31, 2009

CC 2009: WB Panel

Over the past few years there are two movie studios that have distinguished themselves above all others; Paramount and Warner Brothers. They seem to be the only two big studios willing to take risks and really give filmmakers the freedom to bring their artistic visions to the big screen. This has paid off huge dividends for them as this mindset has allowed some of the most wildly successful franchises of the last decade to emerge amidst the pap that most other studios have put out. One would think the other studios would catch on since every year Warner Brothers and Paramount rake in AT LEAST over a billion dollars in revenue, but I guess some people just don’t like making money. This years massive Warner Brothers presentation at Comic-Con proved that they have not intention of slowing down and that everyone else better keep up or get left in the dust. What follows are some hopefully short thoughts on what I saw.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: I’ve loved Spike Jonze since day one and I knew he was going to do a bang up job on this film, but even I couldn’t anticipate what I think is shaping up to be easily one of the best movies of the year. No joke, based on what I’ve seen so far I am almost completely convinced that this film will get nominated for Best Picture, it looks THAT good! Jonze appears to have made a children’s film for the ages one that taps into the difficult mindset and emotions inherent in growing up, one that will speak to the youngest of souls and the oldest. There’s no doubt in my mind this will be one of the greats and I can’t wait until I get to see the whole thing.

THE BOOK OF ELI: It’s a sign of just how massive and prestigious Comic-Con has become when Denzel Washington shows up for a panel. It’s also refreshing to see that he seems to be one of those guys that is just as nice in person as he is on screen and even though he’s an Academy Award winner he genuinely seemed to be having a blast. It was also VERY cool to finally get unexpected geek god Gary Oldman at Con. As for the movie, the Hughes Brothers have always shown quite a bit of promise even if they’re movies haven’t always fully clicked. This looks like it may very well be the film that puts them on the map. This post-apocalyptic thriller looks, moody, atmospheric and like lots of fun. It was kind of hard to suss out the story based on what they showed but it looked like it could be something of biblical proportions (If the title weren’t already a dead giveaway) and Denzel looks to be playing the biggest badass of his career. I’m really looking forward to this one.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: Out of all the pointless horror remakes to come down the pike this one easily looks like it has the most potential. First of all no matter how much you love the original Freddy Kruger film it is REALLY dated and VERY 80’s. Secondly if anyone had to replace Robert Englund I can’t think of a better psycho to dawn the fedora and claws than Jackie Earle Haley. The footage they showed looked REALLY good and it looks like they put lots of thought and care into this one. It also looks like they’re trying to steer the franchise back towards the scary, nightmarish Freddy not the horror clown he became in later films. I genuinely want to see this one.

THE BOX: Richard Kelly is one of the most unique and original voices to appear in the world of cinema in quite some time. Even though Cameron Diaz sort of inadvertently spilled the beans on what might be the major twist of the film THE BOX looks like a great psychological mind-screw. Kelly has assembled some very talented (And often times under utilized actors) to tell what looks to be a VERY interesting tale. Even with possibly the big spoiler cat out of the bag I still don’t quite know what to expect from this film but I’m fairly certain I’ll like it a lot. This one could very well be a sleeper hit waiting to explode. I’m hoping so because Kelly really deserves it.

JONAH HEX: A Spaghetti Western comic book movie with a slightly supernatural bent. That’s what this is being billed as and based on the pretty spectacular footage they showed that’s exactly what it looks like. Josh Brolin (Who was AWESOME in person) plays the titular character of this cult DC comic. Megan Fox (Who really is that beautiful) plays his eye candy and John Malcovich looks to be the big bad. It’s a very fine line the filmmakers look to be walking but based on what they showed they look to have pulled it off and this could very well be lots of fun. As a lover of the Western genre I’m really rooting for this one. The last time anyone took a crack at a big budget, tent-pole Western it was Warner Brothers with the deplorable WILD WILD WEST. This film looks NOTHING like that waste of celluloid so here’s hoping the second time is the charm.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: The three things that really blew me away at Con this year, that made me hoot and holler and cheer like a madman were AVATAR, IRON MAN 2 and this. I love Guy Ritchie to death and after the few stumbles he took after LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELLS and SNATCH he looks to be ready to explode into the mainstream consciousness with SHERLOCK HOLMES a film that I simply can’t imagine won’t wind up on my Best Of list at the end of the year. This film looks like an absolute blast, there is NOTHING I have seen that makes me believe this won’t be one of the most entertaining and flat out fun films of the year. The chemistry between Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams seems spot on and perfect. The action is unlike anything ever seen in a Holmes film before and based on what I’ve seen this film seems to truly understand the most famous detective in the history of fiction in a way that no other film really has. They showed a scene in which Holmes is bare-knuckle boxing a gigantic lout twice his size. As he sizes up his opponent we hear him mentally deconstruct just how exactly how he’s going to physically destroy the guy. It’s a PERFECT scene and one of many I’m sure. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the panel however was stoking my love of Robert Downey Jr. even further. He’s one of those guys that is EVERYTHING you expect based on what you’ve seen of him on screen, he’s funny, charming, the life of the party and he had the crowd eating out of his hand. You could tell he was more than aware that geekdom is largely responsible for the career high he’s on right now and he showed his appreciation ten-fold.

CC 2009 Avatar

People are always talking about the “future of cinema”. It’s a phrase that gets bandied about all the time and it’s been used to tout 3-D, Smell-O-Vision and the new fangled theatre seats that move around so you feel like you’re at an amusement park. Of course one of the major harbingers of the “future of cinema” is a little thing called motion capture, a technology that certain film makers (Such as Robert Zemmeckis) have fallen madly in love with, a technological advance that is supposed to completely change the way movies are made. The problem with all of these leaps and bounds into the “new frontier” of technology is that for the most part every single one of them seems like nothing more than a gimmick.

Pretty much every 3-D film that has ever been made up to this point hasn’t really benefited from the fact that it’s 3-D it’s just used to throw things in the audiences faces, not actually serve the story or the narrative. The same could be said of motion capture. Filmmakers say it’s saves money and allows them to do things that they could never do in the real world, but I’ve still yet to see any motion capture film that wouldn’t have been just as effective, if not more so if it had all been done with real actors in real locations. In fact as cool as some of this stuff is it often times temporarily removes the audience from the movie because you’re either hung up thinking about the technology or until very recently no matter how hard filmmakers try the animated actors look like just that, not the real flesh and blood the technology was created to reproduce. I mean last Thursday the stuff they showed from A CHRISTMAS CAROL looked AMAZING, it truly showed the leaps and bounds technology has made but at the same time it never really proved just WHY one would chose to make a movie that way instead of the old fashioned, tried and true methods.

Then James Cameron took the stage and blew everyone’s eyeballs out of the back of their skulls!

Friends I have seen the “future of cinema” and it is AVATAR. It has been over 12 years now since Cameron swept the Oscars and blew away every box office record known to mankind with his epic TITANIC. That film marked the last time he came even close to touching any sort of narrative film. If you’ve been wondering what he has been doing in that dozen year hiatus all of your questions will be resoundingly answered this December when he releases his latest masterpiece in cinemas.

Make no mistake, James Cameron is a mad man. If you know anything about him you know that his attention to detail and perfectionism is almost unparalleled and every bit of that was on display in the 24 minutes worth of footage he showed. The dude has literally created an entire alien world out of thin air, complete with its own eco-system, food chain and language. Hearing him talk there is literally NOTHING he didn’t figure out. His world of Pandora is just as deep and complex as earth only his doesn’t actually exist.

All of that insane, exacting detail takes a backseat however to the visuals that he assaulted us with. To be quite honest they make every other movie I’ve ever seen look like STEAMBOAT WILLIE. My brain KNOWS that Pandora and the alien and plant life that inhabit it aren’t real but my eyes have a hard time reconciling that with what they saw. The best way I can describe what was shown it to simply say that it honestly looks like James Cameron took a film crew to another planet and simply filmed there.

In 24 minutes Cameron blew away every expectation and preconceived notion I’ve ever had about motion capture technology. I’m still not one hundred percent sure how he did it and if it was all just motion capture or some weird amalgamation of technology that he’s unwilling to reveal but for the first time I understand why one would chose the technology and how it could be used to show something human eyes have never seen before. What Cameron showed should not be possible but sure enough for 24 minutes everyone in Hall H, myself included sat there with our jaws on the floor as an imaginary world came to full, three dimensional life (The footage was in 3-D) in a way that even George Lucas can only dream about.

Spending all this time talking about how mind numbingly exceptional the visuals were leaves me very little room to mention that the visuals, as in any great movie, seem to just be the tip of the iceberg. There appears to be a great story wrapped up in this cinematic break through, one that looks to engage the heart and the mind, one that is serviced by the technology not overrun by it.

James Cameron has spent his career shattering the barriers of reality and fiction in his films. He has shown the world things they never thought they would see all the while tapping into real human emotions, concepts and ideas. AVATAR looks to continue this trend and then some. I have NEVER seen anything like AVATAR and after that hour spent in Hall H and the 24 minutes worth of footage that assaulted my brain December can’t get here fast enough. Mark my words now, people will be talking about this one for the ages.

CC 2009 Disney 3-D / Alice and Tron

Howdy folks, onto the other two films covered in the Disney 3-D panel. I’ll try to keep this one a little shorter so without further ado here we go.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Over the past few years Megan has slowly come to the opinion that Tim Burton films lack a whole lot of deeper meaning or subtext. While I don’t think this is true of all his films (especially his earlier ones) it is hard to argue the fact that some of his more recent films are much more about style over substance. This isn’t to say they are bad (In fact I own quite a few of them) but in some ways he seems to have moved away from telling classic fairy tale type stories along the lines of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Happily it looks like his take on ALICE IN WONDERLAND could very well mark a return to form of sorts.

Megan and I discussed that there may be no other source material on earth that is better suited for Tim Burton than ALICE IN WONDERLAND and based on what we saw I have a feeling we could very well be proven right when this film hits theatres next year. Based on the 3 or 4 minutes worth of footage we saw it’s impossible not to say that Burton truly gets the material. The film looks strange, loopy, quirky, off-putting and unsettling all in the same turn a direct translation of the strange, subversive genius of Lewis Carol’s classic. Every part looks perfectly cast and in many ways it’s hard not to think this is the story Burton was born to tell. I could be wrong and perhaps this movie will be all smoke and mirrors and not much else but based on what we saw I have a sinking suspicion Burton may have another classic on his hands.

TRON LEGACY: TRON was a staple for me growing up. It was one of those movies that blew me away as a kid and one that has stuck with me all the way through to adulthood. At the time I didn’t realize quite how cutting edge and ahead of it’s time it was, I just wanted to live in that world and ride a light cycle. Having said all that if you told me that some 20 years later Disney was going to even contemplate a sequel I would have laughed at you. For the most part TRON has always very much seemed like a product of it’s time, not something that could ever turn into a possible franchise. Here we are two decades later though and Disney looks to be doing just that, BIG TIME!

The idea of a new TRON actually makes perfect sense considering the gigantic leaps in technology over the past several decades and the way computers pretty much run our lives. The thing is for the most part TRON always seemed like more of a cult film to me and as such something that Disney would never put any real serious thought into continuing. After sitting through their panel however I think TRON LEGACY may very well be THE film to beat come 2011.

While very little was shown from the new movie other than a very short sequence with Flynn’s son and a now 3-D version of the footage they surprised everyone at Con with last year (If you haven’t seen it you should, it’s now available in Disney approved formats all across the web) the concept art and test footage coupled with the massive presence the film had throughout literally all of downtown San Diego shows that Disney and the filmmakers are doing anything but taking this sequel lightly. They are making a gigantic, big budget, tent-pole film meant to reintroduce the world to a way ahead of it’s time universe created all those years ago.

By all accounts everyone involved wants this movie to be huge. They want the world of TRON to be on everyone’s mind and they look to be pushing the envelop in terms of story, ideas and special effects in the same ways the original did in the early 1980’s. While out of all of the panels I sat through this one had the least actual footage to show, the imagination and heart on display from everyone involved was palpable. I think come 2011 we are all going to get blown to the back of the theatre by the awesomeness that this film will be and I simply cannot wait!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

CC 2009 Disney 3-D / A Christmas Carol

First of all Patton Oswalt should host EVERY panel. I’ve been a huge fan of the guy’s stand-up comedy for a while now and whoever’s idea it was to have the Disney 3-D panel moderated by Remy the Rat is a genius. Secondly I’m going to talk a little bit about motion capture later in this post and try to keep it in the back of your mind because it’s going to play a very prominent role in a later post.

The first full day of Con started off with a pretty good bang from the folks at Disney. This was the first time in the history of Con that the entire panel was in 3-D. I’m not the biggest fan of 3-D (I still think it’s just kind of a gimmick) but it was lots of fun and the three films that were represented at least made good use of the technology.

First up was Robert Zemmeckis talking about A CHRISTMAS CAROL another motion capture film he has coming down the pike, this time starring Jim Carrey as pretty much everyone. Honestly what he showed was pretty spectacular and up until that point it was the best motion capture work I’ve ever seen. The movie looks moody, atmospheric and best of all it looks like the technology is going to allow Jim Carrey to show off his wide and often times underappreciated or flat out ignored range.

The footage they showed consisted of a trailer of sorts and then an extended scene in which Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley. The scene was very well acted, animated / motion captured and staged. It was actually more than a little creepy and I can’t help but think that kids might get sort of freaked out by the whole thing which I think is very cool.

My only real issue with what we saw and with the idea of motion capture in general is why? Save for POLAR EXPRESS I’ve genuinely enjoyed and actually own every film Robert Zemmeckis has directed or produced using this technology and while it’s a cool little gimmick and gadget I still don’t quite get the point. I loved BEAWOLF but the entire time I watched it I couldn’t help but think how much cooler it would be if I was actually watching real people with state of the art special effects. The same can be said for what I saw of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. It looks really good and really entertaining and it’s obvious they are making huge strides with the technology but it seems like an overly expensive way of doing something that could be accomplished just as easy with real actors using real sets. None-the-less I for sure liked what I saw enough to check it out when it comes to theatres.

One of the biggest highlights for me of the entire Con came during this panel. I got the chance to ask Robert Zemmeckis a question (The guy is one of my idols so I was TOTALLY jazzed) and I used the opportunity to ask him about the often talked about sequel to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. He got a pretty huge cheer when he told everyone that he could neither “confirm or deny” that he was working on such a thing but that IF he was going to make a sequel all of the original cartoon characters such as Roger, Jessica, etc. would be in 2D not 3D. The reason this got such a huge reaction from the crowd is because if you’ve been around industry people long enough you know that an answer like that means he’s basically working on it but Disney and the powers that be won’t let him talk about it yet.

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was one of my favorite movies growing up and the idea that he’s finally working on a sequel made me as giddy as a school girl. Here’s hoping it doesn’t fall through and that in a few years time he’ll be back in Hall H touting the further adventures of Roger, Eddie Valiant and friends. OK, this piece is longer than I meant it to be so I’ll be back later with more from the Disney panel. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

CC 2009: Enough With the Screaming!

OK, I’m going to get this one out of the way right up front. It’s my one and only real complaint about Comic-Con and even then I realize it’s not totally their fault. One of the things that has ensured Comic-Con has survived for 40 years now is the fact that through it all they have managed to stay relevant and always on the cutting edge of what is new, hip and cool. So please understand that this diatribe isn’t really directed towards them but the mania that has pushed them to include something in their programming.

ENOUG IS ENOUGH! Seriously enough with this TWILIGHT crap already! For the 2nd year in a row I had to sit through 6,500 screaming prepubescent girls and menopausal women in the NEW MOON panel.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m all for there being more women at Con. When I started going a dozen years ago you could throw a rock from one end of the convention floor to the next and you would have been hard pressed to hit anyone of the female variety. My eyes and I are VERY glad that this is a trend that has rapidly changed and that geekdom now appeals equally to both genders.

That being said I’m not sure there has ever been a group of fandom more vacuous and utterly juvenile than the Twihards or whatever stupid name they want to call themselves. Dissension and argument are not uncommon amongst the ranks of the fan-boys. There is nothing geeks love to do more than argue whether Captain Kirk is cooler than Han Solo or if Wolverine could kick Batman’s ass (Just for the record he can’t and Solo has ALWAYS been cooler than Kirk) but at the end of the day we respect each other and we look out for each other. We realize we are part of a unique, eccentric minority and while we may darn near come to blows over the new BSG versus the old one at the end of the day we can get together, have a ball and no one gets hurt.

I wish the same could be said for the literally PSYCHOTIC people that count themselves as TWILIGHT fans. I heard more than a few stories from my fellow Con attendees about how they were almost trampled to death by the ravenous hordes of estrogen filled wannabe-geeks as they poured into Hall H in a desire to be close enough to smell Robert Pattison’s hair gel or something.

Now lest you think this is all just some misplaced, vitriol laced diatribe allow me to get to my coverage of the panel which I think explains exactly where this frustration comes from.

TWILIGHT SUCKS! It’s a barely passable book that was obviously passed around some writer’s circle that lucked into getting published. It’s not very interesting and there is very little if any conflict. This book was made into one of the single WORST movies I’ve ever seen. Seriously it’s shameful how bad it is. The studio hired a completely incompetent director and cast two stars that have almost no chemistry together and who’s acting in the films mainly revolves around them running their hands through their hair. None-the-less the movie made money because teenage girls are impressionable and menopausal women are… well, I don’t care to speculate.

So here we are a year later and the inevitable sequel has been shot. The studio has at least hired a director with some skills and they’ve been able to train Robert Pattison how to act in front of a crowd but Kristen Stewart is a massive mess. So much so that even the die hard TWILIGHT fans were commenting on her and I’m beginning to question how or IF she will ever work again after this franchise.

Footage was shown and of course the Twihards went nuts but not because it’s good. Both clips involved men taking off their shirts and that’s about it. While the film looks to be better done than the first one (Not that that’s hard) it still looks lifeless, dull, rushed, poorly made and just plain dumb. If you think I’m being too harsh then I refer you to almost every other panel the rest of the weekend in which talented directors, actors and actresses made sly, cutting comments about the quality of the footage that was shown.

Comic-Con 2009 had many bright spots. So many that it’s almost hard to name them all yet once again for several hours on Thursday all the fun and excitement was sucked out of the convention by a franchise who’s popularity boggles my mind and apparently that of many other people. The only positives I can take away from my two years running TWILIGHT experience / nightmare is the fact that if the studio’s release schedule stays intact next year will be the last year I have to suffer through the madness before this craze dies the slow death it so richly deserves and this silly franchise becomes little more than a footnote and blemish in the annuls of pop culture. The second and slightly more heart warming thought was something brought up by the ever wise and sage Kevin Smith. A few years from now most of these TWILIGHT fans will be 18 and with luck this will have only served as a gateway drug to geeky things that are actually worth their time. The geek fan-boy community is always eager to add more to its rank especially if they’re female.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 Comic-Con Wrap Up

I look forward to four days in July all year, four days where the constant talk on everyone’s tongue is movies, directors, actors, stories and more creative worlds than you knew existed. Until I become a full time, working director the San Diego Comic-Con is the closest I can get to being an industry insider in the industry I already know too much about. 2009 was a great year at Comic-Con.

There is nothing like being in San Diego for Con. I can pretty much guarantee that. The setting is well prepared and crucial. Starting a few weeks before Con the banners go up; two years ago it was Iron Man, last year it was Star Trek and this year it was Avatar. The banners signal the soon to come flood of geeks that will overwhelm the city and turn the urban metropolis into geek nirvana. I know this is quite the site for an outsider as I like to talk to tourists that accidently schedule their vacations during Con. This year I made friends with two Irish tourists and a Virginia Tech professor who were amused and overwhelmed by Con. They thought it was one of the most unique experiences they’d ever seen. It was a good year for them to see too.

This year Con expanded into downtown in a way I’ve never seen before. Not only was there the industry after parties, but panels announced events for fans to go to. There was a Heroes carnival set up directly across from the convention center, Tron Legacy had a scavenger hunt that ended in a recreated Flynn’s Arcade, Alice in Wonderland had a tea party, SyFy created Café Diem, and that was just the parties I knew about.

My favorite thing to come away from Comic-Con this year had to be my experience with Robert Downey Jr. No I didn’t get to actually meet him, but those that know me well know that he is one of the actors I dream of directing so getting to see him casually talk about two separate films he’s in was a great experience. I learned that Robert Downey Jr. is every bit as charming, charismatic, amazing and funny as you would hope someone with his experiences would be. Downey appears to know the career high he’s been on for the last year or so is credited not just to his extraordinary talent but to a few key Hollywood types that fought for him and the thousands of fans that spurred him on; he seems to be genuinely excited and thankful for everything he now has.

Speaking of another comeback kid, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes promises to be a great new version of the classic character. I have waited since Snatch for Ritchie to hit again; he got close with Rock’n’Rolla and it looks like he is smartly trying something new with Sherlock Holmes. While I missed Guy Ritchie at the panel, I was glad to see the producers and stars there. We all remember that if Ritchie doesn’t like his film he is vocal about it (remember the premiere of Swept Away?) and I did not get that vibe here.

Of course, I also live for science fiction; while I have trouble identifying one genre as my favorite I think that if push came to shove I would choose this one. Sci-fi was back to Con in force on the floor thanks to Star Trek and old and new sci-fi will be coming to theaters in the next few months. Amongst the “old” will be Tron Legacy, and the “new” will be Avatar. No one is phoning in a movie here. The filmmakers behind Tron Legacy have reimagined the world to fit with the twenty years of technology that have been created since the original, and Cameron has been pushing boundaries in fiction and technology to make Avatar an entirely new experience. I have given filmmakers a hard time for using 3D because most use it as a gimmick but it appears that Cameron may make me eat my words – he’s found a way to make 3D a story-telling device.

I was also incredibly pleased to find that there was much more original content coming out in film this next year than I can remember being promoted in the past years, even the sequels are doing their damndest to bring something fresh and new to the screen. Richard Kelly is bringing us The Box based on a short story, and I am sure the unique mind that brought us Donnie Darko is going to tackle a supernatural morality tale.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my absolute favorite panel which was of course Iron Man 2. I am still shocked on some level that Jon Favreau knows how to make a movie as spectacular as Iron Man. Favreau appears to have gone into Iron Man 2 knowing that if he doesn’t deliver another hit everyone will think the first was a fluke. Let me say I do not think the first Iron Man was a fluke. A week out of principal photography the footage looked cleaner, more refined and better put together than completed films by directors with three times Favreau’s amount of films under their belt. He’s an actor’s director and his experience has garnered him a connection with his cast that shows in their caliber of performance.

Already, I have purchased my tickets for the Comic-Con in 2010. While I hope when I go back there I will have a feature film headed for distribution and maybe another one on it’s way I know I will enjoy the experience regardless of the position my directing career is in. I know this because in the end a real geek can enjoy anything at Con, and no matter what you’re a fan of you will find others like you that love and appreciate the things that you love.

Best Con Ever?

There is nothing on earth quite like Comic-Con and perhaps that’s a good thing because if there was I’m not quite sure I would survive it. Make no mistake there is NOTHING I look forward to or enjoy more each year than the annual geek-fest that is affectionately known simply as Con by all those who attend, the insanity that is the annual San Diego Comic-Con is enough to kill almost any man drawn out over a long enough period of time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year marked approximately my twelfth appearance at Nerd-Mecca and I can honestly say this was maybe the second best Con I’ve been to. While I’m not sure anything will ever be able to top the 2007 Con when Paramount came out and for all intents and purposes drew a line in the sand and dared all the other studios to cross it, this one came pretty darn close. That was the year that we first witnessed the awesomeness that would be IRON MAN, saw bits of STARDUST, learned about STAR TREK and had George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford address us all and with this one still so fresh in my mind it’s hard to say if this Con will live up to the infamy of 2007. I do however feel confident in saying that the 2009 Con definitely gave it’s predecessors a run for their money.

One of the things I find so fascinating about Con is just how HUGE it has become. When I started going a dozen years ago you could do the entire sales floor in day and still have time to kill. There were panels but most people were completely unaware of them and even if they were they tended not to care. Somehow all that changed several years ago and as a result Comic-Con has become THE biggest pop culture event in the world. If you are a studio and you want your product to get noticed you take it to Con and plaster it before the eyes of the 6,500 screaming fan-boys (And girls) huddled in Hall H.

Someone described Con as the biggest film festival in the world where no actual movies are screened, but honestly even that doesn’t really hold true anymore. This year alone saw screenings of DISTRICT 9, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, TRICK OR TREAT and at least a half dozen other films that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Simply put for 4 ½ days (Almost 5) San Diego is the epicenter of the entertainment industry. It used to be no one had a clue what I was talking about when I told people I was going down to Comic-Con, now literally every major news outlet in the world is there. CNN, Fox News, USA Today, The New York Times, G4, you name it they are all front in center reporting almost nonstop from what used to be barely a blip on everyone’s radar.

The Con has branched out from just the convention center and now infects the surrounding hotels and pretty much all of downtown San Diego. This year alone there were after parties for almost everything at almost every bar and restaurant in the Gaslamp District. HBO and TRUE BLOOD completely took over several places for most of the Con where you could buy beer in TRUE BLOOD glasses, with fangs floating in them. Disney created a walk through of many of the props from Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND as well as a recreation of its infamous tea party. They also took the time to devise a massive scavenger hunt that eventually led you to an exact recreation of Flynn’s Arcade from TRON complete with real working 80’s arcade games and a life-size Light Cycle.

Some people complain that Con has lost it’s specialness that it’s too commercial and that it’s gotten away from what it was really always meant to be about. I’m sorry but I think those people are dead wrong. Con has always been about celebrating the popular arts and specifically the geeky popular arts. They have exceeded at this in every way because for 4 ½ days (Almost 5) there is NO ONE cooler than the 120,000 people lucky enough to make it to Con. Over the past few years being a geek, in essence being who many of my friends and I have been our entire lives has become cool and this extended weekend lets us all celebrate and revel in it. This is why this year’s Con attracted the likes of Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Megan Fox, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle, James Cameron, Robert Zemmeckis, Peter Jackson and so many more that it would literally wear out my keyboard to type them all.

Needless to say there was a lot to take in and a lot to report on over the past weekend. Megan has done a great job of giving you an up to the minute blow by blow account of what we saw and over the next week or so I’ll be checking back in with some more in-depth reactions to everything we experienced. Just know that I am a very happy geek at the moment and despite the crowds and the insanity I’m already counting down the days until next year. You’ll be hearing from me again real soon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Con: Iron Man 2

I know I am a bit of a junkie for Iron Man but that does not diminish how amazing the footage I just saw for Iron Man 2 is.

It quite seriously looks like Favreau realized why the first film was so well recieved & figured out how to reproduce it in the follow up. They are only a week out of principal photography and Jon Favreau is exhuding enthusiasm and pride.

My favorite highlights of the panel were probably Favreau & Downey making us sing happy birthday to Favreau's son & learning that Rorke spent time in a Russian prison to prep and Favreau didn't know it till TMZ reported it.

From the footage we did learn War Machine is in the film , Nick Fury will play a bigger part & Tony Stark is taking on the government.

May 2010 feels too far away.

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Con: Extract

Mike Judge has made another workplace comedy and in this one he cast Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck & Mila Kunis. Just to clear this up, the film is not a sequel to Office Space.

While the film lloks funny & Kunis and Bateman were charming this panel was not great. Mike Judge lacks energy and the Q&A portion was so tightly controlled no one was able to ask good questions.

What was enjoyable was learning that Bateman says an Arrested Development film is still in the works and everyone wants it to happen.

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Con: Solomon Kane

Solomon Kane is based on the classic fictional character who centuries ago realizes he is doomed for hell & choses the puritan life of peace in order to avoid this fate.

From the footage this appears to be a harsh, bloody, utterly serious tale of redemption & of course the fun of watching the Kane realize he cannot let the people around him be tortured & die when he can use his talents to save them.

This does look like an imaginative & well made film but I do not do sword & sorcery movies - except for Willow.

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I don't watch LOST but the panels are dang entertaining. This is partly because the creators have to entertain you for an hour as they can't give anything away. However, they did surprise us to 4 special guests & they hinted that perhaps the plot at the end of the last season was completed...and perhaps the plane never crashed. But take everything they say with a grain of salt.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Con: Warner Bros Panel pt 3

SHERLOCK HOLMES: First I must say that I was a little fan girl in the same room with Robert Downey Jr. In person the man is witty, quick, intellegent, excited & so greatful for his career & fans. You can tell he knows why he is where he is today.

Downey introduced the Sherlock portion of the panel. He loves the character. - something you really want in your actors.

What they did was go to the source material for thw world & mythos but create an entirely new mystery for Holmes & Watson. I know I luv Guy Ritchie but this film doesn't look like any Ritchie film I've ever seen or ant Sherlock film I've seen. It looks to be intellegent, well made , action packed & one of my most anticipated films of the fall. It will eevitalize Sherlock Holmes for the entertainment world.

I was also excited to see that Rachel McAdams & Downey are both great in public.

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Con: Warner Bros pt 2

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: While I am not big on remakes it is no secret that Wes Craven's original Nightmare needs an update. This time the filmmakers have expanded Freddy's story (hopefully giving him needed motivation) cast Jackie Earl Hayley in the part of Freddy & the film does look very frightening. Hayley is a camelon & keeps on proving it.

THE BOX: Richard Kelley is not for everyone but if you luv him support this movie. Set in the 70's husband & wife (Cameron Diaz & James Marsden) are given a proposition - press the button in the box they are given & they will get a million $ but 1 person on on the planet will die. They push the button & Kelley's stylized maddness ensues. Diaz accidently gave away a spoiler but I am still hugely interested in the film.

JONAH HEX: Based ona comic I know nothing about this is a supernatural western starrong an anti-hero played by Josh Brolin. The footage looked damn entertaining & Brolin appears to be a great, fun guy. This could be cool.

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Con: WB Panel pt 1

The only panel I went to today was well worth my time. It was the panel for Warner Brothers. Let me tell you, there is a reason the WB is the top studio.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: We were treated to about 10 minutes of various scenes from Spike Jones masterpiece. The footage is some of the most strikingly unique & beautiful images I have ever seen on film. Jonze did expand the story but he did so with Sendack's blessing & the author loves the film. The more I see of the film the more certain I am that this film may win Oscars. It is a child's pure imagination on film.

THE BOOK OF ELI: This film is a post-Apocylaptic tale about Eli (Denzel Washington) who is traveling the barren nation & being hunted by the villian (Gary Oldman) as Eli has something he wants. Sound cliched but the footage looked great & Oldman & Washington seemed excited about it. They were a joy to watch & Oldman accidently let slip that the nexy Batman film begins shooting in 2010.

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Con Day 2

I'm in line for Hall H where I will hear about WB's upcoming slate & waiting for day 2 of Con to begin.

I have to say that the thing I love most about Con is that I am surrounded by people like me for almost a week. This is refreshing as normally if I talk about movies with someone they can only discuss the films of Michael Bay or the movie that came out in the past 2 months; here I can discuss movies that cross the whole spectrum, people understand my refrences & if they don't they want to know about them so they can watch too.

I have never experienced anything like Comic Con. This is a truly unique place. Until I manage to pull of being a paid director I will cherish my Con cocoon & hold it with a revrence befitting the peace & pleasure it brings me.

After all, those that know me know the only things that can make me rebel against my non-Morning person status are being on set or being in line for Con. I got up at 6:10 this morning. Earlier than I do for the day job.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tron Legacy

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Day 1 Panel Wrap Up

Let me first apoligize for the short blogs & fuzzy pics I've been posting. All blogging from Con has ben done on my phone & not a computer as I do not have a laptop. Longer posts & better pics will be posted upon my return from Con. For today I do feel the need to wrap up a little more of the panels.

1st, I again want to state that if you can get to the Avatar preview in August you should. I still can't process it all it blew my mind so hard.

Next, I did survive New Moon. This film looks like it has been handled much better by Wietz than Hardwicke but will probably still have issues. A big one is Kristen Stewart. She cannot answer questions, looked completely unkempt & seems to want to be anywhere but here.

On a good note Joe Dante brought footage from Hole. This looks to be a return to Gremlins style, youth friendly horror. It actually looks like a good suspense\frightener.

Also, Flynn Lives.

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Just had my mind blown by Avatar. James Cameron truly is a science fiction god. They announced that on August 21 participating Imax theatres will show 15 minutes of Avatar for free.

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James Cameron - Avatar #fb.

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Disney 3D

The Disney 3D panel just ended. We were treated to footage from A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Tron Legacy. That's right. Tron 2 has a name.

The highlights are that Robert Zumekis would not confirm or deny if Roger Rabit 2 was in the works (which in this indstry means you're working on it), Johnny Depp showed up for Alice & the sheer amazingness of Tron Legacy was stupifying. Tron still has a year left in post and the director plans on bringing footage back next year; this year we were treated to a cast\crew appearance, concept drawings & the footage from last year but now in 3D.

Next for today is the 3D showcase panel, and then I have to survive New Moon before being treated to Avatar.

My how I've missed Cameron, the king of scifi.

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Con: Alice in Wonderland.

Alice In WonderlAnd looks amazing. I seriously think Tim Burton has found something that is totally him. The footage shown was like nothing I've ever seen. And that means alot as I am not the biggest Burton fan.

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Day 1

The 1st full day of Con has begun. I am waiting in line for Hall H to see panels on movies including Alice in Wonderland, Tr2n, The Imaginarium of Dr. Pernasus, Avatar & unfortunately New Moon. A lot of the people in line are teen girls waiti.g for New Moon. They have NO idea the real geek ferocity that awaits them. I cannot wait until the Twilight phenom passes & the teens realize they are not geeks.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The 2009 San Diego Comic Con has begun. As of tonite 125,000 fans of movies, comic books, anime & pop culture will begin descending on downtown and let out their full inner geek. They will be treated to exclusives, previews and screenings of things the mass population is not even aware exists yet but our kind has known about them for months or years. It is a blat, it is unique but it is not for the faint of heart. Buyer beware, Comic Con is not a walk in the park.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

"It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids."

I have an unofficial list of movies that I consider my all time favorites. While this list tends to fluctuate from time to time there’s about 20 or 30 films that I simply can’t live without. After tonight I think I have to add another to the list; the brilliant, 1934 classic THE THIN MAN. This was one of those classics that I have somehow never seen and now that I have I can’t imagine my life without it. I want to be William Powell and I want to marry Myrna Loy. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind owning Asta their dog either.

THE THIN MAN is the kind of movie they just don’t make anymore. It’s sharp, quick-witted, funny and just a little naughty but not in a risqué or bad way. The film follows Nick and Nora Charles a pair of well-to-do socialites that are madly in love with each other even though the way they treat and talk to each other may not always show it. Nick used to be a very successful private investigator and when some misfortune falls the way of some old friends he ends up getting caught up in it all, while Nora tags along for the ride, thrilled to be able to watch her husband put his old gumshoes on again.

The plot and mystery while not hugely complex definitely keep you guessing until the very end when everything is wrapped up in probably the greatest dinner party scene I’ve ever seen. It’s funny because the mystery and that scene itself have been reused countless times and it’s pretty obvious this is where most of them were stolen from, yet I don’t know if any of them have ever done it better than in this film.

William Powell and Myrna Loy have some of the best chemistry of any onscreen couple I’ve ever seen. They trade quips and barbs at machine-gun fire speed and every look they give each other speaks volumes. They’re sarcastic and at times down right mean to one another yet you know that everything they do is out of love for one another. Even better is just how playful they are towards each other, you can tell they love each other unquestionably and the way the two actors play them it’s obvious that pretty much every moment someone is not around they’re ripping each others clothes off, as illustrated in the last scene of the film.

Myrna Loy is absolutely adorable. She’s feisty, precocious, absolutely stunning and more than able to keep up with William Powell who is basically the freaking MAN in this movie. Not only is he married to Nora, but he is also one of those guys that everyone likes, even the guys he sent to prison. He’s always three steps ahead of everyone else and even when his life is in mortal danger he’s as cool and casual as if he were at a cocktail party. Plus he’s got a mean right hook and the man really likes to drink! I’m sure if this were real life he’d probably be on his third liver by now but in the film he’s just a guy that always wants to have fun and never takes anything too seriously, a guy that thinks everything can be fixed with stiff drink or a witty quip.

THE THIN MAN is one of those movies that impressed me on every level from the acting to the directing and especially the writing. The film is just an absolute blast one that had me laughing from beginning to end and falling in love with the characters from the moment they were on screen. If I can someday write a screenplay half this good I’ll die a happy man.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

5 reasons why I MIGHT like the Oscars again!

Recently the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced they are expanding the Best Picture field from five nominees to ten. This announcement couldn’t make me happier and here’s why…

5. THINGS ARE GOING TO GET A LOT MORE INTERESTING: Look, very rarely do I agree with what wins the Best Picture Oscar. To make matters worse pretty early on I can get a good bead on what’s going to win. As such watching the Oscar telecast becomes almost academic, there are very few surprises and I spend over three hours just waiting for the inevitable. Ten nominee’s means there’s twice as many ways the vote could split. As such I’m hoping that adds some much needed drama to the increasingly stale telecast.

4. DIVERSITY: Speaking of diversity the expansion of the Best Picture field could very well lead to a bit more diversity and originality in the other categories. Most of the time the five Best Picture nominees also tend to get the lion’s share of the nominees in all the other major categories. With ten films now vying for the top spot this should throw a little more attention towards the kind of films that are far too often completely overlooked. If there had been ten nominees last year I can’t help but think that IRON MAN might have been one of them. As such maybe the Academy could have thrown a little love towards Robert Downey Jr.’s Oscar caliber performance as Tony Stark. It will be more than a bit refreshing to not have to see the same people and the same kind of roles get nominated over and over again.

3. THE OSCARS WILL BECOME RELEVANT AND FUN ONCE MORE: The Academy can make all the excuses it wants but they dropped the ball big time last year and they know it. People used to actually care about the Oscars because it wasn’t a stuck-up affair, rewarding good, but ultimately not very far-reaching films. At one point it didn’t matter WHAT kind of film it was, it just had to be good and as such films like STAR WARS, ALIENS, JAWS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK were nominated. These were movies that people LOVED because they were good and thrillingly entertaining. Now a-days the Oscars look like nothing more than a bigger budget version of the Independent Spirit Awards and the show’s ratings reflect it. If this rule had been put into place last year films like THE DARK KNIGHT, IRON MAN, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, THE WRESTLER, TROPIC THUNDER, IN BRUGES, and GRAN TORINO might have made the cut. Each of these was a spectacular film and intrinsically unique. The giant blockbusters would have brought viewers to the TV sets and films like RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, THE WRESTLER and IN BRUGES would have added some spice to the predictable spate of biopics, tear-jerkers and Oscar bait. I and I think almost everyone else in America is tired of seeing the same sorts of films get nominated year after year and I can’t help but think this decision will assist in changing that.

2. MORE GOOD MOVIES WILL GET MADE: OK, here’s the big one. Whether we all like it or not Hollywood is primarily driven by one thing and one thing only; MONEY! The reason studios make movies is because they think said films will bring them a nice bit of coin. It is this very thinking that may make the Academy’s decision one of the best in recent memory. Save for most of the films that were nominated last year a Best Picture nomination almost always means money for the studio releasing the film. Almost every film that gets nominated for Best Picture gets a pretty nice bump at the box office because people want to rush out and see what all the fuss is about. Now that studios know their chances of getting this very lucrative financial bonus have doubled if they make a good enough movie I think we’ll see a lot more people in Hollywood swinging for the fences. I wish I could say this was all going to happen because of a devotion to artistic integrity and wanting to raise the standards by which the art from is judged, but we all know that’s a load of bull. This decision means twice as many films can make quite a bit more money and as such I think you’ll start seeing filmmakers and studios putting a little extra effort into their craft. Most of them know they probably won’t win but if they can get a better return on their investment I can’t help but think they might start trying just a little harder. People can bitch and moan all they want about how this dulls the meaning of the Best Picture nominee but I don’t think they’re seeing the big picture. People may actually begin caring about the Oscars again and because of that we may actually start to see a better crop of pretty spectacular films come out each year. Bottom line, I think this move means we’re going to be blessed with better movies in the years to come and if you’re a fan of cinema I don’t see how you can not like that.

1. BEAM ME UP OSCAR: And finally, perhaps best of all, if the year continues like it has this move means there’s a pretty good chance STAR TREK will get nominated for Best Picture! I highly doubt it’ll win but I can’t think of a film more deserving of the honor. I mean after all, it’s only… logical.