Saturday, July 29, 2006

Comic-Con Report: Part Three: Saturday

Before I get into Saturday's coverage, I want to add a report on a film that I glaringly omitted yesterday.

After Neil Gaiman's panel for Stardust but before the Star Wars "Spectacular" there was a panel for Alfonso Cuaron's newest film "Children of Men." Representing the film was Cuaron himself and the questions were moderated by that lovable nerd of a director Guillermo Del Toro. The trailer was the first thing they showed and I had seen it before but I was still interested. I've been interested in this for a while for a couple of reasons: 1) Alfonso Cuaron is an amazing director and, if you ask me, I think his "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" was the best Harry Potter film in the series and, from the looks of it, it's going to stay that way. 2) Clive Owen is an amazing actor to watch. He could make a phone book reading interesting and emotional.

The film is set in a "present-day future" where women have become infertile. the very first scene of the film chronicles a news report that explains that the worlds youngest person, an eighteen year-old kid named "Baby Diego" has been killed. London has turned into a war zone and Clive Owen is unwittingly drafted to smuggle what could be the worlds only pregnant woman off the shores of England.

It seems like one of those kick-ass science fiction movies that actually makes you think. Like 2001 or THX-1138.

Anyhow, after the trailer rolled, Cuaron joked that there were more cuts in the trailer than there were in the whole film. The audience laughed. He must have been being silly.

But then, he showed us the opening credits to the film and then the first sequence. He was probably right. Not counting the title cards and such, there were probably five cuts in that first five minutes. And none of them immediately followed the title card. Clive Owen walks into a coffee shop, sees the news about Baby Diego, gets his coffee, leaves the building, sees the news on giant monitors on the buildings outside, stops to put cream and sugar in his coffee and then the coffee shop blows up. It's all in one shot and it looked amazing.

As a filmmaker, I'm always conscious of how long shots are. The longer a shot is, the more anxiety it brings out in me. I'm always thinking to myself, "Jesus Christ how long is this going to go? How long did it take to prep this shot? How many times did it take to shoot before the got it right?" And so on. It causes a dread in me as a filmmaker because I know how hard it is to get a quick shot right, let alone a shot that runs for ten minutes. I think that's why Alfred Hitchock's "Rope" works so well for me. That dread that they shot the film in like 9 setups amazes me.

Anyhow, so the film looked beautiful from there, but then it jumped ahead to a point much, much, much later in the film. Owen already has the girl he's protecting and theyt are in a war zone. There are hundreds of extras, guns going off, explosions, chaos. Clive, a couple of buddies they must have picked up on the way and the girl are ducking here and there, but then they are captured. The guerillas take the pregnant girl, shoot one of Owen's comrades and then all hell breaks loose. Clive Owen finds a way to escape, the camera follows him over a couple of streets, through and alley-way, into what seemed to be an overturned bus. The shot went on and on and on and on and it was awe-inspiring. This went on for about six minutes.

After the footage was over, Cuaron said that, that one shot went on for another five or six minutes. He explained that he was going for that embedded reporter in a war-zone and that is exactly what he got. At one point, blood from a gun-shot wound splashes into the camera lens and it stays there, dripping... It's just really cool.

And the acting in the scene was intense and timed to perfection. You can only do that kind of thing with actors as good as Clive Owen, because normally you're fixing all of the timing and pacing that the actors screwed up in editing. When it's all one shot, you can't do that.

Anyhow, I'm terribly excited for this movie and I would hope that you would be, too.


Moving on to Saturday. There was actually some concern about the first panel on Saturday. Hall H was playing host to the 300 panel, but in room 6A there was a presentation for Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. I know, not a lot of you would even think that there was a choice there, but I am a GIANT Robotech nerd. (My daughters middle name is Miriya, after the notorious Zentradi pilot who defects to the SDF-1 and marries Max Sterling.)

Well, seeing that Robert Rodriguez was on the schedule immediately after 300, I decided that I would go to 300. I sent my little brother, Anthony, to the Robotech panel to give me a report on it while I enjoyed the 300 panel.

Before 300, I'll give the recap of Robotech: The night before the panel, they finally signed a distribution deal and, at this point, it's going to have a limited theatrical release followed by a DVD release. I don't know how many care, but Shadow Chronicles picks up where the series left off. Rick Hunter had left Earth and Scott Bernard had left to find Admiral Hunter. I'm excited about it and on some level I'm disapointed that I missed the footage they showed, but 300 made up for it in spades.


In attendance at the panel were Frank Miller, director Zach Snyder and actors Gerard Butler and David Wenham. They were very charismatic and made the panel quite enjoyable. The trailer they showed was the first footage I've seen outside of the production diaries and Snyder disclaimed it as being unfinished no less than three times. The footage was pulse-pounding and beautiful. It opened with David Wenham giving narration about Spartans and how they are raised. All the business about them being discarded if they were sickly or mis-shapen was all here, and then the accompanying footage of the kids training to "never retreat" was really cool. Of note was the shot where the teenage kid piked a wolf through the mouth. The action in the trailer looked amazing (I'm sorry if I use this word too often) and the characters all looked like dead ringers for Miller's drawings. The backgrounds also look as though they were ripped right out of the Graphic Novel.

I'm fairly certain that the music for the trailer was set to Nine Inch Nails (if I'm remembering what Snyder said correctly.) That statement actually led to a very troubling thought that Snyder verablized. The score will be half score and half rock music.

The film looks amazing. The source material is astounding. The adaptiation looks dead on. The only thing that has me concerned is the idea of a rock music score in such an epic and timeless period piece. I'm really afraid that throwing Nine Inch Nails on the score would somehow date the film.

I don't know. It really has me troubled because everything else I saw and heard looked fantastic.

They showed the footage three times and it rocked just as hard each time you saw it. Gerard Butler and David Wenham hadn't seen the footage before this either. It was quite humorous when they came around from the back of their table and laid out on the floor to see it for themselves every single time it was played.

300 should be good.

Moving on to Grindhouse.

Robert Rodriguez came out on stage and fucked with everyone about Quentin Tarentino wanting to have been there but missed his plane and then he brought him out anyway.

The thing about these two is that to this crowd, they were rockstars. I bet those two can walk around major cities and 75% of people (or more) wouldn't recognize them, but this crowd viewed them as Gods and you could tell by the audience reaction to everything that came out of their mouths.

And this pair couldn't be more different. Rodriguez is this quiet reserved guy, hiding under the brim of his hat and Tarentino is eating up the rock-star part and is cocky about it, too. (Tarentino pulls off a really good cocky and you can't be annoyed by it because he can back up all of his boasting with his movies.)

Grindhouse is their double-feature. Rodriguez is directing (from a 110 page script) a zombie film called "Planet Terror" and Tarentino is directing (from a 130 page script) a slasher picture called "Death Proof." (One announcement was made, and the deal was made the night before: Jack Burton himself, Kurt Russell, is going to play Stuntman Mike, the Slasher in Tarentino's film.) Tarentino also said that this isn't some "little project" they're working on. These are their next films.

Tarentino's film has yet to begin shooting, but they've been on "Planet Terror" for two weeks. In fact, they were shooting that morning and then got on a plane straight for Comic-Con. Everyone looked and sounded as though they were a little short on sleep.

So I'll talk about the footage from Grindhouse and tell you what I thought about it since I'm sure most of you have already read the transcripts of the panel on Ainitcool and stuff.

Anyhow, the footage opened with that awesome "And Now for our Feature Presentation" tag that Quentin Tarentino opened up Kill Bill with and went right into a scene from "Planet Terror." It felt like the opening to the film. Michael Biehn (Hicks from Aliens) is a cop as is the original Mariachi and basically they have to start fighting the "infected people." The footage jumped around to a teaser for a character called "Machete" played by the intrepid character actor Danny Trejo. In some of the footage, he's making out with two hot topless chicks in a river for what seems to be no apparent reason. It was rad. Then there was some action and a zombie turning into a fine bloody spray when it gets hit by a semi.

The last part of the footage dealt with Rose Magowan's character. She's an amputee and her boyfriend is busting her out of the hospital, killing infected people the whole way out. Then he tells her he made something for her. It's an assault rifle that fits onto her stump. They start rolling on a motorcycle and she sits on the back, facing the rear, shooting everything in her path with her stump-gun.

It's campy as all hell but It's going to be a fun as hell double feature.

There was also a shot of Tarentino looking very creepy in the footage. Afterwards it was revealed that he will be playing "Rapist #1."

Very cool.

The other remarkable kick ass thing about the footage was that it was water-damaged and scratched and in terrible condition (even though it was shot digitally.) There were hisses and pops in the sound, frames slightly out of place. I even recall (I could be wrong) reel markers in one place. I hope they add the distant hum of a flickering projecter in the footage (especially for theatres that will be playing it digitally.)

I really like the take on film these guys have. They want to replicate experiences that most of us haven't been able to enjoy. I've never been to a grind house, I'm too young, but I'll have a wonderfully recreated experience at the hands of these two men whom I admire significantly.

They talked alot about filmmaking and what it takes in the business and how they do things and, to be honest, I want to be a part of the next wave of cinema that they are having a hand in creating. I feel like I'm on the path, to be sure.

Kevin Smith was supposed to be there next, but he was stuck on the freeway.

So, I left until later.

I ended up hanging out on the exhibition floor with Ryan Ottley, the artist on Image's Invincible, probably the best superhero comic in the Universe. He mentioned some stuff about a certain TV project, but I don't know if I'm supposed to say anything about it, so I'm not going to.

So, back to Hall H I went, in time for the Disney presentation.

I wasn't terribly interested in going to the Disney presentation, but I'm glad I did. First was an announcement about Prince Caspian. It is being made, they are hard at work in pre-production. They will be making as many of the Narnia films as they can, so long as they keep making money. Unfortunately, they are taking them one at a time instead of shooting them all at once. The original director and cast is all attached. (If it were me, I'd have another director start on A Horse and His Boy right now.)

They also announced the "Special Extended Edition" of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The presentation was very bland. All they showed was a snippet of people talking about C.S. Lewis. The producer didn't know how to work the crowd at all. There was no "extra" or "special" footage beyond talking heads talking about C.S. Lewis.

Next in the Disney Panel was Pirates of the Caribbean. You guys all read my Pirates 2 review. I liked Davey Jones and the Kraken and everything else was either stupid or boring. They showed a three minute tease of the third film and I can guarantee it's going to be more of the same.

Before they showed that though, they brough John Knoll out and had him do a presentation about the effects behind Davy Jones. Now, I like John Knoll. I've been going to his presentations since the first Star Wars Celebration (back in 1999) and I find his FX presentations endlessly fascinating. It's like a classroom sort of setting for him and he always explains how they went about technology. Since Davy Jones was one of the few things I liked about Pirates 2, it would stand to reason that a presentation about how they made him would be interesting.

I was not aware that he was 100% CG.

The funny thing about this presentation was that halfway through it, people started leaving because they were bored with John Knoll. In fact, almost the entire rwo in front of and behind me left during this part and they had been talking the entire time about how much they liked Pirates. Five minutes after they cleared out, John Knoll ran the teaser for Pirates 3.

Poor saps.

Once this presentation finished, it was time for the Sony Presents: Ghost Rider and Spider-Man 3 panel.

I sort of felt cheated that they made me sit through forty-five minutes of Ghost Rider to get to the Spider-Man panel.

I'll admit right off the bat, I think Ghost Rider is going to be a flaming turd. It looks cheesy and stupid and it doesn't look like they even held true to his origins. In the trailer it makes him seem more like a vampire than a spirit of vengance.

Anyhow, they showed a new trailer and it seemed slightly less bad than the first trailer, but cheesy and bad nonetheless. Nick Cage was there and he seemed as high as a kite. He also made it out as though Ghost Rider has always been his favorite character in comics.

Director Mark Steven Johnson also admitted that Daredevil wasn't great (although it wasn't bad, like most people seem to think) and he'd love to have another chance to tell an "early years" of Daredevil story that actually works. It was admirable to see that he realizes it was cool but had a lot of faults. Also, even he dogged on X3. That was cool.

So, nothing new or spectacular out of this half of the panel.

Then, when they left, they brought out Sam Raimi. He, in turn, brought out Kirsten Dunst, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thomas Hayden Church, Topher Grace and Tobey Maguire.

Again, everyone and their cousin has already described every shot of the footage, so I won't go through that, but it was incredible. Amazing. Spectacular. Any other "marvel" adjective you can think of can describe this material. I was wary of the whole Venom thing. I never really cared for Venom or Eddie Brock, but this take on the story is actually interesting to me and it makes sense. Seeing Topher Grace sitting next to Tobey Maguire, they are very similar in almost every way, physically. And he and Raimi spoke about the idea that you can't give these powers to just anyone and that this film is an exploration into what it would be if someone very similar to Peter, but not Peter, got the powers. Obviously, he turns into Venom and runs amok.

It's going to be fantastic.

Raimi also said, "I couldn't keep Bruce Campbell out of this picture if I wanted to." So, Bruce Campbell gets another cameo. I've heard a lot of speculation that he's Mysterio, but that was never addressed at the panel. So, I don't know about that.

After the panel was over, there was a few minutes of a lull and Kevin Smith came on.

I was going to write up something about what he said but two things made me decide against it: One: This post is already long as hell and, Two: if you rent an Evening With Kevin Smith you will glean all of the same types of knowledge from it.

It's just really cool to see him doing it in person. I highly reccomend it.


That's my comic-con coverage.

Let me know what you thought. If no one liked it, I won't bother to do this for the next time I go to an event like this.

(I'm posting this from a lame dial-up connection, so I'll go through and add links later. Also, I still don't have the pictures from the con, so I'll try to get those up in a separate post tomorrow.)


Anonymous said...

Dear Alfonso CuarĂ³n,
I hope this e-mail finds you well. Every writer-whether is a novice writer or a veteran- fights a constant battle: the battle of the limited promotion budget. Contrary of what most people think, however, restrictions on budget can offer an opportunity to challenge our creativity and generate great ideas.
I want to promote my novella, "Tijuana Noir." I hope you like it.
Please answer this question, if you were in my shoes, what you will do to promote the book?
All Ideas are welcome.
Flores Campbell
PS: Tijuana Noir is dedicated to you.

Anonymous said...

The narrative voice for the novel “Tijuana Noir” alternates between a conventional third-person narrative and a first-person narrator, Dorotheo Arango, normally called "Theo". He is an private detective working for the catholic church, whose wife left and divorced him after he accidentally ran over and killed their infant daughter.
The novel begins with the first entry in Theo's detective notebook. It is the beginning of the 1990’s, but the novel's events have their origin in the late 1980’s. Theo writes the story in his little moleskin black book. TO BE COUNINUE…