Alright, I’ve got a lot of column to cover, so let’s get to it.
Favorite Movie Panels at Comic-Con (That I got to see and that weren’t Avatar)
Disney Animation – Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m like most people, and I love Pixar movies. I think WALL-E and Up are amazing achievements, and that The Incredibles may be one of the best films of the decade, so getting to see a panel hosted by John Lasseter, where he spoke about upcoming projects for both Pixar and Disney Animation in general , was pretty exciting. Turns out, Lasseter and his team were determined to not disappoint.
Starting us off, we got a 3-D presentation of the opening to Toy Story 2, which is going to be released this fall on a double bill with the original Toy Story. Looking at the footage, there probably wasn’t a better way that Lasseter could have picked to wow the crowd. The newly 3-D rendered footage looked amazing, with Buzz Lightyear’s homage-packed space battle giving us a new way to look at these landmarks in animated film. Honestly, if you hadn’t seen these movies before, you couldn’t tell that this was old footage that had just been projected in 3-D, as it still runs circles around pretty much every other 3-D animation house that’s not Pixar. Backing the footage up was a new trailer that also wowed the audience, with Buzz coming out of the crowd and into the screen to join Woody in the new trailer.
Looking forward to Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich, director of the new film and longtime member of the Pixar creative team, came out to discuss the possibilities of a third film and not screwing up the legacy that Pixar has already built with this series. I was a little taken aback that Lasseter himself was not actually directing the new film, but knowing that Unkrich has been a vital member of Pixar up to this point gives me hope that this film can reach its full potential. Plus, Pixar’s nearly flawless record up to this point also points in their favor.
The next person out to talk with us was Kirk Wise, who came out to talk with Lasseter about the upcoming re-release of Beauty and the Beast. Also being presented in 3-D, we got an extended trailer that showed us how the footage would look, and while this movie isn’t one of my favorite hand-drawn Disney tales, I can tell you that it looked gorgeous up on the big screen. I don’t think I’d be opposed to a series of re-releases of this variety, but I wonder if the process could be utilized on films that were produced earlier than the ’90s. I’d like to see what a 3-D Alice in Wonderland or Sleeping Beauty could look like, as long as it didn’t just turn the images into a View-Master type experience.
Next up was some rough footage from The Princess and the Frog, which is a movie I’m still not sold on. I’m not sure what the disconnect is for me between the classic Disney animated movies that I love (Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians) and the films from the ’90s that made me hate Disney features (Pocahontas, The Emperor’s New Groove), but this one is starting to look like the latter for me. I know a big problem with ’90s Disney films is that I wasn’t a kid when I saw them, but I just feel like other than a couple of cases (Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast) , there’s a big drop off in quality from the earlier era of Disney.
I’m not sure if it’s the Voodoo setting or what, but something about The Princess and the Frog is rubbing me the wrong way. I could be completely wrong, and I hope that I am here, because I love hand-drawn animation and want there to be a bit of a renaissance at Disney that reminds me of the days when I really loved their films in the same way I admire Pixar. The footage we saw had some potential, but I was getting a Mulan vibe I wasn’t enjoying.
The difference in quality was even greater when we got to see footage from Ponyo, the new film from Director Hayao Miyazaki, which was accompanied by the great director himself. While the film has been released and lauded since I saw these select scenes of Ponyo running on a giant wave of fish, the footage looked completely insane, and showed an ingenuity that I haven’t seen in a long time in this genre. . Afterward we got a nice Q&A from Miyazaki, which was hosted by Patton Oswalt.
All in all, this was a tremendously entertaining panel, which featured a lot of film makers I admire and one legend. While not my absolute favorite panel of the con, definitely one of the best I got to see.
Warner Bros. – If there was one panel that I got to see that seemed to have a chip on its shoulder, I think it would be Warner Bros’ massive presentation. That’s not really a bad thing, it’s just that with panels like Avatar and District 9 getting so much hype, it seemed like the WB were afraid they might be a bit under the radar so they brought a huge amount of material, but afterwards these projects look like gangbusters going into the fall, all the way to next summer.
We started off with a look at Spike Jonze’s upcoming adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. With a quick intro from Max Records, the young kid starring in the movie, we were treated to around 10-15 minutes of footage from the movie, which blew away Hall H to the point where some people were even moved to tears. Also, what we got to see completely removed any fears I was having about the film, namely about whether or not the movie could get across the right tone to do justice to the book and whether or not we’d believe the Wild Things as real.
Of what we got to see, you can see exactly what Jonze was going for here. The movie seems to be filled with wonder, but also strike some fear into you as well, which is exactly what it’s like to be a kid. A scene where the creatures pile on top of Max and fall asleep goes from wonderful to a bit terrifying and then back again quite brilliantly. I can see why execs may have been a little wary of what they’ve seen of the movie, but if any of them saw the reaction from the crowd, they’d know that they’ve got exactly the right type of picture on their hands. Again, the Wild Things come off as wonderful, heartfelt characters and the world that Jonze has put onscreen is one we’re going to remember for a long time.
Next out were the Hughes brothers, who were on hand to promote their new post-apocalyptic thriller/action epic, The Book of Eli. After getting to see a weird motion comic, the panel kicked into overdrive with the introduction of Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, and Denzel Washington. Oldman was awesome, and even broke the news about the next Batman film going into production next year, and Kunis looked appropriately adorable, but there was no one in the room that commanded its attention the way that Denzel was able to. He and Oldman cut up back and forth and had the whole room wrapped around their finger, especially when they compared good acting to good sex.
The trailer for the film also got me really intrigued. Filmed in a style similar to 300, we get to see a post-apocalyptic landscape where apparently Washington is a Clint Eastwood-style bad ass that can’t be stopped. All I can say is this; I didn’t even know this movie was in production, and after the panel, I can’t wait to see it.
Next up was the Nightmare on Elm Street presentation, which I was mildly curious about. Of all the classic Slasher series, I’d put my interest level in this franchise third behind Halloween and Friday the 13th respectively, but I do still think there’s some potential here. So far, all the reboots have had wildly divisive results, with I think Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine 3-D leaving all others in the dust, and I hope that this film can somehow come up with that type of success.
Jackie Earle Haley, along with Producers Brad Fuller, Sam Bayer and Andrew Form showed up to support the film, and talked about how the movie was going to be devoid of the over the top humor that kind of plagued the last few entries in the series. This is going to be beautifully shot, but still down and dirty. Making Freddy Krueger a scary figure again is an idea I can get behind, and from the look of the movie’s footage we were shown, this is what they are out to accomplish.
A fun, but bit goofier panel was next up with Richard Kelly’s The Box, along with stars Cameron Diaz and James Mardsen. I think Kelly is a really talented director that has problems when he isn’t reigned in properly, but I like the look of The Box so far. It’s Twilight Zone-style approach looks pretty enticing and all involved seem really excited about it.
Highlights of the panel though, were the many marriage proposals received and accepted by Cameron Diaz, which kept everyone laughing, especially when Mardsen seemed to get fed up and yelled, “Yes, I’ll marry you” to the first female audience member who got up to ask a question. Lowlight of the presentation was when Diaz let loose what is probably a gigantic spoiler, which may have ruined the movie. Still, this one looks interesting and the extended trailer for it looked phenomenal.
Turns out Denzel Washington won’t be the only one that will be channeling Clint Eastwood when their movie hits next year. I absolutely loved what I saw of Jonah Hex, and I out and out love what Josh Brolin seems to be bringing to the title role. The movie looks appropriately Spaghetti Western-esque and I’m stoked to see what can happen with this. Brolin was also awesome during the movie’s Q&A, upstaging even Meagan Fox, and clearly trying compete for “coolest guy on the planet”.
Again, I’m pretty stoked about the movie, which I think is just another example of how diverse the DC Universe is and how it can bring such a terrifically varied type of movie to the big screen. This looks like a Leone movie on speed, with tons of fights, shootouts and hot women, this could be one of the best events of next year at the theater. If this one lives up to its potential, we could have a real hit on our hands.
At the conclusion of the Jonah Hex‘s portion of the show, a guy walked out on stage. I couldn’t see who it was at first, and for every other panel, there had been a person out to introduce the next presenter, but apparently Robert Downey, Jr. needs no introduction. If Josh Brolin was in the running for “coolest guy on the planet”, Downey absolutely established why he is the undisputed champion. This guy is the king of Comic-con and the crowd absolutely ate him up.
Rachel McAdams and the rest of the presenters for Sherlock Holmes might has well have stayed home, because no one else shone as brightly as their illustrious co-star. This guy absolutely ruled the whole room, and when he claimed he had trained so much he could “wheelhouse through everyone in the room” the entire hall was uproarious and primed to explode. With some pretty terrific footage to show for itself, Sherlock just ended up solidifying how great this panel was for Warner Bros. and why it was probably the best studio presentation of the whole convention.
Alright, I’m going to FINALLY wrap up my Comic-con experience next time out and then we can get on with the rest of the year and maybe look back at what we got from Hollywood this summer. Halloween is just around the corner and November is going to be NINJA and MARTIAL ARTS month here at the Bad Ass Cinema and I can’t wait.
Robert Sutton feels the most at home when he's watching some movie scumbag getting blown up, punched in the face, or kung fu'd to death, especially in that order. He's a founding writer for the movies section of Insidepulse.com, featured in his weekly column R0BTRAIN's Badass Cinema as well as a frequent reviewer of DVDs and Blu-rays. Also, he's a proud Sony fanboy, loves everything Star Wars and Superman related and hopes to someday be taken seriously by his friends and family.