Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SDCC 2010 Wrap-Up

San Diego Comic Con is one of my most treasured vacations each year. Yes, you read that right, vacation. Most of the major movie blogs have scores of writers working for them trying to cover the entire convention, while here on SMR, I've got myself. Attending SDCC for me is not work, it is very much a pleasure and a joy for a couple of reasons. First, I see what I want. I'm not going to cover or waste time attending something I am not interested in. Second, I'm going with intentions to have fun. Simply put, this is a passion of mine so listening to some of my favorite directors and actors describing an upcoming project not to mention potentially showing me (and thousands of others) exclusive footage, is by every means, tons of fun.

This article is not trying to be breaking news. If you wanted that, you are better off on a site like Deadline, Slash Film, Collider, Latino Review or Heat Vision Blog who are in the business of pushing movies. I'm here instead to bring my opinion on upcoming movies that I am genuinely interested in. There is absolutely no peddling here, just my impressions from my experience at SDCC 2010. Take a look at my what I saw over four days at this year's San Diego Comic Con after the break...

Going into this year's Comic Con I had a few movie and television properties I was extremely excited for like Marvel's "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger," Universal's "Paul" and "Cowboys & Aliens," Warner Brothers' "The Green Lantern" and "Sucker Punch," Disney's "TRON: Legacy" and Lionsgate's "The Expendables" along with AMC's "The Walking Dead." There were even a few titles I had been skeptical about like Universal's "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," James Gunn's "Super" and Overture's "Let Me In" but after seeing their particular panels, I walked away convinced they'd all end up being worth a look.

Let me start with what ended up underwhelming me this year. Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch." I really wanted to walk away blown away by what we saw and initially I was, but after soaking in the footage, I'm left wondering, will there be any substance behind all the sizzle? Don't get me wrong it is Zack Snyder, so the footage shown looked incredible, but as evasive as Snyder has been on the story I'm not so sure the movie will end up working. The guy has gone on record saying that anything he thought looked or sounded cool he threw into the script and from the footage it shows. The problem is it could end up just being too much of a hodge podge. I really want it to be awesome, but something in the pit of my stomach says it might not. At the very least the girls will look sexy throughout the film, but honestly I need something more than just sexy females. If sexy females were the only requirement to making a good movie then Pamela Anderson's Barb Wire would've been a masterpiece.

Another film that ended up being sort of a disappointment was "The Green Lantern." I know, scores of Lantern fanboys are readying their pitchforks, but calm down and let me explain. Warner Brothers put together a very small piece of footage for a movie that has been filming for more than a couple months. Granted the movie will end up with a lot of post work in cgi, but that didn't stop Jon Favreau or Marvel from rolling out lengthy pieces of footage for properties that have been shooting for less amount of time (more on them in a while). The footage shown, was very much a introduction to the series. A couple quick looks at main characters, all cut to a very fast paced editing job. Seriously, if you blinked once, you probably missed something. WB showed the footage once. Most of the other studios have learned to ramp up the crowd and show footage at least twice, but with "The Green Lantern" this was not the case. The footage did have one great money shot where Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) uses the ring's power to make a huge fist, but we never even got a look at him in the suit or in motion at all. Does this mean I am not excited for the movie? Hell no, I'm still pumped, just not as excited as I could've been. Essentially WB has always done a lackluster job with their SDCC panels and here nothing much has changed. Sadly, the best part of this panel was hearing Ryan Reynolds saying the Green Lantern oath and giving away the ring to a lucky attendee.

One thing I always look forward to at SDCC each year is free screenings. In previous years I've seen films including Hamlet 2, District 9, Monster Squad, Fanboys, Ponyo and a handful of others. Each year there are generally a ton of free screenings, but for some reason this year they seemed scarce. I knew that "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and "The Last Exorcism" would be screening but outside of that, nothing seemed to be surfacing. Each day at SDCC I did my best to find out about off site screenings but nothing seemed to be be happening. A couple of the screenings conflicted with panels I would be attending so I planned to miss them, but the general lack of screenings was a huge disappointment this year. It should be noted that in previous years studios would have reps out and about pushing screenings for their particular movies, but this year the only movie I saw that actually happening for was "The Last Exorcism," a movie my son was dreading me taking him to. Luckily for him, the screening conflicted with the Marvel panel, so we'd miss it anyway.

Every year at Comic Con something surprises me. Sometimes it is something I didn't know about and other times it is something I was mildly intrigued by. This year two properties left me super excited to see them on the big screen. The first is "Super," directed by James Gunn and starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Nathan Fillion, Liv Tyler, Michael Rooker and Kevin Bacon. The movie is about a average joe (Wilson) whose wife (Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Bacon) and he decides to take matters into his own hands. Trying to win back his wife he masks himself as a superhero called the Crimson Bolt. Although this isn't your ordinary hero. Like most of Gunn's previous work, "Super" looks incredibly off beat and dark. James Gunn showed the crowd a trailer and a clip, which both left me stunned and excited for more. The clip setup a moment when the Crimson Bolt decides to take a plumbing wrench to a man's head because he and his wife cut in line for a movie at the local theater. The clip is devastatingly brutal and dark, but it set the table perfectly for just the off beat superhero flick I was hoping for. I've always liked James Gunn as a director, but I never expected to be as excited as I am for this property. The downside to "Super" is there is no set release date or studio actually backing the film. Gunn went out and shot this movie on his own. The cast worked for very little money because they loved the script. Bringing this movie to SDCC was very much Gunn's way of trying to generate interest. I sincerely hope he did just that. This movie looks great and deserves to get a theatrical release even if it be only a limited one. Seriously, take note of this one and ask about it. Demand the movie.

The second movie I walked away from at SDCC 2010 totally changed by the panel was "Let Me In." For those of you that are unaware, "Let Me In" is a American remake of the swedish horror "Let the Right One In." American remakes of foreign movies is no recent trend, instead they have been going on for a long time. They've never been something I condone outright and are seldom something I would seek out, but this time it looks like Matt Reeves is on to something. "Let Me In" looks to be on par with the original in tone and in performances. I still reserve the right to wonder why American audiences are so afraid to read subtitles at the movies. There are so many wonderful foreign films that deserve their own praise instead of remaking them. Filmmakers have compared it to paying tribute, but that is a crock, the reason is to make money. Outside of my negativity aimed at American remakes of foreign films, the movie looks real good. Word has been strong coming out of test screenings for the movie and by the look of the two scenes we were shown in Hall H, that word is dead on. Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee were on site along with Richard Jenkins and while the group didn't seem to have much of a stage presence their performances in the movie looks fabulous.

Now on to the stuff that lived up to my expectations. Looking at television for a moment, I'm really impressed by the trailer AMC put together for "The Walking Dead" panel. The footage shown was breath taking and chill inducing. The panel was also very fan friendly with a ton of information that continued to wet my zombie appetite. It is very clear that creator Robert Kirkman and director Frank Darabont are working side-by-side to ensure this series is done justice.
Darabont stressed multiple times that the cable television series should be seen as six hour long movies instead of six hour long episodes. From what was shown and explained to us, the creators are not holding back with violence and zombies. As we've previously seen on the net, these zombies look fantastic. Outside of the look, the one thing I walked away from the panel realizing is AMC and the team working on "The Walking Dead" want to put the best content they can on TV. The creators are intending to take their time with the show, the characters within it and the situations they encounter. Fans of the comics can rest assure that the creators definitely want to move in the same direction as the books. Frank Darabont also pointed out that he would like to see iconic horror directors directing episodes in the future. He even went as far as to say a certain director named "George, no not Lucas" would be perfect. Honestly, if this series is anything other than spectacular, I will be very surprised.

One of the first panels I attended was "TRON: Legacy" and boy did it ever set the stakes high. TRON and Comic Con have been sort of like peanut butter and jelly, they are always together. For the last three years now, TRON has made an appearance. This year however, is actually the final stretch, because the long awaited sequel hits theaters this December. In the panel we were shown a brand new trailer and a new clip. Take a look at the trailer for yourself if you haven't already done so.
The clip we were shown focused on Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) as he is introduced to the world of TRON. We see as Sam is selected for games in the world of TRON and how is power suit and memory disc is selected. The footage really raised my anticipation level nearly to its breaking point. I am a die hard TRON fan. I've loved it since my father took me to see it opening weekend in theaters. Over twenty years have passed and I've waited, Disney has teased me and thousands of others for three years now at SDCC and finally we get to see a sequel. After seeing the latest trailer and clip I have decided not to watch anything else for the movie. No clips, television spots or further movie trailers. I'm already boiling with anticipation and there is no need to further ramp that up. I expect "TRON: Legacy" to be amazing and if the almost 8 minute clip we saw is anything to judge by, it just may be what all of us TRON fans have been waiting for.

Jon Favreau knows how to work a room. Every year that I see his name attached to a panel at SDCC, I know it is not worth missing. This year was no different. In true Favreau form the panel started with a sample of music to amp up the crowd. Fav's came out and began to introduce his cast. He brought out Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell and a few others but the best was dragging out Harrison Ford in hand cuffs. Ford has always desperately tried to avoid these types of conventions, but low and behold Favreau was able to work his magic to get him there. When Ford walked on stage, Hall H came unglued. Everyone was on their feet smiling from ear to ear to see a cuffed Ford. Favreau then began to talk a little bit about his latest movie "Cowboys & Aliens" which has only been shooting for about four weeks. He pointed to the fact he wanted to make a real western. He wanted to give the film a true John Ford look. He also commented on how the film will use as much practical effects as possible. He made sure to point out that the graphic novel adaptation wouldn't rely on green screen and cgi for the everything. Favreau then (to our surprise) showed the crowd two clips from the upcoming feature film. The clips did a perfect job of setting the table for a true western. Craig looks rugged in character as did the rest of the talented cast.
The first clip shows an injured Daniel Craig ride into a remote town. He goes inside one of the buildings and while addressing his wounds he is snuck up on by local law and arrested. The next clip shows Craig jailed and being prepared for transport. Just before transportation we see a band of lawmen or bandits come to intercept the prisoner transportation. The group is led by Harrison Ford. Shortly after a bright light approaches that soon reveals to be some type of alien spacecraft. The ship then begins firing on the town. The scene ends with the above still. Daniel Craig has had a alien cuff on his wrist since introduced and when the spacecraft approaches his cuff is activated. While neither clip was all that amazing, they both did a flawless job of showing the crowd the direction Mr. Favreau is taking the property. His look is perfect and with this cast, "Cowboys & Aliens" has quickly become one of my most anticipated for 2011.

One panel I essentially planned my entire weekend around was the Marvel studios panel. Marvel's panel was set up to be an extravaganza scheduled on Saturday at 6PM. This is one of the final panels in the biggest room at SDCC. In order to ensure myself a seat during the Marvel panel I planned to sit all day in Hall H. The programming wasn't bad outside of having to sit through a panel for "Resident Evil: After Life" and a scheduling filler titled 3D Trailer Park (that featured barley any 3D trailers). Trailer Park was put in after Comic Con programers deemed "Piranha 3D" too graphic for the event. Any ways back to Marvel. Attending SDCC with my wife and oldest son I prepared them Friday night by telling them that we would be getting up at 4AM in order to be on-line for Hall H by no later than 6AM. Our early rise was well worth it, because we weren't the only people prepared for an early morning. Hall H was jammed packed all day. People who waited till later in the day to get in the Hall H line, didn't end up getting in until after the Marvel's show stopping panel had finished.

Marvel kicked things off with "Captain America: The First Avenger" by rolling out both Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige showed the crowd a short screen test of Evans in the Captain America suit. Following the clip he stressed that suit seen in the test footage was not the final design. Evans looked solid in the screen tests, and he looked ripped in person. Dude was busting out of his shirt. A fan asked Hugo Weaving about the Red Skull and what his voice would sound like. Weaving said he was combining a few different dialects but then director Joe Johnston asked if we wanted to see some recent dailies of Weaving in character. The crowd erupted and they rolled the clip. The scene showed the Red Skull aka Johann Schmidt without the mask on breaking into a old tomb. During the dialogue within the scene we learn that the German army has found Odin's tomb and is in search of the Cosmic Cube the Red Skull is synonymous for having. Weaving who has a fabulous presence looked great in character. I can't wait to see more of him. Because director Joe Johnston really just began shooting that was all Marvel had for 'The First Avenger' that however was not all Marvel had to roll out.

Marvel next brought out the cast and director of "Thor." As usual the questions asked by the Hall H audience were a epic waste of time. Truthfully seeing the cast of "Thor" on stage was cool, but I was there to see footage. Without wasting too much more time Marvel had the crowd put on their 3D glasses and showed about a 5 minute sizzle reel. The footage shown was heavenly. I've been a big fan of Thor since I was little and lets just say, I love everything that I'm seeing. Asgard looks marvelous and the stuff shot in New Mexico is fairly impressive as well. The extended trailer didn't really give fans a gauge on the storyline outside of what we have already known. Which is Thor is cast out of Asgard and ends up in New Mexico. In order to return he must learn humanity. I loved the footage and from all the cheering it seemed the crowd felt the same. A friend of mine who went into the panel saying he wasn't so sure about "Thor" came out with a changed tune.

The last thing Marvel had planned for their panel was a roll out of The Avengers. The studio showed a 30 second teaser that featured the logo for the 2012 superhero team up film and then began to roll out the full cast. At this point Hall H was on its feet as each cast member was introduced including Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and our newest additions Mark Ruffalo as the Bruce banner aka the Hulk and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Once the full cast was one stage they stood side-by-side soaking up the crowd cheering them on. Marvel spent a pretty penny to roll out all of these guys and it worked flawlessly. Director Joss Whedon also came out on stage and was very humble about being selected. I really think Whedon is going to bring the right type of character development and dialogue to "The Avengers" and am very excited to see what Marvel has for us next year at SDCC.

While the Marvel panel was a huge success, it wasn't the best thing at Comic Con this year. That honor goes to Universal, Edgar Wright and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." Scott Pilgrim is a comic I have enjoyed but have never been head over heels about. I haven't even finished the books only reading through volume four. Most of the trailers and footage I've seen look cool, but I wasn't sold. It is something that I was scratching my head about considering I love Edgar Wright's previous films, but for one reason or another I wasn't all that interested in the movie. Comic Con has changed my opinion in a huge way. The final panel in Hall H Thursday was "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and let me just say it was one of the funniest panels I've seen at SDCC. Edgar Wright moderated the panel himself and rolled out nearly the entire cast. One of the best moments of the panel was when Michael Cera came out dressed as Captain America. Michael Cera stayed in the costume the entire panel and conjured up quite a few laughs every time a camera man would have him on screen. Edgar Wright had tweeted earlier in the day make sure to get a button while at the Hall H panel and near the end of the time, he revealed why. A specific number of 1up buttons were handed out and those lucky enough to get one were able to go with Edgar Wright to a local San Diego theater to see the movie. Wright also announced that he would be having free screenings of the movie the rest of the weekend at the same theater. So if you weren't lucky enough to get a 1up button, you could have two more chances to see the movie.

Our group decided we would take Edgar Wright up on that opportunity the following day. Universal had also rolled out what they called the Scott Pilgrim Experience. Across the street from the Convention Center Universal set up a huge booth that included a couple different events for the film. We figured it would be perfect to hit up the Scott Pilgrim Experience before going to see the movie and it ended up being exactly that. Our group made our way over to the experience to find we weren't the only ones who had the same idea. Much like everything at Comic Con there was a huge line. Luckily enough though while waiting in line vendors were handing out free garlic bread. There were also people handing out free Scott Pilgrim swag including free t-shirts that had various quotes from the movie. Lines like, "I'm in lesbians with you" and "Don't talk to me about grammar." Once we actually got into the experience we were given more free swag including another t-shirt that featured the teaser poster artwork on the front. Inside the experience you could have custom made t-shirts made featuring various Scott Pilgrim logos. They had live music playing in the back along with a gaming stations that featured the new video game available for download on the Playstation Network. The other part of the experience was stations where fans could have themselves filmed doing some type of action which would later be turned into a flip book. The Universal reps urged you to do some type of karate or dance move. My son and I decided to do a skit where he beat me up and it came out pretty hilarious. My wife did a great job pulling off a round-house kick that looked awesome in the flip book. Universal deserves a ton of credit for coming up with such a huge experience that had enough to keep people entertained and occupied without being all waiting. Too many of the studio booths have various experiences but their lines are ridiculous and end up making the event not worth the wait. The Scott Pilgrim Experience was quite the opposite. Everyone coming out of it looked happy and I know everyone in our group was totally pleased with the event.

We then walked up to the theater to see Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." Once we got there we found a huge crowd of people waiting for the 6:30 screening. The line was so large I was afraid we might not make it into the theater so I quickly asked one of the theater's representatives. He told the theater had a capacity of 1200 and we were currently at 727. So by that math everyone in our group was getting in! The Balboa theater then had representatives hand out wristbands to everyone in line so we were assured entrance to the screening. The line unfortunately turned into a madhouse of people trying to push and shove their way up to the front. It quickly became a moment I wished the Crimson Bolt was there to mash a few assholes on the head with his plumbing wrench. Seriously, too many people were just shoving and it was getting nasty. By the time we had got into the theater and were seated I wondered if my mood was too jaded for me to enjoy the movie. Luckily the on line events did not matter. We were quickly munching on free popcorn, drinking free soda and listening to Kid Koala spin on his turn tables. By the time Edgar Wright came out and introduced the movie, I had completely forgot about the bad line-up experience. As for the movie, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is incredible. I loved it. One of the best movies I've seen this summer, not to mention all year. Expect my review shortly.

In summarization SDCC 2010 goes to "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." The entire Scott Pilgrim experience was out of this world fun. From the panel, to the experience put on by Universal to the actually seeing the movie with a Comic Con crowd. It was a genuine blast. I walked away from the four days super excited about a couple new projects and every more excited about a few projects I already had on my radar. Comic Con is a one of kind event that is always a wonderful experience. What keeps me coming back is that every year there is something new to chew on and enjoy. Something new that I walk away completely excited about. Last year it was District 9, this year it's Scott Pilgrim, who knows what next year holds, but no doubt I'll be there to find out.

Stay tuned for a photo journal from SDCC 2010.


Like I said, one helluva post! Can definitely feel your excitement thru-out, which is great. Makes me wish I'd go sometime... almost. ;)

Look forward to seeing that image gallery (images here are excellent!).