Archive for July, 2010

Fear and Loathing @ Comic-Con 2010 Part 1: TRON LEGACY, J.J. ABRAMS & JOSS WHEDON, THE EXPENDABLES and SCOTT PILGRIM!

July 29, 2010

We were somewhere around  San Diego when the geek-gasms began to take hold. I remember saying something like, ” I’m feeling a little lightheaded…” And suddenly there was a huge roar all around us and the streets were filled with Supermen, Wonder Women, Klingons, Stormtroopers, Steampunks, Zombies and millions of other costumed geeks. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Moly! Who are all these goddamned nerds?”

Welcome to Comic-Con 2010!

This year’s Comic-Con was something special, because I was there to represent the awesome movie podcast  THE POPCORN MAFIA, along with its lovely host Grae Drake. We stayed in an amazing hotel suite that was a light disc’s throw from the convention center and after checking into press registration on Wednesday, we hit the floor for preview night. I made a stop to the GENTLE GIANT LTD. booth to pick up my official Comic-Con exclusive Darth Vader bust that is based on the original Ralph McQuarrie design. Score one for the Star Wars nerd that lives inside me! The next day we made our way over to Hall H for the first panel of the day, MEGAMIND from Dreamworks…

Will Ferrell shows up in costume for the panel.

Tina Fey keeps the comedy rolling.

Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt's standee join the panel.

I’ve been a fan of Dreamworks animation ever since I saw ANTS and just recently I loved the holy hell out of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, so I’m really looking forward to their take on the superhero genre. This story involves two sworn adversaries that are constantly at battle: a superhero called Metro Man (Brad Pitt) and a supervillian named Megamind (Will Ferrell). But, when Megamind manages to actually destroy his crime fighting nemesis and is allowed to do whatever his evil little heart desires, he learns that a bad guy is nothing without a good guy to oppose. It looks amusing and has a very funny cast that also includes Tina Fey and Jonah Hill. The panel was good and Ferrell had some great jokes about how he was the only one who showed up in costume. Next up, the most highly anticipated panel of the day and possibly the whole con…

The Big Tron-bowski, Jeff Bridges!

Tron himself, Mr. Bruce Boxleitner.

The REAL creator, Steve Lisberger!

The TRON LEGACY panel was moderated by PATTON OSWALT and was absolutely mind-roasting awesome! The cast came out headed up by Flynn himself, JEFF BRIDGES, and also included OLIVIA WILDE, MICHAEL SHEEN, GARRETT HEDLUND (Flynn’s son) and of course, BRUCE BOXLEITNER (Tron). Also, on the panel was TRON LEGACY director JOSEPH KOSINSKI and the original creator STEVE LISBERGER. The footage shown was beautiful and exciting and looked stunningly gorgeous in Real 3-D. One long scene shown involved Flynn’s son (Garrett Hedlund) and his introduction to the computer game world in much the same way as his father’s was in the first movie. The flying ships that look like three dimensional versions of the aliens from SPACE INVADERS are back and they look similar, only much more detailed. Everything I saw has the same design from the first TRON, only more engaging and fully realized. The light cycle race looks crazy-ass sweet and there are fucking light cars, too! I can’t wait till December and you better believe I’ll be seeing it in IMAX 3-D for sure.

After TRON, Disney showed a teaser trailer in 3-D for the new PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie that featured JOHNNY DEPP as Captain Jack addressing the audience. It made me want some rum.

Then it was announced that GUILLERMO DEL TORO will be writing and producing a HAUNTED MANSION reboot and Hall H went crazy when DEL TORO took the stage to talk about it. He said that ever since he was a little boy and went to Disneyland for the first time, he has loved HAUNTED MANSION and he intends to make a movie that will honor how fucking cool and scary and fun that attraction is. He also said that EDDIE MURPHY will NOT be getting a call for this one. Sounds great to me, as I too love HAUNTED MANSION and can’t wait to see the marriage of DEL TORO’S mind with what already exists there visually!

PATTON OSWALT and GUILLERMO DEL TORO discuss HAUNTED MANSION.

After the Disney panel, the Sony Pictures presentation began with SALT. The breathtakingly sexy ANGELINA JOLIE and the very reserved LIEV SCHREIBER came out to show some footage from SALT and I must say that I had zero interest in this movie until I watched some scenes from it, and now I think it actually looks pretty cool. They showed us this really great car chase scene where Salt (Angelina Jolie) escapes from custody in a car full of cops and beats their asses Jason Bourne-style. That combined with watching Jolie’s big red lips tell the crowd how hard she worked on the movie from the huge jumbo-tron in Hall H guarantees that I’ll be checking it out soon.

Next up was the BATTLE: LOS ANGELES panel and AARON ECKHART and MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ were trotted out for that. The movie’s about an alien invasion and a group of soldiers sent into an occupied L.A. to take back the city. There was some really intense fire fight footage shown of the squad going head to head with aliens armed with advanced weapons in an urban street fighting scenario similar to BLACKHAWK DOWN. I’m looking forward to this one a lot, because I never get tired of alien invasion movies and war flicks and this is both genres combined. THE HURT LOCKER meets HALO.

Mmmmmm, pass the SALT please.

LIEV SCHREIBER talks SALT

Harvey Dent on BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

Feisty MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ fights again in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

Sony was followed by the Summit Entertainment presentation of RED, which is another graphic novel turned motion picture. This one features BRUCE WILLIS, HELEN MIRREN, MARY LOUISE PARKER and KARL URBAN, who were all on hand for the panel. The movie’s about a group of retired CIA agents who are forced out of retirement because someone’s trying to off them. Nothing I saw got me that interested. Maybe it was because BRUCE WILLIS couldn’t have seemed more bored and detached from the proceedings and answered everything posed to him in an unenthusiastic tone similar to a Cylon, only without the fun costume cred. Even the free swag for RED was unimpressive.

BRUCE WILLIS tries to stay awake for the RED panel.

MARY LOUISE PARKER and HELEN MIRREN are young hot and older hot.

Next up was the “visionaries” panel hosted by Entertainment Weekly. JOSS WHEDON and J.J. ABRAMS came out to discuss their bodies of work, future projects and their thoughts on the current state and future of fantastic cinema. It was very cool to hear these guys talk about what kind of things motivate them and what their influences are. JOSS WHEDON talked about how excited and frightened he is about the forthcoming AVENGERS project and his hope that MGM eventually releases his recent movie CABIN IN THE WOODS. J.J. ABRAMS had a lot to say about the forthcoming SUPER 8 and his love for old school SPEILBERG-style AMBLIN’ entertainment. He looks so cool in glasses, he made me wish I had shitty vision. I’m really looking forward to basically everything these guys do.

J.J. ABRAMS and JOSS WHEDON.

Following that, the testosterone level in Hall H went up to about 200% because it was time for THE EXPENDABLES panel! HARRY KNOWLES moderated the proceedings with cast members TERRY CREWS, DOLPH LUNDGREN, STEVE AUSTIN, RANDY COUTURE and none other than SLY STALLONE himself. Even a much more lively BRUCE WILLIS came out to support this exciting new throwback to the old school action flicks of the 80’s. This was the most macho panel of the entire con and I was afraid that at any second people could start fighting or fucking, or both! A few clips were shown, including a badass fight scene between SLY and STONE COLD where STEVE AUSTIN actually broke STALLONE’S neck for real! Talk about sacrificing for your art! This panel got me even more pumped up than I already was! I wanted to shoot some juice, lift some weights and blow something the fuck up with a bazooka while hanging from ANGELINA JOLIE’S tits!

TERRY CREWS is more than a little excited about THE EXPENDABLES!

DOLPH LUNDGREN comes in peace, but leaves in pieces!

GO FOR IT, SLY!

After the EXPENDABLES panel, there was a presentation for SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, but I was starving and had to leave to get some food. Besides, why watch a panel for a movie that I was just about to see an advanced screening of?! Grae got us both into a sneak peek of SCOTT PILGRIM at the beautiful Balboa theatre in downtown San Diego and EDGAR WRIGHT was walking up to everyone in line and personally thanking them for coming. No problem Edgar, your movie was absolutely awesome! SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a romantic rock ‘n roll action comedy that takes place in a comic book universe where our hero must battle the League of Evil Exes in order to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. The audience gave it a standing ovation and after the film, Edgar brought out the entire cast. Then the screen raised and METRIC rocked out for the crowd with a mini-concert that was off the hook EPIC!

EDGAR WRIGHT and ME at the SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD screening at Comic-Con!

The cast of SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD!

After the concert, Grae and I went to the MACHETE party. Sadly, we missed the footage shown, but we were still able to load up on some free swag and grab a couple tacos from the MACHETE taco truck. It was late and we were exhausted, so we headed back to our hotel to rest up for the next action packed day. Stay tuned for part 2 of my Comic-Con adventures. Nerd out!

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I’M AT COMIC-CON AND I’M COVERED IN NERD JUICE!!!

July 23, 2010

Hey, I’m at that nerd-a-palooza that is the SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON! I’ll be doing an in depth analysis of my experience here, which is already mega-epic with a side of awesome sauce and I’m only through with the first day! I spent the majority of the day in Hall H, where I saw some very cool stuff, but the highlight was footage and an amazing panel for TRON LEGACY. I cannot wait for that movie! I capped the day off with an advanced screening of EDGAR WRIGHT’S new film, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. It was absolutely fantastic and the crowd gave it a standing ovation that it damn well deserved! Here’s a few highlights of my day in picture form with more info coming ….

Nerd out!

CROPSEY is one of the scariest horror films of the year AND IT’S A DOCUMENTARY!!

July 14, 2010

MINOR SPOILERS!

I love scary stories. When I was a kid growing up in the mid-west, we would often terrorize each other with tales of escaped lunatics with meat hooks for hands. They were usually hiding in the local forest preserves, waiting for us to go exploring so that they could extract some bloody vengeance upon us for a past misdeed. These yarns would fuel our imaginations so much, that they would evolve more and more with each telling and before long, we would start to believe our own fiction.

One day (around Christmas time) a real-life horror story rocked my young world with the police discovery of over thirty corpses buried in the crawl-space of convicted mass-murderer JOHN GACY’S suburban Chicago home. I lived in a neighboring town and a few of his all-male teenage victims went to the same high school that I would later attend. It was very scary and it was all 100% real.

In the new documentary CROPSEY, filmmakers JOSHUA ZEMAN and BARBARA BRANCACCIO explore the parallels between an east coast urban legend, an abandoned mental institution and a real-life boogeyman named ANDRE RAND, who’s probably responsible for the disappearances of at least four children in Staten Island, NY. The results are very disturbing.

Directors Josh Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio outside the abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution.

Along the Atlantic seaboard, kids have been scaring the shit out of each other around the campfires for generations now, with the tale of the deformed, escaped madman Cropsey. The horribly burned psycho, armed with a hook or an ax (depending on who’s telling the tale) is a “fictional” monster that preys on anyone stupid enough to enter the forest he calls home. The Cropsey legend is often told at many of the sleepaway camps located in the woods of upstate New York and you may remember a variation of the story that’s told in the 1981 slasher movie, THE BURNING. For kids growing up in Staten Island, the legend was incorporated into the very real abandoned mental institution known formerly as Willowbrook. This is where the movie really starts to work its creepy magic on the audience.

Back in the early 70’s a young, ambitious reporter named GERALDO RIVERA did an expose on Willowbrook. He uncovered some really terrifying footage of a facility completely overcrowded with mentally and physically handicapped children living in absolutely inhuman conditions. At one time the patients outnumbered the staff fifty to one. Not long after the RIVERA report, the state closed Willowbrook down and moved most of its patients out, but some would return and make a home in the woods and tunnels around the vacant institution.

In 1987, a 13 year old girl with Down Syndrome, named JENNIFER SCHWEIGER, was abducted and became the focus of an intense search through the woods of Staten Island. Her body was found on the grounds of Willowbrook and before long, a homeless man named ANDRE RAND, a former worker at the closed facility who was living in a nearby tent, was arrested for suspicion of her murder. He was convicted of kidnapping through mostly circumstantial evidence and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Many years later he was on trial again, only this time for the abduction of another missing girl named HOLLY ANN HUGHES, and there are at least three others that he’s suspected of being responsible for as well. There are also a lot of ambiguities as to whether he acted alone or if he’s just an innocent scapegoat for the police. Some even suspect a conspiracy involving the same Satanic church that the Son of Sam allegedly belonged to.

Andre Rand in police custody.

Many of the discoveries made by the filmmakers are downright bone chilling. One scene in particular shows JOSHUA ZEMAN and BARBARA BRANCACCIO finding an old piece of news footage featuring a local reporter on the scene for one of the missing kids. Over the reporter’s shoulder is a young man from the neighborhood mugging for the camera. He just so happens to be one of the future missing children that police suspect ANDRE RAND of abducting. Blood-curdling.

This is one of the few documentaries I’ve seen that follows the narrative of a horror film. It’s really very frightening at times and like most good true crime stories, there are more questions posed than solid answers provided, leaving the audience to come up with their own theories. It’s the unresolved mysteries that I found to be the most haunting part of this film.

I was lucky enough to do a podcast interview with co-director JOSHUA ZEMAN about CROPSEY, along with GRAE DRAKE for THE POCORN MAFIA. Click to listen HERE or check it out on iTunes. We discuss the movie, the case and one of Josh’s film influences, the highly acclaimed documentary PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS. Nerd out!

THE LAST EXORCISM & CENTURION @ L.A. Film Festival 2010

July 9, 2010

I’ve been a very busy nerd lately, but I have finally found time to catch up on my blog about all I’ve been doing and seeing around town. I attended two screenings at the recent L.A Film Festival that were pretty cool and they both were held at L.A.’s famous Ford Amphitheatre, which is a large outdoor venue that normally programs live stage performances and music. It was really awesome watching two movies there on a huge screen with amazing sound,  right out under the stars in the cool California air. It felt like seeing a drive-in movie without the car. The first screening I saw was the ELI ROTH produced, THE LAST EXORCISM (previously known as COTTON).

ELI ROTH, director DANIEL STAMM and the entire cast came out to introduce the film, as it was the first time it had ever been shown in front of an audience, making it the world premiere! Everyone was very excited and ELI ROTH did all the talking, getting the audience pumped up and reminding us that the movie doesn’t come out till August 27th, so if we like it, we should tell everyone, but if we hate it, we should shut the fuck up. It was funny.

I liked THE LAST EXORCISM. It’s another one of those hand-held “documented” horror films in the style of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, [REC], CLOVERFIELD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc., etc. This one takes on THE EXORCIST, with a scenario about a minister who tries to expose the exorcism racket as a hustle, by bringing a documentary crew to a remote farmhouse so that they can film him perform his “act” on a supposedly possessed young girl. But, wouldn’t you know it, she is actually possessed and it’s by the mother-fucking DEVIL himself!

The cast is made up entirely of unknown actors that really make the film work with some very well crafted performances (most especially the two leads, who totally knock it out of the park). PATRICK FABIAN does a phenomenal job of playing a well intending preacher who ends up way over his head and ASHLEY BELL steals the show with her role of the demon-possessed girl. She’s cute as a button one minute and ready to tear your heart out the next!

There are some really cool creep outs too, including a scene where ASHLEY BELL bends almost completely backwards while standing up straight. It looks insane and I’m told it’s actually HER doing it! The ending is pretty crazy too, where we witness a satanic ritual that’s like an amped up version of THE WICKERMAN mixed with ROSEMARY’S BABY! It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it was a decent little entry into PG-13 horror.

OUCH!

The second screening I saw was NEIL (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT, DOOMSDAY) MARSHALL’S latest genre-bending epic, CENTURION. MARSHALL himself came out to introduce the film to the enormous crowd in the amphitheatre that night and everyone went nuts. I’ve been a HUGE fan of his since DOG SOLDIERS and I’ve been looking forward to his latest foray into the “sword & biceps” genre for awhile now!

CENTURION is about a bloody war in 117 A.D. between the legendary Ninth Legion (the Roman army’s greatest warriors) and the savage and barbarous Pict Clan (whom are sworn to protect their lands at all costs from any invader). When the Ninth Legion faces an ambush, which results in the loss of most of its soldiers and the capture of their beloved general, the survivors must fight their way back from behind enemy lines!

MICHAEL (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) FASSBENDER is great as one of the Romans trying to “bop” his way back home to Rome and OLGA KURYLENKO is one hot, dangerous warrior chick trying to kill him. You could make a drinking game out of how many times she shoots a Roman soldier in the back with an arrow.

The movie is beautifully shot in locations around the european wilderness and it just looks absolutely fucking gorgeous. Which is great, because the cinematography is constantly being splattered with geysers of blood and guts. Lots of beheadings, amputated limbs, eye gouges, crushed heads, stabbings and guttings to behold for all those gore-hounds out there.

I loved it! Great action and very good acting complement this muscular thriller, which features all of NEIL MARSHALL’S staples: gory violence, macho dialogue, tough female characters, and another back-against-the-wall plotline straight out of the JOHN CARPENTER/WALTER HILL playbook. In a way, CENTURION is like a medieval THE WARRIORS, mixed with SOUTHERN COMFORT, DELIVERANCE and ALIENS. It was cool.

That’s all to report on now, but this is gonna be a very exciting month and I’ll be reporting soon on some very awesome stuff (including my upcoming return to the SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON)! Nerd out!