Monday, 15 August 2011

Movie Con 2011: The Good, The Bad, The Funny, The Odd, The Snoozers and Laughing in Edward Cullen's Face

So I've spent the last three days holed up at the O2 in London for this year's Movie Con event, or - now exploded version - Empire Presents BIG SCREEN, agog with preview screenings, showcases, footage, premieres, trailers, panels, quizzes, secret screenings, merchandise stalls, film booths, talks, and even the animals from Harry Potter. I feel exhausted just remembering it. But instead of chilling, unpacking my bag and cleaning the house as I should be doing, I am bringing all the culturemouse faithful up to date from a crazy trilogy of days. There are things that look great, things which suddenly and surprisingly look great, things which look hilarious, and things that left me cold. Here's a run down of the weekend's thrills and spills, and to follow will be the reviews from the event's films I managed to catch: Friends With Benefits, Attack The Block, Cowboys and Aliens, Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night. I promise not to go on about Jason Momoa. Too much. Oh, here's a picture anyway.


After queuing for an hour to pick up our tickets (tsch), there were showcases from film distributors 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures, as well as panels from Sherlock (with the brilliant Mark Gatiss: "that could be a 'nyes' or maybe it's a 'yo'") and Merlin, and Q & A sessions for some upcoming releases. Highlights included:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - a live Q&A with screenplay writer Peter Straughan and Producer Robyn Slovo, where they introduced three exclusive clips from the film (out September 16) including one highly suspenseful one with Benedict Cumberbatch (my favourite, probably 'cos they showed it twice!). The film itself looks amazingly intriguing. Not my sort of thing usually, but has class written all over it - and plus I need to know who the mole at the top of the circus is!

Demons Never Die - a Q&A for the new British horror film with director Arjun Rose and producer Idris Elba - only friggin' Idris Elba! - out 28 October, ripe for Halloween. There was no trailer - just a sort of sizzle reel from the film which is still in post production. The film stars a fresh faced slick British cast led by Robert Sheehan (Misfits), and is about a group of suicide pact teenagers, who aim to follow in the footsteps of a friend who has already taken her own life but are soon subject to a masked killer who plans to do it for them. Idris Elba was the first big name presence at the Big Screen and there was a real buzz in the room when he appeared which was fab.

In Time - exclusive footage from the film, which looked like a run of the mill new "high concept" sci-fi action thriller with Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy and Vincent Kartheiser (the wonderful Pete from Mad Men).

And trailers for: The Thing - remake/prequel of the John Carpenter film - I zoned out through most of that, clearly showing how interesting it looks; Battleship - you do not even want to know how horrible this looks. I am not tainting my blog with it, go and watch it for yourself. It's like Transformers at Sea. And has nothing to do with C9 or D11; Tower Heist - yo still got it, Eddie Murphy; The Darkest Hour - another sci-fi, this time set in Russia with electricity nomming aliens and the lovely Olivia Thirlby; Martha Marcy May Marlene - which did so well at Sundance earlier this year (although the Fox representative couldn't even get the name right - shoddy); and Johnny English 2: Reborn - I'm ashamed to say made me giggle compulsively in my seat.

Immortals - along with Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy this was the most exciting preview of the day - an exclusive scene from the new Tarsem Singh movie which I have been squeeing about for ages. And it looks amazing! The battle scenes are tremendous, and it has so much style. Can't wait for this on November 11.

Warrior with Tom Hardy (boxing his brother) was the day's secret screening. We also saw lots of clips from the new 3D Titanic, which, in a whisper, does look amazing and I may have to go and see it next April when it's out (I have only seen it once, and it wasn't on the big screen).


A day on which we all had our mobile phones taken off us for several hours because we had designs to record the NEVER BEFORE SEEN Breaking Dawn footage and post it all over the Internet. Oh blasted damn! All my plans foiled!
This was the busiest day of the lot, and ran over a good hour late so we barely had time to gulf down our sandwiches and curly wurlys. Showcases from E One, Warner Brothers, Optimum, Sony, Icon and Momentum (phew) and lots of directors on talking and talking for ages. Oh, and some of the best footage of the whole weekend. This was a day of total squee activity.

Final Destination 5 - never have I experienced so much cheering in a cinema screen. We saw the first 5 minutes of the film - aka, the prophetic vision from hell - and this time Death gets inventive on a road bridge somewhere in America, splitting it in two in the most implausible way over the ocean. Cue impalings, beheadings, getting smacked in the water and then double smacked with a car, etc etc. I swear Final Destination has just given up now, with the level of pastiche and laughable acting that was on show. Still, having 3D iron rods flying into your face was a lot of fun - I applaud them in their honing of the gimmick.

Kill List - Empire gave this 5 stars in their latest issue, but it didn't capture my attention. Now having watched three clips from the film, the trailer, and listened to a Q&A with writer and director Ben Wheatley and stars Neil Maskell and Myanna Buring this looks fantastic. I'm particularly drawn in by the recurring comment "you will be creeped out for days after watching this unsettling film." Ooh, I like a challenge. Plus the trailer is so hauntingly creepy, and quality for something that's, ahem, British. See what you think below - it's out September 2.

The Three Muskateers - an exclusive scene from the new film which, frankly, I wouldn't waste your eyes on.

Contagion - exclusive footage from Steven Soderbergh's human virus film - it looks too frightening, I don't know if I'll be able to watch it. It's not going to be a happy ending, is it?

Drive - we watched an ultraviolent clip from the film (which reminded me a lot of The Killer Inside Me - it's very shocking and uncomfortable) and then there was an engrossing and insightful Q&A with the director Nicolas Winding Refn, who talked about how the project came about and a striking meeting with star Ryan Gosling which was wonderful to listen to (I have heard the account from Gosling's point of view, so it was really interesting to get the director's take on it. If you don't know the story you can read about it here. FYI, Gosling thought he had been bored and uninterested in anything he had to say). The film also turned out to be that evening's secret screening, so some lucky peeps out there have seen the whole thing in full. You can too on September 23.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Guillermo Del Toro giggled with glee when he found out the Americans had given his new horror project an R rating for "pervasive scariness". We got to see some new clips of the film, long delayed but now out October 7 (hopefully). It looks a lot like Gremlins to be honest, but I'll trust it will pervasively scare me. Here's one of the clips we enjoyed below:

30 Minutes or Less - again, not something which caught my attention previously, but watching the 'heist' scene in the bank: very, very funny.

Anonymous - director Roland Emmerich (who looks like Christopher Lee) came on to talk about his new film (and new direction?) in which we are led to believe Shakespeare was a fraud and didn't write any of his own plays. We were subject to lengthy footage of this, and I got slightly bored after a while. It didn't turn out to be the dullsville Shakespeare film of the weekend though...

Arthur Christmas - the first Aardman film we got a sneak peek of was introduced to us by comedy legend Peter Baynham which was lovely. This one didn't look like my cup of tea personally (a lot like Flushed Away) but the next one did: Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists. Initially skeptical again, but the script is just delightfully funny. A great cast too including David Tennant, Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Jeremy Piven and Brian Blessed (that got a cheer). Director Peter Lord took us through a slideshow of all the characters, and footage from the film and by the end of it (which was rather a long time) we were all besotted with it.

The Amazing Spider Man - one of the highlights of the whole entire weekend - I cannot tell you how amazing Marc Webb's (HA) version of the spider tale looks. You may be non-plussed what with the Tobey Maguire franchise seeming only minutes ago, and the story being pretty much exactly the same, but the tone is different and Andrew Garfield brings a whole new goofy vulnerability to the role of Peter Parker, and there's a new villain too - Rhys Ifans' The Lizard. If the trailer hasn't whet your appetite, please believe me when I say it's going to be one of the films of 2012. I didn't want to leave the room - I wanted to stay and watch the rest of it (though that's impossible, it's not finished yet).

Breaking Dawn - Myanna Buring came back to introduce the TOP SECRET Twilight clips for us. They really had picked the wrong audience - as soon as we were told about "this scene involves a lot of sexual tension between Bella and Edward" every smouldering look from R-Patz dissolved the room into fits of laughter. I was so proud to be part of it.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Guy Ritchie came on to talk to us about the sequel out at Christmas and show us a sizzle reel. I haven't seen the first film and can't say this ignited any desire to get involved, but it was a good celeb moment all the same.

Haywire - this was a surprise, because on paper I wouldn't have anything to do with it, but from the footage we watched it looked kind of awesome. Even with Ewan McGregor's face in it. Steven Soderbergh's "other" film is about a covert female operative (Gina Carano) who is betrayed on a mission, and then goes seeking revenge. We watched the clip where she is attacked by and then thoroughly beats up Michael Fassbender - and I was hooked.

Total Recall - an exclusive five minute clip from the remake starring Colin Farrell. I don't think this even has a trailer yet (it's not out until August next year) so there was an impressed hush around the room when this was announced. Enjoyable, but I probably won't be investing in the full thing. I have seen the original, and this looks a lot more high tech but does have Bryan Cranston in it.

The Hobbit - we got to see the latest video blogisode from the set on the big screen, which was a treat. All videos are available to watch on the Internet, and you can watch them - and keep up to date with all the latest developments on the two films - here. Peter Jackson does like to keep us informed!

Welcome to the Punch - a panel from the new British crime thriller which was shooting just up the road from where we were in Canary Wharf. Director and writer Eran Creevy was there, along with star Mark Strong, who's in every film going at the moment. Again, not my kind of thing so left me a bit cold, but was great to have Mark Strong there. I wanted to get up and shout "Freak!" but feared people may give me dark looks instead of getting my Stardust reference.

The Woman In Black - OH MY GOD I'M SO EXCITED I'M SO EXCITED I'M SO EXCITED! This may have been my favourite thing of the whole event - a special Q&A and exclusive footage from the new British horror film about the "scariest ghost story of all time". It looks so good, I cannot even begin to tell you. Director James Watkins (Eden Lake) spoke of how great it was to work with Daniel Radcliffe (who, erm, looks quite hot in this? Ooh-er, I said it out loud) and Editor Jon Harris told us all how to edit a scare and the great (and terrified) reception they've had to test screenings. There was an exclusive clip and a rare trailer to watch, and oh my it's going to freak me out - it's going to freak us all out. Can't believe we have to wait until February 13! Great idea for a Valentine's date, eh?

And trailers galore for: Straw Dogs - the remake starring James Marsden and Kate Bosworth which I can't really see the point of; Paranormal Activity 3 - the "final" film in the trilogy goes back to the start when Katie and her sister were growing up and first encountered the demon; Moneyball - Brad Pitt's heart warming baseball story looks abysmal; Happy Feet 2 - I just didn't get it, I actually didn't understand the trailer. Are they all high?; David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Chris Hewitt called this his favourite trailer in ages; a random message from Sean William Scott telling us about American Reunion - the cast of the American Pie films getting back together (no trailer though); and of course The Dark Knight Rises - that got plenty of whoops from the crowd.

I also nabbed The Social Network t-shirt which was, er... maybe not so cool.


The final day of the film extravaganza and I was beginning to get a bit film weary (bearing in mind we saw lots of full length films as well as all of the above!). Saturday did turn out to be the craziest day though, with things calming down on the Sunday (except when MOMOA turned up to present Conan: The Barbarian and held everything up for about 40 minutes). It was the turn of Paramount, Lionsgate and Disney to show us their slate of goodies. As well as Mr Momoa, Gareth Edwards was also there for talks and panels, and David Tennant showed up to present the UK premiere of Fright Night and also ended up setting next to us on the balcony (he tiptoed in late and laughed a lot).

Real Steel - the award to most animated director of the event goes to Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) who was positively bursting with enthusiasm about his new robot boxing movie, showing us lots of footage, and then giving away free tickets to the premiere to someone in the audience who could answer a very hard and obscure Twilight Zone question - and then being astonished no-one knew it (a guy got it right in the end, but only after admitting he had Googled the answer on his mobile). Real Steel looks like a high end grimy Robot Wars but without Craig Charles. Not my bag of beans but you gotta admire this guy's commitment and energy.

Footloose - as if I wasn't excited enough already about the 1980s remake (you can relax and read the sarcasm through the type) we got to see an exclusive clip of the dance scene outside the diner. I haven't seen the original with Kevin Bacon strutting his stuff, so watching the trailer for this confused me as it didn't seem to be all about the dancing, ala Street Dance or something heinous like that. I'll be passing, though.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn - one of the most anticipated showings of the day was the collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who presented a sizzle reel of the film. It's looking beautiful and the script (penned by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish - how's that for a plethora of talent) is very strong. It feels odd to be watching a "serious animation" in truth! Here's the trailer for those who have yet to see it - film is out October 26.

Warhorse - then Mr Spielberg was back on the screen to talk to us about Warhorse, a feature film based on the popular book and equally popular West End play (maybe he does more work than Mark Strong...) I'm still not sold on a story about a horse, which will inevitably end in its death and make everyone including me cry. The new footage didn't do much for me, either. Jeremy Irvine came on for a Q&A and he's a bright young man. It's bound to win loads of awards...

Puss in Boots - the surprise of the whole weekend. I'd given up on the Shrek films a long time ago, and this was barely on my radar. When we were told we had 10 minutes of footage from it I probably died a little inside. But oh my word, it is HILARIOUS. The whole room was caught off guard with how genius it was - from the cat gags, to the Humpty Dumpty egg gags (I loved those. "Do you have any idea what they do to eggs in prison? I tell ya - it ain't over easy!"), the way Jack and Jill have turned into murderous thugs... it's as if Dreamworks have had new life (and a smarter sense of humour) pumped into them. You must check this out when it's out on December 9 - I can't believe I'm endorsing this, but you seriously must.

Coriolanus - and now to the dullest thing of the whole spectacle - yup, that duller than dull Shakespeare film I was alluding to - this is it. And we had to sit through stacks of it. I tried to have a snooze but I was so awake from trailers being shot into my eyes that I had to wait for it to end instead. For some reason (probably it's high brow concept) Coriolanus is getting a lot of hype from the Empire team - who have seen the whole thing - but jeez, it looked ridiculous. We're on different wavelengths here.

John Carter - another "super hero" film for 2012, but this one comes from Disney and it's immediately obvious. It's soft and family friendly, and the footage sought to prove I won't be amongst its target audience.

We also had the trailers for: Abduction - the less said about that th-; 50/50 - a cancer comedy that looks promising but unfortunately stars Seth Rogen; The Muppets Movie - I.JUST.DON'T.GET.IT.AND.NEVER.HAVE; A Dangerous Method - David Cronenberg's film about Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Jung (Michael Fassbender) and an unbalanced patient (Keira Knightley) has gone straight to the top of my most looking forward to list; The Avengers - obvious hysteria broke out amongst the audience when this came on; The Lion King (3D) - I wouldn't bother, it's more redundant than it is in Conan; Brave - a sneak peek from the new Pixar film out next year, but sadly that's all there was - not this promised exclusive footage which had been showing in some of the other sessions. That was a disappointing note.

The secret screening of the day was The Debt - something I have absolutely no interest in thanks to the presence of Sam Worthington. I would have run from the cinema when that came up!

I'm going to end with the trailer which was shown twice during Movie Con (to my utter delight) and is the film I would happily rob a bank to see at the moment. Like Crazy won Best Picture at Sundance earlier this year and won't be with us until February (sob sob) so until then I'll have to content myself with watching the trailer every five minutes. It looks perfect and you can add it to your subconscious now:

Reviews tomorrow, I promise (I have written them, I did them on the train back up from London this morning, so there!). Perhaps I'll see you at next year's event?


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