Comic-Con

Editor’s Note: This review first ran as part of our Fantastic Fest coverage, but Comic-Con Episode Four hits limited theaters this week. Delivering a massive event with his trademarked smile behind the camera, Morgan Spurlock‘s Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope is the kind of joyous celebration that might also serve as a gateway drug for those not initiated into geek culture. It’s a documentary that easily straddles the line between service to those already fascinated by the subject and to those that haven’t ever heard of a comic book. It could have been annoyingly fluffy, but Spurlock has crafted a film that doesn’t just act as advertisement for the largest comic book/multimedia convention in the country. In fact, the question of whether the convention is still faithful to its comic book roots is at the center of the multi-faced exploration that gives the movie much more dimension than it initially lets on. The doc is composed of several stories – a pair of artists looking to break into the business, a costume designer and her crew looking to make a mark, a young couple who fell in love at the event, and a comic book dealer who is trying to justify coming back financially. All are woven together with expert timing (and a fun, comic book style art element that turns them into characters of a different sort).

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Why Watch? What if you found out your father was a superhero? What if he only played one in the movies? This short film has a giant heart beating beneath its emblem-covered chest, and it contains a brilliant use of Kid Logic – that pesky logic that children use which makes absolute sense but is completely untrue. Here, a young boy discovers a picture of his actor father on the cover of a magazine touting the return of a spandex-wearing hero, and he jumps to the most natural conclusion: that his father has super powers. What does it cost? Just 12 minutes of your time. Check out the trailer for The Legacy for yourself:

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Drinking Games

Do you believe in aliens? Little green men, hidden by the government for decades? Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the film Paul sure do, and when they meet one that sounds just like Seth Rogen, they simply can’t believe it… until he starts swearing and smoking pot, ’cause that happens in every Seth Rogen film. So while the characters in Paul are lightening their mood, you can too with this game, suitable for either the theatrical or unrated version of the film, now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of movie news and interesting links hell-bent on staying up with the times. Therefore, tonight it will feature a slew of Planet of the Apes-related content… Even though everyone is doing one, I’m going to point you in the direction of the Planet of the Apes primer over at IFC, written by the very talented Matt Singer. Why? Because it’s good, it’s mostly words and I found it insightful. Sorry it’s not an infographic.

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This year’s Comic-Con was predictably more quiet than in years past, so when Francis Ford Coppola announced his revolutionary presentation plan for his next film, Twixt, at the project’s panel, it swiftly turned into the hit of the convention (check out Cole’s wrap-up of the panel here for a bevy of other details and information). Coppola’s plan involves taking his film on the road and editing it as he fits for each individual screening, thanks to his own computer set-up and a specialty program. A lauded director using new technology to flip the script on how movies are shown, paired with some gimmicky 3D face masks and a talented cast, it all sounds like damn interesting stuff, right? So why is none of that innovation even hinted at in the film’s first trailer? Probably because a tiny Francis Ford Coppola can’t shrink down and fit inside everyone’s computer and edit the trailer as he sees fit for each individual trailer-watcher. Or can he? Okay, no, he can’t, sorry to get your hopes up.

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One of the few films from Comic-Con that I wasn’t looking forward to, but left feeling excited about, is Andrew Niccol‘s In Time. After viewing the sizzle reel in Hall H and interviewing Niccol, expectations got raised. Niccol isn’t a filmmaker that works all that often and considering this is his return to the sci-fi world, it’s somewhat of a mini-event. This is also his first action movie, and it is shot through the eyes of Roger Deakins. The action is apparently all running, too – something expressed pretty clearly in this trailer. Seeing Justin Timberlake run around for two hours isn’t exactly ideal entertainment, but there looks to be more than a generic chase film here. The world building comes off topnotch, Roger Deakins’s first step into the digital realm seems to be a success, and Cillian Murphy as the man hunting Timberlake down is an idea I can get behind.

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I wish I got this interview on video. Emile Hirsch was acting like he just came off a late night of drinking countless Red Bulls. The actor couldn’t have been more energetic and enthusiastic about everything he was saying. It threw me at times, for sure, but it was refreshing on some level. Here is a young actor that does not take himself seriously at all and that does not come off pretentious, at least that’s the impression I got. Hirsch was at Comic-Con promoting the under-the-radar alien-invasion film, The Darkest Hour. The film had no Hall H presence, but a press event was held at the pain-in-the-ass Hard Rock Hotel. The concept art I saw presented the film as an atmospheric and small invasion film set in Mother Russia. The aliens decided not to stop by Los Angeles or New York for the thousandth time. Here’s what Emile Hirsch had to say about the scope of the film, how it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and how Speed Racer was ahead of its time:

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This may shock some of you dear readers, but this year I decided to skip the Breaking Dawn panel and instead went with the Rick Baker retrospective panel. Getting to hear Baker talk at great length aside, it was a fun surprise getting to see his work for Men in Black III because of how exciting the glimpses were. The retro aliens that Baker designed looked fantastic. Whether the movie works or not, his contributions will be more memorable entries in his speaks-for-itself body of work. We all know the current buzz and rumors regarding MIB: III, but as Baker says below, its production is simply the way you make movies now. What’s going on with that film isn’t drastically different from most tent-pole releases, even the good ones. Before the retrospective panel, I got a few minutes to chat with the make-up effects guru on the matter. Here’s what Rick Baker had to say about copying the greats as a kid, acting like a schoolboy with David Byrne, and the difficulty of working on modern blockbusters:

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San Diego’s Comic-Con has come and gone once again with 2011 marking my fourth straight year of attendance. Living in Los Angeles, it’s easy for me to shoot down there for the weekend, but beyond that, I actually like Comic-Con, seemingly unlike the majority of my colleagues. It’s only been three days since the Con ended, which means the memories are still fresh and the bones still ache, so it’s a perfect time to pop some Advil and reflect on SDCC, on the good and on the bad. Without further words to flush out the introductory paragraphs on the homepage, I present to you Comic Con 2011: 10 Things I Liked, 5 I Didn’t.

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The theatrics have almost all but gone from Comic-Con. Last year it was a genuine moment between a young fan and Ryan Reynolds delivering the Green Lantern Oath that brought down the house. This year’s biggest scene was more planned out, but it was nonetheless genuine. Before the Amazing Spider-Man panel in Hall H, a crazed fan dressed up as Spidey rushed the Q&A microphone and started raving about the comic books to great applause. Then he took off his mask. And there’s video.

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Unlike Robert Fure, I’m excited for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Like Nathan Adams, I dislike — not hate — the first film and its Myster Science Theater-esque enjoyability. Understandably, there’s a lot skepticism towards this Ghost Rider installment. I mean, who wants to see a sequel to a film that very, very few people actually love? Not many. Lucky for them, this isn’t a sequel. The fact alone that this is a Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine “superhero” film already gives you a hint that this won’t be a run-of-the-mill action film. They’re out to deliver something dark, bizarre, and one of the few superhero films that doesn’t take itself too seriously. When directors has their lead pissing fire, the odds are something unique is getting made. Here a few things I learned about during the Comic-Con press conference that should make you excited about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

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On the final big movie day for Comic-Con, Cole, Robert and Jack had their sanity tested and almost passed. Proof of this came at the end of the night when all three ended up delirious in a fancy hotel room watching the Resident Evil movies. What on earth could cause anyone to watch those movies? Exactly. This year’s Con was subdued in a great way. The movie content suffered because of it (in terms of blockbusters and big moments) but it also triumphed because smaller films were able to have their day in the sun. Day One was full of great toys and strange Twilight moments, Day Two had R-rated pizza guys and a Spielbergian explosion, so what did Day Three have in store?

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While waiting for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson for The Adevtnures of Tintin press conference, I kept imagining how the duo would magically enter the room. First of all, their podium was slightly bigger than most there. Not too much bigger, but most certainly bigger. But what if it was gigantic? What if they wanted to stare down on all of us attending like Gods? As for their entrance, digital materializing infront of us would’ve been cool. Or if the duo showed up in a pair of mo-cap suits. Or if they were carried in on a Tintin themed throne. Surprisingly and sadly, neither of them entered the room that way. Once Spielberg and Jackson got to the press event, they delivered their thoughts on 3D, the determination of Tintin, and what they learned about each other during their first Tintin adventure:

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“Coming this fall: an action event from the director of The Cell and The Fall.” Yeah, it still sounds odd to me, too. Once it was announced that Tarsem would be tackling a big swords and sandals epic, it elicited a feeling of both excitement and confusion. As for the exciting part — wouldn’t it be interesting to see how such a visionary can put a spin on this genre and what he could do with an action beat? As for the confusion — isn’t this a big studio picture? With epics such as this, directors have countless people to answer to. But Tarsem didn’t seem interested in answering to those people. This a director that couldn’t have a greater distaste for by-the-numbers filmmaking. As he says below, he’s a polarizing filmmaker. Both The Cell and The Fall received both wild appraise and heaps of venom. Can Tarsem still bring that interesting polarization to a sizable fall release? From the sound of it, yes, he can. When I approached Tarsem to discuss The Fall and wish him luck on Immortals, the very funny and honest filmmaker ended up giving me a quick and unplanned 1-on-1 about not dealing with studio suits, his work ethic with actors, and the methods of Mickey Rourke.

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Guy Pearce is really good at playing assholes. He can do the nice guy thing or the conflicted hero as well, but I love me some Pearce in a-hole mode. Earlier this year in the fantastic Mildred Pierce, he got to play one of the most charming emasculated men in recent screen history. In The King’s Speech, he was a snotty old brother all about having a good ‘ol time. So what does the smooth talker from Mildred Pierce and the jerk brother from The King’s Speech have in common? Humility. Pearce is not one to let a human character be a monster for no understandable reason. He’s also not interested in having pure distaste for the character’s skin he’s inhabiting. In the (finally) upcoming Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, he’s filling the shoes of the neglectful father. While Pearce doesn’t view him as an asshole, that’s the word that kept popping up in my head when the personable actor was describing him. Here’s what the actor had to say about playing un-nice guys, the Memento Effect, his banter with Nicolas Winding Refn, trusting directors, and working with hard-boiled dialog:

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Andrew Niccol loves thought-provoking ideas. Gattaca, his script for The Truman Show, and Lord of War are works of varying genres that all posed interesting questions. His latest film, In Time, looks to be his most commercial endeavor yet. Although there apparently will be a few action beats, Niccol set out to craft a human story with social commentary. This appears to be, more than anything else, a love story set within a chase thriller. And that chase happens to look fantastic, courtesy of cinematographer Roger Deakins. This is the first film which Deakins shot digitally, and after the experience, the legendary cinematographer expressed the possibility that he may leave film behind for good. As Niccol describes below, it makes sense why he would. Here’s what Andrew Niccol had to say about the world of In Time, the Gattaca connection, Deakins going digital, and what to expect in the action department:

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In the rapid fire world of journalism, heh, sometimes you only get a few minutes with talent to get to the really great information. Then sometimes you only get a few minutes shoved into a tiny room overflowing with people shouting very general questions that offer little in the way of what we call “interesting information.” Today was one of those days when I got to share a room for about five minutes with Jason Momoa. Luckily the very tall and friendly star of Conan the Barbarian shot out some interesting information in this short period of time that we’re offering you up here.

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In one of the best panels in recent memory, Guillermo del Toro and Nicholas Winding Refn chose to combine their allotted time in Hall H (for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Drive respectively). What resulted was a rare conversation from two unique filmmakers who transcended the normal marketing mechanism of Comic-Con to deliver some insight and information about their processes. There were many different facets to it, and they talked about their movies some of course, but ultimately it became a master class in making films. So here’s a little bit of free film school from two visionaries.

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In Time was one of the films I was the most excited about covering at Comic-Con, and yet I had no bloody clue what it was about. I heard it involved some sci-fi aspect, a lot of running, and Amanda Seyfried sporting a short red ‘do. That’s all I knew. See how well-researched I am? Once I actually learned something about the film, there ended up being more to get excited about than just the fact it’s an Andrew Niccol film and one of the few original stories we’d be getting a glimpse at during Con. The high concept, which sounds a bit heavy-handed, is unique and looks well-handled in the three-minute sizzle reel Fox showed. And to be fair, the comparison to Gattaca carries that sound of potential non-subtlety, so I have faith Niccol will deliver a thought-provoking comment on “our desire to stay young forever” and “economic enslavement.”

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With little sleep and almost zero vegetables eaten during the day, Robert Fure, Cole Abaius and Jack Giroux gathered in their hotel room overlooking the San Diego Convention Center and a giant cargo freighter loading container after container of bananas to discuss what their favorite moments were. After a quiet start to a roaring event, the day was filled with fantastic little moments that made us all wish you were right here in the hotel room with us. Each and every one of you. In one room. While we’ll be calling dibs on the bed, check out the 8 best things about Comic-Con‘s opening day.

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