Entertainment & Events

Comic-Con 2011: Feature Film Highlights

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It was the most wonderful time of the year…  For some of us, it’s July!

Last year visitors to Comic-Con had a blast watching previews and panels attended by stars such as Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis, Sylverster Stallone, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Jeff Bridges, Brandon Routh, Milla Jovovich, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel Jackson, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, and many more.

This year, with Marvel, Warner Bros and Disney pulling out, there was still plenty to see.  On the movies side, Sony, Paramount, Universal, Fox – just to name a few – came in with big panels, big crews and big stars.  I spared a little bit of time watching the more intriguing this fall season’s TV pilots, “Alcatraz” (Jeffrey Pierce, Sarah Jones) and “Person of Interest” (James Caviezel, Michael Emerson), existing show “Nikita” (Maggie Q, Shane West, Lyndsy Fonseca), and roamed the exhibition floors for authentic props and goodies.  But for the most part I remained faithful to Hall H (Hall “Hysteria,” as I’d dub it) at the expense of other press events.  First and foremost, I’m an avid movie fan.

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There’s nothing like being there in person and being a part of the pandemonium.  While it’s not feasible to include every panel and every detail and nuance, here are the highlights of some of the feature film panels: (grouped by the order of the appearance and studio)

DAY 1

“Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” and “Drive” –  Jointly attended by Guillermo del Toro, Nicolas Winding Refn, Guy Pearce, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman.  Both footages were freaky, in different ways.  Mulligan spoke of her admiration for Ryan Gosling (co-star, “Drive”), who learned everything about cars and built one himself for to be in the role of a troubled stunt driver.  A standout was a single scene where Gosling’s character goes from being lovey-dopey with Mulligan’s on screen to brutally crushes someone’s skull in an elevator in an instant.

“Prometheus,” In Time,” “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes:”

“Prometheus” – Charlize Theron flew in from Iceland for the Q&A.  She made a striking entrance and said in jest that the director, Ridley Scott, should have been there in person; after all, it only took seven flights and one chopper.  Scott, who was still filming, later connected via satellite and addressed inquiries about the space alien thriller and 3D technology.

“In Time” – A futuristic thriller and the one I’m most intrigued about.  In the late 21st century, time has replaced money for currency.  Aging stops at the age of 25 and you would only have one year to live.  If you don’t replace your clock, you die. After a Q&A with its director-writer, Andrew Niccol,  Justin Timberlake took on the questions most times, with Amanda Seyfried standing by his side. Timberlake admitted that he still carried idiosyncracies from the film.  Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Cillian Murphy also star in the movie.

“The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – The lengthy trailer of hair-raising sequences of chaos was broken up into three acts.  The trailer also showed Andy Serkins (“Lord of the Rings”), shooting scenes with the performance-capture technology, translating his every movement and expression into the ape.  Serkins was on hand for the Q&A.

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DAY 2

“The Adventures of Tin-Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn” – Legendary director Steven Spielberg, arguably the most recognizable filmmaker in the world, made the long-awaited trek to Comic-Con and greeted with a standing ovation.  The panel opened with montages of the most beloved classics; “Jaws,” “Indiana Jones,” E.T.,” “Jurassic Park.”  Another visionary director and his collaborator, Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong,” “The Hobbit”), made a surprised appearance, to the delight of fans. 

Spielberg described “Tin-Tin” as a dense detective, murder mystery story.  If Tin-Tin’s early footage was any indicator, we’d be in for an awesome adventure at the high seas.  The animators working on the movie are the same ones who did “Avatar.”   Spielberg divulged that his most favorite movie to direct was “E.T,” and produced, “Back to the Future.”  He provided  a scoop that “Jurassic 4” already had a script, and it should come to fruition in 2-3 years.  One lucky fan, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words of hoping to meet and handshake with Spielberg, was brought on to the stage.  Jackson hilariously embraced the role of photographer and took the fan’s picture with Spielberg.

“Haywire” – Attended by director Steven Soderbergh, Gina Carano, Channing Tatum.  It looked like a very cool, double-crossed black ops solider, spy movie.  The sneak preview showed Carano in a close-up, continuous scene of an incredible hand-to-hand combat with Michael Fassbender.  Soderberg wanted to cast an actress who could do real fights.  Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor also star in the movie.

“Underworld 4” – Director Len Wiseman was accompanied Kate Beckinsale and Michael Ealy.  The sleek trailer, featuring leather-clad Beckinsale in slashing action, looked more modern than the previous installments.  The stunning Beckinsale elicited adoring comments from fans.  Wiseman was open to make more sequels of the popular vampire-werewolf flick.

“Fright Night” – Attended by director Craig Gillespie, screenwriter Marti Noxon, Collin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Christopher-Mint Passe.  The panel opened with a humorous caution that this was a bloody-gory vampire tale, not your average teenage vampire (a.k.a. “Twilight”).  The freaky footage had the combination of horror and humor.  It had the it’s-so-bad-is-good feel.  Gillespie made a comment that it’s Collin Farrell being Collin Farrell (i.e., “bad boy” facade).  Farrell generated the most number of questions and laughter.  He did a nice gesture by giving away and signing his nametag when requested by a fan.

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” – Showed the daredevil filmmaking by its directors, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.  They were filming in moving speed, riding a roller blade and chained to a speeding motorcycle.  Both directors were present, along with Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth.  While the first installment was more of the “Grimm’s Fairy Tale,” the second one was said to showcase the nightmarish aspect of the hellish tale. 

“Total Recall” – Attended by director Len Wiseman, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Kate Beckinsale, Collin Farrell.  An intriguing futuristic footage and a dynamic panel discussing the premise; brain vacation and reality versus fantasy.  Predictably, there’s a comment about the fight scene between the gorgeous stars, Biel and Beckinsale.

“The Amazing Spider Man” –  Amazing indeed.  Instead of  strolling onto the stage like a star, Andrew Garfield (Spider Man) first appeared in disguised as a fan in a Spider Man costume, lining up for to ask a question.  He insisted to ask a question even though Q&A is typically set toward the end.  The hall erupted in surprised cheers when this “fan” unmasked himself and out Garfield.  Garfield was joined by director Marc Webb, Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (the Lizard as villain).  And the extended trailer was amazing.  The Lizard came to full view in a dramatic way.  Like Tobey Maguire, Garfield embodies that down-to-earth, ‘average Joe’ persona with natural humility and awkwardness.

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DAY 3

“Immortals” –  Attended by director Tarsem Singh, Frida Pinto, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, Henry Cavill.  The breathtaking trailer, in “300” style, gleamed in gold and featured stylish sword-fighting among ancient Gods and Greek warriors, and epic level of destruction.  It’s a swooning panel for fans with the handsome stars of “Clash of the Titans” (Evans), “Twilight” (Lutz) and the next Superman (Cavill) together on stage.  The moderator, knowing that fans would be interested in Cavill’s upcoming “Superman: Man of Steel” was asked to limit all inquiries to “Immortals” only.  Cavill mentioned that the hardest thing while filming the movie was to stay in shape due to the physicality of the role.  He playfully added that he had to work to maintain his form, unlike Lutz, who’s always in shape.  The latter comment, of course, drew out chuckles.  At the end of the –panel, Lutz made an exception of signing an autograph for a fan. 

“Snow White and the Huntsmen” – Attended by director Rupert Sanders, Sam Claflin, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart.  While they didn’t have an official trailer for the dark fairy tale, they managed to show a two-minute clip.  This high-quality clip, created on a very small budget, was exclusively created as a special treat for Comic-Con fans.  Photographs of the dwarfs and the actors in their medieval costumes also were also shown – Claflin as the prince, Hemsworth as the huntsman, Theron as the evil queen, Stewart as Snow White.  Theron was attracted to the role because she thought it would be interesting to play a character who’s so well known and turn it upside down.  Stewart was drawn to the character because she’s completely without vanity and doesn’t let fear affect her ability to do things she feels strongly about, not to mention having the chance to use cool weapons. Theron made it a lively panel with her fun banter and mockingly acted “evil” with Stewart.  Hemsworth joked about him being picked last after other actors turned down the role.

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Other movie panels attended were animations “The Pirates! Bands of Misfits” and “Arthur Christmas” with director-producer Peter Lord, Q&A with director-producer Robert Rodriguez, gothic horror “Raven” with John Cusack and Alice Eve, comedic action “30 Minutes or Less” with Azis Anzari and Michael Pena, ghost story “Twixt” with director Francis Ford Coppola and Val Kilmer, musical animation “Dorothy of Oz” with Lea Michele and Sir Patrick Stewart.

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There’s nothing like the largest pop culture event in the world.  Approximately 130,000 were in attendance for movie-marveling, TV-trailing, comic-channeling, star-sighting, geek-costume gawking.  The energy, the passion, the mania.  A sheer sensory overload, it’s a must-do experience at least once in a lifetime.

And that’s a wrap. Bring on 2012!

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Photos by Nathalia Aryani.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com. Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (http://themoviemaven.posterous.com).

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

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