Entertainment & Events

WonderCon 2012: Feature Film Highlights

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With Anaheim hosting the 2012 WonderCon this year since the San Francisco Convention Center is undergoing renovation, I seized the opportunity and had the pleasure to attend the event last Saturday.

WonderCon is a smaller convention, Comic-Con’s little sister, if you will.  Although, using last year’s figure, WonderCon is 50,000-attendees strong.  It’s funny how your perception gets skewed when you’re used to a behemoth 130,000 of attendance of Comic-Con (check out the full article from last year here).

Atmosphere-wise, typically, Comic-Con is absolutely electric.  WonderCon was noticeably far more docile.  In general, downtown Anaheim and its convention center almost looked like every other weekend; it wasn’t transformed or taken over by the event.

With more manageable number of attendees, shorter days, less programming and star-wattage, much smaller exhibitions and freebies, WonderCon was also a lot more predictable.  No parade of stars making surprised appearances and no extra footage that would induce mass-hysteria.  At the same time, it’s also nice that the lines weren’t nearly as long, no expertly engineered arrangement that would make the lines appear much shorter, no ever-present guards guarding those lines, floors and seats.

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Here are the feature film highlights of the day:

Trailer Park

This is when the fun began.  Trailers of a number of movies premiering this year, such as “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” “Titanic” (re-released in 3-D), “Wrath of the Titans,” “ Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” “ Prometheus,” “Hobbit,” “The Amazing Spider Man,” and a couple more.

“The Sound of My Voice”

Attended by the producer, writer, co-star Brit Marling (“Another Earth“) and co-writer Zal Batmanglij.  Although the first 12 minutes of the movie was pretty vague, we got the gist of it.  It’s about a couple of filmmakers trying to infiltrate an underground cult led by a woman who may or may not be a traveler from year 2054.  Two of the actors came out and talked to the audience as characters in the film, as if what they’re experiencing was the real thing.  The low-budget film hopes to rely on viral marketing to promote it.

“Abraham Lincoln: The Vampire Hunter”

Opened with a gag showing producer Tim Burton as a skeleton.  Director Timur Bekmambetov, writer Seth Grahame-Smith and actor Benjamin Walker were on hand to discuss this odd, action-packed sci-fi starring our 16th President as a superhero.  It’s explained that the inspiring story of Abraham Lincoln is a superhero; he’s a strong president who saved the country.  I adored Bekmambetov’s “Wanted,” but I’m not sure if this utterly weird mix would work.

“Prometheus”

During last year’s Comic-Con, only Charlize Theron came in to represent the film.  Director Ridley Scott, who’s still filming, appeared via satelite for the Q&A.  Here he’s present in person, accompanied by Theron, as well as Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class“).  Theron and Fassbender said they each had two hours to read the script before deciding to take on their respective role.  There’s a jocular vibe, including when they had to react to questions more personal in nature.  The second reveal of the trailer was fully embraced by the fans, although it’s never confirmed whether the movie is a prequel to 1979’s “Alien.”  Scott remarked that, compared to when he started, it’s harder to engage the audience these days.  Because of the technology, we’re action-filmed out and the challenge was to be original.  The questions were limited to what’s submitted via Twitter, perhaps to maintain some semblance of mystery.

“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Attended by director Rupert Sanders, Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.  There’s a major progress compared to what was shown at Comic-Con last year.   The filmmaker would like to stay true to what we know about the fairy tale, at the same time, presenting the story to a contemporary audience.  The footage looked positively epic in fantasy and scale.  One of the scenes showed Stewart, escaping her cell and sliding down a tunnel into rushing waters.  Stewart expressed that the hard part of being in SWATH was the physicality and that she got hurt a lot.  Having been injured when horseriding as a child, she wasn’t fond on getting back on the saddle but did it anyway since she really wanted to be part of this movie.  While Stewart seemed a little nervous in answering questions, Theron again was blunt and showed her sarcastic side.  Chris Hemmsworth (“Thor“), who was present at Comic-Con, wasn’t able to attend this panel.

“Battleship”

Attended director/producer Peter Berg, Alexander Skarsgard and Brooklyn Deckler.  A lot of the scenes were filmed at sea in Hawaii.  Berg said that he received a telephone call from Kevin Costner, who has the experience of filming “Waterworld.”  They talked at length about things to think about and watch for.  The movie marks the acting debut of singer Rihanna, who’s shown blowing off an alien.

“Lockout”

Maggie Grace attended solo and took questions from the moderator and audience.  She sounded softer in person than her onscreen persona.  In “Lockout,” she plays the president’s daughter who pays a visit to the prison in space and gets trapped.  The scene in the preview that grabbed the audience the most was the eyeball-stabbing.  Having starred in the critically acclaimed TV show, “Lost,” and sleeper hit, “Taken,” Grace seemed to have a good fan base.  In the next installment of “Taken,” it would be her character’s turn to save her kidnapped parents.

“Looper”

Attended by director Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception“).  What would you do if you were sitting across the table from yourself?  With the invention of time travel, the mob takes advantage of it by sending their target to 30 years into the past and getting them shot to death by a hired gun (Levitt).  The “looper” is sitting pretty with cash until he has to eliminate his future self (Bruce Willis).  Levitt discussed how he studied a lot of Willis’ movies, especially “Sin City.”  He mentioned that he had to sit in a makeup chair for three hours every day to transform himself to be a younger version of Willis.  While the change of appearance looked subtle, he further said that it unnerved his mother and best friend who visited him on the set.  It’s also the most transformative role in his career.  With an intriguing concept, “Looper” looks like last year’s “In Time.”

“Resident Evil: Retribution”

Attended by director Paul Anderson and star Milla Jovovich.  Jovovich was very engaging and generous with her answers.  She mentioned that she’s fan of martial arts and had a collection of weapons at home.  The footage started with an eye-catching opening, almost like a smart phone commercial, with separate individuals stating their names against the backdrop of iconic landmarks, and then switched a zombie-infested world.  In between Q&A, they showed a cool clip with a black-clad Jovovich killing off zombies one by one in slow motion in a whitewashed room.  Jovovich commented that filming in 3-D was harder because she had to get much closer and was afraid to hit her adversary, while in the past she didn’t have to make contact.  There’s currently no plan to make the sixth installment of this popular, video game-based movie, although they’re not ruling it out.  Anderson made these movies freely when inspired and not dictated by any studio’s timeline.

“The Amazing Spider Man”

Attended by director Marc Webb and Emma Stone.  Andrew Garfield’s (“The Social Network“) surprised appearance as a fan in a Spider Man’s costume last year at Comic-Con was one of the most successful stunts and he was showered with attention.  While Stone took the backseat last year, without Garfield here, she shone, responding to questions like a pro, including graciously reacting to a female fan wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Emma Stone.  Marry Me.”  She said she was introduced to Spider Man through Sam Raimi’s trilogy and then to the Marvel universe.  Stone reiterated that Gwen Stacy loved Peter Parker as Peter, but Mary Jane as Spider Man.  She went on to explain why Gwen was always in control and an overachiever, with her cop father going against her beloved vigilante.  We learned that Webb injected a playful side to Peter, making him a bit of a trickster, which was fun to watch. Amidst the breathtaking footage, one scene that stood out was the hallway scene between Peter and Gwen, awkwardly adorable.  The trailer erased any doubt that Webb’s version couldn’t compete Raimi’s trilogy.

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WonderCon was certainly wondrous and worth driving through slick roads and standing in line for the shuttle in wind-whipped rain.  Stay tuned for Comic-Con!

Copyright (c) 2012. 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://sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com).  Twitter: http://twitter.com/the_moviemaven

"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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