Empire Movie-Con III, Act II

Day 2 of Movie-Con seemed as though it was going to be the least of the three days – this is mainly because there was to be no big movie. Friday had The Expendables, Sunday will have Scott Pilgrim, but what it lacked in a full-length feature, it made up for with a wealth of movie previews, goody-bag contents and great Q & A’s.

Let’s get the so-so stuff out of the way – Little Fockers, the third in the Meet the Parents series, looked pretty lousy and unfunny. The only good bit was actually in the intro to the trailer where Ben Stiller gave us his ‘Blue Steel’ face from Zoolander. Always hilarious. Dreamworks’ animated feature Megamind showcases the whole hyper-kinetic, mildly amusing but ultimately throwaway style that puts the studio forever in the shadow of Pixar. Of the two previewed Zack Synder features, the animated Legend of the Guardians certainly looked very impressive, but not very special on any other level. The other Snyder feature, the live-action crazy-fest Sucker Punch, looked completely off its head. Having Led Zeppelin’s mighty ‘When the Levee Breaks’ over the first half of the trailer certainly helped to win me over, and the trailer has an exhilarating anything-goes mentality that could prove to be wildly original. At the same time, the film could turn out to be a hugely indulgent mess. This is the first time Snyder’s worked outside of his remake/adaptation comfort zone – without the discipline of a source material to keep him in check, Sucker Punch could see Snyder go out of control. Or it could be absolute genius. We’ll wait and see….

The new film from Aliens Vs. Predator 2 promises to be less of a studio-controlled disaster (although this is all secondary info – I have never seen AVP2 and have no wish to do so), and Skyline’s trailer showcases plenty of spectacular action. The characterisation looks very production-line though, so this could turn out to be cliché city. Time will tell. The third Chronicles of Narnia film – new director, new studio – looks decent enough, though I’ve not seen the first two, so I’m a bit ambivalent. Super-slick trash merchant Tony Scott’s Unstoppable is a reliably spectacular looking runaway train thriller with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine – Scott’s settled into a visually arresting but dramatically uninteresting director – this looks ok, I’ll wait for the DVD. Drive Angry 3D (featured here in a non-3D trailer) was represented with approximately fifteen seconds of footage, so nothing special to report there.

Moving up a few notches were Kenneth Branagh’s Thor – the 3D looked great, and Branagh made for an engaging interviewee (there were also brief previews of Captain America and a no-footage preview of The Avengers), and the final Harry Potter film(s), which made me want to re-watch the first five so that I can fully understand the sixth (there had been a long gap in viewings and I had to turn off the Half Blood Prince as I had no idea what was going on) and then arrive fully armed for the Deathly Hallows, which will be split into two films. Could be great.

The low-budget Monsters could be this year’s District 9 in that provides cheap-priced sci-fi on a spectacular scale – the director did a fine job in whetting our appetites, while the Eli Roth-produced The Last Exorcist looks surprisingly great – the humour worked in the first shown sequence, the horror just as well in the second….Roth needs to pick up his game after the lousy Hostel II, and even though he’s not directing this one, it looks a treat. The Saw films have been around for at least 75 years, and I gave up around the third or fourth one, but the decision to make this one in 3D could be a good one – we were previewed the opening sequence and the grisly gore looked wonderfully horrible in an extra dimension. Ryan Reynolds spends an hour and a half trapped in a coffin in Buried – the first ten minutes looks impressive, scary and suitably claustrophobic.

Jon Favreau’s interesting Cowboys and Aliens looks cool – Daniel Craig looks mean and moody, Harrison Ford actually acts for the first time in ages and the mix of western and sci-fi could really work. It won’t be Wild Wild West, that’s for sure. I never thought I’d say this, but the most promising film of the day actually turned out to be Let Me In. This US remake of top Swedish horror Let the Right One In didn’t sound promising, but the footage we were shown certainly swayed my opinion. Chloe Moretz (as the vampire) and Richard Jenkins (as her guardian) both seriously impressed, and the two sequences we were shown were respectively sweet and seriously chilling – there’s an unbroken shot in a sequence of sudden destruction in the latter sequence that looked amazing. Moretz herself turned up for some Q and A – Empire’s editor assured us she would NOT be quoting her most infamous line from this year’s terrific Kick-Ass – and her unforgettable performance in that film was most likely the reason she got one of the best receptions of the weekend so far. A surprise appearance from Daniel Radcliffe got an even bigger cheer, but then again, he is Harry Potter, Oh yeah, Cary Elwes showed up. Cary Elwes! Westley from The Princess Bride! He was here to talk about Saw 3-D, and he proved to be a highly amusing guest.

Prizes were given out throughout the course of the day – my fellow attendee was ‘lucky’ enough to win Clash of the Titans on Blu-Ray, but I certainly won out on the prize stakes, just for sheer obscurity value – somehow I now own a CD copy of the soundtrack to Cutthroat Island. You know, the film that bankrupted a whole studio back in the nineties. The same studio in fact, that made Terminator 2, which is on in the background now on my mate’s telly. And on that bombshell, I’ll leave you. Tomorrow looks set to be the best of the three Movie-Con days. Why? Scott Pilgrim.

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