Empire Movie-Con III – Act III

Day III of Movie-Con III, and it was the best one. Also, the most anticipated, chiefly because of my excitement over the Bastard Hard Movie Quiz, put together by none other than Empire’s resident movie genius Kim Newman, and of course, the UK premiere of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World! The day started off with 3D footage from Tron: Legacy, described as a ‘stand alone sequel’ to the cult 1982 Disney film. The original Tron lacked much character and story, but it more than made up for it with the sheer wondrousness of the visuals – Jeff Bridges INSIDE a video game made for something special. The visuals in this sequel are less stark but a bit more drab and grey than before – personally, it looked as though the 3D (or at least my 3D glasses) were a little off, because I didn’t really notice the 3D effects much….my fellow attendee felt the same. Weird. This was followed by a ‘comedy’ sketch by Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow promoting the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film – I hated the first one and didn’t bother with the sequels, so this is definitely a no-no.

Sony’s bunch of trailers were a mixed bag – the Angelina Jolie action thriller Salt looks spectacular enough, could be quite fun, the teen comedy Easy A looked pretty average, but things got much better with The Other Guys, an action comedy with Will Ferret and Mark Wahlbergthat looked insanely hilarious. Completely tasteless, but utterly hilarious. Battle: Los Angeles looked utterly blinding – a proper balls-to-the-wall action adventure about aliens (lots of films about aliens this weekend, it must be said) ripping LA to shreds. Looked very exciting.

Next up was the frankly outrageous trailer to Machete – a ludicrously exploitative revenge thriller that originally started as a fake trailer at the start of the Grindhouse double-feature but is now an actual film. Mexican behemoth Danny Trejo actually abseils down the outside of a building with a bad guy’s intestines – the gore is way, way over the top, there’s loads of nudity and trashy dialogue….it looks amazing. If you’re going to make trash, then go for it throttle. Machete is going full throttle and then some. Then there’s the new Resident Evil film; this time it’s in 3D, and we get a lot of spiel from Paul Anderson about how the RS series and 3D is a natural match and blah, blah, blah…..Anderson seriously hasn’t made a good film since Event Horizon, and that was over ten years ago. The footage here looked entertaining enough, but we’ve seen it all before, no matter how many dimensions it’s been presented in.

One of the day’s big highlights was the appearance of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – they helped make Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz some of the most deservedly beloved slices of fried gold to be made in the last fifteen years, and even though their new film Paul looks like a pretty damn funny road movie (with aliens) and nothing more (though please, please prove me wrong), they make a great double-act on stage and on screen, so bring it on! If Let Me In was the big surprise of Saturday (in that it actually looks really, really good), the medieval epic Ironclad (about King John’s siege of a rebel fortress) was the big unexpected treat of Sunday. A great cast (Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, a surprisingly tough-nut Mackenzie Crook) and a ten minute battle sequence that was seriously tense and brutal, this looked great and I’ll definitely be seeing this.

Star Wars-loving comedy Fanboys (about a bunch of geeks who try and break into George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch) looks like a lot of fun – while the remake of Brighton Rock looked very impressive. Updated to the sixties and closer to the novel, this promises to be very atmospheric and Sam Riley (Ian Curtis in Control) has presence in abundance. After a brief video clip from Duncan Jones about his upcoming film Source Code, we moved onto Kim Newman’s Bastard Hard Movie Quiz, which I couldn’t wait to participate in as I love geeky quizzes, and this one was pretty cool. Guess the film from the credit sequence (with the title obviously blurred out), guess the actor from the character they played, guess the character from the range of actors who played them, a ‘threequel’ themed round, and a ‘what happened next’ round….did I say that Ironclad was the big surprise of the day? Okay, more than that, I didn’t expect to win the bloomin’ quiz! Very, very chuffed, couldn’t believe I won, so very happy!

After that buzz, we got to see Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, which is probably my most anticipated film of the year – I LOVE the Bryan Lee O’ Malley comic series, and Edgar Wright is such a great director, so expectations were high. Wright’s nailed the visual element perfectly – this is easily his most technically extraordinary film to date. The cast is perfect – I was worried that Michael Cera would be too soft to capture the manicness and madness of Scott, but he’s wonderful. Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes for a great Ramona Flowers, but unfortunately the film cuts out a lot of their more dramatic and relationship-based sequences, so their chemistry isn’t as strong as it was in the books. This is probably because Wright has had to condense six books into two hours, and as a  result, some great stuff gets removed. There’s no Lisa Miller (booo!!!), no Joseph, none of Knives Chau’s family, and the run of fight sequences are too closely sequenced together. This makes for an unrelentingly exhilarating experience, but the joy of the books was the normality of the characters lives in-between the fights, and because this is severely reduced, we don’t feel for the characters as much as before. I suppose it wouldn’t have made for gripping cinema, but I love the sub-plot where Scott’s band Sex Bob-Omb get stuck in mixing limbo as Stephen Stills and Joseph become obsessed with tweaking the band’s music on a laptop. The rest of the cast is peerless – Knives Chau, Stephen Stills (for a reason I can’t quite figure out, is my favourite character in the books), Wallace, Kim, Gideon, Lucas Lee, Todd…all perfect. The countless references to 8-16 bit era video games was just glorious, from the heavily pixellated Universal logo to the rather sweet reworking of the lullaby theme from The Legend of Zelda (which Wright had to get permission from Nintendo to use), it all brought a big smile to my face. The action is terrific, the humour sharp and clever…it’s a great film, but in the end, it’s only a great film, whereas the books were just utterly, amazingly wonderful. Still, I want to watch it again, so it’s obviously done loads and loads of things right. Scott Pilgrim. Rating – Awesome!

And so we come to the end of a wonderful weekend, what a great time I had! Roll on next year! If I can get a ticket of course!

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