While the TV world is concentrated in Pasadena for the Television Critics Association Press Tour, the worlds of comics, video games, toys and movies (and just a bit of TV) are mobilizing down in San Diego for the 37th Comic-Con International, running from Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23.
Zap2it took the short drive down the 405 to the 5 to get the latest scoop on some of the most exciting films that will be hitting theaters over the next year. Check back for updates on the clips, the director interviews and all of the impressively geeky questions. From "Spider-Man 3" to "Snakes on a Plane" to a new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie," we'll be updating often.
Saturday, July 22
Venom Spooks 'Spider-Man 3' Fans
Guess what, "Spider-Man" fans? The big villain in the next webslinging movie is Venom, who will be played by Topher Grace.
That's not actually much of a surprise, given that "Spider-Man 3" star Kirsten Dunst spilled the beans on the subject back last September. But Saturday's Comic-Con event was the first time director Sam Raimi and the other filmmakers were willing to admit that the fan favorite baddie -- an alien symbiote who inhabits a disgruntled and suicidal journalist named Eddie Brock -- would be on the big screen next summer.
The presented footage only offers a glimpse of Venom at its very end, but those one or two seconds revealed a dark and toothy looking creature very much like the comic depiction. Much of what was screened sticks to the material from the fantastic teaser trailer, though some rough effects shots of Thomas Hayden Church's Sandman and of the dark direction for James Franco's Harry Osborn seem promising. It's enough for another standing ovation, as is the arrival of stars Tobey Maguire, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dunst, Grace and Church.
The new cast members are particularly excited, as Grace puts it, "I want to see the movie more than all of you combined."
Church is quick to add that this isn't much of a stretch for him because "Weirdly, in 'Sideways,' I was also made of sand.
Although fans shout and cheer and beg for a second viewing of the clips, the panel ends with a standard question -- What super powers would you most like to have.
Howard, up first answers, "Teleportation -- to go to the grocery store."
Maguire chimes in with "I'd like to fly. And to be invincible. That'd be fun. And to live eternally as well. And have X-ray vision."
Church mugs, "I would wreak havoc with corn and I would be known as the Corn Cob Goblin." [His answer refers to confusion as to whether Franco's dark turn might make him the second Green Goblin or the Hobgoblin.]
Dunst closes things with, "I'd want the power to create as many wishes as I want."
Welcome Johnny Blaze (No, Not Method Man)
"This feels good to be here with people like myself, who love comic books," says Nicolas Cage.
Comic-Con crowds love that kind of stuff.
Cage continues, "We've had enough of the Supermans and Spider-Mans and we're here to kick some ass."
Well, actually, the huge main-stage convention crowd is really at the panel for "Ghost Rider," because the film is being released next spring by Sony, the same studio that's dropping "Spider-Man 3" in May.
The "Ghost Rider" footage presented to the faithful is somewhat encouraging, given how slow the buzz for the comic adaptation has been. Cage is obviously having a ball as Johnny Blaze, motorcyclist and vigilante, whose deal with the Devil (Peter Fonda, naturally) leaves him riding his bike with a flaming skull for a head. The transformation imagery is fantastic, but the fire effects -- the alleged reason for the lengthy delays on "Ghost Rider" -- still don't look nature. The tone, which director Mark Steven Johnson compares to "An American Werewolf in London," is muddled and comes across mostly as "loud." The audience cheers a loudly, but not for long.
The film's stars are eager to offer reasons to see the movie, both high culture ("These characters, in an almost Jungian way, get us through our lives," Cage says) and low ("It's actually a really beautiful, bittersweet love story").
Will 'Grindhouse' Be Amputee Porn?
Fans loved the clips from "300." That was great stuff. But the "300" clips didn't bring the entire auditorium into a standing ovation. The five or 10 minutes from Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" certainly did. To say the footage had everything a fan could hope for assumes a very specific type of fan, but we were able to spy Rose McGowan as a stripper, Danny Trejo as a badass named Machette ("He gets the women and he kills the bad guys"), Tom Savini as a nervous cop and, given enough time, Rose McGowan as an amputee who jams a machine gun where her leg used to be and, balanced on her other knee, opens fire on a gang of zombies.
I'll let that last image sink in.
"If there are amputee fetishists out there, I think this movie's for them," McGowan says before being assured by fellow panelist Quentin Tarantino that there are, indeed, amputee fetishists.
The Rodriguez footage was washed out and flawed to emulate the grindhouse movies that used to travel city to city, playing in double-bills often in the skuzziest of theaters. This collaboration is a dream come true for Rodriguez and Tarantino, who has been known to hold screening nights at his home to showcase movies of this kind.
"We want the whole world to have a night at Quentin's house," Rodriguez tells the crowd.
Rodriguez has nearly finished "Planet Terror," while Tarantino begins work on "Deathproof" in a month.
Some highlights of the panel:
Those pesky bloggers also missed five minutes of unfinished footage, conceptual drawings and models. I'm not necessarily a fan, but this stuff looks wicked cool.
Penguin Fever: Catch It ... CATCH IT!!!
Have movie studios dramatically over-estimated the enduring appeal of penguins in wake of the "March of the Penguins" box office? While Bob Saget's "Farce of the Penguins" isn't being presented at Comic-Con, Thursday afternoon saw both Sony and Warner Bros. present dueling computer animated flicks about plucky misunderstood penguins.
Receiving the most hype thus far is the Warner Bros. comedy "Happy Feet," which has the advantage of bigger vocal talent -- Elijah Wood plus more of Robin Williams' patented ethnical caricatures -- and an obviously higher budget. The studio presented the trailer and several additional scenes which confirm an early suspicion -- penguins dancing to popular music are invariably cute, but will there enough story to carry an entire movie? Oh who cares? Cute dancing penguins!!!!
Sony's "Surf's Up," about a penguin who yearns to surf, actually looked far superior, at least in the early scenes screened for audiences. The computer animation obviously isn't on the same level as "Happy Feet," but the project appears to be shot in a mockumentary/behind-the-music structure that may help it live up to producer Chris Jenkins' contention that "It's not just another penguin surfing movie, it's not just another animated movie." Then again, none of the clips showed the character allegedly voiced by Jon Heder, who has the ability to single-handedly turn me off of any film at this point.
Enough About 'Flyboys' ... Bring on the 'Stargate' Sequels
There's a hilarious story to be told about my exploding tire in the carpool lane on the 405, but the only important thing is that I made it to the day's first movie's session which was, naturally enough, for World War I film "Flyboys," which made an appearance because of producer Dean Devlin.
"This convention in particular and sci-fi conventions in general have been incredibly supportive of my films," the "Godzilla" and "Independence Day" producer tells the somewhat bewildered crowd.
In addition to screening two different versions of the trailer -- one rousingly nostalgic and the other exhaustingly action-heavy -- the "Flyboys" panel included one of several dogfight scenes in the movie, a well-executed sequence that seemed to showcase top-of-the-line effects as well as a resolutely old-fashioned sensibility.
But enough about that. The Q&A very quickly turned to how much people love Dean Devlin, particularly that "Stargate" thing. Apparently, Devlin also still pines for the movie that was supposed to be the beginning of a trilogy, but has instead spawned an unkillable SciFi Channel franchise. The "Who Killed the Electric Car?" producer mentioned that under his new deal with MGM, he's hoping to get moving on a "Stargate" sequel in the near future. He said that the sequel would pick up where the first film ended, rather than messing with the entrenched "Stargate: SG:1" mythology.
"I don't think it will step on its toes," Devlin says.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times