Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Friday I made it a point to be in Hall H in the morning. Hall H is where the big studios shill their stuff, and Thursday I'd missed the Paramount presentation, which, from what Tim's friend Amber had described, sounded fantastic, with stuff about the new Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Beowulf, and Stardust. I learned later that there was even a full screening of Stardust.

So I caught the Warner Brothers presentation on Friday. Hall H is the biggest panel room in the convention centre, but there are always thousands of people trying to get in, so this year the line stretched outside the convention centre and wrapped around the back of the building. I had to wait under the sun once this year, after all. Matters were made worse by the poor separation of lines--I saw a skinny Superman near the front of one line, only to later see him gloomily trudging to the back of the line I'd gotten into. Overhead, a skywriter wrote, "HA HA HA." This turned out to be marketing for the new Batman movie, but the Joker's sting was felt by many that day, I think.

Actually, the line starting moving pretty fast after I'd gotten into it. It wasn't long before I was in the big dark chambre where I'd seen the absolutely wonderful panel for Grindhouse last year, though I wasn't to see anything half as interesting this year. Immediately upon entering the room, everyone was handed big white t-shirts with "CONTROL" printed in big black letters on the front and "KAOS" on the back. This was for the new Get Smart movie, and the film's director, Peter Segal, appearing on stage, followed shortly by cast members Nate Torrence, Masi Oka, Ken Davitian, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Steve Carell.

I'm a big fan of Steve Carell, despite the fact that I have trouble maintaining awareness of Evan Almighty. He was my favourite correspondent on The Daily Show, he was the best part of Little Miss Sunshine, he's great in the American version of The Office, and I even liked The 40 Year-Old Virgin.

Vague speculation I'd heard months ago that Carell actually might have a tighter grip on Get Smart's creative reins than its mediocre director seems perhaps to have been accurate. Carell unabashedly answered a question about the movie's vision;

"I wanted the world to feel like the world of The Bourne Identity." When people laughed, he said, "No, I'm serious." He explained the threat in the movie, personified in a villain played by Terrance Stamp, is meant to seem very real. Carell said he didn't want an unrealistic world around his bumbling character because, in his opinion, it's much funnier when such a character is up against realism.

I'm not sure I think it's necessarily funnier, though I think it can be. But it might make for a better film. Certainly such a philosophy falls in line with all of Carell's best work to date.

The Rock was actually pretty charming, and I'm always surprised by how much I like him in interviews, despite the fact that I've never felt slightly inclined to see one of his movies. There's actually an affable guy under the thick gloss of fake sweat. When a kid asked if they had any funny, behind-the-scenes stories, Carell said, "Peter Segal never wore pants for the entire shoot." The Rock added, "Yeah, and he always wanted us to call him 'Big P'."

Masi Oka received an enormous applause when he came on stage, and several feminine screams of adoration. He always seemed awe-struck by what had probably been a pretty consistently effusive fan-reaction at the Con. He awkwardly explained his and Nate Torrence's roles in Get Smart as being tech guys, sort of the movie's Q, but explained their gadgets don't always work properly, adding a very self-conscious sounding, "Yikes."

Ken Davitian, a large man who played Azamat Bagatov in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, last appeared at Comic-Con in the form of some preview footage of himself and Sacha Baron Cohen fighting naked in a hotel. So when asked about his role in Get Smart, he replied simply, "I get to wear clothes."

The notorious nude footage had apparently been a point of discord between Twentieth Century Fox and the Comic-Con administration as those latter folks, trying to market the Con as a family event, were unhappy not to've been told about the Borat footage ahead of time. So this year, Con administrators insisted on screening any footage studios planned to present before it appeared before the Con audience. Which was kind of funny in light of the fact that, after Get Smart, Warner Brothers gave us two fairly gore and horror laden previews. First to The Invasion, which was accompanied only by a perfunctory and substanceless recorded introduction by Nicole Kidman, and then for a remake of a Takashi Miike movie called One Missed Call. The movie's stars, Edward Burns and Shannyn Sossamon, appeared onstage. She seemed incredibly nervous, while he seemed comfortable and charming, explaining he plays "the cop with the heart of gold who doesn't try to sleep with her."

After them came the gory trailer for Whiteout. Appearing on stage were producer Joel Silver, director Dominic Sena, creator of the source comic Greg Rucka, and, after a fifteen minute delay, the film's star, Kate Beckinsale. Beckinsale is another one of those stars who's so much better to see interviewed than to see acting in a movie. She seems to be one of the most charming people in Hollywood, making cute references to crewmembers groaning whenever she bent over during the filming of Underworld, and gamely grinning and waving at the audience as the panel ended. I get the impression that she has kind of a domineering husband, though, as she kept prefacing things by saying, "Well, my husband would think," or, "My husband probably wouldn't want me to." She also explained she probably wouldn't be in a James Bond movie because it would require her to appear in her underwear, and she thinks she's "getting a bit elderly for that." For the record, she's thirty-four. No-one throw beverages at her, okay? She seems really sweet otherwise.

The funniest part, though, was when a small kid asked a twitching Dominic Sena, who looked like he'd just snorted a Radio Flyer wagon full of cocaine, if the cast and crew played any pranks on each other.

"Oh, they're probably a little too X rated for you," he said. "They involve Kate and dildos . . ."

A moment later, Greg Rucka said to Sena, "You realise that kid was like seven, right?"

The big event of the Warner Brothers presentation, though, was Zack Snyder, who appeared at first alone onstage, but was later joined by two cast members of his upcoming Watchmen film, Malin Akerman, who'll play Laurie, and Jackie Earle Haley, who'll play Rorschach. Both actors, I'll admit, actually look like their roles. Though they didn't get to speak at all. I heard Haley say, "That's passion" to Akerman when a fan dressed as Rorschach got up to ask a question, but otherwise it was only an intriguingly inarticulate Zack Snyder speaking.

As much as I didn't like 300, I felt kind of bad for Snyder when someone asked him if Watchmen might finally be the movie Alan Moore keeps his name on. Snyder sadly replied, "No, he's already said he doesn't want his name on the movie." He said, "We all want to please Alan . . . it's not so much to ask, wanting the guy who actually creating the fucking thing to like your movie . . . I just hope some rainy day in England he'll put in the DVD--and he probably won't--and say, 'They didn't fuck it up that much.'"

I must say, though, that if I'd never seen 300 and I didn't think Watchmen could be done in under a five hour running time, I'd actually be pretty optimistic for the film based on what Snyder said; it's going to be rated R, it's set in the 1980s, Snyder wants to include the Black Freighter segments, and he even wants to keep Sally Jupiter's poodle haircut.

Well, that's all I have time for to-day, and I still haven't told everything interesting about Friday. Tune in next time . . .

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