Friday, July 21, 2006

Comic Con Day One

Comic Con International kicked off its 2006 session with more bodies walking the convention floor than even the San Diego event staff was prepared for.

Though Thursday's events promised much in the way of stars, exclusive peeks and free swag, it was still early in the 4 day event with many big ticket items still to come.

In year's past, CCI has been a launching pad for Hollywood's latest "phantasies" and this year promises to be no different. In an odd twist, however, the big screen is being overshadowed by the small. Television fare like LOST, THE 4400, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and even VERONICA MARS are all promising hints of the season to come.

Not that movies are unrepresented. As today proved, Hollywood has learned the merit of courting the geek vote and not just the studios are seeking approval.


In what initially seemed like an odd pairing of the ink and celluloid worlds, actress Rosario Dawson (SIN CITY, RENT) announced the launch of "O.C.T. Occult Crimes Taskforce" via Image Comics. Dawson created the book with David Atchison.

Dawson actually has a comic book heritage. Her Uncle Gus Vazquez is a penciller having worked on everything from "Green Lantern" to "Spider-Man" and now O.C.T.

O.C.T. follows NYPD officer Sophia Ortiz (modelled on Dawson's beautifully fit features). It seems there is a division in the NYPD that monitors magic users and creatures to make sure they do not infringe on the normal populace.

As Issue #1 states, "Manhattan is a portal to a hellish realm where the creatures of our nightmares exist." More than just being a BUFFY / X-FILES offspring, O.C.T. brews its mythology with bits of New York history. The Indians that sold Manhattan to the colonists... well, they knew the place was haunted and wanted to get it off their hands.

Atchison plans on employing other factoids of history as O.C.T. continues past its 4-issue mini series. A case in point is the use of an actual Blue Law that exists in Florida. The law prohibits the breeding of an elephant and a dog. In Dawson & Atchison's scheme, the reason for this is because something unholy could be spawned from such a union (the real reason... only those twisted Floridians can comment).

Dawson remarked how she respects the Comic Con crowd for the lack of butt kissing they exhibit. She acknowleded that the fans are a tough audience and you have to earn their respect. Obviously the studios agree.


Warner Brothers Animation hawked a trio of CG offerings. First up was THE ANT BULLY.

What can you say about a film which, at first glance, looks like one of Dreamworks' early mediocrities? The character design is not all that different from ANTZ and even sports big name voice talent (swap Woody Allen for Nicolas Cage, Sharon Stone for Julia Roberts, etc.).

Director John Davis (JIMMY NEUTRON) came prepared to show that, even though he's aware of the animated bug films that have come before, "The Ant Bully" would be different. It hurts, though, when you show the design process from storybook (THE ANT BULLY is based on a book Tom Hanks used to read to his kids) to CG render. Especially when the art from the book is so much more engaging.

Still, the humor of Davis' presentation indicates that the man's funny bone is in the right place. If this translates over to theaters on July 28, we could have something.

HAPPY FEET looks to be much better. The tale of a penguin who can't sing, but can tap dance up a storm is a hyper realistic look at Antarctic mayhem. Obviously the film will cash in on those wanting more MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (only with bigger musical numbers).

Director George Miller (BABE:PIG IN THE CITY, ROAD WARRIOR) sent a demo reel that seems just crazy enough to work. A mix of pop music (Chicago, Stevie Wonder) with celebrity voices (Robin Williams, Elijah Wood) is iffy on its own. But when you make some of those penguins Latino... then you have comedy! Seriously, having seen the film in action, HAPPY FEET may have us all dancing on November 17.

What may have us jump kicking is the CG version of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. We only saw a trailer and some unfinished animation here in San Diego, but what there was comes closest to the original comic book that started it all. These turtles can move!

The film pulls a SUPERMAN RETURNS and picks up where the live action films left off. Corey Feldman will not be lending a voice, however. Director Kevin Munroe has gone for more of a Kung Fu theater vibe and pulled back on the pizza jokes (though there is plenty to laugh over). The film opens in March 2007. Check out the trailer at the head of THE ANT BULLY.


LionsGate Films has proudly assumed the mantel of "House Of Horror". Their panel even began with a montage of all the modern chillers they've released (from BLAIR WITCH to HOSTEL). 2006 will add three new titles to their library: SKINWALKERS, THE DESCENT and SAW III. There will also be a Jason Statham bust 'em up called CRANK.

SKINWALKERS is creature effects guru Stan Winston's attempt at producing the best werewolf movie ever. After a perplexing clip that had no set up, Winston and director Jim Isaac (JASON X) teased the audience with promises of "werewolves that can kick your ass" and no CG effects, only traditional. All this may have meant something if they filled us in on the story. All the tight lipped producer and director would say is that it involves a boy, his family and two groups of lycanthropes with different philosophies. I guess we'll see what it's all about soon enough.

SAW III looks to be more of the same... and that's a good things for Jigsaw fans. Judging from the brutal clip, however, the torture series seems in danger of being an exercise in one up-manship.

Consider a scene where a man is pierced with chains through his shoulders, sides, ankles, hands and lip. To live he must tear the chains through his flesh or suffer evisceration by a nail bomb. Director Darren Bousman and writer Leigh Whannell (the same team for all SAW films) spare us nothing. We'll see if the MPAA will support their decision.

Is it horrifying? Absolutely. Is it necessary? After a fashion, sadism stops being entertainment. October 27 will tell if others agree with me.

The non-horror CRANK follows a hit man who has been injected with a poison that will kill him in 90 minutes. The poison acts on his adrenaline to the point where, like the bus in SPEED, if the hit man slows down, he dies.

Jason Statham is the hit man and CRANK seems to follow in the spirit of his TRANSPORTER films. The dual directors of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor seem keen on giving us action sequences that are more kinetic than usual. Mention was made of shooting a car chase with one of the directors on roller skates. I imagine insurance was an issue.


Guillermo Del Toro brought a fine conclusion to a full day at Comic Con. First up was a look at his new film PAN'S LABYRINTH. This is the first fantasy film to compete in Cannes.

Del Toro didn't tell too much about the story except to say it is his most magical movie and also contains one of his scariest scenes. This is one time where the audience didn't mind a lack of explanation. The visual textures of the sets and the nightmarish fantasy of the characters are enough to entice. Add a dose of social commentary about the dangers of fascism and we have a worthy companion to Del Toro's own THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (also like that film, PAN'S LABYRINTH is a Spanish / Mexican co-production in Spanish).

What Del Toro did do is entertain and encourage the jam packed hall. Del Toro, like those in attendance, is a die hard fan of the genre. He feels that most people simplify the comic book culture into people who argue over what suit some character wore. In truth, Del Toro finds genre fans some of the most well cultured and well read. People's prejudice against fantasy is where Del Toro finds his pride.

To that end, Del Toro went on to reward his kindred. He confirmed that his next project is most likely to be H.P. Lovecraft's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. According to the filmmaker, "If you saw the maquettes (of the Old Ones) you would cry and then jerk off in the corner."

HELLBOY 2, on the other hand, is still some time off. According to Del Toro, the delay is due to a slow down at Revolution Studios. The script is completed. Money needs to follow.

Joining Del Toro on his panel was Doug Jones, the creature performer behind HELLBOY's Abe Sapien. Here Del Toro geeked out with the rest of us in hinting that Jones is to be The Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC FOUR 2. It's still a rumor, but Jones, in a very legal manner, seemed to confirm it was a possibility. Let's see if anything is revealed at the mysterious Fox panel later this weekend.

That's all for Thursday's events. Tomorrow is a day of TV goodness. Until then...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

This One Is For Paige

My niece (pictured above) wandered on to my site yesterday. I asked her if she felt there was anything missing. She wisely replied, "Lady and The Tramp pictures." How could I have overlooked that?

Well, Paige, here they are!! I even have one Dodee can print for you to color.

And a big shout out to my nephew Joey who turned the big one!!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A PIRATE's Life For Me... You.. Everybody!

We have a winner in the summer movie excess-a-thon! Read my review of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAN MAN'S CHEST over at Monsters & Critics

Just remember... dead men tell no tales... or buy tickets to sequels. So if you're dead, come back to life already and go check out this film.

Also... let me know what you think of my new press photo. "Distinguished yet mischievous," says I.