San Diego’s Comic-Con may be the granddaddy of all comic book/movie festivals, but its little sister up north, Wondercon, is not far behind. Thousands of fanboys and girls descended upon San Francisco for the hundreds of comic exhibits and daylong panel discussions, their enthusiasm far from dampened by the clouds that also descended upon the city. Read on for a look at the comic- and action-oriented movies previewed at the fest.
KICK-ASS (April 16) HitFix.com’s Drew McWeeney moderated the panel, which included all the principle cast. The audience immediately started shouting, “McLovin’!” at Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who responded, “Guys, this is for Kick-Ass….”
What We Saw: Unfortunately the audience wasn’t treated to any new material not already in the green- and red-band trailers, probably because the movie is so raunchy and controversial.
What They Said: When asked about a sequel, Nicolas Cage (“Big Daddy”) let loose a HUGE spoiler (won’t repeat it here). Chloe Moretz (“Hit Girl”) said her mom read the script first, and was OK with it. Aaron Johnson (“Kick-Ass”) admitted he just ran around throwing his arms up in the air when it came to action scenes; he was busy watching Chloe do her stunts and beat dudes up. Mintz-Plasse (“Red Mist”): “I’m with you, man. We just got our asses kicked.”
INCEPTION (July 16) Director Christopher Nolan made a surprise appearance to talk about his mind-bending thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio. “I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, and I came up with addressing that through a heist film.”
What We Saw: A new, extended trailer that really doesn’t explain much more about the super-secret plot but shows off some spectacular effects. One shot has several people tied together floating and spinning slowly in mid-air. Entire buildings crash into the sea. People ski wildly downhill as the mountain explodes behind them.
What We Learned: DiCaprio is a master “extractor,” or “thought thief.” He and his team, which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page, can create dreams and steal your thoughts. Are they good guys? Bad guys? The tagline at the end: “Your mind is the scene of the crime.”
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (Sept. 10) “It’s sick! Sick sick sick, I tell you!” Milla Jovovich got the crowd going with this declaration, and by the looks of the footage we saw, she ain’t kiddin’.
What We Know: It’s the first movie since Avatar to be filmed with James Cameron’s 3D technology, and on that basis alone will be pure awesomeness.
What We Saw: Unfortunately the trailer shown with the panel was 2D, but it still looks amazing anyway. Director Paul W.S. Anderson clearly is using the tech to full advantage (“this technology has reinvented cinema. I wanted to shoot and originate in 3D, not use it in post-production.”–Hallelujah!) Ali Larter stars, Milla Jovovich returns as Alice for the fourth time, and the trailer’s full of major action and chicks with guns.
TOY STORY 3 (June 18) Andy’s grown up and off to college, so his pack of excitable toys has been boxed up and donated to Sunnyside Day Care. Only Woody objects.
What We Saw: Director Lee Unkrich introduced the series’ three new characters (the lion-like Mr. Pricklepants, Trixie the Triceratops and Buttercup the Unicorn) and the real-life actors read their lines over a scene in which Woody comes to life and asks where he is (“either in a cafe in Paris or a coffee shop in New Jersey,” he’s told). It looks just as good as the movies before it, but did you expect different from Pixar? Highlights included Michael Keaton’s Ken doll, in tight shorts and side-parted hair, falling for Barbie to the tune of “Dream Weaver,” and Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear assures the newbies that the daycare never runs out of kids to play with.
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (July 16) Of all the movies, this came as the biggest surprise—it actually looks like great fun.
What We Saw: In just five minutes, tons happens to the young sorcerer’s apprentice, Dave (Jay Baruchel): He accidentally ends up in an antiquities shop owned by the sorcerer Balthazar; finds out he’s destined to learn the craft; unwittingly awakens Balthazar’s evil nemesis, Horvath, who evolves out of a sea of gross beetles in the middle of the room; and witnesses a bone-crushing battle between the two before they disappear. Then 10 years later, Balthazar, Horvath, Horvath’s assistant and Dave end up in another bone-crushing confrontation in a bathroom at NYU where Dave’s studying physics. The effects look good, the plot and acting is fun, and lately Nic Cage seems to have all the right moves when it comes to choosing movies.
What They Said: Cage: “I genuinely like Jay. He likes to tease me; we were like Martin and Lewis.” Baruchel: “Now I can buy food and pay bills and not have to choose between the two. It doesn’t suck, that’s for sure.”
THE LOSERS (April 23) An action movie based on the comic book Vertigo, this pic has an ensemble cast as black ops CIA trying to uncover an assassination plot against themselves.
What We Saw: An extended trailer with a steamy sex scene between stars Zoe Saldana (“Aisha”) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Clay”), lots of stuff blowing up.
What We Learned: Morgan wears a black suit and carries lots of guns, Saldana doesn’t wear much and carries lots of guns and did her own stunts ("I really challenged myself. At one point I was carrying a bazooka 50 feet in the air, and I'm afraid of heights."). Chris Evans (as the techie guy) was barred from answering questions about Captain America, and would only say he thought comics make great movie material. Grr.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (May 28) Yet another ho-hum movie based on a video game and looks every bit of its CG budget.
What We Saw: Several scenes, the first showed Jake Gyllenhaal as the prince avoiding a marauding army’s hordes sweeping the city of Alamut. In the second, he finds out the mysterious dagger he holds can actually take one back in time. Lots of swirly light effects ensue.
Who’s It For: People who are into this sort of thing, fans of the game, or if you’re just not that picky. Also, anyone who wants to see a beefed-up, very tan Jake Gyllenhaal, who managed to charm the 4,000 people in the audience by blushing when someone called him “pretty” and flirting bashfully with another girl at the microphone.