Saturday, 15 August 2009

Movie-con: Day 1

Movie-con is run by the BFI and Empire magazine as London's answer to the San Diego Comic-con. Over two days, movie geeks fill the BFI Southbank for previews of coming films, special guests, goodie bags and so on. OK, so we had to check in our mobile phones with burly security guards outside! Today was certainly not a disappointment, with all kinds of pretty spectacular surprises...

The day was hosted by Empire's rather hilarious Chris Hewitt, who kicked things off with a special video message from Peter Jackson followed by a making-of doc, special footage and the trailer for The Lovely Bones. This was followed by a series of Universal trailers: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant looks very cool and a bit nuts; Couples Retreat seems rather silly; Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying looks like it's hilarious; Taking Woodstock seems strangely lightweight for Ang Lee; The Soloist trailer is actually more energetic than the film.

Up next was E1, with a series of scenes from Astro Boy, a 3D anime that looks like great fun, wiht big action sequences and a sharp sense of humour. Sorority Row looks hilariously grisly (and the trailer is stolen by Carrie Fisher); and then we saw a scene from The Twilight Saga: New Moon that ends with Taylor Lautner gratuitously removing his shirt to reveal his outrageously pumped abs. The first special guest on stage was the confident, floppy-haired Jamie Campbell Bower (pictured right), who plays Caius. A couple of trailers followed for two films I've seen: the uber-gothic new Dorian Gray and Luc Besson's free-running mega-action sequel District 13: Ultimatum.

Next on stage were director Daniel Barber and actor Sean Harris to talk about and show three jaw-dropping clips for the new Michael Caine vigilante thriller Harry Brown. Daniel chatted openly about meeting Sir Michael for the first time and working with him; Sean admitted stealing an effective hand gesture from Robert DeNiro. Two more trailers followed: the Saw VI teaser and another vampire movie, the futuristic Daybreakers, which looks seriously stylish and creepy.

Then it was Terry Gillaim on stage, hilariously joking his way through a terrific introduction to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and showed us three tantalising clips plus a superb new trailer. His shark, quick wit kept things very lively through a terrific Q&A as well. And after lunch there were more guests on stage: actors Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jason Flemyng plus film editor Jon Harris came along with a series of terrific scenes from Kick-Ass, including a raucous trailer. Their Q&A was great fun as well - and the film looks pretty unmissable. After them, director Christopher Smith took the stage for a Q&A after an extended scene from his new cruise-ship thriller Triangle.

And now it was time for the surprise film, which revealed itself with the first title card "Peter Jackson Presents", bringing out a noisy cheer from the audience. I think District 9 was my first choice for this slot, so I was pretty happy - and what a terrific film it is! An alien invasion thriller with a serious twist, relentless pacing and depth both politically and emotionally.

Following this couldn't have been easy, but Warner Bros outdid themselves. We had an extremely grisly trailer for the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street; an even more gruesome trailer for Jonah Hex, a supernatural Western starring Josh Brolin with some pretty nasty facial scarring; a behind-the-scenes look at Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, featuring lots of clips of Jonze, writer Maurice Sendak and cowriter Dave Eggers, plus a new trailer for the film; and a frantically staged, and hysterically blood-spilling climactic fight scene from Ninja Assassin. Finally, to present footage from Sherlock Holmes, we had a special live visit on stage from Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr, who joked and teased each other as they talked about the film and then introduced an extremely long preview trailer.

Whether Empire/BFI can top that tomorrow is anybody's guess...

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