I’ve never been to Comic Con and I’m pretty sure that I never will. That ship has sailed. No sour grapes, though. As much as I’d love to check it out, I’m pretty sure I’d be fucking miserable in some of those legendary Hall H lines that are synonymous with the Whale’s Vagina Comic Con. Wireless internet is in short supply and you can only play Angry Birds for so long before reality dawns on you, forcing you to face facts that you’ve been camped out for hours numbering more than 5 to catch a trailer, some production stills and an hour of the cast tickling the audience. This reality is made worse when you realize that everyone else will have seen the same photos, the same trailer and highlights from the panel in video and written word only moments after you and all they had to do was bring up Facebook, Ain’t It Cool or io9 or some shit and it’s all right there for them and they didn’t have to bother putting on pants. The internet is a cruel mistress, indeed.
In years past, Comic Con has been a major headline maker in my various RSS feeds. The entire weekend is dominated by headlines bearing the prefix SDCC: but this year seemed a bit quieter. I don’t know if its the glamor of Comic Con fading after years of big hype or if it’s a sign of the economy but the show, at least the news coming out of it seemed leaner. To the point, in fact, that I didn’t feel like I could follow it all and put it in single articles relevant to each piece of news. I would have had a couple dozen tiny articles! I had a super secret agent on the ground over there, actually. Abby Chamberlain, who wrote that great obituary for the late Harvey Pekar. Hopefully, her wrap-up of the show will be filed shortly as it’ll be cool to have a first-person perspective of the show. In the meantime, you’ll have to settle for this wishful thinking recap from both myself and site contributor, Tony Nunes, as we embark on this cross-site promotion combining our efforts into a dual-site attack on what we feel is the coolest shit out of Comic Con. Consider us the Wonder Twins of Comic Con coverage. Cinema Suicide and Dreaming Genius. Two great tastes that taste great together. Wonder Twins power activate!
Science Fiction is my bag, man. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t really make the distinction between sci-fi and action/space opera. Sci-fi in the theaters tends to be an excuse to roll out your most expensive and elaborate special effects while floating a concept like robots that turn into trucks. The actual sci-fi method, which pits heady ‘what if’ concepts against a backdrop of technology and jargon is actually hard to come by in Hollywood and you have to prowl the minimalist landscape of independent film to find anything that approaches actual sci-fi. It looks like Inception may have changed that opinion and opened some studio eyes as this upcoming picture makes it seem. Though this trailer, which started making the rounds at Comic Con, shows off a bit of running and shooting, which any major theatrical sci-fi outing requires, it seems like the bulk of its volume is moody plotting and character interaction in a world where we all stop aging at 25 and then keep our heads above the waters of mortality by working for an economy of time which is represented by a digital readout which blazes across the skin of our forearms. Rather than spending money, you spend time on products and services. The film’s star, Justin Timberlake, finds himself in possession of an unreal amount of time after it’s handed off from a man claiming to have lived for over a hundred years and tired of life. This massive surplus of time puts him square in the middle of a mystery and in the crosshairs of a nasty and corrupt police department who seem to want him dead. What’s more, this all comes from the director of Gattaca, Andrew Niccol, another favorite of mine. Of all the trailers out there at Comic Con, this was the one I found most interesting. If that’s the case, I must be getting old.
Knights of Badassdom
Knights of Badassdom seems to fall into the painfully familiar plotting category but I’m willing to cut that some slack for so many reasons. Ryan Kwanten, best known as the alpha dumbass, Jason Stackhouse from HBO’s True Blood has the well-meaning but dopey act down pat and given my interactions with LARPers in the past, it’s a fountain of ha-ha that never runs dry for me. I’ve actually met the ‘Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!‘ guy that this trailer lampoons in passing at a party once. He was a pretty nice guy that didn’t let his fleeting internet celebrity status go to his head unlike some people. There’s also the matter of one Peter Dinklage, who quickly became my favorite character on Game of Thrones, Steve Zahn, who needs to be in a lot more comedy and Danny Pudi from the show Community. The only lingering matter of doubt for me is Summer Glau whose character on my much-beloved series, Firefly, was the only one that I didn’t care for and her status as a nerd society sex symbol grates on me severely. The film’s director, Joe Lynch, isn’t known for much outside of Wrong Turn 2 but he’s associated with horror’s latest darling filmmaker, Adam Green. Let us bask in his dubious association. Knights of Badassdom concerns the adventures of a bunch of LARPers who manage to actually summon a bloodthirsty demon in the middle of a foam and cardboard weekend of shameful behavior known as Live Action Roleplaying. Consider it like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons only taken to stratospheric levels of geek that make even ‘proud to be nerdy’ crowd cringe and back away. Grown-ass men and women in leather, steel and pelts speaking in curt tones to one another over matters of realm and kings in vaguely European accents.
Nicholas Winding Refn pretty much blew my mind with his incredibly bleak Danish crime series, Pusher, and then nailed the remains to the wall with Bronson, which introduced me proper to Tom Hardy. With credits like those, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling and the results couldn’t have been cooler. Car chase movies drifted out of vogue some time ago and I’m not sure why because car chases, to me at least, are on par with a good fight scene. A properly planned car chase with enough crashes, fireballs and mayhem is exhilarating. There are some legends, too! Bullit, The French Connection, To Live and Die In LA, Gone In 60 Seconds, Vanishing Point, Taxi (France), Death Proof; all of these pictures wrecked a lot of cars and made use of some of the best sound designers in the business to make the most intimidating engine noise on earth really jump out of the speakers to rumble your insides like a proper engine ought to do. Drive’s star, Ryan Gosling, plays an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as the wheel man in midnight robberies and heists. He is drawn into complicated criminal proceedings when he falls for his neighbor, who carries a torch for her husband who is serving time and comes out to find himself in debt to some shady criminal types. Naturally, his hang up on this girl brings him to help her husband out of this pickle and that’s when everything sucks for him. It looks like a typically European affair with a lot of quiet, melancholic shots serving as the chillout time between major car chase setpieces and hints at nasty, nasty violence. Adding Bryan Cranston the mix only helps things.
It’s wicked fashionable in horror circles to hate on remakes and I’m certainly party to this trend of hatred-in-vogue but I gotta tell ya, everything I see about this Fright Night business really tweaks my horror gland. The original picture, a grossly underrated feature in the pantheon of vampire horror, in spite of its cult appeal, evokes that sense of suburban dread that I was always able to connect with. I grew up in the suburban sprawl that lay somewhere between Boston and the New Hampshire mountains, the sort of place where it seemed perfectly reasonable that your neighbors, entrenched in their personal fortresses, were up to something. I badly wanted to believe that at least someone living on my street was secretly a vampire or a werewolf because the movies that had those things tended to be utterly badass. Movies that exploited that adolescent paranoia are some of my favorites. Joe Dante practically forged an entire career out of it but Tom Holland tapped right into it with the original Fright Night. What’s more, it looks like Craig Gillespie’s remake finds that same vibe of suburban alienation with absentee parents and runs with it. No remake will ever live up to its original picture and that’s to be expected. Most of the remake’s detractors take issue with the casting of Collin Farrell as the vampire Jerry Dandridge but from what I’ve seen, I quite like him in the role. Dandridge in the original is masquerading as your average dude but Farrell’s Dandridge seems to be a deliberate douche and I think that’s great. Farrell’s sardonic delivery of his lines conjures major cognitive dissonance. I mean, this is a savage, murderous vampire after all. The most internet hate seems to derive from the re-imagining of one of the original’s greatest qualities. By this I mean Roddy McDowall as TV horror host, Peter Vincent. Here, in the remake, Peter Vincent is recast as a Vegas stage magician with serious Criss Angel overtones played by David Tennant who most people recognize as one of Doctor Who’s recent Doctors. The clip that circulated at Comic Con finally put Tennant in the spotlight and I have to tell you, I like it. Tennant does great characters and it looks like this is kind of guy he can play balls to the wall and chew scenery with. Trust me on this one. When the remake finally hits wide release, this is someone you’ll be talking about in positive tones for a while.
The Walking Dead Season 2
I’m being generous when I say that I’m looking forward to season 2 of The Walking Dead. I was one of last season’s longest running hanger-ons, defending it in the face of very valid criticism. The writing wasn’t all that it could be, the characters tended to make really stupid mistakes repeatedly and I couldn’t figure out how Shane managed to maintain that perfect coif in the midst of the end of all life on Earth. He must have made it clear to Glenn that if he didn’t come back with a pretty specific list of product, he shouldn’t come back at all. I didn’t take issue too much that the show strayed from the source material until the end of the season when we were way, way off track. Then I just couldn’t help myself. However, with more episodes to look forward to and a rather long period of time to reflect on the mistakes of season 1, I’m hoping that Darabont and company will figure out what they need to do to rescue the show. Though I may be down on the show a bit, I am optimistic. This is a real chance for them to turn it around and make something out of this unique opportunity for television drama. If they don’t, I won’t miss it nor will I be missed. The sort of numbers that show pulled down in ratings was ridiculous!
Somehow, not a frame of the Prometheus panel footage leaked from Comic Con. Instead, we have been treated to description after description that are practically drowning in hyperbole. The mystery of the Xenomorph and LV 246 from the original Alien and its sequel, Aliens, is something that I love. I honestly don’t give a fuck about the derelict spacecraft and the giant alien at the controls or where the nasty aliens came from so early reports that Ridley Scott was going back to this property didn’t really move me but I’m hearing absolutely nuts reports about the flick and how the preview footage at the con was mighty exciting. The fatal flaw in my dismissal of this picture, however, is that nobody even knows if this is a prequel to Alien as some people have claimed. Scott and Damon Linedeloff are both evasive on the topic and, frankly, I’m not even sure why. Honestly. What difference does it make? Plot details are scant and what is going around the grapevine is a lot about ancient alien civilizations and some really visionary new ideas in horror. It’s been some time since I’ve liked anything that Scott has put out but this return to the genre may be what it takes to reel me back in. I’m cautiously excited about this flick.
The Dark Knight Rises
The only comic movie to make the list is Christopher Nolan’s final Batman flick. Nolan gets Batman and has made what are easily the best of all the various Batflicks. He somehow manages to navigate around Batman’s campiest tendencies and turns in sophisticated super hero movies that work on so many levels. Unfortunately, he’s running out of rope and unless he cuts the cord now, he’ll be attaching nipples to the Batsuit and having Bats cavort with Poison Ivy. The future of Batman beyond The Dark Knight Rises, a title which drives me fucking crazy – I swear the word Rise has been in more movie titles in the last five years than any other – is grim and you can see total machine failure creeping in around the margins of the trailer. Bane is a bit of a stretch and the casting of Robin Williams as Hugo Strange may turn out to be either inspired brilliance or catastrophic failure with nothing in between even resembling a gray area. Also, did this movie really need Cillian Murphy? Honestly, how many times is Batman going to go toe to toe with Scarecrow? Nolan locked me in as a fan forever with The Dark Knight as the late Heath Ledger’s Joke went down as one of my favorite screen villains ever so I can only hope that as his Batman swan song approaches, he drives it home and continues to float the brand.
Let it be known that Garth Ennis is the shit. If you read comics, you know the name. He made his name in the 90’s on the tail end of the British Invasion of comics when, along with Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, Ennis brought a distinctly European grit to a flagging industry that was drowning in fresh American blood that didn’t know what to do with the comic book properties that had been so willingly handed over to them by Marvel and DC. Ennis made a splash with his book, Preacher, a piece of psychedelic southern gothic that stands tall among some of horror comics’ greatest titles. Ultraviolence was Ennis’ calling card and he expanded with the bizarro funny book, Hitman – which featured one of my favorite weirdo vigilantes, The Dog Welder – and he singlehandedly rescued The Punisher from grotesque irrelevance once Marvel’s worst writers had run the character aground. I guess it’s only natural that Ennis took to the screen and his indie zombie flick, Stitched, hit the floor, making its world premier there. The premise, survivors of a downed Blackhawk helicopter in a remote part of Afghanistan find themselves under attack from, I don’t know, something. My instincts tell me that this is a zombie movie of some variety and I guess that’s fine. Zombie movies only suck when they’re made by people who have a dream to make a movie but have no actual business making a movie. Ennis is not that sort of person and what monsters we see in this trailer look a lot more like the zombies from The Blind Dead series than the rotting shamblers of popular culture. The film hits DVD in November and coincides with the release of the Stitched comic book.