The news about upcoming movies and other exciting stuff just keep flying fast and furious here at Comic-Con International in San Diego. During Thursday and Friday, we've tried to bring you as much info as we can and now that its Saturday, there's even more stuff to share. This time around I'm hanging out in gigantic Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center to bring you news and information about the Rogue Studios / Focus features presentation.
Before I get to the meat, I just want to acknowledge the help I received from a few Elite security personnel and two Comic-Con volunteers inside Hall H. Their help was invaluable and I thank them. Why am I saying this? Well, because without them I probably would not have had a great seat for all the festivities and would have had to deal directly with attendees determined to steal my chair the moment they spotted any opening.
These guys and gals (some of which don't even get paid) work very hard so I just want to thank them for doing a great job controlling people I'm sure are very hard to control. Of course, if the Con had a designated area for the press to sit so we could cover the events that might make things easier. But that's another story for another time.
Anyway, on to the important stuff. First up for the Rogue/Focus features panel was a surprise visit from Neil Gaiman and director Henry Selik with a little surprise announcement of a screening of footage from the still-in-production Coraline movie. According to Gaiman, Coraline, his "scary little story for kids of all ages with people who have button eyes who really want to eat people's souls" which is really "something you need in children's fiction" is now a stop-motion masterpiece with script and direction by Selick -- who is best know for films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Unfortunately, they didn't show anything from the movie to us in Hall H so I can't tell you anything about the footage except that knowing Selick's previous work its probably pretty darn cool. If anyone did manage to see the footage Saturday night, let us know how it looked in the comments. After their brief appearance, Gaiman and Selick hurried off to who knows where and we moved on to the next part of the presentation: Balls of Fury.
Yes, you read that right. The next movie up for our consideration was the comedy Balls of Fury about a ping-pong tournament to the death taking place at a secret island fortress ala Enter the Dragon (except with ping pong). This movie comes from some of the same people responsible for The State and Reno 911!. Taking the stage to discuss the upcoming Balls of Fury was star Dan Fogler, co-writer and co-star Thomas Lennon (who appeared in full costume from the film as shown above) and co-writer/director Ben Garant. "If you only see one martial arts, romantic comedy, wire-fu movie this year, make it Balls of Fury," said Garant when they came out.
And then, they went to a clip from the movie featuring some superb ping pong action during a pivotal point in the tournament where Fogler's character, Randy Daytona, must defeat an arch rival in order to survive. If the premise sounds crazy, it sort of is. Fortunately, all those involved, including a hilarious Christopher Walken as the evil weapons smuggler/ping pong fanatic make the film work. "Take every 80s Van Damme movie you can think of, take out the action and add ping pong and you've got an idea what this movie's about," said Fogler. "Yeah, the movie is very aggressively stupid," added Garant. Even if he might think its stupid (in a less-than serious way, of course), it works for the film.
Fogler is a gifted actor and comedian (and does a mean Christopher Walken imitation) and he is able to sell the seriousness of the film and also bring the absurd comedy elements too. He's a talented guy, as are all those involved with this film. If your taste runs to movies like Reno 911! and you also enjoy absurd martial-arts, ping pong, action, romantic comedies, you'll most likely enjoy this film as well.
Next up from the Rogue/Focus people was a film I hadn't heard that much about, except that it starred Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. It's called The Strangers and for this panel, both Tyler and Speedman were in attendance, along with the young writer/director Bryan Bertino. Of course, Tyler looked stunning and Speedman looked as if he was a bit intimidated by the crowds. Nevertheless, both did their best to be gracious and talk about the film.
But before I get to that, here's a little info on the film: The Strangers is a suspense thriller revolving around a couple in a remote suburban house who are targeted by three dangerous masked strangers. This fight for survival forces the couple to do things far beyond what they thought possible in order to survive the night. As is often the case during these events, they showed some footage from the film and then took a few questions -- mostly from young girls in love with Liv Tyler. Although, she did get one marriage proposal from a young man as well.
Plus, apparently she still remembers how to speak Elvish from her days working on Lord of the Rings because upon request, she busted out with some. Pretty cool. Even though Bertino was a first-time director, he either has a great deal of talent or he had a lot of help (maybe both) because at least from this footage, he looks like he knows what he's doing. The sequence involved the people stalking the couple's first appearance and Tyler's reaction and then another sequence showed the couple fighting to keep a stranger from bashing down their front door with an axe.
Pretty gritty and exciting stuff made all-the-more-realistic by the excellent acting work of Tyler and Speedman. The final clip was the trailer which again showcased the look of the film as well as gave away a few more bits of the plot -- including a quick cut of Tyler, covered in blood, crawling across the floor. A good trailer is not always an indicator of a good film but in this case, I hope it is because this movie looks pretty awesome.
Finally from Rogue/Focus was director Neil Marshall to discuss his film Doomsday, as story which, according to the director "was influenced by all the movies I loved growing up. Things like Escape from New York and The Warriors, stuff like that." When he came out I felt a little bad for Marshall because he was alone on stage for some reason. But he still managed to carry it off and didn't look too nervous at all Or, he's a pretty good actor himself. Either way, as usual, they went to the footage pretty quickly -- featuring narration by Malcom McDowell, who co-stars in the film.
Watching the footage, I was struck by just how much Marshall was influenced by other movies and Escape from New York in particular. You may as well start referring to Doomsday as Escape from Scotland because watching this was almost like watching a trailer for that movie. It could be because I've seen Escape from New York about a hundred times, but I'm pretty sure there were a few pieces that were shot-for-shot taken from that film. Fortunately, it didn't really bother me and the trailer, in spite of its obvious influences, still looks pretty great, scary and most-likely means the film is a fitting next chapter for the guy who made Dog Soldiers -- the best low-budget horror film where soldiers battle werewolves ever made.
After the clip, Marshall was asked a few questions including his influences for such strong female characters in his films, to which Marshall replied that it was his "Mom and sister" that mostly were the reason he writes strong females. Next, Marshall was asked if anyone from his previous films was going to be in this film? "Definitely," said Marshall. "Its great to work with mates because you know they can get the job done."
Then, a fan asked the question I was going to ask and wanted to know if he would ever be doing a Dog Soldiers 2, to which Marchall answered "I don't own that so probably not. I had to sell the rights to make the film so if there is a sequel it won't up to me." Bummer. Finally, Marshall was asked to describe his film Doomsday. "Its a raw, in your face adult-oriented action movie where we try to keep it real. Its a movie like Walter Hill used to make."