Slithering good times

Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 24, 2006 | Publication: Toronto Star | Author: Malene Arpe
Publication/Article Link:

There were snakes on a stage, Spider-Man in black, Borat naked, hardcore Grindhouse and what looks to be great adaptations of Neil Gaiman's Stardust and Frank Miller's 300.

As has become tradition, filmmakers brought clips from upcoming movies and fresh announcements to the just-finished Comic-Con in San Diego. Few got a louder and more enthusiastic response than snake wrangler Samuel L. Jackson, who was promoting Snakes on a Plane, which is set to open Aug. 18.

It was Jackson's first visit to the convention and the big hall was filled to its 6,500-seat capacity with fans hoping to see footage from the movie they've helped hype for months. They were not disappointed as a 10-minute-long clip was screened. I'm happy to report that it's chock full of snakes, death and dead snakes. Oh, and a snake-cam. To get everybody in the mood, snakes - very much alive - were brought onstage.

Jackson, at this moment possibly the coolest person on the planet, gushed over the online fan interest that has turned the movie into a phenomenon, cheerfully declined a fan's request that he "let us see the snake in his pants," and denied any speculation he was anything like the people he plays on screen.

"It's great to be able to live it out on the screen, but I don't walk around thinking I'm a badass motherf-er." Sure you don't.

(Serious spoiler warning!)

Three other projects got as enthusiastic a reception as the snakes. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez's Grindhouse, Spider-Man 3 and the Montreal-filmed 300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel.

Grindhouse is a double bill of Rodriguez's zombie flick Planet Terror and Tarantino's slasher film Deathproof. Planet Terror is almost finished and the footage shown was nothing short of mind-blowing. You haven't lived until you've seen Rose McGowan playing an amputee with a machine-gun for a leg-prosthesis shooting the walking dead from the back of a motorcycle. Tarantino announced the double bill, to be released in April, will be a true one: two full-length features for the price of one. He also revealed, to the great glee of the audience, that Kurt Russell will play the killer in Deathproof. Snake Plissken as Stuntman Mike. Eeeeh!

The audience yelled for two encores of the 300 footage, and stars Gerard Butler and David Wenham repeatedly got out of their chairs to get a better look at themselves. The story of the Battle of Thermopylae, which has a March 16 release date, required them to wear little but codpieces and Butler said he'd "never felt so stupid in his life" as walking on the set amidst snickering French-Canadian technicians and carpenters.

Miller, who also announced that he'll be writing and directing a movie based on Will Eisner's The Spirit, said he was thrilled with the first cut of the film, calling it "timeless, but contemporary ... not some stiff, old relic." It seems, then, that director Zack Snyder lived up to his own plan for making the movie, which was: "Let's not fk it up Hollywood-style."

And then there was Spider-Man 3, which opens May 4. Director Sam Raimi brought some hastily "slapped-together" footage with effects missing, but it was still enough to show that Spidey is having some serious grown-up issues. The crowd went wild when Venom appeared at the end. Raimi brought Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace (Eddie Brock/Venom), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marco/Sandman) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy).

Two movies with a decidedly fantastical bent were previewed and, as with much of the other footage shown, we were cautioned it was raw. Eragon, which opens Dec. 15, and is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, concerns itself with dragons and their eggs and destiny, and Jeremy Irons being wise.

The clips got a nice reception. But the audience went a bit more wild for Stardust, Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fairy tale.

"Every now and then there would be a moment that would be really strange, like they were stepping into my imagination," Gaiman said of watching the filmmakers work. The movie, which stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ricky Gervais, Claire Danes and Sienna Miller, looks good enough to eat. It will open March 9.

Gaiman also promised that the cast of Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf, which he co-wrote, will be at Comic-Con next year. Crispin Glover and Angelina Jolie ... rat catcher and Earth mother. Yee haw.

And speaking of things vaguely British, Neil LaBute brought the opening scene from his remake of the British cult classic The Wicker Man, starring Nicolas Cage. It opens with a bang and a big explosion, but it's hard to tell whether it's genuinely creepy, which is what LaBute was shooting for. He assured the audience there was "precious little singing" in the remake as opposed to the original.

Cage, looking strange in his white leather jacket, huge sunglasses and desperate attempt at covering up baldness, was there in person later to promote Ghost Rider, a movie that has been held back for a while but now looks to be released Feb. 16. He said he'd wanted to play Ghost Rider since he was a little boy. (And has no hard feelings he never got to fly as Superman. No siree. Not a one.) One should not judge a movie by its trailer, but, yeah ... hmmm....

Also looking a bit iffy was the crazed-bloodthirsty-Vikings-in-ludicrous-costumes-killing-Indians flick Pathfinder. Conan the Barbarian meets The Last of the Mohicans and cuts his head off. Then he stomps on it.

The cast of Reno 911: Miami appeared in character as did Borat a.k.a. Ali G a.k.a. Sacha Baron Cohen, from whose Borat we were treated to several toe-curling scenes, including one in which Borat fights a morbidly obese man while they're both naked. Nothing is left to the imagination. Shudder.

Hilary Swank appeared to talk about The Reaping, in which she plays a miracle-debunker trying to explain why locusts, bloody rivers and other biblical terrors appear in modern-day Louisiana. (And to show how great one can look after getting rid of one's drug-troubled husband.) Everybody got a T-shirt saying "I went to Comic-Con and all I got was a lousy plague."

Last but not least, director Bryan Singer got a warm welcome, but there was also a scattering of boos. When one fan stepped up to the Q&A microphone and gushed, "Thanks for making the best Superman ever," someone else yelled "Give me a break!"

The director brought an excellent gag reel and more or less confirmed that there will be another Superman in 2009, although he hasn't "concluded a deal on it." Much to the relief of those who thought the current release a bit mushy and overly concerned with love, he promises that he's ready to "go all Wrath of Khan on it." He also said that it's "entirely possible" when asked if he'd be prepared to return to X-Men to "repair the damage done to the franchise."

Oh, and just one more thing. After sitting through an unbelievably boring sales pitch for the Narnia special edition DVD (four discs!), learning we can expect Prince Caspian in the summer of 2008, and watching a mildly interesting look at the effects used on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, there was a payoff: the first look at the next Pirates movie. Yun-Fat Chow appeared on the screen and the crowd went wild. Yet again