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Quint's exhaustive look at the Warner Bros Comic-Con Panel! NIGHTMARE remake! BOOK OF ELI! SHERLOCK! WTWTA! THE BOX! JONAH HEX!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a doozey of a report from the 2 ½ hour long Warner Bros panel. Tons of stuff, so no bullshit chatter up front. Let’s get down to it. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Count me surprised that I liked this footage. Look, FRIDAY THE 13TH is one thing. I love that series just as much as I love A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but it’s really all about the fun… the gore and the scares whereas NIGHTMARE is much more cerebral and strikes a different, deeper chord for me.

That means it’s a tougher nut to crack and one I wasn’t sure Fuller and Form could pull off. And I’m not 100% onboard, but damn the movie looks sharp. The footage opens with a man running in slow motion down a dark street, chased by a car. Is it a dream? Is it not? I couldn’t tell at first. The dude is wearing a jacket, but is nondescript. He ends up running into an abandoned building and lock the door as more cars show up and an angry mob spills out, including Clancy Brown (the Kurgan!). Inside we get our first look at the runner and it’s Jackie Earle Haley, panting and scared. Brown calls out “Kruger! Get out here you sick son of a bitch!” while pounding on the door. Haley screams through the door that he didn’t do what they say he did. Brown doesn’t seem to give a shit, lighting a gas can and throwing it through the window. The fire spreads, catching on Haley’s feet. He screams as it jumps up to his clothes. He strips off his jacket, trying to get away from the fire and reveals the red and green sweater as he’s engulfed in flame. Then outside we see the nearly evil, blood-thirsty faces of the parents as he screams inside… the door flies open and in slow-motion Kruger runs out, full body burn. The rest of the footage was a mix of nightmare imagery and our teens realizing what they’re up against. The nightmare imagery wasn’t as surreal as the original, but still looked good. My favorite being the jump rope girls (yes, we get the One, two Freddy’s comin’ for you creep-out song) looking solemnly down at someone, the front of their dresses with stitched over claw marks. There’s also a good scare in an attic as Nancy (I think) is looking around in the dark. Her flashlight settles on Kruger’s hat sitting on a crate. The beam settles on it for a moment, then she pans off, looking away. Then she looks back and the light reaches the hat, but now it’s on Kruger’s head, eyes peering at her over the edge of the crate. The reason I’m not 100% committed is that every time I got comfortable with this new iteration of Freddy we’d get a flash of the Tina death scene (her rising out of bed) or Tina in the body bag at school… and it’d just remind me of the original, forcing a comparison. I kind of wish the remake would just be a reboot, new Freddy, but completely different cast of characters. In other words, I wish they had approached it like they did FRIDAY, where we get a recap of the villain (the parents burning Kruger), but then have Freddy haunting a new set of kids. That way it wouldn’t force a comparison, you see? It wasn’t exactly easy to see Haley’s make-up, but it’s pretty clear they’re going for a smoother burn look, more realistic and less theatrical than Robert Englund’s original.

We’ll see. Freddy’s one of my favorite movie monsters and the vibe I got from the footage was good. The tone is more serious and less campy with Kruger (we didn’t see much of the teenagers doing their day to day, but I don’t expect much real development there and more of the same exploitationy sexed up, drugged up kids).

On the panel were Brad Fuller, Andrew Form, director Samuel Bayer and star Jackie Earle Haley. There wasn’t a whole lot of interest talked about, but Jackie Earle Haley talked a bit about his characters over the last few years and ending up now as Freddy Kruger. Haley said “I was the tortured soul, now I’m the torturing soul.”

He also said his make-up took 3 ½ hours getting in and an hour to get out of. The flick opens April 30th, 2010. THE BOOK OF ELI Because of my hectic interview schedule at the Con and a set visit immediately after, this report is coming a few days after the fact, so Warners has already released the trailer for THE BOOK OF ELI, which can be seen at Apple. So, that saves me a bit of work on describing what was shown. They also showed a bit of a moving graphic novel, which looked good, but wasn’t the best thing to kick off the panel. That told the story of Billy, who I am told is Gary Oldman’s villain character, who, as a kid, burned the shit out of his redneck parents because his dad caught him looking at a nudie magazine and beat the hell out of him. The trailer looks pretty good, right? I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic movies. Even bad ones… but we haven’t gotten a really good one in a while. Despite the mixed word, I’m hoping THE ROAD is a return to form, but if it isn’t this one is the next best hope. The panel was fascinating… You had people going batshit crazy for Mila Kunis (mostly guys like me who are in love), then even more craziness for Gary Oldman (naturally) and then super-celebrity crazy for Denzel Washington.

Washington was on fire and probably the only person who could get away with saying “My nigga” on a panel (in response to a fan shouting out “You’re badass!”). Interesting tidbits from the panel: - The Hughes Bros said they were inspired by PLANET OF THE APES (original) for this movie. Not that there’s human-sized apes running around in THE BOOK OF ELI, but in the way that APES brilliantly mixed art, commerce and adventure. - Oldman plays a villain trying to get the book that Denzel is protecting, which Oldman’s character believes is a means to absolute rule and power. After a pause someone joked “It’s a comic book.” That got a laugh. Then Oldman threw in “It’s a graphic novel by a guy named JC,” which probably means Denzel is carrying a bible. - Washington trained for 6 months in various martial arts and did all of his own fights in the movie. - Oldman was really funny on the panel. He was asked why he keeps getting villain roles and he says he has no idea. He said he’s not physically threatening to anybody and that “naked I look like a bald chicken.” - This was the panel where Oldman dropped the “Batman’s shooting next year” bomb. I interviewed him after the panel and he seemed a bit distracted. The interview didn’t go well, actually, and when I followed up on the Batman thing he back-peddled. I get the feeling he got an earful from Warners and I’ve heard from a few people in the know that said he stuck his foot in his mouth. We’ll see what happens. I also got to interview The Hughes Bros and Mila Kunis, both were great interviews… Kunis is absolutely adorable and sweet and The Hughes Bros are gigantic movie geeks. I could have talked to them for hours. THE BOX I noticed a disturbing trend at the Warner Bros panel… Someone at Warners has a scarred face fetish. Freddy, obviously, Jonah Hex is fucked up and so is Frank Langella in THE BOX. We’ve known this for a bit, but the footage they showed really features Langella as the mysterious man at the door, offering Cameron Diaz and James Marsden a to-good-to-be-true deal. For the pressing of a single button they will receive a million bucks. This is money they desperately need and the flick is set in the ‘70s, so that money is even more life-changing to them. The only catch is that the pressing of the button will kill someone, somewhere on the planet earth. They’ve never met this person, but he or she will be gone. Okay, so that’s an iffy moral choice to begin with, but when the man offering you this choice has half his cheek rotted away you never, ever push the button. Cameron Diaz should have known better! The footage Richard Kelly (along with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden on stage) showed played up the offer and the lack of real dilemma. Marsden and Diaz are sitting at a table with the box (dome open and button exposed) in between them. Marsden wants to discuss this and Diaz preempts the chance he might decide not to push the button by… pushing the button. The rest of the footage showcased the consequences of that button-push… strangers begin following them, watching them everywhere. And then the crazy sci-fi shit starts… Marsden floating in a levitating pool of water over Diaz in a bed, hanging there until it all materializes and he (and the ton of water) falls on top of her, etc.

The panel itself was lively, especially when Diaz dropped the big twist of the movie like it wasn’t no thang. I’m sure Kelly loved her just throwing that particular plot point out there… and no, I won’t ruin it. I’m sure there are people out there who have, but I won’t be the one. Kelly gave away a real “box” with button to one of the people in the audience, via a sticker underneath one of the chairs. It was a young woman who won and yes, she pressed the button. Did she not just watch that footage? Bad things happen when the button is pressed, but at least I didn’t drop dead on the spot. JONAH HEX I must admit to not knowing much of anything about Jonah Hex, which is a bit surprising since this series combines some of my favorite genres… a supernatural western with a tough ass anti-hero lead? Yeah, I need to start picking up some graphic novels. Hell, I love THE DARK TOWER and tonally that feels in the same universe as what I’ve seen from Hex.

Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, Jimmy Hayward and Michael Fassbender took the stage to show us the trailer and I gotta say… it looks pretty good. If nothing else, I witnessed Josh Brolin violently puking a raven, which is a guaranteed ticket from me. But the whole thing looked good. Not mind-blowing, mind you, but solid and Brolin’s make-up is pretty rad. Some of the snuck pics of his make-up didn’t really show off just how close his scarred face looks like the Hex on the comic covers. They definitely didn’t tone it down. There are scenes of Hex talking and the one strip of skin connecting his lower and upper lip on that side of his face just stretches and relaxes over and over again. Pretty sweet. The trailer on the whole was selling the mystery of Jonah as a character, opening with people talking to an unseen Hex… stuff like “I hear you’re special… magic even,” and “They say you’ve killed over a thousand men,” etc. As a noob to Hex’s world I was quite surprised at the amount of punishment the dude can take. We see him shot many times in this footage, not just arm grazing, but center-chest/flying backwards shot and he stands right back up again. John Malkovich has a total Custer look going on and spouts of scenery chewing lines like “This man doesn’t know how to die!” We also get shots of various mayhem (I could have sworn I saw zombies and an eye-ball in the back of someone’s mouth) and a semi-steampunkish horse-mounted double gatling gun tearing up a saloon before the final round of fisticuffs where someone (might be Fassbender) has Hex pinned down and asks, “What’s it like to walk through life with a face like that?” Brolin struggles for a bit then says, “Lemme show ya’,” and bashes him with what looked to be hot branding iron. Not bad stuff. Can’t wait to see more from the flick.

The panel itself was really funny with Brolin taking the piss out of everybody who came up to the mic to tell Megan Fox how hot she was (which was everybody), telling the guys that whoa, whoa… he’s married. Calm down! WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE They very bravely sent out little Max Records out in front of 6500 rabid fans to introduce a few scenes from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. The kid was nervous, but a trooper, asking us to forgive him at the beginning of his chat… he’d never been up in front of so many people before and might have to steal a few looks at his hand where he had written all his bullet-points.

Records told a story about how Spike Jonze would always force real reactions out of him using various tricks, including exploding a large fireball in order to make him jump and look realistically shocked and afraid. Hooray for terrifying children. That is why Spike is the man. The footage they showed were extensions of two of the trailer scenes, the Gandolfini’s Wild Thing (Carol) carrying the sleeping Max (the “I didn’t want to wake you, but you should see this…” scene) and the segment of all the Wild Things throwing each other into a big pile. The first scene has Carol telling Max that he’s the King and everything he sees is his territory… except for that rock over there… and that hole in that tree isn’t his, but the tree is… etc. Describing it here doesn’t make it sound all that impressive, but the effects work and overall tone was amazing, hitting me dead center. As a child I read Maurice Sendak’s book, of course, but it’s not like I was obsessed with it, so I was a little surprised at just how much this footage affected me. It kinda made me feel like a kid again, which I know is corny as shit to say, but it’s true. And I wasn’t alone. At least a quarter of the crowd howled along with Max and Carol at the end of the scene, releasing their inner Wild Thing.

There was some other trippy footage, like Carol and Max walking through a vast desert and a forced perspective giant sheep dog just walking along a ridge behind them, shot at a much slower speed to make it seems bigger and lumbering I guess, but it just kinda tripped me out… In a good way. I have to say alongside IRON MAN 2 this footage was my favorite of the Con, but this is coming from someone who had to choose between seeing a few scenes of KICK-ASS or the entirety of DISTRICT 9 and thusly missed the KICK-ASS footage, which I’m told stole the Con. SHERLOCK HOLMES Alongside the BOOK OF ELI panel, this was the funniest of the Warners presentation. They usually clear the stage between films and have a moderator introduce the next group. Not here. The JONAH HEX guys were no sooner off the stage when Robert Downey Jr. came strolling up, causing a rolling wave effect of people jumping up and snapping pictures and screaming.

Downey is just the man. During the Q&As he fielded some really stupid questions, but turned them completely around. My favorite being when someone asked him if he studied martial arts or something asinine like that and he just sat there for a good 10 seconds in complete silence. Then he said, “I’m not trying to start a riot right now, but I could windmill through the lot of you,” addressing the at capacity Hall H, I might add. He was also asked about being nervous to step into the shoes of such a well known literary character and he replied saying he has an illness of confidence and that was never a problem. He wasn’t alone on the panel. He was joined by his wife and producer Susan Downey, Joel Silver, co-writer/producer Lionel Wigram and the lovely Rachel McAdams.

McAdams’ character, Irene Adler, is expanded from the original books, her character only appearing in one story and that one for only 10 pages (which she combed multiple times, she made sure to add), but they say she serves as a perfect foil for Holmes. The footage seemed to portray her as a bit of Marion Ravenwood type. There wasn’t much they brought, but my favorite stuff was the expanded pit-fight that pissed so many people off in the first trailer. They are going to be eating their words, standing all tall and mighty and expert, believe you me… because that scene is pure Holmes. What happens is Holmes is bare-knuckle fighting (as is canon) and turns to leave, getting a loogie to the back of the head for his trouble. Here we get narration as his thought process works out in stages. We see the slow-motion progression of his thoughts… first blind the pissed off giant with a distraction, throw a handkerchief into his face and move in with a precise punch at the right angle that fractures his ribs, follow that up with a befuddlement blow to the head to stun him before kicking him squarely in the chest, sending him down for the count. All in slow-motion like you see in the trailer. But then we snap back to Holmes in the second he turns after being spit on and the whole fight plays in real time, over in seconds. The slow motion was his thought process. The Comic-Con sizzle reel also showed us glimpses of Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood being hung and surviving. On the panel they described him as an Aleister Crowely-inspired villain, the idea to merge the Victorian era with a bit of supernatural by including a reality based emphasis on the people of that era’s obsession with the occult. Sounds good to me. I’m in. Yeeks. So, finally got this report filed and done. Sorry it wasn’t done over the weekend, but I literally left San Diego onto an international trip that I’m not allowed to talk about yet and have been piecing this together with my notes and sporadic, geek-fizzled memory during that trip. Hope you guys enjoyed it. This wraps up my panel coverage of Comic-Con 2009, but I have a good 15-20 interviews from the con to hit you with, starting tonight or tomorrow, including chats with all the Sherlock people (including Downey, McAdams and the producers) and most of the Book of Eli peoples. And a little known filmmaker named Jimmy Cameron, if I remember right… Keep ‘em peeled! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

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