Rod Paddock's blog
You were forewarned. San Diego Comic-Con is not for the uninitiated. In Part One, you learned just how perilous it can be just to make it to Comic-Con. This time, you will discover what it is like to survive but one day of Comic-Con.
Line, Lines, Everywhere a Line ...
After acquiring shelter, badges, treasure and finally nourishment, rest was mandatory. We would be storming the walls of the infamous HALL H at Breaking Dawn. Actually we wanted to see the panel for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, which required our weary band of travelers to be in line early to assure we'd get a seat.
Doing a calculation on our portable abacus, we learned that the optimal time to be in line was probably 7 am for festivities starting around 11 am. Four hours early? Yes, four hours early. The lines for Hall H are epic and it is wise to arrive that early in order to acquire a decent seat. The Hall H madness reached a crescendo in 2008 when the panel for the first Twilight panel hit the con. Why would this middle-age traveller brave such a line? The wee one! This Comic-Con would be my 14-year-old daughter's first, and we would not be missing this for all the shiny vampire sprinkles in the world.
Let this document serve as a warning to people attempting the journey to San Diego Comic-Con. The trail to Comic-Con is a perilous one for some and a life-changing event for others. We go to Comic-Con in search of enlightenment, fellowship, spiritual awakening, inspiration and in some cases acquisition of rare and unique treasures. Be warned this journey is not for the faint of heart or weak of soul. Let the journey begin ...
Attending SDCC (as we veterans call it) requires preparation. The first step in your journey is the acquisition of the rarest of all items: the Comic-Con badge. Without a badge, you're nothing but a "normal," doomed to a life on the outside looking in. The location of "in" is the San Diego Convention Center, the Mecca of all that is geek.
My journey to the 2012 SDCC actually began in the pre-dawn hours of the 2011 SDCC. I waited with fellow travelers in hopes of scoring the ultimate of all SDCC badges, the "Golden Ticket" of Comic-Con, a full convention badge with preview night. Many hours later, after waiting with friends hailing from the far-off realms of Phoenix and Chicago, our weary band was ushered into the hall of tickets. We learned that badges were being rationed to two tickets per person. After my six-hour pilgrimage, the gods of tickets showed me favor and granted my wish: two Full Convention Passes with Preview Night! Acquisition unlocked .... Tickets acquired!
By all accounts Franklin County, Virginia is a picturesque place. Rolling hills, fog covered ponds, covered bridges and greenery as far as the eye can see, this is a place of peace and tranquility. This description is accurate, unless we are talking about Prohibition-era Franklin County. During this era, the rolling hills are accompanied by still fires as far as the eye can see. This is "The Moonshine Capital of the World." This is the world of Lawless, which had a special screening at Comic-Con San Diego earlier this month. Lawless, based on the book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, tells the story of the author’s grandfather and great-uncles' careers as some of Franklin County's most notorious bootleggers.
Lawless highlights the legendary lives of the brothers Bondurant: Jack, Forrest and Howard, played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke respectively. From run-ins with the law, a thirst for fast cars, a hunger for success and a love of family, Lawless weaves a story of brotherly love and angst told in the context of the gritty world of moonshiners. The performances of LaBeouf, Hardy and Clarke are convincing. Jack is the youngest and most ambitious of the brothers, Forrest is the soft-spoken but strong oldest brother, and Howard is the middle brother whose love of moonshine affects him greatly. All of these characters are fully formed people and are left in the hands of skilled actors.
Katy Perry is the reigning princess of popular music. In a short timeframe, Ms. Perry has created 7 #1 chart topping hits, sold millions of albums and embarked on a successful world tour. The latest creation from Castle Perry is Katy Perry: Part of Me, a documentary highlighting the ups and downs of Katy Perry’s life, as she embarks on 2011's Teenage Dream tour.
When viewing the trailer for Katy Perry: Part of Me one cannot help think, "Oh great, another bubblegum princess trying to sell more albums." But this movie is no such thing. It's the real deal and shines a balanced light on the life, love and career of a shooting star.
Katy Perry: Part of Me starts with self-shot testimonials from Perry fans talking about the empowering and inspirational messages they receive from her. The last testimonial is the musician herself at age 18 talking about the responsibility of being a pop star. This is five years before her breakout album One of the Boys.
Through this documentary we learn that her statement as an 18-year-old was prescient. Throughout the film we see Perry meet with fans backstage. These types of scenes can be contrived but in her case, we can see she is a genuine person. This does not get cemented until late in the film. There is a scene toward the end where you really understand her relationship with the fans.
A man, his girlfriend and his teddy bear walk in to a bar. The bear sits down and orders a margarita ... Whoa! What did you just say? The teddy bear orders a margarita? Come on, now, what kind of joke is this? This is no joke! This is Ted, the newest creation from the fertile comedic brain of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
The movie Ted opens with young John Bennett making a wish that his teddy bear be brought to life. As a shooting star flies overhead, little John's wish is granted. Ted is brought to life and our adventure begins.
The world soon learns of Ted’s existence and people want to hear his story. The little bear appears in magazines, news interviews and is even invited to be a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The opening scenes of the film are accompanied by a hilarious voiceover provided by Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart.
The film then moves quickly to the present day. The adult John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) are two foul-mouthed boys from Boston, who spend their day watching TV, smoking weed and eating Pringles. Yep, the teddy bear is a raging pothead who likes to party all the time. John is in a four-year relationship with Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), an up-and-coming professional madly in love with him. Lori wants to move to the next step with John but is hindered by the close relationship that her boyfirend has with Ted. The core focus of the movie is spent dealing with this complex relationship.
The thought of a film with a CGI animated bear as a lead character is cause for concern. Rest assured this concern is unfounded. The character of Ted is skillfully brought to life in the able hands of skilled comedic writer MacFarlane, who shares screenwriting credit with Family Guy alumni Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. The character of Ted is believable -- you'd want to hang with him if given the chance.
Imagine for a moment that the film Armageddon had turned out differently. What if Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck failed to blow up the "planet killer" headed towards Earth? Well, look no further. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World picks up where this hypothetical rewrite of Armageddon ends.
Steve Carell plays Dodge, a typical shlub who hears about the failure of the aformentioned mission via legacy media: the radio. Seconds after hearing this news Dodge's wife opens the car door, exits and runs away, never to be seen again. This is the beginning of the end in Dodge's meager existence.
In the ensuing days we see Dodge return to work as a phone rep for an insurance company -- he and a few other sad sacks just don't seem to get it. Why the heck are these people wasting their last days at some depressing corporate gig? Soon Dodge returns home to his apartment where he is greeted by his housekeeper busily cleaning his house. Dodge cannot find it in his heart to tell her not to come back, which seems to illustrate just how beaten down and timid he has become.
Dodge eventually finds himself at an end-of-the-world party being hosted by his best friends Warren and Diane (Rob Corddry and Austin favorite Connie Britton). They try to set Dodge up with an end-of-the-world romance. This love connection doesn't pan out and Dodge eventually returns home.
Upon returning home he has a chance encounter with his neurotic neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley). Eventually Penny hands Dodge a stack of mail that contains a letter from Dodge's lost love. This is where the adventure begins in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. As riots break out around them, Penny and Dodge, now friends, set out to find Dodge's long-lost love.
In April 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor experienced a meltdown caused by a failed system test. This failed test was accompanied by a power surge, explosions and subsequent exposure of the reactors control material. The exposure of the control material caused a fire, sending a radioactive plume of smoke to be released into the atmosphere. The fallout from this radioactive plume caused the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in the areas surrounding the nuclear plant. One of the abandoned places is Prypiat. Prypiat is the city that housed the workers of Chernobyl. This city is now an a empty husk of a city and the setting of the new movie Chernobyl Diaries.
Chernobyl Diaries tells the story of a group of twentysomethings on an extended trip through Europe. Before they leave for Moscow, the travelers decide to take a day trip to the ghost city Prypiat. Turned back by security guards, the group's tour guide finds an alternate route into the city.
World War II, fought on multiple continents with multiple armies, has an untold number of unique stories. One story revolves around an Asian soldier captured by the Americans during the Normandy invasion. In My Way (Mai wei), filmmaker Je-kyu Kang shows us how this man found himself taken from Korea to ultimately become a conscripted soldier in the German Wehrmacht.
The movie begins with color commentary of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. The announcer is highlighting the movement of a Korean runner named Jun-shik Kim (Dong-gun Jang). Jun-shik Kim is steadily moving up the field of runners.
Quickly the story flashes back to Japanese-occupied Korea. A Japanese doctor and his family have moved to Korea to serve under the doctor’s father, a colonel in the Japanese Imperial Army. This family has a young son, Tatsuo Hasagawa, who spies another young boy running alongside their car. This boy is Jun-shik Kim, who quickly becomes fast friends with Tatsuo ... and also rivals. Via their shared love of running, the boys are commonly found in competition with one another.
The film takes a sudden turn when Tatsuo's grandfather is assassinated and Jun-shik’s family is blamed, causing the family to fall into poverty and despair. Jun-shik is forced to make a living as a rickshaw driver. Never letting things get him down, Jun-shik uses his job as a means to improve his running ability.
After depicting Jun-shik’s continued training, My Way moves to the Korean Olympic trials. The Japanese took insult when a Korean runner won an earlier Olympic event and have banned all Koreans from representing their country. Ultimately, under pressure from a former Olympian, the occupiers are pressured into allowing Jun-shik's participation. Jun-shik wins the event, is denied his prize and a riot breaks out. As punishment, the Korean rioters are conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army.
The future, a federal prison ... location? Space! Guy Pearce plays Snow, a man framed for a crime he did not commit. With a carrot of freedom hanging over his head, Snow accepts a mission to rescue the President’s daughter from the aforementioned floating Alcatraz. The problem? The inmates have broken free of their cryogenic slumber and now run the asylum. Not only have the inmates broken free of cryogenic slumber, someone gave them a camera, a budget and let them make this colossal trainwreck of a movie. Welcome to Lockout!
A concept like a floating space prison requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. It's perfectly fine to require some amount or belief suspension, but there is a level where it becomes abusive. Lockout requires the viewer to abandon all logic, reason and gray matter at the door.
The problem with this movie starts with its initial premise. The government in partnership with "generic evil mega corporation" has spent trillions of dollars constructing a highly technical, space-bound prison. The problem is they built a technical masterpiece with a security system worse than an unattended box of Cracker Jack. No-one in their right mind would build a space station without some type of ground-based on/off switch.
[Editor's note: I told Rod I'd rip his head off if proofreading his review spoiled the movie for me. It didn't, and he's still in one piece, so feel free to enjoy the review if you haven't seen the film yet.]
The Cabin in the Woods has to be one of the most unoriginal and unimaginative titles for a horror movie in 50 years. Do not be fooled by the title. It is neither unoriginal or unimaginative. This horror movie has the power to change your worldview of what a horror movie is and should be -- The Cabin in the Woods is a genre game-changer.
The cast of characters is reminiscent of an 80s horror film or The Breakfast Club. You have your requisite set of college-age kids: a jock, a stoner, a hot girl, a second hot girl and the new guy tag-along friend. This menagerie of John Hughes characters exists in a movie that starts with a typical horror-film plot line: Let's go to the woods, put ourselves into an altered state of mind and see what happens ... and a whole lot happens!
Our adventurers set out in a motor home, encounter the "creepy dude" that always seems to be employed at the last gas station on the road, finally arriving at their destination, a creepy, overgrown and dusty cabin in the woods. In quick order they find a basement packed to the rim with tons of creepy gizmos, trinkets and artifacts. It’s at this point that all hell breaks loose and we are thrown into a horror movie that defies explanation. Note to self: "If I am ever trapped in a basement full of arcane junk, never and I mean never, play the tape recorder."
This is where my review has to become vague. This vagary is for your safety and mine. I am duly sworn to protect the integrity of this film against all foes foreign and domestic.
First and foremost in this picture is the script. During the Q&A at this years SXSW, co-screenwriters Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon said that the script for The Cabin in the Woods was cranked out in a marathon three-day writing session. Each writer had a goal of 15 pages per day and what glorious pages these are. After you view this film, you will see how a script with such a unique hook could be cranked out in rapid fashion.