Alas, the only unmissable event on the film lover's calendar is over, and like a Godzilla-sized force of nature, it came, it rocked our worlds, it left - leaving only a path of ecstatic cinephiles in it's wake. Empire, in collaboration with the BFI have hosted a weekend of sheer entertainment, my eyes have seen what only very few men have seen before. In the words of my zealous younger brother, "it was an epic weekend of epic epicness!" For the weekend, NFT1 became our homes, spending in excess of 23 hours inside, it was a true Pantheon of panache, a Colosseum of carnage, a high-octane adrenalin-fest. That's right, all of the above from sitting in a rather comfortable BFI seat. Chris Hewitt hosted the weekend with his usual wry charm, and gained a stalker in the process (one of Empire's more dedicated forumites). Rather than droll on, and to avoid writing an epic love poem, I think it best to let you know what was in store for us.
The weekend kicked off on Friday (the 13th!!!) night with one of the greatest working directors, Danny Boyle, the legend behind Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire (to name a few), presenting his new movie 127 hours. After a cool Q&A and some whetting footage of James Franco leaping around (and getting stuck in) a canyon, the night's screening, The Expendables, rolled on to the screen, which saw Sly and his pals re-visit the glory days of 80s action-fests. The film was as rock n' roll as it can get; hardened band of guns-for-hire get badass tattoos, ride big bikes, shoot bad guys, blow sh*t up and overthrow a dictatorship. A perfect recipe. This followed with the guys at Jameson whiskey paying us a visit and handing out free booze for the night whilst some trippy tunes played to obscure films. And so the night rolled in.
Saturday morning had Marvel's much-anticipated showreel, where Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Feige (head of Marvel) were on site to answer questions and show some kick-ass 3D footage. We also got a teaser for Captain America (which will rock) along with some chic posters - thanks Marvel! We then got the Paramount reel, including Cowboys and Aliens, Rango and Megamind, followed by reels from Hammer (which featured the so-hot-right-now Jane Goldman talking about new release The Woman in Black, and not letting much slip about X-Men Origins), Momentum (which saw awesome exclusive footage of Skyline - an alien invasion flick) and Optimum. Possibly my highlight of the event then proceeded, with the seriously cool Brit screenwriter/director/production designer Gareth Edwards. Introducing his new movie Monsters, he came across as a maestro of the art, and his outlook on filmmaking is a perfect blend of indie-cool and large-scope adventure. Earth has grown accustomed to living alongside tentacled monsters, and during one of the strange species' migrations, the two leads Sam and Calda are caught in the 'no-go' zone in Mexico whilst trying to make it back to the States in tact. The footage shown was fantastic; our heroes in gas-masks creeping through unknown territories, thrown in with glimpses of ominous tentacles - it was truly dazzling and went down a storm. After the sneak-peak of Monsters we had 8 minutes of footage from new Ryan Reynolds vehicle, Buried, followed by a Q&A with it's (hysterical) Spanish director Rodrigo Cortez. The premise follows Reynolds' trucker in Iraq waking up buried in a coffin -where he remains for most (or all) of the film; and so the panic begins. The footage seen was incredibly effective, seeping with claustrophobia - the whole audience was feeling nausea just watching our hero squirm inside. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.
The great folk at EMPIRE then unleashed a new surprise for us in the form of thirteen-year-old Chloe Moretz, star of upcoming Let The Right One In remake, Let Me In. That's right, Hit-Girl herself was present with some exclusive footage, and she was a delightful girl - a far cry from the violent potty-mouthed assassin in Matthew Vaughan's Kick-Ass. We saw a couple of clips from Let Me In, showing the always-brilliant Richard Jenkins (as the opaque 'father' figure) hunting for blood to feed young Abby (Moretz), and also a short exchange between the young vampire and her new friend Owen. From what we saw, the footage does beckon the question: is the remake really necessary? However, the atmosphere of the original is in tact and I'm sure that Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) will have a couple of tricks up his sleeve (well...he'd better have).
Next up saw The Princess Bride's Westley, the main man himself, Cary Elwes, take to the stage to present some new Saw 3D footage (which was expectedly gruesome). Aside from the huge standing ovation, Empire's Helen O'Hara (the best blogger in the world and The Princess Bride's #1 fan) was on hand to interview the star who revealed that he will appear in Tintin after harassing Spielberg into casting him. He is a true legend and his presence was a real Movie-Con treat. Next in line was a showreel of new Narnia epic, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with director and star, Ben Barnes on-hand to offer some inside information. Next was footage from new Tony Scott adrenalin-rush, Unstoppable (about a runaway train), and next was E1's presentation with The Hole 3D, Red and The Way Back, and then Warner Bros. unleashed some treats. A first real glimpse (aside from the teaser trailer) was seen for Sucker Punch, and trust me, this film is going to be awesome. Starring Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Cheung, Carla Gugino and John Hamm, the film sees Babydoll (Browning) and her band of sexy mates locked away in a mental institution playing out characters in their own imaginary worlds in order to escape from their tragic reality. Cue giant samurai, vicious dragons, burning cities, futuristic tanks, robot warriors and skimpily-clad girls wielding massive weapons. The footage was extreme carnage, exactly what you'd expect from the director of 300 and Watchmen, and it's a firm not-to-be-missed. We also got to see an extended trailer for Affleck's new gritty drama, The Town, which looks to match Gone Baby Gone for twists and turns, and Snyder introduced his new 'family film' Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - some effects-heavy family fun.
To end the day we had a friendly face present the last of the biggest franchise ever - the boy who lived, Daniel Radcliffe. As ever, he was rather modest and wide-grinned, and from what we saw, the last two-parter is going to be most adult and explosive of the series. Radcliffe was also there to promote his new project, Susan Hill's chilling horror tale, The Woman in Black. Now moving into more serious material, the young star has chosen wisely with this new adaptation, which is very much focussed on its young lead, so he'll have the chance to reveal some deeper acting chops. Closing off Saturday's jam-packed programme was a screening of Joe Dante's return to childhood horror with The Hole 3D. I was very pleasantly surprised because my expectations were engaged by the 3D gimmick (which I heard was excellent in this), but it turns out the whole film was a fabulous return to my early memories of Gremlins, Critters, The Goonies and Eerie Indiana. Almost unheard of nowadays, the kids in the film weren't annoying or overacting, and the direction was very absorbing, managing to evoke the perfect balance of chill and fun. After such a grand day, EMPIRE and the BFI were going to have to go off the richter scale for Sunday....
...Which opened with Tron: Legacy, and goodness gracious me, it looks utterly, utterly mindblowing. Breaking all the rules, raising all the bars (visually) and smashing the effects of Avatar, this was The Big One. Brigham Taylor, one of Disney's hip executives was there with an exclusive showreel, which featured an uninterrupted 8 minute scene of our hero(Flynn's son) going to the new world. Complete with a strobe-lit city, ominous guards in black, funky hovercrafts, an Aladdin-sane Michael Sheen and babes in lycra, Legacy will be a cinematic experience like no other, and it's going to be done in Imax 3D!!! In the words of Peter Griffin, it was 'freakin' sweet'. Sony then came to show us Salt, Easy A, Resident Evil: Afterlife (in 3D), Battle: Los Angeles (another awesome-looking 'monsters invade earth' plot) and The Other Guys (a.k.a the funniest 5 minutes of my life), the new film with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell playing a pair of useless cops (eclipsed by the much-loved cop celebs Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson). Flipping hilarious.
Well, the third Movie-Con couldn't really get any better, an emotionally-exhausted audience thought they'd seen it all when, what...hand on a second, is that??....it's SIMON PEGG and NICK FROST!!! Screw me sideways and call me Rita, the crowd have gone utterly mental! Here to present their new comic-geek-road-trip movie, Paul, the comic duo were razor-sharp and whipping out incredulous banter all over the place (but mainly at each other). The footage they showed revealed the titular alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) and the chaotic antics experienced after the alien joins our heroes on he road - namely some big chases, a one-eyed Kristen Wiig, some creepy red-necks. Simon Pegg has become a household name after infiltrating Hollywood in the likes of Star Trek and Mission:Impossible and now he and Frost are playing Thomson and Thompson in the upcoming Tintin movie - Brits are taking over. The time we had with them was raucous, and after the laughs and tears they shimmied off stage left into the ether, leaving find memories behind.
In complete contrast, the comedy charms of Paul were followed by some crazy-violent footage of Ironclad, the new epic based on the siege of Rochester castle, with James Purefoy as a sword-wielding maniac and Paul Giamatti as King John. The fight scene witnessed featured arrows piercing faces, swords cutting people in half, axes crunching skulls and spears impaling torsos - a true spectacle. After then being surrounded by Stormtroopers and other Star Wars villains we glimpsed new comedy Fanboyz (to geek-laden laughs), followed by Kim Newman's bastard-hard movie quiz (which had some incredible prizes including a 3D TV!). After that we were shown a sneak-peak for Brighton Rock set in mods-n-rockers inhabited Brighton, and then Duncan Jones was on our screen chatting about new project Source Code - although he didn't actually reveal anything, he just showed us an interesting piece of concept art featuring a train station. The Movie-Con III ended with the much-anticipated screening of Scott Pilgrim Versus The World and had Edgar Wright and Bryan Lee O'Malley (the comic's creator) to answer some questions after the screening, which was an über-cool mix of Canadian pop culture and kung-fu chic. As ever, Wright is down-to-Earth and very cool (even giving a shout-out to legendary filmmaker John Landis who was sitting in the audience) whilst O'Malley was all sharp wit and shy chuckles. It was a magnificent ending to a visually-orgasmic weekend; Empire and the BFI surpassed last year with trumps, and just from judging by the improvement of the goody bags alone, (this year had a load of tees, including a Tron:Legacy one, a load of DVDs, posters and badges), let alone the exclusive footage, then next year will blow your frickin' head off.
For a more detailed (and better written) blog on the event check out Helen O'Hara's (who was sat in front of me blogging furiously throughout the event) on www.empireonline.com/movie-con