In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Comic-Con. The mecca of pop culture.
Movies, TV, Comic and Gaming enthusiasts will gather in the temperate California town for a five-day, pop culture extravaganza, where the top dogs in every field come to showcase their latest and greatest products. Whether it's the Hall H premiere trailer of a new summer blockbuster, the cast meet and greet in Ballroom 20 for the hot new TV show or just a sit down with some insightful creator-types in a dark and dingy backroom, SDCC is always full of surprises and this year looks to be no different.
We'll be there on the ground floor picking up all the news bites as they break, but you can check out the schedule for the first two days below -- and better prepare for the onslaught of updates!
Friday, July 22
10:00-11:00 LEGO Star Wars— A behind-the-brick look with the LEGO Star Wars team at how the epic Star Wars story comes together with the creativity and imagination of the LEGO brand. Additionally, be among the first to hear about a special LEGO Star Wars entertainment event, and meet Emmy award-winning writer Michael Price. Also includes Q&A time. Room 7AB
10:00-11:00 Torchwood: Miracle Day— John Barrowman (Doctor Who) and Eve Myles (Doctor Who) join cast members Mekhi Phifer (ER), Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Alexa Havins (All My Children), and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under), along with writer Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica), to discuss the fourth installment of the hit BBC Worldwide show, a Starz Originals co-production, currently airing Friday nights at 10 ET/PT on Starz. Ballroom 20
10:15-11:15 Star Trek: The Captains— William Shatner is joined by fellow Star Trek captain Avery Brooks to present a preview of the EPIX Pictures original documentary produced and directed by Shatner, in which he travels the world to interview all the actors who've played Starfleet captains. This lively discussion and Q&A session is moderated by Comic-Con fave Kevin Smith. Room 6BCF
10:30-11:30 Locke & Key FOX Pilot Screening— The most talked-about pilot not on the fall schedule was the FOX production of Locke & Key. This screening of the entire pilot will show you just what a void there will be on your TVs this fall. Watch the special filmed adaptation of Welcome to Lovecraft, and see the Eisner-nominated comic brought to life. Can't get in to see it this morning? Don't worry...there's a rescreening tonight at 9:15 in Room 6DE! Room 8
11:00-12:00 Radical Publishing— Radical will announce its imprint deal with Sam Worthington's production company, Full Clip, and introduce the writers and artists working on those projects. Panelists include Sam Worthington (Avatar), John Schwarz and Michael Schwarz (Full Clip Productions), Rick Remender (The Last Days of American Crime), Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier), Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer), and Radical Studios president Barry Levine. Radical will also give the inside scoop on Sam Worthington's attachment to Rick Remender's The Last Days of American Crime. Room 24ABC
11:00-12:00 Paramount: The Adventures of Tin-Tin— TBA Hall H
11:15-12:15 AMC's The Walking Dead— Stars Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually), Jon Bernthal (The Pacific), Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break), Laurie Holden (The Mist), Norman Reedus (The Boondock Saints), Steven Yeun (The Big Bang Theory), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Green Mile); series creator/writer/director/executive producer Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption); executive producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator); executive producer Robert Kirkman (creator/writer of The Walking Dead comic book series); and makeup artist and consulting producer Greg Nicotero discuss the success of season one of AMC's series The Walking Dead and reveal what to look forward to in season two, which will air on AMC this Fall. Join the panelists for a one-on-one Q&A session and an official sneak preview of season two. Ballroom 20
11:30-12:30 Halo Universe— Frank O'Connor, Kevin Grace, and others from 343 Industries, as well as special Halo guests Greg Bear and Karen Traviss, discuss the first 10 years of Halo and offer a sneak peek into what's next for this exciting sci-fi universe. Room 6BCF
11:30-12:30 Locke & Key Panel— Make your plans to watch the Locke & Key TV pilot at 10:30, then join Eisner-nominated creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, along with Locke & Key TV pilot writer Josh Friedman, for a frank discussion of the show, the comic, and what's coming up in Clockworks, the second-to-last story arc in the acclaimed series (or is it?). Room 8
11:45-12:45 Nickelodeon & DreamWorks Animation: Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness— The bodacity continues as Po the panda punches his way onto a new animated series. Executive producer Peter Hastings and supervising producers Randy Dormans band Gabe Swarr present an exclusive sneak peek into the new series by Nickelodeon and Dreamworks. This panel will also include select moments with voice cast members Mick Wingert (Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special), James Hong (Kung Fu Panda 2), Kevin Michael Richardson (Penguins of Madagascar), and John DiMaggio (Penguins of Madagascar), followed by a screening. Moderated by Megan Casey, executive in charge for Nickelodeon. Room 6A
12:00-1:00 ABC Family: The Nine Lives of Chloe King— An exclusive sneak peek of an upcoming episode of The Nine Lives of Chloe King, followed by a Q&A session with the cast and producers. The cast in attendance includes Skyler Samuels (The Gates) as Chloe King, Amy Pietz (The Office) as Meredith King, Grey Damon (True Blood, Friday Night Lights) as Brian, newcomer Grace Phipps as Amy, Benjamin Stone (Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter video game series) as Alek, Alyssa Diaz (Shark Night 3D) as Jasmine, and Ki Hong Lee (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) as Paul. The executive producers are Dan Berendsen and, from Alloy Entertainment, Gina Girolamo. The Nine Lives of Chloe King airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on ABC Family. Room 23ABC
12:15-1:15 Relativity Media: Raven and Haywire— Two fantastic films from Relativity Media debut in this Hall H presentation.Raven -- The film is a gritty thriller in which Edgar Allan Poe joins forces with a young Baltimore detective to hunt down a mad serial killer who's using Poe's own works as the basis for a string of brutal murders. Raven stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, Luke Evans, and Alice Eve and is directed by James McTeigue.Haywire -- An electrifying tale of espionage and betrayal. A female covert ops specialist who works in the deadly world of international operatives strikes back after discovering she's been double-crossed by someone close to her in the agency. Mixed martial arts superstar Gina Carano makes her feature film -- and Comic-Con -- debut, starring and performing her own high-adrenaline stunts. Also appearing is director Stephen Soderbergh.
12:30-1:30 The Big Bang Theory Screening and Q&A— Dr., Dr., Dr., Dr., Dr., Mr., Miss...See everyone's favorite scientists (and engineer and waitress) from The Big Bang Theory as the show's producers and stars return to San Diego with a special screening and Q&A. Executive producers Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men), Bill Prady (Dharma & Greg), and Steve Molaro (iCarly) join stars Johnny Galecki (Roseanne), Jim Parsons (Garden State), Kaley Cuoco (Charmed), Simon Helberg (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), Kunal Nayyar (NCIS), Mayim Bialik (Blossom), and Melissa Rauch (True Blood) for a fun and lively discussion. From Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television, The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8/7c on CBS, and The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13. Ballroom 20
12:45-1:45 Legendary Pictures: Preproduction Preview— Legendary Pictures holds its first-ever Comic-Con panel and shares an early look at some of the movies on the company's upcoming film slate. Fans will be able to access Legendary's plans, garner sneak peeks at their movies in preproduction, and hear from filmmakers and cast members from the upcoming Pacific Rim, Seventh Son, Paradise Lost, and Mass Effect. Panel participants include Jeff Bridges, Bradley Cooper, Guillermo del Toro, Ben Barnes, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Alicia Vikander, Alex Proyas, Sergei Bodrov, Travis Beacham, Mark Protosevich, and Casey Hudson. Room 6BCF
1:30-2:30 Screen Gems: Underworld 4— Underworld 4 brings a stunning new dimension to the epic battle between Vampires and Lycans as the first film in the franchise to shoot in 3D. Kate Beckinsale, star of the first two films, returns in her lead role as the vampire warrior Selene, who escapes imprisonment to find that humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species. Appearing in person are Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, Len Wiseman (producer and director of Underworld and Underworld: Evolution), and directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein. Hall H
1:30-2:30 Adult Swim: Childrens Hospital— See a never-before-screened episode of Childrens Hospital and hear from the show's creative team led by Rob Corddry (Cedar Rapids) and Jon Stern (The Ten). They will be joined by members of their ensemble cast of comedic heavyweights, including Malin Akerman (Couples Retreat), Lake Bell (No Strings Attached), Erinn Hayes (Parenthood), Rob Huebel (I Love You Man), and Megan Mullally (Will and Grace). Childrens Hospital explores the emotional struggles and sexual politics of a group of doctors charged with healthy libidos. The panel will close with a sneak peek at Adult Swim's newest live-action comedy, NTSF:SD:SUV::, featuring creator and star Paul Scheer (The League). NTSF:SD:SUV:: is a clandestine team of government agents working to protect San Diego from numerous terrorist threats coming in daily from such evil countries as Mexico, Canada, and Guam. This team of highly trained operatives has only one job: saving your ass so you can drive your Prius and see your movies in 3D without worrying about living in a country run by no-good terrorists. Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront
1:45-2:45 Bones— Creator/executive producer Hart Hanson, executive producer Stephen Nathan, and stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel discuss the shocking finale of Bones Season 6 as well as what's in store for Booth and Brennan in an exciting Season 7! Hanson will also introduce the audience to the stars of The Finder, his new FOX series premiering in January. Plus, Q&A! Ballroom 20
2:00-3:00 Green Lantern: The Animated Series Video Presentation and Q&A— Warner Bros. Animation brings the Green Lantern to television in a new CG-animated action series for Cartoon Network from world-renowned producer, artist, and animator Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series). Based on the DC Comics superhero, Green Lantern: The Animated Series centers on Hal Jordan and his partner Kilowog, who find themselves alone on the edge of the Guardian Frontier fighting off an invasion by the deadly Red Lantern Corps. Timm headlines a panel -- moderated by Warner Bros. Animation's Sam Register (Teen Titans) -- that also features producer Giancarlo Volpe (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and producer/story editor Jim Krieg (Ben 10: Alien Swarm). In addition to the Q&A, fans in attendance will be treated to footage prepared exclusively for Comic-Con. Don't miss out, or you'll be waiting 'til 2012! Room 6BCF
2:15-3:15 Exclusive Screening of ABC's Newest Supernatural Series, The River— From the studio that brought you Lost comes a new adventure set deep in the Amazon. Executive producers Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), Michael Green (Green Lantern), and Zack Estrin (Tru Calling), along with cast members Joe Anderson (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), Eloise Mumford (Lone Star), and Leslie Hope (24), present an exclusive screening and a Q&A of their much-anticipated new series, The River. All attendees will get a limited-edition Comic-Con giveaway. Room 6A
2:45-3:45 DreamWorks: Fright Night— Colin Farrell (The Way Back), Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre), Dave Franco (Charlie St. Cloud), director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), and screenwriter Marti Noxon (I Am Number Four) take the dais to give fans a taste of the horrific fun to come in DreamWorks Pictures' 3D reimagining of the classic horror film. Hall H
3:00-4:00 Eureka— Small town. Big panel. Syfy's smash hit Eureka is back at Comic-Con. Colin Ferguson (Jack Carter), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Allison Blake), Neil Grayston (Douglas Fargo), and guest star Felicia Day (Dr. Holly Martin) join executive producers Jaime Paglia and Bruce Miller for a chat about the big secrets of America's smartest little town. Moderated by guest star Wil Wheaton (Dr. Isaac Parrish; Wesley Crusher, Star Trek: Next Generation). Ballroom 20
3:00-4:00 Bob's Burgers— Bob's Burgers creator/executive producer Loren Bouchard, executive producer Jim Dauterive, and cast members H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, and Kristen Schaal entertain animation fans with hilarious never-before-seen footage from season two, followed by a Q&A. Room 23ABC
3:15-4:15 Falling Skies— TNT's powerful drama series Falling Skies follows a group of survivors who band together after a devastating alien invasion has incapacitated most of the world. Ordinary people are called upon to fight back against the occupying alien force as they struggle for the survival of the human race. Join stars Noah Wyle (ER), Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation), Will Patton (Armageddon), Drew Roy (Secretariat), Collin Cunningham (Living in Your Car), and Sarah Sanguin Carter (Shark) and co-executive producer Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Galactica) in a Q&A, and watch exclusive never- before-seen footage from Falling Skies. Room 6BCF
3:30-4:30 ThunderCats Premiere Episode Screening and Q&A— Comic-Con, ho! From the moment this series was announced, fans have answered the call -- now, the wait is over as Warner Bros. Animation is proud to bring you the world premiere of this new reimagining of the beloved '80s franchise. Lion-O, Tygra, Panthro, Cheetara, Wily Kit, and Snarf are back! After the screening, producers Michael Jelenic (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Ethan Spaulding (Avatar: The Last Airbender), art director Dan Norton (G.I. Joe: Resolute, and members of the voice cast will discuss what viewers can expect in the first season of this exciting new series. ThunderCats premieres in a special one-hour episode on Friday, July 29 at 8/7c on Cartoon Network. Room 6A
3:30-4:15 Adult Swim: Robot Chicken— Seth Green (co-creator, Robot Chicken), Matthew Senreich (co-creator, Robot Chicken), and Tom Root (head writer, Robot Chicken) discuss the popular Adult Swim series. The series uses stop-motion animation to bring pop culture parodies to life in a modern take on the variety/sketch show format. In Robot Chicken, no pop culture target is safe. Legions of action figures are used to spoof everything from reality television and Star Wars to past presidents. Moderated by Keith Crofford, vice president of production, Adult Swim. Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront
4:00-5:00 Developing Interactive Entertainment: The Performance Capture Techniques of the Uncharted Franchise and Today's Film Industry— Naughty Dog has consistently led the industry in adopting advanced performance capture processes and technology to propel their critically acclaimed Uncharted video game franchise to greater heights of quality and presentation. Launching in November, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception delivers character-driven narrative and dramatic action sequences to create an engaging experience that grounds the player in the game world with relatable and believable characters. Moderated by USA Today's Mike Snider, Uncharted 3's creative director Amy Hennig and cast members Nolan North, Richard McGonagle, and Emily Rose discuss the influence of theatrical techniques and styles from the history of film that have helped the team produce interactive entertainment. Room 25ABC
4:00-5:30 Sony— Sony returns to Hall H with a stellar lineup of films and talent, including:Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance -- After blazing a trail around the globe in the worldwide hit Ghost Rider, Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Columbia Pictures' Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter, Blaze is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider again, but it is the only way to protect the boy -- and possibly rid himself of his curse forever. Live on stage: directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) and stars Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, and Johnny Whitworth.30 Minutes or Less -- From Ruben Fleischer, the director of Zombieland, comes the action comedy 30 Minutes or Less. In the movie, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network and Zombieland) is a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wannabe criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). The duo kidnap Nick and force him to rob a bank. With only a few hours to pull off the impossible task, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). As the clock ticks, the two must deal with the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers, and their own tumultuous relationship. Talent in attendance includes director Ruben Fleischer and stars Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and Michael Peña.Total Recall -- Welcome to Rekall, the company that with one little implant can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his ordinary existence. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. With the line between fantasy and reality blurred and the fate of his world hanging in the balance, Quaid goes on the run to discover his true identity, his true love, and his true fate. Based on Philip K. Dick's classic story "I Can Remember It for You Wholesale," this new take on some of his most visionary ideas is directed by Len Wiseman and stars Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, and John Cho, all of whom will be appearing.The Amazing Spider-Man -- The Amazing Spider-Man is back on the big screen, shot in 3D for the first time, and will be swinging into your neighborhood on July 3, 2012. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, and Martin Sheen, as well as Sally Field, and directed by Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man's new creative team will be taking a whole new direction in the unfolding saga of everyone's favorite web-slinger. Appearing in person are producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, director Marc Webb, and our own Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy -- Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
4:15-5:15 Warehouse 13— For one day only, America's top-secret treasure trove is moving from the middle of nowhere to the middle of Comic-Con. Stars Eddie McClintock (Pete Lattimer), Joanne Kelly (Myka Bering), Saul Rubinek (Artie Nielsen), and Allison Scagliotti (Claudia Donovan), along with executive producer Jack Kenny, take you inside Syfy's blockbuster hit series, Warehouse 13. Moderated by Neil Grayston (Douglas Fargo, Eureka). Ballroom 20
4:30-5:30 Marvel Television Presents: Anime on G4— Marvel Television and G4 take your favorite characters -- Iron Man, Wolverine, The X-Men, and Blade -- to Japan to tell their stories in a whole new way, beautifully animated by the anime masters at Madhouse. Hosted by Attack of the Show's Blair Butler, watch a never-before-seen episode with Marvel's head of TV Jeph Loeb and surprise guests. Plus, get a sneak peek at The X-Men's explosive first episode. Room 6BCF
4:45-5:45 Phineas and Ferb— Hear from the brilliant minds behind the series, Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, along with voice talent Vincent Martella (Everybody Hates Chris), Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure), and Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad). See exclusive footage and hear all the scoop about their upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, which premieres August 5. Moderated by Matt Blum of Wired.com's Geek Dad. Room 6A
5:00-6:00 BBC America's Bedlam: Exclusive U.S. Premiere Screening and Q&A— Star Theo James (Downtown Abbey) and creator David Allison (Boy Meets Girl) host a premiere screening event followed by discussion and Q&A. Bedlam Heights, the stylish new apartment building, has sexy tenants and gorgeous amenities. But little do its new residents suspect that behind the luxury fittings lay unimaginable horrors. This is a place tainted by abuse, suffering, and death -- and the ghosts of its dark and violent past are out for revenge. As the direct descendent of those who ran the asylum, Kate (Charlotte Salt, The Tudors) -- who both lives and works there -- is a prime target. She is surprised by the unexpected arrival of Jed (James), her adopted cousin. With a history of mental illness, Jed is a troubled man who sees ghosts and visions of the past. Recent messages to "Save Kate" propel him back into Kate's life. Can he really "Save Kate"? And from whom, or what, does she need saving? Everybody has a dark side in this new series also starring Ashley Madekwe (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Hugo Speer (Skins), and Will Young (Pop Idol winner, Skins). Bedlam premieres October 8 on BBC America's Supernatural Saturdays. Room 7AB
5:00-6:00 The World of Capcom— Capcom fans won't want to miss this opportunity to learn about all the new games coming from their favorite video game publisher. Plus, get in-depth details straight from Capcom's stellar producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi (Resident Evil 4) about his exciting new open-world action adventure game, Dragon's Dogma. Producer Jason Leigh talks about the zombie-infested streets of Fortune City in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, and producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya discusses the new over-the-top rollercoaster IP, Asura's Wrath. Followed by a Q&A session. Room 25ABC
5:30-6:30 True Blood Panel and Q&A session— Mixing romance, suspense, mystery, and humor, the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated True Blood kicked off its 12-episode fourth season June 26 on HBO. The series follows the on-and-off romance between waitress and part-faerie Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who can hear people's thoughts, and 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Oscar and Emmy award winner Alan Ball created and serves as executive producer of the series, which is based on the bestselling Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. The series -- and this panel! -- also features Ryan Kwanten as Jason Stackhouse, Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte, Rutina Wesley as Tara Thornton, Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette, Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica Hamby, Kristin Bauer van Straten as Pam, Joe Manganiello as Alcide, and Kevin Alejandro as Jesus. Moderated by Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly. Ballroom 20
5:45-6:45 Spartacus: Vengeance— Liam McIntyre (McLeod's Daughters) makes his Comic-Con debut, along with Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night), Dustin Clare (Underbelly), and Katrina Law (Legend of the Seeker). Executive producer Steven S. DeKnight (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) joins the cast to discuss the upcoming second season, titled,Spartacus: Vengeance, expected to air on Starz in January 2012, and the exclusive content found on the Spartacus: Gods of the Arena Blu-ray discs, available September 13. Room 6BCF
6:00-7:00 Hermes Press / Dark Shadows The Classic Series and the New Tim Burton Film— Lara Parker (Angelique from Dark Shadows), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres from Dark Shadows), Jim Pierson (consulting producer for the new Dark Shadows film), and Daniel Herman (publisher, Hermes Press) talk about the classic show, the comic book, and print tie-ins and reveals up-to-date news and some surprises about the upcoming Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp, along with a Q&A session. Room 4
6:00-7:00 Alphas— Syfy's newest original series Alphas has taken the summer by storm -- and it's just the beginning. David Strathairn (Dr. Lee Rosen) and fellow cast members, plus creator and executive producer Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand; The Avengers) and executive producer Ira Steven Behr (Star Trek: The Next Generation; The 4400), reveal why impossible is what Alphas do best. Moderated by Geoff Boucher ("Hero Complex," Los Angeles Times). Room 6A
6:00-7:00 Girls Gone Genre— Come talk with women who write, read, game, and perform in arenas that are statistically dominated by men. What happens when traditionally "male" genres are reinvented by female writers and embraced by female fans? Sex and the City it ain't. Meet the women who like to play with trucks and Barbies. And Wolverine action figures. And flux capacitors. Moderator Jenna Busch is joined by panelists Marti Noxon (screenwriter/producer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Mad Men, Fright Night), Gale Anne Hurd (producer, The Walking Dead, Terminator, Aliens), and Marjorie Liu (writer, X-23, Daken: Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, Dirk & Steele novel series). Room 25ABC
6:00-7:00 At the Drive-In— Come with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when one of the few places you could see some offbeat genre films and a slew of trailers was at your local Drive-In. We're trying something new at Comic-Con this year by giving some up and coming genre filmmakers an evening berth to preview their upcoming films. So as San Diego gets darker tonight, so will Hall H as we welcome our first guests to the Virtual Drive-In:Grave Encounters -- Locked in an actual abandoned mental hospital, the crew of a ghost-hunting reality show find themselves trapped in a psychotically endless and deadly labyrinth. Written and directed by The Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, takes the found footage horror genre to a terrifying new level. Appearing on stage: The Vicious Brothers.Tucker & Dale vs. Evil --Tucker and Dale are two best friends on vacation at their dilapidated mountain house, who are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, preppy college kids. When one of the students gets separated from her friends, the boys try to lend a hand, but as the misunderstanding grows, so does the body count. Tucker & Dale Vs Evil has been a hit on the festival circuit, debuting at Sundance, and winning the Midnight Audience Award at SXSW, the Jury Prize for First Feature at Fantasia, the Best Director award at Fantaspoa, and the Best Motion Picture Award at Sitges. Confirmed panelists include Eli Craig, Alan Tudyk, and Tyler Labine.
6:30-7:30 Resident Evil Round-Up!— 2011 marks the 15th anniversary of the legendary video game franchise that gave fear a face and horror a home. Get the latest information about the newest entries to the Resident Evil franchise: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, with producer Rey Jimenez; Resident Evil: Revelations for the Nintendo 3DS; the gorgeous reimagining of Resident Evil 4 HD; and Resident Evil Code Veronica X HD, plus some surprises! Followed by a Q&A session. Room 5AB
7:00-8:00 Sushi Girl— Sushi Girl chronicles the story of five friends who reunite six years after a diamond-job-gone-wrong to eat sushi off a naked girl. Sure enough, the thieves can't help opening old wounds in an attempt to find their missing loot, and all mayhem ensues. This film marks the return to the big screen for Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Noah Hathaway (Neverending Story) and also features cast members Tony Todd (Candy Man), James Duval (Donnie Darko), Andy Mackenzie (Shoot 'Em Up), David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), and Cortney Palm (Sunday Morning High). The legendary Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill) also stars. Kern Saxton (Deader Living Through Chemistry) directed and co-wrote with Destin Pfaff (Millionaire Matchmaker). Producers Neal Fischer (Fight Club) and Suren Seron (Forever Plaid) and moderator Ted Stryker (KROC) round out the panel. Meet the entire cast and creators and witness the world premiere of the official trailer, followed by Q&A session. Room 25ABC
7:30-8:30 Death Valley— MTV brings the unique marriage of horror and comedy together with this new series. Join members of the ensemble cast, including Caity Lotz (Mad Men), Tania Raymonde (Lost), Bryan Callen (The Hangover), Bryce Johnson (Sleeping Dogs Lie), Texas Battle (Final Destination 3), and Charlie Sanders (Funny or Die), along with showrunner/executive producer Eric Weinberg (Californication, Scrubs), director Drew Daywalt (Bedfellows), executive producer/director Austin Reading (Spike TV's Scream Awards, FEARnet), executive producer Julie Kellman Reading, and co-executive producer Spider One, in a discussion about the challenges of bringing the comedy and horror genres together and how the team involved in the series bring all the elements of what they know best to the series. Fans will get an exclusive first look at an upcoming episode. Q&A session to follow! Room 5AB
7:30-8:30 Lost Girl— Supernatural seductress Bo is a succubus who feeds off sexual energy. Having survived for years alone, she now discovers she is one of the Fae, creatures of legend who pass as humans. Unwilling to chose sides, Bo forges her own path between the human and Fae worlds, embarking on a mission to unlock the secrets of her origin. Join star Anna Silk (Ghost Whisperer); actor Emmanuelle Vaugier (Saw II), who guest stars as The Morrigan, the head of the Dark Fae clan; and the production team behind the series, Jay Firestone, executive producer (Andromeda, Mutant X) and Michelle Lovretta (Mutant X), as they discuss this exciting new show coming soon to SyFy! Room 24ABC
8:00-10:00 World Premiere: Batman: Year One— Warner Home Video, Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation proudly present the World Premiere of Batman: Year One, the highly anticipated next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Based on the landmark 1987 DC Comics titles from 12-time Eisner Award winner Frank Miller and illustrator David Mazzucchelli, Batman: Year One depicts young Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham City in his first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante. The playboy billionaire chooses the guise of a giant bat to combat crime, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon (who is already battling corruption from inside the police department), inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps bring down a crooked political system that infests Gotham. When the film ends, stay in your seats for a lively panel discussion amongst voice cast members Ben McKenzie (Southland), Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), executive producer Bruce Timm (DCU films), directors Lauren Montgomery (Superman/Batman: Apocalypse) and Sam Liu (All-Star Superman), and casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano (DCU films). Moderator Gary Miereanu will offer a first glimpse into the 2012 DC Universe Animated Original Movies slate, give away some exclusive prizes to inquisitive audience members, and quite possibly introduce a few surprise guests. Warner Home Video will distribute Batman: Year One on Blu-ray and DVD, OnDemand and For Download on October 18, 2011. Ballroom 20
9:00-11:00 Syfy Screening: Eureka, Haven, and Mercury Men— Imagine Greater with fellow fans during an advanced preview screening of the next all-new episode of Eureka, followed by a special presentation of an all-new Haven. And be sure to stick around for the exclusive premiere of the new digital series The Mercury Men. Introductions by Eric Balfour (Duke, Haven). Room 6A
9:15-10:15 Locke & Key FOX Pilot Screening Encore— Second screening added due to demand! The most talked-about pilot not on the fall schedule was the FOX production of Locke & Key. This screening of the entire pilot will show you just what a void there will be on your TV this fall. Watch the special filmed adaptation of "Welcome to Lovecraft" and see the Eisner-nominated comic brought to life. Room 6DE
10:15-12:00 Encore Screening: Batman: Year One— Warner Home Video, Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation offer a second opportunity to see Batman: Year One, along with a chance to see a few special Comic-Con exclusive trailers for upcoming Warner Bros. films, videogames, and Blu-ray/DVD releases. Ballroom 20
Years ago someone said to me, “If you want to hear some real stories about moviemaking, just talk to a stuntman.” I’ve since forgotten who actually gave me such sage advice, but he was dead on. Stuntmen and -women are the unsung heroes of the film industry, risking life and limb on a daily basis to make other people look good, rarely getting much acclaim (outside of the industry itself, at least) for their hard work. So if you ever find yourself in the same room as a stuntman, go buy him a drink; he'll tell you some wild shit.
Until that day, however, do the next best thing: buy Vic Armstrong’s biography, The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman: My Life as Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman and Other Movie Heroes. You may not actually know who Vic is as of this writing, but I guarantee you’ll be telling all of your movie-geek friends his stories when you finish reading his book. The man has not only led an incredible and fascinating life, but his impact on the film industry is indelible.
Who Wrote it: Vic Armstrong obviously had more than a little bit to do with his own biography, but he also wrote it in conjunction with the great British film historian Robert Sellers, who has written books like Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson.
Who’s In It: Vic Armstrong, obviously. But the stories he tells involve more Hollywood greats than I can list in this small space. Stunt doubling for Harrison Ford, Christopher Reeve and half the actors who played James Bond; going to wild sex parties hosted by Burt Reynolds; meeting drug lords in South America; throwing Tom Cruise under a speeding truck; telling Steven Spielberg he’s wrong; being given a Quaran from Muammar Gaddafi ... The people Vic has worked with in his life are incredible, and the man has an equally incredible story about each and every one of them.
What’s It About: Vic Armstrong, obviously. But more than that, World’s Greatest Stuntman is about two core things: showing how different the movie industry used to be (and how it can never, ever be the same again) and explaining just how important and overlooked the roles of people like Vic are. And Vic’s attitude on both fronts shows just why he is indeed the best in the business.
Why You Should Read It: If you’ve got any kind of interest in old Hollywood and the way things used to be, then this is without question a must-read for you. Not only do his stories involve some of the best filmmakers that have ever lived -- David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, just to name a few -- but they revolve around how the nature of the business has changed. Things on set have become far more democratic. The absolute command that a director or an A-list producer had in the ‘60s and ‘70s and the lengths they would go to to get things done is mind-blowing.
Sure, everyone says, “They don’t make movies like they used to,” but that’s such a nebulous phrase. When you hear Vic talking about living on a movie set for over a year to film just a single sequence or about how other movies were in production for so long that many of the crew ended up marrying locals and having children before the films even wrapped, it’s painting a picture of a world that we can never go back to. But what’s great about Vic telling these stories isn’t that he’s some old man telling “back in my day” yarns; it’s that he’s been in the business for so long, he’s seen how it used to be, how it is today, and where it’s going next.
And if stories about the Hollywood of yesteryear aren’t your thing, don’t worry -- Vic has plenty of modern stories and insights to share as well. He was the second unit director on movies like Total Recall (for which he filmed some 1,200 setups, which is ridiculous), Starship Troopers (for which Paul Verhoeven said he should have been called his co-director), Gangs of New York, War of the Worlds and even two versions of Mission: Impossible III (he spent months working with Scarlett Johansson on stunts only to have the movie get cancelled without explanation).
Basically, think back on all of the awesome blockbusters over the last 20 years that were filled with practical stunt work. Not the CGI-laden crap that comes out today, but stuff that involves a real person jumping from, say, a horse to a Panzer tank; or driving cars through an ice palace (Die Another Day); or driving half a car through an office building (The Green Hornet). If you watch it and go, “Damn, that looks like it hurt,” chances are Vic was involved somehow. He’s been this unheralded savior of movie magic for decades, and hearing how he makes the incredible credible is a must for any film fan.
Most drug movies glamorize the use and/or distribution of narcotics before telling the ugly truth about the addiction or jail time that follows and the shady figures that inhabit society’s underbelly. Taking characters from point A to point B and finally to their lowest point is a formulaic but effective storyline that shows how substance abuse destroys lives. It worked for Blow Scarface and The Basketball Diaries but in Limitless director Neil Burger ignores that successful blueprint and essentially says “Do drugs kids! They’ll help you! And don’t worry it’ll all work out in the end!”
Of course a more familiar narrative precedes this self-serving unorthodox conclusion and it could’ve worked if Burger navigated the story with more focus. The film begins when struggling novelist and all around slob Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) who has a permanent case of writer’s block runs into his drug-peddling-ex-brother-in-law in Manhattan (what are the odds?) This slimy fellow gives him an experimental pill called NZT that clears its users mind and helps them focus. When he ingests it his long-gestating novel is completed in a matter of hours and his grimy apartment is made-over to look like a room at the Ritz Carlton. The pace of the picture picks up quickly as Eddie climbs New York City’s social and corporate ladders acquiring wealth power women and the attention of greedy entrepreneurs ruthless gangsters and assassins who want the drug themselves.
The high-concept premise presented storytelling potential as expansive as the title suggests but Limitless is hampered by a series of discrepancies that render it silly and disjointed. Some of the smaller ones are relatively insignificant and won’t hinder the experience but others (such as the lethal effects of the drug which conveniently don’t apply to our protagonist) defy the internal logic that screenwriter Leslie Dixon sets up. It’s also hard to ignore how useless a handful of the sub-plots are. Abbie Cornish’s character starts out as motivation for Cooper’s but her relevance lessens as the stakes are raised and Eddie slips further into the worlds of finance and crime. The same can be said of the Russian gangster whose arc begins when he lends Eddie some capital for an investment and ends in a pulpy bloodbath. Burger leads you to believe that these side-stories will have greater impact on the bottom line but by the time the film wraps it becomes clear that they’ve collectively convoluted the plot.
It is however entirely possible that the filmmakers’ goal was to make a movie that mimics the incoherent mind-bending state that hallucinogens induce and in that sense Limitless works. Burger builds on that idea by visualizing the effects of NZT with unusual camera techniques including abrupt changes in color editing tricks that revisit the action in reverse (sort of) and a great time/spatial elapsing effect that literally pulls the viewer through Eddie’s lengthy drug coma. The dizzying display of surreal imagery is the films greatest gimmick designed to draw your attention away from its weaknesses.
At its core Limitless is about excess: excess of knowledge power money etc. and fittingly excess is one of its biggest problems. The filmmakers force too much upon their movie from unnecessary fight scenes to sexual encounters with metropolitan socialites that ironically water down its potency instead of giving it more edginess. Like any drug it starts out as something refreshing and stimulating but when you come down you’re stuck wondering where the last few hours went.
Even if you’re one of the 19 other people in a competitive internship at Dean Witter with Chris Gardner (Will Smith) you gotta root for the guy. Life’s beaten him up but not got him down. He lugs his computer-monitor-sized bone density scanner all over San Francisco hoping to sell just one to make ends meet for his family—but nobody’s buying. As his wife’s (Thandie Newton) discontentment nears a boiling point Chris accepts an internship at financial institution Dean Witter—six months without pay and only one of the 20 applicants will ultimately get a job out of it. This sends her packing. She leaves Chris and their son Christopher (Jaden Smith) to fend for themselves at which point they get evicted. It’s the tip of the iceberg because over the course of Chris’ penniless pursuit of the Dean Witter job (and “happyness”) he and Christopher will get by sleeping in homeless shelter--and even in train-station bathrooms. Chris had always vowed to never leave his son and he keeps his promise but there’s no guarantee that his perseverance will pay off. Except for the fact that Happyness is “INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY”! Will Smith is getting all the awards buzz but it’s his real-life son Jaden who transcends all expectations in Happyness. Jaden’s never acted in a movie before and it’s safe to assume that because of his father's long-running movie stardom he could not have grown up in a more different environment than that of his character. Which makes it all the more amazing for this 8-year-old Hollywood tyke to grasp even if coincidentally the plight of a nomadic urban child. The best part about little Jaden is that his performance doesn’t seem robotic like so many child actors who are already too "seasoned" for their own good. Aside from the expected cutesy laughs there’s genuine spontaneity in Jaden’s performance obviously thanks to the fact that he’s acting opposite his dad. Papa Smith gives what’s probably his best performance to date although he's had a career of primarily action roles that weren't exactly conducive to a skills showcase. He delivers the goods here—as seen in the tear-rific trailer—as a man whose whole life is his child but frankly the tears evoked might be too few for Oscar’s liking. Newton (Crash) in a small role is terribly miscast but Mr. and Mr. Smith dominate the screen anyway. Even with the studio flaunting the movie’s "Inspired by a true story..." tagline like a badge of honor—as studios tend to do—and this being the holiday season and all Italian director Gabriele Muccino expends way too much effort into the crowd-pleasing/feel-good aspects of Happyness. The happy ending everyone already knows about should be saccharine enough. Granted this is why a studio loves true stories—one that begins on a low note ends on a really high note and fluctuates all over the radar in between—and it may make the film more pleasing to its targeted mainstream audiences but Muccino and writer Steve Conrad (The Weather Man) really take the gloss factor much too far. In this case they essentially try to tell us a mostly sad story but will not let us feel sad. For instance during what could be very dark reflective scenes potentially connecting with viewers who have struggled through similar problems music befitting a children’s tale overtakes the would-be drama so we don’t ever feel too badly for Chris. It’s nice that the director cares so much for us but oftentimes the best directors are the ones who show an audience tough love.