Mission BriefingThis week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the terrorist organization Centipede pops its furry little legs into the mix once again. Three of its Extremis powered muscleheads break into a high security prison to extract an inmate named Edison Po, a former marine and tactical expert that can help Centipede go up against S.H.I.E.L.D. The S.H.I.E.L.D. gang decides to fight fire with fire by enlisting Mike Peterson (guest star J. August Richards) in his first appearance since the show's pilot.
The AgentsGuest agent Mike Peterson gets the spotlight this time. Since his near-explosive stand off with the team in the premiere, Mike has been spending his time pushing bulldozers across football fields under S.H.I.E.L.D’s watch. Coulson recruits an eager Peterson for his first special ops mission, but he’ll have to take on three other Extremis powered foes without much help from the other, more fragile members of the team.
Mission FalloutThe team tracks down Centipede to an abandoned shipping warehouse and the two sides do battle. Peterson proves his usefulness by holding his own against the three soldiers, even though he’s outnumbered, but is wounded when one of the enemies stabs him in the side with a nasty piece jagged metal. S.H.I.E.L.D. is able to take down one of the soldiers, but the man is killed remotely by the same cybernetic eye device that the organization has used previously to dispatch its cornered agents. A wounded Peterson calls his son, but discovers that he has been kidnaped by Centipede. Centipede wants to trade Peterson for his son’s safety, and S.H.I.E.L.D. sets up the trade, realizing there’s nothing they can do. During the fateful trade, Centipede reveals that they really want Coulson, and that Peterson was in on the gambit. Coulson gives himself up for the boy’s safety and Centipede whisks him away in a helicopter while the rest of the team can only stand back and watch. Peterson tries to save Coulson, but is presumably killed after Centipede lets off an explosion that rips through the night (though there is no body shown, which means, by comic book rules, that Peterson will most likely show up again at some point in the future). While flying to safety, Centipede reveals to Coulson that they are looking for the same answers that he himself has been searching for all season: How did he come back from the dead?
Mission Highlights and Lowlights— Can this be the very last “He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?” scene in anything forever? Pretty please?
— What kind of shoe string budget are S.H.I.E.L.D. missions running on that they can’t be bothered to send more forces after three soldiers juiced up with Extremis? I guess the economy has hit everyone pretty hard. Even the massive clandestine government security organizations need to pinch their pennies.
— The scene with Peterson getting measured for his super suit by Fitz/Simmons was cringeworthy for all the wrong reasons.
Those who know Pierre Morel know him as a mild-mannered filmmaker, the creative force behind such action-filled jaunts as Taken, District B13, and From Paris with Love. Just your average director of screens big and small, and definitely not the catalyst of some diabolical, top secret government ploy. After all, just because Morel is reportedly in talks with Sean Penn for a new high adrenaline picture Prone Gunman, it'd be totally ridiculous to assume that the helmer is on a classified mission to transform all of Hollywood's leading men into methodical killing machines. That in the guise of blockbuster flicks, he's sending them off, one by one, onto savage quests throughout Europe, until every last SAG member is a drone of the agency with superhuman capabilities for fending off entire armies barehanded.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Penn is in discussions for the lead role of Prone Gunman, an adaptation of the eponymous Jean-Patrick Manchette novel that sets its special ops main character off on an international chase sequence, evading and fighting back against the very agency for which he used to work. It could just be that Morel is finding the basic backdrop of his hit Taken fruitful enough to explore new avenues for exciting storytelling... or maybe, his formula for turning everyday actor Liam Neeson into a boda fide crime ring-defeating, daughter-saving hero. So now that Penn is his newest subject, who else might Morel transform? Leonardo DiCaprio? Denzel Washington? Chad Michael Murray?
[Photo Credit: Wenn]
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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
As you scan through the various titles available on Netflix’s Watch Instantly service, you may find yourself in an age-old conflict. Do you watch a classic action film or a gut-busting comedy? Thankfully, a recently added title makes it possible for you to avoid this conundrum all together.
For your consideration, we highly suggest you check out Hot Shots! Part Deux.
Who Made It:Hot Shots! Part Deux was directed and co-written by Jim Abrahams. If the name sounds vaguely familiar on its own, it will probably prove far more recognizable in conjunction with his usual creative team: Abrahams, Zucker, and Zucker. That’s right, the mad geniuses behind Airplane, Top Secret, and The Naked Gun. These guys obviously know how to create great parody films and Abrahams proves he can recreate this on his own as the Hot Shots! sequel is fantastic.
Who’s In It: Just as in the first film, the star of Hot Shots! Part Deux is Charlie Sheen. Bear in mind, this is not completely bonkers Two and a Half Men era Charlie Sheen who became a sad parody of himself. This is the late 80s/early 90s prime version of Charlie Sheen whose offscreen exploits were still secondary to his onscreen persona. Between the Hot Shots movies, the Major League movies, and Young Guns, Sheen was positioning himself as one of the funniest, coolest actors in Hollywood.
What’s It About: The U.S. government launches a covert mission into Baghdad to rescue Desert Storm prisoners of war. This special ops team is also secretly tasked with assassinating Saddam Hussein. Things go terribly wrong and the team is captured. Now, the government scrambles to put together a rescue team to rescue their rescue team. They can think of only one man capable of leading such a rescue mission: Topper Harley. Now, if they can only find him.
Why You Should Watch It:
Much of the formulaic Abrahams and Zucker(s) comedy is alive and well in Hot Shots! Part Deux. There is no shortage of goofy physical humor and you can’t swing your arms, or throw a banana peel, without hitting a pratfall. The sequel also carries the tradition of the first film in its merciless skewering of various films. The first Hot Shots was primarily a send-up of Top Gun, hence the name bestowed upon Sheen’s character, but the sequel does far more branching out; mocking several films within the action genre. Everything fromRambo to Terminator 2 to Star Wars gets the Abrahams treatment.
But in addition to the obvious, overt humor, Hot Shots! Part Duex shines in its more subtle jokes. There are little touches sewn into the fabric of silliness so understated as to almost be Easter eggs, and often communicated without words. I think my favorite of these has to be the moment between the two operatives on the airplane just before they parachute behind enemy lines. As one operative covers his face in camo paint, he hands the applicator to his comrade, an African-American. The look on the second operative’s face as he is handed the paint is absolute genius; a mix of disbelief and utter disappointment. There’s also the scene at the press conference where, in the background, the accident-prone current president manages to take out all the living (at the time) former presidents except for Gerald Ford, who just falls down on his own.
Hot Shots! Part Deux features one hell of a cast. Beyond Sheen, the roster boasts comedy legend, and frequent Abrahams/Zucke/Zucker collaborator, Lloyd Bridges as clueless President Tug Benson. He is as quick with the one-liners as he is with the slapstick. Whose Line Is It Anyway’s Ryan Stiles shows up as a loony demolitions expert and is absolutely incredible. But the most meta piece of casting in the film is the inclusion of Richard Crenna. Crenna played Rambo’s commanding officer Col. Trautman in theFirst Blood franchise, which serves as the film’s chief source of comedic inspiration. For his part, his timing is quite adept. I also love the cameo by Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen’s father, who is coming up the river narrating his mission as Topper narrates his; a stellar reference to Apocalypse Now.
When you bundle all of these things up with some charmingly dated references,Hot Shots! Part Deux becomes the perfect 90s comedy. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, dated pop culture references are usually cancer for comedies, which is why every film by Friedberg and Seltzer is a travesty. But Hot Shots! Part Deux incorporates these elements into a timeless action movie plot. The First Blood movies will always be classics, so we can enjoy a satire of them even if it features the occasional jab at American Gladiators, President Bush throwing up on a Japanese diplomat, or…well, Saddam Hussein.
Two big movies debuted their first footage at SDCC 2011 and we were right there to witness the action first-hand. The first is John Cusack's new movie The Raven. Cusack plays Edgar Allen Poe who teams with a Baltimore detective to hunt down a serial killer who uses Poe's writing as inspiration. The flick also stars Luke Evans and Alice Eve (hubba hubba). The other big movie Relativity Media showed off was Steven Soderbergh's big action film Haywire that follows a spurned spy on a revenge mission. This movie marks the feature debut of MMA fighter Gina Carano (a hubba hubba would be appropriate here too but she would probably break us in half) and features Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, and Ewan McGregor.
Here's what we saw at the panel:
Haywire was developed after Soderbergh saw Gina on TV and wanted to create a vehicle around her and create a female character who performs for real on camera with no stunt doubles.
Gina now appreciates what actors "go through.” Her character is a special ops person and she gets things done. She’s double crossed by her team and has to fight to get her life back. Her character's father was in the military.
The film opens with her character meeting Tatum's character for the first time in a diner. From there, the story backtracks to everything that led up to the diner. Then,the second half the story starts back up in real time.
Soderbergh insisted on realism in the fight sequences. He shows off a fight sequence with Gina and Michael Fassbender. Absolutely brutal fight scene with Gina and Michael destroying a hotel room during the course of the one on one brawl. Breathtaking.
Gina says the fight scenes were like a dance, and the fight with Fassbender she liked getting banged around and then blushed and laughed.
Soderbergh says directing "is a good job,” and that sMatt Damon is as discreet as a 14-year-old girl in regard to Damon saying Soderbergh said he is going to retire. Soderbergh says that story was overblown.
Next up, The Raven!
They first played the trailer for the movie. The movie is a fictionalized account of the last 5 days of Poe's life. Trailer was frenetic, gruesome in spots and showed great period detail.
Cusack as Poe played him in a unique way. Apparently he did his research and Poe was world famous, had a big ego and had charisma. Cusack said Hunter S. Thompson and Poe have similarities.
In the movie the killer is sort an admirer of Poe, which leads Poe to be framed for murders.
Actress Alice Eve had to play a person buried alive and had to eat lots of dirt during filming.
Luke Evans plays Fields. Poe and Fields have a Holmes and Watson relationship. They wanted to bring authenticity to the story.
Cusack: “Poe had strange relationships with the women in his life. He held females in high esteem and did not like the company of men. Women would swoon over him, he was sort of a bad boy but not in an obvious sense.”
What writings of his did the filmmakers turn to, Peter Aykroyd's Poe: A Life Cut Short was one reference work.
That about wraps it up. Old school action and new age thrills—can't wait to see these movies next year!
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
On paper Sylvain White’s ensemble thriller The Losers doesn’t display much promise. Its budget (around $25 million) is miniscule by action-movie standards; its cast apart from female lead Zoe Saldana is unexceptional; and its plot about a group of disgraced Special Forces operatives who seek revenge against the shady arms dealer (Jason Patric) who had them framed is hardly original. And yet The Losers makes for a surprisingly entertaining ride an apt prelude to the summer blockbuster season. Call it The B-Team.
Though based on a graphic novel (what Hollywood movie today isn’t?) The Losers boasts no superheroes just a quintet of mercenaries with complementary skills and catchy names like Cougar and Pooch. Presumed dead after being double-crossed during a black ops mission in the Bolivian jungle they languish in a third-world limbo until a mysterious woman named Aisha (Saldana) approaches their leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with an enticing opportunity.
The Losers establishes a lively pace from the outset and with the exception of one appallingly disjointed planning scene director White adroitly handles the challenges of a plus-size cast. Save for a few extraneous twists that mar the film’s second half screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Peter Berg maintain a straightforward storyline keeping the tone determinedly light (always best when dealing with the constraints of a PG-13 rating) but never too cartoonish -- at least not by comic book-movie standards.
Morgan who previously underwhelmed in Zack Snyder’s doomed Watchmen adaptation isn’t the ideal choice to headline the film’s male cast and he appears hopelessly overmatched by Saldana. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if The Losers didn’t try to sell us on a hastily-hatched romantic subplot between the two which serves only to provide us with a few scantily-clad glimpses of the sultry Avatar star. Needless to say there are worse sins a filmmaker can commit.
The only aspect of The Losers that truly vexed me was the performance of one of its castmembers. I doubt that Joe Johnston director of the upcoming Captain America adaptation caught a screening of this film before he chose to award Chris Evans the coveted starring role in the big-budget comic-book flick. Because if he had I’m certain he’d have chosen differently. Evans’ clownish wiseass routine is instantly and perpetually grating. Even when delivering the most innocuous of line readings he radiates a natural douchiness that no Super Serum can fix.
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson)--and with names like that you've got to be somewhat suspicious--are among the hundreds of residents of a contained facility somewhere in the not-too-distant future. They are told that they are survivors of a global ecological disaster and therefore must live under a carefully controlled environment with their day-to-day lives monitored to the nth degree seemingly for their own good. The only way out is to be chosen to go to the Island the last uncontaminated spot on earth with the "lucky" few picked "randomly" from a lottery. Yeah right. Lincoln is curious about it all. He wants to know why he's there what's his purpose and is the Island really all there is. And his dogged inquisitiveness eventually leads him to the awful truth: the Island is a cruel hoax and he and his friend Jordan are in some deep doo-doo. See they're actually clones an insurance policy as it were who are more valuable dead than alive. So they run. And run. And then really run. Just like Logan 5 and Jessica 6 did in Logan's Run breaking through to the wondrous and dangerous world outside. Hot on their trail however are the powers that be. They obviously can't have their "product" running around willy-nilly. But Lincoln and Jordan want to live dammit and will stop at nothing to achieve their mission.
McGregor and Johansson are sufficiently scrubbed and polished as the near-perfect Lincoln and Jordan aptly conveying a childlike wonderment--first to their burgeoning feelings for one another at the facility then to the horror of the truth and finally to their new surroundings in the real world. The actors also fair well as action heroes as their characters get a crash course in how to outrun trained military operatives master high-tech machinery and well make love. It's not as easy as it looks let me tell you--except maybe the last thing. I mean crashing a hovercraft-like motorcycle through a high-rise building and falling several hundred feet with nary a scratch on them is pretty darn impressive. The beauteous pair are also supported by an eclectic group. They include Djimon Hounsou (In America) as the mysterious special ops leader relentlessly hunting down Jordan and Lincoln and Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) as the morally compromised doctor running the cloning institute. And if you want to add a little screwy humor to your full-blown action flick hire Steve Buscemi (remember him in Con Air?). He plays a technician at the facility who befriends Lincoln--and lets him know how it really is.
Director Michael Bay--known for such vapid but action-packed thrillers as The Rock Armageddon and the Bad Boys series--hasn't ever made a film without his anchor the grand pooh-bah himself producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The Island is the first time the director is flying solo--and apparently Bruckheimer was a little peeved when he found out about it. According to Entertainment Weekly the producer told Bay "Just so you know we passed on it." Ouch. But you know what? Bay does just fine without the Bruckmeister turning in his most compelling movie to date--and that's really saying something. Screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen obviously influenced by George Orwell's 1984 and the campy 1976 Logan's Run turned in an original script that was a tad too cerebral; it had to be Bay-ified. So young writing upstarts Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci were brought in to add that all-important action elements. Of course the idea that sometime in the future for the right amount of money you could have a clone made of yourself to use in case something happens to you seems intriguing. And mix some good old-fashioned run-for-your-life smash 'em ups the combination pays off.
After failing in a mission to protect an important government scientist Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe (Diesel) learns that the man's family is also in danger. In an effort to redeem himself Wolfe agrees to take care of the scientist's children while their mother (Faith Ford) travels overseas to try to retrieve her late husband's secret plans. But the perilous adrenaline-charged world of babysitting soon becomes the military man's greatest challenge especially with the out-of-control Plummer clan. They include sassy rebel teen Zoe (Brittany Snow) sullen 14-year-old Seth (Max Thieriot) precocious 8-year-old Ninja wannabe Lulu (Morgan York) plus destructive toddler Peter and baby poop machine Tyler. He's truly a fish er SEAL out of water but this tough guy soon realizes that by bringing them all closer together to protect them he's becoming part of a family. Yep pure Disney sap.
That's right I said it. Vin Diesel doesn't look completely ridiculous interacting within the whole heartwarming comedy milieu and there's a couple of reasons why. Firstly as The Pacifier's tough nut Navy SEAL Diesel is still doing all the he-man stuff we know and love him for. He still blows things up gets to race on a Jet Ski and fight off Ninja assassins. Secondly although he has a few moments during which he softens up Diesel's Shane never really drops the hard-ass sergeant routine as he tries to whip the kids into shape. One of the more telling scenes is after Shane expertly dispatches said Ninjas using the kid's stuff as weapons. It finally dawns on the Plummer children that they really are in danger and that maybe they should cut the guy some slack. As for the three older kids Snow (TV's American Dreams) Thieriot (Catch That Kid) and York (Cheaper By
the Dozen) do their best not to veer too much into the stereotypical zone especially York as little Lulu who could have a promising future as a Special Ops agent if she plays her cards right. Carol Kane also makes a memorable appearance as the Plummers' beleaguered Eastern European nanny giant warts on her face and all. As does
Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett as a bullish high school vice principal.
The Pacifier is sort of an Uncle Buck on steroids. The 1989 John Hughes' film had John Candy with his sloppy unorthodox ways come into white-bred suburbia and change not only the lives of his nieces and nephew but of course his own. It's a formula that works and Pacifier director Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) utilizes it to the fullest. The best moments of the film are when the Navy SEAL has to use his own experiences and skills and apply them to the domestic mess he finds himself in. Sure there are the usual gags about changing the baby's diaper for the first time catching Zoe's boyfriend trying to sneak into the house stuff like that. And yes the mush level hits some serious high points at times. But for the most part the getting-to-know-each-other set up is enjoyable. The film starts to lose you however when it gets into the subplot of trying to find the dead scientist's super secret plans which in the wrong hands could spell disaster for the world. Whatever. Just get back to the comedy.
Hardened by years of brutal but loyal military service special ops officer Robert Scott (Val Kilmer) is assigned to find the president's apparently kidnapped daughter Laura Newton (Kristen Bell). Pairing up with his protégé Curtis (Derek Luke) Scott works diligently with a task force of presidential advisors the Secret Service the FBI and the CIA to find her and through their investigation they stumble upon a white slavery ring in the Middle East which may--or may not--have some connection to Laura's disappearance. The straightforward search-and-rescue mission is soon bogged down in political machinations and the girl's abduction starts to look even more suspicious than it did at first. In fact the mission comes to an abrupt halt altogether when the girl is supposedly found drowned from a boating accident. Scott returns to his quiet life until Curtis shows up and proves that Laura is still alive and most likely trapped in the white slavery ring. In a race against time Scott and Curtis embark on their own unofficial rescue mission--and put themselves at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the U.S. government.
Val Kilmer probably won't be joining Mamet's dedicated circle of players--which includes Joe Mantegna William H. Macy and Mamet's wife actress Rebecca Pidgeon--any time soon. While it's clear Kilmer took the role to work with the talented writer/director he isn't well suited to deliver "Mamet-speak"--the rapid fire delivery of terse dialogue the writer is known for--and Kilmer looks uncomfortable trying to do it. The gifted actor who can't help but bring in his own quirky sensibilities to the part still hits the nail on the head as steely resolute Scott. But the minute he starts dispensing sage advice--Mamet-style--Kilmer sticks out like a sore thumb. Same goes for Luke (Antwone Fisher) who is entirely miscast as Scott's sidekick. Others in the ensemble however handle the Mamet chores more adeptly including Macy and Ed O'Neill (yes the guy from TV's Married ... With Children) as presidential aides.
Spartan's real problem however is that it's a thriller without much thrill. Mamet's expertise is in creating scenarios within a microcosm whether it's a world of con artists (House of Games; The Spanish Prisoner) salesmen (Glengarry Glen Ross) or even showbiz (State and Main). These Mamet films are even-keeled--almost devoid of emotion. He sets up characters and actions relevant to that particular world so when characters spout lines in Mamet's distinctive style it comes off as perfectly natural. Yet with Spartan Mamet is tackling a bigger grander picture and when his style is applied to the world as a whole it doesn't work. Plus in the thriller genre the audience needs to feel invested in the characters and Mamet's distant unemotional style doesn't lend itself to sending the audience's collective hearts racing. The only poignant moment in the film belongs to Bell as the wounded daughter who just wants a little attention from Daddy and the only truly exciting moments are during her rescue. That said however Spartan proves Mamet still knows how to craft a story. Although the script is at times vague and convoluted it thankfully never falls into any of the genre's usual patterns and it throws in enough twists to keep you on your toes.