Friday is the first of the truly huge days at the convention. It’s become one of the two main days for cinematic presentations, and this year was no exception. The lines into the massive Hall H at the convention centre were growing (but nothing like what they would become later in the day) as we arrived for the Warner Bros presentation. We were late arriving as there'd been roundtable interviews with the cast and crew of Snakes On A Plane, so we only caught the tail end of The Reaping presentation with director Stephen Hopkins and stars Hilary Swank and Anna Sophia Robb. It features Swank as a former missionary who loses her faith and becomes a professional debunker of miracles. But events in a small Louisiana town soon make her question her lack of faith…
What made you consider this supernatural thriller?
How was it filming in a hurricane-devastated area?
What did you research?
Following The Reaping, Neil LaBute arrived to present a few minutes of his Wicker Man remake. He got a strangely muted response and only a couple of questions at the microphones situated in the hall. Frankly, LaBute seemed to treat the whole thing like a chore – and left the stage quickly. After him, there was a taped message from an awkward Daniel Radcliffe and a harried-looking David Yates introducing Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, but in a disappointing development they showed no footage from the movie.
Last up was Bryan Singer, who, despite the lukewarm box office performance of Superman Returns, got a hero’s welcome when he stepped on to the stage. He defended the film like a pro and even found time to announce that he was aiming to make a sequel for 2009 – while admitting that there was no deal in place yet. Before he gets on to the sequel, however, he wants to make “a smaller film.” An audience member suggested Logan’s Run, to which Singer smiled and replied, “I’m afraid Logan’s is not really a smaller film…” Sadly we had to depart for a roundtable with Singer before we could see Richard Donner arrive to show a scene from his re-cut Superman II. But we did catch the Superman Returns blooper reel, which has Marlon Brando screwing up in classic footage and the Returns cast making with the goofs. Expect a longer version to show up on the DVD.
Singer was in good form at the interview, deftly deflecting comments about what is perceived to be disappointing box office figures for his latest superhero adventure. Explaining that the film had plenty of places still to open around the world, he asked us to wait and see what would happen. Nice try, Bryan.
Talking to Singer meant skipping the Stardust panel, which was highly annoying. It’s becoming a real chore to attend everything as the studios schedule their events almost wilfully to clash with each other. There’s never enough time in the day to see everything and attend every interview. We're sure the Con will eventually add an extra day.
The final convention centre event of the day was one of the biggest. New Line – which is getting a reputation for amazing panels – was bringing us footage from Snakes On A Plane, and, as an extra treat, a few minutes of Jack Black’s Tenacious D film The Pick Of Destiny. After a momentary, less-than-thrilling blip (an average look at the Final Destination 3 DVD that felt less like an exciting Con moment and more like a contractual obligation), host and Snakes co-star Keenan Thompson got to the meat of the evening with five minutes of Pick Of Destiny, introduced in typically laconic, gut-busting style by Jack Black and partner-in-madness Kyle Gass. The footage is the start of the film, which shows a young JB rebelling against his preacher father (played to the hilt by Meat Loaf), who condemns him for writing a “Satanic” rock song. But Jables isn’t deterred – inspired by a vision of legendary rocker Ronnie James Dio, he heads for Hollywood and the promise of superstardom. It’s part-musical, part-fantasy biopic and from the looks of this, pure genius. As Jack himself said during the presentation, truly b’dass.
The 6,000-strong crowd ate up the footage and raised the roof before going even crazier when the Snakes team arrived on stage. Director David Ellis showed ten minutes of the film, which lives up to its title as Samuel L Jackson battles crazed reptiles on Pacific Air Flight 121. The two main highlights of the presentation were Jackson playing the crowd like a pro (asked if the snakes deserved to die, Jackson followed up perfectly with A Time To Kill delivery: “Yes they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!” He also had the audience in fits thanks to a young filmmaker asking what it would take to get Jackson in his film… “Sounds like you have a film, but not a cheque book." When the young man agreed, Jackson went on: "What's your sister look like?" As we choked back the tears of laughter, he got to the killer line: "What about your mother?" Also on hand was snake handler Jules Sylvester, who bought out increasingly bigger snakes to show the audience. Snakes on a stage indeed…
After that, it was across the road for the Accepted party at the Hilton Gaslamp. The film company had thoughtfully laid on mounds of food for the hungry journos and VIPs and TF spent the evening mingling with the likes of Edgar Wright, Adam & Joe’s Joe Cornish and Nick Frost. And there was a free T-shirt to grab. Ah… freebies. How we love thee.