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July 25, 2008 |

By Brian Prisco | Miscellaneous | July 25, 2008 |

Getting upriver is half the battle, as we found ourselves taking an unexpected seven hours to get to San Diego, courtesy of a heinous accident on the I-5 involving a Vons Grocery truck and a minivan that exploded. We survived the ordeal by snacking on beef jerky, singing Journey songs at the top of our lungs, and predicting how long it would take the crazed horse in the trailer next to us to kick out of its iron pen. As we cruised past the wreckage of the burned out -semi, I never more appreciated the irony of the slogan: Vons — Groceries for Life.

We parked several blocks out and hoofed it through downtown San Diego to get to the convention center around 2 PM. My cohort, who is covering the Con for another online comic book resource, dashed off to get his press credentials. We planned to meet up later after my last panel, and then he disappeared into the crowd. I got my own professional 4-day pass and entered the convention.

Imagine a nest full of drugged hornets. Now place them in a contained space about the size of four football fields, and you will have an idea of the glut of cattle-like humanity that is Comic-Con’s exhibition floor. It’s like some sort of underground bazaar, like the Troll Market in Hellboy II. A mass of strangely dressed folks, many a scantily-clad maiden, or a child clutching a lightsaber or dressed in Naruto rags with spiked hair, wandering aimlessly in circles. Various merchants hocking exotic wares, shiny pretty artwork and flashing lights. Video game kiosks set up everywhere, with lines spiraling back to where harlots barely contain their unmentionables in shredded Ghostbusters uniforms.

I felt like I had entered a foreign land. It was intimidating, all these goods that I didn’t understand but felt like I should. I liked them because they were pretty, or they had Invader Zim, or I recognized an occasional word here or there. Capcom? Dark Horse? Macfarlane? Otherwise, it was an endless stream of body traffic swirling about the many stands, swinging giant oversized bags from the SciFi Channel that read “Big Frakking Bag” on the side. I did pick up a few graphic novels that looked interesting, or had been recommended to me. I may pick up two or three more.

As is my wont, I immediately managed to collide bodily with the celebrities in the crowd, like some sort of TMZ laced pinball. Upon arriving after our arduous trek, I sought a bathroom, and almost ran into Bruce Davidson, the senator from the X-Men movies among other things. The Toxic Avenger handed me a flyer to see Dian Bachar, and whose lap should I practically land in while glimpsing footage from Poultrygeist, but Mr. Little Bitch himself from Baseketball. Thomas Jane, Frank Darabont, Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew and Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno , and I hadn’t even gotten to a panel yet.

I had already missed a bunch of movie panels, including the Red Sonja one with Robert Rodriguez. Most of the panels are located in giant auditoriums with video screens and not enough chairs. Lines snake around the convention center in vast looping paths that are only explicable to the ELITE Redshirt staff. I made a spreadsheet plotting out the times and the rooms of the events I wanted to see. I missed seeing Keanu as Klaatu, and Marky Mark as Max “The Original Slo-Mo Disarm” Payne. I also missed Eoin Colfer pimping out Artemis Fowl. I was sincerely hoping the new book might be offered as swag. That’s the other thing about Comic-Con. There are people constantly hurling pins and stickers and postcards at you. Usually, it’s the aforementioned costumed lasses. I haven’t seen so many prominently displayed half-racks since my last visit to Chili’s. And surprisingly, not many of them belonged to acne-scarred ladies adorned as some sort of muffin topped Star Wars character.

I hauled ass over to Hall H to catch the Dark Castle presentation of RockNRolla, the new Guy Ritchie movie. Hall H was way the fuck across the length of the convention center. I got there an hour and a half early, figuring I’d have to wait in one of the monstrous lines that make the crux of most events. Instead, they were immediately ushering people into a huge auditorium lined with television screens hanging from every wall, and seats everywhere. They were doing a screening of the new Hulk vs. Wolverine cartoon.

Holy fucking shit. They took a chance and decided to ramp up the violence and language. As Wolverine muttered “What the hell?” the Hulk took every opportunity to deliver bone-crunching body blows. It sounded like someone eating celery and crackers through a megaphone. Wolverine returned the favor with bloody slashes from his adamantium claws. It was badass enough, but then they went and brought in the Weapon X team: Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red, and the newest edition, Deadpool.

Deadpool is the character Ryan Reynolds is rumored to be playing in the next Wolverine movie. This was the first time he’s ever been featured on screen, in any way, apparently. And all I can say is MORE! He’s fucking brilliant. Not only is he an uberviolent murderer with twin swords and big guns, but he’s a smartass. His one liners were hilarious.

So now, you’ve got Wolverine versus The Hulk versus all of the Weapon X team. And that’s where the violence jumped up a notch. We’re talking limbs getting torn off. Razor claws spraying blood as they tear through arms, leaving chunks. It would probably be about a PG-13 rating if they screened it. And it was so awesome to watch. I highly recommend you purchase this DVD when it comes out, because it will enable them to make more Violent Versus Fims.

Dark Castle apparently is run by Joel Silver. Dark Castle has done most of the visually stunning, terribly shitty, guilty pleasure horror movies over the last decade or so: Thirteen Ghosts, Ghost Ship, House on Haunted Hill. Apparently, Joel Silver is stealing a page or all of them from Troma Films and Lloyd Kaufman, and planning on expanding the horror catalogue with more unrated direct-to-DVD releases. So they can ramp up the violence and nudity. As a fan of Troma films, all I can say is Ugh.

Case in point: the first presentation was for a new horror movie starring Sophie Monk and some other people who are not Sophie Monk. It’s called The Hills Run Red, and the premise is that four students track down the scariest horror movie ever made to make a documentary about it. Only, the twist is, the movie is still being made by psychos led by Death from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, William Sadler. It’s a tragic Saw knockoff, and when the cast came out for the panel, nobody asked a question and people could give a shit, and Silver was sweating his decision.

So he instantly whips out his next braintrust, Dark Castles new comic book division. They’re reverse developing a film, by releasing it as a shrewdly doodled comic book first, and then, if it gets a positive response, pumping it out as a film. It’s called The Ferryman, and it’s kind of interesting anti-hero type work. A cop whose wife died starts collecting souls for the devil in exchanged that he can possibly get her back. It’s derivative, but it looks promising, so check it out, comicbook readers.

The next project they revealed was Ninja Assassin, which is a throwback old school ninja killer movie by James McTeague, director of V for Vendetta. It’s pretty brutally violent, so it could be pretty interesting. The assassin takes out a huge dude in a bathroom, and by the time he’s battering the fat man’s skull against a urinal, there is blood on every surface. It stars Korean Pop Star, Rain, who is way big among the preteen/lonely girls club. They were swooning and peppering him with questions, which he either gave complete gibberish responses to, or he would comment on how awesome he is and what honor it was.

And then we get to RockNRolla. Guy Ritchie apparently culled this from his extra material on Lock Stock and Snatch. When asked if he felt pressure to return to his old ways after the latest two failures, he just smiled and said, “Yep.” So he assembled a super cast of Pajiba Panty Moisteners and faves: Gerard Butler, Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba, Jeremy Piven, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Tom Wilkinson. Thandie Newton for all the fellas. I swear to god, Gerard Butler charmed at least four young girls pregnant with his charisma and constant swearing.

It is a fucking welcome return to form. I was duped by Revolver, I’ll admit, but if he can make something this shiny without Jason Statham, he’s got my support. The movie looks outstanding, and seems to have the mix of criminals, smart mouthing characters, and whipcrack dialogue that made us love him the first time around. Oh, by the by, this little nugget got dropped. It appears that since his wife happens to be Joel Silver’s producer partner, Robert Downey Jr is going to be taking the role of Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s re-imagining. Take that Sacha Baron Cohen. Take that right in the Borat.

I hustled over to Room 6B to try to end my night with a ridiculous three-for that the sick little dancing troll in me is actually dying to see. We can blame Lionsgate for foisting this dark trio upon us. Sadly, however, my thorough devotion to you folks would prevent me from making it to the ballroom to watch a free screening of Lost Boys: The Tribe. Sorry, Frog Brothers. I have failed you.

First up was Punisher: War Zone. I was horribly, horribly disappointed by the Thomas Jane one, but then again, so was all of America. I swear to Godtopus, I don’t think that the producer could possibly say the words “ultra-violent” any more than she did in her scant fifteen minute speech, other to assure everyone that this was NOT A SEQUEL and that it was based on the Garth Ennis series. Ray Stevenson looked like a Gotti enforcer in his suit and everyone kept shouting “Pullo!” Julie Benz is adorably blonde. They screened the “new trailer” which did nothing for me that the old trailer didn’t, except it showed Dominic West all kinds of scarred up and shit. I guess this year’s comic book movie motto is gross-ass psychos. Lexi Alexander is the director, and she was apparently some sort of martial arts expert and stuntwoman, who directed Green Street Hooligans. Usually, when they have to defend their choice of director, it’s a bad sign. So I had little hope.

Then they showed a little “music video” montage specially cut for the fans. Hoo-fucking-rah. This cocksucker is getting a hard fucking R. It was three minutes of eye gouging, heads fucking exploding, and some guy getting a chair leg crushed into his orbital ridge. I don’t think there’s actually a plot. I think Ray Stevenson just fucking kills a hundred thousand guys with guns and knives and his bare fucking hands. This is the Punisher I wanted. Even if the story is shit, which I have hope it won’t if they truly followed Garth Ennis (after you’ve all read Watchmen, go and get yourself a copy of Preacher — you’re fucking welcome), it should still be violent enough to satiate the sickest fanboy.

Next up was Saw Five …Thousand. Fuck me, Tobin Bell is STILL on the poster.

They’ve cut him open, cut open his fucking head, removed a tape player from his fucking skull, and now I guess Costas Mandylor is going to kill up a bunch of people? What the fuck do they have to do to this guy to kill him? However, I will admit to enjoying the Saw movies. I find them no less offensive than any of the slasher flicks that have gone into the gabillions. And while it may get tiresome watching Michael Myers kill someone AGAIN with a knife, the rusty Rube Goldbergish-ness of the devices still give me a kick. It’s the same reason why I like the Final Destinations — sure the stories are shit, but I’m just there to see in what gruesome way someone will die. It’s supposedly the most successful franchise horror film ever made in the history of ever. And they all fucking worship Tobin Bell. Julie Benz is in THIS ONE TOO! I think she’s actually in every movie this fall. So it’s a different director, but same everyone else. They gave us a sneak preview of a trap, and it’s meh, but they’ve all been that way lately. I mean, there’s only so many ways you can fuck people up in rusty bondage gear without repeating. This one, features a guillotine and some sort of hand crushing device. You do the math. I can’t be bothered to.


Which explains how we get the last project, Repo! The Genetic Opera. I’m not going to lie, the idea appealed to me. A cast thrown together of random circus misfits, cheese outfits, a wee nip of the ol’ ultra-violence, and crazy sing-speaking. I was feeling a little Rocky Horror coming on. The cast has Alexa Vega (yeah, Spy Kids, who’s going to be the next pedophillic fantastia right behind Olivia Thirlby), Paris Hilton, Anthony Stewart Head, Ogre from Skinny Puppy, Joan Jett, Paul Sorvino, Bill Moseley, Sarah Brightman (!) and some other people I don’t know and nobody cares about. From the trailer, it looked like Moulin Rouge mixed with Dead Alive. But, then people started singing.

The singing isn’t great, and the scenes are truly fucking random. The girl has a fucking stage setup in her bedroom. They’re kind of stuck between campy and this smug sense of originality and cleverness. Darren Lynn Bousman did this, and I gotta admit, the dude kind of felt like one of us. He’s an obsessive fanboy who can’t shut up. He was talking about how when they first were going to cast Paris Hilton, he was all, “But she’s an idiot, who’s a whore.” Then she came in and nailed the part. Of a surgery obsessed drugged whore. Alexa Vega had just done Hairspray on Broadway, and so she came on after Bousman went under the radar and contacted her through MySpace. The cast is seriously an assemblage of misfit toys. And they are off pitch and not as wicked as they are convinced they are.

But then they did a sequence featuring The Graverobber, who was one of the two original creators. The song was outstandingly fun, the pace worked, and Paris Hilton worked it. It was kind of a God That’s Good! feeling, and so I’ll probably check it out when it’s released. It’s actually an opera, so everyone sings the ENTIRE movie, and not necessarily well. I think if approached with the same irreverence as Rocky Horror, this might actually turn out to be fun. But I’m going to need a whole lot of liquor.

We capped off the night by drinking with some comic book artists and writers. Because that’s what writers do. We drink. Heavily. In hotel bars.

Tomorrow, I plan on getting my ass over to the convention center and focusing on the panels. My only goal for the floor is to get a chance to play Street Fighter IV. I want to fuck someone up with Chun Li.

To be continued …

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