BFI Presents The Empire Movie-Con

THE MOVIE-CON BLOG
A film-by-film breakdown of what played at this year's event

Terminator Salvation
Many 'Cons' might choose to start off soft and build up, but, in the words of, well, someone who couldn't spell, fuzz that shizz. Movie-Con was going big or going home. The event opened with extended footage from Terminator Salvation, and any fan disapproval McG might have felt when he joined the project - and, let's be honest, it was considerable - transmogrified into droolsome adoration after this clip.

The footage showed Christian Bale employing the full strength of his gruffness to play a future John Connor. There were explosions; there was action; there were robots. And, as McG said in his intro, there was only one effects shot in a battle-packed reel that showed a gritty, grubby look to this instalment. It was fantastic and restored all faith that this could be an invigorating re-introduction to the franchise. Of all the clips shown over the weekend, this was one of the most vociferous recipients of the cry, "AGAIN!"
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Bolt
It's probably fair to say that Disney's latest arrived as one of the less well-known projects at Movie-Con. But it quickly became one of the weekend's most popular. Producer Clark Spencer introduced 20-minutes worth of in-production footage for the film and it met with resounding approval. The first clip set up the story of Bolt, a dog who is the star of a TV series that sees him as a super-powered canine assisting his teen owner in finding her father. Little does he know that he's actually just your regular, run-of-the-mill pooch with lightning bolt scribbled on his bum and no powers beyond the ability to lick his own nether regions (which is quite a feat, to be fair). Being accidentally shipped from his LA home to New York, necessitating an Incredible Journey style expedition proves a wake-up call. Further clips showed him chatting with cats who, frankly rather meanly, exploited his delusions, and then breaking his feline pal out of a pound with the help of a mega-fan hamster in a ball (we can't fully illustrate here just how great this character is - think Comic Book Guy with more endearing body hair). Spencer's Q&A, annoyingly well guided by Empire's Helen O'Hara, thus forcing later Q&A hosts to actually be good, meant this was being discussed well into the first break and beyond.
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RocknRolla
The secret screening was guessed by many smart arses to be RocknRolla. Guy Ritchie's latest was greeted with considerable a-whoopin' and a selection of a-hollerin' when it debuted. We don't want to tell you anything about Ritchie's return to the London crime scene for fear of spoiling it, but suffice to say it went down very well. Ritchie and star Mark Strong popped in for a Q&A post-screening to vociferous applause. Empire Editor Mark Dinning led the discussion - we will not at this juncture mention the second question stumble caused by a swiftly-consumed glass of wine - which saw discussion of not just the film, but the fact that Strong is in negotiations to play the villain in Ritchie's take on Sherlock Holmes. You read it here first.
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The Day The Earth Stood Still
20th Century Fox showcased a number of upcoming projects, including an extended trailer for Max Payne and then a pair of exclusive clips from The Day The Earth Stood Still. The snippets of the remake of the sci-fi classic showed Jennifer Connelly's scientist being informed of the arrival of a big ol' extra-terrestrial something or other, which we saw as a huge bright light. Then a following clip introduced us to Keanu Reeves' Klaatu as he adjusted to his newly acquired human skin suit. Woah.
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Push
Push was one of the weekend's pleasant surprises. We were witness to three clips from the upcoming movie about a group of young people with psychic and telekinetic abilities. The first was a title sequence with Dakota Fanning introducing the story in voice over; the second was the best of the bunch, with Chris Evans and Fanning discussing a deal for a huge amount of money (we expect this will be better explained in the film) and then being set upon by a group of ne'er-do-wells known as 'bleeders'. These bad guys have the ability to scream at such a pitch that anything not especially robust shatters in their wake, much like first round contestants in The X Factor. The sequence had Evans and fanning tearing away from them through a fish market as bursting tanks and partially exploded fish rained around them, with telekinetic Evans throwing things around with the power of his mind. The final sequence introduced Djimon Hounsou as a baddie with the ability to manipulate people's thoughts. The movie had a feel of an edgier X-Men and we suggest you keep your eye on this, because we reckon it could be something special.

Death Race
Any event about blockbuster movies without a little bit of Jason Statham would be frankly rather ridiculous, so our host Chris Hewitt, who had evidently by this point had too much sugar, animatedly introduced an introductory reel for Paul Anderson's Death Race, starring The Stath. There was an abundance of cars shooting at each other, squashing each other, ramming each other, Statham being growly and ladies jiggling in slow-motion. It, of course, went down a storm.
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The Wolfman
The final presentation of day one was for Universal's remake of Wolfman. Producer John Mone made a flying visit to introduce a specially prepared piece from the movie, which showed the distinctly adult approach that this movie will be taking to the updating of the classic horror. We saw Benicio Del Toro fully in action as the man-beast (showing off the brilliant make-up work by Rick Baker); Anthony Hopkins as his clearly not especially pleasant father; Emily Blunt hiding behind trees and trying not to be eaten; and lots of poor souls having their insides relocated to the outside. Heavy on atmosphere and with an embarrassment of acting talent, this suggested a movie with an old-fashioned approach to horror, in the best possible sense. Mone stuck around for a Q&A session afterwards, led by a devilishly handsome and charming and in no way slightly inept chap by the name of Olly Richards, who is in no way writing these reports and how dare you suggest otherwise. Then, with hearts full of movie-related excitement and hands full of assorted film-related tat, the 'Conners bid farewell to day one.
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Twilight and Knowing
Day two began with a great surge of oestrogen rushing around the BFI Southbank. Catherine Hardwicke appeared on screen to introduce a clip from vampire romance Twilight - pause for squealing - which showed our heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) in a spot of bother as a bad neck-biter roughs her up. The day is saved when good vamp Edward (Robert Pattinson) - pause for more squealing - bursts in to rescue her, leading to a huge fight between the children of the night. It all suggested that the movie, based on the enormously popular series of novels, will not be just for girls.

There then followed a clip from Knowing, Alex Proyas' story of a man (Nic Cage) whose son brings home a note from a time capsule buried at his school 50 years ago. The note features a code that appears to prophecy every major disaster in the past half-decade and a good few that have yet to happen. The montage showed Cage rushing to try to break the code and prevent imminent catastrophe. All very tense.
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Lesbian Vampire Killers and Outlander
Following Kim Newman's Bastard Hard Quiz, which truly was bastard hard and saw our winner deservingly walking away with several grands worth of Apple kit and a Nintendo Wii, we were introduced to a world exclusive clip of the upcoming comedy-horror Lesbian Vampire Killers. If the title hasn't already won you over, then the cast might. Gavin and Stacy stars James Corden and Matthew Horne play a pair of friends who accidentally find themselves in a town overrun by Sapphic vampires. The film should be something akin to Shaun of the Dead, but with less zombies and more lesbians, and the couple of scenes we saw certainly had the audience chuckling.

Following that was a scene from Outlander, a film with quite possibly the best plot of any movie ever. It stars Jim Caviezel as an alien who comes to Earth during Viking times and accidentally brings a grumpy space-beast with him. The sequence we saw had Caviezel and his Viking allies (including Jack Huston, John Hurt and Sophia Myles) try to slay the big glowing space monster, with a distinct lack of success, leading to one well-known member of the cast being relieved of his head. Writer Dirk Blackman (nicest man in the world) and star Jack Huston (unreasonably handsome) were on hand to answer questions, discussing everything from busted shoulders to Blackman's upcoming script for Conan, which he promises to take back to the original story and drain of camp. Empire's Helen O'Hara decided during this time that Huston is what would happen if you somehow spliced Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Karl Urban. It's possible she was not wholly concentrating on the Q&A.


Watchmen
The final event of the weekend did not disappoint. The Paramount presentation began with a look at some of the studio's upcoming projects, including the sure to be Oscar-winning Hotel For Dogs and a first-look at the trailer for the new Friday The 13th. We were particularly impressed by the latter, which looked frankly terrifying and sufficiently different to the original movie. Then followed a clip from something called Watchmen, which you probably haven't heard of. You don't want to know about that, do you? Oh, ok.

Zack Snyder introduced the clip via video and then, well, wow. If you thought the trailer was good, you ain't seen nothing yet. We saw Rorschach's mask in full ever-changing ink-blot glory, and it looks perfect. We saw Dr Manhattan evaporating innumerable people in squelchy fashion. We got first peeks at Hooded Justice and Dollar Bill. We saw more of Dr Manhattan's Mars palace. Everything looked spectacular and provided further evidence that Snyder has captured the look of the comic, but given it his own visual spin.

Once the cheers had died down, which took roughly seventeen hours, Watchmen's co-creator Dave Gibbons came on stage to answers fan questions. He revealed that he's seen a cut of the film - the bastard - and that he's very pleased with what's been done, saying that it's retained all the themes and important parts of the book, but approached it as a film, rather than a slavish translation. He also assured the room that he doesn't expect anyone to try to make this into a franchise if it's successful. If you've read the comic you'll know that Watchmen should be a one-off. Once the audience had exhausted Gibbons there was one final play of the footage (more whooping). And on that high note Movie-Con was over for its first year. We loved it, we hope you did too and we hope to see even more of you next time.
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