NYCC: Summit Ent.
Winding down a bit here. While the Disney and Warner Bros. panels were treats, I was somewhat dubious about Summit Entertainment's panel. After all, the last two movies they've given us were TWILIGHT and PUSH. But they're an up-and-comer, so it couldn't hurt to check out their slate... Or could it..?!
KNOWING comes to us from Alex Proyas, a fanboy favorite who has directed modern fantasy classics like THE CROW and DARK CITY (and to a much lesser extent, I, ROBOT). In a videotaped intro, Proyas gave a shout-out to a couple of websites that have been very supportive of him, including a certain JoBlo.com! Very cool. Then he said we'd be watching approximately 10 minutes of major footage from his new film - effects were still incomplete (but I'd say about 85% finished) and we were among the first to watch these sequences...
Clip #1 begins with Nic Cage (wearing yet another fright wig) in his car on a rainy highway, stuck in heavy traffic. He's in the process of figuring out a complicated equation that predicts a series of catastrophic events (all written down in a pattern of numbers on a crumpled piece of paper). Quite conveniently, it's at that very moment that he ascertains that some of the numbers describe the Longitude and Latitude of where these disasters will occur. Wouldn't you know it, he's AT one of those spots right now!
After he gets out of his car and confronts a highway cop, Cage and everyone else witness quite a startling event: an airplane falls out of the sky, veers toward the highway, and misses it by only a few hundred yards. The crash is spectacular - and certainly disturbing.
Then, in one unbroken shot, we follow Cage as he runs through the wreckage, attempting to help people who stagger out of the ruins of the plane, on fire. The scream in agony and Cage can only attempt to cover them with blankets or push them into large puddles of water. We see a group of people walking near the engine, which promptly explodes, lighting them all ablaze. It makes the opening scene in LOST look downright tame, I can assure you of that. The only moment that didn't work for me is when a guy, on fire, runs past Cage, who watches him go with that bewildered "Wha happa?" Nic Cage face of his - cracks me up every time.
The second sequence is no less harrowing: Cage runs into a subway station (Lafayette St. in NYC) because he imagines that yet another cataclysmic event is about to happen there. He sees a suspicious-looking man who seems to be hiding something underneath his jacket. Naturally, he begins to pursue the man, who flees him. They get onto a train, followed by some cops, who hold the man at gunpoint in the first car. The man raises his arms and a bundle of bootleg DVDs fall out. Whoops.
Just then, a train coming from the opposite direction goes off the rails and hurtles toward the train our flabbergasted hero is on. Of course, he sees it coming, flips out, and screams for everyone to start running toward the back of the train. A collision occurs, and the oncoming train jumps the tracks and goes careening down the platform, smashing and crushing helpless pedestrians as it barrels along. Lots of CG blood flies, and Cage is once again left alive to survey the horrific carnage...
This is sensationally disturbing stuff in its own right, but when we're looking at crashing jets and a train station being destroyed in a movie about attempting to prevent tragedies, we can't help but think 9/11 and the Madrid subway. Eerie, and even a little off-putting. There are more than a few who won't find much entertainment value in these scenes, and Proyas and co. might have some 'splainin to do to the offended parties...
I'll admit I really had no idea who or what ASTRO BOY was going in to this presentation, and I'm still not sure if I do. I guess he's a popular Manga character from the 60s with rockets in his boots and cannons in his butt (not kidding about that) who is as popular here in the U.S. as he is in Japan. Since I've never been a fan of Manga or anime or any of that, I'll give the little guy a pass for not being on my radar.
We got a brief slideshow detailing Astro Boy's various gadgets and abilities, such as arm cannons, butt cannons, etc. We got a look at Metro City, where he lives - which has the cool distinction of floating in the clouds - and a peek at "The Peacekeeper" who is Astro's nemesis. He's a giant 30 foot robot who absorbs weapons and uses them to his advantage... Or something...
Then we got a scene from the film, approximately 3 minutes in length (not completely finished). What we saw was not unlike the first scene where Peter Parker plays around with his powers for the first time in SPIDER-MAN. Astro Boy zooms here and there with his rocket-boots, up a building, through the sky, alongside a train, into a mountain and through that - although in that case he's punching his way through the rock. I guess he has super-strength as well?
It was cute and all, but I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone over the age or say, 13. Not my cup of tea, but I can't really get angry at a teenager who fires bombs out of his bottom.
THE HURT LOCKER
This is a flick that's quite unlike all the others I saw previews for. It's not fantasy, it's not based on a comic, it's not a remake or sequel. Just a straight-forward action drama that happens to take place in Iraq. Early buzz on this film is quite good (it's currently nominated for a couple of Independent Spirit Awards), and the word is it's unusually intense and suspenseful. The sequence we saw would certainly confirm that...
Without going into every single detail (there's a lot of details), we meet Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner) and his crew as they prepare to dismantle a (potential) car bomb. James is a cowboy, gung ho and fearless, kicking the car to open its trunk and heedlessly rummaging through the inside to find the bomb's detonator. It's purely unbelievable, but Renner - who spoke after the screening - mentioned that the character was based on a real person, who was just that reckless. I'd request a transfer out of that dude's platoon...
While he goes about that, two other soldiers watch his back from rooftop. Two guys isn't enough if you ask me, because every where they look, there's someone shady watching them from an even higher vantage point. Someone is videotaping them as well, and that can't be a good thing. The men plead for James to hurry up his search, but James becomes methodical and obsessed. Even when he hears the area has been cleared and the bomb can go off if it wants to, he's not willing to give up. Particularly frustrating to the others, whose paranoia rise as more and more spectators come to watch their every move.
Director Kathryn Bigelow handles this scene very well, even throwing in a few jolts and false scares, harkening back to her horror movie roots, but doing so effectively. I won't even spoil how the scene resolves itself, but it's not how you'd expect. Based on this brief scene I'd say the movie looks quite good - dare I say, enjoyable? Renner assured us that it's first and foremost an entertainment, not a soapbox for a political statement. Amen to that.