Saturday, 13 August 2011

Empire Presents Big Screen: Day 1


EMPIRE PRESENTS BIG SCREEN kicked off yesterday, taking over The O2 for 3 days to bring the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the gritty, mean streets of London and the spiked, usually musical arena.

This is a first for the popular movie magazine, which aims to bring its Empire to life (annually) in every conceivable way for the film fans, so naturally, we wee Wandercats travelled down to the entertainment hub to get in on the action.

First on our agenda was the 20th Century Fox showcase. Empire’s head honcho introduced proceedings before Fox exec Chris Green presented a series of trailers, including In Time and The Darkest Hour. Our pick of the bunch was Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, a tough-looking drama starring Fohnhouse favourite John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone). There was also a sneak preview of the 3D conversion of Titanic. The scenes looked good but we’re not sure if it’s enough to make us shell out our cash for another ride on the ultimately sinking ship.

Mark Gatiss was also on hand to briefly discuss the second series of the BBC’s much-loved Sherlock. Refusing to give too much away, he told Hewitt that the second series was different from the first because “It’s the second one”. He told the crowd that he was perfectly happy to co-exist with the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. movies, and that The Hobbit production was actually working around Sherlock, giving Martin Freeman three months to film his part as John Watson. He felt that Sherlock Holmes adaptations had become too much about “The fog and the hansom cabs” rather than the friendship, and that Sherlock was a rare opportunity to look at how these two men formed their friendship.

We moved quickly to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: THE SECRETS OF WETA, in which visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon spoke about the process of turning motion-capture maestro Andy Serkis into the humanly expressive yet realistic ape Caesar. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Weta’s work, they are the digital powerhouse behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and the record-breaking Avatar. The secrets of Weta were juicy, funny and unrivalled, and these curious cats loved it.

There was no time for a break as we subequently dashed over to the “Comic Book World” for an interview with artist and Watchmen creator Dave Gibbons. Speaking to him about his style, as well as the technical skills required in the industry, he simply stated that acquiring “indispensable”, unique skills is the main thing.

In Kim Newman’s Chamber of Horrors the man himself held a Q and A, taking questions about everything from his favourite Dracula (he favours the original Nosferatu) to the Video Nasties. We asked him what he thought about the “found footage” horror trend, and he told us that, although he thought it was coming to an end, the upcoming Troll Hunter showed that there was some life in it yet. He let us in on the trade secret that once a trend gets to a Mummy movie, that’s usually the death knell, so we’ll know if we ever see a film about a documentary team going into a pyramid that the found footage phenomenon is over.

After a short break Mr. Newman welcomed The Human Centipede writer/director Tom Six on stage. As you’re probably aware, The Human Centipede 2 was recently denied a certificate by the BBFC, and Newman and Six discussed whether censorship was ever right and if Six felt singled out by the censors. Six was amiable and witty, telling the audience that at first he was pleased to be banned as it put him in such good company as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but now it’s a real problem. His first appeal has been overturned, and with the film coming out soon in America and Australia, he’s worried that British audiences will download it illegally rather than wait indefinitely for it. “It’s very stupid that grown-ups can’t choose for themselves” he said. “It’s a horror film, not a Disney film.” He joked that a film like Harry Potter is more dangerous, as it’s more plausible that a child would jump off a roof clutching a broomstick rather than someone actually trying to make a human centipede. On the other hand, Six is thrilled with how the film has become a part of pop culture, with everything from South Park references to student musicals. He is preparing to shoot Part 3 in America next year, and gleefully told us “It will upset a lot of people!” When Newman told him that he’d said the same thing about Part 2 and “look what happened!”, Six grinned and said that he’ll make the film he wants to make. Asked about a Hollywood remake, he replied that it would only work with stars, and that if they could get “Tom Cruise on his knees!” he would love to direct it. Six was funny and charming, especially given he was firing out sound bites like “The whole world is focused on the sandpaper and the barb-wire raping.”

From body horror to teen comedy, next up was the WRITING THE INBETWEENERS discussion. Iain Morris and Damon Beesley frankly and wittily discussed the issues of turning a 20 minute sitcom into a 96 minute film. They talked about the influence of films like Swingers when creating believable dialogue for a group of friends, and how they chose the holiday plot for the film as they are continuing to base the group’s story on their own experiences. There were plenty of anecdotes from shooting the series, and the overall impression was how much they all enjoyed working together. They told the audience that the film would be the last Inbetweeners adventure, and that they had both got a bit emotional when watching the final cut for the first time.

After a morning and an afternoon filled with good conversation, we decided to end our day by attending a movie screening. And not just any screening. A secret screening (one of three that’ll be taking place over the course of the weekend). Friday night’s secret turned out to be the heavyweight flick Warrior. Starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, Warrior tells the tale of two estranged brothers who are forced together by their mutual interest in the world of mixed martial arts. It was a tremendous revelation, and a pleasant end to the first day. Stay tuned for day two…

FG, JH

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