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Comic-Con: Musings from the Back of the Twiline

Comic-Con: Musings from the Back of the Twiline (photo)

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Everyone likes to pick out trends each Comic-Con, but at this year’s four-day geek bacchanal, where the film panels once again have equal (if not greater) priority to comic books, there seems to be a genuine one developing as the faceless franchises that usually reign over the convention have given way to the some of the world’s best directors pushing the limits of their craft. Sure, “Twilight” fans camped outside the San Diego Convention Center (forming what our own Matt Singer dubbed the “Twiline”) for a glimpse of Robert Pattinson yesterday, and Saturday’s “Iron Man 2” panel, said to include Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson in addition to Comic-Con vets Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr., will likely be one of the Con’s major events. Yet it was watching Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” footage yesterday morning that made me realize that, just as Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane and Frank Miller roam the halls outside, this year’s collection of filmmakers represents something unusual in a world filled with sequels and remakes — a place where artists working on some of the biggest canvasses imaginable can be appreciated as such.

It’s an idea endorsed by Robert Zemeckis, who referred no less than five times to the motion capture technology he’s long championed as an “artform” — and one that he’d “like to send out into the world” before considering making another live action film. With moderator Patton Oswalt frequently resorting to the word “awesome” to describe what was being shown, Zemeckis unveiled a scene from his latest, “A Christmas Carol,” that featured Jim Carrey in three roles (out of eight total) – he plays the miserly Scrooge, who attends to the corpse of Jacob Marley by taking the coins off his eyes, then is visited by Marley’s ghost,, who’s draped in chains and eventually dislocates his jaw in a gruesome way, particularly in 3-D. Following a quick montage similar to what’s in the film’s teaser trailer, Oswalt sarcastically said as the lights came up, “Christmas has never been more fun,” to which Zemeckis matter-of-factly replied, “It’s a ghost story.”

07242009_AliceinWonderland.jpgIf “A Christmas Carol” was darker than expected, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” presentation was certainly brighter, from the tinge of the Mad Hatter’s orangish hair (about which Burton cheerily confessed, “We scalped Carrot Top”) to the brilliantly blue dress that Mia Wasikowska’s Alice dissolves into as she shrinks. Even though the footage (with a particularly effective use of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” for a score) played like gangbusters, Burton looked ready to leave shortly after taking the stage and said as much when Oswalt insisted on showing the footage a second time. The director admitting during the brief Q&A with the fans that he felt like the White Rabbit with a stopwatch when it came to the film’s grueling schedule. But after a few perfunctory questions from the audience — the most bizarrely intriguing of which was Burton’s insistence on not calling Helena Bonham Carter his wife — the director played along as Oswalt introduced Johnny Depp to the screams of the Comic-Con masses. Depp’s appearance felt a bit like Sly Stone at the 2006 Grammys, minus the gold Mohawk — he came, he saw, he conquered, all without saying a word, then left with many women in the audience gasping for air.

Many of those same women were close to fainting once the “Twilight: New Moon” panel began, but while the choice of two exclusive clips made sure to showcase Taylor Lautner’s new washboard abs and Robert Pattinson unbuttoning his shirt, the most naked moment came when director Chris Weitz broke up the conversation late in the panel to thank “Twilight” studio Summit after telling the audience, “The last film I made [‘The Golden Compass’] ended up being recut by the studio,” and adding that this film “has been a tremendously rejuvenating process for me.” He also talked about how he couldn’t even take bathroom breaks while the film was shooting in Italy for fear of being mobbed by rabid fans, which was demonstrated once again by the blur of bedazzled “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob”-t-shirt-wearing women who slept outside the convention center the night before. The footage they were rewarded with didn’t waste time trying to persuade converts and played directly to “Twilight”-aholics with Jacob (Lautner) teaching Bella (Kristen Stewart) how to ride a motorcycle. After seeing premonitions of Edward (Pattinson), she crashes the bike and begins to bleed, leading Jacob to do the natural thing and take off his shirt to wipe her forehead. (Lautner later complained that Portland isn’t his favorite place to be barely clothed.)

07242009_KickAss.jpgFor the less vociferous — but sturdy! — minority of men passing the time in Hall H who booed the vampire romance proceedings, a reward arrived later in the day when “Layer Cake” director Matthew Vaughn came out to present about 20 minutes’ worth of footage of his latest film, “Kick-Ass,” an adaptation of the “Wanted” creator Mark Millar’s comic book about a group of average kids who build themselves into superheroes. Although an earlier 3D presentation of a montage of kills from “The Final Destination” earned an healthy round of applause, for this crowd, that was merely a teaser for the ultra-violence of “Kick-Ass,” which was alternately funny and shocking and achieved perhaps the only spontaneous standing ovation of the day. It was in response to a clip in which the titular hero’s (Aaron Johnson) attempts to ask his girlfriend’s ex to stay away results in a situation where he’s in over his head amongst a group of thugs and is bailed out by a purple-haired 12-year-old nicknamed Hit Girl (“500 Days of Summer” Chloe Moretz) with a special talent for wielding all kinds of blades. (As a later scene in a montage would show, she’s also good with gun — running down a hallway Angelina Jolie-style and reloading on the run by tossing the cartridges of bullets in front of her and catching them in mid-air.)

If this sounds dangerous, it was nothing compared to the fact that Vaughn was showing this footage without having a distributor, something that he alluded to by comparing the situation to “Gladiator,” where a thumbs up could result in a studio pick-up and a thumbs down…well, he left that to the imagination. While it’s unlikely that the film, which co-stars Nicolas Cage as Hit Girl’s father, won’t be picked up by someone, it remains to be seen how much a boisterous response at Comic-Con can sway a studio exec wary of explaining to parents’ groups why there’s a scene of Cage target practicing on his young daughter.

Odds and Ends We Didn’t Know Before Day Two of Comic-Con:

1. Daft Punk wear their headgear 24/7
When a fan of the French electronica duo grilled “Tron Legacy” director Joe Kosinski on what his plans were for the film’s soundtrack, Kosinski told him that he took duo Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter to “a mysterious pancake breakfast” in Los Angeles. When pressed about whether they wore their famous helmets, Kosinski replied sharply, “They always wear their helmets.” Kosinski also guaranteed that at some point down the line Daft Punk will be performing their soundtrack live.

2. One of Robert Pattinson’s legs is shorter than the other.
In response to a question on whether he’ll make more comedies like “How to Be,” the “Twilight” star confessed he doesn’t necessarily think he’s an able comedian, but cited his differently sized legs as a natural source for pratfalls. [Bonus useless trivia: When a fan asked if he’d like to continue doing open mic nights, Pattinson said, “I would, [but] I’m just too pussy, I guess.”]

3. As a general rule, creating something for your kids will not work out well.
During the “Kick-Ass” panel, Mark Millar said he wanted to make something his daughter could watch. With his creation of Hit Girl, the young heroine who kills people with a variety of knives and cusses like a sailor, he may have honored his own daughter, but now can’t take her to see the film. In the panel that followed for his new movie “Thirst,” “Oldboy” director Park Chan-Wook lamented through a translator that he finally decided to let his daughter watch one of his films, “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok.” When asked for her opinion, she told him “Well, it’s okay, but it’s not ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, is it?”

[Additional photos: Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” Walt Disney, 2010; “Kick-Ass,” Plan B Entertainment, 2009]

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.