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SDCC 2014: 20th Century Fox Panel
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Kingsman: The Secret Service

20th Century Fox revealed a load of visual delights on a balmy Friday in the heart of downtown San Diego in Hall H, which indeed was a highlight of many of them during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

Thousands of people congregated in the massive hall, with massive screens showcasing such upcoming studio projects of the coolest order — The Maze Runner, The Book Of Life, Let’s Be Cops, Hitman: Agent 47, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Moderated by Ralph Garman, the footage shown first was a clip from The Maze Runner, highlighted by booming Dolby audio, and a tense sequence in which the protagonist appeared to be dropped into a dystopian world (a theme that seems to be prevalent in every single youth sci-fi genre film these days).

The cast, led by director Wes Ball, spoke about the challenges about making the production. The crowd in the hall, mainly made up of the teen crowd that the film seems to be tailor-made for, was the perfect audience to lap up all of the choice quotes that the cast, made up of relatively unknown to the mainstream young actors and led by Will Poulter.

The author of the book, James Dashner, waxed poetic about the fact that he was emotionally fraught with positive and uncontrollable emotion actually seeing the vision of his written text, come alive on the silver screen. An exclusive trailer was also shared, showing scenes which presented a film that seems like Lord of the Flies meets Hunger Games meets Divergent. Poulter explained the dynamic between himself and the characters, and Kaya Scodelario spoke of being the only girl in the film, a parallel to the way she kind of was interacting with the fellow male actors on set.

Audience Q&A were of the typical cotton ball style questions of fluff, which the cast answered with full aplomb. It was kind of indicative of the energy of the crowd when an audience member asked a question, only to have someone behind her flashing a paper version of a Star Trek phase gun. When Poulter pointed it out, the aforementioned troublemaker flipped him off, to which Poulter replied, “See you outside, we’ll wrestle.”

Main protagonist Dylan O’ Brien gave away a major spoiler, which created much embarrassment. It culminated in a not too auspicious debut for the 20th Century Fox panel, but it remains to be seen if The Maze Runner will go by the way of The Hunger Games, or a more mediocre reception like The Mortal Instruments. Either way and either result, the film opens this autumn.

The second film showcased was an animated tale with Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum as the A-listers of what moderator Garman called “A fractured fairy tale,” called, The Book of Life. Directed by Jorge Gutierrez, and with Guillermo del Toro, Christina Applegate, Tatum, and del Toro stalwart Ron Perlman rounding out the panel, the film has been described as “something never seen,” filled with plenty of adjectives like bizarre, funny and the like.

Gutierrez summed it up by saying that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Del Toro promised he wouldn’t curse as his usual vernacular does, and spoke of the genesis of the film, in which Gutierrez showed up at his house in a truck, armed with tequila. Right away, there was chemistry at hand, and del Toro (who produced the film) felt the style, genre, and imagery was a perfect combination to act in concert with his lauded styles and the style of del Toro.

Then a trailer was shown in which colors leaped off the screen, vivid imagery which pulsed and throbbed in a cornucopia of colors that were so bright, they were almost blinding. Think of a Disney film directed by Salvador Dali or Jodorowsky. Highlighted by the protagonist of the film, a bullfighter singing a Latin, Spanish guitar tinged version of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend,” after which the genuine article came out and had the entire hall sing that exact song. It only added to the surreal atmosphere.

Gutierrez said that songs bridge generations. Tatum added that “now it’s a party in Hall H.” The cast spoke earnestly about their characters and the film, each of them bright and witty, some veterans of Comic-Con and these panels. Del Toro summed it all up the celebration of the film and the Latin culture in which it pays homage to more than anything by exclaiming “Viva La Mexico!” In short, one still didn’t get more of a sense just exactly what this film is about when it was all done, but it certainly looks to be a fun ride when The Book of Life opens this Halloween.

Finally, last on the Fox proceedings was the upcoming film, Hitman: Agent 47. Rupert Friend, who stars in Homeland and couldn’t be here in the Hall because he was shooting said program, sent a videotaped message for the crowd in which he promised that the crowd would see an exclusive trailer from the film. In that trailer, which opened with a warped version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” setting the tone, Friend plays a sharp dressed assassin who seems to be a jack of all trades, as Matrix-style editing and Transporter-style choreography and action were the order of the day. Being released next year, the film looks to be a huge, loud, raucous cacophony of noise. The Dolby was turned up so loud during the clip that was shown, the audience’s teeth shook.

The panel was composed of simply the duo of Hannah Ware and everybody’s favorite contemporary Vulcan, one Zachary Quinto. They both spoke about the film, and the challenges of making the film, which Ware summed up as thrilling and exciting. Quinto, who plays the antagonist, is kind of portraying the evil doppelganger of the films protagonist. He was excited about the large scope of the film, and the production values, but also stressed the importance of a narrative that was steeped in rich exposition and characterization. The film, which is still in its production state, opens next year.

The silly, raunchy comedy Let’s Be Cops, which looks to be another film that seems like the tail end of the post-Hangover type film, tells the story of two regular Joes who pretend to be cops. But not like in the narrative of The Dead Kennedy’s “Police Truck,”(in which lead singer Jello Biafra sang of impersonating boys in blue to cause extreme violence and mayhem); instead it’s more like schlubs who look to don cop costumes to get chicks, which was showcased with a tepid trailer with half-baked gags and jokes and dialogue of the lowest ebb, ended what turned out to be a quite uneven, but ultimately fun, funny, and visually exciting 20th Century Fox panel, in Hall H, in the sunny climes of San Diego, California, as this year’s Comic-Con keeps chugging along.

Finally, Kingsman: The Secret Service, wrapped up the proceedings. Moderated by Mark Millar, who wrote the comic the movie is based on, The Secret Service, with Watchmen kingpin and creator Dave Gibbons, who handled the artwork for that same comic, and headed by Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson decked out in a Heisenberg shirt (the same one that your faithful writer was wearing).

Director Matthew Vaughn, who couldn’t be there, sent a hilarious clip in which he was decked out in a ski mask and aided by the one and only Mark Hamill in a purple wig and sporting a rather good British accent. The film is about a super spy agent who mentors a street kid just as a global threat is surfacing. Kind of a spoof in a way of James Bond and the like, comedy meets bizarre humor meets cartoony violence as the cast seemed to have fun-filled days making this eclectic production. Each character seemed to play up their own styles and guises, Jackson sporting a rather hilarious lisp. Firth and the rest of cast spoke of the wonderful time working with the star of the film, Taron Egerton.

Another great clip showed the fine action mettle of Colin Firth of all people, who genuinely mowed down villains in a pub, and then calmly went back to his beer, telling the character of Egerton that he just need to lay off steam. There was a Bond theme throughout, as even Jackson let on that he always wanted to be in a Bond film. The rest of the cast expressed glee and joy as well, praising the alchemy of Matthew Vaughn’s eclectic style, which deftly mixes comedy and action, just like his last projects, X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass did. Another final clip was shown, in essence a sizzle reel, as this handsome production, which seems to be chock full of something for everyone, opens in October of this year.

Biz Markie & Channing Tatum performing ‘Just a Friend’ during the The Book of Life panel

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