A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to win tickets to Empire Big Screen, a film convention in London very much in the style of San Diego Comic Con in the US. Though, of course, it was on a much smaller scale. While a progression from movie con, this year was the first time they did it in the set-up they have now and there were a lot of teething problems. Nonetheless, I had a fabulous time and saw some interesting things.
Friday, August 12:
I went to the O2 straight after work to pick up my tickets and try to prebook my sessions so we wouldn't have to queue a crazy amount of time for the panels the next day (one thing I find they do better than SDCC is work with prebooked tickets on top of the standby queue). Around 5pm the people at the box office eventually figured out that I wasn't on the winners list and they were not so silently scolding the PR agency as I had not been the first one that day with that problem. Thankfully I had printed off the e-mail I received about my win which I was able to show as proof and in return I received two Diamond tickets. Considering I was only expecting to get standard ones (which don't give access to the studio showcases in the morning) I was very happy with this. When I asked to prebook my sessions for the next day I initially got told this wasn't possible, however when I explained that a friend of mine who had also won tickets was able to prebook earlier that day they instantly apologised and told me to get back at 6.
In between picking up my tickets and prebooking I went to Hollywood Boulevard and Studio City which is like a tiny version of the exhibition hall at Comic Con. I was very lucky that I got there when it was dead quiet (everyone was in screenings) as I could do/see everything without queuing. I got an awesome high quality photo print of myself (holding a lightsaber) with R2D2 and C3PO and I was handed free Star Wars masks which will make my little brother very happy. Other freebies included: photos with Lightning McQueen from Cars and a robot and Hugh Jackman (from Real Steel), a pin from the new Harry Potter studio tour at the WB lot in Leavesden which will open next year (and which I really need to go to!) and a pin from the new Aardman movie Pirates (with Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Hugh Grant and Russell Tovey).
Some of the studio booths looked quite nice. I loved the Sherlock Holmes 2 area (decorated as the inside and outside of 221B Baker Street) where they played the trailer to the new movie on a loop. And the Paramount booth in Cowboys and Aliens style was particularly awesome with a wheel of fortune (I won a pen from the movie) and a green screen where I could get my picture taken with Puss in Boots from Shrek, Daniel Craig in Cowboys and Aliens, Yin Tin or Footloose. I did Tin Tin that first day and they printed it off and stuck it inside a plastic sleeve which they attached to a lanyard. Very neat. There were also cars from the Bond movies on display and costumes/monsters from famous movies as part of an exhibition from the Film Museum.
Went back to the box office at 6 and it took them nearly half an hour again to sort me out but I got the tickets I wanted. Which were: Empire film critic panel, Animals in movies and the Crazy Stupid Love preview screening. If I had asked they would've given me tickets for other sessions as well as they weren't limiting me to 3 or 4 sessions as they do online.
I was quite disappointed by the lack of dressed up people, this was the only pair I could spot that first day
Inside the Sherlock Holmes booth
So excited for this one!
And this one
One of the Bond cars
It snows in the Happy Feet booth!
Hospital room for Contagion
The captain would be Hugh Grant
David Tennant aka Charles Darwin in the back
The Delorean from Back to the Future
This movie looks adorable
This looks kind of ridiculous but hi there Hugh Jackman!
A photo of a photo so it looks a bit crap
Saturday, August 13:
We spent the morning and early afternoon watching the studio showcases (which can be compared to the movie panels in Hall H at SDCC though much smaller) in the huge Sky Superscreen. Surprisingly the screening room was largely empty for most of the morning, despite there being two different venues showing the same programme at the same time. I guess they overestimated their Diamond ticket sales. The studios showing us exclusive footage/trailers and panels that morning were: E One, Warner Bros, Optimum, Sony, Aardman, Icon and Momentum.
The first clips of extended footage we saw was for The Three Musketeers in 3D. It was a typical swordfight scene but I love the musketeers so I thought it looked pretty nifty. This was followed by various "exclusive" clips from Breaking Dawn which bored me, but at least there wasn't any crazy screaming when the leads came on. There was a Ghost Rider scene in 3D which actually looked better than the entire first movie and then Guy Ritchie came on stage to talk about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. You guys, it looks awesome! We saw clips from a new (zombie?) movie Contagion, followed by an adorable scene from Happy Feet 2. Then it was time for Peter Jackson's The Hobbit video blog and while I had already seen it, it looked really awesome on the huge screen. Especially the boyband dwarf Aidan Turner *not biased at all* Finally we saw clips from The Dark Knight Rises and Final Destination 5, the latter looked particularly gruesome in 3D.
As they had a break between panels now Stacey and I went to the Empire Film Critics Panel but to be honest after 5 minutes of listening to them I thought it wasn't anything I hadn't heard before so we went pack to the studio showcases instead. There was quite a long panel about Kill List with clips and a Q/A with director Ben Wheatley which didn't interest me at all so I went to Hollywood City for a bit to get a Spiderman t-shirt (which I had been told earlier they would hand out around lunchtime) and I also won a goodie bag at the Paramount Booth which had mostly things in there my little brother will love (things from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, etc).
Going back to the studio showcases I was just in time for the rather long panel for Anonymous, which looks AMAZING! The movie is centered around the rumour of Shakespeare having never written any of his plays himself and the clips we got shown (the first one was very long and briefly made me wonder if they were going to show the whole movie) were introduced by director Roland Emmerich. I really can't wait for that one.
What followed were a lot of extended trailers and clips from movies that didn't particularly interest me: Straw Dogs, Moneyball (with Brad Pitt), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the trailer was put together well, but I very much dislike this trilogy). Followed by 30 Minutes Or Less (quite funny), Total Recall (never seen the original but this remake with Colin Farrell actually looks quite good) and finally Spiderman, which was surprisingly awesome. And oh my Andrew Garfield wears the costume very well.
I absolutely loved the Aardman panel for which Peter Lord held presentations and showed footage of their two upcoming movies. The first is Arthur Christmas, which to me looked like the North Pole turned into a Mission Impossible base. Spy elves and sweet characters (voiced by James McAvoy and Hugh Laurie, amongst others) made me wish it was Christmas already so I can take my little brother to watch this movie in cinema. The second presentation was about Pirates: An Adventure With Scientists, a stop motion animation with Hugh Grant as a pirate and David Tennant as Charles Darwin. It also has Martin Freeman and Russell Tovey and generally just looks like a really fun movie.
Drive was up next which included a very gory scene of Ryan Gosling kicking someone's head in, putting me off the movie all-together. More interesting was the Norwegian Troll Hunter with a Q/A with director André Øvredal and actor Glenn Erland Tosterud. It's a movie shot in the style of The Blair Witch Project only with trolls. Giant trolls. Pretty cool.
We also saw footage for Weekender, a new Jon Nesbo movie, Haywire, Safe, Wettest Country, Shame and Welcome to the Punch. See how I had absolutely nothing to say about any of these? We'd sat through so many panels that in the end I wasn't paying much attention anymore... Though the Welcome to the Punch Q/A had Mark Strong, which was kind of awesome.
The final panel for of the studio showcases that day was for Daniel Radcliffe's The Woman in Black, which was really interesting. I'm a big scaredycat and have never seen the stage play, but I've always been intrigued by how everyone seems to find it very scary. I thought that the footage we saw on Saturday was quite frightening, yet I still want to see it in cinema. The Q/A with director James Watkins was good too, an excellent finish to the 5 or 6 hours of showcases we sat through.
To stretch our legs Stacey and I went to Hollywood Boulevard next to check out the stalls (again, in my case) and score some freebies. I really wanted to get a The Social Network t-shirt, but alas I was too late and ended up with Green Lantern instead.
The last panel we went to was Animals in Movies, which was really fun. We saw Hedwig from Harry Potter (the owl has quite a creepy look irl, like it's smiling evil-y) and we saw how she brought a letter from one point to the next. Also from Harry Potter they had the cat that played Crookshanks in the movies. We also saw parrots driving cars and bikes, Gary Oldman's dog in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (absolutely adorable and I am normally not a dog person at all) and got to pet a smelly ferret.
Finally we went to a preview screening of Crazy, Stupid, Love, a new film with Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore and Josh Groban (♥). I am not normally a huge fan of Steve but I love Emma and Josh and was really excited to see this movie. I wasn't disappointed as it was a thoroughly enjoyable rom-com. The garden scene towards the end of the movie was particularly fabulous, you will know it when you see it. It was just so unexpected (though I probably should've seen it coming) and ridiculous, mostly everyone in the cinema cracked up while watching it.
While the convention as a whole was a bit of an unorganised mess (no microphones in the audience during Q/As, no projection of the panels on the big screen, panels running late, etc.) overall I really enjoyed it thanks to the friendly stuff and exciting previews. I wouldn't pay £65 for a Diamond day pass, but if prices go down (or if I win tickets ;)) I'll surely be checking it out again next year.
Hedwig's creepy smiley face
Only dressed up person I saw on the second day