Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I’m not really sure what this event is... sounds like their version of ShoWest... but we got in two verrrry interesting reports from people who attended. I talked to a filmmaker friend the other day who’s seen a chunk of KUNG-FU PANDA, and he was flabbergasted by it. He told me it’s amazing, with real kung-fu action that has to be seen to be believed. He seemed less impressed by BEE MOVIE, though. I’m now absolutely itching to see some KUNG-FU PANDA footage, but in the meantime, here’s this report from our first reader:
Hi Harry, First time writer. I didn’t see any reports on the Cinema Expo in Amsterdam on your site, so I thought I’d give it a try. I went to see the Paramount/DreamWorks presentation with – amongst others - BEE MOVIE and KUNG FU PANDA and – two days later – I saw HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. I know that journalists have an embargo to write about the film, but strangely enough us visitors didn’t have to sign anything. So here it goes… BEE MOVIE was introduced by both Jeffrey Katzenberg and Jerry Seinfeld. Now I’m not a big Seinfeld fan. Therefor the first teasers of the movie didn’t really please me. But the 15 minutes of footage that were shown looked very promising. Although I suspect that the humour is more for adults than children. In the first scene we see our hero Barry Benson get away from the hive for the first time and fly with the honey collectors into human territory. This scene is awesome. It takes place above Central Park and has a great “The Right Stuff” feel to it. Despite the fact that it’s forbidden for bees to talk to humans, Barry picks up a friendship with Vanessa (Renee Zellweger) who saved his life. In a supermarket Barry discovers that humans actually steal the honey from the bees and takes our race to court. We were shown one scene in court involving Sting (as himself) and Ray Liotta (as himself). Pretty hilarious, but most of the young kids who’ll also want to see this movie will not know who these persons are. I hope the movie will not take this direction. A lot easier to swallow was KUNG FU PANDA. This CGI-movie - starring the voice talents of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Angelina Jolie - is a comic take on the whole kung fu genre. Fat panda Jack Black dreams of becoming a kung fu master. By mistake people think he is the chosen one to defeat the bad Tai Lung (Ian McShane). Hesitant master Dustin Hoffman must train him and finds out the only way to get him into action is to lure him with food. Jeffrey Katzenberg said that they hope to turn Kung Fu Panda into a Shrek-like franchise. I guess all the elements are there. There are some great sidekicks (Jolie, Chan, Liu) and with kung fu on the menu at the Olympics in Peking next year this kind of martial arts will get a lot of attention. The 15 minute preview we got had a lot of potential. The fight scenes looked fresh and imaginative and especially Dustin Hoffman looked well cast as the master that doesn’t believe in his student. Bad guy Ian McShane looked pretty scary. The scenes in his prison were very dark, but his outbreak was pretty spectacular. The Paramount presentation ended with a big image on screen that mentioned INDIANA JONES IV. This gave me a big chill (like the begin credits of Star Wars Episode I, easily the best part of the whole trilogy). Unfortunately there were no Harrison Ford scenes shown. Just the ‘Making of’ featurette of the first day of shooting that is shown all over the net now. Lastly, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. The book was too long and kind of disappointing. But I very much enjoyed the film. In this one Harry is taken for a liar (because people don’t believe Voldemort is back), Hogwarts gets a new boss (the devil in angel’s clothes Dolores Umbridge), Harry begins an army to defend him against Voldemort and there a big fight at the end between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters. It’s nice to see that director David Yates wanted to make the shortest Potter movie because he thought “most blockbusters of this year were too long.” Boy, is he right! Phoenix is a totally different movie than its predecessor. The Goblet of Fire was action packed, in Phoenix there’s a lot of talking. The real action can be found at the beginning and the end. I very much liked the scenes with Dolores Umbridge (well played by Imelda Staunton). This evil person hides behind a mask of pink smiles and is even easier to hate than Sneep. The scenes in which the Army of Dumbledore practices magic is also fun to look at. The ending is great. Although I must confess that somehow the death of XXXXXX isn’t as dramatic as the one in the previous film. Good points: Umbridge, the Army of Dumbledore, the grand finale. And the bad points? In the trailer we see Harry and Cho kiss. And that’s about it. The character of Cho hardly gets any screentime (and fans of the books know why, but the moviegoer can be a little baffled). New character Luna Lovegood has a promising entrance. The movie even hints at a love affair between Harry and her, but nothing happens. But I guess the main ‘flaw’ of this movie is that you know you have to watch more two movies before it all ends. And that’s pretty hard because you feel that the Potter story could have ended with The Order of the Phoenix . The story is set up in a way that in the finale Voldemort could have been beaten and Harry could have overcome his insecurities of making the right decisions. What should happen in the remaining movies, non-readers could ask? I very much liked Phoenix, but I wonder if people still want to see the movie versions of book 6 and 7 when – for instance – it turns out that Harry Potter dies in the Deathly Hallows. If you use this, please call me Mark Single.
I’m sure that question weighs heavily on the folks at Warner Bros. these days, MarkSingle. Thanks for the report. This next reader saw what I think is the very first presentation of finished BEOWULF footage anywhere, and I’m jealous. I think the jump from POLAR EXPRESS to MONSTER HOUSE in terms of mo-cap work was amazing, and I hope BEOWULF turns out to be as groundbreaking as I’ve been hearing. I love that it’s dark, serious, crazy fantasy, and I think it’s a pretty wild change of pace for Zemeckis as a director. Be warned... there are spoilers in this report, and some of this sounds like it needs to be seen in order to truly understand it. But it’s detailed, and worth your time:
Hi Harry, Regarding your scoop of the Beowulf-posters I felt I should let you know about an exclusive world premiere of footage from the movie that I saw last wednesday on CinemaExpo: after a screening of ´No Reservations´ (which was suprisingly good eventhough I didn´t expect anything from it!) we got to see the full second reel of Beowulf, 10 to 15 minutes long, and about that same amount of minutes into the movie. I´m afraid I have to dampen your enthusiasm a little bit, basically you can summarize what we saw as "300 meets The Polar Express". I have to say the animation doesnt look like anything you´ve seen before, it´s actually done so well that it takes you a few minutes before you realize the actors are animated as well (or actually it looks more like animation-effects have been painted over actual live footage). This is intriguing at first but quite soon the characters start looking quite dead, just like the ones in ´The Polar Express´. If you want to know what we saw storywise, here we go, SPOILER ALERT: Beowulf has just beaten Grendel in a fight. Grendel looks like a dark blue Gollem and since Beowulf almost literally tore him to pieces you see the inside of his body which is like some lavacoloured crystal. His other carries him to a cave, scene is POV from his mom so you dont get to see her. We see a scene where Anthony Hopkins and Robin Wright Penn have a talk together and only when you see mrs Penn´s face up close you realize she hasnt had massive botox injections but you´re watching CGI. Hopkins looked more lifelike, still a bit dead as well though. But I´m afraid as soon as the De Laurentiis family see the CGI-animated Hopkins they straight away want to make ten more Hannibal sequels. Then we see a scene where Beowulf gets visited by Grendel´s mom in his sleep, in the disguise of a beautiful woman (not yet as Angelina Jolie). She beckons him and then changes in to a vampire like monster, very Van Helsing. When Beowulf wakes up all the men in the same room with him have been slain, their corpses hanging upside from the ceiling. He goes out for revenge and knows it´s grendel´s mother he needs to look for. he finds her in the cave with a lake we saw earlier through Grendel´s mom´s eyes. A suspenseful scene starts where Beowulf is looking for her, and we see glimpses of her tail - since she is a golden seamonster. Then suddenly her head rises out of the lake, and it is Angelina Jolie. No I am not kidding and I might be from Amsterdam but I was not on drugs, we really saw a massive CGI-d version of Angelina Jolie´s head rising out of a lake as the head of a seamonster. This sounds silly and i think thats what it was. SPOILER ENDING All in all, eventhough the animation looks impressive, the footage gave me such a strong feeling this project has been greenlit to cash in on the succes of 300, maybe on that of lord of the rings as well. Swords&sandals are hot, fantasy is hot, throw the two together and it´ll get even better. Ray Winstone as Beowulf looks a bit like Disney´s Hercules (nothing like the He-man you see on the posters) but seems a bit too similar to Leonidas, including the way they enhanced his muscles with CGI. Based on the footage I saw I´m far from sure about Beowulf. The footage was received well with a big applause but right now it reminds me more of that other historical swords&sandals-movie we saw Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins in, you know Oliver´s Stone´s Alexander biopic with Colin Farrel as a drag queen that was more a drag than a queen - or king. I don´t suppose you´ll use this, I haven´t posted yet eventhough i check your site daily. I felt the ned to do so since I felt I should let you I'm afraid this project is not living up to your expectations. If you do use this call me The Man From Amsterdam Kind Regards, (and keep up the awesome work, in our country you're the no 1 newssource for moviegeeks too!), Jules