So that was Comic-Con 2011

Every year, the San Diego Comic-Con – to embrace geek speak – shoots by faster than a speeding bullet. And the 2011 Con was no different, with four whirlwind days of nerdtastic programming screeching by at a breathless pace. Most of my time this year – as with in 2010 – was spent in the dark and hallowed Hall H, where all number of fantastic panels rolled out stars and exclusive footage. Even films that I had no interest in (uh, Underworld 4…) had their plus points (in that case, an on-form Kate Beckinsale).

Highlights? Clear frontrunner The Amazing Spider-Man took the biscuit with its exclusive clips and exhaustively entertaining panel (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, director Marc Webb). Snippets showing off Garfield both as Peter Parker and Spidey himself had a more-packed-than-ever Hall H heaving with whoops and cheers, as the webhead reboot proved that Webb had a perfect hold on the dark drama as well as the more comic-book-y humour.

Not only that, but we got our first glimpse at Ifans as the villainous Lizard – replete with the CGI antagonist’s stunning reveal. Sam Raimi’s trilogy clearly has its fans, but after seeing this footage, I’m more than confident that Webb can blow Raimi’s increasingly-dated movies out of the water.

The other main standout of Comic-Con 2011 was the eagerly-anticipated panel for Prometheus. Though director Ridley Scott and star Noomi Rapace couldn’t make it, they still showed fans some loving by speaking live via video link from Iceland, where they were completing the final week of shooting on the sort-of Alien prequel.

In Hall H, writer Damon Lindelof and other star Charlize Theron traded banter, before presenting the first ever footage from the flick. And even though the film’s not based on a comic book, the images chucked our way were a marvel. Scott’s crafted a film that – while not a direct prequel to Alien – is visually and stylistically linked to it. From the sliding Alien-like title card to the set design and music, all Scott’s talk of Alien DNA suddenly made sense.

Charlize Theron was also part of another stand-out panel, this one for Snow White And The Huntsman. Joining her castmates Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin on-stage, the quartet had apparently only met on the plane to the Con, but were already trading barbed banter like pros.

The film hasn’t started filming yet (it starts shooting this week here in the UK), but director Rupert Sanders still managed to wow the crowds by debuting images of the cast in their Snow White costumes…

Not bad, nuh? Equally impressive was the mood piece that Sanders had crafted for Universal to show them his vision for Huntsman. Though it was only shot in three days, the short film contained some stunning images, and hints that Sanders’ version of the fairytale will be both visually rich and forboding in tone.

Elsewhere at the Con, Nic Cage showed off some surprisingly gritty and exciting footage from Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, the cast of Knights Of Badassdom chucked us the film’s first trailer (which hinted it’s on a path to definite cultdom), Steven Spielberg revealed we’re getting a Jurassic Park 4 in the next few years, the Twilight stars unveiled some decent footage from Breaking Dawn, and Kevin Smith hosted his annual ‘An Early Evening With…’ one-man show, soaking up the love from thousands of adoring fans.

So that was Comic-Con 2011. Mad. Restless. Crowded. But just as exciting as ever. Bring on Comic-Con 2012…

For more on Comic-Con 2011, read The 12 Best Things About Comic-Con 2011 over at Total Film, which I wrote with Richard Jordan.

Bad Lieutenant (2010)

After some sample dialogue from Nicolas Cage’s latest big screen bust-up? How about: “Shoot him again… His soul’s still dancing.” Or: “I’m the last person in the world you want me to be.” Then there’s our personal favourite: “You’re the fucking reason this country is going down the drain!” That last screamed in the craggy face of a decrepit old dear whose air supply he’s just curtailed, and whom he’s bullying with gunpoint brutality.

Is this really the same chap who just last year lent his larynx to throwaway kiddie crap like Astro Boy and G-Force? All we can assume is that there was something in the water around the time that the scripts for Bad Lieutenant and recent comic-book caper Kick-Ass slapped down on his doormat.

In Bad Lieutenant we discover a Cage clearly tapping a new, electrifying energy. Gone is the man who gave face in dreck like The Wicker Man and Ghost Rider; this is a tougher, charged, wilfully defiant actor cherry-picking risky roles like a mad man dancing on gunpowder with a match in his hand.

And they don’t come much riskier than Bad Lieutenant, a riff on Abel Ferrara’s 1992 crime thriller of the same name. Shrugging into the role of Terence McDonagh, Cage plays a lieutenant injured in the line of duty. Six months later we encounter him again, now a hunched, hallucinating mess, snorting cocaine at crime scenes and sticky-fingering any substance (‘MJ’, crack, heroin) his wandering, glazed eyes spy. Yep, he’s vice with vices.

Though steered by renowned boundary-flouting director Werner Herzog, this is entirely Cage’s show. Co-cop Val Kilmer barely gets a look in, while love interest Eva Mendes looks dazzling but does very little besides. Only scene-stealing support from improv queen Jennifer Coolidge refracts the glare of Cage’s glowing turn.

Alright, so Cage’s crippled Quasimodo is good. What about the rest of the film? Truthfully, it’s a mixed bag. Scattershot in tone (though perhaps that’s the point), it’s deadly serious one moment, then hysterically histrionic the next. Herzog milks the ravaged, post-Katrina setting for all its worth, soaking the streets in a moody blue, neo-noir blush, while inflating William Finkelstein’s by-the-numbers, cat-and-mouse drug-busting script with the flourishes of his own eccentric ego.

The result is a picture precariously poised on the cliff-edge of absurdity (lingering close-ups of various animals foster near-hysteria; McDonagh’s extreme actions seem to exist in a universe all their own). But it’s Cage’s plucky, peerless performance, seamlessly paired with Herzog’s ambient landscapes, that anchor proceedings in a queasy, wildly entertaining hyper-reality. In short? Cage does bad so good. Here’s hoping he keeps the crazy coming.

Anticipation: After Kick-Ass, this looks like a rowdier, riskier, un-caged Nic. Can Herzog deliver? 4

Nic goes nasty with a fearless routine that is equal parts hammy, radiant and hilarious. Film’s too long, though. 3

In Retrospect: The script’s all over the place and Herzog indulges his ego to a fault, but Cage is brazen and exhilarating. 3

Via Little White Lies