Empires Big Screen, London O2 Day Three
It’s funny how a simple routine can be embedded so quickly – arise from slumber, shower, jump on the Jubilee Line and disembark at North Greenwich, grab a Coffee & Danish before attending Empire’s Big Screen weekend, by day three it almost felt like clockwork. The obedient crowd was once again herded into the confines of the o2’s Indigo screening space for another morning of Hollywood propaganda, this time courtesy of Disney and Paramount Pictures, both of whom opened up their marketing onslaughts with ‘wow, our studio is awesome’ montages before punting out a raft of trailers for imminent projects. I’m not so sure this is the best model of persuasion as contrasting footage of bona fide classics like The Godfather to upcoming releases like a re-make of Footloose can leave one somewhat bewildered, and as it was becoming increasingly apparent the marketing boffins also don’t seem to understand that many young film fans actually have access to the internet as once again the trailers for their products – Mission Impossible 4, Paranormal Activity 3, Cowboys Versus Aliens (which actually premiered here three days before) and The Muppets are already out in the wild. Now, I didn’t pay for this and I didn’t travel far, if however I had brought an expensive ticket (£60) for these so-called exclusive glimpses, potentially booked a hotel and certainly incurred some travel costs I would not have been happy. That said some of the material was fresh off the sprocket, apparently footage of Spielberg’s Tintin and War Horse projects were both revealed, some more Spiderman (or as I prefer to think of it, the film that had to be made to prevent the rights reverting to Marvel) footage was spun and the Puss In Boots spin-off from Shrek got an exclusive airing but honestly, at best its 5% out of the overall merchandising chatter that was transmitted over the weekend – I didn’t catch any of that stuff as I was preoccupied elsewhere;
So I ducked out of the seductive blitzkrieg to revisit the classics screen for the final time, this time to see 1986’s Stand By Me, Rob Reiner’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella The Body where a group of prepubescent school friends steal away from their respective homes and hike overnight to see a dead body. This coming of age odyssey set against the back-drop of small town 1959 America is a real nostalgic treat for me, it’s always been one of my favourite films on a purely historic basis, rather than being anything involved with some intrinsic quality of the work itself – Citizen Kane or Battleship Potemkin this ain’t nor is it trying to be. It’s just that the tale was always one of favourites when I read it as a kid and the oirish in me prompts a maudlin, romantic and melancholic appreciation of past times and idyllic reminiscence, although I should stress King (who’s on record as stating it’s the adaption of his work that he’s most affectionate about) is not exactly the dewy eyed sentimentalist in either screen or print, it’s actually quite challenging in its referencing of broken homes, cruel and violent bullies, vacant parenting and juvenile antics. Some of the acting has gotten a little stale but hey they were only kids and were trying their best, more importantly the film does maintain that sweet elixir of time passed and innocence lost, and it’s still pretty damn funny with some immortal observations on how kids rip the piss out of each other throughout the generations. Anyone who doesn’t suffer a minor internal ‘aahhh‘ at the end considering the real world fate of a certain person is made of sterner stuff than I….
And sterner stuff I got when I returned to the Superscreen for a bruising experience in the form of the trailer for the new Rocky meets the Terminator combat fest Real Steel which to my mind looks like a 1990’s cyberpunk movie with a 21st century digital emulsion, all secured in place with bolted rivets of sport movies clichés like The Champ, Hoosiers, Cool Runnings, Tin Cup or any other heart-string plucking rise of the underdog movie you care to name. Did you know that boxing is the most popular sport in cinema, given the number of films that have been made set in that world compared to say, football or baseball? No? Well then you’ve learnt something today. Anyway, director Sean Levy (Night At The Museum) was on-hand to talk the punters through two full scenes (a combat scene and robot genesis scene) in a quite animated and engaging fashion, however I can’t say it looks good, it’s obviously one of those films where the entire plot from start to finish is apparent in the trailer. I was going to stick around for the Fright Night remake but judging by the numbers anxiously mewing from the external queue I thought that it would be best to graciously duck out and let a genuinely interested fan have a seat, it sounds as if this was a wise move as it’s been quite badly slated with Colin Farrell foisting a particularly bad turn as an undead Lothario to a disinterested crowd.
The static Hollywood Boulevard and Studio City areas which were tucked away at the rear of the complex were a little too bland for my tastes, some people enjoy cooing over life-size replications of the Alien Queen, Batman costumes or the various cars from the Bond movies but what can I say, it doesn’t crank up my projectors. The space was also generously represented by autograph dealers, movie poster emporiums and DVD purveyors which I’m sure extracted some cash from the attendees which I’m sure came away with some nice pieces for their respective collections. I understand that secret screenings of Drive and Warrior went down a storm (I have tickets to see a preview of the former at the BFI next month so again I ducked out) and in terms of celebrity spotting I spied Warwick Davis, Terry Jones and Dominic Cooper wandering around between panels and discussions, so all in all despite the teething problems of horrendous queues and mis-informed staff – a common complaint on the forums that have been debating the weekend – if you enjoy the mainstream designs of Empire then the Big Screen can widely be accepted as a big success. Other opinions are available.