CCI: Universal Studios

There was a full crowd at Comic-Con International last Saturday awaiting the arrival of some of Hollywood's most talented actors and filmmakers to take the stage in San Diego to discuss new films from Universal Studios. First up, was the cast of "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," the third film in the franchise. Actors Brendan Fraser ("Journey To The Center Of The Earth"), Maria Bello ("A History Of Violence"), Jet Li ("The Forbidden Kingdom"), Michelle Yeoh ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), John Hannah ("The Hurricane") and newcomers Luke Ford and Isabbella Leong were on hand to answer questions from the fans.

"I've been waiting seven years to make this picture," said Fraser. "This picture holds up on it's own. We have a fresh new take on the material. We have chosen another archeologically rich Nation, China, and we've set it in both two thousand years ago and in the Twentieth Century. We're back to try and save the world from tyrannical Mummies."

Actress Maria Bello, who is better known for her independent film roles, is taking over the role of Evelyn from actress Rachel Weisz. Bello talked about why she accepted the role. "The truth is, the reason I became an actor is because I wanted to be Indiana Jones," said Bello.

Fraser was nervous when he heard that he would be fighting Jet Li in the movie and asked co-star Michelle Yeoh for advice. "I asked Michelle if there was anything that I needed to know because I hadn't met him yet. She said, "Yes, hit him first and really hard," laughed Fraser.

Li talked about why he wanted to play the villain instead of the hero in this film. "For many years I always play good guys. Good guy is not easy. Always think about woman, children, dog, neighbors and is not easy to do all the time. Villain is much easier. Just stand there and be selfish and think about yourself," said Li.

The panel showed a clip from the movie, which opens August 1. In the footage, our heroes are using giant abominable snowmen to help fight their foes. The crowd was pleased with the special effects that included our first look at Li as the Mummy.

Finally, Fraser was asked who was more intimidating to work with, Jet Li or The Rock? "I never met Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson when I shot that picture because he was just a big blue X on a stick. Jet Li is the man," said Fraser.

Following that, director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil") introduced the cast of his new film, "Death Race." Newcomer Natalie Martinez and actors Ian McShane ("Deadwood"), Tyrese Gibson ("Transformers"), Joan Allen ("The Bourne Ultimatum") and Jason Statham ("Crank") joined their director on stage to talk about the film.

Anderson said decided to do a remake of the Roger Corman classic because "I loved the original movie and I thought the time was right to make a really spectacular car-action movie. I was very inspired by Roger Corman who is a big hero of mine and a legend of cinema."

With that, Anderson introduced legendary producer Roger Corman, who surprised the audience with his appearance. "Proud as I am of 'Death Race 2000', I have to admit 'Death Race' is a bigger and better picture," said Corman.

McShane gave his synopsis of the film and why fans should go see it when it's released on August 22. "It's NASCAR to the death, in prison, in the future, shown on the Internet and Joan Allen says fuck. What more do you want?"

Anderson explained that this film is to serve as a prequel and that all the car stunts will be done practically. He showed a clip to the crowd of the race in action. Fans were please with the clip, which featured Statham in full "Bad Ass" mode with some memorable car stunts and explosions.

Allen talked about why she chose to do the film, which is a departure for her from the dramatic work that she is known for. "As an actor you hope and dream that you get to do all kinds of things. Different types of genres, comedy, action and serious films, so it was kind of a dream come true," said Allen. "And it was such an evil character, I just loved the fact that she was so bad. It was very appealing to me."

Corman told an amusing story about making the original film. "The stunt men, at one point said that they wanted extra money because the stunts were too dangerous. I said, screw that! I'll drive the car," laughed Corman.

Statham was asked how much of the driving in the film was stuntmen and how much did he get to do himself? "There's no way we're going to make a movie like this and let the stuntmen do all the work. This is what we do for a living," said the actor. "Every bit of the driving is us, apart from any of the crashes or anything involving pyrotechnics." The actor also confirmed that "Crank 2" is "done and dusted" and will be out next year.

Next, the audience at Comic-Con was very excited for their first opportunity to see footage from Sam Raimi's return to directing horror films, "Drag Me To Hell." Raimi brought on stage actors Allison Lohman ("Big Fish"), Justin Long ("Live Free or Die Hard") and Dileep Rao ("Avatar") to talk about the film.

"I've always loved horror pictures," Raimi said. "That's why my partner Robert Tapert and I formed Ghost House Pictures so we could make horror pictures. I would produce them and I wasn't very involved with each production. I would see the dailies and see the directors having fun and I remembered how much fun it is to build suspense, deliver scares and tell very simple horror stories. Like telling a good campfire story. The 'Spider-Man' films are so complex. I wanted to get back to the basics and do what I love doing, telling a good, simple, campfire ghost story."

Raimi explained that "Drag Me To Hell" is about a young loan agent played by Lohman. The trouble begins when she refuses a loan to an old woman in order to get a promotion so she can impress her boyfriend's parents. "That was the wrong woman to throw under the bus," explains Raimi.

The director introduced a scene that had only been shot and cut together three weeks earlier. The clip drove the audience crazy and provided many screams and laughs. The scene contained Raimi's classic style of blending horror and comedy and featured a fight between Lohman's character and the old woman stalking her in a car. One classic Raimi shot that pleased fans depicted Lohman shooting a staple into the eye of the old woman. The fight ended with Lohman putting her seatbelt on and crashing her car into a wall so the old woman in the back seat would go flying out the window. The director seemed very pleased with the audience's reaction to the clip and the panel began to take questions from the audience.

Raimi was asked about the chances of seeing his friend Bruce Campbell in the film. The director explained that he tried to get him in the film, and there was even one day that it almost happened, but due to Campbell's busy schedule it was impossible to work out. However, fans of "Evil Dead" could spot Ash's classic Oldsmobile in the clip that was shown.

This led to the inevitable question, will there be more "Evil Dead" films? Raimi had this to say, "I love working with Bruce Campbell. He's a very funny guy and he has this quality of being able to physically endure anything to get a shot right. I would love to work with Bruce again so I can test those limits," joked the director.

With that, Raimi dropped a bombshell of news for "Evil Dead" fans. "I would love to make another 'Evil Dead' picture," he said. "Actually that's in the wheelhouse. I'd like to work on the script with my brother Ivan when he comes up to visit next week."

Finally, the director showed one more scene to the audience. It was of Lohman and Long sleeping in bed when a fly goes in and out of her nose. She eventually wakes up to see the old scary woman standing above her. To the audiences surprise and delight, the scene ends with the old woman puking maggots all over Lohman.

The final presentation of the panel was for "The Land Of The Lost," a remake of the classic Sid and Marty Krofft television show from the '70s. Before the director and cast came out, two Sleestacks, reptilian creatures from the show, walked around the stage mugging for the audience. The crowd was also shown a funny teaser featuring the film's star Will Ferrell singing the show's theme song while playing the banjo.

Director Brad Silberling ("Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events") and actors Jorma Taccone ("Hot Rod") who plays fan-favorite Chaka in the film, Anna Friel ("Pushing Daisies") and Danny McBride ("Tropic Thunder") joined original show creators Sid and Marty Krofft on stage to take questions from the audience.

Silberling talked about adapting the TV show into a film. "We took our favorite elements from the show, stole them and put them into a new story. We basically fashioned a story that is not about a father and his two kids but instead a lost soul who picks up a couple of other lost souls. They are the wrong people to have to save the planet and they do."

"It's amazing at this point in my life to see a huge motion picture being made out of one of our favorite shows," said Sid Krofft.

"It's a miracle that this thing is happening," added Marty Krofft. The Kroffts went on to say that they have plans for feature film adaptations of some of their other shows including "H.R. Pufnstuf" and "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters."

The panel ended with a special appearance "live" via satellite from comedian Will Ferrell. The video feed was choppy and Ferrell seemed confused at best when trying to talk to his cast members. It didn't take long for the audience to realize that the video was not "live" but staged for comic affect.

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