My apologies for not providing the CinemaCon daily updates I promised-things got a little more hectic this week than I anticipated. However, things have subsided, and I will now fulfill my promise and post updates for the rest of the days of the convention.
Tuesday was a day filled with surprises and Oscar contenders. Starting with STX’s moderate display before moving into Paramount’s showstopper and ending on Disney’s “F*ck you, you’ll pay to go see it,” we have seen an impressive display for the rest of the year, and for years to come. So, without further delay, here’s a breakdown of the three panels from Day Two of CinemaCon.
STX is one of the newest studios on the block. In fact, they only had their first outing last year, when they wowed with footage from Free State of Jones, Bad Moms, and The Edge of Seventeen. As we now know, the former flopped, Moms was a commercial hit, if not a critical hit, and Seventeen became something of a cultural phenomenon, riding on great reviews and word-of-mouth to become the sleeper hit of 2016. While they lacked the big hitters they had last year, they certainly put together the best panel they could, filled with surprises and audience favorites.
The bulk of their panel involved announcements instead of actual trailers. Major announcements include A Bad Moms’ Christmas, which begins filming this week and premieres in November, Robert Rodriguez directing Ugly Dolls for May 2019, and The Foreigner with Jackie Chan. Of the three, I’d say that the most intriguing is Ugly Dolls, but I won’t lie to you-none of these three really have me onboard.
Animation proved to be more interesting than most. For starters, Eddie Murphy will make his return to animation as Bo The Bull. No title has been announced yet, but I’m sure Bo will appear in it somewhere. However, the biggest news-and the news that makes me angrier than anything else-is the announcement that an animated rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is in the works, spearheaded by Elton John. I’m on record as saying that Joseph is one of the worst musicals of all time, with each decision dumber than the last, and with some of the worst lyrics in anything musical, ever. I hate everything about this decision. Hate it with a burning passion. I’m going to move on before I launch a 5000 word rant.
As we move into the meat of the STX panel, the studio released three trailers for minor films on their plate. The first is their war thriller Renegades, starring J.K. Simmons and Joshua Henry. I haven’t been able to find any legitimate input on this trailer, so I think that tells you exactly the kind of movie we’re dealing with here. It will be out September 1, 2017. Slightly more impressive was Den of Thieves, a sneak peak at their Money Monster-esque thriller about a bank robbery. The trailer was well received, even if it left people slightly underwhelmed. Perhaps STX’s biggest basket to put its eggs in is The Circle. Considering director James Ponsoldt hasn’t had a flop yet, the book was a best-seller, and the cast includes Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, and Bill Paxton, you’d think they’d have pushed this harder, considering it comes out in less than a month. I guess that the lack of a push combined with the lack of buzz surrounding the trailer is an indicator that the film may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Time will tell.
However, I know what you’re all here for, and that’s the Oscar and blockbuster contenders. Perhaps the most surprising announcement was the beginning of production on Mile 22. The first original film in a long time for director Peter Berg, it will be an action thriller starring Mark Wahlberg, Ronda Rousey, and Iko Uwais, surrounding a CIA agent and Indonesian police officer who battle corruption as they transfer a terrorist 22 miles to the safe zone. Berg and Wahlberg’s last three films, Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots’ Day, were all critical and commercial hits (I thought the former was fine, the middle was good, and the latter was great), so you can expect success here. However, what’s most interesting is the way Wahlberg speaks about the film. Not only is he super excited, he has declared that he wants this film-the first in a trilogy-to be the one that defines his legacy. Those are some big words, and I wish him luck, considering I love most of his other films. Their other blockbuster is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Luc Besson’s space opera based on the beloved comic series. I’ve been saying since the first trailer that this looks like a batsh*t crazy masterpiece, and critics are agreeing after the second trailer premiered at CinemaCon. If I had to guess, the film will bomb with audiences, but my God, am I willing to give it a shot, because this is a good trailer. You can see for yourself at the bottom of the STX segment. And things were brought home with the new trailer for Molly’s Game. The newest film by Aaron Sorkin, who also made his directorial debut on the film, the film seems to be the biggest push to get Jessica Chastain her Oscar to date. Based on a true story, the film is based on the life of Molly Bloom, a former skier who, after being forced out due to injury, started a high stakes poker game that became one of the most famous Underground Poker rings in the country, including wall street brokers, politicians, and celebrities (Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and Leonardo DiCaprio all made appearances). Sorkin’s direction supposedly leaves a lot to be desired, and the trailer feels more commercial than artistically intellectual, but thanks to a mixture of Social Network and Steve Jobs-esque dialogue, a Wolf of Wall Street level of irreverency, and Chastain’s ability to master Sorkin’s dialogue, this could be a major contender for Best Actress at the end of the year. Time will tell if STX has a successful 2017 or ends up falling flat like 2016, but they certainly have an interesting lineup ahead of them.
Perhaps the most impressive slate from any studio at CinemaCon came on Day 2 from Paramount Pictures. Coming off of a 2016 that had Oscar, critical, and box office successes in Star Trek Beyond, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Allied, Florence Foster Jenkins, Everybody Wants Some!!, Fences, Arrival, and Silence, Paramount was looking to shine, and it seems that they will after a stellar lineup.
They started their segment by announcing upcoming releases, including Johnny Knoxville’s comedy Action Point, to be released March 23, 2018, John Krasinski’s directorial debut A Quiet Place, to be released April 13, 2018, and the third movie in the spiritual Cloverfield trilogy, God Particle, which will be released October 23rd. Furthermore, the upcoming Mission Impossible 6 will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D, and while Jeremy Renner has exited the series, DC’s Superman Henry Cavill will be stepping into the series. I liked the first, have yet to see the third and fourth, and really enjoyed the fifth, so I’m onboard with any decision they’d like to make surrounding this movie.
Things really kicked into gear when Paramount brought out The Rock to hype the upcoming Baywatch movie. The Rock was really the star of CinemaCon, appearing at something like four different panels, and stealing the show each time. And it didn’t hurt that his Baywatch trailer broke the crowd, who laughed and cheered at the depravity on screen. Now, it’s worth noting that last year the crowd was “rolling in the aisles” over Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, which ended up being a bit of disappointment-not good, not bad, just “meh.” But we’ll see how Baywatch is received, with the extended trailer showing two new sequences, each receiving cheers from the crowd. The first featured actor Jon Bass singing “Roar” by Katy Perry in the shower, and the other featuring The Rock hazing newbie Zac Efron by making him fondle a dead man’s, umm, unit. I gues it’s that kind of movie. The film will be released on May 26th.
Unfortunately, not every film Paramount has lined up can interest me. Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, and Michael Bay came out to talk about Transformers: The Last Knight, the follow-up to one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The panel had some interesting moments, including Bay revealing that it took 14 writers to figure out how to write this movie (which is pretty much the worst sign you can have in the industry) and Hopkins basically complisulting Bay the entire panel (“Well, he certainly is a very American director…”-direct quote from the panel), before revealing the new trailer for this abomination. The trailer is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Mark Wahlberg rides a killer drone, a World War II tank turns out to be a Transformer, etc. I’ll see this movie when it comes out June 23rd if I have to review it, but God, will I do that reluctantly.
Ironically, after Bay’s super-right presentation, the audience was treated to a trailer for An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, presented live by Al Gore, who came out to Nelly’s “Hot In Herre.” I hate everything about that sentence I just typed. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the original. I think it’s too egotistical, too much of a factually inaccurate simplification of the climate change crisis, and overall, too smug. I actually think it has done more to harm the crisis than to help-his ego and inaccuracies made it an easy scapegoat for deniers to prove their “points.” Nevertheless, Gore is back for round 2 to yell at us for not listening to him, the Lord our God, the first time, and if you were a fan of the original, 1) why? 2) it was well received by the crowd, who most likely did enjoy the first one. The film will be released July 28, 2017, and I would assume probably will be a major contender for Best Documentary. You can watch the trailer below. Sigh.
At this point in the presentation, Paramount let their animation branch take over, or as you probably know it, Nickelodeon. It went pretty much exactly as you’d expect a Nickelodeon presentation to go, and was received about exactly as well as a television channel would be received by movie studios: with confusion all around. Nickelodeon thought they had their big moment when they announced their upcoming movie Amusement Park (August 12, 2018) will end up launching a TV series, the same way they did with Jimmy Neutron and Barnyard. This met with crickets from the audience. I have no idea why they made that their centerpiece, considering they also announced a third Spongebob movie. That’s right, The Spongebob Movie will be coming out on August 2, 2019. I didn’t see the second film, and I haven’t watched Spongebob in over five years, but make no mistake: the Golden Age of Spongebob should definitely be considered quality television, on par with the Looney Tunes (lesser Looney Tunes, sure, but still…). Other announcements include Sherlock Gnomes on January 12, 2018 (godd*mmit, I don’t even want to know what that one is) and The Loud House in 2020.
However, just when it seemed everything was wrapping up, Paramount hit audiences with a killer one-two-three punch: Suburbicon, Annihilation, and Downsizing. The panel started with Suburbicon, the newest film by George Clooney, based on the second script Ethan and Joel Coen ever wrote. A neo-noir crime comedy, the trailer was introduced by Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Clooney himself. After a funny introduction, the trailer started, to instant acclaim. The film follows an investigation performed by Oscar Isaac, surrounding a blonde housewife, played by Moore (who’s tics and traits inspired some buzz around her Oscar-wise), and her dimwitted and nerdy brother, played by Damon. However, lest you think this is some dark and gritty story and forget that it is written by the Coens, the trailer’s climax arrives when Damon attempts to escape the cops on a child’s tricycle. Even if this wasn’t building Oscar buzz-which you better believe it is-that sentence alone is enough to earn Paramount my money. The trailer was followed by a panel for Annihilation, Oscar Isaac’s second film of the day (Isaac was not in attendance because he is spending time with his family after the passing of his mother). Directed by Alex Garland of Ex Machina fame, the moody trailer follows Natalie Portman’s attempt to discover what happened to her husband, who returns after disappearing for a year and comes back disassociated and coughing blood. She decides to investigate what happened to her husband alongside a team of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson (who only appeared for a few moments of the trailer). The trailer received a rousing ovation, and will most likely be moved forward from the current 2018 release date. However, if there was any footage that truly stunned people into silence, it was the first ten minutes of Downsizing. If you don’t remember, Downsizing is the newest film by Alexander Payne, and follows a married couple’s decision to shrink themselves down in order to fix overpopulation. In fact, Payne and star Matt Damon both made appearances to present the footage. The first ten minutes involve sight gags including Laura Dern luxuriating in a doll house bathtub, men being shaved down for the shrinking process (lotta dongs here) and a giant saltine. The audience went crazy over the footage, with many calling it an Oscar (and potentially Cannes) frontrunner, everyone finding it funny, and several critics making comparisons to the early works of Woody Allen or the middle works of Stanley Kubrick. The film was ranked #7 on my list of most anticipated films, so I’m excited to hear that it’s remarkable, and you can rest assured I will be seeing this the day it comes out, December 22nd.
Walt Disney Picutres
If there was any studio that has mastered the art of giving the audience what they want while giving them literally nothing, it’s Disney. Disney is coming off a record-breaking year, bringing in a whopping $7 billion last year, with almost every film earning over a billion. And they’re off to a good start now, thanks to Beauty and the Beast coming out strong. And based on that strength alone, they had the convention in their pocket.
You see, Disney has their own convention in late April. And because they want to premiere their big guns at said convention, they chose to hold off any trailers from CinemaCon. However, they didn’t send their patrons home empty handed. They premiered a sizzle reel of their upcoming projects, which showed a whopping two seconds of their hottest products. This amounts to a fraction clip of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, vehicles driving in Cars 3, the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok, and, in the most anticipated two second clip in history, Rey swinging a lightsaber in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. They also released a new clip from Coco, the highly anticipated original film from Pixar. Sadly, they also confirmed the movie is not the first Pixar musical, but music will be an integral part of the story. And we finally have a title for the Wreck It Ralph sequel. The film has been named Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, and will be released March 9, 2018. Finally, the Black Panther film, the first Disney or Marvel movie with an all (or majority)-black cast and crew, is confirmed for a February 2018 release date. I’m onboard for any film that Ryan Coogler makes, so you can rest assured knowing I will be first in line for it.
Finally, because Disney didn’t want to completely f*ck over their audience, they gave them a very special treat: an entire screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Now, it’s worth noting that CinemaCon receptions tend to be a little more…positive than other locations would be, but I managed to find reviews by some of the better, more honest critics in the business, to get a more truthful take. And the general consensus is that the film is good! Well, good is a strong word. It’s not quite as strong as the first one, which is a true classic, but it’s leaps and bounds better than four, and it’s at least on par with the best parts of two and three (those are such flawed movies in hindsight). What’s more, Dead Men Tell No Tales restores the heart to the series that’s been missing for quite some time, which proves what we’ve all been thinking: Orlando Bloom is the soul of Hollywood. I was on the fence about seeing this, but I’ve been won over enough to give it a shot, even if I hate it. Hey, it can’t be worse than the fourth. It’ll be in theaters on May 26th.
I hope you enjoyed this recap of CinemaCon Day 2. I’ll try to have a Day 3 recap up in the next day or so, and wrap up my summary by the end of the week. Until then, keep your eyes out for Paramount, prepare to give Disney all your money, and remember that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is terrible.