Hosted by Today show anchor Natalie Morales, Universal and its stars gave CinemaCon an inside look at its upcoming live-action and animation slates for the coming year.
Universal’s Illumination Entertainment kicked things off with Despicable Me 3, where Gru learns he has a long-lost twin brother Dru (both voiced by Steve Carell, who told the audience that he chose his voices based on the ones his kids laughed at the most) who is the exact opposite of him in every way. The new footage from the film also showed the Minions in a prison gang, but fear not, they were the finger-snapping, West Side Story kind. (What else would they be?)
The Mummy ushers in a new age of gods and monsters at the studio, and this time, he’s a she! Sofia Boutella has the honor of playing the very first female Mummy, and has an insightful take on she who would be queen, telling the CinemaCon audience, “Whenever something happens to us, there is always a monster inside, and it is whether you choose to use it or not.” Tom Cruise was not at CinemaCon this year, but co-stars Sofia Boutella and Jake Johnson described the grueling stunt work alongside the action star known for doing his own stunts. A “zero gravity” scene took 64 takes, they said, and, “There was a lot of barfing,” according to director Alex Kurtzman. Sounds like The Mummy will be a lot more fun to watch than it was to make!
Universal definitely recognizes the power of women at the box office, and is serving up some great female fare including Girls Trip starring Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish as friends who go on an epic vacation in New Orleans.
In a film that will appeal to both strong women and the men who love them, Atomic Blonde, a late summer release, features star and producer Charlize Theron as a fierce agent in a spy action thriller set in Berlin just before the Wall comes down. When asked onstage to describe her character, Theron simply replied, “She’s a bitch.” After seeing the incredible kick-ass action footage on the big screen, which certainly earns its R rating, we’d say that’s an understatement!
The Fate of the Furious, the 8th film in the series (with a 9th and 10th on their way) was the surprise of the presentation, as Vin Diesel and the cast including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron and director F. Gary Gray were on hand to talk about the film and present it in its entirety for the crowd. “Last time I was here, I promised this is going to be the best film you ever saw,” Diesel said before rolling the film in front of the amazed audience, “And here it is!”
“The reality of the motion picture business is that a film is not truly complete until it plays in a theater,” Peter Kujawski, chairman of Focus Features, said, as he kicked off the studio’s stand-alone luncheon presentation to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
The first film introduced was Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul starring Judi Dench in a remarkable true story about a remarkable and unexpected friendship between the Queen of England and a young Indian man.
Next came The Book of Henry‘s Naomi Watts and director Colin Trevorrow who introduced clips that told the story of a mother and her gifted son who tries to save the girl next door. Trevorrow, who is better known for his Dinosaur epics, asked for exhibitors to play the movie and then joked: “I promise it will make as much money as Jurassic World did in its third Wednesday.”
The studio is also working on an untitled Paul Thomas Anderson project that will star Daniel-Day Lewis, as well as a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie The Beguiled told from the women’s point of view, directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.
In another film set in England, Gary Oldman completely transforms into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Oldman said that he spent over 200 hours in the makeup chair, and it was worth it – he’s unrecognizable in the film’s Oscar-worthy first clips. The story takes place over 5 weeks in 1940, and Oldman called it, “A love letter to the resilience of the British people and just how close we came to submitting to Nazi tyranny.”
Focus then took an extended look at Atomic Blond with Charlize Theron to close out its presentation, and she continued to kick ass.
Super hero fans certainly had a lot to celebrate at The Big Picture presentation from Warner Bros. on Wednesday, with sagas featuring the Justice League, Wonder Woman and Aqua Man all on the slate for the coming year. But WB also revealed its commitment to a broad tentpole strategy of films that are sure to appeal to a wide audience with an event hosted by NCM FirstLook’s own Maria Menounos.
First up was Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which the director called, “One of the greatest stories in human history.” “I wanted to put you, the audience, on that beach, in the cockpit of that spitfire, in that boat going to rescue those soldiers,” he continued, before showing footage to give the audience a taste of the sound and feel of the film. This is one you don’t want to miss in theaters – wow!
Moving from the terror of war to the terror of the supernatural, the next two films had the audience screaming. If you were not scared enough by the first Annabelle, don’t worry, Annabelle: Creation should do the trick on August 11! But it was nothing compared to the new movie version of Steven King’s It, which was a crowd favorite. Maybe it’s a good thing that the Ringling Bros. Circus is closing after all, because if you didn’t have coulrophobia already, Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise will make sure you never go near a clown again!
On the drama front, the studio presented Unforgettable starring Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson in a crazy-ex tale, and Everything, Every Thing, based on a best-selling book that has really resonated with pre-Millennials, telling the story of a sick girl who falls in love with the boy next door from her window.
But there was plenty to laugh about as well, including the new comedy Bastards, starring Ed Helms and Owen Wilson as siblings set out on an epic quest to find their biological father and learn more about their eccentric mom’s past than they ever wanted to know. Then came The House, starring Amy Pohler and Will Ferrell as parents who run an underground casino in their suburban house to pay for their daughter’s college tuition, out on June 30. And LEO fanatics will love The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the latest in that cinematic universe.
Action fans will want to check out Guy Richie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword on May 12 starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne, and also the disaster movie Geostorm, which shows us what happens when satellites that control the weather go horribly wrong.
But the WB was really all about DC. Aquaman was the first look into the DC Comics universe, with an on-stage appearance by star Jason Momoa, who told the audience that he was leaving the next day to start filming in Australia for a 2018 release. Then came Wonder Woman in her first dedicated movie due out June 2. It is one of the most anticipated films of the year, and if the footage was any indication, with good reason! Diana showed Chris Pine and the boys how it’s done in some fabulous slo-mo comics-style fights. But the final big super hero movie of the day saw Director Zack Snyder, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher on stage to plug the Justice League. The clips from the comic book epic, unveiled to a packed house, showed a movie with plenty of action and surprisingly fun dialogue. When the Flash asks Bruce Wayne, “What are your superpowers again?” his deadpan, “I’m rich,” got a big laugh from exhibitors who were no doubt seeing big box office receipts flashing before their eyes.
Up next, the final day of a record 10 CinemaCon studio presentations featuring 20th Century Fox, Amazon and Lionsgate.