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Published on April 9th, 2019 | by Michael Newman

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Cinemacon 2019

Theater owners and stars descended upon Las Vegas once again, as the annual convention of theater owners and operators took sin city by storm. This year’s CinemaCon would include some of the biggest news to rock the cinema world in some time. Not only did Sony pictures decide not to participate, even after one of its biggest cinematic wins with the incredible Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, but a long-time supporter, Twentieth Century Fox, had only weeks before seen its merger with Disney completed. While these two events certainly ushered in the new CinemaCon era with a bang, the other movie studios would not disappoint. For an event this large it is practically impossible to cover it all, so like the massive buffets in Las Vegas themselves, this will only offer a taste of all that was shown.

STXFilms

Kicking off the CinemaCon experience this year was STXfilms. While not the largest of studios to grace the stage at The Colosseum, their presentation was certainly not lacking in star power or substance. Hollywood super star Diane Keaton opened the star-studded event with a look at her upcoming film POMS. A film in which we see an energetic cast of older women who form a competitive cheerleading squad in their over 65+ community. Not content to put on shows for the elderly community itself, they enter into the world of competitive cheerleading, competing against other 18+ teams across the country. Look for POMS to open in theaters on May 10th.

Guy Richie’s latest action film The Gentlemen, featuring Hollywood elites such as Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant with rising stars Charlie Hunnam and Henry Golding. Golding and Hunnam both came on stage to discuss their experiences working with Guy Richie and introduced a clip of the film.

The stars continued to shine for STX as Chadwick Boseman, hot off the epic success of Black Panther, came on stage to introduce his latest film 21 bridges. Boseman plays a NYPD detective who is attempting to stop a group of cop killers from escaping the city. Knowing there is only limited time, he requests that all entrances and exits off Manhattan are shut down…hence the name. Boseman did ride-a-longs with actual NYPD and LA cops to get a feel for the role. 21 Bridges is set to be released on July 12th.

As a special surprise, Katie Holmes graced the stage to introduce the chilling sequel to 2016’s The Boy…Brahms: The Boy 2. Following in the shoes of Annabelle 3 and the reboot of Child’s Play, The Boy 2 brings with it not only a creepy locale, but a creepy, practically life-size, boy doll to go along with it. Featuring not only the incredibly talented Katie Holmes, we also see Christopher Convery who plays Jude, a boy who has been unable to speak due to some previous traumatic event that they had encountered. Look for its theatrical release on July 26th.

STX would close out its presentation with an absolutely amazing live performance from legendary singer Kelly Clarkson. Performing “Broken & Beautiful” from the upcoming animated film Ugly Dolls, featuring not only Kelly Clarkson, but Nick Jonas as well. STX continues its CinemaCon tradition with bringing out the best and brightest stars.

 

 

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures brought out some of the biggest names in franchise history to kick off the 2019 CinemaCon Experience. The opening sizzle real showed off some of the big-name franchises getting sequels and reboots in the upcoming years. Included were familiar titles such as Wonder Woman 1984 alongside Shaft, but newer films such as Space Jam 2 (featuring Lebron James), Tom and Jerry, The Batman, Suicide Squad 2, and so on.

Still in its very early stages, the audience was given the first ever preview of Todd Phillip’s The Joker, featuring Joaquin Phoenix in the pivotal role, the movie is centered around the iconic villain and his origin story. Who is the Joker? What events occurred in his life to bring him down the path of becoming the Joker? Todd Phillip’s view on the film, “”I don’t have a lot to say about the film as it’s still taking shape but also because I want it to be a surprise,” Most of the chatter hasn’t been accurate. “I supposed that’s to be expected about an origin story about a beloved character who has no definitive origin story.”. He goes on to describe the film as a “tragedy”. Based on the preview, the film fleshes out the character even more than what has been previously done.

An early behind the scenes footage on the upcoming film based on the Stephen King Novel Dr. Sleep. Directed by Mike Flanagan and featuring Jedi Master Ewan McGregor, this sequel to the pivotal Stephen King novel The Shining is certain to once again bring back our fear of creepy old hotels and even creepier young girls.

A Warner Bros presentation would not be complete without a larger look at Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Featuring not only Godzilla this time around, but the equally famous monsters Mothra, Ghidora, and Rodan. The sneak peek clearly shows that much like ants on a football field, the humans are nothing more than small nuisances, scrambling to keep from getting underfoot as these giants of film legend do battle with each other. Looking to be released in early 2020, this certainly looks to do incredible justice to the franchise.

And there we are, wrapping up just the first day of CinemaCon. With some of the biggest and brightest events still to come.

Universal Pictures

Even though there were no Harry Potter universe pictures announced doesn’t mean that Universal didn’t have a ton of other hot commodities up their sleeves. As one would expect, Universal would not be outdone and started their show off with a bang, or several bangs as the case may be, when Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham walked out on stage to introduce some additional footage from their upcoming blockbuster spinoff of the Fast and Furious series with Hobbs & Shaw. As we’ve come to expect from the franchise, it’s filled with incredible stunts, tremendous amounts of over-the-top action, and of course…cars…lots of cars. Featuring Idris Elba as the super soldier Brixton, look for it to blast its way into theaters on August 2nd.

Coming to theaters in June we are introduced to Himesh Patel and his acoustic rendition of the famous Beatles song “Yesterday”. This also happens to be the title of his upcoming film, which sees a brief blackout that occurs across the entire world, and everyone except Patel’s character forget who “The Beatles” were. This takes an unknown singer and launches him into the stratosphere as he records and releases many of the pivotal hits from The Beatles. If they don’t exist can it still be considered plagiarism? I guess we’ll find out when Yesterday is released.

Kevin Hart and Tiffany Hadish arrived on stage with their “pet” counterparts for a reveal of their upcoming animated sequel The Secret Life of Pets 2. It was their live action counterparts that provided much of the entertainment, as Kevin Hart did his best to keep his bunny from climbing up his shoulder. At one point making a comment about the bleeding that was occurring beneath his shirt. Needless to say, I don’t think Kevin Hart will be doing any additional Kevin/Bunny events in the future.

For those looking for a cute Christmas movie to take the family to, Emma Thompson arrived on stage to introduce us to her seven-year long screenplay Last Christmas. A romantic comedy featuring numerous hits from 80’s legend George Michael, including a never released song. Starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, its sure to bring a smile on everyone’s face this holiday season.

Not to be outdone by all the “big” stars on stage, the cast of the upcoming comedy Little, which certainly draws its inspiration from the classic 80’s film BIG, were next on stage. We are introduced to an extremely successful (and angry) female executive, literally brought down to size by a young girl and a wish. This film is the brainchild (pun intended) of young Black-ish star Marsai Martin who is set to become the youngest executive producer in film history.

Last year Universal ended their show with an incredible musical number from ABBA and performed by singer legend Cher. This year, Jennifer Hudson came out on stage to sing the popular song Memory from the multi-Grammy award winner Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats. This incredible take on the extremely popular Broadway musical, shows what both live-action set pieces and computer animation can bring to the table. While still early in its production cycle, the behind the scenes footage showed not only the amazing set pieces that made full size actors look like the size of cats, but also featuring the musical talent of not only Jennifer Hudson, but multi-platinum recording artist Taylor Swift. Those looking for a different type of Christmas movie will have an opportunity to see it when it pounces into theaters December 20th.

Disney/Fox

To say that it’s been a huge year for Disney would be a massive understatement. Coming off an incredible 2018 lineup that included Academy Award nominated Black Panther, Box office shattering Infinity War, the animated sequels to not only The Incredibles, but Wreck-It Ralph and taking us back to a galaxy far far away with Solo, it might be easy to assume that it couldn’t get any bigger. Disney being Disney however, not only just completed its merger with 20th Century Fox, but brought to the stage its incredible lineup for 2019 and beyond. In true Disney fashion, no stars graced the stage at this year’s CinemaCon (much like last years), but what a show they still had in store for us. The first words uttered on stage this year was that we would not be getting a glimpse of Star Wars Episode IX which brought audible grumbling from the audience. Fear not though, because there was still plenty to experience from the show.

Disney began with a sizzle reel from its merger with one of the largest movie production companies of all time. For fans of 20th Century Fox that feared that Disney would do away with much of their storied IPs, the reel was meant to put their minds at ease. The reel focused on the numerous Alien, Predator, Apes and Avatar films that have graced the screens for decades. They also affirmed to the folks in the audience that they are committed to franchises such as “Apes, Avatar and Aliens”. Whether that means we’ll see movies on these beloved franchises in the near future (or television series or video games) has yet to be seen. Nothing was announced on any of these franchises outside of that commitment. Interestingly Predator was NOT mentioned as an IP they are committed too. For those who might be worried that it could mean an end to the franchise, I tend to take a more optimistic approach in that at least it was part of the sizzle reel and omitting it in the speech doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve seen the last of our favorite invisible hunter.

Hot off their recently released Dumbo live action movie, the stage is set for two more larger than life animated features brought to life with both Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King. Up first was the latest trailer to feature Will Smith as Genie. It opens with Aladdin entering the Cave of Wonders and his monkey Abu attempting to steal a giant ruby. Not heeding the warning that nothing but the lamp can be taken, the Cave of Wonders comes crashing down upon our two hapless thieves. Aladdin, polishing the old lamp, releases the Genie in the form of Will Smith, and upon his release entertains us with a Will Smith’d up version of “Friend Like Me”. While it is impossible for any actor to attempt to live up to the performance of Robin Williams, Will Smith adds his own style and unique personality into the role. Less like a carbon copy and more like an ode to the incredible performance of Robin Williams when he graced the animated film almost 27 years ago.

We got our very first glimpse of The Lion King last year with the incredible opening sequence. This year we were shown a bit more of the character interaction between Mufasa and young Simba as they survey the kingdom they hold domain over. We also get a first look at ZaZu voiced by comedian and political commentator John Oliver. The technology that has evolved that allows this incredible film to be brought to life is breathless. While Disney’s The Jungle Book awed film goers with it’s incredible visuals, the technology has continued to advance and grow over the years. To a level where it’s practically impossible to distinguish live from Memorex (some might have to Google that reference).

Not to be outdone with remakes of classics, the newly acquired Fox studios brought the first look of Ford V Ferrari. A biopic featuring Matt Damon as Carol Shelby, the iconic car designer for Ford and Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles. The two are tasked with the impossible, build an ultra-fast, ultra-light car that can beat the Italians at the Le Mans 24-hour race. Based on A.J. Baime’s book “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed”, it will grace theaters on November 15th of 2019.

Disney chose to end their presentation on an awe-inspiring note. Not only was Toy Story 4 the presentation to close out the show, but all in attendance were gifted with seeing the first 17 minutes of the film. Not to give away too many spoilers, we are picking up shortly after the conclusion of Toy Story 3. Andy has left for college and has entrusted his toys to his young sister Bonnie. Bo peep and her sheep are part of a lamp that Bonnie’s parents decide to donate. Bo peep attempts to sway Woody to accidently get “misplaced” in the donation box so that the two can stay together. Woody contemplates this fate, but ultimately determines that a toy’s place is with their child. Bo peep and the sheep are driven off to an unknown fate, and Woody is left to wonder if he had made the right choice.

Bonnie’s first day of school arrives and Woody is convinced that she should have a toy with her and stows away in her backpack. While in class Bonnie is given an opportunity to construct something out of some art supplies and the newest member of the toy family Forky is brought to life. To say that Forky is a little neurotic would be a bit of an understatement, and he only feels comfortable in the trash can. Such is the latest adventure of everyone’s favorite toys.

Paramount Pictures

Last but certainly not least was Paramount Pictures and Paramount in my opinion always brings their A game to CinemaCon. Bringing with them not only a jam-packed presentation full of sneak peeks and special appearances, but surprises around every corner. Each year this is the show that I look forward to the most, and because there is simply too much to share, I once again will only be offering a taste of what was shown and also a glimpse into what Paramount has in-store for us in 2020.

The presentation opened with a large dance troupe dancing to the famous Elton John Song “I’m Still Standing”, which could only mean one thing…Paramount Pictures Rocketman. This biopic of Elton John’s rise to superstardom is directed by Dexter Fletcher, the same director asked to replace Bryan Singer on the amazing Bohemian Rhapsody. The film stars Taron Egerton, who not only portrays this rock icon, but actually performs the songs in the film itself. It’s a glimpse into the life of a child prodigy who struggles to figure out who he is on his meteoric rise to fame. I couldn’t think of a more fitting place then Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to get an in-depth look at the film, and makes waiting for it’s release on May 31st in the US (May 24th if you happen to be one of the lucky ones in the UK) all the more difficult.

Opening with one of the bigger surprises and a film I had not heard of prior to the show was Alexandre Aja’s Crawl produced by Sam Raimi. Take a disaster movie like Twister, add in a bunch of hungry Alligators like Lake Placid and you have the perfect mix of disaster/horror. Crawl features Kaya Scodelario as Haley Keller, fighting her way through wave after wave of hungry Alligators in a hurricane flooded Florida town. Look for it in theaters July 12, 2019.

The next video game icon to grace the screen is 2019’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Featuring a surprise appearance by Jim Carey who plays the intelligent and insane inventor/scientist Dr. Ivo Robotnik, who wanted to show his own take on the true “star” of the movie. Sonic is voiced by comedian Ben Schwartz and looks to be a high-octane fun fest this fall.

The main attraction, and honestly what I was most excited about was a first look at Terminator: Dark Fate. The star-studded ensemble cast featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and director Tim Miller all came out on stage to offer us a brief glimpse of what the Terminator future holds. The film is a direct sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day and takes place shortly after the events in that film. The scene opens in Mexico City where a time traveling Mackenzie Davis appears. While we aren’t told exactly what she is, she clearly is robotic in nature, whether she is another version of a Terminator, or simply a mechanically augmented human is yet to be seen. She “acquires” some clothes from some onlookers and goes on her mission to find Sarah Conner. We are introduced to a brief battle sequence featuring Sarah Conner and the new Terminator (Gabriel Luna). This new Terminator appears to be liquid metal, much like his counterpart from Terminator 2, but we are also told that this particular model has the ability to split into two Terminators. With James Cameron as the executive Producer and writer we can only hope that this will be the true sequel that we have been waiting all these years for.

The Paramount show ended with a brief, but exciting glimpse of what is to come in 2020. Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy return in Coming to America 2, and a new GI Joe film was announced. Let’s not forget that Tom Cruise will be returning as Maverick in the upcoming film Top Gun: Maverik and that is only to name a few. CinemaCon 2020 Paramount’s show looks to be even bigger than this year.

CinemaCon wouldn’t be CinemaCon if I didn’t at least take a minute to mention the exhibitors and vendors that attended the show. Dolby was on-hand to showcase their ever-expanding Cinema changing audio and technology and of course Coke, Pepsi and Mars were there with free samples for all. CinemaCon is like no other experience out there and truly reminds all in attendance not only about the joy we experience when going to the movies, but how that experience truly shapes us into who we are today. I’m already excited to see what CinemaCon 2020 brings to the table next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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