Tonight was the night for Sony Pictures Entertainment. President of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer assumed the podium and appeared to be having more fun than anyone, cracking jokes and recalling funny memories from past CinemaCon presentations. Just as he suggests crazy shenanigans are bound to go down this year too, a quartet of bugle players storm the stage from one end while a pair of cushy chairs are carried in from the other, one with Adam Sandler and Salma Hayek and the other with David Spade and Kevin James.
Say what you want about the comedic value of “Grown Ups,” but in the flesh, the group knows how to put on a hilarious show. Hayek complained that when the first film hit it big, Sandler celebrated by buying his co-stars cars, but not her. Sandler then announced that should “Grown Ups 2” end up an equal success, he’ll go big and buy her a Ferrari. Sandler very well might have been joking, but Hayek still felt the need to continue the conversation, explaining that she can’t drive a stick and mimicking the shifting motion. Sandler then chimed back in to announce that she likely just made many male audience members very happy.
After the “Grown Ups 2” cast said their goodbyes, in came the obligatory sizzle reel, celebrating the studio’s accomplishments and teasing what’s to come. From there, it was on to the new material – in some cases.
We were in a similar situation with the Will and Jayden Smith-starrer “After Earth.” You can catch what we saw in the Colosseum right here.
Now here’s a piece well worth talking about, director Paul Greengrass’ film about the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, the man leading the vessel that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009, marking the first American ship to be taken in 200 years.
The trailer opens with a wide shot of a cargo ship floating all alone in the middle of the ocean. When it comes in for a closer look we meet Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips. Phillips spots something in the distance and checks the radar to find two small dots approaching. Those markings turn out to be skiffs carrying a gang of armed men. Phillips reports the sighting to a command center, but at that point, there’s nothing that can be done. He and his crew are in it alone.
Phillips sounds the alarm and announces that it’s no drill. He hurls a flare at the incoming pirates and orders his boat to turn to thwart the invaders from positioning their ladder to board the cargo ship, but it’s no use. Phillips gets one last warning out to his crew before the pirates barge into the cockpit. We move in for a close-up in which the pirate leader tells Phillips, “I’m the captain now,” after which the piece launches into a montage of footage that carried it through to the title card.
This very well could be a big winner. In just a few minutes, Hanks easily establishes himself as a wholly believable captain who cares deeply for his crew. And when the pirates arrive it isn’t some campy “Pirates of the Caribbean” takeover. Even though the trailer doesn’t show any violence, the enemy is presented in an overwhelmingly threatening light with a leader who so clearly has zero remorse or compassion.
Hopefully “Captain Phillips” will keep the bar high as we approach its October 11th release.
While the trailer shown for “The Smurfs 2” did use a significant amount of old footage, it also included a few new scenes, but most seemed unfinished. It opened with a shot of a storm cloud of sorts and then dove into the narrative details, explaining that there’s an ancient formula that, if harnessed, would give that person the power to rule the world, and it seems as though Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) is the one who has it.
In an effort to get the formula, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) hatches a plan to kidnap her and use his new “Naughties” to trick her into becoming naughty herself. Smurfette unleashes her new naughtiness on a carnival Ferris wheel, sending the ride spinning out of control. Meanwhile, the Smurfs recruit Neil Patrick Harris’ Patrick Winslow to help their cause.
And that’s where the string of quick cut clips begins. There’s a bit with Smurfs riding seagulls and a moment that looks like a magic show during which Gargamel is dwarfed by a giant version of his cat in the background. As a post-title card grand finale, there’s a scene of Gargamel’s cat checking out YouTube and finding a video of Gargamel tossing a cab up in the air, only to have it come back down and land right on top of him.
Considering a good chunk of the footage was still a work in progress, it’s impossible to judge the quality of the visuals, but as far as the quality of the trailer itself goes, it really just comes down to whether “The Smurfs” is your thing or not. If you liked the first film, you might dig this.
If you take the trailer that dropped last summer, restructure some of the footage and toss in clips of the break dancers being interviewed about the competition, that’s basically what was screened for the September 13th release, “Battle of the Year.”
The piece neatly and clearly runs through the basics, this time sans voiceover, pointing out that the Koreans are the best of the best at the Battle of the Year break dancing competition and that the only way the American team can come out on top is by doing something extreme. In comes Josh Holloway as Blake, a former winning basketball coach whose messy hair and far-from-cozy apartment suggests he’s not doing so well anymore.
Blake agrees to coach the break dancing crew and gets to work. Eventually someone suggests bringing aboard a choreographer and we get Caity Lotz’s Stacy. There’s a slew of footage of wicked break dancing moves, but some of the more impressive moments come from the boys’ training process during which we get a less polished look at their skills, something that proves to be far more impressive than footage from the big show.
Nothing mind-blowing, but a solid dance trailer all-around. It hints at what could be a moving underdog story while also packing the power of a booming soundtrack and some wildly impressive dancing. Think “Step-Up” meets “Freedom Writers.”
The trailer shown at the presentation was a pretty close match to this one with the exception of pickles. We got the story basics, shrimpanzees, mosquitoast, a tacodile supreme, the super cute leek and the piece of cake, but then there were also those pickles. They didn’t come with a unique name or do very much, but they had eyes and were very much alive.
There’s another somewhat grating new moment with Flint (Bill Hader) engaging in an incessant yelling match with his monkey, Steve, and also a new closing scene in which Flint unveils his grocerydelivoryator (or something like that), a machine designed to zap them back to their now food-consumed hometown. However, when Steve jumps through the black hole it creates and comes back out a twitchy mess, the gang opts to take a boat instead.
Sadly nothing new from “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” Sony ran with the same trailer that was released about a week ago.
A similar story here. Nothing new, just what looked like this very trailer right here.
New footage started to stream in again courtesy of “White House Down.” This brand new trailer kicks off with helicopters soaring over the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and heading straight for the White House. Upon landing, President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) hops out and asks an assistant when his wife is due to return home before heading inside.
Cut to Channing Tatum’s John Cale in a car with his daughter, Emily, played by Joey King. Their relationship is clearly strained, but Emily is thrilled when John shows off two passes to the White House and tells her he has a job interview with the Secret Service. As they head inside, John’s forced to turn over his weapon. During his meeting, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character asks him why he wants the job to which he explains that he can’t think of a more important job than protecting the president. It would have convinced me, but when Gyllenhaal checks out his record and cites his lack of obedience and history of not following orders, he’s sent on his way, jobless.
In an effort to keep from disappointing Emily, he tells her he thinks he’s still got a shot, an emotional scene effectively intercut with the invaders planning to attack. Cut to the Capitol where a guard informs a seemingly random tourist he can’t leave his bag where he placed it and, as the man walks away, an explosion rocks the room. Back in the White House someone yells about that attack being a diversion and soon thereafter, invaders storm in.
John and Emily are separated, and John ends up with an enemy radio. He overhears something about a library and even after recognizing it’s likely not the best idea, he forges forward in that direction anyway. He locates Sawyer and engages in some hand-to-hand combat before they make their way to Sawyer’s personal space where he slips on some much-needed running shoes. Meanwhile, John is attacked in the kitchen and then Sawyer faces an attacker of his own. Sawyer gets away by giving his enemy a few nasty kicks to the head while John stabs his with a pair of scissors.
Someone mentions that help isn’t coming, there’s a helicopter explosion, and Air Force One is blown away before cutting back to John and Sawyer with Sawyer insisting John can’t do this by himself. The pair hops into a black SUV and takes off with enemy vehicles right behind. Sawyer pulls out a massive rocket launcher and earns a laugh by accidently knocking John in the head before letting the rocket fly. Shortly after, the car is seen mowing down trees, going airborne and plunging into a swimming pool.
Roland Emmerich’s latest continues to look like an all-appealing disaster movie, but also one with a darker, more realistic tone than most. There were a few unfinished VFX shots, but generally, all explosions and fight sequences were top notch. The performances also seem to be of a high quality with Tatum and King’s chemistry adding a nice, heartfelt layer to the story.
Sony was also keen to promote its new Russian acquisition, the first Russian-made film to be shot in IMAX 3D, “Stalingrad.” After highlighting the World War II love story in the presentation introduction, the studio rolled the film’s trailer. There was zero dialogue so it was impossible to get a firm grasp on the characters and narrative, but between the title and extensive amount of battle footage, it still offered a decent sense of what to expect.
However, a little Googling reveals that the film hones in on the Battle of Stalingrad, a five-month fight that took the lives of nearly two million people. The primary characters are a group of Soviet soldiers stuck in the German occupied section of Stalingrad. While hiding out in a house, one of the soldiers strikes up a relationship with another woman in the home.
It’s tough to get excited for a film when the trailer doesn’t strike up much of an emotional connection to the characters, but visually “Stalingrad” does look like it’s well worth the use of the IMAX 3D format, as the trailer was loaded with epic shots of tanks rolling through town, droves of disheartened refugees, and an abundance of mid-combat explosions.
We veered into the nonfiction realm for a look at “One Direction: This Is Us.” The footage began by running through each of the band members, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson. Their introductions are all filled with touching personal anecdotes, but Tomlinson’s is the most powerful, a memory of a teacher telling him he’d never amount to anything.
Next up is a string of shots of the boys recording some songs paired with sound bites explaining how important it is to them to be deeply involved in the making of their music. From there they each pack up and head to New York for their Today Show performance. Naturally, in comes interviews with screaming and crying girls clutching handmade One Direction posters followed by moments with the boys’ ultimate fans, their mothers. There’s a particularly touching sequence with Malik’s family, the footage showing off his family at home without him. Back in New York, Malik calls them and his mother tears up as she thanks him for everything he’s done for her.
Things get lighthearted and musical again as the piece moves into their Madison Square Garden show. Girls are going nuts and even Martin Scorsese and Chris Rock show up to meet the band. Just before hitting the stage the guys come in for a huddle and we also get a clip of one of the mothers pointing out that she always feels the need to be prepared to pick up the pieces should this whole thing come to a sudden end. However, it certainly doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon because then One Direction takes the stage and performs for a packed house.
It’s a strong, engaging trailer that’ll likely have hardcore 1D fans foaming at the mouth for the August 30th release and pop culture connoisseurs interested enough, but for those who know little to nothing about the band, there’s not much in the way of backstory to provide an entry point.
“Elysium” was next on the list and, much to my pleasure, the footage tossed in story details I was disappointed were missing in the latest trailer. However, appropriately, the material kicked off in an identical fashion, noting the year is 2151 and ID-ing Elysium as the land, or ship, of the privileged.
Rather than jump right down to Earth from there, there’s material focusing on three undocumented ships making their way to Elysium. Jodie Foster’s Secretary Rhodes gets the word, contacts Sharlto Copley’s Kruger and from the ground on Earth, Kruger launches rockets that zip up into space and destroy the trio of ships.
Then in comes Matt Damon’s Max De Costa along with loads more information on his mission. Max comes face-to-face with one robot that gives him one quick look and immediately pegs him as someone with an extensive crime history. After demanding to search his bag, the robot gives Max a good beating, breaking his arm. While being treated at the hospital, Max runs into an old friend, Alice Braga’s character. He notes how nice it is that she actually became a nurse while she asks him if he’s still in the business of stealing cars. Max tries to make a better impression and even flirt a little, but she’s called away to tend to another patient. Max then hops on a line to talk to another robot, one that points out his elevated heart rate and pops open a container to offer Max an assortment of pills.
At his day job in what looks like a factory, Max is trying to close a heavy, steel door. He explains to his superior that the door malfunctioned, but his boss isn’t having it and insists Max step inside the room or he’ll be fired. Max does as he’s told, the door finally locks with him still inside and he blacks out.
When Max comes to, a doctor tells him he’ll die in fives day. This is where Max’s focus shifts to Elysium. He’s told that in order to get there, he’ll need to steal John Carlyle’s (William Fichtner) brain information by downloading the contents of Carlyle’s mind to his own. From there it’s the now familiar footage of Max being locked into that form-fitting contraption, and then the mission begins. Carlyle hops into a snazzy red spacecraft with some fancy robot bodyguards and takes off. Max eventually ambushes him.
Max is going at it with one of those fancy robots, taking a few painful hits until he rips the machine’s head off. Once the bot bodyguards are down, he begins the synching process. When it’s complete, Max is warned that he’ll be hunted down for what he’s done, as with Carlyle’s knowledge, he possesses the power to override the entire system.
Based on what was unveiled of the film prior to CinemaCon I was intrigued, but now that Sony’s dished out more details, I’m fully engaged. Of course there’s no need to spoil the full feature, but Max is clearly a man who’s all about his mission, so with the opportunity to access the details of that mission comes the opportunity to get inside of Max’s head and make a connection.
David O. Russell’s Christmas day release, “American Hustle,” was next, but the piece simply ran through the film’s stellar line-up, showing off names like Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Renner alongside quick shots of their characters in the film. The story takes place in the 70s and shows off the true event involving two con artists who are forced to team up with a federal agent to take down others like them, mobsters, politicians, and, ultimately, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey.
The George Clooney film “The Monument Men” went the same route, but in addition to running through cast heavyweights like Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and John Goodman, this one came with a personal message from Clooney and his co-writer and co-producer, Grant Heslov. The piece earned a big laugh when Clooney greeted a Comic Con audience instead of a CinemaCon one. Sticking with the comedic tone, Clooney then launched into a speech about “Argo” with his Oscar in his lap until Heslov leans in and whispers something in his ear, after which Clooney finally gets it right.
Lastly we got a nice helping of “This Is The End” with about half of the footage consisting of fresh material. We get the same introduction to James Franco’s big party, but with one additional potentially scarring visual – Michael Cera in the bathroom with two girls on their knees, one in front of him and the other behind. Then in comes the explosion. Before realizing what’s happened, Cera runs in front of the crowd, demanding to know who took his cell phone before being impaled by a falling pole. After the hole gobbles up a slew of victims, we get a moment with Craig Robinson during which he insisted he really did try to save Aziz Ansari.
Shortly after came a new lengthy scene during which Danny McBride and Franco argue over a soiled magazine. Franco demands to know who unleashed their sexual business on his magazine and eventually, McBride confesses. McBride tries to reason with him, insisting he couldn’t help it, but Franco launches into a tirade about being able to aim to which McBride retorts that he was raised in a house of women. Of course, that doesn’t fly with Franco, but then McBride tries to turn the tables by chastising him for having magazines and not using the Internet like everyone else.
After showing off Emma Watson’s big moment, there’s a shot of a massive dragon followed by another creature encounter. While sleeping, Robinson is visited by what looks like a Minotaur. From there Jonah Hill starts to scream and shortly after, he’s clearly possessed, rocking bright yellow eyes. Cut to a demonic Hill tied to a bed as Jay Baruchel approaches with a makeshift cross and bible. Baruchel keeps shouting, “The power of Christ compels you,” to which Hill keeps asking, “Does it?” Finally, Hill’s had enough and tells him, “It’s not that compelling.”
At this point we’ve seen a good deal of funny gags from “This Is The End,” so the fact that they just keep on coming bodes very well for the full features. Hopes are high that come June 12th, this one will be a solid laugh from beginning to end.