Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara kicked off the final presentation at CinemaCon in Las Vegas by getting in a dig at other studios for reducing their annual slates of movies, asserting that his studio would take the opportunity to continue producing movies at the same rate of 20-22 films per year. He then turned things over to President of Domestic Distribution Dan Fellman and President of International Distribution Veronika Kwan Vandenberg to introduce footage from a range of 2014 releases that demonstrated that dedication to a packed release schedule.
The studio also brought plenty of star power, with actors and filmmakers alike present to introduce most of the clips, starting with director Wally Pfister and stars Morgan Freeman and Johnny Depp taking the stage to talk about their sci-fi thriller Transcendence. “This is God, by the way,” Depp joked, pointing at Freeman, but otherwise he let the other two men do the talking. Pfister, a longtime cinematographer making his directorial debut with this film, had a bit of trouble with that at first, flubbing his description of the movie’s plot (“You’d think I’d know the premise by now”) but then recovering to encapsulate it with the question “What if we could upload a human mind into a computer?” He said the film is “not only thought-provoking, but has elements of action and romance.”
“As a director, he listens and he responds. He not only knows how to tell a story visually but emotionally,” Freeman said of Pfister. The clips from the film showed Depp as a pioneering scientist developing artificial intelligence, who is fatally wounded by an anti-technology terrorist group. With his consciousness uploaded into the computer he created, Depp’s character soon begins expanding his power, with disastrous results. “This isn’t evolution, it’s an abomination,” says Freeman’s character, ominously.
Next onstage was Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, who announced, “We literally just finished the movie yesterday.” He came right from putting the final touches on the film. “I feel like I’m the biggest Godzilla fan there is, but second only to Thomas Tull, the producer of the movie,” he said. “It was important to us all that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly.” Although he insisted, “I’m from Britain, I’m really modest about these things,” he was eager to show off the footage. “Godzilla apologizes, he couldn’t be here today to introduce the film,” Edwards joked before the preview played. “He’s in a play on Broadway.”
Most of the footage was familiar from previous Godzilla trailers, with only small, shadowy glimpses of the creature himself (a foot, a tail), combined with impressive action (a tsunami, cities in ruins) and one brief look at Godzilla roaring at the end.
Comedy stars Adam Sandler and a very pregnant Drew Barrymore, recipients of the CinemaCon Male and Female Star of the Year awards later that night, took the stage next along with director Frank Coraci to talk about their romantic comedy Blended. The stars were still wowed by Godzilla, though. “Never mind Blended, how about that fucking Godzilla?” Sandler said. “I am creating life, and I started crying so hard at the destruction in that trailer. It’s gonna be a huge success,” Barrymore added.
Moving on to their own movie, which finds the pair at odds as single parents taking their respective families on an African safari vacation, Barrymore gushed about being able “to pretend to fall in love with him all over again, which is so easy to do,” and Sandler promised, “It’s warm, it’s funny, it’s got a lot of nice stuff,” including “two rhinos banging each other.” The rhinos weren’t in the clip, but it did feature Sandler riding an ostrich, plus plenty of awkward moments.
There were no stars on hand to introduce footage from the Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow, which stars Cruise as a soldier who repeats the same day over and over again every time he’s killed. Humanity is fighting an alien race with the ability to reset time, and somehow Cruise’s character has acquired the same ability (he jokes that he could try to pass it on to Blunt by having sex).
The biggest star power of the presentation came next, as Clint Eastwood showed up to talk about Jersey Boys, his adaptation of the popular stage musical (still running on Broadway and in Vegas) about the early days of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. “I just want to thank you all and your parents before you,” Eastwood said, referencing the many years he’s been coming to the convention. “The sound system has blown me clean out of my seat,” he added, contrasting the loud action movies that preceded his more sedate musical drama.
The clip showed the cast (including many of the original stage stars) singing Four Seasons hits and talking to the camera directly in a style that mimics the stage production. Christopher Walken was the only recognizable movie star in a cast full of stage veterans.
Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone followed Eastwood to talk about their comedy Tammy, which they co-wrote, Falcone directed and McCarthy stars in. The husband-and-wife team joked about their relationship (“For the first time ever, I can say I’m sleeping with the director,” McCarthy said) and set up the movie. “Tammy is a rowdy road trip movie with tons of comedy and tons of heart,” Falcone said. The clip showed exactly that, with McCarthy’s title character getting fired from her fast food job (by a boss played by Falcone) and heading out on a journey with her grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon.
Stars Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum came out to introduce the new trailer to their sci-fi film Jupiter Ascending, debuting in theaters the following day. Directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, the film stars Kunis as an ordinary woman in Chicago who discovers her destiny as part of an intergalactic empire. The trailer showcased an epic scope and plenty of action from the directors of the Matrix trilogy.
Director Steven Quale and stars Sarah Wayne Callies and Richard Armitage next talked about their thriller Into the Storm, a sort of supercharged Twister starring The Walking Dead‘s Callies and The Hobbit‘s Armitage as a pair of storm chasers caught in the middle of a massive superstorm. “When I made this movie, I said to myself, I need to create the realism of what it’s like in a storm,” Quale said. “The storm can be breathtaking and it can also be beautiful.”
“Everything in this film is possible, and it’s out of our control,” Armitage added. “We hope that audiences will actually be holding onto their seats for real, thankful that they’re in a safe movie theater,” Callies said, leading into clips of multiple tornados wreaking extensive havoc, including lifting jet planes off the ground and creating a funnel of fire.
The final guest of the presentation was director R.J. Cutler, a documentarian making his narrative debut with If I Stay, based on the novel by Gayle Forman. It stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a teenage girl in a coma following a car accident, whose spirit roams free and must decide whether to return to life or move on. “It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen her do before,” Cutler said of Moretz, before premiering the movie’s trailer.
The presentation ended with a highlight reel of movies coming in late 2014, including very short glimpses of This Is Where I Leave You starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey, the Reese Witherspoon drama The Good Lie, Dolphin Tale 2 and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, plus longer looks at the drama The Judge and comedy sequel Horrible Bosses 2. The Judge stars Robert Downey Jr. as a ruthless lawyer who returns to his hometown after his mother’s death and ends up defending his estranged father (Robert Duvall) in court. In Horrible Bosses 2, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman and Charlie Day return as the friends who conspired to kill their bosses, and Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston return as the bosses who are still alive (Christoph Waltz appears as a new, presumably horribler boss).
The last film in the reel was The Hobbit: There and Back Again, although the bulk of the clips were devoted to a look back at the entire Hobbit and Lord of the Rings franchises, with only a few seconds of new footage at the end, as the dragon Smaug declares, “I am king under the mountain.” Moviegoers will be able to see the rest in December.