CinemaCon Days 3&4 Recap
The last day of CinemaCon was a busy one, with the 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate presentations, as well as the Big Screen Achievement Awards ceremony (the National Organization of Theater Owners annual awards). The first thing Fox focused on—and did a great job of highlighting—was their strength in animation. Besides their in-house Blue Sky Studios, which has the second-largest animated franchise (Ice Age), they are also the distributors for Dreamworks Animation, which has the largest animated franchise (Shrek). Blue Sky Studios’ slate is pretty solid, with Epic this year (not totally sold on it, but the 3D looks solid and feels like a mashup between FernGully: The Last Rainforestand Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Rio 2 coming in 2014 (love the original movie—thought it should’ve won the Academy Award, and while they only showed a teaser trailer, it looks like everyone will be back), and finally a teaser for the upcoming Peanuts feature length film, coming in November 2015.
Not to be outdone, the Dreamworks Animation line-up looks solid, too. I don’t know why, but Turbo has caught my attention. Maybe it is because I like animal movies or that I like Ryan Reynolds, but the trailer had me intrigued. In March 2014, they have Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which they showed a trailer for—it feels like the live action The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, but I’m still holding out hope it will be okay, since I loved the original cartoon. (Unfortunately, between that and the Dudley Do-Right movie, the Rocky & Bullwinkle characters haven’t gotten lucky so far.) Perhaps the filmmakers will have learned from the Dr. Seuss estate’s track record, and focusing on an animated movie will be the ticket to success (ala Horton Hears a Who)…though my gut instinct says it will probably be best to skip this film.
Most importantly, Dreamworks showed a teaser for How to Train Your Dragon 2, and while they didn’t show any real movie footage, the mere notion of getting another film in that world makes it among my most anticipated films of the next few years. The preview just fed into my addiction. Additionally, they noted that Kung Fu Panda 3 and How to Train Your Dragon 3 are on the docket, so it looks like the next few years should be quite promising (and successful) for Dreamworks.
Impressively, the live action line-up from Fox looks to be one of the strongest ones by any studio. The first film they showcased was The Heat, which you can already read my review for it. In support of the film, they brought out Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, who were both hilarious. It is hard to imagine the film not being a hit, so I would expect to see more of this in the future. The only other comedy they showcased was The Internship, the first re-teaming of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn since Wedding Crashers. While it doesn’t look quite as hilarious as their last work, it does look to be quite funny, and it might have a bit more heart, which I’m always on board with.
In the dramatic realm, Fox had several strong contenders, highlighted by Runner Runner and The Counselor. Runner Runner looks to be a solid thriller starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. The trailer wasn’t exactly clear as to what was happening in the plot, but I’m still waiting for a good thriller from Timberlake (In Time had potential) and this has a “mentor” role for Affleck, who has been fantastic as that previously (Boiler Room). I am a big fan of both of the actors, so I have high hopes. The Counselor is the latest from Ridley Scott and has a great cast (Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt). This feels like a more standard thriller about a crime that goes bad so that the protagonist has to save himself, but with such a strong cast and crew, it feels hard to imagine that everyone could be misguided on one project.
The last couple projects worth mentioning are Walking With Dinosaurs 3D and The Wolverine, two films that could not be more different. Walking With Dinosaurs 3D probably will have limited audience appeal, but it sort of feels like a 3D CGI version of The Bear. It might not be the most dramatic or engaging story, but the notion of experiencing what the world of dinosaurs was really like sounds pretty cool to me. Besides The Heat, The Wolverine was clearly the film that Fox was pushing the hardest, as there were advertisements everywhere. But they didn’t show more than a trailer, which really didn’t persuade me. Historically I have been a big fan of Wolverine; he has been one of my favorite comic characters since my childhood, and additionally I loved the early X-Men movies. But X-Men Origins: Wolverine was terrible, so the studio has a lot of work on their hands. The Wolverine does look like a step up from Origins, but it feels like a long way from the top of the line superhero movies out today, and looks like it will pale in comparison to others this summer, like Man of Steel or Iron Man 3.
The finale of the Fox presentation was an extended look at The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, from director Ben Stiller. Stars Stiller and Kristen Wiig were in attendance to present a 10-minute sample of the movie. In essence, it is a story about a man with a mundane life who dreams of excitement and adventure. The script is based on a short story by James Thurber (which was previously made into a movie in 1947). Perhaps the thing that intrigued me the most was that it is a more serious Ben Stiller movie than most of his projects. I really like serious Stiller (as in Greenberg and The Royal Tenenbaums, for example). The film is expected to open on Christmas, and if this sample is a good representation of what to expect, it has a definite chance for some award nominations. A solid concept, some entertaining acting, and judicious use of CGI—seems like a strong combination.