The fourth* major studio presentation at CinemaCon was that of Sony Pictures, taking place at the end of the third day on Wednesday. (*The third was Disney but they literally only showed existing trailers and the entirety of Pixar Animation’s Inside Out, which we can’t write about as of yet.)
Rory Bruer, Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution, came out to host the presentation, making a joke about all the news stories about his casual delivery at the previous year’s CinemaCon.
Like with Warner Bros. the day before, the studio seemed to want to focus more on the variety and quality of the films they’ll be releasing over the coming year rather than tentpole franchises although Spider-Man and James Bond were both mentioned. There were also a couple of mentions about the famous hack of Sony’s computer system, but they did everything to make sure exhibitors could rest easy that those problems are behind them.
The Walk (October 2)
The first guest out of the gate was Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis who was there to present footage from his new film based on the true story of French high wire artist Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who successfully walked a tight rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center.
The trailer opens with Petit at customs asking if he has anything to declare and his luggage includes all sorts of paraphernalia for tightrope walking and he declares that he plans on walking between the tower to the bemused customs officer. We then see him assembling his crew while also trying to convince his girlfriend (Charlotte Le Bon) and everyone else that he can do it. While trying to figure out the logistics, Petit ends up stepping on a nail, which puts into question whether they’re going to proceed, but they have a very small window to make it happen, so they go ahead with the plan. We got to see a bit of footage of JGL as Petit walking between the towers as everyone looks on and even lying down on the rope as Petit during his famous walk.
The film looks like it fairly faithfully documents Petit’s story as previously told in the Oscar-winning Man on Wire, although it might take some time to adjust to Gordon-Levitt French’s accent, which was very distracting, only because we’re not used to it Before the footage, Zemeckis mentioned that he wanted to make the movie as a big screen experience and it looked fantastic despite not being the final 3D IMAX version that will be going out to moviegoers.
Pixels (July 24)
Director Chris Columbus was also on hand to talk about one of Sony’s three summer movies and probably the most likely to break it big, as it depicts an alien invasion in the form of vintage video games that can only be defeated by a group of vintage video game champs.
The extended trailer explained how a time capsule was sent into space in 1982 and how aliens took the message wrong and decided to attack with giant 3D versions of the 8-bit video games that turn everything they touch into pixels. We got to see the alien versions of Centipede and it looks like they even have a Q*bert that might be on the side of the humans. We’re also given a lengthier introduction to each of the champion video game players as played by Sandler, Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage, experts at Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong respectively who have been called upon to stop the invaders. Pac-Man seems to be the toughest foe as we see him doing tons of damage as he chomps his way around the city. The guys decide the only way to fight him is with “ghosts,” so they device four colored cars to take him down. A lot of the footage was taken directly from the trailer with a few new scenes which will probably be in the next trailer.
Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25)
A few months later, Sandler is back with a sequel to his animated hit, directed by Genddy Tartakowsky and featuring the voices of Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Andy Samberg and Selena Gomez, which so far has only shown a teaser. The trailer shows that the hotel has been opened to humans and they’re co-existing with the monsters. Dracula’s daughter Mavis has married her human sweetheart Johnny and they have a kid, who looks more like Johnny with bright red hair, but Dracula really wants him to be a vampire. Johnny and Mavis go away leaving Dracula with the kid and the trailer included most of the teaser of Dracula and his monster pals taking the kid up to a high place and dropping him to try to get him to fly. Frank gets the assignment to show the boy how to scare people, but when he jumps out to scare a couple of co-eds, they instead want to get a picture with him. Mel Brooks voices Dracula’s father Vlad, although we didn’t get to see him in this new trailer – only in a sizzle reel later in the presentation. Before the presentation, we had a chance to sit down with Genndy Tartakovsky for an interview where he talked about his return for the sequel, getting to work with Mel Brooks, as well as what happened with the Popeye movie he was directing (though he already has another movie in development with Sony Pictures Animation).
Goosebumps (October 16)
Producer Neal Moritz was brought out to introduce director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens), who is charged with bringing R.L. Stine’s popular children’s horror books to the screen with Jack Black playing Stine. Dylan Minette is Zach, a boy who moves into the house next door to Stine and as he arrives we see Stine staring at him from his window. Zach decides to break into Stine’s basement for some reason and there he and his friend find a shelf full of Goosebumps manuscripts that have locks on them. They end up opening one of the locks and when the book drops to the floor, it seemingly comes to life as the ink on the pages starts to pool out of the pages and form into the Abominable Snowman, a giant beast that barely can fit in the room as its head is crouched down to avoid hitting the ceiling. They all hide and one mentions they should stay quiet, but the dorky kid makes a noise getting the beast’s attention, which then crashes out of the house through the wall and runs off. For some reason, all of the creatures from Stine’s book are unleashed and we see Stine and friends being confronted by an army of gnomes–not friendly–and facing the Werewolf of Swamp Creek in a supermarket. We also see them on the streets being menaced by a giant preying mantis before they end up in an ice rink where they’re trying to trap the Abominable Snowman. There was a lot more finished FX than the reel they showed at Comic-Con last summer .
Letterman mentioned that he was hugely influenced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and how they made movies that weren’t just for kids but that adults enjoyed just as much and that is one of the goals for Goosebumps, which they’re hoping will be a franchise.
Amidst the four main presentations, Ang Lee sent a taped message to talk about the decision to film his upcoming adaptation of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, now filming in Atlanta with an all-star cast including Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart and more, in native 3D using a high definition 120-frame rate, which would be the first time for any film. Since they just began filming, they didn’t have any footage to show from it yet.
After that, Bruer introduced the reel that would showcase the rest of Sony’s line-up for the year with new footage from all of them as well as the first footage for a number of movies coming out during the fall and early next year.
Aloha (May 29)
Cameron Crowe’s upcoming romantic comedy, starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, got an extended trailer that opened with an obviously aggravated Alec Baldwin storming in and yelling at Cooper for something he did wrong. He’s given a second chance in Hawaii where he runs into his ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) and meets the Air Force Liaison played by Emma Stone. It seems like a lovely film in which Crowe is fully taking advantage of the Hawaii environment to enhance his usually great character dynamics.
Ricki and the Flash (August 7)
Meryl Streep’s upcoming drama has her playing a rocker who is called home by her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) when their daughter Julie (played by Streep’s actual daughter Mamie Gummer) has been left by her husband. We got to see a fairly decent trailer that includes Streep playing the Tom Petty song “American Girl” with her band, as well as a number of dramatic moments between Streep and Gummer. The film is directed by Jonathan Demme, his first major studio release since 2004’s The Manchurian Candidate (also starring Streep), and it looks to mix some of the things he’s good at–domestic drama and rock music. It’s surprising that his involvement isn’t being touted more because he is considered one of the great, having won an Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs.
The Perfect Guy (September 11)
The latest urban romantic thriller from Screen Gems stars Sanaa Latham as a woman who meets Michael Ealy in a bar when he helps stave off an unwanted advance and as the title suggests, he seems like the perfect guy until his violent side comes out. She feels threatened so she calls upon her ex, played by Morris Chestnutt, to protect her. I really don’t have much of an opinion on this since I rarely see these movies. Surprisingly, this is not produced by Will Packer as I assumed.
X-Mas (November 25)
Formerly the “Untitled Gordon-Levitt/Seth Rogen Holiday Comedy,” this newly-titled movie directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50) reunites the stars of that movie. The footage shown opened with the funny line “From the guys who almost brought you The Interview” as we meet three childhood friends played by Rogen, JGL and Anthony Mackie, who always spend Christmas Day together after the death of one of their fathers. The idea is that because Rogen’s wife, played by Jillian Bell from 22 Jump Street, is pregnant, the guys have decided to end their tradition with one last bash. Apparently, Rogen will spend most of the day high on a variety of drugs including mushrooms which leads to all sorts of bad behavior like throwing up in a church during Christmas Mass. It was a very funny trailer that played well for the exhibitors, which is always a good sign for an R-rated comedy and maybe this will be this year’s Bad Santa with its similar Thanksgiving opening.
Concussion (December 25)
Directed by Peter Landesmann (Parkland), this drama starring Will Smith involves the very dangerous reality of concussion injuries and deaths in the NFL, and they showed a scene of Smith addressing a meeting of players to talk to them about those they have lost due to concussions. Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu from the Brain Injury Research Institute and Smith’s South African accent really made him disappear into the role as he addressed the doctors in attendance (including one played by Alec Baldwin). There wasn’t much more to this than that extended scene, which made it seem like this is going to be a very dramatic and emotional film.
The 5th Wave (January 15, 2016)
Based on the young adult novels by Rick Yancey, a trilogy that began in 2013, this science-fiction-tinged drama stars Chloe Moretz as 16-year-old Cassie Sullivan, a normal teenager whose life is turned around when an apocalyptic event strikes Earth beginning with an object that’s hovering over the earth. Apparently there are waves to this invasion that will eventually leave the Earth’s population wiped out, so they have to fight back against it. I have to admit that it’s somewhat odd seeing Chloe Moretz playing a normal teenager after seeing her play Hit-Girl, a vampire in Let Me In and the most recent version of Carrie. The rest of the cast includes Ron Livingston as Cassie’s father and Liev Schreiber as an army colonel trying to figure out how to deal with the various waves. I actually might read this book based on what I saw, because it looks like a pretty cool science fiction premise that could transcend some of the usual young adult pap.
Money Monster (TBD 2016?)
Directed by Jodie Foster, this film reunites George Clooney and Julia Roberts with Clooney playing Lee Gates, an on-air financial advisor similar to “Mad Money’s” Jim Cramer, who we see getting ready to go on air with his show, with Roberts playing his producer. In the middle of the show, a young man walks onto the live set carrying some boxes seemingly not knowing where he is, but he soon pulls a gun and it’s clear that he’s there to take Gates hostage live on the air. This young man, played by Jack O’Connell from last year’s Unbroken, lost all his money due to Gates’ investment advice.
The sizzle reel then continued with teases for films currently in production like Ron Howard and Tom Hanks’ Inferno, Angry Birds, The Smurfs animated movie and Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, as well as displaying a long list of titles for movies “Coming Soon” that included mentions of Antoine Fuqua’s Magnificent 7, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, The Equalizer 2, the long-awaited Uncharted movie, the biblical epic Risen, the long-in-development Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as the next installments of the “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” franchises. And of course the next installment of Spider-Man, which was just listed as “Spider-Man” with the Marvel logo above it. (Not “The Spectacular Spider-Man” as has been reported.)
After the sizzle reel was over, Bruer came back out to announce a very special guest and the James Bond theme was played… for Tom Rothman, the company’s new CEO. He had the honors to announce that The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were masterminding a new animated Spider-Man feature film for June 20, 2018 that would exist independently from the live-action movies.
The presentation ended with a scene from Sam Mendes’ 24th James Bond movie Spectre, a quiet scene between Daniel Craig’s Bond and Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, which unfortunately contains a couple pretty big plot spoilers that we’ve been asked not to reveal. But let’s just say that their conversation seems to suggest that the drama will continue to be as intense as the action in the latest Bond.