CinemaCon: Universal Showcases Snow White , Bourne , Oblivion , 47 Ronin & More


Batting clean-up at CinameCon was Universal Pictures, who hadn’t made their first appearance at the annual exhibitors convention in quite some time and showed a variety of upcoming projects, some coming out this summer and some which haven’t even started shooting yet, as well as trotted out some of the talent, many of whom were conveniently receiving CinemaCon awards later that evening. We’ve decided to jump around and talk about the ones that got us the most excited, although there was so much information to ingest, we could only take notes fast enough to share what we saw.

Hosted by Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson, the presentation mainly focused on the company’s five summer movies but also touched upon what they have in store for the next year and even going into next summer. (We’re going to leave Battleship out of the discussion, possibly for obvious reasons.)

We’ve already been super-psyched for Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1), but they showed even more footage from the movie than we’ve seen in the various trailers, giving us the clearest idea not only of the general story, but also some of the amazing visuals and creatures to expect on this fantastical adaptation of the classic fairy tale.

After the scene with Charlize Theron’s witch discovering from her magic mirror that there is one fairer, we see Kristen Stewart’s Snow White escaping from prison after nearly being sexually assaulted by the warden. We watch her escape into the Dark Forest and the Queen calling upon Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman, who has been to the Dark Forest, to retrieve her, although he’s convinced she’s dead if she ventured in there. This leads to their first encounter with each other, as well as a look at the dwarves who capture Snow and the Huntsman in a trap that has them hanging upside down (which was very similar to a scene in Mirror Mirror in fact). After a bit of bickering, they realize who Snow White is and says they’ll follow her anywhere, and we see them marching behind her and the Huntsman across a mountain, which looks a lot like something from “The Lord of the Rings.” The creatures are really amazing, both in the Dark Forest and in the lush, green Sanctuary that is its polar opposite, all of which we see only briefly, but they all have such a distinct look. In general, the film’s visuals really stand out as something we haven’t seen before. The “Lord of the Rings” comparisons seem sound in terms of the look and scale of the movie and needless to say, it’s becoming one of our most anticipated films of the summer the more we see from it. Producer Joe Roth, Rupert Sanders, Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron were on hand to answer Fogelson’s questions about the movie, particularly about how Theron got into playing an evil Queen. Her answer? “Vodka.”

Oliver Stone’s Savages (July 6) is an interesting summer release choice, especially going up against Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man, but maybe Universal is hoping that some older male moviegoers may be too cynical about the reboot and will look for something new and different. And “different” certainly is a great description for a crime-thriller that delves into the drug trade in a similar way as Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” (which some may remember, was also written by Stone). It stars Blake Lively as a woman in a relationship with two drugdealing partners (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson), who fall foul of the Mexican drug cartel and the corrupt DEA agent, played by John Travolta. When Blake’s character gets kidnapped, they go up against both to get her back. We got to see a lot more footage from the movie but the standouts were clearly the Mexican cartel bad guys, played by Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro, the latter who has a great face-off with Travolta. Fogelson then brought out Oliver Stone, Taylor Kitsch, John Travolta and Salma Hayek to talk about the movie.

Easily the R-rated comedy that received the best reaction at CinemaCon from exhibitors was “The Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, which received a cheer and applause as soon as the poster image came on the screen, probably since they’d seen it around the convention floor all week. Fogelson said it was one of the funniest scripts he had ever read. The footage shown expanded upon the origins of how when Mark Wahlberg’s John Bennett was a boy, he made a Christmas wish that his teddy bear could talk, but we got the full version of this which included a scene of the neighborhood kids not letting John play with them as they beat up the local Jewish kid (a Christmas tradition!), and the funny narration that accompanied this intro played upon many other typical Christmas movie cliches. One thing we saw in the footage is that John’s parents completely freak out when they see that his teddy bear has come to life, before we cut forward nearly 30 years to the scene with him smoking a bong next to Wahlberg. John’s girlfriend Laurie (Mila Kunis) wants to get serious and move in together, but that means getting rid of his talking teddy bear. In the scene where she walks in to find Ted with four hookers, he says he wishes he could meet all their fathers to thank them for screwing their girls up. This great footage culminated in more of that knock-down drag-out brawl in a hotel room after Mark’s character says he should have wished for a Teddy Ruxpin that ends with Ted whipping Mark Wahlberg’s naked ass with a television antenna, then dropping the TV onto his groin. Seth MacFarlane and Mila Kunis, who provided her voice for years on “Family Guy,” came out to talk about the movie and joke around.

Admitting they deliberately didn’t show anything in the initial teaser trailer, Fogelson then presented a lot of footage from The Bourne Legacy (August 3), starring Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, which gave a lot more information about the story and relationships between the characters, although it was so much information, we’ll just have to share the bits that we were able to catch and retain. The footage opened much like the teaser introducing the idea that there was “never only one” but then it got into an extended scene with Cross being examined by a nurse, played by Rachel Weisz, who is asking him lots of questions. Apparently, her character in examining him discovers that they’ve conducted genetic experiments on their agents to make them more dangerous, and a lot of the plot involves what was done and making sure that information remains secret.

Cross then goes out into the mountains where he encounters another agent, played by Oscar Isaac, living in a log cabin, and after they talk about their situation, Aaron hears something and a rocket hits the cabin and obliterates it. Later in the footage, Weisz’s character, who may know too much from her earlier conversation with Cross, is captured and as they start to interrogate her, Aaron crashes into the room to save her. We got to see a little bit of a chase with Renner and Weisz on a motorcycle that would have fit right in with any of the previous “Bourne” movies.

Norton clearly is the bad guy of the movie, trying to get the both of them and end the leaks, but we generally saw a bit of all the characters including those played by Scott Glenn and David Strathairn, discussing the situation with Treadstone and its agents. What’s interesting is that the footage we saw referenced Jason Bourne arriving in New York in “Ultimatum” and it shows the aftermath of his actions, so “Legacy” may actually intertwine with the events of the last movie rather than being an entirely separate entity. Jeremy Renner came out afterwards to field a few questions from Fogelson about the daunting prospect of stepping into Matt Damon’s shoes. Hopefully, they’ll have an extended trailer with some of this stuff very soon, but we think Tony Gilroy may have indeed knocked one out of the park with his first time directing a “Bourne” movie.

They showed the first teaser-trailer for Judd Apatow’s This is 40, which is theaters today with The Five-Year Engagement and we expect it to be online soon, maybe even today, so we’ll just let you watch that one for yourself.

There was quite a lot of interest in the teaser posters for Tom Hooper’s musical Les Miserables (December 14) that were seen around CinemaCon, but considering how recently they began filming, it was surprising that they had anything to show. We got to see Anne Hathaway’s Fantine with her hair shorn singing “I Dreamed a Dream” as it showed the various characters played by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Helena Bonham Carter. We also spotted Eddie Redmayne in there even though his name wasn’t mentioned among the others. Even though they warned that the vocals were raw, recorded from the set, it was quite a powerful presentation, giving us some idea of the scope of the film, keeping in line with the musical, and boy, if Anne Hathaway isn’t getting another Oscar nomination for her performance, we will be absolutely shocked.

It also feels like Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion (April 26, 2013) had just started shooting a couple of weeks ago, so we were shocked to see they already had so much footage to show, although that was also combined with concept art and animatics. We got a good look at the world and the cool spaceship flown by Tom Cruise’s character Jack Harper. We see him entering a room where he gets caught in a trap and pulled across the room into a chair and when the lights come on, we see Morgan Freeman saying, “We’ve been watching you, Jack” and then lights come on around him and there are people up on the decks all around him. Yeah, no idea what this movie is about from the little bit we’ve seen, but it looks pretty cool.

Just delayed to February to finish up some FX work, Carl Rinsch’s feature film directorial debut 47 Ronin (Feb. 8, 2013), starring Keanu Reeves, showed off a sizzle reel that combined footage, animatics and concept art. Since we visited the set nearly a year ago, we already knew of the look and scale of the film so it’s nice to see that it’s really been coming together. It mainly showed a scene of Keanu’s character sword-fighting in a make-shift ring on a ship and a scene afterwards where Hiroyuki Sanada’s character asks him how he learned to fight like that, and Keanu’s Kai responds “by fighting demons” and then we saw a few of the amazing creatures he fights in the movie, including an ogre-like Oni and the monks known as the Kangu Warlords, who we see in a lightning-fast action scene. Honestly, we know quite a bit more about the movie but since we’re under embargo from our set visit, we better leave it at that.

R.I.P.D. (June 28, 2013), the action-comedy based on the little-known Dark Horse comic, stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as an undead police force known as the “Rest in Peace Department,” and it looks like another great action-comedy from Neal Moritz (The Green Hornet, 21 Jump Street). Directed by Robert Schwentke, the footage opened with a scene of Ryan Reynolds’ police officer being killed on the job and then being inducted into the R.I.P.D. and partnered with Bridges’ character, who seems to come from out of the old West, wearing a sherriff’s hat and having a well-coifed moustache and beard. It looks like another funny character and a good buddy comedy with some solid action, where they’re fighting various supernatural creatures – think somewhere between Ghostbusters and Men in Black, but with that pairing. Apparently, people don’t see the R.I.P.D. officers as they really are and Reynolds discovers that he looks like an old Chinese man while Bridges looks like a hot blonde, and we get a funny shot of two people seeing them walk by and sure enough, it’s an old Chinese man and a hot blonde. The movie’s still so far away, so who knows when we’ll finally get some sort of teaser trailer but what we saw looks good.

As the presentation ended, they also briefly teased Fast and Furious 6, set for Memorial Day 2013, and Despicable Me 2, the latter with a bit of animation that seemed to have been specially written and created for the CinemaCon presentation with Gru addressing his minions.

That’s it for this year’s CinemaCon, although we may carry over some of our thoughts on what we saw onto the Weekend Warrior blog, especially talking about some of the technical innovations discussed at the convention which we have barely touched upon.