LAS VEGAS – Sony Pictures took center stage Wednesday afternoon at the 2014 CinemaCon as the Culver City based studio previewed the rest of its 2014 slate. Unlike earlier studio presentations, Sony discussed each released briefly before playing one long feature with previews of all their new films. There were two pictures that stood out above all the rest: Chris Miller and Phil Lord's “22 Jump Street” and David Ayers' World War II thriller “Fury.”
“22 Jump Street” is, of course, the sequel to the hit comedy “21 Jump Street” and Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back as mismatched undercover partners Schmidt and Jenko respectively. The film's early trailers have teased that Lord and Miller (who are coming off “The Lego Movie”) haven't lost a step, but the footage Sony played today? No joke, “22” has a chance to be better than the original. You probably already know that Schmidt and Jenko are now heading to college, but the subsequent “Spring Break” aspect of the investigation has barely been touched upon. The jokes appear more self aware than in “21” and Tatum has taken his comedic abilities to another planet. Along with Universal's “Neighbors,” movie fans should be excited the they have two guaranteed great comedies coming to theaters over the next few months.
The other picture that made waves was “Fury.” An original story by Ayers set during the last days of World War II, the movie finds Brad Pitt playing Wardaddy, the commander of a five-man tank crew who have already been to hell and back again. Make no mistake, Pitt is not playing another version of Lt. Aldo Raine from “Inglorious Basterds.” The scenes shown depict Wardaddy as a feared, but loved commander whose entire life is in his tank. Logan Lerman plays Norman, a newbie to the Army who is immediately out of place among a group of veterans portrayed by Pitt, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal and, yes, Shia Labeouf. In fact, all the actors look at peak form (even Labeouf), but Pitt? From what was shown, this looks very, very special. Ayers has also crafted a grittier and more realistic European Theater than depicted in “Saving Private Ryan” or HBO's “Band of Brothers.” Up and coming cinematographer Roman Vasyanov has been impressive previously collaborating with Ayers on “End of Watch” and his look was the best part of “The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman,” but “Fury” is going to become into his calling card. It's simply gorgeous work. The trailer should hit theaters sometime this summer and expect “Fury” to quickly land on any many awards season contender lists.
Before getting to the rest of the reel, it should be noted that Sony ended the presentation with three different sequences that constituted 30 minutes of Marc Webb's “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” So much of the movie has been seen already (or feels like it's been seen) that it's hard to comment about new footage. Did the action look good? Sure. Do Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone still have great chemistry? You bet. Does Jamie Foxx pull off the Electro transformation? It sure looks like it. At this point, however, it's time to just see how it all fits in the final movie. In a little over five weeks “ASM2” will be in theaters and everyone can judge for themselves.
Here's a quick rundown of the rest of the titles Sony previewed.
Director: Antonine Fuqua
Release Date: Sept. 26
Lowdown: Denzel Washington is a man on a mission in Fuqua's thriller which seems to have little in common with the 1980's TV series of the same name. In the one scene shown, Washington's character takes down four (?) Russian thugs in 19 seconds. It's filmed very similarly to the sequences in “Sherlock Holmes” where Holmes predicts each move he's going to make in a fight before its even begun. It was also very, very violent, but showed potential.
Director: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Release Date: Oct. 10
Lowdown: James Franco is David Skylark, the host of a popular interview show known as “Skylark Tonight” and Rogen plays his top producer. Much to their surprise, they find out that North Korean dictator for life Kim Jung-Un is a huge fan of Skylark's and wants to be interviewed by him. Then the CIA (Lizzy Caplan) comes calling asking them to “take him out” (a very funny bit). The best part of the preview though was an early “Skylark Tonight” interview scene where Rob Lowe (playing himself) admits to the world he's been bald for decades (I will spoil no more). The Franco and Rogen in Korea scenes were more stylish and intentionally bizarre than laugh out loud funny. Goldberg and Rogen have a great look to the picture (something they previously showed in “This Is The End”), but it feels like a very dark comedy (and we're hoping in the best way possible).
Director: Will Gluck
Release Date: Dec. 19
Lowdown: You've probably already seen the first trailer. Well, there ya go. The new “Annie” is what it is for better or worse. Sony presented what appeared to be close to the full scene of “It's A Hard Knock Life” and while the original certainly wasn't perfect it felt a bit bigger than what Gluck has created. And, to be frank, that's the biggest concern with “Annie” so far. Quvenzhané Wallis looks fine, but the whole movie just feels small. Hoping to be proved wrong with the final product.
“Think Like A Man Too”
Director: Tim Story
Release Date: June 20
Lowdown: It's the whole crew from “Think Like A Man” but in Vegas. It feels less inspired (is this “Hangover Pt. 4”?) and dumber than the original, but again, prove us wrong.
“When The Game Stands Tall”
Director: Thomas Carter
Release Date: August 22
Lowdown: Based on the true story of the De La Salle High School Football team, this unfortunately looks like a sports movie you've seen 100 times before. Tragedy and adversity hit the team, but they battle back to be champions again. If you loved “Remember the Titans,” “Coach Carter” (Carter directed), “We Are Marshall,” etc. then this one's for you.
“Deliver Us From Evil”
Director: Scott Derickson
Release Date: July 2
Lowdown: A NYPD officer (Eric Bana) fears that demonic possessions my have entered his home and are threatening his young daughter. Sony smartly played a much longer version of the scary scene in the trailer. Yes, it feels very “Conjuring” inspired, but who cares? It visibly scared the crap out of the audience. More thinking man's horror for the summer.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Release Date: July 25
Lowdown: Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal are a married couple who try to spice up their very planned out sex life by making a sex tape. Things go terribly wrong when it saves to the “cloud” and ends up on a number of different iPads they gave away to friends and family as Christmas presents. The extended preview didn't look as funny as you'd hope, but that wasn't the biggest issue I had with it. First, anyone who has been a fan of Jason Segal is going to be insanely distracted by how much weight he's lost. Honestly, all I kept thinking was, “Did he drop sugar from his diet? Did he go vegan? Did he have surgery? Does he need a Jill Michaels intervention?” He almost doesn't look like himself anymore (not that he probably isn't thrilled to show off those abs). Second, you wouldn't think it needs it, but boy is there a lot of Apple product placement in this movie. I mean, a lot and this was just a preview. All, I kept thinking was, “Is this something Sony needed to do legally because they put Sony VAIO laptops in almost all their movies for years on end?” Again, not necessarily the distractions you'd want for a movie called “Sex Tape.” Then again, just one person's opinion…