LAS VEGAS – 20th Century Fox's presentation of the studio's upcoming slate to the nation's theater owners kicked off with a live performance of the song “Rio Rio” from “Rio 2,” but it was the movies themselves that had the most impact.
It appears every studio at CinemaCon professes to this year's lineup being “our best in years,” but Fox could justify that hyperbole even though they were confident enough not to say it. The studio already has three of the most anticipated movies of the summer with Bryan Singer's “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” DreamWorks Animation's “How To Train Your Dragon 2” (thanks for all that brand awareness from the first one, Paramount) and Matthew Reeves' “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
The studio brought out stars Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann to introduce an extended trailer from “The Other Woman,” Shailene Woodley gave a heartfelt intro to the trailer for “The Fault in Our Stars” and Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. crashed the end of the event to make sure Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos played the new trailer for their August comedy “Let's Be Cops.” It was an entertaining hour even if it started over 20 minutes behind schedule.
Two movies that screened footage for the first time were David Fincher's “Gone Girl” and Matthew Vaughn's “Secret Service.” Reactions and details on both as well as a number of other significant titles are as follows.
“How To Train Your Dragon 2”
Director: Dean DeBois
Release Date: June 13
Lowdown: Everyone's favorite dragon rider Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and and flying dragon Toothless are back. The duo speed across the ocean ducking in between serpent fins and soar through the sky. All you need to know is that the characters are as heartwarming as ever and this is one you'll want to see in 3D again.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Director: Matt Reeves
Release Date: July 11
Lowdown: It's been 10 years since the events of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and human beings are not doing well. Simian flu has killed a significant amount of the population and civilization is in chaos. Meanwhile, Caesar and his fellow apes are trying to remain safe and create families in a fortified area deep in the woods. In the remains of San Francisco, Malcolm (sadly, another villainous Gary Oldman) is ready to create an army to take out the growing ape population. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his allies want to live together with the apes and (it seems) use them to help formulate an antidote to the flu. The traditional preview set-up is as intriguing as the film's teaser, but what really energized the crowd was a complete scene shown afterwards.
Two humans are resting near a guarded entrance. They see an ape come towards them in a playful manner. They are initially afraid, but they both have machine guns and should be OK, right? The ape increases his proximity playing “dumb.” One of the guards gives him some alcohol. After a quick swig he smashes the head of one of the guards, grabs his gun, shoots his partner and points it back directly at the guard recovering from the first hit. This was no “dumb” ape. It's a wonderfully directed scene by Reeves and shows the potential many believe “Dawn” has to move past the standard of excellence set with “Rise.”
“The Fault in Our Stars”
Director: Josh Boone
Release Date: June 6
Lowdown: Basically an extended version of the film's original trailer we watch as Hazel (Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort) first meet each other at a cancer patients support group. The preview focused a lot of energy on Augustus' wooing Hazel and only hints at a tragic ending (if there truly is one). Gianopulos could not stop raving about how special he thinks the movie is. With a huge reader fan base thanks to its best selling source material, this is one movie that Fox expects to be a very big hit.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Release Date: Oct. 24
Lowdown: Based on Mark Millar's independent comic book (he's the man who created “Kick-Ass” and “Wanted”), “Secret Service” finds Colin Firth as Uncle Jack, a high-ranking member of a spy agency funded by an upper class who believe the CIA and MI6 just don't cut it. In the complete scene screened, the posh-looking Jack is having a beer with his younger twentysomething nephew Gary aka Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton). Gary is a lower class street kid, but Jack wonders why he gave up on a potential Olympic-level gymnastics career and failed at school despite higher-than-average intelligence. Gary's family life involves an overly demanding mother and stepfather. But it might just be he got too caught up in selling drugs and crime.
Enter five thugs of varying age, size and strength. They are after Gary, but Jack will have none of it. They ask Jack to leave and he walks calmly through them to the pub's front door. Then instead of exiting he locks the door from the inside. Within two minutes he's taken down the entire gang with minimal effort and expert efficiency (imagine Ralph Fiennes' John Steed from 1998's “The Avengers” crossed with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig's James Bond). It was quite wicked and wowed the CinemaCon audience. The film has a much bigger canvas including Samuel L. Jackson playing yet another bad guy, but Vaughn hasn't seemed this fun since his directorial debut “Layer Cake.”
Director: David Fincher
Release Date: Oct. 3
Lowdown: Fincher's highly anticipated adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel was previewed in a teaser that looks like it's ready to hit theaters at any moment. Set to a cover of Elvis Costello's “She,” the trailer sets up that the relationship between Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his missing wife Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) was not as happy as it seemed. The bigger crux of the tease, however, is that Fincher wants to focus on the media whirlwind that surrounds and overtakes Nick. And yes, we do get a shot or two of Tyler Perry as Nick's lawyer Tanner Bolt in the preview, too. The novel “Gone Girl” has a major twist. That is in no way foreshadowed in this new trailer.
“Let's Be Cops!”
Director: Luke Greenfield
Release Date: August 13
Lowdown: Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. play two thirtysomething LA guys whose careers are at a crossroads. After they mistakenly show up to a masquerade party dressed as LAPD officers they realize how much fun they can have pretending to be cops because everyone they run into thinks they are actually the police. The movie definitely looks funny (although not at a “Neighbors” or “22 Jump Street” level) and could help transform both Johnson and Wayans Jr. into legitimate movie stars.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings”
Director: Ridley Scott
Release Date: Dec. 12
Lowdown: There was no footage shown of Scott's depiction of the famous biblical story, but the first real stills were displayed. The film — which has undergone a title change — is very similar in look and feel to “Kingdom of Heaven.” Especially in the battles (Christian Bale's Moses wields a sword and takes some solders out). And if you ever wanted to see Sigourney Weaver made up like an Egyptian Queen, get ready. It's coming and she looks fierce people.