LAS VEGAS – It's been a fantastic 2015 so far for Universal Pictures. “Fifty Shades of Grey” has earned $568 million worldwide and “Furious 7” has taken in $300 million domestic and $1.15 billion globally. Universal was the last studio to present their slate to the world's theater owners and, as you can guess, they were pretty bullish on what's to come.
Unlike some of their competitors, however, Universal joined Sony Pictures 20th Century Fox by actually making some news during their presentation. The next “Fifty Shades” movies have titles and release dates and Vin Diesel himself appeared on hand to announce “Furious 8's” April 14, 2017 opening day. Other talent on hand included Seth MacFarlane (“Ted 2”), Amy Schumer (“Trainwreck”), Chris Pratt (“Jurassic World”) and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube (“Straight Outta Compton”).
Here are some quick takeaways from Universal's upcoming slate.
“Everest” looks, um, epic
Slight hint to Warner Bros. You might want to move “Black Mass”* off Sept. 18. Right now, “Everest” has the goods for a record Sept. opening with an all-star cast hitting a rocky road on the world's tallest peak. In the footage shown the movie appears to center more on John Hawkes and Josh Brolin than Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Isaac, but that they were in more of the money shots. Oh, and for all of you Keira Knightley fans out there, her role is mostly that of concerned wife/girlfriend on the phone.
*We think “Mass” could be exceptional, but “Everest” will steal their audience.
Seth MacFarlane's “Ted 2” will be as massive as you think it will be
The CinemaCon preview was actually just a few more scenes from the first trailer with the Tom Brady moment seen in the Super Bowl spot, but it easily earned some of the biggest laughs from the audience. MacFarlane crashed with a lame “Paul Blart” joke, but recovered quickly noting that movie theaters should embrace stoners more. “More stoners in the audience mean more pop corn sales. Maybe don't give them such a hard time.” (This actually killed).
Amy Schumer ruled
You know what works with people who have spent four non-stop days in Vegas? A legitimately hilarious stand up comic who knows how to work a room. Schumer immediately came out and ripped MacFarlane for his one joke that bombed and proceeded to win the crowd over while introduce her already critically acclaimed new comedy “Trainwreck.” It's been a good week for Schumer.
Newsflash: “Crimson Peak” is probably not an awards movie and that's O.K.
Guillermo Del Toro was there to introduce “Peak” and says it's one of the movies he's most proud of. “Peak” has long been seen as a fringe Oscar contender and the new footage makes it appear less so. From what we saw “Peak” is much more of a horror movie than “Pan's Labyrinth.” Emphasis on “much.” The production design, costumes and cinematography look remarkable, but we're not sure it's anything more than a big commercial play (and that's O.K.).
“Straight Outta Compton” may be more political than people think
Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and director F. Gary Gray introduced a longer preview at N.W.A.'s origin story and it increasingly looks like a must-see movie for the summer. The LAPD and FBI persecution the band dealt with appears to be a significant part of the movie and couldn't be more timely. No matter how it does in theaters, it seems a lot of moviegoers will walk away with a lot more respect for the Hip-Hop legends.
Kevin Hart is voicing a bunny in “The Secret Life of Pets”
2016's Illumination release going to be massive. Louis C.K. is the cute dog lead Max, Jenny Slate is an always hungry fat cat, Eric Stonestreet is a huge doggie and Kevin Hart? America's comedy superstar is playing an adorable white bunny. The footage shown was Pixar-esque (imagine Walt Disney Animation's “Feast” slightly more CG) and it screams summer blockbuster.
It's hard to keep “The Visit's” M. Night Shyamalan quiet
What's scarier? The prospect of the “Sixth Sense” director babbling on hours on end as he did to present the trailer for “The Visit” or the movie itself? Based on that preview…
Elizabeth Banks knows how to work a room
“It's hard to follow the billion dollar movie and the movie with whips but here we go!” That was Elizabeth Banks after she had to come out to present “Pitch Perfect 2” following the “Fifty Shades” news and Vin Diesel's in-person “Furious 8” release date announcement.
Sadly, “Sisters” with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler was a big disappointment
We're huge Tina Fey and Amy Poehler fans. That makes the fact the extended preview for their new comedy “Sisters” was so flat even more disheartening. The duo play siblings who return home to clean out their childhood home after their parents have sold it. With their parents no longer staying there, they decide to hold the raucous party they always wanted to while they were in High School. The good news? Maya Rudolph has a cameo (maybe more). The bad news? We didn't laugh. It doesn't help that director Jason Moore said they shot it last summer. Maybe there is still time for reshoots?
Chris Pratt is front and center in “Jurassic World”
With Star-Lord on hand, Universal showed an extended preview of the long awaited and fourth “Jurassic” flick. Some key revelations? Towards the beginning of the movie they don't evacuate the island because they believe they can capture the hybrid dino without it getting into any dangerous areas. You've seen the shot of Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard's character looking at a field of fallen Apatosaurus. What you haven't seen is is Howard's character crying as one of them dies in front of her (yes, she has a soul). Beyond that? No one has to worry about Pratt taking second fiddle to his younger co-stars.
Which upcoming Universal Studios release are you most excited about? Share your thoughts below.