‘Godzilla,’ ‘Jupiter Ascending’ and ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ win WB’s CinemaCon sneak

LAS VEGAS – Disney had the cache of Marvel and Pixar.  20th Century Fox might brought the showmanship and, arguably, the best slate of movies.  Warner Bros., who was the last studio to present to the nation's theater owners Thursday afternoon, brought the star power.

WB was the no. 1 studio domestically and internationally in 2013 and they celebrated by bringing out famous faces such as Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Channing Tatum, Melissa McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore and Mila Kunis to hype their individual 2014 releases.  Not much was revealed about the 2015 slate or beyond that, but Warner Bros. Head of Distribution Dan Fellman did confirm that J.K. Rowling's “Fantastic Beasts” is in the pipeline.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the major films previewed during the event.

[Spoilers ahead.]

Director: Wally Pfister
Release Date: April 18
Talent on hand: Johnny Depp pointed to Morgan Freeman and said, “This is God.” That got a big laugh. The fact Depp was in the house shows how aware he is that he needs a hit.
Lowdown: The movie opens in a little over four weeks and the new preview primarily focused on how the relationship between Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and her husband's computerized consciousness (Depp) complicates the situation. Basically, he is going to take over the world (and human beings somehow), but she doesn't want to “turn him off.” By the look of things, it might be too late anyway.

Director: Gareth Edwards
Release Date: May 16
Talent on hand: Just Edwards who was incredibly humble insisting his English background made it difficult for him to promote the movie. That being said, he got a nice laugh with the line, “Godzilla couldn't be here. He's rehearsing a new play on Broadway.”
Lowdown: The biggest takeaway from the extended preview is we now know the connection between Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Binoche and Cranston are husband and wife and part of a team of scientists investigating an issue at a Japanese Nuclear facility.  When something goes wrong, Binoche is stuck in the part of the building locked for radiation and, to Cranston's horror, he sees the door close on her (very similar to Dr. Manhattan's origin in “Watchmen” but without Binoche turning into a blue skinned, all powerful demigod. Well, we'll make that assumption…for now.)  Taylor-Johnson is their son who has taken a different track then his parents and is in the Military.  Cranston's character soon discovers that it wasn't an accident.  Some “thing” caused the Nuclear meltdown. The governments of the world have been lying to the public, there is something else is going on and the disaster that claimed his wife is part of it.  Oh, yeah. The footage also showed the first close up roar of Godzilla and fans will not be disappointed.

“Edge of Tomorrow”
Director: Doug Liman
Release Date: June 6
Talent on hand: None. Liman was supposedly stuck back in Los Angeles working on last minute visual effects. No excuses were given for stars Emily Blunt or Tom Cruise.
Lowdown: The extended preview looks much better than the shorter trailer we've seen so far. The relationship between Blunt and Cruise's characters is much more charming and the enemy the world is at war against is revealed.  This isn't some future political turf war. Instead, some sort of tech-organic creatures/aliens/life form is slowly taking over most of Europe. Now, if you remember the film's storyline you'll recall that both Cruise and Blunt's characters keep returning to the past to relive the future every time they are killed on the battlefield. No matter what either does they cannot survive a siege akin to Normandy against the intruders. Curiously, the previews have still withheld any hint as to how they can stop this constant groundhog day scenario.

“Jersey Boys”
Director: Clint Eastwood
Release Date: June 20
Talent on hand: Eastwood who received a standing ovation from the crowd and joked “I've worked with many of your parents over the years.” The punchline being, of course, is that most of these executives are in their 50's so their parents would likely be…
Lowdown:  It's what we all thought it would be. A very traditional take on the “Jersey Boys” musical which chronicles the career of 60's pop group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Having not seen the stage version I can't confirm that the characters talk to the audience providing exposition to different moments in the band's history, but that was the only interesting take from the footage shown. “Boys” may have been a worldwide smash, but it appeals to a significantly older audience and nothing in this preview made it feel broader. WB is probably looking at $50 million domestic at best.

“Jupiter Ascending”
Director: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Release Date: July 18
Talent on hand: Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis who have to be the worst teleprompter readers ever. Yikes.
Lowdown: The same footage moviegoers saw online yesterday and will see in theaters today.  Looks big and epic. Theater owners seemed impressed.

Director: Ben Falcone
Release Date: July 2
Talent on hand: Falcone and wife/star Melissa McCarthy. The latter joked “This is the first time I've actually gotten to sleep with director.” Falcone then zinged he'd actually slept with three members of the cast. Oh, actors? Melissa slept with four of them. (Granted, this was probably was funnier in person).
Lowdown:  This new preview sets up that Tammy (McCarthy) teaming up with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) for a road trip to Niagara Falls.  It had some good jokes, but (as rumored) just doesn't appear as funny as McCarthy's last two movies, “The Heat” or “Identity Thief.”

“Into the Storm”
Director: Steven Quale
Release Date: August 8
Talent on hand: Steven Quale, Sarah Wayne Callies and Richard Armitage. Honestly, whatever they said was a blur.
Lowdown: An even longer preview than the trailer that dropped earlier today, “Storm” goal is to portray a town under siege from a massive number of tornadoes. Now, when the massive storm hits an airport and jet liners are swooped off the ground?  Well, this writer's suspension of disbelief was probably lost.  More important for WB?  The audience of theater owners loved it.

Director: Frank Corachi
Release Date: May 23
Talent on hand: Corachi, Sandler and a very pregnant Drew Barrymore. The “Wedding Singer” stars were actually quite funny and charming. The incredibly pregnant Barrymore admitted she was such an emotional mess that the “Godzilla” footage had her crying (that actually got a laugh).  Sandler did pointedly make sure the theater owners knew he really doesn't consider it a PG-13 movie and that 8-year-olds would be fine seeing it (sounds like a fun MPAA issue).
Lowdown: The extended preview looks slightly funnier than the original trailer.  “Blended” is what you expect. An slightly family friendly Adam Sandler movie. The new footage focused on the kids a bit more and how Sandler's onscreen daughter gets transformed from Tom Boy to knockout by Barrymore's character.

“The Judge”
Director: David Dobkin
Release Date: Oct 10
Talent on hand: None
Lowdown: This did not look good. Robert Downey, Jr.'s first non-Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes role in four years finds him playing a successful defense lawyer who returns to his hometown after his father, a local judge played by Robert Duvall, is accused of murder. In the short preview (in context of the “later this year” compilation), the studio seems to be trying to sell the movie more as a comedy than a drama when its probably much closer to the latter. What was so odd about it is that the movie has a great cast (Vera Farminga, Billy Bob Thornton, Melissa Leo, Vincent D'Onofrio also star), but it felt like a misfire. Here's hoping is actually as good as its pedigree.

“Horrible Bosses 2”
Director: Sean Anders
Release Date: Nov. 26
Talent on hand: None
Lowdown: This was a small part of Warner Bros.' “coming later this year” reel, but it worked. The first shot is of the devious David (Kevin Spacey) in jail forced to meet with the trio who put him there:  Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis). The first thought that popped into my mind was: “Geez, I might be rooting for the bosses this time.”  Sexually adventurous dentist Julia (Jennifer Aniston) is also back and as bizarrely deviant as ever (she hints she might be OK with Jason Bateman doing no. 2 on her). Overall the movie seems to be taking itself even less seriously than it did the first time around (if that's even possible).

“The Hobbit: There and Back Again”
Director: Peter Jackson
Release Date: Dec. 17
Talent on hand: None
Lowdown: With Jackson still in New Zealand finishing up “There and Back Again” he videotaped a message that touched on the theme of celebrating 16 years of making “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” films.  That theme seemed like a big hint of what's to come in WB's marketing campaign.  As for the tiny amount of footage included from “There and Back Again,” Smaug is one big dragon when he flies, Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) will return, Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) will draw his sword and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) looks very, very worried.