The 2012 edition of CinemaCon, the annual trade show for the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), kicked off at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 23 with a presentation from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation. Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore hosted a look at some of the studio’s upcoming major releases for 2012, starting with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which opens on June 29. Director Jon Chu, who previously worked on the Step Up franchise and took over from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra director Stephen Sommers, took the stage to talk about his love for G.I. Joe, citing his childhood action-figure battles as key in his development as a filmmaker. “I’m convinced this is where I learned to tell stories,” Chu said.
Chu brought out Retaliation stars Adrianne Palicki (who plays Lady Jaye) and D.J. Cotrona (who plays Flint), but they were just the opening act for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays Roadblock and was in Vegas to receive an Action Star of the Decade award from CinemaCon. Chu described Johnson as “franchise Viagra” for the extra jolt he’s brought to sequels like The Mummy Returns, Fast Five and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and is now bringing to the G.I. Joe series. Johnson turned on the charm while accepting his award, thanking NATO members for their support of his films.
After that, it was time for the world premiere of the latest G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer, which featured a look at the massive destruction of London, a new Cobra Commander (since Joseph Gordon-Levitt, along with most of the stars of the original movie, isn’t in this installment) and the distinct impression that one of the only holdovers from the last G.I. Joe, Channing Tatum, isn’t going to last long this time around. Following the trailer, there was an extended clip of Johnson’s Roadblock and Tatum’s Duke engaging in some macho banter, plus longer versions of some of the scenes in the trailer. Chu promised that the movie’s settings would span the globe, hitting Pakistan, Tokyo, the Himalayas and Washington, D.C., among other places, describing it as “the ultimate mash-up property.”
Next up was DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, who brought out extended previews of the studio’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (opening June 8) and Rise of the Guardians (opening November 21). Chris Rock, who voices the zebra Marty in the Madagascar series, introduced the scenes from his movie, saying that he thought it was “the best one by far of the three,” and that it reminded him of Toy Story 3, citing Salvador Dali and photographer David LaChapelle as visual references for the movie.
The 25 minutes of footage, presented in 3D, began with the animal main characters executing a heist on a casino in Monte Carlo, followed by a wild car chase through the streets of that city, with the movie’s new main antagonist, an animal control officer voiced by Frances McDormand, in hot pursuit. This leads to the characters joining up with a European circus in their latest effort to return to New York City. A montage — set to Katy Perry’s “Firework” — showed the animals in their new lives as circus performers.
Katzenberg then brought out director Peter Ramsey to introduce Rise of the Guardians, a more serious, action-oriented animated film. Based on a book series by William Joyce (who also serves as an executive producer, along with Guillermo del Toro), Guardians takes familiar childhood figures Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost and re-envisions them as hard-edged warriors who protect the children of the world. The movie features those five characters teaming up to take on the Bogeyman, known as Pitch, who is trying to destroy children’s beliefs in magical figures.
Chris Pine, who voices Jack Frost, talked about his character, a younger creature who is the newest member of the Guardians and is the key to their efforts to defeat Pitch. The 15 minutes of footage featured Jack’s introduction and first meeting with the Guardians, and included some unfinished scenes set in Santa’s workshop, along with a climax introducing the souped-up version of Santa’s sleigh.
Tom Cruise wasn’t at the presentation, but the Hollywood mega-star did provide a pre-taped introduction to three scenes from his upcoming thriller One Shot (opening December 21), based on the popular Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. Cruise jokingly addressed the many online complaints that he isn’t right for the Reacher part, saying, “I’m obviously not 6′ 5″ like Jack Reacher,” but that Child himself had picked Cruise as the best man for the job. The three scenes, still rough cuts, featured Reacher getting into a brawl outside a bar (and, naturally, demolishing his ill-prepared foes), in a car chase against both local police and shady adversaries and disarming a gun-brandishing opponent with lightning speed.
The last movie of the presentation was The Dictator starring Sacha Baron Cohen, which hits theaters May 16. The movie’s trailer was followed by an extended clip featuring Baron Cohen’s character, dictator General Aladeen of the fictional country of Wadiya, attempting to act inconspicuous on a helicopter tour of New York City and instead alarming a pair of tourists. After the clip, the house lights went up and it seemed like the presentation might be over, until Baron Cohen entered from the back of the theater in his full dress uniform as Aladeen, flanked by two male and two female military escorts. He took the stage in character, announcing, “It is a pleasure to be here to address Cinnabon,” and making several movie-industry in-jokes.
I thought I was going to be the only dictator here tonight,” he said, “so imagine my surprise when I heard Jeffrey Katzenberg was speaking.” Holding up a bomb-detonator prop, he threatened to blow up the first few rows if theaters didn’t book his movie. “There are bigger bombs than John Carter,” the comedian quipped to the biggest laugh from the industry crowd. Baron Cohen exited with the same fanfare he had entered with, stopping to kiss Katzenberg’s head on his way out.