Universal Pictures kicked off its presentation at CinemaCon 2014 in Las Vegas with a reel of the studio’s upcoming slate, beginning with a video introduction by Seth Rogen and a shirtless Zac Efron – Rogen joked that his co-star should be seen and not heard – for their comedy Neighbors.
The raunchy footage included multiple sex scenes between Rogen and Rose Byrne, who plays his wife, and a dildo fight between Rogen (as a put-upon father) and Efron (as a vindictive frat boy).
Next came a look at Seth MacFarlane’s Western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West, filled with plenty of violence and gunfights. The preview, which included a dance number led by Neil Patrick Harris, ended with a cameo by Christopher Lloyd as his Back to the Future character Doc Brown, trying to cover up a familiar-looking DeLorean.
The reel shifted from comedy to horror with The Purge: Anarchy, which expands upon the dystopian world introduced in last year’s surprise hit. In contrast to the suburban setting of the original film, Anarchy features plenty of urban mayhem, with a more varied ensemble cast.
From there, attendees were given a look at the James Brown biopic Get on Up, starring Chadwick Boseman (42) as the legendary singer. The clips depicted Brown in prison, in Vietnam and, of course, on stage, showcasing both his musical prowess and his personal drama (including clashes with his mother, played by Viola Davis).
There were more extensive looks at the final two movies in the reel: First was the sci-fi thriller Lucy, written and directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman who ends up with superpowers after accidental exposure to an experimental drug. The footage showed her taking down legions of bad guys with both guns and some sort of telekinetic abilities. A scientist played by Morgan Freeman muses about humans using only 10 percent of their brains, explaining that Lucy has “access to 28 percent of her cerebral capacity,” allowing her to both learn Chinese and kick major butt.
Finally, a look at the long-awaited sequel Dumb & Dumber To began with a bearded Jim Carrey as Lloyd being rescued from a mental institution by his dimwitted buddy Harry (Jeff Daniels), who decides to manually remove Lloyd’s catheter. Lloyd and Harry learn that Harry has a long-lost daughter who’s now an adult, and they set out to find her in their uniquely moronic way.
Universal Chairman Donna Langley then took the stage to tout the studio’s big end-of-year drama Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie. The studio first acquired the rights to the story of Olympian and World War II veteran Louis Zamperini in 1957 as a vehicle for Tony Curtis. A 2010 book by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand kickstarted the process for the current movie, after capturing Jolie’s attention. Langley called Unbroken “a uniquely American story about an American hero” and praised star Jack O’Connell as part of “the next generation of leading men.”
Jolie herself made the event’s only in-person celebrity appearance to introduce footage from Unbroken. She called Zamperini “the toughest man I have ever met” and “a fighter and a true hero.” As for the movie, “Its message is one that we all need now more than ever,” she said. “It’s the journey of a man finding his way out of the darkness into the light.” The footage showed Zamperini’s Olympic triumphs, a spectacular-looking plane crash-landing at sea, and the ordeal Zamperini faced in a Japanese POW camp.
Langley returned to introduce a look at the studio’s 2015 releases, including Fast & Furious 7, Pitch Perfect 2, Jurassic World, Ted 2 and Minions. Only Fast & Furious 7 and Minions had any footage to reveal, with the latest installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise showcasing another signature daring stunt (this one involving cars parachuting from an airplane), plus glimpses of the late Paul Walker and franchise additions Jason Statham and Kurt Russell. “This time, it ain’t just about being fast,” said Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto.
The footage from Minions showed the yellow creatures from the Despicable Me series as they evolved (literally), rising from the sea in prehistoric times and serving villains throughout history, from a T. Rex to Dracula. The movie introduces minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob, who head from their home base in what looks like Antarctica to New York City, in order to find a new villain to serve.
The presentation closed with a surprise look at footage from the adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. “How do you make a movie out of Fifty Shades of Grey?” Langley asked. “The answer: very carefully.” She praised stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, saying they “could turn this film into the next iconic screen romance.”
“Nobody outside the studio has seen a frame of footage,” Langley said, leading into a look at Johnson as the naïve Anastasia Steele and Dornan as billionaire Christian Grey. There were brief glimpses of floggers and blindfolds, but mostly the clips focused on dialogue. Steele accuses Grey of being a “control freak,” and he tells her, “My tastes are very singular.” With that tantalizing look, the presentation ended.