Universal Studios got the big announcements out of the way early at its CinemaCon presentation Thursday in Las Vegas. Studio chair Donna Langley started by recapping the studio’s recent successes, including “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Furious 7,” and introduced videos highlighting each of those movies. At the end of the “Fifty Shades” highlight reel, she announced that sequels “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” would open on February 10, 2017, and February 9, 2018, respectively.
The “Furious 7” reel was followed by series producer Neal Moritz, who had the entire audience chant “billion!” — in celebration of the movie’s box office success — to bring out star and producer Vin Diesel. An emotional Diesel promised to “speak from the heart,” and he did just that, even tearing up a bit when talking about his late co-star Paul Walker. “It’s hard for me to even watch that clip and then come out here without being emotional,” he said. He turned enthusiastic when the focus shifted to the eighth “Fast and Furious” film, which Diesel announced would be released on April 14, 2017. “I swear to you and I swear to my brother upstairs, we’re going to make the best movie you’ve ever seen,” Diesel promised.
After those big announcements, the rest of the presentation featured looks at Universal movies set to open later this year, starting with “Pitch Perfect 2” from director (and supporting player) Elizabeth Banks. “We were the little movie that could,” Banks said of the first “Pitch Perfect.” For the sequel, “We wanted to give people more of what they loved about the first movie.” The footage showed plenty of that, including familiar mash-ups of popular songs, and the college a cappella group competing on a much larger scale — this time at a world championship in Copenhagen.
Producer Jason Blum took the stage next to talk up his latest small-scale horror movie, “The Visit,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. “We keep our budgets low so we can experiment a bit,” Blum said of the films he produces, which include “The Purge” and “Paranormal Activity” series. Blum introduced Shyamalan, who returns to his supernatural thriller roots with “The Visit.”
“I did it off the grid a little bit,” Shyamalan said of his new movie, about a pair of kids who discover something strange happening when they visit their grandparents. “The goal of the film was to be the loudest, funnest movie-going experience that anyone’s ever had,” Shyamalan continued. “I’m so excited to return to that style of filmmaking.” He then introduced the new trailer, which included some found-footage elements and plenty of scares.
Director Baltasar Kormakur talked briefly about “Everest,” his thriller based on the true story of climbers stranded on Mt. Everest when a storm hits. “I was probably the only director foolish enough to take this job on,” he said of the difficult shoot. “We set out to make a film as authentic as possible.” The trailer showed plenty of harrowing footage, some of it shot on Mt. Everest itself.
A typically energetic Guillermo del Toro was next up to talk about his upcoming movie “Crimson Peak.” He billed it as a “gothic romance.” “It’s not just a straight romance; it has very sick and twisted elements to it,” he said. “That’s why I like it.” He said that he and his collaborators spent seven to eight months designing elements of the movie, and that they wanted to use “as little digital effects as possible.” That meant building from scratch, including an entire four-story gothic mansion. The footage, which included some unfinished effects, showcased both romance between stars Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston and plenty of horror, including copious amounts of blood.
Seth MacFarlane tried out a Paul Blart joke when he took the stage to talk about “Ted 2,” and while that bombed, the footage he previewed from the movie garnered a better response. “We tried very hard not to make the same movie twice,” MacFarlane said. The preview illustrated the new premise, in which the talking teddy bear battles in court for legal recognition as a person, so that he and his new wife can have a child via sperm donation. It also featured an extended bit with Ted and Mark Wahlberg’s John Bennett attempting to steal a sperm sample from Tom Brady. “‘Ted 2’ is a movie you can take the whole family to, if your whole family is over 18 and addicted to drugs,” MacFarlane summed up.
“One more time for Seth’s Paul Blart joke,” Amy Schumer began as she touted her new movie “Trainwreck,” a romantic comedy she wrote and stars in, for director Judd Apatow. “I am so insanely proud of this movie,” she said. “It’s a really personal story. You guys will know every secret about everything that’s been inside my body.” The extended trailer featured a few longer looks at scenes already previewed, including an awkward sex scene between Schumer and WWE’s John Cena.
Cena showed up in the next movie as well, the comedy “Sisters,” starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as sisters who decide to throw a massive party in their childhood home after their parents have sold it. Director Jason Moore promised “keg stands, penis graffiti, sex related injuries,” and, of course, John Cena. Fey and Poehler showed off their typical chemistry in the preview, which finds the two downtrodden sisters trying to relive the carefree youth they never had.
Director F. Gary Gray talked about his N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” before bringing out producers (and N.W.A. original members) Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. “When you work on a biopic a lot of times you don’t have the details come directly from the people you’re making the movie about,” he said, touting Cube and Dre’s roles in keeping the movie authentic.
“This is a project that I never thought would get made,” Cube said. “I never thought a company would have the balls.” But, he said, Universal did. “This has been a dream project of mine since I’ve been in Hollywood.”
The preview started with black and white shots of Cube and Dre themselves visiting Compton and talking about the impact of their music, then shifted to footage from the movie itself, which stars Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. as his father, along with a cast of mostly new faces.
Chris Meledandri of animation studio Illumination Entertainment followed, talking about two of his company’s films, “Minions” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” “Despicable Me” spinoff “Minions” recounts the origin of the little yellow creatures, from the dawn of time through the 1960s, when they team up with supervillain Scarlet Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock. “We didn’t set out to give the Minions their own movie,” Meledandri said. “They demanded it.”
The footage from the movie showed the Minions working for villains ranging from a Tyrannosaurus Rex to Dracula to Napoleon, and then launching a plan to steal the crown of the queen of England for Scarlet Overkill.
As its title implies, “The Secret Life of Pets” is about what pets do when their human owners are away. “It could be the best collection of comedic actors I have ever worked with in a single film,” Meledandri said of the voice cast that includes Louis C.K., Kevin Hary, Jenny Slate and more, although most of their voices were not featured in the brief, unfinished footage shown.
Director Colin Trevorrow closed out the presentation by introducing an extended look at “Jurassic World,” and he was joined briefly by star Chris Pratt. “It is funny and it is full of adventure and romance and it is scary as hell,” Trevorrow said of the movie, while Pratt was blunter: “You’re going to fucking love it.”
The footage featured plenty of dinosaur action, mainly from “Indominus rex” — the giant genetically engineered beast that serves as the movie’s main antagonist. “She’s killing for sport,” Pratt’s character reveals, as the dino attacks both humans and fellow dinosaurs.
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