This year's CinemaCon has officially begun and Paramount Pictures took the opening night position by storm in showing off their wares, particularly their summer line-up with some of the talent from the films on-hand.
For those who haven't been following our CinemaCon (and previously ShoWest) coverage over the years, it's essentially an annual convention held in Las Vegas for those who work in exhibition (i.e. theater owners, exhibitors, managers, etc.) to get together with the studios, technology people and concession suppliers to have conversations about how they all can make the theatrical experience a better one for moviegoers. Because there are so many of this important cog in the theatrical chain in attendance, the studios began using the convention as an opportunity to get theater owners excited about the movies coming out in the next few months or even further down the road. There's a good reason for this, because these are the people who decide whether your movie gets one screen in their cineplexes or many, not to mention the visibility of marketing materials.
Paramount Pictures decided to get their attention early in the week while everyone was still fairly fresh (and sober) with a 90-minute presentation at the Colloseum at Caesar's Palace that mainly focused on three films: Hercules (July 25), starring Dwayne Johnson, the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8) as well as Bay's fourth installment of the popular blockbuster "Transformers" franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27).
As the presentation began, CinemaCon's managing director Mitch Newhauser came down on a wire from the rafters dressed up as Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy, and after thanking the sponsors, he introduced Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, who showed a quick sizzle reel of footage from Paramount's entire upcoming slate including the three movies mentioned above, as well as Darren Aronofsky's Noah, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (essentially scenes from the previous trailer, the found footage film Project Almanac (formerly "Welcome to Yesterday"), a few brief bits from Mark Wahlberg's other 2014 movie, the remake of The Gambler directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), the CG-animated SpongeBob SquarePants 2, (which I'm sorry, but the CG animation just looks weird), a teaser for Jason Reitman's Men, Women and Children, essentially just a cast list and the title, but the best thing was a brief but funny clip from Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (December 25), basically a joke poking fun at the title.
To present the first trailer for his summer epic Hercules, Dwayne Johnson was heralded in by a pair of Japanese drummers–no, I have no idea what the significance of Japanese drummers is to Hercules either– as Johnson came down from the very back of the Colosseum and walked down to the front of the stage to the tune of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." We won't spend too much time talking about the trailer for Hercules since it goes live online this morning, but essentially it has a voice-over by Ian McShane asking Hercules "Who Are You?" as we watch Johnson fighting various creatures, including a lion, a giant boar and a hydra, culminating with him yelling back, "I Am Hercules!" (Look for more on this in the morning.)
Next, Will Arnett came out to present the first look at footage from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not to outshine Johnson's entrance, he came riding out on a Segway (a tip of the hat to his role on "Arrested Development"), followed by an extremely inept David Cross, who spent most of Arnett's introduction zooming around behind him trying to control his Segway.
What was essentially a teaser didn't show too much, but it did give us an idea of the Turtles' new origin story. With a voice-over by William Fichtner, who plays Shredder, we see cameras panning across the city as he talks about how crime and violence has run rampant across the city, essentially destroying it. As he talks, we see some of that, including a building literally being destroyed and some criminals being taken out of action in the subway (presumably by the Turtles) as Megan Fox's reporter April O'Neil watches on. The voice-over goes on to say that "people need heroes" and that "heroes aren't born, they're created" and we then see that Fichtner (not in his Shredder costume) is talking to April, telling her that he was working with her father to create the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We see a couple of quick shots of the Turtles' unmistakable green arms being infused with presumably radioactive materials.
The teaser ended with Megan Fox in an alley being startled by one of the turtles landing in front of her and she turns around and there's another behind her, but he tells her not to freak out and removes his mask, making her faint. The CG turtles don't look that bad, essentially like the ones from the earlier movies, but we really only saw them very briefly and how they look in action might be what sells the movie or is a deal breaker.
Although Arnett didn't appear in the teaser at all, we did get a chance to talk to him on the press line before the presentation, which you can watch in the video player below:
Next up was Transformers: Age of Extinction, which was presented by Mark Wahlberg–Michael Bay was a last minute no-show this year–who also introduced his younger co-stars Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor. Wahlberg talked briefly about joining the movie but also proclaimed that it was going to be "bigger and better than the other three combined" as well as the biggest movie of 2014. (Sorry, "Mockingjay"!)
Instead of just showing the most recent trailer, Bay had put together a good chunk of footage from the movie, maybe 12 to 15 minutes, similar to what he did with the original Transformers seven years ago. It gave us a much clearer picture of the characters and the general story while still leaving a good number of questions open.
The footage began with a shot of a dinosaur (very Tree of Life) and a bunch of sweeping establishing shots of mountains and fields as well as showing a sign saying "Remember Chicago" as homage to those who died in the battle of Chicago from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. We then see a number of alien spaceships invading a city and a battle between them and the Autobots, and then the footage cuts to a boat being boarded by a group of military men looking for something and Walhberg's character racing a jeep towards the scene. Stanley Tucci's character appears randomly and without any sort of introduction is complaining about the decision to hide in a glass room.
After those seemingly rather random scenes, the exhibitors in attendance were shown a nice chunk of footage from the opening of the movie, setting up the three main characters played by Wahlberg, Peltz and Reynor as the former's character Cade Yeager is bringing an old beaten-up truck back to the farm where he's greeted by Wahlberg's daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and his partner Lucas (T.J. Miller) and they immediately get into an argument about him buying the truck, because money has clearly been tight for the Yeagers in recent years. But not quite as tight as Tessa's shorts, and this being Michael Bay, we do get a lot of gratuitous ass shots showing them off. Cade hopes that he can "flip" the truck for parts and sell it off, but a short while later, when he gives the truck some juice, we hear the unmistakable voice of Optimus Prime saying "Calling All Autobots."
We then see four SUV's holding federal agents driving through the fields towards the Yeager farm and in the lead is James Savoy, a tough agent who confronts Cade and the others. He's told by Kelsey Grammer's character over an earpiece to "work on the girl" so he pushes Tessa over, but before they can get too far in getting information, Optimus busts out of the barn and says "Here I am" and starts firing at the agents as the entire place literally explodes as Cade tries to escape with Tessa and Lucas. They're saved by the arrival of some sort of dune buggy being driven by Reynor's character Shane, who we learn (at the same time as Tessa's dad) is her boyfriend.
From there, we cut to a point shortly after that as their escape attempt is halted in the middle of a vacant stretch of road by a battle between Optimus and Galvatron, who seems to be controlled by someone at the command of Stanley Tucci's character. The fight is pretty heated as the humans try to hide behind cars but then suddenly Optimus is hit square in the chest by a missile and he falls to the ground. We then see the giant spacecraft hovering over the fields and out comes the menacing Lockdown, whose face transformers into a rocket launcher that sends another missile to take Optimus down on top of the car in which Tessa is in. (Tucci in the control room tells the person controlling Galvatron to get him out of there.) Lockdown then motions to the larger spacecraft that releases a smaller ship (probably another Transformer) with which the robot merges, before approaching Galvatron and the car under which Tessa is trapped, dropping a net over both and scooping them up. Cade and Shane run over to save her, Wahlberg doing an impressive leap into the air to grab onto the net before falling back to the ground once it gets too high.
These scenes were followed by a couple of bursts of footage, some from the earlier trailer and Super Bowl spot but also including more of Lockdown's giant spacecraft hovering over the city, a brief bit from a fight between Optimus Prime and Grimlock as well as Savoy chasing Cade across the fire escapes of Hong Kong. Throughout the footage, we see quite a few glimpses of Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer's characters, as they seem to be playing the government types who have declared that the "Age of Transformers is over."
The footage ended with a funny scene of Wahlberg in a piece of a spaceship crashing down into a street and a guy in the car that gets damaged by the crash comes out and yelling at him about insurance. Wahlberg completely goes off on him, even heading back into the wreckage to look for an alien gun to shoot him with.
The amount of footage shown was quite overwhelming, but it succeeded on quite a few levels, firstly in establishing the relationship between Wahlberg as an overprotective father to Peltz's teen daughter. Showing this particular footage shows that Bay is going back to the basics of the original Transformers and making sure to focus on establishing the humans before getting too far into the world of battling robots. The footage also showed off a number of impressive set pieces that should be on par with the previous movies including one where Wahlberg, Reynor and Bumblebee are hanging from large swinging power cables that are draped over a tall building.
While June 27 may seem like forever for "Transformers" fans, it's only three months away, and before the presentation, we tried to learn more about the movie from Mark Wahlberg but didn't get much in the short time we had:
You can watch the first trailer for Dwayne Johnson's Hercules later this morning as well as read a few quotes from Johnson on making the movie.