Weekly Round-Up: CinemaCon Edition
Started in 2011, CinemaCon is an industry event that operates as something of a hybrid that is part trade conference, part upfront event, and part awards show. Studios and industry figures come together to exhibit their upcoming slates for theater magnates from the world over. This year, running from March 30-April 2, saw a particularly interesting slate due to the ongoing feud between Steven Spielberg and Netflix about theatrical windows, as well as being the first major place for Disney to let the world in on its plans now that Fox is officially a part of the Mouse Kingdom. Overall it’s a pretty good way to take the yearly temperature of how the biggest names in production and distribution feel about the upcoming year in movies, and more and more as the best place to see how nervous theater chains and studios alike are about the rise of streaming. So, without further ado, here are a handful of my personal favorite bits of content and news that came out of CinemaCon 2019.
Ang Lee shows off a de-aged Will Smith in Gemini Man (2019) footage
Taiwanese director Ang Lee has long been an inventive filmmaker who looks to push the boundaries of what it is possible to do in a movie. Life of Pi (2012) was a triumph of special effects, showing it was possible to create a CGI tiger that held up well enough to be one of the main characters in the movie. It went on to be a critical and box office success that won Lee a Best Director Oscar. More recently, his Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016) was one of the first movies to shoot at 120 frames per second in 3D and 4K HD. While it was both a critical and commercial failure, it remains a fascinating experiment. Lee’s next project is Gemini Man (2019), which will star Will Smith as a hit-man who is on the run from a person who turns out to be a younger version of himself. Lee debuted footage from the movie, which generated lots of excitement. Over at IGN, Jim Vejvoda wrote that for all the action of the footage, “the highlight was undeniably the sight of the Fresh Prince-era Will Smith back on the big screen opposite his middle-aged self.” Movies such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Logan (2017) have already shown impressive developments, but the consensus out of CinemaCon is that Gemini Man will redefine what’s possible for the software. With Ang Lee at the helm, I believe it.
Todd Phillips releases a trailer for Joker (2019)
Even in the era of comic book movie dominance, there are few characters as iconic and captivating as the Joker. Jack Nicholson’s turn as the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) set the first bar for on-screen comic book villainy, one which Heath Ledger subsequently barreled past in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). Ignoring Jared Leto’s forgettable turn in Suicide Squad (2016), the Joker continues to be a force in modern pop culture. Enter Todd Phillips’ new movie simply titled Joker (2019). Promoted as an origin story for the infamous Batman villain, Joaquin Phoenix will step into the role of Arthur Fleck/Joker to give us insight into how the Clown Prince of Crime came to be. The project has been kept pretty well under wraps thus far, so the trailer was the first meaningful glimpse anyone has gotten of it. The response? Overwhelmingly positive. Amy Kaufman of the L.A. Times writes that the trailer “did veer towards darkness, with many in the audience comparing its tone to ‘Taxi Driver.'”While that may seem like a lofty comparison, Martin Scorsese is a producer on the movie, and to my eyes it most definitely looks like Phillips is going with the mood of unhinged lunatic that defines Scorsese’s classic. Watch the trailer for yourself here.
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) continues to build hype
There has been little news about Rian Johnson’s upcoming thriller Knives Out (2019) except casting tidbits as he assembled what I would call the singular most exciting ensemble for an upcoming movie, which includes but is not limited to: Daniel Craig, LaKeith Stanfield, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Christopher Plummer. After an introduction from Curtis, Johnson got up on stage and characterized the movie as a “whodunnit like no one’s dunnit” focusing on a family birthday celebration gone wrong when the patriarch, portrayed by Plummer, dies mysteriously. The presentation included a short trailer which generated exclusively positive buzz. Over at Mashable, Angie Han describes the footage as “stylish and energetic,” while Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter notes that “it has the feel of Wes Anderson’s Royale Tenenbaums — with Johnson’s trademark genre twists.” Johnson himself told the room that the movie is his “attempt to take everything I love about an Agatha Christie who-done-it, jam it into an all-star cast, give it a Hitchcock thriller, genre twist and set it in modern-day America.”
It: Chapter Two (2019) footage “terrifies” audiences
It’s no secret that I was, am, and shall remain a huge fan of Andy Muschietti’s It (2017), the newest adaptation of the same named novel by Stephen King. Ever since the final frame of that movie teased the existence of a sequel, since officially announced and named It: Chapter Two (2019), there has been rampant speculation about how Muschietti and co. would handle the rest of the story. The novel features two simultaneous narratives with one set during childhood when “The Losers” first defeated Pennywise, and the other set 27 years later when they are forced to return to their hometown of Derry, Maine to send the clown away for good. Casting updates confirmed that It: Chapter Two would tell the adult half of the story left out of the first movie, enlisting the likes of Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader to play the grown-up versions of “The Losers.” A mix of the younger actors and their older counterparts came on stage with Muschetti to introduce a clip from the movie which The Wrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven describes as “a terrifying footage presentation.” Elsewhere over at Sy-Fy, Jacob Oller noted that although the clip focused on Jessica Chastain’s performance as Beverly, a sizzle reel followed that featured “many of the other stars, like Bill Hader, James McAvoy, red balloons, and blood.” There’s been no official release date set yet, but with a response like this I will be anxiously awaiting any news I can get my hands on.