CinemaCon 2015 Recap - The Best Studio Footage We Saw This Year
by Alex Billington
April 24, 2015
What looks good this year? This past week I attended the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, an annual convention for movie theater owners + distributors. Every year Hollywood flies in actors and hosts elaborate presentations inside of The Colosseum at Caesars Palace to show off their movies over the next year. I've decided to recap all of the panels from all of the studios (Paramount, WB, Fox, Universal, Sony) and discuss some of the best footage we saw. They pack in so much into these presentations, and I'm glad we get a first look at some of the big projects they've been working on. A few reveals blew us away, while other footage made me less worried about movies we've already seen teases for. So without further ado, let's jump right in.
The most entertaining and problem-free panel this year was hosted by 20th Century Fox, which opened with a live DJ spinning a techno remix of The Peanuts theme while a dance crew hyped up the crowd. The Peanuts Movie looks quite adorable, but there was so much more we got to see that made me so excited.
Note: The footage they showed us was for CinemaCon audiences only, and while some of it seems finished, we really don't know when any of it will be released publicly. But we will definitely keep you updated.
These are the films that stood out the most in my mind after the footage we saw, with my best picks up top:
Creed (Warner Bros) - From the director of Fruitvale Station, a continuation of the Rocky story featuring Sly Stallone back again as boxing champ Rocky, who helps train Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed's son Adonis. The footage looks phenomenal, gave me the chills like no other, with an incredible final shot of him running down the street. Another boxing movie, yes, but another boxing movie that will leave a mark.
The Revenant (Fox) - Birdman director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's follow-up that he has been shooting in the Canadian wilderness for months. Gritty, but gorgeous, filmed with only natural light by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Lubezki is likely going to win another Oscar for this, it looks like a brutal but beautifully mesmerizing tale of humanity, revenge and morality. Some of the shots we saw were jaw-dropping, and the cast (Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter) looks exceptional.
The Martian (Fox) - Ridley Scott heads back to sci-fi, and Matt Damon gets stranded on another planet. Based on what we saw this could actually rival Interstellar, it looks that good. Way more footage than I was expecting of the setup on Earth with NASA before Damon gets stranded on Mars. It has a Cast Away vibe once he starts figuring out how to survive, but there's lots of other people on Earth (and the original voyage) and a rescue mission that seems to quickly follow up. I'm very excited for this now.
Mission Impossible 5 (Paramount) - Tom Cruise stopped by and showed us some new footage from this one, which made this look like it was going to be as fun as the early M:I movies, but still as high stakes as the most recent two. However, it was the raw footage of Cruise doing his own stunt strapped to the side of an airplane taking off (proving it was him doing this for real) that totally got me. Bring on more Impossible.
Everest (Universal) - The story of a group of mountain climbers stranded in a devastating storm as they try to descend Mount Everest. They filmed this in the Dolomites, and you can actually tell as so much of it feels real. Some gorgeous shots of climbing, then some epic shots of the storm as it rolls in and decimates the climbers. It looks epic on a scale worthy of the mountain it's named after, and I'm hoping it all lives up to the footage. Quite a cast too: John Hawkes, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal & Keira Knightley.
The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (Fox) - While it's cliche to keep using the term "epic", this is another one where I can't help but say the footage we saw was way more epic than I expected. I was a big fan of The Maze Runner, the first movie that ends on a cliffhanger, and director Wes Ball is really stepping up his game with this sequel. Apocalyptic feel with shots of the Golden Gate Bridge covered in sand, tons of action, kids who decide to resist the system and fight for their independence. Looks gnarly and I can't wait to see it.
XMAS (Sony) - Now my most anticipated comedy of this year. Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) directs this movie about old friends Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen reuniting for Christmas Eve and a wacky, wild night in New York City. Rogen ends up on mushrooms, and they try to go around town messing with people on Christmas, and it looks like so much crazy fun. It seems to have the right balance of humor and heart and friendship, kind of like Pineapple Express, and I've got a good feeling it's going to be a holiday hit.
Spectre (Sony) - We saw a scene from early on and some extra footage from this new Bond movie, and I was squirming in my seat with delight. As a huge Bond fan, this 24th Bond movie is looking stellar so far, and all the footage they've shown us just makes me more intrigued to see what 007 is up to now that Judi Dench's M is gone (spoiler from Skyfall). Bringing back director Sam Mendes was the right choice.
Jurassic World (Universal) - Finally killer footage I've been waiting to see! R-rated, bloody, no holding back, giving us more of the plot with Chris Pratt and his interaction with the dinosaurs. We got to see why and how he interacts with the raptors, where the Indominus Rex comes from, and how its path of carnage spreads throughout the island. It's not just dinosaurs eating humans, but attacking other dinosaurs, messing with everything, learning as it grows. They should be showing more of this footage so fans aren't as worried.
Joy (Universal) - David O. Russell's third team up with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, following Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. The footage was a rather quick sizzle reel, with his signature handheld sweeping camera style in full force, and I wasn't exactly sure what I was seeing but I know I was thinking "this is going to be really, really good". But then again, after his last two films, I'd say that about David O. Russell anyway. Thankfully the footage lives up to expectations for this director/actors team again.
Straight Outta Compton (Universal) - This is the story of rap group NWA emerging from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s finding their voice and their audience. And it looks incredible! It's a great story, but man the footage they showed us was powerful. The cast is also strong: Keith Stanfield, Paul Giamatti, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Aldis Hodge, Jason Mitchell, and Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre. Don't brush this one off, even if you don't like rap, it's an inspiring story and you won't want to miss seeing this version of it.
The Walk (Sony) - While there's been at least one good trailer for this Robert Zemeckis movie, the footage we saw looks better than anything we've seen so far. One of my favorite shots involves fog drifting through the air (in 3D!) while Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, stands on the rope tied between the tops of the Two Towers. Another powerful, inspiring story and I don't think anyone needs to worry about Zemeckis making a great film. I'm just glad that everything looks like it's going to turn out fantastic.
The Secret Life of Pets (Universal) - This is going to be a huge hit, mostly because it looks so perfect for pet owners. It's an animated movie from Illumination Entertainment (of Despicable Me) about the time between when owners leave for work and return, and what the pets do during that time. They give you that sad look when you leave, then they party like rockstars as soon as the door closes. It looks like so much fun and spans a number of different pets, from various dogs and cats to fish and birds, with a great voice cast.
Terminator Genisys (Paramount) - What they showed us didn't actually look that bad. Yes, it seems like a combination of all three of the first Terminator movies squeezed into one (a new T-1000, Sarah Connor, time travel, Schwarzenegger, etc) but it looks better than Salvation at least. Lots of time travel and twists and turns, and cool sci-fi action. Perhaps I'm most intrigued to find out how the intricate plot plays out, but after seeing this footage I am admittedly a bit more excited than I was before. Only time will tell.
Vacation (Warner Bros) - Such a relief this sequel to National Lampoon's Vacation doesn't look horrible. I'm glad that they went as R-rated, raunchy, nasty and hilarious as they possibly could. I laughed out loud at some of the jokes we got to see, and while I'm not sure if the new cast will live up to the old cast, at least Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are back. Oh and it also has Chris Hemsworth and Keegan-Michael Key.
BONUS: Spy (Fox) - We were shown the entire movie, and it's way, way, way better than it looks. Paul Feig directs Melissa McCarthy in a spy movie spoof with a feminist edge, but don't let that turn you away. Jason Statham is the funniest he has been since the Crank movies, seriously, and Melissa McCarthy is at her best since Bridesmaids. It's a very smart, very funny, very entertaining spy movie made by a very talented and intelligent director. Now that I've seen it, I'll certainly be recommending it as much as I can.
So there you have it. These are now some of my most anticipated movies of the year thanks to the footage we were shown. The other big one I wish I could talk about is Pixar's Inside Out, but Disney is very insistent about the embargo on that one so that'll have to wait. I love attending CinemaCon because the studios go all out trying to impress everyone, and sometimes the footage falls flat, other times it blows us away. But best of all it gives us a big picture look at what's coming in the Hollywood pipeline over the next year, all of the major films studios are behind. From original stories they're trying to push, to the latest franchise offerings for kids and adults. It's fun, entertaining, and the best way to get acquainted with all the movies coming up.