Universal Wins CinemaCon By Premiering Footage from 9 Movies Including LES MISERABLES, SAVAGES, THIS IS 40, TED, R.I.P.D., OBLIVION, BOURNE LEGACY, More

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While Universal Pictures skipped CinemaCon/ShoWest the past couple of years, they more than made up for it with the best presentation of 2012.   While all the studios have great-looking movies arriving in 2012 and 2013, I wanted to see every single movie Universal talked about at CinemaCon  In addition, not only did they bring in the movie stars and directors, they world premiered footage from nine movies including Les Miserables, Ted, Savages, This is 40, R.I.P.D., Oblivion, The Bourne Legacy, Snow White and the Huntsman, and 47 Ronin.  In addition, they made sure to remind attendees that while filming hasn’t started on Fast and Furious 6 (the working title), it’s arriving next May, and Despicable Me 2 opens in July.  For what I thought about all the movies plus a complete video blog recap, hit the jump.

As I’ve been doing all week, right after the panel ended I recorded a video blog with Peter from Slashfilm and Alex from FirstShowing.  We talked about the footage that Universal world premiered and got into some heated discussions.  Below the video are more of my thoughts.

Snow White and the Hunstman

Universal showed off a lot of new footage from director Rupert Sanders‘ fantasy film, which stars Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and Charlize Theron as the Evil Witch.  With the release only a little over a month away, the film is close to being finished, so the studio had a lot more CG shots to show the attendees.

What truly impressed me about the footage is the size and scope of the world, the great production design, and how it doesn’t look like what you’d expect.  In addition, some of the new shots featured the dwarves meeting Snow White for the first time, and the effects looked flawless.  While there was a lot of debate a year ago about which Snow White movie would be better, it was settled as soon as the sizzle reel ended.  I think Snow White and the Huntsman is going to surprise everyone at the box office.

Savages

Savages looks bat-shit crazy in a great way.  Loaded with a great-looking cast doing and saying some really fucked up things, Savages is the type of movie most big studios stay away from, but Universal seems to be embracing it in a big way. For those who aren’t familiar with the movie, Savages stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as two Laguna Beach marijuana kingpins who encounter a world of trouble when their shared girlfriend (Blake Lively) is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel.

Ted-movie-posterTed

Seth MacFarlane makes me laugh.  A lot.  As the creator and voice of a few characters on Family Guy, I think MacFarlane is a very gifted performer who is not afraid to rock the boat.  Actually, he’s willing to do and say just about anything for a laugh.  So when it was announced that he was making an R-rated comedy about a teddy bear that comes to life, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  And based on the red band trailer and the sizzle reel at CinemaCon, he’s made something hysterically funny that also has a heart.

During the presentation, Universal showed everything from the red band trailer, the opening scene of the movie (which explains how Ted came to life), and an extended fight scene between Ted and Mark Wahlberg‘s character that reminded me of the fights between the giant chicken and Peter Griffin on Family Guy.  During the sizzle reel a smile never left my face, and some of the attendees sounded like they were going to have a heart attack from laughing so hard.  In my years of covering CinemaCon and ShoWest, I’ve never heard the crowd laugh so hard and so much.  Whatever you think of MacFarlane, it’s clear that Ted is going to be a huge hit and this is likely the beginning of a long filmmaking career for McFarlane. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

The Bourne Legacy

While Universal released a solid teaser trailer for The Bourne Legacy, there were still a lot of unanswered questions about how the movie would fit into the Jason Bourne storyline.  Also, would Jeremy Renner‘s version be the same type of character?  After watching the extended sizzle reel, I think the movie looks like a winner and Renner seems like a perfect Bourne replacement.  Also, the footage revealed that at least some of the film takes place around the same time as the The Bourne Ultimatum and they’re definitely going to leave the option open to have a future movie featuring both Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner if Damon ever decides to return to the franchise.  Also, the head of Universal said to Renner on stage how this is the first of many additional Bourne movies.  Ultimately, if you like the Bourne films, you’re probably going to like this movie.

Les-miserables-movie-posterLes Miserables

Like Fox’s Life of Pi, the brief footage of Les Miserables wowed the CinemaCon crowd.  While we were told what we were being shown was rough, unfinished, and raw, they could release what they showed us and people would start buying tickets.

What I didn’t know before the presentation started was that the cast was singing live on-set and we heard Anne Hathaway singing “I Dreamed a Dream” over the visuals were from the first two weeks of filming.  In the approximately 40 seconds of footage we were shown, we saw Fantine (Hathaway) getting her hair cut extremely short, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) walking the dirty streets, and some extremely impressive visuals that show director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) is not a one-trick-pony.

If you were wondering if Anne Hathway could sing, or if Universal was going to fuck up Les Miserables, the footage we saw today makes the film another early contender for end of the year awards.  I’d be willing to put a lot of money down today that it gets a Best Picture nomination.

This is 40

As Universal has been saying, This is 40 is the sort-of-sequel to Knocked Up.  Since the teaser trailer should be online by the time you read this , I’ll be brief.  Based on the footage, if you have kids, know people with kids, are getting older and wondering about your life, this is your film.  While it doesn’t look like it’s a pure comedy, I thought it looked great.  But I know people with kids and I’m slowly starting to relate to Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann‘s characters.

47-Ronin-movie-poster47 Ronin

The other day, we reported that 47 Ronin had its release date pushed back to February 2013 and the reason was making sure they had enough time to finish the visual effects.  After watching some of the raw dailies, seeing temporary VFX shots, and hearing director Carl Rinsch talk about the movie at CinemaCon, the decision makes a lot of sense as it’s unlike anything that I expected.  If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the 3D film stars Keanu Reeves and centers on a troupe of banished samurai who long to restore their honor and find vengeance against the treacherous Lord Kira (played by Tadanobu Asano) who was responsible for the death of their master.

While it’s very hard to judge or talk about a film that’s so far away and one that has no final effects, what we saw looked fantastic and its like Rinsch has taken a few previously successful films like 300, The Last Samurai, and a few others, and mixed them all together and created his own thing.  He also revealed the last third of the film is a huge siege and we saw a few temporary shots that looked phenomenal.   47 Ronin looks like it belongs in the heart of summer and not in February.  If it’s good, it’s going to be a huge release in the middle of winter.

Oblivion

Even though production has just begun on Joseph Kosinski‘s (Tron: Legacy) Oblivion, Universal showed footage from the first few days of filming!  In the brief snippets of footage we saw Tom Cruise commanding a ship, Morgan Freeman looking badass with a cool looking beard, and the beginnings of an action sequence.  For those unfamiliar with the film, Cruise plays a veteran soldier who’s banished to the surface of a post-apocalyptic Earth, and tasked with repairing ships that hunt down the aliens who destroyed our planet. When a mysterious woman (Andrea Riseborough) crash-lands nearby, their encounter sets off an eye-opening chain of events. The cast also includes Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones).  Again, since we only saw concept art and raw dailies, I won’t say more than it looked cool and it’s definitely on my radar.

R.I.P.D.

Imagine if Jeff Bridges was playing a mix of The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Rooster Cogburn from True Grit.  That’s what his character looked and sounded like in the brief bits of footage Universal premiered from director Robert Schwetnke‘s R.I.P.D., which also stars Ryan Reynolds.  In the film, which hits theaters in June 2013, Reynolds plays a newly deceased cop who joins a group of undead officers in the “Rest In Peace Department”.  Jeff Bridges stars as an R.I.P.D. veteran, and Kevin Bacon is onboard as the villain.  Mary Louise-Parker, Stephanie Szostak, Marissa Miller, and James Hong also star.

While production finished a few months ago, the effects-heavy film is still a long way away from completion, so Universal only had raw dailies and temporary VFX shots.  What I took away from the presentation was the movie looked like it had a touch of Beetlejuice in it, which is a good thing.  Again, it’s not fair to judge anything so far from being finished, but it looked cool and it definitely had a fun summer-movie vibe.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning, I now want to see every movie Universal showed at CinemaCon.  Also, it’s like the studio watched every other CinemaCon panel and took the best parts.  Loaded with movies stars and new footage, I’d give Universal an A+ for their CinemaCon 2012 presentation.  I hope they come back in 2013.

Here’s our complete coverage from CinemaCon 2012

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