CinemaCon: Warner Bros’ “The Big Picture” Shows Off an Impressive Roster
The even bigger and more anticipated event of CinemaCon Day 1 had to be Warner Bros’ annual “The Big Picture” presentation, which always includes lots of talent and new footage. Of course, the elephant in the room for the panel was the absence of recently-departed CEO Kevin Tsujihara, but Toby Emmerich did mention him and wish him good luck and God speed during one of the panel’s more awkward moments.
Warner Bros’ “The Big Picture” was hosted by actress Aisha Tyler, who danced out enthusiastically and gave a tease of what’s to come including the “Return of the king of the monsters, Kanye… I mean, Godzilla.”
After showing the obligatory sizzle reel of 2018 successes having their biggest year ever with $5.3 billion worldwide, chairman of Warner Bros. Motion Picture, Toby Emmerich, came out to start the show with an introductory speech, giving special mention to James Wan’s Aquaman being the highest-grossing DC Comics movie worldwide and the second highest grossing movie in the company’s history. He cited Walter Hamada, the head of overseeing the DC properties, which includes Kathy Yan’s Birds of Prey, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984, Matt Reeves’ The Batman and James Gunn’s Suicide Squad 2. He teased the footage from Todd Phillips’ Joker, which would be shown during the presentation. (You can read about all things DC-related in my previous write-up.)
Oddly, they decided to start off with an introduction from the cast of the upcoming Shaft sequel/reboot with footage mainly taken from the trailer, before the company’s President of Domestic Distribution Jeff Goldstein came out, wearing a red Shazam! cap – there were probably a few double takes with that red cap — to brag about all the records Warner Bros. set and broke in 2018, including the most #1s worldwide.
Next up was the trailer for the May 17 romantic drama The Sun Is Also the Star, which looks like a cute teen-targeted film but nothing special.
On the other hand, the thriller The Good Liar, said to becentered around the dark nature of people and based on the novel by Catherine Mckenzie, looks quite compelling. Director Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast) and Helen Mirren came out to introduce the first footage for that movie and how he read the book and was so shocked by a twist in the book that he felt like he had to make the movie. He cited Alfred Hitchcock’s introduction to Psycho where he urged audiences not to give away the twists, and Condon felt the same way about keeping the end of his movie a secret. The movie will reunite Condon with Ian McKellan, who Mirren said she had done theater with roughly 17 years ago.
“I love Netflix, but f*ck Netflix,” Mirren said, to huge applause and cheers. (Like I mentioned earlier, this was a running theme since Netflix seems to go against everything the exhibitors in the audience would believe in aka the theatrical experience and having proper windows before the release in homes.)
They then showed the first trailer for The Good Liar, out Nov. 15, which looks like a strong thriller about two people who meet on an online dating service with McKellen clearly not being who he says he is.
At that point, things just started getting weirder as the segment on the May 10 release Pokemon: Detective Pikachu was presented seemingly by a hologram of Ryan Reynold’s Pikachu character with Reynolds making jokes to introduce the movie. Instead of showing the trailer we’ve already seen, they showed an extended scene of Pikachu and Justice Smith’s character interrogating Mr. Mime, who doesn’t talk, only mimes, making him a difficult link in the chain of finding a killer.
If that wasn’t strange enough, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” started playing and a giant heavy metal-inspired “Comic-Con” logo appeared on the screen as a trio of people dressed in outlandish costumes came out yelling about it being “Comic-Con!” (There were also a few cosplayers in the aisles out with the audience.) One of these people was obviously Melissa McCarthy wearing another outlandish costume (like the one from the Oscars) with a dragon on her back. I believe the two men with her were husband and director Ben Falcone and the third guy was James Corden? That would make the most sense since this was the way they decided to introduce McCarthy’s upcoming comedy Super-Intelligence, which comes out on December 20.
Directed by Falcone, the movie stars McCarthy as a woman who is contacted by an intelligent A.I. voiced by James Corden, who wants to learn more about the world along with her. The A.I. can control all technology and he uses it to help McCarthy’s character, but she soon learns that this A.I. is trying to decide whether to save the world or destroy it. Regardless of whether the movie is funny or not, it did present one of the biggest WTF!?! Moments of the expo… but only after the photos of NATO head (and CinemaCon organizer) Mitch Neuhauser dressed up like one of the shadows from Usthe night before.
Next was the trailer for Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light, which was bought by New Line out of Sundance, where it received a glowing reception by audiences and critics alike. Set in 1987, it looks like a fun musical comedy ala Sing Street, about a young Pakistani lad who finds himself through the music of Bruce Springsteen, offering the type of diversity of last year’s Crazy Rich Asians. It’s even being given a similar August 14 release this summer.
Tyler then brought out Chadha, author/screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor, and three of the cast – Viveik Kalra, Nell Williams and Aaron Phagura – to talk about the movie. First, Gurinder talked about being blessed by getting the support of Bruce Springsteen to use his music for the movie after “The Boss” had read Manzoor’s book. Manzoor told the story of how he came up with the idea for the story while living in the town of Luton as a youth and wanting to not follow his father into working at the car factory. He wanted to be a writer and when he was introduced to the Springsteen song “Thunder Road,” and being struck by the line “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.” After hearing that, the writer thought that Springsteen may have been to Luton. Viveik Kalra talked about getting the breakout role in the movie, and the others said a few words as well. The film would be shown in full to exhibitors a few hours later with Chadha mentioning that they’re currently reworking the mix for Dolby Atmos since it’s going to get a much bigger release than most festival fare.
Shoehorned into the presentation was a look at the supernatural thriller Dr. Sleep, the sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, which Aisha joked was a “family-friendly story.” There wasn’t a trailer ready, but the footage showed quite a bit of behind-the-scenes with director Mike Flanagan talking about how excited he was to hear that King was writing a sequel to The Shining. Flanagan wanted to be involved with bringing the adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor) to the screen, and it looks like this will indeed be a direct sequel, even showing a scene with “Redrum” drawn on a mirror behind McGregor.
At that point, the Warner Bros. seemed to be jumping all over the place with no rhyme or reason, but thankfully, the next movie highlighted was one of the movies coming out next month, and that’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters,written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat). After an exuberant introduction by Millie Bobby Brown, we get a great pseudo-trailer which shows earth being devastated by monsters and Vera Farmiga’s character trying to find a solution, which comes in the form of Ghidira aka Monster X. We got to see an impressive sequence of Ghidira bursting through the ice and killing the soldiers surrounding him (her?) before Godzilla also breaks through the ice. The footage stopped just before they fought, but we did get to see snippets of some of the other monsters like Mothra and Rodan. As a lifelong Godzilla fan, I’m quite psyched for this movie, since it seems like Doherty
Next up was Brooklyn director John Crowley’s The Goldfinch, which is being released on Sept. 13. I literally have no idea what Donna Tartt’s book is about, but from the footage shown (with cinematography by no less than Oscar winner Roger Deakins), it looks fascinating enough for me to want to try to read it before the movie’s release. The Sept. 13 release date might not seem like great placement for awards, but from what I saw, Jeffrey Wright might have enough solid scenes to maybe get an Oscar nomination. Four of the young actors from the movie were brought out — Ansel Elgort from Baby Driver, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard and Finn Wolfhard (who has a lot of movies at CinemaCon this year) – to talk about the movie.
What followed next might have been even crazier than the Superintelligence bit as they showed a crazy sizzle reel (of sorts) for Warner Bros. Animation’s upcoming slate cut to Journey’s “Anyway You Want It” showing the animation team dancing and lip-syncing along to the song as the camera swoops through the studio and teases various movies, including Tim Story’s Tom and Jerry, SCOOB!, DC Super Pets and Space Jam 2, starring Lebron James. There was no actual footage from the movies except for a few stills and video of them prepping the movies, an artist drawing Tom, for instance. The segment on Space Jam 2 had various animators and director Terence Nance passing a basketball around the studio. The whole segment was cute, but strange, although I guess it was better than another sizzle reel with filmmakers and actors talking about stuff. Oddly, none of these movies will be hitting theaters before 2020.
There was less fanfare for the first footage from Edward Norton’s long-in-development passion project Motherless Brooklyn, which comes out November 1, and it looks pretty amazing, also in the vein of a Scorsese crime-thriller, although it might take some getting used to the Tourette’s faced by Norton’s character. Either way, he has put together quite an amazing cast that includes Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale (who is also in Superintelligence) and Leslie Mann, which should give the film a bit more prestige than other similar attempts at channeling the great Scorsese.
That led into the next film, The Kitchen, based on the Vertigo graphic novel, which was prefaced by saying it wasn’t a comedy despite the comedic cast. Sure enough, it’s definitely more of a gritty crime-thriller set in 1978 Hell’s Kitchen, and the use of the Stones’ “Paint It Black” for the pseudo-trailer also gave it very much of a Scorsese feel. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss play the widows of mob bosses, who decide to take over the family business. The footage was followed by writer-director Andrea Berloff, McCarthy and Haddish coming out to talk about the movie, which comes out August 9. Because it opens so soon, I’d expect to see a trailer fairly soon, as well.
Next up was a presentation of New Line Cinema’s horror line-up that’s mostly built around The Conjuring universe. First, they showed some footage from April’s The Curse of La Llorona, which doesn’t take place in that universe even though it’s also produced by James Wan. After that, there was the first footage from June 28’s Annabelle Comes Home, which brings the haunted doll back to her home in the Warrens’ artifact room. A young woman enters the room and accidentally sets Annabelle free, and apparently, the doll is a conduit for other spirits, a few of which we see in the teaser. I’m pretty excited for this one, since it brings Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga back as the Warrens, plus it seems to be a little crazier ala Wan and Leigh Whannell’s Insidious movies.
The Annabelle footage was followed by a creepy laughter that reverberated through Caesar’s Colosseum then said, “Time to float,” which was obviously Pennywise the Clown from It: Chapter Two. A figure came out carrying a triangle of red balloons hiding his identity. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Bill Skarsgard, who played Pennywise in the 2017 New Line hit, but it was actually director Andy Muschietti, and they brought out the actors playing the younger and older versions of the “Losers Club.” It was actually quite impressive to see them all on the same stage together, kind of like when the Avengers have been united on stage at Comic-Con. There was Jessica Chastain and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Bill Hader and Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, Joseph Jacobs and Isaiah Mustafa as Mike, and Ben (Jay Ryan/Jeremy Ray Taylor). James McAvoy, the adult Bill Denbrough, was there, but not his younger self, played by Jaeden Martell.
They had some microphone issues but eventually they figured it out and the younger and older actors spoke about the casting of their other selves. Finn Wolfhard, “We didn’t know for sure there was going to be a Part 2, or I didn’t at least. I was like, ‘Richie is funny to himself…’” to which Hader joked, “Richie thinks he’s funny. Who is an asshole who thinks he’s funny? There’s only one guy in the universe.” But apparently Finn had some say on who would play the older self and he thought Hader would be good. Sophia seemed more confident that Chastain would play her older self, knowing that the actor had appeared in Muschietti’s earlier film Mama. In turn, James McAvoy was convinced by Chastain to play the part of older Bill while the two of them were making Dark Phoenix.
The footage from It: Chapter Two began with an extended scene of Jessica Chastain’s Bev returning home to Derry to her old apartment where the door is answered by a kindly old lady who tells Bev her father has died. She then invites Bev in and offers her tea, and things start getting creepier and creepier, as we begin to realize that this woman might be tied to Pennywise, especially when she talks about her father’s days in the circus. (At one point, the old woman runs across a doorway naked, too!) The scene was followed by footage that shows both the younger and older actors and some great visuals, mostly involving red balloons.
After the presentation, a card came up listing those three movies as well as The Conjuring 3, which is set for September 11, 2020. I really dug the branding and the fact that New Line is taking back its rightful place as the studio who has made such great horror films in the past.
Overall, the Warner Bros. roster looks great even if the presentation felt a little disjointed as it jumped around from bigger to smaller movies with the Godzilla and the It: Chapter 2 footage feeling like the standouts, in terms of reactions.
That’s it for Day One, but I’ll have more soon with a report from Day 2 which includes the hotly-anticipated Disney presentation, as well as Universal’s.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.