Paramount Pictures launched CinemaCon's studio presentations Monday night to a near capacity crowd at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace with a look at their upcoming slate of films. Among the teasers featured were Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Rings. Both see Paramount releasing follow-ups to successful franchises with something a little different. Additionally, the Denis Villeneuve helmed sci-fi pic Story of Your Life was previewed, winning much praise from the audience. And the big screen re-imagining of Baywatch showed off its first R-rated footage, which was decidedly more vulgar than it was funny.
Opening the presentation was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Stars Megan Fox and Will Arnett reunited to introduce an extended cut of the previously released trailer. The CinemaCon version brought an extended take on the turtles' skydiving prowess with a lot of action and a lot of fun. The opening skit shared between the two stars was charmingly awkward, and Megan Fox seemed to know the jokes about pizza were going now where with the Las Vegas crowd in attendance. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows appears to be a bit goofier than the 2014 reboot. But it looks like a lot of fun for kids. It's basically a Saturday morning cartoon come to life and should prove to be a big hit when it arrives this June.
Next, Morgan Freeman recorded a voiceover that literally shook the stage, to intro Jack Huston, star of Ben-Hur, who thanked "the voice of God" before presenting Ben-Hur's extended trailer. It featured a longer chariot race sequence than we've previously seen. Will it be better than the 1959 Ben-Hur? The verdict is still out. But the crowd seemed to love Jack Huston, who will certainly give Charlton Heston a run for his money this August, when the new Ben-Hur opens in theaters everywhere.
Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount, introduced Rings, ushering its first trailer on screen with the hint that, if the release of this franchise follow-up is successful, the series could make an annual appearance around Halloween to delight genre fans. The trailer was set entirely on an airplane. A passenger is talking to a woman next to him when the plane hits a spot of turbulence. He tells the story of meeting a woman, part of a group called "The Sevens". From this woman, our narrator received the video tape that The Ring fans will well remember. The next day, he received a call that he would die seven days later. That call was six days, 23 hours and 55 minutes ago. Suddenly the turbulence worsens, the cockpit flight instruments flicker to static and some mysterious black liquid bubbles up out of the airplane lavatories. We cut to Samara's well, both on the cockpit instruments and the airplane monitors throughout the cabin. Samara crawls out of the video and towards the narrating passenger and we are cut quickly to the title treatment. A long line of fans, including today's teens, have fond place for The Ring (and, even TThe Ring Two). If Paramount can keep a PG-13 on this next installment, it could find quite a large Halloween audience.
Next up was Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, introduced in a pre-recorded video by Tom Cruise (taking a short break filming The Mummy and getting ready for the next "Mission: Impossible"). For Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Cruise works again with Edward Zwick, who helped develop the screenplay. Cobie Smulders joins the cast as a Major in the US Army MPs. Danika Yarosh also has a "mysterious role", according to Cruise. In the trailer, two cops are investigating a diner parking lot, the scene of an apparent assault where two men have been beaten. As the cops listen to witness accounts, they hear that the man responsible never left. Through the front of the diner, we see Reacher, sitting at the counter. When the cops enter, he turns and we see wounds and bruising on his face. The cops take him into custody and explain that he's facing jail, Reacher tells them two things are about to happen. First, the phone at the end of the diner will ring. Second the cops will be leaving wearing their own cuffs. One cop retorts, "That sure is one magnificent prophecy." As he finishes speaking, the phone rings. The clip then cuts through various scenes, including Reacher on the phone with a man who tells him, "You're a dead man!" To that, Reacher replies, "One of us is, that's for sure." Smulder only makes a brief appearance in the clip, riding in a car with Reacher, where she asks him... "So now I'm a fugitive? Why do I get the sense that you're enjoying this?"
Next up in the presentation was a trailer for Florence Foster Jenkins, the true story of a woman who followed her dream of being a singer even though she had a terrible voice. The film stars Meryl Streep and is directed by Stephen Frears. A teaser for Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, also made an appearance. While no trailer or clip was screened, photos showed Denzel Washington and star Viola Davis working on the adaptation of August Wilson's play of the same name.
Robert Zemeckis' new film, now called Allied was introduced with a trailer. The WWII pic releases November 23 and stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. While the clip plays like a thriller, the plot follows Pitt and Cotillard in occupied France. Not much more info is available on this one, as little has yet been officially released by the studio.
Paramount then turned the stage to Story of Your Life stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner to introduce the film, a sci-fi pic from Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Prisoners and Sicario. Adams plays a linguistics expert called to assist when alien ships begin to land across Earth. Renner is a theoretical physicist who works with Adams to try to discern the aliens' intentions. The clip looks really impressive, with stunning visuals and compelling treatment of both the aliens and their ships. While the visitors are largely hidden behind a thick fog, we can see they appear to have various "arms" with fingers like stars. The release date has not yet been set, but the crowd seemed to love what they saw.
Late in the presentation, Vin Diesel was joined in a pre-recorded video from the set of XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, by Donnie Yen and Deepika Padukone to thank the exhibitors in attendance for all the support of his films and the industry generally. Diesel, Yen and Padukone are on-set for the DJ Caruso film, so they couldn't attend this year's conference, but Diesel promised a trailer attached to Star Trek Beyond.
Finally, Paramount wrapped their presentation with a set video recorded by Baywatch stars Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach. The cast promised to hit the CinemaCon stage next year to promote the film, live. A quick teaser for the film proved that this isn't exactly the Baywatch you remember...And shows what promises to be a slightly edgy comedic action-packed beach frolic. The clips were full of R-rated language, but there weren't too many jokes. The movie does promise to have a lot of action, though.
Besides the expansive summary of upcoming films, Paramount's presentation included the very entertaining Simon Pegg introducing and JJ Abrams as the CinemaCon "Showman of the Year". A montage of Abrams' work lit the screen and shook the Colosseum, from Super 8 through Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Star Wars the Force Awakens and more. Abrams gave a humble and heartfelt acceptance, replete with his deep appreciation and gratitude to the cinema operators for their work to help promote and screen films in cinemas, where Abrams feels they truly belong. Abrams gave an interesting analogy of Cinema being the parent and we, the audience, are its children, following a movie where it guides us, watching, captivated. To this, he compared TV, where we, the audience, are the parents, commanding it, turning it up or down (or off) and choosing what we watch.
It was clear that Abrams is a thoughtful cinematic provocateur, with much, much more ahead. He briefly highlighted the partnerships his production company, Bad Robot, has created with various exhibition industry leaders, spanning sound, visual presentation and much more. He thanked Pegg, with whom its quite clear he's got a close friendship (as if casting Pegg in nearly every film he works on weren't evidence enough), before thanking all the folks at Paramount (where Bad Robot is set-up), Disney (where he worked on Star Wars) and an array of folks that he's' worked with across production and distribution. Abrams then thanked the attending exhibitors again and parted, leaving Paramounts Rob Moore to usher all the exhibitors to the Paramount after-party at the rather opulent Omnia nightclub at Caesars to delight in suspended 'air dancers' and pulsing dance music spun late into the night.