Thursday , May 23 2024

CinemaCon 2024: Universal Pictures; Focus Features

After a video message of thanks from Christopher Nolan and touting releasing three of the top four worldwide money-makers (Super Mario Bros., Oppenheimer, and Fast X), Universal announced they would be releasing 29 films under their Universal, Dreamworks, and Focus Features banners. Next year sees the release of Bridget Jones’s Diary 4 with Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant. Universal will also be handling the International release of Michael, the King of Pop’s biopic.

Illumination, who is working on Super Mario Bros. 2 for April 2026, presented a sequence from Despicable Me 4, which sees Chris Renaud return to the franchise as director and Pharrell Williams returning to contribute music. Will Ferrell, Stephen Colbert, Sofia Vergara, and Joey King join the main cast. In the very funny sequence, Gru, Gru Jr., two minions, and Poppy (King), a young gal that wants to follow in Gru’s footsteps, breaks into a castle to steal a honey badger from the old woman that lives there. Gru Jr. helps and also impedes Gru’s plan.

Twisters is a reboot of the 1996 film. Director Lee Isaac Chung chatted about growing up with tornadoes and that executive producer Steven Spielberg is quite the tornado-watching fanatic on YouTube. Chung left and cast members Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, and Anthony Ramos joked about the on-set working conditions and then took part in a very silly demo where the men stood in front of fans with water, confetti, and a cow directed at them. Then a new trailer was show, which seemed to show the same actions scenes with a little more character moments. Twisters comes out July 19.

Blumhouse is working on sequels to Five Nights at Freddy’s and Megan, both set for 2025. Next January, director Leigh Whannell takes on another Universal Monster with Wolf Man. In the trailer that was shown, Christopher Abbott appears to be protecting his daughter in a darkened house, but it looks like he’s the titular monster.

Director James Watkins was on hand to introduce Speak No Evil in what from the trailer reveals is a terrifying story about a family who befriends James McAvoy and his family and stay at the latter’s secluded home. The tension increases and the secrets of McAvoy and his family are revealed. He is terrifying by the end of this thrilling trailer. I didn’t notice mention of it, but this is a remake of 2022 Danish film of the same name.

Focus Features was very brief, presenting four trailers in succession. They were: Back to Black, the story of the sad, short life of Amy Winehouse. Jeff Nichols’s The Bikeriders about a fictional motorcycle club in the 1960s starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Norman Reedus, and Tom Hardy. The fascinating Conclave about the palace intrigue that takes place when a new pope has to be elected. Ralph Finnes leads a cast that includes Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow, and Isabella Rossellini. Last but not least, Robert Eggers’s remake of Nosferatu. This gothic tale looks spooky but seems better suited to be released on Halloween rather than Christmas Day.

Dreamworks had one offering: The Wild Robot. Based on the book series of the same name by Peter Brown, writer/director Chris Sanders was on hand with Lupita Nyong’o, who voices the titular character, who goes by Roz. When a delivery goes awry, Roz ends up marooned on an island. Instead of helping people she tries to help animals with whom she can communicate. A gosling becomes attached to her. Company robots come to retrieve but she feels she’s home. Lupita described it as a story about “life, love, and loss.” Set for release on September 20.

The panel closed out with Wicked. Necklaces were handed out when attendees entered and flowers were in every seat holder. When their presentation began, all the devices lit up in different colors, frequently glowing pink and green to evoke the two witches from the story. Jeff Goldblum, who plays the Wizard, came out solo after speaking to the crowd. He introduces producer Marc Platt and director Jon Chu. Platt says he always thought Wicked was a movie but was convinced to let it go to Broadway. Chu says he saw the musical workshopped in San Francisco before it went to Broadway so has long has a connection to the material. Jonathan Bailey and Michelle Yeoh joined them. And then Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, decked out in their movie colors, take the stage together, needing to hold hands, so it must have been quite a journey together.

Then a new extended trailer is shown. The crew has done some impressive world-building, but the figure the Wizard hides behind looks too much like a steampunk Transformer. More of the story is shown about what is taking place and it looks quite meaningful, but not knowing the musical, I don’t know if this is contained to Part 1 or if we are getting scenes from Part 2 also. Set for the next two Thanksgivings, Wicked looks to have the potential to be the next great Hollywood musical.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Founder and Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/GordonMiller_CS

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