Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Disney recruits Depp, Sony sends out Sandler at CinemaCon

Another day at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, another two studios previewing their lineups for 2013 and beyond. First up was Alan Horn, the genial chairman of Walt Disney Studios, who offered a film-by-film description of just about everything Disney has in the pipeline.

Inspired by its massive 2012 hit The Avengers, Disney touted "the greatest team ever assembled"—i.e, its collection of Marvel, Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks and Lucasfilm brands. Horn touched on them all, promising 14 to 15 pictures a year from the studio, with eight of them designed as tentpoles. He contrasted the different corporate cultures overseen by Disney; perhaps flashing back to his former studio Warner Bros.' 300, he likened Marvel to Sparta, populated by tough characters, while Pixar is more like Athens, a laid-back campus where "people hug each other all the time."

Horn trumpeted the projects from those two divisions: Marvel's Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America:The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and The Avengers 2, and Pixar's Monsters University, Planes, The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory and Inside Out. Highlights from the Disney label include the animated Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks with Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Angelina Jolie in Maleficent, Brad Bird's Tomorrowland, and yes, another Pirates of the Carribean movie. 

Before screening Pixar's Monsters University in its entirety in 2D, Horn introduced Lone Ranger producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, who in turn brought our their stars, Johnny Depp (in cowboy-dude gear) and Armie Hammer. Depp's only words concerned the height of his co-star. "We're not short," he insisted, as Hammer tried to maneuever his legs to reduce his stature.

Disney showed two sequences from The Lone Ranger: an exciting chase atop a train and its aftermath, and a later scene in which the Ranger's life is saved by the Indian Tonto's mystical healing. The film is clearly another big-scale extravaganza in the spirit of the team's Pirates franchise, but this time applied to the origin story of two classic western characters. Verbinski, who won an Oscar for the animated western Rango, seems to be striving to make an authentic genre film here, not a campy sendup, but one with state-of-the-art visual effects that were never in John Ford or Howard Hawks' tool kits.

Later in the day, Sony Pictures worldwide distribution president Rory Bruer showcased a large assortment of trailers for the studio's roster—but not before being interrupted by trumpters in Roman dress and attendees carrying chariots containing Grown Ups 2 stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Salma Hayek. Sandler worked the crowd, urging them to "get it done" and hit the box-office bull's-eye for Grown Ups and other Sony titles he asked Bruer to list. Grown Ups 2 is a "f---ing four-quadrant movie!" he shouted.

Extended looks showed big hit potential for White House Down, Will Smith and his son Jaden in the sci-fi survival thriller After Earth, Tom Hanks in the true story of Somali pirate-fighting Captain Phillips, and Matt Damon in the class-conscious sci-fi tale Elysium from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp. Big exclusives included a first look at footage from David O. Russell's December release American Hustle, starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence, and a glimpse of George Clooney's The Monuments Men. Clooney and fellow producer Grant Heslov addressed the crowd on a location video, jokingly confusing the event with ComicCon and mixing up Sony and Warner Bros., the studio that made their Oscar-winning Argo.

Getting perhaps the biggest reception was the extended trailer for Seth Rogen's wildly profane directing debut This Is the End, in which Rogen and his comedy buddies (James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Aziz Ansari, etc.) play themselves being confronted by the apocalypse. Forget The Hangover—this could be the most outrageous movie of the year.

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