CinemaCon 2014: Universal Pictures Presentation


Universal showed off a wide arrange of upcoming movies at their CinemaCon 2014 presentation this morning. The studio is coming off of their highest grossing year yet, and plans to do even better in 2014 and 2015. There were several extended trailers, as well as longer looks at some of the studio’s biggest films.

neighbors_xlgThe presentation kicked off with what was essentially an extended trailer for Neighbors. Many of the scenes that have been shown in previous trailers were seen here, but instead of a quick look, nearly complete scenes were on display. From the opening scene that featured Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) having sex with his wife, Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) while their baby watched. As Mac struggled with this awkward issue, we’re quickly shown the frat house moving in next door.

The Radner’s head over to welcome their new neighbors and ask them to keep the noise levels down. The seemingly cordial Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) only asks that they call him directly with noise complaints before getting the police involved. Of course, one huge party later, the couple are debating on calling the cops or doing as Sanders requested. Upon calling the police, the war begins.

What follows is a lengthy series of back and forth between the Radner family and Sanders’ frat house. Some of the jokes roused a hefty laugh out of the audience, while others fell flat. As with any comedy, the jokes won’t appeal to everyone, but what was shown was a clear indication that the current trailers are only a small taste of the laughs to come.

a-million-ways-to-die-in-the-west-posterMoving on to A Million Ways to Die in the West, Seth MacFarlane seems to have topped Ted. While the animated teddy bear seemed to be just a live-action version of Family Guy, A Million Ways to Die takes what we know of Family Guy and Ted and plays it out with a great cast and plenty of laughs in the old west time period. Much like the Neighbors footage, what was shown was basically extended scenes of what’s already been on display via the previously released trailer.

The biggest boost at the Universal presentation was easily the ending moments of the preview. A barn radiates with blue light as Seth MacFarlane’s Albert character heads over to investigate. Inside the barn is Christopher Lloyd in full Doc Brown attire from Back to the Future Part III, complete with a DeLorean. When questioned about the odd device, Brown sticks with the script from the movie, staying in character. Could this be a fantastic cameo, or does Doc Brown play a bigger role? Either way, it was a fantastic way to end the preview.

purge_anarchy_xlgThe Purge: Anarchy footage was just as crazy as the original film. For 12 hours, all emergency services are cut off and citizens are free to commit terrible acts, including murder. This wasn’t simply more of the same though, the stakes are definitely higher this time around as a young couple must survive the night after their car breaks down. It’s crazy, it’s bloody, and it’s a psychological thrill ride if the brief preview is anything to go by.

Lucy was finally put on display as we’ve heard very little about the new Scarlett Johansson film until now. The footage kicked off with Lucy (Scarlett’s character) seemingly being kidnapped and cut open. A bag of drugs is inserted into her new abdomen wound, and she’s instructed to smuggle the drugs to another location. She’s quickly intercepted by another criminal organization, and a few swift kicks to her abdomen tear open the bag and pour the drugs directly into her blood stream.

The drugs begin to enhance Lucy’s senses, allowing her to make quick work of her captors. lucy-movie-posterSoon after we learn that a scientist (Morgan Freeman) has been studying what would happen if humans were able to use a larger percentage of their brain power. It seems Lucy is the answer as she reads all of Freeman’s work in a matter of minutes, hacks into his home computer and asks Freeman about her condition. She later learns Chinese just as quickly and soon develops telekinetic powers and much more.

From the footage shown, Lucy not only looks like Universal’s hottest new product, it feels like a sexy, exciting mix of Limitless, Elysium, and a bit of Crank. The footage begged for questions to be answered concerning how far Lucy’s power goes and what her object is once she discovers these powers. It will be going head to head with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on August 8th, and it’s going to be a battle at the box office if the early footage holds up.

get-on-up-movie-posterGet On Up was next on the slate, with Chadwick Boseman making his best attempt to bring the funk as James Brown. At first it seemed as though we would see James Brown if he were Boseman, as the first few scenes of Brown’s childhood didn’t seem to express the emotion of the character. However, as the preview shifted into an older Brown, it was clear that the funk is strong within Boseman. He embraces the character and makes the bio pic and epic adventure of a talented African-American man dealing with his stardom and having a good deal of fun in the process.

Dumb and Dumber To was finally shown off, but it’s hard to determine if it’s going to match up to the original with what little was previewed. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels seem unchanged as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne respectively, but it will take more than that to live up to the original. The footage started off with Dunne visiting Christmas in some sort of assisted living establishment. He’s visited every day for the past 20 years, but today he learns that Christmas was faking it just to play a joke on his friend… a 20-year joke.

The physical humor that follows is very reminiscent of the original, but the jokes were very hit or miss, even on the CinemaCon audience. While few comedies hit every single joke, this isn’t just any comedy. Dumb and Dumber To has big shoes to live up to, and the preview footage, while promising, wasn’t quite enough to convince us that the new film is a worthy sequel to the original classic.

unbroken_set_photo_1Angelina Jolie was on-hand to show off her baby, Unbroken. As only the third movie Jolie has directed, Unbroken looks to be unmatched. It’s the story of Louis Zamperini, which Universal has had the rights to since the 50s. Jolie fought not only to get the movie made, but to direct it herself.

The footage of Unbroken began with a scene from World War II of Zamperini’s plane getting shot down over the Pacific. It then jumped to Zamperini’s childhood and sports career as an Olympic runner. At first glance, it seemed as though Unbroken was more of a sports film than anything else, but the preview quickly moved on to Zamperini’s days as a Japanese prisoner of war, and the harsh treatment he received.

Unbroken had the same emotional response as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and The Pacific, but with Jolie’s directorial touch and newcomer Jack O’Connell playing Zamperini, it’s clear that Unbroken will stand on its own when it releases this Christmas. The footage looked so polished, it makes you wonder why audiences will have to wait nearly a year before they can see the film. It will be a long wait.

As Universal moved into its slate of 2015 films, most of the footage shown was of the previous movies in each series with voice over or text to tease the audience about what was to come. The Pitch Perfect 2 and Ted 2 previews showcased footage from the first films, highlighting the impressive numbers of Pitch Perfect, and the raunchy humor of Ted.

jurassic-world-will-take-place-22-years-after-jurassic-parkJurassic World teaser was just some text placed over a computer generated jungle scene, with audio samples from the previous films. Even still, you couldn’t help but get excited about what was to come. Just hearing the Jurassic Park score was enough to send waves of excitement through the audience.

Fast & Furious 7 was up next and kicked off the preview with the entire surviving cast sitting in souped up cars… inside a cargo plane. The task was to essentially skydive, only with their cars. In standard fashion, Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) was reluctant to take the leap, so Tej Parker (Ludacris) did the honors for him by forcing his hand. The humor was there, the action was there, and Jason Statham was there. If you thought the franchise had no where else to go, think again because everything previewed at CinemaCon was exhilarating.

Minions was next up, with the footage depicting the minions following various evil masters throughout time. They followed various fish, moving from one fish to the next as each one was eaten by a bigger fish. Then the fish turned into amphibians and went on land where it was quickly eaten and the minions began following a T-Rex. Eventually they followed Dracula, but it’s quickly noted that the minions weren’t exactly the best followers as they killed off Dracula (by accident).

After killing off many masters, the minions found themselves lost and alone. They had no master to follow. Luckily three minions took it upon themselves to change things. Well… it was really only one minion, Kevin. He set out to find the best master the minions would ever have. He dragged Stuart and Bob with him, even though Stuart only wanted a banana… because he was hungry.

The trio appear in modern times where they mistake a skinny guy in a dinosaur costume as their T-Rex master. Their surprise is as cute as ever. Curiously, it seems as though the minions now speak Spanish, but that could just be for specific scenes. If you wondered how the minions would carry a movie by themselves, it seems Universal is on the right track.

001-cincuenta-sombras-de-grey-estados-unidosUniversal closed out the presentation with Fifty Shades of Grey. The footage started off as what could have been any dark, romantic thriller. However, with each passing scene, the sexual tension became more and more intense. The trademark BDSM of the book was only briefly touched upon and was kept off-camera for the most part, but it’s definitely featured in the movie.

Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia Steele was on-point in what little was shown. She was shy and reserved. Her friends warned her of what the future may hold if she enters into a relationship with Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey. Of course, she ignores their warnings and as things intensify, the concern and eventual panic in Steele’s demeanor is clear. Ladies, it looks as though you’re in for a treat on Valentine’s Day 2015.


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cinemacon, presentation, sneak peak, universal pictures

Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.

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