universal pictures

On day three, this morning’s festivities kicked off with a star-studded presentation from Universal Pictures. While Warner Brothers may have had more celebrities on their stage, Universal went all out with who they chose to bring and ended with an incredible live performance from the one and only, Cher.

The presentation kicked off with an update from Illumination Animations, the company that brought us Minions, Despicable Me, and The Secret Life of Pets. This year they are launching an origin story to a classic Dr. Seuss tale: The Grinch. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the grumpy Grinch as we dive into why he dislikes Christmas so much. It looks like a standard fare for Illumination, filled with childish humor that may or may not drive parents crazy with it’s over top ridiculous fun.

They also announced a sequel to their smash hit from last year: The Secret Life of Pets 2, starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. The two actors came out on stage to say a few words about the film, but mostly to keep the hungover crowd from falling asleep, after the wild Action Point party from the night before.

After Illumination, Universal brought out a heavy hitter in Hollywood, Ryan Gosling, along with Claire Foy to discuss the upcoming, First Man. This film dives into the life of Neil Armstrong and the arduous journey to become the first man to step onto the moon. This looks like a rich bio-pic with stunning visuals and acting, but I can’t help but feel it’s a bit dated in its approach.

The presentation took a more fantastical turn with the introduction to The House with a Clock in the Walls. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett came out on stage to talk about this adaptation of the classic 1973 novel by John Bellair. This story dives into a world of warlocks and sorcery but is unlike any other magical film to date. From the extended footage we saw, it looks to be the start of a new franchise filled with wonder.

Universal’s ambitious attempt at rebooting the Classic Movie Monsters with their Dark Universe was a black mark on their 2017 dock, but this year their horror is looking up. Up first they showed us an extended trailer for The First Purge, coming out July 4th of this year. The film takes a deeper look into the purge that started it all but with an urban backdrop and characters with deeper nefarious plans. This combined with their new suspense thriller by Gabrielle Union called Breaking In, shows the industry that cultural diversity is alive and strong.

After that July 4th horror express comes the highly anticipated superhero/noir film from acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan. Glass is the 3rd installment in his Unbreakable franchise that ties together the original film and Split into one cohesive world. Shyamalan proposes the question that what if these three unique characters, Mr. Glass, The Beast, and David Dunn, are all locked up in a mental institute together and where do they go from there. It looks like an interesting concept but I am hesitant to trust that Shyamalan will not try to sully the movie with too many regrettable twists.

The last film on Universal’s horror docket is a long-awaited sequel to a classic horror villain. Halloween debuts 40 years after the original film, with Jamie Lee Curtis in her iconic role as Laurie Strode. Set in present day, after a true crime documentary crew tries to interview Michael, he escapes his prison and hunts down Laurie. But this time she is ready for him and will do whatever it takes to protect her daughter and grand-daughter from suffering the same fate as she has. Jamie Lee Curtis was excited to show us some exclusive footage from the film and even said: “It will scare the shit out of you.”

 

While Halloween looks to revitalize the horror genre, Universal also plans to continue their comedy streak from Girls Trip with a new film starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. Night School is a comedy about a grown man returning to school to get his GED only to be met with one tough teacher who doesn’t pull any punches. The trailer screened showed us the chemistry between Hart and Haddish and was laugh out loud funny in its premise and scenes.

Another family oriented film on their list is bringing back to the land of dragons, in this new installment called How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World. Audiences will reconnect with Toothless and Hiccup as they discover another Night Fury and a whole new dimension filled with dragons and peril. This story is slated for January 2019, and will sure to be a big hit moving into the new year.

Two action-adventure films were also slated to release this year and next, but with very different premises and stars. The first is Mortal Engines, a film by Peter Jackson that takes us into a futuristic realm where cities are mobile and gobble up smaller towns to take their resources and citizens. The villain, played by Hugo Weaving, seems to be the mayor of London with devious plans to take over the world. The second film stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a security guard who moves into a new mega-building only to fight against terrorists Ala Die Hard. Skyscraper also stars Nev Campbell and looks like a non-stop thrill ride as he fights to save his family while building burns.

The last two films in Universal’s presentation are going to be heavy hitters this year in two very different genres. First up is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom slated for release June 22nd was introduced with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard who came out on stage. They talked about the film’s premise and then we saw an exclusive peek at the first five minutes of the film. I wasn’t very interested in seeing this sequel, but the wit and effects in those scenes made me want to see more.

The last film was introduced by Amanda Seyfried and is the highly awaited sequel to Mama Mia, a musical set in the Greek Islands. Mama Mia: Here We Go Again, takes place in the same location but is split between the past and present as they show the mother’s adventure that led her to buy the hotel on the island. With classic ABBA songs and brand new songs, this looks to be a joyous return to this sun shined world.

The most surprising part was the introduction to a new character in the film: the grandma, played by the legendary Cher. In honor of her role, the stage was reset and suddenly we were swept away by a choreographed number with the icon herself, Cher. She came out on stage and sang “Fernando” which left me in tears by her incredible voice.

Universal certainly left us on a high note and with their upcoming slate, it seems that this year may be one of their best.

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