Every year I look forward to a trip with my favorite traveling companion Jenise aka Film Brat to Las Vegas, Nevada for CinemaCon that began Monday, April 1st! We always start the very early drive 5+ hours and make sure to take time to stop at our favorite places along the way, have great conversations, crank up the music and enjoy our little working vacation.
We make our usual pit-stops along the way for gas and snack breaks but this time the stops were to see the majestic snow covered mountains that surrounded us. From San Bernardino to Victorville, I can not remember the last time I saw so much snow. We also stopped to see the masses of butterflies everywhere and the fields that are coated with flowers of every kind and color.
Our usual stop at the World’s Largest Thermometer in Baker, California also coincided with our stop at the place where humans meet aliens. Alien Fresh Jerky surprised us this year as we discovered serious renovations to the general store and the beginnings of what is to be a new alien hotel. I already asked if it was possible to make reservations for next year but alas – no lift off.
Then the long stretch of road that is good for having the window down for fresh air before coming over the slight hill that shows the ever expanding city of Las Vegas in Nevada. Of course it isn’t a surprise to find as the roadside is covered with billboards warning of impending fun times no matter what you might be into.
Our favorite place to check into is The Linq which is right across the street from Cesar’s Palace. That works out ducky since Cesar’s is where we spent our entire week with CinemaCon 2019. Checking into our rooms and a quick freshening up, we head off to the first day of the four days of a mixture of work and fun.
After a few conferences, we are welcomed to a pre-reception welcoming us to CinemaCon 2019 and to get us in the mood for what is to come, NEON premiers a screening of the film WILD ROSE. Afterwards we finally have a chance to say hello to other attendees who we have come to know over the years. It’s a great time to catch up, show off kid and grandkid pictures, and talk about what’s new in theatres and our schedules.
Tuesday morning we hit up a little breakfast time before seating to see what STX Films has to share with us. Jon M. Chu walks on stage to talk about the three movies that brought him to be a part of filmmaking and they are E.T., BATMAN and THE JOY LUCK CLUB. We were thrilled with his choices because, as for me, those three are on my top 20 list without question. His next project is IN THE HEIGHTS working with Lin-Manuel Miranda and will be in theatres in 2020.
Charles Rivkin, Chairman & CEO of the MPAA says, “As technology grows, it always speaks of doom for theaters. Yet, as Edna Mode says, ‘here we are!’ Cinema continues to grow, become more diverse and tell stories people want to see and hear. The audiences take magic seriously.”
Adam Fogelson, Chairman of the MPG introduces what is to come for STX and there are a few things we are personally waiting for. Beginning with a look at BEST OF ENEMIES which is the story of Ann Atwater starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell and POMS starring Diane Keaton (who takes the stage of charm us all), Jackie Weaver and Pam Grier is the story of women of a certain age who start their own cheerleading group.
Chadwick Boseman arrives on stage to talk about his upcoming city thriller 21 BRIDGES as New York shuts down the bridges to apprehend criminals. The film also stars JK Simmons and Taylor Kitch who gets a chance to try on his bad boy chops. Dave Bautista arrives to talk about his comedy MY SPY with Ken Jeong, Chloe Coleman and Kristen Schaal.
If horror is more your style, BRAMS: The Boy II is back and this time Katie Holmes comes along to talk about the next chapter. Holmes says she saw the universal connection of a mother and child. Working with the young actor Christopher Convery was very exciting as well. As for the supernatural aspect, Holmes says, “There were a couple of times during shooting that things happened that gave me moments of a scare”.
THE GENTLEMEN is next on the slate and it starts one of our favorites Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey. Golding who starred in the hit CRAZY RICH ASIANS says he would do anything they asked to be in the film, “My character is unpredictable, young and hungry and not a character anyone would expect me to play”.
Hunnam says, “I play a guy named Ramundo who is the right hand man to Matthew, who is the biggest weed dealer in the U.K. Most of the time I play the guy who is quite bookish and does the logistics but once in the while I pull out the bone saw.” That being said, please put us down for two tickets immediately!
Colin Firth returns to the screen with his upcoming film THE SECRET GARDEN, Jennifer Lopez also has another film in the hopper with HUSTLERS, the film COUNTDOWN, HORIZON LINE, WORK IT, CRIME AFTER CRIME are waiting to jump into theatres. Gerard Butler returns with GREEN LAND, Vin Diesel is MUSCLE and the Moms’ Moms are back with BAD MOM’S MOMS.
Finally, the one we have personally been waiting for. A few years ago at CinemaCon, STX teased us with the story for a film called UGLY DOLLS. After their presentation, we were handed two of the strangest looking dolls but there was something surprisingly cute about them. Well, after two minutes of looking at it, my then two-year-old granddaughter took the pink ‘Dreamy Bat’ into her arms and they have been friends ever since. Now, the animated film is finally complete and will be in theaters in a few short weeks. It looks to be fun, full of moments and songs we will remember for a very long time.
WARNER BROS. STUDIOS brought their studio presentation hosted by Aisha Tyler, who is the voice of Lana in the animated hit series ARCHER, and she brought the laughs and a few special guests. Starting with animation, Toby Emmerich announces the coming DC PETS, TOM & JERRY, SCOOBY-DOO and SPACE JAM II.
DC brings its offerings of SUICIDE SQUAD II, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN 84 and the highly anticipated Joaquin Phoenix as the JOKER. Director Todd Phillips says of the film, “What people hear about the film isn’t accurate. If anything, my description of the film would be that it is sad”.
Samuel L. Jackson brings the character of SHAFT back to the big screen, BIRDS OF PREY, and THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is also in the works. THE GOOD LIAR starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan is directed by Bill Condon. SUPER INTELLIGENCE brings one of our favorite funny lady’s Melissa McCarthy to the screen and is directed by husband Ben Falcone.
POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU brings Justice Smith together with the yellow and furry animated Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu together for some fun. BLINDED BY THE LIGHT is a film that believes that trying to find the best of yourself is universal. Ansel Elgort and Aaron Finn star in THE GOLDFINCH DIRECTED BY John Crowley. Elgort says of the book to film, “I hope what ever drew people to the book draws them to the movie.”
DOCTOR SLEEP directed by Mike Flanigan is a sequel to 1980 film THE SHINING. Ewan McGregor stars as the very grown up Danny Torrance who meets a young girl with powers like his own. GODZILLA: King of the Monsters brings Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah back to tear up the planet.
It is 1950s New York as Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Mann and Alec Baldwin star in the film MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. Director and writer Andrea Berloff brings together Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss and Domnall Gleeson for the Vertigo graphic novel THE KITCHEN.
Finally, horror is back with a new friend and two repeat offenders as THE CURSE OF LA LLORNA wants your kids, ANNABELLE COMES HOME from writer James Wan and writer/director Gary Dauberman. Our favorite clown is back as the next installment prepares us for IT: Chapter Two with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Javier Botet and Pennywise himself Bill Skarsgard and all of it put together by director Andy Muschietti.
Now we can not be in Vegas without walking around in the evening to see the big lights and people watching that is what makes this working vacation so much fun. Watching the water fun at Treasure Island, visiting Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant of fish right outside the door of The Linq with Hell’s Kitchen right across the street. If you are looking for even more tasty treats, Guy Fieri has his steak house just waiting to grill to order, Robert Irvine Public House is next to the Tropicana, Nobu, and Searsuckers. Opening only a few days before our arrival is Vanderpump Las Vegas with her own unique style of flowers and class nestled inside Caesar’s Palace next to the Coliseum.
Onto Wednesday’s presentations, UNIVERSAL PICTURES begins their showings with my favorite creator Chris Meledandri who brings the question to animation of ‘what are our pets doing when we aren’t home?’ with SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 with Kevin Hart as Snowball and Tiffany Haddish as the new pet Daisy. Both made their way onto the stage and Hart was immediately upstaged by a rabbit that seemed to have an agenda of his own.
Dennis Quaid and director Gail Mancuso brings a look with the next chapter of a dog we have all come to love with A DOG’S JOURNEY. Quaid says of the film and the story that, “magical things happen in our own backyard.” Director Mancuso believes that the film shows how we can transcend lifetimes.
Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions says, “In film – all sizes matter!” and with that introduces Justin Hartley and Emma Thompson in THE HUNT. Then, the audience goes wild when Octavia Spencer and director Tate Taylor bring us a sneak peek at her first shot at the horror genre with the film MA.
Will Packer Productions brings Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin and director Tina Gordon with a big film about LITTLE. 127 HOURS and T2 TRAINSPOTTING director Danny Boyle brings Lily James and Himesh Patel into a little story that has something to do with the Beatles and YESTERDAY.
Seth Rogen brings his boyish cast of Jacob Tremblay, Josh Caras, Brady Noon and Chance Murstfield and Keith L. Williams to crack the audience up with a look at GOOD BOYS. DREAMWORKS brings the adorable look to ABOMINABLE, a story about Everest who is a 2,000 year old Yeti living in China and the young girl Yee who helps him when he needs it the most!
FOCUS FEATURES has brought giddy to a whole new level for me personally as the film DOWNTON ABBEY brings back the entire cast from the Masterpiece hit television series of the same name from the small screen to the big one. Now, the Crawley family is about to have a royal guest and its all staff at the ready.
Emma Thompson and Henry Golding along with Emilia Clarke get ready to celebrate the holidays in the film LAST CHRISTMAS. Thompson makes her way to the stage to entertain us and has the cutest snort-laugh I’ve ever heard. Also slated for the theaters is QUEEN + SLIM with Lena Waith and the film 1917 where time is the enemy.
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham get the audience going with a sneak peek at their film Fast & Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW. These two are on the hunt to stop Idris Elba who plays Brixton, a genetically enhances villain who seems to be tickles by the two.
Finally, director Tom Hooper brings a Broadway sensation to the silver screen as Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Judy Dench, Ian McKellan, James Corden, Ray Winstone and Jennifer Hudson bring CATS. If that isn’t enough, Ms. Hudson enthralled the audience with her rendition of the song Memory. She was stunning and our collective breaths were being held from the first note to the last, just extraordinary.
DISNEY wasted no time in delighting the audience with the upcoming slate of Disney, Marvel, Blue Sky, Pixar, Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox, Disney Animation and Lucasfilms now that they are under one roof. The list is long with STUBER, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, BREAKTHROUGH, THE NEW MUTANTS, SPIES IN DISGUISE, FORD VS. FERRARI, TOLKIEN, CALL OF THE WILD, AD ASTRA and ARTEMIS FOWL.
Not to be forgotten is the highly anticipated sequel of Anna, Elsa and Hans with FROZEN II, the coming excitement of DARK PHOENIX and the out of this world excitement of AVENGERS: Endgame.
ALADDIN brings Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith bring live action to the 1992 animated favorite. Director Jon Favreau takes the jungle from animation to live action with THE LION KING. Finally, Angelina Jolie returns to take on new threats to Aurora and the beloved Moors with MALEFICENT: Mistress of Evil.
PIXAR is bringing back our favorite toys with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bo Peep, Trixie, Rex, Dolly and the newly created Forky in TOY STORY 4. After a look at what is to come, all I can say is bring your giggles, your friends, family and Kleenex.
AMAZON STUDIOS brings Emma Thompson (and we don’t mind that she’s everywhere!) and Mindy Kaling with their work with LATE NIGHT. Thompson plays a late night talk show host and Kaling is hired to be the only woman in an all male writers’ room. They work together to bring back failing ratings and we think only these two ladies can make that happen.
It’s THURSDAY and we can’t believe the final day of CinemaCon 2019. So much has happened that this write-up is only a fraction of it all. Beginning the morning with PARAMOUNT PICTURES who start the presentation off on the right note as Taron Egerton stars as Sir Elton John in the film ROCKETMAN. Egerton says, “We always felt we wanted to be reverent about the role. We wanted to tell a raw human story about a great man. Elton was hands-off really and wanted us to have fun with it.” We can say it’s going to be a good time at the movies!
Director Alexandre Aja brings a little creepy with Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario in the film CRAWL. Paramount in conjunction with Nickelodeon bring DORA & THE LOST CITY OF GOLD starring Eva Longoria and Michael Pena, LIMITED PARTNERS stars Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne as two friends who want to start their own business and when they do Selma Hayek wants to take it all.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG brings live action to the screen as James Marsden and Ben Schwartz (who voices Sonic) fight off Dr. Ivo Robotnik played by Jim Carrey. Of course the audience practically lost its mind when Carrey walked across the stage with a huge tub of popcorn and an announcement that we all needed to see his Robotnik work in all its glory. Well, he wasn’t going to get any argument from anyone!
Carrey says of his role, “He is pure unbridled evil with a 300 IQ so I had to take a couple of weeks to prepare. I made sure that there were some winks, nods and edgy things that work for all age groups.”
I would hate to have been Jon Cena after Carrey’s popcorn fun with the audience as he follows to the stage with his film PALYING WITH FIRE. He gives it his best shot when saying, “This film is lit! It is the hottest film of the year! No other movie can hold a candle to it, you will not be able to extinguish it, it practically sizzles with excitement. Wait, the fire puns aren’t working. I thought you were going to love them but its not turning out like I thought. We are actually still filming but I came here today to tell you guys about it. The film has heart, comedy, great characters which make you think, laugh and cry.”
TERMINATOR: Dark Fate brings is directed by Tim Miller and stars Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Mackenzie Davis and sees the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton to reprise her role as Sarah Connor. Miller says of his cast, “I never knew that one day I would be continuing the story of these iconic characters. Even more so is that I get to do it the right way and this is a direct sequel to the movie that allowed me to bring back the original cast.”
Miller brings the cast of the film to the stage and Schwarzenegger takes the mic who says, “It’s really great to be back here and I want to thank Tim Miller and James Cameron for bringing us all back together again. I’m so excited about that. It all began in 1994 and changed my life. They cast has worked so hard and I am so proud of all the work they have put into this film. I’m so happy that Linda Hamilton is back, remember when she was in TERMINATOR 1 and 2 and doing pushups? Well, she’s back doing pushups again and I was blown away. It was like magic for James Cameron to come up with this story. I love this franchise but am bummed that I can’t do this forever so I can do this for another 20 or 30 years but that’s it, that’s all”.
Hamilton had to say, “Well it has been nearly 30 years since I last stepped into the shoes of Sarah Connor. She is a character that changed my life and I have to thank everyone for bringing me back into this world. This is an event I could not turn away from and I can’t wait to share this movie with all of you.”
GEMINI MAN is a film that brings Will Smith and Academy Award winner Ang Lee together to bring a story about a man who comes face to face with a younger clone of himself. Lee wanted to everyone to know that, “When you are a director and you can get Will Smith you should consider yourself lucky, in this case I get to work with two of them. Working with Smith over the last year I discovered that he is such a fine actor and this film shows that.”
At the CinemaCon 2019 Filmmakers Roundtable, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Anthony Russo and Dexter Fletcher share what it was like to see an audience watch their films. Russo says, “The only reason you make a movie is for the audience to see it. That’s been one of the great thrills for me. We have always been fed and fired by the audience reaction. You don’t know what you’ve created until you experience that.” Olivia Wilde says that it was, “One of the most terrifying experiences of my life. You never know how its going to go but the audience reaction was amazing.”
Fletcher says, “My first film was called WILD BILL that was a father and son story. They showed it to 16 year old kids and the feeling of their response was indescribable.” Banks says, “I made my first feature with PITCH PERFECT 2 and it’s very funny and very musical. When I took it to my first screening it was like a rock concert. I was throwing up in the back but the audience loved it. You always test and show it to people and make sure you are not insane before you put it in theatres. I knew the movie worked but I didn’t know it would be so well received as it was.”
To end the studio presentations before the award ceremony, LIONSGATE brings Joe Drake, Chairman of the MPG to talk about their upcoming slate of films. Beginning with LONG SHOT, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron star in this comedy of fun that comes to theaters in a few weeks. David Harbour hits the stage to push his upcoming little film called HELLBOY.
Our collective lady hearts skip a beat when JOHN WICK: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is introduced by director Chad Stahelski. On hand to talk about the film is Halle Berry who says that she wanted so much to be a part of the franchise that she didn’t need to read the script. For once we might be in total agreement on her movie choices because John Wick is definitely our man if we ever need someone dealt with!
I STILL BELIEVE caters to the spiritual and faith-based films that have become popular in recent years. This film is about Jeremy Camp who deals with the death of his wife and through it comes to write the song by the same name.
Jamie Lee Curtis takes the stage and just when I thought she couldn’t be any funnier than she was last year pushing HALLOWEEN, she proved me wrong. The film is KNIVES OUT which is about a family that caught everyone’s attention. Also staring Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer and the ever amazing Michael Shannon, the film is directed by Rian Johnson and will be out later this year.
And just when you think you might have a moment to slip a dollar in the slot machine or grab a sandwich or a Starbucks…it’s time for the 2019 BIG SCREEN ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS with host Natalie Morales from Access Hollywood. Here are a list of the winners and their categories!
Male Star of Tomorrow: Henry Golding
Female Stars of Tomorrow: Kaitlyn Dever & Beanie Feldstein
Directors of the Year: Anthony & Joe Russo
International Star of the Year: Kevin Hart
Breakthrough Director of the Year: Olivia Wilde
Action Star of the Year: David Harbour
CinemaCon Spotlight Award: Octavia Spencer
CinemaCon Ensemble Award: The cast of TERMINATOR: Dark Fate – Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie David and Gabriel Luna.
Comedy Stars of the Year: Seth Rogen & Charlize Theron
CinemaCon Vanguard Award: Jamie Lee Curtis
There you have it! Four days of everything that Hollywood has to offer for this years CinemaCon 2019. Jenise aka Film Brat and I are always surprised at what we see and experience as well as who we meet and become reacquainted with. We love what we do in general but CinemaCon is our chance to dive into what we love morning, noon and night.
Now that you’ve had a look inside the slates of these remarkable studios, keep up to date with us at http://moviemaven.homestead.com for the reviews and so much more. It’s time to hope in the car and take the long drive home. We have so much to talk about that I don’t think five hours will be enough for us. Of course we are both willing to try.
Until then – see you next year from CinemaCon!