CinemaCon 2016: Simon Pegg's roast of JJ Abrams gets bigger laughs than Baywatch
The star and producer of Star Trek Beyond upstaged the lifeguards in bikinis at Paramount's Las Vegas presentation. But did their new footage get lost in space?
Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have made their way to Las Vegas for CinemaCon, the annual convention where they pitch their forthcoming films to theatre owners from around the globe. Paramount Pictures kicked off the event with the first studio presentation of the week.
The venerable Hollywood studio made sure to highlight the fact that another Mission: Impossible instalment is shooting this fall (revealed by none other than Tom Cruise via a pre-recorded video message) and that not one, but two new Transformers films will hit theatres by 2019. The man of the hour, however, was JJ Abrams.
Considering his long-standing relationship with the studio it’s not surprising the convention honoured him with their annual Showman of the Year award during Paramount’s allotted time. Abrams was introduced by his frequent on screen collaborator Simon Pegg, who was easily the most entertaining presenter of the night.
Pegg, who first worked with Abrams on Mission: Impossible 3, noted his talents as “a producer, director, writer, designer, composer, actor – yes, if you haven’t seen his performance in Six Degrees of Separation keep it that way. Hold on tightly to the idea that JJ Abrams can do anything.”
The Shaun of the Dead star continued his subtle roasting of Abrams, adding: “His ascension to epoch defining filmmaker has been meteoric. In the last 10 years he’s directed two Star Trek movies and a beautiful pion to the Amblin years with his friend and mentor Steven Spielberg, Super 8 which I’m not in for some f___ing reason. What was he thinking?”
Of course, the duo did reunite for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was the real reason Abrams was being feted this evening. The Walt Disney Studios release jump-started a sleeping giant, becoming the third highest grossing movie of all-time with $2.06 billion worldwide. Abrams told the distributors he knows how lucky he is to be a part of the movie business.
“I've got to stand not the bridge of the starship Enterprise. I've got to sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and I've never taken a moment of that for granted,” Abrams said. “There have been days on each film I've worked on where I felt staggering pressure and a sense of utter doom. That's usually when I'm working with Simon Pegg, but all I have to remember is that these are movie problems and these are the luckiest problems in the world to have."
To the surprise of many in Las Vegas, Abrams and Pegg presented no new footage of their latest collaboration, Star Trek Beyond – arguably Paramount’s biggest release of the summer. (Pegg stars in and co-wrote the film; Abrams produced.) Instead, the studio announced official titles and debuted first look footage from a number of highly anticipated 2016 and 2017 films.
Denis Villeneuve's follow up to Sicario, Story of My Life, stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. The director’s first true sci-fi film before his Blade Runner sequel follows a linguist (Adams) who is recruited to help the American military communicate with an alien ship. While only a preview it was reminiscent of classics such as Contact and Close Encounters of the Third Kind if they were shot through the artistic eye of acclaimed cinematographer Bradford Young.
Speaking of Contact, Robert Zemeckis is following up his 3D extravaganza The Walk with Allied, a thriller set in World War II starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The teaser kept the storyline a bit of a mystery, but the period aesthetic was breathtaking, making this intriguing new territory for the Oscar winner. Allied is currently scheduled for a November 23 release in the U.S.
Paramount also officially confirmed that the big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences is finally beginning production later this month. Denzel Washington will direct and star alongside Viola Davis. With an end of year release planned, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play is the sort of prestige material that may allow the Academy to avoid another embarrassing round of #OscarsSoWhite next February.
That being said not all of the sneak peeks won over the packed Coliseum Theatre at Caesar’s Palace. Extended footage from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows wasn’t exactly inspiring. Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back will likely only satisfy its established fan base and those happy to see Cobie Smulders outside of the Marvel Universe.
The long delayed sequel to the Ring J-horror series, Rings, looked like a silly Final Destination rip off. Vin Diesel, a CinemaCon mainstay, sent a video message from the set of XXX: The Return of Xander Cage hyping the sequel to unrealistic expectations (it boasts “the best cast ever assembled”, he claims).
The climax – if you can call it that – was a preview of the 2017 tentpole, Baywatch. Still in production, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron joined the pre-recorded chorus as they surprised the crowd by introducing a longer than expected teaser. This new incarnation of Baywatch appears much closer to Fast and the Furious without the cars than the smart 21 Jump Street-esque comedy many were expecting. There were a few laughs in the room, but the response was somewhat muted. It even used the same font and logo treatment as the Fast films and even found a way to justify how much skin the female lifeguards show in the picture – apparently it helps them swim faster.
Mysteriously, Martin Scorsese's period passion project Silence, starring Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson, which is scheduled for release this calendar year, was not mentioned during the presentation.