Paramount and Focus Slates Aside, Cinemacon Has Been Largely About Promoting Idiot Cartoon Jackhammer Movies

Hollywood Elsewhere staggered out of Universal‘s Cinemacon presentation a little more than an hour ago. I’d still be there if I hadn’t decided to avoid watching F. Gary Gray‘s The Fate of the Furious (Universal 4.4.17), which is showing as we speak.

For whatever reason Team Universal decided to avoid even mentioning three releases that comprise their fall ’17 slate — Doug Liman‘s American Made, Tomas Alfredson‘s The Snowman (10.13.17) and Jason Hall‘s Thank You For You Service)l.

They focused instead on promoting five jackhammer, bass-thump, super-coarse, high-velocity movies opening between early April and late July — The Fate of the Furious, The Mummy (6.9), Despicable Me 3 (6.30), Girls Trip (7.21.17) and David Leitch‘s Atomic Blonde (7.28). Because slam-thunk moron movies make more dough that those aimed at 25-and-overs.

I’m not saying this is all exhibitors care about, but…well, this is more or less where they live and what seems to concern them the most. Morons and concessions.

If you didn’t know that Universal, a longstanding studio with a proud tradition, has a modest fall slate and that it’s making only the above-mentioned spring and summer movies [which it isn’t), you’d be under an impression that Universal has all but sold its soul to the devil.

Not just Universal, actually, but to a considerable extent Sony, Disney, STX and Warner Bros. Because they’re all making the same movie these days — the same assaultive, gutslamming, ear-splitting, cartoon-like experience that I’m calling generic superjizz.

And yet, curiously, Paramount is to some extent on another planet, at least as far as three of its 2017 films are concerned — Alexander Payne‘s obviously brilliant Downsizing, George Clooney‘s Coen-esque Suburbicon and Alex Garland‘s spooky Annhilation.  And don’t forget Darren Aronofsky‘s Mother, which wasn’t promoted here but will also pop in the fall.

Focus Features, which will stage a Cinemacon luncheon and presentation less than an hour from now, also resides on this planet Atomic Blonde aside, they’ll be releasing four adult-level standouts this year — Sofia Coppola‘s The Beguiled (6.23), Stephen FrearsVictoria and Abdul (9.22), Joe Wright‘s Darkest Hour (11.24) and Paul Thomas Anderson‘s untitled fashion drama with Daniel Day Lewis (opening on or near Christmas ’17).

  • DublinMovieFan

    Can you call SUBURBICON Coen-esque when it is in fact written by the Coen Brothers?! I might be being a bit nit-picky here…

    • Coen influence is obviously specific and authoritative, but Clooney’s signature stuff — tone especially — will count just as much, I would think. So Coen-esque for sure, but Clooney-esque also.

    • Patrick Murtha

      “Great Expectations is his most Dickensian novel ever!”

  • Raygo

    Charlize “Paycheck” Theron. There. I said it.

    • Patrick Murtha

      Seriously, what happens to some people after winning Best Actor or Actress? Charlize, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Cher, Gwyneth Paltrow; Nicolas Cage, Russell Crowe, Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Jamie Foxx. A good film here, a good film there, but no sustained record of excellence after winning The Big One, and LOTS AND LOTS of “paycheck” roles.

      • Dr. New Jersey

        Daniel “Payday” Lewis.

      • Raygo

        I give Roberts a pass. It just seems like she worked her ass off for years before winning, and seems to be the rare winner where she was content afterwards, and not so driven.

        • Dr. New Jersey

          And really, how many great roles in great films are available to anyone these days? If you want to work in movies today, you are going to do a lot of crap.

        • Patrick Murtha

          Fair point.

      • Bite The Dust

        The question seems a bit wrong: It’s not like actors like Berry, Theron, Brody, Foxx had an amazing track record BEFORE they one an Oscar. The one big Oscar-role is the exception in their careers, not the other way around.

        • Patrick Murtha

          Also a good point, although one might hope that an Oscar winner would feel inspired to kick their whole career up a notch. But who knows how actors think.

      • alexandercoleman

        I agree with all of those examples, save Russell Crowe. Whatever their merits or flaws, “A Beautiful Mind”–which, granted, was already in production as he was winning his Oscar for “Gladiator”–“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” “Cinderella Man,” “A Good Year,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “American Gangster,” etcetera don’t feel like “paycheck” jobs to me.

        In his case, he almost became a bit like the male 2000s’ version of Bette Davis from the mid-’40s until “All About Eve.” He made too many stiff, proper dramas and prestige pictures (don’t get me wrong, Ron Howard peaked with “Apollo 13” but still). 2007 felt like a bit of a comeback year with “Yuma” and “Gangster”; Crowe had that vitality back a bit.

        Crowe’s also retained an interestingness that many of these others lost along the way. He’s a bit like the old-time movie stars with the legitimate bad boy image reinforced by this or that brouhaha.

        Seeing “Gladiator” as a pubescent teen boy, it’s been almost jarring to see him quietly transition a bit toward “elder statesman character actor” the past few years.

        As an aside, just watching “Midnight in Paris” again, am I crazy for thinking it’s the best thing Adrien Brody’s ever done?

        • Patrick Murtha

          That is fair about Crowe. He did fine work in the years right after the Oscar. Post-2007, not so much.

          Brody was great in Midnight in Paris. He’s an interesting actor; I don’t think the industry knows what to do with him. He should work with more international directors, perhaps.

          • Krazyeyes

            Like Dario Argento?

            Brody’s Giallo performance is one of the most embarrassing I’ve ever seen from a once previously respected actor.

        • Bobby Peru

          His best is SUMMER OF SAM. And also great in LOVE THE HARD WAY.

      • alexandercoleman

        Another one: Morgan Freeman has seemingly been on autopilot since he won his Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby,” though he can still be charming in films such as “10 Items or Less.” Where of course he was fundamentally playing himself.

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  • RossoVeneziano

    So Annihilation confirmed for this year? Great.

    • Mark Henry Hopper

      Yeah hope that’s true, read someone saying it was 2018 now in the footage shown.

  • JoeS

    Jeffrey: “Cinemacon Has Been Largely About Promoting Idiot Cartoon Jackhammer Movies”

    Can you blame the studios? If that’s where their bread is buttered they are going to promote those kinds of pictures above all else. Blame instread brain-dead Movie-Goers who keep going to these “idiot” movies like sheep to the slaughter……….

    • Martin Foyle

      And go to them repeatedly it seems, that blows my mind.

      • JoeS

        Hey, that’s why I always blame audiences more than the amorphous “Hollywood” (as in “Hollywood has run out of ideas”!)

        • alexandercoleman

          I’m really glad I got off the “Spider-Man” bus with “Spider-Man 2” in 2004. I’ve seen large chunks of “Spider-Man 3” at home by sort-of-accident and jeez. No interest in all of the reboots.

  • Martin Foyle

    Yes, forgettable junk the lot of them, may be worth seeing the once for a bit of mindless big screen action. But they pay for the prestige, usually loss making, films. Been like that forever.

    • JoeS

      ” they pay for the prestige, usually loss making, films. Been like that forever.”

      Repeating that falsehood doesn’t make it true Donald T. Tru- er, Martin Foyle. Look at the Box Office charts in the 80s and 90s – plenty of Oscar nominated even ‘prestige’ pictures high on the charts. Not, “forever” by any means.

      • alexandercoleman

        I like what Peter Bogdanovich said about this about a decade ago: that once upon a time (1940s-1980s and even 1990s) Hollywood studios allocated most of their resources to their “A films,” which were prestigious dramas, sweeping epics, thoughtful character studies, war films with big ideas, crime films that had something important to say, etcetera, etcetera.

        Meanwhile, the “B movies” like noirs and horror and a bunch of standard-issue Westerns were allocated only so much.

        Beginning in earnest some time ago, though, Bogdanovich noted, Hollywood began pouring the overwhelming lion’s share of their resources into what would have been called “B movies” only a few decades ago, and the films which were once “A films” are now mostly left to studios’ independent branches with tight purse strings.

        • JoeS

          That’s what I keep saying here on H.E.. I think it was Vincent Canby* who said that JAWS 2 was the beginning of the end. It’s when a runty sequel like that could be considered a Major Studio release (the original film was a pretty good old fashioned action thriller). Yes, those movies have always existed, but, once JAWS and STAR WARS came along, the studios stopped thinking of them as their B’s and started looking at them as their A Pictures. *(a critic who I never much cared for)

          • alexandercoleman

            Agree with all of that–though I consider the original Jaws a masterpiece, but I completely get the context in which you’re classifying it!–and I also think that Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989 was the single major watershed movie redefining the multiplex “herding of the cattle” that we’ve had ever since, with subsequent iterations like “Jurassic Park,” “Independence Day,” 2002’s “Spider-Man,” et. al. continuing the onward push.

            In the ’70s, for instance, there was a balance, with Irwin Allen on one end and Francis Ford Coppola and friends on the other. The sense of balance has been increasingly lost in subsequent decades, leading to where we are today.

            • JoeS

              Just a point of clarification. I was talking about JAWS TWO as the point of departure here, not the original.

              • alexandercoleman

                Totally understood. Thank you for the clarification, though! 🙂

  • David Adams

    Didn’t stay for Pirates last either I guess.

    • Damn straight.

      • Iamthetvman

        I can’t wait to hear if you stayed for any of the Justice League crap. Just seeing the photos of them in Vegas makes me want to laugh.

  • Patrick Murtha

    “Generic superjizz” – I like that. And completely don’t care about the movies that could be so described.

  • MrRogerThornhill

    Fellow HE Readers,

    I’m proposing that we set up a GoFundMe account for Jeff so that he can enjoy suitable accommodations at SXSW next year, thus sparing Jeff and many HE readers of disheartening dispatches from Tent-Pole-A-Con.

    • Raygo

      There needs to be a web cam in the room, broadcast like a free-form documentary.

    • m_00_m

      I was at the music part of SXSW this year – cost for accommodations weren’t that bad. Plus they can’t be but a fraction of what it takes to head to Cannes. I’m thinking it’s less the cost in the bank account and more the psychic cost of hanging around a bunch of sweaty “Ain’t It Cool” neckbeards that’s too much to pay. Maybe a GoFundMe for some blinders and nose plugs will do the trick.

  • brenkilco

    Sofia Coppola is remaking Siegel and Eastwoods The Beguiled? That should be a different take.