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CinemaCon: Martin Scorsese’s Latest Leads Paramount’s Killer Presentation Along With Quiet Place Prequel Trailer

“Do they even make movies anymore?”

That’s when I used to hear from sources when I’d ask about Paramount Pictures. After weathering a rough patch, the studio has roared back under the leadership of Brian Robbins, posting a stellar year in 2022, with more success poised to come in 2023 and beyond.

Paramount kicked off its presentation with a foot clan of sorts — a troupe of dancers who “kicked it” for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. The studio’s distribution boss, Chris Aronson, wore a bandanna and brought out pizza before espousing the virtues of variable pricing, which the studio utilized for 80 for Brady. He stressed the importance of listening to moviegoers and giving them the theatrical experience they want before asking, “Why don’t we make them an offer they can’t refuse?”

Aronson then ceded the stage to Robbins, who took an immediate victory lap for Top Gun: Maverick, which grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide and scored a Best Picture nomination that some had thought was unlikely, plus Smile, which finished 2022 as the #1 horror hit globally after the studio decided to rescue it from a streaming debut. Robbins quickly confirmed that a Smile sequel was in the works along with Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and gave credit to his two lieutenants, Daria Cercek and Michael Ireland before promising a slate that is “big in scale and bold in storytelling.”

Robbins also noted that Paramount had its best year in a decade and that Paramount+ is currently the fastest-growing streaming service, though he cautioned that “we need theatrical to make streaming work.”

Before leaving the stage, Robbins promised theater owners that Paramount was “healthier, stronger, and better positioned than we have been in a long time,” and in addition to the titles listed above, their upcoming slate also includes Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator sequel staring Paul Mescal and Denzel Washington.

Robbins soon brought out Mutant Mayhem producer Seth Rogen, who said he’d been a fan of TMNT since he was a kid, and that he even cracked his own head open with a pair of nunchucks his father bought him at a flea market. His approach to this movie was to embrace the “Teenage” part of the title, and he cast actual teens to better capture that youthful energy.

I am very much looking forward to Mutant Mayhem, as, like Rogen, I also grew up a fan of TMNT. I wasn’t a Star Wars kid or Star Trek or Marvel or DC or Indiana Jones or Back to the Future. The Turtles were my jam though, along with Ghostbusters.

Of course, the hallmark of every great CinemaCon presentation is an Oscar contender, and this year, Paramount has teamed with Apple on the theatrical release of Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon. The maestro himself showed up in Vegas to give theater owners the very first look at the film’s extended trailer — a wise decision, as the studio will need theaters to book this Apple title, not that there should be too much resistance to a new Leonardo DiCaprio movie.

The trailer was, frankly, incredible — an epic Scorsese crime movie-cum-mystery set in Osage Nation. Now, I’d thought that Jesse Plemons was the lead in this movie, with DiCaprio playing a supporting role, and who knows… maybe it’ll still shake out that way. But based on the footage and the credit billing, DiCaprio is positioned as the lead, as Plemons is the lawman who comes to investigate a series of Osage murders, but there’s obviously been a lot of movie before that point — especially with its confirmed runtime of 3 hours and 26 minutes.

I’m telling you, between this movie, Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer, David Fincher‘s The Killer, and Bradley Cooper‘s Maestro, among others. I can’t wait to check out KOTFM on the biggest screen possible when Paramount releases it in theaters on Oct. 6.

Killers of the Flower Moon
Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon/Apple TV+

The studio delivered a one-two punch by following Killers of the Flower Moon with the trailer for A Quiet Place: Day One, which follows Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o as she navigates the very beginning of the alien invasion — and in New York City, no less. This looks much larger in scope and scale than the previous films, and it’s going to do huge business. The film just wrapped two weeks ago, so we won’t see it until next March. Keep an eye out for the trailer, which boasts some great copy that invites audiences to “witness the day the world went quiet.”

John Krasinski, the director of the first two Quiet Place movies and the producer of Day One, lamented the fact that he had to hand over his baby to Pig helmer Michael Sarnoski, though he was relieved the franchise is in good hands. Krasinski was unable to direct the prequel as he’s been busy making IF, which concerns imaginary friends. Sarnoski actually appears as an actor in that film… but he’s hardly the star.

That would be Ryan Reynolds, who compared IF to “a live-action Pixar film,” as it follows a young girl (Cailey Fleming) who starts to see everyone’s imaginary friends who have been abandoned by the kids who outgrew them. The friends themselves are voiced by huge stars such as Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph, Jon Stewart, Vince Vaughn, Sam Rockwell, Sebastian Maniscalco, Christopher Meloni, Richard Jenkins, and Awkwafina. Not too shabby…

IF looks like a fun high-concept family flick, and Reynolds has been box office gold of late, so combined with Krasinski’s recent track record, the movie seems poised for success.

Another movie that looked pretty good was the biopic Bob Marley: One Love, which stars Kingsley Ben-Adir as the Jamaican singer. It looked pretty good, and Marley is an artist I’m eager to learn more about, so I’m looking forward to this film. It’ll be released timed to the MLK holiday weekend on Jan. 12, 2024, though I imagine it will receive an awards qualifying run in late December.

Paramount didn’t bring one live-action movie that simply wasn’t for me, though if there was a live-action movie I’m a little nervous about, it’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, if only because the franchise has burned me before. On one hand, I really like the cast — Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback — and the fact that this starts out in Brooklyn in 1994… several years after the events of Bumblebee. Obviously, this time around, there are transformer animals — a gorilla, a tiger, etc.

On the other hand, however, everything just looks so weightless on the screen, which, once again, is just CGI-driven chaos that wouldn’t look out of place in a video game. I understand that this is just “how blockbusters are” these days, but I’m hoping there’s a real, human story buried under all those pixels.

Paramount Animation also arrived at the Coliseum with its own robust slate, highlighted by the news of Transformers One, an animated movie from Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley that will explore the origins of Optimus Prime (voiced by Chris Hemsworth) and Megatron (Brian Tyree Henry). Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson will voice Elita, Jon Hamm will voice Sentinel Prime, Laurence Fishburne will voice Alpha Trion, and Keegan-Michael Key will voice Bumblebee.

The studio also announced a new Avatar: The Last Airbender movie that Ramsey Naito, who oversees Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Animation, seemed especially high on, as well as new entries in the SpongeBob and Paw Patrol franchises. The Spongebob Movie: Search for Squarepants will find the title character facing off against the Flying Dutchman, who proves to be anything but a friendly ghost. That movie will hit theaters on May 23, 2025, while Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie arrives late this year on Sept. 29 featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Serena Williams, James Marsden, and Chris Rock, as well as Kim Kardashian and her kids, North and Saint.

Finally, Paramount Animation announced that it was resurrecting the Smurfs franchise with The Smurf Movie, and furthermore, that Rihanna would voice Smurfette, who she described as a “badass” in this movie, which will hit theaters on Feb. 14, 2025. Pam Brady (South Park) wrote the script.

Paramount ended its presentation with a bang — a new trailer for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, followed by a 20-minute sequence from the film that showcases Tom Cruise and his new leading lady Hayley Atwell, as well as their mutual driving skills. the studio announced that it’s moving up the film’s release date by two days, so it’ll now speed into theaters on July 12. this is the best active live-action franchise going, and it looks like director Christopher McQuarrie brought his A-game once again, though I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about how much humor there was in the segment we saw. There were just one or two moments that felt, potentially, a little goofy, though Cruise is such a great actor that he managed to sell them.

Overall, this was a great presentation from Paramount that showcased a range of films in different genres, none of which looked like outright turkeys to me. I saw the studio taking some risks, though I didn’t see anything that looked too risky, and I think the slate is both well-balanced and promising. The only thing I’d like to see? A renewed commitment to the R-rated theatrical comedy.

Grade: A

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