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Thursday, 27 March 2014 17:35

CinemaCon Frontlines - III

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angelina jolieThe story on Wednesday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, was the size of the crowds that had come from all over the world to preview the upcoming films from Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures, meet and hear director Christopher Nolan discuss filmmaking, screenwriting, and the current state of movies, and as a bonanza, see the first laser projector, (only costing $120,000) present movies with the brightest colors and picture ever seen, accompanied by Dolby Atmos sound which blows away anything else, and brings you right into the picture.

Perhaps, though, the most notable thing was how screenplays have been uplifted and the bar has been raised, as filmmakers want every area to be beyond perfect and screenwriting has taken a prime seat.

Disney began the day providing a special breakfast treat for everyone when Angelina Jolie stepped out before the crowd to discuss her project for Disney, “Maleficent,” which will hit theatres for Memorial Day Weekend, and what a weekend that will be. Jolie is magnificent as the evil queen of “Sleeping Beauty” and the backstory of what happened to turn her into the mean antagonist most foul that makes Lady Macbeth look like a saint. This is one masterpiece of film, and Jolie is just brilliant in the role. The story is superb, and only Disney could pull this story off so well without becoming caught in the web of the original animated feature. Mark this one down as a definite yes.

The lineup for Disney is big, and kicks off in a few weeks with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This one is also from a great screenplay, with Steve Rogers battling the demons of living in the present, and, so appropriate for the current moment in world events because he must battle a Soviet agent called The Winter Soldier. The last CA was a blast, this one takes us where we have not gone with this character, rich in depth, story, and great sideplots.

Disney wouldn’t be Disney without animation, and has “Planes, Fire, and Rescue,” a spinnoff from “Cars.” Disney also reboots “Cinderella,” with a live-action film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Cate Winslett, Hayley Atwell, and Helena Bonham Carter, and this is also no child’s play but a stunning and great story written by Chris Weitz.

Another film screened was the Jon Hamm starer, “Million Dollar Arm,” just in time for the baseball season to begin, with a great story of a slightly out there sports agent who plots to get some Indian cricket players into the big leagues.

And “Big Hero 6,” is Marvel’s first project at Disney and what a project it is. Disney Animation did the work on this homage to big screen heroes in a story where the government recruits a young robotic prodigy to enlist the help of six friends to all become crimefighters and defend the world’s biggest city from a gang of very nefarious criminals.

Christopher Nolan discussed his career and what made him make film. He said that what’s inside a character also drives them as much as the external pressures they face, and he really likes to present complex protagonists rather than black and white. And in his latest project, “Intersteller,” that is what he does to carry off an amazing tale of a spaceship who discovers a wormhole to travel vast differences that are beyond human capability of the moment in the film, and what a film. Matthew McConnaughy, strait out of Oscar-land, follows up with a role that he brings more interest to than Captain Kirk. Wow. He is joined by a cast including Jessica Chastain, Wes Bently, Ann Hathaway, and a great group of professionals who give such gravitas to the film, including Ellen Burstyn, William Devane, and John Lithgow.

spidey v electroSony president Rory Bruer hosted Sony’s lineup, and it is big. It included a screening of “The Amazing Spiderman 2” in 3D, and also, the bar has been raised on this one, as Peter Parker learns that there is a price to pay for being Spiderman. The film gives the richest portrait yet of Peter Parker, as well as perhaps the meanest group of villains to ever come along – from Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, to Rhino, played by Paul Giammati, to Green Goblin and more – all with one thing in common – the nefarious Oscorp. It is a great action story, but also with human elements that make a superman at times less than normal.

“Heaven Is for Real” is based on the epic best-seller and true story of a young boy who dies and revives and tells the story of what he saw in Heaven. This film was done by the quasi-faith based arm of Sony that has sensed that pictures with God don’t have to be “The Ten Commandments” to command an audience. Writers take note, this field is wide open to you.

“Mom’s Night Out” starring Sara Drew, is a hilarious tale of several moms who just want a night out away from family and children, and with children being watched by husbands, what could go wrong? This great little story is well written and gives “Home Alone” a run for its money.

And together again are Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in “22 Jump Street” a riotous tale of the two pals who have graduated high school and now go undercover on a college campus. And with all the wild activity on a campus, these two cold be straight out of “Wolf of Wall Street.” It is very funny and will leave you wanting a sequel. Again.

Another sequel is “Think Like a Man Too,” directed by Tim Story, based on Steve Harvey’s bestseller (Harvey is a favorite of females of all ages, from 15 to 90, with a surprising group of seniors loving him.) The whole cast is back for a wedding inVegas, but so many hilarious things go wrong, the whole story gets upended and is what a hilarious surprise it becomes.

“Deliver Us From Evil,” is one hell of a frightener, with Eric Bana as a troubled NYPD detective Ralph Sarchie, who joins with a priest played by Edgar Ramirez, who really knows exorcism, to battle demonic forces gripping the city with disturbing and unexplainable crimes and murders. Based on the true book by Sarchie, this is one that will give you sleepless nights.

“The Equalizer” was based off the old television series, but this one way beyond equal. Denzel Washington is an ex-black ops agent living quietly who must come from retirement to battle a group of murderous Russian gangsters bent on taking over the world. Washington puts this character on par with James Bond, he is simply magnificent. And this has action and suspense the entire film, and is written by Richard Wenk and stars Denzel, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo as the good guys. I don’t know how these writers do it, but they come up with never before seen ideas for such suspenseful and big adventures for the characters, it will rock you.

Additionally, Sony has remade “Annie” for Christmas, and it for sure looks like a winner.

Coming in October, James Franco and Seth Rogan star in a comedy film made by the producers of Pineapple Express and written by Rogen, et al, that will split more than your sides. The plot has Franco playing a popular tv show host who is watched daily by dictator Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. Franco is asked by the CIA if he and Rogen could go over to Korea and assassinate Jong, which leads to the most inept assassination plot in history. And very, very funny.

At the end of the day, laser technology dazzled audiences as film scenes were played on digital projection, which is very intense color, and then on laser projection. The laser is the future and a big wow to it, a very big wow.

Additionally, OCSreenwriters got a few minutes with director Ivan Reitman, which we will bring you tomorrow.

tom sherakLastly, The Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year Dinner, a huge event attended by everyone from every studio, theatre owners, writers, producers, directors, everyone in the business, and hosted by Jeffery Katzenberg, was a tear jerker, as the entire industry honored Tom Sherak. Sherak passed away two months ago, just after being named by LA mayor Gil Garcetti as LA Film Czar.

Sherak was the model that no one ever sees of Hollywood, yet he ruled the town right up to his death, from heading several studios, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to devoting himself and everyone around him to helping others. All of us have attended charity functions he championed, where he brought the best in entertainment to help raise money for those in need. We have all sat everywhere from the vast Century Plaza Hotel ballroom to the intimate Beverly Hills Hotel, and he brought so many of us together for a cause.

He was the legend that raised billions of dollars for charities, including MS, as his daughter suffered from it; he was the legend who could raise money for charity in a second, finance a film in the next minute, and assist a dog breeder in Pennsylvania as well as get a script from a newcomer to Hollywood to be read.If Tom liked anything, the whole town did. Yet media portray Hollywood as cold and greedy, when Sherek led the pack for the last 25 years at being beyond helpful, but also not afraid to sacrifice for others, especially those in need.

And though the man who really ran Hollywood from top to bottom had many titles, his favorite was “Official Advisor” to the LA Dodgers, as he had followed them since his childhood in Brooklyn.

Tom was the man everyone called for everything. If your picture didn’t open good, Tom was there, and if you were out of money, Tom was there. So much in the town revolves because of his love for the city, and most of all his love for people and sharing everything with them. He started a fund for people in the industry who were older, called Pioneers, and it pays medical bills and so much more for people who worked their lives in the industry.

A tribute doc was put together that showed how Sherak, though so powerful, was till best friends with his childhood buddies from Brooklyn and visited each other, and the two best friends he had in service during Vietnam, very often. Their words, the words of everyday people, showed the enormity of Sherak and what he had done for Hollywood. Every star gave tributes, and everyone closed with Sherak’s famous goodbye line every time he closed a conversation – “Whatever you do, have fun.” Sherak said “we were the most fortunate people in the world to be in this business, it is so great, so inspiring, so interesting and even though we face many valleys, this business is so much fun.”

Those words touched everyone, and it was almost a 60’s LoveFest in the room as the Four Tenors, a phenomenal quartet from Canada, sang a song Sherak loved, “Nessun Dorma,” and closed the night.

If you are reading this, and you are in the business, you know it’s true – it’s fun. So long, Tom Sherak.

"Nessun Dorma"

Nobody shall sleep!...
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know...
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

Lorenzo P. is currently stalking the highways and byways of CinemaCon for OC Screenwriters.   Thanks, Buddy!

Read 1776 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 August 2015 16:17
Mark Sevi

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