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CinemaCon Day 2 Recap: MGM, No Time To Die, Warner Bros., Dune, The Batman, The Matrix 4

August 26, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
No Time to Die James Bond, CinemaCon

CinemaCon 2021 continued on Tuesday, August 24 with major studio presentations for MGM/United Artists Releasing and Warner Bros. Pictures, along with some major reveals and footage debuts. The classic Hollywood studio MGM featured a nice variety of offerings from Tuesday’s panel, plus a full action sequence from the long-awaited James Bond sequel, No Time To Die.

For starters, there were a few hiccups at the start of the MGM panel. Apparently, the panel inadvertently started with the sizzle reel that was meant to intro the Universal Pictures panel, and the video for The State of the Industry portion of the panel was missing. The staff had to reformat things a bit until the MGM portion got on track. Illumination Entertainment founder Chris Meledandri also came out to talk about the industry and the importance of movies and theaters.

MGM/UAR

MGM actually had some trailer showcases for upcoming offerings, including House of Gucci, directed by Ridley Scott. This appears to be the same trailer that was released last month, but I had not seen it until earlier this week. This film actually looks like it will be a solid biopic drama and right up Scott’s alley after some of his recent missteps. Not to mention, it has a stellar cast. House of Gucci arrives on November 24.

The Addams Family 2 also had a trailer. This trailer appeared to be a new one and included some new footage. The Addams actually translated over into animation very well, and this looks like it will be a decent film, where Gomez has decided to take the family on a road trip vacation. The new trailer suggests there will be a lot more focus on Wednesday and her place among the family. The Addams Family 2 arrives in theaters on October 1.

Rounding things out for MGM’s 2021 releases was a trailer for the upcoming musical feature, Cyrano, starring Peter Dinklage as the titular Cyrano, Haley Bennett as Roxanne, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Christian. This subject matter seems right up the alley of filmmaker Joe Wright, but I will be curious to see how he’s able to work with the musical format. For me, a big thing about cinematic musicals is whether the actors are actually capable of singing and nailing those high notes. A big problem with Les Misérables as a movie is that half the cast were not capable singers. Also, if the actors can’t sing very well, then there’s nothing wrong with dubbing over their voices. Hopefully that’s not the case here. Cyrano is due out on December 25.

MGM also presented some trailers for its upcoming 2022 releases. One of the trailers was for the upcoming Channing Tatum film, Dog. Tatum stars as an Army Ranger who adopts a military Belgian Malinois whose handler recently died. It looks like your typical guy bonds with unruly dog type of film. Nothing really special or exciting here.

Now, the trailer that did look shockingly good that I actually want to see coming out of this panel is Samaritan starring Sylvester Stallone. This is a new superhero movie that’s not based on any existing IP where Stallone plays a retired superhero who once went by the name of Samaritan. Since giving up his role as a superhero, Samaritan now hides out as a garbage man. However, after he meets and befriends a young kid who discovers his identity, he’s dragged back into the fight against criminals in a city that’s about to descend into anarchy.

The action in this movie actually looks good. It looks like director Julius Avery, who directed the highly underrated Overlord, shot the film like John Wick, but it’s John Wick with superpowers. The trailer started slow, but once it got going I became more and more intrigued by the film, and by the end of the trailer I actually want to see this.

Lastly, the MGM Studios panel closed out with a 10-minute sequence from No Time To Die. This is the Matera, Italy sequence. Bond is on vacation, possibly his honeymoon, with Madeleine Swann. But he’s been attacked with what I believe to be SPECTRE agents. The sequence opens with what appears to be Bond having dodged or escaped some type of explosion or concussive blast. He’s still suffering from partial deafness while talking on his cellphone. A thug on a bike, Primo (Dali Benssalah) and another in a car try to run him down on a bridge. Bond’s able to dodge them and jumps over the bridge to safety using a cable line. He manages to sneak up on Primo and engages in a struggle. Primo mentions that Madeleine is a “daughter of SPECTRE.” Well yeah, she’s Mr. White’s daughter. Doesn’t Bond already know that? Primo has a mechanical eye that gets knocked out in the fray.

Bond steals Primo’s bike and hightails it away back to his hotel. He angrily approaches Madeleine, interrogating her about how the agents knew where they were. Bond leaves with Madeleine in the Aston Martin, with the SPECTRE, or possibly ex-SPECTRE agents, hot on their trail. Someone threatens a kid to release some sheep, lest he be shot to get in the way of Bond’s car. Eventually the Aston Martin gets cornered, and the agents open fire. During the chase, Madeleine receives a call on the cell phone in her purse. An animated logo for SPECTRE pops up. On the other line is a sinister voice. Some people have told me the voice was Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld. It might have been. I did think the voice mentioned Blofeld, but I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be Waltz saying it was Blofeld or Rami Malek’s Safin referencing the character. The voice said (Paraphrasing), “Your father would be so proud of you. Your sacrifice will be our glory.” Madeleine proclaims she would never betray James and she would die before that happened.

After the thugs start opening fire on the Aston Martin, James looks contemplative, like he’s deep in thought on what he should do next. He seems to not yet be sure if he should act or if was wrong for trusting someone again in Madeleine. Eventually, he decides to act and activates the Aston Martin’s headlight mounted gatling guns to land some suppressive fire, followed by a smokescreen. This is good, old-fashioned James Bond action, and this sequence looked fantastic. Bond and Madeleine are then able to escape in the fray and get to safety.

It’s been a long wait for No Time To Die, but hopefully it’s now nearly over. It looks absolutely fantastic, and I can’t wait to finally see the finished product. It’s currently slated for an October 8 release.

Warner Bros. Pictures

The other big studio panel for Day 2 was Warner Bros. Pictures, showing up some of the studios upcoming offerings. While there was a good laugh and some snickering during the presentation in light of Warner Bros.’ putting so many of its major releases on streaming day-and-date, the CinemaCon reps boasted of Warner Bros. many theatrical releases over the course of the last year. The sizzle reel included some teases and snippets The Flash movie and The Batman. There was also a quick logo flash for Black Adam, but no major footage that I could make out. The major showcases for the Warner Bros. Pictures channel included James Wan’s Malignant, Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho, King Richard, The Matrix Resurrections, The Batman, and Dune.

James Wan takes to the director’s chair in the new horror movie, Malignant. As far as I can tell, this is a brand-new film that’s not connected to any other existing films. I’m all for that. The reel for this was more in the format of a behind-the-scenes featurette, so I didn’t get a great sense of how the movie will work. That said, I do think Wan has highly matured as a filmmaker from his days on Saw, so I expect him to do a good job. Malignant currently due out for a September 10, 2021 release.

Also featured in the showcase was a new Clint Eastwood western-themed drama, Cry Macho. This started with a look back at the work of Clint Eastwood and how his directing career began, plus a number of other filmmakers praising his work and directorial skills, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. There wasn’t a lot of new footage here, but there was some new interview content with Clint Eastwood talking about the film and the a love story aspect, and some of the production crew members on how thrilling it was when they see Eastwood in a western-style picture getting back on a horse. Eastwood is 91 years old, and he’s still banging films out on the regular. I can’t think of too many other filmmakers who are doing that these days.

Next up is King Richard, starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. This is the story about how Richard Williams mentored his daughters into becoming two of the top tennis players in the world. It looks to have a solid cast. But as a sports biopic drama, this does look to be a bit like Oscar fodder. Not to mention, it does appear that Will Smith is playing really hard for that Oscar again here. That said, I’d say this is a better role for him than Concussion, which I found rather flawed.

In terms of what was shown for The Batman, there wasn’t much in the way of new footage. There was a new behind-the-scenes mini-featurette with some new cast and crew content and some snippets of new footage and behind-the-scenes clips, but nothing too exciting or revealing. Matt Reeves expressed leaning hard on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One as inspiration for the film, along with wanting to make this the most emotional version Batman onscreen in history. Jeffrey Wright (Jim Gordon) praised the film’s use of Gotham City as a character, and there was a bit of a look at the visual style of Gotham, which seems quite intriguing and much more exaggerated than some of the more recent film iterations, such as Batman v Superman and the Nolan films.

After the mini-featurette, a trailer was shown, but it was the existing one that was released last year. I realize that DC FanDome is coming up, and a new trailer or footage might be saved for that time, but I’m rather disappointed by the lack of a new trailer or additional footage for CinemaCon. The Batman is currently due out on March 4, 2022.

As noted, the panel also featured the footage and trailer debut for The Matrix Resurrections; the fourth installment of The Matrix film series. The panel unveiled the Resurrections title for the first time, apropos as the film features the respective returns of Keanu Reeves as Neo/Thomas Anderson and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity. The trailer reveal was intro’d by some clips of Reeves and Moss talking about how revolutionary The Matrix was and how the film impacted so many people and their careers.

I’m not really clear on what’s happening here in Resurrections. The trailer featured an older version of Neo, who appears to be alive again; or at least his living consciousness, is still alive inside the Matrix. Neo, or Mr. Anderson, is seeing a psychiatrist played by Neil Patrick Harris. This older version of Neo has forgotten his identity or apparently anything from the Matrix, but he seems to be having strange dreams and visions. He asks the psychiatrist if he’s going crazy, and the psychiatrist replies, “We don’t use that word here.” Trinity also appears to be alive somehow, living a normal life but also looking older, in this seeming simulation.

Mr. Anderson also appears to be addicted to blue pills. Now, I’m not certain this is the case, but I almost got the sense from watching the trailer that Neo is suppressing his memories or true nature. Also, I got the feeling that somehow Neo is trying to fight to be reunited with Trinity. The film is not clear on the story details, how Neo and Trinity are still alive, or the current state of the human and machine war. From the trailer, the Machine Empire still appears to be in full swing, and it still appears they are farming and using humans for energy in their pods. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s character appears to look, act and dress just like Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus. He’s the one who gives Neo his red pill, and Neo is able to unlock and realize his powers again. There are still agents in the program, and Jessica Henwick did feature in the footage a lot. She looks like she could be one of the breakout aspects of this film.

Some of the footage looked really intriguing. However, I’m still not sold on this film yet. The bad taste the sequels for the original film left in my mouth still linger. I’m also skeptical they’ve found a satisfying way to restore Neo and Trinity in the story, and I’m not understanding why and how they are back yet. Also, the trailer was set to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” which is quite appropriate considering the allusions to “Follow the White Rabbit” and Alice in Wonderland in the first film. Those references were also prevalent in the new Resurrections trailer. Hopefully, the answers are more satisfying than the ones in the sequel.

Finally, the Warner Bros. panel wrapped this up with a look at director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. This is my favorite novel of all time, and I’ve wanted to see a major motion picture like this of Frank Herbert’s book for years. It appears that it will be much more faithful to the source material than David Lynch’s version. This began with another mini-featurette, and there’s a good sense of how high the production values are for this film. You get a great look at how the film uses a ton of practical effects, sets and props. Even the characters feeling the vibrating of the arrival of the Shai-Hulud in the sand is done practically in camera. Full ornithopter rigs were also built, and they look fantastic.

The mini-featurette was followed by the Spice Harvester sequence, which was introduced by Villeneuve. This is the sequence where Dr. Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) leads Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) on an expedition to check out the Spice Harvester being done on Arrakis. The mining operation goes awry after a sandworm is spotted, but the machine that’s meant to airlift the harvester breaks down. While the workers are desperate to salvage the spice mining, Duke Leto daringly opts to rescue the workers instead and has the ornithopters prep for a rescue operation, with the sandworm due to arrive in just minutes. The thopters land and Paul leaves to assist lead the rescue workers to them. However, Paul appears to get distracted by the over-saturation of spice in the air and sand. It appears to cause him to start experiencing prescient visions. Upon realizing Paul is not onboard, Gurney (Josh Brolin) rushes to retrieve him, and they barely make it back onboard one of the thopters before Shai-Hulud emerges and gobbles up the spice harvester.

I was glad I finally got to see this full sequence. The movie looks fantastic. It definitely appears that Villeneuve has managed to nail the scale and world-building of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi universe. The visuals look amazing and the production values look topnotch. Also, getting to see the sandworms for the first time was awe-inspiring. This is probably my most anticipated movie of the year, and the only way I will see Dune for the first time is in theaters. The extended sequence was Dune was followed by the latest trailer release. It hits theaters and HBO Max on October 22.