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CinemaCon Day 3 Recap: Universal Pictures & Focus Features, Jurassic World: Dominion, Halloween Kills, The Northmen

August 27, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Jurassic World Dominion, CinemaCon

CinemaCon 2021 continued on Wednesday, August 25. The day started off with Disney showing a full screening of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Disney chose not to have a panel or presentation this year, so Shang-Chi was screened in full for guests instead. I will have a full review up for that one later on. The major presentation for Wednesday featured Universal Pictures & Focus features.

Universal Pictures

I liked how Universal generally formatted its presentation for this year’s CinemaCon. It had the actors or stars of one of their upcoming features in a pre-recorded message talking about one of their favorite movie theaters to go to, and then an owner or worker from that theater would say a few words before the showing of the upcoming presentation. As I recall, things started off with a new trailer for Sing 2. It looks like all the central characters and actors from the first film are back, and they’ve reunited for a new type of singing or musical competition show. Also, Bono plays a lion. Interestingly enough, the trailer was based around Scarlett Johansson’s Ash singing U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Ash’s performance inspires Bono’s Clay so much that Clay finally picks up his guitar to join her performance.

Jamie Lee Curtis showcased the Magic Lantern in Ketchum, Idaho. I enjoyed the showcasing of the local theaters, some of which are mom and pop venues, who have been struggling during the pandemic, along with the longtime workers or owners who were given the chance to spotlight their theaters and the upcoming films.

Of course, Curtis’ message was a prelude to a new look at Halloween Kills, the next installment of the franchise, continuing from where the latest film, 2018’s Halloween, left off. Curtis’ Laurie Strode reunites with the other survivors of Michael Myers from the original, and Michael appears to be going on a killing spree, heading back to his childhood home. It looks like the franchise will continue yet again with Halloween Ends. So, it seems unlikely that Michael Myers will be dealt with for good here.

The Universal CinemaCon panel then showed a pre-recorded video from Ethan Hawke, who talked about his next film with producer Jason Blum for Blumhouse Productions, The Black Phone. The upcoming horror film is directed by Doctor Strange and Sinister filmmaker Scott Derrickson. This is a new horror thriller where Hawke portrays the villain, a dark serial killer and child abductor who moonlights as a magician. Hawke’s character abducts a young boy and imprisons him in a basement with a black phone. The boy starts receiving phone calls from beyond the grave, apparently from the evil kidnapper’s past victims, apparently instructing the boy on how to escape. Hawke looks quite creepy and almost satanic here as the kidnapper. The Black Phone Arrives on January 28.

Actor Anthony Ramos introduced the new DreamWorks Animation comedy, The Bad Guys. This film is about a band of anthropomorphic con artists led by Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell). After getting the feels when he helps an old lady, Mr. Wolf decides he’s done being a bad guy and wants to go straight and convinces his other crook friends to join him: Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson); Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina); Mr. Piranha (Ramos); and Mr. Snake (Marc Maron). The premise is a bit like Wreck-It Ralph, but I found it interesting that the animation style looked different than your typical CG-animated feature. It almost looked more traditionally animated and hand-drawn than it did CG. The direction looked solid. I’m also curious because from the looks of things, anthropomorphized animals live in a world with humans who can also talk to and understand the animals. So, it’s not a world of anthropomorphized talking animals like Sing and Zootopia. The animated feature hits theaters on April 15, 2022.

Lupita Nyong’o was up next to introduce her upcoming spy thriller, The 355, for CinemaCon. In this film, from Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg, Jessica Chastain organizes a band of elite female operators for a dangerous, off-the-books mission to eliminate a terrorist threat. The team also includes Diane Kruger, Bingbing Fan, Penelope Cruz, and Nyong’o. Sebastian Stan is also part of the cast, who seems to be one of the male allies for Chastain’s character. Edgar Ramirez looks to be one of the bad guys. It’s definitely a good concept and premise, but Kinberg’s involvement gives me pause and second thoughts.

Jennifer Lopez also introduced her new romantic comedy, Marry Me, which also stars Owen Wilson and Sarah Silverman, for CinemaCon. Wilson is a single father and teacher who unwittingly goes to a concert for J-Lo, who portrays an international pop star. She was supposed to get married to her pop-star boyfriend during the concert, but she discovers she cheated on her in a viral video right before she was supposed to go on stage. Seeing Wilson’s character holding a “Will you marry me?” sign in the crowd, she decides to pick him out of everyone there and marry him onstage. High jinks ensue. John Bradley, aka Samwell Tarly of Game of Thrones fame, portrays the manager for J-Lo’s character. Well, it’s certainly nice to see Bradley getting more work, and at least he’s picking out some diverse roles. This looks like your typical sort of Hollywood rom-com.

There was an extended first look at the new Michael Bay action heist-thriller Ambulance, which was introduced by Jake Gyllenhaal for the Universal Pictures CinemaCon panel. In Ambulance, Gyllenhaal stars opposite Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who appears to be blowing up right now in terms of prominent roles in some major features between this film, Candyman, his return for Aquaman II, and The Matrix Resurrections. Abdul-Mateen’s character is a former soldier, and his wife is in desperate need of a costly operation. In order to get funds, he’s persuaded by his best friend, Gyllenhaal’s character, into performing a bank heist. Unfortunately, the heist goes bad, and the two men end up stealing an ambulance that’s loaded with a lone EMT (Eiza González) and a cop shot by Abdul-Mateen’s character during the heist.

If you like Michael Bay’s material and heist movies, this looks like it will be right up your alley. There will be suspense, guns, explosions, and shootouts, not to mention a chase across Los Angeles in an ambulance. The first look basically seemed to summarize the bits from the entire movie and may have given away a bit too much. For example, it appears the relationship between Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen’s characters will break down over the course of the film. I’m not a huge Michael Bay fan, but this does look like a decent action heist flick. It’s due out on February 18, 2022.

Ben Platt then introduced a footage reel for the upcoming film adaptation of the musical, Dear Evan Hansen, which is due for release on September 24. The film stars Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever and Nik Dodani. This rounded out the Universal Pictures portion of the presentation before Focus Features President of Distribution took the stage to start off the Focus Features side of the CinemaCon panel.

Focus Features

Moving over to the Focus Features side for the CinemaCon presentation, Edgar Wright introduced his upcoming psychological thriller, Last Night In Soho. This film looks excellent, and Wright trying some straight-up mind-bending, psychological horror is just what the doctor ordered. Thomasin McKenzie is Eloise, a young aspiring fashion designer who moves to London. However, she soon starts having visions where she’s transported back into the life of a young girl in London in the 1960s, Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy). Sandy begins a relationship with a dashing young man, Jack (Matt Smith). However, things soon turn sour, and it seems to end with Sandy’s murder. Now McKenzie has to make sense of her visions and try to discover the secrets behind Sandy’s murder and discover Jack in present day. The film also stars Terence Stamp. It opens in theaters on October 29; just in time for Halloween.

Kenneth Branagh was up next to introduce his new family drama, Belfast. Set during time of The Troubles in 1969 Belfast, an Irish family struggles to stay together. The film looks to be entirely presented in black and white and has a stellar cast, including Catriona Balfe, Dame Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, and Jamie Dornan. The film arrives on November 12.

Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) then presented a new look at his upcoming Viking movie, The Northman, due out next year. Now, this is by far the movie movie I’m most excited about coming out of the panel. I don’t think there’s ever been a modern Viking movie of this scale and scope, a major big screen motion picture, with this level of production values in recent memory. Essentially, this looks like a live-action version of Vinland Saga and appears to follow a young boy who wants revenge for his father’s murder. It stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Kate Dickie, and Ralph Ineson. This looks to be Eggers’ most intense and epic movie yet. The film could potentially put Eggers in the stratosphere and start earning him much more major, mainstream attention. This is easily one of my most anticipated films of next year and looks to be the most epic Viking movie ever made. Look for the film on April 8, 2022.

The Crawley Family is back in Downton Abbey: A New Era. I’m sad to say I’m not a huge Downton Abbey, so I didn’t even realize this is the second movie based on the franchise, with the first being released in 2019. The Focus Features panel did feature a new teaser trailer for the upcoming film, which stars Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, and Dominic West. The film is due out on March 18, 2022.

Jurassic World: Dominion

The Universal CinemaCon panel closed things out by moving back to Universal Pictures for a special early look at Jurassic World: Dominion. This was mostly a behind-the-scenes look, but there was new footage and clips from the film. The footage focused on the original cast members from the first three movies (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum) coming back and reprising their roles and working alongside the new Jurassic World characters, portrayed by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Director Colin Trevorrow noted that this film will finally answer the question posed by the first film: what if dinosaurs lived among us today, and would we be safe? The answer to the latter is an obvious “no.” The new clips showed dinosaurs in major cities. You see some raptors chasing Owen on a motorcycle again. It looked like there was another sequence of a female cast member running across rooftops while being chased by a raptor. The dinosaurs have now reached the mainland and highly populated cities. Letting them all escape the mansion from the end of the last movie was probably a really stupid idea. Jurassic World: Dominion arrives on June 10, 2022.

Remember you can check out my CinemaCon recaps for Day 1 and Day 2.