Movies & TV / Columns

CinemaCon Day 4 Recap: Paramount, Mission: Impossible, TMNT, Transformers, A Quiet Place

May 11, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Image Credit: Paramount Pictures & Skydance

My apologies for the delay in finishing out my CinemaCon 2023 coverage. Real life has been throwing a lot of curveballs at me since I returned from Las Vegas. It’s nothing too terrible, but there were some pressing issues I had to resolve on top of some other work to focus on before I could dive back into this and give the coverage the time it really deserved.

CinemaCon 2023 closed out with Day 4, with Paramount Pictures presenting its latest studio presentation, including brand-new footage of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, A Quiet Place: Day One, Killers of the Flower Moon from Martin Scorsese, and more:

Paramount Pictures Presentation

The Paramount Pictures presentation opened up with a musical dance number much like last year for Sonic the Hedgehog. For this presentation, there was a music and dance number themed around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem set to “Can I Kick It?” Distribution President Chris Aronson then entered from a sewer manhole that was set up on the stage, wearing a TMNT Michelangelo mask, and then he started handing out slices of pizza to the crowd. Unfortunately, since I was seated in the upper balcony, I was not able to get a slice.

Following Aronson’s opening remarks, Seth Rogen took the stage for the Mutant Mayhem showcase. He had a very good joke, saying, “There was something very appropriate about seeing studio executives emerge from the sewers.” Rogen shared the story of how he got the call to work on the project and his approach to the film. Rogen’s main goal to was focus on the teenage aspect of the Ninja Turtles in this film. So, from the casting, writing, dialogue, and execution of the heroes in a half-shell, he really wanted the focus on them being teens in this story. Rogen introduced a new sizzle reel of footage for the film.

Paramount Pictures CinemaCon Presentation

Photo Credit: David Becker/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

For the extended CinemaCon footage, there is more of the Ninja Turtles meeting April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri). The Turtles ask her if they think people on the surface would accept them, and she bluntly tells them though. The Turtles then come up with the idea of tackling the crime wave sweeping the city, hoping to build goodwill to gain acceptance, so they can have a life outside the sewers. It sounded from radio voice-over footage that Superfly (Ice Cube) and his gang are behind the crimes plaguing the city. The footage then transitions to a scene of the Ninja Turtles meeting Superfly and his mutant gang. Things between Superfly and the gang seem peaceful at first. Bebop (Rogen) and Rocksteady (John Cena) both work for Superfly in this film. He also has a whole group of other mutants in his service, including Ray Fillet (Post Malone), Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou), and Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd). Mondo Gecko and Michelangelo had the most amusing exchange during this meeting, as they appear to instantly become BFFs, “I am likin’ your vibe.” “I am your likin’ *your* vibe!” It was cute.

It’s not quite clear yet if Superfly is the big bad here, but if there are Utroms in the film, I have a feeling Maya Rudolph’s character, Cynthia Utrom, will likely turn out to be the real villain. After the meeting scene, there was a montage of various clips. There was one gag, I didn’t particularly find very funny, where the Turtles were trying to show how cool and interesting they were while being filmed by April, and one of them started making a twerking motion. Some of the humor did seem a little dated. I’m not completely sold on Jackie Chan’s casting as Splinter. It just seems like lazy, uninspired casting, especially after he voiced Master Wu in the awful LEGO Ninjago movie. Chan as Splinter seems to be another case of celebrity stunt casting. At one point when one of the Turtles reveals what they did to Splinter, one of them responds, “You ratted us out?!” Splinter then chastises his kids, “We do not use that word in this home!” One thing I do like about the Turtles here is that they are clearly inexperienced and new to the game. It looks like they are just exploring the surface for the first time, and they have a very naive view of the world. That will hopefully make for some interesting character development and dynamics for the group.

Other parts of the film come off very similarly to the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse film series. The film looks to have a similar aesthetic and voice to those films. This is a different yet familiar take on the Ninja Turtles, and I’m still generally looking forward to it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem arrives in theaters on August 4.

Following the Mutant Mayhem showcase, Paramount & Nickelodeon Animation President Ramsey Ann Naito took the stage to announce the details of some upcoming theatrical, feature-length animated films that are in the works. Those included the new CG-animated Transformers movie, Transformers: One. This new animated feature will be set on Cybertron and will explore the origin of the younger Optimus Prime (Chris Hemsworth) and Megatron (Brian Tyree Henry). Other cast members include Scarlett Johansson as Elita, Jon Hamm as Sentinel Prime, Keegan-Michael Key as Bumblebee, and Laurence Fishburne as Alpha Trion.

Transformers: One - Paramount Pictures CinemaCon Presentation

Image Credit: David Becker/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

I’m not quite sure about the voice casting for these characters. On one level, I understand it, is similar to The Super Mario Bros. Movie. At the same time, some of these don’t appear to be the most inspiring of choices. That said, once I see actual footage and hear audio clips of their work, I might come around to it. No offense to Chris Hemsworth, but he’s not really a name I think up when I’m thinking Optimus Prime. Does it make sense to cast a different actor for a younger Optimus Prime for his origin story in a new animated feature? Yes, it absolutely does. And it’s not that Chris Hemsworth is a bad actor who is incapable of voice acting, but he wouldn’t be my first choice when casting Optimus Prime in his days as Orion Pax before he assumed the leadership role of the Autobots. I’m glad a new Transformers animated movie is being made. We’ll see how it does. The film is set for a July 19, 2024 release.

Also shown during Naito’s presentation was some new key art for the new big-screen animated movie for Avatar: The Last Airbender. The key art featured the central characters from the original animated series, including Avatar Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko. Lauren Montgomery, who started on the original series, and is an experienced veteran in the animation industry working on many of our favorite shows, is directing the film. On top of that, Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are also working on the film as writers and producers.

I hope Paramount and Nickelodeon do right by the original cast and bring back all the voice actors for the film and don’t try to replace them with celebrities. Now, would it make sense to possibly cast some celebrities and bigger names as some new characters? Yes. Even the original animated series had some prominent and big names in the cast from time to time. J.K. Simmons voiced a character in The Legend of Korra. But the actual film better brings back the entire main cast as their characters. It will be nice to return to the world of Avatar and see the classic characters again, and they will be much older and adults now. I look forward to seeing Aang and the gang as they face new adventures and move on to the next stages of their lives. The new animated feature for The Last Airbender will be released in theaters in October 2025.

Also for the new animated features, Rihanna will be voicing Smurfette for a new animated feature for The Smurfs. Rihanna appeared live for the casting announcement. It’s being directed by Chris Miller and Matt Landon. Rihanna is also taking a producing role for the still-untitled picture. Naito also revealed and presented some artwork for the next SpongeBob SquarePants movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Search for SquarePants, due May 23, 2025. I’ve enjoyed all the SpongeBob films, and I’m glad it looks like this one will be getting a theatrical release.

Next up for the Paramount showcase was Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Peter Cullen provided a pre-recorded audio introduction for director Steven Caple Jr. Caple hyped up how much of the film was shot on location for many of its setpieces to give the film a big theatrical look and feel. Stars Anthony Ramos (Noah) and Dominique Fishback (Elena) were then brought out to the stage, and they introduced the latest trailer for the film. Unfortunately, no new footage was shown. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts hits theaters on June 9.

Ziggy Marley also appeared live and onstage to promote the upcoming film, Bob Marley: One Love. The film is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and will be a biopic on the life and times of singer Bob Marley. The film stars Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley and Lashana Lynch as Rita Marley. It will hit theaters on January 12, 2024.

Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese came out next for a live appearance to promote his new film, Killers of the Flower Moon. The film is based on the book of the same name by David Grann. While Apple Films is producing the project, they have partnered with Paramount Pictures, who will be releasing the film in theaters. Scorsese pointed out in the introduction how he’s done multiple films with Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio, but this is the first film he worked on with both of them in it.

A first look at a new trailer was shown for the film. The film centers on a series of murders that were committed on Native American tribal land after oil was discovered there. It appears DeNiro plays a businessman who covets the land for its oil, and DiCaprio’s character is his nephew, Ernest Buckhart. Ernest happens to married to Mollie (Lily Gladstone), who is also part of the Osage tribe. Jesse Plemons portrays Tim White, the lawman sent to Oklahoma to investigate the murders. It looks to be an intense period drama. I’m happy to see the film is also getting a theatrical release. Following the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, it will be released in theaters on October 6.

CinemaCon - Martin Scorsese, Rihanna, Brian Robbins

Martin Scorsese, Rihanna, and Brian Robbins appear on stage during the Paramount Pictures 2023 CinemaCon Footage Presentation on Thursday, April 26th, 2023 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

John Krasinski took the stage during the presentation for two of his upcoming films. First up, the next installment of A Quiet Place, which will be the sequel, A Quiet Place: Day One. Krasinski will be taking a producing role this time around, with Michael Sarnoski assuming writing and script duties. Day One takes the story back to the very beginning of the alien invasion, except this time, the setting is New York City, and the film will follow a new protagonist, portrayed by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o.

Krasinski introduced a first look at new footage for the film. It shows Lupita Nyong’o’s character at the very start of the invasion when New York City is attacked by the creatures, who rip apart a bus she’s on. She’s soon forced to flee and fend for her life against the invading Death Angels. The footage looked very suspenseful and intense. I like change in locales. I hope the new film will provide some more insight into the creatures that the films have not really delved into yet. A Quiet Place: Day One hits theaters on March 8, 2024.

Next up, Krasinski showcased his next directorial feature, IF. The title is actually a shorthand for Imaginary Friends. This looks to be a whimsical family film that mixes live-action with CG-animated characters. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming. Fleming portrays a young girl who discovers she can see all the old imaginary friends of children. These imaginary friends have already been discarded or forgotten by their kids, so Fleming’s character seeks out to help them.

CinemaCon John Kransinski, Seth Rogen

Photo Credit: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

The showcase featured a new behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the cast and crew talking about the film. Reynolds described it as a “live-action Pixar movie.” The featurette definitely had that type of feel. It looks interesting, and it appears to be Krasinski attempting a style similar to the films of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis of the 1980s. The designs for the various animated imaginary friend characters all look fun and adorable. The film also features an all-star cast voicing the friends, including Matt Damon, Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph, Vince Vaughn, Richard Jenkins, Jon Stewart, and more. The film heads to theaters on May 24, 2024.

Last but certainly not least for the Paramount presentation was the showcase for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One. This certainly appeared to be a best-for-last situation, and Paramount provided an extended look at a 20-minute sequence taken from the movie, along with a new trailer that wasn’t quite ready to be released to the public yet. It was announced that the 20-minute sequence is not from the beginning of the film. It looks to be taken from early in the second act or after the initial action has taken place.

The new footage is set in Rome, Italy. Hayley Atwell’s character, Grace, is revealed to be a thief, who is being interrogated at what looks to be some type of embassy or consulate. She’s then brought to speak to her lawyer, who turns out to be Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Hunt is trying to find out the whereabouts of a valuable type of key she stole. It’s not clear yet what the key is, but it appears to be this film’s designated McGuffin. Grace admits to handing off the key, which is not currently in her possession, to a third party. She’s the only one who knows where it’s going. She claims to not not know who hired her to steal it.

Meanwhile, while Hunt is speaking to Grace, Esai Morales’ villainous character shows up at the office of the officer who arrested and initially interrogated Grace. He claims to be from Interpol, but the embassy agent isn’t buying it. Morales’ character starts taunting the officer with private information about his mistress. The officer then calls for help on his phone before Morales’ character stabs him in the hand with some sort of metal object (pen, knife, or letter opener). Morales’ character looks to be a highly skilled operative with no conscience or remorse, and he also appears to be interested in the key that Grace stole.

Hunt tries to escape the embassy with Grace, but Grace attempts to get away from Hunt with some clever maneuvering. Other agents, led by Pom Klementieff’s character are after them, presumably for the key. To add another faction on top of this, there is also Shea Whigham’s character. Whigham’s character appears to be a US government or IMF agent who is trying to bring Hunt into custody and arrest him. While Whigham wants to arrest Hunt, he does briefly help him during the chase sequence, when Pom Klementieff opens fire on both of them in the streets with an assault rifle.

Hunt manages to handcuff himself to Grace, so they try to get away in a car across the streets of Rome while Pom Klementieff’s character is giving chase. It definitely looks to be a fun and unique car chase, which is no surprise coming from director Chris McQuarrie. At one point, Hunt and Grace switch to a new vehicle, which looks to be a Fiat 500 hatchback that’s been tricked out by the IMF, but things are difficult for Grace and Hunt due to how they are handcuffed. There’s an amusing moment where Grace tries driving and has to stop the car so she and Hunt can switch places so he can drive. At another point, I recall the car going through the air or getting turned around, so they switch seats again.

The chase sequence is a big one with multiple segments, action, and humor. Pom Klementieff’s character commandeers a military armored Humvee. The sequence ends with Ethan and Grace cornered on both sides in their Fiat. Klementieff in the Humvee is on one side, and police officers on the other. Grace is back in the driver’s seat and hits reverse toward the Humvee. The footage then cuts to a montage of the Mission: Impossible theme and what looked like a montage for the opening credit sequence. I’m not clear if this will be the same opening montage/credit sequence for the final cut, but it looked like it could turn out to be the case.

The trailer also showed a bit more of Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), who is back in this film. Last year, I thought Kittridge was probably going to be the antagonist. Now, I’m not so sure. He does look a little shifty, but it appears he might be an uneasy frenemy to Ethan Hunt. Kittridge indicates that Ethan’s latest mission will tear him and his friends apart. In the new trailer, Ethan had a dialogue with Luther (Ving Rhames). Luther tries to point out that have to be willing to risk their lives, but Ethan is not willing to put his friends’ lives at risk.

Based on the footage, it also appears there are multiple factions. There is Ethan and his IMF pals, Grace as a wildcard, Shea Whigham’s character, Esai Morales, and Pom Klementieff’s character and her operatives. It’s not clear yet if Morales and Klementieff’s characters are working together or on the same side. For now, it appears that Whigham appears to be a good guy, but he’s simply following orders to bring Hunt into custody. Esai Morales’ gave off a very creepy, cold vibe with his antagonist. I look forward to seeing more of his character. I also can’t wait to see those sequences of Cruise driving over a cliff on a motorcycle and the steam engine train going over the tracks over a gorge.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One was easily the highlight of the Paramount showcase. Paramount also confirmed during the showcase that the film is being released two days earlier, and it will now drop on Wednesday, July 12 in theaters.

Lionsgate Presentation

Things were decidedly light for Lionsgate’s presentation this year since their showcase was mainly a screening for the upcoming comedy Joy Ride. Lionsgate showcased a sizzle reel for their upcoming releases for this year, along with revealing a new trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.

The new film follows a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth in the prequel, Donald Sutherland in the previous films) who has been assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) from District 12 for the next Hunger Games. It looks like Peter Dinklage’s casting is appropriate because the film definitely looks to be pushing a bit of a Game of Thrones vibe with the Machiavellian schemes at work. The prequel will be hitting theaters on November 17. The Lionsgate presentation then closed out with a screening of Joy Ride, which was introduced by producer Seth Rogen and the main cast.

Thus concludes my studio showcase coverage for CinemaCon 2023. Hope to be back again for more next year.