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CinemaCon Day 4 Recap: Paramount Pictures, Mission: Impossible 7, Top Gun: Maverick

August 29, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
TOP GUN: MAVERICK, CinemaCon

CinemaCon 2021 continued and reached its final day this week on Thursday, August 26. The opening panel for Thursday was Paramount Pictures, featuring new showcases for the double Tom Cruise whammy of Mission: Impossible 7 and Top Gun: Maverick. This was followed later in the day by some new offerings from Lionsgate. Here’s what CinemaCon had in store for Thursday:

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures President of Domestic Distribution Chris Aronson took the stage with a Jackass Forever-style introduction. He offered a rundown of today’s presentation, including what we were about to see, and he also discussed Paramount’s success releasing A Quiet Place Part II in theaters during the pandemic, which has made over $160 million domestic thus far.

The first video presentation featured a short clip for The Lost City, featuring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. Bullock and Tatum were promoting the film and apologized for not being there in person while climbing a rock cliff. Tatum humorously falls off but is luckily on a cable. The Lost City is described as a new action-adventure, romantic comedy due out in April 2022.

Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell then intro a new special look at Mission: Impossible 7 while in a car. Writer-director Chris McQuarrie rolls up beside them and tells them they’re rolling right now, so they start driving as Tom Cruise continues talking about the showcase. The Mission: Impossible footage showcased one of the sequel’s biggest stunts, in which Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt rides a motorcycle over a clip into a base jump.

The footage went into great detail on how the stunt was conceived and shot, along with how all the rigging was built. As with past features, Tom Cruise performs the stunts himself. He did multiple practice skydiving jumps out of a helicopter to prep for the motorcycle drop. The stunt itself looks jaw-dropping, and it shows that Cruise performed the act more than once to get multiple takes. Cruise literally drives the motorcycle over a large cliff face off a mountain in Norway and has to launch his parachute to get to safety. He actually performed the motorcycle jump six times. Chris McQuarrie leaves us with a nice tease for what’s in store for Mission: Impossible 8. Tom Cruise is 59 years old by the way.

Following the behind-the-scenes footage, the Mission: Impossible reel ended with a montage of actual clips from the film. I noticed a number of returning characters including Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames), Alanna Mitsopolis (Vanessa Kirby), and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The clips were quickly edited, so it was tough to really focus on one thing that was happening, but Mission: Impossible 7 is easily one of my most anticipated films of next year.

The Mission: Impossible 7 footage was followed by some more Tom Cruise, as the audience got to see the first 13 minutes of Top Gun: Maverick. Fans of the original Top Gun will be happy to know the film opens up much the same as the original. The same theme music, the same opening crawl about the Top Gun school, and fighter jets being prepped for takeoff on a naval aircraft carrier. I definitely experienced a thrill when Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” started playing. I realized that I miss opening credit sequences like this because I like the music and seeing who is in the film and just getting in the mood for what you’re about to see. Getting an updated version of the opening credit sequence from the original was probably the best choice Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski could have made for the film.

Following the opening credit sequence, the film goes to Pete “Maverick” Mitchell who appears to now own his own plane and air hangar. He’s prepping for a test flight and goes to a high security base. After arriving, Maverick is told that they have to stand down and that Admiral Cain (Ed Harris) is cutting the budget of their program. Admiral Cain supports drones and unmanned flights since the jet has not yet reached Mach 10 speeds. Maverick decides to go ahead with the test flight anyway since Cain has not yet arrived at the airfield. He boards the jet and puts on his gear, saying “Talk to me Goose,” recalling his fallen friend from the original. Maverick takes off in the experimental jet just as Admiral Cain arrives.
Admiral Cain walks into mission control, but Maverick pretends his comms are malfunctioning when Cain orders Maverick to stand down.

The jet then reaches the original target speed of Mach 9. Maverick continues to push it to the desired speed of Mach 10, and then he pushes it even further. After reaching a ludicrous speed, the jet starts to fall apart and all communications are lost. Of course, this woudn’t be much of a movie if Tom Cruise died in the first 10 minutes. Luckily, Maverick successfully ejects into safety, and he is able to walk into a diner in the middle of nowhere, much to the befuddlement of all the patrons. Maverick kindly asks for the glass of water the waitress is carrying to the table and then asks everyone where he is. A kid looking at Maverick in total awe remarks, “Earth.”

The opening 13 minutes of the Top Gun: Maverick CinemaCon showcase concluded with a sizzle reel of footage from the film. Rather than getting thrown out of the service, it appears Maverick’s punishment is being sent to become an instructor at the Top Gun flight school, at the behest of Iceman (Val Kilmer, who is credited in the opening sequence and set to appear in this film). Maverick is training his students for some type of elite combat mission. Some interaction is shown between Maverick and Goose’s son (Miles Teller), who tells Maverick, “My dad believed in you. I won’t make the same mistake.” The pressure of Maverick’s responsibility weighs heavily on him, as he does not want any of these young pilots to die.

Top Gun: Maverick is currently due to arrive in theaters on November 19. The Paramount Pictures CinemaCon panel concluded with a surprise screening of the full movie for Clifford the Big Red Dog. While the film’s release date was recently delayed, Paramount’s Aronson sounded very confident about the film “testing through the roof” with audiences and showing it to exhibitors at CinemaCon this week.

Lionsgate

The final major studio presentation for CinemaCon 2021 was Lionsgate. Famed director Rolan Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla 1998) introduced his new upcoming blockbuster, Moonfall. In this new action-disaster pic, it appears the moon is coming to the Earth to destroy it. The presentation featured an opening scene from the film. Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry are astronauts on a satellite repair mission in 2011. Some bizarre phenomenon that almost appears to be extraterrestrial, attacks the shuttle. One of the astronauts is killed. Patrick Wilson’s character narrowly survives, along with Berry’s, and he has to save their shuttle from tumbling out of control. This was followed by sizzle reel of footage from the film, showing disaster phenomenon of the moon getting closer to Earth.

I’m not clear exactly what’s going on here and whether this is just a disaster film from the moon colliding with Earth, but the trailer also seemed to suggest there was some alien or sci-fi weirdness going on here with some alien looking spacecraft and structures. Moonfall is due out in February 2022.

Lionsgate also showcased a first look at the upcoming supernatural horror film, The Devil’s Light. The teaser trailer showcased a Catholic nun getting ready to conduct a dangerous exorcism in what looks to be a high-tech, massive security holding cell for the Vatican. After the nun (Jacqueline Byers) enters a creepy dark holding cell, it appears she’s abducted from behind. The film is directed by Daniel Stamm and is currently due out on February 11, 2022.

The CinemaCon Lionsgate presentation continued with a look at the the Kurt Warner football biopic, American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story, with a new trailer and also a scene from the film. Zach Levi stars as Kurt Warner, along with Dennis Quaid as Dick Vermeil and Anna Paquin as Brenda Warner. This looks like your typical, feel-good sports film. Kurt Warner appeared in a video message talking about partnering with The Erwin Brothers and how long he has wanted to tell his story. Zach Levi also promoted another movie he’s working on with The Erwin Brothers, Unbreakable Boy, where he portrays the father of a young boy with brittle-bone disease and autism. Unbreakable Boy is due to arrive in March 2022. American Underdog will hit theaters on December 25.

Another Lionsgate CinemaCon showcase was the upcoming Nicolas Cage picture, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Cage riffs on himself and his film career. A down on his luck Cage is at the end of his rope and ready to quit acting until his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) informs him of a high-paying gig. He’ll get $1 million to spend time with a big superfan (Pedro Pascal). However, this superfan turns out to be a dangerous drug lord of a cartel. The US government then asks for Cage’s assistance to take the drug lord down.

This is a somewhat meta and goofy premise, but the film actually looks like it could be a lot of fun with the Cage goofiness and of course, Pedro Pascal. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent arrives in theaters on April 22, 2022.

While no footage was shown, there was an update of John Wick 4 during the panel. The film is currently in production, and Keanu Reeves is working on filming the movie overseas in Japan, France, and Germany. The Lionsgate studio executive boasted how the film went from a modest gross to a worldwide box office powerhouse and global franchise hit.

Sadly, there wasn’t a more in-depth first look during the Lionsgate CinemaCon panel for the upcoming Borderlands movie. The panel ended with a sizzle reel that featured some quick clips and footage, including looks at Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Cate Blanchett as their characters. I was disappointed there wasn’t more. The footage did show a Psycho bandit from the film, and it looks like it jumped right out of the game, complete with the gas mask.

The Borderlands movie is directed by Eli Roth and is currently in the works.