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CinemaCon: Paramount Takes No Chances, Except for Ang Lee’s ‘Gemini Man’

James Cameron's follow-up to "Terminator 2" looks strong, with Tim Miller steering the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton.

“Terminator” Dark Fate”

Paramount

On the last day of CinemaCon, Paramount Pictures’ Jim Gianopulos touted his inherited franchise hits “Bumblebee” ($462 million worldwide) and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” ($800 million worldwide) as well as “A Quiet Place” ($340 million worldwide). And as he replenishes the studio’s bare larder, he presented a conservative slate with two outstanding potential breakouts.

The fruits of his step-by-step strategy include family movies from Nickelodeon (Latin-focused “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” August 2), animated fare (“Monster on the Hill,” 2020) and a live-action Sega family movie (“Sonic the Hedgehog,” November 8) starring Jim Carrey as literally mustache-twirling villain Dr. Robotnik.

In the plus column, the choice of “Deadpool” director Tim Miller to pick up where James Cameron left off on “Terminator 2” seems inspired. While working on the “Avatar” sequels, which he began when Gianopulos was still running Fox, Cameron came up with the concept and story for “Terminator: Dark Fate” (November) and put together a project at Paramount with writers Billy Ray and David S. Goyer, David Ellison’s Skydance, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and ex-wife Linda Hamilton, returning to the role of Sarah Conner after 30 years.

The Colosseum crowd went wild when a ripped Hamilton hit the screen, guns blazing; Mackenzie Davis makes an imposingly athletic creature who falls out of a glowing orb stark naked and ready for action. Hamilton is the one who says, “I’ll be back.”

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“The cool new feature,” said Miller, is the new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) “can split, so he is twice as deadly.”  Schwarzenegger, sporting a trim grey beard, cited the original “Terminator.” “It all began in 1984: it changed my life.”

Also showing great potential –and financed by Skydance–is yet another risky and ambitious undertaking for Ang Lee, who returns to high-frame-rate filmmaking with “Gemini Man,” an adventure thriller starring Will Smith in two roles. His 50-year-old top-flight assassin is gobsmacked when he is confronted by his 23-year-old self, the creation of villain Clive Owen. “Of all the people to send after me,” asks Smith in the film, “why would he send you?”

Count on two-time Oscar-winner Lee (“The Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) — who told me on the way out of the presentation that “the last five percent is always the most difficult” — to deliver the advanced VFX as well as a compelling drama.

In a video message, Smith said “the emotional and physical challenge of this film were really insane for me.” He thanked Lee for his collaborative guidance. “We managed to shoot something that’s never been done before, an action-adventure exploration of what one’s younger self can teach one’s older self … The 23-year-old wouldn’t have been ready to take on this role.” He promised “nuanced, relatable characters, with some crazy action.”

Lee spoke to the crowd in person and admitted that he’s getting tired of so much Will Smith, who spent more than a year playing two parts in the film.  “The present-day Will Smith is a fine actor,” Lee said. “He brought a sophisticated character, with melancholy and courage. His performance is exquisite. The hard one is the junior, the 23-year-old. Will Smith is a better actor today than what he used to be.”

Lee suggested that digging through the layers of Smith’s personality to find his essence was a challenge. “The result is heartbreaking, something I never experienced before,” he said. Paramount insiders who have seen the film are passionate about it. Expect a fall film festival debut before its October 11 release.

"Rocketman"

“Rocketman”

Paramount Pictures

The main problem with the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” (May 31) is it looks an awful lot like Freddy Mercury musical “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was finished by the same director, Dexter Fletcher. Written by Lee Hall (musical “Billy Elliot”), “Rocketman” stars “Kingsman” breakout Taron Egerton, who sings John’s songs in this cradle-to-grave treatment of the life of Reginald Dwight, from piano lessons, changing his name, and playing “Crocodile Rock” at his first gig at The Troubador to wrestling through outrageous costumes, stardom, and drugs.

Jamie Bell plays lyricist Bernie Taupin, Bryce Dallas Howard dons a Brit accent as John’s mother, and Richard Madden plays John’s tormented agent. John told Egerton to have fun and put his own spin on his songs, he said. “After 50 years of hearing the songs, he doesn’t want to hear them the same way they’ve been done.”

Of course, horror is a staple of any lineup. With water-logged hurricane thriller “Crawl” (July 12 ), director Alexandre Aja and producer Sam Raimi deliver a scary take on what lurks beneath dark flood waters. “We do not give up,” the father (Barry Pepper) says to his daughter (Kaya Scodelario) as they fend off giant chomping alligators. “We are going to beat these lizard shits.”

Iffier movies on the Paramount slate include Miguel Arteta’s broad comedy “Limited Partners,” starring Rose Byrne and the ubiquitous Tiffany Haddish as store partners who are $493,000 in debt when they are bought out by a rapacious entrepreneur (Salma Hayek), yet another bitch boss on display at CinemaCon this week. There’s also brawny firefighter John Cena wrestling with three kids in “Playing with Fire” (March 20, 2020), and “The Lovebirds,” another couple on the run from cops, this time starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae (March 6, 2020).

More coming in 2020: A “Quiet Place” sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” starring Tom Cruise, more Sponge Bob Squarepants, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and G.I. Joe movies, another Tom Clancy installment starring Michael B Jordan (“Without Remorse”), and “Coming Back to America,” the sequel again starring Eddie Murphy — 32 years after the original.

See Paramount’s full slate below:

PET SEMATARY (April 5, 2019)

  • Companies: di Bonaventura Pictures, A Room 101, Inc.
  • Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, Steven Schneider
  • Executive Producer: Mark Moran
  • Directors: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
  • Screenplay by: Jeff Buhler
  • Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, Hugo & Lucas Lavoie and John Lithgow
  • Logline: Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.

ROCKETMAN (May 31, 2019)

  • Companies: Marv Films, Rocket Pictures, New Republic Pictures
  • Producers: Matthew Vaughn, David Furnish, Adam Bohling, David Reid
  • Executive Producers: Elton John, Steve Hamilton Shaw, Michael Gracey, Claudia Vaughn, Brian Oliver
  • Director: Dexter Fletcher
  • Written by: Lee Hall
  • Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones and Bryce Dallas Howard
  • Logline: ROCKETMAN is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. The film follows the transformation of shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John. This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the incredible story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. ROCKETMAN also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

 

CRAWL (July 12, 2019)

  • Producers: Craig Flores, Sam Raimi, Alexandre Aja
  • Director: Alexandre Aja
  • Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
  • Logline: A young woman becomes trapped in a flooding house during a Category 5 hurricane in Florida and must battle against several alligators as she tries to save her father and herself.

 

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (August 2, 2019)

PARAMOUNT PLAYERS

  • Companies: Nickelodeon Movies, Walden Media, Burr! Productions
  • Producer: Kristin Burr
  • Director: James Bobin
  • Cast: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Adriana Barraza, Temuera Morrison, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, Madeleine Madden, and Danny Trejo
  • Logline: Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure ever – High School. Always the explorer, Dora quickly finds herself leading Boots (her best friend, a monkey), Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), a mysterious jungle inhabitant (Eugenio Derbez), and a rag tag group of teens on a live-action adventure to save her parents (Eva Longoria, Michael Peña) and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost city of gold.

 

GEMINI MAN (October 11, 2019)

  • Companies: Skydance, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Fosun Pictures
  • Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger
  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
  • Logline: Gemini Man is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith as Henry Brogan, an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move.

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE (November 1, 2019)

  • Companies: Skydance, Twentieth Century Fox, Tencent Pictures, Lightstorm Entertainment
  • Producers: James Cameron, David Ellison
  • Director: Tim Miller
  • Cast: Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Logline: Linda Hamilton (“Sarah Connor”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“T-800”) return in their iconic roles in Terminator: Dark Fate, directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and produced by visionary filmmaker James Cameron and David Ellison. Terminator: Dark Fate also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta.

 

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (November 8, 2019)

  • Companies: SEGA SAMMY Group, Original Film, Marza Animation Planet, Blur Studio
  • Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toru Nakahara, Takeshi Ito
  • Executive Producers: Hajime Satomi, Haruki Satomi, Masanao Maeda, Toby Ascher, Nan Morales, Tim Miller
  • Director: Jeff Fowler
  • Cast: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough and Jim Carrey
  • Logline: Sonic the Hedgehog is a live-action adventure comedy based on the global blockbuster videogame franchise from Sega that centers on the infamously brash bright blue hedgehog. The film follows the (mis)adventures of Sonic as he navigates the complexities of life on Earth with his newfound – human – best friend Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). Sonic and Tom join forces to try and stop the villainous Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) from capturing Sonic and using his immense powers for world domination. The film also stars Tika Sumpter and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic.

 

THE RHYTHM SECTION (November 22, 2019)

  • Companies: Global Road Entertainment, EON Productions, TMP, Ingenious Media
  • Producers: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
  • Director: Reed Morano
  • Screenplay by: Mark Burnell
  • Cast: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Raza Jaffrey
  • Logline: This international action/thriller follows a woman who becomes an assassin in the hopes of avenging the death of her family in a plane bombing.

 

LIMITED PARTNERS (January 10, 2020)

  • Producers: Peter Principato, Joel Zadak, Itay Reiss, Marc Evans
  • Director: Miguel Arteta
  • Cast: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Karan Soni, Jennifer Coolidge, Ari Graynor, Natasha Rothwell, Jessica St. Clair and Salma Hayek
  • Logline: Female best friends who started a beauty company together find themselves at odds over the prospect of a big buyout offer. Suddenly all the differences that made them the perfect odd couple put them at war, threatening their business and personal relationships.

 

THE LOVEBIRDS (March 6, 2020)

  • Companies: MRC
  • Producers: Tom Lassally, Oly Obst, Martin Gero, Todd Schulman, Jordana Mollick
  • Director: Michael Showalter
  • Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Anna Camp
  • Logline: On the brink of breaking up, a couple gets unintentionally embroiled in a bizarre (and hilarious) murder mystery. As they get closer to clearing their names and solving the case, they need to figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.

 

PLAYING WITH FIRE (March 20, 2020)

PARAMOUNT PLAYERS

  • Producers: Todd Garner, Sean Robins
  • Director: Andy Fickman
  • Cast: John Cena, John Leguizamo, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Brianna Hildebrand
  • Logline: Playing with Fire is a family comedy about an elite smokejumper whose disciplined life takes an unexpected and chaotic turn when he and his crew save three children from a burning house.

 

UNTITLED G.I. JOE (March 27, 2020)

  • Companies: Hasbro
  • Logline: First movie in a new G.I. Joe cinematic universe.

A QUIET PLACE SEQUEL (May 15, 2020)

  • Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, John Krasinski
  • Director: John Krasinski
  • Writer: John Krasinski
  • Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: IT’S A WONDERFUL SPONGE (May 22, 2020)

PARAMOUNT ANIMATION

  • Director: Tim Hill
  • Logline: SpongeBob and Patrick go on a rescue mission to save Gary, who’s been kidnapped by Poseidon and taken to the Lost City of Atlantic City. The movie will reveal the first time our beloved characters (as kids) met at Camp…a magical moment that brings meaning to the power of true friendship.

 

TOP GUN: MAVERICK (June 26, 2020)

  • Companies: Skydance, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Tencent Pictures
  • Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Cruise
  • Director: Joseph Kosinski
  • Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez

 

COMING TO AMERICA SEQUEL (August 7, 2020)

  • Producers: Kevin Misher, Eddie Murphy
  • Director: Craig Brewer
  • Cast: Eddie Murphy

 

TOM CLANCY’S WITHOUT REMORSE (September 18, 2020)

  • Producers: Akiva Goldsman, Michael B. Jordan, Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec
  • Director: Stefano Sollima
  • Cast: Michael B. Jordan
  • Logline: Based on the novel by Tom Clancy about “John Clark,” a former Navy SEAL turned CIA operative.

 

MICRONAUTS (October 16, 2020)

  • Companies: Hasbro
  • Logline: Based on the toys from the 1970s and 1980s.

CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG (November 13, 2020)

  • Companies: Scholastic Entertainment, Inc.
  • Director: Walt Becker
  • Logline: Struggling to fit in at home and at school, Emily Elizabeth discovers the perfect companion in the form of a small red puppy. But when he suddenly grows into a gigantic dog and attracts the attention of a genetics company, they go on the run throughout New York, exploring the city in the process, and ultimately winning over everyone around them.

MONSTER ON THE HILL

PARAMOUNT ANIMATION

  • Logline: In a world where monster wrestling is a global sport and monsters are superstar athletes, teenage Winnie seeks to follow in her father’s footsteps by coaching a loveable loser monster into a champion.

MONSTER PROBLEMS

PARAMOUNT PLAYERS

  • Producer: Shawn Levy
  • Director: Michael Matthews
  • Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt
  • Logline: A coming of age feature film about a young man living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by monsters.

INFINITE

  • Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Raphael Crohn
  • Director: Antoine Fuqua
  • Cast: Chris Evans
  • Logline: Based on the novel, The Reincarnationist Papers, by D. Eric Maikranz.

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