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CinemaCon 2015: DiCaprio goes wild in 'The Revenant,' 50 Cent, Melissa McCarthy pull a 'Spy' switcheroo

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Larry Horricks

Back-dropped by a thunderous hip-hop remix of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” and weaving between a troupe of back-flipping and pop-locking street dancers, 20th Century Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson emerged onto the Caesars Palace Coliseum stage to introduce what he termed a “global theatrical event”: the 3-D CG-animated Peanuts Movie (Nov. 6).

The first-look footage—never publicly shown prior to CinemaCon—served to establish that Blue Sky Studios’ animation is not content to rehash your grandfather’s Snoopy story. Employing a pastel color palette and an array of kinetic camera movements nowhere to be seen in 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the Peanuts trailer shoots for the middle ground between reassuring familiarity—re-introducing characters including Pig Pen, Lucy Van Pelt, Peppermint Patty and, of course, the Little Redheaded Girl—while putting on prominent display how Charles Schulz’s epochal cartoon creations are still relevant in the 21st century.

But Version 7.0 of the Peanuts gang was just one among a scattering of reveals during the Fox showcase Thursday morning. Putting forward a dozen upcoming projects, the presentation cast a spotlight upon the cast of director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot (Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell), a videotaped message from Matt Damon from the set of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi action-adventure The Martian, the James McAvoy-Daniel Radcliffe two-hander Victor Frankenstein, never-before-seen footage of David O. Russell’s Jennifer Lawrence vehicle Joy and a first look at Alejadro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s wilderness adventure The Revenant starring a wild-eyed Leonardo DiCaprio.

Call of the Wild

Shot deep in the Canadian tundra by Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who did things the hard way, utilizing only natural light for the production), footage from The Revenant played out with nary a word of dialogue and didn’t so much lay out the film’s plotline as scene-set its action within a specific milieu. DiCaprio is some kind of old timey mountain man with long, lank hair, a wardrobe of funky furs and leather pelts who’s handy with a musket in a gunfight. The audience was treated to scenes of DiCaprio fording frozen streams, doing hand-to-hand combat with fellow buckskin wearing frontiersmen and shooting at people from horseback. It played as both profound and populist: a kind of prestige popcorn movie with the potential to appeal at both the art house and the multiplex.

Ode to Joy

Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos introduced Academy Award nominated writer-director Russell’s Joy as an “emotionally complex story about a family across four generations” focused around a “woman who came to found a billion-dollar empire.” Not that the footage made immediately clear the movie is about the suburban mom who created the Miracle Mop. Although the quick-cut clip put the movie’s top-flight cast on display—Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Isabella Rossellini, Edgar Ramirez and Virginia Madsen among them—its lack of expository dialogue or firm rooting in any particular setting made it tricky to pin down.

Trading Places

“Hello, I’m Melissa McCarthy,” rapper-actor 50 Cent said as he sauntered onto the Coliseum stage to introduce footage from the ribald action-comedy Spy. “I jumped at the chance to play this part. The coolest part is the costumes. This is my 50 Cent costume. Now I’m pulling tail like Sinatra!”

After a taped interlude by McCarthy (“I’m 50 Cent!” she chirped) Fiddy was joined by co-stars Jude Law, Jason Statham and Rose Byrne who wasted no time praising her onscreen foil. “You’ve never seen Jason Statham quite like this before—being funny,” Byrne said, before adding: “Don’t worry he still kills plenty of people.”

Spy has been racking up positive notices since premiering at the South By Southwest Film Festival and it was screened in its entirety at CinemaCon on Tuesday night. Despite conventioners’ growing familiarity with the material, the trailer still seemed to go over big with the audience Thursday.

Paper play

Following up the $307 million worldwide box-office haul of The Fault in Our Stars, Fox’s adaptation of YA author John Green’s novel Paper Towns stands as one of the studio’s most eagerly awaited 2015 releases. New footage from the “coming-of-age love story/adventure-comedy” presents Nat Wolff as Quentin, a nebbish-y high schooler prone to pronouncements such as “I like boring,” and British supermodel-turned-actress Cara Delevingne as Margo, a wild child with a pronounced joie de vivre who enlists Quentin to help her exact revenge on her unfaithful boyfriend.

But when Margo goes mysteriously missing after their night of pranks, Quentin and his nerd posse go on a mission of discovery and recovery. “You have to get lost before you find yourself,” the dusky-voiced Delevingne intones with a kind of affectless American accent in the trailer.

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