CinemaCon 2014: Clint Eastwood keeps it old school with 'Jersey Boys'

LAS VEGAS -- By Thursday afternoon, exhibitors’ eyes were beginning to glaze over after days of watching movie clips. But Warner Bros., the last studio to put on a presentation for movie theater owners at the annual conference, came prepared to wake them up.

The studio flew more in more stars than any of its rivals, bringing big guns like Clint Eastwood and Channing Tatum onto the Colosseum stage. Some handled it better than others. Adam Sandler, no stranger to performing in front of a live audience, made jokes at the expense of his pregnant “Blended” co-star Drew Barrymore, pointing at her baby bump and asking “who did this” to the actress. Fellow comedian Melissa McCarthy joked that working with husband and “Tammy” helmer Ben Falcone finally gave her an opportunity to say she was sleeping with a director.

But Tatum and Mila Kunis, there to promote the sci-fi film “Jupiter Ascending,” appeared rather uncomfortable in front of the audience of thousands. They stared awkwardly at the floor while reading a teleprompter with prepared remarks. 

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Even old pro Eastwood stumbled a bit, though he had a better grasp on his material. The director came here to talk about his adaptation of “Jersey Boys,” the blockbuster musical now entering in its ninth year on Broadway. A production of the show has also been in Sin City for six years; Eastwood noted that on his way to Caesars Palace he'd had a seen a billboard touting its No. 1 status in town.

“So we got a lot to live up to, and I don’t know that we’re going to live up to it with the sound you have here,” he said, referring to the theater’s state-of-the-art technology. “This sound system has blown me clear out of my seat. Actually, it’s the first movie I’ve been able to hear in a while.”

It’s clear Eastwood is trying to keep the millions of fans of the Frankie Valli musical happy with his film, as the movie seems to remain pretty true to the production. The film has monologues in which characters speak to the camera, and the movie is lighted as if it were a classic movie musical. The picture seems likely to attract older crowds; with no recognizable stars to speak of in its leading roles, it's unclear whether the film will appeal to anyone under 50.

“Tammy,” meanwhile, seems set to become McCarthy’s next mainstream hit. The actress plays an unkempt woman who takes off on a road trip with her mom after losing her job, and it’s full of the over-the-top, physical comedy for which McCarthy has become known. While in the midst of getting fired from her fast food job, for instance, she rubs her head all over a tray of hamburger buns; in another scene, she rides a jet ski flat on her belly, as if she were a dolphin.

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The only other entirely new footage that Warner Bros. debuted came from “If I Stay,” an adaptation of the young adult novel by Gayle Forman. The film is clearly going after the same demographic as “The Fault in Our Stars,” this summer’s other love story featuring teens torn apart by tragic circumstances.

Chloe Grace Moretz plays the fantasy’s lead, a young woman who is gravely injured in a car accident and is given the choice to live or die. Her parents were killed in the crash, but she is also falling in love with a young musician (Jamie Blackley) who desperately wants to continue his romance with her.

“This is unlike anything I think you’ve ever seen her do,” director R.J. Cutler said of Moretz, best known for her edgy performances in films like “Kick-Ass” and “Carrie.” “She will capture your heart and break it in the same moment.”

Of the big-budget, action-heavy films the studio previewed -- Johnny Depp’s “Transcendence,” a “Godzilla” remake and the Wachowskis' “Jupiter Ascending” -- it was “Godzilla” that provoked the most reaction, especially from Barrymore.

"I am creating life, and I started crying so hard at the destruction during that trailer,” she said when she got on stage. “It’s gonna be a huge success.”


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