After closing down the New York Film Festival on Sunday night with the Robert Zemeckis-directed Flight, Paramount chief Brad Grey and production topper Adam Goodman hung around Gotham for an extra day to show a promo reel from its slate through 2014.
Flanking Grey in the Paramount screening room at 15125 Broadway were Flight helmer Robert Zemeckis and David Chase, the Sopranos creator whose feature film debut Not Fade Away (see the trailer here) was part of a reel that included another Transformers and the Star Trek sequel (they showed JJ Abrams’ appearance on Conan O’Brien, where the ultra-secretive JJ was eager to show three frames of Star Trek Into Darkness, a humorous aside because you couldn’t see a thing). There was Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise who, despite being nearly a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the hulking hero of Lee Child’s book, capably kicks ass in the launch of yet another franchise, with another Mission: Impossible clearly in the offing. There was the G.I. Joe sequel, pushed to next year and now in 3D and built around Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. And the relaunch of the Jack Ryan franchise with Star Trek‘s Chris Pine, who just signed with CAA and seems an agency’s ultimate catch since he will soon be on firm footing headlining two big franchises.
I have to say, the footage that was most surprisingly impressive was Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, but most of all the much maligned World War Z with Brad Pitt. Pain & Gain began with a bulked-up Mark Wahlberg doing situps hanging from a billboard, and then running from the cops until he gets hit by a car. Then it gets crazy from there as he and Johnson are shown so ripped and so jacked in this steroid abuse tale that the MPAA might consider testing thesps for performance enhancing drugs after this one. It looked like a crazy ride.
Then there was World War Z, with Brad Pitt and The Killing‘s Mireielle Enos sitting in traffic with their children just as a zombie apocalypse engulfs them. After The Walking Dead and so many zombie movies, it would seem next to impossible to come up with much original to the brain-eating corpse genre, but how about this: fast-moving zombies that operate like swarms of fire ants, making it possible for them to scale a wall, en masse in seconds, and overwhelm everything in their path? The film has gotten its share of scrutiny because it is fashionable to write about productions with suspected runaway budgets and struggles, and here the studio and director Marc Forster did re-shooting and added scenes. But the studio’s toppers felt certain they’ve got the goods with this one. As Grey said to me on the way out, “Brad Pitt, trying to stop a zombie apocalypse, and trying to get back to his family, what more do you want?” Knowing what else is in the Max Brooks novel on which the film is based, it looks this might be a film that proves its naysayers wrong.