CinemaCon 2017 Studio Presentations: PARAMOUNT

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took the stage at CinemaCon 2017 to introduce what he called the “Avengers of the beach,” the cast of the raunchy summer comedy Baywatch joining him on stage to reveal a first-look at several scenes from the film. Perhaps the most curious detail of the evening followed when the cast announced the “Baywatch Challenge,” a contest that pits theater managers nationwide in a competition to see who can sell the most tickets ahead of the film’s release. The winning managers will be flown to New York City to join the cast for the film’s premiere.

And what better transition than The Rock and bikini-clad extras to welcome former vice-president Al Gore, who took the stage to promote An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. The audience was shown the film’s trailer, which included several moments from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and scenes showing Gore promote his environmental message across party lines.

As foreboding as the climate change documentary looked, it was nothing compared to early footage from Annihilation. Alex Garland’s follow-up to sci-fi thriller Ex Machina stars Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac, with early footage showing promising signs ahead of its release.

George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Julianne Moore exchanged barbs on stage as they presented scenes from their dark comedy, Suburbicon. There’s no mistaking this is a Coen Bros. script based on the footage screened at CinemaCon; by no means designed to be a $200 million tent-pole, the film is scheduled to counter-program against Thor: Ragnarok on November 3.

Michael Bay made an appearance to present an extended look at Transformers: The Last Knight, the latest entry in Paramount’s global box office juggernaut. The Last Knight was shot in native 3D and will be the first feature film to be shot in IMAX 3D, an important factor as the franchise continues its path in a new direction.

The highlight of the Paramount presentation, however, was a significantly smaller film than Transformers. The studio screened 10 minutes of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, an off-beat comedy in the mold of Being John Malkovich or The Lobster, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig. The film imagines a world where Norwegian scientists invent a shrinking process for human beings in order to avoid the perils of over-population. It sounds weird, yes, which is why it was such a good idea to show as much as the film as they did. Downsizing entered the event with a low profile but was constantly brought up in conversations long after the Paramount event ended.

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