Rather than heading home to relax in air-conditioned apartments or neighborhood bars after work on Wednesday, July 25, a group of Paramount Pictures employees chose to spend the night volunteering outside in the summer heat.
Embracing the Viacommunity spirit of “All good, all around,” Paramount’s volunteers gave back to kids in their local community with an evening of activities and an outdoor screening of Paramount’s animated flick Sherlock Gnomes at Los Angeles’ Lemon Grove Park.
Like Ethan Hunt prevailing in a helicopter chase through a mountain obstacle course, Mission: Impossible – Fallout won the weekend box office with a franchise-record $61.5 million debut in the U.S. and Canada. An additional 36 international markets added $92 million, bringing the well-reviewed sixth installment of Paramount Pictures’ action institution to a $153.5 million worldwide total – also a record – in its opening weekend.
Featuring a dazzling array of HALO-jumping, motorcycle-crashing, bathroom-smashing stunts in a round-the-world freefall of unrelenting action, the sixth entry in the Mission: Impossible series drew raving critical reaction from its first premiere earlier this month. Fans of the series clearly noticed, chasing the action into theaters.
“The Mission: Impossible franchise is a crown jewel for Paramount Pictures,” box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Variety. “There is a long track record that shows that they can rely on Cruise and his creative partners to deliver time after time. As long as Cruise can keep delivering the goods, Mission: Impossible is an annuity that will keep paying dividends for both Cruise and Paramount for years to come.”
Through five previous films over two decades, Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible franchise has raked in a total of nearly $2.8 billion, providing a reliable tent pole for the studio and cementing Tom Cruise’s status as one of today’s greatest action heroes.
Now, the sixth installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is hurtling toward a July 27 release, and the initial critical reaction indicates that a resurgent Paramount has put together one of the boldest and most exhilarating films of the summer.
“Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible Fallout is as relentless and intense an action movie as you’ve seen since [2015’s] Mad Max: Fury Road,” writes Forbes’ Scott Mendelson. “The action sequences, character confrontations and plot turns pile on-top of each other from beginning to end, with barely moment to breathe in between.”
This sentiment is echoed in one review after the next, with Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson noting that “… [Fallout] just may be the best blockbuster of the summer,” and Lewis Knight writing in Mirror that, “It’s hard to imagine how the franchise can top this terrific action romp, but then again we did say that last time.”
Indeed, it was this originality six films in that struck many critics.
“At this point in Hollywood’s franchise-fatigue cycle, it’s rare to see a sequel (nevermind a fifth one) one-upping itself,” writes Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. “Fallout is a unique exception that defies our seen-it-all cynicism. It’s the kind of pure, straight-no-chaser pop fun that not only keeps taking your breath away over and over again, it restores your occasionally shaky faith in summer blockbusters.”
What Fallout does share with its five prequels is relentless and elaborate action scenes, pinned to stunning backdrops and choreographed with a heart-pounding realism. Cruise engages in a helicopter chase over the Himalayas, leaps out of a plane through a lightning storm, transforms the streets of Paris into a high-speed motorcycle obstacle course, and gets caught in what may be the greatest fight scene in the history of bathrooms:
“Fallout features more astounding set pieces than can be found in the rest of 2018’s summer crop combined, all of which escalate with such mounting electricity that it’s hard to catch one’s breath,” writes Nick Schager The Daily Beast. “In terms of providing a pure adrenalized rush, almost no contemporaries are in its league.”
Before The Last Knight or the Age of Extinction, before Decepticons started leveling American cities and destroying military bases, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle sits forgotten in a California junkyard. It’s been neglected long enough that a honeycomb of bees buzzes beneath its wheel well. Seventeen-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), takes it home.
She gets more than a car. As Charlie slides beneath her new ride to inspect it, the bug erupts in an intricate flipping puzzle of zinging metal parts, rearranging itself into beloved Autobot Bumblebee.
“Let me tell you something, the driver don’t pick the car, the car pick the driver,” a hauntingly familiar voice-over – it’s the late Bernie Mac, warning Sam Wtiwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in 2007’s Transformers – announces at the trailer’s opening moments. “It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.”
In this case, it’s woman and machine (and a woman, Christina Hodson, wrote the script), but the bond between Charlie and Bumblebee looks as strong as any.
Hailee Steinfeld in BUMBLEBEE, from Paramount Pictures.
The two become great pals. They go to the beach. They go swimming. Charlie goes no-hands through the sunroof down the Pacific Coast Highway, perhaps pioneering the self-driving car in the film’s 1987 setting.
But things get hectic. The military lurks. So does a dreaded Decepticon. Charlie gets banged up. Helicopters fall from the sky.
The film, helmed by Oscar-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight, promises to wrap this action in a powerful story informed by the Transformers’ heritage. “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformers franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle,” Knight told attendees at April’s CinemaCon.
Which is not to say that echoes of Paramount Pictures’ five previous Transformers films won’t ricochet off the screen. “… and explosions,” Knight continued, “lots and lots of explosions.”
Bumblebee will debut in theaters Dec. 21, 2018. John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon and Stephen Schneider will star alongside Steinfeld.
Paramount Pictures’ Downsizing, set on a hypothetical future Earth where people shrink themselves to decrease resource consumption, was nominated in the Feature Film category at the ceremony, which recognize media trailblazers who place equal value on creating entertainment and protecting the environment.
The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.
Green Seal for Sustainable Production – Paramount Players, Eli
Eli is the first feature film on deck for Paramount Players, Viacom’s newly minted film studio division, which integrates Paramount Pictures and Viacom brands. Eli, slated to premiere in January 2019, is being produced in association with MTV. The film centers around a boy who is hospitalized in a remote clinic while suffering from a rare disease. The child’s treatment takes a nightmarish turn when his sanatorium becomes a prison, possessed by evil spirits intent on keeping him there forever.
Gold Seal for Sustainable Production – USA, Shooter (produced by Paramount Television)
The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.
As a movie studio with a diversified upcoming slate and powerful television production arm, reinforced with an iconic century-old library, Paramount Pictures is well positioned to thrive far into the future, according to President and CEO Jim Gianopulos.
The studio head, who has built a new management team since taking the helm at Paramount last year, sat down with CNN Money’s Dylan Byers at the Milken Institute Global Conference earlier this month to discuss the resurgent business.
“We’re content creators,” Gianopulos said. “We’re storytellers. For us, our primary focus is theatrical distribution as a studio, and, in television, the creation of television programming.”
LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 25: Jim Gianopulos speaks onstage during the 2018 CinemaCon – Paramount Pictures special summer presentation held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Television Production Ramps Up As Diverse Theatrical Slate Debuts
Both sides of the business – television and theatrical – have powerful catalysts driving them. The Paramount Television production studio, which has grown rapidly behind a string of premium-content hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, TNT’s The Alienist, and USA Network’s Shooter, is on track to reach $400 million in revenues this year.
The forthcoming theatrical slate, which has been rejiggered under the current management team, will include sequels, reboots, animated films, and tie-ins to other Viacom brands through its Paramount Players division. At last month’s CinemaCon, Gianopulos detailed this lineup, which stands out for its diverse offerings that will appeal to both mass and niche audiences.
“We have an old saying that’s always worked for us – make it for someone, or make it for everyone,” he said, citing the forthcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout and recent smash hit A Quiet Place as projects with mass appeal.
Meanwhile, Book Club – set to drop in theaters this Friday with a headlining cast of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen – has been tailor-made to appeal to an adult female demographic.
“For them, that is Star Wars,” he said. “That’s their movie. Something that people feel an identity to. They made this for me. This is something relevant and relatable to me. You can continue to make a broad variety of films, and in the process, be very successful.”
A Rich History That Continues to Build the Present
For all the buzz around the studio’s yet-to-be-released films, one of Paramount’s under-appreciated strengths is its deep content warehouse that stretches back to the dawn of the industry.
One of the most shocked-into-silence moments for the audience at Paramount Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation came when Tom Cruise, hero of five previously released Mission: Impossible films, recapped the intensity and challenge of conducting a freefall stunt for the franchise’s forthcoming sixth installment.
“Each take is like running an 800-meter sprint,” Cruise said. “We did 106 takes.”
This blunt understatement captures just one extraordinary moment in one forthcoming film from Paramount, the resurgent studio that over the course of that two-hour presentation unveiled or confirmed new installments to its cherished franchises, sequels to some of its most popular films from new and antique vintage, an aggressive Viacom co-branded slate through its Paramount Players division, a trio of animated adventures, and new films based upon a longstanding and expanded partnership with Hasbro.
“We’re laying the foundation…to deliver to you films for every possible audience for years to come,” Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who has spent the past year building a new management team for the studio, told the audience.
As we zoom (buckled up) toward the July 27 release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Paramount confirmed that many of its other most beloved franchises will soon get a new installment. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will return in a new Terminator movie next November. And Transformers, which has delivered five more or less contiguous sequels, will, as previously announced, dogleg off into Bumblebee, which hits theaters this Dec. 21.
Director Travis Knight showed off the first Bumblebee clip at the event, telling the audience, “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformer franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.”
Many other films will get their first sequel, including the recently released hit A Quiet Place,2013’s World War Z, 1988’s Coming to America (look for Coming 2 America), and, as previously confirmed, 1986’s Top Gun, which also stars original Maverick Cruise.
And before he drops a fourth Cloverfield movie on us at some as-yet-to-be-announced future point, J.J. Abrams’ Overlord will transport moviegoers into a bizarro version of behind-enemy-lines World War II on Oct. 26.
Beyond the realm of the sequel, the studio will drop fans into the labrynthian world of Dungeons and Dragons and the sci-fi realm of Micronauts, both through the studio’s partnership with Hasbro (the same partnership behind Paramount’s Transformers and G.I. Joe movies).
Other standalone projects will pit assassin Will Smith against a younger cloned version of himself in Gemini Man, and cast Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the overwhelmed adoptive parents of three in Instant Family.
Tapping Viacom’s deep content well to co-produce Paramount films has been a priority under CEO Bob Bakish, and the studio confirmed that one of Nickelodeon’s most resiliently popular characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, will return for his third big-screen adaptation, It’s A Wonderful Sponge, in 2020. The film will be one of three newly announced releases on the animation division’s slate, joining Luck – which exposes the millennia-old battle between organizations of good and bad luck – and Monster on the Hill, set in an alternative world of wrestling monsters. Additionally, the previously announced Wonder Park will debut next March.
Other top Viacom brands are joining Nickelodeon in collaborating with Paramount, through the Paramount Players division led by Brian Robbins and formed to further integrate the brands with the movie studio. In association with MTV, Eli, the story of a boy being treated for a rare disease in a clinic-cum-haunted-prison, will roll out in January 2019. BET will reconstitute the 2000 hit What Women Want with What Men Want, portraying a frustrated female sports agent who gains the power of mind-reading. Paramount Players is also working on Nickelodeon’s live-action Dora the Explorer and Are You Afraid of the Dark, both slated for 2019 release.
Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.
Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.
When Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place opened the SXSW Film Festival last month, the reviews were deafeningly loud – and positive.
“Critics in attendance for the Austin, Texas-based film festival called Krasinski’s third feature film ‘a tight thrill ride,’ ‘a kick-ass horror flick,’ a ‘crowdpleaser,’ and a ‘technically sleek’ and ‘terrifying thriller,’” Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romanowrote at the time.
They may want to quiet down. Set in a post-apocalyptic America overrun by sonically super-powered insectoid predators that will feast on any human who makes the slightest sound, A Quiet Place’s tiptoeing world of caution and fear is no place for raving critics.
That hasn’t slowed them down. With the film opening in theaters today, the stream of enthralled reviews has turned into a deluge, most of which go something like this take by Cinemablend’s Conner Schwerdtfeger:
“… even in the face of heightened anticipation, nothing could’ve prepared us for how good this film is. Using its simple concept for maximum effectiveness, A Quiet Place blends horror with drama, and the result is a near-perfect horror film that isn’t just the best scary movie of 2018 so far; it is one of the best films of the year, period.”
The film stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed), Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. They survive by wit and prudence and patience, with sign language and with poured sand trails to walk on and within a padded living space designed to mute every sound. Hanging over their bunkered but secure-for-the-moment existence is the fact of Blunt’s pregnancy, promising the inexorable arrival of a screaming baby into a world of omnipresent sound-hungry monsters.
It’s an intriguing meta concept, and one that is masterfully executed in multiple dimensions. Here’s a closer look at the elements that A Quiet Place’s critics are shouting about:
It transcends horror
From its opening scenes, it is clear that A Quiet Place has a larger purpose than scaring audiences out of their seats (though “Every second of A Quiet Place is filled with oppressive dread…” notes GQ’s Tom Philip). In its insistent focus on Mom and Dad Abbott working together to keep their kids alive under horrific circumstances, the film is as much about the overwhelming responsibility and challenges of family life as about anything else.
“The question Krasinski tackles is what defines a family and what’s needed to preserve it?” asks Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “’Who are we,’ asks Mom, ‘if we can’t protect our children?’ The answers are worked out with satisfying complexity and genuine feeling, proving indeed that home is where family is.”
Left to right: Noah Jupe plays Marcus Abbott, Millicent Simmonds plays Regan Abbott and John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.
At least part of the reason this resonates so deeply is that the survivalist couple is married in real life. “… the success of the film hinges almost entirely on the way in which real-life couple and parents Blunt and Krasinski pour their fears about raising children into their performances here,” writes Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair. “As is the case with most successful, spare horror films of late, A Quiet Place has much more to say about its humans than its monsters and is especially invested in the ways families fail to communicate even their most basic needs to each other.”
Krasinski is a great director…
Krasinski the actor is familiar to a non-monster-infested America, which has been laughing along with him since the mid-2000’s heyday of The Office. Here, in his debut helming a film for a major studio, we meet Krasinski the director. We are impressed.
“Directed with first-rate visual flair by John Krasinski (who knew?), this riveting near-silent thriller exudes the despair of a broken world with the concision of a Cormac McCarthy novel folded into a simplistic B-movie premise,” writes Eric Kohn in Indiewire. “… the director’s capacity to mine suspense out of inventive scenarios (sinking in a sea of corn, or grasping for a mattress to stifle a baby’s cry) means that every new showdown comes with a few unexpected tricks.”
… supported by an outstanding cast
That one of the Abbott’s children is deaf – meaning the family can all sign fluent sign language – perhaps contributed to their survival in a world where sound is poison. That Krasinski cast a deaf actress in that role most certainly helped transform a surreal world into a believable one.
“Simmonds, a deaf actress, is as commanding here as she was in her astonishing breakthrough turn last year in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang.
The rest of the cast is just as strong. “… Blunt, Krasinski, and Jupe all contribute credible intensity to their scenes with a degree of sophistication rare for this type of material,” writes Indiewire’s Kohn.
With summer creeping right up, it’s time to plan your trip to the amusement park that has something for everyone: there’s a porcupine in the petting zoo, an oft-collapsing chairlift, an assortment of contraptions that explode or shoot at you, and a “ride” that appears to be a Medieval-style catapult that slings riders into the side of a barn. Good thing there’s free beer for every patron.
Unsurprisingly, this zone of dysfunctional chaos is under the purview of Johnny Knoxville, who returns to Paramount Pictures, home of his hit films Jackass and Bad Grandpa, for this homespun David-versus-Goliath tale of the scrappy little park-owner-who-could improvising to battle the new corporate megalith down the road. It’s a fight that is apparently best won with the assistance of negligent lifeguards, unstable slides and ziplines, and bears, both real and as costumed mascots.
Action Point, which will hit theaters on June 1, is directed by Tim Kirkby and stars Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Dan Bakkedahl, Matt Schulze, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Johnny Pemberton, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Joshua Hoover, Conner McVicker, and Eric Manaka.