Universal at CinemaCon: laughter, applause and a stray tear

LAS VEGAS, March 30, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - Universal's presentation at CinemaCon Wednesday proved an emotional rollercoaster, with laughter provided by "The Mummy" and "Despicable Me 3" -- and heartfelt tributes paid to "Fast and Furious" star Paul Walker.

Universal was the fifth of ten Hollywood studios presenting their slate of upcoming movies to theater operators at the annual convention in Las Vegas.

The studio kicked off with a first look at "Despicable Me 3," with star Steve Carell provoking gales of laughter at Casar's Palace as he mercilessly made fun of Chris Melandandri, the founder of Universal's animation division.

Carell described the franchise's villain-turned-softy Gru "as the best character ever in the history of cinema" but lamented to the entirely bald Melandandri that "men without hair are outcasts."

Clips of the movie showed Gru meeting his long-lost twin Dru after he and girlfriend Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are fired from their jobs.

The audience was also treated to scenes of the film's iconic Minions in jail and in a chase on Hollywood Boulevard.

The laughter continued as the cast of horror blockbuster "The Mummy" revealed how its star Tom Cruise cajoled them into emulating his famous discipline of performing his own stunts.

- 'Terrifying' -

Annabelle Wallis, 32, said Cruise convinced her to join him in a zero gravity plane crash stunt that could easily have been faked by computer wizardry.

And Jake Johnson ("Jurassic World"), who plays Cruise's sidekick, said working with the star was a "terrifying" experience.

"We jump off buildings and towns explode, and Tom really does it all, and he insists his cast do it too," said Johnson, 38, joking that he "almost died."

"I'm like, 'I think something went wrong because it hurt' and he'd go 'Well yeah -- we jumped off a building, dummy.'"

"The Mummy" opens on June 9 with Sofia Boutella ("Kingsmen," "Star Trek Beyond") in the role of the monster -- a female for the first time in cinema history.

The 34-year-old actress was also part of the panel of castmembers brought onstage for Cold War spy thriller "Atomic Blonde," starring Charlize Theron.

"She's a bitch," Theron said about her character, a hard-as-nails kicking, punching undercover agent.

Based on unpublished graphic novel "The Coldest City," the movie was another actioner to test its cast physically, and Theron revealed she was going for a fourth session of root canal work for cracked teeth.

Set for a July 28 release, "Atomic Blonde" also stars James McAvoy, John Goodman and Toby Jones, who were not part of the panel.

"We worked our balls off. I have no more balls. I'm a full girl now," the 41-year-old South African revealed.

- Legacy -

There was more laughter from the cast of comedy "Girls Trip," starring Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith and due for release on July 21 before the presentation ended with an emotional panel for "The Fate of the Furious."

Vin Diesel choked back tears as he paid tribute to his friend and franchise co-star Paul Walker, who died in an auto crash at the age of 40, making 2015's "Furious 7" his last appearance.

The 49-year-old revealed it was Walker who insisted there should be an eighth instalment in the $3.9 billion franchise, as he introduced "The Fate of the Furious" at the gathering in Las Vegas.

"Part of Paul's legacy lives through every frame that we shoot," Diesel said, fighting his emotions.

Walker died in a fiery single-vehicle crash in California in 2013, before the seventh film was released.

"I always feel like he's looking down on us, so we didn't want to let him down," Diesel added.

In "The Fate of the Furious," due to hit theaters on April 14, a mysterious woman seduces Diesel's Dominic Toretto into the criminal underworld.

Diesel, now a producer as well as star, confirmed a previous announcement that the series would extend to at least a tenth movie.

Diesel and Gibson were joined onstage by Ludacris and newcomers Kurt Russell and Charlize Theron, before Universal delighted the CinemaCon audience by premiering the movie.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)