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Fox brings blockbusters, Disney nods to CinemaCon

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Las Vegas (AFP)

Twentieth Century Fox pulled out all the stops at CinemaCon Thursday to demonstrate it remains a powerful force despite its impending takeover by Disney, in an explosive look at its upcoming slate of movies.

The studio -- which will be acquired almost entirely by its larger rival if the deal is approved -- delighted convention-goers with previews of horror retread "The Predator," an eye-catching new sci-fi from Robert Rodriguez and a biopic of Freddie Mercury, one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet.

Fox opened its segment on the final day of the annual get-together for theater owners with "Deadpool 2," due for release on May 18, with an oblique nod to the acquisition.

David Leitch's movie sees Ryan Reynolds back as the wisecracking "Merc with the Mouth," alongside fellow returnees T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand and Morena Baccarin -- with Josh Brolin added to pile on the evil.

There were no cast members at CinemaCon but Fox kicked off with a chorus line of dancers, followed by Reynolds appearing in a video message to apologize for his absence.

Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson was seen waking with a hangover in the video, dressed in a suit and wearing an outfit from "The Greatest Showman."

That film's star Hugh Jackman and Reynolds chide a disheveled Aronson that he is late for his CinemaCon address.

"Looks like Comcast really dodged a bullet," says Reynolds -- a reference to the entertainment's giant's one-time desire to buy Fox.

In a cheeky nod to their new paymasters, meanwhile, Fox threw in a shot of Mickey Mouse's dog Pluto skulking in the background.

"The Predator" will reacquaint audiences with the deadly extraterrestrial made famous in the 1987 blockbuster starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Due for release on September 14, it features a diverse ensemble cast led by Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Alfie Allen and Jake Busey.

- Stronger, smarter, deadlier -

Shane Black's modern take on the cult series -- five films in total, including two crossover releases with the Alien franchise -- sees the universe's most lethal hunters returning stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever, thanks to some genetic modifications.

Fox earned appreciative applause for its preview race drama "The Hate U Give," starring Amandla Stenberg alongside Algee Smith, Common and Anthony Mackie, is sure to resonate with moviegoers concerned about police shootings of unarmed black Americans.

Author Angie Thomas initially developed the project as a short story for her senior project in Belhaven University's creative writing program.

After graduation, she expanded it into a 2017 novel which led to 13 publishing houses bidding for the book and a top spot on The New York Times young adult best-seller list.

"For me, it all began in January 2016 when I got a call to read an unpublished book by a new author called Angie Thomas," said director George Tillman Jr. ("Notorious").

"I was finishing another project at the time on a snowy day in Brooklyn and was reluctant to give my attention to it, but something inside told me to take 30 minutes to read it. These 30 minutes changed my life."

"Mr. Robot" star Rami Malek -- one of the few big names to appear live onstage -- introduced his take on Queen frontman and rock legend Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Due out in November, it tells the story of the late Mercury forming Queen with fellow musicians Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon -- and becoming one of the most iconic rock groups of all time.

Behind the success, Freddie is shown struggling with his identity as a Parsi immigrant from Zanzibar and a man with a sexuality even he is unable to define.

- 'So proud' -

Surrounded by dark influences, Freddie shuns Queen but reunites with his rock'n'roll family in time for Live Aid -- the biggest concert in history.

"This film has been eight years in the making but I truly believe that it's been worth it, because I'm so proud of what we've accomplished," said producer Graham King.

The highlight of the show, however, was an appearance by Robert Rodriguez to introduce the upcoming Manga comic conversion "Alita: Battle Angel."

The movie is produced by James Cameron, who wrote the initial script from which Rodriguez worked, and Jon Landau, Cameron's producing partner on the two highest-grossing movies in history -- "Titanic" and "Avatar."

The adventure features rising star Rosa Salazar, from the "Divergent" and "Maze Runner" franchises, as a cyborg who wakes with no memory in a future world she doesn't recognize.

Early footage screened at CinemaCon showed she can clearly look after herself, however, demonstrating her deadly skills in an ultra-violent fight sequence.

Rodriguez ("Desperado," "From Dusk Til Dawn"), a long-time friend of Cameron, told AFP after the presentation he was eager to help get the movie to the screen after reading the legendary filmmaker's script years ago.

"My approach was not to go and turn it into something else but to help Jim finish what he had started out to make, as a fan of Jim, and having studied his work a lot," he said.

"And I knew by getting in there and doing it I would learn better myself how to craft a world like that."

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