After starring as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, as Jackson’s King Kong, and as Caesar in the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, actor Andy Serkis has been working on becoming a director in his own right. He made his directorial debut last year with the quiet biopic Breathe, but that was only because the film that would’ve otherwise been his debut was held back. That film is Mowgli (previously Jungle Book: Origins), and the reason for its delay appears to have been the success of Disney’s The Jungle Book, which was actually produced in relative conjunction with Serkis’ film. Mowgli also has an impressive cast, including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Serkis himself, but Warner Bros. had been bouncing it around the release calendar since October 2016, and until this week, it was scheduled for 10/19/18. Instead, Netflix has swooped in as a savior for not only Mowgli but also Serkis’ long-planned adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Mowgli will now debut on Netflix in 2019, though Netflix also remains committed to a 3D theatrical release (since that’s how Andy Serkis actually filmed it). Netflix’s action to “save” Mowgli is already being touted as another example of how the streaming juggernaut is changing the industry, and their commitment to support Serkis’ Animal Farm also likely means that he won’t have to struggle with release date expectations on that film. The voice cast for Animal Farm has not yet been announced.
Director J.J. Abrams (LOST, Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and his cast and crew officially began filming Star Wars Episode IX this week. This announcement also came with an official cast list that included many of the names you’d expect, plus confirmation that the late Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) will appear as General Leia Organa via “unused” footage from the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Keri Russell (who starred in J.J. Abrams’ TV series Felicity) was not included in that list, but her previously reported participation was quickly confirmed. Richard E. Grant (Withnail and I, Gosford Park) is also joining the Star Wars universe with Episode IX, while Billy Dee Williams will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian. The usage of Carrie Fisher footage has received the approval of her brother Todd Fisher, and Mark Hamill has said that, “it’s bittersweet facing my final chapter without her.” Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled for release on December 20, 2019, bringing the franchise back to the month where Lucasfilm previously had better success than with Solo: A Star Wars Story when it was released in May this year.
After directing similar politically charged true story dramas like Game Change and Recount for HBO, director Jay Roach is returning to the big screen with Fair and Balanced, about the sexual harassment charges against Fox News chief Roger Ailes, and he’s filling out his cast with acclaimed A-listers. The first lead cast was Charlize Theron (Best Actress winner for Monster; nominated for North Country) as Megyn Kelly (now of NBC’s The Today Show). For Gretchen Carlson, whose departure from FOX News was sort of “the beginning of the end,” Roach has cast Nicole Kidman (Best Actress winner for The Hours; four time nominee for Moulin Rouge, Rabbit Hole, and Lion). Finally, Margot Robbie (nominated this year for Best Actress for I, Tonya) is also up for a role as a fictional associate producer who appears to be a composite character representing still-anonymous FOX employees. The film’s most major role yet to be cast is Roger Ailes himself, but male network hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are also expected to be characters.
Following the (relatively) disappointing returns for movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, Warner Bros. and DC Comics are moving past the Zack Snyder era in favor of a new platform of more fun and colorful movies. At their SDCC panel last month, DC showed off three such films: Aquaman (12/21/2018), Shazam! (4/5/2019), and Wonder Woman 1984 (11/1/2019), and just last weekend, they released the shiny animated comedy Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (Fresh at 90%). Live action movies take longer to develop and produce, so Warner Bros. appears to be doubling down on supplementing their slate with more animated fare. The studio has hired screenwriter Jared Stern (The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie) to adapt an animated feature based on Super Pets, or as it’s known in the comics, Legion of Super Pets. First introduced in 1962, this group has been comprised of various animal sidekicks to DC superheroes like Superman (who’s had the biggest stable with Krypto the Super-Dog, Streaky the Super-Cat, Comet the Super-Horse, and Beppo the Super-Monkey). Marvel has their own take on this with Pet Avengers, but it appears that DC’s Super Pets might beat Marvel to the big screen on this one.
The cast and crew of HBO’s Game of Thrones celebrated their series wrap recently, which also means that the show’s extensive cast is now going to be looking for work. We can expect to see Game of Thrones stars in casting news for the rest of this year, but the latest to make headlines is Peter Dinklage, who plays fan-favorite Tyrion Lannister. Dinklage is working with Sony Pictures to produce and star in their adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin, based on the story by the Brothers Grimm. Screenwriter Patrick Ness, who made his film debut with 2016’s A Monster Calls (Certified Fresh at 86%), has been hired to adapt the classic Grimm story about an imp capable of spinning straw into gold who makes dark deals in a fantastical setting full of royal intrigue. In other words, he’s sort of treading back into Tyrion Lannister territory already.
Keanu Reeves’ action movie John Wick only came out four years ago this October, but it has already inspired something of a wave of similar action movies, especially with a female protagonists, like Atomic Blonde, Proud Mary, Red Sparrow, and the upcoming Jennifer Garner film Peppermint. Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, Zero Dark Thirty), who is currently filming IT: Chapter Two, is jumping on that bandwagon with an action movie of her own called Eve, in which she will star (and also produce under her company Freckle Films). Eve will be written and directed by Matthew Newton, who, to date, has delivered well-received indie films like From Nowhere and Who We Are Now. Eve will tell the story of “a ruthless female assassin… who is hunted by her former employers while trying to tell her family the truth about what she does for a living.” In addition to IT: Chapter Two, Chastain will next be seen in X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2/14/2019).
One positive side effect of Ben Affleck apparently ending his commitment to DC’s Batman movies is that this will allow him more time to focus on his career as a director. This story really begins, however, with an item that was published on The Daily Beast last week, telling the true story of an ex-cop who rigged the annual Monopoly games given away with purchases at McDonald’s. For twelve years, Jerome Jacobsen won almost every Monopoly prize, until his “luck” finally attracted the attention of the FBI. Hollywood noticed that story and saw the movie possibilities, leading to a studio bidding war ultimately won by 20th Century Fox. The studio also quickly announced that their project came with Ben Affleck attached to direct his old friend, Good Will Hunting co-star and co-writer Matt Damon, attached to star as Jerome Jacobsen. The other studios also had their own talent attached: Universal had Kevin Hart, Warner Bros had Steve Carell, and Netflix had Robert Downey Jr.
Until recently, it seemed like Hollywood might ease off its obsession with remakes a little bit, but that may have just been a temporary reprieve as the trends moved on from the 1980s to the 1990s. We’ll start, however, with a project that is not a remake at all, but a prequel, namely of the 1993 baseball kids movie The Sandlot. That film’s original writer and director, David Mickey Evans, has made a deal with 20th Century Fox for a new movie that would delve deeper into the backstory of “The Beast,” the English mastiff that terrorized the kids. This Sandlot prequel will actually be the fourth film in the franchise, as there were two direct-to-video sequels in 2005 and 2007. Paramount Players is also now developing a remake of the 1993 drama Indecent Proposal, about a young couple who agree to a financial arrangement in which the wife will spend one night with a millionaire for $1 million. The remake is being written by screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, who adapted 2016’s The Girl on the Train and is also working on Disney’s live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Finally, Sony Pictures is also now developing a remake of the Bruce Willis/Kim Basinger romantic comedy from 1987 called Blind Date.
Earlier this week, Sony Pictures released a new trailer for their Spider-Man spinoff Venom (starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams) that put more of a spotlight on the alien symbiote’s twisted sense of humor. Though the studio put the brakes on Silver & Black (the Black Cat and Silver Sable movie) earlier this year, it continues to develop other solo movies for the Spider-Man-related characters that they retain the rights to outside of the films produced by Marvel. Since so many of them were introduced in Spider-Man comics as Peter Parker’s villains, most of them walk that thin line between outright villainy and, at best, sort of bad boy “anti-heroes.” (That’s certainly the case with Venom.) Kraven the Hunter has been mentioned in the past, but this week saw the first real development towards a Kraven movie actually happening. Screenwriter Richard Wenk (The Equalizer, The Equalizer 2; cowriter of The Expendables 2) has been hired to start work on Kraven the Hunter, adapting Marvel’s Russian hunter character who has frequently seen Spider-Man as the ultimate prey. Unfortunately, many of Wenk’s films have received Rotten Tomatometer scores.
ABC’s Fantasy Island, which ran for 7 seasons from 1977 to 1984, arguably left an indelible mark on the memories of Generation X (including sort of inspiring elements of ABC’s LOST), but it has evaded (successful) attempts at revivals since then (a 1998 remake was cancelled after just 13 episodes). The original show offered a loose framework for stories about wish fulfillment (often leading the guest characters to realize they were happier without them), but it definitely wasn’t what one would consider horror. The Fantasy Island movie, however, might be darker, because it’s going to be produced by Blumhouse, the production company behind such films and franchises as Insidious, The Purge, Get Out, Happy Death Day, and Split. Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island movie will be directed by Jeff Wadlow, who’s previous films have included Kick-Ass 2 (Rotten at 33%) and Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (Rotten at 14%). In somewhat related news, Peter Dinklage recently filmed an HBO movie called My Dinner with Herve, in which he played Fantasy Island co-star Hervé Villechaize. Might Dinklage also costar as Tattoo in the Fantasy Island movie?