In the months before the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, it seemed very likely that Donald Glover would be returning for future Star Wars films as the young Lando Calrissian. That may still happen, but it’s less certain now that Solo proved to be a relative box office disappointment with less than $390 million after six weeks of release worldwide. (Especially following reports that Lucasfilm is halting development of Star Wars prequels.) That doesn’t, however, mean that the Star Wars franchise is done with Lando Calrissian, as Billy Dee Williams is officially returning for Star Wars: Episode IX (12/20/2019). We don’t know yet how big of a role Lando will have in Episode IX, but one easy guess is that he is likely to pay his respects in some way to the late General Leia Organa, following the 2016 death of Carrie Fisher. (You can read here for further speculation about Lando’s involvement in the Episode IX story). This news came within days of last week’s big news about Felicity star Keri Russell being the first new star of Episode IX. We don’t know anything yet about Russell’s role either, but one theory is that she could be playing Rey’s mother. Russell also made the news again this week, signing on with Guillermo Del Toro’s production company to star in the thriller Antlers for director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Black Mass, Hostiles).
Back in 2014, Marvel Studios had their big Phase 3 event, at which they announced movies like Black Panther, next year’s Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Infinity War (and its sequel). We’re nearly running out of officially announced Marvel movies (after Spider-Man: Far from Home and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), but one that we know for sure is happening is the solo Black Widow movie. Marvel has been talking to over 70 directors over the last few months, including meetings with Scarlett Johansson, and they’ve finally made their pick: Australian indie director Cate Shortland, whose films are still relatively obscure in the USA. Three of Shortland’s films to date are Certified Fresh — Somersault (83%), Lore (94%), and Berlin Syndrome (73%) — and she was reportedly an early favorite of Johansson’s, which gave her the deciding edge over directors like Amma Asante (A United Kingdom), Maggie Betts (Novitiate), Melanie Laurent (Galveston), and Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry). There is no release date yet for Black Widow, or confirmation about whether it’s a prequel or set after the events of next year’s Avengers 4.
Ever since Downton Abbey ended its sixth season in early 2015, we’ve been hearing about the show’s creator Julian Fellowes’ plans for an eventual big screen movie. What we didn’t know was when it might happen. For a while, Fellowes was working on an NBC series called The Gilded Age, set in New York in the late 1800s, with possible Downton Abbey ties, but three years later, that show has not yet been picked up. The Downton Abbey Twitter account kicked back into gear this morning with the announcement that filming has been greenlit to start this September. The “original main cast” are reportedly all returning, but one can read between the lines there to interpret that to mean the still-living characters. The Downton Abbey movie does not yet have a release date, but it will have a theatrical release, and it will be directed by Brian Percival (The Book Thief), who also directed the pilot episode.
Two weeks ago, we learned that Lucasfilm had hired Solo: A Star Wars Story cowriter Jonathan Kasdan to work on Indiana Jones 5, suggesting that the film would not make its July 10th, 2020 release date. This week, Disney (which owns Lucasfilm) announced release dates for four of its biggest upcoming films, including Indiana Jones 5, with one film for each year from 2018 to 2021. First up in chronological order is Mary Poppins Returns, which is moving by less than a week, from December 25th, 2018 to December 19th, 2018. (Despite the relatively small change, the new Mary Poppins Returns date may have a huge impact on other films scheduled for late 2018.) Dwayne Johnson’s theme park ride adaptation Jungle Cruise is now scheduled for October 11th, 2019 (up against The Addams Family, The Goldfinch, and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?). The 2020 date goes to Maleficent 2, starring Angelina Jolie, which is now scheduled for May 29th, 2020 (the week after Godzilla vs Kong, and the week before Mark Wahlberg’s The Six Billion Dollar Man). Finally, there’s Indiana Jones 5, which is now scheduled for July 9th, 2021, which is coincidentally four days before Harrison Ford‘s 79th birthday.
Marvel’s Black Panther is now the year’s second biggest release (after Avengers: Infinity War and its $2+ billion take), with a global earning of over $1.346 billion. As such, and as one would expect, the stars of Black Panther have continued to land plenty of new work, and there were three cases of that this week. Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, has signed to star in an STXfilms action thriller called 17 Bridges, playing a “disgraced NYPD detective” who gets a chance at redemption during a citywide manhunt for a cop killer. Winston Duke, who plays rival tribal leader M’Baku, has also landed a new role in Backyard Legend, playing MMA fighter Kimbo Slice in his biopic. Finally, there’s Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, who played Okoye in Black Panther. She has now landed one of the lead roles in Godzilla vs Kong (5/22/2020), which will be the fourth film in Warner Bros’ monster cinematic universe, after next year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (5/31/2019). (We also saw our first image from that film this week.)
The world watched in anticipation and dread as a junior football team became trapped deep inside a cave in Thailand in June of this year until they were eventually rescued this week. Within hours of their rescue, PureFlix, the production company of religious films like God’s Not Dead was already in Thailand researching the area for a planned film, and looking into securing film rights to the survivors’ stories. PureFlix is reportedly looking at budgeting their film in the $30-$60 million range, but they’re also going to have competition. Citing concerns about “whitewashing” of what is obviously an Asian story, Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu is also now developing his own adaptation of the Thai cave rescue story. Jon M. Chu took to Twitter to say, “I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story! No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happen or we’ll give them hell.” Chu and Ivanhoe Pictures are also in negotiations with Thailand’s Navy for the rights to a film. Meanwhile, as The Wrap reports, Scarlett Johansson also inadvertently found herself involved in this still-evolving story.
Following the box office success of 2016’s Trolls ($153 million domestic, $346 million globally), other similar franchises have also gotten closer to having their own movies. One example is Uglydoll, the line of plush dolls which variably resemble characters from Monsters Inc, Monsters vs Aliens, or Futurama (in this writer’s opinion). STXfilms is far enough along in producing the Uglydolls movie that they’ve been able to schedule it for just 10 months from now (5/10/19), and in March, we learned that Pitbull would be voicing one of the monsters. This week, we learned that former American Idol winner (and current The Voice judge) Kelly Clarkson will also be voicing a character named Moxy. Uglydolls is being directed by Kelly Asbury, who is coming off two Rotten animated films: Gnomeo and Juliet (56%) and Smurfs: The Lost Village (38%). Other films scheduled against Uglydolls on May 10, 2019 are the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake called The Hustle and, most significantly, the live-action Pokemon movie Detective Pikachu.
We may yet someday see the solo Joker movie starring Jared Leto, reprising his role from Suicide Squad, but it looks like the one we’re going to see in theaters before that happens is a completely different one. Joaquin Phoenix is attached to star in a “Joker origin story” that is part of a new slate of DC Comics movies not set in the “DCEU” of Justice League, Suicide Squad, etc. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker movie has officially received a greenlight for filming to start in late 2018 on a relatively low budget of just $55 million Compared, for example, to the reported $162 million budget for Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.) There is no release date yet for Phoenix’s Joker origin movie, but there is talk it could be as soon as late 2019 (with sometime in 2020 most likely). The film will be directed by Todd Phillips, who is coming off a four-movie Rotten streak (Due Date, The Hangover Part II, The Hangover Part III, War Dogs), which is why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas. You can read some of Joaquin Phoenix’s thoughts on playing the Joker right here. In other DC Comics movie news, we got our first glimpse at Shazam! this week, and also learned that Djimon Hounsou will be playing the Wizard who grants Shazam! his powers.
Everyone who likes Marvel movies probably has their own favorite member of the Avengers, but if yours is Hawkeye, Avengers: Infinity War was probably disappointing (rumor is, though, that he will have a much bigger role in Avengers 4), and like many of the “original” Avengers stars, Jeremy Renner may be close to the end of his run. This week, Renner signed on for a different movie based on a popular comic book (in the 1990s, at least), and it’s Spawn. Detective Twitch Williams is a Spawn character who did not appear in the original 1997 movie, but that’s exactly who Jeremy Renner will be playing. Renner joins Jamie Foxx, who is taking over from Michael Jai White as the titular Spawn, a cloak-clad anti-hero who receives his powers from one of the rulers of Hell. The original Spawn received a Rotten Tomatometer score of just 18%.
There are people in Hollywood who just won’t let 1980s action franchises fade gently into our collective memory. Instead, we continue to get new entries in franchises like The Predator (9/14/2018), Terminator (11/22/2019), and until last last year, Alien. These reboots sometimes happen despite suggestions that audiences aren’t necessarily on board for them any more. Take, for example, the 2014 reboot of RoboCop, which was a relative box office disappointment with just $58 million domestically from a production budget of $100 million. MGM is still going back to the RoboCop well, however, with the news this week that they are now developing a new film called RoboCop Returns. It’s not yet clear whether Joel Kinnaman will “return” in RoboCop Returns, or if MGM will look for a new star. RoboCop Returns will be directed by Neill Blomkamp (Chappie, Elysium, District 9), who also at one point was working on his own Alien sequel. Some writers see Blomkamp directing RoboCop Returns as redemption for the director, but this writer would much rather just see him directing his own original material.