Weekly Ketchup

DC's Live Action Dark Universe Is Happening, and More Movie News

Sam Mendes does Disney, Sarah Paulson joins Ocean's Eight, Mission: Impossible 6 is held up, and Angry Birds gets a sequel.

by | August 26, 2016 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as The Angry Birds Movie 2, James and the Giant Peach, Mission: Impossible 6, The New Mutants, and Ocean’s Eight.



Earlier this month, Warner Bros and DC Comics debuted their Suicide Squad movie to smashing box office success ($275 million domestic, $583 million worldwide, and counting), even if the critical reaction was not as positive. The movie was presented as something of a Justice League for super villains (though really only Harley Quinn and The Joker were “A-listers”), and the film’s success is apparently inspiring Warner Bros to revisit one of their similar projects. Justice League Dark concerns a “non-team” of loosely connected supernatural characters who band together to defeat the magic threats that the Justice League itself cannot handle as well.  Members of Justice League Dark in the comics included John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Deadman, Zatanna, and Etrigan the Demon.  Director Guillermo Del Toro was at one time developing a movie based on the 48-issue run of Justice League Dark, but when he departed the project, DC announced at SDCC last month that Justice League Dark would become a direct-to-video animated feature instead.  (We should note that it’s possible the animated feature and the subject of this week’s news may end up being two different things.) Fans who were concerned about the future of a live action movie featuring Swamp Thing and John Constantine may no longer have as much reason to fret, as Warner Bros (following the success of Suicide Squad) now seems quite committed to the film again. And the good news for the film, now called Dark Universe, may not be great news for Fox and Marvel’s Gambit, either, because director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) has departed Gambit, and is now in talks to direct Dark Universe instead. Neither Keanu Reeves nor TV’s Matt Ryan are expected to reprise their versions of John Constantine in the Dark Universe movie. Doug Liman’s next movie to reach theaters will be his drug cartel drama American Made, starring Tom Cruise, which is scheduled for release in September, 2017.

Fresh Developments


Even though their two latest efforts (Alice Through the Looking Glass and Pete’s Dragon) have not set the box office afire the way their other live action films (like The Jungle Book) have, Walt Disney Pictures remains dedicated to what they’re doing with their back catalog. The last two years have seen announcements made about live action films for over a dozen of Disney’s past hits, including Cruella (of 101 Dalmatians), Dumbo, Genies (from Aladdin), The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Night on Bald Mountain (and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, both from Fantasia), Peter Pan, Pinocchio, The Sword in the Stone, and Winnie the Pooh. And that’s just their animated movies, with Pete’s Dragon and Mary Poppins Returns both being examples Disney revisiting their live action past (though both those also had some animation as well). This expansive slate grew by another title this week, with the news that Disney is now also developing a live action adaptation of 1996’s James and the Giant Peach, their stop-motion adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl. (Disney’s most recent adaptation of a Roald Dahl book was this summer’s box office disappointment The BFG.) The most surprising news about Disney’s plans for a new James and the Giant Peach, however, is the revelation that the director they hope to recruit is British director Sam Mendes. In addition to American Beauty (and the 2013 stage version of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Sam Mendes’ two most recent feature films were the James Bond adventures Skyfall and Spectre. British author Nick Hornby (whose film credits include Brooklyn, About a Boy, and High Fidelity) is also in talks to adapt Roald Dahl’s book. Mendes also holds the impressive distinction of not yet scoring a Rotten for any of the seven feature films he’s directed to date (and three of those were Certified Fresh to boot) — which is why we’re calling Sam Mendes (possibly) directing James and the Giant Peach this week’s #1 Fresh Development.


Dwayne Johnson may have made the news this week as the top paid male movie star, but one actor who remains consistently dependable as a box office draw is Denzel Washington. As such, when a movie belonging to a genre not typically associated “box office gold” these days, like a legal drama, can attract the attention of someone like Denzel Washington, you have to figure the movie’s producers are probably pleased with their accomplishment. Washington is in talks to star in a legal drama called Inner City to be directed by Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy. Before Nightcrawler, Gilroy was best known as a screenwriter whose credits include Two for the Money, The Bourne Legacy, and next year’s Kong: Skull Island. Details about Inner City aren’t yet known, except that Washington will play a lawyer dealing with “a major change at his company,” that it’s compared to Paul Newman’s The Verdict, and that it’s set in Los Angeles.


There were two newsworthy items for WB/DC’s Marvel-ous competition this week that we can bundle together. The first concerns Avengers: Infinity War (5/4/18), an ambitious ensemble film about which a few presumptions have been made by the online fanbase at large. One such notion has been that the Guardians of the Galaxy would be coming to Earth to help deal with the threat posed by Thanos in his search for the Infinity Gems (one of which is inset in the Vision’s forehead). Though that was probably always a pretty good guess, we’ve never had that particular detail confirmed by anyone in a position to do so… until this week. Without giving any other details, Vin Diesel (the voice of Groot) did exactly that during a Facebook live video feed. Groot, Rocket (Raccoon), Star-Lord, Drax, and Gamora will next appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, scheduled for release on May 5, 2017. The other Marvel movie to make significant news this week was Captain Marvel (3/8/19), which we’ve known for a while will star Brie Larson in the title role. What we don’t know yet is which female director will be at the helm, but this week, the potential pool of dozens of directors has been narrowed to three (and possibly one mystery director). The short list reportedly includes Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country), Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and frequent TV director Lesli Linka Glatter (whose impressive credits include 4 episodes of Twin Peaks and 14 episodes of Homeland). As for the possibility of a fourth director in the mix, a tease came from Variety writer Justin Kroll, who replied to THR’s tweet with, “You’re missing one.” Filming of Captain Marvel is not expected to start until mid-2017, so there is still plenty of time for Marvel Studios to hire its director, following a round of presentations after the final three (or four) have had time to see the film’s script treatment and other related background materials.


We’ve known for a while now that one of Fox’s major X-Men-related movies (after next year’s Wolverine 3) was going to be The New Mutants, about the team that debuted in the 1980s. We’ve also known that the director developing The New Mutants at Fox is Josh Boone, best known for his work on Fox’s The Fault in Our Stars (starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort). More so than most X-Men comics, The New Mutants was always firmly a “teenage” comic story, and this week’s news confirms that someone at Fox “gets” that. Josh Boone has now been joined by screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who previously worked with Boone on The Fault in Our Stars, as well as The Spectacular Now. The same story confirmed the six previously mentioned New Mutants team members (sorry, Karma and Magma fans; maybe next time?). (It’s unclear at this point whether or not Warlock’s mutant collaborator Cypher will be part of the story, since well… spoilers.) Fox has not yet announced a release date for The New Mutants, but at this point, it’s still possible it could be released in the summer of 2018.


Over the last few months, we’ve been hearing regular casting news for the fourth movie in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, as more actresses join (or don’t join) the movie called Ocean’s Eight. As of the most recent news, the tally of actresses confirmed to be in talks for roles in Ocean’s Eight stood at seven, implying there was just one major role yet to be cast and/or announced. To bring you up to date, those seven actresses are (in alphabetical order): rapper-turned-actress Awkwafina, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, and singer-turned-actress Rihanna. Actress number eight, now in talks, is Sarah Paulson, who is best known for her work on such TV shows as American Horror Story and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Ocean’s Eight will be directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, Pleasantville). Plot details aren’t known yet, except that it involves a “major heist,” and there are rumors that Sandra Bullock’s character may be a cousin (or other relative) of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean character.



As reported repeatedly the last few weeks, the summer of 2016 yielded a number of box office disappointments. One movie sort of in the middle was The Angry Birds Movie, which just barely made back its production budget ($73 million, out of a domestic gross of $107 million), helped along by its global box office of over $346 million.  The movie, based upon a popular mobile video game franchise, fared worse in terms of critical reception, earning a Rotten score of just 43 percent (though the film did receive an A+ Cinemascore). Even so, it’s apparently the global box office that really mattered for Rovio Entertainment, because the makers of Angry Birds are moving forward with plans for a sequel. No other details are yet known, including whether any (or all) of the film’s voice cast will be returning.


As far as we know, Jeremy Renner will continue appearing in future Marvel movies (such as 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War) as Hawkeye, but this week, the actor signed on to star in another superhero movie. Renner has signed to provide the voice of the lead animal superhero, a fox named Swifty, in the 3D animated family adventure Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad. He joins a voice cast that also includes Alec Baldwin, James Franco, Anjelica Huston, Omar Sy, and John Cleese, who is voicing the film’s main villain, Doc Walrus. The directors and animators of Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad will be working from a script by screenwriters Cal Brunker and Bob Barlen (Escape from Planet Earth, which has a Rotten Tomatometer of just 33 percent). The production company behind Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad is AMBI Group, which is a new-ish company best known right now for their desire to remake Christopher Nolan’s modern classic Memento.


The back-and-forth adaptations between TV shows and movies are not quite what they were back during the trend’s 1990s heyday, but it’s still a pretty big thing in at least one genre: cop movies. On TV, there have been recent series (or pilots) based on such movies as Beverly Hills Cop, Rush Hour, and Lethal Weapon, and at the movies, 21 Jump Street and its sequel 22 Jump Street have been recent box office hits (with Baywatch, which is sort of about beach cops, on the way next summer). This week brought development news about a film adaptation based not on a fictional TV series, but a show which was actually a documentary series (before they were called “reality TV”). That show is COPS, which recently marked the premiere of its 26th (!) season.  Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad, 30 Minutes or Less) is now attached to develop COPS into an action comedy movie, reportedly in the style of Lethal Weapon. It’s unknown right now whether the movie will incorporate the film crews that accompany the real life police officers on the TV show (but if it didn’t, it wouldn’t really be much like COPS, would it?).


Speaking of movies based on TV shows, one franchise that has done pretty well with critics (not counting the 57 percent Rotten score for Mission: Impossible 2) is, well, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise with Paramount Pictures. Ostensibly, the movies have also been box office successes, so one might expect Paramount to continue green lighting Mission: Impossible movies as an ongoing venture (especially since Paramount doesn’t really have that many successful franchises). That’s exactly what is not happening, now, with the news this week that Paramount Pictures has halted pre-production on Mission: Impossible 6. There appear to be two reasons at hand, and they both involve money. One explanation is that Paramount wants the franchise producers (including Tom Cruise and Bad Robot Productions) to “trim their fees” (allowing for more direct profit for Paramount). The other possible reason has Tom Cruise asking for a pay raise from his previous Mission: Impossible paydays, following a large amount that competitor Universal Pictures extended to Tom Cruise for starring in their new reboot of The Mummy (as part of their attempt at a “Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe”). Obviously, these two explanations can’t both be resolved equally, unless Tom Cruise concedes a cut in his producer fee and gets a pay raise as an actor (another possibility could be just lowering the overall production budget). Many pundits seem think this will be resolved, but since the Mission: Impossible movies have been 4-out-of-5 critical hits, we can’t help but see any delay in getting the 6th movie produced and in front our movie-loving eyes as sort of a Rotten Idea.

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