Earlier this year, fresh off the Best Picture Oscar win for The Shape of Water, director, producer and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro launched his own label at Fox Searchlight (the distributor behind the film). Del Toro’s muscle as producer has never been stronger, and this week, he expanded his influence even farther in what was also a consolidation of his relationship with the content-thirsty streaming service Netflix. Del Toro already works with Netflix on the animated series DreamWorks Trollhunters, and this week, we learned he will also produce Netflix’s first horror anthology series (not counting the sci-fi of Black Mirror). Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight will, as the title suggests, included ten episodes telling “personally curated stories,” some of which will be written and directed by del Toro himself. Notable past examples of the format include Alfred Hitchcock Presents (mysteries and thrillers) and Steven Spielberg’s 1980s anthology series Amazing Stories (a reboot of which was recently in development for Apple).
There are any number of explanations for the popularity this year of Marvel’s Black Panther ($1.34 billion and still counting). One thing it had going for it was that Marvel hired director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) to tell his own type of superhero story, and people took to it. This week, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed that, “Ms. Marvel… the Muslim hero who is inspired by Captain Marvel, is definitely sort of in the works.” The character we now know as Captain Marvel (3/6/2019) herself started out as Ms. Marvel, but a few years ago, that title was passed down to Kamala Khan, an Inhuman with the ability to stretch, shapeshift, and otherwise “embiggen” (think of a cross between Mister Fantastic and Giant-Man). Kamala Khan is also a Pakistani-American teenager whose stories are richly told within the context of her relationship to both her own family and her local community of Jersey City, New Jersey. It sounds like Marvel hopes for a Ms. Marvel solo movie, but she could possibly appear first in another film, like maybe Captain Marvel 2, or the all-female Avengers project Tessa Thompson has talked about pitching (A-Force?). Already on Twitter, Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, The Night Of), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project, Ocean’s Eight), and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) have all expressed interest in working on Ms. Marvel. And in the post-Black Panther world, that sort of collaboration is something Marvel Studios could fully get behind, and fans have been reacting online in great numbers. In the meantime, Marvel also continues to develop their Eternals movie.
It was just five months ago when Meryl Streep (and Tom Hanks) starred in Steven Spielberg’s The Post (Certified Fresh at 87%), telling the true story of how The Washington Post published The Pentagon Papers in 1971. After earning her 21st Academy Award nomination for her work in that film, Meryl Streep has signed on for another fact-based drama about a more recent cache of documents that revealed controversial secrets. Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas are also in talks with director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich) to star in the drama called The Laundromat. The film will be an adaptation of Jake Bernstein’s non-fiction book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite, about the Panama Papers leaked in 2015 that included 11.5 million documents revealing vast offshore funding schemes. The Laundromat does not yet have a distributor, but Netflix is reportedly a top contender.
The somewhat secret premise behind Martin Scorsese’s 2011 children’s adventure Hugo is that Sir Ben Kingsley played Georges Méliès, the early French filmmaker most remembered for 1902’s A Trip To the Moon. Hugo revealed a surprising gap in how well the earliest years of filmmaking are covered by modern biopics (the answer: not very well). British actor Gary Oldman is particularly hot right now, coming off his Best Actor Oscar win for Darkest Hour, and this week we learned that he is now attached to direct and star in a historical drama called Flying Horse, about the life of 19th century photographer and inventor Eadweard Muybridge. Eadweard Muybridge is credited with being an early predecessor to the filmmaking technology of the 1880s and 1890s, with his work photographing animals (like horses) for exhibition using stop-motion. Muybridge’s life story also includes “revenge, murder, and the search for justice” after the discovery in 1872 that his wife was having an affair with a drama critic. Gary Oldman’s first film as director was 1998’s Nil by Mouth (67%).
Following the runaway box office succcess ($700 million worldwide) of last year’s IT, New Line Cinema is now preparing to adapt the rest of Stephen King’s novel, in which the Losers Club reunite 30 years later to finally defeat Pennywise. Jessica Chastain was the first to be cast as the adult Beverly, followed by James McAvoy and Bill Hader, who will play Bill and Richie, respectively. Two more actors were cast this week, but neither are quite as famous as the first three. Stanley, who inadvertently brings the Losers back together, will be played by Andy Bean, who previously had a supporting role in 2016’s Allegiant. Asthmatic Eddie will be played as an adult by James Ransone, who has a slightly higher profile, having co-starred on dramas Treme and Bosch, with a more prominent role on Low Winter Sun. New Line Cinema has scheduled IT: Chapter Two for release on September 6th, 2019.
If you were surprised to see the grizzled look Chris Evans sported in Avengers: Infinity War, it’s possible that you never saw 2014’s Snowpiercer, in which Evans had a similar “beardy” look. Snowpiercer was also an opportunity for Evans to use his time in between Marvel projects to work with an acclaimed director (Bong Joon-ho), and for one of his post-Avengers 4 projects (which already wrapped filming), he’s teaming up with another fan favorite director. Chris Evans will star in a cataclysmic natural disaster thriller called Greenland for director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, Chappie). Evans’ other post-Avengers 4 project that already wrapped filming is The Red Sea Diving Resort, co-starring Haley Bennett and Sir Ben Kingsley.
We may be living in a world dominated by superhero movies and creepy horror franchises, but romantic comedies remain ever popular, and we continue to get them in various forms. One route is remakes (like the recent Overboard), and apparently, we now get them from written articles too, like “The Craziest OkCupid Date Ever,” published by Salon in 2013. That piece has been adapted by New Line Cinema under the title No Baggage, with Shailene Woodley attached to star. No Baggage will tell the story of a couple who meet on an online dating site and agree to share an overseas adventure through obscure and exotic destinations in Eastern Europe and Turkey.
The official Fast and Furious franchise is going to come to an end on April 10th, 2020, which means that Vin Diesel is going to have a lot more time on his hands pretty soon. Although his name doesn’t come up in film development news as often as Dwayne Johnson, he does have a few projects percolating, like Furia (his return to the Riddick franchise), xXx 4, and of course, his gig repeating “I Am Groot” for Marvel. Those projects were joined this week by an action comedy called Muscle for STXfilms, although the actual premise is being kept “under wraps” for now. Whatever Muscle is about, STX is hoping they can turn it into a new franchise for Vin Diesel. STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson said, “Muscle is the perfect blend of action and comedy that his millions of devoted fans around the world have come to love him for, and we believe has the potential to become his next big, signature franchise.”
In a sort of backwards logic way, the filmographies of disgraced celebrities like Bill Cosby might actually be ideal sources for producers looking for old movies to remake. Unlike the films made by stars whose reputations are not tarnished, it’s a lot harder to make the argument that people are going to want to go back and watch old Bill Cosby movies now. Specifically, we’re talking about 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night, which featured Cosby and Sydney Poitier as friends trying to get back a stolen wallet that contains a winning lottery ticket. Will Smith has been developing a remake of Uptown Saturday Night for several years now, but now it looks like Smith himself will no longer be starring in it. Instead, Kevin Hart is now in talks to star in the remake, from a script adapted by Kenya Barris (ABC’s black-ish). It’s not yet known who will be joining Kevin Hart (though it could still be Will Smith).
The “cinematic universe” trend doesn’t seem quite as hot in 2018 as it did a few years ago, as several studios have failed in their efforts to start one. There are, however, still some properties where individual movies could be produced with an eye towards uniting them. We know that Paramount Pictures has been considering doing exactly that with their various Hasbro movies, which could include Transformers, ROM: Spaceknight, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., and G.I. Joe. And within that, G.I. Joe could be split up into individual movies for some of their more popular characters (Transformers is doing this with Bumblebee, for example, due out on December 21st, 2018). With that in mind, Paramount has hired screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Battle for Terra) to work on Snake Eyes, a solo spinoff of the G.I. Joe franchise centered on the Joes’ mute ninja commando. Snake Eyes is one of the most popular characters in G.I. Joe, but the two films of the current franchise are both Rotten at 35% and 29% on the Tomatometer, so we don’t hold out much hope for this one.