Traditionally, the measuring sticks applied to movies have been box office (obviously), reviews (super obviously), and each year, awards ceremonies (this being the super-duper obvious one). Over the last decade, however, social media has come to play a larger role as well. Last year, comedian Jordan Peele’s feature film directorial debut Get Out benefited from fervent word of mouth, and just about a year later, so did Marvel’s Black Panther. Jordan Peele revealed the first poster for his next film this week, simply titled Us, which is scheduled for release on March 15th, 2019 (in between Captain Marvel on 3/8/19 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters on 3/22/19). Variety is also reporting that Black Panther co-stars Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) and Winston Duke (M’Baku) are both in talks or wanted for lead roles. Elizabeth Moss, the star of another social media darling, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, is also being sought for another lead role. As with Get Out, Jordan Peele is currently being (probably justifiably) vague about the premise of Us, but he has said, “…it’s not gonna be about race, it’ll be about something else, but it’s gonna be very cinematic and fun.”
Probably about 90% of the stories we report on each week come from the same handful of major entertainment sources, but every once in a while we need to broaden our net. For example, when it comes to news about New Zealand director Peter Jackson, a consistently reliable source has been TheOneRing.net, the long-running source for news about Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. So, this week, TheOneRing.net Tweeted the following, “Decisions are being made by Peter Jackson and his NZ crew: Return to Middle-earth with Amazon, or play in the DC Universe?” That first option refers to Amazon’s plans for an expensive live action series based on the works of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. We’re going to focus on the second option, partly because it’s implied to be more of a movie thing, and because Warner Bros has been going after big directors like Jackson for their DC Comics properties lately (Steven Spielberg on Blackhawk, Ava DuVernay on New Gods, etc.). What DC Comics project Peter Jackson could be considering is anyone’s guess, but this writer thinks it might be Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which, like Lord of the Rings (and Warner Bros’ Harry Potter), is a sprawling fantasy epic which could also be adapted into a 19-hour 6 movie franchise.
In the early coverage of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, most of the attention has gone to the “A-list stars” like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (the film’s two fictional leads), and Margot Robbie (as the real life Manson Family victim Sharon Tate). This week, however, the ensemble cast grew considerably as five more names were thrown into the mix, and 60% of them are former Tarantino leads. The most surprising new actor to join Tarantino’s stable of talent, however, is 82-year-old Burt Reynolds, one of the biggest marquee stars of Tarantino’s favorite decade (the 1970s), as well as an Academy Award nominee for Boogie Nights. Reynolds will play George Spahn, the elderly rancher who allowed Charles Manson and his cult members to live on his ranch, whence they carried out their evil crimes. Reynolds will also be joined by Kurt Russell (Death Proof), Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) (all three of whom were also in The Hateful Eight), and Tarantino newcomer Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Justified, Santa Clarita Diet). Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is scheduled for August 9th, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Sharon Tate murders.
In addition to the stars Marvel Studios casts as its title heroes, they’ve also peppered their films with impressive prestige actors in supporting roles (Glenn Close, Robert Redford, and the surprise actor in Avengers: Infinity War). Next year’s Captain Marvel is taking the MCU back to the 1990s, and the film already has an impressive ensemble cast which includes newcomers Brie Larson, Jude Law, and Ben Mendelsohn joined by returning actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Lee Pace, and Djimon Hounsou (possibly because it’s set in the 1990s). The Captain Marvel cast grew by one more star this week, as four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening has been cast, possibly a scientist, and almost certainly as Captain Marvel’s mom. Captain Marvel is scheduled for release on March 8, 2019, a little under two months before Avengers 4 is released on May 3, 2019. In related news, Disney CEO Bob Iger teased this week that Marvel Studios’ future will include a “new franchise” (which might be Fantastic Four, X-Men, or something else entirely).
DreamWorks’ 2016 animated musical toy franchise adaptation Trolls was a big enough box office hit ($346 million globally) that a sequel was quickly put into development for release in April, 2020. Trolls had an impressive voice cast that included Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake in the lead roles, along with Russell Brand, James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, and many others. We now know that two of the new voice actors that are joining the franchise with Trolls 2 are Chance the Rapper and recent Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri). As would be expected in an animated movie musical, both Chance and Rockwell will also be recording songs for the movie’s soundtrack. We also learned this week that this spring’s Peter Rabbit has apparently done enough box office ($327 million globally and counting) to also warrant a sequel, Peter Rabbit 2, which is also scheduled for early 2020 (February 7th, 2020, to be precise). New cast members for Peter Rabbit 2 haven’t been announced yet.
Most books (especially not non-fiction books) never get adapted into any sort of media, but every once in a while, there is a crazy exception like Friday Night Lights. Fully titled Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and A Dream, the 1990 non-fiction book by H.G. Bissinger was first adapted as a 1993 TV series called Against the Grain (starring Ben Affleck), before also inspiring the 2004 film Friday Night Lights and the 2006-2011 TV series also called Friday Night Lights. Universal Pictures is now preparing for a fourth adaptation of Bissinger’s book about Texas high school football with the news that the studio has hired director David Gordon Green for the job. David Gordon Green is a prolific writer-director who got started with indie films like George Washington and All the Real Girls before expanding into James Franco comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, and most recently, the Boston Marathon bombing true story Stronger.
This was a movie news week in which a few of the projects addressed are decidedly old school (like the talk about Rambo V, and the teaser trailer for The Predator). Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, though the film’s riffs on Jeff Spicoli make it seem almost a decade older yet. The third movie in the franchise, Bill & Ted Face the Music, is now being sold at Cannes, with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter both returning. Co-writer Ed Solomon (Men in Black) has already been interviewed at length, and he explained that it involves the 50-something Bill & Ted traveling to the future to steal the song that they’re supposed to compose to saves the world, after decades of failing to actually compose it themselves, creating a Christmas Carol-style time travel narrative riff. Bill & Ted Face the Music will be directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), whose Tomatometer is mostly Rotten, even if a lot of wouldn’t mind another adventure with Wyld Stallyns.
Ever since last year’s adaptation of (half of) Stephen King’s IT earned over $700 million worldwide, most long-in-development Stephen King adaptations that had been collecting dust in someone’s screenplay drawer are now quickly being put into production. One of the projects that apparently was closest to getting a greenlight was Paramount Pictures’ remake of Pet Sematary, which the studio first adapted in 1989 (Rotten at 48% ). The news broke a few weeks ago that Zero Dark Thirty and Chappaquiddick star Jason Clarke will star in the Pet Sematary remake as the doctor whose grief leads him to start planting corpses in the titiular spooky site. Clarke also starred in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and his new cast member, John Lithgow, co-starred in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. John Lithgow has taken the role of Jud Crandall, the local who warns his new neighbor about the dangers of the Pet Sematary. Paramount Pictures has scheduled Pet Sematary for April 19, 2019, when it is currently scheduled against the toy adaptation Playmobil and the Will Smith action comedy Spies in Disguise.
In 1995, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence first teamed up for the action comedy Bad Boys (42%), which was then followed in 2003 by the sequel Bad Boys II (23%). That means it’ll now be 25 years between Bad Boys and the third film, called Bad Boys For Life. That movie was actually first scheduled for February 17, 2017 (which obviously didn’t happen), and the new release date now is January 17th, 2020. (Keep in mind how awesome “January movies” sometimes are.) Bad Boys For Life will also be joined by another “threequel” in 2020, as Warner Bros has also scheduled their Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law film Sherlock Holmes 3 for Christmas Day of that year.
Last summer’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard may have been made on a budget of just $30 million, but it also had the benefit of two Marvel stars in Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Samuel L. Jackson (Marvel Studios’ Nick Fury). So, the $176 million that The Hitman’s Bodyguard earned is a much bigger deal in relation to its budget than, say, if it had been a typical $120 million tentpole. All of that is probably a big part of the reasoning behind the revelation at this week’s Cannes Film Market that Millennium Films is now developing a sequel to be called The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Samuel L. Jackson (the Hitman), Salma Hayek (the Wife), and Ryan Reynolds (the Bodyguard) are all expected to return for The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Other sequels Millennium Films has planned include Angel Has Fallen (the third movie after Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen), The Mechanic 3, Rambo V, and The Expendables 3. Critics “rewarded” The Hitman’s Bodyguard with a Rotten Tomatometer score of just 40%.