This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Avatar 4, Ballerina, and Gears of War.
(Photo by Gabe Ginsberg, Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
The original 2014 Keanu Reeves-starring revenge action thriller John Wick (Certified Fresh at 86%) was not a box office blockbuster ($86 million worldwide), but Lionsgate pushed ahead with a sequel called John Wick: Chapter 2 (Certified Fresh at 89%) anyway, which almost doubled ($171 million worldwide) the first film’s total, and an action franchise was born. Almost four movies in (John Wick: Chapter 4 comes out on March 4, 2023), Lionsgate has now started filming the first John Wick spinoff called Ballerina, with Blonde (Rotten at 42%) star Ana de Armas in the title role. De Armas was first announced for Ballerina over a year ago, but the start of filming also brought news of two John Wick stars who will be reprising their roles. The first was the most obvious, which is that Keanu Reeves is already in Prague to co-star in Ballerina as John Wick (the setting of Ballerina is unclear, so Keanu’s scenes might predate John Wick itself). The other franchise star who will be reprising his role in Ballerina is Ian McShane, who has played Winston, the manager of the assassin-friendly Continental hotel, in the first three John Wick films. As for whether there will be a John Wick Chapter 5, director Chad Stahelski said in August that the decision remains in Lionsgate’s corporate hands, although at one point, the fifth film was expected to film back to back with Chapter 4.
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The animated sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (6/2/2023) is less than seven months away, but Sony Pictures has mostly kept the film’s new characters unpublicized (Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099 is in the first trailer). Having said that, if you read columns like this one, you might already know that other new characters will include Jessica Drew (aka the original Spider-Woman, to be played by Issa Rae), The Vulture (Jorma Taccone), and The Spot (Jason Schwartzman). Those last two are villains, but in the same way that Into the Spider-Verse (Certified Fresh at 97%) introduced Spider variants like Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), we can expect new Spider variants in this sequel. One of them will be Spider-Punk, who we now know will be voiced by Daniel Kaluuya. Sony also did a pretty good job with the first film at keeping some of the surprises secret, so we can probably expect other characters won’t be revealed until Across the Spider-Verse opens on June 2, 2023. That film will then be followed by the third animated Miles Morales movie, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, on March 29, 2024.
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Over the last several years, there have been a number of directors, producers, and TV showrunners who have been announced for upcoming Star Wars movies who have (apparently) since left their Lucasfilm projects. That list includes Marvel’s Kevin Feige, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Shutter Island screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis, and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins (for the shelved Rogue Squadron project). The latest director to be announced for a Star Wars movie is Shawn Levy, whose long filmography includes the Night at the Museum franchise and, more recently, Free Guy (Certified Fresh at 80%), The Adam Project (Fresh at 67%), and 10 episodes of Stranger Things (Fresh at 92%), which Levy also executive produces. Levy’s Star Wars movie probably won’t happen in the next few years, as he will first direct (at least) Deadpool 3, starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, which is currently scheduled for November 8, 2024. In related news, another Star Wars project that is no longer moving forward is the one that director J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Devotion) had been working on (Dillard is also no longer working on a sequel to The Rocketeer for Disney either).
(Photo by Microsoft Studios)
Earlier this week, the popular video game franchise Gears of War celebrated its 16th anniversary, as the first game came out on November 7, 2006. Not coincidentally, on that same date this week, the video game developer The Coalition announced that a deal has been made with Netflix to adapt Gears of War as both a live-action feature film and an animated series, with hopes that this could lead to a new Gears of War franchise on Netflix. This deal comes after a long 15-year struggle by various Hollywood producers and studios to get a Gears of War movie produced. In related news, Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista has already taken to Instagram and Twitter to pitch himself as Gears of War star Marcus Fenix, wearing Gears of War-style armor and featuring the tag, “I can’t make this any easier.” This pitch from Bautista follows previous connections between Bautista and Gears of War, including the game unlock in some multiplayer modes that allows players access to a character that is visually based on Bautista himself. As of this writing, however, there has been no announcement yet about Bautista’s involvement.
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In the last few years, Nicolas Cage has continued to star in Hollywood movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Certified Fresh at 97%), The Croods: A New Age (Certified Fresh at 77%), and the upcoming Renfield (4/14/2023), in which Cage will play Count Dracula. At the same time, however, Cage has made himself very available to up-and-coming filmmakers, which has led to movies like Mandy (Certified Fresh at 90%), Pig (Certified Fresh at 97%), and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Certified Fresh at 86%). Nicolas Cage’s latest foray into independent filmmaking will be a horror thriller called Longlegs for writer and director Osgood “Oz” Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter). The premise of Longlegs hasn’t been revealed yet, except that it’s “in the vein of classic Hollywood psychological thrillers,” which is of note because Perkins’ dad was Anthony Perkins, the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
(Photo by Nickelodeon)
One of the debates currently going on both in the press and elsewhere involves the number of movies that are being released theatrically after two years of studios sending movies directly to streaming services. The schedules for 2023 and 2024 appear to be a bit more robust, and this week’s news suggests 2025 might be even more so, as Paramount Pictures has confirmed theatrical releases for two movies that were previously expected to debut on their Paramount+ app. Paramount has announced plans to theatrically release the fourth SpongeBob SquarePants on May 23, 2025, and a new animated movie based on the popular anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender on October 10, 2025. Neither film has an official title, premise, or any confirmed voice cast yet.
(Photo by Jon Kopaloff, Joe Maher/Getty Images)
Japanese mystery novelist Kōtarō Isaka recently had a relative Hollywood success with his novel Maria Beetle, which was adapted this summer as the action movie Bullet Train (Rotten at 53%). Netflix has landed the feature film rights to another of Isaka’s novels, Seesaw Monster, and has also already made deals with both Anne Hathaway and Salma Hayek to star. Netflix isn’t giving away any details about the Seesaw Monster adaptation (although the novel is out there, free to be read), except that Hathaway and Hayek will play “rivals forced to work together in an action comedy two-hander.”
(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Earlier this year, Snoop Dogg acquired the rights to Death Row Records, the label on which he started his musical career, following the 2006 bankruptcy of both Death Row Records and former CEO Suge Knight. In addition to the record label, Snoop Dogg is also launching a new production company called Death Row Pictures, and the first feature film project under Death Row Pictures (and Universal Pictures) will be a Snoop Dogg biopic. The film will be directed by Allen Hughes (half of the Hughes brothers duo, responsible for Menace II Society, From Hell, The Book of Eli), working from a screenplay by screenwriter Joe Robert Cole, who co-wrote both Black Panther (Certified Fresh at 96%) and this week’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Certified Fresh at 85%). It’s unclear if Snoop Dogg, who is now 51, will portray himself in the currently untitled film. Since he is producing the biopic and has access to Death Row Records’ rights, the film is expected to draw heavily upon Snoop Dogg’s many hit songs.
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Many box office pundits (like this one and this one) are predicting blockbuster results for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water (12/16/2022). “Success” for a sequel to Avatar may be difficult to predict, as expectations could be sky high considering that Avatar made almost $3 billion as the biggest box office hit of all time. With all of that in mind, Cameron said this week that if Avatar: The Way of Water does indeed underperform, the franchise would probably end after Avatar 3. The curious thing about Cameron saying Avatar 3 could be the last film is that, reportedly, most of the first act of Avatar 4 has already been filmed, which means that if Cameron pulls the plug on the production, there will be a big chunk of filmmaking that won’t end up being released (though it wouldn’t quite be a Batgirl-style cancellation).
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)
For a movie that came out less than 10 years ago, 2013’s The Conjuring (Certified Fresh at 86%) has had an impressive impact on the horror genre, inspiring its own cinematic universe that has included spin-offs like Annabelle (Rotten at 28%) and The Nun (Rotten at 25%), and then sequels or prequels for those movies as well (The Nun 2 is currently being filmed). In The Conjuring 2 (Certified Fresh at 80%), a new character called “The Crooked Man” was introduced, which led to expectations that the Crooked Man would eventually be another spinoff. Unfortunately for fans waiting for The Crooked Man, James Wan took to Instagram this week to break the news that there won’t be a Crooked Man movie, though Wan did end his post with, “But maybe one day.”