It’s funny how quickly things can change, particularly when the bottom line is involved, financially speaking. It was less than a month ago that the Weekly Ketchup reported that Lucasfilm was moving forward with Boba Fett: A Star Wars Story, to be directed by James Mangold (Logan, Wolverine). We’ve also known for a while that another “prequel spinoff” working its way through development was Obi-Wan: A Star Wars Story, featuring some of Ewan McGregor’s adventures as the Jedi Knight in between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. All of that, however, was before Solo: A Star Wars Story opened to a mere $84 million weekend, with its global box office unlikely to do much better than $500 million (if it even gets that high). There are obviously a few different variables possibly to blame (like the May release date versus the December dates for the three previous films), but even so, Lucasfilm may be rethinking this whole Star Wars Story concept. This news hasn’t been confirmed, so consider this a rumor for now, but Lucasfilm may be putting all of these movies (like Boba Fett and Obi-Wan) on hold. If this turns out to be true, Lucasfilm would instead be focusing on Star Wars Episode IX (12/20/19) and two different new trilogies to follow it. One of those possible new trilogies is being developed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), and the other is from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. In other Star Wars news, there was also this.
With next year’s Captain Marvel, Anna Boden will be the first female director of a Marvel Studios film, but she’s also co-directing with her longtime partner Ryan Fleck (with whom she co-directed Mississippi Grind and It’s Kind of a Funny Story). The distinction of the first solo female director on a Marvel Studios film is still out there, and it’s looking like Black Widow will claim that honor. We learned earlier this year that Marvel was going through a list of dozens of female directors, and this week, three names topped their shortlist, namely Amma Asante (Belle, A United Kingdom, both Certified Fresh), Maggie Betts (Novitiate, 88% Certified Fresh), and Cate Shortland (Lore, Berlin Syndrome, also both Certified Fresh). The premise of Scarlett Johansson’s long-awaited Black Widow standalone film is not yet known, but a rumor reported in April suggested that it might be a prequel featuring Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios has also reportedly hired production designer Maria Djurkovic whose recent film was the Black Widow-ish spy thriller Red Sparrow.
This fall sees the long-awaited release of the long-in-development Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (11/2/18). The box office reception for musical biopics recently has had one big up (Straight Outta Compton) and a lot more downs (All Eyez On Me, Miles Ahead, I Saw the Light), but yet, we’ve been seeing an uptick in development of new ones. Let’s start with the film closest to release (indeed, it’s already filming), and that’s Rocketman, which is reportedly more of a film inspired by Elton John’s music and life than it is a strict biopic (think The Greatest Showman). Jamie Bell will co-star as Bernie Taupin, the longtime songwriting partner of Elton John, played by Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eddie the Eagle). We also now know that the Marvin Gaye biopic (which has been in the works since before the Elton John movie) is a lot closer to actually happening because rapper and producer Dr. Dre has secured the cooperation of Gaye’s estate, something no other previous project accomplished. The Sammy Davis Jr biopic (possibly called Yes I Can) also hit an important milestone this week, as it is now set up at Paramount Pictures, with pop and soul star Lionel Richie producing.
Every year, most of the Academy Awards acting nominees and winners make the news as they sign for their follow up projects. Thus far this year, however, we haven’t heard about any new roles for singer-turned-actress Mary J. Blige, who was nominated for her part in Netflix’s Mudbound. We now know the answer to that question, and it’s a project that also ties fairly directly into one of the other biggest trends to come out of 2017. Mary J. Blige has signed with Paramount to star in their horror thriller called Body Cam, which is being described as a “tonal blend of Get Out and End of Watch.” Body Cam will tell the stories of “several LAPD police officers who are haunted by a malevolent spirit that is tied to the murder of a black youth at the hands of two white cops, all of which are caught on a body cam video that was destroyed in a cover-up.” Mary J. Blige will play one of the officers haunted by the ghostly visions who then proceeds to investigate the cover-up into the murder. Blige will also co-star next year in Netflix’s comic book adaptation series The Umbrella Academy.
Much ado was made this year when the children’s movie Paddington 2 achieved an impressive 100% RT Tomatometer score. However, there are other older family films which also have 100% scores (albeit with far fewer total reviews accounted for). One example is 1990’s The Witches, starring Anjelica Huston in an adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl. One might think it a sticky matter to try to improve upon an apparently near-universally beloved film, but that’s also what one could say about many of Disney animated classics, and they’re remaking almost all of them. That, however, is exactly what Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) appears to have planned, as he is now in final negotiations with Warner Bros to remake The Witches. In other Zemeckis news, the first trailer for his narrative adaptation of the documentary Marwencol, called Welcome to Marwen and starring Steve Carell, debuted online this week, looking a lot like a cross between Small Soldiers, Sucker Punch, and The Beaver.
If you’ve found yourself binge-watching crazy music videos on YouTube, there’s a good chance that you may have come across the Eurovision Song Contest. Introduced in 1956 as a way of uniting post-war Europe artistically, Eurovision Song Contest has resulted in a few actual music stars (ABBA, Celine Dion), but just as often, the entrants are borderline ridiculous (or, in a case like 1979’s Dschinghis Khan, entirely ridiculous). That word “ridiculous” leads us directly to this week’s news, which is that Will Ferrell has signed with Netflix to star in the musical comedy Eurovision, which Ferrell will co-write and also produce via his Gary Sanchez Productions (which also recently produced the Netflix comedy Ibiza ). An official premise hasn’t been given, but Eurovision will probably involve Ferrell as a clueless but good-hearted schmuck who gets into Eurovision on a technicality but then wins the crowds over.
One downside for studios whose big projects don’t happen when originally intended is that if they wait too long, a competitor might just come along. Sony Pictures’ Barbie is now scheduled for May 8th, 2020 (after previous dates in the summers of both 2017 and 2018), which indeed gives this week’s news time to beat it to market. Having said that, although they are both popular doll franchises, the similarities between Barbie and American Girl might just end right there. But yes, that’s the popular franchise that Mattel and Original Film (the Fast & Furious production company) is now developing as a possible film franchise. This is an opportunity for upcoming screenwriters, because they are currently open to pitches and spec scripts, so if you’re a writer, and you have a favorite American Girl character, you do have an opportunity.
There are certain franchises and genres (like video game adaptations) broadly associated with consistently Rotten Tomatometer scores, but even the first Transformers movie at least got sort of close with a 57%. The six movies based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and animated TV show are consistently Rotten, starting with 40% for the first 1990 movie and earning ever lower Tomatometer scores thereafter. And yet, just over two years after 2016’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows earned a 37%, here we are again, as Paramount Pictures has started development on the third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their current ongoing franchise. It’s currently unclear if the seventh TMNT film will be a sequel or perhaps a new reboot (which would be the franchise’s third restart if true). To that end, Paramount has hired screenwriter Andrew Dodge, whose first produced feature film was Jason Bateman’s Bad Words (and who’s also working on Space Jam 2). There has also been speculation this week that producer Michael Bay might choose to direct this seventh film, after recently leaving the Transformers franchise as director.