Weekly Ketchup

Margot Robbie May Get Her Own Harley Quinn Spinoff, and More Movie News

More casting news for the all-female Ocean's Eleven and Thor: Ragnarok, plus new roles for Dwayne Johnson, Helen Mirren, and Adam Driver. Oh, and a Tetris trilogy.

by | May 20, 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 Dungeons & Dragons, Tetris, Thor: Ragnarok, Transformers: The Last Knight, and the all-female Ocean’s Eleven spinoff.

This Week’s Top Story



Warner Bros’ “super villain team” movie Suicide Squad is still over two months away from release (8/5/16), but this week, we heard news that suggests the studio has high hopes about the film’s critical and box office success. (Which they really need after the 27 percent Rotten rating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received.) Reportedly, actress Margot Robbie pitched Warner Bros on the idea of her character Harley Quinn getting her own spinoff, which will feature an ensemble cast of other female DC Comics characters. Which characters might join Harley Quinn aren’t yet known, but Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (who include Black Canary, Catwoman, and Huntress) are all seen as top contenders. That wasn’t the only news about Margot Robbie this week, though, as Robbie is also now in early talks to costar in the biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin, about children’s author A.A. Milne, creator of the Winnie the Pooh characters. Domhnall Gleeson is cast as A.A. Milne, and if she signs on, Robbie would play his wife. Going back to the DC Comics movies and their future, there was also the news this week that Warner Bros is shaking up its corporate leadership following the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Specifically, the DC Comics adaptations will now be run by current EVP Jon Berg and DC Comics “chief content officer” Geoff Johns, who comics fans will recognize as a key writer of many of their most popular stories over the last ten years or so. Speaking of the new tone that he hopes to bring to future DC Comics movies, Johns used the phrase “optimism and hope” as something he hopes to bring to the films. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder is still, however, attached to direct Justice League: Part One, scheduled for November 17, 2017.

Fresh Developments This Week



We still don’t know yet if Jennifer Lawrence will return as Mystique in more films past this month’s X-Men: Apocalypse. Even if she doesn’t, this week brought news of another potential franchise for Lawrence after The Hunger Games and X-Men. The key factor here is director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), who directed the first Hunger Games movie, and is now developing the “all female” spinoff of Ocean’s Eleven. We’ve known since October that Sandra Bullock was attached to be the first of the movie’s ensemble (potentially the “Clooney” in this group). This week brought the news that Gary Ross may be eyeing Jennifer Lawrence as an addition to the female group of heist planners and confidence ladies. This news also confirms that the film is not really a reboot, but instead a soft spinoff, with Bullock playing Danny Ocean’s sister, and Jennifer Lawrence her “right hand woman” as they plan to “steal a necklace from the Met Ball and frame a crooked gallery owner.” Warner Bros has not yet given the all-female Ocean’s Eleven spinoff a release date, though it’s possible it could be one of their secret “event’ dates (like the one that WB has scheduled for November 16, 2018).



One outstanding complaint that some have long had about Marvel’s MCU films involves a perceived lack of villains as intimidating as the title heroes. For example, Ant-Man didn’t even have a classic villain, with one of Pym’s alter-egos (Yellowjacket) serving as the “villain” instead. With today’s news, Marvel Studios may be hinting a move toward implementing bigger and more threatening villains in future films. Via their official site, Marvel Studios has announced two new villains for Thor: Ragnarok, and revealed the characters played by previously announced actresses. Karl Urban (Star Trek, Dredd) has been cast as Skurge the Executioner, and Jeff Goldblum (more about him in just a bit) has been cast as The Grandmaster, the MCU’s second Elder of the Universe, after The Collector (Guardians of the Galaxy). The previously announced Cate Blanchett and Tessa Thompson (Creed) have also been confirmed as playing Hela (Loki’s daughter, and the ruler of Hel) and Valkyrie (presumably, Brunnhilde). One character missing from this announcement is Amora the Enchantress, who is traditionally Skurge’s partner against Thor (but DC’s inclusion of another character called “The Enchantress” in Suicide Squad might explain her absence here). Thor: Ragnarok will be directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), and Marvel has scheduled the film for November 3, 2017. The casting of Jeff Goldblum may have led to another major Marvel story this week. Those who follow film development news closely might remember that when Michael Keaton dropped out of contention for playing a villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming (7/7/17), Jeff Goldblum was reportedly the top contender to replace him. Well, now that Goldblum is playing The Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok, we are also now hearing that Keaton is back in talks to costar in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel isn’t officially saying who he might play, but long-time Spidey villain The Vulture remains a popular guess.



There may be more franchises and would-be “cinematic universes” now than ever before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there are more legitimate (franchise-worthy) “movie stars” these days. As a result, studios are increasingly vying for attention from the same consistently proven movie stars (let’s wave at Jennifer Lawrence up above, folks!) to help launch their franchises with the required star power. One such actor is Dwayne Johnson, who, in addition to the Fast & Furious movies, has also added his star power to the Journey, G.I. Joe, and San Andreas franchises, and also has Baywatch, Disney’s Moana and the video game adaptation Rampage in the works. This week brought news of two more. The studio that is specifically throwing around the “cinematic universe” is Universal Pictures, which has now attached Dwayne Johnson to star in The Janson Directive, based on a novel by espionage author Robert Ludlum (AKA the writer of the Jason Bourne books/movies). Dwayne Johnson will star in The Janson Directive as “a former clandestine operative, now the best private security consultant in the world, who is framed for a horrendous crime and must join forces with the protégée sent to kill him in order to survive.” Screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Amazing Spider-Man) will both adapt The Janson Directive and continue to develop adaptations of other Robert Ludlum novels (Vanderbilt previously wrote for Johnson on The Rundown). It’s yet unclear if the Johnson/Vanderbilt “Ludlum Cinematic Universe” will also connect to the continuity of Universal’s “Bourne” films. Dwayne Johnson also seemed to tease on Instagram this week that he might be working with director Shane Black (The Nice Guys) next year on his long-in-development adaptation of the pulp hero Doc Savage.  Johnson doesn’t come right out and say, however, that he would be playing Doc Savage (since he could be playing any other character in the movie). Having said that, most people are interpreting the tease that way, and it does seem more likely that Johnson would himself play Doc Savage. Perhaps Shane Black or the studio will confirm Johnson’s involvement and role soon.



After Fresh Tomatometer scores for their two most recent films (Daybreakers and Predestination) the Australian directing team of brothers Michael and Peter Spierig may be just one hit from being the “next big thing” as directors. For their next film, the Spierig Brothers are tackling the true story of rifle heiress Sarah Winchester (1840-1922) who reportedly believed her family was cursed by the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester rifles that helped settle the Wild West (and other areas). This reportedly led Winchester to commission the building of the sprawling 160-room “Winchester Mystery House,” which remains a popular tourist destination in Northern California. After working with Ethan Hawke as the star of their last two movies, the Spierig Brothers are now working with a female star, because Helen Mirren is in final talks to star in Winchester as the aforementioned heiress. Filming of Winchester is scheduled to start in early 2017 in both San Jose, California and on sets in Australia.



It has been so long now (14 years!) since the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, about a doomed film production by director Terry Gilliam, that most have probably long since accepted Gilliam’s movie would never be made. That movie was called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and in its original incarnation, it was to star Johnny Depp as a man who travels back in time to have an adventure with the real inspiration for Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Well, it appears it’s really happening this time, with confirmation that Gilliam has funding to start filming The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, starting in October of 2016 at locations in Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands. Instead of Johnny Depp, the lead will now be Adam Driver, AKA “Kylo Ren” and the costar of HBO’s GirlsMonty Python member Michael Palin will play Don Quixote, and Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion) will play the film’s female lead.



One advantage of an older intellectual property being adapted for the first time might be that it doesn’t have to overcome the bad reputation of a poorly received previous attempt. The classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, for example, was first adapted as live action in 2000, which led to two direct-to-video sequels and an animated Dragonlance movie — and none of them has a Tomatometer score above the a very Rotten 10 percent. Warner Bros still (and rightly so, this writer thinks) sees Dungeons & Dragons as a potentially lucrative property, since there are hundreds of adventures laid out in very narrative terms in both “module” form and novels.  Although Dungeons & Dragons still retains an avid adult audience 40 years on, Warner Bros appears to be approaching the first film as a more kid-/family-friendly adventure. That’s because director Rob Letterman is now attached to direct the Dungeons & Dragons reboot. Letterman made his directorial debut collaborating on DreamWorks’ 2004 film Shark Tale and co-directed Monsters vs Aliens, then directed the live action movies Gulliver’s Travels and last year’s adaptation of Goosebumps (both starring Jack Black). The latter was also the sort of “monster ensemble” adventure approach that one might imagine Letterman could apply to his version of Dungeons & Dragons.

Rotten Ideas of The Week



When the horror film Insidious debuted as the entry in a new franchise in 2011, the relatively star-studded pairing of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne may have helped the film earn a Fresh Tomatometer score of 66 percent. Wilson and Byrne returned for Insidious: Chapter 2, but that film dropped to a Rotten 39 percent, and after they left, the third film received a Rotten score in 2015 as well. Universal Pictures doesn’t seem dissuaded, however, as the studio has announced plans for Insidious: Chapter 4, which they have now scheduled for release on October 20, 2017. Lin Shaye, who is the only actor to appear in all three films to date, will also return as her parapsychologist character, for this fourth film. Director Adam Robitel, who made his feature film debut with The Taking of Deborah Logan, will make his studio debut with Insidious: Chapter 4.



After taking a break for the fourth movie (allowing Mark Wahlberg to take over), Josh Duhamel is now confirmed to return for the fifth Transformers movie. That film, which is now called Transformers: The Last Knight, has been scheduled by Paramount Pictures for June 23, 2017, setting up an annual release schedule that will be followed by the Bumblebee movie on June 8, 2018. Director Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg are both also returning for this fifth film, whose new logo font has also led to some speculation. Specifically, many are seeing a resemblance to the font used by Hasbro (and Marvel) for their toy/comic Rom: Spaceknight, which Paramount and Hasbro are also known to be developing into a future feature film and which many Marvel Comics fans who grew up in the late 1970s and in the 1980s may fondly remember. If this speculation is correct, it might just be that Rom: Spaceknight could be coming to movie theaters in the summer of 2018 (or it might all just be a huge fakeout).



China’s growing filmmaking industry is really flexing its muscles in 2016, as it currently holds the #6, #9, and #10 spots in the year’s top global box office earners to date.  Thus far, many of China’s most ambitious projects have been based on Chinese/Asian mythology, but one of this week’s top stories suggests that Chinese producers are also eyeing other types of adaptations. Specifically, businessman Bruno Wu is teaming up with Mortal Kombat producer Larry Kasanoff to start development on a $80 million coproduction that will be the first of a planned trilogy of films based on the Russian “falling block” game Tetris. The quasi-ridiculous thing here is that we’re now eight years past the debut of the Tetris short film that (mostly jokingly) suggested that someday, someone would try to adapt Tetris as a live action movie. The first Tetris movie will film at least partly in China and feature Chinese actors in “prominent positions.”

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