The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are consistently box office hits, so it wasn’t so much a surprise that Black Panther was a hit as it was that it earned over $1.346 billion as the year’s #2 film. Indeed, if there is any surprise about a Black Panther sequel this week, it might actually be that it took this long for Marvel Studios to secure director and writer Ryan Coogler, who is now working on his Black Panther 2 screenplay with an eye toward filming in either late 2019 or early 2020. Marvel Studios has not yet announced any release dates past Spider-Man: Far From Home (7/5/2019), but from those filming dates, we could guess perhaps a 2021 date. Ryan Coogler reportedly may also squeeze in his quasi-remake of 12 Angry Men before filming Black Panther 2, and he’s also developing the Michael B. Jordan drama Wrong Answer, as well as producing LeBron James’ Space Jam sequel.
One of the most shocking stories in recent memory came in July when Disney fired director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 over offensive tweets from before his original hiring for 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. After Avengers director Joss Whedon left Marvel, Warner Bros recruited him to finish work on DC Comics’ Justice League, and this week Warner Bros did something very similar with Gunn. James Gunn is now signed to write and possibly direct the sequel to DC Comics’ Suicide Squad. Gunn is supposedly working on a “completely new take,” which suggests it could even be a reboot instead of a true sequel to the first film. One reason to believe that is that, in the past, Gunn has tweeted negatively about Jared Leto, suggesting he may not be in any hurry to cast Leto as Joker in his Suicide Squad. James Gunn is also reportedly replacing Gavin O’Connor on Suicide Squad 2 because O’Connor’s screenplay ended up being too similar to Birds of Prey (Margot Robbie’s second movie as Harley Quinn). Director David Ayer, who helmed the first Suicide Squad, was quick to support Gunn, calling him “the right man” for the job. Another possible advocate for James Gunn’s switch to DC Comics is his “Drax” actor Dave Bautista, who reportedly wants to co-star in Suicide Squad 2. Specifically, Bautista tweeted a response to such a question, with “Where do I sign up!” You can read more speculation about James Gunn and Suicide Squad 2 right here. In related news, the horror film BrightBurn, which James Gunn produced, has been pushed back six months to May 24, 2019. CBS is also now developing a TV series based on DC Comics’ The Secret Six, which shares a “super villain recruited to be a team” concept with Suicide Squad.
Although Marvel’s MCU has scored several successes, the character of Black Widow has repeatedly been the focus of what appear to be gender-based sleights. We’ve heard about this the most over the years from the toy industry, such as in 2014 when a Captain American: The Winter Soldier set included Thor and Hulk — neither of whom appeared in the film — but not Black Widow, who co-starred. There was also a LEGO set for Avengers: Age of Ultron that replaced Black Widow’s motorcycle scene with Captain America. Of course, the most obvious example was the decision to wait until after Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor had all gotten three movies before Black Widow even got one. Scarlett Johansson did score some good news this week, however, as she will finally receive a $15 million paycheck for Black Widow, which will put her in the same range as Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, who both got paid that amount for Avengers: Infinity War. It’s still unknown what Brie Larson is earning for next year’s Captain Marvel, though she did take to Twitter to reply “this is not true” to a story that her salary was just $5 million. Black Widow does not yet have a release date, and Captain Marvel comes out on March 9, 2019.
The Mattel toy company has been wanting to start a live action Barbie movie franchise for years now, with the latest effort starting in 2015, when a release date of June 2, 2017 was first announced (that obviously didn’t happen). Originally, Amy Schumer was in talks to co-star in Barbie as someone from “the perfect land of Barbies” who realizes she doesn’t fit in. After Amy Schumer, Anne Hathaway was also in talks for the lead role for a while, with Vanity Fair calling her “the perfect choice.” Margot Robbie is now attached to star in Barbie, which her Lucky Chaps company is also producing, as Mattel looks for a new home. (Some reports are saying Warner Bros. has landed Barbie, but as Variety reports, that’s possibly just because that’s where Robbie’s company has a first look deal.) It is not yet known if Margot Robbie’s Barbie will have a similar premise to the Schumer/Hathaway attempts, or if she will “be” Barbie herself. The Hollywood Reporter ran a story suggesting that Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins was considering taking on Barbie, but that story was quickly debunked/disputed by Deadline.
The extent to which Marvel Studios (and their future partners at Fox) have recruited from across Hollywood’s casting pool is frequently evident in The Weekly Ketchup as we notice projects like The Banker, which heavily feature Marvel cast members. Samuel L. Jackson is one of Marvel’s longest running stars (including his return as Nick Fury in next year’s Captain Marvel), and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon has also been in several films, starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Nicholas Hoult has also been in a few Marvel Comics adaptations, as Hank “Beast” McCoy of the X-Men movies (including next summer’s Dark Phoenix). Jackson, Mackie, Hoult, and Nia long are all now signed to star in The Banker, a fact-based drama about two African American businessmen in the 1950s who attempted to “circumvent the racial limitations of the era and take on the establishment by recruiting a working class white man, Matt Steiner (Hoult) and training him to pose as the head of their business empire while they posed as a janitor and a chauffeur.” The Banker will be directed by George Nolfi, whose Tomatometer includes The Adjustment Bureau (Fresh at 71%) and, as screenwriter, The Bourne Ultimatum (93%) and Spectral (75%).
Following the 2013 success of their animated caveman comedy The Croods, DreamWorks moved to (relatively) quickly release a sequel, which at one point was scheduled for release in late 2017. That was delayed, however, when Universal acquired DreamWorks Animation from 20th Century Fox, and the sequel was eventually rescheduled for September 18, 2020. The original movie’s voice cast leads (Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, and Ryan Reynolds) are all returning for the sequel, which even includes Cloris Leachman (who is now 92 years old). The sequel will show what happens when The Croods meet a new family a little further along the evolutionary chain, called “The Bettermans.” Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) previously was announced as playing Mrs. Betterman, and this week, we can also add Peter Dinklage, A.K.A. Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones, as Mr. Betterman. Dinklage’s agents may have been taking advantage of good buzz surrounding him over not just next year’s final Game of Thrones season, but also next week’s HBO movie, My Dinner with Herve, in which he plays Fantasy Island star Herve Villechaize.
Dwayne Johnson is currently averaging three movies a year (3 in 2017, 2 in 2018, and 4 for 2019, which are Fighting with My Family, the Fast and Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, and Jumanji 3). Johnson’s development slate also includes Big Trouble in Little China, Doc Savage, The King (about King Kamehameha), Red Notice, and possibly Suicide Squad 2 (as Black Adam). Netflix has now joined that bandwagon with an adventure movie from director Jake Kasdaon (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) called John Henry and the Statesmen. As the title suggests, it’s an ensemble film featuring various American folk heroes, with Johnson playing John Henry himself. John Henry is an African-American folk hero and “steel driving man” known for his ability to lay railroad tracks faster than a steam engine. The other characters haven’t been revealed yet, but possibilities include Paul Bunyan, Casey at the Bat, Pecos Bill, and Uncle Sam. (Some of those characters shared screen time in 1995’s Tall Tale.) Dwayne Johnson can always be relied on to promote his films early, and he did exactly that with a teaser video that he shared with his fans on Twitter.
British director Guy Ritchie’s Tomatometer reads as a series of ups and downs. His four Fresh scores (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and his debut Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) are outnumbered by five films with Rotten scores (including, most recently, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). After working in Hollywood with Warner Bros over the past few years, Guy Ritchie is now planning a return to the British crime stories of his earliest films. That film will be called Toff Guys, and its ensemble cast will include Matthew McConaughey, Underworld star Kate Beckinsale, and Henry Golding, the male lead of this summer’s breakout hit Crazy Rich Asians. The premise of Toff Guys will concern the collision between European “old money” and today’s modern marijuana industry, as a British drug lord attempts to cash out by selling out to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires (presumably, one of them will be played by McConaughey). Filming of Toff Guys is scheduled to start later this fall, 2018 on location in England.
Frequently, when movies are surprise hits, other studios will greenlight similar films in response. It’s perhaps only common sense, but it can still smack as a little opportunistic sometimes. In this story’s case, we’re talking about 2014’s The LEGO Movie, which earned back its $60 million budget with its first $69 million weekend, which then led to $257 million domestic (and $460 million globally). Warner Bros. itself responded to that success by greenlighting The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, as well as the upcoming Minecraft movie. Another movie based on a “building blocks” toy is going to be Playmobil, but that project recently hit a roadblock as the parent company behind its distributor Open Road Films recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Playmobil: The Movie had been scheduled for August 16, 2019, but it’s still waiting on a new release date once it finds a new distributor. Regardless, it’s still working through post-production, with the news this week that its voice cast will include Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, The New Mutants), and comedian Jim Gaffigan, as well as pop stars Adam Lambert and Meghan Trainor. Playmobil: The Movie will be the directorial debut of animator Lino DiSalvo, whose previous films have included Chicken Little, Kangaroo Jack, and (as head of animation) Disney’s hit film Frozen.
The horror and supernatural thriller production company Blumhouse is preparing to adapt the hit 1970s drama Fantasy Island, and this week, four actors were announced, including Mr. Roarke, originally played by Ricardo Montalban. That role will by played by Michael Pena, who is coming off his popular role in Marvel’s Ant-Man and this summer’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. Just like the TV show, Fantasy Island will follow numerous guests at an island where they’re promised wish fulfillment. Dave Bautista, who plays Drax in Marvel’s movies, is in talks to play one of the previous guests who finds himself trapped on the island, as he attempts to “expose Roarke and the island’s magical secrets.” As for some of the new guests to the island, the first two to be cast are Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians, HBO’s Silicon Valley) and Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale. The role of Tattoo, originally played by Herve Villechaize, hasn’t been cast yet, but Peter Dinklage’s My Dinner with Herve will premiere on HBO on October 20, 2018. Fantasy Island will be directed by Jeff Wadlow, whose Tomatometer (as director) is entirely Rotten, including Never Back Down (22%), Kick Ass 2 (33%), and Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (14%).