Category Archives: Hollywood

J.J. Abrams brought back to write and direct ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’

In a move that not many expected, but that seems as in line with Lucasfilm’s most recent decisions as any, J.J. Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has been hired to direct the final installment of the new trilogy from a galaxy far, far away, announced via a press release on StarWars.com.

A week ago, Lucasfilm and previous director Colin Trevorrow parted ways. Trevorrow had been on the project for over two years and had written the screenplay with his writing partner Derek Connolly. But rumors began to surface, especially after the critical failure of Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry, that Trevorrow could be ousted. Last month, Jack Thorne, co-writer of the upcoming Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay film Wonder, was brought on to rewrite.

It seems as though the script will be overhauled, as Abrams has been tasked to write Star Wars: Episode IX with Academy Award-winning writer Chris Terrio. Terrio won the Oscar for the Ben Affleck-directed Argo, and has written scripts for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Justice League. Abrams co-wrote The Force Awakens with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt.

In the days after Trevorrow departed the ninth episode, fans and critics offered up potential replacements. The internet seemed to come to a consensus that they wanted Ava DuVernay, director of Selma13th and the upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle in Time. Rian Johnson, director of eighth episode Star Wars: The Last Jedi, popped up in serious rumors, so much so that the director ended up explicitly saying that he had no plans to return.

But it was likely that Abrams was already hired, or at least just had to sign on the dotted line, by the time Lucasfilm came out to announce Trevorrow’s exit. This will be Abrams’ first film since The Force Awakens and he will produce through his production company Bad Robot.

In the press release, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy made this official statement:

“With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy.”

In an announcement on Twitter hours later, Lucasfilm has officially pushed back the release of the film from May 24, 2019, to December 20, 2019. The seemingly large script revision likely meant that production couldn’t start as early as Kennedy had hoped. Now, Abrams will have 27 months to complete the picture instead of 20 months, and the December release will fall in line with the releases of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. The film will now compete with the second weekend of Wonder Woman 2, which is set to release on December 13, 2019.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore.

Patty Jenkins signs historic deal to direct ‘Wonder Woman 2’

Patty Jenkins has officially signed on to direct Wonder Woman 2, which was first reported by Variety.

The sequel to the year’s second highest domestic grossing film, sitting at $410 million from US and Canada, which puts it in the 5th spot for highest domestic grossing superhero films of all time (only behind the two Avengers films and the last two Nolan Dark Knight films), is slated to hit theaters on December 13, 2019.

Not only will Jenkins direct, but she will also co-write and produce the second installment — two positions she didn’t hold with the first. The first had an all-male writing team of Allan Heinberg, Zach Snyder and Jason Fuchs. According to The Hollywood Reporter, while Jenkins made $1 million for directing Wonder Woman, she’ll make in the range of $7 to $9 million for duties on the Amazonian’s second solo feature. These numbers would make her the highest paid female director in history. According the same reports, Jenkins will also make significant backend, which comes from box office gross.

Jenkins had only signed on for one film, coming onto the project after Michelle MacLaren exited due to differences in vision with the studio, which is why Jenkins had to enter negotiations for a second in the first place. With the film becoming a box office smash and the first critical hit for the DCEU, when it desperately needed one, Jenkins then held a lot of negotiating power. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Jenkins asked for pay similar to that given to Zack Snyder when he signed on for a second film. Snyder directed Man of Steel, which released to lukewarm reviews, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was critically smashed.

Gal Gadot will appear as Wonder Woman for the third time in the DCEU superhero team-up Justice League, which opens on November 17.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon do battle in first trailer for ‘The Current War’

Sparks fly in the first trailer for director Alfonso Gómez-Rejón’s The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. The trailer promises a battle royale between Edison and Westinghouse, as they compete for dominance in the burgeoning electric power industry. Edison was a proponent for direct current, while Westinghouse pushed for alternating current, and their inevitable clash seems ripe for powerhouse performances from Cumberbatch and Shannon.

Also appearing in the trailer are Tom Holland as Edison’s collaborator Samuel Insull and Katherine Waterston as Marguerite Westinghouse. Additionally, Nicholas Hoult makes an appearance as Nikola Tesla, who was arguably the top mind to emerge from the titular war. Tesla was previously played by the enigmatic David Bowie in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Bowie’s performance was a highlight of that film, so it will be interesting to see Hoult’s take on the scientific genius.

The real star of the trailer though, is definitely Alfonso Gómez-Rejón. The Current War is Gómez-Rejón’s follow up to 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which was a film that demonstrated his keen eye for dynamic visuals. Within a few seconds, the trailer for The Current War promises some stunning cinematography, revealing a shot of Edison standing amid a field of lightbulbs. Later in the trailer, we see a time-lapse scene, an unconventional storytelling choice for a period piece, which feels like a callback to the quirky stop motion interludes in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Benedict Cumberbatch can be be seen later this year in Thor: Ragnarok as Dr. Strange, while Michael Shannon will appear in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. The Current War was produced by the Weinstein Company, and the film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film’s theatrical release date is set for November 24.

Featured image via the Weinstein Company

‘Suicide Squad 2’ finds writer-director in Gavin O’Connor

Gavin O’Connor has been tapped to write and direct Suicide Squad 2, as reported by Deadline.

While the David Ayer-directed first film was critically thrashed, with a 25% on RottenTomatoes and a score of 40 on Metacritic, it did end up becoming a box-office hit — making $745 million worldwide. It also won an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

It was only a matter of time before a sequel would be announced with its director and writer. A rumored list of potential directors had been circulating for quite some while, with Mel Gibson and Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) being the reported favorites to win the job.

However, O’Connor has won out both the pen and the directing chair. O’Connor comes from films such as Warrior, which garnered Nick Nolte an Oscar nomination, and The Accountant, which stars Ben Affleck and has had a sequel start development with both O’Connor and Affleck. And with Affleck appearing in a cameo role in the first Suicide Squad, many are speculating if he might return now that O’Connor is attached.

O’Connor’s scripting partner from Warrior, Anthony Tambakis, will co-write the script.

The gang of villains, specifically the Joker and Harley Quinn, have a lot in store for the future. David Ayer moved on from the sequel, prompting for the search that ended with O’Connor, to work on Gotham City Sirens, a film centering around Harley Quinn and the many other villainous women of DC. In addition, the Joker and Harley Quinn will appear together in a film from the Crazy, Stupid, Love. directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. The character of the Joker will find another actor in a origin film separate from the DC Extended Universe, which will come from The Hangover’s Todd Phillips.

No official release date for Suicide Squad 2 has been announced. The principle cast members, including Jared Leto as The Joker, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot, will return. Warner Bros. and DC will release Justice League on November 17, 2017, which has undergone extensive reworking under the guidance of Joss Whedon, who now officially has a writing credit and may get a directing credit depending on the Directors Guild’s judgment.

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Colin Trevorrow departs from ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’

When The Book of Henry released to intense critical derision and faired rather poorly at the box office, many pundits and fans questioned whether Colin Trevorrow, who also directed Jurassic World and Safety Not Guaranteed, was the right choice to helm the final installment of the brand new Star Wars trilogy. Well, today, announced through an official statement on StarWars.com, Colin Trevorrow and Lucasfilm have officially parted ways.

The statement reads:

“Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutually chosen to part ways on Star Wars: Episode IX. Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon.”

Directors have been a particular problem for Disney, Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, or perhaps vice versa. While Gareth Edwards retained sole directing credits, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story underwent massive reshoots under the guide of director Tony Gilroy. Most recently, earlier this summer, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired from the Han Solo standalone film, starring Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover as Solo and Lando Calrissian respectively. That decision cited “creative differences,” as does this one, and soon after, Lucasfilm hired Ron Howard, who is currently directing the remainder of the shoot as well as the scheduled reshoots. Whether or not Lord and Miller will be credited as directors is currently a mystery.

Episode IX recently brought on Jack Thorne, writer of the upcoming Jacob Tremblay, Julia Robert and Owen Wilson film Wonder, to rework the script, which had started with Trevorrow and his writing partner Derek Connolly. Perhaps the shift there points to where the split lies between Trevorrow and Lucasfilm, but the exact reason is yet to be known, and likely never will be.

As the news broke, many critics and journalists jumped to Twitter to suggest names and one popped up repeatedly: Ava DuVernay.

DuVernay’s upcoming film is A Wrinkle in Time, a Disney-produced, $100 million+ budgeted blockbuster, so the connections seem to be there. In addition, in an interview with Nerdist, JJ Abrams touted her as a good fit for the universe while promoting The Force Awakens.

DuVernay was also rumored for Black Panther, of Disney’s other massive sub-studio Marvel. The reported reasons for DuVernay not working on that film were creative differences, so, with Kathleen Kennedy and the other executives/producers at Lucasfilm and Disney seemingly holding strict creative control, the fit might not be so snug.

Star Wars: Episode IX, yet to be titled, is set to release on May 24, 2019, which means that a director must be brought on soon to comfortably stay on schedule. Ron Howard boarded the Han Solo film, which is set to release on May 25, 2018, within days of the announcement of Lord and Miller’s firing, so Lucasfilm might already have another director lined up. The world will get eighth episode Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15 of this year.

Featured image via Red Carpet Report and Mingle Media TV.

‘Dunkirk’ receiving Oscar push with Toronto International Film Festival IMAX screening

Christopher Nolan has a storied history with the Oscars. Many point to the snub of both The Dark Knight and Nolan as the reason why the Academy expanded the number of possible nominees to ten for the year after that film’s release. Most also call the omission of Nolan from Best Director for Inception a major snub of its year.

So, as Dunkirk was approaching, many felt that even if the film was great, it might have trouble being recognized at the Academy Awards. But when Dunkirk dropped, reviews raved not quite like they ever have for Nolan, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it an “impressionist masterpiece” and IndieWire claiming it as “the best film he’s ever made.” It also stands as his most well-received film on Metacritic, amassing a monumental score of 94, 12 points higher than his next best, The Dark Knight, at 82.

Currently, 9 out of the 20 experts on Gold Derby are predicting Dunkirk as the Best Picture winner with every expert expecting it to get nominated. Out of those same experts, 16 of them are predicting Christopher Nolan as the Best Director winner. Their predictions factor in festival premieres they’ve already seen and anticipate the strength of yet-to-be-released Oscar hopefuls, so it’s clear that, with its wide inclusion, Dunkirk has already stamped itself as a serious threat.

But Nolan isn’t one to campaign for awards, his films rarely showing up at festivals, so Dunkirk seemed like it would have to hold and hold strong — as summer releases generally have a harder time getting nominated — once the festival circuit fired up and the fall season began. It looks like, though, in a move that acknowledges the film’s potential, Dunkirk will be joining them.

Nolan’s World War II epic will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (via The Hollywood Reporter), which takes place September 7-17 and is where Nolan’s first film, Following, premiered. It won’t be a typical festival appearance, however, as it was IMAX who approached Warner Bros. to organize an IMAX 70mm screening of the film at the world’s first permanent IMAX theater, Cinesphere, in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary.

But the exposure should be just as ripe. TIFF’s director and CEO, Piers Handling, will introduce the film and its artistic director, Cameron Bailey, will host a Q&A with Christopher Nolan himself.

In a statement, Handling said the following:

“Dunkirk is quite remarkable. It sets a new standard for the visualization of war. Its form and structure is immersive and experiential and its attention to detail exemplary. This is a story for the times – one of resilience against all odds, ordinary people surviving amidst chaos. Christopher Nolan captures this seminal moment in history with an artist’s eye.”

Dunkirk is currently still in theaters, but will start to exit IMAX venues this Thursday. If the film is nominated for Best Picture, which a majority of critics expect, then it may return to screens at the beginning of 2018.

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Evangeline Lilly shares first look at suit in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’

In anticipation of 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, actress Evangeline Lilly took to Twitter to share a first look at her character, Hope van Dyne/the Wasp. She also used the occasion to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late, great comic book artist, Jack Kirby, who co-created the Wasp with Stan Lee.

“I am honoured to be on set today playing #TheWasp on what would be Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday,” Lilly wrote. Aside from the Wasp, Kirby was the co-creator of several famous Marvel comic book characters like Ant-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk.

Hope van Dyne was last seen in the mid-credits scene of 2015’s Ant-Man, when her father, Hank Pym, revealed a brand new Wasp suit to her. That suit was mostly silver, blue and red. It also sported four wings, lacked sleeves and included a helmet similar to Ant-Man’s. The suit seen in Lilly’s tweet is mostly black, lacks wings but includes sleeves. The picture also does not show the Wasp’s helmet.

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed will return to helm Ant-Man and the Wasp, which is the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first film to follow the (presumably catastrophic) events of Avengers: Infinity War.

Also returning is Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), who co-wrote the screenplay. Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Michael Peña (Luis) and T.I. (Dave) will be back to flesh out the film’s supporting cast.

The film also added Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne), Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Bill Foster), Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost) and Randall Park (Jimmy Woo) to its cast.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is slated for a July 6, 2018, release. To tide our excitement for the return of Ant-Man and the Wasp (sleeves and all), we have Thor: Ragnarok arriving in theaters on November 3, 2017.

Image via Marvel Studios.

Ed Skrein leaves ‘Hellboy’ reboot due to issues of whitewashing

Last week, British actor Ed Skrein, recently of Deadpool, joined the Hellboy reboot currently underway with David Harbour (Stranger Things) set in the lead role and Neil Marshall (The DescentGame of Thrones) in line to direct.

The casting, broke by The Hollywood Reporter, was an example of whitewashing because the character, Major Ben Daimio, is Japanese-American in the source material.

After the casting was announced, Jeff Yang, a CNN contributor and Editor-In-Chief of secretidentities.org, made a popular Twitter thread calling out the whitewashing, not only in Hellboy, but also within Hollywood in general. He offers various Asian actors that could’ve played the role of Daimio.

This year has seen plenty of controversy, of both whitewashing and cultural appropriation, with Ghost in the Shell, Iron Fist and Death Note, the last of which Netflix released this past weekend. Last year, Marvel and Tilda Swinton also encountered whitewashing backlash in regard to Swinton’s character in Dr. Strange.

While those actors stuck with their projects, Skrein is the first to step down from a role with consideration to whitewashing, at least of a major studio project. He made the announcement on Twitter this afternoon.

Skrein states that he was “unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage” and that, once it had been brought up, he decided to leave the film because of the “worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts.” He says: “It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity.”

Lionsgate also released an official statement along with Skrein’s exit, which can be found with The Hollywood Reporter‘s story.

“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision.  It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authenticity and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.”

Look below for Skrein’s official statement from Twitter:

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

‘It’ praised as ‘scary and faithful’ Stephen King adaptation in first reactions

It, an adaptation of the first half of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, has screened for some of the press. After the social media embargo lifted last night, critics tweeted out their first reactions, and they have been overwhelmingly positive.

Everyone has unanimously agreed that It delivers on its scares. But critics have also said that the film is “surprisingly funny” and “adorably romantic.” Praise has also been handed out to Bill Skarsgård, the actor who plays Pennywise, with one critic deeming the character the “Freddy Krueger of a new generation.”

Another Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Tower, released earlier this year on August 4 to lukewarm reception. That film currently holds a 16% on RottenTomatoes after 194 reviews and a score of 34 from 46 reviews on Metacritic. Currently, the film has made only $74 million on a $60 million production budget. Factoring in theater take and marketing costs, The Dark Tower will almost certainly end up losing money.

So the initial positive reception of It will likely be a relief to Stephen King fans, and fans of the horror genre as well. And the box office also looks to fair much better. Last week, Variety reported that It is poised for a $50 million domestic debut — more than The Dark Tower has made domestically after one month — according to early tracking numbers. According to ForbesIt has a production budget in the range of $35-$40 million.

Look below for critics’ Twitter reactions to It:

It is set to release on September 8 and comes from Mama director Andrés Muschietti. It stars the aforementioned Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher (St. VincentMidnight Special), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Sophia Lillis and Nicholas Hamilton (Captain FantasticThe Dark Tower) among many other young actors, all of whom the critics are very excited about.

The film was originally attached to Cary Joji Fukunaga (season one of True DetectiveBeasts of No Nation), who also originally wrote the film with Chase Palmer. Fukunaga left the project in 2015 due to creative differences, but the two still have writing credits on the film.

‘Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone film in development — Report

After years of speculation, Star Wars fans are finally getting one of their biggest wishes: an Obi-Wan Kenobi film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lucasfilm and Disney have begun development on their next standalone entry, centering on the Jedi made famous by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy and Ewan McGregor in the prequels.

Stephen Daldry, the Oscar-nominated director of Billy ElliotThe Hours and The Reader, is in talks to direct. There’s currently no script, but if Daldry were to sign on, he would work with the team at Lucasfilm to develop one, the report suggests. Daldry recently directed two episodes of the first season of Netflix’s Emmy-nominated The Crown, one of which, Hyde Park Corner, he’s in contention for. He also directed two episodes of the second season, which will air in December.

For years, Ewan McGregor has enthusiastically stated that he would play the character again in a future film. However, due to the project’s stage of development, McGregor has yet to be confirmed, nor has any other actor.

Lucasfilm and Disney are currently in the home stretch of production on their untitled Han Solo standalone, helmed by Ron Howard after the firing of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, of 21 Jump Street22 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie. The film, starring Alden Ehrenreich as the gunslinging smuggler alongside Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, holds a May 25, 2018 release date. Yoda and Boba Fett have been rumored to be subjects of future standalone films.

This next picture does not presently have a release date. Some have speculated that, keeping in line with release strategies of the episodes and the anthology films, Obi-Wan Kenobi may be gracing the screen as early as the summer of 2020 after the May 24, 2019, release of the untitled ninth episode, set to be directed by Jurassic World‘s Colin Trevorrow.