Sunday, 19 March 2017

New image of Henry Cavill in Sand Castle arrives online

For his next role, Henry Cavill (Man Of Steel) is swapping his Superman cape for some army camo. Sand Castle sees Cavill thick of beard and short of hair, starring as gruff military man Captain Syverson, opposite Nicholas Hoult's (Mad Max:Fury Road) cipher Matt Ocre, at the height of the Iraq war. A new image of Cavill in character has arrived online via Empire magazine.

Based on screenwriter Chris Roessner's own experiences of Iraq, Sand Castle will offer a frontline view of life and death on the ground when it is released on Netflix in the spring. "It's a war film," explains director Fernando Coimbra (A Wolf At The Door), "but it's more about Ocre's experiences, and the motivations of these guys. You read interviews with soldiers in these conflict zones and they don't even understand why they're really there."

Michelle Williams joins Jonah Hill's directorial debut

She recently earned her fourth Academy Award® nomination thanks to her blistering supporting turn in Manchester By The Sea (2016), and Michelle Williams is now looking towards a future job. News arrives via Deadline that she is in negotiations to join Jonah Hill's (The Wolf Of Wall Street) directorial debut, Mid-90s.

Hill wrote the coming-of-age tale and has won the chance to direct it for producer Scott Rudin (No Country For Old Men) and production company A24. As the title might suggest, the film sees a boy named Stevie learning life lessons in Los Angeles in the 1990s, spending time with his skateboarding friends and navigating the tricky waters of drinking, drugs, sex and peer pressure on the edge of his teenage years.

Assuming she closes a deal, Williams will play Stevie's mother, raising her son alone in the unforgiving city. Hill is scheduled to kick off shooting in June, but before that, Williams will star in a Janis Joplin biopic.

And in terms of her next on screen work, she will be seen in Todd Haynes' (I'm Not There) Wonderstruck and has been shooting The Greatest Showman opposite Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine), which is due for release on 5 January next year.

"You can't get so hung up on where you'd rather be, that you forget to make the most of where you are."

Passengers arrives with a cargo hold laden with expectation. Jon Spaihts' (Prometheus) script had been knocking around on the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays for the best part of a decade, and after flirting with different stars and directors over the years (Reese Witherspoon and Keanu Reeves were once attached as the leads), the film arrives with the names of arguably two of today's biggest stars above the title – Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, whose eight figure salaries have been well documented.

So was the destination worth the journey? Well, like the corkscrewing spaceship at its centre, Passengers is slick, hi-tech and easy on the eye. But there is not a whole lot happening on board.

The story begins on the starship Avalon, 30 years into its 120 year voyage to Homestead II, a colony planet that the ship's 5,000 passengers will soon be calling home. But a piece of meteorite blasts through the ship's shield and causes a cascade of system failures leads, shorting out the suspended animation pod occupied by Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanic en route to a fresh start.

As the ship's artificial intelligence systems try to acclimatise him to his new living situation, he soon becomes distraught when he learns he is the only person awake, and he has got approximately 90 years to kill before he arrives at his destination.

Jim rattles around the empty luxury liner, exhausting the entertainment and dining options and growing an impressive beard, before he starts to become suicidally lonely.

It is at this point – through a plot contrivance that has been kept hidden from the trailers, which we won't spoil here – he acquires a fellow pod companion, writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a sleeping beauty who is similarly freaked out when she wakes in her busted pod. The two hang out, shoot the breeze and make plans for survival. And, naturally, begin to fall in love. All the while, various parts of the ship are glitching out.

It is certainly an intriguing premise, and the not too distant future technology is brought to life via some sharp digital effects. As near futures go, it feels somewhat familiar – all screens are semi-transparent, virtual reality assistants are oppressively chirpy, synthetic food is served by vending machine – but it is impressively realised.

Throughout the first half, interesting ideas abound. What kind of person relocates to a place that takes generations to get to? Who exactly is getting rich from the colonisation of Homestead II? And most importantly, how long will it be until we can have android bar staff like the duteous Arthur (Michael Sheen)?

While many questions are posed, Passengers' mysteries don't always lead to satisfying reveals. Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) puts the romance up front, and while he is happy to liberally scatter cine-literate references throughout – can anyone see a revolving spaceship corridor and not think of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or hypersleep pods and Alien (1979)? – Passengers lacks the richness and complexities of the genre's strongest offerings. Appearing so soon on the heels of the superior Arrival (2016), and even the latest thought provoking series of Black Mirror, it feels somewhat slight.

Lawrence and Pratt are among the most charismatic performers working today, and their natural likeability lends a boost to what are woefully underwritten roles. Pratt, in particular, has his work cut out to ensure that Jim doesn't come across as creepy in light of some questionable behaviour.

The couple's chemistry may not quite have the crackle of the likes of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (La La Land), but they certainly make a pleasing pairing on screen – the idea of spending 90 years with either of them isn’t an objectionable one.

There is a humour and lightness to much of their interaction, even if the characters don't rank alongside either actor's most memorable – Jim lacks his usual roguish charm, and Lawrence's glassy turn isn't up there with her most engaging. Michael Sheen, meanwhile, lends terrific support, nailing his mannequin bartender's ersatz humanity. Part relationship counsellor, part conscience and occasionally a necessary plot device, Sheen's Arthur injects a welcome third perspective, breaking into the lovers' self-interest and laying bare their flaws – which are more than just passing.

With the actors doing enough to keep you invested, and a steady supply of visually impressive set-pieces maintaining the pace, Passengers offers plenty of in-flight entertainment for its two-hour running time, even if it can't match the tension of the similarly themed space survival saga, The Martian (2015).

Its main problem, in fact, is that while it is perfectly enjoyable in itself, it is always reminding you of slightly better films that it doesn't quite live up to. As science fiction, it feels like a professionally produced hybrid that lacks its own identity. As a romance, it never fully earns your investment. For those reasons, it seems destined to pass smoothly by without making much of a lasting impact.

Passengers never quite delivers on its concept, or the prospect of its stellar pairing.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

New batch of one sheets for John Wick: Chapter 2 arrive online

Warner Bros have recently released a fresh batch of striking one sheets for Chad Stahelski's John Wick (2014) sequel John Wick: Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 finds Keanu Reeves' Wick forced fully back out of retirement when a former associate plots to seize control of the shadowy international assassins' guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome, but soon learns there is a price on his head and must square off against some of the world's deadliest killers.

Ian McShane and Lance Reddick are back for this one, and the cast also includes Common (Now You See Me), Laurence Fishburne (Contagion), John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!) and Ruby Rose (Orange Is The New Black).

John Wick: Chapter 2 is out in cinemas now.

Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman confirmed for Black Panther

While both Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman have been rumoured as part of the film for a while now – and Freeman has been spotted on the set – Marvel's production announcement for Ryan Coogler's (Creed) Black Panther confirms that the two actors will indeed show up on screen.

Both actors are reprising characters we have met in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before – Serkis' injured arms dealer Ulysses Klaue from Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) and Freeman's government type Everett K. Ross in Captain America: Civil War (2016).

Black Panther follows T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T'Challa's mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.

Coogler's cast also includes regular collaborator Michael B. Jordan (CReed), Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave), Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2), Angela Bassett (Malcolm X), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Florence Kasuma (Captain America: Civil War) and Sterling K. Brown (The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story). With a script by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (Amber Lake), Black Panther is headed our way on 9 February next year before its US launch on 16 February.

The Flash movie to be rewritten by Joby Harold

In the DC comic books, The Flash is known for re-writing history. So perhaps it is fitting, if slightly worrying, that news arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that Warner Bros have decided to throw out the current script for the standalone film featuring Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, and handed the concept to Joby Harold (Awake).

Despite the speed of the character, the movie has been notably sluggish to come together. Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride And Prejudice And Zombies) was attached to direct first and wrote a draft, working from an earlier treatment from Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie). Then he was replaced by Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), who had his own take, one that apparently clashed with the executives' vision for the character.

Now the film is in need of a director, and with Ezra Miller busy elsewhere, the studio have decided that Harold might be able to get it on track ready for when he is available again. Kiersey Clemons (Dope) and Billy Crudup (The Watchmen) also remain attached, to play Iris West and Barry's father respectively.

As for Harold's other work, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword is out on 12 May. And another take on Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), is headed our way in 2018.

Naomie Harris joins Dwayne Johnson in Rampage

Fresh from scoring an Academy Award® nomination for her blistering, raw performance in Moonlight (2016), Naomie Harris has signed on for something that will find her more in the blockbuster territory of the James Bond movies. News arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that she is set to join Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas) in Rampage.

Those of a certain age will remember feeding coins into the arcade cabinet (and later playing at home) to control three giant monsters – George (a giant gorilla), Lizzie (a huge lizard) and Ralph (a raging werewolf), who were normal humans until they were the subject of experiments by the nefarious Scumlabs and turned into their monstrous forms.

How that will be turned into a movie outside of the basic concept remains to be seen, but Johnson is reportedly playing an animal rescuing hero who could be the world's only hope. Certainly sounds about standard for him. Harris, meanwhile, will be a geneticist with a moral streak, who we assume will have a change of heart and help in stopping the chaos.

San Andreas (2015) director Brad Peyton and producer Beau Flynn are back for this one, with Warner Bros and New Line Cinema planning a 20 April 2018 release.

Moonlight, which took home the Academy Award® for best film after an astonishing turn of events, is out in cinemas now. Harris also has a role in Andy Serkis' (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) Jungle Book (formerly Jungle Book: Origins), due for release next year.

Sing 2 in development

The movie has only recently arrived in the UK, but animated animal musical comedy Sing has already been a success elsewhere in the world for Illumination Entertainment. So it should come as no surprise that news arrives via Variety that the company are already planning a sequel.

Following on from sequels to the likes of the Despicable Me (2010), Secret Life Of Pets (2016) and Minions (2015) films, it marks the birth of another franchise for the team. Sing, directed by Garth Jennings, has already earned more than $429 million worldwide and the follow-up is now slated for Christmas Day 2020. No other details were announced, so we don't yet know whether Jennings might return for the new movie, or which of his celebrity stuffed cast will be back.

And the latest announcement also includes a shift for some of the fellow sequels, with The Secret Life Of Pets 2 moving back from 2018 to 2019, while Minions 2 is making a much smaller jump, to earlier in July 2020. Despicable Me 3, meanwhile, is out on June 30 this year.

Jacob Tremblay joins The Predator

Shane Black's (Iron Man 3) new Predator film continues to gather an impressive cast list, with news arriving via The Hollywood Reporter that Jacob Tremblay (Room) has recently joined the ensemble.

Black is spearheading the reboot of the Predator concept, having written the script with Fred Dekker (RoboCop 3). The movie's story is mostly under wraps, but will see several of the lethal creatures hunting humans including Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) and Trevante Rhodes' (Moonlight) military men, Olivia Munn's (Mortdecai) scientist and Keegan-Michael Key's (Let's Be Cops) character, who teams with the others to fight the alien hunters.

As for Tremblay, he will be playing Holbrook's son, an autistic lad who has been bullied in school, but has an incredible ability to learn languages, which will come in handy given the new threat. Cameras are currently rolling in Vancouver and the film is due to arrive in US cinemas on 9 February next year, before heading to our shores on 16 February.

Since impressing audiences and critics in Room (2015), Tremblay has won several roles, including Colin Trevorrow's (Jurassic World) upcoming The Book Of Henry and novel adaptation Wonder, which is out on 7 April.

M. Night Shyamalan and James McAvoy discuss Split and beyond

First things first: do not read on if you have yet to see M. Night Shyamalan's (The Sixth Sense) Split. Consider this the mother of all spoiler alerts.

For years, one of the questions M. Night Shyamalan has had to field on a regular basis is, 'when are you making an Unbreakable (2000) sequel?' And for years, the writer and director of the Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson starring thriller has demurred and deferred and said 'maybe one day'.

But here is an M. Night Shyamalan style twist. It turns out that he had been making an Unbreakable sequel right under our noses. At the end of Split, Shyamalan's latest movie, it is revealed, first through a sound cue from James Newton Howard's Unbreakable score and then a more explicit post-credits sting, that James McAvoy's (X-Men: First Class) villainous Kevin Wendell Crumb – the host of 24 warring personalities, some of whom are lethal – exists and operates in the same Philadelphia as David Dunn, Willis' security guard turned superhero from Unbreakable. Split is, essentially, Unbreakable 2. "However you want to look at it," says Shyamalan of the semantics surrounding the title. "Maybe it's a new format – this movie, this movie and a final movie."

The hint is clear: Shyamalan is setting Dunn on a collision course with Crumb – and possibly Jackson's Elijah Price, also known as Mr. Glass – for that final movie, a new entry in the Unbreakable series. "I'm writing the outline now," Shyamalan told Empire magazine. "It's weird. It's long. It's the longest outline I've ever had. It has so many characters... I hope if Split is a success, I'll have the opportunity to finish the story. I want to finish it, so this is the third one." Considering Split took over $40 million in it's opening weekend alone, we should expect this one to move from outline to script to actual film pretty quickly.

McAvoy, meanwhile, says that he didn't know about Split's connection to Unbreakable when he first read the script. "When I first read the script, it wasn't there," he says. "There was some weird little allusion to the fact that it might be linked to Unbreakable, but it was so subtle I kinda discounted it. Then on the last day of rehearsals I was like, 'mate, is this thing linked to that thing?' It was honestly the most subtle thing you could ever have written. None but the greatest fanboy alive would ever have noticed it. So it went from being a tiny music cue to a whole fullblown scene with a major movie star in it."

That major movie star is, of course, Willis, and McAvoy admits that he is looking forward to facing off against him. "When two baldies go to war," he laughs. "My money's on B-Dog. I hope he lets me call him that."

Split, meanwhile, is out in cinemas now.

Daisy Ridley set to star in A Woman Of No Importance

Having had her star boosted into the stratosphere by Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Daisy Ridley has become a popular name to attach to other projects. Paramount Pictures already have her allied with one film, fantasy thriller Kolma, and now news arrives via Deadline that they have acquired the rights to true life tale A Woman Of No Importance as another potential star vehicle.

Sonia Purnell's tome is the biography of American heiress turned spy Virginia Hall, who was initially frustrated in her attempts to join the American Foreign Service in the years before World War II because of a serious leg injury obtained during a hunting accident. Undaunted, she worked during the war for Britain's Special Operations Executive intelligence unit. Later, she joined the American Office of Strategic Services and the Special Activities Division of the CIA. The Gestapo reportedly considered her the most dangerous of all Allied spies and she won the Distinguished Service Cross and an honorary MBE.

The planned film will now go through the development process – there is no director or writer attached yet – though it is not like Ridley doesn't have plenty to do in the meantime, even with her continuing association with the Star Wars universe. She will be back as Rey in what we now know is called Star Wars: The Last Jedi this December, has been at work on Kenneth Branagh's (Cinderella) Murder On The Orient Express and is lending her voice to the new Peter Rabbit. In terms of potential projects, there is Patrick Ness adaptation Chaos Walking and indie Hamlet take Ophelia, among others.

Michael Dougherty set to direct Godzilla 2

Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros cranked the Godzilla (2014) sequel up a notch last year with the hiring of Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields (Krampus) to write the script. Now news arrives via Variety that Dougherty is set to take the director's chair for the giant beast's follow-up.

According to Variety, the original deal was just for Dougherty to co-write, but after months of work in charge of the writers room that is looking to develop both new Godzilla films and extend the King Kong story to the point where the massive beasts meet, he has convinced them that he is the man to oversee the next Godzilla outing.

Having worked with Legendary since the days of Trick 'r Treat (2007), Dougherty made Krampus with Shields as co-writer at the company and has now stuck around for this one, which is aiming for a 22 March 2019 release, with Godzilla Vs. Kong scheduled for 22 May 2020. As for Kong himself, Kong: Skull Island is out in cinemas now. Watch this space for a review on that one arriving soon.

Thomas Jane set for The Predator

With cameras currently rolling in Vancouver, the cast for Shane Black's (Iron Man 3) new Predator film continues to assemble apace, with news arriving via The Hollywood Reporter that Thomas Jane (The Mist) is now set to join.

Black is spearheading the reboot of the Predator concept, having written the script with Fred Dekker (RoboCop 3). The movie's story is mostly under wraps, but will see several of the lethal creatures hunting humans including Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) and Trevante Rhodes' (Moonlight) military men, Olivia Munn's (Mortdecai) scientist and Keegan-Michael Key's (Let's Be Cops) character, who teams with the others to fight the alien hunters. While we don't yet know who Jane will be playing, we can certainly see him ready to rumble with one of the extra-terrestrial menaces.

Jane has largely been seen in independent movies for the last few years, and recently worked on crime drama 1922. And on the small screen, he appeared in science fiction drama The Expanse. The Predator, meanwhile, will arrive in US cinemas on 9 February next year, before heading to our shores on 16 February.

Guillermo Del Toro adds Patrick McHale as Pinocchio co-writer

While we were worried that his planned Pinocchio movie would vanish into the void of projects that never quite come together for Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim), it is always best to trust in his ability to one day get them made. And now news arrives via Collider that he is adding Patrick McHale (Over The Garden Wall) as a co-writer on a new draft of the script.

Del Toro has certainly been vocal about working in the animation field, and has been acting as producer on several projects for DreamWorks Animation. Talking to Collider about one of them – Trollhunters – he pressed the idea that he still wants to direct in the animated motion picture field. "There are a lot of things that are still percolating, but as far as I'm concerned, I am still planning to do my first animated feature as a director. It's been an apprenticeship with DreamWorks the last seven years with Jeffrey Katzenberg. I was as close to him as I could and I was on the production of Puss In Boots (2011), Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) and so forth because I'm preparing to, more and more, direct animation.

"I'm preparing, also, my first stop-motion animation feature with Pinocchio, which I've been trying to get off the ground for a while, but I haven't been able yet. But the last news on Pinocchio, which was very, very useful for me, was that I was looking for a co-writer who could be a great partner for me on this, and I'm happy to say that Patrick McHale from Over the Garden Wall (2013) is going to co-write the new draft of the screenplay with me."

So while it has been a few years for this one – it has been bubbling away since at least 2008 – the fact that Guillermo del Toro is still keeping the flame alight gives us hope it will show up one day. And as he says, McHale certainly has a lot of experience with animation as both writer and director.

As for actual del Toro movies on the way, we have The Shape Of Water headed to our screens at some point this year, while Trollhunters' first season is now on Netflix.

Daniella Pineda joins Jurassic World sequel

With Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible) deep into preparing to make the sequel to the monster hit Jurassic World (2015), he has been steadily adding new cast members to support returning leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Now news arrives via Variety that he is recruiting Daniella Pineda (The Originals) for what is described as a major role in the movie.

Exactly what that means at this point is unclear, as both the plot and any character details are secreted behind giant walls to avoid them escaping and causing chaos. We can expect the usual dinosaur carnage given a fresh twist by writer and producers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World), with Rafe Spall (Prometheus), Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Justice Smith (Paper Towns) all also in the human line-up.

Pineda's career has been weighted more towards TV until recently, and she is one of the stars of US sitcom The Detour. But she has also been seen in movies such as The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012) and Sleeping With Other People (2015).

Jurassic World's sequel promises to be something on quite another level for the actress and the movie will arrive on 22 June next year.