Sunday, 30 November 2014

Olivia Cooke in talks for Ben-Hur

The casting information about the new take on the Ben-Hur story is coming in quicker than a speeding chariot. With director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) looking to set his cast ready for shooting to gear up, news arrive via The Wrap that Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) is currently circling the role of Tirzah, Ben-Hur's sister.

Taken once again from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel, the new version aims to chronicle the younger days of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and Messala (Toby Kebbell), best friends growing up in Jerusalem. Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince and Messala the son of a Roman tax collector who is packed off to be educated in Rome for five years. Upon his return, Messala mocks our hero for his religion and, after an accident he pins on his friend, has him sold into slavery. Cue a quest for revenge that is set to include the iconic chariot race.

Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises) is already aboard to play Ildarin, the man who teaches Ben-Hur how to be a master at the reins for the races. Ayelet Zurer (Man Of Steel), meanwhile, will be back on Hero's Mother duty, playing Naomi, Ben-Hur's mum, while Pedro Pascal (The Adjustment Bureau) is also down to play a part. Keith Clarke (The Way Back) wrote the original script, which John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) has since re-written.

Cooke, who has also been seen in The Quiet Ones and The Signal, is part of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's (American Horror Story) Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, which has yet to secure a UK release.

"So you're a control freak?"

Universal Pictures have recently released their latest trailer and one sheets for Sam Taylor-Johnson's (Nowhere Boy) Fifty Shades Of Grey adaption.

Based on E.L. James' erotic novels, Fifty Shades Of Grey sees the young and virginal college student, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson), fall headlong for the charms of 27 year old billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), after interviewing him for her college newspaper. Having lost her virginity to Christian, he asks her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and a contract that keeps their relationship purely sexual, defining their relationship as one of dominance and submission.

Originally conceived as Twilight fan faction, Fifty Shades Of Grey has since surpassed that series to become a legitimate phenomenon in its own right with the trilogy being translated into 50 languages since its release. To date, the Fifty Shades trilogy has sold over 70 million copies worldwide in e-book and print, making it one of the fastest selling book series ever.

Fifty Shades Of Grey is set to spank into cinemas on 13 February next year, promising a lot of awkward movie dates when Valentine's Day rolls around.

First trailer for Escobar: Paradise Lost arrives online

RADiUS-TWC have recently released their first trailer for Andrea Di Stefano's directorial debut Escobar: Paradise Lost.

Pablo Escobar is a figure that has fascinated filmmakers for years, and he rears his head once again – played by Benicio Del Toro (Savages) – In Escobar: Paradise Lost.

Though the legendary drug kingpin is right there in the title, the actual viewpoint for the story is that of Nick (Josh Hutcherson), a young Canadian surfer who rocks up in Colombia with his brother Dylan (Brady Corbet).

When Nick meets and falls for the lovely Maria (Claudia Traisac), he's immediately smitten, but she comes with one fairly dangerous string attached – she's Escobar's niece. That said, Nick is soon accepted as part of Pablo's family and invited to his sprawling jungle fortress where the money flows, but death also hangs around. Nick also learns why his potential father-in-law is so wealthy and respected and is soon drawn into the world.

The trailer is a little heavy on showing almost the entire movie, so if you want to decide if this is for you, there is ample opportunity to sample the tone. Still, it's only set for a US release so far on 16 January.

Michelle MacLaren set to direct Wonder Woman

News arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that Game Of Thrones director Michelle MacLaren has made a deal to handle the first solo Wonder Woman film for Warner Bros and DC Entertainment.

MacLaren, who we thought might make a good choice when Warners Bros first announced it was looking for a female director to tackle the film, was in talks earlier this month and has now won the job ahead of the likes of The Babadook's Jennifer Kent and Homeland's Lesli Linka Glatter, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She will work with the writers to figure out a script for the film, which may craft an origin story for Gal Gadot's (Fast & Furious 6) Amazonian warrior following her introduction in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

In addition to serving as a producer on Breaking Bad, MacLaren was the most prolific director on the show, responsible for some of the series' finest episodes, including Buried and Madrigal. And she helped forge its reputation for startling cinematic visuals alongside the likes of Rian Johnson (Looper) and regular cinematographer/occasional director Michael Slovis. Her talents have not been limited to Walter White's world either, she's also tackled great episodes of Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead and The Leftovers.

The Wonder Woman solo film is set for 23 June 2017 release in the US.

Jai Courtney reportedly taking aim at Deadshot

The cast for David Ayer's (End Of Watch) Suicide Squad film is quickly entering the seemingly endless stage of rumours, talks and deal making. The latest name linked to the villainous team-up movie is Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher).

According to Variety, the Divergent and Terminator: Genisys actor is targeting one of the major roles in the film, which could turn out to be Deadshot, one of the big villains from Batman's rogue's gallery. He might not be on the same level as, say, The Joker, but he's certainly got a large fan following. Also known as Floyd Lawton, he's a hired assassin who claims he never misses. 

Courtney is reported as in talks for the film, putting him alongside the likes of Margot Robbie (The Wolf Od Wall Street) – who appears to be close to signing on as Harley Quinn – Tom Hardy (Inception), Will Smith (I Am Legend) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), who Warner Bros wants for their new take on The Joker. There has also been chatter about Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) bringing his Lex Luthor from Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

The Suicide Squad is formed from a group of the DC universe's villains, assigned to a tough job by the US government, with the promise of redemption if they succeed. The only problem is that the mission will probably kill them first. With Justin Marks on script duty, Ayer is looking to have this one on screens for 5 August 2016.

Aaron Guzikowski hired for Universal Pictures' The Wolfman

Writing teams, it would appear, are the new big idea for shared universe films, given the successes of Marvel's creative board for its movies and the auspicious work of Walt Disney Animation Studios/Pixar's 'brain trusts'. Universal Pictures wants in on that action, hiring Prisoners' (2013) Aaron Guzikowski and Fargo TV adaptation man Noah Hawley to work on its monster movie films.

They join Ed Solomon (Now You See Me), who will be working alongside chief creative bods Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious 6) on developing a linked series bringing classic Universal creatures such as The Mummy and The Wolfman back to life on screen.

The plan is for the writers to work together developing the movies, pitching in ideas and helping with problems before splitting off to write the scripts separately, and then meeting back up to discuss them. Kurtzman is already at work on the Mummy film, which he'll also direct for 24 June 2016. Guzikowski, who also worked on Contraband (2012), is apparently tasked with writing a new Wolfman. There's no specific date for the film yet, though Universal has staked out 21 April 2017 for the second entry in the new rebooted series, so that's a likely slot.

Hawley, who successfully brought Fargo to small screens this year, has a mostly series based CV with shows including Bones and The Unusuals in his back catalogue, though his experience with TV (alongside Kurtzman's training) should help him fit in easily.

Mark Boal set for Uncharted

Sony Pictures have been trying to push an adaptation of the console title Uncharted for several years now, with little forward motion. It may not have had much success landing a director or star, but the studio thinks it might be on firmer ground with its script, hiring Zero Dark Thirty (2012) writer Mark Boal to develop the screenplay.

Uncharted, of course, follows the adventures of treasure hunter Nathan Drake, a descendent of Sir Francis Drake and a man who thinks he's learned the whereabouts of the fabled South American city El Dorado. He heads out to find it, facing off against a rival and strange creatures that are also after the city's secrets.

At one point, the studio had David O. Russell (American Hustle) aboard to make the movie, but though he convinced Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor) to star, his take on the story didn't mesh with what the company wanted to do. Since then, Sony Pictures offered the Drake role to Chris Pratt, but he passed on it, likely concerned that the role was a little too similar to Guardians Of The Galaxy's Star-Lord or his character in next years Jurassic World.

In terms of writers, the likes of Thomas Dean Donnelly (Sahara), Joshua Oppenheimer, David Guggenheim (Safe House) and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley (National Treasure) have all taken a shot at the script, so Boal is hardly the first to tackle the challenge of crafting what the studio hopes will be an Indiana Jones style adventure. After winning an Academy Award® for The Hurt Locker (2008) and a nomination for Zero Dark Thirty, Boal has been working on developing Triple Frontier with director Kathryn Bigelow.

First trailer for The Cobbler arrives online

Voltage Pictures have recently released their first trailer for Thomas McCarthy's (Win Win) The Cobbler.

The idea of Adam Sandler becoming other people when he wears their shoes, puts you in mind of his high concept comedies such as Click (2006). But The Cobbler is from the co-writing keyboard and megaphone of McCarthy, so expect something a little more subdued.

Still, on the basis of this, The Cobbler certainly isn't afraid to go to some wacky places, with Sandler's Max Simkin, a fourth-generation shoe repair expert, discovering a seemingly magical machine in the back of his father's shop that allows him to take on the form of others. Seeing a chance to experience a world that is largely passing him by as he works at a declining business, he's soon experiencing life as a dashing dude (Dan Stevens) with a beautiful girlfriend, a criminal (Method Man) and, from the looks of this, even his father (Dustin Hoffman). Can life lessons be far behind?

The Cobbler got a nailing from reviewers at the Toronto Film Festival, so we're a little concerned that this might not be quite on the same level as previous McCarthy efforts such as The Station Agent (2003) or Win Win (2011). We'll get a chance to see when the film lands in the UK on 10 April.

Aaron Sorkin adapting Molly's Game

With The Newsroom now embarked on its third and final season, Aaron Sorkin recently announced that he's largely done with television. And he certainly seems to be focusing on film projects, picking up a variety in recent months. News arrives via Deadline that he set add one more to his pile, signing on to adapt Molly Bloom's memoir Molly's Game for Mark Gordon.

Bloom seems like a fascinating subject for Sorkin to handle, and to prove that he hasn't lost his touch when it comes to writing for women, as has been feared. A world-class skier since she could walk, she became a nationally ranked business mogul at 21 while still excelling in college. She just missed out on joining the Olympic team upon graduating and took a year off to live in Los Angeles, choosing the unlikely path of waitressing. Thanks to her business acumen, she ended up making millions by running the world's most exclusive high stakes poker game for eight years before the FBI came calling.

Sorkin, who has worked on the Steve Jobs script for Danny Boyle (127 Hours) which Gordon is also producing, has recently been adapting Moneyball (2011) write Michael Lewis's financial trading book Flash Boys and The Politician, which chronicles the rise and fall of American political hopeful John Edwards, and which Sorkin has considering directing.

Shawn Levy set for Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves

With a close eye on the likes of Walt Disney Pictures' Alice In Wonderland (2010), Oz The Great And Powerful (2013) and this years Maleficent, 20th Century Fox are now getting into the big budget fairy tale game. News arrives via Variety that the studio is putting together a new take on Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves and Jayson Rothwell (Silent Night) has already written the screenplay, with Shawn Levy (Real Steel) set to direct.

The original Ali Baba comes from The Thousand And One Nights. It tells of the poor woodcutter who learns the words "Open Sesame" and gains accidental entry to a cave containing the secret stash of a large gang of robbers. The forty fiends then set off in pursuit of Ali, who has to use his wits to survive.

As is often the case with these things, the story in its pure form is often eye-wideningly violent. Fox's version, however, planned as a "four quadrant tentpole", will be "an adventure with strong comedic undertones". So we should probably not expect the boiling oil or the quartering.

Levy is currently in post-production on Night At The Museum: The Secret Of The Tomb, which is out on 19 December. He also has several other projects in development – including the Minecraft movie – either as a director or producer, so whether Ali Baba is up next remains to be seen. As always, watch this space.

Lee Daniels enters Demon House

Having previously dipped his toe into southern Gothic with Paperboy (2012), director Lee Daniels' next project looks set to be even more horrifying. He's signed up for Demon House, a possession thriller based on the 'true story' of Latoya Ammons and her family.

The Ammons family became the focus of a media frenzy at the start of this year when mother of three Latoya and her own mother Rosa began reporting The Amityville Horror (1979) type happenings in Latoya's rented Indiana home. It all began with an infestation of flies and escalated, they said, to Latoya's children levitating, being thrown around by unseen forces, talking to ghosts and being possessed, which made their eyes bulge and their voices get deeper. Police captain Charles Austin said he was initially sceptical but quickly became "a believer".

Others, however, were less convinced, especially when a photograph purportedly showing supernatural evidence turned out to have been doctored with an iPhone app. Zak Bagans, exec producer and host of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, swooped in and bought the house, deciding that its basement was a portal to hell. Cynics might suggest he came to that conclusion because it's good TV.

What Daniels intends to do with the property remains to be seen, but with plenty of other haunted/possessed house movies on the way – for example a new Amityville, Hammer's Winchester House project – he'll have to work to make this one stand out.

Relativity will finance and distribute the film, with Turn Left's (2006) Jackson Nguyen and Crites producing. There's no word on a screenwriter or cast as yet.

First look at Bryan Cranston as Trumbo

For fans of Hollywood's Golden Age, Trumbo should hold many delights. The biopic of the famed screenwriter will shine some light on the darker corners of the Communist witch hunt and in so doing introduce luminaries like Edward G. Robinson, Kirk Douglas and John Wayne. Dalton Trumbo himself is played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), here looking suitably learned in a first look still from the film.

Trumbo, the writer of Spartacus (1960) and Roman Holiday (1953), among other classics, was one of those blacklisted for having ties with the Communist party in 1947. Refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee, he was jettisoned from Hollywood's inner circle and left having to use a pseudonym on his screenplays.

Trumbo will major on the story behind Spartacus and, in particular, the writer's rapport with Kirk Douglas (Dean O'Gorman). The movie star's great clout enabled Trumbo to hire his choice of writer when few others wanted to associate themselves with him.

Joining Cranston on this one is Diane Lane (Man Of Steel) as his wife, Cleo, with Elle Fanning (Maleficent) as his daughter. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) plays Edward G. Robinson and David James Elliott (The Stranger I Married) as John Wayne. Jay Roach (Meet The Parents) is currently rolling the camera on this in New Orleans.

New trailer and one sheet for Song One arrives online

Cinedigm have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Kate Barker-Froyland's debut feature Song One.

Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables) stars as Franny, an archaeologist working in Morocco who is summoned home when her musician brother Henry falls into a coma following an accident. Confronting the estrangement from her family, she sets out to explore her sibling's life and music using his notebook. As she seeks out the places, sounds and musicians he loved, she meets James Forrester (Johnny Flynn), a folk singer and Henry's musical idol.

As you may have guessed, a love connection develops between Henry and Franny, despite her family trauma and his own shy nature. Set against a Brooklyn backdrop, Song One features original music composed by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice and is out in the US on 23 January. It has yet to secure a UK release date.

Anna Kendrick set for The Accountant

We already know that Ben Affleck (Runner Runner) has found time in his busy schedule to squeeze in action thriller The Accountant before he heads off to direct Live By Night. And he might have some company in the film if Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air) and J. K. Simmons (Contraband) ending making deals.

Warrior (2011) director Gavin O'Connor is now on board to make the movie in January, with Affleck playing a seemingly mild-mannered accountant who moonlights as an assassin. The project has floated in limbo for years, starting at Warner Bros with Mel Gibson (Apocalypto) interested, before moving on to Sony Pictures, which tried to set it up for Will Smith (I Am Legend). It's now returned home and with Affleck aboard, it's heating up again.

According to Variety, Kendrick is in talks for an unspecified role, though she's also in demand for several other movies and might end up choosing one of those. As for Simmons, his potential part is also a mystery. After his blistering turn in Whiplash (due here 16 January), we're hoping he gets to unleash his menacing side again.

Kendrick has a healthy roster of films headed our way including Rob Marshall's (Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) Into The Woods (out 9 January), Pitch Perfect 2, Mr. Right and The Hollars. Aside from Whiplash, Simmons will be seen in Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children (5 December) and Terminator: Genisys (3 July).

Rocky spin-off Creed set to shoot in January

Announced last summer, the Rocky spin-off Creed has since been gaining muscle at studio MGM.
News now arrives via The Hollywood Reporter the film is lacing up its gloves ready for a January shoot, possibly meaning we could see it by the end of next year. Ryan Coogler is directing, with his Fruitvale Station (2013) star Michael B. Jordan taking the lead and Sylvester Stallone returning as Rocky Balboa. Champion boxers Andre Ward and Tony Bellew are also in negotiations to get in the ring.

The story, from what we know so far, centres on Apollo Creed's son Adonis (Jordan), a young man whose family has tried to keep him away from the ring but whose natural talents as a pugilist draw him there anyway. Stallone will be easing into the Burgess Meredith role as Creed's trainer – a Rocky who has left the world of boxing behind and has no real desire to return until he meets the new protégé. Bellew will be Creed's main opponent, "Pretty Ricky Porter". Ward's role remains unspecified at present.

The original Creed, of course, was played by Carl Weathers, and served as the big rival to Rocky in the first two films. The pair eventually became close friends, until Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago killed Creed in Rocky IV (1985). So you can understand why Rocky might be a little concerned about Adonis putting on the gloves.

That direct line back to the original series intriguingly makes this a sort of Rocky VII as well as its own beast, so we're genuinely looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

Stallone is also producing, along with Robert Chartoff (Rocky), Kevin King Templeton (The Expendables) and Irwin Winkler (Rocky). Coogler wrote the screenplay with Aaron Covington, and filming is set to take place in Las Vegas and Philadelphia.

We'll also see Jordan next year as Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four. And we'll next see Stallone in the ensemble drama Reach Me, which goes straight to DVD in the UK at the end of December.

Ayelet Zurer set for Ben Hur

While Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and the team making the new Ben-Hur already tried unsuccessfully to secure the services of one actress from a Zack Snyder superhero film (Gal Gadot, who had to pass due to her Wonder Woman schedule), they appear to be closer to another. Man Of Steel's (2013) Ayelet Zurer is now in talks to take a role.

Taken once again from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel, the new version aims to chronicle the younger days of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and Messala (Toby Kebbell), best friends growing up in Jerusalem. Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince and Messala the son of a Roman tax collector who is packed off to be educated in Rome for five years. Upon his return, Messala mocks our hero for his religion and, after an accident he pins on his friend, has him sold into slavery. Cue a quest for revenge that is set to include the iconic chariot race.

Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises) is already aboard to play Ildarin, the man who teaches Ben-Hur how to be a master at the reins for the races. As for Zurer, she'll be back on Hero's Mother duty, playing Naomi, Ben-Hur's mum. Keith Clarke (The Way Back) wrote the original script, which John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) has since re-written.

Zurer has a role in the Marvel Netflix Daredevil series, due next year and will also be seen opposite Ewan McGregor (The Impossible) in historical adventure Last Days In The Desert.

Hayao Miyazaki discusses Studio Ghibli's future

Last year, animation genius and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki announced that he was retiring from filmmaking to focus on other projects, and we were sad. Then, a couple of months ago even sadder news arrived that Ghibli itself would be shutting down, which was later modified to "restructuring". But according to Miyazaki himself, it could still be the end for the venerable animation studio.

Talking with the LA Times as he prepares to accept an honorary Oscar, Miyazaki was asked about the future of the company he helped to build. "At this point, we're not making a new film," he says. "I think we will not be making any feature films to be shown in theaters. That was not my intention, though. All I did was announce that I would be retiring and not making any more features."

Surely someone new could come along and continue the work? "That will depend on their efforts and whether they'll have the fortune, the luck, to be able to make films."

It certainly sounds like he's not hopeful right now, but is leaving the door open for others, so presumably someone could come along and restore the studio's fortunes. He doesn't seem to be all that confident in the future of hand-drawn animation, though. "If creators have the intent to do hand-drawn animation, there certainly will be opportunities for them to do that. But what might be a difficulty will be the financial considerations. I do think the era of pencil, paper and film is coming to an end."

Of course, until Studio Ghibli actually shuts its doors, there is always hope, but it's certainly not the most encouraging news, especially given the source.

Extended Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer arrives online

Marvel have recently released their extended trailer for Joss Whedon's Avengers (2012) sequel, Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron finds Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) trying his hand at creating an international peacekeeping force of droids controlled by the self-aware artificial intelligence Ultron. While his idea is to supplement the Avengers and let his superhero comrades enjoy some much needed time off, he ends up causing them more trouble than anticipated. And that's before two new super powered types – Wanda 'Scarlet Witch' Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro 'Quicksilver' Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) show up...

The film, which once more boasts Whedon's writing and directorial touch, sees Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders back together again alongside an array of new and old friends including James Spader (as Ultron, via performance capture), Paul Bettany (Transcendence), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 3), Andy Serkis (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) and Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted).

Avengers: Age Of Ultron arrives in the UK on 24 April next year.

First teaser trailer and one sheet for The Divergent Series: Insurgent arrives online

Summit Entertainment have recently released their first teaser trailer and one sheet for Robert Schwentke's (RED) The Divergent Series: Insurgent.

Some promos for sequels like to lay the groundwork so that newcomers can figure out the basic elements. This first teaser for The Divergent Series: Insurgent instead takes a surreal moment from the story out of context.

In case you're feeling a little lost having watched the teaser, Insurgent finds Tris (Shailene Woodley) on the run in future Chicago as she and Four (Theo James) evade the power hungry Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet). They'll have to track down what Tris' family gave their lives to protect, and Tris must face up to her choices as she unlocks the truth about the past and the future of their world.

With Schwentke directing this time out, and Octavia Spencer (The Help), Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher), Ray Stevenson (Thor), Zoë Kravitz (X-Men: First Class), Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), Ansel Elgort (Carrie), Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible III), Mekhi Phifer (Dawn Of The Dead) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible) all aboard, The Divergent Series: Insurgent lands on 20 March next year.

New Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb trailer arrives online

20th Century Fox have recently released their latest trailer for Shawn Levy's (Real Steel) Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb.

The film sees the return of Ben Stiller's Larry Daley, one of the few people that know the secret held within New York's American Museum Of Natural History – there is a stone tablet from the time of the Pharaohs that brings all the exhibits to life and has caused him no end of trouble. But in his capacity as watchman of the building, he's grown to be friends with many of the historical figures and other displays that magically start to move and speak at night, so when they discover the tablet is corroding, the quest is on to stop them all reverting back to wax figures, stone statues and wire rigged collections of bones.

Larry and some of the gang including Pharaoh Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), Sacagawea (Mizuo Peck), Roman centurion Octavius (Steve Coogan) and Jedediah (Owen Wilson) travel to London's British Museum to find out a fix for their tablet. There, they encounter the object's creator, Ahkmenrah's father (Ben Kingsley), Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as Sir Lancelot and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) as a security guard at the museum who is surprised when her charges start coming to life – and spilling out on to the streets of the capital.

While this final outing for the Museum crew is tinged with sadness after Williams' recent passing, it appears set to deliver what we've come to expect from Shawn Levy's family friendly franchise. The film is out on 19 December.

New trailer and one sheet for Mortdecai arrives online

Lionsgate have recently released their latest trailer and one sheet for David Koepp's (Premium Rush) Mortdecai, starring Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger) as the titular art dealer and part-time rogue.

Based on the beloved novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli – namely Don't Point That Thing At Me, After You With A Pistol, Something Nasty In The Woodshed and The Great Moustache Mystery – Mortdecai is a right royal romp of the highest order. Depp's titular aristocratic art dealer is thrown into a deadly world of raging Russians, lethal terrorists and MI5 agents, with only his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a vast reserve of bonhomie to fall back on, including his manservant Jock (Paul Bettany).

The quality of the books (and indeed the characters) has attracted some rather big names in the shape of Jeff Goldblum (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Ewan McGregor (The Impossible) and Olivia Munn (Magic Mike). The film is directed by David Koepp – whose most recent writing credits include Premium Rush (2012) and this years Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – while writing duties in this instance is relative newcomer Eric Aronson.

Mortdecai graces our cinemas on 23 January.

"We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."

Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) is a director whose name has become synonymous with realism. The Nolanisation of cinema, which made the dank gloomy streets of Gotham a bridge between the fantastical and the commonplace. With Interstellar, arguably his first true science fiction project, Nolan inverts expectation once again, with a film rooted in the mundanity of maths homework but spliced with the spectacular.

Born a year after the Apollo 11 moon landing, Nolan grew up in the aftermath of the space race, when young eyes still turned upwards in wonder. Decades later, with the Space Shuttle decommissioned and children staring blearily down at the glow of their smartphones, it's his disappointment at NASA's broken promise that forms the driving force behind Interstellar.

Opening, tellingly, on a dusty model of the shuttle Atlantis, the film's near future setting sees humanity starving, squalid and devoid of hope. Eking out an existence in a post-millennial Dust Bowl, Matthew McConaughey's (Dallas Buyers Club) former pilot turned corn farmer Cooper and his two children – ten year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and her older brother Tom (Timothée Chalamet) – lead a life of agrarian survivalism. But in Cooper we find a new man cut from old cloth – an all-American hero pulled straight from Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff (1983). Played with a drawling, Texan swagger underpinned by startling emotional depth, he is arguably Nolan's most traditional lead to date, embodying the wide-eyed wonder of the director's youth – a man for whom we are "explorers and pioneers, not caretakers", who casts his lot among the stars as the human race's last, best hope. The ever charismatic McConaughey cementing his A-list comeback with a powerful performance that helps ground the grand proceedings and provides the film with its emotional core.

With the ailing Earth left behind, Interstellar shifts smoothly into second gear. According to theoretical physicist and co-producer Kip Thorne, the spherical wormhole and spinning event horizon of the film's black hole (named Gargantua) are mathematically modelled and true to life. Sitting before a 100-foot screen, however, the equations are all but redundant with Nolan's starscape delivering arguably the most mesmerising visual of the year. Gargantua is as captivating as it is terrible – an immense undulating maelstrom of darkness and light.

The planets themselves are no less spectacular. Let The Right One In (2008) cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (replacing Nolan regular Wally Pfister) captures the bleak expanse of southern Iceland as both a watery hell with 300 metre waves and an icy expanse where even the clouds have frozen solid. With more than an hour of footage shot in 70mm IMAX, you'll want to find the biggest screen available to fully appreciate the spectacle.

In stark contrast to the grandeur of space, the ship itself is a scrapyard mutt, bolted together with the scraps of a forgotten NASA. Modular and boxy, the Endurance is void of any aesthetic flourish or extraneous design. Ever the practical filmmaker, Nolan has constructed a functional, utilitarian vessel. It's former military droid crew members, TARS and CASE, are faceless slabs of chrome – artificial intelligence encased in building blocks that twist and rearrange (manually operated by Bill Irwin) to perform complex tasks with minimalist efficiency.

Beneath Interstellar's flawless skin, the meat is somewhat harder to chew. The science comes hard and fast, though Christopher and Jonah Nolan bolster the quantum mechanics with generous expository hand-holding. Astrophysics is the vehicle not the destination, however, and Interstellar's gravitational centre is far more down to Earth. Embodied by Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (quoted in the film at several points), this is a defiant paean to the human spirit that first took man to the stars. But far more than Thomas' villanelle, Interstellar scales the heights and plumbs the depths of humanity, pitting the selfish against the selfless, higher morality against survival instinct. As Cooper, scientist Brand (Anne Hathaway) and crew draw closer to their destination, complications require tough decisions – the sanctity of the mission wars with the hope of a return trip. That the undertaking isn't quite as advertised doesn't come as a shock, but the cruelty of the deception lands like a body blow. Nature isn't evil, muses Brand (played with soulful nuance by Hathaway). The only evil in space is what we bring with us.

When Interstellar began life back in 2006, it was Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), not Nolan, who was attracted to the director's chair – a presence still felt in the relationship between Cooper and Murph. The betrayal of a child abandoned is potent from the outset but the guilt is magnified tenfold when the Endurance's first stop, within the influence of the black hole, means that a few hours stranded planet-side result in two decades passing back on Earth. Cooper's tortured face as he watches his family unspool through 20 years of unanswered video missives is agony, raw and unadorned. Beneath everything else, this is a story about a father and his daughter, the ten-year-old giving way to Jessica Chastain's (Zero Dark Thirty) adult in the blink of a tear-filled eye.

With the endless theoretical physics and moral philosophy, Interstellar can at times feel like a three-year undergraduate course crammed into a three-hour movie. The final act compounds the issue, descending into complex tesseracts, five-dimensional space and gravitational telephony. It's a dizzying leap from the grounded to the brain-bending that will baffle as many viewers as it inspires. More than the monolithic robot and his sarcastic, HAL referencing asides, it's the psychedelic, transcendental climax that feels most indebted to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Inception (2010) posed questions without clear answers. Interstellar provides all the answers – you just might not understand the question. This is Nolan at his highest functioning but also his least accessible – a film that eschews conflict for exploration, action for meditation and reflection. This isn't the outer to Inception's inner space, but it does wear its smarts just as proudly. Yet for the first time, here Nolan opens his heart as well as his mind. Never a comfortably emotional filmmaker, here he demonstrates a depth of feeling not present in his earlier work. It's no coincidence that the film's shooting pseudonym was Flora's Letter, after Nolan's own daughter. Interstellar is a missive from father to child, a wish to re-instil the wonder of the heavens in a generation for whom the only space is cyber. Anchored in the bottomless depths of paternal love, it's a story about feeling as much as thinking. And if the emotional core is clumsily articulated at times (Brand's "love transcends space and time" monologue being the worst offender), it's no less powerful for it.

As a light year spanning quest to save the human race, this is the director's broadest canvas by far, but also his most intimate. And against the alien backdrop of black holes, wormholes and strange new worlds, Interstellar stands as Nolan's most human film to date. A mind-bending opera of space and time that is truly beautiful to behold.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lucasfilm concocts Strange Magic

Strange Magic comes as something of a surprise – an animated feature film from a well-known company (Lucasfilm) based on an idea by a well-known filmmaker (George Lucas) that has somehow made it as far as two months from release without much exposure at all.

Based on an original story by Lucas, turned into a script by legendary sound designer and director of Pixar short Lifted (2011), Gary Rydstrom, alongside Irene Mecchi (Brave) and David Berenbaum (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Strange Magic is described as a fairy tale inspired by William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. There will be a musical element too, as songs from the last 60 years help to bring to life the story of a cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps who are all trying to get hold of a magic potion.

Alan Cumming (X-Men 2), Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler), Kristin Chenoweth (Hit And Run), Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Sam Palladio (Runner Runner), Alfred Molina (An Education) and Peter Stomare (Pain & Gain) are behind the voices for the film, which the company will release in US cinemas on 23 January next year.

This also represents a new project for Brenda Chapman, who moved to the film after being removed from Pixar's Brave (2012). She consulted on the film to help with script problems, but her name doesn't appear in the final roster.

Quentin Tarantino set to retire after his tenth film

While his latest film, The Hateful Eight, is yet to shoot a single frame of its 70mm stock, Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) still knows how to draw the headlines. News arrives via Deadline that
he has recently announced his intention to retire.

"I don't believe you should stay on stage until people are begging you to get off," he said, while on stage at the American Film Market earlier this month. "I like the idea of leaving them wanting a bit more. I do think directing is a young man's game and I like the idea of an umbilical cord connection from my first to my last movie. I'm not trying to ridicule anyone who thinks differently, but I want to go out while I'm still hard... I like that I will leave a ten-film filmography, and so I've got two more to go after this. It's not etched in stone, but that is the plan."

Unlike contemporaries such as Kevin Smith (Clerks) who have announced retirement and then returned, Tarantino left the door ajar. "If I get to the tenth, do a good job and don't screw it up, well that sounds like a good way to end the old career. If, later on, I come across a good movie, I won't not do it just because I said I wouldn't. But ten and done, leaving them wanting more, that sounds right."

Also on the panel were The Hateful Eight stars Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) and Kurt Russell (Death Proof), who couldn't quite believe what Tarantino was saying. "You don't actually believe that shit, do you?" Russell asked the crowd. Added Jackson, "What's Quentin going to do with himself if he's not doing this?" According to the director himself, he'll be "writing plays and books, going gracefully into my tender years."

For now, though, he has to concentrate on making the new movie, one that he hopes will keep the idea of event cinema alive.

"If we do our jobs right by making this film a 70mm event, we will remind people why this is something you can't see on television, and how this is an experience you can't have when you watch movies in your apartment, your man cave or your iPhone or iPad," Tarantino said. "You'll see 24 frames per second play out, all these wonderfully painted pictures create the illusion of movement. I'm hoping it's going to stop the momentum of the digital stuff, and that people will hopefully go, 'Man, that is going to the movies, and that is worth saving and we need to see more of that."

The Hateful Eight will shoot this winter in Colorado and is set to arrive on screens next year.

Toby Kebbell discusses Fantastic Four's Doctor Doom

From the sounds of things, Josh Trank (Chronicle) and the rest of the team working on 20th Century Fox's new iteration of The Fantastic Four are aiming to upend more than a few expectations about the Marvel superhero family team. And that, according to actor Toby Kebbell (War Horse), also extends to the villain, Doctor Doom.

At an event to promote the Blu-ray release of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Collider got the actor behind the mask – or whatever he ends up wearing – talking about the character.

"I'm excited to see it too," says Kebbell. "The only thing I can tease you about is what I worked on most was the voice because nobody – even in the cartoons, when I was watching them I was like, 'so where's he from?' There's a mild change. He's Victor Domashev, not Victor Von Doom in our story. And I'm sure I'll be sent to jail for telling you that. The Doom in ours: I'm a programmer. A very anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I'm 'Doom'."

It certainly sounds like there are plenty of changes afoot for the film, which also features Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), Jamie Bell (The Adventures Of Tintin), Kate Mara (127 Hours) and Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) as the titular superheroes. Kebbell seems happy with the way Trank has gone about making this version different from the films that were released in 2005 and 2007.

"Josh, the whole deal, the lo-fi way he did it, the ultra-real. It was just nice to do that. It was nice to be feeling like we had to come to terms with what was given by this incident."

The Fantastic Four will hit UK cinemas on 6 August next year.

Disney sets date for Zootopia

With Don Hall (Winnie The Pooh) and Chris Williams' (Bolt) Big Hero 6 already doing well at the American box office, it's somewhat surprising to learn that Walt Disney Feature Animation is taking 2015 off (though the company is making room for two movies from sister studio Pixar). Still, 2016 promises not one but two films from the Mouse House team with the already announced Moana and now Zootopia.

Admittedly, both films have technically been unveiled – news of Little Mermaid (1989) duo Ron Clements and John Musker working on Moana arrived late last month and Zootopia's existence was announced back at last year's D23 event. But now we know when they'll be arriving, at least in the US (UK dates for Disney outings often tend to be set later – we won't be getting Big Hero 6 until 30 January).

Zootopia, which comes from Tangled (2010) director Byron Howard, is described as a buddy comedy meets conspiracy thriller set in a world entirely populated by animals. Our main characters are smooth Fox Nick Wilde and cop rabbit Lt. Judy Hops. "Usually in animal movies, people just make them all human and give them human abilities," Howard said during the big Disney event, "but we wanted to bring the animal abilities into the movie. In the same way we pushed human animation in Tangled, we want to show an animal movie the way no-one has seen before. Animals in our world are beautiful and amazing and we wanted to capture that and tie it to what we are as humans." The film is now set for a US date of 4 March 2016, where it faces competition from Tim Burton's (Dark Shadows) new film, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.

Moana, as you may already know, follows the titular adventurous teenage heroine, who sets out on a seemingly impossible mission to fulfil her ancestors' quest. Born in the ancient South Pacific locale of Oceania, the natural navigator is making it her mission to find a fabled island. On her journey, she'll join forces with her hero, demi-god Maui and must brave all manner of challenges including giant sea creatures as she tries to reach her destination. Moana is set to make landfall on 23 November 2016.

New Testament Of Youth trailer arrives online

Lionsgate have released their latest trailer for James Kent's (The White Queen) Testament Of Youth.

Testament Of Youth's real life heroine, Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander), had guts, determination and a single mindedness to make the best of her gifts as a writer. This latest trailer provides a deeper context to her arc – the preconceptions of what a woman should and shouldn't do in Edwardian society are the battleground she must negotiate before war comes and brings the real thing.

A pioneering journalist and, before that, a nurse tending to the wounded of the trenches in Étaples. Brittain was a ground-breaker in many ways. She defied the chauvinism of the times to head to Oxford and later pursue a career in journalism that was considered the exclusive domain of men. She also wrote the book from which the film takes its title, a great solace for those who lost loved ones in the war.

Far from escaping the impact of conflict, Brittain lost her brother and her fiancé Roland Leighton (Kit Harington). Vikander, who's impressed in just about everything she's done in her career to date, looks to be doing a fine job capturing the chronicler of the so-called 'lost generation', intelligence, free-spiritedness, grief and all. 

"There's a poetic underworld that Jane Campion uses, nature and metaphor, and I love that," Kent tells Empire Magazine, "and I think documentaries like Restrepo (2010) and Armadillo (2010) [are also references], because I'm a big documentary watcher. The marriage between poetry and raw material is what I was looking for."

With Taron Egerton (Inspector Lewis), Dominic West (John Carter), Emily Watson (War Horse), Hayley Atwell (Captain America: First Avenger), Miranda Richardson (Made In Dagenham) and Anna Chancellor (Hysteria) also on board, Testament Of Youth will make it's UK bow from 16 January 2015.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Emily Blunt is set play a con artist in Barton & Charlie & Checco & Bill

Young Victoria (2009) stars Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are back together in a director/star capacity with news via Deadline that Friend is tapping Emily for a role in Barton & Charlie & Checco & Bill.

The film, which marks Friend's directorial debut, will see Blunt playing a budding confidence trickster educated in the ways of the trade by Friend's down on his luck con artist until she turns the game on her mentor, Grifters (1990) style. From there they embark on a long road trip involving a ten year-old Mexican boy and a newspaper mogul.

As this particular interview shows, the pair have lots of chemistry both on and off-screen. It will certainly be good to see them in a Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck (The Lady Eve) adversarial/romantic dynamic in what sounds like a classic cinematic tale.

Friend oversaw a segment of portmanteau film Stars In Shorts (2012), but Barton & Charlie & Checco & Bill is his first feature length outing and is set to start filming in the spring.

In an acting capacity, he has Hitman: Agent 47 upcoming, while Blunt has recently completed work on Denis Villeneuve's (Prisoners) crime drama Sicario, and can next be seen in Rob Marshall's (Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) Into The Woods, where she plays the wife of James Corden's (Begin Again) Baker.

Duncan Jones reveals more Warcraft details

Blizzard Entertainment's big annual event BlizzCon hit the Anaheim Convention Center south of Los Angeles earlier this month and director Duncan Jones (Source Code) was there to unveil new details about the Warcraft movie headed to cinemas in 2016. He was also on hand to show off the films first one sheets of the conflicting sides in the combat.

Aiming to delve into the reasons, problems and consequences of war, Jones' film will take a look at the combat from both sides – the mortal Alliance races and the seemingly evil, destructive Horde comprised of orcs, trolls and more.

The main characters for the Alliance side include Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a war hero who has sacrificed everything to keep the people of Azeroth safe; King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), the leader of the Alliance city of Stormwind and a beacon of hope to its people in a time of darkness; Medivh (Ben Foster), also known as 'the Guardian', a mysterious and reclusive protector who wields formidable power; Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a gifted young mage, embarking on a daring search for the truth; Lady Taria (Ruth Negga), the royal Queen of Stormwind, King Llane's great love and most trusted counsel; and Garona (Paula Patton), a strong-willed survivor who must decide where her true loyalty lies when she's caught between both sides.

On the opposing side we have Durotan (Toby Kebbel), the noble Chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan who is battling to save his people and his family from extinction; Orgrim (Rob Kazinsky), Durotan's right hand and a brave warrior destined to wield the Doomhammer, a weapon of orc legend; Blackhand (Clancy Brown), known as 'The Destroyer', who is one of orcs most fearsome and titanic warchiefs; and Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), a supreme orc ruler, fuelled by a dark magic that even he cannot control.

If you're itching to join the fight on either side, you can do so via the film's new rival websites, which allow you to sign up for the Alliance or the Horde. Or indeed both, if you're looking to be duplicitous...

Warcraft will march into our cinemas on 11 March 2016.

Jared Leto potentially set for the The Suicide Squad's Joker

There was talk earlier this year that Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) might be jumping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a potential candidate to play Doctor Strange. While that doesn't seem to be happening, he is still being linked with a comic book film role with The Wrap reporting he is currently circling a part in David Ayer's (End Of Watch) Suicide Squad film.

Ayer already has Will Smith (I Am Legend) and Tom Hardy (Inception) in talks to join the cast, plus Margot Robbie (The Wolf Of Wall Street), now strongly rumoured to be playing Harley Quinn. Nothing has been confirmed yet, however, and Leto right now is even further away in terms of talks. But it appears he's seriously considering becoming the DC universe's new Joker, which would be an imposing challenge given how well Heath Ledger brought the character to life in The Dark Knight (2008). Ryan Gosling (Drive) was originally sought for the role, but was unwilling to sign on for multiple films, which could end up a stumbling block for Leto as well.

Suicide Squad finds a group of the comic world's most notorious villains recruited by the government to go on dangerous missions. Recent reports indicate that Jesse Eisenberg's (The Social Network) Lex Luthor, from Zack Snyder's (Man Of Steel) Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, could be joining their ranks. Ayer talked to us about the project before he engaged in the current casting run, and is gearing up to make the film ready for an 5 August 2016 release date.

Tommy Lee Jones set for Mechanic: Resurrection

The film has been in development since at least February, but the sequel to the Jason Statham led action thriller remake The Mechanic (2011) has now finally pencilled in a name – Mechanic: Resurrection – and a couple of co-stars to aid (or possibly hinder) Statham's Arthur Bishop in his hit man endeavours, with Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men) and Jessica Alba (Sin City: A Dame To Kill For) signing up.

German director Dennis Gansel (We Are The Night) has long since been attached to take the megaphone over from Simon West, and he'll pump cinematic life into a script by Philip Shelby, Tony Mosher, Rachel Long and Brian Pittman (Haunting At Silver Falls).

As the sequel kicks off, Bishop has tried to quit the business, clearly forgetting the first rule of movie hit men – you can never leave and trouble will follow you if you do. In this case, the arrival of someone from his past forces him back into the business, and he has to complete an impossible list of assassinations of some of the most dangerous men in the world.

Millennium Films sold the right at the American Film Market earlier this month and has just announced that Mechanic: Resurrection will hit US cinemas on 22 January 2016. If it keeps to the same pattern as the original, we can expect it to arrive on UK screens the same day.

First image from Z For Zachariah arrives online

The first image from from Craig Zobel's (Compliance) adaption of Z For Zachariah has arrived online via Variety.

Adapted from Robert C. O'Brien's 1974 novel, which has long since become a staple for certain generations of secondary school students, the film finds Margot Robbie (The Wolf Of Wall Street) playing Ann, a small-town girl who lives alone on a farm in a valley that boasts one of the few remaining pockets of safely breathable air following a catastrophic nuclear war.

Her seeming isolation is rudely interrupted when two strangers – Chris Pine (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) – arrive from the surrounding forest. That in itself is a change from the book, where only one man turns up but refers to a previous conflict from a pre-apocalypse friend. Compliance (2012) director Zobel is behind this one, working from a script by Nissar Modi that was originally developed by Pall Grimsson.

There's no word as yet on when the film might be headed to screens, though it should make an appearance sometime next year – and given that cast, expect the rights to be bought up quickly.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

"I came to tell you that something is coming that is far beyond my control unless you set my people free."

20th Century Fox have recently released their final trailer and one sheet for Ridley Scott's (Prometheus) biblical epic Exodus: Gods And Kings.

Exodus: Gods And Kings is a retelling of the story of Moses, with Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises) as the prophet and exodus leader.

Tradition has it Moses was rescued as a baby, discovered in bulrushes along the banks of the River Nile, abandoned by a desperate mother when the then-Pharaoh ordered the murder of male newborns among his Hebrew slaves. Found by the Pharaoh's daughter, he was raised with the royals, alongside the future Pharaoh Rhamses II (Joel Edgerton). But a burning bush speaking with the voice of his people's god convinced Moses to lead the Israelite slaves to freedom, leading to the parting of the Red Sea and a 40 year trek through the desert to the Promised Land. Rhamses, of course, has no intention of releasing his largely slave workforce, and the stage is set for an epic showdown.

With Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), Ben Kingsley (Hugo), John Turturro (The Good Shepherd), Ben Mendelsohn (Killing Them Softly), Hiam Abbass (The Visitor) and Indira Varma (Rome) among the eclectic cast, Exodus: Gods And Kings will hit UK cinemas on December 26.

Toy Story 4 planned for 2017

With Toy Story 3 (2010) breaking records at the box office, grossing more than $1 billion and taking home two Academy Awards in 2011, it wasn't long before rumours started to circulate about a follow up. Those rumours were confirmed earlier this month when Walt Disney Company chief Bob Iger announced that Pixar are set to produce a new Toy Story outing for 2017, with studio animation boss John Lasseter (Cars) back in the director's chair.

The news came from a somewhat low-key source – Iger was making a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company's earnings, a report that has been boosted thanks to its prodigious film output from the likes of Marvel and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

No details were announced for the film, but we do know that part of the big main Pixar brain trust – Lasseter, Andrew Stanton (WALL·E), Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Pete Docter (Up) – came up with the idea and have handed scriptwriting duties to Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) duo Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.

"We love these characters so much; they are like family to us," Lasseter says in a statement. "We don't want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what's gone before. Toy Story 3 ended Woody and Buzz's story with Andy so perfectly that for a long time, we never even talked about doing another Toy Story movie. But when Andrew, Pete, Lee and I came up with this new idea, I just could not stop thinking about it. It was so exciting to me, I knew we had to make this movie – and I wanted to direct it myself."

While it will naturally lead some to accuse the studio of sinking back into sequel territory, there are several other original films due from the Pixar team in the coming years before revisiting Toy Story.

2017 is certainly shaping up to be another big, competitive year for animation – with the fourth outing for Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang now headed for the pre-booked 16 June 2017 slot, the film is going up against the likes of How To Train Your Dragon 3 and Despicable Me 3. Time to speculate about which of them will blink to avoid hurting their audience share...

Matt Damon confirms return to Bourne

E! News caught up with Matt Damon (Elysium) and his close friend Ben Affleck (Runner Runner) recently as they celebrated season four of their resurrected passion project, Project Greenlight. In between talking about their HBO series, Damon confirmed that he and Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) will indeed return for a new outing of the Bourne franchise.

"Yes, next year," Damon told the E! team. "It'll be in 2016 when the movie will actually come out. Paul Greengrass is going to do another one and that's all I ever said. I just needed him to say yes."

The news was initially brought up by Damon's friend and Greenlight collaborator Ben Affleck, who was asked to compare their muscle tone given his recent Batman workout: "Well, Matt's going to be doing a Bourne movie next fall when I've just completely lost any semblance of physical fitness..."

Damon and Greengrass have said on the record that they had no plans to revisit a story they felt they had already told. But they also both mooted a potential return if the right script could be found and they could work together again, and such is now the case.

With Damon's comments, it appears the new Jason Bourne focused film will indeed inherit the 15 July 2016 release slot that had been handed to the Bourne Legacy (2012) follow-up that Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) is developing to direct.

"What happens when a man stands up and says enough is enough?"

Paramount Pictures have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Ava DuVernay's (Middle Of Nowhere) Selma.

With competing projects by Oliver Stone (Savages) and Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) stuck at various stages of development, it's DuVernay's Martin Luther King biopic that's moving forward. David Oyelowo (Jack Reacher) stars as Dr King in Selma, with Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) as President Lyndon B. Johnson and Tim Roth (Funny Games) as Alabama Governor George Wallace.

Selma was previously in the hands of Lee Daniels (Precious), but he passed it to DuVernay last summer. DuVernay went on to overhaul playwrite Paul Webb's original screenplay, but as the trailer makes clear, the focus remains on the historic civil rights march that began in the titular Alabama town in 1965. The protest, facing violent opposition, marked a turning point for African-Americans in their struggle for equality, and took three attempts before it finally reached its target, Montgomery, a town just 54 miles away.

Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Common (Now You See Me), Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar), Carmen Ejogo (Alex Cross), Dylan Baker (Revolutionary Road), Wendell Pierce (Parker) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (American Gangster) are also part of the cast, and Christian Coulson (Slumdog Millionaire) and Brad Pitt (via his Plan B production company) are among the producers. Filming took place in Georgia over the summer, and Selma is released in the US over the Christmas and New Year period. We get it in the UK on 6 February.

New trailer and one sheet for Iron Sky: The Coming Race arrives online

Iron Sky Universe have recently released their first teaser trailer and one sheet for Timo Vuorensola's Iron Sky: The Coming Race.

This time last year, Vuorensola promised us "Hitler riding a dinosaur in the centre of the Earth" in his forthcoming Iron Sky (2012) sequel The Coming Race. Twelve months later and he's already blown his money shot in this promo, just unveiled at Helsinki's Night Visions festival and the American Film Market. "Yeah, but that's a money shot worth blowing," Vuorensola grins.

Not actually intended to be part of the film itself, the promo serves as a bridge between the end of Iron Sky and the start of the new movie, set 20 years later.

Following a holocaust, "All that's left of humanity survives in the Moon Fortress," Vuorensola explains. "It's the survival of mankind: a small group of ex-Nazis, kids, old women... basically anyone who didn't leave for the war, plus those who were rich enough to get off Earth with their private space shuttle tickets. They created a society where hyper-capitalism is like a religion, but the Moon by now is in shit shape, it's falling apart and mankind is wondering what it's going to do. Then a certain opportunity presents itself and a journey into the Hollow Earth begins..."

Tom Green will play "a priest of the Church of Steve Jobs", alongside returning stars Udo Kier and Julia Dietze. But it sounds like the real stars this time will be greener and scalier...

"It's very hard to go beyond Nazis on the Moon as a concept," the director deadpans, "but when I started to work on Iron Sky 2, I knew from very early on that I wanted to do something with an army of dinosaurs. Iron Sky was very inorganic: dead objects in space, and metal. I wanted Iron Sky 2 to be more organic, with an enemy that was a more organic creature. It's a very simple adventure film at heart. This is my Jurassic Park / Indiana Jones love affair!"

The screenplay this time is by the up-and-coming Dalan Musson, from Vuorensola's original story. Germany's Pixomondo (Game Of Thrones) are working on the impressive CGI. And following another round of crowdfunding, Iron Sky: The Coming Race is expected to shoot in Berlin next summer for a release sometime in 2016.

Of the developing TV series Vuorensola says he's still waiting for the pieces to fall into place, "so I don't have anything new or intelligent to tell you". But to follow that – which he'll partially but not solely direct – he's already thinking even further ahead to Iron Sky 3. "Once I'm done with this I'll write that, and then I'll have my first science fiction trilogy. Which is nice!"

Quentin Tarantino locks down his Hateful Eight cast

It was announced recently that Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) was circling a role in Quentin Tarantino's bloody new Western, The Hateful Eight. While he clearly hasn't snagged a huge role, he is now confirmed for the cast alongside fellow Tarantino newbie Demián Bichir (Machete Kills).

Set a few years after the ragged end of the Civil War, the film finds a stagecoach waylaid in wintry Wyoming wilderness and the passengers forced to seek shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery, a stopover on a mountain pass. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth and his fugitive Daisy Domergue are trying to reach the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as 'The Hangman,' will bring Domergue to justice. Along the way, they encounter two strangers – Major Marquis Warren, a black former Union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix, a Southern renegade who claims to be the town's new Sheriff.

Arriving at Minnie's, they're greeted not by the owner, but by Bob, who's taking care of the place while Minnie's visiting her mother. He's holed up with Oswaldo Mobray, the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage, and Confederate General Sanford Smithers. As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travellers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all...

Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) is Warren, Kurt Russell (Death Proof) plays Ruth, Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now) takes on Domergue, Walton Goggins (Django Unchained) co-stars as Mannix, Bichir is set as Bob, Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction) will be Mobray, Michael Madsen (Kill Bill) is Gage and Bruce Dern (Django Unchained) has nabbed the role of Smithers, while Tatum's role has yet to be revealed.

Tarantino is aiming to kick off shooting early next year in Telluride, Colorado, with a release date planned for later next year.

Mark Wahlberg will be The Six Billion Dollar Man

Given the current state of the economy, it makes sense that the Six Million Dollar Man's cyborg technology would cost billions these days, and that's the price tag title for the new take on the story, with Mark Wahlberg and his Lone Survivor (2013) director Peter Berg attached to make The Six Billion Dollar Man.

The transition from TV series to film has been stuck in development limbo for years as directors, writers, stars and even concepts have come and gone ranging from all action to a comedy reboot. Exactly how Dimension Films plans to exploit the idea is anyone's guess at this point, because the company is currently wiping the script slate clean and starting fresh.

From the sounds of it, Wahlberg and Berg are planning a more straightforward drama, based on Martin Caidin's 1972 tome Cyborg, which also fuelled the Lee Majors starring 1970s Six Million Dollar Man TV series. Wahlberg will be Austin, a former astronaut who barely survives a horrific experimental plane crash. To save his life, he is given high-tech enhancements by scientists who replace his legs, his right arm and left eye with bionic systems. Gifted with super human abilities, he is drafted in to work for the government as a secret agent.

Writers are being invited to pitch now with the intention of shooting next year for a proposed 2016 release. Wahlberg will next be seen in The Gambler, due out on a date to be confirmed in December, and has also signed on for the new comedy Daddy's Home alongside his Other Guys (2010) co-star Will Ferrell.

John Malkovich set for Unlocked

With Noomi Rapace (Prometheus), Orlando Bloom (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug) and Michael Douglas (Behind The Candelabra) in place, the cast for the new CIA thriller Unlocked is already well stocked. But director Michael Apted (The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader) has clearly found room for more with news arriving via The Hollywood Reporter that John Malkovich (Burn After Reading) and Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) are set to join.

Unlocked will focus on Rapace as a CIA interrogator who accidentally supplies key information to terrorists who are planning a huge biological strike on London. Once she learns what is happening, she scrambles to stop the plan before it can be put into motion.

So far, all the other roles – including Malkovich and Collette's – are classified, though we do know that Apted is already busy shooting the film, working from Peter O'Brien's script.

Malkovich will be a malicious octopus in the new Penguins Of Madagascar animation, which is due to arrive here on 5 December. He is set to start work on Unlocked after wrapping on a new miniseries about the legendary female spy, Mata Hari, which has been shooting in Portugal and Russia. Collette, meanwhile, is filming Miss You Already alongside Drew Barrymore (50 First Dates) and Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger), which set to arrive in cinemas next year.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Matt Damon set for Downsizing

Although he initially developed the film back in 2009 – even reaching the casting stage – Alexander Payne put Downsizing aside to concentrate on The Descendants (2011) and Nebraska (2013). Now, though, it appears the director is finally ready to commit to the high concept film, with news arriving via Deadline that he has Matt Damon (Elysium) attached to star.

Payne wrote the script with Sideways (2004) partner Jim Taylor. Though there may have been changes along the way, the plot should still see a man low on money who decides that life would be a lot cheaper and easier if he underwent a procedure to shrink himself. Travelling through life as a tiny person, he meets a girl and a pint-sized foreigner. Paul Giamatti (Saving Mr. Banks), Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo) were originally attached back in 2009, but this sounds like a new cast in the making.

The film will see Payne dabbling in effects technology to a greater extent than ever before, with green screen and other tricks needed to pull off the shrinking scenes.

As for Damon, he's about to start work on Ridley Scott's (Prometheus) science fiction drama The Martian, and can currently be seen in Christopher Nolan's (The Dark Knight Rises) Interstellar.

Rooney Mara set for Blackbird

One of the hits of the 2005 Edinburgh Festival was David Harrower's play Blackbird. Following its move to the West End and subsequent Olivier Award for Best New Work, it's now being adapted for the screen. Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Ben Mendelsohn (Killing Them Softly) have signed on to play the couple awkwardly reunited 15 years after a dubious affair. Benedict Andrews, who recently directed Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster on stage to storming effect in A Streetcar Named Desire, will make his debut behind the camera.

Mara will play Una, a woman in her 20s who had a torrid affair with Mendelsohn's office worker Ray when she was just 12 and he was in his late 30s. Ray went to jail because of it and has since started a new life under a new identity. But Una has tracked him down, and the drama of their sudden reunion is infused with tension as to her real agenda. Does she want closure and apologies, or is she actually more in the market for revenge?

On stage Blackbird is a single 90-minute act between two performers, so it will be interesting to see how the work will be expanded for the cinema. Will new characters be added, or will it remain essentially a two-hander, like Sleuth (1972) or the brilliant Hard Candy (2005)?

Jean Doumanian and Patrick Daly (August: Osage County) will produce, and shooting is scheduled for next summer.

Matthew McConaughey set for Free State Of Jones

Following his Academy Award® winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Matthew McConaughey has rightly been selective about the roles he takes on, choosing to work with the likes of Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) and Gus Van Sant (Milk). Now news arrives via Deadline that he is currently considering one of The Hunger Games (2012) director Gary Ross' passion projects, entering talks to star in Free State Of Jones.

According to Deadline, Ross has been developing this one for several years, planning a new take on the life of Newton Knight, who led one of the most famous rebellions in America's Civil War. A Mississippi man who had been a loyal Confederate recruit, he defected from the army and took a group of like-minded troops with him to create the Free State of Jones. Knight later married a slave, creating one of the first ever publicised mixed race unions in the South, fought against the Confederates from within his new state and led a daring raid to free children who were still enslaved following the end of the conflict.

It's not the first time his life has been dramatised – Tap Roots (1948) adapted a book about the man with Van Heflin and Susan Hayward starring. But a project featuring McConaughey would surely garner even more attention.

The actor can currently be seen in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, while Gus Van Sant's (Milk) Sea Of Trees is due to arrive here next year.