Saturday, 28 February 2015

Adam Wingard set for The Woods

After his recent sidestep into action thriller territory with The Guest (2014), Adam Wingard is set to return to a more familiar path for his next film. The Woods, written by his usual cohort Simon Barrett, is a horror tale about students on a camping trip that goes somewhat awry.

Not much more is known about the story so far, beyond the not unexpected idea that something eerie is lurking in the trees to hinder the campers' fun. But if all this sounds like the most generic of generic set-ups, bear in mind Wingard's off-kilter take on the home invasion genre with You're Next (2011). Subverting really obvious tropes is clearly something Wingard and Barrett particularly enjoy.

"The experiment of both The Guest and You're Next was a gradually shifting tone," Barrett explained to Empire recently. "The movie gets funnier and funnier as it goes on until you realise it's 100% joking. But at the beginning it's 100% serious. As a viewer I think that's really fun and interesting."

The Woods (not to be confused with Corin Hardy's The Hallow, which was originally called The Woods for a while) has Roy Lee (The Departed), Steven Schneider (Insidious), Keith Calder and Jessica Wu (You're Next) aboard as producers, and is coming together at Lionsgate. Wingard is apparently looking to cast unknowns for a shoot in the spring.

Guy Pearce set for Brimstone

Outside of Quentin Tarantino's efforts (Django Unchained), Westerns haven't exactly enjoyed much box office success of late. But mashing up Westerns with other filmic genres can often pay dividends. Brimstone, which blends the oater with a thriller, is hoping for some luck and has recently corralled Guy Pearce (The Hurt Locker) and Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland) to star.

Martin Koolhoven (Winter In Wartime), who wrote the script and is set to direct the film in May, has Wasikowska on to play Liz, a heroine on the run from a difficult past who is fleeing pursuit by a diabolical preacher (Pearce).

With cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis (The Drop) on board to define the look of the thriller, Koolhoven is currently rounding up the rest of the cast as the producers start to tout the distribution rights.

Pearce was last seen making life tough for Robert Pattinson (Remember Me) in The Rover and has Results and Drake Doremus' (Like Crazy) Equals awaiting release. Wasikowska will next be seen in Guillermo del Toro's (Pacific Rim) Crimson Peak and is back as Alice Kingsleigh for the Wonderland sequel, Alice in Wonderland: Through The Looking Glass, due here in 2016.

First trailer and one sheet for Hitman: Agent 47 arrives online

20th Century Fox have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Aleksander Bach's directorial debut Hitman: Agent 47.

First unveiled at last year's Comic Con, this first look at the second shot at bringing the Square Enix Hitman games to the big screen, Hitman: Agent 47 has arrived online for your eyeballing pleasure.

This time around, the focus is even more on the Agent programme that created the numerically named killing machine, genetically engineered to be stronger, faster, smarter and frankly better than us mere mortals.

His latest target is a mega-corporation that plans to unlock the secret of Agent 47's past to create an army of killers whose powers surpass even his own. Teaming up with a young woman who may hold the secret to overcoming their powerful and clandestine enemies, 47 confronts stunning revelations about his own origins and squares off in an epic battle with his deadliest foe.

With Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria) as the mysterious and deadly Agent 47, the film also features Hannah Ware (Shame), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Into Darkness), Ciarán Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted), Emilio Rivera (Collateral) and Dan Bakkedahl (The Heat), who you see being roundly outsmarted by Agent 47 at the start of the trailer.

Aleksander Bach is behind the camera for this one and the trailer certainly promises a lot of what you might expect from a Hitman outing with Agent 47 showing off his scientifically enhanced set of skills and lots of things going boom.

Hitman: Agent 47 sneaks into UK cinemas on 28 August.

New trailer for Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella arrives online

Walt Disney Pictures have recently released their UK trailer for Kenneth Branagh's (Thor) Cinderella.

The script, written by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass), follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother. Keen to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home.

But when Ella's father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully nicknamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. But despite their cruelty, Ella is determined to honour her mother's dying words to "Have courage and be kind."

Then of course there is the dashing stranger (Richard Madden) she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, Ella feels she has met a kindred soul. It looks like her fortunes might change when the palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella's hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit.

Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand in the form of a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) who, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella's life forever.

With Stellan Skarsgård (Melancholia), Derek Jacobi (Anonymous) and Nonso Anozie (The Grey) rounding out the cast, Cinderella will go to the cinematic ball on 27 March.

Sony Pictures seeking a new Spider-Man

We recently brought news that Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel had, after months of rumours on the subject, hammered out a power sharing agreement for Spider-Man that would allow the Marvel Cinematic Universe to make use of the web slinger's services while the Sony Pictures team kept control of the character for its franchise. Few details about the future for Spider-Man were included in the hastily announced deal, but news now arrives via Variety that Andrew Garfield will no longer be the man in the suit.

For its next incarnation – and we certainly hope there isn't going to be yet another variation on the spider bite origin story – Variety has learned that the character will once more head back to high school, whether that ends up as Peter Parker or embraces later takes on the guy in the suit, including Miles Morales.

The film trade publication has heard that the studio is currently busy drawing up lists of potential Spider-Men, including names such as Dylan O'Brien (The Maze Runner) and Logan Lerman (Fury), but that no actual casting decisions have been made, especially with the character in such a state of flux.

That choice will need to be made pretty soon as Marvel is looking to use whoever inherits the role in Captain America: Civil War, which is out next year. And Sony will reportedly also be on the hunt for a new director, moving on from Marc Webb, who handled both of the Amazing Spider-Man films.

For future updates on your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, as always, watch this space.

Latest trailer for The Divergent Series: Insurgent arrives online

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

Adapting Veronica Roth's second book, The Divergent Series: 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 here on 20 March.

"What an inspiration to girls all over the country who are too ugly to be cheerleaders."

Universal Pictures have recently released their latest trailer and one sheet for Elizabeth Banks' feature debut Pitch Perfect 2.

Pitch Perfect 2 finds the Barden Bellas at a crisis point. During a performance for the US president, a serious wardrobe malfunction during a stunt sees Rebel Wilson's Fat Army showing off rather more than planned. The incident leads to the Bellas being kicked out of a major acapella competition and replaced by some distinctly Germanic types.

Although it briefly rocks their confidence, the girls – including returning warblers Amy, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), plus new recruit Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), have to prove they are worthy to enter as Team USA.

The first Pitch Perfect (2012) hauled in an impressive $113 million at the box office, as well as winning over a legion of diehard fans, who will no doubt be champing at the bit to see what the girls have in store for us next. From the looks of things, it's certainly going to be raucous.

Pitch Perfect 2 will hit the UK on 15 May.

First trailer for A Perfect Day arrives online

West End Films have recently released their first trailer for Fernando León de Aranoa's (Mondays In the Sun) A Perfect Day.

Given recent international events, a comedy about aid workers in a conflict zone would appear to be a tricky prospect. And yet if this first glimpse is anything to go by, Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption), Benicio del Toro (Savages), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum Of Solace) and director Fernando León de Aranoa have nailed it with A Perfect Day.

The film finds Robbins, del Toro and their team in the Balkans. The farcical plot involves the various obstacles they encounter while attempting to purify a water supply by removing a corpse from a well.

The Spanish de Aranoa makes his English language debut with the film, which he also wrote. It was shot in his home country and will be in theatres there on 28 April.

First trailer for Last Knights arrives online

Lionsgate have recently released their first trailer for Kazuaki Kiriya's (Casshern) Last Knights.

Filmed a full two years ago, Last Knights has been in distribution limbo waiting for release. Shot in and around Prague but set in a fantasy medieval world (think Game Of Thrones), Last Knights is the story of Raiden (Clive Owen), a swordsman employed by dishonoured Lord Bartok (Morgan Freeman) to lead a band of warriors against corrupt ruler Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie).

Kazuaki Kiriya is the director, making his first film on actual sets and locations, following the entirely green screen antics of Casshern (2004) and Goemon (2009). Michael Konyves (Barney's Version) and Dove Sussman worked on the screenplay, and Last Knights gets an online and limited theatrical release in the US on 3 April, with no set UK release date as yet.

Marvel and Sony Pictures join forces on Spider-Man

It has been talked about for years, and the subject of much fevered speculation in recent months, especially following the relative disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), but now it's official – Marvel and Sony Pictures are joining forces to co-produce the next films for your friendly neighbourhood web slinger.

Under the new terms of the deal, Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film – potentially Captain America: Civil War, since he appears in the comic book version, provided that he won't make the already hero packed film too crowded – followed by the next, Sony Pictures produced Spider-Man outing, which is now scheduled for 28 July 2017. And in a more surprising, but natural move, Marvel boss Kevin Feige will be involved in future decisions regarding the web slinger, working alongside former Sony boss Amy Pascal to develop what is described as a new creative direction for the character. Sony is keeping hold of the rights to Spidey, and will have final creative control on its Spider-Man output. It's something of a landmark deal for the two studios, but arguably a given considering the growing demand.

Nothing was mentioned in the recent announcement about whether this means a new actor will be replacing Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and his heroic alter ego, but all the talk of a new creative direction makes us think there will be some serious changes ahead, though hopefully not another origin story.

"I am thrilled to team with my friends at Sony Pictures along with Amy Pascal to produce the next Spider-Man movie," says Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige in the announcement. "Amy has been deeply involved in the realisation on film of one of the world's most beloved characters. Marvel's involvement will hopefully deliver the creative continuity and authenticity that fans demand from the MCU. I am equally excited for the opportunity to have Spider-Man appear in the MCU, something which both we at Marvel, and fans alike, have been looking forward to for years."

Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel is also shifting some release dates around to maximise the fact that Spider-Man is now technically a team player. Thor: Ragnarok has been moved to November 2017 from its July date. Black Panther will now open in July 2018, moving from October 2017. Captain Marvel moved to November 2018 from July 2018, while Inhumans is headed for for July 2019 from its original October 2018 date.

New red band trailer and one sheet for Unfinished Business arrives online

20th Century Fox have recently released their latest red band trailer and one sheet for Ken Scott's (Delivery Man) Unfinished Business.

Vince Vaughn (The Internship) stars as Dan Trunkman, a man who was unceremoniously sacked by his boss, Sienna Miller (Stardust). Cut to a year later and he is starting his own small business. Now, on the verge of sealing a crucial deal, Dan is travelling to Europe with his two employees, played by Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) and Dave Franco (Now You See Me), to make the final presentation.

Yet when he arrives, he discovers that Miller is also moving in on the deal, and has already been sweet talking the clients, including James Marsden (X-Men) and Nick Frost (The World's End). So Dan must go all out to impress, leading to some insane situations. Hilarity ensues.

The amount of repeat footage here has us hoping that the marketing team is keeping some of the better gags back for the finished product, but also worried that this is the good stuff front and centre. We will find out for sure when the movie itself checks in on 6 March.

"There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job'."

Trying to make a thriller about jazz music is arguably like trying to make a horror film about puppies – you are starting with a subject that inspires, in most people, the exact opposite of the emotion you are aiming for. Yet Damien Chazelle (Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench) has done just that. With just one short and a feature under his belt, he has made a heart thumping drama about percussion. He has made, in essence, a sports movie without any sport, but certainly plenty of balls.

In the tradition of great thrillers it has an ordinary man trying to best a much trickier foe, and like great sports movies it has a rookie intent on winning everything. It just finds those things in a place where nobody usually looks. Andrew (Miles Teller) is a talented, but cocky, drummer who wants to join the best band at his music college. The only way to do that is to catch and hold the eye of Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the conductor/coach, who expects those on his team to either meet his incredibly high standards or get the hell out. And why shouldn't that be thrilling? Tension is just hoping for the best while expecting the worst. Chazelle yanks your heart into your throat waiting to see if a man will nail a drum roll, because he directs like everything is at stake. In the music room his camera flashes around catching blood, sweat and tears. Andrew drums until his skin cracks open. Nothing is still. Nobody is settled.

Taking nothing away from Teller's all-in performance, this is clearly Simmons' film. He has always been one of the best, but now, finally, a script has caught up with him. Fletcher's a rumbling, black-clad storm of a man, ready to rain hell down on Andrew when he is less than at his best. Armed with a savage New York wit, his explosive tantrums are often hilarious yet brutal. And Simmons really relishes those moments, barking out lines like, "If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will fuck you like a pig". The genius of Simmons' performance is how he teeters unpredictably between humour and horror. He is nothing short of terrifying, yet not really a villain. Chazelle keeps the roles shifting. Is Fletcher, who believes in rewarding greatness not effort, worse than Andrew, who believes wanting is the same as deserving? We never really know for sure whether Andrew is as good as he believes he is. It pulls you in, tighter and tighter, by asking you to constantly see the other side.

Though unavoidably nudged into second place by Simmons' electrifying performance, Teller's portrait of a wannabe artist blinkered by the pride that comes with peaking too early, leaves his earlier roles in the dust. He spent four hours a day for two months learning to play the drums like a virtuoso – far from method madness, the effort pays off spectacularly on screen.

Confining everything entirely to low-lit New York interiors and pushing supporting characters to the background without a second glance, it's hard not to see heavy parallels between Andrew's quest for perfection and Chazelle's single-minded approach to storytelling. Opening with a drum roll and building to a crescendo, Whiplash is a lot less predictable than its mentor/student set-up may look.

Constantly changing direction, endlessly defying expectation, the narrative is a brilliantly tricksy beast. Chazelle starts the third act early and then throws in a fourth and a fifth, all the while keeping the mood light, the beats heavy and the foot tapping.

Whiplash is so close to faultless that its one stumble is frustrating. Having kept its rhythms perfect for the entire first hour it bangs a bit too hard when Andrew reaches his breaking point, proffering up about five minutes that stretch the bounds of dramatic credibility. The film doesn't need obvious melodrama because it has shown how much you can make without it. But five minutes of self-indulgence and another hundred plus of ovation worthy hits is certainly a great ratio for any performance.

Returning to the festival after proving himself with a 2013 short and a winning Black List script, Chazelle's second movie is a dazzlingly confident breakout. A musical that plays like a sports movie. A film about an abusive relationship that somehow has you siding with the bad guy. And a deep, multi-layered study of obsession. Sum up the plot and it sounds interminable. Watch the film and it will spit you out elated, exhausted and cheering for an encore.

First trailer and one sheet for Straight Outta Compton arrives online

Universal Pictures have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for F. Gary Gray's (Law Abiding Citizen) N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, prefaced by a South side ride with producers Ice Cube and Dr Dre themselves. Somewhat appropriately, it's immensely red band. Parental advisory. Explicit lyrics... and boobs.

In development since 2009, Straight Outta Compton originally had Cube's Boyz N The Hood (1991) director John Singleton attached for a while, but finally reaches the screen courtesy of Gray. The film follows the thrilling but controversial rise of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Eazy-E, kicking off the West Coast hip-hop scene and selling nine million records before predictably imploding.

Cube had an acrimonious split from the group before pursuing his solo career, but later reconciled with his former bandmates following Eazy's death. Cube and Dre have overseen the film project together, with input from the other surviving members, so it should hopefully prove more even-handed than if Cube had potentially gone it alone.

Corey Hawkins (Non-Stop) plays Dre, with Neil Brown Jr. (Fast & Furious) as Yella, Aldis Hodge (Leverage) as Ren, Jason Mitchell (Contraband) as Eazy and a certain O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Cube. Jackson is indeed the real life son of Cube, which sounds like nepotism until you see how uncannily perfect he is in the role of his father as a teenager with a little bit of gold and a pager.

Keith Stanfeld (The Purge: Anarchy) will show up as Snoop Dogg, with R. Marcus Taylor (Dead Man Down) as Suge Knight and Rogelio Douglas Jr. (Whiplash) as Public Enemy's Chuck D, and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) playing Jerry Heller, N.W.A's visionary manager.

Straight Outta Compton will be assaulting cinemas from 14 August.

Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek legend dies aged 83

Leonard Nimoy, the much loved star of the cult science fiction TV series Star Trek, has died in Los Angeles aged 83.

According to The New York Times, his wife Susan Bay Nimoy, who confirmed his death, attributed the cause to chronic pulmonary disease. Last year, Nimoy revealed he was suffering chronic lung disease COPD, despite having stopped smoking 30 years ago.

It was reported earlier this week that he had been taken to hospital on 19 February after suffering from chest pains.

He later tweeted: "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory."

He signed off what was to be his final tweet with "LLAP" – a reference to his character's famous catchphrase, "Live long and prosper".

As the internet will be swift to note, Leonard Nimoy lived long and prospered. Born in Boston to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Nimoy acted in neighbourhood theatre from the age of eight, later scoring his first major role in an amateur production of a Clifford Odets play aged 17. Fuelled by his experiences on the stage and encouraged by his grandfather, Nimoy revisited the craft in his twenties after a three-year stint in the US Army and a short spell at college.

Moving to Los Angeles, he was soon teaching the craft in Hollywood and paying the rent with small roles TV shows and movies, including a method turn as a US sergeant in 1954 giant ant B-movie Them!. Most notable was Kid Monk Baroni (1952), in which he played a hoodlum a million light-years removed from the character who would make him a star in the 1960s.

It was in scoring the role of the Enterprise's half-Vulcan, half-human science officer, Spock, in the 1965 pilot episode of Star Trek that his career was sent into overdrive. Nimoy would go on to play the character across countless episodes and eight movies (including a cameo in J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot). He also provided the voice for the character in an animated spinoff.

He also made his mark as a director, making one of the finest Star Trek movies, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984), the hugely successful 3 Men And A Baby (1987), and as an occasional musician, poet and photographer.

As Nimoy recorded in the first of two autobiographies, he sometimes struggled to reconcile himself with a role that grew to be all-encompassing but also afforded him celebrity and the chance to give voice to an iconic personality. "In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds," he noted in I Am Not Spock. "To be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien."

Thousands took to Twitter to pay tribute to Nimoy, including Star Trek actors past and present.

William Shatner, who starred alongside Nimoy as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, said he loved the actor "like a brother".

"We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love," Mr Shatner said on Twitter.

George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek and was a friend of Nimoy's, also paid tribute to the actor.

"Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to 'Live Long And Prosper,' and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways."

Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the rebooted Star Trek films, took to Instagram to post the touching message: "My heart is broken. I love you profoundly my dear friend and I will miss you everyday. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Trekkies worldwide will be offering up a Vulcan salute to the great man. Live long and prosper.

Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Chris Pratt in talks for Passengers

Now that Sony Pictures have finally given the long gestating script Passengers a proper home, and hired Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) to direct, things are beginning to move at pace on the casting front. According to The Wrap, Chris Pratt (Guardians Of The Galaxy) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) are in early talks to star.

The story of a spaceship transporting thousands of human colonists to a distant planet, Passengers chronicles what happens when a malfunction causes one of them to be rudely awakened 90 years before anyone else. Unable to fix the situation and seemingly doomed to spend his time dying alone, he decides to take the unusual and controversial step of waking up a fellow passenger. Can love bloom in the echoing confines of the ship? We may finally find out. Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) wrote the script back in 2010 and it as taken this long to find a suitable home, finding and losing directors and stars along the way.

Yet while Pratt and Lawrence appear interested, it is clearly still early days for their involvement as both stars have a busy future slates. Pratt has Antoine Fuqua's (The Equalizer) The Magnificent Seven, Cowboy Ninja Viking and Marvel's second Guardians Of The Galaxy ahead (not to mention a likely hefty press tour for Jurassic World), while Lawrence has David O. Russell's (Silver Linings Playbook) Joy and Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014) follow-up X-Men: Apocalypse on her schedule, plus promotional duties for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 and an attachment to Francis Lawrence's watery drama Dive.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

First image from Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise arrives online

The first still from Ben Whitley's (Sightseers) High-Rise, the adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel, arrived online recently with our first look at Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World) as the film's anti-hero, Dr Robert Laing.

Set in 1975, High-Rise documents the shocking breakdown of class and social structures within a brand new state of the art London apartment building as its residents, including Laing, slowly give in to their more animalistic impulses, turning the building into a bacchanalian den of iniquity.

The movie boasts an astonishing cast headed up by Hiddleston, along with the likes of Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) as class warrior/documentarian Richard Wilder, Jeremy Irons (Beautiful Creatures) as Anthony Royal, the building's architect, Sienna Miller (Stardust) as Charlotte, Royal's aide, and James Purefoy (Solomon Cane) as upper class nitwit, Pangbourne.

Wheatley, of course, is the director of the likes of Kill List (2011), Sightseers (2012) and A Field In England (2013), and his first film in almost two years is cause for excitement all by itself. Add Wheatley regular writer/editor Amy Jump and producer Jeremy Thomas (A Dangerous Method) into the mix, and the scene is set for an intense, claustrophobic and extraordinarily dark vision of humanity.

"The book makes as much sense now as it did then," Wheatley told Empire when the movie, which was filmed last summer in Northern Ireland and will be released later this year by StudioCanal, was first announced back in 2013. "It was written in the '70s, projecting itself into a near future, but we live in that future now. We're almost in a new version of the '70s."

High-Rise should arrive on our screens later this year.

J.J. Abrams discusses Star Wars: The Force Awakens

While he usually likes to give away as little as possible about his upcoming projects, J.J. Abrams has been happy to drop a few hints when it comes to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, understanding that this will be one of – if not the – most scrutinised releases of the year. He recently opened up to Collider on a couple of topics, including the balance of practical and computer generated effects and the much debated broadsword lightsaber.

Talking at the Visual Effects Society Awards where he was given the Visionary Award, Abrams revealed that there will still be a lot of traditional techniques in the film's many set pieces. "I feel like the beauty of this age of filmmaking is that there are more tools at your disposal, but it doesn't mean that any of these new tools are automatically the right tools. And there are a lot of situations where we went very much old school and in fact used CG more to remove things than to add things," he says.

"There are obviously an enormous amount of CG effects in the film, and I can't wait for you to see the combination. But it was very important that we build as many sets as we could and that the film have a tangible, sort of authentic quality that you believed that these things were actually happening in a real space with real sunlight, if it was an exterior scene, or if we could build a big portion of a scene and not have anything be blue screen, do it where we could. It was a very important piece of work."

As for the use of IMAX in the film? Turns out there won't be as much material filmed as some suspected. "It's really one sequence so it's not a ton, but it's a good sequence." And what of that lightsaber, which sparked plenty of fan discussion when the teaser trailer finally hit online back in November?

"I will say that what's been funny is, since the lightsaber's come out, I cannot tell you how many contradictory emails I have received from people who have both defended it with unbelievably detailed graphics... I've gotten things that are nuts, and I've gotten people who've shown how it'll kill you and how it doesn't make any sense. It's been the funniest thing to see the arguments that have developed over this thing."

It was recently revealed that legendary Apple designer John Ive had a hand in it's creation following a brief meeting with Abrams. "I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty," said Ive, adding that the new weapon could be "more analog and more primitive, and I think, in that way, somehow more ominous."

Written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes), the film stars Star Wars veterans Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and new saga arrivals John Boyega (Attack The Block), Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness), Adam Driver (Girls), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Andy Serkis (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave), Gwendoline Christie (Game Of Thrones), Max von Sydow (Shutter Island), Christina Chong (W.E.), Crystal Clarke and Pip Anderson.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives on 18 December.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

First trailer and one sheet for the Poltergeist reboot arrives online

20th Century Fox have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Gil Kenan's (City Of Ember) Poltergeist.

Not content with invading our world back in the 1982 original (and two sequels), the television obsessed terrors of Poltergeist are back in a new, rebooted version of the original tale from producer Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and director Gil Kenan.

This time around, the focus is on the Bowen family, dad Eric (Sam Rockwell), mum Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and kids Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and Madison (Kennedi Clements), the latter of whom becomes the main focus of supernatural attention. Moving into a suburban home, they discover it needs a bit more than just a coat of paint and some new furniture – it is also linked to the spirit world through a variety of portals. "The original film commented on how we've let television get out of control, babysitting our kids," Raimi tells USA Today. "It's only gotten worse with the handheld portable devices. Screens are everywhere."

While the couple calls in a respected supernatural researcher (Jared Harris) to help out, they really have to depend on each other. "The thing that keeps them a family is what they have to draw on, to stay sane, and also to win Madison back," says Kenan. "The film is super-scary. And it's scary on its own terms. I am excited to finally be able to share that with the world."

The director is also ready for the expected response to the word 'reboot' being used about a much loved and respected film. "Whenever someone approaches material that's so beloved, there's a reflexive reaction to be worried," says Kenan. "It's a responsibility we take very seriously. We're working to make a Poltergeist film that lives up to the original's legacy."

Poltergeist will haunt the UK on 24 July.

First one sheet and clip for Robot Overlords arrives online

Signature Entertainment have recently released their first one sheet and clip for Jon Wright's (Grabbers) upcoming science fiction adventure, Robot Overlords, starring Gillian Anderson (The Last King Of Scotland), Ben Kingsley (Hugo) and Aussie newcomer Callan McAuliffe (I Am Number Four).

The work of Grabbers (2012) director Jon Wright, the film promises to tap into that fun, '80s spirit of Amblin classics such as The Goonies (1985). "I woke up one morning having had a dream about being incarcerated in my house, with giant robots walking by in the street outside," explains the director of its unusual genesis. "It gave birth to the notion of people being trapped in their houses. Nobody knows why the robots have done this, but that’s kind of what we find out over the course of the movie."

Those draconian robots, the clanking and slightly rusting menace, have ceaselessly patrolled a technology bereft Earth for three long years, keeping humankind cowed behind closed doors.

Facing off against these sentinels in Robot Overlords are McAuliffe (who also played the young Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby) as reluctant hero Sean Flynn, and his pals. "I think he's got that star quality," says Wright of his leading man. "He channels that 'man-of-few-words' thing that feels like it's gone out of fashion a bit." Gillian Anderson's teacher is also on the side of the angels, albeit in a less active role than usual. "I grew up with the X-Files and always really loved her," continues Wright. "I thought it would be interesting to see her play a normal woman, a mum. The kids are quite ordinary, too. Extraordinary things happen to them but they're just an average gang of kids."

Expect resistance from Kingsley's hissable ex-geography teacher turned chief robot collaborator, Mr. Smyth. "He was passed over for promotion," explains the director, "and he's quite bitter and twisted. So when the robots arrived, he saw his chance to change his story. Apparently Ben Kingsley had an art teacher who he absolutely hated. That's who his character is channelling."

Wright's first feature, Tormented (2009), was an impactful study of sixth form school life; his second, Grabbers (2012), was hailed as an irresistible Friday night out monster feature in the spirit of Tremors (1990) or Lake Placid (1999).

Robot Overlords hits UK cinemas on 27 March.

John Wick sequel in development

The first may not have made it over here yet, but already John Wick (2014) directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are already mulling over ideas for a sequel to the action thriller, which is in development.

John Wick finds Keanu Reeves stars as the titular former hitman, who has given up bullet slinging for a quiet life after his wife dies. Until, that is, he runs afoul of some gangsters who take a shine to his car. Rebuffed, they track him down and take everything, even killing his beloved dog. Enraged, Wick picks up the tools of his trade once more and soon no one is safe...

Stuntmen turned directors Stahelski and Leitch made something that US audiences have embraced as a cult hit and has certainly helped boost Reeves' career. While there are no specifics on the sequel's story or even if the star will return, the filmmakers know their focus, as they told

"We have ideas for days and without blinking twice we know we can outdo the action from the original," Stahelski says. "It's the matter of story and how much you like the character. That's always the most important. If there's great action but you have a character that no one likes and doesn't have charisma you're not going to watch it. Look at any great action star, whether it's Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson or Robert Downey Jr., pick a name, you love the guy first. Good action, bad action, you just love them in action. So we want to make sure we have a story and a character that everybody loves and then we'll dress it with action that we promise will be awesome."

John Wick finally arrives here on 10 April, and you can watch the trailer below. Stahelski and Leitch have become highly sought after directors off the back of the film, most recently entering talks to direct Chris Pratt (Guardians Of The Galaxy) in Cowboy Ninja Viking.

Luke Evans set to star in Three Seconds

He may no longer be playing the new Crow, but Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) clearly isn't struggling to find work. In fact, part of his decision making process for dropping out of the Eric Draven role was because his schedule was filling up with other projects. Case in point: news arrives via Deadline that he is set to star in a new thriller from Peaky Blinders director Otto Bathurst called Three seconds.

Matt Cook has written the script which follows Evans' character as he is forced to go undercover in a dangerous prison by the FBI. When the bureau's agents abandon him during the mission, he has to plan and execute his own escape from the violent jail.

Adapted from the book by Swedish authors Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom, the film is scheduled to kick off shooting in a couple of months in New York.

Evans, who was last on screen in Dracula Untold (2014) and the final chapter of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, will next be seen in Ben Wheatley's (Sightseers) latest, High-Rise, and is on board to work with the director again for his action drama Free Fire.

Charlie Hunnam set for The Lost City Of Z

Following the recent departure of Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) from James Gray's (We Own The Night) adventure film The Lost City Of Z, news arrives via Screen International that Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) is now set to take the lead.

Bubbling away in development for a while, the adaptation of David Grann's popular book once boasted Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) as the star, with Pitt now simply on board to produce via his Plan B company. Hunnam will play Percy Fawcett, who headed into Brazil's Amazon Rainforest on a mapping quest in 1925. There, suffering from a nasty case of malaria, he claimed to have discovered a mythical city he called the Lost City of Z.

When his adventurer peers roundly mocked the idea as a fantasy or fraud, Fawcett gathered up his son and one other companion and headed back into the jungle to prove his point. And that became the last anyone saw of all three... Robert Pattinson (Remember Me) and Sienna Miller (Stardust) are also attached to star in the film, which will finally kick off shooting this summer.

Hunnam is currently at work on Guy Ritchie's (Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) Knights Of The Round Table: King Arthur and will be seen later this year in Guillermo del Toro's (Pacific Rim) Crimson Peak, which will creep it's way onto our screens 16 October.

Stargate remake finds two writers

The idea of a Stargate remake became less of a rumour and more of a reality last year, when the news arrived that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were looking to revisit their portal filled film as the potential launch of a new trilogy that would expand upon the original story. Now we know who will get first crack at the script, with news arriving via The Hollywood Reporter that Nicolas Wright and James A. Woods have been hired for the job.

While the pair are still relatively unknown, they have clearly forged a real bond with Emmerich after his Centropolis company bought an arctic set action thriller script from them, which led to them landing the task of re-writing the Independence Day (1996) sequel that had seen work from Carter Blanchard. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it was their draft that led to 20th Century Fox officially gearing up the film.

There are no details of what the new films will entail, and we don't as yet know whether it will explore a whole new story or reboot the roles originally played by Kurt Russell, James Spader and Jaye Davidson. Revisiting Russell's Colonel O'Neil and Spader's Dr. Daniel Jackson isn't out of the question, though they could potentially have new faces.

Also unlikely is any connection with the long running Stargate TV franchise, which spawned three shows of varying quality and lifespan from 1997 to 2011. While we're certain that as many eyes will roll at the idea of another remake as will get excited by the idea of a return trip through the 'gate, the biggest issue might be scheduling. Emmerich is currently busy on gay rights drama Stonewall, and is still figuring out what form the new Independence Day sequel will take. Devlin, for his part, is getting set to shoot weather thriller Geostorm, so we're expecting to wait awhile before any real forward progress on the Stargate front.

In the meantime, The Independence Day sequel is currently set for a 1 July 2016 release date here in the UK.

Pablo Schreiber set for Michael Bay's 13 Hours

Currently best known as loathsome prison guard George 'Pornstache' Mendez in the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black, Pablo Schreiber's next big film role will see him tackle a very different character. News arrives via Variety that he is now set to appear in Michael Bay's (Pain And Gain) new thriller 13 Hours.

Chuck Hogan, who co-wrote The Strain trilogy with Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) and worked on the TV adaptation, is responsible for the script, which is sourced from Mitchell Zuckoff's book 13 Hours: The Inside Account Of What Really Happened In Benghazi. The focus will be on six members of a security team who fought to defend the US State Department Special Mission Compound when terrorists attacked the place. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and one of the compound's workers died in the initial assault and two contractors were killed during another attack on a nearby CIA facility.

John Krasinski (Away We Go) is officially on board to star in the film, with Schreiber signing up to play one of the members of the security team. He has most recently worked on a new HBO comedy series, The Brink alongside Jack Black (School Of Rock) and Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption), which should be on the air this year.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Tyrese Gibson set for Desert Eagle

Thanks in part to the huge success of the Fast & Furious series, Tyrese Gibson, also known as Roman Pearce, is a man on the up. News arrives via Deadline that Gibson is looking to lead the preposterously badass sounding Desert Eagle into production. Universal Pictures have optioned the script, potentially lining up the actor/singer for his first star vehicle and a chance to show what he can do away from the Fast & Furious fold.

Desert Eagle will see Gibson head deep into the world of drug cartels. With all kinds of nasty narc business being run out of a casino on a Native American reservation, a pair of border patrol agents are sent in to investigate. Gibson, it can be safely assumed, will be playing one of the good guys in this equation rather than a villain or random croupier.

According to Deadline's scoop, the project will springboard off a spec script written by Gibson himself and Mike Le, Vice President at the actor's Q Pictures marque. Matthew Stuecken and Josh Campbell (Bad Robot's upcoming Valencia) are working on rewrites with Gibson and Le on executive producer duties.

Next up for Gibson is a role alongside Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners) in Antoine Fuqua's (The Equaliser) Southpaw and a spot in Ride Along 2. Next up though is the small matter of Fast & Furious 7, which lands in the UK on 3 April.

"And the Academy Award goes to…"

Last night saw the 87th Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The pre-awards buzz had the big categories divided between Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman and Richard Linklater's Boyhood. The two films were the most nominated, with nine nods each going into the awards show. But in the end, it was Birdman all the way, taking Best Picture, Best Director, Original Screenplay and Cinematography. Boyhood went home with only Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette.

The Grand Budapest Hotel matched Birdman in the awards count with four, followed by Whiplash with three.

In the Acting categories, everything proceeded as everyone had foreseen. Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything and, also as predicted, Julianne Moore won Best Actress for Still Alice. J.K. Simmons took home Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash, while Arquette gave a rabble-rousing call to feminism during her speech after Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood.

As expected, The Grand Budapest Hotel dominated in the design categories (Production Design, Best Costume Best, Makeup And Hair) but also took Best Score for Alexandre Desplat, who decided not split his own vote despite being nominated twice.

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar deservedly took Best Visual Effects for Double Negative's scientifically significant work on black holes. Selma took Best Original Song for 'Glory', making both Common and John Legend Academy Award winners.

It was a night of relatively flat presenting – despite the barnstorming opening – but fiery, inspiring speeches, particularly from Arquette, Common and Legend, and Graham Moore, who won for Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game.

The full list of nominees and winners are below.

Best Picture
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory Of Everything

Best Director
Alejandro G. Iñárritu - Birdman
Richard Linklater - Boyhood
Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game

Best Actor
Eddie Redmayne - The Theory Of Everything
Steve Carell - Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton - Birdman

Best Actress
Julianne Moore - Still Alice
Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones - The Theory Of Everything
Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon - Wild

Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
Laura Dern - Wild
Emma Stone - Birdman
Meryl Streep - Into The Woods
Keira Knightley - The Imitation Game

Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons - Whiplash
Robert Duvall - The Judge
Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
Edward Norton - Birdman
Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher

Adapted Screenplay
The Imitation Game
American Sniper
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything

Original Screenplay
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Song Of The Sea
The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

Foreign Language Film
Wild Tales

Best Cinematography
Birdman - Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Robert Yeoman
Ida - Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner - Dick Pope
Unbroken - Roger Deakins

Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Guardians Of The Galaxy
X:Men: Days Of Future Past

Film Editing
American Sniper
Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into The Woods
Mr. Turner

Best Score
Alexandre Desplat - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat - The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer - Interstellar
Gary Yershon - Mr. Turner
Jóhann Jóhannsson - The Theory Of Everything

Best Original Song
'Glory' from Selma
'Everything Is Awesome' from The Lego Movie
'Grateful' from Beyond the Lights
'I'm Not Gonna Miss You' from Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me
'Lost Stars' from Begin Again

Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Best Documentary
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

Best Documentary Short
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

Best Makeup And Hair
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Animated Short
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Best Live Action Short
The Phone Call
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)

Best Sound Editing
American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Best Sound Mixing
American Sniper

Milla Jovovich set for In The Lost Lands

Given the huge success of Game Of Thrones on the small screen, it was somewhat inevitable that someone would raid George R.R. Martin's back catalogue for other work – preferably something finished – that could be adapted. Enter In The Lost Lands, which already has Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) and Justin Chatwin (War Of The Worlds) in talks to star.

German director Constantin Werner (The Pagan Queen) is developing the film, and has adapted the script from several short stories by Martin. The plot consists of three linked tales, with the first finding a besieged queen hiring a sorceress called Gray Alys (Jovovich) to journey into the dangerous wasteland known as the Lost Lands to find a spell that allows someone to shape-shift into a werewolf.

What the queen doesn't realise though is that the gift comes with a dreadful price. Then there is the story of a warrior girl called Sharra who must battle a dragon so she can be reunited with her lost lover, while also falling prey to a powerful sorcerer who seduces her so completely that she puts her quest aside to stay with him – not realising that he is the real reason why her lover is trapped. Finally, there is Bitterblooms, in which a spellbinding woman in a spaceship bewitches a young barbarian girl.

Given Jovovich's commitment to Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Werner will likely start shooting towards the end of the year.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Asa Butterfield set for Out Of This World

You might of thought Asa Butterfield had had enough of space set adventures after the somewhat disappointing Ender's Game (2013), but Butterfield is looking to suit up once again for a very different science fiction story. News arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that he is set to star in Peter Chelsom's (Serendipity) new film Out Of This World.

Chelsom, who last made Hector And The Search For Happiness (2014), will work from a script originated by Allan Loeb (21) that has since seen re-writes from both the director and Tinker Lindsay. 

Out Of This World sees the human race finally colonising Mars with the help of a billionaire entrepreneur. When an astronaut is found to be pregnant, only to die during childbirth, her son is raised on the Red Planet in secrecy. After years spent communicating with a young woman back on Earth, the now teenage boy (Butterfield) heads for the planet and a road trip to meet the father he never knew.

This one will likely shoot later this year, especially since he is about to start work on Tim Burton's (Dark Shadows) latest, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. He will also be seen in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's (American Splendor) Ten Thousand Saints, which received a warm reception at The Sundance Film Festival last month, but is yet to receive a set UK release date.

Kevin Smith and more set for subversive anthology Holidays

Anthology films – particularly those of the horror genre – continue to prosper, and yet another one is headed our way. Prepare yourself for Holidays, which will feature contributions from Kevin Smith (Clerks), Gary Shore (Dracula Untold), Matt Johnson (The Dirties), Scott Stewart (Legion), Nick McCarthy (The Pact), Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch (Starry Eyes), Sarah Smith (The Midnight Swim) and Anthony Scott Burns, among others.

The project is currently being put together by XYZ films and Distant Corners Entertainment, who have rounded up both the names and the money to get the various shorts made. More directors and a cast list will be announced soon.

So far, all we know is that Smith – who has at least one Christmas themed horror in development already with Anti-Claus – will be switching instead to a Halloween tale, as he announced via Twitter. The rest of the tales are still under wraps.

"Holidays is a great opportunity for some of the most creative and twisted minds in the genre space today to really let loose and have fun," producer John Hegeman tells Deadline. Given that it will touch on Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Mother's Day and more, it's anyone's guess as to when it may actually be released. As always, watch this space.

Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny set for Love & Friendship

After tackling the small screen with his Amazon pilot The Cosmopolitans, writer/director Whit Stillman is taking aim at the cinema once again, and this time he is setting up a Last Days Of Disco (1998) reunion. News arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny are attached to star in his next film, Love & Friendship.

Stillman is adapting Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan for the film, which will see Beckinsale as widow Lady Susan Vernon who heads to the country estate of her in-laws admit much speculation about her social life. There, she makes an attempt to find a husband and to help her daughter Frederica fall in love.

Sevigny will play the heroine's confidante, Alicia and Stillman has also rounded up James Fleet (Sense And Sensibility), Jemma Redgrave (I'll Be There), Emma Greenwell (Shameless), Morfydd Clark (Madame Bovary), Tom Bennett (Shadow Dancer) and Justin Edwards (The Duchess) to co-star.

Love & Friendship is currently shooting in Ireland, but has yet to secure a set release date.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers set for Damascus Cover

Earlier this month saw the arrival of the annual The Berlin Film Festival and with it the attendant film market where producers offer up the distribution rights to their movies. Amongst those set out on the virtual market stall was Damascus Cover, a new spy thriller that features Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point) in the lead.

With Daniel Zelik Berk attached to co-write and direct the film, the plot adapts Howard Kaplan's 1977 book. Damascus Cover is set in 1989 as the Berlin Wall crumbles in Europe. A veteran spy (Rhys Meyers) is sent in undercover to Syria to smuggle a chemical weapons scientist and his family out of Damascus. But the mission quickly turns more dangerous when his partner doesn't show up, he notices a group following him and uncovers a huge, murderous conspiracy he will have to unravel before he becomes its next victim.

"I'm enormously excited about this role," says Rhys Meyers. "This was a hugely significant time in the conflict in the Middle East, post-Cold War and with the collapse of the Berlin Wall when an amount of spies were redeployed to the Middle East, where the theatre of covert operations would now take precedence."

Olivia Thirlby (Dredd), John Hurt (Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy), Jürgen Prochnow (The Da Vinci Code) and Aki Avni (Time Of Favour) are all among the cast, with cameras currently rolling in Casablanca, Morocco.

Rose Byrne back for X-Men: Apocalypse

She may have skipped Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014), but Rose Byrne's CIA agent Moira MacTaggert is set to come roaring back into Professor Xavier's life in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Entertainment Weekly got word from X-Men: Apocalypse screenwriter Simon Kinberg (Elysium), who revealed that she will indeed be back despite finishing X-Men: First Class (2011) with no memory of Charles or the rest of the mutant team. "She's a significant character in the movie," says Kinberg. "They are, essentially, strangers to her when she meets them. It's certainly a rich relationship that we started to dig into in First Class, and would like to mine more in this one."

With the new film set in the 1980s and seeing Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) facing off against massively powerful mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the story also sees younger versions of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott 'Cyclops' Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Ororo 'Storm' Munroe (Alexandra Shipp).

Bryan Singer is set to kick off work on the film shortly in Montreal, ready for a 19 May 2016 release in the UK. Byrne will next be seen in Paul Feig's (Bridesmaids) latest comedy, Spy, which hits here on 5 June.

Jamie Foxx set for Sleepless Night

More often than not, if a film is successful in France, chances are it will end up squarely in the sights of an American studio ready for a remake. In this case, Warner Bros had been quick to scoop up the rights to Sleepless Night (2011), a ticking clock crime thriller, with Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) expressing interest in starring. Warner Bros have since decided not to move ahead and now Open Road are taking up the reins to produce it with Foxx and Michelle Monaghan (Source Code) starring.

Swiss director Baran bo Odar (The Silence) is aboard to make the film, with Andrea Berloff (World Trade Centre) adapting the original for American audiences. Foxx is set to play a cop with connections to the criminal underworld that finds his family – specifically his son – in danger when he double-crosses some very bad people. The title refers to him scouring a nightclub and, presumably some of a city, to find his kidnapped child.

Foxx has several project on the go, including Harmony Korine's (Spring Breakers) The Trap and crime drama Mean Business On North Ganson Street. He is also attached to a Mike Tyson biopic. Monaghan, last seen in The Best Of Me (2014), will show up in Adam Sandler's (Grown Ups) video game character comedy Pixels, which lands in the UK on 14 August.

Karl Urban set to join Pete's Dragon

Of all the films Walt Disney Pictures could unearth from their classic archives for a fresh coat of remake paint, we were surprised to see Pete's Dragon among them. Still, it's moving forward with Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013) director David Lowery overseeing the project and currently busy building an eclectic casting. News arrives via The Wrap that Karl Urban (Star Trek Into Darkness) is the latest addition to the team, replacing Michael C. Hall (Dexter).

Oakes Fegley (This Is Where I Leave You) will star as the titular Pete, an orphan who arrives in a small town with his magic dragon, attempting to escape his abusive adoptive parents. Oona Laurence, meanwhile, plays a newly created character, Natalie, who also befriends our hero. The film – which will shoot in New Zealand – is set against the backdrop of illegal logging. Elliott the dragon, who raises Pete after his parents are killed in a car crash, lives in a threatened forest.

Bentley, whose role has yet to be specified, joins a cast that already also includes Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help), in a film that will stray from the musical nature of the 1977 original. Lowery is on board to direct after initially being hired to write the film along with regular collaborator Toby Halbrooks (Robots Are Blue).

The film is scheduled to arrive in the US on 12 August next year, with no set UK release date as yet.

John Wick directing duo wanted for Cowboy Ninja Viking

They made a huge impact Stateside last year with their directorial debut, Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin) vengeance thriller John Wick, and now studios are naturally courting David Leitch and Chad Stahelski for their projects. News now arrives via Variety that Universal Pictures has them in early talks to direct genre mash graphic novel adaptation Cowboy Ninja Viking.

Chris Pratt (Guardians Of The Galaxy) is already attached to star in the film, and according to Variety, has met with the pair to give them his seal of approval. Cowboy Ninja Viking adapts the Image Comics title from writer A.J. Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo about secret counter-intelligence agents with multiple personality disorders. Various suitable candidates for the 'Triplet' programme were brought together by psychotherapist Dr. Sebastian Ghislain, but when the project collapsed, the subjects went their own ways as hired assassins.

Pratt will play Duncan, the man with the titular personalities rattling around inside his brain to be brought out for use when he needs them. Universal Pictures want this one to pick up speed, particularly as Pratt is a man in demand at the moment. He already has Antoine Fuqua's (The Equalizer) Magnificent Seven (1960) remake on his schedule and is committed to Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, while other possibilities remain strictly in the rumour mill for now.

Meanwhile, John Wick will finally arrive for UK cinemagoers on 10 April.

First still from The 9th Life Of Louis Drax arrives online

Lionsgate have recently released their first still from Alexandre Aja's (Piranha 3D) The 9th Life Of Louis Drax.

Fifty Shades of Grey isn't the only Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette) show in town, he also has the upcoming supernatural thriller The 9th Life Of Louis Drax.

The 9th Life Of Louis Drax begins on Louis Drax's (Aiden Longworth) 9th birthday, when he miraculously survives a near fatal fall. His doctor Allan Pascal (Dornan) finds himself tangled between his professional responsibility and his growing affections for the boy's mother (Sarah Gadon). When Louis' father (Aaron Paul) comes under suspicion, Pascal realises other mysterious forces may be at work...

We can expect plenty of other twists and turns from this one, with Oliver Platt (X-Men: First Class) playing Louis' psychologist, Dr. Perez, Molly Parker (The Road) Parker as Detective Dalton, investigating the case and Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) on as Violet, Louis' grandmother. It's all part of the project originated by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and shouldered by his son Max after his father's untimely death. He wrote the script based on Liz Jensen's novel and has been shepherding it ever since.

The film is set to arrive in cinemas later this year.

First clip and one sheet for Mr. Holmes arrives online

BBC Films have recently released their first clip and one sheet of Ian McKellen (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug) as the elderly Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon's (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) Mr. Holmes.

It's somewhat unusual these days for a clip to arrive before the trailer hits the Internet, but that's exactly the case here, with McKellen posting the first look at the drama via his Twitter account.

Mr. Holmes is based on Mitch Cullin's 2006 novel A Slight Trick Of The Mind and has been adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher (The Duchess). The book takes place in 1947 when Holmes is 93, long retired to Sussex and his bees and frustrated by his diminishing power of recollection. He believes his bees' royal jelly is part of the secret of his longevity, and his further researches into the subject have recently taken him to post-war Japan. There he encounters the son of a former British diplomat who knew Holmes and disappeared at the start of the war. Holmes doesn't remember, but feels the familiar pull of an unfinished case.

The novel weaves together three narratives: Sussex, Japan, and the (also still unsolved) Case Of The Glass Armonicist: a London tale from 1902 when Holmes was still active as a consulting detective. As with The Blanched Soldier and The Lion's Mane, Holmes narrates The Glass Armonicist himself.

Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (The King's Speech) are among Mr. Holmes' producers, along with head of BBC Films Christine Langan and Archer Gray Productions' Anne Carey (The American).

Laura Linney (Hyde Park On Hudson) is Holmes' housekeeper Mrs. Munro, mother of the pictured boy with whom Holmes strikes a cautious friendship. Colin Starkey (Inspector Lewis) plays Doctor Watson, but don't expect to see much of him. Watson is only occasionally and fleetingly mentioned in the novel – long dead by the time of the main story and off with a wife in the flashback section.

Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine), Patrick Kennedy (War Horse), Roger Allam (The Queen), Philip Davis (Notes On A Scandal) and Frances de la Tour (Hugo) are elsewhere in the cast, and there's also a cameo from Young Sherlock Holmes' (1985) Nicholas Rowe.

Mr. Holmes is currently in post-production and will premier at the Berlin Film Festival later this month. There are no other release dates as yet.

First teaser trailer and one sheet for Magic Mike XXL arrives online

Warner Bros have recently released their first teaser trailer and one sheet for Gregory Jacobs' (Wind Chill) Magic Mike XXL.

Although the story kicks off three years after Mike (Channing Tatum) decided to hang up his posing pouch and turn his attention to making furniture, it would seem he still has the music in him, as showcased by a Flashdance (1983) style sequence where time in the workshop turns into an impromptu dance session.

No surprise, then, that the remaining veterans of the Kings of Tampa are looking to join Mike in the post-dancer category, but have decided to wrap up their careers with one final, big tour and show. Hitting the road for Myrtle Beach with a few stops along the way, they realise that this could be their craziest experience yet.

Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash and Joe Manganiello are among the Magic Mike (2012) veterans joining Tatum, with Amber Heard (The Rum Diary), Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games), Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral), Donald Glover (Community) and Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings And A Funeral) on board for this one, which struts into cinemas on 31 July.

Felicity Jones in talks for Gareth Edwards' first Star Wars standalone outing

Roughly a week after the first reports emerged that Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) was busy auditioning actors for the cast of the first Star Wars standalone film after The Force Awakens, it looks like he has already locked in someone to star. News arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything), who had initially been on the list of those testing, is now in talks to take a role.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jones has beaten the likes of Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) for the prime, if somewhat mysterious role in the film. Though there were apparent concerns that her busy scheduled might preclude her participation, it appears that diary issues have been ironed out.

Almost nothing official has emerged about the movie itself so far beyond the fact that Monsters (2010) and Godzilla (2014) director Edwards is calling the shots and Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass) was recently hired to rewrite the script based on a first draft by Gary Whitta (The Book Of Eli). Online speculation has already swirled about the plot including Boba Fett, a young Han Solo and, just today, the character of Sabine Wren, who is in the animated Star Wars Rebels, was mooted as part of the film. Of course, all this is pure rumour and conjecture until official word arrives from Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm.

Whatever the film is about, Edwards will be kicking things up a gear, preparing to shoot this year ready for a 16 December 2016 release date.

New stills from Avengers: Age Of Ultron arrive online

Marvel have recently released a fresh batch of stills 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.