Sunday, 27 November 2016

"I wonder... what makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you, Mr Scamander?"

It has been almost five-and-a-half years since the eight film Harry Potter franchise handed in its wand. So the sight of the Warner Bros logo accompanied by a sampling of John Williams' iconic score induces tingles of, well, magic.

You have to credit J.K. Rowling. Rather than create new big screen adventures for the generation defining boy wizard, she and the Warner Bros team have opened a completely different wizarding saga – a new era, new country and entirely new characters (at least so far). That is certainly a lot of world building to do and so the film shares some of the same dense exposition of the first two Harry Potter films. But thanks to Rowling's capacity for invention and some utterly glorious new beasts like kleptomaniac platypus the Niffler, the gamble largely succeeds – and, as you would expect, it looks spectacular doing it.

With the visual panache comes a whole lot of plot. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Hogwarts black sheep and author of the titular textbook that Harry studies in Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (2001), arrives in New York on the home leg of a global excursion dedicated to cataloguing exotic creatures.

Such beasts are banned in New York, where the magical community is presently keeping a low profile, and for good reason – dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald has disappeared after wreaking havoc in Europe, a mysterious force is attacking New York and No-Maj (American English for Muggle) bigotry is being zealously stoked by the fanatical Second Salemers led by the venom spitting Mary Lou (Samantha Morton).

Unfortunately for Newt, some funny business involving likeable Muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and a suitcase switcheroo leads to some of Newt's creatures springing the clasps on their Tardis like home and hightailing it into a city already on red alert.

This great escape draws the attention of Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a former 'Auror' (Dark-wizard catcher) who is now out of favour at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), and she in turn reports it to the shifty Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) to curry favour.

MACUSA's stern boss, Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo), is holding international summits about Grindelwald with characters who will probably be more important down the line. Meanwhile Graves is investigating a destructive force that seems to attack the city at random, threatening to reveal the wizarding world to the rest of us.

What follows is a succession of chases, slapstick set-pieces and reveals, be it the shapes and sizes of the various beasts on show or plot turns instigated by characters' hidden motives and desires – many a heart here turns out to be a chamber of secrets.

Scripted by J.K. Rowling herself and directed by David Yates, the man behind the later, darker Potter films, this is squarely aimed at the kids who grew up reading and watching Harry Potter – which is to say, adults. Their are potent themes here, including prejudice, intolerance and repression, presented with enough force to hit viewers straight between the eyes and leave a (zigzag) scar in these dark days of Brexit and Donald Trump.

The Second Salemers, meanwhile, are as unnerving as anything you will find in cult movies like Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) or The Sacrament (2013). Come the closing credits, it is Mary Lou's burning eyes and the cowering, whipped body of her tormented acolyte, Credence (Ezra Miller), that are the takeaways, not the digital effects heavy destructive finale.

But the film has some structural problems. Rowling's varied beasts are fun, and brilliantly realised by the effects team, but they are ultimately a sideshow, and the numerous action sequences to capture each one can drag. The sight of Academy Award® winner Redmayne performing a mating dance for a giant hippo creature will stay with you, but it is not what we need to see when there are truly dastardly dealings afoot. It is only in the last act, when Newt focuses on the real threats and discovers the mystery to solve, that the film soars, like Newt's glorious thunderbird Frank, into the heavens.

Overall, what has emerged from Rowling's sorting hat of ideas isn't quite as fantastic as we all hoped. But it is an exceedingly solid franchise opener that builds a new world with enough bridges to the established Potterverse to keep the devoted happy.

Redmayne too delivers a deceivingly nuanced and refined performance as the socially awkward Newt. As chronically bad with people as he is amiable and well-meaning, our reluctant hero is an eccentric professorial type who peers up from under a shock of hair and avoids eye contact.

The second instalment, we are promised, will travel to the UK and Paris, with Grindelwald coming to the fore and a young Dumbledore stepping into play. We can also expect, at some point, to visit America's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Ilvermorny, while the spectre of World War II looms large.

And to think, people initially pondered how Harry's slim textbook, which Rowling actually published in 2001 under the pseudonym of Newt Scamander, could be stretched into one feature, let alone five. Turns out it is like Newt's very suitcase – bewitched with an Extension Charm, and promising extraordinary sights. This first instalment showcases just enough of them to make you sign up for the full expedition.

Big, bold and teeming with imagination, while it doesn't quite enchant like the best of the Harry Potter series, there are enough thrills and genuine chills to satisfy.

Donald Glover set to play Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo film

When it was originally rumoured that Lando Calrissian, so memorably brought to life by Billy Dee Williams, would be appearing in the Han Solo standalone, the first name to hit the rumour mill was Community veteran Donald Glover. Now Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm have officially announced that Glover as the man for the job.

Lando, of course, is an old friend – and occasional frenemy – of Han's, they have a history that stretches back through the years, and Calrissian famously lost ownership of the Millennium Falcon to Solo in a game of sabacc. And now Glover will be the man bringing him to life alongside Alden Ehrenreich's (Hail, Caeser!) Han.

"We're so lucky to have an artist as talented as Donald join us," say directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie). "These are big shoes to fill, and an even bigger cape, and this one fits him perfectly, which will save us money on alterations. Also, we'd like to publicly apologize to Donald for ruining Comic Con for him forever."

With a script by Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) co-writer and Star Wars stalwart Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon, the still untitled Star Wars standalone will be with us in May 2018. Glover, currently winning plaudits for creating, co-writing, co-directing and starring in TV comedy drama Atlanta, will next be on the big screen in Jon Watts (Cop Car) Spider-Man: Homecoming, due on 7 July next year.

Director Tim Miller departs Deadpool 2

In a surprising development, director Tim Miller has departed Deadpool 2 due, according to Deadline, to creative differences with star Ryan Reynolds.

The duo, of course, crafted the original Deadpool, which surpassed all box office expectations after years in development limbo. Of Miller, the site comments, "He hadn't formally signed a deal to continue, but he was developing the script and by all accounts had planned to return behind the camera."

The departure was reportedly an amicable one, and 20th Century Fox are intending on having Miller direct an adaptation of author David Suarez' Influx.

The original Deadpool was produced on a $58 million budget and grossed $782 million. The sequel is expected to arrive in 2018.

Joss Whedon is writing a WWII movie and wants to make a Star Wars film

Joss Whedon has kept pretty quiet since directing Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015), an experience that he admitted "broke me a little bit." But now he is back, returning to his long dormant Twitter account, launching the celebrity packed political campaign Save The Day, and talking up future projects.

In an interview with Complex, Whedon revealed that he was in the middle of a screenplay that was "a departure from the things I'm known for" and "as dark as anything I've ever written".

"It's a historical fiction slash horror movie," Whedon explained, "about a time when the world was going insane, World War II."

Tantalisingly, the filmmaker also sounded open to the idea of directing a Star Wars movie – especially a standalone spin-off such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. "I saw the trailer for Rogue a while ago and I was like, 'I want to do that.' To make a Star Wars movie and not be wed to the bigger picture."

The Buffy and Firefly creator also sounded keen to return to television: "I feel like they've perfected it," he said. "I'm like, 'Wait guys wait, wait for me!' I really want to make this film, but I miss television. It's like writing a novel – you get to keep digging into these characters, it's a real drug."

Most intriguingly of all, he also revealed himself to be an unlikely Great British Bake Off fan.

Tom Hiddleston joins Nick Park's Early Man

As he continues work on his latest claymation movie, Early Man, Nick Park (Chicken Run) has added more vocal talent. Eddie Redmayne  (The Theory Of Everything) is already set to star and now we know that Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World) will also be lending his voice.

Hiddleston himself made the announcement via Instagram, posting a picture of himself working on the film with Park directing via a video link. Though it does look more like they were having fun than getting down to serious work.

Early Man focuses on Dug (Redmayne), the titular caveman, in an adventure that pairs him up with a sidekick called Hognob. The unlikely double act team up to unite Dug's tribe and do battle with the fearsome Bronze Age. Hiddleston is playing the pompous Lord Nooth, governor of the Bronze Age town – a money loving tyrant and rival to Dug.

"I've been a fan of Nick Park and Aardman for as long as I can remember, and am incredibly honoured to be working with Nick and the team on this adventure," says Hiddleston. "I'm thrilled to be able to breathe some semblance of life into this hysterical villain and to work with Eddie for the first time. Early Man made me laugh out loud when I read it. Lord Nooth is larger than life in every respect. I can't wait for audiences to meet him".

Park also seems happy with the choice. "Tom is a wonderful actor and it’s so thrilling to see him bring our comic villain to life with his amazing talent, energy and enthusiasm. It is a great privilege to work with Tom and I'm so excited to see his character Lord Nooth emerge on screen!"

Early Man will be out on 26 January 2018, so we are in for a wait. But then genius takes time...

Daniel Radcliffe set to play a pilot in Beast Of Burden

In his continued efforts to stretch his acting muscles and find challenging roles to play, Daniel Radcliffe (Kill Your Darlings) has decided to start smuggling drugs. But only on a fictional basis, as news arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that he set to play a narcotics running pilot in new action thriller Beast Of Burden.

Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt (Falkenberg Farewell) will be handling this one, which has a script from Adam Hoelzel (Amelia's Canon). Beast Of Burden will find Radcliffe's flyer transporting drugs across the border between Mexico and the US who has to somehow evade both the DEA and the Cartels over the course of one day. Naturally, you have got to think that something somewhere will go wrong.

The movie marks Ganslandt's English-language debut and marks just the latest in a different choice of parts for Radcliffe. He is currently on screens in Imperium and will also show up in action adventure movie Jungle, which has yet to secure a UK release yet.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw set for A Wrinkle In Time

News arrives via Variety that rising star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) is set to join Ava DuVernay's (Selma) adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time.

Jennifer (Frozen) Lee has written the script, which draws on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 tome. The story follows the Murry family – especially teenager Meg (Storm Reid) and her genius 5-year-old brother Charles Wallace, and Meg's classmate Calvin O'Keefe. Their scientist father has gone missing, but after the visit of a mysterious old lady called Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), they learn that their father's research may have been more successful than they guessed and that he may have travelled in space and time. The kids end up following his footsteps to a planet called Camazotz, ruled by a giant evil brain called The Black Thing.

Mbatha-Raw will play Dr. Murray, Meg's scientist mother. DuVernay confirmed her casting via Twitter.

She joins a cast that also already includes Oprah Winfrey (Selma) and Mindy Kaling (The Office). DuVernay is preparing to shoot the film. Mbatha-Raw is currently in an episode of the new Black Mirror season which launched on Netflix last month. Cinematically, she will be seen in science fiction thriller God Particle, landing on 24 February and is Plumette in Walt Disney Pictures' live action adaption Beauty And The Beast, which is out on 17 March.

Miguel Sapochnik and Kyle Killen working on the new Sinbad

The Sinbad stories, birthed in the Middle East and first introduced to the West via The Arabian Nights, have proven a hardy subject matter for both film and television, most famously in Nathan H. Juran's The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958). Now someone new is having a crack, with news arriving via The Hollywood Reporter that production company Studio 8 has hired writer Kyle Killen (The Beaver) and director Miguel Sapochnik (Game Of Thrones).

Not much is known at this point what they will be bringing to the story, though it will likely be some adaption of a quest by the wily Baghdad born sailor, who hopes to make his fortune while encountering fantastical creatures.

Killen, who has written movies such as The Beaver (2011) and the upcoming Death Note, is also the creator of TV series including Awake and Lone Star. Sapochnik, who got his start as a storyboard artist, has worked extensively in TV, directing episodes of shows such as Banshee, Fringe, House, True Detective and Game Of Thrones, for which he won an Emmy Award for Battle Of The Bastards. The pair worked together when Sapochnik oversaw an episode of Killen's show Mind Games.

"Sinbad was a rare comprehensive and engaging pitch which lends itself to an international audience and big visual set pieces but also distinct and unique actor roles for a diverse cast of characters," Studio 8 said in a statement carried by The Hollywood Reporter. "This project is part of Studio 8's ongoing commitment to working closely with filmmakers on the re-imagination of genres."

Tom Hardy eyed as Ernest Shackleton for a new drama

Back in 2000, Wolfgang Petersen (Troy), then planning a film called Endurance about the exploits of Ernest Shackleton, moaned that their were no British actors rugged enough to play the explorer. We are not sure what he would have made of Kenneth Branagh playing the man just two years later for TV, but we are fairly certain he would approve with latest choice, with news arriving via Deadline that Tom Hardy (Inception) is being eyed for the role.

Hardy is the focus of casting attention for a new version that StudioCanal are trying to put together. Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is writing the script, and the team is also looking for a director.

Several filmmakers and stars have tried to bring Shackleton's story of adventure and adversity to the screen – Endurance (the ship that brought him to Antarctica in 1912) was crushed by ice floes and he managed to keep his exploratory party alive on a journey through freezing temperatures – but have been foiled by logistical challenges. Hardy is certainly no stranger to rough conditions after The Revenant (2015) and modern effects technology and cameras should help this one finally succeed where others have fallen. But it is clearly early days, and it may yet linger in development limbo.

Hardy will be back on the big screen in Christoper Nolan's (Inception) World War II epic Dunkirk, which will make landfall here on 21 July next year.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields set to write Godzilla 2

Looking to up their shared cinematic universe output beyond the DC Comics movies, Warner Bros have been putting the gears in motion for a Legendary produced set of films to unite Godzilla and King Kong. The Godzilla sequel was announced back in 2014 and now, according to Variety, Krampus (2015) writer and director Michael Dougherty and co-writer Zach Shields have been brought on to script it.

It is perhaps not that surprising – Krampus was a Legendary movie and the Christmas horror's producer Alex Garcia is aboard the new Godzilla team. The aim is for this sequel to arrive on 22 March 2019 before Godzilla Vs. Kong sees the giant reptilian facing off against the upgraded King Kong from Kong: Skull Island in May 2020.

And this might just be the start of a writer's room style arrangement designed to crank out various monster movies as part of this deal between the two companies. There is no confirmation on that front yet, but given that the likes of Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures have tried it on their own expanding cinematic universes, it would come as little surprise.

As for Kong: Skull Island, which Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kings Of Summer) is busy finishing, that will emerge on 10 March next year.

Domino casting shortlist revealled for Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 is very much happening, and things are moving considerably quicker than the first film, which surpassed all box office expectations after years in development limbo. We now have our first piece of casting news, with word arriving via Collider that producers have drawn up a shortlist to play Domino, a key female role.

According to Collider, the shortlist of ten actresses who could be starring opposite Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson features Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher), Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond), Stephanie Sigman (Miss Bala), Sylvia Hoeks (Deception), Mackenzie Davis (Halt And Catch Fire), Ruby Rose (Orange Is The New Black), Eve Hewson (Bridge Of Spies) and Kelly Rohrbach (The PET Squad Files). All are apparently 'testing' for the role.

In the original Marvel comics, Domino is a frequent member of the X-Force team, where she often joins forces with Deadpool and Cable. Cable is already confirmed for the sequel – as hinted at by the Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) inspired post-credits sequence – though he is yet to be cast.

There is no official word yet on whether the original film's female lead, Morena Baccarin's Vanessa, will be back second time around, or whether they will stay true to the comics by sending her into superhero territory as her Copycat alter ego.

Still, we do definitely know that Reynolds will be slipping back into the red spandex, that Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick will be writing the screenplay again, and that filming is due to start early next year, looking at a possible 2018 release date.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Lily James set to star in The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

Plans for a cinematic version of Annie Barros and Mary Ann Shaffer's book The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society first surfaced back in 2011, with Kenneth Branagh (Cinderella) attached to direct. It has been through a couple of versions since then, but now news arrives via Deadline that Mike Newell (Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire) in the director's chair and with Lily James (Cinderella) set to star.

Adapted by writer and director Don Roos (The Opposite Of Sex) from the 2009 tome with a more recent draft by Tom Bezucha (The Family Stone), the film will see James play writer Juliet Ashton, who wrote magazine columns during World War II. In the aftermath of the conflict, she is contacted by Channel Islander Dawsey Adams, who tells her the intriguing tale of the book society formed to help undercut the Nazi presence on Guernsey. Ashton decides to investigate, and romance blossoms...

"The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society has been a project of tremendous passion for us, and we are thrilled to be bringing it to screen with filmmaker Mike Newell attached and Lily James, our consummate Juliet," says producer Paula Mazur. She will work on the film with partner Mitchell Kaplan (Delirium) plus Blueprint Pictures' Graham Broadbent and Pete Czernin (In Bruges).

With StudioCanal financing and distributing here and in a few other countries, the cameras should be rolling next spring. James will next be seen in Edgar Wright's (The World's End) Baby Driver, which arrives in cinemas 17 March, and currently at work on Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

New Willy Wonka film in the works

The sad death of actor Gene Wilder earlier this year had us reflecting on one of his most famous roles – that of Willy Wonka in the original adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Now, according to Variety, Harry Potter producer David Heyman is developing another take on the character.

Unlike the Wilder starring Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971), or Tim Burton's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) starring Johnny Depp, this is planned as more of a standalone tale about Wonka's early adventures. Not an origin story (as was dreamt up and explored by Burton), but more his travels to find exotic ingredients that would fuel his confectionery creations.

Warner Bros have apparently been negotiating with the Roald Dahl Estate for the rights to make a Willy Wonka movie, and the deal finally closed recently. Now Simon Rich (The Secret Life Of Pets) will write the script for the film, which seems unlikely to feature Charlie or anyone else, but might lead to yet another take on the factory story if this first film is successful. If we had our druthers, we would skip to Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator. Those Vermicious Knids won't wait...

Colin Firth set to join Mary Poppins Returns

Every once in a while a piece of casting just seems to slot in so perfectly, you must think it was decided from the moment the script came into existence. So it is with word arriving via Variety that Colin Firth (The King's Speech) will be appearing in Mary Poppins Returns.

The story this time around finds the magical Mary (Emily Blunt) returning 25 years after she brightened the Banks family's lives to find that grown children Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are having fresh issues involving tragedy and a serious lack of sparkle in depression era London.

Mary will need all the help she can get, enlisting cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep) and friendly lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). As for Firth, he is playing the aptly named William Weatherall Wilkins, president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.

David Magee (Finding Neverland) wrote the script for this one, working on other material from novelist P.L. Travers' Poppins books. Rob Marshall (Into The Woods) is gearing up to direct with the aim of having the movie in cinemas by Christmas 2018.

Firth, who was most recently seen in Bridget Jones's Baby, will next be seen in true life sailing tale The Mercy, out on 6 January, before he is back (somehow) for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, due out on 16 June next year.

Peter Sarsgaard joins Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz for Escobar

Since 2014, notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar has been played by Benicio Del Toro in Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014), and Wagner Moura in Netflix's Narcos – and there are two more films currently in the works. El Patron, with John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!) is scarce on details, but news arrives via Variety that Escobar has just added Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead) to its currently small cast.

Already boasting Javier Bardem (Skyfall) as Pablo and Penélope Cruz (Volver) as journalist Virginia Vallejo, Escobar has now gained Peter Sarsgaard as DEA agent, Neymar. Written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa  (Mondays In The Sun), the latest take on the Colombian cartel leader will focus on Escobar's romantic liaisons with Cruz's reporter, while being hunted down by Sarsgaard and his team.

Sarsgaard will soon be seen as Robert Kennedy opposite Natalie Portman (Black Swan) in Pablo Larraín's (No) big awards contender, Jackie. Bardem has Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge out in cinemas next year, alongside new projects from Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), with wife Cruz also joining him in the latter.

Escobar is set to go into production this month.

New trailer and one sheet for Usain Bolt documentary I Am Bolt arrives online

Universal Playback have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Benjamin Turner and Gabe Turner's (The Class Of '92) Usain Bolt documentary I Am Bolt.

There is every chance that I Am Bolt won't be a hard hitting, warts and all portrayal of the world's fastest man. In fact, judging by this new trailer, it is more likely to be an extended bathe in the mellow greatness of the nine time Olympic gold medallist.

The handiwork of The Class Of '92 (2013) and One Direction: This Is Us (2013) pair Gabe and Ben Turner, I Am Bolt benefits from incredible access to its subject, Jamaica's greatest ever Olympian. He has won more medals, struck more poses and been far cooler than most other athletes since he broke through at the Beijing Summer Olympics.
The film marries up footage from the London and Rio Olympics and the Beijing World Championships with archive clips from his younger days and interviews with those who know him best.

Says the man himself: "My aim with making this film is to show people how my life really is... What I've been through to get me where I am today, the ups and the downs, and an insight into what I am thinking and feeling. I know a lot of people around the world feel like they know me already but I'm excited for everyone to see the real me."

I Am Bolt will sprint into cinemas on 28 November.

15 Buster Keaton stunts that will blow your mind

Joseph Frank 'Buster' Keaton was arguably the greatest film comedian of all time and a true icon of the silent era silver screen. An actor, director, producer, writer and stunt performer, he was best known for his trademark physical comedy. His consistently stoic, deadpan expression earned him the nickname The Great Stone Face. From 1920 to 1929, he worked without interruption on a series of films that made him the greatest actor director in the history of the movies.

Many of Keaton's films, such as Sherlock Jr. (1924), The General (1926), and The Cameraman (1928), remain highly regarded, with The General widely viewed as his masterpiece. Among its strongest admirers was Orson Welles, who stated that The General was cinema's highest achievement in comedy, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.

No stranger to landing on his backside, filmmaking was always a gruelling and bruising business for Keaton. He had broken his ankle larking around on a moving staircase for The Electric House (1922), was knocked unconscious by cannon fire on the set of The General and even broken his neck during the shoot for Sherlock Jr – not that he knew it until several years later.

Keaton claimed that he never refused a stunt, however dangerous. In fact he often doubled for other actors when they needed to take a fall.

Here are a selection GIFs that show just how incredible some his stunts were, and watch each in wonder and awe knowing that each one was achieved without digital effects and that many were potentially fatal.

Leonardo DiCaprio looking to star in real life tale Truevine

It has certainly been a busy month for Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), at least in terms of announcements. Not only is he part of the team looking to rescue the Captain Planet movie from development limbo, but now news arrives via Deadline that he is set to produce an adaptation of Beth Macy's book Truevine with an eye to star.

Paramount Pictures and DiCaprio's Appian Way company are negotiating to buy the rights to the book, which is subtitled Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, And A Mother's Quest: A True Story Of The Jim Crow South. It relates the true story of George and Willie Muse, two brothers born to a sharecropper family in Truevine, Virginia. Lured away in 1899 by a white man with sweets, they were kidnapped and turned into circus performers, travelling the world and headlining shows at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Shown off under a variety of guises including Martians and cannibals, their mother, who initially had no idea what had become of her sons, eventually faced a 28-year quest to get them back.

There is no indication yet on what role DiCaprio would take, but it is still early days for the movie, which has yet to find a writer. And that is assuming the deal goes through. As always, watch this space.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt set for Sovereign

There certainly seems to be a theme of loneliness in space floating around at the moment, especially between the likes of The Martian (2015), Passengers and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Olga Kurylenko's (Oblivion) new project Android. And now there is Sovereign, with news arriving via Deadline that Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) will be a man on a mission.

Sovereign will see Gordon-Levitt as a man whose marriage has fallen apart. When he learns that his wife and the crew of the space station she was aboard have vanished, he goes looking for her. But as he explores the seemingly deserted ship, he finds the truth about why she has gone missing and has to confront his own feelings and role in losing her love.

Marc Munden, who won plaudits for Channel 4's recent drama National Treasure, is aboard to make the movie, and has brought in National Treasure screenwriter Jack Thorne to take a crack at the script that was originally by Geoff Tock and Gregory Weidman (Limitless).

Gordon-Levitt will next be seen in Oliver Stone's (Savages) Snowden, finally making its way here on 2 December. He is also developing a number of projects, including a Fraggle Rock movie and a musical with Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street).

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio set to produce Captain Planet

Despite his seemingly amazing powers, superhero Captain Planet has had more trouble making his way to the big screen than he has battling polluters. Now news arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that noted environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) wants to help, entering talks for his production company to grab the rights to the show alongside Paramount Pictures.

The show, which ran in cartoon form from 1990 to 1992, saw Earth spirit Gaia bestowing magical rings on five teenagers. Each ring represents a different life force – African Kwame gets earth, North America Wheeler has fire, Russian Linka controls wind, while Asian Gi has water and South American Ma-Ti gets heart. Together, they have the ability to summon Captain Planet.

Producer Don Murphy, who has helped shepherd the likes of Transformers to cinemas, was first approached back in 2011 about Captain Planet. Sony Pictures took on the job at first, with Mark Gordon (Steve Jobs) stepping aboard to also work on it. But since 2013, it has lingered in development limbo, and Sony Pictures let the rights lapse. DiCaprio, likely seeking a method to get his message across to a younger audience, had his Appian Way team look into the idea. And they are already in talks with writer Jono Matt and writer and actor partner Glen Powell (The Expendables 3) to work on the script based on a pitch by the pair that would set the story years after the show's time, with the good Captain a washed-up has-been who needs the kids' help to get himself back to his former glory.

Domhnall Gleeson will be Peter Rabbit's Mr. McGregor

Sony Pictures are continuing to build their cast for a new live action and CGI blended take on Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. With James Corden (Into The Woods) and Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class) already in place for two of the lead roles, news now arrives via Deadline that Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina) has landed the key human role of Mr. McGregor.

Will Gluck (Easy A) is directing the new movie, which will see people such as Gleeson and Byrne interacting with animated animals in the story of the plucky rabbit who decides to raid McGregor's vegetable garden.

Corden is lending his vocal talents to Peter, while Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E) are also voicing animals. The film is setting up to start work at animated effects studio Animal Logic in Australia this January, with an April 2018 release date pencilled in.

Gleeson remains a man in demand, having worked on a new, untitled Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) drama, comedy drama Crash Pad, and a biopic of another literary icon, A. A. Milne. And then there is the small matter of his return as the sneering, scheming General Hux in Rian Johnson's (Looper) Star Wars: Episode VIII, due out on 15 December next year.

Aaron Paul and Olga Kurylenko set for Android

News arrives via Variety that Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion) are set to star in Niall Johnson's (Keeping Mum) Android.

Niall Johnson is in the director's chair for this one, which he wrote with Matt O'Reilly. It is set to kick off shooting at Infinite Studios in Singapore early next year and is set on a lonely spaceship orbiting Pluto.

Paul is onboard to play a scientist on the ship who is finally realising his dream of rebuilding his late wife (Kurylenko) and their son as androids to stave off his depression and loneliness. But when the androids decide that they would rather live their own lives than simply be carbon copies of his loved ones, a battle of wits kicks off.

"We are so excited to see what Aaron and Olga can bring to this film," says producer Margot Hand (Son Of A Gun) in the announcement picked up by Variety. "Niall and Matt have written a genre-bending and thrilling film that is grounded in the relationship of two complicated and interesting characters. There are no better actors to work with Niall to bring this film to life."

Kurylenko has several films on the way, including Armando Iannucci's (Veep) The Death Of Stalin. Paul was last seen in The 9th Life Of Louis Drax and has a new season of TV drama The Path due next year.

Anna Camp set to return for Pitch Perfect 3

With Trish Sie (Step Up All In) now in place to direct the third instalment, the cast is starting to gather for the next Pitch Perfect movie. The Hollywood Reporter brings word that Anna Camp has signed on to once again play Aubrey Posen.

She joins Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson on the confirmed list for the film, though we would be surprised if Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Hailee Steinfeld and the rest didn't also return. In the second movie, Camp's Aubrey, who had graduated from Barden, was leading a team building and harmony retreat at a lodge called Fallen Leaves. It remains to be seen what she will be up to in the new one, which was originated by regular Pitch Perfect writer Kay Cannon and has since been worked on by Mike White (Nacho Libre), with Elizabeth Banks again producing and appearing as Gail.

Pitch Perfect 3 is currently eyeing a 22 December 2017 release date. Camp was most recently seen in Cafe Society and is part of the cast for Amazon TV drama Good Girls Revolt, which was commissioned to series after its pilot last year and is available on the service now.

Jon Bernthal joins crime thriller Stingray

Whether playing Charlie Cox's nemesis in Daredevil or trying to take down Emily Blunt in Sicario (2015), Jon Bernthal certainly has serious form when it comes to crime. Now news arrives via The Hollywood Reporter that he has just signed on for another thriller of the criminal variety, Stingray.

The second feature film from Australian actor and director Anthony Hayes – a man who has played officers of the law in Ned Kelly (2003), Animal Kingdom (2010) and The Light Between Oceans – will see Bernthal's character caught up in a blood debt after killing the brother of a notorious criminal, meaning he will have to kill one of his own family in the next two days.

Bernthal can currently be seen in The Accountant, and will pop up in Edgar Wright's (The World's End) Baby Driver and his very own Netflix Punisher series next year. Stingray is set to start filming in April.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood set for Stephen King's Gerald's Game

2017 certainly looks set to be a big year for Stephen King adaptations. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and Idris Elba (Prometheus) are the stars of long awaited fantasy The Dark Tower, a new version of It (1990) will also be hitting our screens, and now 1992 novel Gerald's Game will be joining the roster. Directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus) and set to be a Netflix release, news now arrives via Deadline that Bruce Greenwood and Carla Gugino have signed on the dotted line for the leads.

For those unfamiliar, King's book sees a romantic weekend turn drastically sour as a husband and wife's fun games become increasingly dark when they discover someone (or something) might be lurking in the shadows.

"Gerald's Game has been my dream project for nearly 20 years," says Flanagan. "As a lifelong fan of Stephen King, it is a true honour to be trusted with this amazing material."

Flanagan's latest, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, is out in cinemas now.

Alex Graves set to direct Sony Pictures' Mulan

Perhaps aware of the need for some cultural sensitivity when it comes to the live action Mulan story, Walt Disney Pictures tried (and failed) to tempt Ang Lee (Life Of Pi) to direct their adaption. Sony Pictures are clearly not so worried with such concerns, with news arriving via Deadline that Alex Graves (Game Of Thrones) is set to call the shots on their take on the story.

Sony Pictures adaption is, however, taking square aim at the international market, lining Chinese co-production companies and searching for a Chinese lead. Jason Keller (Escape Plan) wrote the script for the film, which will follow the usual story of the young female warrior taking her sick father's place in the Chinese Imperial Army.

Graves, who made a couple of movies in the 1990s but has since gone on to have big success on TV, was an executive producer and director on The West Wing – for which he won two Emmy Awards – and has overseen episodes of some very successful TV series, including House Of Cards, Homeland and Game Of Thrones.

Despite the monolithic competition from the Mouse House, the Sony version is still coming together, but has yet to announce a release date. Walt Disney Pictures' version is targeting a 2018 release and is currently looking to lock in a director.

Paddington 2 starts shooting with Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson aboard

After the box office success of the first Paddington (2014), it was always a matter of time before the sequel would get underway. Now production is underway on Paddington 2 with more British and Irish acting royalty being added to its ursine ranks. Hugh Grant (Cloud Atlas) and Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) are both joining the fun. Furthermore, StudioCanal have released their first one sheet to mark the start of production.

Grant and Gleeson will be playing fêted thespian Phoenix Buchanan, a local Windsor Gardens celebrity, and safe breaker and muscleman 'Knuckles' McGinty respectively.

McGinty will be an unlikely ally for our young bear friend as he hunts for the thief of a rare pop-up book stolen from Mr. Gruber's (Jim Broadbent) antique shop. Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) is back for the second instalment and Paddington had earmarked the book as a gift for her hundreth birthday, working at odd jobs to save the money to buy it.

"It has been a complete joy to return to the world of Paddington," says returning director Paul King and producer David Heyman in a statement. "It was such a delight to see his first big-screen adventure embraced by audiences around the world, and I couldn't be more excited about Hugh and Brendan joining the cast to bring his next outing to life. Together, I hope we can make a film worthy of this most exceptional of bears."

The full Paddington roster – less Nicole Kidman's doomed taxidermist – will be back for the spectacled bear's return, including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin. Ben Whishaw will once again voice the marmalade obsessed bear.

With a script by King and Simon Farnaby (Your Highness),Paddington 2 is set for release in the UK on 10 November next year.

Stephen Merchant's look revealed for Logan

Though you might think Hugh Jackman would be the main source for new images and information on his latest and final Wolverine movie, Logan, it is director James Mangold (The Wolverine) and his top notch photographic skills providing the main feed. We now have our first look at Stephen Merchant as he appears in the movie.

It is perhaps not a surprise to see Merchant's hairless visage if you had already watched the video he posted to Instagram before filming began that showed him getting his hair shaved off.

And this proper look at him has also led some to assume this confirms he is playing the mutant known as Caliban, last seen in X-Men: Apocalypse. There has been no official word on his character, but given his appearance, it is not a big leap to make. Merchant himself posted a picture of the man to his Instagram account.

Jackman is set to appear for the very last time as arguably the most iconic member of the X-Men for the third Wolverine solo movie, and so we are expecting big things from his swan song in the role. The new movie, written by David James Kelly, is being kept mostly quiet, though most reports have pegged a futuristic Old Man Logan inspiration.

Patrick Stewart returns as the older Professor Xavier, while Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl), is the main villain, Richard E. Grant (Dom Hemingway) plays a mad scientist and Stephen Merchant (I Give It A Year), Eriq La Salle (ER), Elise Neal (Hustle & Flow) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (Fear The Walking Dead) are also on board.

Logan is set to arrive in UK cinemas on 3 March next year.

Kevin Costner eyes Aaron Sorkin's poker biopic Molly's Game

Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) is set to make his cinematic directorial debut with poker biopic Molly's Game, which already stars Jessica Chastain (The Martian) and Idris Elba (Prometheus). He is now in the process of finding more castmembers, and word arrives via Deadline that Kevin Costner (Man Of Steel) is currently in talks to join the movie.

Molly's Game, subtitled From Hollywood's Elite To Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure In The World Of Underground Poker, is the memoir of Molly Bloom, whose story is a fascinating one. 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. The reason? Unbeknownst to her, some of her players had ties to the Russian mob. Chastain will be Molly, while Elba is on to play her defence lawyer.

Deadline cautions that Costner is still hammering out his deal for the film, and may not end up signing on. But he is circling the role of Bloom's father. Sorkin is set to start the cameras this month. Costner, meanwhile, will next be seen in another true life tale Hidden Figures, which will be out in the UK on 24 February.

New trailer for Mifune: The Last Samurai arrives online

Strand Releasing have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Steven Okazaki's (White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki) new documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai.

Partly thanks to his collaborations with director Akira Kurosawa, actor Toshiro Mifune became a stalwart star of the Golden Age of Japanese cinema, forging a different breed of hero across a memorable batch of movies. Now his life and career is being chronicled and celebrated in Steven Okazaki's new documentary, Mifune: The Last Samurai.

With Keanu Reeves (John Wick) as the narrator, Okazaki's film features clips from Kurosawa and Mifune's work on movies such as Rashômon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961). The likes of Steven Spielberg (Bridge Of Spies), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Shirô Mifune (After The Rain), Takeshi Katô (Yojimbo), Kyôko Kagawa (High And Low) and more are interviewed about Mifune's life and the influence of his performances.

He is an actor that other actors study, even if he never intended to get into the performing life, and the documentary doesn't shy away from his darker sides, including his alcoholism.

Mifune: The Last Samurai screened at the London Film Festival last, but has yet to secure a set release date yet.

"Logan, you still have time."

20th Century Fox have recently released their first trailer for James Mangold's (The Wolverine) latest Wolverine solo outing, which is now officially called Logan.

Effectively set to Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt, we see the ageing Logan (Hugh Jackman) looking suitably grizzled, a nonagenarian Professor X Patrick Stewart and a young girl (Dafne Keen) who is given into Logan's care, one who is seemingly 'just like him'. It is certainly a glorious introduction for the film, which looks like it will go a very long way towards making up for the disappointment of X-Men Apocalypse.

Jackman is set to appear for the very last time as arguably the most iconic member of the X-Men for the third Wolverine solo movie, and so we are expecting big things from his swan song in the role. The new movie, written by David James Kelly, is being kept mostly quiet, though most reports have pegged a futuristic Old Man Logan inspiration.

Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl) is the main villain, while Richard E. Grant (Dom Hemingway) plays a mad scientist and Stephen Merchant (I Give It A Year), Eriq La Salle (ER), Elise Neal (Hustle & Flow) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (Fear The Walking Dead) are also on board.

Logan is set to arrive in UK cinemas on 3 March next year.

First trailer and one sheet for A Cure For Wellness arrives online

20th Century Fox have recently released their first trailer and one sheet for Gore Verbinski's (Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl) A Cure For Wellness.

Directed by Gore Verbinski and scripted by Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road), A Cure for Wellness stars Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as an ambitious young executive who is sent to retrieve his company's CEO from an idyllic but mysterious 'wellness center' at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa's miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure.

With Jason Isaacs (Fury) and Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac), A Cure For Wellness will arrive in cinemas next year.

Monday, 21 November 2016

New trailer for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter arrives online

Sony Pictures have recently released latest trailer and one sheet for Paul W.S. Anderson's final Resident Evil instalment, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

For what is being touted as the last entry – at least from Paul W.S. Anderson, the man who has produced all and directed almost all the movies so far – the latest Resident Evil outing promises to bring the evil home. And indeed we see Milla Jovovich's Alice, having survived the conflict in Washington, heading back to Raccoon City to confront the terror of the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

With Iain Glen returning as Dr. Alexander Isaacs, alongside Shawn Roberts' Albert Wesker and Ali Larter's Claire, plus new saga arrival Ruby Rose (Orange Is The New Black) who plays a woman named Abigail, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter has Jovovich looking to outdo her previous action moments as she prepares to hang up her guns.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter will arrive in UK cinemas on 3 February.

"You just need to find a woman who is pathetic, like you."

Marvel Studios have recently released their first teaser and one sheet for James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) man James Gunn is currently putting the finishing touches to Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, which finds the Guardians gelling a little more as a unit after their rough early days, but still more ramshackle than, say, the Avengers. They are also not exactly top notch when it comes to helping others, and an early screw up means they face the wrath of Elizabeth Debicki's (The Man From U.N.C.L.E) alien Ayesha. Plus they have to somehow team up with Michael Rooker's Yondu after his Ravagers betray him.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 will see the return of Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Karen Gillan, alongside new faces Kurt Russell (Death Proof), Nathan Fillion (Slither) and Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables).

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 arrives in the UK on 28 April next year, before heading to the US on 5 May.