RIP Wes Craven (1939-2015)

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Sad news to report tonight as director Wes Craven has died from brain cancer at the age of 76.

Craven will go down as one of the most influential horror directors of all-time having birthed not one but two classic horror franchises with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM. He directed all of the SCREAM films and also helmed the meta NEW NIGHTMARE. While A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET arguably launched Craven to a whole new level, he had a breakout hit with THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which is an odd spin on Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 medieval drama THE VIRGIN SPRING.

Finding odd twists on horror while also working firmly within the genre (he ventured outside of it a few times, most notably with the feel-good drama MUSIC OF THE HEART starring Meryl Streep) became Craven’s signature, and at his best he walked the line between not only scaring the audience, but making you genuinely care about all of the characters rather than just setting them up as fodder for the killer.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Craven’s family and friends.

Box Office: STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON takes third win on “dog days” weekend!

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After losing out to WAR ROOM (though just barely) on Friday, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is back on top of the box office. The NWA bio earned an estimated $13.2 million in the last three days, bringing its domestic total up to $134.1 million. That means that COMPTON is now by far the most successful musical biography of all time, topping 2005’s WALK THE LINE ($119.5) and 2002’s 8 MILE ($116.7).

COMPTON is also the second film this summer, and the fourth in 2015, to spend at least three consecutive weekends leading the domestic box office. That’s a big deal, but maybe not as big as it would have been earlier this season. The fact is that, with not a lot of active competition, three-peats happen in August more often than you’d think. Even without counting GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (whose four wins were not consecutive), a list of three-time August winners includes TROPIC THUNDER (2008), THE HELP (2011), and THE BUTLER (2013).

The COMPTON three-peat is just the latest box office coup for Universal. Earlier this week they became the first studio in history to have three film earn over $1 billion worldwide in one year: FURIOUS 7, JURASSIC WORLD, and MINIONS. Globally, MINIONS is now the third highest-grossing animated title of all time, behind only FROZEN and TOY STORY 3. But here in North America, MINIONS is second to INSIDE OUT in terms of summer grosses.

Look who’s back in the top ten this weekend after a three-week absence: JURASSIC WORLD. Universal was letting the blockbuster wind down slowly, dropping its theatre count to 574 last weekend. But the count was back up to 1,239 (including a return to IMAX screens) as of Friday. Why? Right now JURASSIC WORLD is the third-highest domestic release of all time at $643 million – just $15.6 million behind the second place TITANIC.

Though it’s hard to believe anyone in America has yet to see JURASSIC WORLD, its return to the top ten was likely facilitated by the general lack of interest in recent new releases. Last weekend’s SINISTER 2 and HITMAN: AGENT 47 remain in the top ten in their sophomore frames (down 56% and 54%, respectively), but AMERICAN ULTRA has vanished altogether. This weekend’s youth-centric box office entry, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS, didn’t make it into the top ten to begin with. The Warner Bros’ pic took in just $1.8 million from 2,333 locations. That’s the lowest opening for a major studio release this summer.

The Weinstein Co.’s NO ESCAPE fared much better in its first weekend, opening in fourth place with an estimated $8.29 million from 3,355 locations. But the big story, at least in terms of new releases, is still WAR ROOM. After edging out COMPTON on Friday, the Christian drama placed second this weekend with an estimated $11 million. That’s more than twice what the film was expected to earn and, because WAR ROOM is playing in just 1,135 venues, it had the best per-theatre average of any film in the top ten.

Here are the numbers from Collider:

1. Straight Outta Compton $13.24M
2. War Room $11M
3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation $8.3M
4. No Escape $8.28M
5. Sinister 2 $4.65M
6. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. $4.41M
7. Hitman: Agent 47 $3.85M
8. The Gift $3.13M
9. Jurassic World $3.12M
10. Ant-Man $3.05M

BOURNE 5 to explore Bourne in a post-Snowden Europe!

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The BOURNE trilogy, especially SUPREMACY and ULTIMATUM, were terrific not only because they were a strong spin on the spy genre, but also because they were a thoughtful commentary on the Bush administration. However, the world has changed drastically since then, and it looks like the BOURNE franchise will adapt accordingly.

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Matt Damon says that he and director Paul Greengrass finally came up with a new idea for BOURNE after the NSA whistleblowing from Edward Snowden. “Without giving too much of it away, it’s Bourne through an austerity-riddled Europe and in a post-Snowden world,” Damon said. “It seems like enough has changed, you know? There are all these kinds of arguments about spying and civil liberties and the nature of democracy.”

Damon and Greengrass have always been interested in the real-world ramifications of the franchise (as opposed to a franchise like BOND, which is more old-school thrills and less concerned with geopolitics), and dealing with a post-Snowden world seems like fertile territory for a sequel. As for where Bourne 5 will take the character:

“We’re starting in Greece, you know, the beginning of democracy,” he said — also a nod to the country’s current financial crisis that is plaguing the greater European economy. “And the movie ends in Las Vegas, the most grotesque incarnation of….” Damon trailed off with a laugh.

Bourne goes to Vegas, baby? While these movies can be deadly serious at times, it should be a thrill to see him fighting in the bright, gaudy lights. It will also be interesting to see if this will work as a standalone story, or if Damon and Greengrass are using this as a springboard for a new trilogy of movies. I’m sure Universal is also curious if there’s some plan to try and bring in THE BOURNE LEGACY’s Aaron Cross at some point, although that film may ultimately be lost to the sands of time—a stopgap until the real BOURNE returned.

The untitled BOURNE sequel begins filming next week, and opens July 29, 2016. The film also stars Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, and Tommy Lee Jones.

Ridley Scott’s next film will be PROMETHEUS 2, he confirms!

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Those holding out hope for a PROMETHEUS sequel may not be waiting much longer. Ever since the release of Ridley Scott’s return to the ALIEN franchise, the filmmaker has been talking up a follow-up film that would move further away from ALIEN and flesh out the world of PROMETHEUS. Scott was so excited about the sequel that he pretty much gave the whole damn thing away, but regardless, the prospect of seeing him return to direct another large-scale sci-fi film complete with the origins of the alien race was promising. And now, after hearing some murmurs earlier this month about PROMETHEUS 2 ramping up to begin production in early 2016, Scott has confirmed that this is indeed planned to be his next film.

During an interview with Empire about his latest film, THE MARTIAN, Scott made the revelation:

They faced another challenge when the film’s release date was brought forward. But according to [Matt] Damon, the typically fast-working Scott didn’t worry. “Ridley was done with the movie about two weeks after we shot!” he smiles. “I was already on to my next movie!” adds Scott. “I was starting to look for locations for my next movie, which is Prometheus 2.”

A potential wrench was thrown into the plans for PROMETHEUS 2 when filmmaker Neill Blomkamp’s tease on social media of his pitch for ALIEN 5 that never came to fruition actually led to 20th Century Fox putting the proper ALIEN sequel into development. But a rumor surfaced earlier this month that Scott wanted to ensure that PROMETHEUS 2 moves forward before ALIEN 5 (or is it ALIENS 2?), and if the PROMETHEUS follow-up is indeed his next film as he proposes, it stands to reason that rumor may have been spot-on.

If Scott sticks to his initial plans for the sequel, PROMETHEUS 2 will find Noomi Rapace’s Shaw and the head of Michael Fassbender’s David venturing into space to find the home world of the Engineer whom they encountered at the end of the picture. It’s unclear who wrote the most recent iteration of the script, but Damon Lindelof took himself out of the running a few years ago. I mostly liked PROMETHEUS so I’m looking forward to seeing where Scott takes the story in the follow-up.

Mads Mikkelson in talks to join DOCTOR STRANGE as a villain!

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DOCTOR STRANGE certainly has my attention. Not long after casting Tilda Swinton as the mystical teacher that molds the titular character of DOCTOR STRANGE, which will be directed by Sinister‘s Scott Derrickson, Variety is now reporting that the film is looking at Mads Mikkelsen, ‘Hannibal’ himself, as a top contender for an unnamed villainous role in the superhero film. This is yet another major coup for Mikkelsen, who was recently announced as part of the cast for Gareth Edwards‘ hugely anticipated STAR WARS Anthology film, ROGUE ONE; Mikkelsen’s role in that film is also currently unknown but non-villianous.

The most exciting thought that this news brings to the foreground is the possibility of Mikkelsen fighting head-to-head with Benedict Cumberbatch, who is set to play Stephen Vincent Strange, a neurosurgeon who unexpectedly is put in line to become the next Sorcerer Supreme; Steve Ditko created the character in the early 1960s. For those whose fan fiction about Sherlock Holmes facing off against Hannibal Lecter, a proper pairing if ever I heard of one, this might be the closes you get to realizing that dream. Swinton’s The Ancient One will also play teacher to Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s Baron Mordo, a colleague and fellow doctor with Strange who will, eventually, become his greatest villain.

Some rumors have suggested that Mikkelsen may be playing the mystical Dormammu, or that he may play a more earthbound character, but honestly, who knows at this point? Interestingly enough, Mikkelsen was being looked at for the lead villain role, Malekith, in THOR: THE DARK WORLD awhile back and had to turn it down due to his titular role in NBC’s ‘Hannibal’; Christopher Eccleston ultimately played Malekith in the THOR sequel. The news of Mikkelsen being included in any project is enough to rile anticipation, though it’s going to take awhile for the sting of Hannibal‘s cancellation to wear off. Hopefully, by the time DOCTOR STRANGE hits theaters in 2016, I will have had enough time to mourn, sob, and scream out enough for me to enjoy seeing the great performer doing anything but torture Will Graham and cook up human organs.

DOCTOR STRANGE will be released in theaters nationwide on Nov. 4th, 2016.

New STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser delivers new footage, amazing score!

There has been an awakening… #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

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Lucasfilm and Disney made a surprise reveal just moments ago! On the official Star Wars Instagram account, they just posted a new teaser for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWKENS, featuring new footage and some of John Williams’ new score from the highly anticipated December 18 release!

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and features a new generation of swashbuckling heroes and shadowy villains, as well as the return of fan-favorite smugglers, princesses, and Jedi. Also starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o, Crystal Clarke, Pip Anderson, Christina Chong and Miltos Yerolemou, the J.J. Abrams-directed film will debut in theaters on December 18, 2015.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS will be followed on December 16, 2016 by ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, STAR WARS EPISODE VIII on May 26, 2017, and the HAN SOLO anthology movie on May 25, 2018. No release dates have been announced for STAR WARS EPISODE IX or for the third anthology movie. It was recently confirmed, however, that JURASSIC WORLD‘s Colin Trevorrow will be helming the third Saga chapter.

First look at Michael Fassbender in ASSASSIN’S CREED, film due December 21, 2016!

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20th Century Fox and New Regency (Via Yahoo!) have revealed the first official look at Michael Fassbender in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed film. Fassbender plays Callum Lynch in the film, an original character not from any of the many games in the series. The outlet described his character as follows:

“Lynch discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society through unlocked genetic memories that allow him to relive the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. After gaining incredible knowledge and skills he’s poised to take on the oppressive Knights Templar in the present day.”

Production is set to begin on ASSASSIN’S CREED this Monday with photography taking place in Matla, London, and Spain.

“It’s all new to me,” Fassbender told us in April, “but starting to develop scripts and work on them, they take time. It just takes time to get a good story together and we really want to do it right… That’s always the challenge of something that’s so dense, to really find something and pare it down and, basically, there are so many elements to it. Trying to translate that to an audience, you have to pick key things. [P]art of it is getting through the density of it and paring down and engaging a simple story.”

Fassbender leads the cast that also includes Marion Cotillard (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES), Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Wire”), and Ariane Labed (BEFORE MIDNIGHT). Directed by Justin Kurrzel (MACBETH), the ASSASSIN’S CREED movie will open in theaters on December 21, 2016.