New featurette for HARRY POTTER spinoff FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM!

Yesterday, HARRY POTTER author J.K. Rowling revealed some details on a few of the Wizarding schools that exist within her magical world, including the name of the American school that may feature into the new Warner Bros. film, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. Directed by David Yates, this new magical film is also the first one scripted by Rowling herself, with Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne playing the wizard Newt Scamander.

During the Celebration of Harry Potter 2016, Pottermore unveiled a new behind-the-scenes video from FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM that revealed the magic behind the moviemaking. In addition to new looks at Redmayne’s character, we also meet Scamander’s compatriots, Katherine Waterston as Tina; Tony Award winner Dan Fogler as Jacob; and Alison Sudol as Tina’s sister, Queenie. Also starring Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Jenn Murray, Faith Wood-Blagrove and Colin Farrell, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM opens November 18th.

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Box Office: KUNG FU PANDA 3 beats FINEST HOURS, holdovers this weekend!

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In a surprise to no one, Dreamworks’ KUNG FU PANDA 3 was the number one film in North America this weekend: becoming the first animated film to rule the box office since HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 back in September. The threequel earned an estimated $41 million from 3,955 locations, which was right in line with industry projections. The film’s weekend gross makes it the biggest debut of 2016 (though on a very short list) and the third biggest January launch of all time.

Though it lived up to industry expectations, KUNG FU PANDA 3 couldn’t match its predecessors’ box office debuts. The original KUNG FU PANDA opened in June 2008 with $60.2 million. That was a significant achievement at the time, especially for a non-franchise title in the heart of the summer season. KUNG FU PANDA went on to gross $215.4 million in North America and $631.7 million worldwide. And thus was a franchise born. When it arrived in the summer of 2011, KUNG FU PANDA 2 saw a bit of a decline. The sequel opened with $47.6 million towards a final domestic total of $165.2 million but more than made up for its shortfall with international sales, which topped $665 million.

KUNG FU PANDA 3 pushed last weekend’s top two films, THE REVENANT and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, down to second and third, respectively. THE REVENANT was off only 22.5% to bring its domestic total up to $138.1 million in its fourth frame in wide release. In terms of past Leonardo DiCaprio titles, THE REVENANT has already outperformed SHUTTER ISLAND and THE DEPARTED and should overtake THE GREAT GATSBY’s $144.8 million final domestic total next weekend. As for the granddaddy of all domestic totals, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is set to become the first film to reach $900 million next Saturday. The film’s global total now stands at $1.983 billion.

Disney’s THE FINEST HOURS OPENED in fourth place with an estimated $10.3 million from 3,143 locations. That was actually a bit higher than projected for the 3D ocean thriller, though it won’t come close to mitigating the film’s reported $75 million budget. On a more positive note, CinemaScore audiences gave THE FINEST HOURS an A- so there is a chance of a decent hold next weekend – provided people decide to skip the Super Bowl and the three new releases that are scheduled.

Here are the numbers from Collider:

1. Kung Fu Panda 3 $41M
2. The Revenant $12.4M
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens $10.78M
4. The Finest Hours $10.32M
5. Ride Along 2 $8.34M
6. The Boy $7.89M
7. Dirty Grandpa $7.57M
8. The 5th Wave $7M
9. Fifty Shades of Black $6.18M
10. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers… $6M

First trailer for the fifth BOURNE film to air during Super Bowl 50!

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And so it begins. Every year when the Super Bowl arrives, we see a glut of movie marketing material from the various studios trying to sell their wares during the most-watched TV program of the year. It’s calmed down a bit in recent years, but we now have our first trailer debut announcement, and it’s a big one: BOURNE 5. Per author Eric Van Lustbader, who is now the official author of the Bourne books, we’ll see the first trailer and find out the title during the Super Bowl (via ScreenCrush):

“The first trailer for the new Bourne film will be shown during this year’s Superbowl telecast. At that time I believe you’ll find out the title of the film. (I know it, but I’m sworn to secrecy). So tune in on February 7th to check out all the excitement. I, for one, can’t wait!!!”

Paul Greengrass, who helmed THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, returns to direct the fifth installment in the franchise, fulfilling the requirement star Matt Damon set for reprising his role as Jason Bourne. After ULTIMATUM, Damon said for years he’d only return if Greengrass also returned, which would mean they had found a story worth telling. The plot of BOURNE 5 is still under wraps, but we do know it will explore what it means to be Jason Bourne in a post-Snowden era, and Greengrass has assembled a stellar supporting cast that includes Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, and Riz Ahmed.

Moreover, everyone knows that the scripts for SUPREMACY and ULTIMATUM were essentially written on set by Greengrass and Damon, so this time around the two get official screenplay credit alongside Christopher Rouse. It’s exciting stuff, and this is certainly one of my most anticipated films of the year so I’m eager to get a look at this first trailer in just one short week or so. The untitled picture hits theaters on July 29th.

Ford, Dormer, Bettany, Freeman & Hopkins join spy film OFFICIAL SECRETS!

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Harrison Ford knows a thing or two about official secrets thanks to his days involved with STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, but his new film is one he can actually talk about freely. It was announced today that Ford would be joining director Justin Chadwick’s OFFICIAL SECRETS, the much more succinctly titled adaptation of Marcia and Thomas Mitchell’s best-selling book, “The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War: Katherine Gun and The Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion.” That mouthful was adapted by Sara and Gregory Bernstein and will be produced by Elizabeth Fowler.

Also joining Ford in this new endeavor are Paul Bettany of Marvel movies fame, Natalie Dormer of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’, Martin Freeman of THE HOBBIT films, and Sir Anthony Hopkins, whom you might recognize from some of cinema’s finest moments. They’re all on board the espionage thriller which is slated to begin principal photography in May 2016 in the U.K.

In the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Katharine Gun (Dormer), a young British intelligence officer reveals a secret illegal NSA spy operation against the UN Security Council designed to ensure passage of a resolution for war to Martin Bright (Bettany) a reporter at the British newspaper, The London Observer. Katharine’s arrest following the leak makes headlines around the world. In an attempt to gain the evidence to free Katharine, Martin unearths the shocking plot which puts both Katharine and Martin’s lives in great jeopardy. Freeman will be playing Peter Edwards, the foreign affairs editor at The Observer, while Hopkins is playing a retired UK general, and Ford, a CIA agent.

This is a solid cast from lead to supporting roles, but you should also be familiar with Chadwick’s work. He recently directed TULIP FEVER starring Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz and Academy Award nominee Alicia Vikander; that film will be released by The Weinstein Co. in 2016. Chadwick also directed The Weinstein Co.’s Academy Award nominated film MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM starring Golden Globe nominee Idris Elba, as well as Columbia Pictures’ THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana.

MI: ROGUE NATION’s Rebecca Ferguson joins original sci-fi film LIFE!

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Fresh off of her action-packed performance in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION, Rebecca Ferguson had booked a number of high-profile pictures. Add a new sci-fi film to the list, this time from SAFE HOUSE director Daniel Espinosa and DEADPOOL screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The original picture, titled LIFE, will be a Skydance production from producers David Ellison and Dana Goldberg, along with Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn.

As Variety reports, LIFE follows “the crew of the International Space Station, who, after retrieving a sample from Mars, discover that it displays signs of life, and proves to be more intelligent than expected.” While no further details have been confirmed as to the tone of the picture or the particulars of Ferguson’s casting, that logline certainly seems like it could skew more towards a sci-fi/horror picture in the vein of ALIEN or bear similarities to Skydance’s WORLD WAR Z movies. Of course, that’s all speculation on my part, but Ferguson seems like a perfect casting decision for a Sigourney Weaver/Ripley type.

The success of MI: ROGUE NATION and Ferguson’s stand-out performance in her role led to quite the boom in casting announcements for the young actress. She’s currently expected to reprise her M:I role in the sixth installment of the franchise, but her casting hasn’t been officially confirmed yet; that picture starts shooting in August.

Other roles landed by Ferguson include the female lead opposite Michael Fassbender in Tomas Alfredson’s THE SNOWMAN, based on Jo Nesbø’s serial-killer thriller novel of the same name; that picture is due out October 17, 2017. Ferguson also landed one of the leads in DreamWorks’ THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN opposite Emily Blunt and directed by Tate Taylor. Erin Cressida Wilson adapted Paula Hawkins’ novel for this film, which was expected to open October 7th of this year, but Disney recently dropped it from their distribution calendar. Don’t panic! It’s already been filmed, has book-buzz built in, and also stars Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, and Edgar Ramirez. We’ll likely see this one sooner than later, with Ferguson on the big screen once again.

TROLLS trailer looks like hot garbage, film due November 4, 2016!

If you found yourself looking back the swinging Clinton 90s with something like warm nostalgia before this morning, try to hold onto that moment for a little while before you take a look at the first trailer for Dreamworks Animation’s TROLLS, which is loosely based on those cute little dolls that everyone collected for a little while during the early-mid 90s. Yes, the little naked ones with the cuttable fluorescent hair that you could style as you pleased.

I say “loosely based” but honestly, aren’t we just kinda hanging our hat on that to get some name recognition? To do literally anything but actually just make an original film without straining to give it some nostalgic marketing hook? It doesn’t help that the movie , which features vocal work from Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Russell Brand, and James Corden, looks like absolute trash. You can check out the trailer, complete with animated things shaking their butts, as is the style of the time, in the player above.

I’d like to say that I always keep an open mind when it comes to trailers, as there’s no real telling how a movie might open up beyond what’s gleaned from some 90 seconds of footage, but this really just strikes me as off. The film’s co-directors, Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell, are veterans of one of the more original cartoons to have debuted over the last few decades, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, which has spawned two wildly entertaining feature-length films, but this doesn’t look off in the same welcoming way as SPONGEBOB. This just feels opportunistic from the get-go. On the other hand, co-writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have worked together on a few minor winners, including the first KUNG FU PANDA and, speak of the animated devil, THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER. So, I will attempt to temper my roiling cynicism and general disinterest for the time being…which I don’t foresee lasting that long. The film will see release on November 4th, 2016.

Rumor: THOR: RAGNAROK to encorporate “Planet Hulk” storyline!

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For months now, speculation has swirled around the rumor that Hulk will appear in Marvel’s THOR: RAGNAROK in some fashion, especially since CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is already too packed full of heroes to make room for the big green meanie. Now a new rumor has surfaced that explains the Hulk’s absence over the next few Marvel movies and his reappearance in late 2017. Keep in mind that the script for the third THOR outing is currently being worked on by Christopher Yost (THOR: THE DARK WORLD), Craig Kyle, and Stephany Folsom, and that director Taika Waititi might punch up the film’s comedy a bit, so all story elements are in a state of flux.

That being said, Geek.com has a delightful theory that delves into the comic book history of both Hulk and Thor, one that, if their sources are legitimate, could bring two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most powerful heroes to blows. We’ve seen these two go at it in THE AVENGERS, but if this rumor pans out, fans can expect a wildly different scene in THOR: RAGNAROK. Let’s get into it.

Mark Ruffalo, who plays Bruce Banner/Hulk, has been pretty chatty about THOR: RAGNAROK even though he hasn’t read the unfinished script just yet. In addition to describing the film as a “universal road movie” and the relationship between Thor and Hulk as being cast in the mold of MIDNIGHT RUN, Ruffalo has also described his character as one that’s starting to merge the personalities of the uncontrollable Hulk and the scientifically minded Banner. These tidbits, coupled with the banishing/disappearance of the Hulk at the end of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and unsubstantiated rumors of a standalone “Planet Hulk” have all coalesced into this new theory. Potential spoilers follow.

Geek.com’s sources state that, in THOR: RAGNAROK, Chris Hemsworth’s title hero will get wise to the devious plans set forth by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Cate Blanchett’s Hela, but he catches on too late. The villains somehow manage to destroy Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and banish the prince from Asgard, which sets up the journey that Thor must undertake. This banishment, and his resulting quest, drops him squarely on the alien world of Sakaar (referenced heavily in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY), a world in which Thor has his head shaved and is forced into gladiatorial combat in order to survive. Even without his hammer, Thor is able to best his opponents, at least until he fights his way to the arena champion: Hulk. From there, the theory goes that Banner’s recollections of his time cooperating with Thor will lead the two heroes to team up once again – after an entertaining skirmish, one would hope – in order to secure some sort of powerful weapon/MacGuffin that will help them defeat Loki and Hela.

This train of thought follows the rumors that we’ve been hearing lately to their logical conclusion, but there’s still little if any official news backing any of it up. This take on the plot would certainly be a great way for Marvel to include their “Planet Hulk” storyline in THOR: RAGNAROK without devoting resources (and possibly infringing on copyright claims) for a standalone HULK movie. It’d also be fun to see these two tangle again before buddying up in a road-trip adventure, but we’re still a long way away from the November 3, 2017 release. Perhaps the most shocking part of all of this would be for Thor to lose his long, flowing locks! (Oh, and the hammer, too, I guess.)