10 CLOVERFIELD LANE’s Dan Trachtenberg to direct Harry Houdini biopic!

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Director Dan Trachtenberg scored a solid debut with his first feature 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, and it’s been a bit surprising that he hasn’t signed on to any major features following that film’s success. However, it now looks like he might have a prestige picture on the way as his follow up. According to Deadline, Trachtenberg is in talks to helm a film based on the life of escape artist Harry Houdini. The script by Noah Oppenheim (who’s currently generating Oscar buzz for his JACKIE screenplay) is based on William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s book ‘The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero’.

Hollywood has been trying to get a Houdini movie in the works for years. We first reported on this one in particular way back in 2011, and it will be interesting to see if Trachtenberg sticks with Oppenheim’s script or goes in a different direction. I’m also curious to see who he casts as Houdini. Back when Dean Parisot was attached to direct, Johnny Depp was going to play the lead role, but now that Trachtenberg is in the driver’s seat, I hope he gets a more interesting actor for the part.

Here’s the synopsis for ‘The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero’:

Handcuff King. Escape Artist. International Superstar. Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini’s life has been chronicled in books, in film, and on television. Now, in this groundbreaking biography, renowned magic expert William Kalush and bestselling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth. Drawing from millions of pages of research, they describe in vivid detail the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats, his secret life as a spy, and a pernicious plot to subvert his legacy.

The Secret Life of Houdini traces the arc of the master magician’s life from desperate poverty to worldwide fame — his legacy later threatened by a group of fanatical Spiritualists led by esteemed British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Initiating the reader along the way into the arcane world of professional magic, Kalush and Sloman decode a life based on deception, providing an intimate and riveting portrayal of Houdini, the man and the legend.

Tom Holland in talks to join Daisy Ridley for Doug Liman’s CHAOS WALKING adaptation!

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Young-adult novel adaptations aren’t as hot as they used to be. (Just look at the dwindling DIVERGENT franchise.) But CHAOS WALKING, based on the novel by Patrick Ness, will draw eyes for the casting alone: Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the new STAR WARS films, already has the female lead, while the Marvel universe’s newly minted SPIDER-MAN, Tom Holland, is in talks to join.

THR was the first to report the news of Holland, who’s in negotiations to star as the young boy in the center of the story. In the books, he’s named Todd Hewitt, who’s living in a world where all women have been killed by a germ and those who remain can hear and see into each other’s thoughts through what’s called Noise, a chaotic stream of sounds and images. When he discovers an awful secret about his town, he flees with his dog, Manchee, and encounters a strange girl (Ridley) on the road.

If the faces in front of the camera weren’t enough to pique your interest, let’s move behind it. Charlie Kaufman, who penned the screenplay for ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and co-directed and co-wrote the stop-motion animated ANOMALISA, worked on the script for Chaos Walking, along with Jamie Linden. Doug Liman (EDGE OF TOMORROW) is on board to direct, and then there’s the source material to consider: Ness is also the guy who wrote the book A MONSTER CALLS and the screenplay for its movie adaptation starring Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, and Sigourney Weaver.

CHAOS WALKING is made up of a series of books and short stories, beginning with ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’. So, there’s a chance to branch out into another franchise, assuming audiences are drawn to the first. By the time it hits theaters, Holland will have already appeared in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. If it gets a later release in 2018, Ridley’s Rey will also have moved one step closer to becoming a full-fledged Jedi in STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII.

Box Office: MOANA easily takes Thanksgiving weekend, DOCTOR STRANGE hits new milestone!

The moral of the story for the Thanksgiving box office and basically the 2016 box office is, “It’s good to be Disney.” The studio not only won the weekend outright with a stellar launch for the animated feature MOANA, but also scored a new record for the continued box office of Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE.

MOANA grossed an estimated $81.1 million for the five-day holiday, which ranks as the second-highest Thanksgiving debut ever behind FROZEN, which hit $93.6 million over the five-day holiday in 2013. What’s even more impressive is that Disney now basically owns Thanksgiving, as the studio holds the records for the top six 5-day Thanksgiving debuts of all time as well as the top eight 3-day Thanksgiving debuts of all time. MOANA’s three-day weekend gross was $55.5 million.

And with regards to Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE, distributed by Disney, the superhero pic pulled in $13.4 million over the three-day weekend and $18.9 million for the five-day corridor, which brings its global box office tally to over $600 million in four weeks of release. That means it has surpassed the lifetime box office of THE INCREDIBLE HULK ($263M), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER ($371M), THOR ($449M), ANT-MAN ($520M), and IRON MAN ($585), which means it has set the record for the largest box office for any single-character superhero launch from Marvel Studios. It has also surpassed the domestic totals for all of those films except for IRON MAN, so yeah, you could say Benedict Cumberbatch‘s hero is gonna be sticking around for a while.

But in non-Disney box office news, the big winner was FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. The HARRY POTTER prequel and franchise-starter dipped just 39% in its second weekend, scoring $45.1 million to bring its total to $156 million thus far. Repeat business and word-of-mouth seem to be keeping the film afloat, which is good news since J.K. Rowling plans on writing five FANTASTIC BEASTS movies in all with FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 already set for release in November 2018.

In terms of new releases, Warren Beatty’s drama RULES DON’T APPLY—which opened wide—is a box office disaster. It’s the lowest-grossing debut of 2016 with a mere $1.5 million for the weekend, scoring only a $661 per theater average. Perhaps a limited release would have suited the launch better?

BAD SANTA 2 didn’t fare too much better, as the comedy sequel brought in $6.1 million over the weekend to bring its five-day total to $9 million. And the Brad Pitt & Marion Cotillard-fronted World War II thriller ALLIED opened to an estimated $18 million for the five-day frame.

Check out the full Top 10 estimates below:

1. Moana $55.52M
2. Fantastic Beasts $45.1M
3. Doctor Strange $13.36M
4. Allied $13M
5. Arrival $11.25M
6. Trolls $10.34M
7. Almost Christmas $7.61M
8. Bad Santa 2 $6.1M
9. Hacksaw Ridge $5.45M
10. The Edge of Seventeen $2.96M

ALIEN: COVENANT gets new poster and release date among Fox’s calendar shuffle!

Nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like a chestburster at the dinner table. 20th Century Fox dropped a little pre-Thanksgiving surprise tonight by unveiling the very first poster for ALIEN: COVENANT, director Ridley Scott’s follow-up to PROMETHEUS. It’s an unnerving one-sheet that relies on the iconography of H.R. Giger’s ALIEN design, signaling to fans that this PROMETHEUS sequel will very much tie into the ALIEN franchise as a whole.

But the poster also carries more information than meets the eye. The one-sheet boasts a “May 2017” release date tease as 20th Century Fox has also decided to move up the release of ALIEN: COVENANT from August 4, 2017 to May 19, 2017. It’s the rare blockbuster shift that actually sees the movie arriving earlier rather than later, as many studios push back their pricey films in order to ensure the film is, you know, actually done. But it appears that Scott has been working quickly in post-production on the pic and it’ll be ready to enter the gauntlet of the Summer 2017 Blockbuster Season.

COVENANT will now open directly opposite the horror sequel ANNABELLE 2, the animated feature THE NUT JOB 2, and its biggest competition: the Dwayne Johnson/Zac Efron-fronted action comedy BAYWATCH. This puts the film opening a week ahead of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES and two weeks before WONDER WOMAN, but it also offers audiences a chance to catch a big-budget R-rated blockbuster for a change of pace.

The release date shift also leaves August 2017 pretty barren, but one imagines it won’t stay that way for long. The film that benefits most is Edgar Wright’s unique actioner BABY DRIVER, which is slated for release on August 11th. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the July blockbusters take advantage of ALIEN: COVENANT’s move and shift to the early August date, which has seen success for films like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and SUICIDE SQUAD. I could easily see Luc Besson’s sci-fi pic VALERIAN or Sony’s highly anticipated THE DARK TOWER moving out of the July corridor and into early August. Sadly, Fox’s KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE has been pushed back to October 6, 2017 and will compete against BLADE RUNNER 2049.

While Scott originally intended for PROMETHEUS to kick off a new prequel franchise that would exist tangentially to ALIEN, he subsequently decided the follow-up would instead move closer to the original ALIEN franchise. Michael Fassbender is the only returning cast member from PROMETHEUS to have a substantial role in ALIEN: COVENANT, as he encounters a new crew of explorers that includes Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Billy Crudup, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Carmen Ejogo, and Callie Hernandez.

FANTASTIC BEASTS 2: David Yates confirms cast, including a role expansion for Zoe Kravitz!

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If you weren’t paying attention during FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, you might’ve missed Zoe Kravitz. The actress, who joined the film in a last-minute casting, was seen as Leta Lestrange, Newt’s former love, but she only appeared in the framed photo he kept of her in his enchanted man cave. According to director David Yates, who’s returning to helm the sequel, Leta will return in Fantastic Beasts 2 for a slightly larger role.

Yates told CinemaBlend during an interview:

Yes. Leta Lestrange comes into the second movie. She’s quite complicated and damaged and confused, and Newt is absolutely still in love with her. So, she has a kind of power over him, and she, yeah, she’s a kind of tragic figure, so we will see a bit more of her in the second movie.

We know very little about Leta beyond the trickles of information we hear in FANTASTIC BEASTS. Newt said he fell for her because they were both outsiders, while Queenie, after reading his mind, said she was a “taker” and that he needed someone who was a giver. Her last name speaks volumes, however, as it’s the last name of Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s right-hand mad woman. Bellatrix Black, Sirius Black’s cousin, became a Lestrange by marriage, and her husband, Rodolphus Lestrange, and brother-in-law, Rabastan, were both supporters of You-Know-Who. Based on the timeline, it could be suggested Leta could be the brothers’ mother or aunt.

Yates further confirmed that Newt (Eddie Redmayne), Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queen (Alison Sudol), Jacob (Dan Fogler), and, surprisingly, Credence (Ezra Miller) will be coming back for FANTASTIC BEASTS 2, though Newt may not always be the main character in the four future films. We also know that Johnny Depp will return in a more prominent role as Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard who made a cameo appearance in the first film, while a casting search has already begun for a younger Dumbledore.

The FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM sequel is already scheduled to hit theaters on November 16, 2018.

Legendary Pictures picks up the film and television rights to Frank Herbert’s DUNE!

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Legendary has gone and done the difficult, and acquired the rights to Frank Herbert‘s venerated science fiction classic DUNE. The geek-centric movie studio behind blockbuster spectacles like PACIFIC RIM, GODZILLA and WARCRAFT has reached an agreement with the Frank Herbert estate for the film and television motion picture rights to beloved novel, which has earned a reputation as one of the most sought after and difficult-to-acquire sci-fi properties of all time.

While no specific project is on the docket just yet, any future projects will be produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, and Cale Boyter, with the Herbert estate heads Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, and Kim Herbert serving as executive producers.

For the unfamiliar, here’s the Dune synopsis via the press release:

Set in the distant future, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides whose family accepts control of the desert planet Arrakis. As the only producer of a highly valuable resource, control of Arrakis is highly contested among the noble families. After Paul and his family are betrayed, the story explores themes of politics, religion, and man’s relationship to nature as Paul leads a rebellion to restore his family’s control of Arrakis.

The 1965 sci-fi epic, which is the first in a long-running series, took home a Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel, and has gone on to become one of the best-selling science fiction novels of all time with more than 12 million copies sold. Alejandro Jodorowsky famously attempted to adapt the property in the mid-70s, and that doomed project has been chronicled in the documentary JODOROWSKY’s DUNE. David Lynch adapted the novel in 1984 with the Kyle MacLachlan-led film of the same name, which has gone on to cult status, but was received at the time as a critical and commercial failure, grossing only $30.9 million for its $45 million budget. DUNE also received an Emmy-winning SyFy miniseries back in 2000 from John Harrison.

CARS 3 trailer teases surprisingly dramatic-looking Pixar sequel, film due June 16, 2017

Disney and Pixar have unveiled the very first teaser trailer for CARS 3, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a sullen and gritty film of a very different sort. Indeed, while this teaser is the epitome of “teaser trailer” in that it doesn’t really offer anything by way of plot or dialogue, it does tease a dramatic twist in the Lightning McQueen story. As the trailer progresses, we see some absolutely stunning visuals of a race that ends with an incredibly serious crash involving everyone’s favorite talking speedster. Cryptically, the teaser ends with the text, “From this moment, everything will change.” The official synopsis, also released today, reads as follows:

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

This is quite possibly the most dramatic Pixar trailer we’ve ever seen, as the studio usually attempts to tease the fun and colorful characters that audiences (and, you know, kids) can expect to see in the next adventure. But going quite dark and dramatic with this CARS 3 teaser is a bold and, frankly, admirable move that shows Pixar is trying to do something different with this CARS sequel.

It’s no secret that the CARS franchise is the most critically maligned of the Pixar library. Upon rewatch the first CARS isn’t terrible—it’s John Lasseter’s ode to Americana, and it has a sleepy structure and pacing. But CARS 2 is one of the worst movies Pixar has ever made, a sequel that trades a loving story for cheap toilet jokes and lazy characters. So when CARS 3 was first announced, many weren’t exactly thrilled by the news. But I have to admit, this debut trailer makes me very curious.

CARS 3 marks the directorial debut of Brian Fee, an animator and storyboard artist on films like WALL-E and MONSTERS UNIVERSITY and it opens in theaters on June 16, 2017.