RIP Carrie Fisher (1956-2016): Feminist, Princess, General, Legend

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I report the news that Carrie Fisher has died at the age of 60. The STAR WARS actress and prolific writer suffered a heart attack last week and, sadly, passed away early this morning.

While 2016 has taken too many people in the limelight like David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder, this Carrie Fisher news hurts not only because it was completely unexpected, but due to what kind of role she played in so many lives. I think for many people, seeing her kick butt as Princess Leia was their first time seeing a women who could hold their own against any man, and that included Darth Vader. Aside from being a fighter, she was a leader, taking charge in any situation.

But besides her roles in the STAR WARS movies, Fisher was a talented writer who not only wrote books, she doctored screenplays, and was an outspoken critic on whatever bothered her. Fisher was never afraid to say what she felt and for that I always loved her.

While I could say so many things about what she meant to me and to millions of people around the world, the most important thing is I hope her friends and family can find comfort in how many people loved her and what she meant to all of us.

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher and thank you. Our deepest condolences go out to her family and loved ones.

Box Office: ROGUE ONE and SING dominate long holiday weekend!

It was a good Christmas to be a rebel spy or a singing animal. The box office over the holiday weekend was absolutely dominated by ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, which scored an estimated $96.1 million for the Friday to Monday frame. Lucasfilm’s first-ever STAR WARS spinoff film lorded over pretty much all the newcomers at the box office for a very strong second week hold, much in the vein of how STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS showed excellent staying power in the weeks following its initial launch. Of course, the weekend overall is down versus last year as ROGUE ONE is no FORCE AWAKENS, but the film has amassed over $500 million worldwide including $317 million domestic, so while it’s not FORCE AWAKENS numbers, it’s certainly impressive all the same.

The other film that families seemed to flock to over the holiday was Illumination Entertainment’s SING, a music-centric animated feature from the studio that launched the DESPICABLE ME franchise. Sing came in at the number 2 slot for the weekend, pulling in a solid $56.1 million for the Friday to Monday stretch, putting its six-day debut at a swell $76.1 million. Those are great numbers for a film opening during the holidays opposite STAR WARS, and while Illumination had its first non-DESPICABLE ME mega-hit with this summer’s THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, Sing solidifies Illumination’s status as a formidable animation player—at least as far as the box office is concerned.

Things were less sunny for other new releases. Despite the starpower of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, PASSENGERS underwhelmed with a four-day weekend total of $23.1 million—well below Sony’s hopes of a total in the range of $30 million to $40 million. The expensive sci-fi pic suffered some poor reviews which may have detracted moviegoers, but it was always gonna be a tough battle with ROGUE ONE dominating multiplexes.

The comedy WHY HIM? grossed just $16.7 million over the four-day frame, but the biggest bomb of the holiday was the Michael Fassbender-fronted video game adaptation ASSASSIN’S CREED, which grossed only $16.7 million. That’s well below what New Regency and Fox were hoping, as the $125 million film was intended to launch a franchise. It’s still a bit puzzling why the studios would opt to open such an action-heavy film a week after ROGUE ONE hit theaters, but maybe they knew it was a stinker.

Red-Band ALIEN: COVENANT trailer brings the scares and gore, film due May 17, 2017!

20th Century Fox has unveiled the first trailer for director Ridley Scott’s ALIEN: COVENANT, and it is downright terrifying. While the filmmaker originally intended for his PROMETHEUS follow-up to focus on the further adventures of Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth and Michael Fassbender’s David, he subsequently opted to go a different direction. COVENANT finds Fassbender reprising his role as the android who is now the sole inhabitant of an “uncharted paradise” which is visited by the crew of the colony ship Covenant.

What I really like about the ALIEN: COVENANT trailer is it doesn’t ruin the movie. Too often Hollywood releases a trailer that spells out the entire film and you can pretty much guess every twist and turn. You know what this ALIEN: COVENANT trailer is telling me? A. Get ready to be scared and B. This is not going to be a PG-13 movie. While we only see glimpses of the carnage to come, a few weeks ago reporters got to see a few scenes from the movie at a 2017 press event at FOX and watched as the new aliens (Neomorphs) tore people to pieces. We’re talking brutal carnage and tons of blood.

Recently, Michael Fassbender spoke about the film and he said that Ridley Scott is aiming to really heighten the fright factor:

“This Alien is going to be… I’m very excited to see it and everybody in the film was saying this is a film that we all want to see. It’s much scarier than Prometheus but it’s got the same sort of scope of Prometheus. It’s kind of got more of the sort of thriller, imminent disaster feel that Alien had, so it’s kind of a beautiful meeting of both of those films. I’m really excited to see it, I think it’s gonna be super scary number one and then again with the massive scope of Prometheus… Once it starts and the ball starts rolling, it doesn’t let up. It’s really gonna bring chills to the cinema.”

Based on the this trailer, I really can’t wait to see the finished film. The film stars Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollet, Amy Seimetz, and Danny McBride. ALIEN: COVENANT opens in theaters on May 19th, 2017.

ARRIVAL’s Denis Villenueve in talks to direct Legendary’s DUNE film!

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Sometimes, dreams come true. Denis Villeneuve is becoming a bit of a Sci-Fi auteur with this year’s awards-contender ARRIVAL and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049, and earlier this year, the director revealed that it was an old dream of his to take on another Sci-Fi classic, Frank Herbert‘s DUNE. Well, lo and behold, Legendary got their hands on the Film and TV rights last month and now, the studio is in early talks with Villeneuve to direct.

Per Variety, it’s unknown as of now if Villeneuve would have any involvement in any television projects, just that he would direct the first film in what one assume’s is geared to become a franchise. Indeed, the long-running novel franchise spawned more than 20 books to date. Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, and Cale Boyter ,will produce, with the Herbert estate heads Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, and Kim Herbert serving as executive producers.

Here’s the Dune synopsis:

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 that launched the long-running series took home a Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. It has gone on to become one of the best-selling science fiction novels of all time with more than 12 million copies sold.

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. Alejandro Jodorowsky also famously attempted to adapt the property in the mid-70s, and that doomed project has been chronicled in the documentary JODOROWSKY’s DUNE.

In case you missed it, check out the first footage from Villeneuve’s BLADE RUNNER 2049 and keep an eye on ARRIVAL as we head into Awards season. The film is on the Oscar shortlist for visual effects, earned two Golden Globes nominations, and it’s likely in contention for Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture.

Wes Anderson announces next film as the stop-motion animated ISLE OF DOGS, releases teaser video!

In the wake of his largest success to date with THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, filmmaker Wes Anderson has been characteristically mum about his next project while simultaneously making his next project. It’s no secret that Anderson is currently in production on a new stop-motion animated film—his next directorial effort—and that it revolves around dogs. But that’s been about it as far as details go…until today.

Indeed, in a new video Anderson has formally announced ISLE OF DOGS, his new film, while also unveiling the impressive (and massive) voice cast. Edward Norton leads the ensemble as a dog named Rex, with the rest of the cast filled out as follows: Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Kunichi Nomura, Harvey Keitel, Akira Ito, Akira Takayama, Koyu Rankin, Yoko Ono, Courtney B. Vance, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, and Liev Schrieber.

This is, of course, Anderson’s second stop-motion animated feature after making his format debut with the 2009 masterpiece FANTASTIC MR. FOX. Anderson’s filmmaking sensibilities are the perfect fit for this particular artform, and while plot details for ISLE OF DOGS are under wraps, the mere prospect of Wes Anderson + dogs + stop-motion + this cast = one of my most anticipated films currently in development.

Production is ongoing in England at the moment, and given that he only just began filming this year it’s unlikely we’ll see ISLE OF DOGS released before 2018, but one hopes this is only the beginning in terms of teases.

THE EMOJI MOVIE trailer arrives, confirms creativity has been replaced with branding; film due August 4, 2017

Emojis are popular. Hollywood, discovering that something is popular and seeing the door “opened” by THE LEGO MOVIE (without realizing the amount of talent and skill that went into that picture), has now jumped on the bandwagon, and next year we’ll be getting THE EMOJI MOVIE. In the film, T.J. Miller (DEADPOOL) voices Gene, an outsider emoji who’s abnormal because he can display more than one expression. Gene “teams up with his handy best friend Hi-5 and the notorious codebreaker Jailbreak on an epic adventure through the apps on a teenager’s phone,” and because this movie is all about branding, expect to see “cameos” from Candy Crush Saga, Dropbox, Instagram, Just Dance, Spotify, Twitter, YouTube, Crackle, Facebook, Shazam, Snapchat, and Twitch. There’s the potential for this to be wry and clever, but more likely it’ll all go horribly wrong.

The first trailer is less than encouraging. Rather than sell the plot or even the main character, this trailer introduces us to Mel Meh (Steven Wright), the “Meh” emoji who’s also Gene’s father (I really don’t want to know how emoji procreation works). Perhaps some people will find it cute, but I assume others will respond with the “baffled” emoji, or, in an old-fashioned twist, question mark punctuation.

THE EMOJI MOVIE opens August 4, 2017.

New JUSTICE LEAGUE image assembles Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash!

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We’re less than a year away from the highly anticipated release of Zack Snyder‘s JUSTICE LEAGUE, the DCEU installment that will follow up on the events of next summer’s WONDER WOMAN. The epic team-up film brings Gal Gadot‘s Amazon warrior together with Ben Affleck‘s Batman, Ezra Miller‘s The Flash, and more. This trio is on display in a new image from the upcoming superhero smash-up.

EW premiered the image along with commentary from the film’s cast and crew. Director Snyder is “super happy with the chemistry of [his] league of justice doers,” which is good to hear since he’s currently in the middle of editing the November 2017 release. The movie itself will tackle the disparate heroes (and their egos) as they attempt to work together to overcome ever more deadly and dangerous supervillains. What egos, you ask? Well here’s how Miller describes his character:

“Flash is Ringo Starr. He annoys everybody, but he doesn’t have any specific beef with anyone. Uncle Fish Curry [Aquaman] is very grumpy. Dad [Batman] gets grumpy too. (He’s had a long life of fighting crime.) ­Wonder Woman is very considerate, so even though she’s annoyed with the Flash, she’s still very compassionate.”

Jason Momoa stars as Aquaman with Ray Fisher as Cyborg when JUSTICE LEAGUE opens November 17, 2017.