New MEN IN BLACK spinoff film set for May 17, 2019; MIB 23 crossover not happening!

The MEN IN BLACK are back, and they’re on the fast track. It appears that Sony Pictures has finally settled on a way forward for the sci-fi franchise, as Deadline reports that the studio has set a MEN IN BLACK spinoff release date for May 17, 2019, where it’ll square off directly against JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3. The new film has a script by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, the duo who originated the first IRON MAN script and wrote TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT. However, this is not the MEN IN BLACK/21 JUMP STREET crossover (titled MIB 23) that had been in the works previously, with James Bobin (ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS) attached to direct and Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum starring.

Indeed, Hill previously predicted that MIB 23 would never actually happen, and Deadline notes that this new spinoff will instead build on the world from the first three MEN IN BLACK films and expand the universe to a global scale with new characters and new villains. The idea is something along the lines of how JURASSIC WORLD rebooted and sequelized the JURASSIC PARK franchise at the same time, and just as with that film, original stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are not expected to return.

Veteran producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who produced the first three MIB films as well as movies like CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and FLIGHT, are attached to produce, and Steven Spielberg will be returning as executive producer. With a script and release date set, Sony is now turning its attention to directors and expects to settle on someone shortly. Of Holloway and Marcum’s script, Parkes said the following:

“It’s so rare to get to the end of the script and know you’re holding a movie in your hands – but Art and Matt have written a spinoff that somehow is true to the core of the MIB world, and yet expands the franchise to a fresh new place.”

A previous draft was written by Oren Uziel, which would have taken the franchise in a darker and more hardened direction, but it appears the studio went a different direction. Regardless, this thing is definitely happening, so start that fancasting now!

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Kristen Stewart and Lupita N’yongo eyed for Elizabeth Banks’ CHARLIE’S ANGELS reboot

That CHARLIE’S ANGELS reboot is heating up, and if Sony Pictures gets who they really really want, it could be quite an interesting affair. Per Variety, Kristen Stewart is being eyed to take on a lead role in the redo, which Sony hopes is the beginning of a franchise. A number of other big names are also being considered, including Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, so they’re clearing aiming super high in casting for this thing.

Elizabeth Banks is attached to direct the reboot, after making her directorial debut on PITCH PERFECT 2. Now being “eyed” for a project is not the same as being in negotiations, and it’s unclear if Stewart would even be interested in a project like this, but it would mark a pretty hefty change of pace for the actress. After completing the TWILIGHT series that boosted her to superstardom, she made a series of fascinating and admirable choices, shying away from other blockbusters or even studio movies and instead choosing indie or foreign films with rich, complex characters. Movies like PERSONAL SHOPPER allowed Stewart to show off her dramatic chops in a big way, and she’s successfully navigated the transition from franchise superstar to genuinely great performer.

That said, taking on a female-centric action franchise like CHARLIE’S ANGELS could be a refreshing change of pace, and it’s not like Stewart would stop working on other interesting projects in the meantime. So I’m kinda for this casting, if only to see what kind of dynamic Stewart would bring to the project.

And Nyong’o, obviously, would be a huge get as well, especially since the actress has been hidden behind performance-capture work on THE JUNGLE BOOK and STAR WARS after her stunning turn in 12 YEARS A SLAVE. She was magnificent in last year’s drama QUEEN OF KATWE, and she has a role in the highly anticipated BLACK PANTHER, so really I’m down for any opportunity to see more of Lupita Nyong’o.

The project is on track towards a June 7, 2019 release and it’s clear casting has begun, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one shapes up.

Taking notes from WONDER WOMAN, DC/WB to “de-emphasize” interconnectivity in the DCEU!

It’s no secret that Warner Bros. and DC Films have had trouble finding their way as far as the DC Extended Universe is concerned, but there seems to be agreement that they may finally be hitting upon a solid road ahead. This summer’s WONDER WOMAN, the fourth film under the DCEU banner after MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and SUICIDE SQUAD, was the studio’s first unqualified success both commercially and critically (it’s about to become the highest grossing superhero origin story ever), and the touchstones of that movie are paving the way forward in more ways than one.

Fans and critics alike noted WONDER WOMAN’s emphasis on warmth, humanity, and humor over grit and depression, and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns has already noted those are touchstones for future DCEU films. But in a new lengthy profile in Vulture, it’s revealed that the DC Films folks are taking another lesson from WONDER WOMAN: pull back on the whole “cinematic universe” thing. DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson, who along with Johns has helped forge this path forward, broke the news:

They’re not giving up on the idea of continuity, but they want to deemphasize the idea that all of these flicks are occupying the same space. “Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn’t make sense, but there’s no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe,” says Nelson, drawing nods from the top brass around her.

This is an incredibly smart move. Warner Bros. got off on the wrong foot thinking they could fast forward to the same success that Marvel had with its Marvel Cinematic Universe, but copying what’s already working isn’t the way forward—putting your own twist on that is. Here, Warner Bros. can do what Marvel cannot: offer filmmakers a larger degree of creative freedom to make their films really stand out as their own, while keeping some loose connectivity from film to film.

“The movie’s not about another movie,” says Johns. “Some of the movies do connect the characters together, like Justice League. But, like with Aquaman” — one of their next efforts, out in 2018 — “our goal is not to connect Aquaman to every movie.” As Nelson puts it, “Moving forward, you’ll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who’s creating them.”

One of the ways they’re doing this is with a brand new yet-to-be-named arm that will create entirely standalone DC films, wholly disconnected from the DCEU with different actors in the roles. The first one in development is a JOKER movie to be directed by Todd Phillips, and Johns confirms this plan is in place but they haven’t announced the name of this new label just yet.

The profile offers a lot of insight into how, exactly, DC got to where it is right now, painting Johns and Nelson as champions of a lighter DCEU who were shushed or ignored in the early days. Christopher Nolan hatched the idea for MAN OF STEEL with David S. Goyer and offered two names as top choices to direct: Zack Snyder and Darren Aronofsky. Warner Bros. went with the former and the rest is history.

“Geoff Johns and Diane were reading scripts, and Geoff Johns, to his credit, was concerned that there was not enough lightness or humor, given who the character is,” recalls one person with knowledge of the making of Man of Steel. “Geoff definitely raised that point, but that current administration didn’t care that much about what Geoff Johns thought.”

After Johns helped create the CW superhero universe with shows like ‘Arrow’ and ‘The Flash’, and after a couple of poorly received films, Warner Bros. brought Johns and Nelson in to take a stronger creative hold on the DCEU, and that began in earnest in the development of WONDER WOMAN. “Heart, heroics, humanity, and humor” are the four things that DC Films co-head Jon Berg says they talk about with regards to the DCEU going forward, and you can expect to see that on full display in next summer’s AQUAMAN even if JUSTICE LEAGUE is a big ol’ question mark at this point.

Indeed, Johns and other WB heads declined to address the rumors of troubles on JUSTICE LEAGUE, but it’s possible Joss Whedon came in just in time to right the ship. We’ll find out this November, but regardless, Johns, Nelson, Berg and the rest of DC Films are finally forging a unique path forward for the DC Extended Universe: a series of superhero films with loose connectivity, maximum artistry, and an emphasis on heroics. That sounds pretty darn good to me.

Paramount and Bad Robot to develop YOUR NAME anime feature into live-action film!

Writer-director Makoto Shinkai‘s hit anime YOUR NAME is one of Japan’s best-performing films ever made with a total worldwide box office of over $355 million. It’s the 4th highest-grossing film in Japan itself, 7th among animated films worldwide, and #1 when it comes to anime, having taken over the spot from SPIRITED AWAY. Though it only took in about $5 million on domestic shores, YOUR NAME clearly became an international sensation. That’s unsurprising considering that the film is a touching drama, an engrossing romance, and a heartfelt comedy, but it is surprising since YOUR NAME is also a body-switching story between a male and female high school student that finds Japanese traditional and modern ways of living coming into conflict in original ways. It should have been an impossible balance to maintain, but YOUR NAME did it expertly well, thanks in big part to its medium as an anime.

So now, of course, American film companies wants to turn YOUR NAME into a live-action film. Toho Co. has partnered up with Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot to bring YOUR NAME to big screens with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer (ARRIVAL) penning the adaptation. Makoto Shinkai, who wrote the original novel before adapting it and directing the anime, is apparently on board, saying YOUR NAME was “created with the innate imaginations of a Japanese team and put together in a domestic medium. When such a work is imbued with Hollywood filmmaking, we may see new possibilities that we had been completely unaware of – I am looking forward to the live-action film with excited anticipation.”

Lindsey Weber will produce for Bad Robot alongside JJ Abrams, with Genki Kawamura, returning to produce after his role as producer of the original film. Toho handles distribution of the film in Japan. Kawamura was all-in as well, saying:

“Just like in the film it feels like a dream. Mr. Abrams and his team have captivated audiences in their masterful reinvention of known properties. And Mitsuha and Taki have found a perfect narrator, Mr. Heisserer, to tell their sci-fi infused love story, which gave the film such drive. The meetings so far have been creatively stimulating with fantastic ideas that no doubt will make for a great movie. I am greatly honored to work with these incredible creators in bringing to audiences the Hollywood live action version of Your Name.”

I’m confident that Abrams and Heisserer are up to the task, but I’m not so sure the task is a necessary one to begin with. The anime obviously achieved a high level of success by delivering a fantastic story in a medium that perfectly befits the tale; the live-action adaptation feels like a hollow attempt to cash in on its success. Hopefully Paramount has learned something from the white-washing controversy surrounding GHOST IN THE SHELL, among other anime adaptations, but something tells me that the Americanized version of YOUR NAME will not be casting Japanese leads. (I’d love to be proven wrong here.) Worse yet, an Americanization of YOUR NAME means the likely loss of the Japanese cultural traditions and history, and the very specific aspects of Tokyo living, things which make the story even richer.

CLEOPATRA: Denis Villeneuve in talks to direct biopic

Cleopatra VII Philopator, or just CLEOPATRA to her friends, might be heading to the big screen in the modern era after a long, long time searching for a director. Sony’s project centering on the Ancient Egyptian Queen has a script that has been put together in part by David Scarpa, Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland, though we’re hearing that the picture may go through re-development with Denis Villeneuve coming on board to direct.

As Deadline reports, the BLADE RUNNER 2049 director is in discussions with Sony Pictures to bring the bestselling Stacy Schiff biography “Cleopatra: A Life” into production as a feature film. The project is being produced by Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal. If a deal makes, this would also be a feather in the cap of Sony’s Tom Rothman who wants to stay in the Villeneuve business, having acquired international rights for ARRIVAL and recently partnered with Alcon Entertainment to finance BLADE RUNNER 2049. The studio will also open the sci-fi sequel in international markets.

CLEOPATRA has been in the works for some time. Back in 2010, Angelina Jolie was attached to the title role (when we naively asked if Brad Pitt would be playing Marc Antony, of course). Later that year, James Cameron was in talks to direct, but his AVATAR sequels took precedent for a 2014/15 release (HA! Try 2020 instead). Paul Greengrass emerged as a contender for director in early 2011. David Fincher followed that rumor a few months later and was considered to be circling until 2012 rolled around. Ang Lee showed interest in 2013, but that’s the last we’d heard about the project until today.

While Jolie’s part to play is still in question, if Villeneuve opts to take on CLEOPATRA, it’s probably the nail in the sarcophagus for his chance to direct the next JAMES BOND film. He could, however, work on re-developing CLEOPATRA while directing his next picture, which is expected to be a reboot of Frank Herbert‘s DUNE mythology for Legendary Entertainment.

Michelle Williams joins Tom Hardy in the cast of SPIDER-MAN spinoff VENOM!

With the film’s release only about a year away, Ruben Fleischer’s VENOM has added another name to its cast. Variety reports that Michelle Williams has signed on to star opposite Tom Hardy in the upcoming superhero spinoff. Per Variety, “sources say Williams would play a district attorney and possibly Hardy’s love interest.

VENOM is a big change of pace of Williams, who usually opts to work with auteurs or at least directors with a strong point of view and tone. Her last blockbuster was 2011’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, which at least offered her the benefit of playing Glinda the Good Witch as well as working with Sam Raimi, who at least is an interesting director. But more often than not, Williams chooses more challenging material like her roles in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and BLUE VALENTINE. She’s an actress who’s constantly finding new and interesting roles, so it’s surprising to see her sign on to play the love interest in a superhero movie.

For those unfamiliar with the character, VENOM starts off as jealous photographer Eddie Brock, but when he merges with the rejected alien symbiote that was previously Peter Parker’s black costume, he becomes Venom and has all of Spider-Man’s powers. However, as far as we know, Spider-Man will not be a part of the Venom movie. Yeah.

Scott Rosenberg (JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE) and Jeff Pinkner (THE DARK TOWER) are working on the script with Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series) producing alongside Amy Pascal. Variety confirms that Riz Ahmed is also on board to co-star with Hardy and Williams, although we still have no details on his role.

Williams will be seen later this year in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck as well as the musical THE GREATEST SHOWMAN starring Hugh Jackman. She’s still signed on to star in the Janis Joplin biopic JANIS and opposite Chris Pine in the spy drama ALL THE OLD KNIVES.

VENOM opens October 5, 2018.

Mike Dougherty wraps production on GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS with Halloween spirit!

That’s a wrap! Mike Dougherty‘s upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS has finished production and the writer-director has shared a pair of new images celebrating the occasion. Dougherty hasn’t exactly been active on social media during the shoot, though he did offer a rough first look at the atomic creature’s new design last week, so naturally, it’s time to scour the images for hints.

Good luck with that though, because there’s not much to see in the new behind-the-scenes photos. The first, posted on the last day of filming offers a little peek at the director’s workspace, including a Monarch mug, a Jack-o-Lantern, and a hat for the USS Scorpion. That last bit is particularly interesting. The Scorpion was a nuclear submarine that was lost at sea under mysterious conditions, costing the lives of the 99-man crew aboard the vessel and enduring as a long-running point of intrigue for historians and journalists. Seems just the kind of mystery primed for an interesting tie-in to Monarch’s shady history. Or Dougherty is just a history enthusiast.

Likewise, the Jack-o-Lantern could hint at the film’s setting — Dougherty directed TRICK R’ TREAT and is a diehard enthusiast for the holiday spirit (he also directed the Christmas horror KRAMPUS). I’d love it if he took the Shane Black technique and set all his films during a holiday, but with Halloween just around the corner, the director could just as easily be celebrating the holiday in earnest. Mysteries abound. We also get a peek at the monitors, but if you can tell what’s on them, you’re a wiser man than me. The second image offers a glimpse at Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah, who’ll be joining ‘zilla on his adventures this time around.

GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS opens March 22, 2019 and stars Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, and Zhang Ziyi. Here’s the official synopsis:

“The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.”