This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering new titles like Firestarter, The Lion King 2, and Thing One and Thing Two.
For the most part, the recent Spider-Man movies starring Tom Holland have made it distinctly clear that they don’t take place in the same world as the previous Spider-Man movies starring either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. On the other hand, there have been some small hints, including the re-introduction of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far from Home (Certified Fresh at 90%) and, of course, the whole notion that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is about alternate reality Spider-heroes, that might have indicated otherwise. The latter movie might indeed be the best way to explain yesterday’s news that Jamie Foxx is set to return as Electro in the next solo Spider-Man movie starring Tom Holland. Foxx previously played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Rotten at 51%), which was the last film to feature the Andrew Garfield version of Peter Parker. For now, we’re left to wonder exactly how Foxx’s Electro fits into the new film, but the two most obvious explanations are either that his Electro will be introduced as a new character (as if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 never happened), or Electro will come from another alternate reality (such as the Andrew Garfield movies). Of course, the second option would be something of a fake-out, since much of the marketing of Spider-Man: Far from Home hinged upon the idea that the evil villain Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) was actually a superhero from another dimension. The third Spider-Man movie starring Tom Holland doesn’t have a title yet, but it does have a release date of November 5, 2021 (COVID-19 delays notwithstanding).
Let’s start this story by specifically addressing some language, because you will see all sorts of answers online. The version of The Lion King (Rotten at 52%) that Walt Disney Pictures released last year is probably best described as being “photorealistic CGI,” and not “live action,” since all but a few seconds of the movie was computer animated. Although that Rotten score may have stung a little, the film was absolutely an astounding success for Walt Disney Pictures, ending 2019 as the year’s second-highest-grossing box office hit, behind only Avengers: Endgame (the highest-grossing movie ever). So it’s perhaps not at all surprising that Disney is moving forward with plans for a sequel. The studio, possibly hoping to earn a stronger critical reception this time around, is upping its game by hiring director Barry Jenkins, who is probably still best known for his 2016 film Moonlight (Certified Fresh at 98%), which won three Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and in a historic reveal, Best Picture. It’s not yet known if the Lion King sequel will serve as a remake in any way of the sequels that the original animated movie received, which included The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (Fresh at 62%) and The Lion King 1 1/2 (Fresh at 78%). Early word seems to suggest that instead of adapting either of those sequels directly, at least some of the film will serve as a prequel depicting the early years of Mufasa, Simba’s father. The Lion King sequel is being written by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who also wrote last year’s film.
Zendaya became the youngest person ever to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for HBO’s Euphoria on September 20th, and within nine days, she has already scored her next major lead role. Recent awards-friendly distributor A24 (Moonlight, Room, The Florida Project) is preparing an adaptation of the memoir Be My Baby by 1960s pop music icon Ronnie Spector of the singing group The Ronettes. As part of the deal, A24 has attached Zendaya to star as Spector, and for Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview) to adapt the screenplay. Similarly to the way in which Aretha Franklin endorsed Jennifer Hudson to portray her in the upcoming biopic Respect, Ronnie Spector reportedly personally chose Zendaya to depict her in the film. The role of music producer Phil Spector will also be a major one in the film (possibily like that of Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It?), but it has not been cast yet. Zendaya will next be seen in Dune (12/18/2020), the drama Malcolm & Marie (with Tenet star John David Washington), and as M.J. in the next Spider-Man movie (12/17/2021).
It’s probably a coincidence, but the new Idris Elba movie announced this week bears some surface similarities to not just one, but two of Elba’s most famous films. Beast (not to be confused with Beasts of No Nation, Certified Fresh at 91%) will be a “survival thriller” about a killer lion (not to be confused with last year’s Cats). Although more specific details of the premise are being kept secret for now, Universal Pictures is comparing Beast to the shark thriller The Shallows, except that it’s set in the African savannah, and the threat is a killer lion instead of a killer shark. Beast will be directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who has plenty of prior experience with survival stories like Everest (Fresh at 73%) and Adrift (Fresh at 69%) — both true stories, by the way, presumably unlike Beast — and the screenplay was adapted by Ryan Engle (co-writer of the video game adaptation Rampage, Rotten at 51%). In related news, Idris Elba will also reunite with John Cena (one of his co-stars from next year’s The Suicide Squad) in an Amazon Studios action movie Heads of State.
During his career as a children’s author, Dr. Seuss (A.K.A. Theodor Geisel) wrote and illustrated dozens of books that might seem perfect for adaptation as feature films, but there have actually been only a handful of them: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who!, The Lorax, and The Grinch. J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company is teaming up with Warner Bros. to correct those omissions, starting with two animated features to be released in 2026 and 2027. The goal appears to be something like a “Dr. Seuss Cinematic Universe,” (also possibly to be called the “Seussiverse”) which will start with an animated adaptation of The Cat in the Hat in 2024 (separate from the Bad Robot productions), and then be followed by a spin-off of that book called Thing One and Thing Two in 2026. The third animated movie will be an adaptation of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (also the last Dr. Seuss book to be published during his lifetime), which Warner Bros is targeting for release in 2027.
Although this year’s awards season has been shaken up COVID-19, some Oscar-friendly movies will still see release, and one of them that appears more pandemic-proof is David Fincher’s Mank, about the making of Citizen Kane, because it’s a Netflix film, so streaming is built into its model, pandemic or not. Time will tell if Mank will indeed be one of the year’s major awards contenders, or whether it will find its audience (which was always part of the problem with Citizen Kane, too), but Hollywood is already preparing for another movie about the making of one of its greatest epic dramas. Oscar Isaac and Jake Gyllenhaal are both attached to star in the drama Francis and the Godfather, which will tell the story of how young film director Francis Ford Coppola (Isaac) struggled with Paramount chief Robert Evans (Gyllenhaal) to get his vision of The Godfather (Certified Fresh at 98%) produced, including his fight to get the studio to back his casting of Marlon Brando in the title role. Francis and the Godfather will be directed by Barry Levinson, whose own classic films include Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, and Wag the Dog.
One of the most enticing revelations about the upcoming Shazam! spinoff Black Adam (starring Dwayne Johnson) is that it will also serve as an introduction to the first live-action big-screen appearance of DC Comics’ original superhero team, the Justice Society of America. The first of the JSA members to be cast was Atom-Smasher, who will be played by Noah Centineo. That was a few months ago, but we now know that Centineo will also be joined by Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man, Hidden Figures) as Hawkman, who, unlike Atom-Smasher, was one of the original JSA members back in the 1940s (Atom Smasher’s JSA membership is much more recent in the comics). Hawkman is one of DC Comics’ heroes with the longest and arguably most convoluted backstories, and because he has been depicted a number of ways over the last 80 years, and it’s unclear which version will appear in Black Adam. Black Adam is expected to start filming in either late 2020 or early 2021 for a release date of December 21, 2021. As this piece points out, the introduction of Hawkman and the Justice Society of America in Black Adam may eventually lead to the team (or some of its members) getting their own spin-off movies as well.
The two young actors who play Anthony Anderson’s sons on Black-ish (Marcus Scribner and Miles Brown) have mostly stuck with just doing the show, but the actresses who play their sisters have been much more active, as Marsai Martin starred in last year’s Little (Rotten at 46%), and Yara Shahidi starred in The Sun is Also a Star (Rotten at 51%), as well as getting her own spin-off series, Grown-ish. It’s also relevant to point out that ABC (the network behind Black-ish and Grown-ish) is owned by Disney, which may be relevant to the news that Walt Disney Pictures has cast Yara Shahidi to be the new Tinker Bell in their live-action remake Peter Pan & Wendy. As suggested by the title, this new take on the classic Disney animated feature Peter Pan (Fresh at 81%) appears to place an extra emphasis on the friendship between Peter (Alexander Molony) and his friend Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson), in addition to the regular bits about the villainous Captain Hook (Jude Law). Peter Pan & Wendy will be directed by David Lowery, who also previously worked with Disney on their 2016 remake of Pete’s Dragon (Certified Fresh at 88%).
Author Stephen King had such a flurry of successful novels in the 1970s and 1980s (and so many of them were adapted as films) that it’s easy for some of them to be forgotten over time, as more attention goes to titles like The Shining, Carrie, Pet Sematary, Creepshow, and The Dead Zone, and not so much to movies like Cujo, Silver Bullet, and Firestarter. Released in 1984, Firestarter (Rotten at 34%) was far from a critical darling, but its cast was relatively impressive, as the title character was played by a young, post-E.T. Drew Barrymore, her caretaker was played by George C. Scott, and in a smaller role, her father was played by David Keith (An Officer and a Gentleman). The first casting news for Blumhouse’s Firestarter remake seems to suggest that the father character may have more screen time, as Zac Efron has signed on to play that role. That character was also more central in Stephen King’s novel, but the 1984 movie relegated most of his story to flashbacks; the choice of Efron suggests that the remake may stick closer to Stephen King’s original narrative. Firestarter will be directed by Keith Thomas (The Vigil, Fresh at 91%) from a screenplay adaptation by Scott Teems, co-writer of the upcoming sequel Halloween Kills.
It might feel like a lifetime ago, but it was less than seven months ago that the James Bond movie No Time to Die was one of the first major films to delay its release several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was moved by MGM from April 10th to November 25, 2020. Following the disappointing box office of recent films like Tenet, MGM announced today that they will be delaying the release of No Time to Die until Easter weekend next year, April 2, 2021. That was the same weekend that the next Fast and Furious movie, F9, was set to release, before Universal quickly responded by also pushing back that film more than a month to May 28, which is about a year after the film’s original release date back on May 22, 2020. The delaying of No Time to Die also means that there will be no major Hollywood films between now and Pixar’s Soul on November 20, and then after Soul, there are only two major blockbuster-level films still scheduled for 2020: Dune (12/18/2020) and Wonder Woman 1984 (12/25/2020). Will those three films hold on to their release dates, or will they also be delayed? And if they are delayed, what impact will the loss of most of 2020 have on the theatrical exhibition industry? We’ll have to wait and see.