Highlander Remake Brings in Ant-Man 2 Writers

There can only be one. Or, in this case, two, when it comes to who is writing the screenplay for the upcoming Highlander reboot. It looks like Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, the screenwriting duo behind Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, have been brought on board to write the script for the reboot. This project has been talked about for quite some time, but with some fresh writers on board, we may actually see it happen in the not-too-distant future.

According to a new report, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari are currently writing Highlander, which doesn’t yet have a release date. It isn’t clear at the moment if they are writing an entirely new draft, or if they’re revising Noah Oppenheim’s (Jackie, The Maze Runner) version. The duo have been picking up heat lately, as they also have the upcoming thriller Die In a Gunfight in the way, in addition to their work with Marvel. As of now, Chad Stahelski of John Wick fame is still attached to direct the movie, but there’s no word on when production could begin as of yet. It still sounds like the studio is working things out behind-the-scenes and doesn’t want to pull the trigger until the time is right.

As of now, there’s no word on what direction this Highlander reboot will take and, since some new writers have come on board, anything that may have been rumored previously could be off the table. It also isn’t known who is going to star. At one point, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) was attached to the lead role, but that was some time ago and he’s since become a very busy man. There were also reports that Dave Bautista of Guardians of the Galaxy was going to play the villain, but that hasn’t been confirmed either.

The original Highlander was released in 1986 and follows a Scottish swordsman who must battle his immortal counterpart so that he may become the sole member of this immortal and legendary line of men. Despite not being a huge box office hit, the movie has gained cult status and spawned four live-action sequels, in addition to an animated movie. The most recent was 2007′s Highlander: The Source. There has also been various novels, comic books and a short-lived animated series, in addition to the popular live-action Highlander show from the 90s.

Chad Stahelski is currently busy prepping John Wick: Chapter 3, which he’s expected to direct next summer. That means he’s going to be busy for a while, so this Highlander reboot, assuming Lionsgate still wants Stahelski to direct, probably wouldn’t start shooting until the beginning of 2019 at the absolute earliest. According to this new report from Omega Underground, there’s also a possibility that the Highlander reboot will be shooting in South Africa. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date as new details on the project are made available.


Disney and Fox Deal Expected to Be Announced This Thursday

It has been reported that the Disney and Fox merger is all set to be finalized this Thursday since Comcast has dropped out of the bidding war. This is big news and it will have ramifications beyond bringing the X-Men to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some believe Fantastic Four isn’t even part of the deal. A lot of people are not excited about the merger and worry about how it could negatively impact the movie industry, but there’s not much anyone can do to stop the merger from happening now. Fox’s stock price has risen 1% and Disney’s has gone up a fraction this week since Comcast bailed out on Monday.

CNBC reportedly has a source very close to the merger deal and they claim that the deal is on the “glide path,” and that if everything goes according to plan, the deal will be finalized this Thursday with a press announcement, which would put it right in place with the reports from last week that revealed that the deal was close to being finalized. It has proven to be a heated battle, but in the end, the House of Mouse has finished on top, as expected. If the announcement does come through as predicted, Thursday could be a milestone day for Disney, which is also launching the eighth installment of the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi, with projections of a global debut weekend haul north of $400 million.

Speaking of Star Wars, this would give Disney the rights to the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy, which many have asked for over the last two decades. It may be possible that a special edition might see the light of day, since Fox owning the rights was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. The potential for the MCU to expand is now pretty much limitless, which has raised just as much excitement as it has questions. Deadpool in the Disney realm along with The Simpsons is a very interesting prospect that has creators and fans more than a little scared of what could happen to those properties.

Logan director James Mangold has thrown his opinion into the mix, claiming that the Fox and Disney merger could mean less movies. The director spoke at a recent Q&A about the subject where he revealed why he thinks it would mean less movies. Mangold had this to say.

“If they’re actually changing their mandate, if what they’re supposed to do alters, that would be sad to me because it just means less movies…The real thing that happens when you make a movie rated R, behind the scenes, is that the studio has to adjust to the reality that there will be no Happy Meals. There will be no action figures. The entire merchandising, cross-pollinating side of selling the movie to children is dead before you even start. And when that’s dead, it means you’re making a grown-up movie.”

James Mangold brings up an interesting point. There won’t be a dude in a Deadpool costume hanging out at Disneyland and they’re certainly won’t be any Cable and Deadpool Happy Meal toys to promote the movie, which is a major component to Disney’s business model.

It is unclear just what exactly Disney’s motives are for the merger, so worrying about merchandising and less movies isn’t really something to worry about at this time. That said, it’s hard to fathom that Disney will spend billions of dollars and not capitalize on the assets that Fox has already built in its storied history, including their successful R-rated projects. This is a developing story and more news is expected to drop soon, but in the meantime, head over to CNBC for more details.


Last Jedi Is Set to Break Records and Demolish the Box Office

For many fans, the entire year has been leading up to this very weekend, with Disney and LucasFilm’s highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi hitting theaters. The movie is shaping up to pass the current records this year for opening weekend ($174.7 million), domestic gross ($504 million) and worldwide gross ($1.26 billion), which are all currently held by another Disney hit, Beauty and the Beast. Last month, The Last Jedi box office projections put the movie at just over $200 million for its opening weekend, and now with the hype even bigger than before, we’re putting The Last Jedi at $220.7 million.

While the $220.7 million mark is still more than enough to claim the top box office opening of 2017, it still falls $20.2 million short of the all-time record, $247.9 million set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the full review embargo has yet to break, the Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiere reactions have been exceedingly positive, and it should join Star Wars: The Force Awakens (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (85% on Rotten Tomatoes) as critical hits, while claiming the top spot at the box office for the third year in a row. The movie is expected to open in roughy 4,175 theaters this weekend, a slight increase from the 4,134 rollout of The Force Awakens and the 4,157 debut of Rogue One.

If this opening weekend hits these projections, then it also seems unlikely that Star Wars: The Last Jedi will break anther box office record set by The Force Awakens, the all time domestic mark of $936.6 million, which shattered the previous mark of $760.5 million set by James Cameron’s Avatar. It couldn’t surpass the $2.7 billion global record set by Avatar, or the $2.1 billion by James Cameron’s Titanic, finishing its run with $2.06 billion for third best of all time. As for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to have a shot at contending with the all-time domestic and worldwide records, it would need both a record-breaking debut and some impressive longevity, which may be an issue since its the longest Star Wars movie ever, with the original Last Jedi cut coming in over 3 hours..

Even if it doesn’t break any box office records, The Last Jedi will still give a last-minute boost to the sagging box office, which has seen Coco win the last three weekends in a row, with hardly any new competition in theaters, as the competition cleared out to pave the way for this new adventure featuring Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, who may be getting an Oscar campaign, Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. 20th Century Fox’s animated adventure Ferdinand, featuring a voice cast lead by WWE Superstar John Cena, is opening in roughly 3,600 theaters, and we’re predicting that it will debut in a far-distant second place with $20.6 million, which isn’t all that bad, considering its circumstances.

We’re predicting the top 10 will be rounded out by Coco ($9.1 million), Justice League ($5.1 million), Wonder ($4.2 million), The Disaster Artist ($3.4 million), Thor: Ragnarok ($3.1 million), Daddy’s Home 2 ($2.8 million), Murder on the Orient Express ($2.4 million) and Lady Bird ($1.9 million). Also arriving in limited release next weekend is Magnolia’s Permanent, Vertical Entertainment’s Beyond Skyline and Well Go USA’s The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia. Next weekend will be the final major weekend of the year, with Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman on Earth opening on Wednesday, December 20, Paramount’s Downsizing, Warner Bros.’ Father Figures and Universal’s Pitch Perfect 3 arriving on Friday, December 22 and Sony’s All the Money in the World, which replaced Christopher Plummer for Kevin Spacey at the last minute, the only wide release arriving on Christmas Day. Take a look at our top 10 projections for the weekend of December 15, and check back Sunday for the top 10 estimates, courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

1Star Wars: The Last Jedi
4Justice League
6The Disaster Artist
7Thor: Ragnarok
8Daddy’s Home 2
9Murder on the Orient Express
10Lady Bird


Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Thumb last jedi

Writer/director Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a sprawling, incident- and character-packed extravaganza that picks up at the end of “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens” and guides the series into unfamiliar territory. It’s everything a fan could want from a “Star Wars” film and then some. Even the sorts of viewers who spend the entire running time of movies anticipating every plot twist and crowing “called it!” when they get one right are likely to come up short here. But the surprises usually don’t violate the (admittedly loose) internal logic of the universe George Lucas invented, and when they seem to, it’s because the movie has expanded the mythology in a small but significant way, or imported a sliver of something from another variant of Lucas’ creation (Genddy Tartakovsky’s magnificent TV series “Clone Wars” seems to have influenced the last act).  

The first part of “The Last Jedi” cross-cuts between the remnants of our heroes’ ragtag fleet (led by the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia) running away from the First Order, aka the next-generation version of the Empire; and Rey (Daisy Ridley) on the aquatic planet Ahch-To (gesundheit!) trying to convince the self-exiled Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, whose sandblasted face becomes truly iconic in close-ups) to overcome his grief at failing a group of young Jedi trainees and rejoin the Resistance. The New Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis plus CGI) has grand plans for both Rey and his Darth Vader-obsessed apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The leathery old coot may not be a great bad guy—he’s too much of a standard-issue deep-voiced sadist, in a Marvel mode—but he is quite the chess player, and so is Johnson.  

I’m being vague here on purpose. Suffice to say that, despite being comprised of variations on things we’ve been experiencing directly (in “Star Wars” films) and indirectly (in “Star Wars”-inspired entertainment) since 1977, “The Last Jedi” still manages to maneuver in unexpected ways, starting with the decision to build a whole film around a retreat where the goal is not to win but to avoid being wiped out. Along that narrative backbone “The Last Jedi” strings what amount to several tight, often hastily devised mini-missions, each of which either moves the heroes (or villains) closer to their goals or blows up in their faces. The story resolves in lengthy, consecutive climaxes which, refreshingly, don’t play like a cynical attempt to pad things out. Old business is resolved, new business introduced.

And from scene to scene, Johnson gives veteran characters (Chewbacca and R2-D2 especially) and those who debuted in “The Force Awakens” enough screen time to showcase them at their best while also introducing compelling new faces (including a heroic maintenance worker, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico; a serene and tough vice admiral in the Resistance, played by Laura Dern; a sort of “safecracker” character played by Benicio Del Toro). 

Johnson’s script does a better job than most sequels of giving the audience both what it wants and what it didn’t know it wanted. The movie leans hard into sentiment, most of it planted in the previous installment, some related to the unexpected passing of one of its leads (Fisher—thank goodness they gave her a lot of screen time here, and thrilling things to do). But whenever it allows a character to cry (or invites us to) the catharsis feels earned. It happens rather often—this being a film preoccupied with grieving for the past and transcending it, populated by hounded and broken people who are afraid hope will be snuffed out. 

Rey’s anguish at not knowing who her parents are and Kylo Ren’s trauma at killing his own father to advance toward his “destiny” literally as well as figuratively mirror each other. Lifting a bit of business glimpsed briefly in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” Johnson lets these all-powerful characters telepathically “speak” to each other across space as easily as you or I might Skype with a friend. This gimmick offers so much potential for drama and wry humor that you might wonder why nobody did it earlier. 

Sometimes “The Last Jedi” violates our expectations in a cheeky way that stops short of telling super-fans to get over themselves. There’s a touch of “Spaceballs” and “Robot Chicken” to some of the jokes. Snoke orders Kylo to “take off that ridiculous helmet,” Luke chastises an old friend for showing a nostalgic video by muttering “That was a cheap move,” and an early gag finds one of the heroes calling the bridge of a star destroyer and pretending to be stuck on hold. This aspect adds a much-needed dash of self-deprecating humor (“The Force Awakens” was often a stitch as well, especially when Han Solo, Chewbacca, BB-8 and John Boyega’s James Garner-like hero/coward Finn were onscreen), but without going so meta that “The Last Jedi” turns into a smart-alecky thesis paper on itself.

The movie works equally well as an earnest adventure full of passionate heroes and villains and a meditation on sequels and franchise properties. Like “The Force Awakens,” only more so, this one is preoccupied with questions of legacy, legitimacy and succession, and includes multiple debates over whether one should replicate or reject the stories and symbols of the past. Among its many valuable lessons is that objects have no worth save for the feelings we invest in them, and that no individual is greater than a noble idea.

Johnson has made some very good theatrical features, but the storytelling here owes the most to his work on TV’s “Breaking Bad,” a playfully convoluted crime drama that approached each new installment like a street illusionist: no matter where you decided to fix your eyes, the source of delight was always in the hand you weren’t looking at. There are points where the film appears to have miscalculated or made an outright lame choice (this become worrisome in the middle, when Dern’s Admiral Holdo and Oscar Isaac’s hotshot pilot Poe Dameron are at loggerheads), but then you realize that it was a setup for another payoff that lands harder because you briefly doubted that “The Last Jedi” does, in fact, know what it’s doing. 

This determination to split the difference between surprise and inevitability is encoded in “The Last Jedi” down to the level of scenes and shots. How many Star Destroyers, TIE fighters, Imperial walkers, lightsabers, escape pods, and discussions of the nature of The Force have we seen by now? Oodles. But Johnson manages to find a way to present the technology, mythology and imagery in a way that makes it feel new, or at least new-ish, starting with a shot of Star Destroyers materializing from hyperspace in the sky over a planet (as seen from ground level) and continuing through images of Rebel ships being raked apart by Imperial cannon fire like cans on a shooting range and, hilariously, a blurry video conference in which the goggle-eyed warrior-philosopher Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o) delivers important information while engaging in a shootout with unseen foes. (She calls it a “union matter.”) 

There’s greater attention paid here to color and composition than in any entry since “The Empire Strikes Back.” Particularly dazzling are Snoke’s throne room, with its Dario Argento-red walls and red-armored guards, and the final battle, set on a salt planet whose flat white surfaces get ripped up to reveal shades of crimson. (Seen from a distance, the battlefield itself seems to be bleeding.) The architecture of the action sequences is something to behold. A self-enclosed setpiece in the opening space battle is more emotionally powerful than any action sequence in any blockbuster this year, save the “No Man’s Land” sequence of “Wonder Woman,” and it’s centered on a character we just met.  

There are spots where the film can’t figure out how to get the characters to where it needs them to be and just sort of shrugs and says, “And then this happened, now let’s get on with it.” But there are fewer such moments than you might have gone in prepared to forgive—and really, if that sort of thing were a cinematic crime, Howard Hawks would have gotten the chair. Most importantly, the damned thing moves, both in a plot sense and in the sense of a skilled choreographer-dancer who has visualized every millisecond of his routine and practiced it to the point where grace seems to come as easily as breathing. Or skywalking.     


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