There’s a sad edge to this week’s round-up of the biggest news from Hollywood, as the movie industry waves goodbye to one of its all-time great comedy figures. Gene Wilder was a remarkable human being and will be sorely missed by all with even a passing interest in the silver screen.
Elsewhere, new details have emerged for the upcoming Jumanji sequel and a hell of a line-up was unveiled for this year’s London Film Festival.
Here’s all of this week’s movie news…
Comedy icon Gene Wilder dies, aged 83
The world of cinema lost one of its most iconic comedy performers this week when Gene Wilder, star of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, passed away at the age of 83 due to complications resulting from Alzheimer’s disease. Wilder, best known for his indelible take on Wonka, was a regular Mel Brooks collaborator, appearing in the likes of Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers. In a statement, Wilder’s nephew said that he had kept his illness secret out of a desire for the kids who recognise him as Willy Wonka not to feel sadness around him being ill. The statement added that Wilder “simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world”.
That anecdote typifies the approach that made Wilder such a memorable actor. His dedication to comedy was a sight to behold and his take on Willy Wonka has delighted audiences for generations since its 1971 release. Wilder was a fiercely intelligent comedian and a committed performer. His Wonka was truly magical and anyone should be proud to have a role like that as their legacy.
La La Land, Arrival, Free Fire for LFF galas
The BFI London Film Festival is one of the biggest events on the British film calendar and celebrates the best of film from around the world, as well as shining a spotlight on homegrown fare. This week, the full line-up for this year’s LFF was unveiled and it is packed with must-see releases ahead of awards season and the latest from the British industry. At the top of the bill are gala screenings for La La Land and Arrival, both fresh from receiving rave reviews after premiering at the Venice Film Festival.
Elsewhere, awards-tipped dramas The Birth of a Nation and Snowden will screen and the festival will close with Ben Wheatley‘s latest film Free Fire. The British spotlight will fall on director Amma Asante, whose latest A United Kingdom is set to be the LFF curtain raiser. It’s a formidable line-up of films, creating one of the most varied programmes the festival has provided in recent years.
Jumanji gets Karen Gillan and concept art
Despite the impressive star power of Dwayne Johnson, recently confirmed as the highest paid actor in Hollywood, there has been relatively little buzz around the sequel to Jumanji, which is being developed over at Sony. There was movement on the project this week, when former Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan was added to the cast in the lead female role. Elsewhere, we got our first look at concept art for Johnson’s character, Dr Bravestone, via his Instagram page.
Gillan is a solid casting choice for the film, given her impressive turn in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not enough to provoke much interest for what is a rather uninspired sequel idea, but the film is certainly establishing a cast packed with reliable presences. The film is about to commence filming in Hawaii and is set to be released in July 2017.
Internet blows up over Deathstroke video
Bafflingly, the continued development of the DC Extended Universe is still interesting to enough people that the internet exploded earlier this week thanks to a video posted by Ben Affleck on his Twitter page. The clip showed comic book villain Deathstroke, hinting that the villain will imminently be pitted against Affleck’s Batman in either the Justice League movie or the Caped Crusader’s forthcoming solo movie. The Wrap later reported that Deathstroke will be the main villain in the solo Batman movie, in which Affleck will both direct and star.
Deathstroke is a decent choice for a Batman villain, if a rather safe and unimpressive one. He isn’t a box office draw in the same way as the Joker and he may be too similar to Deadpool for cinema audiences. Comic book fans will know that the ‘Merc With a Mouth’ was created as Marvel’s own answer to Deathstroke, but for moviegoers, Ryan Reynolds got there first. It’s going to take more than a brief Twitter tease to get fans interested in DC again after the double disappointment of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
Favreau returns to Marvel for Spidey
It seems like just about everybody in Hollywood is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, free to flit in and out of the studio’s movies as and when they are needed. Jon Favreau, fresh from his success as director of The Jungle Book, will be the latest Marvel alumnus to return to the fold when he reprises the role of Happy Hogan. Variety reported this week that Favreau will appear alongside franchise newcomer Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The film, which will be the first solo adventure for Spidey since he was accepted into the MCU, is currently shooting in Atlanta. I would imagine that Favreau’s role will be relatively small, but it will be great to see Hogan back in the Marvel world and it will be interesting to see how he interacts with Peter Parker, who seemed to be positioned as Tony Stark’s protege when he appeared in Captain America: Civil War.
Pitch Perfect 3 signs new director
The future for the Pitch Perfect franchise seemed somewhat bleak when the second film’s director, Elizabeth Banks, stepped away from the third installment. Universal has acted quickly though to find a replacement, netting Trish Sie, best known as the director of Step Up: All In. She hasn’t got all that much experience of helming major movies, but she will certainly know her way around a musical number after her work in the Step Up franchise and she has received the support of Banks on social media.
Pitch Perfect 2 was a definite step down from the instantly memorable quality of the first in the series, but the franchise remains reliably entertaining thanks to Anna Kendrick and the rest of its cast. It may have lost its main punching bag in the shape of TV juggernaut Glee, but the series remains a witty and entertaining musical comedy with plenty of bite.
Alison Brie to get in the ring
I’m breaking my own rules here by including a TV show, but this story combines professional wrestling and one of the stars of Community, so it gets a spot. According to Deadline, Alison Brie has netted a role in new Netflix series G.L.O.W. The series will tell the story of the Reagan era female wrestling league Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, which was established as a counterpoint to the male-dominated WWF. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch will act as showrunners for the ten-part series.
Brie should be a good fit for the lead role as a struggling actress who finds herself thrust into the world of pro wrestling as her last chance at stardom. She was great in Community and has excelled in recent film roles, despite being underwritten in many of them. As a big wrestling fan, this will be a must-watch for me when it arrives on Netflix.
What are your memories of Gene Wilder? Which films are you most excited for at LFF? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.