Christmas is out of the way and we are now in 2017, but the year of shocking celebrity deaths had two horrible shocks left to deal the world. In the days between Christmas and New Year, the film community said goodbye to Star Wars legend Carrie Fisher and, only a day or two later, her mother Debbie Reynolds, best known for Singin’ in the Rain. At the end of a year that has seen the loss of so many cinematic icons, this was a particularly bitter shock.
Elsewhere, the first full-length trailer for Alien: Covenant arrived online and there was good news for Scarlett Johansson as she topped a list of financial big hitters. And also, there’s going to be a movie about Nigel Farage, so it looks like there’s no chance of leaving all of that nastiness behind in 2016.
Here’s your movie news round-up.
Goodbye Carrie Fisher
For several generations of film fans, Carrie Fisher is a true legend. She created an icon of the silver screen with the sharp-tongued badass Princess Leia, who became simultaneously a strong, independent role model for women everywhere and also a sex symbol. Outside of that role, which she memorably reprised in 2015 with sequel The Force Awakens, she never made box office strides, but did perform memorable supporting turns in the likes of When Harry Met Sally and Drop Dead Fred. She was arguably even more significant away from cinema, where her frank discussion of mental illness and personal demons helped to inspire many. Fisher, who was only 60 years old, will be sorely missed.
It was only a day or so after the sad news about Fisher broke that we heard that her mother, Debbie Reynolds, had passed away at the age of 84 following a severe stroke. Reynolds shot to fame with her role alongside Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain and was subsequently nominated for an Oscar and five Golden Globes. There’s no doubt that, with the sad passing of Fisher and Reynolds, this was a particularly cruel end to 2016.
Alien: Covenant wished us a gory Christmas
We don’t know all that much about Alien: Covenant, which will mark Ridley Scott‘s return to the Alien universe after his divisive origin tale Prometheus. On Christmas Day, however, a bloody, brutal trailer for the film landed online in one of the more bizarre gifts given over the festive period. It’s a grisly teaser for the film that seems to suggest a tone closer to the original Alien‘s outer space haunted house than the immensely wordy philosophy of Prometheus.
The main returning character appears to be Michael Fassbender as David, with the actor also playing another android in the film. It’s a trailer that keeps the plot details relatively light, but provokes real atmosphere and teases that, after decades in the wilderness, this is a franchise that has teeth once again. Alien: Covenant is due to arrive in cinemas in May 2017.
Gosling and Chazelle head to the moon
We could be on the cusp of our next big director-star partnership in Hollywood. La La Land duo Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling are set to join forces once again for First Man – a biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong. The story is adapted from a hard-hitting biography of Armstrong focusing on the decade or so leading up to the 1969 mission that saw him become the first man to set foot on the moon. Spotlight scribe Josh Singer has penned the script and the film looks set to go in front of cameras in the early part of this year, according to Variety.
This is a bit of a change of pace for Chazelle, leaving the world of music behind to make a more straightforward drama. With Gosling on board, however, and one of the most important figures in modern American history as the subject, the film has major awards pedigree and it would not be at all surprising to see First Man right in the Oscars mix when it is released.
ScarJo tops list of box office hit actors
It’s always fun to have a look at the various lists Forbes puts out about the economics of film and, this week, the site revealed the top-grossing actors of the year. The list was dominated by the stars of Captain America: Civil War, which was the year’s highest-grossing movie, and it was Black Widow herself who landed top spot. Scarlett Johansson beat co-stars Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr into joint second place thanks to her boost from the Coens’ nostalgia comedy Hail, Caesar!. Margot Robbie made it into fourth for her work in Suicide Squad and The Legend of Tarzan.
It’s no surprise to see superheroes dominating the list, but a rather pleasant shock to see such a strong contingent of women at the top. Johansson and Robbie have both had excellent years and things only promise to get better for them both, with the former about to lead buzzy cyberpunk thriller Ghost in the Shell and Robbie unofficially anointed as the queen bee of the DC universe. Now when can we get that Black Widow solo movie?
Directors gave Stone’s gags to men
It seems crazy that anyone could ever undervalue Emma Stone. From the moment she burst on to the scene with teen movies like Superbad and Easy A, she has been part of the comedy furniture and also excelled in blockbusters like The Amazing Spider-Man. However, in an interview with Rolling Stone to promote La La Land, the star revealed that she has fallen victim to old-fashioned Hollywood sexism. She claimed that she has been shut down by directors when offering ideas and even alleged that some of the jokes she improvised were handed over to male co-stars.
The saddest thing about this story is how entirely unsurprising it is. I have long since stopped being shocked by tales of the film industry mistreating women that it’s not that much of a surprise to hear that even a woman as talented as Emma Stone, who is almost certainly on the cusp of Oscar glory this year, had her talent questioned. Stone is an exceptional comedic performer and it’s heartening that she is being given the opportunities to take on roles as varied as those in Spider-Man, Birdman and La La Land.
Villeneuve in talks to reboot Dune
A month or so ago, Legendary picked up the rights to Frank Herbert’s Dune, which was famously made into a rather divisive film by David Lynch. The studio is now circling a director for their new take on the material and, according to Variety, it’s Denis Villeneuve in their crosshairs. The talented filmmaker behind Arrival will next be seen at the helm of another big name sci-fi movie, with belated sequel Blade Runner 20149. Given his gradual evolution into a big-budget sci-fi filmmaker, taking on the sprawling world of Dune seems to be a fairly obvious choice.
The jury will be out on Villeneuve’s Dune until we have had chance to see Villeneuve’s Blade Runner. We know that he excels when given the opportunity to tell grounded, human stories so it will be interesting to see what he brings to a big sci-fi franchise with name recognition value for audiences who expect something very specific. On the strength of his previous work, though, more or less everything Villeneuve touches almost immediately turns to gold.
Farage goes from Brexit to big screen
The grinning face of Nigel Farage has been ubiquitous on our television sets this year, whether he was standing in front of a racist sign during the Brexit campaign or getting behind a racist in the American presidential race. With both of those votes in the can, there was a sigh of relief at an end to Farage. That has proved to be shortlived with the announcement that a movie featuring the former Ukip leader is in the works at Warner Brothers. The Telegraph reported that the studio is in talks with millionaire Arron Banks to make a film based on his campaign diary The Bad Boys of Brexit.
This is, on the face of it, rather disturbing news in that it looks likely that any film based on these memoirs would be a smug, chummy comedy about a bunch of “loveable” campaigners getting into scrapes as they attempt to change politics. In my mind, it’s going to be like The Riot Club, but without the biting satire. Perhaps a better comparison would be Made in Chelsea for middle-aged people. I’m sure it will sit well with the Clarkson crowd. Expect sales of real ale to shoot up at the multiplex.
What are your memories of the late, great Carrie Fisher? Did you think the Alien: Covenant trailer showed enough bite? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.