News Round-up – Avatar 2 to finally shoot, Keaton could be Dumbo villain, Ridley Scott’s new project and more

It has been something of a slow news week in the world of cinema, with the world of blockbusters oddly quiet after last week’s dump of major trailers. There is, however, some intriguing news about a few big upcoming movies and a selection of casting announcements that suggest there’s great material on the horizon from some of Hollywood’s best actors and directors.

Here’s your movie news round-up…


Cameron prepares to finally shoot Avatar 2

James Cameron's epic Avatar is the highest-grossing film of all time
James Cameron’s epic Avatar is the highest-grossing film of all time

After years of pledging an expansive series of Avatar sequels, it seems like James Cameron could finally be set to deliver on his promises. Sigourney Weaver told The Hollywood Reporter this week that production is set to begin on Avatar 2 this autumn – the first of four planned sequels. Cameron has previously stated his intention to film a number of the sequels simultaneously, but there’s no word on whether that is still the plan. Weaver said that the ambitious scripts are “well worth waiting for” and said they were trying to get the films made “as quickly as possible”.

It’s tough not to get the sense that Cameron has missed the boat when it comes to the Avatar sequels. Any follow-up would have to rival the original film’s record-breaking box office haul to be considered any sort of success, but that seems unlikely nearly a decade on from the first movie becoming a phenomenon. The film was originally set for a Christmas 2018 release, but there’s now little chance of us seeing the film before early 2019 at the earliest. That is, if anyone still cares.


Secret Life of Pets tops 2016 most profitable list

Kevin Hart voiced an evil bunny in The Secret Life of Pets
Kevin Hart voiced an evil bunny in The Secret Life of Pets

When you think of the most profitable movies of 2016, it’s the huge Disney-backed goliaths of Captain America: Civil War and Rogue One that spring immediately to mind. However, due to some number-crunching done by Deadline, we now know that Illumination animated movie The Secret Life of Pets actually made the most money last year. The toon made a net profit of $375m, beating out Deadpool ($322m) and Rogue One ($320m) to the top of the rankings.

This is an intriguing bit of box office maths that sheds some light on the true economics of Hollywood. Secret Life of Pets may not have rivaled the Marvel juggernauts when it came down to total takings, but its lower budget and incredibly lucrative merchandising deals were enough to ensure that it made a tonne of money. It will be interesting to see what tops the table when the dust has settled on 2017.


Keaton turns villain for Tim Burton’s Dumbo

Michael Keaton speaks at Comic-Con in 2013
Michael Keaton speaks at Comic-Con in 2013 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Michael Keaton will next be seen when he flexes his blockbuster villain muscles as The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which looks set to be one of the biggest movies of the summer. It looks as if he may be continuing his current career revival with another evil role as Variety has reported that he’s currently in talks to play a villainous circus owner in Tim Burton‘s new take on Dumbo. He would star alongside Eva Green and Danny DeVito, who have already been cast in the movie.

This seems like another good choice of role for Keaton and it’s also one that allows him chance to reunite with Burton for the first time since he last played Batman for the director in 1992. The pieces are assembling nicely for the Dumbo movie and, on the strength of Disney’s remarkable run of triumphant live-action reboots, it could be another slam dunk for the studio.


Scott takes to the skies for Battle of Britain film

Ridley Scott takes to the stage at WonderCon in 2012
Ridley Scott takes to the stage at WonderCon in 2012 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

There are very few 79-year-old men who work quite as hard as Ridley Scott. He has a handful of big projects on his current slate, including the continuing Alien franchise, but Deadline has reported that there’s another historical film set to be added to his list. Scott has apparently been considering a film based on the Battle of Britain for some time, to the extent that it’s a real passion project for the British director.

The film, which will be one of surprisingly few based on the epic Second World War aerial scuffle, is currently in the early stages of development. As perhaps the biggest name British filmmaker currently working, Scott is an ideal choice to take on one of the great British military triumphs. All eyes will be on Christopher Nolan‘s upcoming Dunkirk to see whether a wartime film can work for a mainstream summer audience.


Hammer joins Vikander in Freakshift

Armie Hammer promotes The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at Comic-Con in 2015
Armie Hammer promotes The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at Comic-Con in 2015 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The cast of Ben Wheatley‘s new film Freakshift is starting to come together. After Alicia Vikander was announced to have joined the cast, we now have a new name courtesy of Deadline. After working with Wheatley on Free Fire, Armie Hammer has signed on to take on a major part in the tale of cops taking down underground monsters. Hammer will play the love interest of Vikander’s character.

Wheatley got a really fun performance out of Hammer in Free Fire and the notion of he and Vikander sharing the screen is an exciting one. Freakshift is already shaping up to be a very interesting film and every bit of casting seems to bolster that notion even further. The film looks set to go in front of cameras this summer, once Vikander is completely done with Tomb Raider.


Maguire takes Nesbo thriller for directing debut

Tobey Maguire at the premiere of The Great Gatsby in 2013
Tobey Maguire at the premiere of The Great Gatsby in 2013 (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)

After years as an actor, Tobey Maguire is making the jump to the director’s chair. According to Deadline, Maguire is set to direct Jo Nesbo’s crime thriller Blood on Snow from a script adapted by Nesbo himself. The story follows a hitman working for a notorious crime boss who finds his loyalty questioned when he is ordered to kill his own adulterous wife. The film is one of a number of Nesbo stories currently making their way to the big screen, including The Snowman with Michael Fassbender.

Maguire has always been a divisive presence in front of the camera, so it will be intriguing to see what he can pull off when he steps behind it. Nesbo’s thrillers are renowned page turners and, as part of a glut of them hitting the screen, Maguire has a real chance to be part of a phenomenon of sorts. Anything he makes would have to be better than Spider-Man 3, at least.


Rogen and Goldberg take on Invincible comic

Seth Rogen attends Comic-Con in 2016
Seth Rogen attends Comic-Con in 2016 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In the wake of the success of Preacher, we shouldn’t be all that surprised to see best buddies Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg take on some more comic book properties. The next one out of the gates looks set to be an adaptation of Invincible, written by Robert Kirkman, perhaps best known as the creator of The Walking Dead. The Hollywood Reporter revealed this week that Rogen and Goldberg will write and direct the film and will also produce alongside Kirkman. The story follows a young man set to inherit the powers of his father – the world’s most powerful superhero.

Rogen and Goldberg are a great pair of filmmakers and they have collaborated on many of the funniest movies of the last few years. Their directorial efforts to date – This is the End and The Interview – haven’t been their best work, but the addition of the superhero genre could really help. They would be better not to go for an outright spoof as that has definitely been done by the likes of Kick-Ass and Deadpool, but there’s room for a new superhero movie that finds a new angle from which to approach the material.


Are you excited to finally see Avatar 2? Did you enjoy The Secret Life of Pets? Will Michael Keaton make a good villain for the new take on Dumbo? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.

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