It’s another quiet week in the world of movies, with the pieces for awards season gradually slotting themselves into place and much of the industry busy examining itself in the wake of yet more horrific allegations of sexual misconduct against big names.
As usual, though, we’re keeping things on the sunny side over here and leading with the big announcement of the full cast for Disney’s new take on The Lion King. Elsewhere, Margot Robbie seems to be manoeuvring herself for Oscars glory with the new trailer for I, Tonya and Mark Strong has netted another big comic book villain role.
Here’s your movie news round-up…
Beyonce is final big name for Lion King cast
Since it was first announced, we’ve had a pretty consistent drip-feed of casting information from Disney’s remake of 1994 animation The Lion King. The film is being dubbed a “live-action” reboot, but it will see Jon Favreau utilise the same brand of photo-real animation he deployed in his fabulous new take on The Jungle Book. This week, an image posted to the official Disney account on Twitter revealed the full cast for the film and, though most of the names were already known, there was some big news. Pop icon Beyonce Knowles-Carter will take on the role of Nala, alongside the previously announced Donald Glover as Simba. It’s the cherry on the top of a wonderfully diverse cast.
The jury is still out on whether the Lion King remake will be strong enough to justify its own existence. The involvement of Beyonce, though, is a huge coup and an A-list draw that almost certainly exceeds the presence of Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast, which was a huge driver for that film’s $1bn box office clout. Whatever you think of Favreau’s chances of producing something original, there’s no denying that he has an impressive roster of talent on board. The Lion King is due for release in July 2019.
Robbie makes Oscar bid in I, Tonya trailer
Margot Robbie has been on the verge of taking over Hollywood ever since she appeared on everyone’s radar in The Wolf of Wall Street. This year, she strides confidently into a busy Best Actress Oscar field with I, Tonya, in which she plays controversial figure skater Tonya Harding. We got a redband trailer for the film this week, featuring Robbie prominently, along with Allison Janney as her pushy, abusive mother. The film depicts Harding’s tough upbringing and the botched attack on a rival skater that gave her a notorious reputation.
This is an interesting trailer that suggests a film which goes beyond the normal awards season biopic. I, Tonya looks as if it has real edge and it would not be a surprise to see Robbie right in among the field when the Oscars are handed out. It does seem very likely at this stage that Janney, who steals every scene of the trailer with acid-tongued aggression, will be a top contender for the Best Supporting Actress gong. Whether it does net awards or not, I, Tonya looks like it will be compelling when it arrives on UK screens in February 2018.
Mark Strong in talks to play Shazam! villain
After last week’s Ben Mendelsohn news, another of Hollywood’s most accomplished villains has lined up his latest sinister role. The Wrap reported that British actor Mark Strong is in talks to play Doctor Sivana opposite leading man Zachary Levi in Shazam, directed by horror maestro David F Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation). Sivana, often considered to be Shazam’s biggest foe, is a respected scientist who turns to magic and darkness in order to save his family.
Strong is no stranger to being a comic book baddie, having played the villainous gangster in Kick-Ass and Sinestro in the ill-fated Green Lantern movie. He’s an exceptional actor and an utter chameleon, who is capable of just about anything that is asked of him, even if it includes trying to be the straight man in a Kingsman movie. If Ryan Reynolds got another chance at superhero movie gold after Green Lantern, Strong certainly should as well. Shazam is due to be released in April 2019.
Julianne Moore will portray a feminist icon
After winning her long-deserved Oscar for Still Alice a couple of years ago and being thoroughly squandered by the Kingsman sequel, Julianne Moore has lined up something very special for her next project. Moore will play feminist activist Gloria Steinem in My Life on the Road, according to Deadline. The film will follow Steinem, who is on board as an executive producer, from her reluctant early fame in the 1960s to her position as a figurehead for the feminist movement.
This is another heavy hitter of a role for Moore, who has become Hollywood royalty thanks to her unusual and interesting variety of projects. Done right, this could be another awards-baiting success for the actress and the film certainly comes at an important time for women in Hollywood, with a noticeable backlash led by brave women against the male-dominated industry. If ever there was a time we needed a film about a feminist icon, this is probably it.
Pet Sematary remake on over at Paramount
Given the popularity of Stephen King in the movie world this year – most notably with It and The Dark Tower – we’re almost certainly going to see tonnes more old King properties coming out of the woodwork. I bet the Carrie remake is kicking itself for turning up too early. This week, Variety reported that Paramount has nabbed two directors for its remake of 1989 King adaptation Pet Sematary. The duo in question are Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, who burst on to the horror scene with the brilliant Tinseltown satire Starry Eyes a couple of years ago.
This makes a great deal of sense as a remake. Although the original Pet Sematary has its fans and was a box office success, it’s not remembered as widely or as fondly as some other King movies. Kolsch and Widmyer produced something unique, terrifying and smart with Starry Eyes and so it will be interesting to see what they can create with a bigger budget and a broader canvas.
Nyong’o and Gad on for zombie romcom
Despite the near-universal consensus surrounding the declining quality of The Walking Dead, zombies are still an enormously prevalent image in pop culture. It’s with that in mind that we come to Little Monsters, which is a new romcom complicated by the fact it is taking place due to a zombie invasion. The plot centres on a washed-up musician helping to chaperone a class of schoolkids when he takes a shine to their schoolteacher, played by Lupita Nyong’o. Meanwhile, a kids’ TV personality (Josh Gad) appears as a competitor for her affections. They must work together to protect the kids when zombies begin to attack. Aussie filmmaker Abe Forsythe is already at work shooting the film in Sydney.
This sounds like a fun film and the casting seems solid. The thought of Gad as an irritating TV personality is particularly spot on. Aside from him, it will be great to see Lupita Nyong’o in live action, given so many of her roles since winning an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave have been performed through motion capture. It remains to be seen, though, whether this can compete with the grandaddy of the zom-rom-coms, Shaun of the Dead. We will find out when Little Monsters hits cinemas at some point in 2018.
Lady Macbeth and Death of Stalin lead BIFAs
Before the glitzy Hollywood ceremonies announce their nominees, we get to hear from the reliably brilliant British Independent Film Awards on this side of the pond. This week, the nominations for the 2017 awards were unveiled. It’s a list that shows just how strong a year it has been for British films, with much of the nominations shared among the five nominees for the top award – Lady Macbeth, The Death of Stalin, God’s Own Country, I Am Not a Witch and Oscar hopeful Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
This is an undeniably strong field, which reflects the remarkable talent depicted this year. There will likely be awards for Florence Pugh, who was so impressive in Lady Macbeth, and at least one of the two heart-breaking lead turns in the subtly sophisticated Yorkshire romance God’s Own Country. It’s always a good ceremony and a cracking reminder of why British cinema is so fantastic. The BIFAs will be handed out on December 10.
What do you think of the A-list cast for Disney’s upcoming Lion King remake? Do you think I, Tonya stands a chance of success when awards season comes around? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.