News Round-up – Solo and Venom trailers, Phoenix set for Joker role, Action Man and more

It has been a wild week for the movie world, with the Super Bowl leading to a deluge of trailers and even a whole new Netflix movie we didn’t know we were getting. We now have a clearer picture of some of this year’s biggest blockbuster movies, most notably the already divisive Star Wars spin-off movie Solo.

Elsewhere, a whole new chapter of Star Wars movies have been announced and some of the most intriguing directors in Hollywood are circling new projects. Meanwhile, the director of The Hangover has lined up a left-field star for his take on the origins of the Joker.

Here’s your movie news round-up…


Solo trailer reveals its space outlaw

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story

I can’t recall the last time a trailer was as highly anticipated as the one for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Used to a year-long drip feed of information on a new Star Wars movie, fans were both intrigued and concerned by the absence of any official word from the project, despite its imminent release. This week, that changed, with a trailer showcasing plenty of Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, as well as Emilia Clarke‘s supporting character and Donald Glover on fine form as Lando Calrissian.

This was an odd trailer in that it was totally okay and the movie looks like a decent enough blockbuster but, at the same time, it seemed to reinforce every concern I have about the film. Ehrenreich’s take on Solo seems rather wobbly, the quips sit awkwardly and there’s a modern gloss over the whole thing which is at odds with the underworld roots of the character. That said, this is just a trailer, and there’s every chance that the resulting film will be more than the dismal hodgepodge it appears to be. Solo: A Star Wars Story is due for release in May.


Thrones bosses to visit galaxy far, far away

David Benioff and DB Weiss promote Game of Thrones at Comic-Con in 2013
David Benioff and DB Weiss promote Game of Thrones at Comic-Con in 2013
(Photos: Gage Skidmore)

Elsewhere in the Star Wars universe, there was another intriguing announcement. The franchise’s official website revealed this week that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss have been handed the keys to their own Star Wars trilogy. These movies will be separate both to the main Skywalker saga and to the trio of films Rian Johnson is set to make after the success of The Last Jedi. In the press release, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy praised Benioff and Weiss for “their command of complex characters, depth of story and richness of mythology”.

This news was met with a divided reaction online, but it’s fair to say that I’m excited. It’s certainly true that there are a lot of Star Wars movies in production, but the world of the galaxy far, far away is big and broad enough that all of these stories can take place without stepping on the toes of the others. Benioff and Weiss have shown they can spin a complex, thrilling fantasy story over the last seven years, so they seem an ideal choice to carve out their own niche in the Lucasfilm world.


Phoenix to play young Joker for Todd Phillips

Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson caper Inherent Vice
Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson caper Inherent Vice

A few months ago, there was an explosion of news about the Joker, with a handful of new projects announced all at once, involving the Clown Prince of Crime. This week, one of those projects stirred briefly into life again, with the news in Variety that Joaquin Phoenix has reportedly agreed to play the Joker in an origin movie directed by The Hangover filmmaker Todd Phillips. Warner Bros has continually stressed that this other take on the character is completely separate from the main DC Extended Universe, in which Jared Leto played the character in Suicide Squad.

Phoenix is a potentially compelling choice for the Joker, particularly given his current status as a blockbuster-phobic prestige player. Phillips’s movie is reportedly set in the 1980s and will boast the feel of a gritty crime drama, which feels like an ideal world for Phoenix, given his brilliant work in the 70s-set Inherent Vice. That said, the prospect of another take on the Joker is not one that immediately feels welcome.


Leitch could direct Fast & Furious spin-off

Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson square off in Fast & Furious 8
Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson square off in Fast & Furious 8

It’s no surprise that Universal is stomping down the accelerator on its Fast & Furious spin-off focused on the characters played by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. The franchise is the studio’s crown jewel and any movie uniting two of Hollywood’s premier action baldies – sorry, Vin Diesel – is guaranteed to be a success. The Hollywood Reporter revealed this week that David Leitch, director of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, is at the top of the shortlist to helm the movie. It’s part of a real upward trajectory for Leitch, who has superhero sequel Deadpool 2 on the way this year.

Leitch is on a hell of a hot streak in the action world and this movie would be a real feather in his cap. The chemistry between Johnson and Statham in Fast & Furious 8 was absolutely off the charts and it doesn’t seem like there’s any way that this film isn’t a bonkers success. It’s certainly going to be hard-hitting. The spin-off is due to arrive in July 2019.


Tom Hardy unhinged in Venom teaser

Tom Hardy in the first teaser trailer for superhero movie Venom
Tom Hardy in the first teaser trailer for superhero movie Venom

That’s right. It seems the Venom movie is actually real. At least, we got a trailer for the film this week and that seems like a long way to go for a gag. It’s only a teaser, but we get to see lots of shots of Tom Hardy on a hospital bed, as well as glimpses of Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed, who appears to be a villainous character. This is a teaser that’s about mood and atmosphere, rather than providing lots of plot or indeed any shots of the symbiote in action.

The internet immediately buzzed with dissatisfaction from fans, who couldn’t believe that they had released a trailer without even a hint of a costume money shot. There are any number of reasons for this, though, from a simple desire to keep things under wraps to the prospect that the visual effects on Hardy in superhero garb are not fully completed or perfected at this stage in the post-production process. Either way, it’s good to know that this is a real movie and not simply a shared hallucination. Venom will be released in the UK in October.


Muppets director to take on Action Man

Iconic toy range Action Man is getting a new movie adventure
Iconic toy range Action Man is getting a new movie adventure

James Bobin directed one of the most purely joyous movies of the decade with his reboot of The Muppets. He has since disappointed with his take on Alice Through the Looking Glass, but has his eye on a potentially fun new project. Deadline reported this week that Bobin is working with Paramount to develop a movie based on the Action Man toy line. Even more excitingly, Paddington 2 co-writer and British comedy treasure Simon Farnaby is set to pen the script.

To people who grew up in Britain, these action figures were a big part of childhood and so this seems like a solid choice for a movie. The partnership between Hasbro and Paramount has born considerable box office fruit with the Transformers franchise and, with the creative talent the studio has on board for this one, this could be something far sharper, wittier and more enjoyable than Michael Bay‘s three-hour demolition derbies.


Mangold revs up for Ford vs. Ferrari drama

James Mangold talks The Wolverine at Comic-Con
James Mangold talks The Wolverine at Comic-Con (Gage Skidmore)

Following the success of Logan, director James Mangold has wasted no time in filling up his slate with a variety of projects. His Patty Hearst drama seems to have fallen by the wayside, but he’s also attached to an adaptation of crime thriller The Force. Now, Variety has revealed Mangold will direct a movie based on the battle between Ford and Ferrari to create the world’s fastest racing car in the mid-20th century. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are being considered as potential stars.

It’s great to see Mangold keeping himself busy after the brilliance of Logan and this sounds like there’s ample material there for a big prestige historical drama. If Mangold and the team at Fox get the casting right on this one, awards could beckon.


Are you more worried about Solo or Venom being a big budget disappointment? Do you think Joaquin Phoenix is a good choice to play the Joker? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.

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