News Round-up – Star Wars spin-offs on hold, Black Widow directors, Creed 2 trailer and more

It has been a turbulent seven days in MovieLand, with the effects of Solo: A Star Wars Story and its box office disappointment continuing to reverberate throughout the corridors of Disney. This week, we learned that Lucasfilm is going to cool off on its policy of making spin-off movies in order to focus squarely on the main saga, which is set to return to screens next year with the follow-up to the divisive The Last Jedi.

Elsewhere, there were a few major tidbits from Disney’s other big franchise, as we learned more about upcoming solo outings for Spider-Man and Black Widow. There was also the first trailer for the sequel to the brilliant Creed and the news of a new director for the latest adaptation of one of Roald Dahl’s classic stories.

Here’s your movie news round-up…


Lucasfilm puts ‘Star Wars Stories’ on hold

Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor have both played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars
Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor have both played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars

It seems Lucasfilm has finally decided that audiences can have too much of a good thing. According to a report from Collider, the studio has pressed the pause button on its crowded slate of Star Wars spin-off movies in order to focus on the upcoming ninth episode, which will bring the current trilogy to an end. Kathleen Kennedy and her colleagues are now said to be working hard on getting that movie right, as well as deciding what the next trilogy will be. There will be no ‘Star Wars Story’ movies for the time being, though the studio is still developing a new trilogy overseen by Rian Johnson and a series written by Game of Thrones showrunners Benioff and Weiss.

This is a policy that makes an awful lot of sense. Solo and Rogue One both suffered heavily publicised production issues and, with two divisive films under its belt in recent history, it makes sense for Lucasfilm to focus strongly on what they already have in the pipeline. The episodic saga has always been the cornerstone of Star Wars and so, as long as that’s in good shape, the galaxy far, far away will remain a favourite place for movie fans.


Female directors on Black Widow shortlist

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in The Avengers
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in The Avengers

We have a little more information on the solo adventure that’s in the pipeline for Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in the shape of a director shortlist. Deadline is reporting that Cate Shortland, director of Berlin Syndrome, is the current frontrunner in the race to helm the movie, though the site adds that Amma Asante (A United Kingdom) and Maggie Betts (Novitiate) recently met with Johansson and Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige.

For a long time, it has been widely known that Marvel is keen to hire a female director for this movie and several of those names have been linked for quite some time. It seems that the formula of plucking directors from smaller indie movies to take on big projects is set to continue here. I don’t know much about Shortland and Betts, but I’d be thrilled if Asante were to get the gig. Her movies to date have been fabulous and she could do terrific things with Black Widow.


Holland reveals title for Spider-Man sequel

Tom Holland is the friendly neighbourhood webslinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming
Tom Holland is the friendly neighbourhood webslinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Marvel is leaning in to the idea of Tom Holland as someone who’s careless with spoilers. In a brilliant new video on his Instagram page, the young star apologised to fans for the lack of announcements at ACE Comic Con, before revealing the script he has just received for the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. At this point, he “accidentally” showed everyone the title of the film – Spider-Man: Far From Home. We learned a few weeks ago that Jake Gyllenhaal may well appear in the movie as villain Mysterio, so let the speculation begin.

There’s not much to say about this title and it would be wrong to read too much into its implications for the finale of Avengers: Infinity War, as this sequel is set to hit cinemas after the fourth Avengers movie arrives to resolve those events. It’s good to hear, though, that work is starting for another adventure that will see Holland continue to see brilliant as the webslinger. Spider-Man: Far From Home will be released in July 2019.


Jordan gets punching in first Creed 2 teaser

Michael B Jordan returns in Rocky sequel Creed 2
Michael B Jordan returns in Rocky sequel Creed 2

Creed surprised a lot of people when it gave the Rocky franchise a new lease of life. The sequel is now on the horizon, with Steven Caple Jr stepping into the director’s chair as replacement for Ryan Coogler. A first trailer for the movie arrived this week, teasing a difficult time for Michael B Jordan‘s Adonis Creed as he builds towards a fight with the son of Ivan Drago, who was responsible for the death of his father in Rocky IV. As you’d expect, Sylvester Stallone‘s Rocky Balboa is there as his mentor throughout.

This is a solid trailer for a film that has a lot on its shoulders. Coogler’s movie was an unexpected awards contender and dragged the franchise kicking and screaming into the modern world. The absence of Coogler looks set to hit the sequel hard, but there’s plenty of flair to this trailer and it would be foolish to ever bet against Michael B Jordan being brilliant. Creed 2 is out in the US in November 2018, with the UK release likely to be early 2019.


Zemeckis in the frame to adapt The Witches

Robert Zemeckis at the Tokyo Film Festival in 2015
Robert Zemeckis at the Tokyo Film Festival in 2015 (Photo: Dick Thomas Johnson)

In the wake of The BFG, and with a mooted Willy Wonka prequel on the horizon, Roald Dahl is a reasonably hot property in Hollywood. Warner Bros is at work on an adaptation of The Witches and, this week, Variety broke the news that Robert Zemeckis is close to signing on the dotted line to direct the movie, which has original director Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón among its producers. The report suggests Zemeckis’s movie will be a faithful adaptation of the story, as opposed to the rather looser approach to the source material taken by the 1990 film.

It’s a shame that Del Toro won’t be directing this movie, as his affinity with monsters would have made him a terrific and interesting choice to helm the project. However, it’s encouraging to have both him and Cuarón on board behind the scenes. Zemeckis is an intriguing pick and it certainly suggests a level of budget and prestige for the story. His involvement points to some potentially ambitious motion-capture work. Hopefully he has moved forward since A Christmas Carol.


Ferrell to take on Eurovision in Netflix comedy

Will Ferrell promotes The Campaign in 2012
Will Ferrell promotes The Campaign in 2012 (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)

Netflix has done a great job of nabbing top comedians to produce live specials for the service and, largely by way of its partnership with Adam Sandler, it has made original comedy movies a key part of its output. The latest star to join the roster is Will Ferrell who, according to Deadline, is set to co-write Eurovision for the service, and also take on the lead role. As the title suggests, the film will focus on the famed singing contest, which will provide plenty of opportunities for camp and silliness.

This sounds like a fun project for Ferrell and for Netflix, even if the streaming service has shown an incredibly variable level of quality in its movie oeuvre. There’s no word on whether Ferrell will be flexing his vocal muscles to sing in the movie, though he has done so before in Step Brothers and during his Saturday Night Live hosting gigs. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a rendition of ‘Boats N’ Hoes’, but we can live in hope.


Sam Mendes sets up WW1 movie with Amblin

Sam Mendes (left) at Winfield House in 2011
Sam Mendes (left) at Winfield House in 2011 (Photo: US Embassy London)

Ever since he waved goodbye to James Bond after Spectre, we haven’t heard much from Sam Mendes. This week, though, Deadline revealed that he is co-writing a First World War movie that he will subsequently direct, marking his first time behind the camera since Bond. 1917, about which plot details are very scarce at this stage, will also reunite Mendes with Steven Spielberg, who will produce the film via his Amblin company. Spielberg worked with Mendes on American Beauty and Mendes subsequently made Read to Perdition and Revolutionary Road for Spielberg’s DreamWorks.

It’s great to see Mendes back in the director’s chair. He brought something very interesting to Bond, particularly with Skyfall, and so it’s interesting to see what he will do next. It’s tough to judge this project, because we know almost nothing, but the dream team of Mendes and Spielberg suggests there’s something worth getting excited about. 1917 has been set for a Stateside release in December 2019, likely eyeing awards season. There’s no UK date as yet.


Are you sad to see the Star Wars spin-offs paused? Who do you think should direct the upcoming Black Widow movie? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.

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