News Round-up – Woody joins Star Wars, phones to get cinema mode, Expendables 4 and more

The first week of 2017 was a quiet one for the movie studios, with their early year blockbusters hitting screens as the awards season machine rumbles on. There was some new casting news for the extended Star Wars franchise and some major controversy over a rumoured new feature that would seemingly encourage mobile phone use in the cinema.

Elsewhere, La La Land continued to build up awards season steam ahead of its likely victories at tonight’s Golden Globes and the often divisive list of nominations for the BAFTA Rising Star Award were also released.

Here’s your round-up of this week’s movie news.


Harrelson to mentor young Han Solo

Woody Harrelson speaking at the Power to the Peaceful Festival in 2005
Woody Harrelson speaking at the Power to the Peaceful Festival in 2005 (Photo: Gohsuke Takama)

The increasingly interesting Star Wars spin-off movie set to focus on the younger years of Han Solo added another fun piece to its jigsaw this week, with the addition of Woody Harrelson. Variety reported this week that Harrelson is in talks to play a mentor figure to the young Solo, who will be portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich.

Despite initial cynicism, it’s becoming hard not to get excited for this film. Rogue One proved that there’s real invention being put into these spin-off films and, with the addition of dynamite directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the young Han Solo movie is in good hands. Harrelson is a great choice for this mentor role, having played a similar role in The Hunger Games and something slightly similar in recent teen comedy The Edge of Seventeen. The young Han Solo movie will be released in May 2018.


‘Theatre mode’ rumoured for Apple devices

AMC considered allowing texting in some of their cinemas
AMC considered allowing texting in some of their cinemas (Photos: m4tik and Paul Jacobson)

The online film community was enraged this week by news that future Apple devices may include a ‘theatre mode’ designed for use in cinemas. Insider Sonny Dickson revealed online that the feature is in the pipeline and would reduce system brightness during a film, as well as disabling incoming calls and system sounds. Such was the rage around the issue this week, that Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League threatened to open a “can of whoop-ass” if the idea went ahead.

A few months ago, AMC considered introducing texting-friendly screenings and I was in favour of the idea. This would separate those who want to use their phones from those who want to experience the film in the way it is intended. This new proposal, however, would normalise the use of phones in cinemas and make it even more acceptable than it already seems to be.


Affleck may not direct The Batman

Ben Affleck at Comic-Con in 2015
Ben Affleck at Comic-Con in 2015 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

It has long been reported that Ben Affleck is set to direct the next solo Batman movie, provisionally titled The Batman. However, in an interview with The Guardian to promote gangster movie Live By Night, Affleck seemed unsure as to whether he would be directing the film. He said it was “not a set thing” and added that he wouldn’t do it unless it was “really great”.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that Affleck is trying to keep something of a distance between himself and The Batman given the current state of the DC Extended Universe. He almost certainly will end up making the film, but it’s intriguing that he doesn’t want to commit at this stage.


La La Land and other favourites net WGA noms

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show off their moves in La La Land
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling show off their moves in La La Land

Awards season is continuing to rumble on constantly towards the Oscars and, this week, it was the turn of the Writers’ Guild of America to reveal their screenplay-focused nominations. The race to Best Picture seems to be a three horse race at the moment and all three of those films – La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea – are present and correct on the WGA list of original screenplays. The big news, though, was the presence of irreverent superhero movie Deadpool in the field of adapted screenplays. It’s unlikely to win, but it’s certainly a curveball pick.

Elsewhere in awards news, the list of nominations for the BAFTA Rising Star Award was also released this week. The frontrunner is Tom Holland, fresh from his first appearance as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. He will face tough competition from Ruth Negga, who has been awards-tipped for her work in Loving and Anya Taylor-Joy, who became an immediate face of modern horror with The Witch last year.


Stallone confirms Expendables 4 movie

Sylvester Stallone attends Comic-Con in 2012
Sylvester Stallone attends Comic-Con in 2012 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

For fans of bloodthirsty 80s action movies, The Expendables has been a dream come true. The franchise has consistently brought together the biggest names in the action genre for a big face-off of guns, fists and machismo. It has lain dormant since 2014, but Sylvester Stallone confirmed this week that he is about to start work on The Expendables 4. Chinese money is set to play a big part in the new film, given that the last one made half of its box office in China.

It’s not as if people have been clamouring wildly for a new Expendables film, but the news will be entirely welcome for fans of big budget escapism. Stallone, however, is going to have to pull off something genuinely special to match up to what he did in Creed, which was perhaps the best work of his career.


Bateman and McAdams join couples comedy

Jason Bateman at the premiere of Extract in 2009
Jason Bateman at the premiere of Extract in 2009 (Photo: Emmanuelle Bourgue)

The directing duo behind Vacation are hard at work in pre-production on comedy film Game Night over at New Line. Variety revealed this week that Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are attached to star in the film, which focuses on a series of couples who all meet up for their regular game night only for something to go terribly wrong this time.

These two are very good actors and the premise for this project, which has been on the cards at New Line since 2013, sounds like a lot of fun. Bateman doesn’t always have the best nose for a good project, though, which sets alarm bells ringing. Hopefully, though, this will play to both of their strengths in order to be a fun comedy movie.


Don’t come knocking for new trailer

Trailer for British horror film Don't Knock Twice
Trailer for British horror film Don’t Knock Twice

British horror movies are a bit of a mixed bag, but they’re pure gold when they land and it looks like Don’t Knock Twice could be a cracking chiller from this side of the pond. A trailer for the film landed this week and it certainly packs in its fair share of chills. It looks like a fun tale of a mother trying to protect her daughter from the attack of a malevolent witch.

It looks like a pretty fun trailer and the film will hopefully shape up better than the standard horror guff that often gets put into cinemas. And, most excitingly, it stars Lucy Boynton from the utterly brilliant Sing Street. It sounds like a cracker.


Are you looking forward to seeing Woody Harrelson in Star Wars? What are your thoughts on phones having a cinema mode? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.

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