News Round-up – Roger Moore dies, Snyder steps down from Justice League, Dark Universe and more

It was a very sad week in the world of movies, after it was announced that former James Bond actor Roger Moore had passed away at the age of 89. There was further sadness when we heard that Zack Snyder has stepped away from the final stages of work on completing this year’s enormous Justice League movie following a family bereavement.

Elsewhere, some big upcoming tentpole movies began to court major directors and we got an early announcement of a sequel to one of this year’s most successful animated films. Universal also formally unveiled its huge slate of new blockbuster movies based on its classic monster characters, which it is now dubbing the Dark Universe.

Here’s your movie news round-up…


Iconic Bond star Roger Moore dies at 89

Roger Moore portrayed James Bond in seven movies during the 1970s and 1980s
Roger Moore portrayed James Bond in seven movies during the 1970s and 1980s

Roger Moore, who died this week aged 89, will perhaps only be remembered for two roles – the lead in TV show The Saint and as James Bond in seven films between Live and Let Die in 1973 and A View to a Kill in 1985. Moore was an indelible Bond, famous for ushering in a more campy tone to the character, arching his eyebrows while delivering lewd quips and terrific one-liners. Some of his Bond films were nonsensical pap, but he also presided over some of the franchise’s best films, like The Spy Who Loved Me. He made the character his own and never took himself seriously.

One of the most remarkable things about Moore, who became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador later in his life, was his willingness to embrace the fact that it would always be Bond that defined his acting career. When asked if he minded being typecast, he quipped “why would I?” in a way that made clear his gratitude for getting to play one of the most iconic roles in cinema. He will be sorely missed, but has left a remarkable legacy in his seven outings as the gun-toting lothario.

Thanks for the memories, Mr Bond. RIP.


Whedon to complete Justice League for Snyder

Zack Snyder promotes Justice League at Comic-Con 2016
Zack Snyder promotes Justice League at Comic-Con 2016 (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Zack Snyder has been hard at work on DC superhero team-up movie Justice League for a long time now and the film is getting close to release. The Hollywood Reporter wrote this week that Snyder has decided to step away from the film in its final stages in order to spend more time with his family, following the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter in March. Snyder has hired Joss Whedon, who recently signed up to direct Batgirl for DC, to finish off the film. Whedon has experience of superhero team-ups, having made two Avengers movies during his time at Marvel.

It’s incredibly sad to see Snyder having to step away from Justice League so close to its final release, but his decision is understandable and Whedon is a solid pair of hands to keep the movie moving along. Whedon had already written some additional scenes for the film and he will now shoot them as well. Fingers remain crossed that this will be the film that turns DC’s critical fortunes around. Justice League is due to be released in November 2017.


GLAAD diversity report fails major studios

Benedict Cumberbatch as androgynous model All in Zoolander 2
Benedict Cumberbatch as androgynous model All in Zoolander 2

This week, media monitoring group GLAAD released its annual report on LGBT representation in the film industry and it was bad news for Disney, Sony and Lionsgate. All three studios were given failing grades in the report, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and only 18% of the films analysed contained LGBT characters.

Rather damningly, the increase in the number of LGBT characters – up to 70 from 47 in 2015 – was largely down to a single musical number in comedy film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and the only transgender character was Benedict Cumberbatch‘s androgynous model in Zoolander 2. Paramount was the most inclusive studio, with a third of its films featuring LGBT characters, but it still received a rating of ‘poor’ given the “cheap jokes” of Zoolander.

The report shows that we still have an enormous way to go when it comes to LGBT diversity in Hollywood. The same major studios who have made steps forward in fairly representing gender and race in blockbuster movies are seemingly lagging behind in depicting gay and transgender people on the big screen. Thankfully, organisations like GLAAD are doing a great job of bringing these issues to the forefront of discussion to raise awareness of the problem.


Universal unveils monsters of its Dark Universe

Universal has unveiled the star-studded cast of its Dark Universe
Universal has unveiled the star-studded cast of its Dark Universe

For a long time now, we have heard hints of a shared universe based around the roster of monster characters made famous by Universal in movies during the first half of the 20th century. This week, the studio officially dubbed this burgeoning franchise, which will begin with The Mummy this summer, its Dark Universe. A photo of the main cast was released, including Russell Crowe (Dr Jekyll), Javier Bardem (Frankenstein’s Monster), Tom Cruise (Nick Horton), Johnny Depp (The Invisible Man) and Sofia Boutella (The Mummy). We also got the news that Bill Condon, fresh from the success of Beauty and the Beast, will direct a new take on Bride of Frankenstein in 2019.

It’s great that Universal has finally formalised its monsters franchise and given it a snappier title than “The Universal Monsters Shared Remake Universe”. The cast the studio has assembled is glittering and formidable, guaranteeing that these films will be major tentpole blockbusters whether they are successful or not. All eyes will now be on The Mummy to see if the Dark Universe can get off to a good start. The Mummy will be released in June.


Mendes in frame to helm Pinocchio for Disney

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

Disney’s live-action remake spree has so far yielded not inconsiderable success, with Beauty and the Beast waltzing its way to more than $1bn at the global box office. Deadline brought us some exciting news from the studio this week as they revealed that Sam Mendes is in early talks to take the helm of the Pinocchio remake. Mendes, who has recently divided his time between the theatre and two Bond films, is currently chatting to the studio about helming a new take on the tale of the wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy.

Mendes would be a good choice for a Disney remake and would make a great addition to the already enviable roster of filmmakers who are involved in the Disney live-action arena. He has shown the exact mixture of prestige work, such as American Beauty, and blockbuster filmmaking with Bond that will make him very attractive to Disney. If he can fit Pinocchio into his crowded schedule, this could be a good match.


Oblivion director is on for Top Gun sequel

Tom Cruise played pilot Maverick in 1986 actioner Top Gun
Tom Cruise played pilot Maverick in 1986 actioner Top Gun

The highly awaited sequel to 80s action smash Top Gun is now fully confirmed and on the way. Variety reported this week that returning star Tom Cruise is close to signing up director Joseph Kosinski, with whom he worked on sci-fi Oblivion, to hop into the director’s chair. Cruise has reportedly been working behind the scenes during the making of the new Mission: Impossible film in order to ensure that Top Gun 2 is ready to be made as soon as possible, with shooting currently set to happen at the start of next year.

This new take on the Top Gun universe will focus on a world in which drone technology and advanced fighter planes are a reality. Kosinski’s familiarity with Cruise makes him a prime candidate to take the helm of the film and the report suggests that he appraised Cruise of a unique vision for the film, which won him the job.


DreamWorks moves ahead on Boss Baby sequel

Alec Baldwin is a suit-wearing infant in The Boss Baby
Alec Baldwin is a suit-wearing infant in The Boss Baby

In some of the most unsurprising movie news of this year, DreamWorks is pressing ahead with a sequel to animated hit The Boss Baby, according to a report in Variety. The star of the oddball animation, Alec Baldwin, has signed on the dotted line to return as the suit-wearing toddler at the centre of the story. The first movie was a major success for DreamWorks and has thus far netted close to $500m worldwide from a really rather risky premise. Currently, the sequel is set for a release in March 2021.

Given how quickly DreamWorks has announced this sequel, it’s somewhat surprising that there is going to be a four year wait before the film is released. Animated sequels are much better off striking while the iron is hot and it seems rather unlikely that many people will still be talking about The Boss Baby in four years’ time. The first film is good fun and has wide-ranging appeal due to its utter weirdness, but this sequel still feels far from a sure thing.


What’s your favourite moment from the career of Roger Moore? Are you interested to see more of Universal’s Dark Universe? Do you think Sam Mendes is a good choice for Pinocchio? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.

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