Welcome to 2018! After a break of a few weeks, I’m back for a look at the week in movie news. Unsurprisingly, given the time of year, it’s awards season that has dominated the news agenda, with two of the biggest guilds handing out their nominations. Traditionally, the guilds provide a clearer picture of how the season is going to run but, this year, the field remains the most open it has been in a long time.
Elsewhere, the outrageously prolific Ridley Scott is on the verge of adding a huge new project to his slate and there’s a first trailer for the inevitable Slender Man movie, as well as a ‘good news and bad news’ look at the box office fortunes of franchise behemoth Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Here’s your movie news round-up…
Guilds create broad field of award hopefuls
Awards season is now in full swing, with the Golden Globes set to be handed out tonight. This week, we got nominations from the Producers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. Along with the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, it is these bodies that provide the best indications of awards season glory. Both sets of nominations were broadly as expected, with all of the frontrunners in place, but there were surprises for superhero contenders. Wolverine western Logan scored a WGA nod for its adapted screenplay and Wonder Woman appeared on the PGA shortlist for best film of the year.
It would be wrong to get too excited about the potential of these films scoring a place on the Oscars shortlist, but it’s certainly a big vote of confidence for them and for the superhero genre in general. After Deadpool became a PGA nominee last year, the awards world is certainly more open to spandex-sporting comic book characters. For the most part, though, this continues to show just how open awards season is in 2018. At this point, there’s no clear Oscar frontrunner in sight.
Scott to pull Merlin project out of the stone
Having just reshot a large portion of All the Money in the World in the wake of the Kevin Spacey allegations, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ridley Scott is due a lie down and a cup of tea. That’s not the case, though, according to Variety, which reported this week that Scott is in negotiations with Disney to make an adaptation of The Merlin Saga – a series of novels based on the origin of the eponymous wizard. Scott reportedly also met with the Mouse House to talk about a live-action take on Sword in the Stone, but is likely to close a deal on The Merlin Saga as his next movie.
This is an interesting move from Scott, who is in need of a blockbuster success to waft away the stench of Alien: Covenant. The Arthurian legend is a constant source of fascination in the movie world, though it was most recently dealt a considerable blow by Guy Ritchie‘s hideously Cockney King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Though if Scott can entice David Beckham back for another cameo, I’ll be totally on board.
Slender Man trailer brings internet horror to life
Given the notoriety of Slender Man as an internet phenomenon, it’s surprising that it has taken this long for a big screen horror feature to tackle the character. Sony has finally stepped up to the plate, however, and we got the first full trailer for Slender Man this week. It broadly traces the established online mythos of the character and combines it with a supernatural stalk-and-slash, capitalising on as many opportunities to go viral as possible.
This is a pretty dismal trailer for what seems likely to be a pretty dismal horror movie. The tropes and ideas of the Slender Man mythology have been incorporated into numerous horror films over the past few years, including Unfriended, but that doesn’t seem to have inspired Sony to do anything differently. It’s just an array of lazy horror tropes, cashing in on a meme-friendly name. Slender Man is set to arrive in May 2018.
Kaluuya and Pugh among Rising Star noms
The EE Rising Star Award at the BAFTAs has garlanded an enviable array of stars over the past few years. Decided by public vote from a jury-agreed shortlist, the award has previously been handed to the likes of John Boyega, Tom Holland and Will Poulter. The nominees for this year’s prize were announced this week at BAFTA HQ in London, with the public set to choose between Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth), Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name).
This is a strong shortlist, with all of the actors linked by the risk-taking that defines these roles. It’s also a testament to the diversity of the year in cinema given there are two actors known for LGBT films on the list, as well as a healthy representation for people of colour. I haven’t decided who I’m voting for yet, but it will certainly be a tough choice. The BAFTAs will be announced on 18th February.
I was lucky enough to interview Rising Star nominees Josh O’Connor and Florence Pugh at BAFTA HQ this week, as well as former winner Juno Temple, for Flickering Myth. Please go and have a read of those chats.
DC Films gets its new Kevin Feige figure
For years, the DC Extended Universe has seemingly lacked a pilot as assured as Kevin Feige over at Marvel. After a varied 2017 that included acclaim for Wonder Woman and derision for the actually-not-terrible Justice League, Warner Bros and DC Films are shuffling some personnel, according to an article over at Variety. Walter Hamada has been promoted from his role over at New Line Cinema to oversee the comic book movies at DC Films.
It’s encouraging to see a new figure stepping into the limelight over at DC Films. Hamada has a great record for shepherding horror movies in his role at New Line and he has developed a close working relationship with James Wan, who is of course directing Aquaman, while helping to oversee the director’s Conjuring universe. That film, which is set for a December 2018 release, is the next film on the DC slate.
Panned Netflix thriller Bright to get sequel
It’s fair to say that Bright, which was billed as Netflix’s first blockbuster movie, was not greeted with positive reviews. Indeed, it was panned by critics and is currently sat at a pretty dismal 28% on Rotten Tomatoes. That hasn’t deterred Netflix, though, which has already announced a sequel by way of a rather strange YouTube clip featuring several orcs auditioning for roles in the movie. The budget for the first film was reportedly around $90m, but it quickly became the most-watched Netflix film in its first week of release. David Ayer is expected to return as director, adding writing duties as well, with stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton.
You can’t blame Netflix for wanting to quickly get the wheels in motion on a sequel to a film that has evidently been a major success, despite the lukewarm responses. Smith and Edgerton have real star power and that has obviously helped the movie to bring in the viewers. It’s interesting to see Netflix making the move into blockbusters and even more interesting to see it doing so successfully.
Last Jedi hits $1bn, won’t match Force Awakens
Having dominated the festive box office period, Star Wars: The Last Jedi marched past a major box office milestone this week, securing a worldwide gross in excess of $1bn. There was, however, some bad news courtesy of Forbes, which reported that the film might have the biggest sequel-to-sequel box office plunge of all time. The report suggested The Last Jedi will fall way short of the $2bn total accrued by The Force Awakens back in 2015.
It’s perhaps unsurprising to hear of mixed box office fortunes for The Last Jedi given the divisive response to the film. The hardcore base of fans who almost certainly went to see The Force Awakens more than once may not be returning to The Last Jedi given their dislike of it, which is clearly hurting the box office. However, any notion that the film is a failure of some kind would be hopelessly misguided. This isn’t going to bring about a franchise sea change. Keep your Snoke fan theories at the back of that drawer where they belong.
Who do you think will win the Oscar for Best Picture this year? Are you excited to see Ridley Scott’s Merlin movie? Will you be going out to watch Slender Man? Let me know in the comments section and come back next Sunday for another news round-up.