Is Johnny Depp somehow Johnny Depp-proof? With the early receipts for the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise now promising another blockbuster in the bag, it would appear that the actor’s somehow invulnerable to his own noxious public profile. Though the revelation that he had physically abused longtime partner Amber Heard came to light last year, it apparently hasn’t diminished his earning potential, and frustrating as that may be, it means we’re in for a whole lot more Depp. And if producer Jerry Bruckheimer has anything to say about, more Jack Sparrow in specific.
It’s not an exact science, making movies. Plenty of projects get stuck in the suspended animation of development, and even those that move forward do so at a gradual pace. But sometimes, everything works out just perfectly: two years ago, I reported on a picture called Felt, a biopic of Watergate informant Mark ‘Deep Throat’ Felt starring Liam Neeson in the title role. I forgot about the item soon afterward, but production has been chugging along for the past couple of years, and director Peter Landesman is preparing to unveil this new film at the most perfect time imaginable. You can plan for a lot, but it takes a stroke of divine generosity for a full-scale Presidential treason investigation to break out around the time you release your Watergate movie.
From the ranks of the Sons of Anarchy cast, Taylor Sheridan has emerged as one of the buzziest screenwriters working today. He took Cannes by storm and scored an intelligent sleeper hit with Sicario, his south-of-the-border drug war drama. He made it to the Oscars with another yarn of crime and the solemn-faced folks working to stop it, the timely Western standoff Hell or High Water. And now, the accomplished writer has delivered another potboiler set on the grand expanses of the American plains, with a sweetened deal: he’ll get the chance to prove himself as a filmmaker, too, taking his debut directorial credit on Wind River.
For those who engage in it, speculating on the significance of obscure clues in the Star Wars universe has gone beyond a hobby and grown into a way of life. Even something as simple as a three-word phrase — one word of which is “the” — can spark months of obsessive investigation. And while George Lucas’ disciples will have to wait until December to finally learn the identity of The Last Jedi’s title figure, that has not stopped the dogged gumshoes of Vanity Fair from pumping key figures for information.
For better and for worse, Michael Bay is America. His work is loud, dumb but mounted on a scale that all but demands respect, all jacked up on patriotism, continuously tolerant of Mark Wahlberg, easily distracted by large shiny objects, and more than anything, enamored of explosions. Bay’s not the greatest living filmmaker, but he may be the most fundamentally American, and he’s about to make that comparison an eensy bit more literal with a new project focused on the nasty business of war. Specifically, that newest and most unsettling form of automated combat, drone warfare.
Roland Emmerich is a man of many catastrophes. In most instances, he’s stood by to dramatize and chronicle calamity, from an anti-American alien invasion to a gigantic irradiated lizard-monster attack to weather-event cataclysms to biblical weather-even cataclysms. On a handful of occasions, Emmerich himself has been the disaster, causing just as much metaphorical wreckage with the hilariously awful Anonymous, Stonewall, and Independence Day: Resurgence as his various hurricanes have caused literal. And yet through it all, Rollie’s continued to forge ahead, improbably wrangling the money for yet another new feature. (Though that money has come from China, but hey, a yuan’s a yuan at the end of the day.)
As noted in a new item at Variety today, Sony has been on something of a roll when it comes to getting female talent behind the camera. They’ve put together a respectable slate of films directed by women: Catherine Hardwicke was tapped to translate narco thriller Miss Bala for American audiences, Broad City mastermind Lucia Aniello wrote-directed the upcoming bachelorette-shenanigans comedy Rough Night, Michelle MacLaren landed the Sam Claflin-led thriller Nightingale, and perhaps most intriguingly of all, Elizabeth Banks has taken her next directorial project with a reboot of Charlie’s Angels. And for the latter two, today brings concrete news of impending developments.
The prevailing message of the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming has been that of novelty. This will be a fresh take on the Peter Parker mythos, making him younger than ever, sticking him in the treacherous social minefield of high school, and assigning him a lovably bratty irreverence more in-step with the comic-book original. Plus, Aunt May is young and hot now! But while Marvel and Sony’s advertising has gone to great lengths to assure audiences that this will not be their father’s Spider-Man (and it definitely won’t be the Andrew Garfield one we’re all psychologically working to repress), there is one respect in which this production is business as usual.
Aside from behaving like a normal, un-intimidating human being, there’s nothing Michael Shannon can’t do. When stuck in waiting rooms or the like, a fun way to pass the time is imagining Shannon taking over the lead role in any movie. It’s a can’t-fail formula for success: Jaws, but the shark is Michael Shannon? I’m there. Mulholland Dr., but Michael Shannon takes over both of Naomi Watts’ parts? Two tickets, please. A Transformers movie where Shannon appears in place or the giant alien robot? That would actually somehow make more sense. So when you see a headline that says “Michael Shannon bigfoot dramedy,” you can pretty much stop reading.
Even as Marvel continues to crank out massively scaled spectacles, they’re always keeping one eye on the future. Ant-Man sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp won’t shrink down and infiltrate theaters until July 6, 2018, but the wheels of pre-production have begun turning on the sequel audiences apparently asked for.
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