Credit: Lucasfilm

Cinematically Speaking - 6/5/14

Welcome to the first edition of my weekly Flicksided column – Cinematically Speaking – where I touch on the happenings in the movie business over the past week and give my take on them, and basically whatever else is on my mind.

Star Wars – The big news of the week, and probably every week from now until the end of time, comes from the Star Wars Universe. We know that Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones) have joined the cast of Star Wars VII, and while JJ Abrams works on that, two directors have been hired for separate spin-off films. Josh Trank (Chronicle) and Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) are the lucky men poised to put their own stamp on Star Wars.

Edwards’ film will open December 2016, one year after Episode VII. Presumably, Trank’s film will open in 2017 before Episode VIII arrives in 2018.

Leading speculation is that one or both of these films will be stand-alone prequels, centered on a younger Boba Fett, Han Solo or Yoda. I wouldn’t mind if one was this way, but my hope is that one of them is an original adventure. I’d actually like to see a stand-alone on another side of the galaxy just a couple years after the Emperor’s killed, of factions of the Empire refusing to let go of their power.

Regarding Episode VII, returning cast members include Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew. This will mean the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 are over 60 years old. Think of a piece of electronic equipment over 60 years old. Why would it still be around, other than as guest appearances on Antique Roadshow?

Also, if Chewie’s still around, do we get to see his wife, whom we haven’t seen since the Star Wars Holiday Special?

Casting NewsNaomi Watts has joined the cast of Insurgent, the sequel to this spring’s hit Divergent. She’ll play Evelyn, leader of the Factionless. I haven’t read Insurgent yet, but I like seeing talent join big-budget films. Gives me more hope they’ll be good.

– Djimon Hounsou will play Chief Mbonga in the live-action Tarzan movie. This movie picks up when Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character has already been found and assimilated into British society. Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson also star. I’m glad they’re skipping the origin story.

– Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are reuniting for Daddy’s Home, about an uptight radio executive (Ferrell) who wants to be the best father in the world to his stepson, but when the boy’s freeloading birth father (Wahlberg) returns, hijinks ensue. Ferrell and Wahlberg had good chemistry in The Other Guys, so it’s a smart move by them to work together again. I’m also glad it’s with new material instead of a sequel.

In Other News – Bill Condon (Twilight: Breaking Dawn I & II) will be directing a live-action Beauty & the Beast, based on Disney’s 1991 movie. Disney’s had success with live-actioning previous films (101 Dalmatians, Alice in WonderlandMaleficent), and they also have Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and Sofia Coppola’s The Little Mermaid on the way. So I suppose I should take this time to point out that Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules movie is not based on the Disney version.

- Jupiter Ascending has been pushed back to February 6, 2015. Normally when a high-profile movie gets pushed to February, it’s a combination of last-minute special-effects tweaks and poor tracking numbers. (Remember The Wolfman?) The Wachowskis’ latest film does look original, but people are having a hard time with Channing Tatum in elf ears. Cloud Atlas was original too, but that bombed.

What I’m Watching:

(Photo: The Weinstein Company)

(Photo: The Weinstein Company)

The Railway Man – This indie prestige piece is almost gone from theaters, but I managed to catch a matinee. I liked it but I can see why it didn’t fare better. It feels a lot like a TV-movie, but one where stars like Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman are in it. The pacing isn’t smooth. Firth and Kidman have a quick courtship, and only afterwards does his trauma from his WWII days bubble to the surface. This movie offers a darker shade to The Bridge on the River Kwai, as we jump back and forth in time to see Firth’s Eric Lomax still haunted by his POW days, combined with seeing a bit at a time what the younger Lomax (War Horse‘s Jeremy Irvine) went through. It’s a moving tale about revenge versus reconciliation. It’s based on Lomax’s autobiography.

Muppets Most Wanted – Took my kids to the discount theater to see this. The Muppets are an interesting, antiquated franchise, with the gang still invested in putting on a vaudevillian show like they did in the 1970’s. Bret McKenzie is back to write all-new songs for the group. Some amuse, some drag. I liked the interaction between CIA agent Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell’s Inspector Closeau-type Interpol agent. The cameos were numerous and some more effective than others. I liked the trio of Jemaine Clement, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo befriending Kermit in the Siberian gulag.

It makes a plot point of “will they or won’t they” get married between Kermit and Miss Piggy. Since they got married at the end of 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan, I presume this mean that film is no longer canon? Often the films reset and act as stand-alone, but Muppets Most Wanted definitely takes place in the same universe as 2011’s The Muppets. While it had its charms, it’s one I’m glad I didn’t pay first-run ticket prices to see.

Lone Survivor – It’s new on DVD this week, so I linked to my original review.

Tags: Alexander Skarsgard Beauty & The Beast Casting News Djimon Hounsou Gareth Edwards Gwendoline Christie Insurgent Josh Trank Lupita Nyong'o Muppets Most Wanted Naomi Watts Star Wars Star Wars 7 Star Wars Episode VII Star Wars Universe The Railway Man

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