“Joker 2” Drama Turns Nasty – What’s Going On?

Yikes. The movie that has been sparking universal controversy and uproar since its release in early October is still stirring up trouble, this time leading to a feud between two of the biggest entertainment news trades in Hollywood – quite appropriate for a movie about the Clown Prince of Crime.

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This time, the inciting incident was an article by The Hollywood Reporter, which claimed that The Joker director Todd Phillips is looking to team up with star Joaquin Phoenix once again to film a sequel to the R-rated villain origin story which grossed over a billion dollars at the box office and is gaining slow traction in awards season races. Phillips and Phoenix had both previously discussed not wanting to do a sequel because it would ruin their artistic vision – that seems to have changed when the film crossed into the billion-dollar club, landing Phillips himself a paycheck somewhere in the range of $100 million. THR added that on October 7th, mere days after Joker opened in theaters, Phillips met with Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich and pitched an idea that Emmerich rejected: that Phillips should be given the ability to develop origin movies for an entire rogue’s gallery of classic DC Comics villains (THR specifically referenced the dictatorial Darkseid and power-hungry businessman Lex Luthor as possible examples). While Phillips’ idea appears to have been a bit too extreme for the studio, it is said he walked away from the meeting with the rights to “at least one other DC story”. All this seems pretty standard so far: it’s unsurprising that Phillips would want to direct a sequel to the smash hit, and it’s not even all that surprising that he thinks he’s entitled to take over the entire DC villain roster.

But soon after, Deadline fired back with a vicious piece that used the words “great click bait” to refer to the Hollywood Reporter’s earlier story. According to their sources, no Joker sequel is being discussed at this stage. And that’s not all. I quote: “the linchpin of today’s THR story – that a week after Joker’s opening, Phillips met with Warner Bros film chief Toby Emmerich to pitch a portfolio of DC character origin stories – is as flat false as earlier stories that Martin Scorsese contemplated directing the first Joker”.

Okay, this isn’t really relevant to the rest of the story, but this is what Martin Scorsese had to say about those “flat as false” rumors, in an interview with Variety earlier this month: “[I] thought about it a lot over the past four years…I decided that I didn’t have the time to do it”. Marty went on to complain about how he didn’t want to direct it because he didn’t feel comfortable making a movie about a comic book character, etc, etc, you’ve heard all that before, I’m sure.

Leaving aside that glaring error in Deadline’s reporting, the lack of professionalism from the respected trade is shocking and dismaying – is this the malevolent work of the Joker at play, turning Hollywood news agencies against each other? Is it an act of pettiness on Deadline’s part, because THR broke the story first? The bigger, more important question is: which one is actually right? Is Todd Phillips going to be placed in charge of the DC’s villains department or not? Will we have to endure several more years of Joker-induced chaos?

Not long after Deadline’s article came out, poor little Variety showed up with their own piece, which is basically being ignored by everybody: in it, they say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: Phillips has met with Toby Emmerich to discuss a sequel to Joker, but no other DC villain origin films are being planned, and Phillips would be too busy directing Joker 2 (if true) to direct those other films, anyway.

As of right now, that’s all I have to say about this strangely chaotic story. But I’m posing the question to you, dear readers: what’s really going on at the DC right now, and who’s directing what? Would you be interested in a Joker sequel? Would you be interested in origin stories for other DC villains? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Millie Bobby Brown Joins Marvel’s “The Eternals”!

Millie Bobby Brown, the teenage star of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things is enjoying what is hopefully only the promising beginning of a long career in the entertainment industry: she is still best known for her work on the show, since her film roles have tended to…not go quite as well. This year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a good example – Brown was supposed to be one of the film’s main selling points, but wasn’t enough to garner any critical or, crucially, financial success for the film, which flopped.

Now, as people begin to wonder how long Stranger Things can last (I’m going to guess that, as long as it keeps drawing in record audiences, it will last for a long time), Brown is turning her attention to the movie industry with new fervor. She’s already snatched up the lead role in Enola Holmes, a film about the crime-solving younger sister of famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who will be portrayed by Henry Cavill. And, according to one very peculiar reference in an article by Variety (I’ve noticed that Variety does this a lot), Brown might also be on her way to joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The article in question talks about what Marvel will be showcasing at their eagerly-awaited Hall H presentation for San Diego Comic Con. Obviously, the event will be huge, but the article itself seems, at first glance, to just recap what we already guessed. Marvel president Kevin Feige will be there, and will officially announce projects such as Black Widow, Doctor Strange 2, Black Panther 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and The Eternals“which has been widely reported to star Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Richard Madden, as well as “Stranger Things” lead Millie Bobby Brown”.

Say what now?

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It’s entirely possible that Variety has confirmation of this casting, and just decided, for whatever reason, to randomly drop it as an aside in an article about Comic Con. As I said, they do that sort of stuff a lot. But it is interesting that they don’t actually reference any sources, saying instead that these are just the cast-members “widely reported to star”. Is that confirmation or what? Considering that Brown is currently at the peak of her popularity, wouldn’t it have made sense to, I don’t know, address this major casting announcement in a separate article?

It doesn’t even seem possible that they would be basing this information off the rumors going around a few months ago that Brown had been cast in The Eternals, rumors which Brown herself strongly denied, claiming she didn’t even know what The Eternals was, and that the rumors were “a waste of time”. But, then again, this is not the first time Brown has been associated with Marvel – back in 2017, she was seen visiting Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo while they were filming Infinity War and Endgame: and interestingly, a lot of rumors were going around before Endgame‘s release that two characters from The Eternals would be in in the film, specifically in a post-credits scene. It’s important to note that one of these two characters was rumored to be a teenage female, known as “Piper”.

If Brown has been cast as “Piper”, whoever that may be, she will not be the first Stranger Things star to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe: David Harbour, who play Brown’s character’s father on the show, was cast in the upcoming Black Widow movie, also in an undisclosed role.

So what do you think? Is this a slip-up by Variety, or has Millie Bobby Brown actually been cast in The Eternals? How would you feel about this casting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and be patient: all will be revealed at San Diego Comic Con!

“The Flash” Is Still Happening!

Ezra Miller’s promising career has kind of run up against a brick wall this year – his two biggest upcoming projects, in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World and the DC Extended Universe, have both been stuck in some sort of…well, we can’t even call it “development hell” because neither has even made it into development yet! The Fantastic Beasts franchise is busy sending out S.O.S signals and frantically rearranging its schedule, with the release date for the series’ third entry having been pushed back to November of 2021. Miller’s DC solo movie, Flashpoint (or just The Flash, it doesn’t technically have a title yet) has been slowly drifting off into hazy forgetfulness for years, with random outbursts of news popping up every now and again to remind us that, maybe, someday, this movie might have a slim chance of possibly happening.

Earlier this year, there was huge breaking news that Ezra Miller was not only still making that movie, but had taken it upon himself to rewrite the entire script with the help of comic-book author Grant Morrison. The rumor, which began circulating on March 15th, suggested that Miller’s new script could be submitted to Warner Brothers Studios, and I quote, “as early as next week”.

And, uh, yeah…that apparently never happened.

What makes it even weirder is that, after the deafening silence from Miller, DC, and Warner Brothers the week after that report surfaced, there continued to be precisely no news about the film in the months since. Miller’s contract with DC was said to expire in May, at which point the actor would either have to renegotiate his deal or part ways with the role of the Flash – not something that seemed likely, considering that Miller claimed to be deeply committed to making sure the movie happened. Well, May came and went, and there was still no word about what Miller was up to: had he submitted his script, against the wishes of his own directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein? Had they persuaded him to abandon his idea and end his partnership with Morrison? Did Miller’s expire? Is he still playing the Flash? Is the Flash even still happening?

The story is still very patchy and incomplete, and there’s obviously a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes: because now, according to one vague sentence in a brief piece on Miller’s gender-fluidity by Variety, Miller “will get his DC Universe stand alone film as soon as he wraps up his work on the “Harry Potter” spinoff series “Fantastic Beasts”.

So…um, I guess he’s still onboard?

What’s not clear is whether Miller’s script – a darker take on the source material than that being used by his directors – has been adopted for the film, or whether the actor has been forced back in line. It would seem that he’s renegotiated his deal, at the very least. And it looks like The Flash is still happening? Unfortunately, it’s clearly not happening anytime soon: Miller’s responsibility to the Fantastic Beasts franchise will probably keep him occupied through most of early 2020, as he shoots Fantastic Beasts 3.

The article, though, doesn’t say Fantastic Beasts 3 – it refers to the entire Fantastic Beasts franchise, which gives me some reason to worry. Now, it could mean one of three things: (a) the article is simply worded oddly: Variety is usually reliable, but they did also reference an upcoming Justice League sequel in an article not too long ago about Ben Affleck – needless to say, there is no upcoming Justice League sequel and never has been. (b) the article is being literal, and implies that Miller will have to finish filming the last three Fantastic Beasts movies before he can move on to playing the Flash, in which case we’re going to have to wait a very long time for that movie, or (c), the most dreadful possibility, the article is being literal, and Fantastic Beasts 3 is indeed the end of the franchise: unfortunately, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, with the way that the second film in the series, The Crimes of Grindelwald, drastically underperformed at the box-office, and failed to resonate with critics or audiences.

I’m really hoping that it means nothing, and just boils down to a faulty editor or a careless writer.

But whatever it means for the Wizarding World, it looks like Miller’s future with the DCEU is…safe, I guess? He hasn’t been publicly let go, at least. Whatever is going on with the script behind the scenes, it looks like the Flash is still making his way…slowly…to the big screen.

Aladdin First Full-Length Trailer!

As someone who (a) was never a die-hard fan of the original animated Aladdin, (b) isn’t too fond of the Disney Remake trend, and (c) wasn’t impressed by either of the two teasers put out for this Disney Remake of a film I don’t really care one way or the other about – I went into this first full-length trailer more than slightly concerned that this would just be…flat. Meh. Forgettable.

But now, I see how wrong I was.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, this could just be a trick of the trailer-editing: after all, the teaser was greeted with so much backlash that Disney basically had to put together a trailer that was beautiful, nostalgic and action-packed, so I shouldn’t be surprised that this looks so good. Maybe they just stitched together all of the best parts from the movie, and the rest of the film is less than perfect.

But look here: the trailer opens with a cool action sequence of Aladdin (Mena Massoud) dodging some soldiers in the marketplace of Agrabah. After escaping from them, he runs straight into our beloved Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). The tingle of romance in the air is palpable: Massoud does a great job in this scene, and looks completely infatuated. Jasmine herself is in street-garb, maybe hiding her royal identity: it’s been said that in this remake, Jasmine takes more of an interest in the people of her city, and is trying to explore Agrabah to help the impoverished citizens.

The trailer then takes a turn, and gets dark: Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) strides confidently through his underground lair at 0:24, while Iago flies past (more on him in a minute). Jafar looks good enough from the back, though I’m still not sold on his voice. He leads Aladdin through the desert, promising him wealth: wealth enough “to impress a princess”. At 0:35 Jasmine appears again, but now she is in full royal garb: she’s got her tiger, and her guards, and she looks majestic. The palace itself looks absolutely stunning: we haven’t gotten quite enough wide shots of the entire palace, but what we see in this teaser is enough to make me feel very awed and humbled.

Anyway, the next shock is that Aladdin actually speaks! This is the first time that our lead character has said a single word in the promotional material for this film – such an achievement. Well, now that he actually does speak, his voice sounds fine: he’s not got an impressive voice, by any means. Better than Jafar’s, though.

The Cave of Wonders! At 0:43, we enter the Cave – it looks fine. Very blue-toned, still. Not, maybe, as wondrous as I would have liked, but good enough. But whatever: we’ve seen this same scene in all the teasers now, and – but wait! The Lamp! It’s so beautiful, and it’s filled with swirling blue light under what seems to be a transparent lid: a nice touch. I’m now holding my breath, waiting to see what I think of The Genie (Will Smith), The Genie that will emerge from this beautiful lamp and possibly make or break this movie, The Genie that looked so awful in the second teaser. The purple and blue smoke begins to rush from the lamp…

He looks fine.

The Genie looks fine. Still looks like a blue Will Smith, but the CGI has been much more exquisitely handled, and at least now it doesn’t seem like Will Smith’s head has been superimposed on someone else’s body. I mean, am I blown away by The Genie now? No, not exactly – that is to say, not in his Genie form – but he at least looks good enough now that he’s downright bizarre or even disturbing. There’s a snipper of “A Friend Like Me”, which seems good: Carpet has maracas, and that’s what really stood out the most to me about this scene. It really looks fun, and kind of awesome.

Our time in the Cave of Wonders is brief, as we are suddenly back in the desert, with Aladdin and The Genie side-by-side looking out over a barren landscape at 1:09. The Genie is only seen from a distance here, but the CGI looks not-so-good in that one shot.

But now, the trailer really starts making me interested – no, not just interested, but invested. The Genie transforms into, well, Will Smith, but not blue anymore, and it’s a relief. There’s some great humorous banter here. It’s great to see how Aladdin is prepared to just shamelessly take advantage of the fact that he now has three wishes at his disposal: he asks immediately “Can you make me a prince?”

The Genie, though, has a great response: “There’s a lot of gray area in: make me a prince” he states, and demonstrates by literally making a prince for Aladdin. I hope he has more scenes like that in the movie – it’s an almost Alice In Wonderland type joke, and I just love it.

Things start moving really quickly: The Genie changes Aladdin into Prince Ali; there’s a celebration in Agrabah – and another great shot of the palace; and there’s a party where The Genie is playing matchmaker for Aladdin and Jasmine. The next scene after that has Aladdin and Jasmine speaking to each other, probably after the party – Aladdin says he “thought a princess could go anywhere”. “Not this princess” Jasmine replies.

And then, we get our first look at “A Whole New World” – and it looks great. Pure magic, even for someone who really doesn’t consider the original Aladdin to be a great film. This looks really awesome. As our two lovebirds sing their hearts out, however, there’s other stuff going on onscreen that shouldn’t be ignored: Jasmine and Aladdin dancing, Aladdin falling towards the water, Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders again, Aladdin creeping along the rooftops of Agrabah, Aladdin in an icy landscape (wow, this trailer is going overboard to show us Aladdin after barely showing him at all in the first two teasers), and then Jafar with his cobra-staff, looking more impressive and villainous. At 2:02 we see Jasmine singing – this probably comes from the solo musical number they’ve given her for the remake. And then at 2:03 we have…

Wait, hold up…

Aladdin being chased by a giant Iago?

I honestly have no idea what this scene could be, or why Iago is gigantic, but it looks COOL, so I’m going to just accept it.

And then it ends, with one last beautiful glimpse of the Cave of Wonders. It looks very fun, very enjoyable, and everything looks so much better. I can’t wait to see more, and I can’t wait for May, to go see this film! Here’s hoping this is actually indicative of the finished product, and not just the work of some very savvy editors!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Marvel’s “The Eternals” casting FIRST GAY SUPERHERO?

Some big news broke recently concerning Marvel’s The Eternals, a movie set to begin filming in August, which should be released next year. We had been getting some small teases as to what this film might be about, and which characters might be in it – for instance, we had received news that Margo Damian might be in the film, though this is unconfirmed and the female lead is still going under the alias “Karen”, while her character description is vague and says Marvel is looking for an actress in her early 30s, of any ethnicity (but especially African, Native American or Middle Eastern). Meanwhile, other character descriptions had also been revealed, which seemed to suggest that classic Eternals characters like Ikaris, Makkari, Sersi, Starfox, Thena, Zuras, Druig and Gilgamesh were being considered for roles in the movie: there were also surprising additions to the line-up like Elysius and “Piper”, who seems to be a take on the Eternals character Sprite. But one of the most interesting by far was the male lead, which didn’t even get so much as an alias, and was described merely as a Greek God. Now, thanks to a new report, we may have a clue as to who that character might be – and it bodes well for the future of LGBTQ superheroes onscreen.

Because, yes, the news that broke March 1st – and appeared to be given additional credence first by Marvel production chief Victoria Alonso, and then by Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige himself – was that Marvel is seeking to cast an openly gay male actor to play the male lead: who is set to become their first openly gay superhero. Combine that with the fact that this male lead is described as a Greek God, and what do you get?

Hercules, that’s what.

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The character, a Greek God who is somewhat similar to Thor (well, Thor post Thor: Ragnarok that is), has been bisexual in the comics – but it didn’t end very well, and attracted some backlash after the character was suddenly made straight again. Bringing Herc back, and making him definitively gay or bisexual in the MCU would be a great way to settle that issue. The character description, it seems, has been updated so that now Marvel is looking for an openly gay male actor age 30-49, who “physically looks like a superhero”. That last note is interesting: other actors have been able to bulk up for roles in Marvel movies, but Hercules is massively muscled, and would probably require an actor who is already at least similar in size.

So, considering all that we know so far, I’d say that Hercules is, if not a sure bet, than at least a definite possibility. It could be that Marvel is choosing to make Ikaris or another male character gay instead, and that Hercules won’t show up at all, but fans have definitely been looking forward to seeing him in the MCU, and having him be the first gay male superhero in their impressive roster would be pretty cool. But either way, this news is most interesting because it means Marvel will finally be delivering its first gay lead – scratch that, its first gay character, period. Another Marvel character, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) has been confirmed to be bisexual, but this was never even hinted at in the films, and in fact a scene with some lesbian overtones was cut from Black Panther. This is a step in the right direction for the MCU, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll end up.