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Todd McFarlane Offers Spawn Movie Update & Teases Big Announcement



Exclusive: Comic creator Todd McFarlane teases “a big announcement” to come about his Spawn movie reboot later this year at New York Comic Con.

Comic book creator Todd McFarlane teased a big announcement at Comic-Con 2022 for the upcoming Spawn movie reboot. First created in 1992 for Image Comics, Spawn is a dark antihero who was once a government assassin before he was killed and returned to the realm of the living after making a Faustian deal to become a Hellspawn. In 1997 the first live-action film adaptation starring Michael Jai White in the titular role was released in theaters, but it failed to strike a chord with critics and it mostly garnered negative reviews. The film also suffered from having its original R-rated cut toned down by producers to achieve a PG-13 rating. These disappointments aside, it still resulted in the creation of an animated series that would run on HBO for three seasons.


In early 2015 McFarlane announced that he was working on a fresh reboot of the property which he not only intended to pen but also to serve as his directorial debut. Set to be produced by horror film production company Blumhouse, and at one point Jamie Foxx was attached to star in the title role alongside lead Jeremy Renner (who helped convince Foxx to join too). Since its original announcement however, the project has faced numerous delays though McFarlane has remained ardent in his constant attempts to get the film off the ground. Then in August last year, a new writer, Brian Tucker, was brought on board to provide a new version of the script.

Screen Rant hosted the comic book legend at their San Diego Comic-Con 2022 media suite and asked McFarlane about whether he had any further news on his planned Spawn film. Confirming that despite delays due to the pandemic the project is still moving forward and is “adding pieces.” McFarlane reveals that he has some big news planned for New York Comic Con in October:

We decided, “You know what, let’s just do it in New York.” We’ll do it in New York [Comic Con].

Are we moving? Are we adding pieces? All of the above, yes. The best I can say right now, besides all that’s been happening, is that it kind of got slowed down during the pandemic and then picked back up. Especially given that, for a while, the only movies people were going to during the pandemic were superhero movies – minus James Bond. Now you get Maverick, and some of the big blockbusters that are coming back to normal.

But at New York Comic Con, there is going to be a big announcement.

With comic book movies dominating a significant portion of the box office, the time for Spawn to make a theatrical return is riper than ever especially as it can explore a different tone than the competition. Movie-going audiences are also far more accustomed to the prospect of an R-rated comic adaptation, with films like Joker, Deadpool and Logan proving that studios can branch out beyond a family-friendly PG rating and still do well at the box office. In order for a Spawn reboot to properly honor its comic book origins and succeed it will inevitably need to chase a similar rating, unlike its predecessor.

While it is disappointing that McFarlane does not have more specific news to share at this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con, fans will be overjoyed to hear that the project is still firmly in the pipeline. With any luck the big news he is teasing for October will include a potential release date, allowing Spawn fans to begin marking their calendars in anticipation. Fans will undoubtedly also be keeping their fingers crossed that Foxx and Renner are still involved in the project after all this time.

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‘Is This a Nightmare?’: Shock and Outrage as South African Film Board Rejects Groundbreaking African Classic ‘Black Girl’ Over ‘Hate Speech’



The Joburg Film Festival defiantly went ahead with a screening of Ousmane Sembène’s “Black Girl” on Thursday, refusing to bow to political pressure after South Africa’s Film and Publications Board (FPB) denied it permission to hold a public screening of the Senegalese director’s groundbreaking debut.

In a decision that shocked festival organizers and many of the African filmmakers in attendance, a FPB reviewer recommended the film be submitted for “full classification” — a process that would determine its suitability for public viewing — “due to prejudicial element that contains acts of hate speech which is degrading of a human being.”

The festival has appealed the ruling but decided to go on with Thursday’s screening when no official response to that appeal appeared forthcoming. The FPB did not immediately respond to a request from Variety for comment.

Addressing moviegoers on Thursday, a festival spokesperson rejected the board’s “unfair” decision and defended the screening of Sembène’s “monument of African cinema,” describing it as “a matter of principle” that aligned with “the spirit of protest that is the founding spirit of our country.”

Rafiki Fariala
Courtesy of Joburg Film Festival

Variety understands that in addition to “Black Girl,” at least two other films screening at this week’s Joburg Film Festival have been flagged by the review board: Rafiki Fariala’s “We Students!,” a documentary about a group of university students in the Central African Republic that played at the Berlin Film Festival last year, and Vladimir Seixas’ “Rolê — Histórias dos Rolezinhos,” a documentary about shopping mall protests that mobilized thousands of Black people against racial profiling and violence by security guards in Brazil.

Based on a short story written by Sembène, “Black Girl” follows a young Senegalese woman who moves to France in search of a better life. After taking a job as governess for a wealthy white family, she finds her hopes thwarted by a barrage of racist and humiliating incidents that finally drive her to commit suicide.

Credited with being sub-Saharan Africa’s first feature film, Sembène’s 1966 debut was instrumental in laying the foundation for post-colonial African cinema. In a 2015 review of Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman’s documentary about the late filmmaker, Sembène!,” Variety’s Guy Lodge described “Black Girl” as “a brief, searing snapshot of immigrant life in France that gained unprecedented international exposure for a film from sub-Saharan African cinema,” adding that the director’s “scorching brand of political cinema has lost none of its rhetorical and sensory immediacy over the years.”

The film previously played at the Joburg Film Festival without controversy in 2016.

In South Africa, where memories of apartheid-era censorship run deep, the FPB’s decision met with swift backlash from the local film community.

“I do not understand it and I am absolutely horrified,” said Emmy-nominated documentarian Jihan El-Tahri (“House of Saud”), who is a member of the jury at this year’s festival and has worked as a filmmaker and university lecturer in South Africa for almost 20 years.

“‘Black Girl’ is not just any film. ‘Black Girl’ is a seminal film in African history,” she said. “This is the film that starts the idea of an African vantage point in international cinema [and] was the first film to give a voice to African women — the dignity of an African woman and what she faced.”

Ousmane Sembène’s “Black Girl” is credited with being sub-Saharan Africa’s first feature film.
Courtesy of The Film Foundation

El-Tahri, whose 2008 documentary “Behind the Rainbow” explored the transition of South Africa’s African National Congress from a liberation group into the ruling party, said the FPB’s ruling, if upheld, “would be a shift that is totally unacceptable for film heritage on the entire continent.

“If South African students, the South African public, are no longer allowed to see such films — the essential films that changed the vantage point from how we, from our perspective, can tell a story — that is a disaster,” she said.

Senegalese director Moussa Sène Absa, whose “Xalé” opened this year’s Joburg Film Festival, expressed disbelief at the board’s decision. “Am I dreaming? Is this a nightmare? ‘Black Girl’ censored in South Africa?,” he said. “No way. No way. No way.”

Moussa Sène Absa
Courtesy of Gerhard Kassner/Berlinale

Citing the movie’s influence on his own career as an emerging director more than three decades ago, Absa praised Sembène’s film for its visual poetry and withering critique of the subjugation and humiliation inflicted by French colonizers upon their West African colonies. It was the first film, he stressed, to upend the colonial-era narrative that African filmmakers were unable to tell their own stories.

“I cannot imagine it,” he said, reflecting on the ruling. “This film opened so many doors for African cinema. It doesn’t make sense.”

In the FPB report, a copy of which was obtained by Variety, the reviewer listed several “scenes of prejudice” in violation of film board regulations, among them a French newspaper headline describing the protagonist’s suicide (“Young negress slashes her throat in employer’s bathroom”), and a dinner table scene in which a French guest tells his companions “Africans only eat rice” and “their independence has made them less natural.”

That content, the reviewer determined, “may be threatening, disturbing, or cognitively harmful to children younger than 13 as they are still immature and impressionable to tolerate complex themes of exploitation and oppression…[and] will not be able to comprehend the intention of the director to show the impact of colonialism and slavery.”

Festival organizers, however, noted that children under the age of 13 were already restricted from watching the film.

Ousmane Sembène’s Venice Special Jury Prize winner “Mandabi” plays in Johannesburg this week.

“Black Girl” is the centerpiece of a programming strand at the Joburg Film Festival paying homage to Sembène, who would have celebrated his centennial birthday this year. Presented as part of the Africa Film Heritage Project, a collaboration between Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO to locate, restore and preserve African films, the sidebar will also screen a digitally restored version of Sembène’s Venice Special Jury Prize winner “Mandabi,” along with a selection of other pioneering African works.

The controversy this week in Johannesburg recalled a similar incident at the Durban Film Festival in 2013, when a ruling by the FPB against Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s “Of Good Report” forced organizers to show a black screen at the film’s opening-night premiere.

The Joburg Film Festival runs Jan. 31 – Feb. 5.

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Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2 Movie Gets Surprising Development Update



Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2 receives a surprisingly positive update from Legendary Entertainment years after it was announced to be in development.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2 receives a surprisingly positive update from Legendary Entertainment. The first live-action Pokémon movie ever, Detective Pikachu follows Justice Smith as an aspiring trainer who teams up with the eponymous electric-powered investigator (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) to solve the mystery of his missing father. Months before the film’s release in 2019, Legendary was already developing a sequel with 22 Jump Street‘s Oren Uziel writing the script. However, there haven’t been any substantial updates since then.


Now, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2 has received a surprisingly promising update. According to a representative for Legendary Entertainment (via Polygon), the project is still “in active development.” Representatives for Uziel stated he is no longer involved, though he did write a screenplay. However, Legendary remained mum on who is currently working on Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2.

This Detective Pikachu 2 Update Is Promising, But Is No Guarantee

Detective Pikachu smiling in the film of the same name.

This Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2 update is promising, though it is also not a guarantee that the sequel will actually get made, as projects stall out while in development all the time. While Detective Pikachu star Smith has said he would love to participate in the project, he was not optimistic about the sequel’s chances the last time he commented on it publicly in 2021. Perhaps Smith’s outlook has changed in light of this recent update.

Uziel, whose video game adaptation chops extend to Sonic the Hedgehog, wrote an outline and a first draft for Detective Pikachu 2, but with him no longer involved, it’s unclear who is actively working on bringing the sequel to life. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu writers Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit say they aren’t involved either, though they would like to be. The first film was developed by several other collaborators, such as Jurassic World‘s Derek Connolly and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Nicole Perlman, who could be brought back for the sequel.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu was both a critical and commercial success, receiving praise for Reynolds’ performance and its visual effects, while grossing $433 million at the box office on a $150 million budget. Therefore, it seems like a no-brainer for Warner Bros. and Legendary to give the Rob Letterman-directed movie a bigger and more action-packed sequel, though Detective Pikachu 2 appears to have hit some roadblocks in development, possibly related to Legendary’s new distribution deal with Sony, which end its long-standing partnership with WB. While the recent Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 2 update is promising, it’s still unclear what the future holds for this live-action corner of the Pokémon franchise.

Source: Polygon

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Hollywood Returns (Cautiously) to Super Bowl With Spots for ‘The Flash’ and ‘Fast X’



During the peak of COVID, as movie theaters were struggling to stay open and blockbusters were getting delayed again and again, Hollywood tightened its wallet for expensive Super Bowl spots. Why spend a casual $6 million — or more — to promote a film that may not see the light of day any time soon?

But the movies are back, baby. And there’s no better place to guarantee America’s undivided attention than the most-watched television event of the year. Over 100 million viewers are expected to tune into this year’s showdown, between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, slated for broadcast on Fox on Feb. 12.

That’s why major studios, including Disney, Universal and Paramount, are returning — with a bigger presence, compared to earlier pandemic days — to the Big Game with looks at “Fast X,” the latest installment in the sprawling “Fast & Furious” franchise, the adaptation of “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Cocaine Bear,” a comedy about — you guessed it! — a bear on cocaine. The goal, of course, is turning those marketing dollars into box office ticket sales.

Major movie studios have long been a pillar of the Super Bowl ad roster, with the three aforementioned ones typically providing the bulk of the category’s commercial spending for the gridiron classic. But, as of late, some of that cash has been used to tout streaming hubs for venues such as Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Indeed, Paramount+ is set to run a Super Bowl ad starring Sylvester Stallone, the star of its show “Tulsa King.” Streaming services and broadband hubs shelled out $58.5 million to tout their wares in the 2022 Super Bowl broadcast on NBC, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. That’s more than the money spent by crypto firms; big beer brewers; and consumer-goods manufacturers, three other Super Bowl category stalwarts.

As for other traditional players, Warner Bros. is reportedly bringing “The Flash,” a superhero adventure starring Ezra Miller, though the studio’s spokesperson Candice McDonough didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Attendees of DC Fandom and CinemaCon were treated to teasers of “The Flash,” but it’ll be the public’s first look at the anticipated summer tentpole, which has been declared by James Gunn, the new head of DC Comics, as “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.” (Objectively speaking, of course.)

Otherwise, studios are expected to offer new marketing materials for movies that have already been heavily advertised — such as “Scream,” which opens in March; and “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” which debuts in June. A spot for “Fast X” is getting prime placement, but it’ll come a few days after Universal hosts an official trailer premiere in Los Angeles.

Disney is likely to promote several of its upcoming releases during the big game, but the studio isn’t sharing which ones will get airtime. Among the other major players, Sony, MGM and Lionsgate aren’t expected to bring the goods on Super Bowl Sunday. However, plans could always change prior to the main event.

Some of the usual suspects are trying a shift in strategy. Disney’s own plans may be foggy for the moment, but the company’s Marvel Studios is already showing up in an ad for Heineken. Actor Paul Rudd, the hero of the studio’s upcoming “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” appears as Scott Lang in a recent teaser from the beer. Mmm, tastes like corporate synergy.

Netflix is taking a similar route. It’s not running any stand-alone Super Bowl ads, according to Marian Lee, the company’s giant’s chief marketing officer, but the streamer has elected instead to team up with Anheuser-Busch InBev and General Motors with spots from those two advertising stalwarts to tout various Netflix series. An ad for Michelob Ultra also contains a QR code that lets viewers see a sneak peek of the golf documentary series “Full Swing.” And a one-minute GM spot featuring Will Ferrell will nod to Netflix shows including “Bridgerton,” “Squid Games” and “Stranger Things.”

Elsewhere, Michelob Ultra’s “Caddyshack” tribute, a “Breaking Bad” reunion centered around PopCorners and Meghan Trainor’s “look” at Pringles will keep the commercial breaks stuffed.

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