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With a 2023 Slate Hobbled by Controversial Stars, Warner Bros. and DC Stick to 2022 Titles in Muted Comic-Con Appearance



For most of the 2010s, Warner Bros. cast a massive shadow at San Diego Comic-Con. Between its substantial presence on the showroom floor and a pull-out-all-the-stops presentation in Hall H that could stretch well beyond two hours, the studio was second to none — not even its main rival, Marvel Studios — in its ability to leverage the largest fan convention in North America to its advantage.

This year, the studio took a decidedly different approach. It skipped the show floor completely, including a presence for DC Comics. And while it did use its hour-long panel in Hall H to showcase two of its 2022 releases — “Black Adam” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” — the studio’s biggest DC movies for 2023, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and “The Flash,” were completely MIA. There was no mention of other DC titles like “Batgirl” (expected to debut this year) and “Blue Beetle” (the first Latino superhero film), nor updates on the future of Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” and Robert Pattinson’s “The Batman.” (Meanwhile, persistent internet rumors of an appearance by “Man of Steel” star Henry Cavill also proved to be as unfounded as they seemed.)

Instead, “Shazam! 2” star Zachary Levi bantered with costars Lucy Liu, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer and director David F. Sandberg, while Helen Mirren and Rachel Zegler appeared in a scripted video message in which Mirren celebrated her female costars by saying, “Yay, pussy power!”

It was up to Dwayne Johnson, in costume as Black Adam, to bring the drama, emerging on a raised platform surrounded in smoke and sending a bolt of lightning into the audience — activating blue lights in lanyards handed out to the Hall H audience.

The crowd lapped it up, but there was a palpable sense that they were eager for more: An audience member asked Levi if Shazam would fight Superman (Levi played dumb and then winked at the audience), and Johnson was asked how Black Adam would fare against the man of steel. (Johnson’s eyebrow-raising reply: “It probably all depends on who’s playing Superman.”)

As for “Aquaman 2” and “The Flash,” studio insiders have said those films are too far away on the schedule to warrant a big splash at Comic-Con. But in previous years, Warner Bros. has used Hall H as a launching pad for films well beyond the calendar year. The 2014 panel for the studio included the first-ever look at 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Zack Snyder first announced 2016’s “Batman v Superman” at Comic-Con in 2013; the panel for the film was held in 2015.

Both “Aquaman 2” and “The Flash” completed shooting months ago, giving their respective directors, James Wan and Andy Muschietti, plenty of time to put together some sizzling footage to whip up the buzz commensurate with the characters’ stature among the Comic-Con faithful.

“Aquaman 2,” however, costars Amber Heard, who just spent months at the center of one of the ugliest public court battles in Hollywood history against her ex-husband Johnny Depp. A jury found in June that they both defamed each other, but Depp was awarded millions more in damages against Heard, who was also relentlessly ridiculed and excoriated by Depp’s fans on social media. (She filed a notice of appeal on July 21.)

And “The Flash” star Ezra Miller is facing multiple allegations of abusive behavior, including choking a woman in Iceland and harassing another woman in her home in Berlin, as well as two arrests in Hawaii this year — once in March, for disorderly conduct and harassment, and another a month later, for second-degree assault. (Miller has never commented on the allegations of misconduct against them; a source close to the situation told Variety in June that the actor is privately focusing on their health and healing, hoping to address the allegations at some point in the future.)

The circumstances of Heard and Miller’s situations are quite different. However, in both cases, Warner Bros. is facing down an impossible dilemma without much precedent, even in the #MeToo era: How to promote their escapist superhero franchises when their stars are embroiled in toxic scandals that overwhelm all other conversation about them.

In the case of “Aquaman 2,” Walter Hamada, who runs the studio’s DC unit, testified in a video deposition in the Heard-Depp trial that the studio did consider recasting Heard in the role of Mera opposite star Jason Momoa because the actors “didn’t have a lot of chemistry together.”

“Editorially they were able to make that relationship work in the first movie, but there was a concern that it took a lot of effort to get there,” Hamada said. It’s not exactly a rousing endorsement for a movie.

Mera, however, isn’t the central character for “Aquaman,” and promotion for the film could downplay Heard’s presence. That isn’t possible for “The Flash,” which is built around Miller’s performances as multiple versions of their speedster character, Barry Allen. Though the studio could replace Miller for any future “Flash” movies, calls to reshoot Muschietti’s film with a new actor are financially untenable.

The Flash was referenced during the panel, in the “Shazam! 2” trailer, just not by name; though the character appeared on screen, Miller’s face did not. (By contrast Aquaman and Batman get a full name-check in the trailer, with Momoa and Ben Affleck’s faces both appearing on screen.)

At some point, Warner Bros. will need to engage the DC fan base about these films and the actors within them. But rather than try to navigate these choppy waters in front of some 6,000-plus superfans at Comic-Con, Warner Bros. elected to avoid them altogether — for now.

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China Box Office: ‘Suzume’ Japanese Animation Debuts With $50 Million, Year’s Biggest Non-Holiday Opening



Japanese animation film “Suzume” made just shy of $50 million on its opening weekend in mainland Chinese theaters.

Data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, shows “Suzume” grabbing the top spot at the box office with $49.6 million (RMB342 million) between Friday and Sunday.

That is the biggest opening score by any film this year outside of the Chinese New Year holiday week in late January. The next best is “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” which opened with $19.4 million in mid-February.

Directed by Shinkai Makoto, “Suzume” was a hit in Japan where it was released late last year and has remained on screens for a $105 million total. It played in February at the Berlin Film Festival, where it came away largely empty-handed, but has subsequently performed strongly in the Asian territories where it has released. (In South Korea, where it is now the second highest grossing film released in 2023, its third weekend is its strongest to date.)

“Suzume” powered the weekend to a $75.7 million box office total. Artisan Gateway calculates that the year to date total in China now stands at $2.26 billion, or some 12.5% ahead of the same point last year.

“Suzume” easily swept aside “Post-Truth” the local social-comedy drama film that had claimed the top spot in the box office charts for the previous two weeks. “Post-Truth” nevertheless delivered another $12.5 million over the weekend, for a running total of $72.8 million after 17 days on release.

Chinese-made new releases “The Best Is Yet to Come” and mystery drama “Manifesto” entered the chart in third and fourth spots, earning $5.6 million and $2.4 million, respectively.

“The Best Is Yet to Come” is a 2020 drama film directed by Wang Jing and said to be based on real events. Set in pre-Internet 2003, it follows a high school dropout who aspires to be an investigative journalist and change the world. Executive produced by indie icon Jia Zhangke, the film had its international premiere at the Venice and Toronto festivals in September 2020.

Chinese-made crime drama “Revival” took fifth place with a third weekend score of $2.2 million. After 17 days on release, it has garnered $27.7 million.

Sony’s “A Man Called Otto” also released in Chinese theaters over the latest weekend. But its performance was so negligible that Artisan Gateway did not report its figures. Local Chinese data providers point to it opening outside the Chinese top ten.

Two Hollywood titles that released earlier this month, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “M3gan” also exited the top five. Chinese sources show them with cumulative totals of $5.90 million and $2.84 million respectively.

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Jeremy Renner Is Up & Walking In New Recovery Video



A new video sees Jeremy Renner up and walking following his snow plow accident. Renner is an Academy Award-nominated actor known for his role as Hawkeye in the MCU and his current series Mayor of Kingstown. He suffered severe injuries when he attempted to stop a snow plow from hitting his nephew on New Year’s Day. The actor spent weeks in the hospital recovering, offering updates on his recovery via social media.

In the weeks since his injuries, Renner has continued to share details about his recovery, with a new video shared to Twitter seeing the actor up and walking.

The video sees Renner walking on a treadmill with a device around his waist, likely to help hold his body’s weight, elevating pressure on his legs. Shortly after his near-fatal accident, which saw speculation about whether he could ever walk again, the new video sees the resilient actor bouncing back on the road to recovery.

What’s Next For Jeremy Renner

His recovery still likely has months left, with plenty of physical therapy in Renner’s future. Throughout the past few months, he’s shared details about his cutting-edge rehab tech and even getting his snow plow back from the police. Additionally, while the actor still has time before he likely steps foot back in front of the camera, he has projects that he could easily slide back into when he’s ready. However, his future projects depend on how he wishes to approach his career after the healing process.

Renner’s Paramount+ series, Mayor of Kingstown, debuted its second season mere weeks after his accident. Unfortunately, the Taylor Sheridan-created series has yet to be renewed for a third season, which could be due to Renner’s current state. However, if Paramount+ sees fit, he may have more Mayor of Kingstown in his future. Renner may also have more to do in the MCU as Hawkeye, with movies like Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars a few years out. However, the action-heavy nature of the role may change depending on Renner’s mobility.

Next up for Renner is the Disney+ series Rennervations, a reality series that follows the actor around the world while he implements unique renovations on vehicles. The series was filmed before his snow plow accident and is set to debut on Disney+ on April 12. If the series proves successful and Renner’s game for more, the show will likely produce more episodes. Therefore, while Renner has a long road to recovery, his continued progress and prospects still present a bright future for the actor.

Source: Jeremy Renner/Twitter

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Jonathan Majors’ Lawyer Says Evidence Exists to Prove He’s ‘Completely Innocent’ of Alleged Assault



The defense lawyer of Jonathan Majors says the actor is “completely innocent” and “provably the victim” after he was arrested on Saturday in Manhattan and charged with assault and harassment in what New York Police Department described as a “domestic dispute.”

“Jonathan Majors is completely innocent and is provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows,” says criminal defense lawyer Priya Chaudhry. “We are quickly gathering and presenting evidence to the District Attorney with the expectation that all charges will be dropped imminently.”

Chaudhry goes on to say there is video footage from the vehicle where the alleged incident took place, witness testimony from the driver and onlookers and two written statements from the woman recanting the allegations.

“All the evidence proves that Mr. Majors is entirely innocent and did not assault her whatsoever,” she said. “Unfortunately, this incident came about because this woman was having an emotional crisis, for which she was taken to a hospital yesterday. The NYPD is required to make an arrest in these situations, and this is the only reason Mr. Majors was arrested. We expect these charges to be dropped soon.”

Chaudhry’s statement provides additional information about the incident. Police in New York said they responded to a 911 call at a Chelsea apartment. Majors, who is 33 years old, was taken into custody without incident on Saturday night. The unnamed victim, a 30-year-old woman, was taken to the hospital after with “minor injuries to her head and neck,” according to authorities.

The police statement listed strangulation, assault and harassment as potential charges, but he was ultimately charged with two counts of assault in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree, aggravated harassment in the second degree, and harassment in the second degree — each of which are misdemeanors or lesser charges.

A representative for Majors denied the allegations. “He has done nothing wrong,” his publicist told Variety. “We look forward to clearing his name and clearing this up.”

Majors, a rising star in Hollywood, has recently appeared in “Creed III” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” He also received acclaim for “Magazine Dreams,” which premiered at Sundance and was acquired by Searchlight Pictures. It’s set to release on Dec. 8.

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