James Gunn Tapped to Co-Lead DC Studios, and More Movie News – Rotten Tomatoes

This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Good Burger 2, Venom 3, and Wicked Parts 1 and 2.
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Warner Bros. has been looking for their own “Kevin Feige” to oversee their DC Comics film and TV properties since this past summer, but that search finally ended this week with a somewhat surprising choice. The job – or to be more specific, jobs – is going to James Gunn, who is best known as a film director (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad), and producer Peter Safran (Aquaman, Shazam!). If there was going to be an obvious Marvel Studios director to take over the newly-named DC Studios, it may have indeed been James Gunn, who Marvel actually fired from directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (5/5/2023) at one point, leading him to direct The Suicide Squad, before Marvel ended up un-firing Gunn for Vol. 3 after all. Gunn is unlikely to be able to devote 100 percent of his time to DC Studios for several months, as he still has to put the finishing touches on and deliver both the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (5/25/2022) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (5/5/2023) for Marvel Studios in the next eight months. As the heads of DC Studios, Gunn and Safran will oversee film, TV, and animation, though not all projects, as Joker: Folie à Deux (10/24/2024), for example, will not be part of DC Studios. The next four already-produced pre-Gunn/Safran DC Comics movies, all currently scheduled for 2023, will be Shazam! Fury of the Gods (3/17/2023), The Flash (6/23/2023), Blue Beetle (8/18/2023), and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (12/25/2023). Other possible projects for the DC Studios era include Wonder Woman 3, sequels to Black Adam, The Flash, and Man of Steel, and a secret James Gunn project that was just announced last week.

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Sometimes, the big stories each week seem to have connections to each other that were probably not even intended. For example, this week, the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was set to the song “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John, and then, a few days later, an unrelated casting story broke that specifically relates to the lyric, “beyond the yellow brick road.” Jeff Goldblum, whose franchises include Jurassic Park and the MCU (as The Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok) is in final negotiations with Universal Pictures to co-star in their two halves of the Broadway musical adaptation Wicked (12/25/2024 and 12/25/2025) as the Wizard of Oz himself. Wicked, of course, began as a novel that serves as a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the book that The Wizard of Oz was adapted from). If Goldblum signs on, he will join a cast that already includes Ariana Grande as Glinda, Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, and Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero. Both halves of Wicked are being directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights).

(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
In the three years since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Rotten at 52%), Lucasfilm has gone through quite a revolving door of writers and directors for their first post-Skywalker Saga feature film, including Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (the Game of Thrones showrunners), screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins (for the shelved Rogue Squadron project), and Taika Waititi (his project, by all accounts, is still in development). To that staggering list, we can now add yet another project, although there are signs that despite its late revelation, it might actually beat most of them to filming. Producer, showrunner, and screenwriter Damon Lindelof (TV’s LOST, HBO’s Watchmen, Star Trek Into Darkness) is working on producing and co-writing a secret Star Wars feature film with director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (two episodes of Ms. Marvel) attached. Lindelof’s screenwriting partner on the project will be the young writer Justin Britt-Gibson, who has worked on both Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain and the Starz series The Counterpart. Not much is known about the premise or the characters in Lindelof’s Star Wars project, except that it is reportedly set after (possibly 10 years later) the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The next two Star Wars feature films are scheduled for December in both 2025 and 2027, but it’s not yet known which projects will land each date.

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
Really, really big budget films like any of Marvel Studios’ superhero movies are produced on a different scale than the average movie. These projects, whether they be Marvel, DC, or something else, have their principal production stage, but then also frequently reshoots, pick-ups, or just later shoots for various reasons (for example, Black Adam had a shoot just a month ago for its mid-credits stinger). So even though we’ve already seen the first trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2/17/2023), it’s not surprising to hear about a new cast member being announced just this week. The actor in question is William Jackson Harper (Chidi on NBC’s hit sitcom The Good Place), who has landed a secret role in Quantumania. Harper’s role being secret should be the end of the discussion, but as a footnote, we should also mention that for months now, he has been a frequent subject of “fancasting” for the role of Reed Richards in the upcoming Fantastic Four. That character has connections to Quantumania’s villain, Kang the Conqueror, so it’s not much of a stretch to assume Harper’s presence could be the MCU debut of the new Reed Richards.

(Photo by Jonathan Olley/©IFC Films)
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski does not direct films at a furious pace, but his last two feature films, Ida (Certified Fresh at 96%) in 2013 and Cold War (Certified Fresh at 92%) in 2018, were both critical hits with dozens of nominations and awards (Ida won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and Cold War received three Academy Award nominations). Pawlikowski’s next film, The Island, will be shot in English, and as such, he has cast two big Hollywood stars in Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara. The Island will be a dramatic thriller set in the 1930s about a couple who retreats from civilization to live their lives on their own deserted island until a millionaire discovers and publicizes their lives, disrupting their dream. Two central characters yet to be cast are the millionaire and the “countess” who plans to build a luxury hotel on The Island. It’s also worth noting that Phoenix and Mara have been a couple in real life since 2016 and have a child together, so bonus points for realism.

(Photo by Jessica Miglio/©Warner Bros.)
In 2018, John Cena and Idris Elba were among the many stars in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (Certified Fresh at 90%), but more than that, their characters also had a rivalry over the accuracy of their aim with firearms. The chemistry between Cena and Elba will get a chance to be rekindled in an action movie called Heads of State which will soon start filming for Amazon Studios. Heads of State will be directed by Ilya Naishuller, whose last major film was the Bob Odenkirk action flick Nobody (Certfied Fresh at 84%). The premise of Heads of State hasn’t been revealed yet, but it’s been compared to ’90s action movies, including the phrase, “Air Force One meets Hobbs and Shaw” (the latter of which starred Elba as the antagonist), which implies (as does the title) that the action somehow involves a president (or maybe more than one).

(Photo by Everett Collection)
Most movie fans consider George A. Romero’s “zombie trilogy” to be Night of the Living Dead (Certified Fresh at 96%), Dawn of the Dead (Certfiied Fresh at 92%), and Day of the Dead (Certified Fresh at 86%). Of course, Romero continued to make other zombie movies after Day of the Dead, which disrupted the notion of there being a trilogy at all, not to mention there aren’t many narrative connections between any of the three. All that being true means that the door has been open for 50 years now for there to be an actual sequel to Night of the Living Dead, and that’s exactly the package that is now being put together at the American Film Market. The Night of the Living Dead sequel is coming together as a collaboration between Village Roadshow Pictures (The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road), George A. Romero’s ex-wife Chris Romero, George A. Romero’s production company Sanibel Films, and three more production companies (Origin Story, Vertigo, and Westbrook Studios). The premise is being kept secret, but presumably, as a direct sequel, it may touch upon some of the original film’s characters, the farmhouse setting, or rural Pennsylvania in general. The film will be directed by Nikyatu Jusu (Nanny) from a screenplay by TV writer LaToya Morgan, whose filmography includes two episodes of The Walking Dead.

(Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel got her feature film start with movies like Saving Mr. Banks (Certfied Fresh at 79%) and Fifty Shades of Grey (Rotten at 24%), but her work on Venom (Rotten at 30%) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Rotten at 57%) has ended up being her ticket to making her feature film directorial debut, specifically with the third installment of the Venom franchise. Tom Hardy is already attached to return as Venom, but a premise hasn’t been announced yet (although the ending of the sequel suggested the third film could feature the character Toxin). It’s also being reported that Venom 3 is expected to be Hardy’s final film as Venom, as Deadline, for example, referred to Venom 3 as “the final chapter.” A release date for Venom 3 hasn’t been announced yet, but it currently appears it will be sometime in 2024 or 2025.

(Photo by ©Paramount Pictures)
Kenan Thompson has been on Saturday Night Live for a very long time. How long, exactly? Here’s some math that might make some readers feel a bit old. There is more time (19 years) between when Kenan Thompson joined Saturday Night Live (2003) and today (2022) than between that point and when his entire comedy and acting career began in 1994 (9 years), including the 1996-2000 Nickelodeon show Kenan & Kel and the 1997 spin-off movie Good Burger (Rotten at 33%). That means it’s been 25 years now since Good Burger, but Thompson and his co-star Kel Mitchell are now hyping their return to those characters, as the screenplay for Good Burger 2 has now been completed. Mitchell’s Instagram post showing off the Good Burger 2 cover page proclaimed, “Now we’re cooking! Table read went really god! Good vibes! Good laughs, Good Burgers!” The details not yet disclosed about Good Burger 2 include a director, producer, premise, and distributor.

(Photo by Steve Wilkie/©Lionsgate)
For a character that was killed off more than five movies ago (depending upon how you count), Tobin Bell’s serial killer character Jigsaw’s ability to return in sequels is right up there with Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. So it’s perhaps not so surprising to find out this week that Bell will be returning as Jigsaw in the soon-to-start-filming tenth Saw movie, which will probably have a title like Saw X when it’s released next year just before Halloween (10/27/2023). Whatever it ends up being called, it will be directed by two-time Saw director Kevin Greutert, who served as editor on all of the Saw movies up until Jigsaw, and who also directed Saw VI (Rotten at 39%) and Saw 3D (Rotten at 9%). An exact premise for Saw X hasn’t been revealed yet, but there is a 99% chance it will involve people being forced to make difficult choices while trapped in gruesome, life-threatening devices.
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