Thursday night saw the European premiere of Black Panther in London, with the cast and director Ryan Coogler out in force. Empire took the opportunity to talk with some of the team, and here Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira talk the importance of representation in the film.

We also had Jordan, who plays the conflicted Erik Killmonger, chatting about how his character is more than just a simple threat to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa.

Finally, Freeman is once again playing Everett K. Ross, who we met in Captain America: Civil War. After chatting Black Panther, he explains how he “missed the Harry Potter broomstick”…

Though we recently learned that Netflix’s adaptation of A Series Of Unfortunate Events would be wrapping up with Season 3 (with the show having channeled all of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket’s books), that’s for the future. Season 2 is only about to arrive, and there’s a new teaser online.
As hijacked by Neil Patrick Harris’ scheming Count Olaf, the new season promises to be even worser in the best way. The story will continue to see the Baudelaire orphans (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Presley Smith as Violet, Klaus and Sunny) bouncing around various potential foster carers even as Olaf continues to pursue them, driven by the idea of getting his hands on their family fortune.

Nathan Fillion (as the brother of the Snicket character played on screen by Patrick Warburton), Tony Hale, Lucy Punch and Roger Bart all joined the cast for this next season, and the show will return on 30 March. Look away…

We only have a few more months to wait now for Incredibles 2, Brad Bird’s long, long, looong awaited follow-up to his excellent, Pixar-produced 2004 superhero adventure. Two new teaser posters have arrived for the film, with the first tied to the fact that the family of powerful people are back in action.

The story for the new movie kicks off mere moments after the original ended, though this time Helen Parr’s Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob – AKA Mr. Incredible – (Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life. It’s a tough transition for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again… Which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible. Sounds good to us.

The second of the two debuted a little while ago, tied in with New York Fashion Week and features everyone’s favourite clothes designing genius, Edna Mode (who will be back and voiced once again by Bird).

Finally, in entirely-expected-but-encouraging news, musical god and pun fiend Michael Giacchino is back at work on the score for the new movie, hitting Twitter with a video to confirm it. Given how much his music for the original enlivened the first film, it’s fun to anticipate what he’ll do for the sequel.

As the Edna poster mentions, the film will see US screens on 15 June, while UK audiences will have to wait until 13 July.

“It’s not just about guy cars. There’s really strong female characters in this film, too,” said exec producer John Lasseter of the film’s strong message of female empowerment.

“You don’t say no to Pixar,” said Cristela Alonzo with a laugh as she walked the red carpet for the premiere of her latest film, Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3, at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday.

The rest of the cast, including Armie Hammer, Kerry Washington, Jennifer Lewis and Owen Wilson, echoed that sentiment. But cast and crew also highlighted at the event that Disney/Pixar’s latest release puts a spotlight on themes of female empowerment and learning from past generations.

“These are movies that have…meant a lot to kids, and now different generations of kids,” said Wilson of being part of the Cars franchise as the voice of top racer Lighting McQueen for the past 10 years. “Now, I have two little kids. It’s just exciting.”

The event also attracted the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Sandler, Johnny Knoxville and Soleil Moon Frye who brought their families to enjoy the festivities.

Life-size replicas of the Cars characters lined the red carpet, but John Lasseter, the film’s executive producer, said: “It’s not just about guy cars. There’s really strong female characters in this film, too.” He highlighted the significance of Alonzo’s female character in the film, with the star noting that Cruz Ramirez, a yellow car with a bubbly personality and dreams of being a racer, reflects her real life backstory of feeling that she was against the odds.

“They (Lasseter and director Brian Fee) wanted to have that underdog feeling, which is something I’ve struggled with coming from stand-up and just really trying to make a path for myself in this career,” Alonzo told THR. “Once I started talking to John Lasseter and Brian they knew that they wanted to tell that story, my story, through Cruz’s eyes so every time I see Cruz, anytime that anybody sees Cruz, they have to know that they are actually seeing my story.”

And just as Disney/Pixar films have entertained generations, Fee says this film, along with Alonzo’s character, puts “a piece of ourselves onscreen” by tying together the power of mentorship and generations that have come before and after us.

In that vein, the film also gives a nod to the late Paul Newman — whose recording outtakes from the original Cars film are used in the film as a tribute to the Hollywood icon and a way to bring back his character. Plus, two new characters were created based on racing legend Louise Smith, one of the first female racers, and Wendell Scott, the first African-American racer.

“In their time, they were really facing incredible obstacles and are incredibly brave people, so when we do our research and we dig into these real stories, we’re very inspired by what folks have already done out there,” said co-producer Andrea Warren.

Following the film screening, guests were treated to a private party at Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure park complete with a live band, a spread of food, including burgers, popcorn and cotton candy, as well as the opportunity to ride the Cars-themed attractions, including Radiator Springs Racers.

Cars 3 hits theaters Friday.

In a Cannes of numerous feel-bad mission statements, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here is the feel-worst. The film dropkicks you into a cosmos of pain, depravity and blunt-force trauma with only the faintest flickers of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not an experience to relish, exactly, but it’s still one that’s fully capable of blowing you away.

The Scottish director begins this, her first film since We Need to Talk About Kevin in 2011, as she means to continue: with a series of swift, disorienting images, initially in a Cincinnati motel room. We see a bloodied hammer, the burning photo of a young Asian girl, and polythene over a smoke alarm – a man’s head, breathing in and out, inside a plastic bag. This is Joe (Joaquin Phoenix, with an unruly grey beard), and in the first proper look we get at him, he has completed whatever the hell his hideous business has been, and emerges, hoodie up, into a side alley.

Joe rescues children from sex rings. He is hired to do so, not by the authorities, but private clients – typically the parents of teenagers who have gone missing, and who entrust him to do this vastly unpleasant job with speed, finesse and a willingness to bludgeon the perpetrators beyond repair.

The film’s body count is somewhere in the Chuck Norris vicinity, but Ramsay is far too serious a filmmaker to dwell on Joe’s brutal modes of dispatch. She and her editor, Joe Bini, find an amazing array of methods to conjure and intimate violence without lingering upon it: the film is a sustained master class in ghoulishness-avoidance.

What it has no intention of avoiding is moral consequence. It’s a thriller that makes itself sick, rather than giving us the thriller-satisfaction other directors, even good directors, might have wrung from the material – a hard-boiled novella by Jonathan Ames.

In Phoenix, Ramsay has a major ally in staking her case for bleak psychological artistry. Weighed down with the horrific ballast of things he has suffered and seen – he’s a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent, too, with the scars to prove it – Joe comes to life in an almost gruelingly subtle and interiorized performance, up there with Phoenix’s very best work for James Gray or Paul Thomas Anderson.

The one person in Joe’s life with whom he has anything other than a strictly professional relationship – counting all the ones that last mere seconds, ending with a thwack – is his mother, played by a little-known but tremendous actress called Judith Roberts. She’s in the pronounced stages of dementia, living in a messy Queens’s home to which he retreats between jobs. “This cream cheese is from 1972,” he quips exasperatedly, on scouring the fridge. Evidence is scant for his sense of humor, but there it is.

The main plot kicks in all of a sudden, when Joe’s supervising figure (The Wire’s John Doman) sends him to meet Senator Votto (Alex Manette), whose 14-year-old daughter, played by a blank-staring Ekaterina Samsonov, has disappeared. “I want you to hurt them,” he is told, by a father clearly in the process of scooping out his soul, and Phoenix’s silent but pensive response tells us full well that this goes without saying. Joe’s preparations first involve a sphincter-tightening shopping spree, and the camera faintly closes in on a $16.99 ball-peen hammer, with “Made in USA” written on it, which will rarely stray far from his grasp from here on out.

No praise could be high enough for Ramsay’s insidious sound design and use of background music in the film, which deploys doo-wop ballads on the radio with haunting, rather than thumping, irony, and features a mumbled sing-along to Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been to Me” that will go down in legend: the hand that tenderly clasps Phoenix’s during this bizarrely romantic interlude is about the last one you’d ever match make him with. Meanwhile, even by his own unbeatable standards of film work, Jonny Greenwood’s score is a deadly engine of threat and anguish, chugging away with agitated synth percussion and moaning little hints of jazzy 1970s sleaze.

Inevitably, Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver is at the back of the film’s mind, but Ramsay and Phoenix have taken this disturbed-veteran-savior figure and reinvented him into a tragic street warrior, suspended in a purgatory since childhood – as a dumb witness to his mother’s awful battering – between death wish and messiah complex. We hear a fragment from The Shawshank Redemption playing on TV, about the Pacific having no memory, but Joe’s only hope to obliterate his own grotesque past is suicide, and so he pointedly leads himself to water: there’s a slow-motion lake visit which owes a further intriguing debt to Jane Campion’s The Piano.

Ramsay never tosses in these references for mere fun and games – obliquely Meta, they’re all part of her strategy to render Joe as a rich cinematic composite, an uber-character. Misread as a pure genre exercise, this would all be leading us to the threshold of bloody release – and indeed, the last half-hour is an extrapolation from the story entirely of Ramsay’s own devising. But she shows us less and less, banning catharsis with stern slices of the editing shears, and her analysis of revenge turns out to be exacting and remarkable. The complexity of Phoenix’s art is such that he can howl inwardly for stolen retribution and simultaneously feel the full horror of a young girl’s undoing, with gasps of incredulous laughter straight from the gallows.

It is hard, harrowing, not-for-the-faint-of-heart stuff. But the immensity of Ramsay’s film lies in the scalpel surgery of her image making, distilling and triple-distilling the stuff she shot to make every second count. Some of the quickest shots do the most damage, but when the camera finds a vivid contrast – like Joe crumbling a green jelly bean in his fingers, or his hefty bulk swinging down a corridor with a pre-Raphaelite wench peeking out from behind – the pauses count, too. Joe even stops on the street, accosted by a gaggle of tourists to take their photo in SoHo, and two worlds surreally collide for a beat, as the girls obliviously pose and laugh while he puts his bag of death equipment down to give them a hand. In these staggeringly taut 85 minutes, Ramsay sees a hopeless universe in a jellybean.

The giant creature feature news just keeps coming. On the heels of yesterday’s hiring of Adam Wingard to direct Godzilla Vs. Kong, there’s another new casting announcement for the movie that will lead into it, Godzilla sequel King Of The Monsters. Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch has joined the ensemble.

Variety brings word that Middleditch will be part of a cast that already includes Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Charles Dance, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Anthony Ramos and Aisha Hinds as the new faces, plus Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins’ scientists returning from the 2014 ‘Zilla film.

Little is known about the plot that director Michael Dougherty and co-writer Zach Shields have come up with, but you can bet on some giant monster smashing action and likely a thematic undercurrent to go along with it. Will there be an appearance by Gamera?

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is primed to arrive on 22 March 2019 and the cameras are rolling now. In addition to his duties on the HBO series (which recently scored a fifth season), Middleditch is one of the voices for DreamWorks Animation’s Captain Underpants, due on 28 July and appears with Keanu Reeves in Replicas, currently without a UK release date. Plus! Trivia fact: he was a voice in Kong: Skull Island, so he already has a monster movie credit…

With most of the rest of Avatar’s main cast returning for James Cameron’s sequels, some of you might have been wondering whether scientist Norm Spellman, played by Joel David Moore, would be joining them. Good news for all Spellbinders (we’re assuming that’s the character’s fan base name), Norm will be back.

While Cameron has been changing the number and release dates for the sequels on a regular basis, he’s now locking in an 18 December 2020 release for the second film, the first of four planned new movies.

Moore joins the likes of Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Langand Sigourney Weaver in the film, which has already added one new face in Cliff Curtis‘ tribal leader. Little is known about the new movie, aside from the fact that there will be a heavy underwater element. Cameron is in pre-production on all the movies simultaneously, looking to kick off shooting them order either this year or next. As for Moore, he’s preparing to direct his second film, Timon Of Athens and has worked on the likes of Drone and The Morning After.

As the Transformers universe begins to expand courtesy of the writers room that was convened to churn out ideas and, eventually, scripts, the first spin-off is now coming together. Bumblebee, focusing on the vocally challenged, heroic VW Beetle ‘bot’, has Hailee Steinfeld in talks to star.

Travis Knight, boss of Laika animation studios (and director of the company’s most recent film, Kubo And The Two Strings) is aboard to make this one, working from a script by Christina Hodson.

What the actual movie will feature, and where it will fall in Bumblebee’s timeline remains to be seen – no plot details or anything about Steinfeld’s character have been revealed, and we don’t even know whether this movie will be anchored to the same continuity as the Transformers movies themselves.

We do know, however, that the film is taking aim at a 2018 release. Transformers: The Last Knight, the latest of the main movies directed by Michael Bay, is out on 22 June.

And Steinfeld, last seen in The Edge Of Seventeen, will be back with the Pitch Perfect gang for the third outing, hitting 22 December this year.

The DC Universe’s Amazon-warrior princess gets the heroic treatment from Gal Gadot – even if the film isn’t exactly super ‘Wonder Woman’ gives the DC Universe’s warrior princess the heroic treatment courtesy of Gal Gadot – even if the film isn’t super.

After 76 years as a trailblazer for DC Comics, Wonder Woman stars in her first film. What took so long? Hollywood, scared off by the box-office failures of female-driven comic-book movies such as Catwoman and Elektra, has essentially stuck to dudes in spandex and bat-drag. The good news is that this big-screen outing for William Moulton Marston’s creation is that it leaves the cornball 1970’s TV series with Lynda Carter in the dust and is leagues better than Suicide Squad, the last DC Extended Universe movie to stink up the multiplex. Like she proved in her extended cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, dynamo Israeli actress Gal Gadot owns the role, her
body-beautiful forged with feminist fire. She really is all that. The movie? It’s nowhere near what it needs to be to give the actor and the character the resonant sendoff both deserve.

Wonder Woman is hobbled by a slogging origin story and action that only comes in fits and starts. Just when Gadot and director Patty Jenkins (the Charlize Theron serial-killer biopic Monster) are ready to kick ass, we get backstory. Diana, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and Zeus, grows up on the island of Themyscira, where Amazons are trained as warriors. Except for Diana – Mom wants her spared from war ideology and patriarchal culture. It’s her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) who trains the young lady in secret. Dudes? Not in the picture, until Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American pilot and spy, crash-lands nearby.

Then the battle starts, you ask? Nah. First Steve and Diana do the requisite flirty thing. (To be fair, Pine does it charmingly.) He promises to take her behind enemy lines: It’s 1918, the height of World War I (forget that it’s WWII in the comics), and Diana believes she needs to kill Ares, the Greek god of war, to end all the frontline bloodshed. Don’t look for coherence. It’s a comic-book movie.

So then the combat starts, right? Not yet. In London, Steve’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) gives Diana a makeover to try to pass the Amazon off as an Everywoman. The locals aren’t fashion-forward enough to accept Wonder Woman’s thigh-baring outfit, not to mention her lasso of truth, weapon-deflecting bracelets, a sword she names the godkiller and the warrior-taught-wisdom that guys talking politics are windbags. The rest of the world realizes that it is Diana’s duty to stand out, to preach the idealism that has been obliterated by the horrors of war. The film, however, takes forever to unleash her ass-kicking goddess within – and suffers for it.

Finally, the real action starts, with Wonder Woman racing through the front lines, her bracelets deflecting heavy artillery (improbable but highly impressive), and Steve’s alleged peacenik boss financing the search for two war criminals, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and the facially scarred chemist, Dr. Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya). The stunts are showstopping, but the deep-dish thinking is hell on the film’s pacing and its sense of fun. Unlike Marvel films, where the dark stuff is mostly subtext, DC tends to smother high spirits in a blanket of gloom. Still, Gadot, an ex-combat instructor in Israel, makes sure Diana runs her own game. The star is unstoppable and spectacular to see in motion. Watch her fly.



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