With less than a month until the upfronts, we’re kicking off our annual Pilot Buzz series. As usual, the first edition only includes a limited number of projects that have been garnering early attention as many pilots are still filming. So, if a pilot is not mentioned, it probably means it is too early to weigh in or the feedback I’ve received is inconclusive at this time.
Shonda Rhimes. Viola Davis. Need we say more? ABC’s sexy suspense legal thriller How To Get Away With Murder, executive produced by Rhimes and starring Davis, is packing some heat early on. Secret & Lies starring Ryan Phillippe also is getting encouraging early response. It also has a seven-figure penalty and is directed by Charles McDougall, whose strong pilot record includes Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife and most recently, Resurrection last season. Then there is Marvel’s stealth Agent Carter project. Last year, the company went into Fort Knox mode on its Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, which was kept under lock and key. They took that a notch further this year with Agent Carter. Because there is a prototype — the project is inspired by a one shot, which was featured on the Blu-ray release of Iron Man 3 — word has been that it would forgo a pilot and go straight to series. The script was finished more than three months ago (“the script is great,” ABC’s Paul Lee said back in January), the option on one-shot’s star Hayley Atwell came up and was extended, but the green light never came. Now there is talk that a pickup for Agent Carter may come along with a renewal for Marvel’s freshman Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with the new series possibly serving as a bridge between the fall and spring portions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also getting various level of early traction at ABC is mystery Sea of Fire and several dark horses, alien drama The Whispers (aka The Visitors), medical drama The Warriors and mystery Clementine. Read More »
The Iron Man himself has finally joined Twitter. With only 4 tweets this morning, he’s dipped his toe into the social media universe. Within hours, Downey has tallied 912K followers. Wow, word travels fast. And why not? Iron Man is a billion dollar franchise for Marvel since they first introduced Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in 2008. Worldwide the first film grossed $585M, the second one, $623.9M and the third, $1.2B. The next Marvel title for the actor is Avengers: Age of Ultron which will bow May 1, 2015 from Disney. Welcome to the SMU, Mr. Downey, No doubt, Disney and Marvel are thrilled. The actor has long been a strong presence on social media due to his many fans who call him #RDJ. His fans post video bits from the actor from media, on-stage award shows, red carpet appearances, and other media events showcasing the wise-cracking, irreverance. His opening Tweet:
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Just days before Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens, the heirs of Captain America, The Avengers and X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby are asking the Supreme Court to hand them back the rights to the comic legends from Marvel and Disney. “The Court of Appeals unconstitutionally appropriated Kirby’s valuable copyrights and gave them outright to Marvel, effecting a transfer of wealth on a massive scale,” says the 39-page petition (read it here) filed with the high court on March 21. The petition is the latest legal attempt by Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby to assert that they had the right in 2009 to issue termination notices to Marvel and others on the artist’s characters under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. A response is due from Marvel and Disney on April 28. Read More »
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron helmer has launched a pre-emptive strike of sorts. In a subtitled YouTube video, Joss Whedon warns/pre-apologizes to the people of South Korea’s capital about the ruckus he’s likely to cause when the Marvel sequel films there for a few days. “I’m really grateful and excited to be filming in your city,” he says, seemingly without a script. “We are going to mess it up and inconvenience some people.” There will be some street closures while the cast and crew of the superhero flick film some big action scenes. “We love this movie. We love this city. … I hope it will be worth it,” he says. Take a look:
Notoriously litigious Stan Lee Media Inc couldn’t have thought that Disney would respond to its latest Marvel character rights grab in a placid manner, so the company shouldn’t be surprised by the legal hit to the jugular that the House Mickey Built just gave it in federal court over Spider-Man. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. “Making SLMI’s patently frivolous ownership claims [American Music Theater's] defense to a straightforward copyright infringement suit gets neither of them anywhere,” says the March 21 reply (read it here) to the SMLI’s opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss the company from its copyright case against AMT. “This Court should now end this SLMI-financed frolic and detour once and for all,” adds the filing in federal court in Pennsylvania, noting that the intervention lacks any merit to succeed. Last week’s reply comes just under two weeks after SLMI aggressively responded to Disney’s motion to throw them off the media giant’s copyright case against AMT over its allegedly unauthorized use of Spider-Man in its regional show Broadway: Now & Forever. A month after being hauled into court by Disney last September, AMT claimed that it got the rights to Spidey from rights holder SLMI. In December, SLMI, who had lost a claim in federal court in Colorado on several Marvel characters and the multibillion-dollar profits from them just a couple of months … Read More »
The studio has set aside some real estate three years down the line for a pair of superhero properties and a summer 2018 date for another Marvel pic. Fox said tonight that Fantastic Four 2 — the sequel to its reboot of the comic book quartet that doesn’t hit theaters for another 15 months — will bow on July 14, 2017, and the next Wolverine pic will arrive March 3, 2017. The studio also booked July 13, 2018, for an undisclosed Marvel film. Fanboys’ fingers likely are cramping already as they weigh in online about exactly what that movie will be. All three dates are exclusive to the pics for now.
Related: Fox Has Its ‘Fantastic Four’ For Superhero Reboot
Despite Disney’s best legal efforts, perpetually litigious Stan Lee Media Inc is not going quietly into the Pennsylvania night with its claims to Spider-Man. Today SLMI fired back at the media giant’s attempts to shut it down once and for all last month with assertions of time-barred claims and the fact that it is a dissolved corporation. “It is Disney’s burden to prove Disney’s ownership of the copyrights to Spider‐Man. Prior litigation cannot bar [American Music Theater], and concomitantly SLMI, from defending itself by showing Disney’s assertion is wrong,” says the dense and exhibit heavy filing in federal court in the Keystone State (read it here). “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” adds the opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss SLMI from its copyright case against American Music Theater. AMT also filed paperwork (read it here) in opposition to Disney’s motion to toss its counterclaims and SLMI from the case. This latest kick at the can by the repeatedly defeated SLMI over its claims over various Marvel characters created by Stan Lee — who no longer has anything to do with the company that bears his name — seems certainly to clog up the courts for at least a little while longer.
Related: Disney’s Spider-Man Rights Contested In Court Again By Stan Lee Media
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Just over a month after a new Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer debuted during the Super Bowl, Disney/Marvel today unveiled a new TV spot for the superhero sequel. Some of this we’ve seen before, but the new 1:01-minute spot has a lot more of Anthony Mackie as the Falcon in flying action. The Cap sequel is out April 4 – check out the new spot here:
EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Wilson will join the cast of the Edgar Wright-directed Ant-Man for Marvel Studios, I hear. The film stars Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas and Michael Pena. Not sure what role Wilson will play at this point. He is coming off two fright franchises The Conjuring and Insidious. Wilson is repped by CAA and Anonymous Content.
New York was “our first choice” to film four NYC-based Marvel “Defenders” series and a miniseries planned for Netflix beginning in 2015, Disney CEO Bob Iger said today during a press event in NY announcing the deal. But the Empire State’s taxpayers had to help seal the deal for what officials say is the biggest film or TV production commitment ever for New York: The state provided the entertainment giant with undisclosed breaks and incentives estimated at $4M for the project that’s projected to create 3,000 jobs including 400 full time ones in the Big Apple. They’ll work on 52 one-hour live action episodes and a miniseries built around Marvel characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage in what Disney calls “the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.” Taxpayers had to sweeten the terms for Disney because there was “a lot of competition from different cities” to land the production, Iger says. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the commitment is “exciting,” and a win for his efforts to broaden the economic base which heavily depends on financial institutions. The economic downturn in 2008 “was a wake-up call for the state of New York…you have to diversify,” he said at announcement with Iger. The Disney chief says that no decision has been made with Netflix about whether the series’ episodes will be released all at once or individually.
Here’s the release from Disney and New York state: Read More »
The worst-kept secret of the superhero film universe is now official: Marvel has finally confirmed that Vin Diesel is voicing Groot, the extraterrestrial plant monster of comics lore, in James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy. The Fast & Furious star has been teasing the role for months and posted a photo over the weekend posing with his onscreen alter ego. Gunn added via Facebook: “Yep it is completely official. AND he’s amazing. I never knew someone could say I AM GROOT so many different ways and with such feeling (and that sounds like I’m kidding but I’m not!)” Diesel stars in the cosmic superteam actioner alongside Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax. The Marvel pic hits theaters August 1, 2014. See any resemblance below?
Related: Vin Diesel In Talks To Join ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’
The long-rumored crowning of Paul Rudd as Ant-Man is finally happening. He is Marvel‘s choice to star as the title character in the Edgar Wright-directed film. Rudd has proven himself adept at light drama and he is exceptionally good at comedy, but I never really thought of him as superhero material. Wright, who wrote the Ant-Man script with Joe Cornish, showed at Comic-Con two years ago a demonstration of the technology developed that displayed a speck-sized Ant-Man running down the barrel of a gun and then re-emerging in actual size to put a hurting on a bad guy. It was pretty cool stuff, but Wright put the whole thing down to make The World’s End first. He did that mainly because the film’s producer, Working Title’s Eric Fellner, was diagnosed with cancer. Wright — who felt that Shaun Of The Dead — the first leg of what would become the Cornetto trilogy wouldn’t have gotten made if it wasn’t for Fellner — never would have forgiven himself if he didn’t make the third film in the series quickly, just in case the producer’s condition worsened. Marvel relented, and Kevin Feige agreed to wait. Fellner got his movie and, more important, a clean bill of health.
Related: Disney Moves Up ‘Ant-Man’ Release To Summer 2015
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EXCLUSIVE: Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg first was tapped to create a drama series based on Marvel‘s Jessica Jones character three years ago, when the project was set at ABC. In typical Marvel fashion, no one is confirming, but I have learned that Rosenberg is attached to the project’s new incarnation at Netflix as writer and executive producer. Jessica Jones is one of four series Marvel TV and ABC TV Studios sold to the streaming giant in a deal announced last week. Jessica Jones is slated second for release, following Daredevil, which is close to locking in Lost alum Drew Goddard as writer/exec producer. The other two Marvel series in the package are Iron Fist and Luke Cage, with the characters from each show then coming together for an Avengers-type superhero teaming in a chapter-closing miniseries. I hear Jessica Jones is undergoing redevelopment in its move to Netflix. The character, created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, is a superhero suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, which leads to her hanging up her costume and opening her own detective agency, where she ends up helping people and assisting other superheroes. Rosenberg most recently executive produced ABC’s drama series Red Widow.
Related: Bob Iger Talks Up Marvel-Netflix … Read More »
Last week, Mike Fleming talked about the premium on star-driven films at AFM and noted that schlock is in short supply. He’s too busy focusing on the high-end films. I’m here in the corridors of the Loews in Santa Monica, and I am a schlock connoisseur. While he might be right in labeling this AFM a cut below the Surf Nazis Must Die heyday of the ’90s, allow me to butcher a Mark Twain quote and say that rumors of schlock’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. While I might be bashful to ask him this directly, has Mike pondered the tantalizing cinematic possibilities of Kama Sutra 3D? And how about All Cheerleaders Die: Revenge Is A Bitch or Dead Sea: It’s Feeding Time or even Bigfoot Wars: The Battle For Boggy Creek?
And what about the mutant electric eels running rampant in Shock Attack? Or the time-traveling Army Of Frankensteins, where a neck bolt brigade shows up to fight in the Civil War? There’s the promising Bikini Model Academy with Gary Busey and Morgan Fairchild. Hungry? The cannibal tale Bone Boys is on the menu here.
Hands down, the schlock title to beat is FDR American Badass, with Barry Bostwick battling werewolves in a pimped-out wheelchair. It might be easy to dismiss what’s billed as a “kick-werewolf-ass movie for history buffs (or not),” but I am not here to judge. After all, did we not learn from Timur Bekmambetov that Abe Lincoln was a vampire killer and didn’t Quentin Tarantino fill us in on how Hitler and his cohorts were blown up in a theater during the premiere of the Nazi propaganda film Nation’s Pride? Here, FDR takes out Nazis as well as werewolves. MutliVisionaire Pictures seems to be getting a good response. And based on this trailer, can anyone be surprised?
Related: Domestic Box Office: ‘Thor 2’ Eyeing $86M to $87.7M Weekend
And while Thor crushed all comers at the box office this weekend, how about the D-level version of that, which Halcyon International has in God Of Thunder. Now, there’s a long history of satirical takes on movies (and the litigation that follows), but give Halcyon points for good timing.Both based on Norse mythology, as far as I can tell, the only difference between the Disney/Marvel franchise and this one is the main character’s tresses: This hero’s hair is shorter than Chris Hemsworth’s blond mane, and it looks like Supercuts was involved. It seems there wasn’t enough money in the budget for a suicide blond dye job, but Loki, Asgard and Thor are also here in a movie we’re told is “based on the Fox Comics Super Hero.” In postproduction, God Of Thunder will be in a theater, or a courtroom, near you in 2014. Read More »
Disney scored a Marvelous haul opening Thor: The Dark World overseas early Wednesday to $109.4M in 36 territories. The film opens stateside next Friday and is already making history. Thor 2‘s early take helped bump Disney’s international box office on the year beyond its previous all time $2.302B record with two months of global cash-collecting to go. The studio brought the Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman Marvel sequel early and at #1 in key territories France, the UK, Korea, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Australia, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil and still has Argentina, Italy, China, and Japan on the docket; at this pace it’s hurtling towards a better run than the first Thor flick overseas.
Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson is set to join Marvel‘s The Avengers: Age Of Ultron in the role of Quicksilver AKA Pietro Maximoff. Earlier this month Elizabeth Olsen closed in on the role of Scarlet Witch, sister to Quicksilver. Both characters also appear in Marvel’s X-Men comics. The Avengers sequel helmed by Joss Whedon is slated for May 1, 2015.
They tried again, but they did not succeed. Today the heirs of Captain America, The Avengers and X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby were denied their recent petition to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing or a full rehearing en banc on whether the estate had the right to issue termination notices to Marvel on his characters back in 2009. The brief order (read it here) from the panel at the NYC-based federal court comes just more than two and a half months after the appeals court shut down the heirs’ claims against Marvel and Disney by reaffirming a 2011 lower court ruling that the comic legend was under a work-for-hire deal and hence had no rights to terminate. Four years ago, Lisa Kirby, Susan Kirby, Barbara Kirby and Neal Kirby sent 45 notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures that have made movies and TV shows based on boatloads of characters Jack Kirby created or co-created with Stan Lee and others. Jack Kirby died in 1994. Read More »
Hong Kong Disneyland’s ticket counter hasn’t exactly been the happiest place on Earth since the park opened in 2005. But Disney is reaching into its $4B bag of Marvel tricks in an effort to juice attendance: An Iron Man-themed thrill ride, shopping area and photo pavilion will open at HK Dis –which turned it meager first profit this year — in late 2016, The New York Times reports. Inspired by the $121M success of Iron Man 3 in China this year, it will be Disney’s first ride based on a Marvel property since it acquired the company in 2009. “It’s important for us to have a story for our Hong Kong guests, a little bit of bragging rights that they have something that nobody else has,” said Bill Ernest, the president of Disney’s theme parks in Asia, told the Times. The attraction will arrive more than a year after the planned opening of Disney’s multibillion-dollar park in Shanghai, its first on the Chinese mainland, and the company is counting on both parks thriving to achieve its corporate goals in the country.
Related: Iger: Behind-The-Scenes Of Disney In China