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09-28-2022 Daily Edition September 27, 2022

Daily Edition

Marvel’s ‘Blade’ Loses Director Bassam Tariq (Exclusive)

Marvel Studios’ Blade will no longer have director Bassam Tariq at the helm. Blade, which has a release date of Nov. 3, 2023, was gearing up to begin shooting in November in Atlanta. It is unclear how Tariq’s departure will impact the production start of the vampire action-thriller, which has Oscar winner Mahershala Ali in […]

Marvel StudiosBlade will no longer have director Bassam Tariq at the helm.

Blade, which has a release date of Nov. 3, 2023, was gearing up to begin shooting in November in Atlanta. It is unclear how Tariq’s departure will impact the production start of the vampire action-thriller, which has Oscar winner Mahershala Ali in the title role, with the cast also including Delroy Lindo and Old actor Aaron Pierre.

“Due to continued shifts in our production schedule, Bassam is no longer moving forward as director of Blade but will remain an executive producer on the film,” Marvel said in a statement to THR. “We appreciate Bassam’s talent and all the work he’s done getting Blade to where it is.”

Tariq thanked Marvel in his own statement: “It’s been an honor working with the wonderful folks at Marvel. We were able to put together a killer cast and crew. Eager to see where the next director takes the film.”

Blade has seen its start of production shift at least once before, if not twice, and sources say the project has undergone several rounds of script rewrites. Beau DeMayo, who has worked on shows such as Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, The Witcher and its animated feature spinoff, as well as Marvel’s own Moon Knight, is the current writer. One source says the studio is already in search mode for a new director.

Blade has been one of Marvel’s more anticipated films since the studio announced the project to much fanfare at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019. At the very end of the Marvel panel, Ali made a surprise appearance and put on a baseball cap with the Blade logo. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige later told THR that Ali had personally called him to express interest in playing the character.

Blade was created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan for 1973’s The Tomb of Dracula No. 10. He is a half-mortal, half-immortal who hunts vampires in order to avenge his mother, who was killed by a vampire as she gave birth to him. Wesley Snipes previously played the character in a trilogy released the early 2000s.

Tariq directed and co-wrote Mogul Mowgli, the well-regarded rap drama starring Riz Ahmed. He had been on Blade since the summer of 2021, working off an initial script from Watchmen scribe Stacy Osei-Kuffour.

Blade has already made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, at least partially. In 2021’s Eternals, Ali made a surprise voice cameo in a post-credits scene suggesting that Marvel is poised to explore a horror side to the MCU. The director departure comes as Marvel gears up to release its first horror-themed project, the Halloween special Werewolf By Night, which arrives on Disney+ Oct. 7.

Hugh Jackman Returning as Wolverine for ‘Deadpool 3’

Hugh Jackman is coming out of retirement as Wolverine. The actor will return to his signature X-Men role in the upcoming Deadpool 3, star Ryan Reynolds announced Tuesday on social media. Reynolds also announced that the film will open Sept. 6, 2024. Jackman first played Wolverine in 2000’s X-Men, the film that turned him into […]

Hugh Jackman is coming out of retirement as Wolverine. The actor will return to his signature X-Men role in the upcoming Deadpool 3, star Ryan Reynolds announced Tuesday on social media. Reynolds also announced that the film will open Sept. 6, 2024.

Jackman first played Wolverine in 2000’s X-Men, the film that turned him into a global star. After 17 years and nine films (counting several cameos), Jackman officially retired from the role to much fanfare with 2017’s Logan, in which the adamantium-clawed mutant was killed off.

Deadpool 3 marks a full circle moment for Reynolds’ Deadpool and Jackman’s Wolverine. Reynolds first played Deadpool in the ill-fated, 2009 movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which featured an ill-conceived finale in which Reynolds’ anti-hero was depicted with his mouth sewn shut. Reynolds has often mocked that depiction, given that Deadpool is known for his banter, going by the nickname “the Merc with the Mouth.” The first Deadpool was seen as a redemption story for Reynolds and the character, with the R-rated film becoming a critical success, earning a big $782.6 million globally and helping Reynolds to become one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

Shawn Levy is directing Deadpool 3. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote the first two installments, are writing the script. Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin worked on previous drafts.

This marks the first Deadpool movie made by Marvel Studios after 20th Century Fox released two in 2016 and 2018. Jackman is not the first X-Men star to come out of retirement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His Logan co-star Patrick Stewart appeared in a cameo in this summer’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

In addition to bringing together Jackman and Reynods, Deadpool 3 will be a reunion for Jackman and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, who is producing the film. Feige got his start in the business on the very first X-Men film, where he earned an associate producer credit.

Over the years, audiences have longed to see Jackman and Reynolds appear onscreen as Wolverine and Deadpool, even after Logan seemed to close the door on the possibility. Over the years, Deadpool creator Liefeld couldn’t help but ask both Jackman and Reynolds about the possibility. Both men demurred about any Wolverine reprisal in conversations with him, but the comic book creator didn’t give up hope the actors and creatives behind the movie would find a way.

“This is a beautiful homecoming,” Liefeld tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding with a laugh, “This doesn’t happen unless Ryan keeps asking Hugh.”

Roy Thomas, who co-created Wolverine in 1974, is also among those celebrating Jackman’s return, telling THR in a statement: “Hugh Jackman has the ‘disadvantage’ of being rather taller than the short mutant I envisaged and had John Romita design and Len Wein write and develop with artist Herb Trimpe … but hey, what’s a few inches between friends? From the first X-Men movie through the savage brilliance of Logan in 2017, Jackman has made Wolverine his own — and the way I see it, Deadpool hasn’t got a chance!”

In a playful video posted to their social media accounts on Wednesday morning, Reynolds and Jackman tried to clear up some questions about the Wolverine and Deadpool reunion.

Addressing Wolverine’s death in Logan, Reynolds said that film “takes place in 2029. Totally separate thing. Logan died in Logan. Not touching that.”

He then proceeded to explain “what happens in our film” as Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” begins playing while the two keep talking and gesturing. Fans will just have to wait to find out.

Sept. 28, 8:19 a.m. This story has been updated with comments from Rob Liefeld and Roy Thomas, as well as Reynolds and Jackman’s Wednesday video.

Roku’s New Top Salesman, Charlie Collier, Has a Big Task Ahead

Charlie Collier may be able to help Roku do more with less.  That appears to be the strategy, as the former Fox executive joins Roku in October to lead its advertising and content business. The mere fact of his hiring suggests the company is making a bigger push into the streaming space in order to […]

Charlie Collier may be able to help Roku do more with less. 

That appears to be the strategy, as the former Fox executive joins Roku in October to lead its advertising and content business. The mere fact of his hiring suggests the company is making a bigger push into the streaming space in order to help boost its ad revenue, but his experience may help cut down on the costs and risks associated with moving more into content.

Collier’s jump to Roku comes after decades in the entertainment space, most recently as CEO of Fox Entertainment and previously as president of AMC. His reputation at the two companies was that of a consummate and professional salesman, able to juggle the relatively modest budgets of each company with their bold ambitions. 

At AMC, Collier spearheaded the cable channel’s foray into original programming with shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead, big-budget dramas at a smaller channel that still had to be conscious about its content spend.

At Fox, he had to build an entertainment operation almost from scratch, with the company having just divested its entertainment assets to The Walt Disney Co. in the $71 billion deal that closed in 2019. Like AMC, Fox was operating with a smaller scale than its broadcast competition, and with budgets to match. So Collier leaned into lower cost reality programming like The Masked Singer and Fox’s bread-and-butter genre of adult animation, acquiring companies like Bento Box and Mar Vista, and seeking out programming with strong ROI. He also helped develop Tubi, the free streaming platform that is a direct competitor to The Roku Channel.

Collier is also known as a fierce negotiator when it comes to profits, having worked with key outside studios to own a fraction of Fox’s dwindling roster of scripted originals including The Cleaning Lady (with Warners), Fantasy Island (unscripted, with Sony) and Welcome to Flatch (with Lionsgate). 

Those skills would translate well to Roku, which has until now been purely opportunistic in the original content space. It acquired Quibi’s original programming in a fire sale and has sought out other budget-oriented deals (even Weird, the new Al Yankovic biopic, landed at Roku after other studios passed).

Even as recently as July, Roku told investors that its content “spend will be commensurate not only with the scale and growth of The Roku Channel, but also with the broader macro environment,” with CFO Steve Louden noting that most of the company’s current content spending is concentrated around third-party licensing.

But advertising on The Roku Channel has become a big driver of growth for the company, particularly as the Roku platform faces increasing competition from a number of other manufacturers who are introducing their own operating systems, rather than license from Roku. And to keep growing ad revenue on the channel, Roku needs to expand its viewership. 

“In order to really bring in advertisers, they definitely need to show that they have the audience, and that’s increasingly challenging, because as we go into the back half of this year, [it’s] definitely a weakening macroeconomic environment,” said Jamie Lumley, an analyst at Third Bridge. “One of the first things that gets cut as we hit a recessionary environment is ad spend.”

Like many other media and tech companies, Roku’s advertising business has been under pressure for the past several months, which led the company to pull its full year guidance and introduce other cost-cutting measures, including slowing operating expenses and “headcount growth,” all of which makes Collier’s hire even more notable. 

In addition to the challenging economics, Roku faces more competition for ad dollars in the television space, as Netflix and Disney get ready to launch their own versions of free, ad-supported streaming tiers. Collier’s advertising connections, in addition to his experience being strategic with content development at Fox and AMC, could help set Roku apart in that competitive space (though Roku has already lauded its $1 billion in total commitments from the 2022-23 upfronts). 

With the hire, analysts do not expect Roku to be a direct competitor to the streaming giants, which would involve dramatically increasing content spend, but rather to rely on Collier’s expertise to develop cost-effective hits. And on Collier’s end, the move brings the executive back to his home base of New York and gives him another almost blank slate to draw upon.

“By bringing in someone like Charlie, they’re hoping that they can take fewer swings, but each one is better in terms of really getting contact on something and finding that one big hit,” Lumley said. 

Lesley Goldberg contributed reporting.

A version of this story appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

‘Amsterdam’ Review: Christian Bale and Margot Robbie Head Starry Ensemble in David O. Russell’s Chaotic Cautionary Tale

The 1930s-set comedy thriller’s stacked cast also includes John David Washington, Robert De Niro, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Zoe Saldaña and Taylor Swift.

David O. Russell’s Amsterdam is a lot of movies inelegantly squidged into one — a zany screwball comedy, a crime thriller, an earnest salute to pacts of love and friendship, an antifascist history lesson with fictional flourishes. Those competing strands all have their merits, bolstered by entertaining character work from an uncommonly high-wattage ensemble. But can any film be called satisfying when the storytelling is so convoluted it takes an hour or more to settle on the kind of story it wants to tell, let alone a cohesive tone in which to tell it? Only once Robert De Niro shows up as a distinguished war veteran drawn into a nefarious political conspiracy does momentum kick in.

De Niro has been a regular collaborator of the director since his Oscar-nominated turn in 2013’s Silver Linings Playbook, and it’s great to see the actor bite into a character who plays his cards close to his vest. But he comes along a little too late to rescue this scattershot period piece.

Every new movie from Russell now stirs up allegations of his abusive behavior on- and off-set for relitigation on Film Twitter. But that hasn’t hurt his ability to draw top talent. The phalanx of stars will be the main attraction with this long-gestating Fox project, going out through Disney, even if the cautionary note about history repeating itself doesn’t lack for contemporary relevance.

While Russell’s screenplay introduces them in a choppy flashback structure that starts in New York in 1933 before rewinding 15 years, a trio of fast friends forms the story’s core. They are Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), a doctor experimenting outside the medical establishment with new pain treatments, particularly for wounded war veterans; his attorney chum Harold Woodman (John David Washington); and wealthy artist Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie).

They met in France in 1918, while serving in World War I. Burt was urged to enlist by the blue-blood family of his since-estranged wife Beatrice (Andrea Riseborough). Her snobbish parents (Casey Biggs, Dey Young) felt that becoming a war hero might paper over his half Jewish, half Catholic working-class background and make him a better fit for the family’s Park Avenue medical practice.

An unprejudiced man of principle, Burt agreed to serve as the medic for a Black regiment so ostracized by their white American comrades that they were forced to wear French uniforms and fight with the European Allies. Both Harold and his post-war legal associate Milton (Chris Rock) served in that regiment, the 369th. Valerie was volunteering as a nurse back then, removing bullets and shrapnel from soldiers wounded in combat and transforming the metal into Surrealist art that recalls the work of Man Ray and others.

Their friendship was at its sweetest in Amsterdam, where Valerie introduced them to Paul Canterbury (Mike Myers) and Henry Norcross (Michael Shannon), intelligence officers for the British and American governments, respectively, as well as ornithological enthusiasts thrown out of the international bird-watchers society for stealing eggs from the nests of near-extinct species. Canterbury also manufactures glass eyes, allowing him to provide a replacement for the eye Burt lost in combat.

All this might seem a fussy overload of background detail, and indeed, the movie often feels like it’s piling on eccentricities in a bid to out-quirk Wes Anderson. The bond uniting Burt and Harold and Valerie is platonic, though tinged by hesitant romance between the latter two. But Russell’s screenplay is too manic to establish the three-way union forged during the Amsterdam idyll as the film’s true heart, despite its title.

The story becomes even busier with the 1933 plot, which bolts out of the gate when well-heeled mystery woman Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift) contacts Burt and Harold to ask for their help. She’s suspicious about the death of her father, the beloved former Army general Bill Meekins (Ed Begley Jr.), who oversaw the 369th and who died under murky circumstances during a recent return passage by ship from Europe. The general was scheduled to be guest speaker at an upcoming New York veterans’ reunion gala.

The Meekins development ushers in autopsy nurse Irma St. Clair (Zoe Saldaña), a love interest for Burt, even if he remains hung up on the unlikely chance of a reconciliation with Beatrice.

In case the character gallery isn’t already crowded enough for you, there’s also Valerie’s philanthropist brother Tom (Rami Malek) and his wife Libby (Anya Taylor-Joy). It won’t even have registered to most viewers that Valerie drifted out of Harold and Burt’s orbit after the war until they turn up at the Voze mansion while investigating Meekins’ death and find her heavily medicated for a supposed nervous disorder.

A related crime that occurs early on puts Burt and Harold on the radar of fellow WWI vet Detective Lem Getweiler (Matthias Schoenaerts) and his dimwit flat-footed partner Det. Hiltz (Alessandro Nivola).

I confess I found all this messy and exhausting until Burt and Harold’s investigation leads them to Meekins’ army buddy General Gil Dillenbeck (De Niro), living a quiet life in the leafy suburbs with his droll, doting wife (Beth Grant). Inspired by Armed Forces legend Major General Smedley Butler, who at the time of his death in 1940 was the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, Dillenbeck provides a welcome anchor to the story, while De Niro’s stern authority in the role helps whip the wandering tone into line.

At the same time Burt and Harold are wooing Dillenbeck to speak at the gala, he’s being courted as a potentially influential ally by a shadow group of heavyweight American businessmen from various fields of power, whose lack of faith in the current White House administration has them orchestrating sinister takeover measures.

That American conspiracy plot is rooted in history, tied to the rise of Fascism in Italy and Germany; it’s a fascinating story, withstanding Russell’s efforts to kill it with over-embellishment. The writer-director claims the film’s genesis dates back before the recent resurgence of the White Supremacist movement, the swirl of QAnon lunacy and far-right attempts to undermine the democratic integrity of the American government. But the parallels with our current reality are unmistakable, while the acknowledgment of shameful footnotes such as forced sterilization clinics touches on the evil of racial “cleansing.”

Although Amsterdam maintains a stubbornly hopeful belief that goodness will prevail, the film is also realistic about the resilience of hate in our political culture and the fact that the deep-pocketed instigators of jackboot menace are seldom punished. It makes for a stirring final act, even if the sobering message doesn’t always sync up with Russell’s chaotically cartoonish approach — a mercurial divide mirrored in Daniel Pemberton’s score, which veers between high intrigue and whimsy.

In terms of physical craftsmanship, the film is polished, with production designer Judy Becker recreating 1930s Manhattan on the Paramount New York backlot as well as at various Los Angeles historical landmarks. The costumes by J.R. Hawbaker and Albert Wolsky are finely detailed, with special kudos to Valerie’s knockout beaded gown for the gala. And cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki brings agility, textured light, rich sepia tones and invigorating Dutch angles to the visuals.

But this is primarily a character-driven movie, even if that field has so many people jostling for space that the material might have been better suited to limited-series treatment. Some of the performances don’t have much scope to stretch beyond caricature, but among the secondary characters that make an impression are Malek’s Tom Voze, an oily balance of charm and creepiness; Taylor-Joy’s similarly two-faced Libby, a climber who gets amusingly giddy around De Niro’s general; Saldaña, wise and grounded as Irma, casually discussing the finer points of love over a corpse; and Riseborough, a coddled Daddy’s girl still struggling to reconcile her affections with familial expectations.

As for the central trio, Washington exudes an easy charisma that hasn’t always been apparent in his previous roles, while Robbie melds old-fashioned movie-star glamor with modern intelligence, her bohemian spirit making her credible as a rebellious heiress, an idiosyncratic artist and a woman whose heart operates by its own rules. Valerie believes in love and art and kindness, making her the movie’s unofficial mascot.

The nominal lead role, however, is Burt, if only because of his disproportionate share of blathery monologues. Crowned with a crop of wild curls, Bale takes full advantage of the uncustomary assignment of playing a good-hearted, ebullient type, his generous nature in direct defiance of his misfortunes. The actor gets to show off a flair for physical comedy, whether Burt is passing out mid-sentence from experimental pain-killer doses or struggling to keep his eyes moving in the same direction. That jittery gaze extends to the movie itself, making Amsterdam a patchy entertainment.