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HomeAwardsMust Reads 2/9/24: WB Snags Coogler-Jordan Project, Denzel Reuniting with Spike Lee,...

Must Reads 2/9/24: WB Snags Coogler-Jordan Project, Denzel Reuniting with Spike Lee, More Industry News

Another week comes to an end, one with a ton of industry news flowing out like fine wine, but unfortunately, things won’t be picking up in movie theaters with only one new wide release in theaters, that being Focus Features‘ Lisa Frankenstein. Going by J. Don Birnam‘s review, it’s not very good, but we’ll see if that matters when we report on the box office come Monday.

Warner Bros has won a highly-competitive bidding contest for the next Ryan Coogler-Michael B. Jordan project, an untitled movie, which is said to involve vampires. After making the Sundance-winning Fruitvale Station together, the duo went on to collaborate on Marvel Studios‘ mega-blockbuster, Black Panther, and then made Creed for MGM, a Rocky spin-off franchise that has led to three movies, the third of them directed by Jordan. Much of the film’s plot is being kept under wraps, although it is rumored to be a period genre piece.

Denzel Washington in Malcolm X (Warner Bros.)

Another duo that’s looking to reunite, this one for the first time since 2006 is Denzel Washington with director Spike Lee, who directed him to the third of his ten Oscar nominations for Malcolm X in 1993. Before that, Washington starred in Lee’s film, Mo’ Better Blues in 1990, before the actor’s career exploded. Now, they’re reuniting for their fifth film together and first since Inside Man with a remake of Akira Kurosawa‘s thriller, High and Low, for Apple Original Films and A24, who previously teamed on Washington’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen. The thriller, based on Kurosawa’s 1963 film, based on Ed McBain‘s novel, King’s Ransom, and starring Toshiro Mifune, will begin production in March from a script written by Alan Fox and Lee. This will be Lee’s third remake after his version of Oldboy in 2013 and 2014’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, which was his take on Bill Gunn‘s Ganja and Hess. Kurosawa’s Ikiru was recently remade as the British drama, Living, for which Bill Nighy received an Oscar nomination.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Thursday that starting with the 98th Annual Oscars in 2026, they will add a category for casting to honor the individuals who are pivotal in putting together the casts for the year’s top-honored films. Presumably, there will be five nominees in the category, which will make it akin to the Academy’s version of the SAG Award for Ensemble Cast.

A scene from Disney’s Zootopia (Disney)

Disney was one of the studios that held a big shareholder’s call to report on Q1 earnings this past week, and it used that opportunity to announce a number of new releases and release dates, as well as the title for one of its franchise releases for the summer. The biggest announcement was that the animated Moana 2, originally planned for streaming on Disney+, would actually hit theaters on the Disney-dominated Thanksgiving weekend, hitting theaters on Nov. 27.

Disney already had a hold on that five-day stretch for an untitled family animated movie, but after the last year’s Wish disappointed, we’ll have to see if 2024 is the year in which the Mouse House rebounds. Disney also used the opportunity to announce that another animated sequel, Zootopia 2, would take over the following Thanksgiving weekend on Nov. 26, 2025, hoping to have similar success as the 2016 movie, which grossed over a billion worldwide and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Fede (Don’t Breathe) Alvarez‘s upcoming Alien reboot for 20th Century Studios has a new title ahead of its Aug. 16 release, as it’s being released as Alien: Romulus, starring Cailee Spaeny, Isabela Merced, Aileen Wu, Spike Fearn, David Jonsson, and Archie Renaux.

As mentioned on Tuesday, the European Film Market aka EFM begins next week, and many productions and “packages” are being rolled out to potential buyers in advance.

Afterburn cover (Red 5 Comics)

We’re super-psyched for our pals at Red 5 Comics and Scott Chitwood, who co-wrote the comic series, Afterburn, with Paul Ens, since that seems to once again be moving forward afrer a number of stalled attempts at bringing it to the screen. Black Bear has come on board to sell the project at EFM with J.J. Perry directing, Neal Mortiz producing, and Dave Bautista and Samuel L. Jackson starring. For a long time, Gerard Butler was attached to a film adaptation of the comic, but that iteration of the film eventually fell to the wayside.

Another project announced ahead of EFM is Ice Fall, the new film from The Counterfeiters director Stefan Ruzowitzky, whose film won the Foreign Language Oscar the year of release. It’s been announced that Joel Kinnaman and Cara Jade Myers (Killers of the Flower Moon) have joined the cast. Written by George Mahaffey (Chief Of Station), production will begin next month in Europe, produced by Arclight Films, Top Film, Addam Bramich, Ryan Hamilton, and Rob Van Norden. The film follows a young Indigenous game warden who arrests an infamous poacher only to discover that the poacher knows the location of a plane carrying millions of dollars that has crashed in a frozen lake. When a group of criminals and dirty cops are alerted to the poacher’s whereabouts, the warden and the poacher team up to fight back and escape across the treacherous lake before the ice melts.

Speaking of ice, things are moving forward with Jon Hensleigh‘s action sequel, The Ice Road: Road to the Sky, the Liam Neeson-led follow-up to the 2021 Netflix movie with Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing (The 355) joining Neeson for this one. Once again, Neeson will play ice road driver Mike McCann, as he travels to Nepal to scatter his dead brother’s ashes on Mt. Everest. According to the tagline, “While on a packed tour bus traversing the deadly 12,000 ft. terrain of the infamous Road to the Sky, McCann and his mountain guide encounter a group of Nepalese mercenaries and must fight not only to save themselves and the busload of innocent travelers, but also the local villagers’ homeland.”

You might remember that our sister publication, Below the Line, interviewed Hensleigh for the original The Ice Road in 2021.

The Way Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen, James Nesbitt, Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen in The Way/Ocean Ave.Entertainment – Fathom Events

One project that we’ve been tracking here at Above the Line is Emilio Estevez‘s faith-based sequel, The Way: Chapter 2, since talking to him last year. This week, Estevez’s sequel ended up on a list of films that Goodfellas had acquired the world sales rights for, once again starring Estevez’s father, Martin Sheen, as Tom, who we revisit a decade after his pilgrimage to Spain’s El Comino de Santiago after the death of his son, Daniel (played by Estevez). In the sequel, Tim is embedded with Doctors without Borders in northern Nigeria, performing surgery, when he discovers a disturbing secret in a book written by one of his previous travelmates, whom he goes across Europe looking for. Estevez wrote the screenplay and will direct.

Another project announced for EFM is the crime-thriller, Sweet Dreams, with the announcement that Aimee Lou Wood from Sex Education and the aforementioned Living will be joining Nick Frost, Paapa Essiedu, Billy Howle, and Niamh Algar in the cast for the film written and directed by Carl Tibbetts (Black Mirror). Being pitched as a “British Fargo,” the film’s synopsis involves “a local property developer [who] is swindled out of a million pounds, triggering a chain of grisly and murderous events that rupture the fabric of the decaying English seaside town of Claypole. As the bodies pile up and the lies unravel, the promise of a brighter future conspires to bring the lives and ambitions of a few misguided dreamers and petty criminals to a nasty end.”

A scene from Memoir of a Snail (Arenamedia)

Sarah Snook, who recently won a Primetime Emmy for her role on HBO‘s Succession, has been tapped to voice the lead character and act as narrator for the animated Memoir of a Snail from Oscar-winning Australian director, Adam Elliot. Snook will voice the film’s protagonist, Grace Puddle, “a lonely misfit who hoards ornamental snails and is addicted to romance novels,” in the film going to EFM looking for buyers with Australian production company Arenamedia releasing a first image from the film.

Janina Vilsmaier (L), Mounia Wissinger (Protagnoist Pictures)

Ahead of EFM and the surrounding Berlinale, Protagonist Pictures promoted Janina Vilsmaier and Mounia Wissinger to senior leadership roles within its sales and marketing teams, with Vilsmaier becoming SVP Sales and Distribution and Wissinger promoted to SVP Global Marketing and Publicity.

As far as other casting news, of which there was quite a lot, May December breakout star, Charles Melton, is in talks to join Ray Mendoza in Alex Garland‘s upcoming Untitled War Movie for A24. Mendoza was the military supervisor for Garland’s upcoming Civil War, which A24 will release on April 12, and the two of them wrote and will co-direct this new project.

The Taron Egerton crime-thriller She Rides Shotgun has begun production, as it cast up with Ana Sophia Heger (Life in Pieces), Rob Yang (Succession), John Carroll Lynch (Mindhunter), Odessa A’zion (Fresh Kills), and David Lyons (Truth Be Told) joining Egerton. Directed by Nick Rowland (Calm with Horses), the film fully financed and produced by Fifth Season is based on the novel by Jordan Harper, who wrote the screenplay with revisions by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (The Night House) and Rowland with filming expected to wrap this month.

The official synopsis for the film is, “After years in prison, Nate (Egerton) has made some dangerous enemies, including the powerful criminal gang he worked for on the inside. Desperate for a fresh start, Nate cuts ties with his old crew on his release from prison, but the gang retaliates by putting a hit on his family. Nate picks up Polly, the shy eleven-year-old daughter he hardly knows and goes on the run to keep her out of harm’s way. As they attempt to stay off the radar, it becomes clear that their enemies are relentless and won’t give up easily. Nate teaches Polly how to survive and watches her transform from a timid little girl into a force to be reckoned with. And Nate, in turn, learns what it is to love unconditionally as he bonds with his daughter and battles for their future.”

Veteran actor Scott Glenn is the latest to join Season 3 of Mike White‘s The White Lotus for HBO, which begins filming in Thailand soon with a mostly new cast of characters visiting a White Lotus resort. Natasha Rockwell from Season 1 is the only returning cast member, joined by Carrie Coon, Michelle Monaghan, Leslie Bibb, Parker Posey, Walton Goggins, Aimee Lou Wood, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Jason Isaacs, and many more.

We’ve had a slew of television and streaming cancellations over the past few months, mainly due to the various strikes, but this week, we had a string of renewals, including Peacock renewing The Traitors, starring Alan Cumming, for a third season. Also, Max has renewed the Jason Momoa-led docuseries On the Roam for a second season.

This morning, cable network FX announced a number of series launch dates for April with American Horror Story: Delicate Part 2 hitting FX on Weds, April 3, and Season 3 of Welcome to Wrexham hitting the cable network on Thursday, April 18. Other projects announced include the New York Times-presented doc feature, Broken Horses, for April 26, and Elisabeth Moss‘ new series, The Veil, which will premiere exclusively on Hulu on Tuesday, April 30. Also hitting Hulu on Tuesday, June 4 is the series Clipped, which was formerly called The Sterling Affairs, starring Laurence Fishburne as notorious L.A. Clippers coach, Doc Rivers.

As far as new trailers, we have the first trailer for the A Quiet Place prequel spin-off, A Quiet Place: Day One, which will hit theaters on June 28 with director Michael Sarnoski (Pig) helming a cast that includes Lupita Nyong’oDjimon HounsouAlex WolffJoseph Quinn, and more.

A24 also released the first trailer for Rose Glass‘s horror film, Love Lies Bleeding, starring Kristen Stewart and Jenna Malone, which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, which will be released next month on March 8.

Deadline provided some reporting for this installment, as did Variety.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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