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‘Hunger Games’ to return in prequel ‘Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ with mystery cast

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The odds were ever in CinemaCon-goers’ favor on Thursday night when Lionsgate brought a teaser for “Hunger Games” prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” to the annual trade show for theater owners. The clip didn’t show any footage from the movie, which is currently in production, nor did it reveal who is in the film.

Lionsgate also announced the movie will be released in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023. However, they didn’t share the cast. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” takes place decades before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen and centers on young Coriolanus Snow, who eventually becomes the tyrannical president of Panem.

But in “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” he’s no bark and no bite. As an 18-year-old, Snow is chosen to be a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12, during the 10th Hunger Games. (Katniss didn’t come around until the 74th Hunger Games.)

Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian trilogy of “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” was first published in 2008 and later developed into four films. They collectively generated $3 billion at the global box office and propelled Jennifer Lawrence to superstardom. Collins wrote a prequel novel, which was released in May of 2022, about the early days of the “Hunger Games.” Before the book was published, Lionsgate announced plans to turn the story into a feature film.

The original trilogy, set in the post-apocalyptic Panem, starts as Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute to take her younger sister’s place in the annual Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death. Along with Lawrence, the movies starred Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, and Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow.

Francis Lawrence, a “Hunger Games” veteran, returned to direct, with Michael Arndt (“Catching Fire”) back to write the screenplay.

MOVIES

I’ve seen ‘Spawn’ movie concept suits – Jamie Foxx

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A Spawn reboot may finally see the light of day, with actor Jamie Foxx saying that he has seen concept suits for the comic book character. He was asked in an interview if he has seen a costume for the film, leading to a surprising answer. “I’ve seen a lot of concepts,” he reveals. “Because Todd, what he does it, every single day he’s doodling and he’s fixing and he’s doing some things that, to me, I think is gonna be like way out when you see it. And how he crafts that cape and how that cape becomes almost like – I’ll say this – as big as the screen that you’re watching.”

A live-action Spawn reboot seems to have been talked about for decades since a sequel to the 1997 release was cancelled. Creator Todd McFarlane has teased the film on multiple occasions throughout the years, with actor Jamie Foxx recently sharing news that may mean the film is much closer to a release than anticipated.

MacFarlane has said he wants the reboot to be rated R, which would be reminiscent of the 2019 R-rated release ‘Joker’, which went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.

Foxx thinks those working on the film are ready for their turn. “But it starts in a way that is so cool. And it’s not big budget, you know? And that’s what I love about it. It’s sort of like how when they did the Joker. And so, we’re just like, just getting this right, cooking it right, but staying in contact, keeping the energy going and when we lay it on you, there’s gonna be some moments where you go ‘oh man’.”

More developments are expected at New York Comic-Con in October. Regarding an announcement, McFarlane told CBR at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, “We were debating whether to make a big announcement because we’ve been adding pieces to it here at San Diego. So all the parties that were involved, we had the conversation: ‘Do we make the announcement here or do we wait and keep our gunpowder dry until New York Comic Con?’ And we eventually said we’ll do it at New York.”

Fingers crossed!

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‘WandaVision’ director in talks to direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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Marvel Studios appears to be one step closer to finalizing plans for the highly anticipated “Fantastic Four” reboot, with news that “WandaVision” helmer Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the project, Variety has confirmed.

At the San Diego Comic-Con in July, Marvel boss Kevin Feige teased the movie, which is currently slated to debut on Nov. 8, 2024, revealing that “Fantastic Four” would kick off Phase 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jon Watts, who helmed all three of Sony and Marvel’s “Spider-Man” films, had previously been announced as the “Fantastic Four” director, but exited the project in April. Rumors that Shakman had been tapped to take the job hit the internet earlier this week, with the choice heralded by fans given the director’s successful piloting of the Disney+ series.

For his work on “WandaVision,” Shakman landed an Emmy nomination for outstanding directing for a limited or anthology series or movie, as well as a nod in the outstanding limited or anthology series category as an executive producer on the series. Shakman is also an Emmy nominee for his directing work on Hulu’s “The Great.”

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DC’s troubles continue as ‘Aquaman 2’ and ‘Shazam! 2’ shift dates

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Surprising only a few, ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ and ‘Shazam!: Fury of the Gods will land in theaters later than planned. Per a Variety report, Warner Bros. announced a slew of release date changes on Wednesday, pushing the ‘Aquaman’ follow-up from March 17, 2023 to Dec. 25, 2023.

The ‘Shazam!’ sequel will open on the date previously occupied by Jason Momoa’s undersea hero. The story about Zachary Levi’s Billy Batson was originally set for Dec. 21, 2022. This means ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ will debut a few days after Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ spinoff ‘Rogue Squadron’ (Dec. 23, 2023).

Meanwhile, ‘Shazam!: Fury of the Gods’, initially set to face off against James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, is now top dog over its new opening weekend.

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