Week in review 8/4 - 8/8


Hollywood execs have hearkened to the cries of bloggers and film pundits, or taken a quick glance at the list of this summer's successes, and are moving ahead on three projects with lady leads: An all-female Ghostbusters, a Spider-Man spin-off featuring a female superhero, and an all-female Expendables, a film whose title, if we were inclined to quibble, we might point out suggests a repressive Southern culture, the Expendabelles. It is, however, a start, and our ears will remain pricked until gratified with the announcement of Rebel Wilson's casting in Paul Feig's (Bridesmaids) Ghostbusters. It now seems original premises are the final frontier.

In other development news of the welcome variety, two comedic favorites have been awarded film deals. In one, Ricky Gervais will reprise his role as the original BBC "The Office" boss David Brent. Life On the Road is reportedly a faux-documentary in the vein of "The Office" TV show, and will follow Brent as he works as a traveling salesman and attempts to save enough money to self-finance a concert tour. Brent believes this to be a rockumentary; it isn't.

Count on a great deal of singing and dancing and meme-generating tomfoolery from the guys of The Lonely Island, however, in their silver-screen debut. Andy Sandberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, or the trio behind SNL skits and hits in their own right, "I'm On A Boat" and "Lazy Sunday," will star in a film produced by Judd Apatow.

It's comforting when the pieces come together so nicely and expectedly in this way, as one could say of Frozen director Jennifer Lee's recent appointment of screenwriter to an adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's YA novel A Wrinkle in Time. We know Lee can tackle girl power with gumption, but let's hope her Time hews a bit closer to source material than Frozen with ostensible inspiration The Snow Queen.

The project will see Lee working once again with and for Disney, a famed producer of animated classics much like the much-in-the-news Studio Ghibli. Reports surrounding the Japanese animation studio changed quite a bit from the beginning of the week towards its end, thanks to a blogger who mistranslated remarks recently made by Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. Ghibli went from closing down, to "envisioning a short break," to, now, likely welcoming back beloved Ponyo animator Hayao Miyazaki, who had previously announced his retirement.

This would be great news for anime fans, though it's director Bryan Singer who may be the recipient of the week's most welcome piece of information. Michael Egan, who had filed a sex-abuse case against the X-Men director and other Hollywood players, filed a motion to withdraw his final suit against defendants, THR reported on Wednesday. As the alleged abuse was to have taken place in Hawaii, Egan has been suffering blowback of late from sworn comments he made back in 2003, in which he stated he had never visited the state.

It remains to be seen the extent to which the backlash from a letter denouncing Israel's recent bombings of Gaza signed by Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz will affect the stars' careers. At least one exec, Ryan Kavanaugh of Relativity Media, the grandson of Holocaust survivors who took umbrage at the actors' use of the word "genocide" in describing Israel's military actions, has voiced his displeasure. The letter "makes my blood boil," he said. Ultimately, however, it comes down to cold dollars and cents: Studios will continue to work with the two if they continue to draw audiences.

Other stars have been putting their influence to less contentious use. In one of the best news items of the week, J.K. Rowling sent a handwritten note to the survivor of a shooting that killed her family, Cassidy Stay. The best part? Rowling penned her missive in the voice of Dumbledore after learning Stay was a big fan: "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on a light," the 15-year-old quoted Dumbledore at a recent press conference. The contents of the letter are undisclosed, as they should remain.