It’s official: spy spoofs are back. Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) is already shooting the imaginatively titled Spy with his regular leading lady, Melissa McCarthy, playing a covert operative, with the supporting cast including Jason Statham (The Transporter), Rose Byrne (The Turning) and Jude Law (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and now Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me) is directing Grimsby, the story of a suave British secret agent, played by Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty) who must team up with his soccer hooligan brother, played by Baron Cohen (The Dictator; pictured). Leterrier has rounded out his cast with two exceptional Australian comediennes: Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) and Isla Fisher (Bachelorette). Both could do wonderfully satirical things to the notion of the Bond girl.
Chan and Cusack to battle Brody
If it’s a question of historical accuracy versus pitching a major production, the latter wins out every time. Thus production has begun on Dragon Blade, a swords and sandals epic set in the Middle Kingdom when a legion of Roman soldiers come, fleeing a corrupt ruler, marching all the way to Han Dynasty China. Did this happen? Of course not. Are Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrian Brody starring in the film? Of course they are. Chan will play a Chinese commander who joins forces with Cusack’s dissident Roman officer to see off the might of Brody’s vengeful Consul. Direction is from Chinese filmmaker Daniel Lee (14 Blades, Three Kingdoms), and is a sign of how the vast Chinese market is now drawing in Hollywood stars for essentially domestic projects.
N.W.A. movie on the way
The trend of Baby Boomer music biopics is going strong, but now one of hip-hop’s most controversial and influential acts, Los Angeles group N.W.A., is having their story told in Straight Outta Compton. Named for the group’s 1988 debut album, which basically invented gangsta rap and made the genre a nexus point for a good two decade’s worth of drug crime tales and random declarations of sexual empowerment and violence, the film is directed by F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator, Be Cool), who got his start making rap videos in the early 1990s. The fractious band’s members included Eazy-E (played by Jason Mitchell), a former drug dealer who died from AIDS at the age of 31 in 1995, and Dr. Dre (played by Corey Hawkins), who recently sold his Beats by Dre headphones line to Apple for several billion dollars.
Sci-fi welcomes Stewart
Fresh from The Rover, Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Prometheus) goes back to the future again with Equals, the new film from his Breathe In director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy). The film is set in a supposedly utopian future, where poverty and war have been eradicated along with human emotion, but when a new disease starts spreading fear, love and other extremes, the authorities crack down. Pearce will co-star with Kristen Stewart, who continues to diversify her CV after surviving the Twilight movies, and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past). Doremus joins Rian Johnson (Looper) and Jeff Shannon (Mud) as American independent filmmakers who’ve turned to science-fiction.