HBO Max Announces Animated ‘Aquaman,’ Wolfgang Puck and Adam McKay Series, Deal With Steven Soderbergh

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer service debuting in spring 2020, announced a smattering of content deals during the studio’s Television Critics Association day.

The service has greenlighted the three-part animated miniseries Aquaman: King of Atlantis that will be executive produced by James Wan (Aquaman and the upcoming Malignant) through his Atomic Monster production company. Based on the classic DC character created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, each of the standalone episodes will have a unique storyline following the adventures of Aquaman as protector of the deep.

“This DC property is a fan favorite rich with well-known characters and dynamic storylines,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max, in a statement. “On the heels of Warner Bros. Pictures’ box office smash hit, we are certain AquamanKing of Atlantis will be an exciting addition to our already robust slate of kids and family programming.”

At the same event WarnerMedia announced that filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has signed a three-year deal to develop content for both HBO Max and HBO, which shall be exclusive in all forms of television and a first-look for features. Soderbergh’s first project with HBO Max is the previously announced feature Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, Candice BergenDianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan. It’s the story of a celebrated author (Streep) who takes a journey with some old friends to have some fun and heal old wounds. The film will launch on HBO Max in 2020.

“This arrangement grew out of talks Michael Sugar and I were having with Sarah Aubrey during the negotiations for Let Them All Talk, and there were four things tractor-beaming me toward this deal: One, I have a history with both HBO and Warner Bros.; two, my definition of a good product, a good process, and a good working culture is shared by the WarnerMedia family; three, the wide range of potential outlets aligns with my range of interests, and four: I get to witness and participate in the building of something new at a very large scale. Oh, and there is a financial aspect, so that’s probably five,” said Soderbergh.

“Steven is a groundbreaking filmmaker who not only tells unique, irresistible stories, but is also a master of so many genres,” said Aubrey. “In many ways, he is the anti-algorithm constantly surprising, never predictable and his career is living proof that one gifted filmmaker can impact our culture again and again. I can’t wait for the projects that we’re working on together to premiere on HBO Max.”

“From Behind the Candelabra, to The Knick and Mosaic, we know first-hand that Steven Soderbergh’s creative genius knows no bounds,” said Casey Bloys, president, HBO programming.  “An indefatigable innovator, we couldn’t be more excited to continue our relationship with Steven and provide a home for his future projects.”

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The service has also ordered eight episodes of “The Event,” an unscripted documentary series featuring a look behind the scenes of events created by Wolfgang Puck Catering and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.

“Wolfgang is one of the most accomplished chefs of our time and for decades has been the go-to restaurateur and caterer for the biggest names and events in Hollywood and across the country,”said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, and president of TNT, TBS and TruTV. “This series will usher viewers into a world of opulence and luxury and showcase the unpredictable challenges he and his team encounter while executing the biggest and most exclusive A-list events we all wish we were invited to.”

“We are really excited to share a behind the scenes look at planning our most creative and complicated events with HBO Max subscribers,” said Puck.

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In addition, HBO Max has greenlit writer-director Adam McKay’s “The Uninhabitable Earth,” an anthology series inspired by David Wallace-Wells’  best-selling book and New York Magazine article of the same name. It will be comprised of stand-alone fictional stories covering a wide range of genres and possible futures that could result from the rapid warming of our planet. McKay (The Big Short), who recently closed a five-year, overall television deal with HBO and HBO Max, is attached to write and direct the first episode.

“Adam is one of the rare artists who can deliver a pointed, impactful message in a piece of great entertainment,” said Reilly. “I can’t wait to see what he does with this material, as there is no timelier and more relevant message than a wake-up call on climate change and the growing impact on our lives.”

“I’ve been chomping at the bit to get this show going. I’m very happy that HBO Max stepped up and made the commitment. There’s obviously no subject as vast and daunting,” said McKay.

 

‘The Curse of La Llorona’ to Materialize on Digital July 16, Disc Aug. 6

The horror film The Curse of La Llorona will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) July 16 and Blu-ray combo pack and DVD Aug. 6 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

From New Line Cinema and producer James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona brings the iconic Latin American legend to life. The film stars Linda Cardellini (Green Book, TV’s “Bloodline”), Raymond Cruz (TV’s “Breaking Bad,” Training Day) and Patricia Velasquez (TV’s “Arrested Development,” “The Mummy” films). Supporting cast includes Marisol Ramirez (TV’s “NCIS: Los Angeles”), Sean Patrick Thomas (the “Barbershop” films, Halloween: Resurrection), Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen (Selfless) and newcomer Roman Christou.

Set in 1973 Los Angeles, the film tells the story of Anna Tate-Garcia (Cardellini), a social worker and widowed single mom struggling to balance the two roles while still coping with the loss of her husband. Anna has navigated a multitude of phantoms and superstitions in her job, usually finding personal demons lurking beneath. When she’s called to the home of Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) and finds her two young sons locked in a closet, she interprets their terrified mother’s desperate efforts to keep them locked away as a dangerous sign of abuse. Because she is unaware of the very real danger they face, Anna has no idea what she’s about to unleash when she takes the kids into protective custody.

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The Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD and a digital copy.

Special features on disc include “The Myth of La Llorona,” “Behind the Curse,” “The Making of a Movie Monster,” deleted scenes and storyboards.

Lionsgate Bringing Back ‘Saw’ Horror Franchise, Thanks to Chris Rock

Saw the comedy?

Lionsgate is going back to the vault with a reboot of its successful Saw horror franchise. In a twist, the newest theatrical edition — slated for release in 2020 — was conceived by stand-up comic Chris Rock, who will executive produce.

“When Chris Rock came to us and described in chilling detail his fantastic vision that reimagines and spins-off the world of the notorious Jigsaw Killer, we were all-in,” Joe Drake, chairman of the motion picture group, said in a statement.

Chris Rock

“I’ve been a fan of Saw since the first film,” Rock said. “I am excited by the opportunity to take this to a really intense and twisted new place.”

Indeed, Saw is one of Lionsgate’s biggest movie franchises, with the eight films generating more than $1 billion in combined ticket sales since the original 2004 release from co-creator/director James Wan, who, along with co-creator Leigh Whannell, will also executive produce.

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While Lionsgate isn’t divulging Rock’s storyline for the Oct. 20, 2020, release, previous editions focused around Jigsaw, a demented torturer subjecting morally-compromised victims to ingenious fates.

Saw has been a retail hit as well, selling more than 30 million DVD/Blu-ray Disc units. In 2010, Guinness World Records proclaimed the franchise as the “most successful horror movie series”.

“This upcoming film will still be as mind-bending and intense as all the previous Saw films,” Drake said. “Chris conceived this idea and it will be completely reverential to the legacy of the material while reinvigorating the brand with his wit, creative vision and passion for this classic horror franchise.”

Aquaman

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/26/19;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $334.52 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language.
Stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ludi Lin, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison.

It’s a bit amazing to think that the Justice League member so often derided as “the one who talks to fish and is useless on land” is now the subject of the highest-grossing movie based on a DC Comics character at the worldwide box office.

Already a regular target of parody shows such as “Robot Chicken,” the Aquaman character was famously used as the centerpiece of a storyline on HBO’s “Entourage” involving a blockbuster movie version directed by James Cameron — poking fun at both Cameron’s penchant for water movies and the idea that anyone would ever make an Aquaman movie.

Well, the real film, directed by James Wan, certainly dispels any notion that Aquaman isn’t suited for the big screen. Coincidentally, with this film and Furious 7, Wan became the only director other than Cameron (with Avatar and Titanic) to guide two films from separate franchises into the global box office’s billion-dollar club.

Jason Momoa takes on the title role, his third film appearing as the character, after a cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and an expanded presence in Justice League. His larger-than-life persona and carefree attitude serve the film well by helping the audience accept the bizarreness of the worlds being created without the need to take it too seriously.

Arthur Curry (Momoa) is the product of the unexpected love of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) who ends up at his shore when she escapes an arranged marriage. Arthur’s unique heritage gives him superhuman abilities, such as strength, invulnerability, the ability to swim fast and a telepathic bond with sea creatures.

With his reputation as a hero established in Justice League, Arthur is sought out by the princess Mera (Amber Heard) to claim the throne of Atlantis from his half-brother (Patrick Wilson), who wants to destroy the surface world.

To do that, he and Mera must embark on a quest to locate a mythical weapon that will allow him to assert his claim as the rightful king of Atlantis.

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The story will draw a lot of comparisons with Black Panther in that both deal with heroes introduced in earlier films, with their own films focused on tying their origins into storylines involving taking control of their hidden kingdoms away from maniacal family members who want to conquer the outside world. Tonally, the film is more like Thor: Ragnarok, which also deals with a battle for the throne of a powerful kingdom. These recent superhero movies have certainly embraced that Shakespearean power dynamics motif lately (which may just speak to how most comic books can be reduced to a few fundamental tropes before all the personality and detail that makes them popular are added).

Aquaman

Between the “Game of Thrones”-esque political intrigue and “Indiana Jones”-style adventure subplot, much of the film’s success owes to its sense of fun and its willingness to depict absolutely anything on screen despite how absurd it is while treating it as epic. Wan fills almost every frame with fantastic imagery awash in vibrant color that really shines through in its high-definition Blu-ray presentation. Many of the scenes look as if Wan pulled them directly from a comic book, and even makes Aquaman’s traditional orange and green costume look cool, which should no doubt please fans of the character.

The Blu-ray includes more than an hour-and-a-half of featurettes detailing all the aspects of the production, from Momoa’s casting, to the stunt work, to the development of the depictions of the undersea kingdoms that comprise the Atlantean realms.

One of the more interesting videos in this regard is the “Kingdoms of the Seven Seas,” a profile of underwater politics hosted by Dolph Lundgren, who plays the ruler of one of them. Between this and his recent turn in a “Rocky” retrospective on the Creed II Blu-ray, Lundgren has been pretty busy on the Warner lot hosting bonus videos.

Another interesting tidbit comes during an analysis of the film’s memorable sequence involving the devolved creatures of the Trench, which plays to Wan’s horror roots. At one point, an excited Wan suggests the Trench should be the basis of its own movie. Unsurprisingly, a Trench spinoff has already been announced.

Finally, the disc includes a three-minute scene from the upcoming Shazam! movie.

‘Aquaman’ Swimming to Home Video in March

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the DC Comics adaptation Aquaman through digital retailers March 5, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 26.

The sixth installment in the interconnected series of films based on DC Comics, Aquaman picks up with the title character’s adventures after his appearance in 2017’s Justice League. While Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is content on using his abilities to help people, he is summoned to Atlantis by Mera (Amber Heard), who urges him to assert his birthright as the true king of the undersea kingdom to prevent his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) from waging a war against the surface world. To do this he must set off on a quest across the realms of the seven seas to recover the ancient artifact that will allow him to unite the oceans and fulfill his destiny as Aquaman.

The cast also includes Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison and Ludi Lin.

Directed by James Wan, the film has earned $325 million at the domestic box office, and $1.1 billion worldwide.

All versions of Aquaman will include a three-minute preview of Shazam, the upcoming live-action adaptation starring Zachary Levi as the DC superhero, due in theaters April 5.

The Blu-ray and DVD editions of Aquaman will also include scene study breakdowns and several featurettes: “Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman,” “Becoming Aquaman,” “James Wan: World Builder,” “Aqua Tech,” “Atlantis Warfare,” “The Dark Depths of Black Manta,” “Heroines of Atlantis,” “Villainous Training,” “Kingdoms of the Seven Seas,” “Creating Undersea Creatures” and “A Match Made in Atlantis.”

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of Aquaman will feature Dolby Vision HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

Amazon Partners with Warner Bros. for Early ‘Aquaman’ Theatrical Access

In a first, Amazon is affording Prime members early theatrical access to Warner Bros. Pictures’ DC Comics underwater super heroes movie, Aquaman — beginning Dec. 15.

Directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious), Aquaman stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman, among others.

The movie, which reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime — one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be … a king, will be released in theaters nationwide Dec. 21 in 3D and 2D and Imax.

Prime members can purchase up to 10 tickets (via Atom Tickets) and screen the movie at one of more than 1,000 theaters, including AMC, Regal, National Amusement Theaters and ArcLight Cinemas.

“Coming together with Amazon to reach their footprint of Prime members in the U.S. is the ideal way for us to bring Aquaman to moviegoers and their families as they kick off their holidays,” Blair Rich, president, worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, said in a statement.

Unlike Netflix, which has (until recently) shunned theatrical exposure for its feature-length movies, Amazon continues to embrace the traditional theatrical window ahead of retail and streaming via Amazon Instant Video and Prime Video, respectively.

“Prime offers the best of shopping and entertainment and these early showings of Aquaman are yet another pleasant surprise for members, and one that I’m personally also looking forward to,” said Cem Sibay, VP of Amazon Prime.