Motion-Picture: Star Wars galaxy is finally diverse; international movies coming to North America

Whether it’s wizards, Jedi, or Lego ninjas, this was a big week for casting announcements. Actors like Will Smith, Zoe Kravitz and Jackie Chan will all lend their talents to upcoming projects, because we all know we want to see Jackie Chan in Lego form. In the meantime, though, we can look forward to movies like Kubo and the Two Strings and Sweet Sixteen, which will see domestic release this week.

Also on the docket this week, international dramas and documentaries will be making their way to North America, Malaysia changed its film festival qualification standards after controversy over racism, and there’s a new Sundance fellowship for filmmakers of color. For these stories and more, read on:

Action: Two massive franchises have added a fresh group of faces to their respective universes. A new Star Wars: Rogue One trailer dropped during the Olympics last week, showcasing a cast as diverse as the galaxy far, far away. The upcoming film, a spinoff of the iconic series which will bridge together the first two trilogies, features a large cast that includes Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Jiang Wen and Ben Mendelsohn. The movie will blast into theaters December 16, 2016.

In the wizarding world, Zoe Kravitz has apparated into the Harry Potter universe, at the very last minute. The actress, best known for her role in the Divergent series, has secured a small, last minute role in the Potter-verse spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with potential to have an expanded role in the sequel. The movie will continue the resurged Potter hype that started with The Cursed Child, and will release on November 18.

It’ll be a while before those two tentpole movies hit theaters, though. In the meantime, 3-D stop-motion Kubo and the Two Strings, which takes place in a fantastical version of Japan, will strum into theaters August 19. Accidentally summoning an ancient spirit, Kubo must set out on a journey to stop the evil and discover the truth about his fallen samurai father. The movie is produced by studio LAIKA, which previously produced Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls. George Takei, Rooney Mara and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa are among the movie’s voice cast.

The award-winning horror animation Seoul Station will see North American release. Finecut, an international sales company, closed a deal with FilmRise for Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie film, which won the award for second best feature film at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film. The movie serves as a prequel to live action Cannes title Train to Busan, which opened in North America to near unanimous approval.

Comedy: Two sequels are finding their casts. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence will be bad boys for life, starting 2018. The two will star in the action-comedy originally titled Bad Boys 3 has been rebranded to Bad Boys for Life, and will release to theaters January 12, 2018. The movie is the second sequel to Michael Bay’s 1995 Bad Boys, which saw Smith and Lawrence as buddy cops investigating drug-related crimes. 

Meanwhile, The Lego Ninjago Movie is building its cast. Jackie Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, and Michael Peña are among those who will voice kung-fu fighters in the upcoming Lego movie, set for release September next year. The LEGO Movie was a surprise monster hit in 2014, earning glowing reviews and finishing in the top five grossing movies domestically. This will be the second Lego movie released in 2017, but if this and The Lego Batman Movie are as good as the original, that won’t be a problem.

Drama: Jin-gyu Cho’s Sweet Sixteen will hit theaters in limited release this week. Based on a popular internet novel, the movie stars Kris Wu, Han Geng and Joo Won as three men who encountered the same woman in the past and may influence each other’s lives more than they know. The movie will be distributed by China Lion Film Distribution. 

Fernandez Molero is going viral. His award-winning indie team drama Videophilia (and Other Viral Symptoms) will release in Peru August 18, and all throughout Latin America subsequently. The movie, which tackles teens living in the digital age, won the Tiger Award at the 2015 Rotterdam Festival. Molero will tour cities in America this fall before the movie is released internationally in November. 

Antoine Fuqua is in talks to direct the upcoming remake of Scarface, a reboot of the 1983 drug crime film. Universal will produce the movie, which will be reimagined from the original and take place in Los Angeles. The film would be Fuqua’s second remake of a classic, with western The Magnificent Seven, a remake of the 1960 film, arriving to theaters September 8 this year. Other notable works from him Training Day, The Equalizer, and Southpaw.

Documentary: Disneynature’s Born in China nature documentary will be released in North America. The documentary, which highlights wildlife only found in China like pandas and snow leopards, will hit North American theaters April 22, 2017, coinciding with Earth Day. The documentary, directed by Lu Chuan, released in China August 12 and took three years to film to capture the wildlife in all different seasons. The Chinese version is narrated by Zhou Xun.

Awards/Festivals: The Sundance Institute witnessed the birth of a new fellowship program. At a dinner presenting the Vanguard Award to Nate Parker, the director, writer and star of The Birth of a Nation, the star announced the new The Birth of a Nation Fellowship program. The program gives one filmmaker of color 18-24 years old the opportunity to participate in the Sundance Ignite program per year. Parker said the program is a way to give other aspiring filmmakers the kind of experience and industry exposure he received. The Birth of a Nation premiered at Sundance Festival in January this year, and will see wide release on October 7.

Elsewhere, the Malaysian Film Festival changed its qualification standards to accept all Malaysian films, regardless of language, to its top prize categories. The film festival had previously changed its rules to only accept films made in Bahasa Malaysia, which is the country’s national language but one of many used commonly. This change reverses a recent decision that made it so that only certain films could be eligible for the top three categories of best film, best director and best screenplay. The festival is set for September 1-3.