Saturday, 16 January 2077

Support The Wertzone on Patreon


After much debate (and some requests) I have signed up with crowdfunding service Patreon to better support future blogging efforts. You can find my Patreon page here and more information after the jump.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Hugh Grant to play the villain in the DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie

In a high-profile bit of casting, Paramount has tapped British actor Hugh Grant (The Undoing, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually) to play the main villain in the new Dungeons and Dragons movie.

Grant is the quintessential British gentleman actor for his roles in 1990s romcoms, but has recently enjoyed a career resurgence thanks to HBO's The Undoing and Amazon's A Very English Scandal.

The film starts shooting in the next few weeks in Northern Ireland and has already tapped Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez and Justice Smith for roles, with Regé-Jean Page playing the protagonist. So far no character names or plot or setting details have been revealed.

Deadline have also confirmed that Sophia Lillis (IT, IT: Chapter Two, I Am Not Okay With This) has joined the cast in an unspecified role.

Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley are writing and directing the film for a 2022 debut.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN director to helm George R.R. Martin's SANDKINGS for Netflix

Gore Verbinski (The Ring, the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Rango) is lined up to direct a film for Netflix, based on George R.R. Martin's novelette Sandkings.

Originally published in 1979, Sandkings was Martin's best-known individual story prior to the publication of A Game of Thrones in 1996. Set in his science fiction "Thousand Worlds" setting, the story revolves around Simon Kress, a wealthy man on the planet Baldur who likes to collect exotic animals and finds a challenge in a new type of animal called a "sandking". Things go wrong when he starts mistreating the creatures for his own amusement. The story won the 1980 Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novelette and is Martin's only story to have won both the Hugo and Nebula award.

The story was previously adapted in 1995 as the first episode of the rebooted Outer Limits, starring Beau Bridges (who was nominated for an Emmy for his performance) and Lloyd Bridges. It was adapted by Martin's frequent collaborator Melinda Snodgrass and the action was relocated to contemporary Earth.

Verbinski is directing from a script written by Dennis Kelly (Utopia, Spooks, The Third Day). John Baldecchi (The Mexican) is producing.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Netflix drops trailer for SHADOW & BONE, based on Leigh Bardugo's GRISHAVERSE novels

Netflix have released a trailer for their upcoming adaptation of Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone.

The Grishaverse comprises seven novels published in three series: the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising); the Six of Crows duology (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom); and the Nikolai Duology (King of Scars, Rule of Wolves). Netflix's TV version plans to adapt the entire set of stories, with the first season relying heavily on the first novel in the series, Shadow and Bone, as well as establishing backstories for characters introduced later in Six of Crows.

The first season will be released on 23 April. It stars Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, Ben Barnes as Kirigan, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey and Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev. The showrunner is Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Bird Box, Hours).

A slew of well-known SF and fantasy projects are in development through Startling Inc., including THE BELGARIAD, THE DYING EARTH and RED MARS

Thanks to detective work by the team at, it's been revealed that a surprisingly large number of classic SF and fantasy projects are in development via the Startling Inc. production company. The company is run by Vince Gerardis, a producer on Game of Thrones.

Some of the projects have been known about for a while and some seem to be stuck in development hell. Most seem to be speculative options, with the realistic prospect of making it to the screen being unclear. Still, it's worth breaking down the projects on the list:

Ringworld (MGM/Amazon): based on Larry Niven's classic 1970 novel about a huge, ring-shaped megastructure completely enclosing a star. Optioned in 2017, it is believed this project was moved onto the backburner some time ago and is not currently in active development.

Wild Cards (Universal Cable Pictures/Peacock): see more here.

Dark Winds (AMC): A detective series based on Tony Hillerman's novel The Dark Wind. Originally in the works at HBO, but presumably sold on to AMC since then.

The Ice Dragon (Warner Brothers Animation): an animated feature film based on George R.R. Martin's 1980 children's story. In development since 2018.

Eon (MWM, formerly Madison Wells Media): likely a project based on Greg Bear's classic 1985 "big dumb object" SF novel, Eon, the first volume in the Thistledown series.

A Song of Ice and Fire (The Works): speculated by the Westeros team to be a live experience or show based on the novels.

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (Phoenix): a project based on Robert Heinlein's 1942 novella.

Sandkings (Netflix): see more here.

Passengers (Groundswell/Endeavour Content): likely a project based on Robert Silverberg's 1969 short story about alien beings who possess human bodies at will. Unrelated to the 2016 Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence film.

Inconstant Moon (21 Laps/Picture Start): a project based on Larry Niven's 1971 short story.

Dry (Bruce Cohen Productions/MML): this is more ambiguous; possibly a project based on Neal and Jarrod Shusterman's 2018 novel about climate catastrophe.

Hawksbill Station (First Generation): a project based on Robert Silverberg's 1967 novel about a penal colony established in the distant past, from where prisoners cannot hope to escape.

Dayworld (Warner Brothers Television): a project based on the 1985 novel by Philip José Farmer where a chronically overcrowded Earth is managed by having only one-seventh of the population active at any time, spending the rest of the time in suspended animation.

Roadmarks (HBO): see more here.

The Postman (Playtone/Warner Brothers Television): a new take on David Brin's 1985 post-apocalyptic novel. The novel was previously adapted - mediocrely - as a film in 1997 with Kevin Costner.

More Than Human (Good Banana/HBO): an adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon's 1953 novel in which humans develop superpowers which they can blend together to create incredible effects.

OK (Anonymous Content): No idea on this one.

Arabian Nights (Tomorrow/ITV): Presumably another take on the classic mythological story cycle originally known as One Thousand and One Nights.

Rose Hill (Leeding Media): There's several possibilities here, including Julie Garwood's Claybornes of Rose Hill novel series (previously filmed in 1997 as Rose Hill) and Pamela Grandstaff's Rose Hill Mysteries series.

PLAY (Dimitri Vegas): No idea on this one.

Weetzie Bat (Stampede/UCP): A film based on the Dangerous Angels novel series by Francesca Lia Block. Ana Taylor-Joy, Nick Robinson, Theodore Pellerin and Keiynan Lonsdale were attached to star and Justin Kelly to direct, but there has been no word on the project since 2018. It might be that this is a new take on the same idea (since Stampede and/or UCP do not appear to have been involved in the 2018 project).

Clean (Anonymous): A surprisingly popular novel title, making it hard to pin down what it's based on.

Sleepless (Stampede): Most likely, a project based on Nancy Kress's Sleepless trilogy (starting with Beggars in Spain) about a new generation of humans genetically-engineered not to need sleep, who rapidly become far more intelligent and capable than "sleepy" humans and threaten to supplant them.

Up the Line (Village Roadshow): a project based on Robert Silverberg's 1969 time travel novel.

The Mars Trilogy (Fox): a project based on Kim Stanley Robinson's multi-award winning Mars Trilogy of novels (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars); previously in development at Spike Television with J. Michael Straczynski, where it was dropped after being a poor fit for the network. 

The Belgariad (City Hill): a project based on David and Leigh Eddings' five-volume epic fantasy saga (credited to David alone, but in later life he confirmed his wife's full involvement in the writing process). As a major epic fantasy work of the 1980s, it's been developed for adaptation several times but never quite made it into active development. Its prospects have probably not been helped by the recent revelation that the authors were child abusers who did jail time in the 1970s for beating and imprisoning their foster children.

Billion Dollar Boy (Phoenix): a project based on the 1997 novel by Charles Sheffield, in which a spoiled rich kid from a future Earth is abandoned on a remote space station and has to work hard to survive.

The Dying Earth (A24): a project based on the four-volume science fantasy series by Jack Vance. Hugely influential and important, The Dying Earth directly inspired Dungeons & Dragons (which uses the same magic system) and the entire "Dying Earth" subgenre of science fantasy.

Flood/Ark (Anonymous/Epix): a project based on the high-concept SF duology of the same name by British SF author Stephen Baxter, about the Earth becoming uninhabitable when a previously-unknown body of water in Earth's mantle is released into the oceans, causing catastrophic global flooding and forcing humanity to adapt or flee the planet altogether.

Montmartre (Stampede): No idea on this one, except possibly a project related to Picasso.

RPM (Infinito): No idea on this one either.

It's likely only a small number of these will ever make it to the screen, and it'll be interesting to see which ones.

George R.R. Martin's WILD CARDS TV series moves from Hulu to Peacock; SANDKINGS in development at Netflix

Thanks to detective work by the team at, it appears that the long-percolating TV version of the Wild Cards shared universe has moved home. Previously in the works as an NBC-Hulu collaboration, it now appears to have found a new home at NBC's Peacock streaming service.

Peacock launched last April in the United States and is heavily reliant on legacy programming such as The Office and Parks & Recreation. It is unsurprising that they would be looking to bolster their lineup with original fare, and the Wild Cards universe gives them a large roster of superhero characters to develop shows around.

The Wild Cards universe was created by George R.R. Martin in the early 1980s as a roleplaying game setting. Starting in 1987, Martin began editing and publishing linked anthologies of stories from numerous writers in the shared world. Melinda Snodgrass has been heavily involved in the creative side of the universe, and writers including Paul Cornell, David Anthony Durham, Pat Cadigan, Emma Newman, Mark Lawrence, Roger Zelazny, Howard Waldrop, Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Walter Jon Williams have contributed stories to the setting. The twenty-ninth book in the series is scheduled for release this year.

Martin's other commitments preclude working on the show, so the heavy-lifting on Wild Cards is being done by Melinda Snodgrass (who previously worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a writer and script editor, penning one of the show's most beloved episodes, The Measure of a Man) and Michael Cassutt (Z Nation, The Outer Limits).

Meanwhile, the same source reveals that Martin's novella Sandkings is in development as a feature film at Netflix. Sandkings was previously filmed - heavily reworked by Melinda Snodgrass into a contemporary setting - as the opening episode of the second version of The Outer Limits in 1995.

JJ Abrams developing a new stand-alone SUPERMAN movie

In somewhat surprising news, J.J. Abrams is working on a new Superman film project at Warner Brothers alongside writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Similarly to the in-production The Batman, the film is envisaged a stand-alone project not related to the wider DC Extended Universe (their version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

After a few years of fruitlessly competing with Marvel, Warner Brothers have apparently reconsidered their ideas about a linked superhero universe, with a new approach which mixes a linked universe of films (comprising Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman 1984Zack Snyder's Justice League and the forthcoming The Flash) and the ability and freedom to revisit those characters in a stand-alone context with different actors involved.

Abrams set up a development deal worth $500 million with Warner Brothers in 2019, whilst Coates - a respected writer of both fiction and history texts - has enjoyed acclaimed recent runs on both the Black Panther and Captain America comic books for Marvel.

Some reports are suggesting that the film will explore the idea of an African-American (well, African-American-Kryptonian) Superman. There is precedent for this in the comics, where "black Supermen" appeared several times in alternate-universe stories about the character. The most substantial such take on the character is an alternate-reality version revolving around the character of Kalel, who like his white counterpart is the last refugee of Krypton. He is raised by the poor Ellis family and dubbed Calvin, and becomes the Superman of his world. He also becomes President of the United States, in an unusual twist on the familiar mythos.

Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Creed, Black Panther) reportedly met with Warner Brothers a few years ago to discuss a possible appearance as Superman in a project which did not move forward at that time. Whether there is scope for Jordan to be involved in this project is unclear.

Henry Cavill, who has played Superman in the DCEU since 2013's Man of Steel, reportedly was in talks to resume his role early last year. Apparently WB had earlier felt that Cavill had runs his course in the role, but reversed that decision when Cavill enjoyed an explosion in popularity due to his appearance in the television series The Witcher and several other film roles such as Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible: Fallout. However, it appears that WB's preference is to retain Cavill as a supporting player version of Superman in other DCEU films (likening his role to that of the Hulk in the MCU) rather than building further films around him.

George R.R. Martin's IN THE LOST LANDS in development as a movie starring Milla Jovovich & Dave Bautista

George R.R. Martin's 1985 short story "In the Lost Lands" is headed to the big screen. Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator) is planning to direct the film, with wife and favourite actress Milla Jovovich already slated to star, alongside Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049, Dune).

The story follows a queen who sets out to acquire the secret of shapeshifting, to which end she hires the sorceress Gray Alys (Jovovich), who embarks into the Lost Lands to find the secret, allying with the drifter Boyce (Bautista) along the way.

Anderson and Jovovich have become synonymous with solid, B-movie pulp in recent years and Bautista has shown canny judgement in his projects so far, so this could end up being quite interesting.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

FINAL FANTASY VII gets yet another remake before the main remake is even finished

In welcome-but-confusing news, Square has confirmed that Final Fantasy VII is getting another remake which is much more faithful to the original 1997 game, with similar controls but a total graphical overhaul.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis is (currently) a mobile-only game which will simultaneously upgrade Final Fantasy VII with new graphics, whilst also bringing in storylines and elements from spin-off games Before Crisis, Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus and animated film Advent Children. The game will apparently feature most or all of the content from these games upgraded to modern standards but playing the same way as the original Final Fantasy VII. Ever Crisis is slated for 2022.

Square are simultaneously remaking Final Fantasy VII as a modern, AAA action-CRPG in multiple parts. The first part, Final Fantasy VII Remake, was released on PlayStation 4 last April to critical acclaim and over 3.5 million sales in its first week. There is no release date set for the second part of the remake, although there are strong rumours that the first part will be ported to PC and X-Box later this year or in 2022.

In June Final Fantasy VII Remake is also getting a free expansion and upgrade called (get this) Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, which is a graphical upgrade for the PlayStation 5 platform. The upgrade adds a new storyline and mission revolving around the fan-favourite character of Yuffie, which brings Yuffie to Midgar during the events of the first part of the game. She doesn't meet the rest of the team, but does manage to get into trouble before escaping the city. The update should be available in June.

Square also confirmed a spin-off Battle Royale game, Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier (because you might as well turn up three years late to a party) is in development - bizarrely - also for mobile only.

There's a lot of news today, most of it interesting (if weird), but the absence of hard info on Final Fantasy VII: Remake Part II (or whatever it ends up being called) will be disappointing to fans.

DRAGON AGE IV pivots to being a single-player focused game

In welcome news, BioWare has been allowed to remove all multiplayer content from its in-development CRPG, Dragon Age IV, to focus on the single-player story. Previously the game had a strong multiplayer component, with some reports that the game was going to focus hard on the multiplayer aspects at the expense of single-player content.

The move reportedly came due to long-running complaints and grumbling from BioWare staff about having multiplayer features shoehorned into their games, which traditionally have been single-player, story-focused titles. This focus had resulted in their 2019 game Anthem being multiplayer only, but the failure of that project - BioWare announced yesterday that all further development on the game was being halted - seems to have caused a rethink at publisher-owner Electronic Arts.

Additional impetus for the move came when single-player action game Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order (2019) sold 10 million copies in its first four months on sale, smashing EA's expectations for a single-player-only game. The performance of other single-player focused games from other companies has also likely helped: Cyberpunk 2077 shifted 13 million copies in its first month on sale in December, despite numerous technical problems, whilst The Last of Us, Part II shifted four million copies in its first week last year, with Final Fantasy VII Remake apparently selling only marginally less (both feats being more impressive as those were PlayStation-exclusive titles).

The previous game in the series, Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014), launched with a multiplayer mode that was a fairly minor part of the game. Electronic Arts had mandated an expansion of this in the successor game, although apparently the massive sales success of the single-player-focused The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (which has now sold over 30 million copies) a few months later did cause something of a rethink. After design ideas bounced back and forth for a while, it was decided to refocus the game on the multiplayer aspect and the ability to monetise the game. This decision led to long-term creative director Mike Laidlaw to quit the company altogether. Development of Dragon Age IV has stalled repeatedly as the team were drafted in to help both Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017) and Anthem across their finish lines.

It sounds like BioWare have won the battle to return to what they are best at, single-player, story-focused roleplaying games. Dragon Age IV - likely not the final title - is currently in development for a reported 2022/23 launch. Mass Effect 5 is also in development.