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'Big Thunder' to ABC; more 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' casting; 'M:I 5' in the works; 'Continuum' & 'Games' news

Now that everyone seems giddy at the prospect of the Lucasfilm deal at Disney and, perhaps, a better new Star Wars movie series, the studio is going back to the their theme parks in hopes of exploiting another franchise from one of their rides. This time, they’ve hired Ice Age: Continental Drift writer Jason Fuchs and The Fast & the Furious producer Chris Morgan to bring us a TV series based on Big Thunder Mountain for ABC. While Pirates of the Caribbean has been an over bloated success, and The Country Bears had minor success, the taste left by Eddie Murphy’s turn in The Haunted Mansion remain (though a reboot –of course- is in development).  Not sure how they’ll translate this ride in a series, as the concept of it is: sometime in the late 1800s, gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American southwest. Overnight, the small mining town became a thriving area, but the mountain was cursed. Following a natural disaster, the settlers are forced to leave the town, but the train still runs on its own, without an engineer or a crew.

For many fans of the Whedonverse, when ABC announced their S.H.E.I.L.D. TV series, there was some hope actors who populate the many Joss Whedon created TV series would end up being cast in this show. Sadly, as of now, only Clark Gregg appears to one. Last month word came that for ER actor Ming-Na was cast as Agent Melinda May; new castings include British actors Elizabeth Henstridge (Hollyoaks) and Iain De Caestecker (The Fades). Henstridge will play science whiz Agent Gemma Simmons, while De Caestecker will play Agent Leo Fitz, a technology guru. The duo spend all their time together -mostly bickering- and are masters of their respective fields at a remarkably young age.

Paramount, eager to continue the Mission: Impossible franchise on the heels of the successful fourth film in the series Ghost Protocol, is close to signing Christopher McQuarrie to helm a fifth film. McQuarrie has Jack Reacher (and adaptation of the Lee Child novel, One Shot) coming out soon with Tom Cruise, and apparently Paramount is happy with the project. The Oscar winner for scripting The Usual Suspects seems to have a great working relationship with the studio and Cruise. He succeeded with the actor on Valkyrie, Ghost Protocol, the upcoming All You Need is Kill and the proposed Top Gun 2 –which remains in limbo and most likely will be scrapped due to the death of Tony Scott- so a continued collaboration is exactly what Paramount likes. McQuarrie is also writing and directing Without Remorse for the studio, which is based on the Tom Clancy title.

The third season of HBO’s award winning Game of Thrones will begin on March 31. Meanwhile, the Canadian time travel series Continuum will debut on the Syfy Channel on January 14, the same night the third season of Being Human launches.

Sony Pictures has acquired the Joe Haldeman science fiction novella Seasons, and will develop it for Michael De Luca to produce and Tim Miller to direct. The novella, which was part of a 1985 Haldeman short story collection called Dealing In Futures, focuses on an anthropological expedition to a planet with sentient humanoids that goes horribly awry.

Paramount Pictures will release the first 9-minutes from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness on 500 IMAX 3D screens beginning December 14 on runs of the Peter Jackson-directed The Hobbit. It is the first time exclusive footage has played in IMAX 3D and only the third time a first-look will be released in IMAX. The long awaited sequel will bow in May 2013.

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