Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: A Live Action Version of Star Blazers?

Plus, more space opera news, and yet more remakes.

by | February 25, 2011 | Comments

Although this was sort of a slow news week, this week’s Ketchup is chock full of space operas (Star Blazers and Prometheus) and remakes (Les Misérables, Ferdinand the Bull, Soapdish and The Bodyguard).

This Week’s Top Story


David Ellison is the name of a young producer whose father is Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and who took a fraction of his wealth and had recent success by partly financing the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit. Other projects that Ellison’s Skydance Productions is currently developing or financing include the Top Gun remake, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and the reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise. Ellison and Skydance clearly have a penchant for big budget action movies, but they all may pale in comparison to his latest project. David Ellison has started development on a live action, English language adaptation of the 1970s-1980s anime science fiction TV series Star Blazers (the American import of Japan’s Space Battleship Yamato). Star Blazers had an epic storyline which included “alien invasions, the near extinction of the human race, and a last dash journey through space to save the planet.” Ellison has hired screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects; cowriter of Valkyrie) to adapt Star Blazers down to a two hour live action movie. Christopher McQuarrie’s upcoming movies also include Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine and cowriting Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Killer. This live action movie also follows the 2010 release of the Japanese live action adaptation of Space Battleship Yamato.

Fresh Developments This Week


As if the news of a big budget Star Blazers movie wasn’t enough, that was just one of three news stories this week that one could classify in the “space opera” genre. First up, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus got three new cast members to join Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron. Idris Elba (HBO’s The Wire, Heimdall in Thor), Sean Harris (Red Riding Trilogy) and a relative newcomer, Scottish actress Kate Dickie have all signed on to the 20th Century Fox movie which the producers continue to be quick to note is not a direct prequel to Alien as previously reported. The third evidence that Hollywood has a post-Avatar love affair with big outer space adventures is Paramount’s acquisition of the rights to the John Scalzi novel Old Man’s War. That novel (which has since been followed by three more sequel books) is set in a far future when elderly soldiers trade in their original bodies for genetically enhanced younger clones of themselves so that they can protect human colonies in the far stretches of outer space. Old Man’s War also has a romantic subplot, as the main character eventually meets the younger version of his dead wife, although she doesn’t remember or recognize him. Paramount has attached director Wolfgang Petersen to Old Man’s War, which may be his first movie since 2006’s Poseidon. Before that film, which was considered a box office flop, Wolfgang Petersen directed an impressive string of five hit movies in a row: In the Line of Fire, Outbreak, Air Force One, The Perfect Storm and Troy.


First off, it should be noted that this story completely hinges upon the word “may,” but since The Los Angeles Times saw it as fit to print, the Weekly Ketchup will go along as well. This story revolves around director Tom Hooper, who is raking up awards with what was only his second movie, The King’s Speech. Hooper has not yet taken on a new movie since wrapping The King’s Speech last year, and so it’s natural that speculation would be wild about what he might take on next. Which brings us to the “news” that Tom Hooper is “weighing an offer” from Working Title Films to direct a big budget movie adaptation of the extremely successful musical Les Misérables. Based on the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables tells the story of a former prison inmate Jean Valjean who tries to reinvent his life as a good man, but is plagued by a relentless officer of the law Javert (well, he’s slightly less relentless in the musical), with the French Revolution also happening all around them. Les Misérables has previously been adapted to film and television many times, with one of the most recent examples being the 1998 movie that featured Geoffrey Rush (as Javert), who also costarred in The King’s Speech.


Fox Animation Studios has acquired the feature film rights to the 1936 children’s book The Story of Ferdinand by author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson. Also known as Ferdinand the Bull, the short story tells of a pacifist bull who would rather enjoy the pasture than go fight the matadors. The story of Ferdinand the Bull is probably best known because of the 1938 animated short film that won Walt Disney his eighth Academy Award (which you can watch here). Fox and Blue Sky Studios intend to adapt The Story of Ferdinand as a full length CGI animated feature. The movie will be directed by Carlos Saldanha, who directed Ice Age: The Meltdown and the upcoming Rio, and who codirected most of Blue Sky’s other animated movies. An attorney for the estate of Robert Lawson noted that unlike many classic Disney projects (not counting works in the public domain like Snow White), the studio never acquired the rights to The Story of Ferdinand other than that one short film. That mistake back in the 1930s is what has now enabled Fox to make a movie that might have otherwise been Disney’s exclusive property.


It’s an inevitable rite of passage for many comedic actors: eventually, they want to go dramatic (and maybe get some Oscar gold). Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, even Adam Sandler… they all did it. Although the dramedy of Dan in Real Life and Little Miss Sunshine were half-steps in that direction, Steve Carell has not yet had a heavy dramatic film, absent any comic undertones. That apparently changed this week with the news that Carell has signed to star in Dogs of Babel, based upon the best-selling novel by Carolyn Parkhurst. Described as a “tragic yet beautiful story of love and loss,” Dogs of Babel tells the story of a linguistics professor who attempts to his teach his dog to talk in the hopes that the pet can answer the mysteries surrounding his wife’s death in their backyard. This writer almost teared up halfway through typing that sentence. Dogs of Babel was adapted by screenwriter Jamie Linden, who also adapted We Are Marshall and Dear John, and will be making his directorial debut with the upcoming Ten Year, also starring Dear John lead Channing Tatum. Dogs of Babel does not yet have a director, and with Steve Carell already attached to several comedy projects, there’s no telling when Dogs of Babel might actually get made. However, the producers say they are looking for a director “right away” (possibly Jamie Linden himself?), so Dogs of Babel may happen sooner rather than later.


In the last year, online opinions about French action director Louis Leterrier seemed to have dipped, following Clash of the Titans. Before that remake, however, Leterrier’s track record was solidly in the middle critically (the first two Transporter movies, Unleashed and The Incredible Hulk), which is pretty good for an action director. So, this column is putting news of his next two movies in the “Fresh Developments” category, by a hair. First, there will be the heist movie Now You See Me for Summit Entertainment. The story “pits a crack FBI squad in a game of cat and mouse against a super-team of the world’s greatest illusionists, who pull off a series of bank heists during their performances, showering their profits on their audiences while staying one step ahead of the law.” Now You See Me was written by Boaz Yakin (cowriter of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) and Edward Ricourt (who doesn’t have any produced credits yet). The news of that project was followed a few days later by the announcement that Leterrier has also signed with Universal Pictures to direct G, a disaster movie formerly known as Gravity. Compared to The Day After Tomorrow and Taken, G is about “a father who has to search for his lost child as the world stops spinning and Earth begins to lose its gravity.” At this point, G is just a concept, and Universal is currently looking for screenwriters to actually turn the idea into 100 pages or so of actual dialogue and action scenes.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company (best known for their recent horror remakes) has acquired the rights to the IDW comic book series Zombies Vs. Robots. The deal includes a script based on the comic called Inherit the Earth (possibly a working or subtitle) by J.T. Petty, whose previous work is mostly on video games and the 2008 direct-to-video title The Burrowers. The comic book is about a young girl who is the last survivor of a zombie apocalypse, with a group of robots protecting her from a new pack of zombies that have evolved and are now intelligent. The premise of pitting robots against zombies is somewhat promising in a cheeky B-movie way, but this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas, mostly because the words “Michael” and “Bay” appear in the story.


Garth Ennis’ blasphemous Vertigo Comics comic book series Preacher has had a long, decade-long road to getting adapted in some form. In addition to being in development as a movie, HBO was at one point considering a television series which would adapt each issue as an hour-long episode (which was a pretty clever idea). Preacher is the story of a minister who receives a powerful supernatural ability who, along with a motley group of friends (including a vampire), sets off across America in search of God, who he is quite upset with (to put it mildly). HBO eventually scrapped the Preacher series in 2008, and now the movie has a new director attached. DJ Caruso has directed such movies as Disturbia, Eagle Eye, Two for the Money, Taking Lives and this week’s release I Am Number Four. This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because D.J. Caruso seems like a rather “middle of the road” choice for an adaptation that is so edgy and inherently violent and vulgar. There’s also the issue of D.J. Caruso’s movies mostly getting Tomatometer scores in the 20-30% range, except for Disturbia and The Salton Sea.


In the 1980s and early 1990s, the daytime soap opera was in what we can now see as sort of its golden age. Several soaps had characters and plots identifiable by the public at large, and some of the actors from that time went on to become bigger stars (Alec Baldwin, Meg Ryan, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Demi Moore, etc.). In 1991, Paramount released the comedy Soapdish, which was a star-studded (Whoopi Goldberg, Sally Field, Robert Downey Jr, etc) comedy set behind the scenes of a fictional soap opera. Today, the daytime soap opera appears to be in a state of fast decline, with a few long-running series ending recently (Guiding Light, As the World Turns), so that now there are only six shows left. Considering that, it is extremely odd news that Paramount is developing a remake of Soapdish. The Soapdish remake will be written by actor-turned-writer Ben Schwartz, who has written several episodes of Robot Chicken and also won an Emmy in 2009 for writing Hugh Jackman’s Academy Awards monologue. It’s possible (actually, quite likely) that the dwindling popularity of daytime soap operas will be an element in the remake’s script, but that doesn’t totally forgive that someone at Paramount thought a remake of Soapdish was a good idea.


The old thought about remakes is that it is better to remake a movie that was flawed the first time than to remake one that worked (which is actually an argument for the Soapdish remake, admittedly). One movie that definitely worked was the 1992 romance The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston as a pop singer and Kevin Costner as the title character, which did much, much better than anyone probably could have predicted (it was the #2 movie of the year, behind only Disney’s Aladdin). What one person sees however, as a reason not to remake The Bodyguard is probably Warner Bros’ reason for doing exactly that. The studio has hired screenwriters Jeremiah Friedman and Nick Palmer (neither of whom yet have a produced movie to their credit) to adapt the original script by Lawrence Kasdan. Friedman and Palmer did write the action comedy Family Getaway for Warner Bros, and which made the 2010 Black List of top rated unproduced scripts. The premise of the remake will reportedly follow a former Iraq veteran who has to protect his client from the scary Internet and “stalkers who can track stars on Twitter, Gawker Stalker, Google Maps and countless other sites.” Warner Bros’ plans for a remake of The Bodyguard follow the recent news that Clint Eastwood will be directing Beyonce in the latest version of A Star is Born. The reason this remake is this week’s Most Rotten Idea is that the bar is set impossibly high. In order not to fail in comparison, this remake will have to do what, be the #1 movie of the year in which it’s released? The original’s success was helped in great part by Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Can a single song achieve the same level of success for a movie today? This story is not, however, the end of Kevin Costner news this week. There is also “buzz” that Costner is a top choice of director Zack Snyder to costar in his reboot of Superman. There’s no word yet as to whom Kevin Costner would play, but the most logical guess has to be Jonathan “Pa” Kent. Costner has the requisite rugged Midwestern charm (even though he’s from California), Field of Dreams could have been set in Smallville, and Costner even looks a bit like John Schneider these days.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook or a RT forum message.