This week’s Ketchup covers movie development news about the sequels Jurassic World, Fast & Furious 7, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Step Up 5; new roles for Ellen Page and Keanu Reeves; and J.K. Rowling’s long-awaited return to the Harry Potter movies.
This Week’s Top Story
J.K. ROWLING RETURNS TO HARRY POTTER’S WORLD WITH FANTASTIC BEASTS…
As the last of the movie adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series got closer to release, there was much speculation about how Rowling’s world and characters might someday return to the big screen. Ideas that people inevitably bandied about included a new series of movies with a new generation of kids to spin offs for various supporting characters (for all those wondering whatever happened to, say, Dilys Derwent). This week, Warner Bros announced the answer to this lingering question, as J.K. Rowling has agreed to write the adapted screenplay for a movie inspired by her Harry Potter suppplemental book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (published in 2001 under the pseudonym Newt Scamander). The movie will be an original story that starts in New York City seventy years before Harry Potter arrives at Hogwart’s, and tells the story of magical zoologist Newt Scamander, and how he learned so much about fantastic beasts and where to find them. Rowling’s deal right now is for only the one movie, but obviously, Warner Bros is hoping that it will be just the first of a new franchise. This announcement also has the potential of going a long way to help fill in the holes in Warner Bros’ upcoming releases left by the recent departure of Legendary Pictures, which has a new corporate home at Universal Pictures.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THIS WEEK IN SUMMER ’15: UNIVERSAL EDITION — JURASSIC WORLD OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED
While much smaller movies continue to be announced, screened and reviewed up at Toronto this week, for some reason, various Hollywood studios decided this was also a great week to discuss the summer of 2015. Every summer has big movies, but 2015 has long seemed like an embarrassment of riches. Besides the movies we’re just about to start discussing, the summer of 2015 also (tentatively in some cases) currently includes such releases as Assassin’s Creed, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Batman/Superman movie, the Independence Day sequel, Pixar’s Inside Out, and the Terminator reboot. Basically, the news this week is between two studios, so let’s start with Universal Pictures, and their confirmation of one of the longest and most anticipated sequels that doesn’t involve superheroes or spaceships: The dinosaur movie formerly known as Jurassic Park IV is now called Jurassic World, and it’s scheduled for June 12, 2015. The new title can be interpreted to confirm whichever is your favorite rumored premise for the movie. We’ve heard before that it will be set back on the original island, and feature a new 21st century relaunch of the original “theme park” concept (think of the title like “SeaWorld” or “Walt Disney World”). The other way to interpret Jurassic World is to think it means the whole planet gets overtaken by dinosaurs. Or it could start off as one, and lead to the other. Anyway, Jurassic World will be directed by Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) from a script that he cowrote with his writing partner from that movie, Derek Connolly. Soon after the title was announced, the world was also reminded of this “pitch video” that was also called “Jurassic World,” although we don’t know that it has any official connection to Trevorrow’s movie, besides the title. Universal Pictures also announced this week the new title of Dracula Untold for their vampire movie scheduled for October 3, 2014. And while we’re sneaking in news of rebooted classic monster movies, there’s also 20th Century Fox’s modern version of Frankenstein. Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) this week landed the female lead role, opposite James McAvoy as Dr. Frankenstein, and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant Igor. Jessica Brown Findlay will play “a trapeze artist who is saved by Igor after an accident, with the two becoming very close in the aftermath.” Speculate away about whether that means she plays the new movie’s version of The Bride.
#2 THIS WEEK IN SUMMER ’15: DISNEY EDITION — ANT-MAN AND PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 5
This week, in quick order, Walt Disney Pictures bumped one movie up into the summer of 2015, and then withdrew another one, in a series of moves that one has to interpret as connected. The vacating movie is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which will be the fifth movie in the franchise starring Johnny Depp. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is hoping that the delay is not a permanent stop, but that this will instead just mean that the movie will be released in the summer of 2016 instead. One reason offered for the delay is the budget issue, which for past PotC movies has sometimes gone over $300 million. Disney is hoping that this fifth one can be done for “only” something closer to the $200 million range. Dead Men Tell No Tales will be directed by Kon-Tiki codirectors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. There are also rumors about script issues, which you can read about here, along with premise details (one word summary: witches). Disney also made the news this week when talk of budget caps was also applied to the Star Wars movies coming out every year starting in 2015. The movie that will be replacing PotC:DMTNT in the summer of 2015 is Ant-Man, the first movie of Marvel’s Phase 3, which was previously scheduled over three months later on November 6, 2015. We still don’t know who will be starring as Dr. Henry Pym in Edgar Wright’s shrinking superhero comedy, but the movie is now scheduled for July 31, 2015. This forms something of a superhero sandwich, with the Batman/Superman sequel on July 17, 2015 being the DC meat between two slices of Marvel bread, following The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015.
#3 DJIMON HOUNSOU JOINS THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS FRANCHISE WITH MOVIE #7
James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) has already started filming of Fast & Furious 7, but we’re still hearing about new cast members (some of whom we can also expect to return in the eighth movie as well). Previous announcements were for Jason Statham and Kurt Russell (more about him later), and this week, we learned that Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond) has also signed on for an unspecified role. That last phrase brings us back to Kurt Russell, who some recent Twitter posts led to speculation that he had dropped out (or had just never signed on, or was merely rumored). Anyway, James Wan himself posted yesterday that yes, he’s currently directing Kurt Russell (who we also now know is playing the father of Jesse, Chad Lindberg’s character from the first movie).
#4 PLANET OF THE APES ALUMNI MARK WAHLBERG AND DIRECTOR RUPERT WYATT UNITE FOR THE GAMBLER
Someone at Paramount Pictures is apparently quite obsessed with the idea of remaking the 1974 James Caan movie The Gambler, about an English professor with a gambling addiction. At one time, Martin Scorsese was considering the remake, and he was followed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), who would have been working with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. They’re now both gone from the project, and the director and star who are in talks to replace them both have connections to separate reboots of the Planet of the Apes franchise. That director is Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and that star is Mark Wahlberg, who starred in Tim Burton’s 2001 version of Planet of the Apes. This is being seen as the latest step in Paramount’s relationship with Mark Wahlberg as one of the studio’s stars, as he also recently starred for them in Pain and Gain, and is the star of next year’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. As for Rupert Wyatt, there is speculation that The Gambler might be part of a deal that will eventually see Wyatt signing on to replace J.J. Abrams as the director of the third Star Trek reboot movie.
#5 JESSE PINKMAN TO PLAY A BAD DAD IN THE INDIE HELLION
There’s still three more episodes of Breaking Bad left to air, but the show’s Aaron Paul (AKA Jesse Pinkman) is already well on his way to establishing a post-series film career. The videogame adaptation Need for Speed is already filmed and scheduled for release next April, and a few weeks ago, Aaron Paul signed to star as Joshua in Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic Exodus. So, yeah, a big action movie, a sword-and-sandal epic, what’s missing from the mix, here? Besides a romantic comedy or a supernatural horror movie, another possible answer might be “festival friendly indie drama.” Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers) have both signed on to star as a couple struggling to keep their family together in indie director Kat Candler’s Hellion. The drama will be a feature length adaptation of her short film which premiered last year at Sundance. Kat Candler also wrote the low budget Scooby-Doo “homage” Saturday Morning Mystery. That short film was about a seven year old boy whose brothers are encouraging (bullying, really) him not to act like a little… hmm, how would Jesse Pinkman finish that sentence? Yeah, kind of like that.
#6 THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS FRANCHISE PROVES ALL TOO MORTAL AFTER DISAPPOINTING BOX OFFICE
It’s almost five years ago now that the first Twilight movie debuted to huge box office (which only got bigger for subsequent movies). That led to a new cinematic land rush as every studio and/or production company tried to have their own “female YA genre novel” adaptation in the pipeline. Except for The Hunger Games, however, most of these efforts have failed to get anywhere close to duplicating the Pied Piper effect that sparkly vampires had on the pitter-pattering of teen girl hearts. The latest would-be franchise starter to receive bad news at the box office was last month’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which has thus far made only $65 million (from a budget in the $60 million range). An adaptation of the next book by Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes, had previously been planned to start filming in Germany in the next couple of months, but those plans have now been “shut down indefinitely.” Besides the sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (11/22/13), the next major adaptations of female YA genre novel franchises will be Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters (2/14/14) and Divergent (3/21/14).
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 KEANU REEVES TO STAR IN HITMAN THRILLER JOHN WICK
The way the publicist business works often results in stories that bury the lead considerably. Take, for example, the hitman thriller called John Wick. So, this week, Willem Dafoe signed on to play a hitman who is hired to kill the title character, who is himself a former hitman. So, Willem Dafoe has his publicist send out the story, because, you know, hey, he’s got a new role, and that’s worth telling people about, because maybe it will land him other future roles. However, this is where it gets kind of funny, because Willem Dafoe is joining the already cast actor who actually plays the lead role, and is known to you and me as Keanu Reeves. Except, it looks like Keanu Reeves’ publicist was not as vigilant about spreading the news, and so we only find out what one would think is the headline in someone else’s story. And to wrap this whole story about the whole story not being told, here’s this one last detail: we still don’t know the name of the film’s director. The John Wick screenplay was written by Derek Kolstad, whose current big claim to fame was cowriting the 2012 action movie One in the Chamber, starring Dolph Lundgren and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
#2 ELLEN PAGE TO ADOPT A BRITISH ACCENT AS THE LEAD SPY IN QUEEN & COUNTRY
Ellen Page has already played a superhero a few times (as Kitty Pryde twice and also in Super), and apparently, the studio behind those two X-Men movies, 20th Century Fox, has wanted for a while to get Page into another comic book adaptation. That goal materialized this week with the news that Ellen Page has signed with Fox to star in the studio’s adaptation of Greg Rucka’s comic book franchise Queen & Country. The comic will be adapted as a “spy action” movie in which Ellen Page will play “a British Intelligence agent who tries to stop an international terrorist plot after her identity is compromised and as her personal demons spiral out of control.” Comparisons are made to the way The Bourne Identity relaunched Matt Damon’s career, but Matt Damon also wasn’t playing someone “British.” Your next hint that this is a “Rotten Idea” story is that the screenplay is being adapted by John Rogers, whose last three credits on the RT Tomatometer were American Outlaws (14%), The Core (41%), and Catwoman (9%).
#1 THE STEP UP 5 CAST IS ANNOUNCED, TYING TOGETHER THE FIRST FOUR MOVIES, SO GET CAUGHT UP NOW!
There’s a pretty common comment section joke to be made about sequels, and how you never saw the first movie(s), so would you be able to follow the story for this one? By the time a franchise gets around to movie number five, that’s arguably a good question. But then, you remember that we’re about to discuss the Step Up dance series, which is coming up to its fifth movie, and still, their best claim to fame is that Channing Tatum was in the first one. Step Up 5 is really trying hard to take advantage of the large casts of the first four movies, and for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been getting these stories released about cast members from previous films signing on for this one. Something funny that happened to this writer when he saw a headline about “Guzman and Evigan” returning for Step Up 5 was that brief moment when I imagined they were talking about Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights) and Greg Evigan (B.J. and the Bear), two additions that might just have convinced me to actually watch (on Netflix someday) Step Up 5. But no, they were actually talking about Ryan Guzman (Step Up: Revolution) and Briana Evigan (Step Up 2: The Streets) (Greg Evigan’s her dad). For the record, the tally for returning cast members currently stands at: one from Step Up, six from Step Up 2: The Streets, ten from Step Up 3-D, and a whopping thirteen from Step Up: Revolution (it’s worth noting that many were in multiple films, so we’re actually talking about 18 dancers, not 30). Here’s a link to the RT Tomatometer page for the Step Up franchise to explain why this is a “Rotten Idea” story.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.