In this Week’s Ketchup includes news features a lot of stories about new projects involving famous directors, including Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Darren Aronofsky, Lars von Trier, Seth McFarlane and even a few dead ones like Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick. Movies based upon Mighty Mouse, Masters of the Universe and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. also made the news this week. I was also happy to see that there were a lot less “Rotten Ideas” this week than usual, or maybe I was just in a good mood as I wrote this.
On April 1st, IESB.net ran a story that they claimed was not an April Fools joke, but because of the timing, the story mostly went ignored. This week, that story was actually proven to be true: Joss Whedon will direct Marvel Studios’ The Avengers. Whedon is most famous for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer (both the movie and the TV show), as well as the TV shows Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. He made his feature debut as a director with Serenity, the Firefly spinoff movie. As for The Avengers, that is of course Marvel’s signature super team for heroes that aren’t mutants (X-Men) or a cosmic radiated family (Fantastic Four). Well, Marvel also has something like 30 other super groups, but The Avengers is the team that the big guns like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are most associated with. Whedon will also be rewriting the Avengers script by Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk; cowriter of X-Men: The Last Stand), so we can probably expect some of Whedon’s signature snark and pop culture references in the dialogue. There’s also a rumor that Joss Whedon might also be rewriting The First Avenger: Captain America, but that story has only been reported by one site so far, so take that one with a grain of salt. Speaking of that movie, the casting of Captain America’s love interest has resulted in Hayley Atwell (from AMC’s remake of The Prisoner) being cast as Peggy Carter. The movie version of Peggy Carter appears to be an amalgam of two characters, as the same character has previously also been described as being the WWII heroine Golden Girl (and one of Cap’s sidekicks). Peggy Carter in the comics, however, was not Golden Girl, but was indeed Cap’s WWII girlfriend. Peggy Carter is also the aunt of Sharon Carter, Cap’s modern day romantic interest (and a SHIELD agent), so her inclusion probably ties in nicely to future movies. The First Avenger: Captain America is scheduled for release on July 22, 2011, and will be followed by The Avengers on May 4, 2012.
Columbia Pictures has hired two new writers for their long-planned reboot of Masters of the Universe, based upon the popular 1980s toys and cartoon TV show He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Michael Finch and Alex Litvak are making their feature debuts later this year with Predators, but it was their Medieval script sale last year that really got their careers started. A new Masters of the Universe movie had been in development for most of the 2000s at Warner Bros, including a time in which the director of Kung Fu Panda was attached. However, Warner Bros eventually gave up on the project, Mattel instead sold the rights to Columbia Pictures. There’s no word yet about what sort of approach the Predators writers will bring to He-Man, but they appear to be more into violent action movies than kid stuff. There’s likewise no word about which characters might be included, but one of the reasons the He-Man toys were so popular was the large supporting cast that included villains like Clawful, Beast Man, Mer-Man, Kobra Khan, Two-Bad, Evil-Lyn, Zodac and of course, Skeletor. This will be the second live action Masters of the Universe, following the 1987 movie starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor.
The success of Alvin & the Chipmunks has shown that there is a lot of money to be made in modernizing classic cartoon characters for the big screen. Upcoming projects like Yogi Bear, Marvin the Martian and Speedy Gonzalez owe their greenlights to that box office trend. And now, a project at Paramount that has been in development for many years appears closer to finally getting made as well: Mighty Mouse. First appearing in 1942, the Terrytoons character has enjoyed decades of popularity as both cinematic cartoon shorts and TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as several different comic books. Mighty Mouse began as a spoof of Superman, and the current popularity of superhero movies today also makes this the right time for Mighty Mouse to finally make his way to the big screen. Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies are currently looking for a new writer and a new director for Mighty Mouse. There isn’t yet any news about who might eventually be hired, but several “up and comers” are reportedly on Paramount’s short list.
The South Park guys did it first with movies like Orgazmo and Team America, but now Seth MacFarlane is also branching out to the big screen. McFarlane is of course the creator of the animated sitcoms Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show. The long-awaited Family Guy movie will have to wait, however, because MacFarlane is instead making his feature debut with Ted, a “hard R”-rated comedy about an adult man and his teddy bear. Further details about Ted aren’t yet known, but the concept sounds a bit like The Beaver, the upcoming comedy in which Mel Gibson plays a man whose best friend is his beaver hand puppet. MacFarlane sold the rights to Ted to Universal, who will produce the live-action/CGI animated movie on a budget of $65 million. Seth MacFarlane also cowrote the Ted script, and will costar as the voice of the teddy bear. MacFarlane’s writing partners are Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, who are both members of the Family Guy writing staff (but they’re apparently not manatees). Universal and MacFarlane hope to start production on Ted later this year, but that will depend upon ongoing negotiations with FOX.
The 1999 death of Stanley Kubrick left many of the director’s potential projects unrealized (although Steven Spielberg did make A.I. as a tribute to Kubrick). One of the oldest unproduced projects was a treatment that Kubrick commissioned noir novelist Jim Thompson (1906-1977) to write in the 1950s called Lunatic at Large. However, Kubrick lost the treatment in his English home, and it wasn’t found until 1999 by Stanley’s son-in-law, after his death. Now, two of the costars of Iron Man 2 are attached to star in Lunatic at Large: Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell. Lunatic at Large is a story set in 1956 New York of the relationship between an ex-carnie with anger management issues (Rockwell) and a nervous but attractive barfly (Johansson). The independent production will mark the feature debut of commercials director Chris Palmer. Palmer’s most famous ad was probably the 2007 live action version of the opening of The Simpsons for Sky One, which was a big hit on YouTube. Other adaptations of Jim Thompson’s work include The Grifters and two versions each of The Getaway and The Killer Inside Me (the latest film starring Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival).
Director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) has recently been looking for his next project after wrapping up filming of Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman). There had been a story that Aronofsky might work with Angelina Jolie on a movie called Serena, but as Jolie is known for coming and going from projects frequently, it appears Serena may be on hold or cancelled. Instead, it appears that Aronofsky’s next project may be another movie with his fiancee Rachel Weisz, who starred for the director in The Fountain, and what they have their eyes on is a very interesting biopic of sorts: Jackie. Jackie was originally rumored to possibly be an HBO movie produced by Steven Spielberg (who is not involved as it turns out). As the title suggests, Jackie is the story of Jacqueline Kennedy during the four days between the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his burial. The script was written by a new screenwriter named Noah Oppenheim whose resume includes being a senior producer on the 7AM hour of NBC’s The Today Show. Darren Aronofsky showed that he can really amp up sheer emotion with Requiem for a Dream, so if Jackie moves forward soon, we might be in for another powerful drama.
Chris Rock is building a career out of comedy remakes, and especially remakes of foreign films retooled for African American casts. First, there was Down to Earth (Warren Beatty, not a foreign film), followed by I Think I Love My Wife (the original was French). And now this weekend, we’ve got Death at a Funeral (a remake of a British movie from just three years ago). The next remake that Chris Rock has attached himself is High and Low, the 1963 classic Japanese kidnapping thriller directed by Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai). Mike Nichols (Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Graduate) is attached to direct the High and Low remake. What makes this story a bit weird is that Chris Rock has been hired to rewrite the remake, and the writer that he’s replacing is… David Mamet (Heist, Glengarry Glen Ross). This isn’t the first time in the last couple of years that David Mamet has been replaced on a project; it also happened with Mamet’s attempt at a new version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (which eventually got shelved). What’s interesting here is the drastic change in tone that is implied by Rock replacing Mamet. I should note that this story was very close to being one of this week’s Rotten Ideas, but the involvement of Mike Nichols saved it (barely).
Sony’s plans to reboot Spider-Man has opened up a lot of extra time for the franchise’s former stars. Kirsten Dunst has signed on for the lead role in Melancholia, the next movie from Danish director Lars von Trier (Antichrist, Dancer in the Dark). Dunst is actually replacing Penelope Cruz (who will be too busy costarring this summer in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). Melancholia is a science fiction story set in the near future and deals with how people cope with the news that Earth is dying. The rest of the cast includes Charlotte Gainsbourg (The Science of Sleep), Udo Kier (Blade), Charlotte Rampling (Swimming Pool), Kiefer Sutherland and the father-son team of Stellan Skarsgaard (Good Will Hunting) and Alexander Skarsgaard (True Blood). Filming of Melancholia will start in July in southern Sweden.
Jamie Foxx is teaming up with 20th Century Fox Animation on a closely guarded animated musical project called Welcome to the Jungle. The studio has played around with their openings, so one has to wonder if, for this movie, they’ll add an extra “x” to the spotlight fanfire logo. No premise details for Welcome to the Jungle yet, with only the tagline “life is a jungle and welcome to it” being revealed. A good guess, however, might be that the title suggests something similar to the Madagascar movies. Jamie Foxx will be producing, starring as a voice talent and writing original music for Welcome to the Jungle. The script was written by Malcolm Spellman (cowriter of Our Family Wedding), who is also working on the Soul Train movie with Don Cornelius. Jamie Foxx will next be seen in the comedy Due Date (with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis) on November 5, 2010.
There appear to be two ways to bring 1960s spy TV shows to the big screen: straight (Mission: Impossible) and campy/comedic (Get Smart, I Spy, The Avengers). Warner Bros is moving ahead with plans for a movie version of one of the best spy shows of that decad, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and their choice of director suggests the latter approach. That director is David Dobkin (Fred Claus, Wedding Crashers), who is also co-producing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Warner Bros has also hired an unproduced screenwriter whose highest profile project currently is Jimi, a biopic of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. And now, for some back story on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Co-created by Ian Fleming, (the James Bond franchise), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a non-comedic action series that aired from 1964 to 1968, following the adventures of two spies from different backgrounds. Robert Vaughn (you might know him today from law firm ads on TV) played American agent Napoleon Solo and David McCallum played Russian agent Illya Kuryakin. There was also a one season spin-off called The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. The title refers to an international organization formed to counter the evil efforts of T.H.R.U.S.H., a network organized by former Nazi officers. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a great concept for a modern spy franchise, but what it isn’t, and never was, is particularly “comedic,” so Warner Bros’ choice of the Fred Claus guy to direct it lands The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the spot as this week’s most Rotten Idea.