This week’s Ketchup includes news about the next entry in the Jurassic Park franchise, a new Sesame Street adaptation, and new roles for Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Steve Carell, Rihanna, Sam Rockwell, and Reese Witherspoon.
This Week’s Top Story
RISE OF THE JURASSIC PARK OF THE DINOSAURS
Some of the flaws of the modern Academy Awards are that they aren’t really designed to acknowledge excellent writing in certain genres, such as comedies, horror and science fiction. If they (and other awards) were, last year’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes might have received a lot more attention and acclaim for its screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. If one thinks back just a year, there was (and rightly so) a lot of cynicism among movie fans of all stripes that a prequel to the aging and dilapidated Planet of the Apes franchise could be anything other than an inevitable misfire. By grounding Rise of the Planet of the Apes within a very contemporary setting of modern science and morals, Jaffa and Silver were able to make people care about the franchise again. And that right there leads us to another aging franchise that needs exactly that sort of jump start, as Jurassic Park nears its 20th anniversary next summer. So, yes, Universal Pictures has indeed hired Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to start work on a script for a fourth Jurassic Park feature film. There’s really nothing else to report about what their script might entail: sequel, reboot or prequel is anyone’s guess. The only thing that’s known for sure is that Steven Spielberg (who directed the first two) will not be returning to direct, although he is still one of the franchise’s executive producers.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 CAN YOU TELL ME HOW TO GET… A MOVIE MADE FROM SESAME STREET?
Last year, Jason Segel (with help from Disney) proved that there was an adult audience out there for a well-made movie about The Muppets. Now, 20th Century Fox has acquired the movie rights to another property involving Jim Henson characters: Sesame Street. Longtime Sesame Street writer Joey Mazzarino will adapt the screenplay, after previously cowriting Muppets from Space and 1999’s The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, the most recent Sesame Street movie to get a theatrical release. The previous Sesame Street movies were released by Warner Bros (Follow That Bird) and Columbia Pictures (The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland), but this project is likely at 20th Century Fox mostly through the involvement of producer Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum). This Sesame Street movie joins the Fraggle Rock movie that’s been in development for several years now as another non-Muppets project involving Jim Henson creations. Although this issue hasn’t been addressed officially yet, it’s probably a good bet that this new Sesame Street movie will not include characters that are also members of The Muppets, the most famous of which is Kermit the Frog. Instead, the film will probably focus on Sesame Street-specific characters like Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch. Although there are some red flags here (namely, Shawn Levy’s RT Tomatometer scores), the possibility of another great Jim Henson Company movie featuring classic characters earns Sesame Street a spot as a Fresh Development this week.
#2 SAM ROCKWELL, STEVE CARELL, AND MANY OTHERS KNOW THE WAY, WAY BACK
Community fans were happily surprised a few months ago when the show’s Dean Pelton, AKA Jim Rash, became an Academy Award winner for cowriting The Descendants. Now, Rash and his Descendants cowriting partner who wasn’t director Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, are set to make their directorial debuts with another script they cowrote, called The Way, Way Back. For their debut on this independent drama, Rash and Faxon are attracting a large and famous ensemble cast, supporting the film’s young star, Liam James, who plays the younger version of James Roday on Psych. The Way, Way Back will tell the story of a troubled teenager (James) who develops an unlikely friendship (with Sam Rockwell) that helps him cope with his abusive stepfather (Steve Carell) and reconnect with his mother (Toni Collette). Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Maya Rudolph, and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash themselves round out the ensemble cast. Given the timing of filming, and star-studded indie nature of this movie, The Way, Way Back may be an early contender for a premiere at next January’s Sundance Film Festival.
#3 BARBRA STREISAND RETURNS TO DIRECTING WITH SKINNY AND CAT
It’s now been 16 years since the release of The Mirror Has Two Faces, which was the third movie directed by Barbra Streisand, after Yentl and The Prince of Tides. After some time spent possibly getting ready for a now-apparently-stalled remake of Gypsy, Barbra Streisand is instead focusing on making her return as director with a true love story called Skinny and Cat. This film will tell the true story of the romance that led to the 1939-1942 marriage between acclaimed American Southern author Erskine Caldwell (God’s Little Acre) and photojournalist Margaret Bourke White, with whom Caldwell also collaborated on three photodocumentary books of Depression Era America. For the two characters who were respectively from Georgia and the Bronx, Barbra Streisand has cast two actors whose backgrounds couldn’t be much different: Colin Firth (England) and Cate Blanchett (Australia). But, of course, that’s why it’s called acting. Barbra Streisand is still working on finding full financing for Skinny and Cat, but if all goes through, the plan is for filming to start in January, 2013.
#4 JONAH HILL’S LAST MINUTE ADDITION TO QUENTIN TARANTINO’S DJANGO UNCHAINED
With the trailer online since two weeks ago, and the release date just over six months away, one would think noteworthy casting news for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained would be long since through. Well, after he had initially dropped out because of scheduling conflicts, this week, we learned that Jonah Hill has a role in Django Unchained after all. There’s no word yet as to what role Hill will have exactly, except that it won’t be the same one that he was originally up for (although who took that role isn’t apparently known online yet either). The Weinstein Company is releasing Django Unchained in North America on December 25, 2012.
#5 AN ALIEN INVASION GETS THE DREAMWORKS ANIMATION TREATMENT IN HAPPY SMEKDAY!
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and pop singer-turned-Battleship star Rihanna have been announced as the voice talent stars of the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film Happy Smekday!, which will be released in late 2014. Happy Smekday! is an adaptation of the 2007 children’s book by Adam Rex about the unlikely friendship that develops between an alien (Parsons) and a teenage girl (Rihanna) as an alien race takes over Earth in an attempt to hide from that race’s intergalactic enemies. Basically, it sounds like a kid-friendly comedic romp cross between District 9, Alien Nation, Lilo & Stitch, and the various V TV shows. Happy Smekday! is being directed by Tim Johnson (Antz, Over the Hedge) from a script by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, cowriters of Get Smart and Failure to Launch. Astle and Ember are also working as screenwriters on two other upcoming animated movies: Epic for Fox Animation in 2013, and Me and My Shadow for DreamWorks Animation in 2014.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 AT LEAST THE ANTHROPOMORPHIC CHEMICAL ELEMENT SUPERHEROES THE METAL MEN ARE SEMI-EDUCATIONAL?
One of the quirkier comic book character concepts that this writer read in his childhood years was DC Comics’ The Metal Men, who were six robots comprised of and representing different chemical elements. The Metal Men had powers and personalities representative of their materials: Gold was their leader; Iron was super strong; Lead was a big heavy brick; Mercury was basically a stretchy type; Platinum was technically a Metal Woman; and then there was Tin, who was sort of as useless as one could imagine a superhero with amazing “tin” abilities would be. Reading The Metal Men often inspired me to imagine what other elements could become superheroes (which sort of happened a few years ago when they got turned into evil versions like Radium, Uranium, Polonium, etc). My point here is that although they were second (or third) stringers, The Metal Men actually had educational merit, in that they encouraged interest in science. Alright, now to bring all this back to the movie-centric subject at hand: recently, Men in Black III director Barry Sonnenfeld has been saying that he’s developing a DC Comics project featuring characters that got their start in the 1960s. And now, we know exactly who he was talking about; since I’m this far into a story about The Metal Men, you can surely connect the dots. There’s no word yet as to who will be writing The Metal Men, and there are also other projects on Sonnenfeld’s slate, such as Dominion: Dinosaurs vs Aliens and The How To Guide for Saving the Planet. As for why The Metal Men is one of the Rotten Ideas this week, well, it’s certainly not because this writer dislikes The Metal Men. No, unfortunately, although Barry Sonnenfeld is visually inventive, being sort of the go-to guy for movies that look like they were directed by Tim Burton, but weren’t, his RT Tomatometer scores are often on the weak-ish side. Sonnenfeld’s filmography, for some examples, includes a five film streak from 1999 to 2006 that includes Wild Wild West, Big Trouble, Men in Black II, Fun with Dick and Jane, and RV. The 69% Fresh score for Men in Black III actually reversed that trend for Sonnenfeld, but it wasn’t quite enough, just yet, to save The Metal Men from being, at least for now, a borderline Rotten Idea.
#3 JIM CARREY HAS DROPPED OUT OF DUMB AND DUMBER TO
Following the comedic and box office misfire that was The Three Stooges, pretty much all that Peter and Bobby Farrelly had in their near-futures, development-wise, was Dumb and Dumber To, the intentionally misspelled sequel to the 1994 hit that really got their careers going. However, all of that appears to be in question now, as Jim Carrey has revealed that he has dropped out of this sequel project. Carrey’s reason for his departure is that he was “frustrated” by what he felt was a “lack of enthusiasm” on the part of key figures at New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Dumb and Dumber To was to be a proper sequel, following the 2003 prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, which neither the Farrellys, Carrey nor Daniels had any involvement with. This move not only leaves the Farrellys without an imminent project to work on, but it’s the same for Jim Carrey, who once had a handful of possible movie projects at one time, but now really only had the Dumb and Dumber sequel going on actively on his slate. The reason that this is a Rotten Idea is that with a 63% Fresh rating, Dumb and Dumber was one of the Farrelly Brothers’ few bright spots on their filmography, critically, and so the idea of them, Carrey and Jeff Daniels reuniting on a sequel actually seemed to have some promise.
#2 REESE WITHERSPOON TO DO THE WHOLE NON-NARRATIVE ROMANTIC COMEDY ADAPTATION… THING
Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment barely made back their $40 million with the $48.9 million domestic gross with What to Expect When You’re Expecting (although the film should continue to produce profits internationally and in ancilliaries). Regardless, the film appears to have done well enough that Lionsgate is coming back to the waters of romantic comedies based upon popular non-fiction series of books. For their next project along those lines, Lionsgate has signed Reese Witherspoon to be the first star for their adaptation of Dr. John Grey’s 1992 bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the success of which led to over a dozen spin off books with titles like Mars and Venus on a Date, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, and The Mars & Venus Diet & Exercise Solution (we couldn’t make this stuff up). Anyway, for this project, Lionsgate has hired TV commercials director Bryan Buckley (who has been called the “King of the Superbowl”) to make his feature film debut. The adaptation of Grey’s book from a series of relationship self-help analogies to a 90-minute-or-so romantic comedy has been written by the team of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, whose past films include Surviving Christmas, Josie and the Pussycats, and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, not a single one of which scored better than 53% Rotten on the RT Tomatometer. Probably the best one can hope for from this movie is that Reese Witherspoon will actually play a Venusian, complete with antennae and vivid skin coloring ala Deedee Doodle from The Doodlebops.
#1 SURE, IT WAS QUICKLY DEBUNKED, BUT SAY IT OUT LOUD… TWILIGHT REBOOT?
Normally, when movie news stories are debunked by official sources, they don’t make it into the Weekly Ketchup. This one, however, made the cut first because it was such a big story, and because the official statement that came in response to it… Well, there’s enough legalese wiggle room to it that it’s enough to make one wonder. Let’s start at the beginning: The horror site Bloody Disgusting ran with a story on Sunday that claimed that Lionsgate and Summit are planning on rebooting the Twilight franchise relatively soon after the fifth film comes out this November. Embedded throughout that original article (heck, it was even in the title), was an acknowledgement that the studio would deny the story almost immediately. And sure enough, on that very same day, another site printed an official denial of that Twilight reboot story. But what’s particularly interesting are the exact (one could say, exacting) words that Summit Entertainment chose, “We are not remaking Twilight. We will happily support Stephanie [sic] Meyer if she decides to proceed in any way. But this will be the last one unless that should change.” Basically, that statement says that they’re not doing it right now, but they will do what ever Stephenie Meyer wants to do. For example, if Meyer does want to see another five movies made with a new cast, but hasn’t yet officially signed anything with Summit, then their statement would still be true. Anyway, this story attracted enough attention, both from fans and non-fans alike, this week, that it rightfully earned a spot as one of the week’s top stories… and (completely true or not), it’s the Most Rotten Idea, as well. Even after an official debunking, this one is arguably Rotten just because the idea that it could be true seems extremely plausible.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.