This week’s Ketchup sees the brothers Scott (Ridley and Tony) each making the news by taking on new films either sequelizing or rebooting two of the movie community’s most cherished modern classics: Blade Runner and The Wild Bunch. Also included in the mix is the return of Mike Myers as Austin Powers, and new roles for Brad Pitt, Dakota Fanning, Melissa McCarthy (from Bridesmaids) and Anna Paquin.
This Week’s Top Story
RIDLEY SCOTT RETURNING TO BLADE RUNNER
Ridley Scott surprised science fiction fans when he signed on with 20th Century Fox to direct Prometheus, the Not-an-Alien-Prequel (that sounds exactly like an Alien prequel). This week, Ridley Scott did something very similar, and this time, the subject is an even Holier Grail than the Alien franchise. Scott has signed with Alcon Entertainment (The Blind Side, The Book of Eli) to direct a follow up film to his 1982 classic science fiction/film noir hybrid Blade Runner. There’s no word yet as to whether this new film will be a prequel or a sequel. Harrison Ford is not expected to be involved with this film. But really, most fans who understood the hints in Blade Runner probably shouldn’t be surprised that the 69 year old star wouldn’t be returning to play Deckard (presuming, of course, that the popular theories about Deckard are true). For those that don’t know, Blade Runner was set in a dystopian future Los Angeles where a massive corporation has perfected the science of bioengineered androids called Replicants, who possess superhuman attributes but have very short lifespans. Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Brion James, Edward James Olmos, Joe Turkel and Sean Young also costarred in Blade Runner (and they were all, in this writer’s opinion, awesome; probably all of their careers’ best roles, or close to it). There’s no writer for the new project yet. Alcon Entertainment producer Andrew Kosgrove expects that the earliest that the new movie could start filming would be sometime in 2013.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 AUSTIN POWERS LIVES TWICE TO SHAG ANOTHER DAY
Nine years have now passed since the release of Austin Powers in Goldmember, the third in Mike Myers’ series of spy spoofs that started in 1997 with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. That means that there is now an entire generation of young adult moviegoers who probably never actually saw an Austin Powers movie in theaters. This week, Internet film columnist Drew McWeeny broke the news that Mike Myers has signed the deal to return as Austin Powers in a fourth film. Unfortunately, what was missing from McWeeny’s report, lengthy as it was, was just about any other detail. McWeeny doesn’t even specify that the deal was with New Line Cinema, the Warner Bros label behind the first three films, though it probably was. That lack of detail also applies to who might be directing, writing the script, what other cast members might return, or what Austin Powers 4 would even be about. The placement of Austin Powers 4 as a “Fresh Development” should be considered borderline, with its #1 spot earned mostly because the return of Austin Powers is fairly big news. The RT Tomatometer scores for the first three films are as follows, in order: 69% (Fresh), 51% (Rotten) and 55% (Rotten). Those Rotten scores, however, were very close to the Fresh cut off of 60%, and so this writer is giving them a bit of a pass.
#2 BRAD PITT BRINGS COLOR TO GRAY’S THE GRAY MAN
One arguably big difference between Brad Pitt and other stars of his stature is that he seems to actually make a lot of the movies that he’s associated with. Of course, that’s a cue for commenters to point out the movies that Pitt eventually did not star in. Right now, he has four movies in the pipeline: this fall’s Moneyball, a cameo voice part in Happy Feet 2, next year’s crime drama Cogan’s Trade and the zombie epic World War Z, which is currently filming. Brad Pitt is now in negotiations to star in The Gray Man, an adaptation of the first in a series of novels by Mark Greaney about a former CIA operative turned assassin-for-hire who finds himself targeted for assassination and on the run. In what is probably a coincidence, The Gray Man will be directed by James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers, The Yards), or maybe James Gray just really wants to see part of his own name in his filmography. The script by newcomer screenwriter Adam Cozad was also one of the entries on last year’s Black List of most popular unproduced screenplays. Adam Cozad is also one of the writers who has worked on Paramount’s planned reboot of the Jack Ryan character.
#3 DAKOTA FANNING IS EMMA THOMPSON’S EFFIE
Dakota Fanning may be only 17, but the young actress is continuing her steady transition to adult roles. Next up for Fanning is Effie, a 19th century British romance about the true story of the controversial romantic triangle between Euphemia Gray, her famous critic husband John Ruskin, and his painter protege John Everett Millais. Actress-turned-screenwriter Emma Thompson, whose previous scripts include Sense and Sensibility and the two Nanny McPhee movies, adapted the Effie screenplay, and will also costar. Greg Wise (who also costarred in Sense and Sensibility) will play Ruskin, and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio) will play Millais. Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius) and Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter series) will play Ruskin’s parents. Edward Fox is in talks to play Thompson’s character’s husband, who was a patron of the British art community and was very upset about the impact the love triangle had. Before Dakota Fanning finally signed on, both Carey Mulligan and Saoirse Ronan had previously been considering taking the role. Director Richard Laxton (An Englishman in New York) starts filming of Effie on October 17 in Scotland, London and Venice, and the producers hope to premiere the film at the Venice Film Festival a little over a year from now.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#6 DISNEY THROWS A LASSO AROUND THE LONE RANGER
In a week that included the news about Ridley Scott directing a new Blade Runner movie, there was still a story that seemed to dominate the news cycle even more. Walt Disney Pictures has shut down production of The Lone Ranger, even as the cast had mostly been signed up, and filming was expected to start soon. Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) were cast as Tonto and the Lone Ranger, and the fact that Tonto gets mentioned first in this sentence is indeed a sign of how this Lone Ranger movie was expected to be different from previous films. The Lone Ranger was also to reunite Johnny Depp with director Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films for Disney. The reason for Disney’s decision has everything to do with budget, which had escalated to $250 million (and possibly more). The reported reasons for the massive budget involve a plot involving werewolves and creatures related to Native American mythology, as well as a planned railroad action sequence which would have been potentially the most ambitious train action scene ever filmed. Following the initial stories that the plug had been pulled, Disney is reportedly working with Gore Verbinski to attempt to bring the budget down to a desired range of $215 to $220 million. So, the possibility remains that the film could still be made, but the signs remain pessimistic that such a goal is likely, or will be approved by Disney. Even with that budget, the associated promotional budget puts the target box office for The Lone Ranger around $800 million, which may be unreachable for a big budget Western, even with Johnny Depp starring as Tonto. This is a borderline Rotten Idea, because it’s impossible to know whether movie audiences will miss out on an awesome Lone Ranger movie, or whether perhaps with talk of werewolves and such, Disney is making the right call by pulling the plug.
#5 MELISSA MCCARTHY AND JASON BATEMAN ARE INVOLVED IN A CASE OF ID THEFT
Melissa McCarthy, costar of one of the summer’s biggest comedy hits (Bridesmaids) and Jason Bateman, costar of one of the summer’s biggest comedy flops (The Change Up), are both signed to star with in the Universal Pictures comedy The ID Theft. The script about identity theft was originally written for Jason Bateman and another male actor. However, after seeing Bridesmaids, Bateman (who is also producing the film) pushed for the role to be rewritten to suit McCarthy as the one who steals Bateman’s identity. The original script was by screenwriter Steve Conrad (The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness), with the rewrite being done by Craig Mazin (Superhero Movie; cowriter of Scary Movie 4, The Hangover Part II). There’s no word yet about who will direct The ID Theft. Filming is expected to start in April, 2012 after McCarthy’s CBS sitcom Mike & Molly goes on hiatus. The ID Theft is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas based on the RT Tomatometer records of both screenwriter Craig Mazin, and the recent comedies costarring Jason Bateman.
#4 ANNA PAQUIN, RYAN PHILLIPPE AND LUKE WILSON SCORE STRAIGHT A’S
Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin and Luke Wilson are starring in an independent drama called Straight A’s, which started filming in Shreveport, Louisiana this week. Ryan Phillippe plays a man struggling with drug addiction who is “haunted by the ghost of his dead mother pressing him to return home to the family he turned his back on years ago. Outfitted with nothing more than a bag of pills and a sack of weed, he trots back to Shreveport, only to be faced with his brother’s wife, who’s still pining for him, her first love.” Luke Wilson is playing Phillippe’s brother, and Anna Paquin is playing the sister-in-law who is still in love with him. James Cox, the director of the John Holmes biopic Wonderland, is directing Straight A’s from a script by David Cole, who has previously worked on TV shows like Due South and The Hardy Boys. Straight A’s Rotten Idea listing is based mostly on the RT Tomatometer for James Cox’s Wonderland.
#3 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID MOVIES KEEP GETTING MADE; NO ONE ABOVE 17 NOTICES
This week, 20th Century Fox announced a release date of August 3, 2012 for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the third film in the series based upon children’s books by Jeff Kinney. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days was actually the fourth book in the series, which means the film series appears to be skipping over the third book The Last Straw. This maintains an annual schedule for the film franchise which started in 2010 with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and continued this past March with Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules. David Bowers, who made his live action directorial debut with Rodrick Rules after previously directing Flushed Away and Astro Boy, will return to also direct Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. The screenwriting team of Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, who wrote The Rocker and cowrote Monsters vs Aliens, adapted this third Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Most of the series cast, which includes Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn are returning for this third entry, which is already filming in Vancouver. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is proving to be one of 20th Century Fox’s most profitable franchises, as they are filmed relatively inexpensively (about $20 million for each), and the two films have already brought in $140 million internationally. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is one of the Rotten Ideas of the Week based upon the Rotten RT Tomatometer scores for the first two films (53% and 47%).
#2 MIRKWOOD: A MOVIE ABOUT THE FICTIONAL J.R.R. TOLKIEN
Author Steve Hillard recently published a novel called Mirkwood: A Novel About J.R.R. Tolkien which initially invoked legal resistance from the estate of the author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Now that those issues are reportedly resolved, Hillard has made a deal with independent production company EMO Films to develop Mirkwood as a feature film. Other projects that EMO Films are working on include a new Tales from the Crypt TV series and a Drugstore Cowboy sequel. Mirkwood revolves around the idea that J.R.R. Tolkien possessed ancient documents that tell of a halfling heroine named Ara and a history that inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Decades after his death, the documents are discovered by an orphan named Cadence who must protect the story of Ara from “dark forces from the realm of fantasy.” Mirkwood is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because it sounds like an attempt to trade on the popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings without, you know, actually being officially written by J.R.R. Tolkien.
#1 THIS WEEK IN UNNECESSARY REMAKES: TONY SCOTT’S THE WILD BUNCH
For fans of action movies and westerns, director Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 film The Wild Bunch is considered a classic. William Holden, Ben Johnson, Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine headlined the cast in Peckinpah’s bloody tale of an aging band of outlaws out for one last big score which ends in one of the most graphic gunfights ever depicted on screen. And now, in the same week that his brother Ridley signed on for a new Blade Runner, director Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance, Unstoppable) is in negotiations to direct a reboot of The Wild Bunch. There’s no word yet as to exactly what form this “reboot” of The Wild Bunch will take, such as whether it will retain the setting in the Texas/Mexico border area during the final days of the Old West, or whether it will have a contemporary setting. That question will likely be answered by screenwriter Brian Helgeland (Mystic River; cowriter of L.A. Confidential), who previously worked with Tony Scott on Man on Fire, and with Ridley Scott on Robin Hood. This is not the first time in recent months that Tony Scott has been associated with a reboot, as Scott is also working on a new version of Top Gun, which he also directed. In the meantime, the project that Tony Scott appears closest to filming next is Hell’s Angels, a film about the history of the controversial motorcycle gang. Scott reportedly hopes to cast Jeff Bridges as the gang’s leader Sonny Barger, but hasn’t yet officially met with Bridges as the actor-turned-musician is currently touring to support his new album. The idea of anyone remaking The Wild Bunch is this week’s Most Rotten Idea because The Wild Bunch is simply one of those films that will always stand on its own as a classic that needs absolutely no remaking, rebooting, rejiggering or re-anything.
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.