Right smack in the middle of this week was April Fool’s Day, so some stories this week had to be always be viewed with a grain of salt, but there was indeed real movie news. And as usual, being true didn’t stop some stories from still seeming ridiculous and incredible. In that spirit, starting this week, the Weekly Ketchup will be ending with the Rotten Story of the Week, the story that’s just so weird that it would have to be an April Fool’s Day joke (but isn’t).
#1 MEN IN BLACK III: THEY’LL MAKE THIS LOOK GOOD… AGAIN
In the seven years since Men in Black II there have been occasional stories from Sony about plans to return to the comedic stories of the agents who protect Earth from our alien visitors. Most of these rumors circulated several years ago, and since then the concept of a Men in Black III has mostly receded from fan prominence. So it was a bit of a surprise this week at ShoWest when Sony announced (along with Ghostbusters III, which has had more press coverage lately) their plans to develop Men in Black III in time for a big summer, 2011 release. The details, however, basically stop there: no writer, no director and no indication from Sony as to who exactly might star in this theoretical Men in Black III. Obviously, the big draw would be Will Smith, but is he necessarily required for the franchise to continue? Although Smith was surely part of the appeal of the first two movies, the FX-heavy combination of live-action and CGI aliens seems like one that would be friendly to any new agent that might be recruited to protect us from aliens this time around.
#2 STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF… NO, PROBABLY NOT
Although the relaunch of Star Trek is still over a month away, Paramount is hot enough on the new franchise to hire that movie’s writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (also the writing team behind Transformers and The Legend of Zorro), along with Lost producer and frequent writer Damon Lindelof, to start working on a Star Trek sequel. J.J. Abrams is also on board to produce with his Bad Robot Productions, but it is not yet known if he will also return as director. No details of the premise have been revealed, as Variety reports that the writers are waiting to see what aspects of Star Trek the fans respond to most. Paramount expects to have a script by Christmas of 2009, with a summer, 2011 release date being targeted. Although it may seem a bit presumptous to start working on a sequel before a movie is even released, Star Trek is undoubtedly a franchise that Paramount has a long history with, and wants a long future with as well, so the movie would have to be a complete bomb for them not to proceed with a Star Trek II.
#3 BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY REMAKE: LESS THAN ZERO CAN’T BE FAR OFF
MGM, which has been heavily focusing its development efforts on 1980s remakes (Robocop, Fame, Red Dawn, etc), has hired TV show runner Josh Schwartz (Chuck, Gossip Girl) to write and make his feature directorial debut with a remake of 1988’s Bright Lights, Big City, which starred Michael J. Fox. Like that movie, the new project will be an adaptation of the 1984 novel of the same title by Jay McInerney, about a magazine writer in a failed marriage who numbs his worries through drugs, alcohol and sexual misadventures. It’s as yet unknown whether Schwartz will be keeping the novel’s 1980s setting, or contemporizing it for the 21st century. Josh Schwartz will start work on the adaptation after finishing his draft of X-Men: First Class, and a Gossip Girl spin off series called Lilly.
#4 EASTERN PROMISES TO GET AN UNEXPECTED SEQUEL
First off, if you have not yet seen Eastern Promises, I should note that the source of this story at MTV spoils the ending in the first sentence, but I won’t do that to you. Anyway, the story here is that director David Cronenberg revealed to them that he is working on his first sequel (The Fly got a sequel, but Cronenberg didn’t direct it), because while researching that thriller/drama about Russians living in London, Cronenberg found that he had more material than he could fit into the original film. Cronenberg is working with the first movie’s screenwriter, Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), and is looking forward to working with star Viggo Mortensen again, which will mark their third movie together (their first being A History of Violence). Cronenberg doesn’t give any details about the story this time around (the first movie revolved around the baby of a dead Russian teenager), or whether Naomi Watts or Vincent Cassel might return.
#5 DAZED AND CONFUSED GETTING A NON-SEQUEL SEQUEL
After revisiting his little romantic drama Before Sunrise with a reunion movie called Before Sunset, director Richard Linklater is now working on a movie that will not be a direct sequel to his 1970s stoner comedy Dazed and Confused, but will at least be what he calls a “spiritual sequel.” The project will not feature any of the characters from Dazed and Confused, but by being set during the first week of the new college school year in 1980, it is expected to still have the feel of following similar characters as they progress from high school to college. Another difference is that while Dazed and Confused featured football players, this new movie will instead focus on baseball. Linklater hopes to film this as-yet-untitled comedy in and around his hometown of Austin, Texas this summer and is currently hard at work trying to find financing so that can happen. Richard Linklater’s most recently filmed movie, Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron, is expected to be released sometime later this year.
#6 20TH CENTURY FOX IMAGINES THE WORLD WITHOUT US
Earlier this decade, 20th Century Fox took the non-fiction book The Coming Global Superstorm and turned it into the summer blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow. This week, Fox made a similar deal for the 2007 non-fiction book, The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, with the I Am Legend writer/director team of Mark Protosevich (The Cell) and Francis Lawrence (Constantine) on board to make this big budget “tentpole” movie a priority. The concept of The World Without Us is a series of predictions of what how Earth, and life on Earth, will progress in a possible future in which human life is no more (for any of the many different reasons that could happen). Curiously, this scenario has also been a subject of a few recent TV documentaries: The Future is Wild in 2003, and both Aftermath: Population Zero and Life After People in 2008. The big question I would have for this movie is whether it will actually have a human cast, or just be a two hour movie showing animals roaming around our ruins. If so, will they be talking animals? Hopefully not. Protosevich is also working on the Oldboy remake for Steven Spielberg to direct and Will Smith to star, but THR reports that he will work on this project first. With this movie being eyed for a possible 2011 release that means another tentpole script by Protosevich might be released around the same time: Thor.
#7 WE CAN ONLY HOPE THIS TITLE DOESN’T CHANGE
While director Paul Weitz (In Good Company, American Dreamz) prepares to work with Robert DeNiro on Little Fockers, the duo have another project in the works which Weitz expects will be his next movie after Little Fockers. That movie is called Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and is based upon a memoir by American poet Nick Flynn, about his troubled relationship with his father (DeNiro), a con man and bank robber, with Casey Affleck cast to star as Flynn. Weitz also wrote the screenplay and Focus Features will be distributing the project, which may start filming in 2010 after Weitz wraps up Little Fockers. Paul Weitz’s most recent wrapped movie is Universal’s Cirque du Freak, a bizarre story that combines vampires and freak show stars, and is now scheduled for an early 2010 release.
#8 TOBEY MAGUIRE TO GO FOR A DIFFERENT TYPE OF SPIN IN THE LIMIT
Tobey Maguire is producing and will star in the Columbia Pictures project The Limit, which is based upon an upcoming novel about the true story of the 1961 Grand Prix (Formula One) racing championship. The Limit will tell the story of friends Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill (Maguire), who were also rivals on the raceway. Although there aren’t a lot of professional racing movies, there have been even fewer set in the world of Formula One racing, with the last studio movie (that I know of) being 1966’s Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer. Sylvester Stallone’s Driven was originally envisioned as a Grand Prix movie, but Stallone was unable to work out rights, and so it was based upon the similar CART format instead. Tony Peckham (cowriter of Sherlock Holmes, Don’t Say a Word) is adapting the script from the upcoming novel by Michael Cannell. There is no director yet, so there is a good chance that The Limit might be a project for Tobey Maguire after he wraps filming of Spider-Man 4 and Spider-Man 5 (also for Columbia), which are expected to film back-to-back.
#9 NICOLE KIDMAN AND AARON ECKHART GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Aaron Eckhart is in talks to join Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, an adaptation of a Broadway play by David Lindsay-Abaire (Inkheart; cowriter of Robots), who is also currently working with Sam Raimi on Spider-Man 4. Kidman is producing Rabbit Hole, which is about a happily married couple whose lives are interrupted when their young son dies in a car accident, and who struggle to return their lives to normalcy. In the original Broadway run, the couple was played by Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) and John Slattery (Mad Men, Desperate Housewives), and Lindsay-Abaire won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Rabbit Hole will be directed by John Cameron Mitchell, best known for directing and starring in both the stage and film versions of the awesome cabaret/rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Filming is expected to start in May, 2009.
#10 PAUL BETTANY: FROM ANGELS TO VAMPIRES IN PRIEST
British actor Paul Bettany’s eclectic filmography has included such roles as Russell Crowe’s doctor friend in Master and Commander, the scary monk in The Da Vinci Code and the voice of Jarvis in Iron Man. Now in the pipeline for Bettany are the lead roles in the first two movies by a new director, Scott Charles Stewart, both of which are “genre movies.” Already wrapped is Screen Gems’ Legion, scheduled for January, 2010, in which Bettany plays the Archangel Michael, in a story about a waitress who discovers her unborn child is the coming Messiah. Screen Gems was apparently impressed with Bettany and Stewart’s collaboration, because they are reuniting for Priest, an adaptation of a popular Korean Manwha comic book series. In Priest, which is set in a world that has been ravaged by hundreds of years of war between humans and vampires, Paul Bettany will play a “warrior priest” tracking down a band of vampires who have kidnapped his niece. It’s also perhaps interesting to note that both Legion and Priest are set in the American Southwest, and that Priest’s writer Cory Goodman is also working on the movie version of Kung Fu, another story set in the west.
“ROTTEN” IDEA OF THE WEEK
Inspired by April Fool’s Day this week, the Weekly Ketchup is adding a new closer feature, focusing on the newly announced movie each week which has the distinction of being the most ridiculous or least advised concept that Hollywood has come up with each week. The movie that starts this new feature off is Easy A, a Screen Gems teen comedy directed by Will Gluck (Fired Up) that is inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. Emma Stone (Superbad) is in talks to star as a girl who pretends to be the school slut in hopes that it will make her more popular, but then realizes that there are actually negative consequences of that sort of reputation, as her life begins to resemble that of Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Filming is expected to start later this month in Ojai, California. Easy A isn’t the first movie to take a classic story and set it in high school; 10 Things I Hate About You was based upon Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Clueless loosely borrowed its premise from Jane Austen’s Emma. However, this movie sounds like it twists The Scarlet Letter around in a rather strange way, and a teenage girl thinking that being perceived as the school slut is a good thing seems like such a stereotypical 21st century, post-Paris Hilton/Britney Spears concept.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message. Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.