This week’s Ketchup includes five movies about vampires or zombies, two remakes (Bloodsport and Carrie), new movies for Vin Diesel, Will Ferrell, Sir Ian McKellen, Mark Wahlberg and a few up-and-coming actresses, and news of the movie business fallout for the former governor of California.
This Week’s Top Story
UBISOFT’S BIG MOVIE PLANS FOR ASSASSIN’S CREED, GHOST RECON, AND SPLINTER CELL
Game publisher Ubisoft has announced plans for 3D movies based on three of their best selling franchises: Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell. Those last two both carry the “Tom Clancy’s” label, and are about fictionalized Army Special Forces units and NSA black ops agents, respectively. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is about a man who time travels (sort of) to Italy during the Renaissance (and elsewhere/elsewhen) and inhabits the bodies of his assassin ancestors to procure artifacts for a shadowy corporation in the present. Jean-Juliet Baronnet, the head of Ubisoft Motion Pictures, had this to say, in very corporate speak: “Our strategy is not to diversify but to bolster the appeal of our franchises — that’s why we want to make sure our films will reflect the brands accurately and consolidate our fan base while expanding beyond the games’ primary target audience.” Ubisoft hopes to have a script for one of those three planned movies by the end of the year, but didn’t specify which one might move forward first. Most stories about this announcement focus more on Assassin’s Creed, however, and less on the Tom Clancy projects. Tom Clancy himself hasn’t yet been quoted about these projects.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 GET READY TO SEE TITANIC SINK AGAIN, THIS TIME IN YOUR FACE!
20th Century Fox has announced a re-release date of April 6, 2012 for Titanic 3D, timed to predate the 100th anniversary of the sailing of the doomed ship four days later on April 10th. James Cameron, who wrote, produced and directed the 1997 blockbuster, will be overseeing the 3D conversion. Here’s what Cameron had to say about this rerelease: “There’s a whole generation that’s never seen Titanic as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen… and this will be Titanic as you’ve never seen it before, digitally remastered at 4K and painstakingly converted to 3D. With the emotional power intact and the images more powerful than ever, this will be an epic experience for fans and newcomers alike.” That first part may make some movie fans feel a bit old, but when this 3D rerelease comes out, it will be nearly 15 years later. Someone who’s 20 in 2012 probably didn’t see Titanic in the movie theaters in 1997/1998. Titanic 3D also joins the six Star Wars movies which will be rereleased in 3D by 20th Century Fox, starting with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D on February 10, 2012. As for why this is the #1 Fresh Development of the week, this writer suspects there are many who will comment that it should be a “Rotten Idea,” but Titanic has a “Fresh” RT Tomatometer score of 83%, and also won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. There may be haters, but big epic blockbuster type movies are rarely more “fresh” than Titanic.
#2 WARNER BROS REPLACES ONE YOUNG WIZARD WITH ANOTHER: THE LOST YEARS OF MERLIN
As the eighth and final Harry Potter movie prepares to finally reach theaters this summer, many movie commentators have been discussing how Warner Bros might replace what has been the studio’s (or any other’s) most successful franchise. This week, we got a hint at what Warner Bros is considering with the news of an adaptation of The Lost Years of Merlin, the first in a 5-book children’s series by author T.A. Barron. The Lost Years of Merlin tells the story of how Merlin washed up on the shores of Wales as an orphan with no memory of his past, and how he grew to become a great wizard and mentor to King Arthur. Although Barron’s books are not as popular as J.K. Rowling’s, the wizard Merlin from the Arthurian legends is arguably one of the most famous fictional characters of all time. Even if you think Merlin was a real person, he’s still pretty darn famous and beloved by fantasy and British history fans. To adapt The Lost Years of Merlin, Warner Bros has hired a newcomer named Ed Whitworth, a script reader for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, who first made the news by selling a spec biopic called Powell about retired General Colin Powell. Warner Bros picked up the rights to The Lost Years of Merlin out of turnaround from Paramount Pictures. There’s no word yet as to who Warner Bros might hire to direct The Lost Years of Merlin, but if the project goes forward, the expectation is that it will be a big event production comparable to the Harry Potter movies (because, as said earlier, that’s sort of the point).
#3 SIR IAN MCKELLEN AND THE CURSE OF THE BUXOM STRUMPET
One of the hottest mini-trends in Hollywood right now is the “classic horror mashup,” which are movies that take a period piece setting and its characters, and match them up against monsters. Although he wasn’t the first writer ever to think of this (Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one earlier example), author Seth Grahame-Smith is most credited with this trend. Two adaptations of his books (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) are expected to be produced in time for releases in 2012. However, this concept, which is both a spoof and spoofs itself, is also easily duplicated. So, a young English filmmaker named Matthew Butler recruited Sir Ian McKellen to narrate and appear in a short film called E’gad, Zombies! (the trailer for which you can see here), and that led to an actual feature length movie getting produced. Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) will costar in The Curse of the Buxom Strumpet, in which the residents of a 1700s English town will have to deal with an outbreak of zombies. In similar news, actor Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under, 24, Haven) will make his directorial debut with an adaptation of the comic book series Jesus Hates Zombies, which is exactly what it sounds like, and also includes Mother Teresa, Elvis Presley and a time traveling Abraham Lincoln. People just love making Honest Abe fight monsters. I should note, however, that there is a good chance that Jesus Hates Zombies may go direct-to-video.
#4 ARTHOUSE DIRECTORS JOIN THE VAMPIRE BANDWAGON
Zombie movies are hot right now, but their popularity still “pales” in comparison to vampire movies. People, particularly teen girls, love them some blood suckin’ undead types. Mostly, what they like are vampire stories that treat them as tragic immortal figures who just want to find a nice human girl that they can sparkle around, either figuratively or in the case of The Twilight Saga, literally. Those Stephenie Meyer novels are all the rage now, but back a few decades, the author who told somewhat similar stories (though not so much with the teen girl romances) was Anne Rice. In 1994, Interview with the Vampire was the first movie to adapt Anne Rice’s vampires to the big screen. Now, that movie’s director, Neil Jordan, who generally spends most of his time making more arthouse-friendly movies like The Crying Game, The End of the Affair and Breakfast on Pluto, is looking to return to vampires. Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans) and Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Hanna) have signed on to star in Neil Jordan’s Byzantium as a mother-daughter pair of vampires who pose as sisters. Filming of Byzantium is scheduled to start in England in October, 2011 based upon a script by Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe, which also starred Arterton), based upon a play Buffini wrote for a youth theater. Neil Jordan’s not the only artsy director lining up a vampire project, however. Jim Jarmusch, who established himself in the 1980s as one of the hottest indie directors with movies like Down by Law, Stranger than Paradise and Mystery Train, will next direct an untitled vampire movie. Tilda Swinton (The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), Michael Fassbender (Magneto in X-Men: First Class), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) have all signed on to play vampires, with John Hurt (no credits needed, right?) also on board in an unspecified non-vampire role. Jim Jarmusch describes the movie as a “crypto-vampire love story’, set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangiers,” with filming to take place in Germany, Morocco and Detroit in early 2012.
#5 THE OTHER GUYS WILL FERRELL AND MARK WAHLBERG REUNITE IN THREE MISSISSIPPI
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg teamed up for one of last summer’s most overlooked and funniest comedies, the buddy cop spoof The Other Guys, which was also critically well-received with a Certified Fresh 77% score on the RT Tomatometer. This week, it was announced that Ferrell and Wahlberg will be reuniting for a football comedy about rival coaches competing against each other in a small town’s annual Thanksgiving tackle football game. The initial title of the movie was Turkey Bowl, but there is an independent movie coming out soon with that title, so the new tentative title is Three Mississippi. Producer Adam McKay has revealed that the initial idea for the movie came from seeing how “funny” Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg were in The Departed, so McKay set out to come up with a comedy they could star in together, with Baldwin playing Wahlberg’s father. McKay hopes to assemble an ensemble cast, and has mentioned both Rob Riggle (as a gay cousin) and Jeremy Renner (as an ex-con), but it’s unclear as to whether either actor is signed (or in Renner’s case, whether he can fit the movie into his busy schedule). The football comedy is being written by Friends and Joey producer/writers Scott Silveri and Robert Carlock (who also writes/produces 30 Rock). Adam McKay has made a career out of directing Will Ferrell movies (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers and The Other Guys), but it’s unknown if this will be his fifth Will Ferrell movie as director, or if he will just produce.
#6 YOU KNOW ALL THOSE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER PROJECTS…?
So, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the news this week, and it wasn’t because of his movies or his political career (which is probably pretty much dead now). As for his movie career, it’s probably not dead (evidence: Mel Gibson is still making movies), but the various movie projects Schwarzenegger was lining up have all come to a grinding halt, at least for now. Some are likely to start up again (such as the Terminator movie with Fast Five director Justin Lin), but in particular jeopardy is Cry Macho, in which Schwarzenegger’s character kidnaps an 11-year-old boy for his boss. Although not released in time for many of the initial stories, the producers of the planned TV show and movie based on The Governator concept had this to say: “In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics and Archie Comics have put ‘The Governator‘ project on hold.” The Governator was a superhero character that traded upon what was at the time perceived as Schwarzenegger’s kid-friendly appeal. The reason that this is one of the week’s Fresh Developments is sort of reverse psychology. For the most part, all three of these movie projects have been received by the fanbase with some degree of skepticism (less so Cry Macho, more so Terminator and The Governator). So, the news of the movies being delayed or possibly cancelled is more “Fresh” than it is “Rotten,” in that light.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 VIN DIESEL RETURNS TO KIDS’ MOVIES AS THE MACHINE
One of the legacies of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s film career is the notion of muscular action stars derailing their careers for a while and doing kids’ movies instead. Arnold started the trend with Kindergarten Cop, Dwayne Johnson epitomized it with The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain and Tooth Fairy, and even Vin Diesel starred in The Pacifier. Action fans are often annoyed by these movies because these stars are like football players, with only so many years in fit shape, and so many possible “grown up” action movies they could make. Vin Diesel, however, apparently doesn’t agree, as he is producing a family-friendly action comedy called The Machine for MGM that he will also star in. In The Machine, Vin Diesel will play a robot created 20 years ago by the Pentagon which is then found by a kid, and the robot will have to protect the kid’s family from the military types who come looking for him. Well, the press release uses the phrase “human-like machine,” but sometimes you just have to call a robot a robot. The Machine is based on an original idea by screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, who wrote The Pacifier, as well as the two Night at the Museum movies. There’s no director yet, but MGM hopes to start filming The Machine in the fall of 2011.
#2 REMAKE FEVER IS EVEN HITTING OLD JCVD MOVIES: BLOODSPORT
In addition to remaking The Crow, veteran producer Ed Pressman (Street Fighter, Judge Dredd) now has his sights on remaking Bloodsport, the 1988 mixed martial arts movie that helped launched Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career (in his starring role). The original Bloodsport was based on events in the life of Ninjutsu martial artist Frank Dux, but this remake appears to ditch those elements altogether. Instead, the Bloodsport remake will be about an American vet who goes to Brazil (instead of Hong Kong) to recover from his experiences in Afghanistan, and he ends up competing in a martial arts contest. The remake will be directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) from a script by Robert Mark Kamen, who wrote the original The Karate Kid, and also cowrote Taken, The Fifth Element and The Transporter. The involvement of Noyce and Kamen might normally land a movie in the Fresh Developments category, but this is a remake of Bloodsport, which really doesn’t require any further explanation.
#1 THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU IF YOU GO SEE THE CARRIE REMAKE
When Carrie was first published in 1974, there was probably no way of predicting that Stephen King would go on to become one of the most successful authors ever. The book about a troubled telekinetic teenage girl with a crazy God-obsessed mother who goes on a murderous rampage at her prom also became the first movie based on a Stephen King novel in 1976 (starring Sissy Spacek). Carrie was followed by a sequel called The Rage: Carrie 2 in 1999, and was remade for television in 2002. Now, MGM has started development on a third adaptation of Carrie by hiring playwright and comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was recently brought on to rewrite the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Aguirre-Sacasa has also been hired to become a co-producer and writer of the FOX TV show Glee. The Carrie remake will reportedly be more faithful to the original Stephen King book. A comparison is being made to the Coen Bros’ remake of True Grit, which might be a bit of an ambitious overreach of a comparison. And that last part there was also a bit of an understatement. Carrie getting another remake is this week’s Rotten Idea because, regardless of whatever changes Brian de Palma may have made in his 1976 version, the movie still holds up. A sequel and a TV remake was arguably already enough Carrie revisionism.
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.