This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as Dennis the Menace, Sherlock Holmes 3, and Shinobi; and new roles for Jamie Foxx and Paul Rudd.
While superhero movies continue to dominate the box office, the lucrative video game industry (which now makes almost as much money each year as Hollywood does) remains another potential source for adaptations. In 2016 alone, we will soon have movies based on Angry Birds, Warcraft, and Assassin’s Creed. One of the franchises that has been attempting a reboot is Square Enix’s Tomb Raider, which was previously made into a pair of movies starring Angelina Jolie. Unfortunately, those movies both received Rotten Tomatometer scores: Lara Croft – Tomb Raider (19%) and Lara Croft – Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (24%). The challenge, then, is not only to deliver an entertaining adventure movie that audiences enjoy, but for the film also to win over critics this time around. Naturally, there’s also the question of who to cast as the British adventurer Lara Croft. There had been stories that Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) was in talks for the role, but this week, we learned the role will be going to another recent “It Girl” instead. Alicia Vikander, the Swedish star/costar of Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Danish Girl, has been cast as the new Lara Croft in the reboot of Tomb Raider. The Jolie movies were produced by Paramount Pictures, but the rights now reside with MGM and GK Films (World War Z, Rango, Hugo). The production looks like it might be particularly Scandinavian-themed, as director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) is himself Norwegian. There are currently no details about what Lara Croft’s new adventure might be (or whether it will be adapting any specific video game), but what we do know is that after many, many other screenwriters worked on it, the Tomb Raider script is currently being redrafted by screenwriter Evan Daughtery (Divergent, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). As for Daisy Ridley, she also made the news this week for signing on to the indie drama The Lost Wife, about a romance in Prague in 1939 torn apart by the threat of the invading Nazi’s.
Over the last several years, the Jim Henson Company has supervised something of a career comeback for The Muppets. Another puppet-themed project that JHC has been working on, however, will involve an entirely new group of puppets. That project is called The Happytime Murders, and it is frequently compared to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Avenue Q, as it it set in a world where humans and puppets live side-by-side. This week, we finally learned what lucky actor will get to represent us humans in this crazy world. The answer is Jamie Foxx, who is now in early talks with STX and the Jim Henson Company to star in The Happytime Murders. Let’s quote Variety for their summary of the film’s premise: “The raucous comedy explores a world where puppets and humans live side by side, and the puppet stars of the iconic TV show ‘The Happytime Gang‘ are some of the biggest celebrities around. But off camera, the family-friendly cast leads the kinds of lives that would make a tabloid writer blush.” Jamie Foxx is in talks to play the human police detective working with a puppet partner to investigate a series of murders of puppets involved with the Happytime Gang TV show. The Happytime Murders will be directed by Brian Henson (Jim’s son), whose previous credits include The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, and it’s expected to have a much darker tone (probably PG-13) than anything The Muppets have starred in, which is why it is very specifically not called a Muppets movie.
Paul Rudd may have to spend a lot of the next few years costarring as Ant-Man in various Marvel movies (including Ant-Man and the Wasp, dated for 7/6/18), but like some of his Marvel costars, he will still have time for other movies as well. One of those new projects will be a departure from the broad comedies and little indie dramas that Rudd used to star in before Ant-Man. That’s because he’s set to star as Chicago White Sox baseball star Moe Berg in the World War II drama The Catcher Was a Spy. The film will adapt the true story of Moe Berg‘s life, focusing on the years in the 1930s and 1940s when he operated as a spy for the O.S.S. (the precursor of the CIA). Specifically, the film will focus on Berg’s efforts to work against Germany’s plans to perfect atomic bombs before the Allies (spoiler: they didn’t). Berg also had the distinction of being a Jewish baseball player and a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The Catcher Was a Spy will be directed by Ben Lewin (The Sessions), working from a script by screenwriter Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot).
This particular story may read a little bit like “inside baseball” to casual movie fans, but the implications are potentially seismic. This week, following years of speculation, DreamWorks Animation was purchased by Comcast, the corporate owners of NBCUniversal, and further down the line, Illumination Entertainment. The deal was made for a cash transaction of $3.8 billion, which is seen as a premium over the previous price of DreamWorks Animation stock. DreamWorks Animation will continue to be a separate brand, but it will now operate under the supervision of Illumination Entertainment head Chris Melelandri, while Jeffrey Katzenberg will leave DWA to focus on a new enterprise called DreamWorks New Media and projects like “AwesomenessTV.” For the average moviegoer, this won’t initially mean much, other than some shuffling of release dates, since DWA movies like Trolls, Boss Baby, Captain Underpants, The Croods 2, and How to Train Your Dragon 3 will no longer be competing against Illumination movies like The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, Despicable Me 3, and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. Box office-wise, the question now will be whether this puts Universal Pictures even closer to someday beating the juggernaut that Walt Disney Pictures has become with its ownership of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm.
The Weekly Ketchup is compiled every Friday afternoon, and like any such column with a hard deadline, it’s always fun when someone in Hollywood decides to sneak out a big announcement at the very last moment. (This column doesn’t write itself!) This week, something particularly ironic happened because the movie that snuck into the online consciousness like a big surprise is a ninja movie. The video game company SEGA is teaming up with Hollywood producer Marc Platt to start development of a movie based on their long-running ninja video game franchise Shinobi. The first Shinobi game debuted in arcades in 1987, and it was followed by over a dozen other Shinobi games (or spinoffs) in the nearly 30 years since. Marc Platt is a diverse producer whose films have included comic book adaptations like Wanted and Scott Prilgrim vs the World, as well as films from acclaimed directors like Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), and Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married). The news of Shinobi someday becoming its own potential movie franchise is especially interesting since one of the next video adaptations will be the similarly-themed (though with very different settings) Assassin’s Creed (12/21/16).
After Sherlock Holmes was a box office hit in 2009, it was (relatively) quickly followed by a sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in 2011. Those movies, however, are now nearly five years old, and one could argue that dust is starting to settle on the Downey Jr./Law/Ritchie franchise. That doesn’t mean, however, that we won’t see all of them return someday for a third movie. We now know that because Warner Bros has hired screenwriter James Coyne to start work on a Sherlock Holmes 3 screenplay. Coyne’s previous films bypassed the traditional feature film circuit: 2013’s Vikingdom (43 percent Rotten) and 2014’s Puncture Wounds. It is expected that Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr. and director Guy Ritchie will all return for Sherlock Holmes 3. In related news, Benedict Cumberbatch recently started filming series 4 of his own Sherlock made-for-TV movies, almost immediately after wrapping up Marvel’s Doctor Strange (11/4/16). We’re keeping this one in the “Fresh Developments” category because of the Tomatometer scores of the first two movies (70 percent and 60 percent, both Fresh).
When it comes to “kids movies,” Hollywood sort of has a thing for trying to reboot franchises that are way, way, way past their expiration date, especially for little kids. Consider, for example, the live action reboots of titles like The Little Rascals, Annie, and The Peanuts Movie. Well, another such reboot is in the works, as Warner Bros has started development on a new adaptation of Dennis the Menace. In something of a “huh?” move, Warner Bros has decided to hire screenwriter Stacey Menear, whose one credit to date is the recent horror film The Boy, to adapt this new version of Dennis the Menace. Most of the Dennis the Menace movies of the last 30 years have gone direct to video, but there was one theatrical release, starring Walter Matthau, which earned a Rotten score of just 23 percent.
In the 1976 paranoia horror classic, The Omen, an American diplomat’s wife gives birth to a baby which, over the next few years, seems to cause people around him to do evil things (or have evil things done to them), and it turns out that little Damien is really the devil’s kid. This week, 21st Century Fox announced plans for a prequel to that film called The First Omen. The details of the premise haven’t been revealed yet, but the title seems to suggest that there was another kid before Damien Thorne, sometime before 1976. But since it’s a prequel, don’t we already know that the devil’s plan didn’t work out the first time? What’s the point of making a prequel movie about that “first” kid? Well, maybe that’s a question that screenwriter Ben Jacoby has already figured out. Fox has also already hired director Antonio Campos to direct, coming off his recent Sundance hit Christine (not to be confused with the Stephen King book/movie about the demonic car), and David S. Goyer is producing it.
There had been rumbling in recent weeks that Marvel Studios might be changing their collective mind about the Inhumans movie, which had once been scheduled for November 2, 2018, and then for July 12, 2019. Well, we now know that Marvel Studios has removed Inhumans from their schedule entirely. It should be noted, of course, that this doesn’t mean that there will never be an Inhumans movie, as plenty of movies have eventually been made after being stuck in “development hell” for years (or even decades!). This change leaves lots of questions, including whether the Inhumans (such as Black Bolt, Medusa, Chrystal, Lockjaw, and Karnak) will still appear in other Marvel movies, without appearing their own movies. (After all, there are plenty of Marvel characters in Marvel’s movies who haven’t had their own movies yet, like Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Vision, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, etc.) We’re calling this a “Rotten Idea” because it seemed like Inhumans had the potential to be another “surprise” from Marvel, a la Guardians of the Galaxy. After all, who doesn’t want to see a bunch of freaky superhuman types (like a lady with crazy moving hair) being teleported around the world by a giant dog? In other Marvel news (albeit on the Fox side of things), there was more casting news this week for Wolverine 3 (3/3/17), and they’re both British gentlemen. Richard E. Grant will play a “mad scientist” type, and frequent Ricky Gervais collaborator Stephen Merchant has also landed a role. Finally, in the very concrete “spoilers” category, we learned this week that Nathan Fillion will again be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but the role, and the setting for the role, are all very, very, very spoilery. You’ve been warned.
In film development news, we’re used to movies taking years and years to happen. What is far less common is news that changes within a few hours or days. But that’s what happened this week with a “Black List” screenplay called Reagan, about the President of the United States who was struggling with Alzheimer’s late in his life. This story starts on Wednesday morning, when Variety reported that Will Ferrell was “attached to star” as President Reagan in Reagan. Reportedly, the film (if it is still produced) would begin “at the start of the then-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.” President Reagan’s family was quick to respond, with his daughter Patti Davis taking the lead, penning an open letter directly to Will Ferrell on Thursday. That leads us to this morning, and the news that Will Ferrell is “not pursuing” the Reagan comedy project. As to who might replace Will Ferrell, the news also broke today that for a planned table read of the Reagan screenplay, both Lena Dunham (who was eyed to play Peggy Noonan) and Tony Goldwyn have now dropped out of doing the read.