This week’s Ketchup covers ten top stories from the world of film development news, including stories about such movies as Death Note, Independence Day 2, Robotech, and Avatar 5.
Following the warm reception the world had last year when Sony Pictures announced plans for a female-led reboot of Ghostbusters, the same studio is now planning a similar female-led spinoff of their 21 Jump Street action comedy franchise. The comedy, which will presumably be about a pair of young-ish female cops teaming up to investigate crime at a high school, will be adapted by Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs, writers for Comedy Central’s Broad City. At the same time, we also learned this week that Sony Pictures is indeed planning on having the next 21 Jump Street movie with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum be about their characters crossing over with the Men in Black franchise, as their cop characters will start tracking down alien criminals from farther away than China or Mexico. This would be a bigger headline if this plan hadn’t already been leaked last year during the e-mail hacking scandals leading up to the release of The Interview. The comedic slant behind crossing 21 Jump Street with Men in Black is reportedly intended to be a spoof of the trend in Hollywood these days towards creating “cinematic universes” that might not otherwise make sense being linked together.
Like many actresses of a certain age, Helen Hunt doesn’t make as many movies that these days (though she did write, direct and star in Ride, currently in theaters). That said, we learned this week that she will be reuniting with Ben Lewin, director of The Sessions, on his next movie, called Please Stand By. Dakota Fanning has also signed on as the lead character, a “a brilliant young woman with autism who escapes her care home to embark on a journey to Hollywood in order to deliver a screenplay for a competition.” Helen Hunt will play the writer’s caretaker, who is in hot pursuit to rescue her before something horrible happens (besides getting a job in Hollywood, of course). Please Stand By was written by Michael Golamco, one of the writers for the NBC TV series Grimm.
Director Adam Wingard now has two indie hits on his filmography, with You’re Next and last year’s The Guest, which makes him arguably a great candidate to make the sort of big time studio deals that have happened recently for the directors of such movies as Monsters, Safety Not Guaranteed, and John Wick. With that in mind, Wingard has signed with Warner Bros to direct their live action adaptation of the manga series called Death Note (which was also adapted as an anime series). Death Note refers to the supernatural notebook a student discovers can be used to kill anyone whose name he writes in it; this inspires him to attempt to rid the world of everyone he thinks is evil, leading to a cat-and-mouse hunt as a detective tries to solve the murders. Death Note has been in development at Warner Bros for a while now, with Adam Wingard replacing Shane Black (Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang), who had previously been attached to direct.
After directing the first Saw movie and 2011’s Insidious, director James Wan made the transition to a straight up action movie with this year’s Furious 7, which obviously worked out pretty well for him. The success of Furious 7 has, as one would expect, led to James Wan’s name being mentioned in various film development stories lately, and this week was no exception. Director James Wan is now in early talks with Sony Pictures about taking on the directing job on their adaptation of the popular 1980s anime TV series Robotech. Wan is also in talks to direct Aquaman (7/27/18) for Warner Bros, and Furious 8 (4/14/17) for Universal Pictures (it’s expected that the two ambitious movies are probably too close together on the schedule for the same director to work on both high-profile films). The Hollywood Reporter thumbnails the premise of Robotech as “a sprawling sci-fi epic that takes place at a time when Earth has developed giant robots from the technology on an alien spacecraft that crashed on a South Pacific island. Mankind is forced to use the technology to fend off three successive waves of alien invasions.”
Jupiter Ascending, the recent science fiction movie starring Channing Tatum, was not a hit, critically or otherwise. That’s not, however, necessarily a reason for Tatum not to make another science fiction movie about war between various races in outer space. That, at least, is presumably the reasoning behind this next story. Warner Bros has won a bidding war with two other studios for the rights to an adaptation of the 1974 novel The Forever War, by author Joe Haldeman, which was also adapted into a comic book. Channing Tatum is already attached to star in The Forever War as a man who is “conscripted into a military task force during a war against an alien species named the Taurans. Through many battles, the man rises up the ranks of the military, but traveling through space has time-warping effects, causing him to age normally while Earth spins centuries.” The Forever War has been in development since 2008, back when director Ridley Scott was formerly attached to direct. Scott directed Prometheus instead, which is coincidentally of interest, because The Forever War is also being adapted by Prometheus cowriter Jon Spaihts.
This will not go down as a great month for Rolling Stone magazine. And these days, pretty much every month isn’t a great one for print “magazines” in general. Publications like Rolling Stone do however continue to have something of a side business in the occasional licensing of their stories to Hollywood studios and producers in deals that sometimes lead to actual movies. This week, former New Line Cinema executive Michael De Luca made a deal for the rights to an article published a few weeks ago by Rolling Stone. Called “The Dukes of Oxy,” the story is about “a pair of teen high school wrestlers from Florida who built a multimillion-dollar business smuggling OxyContin and other painkillers.” The article was written by Guy Lawson, who also wrote the article that is being adapted as the upcoming Arms and the Dudes, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. For Dukes of Oxy, Michael De Luca is teaming up with Ansel Elgort, the star of last year’s The Fault in Our Stars, and producer Emily Gerson Saines (who produced HBO’s Temple Grandin). It’s expected that Ansel Elgort will probably also play one of the two teens.
Lionsgate is moving forward with development of a remake of one of 1997’s indie horror hits, ostensibly just in time for the movie to be filmed in 2016 and released in 2017 to mark the first film’s 20th anniversary. We’re talking, of course, about Cube, that little Canadian horror movie that showed that a creative crew can take very limited resources (basically the same small set redressed 20 different ways) and a cast of unknowns and still produce one of the year’s most popular horror films. Cube was actually released by the now-defunct Trimark Pictures, but the rights to Cube have since ended up at Lionsgate. It’s that studio that is now teaming up with producers Roy Lee and Jon Spaihts (cowriter of Prometheus) to develop a remake of Cube to be called Cubed. Roy Lee is a prolific producer whose other horror remakes have included The Ring, The Grudge, The Eye, Quarantine, and this summer’s Poltergeist. This remake of a movie about seven strangers stuck inside a deadly labyrinth of cubes will be “a sci-fi survival thriller about artificial intelligence, humanity and the birth of a new ‘digital’ race.” Cubed will be written and directed by newcomer Saman Kesh, who has previously directed short films and videos for the band Placebo.
Throughout the weeks of casting news for the sequel Independence Day 2, one would have guessed that one of the easiest roles for 20th Century Fox to cast would be the President’s daughter, Patricia Whitmore. The reason for this is that the child actor, Mae Whitman, who played the character in the 1996 hit movie, has grown up to become the prolific, critically adored, and award-winning star of such movies as The DUFF, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Instead, 20th Century Fox has cast Maika Monroe, the star of the horror hit It Follows, to play President Bill Pullman’s daughter in the sequel. As E! Online points out, Whitman hadn’t even been on 20th Century Fox’s shortlist of actresses in the running for the role. The reactions online were quick and polarizing (not surprising since It Follows has been very popular), with the pro-Mae Whitman camp arguably led by Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick. Kendrick sent out a Tweet saying (expletive deleted), “What the actual f***? @maebirdwing is talented as hell, and JUST proved she can carry a film. Smh.” Buzzfeed came out against the snubbing of Mae Whitman as well. 20th Century Fox has scheduled Independence Day 2 for release on June 24, 2016.
First off, let’s warn sensitive readers (or parents) that the main source for this story features a phrase that rhymes with “snow mitt at the mall.” One has to figure that this is not the way Warner Bros would have liked their new “DC Cinematic Universe” to have been covered in the press in the same week that Avengers: Age of Ultron is released. It’s that movie’s release, however, that probably inspired The Hollywood Reporter to do a piece about how Warner Bros’ approach at building a “cinematic universe” for Batman, Superman, and their brightly-clad super friends has differed from what Marvel has done since 2008’s Iron Man. First off, the piece points out that Warner Bros doesn’t have a Kevin Feige-like figure to guide and mold every movie (and related TV shows) into being part of the same overall picture. Warner Bros had actually approached Christopher Nolan to do just that a few years ago, but he decided three Batman movies had been enough, and the near-decade of creativity they consumed had been enough. The article also details how Warner Bros has hired “five writers not to work together but to compete” on Wonder Woman, and that similarly, “several writers” were hired to do something similar on Aquaman. The approach was colorfully compared to that expression we referred to at the beginning of this article (“throw sh** at the wall”). Warner Bros has scheduled Wonder Woman for June 23, 2017, and Aquaman for release on July 27, 2018.
Pop quiz, hotshot: name your three favorite non-documentary movies directed by James Cameron in the last 20 years. Yeah, that’s sort of impossible, because Cameron has only directed Titanic and Avatar since 1994. We finally did get Avatar in 2009, and the movie was a huge hit (it’s still the number one box office hit of all time), so Cameron has spent much of the last five years working on the sequels to Avatar, though actual filming of Avatar 2, 3, and 4 has been pushed back (along with their estimated release dates). Avatar 2 is now tentatively scheduled for December, 2017, after originally being scheduled for December, 2016. This week, composer James Horner revealed that James Cameron has actually also written a script for Avatar 5 as well, and is trying to figure out a way to condense the four sequel scripts into just three sequel scripts. We’re calling this the most Rotten Story of the Week (in a week where rotten ideas were very competitive), because all of this time spent on multiple sequels has a few negative impacts. First of all, if one anticipates more Avatar, it would be nice for the world to have Avatar 2 as soon as possible, and Cameron working on Avatar 3, 4, and 5 would seem to delay that from happening. Secondly, there’s the argument that maybe what the world’s action movie fans would like isn’t even necessarily an Avatar sequel at all. One can get nostalgic and watery-eyed thinking about the days when James Cameron competing with other directors on projects not only led to him directing great action movies, but it stepped up other people’s games as well. Twenty years of his absence has made him sort of irrelevant. And we say that as fans of movies like The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens, The Abyss, and heck, even True Lies. And hey, maybe if James Cameron has a huge hit with someone else’s movie, people will be more excited to see what he’s got planned for Avatars 2 through 5, and so on.