This week’s Ketchup includes news of two new CGI- animated movies based on classic children’s book characters (Babar and Curious George), director news for the new Jack Ryan movie and the latest from screenwriter Diablo Cody, as well as new roles for Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Maggie Grace, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron and Bruce Willis. We get the week started, however, with the most Rotten Idea (which is usually at the bottom of the column). But this one’s a doozy!
Earlier this month, this writer started seeing the name “Justin Bieber” showing up on sites like Twitter and Google as being a hot new search, but I had no idea who he was. The reaction of this jaded, 39-year-old Gen Xer can probably best be paraphrased as “WTF is Justin Bieber?” Then, one day while browsing a magazine rack, I noticed that Justin Bieber’s face appeared prominently on 23 of the 36 “teen celebrity” magazine covers (yes, I counted!). So, I finally (begrudgingly) gave into my curiosity and looked him up. My first hunch was that he was probably one of the newest American Idol contestants, but nope, Justin Bieber is actually a baby-faced, 16-year-old pop singer who got his first exposure on YouTube. Suffice it to say, that sated my curiosity, and I didn’t really feel compelled to go and actually listen to any of his songs. If you didn’t know who Justin Bieber was either, well, now you know. Anyway, Bieber is apparently quite popular with the female younglings out there, and so Paramount Pictures has greenlit a biopic which will (of course) also be in 3D. When the news first broke, it came with the surprising news that the director would be Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. That, however, didn’t last long, as two days later, Guggenheim announced that he had dropped out of the Justin Bieber project. As Mike Fleming of Deadline guesses, one has to wonder if Guggenheim got besieged by “razzing from all of his documentary peers.” Justin Bieber will be playing himself in the biopic, which will also feature performances from his current concert tour, including footage from Madison Square Garden. Paramount is scheduling a release on February 11, 2011, just in time for Valentine’s Day, because as Deadline puts it, “when you think of romance, you think of a 16-year-old who looks much younger.” And now, here’s what Justin Bieber himself had to say via his Twitter account, “This is so sick!! Gonna come out in theatre’s Worldwide Valentine’s 2011!!! I’m taking this thing worldwide thanks to u all!! Hyped!” and “Next Valentine’s we r coming with a major 3D Movie telling the story with an Oscar winning director and also filmin the tour at MSG in NYC!!” The young lad is truly a literary giant, no doubt, as he has also made a deal with HarperCollins for a memoir about his life story, which will probably be tied into this movie. As for why the Justin Bieber biopic is this week’s most Rotten Idea… really? I have to explain this one? To borrow the vernacular of Bieber’s young fans, LOL GTFO!
In this summer following the end of LOST, many of the people involved with the show’s success have been lining up new jobs (such as Damon Lindelof last week signing on to rewrite the Alien prequel). On the LOST director front, the man who emerged as the show’s signature helmer, directing many of the best episodes (including the series finale) was Jack Bender. Bender’s early film resume was not that impressive (being mostly Child’s Play 3) but over the last ten years, his work on Bad Robot shows like Alias and LOST has shown vast improvements for Bender. This week, word leaked out that Jack Bender is close to landing the job of directing Moscow, the long-planned new entry in the Jack Ryan film franchise. J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot have a strong relationship at Paramount (due to the success of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible III), and so it makes sense that Paramount would recruit someone like Jack Bender to shepherd their aging Jack Ryan property as well. Jack Ryan is of course the intelligence expert character created by Tom Clancy who has been portrayed in the past by Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October), Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) and Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears). The fourth actor to take on Jack Ryan will be Chris Pine, who emerged as a star by playing the rebooted Captain Kirk in Bad Robot’s Star Trek. Moscow continues the de-aging of Jack Ryan; this time around he will be fresh out of the Marines and working for a Russian billionaire, until his new job sends him on the run after being implicated in a terrorist plot. Moscow also has the distinction of being the first Jack Ryan movie not directly based upon a novel by Tom Clancy.
One of the more recent mini-trends in Hollywood is the idea of the “recent reboot,” in which a franchise is given a remake despite a relatively recent effort. Mostly, this has been a superhero thing, with The Incredible Hulk and the upcoming Spider-Man reboot being two high profile examples. The Haunted Mansion and Van Helsing are also getting similar treatment. Universal Pictures had one of their biggest box office hits in recent years with Despicable Me, the first film from the new CGI animation studio Illumination Entertainment. That means Universal has set up Curious George as a project at Illumination as well, just four years after the studio’s live action/CGI mix fizzled at the box office with just $69 million in 2006. The failure of Curious George was seen as a particular blunder for Universal as the studio had been attempting to establish the H.A. Rey-created monkey as a new trademark (ala Mickey Mouse at Disney). Rather than featuring a live actor as the Man with the Yellow Hat in the new Curious George, this new project will be entirely CGI animated. Larry Stuckey, one of the cowriters of Universal’s upcoming Little Fockers is currently working on the new Curious George script. Other branded properties that Illumination Entertainment is adapting as upcoming animated movies include Where’s Waldo? and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. What saves this reboot of Curious George from being labelled as a “Rotten Idea” is the 79% Tomatometer for Despicable Me, and the possibility that Illumination might be able to keep up that level of quality on their future animated movies.
Temple Hill, the production company behind The Twilight Saga, has found their next popular branded property to adapt, and like Twilight, it’s one most associated with a young audience: Babar. First introduced in 1931 in French picture books, Babar is an elephant who talks and walks around on two legs after being raised by humans in a big city. Babar returns to his homeland where he is crowned the King of the Elephants and he begins to bring civilized ways to the land of the elephants, while also engaging in war with the neighboring nation of rhinoceroses. In addition to dozens of books, Babar has also starred in animated television series and movies. Temple Hill’s plans for the Babar movie is to make “a family comedy that will mix live-action with CG.”
Maggie Grace is developing quite a career out of specializing in a very specific role: the kidnapped daughter in Luc Besson-produced movies. After costarring in Taken last year, Grace has signed back on for Taken 2, and is also reuniting with Besson on a sci-fi action movie called Lockout. Based upon a story by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional), Lockout tells the story of a wrongly convicted man (Guy Pearce) who is sent to rescue the U.S. President’s daughter from an outer space prison that has been taken over by the inmates. Lockout will mark the feature directorial debuts of James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, who previously directed the 2004 short film Prey Alone. Really, the only thing that’s missing from this story is news about Luc Besson and Maggie Grace collaborating on an adaptation of the Resident Evil 4 game. Lockout will start filming in 3D on September 7, and Sony Pictures is in talks to distribute.
Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) and screenwriter Diablo Cody (Jennifer’s Body), the creative team behind Juno, are reuniting for another movie: Young Adult. The independent comedy-drama will star Charlize Theron as a ghost writer of young adult novels who tries to “reclaim her identity” by rekindling a relationship with her high school boyfriend (who is now married and a father), as well other high school acquaintances. John Malkovich’s Mr. Mudd production company is also producing, and they are currently seeking financing with hopes of starting production on November 10, 2010 in New York.
Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, The A-Team) recently did a script readthrough with Robert De Niro on a long developing movie frequently listed as one of the “best unmade” movies in Hollywood. The project is called Honeymoon With Harry, and it was written by Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby; cowriter of Crash and the last two James Bond movies). Haggis based the script upon a novel by Bart Baker that was acquired by New Line Cinema back in 2004, but then the novel itself was never actually published (though it may now be once the movie gets made). Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs) is considering Honeymoon With Harry as his next movie as director. If they sign on, Cooper and De Niro would be starring as the two men in the life of a recently deceased woman. Cooper would play her fiance (a former drunk and womanizer), and De Niro would play her father who tried to break up their relationship, recognizing aspects of himself in his daughter’s would-be groom. At one point, Vince Vaughn and Jack Nicholson had been in talks to play the roles.
Bruce Willis has joined the cast of a Summit Entertainment thriller called The Cold Light of Day. Henry Cavill (The Tudors) has also already been cast, and Sigourney Weaver is rumored to be up for the role of the film’s villain. The Cold Light of Day tells the story of an American (Cavill) whose family is kidnapped while on vacation in Spain, giving him only hours to find them while also uncovering a government conspiracy and the secrets that connect their disappearance with his father’s secrets (Willis?). The original script was cowritten by Scott Wiper (cowriter of The Condemned) and TV producer John Petro, with a rewrite by Richard Price (Sea of Love, The Color of Money and several episodes of The Wire). The Cold Light of Day will mark the next movie for director Mabrouk El Mechri, whose 2008 film JCVD was a surprise dramatic success for Jean Claude Van Damme. Filming of The Cold Light of Day is scheduled to start on September 6th on location in Spain.
This news can probably be interpreted as a sign of how far Tom Cruise is starting to fall from his former perch, that he is now taking on a role that didn’t work the first time for Hugh Jackman. Leading up to San Diego Comic-Con, there was a report that Guillermo Del Toro was possibly considering writing and producing a new Van Helsing movie as a replacement for leaving The Hobbit. When it was revealed that Del Toro is instead writing/producing a new Haunted Mansion movie (as well as his next movie being At the Mountains of Madness), most fans probably though the idea of a new Van Helsing was dead as well. Not so, we learned this week, as the missing piece of the puzzle is who else is producing the new Van Helsing for Universal: Tom Cruise. Even though Del Toro has left the project, the actor who once played the Vampire Lestat in Interview with the Vampire may also someday play the great vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. This is one of the week’s “Rotten Ideas” just because the world is not really crying out for another Van Helsing movie. Fans might have been able to give it a try with Guillermo del Toro involved, but now, it just seems like a direct-to-video sequel idea. Starring Tom Cruise.
Last summer, Dimension Films announced that they had acquired remake rights to the classic 1981 horror/comedy film An American Werewolf in London. Since then, there’s been no news for the project, so as a major fan of that movie, I had hopes that Dimension had just forgotten all about this idea. But nope, someone there still thinks it’s a good plan. Dimension Films has hired screenwriter Fernley Phillips (The Number 23) to adapt John Landis’ awesome script to “give it a modern spin.” I guess that means that when the werewolf terrorizes London this time around, there will be people standing around with phones recording it for YouTube. Great. How modern. There’s something else that should be remembered about An American Werewolf in London, besides it being one of the first movies to inject the monster movie genre with a sense of post-modern humor. Rick Baker’s werewolf transformation scene (set to CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”) remains to this day one of the most effective ever, and there’s little chance that modern CGI artists can come even close to replicating it without embarassing themselves. It’s also worth noting that back in 1997, there was also a sequel called An American Werewolf in Paris, and it was spectacularly awful. In most weeks this would be the most “Rotten Idea” for obvious reasons. But most weeks don’t have…
Honestly, what could be more Rotten than a Justin Bieber biopic?