The world of movie development news definitely got back in business after two weeks obsessed with Sundance, but it’s still January, and Hollywood tends not to do tons of really great things in January, it seems, at any point of the development cycle. And so, we got a week that includes news for two Hasbro game/toy adaptations, and just generally more Rotten Ideas than Fresh Developments yet again.
This Week’s Top Story
ADAM SANDLER WILL BE YOUR GUIDE TO CANDY LAND
Hasbro made two big deal announcements this week for movies based on their properties. The bigger news is the long-in-development movie based on the classic board game Candy Land. The movie was recently one of several Hasbro projects dropped by Universal Pictures, which still has Battleship, the first movie produced under that disintegrating deal, coming out this summer. Hasbro moved Candy Land to Columbia Pictures, along with attaching Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison production company. Adam Sandler will star in Candy Land, as well as cowrite with Robert Smigel, who also worked with Sandler on You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. There’s no word as to whether any of the previous writers will remain involved, but director Kevin Lima (Enchanted, 102 Dalmatians) is still attached to direct Candy Land despite the studio move. First published in 1949, Candy Land is a children’s board game that takes players through a series of candy-themed areas such as the Candy Cane Forest, the Lollypop Woods and Gum Drop Mountain. There are several male characters in the game, such as Lord Licorice, Mr. Mint and King Candy, but it’s not yet known what role Adam Sandler will be playing. This was also the week that Hasbro announced that the (even longer in development) movie adaptation of the 1970s “tug of war”-friendly superhero toy Stretch Armstrong is no longer based at Universal Pictures either. Stretch Armstrong is now in development at Relativity Media, the mini-studio responsible for such recent releases as Haywire, Immortals, Season of the Witch, Shark Night 3D, and Take Me Home Tonight. The move away from Universal also included the dropping of both Taylor Lautner (Abduction, the Twilight movies) and director Rob Letterman (2010’s Gulliver’s Travels; codirector of Shark Tale, Monsters vs Aliens). Even without any writer, director or star currently attached, Relativity Media has already scheduled Stretch Armstrong for a release date of April 11, 2014. Both of these stories can be considered Rotten Ideas (especially Candy Land).
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 MATTHEW VAUGHN WILL RE-ENROLL AT XAVIER’S SCHOOL FOR GIFTED YOUNGSTERS
This story is an example of two different movie news story styles: a) the buried lead and b) the confirmation of what most movie fans presumed would happen anyway. Regardless, it’s still big news for fans of last year’s X-Men: First Class, which is just shy of being the best rated X-Men movie on the RT Tomatometer. And here’s the actual news: in a business story about 20th Century Fox production president Emma Watts signing a new contract, it was also revealed that X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn has been signed to direct the X-Men: First Class sequel, as well. The bad news is that the sequel is being written by producer Simon Kinberg, whose previous films include cowriting credits on X-Men: The Last Stand, Jumper and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. However, Matthew Vaughn (and writing partner Ashley Miller) generally also work on the scripts of the movies that Vaughn directs, so Kinberg’s influence shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a deathknelll for the “prequel sequel” just yet.
#2 RUSSELL CROWE IS ARONOFSKY’S CHOICE TO PLAY NOAH
No deals are yet made, but Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) and Paramount Pictures are getting close to greenlight his Noah dream project, and we now know the two stars Aronofsky is hoping to land. Aronofsky hopes a deal can be made with Russell Crowe to build the legendary “Ark” builder, and with Liam Neeson to also sign on for another (currently unknown) role. Meanwhile, another project that Aronofsky had at one time been considering as his post-Black Swan film (before eventually focusing on Noah instead) is called Serena, and that film got casting news this week too. Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) will play a pair of newlyweds in 1929 North Carolina who move there to start a lumber empire, but their relationship soon goes sour. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence also recently wrapped filming of this fall’s The Silver Linings Playbook, which they will be costarring in together. Back when Darren Aronofsky was developing Serena, he was hoping that Angelina Jolie would costar in the role that is now going to Jennifer Lawrence. The new director adapting the 2008 novel by Ron Rash will be Susanne Bier (Things We Lost in the Fire, After the Wedding).
#3 RIDLEY SCOTT COUNSELS CORMAC MCCARTHY’S THE COUNSELOR
It was just two weeks ago that we found out about The Counselor, the first spec script written by author Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses). It didn’t take as long as usual for that script to find an interested producer-director, and when it happened, the interested party was, as they say, a “biggie.” Despite already having many other projects in development, Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down, Alien, Gladiator) is now in talks to come aboard to direct and produce The Counselor as his next film after this summer’s sci-fi epic Prometheus. The story of The Counselor revolves around a respected lawyer who thinks he can get away with entering the drug business, only to discover that, yeah, it wasn’t such a great idea. The tone of The Counselor is being frequently compared to McCarthy’s Oscar winning No Country for Old Men. If The Counselor is indeed Ridley Scott’s next film as director, it will mean further delays for other Scott projects, such as Monopoly, The Forever War, Child 44, the Gertrude Bell and Gucci biopics and the sequel/spinoff of Blade Runner.
#4 OSCAR WINNERS PACINO, WALKEN AND ARKIN ARE ALL STAND UP GUYS
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin are all Academy Award winners (for Scent of a Woman, The Deer Hunter and Little Miss Sunshine, respectively). Now, the three veteran actors will team up for the Lionsgate action comedy Stand Up Guys, about two aging criminals who are faced with a difficult decision when one of them is hired to kill one of their friends. Stand Up Guys will be directed by actor/producer/director Fisher Stevens, whose previous films as director were the romantic comedy Just a Kiss and the documentary Crazy Love. Fisher Stevens also won an Oscar for producing the documentary The Cove, but most people probably know him from costarring in movies like Hackers and Short Circuit.
#5 BILL HADER AND JOSH GAD ARE ME AND MY SHADOW
The last time that DreamWorks Animation produced a movie using any “traditional animation” was back in 2003 with Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas, which was a huge box office disappointment despite a cast that included Brad Pitt in the starring role. Ten years later, DreamWorks will be ready to finally return to traditional animation (at least partially) with the 11/13/13 release of Me and My Shadow, and this week, we learned who some of the voice cast is going to be. Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) will voice a shadow who is forced to take control of his boring human Stanley (voiced by Josh Gad of The Book of Mormon and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) after an event in the shadow world endangers their lives. Kate Hudson will provide the voice of Stanley’s potential love interest in the human world. The “at least partially” part earlier was used because the human world will be depicted using CGI animation, while the shadow world will be traditionally animated, so that Me and My Shadow is a hybrid animated film, rather than just being one or the other. Me and My Shadow will also be the diretorial debut of Alessandro Carloni, who has worked on several of DreamWorks’ previous projects as an animator.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#5 WILL SMITH AND RUSSELL CROWE WILL HELP TELL A WINTER’S TALE
Screenwriter/producer Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, Lost in Space, The Da Vinci Code) has been trying to make his directorial debut for years now with a Warner Bros adaptation of the 1983 “magical realism” novel Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. The story revolves around a thief who falls in love with a dying girl who lives in a house he just burgled. Instead of starting with the two leads, Goldsman has instead found two A-list stars to take supporting roles. Will Smith will play a judge, and Russell Crowe will play the mob boss that the burglar works for. Winter’s Tale has long been in danger of being scrapped by Warner Bros, but with Smith and Crowe now attached, it is perceived as having a very good chance of finally being greenlit. Although Akiva Goldsman has written and produced some “Fresh” movies, the majority of his movies are still rated Rotten, and that’s why Winter’s Tale is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas. Plus, it features a flying white horse.
#4 YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN A DEATH WISH MIGHT COME TRUE… OR GET REMADE
Death Wish was a 1974 “revenge killer” movie starring Charles Bronson that ended up spawning four sequels. Sylvester Stallone considered rebooting the franchise in the mid-2000s, but that project eventually fell apart. Now, the idea of a Death Wish remake has resurfaced, thanks to director Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team, The Grey), who will write the adaptation of the 1972 Brian Garfield novel for MGM and Paramount. Joe Carnahan apparently heard a lot of feedback online about the idea of Death Wish being remade, because he soon after posted about it on his Twitter feed. Here’s what Carnahan had to say, “I’m doing Death Wish. But this version is a re-imagining of the book and set in present day Los Angeles. The L.A. of Collateral. It’s on buses, cabs, metro trains. I want to show an unseen version of L.A. L.A. on foot. Prowling. Hunting. The vast emptiness of downtown.” The idea of a Death Wish remake is a Rotten Idea not so much because of Carnahan’s record (which is basically mixed on the Tomatometer), but because, except for the first film, the Death Wish franchise was sort of awful.
#3 ANOTHER BIN LADEN ASSASSINATION MOVIE CASTS UP
Director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) was considered quite lucky when Osama Bin Laden was killed last year, because at that very moment, she was preparing a project with the working title of Kill Bin Laden. Now currently untitled, that project is now filming and has a cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong and Jessica Chastain. Bigelow’s project is no longer alone, however, as a movie called Code Name Geronimo is now filming in New Mexico, and it also depicts the true story of the small team of Navy SEALS who stormed Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. The actors announced this week as starring in Code Name Geronimo include Cam Gigandet (Twilight), Anson Mount (AMC’s Hell on Wheels), Freddy Rodriguez (HBO’s Six Feet Under) and rapper-turned-actor Xzibit (as Navy SEALS). William Fichtner (Armageddon), Kathleen Robertson (Beverly Hills 90210) and Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie) will also costar as CIA operatives. Code Name Geronimo is being directed by John Stockwell (Turistas, Blue Crush, Crazy/Beautiful) from a script by newcomer Kendall Lampkin. Code Name Geronimo is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because it feels to this writer like a quickly put together reaction to Kathryn Bigelow’s already (relatively) long-in-development project, and generally, hasty filmmaking tends to get sloppy.
#2 LIONSGATE’S TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION: IT’S FUN TO USE ‘S
Surprising no one, Lionsgate and Tyler Perry have announced their 14th film together in just 7 years. This time, it’s another “comedy” in which Tyler Perry will cross-dress as the elderly lady Madea, in Madea’s Witness Protection. Eugene Levy (American Pie, SCTV) will costar as a New York City executive at the center of a Ponzi Scheme who seeks witness protection only to find himself placed with Madea in her Southern small town. There’s not really much more to say, except to point out that Tyler Perry’s prolific filmography continues to rate poorly with critics, and that’s why Madea’s Witness Protection is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#1: For this week’s Most Rotten Idea, see this week’s Top Story, specifically the whole section about Adam Sandler starring in a Candy Land movie. If that doesn’t paint enough of a mental image for you, consider Adam Sandler’s RT Tomatometer history. Oh, Hollywood…
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.