This week’s Ketchup covers a week packed nearly to the full ten stories with high profile affairs that are much more typical of the blockbuster days of Summer than pre-Halloween Autumn. Included in the mix are news stories about Arnold Schwarzengger’s return to Conan the Barbarian, James Bond movies #24 and #25, and three different Marvel superhero movies (The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier). James Cameron, Johnny Depp, Jeremy Renner, and Adam Sandler get name checked in this article too.
This Week’s Top Story
ARNOLD SCHWARZEGGER TO HEAR THE LAMENTATIONS OF THE GRANDMAS IN THE LEGEND OF CONAN
Hollywood sometimes operates in years and decades the way other people think in weeks and months. Even as late as 2012, some of the movies that are finally getting made first started with trade announcements as far back as the 1990s. However, by the time these movies actually get made, they’re not exactly the films that people were led to expect back in the day. One such example would be a project formerly known as King Conan: Crown of Iron, which was written by Conan the Barbarian director and writer John Milius, and was always described as a direct sequel that would cover Robert E. Howard’s creation’s later years as the ruler of Aquilonia. That same basic concept was announced this week by Universal Pictures as a new film (except for the John Milius part) as The Legend of Conan, with 65 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger already attached to return to the role that made him a star back in 1982. Much of the online press about The Legend of Conan is describing it as a “reboot,” though that word actually never appears in any of the quotes directly from Universal. Instead, The Legend of Conan can be solidly described as a sequel to the original 1982 Conan the Barbarian, ignoring the first sequel Conan the Destroyer, and the 2011 Conan the Barbarian (which actually was a reboot) starring Jason Momoa. Universal Pictures wants to get The Legend of Conan made much quicker than Milius’ previous attempt, and is already aiming for a release sometime in the summer of 2014. To that end, the studio has recruited producer and writer Chris Morgan, whose previous work for Universal Pictures has included Wanted, the last three Fast and the Furious movies, and next year’s Fast and Furious 6 and 47 Ronin. Right now, Morgan is only specifically attached as producer, with his possible writing duties on The Legend of Conan depending upon whether he’s done writing the seventh Fast and the Furious movie in time for Universal to meet that Summer 2014 release target. Universal also needs to find a director for The Legend of Conan.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THE JAMES BOND JUGGERNAUT PROCEEDS WITH PLANS FOR FILMS 24 AND 25
There was a longer than usual four-year gap between James Bond films #22 (Quantum of Solace in 2008) and #23 (Skyfall, opening next month) due to MGM’s financial problems. However, the franchise is now back to committing to a 2 year rotation, with word this week that screenwriter John Logan has been hired to work on the 24th and 25th official entries in the James Bond film series. Logan cowrote Skyfall, and his previous credits include working with Martin Scorsese on Hugo and The Aviator, with Johnny Depp on Rango and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and with Russell Crowe on Gladiator and Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming Noah. Logan is attached to both #24 and #25 because the idea that he pitched to Barbara Broccoli involves a two film story arc (even more so than the arc that spanned Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace). The plan is for #24 to be filmed at Pinewood Studios in England in 2013, aiming for a release date in the fall of 2014 (most likely November). As for what might come after James Bond #25 (which Daniel Craig is signed to star in already), the Internet was also all aflutter this week about the promise of the post-Daniel-Craig era. What we specifically learned is that James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has met in the recent past with British actor Idris Elba (Prometheus, Thor, The Wire) about the possibility of him someday taking over the franchise. There are lots of factors here, such as whether Idris Elba would actually want to do it, and also his age, as he would likely be pushing 50 by the time Daniel Craig retires as James Bond. Craig was the first blonde James Bond; is the world now ready for the first Bond who was on an HBO series? Who costarred in a Marvel superhero movie? Who has a beard? I know there’s another “first” I’m forgetting…
#2 JAMES CAMERON TO FOLLOW THE AVATAR SEQUEL WITH A VISIT TO THE INFORMATIONIST
With James Cameron directing two Avatar sequels back-to-back in a plan that is likely to keep him busy for much of the rest of this decade, there is high online curiosity concerning what the director of Aliens and Titanic will do next. If this week’s James Cameron news comes to pass, the immediate answer might not be what you’re expecting (especially if you’re expecting the long-in-development adaptation of Battle Angel Alita). Instead, Cameron is now attached to produce and direct an adaptation of the 2011 Taylor Stevens novel The Informationist. Unlike most of Cameron’s previous films, The Informationist is a story devoid of any elements requiring flashy special effects or CGI work. Instead, The Informationist is the story of a woman who grew up in Africa who is “hired by a Texas oil billionaire to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago” where she finds herself “betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead.” Of course, a lot can change in the next five years (we’re probably talking about at least that long until Avatar 3 is completely finished), and by 2017, James Cameron may direct Battle Angel Alita next instead, or a completely different movie we’ve not even heard of yet.
#3 IMAGINE AL PACINO’S KID IS JEREMY RENNER; IT’S EASY IF YOU TRY (WAIT… IS IT?)
Imagine is the name of an independent drama about an aging 1970s rock and roll musician whose discovery of a long lost letter from John Lennon leads him to connecting with his adult son he’s never actually known. Imagine is also the title of a movie that now officially has some of the biggest names in Hollywood attached to star in it. Al Pacino and Jeremy Renner will be playing the father and son, respectively (and obviously), and Julianne Moore will play the owner of a New Jersey hotel where the rock star moves to while trying to get to know his son. Imagine will also mark the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love, Tangled; cowriter of Cars, Bolt).
#4 JOHNNY DEPP MEDITATES ON TRANSCENDENCE
It’s far too rare that we hear about a Johnny Depp movie that doesn’t involve Tim Burton or isn’t an expensive Walt Disney event film (or both, as in the case of Alice in Wonderland). This week’s news is an entirely new concept that isn’t based upon anything pre-existing, but Depp’s price tag is still quite high (at least $20 million or 15% of the box office gross, whichever is higher). The new movie in question is called Transcendence, and it’s the story of a man who finds himself inside an evil computer. Curiously, the references for Transcendence are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Inception, and not, say, either of the two TRON movies. Transcendence will be the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, whose films have included pretty much everything Christopher Nolan has done, dating all the way back to Memento, as well as The Italian Job and Moneyball. Wally Pfister is currently casting other roles, with possibilities (none of which are locked down yet) including Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) as the female lead, Christoph Waltz in a supporting role, and either James McAvoy or Tobey Maguire as the other male lead (possibly the inventor of the evil computer). Transcendence was written by newcomer screenwriter Jack Paglen, and filming is expected to start in early 2013. Warner Bros is handling distribution for production company Alcon Entertainment, with which they have a first look deal. The Transcendence announcement came in the same week that began with Wally Pfister making online news for criticizing the camera work on Joss Whedon’s The Avengers as “appalling.” You can read what Whedon thought of that remark at this link here.
#5 DAVID OYELOWO TO STAR IN THE SUGAR RAY ROBINSON BIOPIC SWEET THUNDER
David Oyelowo is an English actor who has attracted a lot of positive critical attention for roles in movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Last King of Scotland, and The Help (he’s also in Lincoln and Jack Reacher), but there hasn’t yet been that one big role that makes Oyelowo a household name. The movie that does exactly that could be Sweet Thunder, an independently produced biopic about the life of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, based on a biography of the same title by Wil Haygood (who also adapted his own screenplay). The idea for all of this started on the set of The Butler (the movie about the White House butler who served under eight different U.S. presidents), in which Oyelowo also costars, and was also based upon an article by Wil Haygood. As for Sugar Ray Robinson, he is of course still considered one of the greatest boxers ever, predating Muhammed Ali as one of the first African American pugilists to achieve international fame and success. Robinson’s career also included several fights against Jake LaMotta (as portrayed in Raging Bull).
#6 PATRICK WILSON AND LIV TYLER LAUNCH OFF FOR SPACE STATION 76
Almost every movie covered each week in the Ketchup is at least a few months, if not several years, from even starting filming. What’s far rarer is that a movie manages to escape press coverage all the way to and through filming, and is only covered online after filming has already wrapped. Such subterfuge is typically only possible for an independent movie like Space Station 76, the science fiction dramedy that marks the directorial debut of prolific character actor Jack Plotnick. Patrick Wilson (Watchmen), Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings), Matt Bomer, Marisa Coughlan, and Jerry O’Connell star in this story of a space station set in a 1970s version of the future. The title makes this writer think of the Martin Landau TV series Space 1999, which was also set in a space station, so that show might be the reference point Plotnick is aiming for. Space Station 76 is being described as “a metaphor for [Plotnick’s] life growing up in 1970s suburbia,” which might also give you a notion of what kind of “science fiction comedy/drama” the film will be. Or… people can just speculate about what Liv Tyler looks like in a 1970s-style spacesuit. Or both. Anyway, considering the timing of the film’s announcement, one has to wonder if Space Station 76 might have been produced in time to make its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
#7 THIS WEEK IN MARVEL MOVIE NEWS: THE WOLVERINE, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Let’s start with The Wolverine, the fifth (credited, non cameo) movie in which Hugh Jackman will play X-Men member Logan. What every fan thought he knew about The Wolverine, dating back to when it was going to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, was that it was another prequel, covering the time when Logan was in Japan, and fell in love, as originally depicted in the very first Wolverine comic book mini-series written by Chris Claremont with art by Frank Miller. Although some of the images we’ve seen thus far do seem to suggest scenes that will be flashbacks, this week, we learned that the bulk of the movie will not be a prequel at all. Instead, The Wolverine will be predominantly set at some point after all the previous movies, including X-Men: The Last Stand, and the deaths of three of the major characters (as for that being a spoiler, let’s be honest here: if you haven’t seen a 2006 X-Men movie yet six years later, you probably were never going to). 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Wolverine for July 26, 2013. Something else we thought we knew was that X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn would be returning for the sequel/prequel (it’s both, because of time travel) X-Men: Days of Future Past. Well, that’s no longer true, and so Fox is in a hurry to find a replacement, who might just end up being Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Men movies, and the guy who arguably got this whole resurgence of super hero movies started again back in 2000. Newly appointed 20th Century Fox X-Men/Fantastic Four overseer Mark Millar also let slip this week that the movie will feature “robots,” by which he probably means the Sentinels. A Days of Future Past adaptation without the Sentinels would have been a little strange, so that’s good to know; let’s just hope they’re still huge and purple. Finally, going back to actual Marvel Studios productions, casting continued this week for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. One of the actors who read for a role is Frank Grillo (The Grey, Warrior). Although he may not have even landed a role, from Grillo, we may have found out that one of the villains in the sequel may be Crossbones, who was indeed involved with one of the most famous stories featuring Captain America, the Falcon, and the Winter Soldier (whoever he is, wink). Or… the whole Crossbones thing might be a clever fake out (it’s been known to happen).
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 SOME ANIMAL FARM ADAPTATIONS ARE MORE ANIMAL FARM-Y THAN OTHERS
One might think that the directorial debut of “Gollum” actor Andy Serkis (after a year of working as second unit director for Peter Jackson on The Hobbit) would be a shoe-in for “Fresh Development” status. His work on the Tolkien movies, King Kong, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes has basically made Andy Serkis sort of a favorite son among movie fan types. But it’s also wise to read the actual text of movie announcements, and not just, say, the headlines that show up on Twitter and Facebook. Serkis will be making his directorial debut with a motion capture adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, to be produced by his production company The Imaginarium. Animal Farm was of course the 1945 allegorical novel (published before 1984) that used the pigs and other animals of a British farm to make very specific political points of particular interest to readers in the 1940s. And that brings us to the “Rotten Idea” part, as Andy Serkis says that, “We?re keeping it fable-istic and [aimed at] a family audience. We are not going to handle the politics in a heavy-handed fashion.” And right there is the problem. If you tone down the politics of Animal Farm, which is basically what makes it Animal Farm, the resulting movie will resemble what… Babe or Charlotte’s Web?
#1 ADAM SANDLER LASSOES WESTERN SPOOF RIDICULOUS SIX
Adam Sandler is one of the most studio-loyal movie stars working today, with next summer’s Grown Ups 2 being Sandler’s 16th film for Sony Pictures or one of its subsidiaries. This week, Sandler signed up for the first non-Sony Sandler-starring movie since 2008’s Bedtime Stories (which was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures). Paramount Pictures has committed to an April, 2013 filming start date for Ridiculous 6, a Western spoof with a title that references The Magnificent Seven, a remake of which Tom Cruise is also attached to star in at some point. Ridiculous 6 is a Happy Madison production, and ended up at Paramount Pictures after Sony put the comedy into turnaround. Although these films weren’t specifically mentioned, one has to wonder if the recent box office failures of Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy might have to had an influence on Sony’s decision not to greenlight Ridiculous 6. Sandler cowrote Ridiculous 6 with his frequent 1990s screenwriting partner Tim Herlihy (The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison). There’s not a director yet, but Paramount Pictures has already scheduled Ridiculous 6 for Spring Break weekend in 2014. As for why Ridiculous 6 is the week’s Most Rotten Idea, check out all the green splotches over on Adam Sandler’s RT Tomatometer page.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.