This week’s Ketchup covers a relatively slow one, following last week’s which was full of big movie franchise news. At least one big franchise (Star Trek) does get covered here, but technically, even that happened last week, just after the Ketchup was published last Friday. Other stuff that made the cut this week includes movies based on Absolutely Fabulous, Where’s Waldo? and the Facebook game Monster Galaxy, and new roles for Steve Carell, Michael Fassbender, Clive Owen and Elijah Wood.
This Week’s Top Story
“KHAAAANNN” YOU SEE BENICIO DEL TORO AS THE VILLAIN IN STAR TREK 2?
With the large ensemble cast already signed to return for the sequel to the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, the biggest question mark has always been who would be joining them as the new villain. The answer was revealed this week to be Puerto Rican/Spanish actor Benicio Del Toro, who won an Oscar for Traffic, and also costarred in Sin City, Snatch and The Usual Suspects. The deal came after meetings between Del Toro and producer/director J.J. Abrams, although Abrams reportedly allowed one detail to remain a mystery even to Del Toro himself: what character would Benicio Del Toro be playing? The obvious guess (which may or may not be correct) among fans would be Khan Noonien Singh, a super soldier from the past who was portrayed by Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban in both the original 1960s TV series (“Space Seed”) and in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The sequel has been written by returning writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, as well as LOST executive producer Damon Lindelof, who also collaborated with Orci and Kurtzman on Cowboys & Aliens, and cowrote Ridley Scott’s upcoming science fiction epic Prometheus. Filming of the Star Trek sequel is scheduled by Bad Robot and Paramount Pictures to start in January, 2012.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE RUSSIAN SPIES
Although 20th Century Fox set plans for a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes into motion just last week, the project is far from ready to go, allowing director Rupert Wyatt time to take on another film. Wyatt has been a hot property in Hollywood since the film’s release, and this week, he appears to have found his next project. Wyatt is in negotiations with Warner Bros to direct Londongrad, a spy movie based upon the real events of the final weeks of the life of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko made international news in November, 2006 when he became mortally ill in London from poisoning by radioactive polonium-210, and subsequently made death bed accusations that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his execution. Michael Fassbender, who costarred in this summer’s other 20th Century Fox reboot/prequel (X-Men: First Class) is also in negotiations to star in Londongrad as Alexander Litvinenko. Screenwriter David Scarpa, who wrote the 2008 remake The Day the Earth Stood Still and cowrote The Last Castle, adapted the Londongrad script from the Alan Cowell book The Terminal Spy.
#2 IT WORKED FOR SEX AND THE CITY, SO WHY NOT… ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE?
British comedienne/actress Jennifer Saunders has announced plans to write a movie based upon the popular and long running BBC TV series Absolutely Fabulous (which she also created). Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley starred in the various (and still continuing) incarnations of Absolutely Fabulous as two older women whose various traits include a fascination with staying in touch with youth culture (despite their ages) and the consumption of mass quantities of drugs and alcohol. The BBC has recently commissioned three new Absolutely Fabulous TV specials, the first of which will be air during the Christmas, 2011 season. Jennifer Saunders is currently busy working on the Spice Girls stage musical Viva Forever in London, but expects to start writing the Absolutely Fabulous movie in 2012. The premise of Ab Fab: The Movie appears to borrow its set up from The Hangover, as it will start with “Patsy and Edina waking up hungover in the empty drifting yacht of an oligarch in the middle of the ocean.” Ab Fab: The Movie will actually be the second movie based upon the series, as there was already a French film in 2001 called Absolument Fabuleux based upon the series. The “Fresh or Rotten” status of an Absolutely Fabulous movie probably depends upon whether one is a fan of the show, so it’s a borderline Fresh Development this week.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#7 THIS WEEK IN BIG BUDGET REWRITES: GODZILLA, ASTEROIDS, SINGULARITY, ONE THOUSAND A.E.
This entry is a catch-all laundry list item covering four different movies that all had two things in common: they’re big budget science fiction movies, and they all got rewrites this week. That last part is not necessarily “Rotten” in every case (and in fact, it might be a good thing), but there’s enough that’s “Rotten” about at least three of the four to still get this group story listed here. Possibly the Freshest of the four is Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ planned reboot of Godzilla, to be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters). The script was formerly being worked on by David Goyer, but now it will be rewritten by Max Borenstein (2003’s Swordswallowers and Thin Men), who has lately become something of a WB studio darling (although none of his projects have yet been produced). Over at Universal Pictures, the studio has hired one of the cowriters (Evan Spiliotopoulos) of next year’s Snow White and the Huntsman to rewrite their adaptation of the Atari arcade game Asteroids. Although Asteroids was ostensibly just about a little triangle shooting dots at big rocks (turning them into smaller rocks), the movie’s story is now described as being “the story of two estranged brothers that must team up to save Earth from an alien race.” In the case of One Thousand A.E., it’s a case of a writer (Stephen Gaghan of Syriana and Traffic) with a pretty good resume signing on to rewrite the new film from a director with a spottier track record (M. Night Shyamalan). Will Smith and Jaden Smith will star in One Thousand A.E. as a father and son who crash land on Earth a thousand years after mankind has abandoned the planet. Finally, there is Singularity, the next big budget science fiction extravaganza from director Roland Emmerich, the director of that other Godzilla reboot. The $175 million Sony project was expected to start filming in March, but it has now been put on hold while Singularity gets a rewrite by Ray Kurzweil, a “futurist and AI specialist.” Kurzweil’s hiring suggests that the problems with Singularity involve the science behind the premise, which involves “a young man whose body is made up of a swarm of nanobots, giving him all sorts of human powers at the same time it brings unwanted attention from an evil corporation.”
#6 MGM ASKS WHERE’S WALDO?
Just a week after Walden Media and Jennifer Lopez announced movie plans for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, a very similarly themed movie project has also been announced. MGM has acquired the feature film rights to the Where’s Waldo? franchise from Classic Media, based upon the series of books created by Martin Handford, first published in 1987. The Where’s Waldo? books (and also videogames, etc) involve large crowd shots that challenge the reader to find the thin lead character wearing a red-and-white-striped sweater. MGM is just the latest studio to start development on a Where’s Waldo? live action movie, following previous attempts at both Nickelodeon/Paramount (in the early 2000s) and Illumination/Universal (in 2009). Where’s Waldo? is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas based mostly on the non-narrative nature of the puzzle books.
#5 CLIVE OWEN CAN’T RECALL WHY HE’S STARRING IN RECALL
Clive Owen has signed on to star in an independent thriller entitled Recall, about an NSA agent trying to piece together what exactly happened during a botched hostage rescue operation. Recall will be the first film in over a decade for director Harold Becker, since 2001’s Domestic Disturbance. Harold Becker’s filmography, which also includes Sea of Love and Mercury Rising, includes a total of 9 movies with RT Tomatometer scores, only 3 of which are “Fresh” (and 2 of those are early in his career: Taps and The Onion Field). Becker’s screenwriting partner on Recall is someone else who has mostly been (nearly) inactive in the last decade, Paul Schrader, who is still best known for his collaborations with Martin Scorsese, such as Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead. Harold Becker and Paul Schrader also worked together on the 1996 film City Hall. The independent production company Moonstone Entertainment aims to start filming of Recall in March, 2012 at locations in Washington DC and Bulgaria.
#4 MGM ORDERS UP SOME KILLER PIZZA
MGM is in negotiations to acquire the feature film rights to Killer Pizza, a novel by Greg Taylor about “a 14 year old boy who lands a summer job at a pizza joint that is actually a front for a monster hunting enterprise.” Director/producer Chris Columbus is one of the film’s producers, but he is not expected to direct, as that job is more likely to go to Adam Green, who adapted the script from the novel. Adam Green is an independent horror filmmaker best known for Hatchet (50% RT Tomatometer, Rotten), Hatchet II (36% RT Tomatometer, Rotten) and Frozen (60% RT Tomatometer, Fresh). Chris Columbus reportedly brought Killer Pizza to MGM because he knew that the studio was interested in “Gremlins and Goonies-type fare.” Killer Pizza is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas partly because of Adam Green’s RT Tomatometer track record, but also because there are a lot more “Rotten” movies that tried to be like Gremlins and The Goonies than those that were actually as good.
#3 ELIJAH WOOD IS A REMAKE MANIAC
Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood has signed on to play the lead role as the serial killer Zito in the remake of the 1980 slasher flick Maniac. Reasons for this being a Rotten Idea lie in the Wikipedia description of Zito, as “a middle-aged, overweight, Italian-American loner,” and the fact that Elijah Wood… doesn’t really seem like he’d be great at “being” any of those things. This remake of Maniac was cowritten by horror director Alexandre Aja (Mirrors, Piranha 3-D), who also directed the 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. The remake of Maniac will be directed by Franck Khalfoun, who previously directed P2, which received a “Rotten” Tomatometer score of 34%, which is another reason why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#2 STEVE CARELL IS ONE OF DAVE BARRY’S LUNATICS
Universal Pictures has acquired the feature film rights to the novel Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel, who will also adapt their book’s script. The plan is for Steve Carell to star in the comedy about two “soccer dads” in New Jersey whose “minor feud escalates to create worldwide consequences.” Dave Barry’s novel Big Trouble was also previously adapted as a 2002 movie (RT Tomatometer “Rotten” score = 48%) starring Tim Allen and Rene Russo. Alan Zweibel’s career as a screenwriter includes cowriting Dragnet, The Story of Us and the adaptation of his novel North, of which film critic Roger Ebert once wrote, “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.” That Lunatics gave me an opportunity to use that famous North quote is part of why it is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#1 FIRST THE SOCIAL NETWORK, NOW MOVIES BASED ON FACEBOOK GAMES: MONSTER GALAXY
With rumors and reports about possible movie projects based on games like Angry Birds and Farmville, the basic premise of this story is not entirely new news, but it’s certainly part of a growing trend. Gaia Interactive, the company behind the Facebook game Monster Galaxy, has signed a deal with Radar Pictures to adapt the game into an animated feature film. Radar Pictures was the production company behind movies like The Invention of Lying, All About Steve, Swing Vote and the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, but mostly the press release stresses that producer Ted Field also produced the Vin Diesel science fiction film Pitch Black. Monster Galaxy has been one of the top 10 most played Facebook games for over six months, based upon a game style that many compare to Pokemon… except it’s on Facebook. Monster Galaxy is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because if you’re going to make a Facebook game movie, Farmville seems the more obvious choice? (Not that the idea of a Farmville movie is particularly “Fresh” either…)
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.