This week’s Weekly Ketchup features new roles for Javier Bardem, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Naomi Watts and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a diverse batch that hits most of the obligatory marks. Videogame? Check. Comic book superhero? Check. Remake? Check. Ashton Kutcher? Sigh…
#1 CLEO: ANOTHER HISTORICAL EGYPTIAN MUSICAL SET IN THE 1920S? WHAT AN OVERDONE GENRE!
Director Steven Soderbergh has added yet another project to his cramped slate, which includes his two Che Guevara biopics, The Informant with Matt Damon, a Liberace biopic and a sexy low-budget movie called The Girlfriend Experience. And it’s a doozy. Cleo will be a 3-D rock and roll musical about Egyptian queen Cleopatra, transported to a 1920s setting, with Soderbergh hoping to recruit his Ocean’s 12 star Catherine Zeta-Jones and Hugh Jackman to star as Cleopatra and Marc Antony, respectively. Budgeted at $30 million, Cleo will have an original score of songs written by the indie rock group Guided by Voices, with James Greer, former bassist for that group writing the script. The idea of moving Antony & Cleopatra to the 1920s, and then putting a rock soundtrack over that decade (predating the birth of rock by at least 20 years), seems a bit odd, but Moulin Rouge sort of already did something similar. Catherine Zeta-Jones has already done the movie musical thing (Chicago) and Hugh Jackman is famous for his musical stage work in addition to playing a hirsute mutant.
#2 STATHAM, ROURKE, CENT TO STAR IN 13 TZAMETI REMAKE
Tough guys Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke and 50 Cent have signed to costar with British pretty-boy Sam Riley (star of the Joy Division biopic, Control) in an English language remake of the 2005 French thriller (and Sundance award winner), 13 Tzamati. The remake, which will be retitled as just 13, is not to be confused with the rebellious teen girl movie, Thirteen. The original movie’s Georgian director, Gela Babluani, will also be directing this remake, which tells the story of a man who steals a mysterious letter with instructions on how to carry out a dangerous job that promises to net him a fortune. That scheme turns out to be a game of Russian roulette between 13 men sitting at a table, hence the title. Filming of the remake starts on November 17th, 2008 in and around New York City.
#3 BY THE HOARY HOSTS OF HOGGOTH: DOCTOR STRANGE CASTS HIS SPELLS ON MARVEL
We’ve known for a while about Marvel Studios’ slate for 2010 and 2010 (Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers), but now we have our first glimpse at what they are aiming to work on in the years after that (2012 or 2013): their Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Talking to MTV.com, Marvel president Kevin Feige is quick to deflate talk that Marvel heroes like Iron Man and Doctor Strange are “B Heroes”, a tag from the mainstream media that I’ve never really understood, but I guess it comes from people who didn’t grow up reading Marvel comics. It’s true that Dr. Strange’s colorful costume might need some tweaking for the big screen (it must take magic for his collar to stand up over a foot), but he has a great mythology and back story, and Doctor Strange is probably the Marvel movie I’d second most like to see get made (after The Avengers), with Thor being a close third. Dr. Strange has been in slow development for over a decade, with Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen) at one time rumored to be considered to star.
#4 PARAMOUNT STILL BELIEVES IN RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!
Paramount’s troubled Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, which looked sort of dead after Tim Burton dropped out, has new life in the form of negotiations with (extremely busy) director Chris Columbus, who also has Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief in the works for a July, 2010 release. Paramount still has Jim Carrey signed to star as adventurer Robert Ripley who thrilled readers with his newspaper column/comic strips revealing some of the strangest bits of trivia and oddities, which now fill the many Ripley museums across the country. Paramount is looking to hire a new writer for the project, which they are now eyeing as a 2011 tentpole release. I had a lot of hope for this movie back when it was a Tim Burton project that might have starred Johnny Depp, but now I’m thinking this will probably end up feeling a bit like another high-profile Jim Carrey/Paramount movie sold on “weirdness”, the failed Lemony Snicket movie.
#5 ARMY OF TWO MOVIE: NOT A SEQUEL
Electronic Arts continues to sign deals for their video game titles, with the mercenary shooter Army of Two for Universal following recent deals for The Sims (with Fox) and Mass Effect (with producer Avi Arad). Army of Two is a best-selling game that tells the decade-long story of two former Army Rangers who work as military contractors, traveling around the world on various violent assignments. Universal is giving Army of Two a fast-track, hoping to start filming in 2009 from a script by Scott Z. Burns (the upcoming The Informant; cowriter of The Bourne Ultimatum). Army of Two feels like a gun-toting buddy movie, and will likely hinge upon the chemistry between the two action-friendly actors who end up starring in it. Since it’s also about ex-military mercenary buddies, this would be a good place to mention that Fox moved The A-Team movie back a year to June, 2010, this week, following the departure of director John Singleton.
#6 ASHTON KUTCHER TO PUNK ASSASSINS IN FIVE KILLERS
Mr. Demi Moore, AKA Ashton Kutcher, has signed with Lionsgate to star in Five Killers, an action comedy directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law, 21), about a former hit man who finds that someone has hired five assassins to kill him. Ashton Kutcher seems cast against type as any type of “hitman,” but that’s sort of what John Cusack was doing in Grosse Pointe Blank (which predated a lot of the darker stuff he’s done since), and that movie worked, but it’s quite possible I just insulted John Cusack by comparing Ashton Kutcher to him. Maybe The Whole Nine Yards would be a better comparison.
#7 DO YOU THINK JAVIER BARDEM IS BIUTIFUL?
Intense Spanish actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) will be teaming up with intense Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, Amores Perros) for an urban thriller called Biutiful, which starts filming in Barcelona next week. Bardem will be playing a man with “shady dealings who is confronted by a childhood friend.” This is 99% likely to be a Spanish language feature, but both men have very high artistic street cred, so I would pick Biutiful as being a likely high buzz project for Fall, 2009 or so.
#8 MY NAME IS OSCAR BAIT
Naomi Watts is in talks with Universal Pictures to star in My Name is Jody Williams, a biopic about a teacher turned social activist and 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work advocating for the ban of land mines. Audrey Wells (Guinevere, Under the Tuscan Sun) will be directing from her own script. She’s done other stuff (Mulholland Drive, for example), but Naomi Watts is best known for genre movies like Funny Games, King Kong and The Ring, and she’s got the remake of The Birds coming up (which a rumor this week suggests might costar George Clooney). My Name is Jody Williams seems like a project aimed to keep her in the Oscar-friendly actor category, and for Universal, feels like an attempt to return to their Erin Brockovich glory days.
#9 YOUR LIKELY VALENTINE’S DATE MOVIE, 2010: THE FIANCE
Anne Hathaway has signed on to star in The Fiancé, a romantic comedy for Warner Bros, in what looks like part of the deal to get her to return for Get Smart 2. The Fiancé, directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down), from a script by Etan Cohen (cowriter of Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder), is scheduled to start filming in March, 2009, with Hathaway then expected to make a smooth transition to the filming of Get Smart 2. No release date is set for The Fiancé, but the timing seems to position it as Warner Bros’ likely Valentine’s Day-ish romantic comedy for 2010. The Fiancé is the tale of a woman (Hathaway) who breaks off her wedding plans, causing her parents to try to get things patched up between the two, preventing her from moving on with her life. Basically, it sounds like Meet the Parents, but in reverse.
#10 TERI POLO’S CAREER HEADED FOR THE HOLE
Teri Polo has signed on for a movie that doesn’t involve meeting someone’s parents. Not to be confused with the 2001 thriller starring Thora Birch, The Hole will be a supernatural horror film about a mother (Polo) who moves in with her three sons into a rural house that has a bottomless hole in its basement. Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) will be directing The Hole (in 3-D!) from a script by Mark L. Smith (Vacancy), with filming starting on December 5th, 2008 in Vancouver. Haley Bennett, the star of The Haunting of Molly Hartley will be playing a local neighbor who has a thing for one of Polo’s sons. Dante’s career is pretty much dominated by high-concept family movies like Small Soldiers and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but he’s kept up a reputation of having horror movie roots (Piranha was his debut), and The Hole marks his first horror feature film in 25 years.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message, and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.