This week’s Ketchup features news stories that include new roles for Harrison Ford, Emma Stone, and (maybe) Jessica Chastain, as well as sequels for Oz the Great and Powerful, the Resident Evil franchise, and Sinister.
This Week’s Top Story
GEORGE LUCAS REVEALS THAT LUKE, HAN, AND LEIA ALL RETURN IN STAR WARS EPISODE VII
This (like another story below) might fall in the category of “well, yeah, duh,” but it’s still about Star Wars Episode VII, and so, it’s still huge, major, stop the press (if we ever had presses) type news. And here it is: George Lucas, possibly not playing according to the pre-ordained publicity plans, revealed this week that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill were all pretty much in negotiations to return for Star Wars Episode VII from the beginning of Disney’s Lucasfilm takeover plans. So, those three major players (Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker, respectively) all knew more than maybe some of their quotes since November suggested, but they had to play coy or ambivalent, because that’s just what you do (or in Carrie Fisher’s case, not so much). What we still don’t know, however, is the status of other actors, like, say, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, or Anthony Daniels as C3PO. In other Harrison Ford news, the actor also signed on recently to costar in Anchorman: The Legend Continues as an aging, “legendary” news man in the vein of Tom Brokaw, which might possibly mean exactly like Tom Brokaw. This news comes, of course, a little over a year since the release of Morning Glory, where Harrison Ford played an aging, “legendary” news man in the vein of Mike Wallace. Dan Rather is still waiting for his Harrison Ford movie.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THE SEQUEL-PREQUEL TREND CONTINUES AFTER OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
This story can also probably be safely filed in the “well, yeah, duh” category, but here we go, anyway. Walt Disney Pictures is moving ahead with plans for a sequel to this weekend’s expected blockbuster release Oz the Great and Powerful. Like the upcoming films X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, this currently untitled film will be a sequel to a prequel, which is something you would really think we’d have a word for by this point. Unlike those other two examples, however, this Oz sequel is in the unusual position of not being able to use some of the iconic features (like, say, the ruby slippers) of the movie that Oz the Great and Powerful is most obviously a prequel to. On the other hand, there’s at least twelve L. Frank Baum books that this sequel (and many other future films) could also draw upon. To get things started on this sequel, Disney hired screenwriter Mitchell Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards), who also cowrote Oz the Great and Powerful. This story’s “fresh”status is based mostly on the critical reception that Oz the Great and Powerful is thus far receiving as of when this column was written on Friday afternoon.
#2 EMMA STONE, EDWARD NORTON, AND OTHERS SIGN ON FOR BIRDMAN
Birdman is the title of the comedy that director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel) is planning to deliver to us next, probably to awards and accolades (because, you know, that’s what he does). There was a lot of casting news for Birdman this week. The initial wave included roles for Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts. The next day, Edward Norton was also announced, followed the next day by British actress Andrea Riseborough from Happy-Go-Lucky. The casting of Michael Keaton is especially inspired because Birdman is about a washed up actor most famous for starring in a superhero movie (look at that title again), who tries to relaunch his career with a Broadway play. Emma Stone will play Keaton’s recently out of rehab daughter, Zach Galifianakis will play a “conniving” producer, and Edward Norton will play the lead actor in the play whose ego threatens Keaton’s comeback plans.
#3 ME TARZAN, YOU JESSICA CHASTAIN
Nearly every other movie writer made this same joke this week, based on the news here that Jessica Chastain, the Academy Award-nominated actress, is the top choice to play Jane in Warner Bros’ reboot of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan. No one is officially signed in any role, but Alexander Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson have been previously mentioned as possibly playing the title character and an ex-mercenary (respectively), who together fight to overthrow an evil Congo warlord. Despite the drubbing that the latest Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation (John Carter) received, Warner Bros has high hopes for Tarzan, which will be directed by David Yates, who delivered the last four Harry Potter movies for the studio.
#4 FUNNY MAN JON STEWART TO MAKE DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WITH NOT-AS-FUNNY HOSTAGE DRAMA ROSEWATER
If one really did only know celebrities from movies, then Jon Stewart might be just that guy from The Faculty and Half Baked. Most of us, however, know him for something else. And Jon Stewart will be taking a 12 week break from that something else this summer, during which John Oliver, who’s also regularly on that something else, will replace Jon Stewart doing what he normally does. On that something else. What Jon Stewart will be doing during that period instead is making his directorial debut with a drama called Rosewater, which will be an adaptation of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captitivity and Survival, written by BBC journalist Maziar Mahari about the 118 days he spent in Iran in 2009 as a prisoner. The title of the movie comes from the scent that Mahari could smell on his brutal interrogator every day, which was the only thing he knew about him. As inferred above, yeah, not so much a nyuck-nyuck laugh fest. The something else that Jon Stewart is famous for is the Comedy Central show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Because this column is all about telling people stuff.
#5 LIKE NEARLY EVERY OTHER RECENT HORROR MOVIE THAT WASN’T A COMPLETE FLOP, SINISTER WILL GET A SEQUEL
Horror movies and sequels have gone together since (at least) the 1930s, and the wave of monster sequels that Universal grinded out after the initial successes. Today, one of the biggest motivators for sequelizing horror films is their frequent low budgets (in contrast to, say, effects heavy adventure movies like John Carter and Jack the Giant Slayer). So, when a movie like Sinister makes $87 million worldwide, it’s seen as hugely successful, because the initial production budget was only $3 million. And so, yeah, Blumhouse Poductions, the company also behind Insidious and the Paranormal Activity franchise, is moving ahead with plans for a Sinister sequel. The original movie concerned Ethan Hawke as a true crime novelist who discovers a spooky box filled with spooky home videos, but there’s no firm word what the sequel will be about (though another family finding another box of something spooky is probably a good bet). Director Scott Derrickson and cowriting partner C. Robert Cargill are expected to do the same duties on the sequel. They’re also working together on an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Breathing Method. This story is labelled “fresh” based mostly on the 63% RT Tomatometer score given to the first film.
#6 NEVER MIND THE RAVEN, HERE’S THE SAME BASIC CONCEPT FOR AGATHA (CHRISTIE)
Last year, the long-in-the-works final result of many different peoples’ plans for a movie about the mysterious days right before the death of Edgar Allen Poe was the release of The Raven. That, however, wasn’t the first time there was ever a movie about a mysterious hole in the life of a famous author. It also happened back in 1979, when Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave starred in Agatha, about the 11 days in 1926 when mystery author Agatha Christie disappeared without explanation. In what could be called an unexpected remake, if it was being acknowledged as a remake, Paramount Pictures has picked up a spec screenplay also called Agatha which has the same basic premise. This new Agatha is probably nothing like the 1979 version, because it’s described as an action adventure in the style of Romancing the Stone (also about a female author) or the recent Sherlock Holmes movies. Will Gluck (Easy A) is attached to direct from the script by Alison Schroeder, cowriter of the direct-to-video sequel Mean Girls 2, but it will have to wait until after Gluck directs the Annie remake that Will Smith is producing.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 HAPPY ENDINGS AND NEW GIRL COSTARS REUNITE FOR LET’S BE COPS
First off, please excuse the intrusion of TV talk in this column, though I swear this all pays off very quickly. Any fan of Fox’s New Girl who remembers the pilot might have noticed that before Winston, the fourth roommate was played by Damon Wayans, Jr, who at that point had already been seen in several episodes of Happy Endings. One of the other roommates on New Girl is (still) played by Jake Johnson, who movie fans might also know from his recent role as the boss in Safety Not Guaranteed. Anyway, these two former costars (if just for one episode) are going to be working together again in the 20th Century Fox comedy Let’s Be Cops. As you might guess from the title, it’s about two guys who impersonate cops for fun, until their shenanigans get them in trouble with a real life mobster. As for why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas, Let’s Be Cops will be directed by Luke Greenfield (The Animal, The Girl Next Door), who has yet to score a “Fresh” rating on the RT Tomatometer as director.
#2 THE RESIDENT EVIL MOVIES, LIKE ZOMBIES, JUST KEEP COMING WHETHER YOU WANT THEM OR NOT
This entire story is based upon one little fact (that ties into something we already know), but sometimes that’s all writers base entire articles on. So, here you go: Sony Pictures has set a release date of September 12, 2014 for the sixth Resident Evil movie. A while back, when the fourth movie Resident Evil: Afterlife was being promoted, director Paul W.S. Anderson said that he was planning out a second Resident Evil trilogy, which would end with this sixth movie. Nothing else is really known about this movie, except that Anderson and his wife Milla Jovovich will probably be filming it sometime late this year to get it ready in time for September, 2014. This is one of the Rotten Ideas this week because the RT Tomatometer sort of hates the key words “Resident Evil.”
#1 THESE DIRECTORS JUST WANT TO SAY NO: JAMES BOND 24, THE EQUALIZER, PLANET HULK
This was a big week for big movies and the directors that don’t want to be involved with them. They’re all very, very good directors, and so they are combined to be the week’s Most Rotten Idea(s). The story that received the most press, rightly so, was the revelation by Sam Mendes, who earned so many raves for Skyfall, that he won’t be coming back for the project that for now we’ll just call James Bond 24. Instead, Mendes will be focusing on his various stage projects (King Lear and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and not being married to Kate Winslet. The next James Bond movie will probably have a better time of keeping a director than Sony Pictures’ plans for Denzel Washington to star in an adaptation of the TV show The Equalizer. Not long after Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) dropped out from helming The Equalizer, now Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has also dropped out, most likely to focus on directing the WWI project Birdsong, with Nicholas Hoult starring. Finally, Joss Whedon spent some time this week addressing the recent rumors of plans for a Planet Hulk movie (and then, World War Hulk). Simply put, Whedon says all of that is “nonsense.”
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.