Hey folks, another weekly batch of news to catch up on. The good news is the top 10 almost got by without a remake (and the one remake isn’t a *Hollywood* remake). The bad news is how often this week’s column uses the word “Ratner.”
#1 YOU JUST KNOW THE BEVERLY HILLS COP IV TEASER WILL END WITH THAT TRADEMARK CHUCKLE
The last year has seen the release of three different movies that represent the 4th entry in franchises that saw their best success in the era of Ronald Reagan and Clara Peller: Die Hard, Rambo and Indiana Jones. All three did so after languishing in development hell for at least a decade each, and now another project that shares all of the same distinctions got what appears to be a pretty firm green light. Paramount hopes to start production of Beverly Hills Cop 4 in 2009, aiming for a summer, 2010 release, with Eddie Murphy returning as Axel Foley, and Brett Ratner (After the Sunset, the Rush Hour movies) in advanced talks to direct, from a script that has more names on its cover than the cast list of Lost. Now, here’s the thing. I’m not a fan of Ratner, but that’s mostly because of X-Men: The Last Stand, and his semi-mercenary reputation for being the guy studios bring in (or think about bringing in) when a project is troubled. However, what Ratner has done which was actually kind of entertaining were the first two Rush Hour movies, and in a way, that franchise is sort of just a martial-arts-infused stand-in for Beverly Hills Cop to fill in the 14 years since Beverly Hills Cop III. So, Eddie Murphy is apparently okay with not making silly “family” comedies for a while, and returning to a character that represents his R-rated roots. Let’s just hope part of the deal doesn’t involve Eddie playing more than one role. Or a fat suit.
#2 GOD OF RATNER?
You wouldn’t know it by reading the Brett Ratner-obsessed trades, but there are actually 13,000+ members of the Directors Guild of America. But nope, this week, it was nearly all-Ratner, all the time. Yay? Continuing the Ratner-thon, the Ratner-aganza, the Ratner-alypse, you might even say, the director apparently revealed this week that he’s considering adding the God of War videogame adaptation project to his busy slate. The God of War games are set in the violent world of Greek mythology, and follow the adventures of a tattooed and bald warrior named Kratos who seems custom-made for Vin Diesel to portray (IMO). Or, considering that Brett Ratner might direct this, maybe Chris Tucker. Anyway, I think that God of War probably does have a pretty good chance of being made some day, because it offers plenty of material for a bloody, CGI-heavy fantasy project that falls somewhere between Clash of the Titans and Conan. Is Brett Ratner the first director you’d think of for a project like this, though? Here’s hoping he said this before Beverly Hills Cop IV came along to keep him busy.
#3 ROBERT DOWNEY, JR MONOPOLIZING MILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY ROLES?
You’d think Brett Ratner would be satisfied with the top two stories this week. Ah, but no, he is a demanding master of the Interweb movie news cycles. He must have slot #3 as well. Right about now, I feel like sending the Entourage producers a letter, asking them to just make him a regular cast member so he can show off his pool some more, and stop appearing in news items I have to write. Speaking of millionaires, mansions, and pools populated by expensive girls, Brett Ratner is set to direct Playboy, a biopic about Hugh Hefner, founder of the magazine, with Robert Downey, Jr. being pursued to play the man credited with setting America’s (male, at least) libidos free in the 1950s. Okay, this movie, I am perfectly cool with Brett Ratner doing, honestly, because I can sort of see how the dots connect (Beverly Hills Cop IV, too, like I admitted above). And Robert Downey, Jr.? Except for that fact that he doesn’t really look anything like Hugh Hefner, Downey seems like the perfect choice to play the robe-clad cad, especially since he was sort of channeling “The Hef” in certain scenes of his depiction of Tony Stark in Iron Man (the challenge there might be to separate the two roles, actually). Playboy will be released by Universal Pictures, and the script (which is what Downey’s participation hinges on) is by newcomer John Hoffman
#4 OUIJA BOARD MOVIE SPELLS OUT C-A-S-H?
The Hasbro toy company has been making the news recently with its plans to get movies made about some of its most classic properties. The latest concept to actually get some movement (after the Monopoly project to be directed by Ridley Scott) is Ouija Board, which Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company (best known for horror remakes like Texas Chainsaw Massacre) will make for Universal Pictures, as part of their six year deal with Hasbro. The plot is not being revealed just yet, but what is known is that it will be a “supernatural adventure” that is specifically *not* similar to Jumanji (in that it does not involve a board game “coming to life”), and that the script is being written by David Berenbaum (Elf, The Haunted Mansion). I’ve read a lot of comments online grousing about the idea of “board game movies”, but honestly, I’d rather see them be made than say, a really awesome horror movie being needlessly remade. So, if Ouija Board takes a spot on the production slate of a studio that might have already gone to say, The Shining: Jack’s Back (a fake title… I hope), then I’d be okay with that. And besides, Ouija boards are kind of creepy, and this could actually be a kind of cool concept for a psychological and/or ghost movie. I just kind of hope they don’t hire some crappy emo band to do a cover of Morrissey’s creepy/haunting little ditty, Ouija Board, Ouija Board as the theme. In the meantime, there was actually a Filipino horror movie last year called Ouija that I think you might be able to find on DVD.
#5 QUENTIN TARANTINO FINALLY INTRODUCING US TO SOME INGLORIOUS BASTARDS?
Quentin Tarantino was in Cannes again this year, and he revealed that he has finished the first draft of his super-long-in-the-writing World War II ensemble project, Inglorious Bastards, which he says he hopes to have ready to bring back to the festival in May, 2009. Supposedly, the script, which may end up being more than one movie (ala Kill Bill) was as huge as 600 pages at one point (the average movie script is about 100-115 pages). Not a lot of plot details are known about Inglorious Bastards (except that it’s set about U.S. soldiers fighting Nazis in France) but over the years, some of the names that have been mentioned (by either QT or the actors themselves) as possibly joining the cast are Michael Madsen, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Paul Walker, Tim Roth and Bo Svenson. That’s quite a varied cast, but so were the stars of Pulp Fiction. I guess though my only question would be… aren’t most of those guys a lot older than the average World War II G.I. Joe? Specifically, their average age is 49 (I did the math!), while Paul Hardcastle’s Nineteen taught us that the average WWII soldier was 26. Or maybe their seasoned status is what makes them both bastards and inglorious? Anyway, it’s a Tarantino war movie. Sign me up, regardless, for sure.
#6 SEARCHING FOR BILBO BAGGINS
In The Hobbit news, producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo del Toro held a Q&A chat last weekend, which was pretty lengthy and is a good read. Distilling just a few facts out of it, we get that they are aiming to start production in 2010, for releases of The Hobbit in late 2011 and the LOTR prequel project in late 2012. As for casting, although there are some characters from LOTR that are also in The Hobbit, which makes casting a lot easier (Gandalf and Gollum), most of the cast is going to be made up of a whole gaggle of dwarves, possibly a few goblins and trolls, the voices for some eagles, wolves and arguably the most famous dragon ever, and one very important hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Although he was played by Ian Holm in Jackson’s movies, a much younger Bilbo is needed here. The hot rumor this week is that James McAvoy, who played a satyr in the first Narnia movie, and is costarring with Angelina Jolie in Wanted, is currently the top choice. He does have a certain indefinable hobbitishness (that mildly scruffy trait shared by the four LOTR guys), I suppose?
#7 THE COLONEL BEHIND THE CURTAIN
Producer David Permut (Face/Off, Charlie Bartlett) is heading development of a feature adaptation of the 2003 biography, The Colonel (by Alanna Nash, who also wrote the book that inspired Up Close & Personal), about “Colonel” Tom Parker, the svengali manager behind the career of Elvis Presley. The independent production reportedly has a writer and a director, but those details haven’t been announced yet. Nash’s book reveals that Parker was actually from the Netherlands (not from somewhere in the South, like I would have guessed), and that his arrival in America may be connected to some sort of shady connection to a murder over there. That part is news to me, but the story that most of us are probably more familiar with is how “The Colonel” was reportedly so totally in control of Presley’s career, and also reaped just a bit more of his income than what managers and agents usually take. This will definitely be an actor’s project, and I would expect Parker to be cast by someone with Oscar-friendly credentials. As for Elvis, I guess it depends upon whether the story centers on old or young (probably more likely) Elvis, but who today do you think would be a great Elvis?
#8 COOL T-SHIRT DESIGNS, THE NEXT BIG MOVIE SOURCE?
Dark Horse Comics, which has a long-standing production deal with Universal Pictures, announced this week plans to adapt the gothic teen girl character, Emily the Strange, into a feature film. The funny thing is that Emily the Strange is being described as a comics/graphic novel character, which technically she is, but there is something like a 10-year gap between the character’s creation as an iconic image on t-shirts, skateboards, etc and her first comic appearance in 2001. Anyway, Emily the Strange is this funky character that pays homage of sorts to the original Charles Addams illustrations (he of The Addams Family), mixed in with 90s-style teen goth style. As for actual stories, I am not familiar with the comics (I’ve just seen her images here and there since the early 1990s), but apparently the movie will tell her origin story, and it involves her four cats. It might be a few years before Emily the Strange gets made (especially since the story doesn’t mention a screenwriter or director), but whenever it does, this will no doubt be the opportunity for some young teen starlet to wear lots of black eyeliner, Mary Janes and the sort of baby doll dresses popularized by Courtney Love.
#9 PLAN 9 FROM OUTER CHARLOTTESVILLE
Considering that on some weeks, as many as four of the 10 stories of the week are remakes, I suppose at least one was inevitable. The nature of this one, however, helps make it an exception, because it falls snugly into that rule that it’s okay to remake a flawed film. And they don’t get more flawed than Ed Wood’s gloriously craptastic sci-fi zombie epic, Plan 9 from Outer Space. So much so that Plan 9 might almost bounce back into the untouchable category, if one considers a strange sort of masterpiece of Woods’ independently minded style (as Tim Burton’s Ed Wood certainly seemed to argue). Anyway, a tiny little horror production company in Charlottesville, Virginia has announced plans to remake it as (just) Plan 9, in participation with Conrad Brooks, the only surviving cast/crew member, aiming for a release date of 9/9/09. Now, whether or not this is a movie that will get any kind of decent theatrical release, there’s no way of telling. But, I think Ed Wood’s movies are a hoot, and Plan 9 from Outer Space, with its multitude of production mistakes, stilted dialogue and bizarre performances, is one of his “best”, so the idea of another bunch of low-budget movie lovers trying their hand at it 50+ years later, I’m okay with that.
#10 FAMILY FANTASY PROJECTS FOR RODRIGUEZ AND GREEN
Family-friendly fantasy projects were announced this week for two different directors with indie roots that aren’t really in that vein, although Robert Rodriguez, with his Spy Kids movies has certainly done this sort of thing before. Although he has projects like Barbarella and Sin City 2 idling off in development limbo somewhere still, in the meantime, Rodriguez signed on with Warner Bros to direct his screenplay, Shorts, about an 11-year-old boy who is hit on the head by a rock that grants wishes to anyone holding it. The ensemble cast includes William H. Macy, James Spader, Jon Crier and Leslie Mann. Surprisingly, Rodriguez friends and frequent collaborators like Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo and Antonio Banderas are nowhere to be seen on this one. Making his debut in this sort of magical realism genre is David Gordon Green, who got his start with subdued little indie projects like All the Real Girls and George Washington, and now has the drug comedy, Pineapple Express, coming out this summer. His fantasy project for Universal, however, is called Your Highness, and is the story of a young, lazy, prince who is forced to save his kingdom from fantastic dangers like dragons and wizards. Considering he’s coming off of Pineapple Express, I have to wonder if the “High” in Highness has any sort of second meaning. Danny McBride, who costars in Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express and the upcoming Land of the Lost remake, has been cast as the prince, in the project which is set to start filming in January, 2009.