This Week’s Ketchup leads off with lots of big news for three of Marvel Comics’ biggest properties (Thor, Iron Man and Fantastic Four), followed by sequels for Taken, Hard Boiled and Journey to the Center of the Earth, a revival of a Stephen King favorite, a N.W.A. biopic and more.
IESB.net broke the exclusive news this week that 20th Century Fox, which is developing reboots of Marvel’s Daredevil and their Planet of the Apes franchise, now also has plans to reboot Fantastic Four completely from scratch. This means none of the same cast will return, and most importantly (I think) neither will director Tim Story, who arguably exaggerated the lighter aspects of the classic Marvel Comics title, so much that it became just plain goofy and basically a kids movie. Both recent movies were hits ($290 million and $330 million), but they were also critically reviled (26% and 35% on the Tomatometer), and are generally unpopular with comics fans. IESB.net says that Fox wants the new version to be “less bubble gum” and more like Iron Man. No writer or director has been hired yet. Although I am very much in favor of Fantastic Four getting a fresh start at the movies (because I’ve been a lifelong fan and didn’t see the comic I love in the movies) it’s regrettable that the reboot will apparently not be done in conjunction with Marvel Studios, and that means that the Fantastic Four won’t be able to rejoin the rest of the Marvel Universe in any upcoming Marvel productions. As for what I hope the next version of Fantastic Four is like, here are some thoughts: A) we don’t need another origin story; B) Doctor Doom can also take a break for a while; and C) the emphasis should be on the quartet having strange adventures around the world, because to me those were always the best stories (i.e. Atlantis, Wakanda, Monster Isle, Attilan and the Inhumans, etc.)
There was a good deal of casting news this week for Marvel Studios’ next two movies. First, there was confirmation of the lingering rumors regarding Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson, who will be playing Whiplash and Black Widow in Iron Man 2. Clearing up some confusion, it was revealed that the movie version of Whiplash will be based on the villain from the comics, but also incorporate elements of the Crimson Dynamo (probably mostly the Russian part). I’m totally okay with Whiplash being reimagined for the movie, because it’s hardly like he’s one of those untouchable characters; he’s actually borderline obscure to most comics fans. As for Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov, AKA the Black Widow, that casting choice is a lot more curious, because really she looks nothing like most depictions of her, and she’ll have to pull off a sultry Russian accent. Also getting casting buzz is Thor, with word that director Kenneth Branagh had lunch recently with Alexander Skarsgard (Stellan’s son), who is best known for his work in HBO’s Generation Kill and as a viking vampire in True Blood. Standing 6′ 4″, with blonde hair, a great build, Swedish good looks and acting chops to boot, Skarsgard seems almost too good to be true for the role of the Son of Odin. For that matter, his father Stellan could even be a pretty good choice for that role of Odin. There’s also news that Branagh is looking for Thor’s brother Loki, the God of Mischief, with Josh Hartnett reportedly being his top choice. Hartnett is interested in it as a chance to prove his chops, Heath Ledger style, which is a pretty good call considering that both Loki and the Joker are villainous “prankster” archetypes. Finally, Marvel Studios also announced a revision to their schedule this week, which bumps several movies back a year. You can check that link for the specific dates, but basically Iron Man 2 is alone in 2010 now, with 2011 having Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America and (Sony’s) Spider-Man 4, and The Avengers as one of the first major movies to claim a summer, 2012 release date.
New Line Cinema, Walden Media and ContraFilm are reuniting for a sequel to the 3-D hit, Journey to the Center of the Earth. The plan is to adapt a pre-existing script entitled Mysterious Journeys: The Lost Map of Treasure Island by screenwriter Richard Outten (Pet Sematary II) as another adventure for the character played by Brendan Fraser. The concept of Mysterious Journeys centers around an island that was the inspiration for three different classic novels: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mysterious Island by Jules Verne and Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (which is also being filmed this year as a movie starring Jack Black). From that, we can gather that the movie might involve pirates, giant insects, and either really tiny people, really big people or talking horses (or all three). Eric Brevig, who made his directorial debut with Journey to the Center of the Earth, has not yet committed to return for this sequel, and neither has Brendan Fraser. Here’s hoping Mysterious Travels doesn’t also feature a smoke monster.
Hot off the success of Watchmen, Warner Bros has acquired the movie rights to another 1986 novel with a large fanbase: Stephen King’s It. Also made into a 1990 ABC mini-series starring John Ritter, Richard Thomas and Tim Curry, It is the story of a group of childhood friends from the 1950s who reunite in the 1980s when one of the members of their “Losers Club” dies, ultimately teaming up to fight a strange monster that lives in their hometown’s sewers and takes the form of a creepy clown named Pennywise. For the movie version, the decades are being bumped up a bit, so they will be kids in the 1980s (or maybe even 1990s?) and adults in the 2010s (by the time the movie gets made). Dave Kajganich, writer of the Warner Bros flop The Invasion, is working on the script. Tim Curry did an incredible job being creepy on a John Wayne Gacy scale as Pennywise, so it should be interesting to guess who might take on the role next.
Although it’s buried at the bottom of the article, The Los Angeles Times broke the news this week that producer Luc Besson and frequent collaborator and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen are already at work on a sequel to Taken, the surprise hit thriller starring Liam Neeson which has currently earned $108+ million in the U.S. No other details, such as whether Liam Neeson or director Pierre Morel would be returning, or what the premise might be about, but it’s probably a good bet that it would involve a kidnapping and someone getting very angry about it.
Rappers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have joined together with Tomica Wright, widow of Eazy-E, to produce a movie for New Line Cinema based upon their group N.W.A., which popularized gangsta rap from 1986 to 1991, despite limited radio airplay. Taking its title from their 1988 breakthrough album, Straight Outta Compton will chronicle the group’s meteoric climb to fame and controversy (best represented by the 1988 single, F*** Tha Police), their five short years together, the tumultous break up and feuds, and finally, Eazy-E’s death from AIDS complications in 1995. The trio is currently looking for a director comparable to Curtis Hanson, director of the Eminem movie 8 Mile.
John Woo is producing a movie adaptation of the 2007 video game, John Woo Presents Stranglehold, which was billed as a sequel to Woo’s 1992 Hong Kong cop action film Hard Boiled. That would effectively make this movie both a sequel and a videogame adaptation. The game featured the likeness of Chow Yun-Fat, reprising his role as Officer Tequila Yuen. The adaptation is being written by Jeremy Passmore (the Red Dawn remake) and Andre Fabrizio, both of whom are also working on the direct-to-DVD remake of Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action.
Paradox Entertainment, the production company behind the reboot of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, has picked up the rights to make a science fiction movie based upon the bestselling 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken. Chariots of the Gods?, which was also adapted as a 1970 documentary feature film, claimed to present evidence from ancient cultures around the world that mankind had been visited frequently by extraterrestrials, who were then the inspiriation for the gods of the local religions. Ancient astronaut theories predate Chariots of the Gods?, but the book certainly popularized the notion, and science fiction of all forms has been informed by the concept for the 40 years since. Paradox has not yet lined up any talent for the movie version.
Sean Penn is in talks with Universal Pictures to star in Cartel, his first action movie since 1998’s The Thin Red Line. Loosely a remake of the 1993 Italian film La Scorta, Cartel is the story of a man trying to protect his son after his wife is brutally killed by a Mexican drug cartel. Documentary filmmaker Asger Leth will make his dramatic directorial debut with Cartel, based on a script by Peter Craig, who is also working on the Cowboy Bebop movie. Latino Review is reporting that Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) is also in talks to play a district attorney. Universal hopes to start filming this summer, but that will depend upon ongoing negotiations with Penn, who is also in talks to star as Joe Wilson in the Valerie Plame biopic Fair Game.
Danny DeVito (Death to Smoochy, The War of the Roses) is producing and will direct a biopic about electronics retail entrepeneur Eddie Antar, cofounder of the Crazy Eddie store chain, who was eventually sentenced to eight years of prison on fraud charges. Although just based in four states in the New York area, Crazy Eddie stores became famous nationwide for their commercials featuring a local DJ who yelled “Crazy Eddie, his prices are insane!”, which inspired stores of all stripes around the country to use similar commercial gimmicks. In Wisconsin, for example, we had “Crazy TV Lenny.” Peter Steinfeld (Be Cool; cowriter of 21) is working on the script.
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.