This week’s Ketchup includes news for the latest movies in the Star Trek and Transformers franchises, sequels for Grown Ups and The Lincoln Lawyer, an American Psycho remake, biographical movies about Charles Dickens and WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, and new movie deals for (likely) AARP members Anne Rice and Stan Lee.
This Week’s Top Story
MICHAEL BAY’S TRANSFORMERS TO EXPLODE AGAIN IN ALL THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW, AS LONG AS THEY’RE ORANGE AND CYAN
The trilogy is a common limitation put upon movie franchises simply because there is a shared perception that sequels start to have diminishing returns. This is not always the case, however, as demonstrated by Paramount Pictures’ three Transformers movies, which started with a worldwide take of $709 million, followed in 2009 and 2011 by $836 million and $1.123 billion, respectively. And so, this weeks’ should surprise very few people. Michael Bay is reportedly in final negotiations with Paramount Pictures to produce and direct a fourth movie in the Transformers film franchise. No concrete details have been revealed about this fourth film yet, except that Shia LeBeouf’s character (and all related human characters) are expected not to continue as the film’s focus (including rumors in recent months that Jason Statham might be the new Transformers star). Supporting characters from the old school 1980s Transformers cartoon series may also be brought back into prominence with this fourth movie. One of the factors reportedly used by Paramount to get Michael Bay to return for a fourth Transformers movie was the studio’s agreement to first greenlight one of Bay’s pet projects, Pain and Gain, which Bay has been trying to get made since 1999 or so. Pain and Gain will be a relatively low budget ($20 million) action comedy based on the true story of a group of Florida bodybuilders who get themselves involved with extortion and kidnapping. Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg (who costarred together in 2010’s The Other Guys) have both been in talks with Paramount to potentially play two of the lead bodybuilders. Wahlberg, however, is less likely to sign due to possible scheduling conflicts. Pain and Gain was adapted by the screenwriting team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and is reportedly similar in style and tone to the Coen Brothers modern classic Fargo. Markus and McFeely were the writers of this summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger (also for Paramount), and were also among the writers of the three thus far produced Chronicles of Narnia films.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 FREEZE, KLINGON: PETER WELLER JOINS THE STAR TREK SEQUEL
With filming scheduled to start in January, the casting process for J.J. Abrams’ sequel to 2009’s Star Trek (RT Tomatometer score, 95%) continued apace this week with three different related casting news stories. First up was the revelation of what exactly J.J. Abrams probably meant recently when he said rumors that Benicio Del Toro would be playing Khan Noonien Singh (ala Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) were “not true.” That clever little bit of wordplay didn’t necessarily mean that Khan wouldn’t be in this sequel, but just that Benicio Del Toro eventually had to drop out of starring in the movie at all. Along the way, however, the news of Del Toro’s not signing has (almost) confirmed that Khan is indeed in the sequel. Part of what helps identify Khan as the film’s villain is the news that the two front runners to replace Benicio Del Toro are Edgar Ramirez (The Bourne Ultimatum, Vantage Point) (the frontrunner) and Jordi Molla (Bad Boys II, Elizabeth: The Golden Age). The other big casting news of the week was that Peter Weller, AKA the original RoboCop and Buckaroo Banzai star, has also signed on. The one detail that has been leaked about Weller’s character is that he will be playing a “C.E.O.” Most people would tend to think that implies a huge corporation, which does not jive with 45+ years of Star Trek continuity in which corporations do not play a major role. However, what may be more likely is that in Star Trek parlance, those initials also stand for Chief Engineering Officer. Perhaps Scotty will be getting a new boss? Alice Eve also signed on for an unknown role recently, and of course, pretty much everyone with a major role from the first film except Eric Bana, Chris Hemsworth, Winona Ryder and Leonard Nimoy are likely to return for the sequel as well.
#2 THE LINCOLN LAWYER MAY GET A SEQUEL AS WELL AS A TV SERIES SPINOFF
Back in August, it was revealed that ABC is developing a pilot script for a TV series spun off from the recent Matthew McConaughey movie The Lincoln Lawyer (RT Tomatometer score, 84%), which was itself based upon a novel by Michael Connelly. This week, one of the executives at Lionsgate also let slip that the mini-studio is also developing a Lincoln Lawyer sequel, as well as the possible ABC series version (which may not necessarily feature Matthew McConaughey, by the way). No other details are currently known about the possible Lincoln Lawyer sequel, except that one would expect that if it’s a theatrical sequel, Matthew McConaughey would most likely be returning.
#3 FELICITY JONES AS THE INVISIBLE WOMAN… YET ANOTHER MOVIE EASILY CONFUSED WITH A MARVEL COMICS ADAPTATION
Sometimes one has to really dig through online sources to find what is basically a buried lead. Consider this link, which starts with an article about Daniel Radcliffe having messy habits in his home, before getting to something that is actually interesting movie news. British actress Felicity Jones, whose 2011 roles included The Tempest and Like Crazy, has signed to play the romantic female lead in The Invisible Woman, an adaptation of a book by Claire Tomalin about a 13 year relationship between Jones’ character and literary giant Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, the list goes on and on). The Invisible Woman will also be the second film as director from actor Ralph Fiennes, following his recent adaptation of the Shakespeare play Coriolanus (RT Tomatometer score, 93%). Filming of The Invisible Woman is expected to start in the spring or summer of 2012 in England, after Felicity Jones wraps filming of Warren Beatty’s untitled drama about a young woman who had a relationship with the much older Howard Hughes.
#4 TRAGIC WRESTLER CHRIS BENOIT GETS BIOPIC IN CROSSFACE
“Crossface” is the name of a wrestling move popularized by the late Chris Benoit, in which the hands are interlaced across an opponent’s face, forcing his head backwards. Crossface is also the name of a planned Chris Benoit biopic, which will question how “the combination of drug-use, depression and head trauma became increasingly impossible for him to handle.” Chris Benoit‘s life and 20 year wrestling career ended in 2007 when Benoit murdered his wife and young son before also taking his own life. Crossface is currently an independent production being produced by Dale Alexander Carnegie (whose relationship or lack thereof to author Dale Carnegie is unknown), who was also one of the executive producers of 2010’s Clash of the Titans. The Crossface script was adapted from the Matthew Randazzo V book Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit and the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry by former Weinstein Company staffer Sarah Coulter (no known relation to author Ann Coulter). This is one of the week’s Fresh Developments mostly because there has not yet been an actual theatrically released non-fictional biopic about a modern professional wrestler (The Wrestler and documentaries don’t count), and Chris Benoit’s story seems particularly appropriate to be the first.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#5 WILL ANNE RICE’S VAMPIRE MOVIE FANS FOLLOW HER INTEREST IN CHRIST THE LORD?
In 2005, Anne Rice, the original modern-vampire-author-with-rabid-fans, shocked the world when she put her pen where her recently reborn mouth was, and published Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the first of a planned trilogy portraying the life of Jesus Christ, specifically depicting Jesus around the age of 7 or 8. Producer/director Christopher Columbus’ 1492 Pictures (The Help, Rent, Christmas with the Kranks) and Korean distributor CJ Entertainment have acquired the film rights from Anne Rice to Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, and already set up a director and screenwriter. Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M, the TV movie The Day Reagan Was Shot) will direct from the screenplay that he and his wife Betsy adapted from Rice’s historical novel. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas based mostly upon the mixed/negative critical track record for past adaptations of her novels (RT Tomatometer scores of 60% for Interview with the Vampire, 17% for Queen of the Damned, and 6% for Exit to Eden).
#4 TWO MOVIES BASED ON STAN LEE’S POST MARVEL CONCEPTS UNLIKELY TO MAKE PEOPLE SHOUT “EXCELSIOR!”
When Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby parted ways in 1969, what was left in Kirby’s wake in his move to DC Comics was a new Marvel Universe that included Black Panther, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Thor, and oh yeah, a little something called The Uncanny X-Men. Comparing their respective post-Marvel careers, Jack Kirby went on to create Darkseid, Mister Miracle and all of the other Fourth World characters, Kamandi, OMAC and The Demon, while Stan Lee’s post Marvel career, despite receiving a lot of press, has only created one mildly known new character: Stripperella. Many of Stan Lee’s post-Marvel projects, like Mosaic and The Condor, aren’t even listen on his Wikipedia page. To his credit, Lee (at 88 years of age) does still keep making all sorts of deals for comics, TV shows and movies based on his concepts (even though most of them never end up being produced). He is truly a modern master of showmanship and deal making, and this week, we got the two latest examples, both based upon completely new post-Marvel Stan Lee ideas. First up was The Annihilator, “a new Stan Lee superhero of Chinese heritage to global audiences,” which Stan Lee sold to a new production company called Magic Storm Entertainment. The Annihilator will be adapted by Dan Gilroy, screenwriter of the Al Pacino/Matthew McConaughey movie Two for the Money, cowriter of The Fall and Freejack, and Gilroy also received “story” credit for this year’s boxing robot movie Real Steel. The other Stan Lee superhero project to make the news this week is an untitled “multigenerational superhero movie that spans several decades” that will be written, produced and directed by the team of Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. Although they are most famous for the TV series Smallville, Gough and Millar’s other projects also include Spider-Man 2, Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights, Herbie: Fully Loaded and I Am Number Four. Although Stan Lee’s early Marvel Comics era certainly has produced or inspired many great comic books or movies, the same can’t really be said of anything he’s done since Jack Kirby’s death in 1994 (not that the two are related… just saying), and so that’s why both of these movie concepts are Rotten Ideas this week.
#3 ANGELINA JOLIE TO FOLLOW PORTMAN AND JOVOVICH AS ACTRESSES WHO’VE STARRED IN LUC BESSON MOVIES
Although a movie star like Angelina Jolie may at any one time be attached to star in several movies, lengthy development times for any one of them often means that new projects can come along and totally jump ahead of them. Such appears possibly to be the case this week with Angelina Jolie, who is now in talks to star in a “dramatic thriller that is rooted in true scientific elements” for director Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element). If the deal goes through, filming will start in the spring of 2012, before Jolie starts filming with Ridley Scott the biopic Gertrude Bell. Other projects that Jolie remains attached to star in include the Sleeping Beauty spin off Maleficent for Disney, the long-in-development Patricia Cornwell adaptation Kay Scarpetta, and the historical epic Cleopatra. This untitled Angelina Jolie/Luc Besson project is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas mostly because one has to go all the way back to 1997 and The Fifth Element to find a >Luc Besson-directed film that had a wide release in the USA and also has a Fresh RT Tomatometer score.
#2 AMERICAN PSYCHO: A MOVIE PRODUCED IN THE NINETIES ABOUT THE EIGHTIES GETS A REMAKE IN THE TEENS
Next month’s Sundance Film Festival will mark the 12th anniversary of the world premiere of the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. That film was arguably the beginning of Christian Bale’s ascent to being a legitimate “movie star” (despite at that point having already been in 20 movies, Bale was a child/teen actor in over half of those). This brings us to the news that Lionsgate has begun development of a remake of American Psycho by hiring Noble Jones (one of the second unit directors of The Social Network) to start adapting a new screenplay based upon Bret Easton Ellis’ original novel. Simply put, this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because the world does not need a remake of American Psycho, a film that holds up incredibly well.
#1 ADAM SANDLER’S FIRST SEQUEL MAY BE GROWN UPS 2
Although Adam Sandler has starred in over 20 movies, many of them box office hits, not a single one of them was a sequel (a few were remakes). This week, however, brought the news that all of that may soon change as Adam Sandler and his frequent screenwriter and collaborator Fred Wolf have begun negotiations with Sony Pictures about a sequel to the 2010 comedy Grown Ups. Unlike most of Sandler’s bigger hits, Grown Ups was far from merely an Adam Sandler comedy, as he shared the film with costars Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade in the comedy about junior high friends who reunite 30 years later as adults after a friend’s funeral. Adam Sandler’s signing on to Grown Ups 2 (or whatever it ends up being called) will reportedly depend upon what Fred Wolf can produce for a script. The possibility of a sequel to Grown Ups is this week’s Most Rotten Idea based upon the critical scathing the first film received, with a RT Tomatometer score of just 10% Fresh.
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.