This week’s Ketchup includes movie development news for Wonder Woman, quasi-remakes of Day of the Triffids and Man on Wire, the sequels Night at the Museum 3, Through the Looking Glass, and The Nut Job 2, and possible roles for Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Late last year, when Warner Bros and DC Comics announced their plans for their next few movies, conspicuously absent from that list was a solo movie for Wonder Woman, who is not only the most famous superheroine, but one of DC’s “big three” (along with Batman and Superman). Ever since that announcement, fan reactions have frequently questioned Wonder Woman’s status, and WB and DC have seemed like they were aware of it. For example, the first big announcement after the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman was the casting of Gal Gadot (Gisele from >Fast & Furious 6) as Wonder Woman. But even so, it was unclear what that casting meant exactly. Yes, we were going to get a live action Wonder Woman, but how much time would she get? We still don’t know the answer for the Batman/Superman movie (now scheduled for 2016, more on that below), but this week, we learned that WB/DC do have plans. Gal Gadot revealed to Israeli TV this week that she signed a three movie contract for the Batman/Superman movie, Justice League, and finally, a Wonder Woman solo movie. Of course, these sorts of contracts are de rigeur; Marvel signs many of its new stars to NINE movie deals. The excitement of this news is also diluted a bit by the slow pace at which Warner Bros is making its superhero movies. If the Batman/Superman movie comes out in 2016, does that mean Justice League in 2016, and Wonder Woman not until sometime around 2020 or 2021 (Wonder Woman‘s 80th anniversary year)? Warner Bros had better hurry, or soon, none of Wonder Woman’s original fans will even still be alive to enjoy her movie. It’s sort of like Tomb Raider fans not getting their first Lara Croft movie until the year 2076.
The term “influential” is thrown around a lot both in Hollywood press and in film reviews and criticism. The most direct use of the word might be for movies that change the ways that other films are created. With that limitation, there are actually very few truly “influential” movies (The Matrix was one, for example). Lately, we’ve been seeing evidence that Gravity might have such an influence, and this week, that influence was tied in with what might be the next live action film for director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Back to the Future, The Polar Express). (It’s worth noting right here that Zemeckis has lots of movies in development all the time, and many of them never get made.) This week’s news concerns the idea of an English language adaptation of the book called To Reach the Clouds, about the 1974 high wire walk that Philippe Petit took between the two towers of the then-new World Trade Center in Manhattan. It was an event that was documented in the Oscar-winning 2008 film Man on Wire. First off, it’s worth noting that Robert Zemeckis and producer Tom Rothman don’t yet even have the rights to the book. If Zemeckis can make the movie, his idea now is to use 3D in the same way that Alfonso Cuaron did with Gravity. Finally, there’s the question of who would play Philippe Petit, and Zemeckis’ top choice is reportedly currently Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If JGL did sign on, he would have to practice up his French-accented-English, as anyone who saw Man on Wire might remember.
The idea of a dramatic retelling of Man on Wire has been talked about for a few years now, and so has a remake of the 1962 science fiction/horror film The Day of the Triffids. That movie was an adaptation of a 1951 novel by John Wyndham about an invasion of alien plants that begins with the plants blinding most of the humans on Earth. The Day of the Triffids is a distinctly British tradition, which has also been adapted to TV twice, and radio thrice. As such, it makes sense that the director who has now signed on is Mike Newell, whose accomplished career includes such films as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Speaking of Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe signed on for another movie this week, and this time, it concerns a distinctly American topic. Radcliffe has signed to star in Brooklyn Bridge, which tells the true story of “a brilliant but inexperienced engineer who is left to oversee the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when his father passes away. Besieged by calamity, danger and doubt, his obsession to get the job done threatens his health and his family until he discovers an improbable ally in his charming and shrewd wife.” Brooklyn Bridge will be directed by Douglas McGrath (Infamous, Nicholas Nickleby, Emma).
Like Warner Bros’ planned adaptation of The Stand, Ron Howard’s plans for adapting Stephen King’s series called The Dark Tower seems to currently be in something of a hiatus. However, we did learn this week of an actor who has had “a ton of meetings” with Ron Howard about costarring in the eventual project (or series of projects as it may turn out). The news comes from Ain’t It Cool News, which spoke to Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad) this week at Sundance. The question was thrown out there about Aaron Paul being great for the drug addict role of Eddie Dean, and it turns out that Ron Howard was way ahead of them already.
There are arguably lots of ways in which Marvel is “winning” any sort of competition one wants to imagine exists with Warner Bros and their DC Comics adaptations. One that may be decided without any personal opinion, however, is the issue of expedience. Marvel just makes their movies faster, and more frequently. Marvel Studios didn’t even get started in all of this until Iron Man in 2008, and in those five and a half years, they’ve released eight movies, with two movies a year scheduled going forward. In that same time, Warner Bros has released three fewer movies inspired by the DC Universe, and has only one movie scheduled for the next three years. We know that because late last Friday, Warner Bros announced that the Batman/Superman movie has been shifted from 2015 until May 6, 2016. Marvel reacted the way they should have, by moving Ant-Man up two weeks to take that slot instead. One could perceive it as a sort of chess move reaction to the date DC chose, because May 6, 2016 was already the announced release date for one of Marvel’s mystery movies (which is probably Doctor Strange). This story is a “Rotten Idea” because we would all be better served by Warner Bros releasing more (good) DC Comics movies. If Marvel can do two movies a year, so can DC.
This week, we found out which comedians DreamWorks Animation has recruited to voice their adaptation of the popular children’s book series Captain Underpants, and it looks like it was done by someone who watches a lot of Comedy Central. The lead character will be voice by The Daily Show alumnus Ed Helms, and other roles will be voiced by Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele), and Nick Krolll (of Kroll Show). Kevin Hart is not really known for being on the network, but he’s also currently riding along to success, and so, all that was needed to pick him might have been a Box Office Mojo bookmark. Captain Underpants is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because it’s being directed by Rob Letterman, whose past films have included Valiant, Shark Tale, and Gulliver’s Travels (the one with Jack Black).
It’s far from a new thing, but Hollywood loves casting Brits as villains. This week, two British actors signed on for such roles in the latest films in FX-heavy family fantasy comedy franchises. Sir Ben Kingsley has joined the cast of Night at the Museum 3, in which he will play an Egyptian pharoah who comes to life to threaten the other exhibits at the British Museum, which is now confirmed to be the third film’s setting. Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t quite have Sir Ben’s credentials, but hey, he is British, and he will also be playing a sequel villain. The former Borat will play an unknown villain in Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Disney’s 2010 hit Alice in Wonderland. Both stories are Rotten Ideas based on the RT Tomatometer scores for the previous films (44%, 43%, and 51%, respectively).
January is a very confusing month for many filmmakers. People “in the know” understand the distinction, but for the average moviegoer, they don’t know the difference between the “platformers” that actually first opened in the previous year, and the movies that are dumped in January, because that’s where you put those sorts of movies. On the other hand, of course, are the movies that are actually made that way on purpose. Based on this week’s news, it sounds like we can assign the animated kids comedy The Nut Job in that category. After a weekend earning of $25.7 million, the various companies involved have announced plans to release a sequel called The Nut Job 2 on almost the same weekend two years from now, on January 15, 2016. The first film’s voice cast included Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, Jeff Dunham, Stephen Lang, and Maya Rudolph. That movie’s RT Tomatometer score is currently “Rotten” with just 12%.
As long as this writer’s been doing this sort of job (1997), there has been an underground community for “in development” scripts. And as long as there’s been computers talking to each other, some of those scripts have appeared online. This week, one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed filmmakers took direct action resulting from the leaking of his latest script. That filmmaker is Quentin Tarantino, and the project in question was his recently revealed Western called The Hateful Eight. That project is now pretty much on indefinite hold, with Tarantino saying that he might just publish the script instead, and move on to other projects. If The Hateful Eight hadn’t been scrapped, it might have been the ultimate QT reunion movie, with the actors that the script went out including Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, and Christoph Waltz. And what a movie we might have missed out on, because it was also revealed this week that Tarantino was planning on filming The Hateful Eight in full Cinemascope.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.