This Week’s Ketchup comes to you as the Cannes Film Festival is in full swing in France, which means dozens of new movies or movie roles were announced this week (literally dozens, the total I came up is 41). The ten stories that made the cut for the Weekly Ketchup include (potential) new roles for Jack Black, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz, and new projects for directors Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese and Barry Sonnenfeld.
This Week’s Top Story
GEORGE CLOONEY WILL PLAY FETCH IN HUMAN NATURE
This week was awash in movie news, as this writer considered a mind-boggling 37 stories that might have made the top 10 in a slower week. The story that stands out the most, however, involves both one of the hottest directors in the business today, and one of the top stars. Director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler), who recently dropped out of the Marvel prequel The Wolverine, is now interested in a science fiction project called Human Nature. George Clooney is already attached to star in Human Nature, which is about a cryogenically frozen man who wakes up in a future where humans are now the pets of another species, and so he is forced to become a pet. Now, what is not known about that premise is what “species” we’re talking about. Is it a Planet of the Apes type scenario, or is the mystery species an alien race? We don’t know, but either way, the image of George Clooney being led around on a leash, or being trained to perform tricks, all through the direction of Darren Aronofsky, is something that needs to be put on film pronto. Who’s a good little movie star, George Clooney? You are! You are! Now, go fetch me this movie.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 MARTIN SCORSESE MAY (OR MAY NOT) BE SORT OF, KIND OF REMAKING TAXI DRIVER
In 2003, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier challenged director Jørgen Leth to remake Leth’s film The Perfect Human, but with the twist that he must remake the film five times, each with a different “obstruction,” such as in Cuba and with no sets. The result was a film called The Five Obstructions. Now, Lars von Trier is looking to do the experiment again with the same title of The Five Obstructions, but with a much more famous director and possibly a much more famous remake. That director is Martin Scorsese, and the movie that appears likely to be remade five times is Taxi Driver, the 1976 film which received 4 Academy Award nominations and launched the career of a young Jodie Foster. Many fans may question whether this is a “Rotten Idea,” but if Scorsese is indeed remaking Taxi Driver under the rules of The Five Obstructions, we may be seeing one of our top directors challenged to reinvent both his own style and one of his best works, so the result could be… really amazing. Or awful. Who knows, but Scorsese is willing to take the challenge, so I think audiences should be cautiously optimistic about the results. Unless of course, it’s not really Taxi Driver that is being remade, but the question then is, which other film could it be? Although production of The Five Obstructions is expected to start in 2012, Scorsese’s next film after Hugo Cabret will instead be the long-in-development Silence, which starts filming in January, 2012. Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to 17th century Japan, and must face violence and resistance as they tried to spread Christianity there. In the past, Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal have been among those mentioned as possibly starring in Silence, but at this point, no actors are officially confirmed as being signed. Finally, with those two Scorsese movies confirmed, that now means that the director won’t be reuniting with his frequent star Leonardo DiCaprio in the financial adaptation The Wolf of Wall Street.
#2 JOHNNY DEPP’S REMAKE OF THE THIN MAN GETTING CLOSER TO ACTUALLY HAPPENING
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) has signed with Warner Bros to produce and direct the planned remake of The Thin Man. Johnny Depp will star as detective Nick Charles, which will reunite him with Rob Marshall, the director of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Originally based upon a mystery novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man was an Oscar-nominated film about retired detective Nick Charles and his heiress wife Nora. The Thin Man was a box office smash, and went on to have a series (even though Hammett himself only wrote that one book). This remake is being written by screenwriter Jerry Stahl (cowriter of Bad Boys II), who also appears again in this week’s Ketchup in the next story. There’s no word yet as to when The Thin Man will start filming, but with Johnny Depp busy with Dark Shadows and (the possible filming of) The Lone Ranger this year, it probably won’t be until at least 2012.
#3 THE BLEEDER IS THE TRUE STORY BEHIND ROCKY
The way the movie lore goes, in 1975, young aspiring screenwriter Sylvester Stallone saw a working class New Jersey guy named Chuck Wepner take on Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammed Ali, and was inspired to write and star in Rocky. Wepner didn’t win the fight, and neither did Rocky Balboa (although some people may forget that when they nostalgize about Rocky), but he did make it through 15 rounds, despite bleeding heavily and looking like a mound of hamburger. Now, the Chuck Wepner story is getting its chance at being told without fictionalization in the form of a movie called The Bleeder. Liev Schreiber, who beefed up for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, will star as Chuck Wepner, and Naomi Watts and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) are also attached to costar. There’s no word yet as to who will play Muhammad Ali. The Bleeder will be an independent production directed by Jeff Feuerzeig, the director of the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnson, from a script he cowrote with Jerry Stahl (cowriter of Bad Boys II), who was also the inspiration for the movie Permanent Midnight. Hyde Park International, the company behind The Bleeder, is currently shopping the project around the Cannes Film Festival, looking for investors to make this movie happen.
#4 RACHEL WEISZ MAY BE THE LATEST BOURNE GIRL
Rachel Weisz is in “deep talks” with Universal Pictures to costar with Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy, which starts over with a brand new secret agent in the style of Jason Bourne. There’s no word yet as to who exactly Rachel Weisz would be playing, such as whether it would be a romantic interest, the new agent’s boss (possibly both?) or something else altogether. Rachel Weisz is also in talks to costar as a witch in Oz: The Great and Powerful, and since both movies are expected to be filming at the same time, she will probably have to choose one over the other. However, the tone of this news seems to suggest that The Bourne Legacy (in which Weisz may have a larger role) is likely to win out. Director Tony Gilroy (Duplicity, Michael Clayton), who cowrote the first three Bourne movies (as well as this one), will be directing, and filming is scheduled to start in September, 2011.
#5 JACK BLACK TO TAKE ON ONLINE JOURNALISM IN BAILOUT
There were dozens of movies announced this week at Cannes, and only 10 slots in this column, but the following story made the cut mostly because of how closely it seems to resemble (or spoof) the true stories of many people I know. Jack Black will star in a comedy called Bailout, which will be directed by Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart, 24 Hour Party People). Based upon the novel The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (who also adapted the screenplay), Bailout tells the story of a reporter who quits his day job to become an online blogger/journalist, but as he soon finds his life going to shambles, he meets two stoners who might help him turn his life around. The $20 million independent production is scheduled to start filming in the USA in August, 2011. Bailout is sort of a borderline Fresh Development, hinged mostly on the Tomatometer scores for Jack Black. Although Jack Black has starred in plenty of clunkers, Bailout appears to be a return to the “indie-flavored comedies” in which Jack Black was much better, earlier in his career. This writer is thinking of High Fidelity, Bob Roberts, School of Rock, Jesus’ Son (though not a comedy) and more recently, Be Kind, Rewind.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 AFTER COWBOYS, THE NEXT BOX OFFICE TITLE BOUT WILL BE DOMINION: DINOSAURS VS ALIENS
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (RV, Wild Wild West) is currently wrapping up Men in Black III (due in theaters next summer, 2012), but he has already signed for another alien-themed big budget project: Dominion: Dinosaurs vs Aliens. This project will be written by comic book writer Grant Morrison (JLA, All-Star Superman, The Invisibles), who will also write a graphic novel version of the story. Dominion: Dinosaurs vs Aliens will tell the story of a secret alien invasion that took place during the time of the dinosaurs, with the real secret being that the dinosaurs were more intelligent than we know, and put up a strong resistance against the aliens. So, this movie will most likely be solidly CGI in order to create the dinosaur characters, and probably the aliens as well. Although this sounds like a cool idea for a movie, Dominion: Dinosaurs vs Aliens gets Rotten Idea status mostly because of Sonnenfeld’s low Tomatometer ratings, which have been rotten since the original Men in Black in 1997.
#3 AARON ECKHART AND SEAN BEAN AS HOOK AND SMEE IN A GRIM AND GRITTY TAKE ON PAN
There are several movies (dozens?) based on classic tales like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and The Wizard of Oz racing to get produced first, and in the mix are several Peter Pan movies, too. This week, a project called Pan appears to be winning the race, with three actors signed to costar in this dark modern reinterpretation of J.M. Barrie’s whimsical creation. Aaron Eckhart will play a modern day “tormented detective” detective named Hook, Sean Bean will play a chief detective named Smee, and AnnaSophia Robb (Race to Witch Mountain) will play Wendy, a woman who survived an attack by an evil childlike kidnapper named Pan. Yes, a movie with that implied synopsis is really happening. Pan has been in development for a long time, and Guillermo del Toro was even once considering directing it, which would place this movie in the “Fresh Developments” category. But del Toro’s out, so here we are. Pan is currently an independent production to be the feature film debut of video game director Ben Hibon (Heavenly Sword) from a script by screenwriter Ben Hagid, who will also be making his feature length debut. That’s not the only children’s tale to make the news this week, however, as 20th Century Fox has also hired newcomer screenwriter Max Landis (son of John Landis) to work on Pied Piper, a reimagining of The Pied Piper of Hamerlin, the 16th century tale of a man hired to rid a town of a plague of rats. This is just a guess, but this time around, they will probably be giant mutant rats.
#2 THIS WEEK IN 3D HORROR REMAKES: THE AMITYVILLE LEGACY 3D AND THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D
The success of the 3D fad may be debatable for big budget blockbusters, but one genre that is still embracing 3D is horror, and to be more specific, horror remakes. To be even more specific, remakes of 1970s horror movies. First, there is The Amityville Legacy 3D, which will be about yet another couple moving into that spooky old house thirty years later. And then scary stuff happens, in 3D, in your face! The Amityville Legacy 3D will be written by Andrew Helm (the 2008 direct-to-video Death Racers) and direct-to-video producer Steve B. Harris, and there’s no announced director yet. And then, from Lionsgate, there is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, which has a title that sounds like a remake, but is rumored to be more of a sequel, as a young lady inherits a property in Texas which happens to be home to Leatherface. John Luessenhop (Takers) will direct, and filming is scheduled to start in June, 2011. Finally, there is the 3D sequel to a 3D remake of a 1970s horror movie, Piranha 3DD, which this week added David Hasselhoff to its cast, along with Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Gary Busey, David Koechner, and lots of young actors for the fishies to feed on. Piranha 3DD is being both written (Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton) and directed (John Gulager) by the winners of Project Greenlight 3, whose film went on to be Feast. Since then, Gulager also directed the two direct-to-video Feast sequels, and Dunstan and Melton cowrote the last four Saw movies.
#1 WILL 46-YEAR-OLD KEANU REEVES PLAY A TEEN MOTORCYCLE GANG LEADER IN AKIRA?
This news item actually came out late last Friday, when the Weekly Ketchup was already online for last week, but this news is so rotten, it had to be included this week, even with some 20+ other stories that could have been included. Warner Bros is now talking to Keanu Reeves about playing Kaneda in the planned remake of the Japanese Anime classic Akira (which itself was actually based on a beloved manga series). This news comes after weeks and months in which actors like Michael Fassbender, James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Robert Pattinson have also been considered for one of the two leads. In a way, the possibility of Keanu Reeves is a somewhat clever way around the recent online protests (including a twitter from George Takei) about the “whitewashing” of Akira, because Keanu Reeves is in fact part Chinese/Hawaiian (even if most people really don’t think of him as being an “Asian American movie star”). Rather, the real problem with casting Keanu Reeves is his age, as he’s currently 46, and Kaneda is supposed to be a teenager, or at least, the leader of a teen motorcyle gang. Perhaps this remake will get around that fact by just making Kaneda a much older man who just happens to lead the kids, or maybe the “teen” thing will be vaguely ignored or slightly aged up a bit. However Warner Bros is squeezing Keanu Reeves into Akira (if he signs), this is still the most Rotten Idea of the week.
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.