We are firmly in the dog days of Summer, as Hollywood sneaks a couple of end of the menu horror movies into theaters, and movie news this week came to a near standstill. There were, however, just enough bits of news to make up this week’s top 11, including yet another new project for Steven Spielberg to consider, progress for the Bioshock movie, sequel news for Hancock, casting news for a few movies and the buzz on what horror classic Rob Zombie wants to remake next.
The $600 million that last year’s Hancock made pretty much ensured that Columbia Pictures (also eager to keep making Spider-Man movies) would be looking into continuing the Will Smith superhero franchise. The studio has hired Adam Fierro and Glen Mazzara, producers and writers of TV’s The Shield, to work on a sequel that will further explore the world iand mythology introduced in the first movie. Hancock has the distinction of being the rare superhero movie that wasn’t actually based upon an existing comic book, so the writers are basically free to create and explore any new concepts they want, building upon the events of the first film. In Hancock, Will Smith played an irresponsible superhero with amazing powers that gets an image makeover and discovers things about himself in the process. It’s likely that Columbia is expecting Will Smith to return for the sequel.
Universal Pictures is in talks with Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later, Intacto) to take over their movie adaptation of the hit video game Bioshock, which got its start as a project for Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean). Earlier this year, Universal put the brakes on the pre-production of Bioshock as the budget neared $160 million, resulting in a decision to make the film overseas to cut down costs. That lead to Verbinski’s departure, as he couldn’t commit to working overseas because of the animated film Rango, starring Johnny Depp, which he is also attached to. Bioshock, which was adapted by John Logan (The Aviator, Star Trek: Nemesis) is the story of an airplane crash survivor who discovers an underwater city called Rapture whose utopian vision has become corrupted and twisted, with the city becoming populated by creatures that gain super abilities by extracting “plasmids” from their victims.
Although Steven Spielberg’s next movie is locked in as the Harvey remake, the director is continuing to pick up projects for DreamWorks as a producer, and that he could potentially end up directing. The latest is an adaptation of the final book by Michael Crichton, who wrote Jurassic Park, the source novel for one of Spielberg’s biggest hits. Pirate Latitudes, which will be published on November 24, is a pirate adventure set in 1665. It’s about a plan set in motion to raid Port Royal, Jamaica, and make off with a Spanish galleon filled with treasure. Pirate Latitudes is being adapted by David Koepp, who cowrote Jurassic Park with Crichton, and has also continued to frequently work with Spielberg on projects like War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Michael Crichton was best known for instilling science (and science fiction) into his adventure stories, but it’s not known if Pirate Latitudes has any such elements. It’s also worth noting that Steven Spielberg has actually worked on pirate movies in the past, starting with Hook, and most recently, there are pirate elements in The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn. So, if Spielberg signs on to direct, Pirate Latitudes could finish a trilogy of sorts.
The cast of Disney’s big budget adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars continues to grow, with the news this week that three Brits have found roles that do much to flesh out the story’s rich alien mythology. First up, I should mention the already cast Taylor Kitsch (Gambit from X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as John Carter, the story’s sole earthling, Lynn Collins (also from Wolverine) and Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, the fierce Thark warrior that befriends Carter. Playing Sola, Tarkas’ daughter who must hide her softer side from her warrior race, will be Samantha Morton (Minority Report). Polly Walker (the sexy Atia in HBO’s Rome) will be playing a more typical Thark, Sarkoja, who is described as “merciless” and “tyrannical.” Finally, there is Dominic West (The Wire), who will be playing Sab Than, the prince of the Zodangans who believes it is his destiny to rule Barsoom, which we know better as Mars. John Carter of Mars has the potential to be a really amazing sci-fi space opera, with Pixar’s Andrew Stanton as director, and these latest cast members are all very talented and should bring a lot to their roles. Very exciting.
With The Beatles: Rock Band prepares to invade stores and living rooms next month, Hollywood is likewise continuing to find ways to bring the Beatles back to the big screen. In England, filming wrapped earlier this year on Nowhere Boy, a biopic about John Lennon’s youth, and last week, Robert Zemeckis announced plans for his next CGI motion capture movie to be a remake of Yellow Submarine. And now, producer David Permut (Captain Ron, Face/Off) has optioned the rights to A Life in the Day, a biopic script about Brian Epstein, the wunderkind manager who plucked them from Hamburg and set them on the course to stardom, shepherding their careers until his death from drug overdose in 1967, a point at which one could argue was really the beginning of the end for the band as a functioning unit. Brian Epstein is also just the latest figure that Permut is developing a biopic about, along with projects about comedian Sam Kinison, automobile mogul John DeLorean and Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. A Life in the Day was written by Tony Gittleson, whose primary career is as a first assistant director on TV shows like Veronica Mars and Heroes.
Director John Landis, who in the 1980s gave us one of the best werewolf movies ever, An American Werewolf in London, and (notoriously) directed a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, is preparing to return to the genre with a project called Burke and Hare. Based on a true story also called the West Port Murders, Burke and Hare is the story of two Irish immigrants in Edinburgh, Scotland, who turned to murder as a way of supplying corpses to a medical college. Landis already has one of his two stars, in the form of Simon Pegg (Shawn of the Dead). Considering that this is a movie about a pair, one has to wonder if perhaps the next actor to sign on will be Pegg’s frequent movie partner, Nick Frost?
An Australian production company called Wayfare Entertainment has committed $30 million to produce a “3-D underwater survival drama” called Sanctum which will be filmed using James Cameron’s Avatar cameras and 3-D technology. James Cameron is also executive producing Sanctum, which will be directed by Alister Grierson (2006’s Kokoda) and written by John Garvin and Andrew Wight. Wright has also collaborated with Cameron on Aliens of the Deep and Ghosts of the Abyss and his real life experience is the inspiration for the movie’s story. In the 1980s, Wight was leading an expedition of 15 divers into a remote underwater cave system below Australia’s Nullarbor Plain when the cave entrance collapsed, trapping them in a two day ordeal of survival. Filming of Sanctum will start in Australia later this year.
The casting of the long-in-development comedy Dinner with Schmucks continued this week with the news that Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) is in talks with Paramount to join Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Judy Punch. To be directed by Jay Roach (the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises), Dinner with Schmucks is about a man who hosts a weekly dinner party in which idiots are invited to dinner as comedic entertainment. Galifianakis would play a mattress store assistant manager who is dating Carell’s ex-wife. Filming is expected to start this fall, in preparation of a July, 2010 release date for the movie, which puts Dinner with Schmucks in close proximity to Little Fockers, although Roach isn’t directing that latest entry in the Meet the Parents series.
Kevin Tancharoen, who made his feature film debut with next month’s remake of Fame has been hired by Universal Pictures to direct a Brett Ratner-produced sci fi action movie called Arcana. Although the specifics of the plot are being kept hidden, here’s what we do know it might be: “a live-action graphic novel influenced by Blade Runner that includes martial arts and uses production methods similar to Zack Snyder’s 300.” First off, I have really sort of grown to dislike the use of the word “graphic novel” when people in the movie business mean “comic book.” A graphic novel is basically more of a format than a genre: it refers to better bound books that are thicker than the typical flimsy comic book you’d find on a grocery store magazine rack (also called “trade paperbacks”). After that, this movie just feels like a series of buzz words thrown into a blender: it’s like a comic book, but it’s also like Blade Runner, and it’s got martial arts and oh yeah, it’s also like 300. People like comic books, martial arts, Blade Runner and 300, right? True… but throwing those four things together doesn’t skip all the way to the end of the formula and equal “profit!” Arcana was written by John Ridley (U-Turn, Three Kings), who also wrote the upcoming Red Tails about the Tuskegee Airmen. The idea behind Arcana has its roots in a collaboration between Tancharoen and Harry Shum, Jr., one of the regulars in the new FOX show Glee.
Disney’s Touchstone Pictures has signed Robin Williams to star in their comedy Wedding Banned as one half of the parents of a bride who kidnap her on her wedding day to keep her from making a mistake, leading to them eluding both the cops and her angry groom, while finding themselves coming closer together. Wedding Banned does not yet have a director, but it was written by the team of Jack Amiel and Michael Begler (Raising Helen; cowriters of the 2006 remake of The Shaggy Dog). Disney was reportedly quick to sign Robin Williams on for this comedy after working with the comedian on this November’s Old Dogs, costarring John Travolta and the late Bernie Mac.
After relaunching the Halloween horror franchise in 2007, and making another one that’s opening in theaters this weekend, rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie has set his sights on remaking another horror classic: 1958’s The Blob. The Blob, which was also previously remade in 1988 (starring Kevin Dillon), is credited for helping launch the film career of Steve McQueen, in a story of a giant amoeba-like alien lifeform that grows as it devours anything that gets in the way of its acid like touch. Zombie, who will be directing, producing and writing The Blob has said of his idea for the remake, “my intention is not to have a big red blobby thing — that’s the first thing I want to change.” In other words, he’s starting off with the idea of basically making… some other movie. The Blob is sort of inherently the story of a big red ooze that eats people. That’s what The Blob does, its raison d’etre, it’s thing. Asking The Blob not to be a big red blobby thing would be like asking Rob Zombie to get a haircut and a shave. Zombie continues, “I’d been looking to break out of the horror genre, and this really is a science fiction movie about a thing from outer space,” but while he says he’s trying to break out of the horror genre, “I intend to make it scary.” Since apparently scary sci-fi movies don’t count as horror. Production of The Blob is expected to start in the spring of 2010 on a budget of $30 million. Although I liked Rob Zombie’s first two movies (House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects), what he did with Halloween was basically unforgivable, and Halloween II doesn’t seem like it will be any different, which makes The Blob easily this week’s Rotten Idea.