#1 – IRON 2, MAN
With Iron Man kicking off the start of the summer season this weekend, and expected to open more than respectably well, everyone involved is talking to a lot of press, and so, the subject of a sequel (and possible trilogy) is coming up quite a bit. To sum up the many quotes that are repeating the same story, a sequel hasn’t officially been greenlit yet, but unless the first movie really tanks, a sequel seems likely, possibly aiming for early summer, 2010. It’s been known for a while that the main cast members all signed on for three movies from the start, so one of the more obvious plot points often mentioned is the character of War Machine (answer: yes, they want to add him to the mix eventually). There’s also the question of a villain for a sequel, and the first movie drops a hint for fans who know their Iron Man villains (answer: The Mandarin, known for his “ten rings”), although that doesn’t quite answer the question of who would be the villain in a *third* movie. I’m hoping for M.O.D.O.K. personally. He’s Designed Only for Killing!
Also waiting in the wings is word from Marvel Studios about what their next greenlit movie after Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk will be, with expectations being that it will come this Monday. Candidates include Ant-Man, Captain America, The Mighty Thor and The Avengers… probably in that order.
#2 – ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR MEL GIBSON TO TRY ACTING
Is seven years the statute of limitations on acts of public embarassment as well? If you figure a movie announced now won’t be in theaters until at least 2009, then Edge of Darkness, a thriller to star Mel Gibson will be released seven years after the last time he starred in a movie, which was in 2002 with Signs and We Were Soldiers (he also had a supporting role in 2003’s The Singing Detective). Obviously, his D.U.I. and all that didn’t actually happen until 2006, and he kept himself plenty busy in those seven years with directing The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, but he certainly put his acting career on hold for most of the decade, it will have turned out. Edge of Darkness (like The Singing Detective) is a feature adaptation of a 1980s BBC mini-series, about a police detective’s investigation into the death of his daughter. Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Legend of Zorro), who directed the original mini-series, will be directing this shorter version as well, from a script by William Monahan (The Departed, Kingdom of Heaven) with filming scheduled to start in Boston in August, as an independent production with no studio yet attached. This project will definitely be a litmus test for Mel Gibson’s ability to carry a movie after his 2006 controversy, in a different way than a movie “just” being directed by him (Apocalypto). Gibson’s appeal as an A-lister was always his amiability, I think. Can he restore that perception?
#3 – MISSION: UNTITLED
United Artists (which Tom Cruise is currently running) announced plans this week for a currently untitled spy thriller to star the Mission: Impossible lead, to be produced and written by 24 co-creator Joel Surnow, and cowritten by Michael Loceff, another producer of the same TV show. This comes just a week after U/A announced plans for a science fiction trilogy to be created by Ronald D. Moore, who reinvented Battlestar Galactica to great success, so I don’t think it’s wrong to say that it looks like Tom Cruise and his staff have their eyes on some of the best minds in television today, and how they can be tapped to bring their ideas to the big screen. So, is this the end of the trend for U/A, or might Cruise have his eyes on other television talents? Some are already doing the movie thing (J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, for example), but other acclaimed show runners like David Chase (The Sopranos) and Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) remain basically TV only, for now…
#4 – NICOLE KIDMAN TO BE WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’?
With Baz Luhrman’s big historical/romantic epic, Australia, still on its way to theaters this fall, Nicole Kidman is continuing to line up her future work, with the musical Nine to now be followed by an untitled biopic about British singer Dusty Springfield, who had a string of hits in the 1960s and early 1970s, representing a sort of crossover success as a white singer who many listeners at the time confused with being a soul singer, a la Motown. Springfield, who died in 1999 of breast cancer, is also known for being sexually ambiguous, with plenty of guessing being done over the years, which led to her being embraced by many gay fans (including the Pet Shop Boys, who collaborated with her during her comeback in the 1980s). Springfield also reportedly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness. The project is being written by Michael Cunningham (The Hours, also starring Kidman), for Fox 2000, and is competing with another biopic about Springfield set up at Universal, which would star Kristen Chenowith (Pushing Daisies).
#5 – DEATH AND THE ANANSI BOYS
Talking to MTV.com this week, British comics writer and author Neil Gaiman revealed the status of the movie versions of two of his titles other than the upcoming Coraline (and last year’s Stardust). What he’s apparently actually working on this very minute is a script for the novel, The Anansi Boys, which was a sequel to American Gods (which has lingered in development for several years). The long-in-development adaptation of Death: The High Cost of Living, which was a spin-off of Sandman (also long in development) is apparently still alive, even after the problems of New Line Cinema, with Shia LeBeouf reportedly interested in costarring (probably as the young man who accompanies Death as she visits various people whose time has come). What’s interesting about these two particular concepts being focused on is that they both have roots have spin-offs of titles that are themselves also in development (ie, might sequels get made before the first concept)? Anyway, Neil Gaiman’s a clever, original writer, has a loyal following, and so any news of his stuff getting made into a movie is worth special attention, I think.
#6 – DAVID COPPERFIELD: YOU LITTLE DICKENS!
British director Peter Howitt (Johnny English, Sliding Doors) is set to start work this fall on a new theatrical adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’ greatest novels, David Copperfield, with an ensemble cast that already includes Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) as Uriah Heep, Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Julie Walters and as the adult Copperfield, Hayden Christensen. Charles Dickens movies seem to trickle out every few years (Oliver Twist in 2005, Nicholas Nickleby in 2002, Great Expectations in 1998/1999), so it seems almost like perfect clockwork that this one is on the way now. The spoof movie, An American Carol, starring Kelsey Grammer and Leslie Nielsen? Not so much.
#7 – DIRECTOR NEWS: SODERBERGH, JUDGE AND ROTH
A few directors announced their next projects this week. Steven Soderbergh, busy working on the agribusiness dramedy The Informant, with Matt Damon, is finding time to direct The Girlfriend Experience, another low-budget HDNet project in the style of Bubble, about the lifestyle of an expensive call girl, for which he may cast an actual porn star. Although live-action box office success eludes him (no matter how awesome Office Space actually was, theatrical B.O. ignored), Mike Judge is heading back into the breach again with the comedy Extract, to star Jason Bateman as the owner of a flower extract business (so, yes, it sounds like a variation of Office Space, but with plants). And then there’s horror director Eli Roth, known at this point for his gory R-rated projects (Hostel, Cabin Fever), who now wants to tone things down for a PG-rated disaster movie (inspired by the success of Cloverfield, perhaps?), although no actual details were revealed in said story.
#8 – CASTING NEWS: The HOBBIT, TRANSFORMERS 2, TAKING WOODSTOCK
Following on the news that he has officially signed on for The Hobbit and the “in betweener” Tolkien movie after it, Guillermo del Toro has already started lining up his cast, starting with word that he has talked to both Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis about reprising their roles as Gandalf and Gollum, respectively.
In similar tentpole territory (budget wise, if by not literary lineage) is Transformers 2, for which Jonah Hill is reportedly in talks to play a roomie friend of Shia LeBeouf’s character, with would-be Justice League costar Teresa Palmer possibly cast as well.
Finally, there is Ang Lee’s adaptation of Taking Woodstock, announced last week, which has already snatched up an actor to play the young gay lead, who, in what might be a surprising (and potentially brilliant) casting choice, will be Demitri Martin. Martin has been a regular on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, focusing on the issues of young people with his Trendspotting segments, hilariously. When I covered this movie in last week’s column, I remarked on Ang Lee’s tendency to work with young actors on the cusp of bigger things, and so this is a very interesting development for Demitri Martin, I think. Hapless Jon Stewart though, he can’t hold on to his guys!
#9 – IMAGE NEWS: AMELIA, AGORA AND LAND OF THE LOST
The last few weeks have seen three high profile movies with ties to comics or animation have large photo galleries leaked online, inspiring me to write nice little summaries of them (none of which were particularly positive), and then I have to pull them a few hours later because they were yanked by their respective studios (hint: the first letters of the three movies form my initials). Anyway, hopefully the images I have to link you to this week will stay up long enough for you to see them. USA Today has our first image of the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost, and they look (awesomely) almost exactly like they did in the 1970s. Agora, that movie about Ancient Egypt from the director of The Others (and starring Rachel Weisz), which barely got noticed last month when it was announced has led to some fairly large recreations of the Sphynx and such. And finally, Hilary Swank has shaved eyebrows for Amelia, and that really helps the effect. Look, enjoy the sense of relief in a week of first look images that actually makes me feel good about the movies they represent.
#10 – ALL ALONG THE CLOCK TOWER
The Weinstein Co. announced this week that they are teaming up with Senator Entertainment (of the upcoming Brett Easton Ellis adaptation, The Informers) to produce a movie version of the Clock Tower franchise of survival horror video games, with the plot of Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within specifically forming the basis for the movie’s plot. Martin Weisz (The Hills Have Eyes 2) will be directing this story of a young woman who finds herself locked in an insane asylum as she tries to rid of herself of a curse that has haunted her family for generations. As the basis for horror movies, Clock Tower comes across sort of between a movie like Silent Hill (also based on a survival video game) and various recent female-driven horror movies driven by freak-outs, especially those based on Asian horror movies (The Eye, The Ring, etc).
Every Friday, “Weekly Ketchup” catches you up on the 10 biggest stories about upcoming movies, according to film news guru Greg Dean Schmitz. Greg can be reached via RT Forums messages, his MySpace page or the RT Forums thread devoted to him.