The last week of Summer is traditionally where studios dump some of the movies that have some of the lowest expectations, and apparently, it’s also when they don’t release that many particularly huge news announcements, either. So this was a relatively slow week; nonetheless, here are the biggest stories in movie development.
#1 STAR TREK: TO BOLDLY GO WHERE THEY HAVE GONE BEFORE
This week, the writers of the new Star Trek reboot revealed on TV the movie’s premise, which is so cool that it is worthy of this week’s top story, even though I generally focus on movies that are fresher, farther from release, than one that’s already wrapped filming. The gist of the story is that it follows Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, back in time from the franchise’s “current” setting, as Romulans attempt to go back in time to kill the young Captain James T. Kirk before he goes on to do all those things that messed up the Romulans’ many plans. So, J.J. Abrams has indeed come up with a clever way to bridge the “old” franchise to his new revamp, and since there is time travelling involved, there’s even the possibility that things can be changed, meaning everything we thought we knew could be completely different going forward. If the movie is AWESOME, this is great news. If not, it could be perceived as the nail in the Star Trek coffin. I, however, am optimistic, and think this could be the sign that the reboot is more clever and better structured than we’re used to as of late.
#2 HERE’S HOPING GEORGE CLOONEY CAN STILL LOOK GREAT IN A PREGNANCY SUIT
George Clooney is in talks with DreamWorks to star in Up in the Air, which is looking likely to be the directorial follow up of Jason Reitman (Juno). Based on a novel, Up in the Air is the story of a “corporate downsizer” (AKA a guy who fires other people) who spends his time obsessed with collecting one million frequent flyer miles. Reading Amazon’s premise for the book, it sounds like a quirky mid-life crisis dramedy in the vein of American Beauty, Sideways or Adaptation.
#3 THIS WEEK IN CGI VOICE CASTING
Robert Downey, Jr. is likely to have another super-powered role in his future, as he is in talks to play the lead character in Master Mind, a DreamWorks Animation CGI action/comedy about a super villain who accidentally kills his superheroic nemesis, forcing him to change his world view. Tina Fey is also in talks for a role in Master Mind. Another CGI movie that is continuing to round up its voice cast is Astro Boy, with Kristen Bell being the latest to join what has until now been a large, but 100% male, cast (Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, etc). Finally, there is Toy Story 3, which will undoubtedly sport a huge cast once again, and will now include Michael Keaton (Mr. Mom, Batman) It was revealed this week that he will be providing the voice of Ken in this story of what happens to the dolls when their owner goes off to college. Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid) will reprise her role as Barbie from Toy Story 2.
#4 COOL, NOW WE CAN SELL THE RIGHTS TO ROTTEN TOMATOES: THE MOVIE
A few years back, I heard about this cool new concept called a social networking site, and so I signed up, created my profile and added a bunch of friends. It was called Friendster. And then a year passed, and I heard that NOW the cool new site to join was MySpace. And so I repeated the process. By the time Facebook showed up a year after that, I was exhausted. That’s the site, however, that Hollywood is apparently enamored with this week, so they get a movie about their formation, with Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Studio 60) working on a script about how a Harvard sophomore created the site and went on to become a gazillionaire. I’m looking forward to the exciting scenes of the kid browsing MySpace and Friendster and thinking, “Hey, I can do that!” Web browsing and HTML coding makes for such great action sequences. Extremely successful producer Scott Rudin is developing the project for Columbia Pictures.
#5 HAPPINESS 2: INSERT ANOTHER IRONIC TITLE HERE
Director Todd Solondz made quite a mark in the 1990s with Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, both of which were dire, depressing movies about American lives in complete, disturbing turmoil. Both were arthouse hits, but his next two films, Storytelling and Palindromes struggled. Now, he has firmed up a deal to start filming in Puerto Rico in October on an untitled project (sometimes referred to as Life During Wartime) that will be a semi-sequel to Happiness, which suggests that some character’s stories might be continued, or it might just be a thematic sequel. Casting is underway, but among those that have been rumored during its development are Paul Reubens, Emma Thompson, Demi Moore, Chi McBride and Dennis Franz. Solondz’s movies are the definition of “challenging”; I’m not so sure I can say I “enjoyed” Happiness, for example, but the film certainly had guts.
#6 HE’S A REAL NOWHERE BOY
Nowhere Boy, an independent British production, will start filming in March, 2009, telling the biographical story of the young John Lennon, growing up in Liverpool in a fractured family, and how he eventually meets a kid named Paul McCartney, and the rest is history. The sad fact is that the Beatles really are history now, and some readers probably don’t know who I’m talking about. Well, us fogies will be able to curl up (very carefully) with our vinyl copies of Rubber Soul and anticipate the release of this biopic, probably sometime in 2010.
#7 AUDREY TAUTOU TO GO TOTALLY COCO
There are some careers that simply didn’t exist as we know them before the 20th century. Take for example, the concept of a fashion designer as an international brand. And one of the first designers to accomplish that was Coco Chanel, AKA Coco Avant Chanel, which is the name of the movie that Warner Bros will be making about her, starring Audrey Tautou (Amelie, The Da Vinci Code). Chanel introduced the concept of the pant suit for women in the 1920s, and is also credited with popularizing the “flapper” style associated with that decade. Biopics about unexpected subjects often attract my curiosity, and this definitely fits that bill.
#8 THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITIES TALKING ABOUT MOVIES THAT WILL PROBABLY NEVER HAPPEN
Celebrities get interviewed a lot, and bored interviewers ask about the future. And so, they get quoted talking about movies, some of which are sometimes just the star talking. Or they might be talking about something that has a very tenous future. But, if the title is high profile, then it makes the web news. For example, director Brett Ratner, who already has enough movies on his plate to get him to 2015, talked about his love of Guitar Hero, and how cool a Guitar Hero movie might be. Except that by the time, such a movie got made, it would probably seem about as timely as say, a Speed Racer movie in 2008. And then there’s Vin Diesel, who is starring in one of the worst-reviewed movies of the year, and so he talks about that Chronicles of Riddick trilogy that the first movie was supposed to set up. The only way I can see those movies actually is if they are maybe direct-to-DVD, but does Vin really want to become known as the guy whose next two movies are Blockbuster Exclusives?
#9 AFTER TENDING BAR AT CHEERS, FIGHTING ZOMBIES WILL BE A BREEZE
Woody Harrelson has signed on to star in Zombieland as one of two zombie fighters in a post-apocalyptic undead-ridden America, and hey, it’s a comedy! The director Ruben Fleischer, is making his debut after directing Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the writers are the creators of that fake reality show, The Joe Schmo Show. Basically, this sounds like an American version of Shaun of the Dead, except part of what made Shaun work was its inherent Britishness.
#10 THE OBLIGATORY MENTION OF STUPID BATMAN RUMORS
Okay, here’s the thing. There is no Batman 3 yet. At least, not really. There’s no script, so no movie. So, please, please, please ignore all the stupid casting rumors that will appear online in the next several months. Cher as Catwoman. Johnny Depp as the Riddler. Verne Troyer as the Penguin. Bruce Willis as Mr. Freeze. Mila Kunis as Harley Quinn. All that crap. Until Warner Bros actually hires a writer, there will be no villains to be cast, and hence, any rumors about said villains is just bored writers making things up. You know, like I just did with a few of those.