Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Jack Black to star in Gulliver's Travels

Plus new projects for Charlize Theron, Will Smith, and Steve Carell.

by | November 7, 2008 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup covers the obligatory batch of sequels and remakes, with a few somewhat original ideas thrown in, with movies with such big names as Tom Cruise, Jack Black, Will Smith and Steve Carell. Also, I should mention that last week’s 10/31 column didn’t make its way online due to technical difficulties (on Halloween… oooh, spooky!), so I’ve posted it on the RT forums for your retroactive perusal.


20th Century Fox has secretly been developing a live action comedy version of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, starring Jack Black, which will start filming in March, 2009. Gulliver’s Travels will be the live action debut of Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, next year’s Monsters vs Aliens), from a script by Nicholas Stoller (cowriter of Fun with Dick and Jane) and Joe Stillman (cowriter of Shrek, Shrek 2). Fox apparently has franchise ideas in mind, because this movie is being described as adapting just the first of Gulliver’s travels, and not the later ones. Jack Black will play a modern day travel writer named Lemuel Gulliver covering the Bermuda Triangle who finds himself on the island of Lilliput, home to a civilization of teensy tiny people. Gulliver’s Travels has been adapted several times, including a 1996 TV mini-series starring Ted Danson which I thought was surprisingly loyal and quite entertaining. This Jack Black movie might be entertaining, but it doesn’t sound like they’re aiming to be particularly loyal to the source material. Which I guess, is why you can go borrow the Ted Danson mini-series, which won 5 Emmys, from your local library.


Apparently Will Smith and Steven Spielberg have been wanting to work together for many years, and now they’re hoping to do just that by making an English language remake of the Korean thriller Oldboy, about a man held hostage in a hotel room for 15 years, and his path to vengeance after being released. DreamWorks is in the process of securing the rights, Universal would distribute, and they are also currently looking for a writer for the project (which means this one is probably years from happening). Although Steven Spielberg does have a broad range as a director, Oldboy is not exactly the sort of movie you’d expect from him. The Saw guys or Hostel director Eli Roth? Sure. Spielberg and Will Smith? All I have for that is… “huh.”


This may have been a good week for the estate of L. Frank Baum, except I think that most of his books are now in the public domain. Both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) are being adapted as CGI animation movies. First, there is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which will mark the animated debut of John Boorman (Excalibur, Deliverance), as a $25 million CGI animation project that replaces a more expensive French movie that its production company recently cancelled. This Oz movie will attempt to be a direct adaptation of Baum’s book, which also means it won’t be a musical, and will probably have a very different visual look than the classic Judy Garland movie. Hyde Park Entertainment (next year’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) is making The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, an origin story thick with mythology about an orphan baby that is found in a magical forest and raised by a lion, growing up around nymphs, fairies, gnomes, elves and imps, who eventually fights a battle with evil that leads to most of the things we know today about Santa Claus. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is aiming for the summer of 2010, and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is aiming for Christmas, 2010.


The Farrelly Brothers (Shallow Hal, There’s Something About Mary) have been trying to get a modern version of The Three Stooges going for almost a decade now, dating back to when the project was at Warner Bros, with names like Russell Crowe (Moe), George Clooney (Moe), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Larry) and James Gandolfini (Curly) being mentioned as possible stars. Fast forward, and the movie is now at MGM, aiming for a November 20th, 2009 release date, but no stars being mentioned yet this time around. What is being mentioned is that MGM will be looking for their new Curly through a series of national auditions, ala American Idol, which is great for bald heavy-set guys who thought their only hope at stardom was getting cast as George Costanza or Uncle Fester. Set in the modern era and not a biopic, The Three Stooges will reimagine the trio in a modern setting, but one thing that the movie will keep is the short story motiff, with the movie consisting of three half hour stories, basically making it an anthology movie, a format that we don’t see too often these days.


With only 10 headlines in each week’s Ketchup, there’s usually more than 10 movies I could probably cover. This week, there was a lot of sequel news, which I will squeeze into this one entry. First off, although there is no director or main cast yet, Halloween 2 is set to start filming in March, with Tyler Mane returning as Michael Myers, in what will be a direct sequel to Rob Zombie’s movie, despite him not being involved. Another horror movie to get a sequel is 30 Days of Night, which will be about one of the first movie’s characters getting revenge on the vampires for destroying her town. Meanwhile, at his official site, director Joe Carnahan has announced that Universal has given a greenlight to a prequel to Smokin’ Aces, which he promises will be full of cameos.

Finally, there is The Road to Perdition, which was based upon a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, which was followed by The Road to Purgatory and The Road to Paradise. Well, Max Allan Collins will be directing, producing and writing two movies based on both of those books, following the character of Michael O’Sullivan (Tom Hanks’ son in the first movie) as he ages through World War II (Purgatory) and as a casino manager in the 1970s (Paradise), examining his lifelong love/hate relationship with the mob. The sequels will be filmed in the Midwest as independent productions, and will probably (my guess) not have the expensive studio gloss or big name stars of The Road to Perdition, but the good news is that they are being crafted by their own creator, so there might be a proprietary thing like what Frank Miller was able to do with Sin City.


Charlize Theron will be costarring with Tom Cruise in The Tourist, an English language remake of the 2005 French thriller, Anthony Zimmer, to be directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day). Theron will be playing an Interpol agent who recruits an American tourist (Cruise) in an attempt to flush out an international criminal with whom she once had an affair. Filming is expected to start by March, 2009, from a script by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) with a rewrite by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects).


Sylvester Stallone will direct and star in The Expendables, along with Jason Statham and Jet Li (in talks), about a team of mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a South American dictator. Stallone also wrote the script, and it’s being made by independent Nu Image/Millennium, the same company that made Rambo. Filming starts in February, 2009 in Louisiana and Costa Rica. It’s unclear whether the Expendables team will be just those three, or if there are others yet to be cast, but thus far, Stallone has chosen two of the best action actors going today, so this movie actually has a lot of promise, I think.


Antonio Banderas is in final talks to star in Dali, one of three biopics revving up based on the life of famed Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Dali has an unusual director for a biopic, in Simon West, best known for Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Why West makes a bit more of sense than you’d think is that Dali will heavily feature CGI scenes that bring Salvador’s Dali’s fantastic imagery to life. The other two Dali movies in the works are Dali & I: The Surreal Story, to star Al Pacino and Little Ashes, starring Robert Pattinson, the male lead of Twlight. Of course, the way these competing project situations usually work out is that the movie that actually wraps filming first scares the others away (not always, but usually). Dali is an independent production from the same company that made Monster, and is expected to start filming in Spain and England in the spring of 2009.


Anonymous Content (Babel, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) has picked up a spec script by a first time writer called The Beaver, which has Steve Carell attached to star. The Beaver is the heartwarming tale of a man who walks around with a beaver puppet on his hand, to whom he talks like it’s a real life character. Maybe it’s just because I’m a South Park fan, but this idea reminds me of Mr. Garrison, and his puppets Mr. Hat and Mr. Twig. Of course, a classic Hollywood interpretation would be that it’s also a bit like Jimmy Stewart’s Harvey, but I know my audience. Anyway, this sounds like it could be a really cool movie, as it’s very easy somehow to imagine Steve Carell having a one-sided conversation with himself.


No, not that Taxi Driver. Although it’s sort of close, since Hayden Christensen will be starring in an Americanized remake of Neil Jordan’s 1986 drama, Mona Lisa, set in New York instead of London. In the original, Bob Hoskins played an ex-con taxi driver who forms a bond with a prostitute passenger. So, this remake will be about a New York taxi driver who forms a bond with a prostitute, which in no way resembles the plot of Taxi Driver, right? When you throw in the fact that this is the next movie for director Larry Clarke (Bully, Ken Park), who is known for heavy sexualized “youth movies”, and I’m also inspired to compare it to another upcoming remake, Bad Lieutenant (starring Nicolas Cage), in that both that original movie and Larry Clark’s Ken Park are infamous for full frontal male nudity. Personally, I think you should just go make a weekend of renting Bad Lieutenant, Mona Lisa and Taxi Driver, but those movies are also all fairly dour, and so maybe that wouldn’t be best for anyone’s mental health. Mona Lisa starts filming in New York in March, 2009.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum messageand Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.