This week, after spending some time in Utah hitting the slopes and pretending to care about independent filmmaking, Hollywood got right back in the groove, doing what they do best: greenlighting prequels, sequels, remakes and reboots. Of this week’s top 10 stories, only three movies don’t fit into one of those categories.
#1 TOMB RAIDER: LARA CROFT RETURNS
After making two Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie, Paramount let their rights to the Eidos videogame lapse, and so Warner Bros has swept in, with plans to reboot the movie franchise (without Jolie). Tomb Raider is being shepherded by WB Producer Dan Lin, who is also the man behind Terminator Salvation, Sherlock Holmes and the recently announced Tom & Jerry. There’s no writer or director signed on yet, but curiously, two days before this news hit the trades, a Spanish source broke the news that Megan Fox (Transformers) was supposedly being considered for a new Tomb Raider movie. Megan Fox’s reps were quick to debunk the story, but it’s still interesting that this rumor came out before anyone even knew that there even was a Tomb Raider reboot in the works.
#2 THE A-TEAM LOVES IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER
After director John Singleton left the project, it seemed like maybe The A-Team would never become a movie after all. 20th Century Fox has now, however, signed Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin’ Aces) to direct, with Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down) producing. Much ado is made in the Variety piece about Fox “avoiding the series’ campy tone”, which seems to signal that they don’t quite get that what made The A-Team an awesome TV show was the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The new A-Team, who get their start as soldiers in the Middle East instead of Vietnam (for obvious age reasons) haven’t been cast yet, but the movie is being fast tracked to meet a June 11, 2010 release date, so we should start hearing casting news soon. Joe Carnahan is teaming with videogame voice actor Brian Bloom to polish the script by Skip Woods (Hitman, Swordfish) to “make it as emotional, real and accessible as possible without cheesing it up.”
#3 SAMSON GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE
Hollywood needs to leave writers some ridiculous ideas we can use for our April Fool’s Day jokes. Warner Bros has paid out an upfront seven figure deal to screenwriter Scott Silver (8 Mile, cowriter of The Mod Squad) for Samson, which retells the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah… IN THE FUTURE! The sale followed a three studio bidding war, and Warner Bros has signed Francis Lawrence, who directed their massive hit, I Am Legend (also set in the future). It’s interesting to note that this is not the only wildly revisionist sci-fi project WB has in the works: last October, they announced plans to produce a version of Homer’s The Odyssey set in outer space, starring Brad Pitt. As for Samson, the Hebrews described him as a legendary figure who was able to kill 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, but when Samson falls in love with the sexy Delilah, he reveals that his strength comes from his long hair. Delilah betrays Samson to the Philistines, his hair is cut, he gets weak, is blinded and enslaved, but eventually gets his revenge. So, imagine all that, but with maybe cyborgs or zombies or something.
#4 JAMES BOND AND BILLY ELLIOTT HEADLINE TINTIN
Steven Spielberg has started 3-D motion capture filming of The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn in Los Angeles, and with that, we now know that Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott) will be starring as Herge’s young Belgian reporter in this and Peter Jackson’s next TinTin movie. Also joining the cast is Daniel Craig, who will be playing Red Rackham, a 17th century pirate whose exploits were also key to the story of Red Rackham’s Treasure, which suggests that might be the movie that Peter Jackson will be directing, as it is basically the second half of the story that begins in The Secret of the Unicorn. Andy Serkis, who has plenty of experience with motion capture (Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Kong in King Kong) is costarring as the gruff Captain Haddock, a frequent TinTin character who is very instrumental to both books, and Shaun of the Dead stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are playing the bumbling look-alike detectives Thomson and Thompson.
#5 BY THE POWER OF… PANDA
Kung Fu Panda co-director John Stevenson will make his live action debut with a movie based upon a 1980s cartoon and toy franchise: Masters of the Universe. Joel Silver is producing for Warner Bros, and the first script draft was written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li). Under the title of Grayskull, that script received a glowing A+ review over at Latino Review last summer. Warner Bros is aiming to make Masters of the Universe one of their big tentpole blockbuster hopefuls. Hasbro is also producing, so the emphasis in the press is mostly on the fact that the toys came first, but I think the He-Man cartoon is probably how most people remember it, and it provides this second movie (the first starred Dolph Lundgren and Frost/Nixon star Frank Langella as Skeletor) its story. Prince Adam is a bit of a fop, but when he yells “By the Power of Grayskull!”, he gets all buff, rides around on a massive cat, and fights villains with very literal names.
#6 THE THING PREQUEL STRETCHES ITS CREEPY TENTACLES FORWARD
It’s clobberin’ time! That, anyway, is what I’d be saying if Ben Grimm was getting his own movie. But nope, today’s news concerns Universal’s plans to make a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which will focus on what happened at that Norwegian camp that Kurt Russell and crew find all messed up, as victims of the monster’s first assault. The John W. Campbell, Jr. short story, “Who Goes There?” and the original 1951 movie, The Thing from Another World are also cited as influential sources. Ron Moore, responsible for the beloved Sci-Fi Channel revamp of Battlestar Galactica is working on the script, and commericals director Matthijs Van Heijningen will make his feature debut. When I first heard of plans to return to John Carpenter’s The Thing, I was frankly dismayed, but Ron Moore’s involvement is making me consider a 180 turnaround. I’m left wondering what they’re planning on doing about the fact that the crew of a Norwegian Antarctic camp probably speak… Norwegian?
#7 NICOLAS CAGE TO LIGHT HIS HEAD ON FIRE AGAIN IN GHOST RIDER 2
Bloody-Disgusting.com is reporting that Columbia Pictures is looking for writers for Ghost Rider 2, with Nicolas Cage already signed on and attached to return. Although the 2006 original, based upon the Marvel Comics character, was critically panned (28% on the Tomatometer), movie audiences didn’t let that stop them from making Ghost Rider a $115 million hit.
#8 HILARY DUFF TO STAR IN THE STORY OF BONNIE AND CLYDE (YES, REALLY)
What I wrote about April Fool’s Day in the Samson story applies doubly here. Lizzie Maguire star Hilary Duff and Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Dead) will star in The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, an independent movie which goes back to the true story that inspired Bonnie and Clyde, one of the best movies of the 1960s. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were a pair of Depression-Era bank robbers and cop killers who traveled the Midwest and the South, in love and destined to have a lot of holes in their car. Written and directed by Tonya S. Holly (2006’s When I Find the Ocean), The Story of Bonnie and Clyde is scheduled to start filming later this year in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
#9 1066: THIS… IS… HASTINGS!
New Regency, which has a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox, has hired screenwriter William Nicholson (First Knight, cowriter of Gladiator) to write 1066, a historical epic about the strained relationship between King Harold of the Anglo-Saxons and William the Conqueror of the Normans, which led to the Battle of Hastings. The movie, which is expected to start filming on a large budget later this year with two big stars as the two leaders, will feature two massive battles and one naval battle. The year 1066 is one of those dates that you really shouldn’t get out of your history classes without knowing, as the results of the Battle of Hastings are generally credited with shaping English history from that point forward. It’s about time the Battle of Hastings got the sort of big budget epic movie it deserves.
#10 NEILS GAIMAN AND JORDAN TEAMING UP ON THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
The day after winning the Newberry Medal for Best Children’s Book of the year for The Graveyard Book, comics writer and novelist Neil Gaiman appeared on The Today Show and announced that Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game) will be writing and directing a movie version. Inspired by The Jungle Book, The Graveyard Book is the story of an orphaned boy who is raised by the supernatural residents of a graveyard, with each chapter set a year or so apart as the boy grows up.
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 message and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.