This Week’s Ketchup comes to you right in the middle of San Diego Comic-Con, 2011, and already it’s been a news packed seven days (much of the news actually comes out before the Con). The Weekly Ketchup is normally just 10 stories, but to avoid missing too many items of interest, this week, over twice as many stories are presented to you, sometimes three, four or five at a time under each headline. And Comic-Con isn’t even halfway over as we’re posting this!
This Week’s Top Story
CAPTAIN PLANET MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR BLUE-SKINNED GUYS WITH MULLETS
Cartoon Network has signed a deal with Transformers producer Don Murphy to start development of a live action adaptation of the 1990s animated superhero TV show Captain Planet. In the series, which ran for six seasons, Gaia (AKA Mother Earth) brings together five youngsters who gain powers representing the four classic elements (air, earth, wind and water), along with a completely made up element, heart. When the Planeteers perform a ritual, they are able to summon Captain Planet, a blue-skinned male superhero with a green mullet. Captain Planet and the Planeteers fought a series of Eco Villains who represented all the different ways humans generally make life on Earth a bit less clean and safe. Murphy’s coproducer partner Susan Montford said, “With the earthquakes, tornadoes, melting icebergs and all the other problems threatening the world right now, Earth really needs her greatest defender,” which is a bit odd since at least one of those things (earthquakes) seems to be something Earth just does without any evil human interference. Captain Planet and Captain America: The First Avenger got another competitor this week with the news of a movie based on the indie Canadian superhero Captain Canuck. Minds Eye Entertainment is a Canadian production company whose releases mostly go direct-to-video in the USA, such as the 2009 Stephen King adaptation Dolan’s Cadillac, starring Christian Slater. And that leads us to the latest news from Hugh Jackman about The Wolverine (who is arguably the real “most famous Canadian superhero”), who confirmed at Comic-Con that the Silver Samurai will indeed be the main villain in the next Japan-set film. Drawing a line from Captain Planet to Captain Canuck to The Wolverine is an example of how this week’s crowded plethora of news items are being presented to you in just ten actual stories.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ROBERT RODRIGUEZ USES COMIC-CON TO ANNOUNCE A DECADE’S WORTH OF AMBITIOUS MOVIES
Some directors regularly associate themselves with more movie projects than it seems possible for them to actually do within the scope of say, a decade or so. Robert Rodriguez is one such director, but the difference between him and many others is that he directs many more films than some of his contemporaries, thanks to having his own production studio in Austin, Texas. Yesterday, Rodriguez took to the massive Hall H to make a series of announcements that included sequels to Machete and Sin City, as well as remakes of Fire and Ice and Heavy Metal. The ending of Machete revealed titles for two sequels, with the next one being Machete Kills. Rodriguez has now revealed that the third project, which will get its start as a trailer attached to Machete Kills, will be called Machete Kills Again… In Space! This third film will “include space babes and a lightsaber style weapon.” Although it feels like Rodriguez has been saying this for several years now, the director also said that Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For could start filming “as early as later this year.” In addition to adapting the Sin City trade paperback of that title, the movie will feature two new stories written by Frank Miller, one of which will be called The Long Bad Night. And now, for the remakes. Robert Rodriguez is teaming up with the estate of fantasy artist/painter Frank Frazetta to produce a live action remake of the 1983 sword and sorcery film Fire and Ice from animation director Ralph Bakshi. Finally, Rodriguez also wants to make a new Heavy Metal movie, and he is looking for story ideas from fans, who can submit their concepts to this website established for just that purpose: http://www.badassdigest.com/heavymetal.
#2 HERMIONE AND THE BEAST
While promoting Crazy, Stupid Love, producer Denise Di Novi revealed that one of her latest projects is a new version of Beauty and the Beast. Di Novi is coproducing the adaptation of the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bete with Guillermo del Toro. Emma Watson, AKA Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, is already attached to star as the titular Beauty. There’s no word yet as to whether Guillermo del Toro is considering Beauty and the Beast as a potential directing project, or if he will just be producing. Del Toro’s next film as director will be the giant monster invasion movie Pacific Rim. A connection that Guillermo del Toro has to Beauty and the Beast is that the actor who played the Beast in the 1987-1989 CBS TV show was Ron Perlman, who went on to work with del Toro on Cronos, Blade II and the two Hellboy movies.
#3 STEVEN SPIELBERG’S FORECAST INCLUDES A STEADY RAIN
The increasing number of A list stars that show up at San Diego Comic-Con means that not necessarily all of the news that comes out this week in July is limited to fanboy-related adaptations. While there to promote Real Steel, Hugh Jackman mentioned a Broadway adaptation that Steven Spielberg is looking to add to his slate, after directing the upcoming films War Horse, The Aventures of Tintin, and Lincoln. In 2009, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig starred in a 12 week Broadway staging of the Keith Huff play A Steady Rain. In a plot reminiscent of the true story of Jeffrey Dahmer, A Steady Rain depicts two Chicago police officers who discover that they returned a Vietnamese boy to a cannibal serial killer pretending to be his uncle, who then went on to make the boy his next victim. Regardless, Hugh Jackman has said that a writer is currently working on adapting A Steady Rain. It is also likely that Spielberg’s plan involves recruiting Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman (which is probably how he knew about it) to reprise their performances in this film. What is unclear is whether A Steady Rain will be a directorial project for Steven Spielberg, or just something he will produce. That stark scenario seems like quite a departure from the tone Spielberg is normally known for, and the famed director has also mostly avoided the crime story genre.
#4 SHIA LABEOUF AND ROBERT REDFORD ARE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Possibly hoping to stand out amidst all the genre fare announced at Comic-Con, some producers with very different projects tip their hat this week as well. Shia LaBeouf and Robert Redford have signed to star in an independent adaptation of the 2003 Neil Gordon novel The Company You Keep, which Redford (Ordinary People, Quiz Show, The Legend of Bagger Vance) will also direct. Told through a series of e-mails (in the novel, at least), The Company You Keep is the story of one of the last Vietnam era fugitives (Redford) still wanted for a 1974 crime who encounters a young reporter (LaBeouf) who wants his story, which leads them on a road trip across America as the former anti-war radical rediscovers his past. Screenwriter Lem Dobbs (The Limey; cowriter of Dark City, The Score) is currently working on adapting the novel.
#5 SAMUEL L. JACKSON PRESENTS: AFRO SAMURAI… IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Samuel L. Jackson, the Indomina Group, and Gonzo Studios are teaming up to give the world a live action movie adaptation of Afro Samurai. Afro Samurai started as a manga book series, and has since branched into television and video games. Afro Samurai is set in a futuristic Japan that has also returned to being a feudal state, and tells the story of a swordmaster who is seeking revenge for the death of his father when he was a child. Gonzo Studios is the animation studio behind the 5 episode anime TV show based on the character, Samuel L. Jackson voiced the character on that show (and the movie Afro Samurai: Resurrection), and the Indomina Group is “the fast-growing U.S. and Dominican Republic based producer and distributor of film.” Despite his previous work on the character, Samuel L. Jackson is not expected to star as Afro in the live action version, other than his role as producer. Indomina Studios plans to find a director and writer this summer, finish casting by the end of 2011, and start filming Afro Samurai in the Dominican Republic sometime in 2012. That is sort of a fast pre-production schedule, but it’s not impossible. One of Jackson’s next films as an actor will be Quentin Tarantino’s slavery era Spaghetti Western Django Unchained, in which Jackson will play a house slave. This week, Kevin Costner was cast as Ace Woody, “the sadistic trainer of the male fighting slaves who entertain the white patrons of Candyland as well as the female slaves who are forced to be prostitutes.” Costner joins the already cast Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio as the evil slave owner Calvin Candie, Jamie Foxx as the title character, and Christoph Waltz as the man who trains Django in the skills of a bounty hunter. This is the second high profile film that Kevin Costner has landed a supporting role in lately, following his casting as Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 300 COWRITER REVIVING SPARTACUS
This week, relatively new production company GK Films announced plans for a historical epic based on the life of Spartacus, the leader of a slave rebellion against the Roman Republic in the first century B.C. The story of Spartacus was previously adapted in 1960 as a film directed by Stanley Kubrick, and starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov. The Starz network also airs a series called Spartacus: Blood and Sand (and Spartacus: Vengeance) which focuses more on the gladiator aspect of the Spartacus story. The GK Films project will be written by 300 cowriter Michael B. Moore (he also had a story credit on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra). To distinguish this movie from Kubrick’s Spartacus, an emphasis will be placed on the historical facts of the slave rebellion, so that it will not be a remake of Kubrick’s film. GK Films’ previous productions include Edge of Darkness, Rango, The Tourist and the Starz series Camelot. GK Films’ upcoming projects include Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary and the Martin Scorsese missionary epic Silence.
#3 THE VOLTRON MOVIE STEPS RIGHT OVER THE MAJOR STUDIOS
Last September, it was revealed via three leaked concept art images that Atlas Entertainment (Get Smart, The Brothers Grimm) had acquired the rights to the Japanese anime TV series and toy line Voltron. Voltron is of course about five young pilots who each control a different massive robot lion, which can then come together to form an even more massive humanoid robot. And then they have adventures. Yesterday, the Voltron live action movie got a little bit closer to actually happening, as Relativity Media has picked up the rights from Atlas Entertainment. Relativity Media started as a production company, but has since 2010 branched into distribution as well, releasing such films as Let Me In, Season of the Witch, Limitless and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. The live action Voltron project represents the most ambitious movie for Relativity Media to date.
#2 THIS STORY MENTIONS HILARY SWANK AND FOUR OTHER RANDOM COMIC BOOK MOVIES ANNOUNCED AT SDCC
And this is the part where several new comic book movie projects will get dumped as quickly as possible, just to make sure they get some mention. These are listed in the Rotten Idea category somewhat cynically; it’s possible some of these could be great, but most of them… probably won’t be (or even get made at all). Hilary Swank will produce and star in an adaptation of the Radical Comics title Shrapnel. Newcomer screenwriter Toby Wagstaff will adapt the story of a former military officer (Swank) who leads a revolt on the planet Venus in the year 2250. After years of development at Dimension Films, the Top Cow comic book The Darkness found new life this week with Mandeville Films (The Fighter, The Muppets) acquiring the rights to the supernatural crimefighter franchise, which has also inspired two video games (one of them upcoming). The late 1980s Marvel Comics science fiction series Strikeforce: Morituri is also getting developed as a movie. This project in particular is not really that surprising considering that its “alien invasion” concept is one of the most popular recent trends in movies. A comic book-turned-potential movie that is a bit more esoteric is The Red Star, which is now being developed by Warner Bros after being put into turnaround by Universal Pictures. The Red Star is set in an alternate reality version of the Soviet Union where magic and technology are both commonly used in a war in which ghosts fight alongside human soldiers. Neal Moritz, the producer behind the Fast and the Furious and xXx franchises, is producing The Red Star. Finally, 20th Century Fox is developing an adaptation of the indie comic book Rust, about a boy whose jetpack crash lands him on a farm, while he’s still being pursued by an old war robot. That premise actually sounds pretty cool, but it’s more difficult to imagine how it will be adapted by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses, Morning Glory), whose next two films in theaters will be I Don’t Know How She Does It and We Bought a Zoo. The thematic connection to an adventure involving robots and jetpacks… not seeing it.
#1 UNIVERSAL PICTURES WON’T SCALE THE DARK TOWER
The writing may have been on the wall after Universal Studios delayed pre-production back in May, but this week, the studio backed out from developing Ron Howard’s ambitious plans for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. What Howard and Imagine Entertainment were hoping for was a plan that included three movies and two limited run TV series that cover what the movies don’t. Universal came back with an offer to greenlight just one movie, and that pretty much led to the two sides parting ways, with Ron Howard and Imagine now free to shop their concept elsewhere. Universal has a corporate cousin in NBC, but other studios have similar TV connections (Disney and ABC, Fox and Fox, etc), so there is still hope for The Dark Tower. However, this delay may mean Javier Bardem (who was signed to star as Roland Deschain) might not be available when and if The Dark Tower ever gets going again. This is the Week’s most Rotten Idea, particularly for all of the fans who were so excited that the book series might get an ambitious depiction on a grand scale. Ron Howard’s career, however, continued on in another direction this week, as he has signed with Warner Bros to direct a planned adaptation of the non-fiction book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, whose book Into the Wild also became a film. Dustin Lance Black (Milk and the upcoming J. Edgar biopic) is adapting the true story of two brothers who followed an extreme fundamental sect of Mormonism and claimed that they murdered their younger brother’s wife and infant daughter on orders from God. As with Steven Spielberg and A Steady Rain, Ron Howard appears to be going into darker territory with Under the Banner of Heaven than the tone he is generally associated with.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook or a RT forum message.