This week’s movies are a surprising batch of mostly original concepts (no remakes and just one sequel), and star-studded to boot, including new movies for Ben Stiller, Tom Cruise, Martin Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry and Ashton Kutcher.
Five years after Meet the Fockers, the third movie in the franchise, Little Fockers, appears to finally be close to production. Although still at Universal Pictures, Jay Roach, director of the first two movies will not be returning for Little Fockers. Screenwriter John Hamburg, who frequently works with Ben Stiller (the first two Meet the… movies, Zoolander, Along Came Polly) is working on the script, which as the title suggests, will be a comedy about Gaylord Focker and his wife Pam (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo) learning to deal with their young children. Robert DeNiro and Owen Wilson are in talks to return as well, but the status of the many other past costars, like Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand is currently unknown. Among the candidates to replace Jay Roach as director are Peyton Reed (The Breakup, Bring It On), David Wain (Role Models, Wet Hot American Summer) and Paul Weitz (About a Boy, American Pie). Filming is expected to start sometime later this year.
Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that Tom Cruise appears here more often than not, it seems, which means that he has aligned himself with many, many, many movies. This week, Variety ran a piece listing the many projects that are currently on Cruise’s slate. The top three contenders are listed as The Materese Circle (a spy thriller with Denzel Washington), The Tourist (an international intrigue thriller with Charlize Theron) and Motorcade, a thriller in which Tom Cruise would play a President whose motorcade is highjacked by terrorists, ala Air Force One (“Get off my… car !”). Other possibilities are Lost for Words, a romantic comedy about an actor (Cruise) who becomes involved with a romantic triangle between a Chinese director and her jealous translator; an undercover agent romantic comedy called Witchita with Cameron Diaz; Hardy Men, a comedy about the adult Hardy Boys, with Ben Stiller; and the Guillermo del Toro-produced movie version of the 1960s British superhero/spy series, The Champions. It’s interesting to note that five of these seven movies somehow involve government agents, ala Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise.
Warner Bros is doing the smart thing with one of their Watchmen stars, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian), and signing him up to star in another movie based on a comic from their DC Comics property, The Losers. Although most of the Watchmen cast are relative unknowns (except Billy Crudup), many of them are likely to see their careers take off, so it’s smart of WB to keep Morgan in house. Although The Losers was also a long-running DC Comics title set during World War II, this movie will be based on the Vertigo Comics version that re-launched in 2003, reimagining The Losers as a modern day Special Forces unit that was betrayed by their C.I.A. operative, and put on a government hit list. Morgan will play Clay, the group’s leader, and Jeremy Renner (28 Weeks Later) is also reportedly in talks for a role. Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) is directing from a script by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Rundown), with filming expected to start later this year.
First off, I should note that this particular story is still in the rumor file, but I’m getting just enough truth from this one to report it here anyway, and it concerns the movie version of Jonny Quest, the 1960s adventure cartoon which very directly inspired The Venture Bros (to give younger readers an idea of what Jonny Quest was like). According to IESB, the take on Jonny Quest that Warner Bros is currently going with is to age Jonny from 11 so that 21 year old Zac Efron can star. The other actor in talks is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Jonny’s personal bodyguard, Race Bannon, and IESB includes an interview segment where they discuss Jonny Quest with Johnson. As noted there, Jonny Quest was one of the scripts included in the most recent version of the Black List, a survey of the best unproduced screenplays floating around in Hollywood. A 1990s version of Jonny Quest did indeed age the character to be a teenager, so the idea of casting someone as old as Zac Efron is not as strange as it might seem.
The latest example of movies with similar concepts dueling their way through development definitely covers an odd subject: mashing up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with monster movies. The two movies are Pride and Predator, which Elton John is both producing and writing songs for, and Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, based on an upcoming novel which is reportedly currently at the center of a studio bidding war. Pride and Predator is about alien who crashes near Netherfield Park and begins slaughtering the various 19th Century Brits, and is expected to start filming in London later this year. Despite the title, it’s likely that the alien in question won’t actually be a Predator, as in the movie franchise. Pride, Prejudice and Zombies has nearly the same concept, except it’s about Darcy and the Bennets being surrounded by brain eating zombies. It sounds like Pride and Predator has a headstart, but I think Pride, Prejudice and Zombies sounds like the more potentially hilariously awesome concept of the two mashups.
In what sounds like the premise of Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America in reverse, Alcon Entertainment (Racing Stripes, Dude Where’s My Car?) has acquired a spec pitch from comedian Martin Lawrence called Back to Africa for him to also potentially star in. Lawrence’s pitch is about a working class guy in Queens, NY who discovers that he is the heir to the throne of an African country, and so he travels there to claim his title. No director is attached yet, and it’s unknown if Lawrence or someone else will be writing the script.
Although the world is still waiting for projects like Sin City 2, Red Sonja and The Jetsons, director Robert Rodriguez has signed with Dimension Films to make his next movie the long-in-development, Nerverackers. Rodriguez also wrote the science fiction thriller set in 2085, which is said to be in the same vein as Blade Runner. The main character, Joe Tezca, will be part of an elite police force assigned to stop a crime wave in what is supposed to a theoretically perfect society. Filming is expected to start later this year in Texas, aiming for an April 16th, 2010 release date.
Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd are in talks with Columbia Pictures to join Reese Witherspoon in the next romantic comedy from writer/director James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, Spanglish), which is officially untitled, but has the working title of How Do You Know? Wilson and Rudd would play men competing for the heart of the same woman; Wilson as a professional baseball pitcher and Rudd as a corporate executive. Filming is expected to start in the summer of 2009. Rudd and Witherspoon recently worked together (though probably not even in the same room) as voice cast for next month’s Monsters vs Aliens.
Halle Berry has signed on to star in Who is Doris Payne?, based upon the true story of an international jewel thief whose escapades went on for over five decades. The independent production doesn’t have a director yet, but the script is being written by TV show writer Eunetta T. Boone, who’s written 10+ episodes of UPN’s One on One, as well as episodes of Living Single and The Parent ‘Hood.
This was a very busy week for both Ashton Kutcher and the sub-genre of football comedies. First, there is the football comedy, Traded, which is a “body switching” comedy about a NFL quarterback (Kutcher) who switches bodies with a 12-year-old geek, and learns valuable life lessons, from two of the cowriters of this summer’s alien invasion kid comedy, They Came From Upstairs. This week’s other football comedy (really more of a dramedy) is Warner Bros’ The Blindside (based on a true story and a book), which will star Sandra Bullock as a woman who takes in a homeless teenager, Michael Oher, who goes on to be one of the top NFL draft choices. Going back to Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy) signed on this week with Lionsgate to costar with Kutcher in Five Killers as a couple who moves into a new house only to discover that their neighbors are apparently assassins hired to kill them, making it sound like a less funny The Whole Nine Yards. Robert Luketic (21, Legally Blonde) is directing Five Killers, which is expected to start filming in March, 2009 in Atlanta and France.
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.