This week’s Ketchup includes casting news for X-Men: First Class and a movie produced by the Wachowski Brothers, and there’s also new movies for Robert Downey Jr, Miley Cyrus and Russell Crowe. There’s also sequel news for Ghost Rider and The Karate Kid, and a ton of movies featuring old movie monsters like Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster.
With a June 3, 2011 release date that is now less than a year away, the casting of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: First Class continued this week with a few new names being mentioned. Last week, Michael Fassbender (Jonah Hex, Inglourious Basterds) was reported to also be in talks with Sony about playing a villain in the Spider-Man reboot, and as the young Magneto in this film. This week, Fassbender appears to have made his choice and is in early talks to play Magneto. Next up is the role of Hank McCoy, AKA the Beast, who was played by Kelsey Grammer in X-Men: The Last Stand. The role appears to have gone to a nearly unknown young stage actor named Benjamin Walker, who is currently starring in a play called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Last week, there was a rumor that British actress Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) was in talks to play the young Emma Frost, mostly because she was seen carrying Emma Frost comic books. This week, the word is that she’s in talks instead to play Moira McTaggert, lab assistant to Charles Xavier (who will be played by James McAvoy). As part of the same story is a rumor/report that Amber Heard (Never Back Down) is in talks to play the young Mystique. Finally, there is director news that is sort of related to the X-Men franchise, because the character was first seen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. 20th Century Fox has reportedly offered the Deadpool directing job to Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, the upcoming Machete). This news should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as Rodriguez already has a fairly full plate both as director and producer, and he may not take Fox up on their offer.
Walt Disney Pictures has signed a deal with director Sam Raimi for his first movie since departing Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. Raimi will direct Oz: The Great and Powerful, a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz that the studio hopes can be a global blockbuster like their recent Alice in Wonderland. Robert Downey, Jr. is still in negotations to star as Oz, a circus wrangler who gets caught up in a tornado and ends up in the fantasy world of Oz. The original script was written by Mitchell Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards), but it is expected to be rewritten to match Raimi’s style. When Oz: The Great and Powerful was first announced back in April, Disney was hoping to attract another Sam (Mendes) to direct. Sam Mendes is instead focusing on a 1960s British romantic drama called On Chesil Beach. Disney hopes to get production started soon, to beat the horde of other Oz-related projects. Those projects include Universal’s adaptation of the musical Wicked, an animated movie to be directed by John Boorman (Excalibur, Deliverance) and two different projects at Warner Bros (one from the producers of Twilight and the other a dark sequel starring Dorothy’s granddaughter). As for Sam Raimi’s other prospects, the most notable is his deal to direct a movie for Legendary Pictures based upon the popular Blizzard videogame franchise Warcraft, which now appears less likely to happen anytime soon (at least with Raimi directing).
Although Ghost Rider was a blockbuster hit with a domestic gross of $115+ million, the film also received a “Rotten” Tomatometer score of 26%. So, one might suspect that any news about the sequel would be a “Rotten Idea.” However, this story is “Fresh” this week because of who Columbia Pictures might bring in to direct the newly-titled Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Although their latest film Gamer was “Rotten,” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are also the guys responsible for the two uproarious Crank movies. Now, imagine that attitude applied to a Ghost Rider movie and you might see why this is a Fresh Development. Nicolas Cage is also in early talks to reprise his starring role as stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze. Columbia hopes to start filming this fall, however, which may conflict with Cage’s plans to film National Treasure 3. Ghost Rider is of course based upon the Marvel Comics character who makes a deal with the devil, transforming him into a flaming skulled demon with a fiery motorcycle and chains. No premise details are yet known about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. However, something that is interesting about that title is that in Marvel Comics, Spirit of Vengeance is the name of a future Ghost Rider whose adventures take place in the 31st century. The screenplay was written by David Goyer (Blade; cowriter of Dark City, Batman Begins), but as Neveldine and Taylor are also screenwriters (including Jonah Hex), it is possible that they may do a rewrite. This is not the only Nicolas Cage news this week, however, as he and Nicole Kidman are also signed to star in an independent action movie called Trespass. Trespass is the story of a married couple who are taken hostage by four “brutal perpetrators.” The director of Trespass is a familiar name to comic book fans: Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin, Batman Forever). Trespass was written by Karl Gajdusek (writer of 4 episodes of Dead Like Me) and Eli Richbourg (a producer of Schumacher’s The Number 23 and Phone Booth).
This past weekend, the remake of The Karate Kid grossed an amazing $56 million on a budget of just $40 million. And so, it should not be a surprise that Sony is already thinking of a sequel to the remake. The studio is currently taking meetings with writers to pitch their ideas on where the new franchise could be set next. What is unlikely is that the sequel will much resemble the premise of the original The Karate Kid Part II, as in that movie, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi went to his homeland of Okinawa, Japan. Since Jackie Chan’s character is already in his homeland in the remake, that sort of nerfs that idea for a sequel. So, perhaps the remake sequel can actually tackle a similar story, but in reverse, and feature Smith and Chan’s characters going to the United States? And in other Karate Kid news, FX has also acquired the rights to a TV show based on The Karate Kid.
Although the box office results for MacGruber and The A-Team were not particularly impressive, Hollywood’s love affair with movies based on TV shows carries on. Russell Crowe has signed with the Weinstein Company to star in their movie version of The Equalizer. The 1985-1989 CBS drama starred Edward Woodward as a former secret agent who tried to make up for his past life by offering his services for free to anyone who was in trouble, under the codename of The Equalizer. Edward Woodward, who died in November, 2009, is also famous for starring in the original (non-crappy) version of The Wicker Man and more recently, for a supporting role in Hot Fuzz. There’s no current word about which writers or director might be involved with The Equalizer. When the project was announced in 2007, authors Michael Connelly (Blood Work) and Terrill Lee Lankford had been hired to work on the screenplay. Directors that have been mentioned in the past as being possibly involved with The Equalizer include Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) and then more recently, David Von Ancken (Seraphim Falls).
The Wachowski brothers continue to work on their secret sci-fi war movie as directors, but they are also active as producers. One of their projects is an adaptation of the award-winning 2004 novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Cloud Atlas is told as six stories set in different times (from 1850 to the far distant future) around the world, as each next character finds out about the story of the previous character. German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) was announced last year as being attached to adapt and direct Cloud Atlas. And now, word has leaked that offers have been made to several major stars for five of the six roles. Those actors are: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, James McAvoy, Sir Ian McKellen and Natalie Portman. McAvoy and McKellen are likely to be in talks to play a young British musician in 1931 and an elderly tribesman in Hawaii in the far distant post-apocalyptic future, respectively. It should be noted that just because these actors may have been offered the roles, that does not necessarily all (or any) of them will necessarily take the roles.
Earlier this year, Warner Bros acquired the rights to a Japanese science fiction novel called All You Need is Kill, with a time limit that apparently requires the movie to start filming in the next year. Now, the studio is in talks with director Doug Liman (Jumper, The Bourne Identity) about taking on the project. What is particularly interesting about this negotiation is that Liman had been expected to be working on Warner Bros’ adaptation of The Three Musketeers. However, since filming is starting soon on Summit’s own Three Musketeers movie (with director Paul W.S. Anderson), it appears likely that WB is putting their own project on the backburner for now. The premise of All You Need is Kill reads a bit like a sci-fi war version of Groundhog Day, as a human soldier fighting aliens finds himself stuck in a time loop where he continually dies and travels back in time to the previous day, each time becoming a better soldier from his experience, and possibly closer to surviving past the time loop. Doug Liman’s next wrapped movie is Fair Game, a biopic about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson CIA scandal starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
Robert Downey Jr and his wife Susan Downey have established their own production company called Team Downey which will be based at Warner Bros. One of the goals of the company will be finding a movie for Downey Jr. to make his directorial debut with. The first project for Team Downey is one that the late actor Steve McQueen had compiled over 1,700 pages of notes about, but was never able to make before his early death in 1980. Yucatan is a heist movie set in Mexico about a group of thieves attempting to steal an ancient cultural treasure buried somewhere on the Yucatan Peninsula. Robert Downey Jr. is expected to star in Yucatan, but it is not yet known if he also intends to direct. Steve McQueen’s son Chad McQueen will also be one of the executive producers of Yucatan. As for Downey’s more immediate future, he is next expected to start filming of Alfonso Cuaron’s space adventure Gravity, then take a break to film Sherlock Holmes 2 (for a December, 2011 release date) and finally return to finish filming Gravity.
Although long associated with Walt Disney Pictures, Miley Cyrus was mentioned this week as being attached to star in a new franchise for a different studio. Wake is a Paramount Pictures and MTV Films production and a paranormal thriller, based upon the young adult novel by Lisa McMann. Wake is the first of three novels about a 17-year-old girl named Janie that has the ability to become sucked into other people’s dreams, where she sees things she’d rather not see. The sequels Fade and Gone follow Janey as she and her boyfriend start investigating the “perverse activities” of their teachers. Paramount and MTV have acquired the rights to all three novels with the hopes of starting a new Miley Cyrus franchise. The Wake screenplay is being adapted by Christopher Landon (cowriter of Disturbia, Blood and Chocolate). Although it might be easy to label any Miley Cyrus a “Rotten Idea,” the premise seems like a potentially interesting twist on movies like Dreamscape and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but for the teen audience. So, this writer is willing to give Ms. Cyrus a “let’s wait and see” pass on this one.
This week’s Rotten Idea slot goes to the proliferation of announcements this week involving movies with multiple “classic” monsters. The first might actually be “fresh” (if you look at the name involved), but then you have to remember what the title is. Universal Pictures is reportedly developing another Van Helsing movie, although it appears not to be directly related to the 2004 monster mash box office flop starring Hugh Jackman. The not-so-Rotten part of this story is that the man Universal is talking to is Guillermo Del Toro, recently much more available after leaving The Hobbit. Del Toro himself was however quick to release a statement about the issue, “Van Helsing (writing and producing) is still in talks and not quite certain. Even then, I would like to share my plans only at COMICON.” Even with Del Toro’s involvement, however, given what Universal’s recent horror movies have been like, I still tend to think anything they do called Van Helsing is more likely to be “Rotten” unless Del Toro himself is directing (and it sounds like he wouldn’t be). Next up, also at Universal, are plans for a teen musical based upon the Mattel fashion doll line called Monster High. The studio has hired screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to adapt Monster High, which is about the teenage children of monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman all attending the same high school. Gough and Millar are best known for creating the TV series Smallville and they also wrote The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for Universal. Paramount is also getting in on this trend, hiring writers for their remake of the 1987 kids horror movie The Monster Squad. Cowriting cousins Mark and Brian Gunn also wrote the direct-to-video Bring It On Again. The Gunns are also working on the Mighty Mouse movie and Journey to the Mysterious Island, which is the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Monster Squad was of course about a bunch of kids who discover a world domination plot involving movie monsters like Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy and the Gillman. Finally, there is Blood of the Innocent, which is an adaptation of a 1985 comic book about Count Dracula fighting Jack the Ripper. Blood of the Innocent is being developed by director Breck Eisner (Sahara, The Crazies). Eisner hopes to make Blood of the Innocent in between his remake of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York and the reboot of Flash Gordon. I don’t really know why this is the week that so many similar projects are getting news, but one movie that looms in the future that may have an impact is Hotel Transylvania. That movie is a Sony Pictures Animation CGI kids movie about Dracula, The Mummy, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster and how their lifestyles have been changed by 21st century technology. Although it’s possible that some of these movies may not end up being rotten, taken together, these five movies all seem too similar to each other to possibly be an entirely “fresh” development, either.